Political Action

The planet can't wait

Socialist Worker - 20 hours 32 min ago

The People's Climate March this weekend will bring together a critical resistance to a president who could be "one of the most destructive forces in humanity's history."

Fighting back against climate change at the March for Science (Takver | flickr)

TOMORROW WILL mark Donald Trump's first 100 days in office, an artificial milestone that the media and Trump himself denounce as meaningless--but that they can't help themselves from spending endless time analyzing.

Meanwhile, a different clock is ticking on an infinitely more important deadline, and it's getting a small fraction of the media coverage: The point at which the global temperature increase reaches the 2 degrees Celsius tipping point that most scientists agree will trigger an irreversible cycle pushing the world toward even more disastrous climate change.

As Marxist ecologist John Bellamy Foster explained in a recent article for Monthly Review, if temperatures in the Arctic continue to rise at their current rate, they will set off a chain of events beyond human control: polar ice that currently reflects the sun's rays will turn into "dark ocean" that absorbs it, and the thawing tundra will release immense amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

In case you didn't think that November 8, 2016--the day of Trump's election--was bad enough, it was also the same day that the World Meteorological Association released a report declaring that the previous five years were the hottest ever recorded.

Even more ominously, the report stated that "2015 was also the first year in which global temperatures were more than 1 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial era." It turns out that in the same year that the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement declared 1.5 degrees Celsius to be the upper limit of how far global warming could go, we were already more than halfway there.

As Naomi Klein makes clear in the subtitle of her best-selling book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, we are experiencing a head-on collision between our present economic system and our future as a species.

"What our economy needs to function in a capitalist system is continuous growth and continuous depletion of resources, including finite resources," Klein said in an interview with the Indypendent. "What our planet needs in order to avoid catastrophic warming and other dangerous tipping points is for humans to contract our use of material resources."

That interview was from three years ago, when the problem we faced was that Barack Obama's environmental reforms weren't nearly enough to halt the advance of climate change. Now the problem has grown even worse: we have a climate change denialist president who's out to reverse even those insufficient reforms, at a time when the planet can't afford to go backward.

As environmental activist and author Ashley Dawson wrote in the days after the election, "It is no exaggeration to say that Donald Trump is set to become the most destructive force in humanity's history."

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THE SCALE of the problem of climate change can seem overwhelming, but it's important to remember that there have been important victories for our side, most notably the blocking the completion of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines (DAPL).

Trump has reversed both of these rulings (although it remains unclear if the Keystone XL will ever be completed), but these struggles have given momentum and exposure to fights against pipeline construction across the country, from Texas to New Jersey.

They've also shown new ways of building solidarity and connecting the fight for the planet with the struggle for Native sovereignty. The "Cowboy-Indian alliance" that united Native communities, ranchers and farmers was a key part of the fight against Keystone XL, and the historic connections forged between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the thousands of military veterans who came to help defend the water protectors inspired millions.

The fights against these pipelines and the rest of Trump's agenda of increased fossil fuel extraction is too urgent to wait until the next presidential election--even if you believe that whatever opponent the Democrats put up against him could be counted on to reverse climate change, which we shouldn't. Every year of not making progress--or going backward--takes us closer to the 2 degree Celsius countdown.

The Marches for Science last weekend and the People's Climate March on April 29 are important steps in building the fight.

The urgency is not only to stop the construction of more pipelines and the extraction of more oil, coal and gas, but to win millions of people to the idea that we need a system change in order to end the threat of climate change.

Many people are open to that argument, but don't see how we can get there. That's an understandable question, but here's one way to look at it: April 29 is the Climate March. Two days later on May 1, hundreds of thousands of will protest on May Day for the rights of workers and immigrants.

The demands of these two struggles and movements are intimately connected, and the prospects for success in each are enormously improved if we can build solidarity and unity around a struggle for system change with the power to shut down capitalism. We should look for every opportunity to take a step in that direction, starting this weekend.

Categories: Political Action

New Website Tracks GOP Voting Record Supporting Trump's Dangerous Policy Agenda

Move On - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 13:35

Members of Congress Join MoveOn.org in Calling Out Republicans for Trying to Hide Support for Trump’s Agenda from Constituents

On Trump’s 100th Day in Office, Trump Truth Hiders Website Exposes How Republicans in Congress Refuse to Hold Trump Accountable

WASHINGTON DC — Today, MoveOn.org is announcing the launch of a new website, TrumpTruthHiders.com, an online tracker designed to expose how House Republicans have acted to hide the truth about Trump’s presidency—obscuring their votes in support of Trump’s agenda from their constituents.

VIEW THE WEBSITE HERE:  www.TrumpTruthHiders.com

Some Republican House Members have made public statements in support of investigating Donald Trump and his associates, but virtually none—to date—have taken meaningful action to hold the administration and campaign accountable. Since Trump’s inauguration, House Democrats have repeatedly exposed GOP hypocrisy by introducing 15 measures thus far in the House—such as legislation, discharge petitions, and resolutions of inquiry—that have forced Republicans to go on the record about Trump’s taxes, Russia, and more.

Today, The Washington Post reported that House Democrats plan to force Republicans once again to vote on new legislation that would require Trump to disclose information about his personal taxes, business holdings, ethics waivers, and visitors to the White House and his vacation properties.  This is the latest in a series of Democrats’ efforts to achieve transparency and accountability. But when faced with demands for action, Republicans have voted overwhelmingly to hide the truth about Trump and his associates.

TrumpTruthHiders provides a scorecard for each Republican House member based on their committee or full House votes. Each scorecard is complete with links allowing constituents and other concerned people to communicate with their representatives via phone calls, tweets, and Facebook posts.

  • Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY): “As we reach the 100th day of President Trump’s term, it’s clear that the Administration’s conflicts and lies are destroying Americans’ faith in our democratic institutions. Sadly, it’s also increasingly clear that House Republicans are overwhelmingly choosing to protect Trump instead of the truth. Democrats have brought forward repeated measures to get to the truth on critical issues like the administration’s Russia ties, business conflicts, and ethical violations. With very few exceptions, the Republicans have voted against transparency and accountability. Constituents deserve to know what their Members of Congress are really doing on Trump’s conflicts and lies, and this website will allow voters to see for themselves.”

  • Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD):  “Americans of all political stripes want accountable and transparent government, and that begins with Congress taking its oversight responsibilities seriously. But when Congress is delinquent in those responsibilities—as the Republican-controlled Congress seems to be—it is incumbent upon the people to demand better. That’s why it’s critical for engaged citizens to ensure their representatives are conducting Congress’ constitutionally-required oversight.”

  • Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY): “Hypocrisy undermines the integrity of our democracy, while transparency is critical to it.  Often people talk the talk but do not walk the walk. The effort to hold members of the people’s House accountable for their legislative record will enhance the integrity of our democracy and should be commended.”

  • Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ): “Without his tax returns, it is impossible to know whether the President is taking actions to benefit his businesses or the American people. I will not stop my pursuit of Mr. Trump’s tax documents, even as he continues to disrespect the office of the president and undermine decades of presidential transparency.”

  • Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA): “It is time for Republicans to put country ahead of party and cooperate fully with Democrats to investigate the Trump Administration.  The American people deserve to know the truth about the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia during the election.  We also deserve to see the President’s tax returns and be informed about any conflicts of interest that may exist given Trump’s vast international business holdings.  We cannot normalize the current situation. There needs to be a total and complete shutdown of any significant agenda item being pushed by the Trump Administration until Congress can figure out what is going on.”

  • Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY): “President Trump’s administration has managed to become one of the least transparent in history—all within his first 100 days in office. From suspect ties between senior campaign and White House officials and Russia, to the president’s refusal to release his tax returns, to numerous ethical violations, this White House seems to have no qualms about operating without the best interest of the American people in mind. Democrats have been fighting back against President Trump’s secrecy and will continue to do so by forcing Republicans to defend the president’s behavior. Americans deserve to know where their elected leaders stand on these important issues.”

  • Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS): “Whether it’s Russia’s attack on our democracy last year or President Trump’s deep conflicts of interest, I am deeply disappointed that Republicans have continually refused to step up to the plate and work with Democrats to get the American people the answers they are looking for. Patriotism should always come before party, but House Republicans have not stood with us when it has come time to vote on these critical issues. Working in the public’s trust, we all should be able to put the country first.”

“Some Republicans talk a good game about Donald Trump and his associates’ brazen displays of corruption, but their actions tell an entirely different story,” said Jo Comerford, campaign director for MoveOn.org. “MoveOn worked with Members of Congress to launch TrumpTruthHiders.com so that the American people can see this infuriating display of hypocrisy in real time. For example, many Republicans have been talking more and more about needing to see Trump’s taxes, but so far no one has acted to further any sort of official investigation. In fact, the vast majority of the 15 attempts made by Democrats to investigate Trump focused on getting at Trump’s taxes. Thus far, Republicans have scuttled all attempts. The tracker provides an irrefutable indication that Republicans are unwilling to act on their criticisms and combat corruption. That’s why it’s beyond time Congress moves to appoint an independent commission to investigate Trump.”

Categories: Political Action

Quem defende seus dados no Brasil? Segundo relatório anual mostra melhora na privacidade das telecomunicações

Deep Links - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 12:51

Tradução de: Ana Luiza Araujo

Hoje, o InternetLab, um dos principais centros de pesquisa independente em políticas de Internet no Brasil, lançou seu relatório de 2017 sobre companhias de telecomunicação locais e como elas lidam com as informações privadas de seus clientes. “Quem defende seus dados?” procura encorajar as companhias a competir pelos usuários por mostrar quem se compromete a proteger a privacidade e os dados de seus clientes. É por isso que o InternetLab avaliou as políticas das mais importantes empresas de telecomunicação brasileiras para verificar o seu comprometimento com a privacidade dos usuários quando o Estado pede informações pessoais de seus clientes.

