NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING
DONATE TODAY

  $185,370

The Real News Network - Independent News, Blogs and Editorials

How Not To Fund Infrastructure

Michal Rozworski

By Michal Rozworski. This article was first published on Socialist Project.

Recycling is supposed to be a good thing, so when the federal Liberals quietly announced that “asset recycling” would be part of their strategy for meeting their much-ballyhooed infrastructure promises, not many eyebrows were raised. They should have been. Asset recycling is an obscure code word for selling our public goods for private profit. It's privatization by another name.

Wynne Zaps Us Again by Mike Constable

Don't have the taxes to pay for new buses? It's okay, you can sell your electricity utility to pay for them instead. In fact, this is precisely what the Ontario Liberal government is doing. Already 30 per cent of the profitable Hydro One have been sold and another 30 per cent will be sold before 2018. A public Hydro One could more directly fight climate change, lower energy costs for the poor or work with First Nations on whose lands generation often happens. A private Hydro becomes an instrument for profit first with other goals secondary.

What the Liberals have started in Ontario will soon be rolled out across Canada. Here are the problems with these schemes.

Cut Taxes to Create a Funding Crisis

First, there is no crisis that says you have to sell a bridge to fund a hospital or the other way around. Or, better put, we have manufactured crises. Decades of slow but crippling austerity, tax cuts and restructuring have led us here. We cannot afford transit and hospitals by choice and it is in our power to reverse things. Deficit spending can be part of a reversal in the short term; asset recycling cannot.

Second, remember that we need more infrastructure spending because what we have is often crumbling and the economy faces gaps in demand. Investment in infrastructure not only creates useful things we depend on, it also creates demand for materials and jobs, which themselves create... you get the picture. Business isn't investing, so there is a big role for public investment. Keepers of global order like the OECD and the IMF have recognized this. The IMF was applauded recently for walking back its support for austerity. Rightly so, but the same document reaffirmed support for privatization. Canada's Liberal Party is really at the forefront of this policy shift by elites.

However, getting funds for investment by selling other assets into a system that has created massive asset price inflation – seen in stock markets at record highs, a lack of sub-million dollar homes in Vancouver or smashed art auction records – seems questionable at best. The response to the global financial crash of 2007-08 saved the world from depression but left fundamental inequalities in place.

Third, shares in newly-privatized public enterprises can become bargaining chips. Asset recycling has already created space for new and refined forms of triangulation, with worse to come. The latest batch of Hydro One shares in Ontario will be sold at a slight discount to First Nations for loaned funds. What seems like new funding is, however, a cynical one-off.

This is the Ontario government effectively saying, “we've underfunded your schools and clinics, poisoned your rivers and abandoned your communities, let's make it right by helping us privatize Hydro.” Beyond slightly accelerating the sale of Hydro and coming at low political cost (the government gets a slightly smaller share of privatization income, rather than making explicit expenditure on First Nations), this scheme does nothing to address real grievances First Nations might have with Hydro. Seats on the Board of Directors or other regulatory bodies, deeper co-governance arrangements, priority hiring – none of this is on the table and neither is new, stable funding.

Pension Funds on the Prowl for ‘Investment Opportunities’

Finally, here's a quote from an investment manager in a Maclean's piece on asset recycling:

“‘If you took a road that used to be free and you tolled it, I think consumers are right to say, 'Hey, that used to be free and now it's being tolled, that's unfair',’ he said.

“‘But let's remember that governments need to balance their books somehow... I don't think they can raise taxes too much more. I don't think any of us want that.’”

Typical right-wing talking points. The problem is that these typical right-wing talking points are coming from someone ostensibly representing union workers: this investment manager works for the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Canada is a world leader when it comes to workers’ own pensions being turned against them and younger generations. What were once simple, safe pension investments in government bonds are today predatory arrangements with pension boards acting more like hedge funds. Asset recycling only accelerates this process and binds regular people more tightly to a system that ultimately works against them. [Ed.: see “Pension Funds and Privatization,” LeftStreamed No. 194]

So, too few buses in your city? Sell an airport. First Nations have inadequate health facilities? Here's a few Hydro shares. Need a pension? Buy a highway... and don't forget to contract out the maintenance and toll staff to make sure you're earning maximum returns. As a friend put it, “Trudeauism is able to sublimate both neoliberalism and social democracy into itself.” Just so, asset recycling is the wrong answer to each of the above good questions. •

Michal Rozworski is an independent economist, writer and organizer. He currently works as a union researcher in Toronto, blogs at Political Eh-conomy, where this article first appeared.

Add a comment

The Debut of Our Revolution: Great Potential. But.

