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#1630 Unrivaled Global Arms Dealer: Officially and Illegally Exporting the US Gun Culture Around the World (Transcript)

Air Date 5/21/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left Podcast in which we explore whether by the U.S. Government playing matchmaker for the domestic weapons industry or through the illegal trade of the "Iron River," the facts of the U.S. being the leading seller of weapons around the world, fueling violence and conflict, oppression, and rights abuses. Sources on our front page today include American Prestige, Big Take, The Take, Facepalm America (great name by the way), Democracy Now, The Inquiry, Jacobin and Johnny Harris. 

Then, in the additional sections half of the show, we'll dive deeper into the U.S. as a global arms dealer, guns flowing into Mexico and our domestic gun policy.

News - Biden's "Red Lines" for Gaza, Ukraine Hits Oil Facilities, US Leads Global Arms Sales - American Prestige - Air Date 3-15-24

DANNY BESSNER - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: Let's end with some great news, and that is the United States has expanded its lead in terms of global arms. So Derek, can you update us? 

DEREK DAVISON - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: So the newest report from the Stockholm [00:01:00] International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, which looks at arms sales around the world and does them in five-year chunks, so every new report is about the five-year period leading up to when that report comes out. And their latest report was --they released it on Sunday --found that the US has increased its share of global arms sales to more than 40%, I think somewhere around 42% in this new report. The expansion, --they were already the global leader, but they were in this sort of mid thirties, I think, so it's a significant increase. It comes mostly at the expense of Russia. Since the war in Ukraine, the Russian military is retooled to primarily focus on fighting the war and also, I think, there's squeamishness about maybe purchasing Russian weapons these days. So their share of global arms sales fell by over half in this report, and they've now slipped behind France, which is another beneficiary, it has risen to second place. 

But really I think that the main focus [00:02:00] here is that the US is cornering the market on selling things to kill people, which is the thing that we do best. So congratulations to everybody involved. 

DANNY BESSNER - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: Congratulations, everyone! 

DEREK DAVISON - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: We're always so proud to to be successful in these sorts of things.

How Washington Plays Matchmaker For The US Gun Industry Part 1 - Big Take - Air Date 10-30-23 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Jessica, your story starts with a scene of the SHOT Show, this big convention in Las Vegas. Can you tell us about the SHOT Show? 

JESSICA BRICE: It's the world's biggest firearms industry event. It officially stands for the shooting, hunting, outdoor trade show. It happens every January in Las Vegas and some 50,000 to 60,000 gun makers, dealers, enthusiasts flood into this convention center to learn about what's happening in the industry, to make deals, to close deals.

The buyers are there to find the weapons that they're then going to bring back to their stores and sell on. And that includes international buyers who want to meet up with the big gun makers and they want to get access to those products. 

And really it's a [00:03:00] networking event that's inside the industry. It's not open to the public. You have to be involved in the firearms industry in order to get a ticket. 

MICHAEL SMITH: And there's a whole ecosystem, sort of, of events that go along with this. For example, one day where all the sellers take buyers out to the middle of the desert to this giant shooting range where they can just try all the cool guns that they want to see how they fire.

And there are also lots of dinners between clients and their suppliers. And then there's this whole ecosystem of influencing, people networking for social media, trying to promote brands that will hopefully sell more. But the main point is for the gun industry to sell more guns. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: And Jessica, you're right about how a little bit out of the way in a less glamorous part of the event is one of the most important groups there, and it's the US government. 

JESSICA BRICE: Yes. The Department of Commerce works with a number of trade shows. It's not just the SHOT Show that it works with. It works with something like 30 trade shows every year, and it brings international buyers [00:04:00] to meet up with American companies that want to do business abroad. It does that for electronics, it does that for concrete, it does that for dental equipment. But one of the more controversial products it does that for is guns. 

So in that corner of the SHOT Show, you have the International Trade Center. It's in one of the ballrooms that has the partition walls and the burgundy chairs. And there's a lot of bureaucrats basically standing around and what they're doing is they're meeting up with the people that they invited from abroad, whether that's Brazil or Peru or Mexico or Asia somewhere or from all over the world, they bring these buyers into Las Vegas and then they help them set up these meetings with American gun makers and for a fee, they'll even sit in on these meetings and help close those deals.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Mike, how does the Commerce Department find all of these people to bring to the US to [00:05:00] go to the gun show?

MICHAEL SMITH: So the Commerce Department has what it calls specialists. They post in embassies around the world, and their main job is to match buyers of US good with sellers of US goods. 

Some of these specialists specialize in guns. That's one of the turfs that they have to drum up business for. They basically talk to entities that are interested in buying guns. And then they just go out and make contacts with these buyers, and then they open up a whole world of services that the US government through Commerce provides to essentially get buyers together with sellers in the United States.

JESSICA BRICE: These specialists, they're foreign commercial service specialists around the world. They typically tend to be foreign-born specialists. So they're foreign-born hires. And the reason for that is because the American officers will rotate in and out of embassies and consulates on two- or three-year stints, but you need the foreign, the locals who are there, they're working there for decades and they're maintaining [00:06:00] those business relationships.

So when the American officers come in, they're ultimately the ones who are always calling the shots. But they're tapping into this network that has been built for 20, 30 years. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: So Mike, the Commerce Department is trying to find buyers. The people they're bringing to Las Vegas, what are some of the countries they're bringing them from?

MICHAEL SMITH: So these specialists really work in embassies around the world. You have some posts in Asia, in Europe, and some posts in Latin America. In our story, we really focused on Latin America, and we found examples of a commerce specialist bringing gun buyers up from Brazil, from Peru, and from different countries in Central America.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: So all told, how many different buyers coming to the SHOT Show are there as essentially guests of the Commerce Department? 

MICHAEL SMITH: This goes back to an agreement that the SHOT Show made with the Commerce Department in 2013 to make a concerted effort to [00:07:00] bring more gun buyers up from around the world, basically.

In the first year, 2013, they brought around 370 buyers to SHOT Show. But by January 2023, of this year, that number had surged to more than 3,200 buyers. So that gives you a sense of the scope and the growth we've seen in international buyers being basically brought up by these specialists around the world.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Is it working? Are exports of US guns rising as a result of the Commerce Department's efforts? 

JESSICA BRICE: One of the frustrating things about how the Department of Commerce operates is that there's no transparency because it involves corporate trade secrets. So there's no real transparency around this program and how it works.

We don't know how much in sales the Commerce Department officials are helping to broker. We don't have a real clear insight into how much exports have climbed because of this program. But we do know that between [00:08:00] 2018 and 2022, we saw a 300 percent increase in semiautomatic rifles and handguns coming into Brazil.

MICHAEL SMITH: After President Trump came into office, he basically put the approval process for gun exports into the hands of the Commerce Department, the same department that has these specialists around the world. After that happened a couple of years ago, gun exports from the United States jumped to $16 billion, and that's almost 30 percent above historical averages.

So there you can see how things have changed for the better for gun makers. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: And Jessica, does the Commerce Department work with gun advocacy groups or trade associations for the industry? 

JESSICA BRICE: It's not working directly with the gun advocacy groups, but it works with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is the industry group, the trade group that runs SHOT Show.

The NSSF, which is how they're known, they're actually more influential in terms of lobbying money being spent in Washington than the NRA [00:09:00] is these days. A lot of people know the NRA. The NRA has traditionally said that they represent the gun owner. The NSSF represents the gun manufacturers, right? And so who's paying those membership dues? It's the Glocks and the Rugers and the Smith and Wessons. All the companies are part of the NSSF. And they're spending almost twice as much money every year to push through laws that are more favorable to gun makers. They advocated for this shift to put Commerce Department more in control and have more oversight over the gun exports.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: One of the concerns that the US government has had in the past with gun exports is making sure that they don't go to countries where there are unstable governments, where there are reasons to believe that guns could be used for violence. Is that still something that the US government monitors very closely before they make deals for foreign gun sales?

MICHAEL SMITH: It's [00:10:00] unclear how closely they monitor it. The Commerce Department has taken over processing and essentially approving gun exports--licenses, they're called. But the State Department, they have the right to look over an export license and stop it if they want. That has happened sporadically from what we can tell, but it's difficult to know how steadfast their policy considerations are and exactly what criteria they use to come up with those decisions.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: And what has the Commerce Department said about this when you asked them about the program? 

JESSICA BRICE: This topic spans the State Department, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Commerce. And of all of those departments, and not to mention all the embassies, many of which we tried to reach out to, the Commerce Department is the least transparent. They don't offer any information regarding how many people they send to SHOT Show every year, what sort of resources are dedicated towards the effort, how many folks [00:11:00] are out in the world recruiting and building these lists and these group trips to Las Vegas every January. 

Bloomberg entered in with a Freedom Of Information request, so-called FOIA, trying to get even the most basic of numbers. We actually have started up a lawsuit trying to get this information, but they really, really are closed lipped about the entire process. 

Can a lawsuit stop Mexico’s ‘iron river’ of guns? - The Take - Air Date 8-13-21

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Tell me about this lawsuit that the Mexican government has recently filed. Why did the government take this step? 

JOHN HOLMAN: They're filing a lawsuit against 11 gun manufacturers and some quite famous ones as well amongst them. They've got Colt, they've got Smith & Wesson, they've got quite a lot of big names. Basically what they're saying is that those companies have been negligent in the fact that there's guns that they're selling that are ending up in Mexico.

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: The lawsuit alleges that the companies knew they were contributing to illegal arms trafficking. 

Mexican officials hope the lawsuit will put a dent in crimes committed [00:12:00] by illegal firearms. 

JOHN HOLMAN: Actually, the Mexican foreign minister went even further than negligence. This is actually a lucrative market the Mexican government seems to be saying that these manufacturers are going after. That's what they want to stop. They're asking for compensation. They're hoping about $10 billion that will go into the Mexican Treasury. But they said that apart from the money, primarily, they want these companies to start self-regulating so it's not this sort of sea of weapons heading towards Mexico with everyone washing their hands of it. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: How likely is it that it's going to succeed? 

JOHN HOLMAN: That's the big question, and it was asked actually—we were in the briefing with one of the government's top lawyers from the foreign ministry and he said that he wasn't certain that it was going to succeed, but basically they were going to give it their best shot.

Now running against it is the fact that in 2005 in the United States there was a statute that introduced widespread protection against gun companies from lawsuits and [00:13:00] legal action from victims of gun violence. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: California Congressman Adam Schiff calls the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or "PLACA," a deeply destructive bill that protects gun manufacturers from any responsibility for how their products are used, even when they're used to commit a crime.

But groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation say this is just another attempt by democratic lawmakers to demonize constitutionally protected products. 

JOHN HOLMAN: Now, what the Mexican government's hoping is that because they're outside of the United States, they can still be able to do this because they're not within the United States and that statute won't protect the gun companies against their legal action.

That's their hope, and we have to see how that plays out. This isn't going to happen overnight. This is going to be quite a long drawn out process. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Mexico's gun laws are strict. In fact, there is only one place in the entire country where you can legally purchase a gun, and that's in [00:14:00] the capital—on a base.

So, you mentioned a "sea of weapons," are there any estimates about how many weapons are being trafficked from the U. S. into Mexico? 

JOHN HOLMAN: The foreign ministry said that the government estimates that half a million weapons are coming across from the United States to Mexico every year. And they said that they're causing at least 17, 000 homicides—those weapons.

They call it an "Iron River," that's what they call it, that's coming across the border, from the United States into Mexico. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: That Iron River has been the subject of a lot of research and reporting on both sides about where the guns come from and how they get across. This is Eugenio Weigend Vargas. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: I'm the research director for gun violence prevention at the Center for American Progress.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: That's a think tank based in Washington, D. C. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: Throughout my life I've been living in the United States and Mexico back and forth, but for the last 10 years I've been living in the United States. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: And like many people with ties to [00:15:00] both countries, Eugenio is used to driving back and forth—he was just in Mexico last week—but he's also observing with the eyes of a researcher. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: I've done that many times in my life, you know, where I've driven from the United States to Mexico and the checkpoints are pretty weak. They randomly maybe check a vehicle every 20, 25 vehicles. Usually when I drive across the border, I'm never stopped, which makes it very easy to hide maybe 10 or 15 rifles in the back of your car and never get stopped.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: He's hypothetically speaking, of course. And in Eugenio's line of research, that's tough to watch. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: It's a bit, frustrating not to see that, you know, that the problem exists and there's nothing really going on, except there's a big sign that says "Trafficking guns to Mexico is illegal. Don't do it!" But, you know, I'm not sure that that sign has any impact or has incentivized anybody from not trafficking guns to [00:16:00] Mexico. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: So it's pretty well known now that the border controls are weak, but that's not where the story begins. It starts with how the guns get to the border in the first place, and that's part of Eugenio's research.

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: There's a high level of guns within the United States, but there's also a lot of ways in which those guns can easily get diverted. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: One of them is called "straw purchasing." 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: Straw purchasing basically is a person who is legally able to purchase a gun without a problem, but does so on behalf of a third person—usually an individual that is prohibited by law to purchase a gun. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Straw purchasers are sometimes caught by police or federal agents, but in the U. S., there's no law making gun trafficking a federal crime. It's usually considered a paperwork violation, not a felony, and rarely means prison time. And this has been a problem for years.

This federal agent spoke to Al [00:17:00] Jazeera about it back in 2018. 

US FEDERAL AGENT: What we could really use is a firearms trafficking statute, because that would allow us to go after not only the straw purchaser, but the entire network of people that are getting these guns to arm the cartel. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: But straw purchasing isn't actually the easiest way to get a gun.

Buying from a dealer requires a background check and a record of a sale, among other things, but for traffickers, there's a way to get around that—and that's private sales. Including at gun shows. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: What's called the "gun show loophole." Gun shows have been going on for as long as I can remember. Uh, and I don't think there's anything wrong with them.

Uh, it's a good place to get a good deal. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: Gun shows are gatherings at convention centers, parking lots, even parks—where people just gather around to sell guns and other gun related accessories like holsters, stickers, but you also see the AR 15 rifles, the AK 47 displayed on [00:18:00] tables. You see some gun dealers there.

Federal firearm license dealers must conduct a background check before any gun sale. Those are required by law. Gun dealers at gun shows are required to run background checks on any sales, but in this case private sellers are not required to run background checks meaning that anybody that is prohibited by law from purchasing a gun can go to a gun show and get a gun with no questions asked.

Even a person that intends to traffic that gun or a person that is prohibited by law because it has, for example, a history of domestic violence. As of now, 22 states require some form of background check during private sales. However, in 28 states, this requirement simply does not exist. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: And that includes two border states, Texas and Arizona.

These private sales are a well known issue in the U. S. gun control debate, but some of Eugenio's visits to gun shows were also focused close to the [00:19:00] border. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: You see all these rifles on display on tables, keeping in mind that they're only about two, three miles from the Mexican border—meaning that anybody can drive to a gun show,

approach a private seller and get any type of weapon that they're selling, including an AR 15 rifle. Gun shows happen every weekend across America, so it's very easy on any given weekend to acquire a gun. 

How America’s Guns Fuel Violence across the Border: With Guest Ieva Jusionyte - Facepalm America - Air Date 2-27-24 

 

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: So the far right in America is always talking about, and the language they use is obviously pretty offensive, but an influx of illegal aliens—but there's also a huge influx of guns that goes from the U. S. Into Mexico, isn't there?

IEVA JUSIONYTE: That's correct. Influx, or you could say the "Iron River" of guns flowing southbound. 

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: So, the dynamic here, I mean, these aren't [00:20:00] isolated things. They don't just happen to be like seeking asylum. There are really terrible conditions in parts of Mexico, and that has to do with the guns that create, in part, the violence. That— I mean, it's all connected together, isn't it? 

IEVA JUSIONYTE: That, yeah, that's like putting two and two together. When I was doing research on the border, primarily for my past book—that is, looking, helping refugees and asylum seekers and migrants who get injured trying to get into the United States—only then I started noticing these signs on all the southbound lanes on the border crossings to Mexico that says guns and munition are prohibited in Mexico.

And I thought, huh. How interesting. So, these people are fleeing something that is clearly the result of our obsession with guns, our very powerful gun industry and gun dealers [00:21:00] that sell the guns that create those conditions of violence that then people are trying to run away from. Obviously, it's not the same for all refugees, but for Mexicans particularly.

Mexicans remain the largest group—the national group of people who are encountered in the U. S. Mexico border. 

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: It also certainly ties in, I would think, with the massive demand for drugs just to the north of Mexico in our country. So we're demanding that drugs come our way, and we're insisting that essentially that massive amounts of guns be exported.

It sounds like a ready made situation for horrors, doesn't it? 

IEVA JUSIONYTE: The drugs? Yes. We want the drugs and the drugs are supplied by various groups of organized. Criminal organizations in Mexico that compete for these routes to supply us the drugs. In order to compete they need firepower. They need weapons that they [00:22:00] cannot get in Mexico, but it's very easy for them to get them in the United States.

In Arizona, Texas, southbound inspections are almost non existent on the border. There are about 10, 000 gun dealerships in states bordering Mexico. So it's definitely connected to the drugs that we want. And we send the guns that enable the supply of drugs. 

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: Now, it's interesting that you say that the inspections are "virtually non existent."

I mean, I watch sometimes—there's a program on National Geographic that is focused on how agents at various ports of entry are, seemingly, meticulously checking through everything and finding stuff all the time. But you're saying from your observation, your studies and what you found, that's not really the case.

IEVA JUSIONYTE: Well, there are plenty of border patrol agents and [00:23:00] officers that work for Customs and Border Protection, but they are focused on what is getting into the country. So they are focused on confiscated drugs. They're focused on finding people who don't have authorization to enter the country and they are much, much less interested in catching guns going in the opposite direction in terms of allocating how many people are staffing, which lanes, mostly they care about northbound and not southbound flows of goods. 

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: Right. So, "you can check out, but you can't check in," in a manner of speaking. You once worked as an EMT along the U. S. Mexico border. What was the impact that you saw that these weapons have? 

IEVA JUSIONYTE: Well, I actually before I started working as an EMT on the U. S./Mexico border, I was also an EMT and paramedic right here in the United States. I started in Massachusetts and Florida, so I have seen the impact of gun violence [00:24:00] in our communities in the United States.

When I moved to the border, the injuries that we saw were not necessarily, immediately visible because the people who are running away—they were not running away because they got shot. They were running away because a family member was kidnapped or another person in the family was shot or they were threatened through extortion rackets.

So very few of them actually showed gunshot wounds by the time they presented at the border, but they had various other injuries associated with a travel to, to cross the border. So, like, fractures and if they fell off the wall or dehydration, if they travel through the desert. So these are also the consequences of guns, but they are not immediate. And that's why the very title of the book is Exit Wounds. It's not so narrowly physical wounds where the bullet [00:25:00] leaves the body, but it's what are the broader social effects that make the entire community or society, injured, wounded, impacted by our gun laws and guns themselves.

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: It's the wounds that cause people to leave the country as opposed to the wounds that they receive specifically, literally and physically. 

U.S. Eases Rules on Exporting Military Technology to Secure Role as World's Leading Arms Dealer - Democracy Now! - Air Date 10-16-13

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: In a boon for military contractors, the United States is relaxing controls on military exports, allowing some U.S.-made military parts to flow to nearly any country in the world with little oversight. ProPublica reports, beginning this week, thousands of parts for military aircraft can be sent freely around the world, even to some countries currently under U.N. arms embargoes. Previously, military firms had to register with the State Department and obtain a license for each export deal. That allowed U.S. officials to screen for issues including possible human rights violations. But now, tens of thousands of items are shifting to the Commerce Department, where they fall under looser controls. The changes were heavily lobbied [00:26:00] for by military firms including Lockheed Martin, Textron and Honeywell. The U.S. already heavily dominates arms exports market: In 2011, the U.S. concluded $66 billion in arms sales agreements, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of the global market.

To talk more about this, we’re joined by Bill Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

Bill, we thank you very much for being with us. You’ve just completed a report on the Obama administration’s loosening of controls over U.S. arms exports. Your latest book, Prophets—that’s P-R-O-P-H-E-T-S— Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. Talk about what this Obama administration relaxing of the sending of weapons and parts means.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Sure. I think the amazing thing, which you mentioned, is that the United States already dominates the trade. It’s not clear they can make a lot more money here, but they’re trying. And one of the things that will happen is, if you’re a [00:27:00] smuggler and you want to do a circuitous path through a third-party country, those countries are now getting license-free spare parts, surveillance equipment and so forth, that can then go on to a human rights abuser, to a terrorist group. And detecting this is going to be much more difficult without the State Department licensing process.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: How did this happen?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, the industry has been pushing for this for two decades, and they have a couple points of leverage. Of course, they have campaign contributions. They’ve got people on the advisory committees that help develop these regulations. They’ve done studies making bogus claims about the economic impacts. And the Obama administration, more than even the Bush administration, bought into industry’s arguments—argued, “Well, we’re going to streamline this. It’s going to make things more efficient. We’re going to get the economic benefits.” And I think they took a great risk in taking those industry suggestions, not looking hard enough at the human rights proliferation and anti-terrorist implications of that. So, I think they may have had good intentions, but I think [00:28:00] they tilted way too far towards the industry.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Several trade groups have been calling for this easing of restrictions on arms exports. Lauren Airey of the National Association of Manufacturers said in an interview with ProPublica that foreign competitors are, “Taking advantage of perceived and real issues in U.S. export controls to promote foreign parts and components—advertising themselves as State-Department-free.” Can you comment on that?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Sure. This is an anecdote that comes up frequently, but there’s never been any documentation of how common this is. The Commerce Department was asked in a congressional hearing, “What’s the economic downside of the current system or the upside of your reforms?” He said, “We haven’t looked at that.” So they really haven’t looked at the economic effects. In fact, if it’s easier to export production technology to build U.S. parts overseas, this reform could actually make it worse for U.S. jobs, even as it helps the big companies, like Lockheed Martin, outsource their components globally.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: So, talk about, Bill Hartung, the countries that can get these weapons and these [00:29:00] parts.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, the first round is NATO allies, but includes countries like Bulgaria, countries like Turkey, which have had bad records of keeping those parts within their countries, keeping them from being transhipped to destinations that the U.S. would not want to see them in—places like Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia during its most repressive periods—basically, almost anywhere in the world it’s now going to be much easier to do this kind of roundabout sale. But also, many parts are going to be license-free altogether, so they can go almost anywhere in the world, other than perhaps Venezuela, Iran, China, in certain circumstances. The whole globe, basically, is going to get an easier deal in terms of getting access to U.S. military technology, without very many questions asked.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Can you explain, as even the Obama administration is pushing for more gun control at home, how this happens now?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I think they [00:30:00] promised this to industry. They see it as a big achievement that they’ve undertaken since Obama’s first term. They have taken a look at the firearms issue. They’re going slow on rolling out those regulations, because they know it’s a very sensitive item. People, like the gun lobby, want no new restrictions, and in fact to roll back restrictions on gun exports. So I think there may still be room for leverage here over the administration, because they have been kind of shy about putting forward what they’re going to do about guns, ammunition, small arms or light weapons—which are among the biggest problems in terms of getting into conflict zones. I think there might still be some hope there to turn them around, but it will take some pressure, which so far we haven’t seen a great deal of pressure from the Congress on this.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Countries like Bahrain, that’s cracking down on its own people protesting human rights abuses there?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Exactly. Bahrain will probably have an easier time getting U.S. weapons. Saudi Arabia has just gotten a $60 billion deal, the biggest in history, for attack helicopters, fighter planes, guns and ammunition, armored [00:31:00] vehicles. And they’ve been helping Bahrain put down the democracy movement there, also obviously repressing their own people. So, not only are the sales at record levels, but they’re going to some of the most undemocratic countries in the world at a time when they’re supposed to be—our policy should be to support democracy in the Persian Gulf and Middle East, not help the oppressors, as some of these sales will do.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: What should President Obama be doing differently, Bill Hartung?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I think, for starters, there should be a moratorium on any new changes in these regulations. Let them see what the first round—what the impacts are, which I think they’re going to see are going to be quite negative. Second of all, for things that have gone over to the Commerce Department, are not—unvetted by State, there should be new laws to say, well, Commerce has to use the same criteria as State, in terms of vetting for human rights. I think also they should look at what the economic impacts are really going to be. Instead of making these claims about how it’s going to be wonderful for U.S. jobs, really dig in and see how many jobs are going to be exported as a result of letting this technology flow more freely. I think if we can get him to do those three [00:32:00] things, we could probably blunt the most negative consequences of these so-called reforms.

Can Mexico win its battle with US gun companies? Part 1 - The Inquiry - Air Date 3-7-24

ADAM WINKLER: In the U. S. Constitution there's an individual right to bear arms, and the courts have interpreted that provision to mean that people have a right to keep firearms in their home for personal protection and carry guns on the public streets in case of confrontation with criminals or others who might pose a threat to them.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: And that's all needs regulating. So let's start with the industry. 

ADAM WINKLER: In the early 2000s, Congress passed a law providing immunity for gun makers and gun dealers when their guns are used to commit a crime. That law, known as the Protection for Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, has basically made it very difficult to sue gun makers when their firearms are used to commit crimes and other harms.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: So does it also work to protect the gun industry from being accountable, then? 

ADAM WINKLER: Yes, it does. While the gun industry remains accountable for things like producing a defective [00:33:00] product. If you buy a firearm and it explodes in your hands you can sue the gun makers the way you can sue the maker of your toaster if it explodes when you use it.

However, when it comes to gun violence, when the firearm is used as it's intended—to fire at another person—then the gunmakers are off the hook and are not accountable when their firearms are diverted into the black market. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: Legal protection was a top priority for the powerful gun rights group the National Rifle Association. It lobbied hard to make it happen. 

ADAM WINKLER: The gun makers pushed for that immunity, along with gun rights activists, out of concern that lawsuits would put the gun makers out of business. That immunity was adopted shortly after the tobacco companies reached a record settlement that involved billions and billions of dollars, and the gun makers were worried that they would face similar kinds of lawsuits and face daunting liability claims if they didn't have this federal [00:34:00] immunity.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: Mexico also has the right to bear arms in its constitution, so its lawsuit against U. S. gun companies isn't challenging that. As well as federal legislation, there are also U. S. state gun laws, and some are more liberal than others. The route used to smuggle firearms from states with more relaxed laws to ones with stricter rules is known as the "Iron Pipeline."

ADAM WINKLER: These are ordinary highways that people drive cars on and obviously have millions of cars on them every day. So the fact that a car might be driving by and in its trunk have several hundred firearms—it'd be very difficult for the police to know about and to stop. So the Iron Pipeline is incredibly difficult to police and to supervise.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: The main U. S. agency for enforcing federal gun laws and cracking down on trafficking is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or the ATF. 

ADAM WINKLER: The ATF is moderately effective. It's generally an [00:35:00] underfunded agency with 400 million firearms in America and really no difficulty getting firearms from one state to another because of the lack of internal borders within the United States.

The ATF faces a daunting challenge in trying to enforce our gun laws. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: But when it comes to the border, Mexico needs to play its part. 

ADAM WINKLER: If you were to drive a car from Mexico into, say, California, that car is definitely going to be stopped, its occupants checked, and very possibly its trunk or other aspects of the vehicle searched and inspected.

However, that same vehicle going from California to Mexico will not be stopped and inspected by American Border Patrol. And Mexican Border Patrol is not nearly as aggressive as American Border Control in keeping things out. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: Mexico originally filed its lawsuit in 2021 in Massachusetts. A year later, a court there threw it out because of the immunity law.[00:36:00] 

Mexico successfully appealed, arguing it is exempt from that law as a sovereign nation. It also claims that the flood of illegal guns across the border is a result of deliberate business practices by U. S. gun companies. 

ADAM WINKLER: Mexico definitely has a daunting case to prove that the gun makers are liable—even if they can bring their case in courts—that they have knowledge and that they intentionally did or negligently manufactured or marketed these firearms in a way that made it almost certain that they were going to Mexico.

How the US privatized WAR - Jacobin - Air Date 5-14-24

RANIA KHALEK - HOST, JACOBIN: When the U. S. launched its war of aggression against Iraq in 2003, Eric Prince's new venture, then called Blackwater, was quick to take advantage of the U. S. 's radical new privatization agenda. Blackwater soon won its first $27 million no-bid contract to provide security for Ambassador Paul Bremer, who headed the so called Coalition Provision Authority, the U. S. 's colonial administration in Iraq. [00:37:00] 

By 2007, it had won $1 billion in contracts from the State Department alone. More than half of these contracts were awarded without competition or tender. In just a few years, the secretive institution emerged from its swamp to become one of the most important players in the so-called War on Terror.

This was a marriage of convenience. Private companies are not required to report deaths and injuries among their mercenary forces. And they even enjoy greater impunity than the lawless U. S. military itself. 

On September 16th, 2007, the world witnessed that impunity. At around noon, a Blackwater convoy of four armed vehicles arrived at Baghdad's Nisour Square. Soon, the mercenaries opened fire on unarmed civilians passing through the square in their cars. Panicked, the Iraqi drivers began to flee the scene, but the mercenaries shot at the fleeing cars. [00:38:00] In all, 17 civilians were murdered, and more than 20 were injured in what some have called Baghdad's Bloody Sunday.

The Iraqi government called the attack an act of deliberate murder, but Blackwater insisted that it acted in self defense. The State Department backed them up. Not long after the massacre, Eric Prince testified to Congress. Remarkably, not a single question was asked about Nisour Square. But the question of civilian fatalities, which were well documented, did come up.

Prince's strategy? Denial. 

ERIC PRINCE: The people we employ are former U. S. military law enforcement people. People that have sworn the oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. 

RANIA KHALEK - HOST, JACOBIN: Then added. 

ERIC PRINCE: They, they bleed red, white, and blue. 

RANIA KHALEK - HOST, JACOBIN: After the Nisour massacre, Prince's ambitions grew further still.

He announced that Blackwater would now become a full spectrum [00:39:00] initiative and began to bid for new Pentagon contracts. In the years that followed, Blackwater established a new mercenary operation staffed by soldiers from all around the world, an intelligence agency staffed by former CIA operatives, an aviation division with dozens of aircraft, and even a line of armored personnel carriers.

When the U. S. flew suspected terrorists around the world to so-called black sites, Blackwater's flight records match those of known torture camps, suggesting that it played a role in the kidnap and torture program. Blackwater came to recruit mercenaries throughout Latin America, often recruiting former fascist foot soldiers, who themselves took part in campaigns of torture and massacre.

But it didn't stop there. Blackwater came to recruit mercenaries from around the world at a scale that may never be known. In [00:40:00] 2016, some 200 Sudanese mercenaries working for Blackwater were killed in a single strike in Yemen. All along, Blackwater moved further and further into the shadows.

During the U. S. 's wars in West Asia, private equity firms began to invest in private military companies. War is a safe bet. Endless war means endless profit. So these investment firms went on a buying spree that's not only continued to this day, it has accelerated.

According to research by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, private equity firms were responsible for 42% of all takeovers in the U. S. private defense sector in 2019. These funds face no requirement to disclose the financial status of their purchases. Through them, entire armies disappear into black holes where their size or activities can no longer be traced.[00:41:00] 

Meanwhile, the profits continue to pile up. In 2023, Joe Biden requested $842 billion for the U. S. military budget, which is roughly three times more than China's military budget and 10 times higher than Russia's. Based on figures in previous years, over half of that money is likely to have gone to private contractors.

Blackwater, which is now rebranded as Constellus Holdings, is among them. The new company brings together a range of private mercenary companies with other dull names like Triple Canopy, Tidewater Global Services, National Strategic Protective Solutions, and International Development Solutions. All are owned by Apollo Global Management Inc., a private equity giant based in New York City, which bought Constellus in 2012. 

From the tunnels of Gaza to [00:42:00] the streets of Raqqa, we often hear whispers of mercenaries fighting on behalf of the U. S. But how many wars are these private armies really involved in? How large will these corporations become in the future?

What's their political reach? Who decides where they fight? And when? And against whom? Blackwater's legacy means that the answers to these questions may long remain. hidden. War has been pushed into the shadows. Accountability has been eroded so deeply that the US can deny its active involvement in several wars of its own making.

In many ways, we knew where we were headed. In 1961, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an ominous warning in his farewell address about the grave implications of the untrammeled growth of the military industrial complex. 

PRESIDENT DWIGHT EISENHOWER: The potential for the disastrous [00:43:00] rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic process. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

RANIA KHALEK - HOST, JACOBIN: This misplaced power has now grown beyond all reasonable proportions. It won't rein itself in. The question is, who will?

How Washington Plays Matchmaker For The US Gun Industry Part 2- Big Take - Air Date 10-30-23

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Jessica, one thing you write is that part of this story isn't just exporting US guns, but also exporting US gun culture to the places where US gun makers are looking to sell their product. 

JESSICA BRICE: Exporting guns--you know, most countries in the world don't have the tolerance for weapons or the demand for weapons that the United States has. And so it's not as easy as just reaching some deals and shipping [00:44:00] these guns abroad. You really need that gun culture to rise up in these places, to change the politics, to allow those guns to come in and to allow that market to bloom. And that's part of this effort. It's not just about signing contracts. It's also about getting advocates and politicians on board with the pro-gun agenda. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: And Mike, who is pressing in these other countries to change their culture to make them more receptive to US guns? 

MICHAEL SMITH: We looked at a couple of countries that basically have adopted American-style gun culture to a certain degree: Brazil and Peru. In Peru, it was very interesting. You have to go back almost 15 years when a member of the NRA advocacy family--they don't have formal ties, but they like each other--it's called Safari Club International. It's a hunting rights advocacy organization. They found a man named Tomas Saldias, a Peruvian hunter, who was getting a graduate degree in Texas. And [00:45:00] he really wanted to learn how to lobby for gun rights like they do in the United States. And they basically took him under their wing. 

When we spoke to Tomas Saldías, he explained to us how Safari Club International worked very closely with him over years, not only teaching him how to lobby, they took him to Washington and showed him how you go visit your congressman. They also gave him a little bit of money to cover his travel expenses. It was a volunteer job, but he got paid to go back to Peru, first organizing a regional gun rights advocacy organization to try to push for liberalized gun laws across Latin America, but he also lobbied the Peruvian Congress to stop an attempt to basically ban almost all guns in civilian hands in Peru. And he was quite successful. Congress blocked it. You can basically own as many semiautomatic assault rifles as you want, if you're a licensed gun owner, or pistols. It's quite a dramatic change that came about largely because of the influence, financing and sort of inspiration of the [00:46:00] US gun lobby. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: It seems hard to believe that one man's lobbying could be so effective. What was the argument that persuaded so many lawmakers in Peru to change their minds? 

MICHAEL SMITH: Well, Saldías was very clever in how he went about this. You have to understand that in Peru, lobbying is not part of the culture, especially not grassroots movements to get stuff changed. People don't have the culture of just going to visit their congressman saying, hey, I'm your constituent, you got to do what I want. But that's exactly what he did, because he learned in the United States.

And he also took advantage of the fact that the president was under fire. The opposition in Congress wanted just to get anything they could to take him down, so to speak. And so they really embraced this idea of this president cracking down on the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns. And he really used that quite effectively and convinced Congress almost single-handedly to block this effort to restrict gun ownership in Peru.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: And what did Safari International have to say about this? 

MICHAEL SMITH: Well, they were very proud of the work he did. [00:47:00] They put out press releases about his work. They brought him up to SHOT Show in 2014 after he organized this regional gun rights organization. And they had a news conference that they basically sponsored for him. They helped write his remarks that he gave at that news conference. And then they went on to follow his career and publicly call him out in the good way for the work he was doing on behalf of gun rights in a place like Peru. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Jessica, you're in Brazil. And that was another country where the gun culture changed quite a bit.

JESSICA BRICE: Brazil has always had pretty restrictive gun laws. Bolsonaro came in and that was one of the platforms that he campaigned on was this idea that law-abiding citizens have a right to protect themselves, because Brazil is a very violent nation and there are a lot of illegal guns on the streets. It's not like there's no guns here. There's lots of gun violence. He came in on this promise to start allowing everybody to have guns so that they can defend themselves. And within two weeks of taking office, he blew that [00:48:00] market open. He just allowed basically anyone who had the will, they were able to get access, they were able to get a license. And they were able to own types of firearms that no one had ever seen before. His son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, who's also a lawmaker and also pushing the pro-gun agenda, he'd been to SHOT Show several times, and they had a real tight relationship with the former ambassador in the United States and with the Department of Commerce and the Foreign Commercial Service. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: But now, Bolsonaro's successor is pushing back a bit on this. 

JESSICA BRICE: Yeah. Bolsonaro's successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, he's actually a returning president. He was in office at the start of the century and he was the one who had pushed through many of the really tight gun laws that Brazil had. When Bolsonaro lost the election and Lula took over, on his first day of office, he reversed that. He required anyone who had purchased guns to re-register in a national registry. He blocked all these [00:49:00] shipments of guns that had been purchased, and they were stuck at ports and in Georgia and Florida. He's since shut down the market. 

But what you're seeing is that culture, that gun culture is still very alive and well. Lula's bans are based on decrees. They're not based on laws. That's the real important change that we've had in Brazilian culture recently in that Bolsonaro used to be the only pro-gun lawmaker, and now we have more than a hundred in Congress. And that's rising. Every year, you're seeing that rise, and it's probably not long before we actually get some laws on the books that open this market up.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Mike, just to be clear, in places like Peru in Brazil where there are these efforts to make the culture more receptive to guns. That's not the US Commerce Department doing that work. Is that right? 

MICHAEL SMITH: No, it's more the gun advocacy groups in the United States. 

JESSICA BRICE: I think we want to be really clear that it's not the Department of Commerce that's [00:50:00] pushing this cultural change. They're pushing business opportunities for American gun makers. 

The lines are really blurred between the folks who are acting as activists and advocates for the changing culture and the people who are the business representatives for those organizations. And sort of the center of gun culture, it's SHOT Show.

If you're a gun lover, there's no cooler place on earth than to be than SHOT Show in Las Vegas every January. That's where a lot of this is happening. They're all mingling. You have US government officials, you have advocates, you have lobbyists, you have the business folks. They're all mingling in that same universe.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: The Biden administration has come out for greater gun control measures. The president signed an executive order to try to crack down on so-called ghost guns that don't have serial numbers. Is there any effort [00:51:00] inside the Biden administration about whether they want the Commerce Department doing this kind of work?

JESSICA BRICE: There's no indication that's the case. No matter who we reach out to within the government about this program, no one wants to talk about it. It's happening on foreign soil. It's not something that's really, really, really front and center to an American audience. It's something that they just declined to comment.

MICHAEL SMITH: Yeah, it really is a mystery, just because we don't have much insight into what's going on and the administration hasn't really spoken about it. 

The one thing we have been able to discover is that there have been instances where the State Department has decided, okay, we really shouldn't be exporting guns to this particular country or they should be restricted. Like the example of Peru, where there were some really violent protests at the beginning of this year and 50 people were killed by police mainly in these protests. And so the State Department started raising concerns about the human rights situation in Peru, and [00:52:00] putting a freeze on issuing new export licenses.

But that's a temporary freeze and Commerce officials have told gun importers in Peru that this will probably be worked out at some point. It's unclear how enduring that will be and whether that will be applied in other places with similar issues. 

Why the US Sells Weapons to 103 Countries - Johnny Harris - Air Date 3-6-24

 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: If weapons are a currency for influence, and the US is using that currency to buy stuff, to buy influence or stability around the world, does that actually work the way that the Pentagon and the United States government think it does? The short answer is, sometimes, but not really. Where weapons really do work is in keeping alliances strong.

BILL HARTUNG: There's no question some countries welcome it, allies like Korea and Japan and so forth, Australia. And it probably does cement those relationships, make it more likely they'll support the US in a crunch. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: But when it comes to trying to use weapons [00:53:00] as an incentive to get countries to behave the way you want them to, that's where it kind of starts to break down.

And the best case for this is Saudi Arabia. You can see on this map, we give a lot of weapons to Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration approved loads of weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia, and in doing so, we had some strings attached: a big one being that those weapons could not be used to violate human rights. Or from the horse's mouth, genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, serious violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, attacks directed against civilians who are legally protected from attacks or other war crimes as defined by 18 U. S. C. 2441. Translation, Saudi Arabia is not to use these weapons against civilians in any of their conflicts.

And yet, as Saudi Arabia has been waging this war against Yemen, they've done exactly that, using American weapons. They've bombed hospitals, weddings, and even a school bus. And we know that this is [00:54:00] American weapons because investigators and journalists have looked at the wreckage of these attacks and looked at the actual serial numbers, concluding that these are American weapons, but they flow through these lines.

BILL HARTUNG: Although Saudi Arabia used the bombs, most people in Yemen viewed it as an American war. Sent arms to Saudi Arabia that would slaughter people. In Yemen, but it was sort of this notion of, well, they're an oil supplier, they're bulwark against Iran, and those so-called larger strategic interests overrode the human rights imperatives.

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: Shout out to Bellingcat, the open source investigative journalism project that helped uncover a lot of this stuff. 

So Saudi Arabia isn't obeying the conditions that we put on these weapons. And Congress tried to pass a resolution that said that they were going to cut off some of this military aid that we were giving to Saudi Arabia. The problem is, a lot of the power to approve these weapon sales rests with the executive, the president. So President Trump actually vetoed this resolution. And even under the Biden administration, even though there was [00:55:00] like a brief pause, the weapons have kept flowing, making it very clear that this leverage that the US thinks it has, because it's the provider of all of these weapons, is actually kind of reversed. Turns out Saudi Arabia has a lot more leverage than we thought. 

JEFF ABRAMSON: You know, the ideas of the United States has kind of captured Saudi Arabia by having this weapons and defense arrangement that the Saudis need to rely on us, they will do things that we ask them to do, or I think the opposite is now happening. Saudi Arabia has been able to turn the tides and say, Hey, if you don't provide this, we'll find an alternate partner. The relationship has been perverted. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: Okay, but Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. Maybe we have better luck influencing fellow democracies. So let's look at Israel, who receives more military aid from the United States than any other country.

JEFF ABRAMSON: I think Israel is the prime example of the lack of leverage that you would think a well-developed, long-term weapons relationship would have. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: The US government has come out and [00:56:00] said that they are not happy with the way that Israel is conducting its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. And yet what we see here is an effort to push more military aid to Israel without any pause or withdraw of these weapons transfers.

JEFF ABRAMSON: And that's the reality of the arms trade is that we can hope countries will take things into mind. We can tell them we want to do things, but ultimately they end up making local decisions for their local needs. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: There's a lot more cases just like this. Like the Philippines, where the Duterte regime has used American weapons to carry out a brutal war on drugs, murdering and jailing civilians in the process.

What's confusing about this is that, in some sense, the weapons are working for US interests. We sell them these weapons. We give them these weapons. We buy their support in deterring our enemy. But in the process, these weapons that we use as our currency are used for other things that have nothing to do with deterring our enemy.

And sometimes it gets really out of control. Like, we give a lot of weapons to Turkey, a [00:57:00] NATO ally. Turkey will then transfer that to its proxies in Syria who will use them to fight against American-backed rebels that are also using US weapons. So American weapons are being used on both sides of a conflict.

It just feels a little bit like deja vu from the book that was written a hundred years ago, stating that this was a problem. And it still kind of is. 

The other big issue with using weapons as your main currency for influence around the world is that weapons don't just go away. Back in the 80s, the CIA transferred a bunch of weapons to rebel fighters in Afghanistan who were fighting against the Soviets. Decades later, those same weapons were being used by those fighters and their descendants to fight against Americans who were then invading Afghanistan.

Same thing happened in Libya. We gave a bunch of weapons there and they leaked out and ended up in the hands of militants and insurgents in Syria and South Sudan. 

So if weapons are this currency that don't actually give us [00:58:00] leverage and that can create more danger than stability, why do we keep making them and sending to over 100 countries? 

There's a lot of answers to that question, but one of them has to do with money. There's a lot of money in making weapons. There always has been since the Industrial Revolution. Lots of these weapons are made all over our country, intentionally creating a network of jobs that no congressman ever wants to vote down. If a congressman votes to make fewer weapons, they could be voting against a factory or production facility in their district. Add to that, that some of our lawmakers own shares in these companies. If these companies make money, they make money. And yet they're the ones approving the money that goes to these corporations--a massive conflict of interest that we've reported on before in a previous video on insider trading. 

What you get is this military industrial complex, a permanent economic [00:59:00] business machine, that is incentivized to make more and more weapons, both to prepare for war and provide national security, but also to keep people rich, and to keep the constituents of lawmakers happy.

So, in short, one of the reasons the map looks like this is to keep a bunch of private corporations nice and rich.

Note from the Editor on the problems with looking for good or bad intentions

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with American Prestige reporting on the U S increasing its lead in arm sales. Big Take described how the U.S. plays matchmaker for domestic arms dealers. 

The Take explained the lawsuit trying to stop Mexico's Iron River. Facepalm America described more of the impact of gun smuggling into Mexico. Democracy Now, from back during the Obama administration, explained how the U.S. eased rules on exporting military technology. The Inquiry continued discussing the lawsuit attempting to stop gun smuggling. 

Jacobin looked at the practice of privatizing war with military [01:00:00] contractors. Big Take, explain to that gun culture must also be exported along with guns to the rest of the world. And Johnny Harris looked at the impact of arm sales on international leverage and corporate ledgers. And that's just the front page. 

There's more to dive into in the additional sections of this audio newspaper, but first a reminder that this show is supported by members who get access to bonus episodes, featuring the production crew here, discussing all manner of important and interesting topics, often trying to make each other laugh in the process. To support all our work and have those bonus episodes delivered seamlessly to the new "members only" podcast feed that you'll receive sign up to support the show at BestofTheLeft.com/support (link in the show notes), through our Patreon page if you prefer, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. 

If regular membership isn't in the cards for you, shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

And now, just before we [01:01:00] continue onto the sections-half of the show, I have a few thoughts. I feel like this is one of those topics that can so easily slide into the preconceived notions of whoever is hearing it. All of the same facts will be presented, but one person who, for instance, believes in the U.S. being a beacon of goodness will argue that either the weapons are doing good in the world or, at the very least, our intention was to do good in the world so we should be thanked at best or held the blameless at worst. 

But another person who sees the same facts, but has a perspective of the U.S. as an entity that can do almost no good, and has in fact been ultimately, you know, behind basically every bad thing that's happened around the world due to our imperialistic proclivities, will see the arm sales through that lens with the country—or at least the power brokers running the country—having an almost malevolent intent to mess up the world as much as [01:02:00] possible in order to profit from the chaos. 

 To be clear, that's not just a perspective from foreign adversaries or anything like that. Increasingly we've been hearing from people who consider themselves to be on the far left, who hold these kinds of reflexively anti-U.S. opinions. Now, unsurprisingly, there are problems with both of these extremes. For those with rose-tinted glasses, it hardly needs explaining that insisting on assuming the positive in the U.S. makes it much harder to find problems that may actually be able to be solved. The first step is so often just admitting that there's a problem. 

But the other view is similarly wrong-headed, not because it's wrong to be critical of the U.S., or even to look at any new issue with a skeptical eye. It's that reflexively always assuming the worst and ill intent just means that you're going to end up being wrong too often. Thinking of the country or the people who run it, particularly when it comes to issues of international [01:03:00] conflict, military aid and arm sales, as operating with either benevolent or malevolent intent just means you're starting off walking down the wrong path of logic right from the start. That doesn't mean you're always going to be wrong about your conclusions. But we all know it's possible to come to the right answer for the wrong reasons. 

Much more accurately and much less likely to lead to conspiratorial thinking is to understand systems thinking—understanding that people need not have ill intent to be part of a system that, for instance, sells weapons that end up having negative consequences. But that individual good intentions aren't enough to excuse the system. The more the politics of the right has slid into the conspiratorial abyss the more we all began to hear about "they" —the omnipresent, all powerful, "they" at the heart of every system, be it governmental, corporate, media, and it's the inner desires and [01:04:00] intentions of "they" that are responsible for how everything is playing out. 

This is the heart of conspiracism—the belief that rather than the world being a complicated place with lots of interlocking moving parts, being driven by old entrenched patterns and systems with global capitalism, always being in the mix, that it's actually just the will of powerful people pulling hidden strings that's making things happen. 

And to my dismay in the years, since the beginning of Russia's war in Ukraine, I've been hearing that framing of "they" more and more from some on the left or maybe who were previously on the left and don't really know where they are now. "What they're doing," "what they don't want you to know," et cetera. What I wish people would understand is that this framing, as an argument, is just as silly and facile as those who dismiss real problems by saying, "It's okay, they meant well." 

So go easy on [01:05:00] individuals, they're likely not as evil as some would have you believe, but don't let perceived intentions of individuals cloud deserved criticism of the systems in place that need to be overhauled because they're the source of the problem. Go easy on people, hard on systems. That's not just the answer to our real problems. It's also how to get to those answers without getting wrapped up in conspiracy or delusion in the process. 

And now, we'll continue with the rest of the show. Next up, section A "Global Arms Dealer," section B "Guns to Mexico," and section C "Domestic Gun Policy."

SECTION A: Global ArmsInside Biden’s Secret Arms Deal - Deconstructed - Air Date 9-22-23

MURTAZA HUSSIAN: For the past year and a half, Pakistan has been talking about this secret document that no one had seen until recently, but which showed — allegedly, according to former Prime Minister Imran Khan — that the U.S. had privately pushed for his removal from power. Since Khan’s removal last year, Pakistan has been embroiled in a huge political, economic, and [01:06:00] security crisis, effectively, but no one had seen this document until we published it last month, and it did show that the substance of Khan’s claims, that U.S. diplomats from the State Department had encouraged his removal and, even, you could say, threatened or incentivized the Pakistani military to make his removal happen, was true.

And it did, actually shed some light on this issue, which in Pakistan is still ongoing, and which, still, is really at the core of the crisis in that country of 200-million-plus people, which is: who controls the country, who should control it, and who gets to make the calls behind the scenes? And, really, Khan’s claims of how his own dismissal took place had a lot more substance than his critics had said for a long time beforehand.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Yeah. And the crux of the dispute — if you want to call it that — between the United States and Khan was Ukraine, and was what they called Khan’s, quote-unquote, “aggressively neutral position,” vis-à-vis the war between Ukraine and Russia. And, you [01:07:00] know, we’ve kind of made fun of that phrasing, “aggressively neutral,” because it is kind of absurd.

On the other hand, he was, actually, kind of aggressive about it the day before meeting with Don Lu in this critical moment, where Lu tells the ambassador that they basically want Khan gone. He was responding to EU complaints about his neutrality by saying, “we are not your slaves.”

So, yeah, I understand. As absurd as the claim is, I understand what he means by aggressive neutrality.

MURTAZA HUSSIAN: Yeah. Khan is a very famously bombastic, you can say, populist figure, in politics, and he does not dress up his statements in the diplomatic niceties that someone may expect. He’s quite blunt about it and, certainly, this seemed to provoke the United States or antagonize them. And the degree to which they were upset about it maybe wasn’t clear in public statements but, behind the scenes, what the State Department was saying, clearly they were quite, quite angry about Khan’s position.

And that’s another thing that no one knew [01:08:00] about the cipher, is what exactly was the core and substance of the dispute? It turns out that it really was about Ukraine and Pakistan’s stance on it which, while neutral was not that different from, say, India’s stance or Bangladesh’s stance on the conflict, they’re trying to take a nonaligned position in a conflict which really wasn’t in their region, and that seemed to step on the prerogatives of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, particularly as it relates to the Pakistani military.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: And you also have to have a little bit more power than Pakistan had in order to hold that neutral position, it seems. India and even some of the Gulf countries who are somewhat aligned with the United States have taken somewhat of a nonaligned position, but they can stand on their own two feet. And it seems like what the United States said here is that you can’t. Like, we can push you over, and we now have more context for what happened since then.

So, Khan is removed from power in April of 2022. At this point, the war is two months old. You’re already starting to see [01:09:00] the Ukrainians running low on munitions, because they were not expecting a long drawn-out war. The U.S. industrial base is also not in a place where it can produce these low grade weapons at scale. We can produce a hundred-million-dollar F-35 that falls out of the sky and gets lost and builds around it an entire orbit of executives and lobbyists, but we don’t make a lot of bullets and artillery shells. And so, for that we needed Pakistan.

Talk a little bit about the new reporting, and what we’ve uncovered about what Pakistan’s role was, vis-à-vis this war, after Khan was ousted.

MURTAZA HUSSIAN: Well, a very good point you made was that Pakistan was kind of vulnerable to this kind of external pressure from the United States, because its economic situation is so dysfunctional. And one thing we’ve learned now is that the IMF bailout that Pakistan received earlier this year, and which it’s really banking on to extricate itself from this significant economic crisis which it’s experiencing, was [01:10:00] encouraged or came to fruition with the great help of the United States, for Pakistani cooperation and support in the war in Ukraine, provision of these weapons, sales of which, the capital generated thereof, was used to facilitate the financing of this loan. And, certainly, also to curry the political favor necessary to make the loan happen.

So you have a situation where the U.S. has very great disproportionate influence in the IMF. Pakistan’s dependent on the IMF for financial support, financing loans and so forth. And the U.S. can say, well, implicitly or explicitly, we won’t open the taps for your economic well being if you don’t give us what we want politically in this sense. 

So we kind of see very, very great detail in the story how things really work behind the scenes, the dealmaking that takes place at elite levels beyond what is said publicly, which is much more anodyne and sterile, you could say, or more diplomatic, you could say, in the public positioning. It was a lot of horse-trading [01:11:00] taking place behind the scenes.

And, unfortunately, I think that the ugly part of this deal is that there’s a crackdown taking place in Pakistan right now — it’s being led by the Pakistani military — to dismantle Khan’s party and suppress pretty much all dissent. And this loan has effectively helped finance that crackdown. It’s allowed them to postpone elections, it’s allowed them to solidify their own hold on power, which should be temporary in anticipation of elections, but seems like it’s much more long-lasting than that.

And it’s all going back to an arms deal. It’s an arms deal for … Bombs for billions, you could say, that’s what’s holding the current Pakistani regime in place.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: And so, to help us walk through and unpack this, we’re also joined by Arif Rafiq, who is a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute. A lot of his focus area is on Pakistan and South Asia. He’s also a political risk analyst that focuses on that region.

 Can you talk a little bit about the role of the IMF here? As somebody who was observing this unfold beginning in early [01:12:00] 2022, what was the role of the IMF here, and what are the implications of what we’ve uncovered here?

ARIF RAFIQ: The IMF effectively serves as life support for the Pakistan economy. Pakistan is a habitual patient of the IMF. So, this is currently the 22nd or 23rd IMF program for Pakistan in its history. And so, every, I would say, three to five years, the country enters some kind of new IMF program, and that’s because the country goes through what are called boom-bust cycles. It grows at above average rates for a couple of years and its economy heats up, and it begins to run out of money to finance its own budget as well as its external liabilities.

So, Pakistan is a net importer. It imports energy — as well as some food items and other things — to fuel its economy as well as feed its [01:13:00] people. And its export base is quite weak. And so, it constantly needs the influx of funds from the IMF, as well as IMF partners, to help enable it to finance its imports, and then also address its budgetary needs.

And so, the IMF routinely comes in, and Pakistan is a sort of a longtime patient of the IMF. And, basically, the IMF plays the role of preventing Pakistan’s economic collapse. It doesn’t help the country in terms of its broader economic transformation and developing economy, an economy that meets the needs of its people, but it is there to prevent an all-out collapse.

MURTAZA HUSSIAN: You described the situation of the boom-bust cycle in Pakistani politics. I believe there’s something with Pakistan’s political economy which contributes to that. And you mentioned civil-military relations earlier. The Pakistani military obviously has a very disproportionate share in Pakistan’s economy [01:14:00] itself. It’s a big real estate holder, it controls other industries.

How does this military control of the economy lead to this chronically dysfunctional economic situation?

ARIF RAFIQ: Yeah. There is an imbalance in Pakistan’s economy, and its economic policies are largely aimed at or disproportionately aimed at privileging the few in the country, and that includes its political and economic elites, as well as the military. The military is a major economic player in the country. It owns a significant amount of land as commercial property. It also manufactures corn flakes, meat, and other goods. And so, it’s very analogous to what we have in Egypt and other countries, where the military is just a big player in the economy.

So it receives these undue benefits, in terms of privileges, in terms of market access and things like that. And, ultimately, what that does is it creates a kind of a domestic economy where the rules of the game are served to privilege the [01:15:00] few. And then, Pakistan’s elite doesn’t invest in competing in the broader global market, and that’s why the military and other major economic actors can benefit from the sheer demand in a country with a population of 240 million. But that is not a pathway toward creating a sustained economic growth that can last over a decade or two, as we’ve seen in countries like Bangladesh — which was formerly part of Pakistan — India, Vietnam, and many of the Southeast Asian countries that have seen some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

So, the rules of the game are aimed at privileging the few, and that produces this imbalanced economy. And then the IMF comes in, and this is a very tortuous exercise that repeats itself every few years.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: And so, what we reported in this most recent article is that the weapons production began roughly in August by Pakistan [01:16:00] for the United States, for the benefit of the Ukrainian military. And then, by the spring of 2023 — so, that’s this year — the IMF publicly tells Reuters and Bloomberg and other news outlets that claims made by Pakistan about its progress toward the next round of IMF financing are not quite accurate. You know, that Pakistan was saying “We’re good, everything’s on cruise control. It expires the end of June 30th, but we should be good. The next round is coming in.”

IMF says, not so much. You need — I think, correct me if I’m wrong — roughly $6 billion, you need to come up with collateral from these other countries in order for us to put forward our financing. And, all of a sudden, at the end of June, the money uncorks.

So, we can add to this now through our reporting, that Pakistan went to the United States and said, we want this weapons program and the financing that’s coming through it to count toward filling this gap. 

Josh Paul Reveals The Truth Behind US Arms Supply to Israel - Laura Flanders and Friends - Air Date 11-7-23

JOSH PAUL: Many of these laws. [01:17:00] require the department to come to some sort of a determination, uh, before any sanctions or withholding of assistance occurs. Uh, if you never come to the determination, you've never broken the law. Uh, that said, I believe that the legal standards are rather lapsed, lacked, and lacking.

Uh, and I believe that we should be holding ourselves to a stronger standard. Uh, part of this also comes down to questions of interpretation of law. 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: You also said that it is in the hands of higher ups. Who would that be? The final determination?

JOSH PAUL: I think the, the, the, the main policy decisions on Israel right now are being made, uh, from the top down, uh, which again is atypical for most arms sales.

They sort of bubble their way up, uh, from the bottom. You get an application from a partner or from a U S company. seeking a certain military capability. Uh, and that's a debate that, you know, gradually bubbles up to the decision makers. Uh, in this instance, the decision was made, uh, and therefore there was no space for that, that bubbling for that debate.

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: At [01:18:00] the top is the president. Is he ultimately responsible? Of 

JOSH PAUL: course, these are his authorities. 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: So what can be done, I'm sure there are people in our audience who, whatever, wherever they stand on culpability for this particular round of violence, want to see an end to it, and want to see peace. What Can they do right now to perhaps to support civil service like the ones you're hearing from who are saying, we're still deciding to be inside trying to do good.

Are there things civil society outside can do to support people like that? 

JOSH PAUL: Yeah, there are three things I will point to. The first is a bit of a cliche, but it really does matter. Contact your member of Congress, contact your senator. I worked in a congressional office. And I know how we used to sit down with the member of Congress on a weekly basis.

Review the call logs and go through them and say, okay, we've had five calls on this side. We've had seven calls on that side and that really does inform how members of congress think about their votes Uh, so that that really is an important thing to do the second thing is [01:19:00] I would say reach out to your local media Uh, there are reporters for what's left anyway of local media, uh who cover?

Um local communities and how they are reacting to world events Make sure they're getting your side of the story And the third thing of course is is organized and there are some good organizations already out there uh, so that the So for example, there is the alliance for peace building Uh, is, is one organization, uh, who does a lot of good work bringing communities together around both local conflict resolution and global conflict issues.

So I think those are the three things I would recommend. 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: Do we have a moment now with President Biden coming out right after you resigned, actually, um, urging Congress to approve, I think more than a hundred billion dollars in aid for Israel, Ukraine, and I think Taiwan. Um, is there a moment now?

Especially to stop any of that, or is it gonna go no matter what? 

JOSH PAUL: I think it's an important moment to talk about it because it [01:20:00] highlights it, right? And the debate inevitably will go away in several months. This won't be something that is on the top of everyone's minds. And while it is, I think this is the opportunity to make an impression.

Is it going to change anything in the short term that I can't say. I think we've have seen a slight shift over the last few days in the administration's approach. I think we've seen a change in tone, a greater focus on Palestinian civilian casualties and the harm that could be done. But in terms of the actions that underlie that, uh, when we look at a supplemental request that has billions of dollars for arms and a hundred million dollars, uh, for humanitarian relief in Gaza, for example, uh, I, I think I'm skeptical that the short term will make any difference, but I think the long term is much more promising.

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: You talked about the harm that could be done and even as we speak, people are being killed. Um, as we record this, um, Raji Sarani, the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in [01:21:00] Gaza, spoke on Democracy Now and basically said, Palestinian civilians are in the eyes of the storm. They are the targets.

PALESTIAN: They, they destroyed Gaza. I mean, it's unbelievable. This army, Targeting only civilians and civilian targets. Towers, houses, hospitals, churches, mosques, schools, sheltered places, ambulances, nurses, Doctors, journalists, this is the most ethical army, this is the most ethical army in the world. This is the mighty Israel, it's might and power, targeting civilians.

They are doing war crimes, crimes against humanity, persecution for 2. [01:22:00] 4 million people. For the last 18 days. How are you 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: thinking about any of 

JOSH PAUL: this? That's right. And if I may, I mean, I saw a report today about a Palestinian family from the north of Gaza, uh, who moved, uh, following the Israeli direction to do so, uh, only for a large number of the family members to be killed in the South of Gaza, uh, when the Israelis struck there.

There is no escape within Gaza. Uh, and for those of us who have experienced war, we know that. Uh, the trauma, the screech of a no flying F 16 followed by explosions day after day after day. Even if you are not physically harmed is an irreparable trauma. 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: We've seen this past week in October 20th, Israeli aircraft dropping flyers on northern Gaza saying that anybody who refuses to abide by the, what amounts to a forced evacuation or forced, um, relocation order from the north to the south will be considered, um, in league with the terrorists or a terrorist and subject to being killed.

How do [01:23:00] you, what's your sense of that? Is that legal? 

JOSH PAUL: So, let me first say that Israel does have a right to respond to Hamas's brutal, violent attack, no question. The Geneva Conventions prohibit the forced relocation of civilians within an occupied area. And so, I think there is a good legal question to be raised there.

I am not a lawyer. Uh, but I think one can only look at what is, at this point, 1. 3 million Palestinians within Gaza who are reported to have been dislocated from their homes, uh, many of those homes of course now destroyed and they won't be able to go back to them, um, to, to raise these sorts of questions and to ask that question I think is very legitimate.

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: Yeah. Please take a moment to subscribe to our newsletter and you'll get information on all of our programming including the weekly premiere on YouTube and our upcoming shows. Please subscribe at lauraflanders. org. I mean, my hair is on fire. You don't see it, but I feel it. Um, partly I've been. I would say that mine 

JOSH PAUL: is too.

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: Yours [01:24:00] obviously burnt up. Um, you lived in Ramallah. As you say, you served in Iraq. Uh, you, I mean, you, you worked in Iraq. Um, for those of us who have seen this up close, uh, this is a moment of despair and fury. And I wonder, Um, holding all of the civilian victims in our hearts at the same time. I certainly, um, feel and weep for those whose families have been torn apart by the attacks of Hamas, whose relatives are held hostage still.

But with all of that in your heart right now, how do you make sense of your effort and those of your colleagues to try to insert human rights? kind of rules on war, because it's almost seems inevitable that in the name of right to defense right to reprisal, um, governments do whatever the heck they like.

JOSH PAUL: So, I mean, there are [01:25:00] laws of war. They're not always necessarily enforceable. And of course, the U. S. has prevented the Palestinians from seeking restorative justice or justice of any kind through the International Criminal Court. Um, so I think it's important to note that there are laws that apply, there are rules of conduct, and there are basic standards of human decency that apply.

I think at the end of the day, as you said, what we're talking about here is not, does not boil down, should not boil down to Israel right or wrong. What we're ultimately talking about is the right of civilians, whether they be Palestinian or Israeli, to live in peace, to feel secure in their homes. very much.

secure from rocket attacks and secure from F 16 drop precision guided munitions. And I hope that this administration, uh, can take a look at our own historic policies, uh, both, uh, in Israel and drawing from our experience in the region, not all of which is positive by any means, [01:26:00] um, and, and push Israel and push all the parties, uh, towards a solution that is more just and that provides the peace.

people who just want to live their everyday lives and raise their families deserve. 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: Like what? What would that solution look like? What would you propose right now if you still had your job inside the State Department? 

JOSH PAUL: So I think there are two streams there. One is with regards to the transfer of arms to Israel right now, which is of course what I was most directly involved in and what I retired over or resigned over.

Um, and with regards to that, again, I would, I would ask the Biden administration to follow its own laws, uh, its own policies that it has set and just to simply apply the same standard. In the same space for debate to Israel as it has permitted, uh, or encouraged, uh, for, for conflicts and for partners, uh, elsewhere in the world. 