Esse relatório faz parte de uma iniciativa sul-americana por parte dos principais grupos de direito digital do continente para esclarecer as práticas de políticas de Internet na região, baseado no relatório anual da EFF chamado “Who Has Your Back”. Na última semana, a organização TEDIC, do Paraguai e a Derechos Digitales, do Chile, lançaram seus respectivos relatórios. Grupos digitais da Colômbia, México e Argentina também irão lançar estudos similares em breve.

O InternetLab escolheu as empresas provedoras de Internet que, de acordo com dados publicados pela ANATEL (Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações) em Outubro de 2016, possuem pelo menos 10% de todos os acessos de Internet no Brasil -- seja por banda larga ou telefonia móvel. Assim, “Quem defende seus dados?” inclui um time de companhias que são responsáveis por 90% das conexões de Internet no Brasil -- NET, Oi e Vivo (banda larga) e Claro, Oi, TIM e Vivo (Internet móvel). Juntos, os registros dessas empresas possuem informações íntimas dos movimentos e relacionamentos de quase todos os cidadãos do país.

O InternetLab desenvolveu sua própria metodologia para abarcar as especificidades sociais e legais do Brasil, focando em (1) comprometimento público com o cumprimento da lei; (2) adoção de práticas e políticas pró-usuário; e (3) transparência sobre práticas e políticas. O relatório promove a transparência e as melhores práticas no campo da privacidade e proteção de dados, empoderando usuários de Internet por meio da educação sobre suas escolhas como consumidores.

Cada companhia foi avaliada em seis categorias:

  • Informações sobre tratamento de dados: O provedor de Internet fornece informações claras e completas sobre coleta, uso, armazenamento, tratamento e proteção de dados?
  • Informações sobre condições de entrega de dados a agentes do Estado: O provedor de Internet promete entregar dados cadastrais e registros de conexão apenas mediante ordem judicial, e dados cadastrais, por requisição, apenas a autoridades administrativas competentes?
  • Defesa da privacidade dos usuários no Judiciário: O provedor de Internet contestou judicialmente pedidos de dados abusivos ou legislação que considera invadir a privacidade de usuários?
  • Posicionamento público pró-privacidade: O provedor de Internet se posicionou publicamente sobre projetos de lei e políticas públicas que afetam a privacidade dos usuários, defendendo dispositivos que melhoram a proteção desse direito?
  • Relatório de transparência sobre pedidos de dados: A empresa publica relatórios de transparência, informando quantas vezes recebeu pedidos de dados por autoridades estatais e quantas vezes entregou?
  • Notificação do usuário: A empresa notifica usuários quando recebe pedidos de dados?

Os detalhes de cada de cada categoria podem ser acessados no site: http://quemdefendeseusdados.org.br/

Abaixo, veja o ranking das empresas de telecomunicações brasileiras:

Desde o primeiro relatório do InternetLab, apareceram sinais de melhoras. Neste ano, a Vivo foi a única companhia a receber uma estrela cheia por informar seus clientes sobre práticas de proteção de dados e também por publicar um relatório de transparência. Essas foram as primeiras estrelas cheias nessas categorias. Além disso, o InternetLab deu estrelas cheias para Claro, Oi e TIM por lutar pelos direitos de seus usuários no Judiciário; no ano passado, apenas a TIM havia conquistado a estrela completa. As divisões móveis da Vivo e da TIM rivalizaram pelo primeiro lugar, ambas com 3 ¾ estrelas.

No entanto, em 2017, nenhuma empresa recebeu uma estrela cheia por possuir um compromisso com revelar dados pessoais e registros de conexão apenas frente a uma ordem judicial ou, no caso de dados pessoais, frente a um pedido feito pelas autoridades administrativas competentes. Ano passado, o InternetLab havia dado estrelas cheias para duas companhias na então versão desta categoria. E, mais uma vez, nenhuma empresa ganhou créditos por fornecer aos seus clientes notificações sobre pedidos de dados pelo governo.

Apesar do progresso inquestionável, ainda há um espaço significativo para melhora. O InternetLab convida as companhias a desenvolver políticas de privacidade para que os usuários possam entender como seus dados pessoais são tratados, como manda o Marco Civil da Internet, e como as empresas provedoras de Internet lidam com demandas de informações vindas do governo. O InternetLab também encoraja as companhias a usarem as “salas de imprensa” em seus sites para listar suas ações em defesa da privacidade e da proteção de dados nos tribunais e em debates públicos. Por fim, o InternetLab também incentiva as empresas a publicar relatórios de transparência e a adotar práticas de notificação do usuário.

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    Categories: Political Action

    Who Has Your Back in Brazil? Second Annual Report Shows Telecom Privacy Slowly Improving

    Deep Links - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 12:50

    Today InternetLab, Brazil’s leading digital rights organization, released their 2017 report on local telecommunications companies, and how they treat their customer's private information. Brazil’s “Quem defende seus dados?” (“Who Defends Your Data?”) seeks to encourage companies to compete for users by showing who will stand up for their customer privacy and data protection. That is why InternetLab, one of the leading independent research centers on Internet policy in Brazil, has evaluated key Brazilian telecommunications companies’ policies to assess their commitment to user privacy when the government comes calling for their users' personal data.

    This report is part of a continent-wide initiative by South America’s leading digital rights groups to shine a light on Internet privacy practices in the region, based on EFF's annual Who Has Your Back report. (Last week both Paraguay's TEDIC and Chile’s Derechos Digitales published reports, and digital rights groups in Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina will be releasing similar studies soon.)

    InternetLab chose the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that, according to data released by the Brazilian National Telecommunications Agency in October 2016, each held at least 10% of all Internet accesses in Brazil—either by fixed broadband or mobile data. As such, the “Quem defende seus dados?" report includes an assessment of companies that account for about 90% of the Internet connections in Brazil—NET, Oi and Vivo (broadband) and Claro, Oi, TIM and Vivo (mobile). Together, these companies’ logs hold intimate records of the movements and relationships of almost every citizen of the country.

    InternetLab has developed its own methodology to address the social and legal realities in Brazil, focusing on (1) public commitment to compliance with the law; (2) adoption of pro-user practices and policies; and (3) transparency about practices and policies. The report promotes transparency and best practices in the field of privacy and data protection, empowering Internet users by educating them about their consumer choices.

    Each company was evaluated using six categories:

    • Information about data processing: Does the ISP provide clear and complete information about the collection, use, storage, processing, and protection of users’ data?
    • Information about terms of compliance with data requests from the government: Does the ISP commit to disclose account information and connection logs only upon a court order and, in the case of account information, upon application by competent administrative authorities?
    • Fights for user privacy in the courts: Has the ISP judicially challenged abusive data requests or legislation that it considers harmful to user privacy?
    • Fights for user privacy in public debates: Has the ISP engaged in public debates about laws, bills, and public policies that may affect user privacy? Does it defend projects that aim to advance privacy?
    • Publishes transparency reports about data requests: Does the company publish transparency reports that contain information about how many times governments sought user data and how often the company provided user data to governments?
    • User notification: Does the company notify the user about data requests by the government?

    You can read the full explanation of each category on InternetLab's site.

     InternetLab’s chart ranking the Brazilian telecommunications companies is below.

    Since InternetLab’s first report, there are signs of improvement. This year, Vivo was the only company to receive a full star for informing their customers about data protection practices and also for publishing a transparency report. These were the first full stars in these categories. In addition, InternetLab awarded Claro, Oi, and TIM full stars for fighting for their users in court, while last year only TIM earned a full star. TIM also earned a full star for fighting for their customers in public debates. Vivo and TIM’s mobile division vied for first place with three and three-quarters stars.

    However, in 2017, no company received a full star for holding out a commitment to disclosing account information and connection logs only upon a court order or, in the case of account information, upon application by competent administrative authorities. Last year, InternetLab awarded two companies full stars in the then-current version of this category. And, once again, no company earned credit for providing their customers with notice of government requests for data.

    While there has been definite progress, there remains significant room for improvement.  InternetLab invites the companies to develop privacy policies so users may understand how their personal data is treated, as requested by the Marco Civil da Internet, and how the ISPs deal with information demands from the government. InternetLab also encourages the companies to use the “press rooms” on their websites to list their actions in defense of privacy and data protection in the courts and in public debates. Finally, InternetLab also encourages companies to publish transparency reports and to adopt user notification practices.


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      Categories: Political Action

      EFF Urges Further Reforms for California's Unfair Gang Databases

      Deep Links - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 12:38

      When California Gov. Jerry Brown signed A.B. 2298 last year, it marked a major victory for civil liberties against faulty law enforcement technology. The legislation instituted key reforms for the CalGang system and other shared gang databases used by police to link people to criminal organizations based on only the flimsiest of evidence.

      But A.B. 2298 was just the beginning. Questions remain on how to implement the new requirements, such as how a person can challenge in court their inclusion in a gang database. The reform bill’s author, Assemblymember Shirley Weber, also has a new legislation—A.B. 90—that would further reform the CalGang system in response to a damning California State Auditor’s report issued last year.

      EFF is proud to join the grassroots campaign working hard to pass this bill. The coalition includes more 30 civil rights organization, such as the Youth Justice Coalition, National Immigration Law Center, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Policy Link, and the Urban Peace Institute. 

      In a letter to Assemblymember Weber endorsing A.B. 90, we wrote

      A.B. 90 would require new standards and regulations for operating a shared gang database, including audits. Further, the bill would create a new advisory committee comprised of all stakeholders—including a public defender, civil liberties expert, and the parent of a juvenile who had been included in a gang database—as opposed to just representatives from law enforcement. The legislation would further ensure that Californians are removed from shared gang databases when no new evidence has emerged for two years linking them to gang activity.

      As the State Auditor reported to the legislature, the CalGang database is riddled with errors and unsubstantiated information. It contains records on individuals that should never have been included in the database as well as records that should have long since been purged. And the system lacks basic oversight safeguards. These databases represent a combined threat to privacy and civil rights that disproportionately impacts communities of color.  