Norman Solomon

By Norman Solomon

While Bernie Sanders was doing a brilliant job of ripping into the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the livestreamed launch of the Our Revolution organization on Wednesday night, CNN was airing a phone interview with Hillary Clinton and MSNBC was interviewing Donald Trump’s campaign manager.

That sums up the contrast between the enduring value of the Bernie campaign and the corporate media’s fixation on the political establishment. Fortunately, Our Revolution won’t depend on mainline media. That said, the group’s debut foreshadowed not only great potential but also real pitfalls.

Even the best election campaigns aren’t really “movements.” Ideally, campaigns strengthen movements and vice versa. As Bernie has often pointed out, essential changes don’t come from Congress simply because of who has been elected; those changes depend on strong grassroots pressure for the long haul.

It’s all to the good that Our Revolution is encouraging progressives around the country to plan far ahead for effective electoral races, whether for school board, city council, state legislature or Congress. Too many progressives have treated election campaigns as impulse items, like candy bars in a checkout line.

Opportunities await for campaigns that might be well-funded much as Bernie’s presidential race was funded, from many small online donations. But except for presidential races, the politics of elections are overwhelmingly local -- and therein lies a hazard for Our Revolution.

A unified set of positions nationwide can be helpful; likewise publicity and fundraising for candidates across state borders. But sometimes hidden in plain sight is a basic fact: National support does not win local elections. Local grassroots support does.

Backing from Our Revolution will be close to worthless unless people are deeply engaged with long-term activism in local communities -- building relationships, actively supporting a wide range of sustained progressive efforts, developing the basis for an election campaign that (win or lose on Election Day) will strengthen movements.

Sooner or later, some kind of culture clash is likely to emerge when social-change activists get involved in a serious election campaign. Running for office involves priorities that diverge from some tendencies of movement activism (as I learned when running for Congress four years ago). The urgencies and practicalities of election campaigns aren’t always compatible with how grassroots progressive groups tend to function.

As a 501c4 organization, Our Revolution won’t be running campaigns. Instead, it’ll raise funds and provide support for campaigns while being legally prohibited from “coordinating” with them. And -- most imminently with the urgent need to stop the TPP in Congress during the lame-duck session -- Our Revolution could make a big difference in pressuring lawmakers on key issues.

Overall, the livestreaming debut of Our Revolution continued a terrific legacy from the Bernie campaign of educating and agitating with vital progressive positions on such crucial matters as economic justice, institutional racism, climate change, Wall Street, corporate trade deals and health care.

But throughout Our Revolution’s livestream, war went unmentioned. So did Pentagon spending. So did corporate profiteering from the massive U.S. military budget.

In that sense, the evening was a step backward for Bernie. After virtually ignoring foreign policy and military-related issues during his campaign’s early months last summer, he gradually criticized Hillary Clinton’s record of supporting regime change. In early spring, during the New York primary campaign, he laudably called for evenhanded policies toward Israel and Palestinians. Although he never delivered more than occasional and brief glancing blows at the military-industrial complex during the campaign, Bernie did offer some valuable critiques of foreign policy.

But from the debut of Our Revolution, including Bernie’s 49-minute speech, you wouldn’t have a clue that the United States is completing its fifteenth year of continuous warfare, with no end in sight.

Now, sadly, there may be a need to reactivate the petition headlined “Bernie Sanders, Speak Up: Militarism and Corporate Power Are Fueling Each Other,” which 25,000 people signed on a RootsAction webpage 12 months ago:

Senator Sanders, we are enthusiastic about your presidential campaign’s strong challenge to corporate power and oligarchy. We urge you to speak out about how they are intertwined with militarism and ongoing war. Martin Luther King Jr. denounced what he called ‘the madness of militarism,’ and you should do the same. As you said in your speech to the SCLC, ‘Now is not the time for thinking small.’ Unwillingness to challenge the madness of militarism is thinking small.”

As the petition page noted, Dr. King “explicitly and emphatically linked the issues of economic injustice at home with war abroad.” In a society desperately needing “adequate funds for programs of economic equity and social justice,” the challenge remains clear: “Overcoming militarism is just as vital as overcoming oligarchy. We won’t be able to do one without the other.”

If Bernie and Our Revolution continue to evade the present-day realities of “the madness of militarism,” their political agenda will be significantly more limited than what our revolution requires for a truly progressive future.

________________________

Norman Solomon, national coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network, is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Add a comment

“Our Revolution”: Potential Promise and Possible Problems

Michael Albert

By Michael Albert.

On August 24th over 2,500 house parties simultaneously viewed a presentation publicly introducing the new organization, “Our Revolution.” I eagerly watched the talks along with an estimated 40,000 other viewers.

