CFPB Sues Loan Mega-Giant Navient for Manipulating Student Debt

CFPB Sues Loan Mega-Giant Navient for Manipulating Student Debt

Susanne Posel ,Chief Editor Occupy Corporatism | Media Spokesperson, HealthMax Group

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has filed a lawsuit against Navient, a private student loan servicer formerly known as Sallie Mae, for “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.”

Navient is accused of coercing students into borrowing money despite the fact that they were unqualified for such loans. Students that had trouble repaying because of Navient’s negligence in keeping the borrower informed of critical deadlines.

In addition, those making extra payments to get ahead of their debt found that Navient incorrectly processed those payments, charged the student late fees, interest charges and reported a negative rating to credit reporting agencies.

The CFPB explained in a statement: “Navient repeatedly misapplies or misallocates payments — often making the same error multiple times over many months. The company all too often fails to correct its errors unless a consumer discovers the problem and contacts the company.”

This lawsuit is one of 3 filed against Navient by government agencies for different aspects of the same issue.

Pioneer Credit Recovery, a subsidiary of Navient, also followed their parent company’s example by making unlawful representations about the federal loan program available to default borrowers in order to intimidate students.

Richard Corday, director of the CFPB said to the press : “Navient has systematically and illegally failed borrowers at every stage of repayment. These unlawful practices have cost student-loan borrowers across the country both heartache and money. And we are working to make sure they do not happen again.”

The crackdown on Navient is one of several actions by the CFPB to protect American college students from predatory loan serving.

Last year the CFPB went after Bridgepoint Education (BPE) and their subsidiary Ashford University (AU) for “deceiving students into taking out private student loans that cost more than advertised.”

Since 2009, BPE has offered in-house private loans to students which the company then used the proceeds on the stock market because this entity is publicly traded. To ensure cash flow, BPE misled students as to the total costs of attending AU.

BPE has been ordered to forgive all outstanding student loans and refund monies paid by borrowers. In total $ 23.5 million is expected to be repaid to 1,277 students. The organization will also pay $8 million in fines.

Also in 2016, the the US Department of Education (DoE) announced a crackdown on for-profit higher education schools, starting with ITT Educational Service, Inc (ITT).

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) has called on the DoE to look at ITT for its failure to live up to the demands of accreditation. This fact is expected to close ITT’s 137 campuses and provide a pathway for student debt forgiveness for tens of thousands of students.

ITT did not set aside funding to off-set this reality and therefore the DoE is putting its full weight against the school.

Because of the mandates put forth by the DoE, ITT was no longer allowed to enroll new students who use federal loans or grants to pay tuition. In addition, ITT executives cannot give themselves bonuses or payout severance without first gaining DoE approval.

ITT was forced to abide by other restrictions, such as providing a letter of credit from banks loaning to ITT to show the school has the $247 million necessary to counter federal student-aid liabilities.

Ultimately, ITT closed their doors, leaving students in limbo concerning their debt and access to continued education.

Susanne Posel

Susanne Posel

Chief Editor | Investigative Journalist

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Trump, Betsy DeVos and the plan to end democratic education

2016 – the year of geopolitical turmoil, epidemics, social unrest, police violence, and global terrorism – ranks for many among the worst ever. Those who find themselves comparing 2016 to 1943, 1968, or 72,000 BCE, however, might take note of the victories won by the left in the past year, particularly in public education.

In 2016, New Orleans officials won back local control over the vast charter school network in place since Hurricane Katrina. Milwaukee teachers and activists blocked a state-takeover that threatened dozens of Milwaukee public schools. And the Chicago Teachers Union cut a deal that preserved pensions and compensation just hours before striking.

Local victories like these have stymied education cuts and anti-union efforts that have, in the last decade, become ubiquitous across Republican-controlled states. But that doesn’t mean that 2017 will get any easier, thanks in part to the Trump administration. The president-elect has already pledged $20 billion to expand voucher programs nationwide, and his appointee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, views dismantling public education as a mission from God.

The $20 billion commitment is a massive increase in spending compared to the Department of Education’s 13-year-old Charter School Program (CSP), which surpassed $3 billion in spending as of 2015. The existing CSP has neither the resources nor the funds to drive a large-scale privatization plan, seeking instead to foster collaboration and communication between charter programs “to disseminate information about ones with a proven track record.”

Trump’s $20 billion plan, on the other hand, is meant to be implemented in the first budget of his administration, an increase of one hundred times the CSP’s $190 million budget on new and continuing charter awards in 2016. With many media outlets viewing Trump’s pledge as an existential threat to public education, the question becomes: Exactly how much damage can DeVos do to public schools?

According to University of Wisconsin professor John Witte, there are several roadblocks that might impede the proposed national voucher program, stemming in large part from DeVos’s inexperience. As a pro-voucher lobbyist, DeVos has primarily worked with like-minded advocates, an environment that Witte characterized as a “club.” This may set her up for a rude awakening, considering the partisan and inter-party divisions on voucher programs. While targeted vouchers – which grant families in underperforming school districts stipends to spend on charter or private schools – generally find support with party centrists, DeVos favors a much more sprawling and deregulated program.

Unlike a targeted program, a universal voucher program would deliver vouchers to middle and upper-middle class families, many of whom already use private schools. According to Witte, this rift could lay bare differences within the Republican Party. “Not all Republicans are in favor of vouchers. A lot of moderates see universal vouchers as irresponsible,” he said.

There are a number of technical issues that could halt DeVos’ progress, too. A New York Times article estimated that Trump’s $20 billion proposal, as expensive as it is, would still require states to contribute $110 billion for nationwide vouchers – an almost insurmountable sum given the Republican allergy to tax increases at the state level. The more immediate threat, according to Witte, is in the states. Since the November election, 25 states with Republican governors now hold majorities in their respective state senate and house. Through these supermajorities, Republicans have more than enough power to privatize, defund, and deunionize education in their states.

What exactly can these supermajorities do to suppress education? Take Wisconsin’s teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, once among the most powerful unions in Wisconsin. Before Act 10 passed in Wisconsin in 2011, WEAC “was the strongest union in the state,” according to Witte. The union spent nearly $5 million in the two legislative sessions before Act 10, which severely curtailed collective bargaining rights. “Now, they have nothing,” Witte said.

Trump’s victory and DeVos’s voucher advocacy, if more symbolic than effectual, could still motivate Republican supermajorities to cut further from education in an effort to move public education into the private sector. Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson, a critic of the state’s recently halted K-12 takeover, shares this concern. In an email, Larson said that “we are seeing a renewed threat to public education through both the Trump and Walker administrations. Though Governor Walker paid lip service to public schools in the ‘State of the State’ address, his track record of cutting funds and privatizing neighborhood schools remains, and foreshadows further attacks on public education.”

Though he hopes for a rededication to neighborhood schools and teacher recruitment initiatives in Wisconsin’s teacher-starved districts, Larson doesn’t expect it to be easy. Regardless of the incoming administration’s plans, the message so far has been clear: Calls to privatize public education will be louder than ever.

In response, Larson suggests a simple solution: “Get organized, speak up. The best thing concerned citizens can do to help defend our neighborhoods schools is to get involved.”