      EFF Staff Attorney Stephanie Lacambra this week filed formal comments with the Judicial Council of California on the judicial process for a person to request they be removed from a gang database. One of the most important measures that became law under A.B. 2298 is the ability for a person to challenge their inclusion in the gang database with law enforcement, and if the agency rejects that request, to petition a court.

      A.B. 90 would take the further step of putting the burden on police departments to respond to individuals’ requests for removal within 30 days and allow petitioners to go directly to court if they do not receive a response.

      EFF agrees with the Judicial Council’s proposal that courts should designate a particular judge to handle CalGang removal petitions, but we recommend that any criminal court judge be empowered to handle removals as part of criminal proceedings. We also called for the rules to allow fee waivers for indigent petitioners and recommended ways the rules could adequately protect the privacy of juvenile records. 

      We urge the Judicial Council and California Legislature to approve these much needed reforms. 

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      Categories: Political Action

      Tell Congress today: Fund human needs, not immigration enforcement and militarization

      American Friends Service Committee - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 11:32

      President Trump is threatening to shut down the federal government on Friday, April 28 if Congress doesn't approve $3 billion in additional funding to expand immigration enforcement and militarize our southern border.

      Call your senators today at 202-224-3121 and ask them to fund human needs instead. Congress must pass a funding bill by April 28. Now is the time to tell them where you want your money to go.

      Categories: Political Action

      A history of cruelty in a nation of immigrants

      Socialist Worker - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 01:00

      Bridget Broderick surveys 200 years of shifting policy toward immigrants--and finds that Republicans and Democrats have contributed to the war on the undocumented.

      Above: Border Patrol agent arrests migrants in the 1930s; below: ICE detains another victim

      THE PLAQUE at the base of the Statue of Liberty reads, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." But for millions of immigrants who have arrived on American shores, the promise of freedom remains illusory.

      Most immigrants toil long hours for low wages doing the work most native-born workers won't touch. There are daily reminders that immigrants should be grateful to live in the "greatest country on earth," but also that they don't fully belong.

      The U.S. government has always had a contradictory relationship to immigrants because the country's employers needed laborers, but also needed to control them. As a colonial project and a new country, the U.S. needed toilers--Black slave laborers, indentured servants and wage laborers.

      Immigrants provided a constantly renewable source of cheap labor, which could be drawn in during boom times and expelled during lean times. The industries that relied on immigrant populations thrived on their labor, but preferred to ignore the "distasteful" needs that workers often bring with them--needs such as adequate wages and sufficient living standards to maintain health, safety and sanity.

      In the words of playwright Max Frisch, known for his use of irony: "We asked for workers. We got people instead."

      A cruel part of that contradictory relationship is the country's longstanding use of racist, class-based and political immigration restrictions. The U.S. government has used the tactic of individual deportations as well as the periodic use of mass deportations, but it has always sought to control the flow of immigrant labor, and with it to control the economic and political aspirations of all workers.

      Like all countries, the U.S. has its own particular history of labor relations and systems of political and ideological control.

      The nation was established through conquest over Native Americans, which required racist dehumanization to justify violent displacement. And the fortunes of early American colonists also depended on slave labor, which similarly required a set of racist ideas to explain away the seeming contradiction: If it's self-evident that "all men are created equal," why are some men owned by others? The answer: because "they" aren't really men, they're subhuman.

      Politicians, employers and opinion makers racialized all groups, including immigrant groups, whenever it was expedient.

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      IN THE new American nation, the process of determining who can become a citizen was based not on the revolutionary ideals of religious and civil liberties and the fight against tyranny, but on political and economic needs. The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited naturalization to immigrants who were "free white persons of good moral character."

      It was in the 1800s, though, that the U.S. really begins to wrestle with the issue of immigration on a mass scale--a scale unseen in world history up to that time.

      Thirty million immigrants came to the U.S. in the 100 years between 1815 and the First World War in 1914--a period in which population grew from roughly 8 million to 80 million. Prior to 1819, no records of immigrants were taken by state or federal governments. The first federal laws restricting immigrants' access to the U.S. targeted the poor and those with "impairments of physical and mental health." Official restrictions on nationality and race would come later.

      Anti-immigrant sentiment and vigilante activism first cohered in nativist groups like the Know-Nothing Party in the 1840s and 1850s. Its slogan was "America for the Americans." In fact, most of the Know-Nothing program sounds very similar to the platform of white supremacist organizations in the 2000s such as the Minutemen or to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and his true believers today.

      The Know-Nothings' targets were Irish immigrants, who were generally poor and Catholic and who formed the first sizeable unskilled urban proletariat. The Know-Nothings were able to unite politically to elect governors and representatives, but the party was torn apart by divergent views on the question of the Civil War in the U.S.

      After the Civil War, which uprooted the institution of slavery but did not resolve the problem of racism and labor relations, immigration policies became a matter of public debate, and by 1891, the Federal Bureau of Immigration had been set up within the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

      Before this time, immigration policy had been set by individual states. Later, control of deportation moved to the Department of Labor and then to the Department of Justice, where the agency was called the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resides within the Department of Homeland Security.

      This constant change of departments overseeing immigration policy reflects the U.S.'s conflicted relationship with immigrants.

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      IN THE wake of industrial mass strikes in railroads, mines and manufacturing in the 1870s as well as pressure from white labor organizations, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882. The law extended and codified the existing scapegoating of Chinese workers. It prohibited immigration from China for 10 years and barred the naturalization of Chinese immigrants already in the country.

      The Act did permit Chinese teachers, students, merchants and travellers for pleasure to enter the U.S., but they could not become citizens. The main thrust of the law was to prohibit the further influx of Chinese laborers, who for decades had been heavily recruited to build thousands of miles of railroads alongside other immigrant and native workers.

      General immigration restrictions began at this time as well. Congress called for the exclusion of convicts, "lunatics, idiots or any person unable to care for himself without becoming a public charge." A head tax of 50 cents for each immigrant who traveled by sea was enacted as well.

      In the early 20th century, bigotry, racism and economic and political needs aligned to forge the most restrictive immigration laws yet. This was in part due to massive immigration. The first 14 years of the 20th century were the peak years of emigration to the U.S.

      At the same time, the total population of the U.S. was growing steadily. Many immigrants returned to their home country without finding success. Therefore, the percentage of foreign-born in the U.S. did not significantly change. According to U.S. Census statistics, the percentage of foreign-born in 1890 was 14.7 percent. In 1910, it was also 14.7 percent. And in 1920, the figure dropped to 13.2 percent.

      So the anti-immigrant legislation of this period was not necessarily a response to the country being "overrun" by immigrants. As various historians have noted, these attitudes actually reflected the changing economic and political conditions within the U.S.--and how the question of immigration was shaped by these changes.

      In 1917, the Immigration Act was established. Literacy tests in English were given to all European immigrants. All Asian immigrants except Filipinos were barred.

      Later, the National Origins Act of 1929 defined strict quotas for immigrants of each nationality to limit "less desirables." This was maintained during the Second World War as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt rejected shiploads of German and East European Jewish immigrants fleeing the death camps.

      At the same time, the Western Hemisphere and the Philippines were exempt from quotas due to concern for labor shortages in the western U.S. Mexican laborers were recruited to replace Chinese workers on the railroad and to work in agriculture alongside Filipino workers.

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      IT'S WORTH examining the role of political parties to provide some background to the current political moment in terms of the deportation and criminalization of immigrants under Trump.

      Two periods during the 20th century in which mass deportations took place under the Republican and Democratic Parties stand out.

      Between 1920 and 1930, Mexicans were exempt from the "quota system." More than a million Mexican workers crossed the border because they were recruited to work on the railroads and in agriculture. They were welcomed as cheap reliable labor.

      When the Great Depression hit in the early 1930s, however, unemployment shot up, and so did racist hysteria about "Mexicans taking jobs." From 1929 to 1936, the U.S. government, led by the state of California, deported or "repatriated" (meaning threatened with prison, foreclosure, job loss and violence to compel "voluntary" return) Mexicans and Mexican Americans who had never lived in Mexico.

      Estimates are that between 500,000 and 2 million people, many U.S. citizens, were forced to leave. These mass deportations were initiated under the administration of President Herbert Hoover, a Republican, but they were continued by Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt until 1936.

      In 1942, to deal with farm labor shortages during the Second World War, Roosevelt approved the Bracero program, a joint program under the State Department, the Department of Labor, and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) within the Department of Justice.

      It was a guest worker program that supposedly guaranteed labor and human rights, but the program was rife with abuses. The "New Deal" did next to nothing for immigrant laborers.

      Roosevelt's successor, Democratic President Harry S. Truman, continued the guest worker program in 1951, despite well-known and widespread abuses of guest workers from Mexico. But Truman also called for a crackdown on "illegal" immigration--in other words, workers without guest worker contracts.

      More than 127,000 were formally deported and more than 3.2 million left voluntarily rather than face deportation--a total of nearly 3.4 million during Truman's administration.

      It was this Democratic administration that paved the way politically and ideologically for Republican President Eisenhower to enact the pejoratively termed Operation Wetback in 1954 that increased the Border Patrol's forces and gave it military equipment.

      In the first year alone, more than 1 million mostly Mexican workers--undocumented, documented and citizens--were deported or repatriated in the first year alone. The operation was another government-sanctioned policy of mass deportations based on racial profiling of immigrant workers.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      THERE WERE two other laws enacted in the late 20th century that were especially crucial in establishing the level of criminalization and repression of migrants that we see today: the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

      Both pieces of legislation were integral to developing and sustaining neoliberal economic and political policies in the U.S. While U.S. economic policy was pushing for open markets worldwide, such as NAFTA, the federal government aimed to control the movement of migrants often forced to leave their homes to find jobs that the "free market" had taken away from them.

      While Democratic President Carter (1977-81) expanded the budget and personnel for patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, it was under Republican President Reagan that the ideological attack against migrants advanced significantly.

      Reagan portrayed the U.S.-Mexico border as the "gateway" to the three largest "threats" to the U.S.: poor migrants, Central American subversives, and narco-traffickers. In this atmosphere, it's a miracle that the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 was ever signed and implemented.