SECTION B: GUNS TO MEXICO

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now entering section B guns to Mexico.

Can Mexico win its battle with US gun companies? Part 2 - The Inquiry - Air Date 3-7-24

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: The Mexican case is now changing the assumptions in the sense that it is no longer straightforward or thought that the responsibility of the arms industry [01:27:00] stops at the store.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: Mexico is the only country bringing the lawsuit against U. S. gun companies, but other nations are watching very closely. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: In Latin America, between 70 and 90 percent of gun deaths occur with firearms that come illegally trafficked from the United States. We see the same trends in Central America, in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador.

And also in the Caribbean and countries such as Jamaica.

Now Belize and Antigua and Barbuda have supported Mexico's claims in the U. S. courts by filing briefs directed to the judges who are looking into these cases and telling them that they have similar claims. Issues and similar concerns regarding the weapons that get to their jurisdictions to their territories from the United States.

Some of these countries might be interested in filing lawsuits against the same companies [01:28:00] in the U. S. courts if Mexico's bid for more accountability is successful. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: And lack success, if it happens, could be transformative. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: A win from Mexico in this case would fundamentally change the way in which gun manufacturers behave in three important ways.

Manufacture, marketing, and distribution. When it comes to manufacture, Mexico alleges that the way in which these products are made involves configurations that are easily modifiable to increase their lethality. Now Mexico would like these companies to produce these weapons in ways that makes it Very, very hard to convert them into higher caliber or repeat fire weapons.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: And just like the Sandy Hook lawsuit, the tone of gun company marketing is also in Mexico's sights. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: As for distribution Mexico has shown, through forensic evidence, that most of the firearms that are found in Mexican crime scenes are coming from a [01:29:00] cluster of gun stores that are situated along the border with Mexico in Arizona and Texas, mostly in the state of Arizona in Maricopa County.

Mexico has brought separate proceedings against the gun stores in Arizona for complicity in arms trafficking. And so the way in which Mexico is bringing this lawsuit By using both sides of the supply chain from, first of all, addressing the manufacturers in the federal courts in Boston, but also the gun stores in Arizona, is a strategy that might bring many actors across the supply chain into compliance.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: Mexico's gun company civil lawsuit hasn't been tried in court yet, so there's still a way to go before we find out how it ends. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: The companies will have to present evidence, and so will Mexico, and that means that the case will go into a discovery phase, where the practices of the gun companies in terms of marketing, [01:30:00] production, and distribution will have to be disclosed.

This information will be able to be used by potential buyers. Victims and plaintiffs in other cases as well. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: If the lawsuit was settled, that would mean no trial and no public disclosure of confidential gun company documents. But the expectation is that won't happen here. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: And so Mexico, one of its main objectives with this litigation, is to bring out into the open the business practices which, according to Mexico, are negligent and which are affecting its citizens and causing loss of life within the United States and across the border.

For And without that disclosure of evidence, Mexico would not be interested in an out of court settlement. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: The Mexican government says the cost of the law enforcement response to the cartels is going up, while opportunities to boost income from tourism and foreign investment are being lost. It's suing the gun companies for 10 billion U.

S. dollars in damages. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: It is highly [01:31:00] unlikely that the judge in any phase of this case would order the gun companies to pay that exorbitant sum. Of course, there will probably be some kind of figure that a judge will try to put on The reparations that are awarded to Mexico should they find in favor of that country.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: So can Mexico win its battle with U. S. gun companies?

It's managed to clear the immunity law that's blocked other legal actions. So that's definitely a win. But there's still a long way to go. The trial hasn't started, so we don't know what either side will produce. But the Mexican government needs compelling evidence to prove its claims against the U. S.

gun companies and what they know about trafficking. Mexico may have tough firearm laws, but as our expert witnesses have noted, its own border controls are far from robust. It's going to be a long and expensive process with no guarantee of success. Whatever the outcome, the lawsuit is [01:32:00] already making a mark.

Other countries are watching and waiting.

Ieva Jusionyte, "Exit Wounds: How America's Guns Fuel Violence Across the Border" (U California Press, 2024) - New Books Network - Air Date 4-15-24 

IEVA JUSIONYTE: Most journalists get into covering crime, uh, Almost involuntarily, or they, they fall into it because they are working on a different issue, maybe reporting on, on just community affairs or local politics, or in Juan's case, it was local business, um, in, in, in Nuevo Leon. And then when, uh, Violence erupted because there was this, um, more competition between organized crime groups that traffic drugs to the United States.

And this violence became more apparent in the communities that journalists were covering. They, that, that was just their new story that a lot of them began to pursue. Um, and, uh, it, it was, um, it's also one that once they started this work. It is [01:33:00] difficult to get out of it, despite the threats. So, um, one, they become invested in the story or committed to this issue, uh, that makes it difficult to kind of abandon because the story doesn't end.

They're the organized crime groups continue competing. The government continues. Being implicated in, in extrajudicial killing. So the story has been continuing for many years. It's, it doesn't end. And the journalists who began that beat also feel almost some of them, I would say, trapped in it. Uh, On the one hand, they do have the sources.

It's something they are already familiar with, but also, um, there was, by talking to them and talking to Juan in particular, there is something more to it. So Juan was telling me that he. He just got submerged into this world of the narco. So it's a, it's a dark, kind of dark, dark [01:34:00] beat that has a big, uh, impact on your, on your, um, mental health, on your family life.

But once you get into it, leaving it is, it's, it's hard. There is, there is something to say about leaving the adrenaline behind and the adrenaline of the beat. Yes. But it is also, um, something that. Although it haunts you, uh, you kind of, um, you're resigned to this that this is your life. This is what you are good at.

So I think maybe in a way it can, in some cases, be maybe similar to, to ethnography too. We just get, get used to and, um. It's hard to get out. 

REIGHAN GILLAM - HOST, NEW BOOKS NETWORK: And so in the book, um, another group of people that you feature are gun smugglers and the U. S. federal agents who investigate them and, um, who. Uh, track [01:35:00] them and hope to, to catch the smugglers.

Um, yet the border, it seems to present this problem for U. S. agents and that they don't have jurisdiction in Mexico. And so how much are these, you know, U. S. agents, um, how much can they accomplish, uh, around the flow of guns, you know, with, with their invests and arrests and with these investigations that they're undertaking?

IEVA JUSIONYTE: That's such a good question. So in, in the U. S., the main agency that's responsible for all federal gun crimes, sort of tracking guns, uh, investigating gun crimes, punishing, uh, gun dealers or gun traffickers that, uh, violate laws, it is the ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. And it is one of the, least powerful agencies, very understaffed, uh, very, um, afraid of [01:36:00] politically, of political repercussions if they speak up and if they ask for more resources.

So in, um, I, I have one chapter in the book that, um, looks back at this operation, Fast and Furious, that became very politicized. Uh, and, uh, it was about ATF agents letting guns be trafficked to Mexico in order for them to figure out who are the ultimate buyers, where are these guns going to. Well, the fact is that they lost track of a lot of them and they lost track because Their jurisdiction, as you said, ended at the border.

Now they are much more careful. So they changed. Um, and I, when I tell the stories of these other agents that, that I got to, um, spend a lot of time with recently doing this research. So they don't let any guns cross the border. They try to intercept them at any cost before they get into [01:37:00] Mexico. But there is this mistrust between U.

S. and Mexico, between. authorities, um, the institutions. So it was in, in Mexico, there was very bad, um, um, memories of this operation. How could the U. S. government authorize sending guns to organized crime groups in Mexico? And there was no, nobody was really made responsible for that. And those guns are still in Mexico, but there were also other, other instances when the.

DEA agents, uh, Drug Enforcement Administration, they were working on some cases related to organized crime group members that were the Zetas, and they shared the information with their counterparts in Mexico. That information leaked, and this organized crime group executed a lot of people in, in Allende, Coahuila, which is another place I do write about in the book.

So there is both, um, There is this mistrust [01:38:00] both because of what U. S. agents did in the past and both also of how difficult it is to trust personnel in Mexican institutions that have these relations with organized crime. So it is, um, it is very difficult. Uh, at the same time, it is the only way, because gun guns, um, uh, kind of, they.

It's very difficult to solve an international trafficking crime only working in one country. Um, so I don't know, I, as an anthropologist, I don't know whether I can have, I can, uh, offer solutions for how they can, uh, increase cooperation, but that's definitely a, the only way forward. 

SECTION C: DOMESTIC GUN POLICY

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: You have reached section C domestic gun policy.

Why America's police look like soldiers - Vox - Air Date 6-25-20 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: In the 1980s, police in America looked more like this. The U. S. 's crime rate had been [01:39:00] doing this. And President Reagan called for the military to work more directly with the police for the war on drugs. 

PREIDENT RONALD REAGAN: Drugs are menacing our society. We must move to strengthen law enforcement activities.

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: Congress agreed, and over the next few years passed a series of bills to give police access to military bases and equipment, for the National Guard to assist police with drug operations, for the military and police to train together, and eventually to have the military loan police departments their excess leftover equipment for free.

This would become known as the 1033 program. Police departments got assault rifles like M 16s, armored trucks, and even grenade launchers. This And before long, it started to have an effect on how police police. We can see that in the number of times SWAT teams were used. Departments that had deployed them about once a month in the 80s were using them more than 80 times a year by 1995.

Almost all of these appointments were for drug related search warrants, [01:40:00] usually forced entry searches called no knock warrants. The police were becoming militarized, and people noticed. This 1997 article said it made police look like an occupying army.

In February of 1997, two men robbed a bank in North Hollywood, Los Angeles. They had automatic rifles and body armor. The police didn't. 

By 

the time it ended, a dozen police officers were injured. In the aftermath of the shootout, California police demanded they be equipped with assault rifles, like the AR 15.

But so did police in places from Florida to Connecticut. And that same year, the 1033 program was expanded, dropping the requirement that police departments use the equipment for drug related enforcement. Now any law enforcement, even university police, could access leftover military weapons for any reason.[01:41:00] 

A retired police chief in Connecticut told the New York Times, I was offered tanks, bazookas, anything I wanted. Because complete records on these loans weren't kept until 2015, we don't know exactly how much equipment was given out in those early years. But we do have data on how much of it police departments still have, from each year it was given out.

And you can see a steady growth in the program for most of the 90s and 2000s. And then something happens around here. 

PRESIDENT BARAK OBAMA: The rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: In 2011, the U. S. military formally withdrew its troops from Iraq. That meant the military had a lot of equipment, and one less war to use it on.

So it became available to the police. This is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, or MRAP. It's among the most controversial equipment given out under the 1033 program. And we know from the data that police departments still have several hundred of them that they got in [01:42:00] 2013 and 2014, but none from 2015.

That's because in August of 2014, the 1033 program became national news. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: We just said hands up, don't shoot! And they just started shooting! 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: A police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, had shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. Afterwards, the community's protests were met by heavily militarized police, who pointed sniper rifles at them as they marched.

Tear gas in armored tanks became a familiar sight in Ferguson, Missouri. The 

PRESIDENT BARAK OBAMA: police departments around the country have been getting a lot of this type of equipment. 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: President Obama responded with an executive order curbing the 1033 program. 

PRESIDENT BARAK OBAMA: We've seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like There's an occupying force as opposed to a force that's part of the community that's protecting them and serving them.

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: Two years later, President Trump's administration reversed it. 

JEFF SESSIONS: We will not put superficial concerns about public safety. 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: But by that point, the 1033 [01:43:00] program had become a lot less important anyway. This chart shows that by 2016, most MRAPs loaned out their funds. went to smaller police departments. That means when larger cities today have MRAPs and other military gear, it's often because they've bought it themselves.

And that's because police having military gear and weapons no longer depends on any one government program. It's now a part of how police see themselves. 

ARTHUR RIZER: But the thing that I think is really important is with that equipment comes a certain mentality. 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: This is Arthur Reiser. He's a former military police officer, former civilian police officer, and now studies police militarization.

A big part of his research is about that mentality. And he shared a poll he did of police officers with us. 

ARTHUR RIZER: I asked officers, you know, do you have any problem with police officers routinely on patrol carrying military grade equipment or dressing in military type of uniforms? And the vast majority of those officers told me, no, I [01:44:00] have no problem with that.

And then the second question I asked is, do you think it changes the way that officers feel about themselves and their role in policing? And the vast majority of officers again said, Yes, and what they said was it makes them more aggressive, more assertive, and it can make them more violent. And then finally, I asked them, How do you think the public perceives you?

And the vast majority said it scares them. They know that it scares the public. They know that it makes them more aggressive or more assertive. And that can be dangerous. But they don't seem to care.

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: There are definitely times when it's been more clearly beneficial for the police to have this equipment. For example, during the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, Orlando police used an armored military vehicle to stop the shooter. But those moments tend to be the exception. Today, this equipment is still mostly used by SWAT teams for executing drug related search warrants.

And more than [01:45:00] half of those are still no knock warrants. The kind that Louisville police were executing when they killed Breonna Taylor. And in the case of the Ferguson protests, the Department of Justice found that the heavily militarized presence served to escalate rather than de escalate the overall situation.

The military and the police are supposed to serve different purposes. A military protects an us from a them. A police officer is supposed to be a part of the us. But when police think of themselves as soldiers, that can change. 

ARTHUR RIZER: What is the police officer gonna do with an assault rifle when he's facing a protest?

You know, seriously, when you give someone a hammer, why are you surprised that everything looks like a nail to them?

Why US gun laws get looser after mass shootings - Vox - Air Date 7-28-22

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: In 2020, a study tried to determine the impact of mass shootings on gun policy. They looked at 25 years of high profile mass shootings. Then they looked at gun legislation passed during that time. Over 3, 000 laws [01:46:00] across all 50 states. When they took a closer look at those laws, a pattern emerged that, at first, seemed unsurprising.

State legislatures controlled by Democrats were more likely to pass tighter gun laws. Republican controlled states typically loosened gun laws. But they found a key difference. Mass shootings didn't have any statistically significant effect on the number of laws passed by Democrats. While for Republican legislatures, a mass shooting roughly doubles the number of laws enacted that loosen gun restrictions in the next year.

JAMES BARRAGAN: To arm more teachers, for example, or arm more school staff. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: That's James Varagan, a politics reporter at the Texas Tribune. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: There is more access to guns afterwards. A state like Texas would go more towards pro gun policies in the aftermath of a gun shooting. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Texas has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation, and that matters for people all over the country.

JAMES BARRAGAN: People probably don't know about the importance of, [01:47:00] uh, state gun laws and really state laws in general. Our gun laws at the federal level had been frozen in time since basically the 1990s, which allowed the states to have a much bigger role and a much bigger influence in how gun culture played out in their jurisdictions.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Let's look at Texas. In 1991, a gunman killed 23 people at a Luby's restaurant in Killian, Texas. A woman there named Susanna Hub lost both her parents in the shooting. She believed she could have stopped the massacre and turned her experience into a crusade for loosening gun laws. 

SUZANNE GRATIA: I'm mad at my legislators for legislating me out of the right to protect myself and my family.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: It worked. In 1994, Texas elected a new governor, George W. Bush, who made it legal to carry a concealed gun his first year in office, and set off a trend in the state that's continued for decades. For example, in 2012, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting drew [01:48:00] attention to gun laws across the country, Texas responded a few months later by creating a program allowing some school employees to carry guns in school.

In 2017, a gunman killed 26 people at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Within two years, Texas made it legal to carry weapons in places of worship. But after the Santa Fe High School shooting, Governor Greg Abbott did something unusual. He asked lawmakers to consider a red flag law, which would allow authorities to take firearms away from a person courts deemed dangerous.

JAMES BARRAGAN: Uh, that is not something that Republicans in this state often do. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Flo and Scott were also pushing for legislation in response to Santa Fe, like laws that would hold parents accountable if their guns were used by their children to harm people. They also pushed to make it harder to buy ammunition online.

FLO RICE: Our shooter, he just checked a box and said, yes, I'm 18, and they delivered it to his [01:49:00] doorstep. You can't get alcohol delivered without showing proof of ID or something, but he ordered ammunition. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Their hope for stricter laws was in line with Texas public opinion. Polling showed only a small minority of Texans supported loosening gun laws, and just over half supported tightening them.

FLO RICE: We thought it was common sense that this would be done. 

SCOT RICE: They came to Flo's hospital room the week of the shooting. And we had the governor, lieutenant governor, we had congressmen, we had senators, their wives, there's chief of staff all in her room at one time, at least 20 people and said, we're going to take care of you.

We promise we'll be there for you. We'll fix this. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: But in the end, these proposals, along with Abbott's openness to red flag laws, went nowhere. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: After gun rights supporters went after him, the gun culture is strong. But the gun lobby itself also exerts a lot of pressure on Texas politicians. 

FLO RICE: There were bills that were put out there, but they [01:50:00] never made it out of committee.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Later in 2019, two shootings in West Texas just weeks apart prompted Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to suggest another tighter gun policy, closing background check loopholes. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: That is a very strong comment from a lieutenant governor who is very pro guns, who is very friendly with the NRA. But Republican leaders were saying, we may have problems here.

Democrats are pushing to take over the state house. That For the first time since 2003. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: After elections were over, with Republicans still in control, in 2021, Texas passed constitutional carry. There would no longer be a requirement for Texans to have a license or receive any training to openly carry handguns.

FLO RICE: For me, it's very scary because if I see someone in public with a gun, I will panic. Um, that's going to send me into an anxiety attack. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: That constitutional carry law that, uh, the state legislature passed in 2021 had been rejected by [01:51:00] Republican leaders. But as, uh, the Republican party has gone further and further to the right on issues, you get a fringe of the party that is much more vocal about, uh, all kinds of issues, including gun rights.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: In recent years, a better organized gun control movement has seen more success with tightening laws in some states. But the movement to expand gun access isn't stopping. In 2002, fewer than half of the 50 states had one party in control of both the state legislature and the governor's office. Today, three quarters of the states do.

That means in the places where Republicans or Democrats have full control, they can push through new gun laws with little chance of a veto. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: So what happens, um, and you see it in state house to state house, is one state passes a law that is very successful for one side of the aisle. And then, um, Another state house adopts a very, very similar law.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Remember that constitutional carry [01:52:00] law in Texas? Today, 24 states have similar laws on the books for that, too. And more than 400 local governments across 20 states have adopted variations on a Second Amendment sanctuary law, meaning a city, town, or county refuses to recognize any state or federal gun laws.

that they believe violate the Second Amendment. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: These things get replicated, they get cloned, they go from state to state, and they essentially make up this patchwork of laws throughout the country.

Closing credits 5-21-24

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: That's going to be it for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about today's topic or anything else you like. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at (202) 999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. The additional sections of the show included clips from Deconstructed, Laura Flanders and Friends, The Inquiry, New Books Network, and VOX. Further details are in the show notes. 

Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin [01:53:00] Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our transcriptionist quartet Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. 

And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at BestofTheLeft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast App. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny weekly bonus episodes in addition to there being no ads and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community. Where you can continue the discussion. 

So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC. 

My name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left Podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from [01:54:00] BestOfTheLeft.com.

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#1629 Hitting Where it Hurts in Our Era of Negative Partisanship: Messaging left-wing politics amid cultish politics (Transcript)

Air Date 5/15/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left Podcast in which we, in a cultish era of in-group out-group politics and media, seek to find messaging for progressive partisans to achieve electoral success. 

Sources on our front page today include The Gray Area, the PBS NewsHour, Amanpour and Company, Deep State Radio, and Future Hindsight. Then in the additional sections half of the show, we'll dive deeper into identity, political rhetoric, messaging, and those pesky independents.

Everything's a cult now - The Gray Area with Sean Illing - Air Date 4-27-24

DEREK THOMPSON: I'm not sure that I've ever been able to go deep on it. I'm very interested in, and I've always been very interested in, culture, which I suppose is worth defining. Culture is the way that we think about the world and the way that we influence each other's thoughts about the world. And that can be through entertainment, it can be through religion, it can be through fashion and [00:01:00] clothes. But it's the memes and ideas and ideologies that not only influence our own sense of reality, but other people's sense of reality.

And I've always been interested in how people's sense of reality comes to be. So you can start with the late 19th century when the concept of a national reality was first possible, at least in America. You had technologies like the telephone and the telegraph that allowed newspapers to share information and report on information that truly was national. It allowed information to travel much faster than it had ever traveled before. And so suddenly in the late 19th century, we had the possibility of a national, and even international, somewhat real time shared reality. 

And that shared reality might have come to its fullest expression maybe in the middle of the 20th century with the rise of television technology. You had just a handful of channels that were reaching tens of millions of people. And at the same time, you also had the [00:02:00] rise of national newspapers and maybe the apogee of national newspapers in terms of their ability to monopolize local advertising revenue and become just enormous machines for getting tens of millions of Americans to read about a shared reality.

And so you move from the 19th century with sort of the birth of this possibility of a shared reality into the 20th century where you really have the rise of a kind of monoculture, which was never really possible for the vast majority of human history. And what I'm interested in is the possibility that the Internet has forever shattered that reality; that we are, in a way, going back to the pre-20th century, where culture is actually just a bunch of cults stacked on top of each other, a bunch of mini local realities stacked on top of each other. And that we maybe will never have anything like monoculture ever again, because the Internet in a weird way thrusts us back into the 19th century. [00:03:00] And there's all sorts of fascinating things that can unspool from the fact that monoculture and shared reality, as we briefly came to understand it, is dead.

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Yeah, I think basically all of that is right. And I'm going to try to resist the temptation to start chewing on too much of it because I don't want to get ahead of ourselves here. I think it would be helpful first to also define another term that we're going to throw in a lot here. And it deserves to be defined clearly so that people know what we're talking about.

And that term is "cult." How do you define a cult? 

DEREK THOMPSON: I think of a cult as a nascent movement outside the mainstream that often criticizes the mainstream and organizes itself around the idea that the mainstream is bad or broken in some way. 

So I suppose when I think about a cult, I'm not just thinking about a [00:04:00] small movement with a lot of people who believe something fiercely. I'm also interested, especially in the modern idea of cults being oriented against the mainstream. That is, when they form, they form as a criticism of what the people in that cult understand to be the mainstream. And cults, especially when we talk about them in religion, tend to be extreme, tend to be radical, tend to have really high social cost to belonging to them.

You, today, especially in the media and entertainment space, have this really interesting popularity of new influencers or new media makers adapting as their core personality the idea that the mainstream is broken, that news is broken, that mass institutions are broken, that the elite are in [00:05:00] some way broken and elite institutions are broken.

The fragmentation of media that we're seeing, and the rise of this anti-institutional, somewhat paranoid style of understanding reality, I see these things as rising together in a way that I find very interesting. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: That whole message, the "They don't want you to know the real truth," "They, the mainstream, aren't covering the real news or the real stories." What is the seductive power of that? What is the psychological reward of defining yourself against the normies in that way? 

DEREK THOMPSON: There's a lot of possible answers here, but I guess I'll start with a favorite philosophical touchstone of yours. Speaking of the 19th century, let's go to Nietzsche.

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Yes.

DEREK THOMPSON: I think it's about power. I think that cults, speaking of will to power, give people who feel like they don't have status or don't have power or don't have a clear understanding of or theory of the case of the world, [00:06:00] it gives them all of that. It gives them power. It gives them a kind of weapon of status, and it gives them a theory of how the world works.

If you're frustrated, for example, about COVID policies in 2020, 2021, it's not very empowering to say that nobody really understands what's going on and everyone's just doing their best in the fog of pandemic. That's not a very empowering message. It might be true. It actually is quite close to the truth, I believe, of our often failing elite institutions. But for many people, I think it is more empowering and more attractive to identify a clear nemesis. Maybe it's Fauci. Maybe it's Trump. Maybe it's someone else in the CDC or the FDA. It's much more empowering to say, I know this person is the enemy and everything that goes wrong with [00:07:00] COVID policy, I can blame it on them.

When we think about why is anti-institutional or anti-elite messaging so popular these days, I think it's hard to separate the fact that a lot of people are searching for status, searching for a sense of power and understanding and identity. And here you have the possibility of finding and settling on a message that says, I know who the good guys and the bad guys are. And once you have that clear division of who is good or who is bad, well, that goes so deeply, I think, to what makes cults so powerful. Here is your in group, and here is your in group defined by the out group. And that kind of out-group animosity not only goes aerodynamic on social media for a variety of reasons, I also think it sits very well with us when we're confused about the world and how it works. 

Examining how U.S. politics became intertwined with personal identity - PBS NewsHour - Air Date 3-8-23

CLAIRE JERRY: Every president has encountered division of some type, much of it partisan, protests, civil unrest, much of it rooted in those very things Washington was concerned about. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: [00:08:00] Inside the exhibit on the presidency at the National Museum of American History in Washington, curator Claire Jerry hears echoes of the divisions today in our country's past, starting with our very first president, George Washington.

CLAIRE JERRY: In his farewell address, he said he was really worried about three things for the country. He was worried about regionalism, partisanship and foreign entanglements, and especially the partisanship issue. He was not a believer in parties that would take the lead over ideas. And one of the things he says in the address is that the unity of government made us a people, and we should be justifiably proud and committed to that.

CARROLL DOHERTY: The country is more divided, certainly along partisan lines, than we've seen it. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: In our first story, we heard from the Pew Research Center's Carol Dougherty and Jocelyn Kiley about how divided the country has become, and how hostile members of both parties now are to the other side. 

JOCELYN KILEY: I think one way to think about this is, is that [00:09:00] people have internalized partisan identity maybe in a way that we didn't really see, say, three decades ago.

MICHELLE VITALI: I do think that things have broken down. I have neighbors that we wave to each other, and that's the extent of our relationship now. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: That's a feeling we've heard from our viewers too. The conversations about current events and politics have become far more divisive and personal. 

FABIAN GONZALEZ: Those items that are in the news today--COVID, immigration, politics, abortion, and the list goes on--I'm not free to speak about any of those things because I fear the consequence of a conversation I don't feel like I can have. 

KARA ELLIS: It's really hard because these are people I care about. These are people I'm close to that I've grown up with, I've lived in the same house with. The underlying current between all of us is very tense. 

SUDHANSHU MISRA: I would like to talk about politics, discuss [00:10:00] politics with my friends. I would like to share ideas, exchange notes with them. But unfortunately we are at a dead end, where there is a wall. 

LILLIANA MASON: Decades ago, we disagreed over things like the role of government or the size of government or what we wanted the government to be doing. And with those types of divisions, we can find a compromise. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: Lilliana Mason is a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University who draws on social psychology to try to better understand our political divisions. 

LILLIANA MASON: What we're seeing today is, is the divide is much more about our feelings about each other. We are angry at one another. Democrats and Republicans don't trust one another. We are more likely to dehumanize people in the other party. We think that they're a threat to the country. And these types of feelings are not the kind of thing we can compromise with. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: Mason opened her first book, Uncivil Agreement, with the story of Robber's Cave, a famous social science experiment from the [00:11:00] 1950s when researchers brought 5th grade boys to a summer camp outside Oklahoma City. The boys, all white, were separated into two teams: one calling itself the Rattlers, the other the Eagles. They were allowed to bond. And then, after a week, the groups were introduced to each other.

LILLIANA MASON: And they immediately wanted to start competing. So they wanted to have baseball games, all kinds of different kinds of competitions to prove that they were the best. So they started calling each other names. They accused each other of cheating. They tried to sabotage each other. The competition got so intense that ultimately they had to stop the experiment because they were throwing rocks and they were becoming violent.

And that experiment was used to talk about the sort of innate nature of humans to form groups, to become proud of the groups that we're in, to want our groups to be better than the people that are not in our group, and ultimately, to compete against another group if we [00:12:00] feel like they are threatening the status of our team.

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: Jumping ahead from George Washington's warning at our founding about the danger of political teams. 

FABIAN GONZALEZ: It is with pride that I face before this convention. For President of the United States, the name of Dwight David Eisenhower. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: To the 1950s, when our political parties were far more ideological mix than today, with conservative and liberal wings in both camps, and when someone like General Dwight Eisenhower was courted by both parties to run as their standard bearer. 

CLAIRE JERRY: Eventually, he chose a party, but yet was still elected with overwhelming support from the American people. And that would have been true, I think, regardless of which direction he had gone. 

LILLIANA MASON: In 1950, the American Political Science Association actually put out a report saying we need the parties to be more different, because people don't know which party to vote for because they can't tell the difference between them and so they can't make a responsible decision. [00:13:00] And ultimately, what they suggested was that the two parties should really stand for some very different policy ideas. 

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON: We must not fail. Let us close the springs of racial poison.

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: In the 1960s, the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act by Democrats helped usher in a major realignment of the parties, with many Black Americans becoming Democrats, as many White Americans opposed to integration left that party. Layered on top of that broad reorganization along racial lines, the 1980s witnessed the mobilization of the socially conservative Christian Right, as well as business interests aligned with Republicans.

And eventually came the rise of partisan talk radio, cable TV news, the Internet and social media, exacerbating the divide along partisan lines. 

LILLIANA MASON: Ultimately, what ended up happening is that our [00:14:00] society changed in such a way that our parties started becoming different on their own. Not based on the policy preferences, or not only based on policy preferences, but based on what Democrats and Republicans looked like, what kind of religious services they attended, what kind of cultural television shows they watched, where they live. And so they started really becoming different from each other in a social way, not just in a sort of policy way. 

Trump’s Speech to Israel-Gaza w. Jason Stanley on the Politics of Language - Amanpour and Company - Air Date 11-16-23

HARI SREENIVASAN - REPORTER, AMANPOUR AND COMPANY: You have a new book out called The Politics of Language, and it is happening and dropping at a time when there is so much language to be discussed. My first example that I want to pull up is former president Donald Trump at a speech on Veterans Day. He said, "We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, [00:15:00] that lie and steel and cheat on elections". But, tell me, when you see that, when you heard that, what went through your mind? 

JASON STANLEY: Okay, there's a bunch of stuff to unpack in that statement. Let's begin with "vermin" and move to the claim that Joe Biden is a Marxist and a communist, essentially. 

So, when you speak, you attune people to certain things. So you attune people to things in the world, in this case, rats, and you attune people to practices, in this case, things you do with rats. But this kind of hate speech, because that's what it is, it attunes its audience to a practice of dealing with vermin. 

The concept of genocide is complicated in this case because it's being applied to political opponents and not an ethnic group. But we have to remember that the Soviet Union [00:16:00] intervened in the definition of genocide to make sure it didn't apply to political opponents, or else Stalin would have been accused of genocide. So this is politicide, politicidal speech, and we can't forget that. 

So, now the second aspect of this is the overbroad use of Marxist and communist. That one is familiar from the well-known writings of say, Hitler , where Hitler said, essentially, any pro-democratic. person, the Social Democrats, any political opponent was a Marxist. So, this overbroad use of Marxist was used in the 1930s by the Nazi party to incarcerate anyone accused of this charge, which meant Social Democrats, the political opponents of the conservatives. And we have to remember that in the 1930s, until Kristallnacht in [00:17:00] November 1938, the people who occupied the concentration camps were Hitler's political opponents, the pro-democracy forces who he falsely labeled as Marxists. And you know, it's absurd to say that there's any kind of dramatic Marxist or communist movement in the United States today.

HARI SREENIVASAN - REPORTER, AMANPOUR AND COMPANY: What do you mean by "politicidal"? 

JASON STANLEY: "Politicidal" is targeting a class of political opponents for extermination. So, for example, in Indonesia in 1965-66, Between 500,000 and 1. 2 million communist party members were murdered by the government. That was a politicide. Stalin committed politicides against many of millions of his political, what he perceived as his political opponents. So, it's targeting political opponents rather than. ethnic or religious groups. 

HARI SREENIVASAN - REPORTER, AMANPOUR AND COMPANY: I do want to point out something else that he said later in the same speech. He said, [00:18:00] "The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within". What sort of actions do you think, you know, when you talk about attuning an audience, what does it do to an audience when they hear their leader say things like that? 

JASON STANLEY: So, it cleaves the audience into his supporters and the opponents. And the opponents are being said to be so destructive, such an existential threat, that nothing they say can be taken at face value. That you can't trust anything they say, because, you know, in war you can't trust your opponent, if your opponent is telling the truth in war, saying something in war, they're just doing it in order to deceive you. So, the idea here is to create a friend-enemy distinction. And, as we say in our book, the friend enemy distinction has a communicative consequence. [00:19:00] And that communicative consequence is you shut out the voices of your political opponents. So, he is trying to create a wall between Democrats and him and saying to his supporters, Look, this is not about discourse. This is about us versus them. They are an existential threat to the nation. Don't talk to them, incarcerate them. 

HARI SREENIVASAN - REPORTER, AMANPOUR AND COMPANY: So in this context, your book, your new book, The Politics of Language, you're really saying that so much of the conflicts that we are seeing around the world today have a pretty significant component, where the language used to describe them, the opponents, and the framing, either—what, is an accelerant? Or entrenches people onto one side? How would you describe it? 

JASON STANLEY: Well, as the philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine said, you know, "Everything is mixed between world and language". Separating out what language does and what [00:20:00] "world", what factuality is, is very difficult. And there's like a feedback loop, if you will, between the speech and the actions. And it's certainly the talking strengthens the background ideology, you know, you talk about vermin, you link it to say, in this case, a stolen election, and then you do a feedback loop. So, you repeat it, you link it to the background ideology. Germany in 1931, according to Claudia Kuntz, the scholar of Nazism, was the least antisemitic country in Europe. If you expected a genocide, you would have expected it, say, in France, in Western Europe that is. So, but by 1939, it's the most antisemitic country. And that's because of this kind of feedback loop, this kind of repetitive linkages between vermin and the targeted people. And then you have to link it back, as the Nazis did, they linked [00:21:00] this back to the Jews, German Jews, or the world Jewish conspiracy, supposedly betraying the Germans in World War I, which, as Timothy Snyder has pointed out, is like the current situation. They're saying that these hidden Marxist forces betrayed the country by stealing the election and we need revenge.

Hit 'Em Where It Hurts A Conversation About How Dems Can Win in November with Rachel Bitecofer - Deep State Radio - Air Date 2-8-24

DAVID ROTHKOPF - HOST, DEEP STATE RADIO: Well, you know, I say this as a compliment although it may not sound that way at first, but you've become kind of the anti-Michelle Obama because Michelle Obama is like, 'when they go low, we go high'. And you're, you know, I think your message, and I don't want to put words in your mouth, is kind of like, Well, sure, you know, own your accomplishments, but going low actually works in this environment. And by going low, I mean going negative, you know? And you explain that better than I can. So , maybe this is a time to explain. 

RACHEL BITECOFER: Yeah. [00:22:00] I mean, not to pick on Michelle Obama, because there's nothing, frankly, I mean there's a lot of things that are special about Michelle Obama, but her thought that, you know, no matter how nasty these people get, we should maintain our integrity and dignity, I would say is very reflective of the average Democrat, especially working in the industry, okay? But what I'm here to say is that when Republicans go low, we have to hit them where it hurts. Okay? And that front half of the book where I described the heuristic of partisanship, how much it matters and all the stuff that Republicans have done, and also that most voters don't pay attention. I mean, 40% of people who could have voted in 2020 didn't even bother to vote when the rest of us felt we were in this moment of existential crisis. 

So, getting people to understand, like, people don't know anything, right? So, we have to be the ones to tell them that if the Republicans are running campaigns that are... the way Republicans do persuasion is very distinct and I lay this out in the book. In 2004, they dabble in it. By 2010, they institutionalize it. They don't [00:23:00] do median voter theorem persuasion: Oh, David, you're here and here and here on policy. I am too. Vote for me. And I have a great qualification background. You can trust me. 

Republicans don't do that anymore at all. What they do in persuasion messaging is tell people the Democrats are crazy socialist and they're going to turn your boys into girls, right? Like, it's very much not selling them. It's pushing that swing bucket away from voting for us. And so that's the transition that we have to learn how to make. So, it's not just about negativity because Democrats have always run negative ads. They just never run any effective negative ads. They're always about corruption and shit that people... all voters think everybody's corrupt, number one. And also they don't see the personal effect of corruption on them. So, with the Republicans, it's not just that we're getting rid of this base message versus the persuasion message, and these two separate universes like the Republicans do, and putting in one message that both motivates the base, [00:24:00] your independents that lean with you, and pushes those swing voters away from voting Republicans. We're doing that in a way that is tying a threat to the voter, not to some other out group that they may or may not care about, because humans are wired for in-group tribalism. So, we got to hit people and tell them, you know, women, especially women in like states like California, the Republican party is going to pass a national abortion ban and leave you nowhere to run, right? Like it isn't, Hey woman in a safe blue state in a safe blue place, you should go and show up and vote because your sister in Alabama is threatened. Okay? Like, that's what the liberal, probably, the impulse would be to message on this because we care about others. And we think everyone cares about others. No one cares about others except for super duper liberals. Almost everybody is more introspective. And that's why it's not just about making the strategic pivot. It's about the type of messaging you're pushing out, making it personalized, hyperbolic, [00:25:00] not 'Republicans plan to slash social security' or 'cut social security': 'Republicans are coming to steal your retirement'. 

DAVID ROTHKOPF - HOST, DEEP STATE RADIO: Right. And that becomes strong. And also, you know, you talk about going negative as you can specifically on different candidates. You know, it strikes me though, in reading it and listening to you talk, that we've essentially entered a period, and it began with Ronald Reagan, I think, and what I consider the first 'big lie', which is government is your enemy, right? And, you know, they found that that kind of worked for reasons you've just alluded to. And we've gotten to the point, we've seen it this week as kind of the apotheosis of this, where they're actually against getting anything done. They're all about having something to run against. They're all about, you know, how are they going to be negative on the Democrats? [00:26:00] And these other issues, you know, Democrats are like, 'But we'll do your border deal. You know? 

RACHEL BITECOFER: We'll give it away, too, right? I mean, who would ever thought Democrats would ever say, we'll give you massive border security investment with no amnesty for anyone? 

DAVID ROTHKOPF - HOST, DEEP STATE RADIO: Yeah, right. And yet, because we now have a country full of people who are pro-government and anti-government and politicians who are, you know, political leaders in the traditional sense, and then a whole party of what I would call anti-politicians. You know, it's like matter and antimatter. They're out to destroy the institutions, destroy the value base underlying the institutions, attack anything. They're sort of an immune system that's gone mad, to go to a different kind of [00:27:00] metaphor, where it just will attack anything that works in the body politic.

And, so, the impulse... you know, I go to meetings with fancy Democrats in Washington and in the administration and stuff and they're like, Well, here's our agenda, and we have an agenda and they don't have an agenda. And back in the Hillary Clinton days, it was like, Well, here's a white paper and it's got 91 points in favor and they don't have that long white paper. And, to me, the sort of essential message of your book is you've got all the Democrats. The issue is how are you going to pick up any votes? And if you're going to pick up a vote, the way you've got to do it is bump them off of their candidate, move them away from it. 

RACHEL BITECOFER: Not the candidate, the party, right? But yes, the candidate is not... so like in the [00:28:00] Democratic campaigns, the candidate is alone, almost, centralized, the focal. In Republican campaigns the candidate is part of a team. That team is the Republican team. That team is good. And the opposition, no matter who they are, they could be Joe Biden, and they're going to say they, he wants to defund the police. He's a socialist and his guilt by association is that he's also a Democrat.

Employ Negative Partisanship w. Rachel Bitecofer - Future Hindsight - Air Date 3-21-24

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: Well, I have to say, I found your book so refreshing. You don't mince words about having to go on offense to elect pro-democracy candidates. Like you just said, we just need to make sure that everybody understands what the overarching message should be for Democrats. So let's talk about the fighting words that lead to winning political power. And you just talked about how dangerous Republicans are. And we know that we need to make freedom the Democratic brand. What would be the overarching message you want all Democrats running for office to communicate this year? 

RACHEL BITECOFER: You know, with the Democratic Party, you're talking about very different party than the Republican Party. And we've [00:29:00] allowed those differences to kind of hamper our strategic changes, right? We're like, Oh, we can't do this because we're not all White people. We're not all conservatives. And I'm like, no, no, no, listen, it doesn't matter if your issue is climate change, gay rights, women's rights, whatever it might be in that Democratic coalition. It comes under the same threat from the Republican Party. So, that the threat to freedom, the threat to your 'health, wealth, freedom and security', is what I call it, it can tie into all these different constituencies within the Democratic Party and unite them under one broad theme. And so, getting people to do that is so important because when you think about Republicans, they pick something, it could be immigration, it could be crime in 2022, it was all crime. In 2021 in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, who was the Republican candidate there, ended up kind of upsetting the Democratic front runner for the governorship. And what they did was they painted the entire election theme around some issue I [00:30:00] had never even heard of, called CRT. Okay? They take something that even me had never heard of in January of 2021 and made it the defining issue voters were telling pollsters about in the fall of 2021. And the way they did that is that they focused all of their messaging around this one thing, even though individually, the candidates probably have many different things that they're focused on. And certainly Glenn Youngkin is a business-type conservative. He would be focused on economics normally. But instead, he ran on wedging this idea that we're indoctrinating White children to feel guilty in schools. And they all amplified that message through their media, through all three of the statewide races, even though, you know, most of those things had nothing to do with CRT in school. So, getting Democrats to understand, if the electorate doesn't know anything, and our goal is to make sure they know at least one thing—your freedom's under threat—then it becomes about repetition and centralization. [00:31:00] And you need everybody pounding that same refrain over and over and over and really harping on the issue. 

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: Well, you just mentioned about the coordinated messaging from the Republican Party up and down the entire infrastructure and how, if your a Democrat, it feels like nobody got the memo.

RACHEL BITECOFER: No doubt. And think about, like I said, you know, CRT in schools is not an issue that any of those candidates cared about, I bet you. You know, like maybe some of the deep red districts, like the true cult believers did. But most of the swing race Republicans in Virginia that cycle, if you were to ask them as candidates, what is your issue?, I am certain no one wrote CRT down. Okay? But they all understood the power of this thing that, you know, they understand ambiguity is actually an asset. With us it's like, Oh, you know, we can't call them fascist because no one knows what that is. And I'm like, no one knows what a socialist is either but after 10 [00:32:00] years of calling us that they know one thing about socialism: Democrats, it's connected to Democrats, right? So, you know, I think it's really important for us to get over this hump. It's certainly something I'm highly focused on for 2024, making sure that the Biden team's running a good message frame. They're going to be running under this banner of 'threat to democracy'. They're going to be making that threat personal and concrete, not, you know, abstract and top level, but about individual freedoms and rights that people stand to lose under this new MAGA regime that wants to come in. But the swing races for the House and the Senate also need to be pounding that they need to be really hitting the voters hard about freedom on abortion issue. That is the most salient issue. The voters are not shy about that. They're pretty clear about the power, I mean, thinking about disenfranchising half of the population, stealing a constitutional, right? I'm here to tell the male analyst and others, You don't get over it. It doesn't go away. It doesn't, you know, recede in the background. In [00:33:00] fact, as we've been subjected to headlines, coming from places like Texas ,of medical torture of women, it's going to get stronger. And that's why I push very hard for people to understand the electoral power of focusing on Dobbs and Republican big government intrusion into your private life. It's the way that you win power. If your issues, climate change or whatever else, you have the power to do the policy. But right now we like to kind of mix those two things up. You know, we're running on our favorite policy things, whether or not those are the most effective things to optimize winning. 

Everything's a cult now Part 2 - The Gray Area with Sean Illing - Air Date 4-27-24

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: I don't want to overstate this, but is American politics just a bunch of cults now? 

DEREK THOMPSON: American politics is definitely more powered by negation than it used to be. I think for a lot of voters, the power of negative partisanship has made it easier for people to explain what it is they're against than to explain what it is that they're for.

It's fascinating to me [00:34:00] that among, say, Republicans and among Trump voters, it didn't seem to me like a lot of people that were Trump supporters had a clear theory of how, for example, he would reduce inflation. They were clearly upset about inflation, and they clearly thought that Biden was to blame for it, but when you scrutinize Trump's policies, when you look at the fact that he wants to extend tax cuts, which is somewhat inflationary, and he didn't want to cut spending in lots of places, which is inflationary, and he wanted to impose a 10 percent tariffs on imports, which is inflationary, you add it all up, and it actually seems like Trump's economic policy is more inflationary than Biden's, but this never seems to make contact with the discourse about Trump.

And part of that, I think, is the fact that politics today is more about what we oppose than what we stand for. Is there something culty about that? I think maybe. And I think it's possible that as more people get their news from sources that are [00:35:00] small pirate-like organizations that are trying to oppose the mainstream rather than define an alternative clearly, that I do think there's a cult-like mentality to that.

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: I like this because I'm grasping for a better word than "polarized" to capture what's happened, because it's not like we're sorted into coherent ideological groups. It isn't really about ideas or arguments or policies very often. It is more that people inside these tribes or groups cannot even imagine what people outside their group are thinking or even how they're living, because we don't talk to each other, we live in different places, and a lot of our political and social lives are lived virtually. 

DEREK THOMPSON: I definitely think it's the case that identity seems more important to politics than it used to be. I remember in my [00:36:00] conversation with various sociologists and economists and anthropologists when I was doing my cult research, is that at one point I was asking them, what would it mean to you for everything to become a little bit more cultish? And one of them made the really interesting observation that we've gotten so damn good at making products with good physical attributes, at making good enough stuff, that the commercial war of the future won't be about value or quality, it'll be about identity. Are you the kind of person who buys this product, rather than, is this a product that does more for you?

When you transpose that to politics, it is at least a little illuminating, that idea that the commercial war of the future will be more about identity--who are you--than value. What can this do for you? Because that would seem to describe [00:37:00] or predict an election in the near future that is less about policy and more about, let's just say it, vibes.

And that is, in a way, the election that we're headed into. It's kind of astonishing to me how little we're hearing about policy, how little we're hearing about any kind of policy debate, how little even this election seems to be about policy at all. Like when I think about the last 20 years, I feel like there's a policy theme to almost every single election. This election clearly has an identity theme, but I'm not sure it has a policy value theme. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: I don't think I'll ever be able to say politics is fully post materialist, but I have been on the vibes bandwagon for a while now. And, I co-wrote a book about the history of media and democracy a couple of years ago. And the main thing we track in that book is this pattern that recurs throughout [00:38:00] time, whenever there's a revolution in communication technology, it is hugely disruptive to society in lots of unpredictable ways. I mean, you were talking about the phone and the telegraph earlier, but the thing about newer technologies like radio and TV, for instance, is that they really helped create something like a mass culture. The public was more or less watching the same movie we call reality. And for all the downsides of that, and there were many, it did have the benefit of grounding society in a shared reality. Do you think of that loss as a genuine cultural and political crisis? Or is it possible that it's just another period of technological change, not that different from earlier periods, and we'll figure it out? 

DEREK THOMPSON: I do think that in so many ways, we're just going back to the middle of the 19th century. We're going back to the historical norm, rather than being flung into the exosphere, [00:39:00] into some unprecedented state of popular discombobulation. The idea that a shared reality, a shared national reality, in real time is even possible is so historically young.

Just one quick aside: I was doing some reporting for the book that I'm writing right now and saw in an Eric Hobsbawm book called The Age of Revolutions that when the Bastille fell in 1789, a canton 30 minutes away from Paris didn't realize the French Revolution had happened for a full month. That was the speed at which information used to travel. It was the speed at which a man could ride a horse or walk next to his horse. You need a whiz-bang technology that can somehow transmit at something like the speed of light, certainly one would hope the speed of sound, information across vast distances. You only had that with the invention of the telegram and the telephone and then later radio.

[00:40:00] So I think if you want to know where we're going, look where we came from. In the 19th century, of course, we had lots of chaos, but we also had an American democracy for decades and decades. So it's not obvious to me that the erosion of the monoculture or the erosion of the news mainstream is anathema to American democracy. But I do think that it probably shatters the very brief dream of everyone getting together and sitting down on a couch and watching the same Walter Cronkite Hour. I mean, that is never coming back. And whatever benefits and drawbacks of that world--and there are drawbacks of having the news be controlled by a handful of, in all likelihood, white men who probably lived on the coast and therefore had a very pinched view of what was important in the world--there are drawbacks of that world. But we're never getting it back. There's no putting the software [00:41:00] genie back in its box.

Hit 'Em Where It Hurts A Conversation About How Dems Can Win in November with Rachel Bitecofer Part 2 - Deep State Radio - Air Date 2-8-24

DAVID ROTHKOPF - HOST, DEEP STATE RADIO: You actually said it In two different ways here and slightly contradictory, although I don't think it is and that is, you talk about democracy, you talk about dictatorship, and those sound like kind of big highfalutin ideas. Now, the fact that Trump wants to be a dictator should never be normalized. And Biden and Harris and everybody else should be running against that. But what I've seen, and I'm a part of the group that actually thinks Kamala Harris is extremely effective, and what I've seen in her on the road. 

When she is effective is she's going in and saying, "you're a woman. They're taking away a fundamental right of yours." And when you go into another group and you say, "you want to marry who you choose, they're not going to let you marry who you choose". We can break it down, and should break it down, into the rights that are going to [00:42:00] go away. In the middle of this election year, quite apart from all the trials and everything else... And I'm very grateful for your existence on Twitter because you're one of those people who I find shares my breakdowns. You and I both simultaneously had a, "Clarence Thomas is kicking off this hearing today," moment, which is kind of like, what the fuck? 

But it seems to me the more specific you can make the fear with the audience, the more you can say, because that's what happened a lot of women. They were like, well, what could go wrong? And then all of a sudden, they no longer controlled their rights. And so a bunch of suburban women and a bunch of people who supported Trump in 2016 said no more. And every single one of the polling events that's taken place since then, the Democrats have outperformed by 5, 6, or 7% because those people said, "Oh, my God. Now I see." Isn't that poor? 

RACHEL BITECOFER: That's exactly it. I [00:43:00] don't know, maybe I'm not a very literal person now that I've raised an autistic child. I understand how some people are very literal about language, okay. So when the Biden campaign says they're going to run on a democracy theme, that doesn't mean they're going to talk about democracy in an abstract concept. It definitely means, as you're seeing with the stump stuff from Kamala Harris, it's about taking that to be concrete, and I acknowledge in the book, the strategic shift with the party starts in time for 2022 and help blunt that red wave. 

But I say in the book, we could have done these things though, without the issue of Dobbs repeal to make what it means to lose freedom, the threat of freedom from the Republican party, from an abstract concept or threat to an actual tangible concrete, like a DAC, it was the, literally the manna from heaven. If they wanted to seize power and put in an autocracy, the worst thing that could have happened to them was Dobbs, because it has allowed us to define what it [00:44:00] means to lose freedom.

And so we talk about Roe if you saw my Twitter, you probably know all through '22 since Roe repeal, I'd be like, you must wedge Roe, Roe, Roe, Roe, Roe, and not to find it about choice and reproductive freedom and women's healthcare, okay. Whoopty shit, no. Describe it as freedom. These big government Republicans, cause Republicans primed the pump for us for 50 years, turning people against the government. We might as well use that brand against them and make people afraid of a Republican in your bedroom, making decisions on whether you're going to live or die. And it has to be that kind of messaging, not stuff about women in red states, not stuff about poor women, because yes, they're going to suffer the most guys, but where we should represent,people who are most vulnerable and most marginalized in the society, like trans people, is not in our messaging to win [00:45:00] elections okay. That is that's cross purpose. We should be designing messaging that does the job of moving voters to the polls for us and making sure they don't vote for Republicans, and if that's best done, it's focused, very laser like on Dobbs repeal and and los of freedom, to describe threat to democracy and make that tangible, then that is how you do it.

To me, when you look in a layout in the midterms, the places that ran this new strategy, Michigan, Arizona, how great those candidates did, and then I lay out the old school strategy, it's nothing new about it was ran in 2010 by Democrats, 2014, 2018, 2016, whatever. It is the sell the candidate, "I'm not one of those Democrats. I'm bipartisan. I'm moderate. Look at my biography," And they all got hammered. And not only did they lose David, they all lost to MAGA extremist, to JD dance, who's like an out and out fascist. So [00:46:00] those voters obviously never got the message that they're facing an extremism threat from the Republican party. They are not going to know that when many people, all they know about Republicans right now, they know Trump, but they think Republican, they think good for the economy, good on national defense. That's all they know. They don't know who any political politicians are. 

DAVID ROTHKOPF - HOST, DEEP STATE RADIO: Quite apart from the fact that both of those things are not only demonstrably wrong...

RACHEL BITECOFER: Definitely demonstrably wrong. 

DAVID ROTHKOPF - HOST, DEEP STATE RADIO: Profoundly wrong. 

RACHEL BITECOFER: You can see this in polling data. Just last week, I was watching them report on like, look at this advantage Trump has on the economy. Well, that's issue ownership, okay. And so if we want people to know that the Republican party is an extremist cult, because we know it and we see it, we're going to have to bring in those people who are not looking at any of this and make sure they know it. And everywhere they ran on that, defining the Republican as an extremist, as a threat to people's freedom, we cleaned it up. And if we can [00:47:00] put that into the swing map, from the state legislative races on up to the House, to the Senate, to the governor, to the presidency in 2024, we might just be able to save ourselves.

Employ Negative Partisanship w. Rachel Bitecofer Part 2 - Future Hindsight - Air Date 3-21-24

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: I always ask this question towards the end of our conversation, what are two things an everyday do to have better tools in their civic action toolkit? And in this case, I'm curious what an everyday person can do to turn the tide on the fundamental lack of interest in politics and democracy and to help establish a healthy civic culture. And I know it's a little bit out of left field because we just talked about messaging, but I kind of feel like if we had more people interested, we would have a different kind of politics. 

RACHEL BITECOFER: Oh, we certainly would. So I talk about it in terms of climate change and wildfire. Right now we have a wildfire. It is threatening to burn us all down in November. We have to put this wildfire out, and the only way to do so is to beat it electorally, and beat it big. But, at the end of the [00:48:00] day, we still have climate change. So, at that point, it comes into what you're asking me about, how do we fix this and what can individual people do?

So in terms of putting out the wildfire, every single person who hears my voice is an influencer. It doesn't matter if you have 165,000 followers on Twitter or 100, you're still influencing people. And you're also influencing your personal network. And you know people like this. I have friends that vote, but they don't really follow anything. We have to make them look. We have to make Americans eat their civic vegetables. They're not going to watch news, so then our job is then to inform our friends, the people on our timelines, using those communication tools intentionally to make sure people hear about the threat to democracy. 

It can be very hard to talk about. So I'm so proud that Biden's willing to talk about fascism that some of our country's most notable historians have been very, very vocal about the similarities between the modern Republican Party and a [00:49:00] fascist movement. And I think it's important that people get over their fear of looking silly and start to explain to people what's happening within the Republican Party and what their plans are for America starting in 2025. They aren't shy about it. They wrote a whole manual from the Heritage Foundation for a transition into autocracy. It's called Project 2025, The Manual for Leadership. They're hiring young conservatives into a data bank that they plan to On replacing all of our career merit based civil service employees with they want to purge out the civil service. And once they do that stuff, they'll be able to consolidate power. 

So it really is time to panic. If we panic now, we might be able to prevent democratic progress. catastrophe. If we wait until the democratic catastrophe is obvious to everyone, the lesson I learned from three years of studying the rise of the Nazis and other totalitarian regimes is that it's too late.

You have to panic in advance. Very hard for humans to do, so it really takes [00:50:00] everybody influencing their own sphere of influence. People are much more likely to trust people they know or are related to, so please use your own personal networks and make sure every voter that you can shows up to vote on election day and votes a full D for democracy ticket.

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: Yeah. Here, here. Good advice. You're so passionate. I love it. 

So looking into the future, what makes you hopeful? 

RACHEL BITECOFER: Whoo. Election results keep making me hopeful. I say in the book, I'm just part of a bunch of people who are pushing the messaging strategic machine forward. But we could have done all that work and, without the Dobbs repeal, I don't know that it would have still had the same effect in thwarting the red wave. So what makes me hopeful is this, we didn't run perfect strategy in 2022 everywhere, and we still did okay. What gives me hope is that we're going to have good strategy across the board in 2024. We're going to repudiate [00:51:00] fascism at the ballot box. We're going to force the Republican party to finally splinter, fall apart. 

It needs to do something because it used to be like our party, 70 percent establishment, 30 percent progressive base type person. And in the Republican party that has flipped in 10 years. It is now majority base controlled, and that is why, even with Mike Johnson, he can go one day killing border security for them and giving Ukraine to Putin, but the next day, if he doesn't tow the line on a Mayorkas impeachment vote or whatever, MAGA is right after him, threatening to vacate him. 

You don't want to be in a position where you have radicals in charge of your party. And unfortunately, the Republican Party has put us all in that position. So what gives me hope is that we'll win in 2024. We have to win the presidency or I think the changes that are going to come are gonna be fast and furious to our how we operate in the U.S. 

Parchment only helps us if people are [00:52:00] willing to abide by it, and unfortunately, all it takes is the willingness to say I'm suspending the Constitution and a party willing to stand by and let him do it. And I think the Republican Party has demonstrated, especially with the reaction to Jan 6, that they are just the kind of party that would be willing to stand by and let somebody do that.

So it gives me hope that we're going to win in 2024 and that that will give us some momentum to start fixing our civic culture. Our civic culture has to be fixed. We cannot go on with a population that is too dumb for democracy. 

Summary 5-14-24

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips, starting with The Gray Area, discussing the nature and cultural impact of cults. The PBS NewsHour laid out the history of how we came to our polarized political era. Amanpour and Company featured Jason Stanley explaining Trump's politicidal rhetoric. Deep State Radio looked into the messaging differences between Republicans and [00:53:00] Democrats. Future Hindsight highlighted the pitch for the left unifying under a message of freedom. The Gray Area discussed our politics through the lens of cults. Deep State Radio looked at the messaging of freedom through the loss of abortion rights. And Future Hindsight finished off with a call to action to amplify the influence of this messaging. And that's just the front page. 

There's a lot more to dive into in the additional sections half of this audio newspaper, but first, a reminder that the show is supported by members who get access to bonus episodes, featuring the production crew here, discussing all manner of important and interesting topics, often trying to make each other laugh in the process. To support our work and have those bonus episodes delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, there's a link in the show notes, through our Patreon page if you prefer, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. And if a regular membership isn't in the cards for you, [00:54:00] shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

And now we'll hear from you.

Thoughts on future elections - Craig from Ohio

VOICEMAILER CRAIG FROM OHIO: Hey, Jay! and Best of the Left, this is Craig from Ohio, and I just listened to the episode about inequality and taxation. And at the end, the subject that has been on my mind a great deal lately, as it has Nick's and yours, of the election in November for President. I thought of three additional things to add that, like I said, have been on my mind.

One is that, if Biden is reelected, it will effectively end this generation of leaders. I mean, of course, they've been on the stage for way too long, but Biden will be done. Trump will be done, gone forever from our having to worry about him or think about him ever again. But also, The generation of liberals that Joe Biden has worked with [00:55:00] represents, they're just going to be moving along.

So that leaves us with room for a much better candidate, possibly in 2028, which is in danger if Trump and the Republicans are returned to power. We may not have an option for a robust primary that a Democrat can win in 2028, and one candidate that I am certainly intrigued at the possibility of having as president would be Shawn Fain. I think it would be fantastic to have a labor leader in the highest seat of power. So that would remain a possibility if Trump is defeated. 

And then lastly, the people that are, of course, I understand, furious about the genocide in Israel. If voting against Biden to punish him and the Democrats would at the same time be rewarding the far right wing in Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest of the right wingers would love to have an authoritarian [00:56:00] autocrat in the United States to back up all of their desires to completely remove Palestinians from that territory.

So that was it. Wanted to add those three things. Thanks for everything. Still love the show, as always. Bye bye.

Note from the Editor on the importance of finding common-but-adaptable messaging for the Left

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now, before we continue onto the sections half of the show, I have just a few thoughts. Thanks to Craig who dialed (202) 999-3991 to leave that message. It's not often you get to hear someone taking the time to look far enough into the future to see hope on the political horizon regarding the inevitable turn of the generational wheel in party leadership. As for the rest of the conversation today, discussions around political messaging always remind me of something that I heard shockingly long ago now, but that has always stuck with me. 

If I'm still remembering correctly, which is highly questionable, a Clinton advisor turned media pundant Paul Begala was making a similar argument about the need for Democrats to get on the same page, [00:57:00] read from the same set of talking points, even he said, if they were ever going to get through to voters in a strong and consistent way. But then, the host of the show that he was commenting on, asked Begala if he himself would be willing to follow talking points provided to him by the party and he said, no. He felt that it would be too important for him to be able to say exactly what it was that he thinks rather than to follow the party line, which is not surprising. 

Democrats have always been that way, which is why they've never been particularly good at following talking points, and their messaging is never super consistent. It's something that I list as a positive attribute that makes me like the left more, but it's definitely a negative attribute in terms of presenting a clear argument to voters of what the more left of the two parties actually stands for. 

So considering the daily talking points probably won't ever work for the Democrats. I really like the idea of developing communication [00:58:00] strategies that individual politicians and pundits would actually want to voluntarily adopt and tweak to make their own. That's why having an umbrella theme like "Republicans take away freedom" is a good starting point. From which everyone can adapt their own messaging for the issue that they are focusing on. 

There's more on all of this coming up. In the show notes, you'll find timestamps for easy navigation to each topic section. In addition to the timestamped members also enjoy the use of full chapter marker support. For non-members, due to the nature of podcast ads, and this is completely outside my control. Timestamps are more approximate than they are exact. If it's ever possible to make it work better, I certainly will. And now we'll continue with the rest of the show. 

Next up, Section A - Identity in Media and Politics. Section B - Political Rhetoric and Action. Section C - The Power of Messaging. And Section D - Independents and Low-Information Voters.

SECTION A: IDENTITYEverything's a cult now Part 3 - The Gray Area with Sean Illing - Air Date 4-27-24

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: The sort [00:59:00] of super abundance of these cults or micro cults or whatever you want to call them online really is fascinating to me. You know, I'm not on TikTok. I use YouTube, but you know, it's mostly for videos that show me how to remove the muffler from my motorcycle or change a diaper with one hand or something like that, you know, but it does seem genuinely new to have these super powerful affinity groups in YouTube and TikTok organized around people almost no one outside of those groups have ever even heard of.

I still don't know what the hell Mr. Beast is, but he appears to have like 10 trillion followers and probably half a billion dollars at this point. That is a new thing. 

DEREK THOMPSON: I do think it's a new thing. And I also agree that this kind of fragmentation of culture has no rewind button on it. It is only going to go forward.

I suppose it's like time itself. I would ask you a question, though, Sean. What do you think is the difference between a [01:00:00] cult and a fandom? Interesting question. Because as you think about it, I think some of these things that we're talking about. a person who loves Taylor Swift and buys Taylor Swift water mugs and Taylor Swift t shirts and Taylor Swift sweatpants.

These people are not members of a Taylor Swift cult. They're not going to sacrifice themselves for Taylor Swift, at least the vast majority of them, I suppose, are not. They really, really like her, the same way that people really, really like the Beatles. The same way that, actually, in the 19th century, Lisztomania, not just a great song by Phoenix, I believe it was also a crazy fandom about The piano player and composer Liszt.

People were just obsessed with how wonderful he was on the keys and so Lisztamania became a thing in Europe. Dramatic fandoms, I think, are actually Rather old, and they [01:01:00] are old and distinct from what I would think of as cults. When I think about a cult, I think what's very important about the definition of cult that I have in my head is that cults aren't just for something.

They are against something. They are small, anti mainstream groups that are for something. a raid around a set of rules that organize themselves to oppose the mainstream. So the reason I think that it makes more sense to think about Tucker Carlson's fandom as being inculted rather than Taylor Swift's is that Taylor Swift is not asking her music listeners to not listen to Olivia Rodrigo.

She's just like, here I am. I'm at a concert, pay a thousand dollars to see it. Whereas Tucker Carlson is very dramatically And very explicitly trying to make his followers distrust the mainstream media. And that I [01:02:00] find interesting and more cult like than I find a phenomenon like Taylor Swift. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Yeah, that's interesting.

So in some ways you make that shift from fandom to cult member when Your identity or membership in that group is defined by a negation when you're defined by what you are not by what you stand against. 

DEREK THOMPSON: That's right. And the last that I would add is that I think in terms of the classic definition of cult is that when you think about cults in terrorism or in the military or the mafia or crime gangs or in religion, there tends to be what I suppose an economist would call costly.

The signaling. That is, it costs something to be in that group. And I don't think it costs a whole lot to be a Taylor Swift fan, just as it didn't cost a whole lot to be a Beatles fan. But I do think it is costly, for example, to refuse to take a vaccine and harbor and espouse a conspiracy theory about it, [01:03:00] especially when people around you think that you're crazy.

Right? That seems to be more costly, in terms of costly signaling, than just being a fan of a popular artist.

Examining how U.S. politics became intertwined with personal identity Part 2 - PBS NewsHour - Air Date 3-8-23

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: Lilliana Mason argues that this stacking of identities on top of one another into what she calls a mega identity has reinforced our basic human instinct for inclusion and exclusion, and that that helps explain the tribal politics we see today.

MICHELLE VITALI: I was a practicing Catholic for most of the years that I lived here, and I just didn't Needed to bow out completely, um, because I don't understand where, um, this sort of militancy is coming from. And in fact, um, it seems to have been created out of whole cloth in order to get people to show up at the polls, show up at events, show up at March for Life in Washington or whatever the cause may be.

