Tag Archives: North America

United States: #ListenFirst Coalition

TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY . .

Excerpts from the website of the Listen First Project

The #ListenFirst Coalition is a network of 300+ organizations focused on bringing Americans together across differences. This interpersonal bridge building field includes national, state, and local organizations. Click here for a listing of the organizations.

The purpose of the #ListenFirst Coalition is to catalyze a mainstream, collaborative social movement to transform division and contempt into connection and understanding by aggregating, aligning, and amplifying all efforts to mend our frayed social fabric. The Coalition fosters collaborative synergies, showcases uniquely impactful work, develops shared resources, and scales collective impact. Members support one another in sharing insight, best practices, new ideas, and opportunities for collaboration.

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Questions related to this article:

The struggle for human rights and tolerance, is it gathering force in the USA?

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Monthly Coalition Calls provide opportunities to connect with one another, explore key questions, get briefed on the latest movement building activity, learn about new partner initiatives primed for amplification, and activate toward upcoming collaborative opportunities. Interested in joining a call? Email coalition@listenfirstproject.org!

Together, the #ListenFirst Coalition built and powers National Conversation Project, an overarching, collaborative movement platform to reach farther and impact greater than any one organization, to mainstream conversations in which we #ListenFirst to understand. Check out the early impact of National Conversation Project, including annual National Weeks of Conversation and weekly #ListenFirst Fridays! In 2020, over 130 Coalition members powered #WeavingCommunity, a national campaign aimed to build relationships in local communities, which reached 20 million people.

The #ListenFirst Coalition welcomes any organization focused on bringing Americans together across differences. There are no membership obligations. The #ListenFirst Coalition and its collective national campaigns are managed by Listen First Project, a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

To join the #ListenFirst Coalition, contact us at coalition@listenfirstproject.org. 

[Editor’s note: Some of the virtual events on June 14, 16 and 17 are listed on the CPNN page for virtual events.]

USA: Some positive news from the United National Antiwar Coalition

. .DISARMAMENT & SECURITY. .

Excerpts from the blog of the United National Antiwar Coalition

People-to-People Projects Build Israeli Impunity
APRIL 23, 2021, UNAC EDITOR

by Yara Hawari, published on Consortium News, April 8, 2021 The People-to-People (P2P) framework, which refers to projects that bring Palestinian and Israeli civil society actors together in so-called cooperation and dialogue, has been revived among donor-funded initiatives in Palestine. Emphasizing notions of cooperation, understanding, and peace building, P2P is promoted as a positive framework at a time when the[…READ MORE]


In Defense of Mother Earth
APRIL 16, 2021, UNAC EDITOR

Cancelling the KXL Pipeline: A Victory for the Working Class & the Environment! The Trans Mountain (TMX) Pipeline is Next! by Alison Bodine, published on Fire This Time Magazine, April, 2021 On January 20, 2021, U.S. President Biden’s first day in office, he cancelled the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline by rescinding a Presidential permit required to complete construction at the[…READ MORE]

Ramsey Clark, Human Rights Fighter, 1927-2021
APRIL 16, 2021, UNAC EDITOR

by Sara Flounders, published on International Action Center, April 12, 2021 We salute Ramsey Clark, who died April 9, 2021, an outspoken defender of all forms of popular resistance to oppression, a leader always willing to challenge the crimes of U.S. militarism and global arrogance. He remained optimistic that the power of people could determine history. His courageous voice will[…READ MORE]

The US Can’t Control the World
APRIL 15, 2021, UNAC EDITOR

by Margaret Kimberley, published on Black Agenda Report, April 7, 2021 Slow-witted Joe Biden appears to think that we’re still in the age of the sole superpower, when in fact that era has come and gone. “China’s Belt and Road Initiative involves countries on every continent and provides opportunity where the western nations offer only debt and subjugation.” As this columnist[…READ MORE]

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Question for this article:

The peace movement in the United States, What are its strengths and weaknesses?

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Flawed Approach Sunk Amazon Union Drive, But Birthed National Movement
APRIL 13, 2021, UNAC EDITOR

By Mike Elk, published by Labor Today, April 9, 2021 Today, the union drive at Amazon in Alabama, which drew unprecedented political and media attention, was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin. Last month, as we stood in the parking lot of Amazon’s warehouse and spoke with 32-year-old Ashley Beringer about her take on the Amazon union vote, it became apparent[…READ MORE]

The Real Victory in Bessemer: Renewal of Working Class Organizing
APRIL 12, 2021, UNAC EDITOR

by Scott Williams, published on Workers World, April 2, 2021 “The workers in Bessemer never thought they’d spark a national discussion. This is their moment, but it’s not just about Amazon. This is about every employer and the right of every worker to fair pay, safe workplaces, a voice in their workplace and the right to organize unions without illegal[…READ MORE]

NO STALLING! The only solution — U.S. out of Afghanistan
APRIL 9, 2021, UNAC EDITOR

by Sara Flounders, published on Workers World, April 6, 2021 On Feb. 29, 2020, after rounds of negotiations in Doha, Qatar, with the Taliban — the insurgency they have fought for 20 years — the U.S. signed an agreement to withdraw from Afghanistan all U.S. and NATO forces within 14 months — by this May 1. In return the Taliban[…READ MORE]

Mumia update: The New Krasner Brief
APRIL 6, 2021, UNAC EDITOR

by Pam Africa, published on Bayview Newspaper, March 28, 2021 As you can see from our petition, we have been seeking to approach Larry Krasner diplomatically. In our effort to attract the widest possible range of supporters, we have written the petition with polite language. We are trying to give DA Krasner the benefit of the doubt by considering the possibility[…READ MORE]