      A coalition of labor unions, social-justice and religious groups involved in the 1980s sanctuary movement advocated for migrant amnesty, leading to 2.8 million immigrants getting legal status and citizenship under IRCA. The amnesty bill was a boon to millions of migrant workers to get their long-deserved legal rights, and newly legalized migrant workers joined in labor organizing drives and campaigns for workers' rights.

      The miracle involved compromises, however--sanctions against employers who hired undocumented workers, leading to the new business enterprise of providing false Social Security numbers and the increased ability to fire and deport migrant workers at opportune moments; a dramatic escalation of the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border; and a further increase in the number of Border Patrol personnel.

      Democratic President Bill Clinton cemented the growth of anti-immigrant sentiment and the legal repression and violence directed against migrant workers with Operation Gatekeeper in 1994. Clinton doubled the Border Patrol budget and number of agents, and nearly tripled the amount of border fencing and sensors to "restore integrity and safety to the nation's busiest border."

      This program, implemented the same year that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, led to much more brutal conditions for the many refugees fleeing economic devastation caused by the new trade terms.

      The border zone came to be characterized by desperate refugees preyed on by unscrupulous traffickers and corrupt border patrol officials alike. Rape, violence, harassment and migrant detention centers became business as usual along the U.S.-Mexico border.

      Operation Gatekeeper was directly responsible for more than 4,000 migrant workers' deaths from 1994 to 2005.

      In 1996, Clinton again mobilized anti-immigrant sentiment to advance his re-election efforts. He enacted a number of anti-immigrant laws, among them the Illegal Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

      Ostensibly meant to "strengthen and streamline U.S. immigration laws," the law greatly expanded the type of crimes for which immigrants could be deported (such as shoplifting and driving while intoxicated), increased mandatory detention for deportees, increased (again) the number of Border Patrol agents, and introduced measures such as E-verify for employers to confirm workers' legal status, as well as the notorious 287(g) program that authorizes local and state police forces to carry out immigration enforcement.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      SO MUCH of what we have seen in terms of the worsening legal situation facing immigrants under George W. Bush and Barack Obama--Secure Communities, E-verify, and the proliferation of imprisonment and detention centers--has been facilitated by Clinton's 1996 bill.

      Combined with his Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which codified and extended the New Jim Crow, and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which ended "welfare as we know it," the three major laws enacted under Clinton's reign make it clear the Democrats were willing to go to great lengths to use racism and repression to control an increasingly overworked and impoverished population under siege.

      Given the Democrats' history of immigrant scapegoating and deportations, it should be no surprise that President Obama was no friend to immigrants. After all, he inherited a well-funded enforcement regime from Clinton and Bush.

      The Obama administration made a priority of removing "criminal aliens," which proved to be an efficient strategy that earned Obama his nickname "Deporter-in-Chief" for deporting 2.5 million immigrants between 2009 and 2015. This was a particular reading of the 1996 law that took advantage of the criminal justice pipeline.

      Rebranding immigrants as "criminals" for committing minor offenses (or for felonies for which they already served time) proved much more popular than removing undocumented workers in workplace raids. Due to racism and the dehumanization of prisoners generally, immigrants with "criminal" histories had far fewer political defenders than other groups of immigrants such as undocumented college students.

      "Crime-based" removals resulted in a disproportionate number of Latinx immigrants being deported because of racial profiling that lands more Latinx and Black Americans in prison. Under Obama, more than 95 percent of removals from the U.S. were Latinx noncitizens.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      DONALD TRUMP initiated his presidential campaign by claiming that Mexico was sending its criminals to the United States, and he promised to deport Mexican immigrants en masse. As president, Trump issued two executive orders in January that expanded the Obama administration's focus on removing "criminal aliens."

      He increased the geographic area from within 100 miles of the U.S. border to the entire U.S. for "expedited removal," a process by which an individual immigration official can arbitrarily expel an immigrant without hearing or further legal review.

      This will most likely have a disproportionate impact on noncitizens from Mexico and Central America who "fit the profile" of undocumented immigrant developed over the past centuries.

      With his other executive order, Trump vowed to eliminate federal funding for any city or state that created sanctuary status--though a judge recently blocked this order while the courts consider its legality. Sanctuary cities were established by local governments to protect immigrants from collaboration between city and state officials and federal ICE officials, sometimes referred to as the "polimigra."

      Trump's executive orders will continue to have a devastating impact on immigrant communities--by generating fear and desperation among the undocumented, documented DACA recipients, and mixed-status families that there is now no reprieve from federal immigration enforcement.

      Trump based his political success on fomenting fear among voters by scapegoating immigrants and by using racist rhetoric that his followers have been emboldened to put into action.

      It is urgent to organize in support of all immigrants during the Trump presidency and link this struggle to others facing his attacks. But it is important as well to remember the history of how we arrived at this moment. Both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for stoking anti-immigrant sentiment and implementing harsher and harsher legal mechanisms for the treatment of immigrants.

      Organizing against Trump's policies does not need to mean organizing for the Democrats as an alternative. Independently, we can and must build a better world without borders.

      Categories: Political Action

      When Buffalo sent Operation Rescue packing

      Socialist Worker - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 01:00

      Brian Erway tells how abortion rights activists organized against Operation Rescue 25 years ago in upstate New York--and what we can learn from this struggle today.

      Abortion rights activists clash with anti-choice Operation Rescue members outside the Buffalo clinic

      TWENTY-FIVE years ago, in April 1992, pro-choice activists in Buffalo, Rochester, throughout Western New York and, indeed, across the nation, were on a state of high alert.

      The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue (OR) planned to descend on Buffalo, promising to deploy thousands of their zealous Christian followers for two weeks of physical blockades against the city's abortion clinics.

      Their "Spring of Life" would begin after Easter Sunday, and they aimed to repeat their success from the previous summer in Wichita, Kansas, where their tactics of mass occupation temporarily closed that city's abortion clinics.

      Several weeks before this, bright pink posters began to go up, as pro-choice forces organized for a clinic defense. The posters declared, "Operation Rescue, You're Not in Kansas Anymore!"--and summed up our collective goal: "Boot 'em out of Buffalo!"

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      IT'S IMPORTANT to describe what the political climate was like 25 years ago. President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 on a program that may sound familiar to people today: scapegoating immigrants and the poor, riding roughshod over workers and unions, and kicking off an arms race and confrontations with Russia (then the USSR).

      The Republican Party explicitly courted a newly identified voting bloc: conservative-leaning, fundamentalist Christians. This cohort included followers of many televangelist preachers, mega-church pastors with cable TV and radio shows, and leaders of fundamentalist religious colleges.

      These people spoke for a growing demographic, and they mobilized their base to pressure politicians to write "traditional"--and bigoted--religious stances into public policy, in what became dubbed the "culture wars." The Republican Party has counted on the organized political power of Christian fundamentalists ever since.

      The Christian side of the culture wars stoked a fierce backlash against feminism and women's rights. Some branched out as well. A wing organized around singer and Christian Right figurehead Anita Bryant focused on mobilizing homophobic sentiment to obstruct any moves directed toward acceptance and equality for gays and lesbians, along with any relaxing of anti-sodomy laws and measures that criminalized the existence of LGBTQ people.

      The prominence of this brand of right-wing Christian fundamentalism among our opponents was, of course, the basis of one of the most lasting pro-choice chants on the picket line, "Racist, sexist, anti-gay, born-again bigots, go away!"

      A woman's right to abortion had only been won nationally in 1973, with the Roe v, Wade Supreme Court ruling, following a long series of struggles and mobilizations. As early as 1977, abortion rights opponents had pushed through a significant restriction, the Hyde Amendment, which barred federal funding of abortions as medical services in programs like Medicaid.

      The anti-abortion cause drew strength not just from mobilized Protestant fundamentalists, but also from the substantial activist base of the Catholic Church of the time. For a while, they swelled the ranks of local anti-abortion protests, and we had chants tailored to address them, too, like: "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!"

      In city after city, there were battles--protests and counterprotests--between pro-choice defenders of abortion rights and anti-abortionists on the attack.

      In Rochester in the late 1980s--where I lived and still do today--pro-choice activists faced off against the anti-abortionists on opposite sides of Alexander Street in front of the Genesee Hospital. Although over time, we gathered and trained a core of dedicated pro-choice activists and clinic defenders, we were never able to greatly out-mobilize the other side.

      Month by month and eventually year after year, we held our own, but in truth, the battle had become a siege.

      Anti-abortion protesters were a chronic feature outside clinics, harassing patients, staff and anyone else who happened to be nearby. Pro-choice activists responded by working with clinics to establish escort services for clients to get through anti-abortion picketers. In some cases, injunctions kept anti-abortionists a minimum distance from clinic entrances.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      OPERATION RESCUE (OR) emerged as an up-and-coming contender in the heated cloud of politicized evangelical Christians fighting in the trenches of the "culture wars" and seeing themselves as the cutting edge of rolling back the gains that women, LGBT people and others had made in demanding equality.

      Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry was a charismatic 30-year-old leader, with roots in the Rochester area, but who made Binghamton, New York, his home base. Terry started off on a small scale, individually harassing patients at clinics--so-called "sidewalk counseling"--and he built a following.

      In January 1986, he led a group of seven inside a clinic, where they locked themselves up and destroyed telephones, furniture and anything else they could lay their hands on until police pulled them out and arrested them. Terry's new tactic of blockading clinics in order to "rescue" fetuses was born.

      As Terry described it in his book Operation Rescue, this had a polarizing effect on the existing movement:

      Our first rescue mission jolted the Christian community. Until then, we had been held in high regard and honor because of our efforts and sacrifice on behalf of the unborn. They felt we had "broken the law." Our actions left a lot of pastors and congregations in a state of shock and confusion. Others were downright angry.

      Despite the loss of support from some moderates, the "rescue" tactics grabbed headlines, and a harder-core minority responded enthusiastically.