EDWARD JACACK: Everything from dating sites, right? I, uh, have been single through, uh, a lot of this Trump era and the first line in the dating sites, no Trump or no Trump or no Trump. I get it. But [01:04:00] probably you and I, and by the way, I'm not a Trumper, but you and I could probably agree upon 70 percent of how society works and the things we go ahead and want.

FABIAN GONZALEZ: Whereas before we are Americans, we're going to make us win. And now it's going like, no, it's about this little faction of. Political idealism, and my side is right and your side is wrong, and there ain't no Miller. 

LILLIANA MASON: Not that we've never had partisan animosity. The difference is that now, because of our sort of progress in terms of civil rights, not just for black Americans, but for all Americans who have previously been marginalized, including women, is that we have associated the two parties with different sides of that story.

Essentially the left is now taking the position of we want a fully egalitarian, pluralistic, multi ethnic democracy. We've never fully had it, but we want to make it happen. And what Trump has been saying, right, make America great again, is the definition of going back in [01:05:00] time. And so there is this conflict between do we want to move forward or do we want to move backward?

That means that every time we have an election, And an election is basically a status competition, right? There's a winner and a loser. Rather than it's just being our party that wins or loses, now it feels like our racial group and our religious group and our cultural group is also winning or losing. So that makes the stakes feel a lot higher to us on a psychological level.

We don't have a place to go together, right? That's much more of a tug of war rather than a negotiation. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: Back in a storage room inside the museum, among collections of presidential fine china, History that is not yet fully written or understood. 

CLAIRE JERRY: We're always looking for what sort of says the moment, um, and these two slogans certainly say the moment of January 6th.

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: Signs collected after the insurrection of January 6th. When supporters of President Trump attempted to stop the transfer of Power, Mason's [01:06:00] most recent book predicts that our divides today over our identities and competing visions for the country's future will likely lead to more political violence, but that it's all ultimately up to our leaders.

LILLIANA MASON: People listen to leaders. We've run some experiments where we've had people read messages from Joe Biden and Donald Trump, for example. A message that tells them violence is never okay. We should never engage in violence. When people read that message, they become less approving of violence. Our leaders are able to guide their followers toward violence or away from violence.

Whether or not they encourage their supporters to engage in violence is actually up to them. And our future is going to depend on that outcome. 

SECTION B: POLITICAL RHETORIC IN ACTION

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now entering section B political rhetoric inaction.

'Hit 'Em Where It Hurts' urges Dems to go on the attack against Republicans - MSNBC - Air Date 2-7-24

JOHNATHAN LEMIRE - CONTRIBUTOR, MSNBC: We can take down the list here. Some of them we played the ads, whether it was Governor Shapiro in Pennsylvania, Senator Fetterman there, Governor Whitmer, Senator Kelly. These are examples of 2022 of Democrats who effectively used these sort of negative partisanship.

And part of that though, and this would be applicable to this [01:07:00] presidential campaign as well, because you write That is really hard to sell legislation to voters to convince them, Hey, we did good things were helping your lives. And that's something that this president has had a problem with. His legislative record is, is by any measure robust, yet he seems to be getting no credit for it.

And his approval ratings are low. 

RACHEL BITECOFER: Exactly. So, you know, I mean, there's a. It's a strong movement in the party to do more credit claiming and I get that and I think it's important. But at the end of the day, it's about the contrast, right? So it's not just that he gave seniors 35 insulin. It's that every single mega extremist Republican that branding phrase, even though it's a mouthful, I say it every time extremist Republican or mega extremist or whatever it is with the candidates name so that I can brand them.

That's why it's so important to do that. You have to make sure that you're, you know, reiterating it over and over and repeating it. 

WILLIE GEIST - HOST, MORNING JOE: Claire and Republicans certainly giving Democrats a lot to work with of negative partisanship with candidates like Herschel Walker and Dr. Oz and Carrie Lake and Blake Masters and Mark Fincham and the list goes on and on and on.[01:08:00] 

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Yeah. So, um, speaking of those candidates, I think we are ignoring at our peril to important Senate races this year because everybody needs to understand something. We do not control the Senate unless we win either Florida or Texas. It doesn't happen. So let's talk about going after Rick Scott and Ted Cruz.

You talk about a field that is full of flowers to pick in terms of contrast. What about that, Rachel? What, how, how aggressively can we go after these two guys in order to hold on to the Senate, which is so important to this country? 

RACHEL BITECOFER: Oh, Claire. I'm so glad you're highlighting that because it's the truth.

Either Texas or Florida will have to place replace our West Virginia and potentially this three way race in Arizona. So it's a must win situation. And when you think about someone like Rick Scott, I mean, this is a man that has proposed eliminating social security and medicare, a 5000 tax 5, 000 yearly tax on middle class families.

And [01:09:00] he's got the charisma of like a piece of dead wood, right? So we should be able to go against him. My, my, my fear is that if I was running the Florida Senate strategy, instead of trying to focus, I mean, you have to do the bio ads and all of that, but most of the money is going to be spent defining Rick Scott as an extremist who's going to steal your freedom.

or your retirement. And, you know, if you run a campaign against Rick Scott, it's a far easier likelihood to pick that seat up than if we're trying to do the old strategy of biography and and bipartisanship messaging. 

'Our message resonated with voters' Democrat wins Alabama special election- Morning Joe - Air Date 3-28-24

 

MARILYN LANDS: My baby had, you know, um, an underdeveloped brain, a heart, lungs, kidneys, you know, just complete organ devastation. And the baby would not survive. When I heard the news, when, when we really understood the full impact of the news, um, I just, I mean, the rug had been pulled out. from underneath us and, um, I, I, I [01:10:00] just couldn't imagine how this could have happened.

Um, and I cried for days, you know, as we were trying to sort everything out. Um, it just,

it seemed so unfair.

The doctors all advised that I terminate the pregnancy. All three doctors said, this is absolutely what you need to do. Your health is at risk because these babies often don't even survive. and can die in, in utero. But this isn't just my story. This is our story. It's the story of thousands of women every year who must grapple with non viable pregnancies and potentially fatal complications.

It's the story of tens of thousands of families who cannot afford to travel hundreds of miles to get the care they need. And it's the story of millions of women who live in places [01:11:00] where MAGA extremists are devising new and cruel ways to further erode our most basic freedoms. These men do not understand or care about women's health, but I do.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI - CO-HOST, MORNING JOE: That was, uh, newly sworn in, now Alabama State Representative Marilyn Lanz, telling her heartbreaking abortion story. Lanz flipped Alabama's 10th district for Democrats this week, running on a platform of repealing her state's restrictive abortion law and protecting access to IVF. And she joins us now. Uh, I'll bring in for this interview also NBC News political analyst, former U.

S. Senator Claire McCaskill, also with us for this conversation. So, congratulations on, on your race, um, and, and Ms. Lanz, a lot of people are looking at the results, um, in your race as an indication To what to come, [01:12:00] uh, what's to come for Republicans, uh, given their very, uh, extreme views on women's health care and being the why in what drew people to the polls to vote for you.

Do you agree with that in terms of the outcome? 

MARILYN LANDS: Absolutely. And, um, one of the things that that we saw and observed at the precincts that day was more women were voting than normal. So, I think we really, our message resonated with voters, and they were very motivated to come out and vote in this special election, which has notoriously low turnout rates, but we did much better than we expected.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI - CO-HOST, MORNING JOE: Did you get feedback personally, anecdotally on a local level, um, for sharing your story? Um, such a deeply personal and, and a devastating story. 

MARILYN LANDS: And because of it, I heard so many other stories. I was really blown away [01:13:00] by the amount of women and families that shared their, their own stories of heartbreak and struggles.

 

Watch VP Harris slams Trump in Arizona over battle for abortion access - MSNBC - Air Date 4-12-24

VP KAMALA HARRIS: .

This fight is about freedom. This fight is about freedom. And the freedom that is fundamental to the promise of America. The promise of America is a promise of freedom. In America, freedom is not to be given. It is not to be bestowed. It is ours by right. And that includes the freedom to make decisions about one's own body and not have the government telling people what to do.

However, as we know, almost two years ago, the highest court in our land, the court of Thurgood and RBG, took a constitutional right that had been recognized as [01:14:00] From the people of America, from the women of America, and now in states across our country, extremists have proposed and passed laws that criminalize doctors and punish women.

Laws that threaten doctors and nurses with prison time, even for life, simply for providing reproductive care. And then just this week, here in Arizona, They have turned back the clock to the 1800s to take away a woman's most fundamental right, the right to make decisions about her own body. This decision by the Arizona State Supreme Court now means women here, the women here, live under one of the most extreme abortion bans in our nation.

No exception for rape or [01:15:00] incest, prison time for doctors and nurses, and abortion made illegal before most women even know they're pregnant. The overturning of Roe was, without any question, a seismic event, and this ban here in Arizona is one of the biggest aftershocks yet.

This law was passed in the 1800s before Arizona was even a state, before women could even vote. What has happened here in Arizona is a new inflection point. It has demonstrated once and for all that overturning Roe was just the opening act, just the opening act of a larger strategy. To take women's rights and freedoms part [01:16:00] of a full on attack, state by state, on reproductive freedom.

And, and we all must understand who is to blame. Former President Donald Trump did this. During his campaign in 2016, Donald Trump said women should be punished for seeking an abortion. Don't forget that. He said women should be punished. As President Donald Trump hand picked Three members of the United States Supreme Court, because he intended, intended for them to overturn Roe, and as he intended, they did.

And now, because of Donald Trump, more than 20 states in our nation have bans. Now, because of Donald Trump, one in three women of reproductive age in our country live in a state [01:17:00] that has a Trump abortion ban. And let us understand the impact of these Trump abortion bans, the horrific reality that women face every single day now in our country.

Because since Roe was overturned, we all know the stories, and I'll tell you, I have met women who were refused care during a miscarriage. I met a woman who went to the emergency room and was turned away repeatedly because the doctors were afraid they might be thrown in jail. I For helping her and it was only when she developed sepsis that she received care I visited a clinic in Minnesota and met with courageous Dedicated medical professionals who see clinics like theirs forced to close denying women across our country access to essential and life saving [01:18:00] care breast cancer screenings Contra sap is contraceptive care paps Donald Trump is the architect of this healthcare crisis.

And that is not a fact, by the way, that he hides. In fact, he brags about it. Just this week, he said that he is, quote, proudly the person responsible for overturning Roe. Proudly responsible for the pain and suffering of millions of women and families. Proudly responsible that he took your freedoms and just minutes ago standing beside Speaker Johnson, Donald Trump just said the collection of state bans is quote working the way it is supposed to[01:19:00] 

and as much harm as he has already caused a second Trump term would be even worse. Donald Trump's friends in the United States Congress are trying to pass a national ban. And understand, a national ban would outlaw abortion in every state. Even states like New York and California. And now, Trump wants us to believe he will not.

Sign a national ban. Enough with the gaslighting. Enough with the gaslighting.

We all know if Donald Trump gets the chance, he will sign a national abortion ban. And how do we know? Just look at his record. Just look at the facts. Y'all know I'm a former prosecutor. Just look at the facts. Congress [01:20:00] tried to pass a national abortion ban in 2017, and the then president Trump endorsed it and promised to sign it if it got on his desk.

Well, the great Maya Angelou once said, when someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time. Donald Trump has told us who he is. And notice that Team Trump have an additional plan to attack reproductive freedom, a plan that they intend to implement on day one, even without Congress. They want to use another law from the 1800s, it's called the Comstock Act, to ban medication across all 50 states, no matter if it's currently legal or not.

So here's what a second Trump term looks like. [01:21:00] More bans, more suffering, and less freedom. Just like he did in Arizona, he basically wants to take America back to the 1800s. But we are not going to let that happen,

because here's the deal. This is 2024, not the 1800s, and we're not going back. We are not going back.

Joe Biden and I trust women to know what is in their own best interest. And women trust all of us to fight to protect their most fundamental freedoms. So Arizona, this [01:22:00] November, up and down the ballot, reproductive freedom is at stake. And you have the power to do it. to protect it with your vote. It is your power.

SECTION C: THE POWER OF MESSAGING

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: You've reached section C the power of messaging.

Employ Negative Partisanship w. Rachel Bitecofer Part 3 - Future Hindsight - Air Date 3-21-24

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: Let's go back to the immigration bit because we're in the wake of the second and now successful vote to impeach Secretary Mallorca's and before his hearing, he submitted this multi page letter, which I doubt anybody read, but I, I read it.

It was very reasonable, you know, but it's also sort of like this whole age old thing that Democrats do. They rebut with the facts, you know, snooze, boring, or try to persuade with the logic of a policy prescription. Also boring. Nobody cares. Like you said. So what could the secretary have said in these hearings?

Because I feel like it's really just political theater and still nobody's understanding that this is what this [01:23:00] is. In your mind, if you had been in his ear, what would you have whispered? 

RACHEL BITECOFER: I think it's very important that we define it as Trump wants the border open, right? He's the one that killed border security.

So every time they bring up the word immigration, the strategic objective of Biden or anybody else that's opening their mouth should be to get the sentence across Donald Trump killed bipartisan border security. If you read the front half of this book, you're polling data, understanding polling data is going to improve a lot because you're going to understand how is it that Donald Trump Issues and a public edict vote.

No, kill this bill. And yet when we poll people, why did border security fail? More people say it's Biden's fault than Donald Trump, right? The reason is, is that no one knows that. And so it's our job to make sure that the voter hears Donald Trump killed border security. And so we need the politicians to say that sentence in whatever else they're going to say on the [01:24:00] issue.

They need to make that point clear. Um, and I think it's important for us to be clear, Donald Trump just killed border security because we need the public to know. And the reason that the obstruction strategy has worked so good for them, and they started the strategy, by the way, in 2010, it was an articulated strategy when they were out in the wilderness.

I mean, in 2009, the conversation was after the Iraq war debacle and the Great Recession was the Republican Party going to be DOA in terms of Congress and the Senate for a decade. because of how bad the brand took a hit. And within a year, Michael Steele's picking up 63 house seats for the Republican Party, right?

I was like, okay, I got to understand how that happens. And you know, at the end of the day, how it happens is that Republicans understand how to obstruct and then use public civic illiteracy to make it look like the president's inept. Do you see what I'm saying? So like they're able to say Biden wants open [01:25:00] borders, and they know that most of the public's not going to know that they just had the best chance they've had in four decades, the most conservative border security bill.

This is the third time that they've killed comprehensive border security, by the way, since 2006. John McCain, voted against his own bill, just like Linkford did with his, right? In 2006, because he wanted to be the Republican nominee in 2008, and that was when the party first started to radicalize on abortion.

In 2013, same issue, the Senate passes a bipartisan bill over the filibuster, so hard to do, send it to the House where Republicans have complete and total control, because the majority party Rules the roost in the house. The minority party has literally no power, and they killed the bill then, and now they've just done the same thing.

And yet, when you ask people, why didn't border security happen with Obama, it's, even in the left, even amongst activists who are not normal people, they are much more likely to blame it on Obama. Then on John Boehner. Okay, [01:26:00] so we have to make sure that we're assigning blame, taking credit. If you're a senator and you're excited about 35 insulin, good.

Let's say, hey, Democrats got you insulin. All the Republicans voted against it. Our brand up, their brand down. We're credit claiming because people like to do that, but we're also getting that contrast in and, you know, pounding a refrain basically, which is Democrats give, Republicans take. 

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: Yeah, that's a great example.

Well, you also dedicate a whole chapter to giving wedgies, as you call it, which is to say using wedge issues to accomplish what you call the two goals of negative partisanship. And I'm going to quote you now, quote, turn out voters from your team and to disqualify the opposition in the eyes of swing voters.

RACHEL BITECOFER: That's how Republicans do persuasion. We do persuasion. You do persuasion. To sell a candidate on their biography and on their policy promises, [01:27:00] like median voter policy appeals and, you know, appeals of bipartisanship. And what this book is designed to do is to get people to realize, actually, Republicans stopped doing that a long time ago.

They don't do that. They didn't sell J. D. Vance to Ohio. They made sure Ohio would not buy Tim Ryan. 

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: Right. Yeah. Well said. Well said. Well, so you suggest a number of ways for Democrats to wedge various issues. And my favorite one actually was about wedging rural America, where Republicans have controlled politics for more than two decades.

Of course, we know notoriously, rural Americans are primarily Republicans. So tell us about how a good wedgie would sound about rural America. 

RACHEL BITECOFER: Yeah, so when we get to rural America, you know, here's the thing, voters are mad, right? They're always mad because stuff's never great. We're living through the best, literally the best human experience any human has ever had in the whatever, 30, 000, 40, 000 years of humans [01:28:00] crawling on the face of the earth.

We're the first people that have the opposite problem of starvation. We have too much food, we have a calorie surplus, we're living at a time where we can regrow organs out of pig stuff. I mean, it's an incredibly, wonderfully rich time to be alive. No one cares. No one knows that, right? So, if you're gonna be angsty and mad, and they are, Especially about economic stuff, probably we want to do, instead of telling him not to be angsty, because that's not going to work, and instead of saying, well, you know, we know you're mad and that both parties have let you down because that's also not going to work in terms of branding and winning stuff.

We tell people the story of what happened to their rural community because the Republican Party has ruled the roost there for 20 years and their record is absolutely dismal. They've totally eviscerated. rural America. And at every turn, vote in ways that harm rural America, particularly with Medicaid [01:29:00] expansion, which ended up costing many rural communities their hospitals.

And that is still ongoing, right? So, to me, what you do is you come in and you stop being micro. It's not just that Trump is a scab, though that is a helpful brand he uses in the Midwest. It's about telling the story to working class America, which is not just white anymore, working class America, the Republican Party steals your stuff and gives it to their rich donors, right?

If we try that, we don't know if it will work. But we do know telling them, I'm not one of those Democrats, and reaffirming the GOP's attack, which is that the Democratic brand is bad and there's something wrong with Democrats. We might want to go into rural America and run the race as a referendum on the Republican Party's rural record, which I just laid out is, is dismal in many ways.

I mean, if you're a rural voter right now, you're not having a high probability of being able to keep your children in the [01:30:00] town that you're living in because they have no economic opportunity. And the reason why Reaganomics, starve the beast, divest. And that's why we've seen a real decimation in rural America.

It's a compelling story and it's one you can lay squarely at the feet of the Republican party. 

POLL Republican Policies VERY Unpopular With Voters - The Majority Report - Air Date 3-26-24

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: That's what they're talking about here. Then If that's not enough, they want to mess with social security. The single most successful government program probably we've had in this country, maybe ever. Keeps two thirds of our elderly out of poverty and when your parents are not having to eat cat food in their retirement, you can save money to send your kid to college or to buy a home or whatever it is.

They have a plan for Medicare too, and it's called, uh, Basically privatization. Yep. They call it a premium support model. This is what Paul Ryan [01:31:00] wanted to do, which is, um, we just subsidize your private, um, it's basically Obamacare, but for everybody. And not even the Obamacare. It is, uh, the privatized part of Obamacare as opposed to the expansion of Medicaid.

And I'm sure. I am sure, uh, if they're in a position to do this, they're also going to say insurance companies can rip you off like they used to. Of course. Um, and then we should also say they also, uh, in their, uh, budget, which even though has nothing to do with money, uh, that life, uh, begins at conception act.

Which would grant rights to embryos, and, um, If you grant rights to embryos, I have a feeling these embryos are going to rise up, And, uh, say, hey, wait a second, this whole, um, IVF thing? Yeah. Part of us get thrown out. We're not going to want to do that. We 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: don't want to do that, and it's really cold in the freezer where we're kept, so.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: [01:32:00] Exactly. And they will just scream and scream, those, uh, embryos, uh, In the bastulae. Or what is it called? Basulots? I have no idea. Blastocytes. Um, also, we should just add, that, uh, the Republican study committee in their 2025 budget, which involves fiscal sanity to save America, um, instead of raising taxes on really wealthy people, it calls for a rollback of, um, free lunch.

In fact, a ban on free lunches. They want to eliminate the community eligibility provision from the school lunch program, uh, which allows certain schools to provide free lunches regardless of the individual eligibility of each student. 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Democrats should run on this. Democrats should put, like the way Tim Walz did in Minnesota, this should be just like every governor in the [01:33:00] country.

Begin to certify free lunches for school, for, for kids in school. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: But you see the dilemma that the Republicans have. 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, this is a wish list to head off like essentially the criticism of Mike Johnson for getting Democratic votes on his budget, I'd imagine. That's the strategy, right? 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, this has been in works even before that, I think.

I mean, the problem they have is that when they come out with their proposals, they realize no one likes this. Yeah. And so they have literally nothing to run on. Um, the Democrats at least. By not fulfilling a whole host of their promises that people want, at least have stuff to claim that they're running for.

But Republicans, even in theory, the only thing they can run on is their racism and [01:34:00] xenophobia, but that has a lid on it. Uh, frankly, and so they, they are stuck in this problem of not being able to, um, offer really anything, anything beyond we're going to protect you from the non existent caravan that is, uh, marching in our way.

Um, let's talk about, uh, the most encouraging polling that, um, Biden has seen in a while. Um, again, Let me just read a couple of quotes in this Axios thing. There was a, um, GOP's top fundraising committee for state level leaders, uh, says that Biden doesn't hurt candidates down ballot in the way that some presidents have in the past.

I think something that we've all been aware of, like there is a unique problem with Joe Biden as a candidate. [01:35:00] And, but broadly speaking, people like the Democratic policies and Democrats more than the Republicans, at least in this context. The memo advised, steer clear of making the election a singular referendum on Joe Biden.

Now the problem is, is that's exactly what Joe Biden also wants. Don't make this a referendum on May. Make it a question of choosing between me and Donald Trump. So they're, they have a, they have a challenge here. The memo advised using Biden as your crutch. Said campaigns need to make an affirmative case for GO policies.

GOP policies. The problem is that nobody likes the GOP policies. They much rather prefer, um, Let's Go Brandon as a campaign slogan. Uh, we must learn from the missteps of 2022 cycle and not solely target Joe Biden in our campaign messaging. They have 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: nothing else to message with. That's, that's the problem.

The problem for the Republicans is what, is, because, is Trump [01:36:00] and the fact that they are Republicans. The problem with the Dem, for the Democrats is that, in fact, actually, things for them domestically are set up quite well in terms of negative partisanship. But Biden is so demobilizing and is seemingly making all the wrong choices over the past, uh, year or so, that it's a question of does he sufficiently, uh, depress turn out so that thethat advantage doesn't necessarily matter?

But it seems like his State of the Union actually did have an effect. I thought the speech was good politically, like, it was like, okay he's beginning to go on the offensive. And the polling seems to reflect that even though I, I, I, there were some skepticism about whether it would change anything. I, um, uh, were you here that day after?

I, it was the day, the day after I left for vacation. So, yeah. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yeah, no, I mean, um, well, I think we were talking to, I can't remember who it was. Was it Ryan Grim or was it, uh, Digby? I, I found the State of the Union speech, I mean, aside from the fact that, you know, um, uh, [01:37:00] I'm angry about the, the, the The, the, uh, Israel Gaza stuff, and I don't think he, you know, I would have liked him to address that more and up front.

I thought the speech was a huge, uh, win for him. The, uh, the quick polling afterwards did not show any bump, but Go and Google how many times people have said, He's old. And can't do the job since then. I like that it killed that entire narrative. 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: He also was emphasizing Social Security and Medicare in the speech and taxing the rich.

And then we saw a week later, that polling that we highlighted about how when you emphasize Social Security and Medicare versus Trump, it gives, Oh yeah, he has like a 55 to, it was 51 or something, but still sizable compared to the neck and neck stuff. 

Everything's a cult now Part 4 - The Gray Area with Sean Illing - Air Date 4-27-24

DEREK THOMPSON: To go one level deeper here, I think sometimes about what does it take to be a successful media [01:38:00] entrepreneur these days?

Like, let's say that you and I want to launch some new podcast that explains the world to people. We want it to be really, really popular and really, really powerful. One I think easy blueprint to steal from is to say that what we need to prove is that everyone else is wrong. Like, the first thing that a new entrant into the market has to do is to demonstrate why it's necessary to the consumers of that market to have a new entrant in the first place.

And the easiest reason is that the marketplace of ideas Is broken in some way, and so what I see is a lot of new influencers and a lot of new media companies entering the market with the theory that the media, capital T, capital M is broken, and that tends to be the thesis that they exercise over and over and over again, and it creates this really interesting and somewhat even paradoxical dynamic where lots of people trust a media in order to understand the world, but because every media is [01:39:00] telling them to distrust the media, capital T, capital M, everyone distrusts the media while loving their own individual media.

It's sort of the berserk example or berserk implication of, you know, love your Congressman, hate Congress. But I think it does create a very bizarre dynamic in terms of trying to understand what's happening in the world when you have so many different News entrants and news entrepreneurs that really are, I think, highly incentivized to sort of in cult their audience and tell them that there is a conspiracy against them.

Employ Negative Partisanship w. Rachel Bitecofer Part 4 - Future Hindsight - Air Date 3-21-24

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: In terms of CRT, I wanted to turn back there because I feel like, maybe not exactly CRT, but wokeism is still on the agenda for a while. Republicans, especially at local levels or on school board elections. So what would be an effective rebuttal for Democrats when it comes to CRT or wokest education? 

RACHEL BITECOFER: I mean, I wish I could be on Meet the Press one day with Ron DeSantis when [01:40:00] he starts talking about wokeism and how he has to protect children from it, because the second a Republican makes the mistake of uttering the phrase, protect children in my presence, they're going to get hammered for letting our children get slaughtered by weapons of war at school.

And I'm going to ask them, why do you want our children to die at school? Just like they would do to us, right? So it's about pivot and attack. In Virginia, I wrote, you know, in the CRT chapter about my frustration and, you know, this is when I was first trying to get in to the pit of democratic electioneering, that we were responding to CRT by proving it wasn't real, that showing how great Toni Morrison's book is or whatever, right?

And what we should have been doing is Oh, the Republican Party wants to make an election about education? Great! Because the Republican Party's record on public education, it's dismal. Okay? They came in with their Reaganomic stuff in the 80s and utterly decimated America's K 12 infrastructure. Our public schools have been [01:41:00] in decline every year since then, and it's the Republican Party that killed them.

So it should be a conversation where it'd be like, come into my web, little You know, mosquito. I'm happy to have a conversation about protecting Children with a party that's letting them get slaughtered every day at school. 

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: Hmm. Yeah. So pivoting and attacking on something that really does hurt because, of course, they are the party that is preventing.

gun safety 

RACHEL BITECOFER: and voters do not know that. So like, okay, if you ask a voter, which party wants to take away all your guns, Democrats, okay. If you ask people which party wants pro pot, higher minimum wage, climate change action, whatever it is, all of our popular stuff that we've made really popular gun reform.

They don't connect it immediately to us, right? And that's because we have developed a messaging system that bleached out partisanship. So we talked about the bad guys as the NRA, big pharma, big oil, Congress, [01:42:00] generally. And you do that because when you're smart and you're informed, you read Congress and you saw the headline yesterday or whatever about the immigration bill get killed.

So you immediately know, Oh, that was Republicans in Congress. Normal people do not know that. They will not know that. Unless you tell them. We have to be assigning blame to the Republicans. Wide brush. All Republicans. Right? Not most Republicans. Just because somebody says they're not going to vote yes on it or doesn't support a national abortion doesn't mean they're not going to vote for it.

And they don't give us that kind of quarter. They don't say, oh well, Joe Biden doesn't want to defund the police. They branded him, even though he said publicly, I don't support it. They still run him as a defund the police candidate. And we have to do the same thing. We have to do the same thing because if we do not, we're not going to win.

And if we don't win, People who are these marginalized groups that we care about are going to be the very first people to suffer. 

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: Well, [01:43:00] tell us a little bit more about taking credit and giving blame strategy, because we've heard so many times now in the news where Republicans tout the federal dollars that are coming into their district, even though these very same Politicians voted against the Inflation Reduction Act or the American Rescue Plan Act.

And then progressives, of course, on Twitter go bonkers. They're like, oh, my God, you know, these hypocrites. But then, of course, the elected Democrat says nothing. Give us an example of effective branding up for Democrats from the get go. 

RACHEL BITECOFER: I mean, it comes from the members, right? The most important message narrative setters we have are our electeds.

And so, you know, big part of my work is about getting to them to give them an explanation of like, okay, look, if you were to watch like election analysis today or anytime, you're going to hear election analysis kind of from a practitioner angle. And so candidates, you know, they're, they're practitioners are not.

Like studying it systemically or institutionally. So [01:44:00] it's really important that at the end of the day, why does the Republican messaging machine work so well? Well, it's two reasons. They've built an ecosystem and there are people behaviorally, Republicans love, like the old people love Fox news, right? We have people who don't really like politics, but we'll vote for the left.

So we're very diverse in all of our media. Even the people that do listen to the news, which isn't much of a By any means, the majority of us, okay, we're very diverse in our selections. They are very, very centralized. Almost all Republicans trust one thing for news and that's Fox. I don't trust anything else.

And so they have that amplification, but what makes it so powerful folks is the other side of it. And this is something we can fix. And that is, you know, they come up with an attack. It's a border invasion. They all start using the phrase border invasion. From the party committees, the House Oversight Committee chair accounts, from everything official, all the electeds, [01:45:00] and the press covers the politicians, right?

So they pick up the narratives from these politicians and they start talking about, Oh my God, Joe Biden, what is he going to do with this border crisis? So we need to understand That we're stronger together, that we would be best off to have a talking point memo that we operate off of where everyone's on message, everyone's pounding things like nowhere to hide national abortion ban.

If you just keep saying nowhere to hide national abortion ban, you're branding for people in these safe blue districts and states in particular, like the threat is to you, right? You know, getting the electeds on the same page is to me a very important strategic shift that we're still working towards.

SECTION D: INDEPENDENTS AND LOW-INFORMATION VOTERS

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And finally, this is section D independence and low information voters.

Hit 'Em Where It Hurts A Conversation About How Dems Can Win in November with Rachel Bitecofer Part 3 - Deep State Radio - Air Date 2-8-24

DAVID ROTHKOPF - HOST, DEEP STATE RADIO: Presumably, independents are less You know, uh, uh, you know, sort of [01:46:00] Attached to to one one side or the other it's let their identity comes from being independent to some degree How do you pick them up or is it as as I think you indicated earlier a mirage? 

RACHEL BITECOFER: No, it's not a mirage. I mean the swing bucket is important You gotta win the independent vote and you know, that's why with all this doomsaying in the polling I'm still very confident a the hard data the special elections keep coming out Really hot for Dems and they have since Dobbs was repealed, but also because, you know, at the end of the day, like you've got a, you know, in polling 30, 40 percent of any poll who claimed to be in, and you separate out the leaners because you ask them, well, do you lean one way or the other?

And, and now when a good pollster does data, they group all the partisan leaners into the partisan camp and keep them out of the pure independent poll. Okay, so now we're talking about 15 percent not 30, taking half the half the indies away. What is going to motivate those people [01:47:00] is, is narrative imagistics, right?

And so when you, when you, when you say, oh, they're probably, there are people like that, my mother in law, she is so well researched and she's completely, you know, and she couldn't be rationalized and appealed to, but that's not really typical. Most independents are actually very low information voters.

They don't feel an obligation to civically participate because they were socialized into civic participation, maybe from military or whatever it was, but they don't feel the interest that fires ideology that puts you into a camp. Do you see what I'm saying? And so really they're tuned out and they're going to tune in and what will matter and dictate their vote is that final narrative that they hear.

And if that narrative is coming from the right, don't vote for Joe Biden. He's a scumbag. Socialist who's gonna, you know, do all these, he's gonna steal all your money or whatever it is. He's going to let your family get murdered by brown people. That's what their messaging is. I'm not being hyperbolic, right?

Then, um, and, and our message [01:48:00] is we passed a historic infrastructure bill and did this and this and this and got you 35 insulin. I'm here to tell you folks, which the brain is going to respond to. It ain't going to be your wonky deliverables, right? So although it's important to define because there is a perception of ineptitude that the republicans have been careful to To perpetuate by blocking action on things like immigration There's a perception that biden hasn't done a lot when the record speaks a whole different truth, right?

So you can't ignore credit claiming but it's not and it's not it ends in a means it's in other words. It's necessary But it is not sufficient. You have to go in and make sure that independent voters in Wisconsin, in Arizona, in Georgia, Georgia, walk into that ballot booth. And when they look at the ballot and they see D they think democracy.

Okay. Like they think. Okay, I've got to vote for this, this party, this brand, because this is the brand that's going to protect my freedom. And [01:49:00] it relies on all the swing races from the state legislative, house, senate, governor's, presidency, to make that narrative a cacophony and that's why it takes total buy in.

We've already got buy in from the top. The Biden Harris campaign is going to run an effective referendum campaign. They're going to give the electorate a choice. They're going to do a referendum on Trump's crazy and remind people what it's, what, what it was like and what it will be like when he's a dictator.

But at the end of the day, it takes the rest of us, as you were alluding to, to be hammering that as well. If we want to create a noise that can even somewhat take on the cacophony that they're able to make with their ecosystem, media ecosystem, we do not have a media ecosystem that is centralized and political and can be deployed for the purpose of winning campaigns.

Right? So we have to force the media to talk about what we wanted to talk about and what we wanted to do is make sure voters are afraid of the Republican Party, 

DAVID ROTHKOPF - HOST, DEEP STATE RADIO: right? Although we do, you know [01:50:00] that we live in a different age. It's not 2016. It's not an age. You know, I know this seems recent to some people, but it is actually light years ago.

Well, that's distance. It was a long time ago. The 2016 scene. You know, you still do big TV buys and you're trying to send a message and on TV networks, TV networks are essentially irrelevant right now. It's, you know, if somebody runs an ad, they see it on social media, social media is the vehicle. So you, we actually have an infrastructure in place to overnight has an organized message delivered by a million people or 10 million people that reaches 200 million people.

If. You know, if it becomes important enough for people to do it. 

RACHEL BITECOFER: And that's why, you know, when I taught, when I work, I do a lot of pro bono on top of my paid consulting, you know, and what I do, and that's mostly grassroots. Right. So what I'm doing with them is saying, look, listen, I know your issues, climate change.

Okay. But it falls under this [01:51:00] democracy, dictatorship threat. There's not going to be any help for the earth under a Trump dictator. So getting Democrats out of like. They're very distinct camps because they're very activist based group. It's not an ideological movement like the Republican party is and forming an umbrella ideology, freedom, right.

To, uh, to kind of bring in all these disparate things, but you're right. We have exactly what we need because pop culture is liberal. It has a liberal bias because it's cool. Okay. Taylor Swift. 

DAVID ROTHKOPF - HOST, DEEP STATE RADIO: Has 293 million followers. That's 

RACHEL BITECOFER: exactly right. Because they are a minority, a very small minority when you get down to like the Tucker Carlson's of the world, right?

But they have big loud media voices. So if all of us could say to ourselves, yeah, my, my, my passion issue is education, but right now I'm going to talk about threat to democracy and the threat of the Republican party. And I can do that in the education context, but But I'm not focusing on a policy proposal.

I want to push Congress [01:52:00] to do next time. Well, guess what guys, every time you're doing that a you're detracting, you're making shit look normal. That's not normal. We're in a existential crisis and our only hope for survival is to make sure that average Americans who watch the bachelorette and have never heard of Joe Scarborough vote and vote for D all the way up and down the ballot because they see that D and they think democracy.

Why Voters Are Down On The Economy, In Their Own Words - FiveThirtyEight Politics - Air Date 5-2-24

GALEN DRUKE - HOST, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT POLITICS: So when we look at polling, we see that The economy is still pretty high up on folks lists, and according to Gallup polling on the most important issue, it still ranks number one. But other things have increased as well. I mean, we've seen in particular that immigration has risen to now almost match the economy in terms of most important issues facing the country.

We also see just questions of leadership. quality of leadership, other things have sort of risen and fallen and maybe aren't as high on the number one most important issue. But we see folks saying that it might decide their [01:53:00] vote, things like democracy or abortion or what have you. I mean, to what extent did some of these other issues come up?

And even for the lean Trump group, were things like immigration ever trumping the economy? 

MONICA POTTS: For the Trump group, they cared a lot about immigration, and people said immigration and the economy are my top issues. They didn't really single one out or the other out, but a lot of times, too, people saw those things as connected.

Like, we can't deal with the economy while the border is in crisis. And I have to say, too, that they, what they volunteered about the immigration situation was sounded a lot like Republican messaging. It was, you know, the border is out of control. Biden's not doing anything on the border. They're just rushing in.

They're voting. People who aren't citizens can vote. And so they had a lot of, I would say, a mix of misinformation and some information about what was happening on the border that was influencing how they were talking about it. And for the Biden [01:54:00] group, they also had other things that they cared about, and that was mainly democracy, things like personal rights.

A lot of people mentioned abortion unprompted. So they really care about a woman's right to choose. They saw the Supreme Court decision. And the anti abortion sentiment in the Republican Party is infringing on personal rights. So I think that even though voters care about the economy, when all is said and done, that may not be the sole factor that they vote on.

GALEN DRUKE - HOST, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT POLITICS: Yeah. I mean, was there anything that came up, like we said, there's these moments where personal experiences come to the fore. Were there any moments that really just sort of surprised you? 

MONICA POTTS: There were a lot of things that I didn't exactly know how to place. There was a woman who works in I. T. In a follow up interview, she told me that when she was trying to hire people under the Trump administration, she had to go to extra lengths to justify why she might be hiring somebody outside of the country, like why she might be offshoring a job, or why she might be trying to hire someone who wasn't a U.

S. citizen. That was her memory. [01:55:00] But then, uh, under the Biden administration, she felt like that had all gone away and that all these jobs were going overseas. And she said that that was her personal experience, that she was involved in this in her own firm. And I had a hard time kind of placing at what exactly that might be that she was talking about.

There have been some shifts in policy and executive orders about immigration and hiring foreign workers, um, between the two administrations, but nothing that would really account for her personal experience. So that really surprised me. 

GALEN DRUKE - HOST, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT POLITICS: Was this a Biden or Trump leaner, and was she describing a dynamic that she was unhappy about, that she thought that Trump's policies on offshoring IT jobs were better?

MONICA POTTS: Yes, she was unhappy about it. She was a Trump leaner. And what she and other Trump leaners said, and even some Biden leaners said, was that we really had to start putting America first. That messaging from the Trump campaign. Of putting America first really resonated with a lot of Trump leaners that they felt like American [01:56:00] workers had to be put first.

The American economy had to be put first and they liked that part of Trump's message. 

GALEN DRUKE - HOST, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT POLITICS: Yeah, and to that point, one sentiment that really united. both the Biden leaners and the Trump leaners here. Was that America First message? And specifically when it comes to foreign aid and the recent aid package to Ukraine and Israel, et cetera.

This here, we're going to listen to, um, a Biden leaner. Talk about that. 

VOTER: Biden is constantly giving money away to other countries when we got our own problems here. What are we? Are we the Mother Teresa for every other country? It's crazy, man. Take her home first. Then you help out when you can with other people, you know what I'm saying?

Like if I can't pay the bills here I'm gonna help another kid. It's the same thing with our country, bro We are in such debt, but yet and still we constantly giving money away and you see homeless people all over the place 

GALEN DRUKE - HOST, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT POLITICS: So that is how somebody who says he's planning on voting for biden or leaning biden [01:57:00] Is feeling Did we hear specifically about people being upset by the recent, you know, 95 billion foreign aid package that was passed?

MONICA POTTS: This took place a little before that, but people in general were upset about Ukraine aid, Israel aid, aid to foreign countries in general. They felt like it was an opportunity missed to take care of things at home, that dollars going overseas prevented dealing from the problems that we have here and helping people here.

And, you know, I have to say here, the reality, this comes up a lot, but the reality is that U. S. foreign aid and, you know, in general is usually less than 2 percent of the federal budget. The Ukraine aid, even though in comparison historically it's been pretty massive, is still less than 1 percent of the U.

S. GDP. But people feel like it causes us to miss opportunities to help people at home and that it makes more sense to solve all of our own problems first [01:58:00] before we start, you know, helping other people with their problems. 

GALEN DRUKE - HOST, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT POLITICS: Yeah, I think that's an important point. And going into a campaign, I mean, a lot of what we're going to hear about the economy is messaging.

And to the extent that you can keep a message simple, it'll probably resonate more with voters or be more memorable. And that is something that, of course, we've seen polling specifically post the Iraq War that folks really feel like America has spent a lot of time helping others abroad while things have gotten difficult at home.

And obviously that gets exacerbated. When people feel down on the economy, right, like post the financial crisis or during this period of inflation, it becomes not a, oh, we're all doing well, so why question how we're helping folks abroad, but we're in a tight spot. What are we doing helping folks abroad? I think that's right.

MONICA POTTS: And I'll say too that I think the, when I asked people what they wanted to see a president do about the economy, they weren't that specific, but they, one of the things that almost everyone I spoke to wanted was to hear [01:59:00] the president saying, we know things are tough for you. We know things are tough right now, and this is how we're going to make it better.

And they felt like they were being gaslit by all the news about how great the economy is doing, you know, that they see see that the job market is doing great in the headlines and they hear it on the evening news and they feel like that's not true and they're not hearing the truth about the economy.

Closing credits

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: That's going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about today's topic or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. The additional sections of the show included clips from The Gray Area, The PBS NewsHour, Morning Joe, MSNBC, Future Hindsight, The Majority Report, Deep State Radio, and FiveThirtyEight Politics. Further details are in the show notes. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. [02:00:00] Thanks to our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny weekly bonus episodes, in addition to there being no ads and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with the link to join our Discord community. Where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to you from far outside, the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from bestoftheleft.com.

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#1628 New Era of Antitrust for a New Era of Capitalism, Mega-Corporations and Big Tech (Transcript)

Air Date 5/11/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we delve into the effort to turn theory into practice in opening up new ways of thinking about antitrust lawsuits attempting to reign in big tech and other mega corporations, which are operating in a new phase of capitalism, some argue. 

Sources today include Planet Money, The BTLJ Podcast, Factually with Adam Conover, and The Majority Report, with additional members-only clips from The Majority Report.

FTC Chair Lina Khan on Antitrust in the age of Amazon - Planet Money - Air Date 11-3-23

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: The origins of antitrust law go back to the Gilded Age. Listeners who've heard parts one and two of Planet Money's series on antitrust in America will know the backstory to this history.

But here's a quick recap. The late 19th century saw the rise of these massive new companies, these trusts as they were called, like John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil, which were using their sheer size to push competitors out of the market. 

LINA KHAN: So the antitrust laws at the federal level were passed back in [00:01:00] 1890 against the backdrop of this phenomenal industrial revolution that had delivered a lot of technological gains and progress, but had also concentrated power over these new industries and a very small number of hands. So you had farmers, for example, who are often dependent on a single railroad that was going through their town and they saw how that concentrated power could result in discrimination. It could result in arbitrary price hikes. There was a sense that who was winning and who was losing in our economy was not based on who, on the merits, was offering the best products or services or prices, but really the whims of these gatekeepers. And so there was a big movement to really push Congress to pass a set of laws to rein in some of this unchecked power. In 1890, you had the Sherman Act that was passed. In 1914, you had the Clayton Act, the FTC Act—which created the Federal Trade Commission.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Is that your favorite one? [00:02:00] 

LINA KHAN: Yeah, I think it has to be. 

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Over the next 60 years, the government took a pretty aggressive approach to policing anti competitive behavior, regularly stopping companies from merging, or even breaking up companies they argued had gotten too big. Until the 1970s, when there was a backlash to all this aggressive enforcement, and the pendulum swung the other way. 

A new way of thinking about antitrust started to take hold, which essentially said the fact that some shoe manufacturer or pie company is gobbling up market share from its competitors isn't necessarily a bad thing. The only thing we should really be worrying about is whether actual consumers are harmed by things like rising prices or fewer kinds of products.

What mattered should be consumer welfare, and that "consumer welfare standard," as it was christened, set the stage for the next 40 years. Antitrust regulators became a lot more hands-off. The market—the thinking went—would solve a lot of these problems all [00:03:00] on its own. 

LINA KHAN: There was a view that if you ever had, monopolization in the economy, and that monopoly started to hike prices or hurt its customers, that monopoly power would be disciplined by a new set of companies that would rush in and try to take business away from the monopoly.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: This new paradigm in antitrust thinking was spelled out most famously by a legal scholar named Robert Bork in his book The Antitrust Paradox. Antitrust, he argued, the law that's supposed to help competition, was actually harming it by intervening on behalf of particular companies. That was the paradox.

And Bork's view? That has become mainstream. That was the paradigm Lina Khan decided to attack when she was a law student at Yale back in 2017, when she wrote a provocative paper for the Yale Law Journal playing off the title of Bork's famous book, The Antitrust Paradox. 

LINA KHAN: The paper was called Amazon's Antitrust Paradox.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: And what was the vision you laid out in that paper for what needed to change when it came to antitrust policy in the U. S.? [00:04:00] 

LINA KHAN: So that paper that I wrote as a student in a very different role than the one I'm in right now, basically argued that the shift in antitrust that we had seen in the 70s and 80s now created serious blind spots in how we enforce the laws against monopolies, and those blind spots were especially acute in digital markets.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: In her paper, Lina pointed to the wave of social media platforms and online marketplaces—places like Amazon—that had come to define this new internet economy. These new business models, she argued, they'd started to pose whole new kinds of antitrust threats that couldn't be captured by a narrow definition of consumer welfare based on things like price or product variety.

LINA KHAN: One of the arguments was that a focus on short term price effects, for example, could disable us from recognizing monopoly power in its earlier stages, especially in digital markets—there can be a real premium on getting big as quickly as you can. [00:05:00] When you're looking to do that, you may not be focused on short term profits in the same way.

You're really looking to expand to build a huge user base, to build market share, and so some of the tactics that firms can deploy in those early stages can be anti-competitive, but they can really fall off the radar from antitrust enforcers if they're just looking at, for example, price or output as key metrics.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: In her 2017 Law Review article, Lina argued it was time to drastically shift our approach to antitrust enforcement. To return, in many ways, to the spirit of the original antitrust laws that had led to the breakup of Gilded Age behemoths like Standard Oil. The paper suggested that similar action needed to be taken now, by taking steps that included potentially breaking up Amazon.

Lina argued that focusing too narrowly on consumer harm had allowed a handful of tech companies and digital platforms to get so big and powerful. It had become nearly impossible for new businesses to compete. Antitrust [00:06:00] enforcement, she said, needed to go back to a more proactive approach. The paper went kind of viral, people went bananas, and it helped catapult Lina and a wider group of scholars calling for antitrust reform into the public sphere.

For a lot of scholars, it was a rallying cry, though others saw this reform movement as backsliding and dismissed it as a kind of vintage way of looking at monopolies. They called it "hipster antitrust." 

Apple's Antitrust Problem - Professor Talha Syed - The BTLJ Podcast - Air Date 3-10-24

STUDENT INTERVIEWER IMAN ESLAMI: We'll get to discussing the Apple case in a bit, but first I wanted to see if you could help situate us in the current moment in antitrust. Why are we seeing so much antitrust litigation targeting technology companies in recent years? 

PROFESSOR TALHA SYED: So, there's a number of explanations, but I would really single out two things.

First, is a bipartisan support in Congress for reviving antitrust concerns against big tech. For very different reasons, to some extent, but some overlap. Conservatives—republicans—are very much concerned about big tech's speech dampening [00:07:00] effects—their effect on political speech. And that's symbolized by Jim Jordan, Ted Cruz, and so on. And then, liberals—progressives—are as or more concerned about big tech with respect to economic inequality and economic power. So, we have conservatives worried about their political reach, and progressives also concerned about their economic inequality and economic power. And we see the two sort of come together in the 2022 House Report on Competition in Digital Markets.

It's a 364 page report that, "Looks into the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, and their business practices to determine how their power affects our economy and our democracy." So I think that's one big source of the revival. 

And then the other one I would single out is the rise of what's called the neo Brandeisian movement in antitrust. And I think we'll talk about that more, but just to single out one [00:08:00] thing, the current chair of the FTC—Lina Khan—is one of the pioneers in the legal academy of the neo Brandeisian movement. In fact, her 2017 article on Amazon's antitrust paradox is a bit of a touchstone of reigniting that—sort of reviving—antitrust scrutiny of big tech.

STUDENT INTERVIEWER IMAN ESLAMI: You mentioned the neo Brandeisian movement, and I think we'll touch on that a little bit later, but I wanted to focus on the first thing you mentioned—that there's bipartisan support for this current antitrust movement. In your class, you talk about how the current moment in the legal world and economics is one you didn't expect.

It's a fundamental realignment of the American political economy. And you talked about kind of four eras of legal theory, starting with classical liberalism up to the Great Depression, past the Great Depression there was the era of the New Deal and welfarism, and then in the 1970s, the emergence of neoliberalism.

But today you say there's a fundamental realignment, and it's one you didn't [00:09:00] expect. Can you explain if I was correct in my summary of your four moments, and why is there a fundamental realignment occurring right now? Can you explain this evolution and how we understand a fair and decent society in the context of technological innovation?

PROFESSOR TALHA SYED: Terrific. Yeah, I think you have it exactly right. My understanding is that you have to understand the American legal political economy— American political economy—in terms of different epochs or eras in which there is a sort of consensus—ideological and institutional settlement. And I think the ones that —the ones you mentioned, the last three are from, as you said post Civil War until about the 1930s, which I'm gonna call "classical liberalism."

Then the 1930s to about the 1970s, the "New Deal era of welfarism," and then the 1980 or so, or 1970s to, I would say today, "neoliberalism." I think it's becoming increasingly clear to everyone that we're having [00:10:00] a tectonic plate shift realignment, and right now we're in a period of fundamental change and a new ideological institutional settlement hasn't yet been forged, and we're in a period of real struggle about that. So, it's kind of an exciting and disorienting period.

I want to say a couple of things about each of these settlements, just to help ground the analysis of antitrust to follow. In the classical liberal period, we can understand many areas of law and policy—private law, federal law, constitutional law—to be structured by a guiding idea which was fundamentally, I would say, usefully summarized in terms of a couplet.

One, markets left to themselves produce liberty and prosperity. Therefore, "Laissez-faire." Leave them alone. Don't interfere. And I think this was the banner under which many areas of law [00:11:00] and political economy developed in the classical liberal period. And then what happened was a sea change that began, in fact, in the 1890s with the rise of the big trusts.

And then it kept going until finally it came to a head in the 1920s and the 1930s with the Depression. And here there were two fundamental motifs as well. One, markets left to themselves may fail to be competitive. Sometimes markets left to themselves may result in collusion, combination, or ruinous competition in which one firm is left standing. So, left to themselves, markets are not always competitive. Second, even competitive markets may, left to themselves, fail to produce social welfare. And so, the first idea was the foundation of antitrust. Left to themselves, markets may fail to be competitive. And the second idea was the foundation of consumer protection laws, [00:12:00] labor protections, macroeconomic policy, and so forth—all the things we associate with the New Deal revolution. 

Then what happened—starting in the 60s, in Chicago with Ronald Coase, Friedrich Hayek, Robert Bork, Aaron Director—was a two-pronged attack on this New Deal consensus. And the two-pronged attack was, first, markets don't fail nearly as often as you think.

What you call a market failure is often just a transitory form of market dominance, which will soon enough be overtaken in a gale of competitive destruction or creative destruction. And second, even when markets fail, the government solution is often worse than the market failure. Governments can be captured or have informational problems, and therefore it's better not to intervene so much.

So the neoliberal period is, of course, a post New Deal resurrection, and [00:13:00] that's why it's called neoliberal. It's not classical liberalism. It's not just saying markets never fail and so on. It's saying markets do fail and antitrust has a role, but it's a smaller role and a more cabined idea of regulation.

And that has clearly been challenged ever since the 2008 financial crisis, Occupy Wall Street, and so on. And with the election of Trump in 2016, I think it became clear to more people that we're in a fundamental period of sea change, realignment. And which way it falls, that's not going to be clear for a few years yet.

FTC Chair Lina Khan on Antitrust in the age of Amazon Part 2 - Planet Money - Air Date 11-3-23

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Lina pulled a move from earlier in her career, when she studied the impacts of monopoly power on chicken farmers by talking to them directly. She teamed up with the DOJ to collect information directly from the public about how mergers have worked in the time of online platforms like Facebook, Amazon, or Uber. 

LINA KHAN: We got a lot of input. We did a bunch of listening sessions with farmers, with [00:14:00] nurses, with health care workers more generally, with journalists, with musicians—really, with people across the economy to understand, on the ground, what has it looked like when you've seen mergers in your sector, and what have the real world effects been? We got thousands and thousands of comments, a lot of them from workers who had noted, for example, the ways in which mergers that have gone through have ended up resulting in their pay being cut, their work schedules becoming less predictable, their working conditions becoming worse.

We heard from small businesses, independent businesses about how mergers have resulted in them being muscled out of markets—not because they can't compete, not because customers don't want their products, but because firms that have merged have been able to use their muscle to bully firms and push them out.

 So there are revisions that we put forward this summer, for example, address platform markets for the first time ever. They address labor markets, they make clear that the agencies are going to look at how mergers could [00:15:00] potentially limit competition. Not just in ways that will harm consumers, but also in ways that could harm workers and labor.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: The FTC and DOJ put out a draft of the new merger guidelines this summer and they give you a sense of how Lina is exploring broader types of harm than many of her predecessors. The FTC is now looking not just at how consumers might be harmed by a merger—by higher prices or less product variety—but also at how a merger might affect, you know, workers.

And in speeches and articles, she's also talked about harm to digital security—harm to privacy. But the merger guidelines are only one tool she has to change the way companies behave. For this agenda to have any real teeth, it comes down to filing actual lawsuits against companies that Lina Khan and the FTC allege have broken antitrust law.

And with those lawsuits, she's taken some pretty big swings. We asked Lina to walk us through four of those lawsuits. The first one was a case the FTC refiled against Facebook, arguing that some high profile [00:16:00] acquisitions from the last decade or so shouldn't have been allowed. 

LINA KHAN: One of the claims there was that Facebook had become dominant on the desktop market. Then they quickly saw that the market at a later stage was shifting to mobile, and they saw that firms like Instagram and WhatsApp instead were threatening to become more dominant in the mobile space and make Facebook irrelevant. So we allege Facebook made those acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp because it viewed them as a threat in the mobile market. 

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: The FTC is arguing that the courts should unwind the deal, force Facebook to divest itself of WhatsApp and Instagram. We reached out to Facebook's parent company, Meta, for comment, and they referred us to a previous statement in which they say, "Our investments in Instagram and WhatsApp transformed them into what they are today. They've been good for competition and good for the people and businesses that choose to use our products." The court has not yet made a decision on this case. The FTC's lawsuit is still pending, but the case shows [00:17:00] how Lina Khan and the FTC are now thinking about why it's so important to stop anti competitive acquisitions earlier in the process.

The idea is that if regulators aren't paying close enough attention to emerging markets, especially in tech, huge dominant firms can just buy up any would be rivals and scuttle that market before it ever really gets going. 

LINA KHAN: These technological inflection points can be really important moments of new competition, so the incumbents oftentimes feel threatened during these moments. We want to be making sure that we're not allowing dominant monopolies today to also solidify their monopoly power in tomorrow's markets through these acquisitions. 

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: And this is the underlying philosophy that's also motivating the second lawsuit we're going to talk about.

Another case the FTC brought against Facebook—this one after it had been rebranded to Meta. Meta was trying to acquire a virtual reality company called Within Unlimited. And even though that VR market was still in its [00:18:00] tiniest infancy, the FTC argued that Meta's behavior was still anti competitive because it preempted competition that might otherwise bloom in the virtual reality space.

So Lina and the FTC used an old legal theory that hadn't been used much for decades, since basically before the whole backlash against aggressive antitrust enforcement. 

LINA KHAN: The FTC's case seeking to block Meta's acquisition of Within was really about what's known as "potential competition." The claims in the case included noting that Meta had actually been planning to enter this market itself and then ended up doing this acquisition in ways that short circuited that organic competition that we would have seen if Meta had organically looked to enter. So that was one of the counts. We also noted that just the mere fact that Meta was potentially going to enter also ended up disciplining the existing players in the VR market. 

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Now in the case of Meta/Within Unlimited the courts decided not to block [00:19:00] that acquisition. Tell me a little bit about what happened in the decision and what lessons you're taking from that.

LINA KHAN: Look, we only bring cases where we believe there's a law violation, and our team did a terrific job putting together that case in a very compressed period of time. It's true, , we did not win and we were disappointed by that, but the court's decision also had a whole set of really important determinations about how this potential competition doctrine applies in digital markets.

In this case, one of Facebook's argument was that this doctrine is so old, it doesn't even apply to these markets. And the court firmly rejected that. It said, "No, this potential competition doctrine is alive and well, even in markets like digital markets, even relating to virtual reality," and it noted a whole set of important ways that that doctrine applies in this market and gave us a whole set of wins that we can build on in any future cases.

But of course, anytime we have setbacks in the court, we look closely at those [00:20:00] opinions and try to figure out what we do better. 

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: According to the court, the argument the FTC made in this case was, "impermissibly speculative," but the court did accept potential competition as a valid argument in theory, and Lina sees that as a kind of win.

How to Fight Monopoly Power with FTC Chair Lina Khan - Factually! - Air Date 11-8-23

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: When you're thinking about working with the courts, I was really struck by--I read one of Tim Wu's wonderful books a couple years ago, and his account of how this sort of transition happened was that the school of thought arose that all that mattered when judging a merger was whether prices went down. And one of the advantages was, that's very easy for a judge to understand. When we're talking about very complex financial transactions, and so the companies can just go say, Oh, the prices are going to go down and the judge is, Okay, well, as long as they are, bang! And so to some degree, it seems like you're part of a shift in a school of thought. But there's a bunch of people who maybe still have an older school of thought that you are not totally [00:21:00] in control of. And so I wonder, is it about trying to move the boulder a little bit by a little bit and making your case, and trying to change the overall body, or?

LINA KHAN: So look, the laws themselves talk about things like unfair methods of competition, monopolization. They don't say that can only manifest through increases in price. And so the laws are broad and flexible. And they're like that for a reason, because Congress recognized that, in 1890 or 1914, we can't foresee all the different ways that firms are going to monopolize markets unlawfully, and so we want to create flexibility. We want these statutes to be durable, to last over time. But what that means practically for us as agencies is that we need to continue to apply those laws to the new fact patterns that we're seeing. And the burden's on us to be persuading the courts and explaining to the courts why these traditional, century old laws should apply in this way in these new markets. 

And, we've [00:22:00] already had some successes. Shortly after I joined the FTC, the court just tossed out the complaint against Facebook and we had an opportunity to refile it. After we refiled it, we actually got a really good decision where we survived the motion to dismiss. And the court recognized that, for example, degradations of privacy by Facebook itself can also be an indication of market power. And so that was important because, especially in some of these digital markets where people are paying with their data rather than with their dollars, what harm looks like and what exercise of monopoly power looks like will be different, right? If you're not paying any dollars, it's not an increase in dollars that you're going to be suffering, but say an increase in data that you're surrendering that you didn't actually want to. 

And so we've already seen some incremental advances. I think there's a lot more opportunity. We're also in court on the consumer protection side in a case relating to Kochava, this company that we allege [00:23:00] has been making people sensitive geolocation data available to third parties in ways that's compromising people's privacy. And in that case, the court also has recognized that harms to privacy can intrinsically be a harm under the FTC statute. 

So we're already seeing some progress. Of course, there's a lot more to do. We have more cases in the pipeline. Another area where we've been very active is our dark patterns work. So dark patterns-- 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: I love this. Please. 

LINA KHAN: Dark patterns are basically these manipulative design tactics that firms can use online when designing their website or apps to try to nudge you in some places rather than another. 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: When they make the close box really hard to find on the thing they want you to opt into.

LINA KHAN: Exactly. Exactly. And so, again, we have our traditional statute going back 100 years, and we're now applying that to these dark patterns online, and saying that the method of deception might be different, but it's deception all the same, and the tools that companies [00:24:00] have to do it in digital markets is just going to look different. And so that's another area that we've been successful. 

We're also doing a whole bunch of rulemakings, and so related to this, one of our rules right now is going to require that companies make it as easy to cancel a subscription as they do to sign up for one. 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: That would be incredible. 

LINA KHAN: Because firms use all these dark patterns to make it easy to sign up.

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: I have been paying an embarrassing amount of money to my cable company for years because I don't want to call them on the phone, because I know that they're going to read me the whole script about--and I just I can't deal with it. I'm like, fine. 

LINA KHAN: Yeah. So this is our click to cancel rule. We've got a lot of positive feedback about it.

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: Incredible. 

LINA KHAN: We're also going after junk fees. So these are the fees that are surprise fees that come on at the end of your transaction. They're called things like service fees, convenience fees. Somebody was just telling me about an email fee that they saw just to get 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: Even Uber has this. Okay, there's this charge, that charge, driver benefit charge--that's before a tip, it's infected really almost everywhere. 

LINA KHAN: [00:25:00] Right. And it's frustrating for consumers. It's costing people billions of dollars. But it also harms honest competition, right? Because what it does is that it hurts the firms that are being upfront with you about what the total price is. And if you're on the front end saying, hey, it's just $10, but then by the time you get to the checkout, it's actually $18. The firm that advertised as $16 on the front end is going to lose out. And so there's a real dimension of this that's also going to promote honest advertising rather than dishonesty. 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: Because it's a way to make it look like you're getting a discount when you don't. And if some amount of people don't notice, then that's some unfair competition.

So when you say that you're putting rules in place, or is the merger guideline a rule? Does it count as a rule? Or is it a guideline? 

LINA KHAN: Good question! It's guidance. So it technically doesn't carry the force of law, but we hope it can be persuasive and instructive. 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: That was my question where there's laws made by Congress, there's the rulings by judges, but you're able to put out rules which [00:26:00] are somewhere in between. What status do these rules and guidelines have? 

LINA KHAN: Yeah. So the guidelines are just looking to be persuasive. But when we do rules, those do carry the force of law. And so, for example, if we're able to finalize our click to cancel rule, our junk fees rule, that will mean that if a company engages in a violation of these rules, it'll be on the hook for money, we'll be able to take them to court, we'll be able to require that they pay back the victims. And so these rules actually do effectively carry the force of law, and that if they're violated, we can take enforcement action. 

We also proposed a rule in January that would eliminate non-compete clauses from people's employment contracts, which is another rulemaking that's really important to us.

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: So that would eliminate non-compete clauses, what, just like nationally? 

LINA KHAN: Yeah, as we've proposed it, it would ban them nationally in people's employment contracts. There are minor exceptions for if you're looking to sell a business. But [00:27:00] these non-compete clauses started off in the boardroom, but they've really proliferated across the economy. And so you see security guards, fast food workers, but also journalists, engineers, health care workers, and so we've heard so many stories about how these non-competes a) are being used in coercive ways such that they're hurting workers. Our staff estimate that American workers are making $300 billion less because of these non-compete clauses. And it also means that there's just less job opportunity, right? These non competes actually lower wages, not just for people who are directly covered by them, but even for other workers. Because if you're covered by a non-compete and you're less likely to leave your job, that means there's less job opportunity, even for the workers that are not covered by the non-compete. And so overall, there's just less churn. 

Trial Of The Century Is A Secret No More w Luke Goldstein - The Majority Report - Air Date 12-21-23

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Let's go back. The case is about the fact that Google is the default search engine and are [00:28:00] they essentially making it impossible for any other search engines to emerge when they have essentially cornered the market on how you access it? For instance, right now, if I go to my iPhone and I put in the URL some term: Luke Goldstein, it'll take me to Google to search you. And I never made that choice. It's just default. 

Let's go through what's the evidence that default makes a difference? And if I can change this? And I think Google, their mantra was "it's four clicks away" or something. Explain that.

LUKE GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, exactly. Okay. I'll take this step by step. So just first of all, this is the first major monopolization case that's been brought by the government in almost 20 years. The Microsoft case was the last major one. So to win these kinds of cases, it's a Section two Sherman Antitrust Act. You have to prove, first, that a [00:29:00] company holds a monopolistic position based on a certain amount of market share, which is somewhat flexible. But in this case, that's not really up for dispute. Google, by its own admission, has well over 90 percent market share of search engine, the search engine market.

Then the second step is you have to show that the company has used its monopolistic position to harm competitors here. What the government argues is that these default search agreements are, really, the kind of bread and butter. But what defaults do is they automatically give Google a certain amount of scale, because people are just set up, preinstalled to use Google. They get a huge amount of traffic with that. And the traffic, the number of search queries on Google's devices, basically gives an advantage to refine the machine learning that drives the algorithm and improve the search engine function [00:30:00] for its product. 

And Google is also collecting huge amounts of data through all that traffic. The data is the premium factor for advertisers, which is, of course, how the company actually makes money. So that scale and data advantage is basically an insurmountable barrier for any kind of upstart rival search engine that's trying to get into the market, that's trying to build a better product, or as we heard from some of the witnesses in this case, a completely different kind of business model for search engine. So we heard from this company called Neva that, probably not many of you have heard of because they had a very hard time getting off the ground. It was actually run by--the CEO was a former Google employee who knew the inner workings of the company, knew how the defaults worked, and said in open court, default agreements are one of the main reasons why we could never get any traction. They wanted to build a privacy-focused search engine that you would pay essentially a [00:31:00] very small subscription to use it. And they would make the revenues that way rather than selling advertising. When they would try to get distribution deals from carriers, internet companies, they would have meetings with executives and they would say, we'll let you on, but we're going to have to restrict your traffic basically, because we have this agreement with Google. And if there's anything that comes close to violating that contract, we could lose a huge amount of. money. And we're wary of doing that. 