Nicaragua: Building The Good Life (Buen Vivir) Through Popular Revolution
APRIL 4, 2021, UNAC EDITOR

by Margaret Flowers, published on Popular Resistance, March 28, 2021 As I traveled in Nicaragua on the recent Sanctions Kill delegation, one thing was clear, social transformation (revolution) requires both political power and participation by the people. Without political power, revolutionary programs will not have the material resources they require. Without the participation of the people, revolutionary programs, even with[…READ MORE]

On César Chávez Day, Chicanos fight back against LAPD
APRIL 4, 2021, UNAC EDITOR

by Luis Sifuentes, published on Fightback News, April 2, 2021 The LAPD recently shot six people in seven days. We also saw them unleash their violence last week in Echo Park against the unhoused community and allies, then call it a “service to the community.” And they’re trying to use their violence during last summer’s protests to secure more resources[…READ MORE]

As Biden Plans Withdrawal, Analysis Shows Afghan War Cost At Least 241,000 Lives and $2.26 Trillion

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from Common Dreams (reprinted according to provisions of a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License)

In the wake of President Joe Biden’s announcement  that he plans to withdraw all regular U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by this year’s anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, experts at the Costs of War Project on Friday released an update on what nearly two decades of war has cost in both dollars and human lives.


An estimated 241,000 people have died as a direct result of the war, and the United States has spent $2.26 trillion  on military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan since the 2001 U.S. invasion, according to the project, housed at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future.

“These horrific numbers are testament to the costs of war, first to the Afghan people, and then to the soldiers and people of the United States,” said project co-director and Brown University professor Catherine Lutz in a statement. “Ending the war as soon as possible is the only rational and humane thing to do.”

The new Costs of War Project figures are part of a nearly decadelong effort by co-director and Boston University professor Neta Crawford to track the costs of post-9/11 wars in not only Afghanistan and Pakistan but also Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and beyond.

The death tally includes U.S. military and contractors, Department of Defense civilians, Afghan and Pakistani national military and police, other allied troops, civilians, opposition fighters, journalists and media workers, and humanitarian aid workers. The project notes that “these figures do not include deaths caused by disease, loss of access to food, water, infrastructure, and/or other indirect consequences of the war.”

The financial costs include Overseas Contingency Operations budgets of the U.S. Defense and State departments, the DOD’s base-budget war-related increases, veteran care, and estimated interest on money borrowed to fund the war. It does not included future costs of veteran care or future interest payments.

“The DOD spending, at over $900 billion in Afghanistan, is the tip of the iceberg,” Crawford said. “The costs of the Afghanistan war include its escalation into Pakistan, millions of refugees and displaced persons, the toll in lives of combatants and noncombatants, and the need to care for America’s veterans. The Pentagon’s base budget has increased as well.”

“We report these estimates so that the American people will have a better understanding of the scale of the effort and its consequences,” she explained. “The American people also lost some transparency here. A more comprehensive accounting is yet to be completed. It would include not just money that may or may not have been well spent, but the count of those wounded, those who lost limbs, and the tremendous psychological toll of decades of war on combatants and noncombatants and their families.”

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Question for this article:

Does military spending lead to economic decline and collapse?

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The new numbers come after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) argued  Thursday in an op-ed for the Washington Post that the withdrawal should spark reflection upon “the enormous costs” of nearly two decades of war and enable the U.S. to “refocus on diplomacy as our foreign policy tool of first resort.”

“Executing a responsible and comprehensive withdrawal from Afghanistan is an essential first step toward Biden fulfilling his commitment to end ‘forever wars,'” the lawmakers wrote. “But more work must be done.”

Antiwar activists and human rights advocates concur.

Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, noted  Friday that Biden’s announcement “has raised fears that further insecurity may erode important gains in human rights that have allowed Afghans, women and girls in particular, to enjoy greater freedoms and better education and health.”

“The U.S. government should commit to providing vital funding and diplomatic support to preserve and expand on those gains and press for an end to abuses against civilians,” Gossman said.

In addition to boosting assistance for education and health, especially for Afghan females of all ages, “assistance will be needed to improve enforcement of laws protecting women and to ensure that legal aid is available for women prisoners and juvenile detainees,” Human Rights Watch explained.

The group also called for strengthening Afghan human rights groups, particularly the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and said that “the U.S. should provide long-term institutional support to assist independent news media organizations to become self-sustaining. The U.S. should also press the Taliban—which could become an aid recipient under any future peace agreement—to cease all threats and attacks on the media and to pledge to uphold media freedom.”

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies of the peace group CodePink wrote in The Progressive Thursday that “it’s true that a U.S. withdrawal may lead to setbacks in the gains made by Afghan women and girls. But those gains have been mainly in the capital city of Kabul. Two-thirds  of girls in Afghanistan still receive no primary education, and Afghan women will never achieve significant advances while their country remains at war.”

“Ending the fighting and investing a small fraction of U.S. war spending in education and healthcare would do far more to improve the lives of Afghan women and girls,” they asserted. More broadly, the pair filled in some of details that haven’t been a major focus since the president confirmed plans to end the longest U.S. war, writing:

What Biden did not admit is that the United States and its allies, with all their money and firepower, were unable to vanquish the Taliban, who currently control about half of Afghanistan and are positioned to control even more in the coming months without a ceasefire. Nor did Biden admit that, in two decades, the United States and its allies have been unable to build up a stable, democratic, popular government or a competent military in the country.

Benjamin and Davies also noted that “while Biden is being pilloried by some for pulling out too soon, the truth is that he is violating  a May 1 deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal that was painstakingly negotiated under the Trump administration,” and anticipation of that U.S. violation has prompted the Taliban to refuse to join 10 days of United Nations-led peace talks set to start in Istanbul on April 24.