 

“Our Revolution” explicitly aligned itself with a long history of feminist, civil rights, labor, and ecological activism and committed itself to continue that heritage.

“Our Revolution” also offered a summary of the Sanders campaign’s accomplishments in shaping national awareness and aspirations, recognized that change only comes from grass roots activism, and noted that champions of change in public office can help grass roots efforts.

“Our Revolution” also pledged to devote major energies to grass roots outreach, marches, rallies, civil disobedience, and all manner of efforts to pressure desirable outcomes from otherwise unyielding elites – including, of course, Democratic Party elites. Alongside that, it also pledged to support electoral campaigns to raise policy awareness and to win local, state, and national office to have those offices aid popular activism.

I am convinced if it develops positively “Our Revolution” can in those ways continue the momentum of the Sanders campaign fulfilling a very worthy aim.

However, during the introduction, three correctable but serious problems arose and these merit widespread attention lest “Our Revolution” succumb to avoidable flaws. Two of these problems seemed obvious, one less so.

First, and most immediately evident, during the hour and a half presentation of “Our Revolution” there was literally no mention of anti war activism or of U.S. military policy, interventionism, drones, or even the Pentagon budget. Hopefully this was either a strange but temporary oversight due to tactical avoidance of such issues during the campaign, or a result of a few speechwriters being careless and no one noticing. It is morally essential to address such matters. It is also strategically hard to imagine a highly engaged multi issue, multi tactic radical project that addresses everything but militarism sustaining itself.

Second, and only a bit less obvious, was the absence of any discussion of the organization’s structure, and especially its decision making. Democracy, much less self management, was never mentioned as a value or aim. There was, however, an indication that as of August 24 the organization was run by a board and some key officers, so that at the moment “Our Revolution” has a corporate structure of the sort many in “Our Revolution” rightly consider anti democratic and anti participatory. Hopefully this situation is an artifact of having to quickly jumpstart the project from the top for fear that taking longer would lose momentum. Hopefully, also, it will be corrected in short order as members make known their desires to not just follow instructions, but to determine policy in the manner Sanders extolled in his campaign.

Third, and considerably less obvious, there was a possible problem with the list of candidates who were mentioned and listed on the web site as ones who “Our Revolution” will support. The possible problem wasn’t who was listed, it was who wasn’t – or, who I think wasn’t listed.

I am in no position to be certain about this, but it seemed to me there were no Green Party candidates, and perhaps no non Democratic Party candidates. This would make no sense as a policy. Rather, if the reason for “Our Revolution” to support a candidate is that the candidate’s campaign can educate and reach out, and the candidate’s victory would provide support for movements seeking radical gains, then surely Green Party candidates should qualify, including Stein in safe states. Hopefully this possible problem is also merely an artifact of such a fast start up. Of course, Sanders and all those involved in the campaign know progressive democrats better than they know other potential candidates, and so, before long, I hope we can anticipate that the list will grow and diversify.

I should say that these three possible problems of “Our Revolution” are not minor but critical, precisely because the potential promise of “Our Revolution” is so enormous. To urge attention to these issues is not nitpicking but an effort to help, because if these problems are not addressed “Our Revolution’s” potential promise will not be met. For unlike errors of tactical choice, mistimed campaigns, errors of analysis, or picking a not so worthy candidate to support, each of these three possible problems, if uncorrected, will disastrously diminish the ability of “Our Revolution” to attain its goals regardless of how much each member wants it to do so.

Add a comment

No Need to Build Donald Trump's Wall -- It's Already Built

Todd Miller

By Todd Miller. This article was first published on Truthout.

A painted metal mural attached to the Mexican side of the US border wall in the city of Heroica Nogales, Sonora.A painted metal mural attached to the Mexican side of the US border wall in the city of Heroica Nogales, Sonora. The mural is titled "Paseo de Humanidad" (Parade of Humanity) and was created by artists Alberto Morackis, Alfred Quiróz and Guadalupe Serrano. It depicts the struggles and harsh realities of economic refugees traveling through the Sonoran desert to reach the US. (Photo: Jonathan McIntosh / Flickr)

If you want journalism that challenges authority and is accountable to you -- not to government or corporate interests -- then make a donation to Truthout today!

At the federal courthouse, Ignacio Sarabia asks the magistrate judge, Jacqueline Rateau, if he can explain why he crossed the international boundary between the two countries without authorization. He has already pleaded guilty to the federal misdemeanor commonly known as "illegal entry" and is about to receive a prison sentence. On either side of him are eight men in the same predicament, all still sunburned, all in the same ripped, soiled clothes they were wearing when arrested in the Arizona desert by agents of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Once again, the zero tolerance border enforcement program known as Operation Streamline has unfolded just as it always does here in Tucson, Arizona. Close to 60 people have already approached the judge in groups of seven or eight, their heads bowed submissively, their bodies weighed down by shackles and chains around wrists, waists, and ankles. The judge has handed out the requisite prison sentences in quick succession -- 180 days, 60 days, 90 days, 30 days.