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When women revolted

Fifty years ago, feminist organizing in the United States entered a vibrant new phase of activity. While pinning down an exact starting date is a controversial endeavor, several major events in the late 1960s heralded the birth of what is often called second-wave feminism. The year 1966 saw the establishment of the National Organization of Women, or NOW, while 1967 featured both the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment into the Senate and groundbreaking pickets at the New York Times opposing sex-segregated job ads. Then, in 1968, protests at the Miss America pageant set off a whirlwind period that marked the movement’s most intensive use of direct action. It also announced the existence of radical feminism, a branch of the movement with an agenda and attitude distinct from the organizing of liberal groups such as NOW.

In the decades since, our society has been transformed by feminism. Changes wrought by the movement have afforded new generations the freedom to transgress once-rigid gender roles, and they have provided hundreds of millions of women with opportunities for personal fulfillment, degrees of independence, and professional accomplishment that were routinely denied their forebears. That said, the vision of equality and liberation promoted by radical feminism is still far from being fully realized.

It is no small irony that, in 2017, Donald Trump, the former owner of the Miss USA franchise and an infamous fount of sexist behavior, will become the nation’s president.

The elevation of Hillary Clinton to the White House was meant to be a high point for American women. Instead, the 2016 election pointed to the need for a renewed vision of radical feminism – one that goes beyond corporate feminism’s focus on the presence of women in executive suites and high political office, and that instead speaks powerfully to women who work multiple jobs for low wages and who may lack adequate health care, decent housing and affordable childcare.

Many progressives are rightly dismayed at what Trump’s presidency might suggest about the persistence of sexism 50 years after the emergence of the women’s liberation movement. What will be significant in facing the horrors of the Trump administration will be whether this dismay can be channeled into a revitalized grassroots movement to confront the sexism and racism that Trump embodies, the newly emboldened threat to reproductive rights, and the coming attacks on the social safety net.

The fact that upwards of 100,000 people are expected to attend the Women’s March on Washington, taking place the weekend of Trump’s inauguration – and that tens of thousands more plan to participate in parallel marches throughout the country – suggests that such a movement can find a energetic base of support. Those organizing this base should draw lessons from the upheaval of 50 years ago – the history of which is too little known, even among progressives.

Looking back at this period of revolt, we can ask: How did it erupt? Why did it end? And what did it accomplish?

Banner dropping Miss America

On September 7, 1968, nearly 400 members of a group called New York Radical Women famously disrupted the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. Judith Ford, the former Miss Illinois – who had performed on a trampoline earlier in the competition – was being crowned the new Miss America. Just as she began giving her acceptance speech, the action started. Feminists who had snuck inside the pageant hall unfurled a banner reading “Women’s Liberation.” Meanwhile, on the boardwalk outside, hundreds of women symbolically deposited “instruments of female torture” – including bras, high heels, mops, and pots and pans – into a large trash bin to express their view that the pageant commodified women for the profit of men. Flo Kennedy, an African-American activist and lawyer who handled legal defense for the women arrested, fought to include the pageant’s racism in the protest and arranged for support from a local black-owned resort, which served as a staging ground for the disruption.

The banner drop was broadcast into homes nationwide on live network television. As the protest grabbed national headlines, group member Carol Hanisch declared, “millions of Americans now know there is a Women’s Liberation struggle.”

It was the start of something significant. Following the Miss America protest, feminists unleashed a series of high-profile demonstrations and guerrilla theater stunts with lasting implications. When considering the movement’s use of disruptive protest, the time between September 1968 and August 1970 is particularly noteworthy, marking a two-year period when the movement successfully captured media attention and made women’s liberation into a widely recognized phenomenon. Defying expectations of “ladylike” behavior, feminists gave name to forms of sexism and discrimination that had been previously unacknowledged in the mainstream – raising issues ranging from sexual harassment and discriminatory hiring, to sexist media representation and barriers to reproductive freedom, to unequal pay and a lack of publicly supported childcare.

Interestingly, this period of unusually high-profile public action often goes unrecognized. As civil resistance scholar April Carter notes, direct action protest is not often associated with second-wave feminism, especially in comparison with the racial justice and anti-war movements of the same era. The central role of consciousness-raising groups and the frequent references to Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” as the book that changed women’s lives have contributed the image of second-wave feminism as an “inward-facing” movement. Popular iconography of the movement often includes a group of women sitting together in their living rooms, or a tattered copy of Friedan’s book. Political scientist Joyce Gelb writes, “While most analysts see protest as central to the activities of social movements … protest has never been employed as a central tool by most feminists.”

There is some truth in this characterization. Instead of prioritizing direct action or mass mobilization, different branches of second-wave feminism focused on other forms of social movement activity – namely, lobbying and lawsuits on the part of more mainstream groups, and consciousness-raising on the part of many radicals. By the early 1970s, these established themselves as the dominant forms of organizing in the movement, and they contributed to securing significant social and legal advances.

However, the intense period of direct action between 1968 and 1970 also had important consequences, and there is good reason to remember the militant and creative wave of protests that commenced five decades prior to today’s Women’s March on Washington.

While much social movement theory stresses the importance of long-term organizing, scholar Frances Fox Piven has highlighted the critical role of disruptive protest. She argues that relatively short-lived moments of concentrated upheaval have been vital in producing transformative change in U.S. history. “The drama of such events,” Piven writes, “combined with the disorder that results, propels new issues to the center of political debate, issues that were previously suppressed by the managers of political parties that depend on welding together majorities.”

A variety of other theorists and activists have also recognized the power of what Saul Alinsky protégé Nicholas von Hoffman – in the wake of the 1961 Freedom Rides – dubbed the “moment of the whirlwind.” In these times, the normal rules of incremental campaigning seem to be suspended. Unexpected crises, political scandals or dramatic public actions – such as the Freedom Rides or the Miss America protests – become “trigger events” that capture public attention and spur heightened levels of social movement activity. These, in turn, create the potential for new triggers.

The period of intensive public protest that commenced in 1968 can be seen as just such a whirlwind. Putting feminism on the national agenda in a way it had not been before, it expanded the range of issues around which mainstream groups were willing to campaign. And it fueled a generative moment in which dozens of new groups, publications and collectives emerged. While liberal advocacy organizations were important in securing some of the landmark legal and political victories of second-wave feminism, and radical consciousness-raising groups and alternative spaces solidified the social and cultural legacy of the movement, each of these approaches benefited in important ways from the surge in protest activity at the end of the 1960s.

Zap, speakout, occupy

Critiquing liberal feminists’ pursuit of formal equality for women within the existing system, radical feminists took aim at traditional conceptions of social and family life, and they linked feminism to a leftist dissatisfaction with America’s political and economic power structures. Theatrical protest did much to bring this perspective to a wide audience, successfully capitalizing on media interest in the new wave.

Following the Miss America action, membership in New York Radical Women soared. While previous meetings, on average, had around 35 participants, attendance rose to around 200 people. Ultimately, the organization seeded new groups, including Redstockings and the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, or WITCH. The latter aimed to take up where the anti-war Yippies left off, launching a series of feminist street theater stunts. The participants called their actions “zaps.”

Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell. (YouTube/She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry)

Some five months later, in February 1969, approximately 150 WITCH members descended on the New York Bridal Fair in Madison Square Garden to protest traditional gender roles, consumerism, and the institution of marriage. Among other actions at the fair, activists donned black veils and performed an “Un-Wedding” ceremony to pronounce themselves “Free Human Beings.” Similar disruptions of bridal events took place in other cities, including San Diego and San Francisco.