“We must hope that, in the coming months, the U.N. will find a way to bring the warring parties in Afghanistan together and craft a ceasefire and a workable peace process based on power sharing,” they concluded. “After so many decades of war and intense suffering, much of it perpetrated by the United States and its allies, the Afghan people desperately need—and deserve—an end to this war.”

USA: Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2021 deserves support

. . DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION . .

Special to CPNN from Anne Creter*

U.S. President Joe Biden introduced the big word “infrastructure” to the national discourse recently with his bold new bill to build concrete “infrastructures” to lift our country up from its arrested “development.” Because the U.S. suffers now from an appalling, escalating epidemic of (gun) violence and domestic terrorism, such proposed structures are urgently needed here. Sustainable development is necessary for our nation to be more safe, secure, healthy and peaceful. Because “sustainable peace” is a necessary condition for development, it is ALSO time now for the U.S. to build bold new governmental “infrastructures” for PEACE!

Infrastructures for Peace (I4P) are dynamic, architectural networks of interdependent structures, mechanisms, resources (including governmental departments, ministries and other forms such as commissions, academies etc.) which through dialogue and consultation, promote nonviolence, conflict prevention and peacebuilding in a society. They are the missing link ‘connective tissue’ between the desire for the Culture of Peace and actually making it real.

With Covid-19 still rampant our planet is at “The Great Turning” existential moment of choice. As we enter a new life-changing POST-PANDEMIC world, to survive society must develop the attitudes and responses this unchartered territory will demand. Therefore, now more than ever we MUST make “nonviolence” a solid foundation upon which our “new normal” will be built! As the pandemic breaks down dysfunctional old-paradigm structures, viable new alternative “nonviolent” ones exist at all levels that have been proven to promote peacebuilding to cultivate the Culture of Peace. To offset the destruction, we must intentionally construct the new epoch by building a global peace architecture to institutionalize peace; applying the science of nonviolence at all levels as the main organizing principle and priority of government. Peace is a basic human right and government currently is sorely inadequate in guaranteeing it for us.

Pending U.S. bill H.R 1111 just re-introduced in Congress on February 18, 2021 by Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13) is an excellent example of a governmental I4P. This historic, comprehensive, transformative bill calls for a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding to make peace an ongoing national focus. It addresses the interconnection of all life and the intersectionality of peace, justice, equality, planetary survival and other aspects of life. We know there are root causes of violence and root conditions of peace.  And that violence prevention saves lives and money, raising the quality of life for all.  This legislation is about addressing the root causes of violence at all levels to create the nonviolent Beloved Community.

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Question related to this article:

Is a U.S. Department of Peace a realistic political goal?

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Some 2021 provisions and updated language in the bill include:

* Confronting systemic racism in America to eliminate persistent racial inequities, including through a Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation.

* Peace education not only anti-bullying / anti-harassment, nonviolent conflict education, mindfulness and restorative practices, but also study of U.S. civil rights and human rights movements and contributions of its diverse ethnicities, races and religious communities.

* Developing violence prevention and de-escalation training for the general public both domestically and internationally, to provide peacebuilding tools and educational skills plus promote “sustainable peace” buy-in and awareness.

* Expanding upon language in prior DoP bills relating to arms control and nuclear weapons; includes health and medical concerns; calls for prevention of hate and a culture of violence and domination — including development of non-threatening community policing strategies, mindfulness and conflict de-escalation training skills among police and other public safety officers. 

* Eradication of dehumanization, genocide and mistreatment of individuals, including by human trafficking, infectious and other diseases. 

* Provides for wide-ranging studies relating to mass shootings; police violence; the impact of war and violence on soldiers, veterans and civilians; the impact of violence, racism and inequality on many conditions of peace and rule of law; and the impact of teaching nonviolent conflict resolution skills and social emotional learning. 

* Includes Tribal Governments among entities to be consulted and collaboration to prioritize those who are most impacted by the related programs. 

* Encouraging all countries to form infrastructures for peace within and among nations!

For more information:

Text of bill.

U.S. campaign.

Global Alliance for Ministries & Infrastructures for Peace.

The author, Anne Creter, is the UN NGO Rep for Peace Through Unity, GAMIP, and the Peace Alliance National Department of Peacebuilding Committee

USA” BAmazon Union Vote: The Opening Salvo in a Long Struggle!

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

Statement from the Solidarity Center

In response to the election results, we send our full solidarity to the courageous Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama who opened a major struggle against the U.S.’s second largest corporation. We commend the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) for their efforts and are prepared to continue to mobilize solidarity as this struggle continues to unfold.

The workers in Bessemer have ignited a national movement to organize Amazon and all unorganized workers. This campaign, led by Black workers in the U.S. South, is just the opening shot by the working class in our struggle to rebuild power after decades of capitalist offensives.

Despite the current setbacks and enormous challenges, this struggle has been immensely successful.

Amazon has incredibly intimidating power, yet workers in Bessemer dared to initiate this struggle, inspiring workers around the world to organize and to build unions. This bold undertaking sparked hundreds of solidarity actions across the world and had a positive impact on Amazon workers striking in Germany, India and Italy, as well as job actions in Georgia, Illinois, and countless other places.

Amazon’s Union Busting: Unprecedented violations of worker’s rights

The reality is that this was always an uphill battle. Amazon, led by the world’s richest person Jeff Bezos, has at their disposal not only an unlimited amount of resources to bust workers’ organizing efforts, but also a set of rules and laws that are stacked to advantage the boss over workers expressing their basic demands for good wages, safe working conditions, and power on the job.

Amazon engaged in one of the most aggressive, dirty, and illegal union-busting campaigns in recent memory. Amazon was able to successfully appeal to the National Labor Relations Board to nearly quadruple the initial bargaining unit; they held captive audience meetings with workers daily; sent multiple texts every day to workers phones; installed a mailbox on company grounds in violation of an NLRB ruling an in an effort to intimidate workers; shelled out millions to bring on some of the most vile union busters from Morgan Lewis and elsewhere; changed the traffic light pattern to frustrate organizers’ ability to talk with workers going to and from work; among many other union busting tactics that they employed to prevent the workers from winning their union.