So the government brought forward a bunch of-- 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: That's literally like saying Yeah, we'll feature your product in our store, but if it starts selling a lot, we're going to have to take it off the shelf.

LUKE GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, exactly. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: If you succeed, we're going to have to stop you. It's amazing. 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And then I think then that's where we're at with the anti-monopolistic element of this is, should this company be able to be a one-stop shop for all of this kind of internet usage, because it creates anti-competitive incentives just based on the size alone.

If you could just respond to that, Luke, but [00:32:00] also, if you could expand more on what you talked about how they hoard data, and how useful that is in terms of maintaining a revenue stream, because the products that Google has come out with recently. I'm old enough to remember that Google Glass that went nowhere, you've got that how outside of that are they, that seems to me from the outside, how they make their money with the collection of all that data.

LUKE GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, absolutely. 

Two quick points here, and then I'll expand it out. 

I mentioned these smaller competitors, Neva, there's another one, BranchMetrics. But the default agreements are not just this kind of --it's a carrot and a stick. So there's a carrot in that they're handing over all this revenue to the big companies in this kind of oligopolistic arrangement. It's also a stick in that Apple at one point, as we learned through evidence that was eventually made available to the public, Apple had actually considered at one point creating its own rival search engine. And when Google caught wind of [00:33:00] this, they sent them essentially a warning shot that was like, no default placement, no revenue share. We're going to take away the billions that we hand over to you.

Apple also considered creating a choice screen that you could decide what you wanted your default to be. And Google said the same thing, we'll punish you by taking away all this revenue that we're handing over to you.

Apple's Antitrust Problem Part 2 - Professor Talha Syed - The BTLJ Podcast - Air Date 3-10-24

STUDENT INTERVIEWER IMAN ESLAMI: So on January 5th, 2024, the New York Times reported that the DOJ is in the final stages of investigating Apple, and could file a sweeping antitrust case targeting the company for its anti-competitive strategies as soon as March of this year. This is not the first case against a large tech company in recent years, as we've talked about, but as the most valuable tech company in the world, having yet to face major antitrust litigation in this neo-Brandeisian moment and in this fundamental realignment, this feels significant.

What do you think are the merits of an antitrust challenge to Apple? 

PROFESSOR TALHA SYED: So, I can't know for sure, I can't say for sure, we don't know because the details [00:34:00] are scant yet of what the theory is. But for as best as we can surmise from media reports and from prior cases against Apple, in particular Epic versus Apple that went to the Ninth Circuit but was not given cert at the Supreme Court. What we can surmise is that fundamentally the case is going to revolve around the extent to which Apple is tying various secondary products, like its Apple Watch, its iMessage app, and the App Store itself, to the iPhone. So that's the fundamental idea. Apple has the iPhone, this juggernaut, and then it has a series of other products, which it seems to interlink in very technologically or contractually sticky ways, so that they are privileged by iPhone users against competitor products. 

So, I think that's the [00:35:00] fundamental central theory, a set of tying theories, if you will. And, now, the Epic versus Apple case, the Ninth Circuit decision, didn't directly, at least in the opinions, attack the tie between the iPhone and the App Store as a platform. But it seems to me this is the most promising theory. The most promising theory it seems to me is very much like the old Microsoft case in the nineties, when Microsoft was alleged to be tying its Internet Explorer to its Windows operating system.

So, I think here, the most plausible argument is Apple is tying the Apple Watch, the iMessage app, but most importantly, the Apple App Store to the phone. And that this is being done for the sake of leveraging its monopoly or market power in the smartphone to get market power [00:36:00] in smart watches or in app stores or in pricing the commissions of app suppliers to iPhone users. That to me is the most promising theory. 

STUDENT INTERVIEWER IMAN ESLAMI: But what do you think if Apple comes back and says people are buying all the products in our ecosystem because our products are just better?

I think back to myself. Before starting law school, I bought a new MacBook. I bought an Apple Watch, because I've been using the iPhone for almost 15 years now. And it just makes sense, the integration between all the products is helpful for me. And I think this is something that consumers might, you could argue, that consumers might want.

So, how do you think the government will argue against Apple saying that our products are just better? 

PROFESSOR TALHA SYED: So that's really great. And we have to separate three different arguments lurking in what you just said, which is, I think, exactly what Apple's going to say. And I think two of the arguments are plausible, but one is less so, right?

So, one argument that we already know, and we have Tim [00:37:00] Cook being cited, is to say Apple does not have market power or dominant market power anywhere. But I don't think that's really the claim. The claim isn't that Apple doesn't have market power. The point is, possessing market power isn't in itself illegal under Sherman Act Section 2.

What's illegal is not having a monopoly, but monopolization. And monopolization means the pursuit or acquisition of monopoly power through illegitimate or exclusionary or anti-competitive or willful means. And so fundamentally Apple's argument has to be that it legitimately got market power in the smartphone market through a better product, and it's now legitimately recouping its investments in that product through higher commissions and others might charge for app suppliers on the App Store. And it's legitimately integrating the App [00:38:00] Store with its phone, with the Apple Watch, to provide what it calls "the walled garden" of security and privacy and interoperability for customers--a better consuming experience. So that's Apple's best argument. Not that they don't have market power, but that they have market power legitimately acquired in one market. And that they're not illegitimately now leveraging that market power for market power in other markets. That's their best argument, but I'm not sure it holds up, because you can provide consumers integration in a more optional way. It doesn't have to be technologically sticky or fixed that the App Store is, or contractually fixed at the App Store is your default or only way of getting apps. Of course it's not your only way, but for most consumers it is. 

And so, if consumers truly wanted the benefits of the walled garden, there are arguably [00:39:00] lesser restrictive ways that Apple can provide those benefits without using its market power in the smartphone market to extend or increase market advantages in smartwatch or application platform markets.

And so I think that's fundamentally where the argument has to come down: Is Apple's walled garden integrated market argument going to hold up, or do we say, well, no, there's a lesser restrictive way that's substantially lesser restrictive on competition to provide consumers the option of this integration while still opening up access to iPhone consumers, other smart watchmakers, other app developers, other app stores.

FTC Chair Lina Khan on Antitrust in the age of Amazon Part 3 - Planet Money - Air Date 11-3-23

JEFF GUO, HOST, PLANET MONEY: Another one of her big swings? The FTC's attempt to block what are called vertical mergers. That's when companies buy up other companies in their industry that they don't directly compete with, like a car company buying a smaller tire manufacturer, for example. [00:40:00] Under recent mainstream interpretations of antitrust law, vertical mergers are generally seen as okay. They're not seen as anti-competitive. They're even seen as a way to improve efficiency, which is good for consumers. 

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: But, Lena Kahn argues, those mergers can come at a big cost. They can give a company too much power in an industry. And you can see this argument playing out in case number three, the FTC's attempt to block Microsoft from acquiring a video game company called Activision Blizzard.

JEFF GUO, HOST, PLANET MONEY: Microsoft and Activision Blizzard, they aren't direct competitors. Not exactly. Microsoft makes the popular gaming console, the Xbox, while Activision Blizzard makes games. But the FTC's case argued that this merger could allow Microsoft to starve other video game platforms, like the PlayStation, from getting access to big Activision games, like Call of Duty.

LINA KHAN (2): We've generally had a market where you could have platform agnostic content developers that are able to reach video [00:41:00] gamers through a whole set of platforms. And there's a risk that if this acquisition goes through, we'll instead see a shift to a series of walled gardens that will make it much more difficult for organic content to be getting to video game users.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: But the courts decided again in this case against the FTC. They let Microsoft's vertical merger go through, saying the FTC hadn't proven the deal would hurt consumers, though the FTC is still pursuing a case post merger. 

JEFF GUO, HOST, PLANET MONEY: This leads us to the fourth and final case that Lena walked us through, the one that many people across the world of antitrust had been waiting for for years. This fall, the FTC brought a case against the subject of her famous law school paper, against Amazon. 

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: But the crux of the FTC's case against Amazon rests on more conventional antitrust arguments about consumer welfare, that Amazon had had a policy that harmed its third party sellers, which ultimately had harmed consumers.

LINA KHAN (2): So our lawsuit lays out how [00:42:00] Amazon is, for example, harming the millions of merchants that rely on Amazon to access consumers. In today's digital economy, if you want to be visible in e-commerce, you generally have to sell on Amazon, and the lawsuit lays out a set of tactics that Amazon has deployed against those merchants that we believe are anti-competitive. It has basically dictated policies that say, if you sell on Amazon, you can't list your products on any other website for a price that's lower than what you're listing on Amazon. And one reason that ends up being problematic is because Amazon has also been hiking the fees that it charges these merchants. So these merchants face higher costs on Amazon, but are not able to raise their price on Amazon to reflect those higher costs. And instead they have to either raise their price on other websites, or they just stop selling anywhere else entirely, because Amazon is so punitive when it does see [00:43:00] that people have listed their products elsewhere for a lower price.

And so at the end of the day, Amazon's tactics are actually resulting in higher prices, not just on Amazon, but across the rest of the economy. And if you step back, in a healthy, competitive market, if you have a company that's raising prices for its customers and making the service worse, you should expect competition, right? It creates an opening for new businesses to come in and take business away from that incumbent. But we really haven't seen that successfully in this market. And we allege that in part because Amazon has engaged in illegal tactics to block rivals. And so it's able to harm its customers without really paying the price that it should in a competitive market.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: One thing that a lot of people have pointed out about this case is that it's not exactly the same prescription you called for in your famous law school paper. That frames the harm on terms that are familiar to the consumer welfare standard way of thinking about monopoly power. Help us understand how your kind of thinking and strategy has [00:44:00] changed between the time that you wrote that paper and now what you're bringing as chair of the FTC. 

LINA KHAN (2): I'll say as a general matter, the exercise of doing independent research and writing an academic paper is very different from being a law enforcer, where you have subpoena power, you can investigate what's really going on, and ultimately you're charged with, if you bring a complaint, making sure you're alleging law violations and setting up that case to succeed in court.

But that said, I'll also note that when you have the monopoly playbook, there are different life cycles of where you can be at any given moment. And the tactics that a firm will take to achieve monopoly power, to become a monopoly, will look different from the tactics that it deploys once it's become a monopoly and is really focused on protecting that monopoly and exploiting that monopoly power.

And so the case that we brought really reflects Amazon in the year 2023 and what we believe is now extraction mode, where having cemented its monopoly power, having locked out rivals [00:45:00] through this illegal tactics, it's able to extract from customers, both on the consumer side as well on the seller side.

And so that's what the case is about. If enforcers had investigated and decided to bring a case a decade ago, there's no doubt that the set of tactics that would have been focused there would have looked different. 

BONUS Real Estate Fees Crushed By Anti-Trust w David Dayen - The Majority Report - Air Date 3-26-24

DAVID DAYEN: The issue is that the national association of realtors and a bunch of large brokers have set up these conditions that mandate the 6% commission. And one way they do it is they control what is called the multiple listing service or the MLS. And if you're on Zillow, if you're on Redfin, and you're looking for houses, which, used to be the province of the buyer's agent, only the buyer's agent had, you know, the listings of what the houses were, now everybody has it because of these websites, so, like, why do we need a buyer's agent?, is a question. But the only way that you can get your house on the MLS as a seller is [00:46:00] if the agent stipulates specifically that how much of a commission they're going to give the buyer's agent. So, this is collusion, right? This is the seller's agent saying ,I will give you part of my fee and that is the condition for which I will list this home so everybody can see it. And so the seller's agent has to do that. The buyer's agent then knows, Okay, this house is listed, which means I know what amount of money I'm getting. A house that's unlisted, that's a for sale by owner, for example, I don't know how much I'm getting. So, the buyer's agent can steer their customers away from homes where they get a smaller fee. 

And so, this has been in place for a long, long time. And finally some plaintiffs' lawyers put together a class [00:47:00] in Missouri that said this is an illegal price fixing conspiracy. And they won the case. And they won the case with an insane verdict, that was given by a jury, of 1.8 billion dollars. And that was just for sellers of homes in Missouri, right? This is not the whole country, 1.8 billion. And because it's an antitrust case, you can triple the damages. So, the judge could put that at 5.4 billion dollars just for Missouri. That verdict came out last year. It ended up spurring a bunch of copycat cases. The National Association of Realtors was on the hook for tens of billions of dollars which they don't have. And so what they did was they settled this case, just last friday for I think 418 million dollars. 

But more important than that, [00:48:00] they said, Okay, we will end this rule that in order to get listed on the MLS you have to split the commission. And what this is going to likely do is create new standards in the industry that will dramatically drop the amount of commissions that sellers pay, and to a certain extent buyers pay, and that is likely, according to economists that have looked at this, to be a 30% reduction in these fees.

By the way, the US pays the 6% commission, in the UK the commission is more like 1%. So, we have the highest commissions on real estate in the world, and this ruling, and the settlement is going to likely bring those more in line with the rest of the world, which means a savings of about 30 billion dollars for people who buy and sell homes. This is a hundred [00:49:00] billion dollar a year business, real estate commission. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Nobody does middlemen like we do middlemen here. I mean, all this sounds like, you know, managers in show business and sort of the double dealing that happened with, you know, the manager becomes the executive producer and all of a sudden they're working both for the buyer and the seller at the same time, essentially. 

All right, but okay, so let's talk sort of like practically what we can maybe expect, because the seller is still responsible ostensibly for 3% of the seller agent. Do we know how this... let's put it this way: Is there going to be any standardization? Because like I know in New York City, it 's been that 3%, but if you go upstate, you can have the option of paying your seller-broker and hiring them and getting some type of exclusive deal with them, and I [00:50:00] don't know if they end up getting the commission or not at that point, but it's a different relationship that's not available, I think in New York City. So I don't know what it is in other places. 

DAVID DAYEN: I think you're going to see a lot of innovation in this industry. And the example to look to is travel agents. We don't really use them anymore unless you're a large business that is conducting a great deal of travel, there really aren't a lot of travel agents out there. And that is because companies sprouted up and said, Hey, you can book this and we'll make it real easy and you can book this on your own. I think that's the kind of thing that you're going to start seeing with respect to the buyer side of the business. So, you could see a buyer agent put up an offer of, Hey, I'll do this for a flat fee, $2,000 I'll do it for a flat fee. And that would be a tremendous savings. They're going to undercut that competition because there actually will be competition now. And I think the [00:51:00] buyer is going to have a lot of better options. Now, it won't seem like better options because the buyer will have to pay that maybe up front and make an arrangement with their agent up front. Whereas now they just hire an agent and they kind of feel like they don't pay them, but they do, because it all gets folded into the price of the sale.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Right. 

DAVID DAYEN: And so these commissions are a portion of that sale price. So, what you're likely going to see is the sale price come down you know. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So I've been looking at a house for, whatever it is, $250,000, and this comes out this ruling comes out, and they've made this change, theoretically, I'm looking at that thing and it should all of a sudden be like, $10,000-15,000 less or something like that, right? 

DAVID DAYEN: Yeah. And I think that the dynamics of the market are such that that is what's going to happen. And so it's really a reduction of fees, junk fees, you could [00:52:00] say, on on real estate sales, but it will look like a reduction of prices in the cost of homes.

BONUS Trial Of The Century Is A Secret No More w Luke Goldstein Part 2 - The Majority Report - Air Date 12-21-23

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: There was a quote that you had in your piece—I can't remember what it was—along the lines of, like, We don't have to spend anything on improving this thing. We've locked it all up. 

LUKE GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. It's almost even better. I'll tell you some of the backstory behind that. That full document that that's from is, it's one of Google's top executives, I believe it's the vice president of advertising, who's comparing Google's business model to drug markets and cigarettes in terms of how lucrative it is. And that was a major moment in the fight for public access in the trial. Google and the Department of Justice were fighting over whether that document was going to be presented in open court. And this was just one of many, many such instances. Google pushed as much as it could to keep proceedings of sensitive, you know, documents and evidence, they wanted them to be in closed door [00:53:00] proceedings rather than open court. And in that moment, in the fight over that document, Google also took this opportunity to try to kind of admonish the Department of Justice because they had been publishing evidence shown in open court on a sort of digital portal on its website, which to my understanding, and from other people I spoke to, is fairly common practice for these kinds of cases.

The judge got mad at the Department of Justice for not informing him that they'd been doing this, and he told them to take down all the public evidence that was already being shown in open court. And that's when a Bloomberg reporter, Leah Nylen, actually stood up from the audience section and protested this decision and said, this is important public access, it's public evidence, we would like to have a third party representative from the press in the room if you're actually going to go forward with this. That was this kind of watershed moment when a lot of outside outlets started to, kind of [00:54:00] realize that, Well, you know, why aren't we hearing that much of what's coming out of this courtroom? There were a number of articles about how... 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: I want to just, I would just want to, I want people to understand the context of this, 'cause this really is extraordinary. And because, the judge had decided there would be no audio feed for this court. Now, why is that important? Because if there's an audio feed, you can be anywhere in the country. Where was this? This took place in where? 

LUKE GOLDSTEIN: DC District courthouse. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: In DC. So,you could be in New York. You could be in San Francisco. You could be a tech reporter. You could be an antitrust lawyer. It doesn't matter. You could be a reporter. You could literally report on the case from afar. Instead, everybody has to go. And there's a limited amount of resources to send people. But then on top of that, you have veteran reporters of antitrust cases, and there's really not that much of a beat for that as much anymore, because the last one was Microsoft, which we should say, very similar case in terms of default, but we can talk about that in a moment. [00:55:00] And it really is sort of—I mean, I don't want to overhype this—but like a reporter gets up in the middle of a case, it's not, it's not like they're party to this case. They're just in the, basically, the peanut gallery saying there's something really going on here. 

And it's interesting because to me, what really provides insight is, the judge is intimidated, it feels, like from the beginning by Google, on some level, and just acquiesces. The DOJ, I think Matt Stoller is quoted in your piece saying the DOJ, they just want to win. And if they buck up against the judge, the judge could be predisposed to being annoyed by the DOJ and they feel like they can win because they have access to it and they can just make this case. 

But it's amazing how the judge is both intimidated by what the defendant, and then when there is light [00:56:00] shined on this dynamic, in a dramatic fashion—and we've had people on, I think, reporting on how all of this stuff was being kept secret, and it doesn't make the same splash—but when this reporter stands up, then other reporters, particularly The New York Times, are sort of like, almost embarrassed or, slash, see a thread they can pull and the whole process starts going.

So, she gets up there from Bloomberg and says, This is wrong. And then what happens? 

LUKE GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. So, there's this kind of arrangement, as you described, that is really led by Google. I mean, it became clear in the first couple of weeks, Google devised this strategy that was, you know, We want to control the narrative coming out of this courtroom and so we're going to try and just block as much information as possible and kind of just hope to sweep this under the rug. People will sort of tune out. We think that'll [00:57:00] work in our favor. And judge Mehta, in the early court proceedings, had this quote when they're just figuring out procedural stuff, and he says, you know, I'm just, I'm slightly paraphrasing here, but not that much, he says, I'm just a mere trial judge. I don't understand how complicated technology markets work. So, you know, I'm going to more or less defer to Google here. And that was kind of maybe like the original sin of the trial. He actually admits this later on. 

And as you said, the Department of Justice, you know, they're trying to win the case. They don't want to be an irritant, really. They want to stay on the judge's good side. So, there's this really kind of awkward complicity between the parties. Leah Nylen stands up and at that point, I also should note that that week, over half of the proceedings had been in closed court session. So, the other thing that does for press access: it was kind of a boiling point, is what I'm saying. So, [00:58:00] you're a reporter and you're in DC, okay? You've already overcome that obstacle. You show up, there's no trial list when you show up for that day in court, you don't know how much of it's going to be in open court. A lot of people just stop showing up. I mean, you don't have copy to turn into your editor by the end of the day. Most of the reporters are just kind of hanging out in the hallway. Hoping to, see when they can get back in the court or, put a mic in some lawyer's face who's coming out of this closed court session.

So, that moment with Leah Nylen kind of breaks this spell and the judge sort of eases off and from the rest of the court, for the rest of the trial, I mean, it's all in in open court. That was one actual, kind of concrete victory. But there's this other problem, which is that Google wants to have this review process for evidence that's already been shown in open court, for the posting of those documents. And the judge kind of acquiesces, allows for there to be some kind of [00:59:00] streamlined process for both parties, DOJ and Google, to decide on this. But Google kind of has a veto. And the delays to all that evidence and transcripts getting out is what then gets The New York Times it involves and files this motion to protest the public access and the trial.

Final comments on the new show format tried out in the campus protesters episode as well as a retraction

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Planet Money, describing the history of antitrust law. The BTLJ Podcast explained the sudden rise in interest in antitrust action. Planet Money continued talking with FTC chair, Lina Khan, about her thoughts on the need for a renewed antitrust movement. Factually with Adam Conover also spoke with Lena Khan, who explained that the courts are beginning to see things like privacy as relevant to monopoly power. The Majority Report discussed the current case against Google. The BT LJ Podcast looked at the arguments against Apple in their antitrust case. And Planet Money finished off with Lina Khan discussing the impact of vertical mergers. [01:00:00] 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from The Majority Report discussing the case against the real estate companies artificially locking in higher than reasonable commission structures for themselves. And The Majority Report also looked at how the case against Google went from closed sessions to open court, a win for journalism.

And now to wrap up just a couple of quick notes about the previous episode on the campus protest against Israel's war in Gaza, the first is to issue a retraction, which I am not sure I have ever had to do before. So this is new. 

In short, there was a comment made by a college activist referring to stories they'd heard, which is always a questionable way to start a sentence before conveying information, that turns out to be almost certainly untrue, and at the very least unsupported by any reporting that I could find. 

And to be clear, I did hear this comment in the production process, [01:01:00] about how the Israeli military was treating the bodies of dead Palestinians in relation to hundreds of bodies being discovered buried next to a hospital. And I thought to myself, Really? I better check on that. And then I forgot. Now the hundreds of dead bodies next to the hospital seems to be true. And even the story of bodies being buried, exhumed and reburied also seems to be true, likely because Israel's military were hoping to ID hostages who had been killed, so they were digging up bodies to take DNA samples or in any other way, ID the bodies. But any accusations beyond that, which originally appeared in the show, but have now been removed, can't be supported with evidence. 

So we regret the error. Like I said, I always had my doubts and I simply forgot to double check them. And as a big believer in knowing the difference between [01:02:00] explanations and excuses, I know exactly what the explanation is for why I forgot to check. I can tell you all about how the week leading up to the publication of that episode went and you'd be like, oh yeah, that does somewhat explain it. But still, that is not the same as an excuse. So I don't mind simply taking it on the chin for this one. And I only bother to explain further to say that I truly don't believe that this was an example of a systemic problem with the show or our curation process or editorial guidelines or anything like that. It is very much rather a specific circumstance with a specific, unfortunate result. 

And speaking of specific and unique circumstances, if you haven't already heard the episode on campus protestors, please do, because it's an experiment with a brand new format of the show. I mean, well, actually it's both exactly the same and completely different from what you're used to. It's the first major change I've tried out in like [01:03:00] 17ish years. So I would love to hear your thoughts on it. My hope is that listeners will like to have the option to dive deeper into specific subtopics related to the main thrust of the show, in what I'm referring to as extra lettered sections, like in a newspaper. But for those who like things the way they are, they can stick with the front page, which will continue to be the same show you know. That's the idea so far, but I am happy to hear suggestions, criticisms, whatever you've got to help make any changes to the show as good as they can be. 

So that is going to be it for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected].

Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our [01:04:00] transcriptionist quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at BestoftheLeft.com/support. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can continue the discussion. 

So coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from BestoftheLeft.com.

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#1627 Campus Protests and the Crackdown: Civil resistance against Israeli genocide in Gaza, responses from university presidents to Biden (Transcript)

Air Date 5/7/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast. Right upfront, I need to say that we are trying something different today. You may or may not have noticed that the show is notably longer than usual, but if it seems too long, there is no need to panic the first hour or so will be exactly the Best of the Left you already know and love. If this show were a newspaper, that first section would be like the front page. The experiment today is to give you more than just the front page and include deep dive sections as well. How and how much of the show you want to listen to is completely up to you. You'll see that the show notes break down the additional sections by topic with timestamps. So, if you like, you can go directly to a section you want to focus on. 

I'll have more to say about all of this in my comments later, which will be just after the front page section, rather than at the very end of the show where it usually is, but, you know, we're [00:01:00] experimenting. Until then I'll just say that the show today discusses the civil resistance on campuses across the country against Israeli genocide in Gaza, calling for ceasefire and divestment. Also, the response from university administrations on up to the Biden administration and all of the issues in between driving the conflict. Sources on our front page today include Today In Focus, AJ+, Harvard Kennedy School, The Brian Lehrer Show, Double Down News, and Chapo Trap House.

The US college protests and the crackdown on campuses Part 1 - Today in Focus - Air Date 4-25-24

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: Erum, what are these protests actually about? 

ERUM SALAM: These protests—specifically at Columbia and universities in surrounding areas like Yale and Princeton and others—they are about calling for a ceasefire, first and foremost, in Gaza. But more importantly, they're calling for their own universities to divest from their ties to Israel and the occupation in Palestine. 

STUDENT PROTESTER 1: And today we're calling for Columbia to divest its endowment from the [00:02:00] companies that it currently funds that are complicit, active, complicit agents in the apartheid and colonization of Palestine. 

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: So what kinds of ties are we talking about?

What kind of ties does university like Columbia have with the state of Israel? 

ERUM SALAM: So that's actually a great question, and that's something students are fighting to get an answer for because there's not a lot of transparency about the financial investments Columbia has in general. But Yale, for example, they happen to know specifically that their university invests in billions in Lockheed Martin, a weapons manufacturing company that supplies Israel with fighter jets.

So those students there are protesting that specific investment. 

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: Okay, so those students, after months of calling for divestment from Israel set up tents last Wednesday on the main lawn of the Columbia campus. So far, nothing really unusual about this story, but then the Columbia President Minouche Shafik [00:03:00] makes a decision that causes this whole thing to explode.

What happens? 

ERUM SALAM: Right, so Minouche Shafiq took a very drastic measure— and that's not even my own words, these are the words of faculty members I've spoken with—to allow NYPD onto campus. So, New York police storm the campus and arrests the NYPD. Many of these protesters and these students are also suspended.

One professor I spoke with called it an overreaction. There was also a faculty led walkout in support of the students. And the faculty who joined this walkout, they actually, many of them, vehemently disagree with the Position of the protesters, but to have NYPD on campus was such a significant move that, even people of differing perspectives stood in support of each other and in support of the students who they believe have the right to peacefully protest and attend classes 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP 1: We demand the following: [00:04:00] an immediate apology and amnesty for all students who have been suspended and clearing of their disciplinary record.

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: What were they actually arrested for? What crime have they committed? 

ERUM SALAM: It's not clear. I've spoken with protesters one of whom was actually arrested and she wasn't made aware of what exactly she was doing wrong because, she was telling me that she was peacefully protesting. In fact, they were sitting in a circle in the encampment on the lawn singing.

STUDENT PROTESTER 1: And this happened in the middle of the afternoon. So over a thousand students poured out of classes, witnessed this mass arrest happening to their fellow students who were simply sitting and chanting and singing. Faculty and staff witnessed it as well, and I think it was a really galvanizing moment for the student movement on this campus, which has already been extremely active.

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: There were more than a hundred students arrested on that Thursday. They've all since been released without charge, but for those of us who aren't familiar with American universities, how unusual [00:05:00] is it to have the NYPD enter campus, handcuff students, lead them away? How big a deal is that? 

ERUM SALAM: It's a pretty dramatic scene.

I mean, kids are getting arrested. Students are, zip tied—or handcuffed, what have you —by this police force and Bassam Khawaja, who's a lecturer at Columbia Law School, he specifically spoke to how these students were suspended without any kind of due process and the fact that these students were evicted from their dorm rooms with hardly any notice.

Bassam Khawaja: And so it really just collective outrage at the way that the students are essentially protesting this. 

ERUM SALAM: I also spoke with another professor, Helen Benedict, who teaches at the Journalism School, and she told me that some of her colleagues were taking in some of these evicted students who were protesting.

So, it was a really dramatic scene, and, as we can see, it's caught international attention. 

Behind Columbia University’s months of tension | The Take - Al Jazeera English - Air Date 4-24-24

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: On a snowy Friday in [00:06:00] January around 100 students gathered at Columbia University in New York. They'd been meeting regularly since October to protest Israel's war on Gaza. 

STUDENT PROTESTER 1: The revolution has begun! 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: But this time, as the protesters walked up the steps of the university's main library, something happened. Students say they were sprayed with a chemical—somethng that smelled terrible—which they say would later make their eyes and skin burn. 

LAYLA - STUDENT, POMONA U.: It smelled like raw sewage. When I was there, I was like, "Oh my gosh, it smells like somebody was dying." It was horrible. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: It was reminiscent of something called "skunk," which has been used by Israeli military forces on Palestinians.

College campuses have become a flashpoint in US debates over policy towards Israel and Palestine ever since the start of the war. College administrations have been suspending pro [00:07:00] Palestinian student groups across the country. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP 1: Columbia University is suspending two student groups that are vocal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP 2: At least 18 students at Pomona College now facing suspension after participating in a pro Palestinian protest on campus. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: But the allegation that a chemical spray was used on student protesters is something new. It's also something Asya Ahmed, a senior producer for AJ+ investigated for a recent documentary.

Pro Palestinian students told Asya they believe two students infiltrated their protests to commit the alleged attack. And the documentary was able to identify the two as former members of the Israeli military. 

ASIYA AHMED: It's one thing for there to be disciplinary hearings or banning student groups, and it's another thing for students to be suffering an alleged chemical attack on a US [00:08:00] university campus. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Asya spoke to several students affected by the alleged attack, including one Palestinian American student named Layla, who you heard from earlier. 

LAYLA - STUDENT, POMONA U.: Like, right after I attended the protest, I felt so sick. I kept on throwing up. I had a headache— I had a headache that would not go away.

My eyes were burning. I was just like, "This is not normal. Something is wrong here."

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Layla was one of at least 10 students who sought medical attention over their symptoms in the days after the alleged attack. 

LAYLA - STUDENT, POMONA U.: This is a note that I got from the doctor. So the diagnosis I got was "exposure to potentially hazardous chemical," and the symptoms I was experiencing include nausea, fatigue, vomiting, headache, loss of appetite.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Columbia's administration denied a request from AJ+ for an interview about what measures they're taking to ensure students' safety on campus. But some students say the incident fits into a broader culture of [00:09:00] repression of pro Palestinian sentiment.

MOHSEN MAHDAWI: Columbia University has become a partner in this oppression and ongoing genocide. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: That's Mohsen Mahdawi, a student at Columbia, and the co president of the university's Palestinian Students Union. 

MOHSEN MAHDAWI: Columbia has systematically discriminated against us, and prevented us in many different ways from raising our voices and from protesting this genocide that is unfolding.

I mean, they have shut our events down. They have sanctioned our students. They have allowed attacks by professors and by students against our movements without holding anybody accountable. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: [00:10:00] In the early days of the war, a speech from someone named Shai Davidai went viral. He's an assistant professor at Columbia's business school, and he labeled groups like Mohsen's "pro terror student organizations."

SHAI DAVIDAI: And I want you to know we cannot protect your children from pro terror student organizations because the president of Columbia University will not speak out. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: The official Axe account for the State of Israel tweeted out the video. Their tweet alone received more than 5 million views. Davidai has also separately called on the university's donors to withhold their funding unless the school condemns the pro Palestinian protests.

MOHSEN MAHDAWI: The climate is hostile. The climate is unsafe. The climate is in a violation of the principle of free speech that universities [00:11:00] usually take pride of. We have seen what is called the "Palestinian exception" where you're allowed to protest any other issue, but—when it comes to Palestine—there is an exception that you should not and you're not allowed to protest.

And if you do protest, they will hit with an iron fist, which we are seeing unfolding right now at Columbia campus. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Mohsen is not one of the students who says he was chemically sprayed on January 19th, but he still had a scary experience that day. 

MOHSEN MAHDAWI: A counter protester, knew who I am, called me by name, and he walked directly towards me.

He issued a death threat, and he told me, "Mohsen Mahdawi, I will take your life. I will kill you." And I looked at him and I said, "What's triggering you? [00:12:00] What are you scared of?" And then he physically moved even further to, basically, wave his arm in front of me, and he called me a Nazi in front of Public Safety.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: That's what Columbia calls its on campus security presence. 

MOHSEN MAHDAWI: They allowed the perpetrator to get away without citing him, without taking his ID, and without holding him accountable while they saw the whole scene.

It was a shock because we come to Columbia University in order to enter the sphere of debate and conveying our feelings and thoughts in a respectful manner. Everything we were doing, it was a peaceful means and protest. And now, at Columbia University—at the place where I was supposed to feel most safe and protected to protest, [00:13:00] to share my thoughts, to share my pain and the grief—I was threatened to be killed just for protesting and sharing my voice. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Mohsen grew up in a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, and what he experienced on January 19th was all too familiar. 

MOHSEN MAHDAWI: It really brought up old feelings. I have faced, as a child, death threats before that are actual—where I was shot at—and I thought it is an irony that I made it all the way from a refugee camp, and I might lose my life in a place that is supposed to be safe.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: That assurance of safety was something he was specifically looking for when he came to the US.[00:14:00] 

MOHSEN MAHDAWI: Life in the refugee camp was tense and painful and difficult. The most painful part of it was living under the Israeli occupation. For me, as a child, to witness beloved ones being killed on the hands of Israeli soldiers. When I was 11 years old, I lost my uncle. When I was 12 years old, I lost my best friend.

I witnessed an explosion that killed 7 people and shattered them into pieces. And when I was 15 years old, I was shot in my leg. And this is the life that I lived through and what my family went through, a life of loss and grieving loved ones.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Mohsen has only suffered more personal [00:15:00] loss in Israel's ongoing assault on Gaza. 

MOHSEN MAHDAWI: Since October 7th, I have lost more than 20 members. We cannot really count at this point. Of my extended family in Gaza, I lost two cousins—Hikmat and Mahamad—in the refugee camp. One is 17 years old and the other is 24.

Hikmat—he [stuck] his head out of an alley when the occupation forces were coming to camp and directly he was shot in his head when Mahamad—his older brother—learned that his brother was shot and on the ground. He went to basically bolt him, to drag him back to the alley and the moment he arrived [with] his body, he was shot directly in the head. He [00:16:00] was killed on the spot over his brother. It's a painful reality of Palestinians. Almost every Palestinian family has experienced this loss at this point with the level of murder that the Israelis are committing. 

Why Civil Resistance Works - Harvard Kennedy School - Air Date 9-8-21

ALESSANDRA SEITER - HOST, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: We are living in an age of mass political participation. Two thirds of eligible U. S. voters cast a ballot in the 2020 election. As much as 10 percent of the U. S. population participated in demonstrations over the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans during the summer of 2020.

In 2018, nearly 500, 000 workers were involved in strikes and other work stoppages, the highest figure since 1986. Beyond the U. S., mass movements in Sudan and Algeria even overthrew long standing dictators in recent [00:17:00] years. And secured access to reproductive health care in both Argentina and Ireland. Since the early two thousands, Erica Chenoweth, Frank Stanton, professor of the first amendment at Harvard Kennedy school has systematically and empirically assessed historical and contemporary mass movements, focusing on the efficacy of nonviolent campaigns.

The latest in Professor Chenoweth's extensive work on the topic is shaped by both the questions they fielded about civil resistance, as well as the lessons they've learned from activists over the course of their own participation in nonviolent movements in the U. S. On this episode of Behind the Book, we speak with Professor Chenoweth about their new book, Civil Resistance, What Everyone Needs to Know.

Professor Chenoweth's goal was to synthesize and analyze. The robust scholarship on civil resistance to make it more accessible for practical use. They start by laying [00:18:00] out what civil resistance is. 

ERICA CHENOWETH: The civil resistance is a, a technique of struggle where unarmed civilians use a wide variety of methods to actively confront an oppressive opponent without using violence or the threat of violence 

ALESSANDRA SEITER - HOST, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: and what civil resistance can look like.

ERICA CHENOWETH: These methods can be. protests, boycotts, strikes, go slow, stay aways, and various other forms of economic, social, and political non cooperation. It can be the creation of illegal or transgressive alternative institutions, like alternative constitutional conventions, or judicial systems, or schools, or Alternative media.

The idea is that when people use these types of techniques and sequences that increase their political pressure over time, um, against the opponent while also managing the risk to people [00:19:00] for participating, that they can achieve extraordinary political, social, and economic breakthroughs that kind of surprise observers who kind of maybe underestimated, uh, how powerful people power can actually be.

ALESSANDRA SEITER - HOST, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Professor Chenoweth thinks that observers tend to be surprised. at the success of civil resistance movements because they're organized by marginalized members of society. In other words, by those who have been barred from traditional positions of power. But civil resistance movements enact a different kind of power, one contingent on mass participation at the grassroots level.

ERICA CHENOWETH: The theory of change is that there's no such thing as an opponent that is monolithic. And there's no such thing as an opponent that, um, has total control of the population all the time. Instead, opponents rely on, basically, everybody in the society to just go along with things. And that when people actually stop cooperating, and stop going [00:20:00] along, and stop thinking that it's in their own best interest to just play along with the power holder, that's when you start seeing these openings where, uh, dramatic transformations can take place.

ALESSANDRA SEITER - HOST, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Professor Chenoweth has seen a lot of variability in civil resistance movements, for example, in their leadership structures, their use of digital media and technology, and importantly, their origins. 

ERICA CHENOWETH: One of the most interesting things is how totally unpredictable they are. So there are very few factors that seem to systematically predict.

The onset of a mass uprising, um, but the most important relate to the capacity of the population to mobilize effectively because of a recent history of say, labor strikes or, or protests because of a growing youth population. because of the distribution of cell phones, for example, which help people to communicate.

And then notably the beginning of authoritarian backsliding. 

ALESSANDRA SEITER - HOST, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: [00:21:00] Professor Chenoweth is often asked whether non violent resistance is at all effective against an authoritarian regime. Or an overwhelming military power. Professor Chenoweth's research suggests that the answer is often yes. Professor Chenoweth outlines four key things.

Nonviolent resistance campaigns do well, that violent campaigns The first is that nonviolent campaigns are much better at eliciting broad and diverse participation, which gives them more social power. The second thing is that nonviolent campaigns are more effective at causing defections, particularly among elites and security forces.

These defections can lead to key moments of political crisis for those holding power. The third thing nonviolent campaigns do well is is create a large and varied enough movement that they have a much wider set of available tactics to draw upon than do violent movements. Lastly, nonviolent campaigns [00:22:00] maintain discipline in the face of escalating state repression more effectively than violent campaigns, allowing them to deter the worst kinds of state violence.

In fact, Professor Chenoweth has found that over half of the nonviolent campaigns undertaken between 1900 and 2019 have succeeded. Only a quarter of the violent movements during the same period succeeded. Not only have civil resistance movements seen more success than armed uprisings, they've also suffered fewer fatalities at a ratio of 22 to 1.

But Professor Chenoweth is careful not to assign moral weight to it. to nonviolent techniques over violent ones. They believe oppressed peoples around the world should use whatever strategies they think are most appropriate to protect themselves and their communities. 

ERICA CHENOWETH: What this book is trying to do is document and amplify the various different strategic, uh, pathways that people have used in those circumstances, [00:23:00] besides using violence, which is well documented by many other people, uh, to, to, to good effect.

ALESSANDRA SEITER - HOST, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Professor Chenoweth is also careful. To highlight that bodily violence is used much more often in response to civilian uprisings rather than by them, and that state actors often try to strategically provoke participants of civil resistance into violent action. 

ERICA CHENOWETH: Regimes really do try to delegitimize these movements using various epithets, one of which is that they're terrorists or, uh, coup plotters or thugs.

It's very informative what the state shows it's afraid of. 

Nicholas Kristof On Biden Blind Spots, Double Standards, Campus Protesters Part 1 - Brian Lehrer: A Daily Politics Podcast - Air Date 4-26-24

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER: A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: We try to acknowledge complexity. You wrote a whole separate column about double standards as applied to the Israel-Gaza war on either side. You say Gaza is the United States' problem because it's Joe Biden's war and not just Netanyahu's. I think everybody knows that by now. And, of course, being anti-Israel policy is not the same as being anti-Jewish. Worth [00:24:00] repeating. But you also do acknowledge things like that the U. N. General Assembly adopted 15 resolutions critical of Israel last year, and only seven critical of all the other countries in the world combined, despite facts, you report, like the number of children displaced in Sudan by recent fighting is three million more than the whole population of Gaza. And that some of the worst mistreatment of Arabs in recent years is by Arab government's behavior toward their own citizens. 

So, you understand why Israelis and many American Jews feel under siege and worry based on history, even if they hate Netanyahu and what he's doing in this war, what the antisemitism of today might grow into tomorrow. Yes? 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Yeah, absolutely. And, if you look at humanitarian crises around the world, then, the blunt reality is they tend not to get attention. Yemen for a long time was the world's worst humanitarian crisis. And I was writing about it. It was just impossible to get people to read about it or [00:25:00] care about it. And today you've got a horrific situation in Myanmar, in Sudan, Ethiopia and the Tigray region is on the edge of famine as well, and none of those areas are—well, Haiti as well—and, you know, none of those are getting just a tiny fraction of the attention that Gaza is. And so, you know, is there a double standard in that respect? Yeah, absolutely. But I think that there's also then a double standard in people who, become defensive about people who point out human rights problems in Israel. And, you know, we should be tough on human rights violations, whether they occur in Ethiopia or in Gaza. And Gaza is particularly complicated because it is our bombs that are being used to drop on civilians. And it is our diplomatic protection at the U. N. that is enabling a starvation to develop, you know, right in a region of plenty. \

[00:26:00] So, it's, there are plenty of double standards all around. And I think we need to interrogate them. And, you know, look at the end of the day, Brian, I mean, if you care about human rights of Palestinians alone, or if you care about human rights of Israelis alone, you don't really care about human rights.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER: A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: Hear, hear. Um, you wrote, in your "What Happened to the Joe Biden I Knew" column, which was just before the Columbia encampment started the current wave, that you tell young people on college campuses that shouting is less effective than changing minds, and you wrote that you remind college age voters that Trump would be so much worse for Palestinians.

And Politico has an article called "Biden camp not sweating political fallout from latest round of campus protests". It says, "Biden condemned the anti-Israel protests and broiling college campuses this week, sparking backlash from younger voters, but those doing the protesting, they believe", the Biden camp believes, "are [00:27:00] a subset of a subset of the electorate, one that's drawn disproportionate amount of media coverage compared to its actual political clout". Quoting from Politico there, reporting on the Biden campaign. Do you have a take? 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: So, people should be suspicious of my political take since my political career lasted about 10 minutes when I ran for governor of Oregon. So, be wary of my political views. But I have to say that I am, I do doubt Biden on this. You see public opinion moving very rapidly, and a majority of Americans now disapprove of the Israeli actions in Gaza, just drop like a rock. That will get worse if there's an invasion of Rafa or if there is a full blown famine that develops and, you know, Michigan is just a must-win state for Biden, and I don't see people in Michigan who would vote for Biden [00:28:00] instead voting for Trump, but I do see some of them just staying home and not canvassing and not supporting Biden, and that could cost him that state and the election.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER: A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: Also, there could be a really, it's a question, could there be a lesson from perhaps the last time in US history that saw a college student so angry at a Democratic president? 1968, there was the turmoil at the Democratic convention in Chicago that year, very famous to people who were alive then or who know that history. And the Democrats may be regretting that they've chosen Chicago again this year with those historical echoes and campus protests peaking right now going into summer. The upshot in '68 was that backlash to the protests, I think it's fair to say, as a matter of history, contributed to the country electing Richard Nixon, maybe the closest historical analogy we have to Donald Trump.

So, do you think Biden has to do certain things to avoid history repeating [00:29:00] itself in a similar way this summer? 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: I do think that Biden should be a little more wary than he is of the risk that these protests will continue indefinitely and not only complicate his reelection campaign, but also complicate the campaigns of Democratic candidates for the Senate and for the House.

I've spoke to several senators and House members who say that they really can't do public events right now because of the fear of disruptions. But I think that, you know, it's also, frankly, the protesters who should reflect on this a little bit. And my take is that in 1968, the more radical protesters did indeed help elect Richard Nixon and kept the US involved in Vietnam longer than it otherwise would have been, resulting in more deaths of Vietnamese and Americans, alike. And I think that while a majority of Americans now say in polls that they [00:30:00] disapprove of Israel's war in Gaza, that the kind of the over the top elements, you know, the antisemitism that we're seeing in some cases, the violence, the disruptions, I think that antagonizes a lot of people who are on the fence or even who are kind of mildly sympathetic in principle. And so, you know, I think there's plenty of people to reflect on all around. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER: A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: Could it be that among those miscalculating politically are the Columbia and other protesters? Before the encampments sympathy in this country was trending in the Palestinians direction and Biden was responding to the protest already happening by increasing his criticism of Netanyahu and starting to take some action, like allowing the latest UN ceasefire resolution to pass. But now the protesters' decision to occupy and disrupt campuses in the particular ways that they're doing and escalate from [00:31:00] demanding a ceasefire to demanding full scale divestment from Israel, or we're never going home, now we have Biden denouncing campus antisemitism as the core of his remarks this week, instead of denouncing Netanyahu. Do you have any political analysis of that? 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Yeah. I mean, I think that your point is right. It's not clear to me that a lot of the occupation efforts on campuses are doing anything at all for people in Gaza. And I think they may be creating a backlash that makes people, more opposed to their views rather than more aligned with their views.

And also, you know, protests like that tend to be... when we in the news media, when we cover protests, we tend to go toward the person with the most extreme sign, with the most extreme slogan. And so the protests and the occupations have tended to be a moment to showcase [00:32:00] antisemites, to showcase more violent people you know, on the police side as well. It cuts both ways. But you know, peaceful protest is great. It's an American tradition, but in this case, I wish some of the folks had been raising money for Save the Children in Gaza rather than occupying buildings in ways that may create a backlash that is of no help to Palestinians in Gaza or anywhere else. 

Meet The ‘Wrong Jew’ The Media Doesn’t Want You To Know Exists - Double Down News - Air Date 4-28-24

NAOMI WIMBORNE-IDRISSI: I'm the wrong kind of Jew that the media and politicians don't want you to know exist, but there are thousands of us and we're here saying "not in our name". When you see the coverage of all these demonstrations and things, you get the impression that no Jews are involved, that Jews are fearful, Jews hate what's going on. No, it's not true. There's hundreds of us here today. There've been thousands of Jews in this country alone taking the side of the Palestinians against the Israeli state. All over the world there must be hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who are now saying "not in my name". [00:33:00] 

One of the most ridiculous things that we've had to deal with, particularly in the last week or so, is the idea that the police are enforcing a no-go zone for Jews in order to defend all these hate marches, people who are supporters of terrorism. It's almost the reversal of the truth. We are saying, along with most sensible people around the world, that everybody, Palestinians included, deserve to be free wherever they live, including between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. 

People say, but as a Jew, are you not frightened? Are you not subjected to assaults and threats and abuse? And I say, well, actually, I do feel threatened, abused, negated, silenced, cancelled, because when it comes to the media seeking Jewish opinion about what's going on, they go to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, or the Chief Rabbi, or the Jewish Labour Movement, or, heaven [00:34:00] forfend, the Campaign Against Antisemitism. All these groups, which have support for Israel, sort of ingrained in their whole agenda and their whole raison d'être, if there is hatred and abuse directed at Jews, it's often coming from people of the Zionist perspective against anti-Zionist Jews like me. 

People need to take on board the fact that there are elders in the Jewish community, many of them Holocaust survivors and also the descendants of Holocaust survivors, who have been present on these demonstrations, given fantastic interviews themselves, explaining why, as victims of a past genocide, they will not tolerate an ongoing genocide that the world is witnessing in real time. It is so dangerous and divisive, the way this so-called conflict has been portrayed. Taking the Israeli line, calling it the "Israel-Hamas War", when this is clearly a war against the entire [00:35:00] Palestinian people. Collective punishment, ethnic cleansing, plausible genocide, and there is nothing religious about this war. This is a war of settler-colonialism against an occupied people. 

One of the little rays of hope in the current situation, and it's getting bigger, it's getting wider, it's getting brighter, is the growth of opposition to what Israel is doing and it's happening across the world and it's happening among swathes of young people, look at what's happening in American campuses. And of course among the many young people who are coming out and saying "not in our name" and we won't tolerate it and trying to shut down arms factories and calling for an arms embargo, are many many young Jewish people.

I've met a youngster today who's never been on a demonstration before. He's got family in Israel and gradually he's managed to feel empowered enough, feel confident enough, that he has to come and speak out alongside all [00:36:00] these other people who are demonstrating for just peace and justice, really. It's not rocket science, is it?

University Challenge feat. Basil Zacharia Rodriguez - Chapo Trap House - Air Date 4-23-24

BASIL ZACHARIA RODRIGUEZ: This is a movement for liberation, for life. It's a movement to stop genocide, which has killed more than 40,000 Palestinians just in the Gaza Strip over the last seven months. As these, you know, slanderous reports are coming out focused on Upper Manhattan, we've been hearing heart breaking, truly heart breaking, reports coming out of the Nasser Hospital in Gaza, where more than, I want to say, more than 200 people were found whose bodies were so inhumanely disposed of as though they weren't human and their organs were robbed, their skin was robbed, stolen for Israel's skin bank, which is the largest skin bank in the world. This level of dehumanizing in this year [00:37:00] is unacceptable. We will not be silenced with slander. We will not let our voices be sidelined to slander and we will continue to seek Palestine as our compass for liberation and look towards the Palestinian people who have been telling us what they have endured for years and years and years and generations upon generations. So, we're just going to say enough is enough. We're not going to respond to slander. We're just going to stay focused on our messaging and people will listen to us. 

WILL MENAKER - HOST, CHAPO TRAP HOUSE: I mean, it's an abject lesson in what the US state media considers violence or aggression. And I think they've all decided that violence and aggression is found by, you know, protests at a college campus and not mass murder being funded by the US government. 

But I want to take that as a jumping off point. Basil, as someone who has a family connection to Palestine and like has come up in this struggle, [00:38:00] in the activism on behalf of Palestine, which was for years, like, shouting into the darkness in this country, it felt like. But, like I also said on the same episode, that I feel like these arrests and like how heavy handed and even damaging to their own institutions these arrests have been, they're doing it to avoid losing an argument. Because I feel like last year, you know, if you had said Israel is a violent apartheid state, there would be a ton of arguments that people could muster and be like, Oh no, it's not, it's not really like that. It's not so simple. You're simply misinformed or that's antisemitic or whatever. But over the last six months, it just doesn't seem to me like there are many arguments left to deny what's going on. And like, I just really feel like that there's no more argument to be had. So, the arrests start happening.

BASIL ZACHARIA RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I think that is an accurate analysis. Um, I think that the truth of what is happening in Palestine [00:39:00] has never been more clear, has never been so undeniable. And for the school to not even engage with us and to just jump to arresting a protest that, again, even the most disgusting entity of the NYPD said was a peaceful protest, and had no threat to anyone, for them to arrest and brutalize students, their own students, who are enraged and heartbroken at their, at all of our own inherent complicity, not only as citizens of the US, but also as students at Columbia University in making the 1 percent even more money off of genocide. It just shows their true colors, in a way that is, again, undeniable. 

WILL MENAKER - HOST, CHAPO TRAP HOUSE: I guess my next question would be, obviously the actions of the Columbia University administration are one thing, but how [00:40:00] do you assess the actions, support or lack thereof, depending on, you know, who you ask? How do you assess how Columbia's faculty, how your professors, how have they responded to the actions of the administration?

BASIL ZACHARIA RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. I think there's been a mix of responses. I think that people have to sort of come to terms with their own positionality in the movement and come to terms with their own complicity in the movement, but a lot of professors have stood by us. Professors at NYU were even arrested for putting their bodies on the line to physically protect students.

So, there are professors here with us in the encampment. There are professors on our de-escalation team ready to, you know, try to de-escalate potential White supremacists who try to come through and attack people, which has been happening in the past week. But there are also professors who I think are comfortable in their, you know, salaried position, [00:41:00] and who don't want to risk anything. And I think that what happened on last Wednesday has opened people's eyes up a bit to the fact that no one is safe on this campus, and that is because of the fact that this campus is a battleground which makes profit from weapons, weapons that are used to kill our own students' family members. And as professors, they are legitimizing that as an institutional right, which it is fundamentally not. It is not a right for any school to also be making money off of weapons and off of genocide, especially of the Palestinian people who are students, are professors at this institution.

I think there's a mix of professors who are, you know, standing with us physically, professors who are really helping us, all hands in. Then there are professors who are, you know, they kind of agree with us, they agree people should have free speech, but they aren't really standing with us in the way we need them to, and then there are professors who [00:42:00] are, you know, outright attacking people, attacking protesters, attacking Palestinians, is what I mean. So, there's a big range. 

WILL MENAKER - HOST, CHAPO TRAP HOUSE: Well, yeah, you mentioned the money involved here. And I think something to keep in mind about an institution like Columbia, or NYU specifically, is that Columbia and NYU are in addition to being, you know, world class universities they're also the single largest landowners in the City of New York. I mean, they have real estate holdings that are unimaginable in the island of Manhattan, and they have endowments, like, in the billions and billions of dollars. So, like, how does this money play into their special relationship with Israel and particularly very well-heeled donors like Robert Kraft, for instance, who's now saying, Hey, I'm cutting off the spigot to Columbia if they don't, you know, get rid of these anti-Israel protesters. It's just like, but I mean, like, does Columbia really need all that fucking money? Like, I mean, they could sell one building and probably pay [00:43:00] for the loss of Robert Kraft's donations. 

BASIL ZACHARIA RODRIGUEZ: Right. This is a crucial point that we cannot miss, because Columbia University is the largest landowner in New York City. And, you know, as I said earlier, Palestine is a struggle that connects to everywhere. It's an indigenous sovereignty struggle. So, if we think about our own indigenous people here, as well as native Harlemites here, native people who grew up in Harlem, there is settler colonialism in the form of gentrification happening because of Columbia University. They have plans to expand from 116th all the way to 180th Street. They want to make all of that Columbia University. So, if you think about the homes that would be destroyed and bulldozed over, if you think about the people who would be kicked out, families who have grown up there their [00:44:00] whole lives, this is very, very parallel to what they're doing in Palestine, where they want to build a Columbia campus in Palestine, bulldozing over generations of Palestinians who have been there their whole life.

So, these struggles are interconnected, and as student organizers, we are specifically calling for the end of Columbia University settler-colonialism in Palestine and their settler-colonialism in Harlem and in New York. Another aspect is there is a donor, I believe his name is Jonathan Levine, who has made his support of the building of the Manhattanville campus, which is a newer campus that they are trying to build, which will be displacing so, so many, so many people from Harlem. This campus is contingent on the building of the Tel Aviv campus of Columbia university. So, in this way, the two struggles are inherently intertwined and people are making their financial support dependent on both the [00:45:00] expulsion of people from Harlem, Black and Brown people predominantly, and of Palestinians from Palestine.

From the Editor 5-7-24

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips starting with Today In Focus giving an overview of the protests. AJ+ focused on events at Columbia and the personal story of the co-president of the university's Palestinian students' union. Harvard Kennedy School looked at the impact of non-violent sustained protest movements. The Brian Lehrer Show discussed Biden and the politics of the war in Gaza. Double Down News highlighted the voice of a Jewish woman who wholeheartedly rejects the mainstream framing of the protest in the media. And Chapo Trap House made the connection between the mechanisms of colonialism in Gaza and gentrification driven by Columbia University. 

And that's just the front page. There's lots more to dive into. As I briefly described at the top of the show, we're running an experiment in which the show is both the same as in what you just heard could have been a standalone episode, but [00:46:00] also more for those who want to go deeper. 

If you're curious, the reasons for this experiment is the changing economics of podcasting. With the widespread adoption of automatically inserted ads in podcasts, it may now make economic sense to make longer shows with more ads, obviously, and frankly the "correct"—that's in quotes—the correct length of the show has always been a bit of a source of tension for me. It's not like there's only an hour of worthwhile material on any given subject. There's a ton of stuff that we've agonized over and lamented that it didn't make the final cut, but including everything I wanted to was always at odds with creating a consistent show where you, the listener, knew what you could expect rather than some episodes being wildly longer than others. 

Now, maybe I shouldn't have worried about that too much, but I did. But now I've had this idea that feels like we can sort of have it both ways. There will continue to be a consistent first [00:47:00] section of the show that is the style and length that you already know. And when a topic warrants it, there will be additional sections for those who want to go deeper. 

One note though. I like the metaphor of a newspaper to describe the front page and the following sections—you know, to continue, turn to page a 12 and all that—but there is a hurdle that current technology just won't let me cross. In a newspaper it's really easy to turn to page A12. In a podcast, it's a lot more complicated. So, in the show notes, there are timestamps for each section. And depending on your podcasting app, you may actually be able to tap the timestamp and go right to that point in the show. And this should work great for members—and members, by the way, already have full chapter markers. That'll work in addition to the timestamps, but for non-members, those timestamps are going to be more like time estimates, because non-members will [00:48:00] have ads automatically inserted into the show, and ads take time. So when time gets added to the show, the timestamps stop being accurate, but there's no way for me to know how inaccurate they're going to be. So I couldn't make adjustments ahead of time or anything like that. So it's an imperfect solution to say the least, but it's better than nothing. And of course, for those who just want to kick back and read the metaphorical paper cover to cover, none of this matters. You can just listen straight through.

If you have thoughts on all of this, positive or negative, or any ideas of how we could do things better. Please get in touch. Experiments are only valuable if you can actually interpret the results and your opinions are those results I'm looking for. So let me have them. 

And now we will continue with the rest of the show. In section A, we have more on the police responses to protests. Section B is a deeper dive inside the protests and their motivations. Section C gets [00:49:00] more into the politics and messaging around accusations of antisemitism. Section D dives into the stories around college administrations and the endowments protestors are demanding be divested from Israel and the war machine more broadly. And finally section E finishes the show with more media criticism around the protests.

A: CrackdownAtlanta Police Violently Arrest Emory Students & Faculty to Clear Gaza Solidarity Encampment - Democracy Now! - Air Date 4-26-24

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Professor Emil’ Keme, you were arrested. Why were you out at the protest as the people started to begin the encampment? And explain what happened to you.

EMIL' KEME: Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to be here.

Yeah, I was just going to work. I was going to my office to prepare my classes I was supposed to teach yesterday. And then I ran into some of my students who were participating in the protest, and I went up to say hi to them, and I also saw some of my colleagues. So I was talking to them, and then somebody had mentioned that the university had called the [00:50:00] police. And pretty soon, they got there, and I literally felt that I was in a war zone, when I saw the police with all the gear.

And then, like, they immediately began to forcibly remove and destroy all the tents and forcibly remove students. I saw then that — I started feeling the tear gas. And I held arms with some people that — you know, we were being pushed back out of the encampment. And the student that I was holding arms with, she was then arrested. And then, the next thing I know, I was on the floor, you know, being forcibly on the floor, and I was being arrested. But yeah, it was like a horrible experience, very surreal and, yeah, unacceptable, really [00:51:00] unacceptable. And it was just a horrible situation and a horrible experience.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Professor, the police are denying they used rubber bullets. What did you see?

EMIL' KEME: So, I did see somebody being tased. And then I saw the tear gas, and I felt it. I felt it in my eyes. I was also next to an older lady, and I was trying to reach her and tried to see if I could offer her some water. But then, you know, I did see the footage, some of the videos, of police using rubber bullets, as well. But it was very forceful, and the screams. And yeah, it was very violent and really unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: The Emory administration has also had a similar response against Stop Cop City protests on campus. Can you talk about the connections between the [00:52:00] two?

EMIL' KEME: Yeah. I mean, the protesters were not only asking the university to divest from investing in Israel, but also Cop City. And, I mean, it is the right thing to do. You know, it’s the right thing to do, because we have to remember that the university is on Indigenous lands, and these are Indigenous territories. And there was an eviction notice written by Muscogee leaders about not building Cop City in Atlanta. And it is a just demand. And hopefully, the university will listen to what the students are saying about this, because I think it’s extremely important.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: I wanted to bring Umaymah Mohammad into this conversation. Umaymah, you’re an MD/Ph.D. student at Emory. Can you talk about these protests that you helped to organize and why you felt it was so key to take this [00:53:00] stand on campus?

UMAYMAH MOHAMMAD: Yeah, absolutely. So, we are at past the seven-month mark of this genocide. And on our campus and in our community, we have repeatedly organized peacefully to put pressure on our institutions, especially at Emory, to stop harassing and doxxing students and to stop repressing speech around Palestine and to divest from the Israeli apartheid state. And every single time, Emory shuts us down. Every single time, they crack down, and they punish students. Every single time, they silence our voices.

And at some point, we decided that we no longer accept our tuition dollars and our tax money going to fund an active genocide. And that was, I think, the main motivation for a group of students and community members and faculty and graduate students coming together so powerfully in this moment to say we [00:54:00] just reject this. We refuse to move until Emory listens to divesting from both the apartheid state of Israel and stop Cop City.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: I read an open letter that you had written. I mean, you’re particularly deeply concerned about healthcare. You quoted the Palestinian doctor Hammam Alloh, killed in November when an Israeli artillery shell struck his wife’s home. His father, brother-in-law and father-in-law also died. Democracy Now! spoke to Dr. Alloh on October 31st. This was his response when asked him why he refused to leave his patients.

DR. HAMMAM ALLOH: And if I go, who treats my patients? We are not animals. We have the right to receive proper healthcare. [00:55:00] So we can’t just leave. … You think I went to medical school and for my postgraduate degrees for a total of 14 years so I think only about my life and not my patients?

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Dr. Hammam Alloh would be killed several weeks later. Umaymah Mohammad, can you talk about this issue of what we’re seeing at this point, over 34,000 Palestinians killed, the number of doctors and nurses, staff, universities, and why this is of particular concern to you?

UMAYMAH MOHAMMAD: Yeah. So, as a future healthcare professional and a current medical student, I am deeply concerned about the lack of concern healthcare institutions in America have for what we’re seeing. And it’s not just in Palestine. Healthcare professionals largely aren’t invested in the health and care of [00:56:00] community members, like the police violence we saw on Emory’s campus. I mean, it’s absolutely mind-boggling to me that these people call themselves providers and care workers and are deeply disinvested from the structural and state violence of community members, both locally and internationally. And I used that quote in a letter that I wrote to the School of Medicine a few months ago because of the absolute silence from a healthcare institution on the decimation of the healthcare system in Gaza, on their own peers being murdered in cold blood by the IDF.

And so, I think one of the concerns that I have with Emory, and with the School of Medicine specifically, is that they have also, along with the greater Emory community, participated in suppressing Palestinian voices. So, a great example of this is very early on to this genocide, in October, Emory fired [00:57:00] a Palestinian physician for posting a private social media post on her Facebook in support of the Palestinians. And yet one of the professors of medicine we have at Emory recently went to serve as a volunteer medic in the Israeli Offense Force and recently came back. This man participated in aiding and abetting a genocide, in aiding and abetting the destruction of the healthcare system in Gaza and the murder of over 400 healthcare workers, and is now back at Emory so-called teaching medical students and residents how to take care of patients. I mean, the disconnect is, for me, very obvious. And it’s very frustrating that the School of Medicine and the greater Emory community continues to ignore these major disconnects.

Juan González, Veteran of '68 Columbia Strike, Condemns Current University Leaders - Democracy Now! - Air Date 5-1-24

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Yesterday we played archival clips of you and the other students taking over Hamilton Hall. What were your thoughts as you watched what happened with the student takeover [00:58:00] and then the police raid?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW! : Well, Amy, I think the similarities are really amazing in terms of the persistence of these students, the issues around which they were fighting, this opposition to a genocidal war occurring in Gaza.

And, you know, I was struck especially by the stands of these university presidents, not only at Columbia and Barnard, but also across the country. You know, the great Chris Hedges, I think, said it best, when he talked recently about the moral bankruptcy of these presidents of these universities who are condemning disruptions of the business as usual at the universities, while every single president of an American university has been silent about the massive destruction of universities in Gaza [00:59:00] and of high schools and schools in Gaza by the Israeli army. They are silent about what is occurring in education in another country, another part of the world, financed by the United States.

So, I think that the importance to me in terms of the similarities are the students understand that at times you must disrupt business as usual to focus the attention of the public on a glaring injustice. And I think that’s exactly what they’ve been able to do. The entire country today knows what divestment means, what divestment means from the Israeli government and the Israeli military, whereas, before, this issue was on the margins of political debate. No commencement in America will occur in the next month where the war in Gaza is not a burning issue, either outside with the protesters [01:00:00] or inside in the speeches and presentations. So I think that the students have managed to focus the entire attention of the country on an unjust war.