On and on it goes, day-in, day-out. Like so many meals served in fast-food restaurants, 750,000 prison sentences of this sort have been handed down since Operation Streamline was launched in 2005. This mass prosecution of undocumented border crossers has become so much the norm that one report concluded it is now a "driving force in mass incarceration" in the United States. Yet it is but a single program among many overseen by the massive U.S. border enforcement and incarceration regime that has developed during the last two decades, particularly in the post-9/11 era.

Sarabia takes a half-step forward. "My infant is four months old," he tells the judge in Spanish. The baby was, he assures her, born with a heart condition and is a U.S. citizen. They have no option but to operate. This is the reason, he says, that "I'm here before you." He pauses.

"I want to be with my child, who is in the United States."

It's clear that Sarabia would like to gesture emphatically as he speaks, but that's difficult, thanks to the shackles that constrain him. Rateau fills her coffee cup as she waits for his comments to be translated into English.

Earlier in April 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, still in the heat of his primary campaign, stated once again that he would build a massive concrete border wall towering 30 (or, depending on the moment, 55) feet high along the 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexican border. He would, he insisted, force Mexico to pay for the $8 billion to $10 billion barrier. Repeatedly throwing such red meat into the gaping jaws of nativism, he has over these last months also announced that he would create a major "deportation force," repeatedly sworn that he would ban Muslims from entering the country (a position that he regularly revises), and most recently, that he would institute an "extreme vetting" process for foreign nationals arriving in the United States.

In June 2015, when he rode a Trump Tower escalator into the presidential campaign, among his initial promises was the building of a "great" and "beautiful" wall on the border. ("And no one builds walls better than me, believe me. I will do it very inexpensively. I will have Mexico pay for that wall.")  As he pulled that promise out of a hat with a magician's flair, the actual history of the border disappeared. From then on in Election 2016, there was just empty desert and Donald Trump.

Suddenly, there hadn't been a bipartisan government effort over the last quarter-century to put in place an unprecedented array of walls, detection systems, and guards for that southern border. In those years, the number of Border Patrol agents had, in fact, quintupled from 4,000 to more than 21,000, while Customs and Border Protection became the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country with more than 60,000 agents. The annual budget for border and immigration enforcement went from $1.5 to $19.5 billion, a more than 12-fold increase. By 2016, federal government funding of border and immigration enforcement added up to $5 billion more than that for all other federal law enforcement agencies combined.

Operation Streamline, a cornerstone program in the "Consequence Delivery System," part of a broader Border Patrol deterrence strategy for stopping undocumented immigration, is just one part of a vast enforcement-incarceration-deportation machine. The program is as no-nonsense as its name suggests. It's not The Wall, but it embodies the logic of the wall: either you crossed "illegally" or you didn't. It doesn't matter why, or whether you lost your job, or if you've had to skip meals to feed your kids. It doesn't matter if your house was flooded or the drought dried up your fields. It doesn't matter if you're running for your life from drug cartel gunmen or the very army and police forces that are supposed to protect you.

This system was what Ignacio Sarabia faced a few months ago in a Tucson court.  His tragedy is one that plays out so many times daily a mere seven blocks from where I live.

Before I tell you how the judge responded to his plea, it's important to understand Sarabia's journey, and that of so many thousands like him who end up in this federal courthouse day after day. As he pleads to be with his newborn son, his voice cracking with emotion, his story catches the already Trumpian-style of border enforcement -- both the pain and suffering it has caused, and the strategy and massive build-up behind it -- in ways that the campaign rhetoric of both parties and the reporting on it doesn't. As reporters chase their tails attempting to explain Trump's wild and often unfounded claims and declarations, the on-the-ground border reality goes unreported. Indeed, one of the greatest "secrets" of the 2016 election campaign (though it should be common knowledge) is that the border wall already exists.  It has for years and the fingerprints all over it aren't Donald Trump's but the Clintons', both Bill's and Hillary's.

The Wall That Already Exists

Twenty-one years before Trump's wall-building promise (and seven years before the 9/11 attacks), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to replace the chain link fence that separated Nogales, Sonora, in Mexico from Nogales, Arizona, in the United States with a wall built of rusty landing mats from the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. Although there had been various half-hearted attempts at building border walls throughout the twentieth century, this was the first true effort to build a barrier of what might now be called Trumpian magnitude.