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Question(s) related to this article:

The right to form and join trade unions, Is it being respected?

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Due to Amazon’s outrageous violations of workers rights, the election results should be thrown out and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) should mandate that Amazon immediately recognize the union and begin negotiations.

We must demand NO RETALIATION against Amazon workers involved in union organizing.

Only continued struggle will make this happen.

Where do we go from here?

We must also think seriously about the strategy and tactics we employ to advance from here. There is ongoing discussion across the working class movement about the development of workers assemblies as a vehicle to organize the unorganized and to continue to build community and worker solidarity. This organizing will be critical to the future.

Many unions and progressive organizations are focusing attention on the necessity for the PRO Act, a set of labor legislation that would overturn right to work laws and severely restrict the kinds of union-busting tactics Amazon employed in Bessemer. We must build a mass movement to pass these laws and much more.

In the wake of the vote in Bessemer, we have initiated a petition calling on President Joe Biden to pass the critical reforms in the PRO Act by Executive Order. Every president has used their executive power to impose basic changes, forward or backwards, through Executive Orders. FDR issued 3,721 Executive Orders. The Emancipation Proclamation was an Executive Order that ended chattel slavery in the U.S. Biden must act now in the interests of all workers to pass the PRO Act – sign the petition here.

May Day – International Workers Day – is only a few weeks away. This will be a necessary point to mobilize around these next steps.

More assessment and discussion is needed that involves various forces to develop plans to open up a much broader struggle and collectively chart a course forward.

Despite the outcome of the vote, the new front these workers have opened up is a major advance for the working class movement as a whole. The movement that this struggle has given rise to obliges us to continue to press ahead and build off of what the workers in Bessemer began.

This fight is far from over! We will continue to do everything we can to mobilize solidarity with the workers in Bessemer as they fight for their union and challenge the outcome of this election in the weeks and months ahead, and as thousands of other workers across the country take inspiration from their heroic fight and engage in organizing drives in their workplaces.

Amazon: End Union-busting! No retaliation! Recognize RWDSU!

Expand worker’s rights to organize! Make the PRO Act Law immediately!

Let’s keep building worker power and community solidarity to organize the unorganized!

Interview with Chas Freeman on US-China policy

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

Excerpts from an interview conducted by Sam Kolitch and published in the Brown Political Review

Ambassador Chas Freeman is a retired career diplomat who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs from 1993-1994, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989-1992 during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 1986-1989 during the Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola and the U.S. mediation of Namibian independence from South Africa, Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in the American embassies at Bangkok from 1984-1986 and at Beijing from 1981-1984, and Director for Chinese Affairs at the U.S. Department of State from 1979-1981. In 1972, he was the primary American interpreter for President Nixon’s trailblazing visit to China.


Image Credit: The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Ambassador Freeman is the author of America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East, Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige, America’s Misadventures in the Middle East, The Diplomat’s Dictionary, Arts of Power: Statecraft and Diplomacy, and Cooking Western in China. He has also published in prestigious academic journals such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and The Harvard International Review. Prior to becoming a Visiting Scholar at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Ambassador Freeman served as President of the Middle East Policy Council and Co-Chair of the United States China Policy Foundation. He speaks Chinese fluently, Spanish and French at the professional level, and Arabic conversationally, in addition to several other languages. Ambassador Freeman studied at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and he earned a JD from the Harvard Law School and an AB magna cum laude from Yale University. . . .

SK: Before we discuss China, how do you define “good diplomacy”? 

CF: The basis of diplomacy is empathy. It is the ability to understand how and why someone else sees things in order to persuade them of your position. Good diplomacy is all about persuading others to redefine their interests in order to conform with yours. It is also about forming relationships with people so that you can make them want to cooperate with you—not oppose you. This allows you to draw on people at a moment of crisis to gain access or to be heard. Diplomacy is also negotiation. It is about trying to ensure that bad things that could happen don’t happen. Very often, diplomats don’t get credit for what didn’t happen. But a lot of things don’t happen because skillful diplomats have prevented them from happening. So good diplomacy is complex and requires a lot of skill. 

SK: What is the root cause of the United States’ desire to confront China? 

CF: I think the rudimentary driver of the United States’ confrontation with China is psychology, not strategy. We became the world’s largest economy sometime in the 1870s. That’s 150 years ago. Now we’ve either already been eclipsed, or we’re about to be eclipsed, by China. So we’re afraid of not being number one and we’ve decided that we will hamstring the rise of China. No one on the American side has described where this confrontation is supposed to take us—it’s just an end in itself. Also, we have exercised military primacy in the Asia-Pacific region since 1945. Now, we confront the return of China to wealth and power in the region. And our position in the Asia-Pacific is precarious. What does that mean? It means that we object to things like China’s anti-access and area denial weapon system (A2/AD), otherwise known as defense. The Chinese now can stop us from running through their defenses. So this is a threat: we’re not all-powerful anymore. We are in danger of losing primacy. 

But there’s not much evidence of China wanting to replace us. They are displacing us in some spheres because they’re big and growing and successful. Do they want to take on our global dominion and hegemony role? No, but we assert that they do. We posit that China thinks and behaves like us: “We had Manifest Destiny and it took us across the Pacific to the Philippines. Therefore, China must have a Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny in mind.” This is wrong. Things don’t work like that. So I would argue that we have inhaled our own propaganda, and we are living in the appropriately stoned state that that produces. If we have sound policies, we can out-compete anyone. But we’re not looking at sound policies; we’re looking at pulling down our competitor. 

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Question for this article:

Is there a growing danger of war between US and China?

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SK: Isn’t the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) indicative of China’s desire to expand its influence, if not “replace” our hegemonic role on the global stage?

CF: The initial impulse of the Belt and Road Initiative was that China had a surplus capacity in steel, cement, aluminum, and construction capability—and it extended these resources abroad. Then China looked at what it was doing and said, “Actually, it would be really good if Lisbon was connected to Vladivostok efficiently, and Arkhangelsk was connected to Colombo. Maybe we could throw in Mombasa, too. This would create a huge interconnected area in which trade and investment could flow smoothly.” So, actually, a major part of the BRI is an agreement on tariffs, customs barrier treatment, transit, and bonded storage. It is the construction of roads, railroads, airports, ports, industrial parks, fiber optic cables, et cetera, over this huge area. 

And the Chinese assumption—not aspiration, but assumption—is that as the largest and most dynamic society in that area, they will be the preeminent force in it. But this is an economic strategy, it’s not a military one. So the problem we have conceptually is that the only way we, the United States, know how to think about international affairs is in military terms. Our foreign policy is very militarized and is driven by military considerations. 

SK: China has rejected the U.S. State Department’s characterization of its treatment of Uighurs in the Xinjiang region as “genocide.” Do you agree with this characterization?

CF: I think what is happening to the Uighurs is awful—no doubt about it. We do not, however, know exactly what’s happening to them. There are terms like genocide being thrown around, which may not fit the case. But I think it is entirely appropriate that we express the view that the treatment of the Uighurs is appalling. What are we going to do about it? It is a complicated situation. I hate to keep coming back to American hypocrisy, but why does the Muslim world not line up with us on the Uighur situation? Because when was the last time we said anything about the Palestinians, Kashmiris, or Chechens? There are Muslims being oppressed all over the world, and we don’t say anything. So selective outrage isn’t very effective.

SK: China continues to defend its crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong. How will this impact U.S. foreign policy toward China? 

CF: What I expect will happen, now that ‘one country’ has been established, is that politics in Hong Kong will evolve to address some of the domestic problems in Hong Kong that have been neglected—housing, education, and social welfare, for example. So I don’t think there’s an easy answer to the Hong Kong issue, but I think that people who have written off the idea of any kind of democracy are wrong. Hong Kong’s democracy will not be focused on secession from China; it will be focused on problems inside Hong Kong. And it may or may not be effective. 

We need to get real about these problems. If we really care about the Uighur and Hong Kong situations from a humanitarian point of view, we need to try to find a way to chip away at them—not just condemn them. Condemning things doesn’t do anything but make people angry and less receptive to your arguments. These issues ought to be addressed seriously. 

SK: How does China view Taiwan’s continued push for independence?  

CF: The Chinese government sees Taiwan as a continuation of a foreign sphere of influence on Chinese territory. They see it as a continuation of warlordism, which means local independence from central control. The Chinese see an independent Taiwan as a challenge to their legitimacy. 

SK: With that in mind, do you think that we are heading toward a military confrontation with China in the Taiwan Strait? 

CF: There is no framework for keeping the peace in the Taiwan area anymore. And I think it’s pretty clear that we’re heading into a war. We seem to be heading toward a bloody rendezvous with Chinese nationalism—and I don’t think that’s too smart. We’re talking about contesting the territory of a nuclear power. Does anybody think about that? There is an underlying assumption, probably born from the thirty years since the end of the Cold War, that we’re invulnerable and omnipotent. I don’t have any problem with the use of force. But I do have a problem with the foolish use of force by picking fights you’re going to lose. Let’s pick a fight, but let’s make sure it’s one that we can win. So I think that instead of trying to bring China down, which we won’t be able to do, we should be trying to leverage its growing prosperity to increase our own prosperity.

SK: How do we do that—leverage China’s prosperity to further our own interests? 

CF: China has the world’s best technology for building infrastructure. We have infrastructure that is falling apart. Maybe their technology can be licensed. Maybe bonds could be issued against tolls on repaired roads or traffic on revamped rail lines. Maybe ports could be rebuilt. There’ve been a whole series of international meetings in recent years about the problem of American infrastructure—our ports can’t handle traffic and they’re not being modernized. I think, actually, our country needs to come to a point where we rediscover what made us great in the beginning: an openness to foreigners, foreign ideas, and best practices from abroad so that we can apply them at home. We should not be approaching the world with the attitude that we have all the answers.  

We should be cooperating with China on broad, planet-wide international problems like climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, environmental remediation, and so forth. We should be cooperating in order to bring a peaceful end to the confrontations with North Korea, Iran, and others. Lastly, we should not be pushing Russia and China together, which is what we are doing. The one maxim of diplomacy is “divide your enemies”—and we are doing the opposite. 

(Thank you to The Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research for calling out attention to this article.)

Biden’s Announcement That Trump Got Military Spending Just Right Is Dead Wrong

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article by David Swanson

President Joe Biden is proposing a level of Pentagon spending so close to that of Trump’s last year in office that Bloomberg  calls it a 0.4% reduction adjusting for inflation while Politico  calls it a 1.5% increase and “effectively an inflation-adjusted budget boost.” I call it a disgusting violation of the will of the public spent in the hypocritical name of a grand battle against autocracies by so-called democracies, driven in reality by the influence of war profiteers and contempt for the fate of the planet and the people on it.


The U.S. public, according to polling, would reduce military spending if it had something resembling a democracy.

Just five weapons dealers poured  $60 million into U.S. election campaign bribery in 2020. These companies now sell more weapons abroad than to the U.S. government, with the U.S. State Department acting as a marketing firm, and with U.S. weapons and/or U.S. military training and/or U.S. government funding going to the militaries of 96%  of the most oppressive governments on earth.

U.S. military spending is $1.25 trillion  per year across numerous departments. Even just taking the $700 billion and change that goes to the Pentagon and stands in for the full amount in media coverage, U.S. military spending has been climbing for years, including during the Trump years, and is the equivalent  of many of the world’s top military spenders combined, most of which are U.S. allies, NATO members, and U.S. weapons customers.

Still using that artificially reduced figure, China is at 37% of it, Russia at 8.9%, and Iran is spending 1.3%. These are, of course, comparisons of absolute amounts.  Per capita  comparisons are extreme as well. The United States, every year, takes $2,170 from every man, woman, and child for wars and war preparations, while Russia takes $439, China $189, and Iran $114.

“Takes” is the right word. President Eisenhower once admitted it out loud, saying, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

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Question for this article:

Does military spending lead to economic decline and collapse?

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When a mere $30 billion could end  starvation on earth, there is no question that militarism kills first and foremost through the diversion of funds from where they are needed, while of course risking  nuclear apocalypse and driving  environmental collapse,  justifying  secrecy,  fueling  bigotry, and degrading  culture.

The madness of militarism is not new, but it is always newly happening in an environmentally riskier world in more desperate need of a redirection of resources, and is happening now in the midst of a pandemic. Meanwhile President Biden proposes to pay for things he wants to spend money on with slight corporate taxes over 15 years, as if no other expenses will come up between now and 2036.

A bill in both houses of Congress called the ICBM Act would move funding from intercontinental ballistic missiles to vaccines. Dozens of Congress Members say they favor moving funding from militarism to human and environmental needs. Yet, not a single one has made a public commitment to voting against any bill that fails to reduce military spending, and not a single one has introduced a war powers resolution to end a single war, now that Trump’s veto cannot be relied on to render such an action harmless.

It is a real shame that President Biden is not a member of the Democratic Party whose 2020 Platform reads: “Democrats believe the measure of our security is not how much we spend on defense, but how we spend our defense dollars and in what proportion to other tools in our foreign policy toolbox and other urgent domestic investments. We believe we can and must ensure our security while restoring stability, predictability, and fiscal discipline in defense spending. We spend 13 times more on the military than we do on diplomacy. We spend five times more in Afghanistan each year than we do on global public health and preventing the next pandemic. We can maintain a strong defense and protect our safety and security for less.”

It’s just bad luck that President Biden does not subscribe to the religion professed by the Pope who remarked  last Sunday: “The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened.”

According to Bloomberg, the U.S. military arsenal is being strengthened in a proper progressive manner: “The $715 billion Pentagon ‘topline’ is likely to be presented as a compromise to Democrats pressing for cuts in defense spending, as some of the money would be slated for the Pentagon’s environmental initiatives.”

With friends like the Pentagon, the environment has no need of enemies, real or imagined.

According to Politico, wildly out-of-control military spending that Biden believes Donald Trump got just about exactly right is actually a demonstration of restraint because “Pentagon budgeteers” have been hoping for more. Let us weep for them in our own private ways.

Yellen pledges U.S. international cooperation, calls for global minimum tax

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article by David Lawder from Reuters (Reprinted by permission)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday that she is working with G20 countries to agree on a global corporate minimum tax rate and pledged that restoring U.S. multilateral leadership would strengthen the global economy and advance U.S. interests.


Reuters File Photo : U.S. Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

In a speech ahead of her first International Monetary Fund and World Bank Spring Meetings as Treasury chief, Yellen signaled stronger U.S. engagement on issues from climate change to human rights to tax base erosion.

A global minimum tax proposed by the Biden administration could help to end a “thirty-year race to the bottom on corporate tax rates,” Yellen told an online event hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The proposal is a key pillar of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure spending plan, which calls for an increase in the U.S. corporate tax rate to 28% while eliminating some deductions associated with overseas profits.

Without a global minimum, the United States would again have higher rates than a number of other major economies, tax experts say, while the U.S. proposal could help jump-start negotiations for a tax deal among major economies.

World Bank President David Malpass said finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies on Wednesday would discuss global tax issues, including for digital services, adding that international attitudes were shifting away from continual tax reductions.

“Taxes matter to development, and it’s important that the world get it right,” Malpass told CNBC television.

Separately, a group of Democratic senators unveiled a legislative proposal to roll back parts of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 U.S. tax cuts.

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Question for this article:

Opposing tax havens and global exploitation: part of the culture of peace?

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NEW ATTITUDE

Yellen also said she would use the IMF and World Bank meetings this week to advance discussions on climate change, improve vaccine access for poor countries and push countries to do more to support a strong global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will fare better if we work together and support each other,” Yellen said.

Her more cooperative approach marks a sharp contrast to the ‘America First’ approach of her Trump administration predecessor, Steven Mnuchin. She has backed a $650 billion increase in IMF monetary reserves that Mnuchin opposed last year, and said she will work with international institutions and partners on carbon emission reduction targets.

Mnuchin had routinely opposed any climate change references in G20 and other communiques issued from large multilateral gatherings.

Yellen also has dropped here a key Mnuchin demand from international tax negotiations – a provision that would allow large U.S. technology companies to opt out of any new rules on taxation of digital services.

PRESSURE ON TAX HAVENS

The new Treasury chief said it was important to “end the pressures of tax competition” and make sure governments “have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenues in essential public goods and respond to crises, and that all citizens fairly share the burden of financing government.”

Separately, a U.S. Treasury official told reporters that it was important to have the world’s major economies on board with a global minimum tax to make it effective, but did not say how many countries were needed for this.

The official said the United States would use its own tax legislation to prevent companies from shifting profits or residency to tax haven countries and would encourage other major economies to do the same.

The Biden plan proposes a 21% minimum corporate tax rate, coupled with eliminating exemptions on income from countries that do not enact a minimum tax. The administration says the plan will discourage the shifting of jobs and profits overseas.