I don’t see how President Shafik survives. Many of these presidents across the country are going to be known not for whatever they accomplished previously, but they are going to be known throughout the rest of their lives as being the people who brought the police in to crush students who were maintaining a moral position of opposition to genocide.

So, I think the students are going to carry — those who were arrested are going to carry this badge of courage, as opposed to this profile of cowardice of the university presidents that dare to try to suspend or expel them. And the students’ lives have been changed forever — and, I think, for the best — in terms of the importance of dissent and opposition to injustice.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Juan, I wanted to go back to 1968, the [01:01:00] student strike, students occupying five buildings, including the president’s office in Low Library, barricading themselves inside for days, students protesting Columbia’s ties to military research and plans to build a university gymnasium in a public park in Harlem. They called it Gym — G-Y-M — Crow. I want to go to a clip of you from the Pacifica Radio Archives, then a Columbia student, speaking right — it was before the raid, during the strike.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW! : Now we want to go into the dorms with all of you, with some of you who may not — who may not agree with a lot of what we’ve been saying here, who have questions, who support us, who want to know more. Let’s go to the dorms. Let’s talk quietly, in small groups. We’ll be there, and everyone in Livingston — in Livingston lobby, in Furnald lobby, in Carman lobby. We’ll be there, and we’ll talk about the issues involved, and we’ll talk about where this country is going and where this university is going and what it’s doing in the society and what we would like it to do and what we would — and how we would [01:02:00] like to exchange with you our ideas over it. Come join us now.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: So, that is Democracy Now! co-host Juan González when he was a student at Columbia University in 1968. It was before the police raid. Juan, tell us what happened after the police raid of Hamilton Hall, as they did last night of Hamilton Hall, 700 arrests. In fact, Juan, you only recently graduated from Columbia. This is the 56th anniversary. What was it, 50 years later, a dean at Columbia said, “Please, we need you as a graduate”?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW! : No, actually, it was 30 years later they gave me my degree, because I was a senior then. I was supposed to graduate that year. And, you know, amazingly, being suspended from college is not a big deal. You know, it only delays your career a little bit, and I think you gain more sometimes if you were suspended for the right reason. So I don’t think that that’s a big issue.

But I want to raise something else about these protests that [01:03:00] I think people — I’ve seen little attention to. Back in the '60s, most of the student protests were led either by Black students who were in Black student organizations or white students. I was one of the few Latinos at Columbia at the time. And today, these student protests are multiracial and largely led by Palestinian and Muslim and Arab students. This is a marked change in the actual composition of the American university that we're seeing in terms of the leadership of these movements. And I think the willingness of these administrations to crack down so fiercely against this protest is, to some degree, they find it easier to crack down on Black and Brown and multiracial students than they did back then, when it was largely a white student population. And they always figured out a way to [01:04:00] rescind the suspensions or get the students their degrees, because they saw them as part of them. Now, I think, they’re seeing these student protests as part of the other, and they are much more willing to crack down than they have been in the past. And I think it’s important to raise that and to understand what is going on in terms of the changing demographics of the American college student population.

B: Inside the ProtestsSection B Intro

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now in, during section B a deeper look inside the protests and their motivations.

Pro-Israel THUGS Attack Student Protesters - While Cops Rampage In New York - Owen Jones - Air Date 5-1-24

OWEN JONES -HOST, OWEN JONES: Back in the 1960s, students protesting against the Vietnam War were denounced and ridiculed by oh so clever newspaper colonists, who variously labelled them as naive, as dangerous, as dupes for the enemy. And those student protesters were vindicated not just partly, not just mostly, but entirely. And those oh so clever newspaper columnists got it completely and utterly wrong, as they helped justify a war which spilled rivers of blood.

So vindicated, in fact, that Columbia University, where once again student protesters [01:05:00] have been attacked by the police, that university venerates the protesters of 1968. Who were attacked by the police. Their official website includes a page headlined a new perspective of 1968. The absolute front of this institution claiming Columbia is a far different place today than it was in the spring of 1968 when protesters took over university buildings amid discontent about the Vietnam War, racism and the university's proposed expansion to Morningside Park, which then this website references how the New York City police stormed the campus, stormed the campus and arrested hundreds, And that the fallout dogged Columbia for years.

Well, history repeats itself, doesn't it? It doesn't often always repeat itself, but it often rhymes. When students protested against the Iraq war once again, they were denounced and ridiculed by oh so clever newspaper columnists. Once again, those student protesters were vindicated, completely vindicated, and those newspaper columnists once again have nothing more to be said about them, other than they helped justify [01:06:00] mass slaughter.

I think it's about time these particular newspaper columnists shut up. And listen to the protesters who keep getting vindicated. Over and over again. Today, again, Israel's genocidal onslaught. These student protesters are going to be even more vindicated than those before them, for reasons I'll explain.

Now, at Columbia University, the cops stormed in, get this, exactly 56 years to the day. When cops stormed Columbia University in 1968 to arrest Vietnam protesters. Now, you can hear tasers going off, uh, students screaming while they are assaulted by huge numbers of the police who arrived. As one U. S.

academic in New York puts it, Please, I know that what happened at Columbia tonight is sickening, but this is part two. And our City University students are largely working class students. Of color, but the most disturbing scenes and these were still obviously it's extremely important. We show solidarity with those at columbia The most [01:07:00] disturbing scenes was at university of california los angeles when pro israel thugs attacked The peaceful palestinian solidarity encampment in full view of a police force which did nothing

Now much of the mainstream media has been describing this as a clash between protesters That's a lie. Let's have, let's have a listen to ER's correct framing of what happened. 

AL JAZERRA NEWS CLIP: There are various reports online describing it as a, a, a, a violent, violent clashes, violent confrontations. But just to be absolutely clear about what has unfolded over the past couple of hours, you have a mob waving Israeli flags.

Whose identities were, were hidden beneath masks who came from outside of the campus. Uh, they, as our correspondent was saying, don't appear to be of university age and were armed with pepper spray and sticks and using whatever they [01:08:00] could to harass and instigate violence against the, the, the peaceful solidarity encampment of student protesters in the campus.

at UCLA. So, you know, not so much clashes as a mob attacking a group of protesters. 

OWEN JONES -HOST, OWEN JONES: Well, that's exactly what happened here. A violent mob of pro Israel thugs armed with weapons attacked a peaceful student protest against genocide. Now, for so long, we've been told that these protesters threatened the safety of their fellow Jewish students, willfully conflating opposition with their own.

So the crimes of Israel with anti semitism and inventing lies about what these students say and do. But know that given the crucial presence of Jewish students at these protests, those being attacked and arrested will inevitably include Jewish students. And above all else, it's protesters against genocide who've been vilified as violent and dangerous.

Well, you can see quite clear with your own eyes and ears. Who those labels really belong to. Now, unconditional support, of course, for those protesters. It's so important that wherever we are, whichever [01:09:00] country, whichever continent, we stand by these courageous protesters. And we also need to respond by making protests even bigger and more determined.

This shouldn't make anyone fear protesting, it should embolden us to protest. And the history of protest shows these crackdowns just spur people on to fight even more. You see, the defenders of Israel's mass slaughter of Gaza and some of the worst atrocities of our age. have been completely morally disgraced.

They've lost the argument in all the countries which arm and support Israel, including the United States, where by a big margin, Americans now say they disapprove of Israel's onslaught with more Americans than not describing it as genocide. They're desperate and they have no strategy. So all they've got left is beating up protesters.

But what's really happening here is the moral legitimacy of the U. S. Empire, ill founded though it always was, has been brutally exposed for everyone to see. And these protesters stood up and told their rulers who they really were. And all those elites have in response is smears and brutality. Well, it's not going to work.

Not this time. I cited before the Vietnam War. Well, a [01:10:00] pundit on CNN yesterday apparently said the anti Vietnam War protests were different from those today, which he described as very polarizing. The age old tendency by those who oppose today's protest to claim they would definitely support the protests of the past, which they only say they would do because those protests are later vindicated, but at the time they were vilified, and those sorts of people hated those protests when they actually happened.

When college students were protesting the Vietnam War, they were in a minority for most of the time. And I don't actually mean just amongst the general population of the United States. I mean even amongst college students. In 1967, according to Gallup pollsters, 49 percent of U. S. College students favored escalation in Vietnam.

They wanted more war with just 35 percent supporting de escalation. In 1969, half of U. S. college students said they approved of Republican President Richard Nixon's Vietnam policies compared to 44 percent who disapproved. But in the wider population in 1969, Nixon had 64 percent support for his approach to Vietnam with just 25 percent [01:11:00] disapproving.

The polling in October 1970 was also instructive. Nearly three quarters of Americans polled thought that a major cause of campus unrest was radical militant student groups. A large majority cited as a major reason irresponsible students who just want to cause trouble. Another significant majority blamed radical professors who encouraged student revolt.

A majority also blamed college presidents for being too lenient and permissive. Now, as you can see, it's quite handy that my research, uh, as a, uh, graduate into the Vietnam War protests of the United States comes in handy, but here's the point. Here's what we can learn from that comparison. The fail that faces pro Israel protesters It's going to be a lot worse, a lot worse.

You see, in the case of Vietnam, it took many years and the deaths of tens of thousands of US service personnel for the American people to turn against the Vietnam War. Protesters, for a very long time, were isolated and unrepresentative. That's why they were so courageous. Because they [01:12:00] were fighting a cause at the time, which was very unpopular in the case of Iraq, a large majority of Americans back to the invasion of Iraq.

Now, of course, the polling shows they regret it. They know that those who tries to fight to stop the war were correct. Now, the scale of the crime in this case is just too obscene and too evidenced in the case of it. And I'm in Iraq. There was this whole mantra that this was about freeing people from subjugation, that this was coming to their aid.

This time round, the onslaught is led by a state whose leaders openly denounce the entire Palestinian people as collectively guilty and speak about them in overtly genocidal ways and openly discuss their expulsion from their land. The atrocities and horrors are far more concentrated, proportionally speaking, a much higher rate of death and destruction, and indeed of humanitarian catastrophe.

A manufactured, Famine enveloping Gaza. Because of social media, there's far more access to and awareness of the atrocities being committed on a daily basis. Public opinion is far more hostile, far quicker. You didn't have a situation where, say, more Americans than not thought genocide was being [01:13:00] committed against the Vietnamese, or indeed Iraqis.

As is the case today with the Palestinians of Gaza. And furthermore, there is no plausible form of so called Israeli victory that the rest of the world could possibly regard as in any way positive. In Vietnam, it was defeat the communists, that was an obvious military endgame, and then Vietnam would somehow be free and liberated, and that'd be great for its people.

Well, obviously, it wasn't. That failed, but that was the general gist in Iraq. It was weapons of mass destruction being discovered in the Iraqi people, showing them immense gratitude at their so called liberation and a thriving, glorious peace descending upon Iraq. Oops. In this case, there was no plausible hypothetical outcome, which is good for Israel that is satisfactory to anyone who isn't a cheerleader of the Israeli state.

It's just more violent subjugation of the Palestinians, which the vast majority of people on the planet. So it's very clear to those who hitch their reputations to defending one of the great crimes of our age, what's going to happen. You face total moral disgrace and you also face accountability. You face becoming moral pariahs in your [01:14:00] societies.

You know it deep down and all you can do is lash out, smear those who took a stand correctly against one of the great crimes of our age and who have been vindicated over and over and over again in the worst possible way. But all your behaviour is going to do and is doing is increasing support for those protesting this horror and to embolden others to also protest.

What you are seeing here is an endgame. An endgame in which those who helped make this horror possible have whipped up a hurricane that's going to sweep them all away. And they're panicking about it. And guess what? They're absolutely right to. Sure, right now, there are students who are bruised and bleeding and scared and traumatised.

But they're right. And deep down you know they're right, and you know they're going to be vindicated. And that is going to give them strength. And that's what's going to give these protests strength in the weeks and months ahead. You can beat these protesters up. You can bat and charge them. You can [01:15:00] throw them in jail, but they're not going to stop fighting.

And they're not going to stop fighting because they know what the stakes are. They know they're right. And they know you're going to lose and you're going to lose in the worst possible way. 

Live from the Encampments - CODEPINK Radio - Air Date 5-1-24

GRACE SIEGELMAN: I can go first with Northwestern. Um, it's been. Amazing. We were there for two solid days last week. Um, and. It just watching like the programming that springs up so quickly just with who's there who's coming on to campus. Um, we were there for one day and they were having an art as resistance teach in and then actual art build, um, talking about different art pieces that has sprung up both from student organizing and academic organizing, but also just, um, anti war and anti imperialist efforts.

And then watching people actually do that in real time was so amazing. Um, They've had people discuss their thesis and like their own academic work in relation to anti war organizing, which is absolutely beautiful. Um, and they're the food from the [01:16:00] alumni networks that have come through medical supplies, uh, tent supplies.

It's been raining like crazy in Chicago. So they have had like a lot of, um, how to protect from the rain and thunder and wind kind of not trainings, but like just people coming in and being like, I don't have any experience in organizing, but I do have experience in keeping things dry from, like, Weather issues.

So, like, let me come and do this and then I can learn from you what's going on. Um, so just little things like that, seeing that happen in real time has been absolutely beautiful. And, uh, in conjunction with, like, the students that were already there and the faculty that were already there who are then, like, we're not in class right now, so we're going to do, like, a discussion and kind of, like, class on the quad.

Even though you're not going to be in class right now, we're going to do it here, which I think is So cool. Because then I get to go to a Northwestern class for free, which is great. 

DANAKA KATOVICH - HOST, CODE PINK RADIO: And I'll add, like, I, we had so much abundance on campus where it just, I'd [01:17:00] never have really felt like that before in, in society, right?

So, you know, they had so many water, like, cases of water donated that they, um, built a little, like, house with it, and that's where, like, the henna station was for the day. There was never, like, uh, Not someone coming up to you asking if they could like take any trash like it was like a lot of care for like not littering and like there was always someone helping out and like there was so much food so that you could we had a tent dedicated to giving out camping equipment and then a food tent and then an art tent like there was just so much abundance in that space.

But Jodi, how has it been at USC and UCLA? 

JODIE EVANS: Well, I want to say welcome to the local peace economy. So abundance abounds. And, you know, we've been trained the opposite with war economy and capitalism. So I think, you know, when we have these experiences, where, people are putting their bodies on the line for something that is breaking the hearts of so many [01:18:00] that the outpouring is enormous because we all want to be doing so much and it is so limited because we're up against idiots who are saying okay to genocide and yet the whole, you know, 90 percent of Democrats now are like stop this genocide instead of throwing more fire on it. So, yes, that is what you're experiencing it outpouring of yes, we're here for you. You are on the front lines. And so at USC and UCLA, we are really on the front lines.

I mean, the first day at USC was horrific. And because it's a private university, they were able to arrest 90 people like right away. No notice. Just get them out of here. You know, let's eradicate the problem. And, um, that was horrific. And they were able to lock down the school. So it was really getting crushed, but they are, you know, fierce and they're not, you know, backing down, [01:19:00] but it limits the capacity to bring anything in, to be of support and to have a relationship.

So here's like the private public. If we want to just look at the systems that we live inside of, go, go to UCLA. The camp has grown. I mean, when we, when I first got there, it was just, you know, kind of, cobbled together the first day, Thursday, and every day it's just grown. And now it's like, takes up between the two buildings.

They just gave up having a corridor between the two. And, um, that happened also, I think, with the university trying to keep everyone safe. So, Friday night, um, which was the second, end of the second day, had grown quite a bit, looks just like yours, an art tent, a food tent, a water tent, uh, you know, art classes, dancing, um, my friends, Ginger and Vivek, uh, Code Pink activists came, and they're both musicians, and they saw that, um, the, the counter [01:20:00] protesters On the other side, the Zionists have brought like a sound system and they were trying to drown us out.

And so Friday they brought a huge sound system for us. Um, and so more music was happening, live music was happening. I showed up and I just stayed outside and I was kind of playing. The, the guard to the gate and taking on the Zionist myself because, you know, could pink, we can, we're, we're about being disarming so I could just totally disarm all of them and they would just go away and, you know, out of frustration.

And, um, so then that was okay but then all of a sudden some maggot. Intense disruptors came which was a whole different energy. And they just wanted to cause trouble. And what was so impressive is the organizers just had everybody move to the side. So imagine like 500 people just moved and made a giant circle.

And so it became a fishbowl. So the disruption couldn't happen because you were in a [01:21:00] fishbowl, which was quite brilliant. I was like, as an organizer, I was like, I'm going to keep that one in my tool chest. Um, and then on being on the outside, then everybody got to see each other instead of being intense.

And. It just like allowed everyone to really be present with each other. And then, you know, the conversation could happen. And, and so that Friday night, the Zionist disruptors came and they all day Friday, they put up a GoFundMe and they raised 60, 000 in a day to create a counter protest to the camp. And, um, you know, we saw the GoFundMe, so we were also organizing to get everybody there for Saturday.

Um, oh, sorry. It was I guess it was Saturday for Sunday and, um, but then not that night. They kept everyone up till 6 a. m. They were trying to push in. They were being very loud and very violent and everybody had to keep, you know, start building ways that they could keep themselves [01:22:00] protected. So no one had slept.

And then there's this onslaught. They put up a screen, a giant sound system. They rented the ground next door so they could do whatever they wanted. And they put out a call and they bust in people. And it was quite oppressive. And so I think we had, there was the camp, there was, you know, one side of the protesters and other side of the protesters and another side of the protesters.

So we had them surrounded, um, with our chanting and to tell you that, like, I looked the first day I looked out at them and what they were doing. And it was just like, if you didn't have sound. And it was in black and white. You would think they were brown shirts. It was so fascist in its even look. I mean, it was chilling.

So then the same kind of felt with the, when they all came together, it was one message, one [01:23:00] flag won't, you know, like it was kind of just the, the, the flag symbol everywhere. And it felt super oppressive. I was taking pictures of both sides, and it was quite frightening.

And and also, um, the interesting thing is they were they wanted to hurt. They came to hurt. And they came to be in your face and be fierce and angry and mean and nasty and hateful. And I just was profoundly impressed with everyone's ability to just be Teflon. Um, there was nothing to engage with. Um, and even they would push somebody into somebody and say it was their fault and they wouldn't react and they would just everybody would hold so beautifully and in love and behind them, everybody would be singing and chanting.

And so the whole movement was quite like a murmuration 

The US college protests and the crackdown on campuses Part 2 - Today in Focus - Air Date 4-25-24

MARGARET SULLIVAN: Students have really [01:24:00] become politically involved in a way that In some cases, they never have been before. On the Columbia campus for several months now, there have been students who have engaged in demonstrations, called for a ceasefire, expressed their views one way or the other.

STUDENT 4: We really want the university to understand that divestment must happen and it must happen ASAP. We want the university to, at the very least, call for a ceasefire and acknowledge its complicity in the occupation and genocide of the Palestinian people. 

STUDENT 5: I'm Jewish. I'm Israeli. My mother's Israeli. I have family.

There and honestly we're in pain. Our, our community was attacked. All of the Muslim people who I know who I'm close with have reached out to ask if I'm okay and to see how my family's doing. It's just when it becomes impersonal, um, people feel much more comfortable calling for violence, and I think that's not okay.

MARGARET SULLIVAN: It's not at all surprising to hear chants or beats or things like that. But just in the past few days, it's gotten much louder, [01:25:00] particularly because students have set up an encampment right on the lawn of campus. 

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: Margaret, you're on staff at Columbia alongside writing for The Guardian. How have you noticed this conflict has changed the atmosphere on campus and in the classroom?

MARGARET SULLIVAN: It's top of mind for a lot of students. I'm a little too young to have been a college student during the Vietnam era, but I think it has some of the flavor of that. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP 1: It's been bought out by the military. 50 percent of the research done here at the university depends on defense money. And we can see when we look at the new buildings that are going up, we can tell 

how much this university is hooked into servicing the corporations and hooked into servicing the war machine.

MARGARET SULLIVAN: Students have a kind of idealistic approach to this, where they feel like they can make a difference by protesting. 

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: Have you seen or heard things in your time on the campus that do strike you as anti [01:26:00] Semitic, or at least uncomfortably close to it? 

MARGARET SULLIVAN: There are things being shouted that are very anti Israel.

I think it is important to draw a distinction between criticizing the policies and the leadership of Israel and being anti Semitic. They aren't the same thing. So I certainly have seen a lot that's anti Israel. Most of what I've seen is people calling for a ceasefire, but I have not directly observed anti Semitic behavior.

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: And we know from surveys of Jewish students that many of them say they feel there has been an increase in anti Semitism since October 7. But do you see any difference between the kinds of things being chanted on the Columbia campus by students there and the things being done and said? at those protests that are just outside the campus, when you try to understand why some Jewish students might be feeling unsafe.

MARGARET SULLIVAN: Absolutely. There's a very big difference between what's going on on [01:27:00] campus, which has been Relatively restrained. I mean, even the New York City police department in making these arrests characterize the protesters as peaceful. There is, however, just outside the gates of Columbia on Broadway and on Amsterdam Avenue, a big, uh, um, Some much more virulent protests, much more anti Israel, much more offensive.

In some cases, cheering on Hamas. And I think it's important not to conflate the two because they are quite different. And I think that Columbia has done a pretty good job and is working on trying to make sure that those who are involved in this encampment or in any demonstrations on campus are protected.

Are indeed Columbia students.

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: All of that student activism at Columbia and universities across the U S has also drawn an extraordinary amount [01:28:00] of attention from the media, from political leaders and from business leaders. Why do you think that is? Why do you think so many people are so animated about the things going on at universities?

MARGARET SULLIVAN: There are all kinds of reasons for that coming from different directions. With students, there is less of an immediate connection with the Holocaust, with World War II. They tend to see Israel, some of these students, I don't want to be too sweeping here, but some of them tend to see Israel as a bully and not as a very vulnerable community.

Country that needs American protection. I'd say the thinking on that has changed in a generational way, 

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: and that generational divide seems to be pretty vast. I mean, you've got, on the one hand, students who feel the Israel, as you say, is the bully, is the aggressive party here and then an American establishment that as we've seen over the past few months, doesn't see it that way.

[01:29:00] Sees that the US has a kind of special relationship, a special mission to protect Israel. 

MARGARET SULLIVAN: That's right. And we see that with president Biden, who is probably an interesting case study here because he's a man in his eighties. He has a very visceral connection with what happened in World War II and a very strong relationship with Israel.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: For 75 years, Israel has stood as the only guarantor security of Jewish people around the world. So that the atrocities of the past could never happen again. And let there be no doubt, the United States has Israel's back. We will make sure the Jewish and democratic state of Israel can defend itself today, tomorrow, as we always have.

It's as simple as that. 

MARGARET SULLIVAN: Many politicians of his era feel that way, not just because they're making political points, but they feel it deeply and emotionally. And that is just [01:30:00] something that. For many students who are 20 years old or 19 years old, it just doesn't mean as much to them. It's ancient history.

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: We've seen the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu explicitly try to evoke that terrible history to claim controversially that it's being repeated again in these protests. 

BENJAMIN NETENYAHU: Anti Semitic mobs have taken over leading universities. They call for the annihilation of Israel. They attack Jewish students. They attack Jewish faculty.

This is reminiscent of what happened in German universities in the 1930s. It's unconscionable. 

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: You talked about this generational divide within the American left, but a lot of the critics, a lot of the people who have made the most noise about these protests have come from the American right, including their undisputed leader, Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: They're closing Columbia now. I mean, it's just crazy. Columbia should gain a little strength, a little [01:31:00] courage and keep their school open. It's crazy. Because that means the other side wins. When you start closing down colleges 

MICHAEL SAFI - HOST, TODAY IN FOCUS: Roe has the right played in amping this whole thing up. 

MARGARET SULLIVAN: Some of the politicians in the United States, particularly those who are on the far right, are I would say clearly weaponizing this conflict.

So it's all part of this anti wokeness that we've seen throughout the country in recent years, certainly in Florida with governor DeSantis and book bans and all of that sort of thing. It's a way of saying these Democrats, these liberals, these progressives, these elite institutions. Are to be scorned and they're to be criticized, and we're going to, in some cases try to humiliate them. 

C: Politics of AntisemitismSection C Intro

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: You've reached section C getting more into the politics and messaging around accusations of antisemitism.

Nicholas Kristof On Biden Blind Spots, Double Standards, Campus Protesters Part 2 - Brian Lehrer: A Daily Politics Podcast - Air Date 4-26-24

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER: A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: how is Biden since October 7th [01:32:00] inconsistent with the Joe Biden you knew? 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: So Joe Biden has he has always had a real mastery of international affairs from his time on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and really has first rate foreign policy aides around him. And yet he's made, I think, a series of miscalculations.

He did not expect the war in Gaza to last as long as it did. He thought it'd be over by the end of the year. I don't think he expected that it would be. As harsh as it proved to be in terms of, leveling entire neighborhoods I don't think that he expected Israel to throttle the aid that went into Gaza to the extent it did.

And, you know, for risk of a famine to develop. And I think that he believed that he could manage Prime Minister Netanyahu when in fact it sort of, it was more the other way around. And I think there, you know, aside from the practical miscalculations. Joe Biden [01:33:00] was always a man of enormous empathy, and he had a moral vision.

And in the case of Bosnia, he was outspoken, calling on the White House to do more to protect civilians there. During the Darfur genocide, he was outspoken. Uh, he was always urging me to write tougher columns demanding that the White House at the time, then George W. Bush would work more aggressively to protect civilians during that humanitarian crisis.

And I don't see that same. Emphasis on that same empathy for civilians in Gaza. You see, he is certainly showing a lot of empathy for people, for victims in Israel as is absolutely right. But I see something of an empathy gap. And I think that is affecting our policies toward Gaza. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER: A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: On the empathy, uh, gap between Biden's reactions to the victims of October 7th and the [01:34:00] victims since his reaction to the killing of the World Central Kitchen relief workers was an example you gave in your column.

Maybe you think that applies to Biden and the campus protests now too, you tell me, but why did you mention World Central Kitchen in particular? 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Well, there had been already at that point about 190 aid workers in Gaza who had been killed you know, along with 100 journalists several 100 health workers.

And it was the killing of foreign aid workers with World Central Kitchen that really seemed to particularly outrage President Biden and in fairness, journalists and other people around the world. You know, that outrage at the killing of those foreign aid workers was certainly appropriate, but at the end of the day, it should be also outrageous that Gazan aid workers are being killed quite regularly.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, BRIAN LEHRER: A DAILY POLITICS PODCAST: Biden has tried to influence Netanyahu by persuasion, [01:35:00] not by cutting Israel off.

And it was interesting to me in your column that you see Biden is too confident in his ability to influence through relationships. And that that has applied to his relationships with congressional Republicans as well. Can you talk about that for a minute? 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Yeah. You know, there's something about politicians that in general, I think tends to breed self confidence.

Maybe it's the self selection process of running for office. And I think that Biden has a great deal of confidence in his ability to win people over, to charm them. And that's something I like about him, but I don't think it has been as effective as he would have thought in the case of Senate Republicans, for example, or House Republicans.

And likewise, I don't think it's been. As effective as he had expected in the case of Prime Minister Netanyahu and you know that I think that was kind of to be expected. Netanyahu has been a thorn in the side of every American administration, as [01:36:00] long as he's been in public life, the only American official who really figured Netanyahu effectively was James Baker when he was Secretary of State, and he did that simply by banning Then deputy foreign minister Netanyahu from the State Department and kind of marginalizing him.

So we didn't have to deal with him. So I think the idea that he could control Netanyahu and did not need to use leverage was a pretty dubious idea from the start. 

Manufactured Panic Over Peaceful Campus Protests Used To Distract From Genocide In Gaza - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air Date 4-23-24

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: This is how the Biden administration responded. This was their statement. Nothing really about what they're actually protesting for. While every American has the right to peaceful protest, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students, And the Jewish community are blatantly anti Semitic, unconscionable, and dangerous.

They have absolutely no place on any college campus or anywhere in the United States of America. And echoing the rhetoric of terrorist organizations, especially in the wake of the [01:37:00] worst massacre committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, is despicable. We condemn these statements in the strongest terms.

This is the White House Deputy Press Secretary putting out that particular statement. Um, once again, It makes it seem as though these protests are anti Semitic in nature, against Jewish people broadly. It furthers, in my opinion, a culture of violence towards Jewish people by continuing to conflate Zionism with Judaism.

Because as, This is not going away. If there are people who are making that link in their mind, that this, that Israel just represents Jewish people, I mean, what kind of thought process does that lead to for at least some? It's dangerous what they're doing. I mean, for Jewish people domestically in the United States, let alone, of course, what they're furthering.

MATT LECH: Yeah, I mean, Zionism is a project and they cannot be trusted as any sort of, um. [01:38:00] Moral arbiters on antisemitism because they're using it towards, uh, for a settler colonial project right now. Like that, that's where we're at. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Um, and if the Biden administration is really concerned about the safety on campuses, he could look at a little bit at some of the footage coming out of Gaza, where every single university has been destroyed basically where, um, the major university in Gaza months ago was just demolished, leveled.

To cheers from the IDF. This is a really cynical, I think, weaponization of one of the, one of the longest, um, or the most enduring, uh, hateful ideologies, anti semitism, to further this, again, racist colonial project, and that's where we're at right now. 

MATT LECH: That's actively right now. I mean, this is from the AP this week, and the first is early strike in Rafa killed a man, his wife, and their three year old child, according [01:39:00] to nearby Kuwaiti Hospital, which received the bodies.

It sounds worse than what's happened at Columbia. Uh, the woman was pregnant and the doctor saved the baby, the hospital said. The second strike killed 17 children and two women from extended family. The thing with anti semitism at Columbia is already against the rules. If anybody does anti semitism, they should face consequences for it.

Also, outside of the walls of Columbia, uh, if somebody goes on an anti semitic rant that's directed at person, yeah, like that is, can be hate speech that like these, uh, one sign here there, first of all, you should not take it as like definite as representative of Palestinian protests in general. You know, you could.

Often, I honestly wonder if it is a agent provocateur trying to make those protestors look bad, because the idea that these people are motivated by hate is one of the most disgusting smears I've had to deal, like, we've all had to like, endure from people like Jake Tapper and uh, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo.

I am sick of this sort of smear going out against kids that are just standing up for what the world [01:40:00] needs right now. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yeah, and we know that, by the way, pro Israel organizations have made efforts to hire provocateurs in the past. Uh, Waleed Shaheed, uh, put this out there. This was from a few months ago, but it was, uh, the Shirion Collective put out a tweet asking for volunteers to wear keffiyehs and walk into demonstrations masked.

Okay, this is again, yeah, from a few months ago, but The point is that they advertised these tactics. Of course, and 

MATT LECH: we've seen them do, like, plant stuff on signs and do stuff like that. Like, it's because they need to take away, uh, um, eyes from the fact that, again, 17 kids just bombed, just dead in one go.

And we're talking about a sign. A stupid sign. A head of a ground invasion. That's not even indicative of what's actually going on. Because what the Zionists that are complaining about these protests are really afraid about is that their kids might see like, actually those kids are right. And my bigot dad, or whoever it is, [01:41:00] is actually supporting a genocide now.

And what the hell does that mean for my life? 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Bingo Dango says Hasbaris all over the internet are trying to push the line that the Columbia protest is Unite the Right 2. 0, which is insane because I don't even remember any Zionist outrage about Charlottesville at the time that it happened. 

MATT LECH: It's a despicable smear by people who are trying to point the way away from a active genocide that's happening right now, and all those people, you should point the finger, you should not be defensive, you should point the finger right back and go on the offensive against them.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: It's becoming easier to go on the offensive against Zionists because As this genocide continues, their position becomes, um, day by day, more and more untenable in terms of just normie people. I can speak to it anecdotally, Democrats who just watch MSNBC, they're starting to get uncomfortable and, you know, a family member the other day, I put it in the terms of racial segregation to her.

Israel and Palestine, and for the first time, she was like, Well, why don't they say that on mainstream media? Well, I wish they would. Yeah. Because honestly, that was part [01:42:00] of what we praised about Ta Nehisi Coates coming out fairly early on to describe what he saw in the West Bank. This is a great entry point for normie Democrats or liberals to view this in the correct framework.

Um, with all that said, Part of the reason that, um, Zionists are getting increasingly desperate is because they are losing the narrative just because of the facts on the ground, which should not escape people. That's what the focus should be. But this professor at Columbia has been getting a lot of attention for calling his own students terrorists, which I think creates a pretty unsafe environment for them.

Um, also echoed by the state of Israel, tweeting out, calling Columbia University students terrorists. Um, but this was him walking around, all hysterical, on, uh, on campus the other day, [01:43:00] again, professor at this university, observing the protests.

SHAI DAVIDAI: I know it's painful to say this, I know there's a fraught history in the United States, uh, with, uh, with U. S. colleges, but, uh, it's time to bring in the National Guard, because the NYPD is in over their head, uh, obviously the President Shafik and the administration, uh, are unwilling to do anything about this.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And then after that, by the way, cops were called. The NYPD was called to, uh, remove students, from campus and arrest, arrest them. Dozens have been suspended at this point from Columbia. Over a hundred were arrested for protesting on their campus using the tactics of, uh, apartheid, South, South Africa apartheid protesters from decades before and even before that.

1968, protests against the Vietnam War, which there are many [01:44:00] eerie Kind of connections, honestly, to this historical moment as well. Um, And then here he went on, uh, I 24 which is an Israeli channel, to if, to, to, I guess, continue this narrative. Saying yes. The National Guard should be called in on my own students that I'm supposed to be teaching and enriching their lives.

That's, that's ostensibly what professors are supposed to do. No, they're both, uh, they're terrorists and, uh, the, they should be basically removed from campus. He continued talking about this on Sunday. 

SHAI DAVIDAI: This is an important topic. This is not just about Columbia. This is every U. S. college. They have said that they are going to bring down Columbia first, and then as a domino effect, we'll have all other universities.

But I want to make clear one thing before I talk about my own actions. What we're seeing now at Columbia, and I don't use this word lightly, we're not seeing [01:45:00] ideological war. We're not seeing support for terrorism. We are seeing terrorism. Last night, we had at Columbia, a protest, one of the protesters in the student mob holding a sign calling the El Kassam Brigade, the Hamas military ring to kill Jewish students with a with a with a with a arrow pointing at the Jewish students that were standing there.

Right? We are seeing Hamas It's on campus and this makes President Minou Shafik a Hamas supporter. Every minute that she does not call, let in the NYPD because she's not letting them in. That's why you see the NYPD outside and the terrorists inside. We've had the leader of the domestic terrorist organization within our lifetime.

They had a wedding for her yesterday inside. She snuck in. You see the video you're showing right now. There is a suspended student, the one with the bullhorn. That's a suspended student. They've been suspended for two and a half weeks. They're a radical [01:46:00] organizer that brought in a PFLP terrorist to campus.

They're supposed to be 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Alright, this is just nonsense, but this is the guy, this is the guy that, um, took a video of some Muslim students praying and called that terrorism. Just to give people a sense of what this really is. This is This is 

MATT LECH: hate. This is hate. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: hate. 

MATT LECH: Hysterical hate. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Hysterical hatred cloaking itself in, in, in combating bigotry. 

'They're Obviously Not Antisemitic Protests': Jewish Yale University Professor Speaks Out - Zeteo - Air Date 4-30-24

RULA JEBREAL - HOST, ZETEO: Let us know what's happening really on Yale and how much misinformation and hysteria is out there versus what you are seeing on the ground. 

JASON STANLEY: So there's a tremendous amount of misinformation. And we've encountered this numerous times in the American past, uh, when there are anti war protests on university campuses.

That's what we have. We have [01:47:00] anti-war protests on university campuses. Uh, they're not violent anti pro-war protests. I, I visit, I visited the, uh, Yale encampment on Beneke Plaza before it was taken down. And, uh, and there was no violence. There were, there were people singing, uh, there were, uh, there were a small group of counter protestors, maybe five or six.

I didn't exactly, uh, somewhere between five and 10. Uh, there were. A lot of students protesting, uh, there weren't barriers between the small group of counter protesters and the protesters. I had students in both groups. I had many students protesting. I had, uh, I knew 1 of the counter protesters or she knew me.

Um, we'd friendly dialogue. I think, uh, this dude, there were many Jewish students protesting. So, uh, so there was a very large tent, uh, Jews for ceasefire. Now, uh, there was a Seder, [01:48:00] uh, that, that the Jewish students held, uh, or directed. So, uh, so it was an anti war protest against, uh, a war that is being funded by US, uh, Uh, and, uh, and students as they always have, uh, are protesting, uh, U.

S. support, uh, for what looks to be an ongoing genocide in Gaza. Uh, and so, so 

RULA JEBREAL - HOST, ZETEO: Jason, what do you think of, uh, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who released a video yesterday comparing U. S. students who are protesting, as you said, a war with Nazi Germany in the thirties? And Brett Stevens in the New York Times calling these protests anti Jewish protests.

Anti Semitic, anti Jewish. 

JASON STANLEY: Right. Those are two very different claims. I mean, both false, but one is a level of, uh, you know, of absurdity, uh, the Netanyahu's claim. I mean, uh, Netanyahu's [01:49:00] claim, uh, to make analogies between, uh, between protests, anti war protests and national socialism, which was all about total war is beyond absurd.

Um, so, and, and bears little comment. Uh, Brett Stevens, uh, Brett Stevens, his piece, uh, and claims, uh, That takes a little bit more unpacking. A note that in Bret Stephens op ed, the title was a parenthesis, what it's like to be a visible Jew on Ivy League campuses today. Now, what does that mean? What's going on there, uh, with that visible Jew?

Now, uh, you have to deal with the fact that one of the largest identity groups protesting out there on college campuses are Jewish Americans, uh, who are, uh, shocked and horrified by Israel's actions in Gaza. Uh, [01:50:00] so, uh, Uh, which is not to say that anyone supports Hamas. That is obviously, uh, not happening.

Um, but, but there are Jewish groups, there are many Jewish students who are shocked and horrified by Israel's actions. And then there are many Jewish students who are just sort of in between various views and don't know exactly what to think. And then there's a, Uh, a small group of, uh, of, of Jewish students who, as they have every right to do, uh, are, are counter protesting or strongly in support of Israel's, uh, actions in Gaza.

Now what, when Brad Stevens talks about visible Jews, what he's really saying is that the only real Jews are Orthodox Jews, uh, and that Jewish people like me. My son was bar mitzvah this week. I mean, Jewish people like me are not real Jews because we're not visible Jews. Uh, and so, uh, and the idea is that visible Jews are [01:51:00] somehow being targeted.

Now, this is. This is really upsetting, uh, because it splits, uh, Jews, American Jews, uh, apart from each other. It sends a message to groups of American Jews who are not Orthodox that we're not really Jewish. Uh, because you can't really say that we're being, uh, Attacked on campus and you can't even really say that visible Jews are being attacked on campus.

There are no such attacks. Uh, so, uh, but this divisiveness, this divisiveness of, of sort of breaking apart, uh, the American Jewish community, uh, is, is, I think, uh, reprehensible, uh, and I don't, and they're, they're obviously not anti Semitic protests. If you care about, um, Israel, then you don't want Israel committing genocide because that's a stain on the country that will last for generations to come.

So it's absolutely no wonder that Jewish [01:52:00] students are involved in this. 

RULA JEBREAL - HOST, ZETEO: So Jason, uh, there were, uh, on video some, uh, very, uh, alarming chance such as go back to Poland or a burn down Tel Aviv. Those, uh, those kind of statements and those kind of chance that were recorded on video are not connected directly.

But in the media, the narrative is, uh, This is the kind of protest that is basically dominating college campuses. Can you please elaborate on that? Have you ever heard any of these comments? 

JASON STANLEY: I have never heard such comments. And if I did, uh, I would probably, I would be very upset. And I hope that people would have been there too.

I don't want to return to Poland and I don't want Tel Aviv to be burned. I mean, I would be extremely upset if I heard such chants, if I heard. Anyone giving such chance I would approach them and speak to them about it. Uh, and, [01:53:00] and, uh, and if they were, um, I mean, it's hard for me to imagine any Yale student doing that, but kids are kids and people, uh, people can, but I mean, that would be horrifying to me.

I certainly. Didn't hear any such chance. My office is is near is right overlooks cross campus where the current protests are taking place. And, you know, I certainly didn't hear such chance. And I have multiple students who are involved in those protests and know, um, how strong I feel about, uh, about being Jewish. 

D: University admin, endowments, divestmentSection D Intro

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: This is section D which dives into the stories around college administrations and the endowments protesters are demanding. Be divested from Israel and the broader war machine.

Why Colleges Have No Idea How To Handle Student Protests - The Muckrake Political Podcast - Air Date 4-23-24

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE PODCAST: It's a regular thing for me on this podcast and anywhere I get interviewed to remind people that I was in academia for 16 years in the college administrators are some of the most inept, cowardly, oppressive human beings that you will ever come across.

Uh, we have seen that. That is one of the reasons why the situation at Columbia and now [01:54:00] at Yale have gotten completely out of control because leadership is not there in order to lead. It's there to shuffle people through on behalf of capital. That's it. That's the main problem when it comes to the president of Columbia and, uh, the presidents of NYPD.

I will, I want to go ahead and I want to say a few things because, and listen, as always, Nick and I are friends. We don't necessarily agree all the time when it comes to Israel and Gaza and what has happened. We've, we've fleshed this thing out. I would hope that this podcast is at times instructive and how people could not necessarily be completely on the same page and have a dialogue.

Let's go ahead and set a few, uh, baseline stuff. First things first, there is such a thing as anti Semitism. 

It is a poisonous, poisonous, uh, conspiracy theory, uh, white supremacist, right wing reactionary thing. Uh, it has been used to kill millions upon millions of Jews, not just in the Holocaust, but before the Holocaust.

It has been used as a means of the powerful replicating and expanding their [01:55:00] power. It is an awful, awful stain on the human condition, and there is no room for it. We have seen it with the right wing, and Nick, I'm going to go ahead and tell you, I have no doubt that there are anti Semitic things being said at these protests.

I have absolutely no doubt that there are. I have no doubt that there are things that are happening there that are, uh, um, upsetting and intimidating. I will also say that if I were to grab you like a crane game, and I were to take you through time and drop you onto a college campus in 1968, in the anti war movement or free speech movement, civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, the feminist movement, that you would hear some shit that's pretty offensive.

You would hear some people saying some things that would probably not be great. I mean, listen, um, I certainly in the 1960s would not have protested the Vietnam war movement by throwing my weight behind Joseph Stalin. I certainly wouldn't have done it by throwing my weight behind Mao Zedong. I certainly wouldn't be, you know, running around talking about assassinating figures.

I wouldn't have joined the weather [01:56:00] underground. That's not who I am. I wouldn't have bombed, you know, federal buildings. What I have heard from people who've been on the ground is that there is a massive difference between the campus community that is protesting here and people who are coming in from outside the campus community, it sounds like there are provocateurs, it sounds like there are people who are coming in who are radical and they want to come in and they, they want to spew either pure anti Semitism or anti Zionism as they understand it.

Um, I think that that quite frankly, I think that these protest movements and communities, it's on them to tell these people to knock it off or get out of there. But I do think that this is a moment that we should probably look through the lens and say, Listen, you don't want to be on the wrong side of history.

What has happened in Gaza is disgusting. It is okay that we have a protest movement about it. It should show you that there is a beating heart within the American population. I support this. I have solidarity with these people. But I also think [01:57:00] that there's no room for anti Semitism in these protests.

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE PODCAST: Thank you. Yeah, I agree. And I would definitely You know, if there were Jewish students who are walking across and seeing people dressed like in Hamas, uh, you know, with flags and, and their, and masks and chanting pro Hamas things, I would certainly understand if they felt. Uh, intimidated or scared, um, you know, and on the college campus, you know, that was what, you know, the administrators are supposedly in charge of trying to help that.

But I'm trying to figure out where to unpack all of this, because there are so many things that you said. Let's just focus on, I think when we talk about how you characterize the administration, um, you know, there, there is no one in our audience I don't think is going to defend them or is on their side necessarily, but.

Um, I think I like to deal in sort of, uh, concrete ideas and solutions. So I think that the answer, what they don't seem to understand, and I read references, what you were, how you characterize them is that they don't understand how to create a place to have the dialogue, 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE PODCAST: no idea. [01:58:00] 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE PODCAST: So if they could, and by the way, they are probably so scared of some sort of, uh, you know, if you bring together these two groups to have a not even a debate, but just some, some, some sort of coming together, meaning where we can discuss things, right. They're probably so afraid of a spark happening or whatever that that was why they don't do it. But if they don't come down and they, and by themselves, you know, uh, the, the, the Dean of Columbia should come down and, you know, meet with them one on one and have that dialogue to have them feel heard at the very least, right, to, to begin the process of following this thing out.

And that I think is probably the biggest issue is that they don't, Think that they want to do that or have to do that or are scared to do that. 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE PODCAST: Well, they don't believe it's the place of the university to have those discussions They believe that this is a job training center is what it is And quite frankly, I think the administrators we have in place.

I think people need to understand this in the past it used to be professors and teachers who would eventually become university presidents who were very interested in the academic and sort of the [01:59:00] Inquisitive world of the mind. Right. That, that the college was the square where people came together to have conversations, to experiment with things, to figure out who they were.

These are corporate executives, is what they are. They have no interest in the campus being that, and quite frankly, and I think this is what's been at play, Nick, I think with Shafiq and with other administrators, they're 1970s. They don't want that. They're frightened of that. And I think that everybody has in their minds that universities and colleges are like what happened in the sixties and seventies.

No, that was an aberration because this is where you get introduced into the capitalist system. They have no desire to do it. And for the record, Nick, while we're on the subject, remember a few years ago, when all of these right wing anti Semitic assholes were going to college campuses and giving speeches and the campus community would have to run them off, They didn't know how to handle that either.

They have no [02:00:00] idea how to have a university that is involved in these types of things. They have no appetite for it. They would much rather have the NYPD come in and carve people away. 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE PODCAST: And to piggyback on what you said, like, it's probably fair to say that any of the, um, professors that would move up to become, you know, the heads of the school, um, were probably because they were well respected and well liked.

And they were good at their jobs. And to be good as a professor, you need to know how to communicate and listen and mediate. And I think that's that skill that some of these people don't have at all anymore. 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE PODCAST: Well, just real fast. I want to say you become like a college president now by being a bootlicker.

Is you, you basically, you, you're, you, you deal with like, uh, the, the state representatives who tell you what to do, right. Or a chancellor of like a bunch of colleges who tells you what to do. You're, you're basically a middle manager going back to what we were talking about the other day. But Nick, here's the other problem.

It used to be the professors who were the leaders of a campus. They were the ones who helped facilitate conversations. They [02:01:00] were the ones who could do things like have teach ins, who could have conversations and, and, and, and basically like have all this stuff that you're talking about on campus. They have been reduced down to being like automatons.

They, they have too many classes, they have too many students, and they are constantly told that they're replaceable. So they're not actually campus leaders anymore. What you're seeing right now are students are actually organizing themselves when in fact in the past there used to be the ability for these things to take place and have conversations about them and bring people together for the, for that matter.

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE PODCAST: Absolutely. And by the way, the outside protesters, another layer here, which starts to make me understand a little bit why they might have wanted to broach the NYPD getting involved, because as a father of a daughter on campus right now, You know, I'm already nervous for her safety. And the last thing I want is people who are like, not part of the community, not part of the campus wandering around on campus.

Like that, that would not be, uh, I would not feel good about that at all. [02:02:00] Um, and then if it's now in an incendiary environment of a process, I, I totally, I understand that as well. Uh, and I, I'm not exactly sure. What the solution to that would be, because if you wanted more security and you didn't want to use NYPD because of what they stand for, I mean, is it as simple as saying, okay, we are going to have our security beef that up our own security, I guess, is that what you mean?

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE PODCAST: No, I, the answer isn't giving more money or more power to the security. It's, it's, what has happened, Nick? Shafiq threw like a hornet's nest into a giant hornet's nest. You know what I mean? And it just took off from there. It has now turned into an oppositional thing. Like it is now this president who, by the way, for people who don't know.

The students who got arrested were evicted from their housing immediately in New York City. They were given 15 minutes to go and get their belongings, okay? And then thrown out on the street. On top of that, they were completely thrown off campus. They, you know, suspended, all that. What has happened [02:03:00] is this has turned into an adversarial, uh, situation.

And so now why wouldn't you welcome in anybody who wants to protest with you? There's safety in numbers, aren't there? You know, the NYPD coming in and get you like this has been a Very very peaceful protest and it has gotten worse and worse and we got to talk about this nick Um the biden administration has weighed in with a statement.

Um, unfortunately, Biden's statement only talked about the alarming rise of antisemitism, which is a problem. However, it has no place on college campuses, uh, has called it quote unquote, the antisemitic, antisemitic protest. I got to tell you, Nick, first of all, I think this is disappointing. I think that this is where the democratic party is supposed to stand in and work with people.

But of course, this is the party that now supports this war and owns this war. We are working. Toward a DNC convention that is going to be really ugly in August in Chicago. And it's, I told [02:04:00] everybody that it could very well look like the 1968 Chicago convention. Everything is in place for that right now.

This is turning into a major, major political problem for the Biden administration and his reelection campaign. 

Columbia University President Cowers Before Republicans - The Bitchuation Room (with Francesca Fiorentini) - Air Date 4-27-24

FRANCESCA FIORENTINI - HOST, THE BITCHUATION ROOM: One of the students that was suspended is Ilhan Omar's daughter. Um, and here she is with a Palestinian, um, uh, fellow student and they are Columbia, they work, I guess, Columbia students speaking on MSNBC. 

AYMAN MOHYELDIN: Do you feel it's because of the nature of these protests and what they're supporting? Do you do other student groups have this kind of target on their back?

Or do you feel that you are being targeted because of the fact that it is in solidarity with Palestinians and against what Israel is doing to Palestinians? 

IRSA HIRSI: Oh, this is 100 percent targeted. Every single protest that we have, there's a group of counter protesters that bring all of their items, their, their flags and things like that, and they're not seen as having unsectioned protests or really receive the kind of disciplinary warnings that many of our fellow organizers receive just for being [02:05:00] seen at these protests.

And so there is definitely some hypocrisy here, especially you can kind of see it with the students that were, uh, Um, that were, uh, sprayed us with the chemical weapons and the fact that there is no public information as to what happened to them, but rather the university is actively discussing what is happening to the students here and making it a whole public spectacle rather than when we haven't done anything to physically harm students, whereas those that sprayed those chemical weapons physically harmed students.

MARYAM ALWAN: Yeah, I think it's a testament to the Palestinian exception to free speech. Um, I thought I came to Colombia because I thought it was a progressive space for people who care about social justice and human rights. And at every turn I have been shown that that doesn't apply to Palestinians like myself.

You know, my peers, my classmates have friends and family that are still trapped under the rubble and Gaza and we are being criminalized on our own campus. Quite literally being taken out in zip ties because our president thought that we were a threat. [02:06:00] 

FRANCESCA FIORENTINI - HOST, THE BITCHUATION ROOM: So that was Mariam Alwan, the last voice there. And I just thought that was, you know, the Palestinian exception to free speech.

Is this a perfect way to put it? Um, And they're so inspiring. Um, what's, what's leadership doing, Neda? What's, uh, you know, I think there's, there's no accident here that, uh, hundreds of students are arrested at Columbia the same week that their president, um, goes in front of Congress and gives, again, the most.

Elitist and back, like, spineless, indefensible display. Like, just, like, if you were a Columbia student, or an alum, or an administrator, this is embarrassing. You didn't learn from the Princeton president? You didn't learn, or Harvard president? Like, practice a little bit, and here, here you are, uh, this is, uh, uh, Ms.

Shafik. 

REP. LISA MCCLAIN: My question to you, are mobs shouting, From the river to the [02:07:00] sea, Palestine will be free. Or long live the infantata. Are those anti semitic comments? When I hear those terms, I find them very upsetting, and I have heard That's a great answer to a question I didn't ask, so let me repeat the question.

When mobs or people are shouting from the river to the sea, Palestine must be free, or long live the Infantata, are those anti Semitic statements? Yes or no? It's not how you feel. It's, I hear them as such. 

MINOUCHE SHAFIK: Some people don't. We have sent a clear message. So is that yes? So is that yes? We have sent a clear message to our community.

I'm not asking about the message. 

REP. LISA MCCLAIN: Is that fall under definition of anti Semitic behavior? Yes or no? Why is it so tough? 

MINOUCHE SHAFIK: Because it's a, it's a, it's a difficult issue because. I realize it's a hear it as anti Semitic, other people do not. 

REP. LISA MCCLAIN: Is when people can't. [02:08:00] answer a simple question and they have a definition, but then they can't, well, I'm not really sure if that qualifies.

So I'm asking a simple question. Maybe I should ask your task force. Does that qualify as anti Semitic behavior? Those statements? Yes or no? Yes. Okay. Do you agree with your task force? We agree. The question is, so the question, so yes, you do agree that those are, that is anti Semitic behavior. Yes or no? And, you should be, there should be some consequences to that anti Semitic behavior.

We're in agreement. Yes? Yes. Thank you. I yield my time. 

FRANCESCA FIORENTINI - HOST, THE BITCHUATION ROOM: This, like, I could talk forever about this and I won't, but this is so much more significant than, this is, this goes beyond Palestine, but, but it is amazing that the issue, this is a Michigan Republican, um, McLean, what is her [02:09:00] name? Lisa McLean. And. You know, this is at a time when, you know, universities are already on the ropes for being woke, for being expensive, for being elite, for being all the things, and then this is their fucking undoing.

They can't stand up and say, no, the intifada, not infitada, but also fritatas are not inherently anti semitic, is not inherently anti semitic, that is not what it means. It doesn't mean that it's not. Death to Jews. End of story. That's, and to, just before we go on, I'm sorry, to underscore how ill equipped these elitists are to deal with a clear issue of freedom of speech, here is another representative asking her whether she wants Columbia University to be condemned by God.

And she fucking engages this question earnestly. 

REP. RICK ALLEN: Are you familiar with Genesis 12 3? [02:10:00] 

MINOUCHE SHAFIK: Probably not as well as you are a Congressman. 

REP. RICK ALLEN: Well, it's pretty clear. It was a covenant God made with Abraham. And, uh, that covenant was real clear. Uh, if you bless Israel, I will bless you. If you curse Israel, I will curse you.

And then in the new Testament, it was confirmed that all nations would be blessed through you. So. You do not know about that. 

MINOUCHE SHAFIK: I have heard that now that you've explained it. Yes, I have heard that 

REP. RICK ALLEN: before. It's now familiar. Uh, do you consider that a serious issue? I mean, do you want Columbia University to be cursed by God?

Of the Bible? 

MINOUCHE SHAFIK: Definitely not. 

FRANCESCA FIORENTINI - HOST, THE BITCHUATION ROOM: So I feel like that example of this. Like libs will never get [02:11:00] it and they will never save us. Like In just one, that dude is very serious about God cursing Columbia University because they are, he's a clear Christian Zionist, he doesn't want anything to be, you know, anyone to criticize the state of Israel because all the Jews need to go there before Jesus comes back and kills a third of them, or two thirds of them, and she's like, Entertaining this, of course not, representative.

And he's like, good, like these are the people who are defending us. I think fucking not, this is so serious to me. It's just terrifying that these people are leading these institutions. Like fucking anyone could have, are you, this is the thing I said last time, have they not been watching? Do you just, like, literal ivory tower, does the ivory tower not get Fox News?

Do you not [02:12:00] know that the shit's changed out here?

Why are college endowments so massive? Part 1 - Good Work - Air Date - 10-26-23

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. All schools with students who could probably Venmo someone to have me killed. But even more impressive than how rich their students are is the size of these universities endowments. Over the last few decades, the story of higher education's concentrated wealth has been told through the growth of endowment funds.

Many of which are larger than the GDPs of entire countries. And I'm not talking fake countries like Luxembourg. I mean real ones, like Estonia, Honduras, and Iceland. Or Iceland is fake, but you get the point. And yet, as endowments have balked up, the cost of attending these upper echelon universities has also gone bananas mode.

An endowment is a donation of money or property to a nonprofit organization, which then invest the endowment and uses the resulting investment income for a specific purpose. But to understand college endowment specifically, we should first refer to the American Council of Education.

Who's president suspiciously looks like a man I bumped into at a swingers party in Hoboken last night. It was a good [02:13:00] time. Higher ed institutional endowments are defined as an aggregation of assets invested by a college or university to support its education and research mission in perpetuity. So it's basically a big investment account made up of charitable donations, money that a school uses to function today and well into the future.

Sometimes these donations are made for a specific thing, like a new dining hall or professor's salary, and sometimes they're unrestricted gifts. People often think of an endowment as a humongous Santy Claus bag that colleges can reach into and make it rain whenever they want. But the reality is much more complicated than just that.

MELISSA KORN: We refer to it as an endowment, but it's generally a collection of hundreds or even thousands of smaller investment funds that are each endowed for different purposes. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: That's Melissa Corn, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who focuses on higher education. And I don't mean students smoking reefer at UC Boulder.

I mean Princeton. 

MELISSA KORN: So, to talk about the endowment spending is a lot more complicated than just writing one bigger [02:14:00] check in a given year. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: So instead of one big bag, endowments are more like a collection of fanny packs, each stuffed with an individual donation, sometimes given for a specific spending purpose.

And while colleges, like the alma mater of Ted Kaczynski, have endowments of over 50 billion dollars, it's not like that for everyone. In one survey of 670, 000, 78 academic institutions, 20 percent reported having endowments worth over 1 billion. But over 50 percent had endowments of less than 250 million.

BRIAN GALLE: Now, let's be clear, there are lots of institutions around the country that don't have substantial endowments and don't have this. Opportunity, but there are others that do. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Brian Gaul is a professor at Georgetown University's Law Center who has previously written about the rising cost of college and how well endowed they are.

And just like when you see a hot dad pushing a $5,000 stroller around West Village, whenever you look at these elite colleges, you wonder. How they made all their money 

MELISSA KORN: because they've been collecting money for a really, really long time, and they have very sophisticated investment [02:15:00] managers handling that money.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Thank you, Melissa. Your reportering allows us to dust off the rarely used good work formula for big swing and endowment. Pile of money, plus sophisticated investment managers, plus loss of time, equals ginormous pile of money. Now, compared to everyone else, these top tier schools have been rich for a long time.

But it wasn't until the year 1985 that these endowments really kicked into high gear. That's the year a rootin tootin cowboy by the name of David Swenson swaggered into a little one horse town called New Haven, Connecticut. There's 

MELISSA KORN: certainly a cult of personality that was around David Swenson. He was seen as just a fantastic thoughtful, smart investor who was very successful in growing Yale's endowment.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: In the 80s Ivy League sex symbol, David Swensen revolutionized endowment investing by coining what became known as the Yale model. 

MELISSA KORN: He really helped shift to these kind of higher return investments. So shifting away from kind of the more generic stocks and bonds stuff. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Today that looks like investing in your usual house in Connecticut stuff.

[02:16:00] Private equity. Hedge funds and real estate. And boy, did Swenson's model cook. When Swenson took over at Yale, the endowment was about 1 billion. When he died in 2021, it was about 31 billion. Shabooya! No matter how good you excel, chimps think you are at your jobs. Ain't none of you putting up wilt numbers like my boy D.

Swizzle. In fact, the Swensen model was so successful that in the years since, other elite colleges have either basically copied Swensen's approach or hired his employees to help run their endowments. 

MELISSA KORN: Many people who worked for him have gone on to really successful careers at other investment arms of universities, so clearly something worked well.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: The wealthiest 15 universities ended 2022 with an average endowment of over 21 billion dollars. Higher education has so much money tied up into it, you'd think it was the pantaloons of Mr. Monopoly.

 But all of this money begs the question, why? 

BRIAN GALLE: Economists say that the reason that an institution like, uh, A college should have an endowment as basically as a [02:17:00] rainy day fund. If you have a sudden downturn in your revenues, you, you know, your students all have to stay home because there's a pandemic, you still have to pay the rent and you have to pay the salaries of all the tenured faculty like me and so on.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: So it is a good idea to have money saved in case the proverbial sh hits the proverbial fan. This is true for everybody, but especially colleges, whose society relies on to crank out aimless 20 somethings. regardless of the economic environment. And yet, during the pandemic, while rainy day endowment spending did help some schools weather the storm, some of the most loaded colleges still face salary freezes.

But another reason why colleges need big stockpiles of money in addition to unpredictable economic phenomenon is the predictable economic phenomenon of inflation.

I'm sorry, that's inflation. 

BRIAN GALLE: The other thing that colleges and universities sometimes say is like, their costs go up faster than inflation. So the argument that a university might offer is we're saving up money now. [02:18:00] Because we're afraid that education costs are going to keep getting expensive in the future.

So to make our tuition affordable in the future, we've got to put money away today. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: And look, ask any one of my drinkin pals from my Lehman days and they'll tell ya. I'm all for stockpiling money, but watching Dartmouth stockpile billions of dollars for the future can be a tough pill to swallow for families who might need to shoulder the burden of higher tuition, even when there might be very good reason for schools to be financially prepared.

MELISSA KORN: It's a tough question, because I, I understand when you look at the returns over a long period of time, you look at inflation, say if the school is really trying to be as much of a power in a hundred years as it is now, yes, they need to keep earning. And growing at this rate in order to just keep up with inflation, let alone anything else.

But that's really hard to stomach when you see students struggling with debt, parents struggling with debt. There's a hardship for families while these schools are just sitting on this growing nest egg. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: And finally, besides rainy day funds and preparing for [02:19:00] inflation, there's one more reason why schools stockpile money that I think we can all agree with.

Being rich is absolutely dope. 

BRIAN GALLE: Rich and influential institutions generally are not that eager to give up their wealth and influence. And if you ask them, why are you so rich and influential? I think the question answers itself. It's because it's good to be rich. And it's good to be influential. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Now you're speaking my language, professor.

Being rich buys you influence. You think that he called it FTX Arena because they liked hanging out with this guy? But in the world of higher education, being rich also buys you something else. Prestige. 

BRIAN GALLE: Non profit educational institutions. don't maximize either revenues or the number of students that they admit they maximize prestige.

Calls for divestment from Israel face resistance - The World - Air Date 5-1-24

MARCO WERMAN - HOST, THE WORLD: A lot of eyes around the world are on college campuses across the U. S. and at major universities in other countries where pro Palestinian demonstrations have become progressively volatile. Divest from Israel is one of the rallying cries from student protesters. They are pointing to [02:20:00] successful efforts in the 1980s to force universities to divest from companies that did business in apartheid South Africa.

Years later, a similar effort was aimed at investments with fossil fuel companies. But divestment campaigns are not what they're cracked up to be, argues Vitold Hennisch. He's the Vice Dean and Faculty Head of the Environmental, Social, and Governance Initiative at the Wharton School. Hennisch told me it helps to first understand what major university investment portfolios look like.

WITOLD J. HENISZ: They own some stocks directly, like any investor, they may hold and purchase stock certificates, but they also invest indirectly and still be a range of asset managers. Some in the private equity space, some who hold large portfolios. Sometimes they're investing with people who invest in other people. So there are a lot of indirect holdings and those are much more difficult to kind of do.

track down and account for, especially when some of those investment managers might be making trades every day or every week. And so it's really hard to actually roll that up to know what the university owns at a given moment in time. 

MARCO WERMAN - HOST, THE WORLD: So given that [02:21:00] when you hear about these calls for divestment in this case from Israel, let's set aside for a moment the question of whether that demand is reasonable.

How feasible is that? 

WITOLD J. HENISZ: Well, it's certainly easier with the direct holdings, and it becomes increasingly difficult as you move into indirect holdings, especially with large portfolios of companies. And, you know, it's not impossible, but it's costly. I think the bigger question is, you know, what goal is served by this?

What purpose? And is it worth bearing those costs? And so, you know, it would be costly. It's not easy, but but let's really look at the efficacy of it to decide whether it's worth undertaking those costs. 

MARCO WERMAN - HOST, THE WORLD: What about zeroing in on weapons manufacturers? Would it be possible for universities to sell holdings in funds and businesses?

That make weapons uniquely. 

WITOLD J. HENISZ: Yeah. That's one of the, one of the longest standing divestment campaigns, uh, actually starting in the Quaker movement. That's, uh, you know, prominent here in Philadelphia where the warden school is based, uh, and other pacifist investors, uh, to rule out weapons manufacturers from portfolios because of the concern about association with war [02:22:00] and, uh, or landmines.

Or other weapons. You know, even that becomes tricky. You know, when Russia invaded Ukraine, suddenly, uh, investing in weapons manufacturing seemed a lot more legitimate or, uh, reasonable for many people. And so, you know, all of these ironclad decisions of what's acceptable or what's not acceptable seem simple at first until you get into the nuance of execution or the, you know, the context, uh, of actually making that happen in over the long term.

And, and you start realizing that some exceptions are worth discussing and, and describing and going into detail. 

MARCO WERMAN - HOST, THE WORLD: So it calls in the 1980s for divestment from South Africa did have a big impact in what ways was that social movement successful in it in accomplishing its goals? 

WITOLD J. HENISZ: Well, everyone always points to that movement.

Uh, you know, we always go back and it's pretty amazing. We have to go back 40 years to find a case of 35 to 40 years to find a case that people think was successful. So something about the power of divestment that we should, uh, Delve into more, I hope. But even the South African case where there were prominent campaigns across university campuses, [02:23:00] including at Columbia, have been questioned in the academic research.