Also in February 1969, the group Redstockings disrupted a New York State Legislature hearing on abortion. The hearing featured a panel of “expert witnesses” which turned out to consist of 14 men and just one woman – a nun. Faced with boisterous protest, the hearing quickly adjourned. Redstockings proceeded to organize its own abortion speakout the next month in the West Village, where a dozen women testified with actual expertise about their abortions before an audience of 300. Writer and activist Ellen Willis compared the speakout to the teach-ins that had effectively mobilized public opinion against the Vietnam War.

Throughout the year, autonomous WITCH “covens” staged other demonstrations around the country. Activists scattered hair and nails around a building at the University of Chicago to protest the firing of a feminist professor, heckled politicians in Washington, D.C., and interrupted the Milwaukee press club Gridiron Dinner to highlight the “boys’ club” dynamic within the media industry and to protest the way in which advertising enforced traditional gender roles.

On January 7, 1970, 60 women at the University of California-Berkeley assembled to denounce the fact that karate classes on the campus were open only to men. The group marched into the men’s locker room at a university gymnasium, then extended protests to the chancellor’s office, demanding not only access to self-defense training, but also an end to employment discrimination, the creation of women’s history courses, and free childcare for employees and students at the university.

Other high-profile actions in the Bay Area took place around the same time. These included an invasion of the editorial offices of the San Francisco Chronicle with demands for equal employment of women and an end to sexist advertising; a demonstration that targeted the Pacific Telephone Company’s San Francisco office for its refusal to hire women as telephone installers; and several occupations of radio stations, where activists insisted on more programming by and about women.

‘Women are the real left’

In early 1970, a collective of radical women in Washington, D.C., attended Senate hearings on the negative health impacts of the birth control pill, which at the time contained harmful doses of hormones. Sitting in the Senate chamber, the feminists became incensed as one male expert after another was called to testify, without a single woman being asked to share her experience on the pill. The women first raised their hands quietly to intervene, then stood with hands up. When still unacknowledged, they began yelling, “Why are you using women as guinea pigs?” and “Why are you letting the drug companies murder us for their profit and convenience?” Their televised protest turned the hearings into a major public spectacle, with 87 percent of women between the ages of 21 and 45 reporting that they were paying attention. In the end, not only did drug companies lower hormone levels in the pill but, after continued pressure from the nascent women’s health movement, the FDA began mandating that companies insert disclosure sheets about dosage and side effects into prescription medication – a major change in industry practice that we now take for granted.

In February 1970, New York City feminists staged a takeover of the underground newspaper Rat, protesting what they saw as its use of sexism under the disguise of provocation. They produced a “liberated” issue that included organizer Robin Morgan’s famous essay condemning sexism on the left, entitled “Goodbye to All That.” The essay pinpointed a political shift that many feminists were experiencing. Rather than seeing themselves primarily as activists in the civil rights and anti-war movements, they began naming sexism as a central source of oppression and embracing a political identity as women. Refusing to view feminist struggles as somehow peripheral to the core concerns of progressive politics, Morgan asserted: “Women are the real left.”

The following month, in March, some 200 radical women, dressed in what they called “revolutionary disguise” – traditional skirts and blouses rather than their usual jeans – made their way into the offices of the Ladies Home Journal. With a circulation of 14 million, the Journal was the most widely read women’s magazine in the country, yet its senior editorial staff was made of almost all men. As the occupation commenced, one observer wrote, “In an office which normally had seating room for a dozen, there suddenly were women everywhere, standing, sitting on the floor, draped over the table and the windowsills, and spilled out into the halls.” The occupation lasted for 11 hours, during which time the women helped themselves to the cigars from editor-in-chief John Mack Carter’s corner office and demanded both that the magazine make changes to incorporate feminist perspectives and that it hire more women and people of color.

Ultimately they won the right to publish an eight-page insert on women’s liberation in the magazine, which ran in the August issue. The impact of the occupation could be seen in subsequent years when traditional women’s magazines often excerpted feminist books and offered more sympathetic coverage of the movement than most mainstream sources. Years later, Carter looked back on the action and admitted being chastened: “Confrontation is certainly effective on the confrontee,” he quipped.

Even groups perceived as more moderate undertook confrontational actions during this period. Members of NOW organized a “flush-in” of Colgate-Palmolive’s cleaning products to highlight the company’s discriminatory policies, demonstrated at the Los Angeles Hall of Justice to protest prosecutions of abortion doctors, and disrupted Senate proceedings in Washington, D.C., to demand hearings on the Equal Rights Amendment (which were ultimately held later in the year).

The two-year rush of action culminated in the Women’s Strike for Equality on August 26, 1970, organized by NOW, in which as many as 50,000 women marched in New York City, with thousands more joining solidarity marches in cities across the country. The strike was the largest-ever women’s protest in the United States history. And while the radical branch of the movement had generally been suspicious of mass mobilizations – seeing them as having a limited impact in curtailing the Vietnam War – the Women’s Strike for Equality marked an important moment of unity between liberal and radical groups, which came together around core demands for abortion rights, equal pay and free childcare.

Before and after the storm

This listing of protests represents only a sampling of the activity that took place, and it must be viewed with several caveats in mind.

First, any attempt to set a fixed starting point or end date of this wave of feminist direct action is debatable, as noteworthy protests took place both before and after. The year prior to the Miss America actions, NOW began picketing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to win employment protection for women and demonstrated outside the New York Times to denounce its sex-segregated job ads. Moreover, a number of earlier actions – such as the Jeanette Rankin Brigade’s mock funeral procession for “Traditional Womanhood” at a January 1968 march against the Vietnam War – marked the separation of radical feminism from other currents of the New Left.

Significant protests also coalesced after 1970, although in less frequent bursts. These included a 1971 building occupation in Cambridge that lasted 10 days and resulted in the establishment of the Cambridge Women’s Center. A protest in 1975 became the first march to assemble under the name Take Back the Night. And, at several moments at the close of the decade, there were significant marches in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, with the largest events rallying as many as 100,000 people.

Another caveat relates to the composition of the movement. Press reports tended to focus on protests by groups of largely white, college-educated women in coastal cities, and to overlook protests by women of color. As second-wave feminism surged, the media was eager anoint a few telegenic celebrity feminists as spokespeople, rather than to highlight the work of organizers. Gloria Steinem, a freelance journalist with few ties to movement work when she began writing about feminism, became a glamorous representation of media-friendly feminism, albeit one who came from working-class roots and had some radical sympathies. For many years, Steinem made a point of appearing on stage with African-American feminists, most prominently Flo Kennedy and Dorothy Pitman Hughes, a founder of Ms. magazine and organizer of the first battered women shelter in New York City, but Hughes never became a household name.

As scholar Stephanie Gilmore has noted, the belief that the second wave was dominated by white, middle-class women – and therefore preoccupied with issues of concern to them – has been widespread for decades now. This story highlights the real alienation many women of color felt from some feminist organizations. Yet, as Gilmore’s thorough study of feminist coalitions demonstrates, it also conceals the multiracial activism and organizing by women of color that flourished during the period.

In terms of direct action, the welfare rights movement also made use of boisterous and disruptive protest in the closing years of the 1960s. Agitating for the rights of welfare recipients and for a guaranteed annual income, activists from the National Welfare Rights Organization turned to sit-ins and office takeovers when less abrasive lobbying tactics came up short. In 1968, activists organized a series of direct actions called “Brood Mare Stampedes,” a reference to a term an angry senator had used to refer to pro-welfare demonstrators, most of whom were women of color. Early National Welfare Rights Organization leaders such as George Wiley preferred to frame welfare rights issues in economic terms, rather than as women’s issues. Yet the women of color who came to lead the group by the early 1970s increasingly highlighted connections with feminism. Johnnie Tillmon, the organization’s chairperson, wrote in 1971 that the members of the welfare rights movement represented “the front line troops of women’s freedom. In 1972 she penned a famous article for Ms. magazine entitled “Welfare is a Women’s Issue,” memorably comparing the ill-treatment of welfare recipients to a “supersexist marriage” in which one turns in “a man” for “the man.”