That rusty, towering wall snaked through the hills and canyons of northern Sonora and southern Arizona forever deranging a world that, given cross-border familial and community ties, then considered itself one. At the time, who could have known that the strategy the first wall embodied would still be the model for today's massive system of exclusion.

In 1994, the threat wasn't "terrorism." In part, the call for more hardened, militarized borders came in response, among other things, to a never-ending drug war.  It also came from U.S. officials who anticipated the displacement of millions of Mexicans after the implementation of the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which, ironically, was aimed at eliminating barriers to trade and investment across North America.

And the expectations of those officials proved well justified. The ensuing upheavals in Mexico, as analyst Marco Antonio Velázquez Navarrete explained to me, were like the aftermath of a war or natural disaster. Small farmers couldn't compete against highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness giants like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. Mexican small business owners were bankrupted by the likes of Walmart, Sam's Club, and other corporate powers. Mining by foreign companies extended across vast swaths of Mexico, causing territorial conflicts and poisoning the land. The unprecedented and desperate migration that followed came up against what might be considered the other side of the Clinton doctrine of open trade: walls, increased border agents, increased patrolling, and new surveillance technologies meant to cut off traditional crossing spots in urban areas like El Paso, San Diego, Brownsville, and Nogales.

"This administration has taken a strong stand to stiffen the protection of our borders," President Bill Clinton said in 1996. "We are increasing border controls by fifty percent."

Over the next 20 years, that border apparatus would expand exponentially in terms of personnel, resources, and geographic reach, but the central strategy of the 1990s (labeled "Prevention Through Deterrence") remained the same. The ever-increasing border policing and militarization funneled desperate migrants into remote locations like the Arizona desert where temperatures can soar to 120 degrees in the summer heat.

The first U.S. border strategy memorandum in 1994 predicted the tragic future we now have. "Illegal entrants crossing through remote, uninhabited expanses of land and sea along the border can find themselves in mortal danger," it stated.

Twenty years later, more than 6,000 remains have been found in the desert borderlands of the United States. Hundreds of families continue to search for disappeared loved ones. The Colibri Center for Human Rights has records for more than 2,500 missing people last seen crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In other words, that border has become a graveyard of bones and sadness.

Despite all the attention given to the wall and the border this election season, neither the Trump nor Clinton campaigns have mentioned "Prevention Through Deterrence," nor the subsequent border deaths. Not once. The same goes for the establishment media that can't stop talking about Trump's wall. There has been little or no mention of what border groups have long called a "humanitarian crisis" of deaths that have increased five-fold over the last decade, thanks, in part, to a wall that already exists. (If the people dying were Canadians or Europeans, attention would, of course, be paid.)

Although wall construction began during Bill Clinton's administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) built most of the approximately 700 miles of fencing after the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was passed. At the time, Senator Hillary Clinton voted in favor of that Republican-introduced bill, along with 26 other Democrats. "I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in," she commented at one 2015 campaign event, "and I do think you have to control your borders."

The 2006 wall-building project was expected to be so environmentally destructive that homeland security chief Michael Chertoff waived 37 environmental and cultural laws in the name of national security.  In this way, he allowed Border Patrol bulldozers to desecrate protected wilderness and sacred land.

"Imagine a bulldozer parking in your family graveyard, turning up bones," Chairman Ned Norris, Jr., of the Tohono O'odham Nation (a Native American tribe whose original land was cut in half by the U.S. border) told Congress in 2008. "This is our reality."

With a price tag of, on average, $4 million a mile, these border walls, barriers, and fences have proven to be one of the costliest border infrastructure projects undertaken by the United States. For private border contractors, on the other hand, it's the gift that just keeps on giving. In 2011, for example, the DHS granted Kellogg, Brown, and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, one of our "warrior corporations," a $24.4 million upkeep contract.

In Tucson in early August, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence looked out over a sea of red "Make America Great Again" caps and t-shirts and said, "We will secure our border. Donald Trump will build that wall."  He would be met with roaring applause, even though his statement made no sense at all.

Should Trump actually win, how could he build something that already exists? Indeed, for all practical purposes, the "Great Wall" that Trump talks about may, by January 2017, be as antiquated as the Great Wall of China given the new high-tech surveillance methods now coming on the market.  These are being developed in a major way and on a regular basis by a booming border techno-surveillance industry.

The twenty-first-century border is no longer just about walls; it's about biometrics and drones. It's about a "layered approach to national security," given that, as former Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher has put it, "the international boundary is no longer the first or last line of defense, but one of many."  Hillary Clinton's promise of "comprehensive immigration reform" -- to be introduced within 100 days of her entering the Oval Office -- is a much more reliable guide than Trump's wall to our grim immigration future. If her bill follows the pattern of previous ones, as it surely will, an increasingly weaponized, privatized, high-tech, layered border regime, increasingly dangerous to future Ignacio Sarabias, will continue to be a priority of the federal government.