      As Terry and Operation Rescue took their campaign to various cities across the country, their prominence in the anti-abortion movement grew. OR's tactical breakthrough was to stage large-scale mobilizations with civil disobedience to shut down the clinics and tie up law enforcement in a particular locale.

      These included actions in Atlanta during the 1988 Democratic Party convention (134 arrests and national attention); Los Angeles in spring 1989 "Holy Week of Rescue" (700 arrests); and, notoriously, Wichita, Kansas, in the summer of 1991, where 2,600 anti-choice bigots were arrested over the course of six weeks, but succeeded closing down clinics.

      Pro-choice forces tried various tactics in response, often seeking court injunctions against OR. In practice, however, the injunctions didn't impede the anti-abortionists because OR activists were already planning on getting arrested. OR instructed its members to refuse to provide the cops with names, thus complicating processing after arrest.

      The moderate wing of the pro-choice movement didn't want a confrontation with the anti-abortionists and counseled relying on the police to do their job. This was what the pro-choice leadership in Wichita decided to do in summer of 1991, and the result was OR scoring a significant publicity victory.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      IN OCTOBER 1991, Randall Terry announced that he was scouting locations for OR's next campaign and was considering Buffalo. The next week, Buffalo's "pro-life" Mayor James Griffin welcomed Terry and OR "with open arms," saying, "I want to see them in this city. If they can shut down one abortion mill, they've done their job."

      Pro-choice activists throughout the region immediately mobilized, protesting Mayor Griffin at City Hall and at a clinic where it was rumored Terry would appear. There was strong feeling in the wake of Wichita that we had to mount a physical defense of the clinics and prevent OR from getting close enough to blockade them.

      In truth, however, the movement could not decide what to do that easily.

      In particular, there was a division between those who said we should physically prevent Operation Rescue from blockading the clinics, and those who thought that stance was too militant. In fact, some pro-choice activists objected to any kind of demonstration at all in front of the clinics.

      A lively debate within the movement followed, addressing themes we still hear today: Are we not hurting patients and clients if we mass in front of the clinics, and don't we need permission from the clinics?

      Soon after Terry made it official in January 1992 that Buffalo was the target, the activists who wanted to organize the physical defense of the clinics went ahead and formed Buffalo United for Choice (BUC). The groups who didn't agree withdrew from the movement, although as individuals, many found their way back to the clinic defense.

      Pro-choice forces were already on the ground in both Buffalo and Rochester, but now everyone knew we had to kick it up a notch.

      Throughout the region, activists held interest meetings and then training sessions for direct action in defending the clinics from OR. On campuses and in community centers, we gathered in scores and practiced linking arms to defend clinic entrances, while our pretend anti-abortion fanatics flung themselves at our lines.

      BUC drew up practical plans for organizing the mass defense of the clinics. There were three in downtown Buffalo within walking distance of each other, an advantage to defenders who could shift forces quickly as needed. A fourth clinic was in suburban Amherst, and not as easily defended.

      By now, the struggle was attracting national attention, and BUC had secured funding for walkie-talkies and headsets, and setting up a command post, as well as buttons, placards, flyers and more. They got support from local grassroots efforts and benefit concerts, as well as national NGOs like the Feminist Majority Foundation.

      In Washington, D.C., a national March for Women's Lives took place on April 5, and this helped focus attention on the looming struggle in Buffalo, convincing some to travel there and participate.

      In Rochester, those of us in the International Socialist Organization organized at the University of Rochester, where we had helped initiate a Pro-Choice Action Committee (PCAC) previous year. PCAC sent buses to the Washington march and organized clinic defense training sessions on campus.

      There were pro-choice activists scattered throughout dozens of campuses across Western New York, and among them, there was considerable interest in confronting OR.

      The PCAC proposed a "Student Coalition Against Operation Rescue" to help coordinate at colleges and sent out invitation letters (this was that dark period of world history before the Internet). But this inter-campus group never came together, and student activists found their own way the clinic defense lines. The response throughout the region nonetheless was massive and totally successful.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      AN EARLY sign of this came in Rochester, where Randall Terry scheduled a rally the Thursday before Easter. The event would take place at a downtown church, and our local movement couldn't decide what to do. About half of us wanted to picket the church right from the beginning and confront the OR supporters as they arrived. They would have to get through our lines to reach their meeting.

      The other half of our group balked at the idea of confrontation. They wanted to assemble at a separate, non-hostile site and then march to the church where Terry was speaking. We were split down the middle and unable to reach a decision, and in the end, each side's adherents did what they wanted. We were going into action, but we weren't united.

      The night was cold and rainy, and those of us who started off picketing at the church were getting pushed around by a big contingent of police, even though there were 200 or more of us. The cops pressured our crowd to stand across the street and not to chant "in front of a church." Those of us who argued that we should defy the cops and make lots of noise found that we couldn't win our crowd.

      It was a miserable moment. But then, from down the street through the rain, we could hear an approaching commotion. The other half of our demonstration was arriving, chanting, waiving signs and now doubling our size.

      With up to 500 protesters and a newfound surge of purpose, we stood directly in front of the church and spilled into the street, shouting loud enough to raise the rafters and be clearly heard inside.

      "Not the church, not the state, Women must decide their fate!" filled the air. And there was nothing the cops could do about it now, except direct traffic around our crowd in the street.

      It was an incredible feeling, and for me an object lesson in how a shift in the balance of forces can transform everything in a situation. Not until seven or eight years later, during the global justice movement, would we have a chant that summed it up: "Whose streets? Our streets!"

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      OR SAID its blockades in Buffalo would begin after Easter, but we started clinic defense two days early, because we couldn't discount the possibility of an early sneak attack. But despite high levels of adrenalin in expectation, no anti-abortionists showed up, and we finished the day early.

      Each morning before dawn, several hundred pro-choice activists gathered outside the clinics, introduced themselves to each other, organized defense lines and anxiously waited to see if OR would show up. When escorts brought a patient to the entrance, we opened up the lines of locked arms to allow them in and then sealed the lines up after them.

      BUC maintained communication between clinic sites and sent out scout teams to tail the OR buses and report on their movements.

      On Tuesday, the blockade efforts began in earnest as busloads and carloads of OR activists disgorged people near the High Street clinic--but found the only place they could take up positions was on the sidewalk across the street from the entrance and its 100 defenders. The chant rang out: "Right to life, your name's a lie! You don't care if women die!"

      They could pray on that side but do little else, as the cops would warn and then arrest anyone who went out into the street.

      At one point, a few OR volunteers managed to rush across the street and tried to push up to the clinic entrance. The defenders' lines bent but held solid, and the attack was repelled. Later ,local OR leader Rev. Robert Schenck was arrested when police objected to him parading around for the press with what he claimed was an aborted fetus in a jar.

      As word of the arrest spread, clinic defenders at a nearby Main Street site taunted OR by chanting, "Schenck's gone to jail! Schenck's gone to jail!"

      Sometime after noon, the word came down that all scheduled patients had been seen, with no interruption or delay in services, and a cheer went up along the defenders' lines.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      FINDING THE clinic defenses downtown too difficult to penetrate, OR turned up the next day at the suburban Amherst clinic. Here, 150 of them were arrested, but they never got close to the clinic defenders at the entrance. Instead, they crawled part of the way to the building, then sat down in a parking lot, and were processed by police from there.

      Plenty of arrests but no "rescues." We let them know our response: "Pray, you'll need it. Your cause has been defeated!"

      The next morning, OR returned to the clinics downtown, and 71 of them were arrested as they blockaded an unused back doorway at GYN Womenservices. Meanwhile, patients continued to come and go through the front entrance, defended by 150 pro-choice activists, who chanted "Face it, you're losers! It's time to go home!" Another 75 arrests the next day again had no effect on interrupting services.

      By the end of the first week, it was clear to all that Operation Rescue was being routed, outnumbered every day at the clinics and unable to shut down any operations at all. A local newspaper declared, "OR strategy backfires," pointing out that OR's ballyhooed descent on Buffalo had set in motion an even more potent response. Now the superior tactics and mobilization of BUC were winning the day.

      That weekend, OR and its friends in the Religious Right put out a call appealing for more volunteers to come flooding into Buffalo. On Monday, 75 anti-abortionists were arrested, but the wave of new activists had not materialized, and OR called an indefinite break in the protest for its followers to pray and fast. They were back two days later, and continued staging arrests, but with less enthusiasm each day, until they fizzled out, two weeks after they began.

      Terry declared to the press that the "Spring of Life" was still a victory and shuffled out of Buffalo. There had been 615 arrests, 597 of them anti-abortionists and 18 on the pro-choice side.

      BUC's success in defending the clinics proved that OR's tactics were beatable, and broke the momentum for large-scale "rescues" that OR had pioneered. The lesson we learned then is just as important for us today: If we fight back, we can win, but we must choose to fight back, rather than allow the police and the courts to "do their work."

      This must be our starting point now, 25 years later, as we set ourselves the task of defending a woman's right to abortion for yet another generation.

      Categories: Political Action

      Anger erupts over Turkey's rigged referendum

      Socialist Worker - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 01:00

      Tom Gagné and Alan Maass report on the vote that Turkey's president hoped would let him tighten his grip--and the protests that threaten to spoil his power grab.

      Crowds of people have come out in Turkey's cities to protest vote fraud in the constitutional referendum

      TURKEY'S RECEP Tayyip Erdoğan is claiming a narrow victory in a referendum to amend the constitution to give the president sweeping new powers. But evidence of brazen fraud led to nightly protests following the April 16 vote, spoiling Erdoğan's hopes to celebrate a popular mandate for his increasingly authoritarian rule.

      The official result was 51.4 percent voting "yes" on the constitutional changes versus 48.6 percent voting "no"--a much closer outcome than Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had hoped for.

      But even this narrow victory is in question. Turkey's Supreme Electoral Commission reversed itself after voting had begun and said it would count ballots not stamped as valid by officials unless they could be proven to be fraudulent. That reportedly applied to as many as 1.5 million ballots, more than the 1.38 million difference between "yes" and "no."