Why did it end?

These caveats notwithstanding, the Miss America disruption initiated a concentrated period that, in hindsight, marked the high point for nonviolent direct action in the second-wave feminism – an outburst of protest that was not replicated with the same intensity before or afterward. Confrontational and provocative, these actions were often derided and mocked at the time, yet they were incredibly effective in shifting public discussion and recruiting more activists to the cause. Zaps, disruptions and occupations between the fall of 1968 and the summer of 1970 went far in creating a whirlwind moment for women’s liberation – a period that can be compared to the year following the 1999 Seattle protests for the movement against corporate globalization, the spring of 2006 for the immigrant rights movement, or the fall of 2011 for Occupy Wall Street.

So why did this whirlwind end?

In part, this is simply the nature of disruptive movements. Frances Fox Piven argues that moments of intensive unrest tend to be short lived, as protest movements “burst forth, often quite suddenly and surprisingly,” then subside. One factor is simple exhaustion: peak levels of mobilization cannot be sustained forever, and interest from outside parties often drops off over time. In the case of second-wave feminism, the ever fickle mainstream media’s move to turn its attention elsewhere dampened the impact of protest. As longtime activist and co-founder of the New York Radical Feminists Ann Snitow explains, “At first there was a sense that things were bursting out everywhere, and it was exhilarating. We were on the cover of every magazine. But then the media turned the lights off when they realized, ‘these women who we liked to make fun of are actually serious.’” While concerted organizing continued during the opening years of the 1970s, feminist groups could no longer rely on the press to amplify their efforts.

Another factor is that changing political conditions – often the result of movements securing some initial victories – can cool organizing. Evidence of this pattern can be seen in the second wave: From 1969 to 1973, radicals in Chicago formed the Jane collective, a network that trained activists to perform their own safe but illegal abortions. Members estimated that they performed 11,000 abortions during this time. However, codification of national abortion rights in 1973, with the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, brought an end to this civil disobedience. Initial movement success also led to backlash, as conservatives began organizing in earnest to block feminist advances.

Still other factors, more specific to feminist organizing of the period, led to a shift. Robin Morgan writes in her 1978 memoir “Going Too Far” that, by the end of 1969, WITCH members in New York were feeling self-critical about how some of their actions had alienated mainstream women, such as the brides-to-be at the bridal fair. The activists moved toward doing consciousness-raising rather than high-profile zaps – undertaking internal organizing rather than agitating in the streets. Within a year, the “mother coven” of WITCH disbanded altogether.

Consciousness-raising was initially seen as an activist intellectual project that would build the knowledge base necessary for collective action. Writer and activist Kathie Sarachild, generally credited with coining the term, traced its origins to educational practices within the civil rights movement. Women meeting in small groups, sharing common experiences, and seeing their personal problems as part of a wider political struggle afforded a powerfully liberating experience to tens of thousands of women. As Susan Brownmiller has argued, the tenets of this process of collective politicization would later become so common as to seem routine and unexceptional. Yet, she writes, “I can attest that in New York City during the late ’60s and early ’70s, nothing was more exciting, or more intellectually stimulating, than to sit in a room with a bunch of women who were working to uncover their collective truths.”

Consciousness-raising groups spread rapidly in the early 1970s, and they served as a vital organizing tool for the movement. Yet scholars such as Jo Freeman have argued that, over time, the predominance of consciousness-raising among radicals at the expense of other activity contributed to an inward turn. “Consciousness-raising was supposed to be the means to an end,” Freeman writes. Yet it soon “practically took over the younger branch of the movement as its sole raison d’etre.” Rather than strategizing on how to shift public opinion, many consciousness-raising groups became internally focused. This move, Freeman contends, “altered the movement’s immediate targets from the general public to that of women in the consciousness-raising groups” themselves.

In her book “Daring to Be Bad,” a history of radical feminism, Alice Echols describes a related shift in the 1970s from radical to “cultural feminism,” wherein “the movement turned its attention away from opposing male supremacy to creating a female counterculture.” She adds, “concomitantly, the focus became one of personal rather than social transformation.”

Freeman, who has famously written about the “tyranny of structurelessness” argues that the small, unstructured and non-hierarchical group – modeled after those used for consciousness-raising – became the movement’s norm, and that these “frequently became closed, encapsulated units[.]” Moreover, it was not uncommon within these groups for the movement’s suspicion of traditional, hierarchical leadership to morph into a suspicion of all leadership. This produced a culture of interpersonal “trashing” and led to the expulsion of many prominent women activists from the organizations they helped found.

Not all efforts ended in self-isolation. The many alternative institutions created by local groups – including women’s centers, bookstores, battered women’s shelters, small presses and rape crisis centers – created critical spaces in which to recruit new members and sustain a movement culture. Particularly outside of large coastal cities, in places where opportunities for engagement could be sparse, these institutions provided lifelines for thousands of women who would otherwise have been cut off from movement activity.

Yet the reality of encapsulation did have negative consequences. As the 70s progressed, attempts to sway public opinion and influence public policy were left largely to the more established liberal organizations. With the strident, headline-grabbing presence of the movement’s radical wing diminishing, these organizations resumed less confrontational lobbying efforts. Moreover, liberals were unable to benefit from a “radical flank” effect, in which the presence of radicals on the public stage could make them look more reasonable and their positions easier to accommodate. By the mid- to late-1970s, as conservatives organized a determined counteroffensive, liberals were forced into an increasingly defensive posture.

Harvesting from rich soil

Describing the impact of whirlwind moments in social movements, political scientist Aristide Zolberg writes, “stepped-up participation is like a flood tide which loosens up much of the soil but leaves alluvial deposits in its wake.” Although the impact of movement eruptions are not always as directly traceable as those of traditional lobbying campaigns, these outbreaks can go far in shifting the terrain of political debate and opening new opportunities for progress. After they pass, those seeking to institutionalize change can harvest from richer soil.

Alice Echols writes that, by 1970, “talk of women’s liberation (or more often, women’s lib) was everywhere.” This translated into concrete gains. On each of the three demands that provided points of unity between liberals and radicals during the Women’s Strike for Equality – abortion rights, equal pay and free childcare – the early ’70s proved to be times of substantial progress.

Coming of age in an era when even contraception was often unavailable to unmarried women, many feminists spoke of the prospect of unplanned pregnancy as a constant fear in their early adult lives and as a galvanizing force for their activism. Thus, securing abortion rights was a pivotal gain of the period. In 1970, the state of New York passed the most progressive abortion law in the country. Wider progress followed in 1973 with the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which marked a sea change in reproductive rights.

Feminists also realized significant gains on issues of employment and educational discrimination. In 1972, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act strengthened language in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that forbade discrimination on the basis of sex. This shift allowed feminists to effectively pressure the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to take action against employers. Furthermore, the year 1972 saw the expansion of the 1963 Equal Pay Act, as well as the enactment of Title IX, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program – including sports. As one telling statistic shows, women made up just 20 percent of college undergraduates in 1950, but constituted a majority by 1990.