On the surface, there are important differences between Clinton's and Trump's immigration platforms. Trump's wildly xenophobic comments and declarations are well known, and Clinton claims that she will, among other things, fight for family unity for those forcibly separated by deportation and enact "humane" immigration enforcement.  Yet deep down, the policies of the two candidates are far more similar than they might at first appear.

Navigating Donald Trump's Borderlands Now

That April day, only one bit of information about Ignacio Sarabia's border crossing to reunite with his wife and newborn child was available at the Tucson federal courthouse. He had entered the United States "near Nogales."  Most likely, he circumvented the wall first started during the Clinton administration, like most immigrants do, by making his way through the potentially treacherous canyons that surround that border town.

If his experience was typical, he probably didn't have enough water or food, and suffered some physical woe like large, painful blisters on his feet. Certainly, he wasn't atypical in trying to reunite with loved ones. After all, more than 2.5 million people have been expelled from the country by the Obama administration, an average annual deportation rate of close to 400,000 people.  This was, by the way, only possible thanks to laws signed by Bill Clinton in 1996 and meant to burnish his legacy.  They vastly expanded the government's deportation powers.

In 2013 alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out 72,000 deportations of parents who said that their children were U.S.-born. And many of them are likely to try to cross that dangerous southern border again to reunite with their families.

The enforcement landscape Sarabia faced has changed drastically since that first wall was built in 1994. The post-9/11 border is now both a war zone and a showcase for corporate surveillance.  It represents, according to Border Patrol agent Felix Chavez,  an "unprecedented deployment of resources," any of which could have led to Sarabia's capture. It could have been one of the hundreds of remote video or mobile surveillance systems, or one of the more than 12,000 implanted motion sensors that set off alarms in hidden operational control rooms where agents stare into large monitors.

It could have been the spy towers made by the Israeli company Elbit Systems that spotted him, or Predator B drones built by General Atomics, or VADER radar systems manufactured by the defense giant Northrup Grumman that, like so many similar technologies, have been transported from the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq to the U.S. border.

If the comprehensive immigration reform that Hillary Clinton pledges to introduce as president is based on the already existing bipartisan Senate package, as has been indicated, then this corporate-enforcement landscape will be significantly bolstered and reinforced. There will be 19,000 more Border Patrol agents in roving patrols throughout "border enforcement jurisdictions" that extend up to 100 miles inland. More F-150 trucks and all-terrain vehicles will rumble through and, at times, tear up the desert. There will be more Blackhawk helicopters, flying low, their propellers dusting groups of scattering migrants, many of them already lost in the vast, parched desert.

If such a package passes the next Congress, up to $46 billion could be slated to go into more of all of this, including funding for hundreds of miles of new walls. Corporate vendors are salivating at the thought of such a future and in a visible state of elation at homeland security tradeshows across the globe.

The 2013 bill that passed in the Senate but failed in the House of Representatives also included a process of legalization for the millions of undocumented people living in the United States. It maintained programs that will grant legal residence for children who came to the United States at a young age and their parents. Odds are that a comprehensive reform bill in a Clinton presidency would be similar.

Included in that bill was, of course, funding to bolster Operation Streamline. The Evo A. DeConcini Federal Courthouse in Tucson would then have the capacity to prosecute triple the number of people it deals with at present.

After taking a sip from her coffee and listening to the translation of Ignacio Sarabia's comments, the magistrate judge looks at him and says she's sorry for his predicament.

Personally, I'm mesmerized by his story as I sit on a wooden bench at the back of the court. I have a child the same age as his son. I can't imagine his predicament.  Not once while he talks does it leave my mind that my child might even have the same birthday as his.

The judge then looks directly at Sarabia and tells him that he can't just come here "illegally," that he has to find a "legal way" (highly unlikely, given the criminal conviction that will now be on his record).  "Your son," she says, "when he gets better, and his mother, can visit you where you are in Mexico."

"Otherwise," she adds, he'll be "visiting you in prison" -- not exactly, she points out, an appealing scenario: seeing your father in a prison where he will be "locked away for a very long time."

She then sentences the nine men standing side by side in front of her for periods ranging from 60 days to 180 days for the crime of crossing an international border without proper documents. Sarabia receives a 60-day sentence.

Next, armed guards from G4S -- the private contractor that once employed Omar Mateen (the Pulse nightclub killer) and has a lucrative quarter-billion-dollar border contract with Customs and Border Protection -- will transport each of the shackled prisoners to a Corrections Corporation of America private prison in Florence, Arizona. It is there that Sarabia will think about his child's endangered heart from behind layers of coiled razor wire, while the corporation that runs the prison makes $124 per day for incarcerating him.