      Videos circulating on the Internet show outright ballot stuffing, and the government had the gall to announce that cities with large Kurdish populations in southeastern Turkey--where Erdoğan has intensified savage repression against a persecuted minority--had voted "yes" overwhelmingly.

      Demonstrations against the rigged referendum started the night of the vote in Turkey's major cities and continued each evening afterward. One favorite chant was reportedly "Başkanım değil!," or "Not my president"--a conscious reference to the protests against Donald Trump in the U.S. following his election in November.

      The protests continued despite a state of emergency--extended again just before the vote--that gives police broad powers to detain people for dissent. According to the New York Times, at least 38 people, mainly known activists from left-wing organizations, were arrested or charged after early-morning raids on April 19.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      THE REFERENDUM was an attempt to amend key sections of Turkey's constitution to shift to an executive-style government, rather than a parliamentary one. The official justification is to avoid future unstable governing coalitions that exacerbated political crises in Turkey's past, though not since the AKP came to power in early 2003.

      The real reason is to consolidate power in the hands of the ruling party and its president. Early in his political career, Erdoğan famously quipped: "Democracy is like a train; you get off once you have reached your destination." Clearly he hoped last Sunday's vote would be the exit door.

      Under the amended constitution, Turkey's president gains the ability to issue executive orders, control the budget, and appoint vice presidents, ministers and other high-level officials. Erdoğan himself would be able to stay in power until 2029 if he wins two more votes. He's been prime minister or president since 2003, so the referendum could push his reign into Hosni Mubarak-like territory.

      It's a power grab that Donald Trump would admire--which is probably why he was the only Western leader to call Erdoğan and congratulate him on his referendum "victory."

      When the date was set for the referendum, Erdoğan clearly expected an overwhelming "yes" vote to legitimize his rule over a weakened opposition.

      After surviving a botched coup attempt last July--apparently engineered by sections of the military loyal to the Gülenists, an Islamist social movement that had been an ally to the AKP when it first came to power--Erdoğan and his government carried out a massive purge.

      The Gülenists, who had become political rivals, were the chief target, but the arrests, jailings and mass firings went much further. The left-wing People's Democratic Party (HDP), based among the oppressed Kurds with support from left-wing organizations, also felt the brunt of the repression.

      Independent journalist Patrick Cockburn reported that some 145,000 people have been detained or arrested and another 134,000 fired for supposedly being connected to the failed coup. Almost 150 media outlets have been closed. As Cockburn wrote:

      All of this will be familiar to anybody familiar with the toxic politics of one-party or monarchical states anywhere in the world. Syrian elections to this day and Iraqi elections up to 2003 invariably returned overwhelming majorities in favor of their regimes, and some found it a mystery why their rulers bothered to hold a vote at all. The answer was that the vanity of autocrats is bottomless, and they want to see reports in their state-controlled media that they and their policies are the people's choice.

      Weeks after the coup attempt, Erdoğan was able to preside at a massive pro-government rally of well over a million people in Istanbul.

      The Republican People's Party (CHP)--the largest opposition party and, before 2003, the dominant force in Turkish politics between periods of direct military rule--mobilized in support of the government. The other main secular nationalist party, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), with its openly fascist "Grey Wolves" youth organization, was also represented.

      Yet less than a year later, Erdoğan seems to have needed massive fraud to muster a majority in the constitutional referendum.

      The CHP joined in a call with the HDP for the vote to be annulled. The Supreme Electoral Commission rejected all appeals by a 10-to-1 vote, and AKP Prime Minister Binali Yildirim issued a not-so-veiled warning to CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu to "act more responsibly."

      On the other hand, the bond between the AKP and the MHP--which at one time celebrated the persecution of the Islamist predecessors of the AKP--has continued, with the ultra-right nationalists mobilizing supporters for a "yes" vote, though at the cost of an inter-party battle that could split the MHP.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      SO TURNING to repression and nationalism hasn't allowed Erdoğan and the AKP to overcome Turkey's crisis.

      For the past three years, the many dimensions of the war in Syria have spilled across the border into Turkey. Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria have successfully defended themselves against ISIS--with increasingly open support from the U.S. government--serving as a rallying point for the Kurdish movement.

      The Erdoğan government tried to turn a blind eye to ISIS's movements between Iraq, Syria and Turkey precisely out of fear of the Kurdish question, but it has been under pressure from the U.S.--and now, ISIS terror attacks that take place on nearly a monthly basis are claiming more and more victims in metropolitan areas. Then there is the strain of the refugee crisis as desperate Syrians seek refuge outside their country's borders.

      Meanwhile, Turkey's economic problems persist. For the past year, the country's currency has been in a free fall, contradicting the AKP's claims that Turkey was becoming a regional economic powerhouse.

      The deep-seated bitterness with the grim reality behind Turkey's neoliberal success story has erupted before, culminating in the 2013 Gezi Park protests that were called the Turkish Spring.

      The movement began as a modest occupation to defend one of Istanbul's last green spaces against the AKP's relentless economic development schemes, but when the government used harsh repression against occupiers, solidarity demonstrations spread across the city and around the country.

      The mass protests receded after a time, but the political awakening didn't, contributing to the unprecedented success of the left-wing HDP in June 2015 elections. With support from a revitalized left and other ethnic minorities, the HDP became the first party based among the Kurds to win enough votes to gain representation in Turkey's parliament.

      The HDP's success caused the AKP to lose its parliamentary majority for the first time since 2003. His long-held plans for constitutional changes in danger, Erdoğan had a second election called and intensified an already growing war on Kurdish armed rebels, with the aim of regaining political leverage.

      The AKP won back a majority in parliament, and it seemed to have momentum with it in the aftermath of the failed coup last summer. But the referendum outcome reveals that Turkish society is starkly polarized.

      As three writers from the Turkish left, Guney Işıkara, Alp Kayserilioğlu and Max Zirngast, wrote this month at Jacobin:

      The AKP is weaker than it's been in a long time...[H]alf the populace openly opposed it in the referendum, despite repressive, dictatorial methods and widespread fraud...That 49 percent opposed Erdoğan in such a critical poll--and this according to the fraudulent tally--means that the country literally is split in two; those who said "no" are in absolute, determined opposition to the government...

      The longer the demonstrations and contestation of the election results continue, the greater the chance they will become a storm, swirling toward the AKP. The longer we put up the fight, the more morale and fighting power we will win for the struggles to come, and the wider the space for future mobilizations will be.

      Categories: Political Action

      What can stop the Tories in Britain's election?

      Socialist Worker - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 01:00

      In an article for Australia's Red Flag, Mick Armstrong explains the background to an election campaign in Britain that starts with the Labour Party far behind the Tories.

      British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses a rally in Cardiff (Liberty Russell)

      BRITAIN'S CONSERVATIVE Party Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap election for June 8 to capitalize on the Tories' decisive lead in the opinion polls and a severely divided and demoralized Labour opposition.

      May hopes that an overwhelming victory will strengthen her hand to push through the harsh austerity measures associated with her plans for a hard "Brexit" from the European Union. She wants further attacks on the National Health Service, racist immigration restrictions and more attacks on workers' rights.

      Recent opinion polls have Labour winning just 25 percent of the vote, trailing the Tories by 20 percentage points. Yet the polls also show growing opposition to austerity and rising support for increased welfare spending. The National Health Service remains exceedingly popular. How can this contradiction be explained?

      The long years of "New Labour" governments, from 1997 to 2010 under former Prime Minister Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown, alienated Labour's working-class voting base with unrelenting neoliberal policies, warmongering, arrogance, lies and deceit.

      After the defeat of the Blairites in the 2010 general election won by the Tories, Labour installed a vaguely more left-wing leader, Ed Miliband, in an attempt to repair its brand image among its traditional working-class supporters. But Miliband remained beholden to the party's right wing and wasn't prepared to relentlessly campaign against the Tories' austerity measures.

      His calls for a "responsible capitalism" did nothing to inspire workers suffering wage cuts and threats to their jobs, or young people looking for alternative to status quo neoliberal politics. The result was that Labour lost even more seats in the 2015 elections.

      In the aftermath of Labour's electoral debacle, Jeremy Corbyn seemingly came from nowhere to win the party's official leadership position. Corbyn, a long-time left-wing backbench member of parliament (MP), was aided by rule changes that opened up the leadership vote to Labour Party members and registered supporters.

      The Blairites had pushed through the rule changes because they believed that they would entrench right-wing domination and undermine the influence of the unions in the party. But rank-and-file party members were becoming increasingly fed up with Blairite neoliberalism; Corbyn's more left-wing vision inspired tens of thousands to sign up to vote for him.

      A number of key union leaders, even though they were not as left wing as Corbyn, also backed him, in part because of his principled pro-union stand, but primarily because they realized that the Blairites offered no road forward for Labour. Something new had to be tried.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      CORBYN HAD hardly any supporters among the Labour MPs, who were miles to the right of him. He faced bitter opposition not just from Blairite MPs, but from the great bulk of the supposed moderates and soft-left MPs, and from the central party apparatus.

      The Labour establishment, which is thoroughly committed to managing British capitalism in the interests of the rich, was never going to allow some upstart self-proclaimed socialist to take over "their party" just because he was voted in by rank-and-file Labour members and supporters.

      So they set out on a never-ending campaign of sabotage, leaks, destabilization and red-baiting to destroy Corbyn. This wrecking operation had the full-throated support of the British establishment.

      The tabloid press went into overdrive with hysterical headlines denouncing Corbyn as a commie traitor and terrorist sympathizer who was undermining the very fabric of the British way of life. And it wasn't just the tabloids. The supposedly liberal media, such as the Guardian, joined the wolf pack to get Corbyn.

      The attacks, however, inspired more rank-and-file support for Corbyn. If the whole of the establishment was against him, then he was clearly doing something right.

      The attempt by Labour MPs to overthrow Corbyn in a second leadership ballot decisively failed. Despite the expulsion of a number of Corbyn supporters and bureaucratic rule changes to deny the vote to thousands of others, he was re-elected with an increased majority.