How important was the divestment campaign versus shifts of opinion among the South African business community, uh, among, uh, you know, prominent South Africans looking at different alternatives. I'm not saying it didn't play a role. But the, there is, uh, research suggesting the role has been exaggerated and that there were many factors in play.

And we really have to look at the whole system to understand, uh, the shifts that occurred around the end of the apartheid era. And so divestment was not the sole factor or the only factor in play. At best, it was part of a larger, uh, de legitimation of the apartheid era regime. 

MARCO WERMAN - HOST, THE WORLD: Yeah. Let me just double check what you're saying.

You're saying we don't need to go. As far back to South Africa, that there are more recent success stories. 

WITOLD J. HENISZ: No, I'm saying we, we do, we have to go back 35 years to find an example that people think worked, and even that example may not have worked as well as people thought. So I think we really need to talk more about the challenges of divestment and why it often [02:24:00] fails to achieve its objectives to give you the logic behind what the challenges are of divestment.

What we're doing is we're saying, I really care about an issue. Let's use the example of fossil fuels. I really care about the climate transition. So I want to divest my portfolio from stocks that I don't think are aligned with my values. Fossil fuel companies. I want to divest from all the fossil fuel companies.

Now when I sell someone's buying those fossil fuel companies And presumably they care less about the climate transition than I do. So what have I done? I've taken ownership of a fossil fuel company And i've transferred it from someone who cares about the climate transition to someone who doesn't care Let's make it concrete.

If university endowments sell, maybe the Saudi Saudis and the Russians are buying oil companies. Are we better off on the climate transition if we do that? We have to remember that every sale has a buyer and if the people who care sell The people who don't care or who are opposed to us are buying.

We're giving up our voice and we're giving it to the other side. [02:25:00] Is that in our interests? That's the problem behind divestment campaigns. It sounds powerful. It sounds like you're doing something, but what you're really doing is walking away and disengaging from the issue. Disengagement sounds a lot less powerful and exciting than divestment, but we use the divestment term and we keep sticking with it.

And pointing to an example 35 years ago as a potential success story. I think we should really raise questions about the power of divestment campaigns. They're much more limited than we think. 

Why are college endowments so massive? Part 2 - Good Work - Air Date - 10-26-23

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Since 1990, just a few years after David Swenson took over Yale's endowment, average tuition and fees at public four year universities have nearly tripled after adjusting for inflation. Inflation. And nearly doubled at private institutions. In 2022, the average tuition price at a U. S. private college was just under 40, 000 a year, which is 4 percent higher than it was the previous year.

40? thousand dollars. Which, if you quickly search on Craigslist, could get you a John Deere backhoe, a Steinway piano, or this adorable coffee shop in Brooklyn. Bet you feel dumb now, [02:26:00] juniors at Emory. Three years of tuition down the drain when you could have been living it up, backhoe salon style. Instead, you're just hungover, cheating on your communications homework.

Idiots. Tuition increases have culminated in a dramatic rise in student debt. But wait a minute. Shouldn't these big ol endowments we were talking about earlier help foot these tuition bills? 

BRIAN GALLE: Colleges couldn't allocate more of their endowment towards tuition. There's no question about that. They could do that.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: But that ain't really how the cookies crumble. According to a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, wealthier colleges and universities only modestly increase the generosity of aid packages. Colleges and universities appear to use greater endowment wealth to increase spending and become more selective, resulting in higher institutional rankings.

Which sounds pretty good. Especially when you remember that these universities are non profit, so their endowments aren't taxable. However, schools will tell you that it's not as simple as just reallocating endowment spend towards financial aid. Like we said earlier, charitable gifts are given by donors for specific purposes.

If I give Seton Hall a million bucks to build the [02:27:00] Dan Toomey naked statue of journalistic worship, I'd be pretty pissed if it went towards something stupid like free textbooks. You've got a lot 

MELISSA KORN: of money from very wealthy alums, business tycoons who say, I have this pet project, I have this passion, there's this research thing I want to fund, I want my money to go here.

And if you don't put it there, I'm going to pull the money. But 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Come on, can't you just level with people? Can't you say, Hey, Jason Momoa, we know you want us to build that underwater powerlifting temple in your honor, but what if we'd used your donation to help send a few more kids to school? Well, according to Melissa, in a perfect world, it's part of the job of development offices to work with donors and direct gifts towards the areas of greatest need.

MELISSA KORN: The development office of the university is doing its job. They are trying to bring in as much unrestricted money as possible, because that allows the school to spend the money in ways that they see 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: fit. Which is not to say that these elite schools aren't trying hard to make their educations more accessible.

MELISSA KORN: The wealthiest universities [02:28:00] have made a concerted effort to lower the cost for the neediest students, so they, even if they're only putting in a small percent of their endowments toward financial aid, that's a small percent of billions of dollars. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Indeed, some elite schools like Princeton, Brown, and Cornell have virtually eliminated tuition for low income students.

An initiative these schools continue to pursue. In Princeton's budget for this year, they increased undergrad financial aid by 26%. Princeton is now free for most families who earn less than 100, 000 a year. But even with steps like this, universities are still spending just a sliver of their endowments that continue to grow.

And while others across the country struggle to meet the price of higher education, it makes a newsboy like me wonder if we've experimented with any other measures. Berea College, for example, is a small liberal arts school in Kentucky who's used their wealth to take the radical step of eliminating tuition for students.

ABBIE DARST: Berea College is a tuition free institution. We were founded in 1855, and we haven't charged tuition for our students since [02:29:00] 1892. And the way that that works is, basically, we fund our tuition through a grant. mostly through our endowment in 1920. Our board of trustees decided that they would take all of our unrestricted bequests and place those into our endowment.

Now that endowment has grown to where it can sustain supporting the majority of the money we need to run the college and pay for the tuition of all of our students. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Maria is able to pull this off by dedicating a full 5 percent of their endowment return each year towards tuition being extremely frugal with other operating costs.

and keeping their student body small. Tuition is also supported by federal grants and about five million dollars annually in donations. And Berea's roughly billion dollar endowment is a pretty common size for a highly ranked liberal arts college. They just spend a ton of money covering tuition so they can't afford dorms that look like Hogwarts.

But it's hard to look at the way Berea spends money and not wonder if the Ivies of the world could be doing more. Like this. Teach more students? I don't know. 

BRIAN GALLE: The other thing that's out there is the opportunity to expand, so [02:30:00] like franchise. I mean, in a way, the University of California system has done this, instead of just having Cal, we now have UCLA and Irvine and San Diego and UCSF and all of those have really exceptional programs, and I don't know if we could have like a Harvard Western Mass.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: I don't want that many pretentious kids around the U. S.

has basically stayed the same. But one population that has grown expediently on elite college campuses over the past few decades has been big money guys on the boards of trustees. 

MELISSA KORN: There are a lot of private equity, venture capital, real estate folks on those boards who happen to have, you know, private equity firms that the endowment then puts money in, which is very convenient and not illegal.

It's not wrong for them to do it. They just close it, so it's, you know, You know, if it's seen as a conflict of interest, it's out there in the public. No one's hiding it, but they still do it. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Going back to our rootin tootin cowboy, David Swenson, for a moment, [02:31:00] the Yale model inspired colleges to be involved in private financing in more ways than one.

In 1989, amongst the wealthiest universities, only 17 percent of board members were financiers. That number jumped to over 30%, where it's stayed since 2014. And a bunch of those folks come from private equity and hedge funds. The same investment funds who rely on endowment capital to fund their operation and pay out their huge fees.

So we know endowments serve to make prestigious schools like these We know endowments are one of the biggest source of funding for high performing investment funds like hedge funds and private equity. But will the richest schools in the world ever find a way to use the immense wealth at their disposal to make all of this less expensive?

Brian, no more sitting in the back of class. If universities were to start spending their endowments broadly, where would you like to see that allocated? 

BRIAN GALLE: You know, on affordability. We know that people who graduate from the most select schools Universities tend to do very well professionally, and we also know that it's exceedingly difficult to get into one of those places [02:32:00] unless you're very rich.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Maybe even more optimistically, could these elite universities ever figure out how to share some of their immense wealth with these less prestigious schools who don't have these kinds of. ball dropping endowments and likely never will. 

MELISSA KORN: A lot of historically black colleges, for instance, have very small endowments.

Uh, for a number of reasons, including that historically the students who went there came from backgrounds of more modest means and, you know, had to borrow money to attend college. So when they get out of school, they're not putting money into their bank accounts, they're repaying loans. And you have this intergenerational wealth concern, wealth issue.

Graduates of these schools, even if they're very successful, often can't afford to give millions back to their institution. The endowments stay small and it feeds on itself. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Elite colleges stay elite because their financial infrastructure is made to uphold and exponentially grow wealth. Pretty much forever.

But the system is designed to do more than just prepare for the future. It's designed to build prestige. But good lord, how much money does one need to be prestigious? I feel like after, after the 10 billion mark, we all get the [02:33:00] point. Maybe these rich schools could try a little harder to make the system more affordable and serve more people across the board, which is something we clearly need.

Like instead of building a new DJ training center, Looking at you, NYU. Perhaps the endowment stockpile could be spread amongst the schools that need it. How do you like them apples?

E: Media CriticismSection E Intro

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And finally you've arrived at section E which finishes the show with more media criticism around the protests.

@katzonearth - cc @CNN Standards & Practices - Air Date 5-1-24

DANA BASH: The fear among Jews in this country is palpable right now. 

JONATHAN KATZ: So that story by Dana Bash on CNN is one of the worst pieces of journalism I have seen on an American news channel in my life. Take that for what you will. She's talking about campus protests for Palestine against genocide in solidarity with Gaza.

This is how she starts 

DANA BASH: inside politics. I'm Dana Bash. We start with destruction, violence, and hate on college campuses across the country.[02:34:00] 

JONATHAN KATZ: So I'll give you a spoiler here. She doesn't give a single example of violence, destruction, or hate on an American college campus. I'm not saying that. Those couldn't happen. I'm just saying she doesn't have any examples of them, which is a really telling thing if you're going to do a story, if you're going to do an opening package on your show about an epidemic of violence, destruction, and hate on American college campuses.

Instead, she gives examples of police attacking student protesters on college campuses. That's different. That's the opposite. She says, for instance, the NYPD was able to clear Columbia University after protesters barricaded themselves inside a campus building she also uses one other example at UCLA. This is what she says about that.

DANA BASH: Around the same time that UCLA, pro Israel, and pro Palestinian groups were attacking each [02:35:00] other, hurling all kinds of objects. A wood pallet. 

JONATHAN KATZ: Attacking each other. Here's how the Los Angeles Times reported it. Over several hours, counter demonstrators, meaning pro Israel counter demonstrators, hurled objects, including wood and a metal barrier, at the camp and those inside.

Fights repeatedly broke out. Some tried to force their way into the camp, and the pro Palestinian side used pepper spray to defend themselves. Fireworks were also launched into the camp. Here's what that looked like.

The guy yelling free Palestine is being ironic. He's a pro Israel counter protester. You can look at that video yourself. You'll see that people who are getting attacked are the ones wearing keffiyehs. The, the Gaza Solidarity encampment, uh, the LA Times also reports that [02:36:00] the pro Israel counter protesters were shouting Second Nakba, a reference to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs, non Jewish Palestinian Arabs from 1947 to 1949 in what is now the state of Israel.

So, um, there's other videos of just these guys relentlessly beating the Palestinian, pro Palestinian protesters. Um, so again, not really an example of violence and hate coming from the pro Palestinian side. Maybe there are examples like that out there. Dana Bash didn't have any. She then simply repeats a statement by New York mayor, Eric Adams, claiming that professional outside agitators were involved in the Columbia protests.

Maybe there were, but also that is a thing that authorities always claim is happening in every protest. And the only example that, uh, the NYPD or the New [02:37:00] York mayor have come forward with as proof that there are outside actors in that protest was a bike lock that was available for purchase on the Columbia University.

Department of Public Safety website. Okay. Then she gets into her analysis. 

DANA BASH: Many of these protests started peacefully with legitimate questions about the war, but in many cases they lost the plot. They're calling for a ceasefire. 

JONATHAN KATZ: Okay. So right off the bat, this is wrong. The protests on most of the college campuses, at least the ones that I'm familiar with, are calling primarily for divestment.

They're calling for their institutions to divest from Israel, to stop investing in Israel, to stop study abroad programs to Israel. Um, they're not so much calling for a ceasefire. Some people are, I am, um, but I don't think actually that's the point of most of these protests. So that's just a fundamental error.

Um, then she says this. 

DANA BASH: They lost [02:38:00] the plot. They're calling for a ceasefire. Well, there was a ceasefire on October 6th, the day before Hamas terrorists brutally murdered more than a thousand people inside Israel and took hundreds more as hostages. 

JONATHAN KATZ: So that's a talking point that you hear all the time. You hear it on pro Israel lives here on TikTok.

It's wrong. It's a lie. This is a story from the Associated Press from September, 2023. Okay. October 7th, the month before October, September. In September, Israel strikes Gaza for the third straight day as West Bank violence escalates. And you can go into more detail than that. There was functionally no ceasefire.

I don't know what people are talking about. I understand, to a certain extent, trolls trying to use that talking point. I don't understand a reporter for CNN just straight up repeating that lie. It's just, it's just not true. It's just fundamentally not true. Moving on. 

DANA BASH: Hostages. This hour, I'll speak to an American Israeli family [02:39:00] whose son is still held captive by Hamas since that horrifying day that brought us to this moment.

You don't hear the pro Palestinian protesters talking about that. 

JONATHAN KATZ: So I don't know if protesters are talking about it, but I'll talk about it. This is from a story in the Times of Israel, right wing Israeli newspaper Um, the headline is no doubt Netanyahu preventing hostage deal charges ex boastmen of families forum.

And this says, we later found out that Hamas had offered on October 9th or 10th to release all of the civilian hostages in exchange for the Israeli military, not entering the strip, but the government rejected the offer. I don't know. I didn't watch her segment. I don't know. Maybe she asked the family about that.

Alright, now she brings it all home. 

DANA BASH: In protesters talking about that, we will. Now, protesting the way the Israeli government, the Israeli prime minister is prosecuting the retaliatory war against Hamas is one thing. Making [02:40:00] Jewish students feel unsafe at their own schools is unacceptable. And it is happening way too much.

Right now. 

STUDENT: I'm a UCLA student. I deserve to go here. We pay tuition. This is our school and they're not letting me walk in. 

JONATHAN KATZ: So again, maybe there are actual examples of this but that example that she's talking about that's this guy He is well, here's who he is 

STUDENT: last couple of weeks We have witnessed broken mosque protesters setting up encampments all over the country While they cower behind their masks and hide who they are We stand tall and proudly invoice our message to the world, Israel is not going anywhere!

JONATHAN KATZ: I mean, come on. That, that guy is clearly not being prevented from going through the encampment because he's Jewish. He's prevented from going through the encampment because he's a pro Israel troll. He's their political opponent who, look at his [02:41:00] Instagram page. He goes around harassing the protesters.

That's your example? That's your example, Dana? That's your example that you're going to use to lead into that? 

STUDENT: Just let me and my friends go in. 

DANA BASH: Again, what you just saw is 2024 in Los Angeles, hearkening back to the 1930s in Europe. 

JONATHAN KATZ: It's just dishonest. And yeah, maybe the fear among some Jews in this country is palpable right now. I think it is. Might that have to do with misleading reports like this one?

Jewish Columbia Student Debunks Media Narrative About Protest - The Rational National - Air Date 4-24-24

DAVID DOEL - HOST, THE RATIONAL NATIONAL: So, Columbia University Apartheid, I V S C U A D.

This is a piece from November, but this is the overall, this is what they're about. Clem University Apartheid Divest is a coalition of student organizations that see Palestine as the vanguard for our collective liberation. We are a continuation of the Vietnam anti war movement and the movement to divest from apartheid South Africa.

We support freedom and [02:42:00] justice for the Palestinian people and for all people. We know that true collective safety will arise when everyone has access to clean air, clean water, food, housing, education, health care, freedom of movement, and dignity. And this was just, you know, short, this was a month into, uh, Apartheid Israel's bombing campaign of, of civilians in Gaza.

And so this was what the group was saying at the time. They are calling their main. Demand here is financial divestment calling, uh, or saying divest all of Columbia's finances, including the endowment from companies and institutions that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine.

Ensure accountability by increasing transparency around financial divestment. Investments. And, uh, Rifka Brown goes on to say, From what I can tell, the sole demand of Columbia University Apartheid divest is that the university divest as it already has begun to do. From eight companies that uphold Israeli Apartheid.

Eight companies. [02:43:00] Columbia has an endowment of 13. 64 billion. We're talking about pennies. Now what she likes to hear is a bit outdated in terms of, uh, this piece here. So this may include more companies at this point. I'm not sure, but some worth noting, I mean, Caterpillar Hyundai, uh, Hewlett Packard, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which this is where we get to the connection to media, I often see segments on NBC.

And I'm likely others sponsored by Boeing massive advertiser of many of these media companies as is Lockheed Martin as is as are many of these when you begin to challenge corporate power that is when the media turns on you that's why they turned on Bernie or I wouldn't say turned on but that's why they were always against Bernie Sanders that's why they've been more willing recently to To discuss the obvious genocide happening in, in, in, uh, occupied, [02:44:00] in the occupied territories, but when it comes to these protests, now that they can instead focus on these protests and demonizing the protests, they're able to completely ignore the actual situation going on in Gaza by demonizing these protests and making them seem scary, anti Semitic.

And part of that being because these protests are calling to divest from massive corporations that also support those same media companies. Now, this is the stuff you're not hearing in, in the press, 28 unions representing tens of thousands of workers signed a solidarity statement demanding the immediate reinstatement of all student and student workers disciplined for pro Palestine protests and the end to the repression of protests on Columbia's campus.

In addition to that, massive faculty walkout at Columbia opposing the university's decision to call an NYPD on Palestine solidarity protests. Weird how this wasn't a bigger [02:45:00] story. When you have the faculty walking out in solidarity with the students. This gets to this piece from Zateo. This is, uh, Mehdi Hassan's new media outlet.

This piece written by a Jewish student at Columbia. Saying, don't believe what you're being told about campus antisemitism. Smears from the press and pro Israel influencers. Are a dangerous distraction from real threats to our safety. So I am going to link to the full piece below. It's really worth the read.

Um, because there's details here that I'm not going to get into because, you know, the piece is too long. I'm not going to read the whole thing. But it's, it's worth checking out yourself. But this goes around how the media is clearly not focusing on the correct things. So he goes on to write here, Columbia responded by imposing a miniature police state responding to the protests, and this was like 24 hours later.

By the way, the protests were barely even, uh, you know, starting, and Columbia had already sent in the police. [02:46:00] Just over a day after the account was formed, University President Manoush Shafiq asked and authorized the New York Police Department to clear the lawn and load 108 students, including a number of Jewish students, onto Department of Corrections buses to be held at NYPD headquarters.

One Jewish student told me that her fellow protests were restrained in zip tie handcuffs for eight hours and held in cells where they shared a toilet without privacy. And even the NYPD chief said that students were peaceful, yet they were treated like this. Since then, dozens of undergrads have been locked out of their dorms without notice.

Suspended students cannot return to campus and are struggling to access food and medical care. The often off campus actions unaffiliated individuals simply do not characterize this discipline student campaign. Speaking to The, uh, people that have been caught doing anti semitic stuff within these groups, there, there is Information out there that I'm not, there's so much to go over in this story that honestly it's, it's too much, but [02:47:00] there is some speculation that some of these protests are being infiltrated for obvious reasons to try and, and discredit them and resulting in a lot of the media coverage focusing on these, uh, one off antisemitic incidents.

Involving individuals that have nothing to do with this, with this, with this campaign. The efforts to connect these offensive but relatively isolated incidents to the broader pro Palestinian protest movement mirror a wider strategy to delegitimize all criticism of Israel. As its national discourse over campus anti Semitism reached a boiling point over the weekend, the Gaza Solidarity encampment saw CUAD organizers lead joint Muslim and Jewish prayer sessions and honor each other's dead.

This is wholesome, human stuff it doesn't make for sensationalist headlines about Jew hating Ivy Leaguers. On Monday, I joined hundreds of my fellow student workers for a walkout in solidarity with the encampment. Later that night, a Passover Seder service was held at the encampment. Would an anti Semitic student movement welcome Jews in this way?

I [02:48:00] think not. And then this is the piece that, if there's anything from this that you need to read, it's this. Here's what you're not being told. The most pressing threats to our safety as Jewish students do not come from tents on campus. Instead, they come from Columbia administration, uh, from the Columbia administration, inviting police onto campus, certain faculty members, and third party organizations that dox undergraduates.

Frankly, I regret the fact that writing to confirm the safety of Jewish Ivy League students feels justified in the first place. I have not seen many pundits hand wringing over the safety of my Palestinian colleagues mourning the deaths of family members. Or the destruction of Gaza's cherished universities.

We should be focusing on the material reality of war. And this is what a lot of the media was doing, to be honest, before these protests were calling to, uh, uh, calling on the university to divest from Israel. 

It's just ridiculous for national media [02:49:00] organizations to be focusing on campus protests at all, regardless of what's going on, as opposed to the actual demolition and ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

Closing credits

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: That's going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave us a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. The additional sections of the show today included clips from Democracy Now!, Owen Jones, Code Pink Radio, Today In Focus, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Majority Report, Zeteo, The Muckrake Podcast, The Bitchuation Room, Good Work, The World, katzonearth from TikTok, and The Rational National. Further details are in the show notes. Thanks everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. [02:50:00] Thanks to our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny weekly bonus episodes, in addition to there being no ads and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with the link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from bestoftheleft.com

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#1625 Society of Extreme Wealth and its Discontents: Tax avoidance, wealth inequality and the detrimental effects felt by us all (Transcript)

Air Date 5/1/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we discuss the past, present, and future of tackling the uselessness of extreme wealth by exposing and closing tax avoidance loopholes and pushing for a culture change to embrace the need for a more equal society. Sources today include The Hartmann Report, Americans for Tax Fairness, Pullback, Novara Media, Gary's Economics, and Robert Reich, with additional members only clips from The Majority Report and Pullback.

What Happens When You Tax Billionaires at 90 Percent? - The Hartmann Report - Air Date 6-3-23

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THE HARTMANN REPORT: What happens when you tax billionaires at 90%? You know, Succession, the TV show, is over, but the spoiled, entitled billionaire man-children still very much with us, running social media companies, owning newspapers and television networks, funding politicians and judges, who then keep their taxes low and their regulations minimal.

America's billionaires pay an average income tax rate of 3.1%. Are you paying [00:01:00] 3.1%? I'm willing to bet it's not the case, unless you happen to be a billionaire or worth five, six, seven hundred million dollars. 

What has that brought us? That has made America the most unequal society in the developed world. Nobody's even close. And the last time we had such severe poverty--and we have a homelessness epidemic here in America, it's not just people are poor; people are literally sleeping on streets. We not only have massive poverty in the United States, we also have insane wealth. Three men in the United States own more wealth than the bottom half of America. Of all Americans. 160 million Americans. Three men own more wealth than all of them. 

We read about roving gangs doing smash and grabs in Nordstrom and Home Depot. You got In red states our schools are falling apart because they're [00:02:00] redirecting money to vouchers to pay for all-white Christian academies. Gun violence is plaguing our nation, particularly in red states. Real high homicide rates in red states. Homelessness is stalking city dwellers at every turn. 

The last time we saw such inequality was during the Republican Great Depression and the so-called Roaring Twenties that preceded them. Now the Roaring Twenties were only roaring for the billionaires. Poverty actually increased in America during the 1920s, at the bottom half of the wage scale. But billionaires did really well in the 1920s, because when Warren Harding came into office in 1921, the top tax rate was 91%, he dropped it down to 25%. And so for the next decade, billionaires are making out like bandits. Many would argue they were bandits. And the rest of America got screwed. 

And then Franklin Roosevelt came along, in 1936. And he said, this will not stand. We're not gonna do this. We're gonna do something about this. In fact, we're going to [00:03:00] raise taxes. I've got some audio here from the 360, Sean. This is Franklin Roosevelt talking about taxes. 

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: Taxes, after all, are the dues that we pay for the privilege of membership in an organized society. And as society becomes more civilized, government, national and state and local, is called on to assume more obligations to its citizens. The privileges of membership in a civilized society have vastly increased in modern times. But I am afraid we have many who still do not recognize their advantages and want to avoid paying their dues. 

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THE HARTMANN REPORT: There you go. And, he went on. There was one in particular, one particular comment. It's in my article. I don't have the audio in the article. But here's the audio. This is Franklin Roosevelt talking about how his rich friends--keep in mind, Franklin Roosevelt was born very, very rich--his rich, rich friends are a little concerned about his 90 percent top income tax rate.[00:04:00] 

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: A number of my friends who belong in these very high upper brackets have suggested to me on several occasions of late, that if I am re-elected president, they will have to move to some other nation because of high taxes here. Now I will miss them very much.

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THE HARTMANN REPORT: So anyhow, what happened when FDR raised the tax rate to 91%, to 90 percent on the billionaires of his day, in today's dollars? Well, what happened was we saw the American middle class go from about 20 percent of Americans to over two thirds of Americans by 1981 when Reagan came into office. We saw poverty collapse. We saw old age poverty pretty much go away because of Social Security that he got us in 1935. We saw union membership [00:05:00] grow to the point where two thirds of Americans, when Reagan came into office, had the equivalent of a good union job, which is why two thirds of us were in the middle class. And life expectancy in the United States hit a peak that had never been seen in the history of the world. 

Now, what has happened in the 42 years since then, since Ronald Reagan instituted neoliberalism, Reaganomics? You know, I wrote a whole book about this, The Hidden History of Neoliberalism: How Reaganomics Gutted America. It's my most recent book in the Hidden History series. And what happened was, life expectancy crashed, in the United States, only in the United States, not in Europe, not in any of the other developed countries, but just in the United States, life expectancy crashed and as did wages. The middle class has gone from two thirds of us to 45 percent of us. And now it takes two jobs to maintain a middle class lifestyle instead of just the one you could do when Jimmy Carter was president, before Reagan.

FDR had it right. And we need to do this again. We need to raise the top [00:06:00] income tax rate bracket--just the bracket. It will only be paid by people making over a million dollars or over 10 million or over 50 million or wherever they want to set it.

When FDR set the top bracket, the top 90 percent bracket, he set that at above $50,000. Now, $50,000 back in 1932 was the equivalent of $1,100,000 today in annual income. So yeah, 90% income tax on income over $1.1 million. That's what he did. And what did it do? It rescued America. It built the American middle class. It got us out of the Great Depression. It expanded and extended our lifespans. It made Americans healthier. It stabilized us. We had 40, 50 years of peace and prosperity like we had never seen before and neither had the world. It worked. 

Now, Republicans are going to get all hysterical if you talk about raising the top income tax [00:07:00] bracket to 90%, like it was from literally, it was during World War I and then starting in the 1930s, went back up to 90 percent and stayed there. LBJ dropped it down to 74 percent in 1967. But what he did when he dropped it was he closed so many loopholes that it actually increased the actual income tax that was being paid by billionaires. Reagan dropped it down to 27%, and it's been in the 20s and 30s ever since then. And that's why your average billionaire now is paying 3.1 percent in income taxes. We need to do something about this. Let's make America great again.

#TaxBillionaires w/ Robert Reich, Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, and more - Americans for Tax Fairness - Air Date 4 -18-22

SENATOR RON WYDEN: Again and again, during this period at home I'm hearing about tax fairness. And you'll have nurses and firefighters and working people basically ask one question: I pay my taxes with every paycheck; why should the billionaires get special treatment and get to pay taxes when they choose, [00:08:00] or in some cases, avoiding paying taxes for years on end? And here is my one sentence answer this Tax Day: The tax code is unfairly tilted to benefit billionaires, and as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I'm pushing throughout the year to balance that tax system so it's fair to everybody. So it gives everybody in America the chance to get ahead. And as I've said at every stop, we want people in this country to be successful as part of the American dream, billionaires are not going to be any less successful if they pay their fair share, just like the nurses and the firefighters.

Here is [00:09:00] essentially how it all plays out. The nurses and the firefighters get income for their work. The billionaires work it out with their accountants and this battery of lawyers and specialists so that they essentially don't take an income. They get advised, and it's on the cover of publications all across the country, they use something called "buy, borrow, and die" to pay little or no taxes for years on end. They can have a wonderful lifestyle that way. They can get money to grow more wealthy. But it was unjust before the pandemic, and the pandemic has just spotlighted the unfairness. [00:10:00] You mentioned the fact that the billionaires made 2 trillion over the last couple of years. That works out to 114 million dollars every hour of every day the past two years. That's a pretty big loophole! And I want to close it with my billionaires income tax. So those who are at the very top are going to pay their fair share. That's what this is all about. 

More, that's why you all are called, Americans for Tax Fairness. This is about getting a fair shake for everybody in America. It's about protecting our democracy. A democracy finds it pretty hard to be healthy when the wealthiest, the wealthiest few, play by a set of rules they wrote themselves. That's not healthy. 

And you mentioned [00:11:00] that our bill involves something like 740 people. If they just paid a capital gains rate, because this is about evading capital gains taxes, the country would raise more than 550 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. That'll do a lot to help schools and infrastructure and American priorities.

So we don't want people to lose faith in our system when they see these kinds of tax dodges. So this isn't just a fight to make the tax system more fair. It's a fight to protect core American values and American democracy.

Wealth Tax Part 1 - Pullback - Air Date 4-11-23

FARIYA MOHIUDDIN: When people say tax the rich, tax the rich, what does that actually mean? And that means taxing wealth rather than income. Because most [00:12:00] rich people don't make big salaries. I mean, some of them will make very large salaries, and I'm putting salaries in quotation marks. You'll hear, "Oh, this CEO's compensation package is worth," say a million, 2 million, what have you, but when you hear the words compensation package, a very small part of that will be in a waged labor income. The majority of the compensation package will be made up in assets, which are wealth. And so we want to be taxing that wealth.

And just to give people a primer, the rest of us plebs make money by getting a salary, and we get taxed on our income—that's an income tax. But, very rich people will ask to be paid an asset. So these are stocks, in some cases. This can be things like people will be like, "Oh, I would like to be paid in art." These are real things or gold bullion, if you will, you know, the [00:13:00] things you hear about when you work in this field. And those things are taxed very differently. In a lot of places wealth is taxed at a fraction, at a mere fraction of what income taxes are. In most of the OECD, so those are the group of developed countries, income taxes are somewhere in the 30 percent range. Wealth taxes on assets that can gain value over the course of the year, so this is often stock, real estate, maybe some forms of gold or gold bullion, depending, and this will be important, whether or not you've disclosed that you have these things, will be taxed often at 10%. That's called a capital gains tax. 

So if you're holding most of your money in these kinds of assets, you're not getting taxed at all. This is what people mean when you hear that Elon Musk paid an effective tax rate of 3 percent, because the majority [00:14:00] of his money is being held as Tesla stock, which is very valuable. He's not drawing a salary. 

KRISTEN PUE - HOST, PULLBACK: Yeah. And that's just the stuff that government knows about it. Am I right in thinking that it's kind of easier to hide wealth internationally than income? 

FARIYA MOHIUDDIN: Yeah. For example, art, gold bars, yachts. There are reasons why I'm bringing these sorts of assets up, or even mansions. What you can do is you can put your art or your gold bars or your yacht in what's called a free port. These are often ports, and I'm using again, ports as a place where goods come and then get transported. So these can be places that actually have a seaport or are free zones, I think is another term that people might know, where if you incorporate a company there that holds assets, you will not be taxed, at all. And so if you say, "okay, I'll make [00:15:00] Fariya FZ, LLC." which is a free zone company, LLC, and I say, "Actually, it's that company that owns my house, that owns all my art, that owns my yacht. I don't get taxed on that." 

But beyond that, often these kinds of entities are incorporated in countries or jurisdictions that have very, very strong secrecy laws. Governments have no way of finding out what it is that I'm actually holding. In fact, sometimes they might not even know that it's me that's holding it, because my name will be obscured. It will be what's called sometimes numbered companies, shell companies that will own these assets for me. So it can be very hard to even know what is actually owned. 

KRISTEN PUE - HOST, PULLBACK: Yeah, so the pervasive secrecy around wealth, am I right in thinking that that's one reason advocates are sometimes calling for wealth taxes to be implemented as a global thing? You could then have [00:16:00] rules set up internationally so that we would know what this wealth looked like, how much it was valued at, and things like that? 

FARIYA MOHIUDDIN: Absolutely. So, if people who've read Thomas Piketty's book will be familiar with a term called the Global Asset Register. It is a proposal to create a comprehensive international registry of all wealth and assets. And, what? They're real beneficial owners in order to tackle global tax abuse and redress inequalities. So this hits on two of the things I've said. 

One is the fact that most people will hold their wealth in other jurisdictions that will tax these assets at a very non existential rate, as in it, there's no taxes on the assets they hold in certain jurisdictions. These jurisdictions will have very strong financial secrecy. And the other thing is that even if you were able to see what assets are being held in certain [00:17:00] jurisdictions, the ability to find out who are the real beneficial owners, who is actually benefiting from the income that is being made or the value of these assets is often very hard to find. And so a global asset register aims to solve this problem, but that's why a wealth on taxes has to be a global effort. To capture all this wealth that's hidden in all the four corners of the world, but mostly in the Caribbean tax haven islands. 

KYLA HEWSON - HOST, PULLBACK: I actually have a question that might be a little pedantic and it's fine if you don't know the answer, but if someone is holding most of their wealth in art and yachts and houses, and we levy a 3 percent tax being like, "okay, your wealth is worth this much. You owe us, I don't know, a million dollars." What if they don't have a million dollars that's liquid, so then they have to sell one of their assets, but then that would lower their overall wealth? Like I said, maybe I'm being too pedantic. 

FARIYA MOHIUDDIN: Since they've bought that asset, it's appreciated in its [00:18:00] value. So even if they're selling it. If you're charging like 3 percent of the value of that thing, most of these assets will have appreciated more than that in the time that it was acquired. So if I have a painting that's worth $10 million and it appreciates in value 20%, even if you're taxing 3 percent of that, if I sell it, I'm still making a profit. 

No One Should Have More Than 10 Million Pounds | Ash Sarkar meets Ingrid Robeyns - Novara Media - Air Date 2-4-24

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: Does the principle of limitarianism exist between countries as well as within countries? Because of course there are huge wealth inequalities here in the UK, but even the poorest person in the UK is taking up much more of the carbon budget than the average person, say, in sub-Saharan Africa.

INGRID ROBEYNS: Yes, you're totally right. And I should say there are current debates or politicians in UK and Europe more broadly who argue also for reducing inequalities and have all sorts of proposals. And sometimes I really miss an acknowledgement of the international [00:19:00] dimension. And I should say that in this respect I discuss the studies done by Jason Hickel and his quarters. And it's not just that say you have Amazon, where the people in the --what does he call them? fulfillment centers, the warehouses --get bad working conditions, bad wages, et cetera. And Bezos takes all these billions. It's not just within the UK or a country, but even on a global scale, we really give bread crumbs to those who produce our mobile phones and our clothes and all the rest. And the rest goes, they go to the global North, but then they go also to those within the global North that have most money. So we should actually also have a conversation, not just about inequality within countries, but also globally.

And here I'm a bit pessimistic because I'm worried like, how far this is, how much people [00:20:00] are really willing to have this conversation. I really believe that in the global North, perhaps everybody, but definitely the middle class, but even much moreso the super rich, they live on money that they have --yeah, I would really want to use the word stolen --from those who in this global production get the breadcrumbs and also from the future.

But the problem is the more you think about this, the more you see how deeply unjust the situation is. And what I just encounter is that most citizens are so far from this analysis that the question is, how do you get them into that conversation? That for me is an important question.

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: And so, if I just reverse back to you, how do you get more people involved in that conversation? 

INGRID ROBEYNS: Yeah, so that was for me a reason to try to write this book with as little theoretical commitments as possible—manual, if you want to [00:21:00] say—and also to try to write it in a way that I hope is really accessibly written and also to bring in all these examples.

And yeah, that is it's not for me to judge whether I succeeded, but I think there is, of course, you have all these theories about political avant garde who will then take everybody along with them. But, I do think definitely because informal democracies, the voting system is really a system in which you can change things, but if the majority of people really start are mainly drawn into discussions about what I think is everything to do with scapegoating, talking about all these endless discussions about refugees and about migrants and about so-called "woke" topics, we don't talk enough about the economy. And I think that is for me very important to make it clear to. And people also tend to, they may be unhappy, but they may not have the analysis why they are unhappy. And [00:22:00] unhappy is actually, they may be dissatisfied with the way they're. And for example, I think the data that are widely spread among inequality analysis and political analysis on how much of the share that labor got from production in the past, how that has diminished, I think most workers don't know. 

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: This book is predominantly about Inequalities in distribution. But I was just thinking as you were talking about inequalities generated by production, and I was thinking about it with regards to the fact that in the global North, often the very cheapest things you can buy are the most carbon intensive and ecologically degrading, right? If you're poor in the UK, it is very expensive to buy vegetables and oil and cook them from scratch in your home. It's a lot cheaper to get some chicken nuggets from the takeaway. And if you are poor, that's what you'll do because that's what you can afford to do. It's also a lot more [00:23:00] ecologically damaging to do it that way. In order to buy clothes or things to have in your home, it's much cheaper to buy something from fast fashion or single use plastics than it is to buy something that's going to last forever. And I don't think it's right to almost wag the finger of shame and tell people "you should be more ecologically responsible" because they're buying what they can afford.

But it's also a global inequality that is reentrenched through the condition of being poor. And I suppose, how does the philosophy of limitarianism address inequalities of production, as well as inequalities of distribution? 

INGRID ROBEYNS: Yeah, so I want to say one thing about the case you just mentioned, then answer your question.

So that is the reason what you were just describing that the poor really can't live ecologically sustainable lives because they don't have the money. That is one of the reasons why we need something, whatever you call it, the Green New Deal, where the social and [00:24:00] ecological come together. I've really been convinced by research by people like Fergus Green, who works here in London, that we can't separate those two.

You gave some examples, but I think a really interesting example is in places where people drive cars. What the green of people now do is they buy electric cars and it's good. But people who don't have money can't buy an electric car. So that I think is social inequality and ecological inequality should be analyzed together.

Now your question about production: I actually agree. You raised it as a question, but you could also say it as a criticism that there's no really big analysis of production, which I think is, would be a fair criticism because in the end, the distribution of money is the symptom. It's actually at the same time, the symptom and the cause of further bad things. And I analyze it in the book as the cause of further bad things: the undermining of democracy and all these other things. But it is of course also the outcome [00:25:00] of a system that is an economic system, production system, that is deeply unjust, but in that production system, there are distributive effects in the production system. 

But many of the things we discussed earlier can come together. For example, the fossil fuel industry. I think the theoretical arguments really give us good reasons to want to nationalize the fossil fuel industry. So I've also written a quarter to paper giving those arguments why we should do this. However, it depends on --because we now actually have a lot of nationalized fossil fuel industries in the world, in say Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and so on. It's not as if these countries are scoring very well on keeping the oil in the ground. It depends again on what we can expect from the government. 

So yes. But still, I think the arguments are really that as long as something like the fossil fuel industry, is organized around [00:26:00] the profit motive, we're not going to solve this problem.

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: So you are a Marxist after all.

INGRID ROBEYNS: I don't care what people call me, I really don't care. 

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: So I suppose for my final question, if you could get one idea from this book implemented tomorrow, which one would you pick? 

INGRID ROBEYNS: Yeah, so I, I think this may be perhaps a surprising answer, but I think the first thing we need to do is if it's about really implementation of concrete policies, it is closing tax havens and really regulating the flow of money of capital in the world. Because as long as we have that it's going to be difficult, even if we were to have the political majority to change things, to implement more egalitarian policies. But that is at the level of policies. 

But what I really think we need in society is to have a much more intense political conversation among all people about what kind of society do we want and what is the economic system that fits with that society, [00:27:00] and really to bring the discussion about the economy and political economy central stage in the political discussions. And yeah, that's why I'm trying to make a contribution. 

Why Are Taxes So High? - Garys Economics - Air Date 3-10-24

GARY STEVENSON - HOST, GARYS ECONOMICS: Imagine you own, completely, your own house. No mortgage, no rent. You own your own house. Some of you will be in that position. Most of you won't be in that position. Now imagine you are in that position. How expensive will your life be? Well, for most people, their housing cost is a single biggest expense in their life, be that through paying rent or paying mortgage. If you own your own house, outright, you don't need to pay rent, you don't need to pay mortgage, and basically your costs in life are very low compared to somebody else. 

Now let's imagine [the] situation changes and suddenly you lose that house. You completely lose that house. And now, you still need to live, but you don't own your house. Your costs will massively increase because you have to pay rent for a whole house. You have to pay a mortgage on a whole house. So, if you own your house, your expenditures in [00:28:00] life are much lower than if you don't own your own house. Now keep this example in mind and we're going to start thinking about the government.

So, I talk a lot on this channel about increases in inequality of wealth. And what I say very often is that there are two groups in society who are losing their wealth, that is, ordinary working families, like you, unless you're very rich, and the government. And both of these groups have lost their wealth significantly.

Now, of course, if you're an ordinary family, especially if you're a young person from an ordinary family, it will be very visible to you that ordinary families are losing their wealth because you'll be probably struggling to buy a home or you may be in a situation where you think you can never buy a home compared to older generations who could buy property. But the loss of government wealth is often a lot less visible because we don't, you know, we are not the government, we don't think about what the government owns. 

So I went to a talk by famous French inequality economist Thomas Piketty, of whom I'm quite a big fan, a few years ago when I was at Oxford, and he showed us a graph, [00:29:00] which I still remember today, and we're going to show you that graph now, which basically shows you government wealth holding. So, what you can see in this graph is that all of the countries in this graph, the wealth holding of governments has decreased significantly over time. So, that one line at the top is China. You won't be surprised the Chinese government, it's essentially a communist country, the government owns a lot of the wealth in the country. The other countries on the graph are all Western countries. So, you've got the USA on there, UK in there, Germany, Japan, I think France is on there. And the story of the rest of these countries is basically all the same: the wealth holding of the government has decreased significantly over time.

And I want you to notice that in the case of both the UK and the US, that number went below 0% in the 2010s, so the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. So what that means is the total wealth of the UK government, the US government, and basically every other Western government is [00:30:00] in a pretty similar situation, is now below zero. So, that means these guys have debts bigger than their assets. And note that that graph ends in 2014. The situation during COVID got significantly worse. So, now these graphs will drop down significantly. And what you will see is significant negative wealth holding for the British government, for the American government, basically every Western government.

Now I want you to remember the story I told you about you and your house. Because Western governments, including the British and American governments, are basically in this situation. Back sort of 50 years ago, Western governments had a lot of wealth. They essentially owned their own house. Now, of course, when we talk about governments, it's not just housing. We're talking about governments owning things like hospitals, like schools. But of course, in the case of the UK, the UK government did own also a significant amount of housing back in the seventies. And governments have lost this wealth now. So ,governments are in the same situation basically as you would be if you lost your [00:31:00] home.

So, governments, you know, they provide, in the West, a lot of services, education, healthcare. They used to provide housing for the poorest people in the countries. And they were able to do this because they owned the wealth. They owned hospitals, they owned schools, they owned housing. And what we learnt from that Piketty graph that I showed you is that basically Western governments do not own any wealth anymore. And the fact that the number has dropped below zero means that not only do they not own wealth, they're actually in a significant amount of debt. 

So, what does that mean, right? Governments still need to provide you with healthcare, but they don't own the hospital. Governments still need to provide you with education, but they don't own the school. Governments still need to provide the poorest people in society with housing, but they don't own the homes. Now things like healthcare and education are never very cheap to provide anyway, you need to pay for doctors, you need to pay for teachers. But they're a lot cheaper to provide when you own the buildings. [00:32:00] If you don't own the building, then you need to pay rent on the building. If you have a massive amount of debt, then you need to pay interest on that debt. So, now, governments are in situations, just as you were in previously, they didn't need to pay that rent, they didn't need to pay that debt interest, and now they've got to pay it.

What that means is, if they want to provide you with the same level of service that they used to provide you with 30, 40, 50 years ago, they simply need more tax money because they no longer own the assets and they need to pay rent or interest on those assets. So, I think this is a really important thing for you to understand and it really completely explains the situation that we are in. The reason that governments are having to charge much higher levels of tax to provide much worse levels of service is quite simply because governments are much much poorer now. Governments are really poor. I mean governments are rich. They have what you could call in modern lingo passive income, you know, they own the property They [00:33:00] don't need to pay for the property and they can use those passive incomes to provide you with government services governments are no longer rich; governments are now very poor. They need to rent everything they use. They need to pay interest And that means they've taken that money from you. And despite taking more money from you, they can't provide services. That is what happens when you go from being rich to being poor. 

Now, this wouldn't necessarily be a problem if the assets which the government has lost, the wealth which the government has lost, were held by ordinary families. So, you know, one thing I want you to realize is this loss in government wealth—you know, these assets, these hospitals, these schools, they have not disappeared, they're all still here—these assets must have gone to somebody. And if those assets had gone to ordinary people, it wouldn't necessarily be a problem.

I think the best example to illustrate that is the council housing, right? So when council housing was sold off in sort of the eighties and the nineties, the [00:34:00] people who benefited from that initially were the people who lived in the council houses and council houses we're given to poor people. So, it benefited the poor people.

Now the government didn't have the homes, but the people who needed the housing owned their own homes. So, it wasn't initially a problem. If it was just a transfer of wealth from the government to the people, then it wouldn't necessarily matter because the people would be richer now, they could pay more taxes, or the government wouldn't need to provide so many services because you directly would own things like your own homes.

The problem that we have is that, actually, in the last, you know, 34 year period in which you have seen governments have massively lost their wealth, we have also seen a significant loss of wealth in ordinary families. And I think this is something I talk about a lot on the channel, but it is most visible in two things. Number one, the massively decreased home ownership rates for young people, you know, here in this country and in the US, ordinary families, their wealth, tends to [00:35:00] be in housing. So, if younger people are not getting housing, it's a sign that families are losing their wealth. And number two, the massively increased debt levels for ordinary families, especially families who managed to get a mortgage.

So, I think this creates a kind of interesting and confusing paradox, right? Which is how can it be possible that government has lost its wealth and ordinary families have lost their wealth? You know, the government gave, for example, the council housing to ordinary families. Now you have a situation where both ordinary families and governments are struggling to get housing. And I think this reveals the core of the problem, which is something I talk about a lot on this channel, which is, that wealth which transferred initially from the government to ordinary families has over time ended up being held by the very rich. And, you know, this happens to, if you want to understand the mechanism of this, you should watch the video we put a couple of weeks ago called "How you lose your house", which is ordinary people got this wealth from the [00:36:00] government, they use that wealth to support their lives, to support their retirements, to pay for end of life care, and they ended up selling that wealth to the rich. The end situation is, we end up in a place where both the government and ordinary families have very little wealth. 

Now this is, it's kind of a disastrous situation, right? Because we've already learned government is struggling to provide basic services now because government is poor. What does it mean if on top of that ordinary families are poor? Well, that means ordinary families can't afford housing, which means they really need housing. But the government, who used to have housing, doesn't have housing either, so they can't provide you with housing. It also means that people are living lives of greater poverty. They will live in worse conditions. They will live in worse housing. They'll eat worse diets. They will have more stress. They will probably face more crime, which means they'll need more healthcare, but the government can't provide more healthcare because the government has no [00:37:00] assets. 

So, I think this really realizes, makes real the problem that I talk about it on this channel. So, people who watch for a long time will know I'm very, very worried about growing inequality of wealth. And I think people have become used to the idea that inequality is a social problem. They're used to kind of people on the left arguing that we need less inequality because it's unfair. It's not good for society. My worry is deeper than that. My worry is that when you have very high levels of inequality, what it means is you can't get basic essential needs like housing and healthcare and education.

What if We Actually Taxed the Rich? - Robert Reich - Air Date 4-1-21

ROBERT REICH - HOST, ROBERT REICH: Income and wealth are now more concentrated at the top than at any time over the last 80 years. And our unjust tax system is a big reason why. The tax code is rigged for the rich, enabling a handful of wealthy individuals to exert undue influence over our economy and democracy. Conservatives fret [00:38:00] about budget deficits. Well then, to pay for what the nation needs ending poverty, universal health care, infrastructure, reversing climate change, investing in communities, so much more, the super wealthy have to pay their fair share.

First, Repeal the Trump tax cuts. It's no secret Trump's giant tax cut was a giant giveaway to the rich. 65 percent of its benefits go to the richest fifth. 83 percent for the richest 1 percent over a decade. In 2018, for the first time on record, the 400 richest Americans paid a lower effective tax rate than the bottom half. Repealing the Trump tax cuts benefits to the wealthy and big corporations will raise an estimated 500 billion over a decade. 

Second, raise the tax rate on those at the top. In the 1950s, the highest tax rate on the richest Americans was over 90%. Even after tax deductions and [00:39:00] credits, they still paid over 40%. But since then, tax rates have dropped dramatically. Today After Trump's tax cuts, the richest Americans pay less than 26%, including deductions and credits. And this rate applies only to dollars earned in excess of $523,601. Raising the marginal tax rate by just 1 percent on the richest Americans would bring in an estimated $123 billion over 10 years.

Third, a wealth tax on the super wealthy. Wealth is even more unequal than income. The richest one tenth of 1 percent of Americans have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent put together. Just during the pandemic, America's billionaires added $1.3 trillion to their collective wealth. Elizabeth Warren's proposed wealth tax would charge 2 percent on wealth over $50 [00:40:00] billion, and 3 percent on on wealth over $1 billion, who would only apply to about 75, 000 U. S. households, fewer than one tenth of 1 percent of taxpayers. Under it, for example, Jeff Bezos would owe $5. 7 billion out of his $185 billion fortune. That's less than half of what he made in one day last year. The wealth tax would raise $2.75 trillion over a decade, enough to pay for universal child care and free public college with plenty left over.

Fourth, a transactions tax on trades of stock. The richest 1 percent owns 50 percent of the stock market. A tiny one tenth of 1 percent tax on financial transactions, just 1 per 1, 000 traded, would raise $777 billion over a decade. [00:41:00] That's enough to provide housing vouchers to all homeless people in America more than 12 times over.

Fifth, end the stepped up cost basis loophole. The heirs of the super rich pay zero capital gains taxes on huge increases in the value of what they inherit because of a loophole called the stepped up basis. At the time of death, the value of assets is stepped up to their current market value. So a stock that was originally valued at, say, $1 when purchased, but that's worth $1,000 when heirs receive it, escapes $999 of capital gains taxes. This loophole enables huge and growing concentrations of wealth to be passed from generation to generation without ever being taxed. Limiting this loophole would raise $105 billion over a decade. 

Six, close other loopholes for the super rich. For example, one way the [00:42:00] managers of real estate, venture capital, private equity, and hedge funds reduce their taxes is the carried interest loophole, which allows them to treat their income as capital gains rather than ordinary wage income. That means they get taxed at the lower capital gains rate rather than the higher tax rate on incomes. Closing this loophole is estimated to raise $14 billion over a decade. 

Seven, increase IRS funding. Because the IRS has been so underfunded, millionaires are far less likely to be audited than they used to be. As a result, the IRS fails to collect a huge amount of taxes from the wealthy. Collecting all unpaid federal income taxes from the richest 1 percent would generate at least $1.75 trillion over the decade. So fully fund the IRS. 

[00:43:00] Together, these seven ways of taxing the rich would generate more than six trillion dollars over ten years, enough to tackle the great needs of the nation. As inequality has exploded, our unjust tax system has allowed the richest Americans to cheat their way out of paying their fair share. It's not radical to rein in this irresponsibility. It's radical to let it continue.

The Big Lie Billionaires Want You To Believe - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air Date 3-25-24

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: You have a chapter entitled "Nobody Deserves to be a Multi-Millionaire". This is where we start getting into sort of like the ethical and moral implications of this. Where, to be honest with you, I am, less comfortable on some level because I don't really care one way or another about the moral or ethical implications of this generally. It's just incredibly dysfunctional in my estimation and not the way we should go. But it is something that is deployed when you raise this to people in this country, the idea of a confiscatory [00:44:00] tax It's like, how could you, on moral grounds? There's no sort of practical argument that they have in... well, there is a practical argument, we can address that in a moment, you know, entrepreneurship and whatnot. And, you know, progress. But, what is it about the question of desert? 

INGRID ROBEYNS: Yes. So, I accept this is really an argument for moral philosophy, but the argument is, in moral philosophy, you have theories of desert, and in the idea of meritocracy, the basic moral core is that people deserve a certain amount of wealth or certain material outcomes because of something that has to do with their own personal actions or effort. And here we tend to think that those who are very successful economically that they have [00:45:00] done something that makes them deserving of that economic success. But there is an idea of human nature underlying this type of reasoning, which emphasizes individual properties—our talents and our efforts—and I think it downplays the very large role of luck in our lives.

And here I draw on research from various disciplines. But basically, there's the natural lottery, the social lottery, and there's also something called market luck. The natural lotteries, where you are born, so with the kind of genetic makeup you have, the talents you have, but also, for example, whether you're prone to illnesses, also something like the energy levels that you may have in your body constitutively. Those are just merely things, if you happen to be a strong person, you are very lucky. And then I think the right attitude is counting your blessings rather than saying, Look, this is me, I deserve everything I can do [00:46:00] with this body and these talents that I've received.

The social lottery is the parents you got, or the environment, for example, if you're born in the US, you're much more lucky than if you're born in, let's say, Somalia or Afghanistan. We don't need to explain this. So, that means that if you are born in a country that offers lots of opportunity, again, the right attitude is to say, Well, I've been lucky that I was born here, rather than to believe that whatever people who do not receive any opportunities can make of their lives is their responsibility.

So, the bottom line is that I think the view of human nature that we should embrace is one that acknowledges the huge influence of luck on our lives. And if we were to take that view of human nature, rather than the one that focuses on individual responsibility and individual merit that is dominant in the neoliberal view of human nature, we would look at the deservingness of our economic success in a different [00:47:00] way.

I know this is a metaphysically kind of destabilizing, or kind of, perhaps I would say non-mainstream view, that I'm advocating there, but I believe it to be true based on what I know from what I've read in the sciences. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: This is, I should say, it's pretty mainstream here, at least on this program, that perspective. But I wonder, too, how much does the vestige of religion work at play here. Because it seems to me that, like, the way that you ignore luck in this instance, which of course is, like you say, a function in this country of, What area code were you born in? Who are your parents? All of this seems to me to be like, if you ignore the fact that you got lucky, it has to be some semblance [00:48:00] of like, I have been, I received these skills or whatnot because I was in some respects chosen. And I wonder how much of that is a vestige of a religious rubric, if you will, and why that would be so prominent in the US versus, let's say, European countries. 

INGRID ROBEYNS: So, I should say, this is not my area of expertise. I don't have any expertise on the effect of religion on wealth distribution, so I'm just going to say some general things that I believe to be true, but you can correct me if you think I'm wrong. So, I think it has to do with, probably with, Protestantism and that, in Europe, I guess the type of Protestantism, that the way it's [00:49:00] been developed, it might be a bit different than in the US, and of course we also still have half of Europe is Catholic, or we still have other influences too, of course. You have different types of minority religions, and to the east, you have more Orthodox churches. And I think, of course, if you believe that you were chosen by God and that your talents have been given to you, and you have a whole story around this, yeah, then there's little I can say to a person who believes that they deserve it in that sense. 

So, I should just say, it's just the case that my book is written from a secular perspective. Perhaps this is different in Europe than in the US, but I just think we can't think about how we should organize society from a religious perspective, because there are plenty of people who are not religious, and there are also, among those who are religious, there are very different points of view. So, yeah, that's the best I can make of it, I fear. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, I mean, we [00:50:00] look back at the era of monarchs and rulers up until really the advent of democracy, and it was all justified by divine right. And if you were in that position and you had the opportunity to have the biggest army or your dad was king and so now you're king, it all is okay and morally justified because that's the way God wanted it. 

INGRID ROBEYNS: Yeah. But, you know, I think people who have excessive power will always come up with, you could say, constructed reasons to justify why they believe they should have that money. And suppose they're now trying to justify why they have all those billions. Well, they would probably say, they would start to talk about their own input, their own efforts, their own genius. There are also plenty of super rich people who [00:51:00] believe that they are of a different type of, special type of human beings who are geniuses, whereas, if you were really to kind of look into detail on how they became so rich, there's also really this enormous effect of luck.

Actually, one of the three types of luck that I didn't explain, but market luck is also a form of luck. Robert Frank has written this fantastic little book called Success and Luck. He's an economist and he explains how, even among those who are equally talented and equally able and willing to put in an effort, luck still plays a major role in who will get, say, the dominance of a product in the market, or who will be picked as a CEO. And, yeah, I think it's eye opening to see from studies the importance of luck in our lives. And of course, if you take a religious view and then just say, luck is what God has given me, then I think I can no longer argue with such a person. 

Wealth Tax Part 2 - Pullback - Air Date 4-11-23

FARIYA MOHIUDDIN: There's a few things that a wealth tax does. So the point [00:52:00] that both of you have raised is that a small tax on this large amount of wealth that has accumulated can solve a lot of the budget constraints that we're facing in the social sectors. When governments pass austerity measures, it's always education, health, social care that gets hit and we're constantly being told, "well, we don't have the money for it." And you know what, here's where the money actually is. 

But beyond that, I think there's a sense, there's been a growing sense, particularly after this experience in the —I don't want to say the pandemic is over, it's not—in the first part of the pandemic that some people really have it much easier. And things are getting harder for whom it is not already easy. This generational divide between boomers and millennials, where what a boomer could do, we simply can't because people have pulled the [00:53:00] ladder up behind them. And part of that ladder is this accumulation of wealth. 

I don't have the numbers from Canada, but in the U. S., since 1979, incomes for the top 0. 1 percent increased by 349%. Crazy numbers. 15 times as much as the increase for the bottom 90 percent of earners over the same period. And these incomes, these big CEO paychecks or what have you, has allowed them to buy up assets and to create incomes and then accumulate year after year creating these huge fortunes.

So taxing income at higher rates is important, but it doesn't touch this wealth that's already managed to accumulate. So looking at someone's salary is not a real measure of their true economic status or their ability to pay their fair share. And that's what it's about. It's about redressing this fact that A very few amount of people hold a [00:54:00] massive amount of wealth and they are making it actively harder for us to pay for society. And as you said, if it's a subscription to society, they're stealing from us, and that's part of how they steal. 

KYLA HEWSON - HOST, PULLBACK: I know we've already touched on this, but some of the wild ways that people are hiding their money is stocks, vacation properties, trust funds, yachts— if you have more than one yacht, I mean, honestly, if you have a yacht at all— expensive art, savings, cars, you add all of that up and then you subtract people's liabilities, like mortgages, credit card debt, outstanding loans, et cetera, and then you're like, okay, 3 percent of what you have here is what you owe to us. It's not hard. It's the hiddenness of it all, but we're going to talk about how to get around that i n —we've talked about it a little bit, but it's not impossible to do.

KRISTEN PUE - HOST, PULLBACK: Yeah. Something I just want to add, we've talked about this before, but I think it's important to highlight that the effective tax that the very wealthier paying is actually in a lot of cases [00:55:00] lower than the tax rate that people at the bottom of the income spectrum are paying, and that this gap in taxing wealth has a lot to do with that.

So in 2018, for the first time, this is for the U. S., Canada often lacks a lot of information about these kinds of things, but for the U. S. anyway, in 2018, for the first time, secretaries were paying a higher effective tax rate than CEOs, which I think highlights, a huge gap that needs to be solved. Maybe Fariya, as you're alluding to, a wealth tax isn't the only thing that will solve it, and on its own it won't solve it, but it's a huge part of the solution, I think. 

FARIYA MOHIUDDIN: Yeah, and also, I think it's also the scale of it. There's trillions, trillions of dollars of wealth hidden around the world. And when governments are talking about the scale of the social problems they're trying to solve, the scale is billions. And [00:56:00] so even putting a minuscule tax like three percent on trillions of dollars of wealth raises incredible amounts of money to solve these social problems. It's this thing of well, $600 billion is a lot. Sure, $600 billion is a lot, but the scale of hidden wealth is estimated to be around 8 trillion USD. 

KYLA HEWSON - HOST, PULLBACK: Well, and in Canada, the combined wealth that we know of, of the richest 1 percent, is about a trillion dollars. And people don't understand exactly how much money that is. So I actually did some math for how much money would be needed for a lifetime. So if you're spending, let's say, $300,000 a year, which I think is a pretty healthy budget, personally. It's more than I'll probably ever have. It would take you 333 years to spend $100 million. And I just want people to sit with that for a second. A hundred million dollars is three hundred thousand dollars a year for 333 years. 

KRISTEN PUE - HOST, PULLBACK: The other thing I want to highlight is that most [00:57:00] proposals for wealth taxes, they're targeting really the very top, just tiny chunk of the wealth spectrum. Most wealth tax proposals are not going after upper middle class people, they're going after the Scrooge McDucks. So if you're somebody who's making a fairly high income who has a house, maybe there is an argument that there should be a wealth tax on that. I'm kind of of that view. But, really, we're targeting people, in the Canadian proposal anyway that have $20 million dollars in wealth or more. And that is much more than the vast majority of Canadians have. It'd be about 25,000 families in a population of 37 million, something like that. So a very, very small chunk of people. 

KYLA HEWSON - HOST, PULLBACK: And people are proposing 1 percent or 2 percent or 3 percent on 20 million. I think they can afford 3%, you know what I mean? It's ridiculous. Some countries that have already implemented a [00:58:00] wealth tax are Norway, Spain, Argentina, France, Columbia, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland. And Switzerland's a really interesting one because it's a really good example of this argument... I was, oh my god, you guys, I was reading arguments from the right against wealth taxes and the Fraser Institute was publishing a whole bunch of stuff about "this is why a wealth tax is bad for the economy. The rich would flee our country." And it's like, well, first of all.. 

KRISTEN PUE - HOST, PULLBACK: There's no evidence to suggest that capital flight happens. 

KYLA HEWSON - HOST, PULLBACK: It just feels so disingenuous to read arguments from the right against wealth taxes because they're like, "Oh, it's going to hit the little guy who earns $235,000 a year. And I'm like, first of all, that's not the little guy. And second of all, that's not even who we're talking about. 

KRISTEN PUE - HOST, PULLBACK: Yeah, I just think in the context of that, it's worth highlighting that while taxes are extremely popular. So even though the right is trying very hard, there has been polling in Canada, at least to suggest that about 80 percent of Canadians support a wealth tax. And that includes, by the way, about two [00:59:00] thirds of conservative voters. So across the political spectrum, this is something that's popular, which is why I find it so surprising that it hasn't been more seriously discussed as something that we should do right now. 

FARIYA MOHIUDDIN: It's also coming from millionaires themselves. There's been movements like patriotic millionaires, resource generation, there's a group of a hundred millionaires and billionaires from nine countries that, back in January, 2022, published an open letter to government and business leaders saying like, "please tax us. We don't want to be rich, but then live in countries where the state is collapsing. There's no point in us having 10 yachts if," I'll take the example of the UK, "the NHS is collapsing in on itself. There's no point in that."

KYLA HEWSON - HOST, PULLBACK: Yeah. Cause who's going to work on your yacht if everyone's sick?

Summary 4-30-24

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today starting with The Hartmann Report doing a rundown of the history of the top level tax bracket. Americans for Tax Fairness [01:00:00] described the buy, borrow, and die strategy of tax evasion. Pullback explained how the rich are paid in ways that allow them to legally avoid taxes. Novara Media discussed wealth inequality and why this needs to be an international rather than national topic. Gary's Economics looked at how the existence of the super-rich ends up raising taxes for the rest of us. And Robert Reich gave a brief rundown of seven strategies to tax wealth. That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from The Majority Report, looking at the cultural roots of our belief in the deserving rich. And Pullback described to the benefits of everyone paying their fair share. To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. And now we'll hear from [01:01:00] you.

Responding to protesters threatening to not vote for Biden - Nick from California

VOICEMAILER NICK FROM CALIFORNIA: Hey, Jay, this is Nick from California. It's been a while. I've been unplugging a lot lately, so I've been a little behind on all podcasts but I've been catching back up and I think I caught some out of the wrong order and I think the Israel-Palestine episode was the most recent episode. And I listened to it and I just, I don't know what we should do because on one hand, I understand why people are Joe Biden a tough time on what he's doing in Israel. At the same point, like if Trump gets elected because of this issue, we would then have someone in there who would actively celebrate the carnage there or, you know... it would be worse. And I just have been like, well, what do you do when you have the person that's the lesser of the two evils [01:02:00] not be the lesser of two evils on an issue or very least not enough of a lesser of an evil on an issue that is very important to some and the alternative is Trump. I just, I hear these people's voices saying that, Well, if Joe Biden loses, it's the Democrats' fault, it's his fault. That's fine, but it doesn't matter whose fault it is. It doesn't matter whose fault it is. The fact of the matter is, I don't know that our country can survive another Trump administration. I mean, just full out, I don't know: climate change, I mean, everything. I just, I don't know what will happen under another Trump administration, but there is a much higher probability that we implode as a country, maybe as a species, with Trump at the helm again, and maybe we lose our democracy completely. And you know, that's terrifying to me. And I just, I really don't know the answer. I'm [01:03:00] not saying that these people are wrong in their thinking. They're not wanting to support Biden. And I, you know, it doesn't really matter to me whose fault it is in the end. what matters is what is going to be the ramifications over the next four years? Given the horrors in Gaza, I really don't know what the answers are. So, thanks.