Indeed, Donald Trump's United States doesn't await his presidency. It's already laid out before us, and one place it's happening every single day is in Tucson, only seven blocks from my house.

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.

Todd Miller

Todd Miller has researched and written about US-Mexican border issues for more than 10 years and is the author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security. He has worked on both sides of the border for BorderLinks in Tucson, Arizona, and Witness for Peace in Oaxaca, Mexico. He now writes on border and immigration issues for NACLA Report on the Americas and its blog Border Wars, among other places.

Add a comment

Covering Up Whistleblowers’ Disclosures Should Be Illegal

William Black

William K. Black, August 22, 2016     Kansas City, MO

James Stewart has written a column about Roger Ailes’ alleged sexual predation on female Fox News personnel over the course of many years.  He entitled it “Secrecy of Settlements at Fox News Hid Bad Behavior.”  Ailes was the CEO of Fox News.  I write to show how two concepts Stewart did not employ would aid the analysis and to suggest a fundamental change in the law that would make the world a far better place.

The two concepts I add to Stewart’s analysis are “control fraud” and whistleblowing.  Stewart’s column applies as its sole lens sexual harassment.  That is the obvious lens to employ and it is helpful.  By supplementing this lens, however, we can provide additional useful insights and frame generalized policies of broader applicability.

The concepts of “control fraud” and whistleblowing are related and also have obvious application to the Ailes case if you are familiar with the concepts.  The many women who risked their careers to blow the whistle on Ailes were classic whistleblowers.  Stewart, sensibly, quotes the University of Michigan Law School professor who was instrumental in creating a civil remedy for sexual harassment.

Victims of sexual harassment can see what happens to other victims who came forward. “It’s career suicide to come forward,” said Professor MacKinnon. “You’re roadkill. Women know this, yet some come forward. That’s what courage looks like.”

The people, overwhelmingly women, who bring complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace are whistleblowers.  As a co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United (BWU) I can vouch professionally and personally that it takes “courage” to blow the whistle.  The sexual harassment context can call for the particularly great courage among whistleblowers because blowing the whistle will provide highly personal information about the victim and inevitably leads to “slut shaming” abuse and trolls.

MacKinnon also rightly emphasizes the inherent role of the harasser’s power over the harassed.

“A lot of men have gotten away with sexual harassment with absolutely no consequences,” said Catharine A. MacKinnon, a professor of law at the University of Michigan and Harvard Law School who pioneered sexual harassment lawsuits. No matter what companies say, she added, “the real rule is that the more powerful a man is, the more he gets away with.”

But what explains the extent of the power differential in employment?  The article quotes a different professor who offers an explanation that isn’t wrong, but ignores what should be obvious, particularly because the setting is the Ailes case.

Jon Bauer, a professor of law at the University of Connecticut who has written extensively about workplace discrimination, also says the issue goes well beyond Fox News. “Employees are rewarded for shielding powerful people in the organization,” he said. “That’s the culture in many workplace settings.”

“Control fraud” is a term and a theory that explains why the consequences of fraud are vastly more severe when the person who controls a seemingly legitimate entity uses it as a “weapon” to defraud.  Sexual harassment is a fraud+ crime.  The fraud is the deceitful statements by your boss that you were hired for your skills and would be advanced in the organization on the basis of the quality of your work.  But sexual harassment is a broader crime that includes extortion.  Like fraud, sexual harassment is an intentional wrong.  For the sake of brevity, I will discuss for-profit firms, but the same logic applies to non-profits and government entities.

Control fraud theory explains why the combination of the seeming legitimacy of the firm and the unique power of the persons controlling the entity (I’ll use the term “CEO” for brevity) combine to create an environment in which the CEO can cause enormous harm.  Bauer begins to get at that in his use of these key words: “rewarded,” “shielding,” “powerful,” and “culture.”  What Bauer is describing are all important elements of how a CEO creates a criminogenic environment to optimize the use of the firm as a weapon.  Ailes is alleged to have shaped such a criminogenic environment through the power to hire, fire, promote, compensate, and give or deny prominent air time.  The goal according to public reports was not simply to reward other bosses for “shielding” Ailes, but to coerce younger women to have sex with Ailes, and not to go public with their complaints even if he was unable to successfully coerce them to have sex or he lost interest in them.

CEOs are the dominant creators of a firm’s “culture.”  If, like me, you have had the misfortune of being forced to attend firm ethics presentations, you will have heard the same useless speechifying by business ethics “experts.”  The expert will pronounce that the “tone at the top” of the firm is absolutely critical.  The CEO will tell everyone how much he wants a world-class culture of ethics.