      But unfortunately, Corbyn failed to use this renewed democratic mandate from the mass of the rank and file to push ahead with hard-hitting left-wing policies to improve working class living standards and clear out right-wing saboteurs from the party.

      He combined calls for party unity with attempts to placate his right-wing critics by watering down some of his more radical left-wing policies, such as opposition to NATO and support for the renationalization of vital former government services.

      But his entrenched party opponents were never going to rally behind pleas for unity. Nor were they appeased by his more moderate stance. The conciliatory approach just made Corbyn seem weak and directionless ,and did nothing to inspire his supporter base. Labour's standing in the polls gradually ebbed away from more than 30 percent to around 25 percent.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      MAY'S CALLING of a snap election has sharply shifted the ground of the political fight. Corbyn responded well, with a fighting opening speech that railed against the establishment, denounced the rich and powerful and championed the interests of working-class people. Declaring the election battle "the establishment versus the people," Corbyn decried "rules that have allowed a cozy cartel to rig the system in favor of a few powerful and wealthy individuals and corporations."

      "We don't accept that it is natural for Britain to be governed by a ruling elite, the city and the tax dodgers, and we don't accept that the British people just have to take what they're given, that they don't deserve better."

      "I don't play by their rules," Corbyn went on. "And if a Labour government is elected on June 8, then we won't play by their rules either."

      If Labour is to have any hope of galvanizing its supporters into action and reaching out to the mass of workers totally disillusioned with the whole political process, this fighting opening stance needs to set the tone for the whole of Labour's campaign.

      Corbyn had already announced that a Labour government would raise the minimum wage to at least 10 pounds an hour and would introduce free school meals for all primary school children. These positive announcements need to backed up by a further raft of concrete left-wing policies that benefit workers and the poor by taxing the rich and powerful.

      It is far from guaranteed that such a fighting left-wing stance will be sufficient to win the election for Labour given the weight of establishment opinion and resources stacked against Corbyn and the sabotaging efforts of right-wing Labour MPs. But it is much better to go down fighting than to lamely succumb to politics as usual and adhering to the rules of their game.

      Even more importantly, a clear left-wing campaign could help change the whole shape of the political debate in society. It could combat the idea that there is no alternative to neoliberal capitalism, with its endless demands for more privatizations, more wage cuts, more cuts to health, education and welfare, and the total subordination of everything in society to the profit motive. It could begin popularize the idea of socialism.

      Such a fighting stance could help rebuild the confidence of workers and students to stand up for their rights at work, on the campuses and on the streets. That is vital, whoever wins the election.

      Without a fighting movement behind him, a Corbyn government would be powerless to introduce fundamental changes. And if the Tories get back in, such a fighting movement will be vital for the ongoing defense of working-class living standards.

      First published at Red Flag.

      Categories: Political Action

      ¿A quién sirven las fronteras?

      Socialist Worker - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 01:00

      Paul D'Amato explica lo que los socialistas dicen acerca de las fronteras.

      Nos oponemos a todos los controles de inmigración.
      -- Fragmento de "Nuestra Posición" de la ISO

      "LOS TRABAJADORES no tienen país... Obreros del mundo, uníos", escribieron Carlos Marx y Federico Engels en dos reconocidas frases del Manifiesto Comunista. Éstas constituyen el punto de partida de nuestro enfoque a la cuestión de la inmigración.

      Los socialistas apoyamos el derecho de toda persona a desplazarse fuera de sus fronteras nacionales sin temor a la discriminación, y nos oponemos a todos los intentos por parte de los gobiernos para limitar y controlar ese movimiento, o al trato de los inmigrantes como ciudadanos de segunda o tercera clase (o no ciudadanos). Cualquier otra posición hace una burla de nuestro llamado a la solidaridad internacional de la clase obrera.

      El intercambio capitalista ha creado un mercado mundial, y con ello ha roto toda barrera a la circulación del dinero y la inversión, dando al capital una relativa libertad para moverse por todo el mundo en busca de mayor rentabilidad. Pero, al mismo tiempo, el trabajador no tiene la misma libertad para desplazarse a través de las fronteras.

      La historia de la migración humana bajo el capitalismo es una en donde la gente, huyendo de las dificultades y la pobreza en una región o país, se ve obligada a trasladarse a otro, donde es tratada como parias sociales, a pesar de que su trabajo es ávidamente explotado por los capitalistas de la nación que los ha recibido.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      ESTADOS UNIDOS ha siempre promovido el mito de un país que acoge a los pobres y oprimidos del mundo, en busca de una vida mejor. La realidad es muy diferente. Esta nación fue construida sobre el genocidio y el desplazamiento de los pueblos originarios, la esclavitud de los africanos y la explotación despiadada de los trabajadores inmigrantes.

      Para la clase dominante estadounidense, la inmigración nunca ha sido una cuestión humanitaria, sino una cuestión de suministrar a su economía una mano de obra barata y abundante. La esclavitud proveyó la mano de obra de las plantaciones del sur; la servidumbre y, luego, la inmigración de "trabajadores libres" la proveyeron para el norte.

      El "trabajo libre" proporcionado por los inmigrantes siempre ha sido restringido y controlado por diversos medios legales, con el fin de garantizar su desvalorización y flexibilidad. Los trabajadores inmigrantes pueden ser utilizados como mano de obra barata porque las leyes de inmigración imponen sobre ellos una condición de segunda clase.

      Políticos y empleadores utilizan leyes anti-inmigrantes no para impedir la entrada de trabajadores inmigrantes, sino para controlar su trabajo. La amenaza de cárcel y deportación es efectiva para desalentar la organización de los trabajadores para luchar por mejores salarios y condiciones.

      La lista de inmigrantes víctimas de discriminación en la historia de este país es larga: católicos, irlandeses, alemanes y suecos, judíos, italianos, europeos orientales, asiáticos, mexicanos y centroamericanos, musulmanes, y así sucesivamente hasta el día de hoy.

      Los patrones de inmigración y exclusión a menudo siguen las necesidades de la industria; los trabajadores son bienvenidos en tiempos de auge, luego son usados como chivos expiatorios y deportados en tiempos de recesión.

      Obreros chinos trabajaron por bajos salarios y sufrieron terribles condiciones en la construcción de los ferrocarriles del Oeste estadounidense, sólo para ser víctimas de persecución racista y de la Ley de Exclusión China de 1882, la que se mantuvo vigente por 60 años.

      Así como el capitalismo yanqui se expandía a finales de los años 1900, Estados Unidos acogió a millones de inmigrantes de Europa meridional y oriental, hasta 1917, cuando la Ley de Exclusión Inmigratoria fue aprobada.

      Durante la década de 1920, siendo alentados a venir y tomar trabajos ferroviarios y agrícolas, un millón de mexicanos que vinieron a este país luego fueron víctimas de deportaciones masivas una vez que la Gran Depresión de los años 1930 se asentó.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      EL SISTEMA capitalista obliga a los trabajadores a unirse para defender sus intereses, pero también los obliga a competir por puestos de trabajo. Esta competencia es la base sobre la cual la clase dominante crea animosidad entre los trabajadores de diferentes razas, regiones y naciones, y trata de amarrar a los trabajadores de "su" nación a la idea de que tienen un vínculo común con los explotadores.

      Siempre que los empleadores puedan imponer salarios más bajos y un mayor número de horas y negar prestaciones básicas, lo harán. Una manera de conseguir esto es disponiendo al (relativamente hablando) mejor pagado trabajador nativo contra el mal pagado trabajador inmigrante. Como escribe el historiador Philip Foner, "con demasiada frecuencia, nuevos inmigrantes de todas las nacionalidades hicieron su primera entrada en la industria norteamericana como rompehuelgas".

      Escribiendo a finales de 1880, Federico Engels observó que la clase dominante gringa era maestra en poner a los obreros inmigrantes unos contra otros, y los nativos contra ellos. Como escribió en una carta a un colega estadounidense: "Vuestra burguesía sabe cómo poner una nacionalidad en contra de la otra: Judíos, italianos, bohemios, etc, en contra de alemanes e irlandeses, y cada uno contra el otro, de modo que la diferencia entre los estándares de vida de los trabajadores existe, creo, en Nueva York en una medida sin precedentes en otro lugar".

      Agregado a esto está la total indiferencia de una sociedad que ha crecido sobre una base puramente capitalista, sin ningún tipo de antecedentes feudales, hacia seres humanos que sucumben en la competencia: "Habrá mucho más, y más de lo que queremos, de estos condenados holandeses, irlandeses, italianos, húngaros y judíos", y para colmo, con Juan Chino en el trasfondo, que supera con creces a todos en su capacidad de vivir de casi nada".

      También hay un componente político a la histeria anti-inmigrante. A comienzo del siglo 20, el racismo anti-inmigrante fue el azote contra la izquierda en el movimiento laboral; miles de inmigrantes radicales fueron arrestados y deportados durante las infames Redadas Palmer de 1919-1921. Durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, los inmigrantes alemanes y japoneses fueron hostigados y discriminados. Más recientemente, inmigrantes árabes y musulmanes han enfrentado acoso y deportación como resultado de la xenofobia desatada después del 11 de septiembre del 2001.

      Estas políticas, aunque dirigida a sectores de la clase obrera, abre la posibilidad para los opresores de utilizarlas más ampliamente. La función de tal discriminación es neutralizar a la izquierda, quienes promueven la solidaridad y la lucha contra la opresión, mediante la creación de un clima de odio, desconfianza y miedo.

      Hoy, millones de inmigrantes indocumentados, que han puesto los engranajes de la industria y el comercio a rodar, enfrentan una de las más despiadadas y draconianas persecuciones en la historia de EE.UU. a manos de ICE y de la derecha.

      El número de deportaciones por año nunca fue más alto que con Obama, y Trump se jacta de querer superarlo. Las familias están siendo destrozadas, decenas de miles encarcelados y muchos más deportados, todo por el "delito" de trabajar duro por salarios inferiores. Mientras tanto, los empleadores enfrentan poco más que una multa ocasional.