Childcare was a final issue on which the new political landscape presented important paths to progress. As historian Rosalyn Baxandall has argued, one of the most prominent and inaccurate myths regarding feminists activists of the late 1960s and 1970s was that they were uninterested in or even hostile to mothers and their kids, and therefore unconcerned with issues related to childcare. In fact, childcare was a demand of many early actions, including the Ladies Home Journal sit-in. Amid movement pressure, it was also the subject of extensive legislative hearings between 1968 and 1971. These led to the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971, a piece of legislation that would have established universal childcare, with centers funded by the federal government. This represented a truly sweeping proposition by today’s standards, and it is remarkable to note that the bill passed through both houses of Congress. Unfortunately, it was vetoed by President Nixon, who explicitly objected to its collectivism.

As Nixon’s veto indicates, feminists were by no means able to score all the wins they wanted – and the gains they did make would be targets of later conservative backlash. As the 1970s progressed, and the disruptive peak of second-wave feminism receded, liberals had considerably less success on their own than when their radical flank was most visible. Just three years after Roe, the abortion rights movement suffered a major defeat with the passage of the Hyde amendment, which prohibited the use of Medicaid funding for abortion and which was later expanded to include further restrictions. On the employment front, the difficulty of proving discrimination claims under existing law made lawsuits by liberal groups a slow, piecemeal effort. The shift by liberals to focusing on the Equal Rights Amendment proved vulnerable to counterattack by conservatives, who successfully prevented it from clearing the high bar required for ratification. Finally, as right-wing legislators became more and more vocal in their opposition to universal childcare, and as the Carter White House proved to be a lukewarm ally, feminist advocates were unable to push beyond their success from earlier in the decade.

Such limits notwithstanding, second-wave feminism had durable offshoots and has left a formidable legacy, particularly compared with other movements that have had intensive peaks and then quickly died out. In addition to legally implemented changes, feminism has brought about myriad social and cultural shifts. The women’s health movement, best known for the huge success of the collectively-produced “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” was highly effective in challenging the patriarchal treatment of women by their doctors. The proliferation of women’s studies programs and feminist scholarship has exposed countless people to women’s liberation struggles throughout history – something that would have been unthinkable when early second-wave activists burned their diplomas to showcase the disconnect between their educations and lived experiences. And the movement gave name to problems of domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault, which were once viewed not as social issues at all, but simply as facts of life.

Not only have later generations of feminists been able to build on this foundation, but activists from the second wave also went on to become key players in advocating for a variety of other causes in the late ’70s and the ’80s, with feminist perspectives influencing the organizing models and direct action tactics. These include the peace and anti-nuclear movements, campaigns against nuclear power, the Central American solidarity movement, radical environmentalism, and the struggle for LGBT rights. Feminist “zaps,” for example, became important models for disruptions by ACT UP during the height of the AIDS crisis.

The coming years promise grave challenges. Yet it is worth remembering that the activists who launched the whirlwind of feminist action in the late 1960s faced sexism that was not only pervasive but almost entirely uncontroversial in mainstream opinion. A revived feminist movement in the Trump era – tasked with confronting historic economic inequality, an openly racist president, and an administration promising policies harmful to the great majority of women – should be no less ambitious, unapologetic and disruptive.

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Monsanto, California battle over listing glyphosate as a carcinogen

Next week, Monsanto and California’s Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) will face off over the agency’s plan to list the herbicide glyphosate as a carcinogen. The outcome of this legal battle could have major ramifications to California’s long-established regulatory program.

It all started back in Sept. 2015 when the OEHHA issued a notice of intent to list the chemical as known to the state to cause cancer under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65. The OEHHA determined that glyphosate met the criteria under the “Labor Code” listing mechanism, which directs the office to add a chemical or substance to the Prop 65 list of known carcinogens if it meets certain classifications by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The France-based IARC concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A)” in March 2015.

Monsanto then filed a lawsuit against the OEHHA in January 2016 to prevent the listing, arguing that the Labor Code listing mechanism is unconstitutional because the office delegated law-making authority “to an unelected and non-transparent foreign body that is not under the oversight or control of any federal or state government entity.”

Glyphosate happens to be the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s most popular herbicide. The chemical is applied onto “Roundup Ready” crops that are genetically modified to resist applications of the spray. The agribusiness giant has long maintained the safety of their flagship product and has vehemently denied glyphosate’s link to cancer and has also demanded a retraction of the IARC’s report. The company’s lawsuit also cited the OEHHA’s own 2007 study concluding that the chemical was unlikely to cause cancer.

In response, the OEHHA filed a motion to dismiss Monsanto’s lawsuit. The office asserted in its motion that the listing mechanism “simply provides a way for OEHHA to make the most of scarce resources.” According to the motion, IARC’s scientific determinations are “the gold standard in carcinogen identification,” and are trusted and relied upon by state governments, the federal government and foreign governments alike.

At the upcoming Jan. 27 hearing in Fresno Superior Court, both sides will make their arguments before a judge decides whether to dismiss the case or allow it to proceed.

“Monsanto’s lawsuit is significant for a number of reasons,” Kevin Haroff and Marina Cassio of Marten Law wrote in a blog post. “It raises fundamental issues over how scientific health assessments can appropriately be used as the basis for governmental actions, with broad-reaching implications for both consumers and the overall economy. As a practical matter, it also challenges a key element of a unique California regulatory program that has now been in place for three full decades.”

The OEHHA’s Labor Code listing mechanism using IARC’s classification scheme has been tested in court before. In 2013’s Styrene Information & Research Center v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (SIRC v. OEHHA), the trial court and appeals court determined that the OEHHA could not just rely on the IARC’s classification scheme to list a chemical as a known carcinogen in the state. Rather, the court decided that a listing must always be supported by a finding that the chemical in fact is known to the state to cause cancer. In the end, the OEHHA was required to reevaluate four listed substances and six substances under consideration for listing.

“Put another way, an IARC Group 1 or 2A classification decision could create a presumption that a chemical must be listed as a known carcinogen under Proposition 65; however, court decisions construing the application of the Labor Code listing mechanism and similar provisions suggest that at least in some circumstances the presumption should be a rebuttable one,” Haroff and Cassio point out.

“This may be important to how the courts will respond to Monsanto’s legal challenge to OEHHA’s proposed glyphosate listing,” the authors continue. “Monsanto’s argument that Proposition 65 improperly delegates lawmaking power to IARC assumes that OEHHA plays no independent role in identifying chemicals known to the state to cause cancer using the Labor Code listing mechanism. OEHHA could counter that that it does play an independent role, since under SIRC v. OEHHA, it has an independent obligation to find that there is evidence sufficient to establish that a chemical is ‘known to the state of California’ to cause cancer.”

On the same day of the hearing, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman will hold a press conference in Fresno in support of the OEHHA. The press conference will take place outside the courthouse at Noon PST and EcoWatch will stream the event live on Facebook.

Kennedy and Michael L. Baum, senior partner at Baum Hedlund, will speak in support of the state of California’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, will speak in support of protecting farm workers from harmful herbicides and pesticides.

Several of Baum Hedlund’s and Kennedy’s California Roundup cancer clients will also be speaking at the press conference.

Since Monsanto’s lawsuit was filed, a number of organizations have intervened on both sides. The organizations that support California’s OEHHA include the AFL-CIO, Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club, Canadian Labor Congress, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Law Foundation.

The organizations supporting Monsanto include California Citrus Mutual, California Cotton Ginners & Growers Association, California Grain and Feed Association, Almond Alliance of California, Western Plant Health Association and Western Agricultural Processors Associations.