Final comments on anger and irrationality in war and politics

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks to Nick for those comments. It is definitely a complicated matter to attempt to either understand or influence a person's personal voting decisions. But we try anyway. Every four years around this time, basically like clockwork, I find myself having to give a few of these little talks about voting mechanics and theories of change, because there's always a segment of the population who feels very passionately about voting based on something other than a dispassionate weighing of the options that will hopefully actually take themselves and society as a [01:04:00] whole to a better place, rather than a worse place. 

Now in 2016, this is a classic case, it was the 'Bernie or bust' crowd that was so incensed, and rightfully so, that the DNC and the Clinton campaign did a bunch of things against the Bernie Sanders campaign and so the Bernie supporters—not all of them, not by a long shot, I was Bernie Sanders supporter and did not follow this logic—but some Bernie Sanders supporters felt like they needed to then turn and use their vote in the general election, after Bernie had lost the primaries, to send a message or to inflict punishment on the Democratic Party or on Hillary Clinton or just even defeat this person who they saw as someone too terrible to be elected, even if it meant electing someone demonstrably more terrible. And that is pretty much the situation we find ourselves in today, but [01:05:00] it's far from a perfect analogy. Because the complaint against Clinton and company was largely that she was too much of the establishment and too much of a neo-liberal, a complaint I sympathize with, but, you know, I wouldn't risk right-wing authoritarianism just to defeat establishmentarianism or neo-liberalism, while the complaint today against Biden is that he's complicit in genocide. Which is admittedly a problem of notably higher gravity. And so that does complicate things a bit. Or, you know, at least it makes the emotional drive to vote in a way that would send a message or inflict punishment, or even to defeat someone seen as too terrible to be elected, it makes all that much more understandable. The fact that the opponent is, you know, same dude and is still demonstrably worse, even on this specific topic of Israel and Gaza, you know, not just in general, but on this [01:06:00] topic, it continues to make that emotional reaction illogical, even if it is still understandable. 

Now, if you want to understand these dynamics, maybe not super well, but possibly as well as you can, I recommend a recent article from Slate magazine titled "The Storm Brewing in Michigan. Are Arabs in the state really prepared to hand the presidency back to Donald Trump? In a word: yes". And this piece was written by an Arab-American reporter who went to Michigan—or maybe it lives there, I'm not sure—to speak with other Arab-Americans about the presidential election and their feelings toward Joe Biden in light of his support of Israel during the war in Gaza. The article describes the anger toward Biden among this crowd as "intense and tangible", and the writer also says, "I've now come to understand the incandescent rage [01:07:00] many feel toward Biden". And to me, just the use of that phrase—"incandescent rage"—almost precludes, like, first of all, it's very illuminating. Like, I'm really glad to have that insight to really understand how people are feeling. But it also, you know, like, when I think of someone who is in a state of incandescent rage, I think of a person basically precluded from the possibility of clear thought and analysis, which is not at all to dismiss the rage as irrational in the least. I think the rage is completely justified. Just as—again, another imperfect analogy—just as Americans we're right to be angry after 9/11 and Israelis were right to be angry after October 7th. But in both of those cases, that anger was channeled to retaliate wildly in the hope of doing maximal damage which was successful in one sense, but which also came at [01:08:00] the great cost of much self-inflicted damage. And my concern is that the Arab community in the US is about to do the same thing. 

But, impacts to that specific community aside, the writer did manage to find one local Arab-American in Dearborn, Michigan, who would admit to planning on voting for Biden. And that person said, "It's depressing to think of our community as being so selfish. You're willing to put someone who, there's no question, will be a worse president for Black people than Joe Biden. He's going to be worse for more people. Things are going to be worse for students, for workers, for gay people, for women. That different matters". And the writer continues, "the small difference between candidates may seem insignificant to some, he said, but he believes four more years of Trump will have tangible consequences for real people. 'One of their neighbors is going to not be able to make rent because of this fucking decision. Your kids' [01:09:00] art program at school is going to close because of this shit. And people feel so righteous. That's the part that bothers me. The world as a whole matters, he said. His children are half Black and one is trans. He doesn't understand how no one can see what another Trump presidency will bring". 

And then the final quote that I'll read from this interview, the guy says, quote, "Previous generations of Arab activists understood this. They didn't see Palestine in a vacuum. They saw it as part of an international struggle. So, deciding everything else has to come to a stop to make this thing that isn't going to change anything policy-wise, it's a literal objective fact that Donald Trump's proposed notions for Palestine are worse than Biden's, which is hard to do". And he actually goes on to praise the activism, you know, meaning that if it was directed in the right way, it would be really powerful and good for their local constituency, [01:10:00] where people who care about Palestine can truly have a voice, but he laments that all of that energy is going into defeating Biden, to send a message, or inflict punishment, or maybe even to defeat him because it'll feel good in the moment to get rid of someone you see as having genocidal blood on your hands, as you know, of course it would. But to actively usher in someone demonstrably much, much worse, like Trump, not just for your own community, but many others as well, is going to be the self-inflicted damage that makes the desire for revenge ultimately not worth it. 

That is going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. [01:11:00] Thanks to our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from bestoftheleft.com.

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#1624 Island Fervor: Cuba and Haiti Struggle for Economic and Political Self Determination (Transcript)

Air Date 4/24/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we recognize that only by understanding the past can we understand the present, and the histories of Cuba and Haiti has very stark lessons to impart about the cruelty of the Cuba embargo, the repercussions of imperial exploitation, and the dangers that arise amid dysfunctional democracy. Sources today include , Deconstructed, Democracy Now!, The Majority Report, and The Real News, with additional members-only clips from Rev Left Radio and Bad Faith.

On Cuba and Haiti The Fight for Liberation & Self-Determination in the Caribbean - Revolutionary Left Radio - Air Date 4-4-24

BREHT O'SHEA - HOST, REVOLUTIONARY LEFT RADIO: Now, you did mention the current protest, and that's a good segue to this next question, because in Cuba recently, there has been this flare up of protests rooted in the dire economic conditions within Cuba, largely, if not wholly due to the multi-decade-long suffocating trade embargo on the island.

The US empire has always had a strategy of sanctions as war, and of making the economy scream, as a way of undermining nations that they want to destroy, and their economic and [00:01:00] political hegemon status has always allowed them the power to do so. 

So I know you touched on it a little bit, but maybe there's more to say here. How do you all think about this situation and where do you see Cuba going in the coming years? 

ONYESONWU CHATOYER: I mean, what's happening now is simply a repeat of what happened in July 11th. Like people in Cuba are legitimately suffering and they're taking to the streets saying, We want power, we want food, we want fuel, and the reason why there is a severe shortage of those things in Cuba is a direct consequence of US policy towards Cuba, the economic blockade, the placement of Cuba on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, which, first of all, is a absurd, but second of all cuts off Cuba from access to global banking. Like they can't even get loans to engage in basic financial transactions on an international scale.

They don't have oil reserves, they import a lot of their food. So if they can't get loans, they literally cannot buy those things. This is like a direct consequence of US policy. 

And it's also very important to understand: this is the intent [00:02:00] of US policy towards Cuba. I think that folks are probably familiar with the memo written by Lester D. Mallory, who I believe was Assistant Secretary of State in the Kennedy administration, where he straight up says that the intent of the US blockade on Cuba is to cause suffering among the Cuban people, to make them so hungry, to make them suffer so much that they rise up and overthrow their government, overthrow their revolution.

So understand when we're talking about the blockade, we're talking about economic sanctions against places like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, a third of the earth's population living under some form of economic sanctions by the US. When we talk about those sanctions, we are talking about a strategy which is directly targeting civilian populations, making them suffer as much as possible. 

This is why the Trump administration waited for the COVID-19 pandemic to escalate the US blockade on Cuba. This is why the same thing happened to Iran. The Trump administration escalated sanctions on Iran during the COVID-19 pandemic. They wait for moments when [00:03:00] populations are suffering and they're like, this is our chance to make it even worse, because they want to destabilize the nation, they want the people to suffer so much that they rise up.

And so this is what we have to understand about the intent of US policy, the intent to specifically target civilians. And so if we're talking about wanting to be in solidarity with Cuba, if we're confused liberals talking about human rights in Cuba, we have to recognize the primary criminal, the primary person or entity targeting Cuban human rights is in fact the US government, is in fact US policy towards Cuba in the form of the blockade. 

And I think this is something that as anti-imperialists we have to make people understand. Be relentless about explaining that sanctions are about targeting civilian populations, specifically the most marginalized sectors of those populations.

BREHT O'SHEA - HOST, REVOLUTIONARY LEFT RADIO: Yes, wonderfully said. And I recently left our sister podcast, Guerrilla History, but we've done an entire series over the last three years called Sanctions as War, in which we do case study after case study after case study showing the details of how [00:04:00] this sort of approach is applied to countries, what it does to the countries. And yeah, it's targeting civilians. It's ensuring that people don't have food and fuel and medicine. I mean, they do it to Venezuela, they do it to Cuba, they do it to a million places. And when those places inevitably begin to struggle, they smugly point at them and say, see, socialism doesn't work. It's literally grotesque. 

It's straight up evil, it's beyond mere political terms. It is evil in every sense of the word because, beyond just hurting a political establishment or a political elite, it is meant, consciously meant to terrorize and brutalize human beings. Children who need food, mothers and fathers who need to feed their kids. Those are the primary targets of sanctions, even though they're often presented to us as just a "nonviolent form of pressure campaigns" on, quote unquote, authoritarian governments, et cetera.

So seeing through that and educating people to see through that, I think is absolutely crucial. And you're all doing that really important work. 

Musa, you had something to say. 

MUSA SPRINGER: Yeah, I got a few things on this [00:05:00] question. But one, I think it was on RevLeft radio, I listened to an episode about sanctions as "siege warfare." And I had not given much thought into this notion of siege warfare and what it looks like in contemporary times. But it was a really phenomenal way of thinking about sanctions, because Pan Africanist, we always say that the blockade is warfare. It is a direct form of warfare, economic warfare. It's also a form of underdevelopment. 

But I think I'm always trying to stress to people the urgency of the situation. And I think that in our heads, sometimes we categorize things as this over here is an acute situation, and then this thing over here, oh, it's been going on for 65 years, so they can hold on a little bit longer.

And I want people to really understand what it means to be under a total [00:06:00] dominance campaign under the form of a blockade for over 65 years, what that does to underdevelop the capacity of a state to pave roads, to fix buildings. In hospitals and pharmacies, the shelves are bare. My comrades, they asked me for things like ibuprofen. A condom can cost more than a year's worth of your salary because they're so hard to come by in Cuba.

I know someone who is a psychologist herself, a very renowned Cuban psychologist who had a surgery two summers ago and she had to bring gloves and PPE like a mask for the doctor at the hospital to use because the hospital was completely out and they didn't know when they were going to get their next shipment.

A friend of mine, a really, really close friend of mine, who lives with HIV, he's supposed to get a special meal from the government with his rations, a special [00:07:00] food supply, a diet meant specifically for him. And he has not been able to get that in three years, because Cuba provides rations of rice and coffee and beans and sugar and these things. So there are people, and in their public health system, they create special diets for people who might have HIV, people who are elderly or anemic, or birthing people who are pregnant. And the capacity and ability to do all of this is grinding to a standstill more and more every single day. 

People who I have known for 10 years, every time I traveled to the island, their faces are a little bit skinnier and a little bit more gaunt. And it's something that we're just not supposed to talk about. And You know, I just can't stress enough the urgency. We've had 36 years in a row of the only countries voting against ending the blockade is the US, Israel, and then sometimes Ukraine.

Havana Syndrome How the Biden Administration Is Driving Cubans Into Misery - Deconstructed - Air Date 3-22-24

ANDRES PERTIERRA: The US has tightened sanctions. Trump went [00:08:00] full maximum pressure sanctions, not just in terms of putting Cuba back on the international list of state sponsors of terrorism, which was an entirely, nakedly, disgustingly clear case of politics. They did it right before they left office as a way to impede the Democrats from being able to return to kind of like an Obama era policy. It was like a very, finger in their eye kind of thing. It was politics. But it's also the fact that Trump had activated Title III of Helms Burton and Helms Burton is this law that was passed in the 1990s that really strengthened the embargo and gave the US government the capacity to really go after foreign companies that trade with Cuba but also trade with the US and sanction them. 

And among other things, it had a section which is called Title III, which had never until Trump been activated, even under Bush, even under Bush with Bolton there, the most hawkiest guy you can imagine, even they never activated Title III. Title III allows US citizens [00:09:00] to sue people who trade or benefit from their assets that were nationalized in Cuba. So, for example, if you have a cruise ship and it docks in the port and the heir to that dock is still alive and he's a US citizen, guess what? You're about to get a lawsuit in the millions and millions of dollars by a very litigious, very angry, and very well-funded Cuban American with the full backing of the US government behind him if he wins. 

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Some of these judgments have reached into the billions of dollars and they're seizing Cuban assets all over the world. What's been the economic impact of that? 

ANDRES PERTIERRA: Well, there's no more cruise ships, among other things. When I left Cuba in 2013, cruise ships hadn't become big yet. When I visited again in 2018, I knew multiple people who are making a living off of very short term cruise ship tourism. The Americans or the Italians or whatever would be let out at the port. [00:10:00] And every day there was a new ship, a new ship, a new ship. And it wouldn't spend a ton of money individually, but collectively, a lot of people were able to work the tourism trade by serving as guides, whatever. And then of course they took that money and then they consumed and they made jobs for other people. So that was a huge influx of cash for the country. And cruise ships are dead. The hotels, at night you'll see one or two rooms in use, but they're mostly empty in what's supposed to be part of a high season.

It's been devastating because that's a source of key foreign currency and Cuba imports 60 to 80 percent of all of the food it consumes. That's bad. 

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: And so the Trump administration did this maliciously on the way out, trying to reverse the Obama administration's policy. And I've done some reporting on this particular piece, the Biden administration indicated to Democrats in Congress that they were reviewing whether Cuba actually belonged on [00:11:00] this state sponsor of terror list that the Trump administration put them on right before he left.

Not that long ago in a private meeting, the state department informs some members of Congress, oh, actually, that review hasn't even started.

ANDRES PERTIERRA: Oh, Jesus. 

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Which just absolutely shocked everybody in the room, because once it starts, then other things kick in. Statutorily, it has to take six months and you got to do this that and the other thing So by saying that that it hadn't even started, the Democrats were just reeling having heard that. I asked the State Department about that and they more or less confirmed it in their answer without confirming it.

But do you have any sense of why Biden would continue this malicious policy, given the impossibility of him winning Florida, he'll be lucky to come within 10 points in Florida. So it's hard to say that the Miami Cubans down there are so central to his political strategy that he has to [00:12:00] just drive this country into the ground for them.

What is your sense as a kind of Cuba watcher, why Biden just has refused to buck Trump on this? Just jealousy of Obama or something? 

ANDRES PERTIERRA: I don't think that anyone has a clear cut answer just yet. I can give my theory, but I do think this is a case where we need a Bob Woodward-style deep dive into the deep politics of it because I'm sure it's a very complicated story.

But my big theories on this are, number one, the curse of Cuba since 1991. It doesn't matter enough. It doesn't matter enough for Biden to use his precious political capital, time and energy, and also potentially risk turning Florida even more red to do it. I don't think he cares enough is number one. He's got domestic and foreign issues that are far higher on his list. And that's not unique to Biden. It's something that has plagued Cuba since 1991. Cause like [00:13:00] I said to your listeners, after 1991, Cuba gets off the front burner, gets on the back burner. And that's why Florida has such a lock on it, because not enough people care to reverse the policy, even if most people, even in the State Department, know that, as a policy, it doesn't make much sense. 

Number two, it was only a few months into Biden being in office when July 11th happened, the protests, the massive protests and the state response to them. And that made Cuba radioactive for a while. Because if he starts to do a reform in the middle of that context, he could be seen as being soft on communism or whatever. And so it looks bad and Cuba was already not a priority. So they just put it into not even not a priority, but even lower on the list. 

I think that that's kind of started to change. Sometimes there's been movements here and there to slowly bring back some stuff from the Obama era. But I think it's been much more transactional. I think part of it is the fact that Cuba has [00:14:00] allowed a large number of people to migrate from through Nicaragua to the US via Mexico, to the point that the traditional triangle of immigrants, which is Mexico and Central America or whatever, were displaced at one point--I'm not sure if it's still true--but were displaced at one point by Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba. So immigration has pulled Biden back to the table, and that was, I think, part of the intent of that strategy on the part of the Cuban government. And it's an older strategy: we will collaborate with you on immigration, on drug stuff, on this and that and another thing, as long as you're reasonable with us. And if you guys aren't reasonable with us, we have no reason to help you out on your priorities either, right? 

This brings me to point three, which is, I don't think Biden sees this as part of his legacy. He seems to treat it as, that's Obama's legacy. And it's come to become a problem. So he's trying to distance himself from it and be very transactional, but I don't think he sees it either as a priority or [00:15:00] as something he really needs to or wants to burn political capital on, since it can be reversed again in the future and it becomes a cycle of like two different people sharing a wheel and they drive right and they drive left and nothing gets done. So it's back to the back burner, I guess.

Havana Syndrome How the Biden Administration Is Driving Cubans Into Misery Part 2 - Deconstructed - Air Date 3-22-24

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: And no government is perfect. I'm sure the current Cuban government could make some different decisions, but how much room do they have? What could they do, you think, differently, within the context of these lawsuits by Americans around the world, the state sponsor of terror designation, the treasury sanctions, the embargo, what policy room for maneuver do they have that they're not using? 

ANDRES PERTIERRA: There are very clear reforms that they could do here that I think that would make life better. One of them is they really just need to give up on the ag model, the agricultural model that they've been using for years. It doesn't [00:16:00] work. They really have to shift to something like the Vietnamese or Chinese models. Or adapt it to Cuban conditions, but do it. And they've been doing experiments for years on a more market-oriented economy, and don't just have this system where you have to produce so much and everything above this quota can sell for the market, but everything under this quota, you have to sell to us at a price we determine. That model just does not work. Flat out. And you've gotta liberalize the agriculture. You've gotta shift to a small farmer model, where people own the land again, and then can reinvest in it, and then can import directly, not having to depend on the state and its institutions, fuel, tractors, inputs, that kind of thing, that they can potentially also export and get hard currency for that.

I think that that would be a huge help because Cuba is an extremely agriculturally rich island. 70 percent of it is arable, 90 percent of it in a pinch. That is an insane surface area to arable ratio. [00:17:00] And there is no good reason why Cuba needs to be importing 60 to 80 percent of its food, especially when it doesn't even export sugar anymore.

Now, with all that said, I think that's a clear example of a domestic reform that they need to do. But on the other end, part of the problem I think is there's a lot of reforms that would have been extremely delicate and extremely difficult, even under the best circumstances, like political reforms, and they were put off, and they were put off, and they were put off. And now to do them under these circumstances might be seen as a repeat of what happened in the USSR. What is the lesson a lot of these socialist countries drew from Gorbachev? Gorbachev reformed the economy and politics at the same time. He also mismanaged the economic reforms. People were very miserable, they were discontented, blah, blah, blah. But if you first reform the economy, maybe then you can reform the political [00:18:00] system with people who are by and large, if not In love with the system, at the very least they're like I can work with this. I don't want change because change can be scary. This is the devil I know, whatever, right?

But now, how do you do those kind of really deep political reforms or seeming potentially dangerous economic reforms in ways that don't just fuel the fire? That is, I think, the kind of the Catch-22 that they're in right now. 

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: And the Soviet leadership also thought that if they surrendered in the Cold War and did these reforms that the West wanted, that the West would embrace them and lavish a new Marshall Plan, basically, on the post-Soviet world, which was just a fundamental misreading of the West's posture toward Russia. We were not going to suddenly turn them into friends. It was much more intractable. They believe that it was ideological--and it was obviously partly ideological--but it was also [00:19:00] just geopolitical and imperial. 

And so I would imagine that the Cuban leadership understands the same thing, that just giving up is going to lead to probably the same looting that you saw post-Soviet collapse. 

Empire's Laboratory— How 2004 U.S.-Backed Coup Destabilized Haiti & Led to Current Crisis - Democracy Now! - Air Date 3-11-24

AMY GOODMAN: Her recent article for NACLA is headlined “Haiti as Empire’s Laboratory.”

Professor Pierre, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you start off by describing what you understand is the latest on the ground, who the armed groups are, and the different sectors of Haitian society that are joining together with those armed gangs and calling for the resignation of the unelected Prime Minister Henry?

JEMIMA PIERRE: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me, Amy.

One of the things that we need to just start off with is just these are paramilitary forces. [00:20:00] I think “gangs” is an insufficient name for them, because a lot of them are former military and former police officers, and they’re heavily armed. What’s happening is a bunch of different groups coming together to say—and they call themselves now “Viv Ansanm,” which is “Live Together,” a bunch of different various armed young groups, young men in groups—to say that they want to get rid of Ariel Henry.

Now, we hear that there are negotiations happening around the clock. And apparently, there are supposed to be negotiations going on today, I think, in Jamaica or by the CARICOM countries, that include the U.S., France and Canada. The problem, though, is the fact that there are all these negotiations going on outside of Haiti by many foreigners with no main participation from the Haitian masses. And I think we have to go back to understand that the root of this [00:21:00] crisis is not last week, it’s not this week, it’s not even Ariel Henry, but we have to go back to 2004 with the coup d’état.

AMY GOODMAN: So, take us on that journey back. If you’ll give us the historical context? In your piece, it’s headlined “Haiti as Empire’s Laboratory.” In it, you write, “Haiti has been and continues to be the main laboratory for U.S. imperial machinations in the region and throughout the world.” Explain.

JEMIMA PIERRE: Yes, definitely. We say the crisis in Haiti is a crisis of imperialism. In 2004, as has been revealed and admitted to, the U.S., France, and Canada got together and backed a coup d’état against the country’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. And the U.S. Marines flew into his home, put him on a plane with his security officials, his wife and aide, and [00:22:00] flew them to the Central African Republic. And people can actually go to the Democracy Now! archives, which covered this live. And I remember listening to this happening live.

And the point of this was that this coup d’état, which was led by two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, was then sanctioned by the U.N. when these same two members of the U.N. Security Council—and that’s the U.S. and France—basically pushed the U.N. Security Council into sending a multinational military force to Haiti armed under Chapter VII deployment. And that itself was illegal, because the original coup d’état was illegal. The U.S. ambassador to Haiti and the deputy ambassador were in the process—they’re the ones that named who the interim president would be, put together a Council of Sages, and basically restructured Haiti’s elected president. And back then we had 7,000 elected officials; [00:23:00] today we have zero. And over time, I say Haiti has been under occupation, because it is this military occupation, the MINUSTAH occupation, that went from 2004 to 2007, that established the Core Group, that—it’s an unelected group of Western officials, including Brazil, which led the military arm of the occupation in 2004 under Lula, which has been controlling all the actions in Haiti, down to naming who the prime minister would be, Ariel Henry, after the assassination of Jovenel Moïse.

I have to quickly say, though, one of the key things that happened is, in 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti that killed hundreds of thousands, when the U.S. pushed the sitting president, René Préval, to have elections, and the WikiLeaks papers revealed to us later that Hillary Clinton actually flew to Haiti and changed the election results, where Michel Martelly of the PHTK political party did not make the first [00:24:00] round, but the U.S. forced the Haitian election council to actually put him in the second round. And so, establishing the PHTK, Michel Martelly, a neo-Duvalierist, as Haiti’s president with under 20% of the people voting, with the largest political party in Haiti, Lavalas, not being able to participate, we set the stage for what we see today.

So, by the time we get to Ariel Henry being imposed on the Haitian people by the Core Group, we had no elected officials, because Michel Martelly, basically, under him, we lost a lot of — we didn’t have many elections, and then he put in his protégé, Jovenel Moïse, who was also unpopular and didn’t run any elections. So we actually haven’t had any elections in Haiti since 2016, when Jovenel Moïse was selected for us by the Core Group.

And so, to understand what’s going on in Haiti, we have to understand how the original moment of the 2004 coup d’état led us [00:25:00] to the complete destruction of the Haitian state. And if we don’t do that, we don’t understand these current flareups, where people are saying that they want their democracy back and saying that whatever negotiations that are happening outside of Haiti has nothing to do with them because it has not included them.

What's Happening In Haiti w Brian Concannon - The Majority Report - Air Date 3-16-24

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: What are the mechanisms—and we should also probably talk about the intent, too, with the U.S. But what are the mechanisms when they prop up a guy like Henri? What are the mechanisms that are used there?

Is it just basically —how does that happen? You know, what does that mean? Is it just basically within Port au Prince or is it within 20 percent of Port au Prince? What does it mean for the U.S. to prop up a leader there? And then we should also probably just touch on what is it that they want out of Haiti that the effort to prop up a leader is expended. 

BRIAN CONCANNON: The U.S. have been propping up [00:26:00] Henri by sending him money. They've been propping him up by providing international diplomatic support and making sure he gets loans from the international monetary fund and other international financial institutions.

And they've been propping him up by insisting that Henri be in office and be part of Haiti's solution. What has happened over the last couple of years is Haitian civil society keeps coming up with alternatives—with broad based platforms that would move Haiti towards fair elections. The U.S. keeps giving Henri a veto by saying, "Well, he has to be part of it, or we're not going to let it work."

What that does is it completely distorts all of the incentives. Henri—as long as he has U.S. support, he has no incentive to compromise towards fair elections because he could never win fair elections. By not compromising, he's been able to stay in office for 30 months, which is the longest prime ministeral term in at least 40 years in Haiti. So basically—with [00:27:00] no constitutional or popular support—he's Haiti's longest serving prime minister. Because he got the U.S. support. 

Another big part of how the U.S. has been supporting him—back in 2021 when there were widespread protests against Henri's rule, he called for an international force basically to prop him up.

The U.S. has been trying very hard to make that work ever since. It hasn't yet happened, but there's currently a proposed U. N. Security Council- authorized mission led by Kenya that the U.S. is still trying to get to come to Haiti, and the U.S. actually made accepting that force a condition of anybody who wanted to play a role in Haiti's government after Henri resigns.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: All right, so as far as what's been going on with this, in fact, Henri was in Kenya, is that not right? Just 24 hours ago. That's where—he was [00:28:00] heading back, and he's been out of the country—but the idea is that the U.S. is basically saying Kenya and Haiti had no relations, and —

BRIAN CONCANNON: They had not had a diplomatic relations until September. No relations at all, yeah. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So, it was basically the U.S. shopping around for an African country so that it would ostensibly be black soldiers in Haiti. One who had a I guess a competent enough military that also was interested in U.S. aid. The U.S. is going around saying, "We'll pay you to come in and basically be our proxy military so that we won't have white faces down there with guns telling the Haitians what to do. You will be our military. We will pay you. And there were problems in Kenya with this because there was a lot of Kenyans who are like, "We don't want to do this," but the U.S. is coming in with an offer you can barely refuse. 

BRIAN CONCANNON: Yep. And the U.S. [00:29:00] first tried to get Canada. Canada refused and said this is a bad idea. It's not going to work, propping up a hated government. They asked CARICOM—the Caribbean countries—they refused. They asked Brazil. Brazil refused. They asked countries in West Africa. They refused.

And it was really Kenya who had no interest in Haiti, but did have interest in hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars—that finally got Kenya to agree. But once they agreed, Kenya sent an exploratory mission to see what was happening. The exploratory mission said, "No, we're not going to do that. We're going to revise the mission to where it's much less combative."

The U.S. said, "No. Wrong answer," and forced them to retake it. Just in the last two hours, we've heard another report that Kenya is saying, "Well, maybe we're not going to do it after all." We don't know if they're just trying to get more money out of the U.S. or they're serious about pulling out. That's a developing story.

Haiti's real crisis isn't gangs—it's foreign occupation w Jafrik Ayiti - The Real News Network - Air Date 4-1-24

JAFRIK AYITI: There are a few things that I will say here that will require folks to go and dig to understand further what [00:30:00] supports these assertions. For instance, the first thing I'd say is that what we are watching is an international crime scene. Okay? That doesn't mean the local actors are not really doing what they're doing. But if you're only looking at the local actors, you will not understand what is happening. Because, of course, like, it is surreal. Like, how could a small group of criminals hold a whole country hostage like that for so long? Okay? And the only reason that it happens is because they are not really alone. Their backing is from powerful states—the United States, Canada, Europe—and they're playing both sides of this conflict. 

Another thing people need to realize is that although you've heard that the so-called gangs, which are really paramilitaries, they are US-armed [00:31:00] militias, have been fighting Henry's government, there's been no casualties on either side. Okay? None of the big gang leaders have fallen and no member of Henry's government have been hit, or hurt himself. 

In reality, the game that's being played here is to force decent Haitians, who want to establish a social justice reform program in their country, to accept accommodation with the criminals that have been running the country for the past couple of decades. Now, this is a way to say it very briefly. But when you go and look into the details to talk about the forces that are really making decisions in Haiti, a name that people need to Google and search is the Core [00:32:00] Group. The Core Group is an informal structure, but don't let the word informal fool you, because they make all the real decisions in what's happening in Haiti. It's composed of the ambassadors of the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Brazil, the representative of OAS, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations. 

Now, someone might ask, What does Germany, Brazil, what do they have to do with... you know, France, for crying out loud. Well, it's because Haitian independence has never been accepted. Okay? And another term they usually, improper term, they usually use for the Core Group when they're talking about the decisions of the Core Group, for instance, the Core Group is the entity that named Ariel Henry prime minister. Okay? It's not any Haitian entity. [00:33:00] They published a tweet and that's how he became prime minister. And it sounds surreal But that's how it's been happening. 

So, people need to understand that haiti is under occupation. That's the reality. And if you compare it with the 1915 to 1934 occupation of Haiti, there is no real difference in how it happened in the sense that the occupiers pretend that, No, there's no occupation. Haiti has a president. We had a president back in 1915. Our presidents even declared war to Japan. Well, another one was so bold he declared war to Japan, Italy, and Germany at the same time. Of course, what it meant was that the U.S. had declared war to these countries and since the U.S. occupied Haiti, the fool that they had imposed as president of Haiti, you know, issued statements of solidarity with the American position. 

So, people need to understand, the current [00:34:00] mess is Haiti under occupation. This is one of the things that they're trying to hide. The fact that the disaster that you are observing is the result of what is called the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti. What is the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti? It's a meeting that took place in the town where I live, Gatineau, Quebec, which is, I guess, a twin town with Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada. There on January 31st - February 1st, 2003, a set of White men and women met—and you will see why I emphasize that it was White men and women—and they had two days of discussions on the future of Haiti. Who participated in that meeting? Now their names are known, at the time it was secret, but you had foreign ministers of France, there was one lady from El [00:35:00] Salvador, the other ones were from the United States, and from the Organization of American States, Luigi Einaudi was there, all White men and women, and they decided that the government of Haiti at the time had to be overthrown, the country put under UN tutelage. And the country was then being led by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former priest, a liberation theologian who came to power for the first time in 1990 when he won the election, a landslide election. 

Now, the reason why they wanted to overthrow him is that the policies that he was applying in Haiti were what these people consider socialist. Really modest reform. He doubled the minimum wage. He and the legislature at the time came up with new laws to protect all children, including the street children, built a lot of schools [00:36:00] and things like that, and hospitals, like, nothing revolutionary, really. But even that was considered unacceptable. To whom? To Washington, their cousins in Ottawa and in Paris, but also, and importantly, and these people never make it to the front pages of the New York Times or CNN, Radio-Canada, or BBC, but they are the ones running the economy of Haiti. That's what I call the 15 White mafia families. Okay? The richest person in Haiti does not look like Haitians. The second richest person in Haiti does not look like Haitians. The third, the fourth, the fifth... I mean, you know, I know there are other countries in the Caribbean where that reality can also be observed, but you have to understand Haiti gained its independence [00:37:00] from White supremacy, and there was a law instituted as soon as the revolution was successful to say that no White man shall set foot on this territory as owner. Okay? So that means that something must have happened after the revolution to make it so that the richest people on the island are all White. 

MAXIMILLIAN ALVAREZ - HOST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Well, let's talk about that. 'Cause this is, like you said, even the sort of shadow-puppet decision-makingng body that is controlling Haiti now, comprised of White people, like—and it's an international sort of cohort that's determining what this country and its future and its people is going to be—that is not an exception. That is, like, basically the struggle that Haitians have been engaged in since the very beginning, right? Since the slave revolt for freedom in Haiti, for which the White Western world has never forgiven Haiti. And it's shown [00:38:00] even from the time that the revolution was won and immediately Haiti was slapped with trade embargoes from the United States. It was paying just, you know, for over half a century, all of its wealth back to France for the crime of claiming independence. It was occupied by the United States less than a century ago. Like you said, you cannot understand the crisis you're watching now, the poverty, the violence, any of that, that you're watching now, only looking at like the sort of local context and trying to piece something together. You cannot tell this story without like telling the other side of the story about how Haiti has been pillaged and punished since it's beginning.

On Cuba and Haiti The Fight for Liberation & Self-Determination in the Caribbean Part 2 - Revolutionary Left Radio - Air Date 4-4-24

BREHT O'SHEA - HOST, REVOLUTIONARY LEFT RADIO: Now, the next thing. I want to move on and do a little bit of a topic shift here. The Black Alliance for Peace and other partner organizations have launched what is called the Zone of Peace Campaign.

Can you tell us what that is, what its core demands are and what its objectives are? 

ERICA CAINES: Yes, I can. This January 29th makes 10 [00:39:00] years since the heads of states and governments of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states, which is CILAC met in Havana, Cuba and declared Latin America and the Caribbean— that they should be seen and respected as a Zone of Peace.

But again, that's been 10 years and this declaration from government representatives has not translated into a people(s)-centered movement across the region. So on April 4th of 2023 BAP alongside key partner organizations launched a Zone of Peace campaign in Port au Prince, Haiti, Washington, DC, and Havana, Cuba.

 This was an effort to activate the popular movement element of this state-centered declaration by reinvigorating the declaration and building support across the region. We are committed to building an international Zone of Peace in our Americas [00:40:00] informed by the Black radical peace tradition, which is an understanding that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the achievement rather by popular struggle and self defense of a world liberated from nuclear armaments and proliferation, unjust war, and global white supremacy.

So as part of this, we understand the extent of US imperialism in the Americas and work to join our peoples in the organizations in a coordinated anti-militarist, anti-imperialist struggle and push for people(s)-centered human rights. And what PCHR is—it's a way to help guide how we can maneuver through the rhetorical hypocrisy of the West's use of human rights because it's a politic of being whole.

So this framework is an approach that views human rights as an area, or an arena, rather, of struggle that, when grounded and informed by the needs and aspirations of the oppressed, [00:41:00] becomes part of the unified, comprehensive strategy for decolonization and radical change. And it distinguishes itself from the erroneous and prevalent use of the West's human rights by requiring an epistemological break with a human rights orthodoxy grounded in Eurocentric liberalism. It's a reconceptualization of human rights from the standpoint of oppressed peoples—a restructuring of prevalent social relationships that perpetuate oppression and the acquiring of power on the part of the oppressed to bring about that restructuring.

So, again, BAP is leading this effort to revive the civil society element of the state-centered declaration by popularizing the declaration and building popular support across the region. And the objective, of course, is to build a people(s)-centered campaign that coordinates anti-imperialist, anti-war and pro peace organizations, political parties, [00:42:00] labor and social justice organizations, as well as movements across the region to move our America towards building alternative institutions and centers of power. We also want to strengthen America's wide consciousness among the peoples of the region, which includes making sure that people within the US, Africans in particular—especially in the southern region—understand ourselves as part and parcel of the Americas. Establishing a people(s)-centered Americas-wide coordinating structures that will facilitate the successful expulsion of the US/ EU/ NATO acts as a domination from our region. This includes Operation Trade Winds, which is military combatant activities that occur across the Caribbean.

Training that is partnered with NATO nations like France, like the Netherlands, like Canada. Most recently they just held one in Guyana, [00:43:00] I believe. Also the Global Fragilities Act and, you know, other soft power institutions like NED and the USAID which, is very busy in areas like Cuba, Nicaragua, et cetera.

And then some of the initial core demands are to dismantle SOUTHCOM and the US/ NATO military exercises, disband US sponsored state terrorist training facilities like the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. And for those who don't know, that's formerly the School of the Americas.

And a lot of what we do in this campaign is likening that to cop city and the training facility —a cop city—and the type of training that will be occurring is very similar to how we understand the School of the Americas. Also opposing military intervention in Haiti and the return of Guantanamo to Cuba.

Those are just a few of the initial [00:44:00] demands that we have for the Zone of Peace. Most recently, there was a strategic meeting held in Colombia to discuss how we move this forward. This was done with a plethora of grassroots organizations across the Americas in nations like Nicaragua, in nations like Brazil, the US, obviously, we had Guyana represented. So a lot of what we did there as well was leave with a declaration in support of Haiti and in support of self- sovereignty and self-determination and reasserting an emphasis on the call of the Zone of Peace from the CILAC community. 

Haiti's real crisis isn't gangs—it's foreign occupation w Jafrik Ayiti Part 2 - The Real News Network - Air Date 4-1-24

JAFRIK AYITI: Yeah, and there's a statement that I'm going to share with you that came from a meeting that a set of Haitians from many different cities organized the other day, which essentially summarizes [00:45:00] what we are looking for. And so essentially, this is a group that is organizing demonstrations in the coming months and this would be global days of solidarity with Haiti. They're planning three, coming up at the end of March, April, and May. And they say, "We declare the Haitian people’s sovereign right on their territory is absolute and sacred. Foreigners who violate this right are enemies of the nation. Haitians who help the enemy to violate Haitian sovereign are traitors who will be punished as our ancestors and the laws of our country comment". 

And to support this declaration, I added three bullet points: a) the Core Group, which is the ambassadors of foreign countries, is declared persona non grata. Kenyan, Senegalese, CARICOM, Spanish, and other mercenaries [00:46:00] better remain in their own territories. Michel Martelly, Michel Martelly, Gilbert Bigio, Reynold Deeb, Johnson André or Izo, Dimitri Herard, Jimmy Chérizier Barbecue, Vitel’Homme Innocent, André Apaid, Guy Philippe, all criminals who broke prison walls and spilled the blood of innocent people must get arrested or be punished. The only transitional government we will recognize is the one that comes from Haitian leaders who do not have the blood of the people on their hands. So, this is to support the first declaration. 

The second declaration states: "To defend the life of honest Haitians, we will fight against all wickedness until we disarm all criminals, foreigners and Haitians alike, and rebuild the legitimate defense forces of our nation". To support this declaration, we have decreed ongoing [00:47:00] mobilization to rebuild all legal forces, police, and army established to guarantee safety for everyone on our homeland as required without discrimination; b) abolish all private militias that currently protect and serve criminal oligarchs, White imperialist forces, and their accomplices; c) we seek due application of international law to force the United States and the Dominican Republic to stop invading Haiti with deadly weapons while these countries are harboring major criminals who have Haitian blood on their hands in their territory, in particular, Gilbert Bigio and Michel Martelly. 

And three, the third declaration: "We declare relentless mobilization to expose and counter all malicious forces which gangsterized Haiti with the PHTK [00:48:00] militias". To support this declaration, we demand restitution and reparations from the government of Core Group member countries, the United Nations, the OAS, for multiple crimes they've committed against the Haitian people in history, as well as in the present era; b) we open our arms to receive and offer solidarity to all struggling peoples, such as those of Cuba, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Palestine, Venezuela, who are facing the malicious actions of the same clan of colonizers, land thieves, who form the Core Group. Stand for Haiti; judge Bill Clinton; justice, dignity, reparations for Haiti. 

So, this is the statement, and in the document that will be on the web, people [00:49:00] will be able to click on the names of the people that we've identified in this document to find out what is the charge against these individuals. 

BONUS On Cuba and Haiti The Fight for Liberation & Self-Determination in the Caribbean Part 3 - Revolutionary Left Radio - Air Date 4-4-24

BREHT O'SHEA - HOST, REVOLUTIONARY LEFT RADIO: Wonderful. Zooming out a little bit, I'm just interested in your experiences in Cuba, just being there on the ground. Obviously you're engaging with a lot of Cuban people and a lot of other organizations, but just the country as a whole, the state of the country, what were your experiences like in Cuba and what stands out to you about your time there?

MUSA SPRINGER: I love this question because even though we were at a conference, we were certainly not divorced from the larger island around us and the people. And myself, I've traveled to Cuba many times, often with small group delegations. Onye has traveled many times with the Venceremos Brigade.

Erica a few times with me as well. And I can say without any reservations that the blockade is the worst that I have personally ever seen it. Things [00:50:00] like food shortages, oil and gas shortages are hitting the island really, really, really severely. You know, when we were walking around, we would pass lines for the gas station and the cars would be piled up for maybe three or four blocks.

I spoke with somebody who said they had waited, they literally had parked their car there for two nights and they would just leave their car and walk home and then come back the next morning and it hadn't moved at all. And so the situation is dire. Something that stands out however, is despite the humongous difficulties proposed by the blockade the Communist Party and the organizers of this conference were able to fully accommodate us—we re able to pull off a conference that featured, I think it was like 37 different countries, two or three hundred people. And it really, it took an immense example of people's power of organization [00:51:00] and of discipline as well.

And so from, from myself as an organizer in the US, that was definitely something that I noticed and learned was how they even were able to put an event like that together. Second, we had a bit of a delegation within the delegation, where in some of our free time, I was able to help organize encuentros between Onye, Erica, myself, another comrade, and my comrades in the Red Barrial Afrodescendiente.

We were able to distribute several suitcases full of donations to them, as well as just have robust groundings where we talked with them about what grassroots organizing looks like in Cuba currently, how they're sustaining and surviving. And we got to build really strong connections there as well.

 Then additionally, I'll just say we got to see friends and loved ones in Cuba and have a good time, too, and it's a testament to the Cuban spirit. [00:52:00] I mean, they had every right in the world to see some people from the U S on the streets and be mad at us because it's the US in our name, that's causing these conditions. Instead they showed us love and solidarity and brought us in to say, "This is how you can support our struggle."

That was the overall sentiment at the entire conference the whole time we were there as well. 

BONUS Cannibals, US INVASION Imminent Haiti Myths Dispelled (w Dan Cohen) - Bad Faith Podcast - Air Date 4-1-24

BRIAHNA JOY GRAY - HOST, BAD FAITH: Okay. This is fascinating. Let's get to Jimmy Chérizier. Jimmy "Barbecue" Chérizier was all over the headlines. This alleged cannibal leader of Haiti that played into every kind of stereotype. You'd want to know about who Haitians are and what kind of people are behind the various kinds of dysfunction that have played the island.

Who is Jimmy Chérizier, and what do you make of this allegation that he is called "Barbecue" because he, in fact, eats his victims? 

DAN COHEN: Jimmy Chérizier, aka "Barbecue," [00:53:00] is a former cop. He's a guy from, basically, the gutter who worked his way up through the Haitian National Police to be a highly respected officer in an anti-gang unit called UDMO.

He really believed in his job and he's also kind of a social leader in his neighborhood. Long story short, he was—basically, he was burned by the system. Essentially, what happened is the US wanted to destabilize the government of Jovenel Moïse because he started trying to assert himself and Jovenel Moïse also started to look—like I said—outside of the unipolar US order. He went to Turkey, he started talking to the Russians, you know, doing things that a good president of Haiti—a good puppet—should not do. And it's time for him to go. They basically invented a massacre, and they took an incident that was basically an anti-gang operation that [00:54:00] Jimmy Chérizier led and called it a massacre.

 This was basically a disinformation campaign done by the leading so-called human rights group. It's called the RNDDH, which is very infamous in Haiti. Basically, this hit job by this human rights group led to Jimmy Chérizier getting fired and that radicalized him.

 He basically said, this whole system is garbage. What I have to do is unite the different armed groups, the different poor neighborhoods, and we need to have a revolution against the people who are keeping this country down. Then there started to be all kinds of smears and disinformation against him.

One of them being, "his name is because he likes to burn his victims." And that's like what you'll see in Vice, for example. Vice has actually really led the way with all this disinformation on Haiti and Chérizier and they take [00:55:00] this whole NED-funded human rights group very, very seriously.

 So the reality of his nickname is that, when he was a poor kid in the street, there were a whole bunch of other "Jimmies". His mother sold grilled meats on the street, and so he got to be called "Jimmy Barbecue." And if you go into his neighborhoods— like Lower Delma where that's his area—people say "Barbecue" with love. You know? It goes from this kind of like sinister name, "Barbecue!" to where it's a cute name, and they, like, love him and they call him "Ba Bey "and it sounds very much the opposite. 

Final comments on the dangers of unrepresentative, unresponsive government

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Revolutionary Left Radio looking at the impact of the US embargo against Cuba. Deconstructed, in two-parts, dove into some of the details of the embargo followed by proposed reforms that may help Cuba. Democracy Now! looked at the historical context of Haiti that helps explain the paramilitary action happening now. The Majority Report explained to the US involvement [00:56:00] in sending military aid from Kenya to Haiti. The Real News laid out the legacy of the Ottawa initiative and the history of wealth inequality in Haiti. Rev Left Radio discussed the Zone of Peace Campaign, and The Real News shared the "Haiti Statement on Self-determination". 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Revolutionary Left Radio sharing more experiences from the blockade in Cuba. And Bad Faith described the background of the paramilitary leader in Haiti. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up, I just want to point out that talk of civil and political unrest in poor nations is often received by Americans, I think, with a sense of sort of pity and maybe gratitude that we're not in [00:57:00] danger of such scenarios ourselves. And it's still true that the US and Haiti are on opposite ends of the power and wealth spectrum. But there's really no cause to be overconfident right now. There's been a steady drum beat in the last few years from the far right calling for a civil war and renewed calls from the pretty much regular right for some states to start seceding from the nation again. 

After January 6th, the idea of political violence in the US in the modern era can not be considered merely hypothetical anymore. But the most dangerous underlying factor has been with us for a long time and has been getting significantly worse in the past 15 years: out of control wealth inequality, coupled with campaign finance that has basically legalized corruption to its core. In an effectively failed state like Haiti, corruption looks a lot more like you think it does, with the wealthy kleptocrats pocketing aid money to fund their [00:58:00] European villas and the like. The result is an impoverished country with a governing structure that doesn't represent the will or interest of the people. 

In the US, corruption is legalized through campaign finance. So oligarchs receive their money through legitimate businesses, but then use their wealth to control the government, to minimize needed taxation and regulation to make their businesses as wildly profitable as possible. The result in the US is on a different scale than Haiti, but the unresponsiveness to the public is similar and has been shown in studies that track the greater likelihood of legislation passing if it's supported by the rich, rather than if it's supported by simply a majority of the population. And although we still can't be considered a poor nation, we certainly allow people to remain impoverished and we spend huge amounts of money on things that do not help our own people, while allowing millions to, for instance, go bankrupt from healthcare costs. [00:59:00] 

This disconnect between government and governed is the same basic mechanism that spurs most uprisings that seek to violently overthrow an existing power structure. The pattern can be seen in our own founding revolution through to Haiti's current paramilitary violence. The violence endemic to unstable countries shouldn't be focused on as pitiable, but rather as a warning: this is what can happen when the political structure is allowed to be seen as illegitimate by the population, whether because it was installed by a coup or propped up by a foreign powers, as in Haiti, or because the Supreme Court has legalized political corruption on a level never before seen in the US. 

Remember, before Donald Trump was riding a wave of authoritarian, xenophobic support, one of his primary arguments in the 2016 election was the corruption of all of the other candidates and his supposed incorruptibility, thanks to his extreme [01:00:00] wealth. It was an argument that was both laughable because it was coming from Trump, but it was also based in a widespread, deeply held, extremely legitimate belief that money in politics has corrupted the fundamentals of our democracy and some major change is needed. 

Now, for some who voted for Trump, they may have thought that he was the answer. I certainly never thought that, but I agreed with this sort of desperation for a major change. So, when I think of the current threat of political violence from right-wing fever dreams of a new civil war and the dangerous facing our election system from conspiracy theorists who consider any electoral loss to be illegitimate, I recognize that those issues are extremely urgent and need to be addressed first, but I really don't want to lose sight of the underlying causes that have brought us to this point. And when I think of the breakdown of political functionality anywhere—Haiti, Cuba, or elsewhere—I think: There, but for the [01:01:00] perpetually-sustained efforts to maintain a functioning democracy, go us. 

That is going to be at for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to all those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, [01:02:00] and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast, coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from bestoftheleft.com

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#1623 Burning American Credibility on Support for Israel's Genocidal War in Gaza (Transcript)

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Air Date 4/20/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast in which we realize that old habits die hard and the American establishment's unquestioning support for Israel is a very old habit indeed. As Israel's government drifted farther and farther to the right, culminating in a genocidal push into Gaza, President Biden, standard bearer of the old establishment, seems destined to be the very last Democrat to see the need for a change. Sources today include The Daily Show, Al Jazeera English, The Humanist Report, Democracy Now!, Deconstructed, and The Majority Report, with additional members only clips from Doomed and Democracy Now!

Jon Stewart Interrogates America's Support of Israel & 2024 Solar Eclipse Mania - The Daily Show - Air Date 4-8-24

JON STEWART: The war in Gaza is now six months old. I think time for a wellness check. But as the war has grinded on, justice is beginning to seem more like cruelty. But not to worry! America, the shining city on a hill, is on the case with our universal values.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: In the great battle for freedom between a rules-based order and one [00:01:00] governed by brute force, in this battle we need to be clear eyed. 

JON STEWART: And just to clarify, we are the freedom folks. We're the rules people. We're not the brute force ones. I think we all know who the brute force ones are. In this case, Vladimir.

And know that America will call you out when you violate the basic tenets of humanity. 

ANTONY BLINKEN: Weaponizing food, using it as a tool, as a weapon in its war against Ukraine, it's unconscionable, Uh, should not happen. 

JON STEWART: It's unconscionable. Weaponizing food in Ukraine is not kosher, nor halal.

Sorry if I'm both sides-ing this. Speaking of which, there is a literal famine in Gaza caused by the war. I assume America will also consider this unconscionable.

JOHN KIRBY: Absolutely, we're concerned about that, no question about it. 

JON STEWART: Well, you can't spell "unconscionable" without "concern," [00:02:00] or at least part of it, the C-O-N part. You can reuse the C-O--you get the point. How about the free press? Ordinarily, we are strongly in favor of free press. 

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: We also condemn the Russian government's continued targeting and repression of journalists. 

JON STEWART: You hear that, Russia? We condemn! In no uncertain terms, any repression of a free press.

Uh, I think you all know what's coming next. More journalists have been killed in Gaza in six months than anywhere else in the world. And a new Israeli law says they can ban media outlets they consider a threat. 

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: So as it relates to Al Jazeera specifically, we've seen the reports. If it is true, if it is true, a move like this is concerning.

JON STEWART: Doh, we're concerned again. 

How about: if it's true, we condemn it. And by the way, is it true? Like, it feels like you could probably just call someone and be like, Is this true? And if they're like, Yeah, it's true, you could be like, That's [00:03:00] concerning. Not condemning, but concerning. Well, you know what, perhaps these are just peripheral issues.

What about the bedrock rule of international law? No taking land by force. When Russia does it, we're pretty clear. 

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The entire world has a stake in making sure that no nation, no aggressor, is allowed to take a neighbor's territory by force. The American people will never waver in our commitment to those values.

JON STEWART: Eh. Ish. See, this is where Israel's actions get interesting. Because you might say Israel's war is different than Ukraine's. Israel's responding to an attack and a hostage crisis. But in the midst of that, they pulled a little something in the West Bank on March 22nd that might be notable. 

CNN CLIP: As the U. S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his latest visit to Israel, the Israeli government announced that it was declaring [00:04:00] state land, nearly 2, 000 acres of land, in the occupied West Bank. 

This latest Israeli appropriation is the largest land transfer since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. 

JON STEWART: 1993?! And that's not even Gaza, that's the West Bank!

So you can't say it has anything to do with defending yourself against Hamas! Let's see if America upholds its rule against taking land. 

ANTONY BLINKEN: I haven't seen the specifics of this, but anyone taking steps that makes things more difficult, more challenging this time, is something that, uh, we, uh, we have a problem with.

JON STEWART: You don't know about it, they did it the day you f*ing visited! Why do we tiptoe around on eggshells? They slap America in the face, and our response is, Well, if anyone slapped us in the face, it'd be concerning, that's for sure. I mean, raising a hand to a delicate body part of the face. If true....

The verbal gymnastics that the American government must undertake so as not [00:05:00] to offend the delicate sensibilities of a country we provide most of the weapons for is GAH!

Every time America tells the world that there's something we won't allow, Israel seems to say, Challenge accepted! Are they willfully trying to provoke us? Or perhaps they're just reading our principles from right to left. It's ups--over.... 

It's really, to be honest, it's kind of a bar mitzvah joke, but.... 

Over 30, 000 have died in Gaza since the war started. Some of them Hamas soldiers, 13,000 of them children. Our response:

JOHN KIRBY: Since the early hours, we've been urging our Israeli counterparts to act with as much precision as they can in their targeting. Our constant efforts to urge the Israelis to be as precise and careful as possible. We can still continue to urge Israel to be more careful and more precise. The need for [00:06:00] the Israeli defense forces to act with precision. We continue to work with the Israelis to make sure that they are as precise as they can be. 

JON STEWART: See, they're not listening. Have you tried synonyms for precision? 

JOHN KIRBY: We continue to stress to our Israeli counterparts that they be as discriminant and careful in their targeting as possible. Be as cautious and deliberate and as careful as they can. To be more careful and more deliberate. Be very deliberate. In the most discreet, deliberate, careful, cautious way possible. The utmost care. A special burden. To be mindful.

JON STEWART: What is this? F*ing hot yoga? We just, you know, we've seen the bombing and

we are urging Netanyahu to be present. What the f* are we doing here? The subtext of all this is, America knows this is wrong. But it [00:07:00] apparently doesn't seem to have the courage to say it in a straightforward manner. America and Israel both know that you cannot bomb your way into safety. We learned that lesson in Iraq and Afghanistan. They learned it in southern Lebanon. They laid siege there, occupied the southern area for 20 years. All it did was birth and strengthen Hezbollah. And they're about to do it all over again, and we are letting them. 

Real friends take the f*ing keys because friends don't let friends bomb that much. And after this recent week, with so much horror, perhaps America finally finds the need for a new approach with Israel, with more justice and less cruelty.

CNN CLIP: The U. S. and Israel are closing in on what would be their largest weapons deal since the war in Gaza began. 

JON STEWART: Well, I don't know about you, but if that's true, I find it concerning.

Biden’s 'double talk' on Gaza: Cynical election politics? | The Bottom Line - Al Jazeera English - Air Date 3-31-24

STEVE CLEMONS - HOST, THE BOTTOM LINE: So what's going [00:08:00] on with President Biden? Recently, there was a fundraiser in New York. That fundraiser had former president Obama, former president Clinton, Joe Biden there. They raised about $26 million for the Democrats. It was disrupted several times by pro-Palestine protesters. 

But during his talk there, he said Israel's very existence is at stake. And I pay a lot of attention to President Biden's comments. And it wasn't until a meeting with the King of Jordan here in Washington, D. C., King Abdullah, That Joe Biden ever talked at length about Palestinian victims. But here he's talking about Israel, a superpower, and wondering about its very existence. What are your thoughts? 

KENNETH ROTH: You know, it's hard to psychoanalyze Joe Biden. I mean, it's first noting that Israel's existence is not at stake. It's incredibly powerful. October 7th was traumatic because Israelis didn't think that Hamas had the capacity even to reach its border and clearly did enormous damage, but it was 1 days worth of damage. It never threatened the Israeli [00:09:00] state.

But I think with Biden, there are 2 things. One is personal: I think he very much identifies with Israel. He still thinks of Israel from the early days. This is where his age shows, when Israel was really David against the Goliath of the combined Arab nations. And that's just not the current situation of the superpower Israel that continues for decades to occupy Palestinian territory.

But I think there also has been a political calculation on Biden's part. He's always been focused on the movable middle, the handful of independents that will likely decide November's presidential election. And I think he took for granted his base, the progressive side of the Democratic Party, figuring they're not going to vote for Trump, I don't have to worry about them. I'm just going to focus on the movable middle. And what he clearly didn't count on--and I think the Michigan primary, the uncommitted vote there demonstrates this--is that some progressive Democrats are just so upset by Biden's greenlighting of Netanyahu's killing and starvation in Gaza that they may just abstain. They're not going to vote for Trump, [00:10:00] but they may just not vote, which is an effective vote for Trump. 

And so, Biden is beginning to focus on that more. I think that's why he allowed the UN Security Council resolution to pass earlier this week. But he then undercut himself and immediately his ambassador at the UN, the White House spokesperson said, oh, this is a non-binding resolution. Now, that's legally untrue, but the real point is political. He's signaling immediately to Netanyahu, don't worry about this. We had to do this for political reasons, but keep doing what you're doing. And that's utterly cynical. I think he hoped that his constituents, the progressives, wouldn't really notice this technicality about whether a Security Council resolution is binding or not, they would just focus on the resolution. But people are not that stupid.

They see that this is just virtue signaling, but in fact, the reality is Biden is still greenlighting and, worse, really aiding and abetting these war crimes by continuing to provide the military [00:11:00] aid and the arms sales. 

STEVE CLEMONS - HOST, THE BOTTOM LINE: In one sense, the question I have is whether or not America will have standing in the future to weigh in on human rights, to weigh in on values, to look at China and Xinjiang, look at various abuses in it, or is it in its apparent complicity with some of the arrangements now in this Israel conflict in Gaza, has it lost standing to be a human rights commentator versus other nations in the future? 

KENNETH ROTH: Well, I think, frankly, even before October 7th, Biden's human rights policy was just filled with exceptions. And that is because even though, early in his term, he said I'm going to be guided by human rights and democratic principles, in fact, for the last year, year and a half or more, he's been focused foremost on building global coalitions against China and Russia. And in that process, he's been willing to just close his eyes to terrible atrocities, so he embraces the Saudi crown prince, [00:12:00] even though he's utterly ruthless at home. He embraces Egypt President Sisi, even though he's presiding over the most repressive state in Egypt's modern history. He embraces Modi, even though he's shutting down democracy in India. 

And so, we've already seen elements of this. Now, I think that, if you take a Kissingerian realist approach, one possible way to get through to Biden is that if he continues--which I think he does--to care about the competition with China and Russia, he continues to care about Ukraine, he is hurting himself by this unequivocal embrace of Israel as it pummels Gaza. Because governments of the global South that he needs for things like United Nations votes or to enforce sanctions, they're saying, I want nothing to do with this. And if this has nothing to do with values, nothing to do with principles, and it's just a geopolitical competition, I'm going to sit this one out. Why is it so important to defend Ukraine, if [00:13:00] the principles that are at stake there, you're just jettisoning them when it comes to Gaza? 

And so I think that there is a realist argument for why these values matter, because the nations of the world are not dumb. They see through this hypocrisy. And the lack of any principle, any even adherence to the so-called "rule-based order" when it comes to Israel, is going to harm US credibility on other things that Washington cares about. 

STEVE CLEMONS - HOST, THE BOTTOM LINE: Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, recently told the U. N. Human Rights Council that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Israel is committing genocide with intent. Very, very powerful statement from her. And there was a remarkable statement from the State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller. Let's listen to it. 

MATTHEW MILLER: We have long for longstanding, for a longstanding period of time opposed the mandate of this Special Rapporteur, which we believe is not productive. And when it comes to the [00:14:00] individual who holds that position, I can't help but note a history of antisemitic comments that she has made. But with respect to the report itself, we have made clear that we believe that allegations of genocide are unfounded, but at the same time, we are deeply concerned by the number of civilian casualties in Gaza. And that's why we have pressed the government of Israel on multiple occasions to do everything it can to minimize those civilian casualties. 

STEVE CLEMONS - HOST, THE BOTTOM LINE: Kenneth, I would love to hear your reactions to Matthew Miller's statement and your view in this kind of tension over classifying what we're seeing unfold on our TV screens as genocide or not.

KENNETH ROTH: Well, I think this is classic Biden administration double talk. On the one hand, they say, oh, we're concerned about civilian casualties. On the other hand, they try to undercut any serious pressure on Israel to stop. And the Special Rapporteur statement is just the latest example of this. 

Now there's a big debate about, is this genocide or not? I should say, first, that I think this is a bit of a sideshow because, while [00:15:00] genocide is a horrible concept, it's a terrible crime, many people think of it as the worst crime, but war crimes are horrible. Crimes against humanity are horrible. And there, it's pretty clear those are taking place.

Jon Stewart & Bassem Youssef Call Out “Performative” Outrage Over Israel’s War Crimes - The Humanist Report - Air Date 4-12-24

MIKE FIGERADO - HOST, THE HUMANIST REPORT: The question is, why even bother with the performative outrage that Bassem Youssef is talking about if the Biden administration doesn't actually believe what they say? And the answer is, This is an election year and the feigned concern is all an attempt to placate voters who are angry with the Biden administration's complicity in genocide.

Democrats think that window dressing and tonal shifts are sufficient when that's no longer the case. It worked before, but it's not gonna work anymore. And it's led to this disconnect between Democrats and their own base, where they don't understand why voters are still outraged over this issue since they've responded to their concerns by saying they're also concerned.

For example, let's go back to Nancy Pelosi and listen to her defense of Joe Biden. 

NANCY PELOSI: The president has been advocating for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. The Republicans in the House [00:16:00] of Representatives have held it up. And yet, to hear these people go out there and say, Oh, Genocide Joe, all that, not to repeat what they said, but nonetheless, he's the one who's been advocating for it.

MIKE FIGERADO - HOST, THE HUMANIST REPORT: That clip is so insightful because it demonstrates how Democrats just don't get it. It's not clicking for them, right? Voters want the genocide to end. You are not going to satisfy voters with your advocacy for certain things. So long as you are in a position of power, and you assist Israel with their genocide, your advocacy means shit.

We are past the days where you can dupe voters into thinking that you're listening by saying the right thing. They want action, and the Democratic Party's unwillingness to change has jeopardized their chances of winning in November. For example, CNN actually spoke to a couple of first- and second-time voters who previously backed Biden in 2020, but now they're not gonna vote for Biden because he's not listening to them, and their demands are pretty clear.

VOTER 3: If I were to vote tomorrow, I [00:17:00] wouldn't vote, period. Ideally, I would like to vote third party. 

VOTER 4: I will vote for an independent candidate. 

I'm considering either voting for Claudia de la Cruz or Cornel West at this point. If there is no substantive policy change when it comes to the genocide in Gaza, then there's not really a discussion for me.

CNN REPORTER: When we met at this barbecue restaurant in Atlanta, all four told me they were raised and originally registered as Democrats. But this year, the president's handling of the Israel Gaza war has turned them away. 

VOTER 3: I think what Biden has done in aiding and abetting a genocide is just something I cannot stand for.

CNN REPORTER: You're willing to withhold your vote in the presidential election unless there is a ceasefire?

VOTER 3: Yes. 

CNN REPORTER: And it's implemented. 

VOTER 3: Yes. 

CNN REPORTER: Not voting could mean Donald Trump gets into office. Do you think he'll be better on Gaza? 

VOTER 3: Trump would probably say flatten Gaza and make it into a golf course. I have absolutely no faith in him.

CNN REPORTER: Would you not say that also the people who are not [00:18:00] voting for one of the two people who are the likely people to really be in this race have a role to play in giving the race to Donald Trump in a state like Georgia where it's going to be, like, razor thin?

VOTER 4: Yeah, no, I'll do you one better actually. I think that just means that's why the Democrats should listen. We are holding their election in the palm of our hands and they're not listening. 

VOTER 3: We're tired of just hearing him say these things, these empty promises. We have no trust in Joe Biden. 

CNN REPORTER: What could President Biden do to change your mind as far as how you'll vote in November?

VOTER 3: Call for a permanent ceasefire and actually implement it. 

VOTER 2: I would like us to stop giving aid to Israel. 

VOTER 1: If he doesn't get elected, that is his fault. That's not our fault. That's not the black voters here. That's not X, Y, and Z. No, it's not. It's on him. 

MIKE FIGERADO - HOST, THE HUMANIST REPORT: Exactly. You are not going to bullshit these voters.

They're telling you what they want and you're not doing it. You're not listening to them. And Democrats just can't comprehend how their flowery rhetoric isn't sufficient any [00:19:00] longer. They're like, we've said what you wanted us to say, why aren't you taking yes for an answer? It's because they're demanding actual policy concessions. They don't want more feigned concern or calls for Israel to do X, Y, or Z. They want the bloodshed to stop. 

These voters are tapped in, and they know bullshit when they see it. And Biden has the power to end this by cutting off weapons to Israel. That's what these voters want. And they know that Biden can do that, but he's choosing to allow this to continue.