      La única forma de superar las divisiones que el capital deliberadamente fomenta entre los trabajadores es avivando la solidaridad de todos los obreros y obreras, no importa su nacionalidad, raza o idioma. El lema "Nadie es ilegal" no es sólo un imperativo moral, sino que está basado en la idea de que mientras los trabajadores se dejen manosear y dividir, seguirán siendo débiles, víctimas de la explotación del capitalismo.

      Algún trabajador nativo podrá pensar que la exclusión y la discriminación contra el trabajador inmigrante le beneficia. Pero la realidad es que cuando la patronal puede dañar una parte de la clase obrera, es más fácil hacer daño a la otra. Leyes anti-inmigrantes ayudan a los empleadores imponer sueldos bajos para todos los trabajadores.

      El viejo lema de la IWW "una lesión contra uno es una lesión contra todos" también implica que la única forma que el movimiento obrero tiene para mejorar las condiciones de todos es mediante el mejoramiento de las condiciones de los más oprimidos y explotados.

      Como el socialista Eugene Debs escribiera: "En esta actitud, no hay nada de sentimentalismo, sino simplemente una rígida adhesión a los principios fundamentales del movimiento proletario internacional. Si el socialismo internacional, el socialismo revolucionario, no se pone firme, valiente y consistentemente con toda la clase obrera, y con las masas explotadas y oprimidas en todas partes, entonces apoya a ninguna. Su pretensión es falsa y su profesión, un engaño y una trampa".

      Traducido por Orlando Sepúlveda

      Categories: Political Action

      Another Lawsuit Tries To Force An ISP Into Being A Copyright Cop

      Deep Links - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 21:16

      Major record labels are once again trying to force an Internet service provider into enforcing their copyrights by cutting off customers from the Internet over copyright accusations. The lawsuit they filed against Texas broadband provider Grande Communications suffers from many of the same due process problems as the BMG Music Publishing v. Cox Communications case, which is on appeal.

      The issue in both cases is whether and when a home broadband provider should cut off a customer’s Internet service when someone using that service is accused of copyright infringement. The legal hook for this controversy is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Section 512, which protects ISPs and other Internet intermediaries against the risk of massive copyright penalties stemming from a customer’s copyright infringement. But to get the protection of Section 512, an ISP has to terminate “subscribers and account holders … who are repeat infringers” in “appropriate circumstances.”

      The courts haven’t yet said much about when and how it’s “appropriate” to terminate ISP subscribers. Most of the cases decided so far involved subscription-based websites, not ISPs that provide a person’s main (or only) link to the entire Internet. As EFF and Public Knowledge told the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the BMG v. Cox case, the circumstances where it’s appropriate to cut off a home Internet subscription entirely are few and far between.

      In the Cox case, the lower court’s decision to strip Cox of its Section 512 safe harbor seemed to be driven by a series of unfortunate emails uncovered in litigation. The emails suggested that Cox employees did not, in fact, terminate any customers for repeated copyright infringement, and that this policy was driven by a desire to preserve revenues. But that court—the Eastern District of Virginia—went too far when it implied that ISPs risk losing their legal protection unless they terminate some significant number of customers per month as a punishment for infringement. That’s a recipe for over-enforcement that we’re hoping the Fourth Circuit will correct.

      In the case filed on Friday, record labels seem to be looking to repeat the Virginia court’s wrong turns. Here’s how the labels’ complaint describes home broadband service:

      [F]or those subscribers who want to pirate more and larger files at faster speeds, Grande obliges them in return for higher fees.


      [T]he availability of music – and particularly Plaintiffs’ music – acts as a powerful draw for subscribers to Grande’s service.

      It’s preposterous to suggest that in 2017, the reason why people get high-speed Internet at home is to get free music, illegally. But that’s the worldview of the major record labels (and their trade association, the Recording Industry Association of America). And it’s the worldview they’re presenting to the judge in this complaint. Never mind that a good Internet connection is now a virtual necessity for doing homework, obtaining government services, participating in politics, and communicating with nearly everyone. Portraying broadband as being primarily about entertainment contributes to bad decisions like the district court’s ruling in Cox.

      The labels’ complaint against Grande also raises an argument that major media and entertainment companies have been making since the earliest days of the Internet—an argument that hasn’t improved with age. They claim that because Grande runs a service that transmits information, and because some people transmit infringing copies of music recordings, Grande should have a legal responsibility “to minimize the infringing capabilities of its service.” This is like saying that an electric utility needs to prevent people from using electricity when they commit crimes.

      One of the main purposes of DMCA Section 512 is to make clear that Internet service providers aren’t required to be copyright police. And that legal protection is the reason we have the multitude of Internet services we have as we know it today. The courts have generally rejected this perennial argument of the music and film industries, but the suit against Grande shows that they haven’t abandoned it yet.

      There are many ways this new lawsuit could go. But whatever deals are struck along the way, and whatever facts come to light, the court should keep the importance of Internet access in mind, and reject the tired and dangerous argument that Internet services should act as copyright police.

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      Categories: Political Action

      Register of Copyrights Bill Passes the House, We’re Gearing Up to Fight it in the Senate

      Deep Links - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 19:05

      The U.S. House of Representatives today voted 378 to 48 to pass a controversial bill that would make the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee. H.R. 1695, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, will effectively strip the Librarian of Congress of oversight over the Register, and is likely to increase industry influence over an already highly politicized office. The bill does nothing to improve the functioning of the Copyright Office, nor to fix any of the serious problems with copyright law, including its excessive and unpredictable penalties.

      We’re disappointed that so many in Congress chose to put the interests of powerful media and entertainment industries above those of the public as a whole, but the fight isn’t over yet. We’re urging the Senate to oppose the bill, and to push back against industry calls for an even more partisan Copyright Office.

      We applaud the Members of Congress who stood up for the readers, Internet users, consumers, and innovators who all rely on a balanced copyright system, including Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Zoe Lofgren. Here’s what they had to say:

      Rep. Jared Polis:

      yet again through this bill, Congress is choosing big, powerful interests over the consumers, over innovation, and over the little guy. . . this bill unfortunately does not solve the problem with copyright. It makes the situation worse because it slows down a desperately needed modernization indefinitely, and would hurt the public and consumers.

      Rep. Zoe Lofgren:

      Mr. Polis had mentioned the view of the Electronic Frontier Foundation that this would enhance special interests. What they’ve actually said, and I think it’s very pertinent, is that the bill would allow powerful incumbent interests to use their lobbying power to control this increasingly politicized office. No president is going to select an appointee who will be shut down by the special interests . . . We don’t want a partisan for one side of the issue. We want somebody who can run, in an efficient way, the Copyright Office.

      We couldn’t agree more, and we’ll continue to fight this bill as it comes before the Senate.

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      Categories: Political Action

      FCC Announces Plan to Abandon Net Neutrality and ISP Privacy

      Deep Links - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 16:38

      Today, the chairman of the FCC announced his desire to abandon the agency’s net neutrality protections – which  protect online competition, free speech, and privacy from interference by Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T – by undermining the legal authority behind those protections.

      Rolling back the FCC’s Open Internet Order would mean losing the only rules that meaningfully prevent ISPs from taking advantage of their control over your Internet connection to shape your Internet experience and the market for services and devices that rely on that Internet connection. Since most Americans have only one option for broadband service, ISPs would have unchecked power to extract tolls from you and from businesses that wish to reach you. While the big incumbents like Facebook and Netflix might be able to pay those tolls, the next Facebook or Netflix would have a very hard time competing. Investors hesitate to fund startups that can be held for ransom by someone like an ISP. And the situation is even more dire for nonprofits like schools, libraries, educational sites, and political groups.

      Chairman Pai suggests these fears are unfounded, but we’ve seen ISPs use every method at their disposal to favor their own content over competitors, going up to and even over the lines drawn by the previous FCC. This is particularly concerning given that at least one major ISP, Verizon, ran a news service that banned content regarding mass surveillance and net neutrality itself as contrary to the company’s interests. In Canada, an ISP blocked access to a site being used by a labor union to organize against it. A decade of misguided FCC policymaking unfortunately helped create the dysfunctional ISP market; the Open Internet Order is our best hope for preventing ISPs from abusing their power to become private gatekeepers on speech.

      Today’s announcement cleverly pretends that the current “bright-line rules,” which clearly prohibit blocking and throttling, might survive. The law says otherwise. If Chairman Pai follows through on his intention to “reclassify” broadband service, it would be legally impossible for the FCC to enforce any such rules.  How do we know this? Because the DC Circuit said so.

      The same is true for privacy. Pai suggested that the Federal Trade Commission could enforce privacy requirements, but this is an empty promise for two reasons. First, the FTC can only intervene if an ISP breaks a privacy promise, and ISP lawyers are very good at avoiding enforceable promises. Second, a federal appeals court has held that a company can’t be the subject of FTC action if any part of its offerings is a “common carrier,” like telephone service. So if your ISP also offers telephone service, the FTC can’t touch it. That’s the law right now on the west coast and it’s a regime that telecoms doubtless will continue to promote elsewhere.

      In short, Pai’s proposal leaves Internet users and small businesses completely at the mercy of ISPs. No one in the government would be able to step in to prevent abusive blocking and throttling of Internet content, pay-to-play fast lanes, or privacy violations by ISPs.

      That in turn will be devastating for competition, innovation, and free speech. The harms of ISP discrimination and market failure were well-documented in the months-long rulemaking and millions of comments that urged the FCC to protect net neutrality in 2015. The new FCC seems determined to ignore the evidence and the wishes of the vast majority of the public, in order to advance the desires of some powerful ISPs.

      The Internet has won this fight before, and we can win it again. The best way you can help now is to tell Congress to stop the FCC from throwing Internet users and innovators to the wolves. If you have a startup, you can also join a letter from over 800 small businesses from all fifty states in supporting net neutrality.

      Tell Congress: Don't Surrender the Internet.

      Related Cases: U.S. Telecom Association v. FCCNet Neutrality Lobbying
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      Categories: Political Action