The OEHHA has received more than 9,300 written comments in response to the listing. The comments are mostly from individuals and groups supporting the proposed listing. Monsanto, chemical producers and industry groups have also submitted comments opposing the listing. The public comment period is now closed, and OEHHA has yet to take final agency action on the listing.

Tell the FDA to routinely screen food for glyphosate:

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Trump’s interior dept. nominee, Rep. Ryan Zinke to face questioning on climate record, support for oil, gas, coal

Rep. Ryan Zinke, Republican from Montana and President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of the Interior, will appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for a confirmation hearing today.

If confirmed, Zinke, a former Navy SEAL turned politician, will head a federal agency whose actions will have major implications for the environment – and specifically for climate change.

Although its most visible public role is maintaining America’s national parks, the Interior Department also oversees 500 million acres of public lands – a fifth of the land in America – plus over 700 million acres of subsurface mineral rights, roughly a third of the nation’s coastline, and nearly 2 billion acres of land under the ocean. The agency’s actions directly affect the drinking water quality of more than 30 million Americans (roughly one out of every ten).

Rep. Zinke describes himself as a conservationist and a supporter of hunting, fishing, and the extraction of natural resources. In a statement released by the Trump transition team, Rep. Zinke wrote “As inscribed in the stone archway of Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana, I shall faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.’”

The National Parks Action Fund gave Rep. Zinke an “F” for his voting record on bills that would impact national parks.

The agency writes many rules governing oil and gas drilling and coal mining on public lands, including curbs on leaks of the powerful greenhouse gas methane announced in November and measures designed to protect streams from coal mining waste.

Rep. Zinke, a member of the Coal Caucus in Congress with a lifetime score of just 3 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, spoke out against both of those rules, calling the methane rule “duplicitive and unnecessary,” and calling it “imperative” to repeal the stream protections.

It’s his stance on climate change that has environmentalists most concerned, however. The scientific evidence confirming global warming and the role that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels has continually grown over the years – but Rep. Zinke has moved in the opposite direction.

Early in his political career, he wrote that “climate change threat presents significant national security challenges for the United States – challenges that should be addressed today, because they will almost certainly get worse if we delay,” in a 2010 letter calling on the Obama administration to take immediate action supporting the development of renewable energy to avoid “catastrophic costs” associated with a changing climate.

Just four years later, when he was running for federal office, he denied climate change was a threat in a debate, saying “It’s not a hoax, but it’s not proven science either.”

Since 2013, Rep. Zinke has taken over $345,000 in campaign contributions from companies that drill for oil and gas on public lands, putting those companies in the top three groups that have donated to Rep. Zinke’s political career. “This is a bright red flag for Zinke,” Randi Spivak of the Center for Biological Diversity told E&E News. “Fossil fuel and coal interests loom large.”

At the nomination hearing today – which DeSmog will be covering live – Rep. Zinke is expected to face questioning about climate change, whether to sell off public lands or cede control to states (measures he has a strong record of opposing), and protections for endangered species as well as relations to Native American tribes.

Environmental groups called attention to Rep. Zinke’s record of supporting pro-fossil fuel measures, including his ardent support for the Keystone XL pipeline. “In his short tenure in Congress, Congressman Zinke has voted to sharply curtail the President’s authority to create National Monuments and against common-sense fracking regulations to protect our public lands,” Earthworks said in a statement. “He has co-sponsored legislation to allow for natural gas pipelines to be routed under National Parks and Wildlife Refuges. And, he was co-sponsor of controversial legislation (H.R. 1937) that would severely limit public review of mining projects on public lands.”

Rep. Zinke has supported some measures to protect the environment, opposing two proposals to mine on federal lands next to Montana’s Yellowstone National Park. His opposition to transferring federal lands to state control is also widely seen as positive for the environment.

Zinke’s supporters in Congress have cited Rep. Zinke’s interest in hunting and fishing to defend his environmental record. “He understands and respects that we have national parks and lands that are open to the public that need to be protected and preserved,” Sen. John Hoeven, Republican from North Dakota, told E&E News. “But at the same time he also understands the importance of agriculture and mining and energy development.”

Update: At his confirmation hearing, Zinke told U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (U-VT), who asked Zinke if he believed climate change is a “hoax,” that he believed it was not.

But later, Zinke also said climate change models could be off and said he is “not a climate scientist expert.” U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called his answer a “cop out.”

“I’m not a doctor, but I have to make health care decisions,” Franken said in response to Zinke.

Zinke also said he does not support the transfer of U.S. public lands to states, though he does believe in a balacing of interests and amicable stakeholder relations between localities, states and the federal government.

The Washington Post has put together a video which lays out the hearing’s highlights. The whole hearing is now up on

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Four takeaways from Trump’s latest tweet tantrum

This morning Donald Trump bashed NBC, tweeting: “Totally biased NBCNews went out of its way to say that the big announcement from Ford, G.M., Lockheed & others that jobs are coming back to the U.S., but had nothing to do with TRUMP, is more FAKE NEWS. Ask top CEO’s of those companies for real facts. Came back because of me!”

Here are four takeaways from Trump’s latest tantrum:

1. As usual, Trump has his facts wrong. Analysts say Ford’s decision to expand in Michigan rather than in Mexico had mostly to do with the company’s long-term plans to invest in electric vehicles. It’s easier for companies to find highly skilled workers to build new products, such as electric cars, in the United States than in Mexico.

GM said its plan was approved before the election, but it was “accelerated” under pressure from Trump. Relatedly, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler chief executive, said Chrysler’s plan to build some cars in the U.S. had been in the works for more than a year and had nothing to do with Trump. Marchionne credited the decision to talks with the United Auto Workers.

2. Once again, the tweet reveals Trump’s pathological narcissism. All Trump can think of about is “TRUMP,” which he capitalizes, then insists that the jobs “Came back because of me!” This is the rant of a child wanting attention and praise, not someone who will shortly be President of the United States.

3. It’s also dangerous. Although Trump’s outrage at NBC – like his condemnation of other specific media outlets that don’t report what he wants – is harmless now,  it could threaten press freedom when Trump has power over regulators at the FCC and antitrust division who could make life difficult for targeted media outlets.

4. It’s intended to divert attention from the big stuff. Trump’s specific deals with particular companies diverts attention from his larger initiatives that will hurt working Americans.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act, for example, will leave at least 18 million Americans without health insurance next year.

Trump’s cabinet picks are overwhelmingly anti-worker. Andrew Puzder, Trump’s nominee for the Labor Department, wants to get rid of Obama’s overtime rule, which, if implemented, is expected to add $12 billion to workers’ wallets over the next decade. And Puzder is against the minimum wage.

And the huge corporate tax cuts and military buildup Trump is pushing will give congressional Republicans a rationale to cut Medicare and Social Security, in order to avoid bigger budget deficits.

A few jobs “saved” is nothing compared to these and other hardships Trump will be imposing on working Americans.

All told, Trump’s tweet tantrum reveals a great deal about the man who’s soon to be president of the United States. None of it inspires confidence.

This article originally appeared on Robert Reich’s blog.

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Country Singer Goes on SNL, Exposes Afghan Heroin Trade and No One Even Noticed

Sturgill Simpson is one of the most under-appreciated, under-aired, unknown, and immensely talented musical artists around. Up until last month, in fact, most Americans have never heard of him — because he’s entirely too truthful to be on the radio.