Again, this is what former presidents have done. Ronald Reagan called up a former Israeli Prime Minister and demanded that they end their actions in Lebanon, and they did it 20 minutes later. Why? Because he threatened to cut off munitions to them. Biden can do what Reagan did, but he's chosen to not do that.

He's continuing to sell them weapons, and that's just not acceptable. Anything short of stopping the sale of weapons to Israel and being complicit directly with their genocide, that is going [00:20:00] to lose him votes. They're not going to vote for Trump, as they stated. They're either going to stay home, or vote third party. 

And even though that is a small sample size that we saw in that clip, these voters are echoing what others have already said: stop supporting genocide, or you lose our votes. 

It's not like the Democrats haven't gotten the message because they're being protested at every fucking event. But again, the problem is that they're choosing to not listen, and they think that the rhetoric is enough, when it's not.

“Empty Words”: Kenneth Roth on Biden’s Criticism of Israel While U.S. Keeps Weapons Flowing - Democracy Now! - Air Date 4-9-24

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Lawyers representing Germany at the International Court of Justice delivered their concluding remarks at The Hague today in a case brought by Nicaragua, which has accused Germany of facilitating the commission of genocide in Gaza by providing military and financial aid to Israel. Nicaragua has asked the U.N.'s top court for emergency measures ordering the German government to halt its support to Israel. Germany is Israel's second-largest arms supplier after the U.S. In [00:21:00] 2023, Germany approved arms exports to Israel valued at over $353 million, roughly 10 times the sum approved the previous year.

For more, we’re joined by Kenneth Roth, visiting professor at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, served for nearly 30 years as the executive director of Human Rights Watch. He’s joining us now in New York.

 Can you explain why Nicaragua is simply taking on Germany, and the significance of this case, another case being brought to the U.N.’s top court?

KENNETH ROTH: Obviously, the United States would have been the ideal target. The U.S. is the principal armer of the Israeli military, but the U.S. has a much more limited acceptance of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. It basically has to consent to every suit, and it was not going to consent to this suit. Germany has a much more open-ended acceptance of the jurisdiction, so Germany being the second-largest armer of the Israeli military, it was the target.

Now, in [00:22:00] terms of the significance, the court has already found that this is a plausible case of genocide, and Nicaragua is saying, “Germany, you are arming potential genocide.” They also have added that Germany is arming actual war crimes, violations of international humanitarian law, which it clearly is. 

Now, there is a precedent for this. If you remember back to Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, he was convicted of aiding and abetting war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, and is actually currently serving a 50-year prison term in Britain for that crime. So, the International Court of Justice is a civil court. It’s not a criminal court, but Nicaragua is basically pursuing the same theory, saying, “This is at least war crimes. It’s plausible genocide. You’re arming it. That’s aiding and abetting. You should stop.” That’s the essence of the case.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: I wanted to ask you, Kenneth — there were 40 Democratic members of Congress, [00:23:00] including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who have written to President Biden, urging him to halt new arms transfers to Israel in the wake of the killing of the World Central Kitchen aid workers. What’s your sense of the prospects for possibly halting or at least significantly reducing U.S. arms shipments to Israel?

KENNETH ROTH: Well, you Juan, that has been the line that Joe Biden has been unwilling to cross. He has spoken, at this point quite eloquently, pushing Israel to stop bombing civilians, to allow more food and humanitarian aid into Gaza, but these, from Netanyahu’s perspective, are just empty words, because Joe Biden never backs them up with consequences. And the obvious consequence, the obvious huge leverage that the U.S. government has, is the $3.8 billion in annual military aid it gives Israel and the regular shipment of arms almost every week in [00:24:00] the course of this conflict. And Biden has not been willing to explicitly condition that aid, those arms sales, on ending the bombing and starving of Palestinian civilians.

Now, we heard last week that in the private phone call with Netanyahu, Biden suggested that at some point in the future this might be conditioned, that U.S. relations will depend on how Israel responds. But it was all very vague. And, of course, Netanyahu responded with equal vagueness. He says, “OK, at some point I’ll open up the new crossing into northern Gaza to allow more food aid in, but that will take a few weeks, and I’m not saying anything about whether I’ll impose the same kind of obstructions in the north as I’ve imposed in the south. And I won’t say anything about Israel’s shooting at Palestinian police officers so that there’s chaos when you try to distribute the food. None of that is on the table.”

So, in essence, Biden is not using this huge leverage, despite the pleas of an increasing number [00:25:00] of lawmakers in Washington, despite rapidly changing U.S. opinion polls saying Americans are tired of the U.S. actively supporting these war crimes, this plausible genocide in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Why is he doing this? It is amazing to see the split in the Democratic establishment. I’m not just talking about the protesters on the streets, who definitely are driving this split. But you have now Senator Warren of Massachusetts saying she believes Israel’s assault on Gaza meets the legal definition of genocide. You have Christopher Coons, who I consider a Biden whisperer, who is now talking about halting weapons sales to Israel. But you have Biden resisting, though he has talked about a ceasefire. Why is this so difficult for him? What do you think it would take, especially now that you have Netanyahu saying that he’s set the date certain for an invasion of Rafah?

KENNETH ROTH: He just won’t tell us what that date is, yes. Amy, that’s the big psychoanalytic question, and we just [00:26:00] don’t know. I mean, part of it, I think, is that Joe Biden, who is an older man, as we know, thinks of Israel back in 1967, when it was the David surrounded by the Goliath of all the Arab states attacking Israel. He doesn’t think of Israel today, the regional superpower, a nuclear-armed state, a state that has been occupying Palestinian territory for decades and is imposing apartheid. That’s just not in his mind.

More to the point, he seems to be making a political calculation. And he’s always been focused on the movable middle, the handful of independent voters who could go either way in the six swing states. And what he seems to be discounting is the progressives. And clearly, the Michigan primary was a bit of a wake-up call, suddenly the large number of “uncommitted” votes in a swing state. And so, we’ve seen him being more attentive. But I think he still calculates that progressives have no place to go. They’re not going to vote for Trump, and abstaining is effectively a vote for Trump, so when push comes to shove in November, they’re going to have to hold their nose and vote for Biden. And that seems to [00:27:00] be what is pushing him at this stage.

No to Biden, No to Trump: Insights From Swing-State Voters - Deconstructed - Air Date 4-5-24

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: As I think about it—and tell me if you think I’m wrong here—I think about five threads running through this election, and I’m curious if that’s what you see showing up in your focus groups and in the polling.

Like, three issues: abortion, the genocide in Gaza, and immigration/the border. And then overlaid over all of that, you’ve got Biden’s age, and then you’ve got just Trump as a phenomenon, what people think of him, and just Trumpism and MAGA-ism. Is that right? 

I have spent so much time the last five months reporting on what’s going on Gaza. I wonder sometimes if I’m in something of a bubble of people who care about this ongoing genocide. Because I can’t tell, if I walk outside of it, how much it’s resonating with a [00:28:00] typical voter.

So, first of all, I’m curious: how much of an actually-caring-about-this-genocide bubble am I in? How much do you see it among the voting public?

ANAT SHENKER-OSORIO: It is a bit of a bubble. You’re right to ask that question, in terms of, for whom is this, not meaningful, I would say, but salient. By which I mean, not that people don’t feel that this is, to use the lightest possible term, distasteful, horrific, horrible, not OK, all those things, but, rather, whether or not it rises to the level of their daily thought patterns, their electoral calculus, etc. So, that’s what I mean by saliency. That is a bit of a bubble. You are sort of existing among outliers, if we’re just looking at statistics.

We even purposely did [00:29:00] focus groups in Dearborn, Michigan among young disaffected voters of color, because we wanted to go into where we thought the bubble would be most highly concentrated, because we wanted precisely to look at that. I mean, a focus group is an idiosyncratic thing, and it’s anecdotal, especially when I’m talking about that one single focus group. We were surprised to not get more of that coming at us initially, in terms of people volunteering that as being core to their calculus. Definitely aware of it, but there’s a difference between aware and core to the calculus.

I think the thing to say about the bubble that is really important is that we tend to forget—or political campaigns, to their peril, tend to forget—that it’s not just about how many people, it’s about which people this upsets. And why I say that is because the people that it upsets—and rightly so—are, in many places like [00:30:00] Michigan, an important part of the choir. They are, if you will, the lead tenor, lead alto, etc.

And so, if the people that you rely upon to knock on doors, to drive voters out, to speak about this, to get their friends and family to be paying attention to this election, and to be wanting to participate, even if it’s relatively few in numbers, it’s not just the how many, it’s the who, and that’s where it does matter as a political calculus, not to mention that it matters just as a moral question, which I would argue is more important.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Yes. And I want to underline that, that this is ultimately, first and foremost and lastly, a moral question, but here we’re talking about the election, and so, we’ll just have to muscle through the discomfort associated with talking about it in those terms.

But I think you’re right, in my experience, that the types of people who are going to go out and vote uncommitted or [00:31:00] uninstructed are also the types of people who, in their friend group, are the ones—and in their family—are the ones that people are going to for advice. Now, that might be more relevant on a congressional or senatorial level than on a presidential level, where everybody has their own opinion of Trump and Biden, but it does seem like those are your workers, those are your messengers. If the messengers aren’t just not unwilling to canvas, but actively hostile to you, that’s a significant problem.

This week, in Wisconsin, roughly 50,000 people voted uninstructed, with a very tiny budget for a campaign, one that’s not intuitive at all, yet still managed to get one-and-a-half times the margin between Biden and Trump in 2020; I think Biden won it by about 20,000 votes.

So, to see 50,000 Democrats voting uninstructed does seem concerning, but what is your sense of what the Democratic Party’s plan is for this? It [00:32:00] doesn’t seem like any policy change is on the horizon. And, absent that, I can’t imagine that there’s any— Messaging has its limits, I would imagine.

ANAT SHENKER-OSORIO: True story. Messaging does have its limits. You cannot solve a policy problem with a message.

So, I’m going to answer in two ways. The first is, what do I think from my own perch is their plan, and then, what do I think, as a messaging answer, as opposed to a policy answer, because I’m in full agreement. The answer is that the policy has to change. That’s the answer, period, the end.

I think that probably their calculus is that one of two or both things will happen. And, to be honest, I certainly hope for moral reasons that there is a leadership spill within Israel. It’s poised to happen. I don’t know how closely you observe politics happening there. I’m actually Israeli. There are growing demonstrations, over the last weekend there were the largest demonstrations, I [00:33:00] believe, to date. And it was a merging of a demonstration movement that’s been led by a group called Omdim Beyachad—Standing Together—which is co-led by Palestinians and Jews.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Oh, yeah. I saw the Standing Together duo when they came to D.C., actually. A really, really interesting organization.

ANAT SHENKER-OSORIO: Yeah. I am not objective, because they are friends. So.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Oh, actually, I noticed some of your rhetoric on their website, now that I think about it. Some of your messaging.

ANAT SHENKER-OSORIO: Oh. That’s very kind.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Yes, your kind of Anat approach to, they’re highlighting our differences so that they can enrich themselves and dominate.

ANAT SHENKER-OSORIO: Yeah. Basically ascribing motivation to the villains in order to explain how they use this divide and conquer strategy that’s actually bad for all of us. Yes. They’re great.

So, big protests, and a merging of ceasefire protests within Israel, with the hostage families very much in the lead, as they’ve always been, and rightly so. [00:34:00] And protest to demand that Netanyahu step down, or that there be a sort of reconfiguration of what we already know to be a very precarious coalition. I know this is hard for a lot of American listeners to understand, because we don’t have a parliamentary system and, so, if you’re not used to it, it sort of seems like gobbledygook, but there can be leadership change without an election within a parliamentary system. 

So, I think that part of the hope—and like I said, my very naked hope—is that Netanyahu begone, for reasons that I think would just be beneficial to humanity, not to the U.S. election. And that change, and a change in policy, because I think the person poised to lead a new coalition—I’m not saying he’s a shining star of humanity, but he is much, much better than Netanyahu, which is a low bar—that there will just be a change within Israel, and that of reflect, and it will help the situation, and so on. So, that is, perhaps, calculation number one.[00:35:00] 

I think calculation number two is something that you’ve already intuited, which is that November is a long way away. Most people are not paying attention to politics, and that is actually the bigger divide than even partisanship that I’ve spoken about before. It’s really a divide between people who are following all the machinations and the news and what’s going on, and people who are like, "huh, there’s an election in November?" And, believe it or not, there are many people who are, "huh, there’s an election in November." I know if you’re listening to this podcast, that sounds like I made that up, but trust, that’s most people.

So, I think that the calculation is probably that something will change internally with time in the region, and this just isn’t going to be what people are focused on. 

State Dept Official Resigns Over Gaza | Annelle Sheline - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air 4-6-24

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: When you're looking at United States diplomacy and standing in the world, what does this support for Israel do for [00:36:00] American credibility in the region, and internationally, just more broadly? And if you could compare that to the degradation of international standing that the United States saw happen to it in the wake of the Iraq war. What are your observations there about U. S. standing in the Middle East from a diplomatic perspective? 

ANNELLE SHELINE: I think you're very right to highlight the effects of the Iraq war and, you know, the illegal means that the U. S., that the Bush administration used to invade Iraq. I do think that this administration had tried to really reestablish some of, like I was saying, America's participation in international institutions. I think the many people, especially within the State Department, saw U. S. support for Ukraine as a means [00:37:00] to sort of re-establish American credibility, standing up for a democracy, you know, a civilian population undergoing an illegal invasion and assault, and, you know, I think the Ukraine/Gaza juxtaposition just really highlights the hypocrisy here. And I think that has been a, that was something that came up frequently with State Department colleagues that when Ukraine happened, they talked about how they were encouraged to support Ukraine, even if they weren't working on Ukraine, just, you know, wear a Ukraine flag pin or like, put up a poster or something, whereas with Gaza, the message people were getting was, This isn't your area. You don't work on this. You don't know what you're talking about. 

And, I think the American self-image was so ready to grab on to this support for Ukraine as a means of reestablishing [00:38:00] America's self-respect in kind of the aftermath of the war on terror. And I think that the ongoing support for Israel has just really reaffirmed the extent to which that self-image is false. And although I personally would really welcome if the U.S. government were to try to adopt policies that did affirm human rights and all of these ideas about American exceptionalism and standing up for the rule of law and the world, you know, the liberal international order. But in general, we don't see that happening, and I do think it has been a huge blow to American credibility. You know, it's made a mockery of the U. N., the U. N. Security Council. You know, the U.S. abstained on that vote, but then immediately came down and said it was a non-binding resolution. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Which is a lie because U. N. Security Council resolutions by definition are supposed to be binding. 

ANNELLE SHELINE: Exactly. This was a question I [00:39:00] asked. You know, the State Department has held open fora about Gaza, which I really welcome that they were, you know, inviting people to speak about this, many, many people were concerned and devastated, and continue to be. But this was a question I asked of a senior official, which was, it seems that this policy, this U.S. support for Israel, is being treated as more important than the question of China—which this administration likes to talk about—the question of Ukraine—which, again, big priority—Russia, climate change, human rights, participation in international institutions, a foreign policy for the middle class—whatever that's supposed to mean—just all of these priorities the administration campaigned on and claimed to be governing in the name of, or making decisions to support.

Why is the U.S.-Israel relationship seen as more important than all of these other questions, many of which are existential? You know, climate [00:40:00] change, a great power war with China, I mean, that would be, it could be nuclear annihilation. I mean, like, these are huge issues and yet the ongoing support for this far right wing government in Israel, for some reason, is seen as more important. And, you know, the official didn't have a good answer to that question. I still don't have a good answer. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Can you give us a sense of how unique the relationship is within, you know, diplomatic channels between the United States and Israel? Other relationships maybe within the purview of your office or your colleagues might be treated within the normal kind of day to day work of the State Department versus the very top down—and let's be clear, this is from Biden himself, this is clearly ideological for him, as he's a Zionist, and he has said so—um, how unique that is from [00:41:00] the other work of the State Department and how that kind of feels within the work in the State Department. 

ANNELLE SHELINE: Certainly. That's a good question. I think that, you know, so like with my office, which focuses, or my former office, focuses on human rights, it's very easy to criticize Iran or Syria, rightly. These are governments that engage in horrific human rights violations. But so does Saudi Arabia, and so does Israel. So does the UAE. And yet those countries are routinely not called out for their human rights violations. In terms of your question of the uniqueness of Israel, my previous work at Quincy focused primarily, a lot of it focused on the Saudi war on Yemen, and in particular things like the U. S. saying they were going to cut off offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia, which initially they sort of did. It remains the official policy. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: [00:42:00] We talked about this, actually, I'm remembering now, because offensive weapons were categorized in this very broad sense, uh, or offensive weapons was quite specific, and defensive could mean anything, basically.

ANNELLE SHELINE: Definitely, definitely. And, so just to highlight there, that even though the U.S.-Saudi relationship is extremely important in terms of the way it has been understood for decades, but Biden still was willing to take that step of cutting off offensive weapons as wobbly, although there was some wiggle room there, they still publicly took this step. And until the notorious fist bump with MBS, you know, initially Biden was maintaining a degree of distance from the Saudi throne, which was new. That is not what we've seen with Israel. [00:43:00] There have been no willingness to cut off weapons. Even when Netanyahu, you know, cancelled the visit to just come ask for more weapons, and now he's rescheduling the visit to talk about the impending invasion of Rafah, which is going to be, as I mentioned in the op ed, it's... I don't even, I can't even talk about it. And, you know, Biden isn't doing anything different. He's just continuing to support what this government is doing. I think what I'm also really concerned about is the war expanding, and, sorry... 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: It's okay, I've cried a million times on this show about this, so. It's good to have another soft hearted woman around to cry with me. 

ANNELLE SHELINE: Yeah, you [00:44:00] know, I really worry about the U. S. getting dragged into another war in the Middle East. I know many, you know, the majority of Americans, when you poll them, are really tired of sending young people to go die in the Middle East. And I think that this administration is not doing enough, or really much of anything, significant to insist to Israel that if Bibi invades Lebanon, the U. S. is not going to back him up. I think, in contrast, Bibi knows the U. S. would back him up if he did that, and that's why he's preparing to do so.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: The bombing of the Iranian embassy in Syria overnight, I mean, yesterday, that is also a major escalation that I'd imagine is extremely concerning to you. 

ANNELLE SHELINE: Absolutely. And it's because [00:45:00] Netanyahu's political interests are best served by keeping all the violence going as long as possible. I mean, I feel like there's been insufficient attention to the fact that the Israeli hostages are sort of held up as like, well, Hamas just has to get back the hostages, which they do, but Bibi's not interested in that because then he wouldn't be able to continue to justify all this violence. I mean, if that was actually his primary goal, that could have happened months ago, I mean that could have happened within the first few weeks. But that's not his goal. And I think, you know, the families of the hostages who are just desperate to get their family members back are not... you know, they're protesting. There have been huge protests in Israel against the fact that the government of Israel is prioritizing bombing and starving the people of Gaza and now likely expanding this war into, like, a regional, what could become a nuclear conflagration. [00:46:00] And, and yet criticism of Israel continues to be tarred as antisemitic when this government is not listening to their own people. It's so...it's just so... I don't understand why this continues to be the policy that the U. S. government just continues to support. There are all these questions about American credibility and other governments crossing red lines and, you know, like this is going to send a signal that China can invade Taiwan. You know, there's all this like analysis about how the U.S. has to stand firm on what it says it's committed to, what the red lines are. And yet, you know, Bibi keeps crossing all of these red lines. And, you know, where are all those people shouting about, you know, the U. S. has to maintain credibility on these issues? It's... 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: It's maddening. 

Rafah, Gaza, Palestine (w/ Mohamad Habehh of American Muslims for Palestine) - DOOMED with Matt Binder - Air Date 4-13-24

MOHAMAD HABEHH: Does our American citizenship stop mattering when we speak Arabic, when we have a [00:47:00] Palestinian identity? This is something that Palestinian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Muslim Americans are starting to see, that this administration does not care about us. Does not care about us. And when John Kirby goes out and he says things like, This is war. War has rules. War has rules. And the U.S. has rules for people who go to war with their money. Unfortunately, it seems that they forget those rules. They forget those rules when Israel decides to start bombing refugee camps, hospitals, mosques, and churches. 

MATT BINDER - HOST, DOOMED: Right. Right. I mean, you know, there are Palestinian-Americans who've been killed here in the U.S. and the reaction to that has just been so blasé from the administration as well. Just, like they don't seem to even care how they present [00:48:00] themselves, and how they put forth how they feel about Palestinian lives, spreads and foments among people who have terrible intentions and thoughts and go out and act upon them. It's been really, you know, I don't want to say stunning 'cause, you know, I guess at the end of the day, none of this is too surprising, being that Joe Biden is a 80-some-odd-year old White guy in the United States of America, who's basically been in politics his entire life and has, and honestly, the Joe Biden we're seeing now is probably the most left-leaning Joe Biden's ever been. I mean, this is a guy who was a very right wing Democrat, who's gone left on a number of positions, I don't want to say, he's not "left", but has moved left on many positions, but his support of Israel has been unwavering since day one. This is like the one... you know, there couldn't have been a worse [00:49:00] Democratic president for this to happen under. It's really amazing the unfortunate scenario how this played out. Like even... and again, these two are responsible for a lot of atrocities, but when it comes to this issue, they would have certainly been better than Biden because of what we've heard previously, their position on this have been, even Obama and Hillary Clinton would have been better on this issue than Joe Biden. Again, bar extremely low, but that's how low we are. Like, we're below that. 

MOHAMAD HABEHH: Yeah. It's interesting that you say that because there are a few articles that came out that talked about how in the Obama administration, Biden was shut out on all policy discussions regarding Israel. Even though he had a relationship with Bibi Netanyahu, he was shut out of a lot of conversations. A lot of people within the White House, within the Obama administration, would look at him and be like, Yeah, you're a little out of touch there, [00:50:00] buddy. Biden was not someone who was allowed to talk about Israel. And there have been numerous articles that have come out that talked about some of the stances he had that had people just staring at him in these meetings. 

MATT BINDER - HOST, DOOMED: He would undermine—and I've read some of those articles you're referring to—he would actually, with Israeli politicians, or when he was visiting with Netanyahu, he would actually undermine what the Obama administration position was. I remember there was some speech apparently where Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time, threw down a red line for Israel, told them not to do something or there'd be consequences, and Biden's there in Israel with Netanyahu assuring him, Eh, don't worry, they're just bluffing you. They're not going to do nothing. 

MOHAMAD HABEHH: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. He did that to Hillary. He did that to Hillary. And it's important to note that within the Obama administration, the relationship with Netanyahu soured. You know, Israel as a country, [00:51:00] as an apartheid state, as a state built on racism, built on subjugation, you know, they, uh, they're also racist. So, it wasn't surprising that they didn't really get along with Obama. And it led to this sort of split within politics where the Democrats started to not like Netanyahu because of the way he treated Obama. And it's still today, right now, you'll see even the Democrats who are coming out—and there were a few senators who came out today condemning aid to Israel, including Senator Welch and Senator Merkley—even they, in their statements, said this Netanyahu-led government, as if Netanyahu is the problem in Israel. But 'til now you see that that relationship has soured between the Democrats and Netanyahu over that relationship. And the fact that Biden not only undermined President Obama at the time, but at this moment is showing why he was cut out is [00:52:00] fascinating.

I do think, I agree, I think that Biden is the worst possible Democrat to be in charge. And there are rumors coming out of the White House that many people within the administration, his own staff, have come out and openly spoken against him, whether it's in the White House or in the State Department or the Department of Defense. There were rumors coming out of the Department of Defense that when they were like really worried about some of the stuff that the Israelis were pulling off and that they were trying to get away with. 

So, all across the board, everyone is against this. Everyone is against this. It doesn't take someone special to be against ethnic cleansing and genocide. But Biden is the one holding it up. Biden is the one holding it up. And why is that? Because he's told the Israelis he's not going to enforce anything against them. You know, they say we don't want you to go into Rafah until we see a real plan. Well, reporters start asking them, Well, what are you going to do if they go into Rafah? We were having [00:53:00] conversations with them about that. No teeth, nothing. They don't want to put anything in. And it's interesting, in September, August, of last year, there was an article that came out, that talked about how President Biden would be the last Democratic president who supports Israel, or is this close to Israel. And they're milking that for everything they can right now. 

Protesters Disrupt Record $25 Million Biden Fundraiser in NYC as Thousands March Against Gaza War - Democracy Now! - Air Date 3-29-24 

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Pro-Palestine protesters disrupted the largest one-night fundraiser in presidential campaign history here in New York yesterday. The star-studded event at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan featured President Biden alongside former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, raised a record $25 million for Biden’s reelection campaign. More than 5,000 people paid to attend, with tickets costing up to half a million dollars each. For $100,000, guests could get a picture with the three U.S. presidents taken by renowned photographer Annie [00:54:00] Leibovitz. Celebrities in attendance included Queen Latifah, Mindy Kaling, and Lizzo.

The main event was an onstage conversation with the three U.S. presidents moderated by late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert. But just 10 minutes into their conversation — Biden was talking — protesters began disrupting the event, calling on the president to stop arming Israel and to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We had no president on January the 6th. [inaudible] There was an insurrection.

PROTESTER 1: Shame on you, Joe Biden! Shame on you! Shame on you! You are supporting genocide in Palestine! And no amount of false concern that you do will change the billions that you are doing!

SECURITY GUARD: Out the door.

PROTESTER 1: You have blood on your hands! [00:55:00] Blood on your hands!

BILL CLINTON: They create the policies. But I do believe —

STEPHEN COLBERT: For people watching at home — 

BILL CLINTON: Do you want to say anything?

STEPHEN COLBERT: Excuse me. Excuse me, Mr. President.

PROTESTER 2: You are all complicit in genocide!

STEPHEN COLBERT: The people who are watching, who are watching at home on TV, may not be able to hear the protesters here, who — hold on a second here.

PROTESTER 2: You have killed 32,000 Palestinian people!

PROTESTER 3: How dare you talk about the innocent death of Palestinians! How dare you talk about the innocent death of Palestinians! Palestinians are dying right now because of your actions! Palestinians are dying right now because of your actions!

PROTESTER 4: Shame!

PROTESTER 3: Because of what you’re doing! Because of the things that you’re doing! Blood is on your hands!

PROTESTER 4: Shame! Shame! Stop brutalizing him!

PROTESTER 3: Blood is on your hands!

PROTESTER 4: Stop brutalizing him!

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: The protesters were all physically escorted outside. The event disruption was organized by a coalition including Adalah Justice Project, Palestinian Youth Movement, and Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Sunrise Movement.

Meanwhile, [00:56:00] outside the event, thousands took to the streets to protest President Biden’s support for Israel’s assault on Gaza. Protesters gathered at Bryant Park and marched up to Radio City Music Hall. Democracy Now! was there and spoke to some of the protesters about why they were there.

PROTESTERS: From the belly of the beast, hands off the Middle East!

PROTESTER 5: Currently we are working on the Leave It Blank New York campaign for the upcoming primary happening April 2nd, on Tuesday. We are asking people to leave it blank, because there is no “committed” or “uncommitted” option in New York City. So, we, rather, tell them to scan their ballot as is, and that will then count as “uncommitted,” to show Genocide Joe that we are not going to stand while we watch our brothers and sisters being genocided.

JENNA: My name is Jenna. I am a first-generation American Palestinian. And we have had enough. My family has voted Democrat for as long as we’ve lived in the U.S. It’s heartbreaking. [00:57:00] We feel guilty, and we feel awful. I feel like I voted for my own people’s genocide. And I’m done letting Democrats get away with it just because we’re scared of the alternative.

KARINA GARCIA: My name is Karina Garcia. I’m running for vice president of the United States with my comrade Claudia De la Cruz. And we’re running with the Party for Socialism and Liberation. And we’re here today, as we’ve been through all of these protests for Palestine, because we understand that our government is orchestrating this genocide, that without their support, without their financing, Israel could not be doing what they’re doing to the Palestinian people. And it’s important for us to come together and not allow these war criminals, like Biden or Clinton or Obama, to just use these moments to be in New York City to raise money. The people are waking up, and they’re seeing that the Democratic Party is where hope goes to die, and that the people have to build a new government for the working class, for the people of this country, that we cannot allow them to drag us [00:58:00] into the 1800s, drag us into a nuclear war.

PROTESTER 6: You know, the fact that we had access to watching a genocide in real time and we were able to see for ourselves that these people are liars, that everything that they have told us about Palestine and about the Middle East has been a lie, means that we are able to make — and also we’re able to make the connections — young people are able to make the connections between what’s happening in Palestine, what’s happening to migrants in the U.S., what’s happening to queer and trans people in the U.S. And we are saying, “Free Palestine. People over profit. And an end to U.S. imperialism everywhere.”

PROTESTER 7: Anybody who sees this, no matter where you come from, no matter who you are, you have to take part in this. You cannot be silent. Everyone must become involved. There are lives being lost. There are pregnant women being run over by tanks. This is abominable. We cannot learn about the Holocaust and watch movies about the Holocaust [00:59:00] and then say, “Oh, well, you know, I would have done something then.” You have to do it now. It’s like Aaron Bushnell said, “What would you be doing during those times? You’re doing it now.” So, if you don’t like what you’re doing, if it’s not enough, change it.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Voices from outside Radio City Music Hall, where presidents Biden, Obama and Clinton spoke inside in the largest single-night fundraiser in U.S. presidential campaign history. More than $25 million was raised.

Final comments on the words we've heard and the actions we've seen from Israel's government

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with The Daily Show, interrogating the United States' support of Israel. Al Jazeera English looked at how supporting Israel hurts the U.S. on other foreign policy matters. The Humanist Report examined the perspective of voters willing to withhold their votes from Biden based on his support of Israel. Democracy Now! looked at the disconnect between Biden's words and the lack of actions to back them up. Deconstructed focused on the political danger of alienating your most influential supporters. And The [01:00:00] Majority Report discussed the hit to American credibility our support of Israel brings.

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Doomed, understanding Biden as most likely the last democratic president to steadfastly support Israel, and Democracy Now!, which spoke with some of the protesters bird-dogging Joe Biden. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap-up, I have a few thoughts. First, I think it's worth taking a look back to compare a bit of what's been said, and some of what's been done, by Israel in the last six months. Starting immediately after the horrific war crime attack by Hamas on October 7th, representatives of Israel began describing the reaction that would be coming, including the war crimes they intended to [01:01:00] commit. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant—apologies for the mispronunciation—on October 9th said, "We are imposing a complete siege on Gaza. There will be no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything will be closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly". 

And since then, headlines like these have been rolling out. In December, from Human Rights Watch, "Israel: Starvation used as weapon of war in Gaza". In January, from Time, "How experts believe Israel utilizes starvation in Gaza". In March, from The New York Times, "UN says Israel may be restricting Gaza aid as a war tactic". So, what we know for sure, whether it is the official policy of Israel to use starvation as a weapon of war or not, there are definitely people in the Israeli government who want to do [01:02:00] that. And the results in the real world look very much like one would expect if a policy like that were being carried out. 

And in conversations about Israel, there's often the accusation that Israel is being unfairly singled out for condemnation, held to a higher standard it's often said, et cetera. My first piece of advice would be for Israel to stop comparing themselves to such a low standard. It's the same rhetorical trick played by right-wing people looking for excuses to act badly everywhere. Anti-gay conservatives in the US like to downplay the need for LGBTQ friendly policies, because we're already better than other countries where people are killed by the government for being gay as a matter of policy. You know, "not as bad as murderous human rights abusers", has a real ring of pride to it. As does "we can commit war crimes because they did it first", a sentiment recognizable [01:03:00] to anyone who's met a child who has not yet reached the age of reason. 

So, unsurprisingly arguments like that aren't being received well by the majority of rational people in the world, which is why it's so predictable that the incredibly vast majority of the world has now turned against Israel, at least in terms of their prosecution of their assault on Gaza. And as a US State Department memo attained by NPR recently warned, Israelis are "facing major, possibly generational, damage to their reputation" as a result of its military conduct in Gaza. 

And there's a lot to be said about explanations, not excuses, but explanations of Israel's actions. We just recorded a whole bonus show for members—it's bonus episode number 300 that'll be coming out soon— discussing some of the extreme, far-right in Israel and the impact of the history of discrimination and attempted extermination the Jews have faced. But one factor we [01:04:00] didn't mention, which is much more immediate than the historical context of the conflict, is the right wing grip on the media in Israel. This is just, real quick, this headline from The Guardian: "The far right infiltration of Israel's media is blinding the public to the truth about Gaza; Proponents of the settler movement, backed by Netanyahu, are ruling the airwaves and skewing coverage of the conflict". 

So, for Israel, it goes beyond the history and the particularly inflamed anger and hurt in the wake of October 7th. It's also an inability to see the actions of their government clearly, and with a government that seems intent on committing war crimes and international standing plummeting, it's possible that not enough of the population will get a clear view of what's going on before it's too late and that reputation is irretrievable. And so if your interest is in the wellbeing and safety of Jews around the world, [01:05:00] and if you are concerned, as I am, about the rise in overt and vocal antisemitism in the past six months, I think the better route is to do away with any of those weak arguments trying to defend or excuse away Israeli actions in Gaza, like the empty and meaningless platitude, Well, they do have the right to defend themselves, [and] explain the history and context ,yes, but clarify that it's not all Israelis, much less all Jews around the world, who support the extremist government of Israel and condemn the actions that must be condemned unreservedly. 

That is going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave us a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, [01:06:00] Brian, Ben, and Andrew, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from bestoftheleft.com.

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#1622 Capitalism Culture Catastrophes On Land, Sea, And In The Sky (Transcript)

Air Date 4/12/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we will come to understand the forces of capitalism and deregulation which loom large as industrial transport disasters continue to pile up, with new focus brought to the issue by the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse and the series of dangerous and deadly failures from Boeing. Sources today include The Daily Blast with Greg Sargent, The Real News, The Zero Hour with RJ Eskow, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Majority Report, and Democracy Now!, with additional members-only clips from The Daily Blast, Last Week Tonight, and The Thom Hartmann Program.

Horror in Baltimore: Awful New Info Emerges About Six Missing Workers - THE DAILY BLAST with Greg Sargent - Air Date 3-28-24

GREG SARGENT - HOST, THE DAILY BLAST: At around 1:30 in the morning on Tuesday, the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed in Baltimore after a massive cargo ship lost power and rammed into it. Nearly 48 hours later, as of this recording, six of the workers on that bridge are still missing. Who were these workers? They all appear to have been immigrants [00:01:00] from Central America and Mexico, but as of now, little is known about them.

This tragedy tells a larger story about the plight of immigrant workers in America and our collective treatment of them, which is often pretty terrible. Here to discuss this today is Maximilian Alvarez, Editor-in-Chief of The Real News Network, which is based in Baltimore. Max has been working this story pretty hard. Thanks for coming on today. 

MAXIMILLIAN ALVAREZ: Thank you so much for having me. 

GREG SARGENT - HOST, THE DAILY BLAST: So these workers were filling potholes on the bridge. The Coast Guard has ended its search, presuming that six of those workers are dead and they may never be found. Two others were rescued. You've been trying to figure out more about the missing workers, right?

MAXIMILLIAN ALVAREZ: I have. And even from the initial reports, I had a lot of questions, right? But I think that it's really telling the kinds of questions people ask depending on who they know and what they know. Because I watched white anchors here [00:02:00] in the city talking about the fact that eight workers went down into the water when the bridge collapsed that we know of. Two of them were recovered from the water, one of whom was sent to emergency care, and one who reportedly refused emergency care. 

Now, that's all the detail we got, based on the interaction that happened that morning. But I was watching these anchors and journalists in the city, none of whom spoke Spanish, none of whom clearly have close connections to construction workers or undocumented immigrants, suggest credulously that, oh, perhaps the second person was just fine and walked away. That may be the case, but again, if undocumented folks, your immediate thought is that person was undocumented and I can only imagine what was going through their mind when after this catastrophic collapse of an iconic bridge, one of the greatest accidents that we've had in this country, to refuse [00:03:00] medical service. I'm not saying that is what happened, but I'm saying based on the crew that we know was on there and based on everything we know about how undocumented workers have to live and operate in this country under the floorboards of society, as it were, it is very possible that was the case of the second worker who was pulled from the water that morning.

But what we do know so far is that six workers who were on that night crew who were filling, they're filling potholes on the Key bridge in the middle of the night. Their night shifts, I believe, go from nine at night to five in the morning, according to Jesus Campos, a fellow coworker of that crew whom I interviewed for the Real News Network.

What we know is that they were there filling potholes at a time of low traffic. They were working for a long time, long established contractor in the city named Bronner Builders. So far, the majority of reports that I've heard from workers in the city and folks who work construction is that [00:04:00] Bronner has a relatively solid reputation. But they are contractors with the government. 

I think that there is another story here, that this is what contracting and subcontracting everything looks like over the course of 40 plus years of neoliberal politics, outsourcing government functions and government workers to the quote unquote market.

Now, I'm not saying that's always a bad thing, but I am saying that I think you can find in that historical progression an understanding of why and how we ended up in a situation where workers doing this vital and manifestly potentially dangerous work in the middle of the night on a bridge with these mega ships passing beneath their feet, could somehow be doing that work with no direct line to emergency dispatch services, which is why, based on everything that I have heard, everything that I have seen, my review of the police scanner reports, [00:05:00] the workers on that bridge had no idea that they were about to meet their deaths. The police who responded to the call and who stopped traffic from getting onto the bridge--and credit to them, they did save lives--but you can hear the police talking into the scanner saying that they were waiting for backup so that one officer could go onto the bridge, tell the foreman, and you can hear the desperation in one of the voices on that dispatch call saying, is someone going to tell the workers? And then no one did. And now six of them are missing. And at this point on Wednesday they are presumed dead. 

Everything we know about the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse - The Real News Podcast - Air Date 4-4-24

MAXIMILLIAN ALVAREZ: So quickly picking up on that question, Mel, you're right. It's as we all, at the Real News, know it was. It was very striking that I was in East Palestine reporting finally on the ground there after a year of reporting on it here at the Real News, interviewing residents, and a year before that Mel and I were interviewing countless railroad workers amidst their contract fight, all of whom were warning that a catastrophe like East Palestine, would happen if the corporate [00:06:00] Wall Street–driven disease that has taken over the railroads—and not just the railroads, but basically every other facet of our society—was not reined in.

And lo and behold, on February 3rd, just months after president Joe Biden and both parties in Congress conspired to force a contract down railroad workers throats, a Norfolk Southern bomb train derails in the backyards of the families of East Palestine. Three days later, the disastrous and unnecessary decision was made and pushed by Norfolk Southern to vent and burn five cars worth of toxic vinyl chloride, spewing these toxins into the air, exposing these residents to devastating health effects that they are still feeling now. They are bioaccumulating these chemicals. They are racking up health bills. I mean, they are losing their jobs, losing their health insurance. It is really a horrifying situation there in East Palestine that we've been trying to cover, and it is all about corporate greed and government negligence, [00:07:00] right?

It is part and parcel of the 40 plus year long process of deregulation, disinvestment, corporate domination, the devaluation of labor and life itself in this country is what is making catastrophes like East Palestine, the Baltimore Bridge, the Boeing planes coming out of the sky, the BP oil spill, and so many other atrocities that are occurring around our country right now.

Not just on the labor side, but poisoning our communities. That's why the first text that I received on Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after I got back from East Palestine, were from members of the community in East Palestine expressing solidarity with us. Saying that they saw so many resonances in what they went through with what we were going through.

Again, there's so many things that I'll just, I'll say in like just 40 seconds here and then I'll shut up. Like the questions, I don't want to presume that East Palestine and Baltimore are the same. The train derailment was not. The ship crash that collapsed the bridge and the investigative work to figure out the root [00:08:00] causes of this are ongoing.

But, again, what I think was readily apparent to me and the folks in East Palestine is that this is an obvious breaking of the social contract between citizens, labor, business and government, which was supposed to be that all of this dangerous stuff, the trains running through our backyards, the ships going through our rivers and the factories that are in our communities, all of that was supposed to be allowed only if there were layers of non profit-driven protection and maintenance in place to ensure things like East Palestine and Baltimore and Boeing and BP don't happen.

And yet they're happening more and more frequently. And that is the problem. To say nothing of the containers that fell into the Patapsco River and whether or not those are going to contaminate us. Obviously people in East Palestine who are still seeing the chemical sheen in their creeks from the derailment are looking at the chemical sheens in the Patapsco River and asking, "Do you guys know what are in those containers?" 

The workers [00:09:00] on the bridge did not get a warning about their impending deaths, just like workers on that Norfolk Southern train did not receive a warning from the hot box detectors about the ambient rise in heat in that faulty bearing before it was too late. 

There's so many residences here that I think should guide us towards the questions we need to be investigating right now, but it was really stark for me to have 24 hours in between getting back from East Palestine to the bridge collapsing. And it's just been a whirlwind ever since. 

MEL BUER - HOST, THE REAL NEWS PODCAST: Dharna, do you have anything to add? 

DHARNA NOOR: Yeah. I think that the similarities and the differences between what happened in East Palestine and what happened just last week in Baltimore are both really interesting. I agree with Max that I think that obviously there's a lot to look into in terms of the role of corporate unaccountability here. I specifically want to shout out some reporting that the Lever has been doing showing that Maryland's governor, Larry Hogan, has spent his time as governor —or, previously spent his time as the previous governor of [00:10:00] Maryland—pushing for larger ships to go through Baltimore's Harbor. I think it's not surprising, I guess, that this kind of horrible disaster would occur at some point.

That said, I think I, and so many other people, when this disaster first happened, did wonder, "Oh, is this related to our crumbling infrastructure in our country?" And I think, you know, what engineers have said is that the bridge was actually in decent condition, but whether or not you should be able to have a bridge that was built in the 70s next to this ginormous cargo ship of this kind is really another question. 

And I also think that, in both of these cases there are just really important questions of social infrastructure to be raised. Had the workers on the bridge who you know, who tragically fell to their gap, their death during the collision had they been union, had they been higher paid, and, that's important to note. I don't think that it's a question of corporate unaccountability alone, but that said, it's obviously [00:11:00] no huge surprise that it is often our immigrant workers of color who are often bearing the brunt of the most dangerous social situations.

Non union construction work is still one of the most dangerous kinds of labor that we have in this country. And so I think that, while there are a lot more questions to ask about what sorts of changes in social infrastructure should come from this I think, like East Palestine, it's really, as Max said, a situation that shows us the breaking of that social contract that we are supposed to have with business and with infrastructure. Whether or not this particular case was caused by crumbling infrastructure, by horrible labor conditions, whether or not this would have happened otherwise, is a different question, but I do think that our social infrastructure tells us a lot about who's going to bear the worst brunt of these disasters.

Cars, Bridges, Ships and Planes - The Zero Hour - Air Date 04-06-24

RJ ESKOW - HOST, THE ZERO HOUR: No, that's not to say infrastructure isn't a good investment. I'm a great supporter of infrastructure as an investment. But the structural drive by I'm talking about is what you see in the investments that don't happen. Sure, the Key Bridge [00:12:00] carried local traffic, but another infrastructure project that was initially approved around the same time never got the green light. This is one that would have really helped these lower income neighborhoods. It was called the Red Line. It was an addition to Baltimore's light rail system. And what it would have done that was so important is that it would have linked these lower income, mostly Black neighborhoods, where people are struggling economically and in other ways, to the other parts of the city where there are jobs: in Camden Yards there are jobs, in the Inner Harbor there are jobs, in universities, medical centers and corporations, most of which are on the east side of town. These poorer neighborhoods are mostly on the west side of town. The Red Line, though, unlike the Key Bridge, got delayed and delayed and delayed and was finally officially killed by a Republican governor named Larry Hogan, and Larry Hogan is now, puzzlingly, the leading [00:13:00] candidate for senator, according to polls in the state of Maryland, even though Maryland is heavily Democratic.

Now a journalist named Alon Levy--you can read all this in askal.substack.com, and also support our work if you're so interested, --but a journalist had a succinct headline for this: "How you can tell Larry Hogan's decision to kill the Red Line was racially discriminatory." It was whatever justification Larry Hogan used to himself, a racist decision. Because when he killed the Red Line, he didn't kill another mass transit project, the Purple Line, which was in richer and whiter Montgomery County. As a result, there was a Title VI civil rights lawsuit. There was a federal investigation at the end of the Obama administration, but Trump killed the investigation. The lawsuit lost steam. And yet another structural drive by was imposed on the working people, and especially the Black [00:14:00] people of Baltimore. 

But then again, transportation infrastructure has a long segregationist history in Baltimore and all around the country. All of the highway construction that we saw in the mid-20th century, which I and others have spoken very complimentary about, had a downside. It served to accelerate white flight from urban centers. And Baltimore started even earlier with the construction of a very early streetcar system, which led to the creation of White--they were called streetcar suburbs, many of which had covenants saying you couldn't sell to Black people. So you had places like Catonsville and Oakenshaw that were legally apartheid neighborhoods because of the way and for whom transportation infrastructure was built. 

Now blockbusting had something to do with that too. Blockbusting is a term where real estate agents and companies, they had a deliberate strategy in the days of [00:15:00] integration. They would sell one home to a Black family in a White urban neighborhood. Then they would terrify all the White neighborhoods. Oh, you're going to lose your housing values because those people are coming. That would pressure the White people out of racial fear to sell their houses below market value, they'd all leave, and then the realtors would buy up all the houses at under market rates, inflate their costs for Black families who would then move in, creating neighborhoods that were segregated and that ripped off the Black families who moved into them just as they had ripped off the White families who fled. That's blockbusting. 

But then again, Baltimore was also a pioneer in residential segregation going back as far as 1910, when the City Council passed law designating specific city blocks as either White or Black. 

Now, why do I say structural violence kills a lot more people than drive by shootings? Well, life expectancy in Upton Druid Heights, which I mentioned earlier, [00:16:00] is 62.9 years on average. In Roland Park, the city's richest neighborhood, and much whiter neighborhood, life expectancy is 83.1 years. That's more than 20 years difference. And I'm going to tell you, people in Roland Park have cars, more than one car per household, I would guess. And they use that bridge a lot. 

And we could talk a lot more about infrastructural racism. For example, Maryland Transportation Authority, which was responsible for the Key Bridge, has a digital-only toll system now, when a larger percentage of Black people are unbanked, so they wouldn't have access to a digital toll pricing system, they'll get fined instead. They want to put in surge pricing for toll lanes, for high speed lanes, so that they could change every five minutes and wealthier people can pay more to pass the traffic jam--which, by the way, will reduce the demand for building yet more infrastructure to relieve traffic pressure.

[00:17:00] We could go on and on and on. Transportation infrastructure was used after Freddie Gray was murdered by Baltimore police to trap high school students who were then attacked by police, and so on. 

We could even go back to the people who were living in the Baltimore area when Europeans came, the Susquehannock people were hunting in what is now Baltimore, when Europeans declared the province of Maryland back in 1634. Pretty quickly you can guess what happened. Things were segregated. The Susquehannock were driven out of their homes, became refugees in their native land. There were scattered bands, they merged into other tribes, and then those tribes were driven away too. So you could call that the first structural drive by. 

Now, why do I tell you all this? Well, for some immediate and practical reasons. One is the people of Baltimore should not pay a nickel to rebuild this bridge. This bridge was not built by [00:18:00] them. It was not built for them. It served them indirectly in terms of jobs and so on, but its real customers were interstate travelers and, of course, corporations that ship massive amounts of cargo.

So let the corporations, let the federal government rebuild this bridge if they want it so badly. And in terms of public funds from and for Baltimore and from and for the state of Maryland, let's build that Red Line. Let's get people in these poor neighborhoods connected with healthcare, connected with jobs. Let's build some clinics in these neighborhoods. Let's get some decent health care there. Let's remind ourselves of the legacy of, first of all, structural racism that created this situation, and, not incidentally, the exploitation of all [00:19:00] immigrants and working class people reflected, not just in blockbusting, but in other ways that Italian and other immigrant workers were mistreated by economic powers in Baltimore. We could talk about the Baltimore and Ohio railroad strikes of the late 1800s. We don't have time for all that. 

But I would tell you this: as we remember the lives of everyone who lost their lives in that bridge disaster, let's not forget the people who suffer every day. Let's not forget the people who die every day. Let's not forget the people who are--let's put it a better way--killed by structural violence every day in Baltimore.

Everything we know about the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse Part 2 - The Real News Podcast - Air Date 4-4-24

DHARNA NOOR: Clara, I'm glad that you mentioned the work that some of the Latino racial justice and immigration rights organizations in Baltimore have been doing around that house fire. I think it's really interesting that something that officials have been saying and with good reason in the wake of this disaster is that Baltimore is really strong and really resilient.

But I've been really curious to see what that actually means. And [00:20:00] talking to Susana Barrios, who you know, who Max also, I think has been speaking with who is the vice president of the Latino racial justice circle. She said yeah we're strong, but it's because we've had to be like, we've had to deal with disasters before, especially in our community, which has faced so much hardship.

And so it's no surprise really that they were able to really quickly put together—like it was almost a hundred thousand dollars that they raised for the victims families— within six hours of the tragedy, which is pretty incredible. But also like just saying that Baltimore is strong, I think, doesn't tell the whole story.

It also is that communities are strong because you have to be strong in the absence of Real state support, real you know, protections you have from like governments without that sort of base of like social infrastructure that you're supposed to rely on, you have to create your own.

Which is really inspiring. And then also like it's really awful that that's the only sort of solution that we have. We shouldn't have to be having GoFundMe accounts to fund like funerals [00:21:00] and services for people who die in disasters that the state is, at least in some way, responsible for.

And I think that it's a really inspiring story and also one that should not have to exist. But that said, like Baltimore has been really, really resilient and so many communities have come together in a really inspiring way. You know, seeing restaurants donate food, seeing people come in from out of town to ensure that the victim's families have places to stay, seeing the way that certain workers at the Red Cross have been, like, putting their all into making sure that the victim's families have everything they need. Seeing the way that first responders have been taken care of seeing the way that unions have banded together to make sure that their workers will be protected in the face of lost jobs in the coming weeks, I think has been really, really inspiring. And I want to shout out Baltimore for that resilience—for that strength. And also I would love to imagine a future where we could have the kind of state support that we actually need and don't simply need to rely on ourselves in order to make sure that we can survive tragedies like this. 

MARC STEINER: I just want to throw in real quick that I [00:22:00] think one of the things we have to do now is to really keep our politicians', political leaders' feet to the fire. What are you going to do about investing in infrastructure?

What are you going to do about making sure that people are paid union wages and unions have a say in what's happening in building that infrastructure and putting people to work who need the jobs in our communities? 

MAXIMILLIAN ALVAREZ: And that workers like these get citizenship. 

MARC STEINER: Right. I mean, it's because there are questions that they cannot be allowed to run away from.

This should not have happened. The bumper should have been in place. The bridge should not have collapsed. There should have been inspections on that boat before it was allowed to—ship, excuse me—before it was allowed to go out. There's so many variables here that the lack of oversight by our government for any safety of the harbor, all that is affecting what just happened.

That shouldn't have happened. Those people shouldn't have died. The bridge should not have collapsed. If the right systems were in place to ensure the safety of all of us, that's part of the problem. 

MAXIMILLIAN ALVAREZ: And a ship experiencing that level of propulsion failure 30 minutes after leaving [00:23:00] port should not have been allowed to leave port.

A rail locomotive experiencing a bearing failure carrying that many hazardous materials through the backyards of regular people should not have been allowed to be on the track in the first place, right? I mean, and workers on that bridge—at least the foreman should have had a direct line to emergency dispatch in case something like this happened. 

Why do railroad workers keep dying on the job - Working People: The Real News Podcast - Air Date 3-6-24

MAXIMILLIAN ALVAREZ: For folks who listen to this show, I think we've had enough interviews with railroad workers that I think they get the gist of —at least a lot of —the basics more than, you know, your average podcast listener, and I have you guys at Railroad Workers United to thank for that.

So, we can assume that there's going to be like some background knowledge here from our listeners about how the industry itself has been changing over recent years and decades—the rise of precision-scheduled railroading, right? This fucking corporate consolidation that's been going on—on the railroads—for years to the point that we've gone from over 40 different rail carriers down to a [00:24:00] handful, right, that have just like incredible oligopolistic, power over our supply chain.

And as we saw with the high stakes contract negotiation that y'all were embroiled in two years ago culminating in Congress and scab Joe Biden and everyone else in Washington DC, just gleefully conspiring to shove a contract down worker's throats and give the rail carriers everything they want. Basically tacitly and explicitly telling the rail carriers, "Hey, keep doing what you're doing." cause we're not going to stop you. Right? 

That's what we were covering with railroad workers, and we have been covering extensively on this show at The Real News on breaking points for years now. So I don't want to make y'all go over all of that again, but I do want to talk about how those changes affect the safety and of working on the railroads.

Because Nick you mentioned something that really stuck in my ear. How, at a certain point, there is no way to make this job completely safe, [00:25:00] right? It's like with, football, right? You're never going to be able to make football completely safe, even if you have great helmets. Like, it's a sport premised on violence, right? And, as railroad workers, y'all have been telling me for years these trains are incredibly heavy. They're incredibly dangerous and you, as a human being, are the softest, squishiest thing in that rail yard, right? And you are no match, for a massive locomotive or anything like that. 

So I want to talk about those two sides of this. If we can go around the table and just talk more about what do you think folks who don't work on the railroads don't understand about like just the inherent dangers that you face doing this work, regardless? Like, what are the sorts of pressures and dangers and safety measures that you, as railroaders, just have to work with on a day to day basis given the nature of the work that you do.

Then, also, let's talk about how those things have changed over the course of recent years as the precision schedule [00:26:00] railroading and that this Wall Street-minded mentality has totally taken over the industry, turned it into a profit generating machine for the executives and the shareholders, like Ross was saying, cutting the workforce so that piling more work onto fewer workers, making the trains longer heavier, yada, yada, yada. Let's talk about that. Let's go back around the table, Mark, I'm going to throw it back to you. But yeah, then everyone else just please hop in after he's done.

MARK BURROWS: Well, first I believe that, railroading—it can be done safe. Okay. I mean, yes, under current conditions, going to work is like a potential death trap on a good day, but the profit motive was taken out of the equation, and the whole priority was to move the nation's freight safely —so that workers are not compromised, so that the public is not compromised, and so that the freight itself is not compromised— that can be a whole nother [00:27:00] discussion. It can be done. That'd be a major paradigm shift, but it can be done. I just wanted to make that point, and I just want to throw in that precision-scheduled railroading gets a lot of attention—and rightfully so —but it's also an oxymoron marketing term for a business model.

The speed up began decades ago, and I can trace it back to the mid 80s, where there was a real shift. Then precision-scheduled railroading in the last 10 plus years has just escalated the speed up on steroids. I'll just leave it there for now. 

NICK WURST: I want to just start with agreeing with Mark that railroading can be done safely, but that means safety has to be the number one priority over everything else, and that's not the case with these railroads. Even providing quality [00:28:00] service is not even the top priority. Really making it look like they're providing quality service is the top priority. 

I think there's a lot to talk about, and one of the things I want to give a little bit of perspective on is, I'm the youngest— in terms of seniority, in terms of time on the railroad—out of all of us, by a significant margin, I think. One of the things that's really hammered home to me is there has been an exodus of talent and experience from the rank and file of the railroads. The number of talented, experienced railroaders who knew how to do the job well and safely has been driven down.

They've been driven out of the industry over recent decades. What happened was, at a certain point, [00:29:00] the railroads cut so much—they cut so many jobs and drove out so many talented people, ballast-level employees, I'm not talking management here — that they started trying to fill the gaps with mass hiring new people.

I'm one of those people, and every day is a constant reminder of how little I know and working with some of the people that I work with is a constant reminder of how much they do know, and how much that's not getting passed down. When I went to conductor training, I had four weeks of training at school.

Three of those weeks were in the classroom learning rules. One week was doing anything outside. You know—making hitches, throwing switches, anything that can actually—.

There's a reason for rules, right? I don't [00:30:00] want to suggest that the rules are unimportant, right? But, in terms of hands-on work, you've got one week, and then when I went to training on the job in my area—when I got back home —some jobs I got maybe a week on.

Boeing - Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - Air Date 3-7-34

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: Let's talk about Boeing. And let's start with the fact that Boeing used to be synonymous with quality and craftsmanship. It was founded by William Boeing in 1916, and over the years, it built nearly 100, 000 planes for the Allied forces, the first stage of the Saturn V rocket, and Air Force One.

But they're best known for revolutionizing commercial aviation. In 1967, Boeing introduced the 737, and have made over 10,000 of them since. And the company's success rests heavily on its well-earned reputation for excellence, like in this video from an annual shareholder meeting. 

BOEING COMMERCIAL: The first step in making a difference is believing you can.

We make the impossible happen on a regular basis. [00:31:00] So, it can be done. You just have to think of a new way to do it. 

Let's just do it right. Whatever it is. Quality, safety, environment. Do it right. And make it something that you can be proud of. 

I wanted to develop products that had a global reach and a global impact. And I'm doing it now. 

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: I mean, that sounds pretty good. We do the impossible. Great! Love the impossible. Let's just do it right. Yes, let's. Wrong feels like a bad way to do it. I want to develop a globally impactful product, and I did. Good for you! You're a little too close to the camera, but in general, I am on board.

In fact, Boeing had such a great reputation for safety among pilots, there was even a common saying, "If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going" -- which the company put on T shirts, lanyards, and mugs that you can still buy on their website. All perfect gifts for someone who loves branded merch and does not love following the news.

And that stellar reputation has been credited to the company's engineer-centered open culture. William Boeing [00:32:00] himself once said, after noticing some shoddy workmanship on his production line, that he would "close up shop, rather than send out work of this kind." And one project leader in the 80s and early 90s is remembered for saying, "no secrets," and, "the only thing that will make me rip off your head and shit down your neck, is withholding information."

And I'm sorry, but that should be the mug. You want to shift merch, that's how you do it. 

But it's pretty clear that we're a long way from that culture today. And most observers will trace the shift back to this pivotal event. 

NEWS CLIP: A major announcement today in the world of aviation. Boeing and McDonnell Douglas today announced they would join together to form the world's largest aircraft manufacturer.

This is, I believe, an historic moment in aviation and aerospace. 

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: Yeah, the sky boys got business married. Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas, who were primarily known for military planes and had a lousy reputation for commercial airliners. Most notably, the [00:33:00] DC 10, which had multiple accidents resulting in over 1,100 passenger fatalities.

And look, Boeing's merging with the McDonnell Douglas Aerospace Manufacturing Corporation/Murder Emporium, that Boeing CEO's worst decision, probably not, because he also--and this is true--married his first cousin. So, the last decision I'd ask this guy to make is who it's a good idea to couple up with.

And while Boeing was the acquirer in the partnership, it soon became clear that the McDonnell Douglas culture, which was much more cutthroat and profit driven, was going to become dominant. Early on, the McDonnell Douglas management team even gave their Boeing counterparts a plaque featuring an Economist magazine cover about the challenges of corporate mergers, which sounds benign until you see that the actual cover was this picture of two camels fucking, and McDonnell Douglas execs added the line, Who's on top?

And setting aside the weirdness of gifting your co workers camel porn, it begs the question, what was going on at [00:34:00] The Economist back then? Spare a thought for the employee who dreamt of doing business journalism, only to find themselves digging through photos of horned up camel sluts banging in the dirt.

A year after the merger was finalized, Boeing announced a new stock buyback program, taking company money that could have gone to making planes and using it to inflate stock prices instead. And even mechanics at the company noticed the culture shift. 

NEWS CLIP: There was a major campaign launched called ShareValue. And the idea was that they wanted everybody to be aware of the stock price. And they wanted everybody working together to increase the stock value. Even in the technical meetings, everything revolved around Boeing stock prices. 

JOHN OLIVER - HOST, LAST WEEK TONIGHT: Yeah, that's not reassuring. Because that's not where you want their priorities focused. No one wants to get on a plane and hear, "Good afternoon, this is your captain speaking. We had a few technical problems, but our maintenance crew has assured us that the stock price is still holding strong, so [00:35:00] let's get this big metal tube full of you and your loved ones up into the sky, shall we?" 

And the culture change was solidified by the decision to relocate the corporate headquarters from Seattle, where their commercial planes were actually designed and built, 2,000 miles away to Chicago. Because, as their CEO put it, "When the headquarters is located in proximity to a principal business, the corporate center is inevitably drawn into day-to-day business operations." And yeah, It should be! You're essentially saying, hey, we're gonna be making big business decisions over here, so we don't need to be bothered with you nerds and your keeping planes in the air bullshit.

Now, CEO Phil Condit soon left the company amid a contracting scandal and was replaced by Harry Stonecipher, the former CEO of McDonnell Douglas. He was an aggressive cost cutter who pushed Boeing's management to play tougher with its workforce and to introduce the slogan, "Less family, more team." Which, frankly, would have been great advice for Phil Condit when he was choosing a romantic [00:36:00] partner.

Less family, Phil. You want to be a team, but like, not one that's related by blood.

Boeing Falling Apart w Katya Schwenk - The Majority Report - Air Date 2-11-24

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Katya, your work on this Boeing stuff has been really great. You've been on this beat now for weeks, and more, and just give us a little bit of the backstory that brought us to the point where people, you know, started to acknowledge, more broadly, that there is a problem with Boeing.

 I guess maybe this acknowledgement may have come in the last week of the Trump administration too, but just give us that background. 

KATYA SCHWENK: Sure. Yeah. I mean, the reason that boeing, of course, has been in the headline, mostly for the last few weeks, has been that really shocking incident on an Alaska Airlines flight in which a door panel blew out shortly after takeoff, mid flight over Portland, Oregon, leaving the escaping hole in the side of a Boeing plane.

Obviously a really shocking moment—it seems basically miraculous that there were no serious injuries on that flight. And I think, in a sense, it's an isolated [00:37:00] incident. There's an ongoing investigation, trying to figure out what's caused it. But I think what we have tried to do, and what I think this incident has done, is really brought further attention to ongoing issues at Boeing that have been ongoing for years, as you alluded to. 

Boeing is still dealing with the fallout from, you know, these really the devastating fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, and, I think right now we're seeing new questions being raised about what happened there. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Now, I'm obligated to ask you this question in your reporting. Have you found DEI is a big problem for this? Is it really like —I mean, I'm a half joking, I'm a hundred percent joking, but— 

KATYA SCHWENK: There's no evidence that that is at all at issue here! 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Right.

In 2018/2019, just remind us of what happened, because it does, for the most part, center around the MAX— the 737s— for the most part, and the ones that [00:38:00] we had in 2018, or was it 2019, had to do with the software—had to do with the development of the plane, That was also sort of a function of changes that were happening at airports is my understanding.

KATYA SCHWENK: Yes. Yes. Boeing at that time was rolling out the MAX, the sort of new generation of the 737s. It installed a new sort of flight control system in my understanding to correct an engineering issue— you know, to bring the plane's nose down mid flight and, it was the system pilots were not well trained on that system.

What emerged from federal investigations into, Boeing's rollout of this new flight control system was that Boeing had hidden the full scope of it from federal regulators, leading to pilots not being fully trained on how this sort of corrective system worked in certain instances. And there was a faulty sensor that caused the system to activate and which then caused two planes to nosedive, and it was not able to be [00:39:00] stopped by the caused by the pilot causing these, really really devastating tragic crashes.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Just to be clear, there were engineering fixes in other words like physical —I guess to put in the context of computers—hardware fixes that could have been done in the design of the plane that would have made it far less susceptible to pilot error, and also far less susceptible to needing to take it out of the hands of pilots.

They tried to patch it, essentially, with software as opposed to fixing like the engineering the actual construction of the airplane, and the speculation that they did, this was because to fix it with hardware is going to be more expensive than fixing it with software, and you're going to have to hire people—more people to construct these things and to retrofit the planes—and that cuts into shareholder value. And nobody wants that except for the people who want safe planes. So, [00:40:00] in the wake of those two accidents, what happened in the last weeks of the Trump administration?

KATYA SCHWENK: Sure. Just before Biden took office, there was a lot of speculation at that time of whether Boeing was going to face any criminal charges as a result of what happened. Again, there had been this investigation that indicated that Boeing was more aware of these problems and had hidden them, to an extent, from federal regulators so that Boeing would not have to delay its rollout with additional training for pilots, right?

That's the narrative that has emerged in investigations after the fact. And so there's a lot of speculations at that time of whether Boeing was going to face criminal charges for this, right? The company itself, and in the very final days of the Trump administration, literally days before Biden took office the Department of Justice brought a single charge of fraud against Boeing as a result of what happened—as a result of the fatal crashes, [00:41:00] but at the same time that it charged Boeing with fraud it also entered into a deal with Boeing which had been negotiated basically, essentially, in secret that allowed Boeing to—It's called a deferred prosecution agreement. Which essentially means that after a few years since the deal was signed, but if Boeing comes into compliance, if it pays, a criminal penalty you know, prosecutors would agree to drop the charges. And the distinction, I should say, from a plea deal in which Boeing would actually have to plead guilty, there'd be negotiations and more judicial oversight, and this case— from the very beginning, from the day the charge was brought against Boeing— there was this agreement that Boeing would not face prosecution. But, as I've written about what happened with the Alaska Airlines flight, with some of these issues we're seeing at Boeing suppliers— they are calling this deal into question.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, they're calling it into qu