Yellen said in her remarks that while advanced economies had successfully supported their economies through the COVID-19 pandemic, it was too early to declare victory, and more support was needed for low income countries to gain access to vaccines.

Activists Block Rail Route for General Dynamics Armoured Vehicles Bound for Saudi Arabia, Demand Canada Stop Fueling War in Yemen

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from World Beyond War

Members of anti-war organizations World BEYOND War, Labour Against the Arms Trade, and People for Peace London are blocking railway tracks near General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, a London-area company manufacturing light armoured vehicles (LAVs) for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


The activists are calling on General Dynamics to end its complicity in the brutal Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen and calling on the Canadian government to end arms exports to Saudi Arabia and expand humanitarian assistance for the people of Yemen.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Saudi-led, Western-backed coalition’s intervention in Yemen’s civil war, leading to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

It is estimated that 24 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance – some 80% of the population – which is being thwarted by the Saudi-led coalition’s land, air, and naval blockade of the country. Since 2015, this blockade has prevented food, fuel, commercial goods and aid from entering Yemen. According to the World Food Program, nearly 50,000 people in Yemen are already living in famine-like conditions with 5 million just a step away. To add to the already dire situation, Yemen has one of the worst COVID-19 death rates in the world, killing 1 in 4 people who test positive.

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Question related to this article:

How can the peace movement become stronger and more effective?

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Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic and calls from the United Nations for a global ceasefire, Canada has continued to export arms to Saudi Arabia. In 2019, Canada exported arms valued at $2.8 billion to the Kingdom—more than 77 times the dollar value of Canadian aid to Yemen in the same year.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Canada has exported over $1.2 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, the bulk of which are light armoured vehicles manufactured by General Dynamics, part of a $15 billion arms deal brokered by the Government of Canada. Canadian weapons continue to fuel a war that has led to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in Yemen and heavy civilian casualties.

The light armoured vehicles manufactured by General Dynamics in London, Ontario are being transported by rail and truck to port where they are loaded onto Saudi ships.

“Since the multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia was first signed, Canadian civil society has published reports, presented petitions, protested at government offices and weapons manufacturers across the country, and delivered several letters to Trudeau in which dozens of groups representing millions have repeatedly demanded Canada stop arming Saudi Arabia” said Rachel Small of World BEYOND War. “We’ve been left with no choice but to block the Canadian tanks headed to Saudi Arabia ourselves.”

“Workers want green, peaceful jobs, not jobs manufacturing weapons of war. We will continue to put pressure on the Liberal government to end arms exports to Saudi Arabia and work with unions to secure alternatives for arms industry workers,” said Simon Black of Labour Against the Arms Trade, a coalition of peace and labour activists working to end Canada’s participation in the international arms trade.

“What our community needs is government funding for rapid conversion from military exports back to production for human needs, as these plants used to do,” says David Heap of People for Peace London. “We call for immediate public investment in much-needed green transport industries that will ensure good jobs for Londoners while protecting peace and human rights in the world.”

Follow twitter.com/wbwCanada and twitter.com/LAATCanada for photos, videos, and updates during the rail blockade.

Danny Glover on Amazon Union Drive in USA, the Power of Organized Labor & Centuries of Resistance in Haiti

TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY .

A transcript from Democracy Now

As workers in Bessemer, Alabama, continue to vote on whether to establish the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the United States, we speak with actor and activist Danny Glover, who recently joined organizers on the ground to push for a yes vote. “This election is a statement,” says Glover, one of the most high-profile supporters of the closely watched union drive. Nearly 6,000 workers, most of them Black, have until March 29 to return their ballots. If workers successfully unionize, it could be a watershed moment for the U.S. labor movement, setting off a wave of union drives at Amazon facilities across the country. “Once unions are there, once workers have representation on all levels, once they have a seat at the bargaining table, it’s another kind of expression and a new relationship,” says Glover. 


video of show

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.
Senator Bernie Sanders is heading to Bessemer, Alabama, today to show support for Amazon workers who are in the final days of voting on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and become the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the United States. It’s one of the most closely watched union elections in decades. Voting ends Monday, March 29th. Ballots have been sent to nearly 6,000 workers, most of whom are Black.
Amazon, which has 1.3 million employees, has fought unionization for years. Meanwhile, the company’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, has become one of the world’s two richest men. His personal wealth has increased by $65 billion during the pandemic alone.
Senator Sanders joins other lawmakers who have traveled to Bessemer to support the unionization drive. New York Congressmember Jamaal Bowman visited last month and called on Amazon executives to come out and talk to their critics.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN: And you came out here, as well. So, come out here, meet us, say hello, explain your situation, and we can take it from there. Treat your workers with dignity and respect. And if they want to organize and unionize, let them do that, because this is America. This is a democracy. It’s rooted in labor. Labor built this country. You would not have a company if labor was not working, doing the work for you. So, come out here and show yourself and be a real person, and let’s have a real, direct conversation.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the most high-profile supporters of the Amazon unionization drive is the world-renowned actor, director, activist, longtime labor supporter, Danny Glover. He’s heading back to Bessemer, Alabama, today.

Danny, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Can you talk about why you’re taking this long journey, as you are shooting in Canada, but you’re going south?

DANNY GLOVER: Well, first of all, I was just thinking about Georgia. This is where we need Nina Simone. Her Mississippi song was galvanizing [inaudible], and words for Georgia would be galvanizing, as well. My family, my mother, my roots are in Georgia. My great-grandmother, Mae Hunley, was freed by the emancipation in the Civil War, so I have a long history with Georgia.

And I commend all those who struggle. I mean this new generation of activists, of political politicians, that are there right now and fighting, and also citizens, as well, because this is going to take the work of citizens and citizens to act at this particular moment.

We talk about labor. I’ve been a strong supporter of labor my entire life. I grew up in the system of organized labor and organizing citizens with the postal employees, which my parents were proud members of the union there, the national council — the national postal employee union. So, I know about that. That has been the circumference of my life.

And this election, we can talk about importance all we want, but this election is a statement right here. Remember, you know, this election at Amazon is a statement. We are in a crisis, you know? We’re dealing with a narrative that will not allow us to move beyond and go somewhere else and to be something else and to transform this country.

So, we’re living in this particular moment at this time, and certainly unions are going to play an extraordinary role. We know the role that unions have played throughout the 20th century, particularly the mid-20th century and through the end of World War II. But we understand that the role that labor has to play is essential.

We have a pandemic, the reality of the pandemic. The pandemic is going to change the whole nature in how — nature in which we deal with each other, we relate to each other. All the things that we take for granted as common in our behavior is changing. So the face of employment is going to change, as well. So, there are things that we — there are so many unknowns, but what’s steadfast is that once unions are there, once workers have representation on all levels, once they have a seat at the bargaining table, there’s another kind of expression and a new relationship. That relationship is going to be essential across the new ways in which we deal with commerce, the new ways in which we deal with business. That relationship is going to be essential.

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Question for this article

Is it possible for workers to gain solidarity through unionisation?

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So, here we are right now at this particular moment. And it’s going to be tough. We know that. It’s always been tough. But at the same time, I think the political will is there in ways that I think are necessary and still will translate into other struggles, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Danny, you’ve been to Bessemer before, and you went down, and you talked to the workers. What did they tell you about the conditions in the factory? And also, in light of what we just said at the beginning of this segment, that Jeff Bezos, one of the two wealthiest men in the world, made $65 billion during the pandemic alone — that’s like $7.4 million every hour for the past year. Put those two together.

DANNY GLOVER: Well, what’s clear — juxtapose that. The richest man — one of the richest men, one of the richest persons in the world, juxtapose that relationship in which the workers exist in. I mean, as an artist, I’m listening to the stories. We’re often moved by stories. Eduardo Galeano talked about stories and how we’re defined by our stories.

The stories of the workers there that I met in Bessemer at that plant were horrific, you know, from the surveillance, the constant surveillance, the inability to meet whatever the demands are, the different ways of management that are desocializing, the whole process of working and desocializing them as human beings, all those, at every level, from using the bathroom. It was unbelievable for me, you know.

And I hate to draw different other conclusions about comparisons, but if this is an example of the kind of way we deal with human beings here in the 21st century, given the extraordinary information that we have, during supposedly the extraordinary evolution that we’ve had as human beings, then we’re in trouble. And if we talk about this right here, with one of the largest employers in the world, who deals with unions in other places, would not deal with unions in here, then we’re talking about something different. We’re talking about something dangerous, you know.

And I think this is something that has to happen. It’s something — it’s the work that has to happen. It’s not only in Bessemer, but everywhere around the country. All of us should be in outrage at what is happening in the workplace, that we know now exists in the workplace, and the attempts, ugly attempts, to decredit unions itself, to union bust, to pay enormous amount of money to bring specific companies in, in order to dissuade people and intimidate people from voting yes on this for union.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about one other issue, before we turn to a third one, that is deeply close to your heart, that you’ve been very active on, this unprecedented reparations law that has been passed in Evanston, Illinois. But I know how close to your heart Haiti is. I traveled with you. We were in South Africa and went on the plane with President Aristide when he returned to Haiti.

Well, President Biden has now deported more Haitians over the past two months than President Trump did in the previous year, even though the Biden administration admits Haitians may face harm after being deported. And you know Haiti is in the midst of a political and economic crisis. At least 1,300 Haitians, including hundreds of children and infants, have been deported since February 1st, the last deportation just on Wednesday alone. Your thoughts on — what the media tends not to do is talk about the conditions, over the years, that have led people from the Northern Triangle, from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and Haiti to come to the United States.

DANNY GLOVER: Oh boy. I mean, Haiti. I mean, most people, at some point, thought I was of Haitian descent. And I express, as Frederick Douglass did, I’m a Haitian at heart. And it’s a difficult situation. I remember Jonathan Demme and I writing letters when President Bill Clinton was in office, and just expressing our condemnation of what was happening, people who were fleeing Haiti at the political — the political murder and acts and violence that was happening at that particular point in time. And what did we do? We put them on Guantánamo Bay.

But the whole question with Haiti — and let me — I don’t want to be long-winded about it, because the whole question would be — Haiti begins at the beginning. The beginning was 1804. So, if you see — look at Haitian history, Haitian history from that particular point, whose hand was always there to impede any kind of progress for the Haitian people, whether it was impose artificial embargo over 60 years for Haiti, after his victory in 1864 — 1804, until after the emancipation, when the embargo, that so-called embargo, was lifted? From every point, from the point of time of coups d’états, from the earthquake, from the coup d’état of a freely elected president in 1989, Bertrand Aristide, from that on, for the continuous messing in Haitian politics, it is exactly that, from the denial of any kind of political expression within people.

And the Haitians are Haitians because they are, because they resist. They continue to resist. They continue to resist. This resistance comes in so many different forms. So, we applaud them for their resistance, but we don’t talk about the extraordinary pressure that is placed and undermining of Haitian democracy that has been enforced for over 200 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Danny, we’re going to have to leave it there for now. And, of course, from 1804, the founding of this republic in an uprising of enslaved people, the U.S. Congress wouldn’t recognize the republic for decades, because they were afraid it would inspire enslaved people in the United States to rise up. But we’re going to leave it there, because we want to keep you on, go to break and then talk about this historic moment in Evanston, Illinois. We’re talking to the actor and activist Danny Glover, who’s on his way to Bessemer, Alabama. Stay with us.