To his devoted fans, this author included, Sturgill Simpson is a pioneer in the realm of music — and activism. For years, Simpson has been enlightening his listeners, not only through his band’s amazing sounds but also through his activism.

Sturgill Simpson is unafraid of being unpopular for telling the truth, and it has reflected in his music for more than a decade since the days of Sunday Valley. For Simpson, nothing is taboo — up to and including his antiwar stance.

While he’s best known for being the country singer who sounds like a mix of Conway Twitty and Merle Haggard — and the one who sings about the mind-expanding powers of hallucinogens like ‘Marijuana, LSD, Psilocybin, and DMT’ — Sturgill also loves to blast the military industrial complex.

His music and band are so powerful that many people may miss what he’s saying, but not us.

With his newfound success and popularity from the Grammy nomination and appearances on Joe Rogan’s podcast, Sturgill was recently asked to play on Saturday Night Live (SNL).

Shockingly enough, the producers, either through carelessness or intention, allowed Sturgill to play one of his most powerful antiwar songs from all of his albums — Call to Arms. The song is ironically titled as it is a call to arms against the US military rather than a call to arms for them.

In the song, Simpson, who is also a former US military veteran, calls out not only the brutal nature of military and war, but the fact that Western profiteers are making a figurative killing off of heroin for the literal killing of people in Afghanistan.

former British Territorial Army mechanic, Anthony C Heaford released a report two years ago, and a series of photos, which he says proves that British and American troops are harvesting opium in Afghanistan.

It is also no secret that Afghanistan opium production has increased by 3,500 percent, from 185 tons in 2001 to 6,400 in 2015, since the US-led invasion.

However, mentioning this on television is virtually unheard of — but not for Sturgill Simpson.

After playing Keep it Between the Lines, Simpson went on to drop truth to the millions of viewers — and most of them had no idea.

As the song starts out, Sturgill Simpson calls out both oil and heroin and notes how the troops are used as pawns in these wars for profit.

I done Syria, Afganistan, Iraq, and Iran
North Korea tell me where does it end
Well the bodies keep piling up with every day
How many more of em they gonna send

Well they send their sons and daughters off to die
For some oil
To control the heroin
Well son I hope you don’t grow up
Believing that you’ve got to be a puppet to be a man

Well they cut off your hair and put a badge on your arm
Strip you of your identity
Tell you to keep your mouth shut boy and get in the line
Meet your maker over seas

The second part of the song actually addresses why no one even caught the fact that he just exposed war for profit on SNL.

Wearing that Kim Jong-il hat
While your grandma’s selling pills stat
Meanwhile, I’m wearing my ‘can’t pay my fucking bills’ hat

Nobody’s looking up to care about a drone
All too busy looking down at our phone
Our ego’s begging for food like a dog from our feed
Refreshing obsessively until our eyes start to bleed
They serve up distractions and we eat them with fries
Until the bombs fall out of our fucking skies

For an unknown reason, the last verse of the song was omitted, possibly because of all the swearing. But it is still very powerful.

Turn off the TV
Turn off the news
Nothing to see here
They’re serving the blues
Bullshit on my TV
Bullshit on my radio
Hollywood telling me how to be me
The bullshit’s got to go

The band then launched into an incredible 2-minute jam. At the end of the song, Sturgill throws down his guitar and looks out at the crowd with an inspiring anger. And, just like that, truth got leaked out on to mainstream television.

Below is the performance from Saturday.

If you’ve never heard of Sturgill Simpson, we highly recommend you try it out. You can do so here, at his website.

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Graphic Video Shows Cops Corner Mentally Ill, Legally Blind Man and ‘Execute’ Him

Fontana, CA — James Hall, 47, is legally blind, mentally ill, and now dead — after being executed by police officers with the Fontana Police Department. The execution happened in a convenience store and was captured on the store’s surveillance cameras. The video also contradicts the lies police told to justify killing him.

Hall, who suffered from schizoaffective disorder — a combination of schizophrenia symptoms and mood disorder — was in the midst of an episode when police were called out to a convenience store during the early morning hours of November 22, 2015.

Police say they were responding to reports of a possible armed robbery. However, James Hall never robbed anyone and the video shows he was merely browsing the store when 5 police officers swarmed him.

The cops, who were clearly not trained in deescalating situations with mentally ill people, began yelling at him, pointing guns, and had their attack dog at the ready. All of these provocations served to only further Hall’s fears, so he refused to come out.

Several minutes pass before officers opened fire and sicced the dog on Hall, sending him into an utterly panicked state.

As the Daily Mail reports:

According to their lawsuit, Hall had been acting ‘peacefully’ when he encountered a group of Fontana PD officers outside the Chevron gas station at around 4.15am.

But the officers, the suit says, escalated the encounter and eventually ‘deployed lethal force’, killing Hall.

The suit states that one of the officers fired a shot at Hall as they entered the store and then deployed the police dog.

Hall became ‘startled’ and ran to the rear of the store where he ‘cowered’.

The suit states: ‘The Defendant officers cornered Decedent Hall in the rear of the convenience store, brandishing firearms, including an assault rifle.

‘As the Defendant officers continued to surround Decedent Hall, one of them opened fire on him, and Decedent Hall fell to the ground.’

If you read the official police account, Hall charged officers with a knife and they were forced to kill him. However, according to Hall’s family and the video, Hall was cornered and cowering when he was killed.

According to the lawsuit, Hall had been acting peacefully prior to being confronted by police. At no time had he harmed anyone or attempted to rob the store.

The family also questions the police claim of armed robbery, as Hall had been outside the store until police arrived and frightened him.

Prior to this run-in with police, Hall had never been in trouble with the law. He was well known throughout the neighborhood for his “peaceful nature” and residents were aware of his disabilities, according to the lawsuit.

“James was not observed by family, friends, or those who knew him as having violent tendencies because of his mental illness,” the lawsuit read.

In fact, a few years prior to being killed by cops, Hall was given an award by cops. In 2010, Hall was awarded a Citizen Citation from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office for assisting in the rescue of a four-year-old autistic child.


Like most people, who will watch the video below, Hall’s family wants answers as to why police killed their beloved brother and son.

The lawsuit goes on to accuse the Fontana police of “operating a culture whereby the use of excessive force is encouraged.” It then accuses the force of failing to conduct an “unbiased investigation” into Hall’s death. Judging from the absence of punishment for any of the officers involved in killing Hall, his family is spot on.

“The video puts the lie to the obviously falsified police account of what happened. In fact, this was an execution,” said Mark Geragos, whose firm is representing Hall’s relatives.

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Journalist Who Blew the Whistle on CIA Media Control Drops Dead at 56

“I’m going to stand up and say it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia and it is not right what my colleagues do and have done in the past, because they are bribed, to betray the people not only in Germany all over Europe.”


Udo Ulfkotte, a German journalist and whistleblower who spoke out against fake news from government and intelligence sources, has died from a heart attack at the age of 56. He was an assistant editor for German mainstream media newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and he lived in many Middle Eastern countries during his career, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.

As Ulfkotte became increasingly upset at news reports sourced from false government information, he began publishing a magazine called Whistleblower, which reports on topics not covered by the German media. He also wrote multiple books on the subject during the 2000s.

Ulfkotte is best known to international viewers from select appearances on Russia Today, specifically an October 2014 interview about his book ‘Bought Journalists’, in which he discussed the epidemic of propaganda in mainstream media news reports and the increased anti-Russia sentiment being generated. He also discussed the heavy influence on international news from American, Israeli and other western intelligence agencies.

Ulfkotte described his experience saying “I’ve been a journalist for about 25 years and I was educated to lie, to betray and not to tell the truth to the public,” referring to his career in mainstream media. He also noted that he was “fed up” with the propaganda and said he was speaking out, despite admitting having heart trouble on television.

“I’ve had three heart attacks, I have no children, so if they want to bring me to court or to prison, it’s worth for the truth.”

The interview only has 166,000 views on the official RT channel, however it has likely been seen millions of times because it has been uploaded by many other Youtube channels and Facebook pages. The interview is often shared as a detailed example of mainstream media’s disinformation campaigns.

His comments were one of the earlier warnings about anti-Russia propaganda which came before the recent escalation which features American media claiming Russian officials influenced the 2016 US election in favor of Donald Trump. He went on to condemn the anti-Russia propaganda related to the Ukraine crisis, telling RT “seeing right now within the last months how the German and American media tries to bring war to the people in Europe to bring war to Russia, this is a point of no return.” Ulfkotte also apologized for his role in the past because he felt “ashamed” for some of the news reporting in his name.

“I’m going to stand up and say it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia and it is not right what my colleagues do and have done in the past, because they are bribed, to betray the people not only in Germany all over Europe.”

“The reason I’m writing this book [‘Bought Journalists’] is that I am very fearful of a new war in Europe and I don’t like to have this situation again, because war is not never coming from itself. There’s always people behind it to push for war and this is not only politicians, this is journalists too.” He then noted the problem is “especially” in German media saying “my colleagues who day by day write [propaganda] against the Russians, who are in trans-Atlantic organizations, and who are supported by the United States to do so.”

Ulfkotte went on to describe his personal experience with American influencers and intelligence agencies.

“I was bribed by the Americans not to report exactly the truth. I was invited by the German Marshall Fund of the United States to travel to the US. They paid for all my expenses and put me in contact with Americans they’d like me to meet,” he said.

“I became an honorary citizen of the state of Oklahoma in the US just because I wrote pro-American. I was supported by the CIA. I have helped them in several situations and I feel ashamed for
that too.”

Many journalists based in different countries are involved in the same practice of working with American and European intelligence agencies to varying degrees, Ulfkotte also added.

“Most of the journalists you see in foreign countries, they claim to be journalists and they might be. But many of them, like me in the past, are so-called ‘non-official cover.’ It means you work for an intelligence agency. You help them if they want you to, but they will never say they know you.”

Ulfkotte also discussed the specific progression of how mainstream media journalists are sought out and eventually approached by government agents. The unofficial working relationships between these journalists and intelligence agencies usually begin as a friendship, to prep the journalist before proposing the cooperation.

“They work on your ego, make you feel like you’re important, and one day one of them will ask you ‘Will you do me this favor?’” he explained.

Udo Ulfkotte referenced one instance where he was asked to print a news report based on intelligence which he could not verify, and he noted the conclusion of the article was already determined. The propaganda effort was part of building the campaign by western countries to remove Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi from power.

“One day the BND (German foreign intelligence agency) came to my office at the Frankfurter Allgemeine in Frankfurt. They wanted me to write an article about Libya and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. They gave me all this secret information and they just wanted me to sign the article with my name,” Ulfkotte said.

“That article was how Gaddafi tried to secretly build a poison gas factory. It was a story that was printed worldwide two days later.”

Udo Ulfkotte has also been part of the increased controversy in Germany about how to handle the growing refugee crisis, as migrants from the Middle East and Africa flee war zones and poverty. Facebook temporarily blocked his page in July 2016 after he bought an ad for his new book titled ‘Boundless Criminal’, which exposes alleged cover-ups by authorities and mainstream media to hide crimes committed by migrants. The message he received from the social network read that the content of the posting “violated its guidelines,” likely because of a perceived anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim message.

“I don’t claim every migrant to be a criminal, that would absolutely not be correct, but we have not checked which people that we let in our country,” Ulfkotte told RT when asked about his positions.

Prior to the current crisis, Ulfkotte had expressed concerns about the “Islamization” of Germany for 15 years, writing multiple books on the subject.

Germany received almost one million asylum seekers in 2015 and may have reached similar numbers in 2016. Many of the refugees have come from Syria and Iraq after fleeing their hometowns because of the destabilization provoked and maintained by the United States.

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WATCH: Texas Officer Takes Off Belt to Beat a Teen — for Filming in Public

To some, the most beautiful thing about having a cell phone is being able to film the police. Some do it for reasons of activism. Others do it to provoke the police into a confrontation. Still, others film because they’re watching something they want everyone else to see. But there’s one thing upon which everyone can agree. Photography is not a crime.

Patrick Roth makes a habit out of bringing transparency to the police force, whether they want to or not. As the owner of Youtube channel “Dallas Community Watch”, Roth uses citizen journalism to hold police accountable for their actions. In the past, during the wee hours of the morning, Roth would slowly drive by the police station. After the police had taken notice, they decided to make his life a bit more miserable by pulling him over using his cracked windshield as reason enough to detain him. But it’s Roth’s latest video which is creating quite a stir.

Last week, Roth decided to head on down to the county jail, right about the time when the corrections officers were changing shifts. Most of the officers didn’t seem to care too much that a young man was filming them exit and enter the building. But, one corrections officer became irate at the thought she was being filmed without her permission. The woman has allegedly been identified as Jazmine Joseph.

Joseph, appearing to be quite full of herself, may have started out jokingly threatening Roth, but all jokes aside, she lost her cool when she removed her service belt and chased Roth down the public sidewalk. All the while, she was threatening him, saying, “I’m fixing to whoop his ass with my belt. I’mma tear his little ass up!”

Thinking he was going to get some assistance from a fellow police officer, who Roth later identified as a “CO” or commanding officer, he was almost apprehended by the man who promised to “arrest him right now” — for filming in public.

So, let’s get this straight. It’s perfectly legal for police officers to record any and all interactions with the public, by way of their body cameras and sunglass cameras, even when they’re on private property, but it’s not okay when someone else does it?

Once again, there’s another standard for law enforcement personnel, one that you and I are not privy to being able to enjoy. Theirs is a “I can do whatever I want and get away with it because I’m Johnny Law.” And ours is, “You have to be in 100 percent compliance with all of my commands or I’m going to whip you with my belt, stomp on your face, elbow you, knee you, choke you, slam you to the ground, have my buddies jump in and beat you some more, taser you, handcuff you, hit you in the face while you’re handcuffed, or just shoot you”.

Unfortunately, that’s the reality when dealing with the police. You really have no idea what they’re going to do, because they’re held to a different standard of behavior — a lower standard of comportment.

After being assaulted and threatened, Roth attempted to file a complaint with the police department’s Captain Lolly but was told the woman in the video couldn’t be identified and therefore would not be disciplined in any way.

For those who say people shouldn’t go around stalking the police, and filming them without their permission, activists respond that the police shouldn’t be doing that either. It’s an invasion of privacy — except in public spaces.

Is there a connection between officer Joseph’s actions and the subsequent ill feelings for police? We think so. The more you treat citizens like pesky little animals who are beneath you, the more you put yourself and the lives of your fellow officers in danger.

Wake up men and women in blue! Do something Joseph obviously hasn’t done. Educate yourself on your rights, as well as the constitution, and state rights — that all citizens have. Begin to hold yourself accountable to a higher standard and realize you, too, may be on camera one day. Your actions will determine what happens next.

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