Talk by CEOs is cheap.  CEOs establish the real tone at the top through their financial incentive systems and who they promote and make wealthy.  If the CEO is honest, the incentive system and the personnel decisions will show that the most ethical, competent people are rewarded.  If the opposite is true, then all the speeches by the CEO and the corporate “ethics statements” are simply part of crafting the criminogenic environment.  The lawyers will help the CEO send out a barrage of self-serving praise for ethics in order to make it appear that the corrupt officers that the CEO has hired and promoted and incentivized to cheat were “rogues” acting in violation of the CEO’s orders.  This is a subtler form of “shielding” the CEO from accountability.

Even when the victim, knowing it would destroy her career, persisted in bringing complaints for sexual harassment against Ailes, he shaped an environment at Fox News that was so criminogenic that it prevented the complaints from becoming public for over a decade.  Like Soviet military doctrine, the CEO’s lawyers build “defense in depth” to protect the CEO from any personal accountability for sexual harassment.  The goal is to make any victim of sexual harassment face the equivalent of attacking Kursk.  The lines of defense Ailes used include:

  • Requiring the employee to sign a confidentiality agreement
  • Requiring the employee to sign an agreement waiving any right to sue, limiting any claim to arbitration, and making that arbitration secret (arbiters are also typically more hostile to claimants than are courts)
  • Requiring the employee not to disparage the firm and its officers and employees
  • Using the resources of Fox News to investigate and intimidate victims and reporters who might make their story public
  • Smearing the victim through Fox News’ PR and legal staffs
  • Allowing Ailes, secretly, to use millions of dollars in funds from Fox News to settle complaints of sexual harassment brought by the most committed victims – in return for non-disclosure agreements that would hide the “pattern and practice” of sexual harassment by Ailes
  • Creating situations in which victims still with Fox News either had to praise Ailes to on-air reporters and interviewers or, effectively, destroy their careers.  Those statements by the victims could then be used to portray the victims as liars if they later made public Ailes’ sexual harassment
  • Ailes creation of a culture at Fox News of fear and enrichment that meant that most colleagues were hostile to the victims and would provide support for Ailes and attacks on victims
  • The payment of enormous sums from the firm to Ailes when, after an extensive pattern of sexual harassment, he eventually left.  A firm is supposed to “claw back” past compensation from its CEO in such circumstances, not give him a $40 million reward.

I will conclude the discussion of Ailes with an important warning.  Ailes is only out of power because the Murdochs are dominant owners and, reportedly, Rupert Murdoch’s sons were fed up with Ailes and hired a law firm to find the pattern and practice of Ailes’ sexual harassment.  In a typical large corporation with no real control block, Ailes would still be in power.  Rupert was reported as still valuing Ailes.  Rupert placed two of Ailes’ top cronies in charge of Fox News.  At best, these two cronies were stonily indifferent to Ailes’ pattern of sexual harassment.

As with financial whistleblowers, the employees who blow the whistle on sexual harassment are the firm’s best employees.  They have proven their courage in the hottest of crucibles.  If the Murdochs had actually wanted to change the criminogenic environment that Ailes crafted in order to create the pervasively corrupt culture at Fox News they would have taken one or more of Ailes’ victims and promoted them to senior leadership positions at the firm.  That would have credibly signaled the intent to end Fox News’ corrupt culture.  Instead, the Murdochs did the opposite.  Talk is cheap.  The Murdoch’s actions show that they want Fox News to remain a cultural cesspool.

Policies We Need Now to Protect Whistleblowers and the Public

The broader policies that should come out of this discussion apply to all forms of whistleblowing.  The United States should forbid and declare void as against public policy any contractual requirement by an entity:

  1. That an individual be forced to give up his/her right to sue and limited to an arbiter
  2. That an individual keep confidential any misconduct by the entity, its customers, or their employees and officers

It should be the policy of the United States courts to encourage and defend the disclosure of misconduct by employees and to punish criminally and through a major fine any effort by a corporation’s officers to prevent that disclosure.  This would not repeal laws against libel, slander, and perjury.  The courts should be forbidden to engage in prior restraint through issuing protective orders or injunctions preventing customers, employees, and shareholders from publicly blowing the whistle on misconduct.

Any firm that engages in retaliation against a whistleblower should be subject to criminal penalties and the removal and prohibition of its senior officers from serving as senior officers for a period of five-to-ten years depending on the culpability of the senior officers in that retaliation.

 

 

Add a comment
TheRealNewsNetwork.com, RealNewsNetwork.com, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting