Rosewood massacre: Families mark 100 years since white mob razed Black town and killed Black residents

As ceremonies mark the 100th anniversary of when a white mob attacked and burned down the Black town of Rosewood, Florida, we look at the largely untold story of how a racist mob murdered at least six Black residents and forced the rest of the town to flee. Many eyewitnesses said the true death toll was far higher. The bloodshed began after a white woman accused a Black man of assault, resulting in several days of violence by the white mob that ultimately destroyed the once-thriving community. We speak with Jonathan Barry-Blocker, whose late grandfather, Reverend Ernest Blocker, was a survivor of the 1923 massacre.

Rosewood Massacre: Families Mark 100 Years Since White Mob Razed Black Town & Killed Black Residents

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we turn to look at the Rosewood massacre.

A hundred years ago this weekend, a white mob attacked and burned down the Black town of Rosewood in central Florida. The racist mob murdered at least six Black residents, forced the rest of the town to flee. Many eyewitnesses said the true death toll was far higher. The violence began after a white woman falsely accused a Black man of assault nearby. By the time the massacre ended, every building in Rosewood except one had burned down. No law enforcement agency investigated the massacre. No one was ever charged with crimes. In 1994, the Florida Legislature approved $2 million in compensation for nine survivors and dozens of descendants of the attack. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, they were the only government reparations ever paid to victims of this anti-Black racial violence in the U.S.

In a moment, we’ll be joined by a professor whose grandfather survived the Rosewood massacre. But first, this is an excerpt from the trailer to the late director John Singleton’s acclaimed 1997 film Rosewood, which helped bring greater attention to the massacre.

NARRATOR: In 1923, the Black town of Rosewood was a land of opportunity.
AUNT SARAH: [played by Esther Rolle] You’ve been drifting long, Mr. Mann.
MANN: [played by Ving Rhames] Seem like forever.
AUNT SARAH: Colored folks own all the land around here. All the businesses, too. Mann could make a new start around here, make something of himself.
FANNY TAYLOR: [played by Catherine Kellner] Help me!
NARRATOR: Until the day one woman’s false accusation —
SHERIFF WALKER: [played by Michael Rooker] Tell me the truth. Was it true that a colored done this to you?
NARRATOR: — unleashed the fury against their town.
POLY: [played by Mark Boone Junior] If you find him, well, you know what to do.
SYLVESTER CARRIER: [played by Don Cheadle] There be some trouble around here, sir. Could sure use your help.
MANN: There ain’t no way in the world one man got enough bullets for all them crackers.
NARRATOR: And the search for the guilty became a hunt for the innocent.
JOHN WRIGHT: [played by Jon Voight] These are real folks dying. Women and children ain’t done nothing wrong to no soul.
SYLVESTER CARRIER: And colored folk just can’t be running all the time. There comes a time when you’ve got to stand up and defend your rights.
MANN: We’re going to make it. Trust me.

AMY GOODMAN: The trailer to the late great director John Singleton’s 1997 film Rosewood.

We go now to Gainesville, Florida, about 45 miles from Rosewood, where we’re joined by Jonathan Barry-Blocker. He’s visiting professor at University of Florida Law School, former staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center. His grandfather, the late Reverend Ernest Blocker, survived the 1923 Rosewood massacre.

It’s great to have you with us, Professor Barry-Blocker. Welcome to Democracy Now!

JONATHAN BARRY-BLOCKER: Thank you. Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about how you learned about the massacre. And what happened with your grandfather?

JONATHAN BARRY-BLOCKER: Sure. I learned about the massacre when I was 13, but in a very distant, disconnected way. My dad sat me down and said, “Hey, there’s a movie coming out, and people may ask some questions of you about it. Your grandfather was involved, but he’s not going to answer questions, so don’t ask him.” And that was pretty much it, the end of the conversation. And so, I didn’t initiate any communications. My dad has indicated that at some point he forced my grandfather to try to talk to us about it, but I’m told that lasted all of five minutes and was very sparse on details, so didn’t register.

But it wasn’t until college, when I actually watched the movie Rosewood, because my folks didn’t have me and my siblings watch it while we were growing up, that I came to appreciate exactly what happened, or at least the gist of what happened. And so, I don’t know my grandfather’s role. I don’t know where he was during all the violence and the mayhem. I just know that he and his family left after it and never talked about it again, at least not amongst — not with us.

AMY GOODMAN: And what was your reaction, Jonathan Barry-Blocker, when you saw this film in college, not having known the story your entire growing up?

JONATHAN BARRY-BLOCKER: Oh, I was irate. I was very upset to see it depicted — the terror, the fleeing, the confusion, the displacement. I did not leave campus for the entire weekend.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And from what you know, how were the facts documented and uncovered that led to Florida lawmakers approving a first-time compensation or reparations to survivors here?

JONATHAN BARRY-BLOCKER: As I understand things, a journalist, Gary Moore, broke the story in the '80s. And then, one of the descendants, Arnett Doctor, pushed and advocated for compensation and reparations, and mobilized a lot of folks to support him in that effort. And that's what led to the study and then, eventually, to the compensation package, or, as what we might call it, reparations, for some of the descendants and survivors.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me turn to a clip. This is historian Robin D. G. Kelley of UCLA. In 2020, he appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about the history of race massacres in the United States.

ROBIN D. G. KELLEY: If you look at the history of race riots in America, most so-called race riots were basically pogroms, going back to Cincinnati in 1839, 1841, going back to a whole range of so-called race riots in Philadelphia. You mentioned Tulsa in the opening of the show, Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was a kind of looting — not a kind of looting, but you’re talking about destroying 35 blocks of Black-owned property and businesses worth millions of dollars, people going into people’s — white people going into homes, with the support of the police, taking Black people’s stuff, destroying and taking stuff. Tulsa, Oklahoma, East St. Louis in 1917 — we could talk about Rosewood in 1923. You know, there’s so many examples — Springfield, Illinois, in 1908. And some of that looting is also about taking political power.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Barry-Blocker, if you can comment on what Robin D. G. Kelley had to say? And also, as someone who has worked on poverty and race relations and violation of human and voting rights in this country at Southern Poverty Law Center, what about this discussion of reparations? I mean, $2 million that the Legislature approved, of course, is a pittance when you’re talking about the loss of human life and the rest of the effect, the terror effect, on the Black population of Florida.

JONATHAN BARRY-BLOCKER: All right, well, you’ve got two questions there, so I’ll try to remember each. Remind me if I forget any part of one.

But in regards to your first question, what the professor was saying, I want to be upfront. Mass violence, racial violence is not my research area, but I do incorporate it into my lessons. And it was widespread. And as was heard on the clip, it could be deployed to gain political power, in retribution to perceived slights to white womanhood, or for too much economic prosperity or economic competition. And so, it happened to Blacks. It happened to Indigenous communities, happened to Filipino and other Asian American communities on the West Coast, as well as Hispanic communities during the 18th and 20th century — or, 19th and 20th centuries. So, it’s prevalent in the histories of — the annals of American history. And I would encourage everyone to read up and discover more of what was going on in not just their bloodlines, but even their communities, their home states or their homelands, if you’ve traveled across the nation or moved.

With regards to your second question, having worked in poverty work and civil rights work with SPLC and Legal Services Alabama, and the call for reparations, I think the government has failed to protect sometimes communities here and its citizens, or has aided in harms to certain communities and citizens. And so, there does need to be talk about how to repair those harms, especially if they’re long-standing and long-lasting. Our legal system — someone brought up the question to me once whether or not reparations was proper or valid. And I had to remind them that our legal system in America is built on the concept that you should receive some type of money or repair, financial repair, for harm suffered to your property, to your person, to your marriage, to your emotions, to your family, to your prospects. The law goes a great deal, the tort law here, to repair harm. So I think reparations could be part of that consideration.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor, to what extent has — to your knowledge, has the Black community of Rosewood rebounded? And what’s the status of the community now? Because, obviously, a lot of people were driven out back in 1923. What’s your sense of the situation today?

JONATHAN BARRY-BLOCKER: Well, if you talk to some of the scholars who have made Rosewood their primary focus, you’ll learn that there was a mass exodus of Black residents both in Rosewood and in some of the surrounding towns, like Cedar Key. Cedar Key, which is nine miles away, had a population of roughly 37% Blacks prior to the violence, and afterwards they all but disappeared. So, when you go there now — the times I’ve visited, I have not encountered too many Black locals, either in Cedar Key, and I’ve only been to Rosewood twice. It’s pretty rural now. So, there isn’t a large or robust Black presence, and most people have moved on and did move on to other communities where they felt a bit safer and stable.

AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Barry-Blocker, we thank you so much for being with us, visiting professor at University of Florida Law School. His grandfather, the late Reverend Ernest Blocker, is a survivor of the 1923 Rosewood massacre, 100 years ago this month.

Next up, we speak with the former head of the NAACP, Ben Jealous. He has a memoir out, Never Forget Our People Were Always Free: A Parable of American Healing. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Look Down, Lord” by John Williams, from the soundtrack of the acclaimed film Rosewood.

Two years after Jan. 6, Capitol attack casts long shadow over GOP that allows extremism to fester

Friday marks two years since the January 6 Capitol insurrection, when President Donald Trump incited thousands of supporters to violently storm Congress, attempting to overturn the 2020 election. The attack on the Capitol briefly shut down Congress as lawmakers fled for their safety from the mob, which included members of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and other violent extremist groups. Two years later, part of Congress has been effectively shut down again, this time because a group of far-right Republicans, including many who supported the January 6 insurrection, have blocked Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to become House speaker. We speak to Andy Campbell, senior editor at HuffPost and author of “We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered In a New Era of American Extremism,” as the House speaker vote drags on and the Proud Boys face trial for seditious conspiracy over their involvement in the insurrection.

Two Years After Jan. 6, Capitol Attack Casts Long Shadow Over GOP That Allows Extremism to Fester

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today marks two years since the January 6th Capitol insurrection, when President Donald Trump incited thousands of supporters to violently storm Congress in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. The attack on the Capitol briefly shut down Congress as lawmakers fled for their safety from the mob, which included members of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and other violent extremist groups, many of them armed.

Two years later, part of Congress has been effectively shut down again, this time because a group of far-right Republicans, including many who supported the January 6th insurrection, have blocked Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to become House speaker. This means no member of the House of Representatives can be sworn in. Over the past three days, the House has held 11 votes to choose a speaker. McCarthy has failed each time to win the needed 218 votes to become speaker, despite making numerous concessions to his critics in the so-called Freedom Caucus. This is now the longest speaker election since 1859, just before the Civil War.

Meanwhile, President Biden is preparing to give a major speech today marking the second anniversary of the January 6th insurrection. He will also award Presidential Citizens Medals to 12 people who responded to the insurrection and Trump’s attacks on democracy after the 2020 election — among them, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, a mother-daughter pair of election workers from Georgia who received death threats and torrents of online abuse from Trump supporters. Another honoree will be former Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone, who was beaten and electrocuted with a Taser by the right-wing mob. Fanone spoke Thursday and made the link between the January 6th insurrection and the congressional chaos playing out today.

MICHAEL FANONE: But if I could guarantee one thing about the new House majority, it’s this: This is just the beginning. This type of chaos will happen every single day in the House, as some of the most extreme politicians our country has ever seen hold our democracy hostage. I should know. Tomorrow marks two years since the day I almost died defending the Capitol from people who thought overthrowing the government was a good idea. The events of that day felt like a wake-up call for me and many others, that political violence is real. The worst part is that our elected leaders allowed this to happen.
And yet, this week, people who encouraged and even attended the insurrection are now taking their places as leaders in the new House majority — people like Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who said insurrectionists would have won on January 6th if she had been involved, or Representative Matt Gaetz, who encouraged voters to arm themselves at the polls.

AMY GOODMAN: That was former Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone. On Thursday, the partner of the deceased Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died one day after responding to the insurrection, sued Donald Trump and two of the rioters who attacked Sicknick, for his wrongful death. Brian Sicknick died after suffering two strokes; the medical examiner said the events of January 6th “played a role in his condition.”

Biden will also honor Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who suffered a brain injury after being beaten by rioters. She testified before the January 6th House select committee in June.

CAROLINE EDWARDS: When I fell behind that line, and I saw — I can just remember my breath catching in my throat, because what I saw was just a war scene. It was something like I had seen out of the movies. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground. You know, they were bleeding. They were throwing up. They were — you know, they had — I mean, I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. You know, I was catching people as they fell. You know, I was — it was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t — I can’t even describe what I saw.

AMY GOODMAN: The second anniversary of the January 6th insurrection comes as five members of the far-right group Proud Boys are on trial for seditious conspiracy, opening arguments expected next week.

We’re joined now by Andy Campbell, senior editor at HuffPost and the author of We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered In a New Era of American Extremism.

Andy, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. So, today is the second anniversary. Two years ago today, the violent mob attacked the Capitol. And it is so interesting, as they stopped congressional proceedings then, for a time, that today, two years later, we’re seeing the House paralyzed. No member of the House of Representatives can be sworn in, the new ones or the old ones. No one gets classified briefings — nothing — because of what’s happening here. Can you draw a parallel between who was involved two years ago and who is involved today?

ANDY CAMPBELL: Sure. And thanks, Amy, for having me on again.

Look, we are seeing a GOP that’s hoist by its own petard. I mean, this is a party that has built its identity around nationalism, around bigotry, around political violence, and particularly around trolling, not around policy necessarily. And so, now you have these 20 holdouts who are that directive personified. You have people like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene. And you have Paul Gosar, an avowed sort of white nationalist character who pals around with extremists and goes on — goes to white nationalist conferences to speak. And so you have these very extreme far-right voices throwing a wrench in the spokes, and this is exactly what the MAGA party has built for themselves. And so, they’re kind of seeing the consequences of their own actions when these holdouts are kind of holding Congress hostage.

But what they’re doing is they’re, you know, displaying power. The very far-right, very racist, very loud and popular troll wing of the GOP has sort of been building this parallel power structure alongside the GOP for years under Trump. And now with this four-vote majority that the Republicans have in the House, they’re able to exercise that power by holding the speaker hostage here.

And so, it’s interesting that this is happening on the anniversary of January 6, because those same people who are holding Congress hostage now are the same people who helped foment the insurrection and who, after the fact, still cast doubt on the 2020 election. Many of them are Trump loyalists and election deniers and voted to overturn the election. And so, what we’re seeing is that the spirit of January 6 is still very much alive, and we are seeing it play out in the halls of Congress today.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you can talk about, since you wrote the book We Are Proud Boys, the connection between the pro-insurrectionist congressmembers and the Proud Boys? And talk about who they are. But I wanted to ask you about the people who are leading this movement right now. I mean, you have, what, Matt Gaetz, the congressman from Florida, who is under investigation for underage sex trafficking. You’ve got Lauren Boebert from — she ran a restaurant in, what, Rifle, Colorado, called Shooters Grill. It’s been shut down because the owners of the building wouldn’t renew her lease. She encouraged her waiters to openly carry guns as they served their customers. And now they’ve removed magnetometers — this was one of the demands of Boebert and the others in this ultraconservative so-called Freedom Caucus — from the House. She had originally — I think it’s the reason why House Speaker, at the time, Nancy Pelosi had put up magnetometers — said she was going to carry a Glock onto the floor of the House. Looking at the New York Post, they said she refused to say Tuesday if she plans to bring a gun into the House of Representatives as authorities removed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s magnetometers from the entrances. Go through these people one by one, and talk about their connection to Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and what happened two years ago today.

ANDY CAMPBELL: Sure. I mean, Lauren Boebert is sort of leading the charge here on this ultra-far-right group of holdouts. You know, she also called Ilhan Omar a terrorist. I mean, if you try to look at Boebert’s policies, they are few and far between. A lot of these guys want to push very nationalist policy. They want to push the anti-woke agenda. I think they want to criminalize doctors who give gender-affirming care. So, these are sort of cruel policies, if you look really hard.

But most of all, these are sort of bigoted trolls, very connected to the insurrection. You have Paul Gosar of Arizona, who, like I said, went on to speak at a white nationalist conference two years running, alongside Marjorie Taylor Greene. He said at one point that he fomented the revolution on January 6. You have Matt Gaetz, who has pushed white supremacist conspiracy theories about the replacement of white men and has also had Proud Boys work security at his events over the years. And so, you have — these characters are connected to the insurrection in the way that they believe it was justified, or at least believe that the election was stolen.

And then, the Proud Boys are these foot soldiers that act on behalf of the GOP’s grievances. And so, while the Boeberts and Gaetzes and Marjorie Taylor Greenes of America are pushing, you know, anti-LGBTQ sentiment, anti-immigrant sentiment, the Proud Boys are mobilizing on these grievances. And certainly, we know that dozens of Proud Boys joined hundreds of other extremists to make January 6 happen. And so, there is absolutely a connection there between the people sitting there in the House today and the Proud Boys. And, you know, I think it shows that what we are looking at happening out there isn’t — like, Boebert isn’t trying to make some real policy changes happen today. She’s trying to show power and show that this small group of ultra-far-right insurrectionists can wield power in the Republican Party.

And the Proud Boys, being those foot soldiers, are sitting in court today. The jury is being selected for their seditious conspiracy trial. And what’s interesting about that trial is that we’re going to learn more about their connections to the GOP leading up to January 6, because there are a number of Proud Boys who have already pleaded guilty, and they will be testifying against their own in that seditious conspiracy trial. So we may learn more about their connections to people like Roger Stone, Trump’s top confidant, who counts the leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, as one of his friends and mentees. We may learn more about the security that they did for certain members of Congress. And we may learn more about their connection to Trump’s inner circle. So, this is going to be a huge trial, and it’s going to have big implications for the GOP going forward.

AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us who the Proud Boys are, who Enrique Tarrio and the at least four other Proud Boys who are on trial are.

ANDY CAMPBELL: Right. So, the Proud Boys are a far-right street gang that were launched in late 2016, early 2017. They were created on the far-right talk show of Gavin McInnes, who was also the co-founder of Vice Media. And he built them to basically mobilize on Trump and the GOP’s grievances and go out there and do what crusty old Republicans can’t do, and fight people in the street, based on what the GOP is complaining about. And so, on any given day, the complaint might change. Sometimes it’s BLM, sometimes it’s antifa, sometimes it’s LGBTQ. Right now it’s very much LGBTQ. And sometimes it’s the election. And they have mobilized over the years, over and over, based on those grievances.

Now, there are five Proud Boys on trial for seditious conspiracy. The Justice Department believes that they had a hand not only in making the insurrection happen on the day, but planning it leading up. Trump, during a debate in 2020, said, “Proud Boys, stand back, stand by.” And there’s some debate over what he meant by that, but the Proud Boys immediately took it as marching orders. One of the guys on trial, Joe Biggs, posted a blog titled “The Second Civil War Is Coming.” He said, “Clean your guns, get ammo, and be ready, because it’s about to get really bad.” Enrique Tarrio started raising funds, amassing weapons, amassing people, recruiting. He said — he told me, in an interview, that he had never gotten so many recruiting calls than in the moments after Trump said, “Stand back, stand by,” at that debate. So they were gearing up for January 6, which they saw as their final stand for Trump. And they were doing what they do best, which is amassing all of these people, you know, different extremists from across the country, polling them, telling them to show up on January 6 for Donald Trump.

And then, of course, we know from the January 6 committee’s reports and the convictions that have already happened, that once the plan was in place, once the insurrection began, Trump did absolutely nothing to stop the mob, and, in fact, incited them throughout the day to continue on this parade of violence. The Justice —

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to YouTube video created by Vic Berger back in 2018, which features Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, discussing the group’s origins, as well as calling for violence in the streets.

GAVIN McINNES: I started this gang called the Proud Boys. And —
JOE ROGAN: The Proud Boys?
GAVIN McINNES: The Proud Boys.
JOE ROGAN: What is — what’s Proud Boys about?
GAVIN McINNES: We will kill you. That’s the Proud Boys, in a nutshell. We will kill you. We look nice. We seem soft. We have “boys” in our name. But like Bill the Butcher and the Bowery Boys, we will assassinate you. Now, part of the reason I agreed to do the talk is because I’m allowed to bring all my guys, and we can fight our way in and fight our way out.
Beating the [bleep] our of these people, I think it’s our job to do it.
PROUD BOY: [bleep] you, mother [bleep]!
GAVIN McINNES: And the cops’, to turn a blind eye.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you can talk about McInnes and also this latest headline this week, NYPD facing new backlash after officers escorted members of the far-right Proud Boys to a subway station, apparently helping them evade their fares, after they sought to disrupt Drag Story Hour, a popular reading event for children, at a Queens library last year? You know, you have them cracking down on fare evasion, flooding subway stations with police, but they’re escorting the Proud Boys?

ANDY CAMPBELL: Right, right. So, you know, who you heard right there is Gavin McInnes. That guy you just heard is expected to possibly be a character witness for his Proud Boys at their sedition trial. So, you can see what their ideology is. Their ideology is political violence. He put political violence in their rules set. And certainly the misogyny and anti-LGBTQ and racist sentiment is within their tenets. And so, he kind of created that worldview for the Proud Boys and unleashed them on the world.

But, like you said, with this incident in New York, the Proud Boys have shown resiliency time and time again, despite being involved in all sorts of domestic extremism events. January 6, and all of the hundreds of prosecutions that we’ve seen following that, has done almost nothing to tamp down our street-level political violent extremist sect. I mean, the Proud Boys are mobilizing today at rapid clip. You have Tucker Carlson on Fox News complaining about Drag Queen Story Hour, and the Proud Boys are going out in the street and harassing and attacking Drag Queen Story Hours. This isn’t just in New York; it’s all across the country, at public libraries and anywhere they have drag events.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I know, Andy, you’re headed down to Washington, D.C., to cover this seditious conspiracy trial of the Proud Boys, and we hope to have you back on. Andy Campbell, senior editor at HuffPost, author of We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered In a New Era of American Extremism.

Coming up, the Russian president has declared a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine. We’ll hear from Bishop William Barber on why he supports a Christmas truce on both sides. Back in 30 seconds.

Chaos in the House: Is this just the beginning of a far-right attempt to make Congress dysfunctional?

The U.S House of Representatives still has no speaker after Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy failed to get the full backing of his party over the course of two days and six rounds of voting. A contingent of about 20 far-right lawmakers opposes McCarthy’s elevation to the top job, but no other candidate has emerged so far who can garner the 218 votes necessary to claim the speaker’s gavel. The impasse has ground all congressional business to a halt, including the swearing-in of new members like Texas Democrat Greg Casar, who says the dysfunction in Congress is no accident. “This is part of their goal. They don’t want a functioning federal government that can pass legislation and support working people,” Casar says of the Republican Party. We also speak with The Intercept’s Ryan Grim, who says much of the press has missed the substance of the fight over the speakership, which is about the far right’s drive to slash social spending, even if it means refusing to raise the debt ceiling and triggering a U.S. default that would crash the economy.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

Congressional chaos. Yes, we go now to Capitol Hill, where the House of Representatives remains without a House speaker following a rebellion by far-right Republicans who have blocked Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s attempts to become speaker. On Wednesday, the House held three more rounds of votes, and in each one McCarthy failed to win the needed 218 votes to become speaker, even though Republicans hold a slim majority in the House. Until a speaker is elected, the House cannot perform any other actions. In fact, members of the new Congress, all of them, more than 400 of them, haven’t even been sworn in yet.

In the fifth and sixth rounds of voting, 20 Republicans backed Byron Donalds of Florida over McCarthy. The leader of the Democrats in the House, Hakeem Jeffries, has so far received the most votes in each round as the entire Democratic caucus supports him.

CHERYL JOHNSON: That the total of number of votes cast is 433, of which the honorable Hakeem Jeffries of the state of New York has received 212, the honorable Kevin McCarthy of the state of California has received 201, the honorable Byron Donalds of the state of Florida has received 20, with one recorded as present. No member-elect having received a majority of the votes cast, a speaker has not been elected.

AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we’ll go to Capitol Hill to speak with Representative-elect Greg Casar of Texas, who’s still waiting to be sworn in. On Wednesday, he appeared on a live Instagram video with New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Everybody, what’s up?
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: How’s it going?
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: We got Greg Casar here. We got the Capitol in the background. We’re just kind of sitting here, because —
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: I was supposed to become a member of Congress yesterday, and we’re still waiting.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Poor Greg, he was supposed to be sworn in for the first time yesterday. I was supposed to be sworn in for — I can’t even believe it — the third time.
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: And they make them different. They give us these Green —
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: Now we’ve got Green New Deal pins.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: We’ve got — I know. I put in a call. I said, “Everyone’s getting a Green New Deal pin.” And, you know, they just did it, because —
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: — according to the far right —
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: She runs the place.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: According to the far right —
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: That’s right.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: — the left flank of the party runs — if only, right? We would have Medicare for All by now, if that was the truth. But just wanted to say hey to everybody, because we’re just sitting here, and it’s just a total mess right now. There’s still no speaker of the House. We’re now what? It’s up to —
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: I keep thinking that somebody is going to tell me what’s going to happen. Right? There’s like hundreds of members of Congress. I’m like, “So, what’s happening next?” They’re like, “We don’t know. We’ll find out.”
REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: This is how the government is run.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Democratic Congressmember-elect Greg Casar, as well as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on any Instagram feed. But right now the Congressmember-elect Casar is joining us from the Cannon Rotunda. He’s a former labor organizer and Austin city councilmember. Also with us, Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief for The Intercept.

So, Greg Casar, this has been quite an initiation for you. I mean, in fact, in a way, the House of Representatives does not exist right now, because you need to have a House speaker before any one of the more than 400 congressmembers are sworn in. Talk about your view from right there, as you sit there, what’s taking place. Explain to us what you understand is happening with McCarthy and his right flank.

REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: Yeah. Good morning. In some ways, it’s flabbergasting, as you saw with my conversation with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. But on the other hand, it’s not that surprising. There were so many members who have here for decades, who said this hadn’t happened in a century. But my feeling is that we should have seen this coming, because Kevin McCarthy and the top Republicans in the House have essentially been putting gas in the tank of this kind of Republican extremism and division for so long that, of course, this isn’t just a tactic, this is part of their goal. They don’t want a functioning federal government that can pass legislation and support working people. They want to continue to drag us further and further to the right, or even just not even have a Congress in the first place.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Greg, could you explain who are the hard-line, far-right conservatives who are holding up the selection of a House speaker — the election of a House speaker?

REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: You have, essentially, the most Trump part of the Republican Party, some real true believers in what I believe is a more authoritarian, much more strongly authoritarian form of government. And what they want to do is, essentially, change the rules of the House in their favor so that they can push the Republican Party further and further to the right. They’re making arguments about how they want a more democratic process, but, ultimately, it seems to be a process that they want to have more power for themselves to continue to drive the government to the right.

And Kevin McCarthy, to them, is essentially too much of a liberal, even though he is, ultimately, of the extreme right of this country and, frankly, of the extreme right for a politician in the world.

And so, it really is quite a thing to see. As they continue to embrace authoritarianism and division, we try to stay united and are trying to build a positive vision for the country, and try to show folks that we’re going to hopefully be interested in governing, if we take back the House here in just two years.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it true that the Democrats are eating popcorn, watching the show?

REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: I wish I knew where the popcorn stands were. But, you know, apart from the fact that we could laugh some about them sort of being eating alive by the monster they created, on the other hand, it is terrifying. We don’t have a United States Congress. And despite how the media does show, accurately, that there is division there, we also hear in their speeches a lot of unity around moving the country further to the right. Whether you’re a McCarthy person or a “never McCarthy” Republican, they continue to give speeches about the border, vilifying asylum seekers and refugees and immigrants and poor Black and Brown people. So, in many ways, they really are unified around this platform, and that is actually really a scary thing for the country.

AMY GOODMAN: And let me ask you, as you were there with AOC. There is a lot of criticism that the Squad has, and other progressives, of Hakeem Jeffries, but you all have been unified in voting for him as House speaker. Again, he is the first Black lawmaker to be voted a House speaker nominee. But the significance of this? And do you share their criticism? But, obviously, you voted for him, as well.

REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: That’s correct. I believe, as a longtime labor organizer and somebody that has worked on a body where I was the most progressive member, but there were other Democrats, and then Republicans, on that body, when I was on city council — I believe that you need to use your leverage to continue to negotiate and get the best deal that you can get. And I believe that will be the work that we’re tasked with doing with Speaker Jeffries. He’s a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I agree with him on many issues. There are some issues where I believe that we need to get more progressive legislation and more progressive action out of Democratic leadership. That’s part of the job, is for us to each play our role on the team and recognize that we need to have leverage on the left.

For example, we’ve been working for months pushing and asking the White House to help us get abortion access in Texas via the U.S. Postal Service. And now, just two days ago, the Department of Justice finally released an opinion that clears the path for people in blue states to mail abortion pills to places like Texas.

And again, you know, President Biden did not run on a hardcore progressive platform, but I believe that by continuing doing our organizing work, building public pressure and creating alliances, we can get important work done, whether there is a House for the next few days or not.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Ryan Grim, you’ve been there reporting on these extraordinary events. If you could talk about your response to what’s been happening, and these Republicans who are holding things up, these far-right Republican extremists?

RYAN GRIM: I think the piece that the media has been missing so far is the substance of the fight that’s being waged right now. And it’s really about social spending, and particularly about Social Security, about Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

You know, yesterday Ralph Norman, who’s a Freedom Caucus member from South Carolina, told reporters in the hallway that the thing that Kevin McCarthy needs to agree to to win their support, that is nonnegotiable, is that he needs to be willing to shut the government down rather than raise the debt ceiling. You know, that’s a rather frightening statement on a number of levels. On the top level, it’s frightening because it’s a complete misunderstanding of how government works. There’s actually not a relationship between a government shutdown and hitting the debt ceiling. And one reporter immediately said to him, “You mean going into default?” And he said, “Well, you wouldn’t go into default if you start planning now to stop spending money, you know, among various agencies, and so we could avoid that.” But that’s a complete fantasy. There is no path that gets you out of — you know, you would have to — it’s just simply incredible that he would suggest something like that.

The only kind of remedy, it seems like at this point, that the executive has is to say, “Look, the debt ceiling is not actually constitutional. Congress has appropriated money. It’s the executive’s job to spend that money. And we’re just not going to pay attention to the debt ceiling anymore.” And then I guess you would punt it over to the Supreme Court, and you would dare the Supreme Court to put the country into global default, which I don’t think that they would do, because that would undermine their real mission, you know, the mission that the Roberts Court is on. So I think that that’s the thing that people are missing, is that this is all setting up for some titanic fight this summer over the debt ceiling.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Ryan Grim, how do you see the stalemate ending?

RYAN GRIM: You know, I wish I could tell you. I feel like a fraud up here. I’ve been covering Congress for 15, 16 years, or whatever, now, and like Congressman-elect Greg Casar was saying, nobody really knows.

You know, the right is feeling their oats right now. Like, talking to sources on the right, they’re like, “Look, McCarthy is toast.” You know, he had a long time to work with these members, to win their support. He didn’t. They’re all trashing him, saying he doesn’t trust them. His allies are all calling them narcissists. You had Ken Buck say that, you know, “Maybe we just need to give Steve Scalise a shot to work a deal out,” which was a really brutal kind of blow for McCarthy. On the other hand, you have a bunch of McCarthy supporters saying, “We’re not doing that. We’re pushing forward.”

And so, there was a deal cut last night, where Kevin McCarthy agreed that the House Republican super PAC would not go after far-right Republicans in open red seats, which is something I think the Squad probably should have pushed for in 2019 and 2021, to say, “Hey, if you want our support, then the DCCC and the House super PAC have to stop kind of putting their thumb on the scale in Democratic primaries.” That was a good idea from them. But will that be enough for them to go over and support McCarthy? Nobody really knows.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further, what this super PAC is all about. And then, apparently overnight, he has agreed to allow just one congressmember to — can put forward a motion to remove the House speaker. I think he had agreed to five before, now one —


AMY GOODMAN: — and then the House would vote on it, to say the least —

RYAN GRIM: Right. Right.

AMY GOODMAN: — holding a gun to his head.

RYAN GRIM: Yeah, and I always thought that that was kind of a silly demand, because if you’re going to get rid of the speaker, you’re going to need five votes anyway, so what’s the big deal about needing one person putting forward a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair versus needing five signatures to vacate it? But, OK, so now McCarthy has even given in to lowering the threshold from five down to one. That would only produce a vote. That wouldn’t vacate the chair. But, presumably, if somebody is going to put that forward, they would have the votes at that point.

The Congressional Leadership Fund is basically kind of the House Republicans’ super PAC. And McCarthy was using it to go after some of these far-right Republicans, just the same way that the DCCC and the House super PAC had gone after some kind of Justice Democrats or Squad-aligned Democrats over the years. And so, what the far right was able to extract from him here, in the negotiations with Club for Growth, which the left doesn’t have — that’s a, you know, billionaire-funded kind of super PAC — saying that, “Look, OK, we will let these primaries play out, and we’re not going to get involved with those.”

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask Greg Casar, as we talked about divisions even within the Democratic Party, about President Biden announcing he’s going to visit the U.S.-Mexico border next week as part of his trip to Mexico next week. It will be his first visit to the border since taking office. I mean, the images on the border, both sides — Ciudad Juárez, El Paso — of people freezing under blankets. Title 42, the Biden administration has kind of wanted to remove the pandemic policy that has prevented millions from applying for political asylum in the United States, still is in place because of the Supreme Court. What do you want to see happen this next week? And will you be going to the border with him?

REP.-ELECT GREG CASAR: I hope that I’m installed as a member of Congress and that we get to get out of D.C. and get back to Texas to work with my constituents in my district and on the border. I believe that it’s really important for the president to be there and for the truth to be spoken about what’s going on on the border, because so much of the fearmongering — we heard on the House floor yesterday that these are criminals. It’s like when President Trump came down the escalator and said they are rapists. But, really, we’re talking about asylum seekers, refugees, moms and their kids, that are in dire need.

I know that our country and our economy will be so much stronger and that we’re all better off when immigrants are welcomed into this country and supported. The federal government should provide the support necessary to the relatively small overall number of people that have been displaced and that are hungry, that are coming here to make our country and everybody’s lives here better off. That’s what makes Texas a great place in the first place. And I think the president being there, I think it will give him the stories he needs to tell the true story. I think it can touch our hearts and help us do the right thing.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Ryan Grim, can you tell us who Byron Donalds is, the African American Republican congressmember who 20 Republicans have voted for, the first time an African American, in both the Democratic and Republican Party, has been nominated to be House speaker?

RYAN GRIM: Fairly new member of Congress, a far-right member of the Freedom Caucus. And like you said, the Republicans were extremely proud to eventually move their support to him. They started with a number of others, like Jim Jordan and others. One of the Republicans, when they got up, basically gave a speech about Frederick Douglass, telling — reminding the Democrats that Frederick Douglass was a Republican and how Douglass said he would always and only ever be a Republican, and then, from there, nominated Byron. So, it’s —

AMY GOODMAN: We have four seconds.

RYAN GRIM: It’s kind of a play that they’re making on identity politics.

Should football be banned? Former NFL player Donté Stallworth weighs in

Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on Monday during an NFL game. He remains in critical condition. After making a routine tackle against an opposing Cincinnati Bengals player, the 24-year-old safety collapsed on the field. Stunned players from both teams cried, prayed and hugged as Hamlin received CPR from medical personnel before being taken to the hospital. In recent years, the NFL has faced increased controversy over player safety, as more research links the full-contact sport with concussion-related traumatic brain injury and other negative health outcomes. Hamlin’s injury came just minutes after Bills defensive back Taron Johnson left the game with a head injury, and just days after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered his third head injury of the season — following a concussion that left him hospitalized in September. “[Y]ou never know when your last day could be that you get to experience something like this. I’m cherishing it every moment that I can,” Hamlin said in an interview just weeks earlier. We speak to Donté Stallworth, a sports commentator and former NFL player who spent 10 years in the league, and William C. Rhoden, a longtime sports journalist and author of “Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete,” about Hamlin’s injury and the NFL’s response.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin remains in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital two days after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field Monday night during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The 24-year-old collapsed after making a tackle. Medical staff administered CPR, used a defibrillator to restore his pulse, before bringing an ambulance onto the field, the game indefinitely suspended as other players wept. Damar Hamlin was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he is now. According to his family, Hamlin is sedated on a ventilator after having been resuscitated twice on the field. A large vigil was held for him in Buffalo on Tuesday.

Damar Hamlin’s injury came just minutes after the Buffalo Bills defensive back Taron Johnson left the game with a head injury, and just days after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered his third head injury of the season, following a concussion that left him hospitalized in week four.

We’re joined right now by two guests. William Rhoden, longtime sports journalist, author of Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete, he was a columnist for The New York Times until 2016, now a columnist with ESPN’s Andscape. And Donté Stallworth is with us, sports commentator and former NFL player who spent 10 years in the league.

Donté, let’s begin with you. You were watching the game, this, to say the least, highly unusual moment, though one athlete after another so often must leave for injuries. To see this happen on the field, talk about your response to what took place on Monday night.

DONTÉ STALLWORTH: My initial response when this happened, I was horrified. I was watching it live from my couch. I had actually taken a nap prior to that, and I set my alarm to make sure that I was awake to watch this huge game, two of the best teams in the NFL about to play a very important game with huge magnitude of playoff implications.

When I saw this happen to Damar, I knew immediately that something was amiss. Something was different about this type of injury. We’ve seen players break bones, tear ligaments, get concussed, and those are all horrifying injuries, but it’s, unfortunately, a part of the brutal game that we play. When you saw Damar fall and you saw him collapse, after he had already gotten up, after what was a routine play in the NFL — wasn’t anything vicious or egregious or illegal about this play. It was a routine NFL play, a normal tackle. Both players got up. Damar collapsed back to the ground.

And I immediately looked to the reaction of the players. And as the minutes went by, you couldn’t see what was happening on the field with Damar, but you saw the players’ visceral reaction to what was happening in front of their faces. And that, to me, told the entire story. It told me that these players were witnessing something traumatic that they had never seen before. Out of all the injuries that you have in the NFL, out of all the egregious things that we’ve seen, the emotions on the players let me know that this was something traumatic that they were experiencing that was unprecedented.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Rhoden, I think the name, the title of your book is so telling, Forty Million Dollar Slaves. You actually were in Baltimore covering a man with another — a player with another injury. And how many people know that right before Damar collapsed, another Buffalo Bills player was taken off the field with a head injury, Taron Johnson? If you can put this all together for us, I mean, talking about a violent game?

WILLIAM RHODEN: Yeah. Well, hey, Amy. Hey, Donté. “Happy New Year,” quote-unquote.

You know, I’m still trying to put this together. I think everybody is still trying to process this. And frankly, Amy, you know, I’ve been doing a series of pieces on Lamar Jackson and his whole thing about betting on himself, and now he’s injured. And, you know, I’ve been spending the last 48 hours, frankly, doing a lot of soul searching, a really lot of soul searching, because one of the things I realized is that I’ve been covering this stuff for almost 40 years, and in the process of covering, you know, the NFL, knowing guys who played, that I realized, as a journalist, I’ve become a little desensitized to it. As Donté said, you know, you’re kind of used to, you know, almost every other play, guys going down. The players, you know, get around him, on one knee. Many times he’ll go off under his own power; sometimes he’ll be helped off, sometimes carted off. And, you know, the fans will applaud. And then you’re on to the next play.

And, you know, I was filing my story and watching this in a cafe, and then one commercial came by, and I was like, “OK, right.” Then two, then three, and I was like, “Oh man.” Because I always thought — I said, “What would ever happen if a player died on the field in a high-profile NFL game?” Because all of a sudden — you know, we talk about the violence of the game and all that, but I think for a lot of people the kind of violence is kind of cartoon — they’re cartoon characters, you know, that it’s not really real. I think fantasy football helps with that, the whole betting. And, you know — and right now I think the problem is we don’t really know.

So, I’m really focused on, A, I hope — man, I hope that this young man is OK. But, moving forward, and maybe Donté could speak to this, you know, how do you even begin to play again? Remember, I don’t know if you noticed it, but shortly thereafter, the whole Buffalo defensive unit was getting ready to head back on the field. Somebody had said, kind of, “Well, let’s give them some warm-up time.” And then, I think, at some point — it may have been Troy Vincent — somebody said, “You cannot continue playing this game. You know, you cannot continue playing this game.”

So, now, I think, moving forward, how does the NFL, which is this huge — the NFL prints money. They print money. You know, you’ve got TV contracts. As Donté said, you’ve got all these things that hinge on outcomes and seedings and standings. You’ve got the Super Bowl coming up, with playoffs. Now, how does the NFL begin to balance continuing to play the games? And how do players process this? If the Buffalo and Cincinnati players said, you know, “We can’t play another game”? You know, so, my immediate concern and prayer is that this young man pulls out of this and that there is some type of good news. But then, moving forward, what are the conversations we’re having in the breach, in the silence? What kind of conversations are we having about this game? You know, and it’s clearly —

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don’t we talk about that, Bill? I mean, you have sort of not exactly joked, but said, “What? Are we going to call for the banning of the game?”



WILLIAM RHODEN: Well — yeah, go ahead, Donté.


DONTÉ STALLWORTH: Well, I think that when you look at just the importance of the health of Damar Hamlin, I also want to reiterate, too, that we’re obviously pushing for the best-case scenario, which is that he can resume a normal and healthy life, forget the NFL, forget playing again. If he’s able, somehow able to do that, that’s obviously great, and that’s his decision, if he wants to do that, if he’s able to. But the most important thing is that he’s able to resume a normal and healthy life again. That is the best possible outcome here.

And these injuries that we’ve seen players take in, you know, over the past few decades, especially with all that we’ve learned in 2012 and so on with more of the research that we’ve kind of learned about through concussions, through brain injuries, these are tough injuries, but these are injuries that happen in front of our eyes, but then, you know, these players are carted off, and the game resumes.

I do want to tip my hat to the NFL, in general, and, I would say, more specifically, the head coaches of Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, and subsequently the players. They weren’t going back out there, regardless of whatever the NFL was going to say or not going to say about the game resuming, about the game being resumed in the next 24 hours or in the next 36, 48 hours. The players were traumatized, and their coaches saw this, and they both got together and said, “Hey, we’re going to go to the locker room and speak to the officials, speak to the head umpire and speak to officials in the NFL, and basically reiterate to them that they’re not able to mentally go back out.”

So, to answer your other question, not really sure how the players from especially the Buffalo Bills, but also the Cincinnati Bengals, as well — I don’t know how they go out and play a game this weekend. I really don’t. I know that, you know, we have this mentality in the NFL, and it’s pretty accustomed to being an NFL player where you have this mentality that “next guy up.” You know, a guy gets hurt, regardless of what that injury is, you know, there’s got to be a next man up that’s got to fill his role and be that piece in the puzzle to help the team win a game. And that’s something that we’ve compartmentalized mental issues, mental health issues, we’ve compartmentalized physical pain, to be able to go out and fulfill that “next man up” problem that we have in the NFL. So, it’s really difficult to tell how a player can go out and play that witnessed this firsthand, that was on the field watching the medical professionals and the medical staff administer CPR for several minutes to Damar Hamlin. These guys are going to be changed forever. And it’s really going to be interesting to see how the NFL proceeds, moving forward.

AMY GOODMAN: And how the NFL deals with issues like, for example, what’s happening with Tua, just a few days before, a Miami Dolphin, the whole issue of the concussion protocol and how it’s been enforced, I mean, that a game even needs this. I mean, it’s a collision sport. You have soccer, the beautiful game. You have football, the violent game. Bill Rhoden, if you could talk about this, how players are diagnosed — I mean, how many people know — I’m repeating myself, but that Taron Johnson was taken off just a few minutes before Damar went down?

WILLIAM RHODEN: Yeah, and that gets to the larger point. You know, it almost becomes like — I keep mentioning this word “desensitized,” you know, that, yeah, you had one or two injuries. And it’s, OK, you know, they’re taken off. OK. As Donté said, next man up. You know, the young man who was hurt was next man up.


WILLIAM RHODEN: Yeah, Damar was next man up. Remember, that’s why he was in the lineup. He was the next man up, because he was taking the place of Fitzpatrick I believe, right? And he was the next man up. And I think that whether it’s in football or all of us, I mean, that’s why it was a metaphor. You know, everybody is kind of a replaceable part.

But to your — the larger point is: Where does the NFL go? You’r not going to change the nature of the game. You’re really not going to change the nature of the game. If there are games this weekend, there are going to be guys who are not getting up. There are going to be guys who are getting carted off. There are going to be serious injuries. And the larger question is: What do you do? You know, we’re not banning the game anytime soon, you know.

So, like I said, I’m in the middle of this soul searching. I remember I was at the Kentucky Derby when Eight Belles died at the Kentucky Derby. And I had been very critical of the horse-racing industry. And after that happened, I said, “You know, I’m done with this. I’m done with this, the way they shoot up horses, they treat them.” And near the end of — I was at The New York Times for 34 years. And near the end of 2016, with the concussions and what we were beginning to find out about what the owners knew about concussions, and how they were hiding it, you know, I was almost at the point then. I said, “You know what? I’m done with this, man.” You know, this is just — you know, I appreciate the fact that a lot of people are, you know, leasing their bodies, and they’re getting generational wealth. You know, there’s an exchange: I lease the team my body, I get paid, and keep my fingers crossed that I could have a 10-year career and kind of get out of it unscathed.

But, you know, the larger question now, while we’re waiting to hear what happens, you know: Where does the league go from here? And I guarantee you — I would love to hear those conversations between the TV execs, the NFL people, about how do we play these games, how do we keep ourselves on schedule. And I think Donté mentioned it.

I think this is another conversation for another show, but, to me, this is kind of also about guaranteed contracts. The NFL is the only major league whose players do not have guaranteed contracts. And NFL players, more than any other team sport, deserve guaranteed contracts. You know, if you play this game, you should be taken care of. You should be — your contract should be guaranteed. And again, this really isn’t the time to talk about that, but I do think that this is something really worth fighting for. The owners are saying that this is the hill they’re going to die on. They’re not going to do what the NBA does. They’re not going to do what Major League Baseball does. But these players, if you look at what happens every single game, every single week, you know, these players need to be protected. And they need to be protected for the rest of their lives.

AMY GOODMAN: Interesting — Bill, interesting, the term you use, “This is the hill they’re going to die on.” Well, athletes are dying. And I was wondering if Donté could respond to that? Also, looking at a piece in the Times from last year: “With the addition of a 17th regular season game on top of the two extra playoff games the league added last season, the N.F.L. negotiated substantially higher rates for its media rights. The new deals, which total more than $100 billion, nearly double the amount of the expiring contracts.” What’s at stake here?

DONTÉ STALLWORTH: Yeah, there is a lot at stake, obviously. You know, the NFL being a multibillion-dollar corporation, lots of money is at stake. But I do think that in this moment, with this incident being so unprecedented, I’m as skeptical as they come when it comes to multibillion-dollar corporations, no matter who they are, no matter that I’m a former player myself and still enjoy watching the game and still involved in the game by speaking with teams and things of that nature. But, you know, I do want to first, like, give the NFL some kudos. You know, they haven’t — they’ve kind of earned the natural skepticism when anything like this, of this nature, happens. They’ve earned that over the years. But, you know, the fact that they canceled the game, or they postponed the game and then said that the game wouldn’t be played within the week, they’re taking the steps, I think, to pretty much show that this is an unprecedented situation. And I think everything right now is fluid.

But I do want to say, too, to mention, kind of piggybacking, you know, about players and players’ health, Damar Hamlin was only in his second year. He is not a vested player. To be vested, you have to play — I believe it’s three years plus three games. So, essentially, you have to be in your fourth year and play three games to become vested. You have to play three games and three years to receive a pension. You also have to play three years and three games to receive the five years of healthcare that the NFL gives to players after they’ve retired. So, he has not been a vested player, so there’s a lot of things that are at play here. Unfortunately for the NFL — for the NFL players, that is something that can’t be changed, I guess, until the new collective bargaining agreement, which they just had one last year or the year before. But —

AMY GOODMAN: We have —

DONTÉ STALLWORTH: — those are things that I’m concerned about right now.

'Brazen' fraud: David Cay Johnston on how Trump’s tax returns show he fleeced US and enriched himself

Six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns were released by a House committee on Friday after a years-long legal battle by the former president to keep them sealed. Early revelations include the finding that Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax during his first year in office in 2017, and he paid no tax in 2020. The newly released tax records give a long-overdue glimpse of Trump’s personal and business finances, which he refused to disclose during the 2016 presidential election, breaking with decades of precedent. Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, who has covered Trump for decades, says the new documents show “absolutely brazen” tax fraud. “Donald Trump has been a criminal his whole life,” says Johnston.

"Brazen": David Cay Johnston on How Trump's Tax Returns Show He Defrauded U.S. & Enriched Himself

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

After years of legal battles between former President Donald Trump and Congress, the House Ways and Means Committee released six years of Trump’s tax returns Friday, including thousands of documents from the years he ran for president and was in office. The records reveal Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes during his first year in office in 2017. In his last year in office, 2020, he paid no federal taxes. They also showed the tax law Trump signed in late 2017 opened new opportunities for him, and disclosed income from a wide range of foreign countries, including Canada, Panama, the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, the Philippines, United Arab Emirates, China and Britain. Trump responded to the release in a video statement.

DONALD TRUMP: These tax returns contain relatively little information and not information that almost anybody would understand. They’re extremely complex. The radical Democrats’ behavior is a shame upon the U.S. Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, our next guest says the tax returns show Trump took tax losses he knew were fraudulent and that Trump knowingly committed brazen tax fraud. David Cay Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, co-founder of DCReport, his most recent book titled The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family, also wrote Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich — and Cheat Everybody Else.

David, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Talk about what you found most significant, what you were most surprised by in these latest tax releases.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, that Donald used a number of legal devices to reduce taxes is no surprise. But he did something absolutely brazen. And that requires we go back to 1984. That was the year Trump Tower was selling apartments like crazy and his first casino opened. So he had Amazons of cash flowing into his pockets. He filed a tax return that included something called a Schedule C. That’s what freelancers use. It’s what I use for my book writing business. And on it, he showed no revenue but over $600,000 of expenses. Auditors from the City of New York and the state of New York spotted that, disallowed it. Trump demanded trials. He lost both. The judges wrote scathing opinions about what he was doing.

So, what turns up in these six years of tax returns? Well, he filed 65 of Schedule Cs. Twenty-six of them had zero revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses. There were a handful of others where the income and the expenses, exactly to the dollar, equaled out, which is impossible to believe is anything but manipulation. For those 26 returns, where he was on notice that it’s illegal to create a fictitious business and take deductions, he could easily be prosecuted, either by the federal government or Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, for cheating on state taxes the same way. And that, I think, is the most brazen thing in there.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, David Cay Johnston, for those people who are not familiar with these Schedule Cs, what are the IRS regulations about being able to have a business that has no income but has all kinds of expenses? And how long can that go on before the IRS normally has a red flag to go after you?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: You can start up a business and have expenses to start up, but you have to show that you were attempting to make a profit. If you go on for five years, the IRS will almost always declare that this is a hobby, and the taxpayers aren’t going to subsidize your hobby. But that Trump did 26 of these shows how determined he was to thumb his nose at the law.

And Trump has always done this. I mean, I’ve known Donald now for almost 35 years, and he’s always thumbing his nose at the law when he gets caught, as he has repeatedly in various civil and regulatory actions and some court cases, like where he cheated illegal immigrants, as he called them, who were brought into the country to work for him. He always somehow says, “Oh, no, this is a great victory for me. You don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s too complicated.” Nonsense. Donald Trump has been a criminal his whole life. He’s just very good at evading law enforcement.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And unlike, let’s say, a reporter like Maggie Haberman, whose recent book on Trump has gotten a lot of attention as a new expert on Trump, there are people like you and, of course, the late great Wayne Barrett who have been tracking — who were tracking Trump over decades. This whole issue of him actually during the six years of his running for president and being president actually having net losses, could you talk about that?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, Donald reported net losses. We should think about that the way we talk about crime, reported crime. We don’t know the real level of that. So, Donald reported massive losses, so big that he had $150-some million of positive income — wages, capital gains, dividends, interest and pensions, $150 million-plus — but his tax returns show negative income of about $53 million. That’s a $200 million swing.

A lot of that was accomplished through laws that — a law that Donald Trump lobbied for in 1992 that allows real estate people, people who are big real estate investors — not mom-and-pop “I own one rental unit” people, but big real estate investors — to live pretty much tax-free, if their only income is from real estate and the rest of their income is modest.

Donald — I’ve been told by a number of retired IRS agents who have reached out to me that they’ve gone over the returns, and their fundamental conclusion — and these are people who don’t know each other; they know me — they all said the same thing: A lot of the numbers on the tax returns appear to be just made up. Of course, who ever heard of Donald just making something up?

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to 2016, one of these key presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, with this exchange about Trump’s taxes.

HILLARY CLINTON: So you’ve got to ask yourself: Why won’t he release his tax returns? And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is. Second, maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be. Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax. So —
DONALD TRUMP: That makes me smart.

AMY GOODMAN: “That makes me smart,” Donald Trump said in the background. And then, four years later, in the presidential debate with Joe Biden, with moderator Chris Wallace.

CHRIS WALLACE: I know that you pay a lot of other taxes, but I’m asking you the specific question: Is it true that you paid $750 in federal income taxes each of those two years?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’ve paid millions of dollars in taxes, millions of dollars of income tax. And let me just tell you, there was a story in one of the papers, I paid —
JOE BIDEN: Show us your tax returns.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I paid $38 million one year. I paid $27 million one year.
JOE BIDEN: Show us your tax returns.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I went — you’ll see it as soon as it’s finished. You’ll see it. You know, if you want to do, go to the board of elections. There’s a 118-page or so report that says everything I have, every bank I have, I’m totally underleveraged, because the assets are extremely good. And we have a very — we have a — I built a great company.
CHRIS WALLACE: Sir, I’m asking you a specific question, which is —
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: But let me tell you.
CHRIS WALLACE: I understand all of that.
JOE BIDEN: Release your tax returns.
CHRIS WALLACE: I understand all that. I’m asking —
CHRIS WALLACE: No, Mr. President.
CHRIS WALLACE: I’m asking you a question. Will you tell us how much you paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Millions of dollars.
CHRIS WALLACE: You paid millions of dollars.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Millions of dollars, yes.
CHRIS WALLACE: So, not $750.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Millions of dollars. And you’ll get to see it. And you’ll get to see it.

AMY GOODMAN: When will we get to see it? Well, we just got to see it, in 2022, at the end of the year. I wanted to ask you to respond to these, David Cay Johnston, to your allegation that just shows he committed tax fraud, which would mean he should end up in prison, and then, maybe he’s talking about the millions of dollars he paid in taxes not to the U.S. government, but to governments around the world.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yeah. The tax returns, Amy, show that Donald paid more taxes, income taxes, to foreign governments than to the United States. And Donald’s foreign entanglements as president should concern us a lot. You’ll recall in the 2016 campaign he said, you know, “The Saudis buy lots of apartments from me. They pay big prices. Why shouldn’t I like them? I like them.” That tells you that he’s influenced by people putting money in his pocket. And the president of the United States should not be. He should be insulated from that.

Everything you heard Donald say during the two debates, with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, was basically nonsense. In the case of paying taxes, there’s a tiny sliver of truth, because he paid overseas. The rest of it is absolute nonsense. And he knew it was absolute nonsense. But understand, Donald has no problem with lying through his teeth. He’s lied under oath in judicial proceedings. Donald essentially believes that whatever he says makes it so. So he just makes stuff up.

AMY GOODMAN: What about breaking the law?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, why didn’t auditors catch Donald Trump is a very good question. First of all, Congress has given the IRS for two decades — more than two decades — extra money to pursue the working poor and make sure they don’t cheat on their taxes. But at the top, the Republicans have ordered the cuts of audits of corporations and wealthy people. Almost 25,000 families make $10 million a year or more. In the most recent year we have data, 66 audits were closed. That’s nothing. That’s a fraction of 1% of those families.

Secondly, Donald knows that so long as he has loss carry-forwards — that is a tax deduction he couldn’t use this year, but he can use in future years — an auditor assigned to his tax return would quickly conclude that even if he found a whole bunch of bogus material, he’d still owe no taxes. So the IRS practice is generally to close such a file and move on to one that’s easier and will produce immediate revenue. We need to change that. I’ve asked the IRS and members of Congress now for decades to conduct a detailed study of people who report negative incomes, not once in a while because a business fails, but year after year after year, which is what Trump does. I think we’d discover —


DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: — some shocking things about our tax system. Yes, Juan.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: David, I’d like to ask you, in terms of this — going back to the Schedule C issue that you mentioned, you highlighted, in one piece you wrote about it, you said that you thought that this was the easiest case to make in terms of a potential criminal activity. Why is that? And why would a jury be more likely to find someone guilty just on the Schedule C violations than on the more complex legal issues that arise when you study Trump’s filings in depth?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yeah. Juan, first of all, that’s not the most important case to bring. The most important case are the human intelligence documents he stole and took to Mar-a-Lago.

But on the tax front, creating a fictitious business and taking tax deductions for it is a plain and simple thing ordinary people can understand. Many of the things Donald Trump has done with his taxes are esoteric. It took me years and years and years to learn how the tax system really works. We pay tax lawyers tremendous amounts of money, because our tax code, unnecessarily, is ridiculously complicated and involves very complex concepts involving accounting and depreciation and recognition of income and all sorts of terms that I’m sure most people watching are going, “What?” But this is simple and easy to prove. And remember, Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan DA, got 17 felony convictions on 17 charges against the Trump Organization and a subsidiary company, both 100% owned by Donald Trump, for much smaller tax fraud involving freebies that were untaxed to executives — cars, apartments, things like that.

Showing to people, “Here’s the tax return. There’s no evidence of a business that existed. He took these deductions. There’s no evidence of documentation, receipts and invoices and things that show actual business,” people will grasp that, I believe. And it would not — I think it would take a prosecutor at most three days to present the case.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, why was only one IRS agent charged with investigating and reviewing Donald Trump’s taxes when he was president? The significance of that kind of review not having happened, even though it’s the law, David?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Right. Presidential tax returns and vice-presidential returns are supposed to be audited. Biden and Kamala Harris have been audited. Obama and Biden were audited. Donald Trump appointed the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and he appointed Charles Rettig, who until recently was the IRS commissioner. And while they say they had no idea that these audits weren’t being done, they’re responsible. Doesn’t matter if you didn’t know. The question is “Why didn’t you know?”

Assigning a single IRS agent to something this complex and refusing him access to specialists — the IRS employs specialists —

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: — in everything, in all sorts of things — shows you that this is the lawlessness of the Trump administration. They were lawless.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, David Cay Johnston, we thank you so much for big with us, twice Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, co-founder of DCReport — he is passing the baton and stepping down from that — author of The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family and many more books, including Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich — and Cheat Everybody Else. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

'Unacceptable': NY progressives vow to stop Dem. gov’s nomination of conservative judge to top court

In a remarkable development, New York Democrats look likely to defeat Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul’s nomination of Hector LaSalle to be the state’s next chief judge, after progressives raised concern about his conservative judicial record and anti-abortion, anti-labor and anti-bail reform positions. “We have a situation here in New York where we have an opportunity to shift the highest court in a progressive direction, and the governor is completely fumbling that opportunity,” says Jabari Brisport, a Democratic Socialist state senator in Brooklyn who was one of the first to oppose LaSalle’s nomination.

NY Progressives Vow to Stop Democratic Governor's Nomination of Conservative Judge to Top Court

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to a remarkable development here in New York, where for the first time Democrats look likely to defeat the Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul’s nomination of the next chief judge to the state’s highest court. If confirmed, Hector LaSalle would be the first Latino chief judge of the Court of Appeals of New York. But his conservative judicial record has been opposed by progressives because of his anti-abortion, anti-labor and anti-bail reform positions. On Thursday, two more state senators came forward to oppose LaSalle’s nomination, bringing the total on record to 12, meaning he cannot be approved without Republican support, which makes it unlikely Democrats will bring his nomination to a vote. Those opposed now include the Senate deputy leader, Democrat Mike Gianaris.

On Wednesday, Democracy Now!'s Juan González and I spoke to one of the first state senators to oppose LaSalle's nomination, Jabari Brisport, New York state senator in Brooklyn who’s a Democratic Socialist. I asked him to describe how the governor chooses who to nominate for a chief justice, and why he opposes LaSalle.

SEN. JABARI BRISPORT: Well, good morning, Amy. Thank you for having me. It’s always a pleasure to be here.
The process in New York works like this. There is a Commission on Judicial Nominations. They take recommendations, applications over a several-week period, whenever they have an opening. And then they make a shortlist of seven that they give to the governor, who picks one to send to the Senate for confirmation. So, in the shortlist of seven, I would say there were three really outstanding candidates and three unacceptable ones. One, that being Hector LaSalle, who is unacceptable for the reasons you’ve listed previously, as making anti-labor decisions, anti-abortion decisions, and, honestly, branding as not even a conservative judge, but a conservative activist judge, going out of his way to make these decisions.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you be a little more specific on some of those decisions that he’s made that draw the ire and the concern of progressive groups?
SEN. JABARI BRISPORT: Yeah, sure. So, in his anti-abortion decision, there was a crisis pregnancy center in New York City that was misleading women seeking abortions and then went under investigation for illegally practicing medicine. And during their investigation, Hector LaSalle helped author a decision that shielded them from the full investigation by the attorney general. He basically made the case that they did not need to give or share what their marketing materials were, the things they were using to dupe women. He said that sharing those marketing materials would be a violation of their First Amendment rights somehow.
In terms of anti-labor decisions, there was a case where an employer, Cablevision, was suing union leaders. And even though that’s illegal in New York, Hector LaSalle went out of his way to say that even if the employer could not sue them as union leaders, he could sue them as individuals, basically exploding and rolling out the red carpet to a loophole to sue labor leaders. And that’s why five labor unions have also come out against Hector LaSalle, in addition to the 10 senators who have, as well.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, in terms of his confirmation process, Democrats have an overwhelming majority in the state Senate. What would it take to block his confirmation?
SEN. JABARI BRISPORT: He would need 32 yes votes to be confirmed by the state Senate. So, currently, there are 10 of the 42 Democratic senators who have come out opposing him. If one single more is opposing him, then he will not have enough votes from the Democratic conference to be confirmed.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what’s going to happen now? And talk about — I mean, you know, it was a very close race between Lee Zeldin and Governor Hochul. One of their main differences was reproductive rights, was the issue of abortion. And, you know, he was fiercely anti-abortion, and she said she was extremely pro-choice. Can you talk about what that means when a chief justice has the position that he has, what kind of cases he presides over? And did this nomination surprise you?
SEN. JABARI BRISPORT: This nomination was baffling to me, that the governor would attempt to cement a conservative majority on our highest court up until 2030 with a judge who has a record of making anti-abortion decisions. And again, he has gone out of his way. When you have someone willfully misinterpreting the Constitution to the point where they’re saying an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center does not need to share what, you know, lying, deceitful marketing materials they’re using, that’s a problem for me. And we have a situation here in New York where we have an opportunity to shift the highest court in a progressive direction, and the governor is completely fumbling that opportunity.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about bail reform, state Senator Brisport?
SEN. JABARI BRISPORT: Yes. In 2019, New York state enacted changes to the bail laws that allowed for more — less restrictive measures to allow more people to wait at home for their trial rather than waiting at our detention facility in New York City called Rikers in pretrial detention. And it was a strong success in terms of more equality of people staying at home and waiting home for their fair trial. But due to conservative backlash and blaming everything under the sun on the laws, it suffered rollbacks immediately after in 2020 and again this year, in 2022. And conservatives continue to weaponize it and lie about the facts of bail reform in order to get rollbacks and force more people to be incarcerated.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is your sense of why Governor Hochul took this decision, what kind of pressure she was under? After all, if she wanted to name the first Latino to chief justice, she could have named Jenny Rivera, who came out of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and is already on the court, but she chose instead this far more conservative pick.
SEN. JABARI BRISPORT: Yeah, I would say two things, Juan. One is just the outspoken identity politics angle of confirming the first Latino. In terms of Jenny Rivera, she is fantastic; however, she was not on the seven-person shortlist provided by the Commission on Judicial Nominations, so she was not an option for the governor to choose.
And, you know, the unspoken one, aside from the identity politics, is that the governor consistently shies away from making bold progressive decisions. That’s also why she did so poorly against an election-denying, Trump-supported fascist running against her for the governorship just a few weeks ago, is that she refused to make — to distinguish herself with a strong progressive tack.
AMY GOODMAN: Hector LaSalle was a prosecutor in Suffolk County, New York. You tweeted, “It’s indefensible to ask for Black votes and then work to incarcerate us. No on LaSalle,” you said. Explain.
SEN. JABARI BRISPORT: There are zero judges with a defense background on the court. And that was a problem when we voted to confirm Madeline Singas over a year ago. I voted no on her. I voted no again on Troutman earlier this year. And we have an extremely lopsided fact that the Court of Appeals is dominated by prosecutors and people that issue, you know, pro-landlord decisions and pro-business decisions. And nominating yet another prosecutor to our highest court would maintain that imbalance.

AMY GOODMAN: Jabari Brisport, New York state senator in Brooklyn, a Democratic Socialist. We spoke to him Wednesday, before more Democrats said they would vote against the confirmation of Hector LaSalle, reaching 12, meaning he can’t be approved without Republican support, which makes it unlikely Democrats will bring his nomination to a vote, challenging the choice of the Democratic governor of New York, Kathy Hochul.

'Abject failure' in Buffalo: Blizzard death toll rises as activists slam city’s failed prep, response

Buffalo, New York, is experiencing a Katrina moment after this weekend’s historic blizzard. The death toll has climbed to at least 32 as people froze to death in their homes and cars, with nationwide fatalities surpassing 60 people. State and military police have been deployed to Buffalo to enforce the city’s ongoing driving ban as road conditions remain treacherous after a 51.5-inch snowfall. We’re joined by India Walton, former Buffalo mayoral candidate and longtime community activist, as well as Cariol Horne, a community organizer and racial justice advocate who was arrested by Buffalo police during the storm, to discuss the nation’s latest climate emergency and the city government’s role in the tragedy.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

We’re turning now to Buffalo, New York, where the death toll from this weekend’s historic blizzard has climbed to at least 32 as more and more victims are discovered. State and military police were deployed to Buffalo Tuesday to enforce a driving ban, as road conditions remain treacherous after Buffalo was buried in more than 50 inches of snow. Many people froze to death in snowbanks, as well as in their homes and cars — among them, a 22-year-old woman named Anndel Taylor, whose family said she was stuck in her car for 18 hours before she died. Her body was found on Christmas after rescuers were unable to reach her earlier. She had moved to Buffalo to care for her ailing father. Her family in Charlotte, North Carolina, spoke to the WSOC-TV.

JAURDYN JOHNSON: Just after midnight, at 12:09 a.m., on Christmas Eve, Anndel texted another video. Inching down her window, you can see conditions completely deteriorated.
WANDA BROWN STEELE: Called 911, and she was waiting for them.
JAURDYN JOHNSON: At this point, her sister Tomeshia says, she began to get angry. She says it seemed no one was coming to her sister’s aid.
TOMESHIA BROWN: Absolutely everybody that tried to get to her got stuck — fire department, police. … Why didn’t they have chains on their tires? This is a state that’s known for snow.

AMY GOODMAN: That report from WKBW. As thousands were left without power, heat or food, pleading for help, Buffalo’s Mayor Byron Brown complained about reports of looting.

MAYOR BYRON BROWN: I just want to add that people who are out looting when people are losing their lives in this harsh winter storm is just absolutely reprehensible. I don’t know how these people can even live with themselves, how they can look at themselves in the mirror. They are the lowest of the low.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined in Buffalo by India Walton, former Buffalo mayoral candidate, longtime community activist, and Cariol Horne. She’s a former Buffalo police officer who was fired for stopping a white cop from choking a handcuffed Black man during an arrest in 2006. Ultimately, she got back pay for the years she fought in court against her unjust fighting. Cariol is now an activist. She was arrested Sunday night on charges of disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice, and harassment, as police responded to reports of looting.

We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! Cariol Horne, let’s go first to you. Talk about what happened, and talk about the gravity of this, the horror of this storm. Hi, Cariol. Can you hear me?

CARIOL HORNE: I can hear you.


CARIOL HORNE: Are you able —

AMY GOODMAN: We hear you, too. So, if you can talk about what happened to you, how did you got arrested in this storm, and then the seriousness of this storm and the deaths of over 32 people at this point?

CARIOL HORNE: Well, actually, what happened for me to get arrested is that I was driving along one of the major streets, which is Bailey Street, and when I was driving down, I saw a car with a trunk open. And there were people sitting on the ground in the snow, and the police were there. So, I was going to drive past, but, you know, I was saying that’s not right for them to be in the snow, because it was cold. They could get hypothermia. So I don’t know why the police placed them in the snow.

And I went and asked the — well, I got out of my vehicle and went around, and the officer came to me and said, “How can I help you?” And I said, “I know that these people probably were stealing, but you need to get them out of the snow.” And he said that if I didn’t stop impeding his investigation — which I was not — that I would be in the snow. And then he proceeded to point his finger into my face, and then he pushed me.

And then, after that, then I’m not sure what I did. I think I pushed him back. And he picked me up, slammed me on the ground and then arrested me and charged me with those three charges, all because he had people on a cold, wet, snowy, icy ground and didn’t feel like I should have the audacity to ask that they not be on the ground.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Cariol Horne, was it your sense that the officer recognized who you were, or he was just being normally uncivil to any civilian who might question what he was doing?

CARIOL HORNE: I am not sure, because when he first approached me, he was polite, and immediately that changed. Immediately. It’s the culture of the Buffalo Police Department to treat people that way. And that is why I even wrote the law, Cariol’s Law, in the first place, was to try to change the culture.

There’s people in senior citizen buildings. My father is 97 years old, lost power. And for days I couldn’t get to him. And calling the police, they actually said they couldn’t do anything. They were not answering calls. There were dead bodies. There was a dead body on the ground for like two days, and they — they’re just down the street, so how they were not able to get that body, I’m not sure, but it took two days and the persistence of just regular people in order for them to go get that body. And that was only one of the bodies. There were bodies on the expressway in their cars, because they were stuck.

They were not prepared at all in the senior housing, LBJ. I’ve been working with Myles Carter and David Louis, community advocates, and Myles is also a building — I mean, a housing inspector. We went in. There’s water leaking from the ceilings onto electrical lines. I mean, we called the fire department, and they said, well, they knew about it and that BMHA knew about it. And as far as I know, like, they have gone into the building, but they did not evacuate those people at all. So, these people are living in deplorable conditions with no backup generators.

The body count, I think, is more than what they’re saying. If there’s live news crews to come to Buffalo, you should come, because now it’s about to get warm, where the snow is going to melt, and I am sure the body count is going to be up there. The city was ill-prepared, and they basically left people to die. And they’re trying to say people are looting — I mean, not trying to say, because it did happen, but they are trying to mask the fact that they were not prepared and people died because they were not prepared, so now they want the looting to be the top story.

And now they want to lump me in there to make it seem as if I was looting, when they know that I was only asking them to take the people off of the snow, because when you arrest someone, why is — when is it that somebody puts somebody on snow, on ice? You put them in a police car. It’s only commonsense. So, now I have to face three frivolous charges, knowing that I didn’t do anything wrong. But the city of Buffalo has targeted me and my family, and it continues to happen even during this storm, when I was out there helping people because they were not answering calls.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to bring in India Walton to the conversation, as well. Buffalo is famous for having these major snowstorms, although, obviously, this was a far greater blizzard. I wanted your assessment of how the city and the state were prepared or responded, especially considering that Governor Hochul is from Erie County, so if anyone knows the problems with these storms, it is the current governor of New York.

INDIA WALTON: Yeah. Good morning, Juan and Amy. Thanks for having me on.

I think that the city’s handling of the storm has been deplorable. I do applaud Kathy Hochul for a swift response. And I think that her and her collaboration with the county executive is more of a model of what the people of Buffalo and western New York should expect in the collaboration between our state and local government when it comes to at least keeping people informed.

I know that many state resources have come into the area. And I think folks like me, who have basically served as a de facto triage center, where folks calling, DMing, emailing me to get help, we wonder where those resources are going, because it is everyday people, like myself, like Cariol, like the Buffalo Mutual Aid Network, who are delivering food, who are going and rescuing people, who are going on search missions and doing wellness checks. It is the people of Buffalo, the everyday, hard-working folks of this city, who have been taking care of one another.

And there has been an abject failure on the part of our municipal and city government to make sure that those things are being done. In fact, as Cariol alluded to, there’s a lot of victim blaming going on. The story that is being told is about looting, but what I know is that I’m not looting because I am in a comfortable home, I have power, I have food, and I have resources. And when a community is disinvested from and does not have resources, you create the kind of conditions where folks who are already in desperate situations and in needy times feel that more afraid that they won’t be able to get their basic needs met.

AMY GOODMAN: How many warming centers, India, are there in Buffalo with this freezing cold weather? India, can you hear me?

INDIA WALTON: I can now.

AMY GOODMAN: How many — how many warming centers are there in Buffalo?

INDIA WALTON: The city of Buffalo had two warming centers open. And I live very close to a private college. So, it opened its doors, independently of any collaboration with the city. So, you know, there were a lot of private citizens who were opening their homes. But as far as any city-sponsored warming centers, I know of about two. And at one point, there were 30,000 Buffalonians without power, two warming centers open, no public transit, a travel ban and no emergency services. 911 was basically suspended. They said, out of their own mouths publicly, “Don’t even bother calling, because we cannot help you.” And I just don’t understand how folks pay taxes, work hard trying to do the right thing, and still receive this type of treatment.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you something. I mean, you’re in Buffalo Bills territory. Why would we raise this now with this Katrina-like moment in Buffalo? Well, in March, New York officials approved a record-breaking $850 million in public subsidies to help the Buffalo Bills build a new football stadium, the deal including $600 million from the state of New York, $250 million from Erie County. Your thoughts on this, and what kind of money is being spent to prepare for these massive storms, that are increasing?

INDIA WALTON: Buffalo has a public works fleet of snowplows that is inadequate. Those departments remain understaffed. We spend more money on policing than we do making sure we have basic resources. In fact, the Buffalo police were calling for private citizens who own snowmobiles to come help rescue people. Why doesn’t the city have snowmobiles? Why doesn’t the city have smaller equipment? Why doesn’t the city have heavier equipment, right? There are lots of why, why, whys.

But I think that when it comes to spending a billion dollars to fund, you know, a billionaire’s new stadium project, we need to look at the infrastructure of the city. We need to look at why we see photos of literal houses being blown over because we have the oldest housing stock in the nation. We have to look at why people are still with inadequate basic infrastructure, why people have been without power for four or five days. I think that a billion dollars is much better invested in infrastructure, in adequate, safe affordable housing and, you know, other things that keep people truly safe, than it is in our sports team — which I love very much, I’m a huge fan, but I just think that there are many other ways that we can better use our resources than subsidizing folks who could very well build a new stadium themselves if they really wanted that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, India, I wanted to ask you, given the possible warming weather now, your concerns about flooding and how the city will have to deal with flooding?

INDIA WALTON: Yeah. Interesting fact: The automated sump pump was invented in Buffalo.

The weather is warming. We’re already seeing a warming trend. Not only will there be massive flooding, there’s also going to be ice and slick surfaces, slick roads. The conditions, although warmer, are going to continue to be very hazardous. And as of now, I’ve not heard any plan to deal with any of this.

I’m hearing reports of as the snowplows are making it down the street, as people are shoveling out, they are still finding dead bodies. There are just so many things that have gone unaddressed. There are people who have been unable to get to a full-service grocer in five days. There are folks who are hungry, who are cold, you know, people who have been stuck at work for three, four days. There are so many issues, and it seems like there is no plan, no communication. But, as always, you know, we come together as a community and do as best as we can to take care of one another.

AMY GOODMAN: India Walton, we want to thank you for being with us, former Buffalo mayoral candidate and community activist with RootsAction and Working Families Party, and Cariol Horne, the former Buffalo police officer who in 2006 was fired after she stopped a white officer from putting a Black man in a chokehold. In 2020, Buffalo adopted Cariol’s Law to require police to intervene if a fellow officer uses excessive force. She was arrested again during this storm.

'Tired of the apologies': Workers, flyers say Southwest Airlines meltdown was decades in the making

The U.S. Department of Transportation says it will investigate cancellations and delays by Southwest Airlines after the airline canceled about two-thirds of its flights since a Christmas snowstorm. The unprecedented operational meltdown left thousands of travelers stranded, causing scenes of chaos at airports across the country during one of the busiest travel seasons in the year. Corliss King, vice president of TWU Local 556 representing Southwest flight attendants, says the union has warned the company for years about the technical issues that contributed to this week’s chaos. We also speak with Paul Hudson of FlyersRights, the largest nonprofit airline passenger rights organization in the U.S., who blames decades of cost-cutting and chasing profits for the deteriorating service in the airline industry. “It’s more profitable to have bad service than good service,” says Hudson.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter, Paul and Mary singing John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” That song was written in 1966. If it was 2022, maybe it would be called “Not Leaving on a Jet Plane.” No one has to hate to go, because they’re not going anywhere, so many thousands of passengers stranded around the country. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

After facing outrage over the lack of regulation of the airline industry, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he’ll investigate flight cancellations and delays by Southwest Airlines that resulted in air travel chaos in the Christmas snowstorm and left thousands stranded around the United States through today. In an unprecedented operational meltdown, Southwest Airlines canceled about two-thirds of its flights since the storm. As baggage piles up at terminals around the United States, passengers are sleeping in airport hallways. The city of Houston went into emergency operations mode at Hobby Airport after more than 150 flights were canceled. There are tens of thousands of flights that have been canceled in the last week. This is a Southwest passenger at Los Angeles International Airport.

LAKESIA BARRETT: I was on the phone for like four hours on hold, no answer. So, we woke up this morning. I said, “Let’s just come to the airport to see what’s going on.” So, clearly, the flights are canceled, canceled, canceled and more canceled. … These amazing people that have come to work, they don’t deserve our frustration of having to get home.

AMY GOODMAN: As horror stories about travel with Southwest Airlines circulated, the company’s CEO Bob Jordan released a video apology Tuesday night.

BOB JORDAN: We’re doing everything we can to return to a normal operation. And please also hear that I’m truly sorry. … The tools we use to recover from disruption serve us well 99% of the time, but, clearly, we need to double down on our already-existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as Southwest workers, union members say the company has long ignored warnings its software is out of date and unable to handle such disruptions.

For more, we’re joined in Chicago by Corliss King, vice president of Transport Workers Union Local 556, representing Southwest Airline flight attendants. We’re also going to speak with Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights, the largest nonprofit airline passenger rights organization in the country. He lost his daughter in the Lockerbie bombing when she was 16 years old.

We begin with Corliss King. You hear this apology from the president of Southwest Airlines. We’re talking about some of the largest airlines — Southwest Airlines — in the country. Your union has said, and the pilots’ union has said, that you have been warning Southwest about this for years. Talk about the problems that has caused this meltdown, that other airlines do not seem to be experiencing. Ninety percent of the cancellations of all airlines are Southwest.

CORLISS KING: Yes. Well, good morning. And thank you for having me.

It is unconscionable to me that we are standing here today, in 2022, when we have been sounding the alarm, along with our pilots’ union and other unions on property, that our technology issues are absolutely going to lead us to this place. We have seen this before. This is not the first time. It is the first time it’s happened over a Christmas that’s affected so many, but we have had issues of spending the night in hotels that didn’t have heat sometimes because of their own issues, and unable to rectify those things, spending the night on airport floors, sleeping in hallways, as well.

And yet, we are still showing up. We are still ready to service our passengers, even under those conditions. But our union and the pilots’ union and, I’m sure, other unions on property have been asking our company to, please, listen to the frontline workers, who are able to tell you when your operation on paper is not working out. This is absolutely something that could have been avoidable, had they listened to the people who can see immediately when the cracks in the operation begin to happen, and sound the alarm over and over and over again. And it’s just time that we actually invest in our people, in our processes, to make sure our passengers are no longer affected.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Corliss King, could you be a little more specific in terms of what the particular problem that Southwest has versus other airlines? How does the technology affect the ability to get the crews and the pilots to the right planes at the right times?

CORLISS KING: Absolutely. So, crew scheduling, which is our heartbeat of our operation for our crews, is using technology that is not expandable to the airline we are right now. There are not enough seats and not enough expansion of those technology tools to be able to say, on a normal day, we have 500 people who are out of place, but due to a crisis, we now have a thousand people, 1,500 people out of place. That technology has to be able to expand to meet an unprecedented situation like this. That is not able to happen.

It is not our people in scheduling, for example, who answer the phone. They’re doing what they can with the tools they have. It is our inability to be agile and to expand our needs as the situation unfolds to make sure that our crews get, one, where they’re supposed to be to work those flights for our passengers, but also to get legal crew rest, to get accommodations, to give us a place to be, so that we can prepare the next day to work. Our crews are displaced to the point where Southwest doesn’t even know where they are in the system.

So, when we, as frontline workers, as crew that is used to doing what’s necessary, want to be able to say, “Hey, I’m here in Kansas City. You have a flight that doesn’t have flight attendants or pilots. I will work that flight,” we can’t get through to scheduling to say, “We are able to help you solve the problem and get these people home.” That kind of agility is lacking in our technology. And we have told them for years we need a seat at the table, we need a contract that lets us be agile when we need to be agile and lets us protect our quality of life, that says, “We have to be safe to fly those aircraft. So get us proper rest, get us accommodations, and we’ll be able to serve our passengers.”

I have watched our people in tears. I flew myself on Christmas and watched our operation. And frankly, we are tired of the apologies from the executives, and we’re tired of apologizing to our passengers. We have to do better. And Southwest has a golden opportunity to make it right. And that’s what we expect.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’d like to bring in Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights. Paul, the airline industry in America, ever since Jimmy Carter deregulated it, from the passenger’s point of view, has just gotten worse and worse and worse. Every plane is full. Whenever there is any kind of a weather emergency, there are all kinds of problems with cancellations. What do you see is the main problem? Is it that these airlines have no capacity to deal with crisis?

PAUL HUDSON: Well, they have no capacity because it’s actually more profitable to have bad service than good service. Every airline is required to have a plan to deal with bad weather and other disruptions, but there’s no enforcement of the plan. There are no reserve requirements. There are no customer service standards of any meaningful nature. The whole idea of deregulation was that the airlines would compete to provide better service. But actually what happens today, they compete to provide more profitable but worse service.

And there’s a whole list of reasons why this has happened. The main one, I think, is that we don’t have good leadership at the federal level. The airline industry is the only one that I know of that has only one regulator, the federal DOT. And they have really dropped the ball for many years.

Specifically Southwest, their computer system has been obsolete for years, and that’s been known. But the federal government hasn’t taken any action. Computer systems today are not a frill; they’re a necessity. And when they go down, there needs to be a fail-safe backup. Apparently, what happened this week is that there was no backup, and the manual rescheduling of flights is totally inadequate.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul, on the significance of Transportation Secretary — and probably presidential hopeful — Pete Buttigieg saying he is launching an inquiry into what happened at Southwest, how much hope do you hold out in that? And the significance at this point of him talking about people should get refunds for their flights? I mean, if it wasn’t so horrifying, what’s happened, it would make you laugh. Refunds for flights. It is so much worse than that. People are stranded in airports. They don’t have their medicine. You see thousands of pieces of luggage strewn all over airports, that people can’t get to. What are the rights of flyers today?

PAUL HUDSON: Well, domestically, you have no rights to delay compensation. And if weather is the reason for the cancellation or delay, you don’t really have any rights to things like hotel accommodations. It’s all up to the airlines. And, of course, they’ll do anything to avoid those expenses. You know, Secretary Buttigieg is pretty good at jawboning the airlines, but he’s been doing it now for over a year and a half, and it’s really had very little results. We have proposed about 30 different solutions back in June, but there hasn’t been any discussion, as far as we can tell, of any of those things.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Corliss King, I wanted to ask you — Southwest prides itself as being an airline where all of the employees are part of the family. Have you been feeling family love the last few days?

CORLISS KING: I have to be honest with you. I have asked myself, personally, many, many times over in the last several days, you know, “Am I adopted?” Because I don’t feel like family. And I think many people don’t feel like family right now.

That said, I have to say, in full transparency, Southwest does a lot of things right. We do a lot of things right. I think that our history proves that we have a heart for our family and our employees. However, we have seen a huge influx of middle management that has changed us from the little airline that could to the largest carrier in this country. But we have to grow with it. We have to keep our profits in line with what we are producing as frontline employees. We’re not sharing in that like we should. And it’s not just about money. It is absolutely about the fact that we deserve the quality of life that is comparable to the contribution that we give. We are the forward-facing people of Southwest Airlines to our passengers. There is not one single person that buys a ticket on our airline that does not see a flight attendant.

AMY GOODMAN: Corliss King, we want to thank you for being with us, vice president of Transport Worker Union Local 556, and Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

'This is a racial backlash': Stanford Prof. Hakeem Jefferson on role of white supremacy in Capitol attack

The House select committee on the January 6 attack released its final 845-page report Thursday, and the word “racism” appears only once throughout the entire document — despite the central role white supremacist groups played in the insurrection. “Those who stormed the Capitol … didn’t merely come in defense of Donald Trump,” says Stanford professor Hakeem Jefferson, an expert on issues of race and identity in American politics. “They came in defense of white supremacy and white Americans’ hold on power.”

“This Is a Racial Backlash”: Stanford Prof. Hakeem Jefferson on Role of White Supremacy on Jan. 6

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, We’re continuing to look at the new January 6th report, which details how white supremacist groups played a key role in the insurrection. But the report says little about the role of racism in what happened. In fact, the word “racism” appears only once in the report.

The committee chair, Bennie Thompson, writes in his introduction, quote, “I believe most Americans will turn their backs on those enemies of democracy.

“But some will rally to the side of the election deniers, and when I think about who some of those people are, it troubles me deep inside. White supremacists. Violent extremists. Groups that subscribe to racism, anti-Semitism, and violent conspiracy theories; those who would march through the halls of the Capitol waving the Confederate battle flag,” Thompson wrote.

Well, to talk more about the January 6th report, we’re joined now by Hakeem Jefferson, an assistant professor at Stanford University, faculty affiliate with the Center for Comparative Study in Race and Ethnicity and the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with this, Professor Jefferson.

HAKEEM JEFFERSON: Thank you so much for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what you feel has not been adequately addressed here when it comes to Donald Trump’s leading the insurrection, and the insurrection itself.

HAKEEM JEFFERSON: Thank you so much for having me, Amy. It’s a real honor to be here.

When I wrote my initial piece about January the 6th the day of the insurrection, I wrote that piece because I worried so much that what would get lost in the shuffle as we talked about this spectacular event was the role of race and racism.

It’s striking, the image of Bennie Thompson as the chair of the January 6th committee, a Southern Black man leading the charge to investigate the insurrection. And it’s not surprising that it is in his opening remarks of the report that we see the word “racism” emerge. We see him telling the story about an insurrection that has far deeper roots than simply the fact that Donald Trump wanted to hold on to power.

And so, what I worried would get lost in the shuffle, and what I think enough people haven’t attended to, is how much the insurrection reflects these deep resentments and the sort of long-standing grievance that so many white Americans have when they worry and are anxious about what they perceive to be a precarious hold on power. Put simply, those who stormed the Capitol, as I wrote in a piece for FiveThirtyEight the day of the insurrection, they didn’t merely come in defense of Donald Trump; they came in defense of white supremacy and white Americans’ hold on power, and a hold on power that is not in competition with other racial groups.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Jefferson, we’re speaking to you actually in Sumter, South Carolina. Bennie Thompson, of course, represents Mississippi, the committee chair. If you can talk more about who these groups are? You know, I just asked John Nichols about the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley, saying he was saying, “Why are these guys, the Proud Boys, why are the Oath Keepers, why are they even allowed to be there?” Also, you know, there was word that many people were armed. If you could comment on this?

HAKEEM JEFFERSON: Yeah, I mean, these are far-right extremist groups. The Proud Boys sort of outwardly say that they’re not a white supremacist group. They have engaged, however, in activities that align with white supremacist and white nationalist ideologies. These are groups that hold a kind of mantle of traditional masculinity. They wield a kind of conservatism and traditionalism that hold up the mantle of Western values. These are groups who you don’t need a Ph.D. to understand their ideology. These are groups that are really OK with a kind of racial hierarchy in this country, want to sustain a kind of hierarchy where white men are empowered. And Donald Trump embodied the values of these groups. We will recall that he said to “Stand by” — “Stand down, and stand by” to these groups. He made no secret of his at least tacit allegiance with the ideologies that these groups pressed.

And so, when January 6th comes, it’s no surprise that leading the charge — and I mean that literally, leading the charge — to obstruct democracy were members of these groups, who had planned for some time, in Reddit groups and in other dark places of the internet had planned the insurrection, had talked about violence, had talked about killing Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence, if he didn’t do his duties that day as they saw fit. And so, these are groups who have long held these ideologies, who on the day of the insurrection led the charge, and who, if only — if not for luck that we had that day, would have carried out, I think, even more violence in service of protecting and defending Donald Trump’s legacy, but also in holding up the mantle of white supremacy and white nationalism.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Bennie Thompson being chair of the select committee that is trying to hold President Trump to account, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who often requotes the late great John Lewis talking about —


AMY GOODMAN: — good trouble, versus Donald Trump?

HAKEEM JEFFERSON: Amy, it is such a visual — a striking visual to see, in what is one of the most powerful committees that the Congress has ever had, this Southern Black man, who speaks with a Southern drawl, who can talk about racism not merely because he studied it but because he lived it in the American South, and to have him lead this committee where race and racism were at the fore, if only because we were forced to engage with the real power and politics of Bennie Thompson, an imposing, if soft-spoken, Black man, who I think will go down in the history books as having led a committee that did really important work.

And so, I am, as you noted, currently in Sumter, South Carolina, a place that has its own racial history. And I think Bennie Thompson brought that history with him, that history of race and racism in the American South, to his duties as chair of this committee. And as I noted earlier, it’s not striking that the one time — it’s not surprising, I should say, that the one time that racism is mentioned in the report is by Bennie Thompson, a person who saw, I think, Donald Trump for exactly who he is — a political elite sort of showered in privilege, showered in a sense of entitlement, and showered in a sense of whiteness and of white supremacy, a sense that people like him should wield power in this country. And I don’t think that was lost on Bennie Thompson, and I think that comes through rather clearly in those remarks that you shared with us from his opening comments in the report.

AMY GOODMAN: In this last moment we have — you are a professor — how do you want this historical moment to be remembered and to be taught, and what you want to come out of this, with now the House committee referring criminal charges against Donald Trump to the Justice Department?

HAKEEM JEFFERSON: I think that as I reflect on this moment, and what I’ve told my students, and as I’ve written elsewhere, is that we would be missing something really important if what we left this moment with was just the sense that this really spectacular event happened on January the 6th, that it was something unique that happened that day. Instead, I think what we should take from this moment is something that I wrote with Victor Ray, again at FiveThirtyEight, which is that moments of progress in this country are often met with moments of backlash, that backlash — white backlash, in particular — is a racial reckoning, too, as Victor and I wrote.

And so, I think what I want people to leave this moment thinking about is: What are those other instances of racial backlash that we have experienced in this country or are experiencing in this country? Republican attacks on the right to vote, a racial backlash. The kind of racial violence that we’ve seen in corners across the country, that’s a racial backlash, too. The sort of daily workings against democracy, particularly those advanced by the Republican Party, we should see those in the same vein that we see the spectacular attack on January the 6th. This is a racial backlash. This is about a racial ordering and a racial hierarchy. It is about power. It is about the maintenance of group status. It is about the defense of whiteness. And that has a long through-line in American history, that comes in spectacular form on January the 6th, but manifests in more mundane and quotidian ways every day in American life. And I think that’s the lesson of this moment that shouldn’t be lost on any of us.

AMY GOODMAN: Hakeem Jefferson, we want to thank you for being with us, assistant professor at Stanford University, faculty affiliate at Stanford’s Center for Comparative Study in Race and Ethnicity and the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, speaking to us from Sumter, South Carolina.

Coming up, “The Quest to Defuse Guyana’s Carbon Bomb.” We’ll look at efforts to prevent ExxonMobil from drilling off the shore of Guyana, where more than 11 billion barrels of oil have been discovered. Back in 30 seconds.

'We are at a precipice as a nation': Cornel West and Christina Greer on Jan. 6 insurrection and more

We speak with Fordham University political science professor Christina Greer and theologian Cornel West about the January 6 committee’s recommendation that former President Donald Trump and his allies be criminally charged for their role in the insurrection and attempts to overturn the 2020 election. “Just because it’s unprecedented doesn’t mean that we can’t have prosecutions,” says Greer. She also responds to recent news reports that New York Congressmember-elect George Santos fabricated much of his political biography.

"We Are at a Precipice as a Nation": Cornel West & Christina Greer on Jan. 6 Insurrection & More

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is expected to release its final report today, Three days after the committee unanimously voted to refer President Trump to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution for attempting to overturn the 2020 election, the first time anything like this has ever happened in U.S. history. On Wednesday, the committee released transcripts from more than 30 interviews conducted with people who aided Trump’s efforts, including conservative attorney John Eastman and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Many of Trump’s allies repeatedly invoked their Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.

To talk more about the House Judiciary January 6th committee, we are joined by two guests: still with us, Cornel West, philosopher, author, professor at Union Theological Seminary, and Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, host of the podcast FAQ NYC, host of the Blackest Questions podcast on TheGrio and author of Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.

Can you respond, Professor Greer, to what we know so far?

CHRISTINA GREER: Oh, Amy, you know, what we do know is that for the first time in U.S. history we’ve had a president that was so corrupt, that surrounded himself with people who aided and abetted his corruption, who also were corrupt, and we now have to try and pick up the pieces of what is this democratic republic and what democracy looks like going forward.

Just because it’s unprecedented doesn’t mean that we can’t have prosecutions. And I think because we’ve never seen something on this scale — you know, many Americans think that Richard Nixon was impeached. He actually resigned before his impeachment. And so, this is not a comparable scenario. This is someone who, while he was a sitting president, not only tried to overturn the results of free and fair elections — something we have never seen before — but also tried to enlist some of his allies at the highest levels of American government to assist him in those efforts. And what we still need to uncover is the number of Republican members of Congress who were willing to go along with it and assist him in those efforts of overturning a free and fair election.

And so we’re at a precipice, honestly, as to whether or not we can continue as a nation, since so many people don’t believe that Donald Trump did anything wrong, so many people wanted him to actually violently overturn the government, and we’ve got sitting members of Congress still in office today who refuse to recognize the severity of January 6th and how dangerous it has been, and continues to be, to the future of our democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Cornel West, we asked you to stay on for a number of reasons, but, among them, you were at the Unite the Right rally years before, in Charlottesville, Virginia. You were there when the white supremacists marched, ultimately the rally and riot that led to the death of an antiracist protester, Heather Heyer. Can you talk about what started then, under President Trump, and ended here, with the January 6th insurrection, and what we know so far, and what you feel should happen?

CORNEL WEST: Yeah, I think what we have, though, presently is the head spokesman of a vicious neofascist movement that has been caught. He’s been a gangster for a long time and should have been prosecuted a long time ago. But it has now a life of its own, very different than Nixon in the past, because he’s actually got millions of people behind him who live in his world of lies and illusions. And that’s why you’re getting a lot of talk about, “Well, if he goes to jail, you’re going have civil war. If he goes to jail, there’s going to be violent strife across the nation.” And there might be some truth to that, precisely because the neofascist movement is in place. It has a dynamic of its own. And at this point, it doesn’t even need Trump anymore, to tell you the truth. So that we’re in a very different situation.

This is why, when we talk about the threat to, you know, liberal bourgeois democracy, that’s very, very real. And I want to defend whatever democratic practices we have, even though they are so corrupted by big money and big military and imperial policy around the world. But we’re really in one of the most grim moments in the history of the American experiment, in the history of the American empire. So, I do think this is not just unprecedented because of the fact that a president has now been, in some sense, called — what would be the right word? — could possibly be on the way to jail. It depends on how courageous the Department of Justice actually is, and depends on how courageous the bureaucrats there in that department are willing to courageously pursue this. But it is a very, very unique moment.

And what I saw in Charlottesville was just a particular galvanizing of those neofascists. And there are slices of the movement. All the folk who follow Trump are not neofascists, but they’re conservative, and their base — and it’s motivated by one fundamental fact: They have a profound hatred of the professional managerial class that they see as the winners of corporate globalization. And they associate that with Black people, with Jews, with gay brothers, lesbian sisters, trans — and used to be Catholics, but I ran into David Duke down there, and he is now head of one of the Klan groups, so that’s American — upward mobility American style. They have a Catholic now running the Klan, when the Klan began by hating Catholics, Jews and Black folk. And we’re going to see more of that, as well. You’re going to see more Jewish folks supporting the neofascists. You’re going to see more Black folks supporting the neofascists. That’s where we are now.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask about a really odd twist that’s come up, and I wanted to ask Professor Greer, about the New York Republican newly elected to Congress who appears to have fabricated key parts of his education and employment history. That’s according to an investigation by The New York Times. Congressmember-elect George Santos lied when he told voters he worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. IRS says the animal rescue group that he claims to have led, called Friends of Pets United, did not file any records indicating its tax-exempt status or that it existed. The Times also found Santos faced criminal charges for check fraud in Brazil at a time when he claimed to be attending classes at Baruch College, which has no records for Santos — among many other issues. And it’s particularly significant given the very close breakdown of Republicans and Democrats in the House. The significance of all of this coming out right now, that people don’t have really any idea who this man is, but McCarthy not wanting to call him out because he’s running for House speaker and he’s afraid he will lose some on the right if he goes after a new congressmember?

CHRISTINA GREER: Absolutely, Amy. I mean, the lack of courage from the Republican Party, you know, never ceases to amaze me. But what’s really dangerous about this congressman-elect is that there seems to be nothing factual about his biography — I mean, all the way down to lying about his Jewish and Catholic heritage and his alleged grandparents being survivors of the Holocaust. Even the address that he’s listed on his filings, when they called that number, the woman who picked up had no knowledge of who this person was, and said he had never even lived there. So there’s nothing that’s truthful. I think the Democrats in New York, though, do need to have a —

AMY GOODMAN: And he was there, by the way, Professor Greer, on January 6th, one of the insurrectionists.

CHRISTINA GREER: Absolutely. Absolutely. But I think the Democratic Party obviously needs to do a serious introspective reshuffling, as well. You know, we can’t keep paying Washington, D.C., consultants to run campaigns, when we need some grassroots investigative reporting, obviously, as to this is a candidate who — this isn’t his first time running. So, these things are pretty obvious. I mean, we have technology. And I think the Democratic Party really needs to think about how they connect to voters, but also how they communicate a message when they’re running against someone who’s obviously such a corrupt candidate and was able to ring the alarm for Republican voters. And as Professor West has stated, you know, so many members of the Republican Party — not all, but so many members — are either part of the fascist agenda or they’re willing to go along with it. And that’s just as dangerous.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us. Of course, we’re going to really take a look at the report that is supposed to come out today — it was supposed to come out yesterday, not clear why it didn’t. Professor Christina Greer, professor at Fordham University, and Cornel West, professor at Union Theological Seminary, thanks so much for joining us.

That does it for today’s show. Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Mary Conlon. Our executive director, Julie Crosby. Special thanks to our director, Becca Staley, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, Denis Moynihan, David Prude and Dennis McCormick. To see transcripts and the podcast, video and audio, of all our shows, you can go to, and sign up for our newsletter right there. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

Mumia should be freed: A sitting trial judge in Arkansas appeals to Philly judge to drop charges

This Friday, Mumia Abu-Jamal faces what could be his last chance for a new trial to consider newly discovered evidence that casts doubt on his 1982 conviction for murder. The journalist and former Black Panther has spent 41 years in prison for the death of police officer Daniel Faulkner, for which he has always maintained his innocence. His lawyers say evidence in boxes discovered in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in 2019 shows his trial was tainted by judicial bias, as well as police and prosecutorial misconduct, like withholding evidence, and bribing or coercing witnesses to lie. Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons indicated she intends to dismiss Mumia’s request for a new trial, but said she would announce her final decision this Friday, December 16. For more on this closely watched case, we speak with Wendell Griffen, Arkansas circuit judge, who is calling for Abu-Jamal’s release and says Judge Clemons should take into account how the irregularities in Abu-Jamal’s case should have already secured his freedom, suggesting a drive for vengeance is the main reason that hasn’t happened. “The prosecution messed up, the investigation messed up, and Mumia Abu-Jamal was wrongfully prosecuted, wrongfully convicted, wrongfully sentenced and is now wrongfully incarcerated,” says Griffen. “But our bloodlust prevents us from acknowledging that.”

Mumia Should Be Freed: A Sitting Trial Judge in Arkansas Appeals to Philly Judge to Drop Charges

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

After 41 years in prison, most of it on death row, this Friday, the journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal faces what could be his last chance for a new trial to consider newly discovered evidence that casts doubt on his 1982 conviction for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Mumia Abu-Jamal’s lawyers say evidence in boxes discovered in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office by the new DA at the time, Larry Krasner in 2019, show his trial was tainted by judicial bias and police and prosecutorial misconduct, like withholding of evidence, and bribing or coercing witnesses to lie. Evidence in the boxes included notes from one of two key witnesses to prosecutors requesting, quote, “the money owed to me.”

Well, on Tuesday, a United Nations working group submitted an amicus brief urging the judge to grant Mumia Abu-Jamal a new trial to consider the evidence, and also cited evidence of racial bias in the case, quoting the statement by Mumia Abu-Jamal’s original trial judge, Albert Sabo, overheard by a court stenographer, when he said, quote, “I’m going to help them, the jury, fry that [N-word],” but he used the word.

Last month, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons indicated she intends to dismiss Abu-Jamal’s request for a new trial, but said she would announce her final decision this Friday, December 16th. Judge Clemons is a member of the archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Commission on Racial Healing. She spoke last year in a video by Catholic Philly about how Catholics can address racial division by seeking the truth, justice and reconciliation.

JUDGE LUCRETIA CLEMONS: I think one of the most important things to focus on is truth and reconciliation. A familiar cry in the street during the social justice protests is “No justice, no peace.” And while I know that many people want peace, they really want quiet. Quiet is not the same as peace. Peace requires justice, and justice requires truth. And therefore, I believe that we start this with some truth and reconciliation, with some understanding of where we have come from, the historical implications of that, how it is impacting people today, and how do we reconcile that history with where we are and where we want to go.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Lucretia Clemons, who will issue a decision on Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case Friday.

For more on this closely watched case, we’re joined by another trial court judge, a prominent voice calling for a new trial and the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal. That’s Judge Wendell Griffen, judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit of Arkansas, 5th Division. He spent more than 10 years as a judge on the state Court of Appeals. He is retiring this month after almost a quarter of a century on the bench and a career that’s included speaking out against the death penalty, as well as the War in Iraq. Judge Griffen is also the pastor of New Millennium Church and author of The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope.

Judge Griffen, welcome back to Democracy Now! You wrote an essay last month headlined “Finding justice for both Maureen Faulkner and Mumia Abu-Jamal,” referring to the widow of the slain Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Can you talk about that and why you are calling for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, in this critical week where it could be the last chance he has for a new trial?

JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: Thank you, Amy. It’s good to talk with you again.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a Black American political activist and journalist, as you know, who has been incarcerated since he was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, police officer. His 1982 death sentence was overturned by a federal judge in 2001 due to sentencing irregularities. At that time, the question was: Why wasn’t the whole conviction overturned?

But in 2019, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office disclosed for the first time that there were six boxes of materials that had been concealed and not delivered to the defense team before Mumia was tried. Under a 1963 decision that every law student knows about and every lawyer knows about who does criminal law practice, Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court of United States held that due process of law is violated when the prosecution conceals evidence relevant to guilt or punishment from defense. In this country, that kind of precedent should have required Mumia to be released, and the state, or the commonwealth, in this case, decide whether or not to prosecute him based upon having revealed the right evidence. That hasn’t been done. And so, the question is: Why is Mumia Abu-Jamal not being given, as another federal judge has said, the benefit of the precedents, since 1963 — this is 60 years — that he should be getting, because the state or the commonwealth attorneys violated his due process laws? He had a pretense of a trial. And that’s what the Supreme Court of the United States said earlier than that, in 1935, in an earlier case.

So, we have to ask ourselves the question: Why is this journalist, why is this Black activist not free? And why is it so hard for a judge to say, “Hey, we’ve got the law that requires him to be free. I’m going to follow the law and declare him free”? And if the commonwealth wants to retry him, they can do so. If the commonwealth decides we can’t retry him because the evidence is no longer there, people have passed away, witnesses have forgotten information, then that is not Mumia’s fault. That is the fault of prosecutors, and Mumia should not be imprisoned because, A, he had a pretense of a trial in the first place, and, B, because, for some reasons, bloodlust or the desire to keep a Black activist journalist in prison means that we don’t want to do what’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: If you could talk specifically, as a judge, around the law when it comes to, for example, finding a handwritten note in this evidence box, that was just found —


AMY GOODMAN: — in the offices of now the DA Larry Krasner, one of the two key witnesses requesting “the money you owed me,” writing that to the prosecution, and then, of course, the well-known comment of the judge himself? I mean, human rights groups have decried the racism in the original trial. But Judge Sabo being heard by the court stenographer saying, “I’m going to help them” — referring to the jury — “I’m going to help them fry that [N-word],” but he used the word.

JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: He used the word.

AMY GOODMAN: This is the judge.

JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: He used the N-I-G-G-E-R word. It was heard by the stenographer. That would have and should have been sufficient to disqualify that judge point blank. Beyond that, there was proof that there were peremptory challenges that were exercised by the prosecution based upon racial, racist inclinations, which violates the Supreme Court decision in Batson v. Kentucky. That should have been enough to disqualify the trial.

But then, you referred to this note that was found where a witness for the prosecution, that allegedly fingered Mumia, writes the prosecutor and wants to know, “Where is my money?” Now, if you’re a defense lawyer, that’s powerful information, because it indicates that this witness has been bribed or has an incentive to lie. That’s a reason to disqualify — or, that’s a reason to overturn the conviction in and of itself. This is the kind of due process violation that any law student would recognize on a criminal law or constitutional law exam. So, this is not hard stuff. This is not hard stuff for any trial judge.

And so, the issue is not whether or not this is a tough legal question; the issue is whether or not a judge — in this case, Judge Clemons — has the strength, the courage, the compassion and the commitment to follow the law to do what the law requires, which is, basically, declare the man who had a pretense of a trial, declare him free and tell the commonwealth, “If you want to try him again, have at it. But you can’t keep him in prison because you simply messed up and don’t want to confess it.”

AMY GOODMAN: The daughter of the novelist, the famous novelist, Richard Wright, Julia Wright, wrote a letter to the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons this week. In part, it read, “We, Black women, who carry such intergenerational trauma have in common the gift of 'wounded healers' in the words of the late Archbishop Tutu who called for Mumia’s release in 2011 on behalf of peace and reconciliation. I trust you will judge righteously,” she said. Julia Wright is so interesting in that she was recently involved with the case in Elaine, Arkansas, of five Black men who were tried and convicted of murder in less than 30 minutes in a mob rule trial. It was 1919 in your state of Arkansas. Can you talk about what you see as the parallels?

JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: You refer to the landmark case of Moore v. Dempsey, a 1923 case where the Supreme Court of the United States Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion and wrote that where there has been a mob-dominated trial, it violates due process. And in that case again, the Supreme Court invalidated the murder convictions, the first-degree murder convictions, of five Black men who were sentenced to death. And that, again, is precedent. That is, again, a connection. And Julia Wright, bless her heart, has connected the dots between the Elaine race massacre, the massacre of Black people in southeast Arkansas by white vigilantes and by federal troops, by the way, and the incarceration and the refusal to release Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is now in prison because — and let’s be clear — because of bloodlust. There is the notion that a police officer was murdered. Daniel Faulkner was murdered. And the prosecution messed up. The investigation messed up. And Mumia Abu-Jamal was wrongfully prosecuted, wrongfully convicted, wrongfully sentenced and is now wrongfully incarcerated. But our bloodlust prevents us from acknowledging that. And I understand that. As a state court trial judge who has tried murder cases, I understand that, the pain of victims. I understand the desire of colleagues to get revenge. However, justice is never about revenge. We do not allow victims, or the friends or partners of the murdered, to decide what justice is. Justice is doing right, not getting revenge. And we need to understand the difference between the two.

AMY GOODMAN: Judge Wendell Griffen, there’s so much more to talk about. Judge Griffen wrote the essay, “Finding justice for both Maureen Faulkner and Mumia Abu-Jamal,” referring to the widow of the slain Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. We will link to your piece, and we will also do a Part 2 conversation with you as you come to the end of your judicial career. You’ll be retiring at the end of December after 24 years on the bench. You are also the pastor of the New Millennium Church and author of The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope. In Part 2 of our conversation, we’re going to talk about your illustrious career on the bench. People should check it out at

That does it for our show. Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena.

AZ governor builds illegal 'border wall' of shipping containers and razor wire. Why isn’t Biden stopping it?

Outgoing Republican Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona is spending nearly $100 million in his final weeks in office to erect a makeshift border wall along the state’s southern boundary with Mexico made of shipping containers and razor wire. Ducey has described it as an effort to complete former President Donald Trump’s border wall, but the shipping containers are being placed on federal and tribal lands without permission. Protesters who have tried to block construction warn the wall is destroying precious desert biodiversity and forcing asylum seekers to take even more dangerous routes along the border to seek refuge in the United States. Meanwhile, it is unclear what Democratic Governor-elect Katie Hobbs will do with the container wall once she is sworn in. “It’s quite amazing that there’s simply been no [federal] law enforcement response,” says Myles Traphagen with Wildlands Network, who coordinates the group’s borderlands program. “Why aren’t they mobilizing a federal law enforcement response when this is a blatant disregard of the law?” We also speak with Alejandra Gomez, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA Arizona, who says immigrant communities in Arizona are responding with aid and compassion despite “the fueling of hate against migrants” by Ducey and other Republicans.

Arizona Governor Builds Illegal "Border Wall" of Shipping Containers. Why Isn't Biden Stopping It?

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We turn now to the U.S.-Mexico border. The Biden administration has asked Congress to greenlight more than $3 billion to further militarize the border as the Trump-era Title 42 pandemic policy, that expelled over 2 million migrants without due process, is set to end a week from today. A record number of asylum seekers have been apprehended along the southern border in recent months, including more than 2,400 over the weekend in El Paso, Texas. The three-day daily average of migrants coming over the border is about 2,400 per day.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, immigration and environmental activists are denouncing the illegal construction of a makeshift wall along its border with Mexico built with hundreds of double-stacked shipping containers and razor wire. The project is led by outgoing Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who says he’s trying to fill up the gaps left in former President Donald Trump’s unfinished border wall. The shipping containers snake through part of the Coronado National Forest in southern Arizona’s Cochise County. And construction has continued despite an ongoing legal battle between Governor Ducey and the federal government, with crews continuing to stack more shipping containers, reportedly working at night to avoid protesters, even as some of the containers erected earlier have already fallen over. Now activists are increasing efforts to block the construction, which they say is destroying precious desert biodiversity and is forcing asylum seekers to take even more dangerous routes along the border to come to the United States for refuge. Meanwhile, it’s unclear what incoming Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs will do with the container wall.

For more, we go to Arizona to speak with two guests. In Tucson, Myles Traphagen is with us. He is the borderlands program coordinator for Wildlands Network, has worked in the deserts, mountains and grasslands of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands for over 20 years. He’s a tribal member of the Chickasaw Nation. With us in Phoenix, Arizona, is Alejandra Gomez, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA Arizona.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Myles, let’s begin with you in Tucson. Talk about this, what many have described as a monstrosity along the border, two shipping containers high — going on for how far, and what parts of the border? And what’s happening to the land around it? And we’ll then talk about the migrants.

MYLES TRAPHAGEN: Well, thank you, Amy.

Currently there’s 3.5 miles of shipping containers that begin at Coronado National Memorial, which is a National Park Service-managed property. And they snake through the Coronado National Forest, and this happens to be federal land, owned by the federal government and you and me. And this is in designated critical habitat for the endangered jaguar. In addition to that, there’s the endangered ocelot, which the northernmost breeding population lies just 30 miles to the south. So the environmental consequences in regards to wildlife and wildlife migration and connectivity could not be more severe in this particular location, which has exceptionally high biodiversity and probably, arguably, some of the highest in the West as far as number of species and endangered species on the Coronado National Forest.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what gives Governor Ducey the authority. Where is the money coming from? And what are people doing around this wall that are resisting it?

MYLES TRAPHAGEN: Well, Governor Ducey does not have the authority, because this is on federal land. And so it’s totally illegal, what’s happening. The Department of Emergency Military Affairs has provided the funding for this, which is a $95 million contract that was given to AshBritt, which typically does a FEMA type of disaster relief projects.

The Coronado National Forest was established in 1902. Five years later, the Roosevelt Reservation was established by President Theodore Roosevelt. This is a 60-foot-wide strip that begins just west of El Paso on the Rio Grande and goes all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This allows the federal government to have control over this area for border security and commerce purposes. The secretary of homeland security has the authority under the REAL ID Act of 2005 to waive all laws for the construction of border barriers. This is a very scary thing that Americans should be very concerned about, this law. But the Arizona governor does not have this authority. The establishment of the Coronado National Forest and the Roosevelt Reservation predates the Arizona statehood, which took place in 1912. So, the Department of Justice has ordered the shipping containers to be removed and the construction to stop, yet the governor continues to disregard those orders.

AMY GOODMAN: Where do the shipping containers come from?

MYLES TRAPHAGEN: And currently there’s also a — well, it’s hard to say where they come from. I mean, shipping containers are ubiquitous. It’s very ironic that, you know, most of these have Chinese labels on them. So, they are just — they have these scattered at various storage yards around southern Arizona, and they’re basically being trucked on flatbed pickup trucks, towed by your standard heavy-duty pickup truck, and being stacked on the national forest. However, due to the terrain in this area, there’s a lot of undulating topography and washes and drainages. It’s a very incomplete and somewhat permeable barrier, although in many places it’s completely impermeable to wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, javelina, jaguar, ocelots, etc.

AMY GOODMAN: Where are the federal agents and authorities on this federal land trying to stop this?

MYLES TRAPHAGEN: This is what we are all wondering. It’s quite amazing that there’s simply been no law enforcement response. You know, where are the U.S. marshals? Where is Secretary of Interior Thomas Vilsack on this? Where is secretary — or, excuse me, agriculture secretary? Same goes for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. You know, why aren’t they mobilizing a federal law enforcement response, when this is a blatant disregard of the law?

AMY GOODMAN: You have said this is a real threat to democracy, Myles, that it is a slippery slope towards fascism. Why?

MYLES TRAPHAGEN: That’s totally true, and I don’t throw that around lightly. Let’s begin with the REAL ID Act of 2005. This was passed in the wake of 9/11. And, you know, you ask yourself: How can the secretary of homeland security, which is a politically appointed unelected official, have the ability to waive laws dating back to 1890 and up to almost the present? These laws include the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Native American Graves Protection Act, etc. Up to about 60 laws have been waived for the construction of border barriers. It’s quite amazing that both houses of Congress passed these laws, and signed into law by whoever the sitting president was, and then surviving a century of judicial review. I think Americans need to be very concerned about this, because this pertains to — probably about 80% of the whole U.S. population would lie in the jurisdictional zone of border security, which is 60 miles from the border, both on the Canadian side and the Mexico side. So, we need to be vigilant about protecting our democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is in El Paso today. I wanted to bring Alejandra Gomez into this conversation, with LUCHA Arizona. Can you talk about what this means for migrants coming over the border?

ALEJANDRA GOMEZ: Yes. You know, what we have seen for our communities is that there has been, from Governor Ducey and also the Arizona Legislature, over $300 million that were allocated in this past legislative session for extending the border wall, for the criminalizing and the targeting of migrants that are simply coming over in search of a better life for their families.

And so, we have been vigilant, you know, in this past election cycle. We knocked on over 450,000 doors, and a good portion of them were along the Yuma and the Cochise border. And what we’re seeing is that right now our communities are responding with aid — we have been seeing that for the past year — and that our communities are also — you know, the border has always been painted as — from the past governor, Jan Brewer, and now Ducey also — as a place where terror is happening. And what we have found is quite opposite. And so, we’re trying to signal that there needs to be federal solutions to, you know, the immigration, humanitarian both aid and communities that are just seeking a better future.

AMY GOODMAN: We just reported in headlines today that, according to POGO — that’s the Project on Government Oversight — over 300 people listed on the Oath Keepers membership rolls — that far-right white supremacist group led by Stewart Rhodes, who just got convicted of seditious conspiracy — over 300 people listed on their membership rolls have worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, taking up jobs with the Coast Guard, the Border Patrol, ICE and the Secret Service. Does this surprise you, Alejandra?

ALEJANDRA GOMEZ: It does not. You know, Arizona has had a long history of militias. And, you know, it’s concerning because this is something that has been fueled by extremist Republicans for the past decade here in Arizona. And we need real attention to it. And the fueling of hate against migrants was something that, unfortunately, Ducey continued under Trump’s biddings.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Myles Traphagen, we’re going to keep Alejandra with us for our discussion about Senator Sinema, but you’re a member of the Chickasaw Nation. Indigenous people responding, and have Indigenous people and nations, tribes been consulted on what’s happening on the border, on their land?

MYLES TRAPHAGEN: This rarely happens. There’s two tribes that have land on the Arizona border, and that would be the Tohono O’odham and the Cocopah Reservation. In the case of the Cocopah, they were not consulted when Governor Ducey placed shipping containers near the Morelos Dam in Yuma. Part of the shipping containers are on Bureau of Reclamation easements that are on the Cocopah Reservation. So they were simply ignored in this case.

So, everything that Alejandra was saying runs very deep here in Arizona as far as a long history of militias, and dating back to also union busting in 1918 in Bisbee. There’s a lot of, I guess I would call it, you know, just inherent racism and authoritarianism built into a lot of the actions that have occurred in the state for a long time now. So this is of grave concern to me.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Myles, not only ignored but —

MYLES TRAPHAGEN: Because the —

AMY GOODMAN: — in a number of cases, arrested.

MYLES TRAPHAGEN: Exactly, yeah. There was a case of two Tohono O’odham women who were protesting against the border wall several years ago, and they were run through federal court quite severely. And they didn’t even do anything to specifically damage property or injure anybody; they were just simply exercising their right to defend their homeland.

AMY GOODMAN: And in that case, if people want to go to, you can see our interviews around those arrests. Myles Traphagen, we want to thank you for being with us, Wildlands Network’s borderlands program coordinator. And, Alejandra Gomez, executive director of LUCHA Arizona, please stay with us.

When we come back, we’re going to look at Kyrsten Sinema saying she’s leaving the Democratic Party. Ryan Grim will also join us. Back in 30 seconds.

'You can’t be neutral on a moving train': Remembering the People’s Historian Howard Zinn at 100

In a special broadcast, we remember the legendary historian, author, professor, playwright and activist Howard Zinn, who was born 100 years ago this August. Zinn was a regular guest on Democracy Now!, from the start of the program in 1996 up until his death in 2010 at age 87. After witnessing the horrors of World War II as a bombardier, Zinn became a peace and justice activist who picketed with his students at Spelman College during the civil rights movement and joined in actions such as opposing the Vietnam War. He later spoke out against the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I believe neutrality is impossible, because the world is already moving in certain directions. Wars are going on. Children are starving,” Zinn said in a 2005 interview. “To be neutral … is to collaborate with whatever is going on, to allow it to happen.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue with our Zinntennial, celebrating the life and legacy of the late Howard Zinn, born 100 years ago, in 1922. Howard Zinn was a regular guest on Democracy Now!, from the time we went on the air in 1996 up until his death. In 2005, he joined us in our firehouse studio at DCTV, Downtown Community Television, in Lower Manhattan.

AMY GOODMAN: It is great to have you with us.
HOWARD ZINN: Well, it’s nice of you to invite me. I was worried.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you just came from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility?
HOWARD ZINN: Well, actually, yesterday afternoon I spoke at the Bedford Hills, euphemistically called, Correctional Facility — they hardly correct anything, but — spoke to prisoners there, women prisoners, mostly prisoners of color. I spoke to them yesterday afternoon before I gave this talk last night at Manhattanville College.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did you talk about with the women?
HOWARD ZINN: Well, they had been using my book. They have classes. They’re using my book, A People’s History of the United States. And I talked to them about history, about doing history, about why I did history the way I did, why I did unneutral history and how I came to do it. And I told them something about my life, and, of course, I always like to talk about that, you know.
And then they asked a lot of questions, a very lively, enthusiastic, excited group. I mean, if every teacher in the country had a class like that, you know, they would be inspired. And it’s wonderful — and I’ve always found this to be true — wonderful and always amazing when you talk to prisoners, who should be the last ones to be up and optimistic and in good spirits, but it’s always there. It’s actually encouraging, you know, and, of course, troubling to know that these people, these remarkable people, are being kept in prison, you know, very often, most of the time, for nonviolent crimes, and kept there for long periods of time. It’s a sort of sad commentary on American society that we have people in Washington who are free, and these people are in prison.
AMY GOODMAN: You talked about being a teacher, but, Howard Zinn, the places you were — where you did teach — well, Spelman, you were fired, and Boston University, you were almost fired.
HOWARD ZINN: Oh, are you trying to make me out as a troublemaker?
AMY GOODMAN: What happened to you at Spelman?
HOWARD ZINN: At Spelman, I got involved with my students in the actions that were going on in the South, the sit-ins, the demonstrations, the picket lines. I was supporting my students. And this was the first Black president of Spelman College, a very conservative institution. He wasn’t happy about me joining the students in all of these things, wasn’t happy about a lot of things that they did. But he couldn’t do anything about it. But when I — the students came back from, you might say, from jail and then rebelled against the campus regulations and the restrictions on them, and I supported them, that was too much.
AMY GOODMAN: During the civil rights years?
HOWARD ZINN: This was — yeah, these were during the civil rights years. And so, you know, he was very unhappy with the fact that I was supporting the students who were rebelling against the paternalism and the authoritarianism on that campus.
AMY GOODMAN: They were women students?
HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, these were Black women students. And, you know, the movement brought them out of this little sort of convent-like atmosphere of Spelman College and out into the world.
AMY GOODMAN: The author Alice Walker was one of those students?
HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, Alice Walker was one of my students. Marian Wright Edelman, the head of the Children’s Defense Fund now in Washington, she was one of my students. I’m very proud of those students I had at Spelman. And yeah, Marian Wright Edelman was in jail, and Alice Walker was in jail. And yeah, it was a great moment.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Boston University was many years later. Why did you almost get thrown out of there?
HOWARD ZINN: Why did I almost get thrown out of Boston University? We had a strike. Faculty went on strike. Secretaries went on strike. They settled with the faculty after what was a successful strike, but not with the secretaries. And so, I and some other faculty refused to cross the secretaries’ picket line. And five of us who refused to do that were threatened with firing, even though all of us had tenure. And so it was a long struggle, but we won.
AMY GOODMAN: Going back before both of your tenures as professor, you were a bombardier in World War II.
HOWARD ZINN: That’s true, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And you talk about your final bombing run, not over Japan, not over Germany, but over France.
HOWARD ZINN: Yeah. Well, we thought our bombing missions were over. The war was about to come to an end. This was in April of 1945. You may remember the war ended in early May 1945. This was a few weeks before the war was going to be over, and everybody knew it was going to be over, and our armies were past France into Germany, but there was a little pocket of German soldiers hanging around this little town of Royan on the Atlantic coast of France, and the Air Force decided to bomb them — 1,200 heavy bombers, and I was in one of them, flew over this little town of Royan and dropped napalm — first use of napalm in the European theater.
And we don’t know how many people we killed, how many people were terribly burned as a result of what we did. But I did it, like most soldiers do, unthinkingly, mechanically, thinking we’re on the right side, they’re on the wrong side, and therefore we can do whatever we want, and it’s OK. And only afterward, only really after the war, did I — when I was reading about Hiroshima from John Hersey and reading the stories of the survivors of Hiroshima and what they went through, only then did I begin to think about the human effects of bombing. Only then did I begin to think about what it meant to human beings on the ground when bombs were dropped on them, because as a bombardier, I was flying at 30,000 feet, six miles high, couldn’t hear screams, couldn’t see blood. And this is modern warfare.
In modern warfare, soldiers fire, they drop bombs, and they have no notion, really, of what is happening to the human beings that they’re firing on. Everything is done at a distance. This enables terrible atrocities to take place. And I think, reflecting back on that bombing raid, and thinking of that in Hiroshima and all the other raids on civilian cities and the killing of huge numbers of civilians in German and Japanese cities, the killing of 100,000 people in Tokyo in one night of firebombing, all of that made me realize war, even so-called good wars against fascism, like World War II, wars don’t solve any fundamental problems, and they always poison everybody on both sides. They poison the minds and souls of everybody on both sides. We’re seeing that now in Iraq, where the minds of our soldiers are being poisoned by being an occupying army in a land where they are not wanted. And the results are terrible.
AMY GOODMAN: You learned you dropped napalm on this French village?
HOWARD ZINN: Well, we didn’t — actually didn’t know what it was. They said, “Oh, you’re not going to have the usually 500-pound demolition bombs. You’re going to carry one — you’re going to carry 30 100-pound canisters of jellied gasoline.” We had no idea what that was, but it was napalm.
AMY GOODMAN: You went to that village later?
HOWARD ZINN: Later, I went, yeah. Later, I visited that village, about 10 years after the war. And I went to the library, which had been destroyed and which was now rebuilt, and I dug out records of the survivors and what they had written about the bombing. And I wrote a kind of essay about the bombing of Royan, which appears — where does it appear? — it appears in my book The Zinn Reader and also in my book The Politics of History. But it was — for me, it was a very important experience, a very great sobering lesson about so-called good wars.
AMY GOODMAN: You learned when you were there on the ground many years later who had died?
HOWARD ZINN: Well, I — you know, I spoke to people who had survived that and whose family members had died. And they were very bitter about the bombing. And, you know, they attributed it to all sorts of things, the desire to try out a new weapon. It’s amazing how many things are done in a war just to try out new weapons. You know, maybe one of the reasons for dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were to see what this does to human beings. Human beings become sacrifices in the desire to develop new military technology. And I think that was one of those instances.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to historian Howard Zinn, here in our firehouse studio in Chinatown, just blocks from where the towers of the World Trade Center once stood. You went to Vietnam, to North Vietnam, with Dan Berrigan?
HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, yeah.
HOWARD ZINN: Why? Well, this was early 1968. This was the time of the Tet Offensive, also the time of the Tet holiday, the Vietnamese holiday. And the North Vietnamese decided they wanted to release the first three airmen prisoners who had been shot down over North Vietnam. And they wanted to release them in the custody of not the American government, but the peace movement. So Daniel Berrigan, poet, priest, whom I had never met before, he and I traveled together to Hanoi, to North Vietnam, to pick up these three American airmen who were being released by the North Vietnamese.
And then we spent some time in Hanoi and in the surrounding area, visited bombed-out areas, visited little villages that had been jet bombed in the middle of the night, a million miles from any possible military target. And that — we were being bombed — Vietnam was being bombed every night. Every day we were going into air raid shelters. Every night Daniel Berrigan would write a poem about what had happened that day. And, you know —
AMY GOODMAN: What do you say to those, then and now, before the invasion, who would go to Iraq, those who went to North Vietnam, when they would be called traitors, giving comfort to the enemy?
HOWARD ZINN: You mean Americans who went to North Vietnam? You mean like Jane Fonda and so many others who went to North Vietnam?
AMY GOODMAN: And Iraq before. I mean even people like Congressmember McDermott of Seattle, reporters saying that they should resign.
HOWARD ZINN: Oh, people have gone to Iraq. And, I mean, what about — you know, there’s people in Voices in the Wilderness, Americans who went to Iraq and violating the U.S. sanctions, bringing food and medicine, you know. And the whole business of being traitors, you know, I think there’s a whole — there’s somehow some wrongheaded notion of what treason is and what patriotism is, and there’s some notion that if you disobey the orders of your government or the laws of your government, you’re being treasonous. But I believe the government is being treasonous and the government is being unpatriotic when the government violates the fundamental rights of human beings, when the government invades another country, a country that has not attacked it, a country that has not threatened it. When our government invades another country and drops bombs and kills huge numbers of people, and then Americans have the guts to go to that country and bring people food and medicine or go to see what is going on, as many Americans did when they went to Vietnam, I think these are the most patriotic Americans.
And, you know, if you define patriotism as obedience to the government, then you are, I think, following a kind of totalitarian principle, because that’s the principle of a totalitarian state, that you do what the government tells you to do. And democracy means that the government is an instrument of the people. This is the Declaration of Independence. Governments are artificial entities set up in order to preserve the rights, equal right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness of people. When the government violates those rights, it is the duty of people to defy that government. That is patriotism.
AMY GOODMAN: Howard Zinn, you called your autobiography You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. Why?
HOWARD ZINN: Well, it came from — I stole it from myself. That is, I used to say that to my classes at the beginning of every class. I wanted to be honest with them about the fact that they were not entering a class where the teacher would be neutral. It was not going to be a class where the teacher spent a half a year or year with the students, and they would have no idea where the teacher stood on the important issues. This is not going to be a neutral class, I said. I don’t believe in neutrality. I believe neutrality is impossible, because the world is already moving in certain directions. Wars are going on. Children are starving. And to be neutral, to pretend to neutrality, to not take a stand in a situation like that, is to collaborate with whatever is going on, to allow it to happen. I did not want to be a collaborator with what was happening. I wanted to enter into history. I wanted to play a role. I wanted my students to play a role. I wanted us to intercede. I wanted my history to intercede and to take a stand on behalf of peace, on behalf of a racial equality or sexual equality. And so I wanted my students to know that right from the beginning, know you can’t be neutral on a moving train.
AMY GOODMAN: Were your surprised by the election of President Bush, November 2004?
HOWARD ZINN: A little. A little. That is, I thought that maybe by then, perhaps there would be enough understanding about the deception, the hypocrisy of the U.S. government, just enough to dethrone Bush, but I say only a little surprised, because on the other hand, I knew that John Kerry was not the candidate to represent the feelings of the American people. By then, by the time of the election, at least half of the American people were already against the war. And now they faced an election where 100% of the candidates were for the war. And so, they had nobody to vote for. And so, with nobody to vote for, with no real alternative, of course, 40% of the voting population did not vote.
And people ought to remember this. You know, Bush did not win overwhelmingly. You know, he won by one or two percentage points. And if you consider how many people voted for him against the voting population, you know, he got, you know, maybe 30% of the voting population. But it was a commentary on the pitiful showing of the Democratic Party, its failure to be a true opposition party in this country, and I think maybe a wake-up call to Americans to try to create a new political alternative to a political system that is really a one-party system, and it is quite corrupt.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Howard Zinn in our firehouse studio in 2005. The legendary historian, writer, professor, playwright and activist was born 100 years ago, in 1922. On October 21st, 2001, Howard Zinn gave a major address at the University of Vermont in Burlington. It was just over a month after the 9/11 attacks and two weeks after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, beginning what became the longest war in U.S. history. U.S. troops remained until August 2021. Today the Taliban are back in power. This is Howard Zinn in 2001.

HOWARD ZINN: If you think what we’re doing in Afghanistan is not very much, you know, consider that there are hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan who are fleeing the cities and towns in which they live. Have you seen the pictures of Afghan refugees? It started as soon as Bush promised to bomb, because there are certain American promises they can count on, you see, and that’s one of them. And the refugees immediately began moving. And so you see the pictures of these families with all their possessions, or as many of their possessions they carry on the backs and their wagons, and their kids, and hundreds of thousands of them. So this isn’t a small thing. This isn’t just, “Oh, we’re killing a few people, and that’s a price we’re willing to pay.” We are terrorizing Afghanistan. I’m not exaggerating.
The people who are — the people who are in Kabul — the people who are in Kabul — the people who are in Kabul and people in other places in Afghanistan have to live with the fear of these bombs. Have you lived under bombs? Do you know what it’s — can you imagine what it’s like? And you’re in a very backward, technologically — right? — undeveloped country, and there are these monster machines coming over with this ferocious noise and the lights and the flashing and the explosions. And it’s — yes, we’re terrorizing people in Afghanistan. And it’s not — it’s not right to respond to the fact that we have been terrorized, as we have, not right to respond to that by terrorizing other people. Absolutely wrong, you see. You know.
And furthermore, it’s not going to help. And you could say, “Well, maybe it may be worth doing, because this will end terrorism.” I mean, how much common sense does it take to know that you cannot end terrorism by indiscriminately just throwing bombs on Afghanistan. And then, of course, you get reports: “We have now destroyed three of their camps. We’ve destroyed four” — who are you kidding? How many hours does it take to set up a training camp? How easy it is to move from one place to another?
I mean, the history of bombing is mostly a history of futility. Yes, really. You know, there’s a book that came out recently called A History of Bombing. A History of Bombing. I was a bombardier. And, sure, the technology has improved, although it was claimed — even then, it was claimed our bombs are smart, because we’re using this special bombsight, this Norden bombsight. People really believed that. Even we believed that, we who were using the bombsight, because we would bomb at 11,000 feet or 4,000 feet, and we got pretty close to the target. But then, when we flew on missions, we were bombing at 30,000 feet, and the bombs went all over the place and killed an awful lot of people, all sorts of people. You know, didn’t matter.
I say it didn’t matter, because these people were ciphers. Who were these people? I didn’t even see them. You bomb, you bomb another country, you don’t see these people. You’re bombing from high altitudes. You know, our planes are bombing at high altitudes because they want to escape anti-aircraft fire, right? No, you don’t see anything on the ground. You see flashes, and you see explosions and may take pictures, but you don’t — you don’t hear screams. You don’t see blood. You don’t see severed limbs. You don’t see any of that.
We saw that in New York. We saw those scenes in New York. They horrified us. We saw people in panic, running, running from that — those explosions, that enormous pile of debris, you know, and we were horrified. These were real people to us. But then, if we bomb other countries, those people are not real to us.
One of the things I thought of after I got over my initial horror at what happened in New York, I thought, “Hey, that’s what it must have been like when I was bombing in Europe.” That’s what it must have been like, and I didn’t even know it, because these people were ciphers to me, you see. And then I thought, “Maybe to these terrorists, that’s what it is for them.” Oh, 6,000 human beings. You know, no, they have a mission. They have a goal. No. They’re not — they’re not human beings to terrorists. And people in other parts of the world have not been human beings to us.
If there’s anything we might get out of this experience, it’s that we might take that horror that we have felt looking at those scenes in New York, and compassion that we have felt for the people who endured this and their families, and extend this to people in other parts of the world who have been enduring this — enduring this for a very long time. And that does mean — that does mean examining the United States and our policies.
You know, if you — because, you know, when you do that, when you suggest that, say, “You know what? I think maybe we ought to look at ourselves and our policies,” people say, “Oh, you’re justifying what happened.” No, no, absolutely not. To explain is not to justify. But if you don’t want to explain anything, you will never learn anything. So you have to — you have to understand, you have to explain, without justifying.
And you have to look — yes, you have to dig down and see if you can figure out what is at the root of this terrorism, because there is something at the root besides, you know, irrational, murderous feeling. And, yes, this was murderous, fanatical feeling. But these were not simply madmen, who just — you know, there are people, like, who just go berserk and kill everybody in sight, right? We know that, because we’ve seen that in our country, when somebody just — you know, something goes haywire in them, and they just go wild. And they — no, it’s not that. Terrorism is not that sort of thing. There’s something underneath that, you know, that fanaticism, which may have a core of truth to it. That is, there’s something in the core of belief of these terrorists which may also be at the core of belief of millions of other people in the world who are not terrorists, who are angry at American policy but who are not fanatic enough to go and kill Americans because they’re angry at our policy, but who are capable of doing that if they are even more aroused, and even if we begin even doing more things to anger them. There’s an — you might say there’s a reservoir of possible terrorists among all those people in the world who have suffered as a result of U.S, foreign policy.
Now, I don’t know if you think I’m exaggerating when I say there are millions of people in the world who have suffered as a result of U.S. foreign policy. But, yes, there are. And Bush, at a recent press conference, said something like, “I don’t understand why these people hate us.” No, I don’t — you know, said, “We are good.” That’s what he said. “We are good.” You know, look at me. I’m good. You know. Well, sometimes the United States is good. Yes, there are a lot of good things about the United States. And yes, there are times when the United States is good. And then there are times, unfortunately many times, too many times, when the United States has been bad, evil really, and has carried out policies that have resulted in the deaths of, yes, millions of people.

AMY GOODMAN: Howard Zinn, speaking in October 2001, just two weeks after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. We’ll hear more from Professor Zinn after this break.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our Zinntennial, as we continue to remember the legendary historian Howard Zinn 100 years after his birth in 1922. In 2006, we featured a speech Professor Zinn delivered in Madison, Wisconsin, as he received the Haven Center’s Award for Lifetime Contribution to Critical Scholarship. His lecture was titled “The Uses of History and the War on Terrorism.”

HOWARD ZINN: I was talking to my barber the other day, because we always discuss world politics. And he’s totally politically unpredictable, as most barbers are, you see. He said, “Howard,” he said, “you know, you and I disagree on many things, but on one thing we agree: War solves nothing.” And I thought, “Yeah.” It’s not hard for people to grasp that.
And there again, history is useful. We’ve had a history of war after war after war after war. What have they solved? What have they done? Even World War II, the “good war,” the war in which I volunteered, the war in which I dropped bombs, the war after which, you know, I received a letter from General Marshall, general of generals, a letter addressed personally to me, and to 16 million others, in which he said, “We’ve won the war. It will be a new world.” Well, of course, it wasn’t a new world. It hasn’t been a new world, war after war after war.
There are certain — I came out of that war, the war in which I had volunteered, the war in which I was an enthusiastic bombardier, I came out of that war with certain ideas, which just developed gradually at the end of the war, ideas about war. One, that war corrupts everybody who engages in it. War poisons everybody who engages in it. You start off as the good guys, as we did in World War II. They’re the bad guys. They’re the fascists. What could be worse? So they’re the bad guys, we’re the good guys. And as the war goes on, the good guys begin behaving like the bad guys. You can trace this back to the Peloponnesian War. You can trace it back to the good guy, the Athenians, and the bad guys, the Spartans. And after a while, the Athenians become ruthless and cruel, like the Spartans.
And we did that in World War II. We, after Hitler committed his atrocities, we committed our atrocities — you know, our killing of 600,000 civilians in Japan, our killing of probably an equal number of civilians in Germany. These, they weren’t Hitler, they weren’t Tojo. They weren’t — no, they were just ordinary people, like we are ordinary people living in a country that is a marauding country, and they were living in countries that were marauding countries, and they were caught up in whatever it was and afraid to speak up. And I don’t know, I came to the conclusion, yes, war poisons everybody.
And war — this is an important thing to keep in mind, that when you go to war against a tyrant — and this was one of the claims: “Oh, we’re going to get rid of Saddam Hussein,” which was, of course, nonsense. They didn’t — did our government care that Saddam Hussein tyrannized his own people? We helped him tyrannize his people. We helped him gas the Kurds. We helped him accumulate weapons of mass destruction, really.
But when you go to war against a tyrant, the people you kill in the war are the victims of the tyrant. The people we killed in Germany were the victims of Hitler. The people we killed in Japan were the victims of the Japan Imperial Army, you know. And the people who die in wars are more and more and more people who are not in the military. You may know this about the different ratio of civilian-to-military deaths in war, how in World War I, 10 military dead for one civilian dead; in World War II, it was 50-50, half military, half civilian; in Vietnam, it was 70% civilian and 30% military; and in the wars since then, it’s 80% and 85% civilian.
I became friends a few years ago with an Italian war surgeon named Gino Strada. He spent 10 years, 15 years doing surgery on war victims all over the world. And he wrote a book about it, Green Parrots: Diary of a War Surgeon. He said in all the patients that he operated on in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere, 85% of them were civilians, one-third of them, children. If you understand, and if people understand, and if you spread the word of this understanding, that whatever is told to you about war and how we must go to war, and whatever the threat is or whatever the goal is — a democracy or liberty — it will always be a war against children. They’re the ones who will die in large numbers.
So, war — well, Einstein said this after World War I. He said, “War cannot be humanized. It can only be abolished.” War has to be abolished, you know. And it’s — I know it’s a long shot. I understand that. But you have to — when something’s a long shot, but it has to be done, you have to start doing it. Just as the ending of slavery in this country in the 1830s was a really long shot, but people stuck at it, and it took 30 years, but slavery was done away with. And we can see this again and again. So, we have a job to do. We have lots of things to do.
One of the things we can learn from history is that history is not only a history of things inflicted on us by the powers that be. History is also a history of resistance. It’s a history of people who endure tyranny for decades, but who ultimately rise up and overthrow the dictator. We’ve seen this in country after country, surprise after surprise. Rulers who seem to have total control, they suddenly wake up one day, and there are a million people in the streets, and they pack up and leave. This has happened in the Philippines, in Yemen, all over, in Nepal. Million people in the streets, and then the ruler has to get out of the way. So, this is what we’re aiming for in this country.
Everything we do is important. Every little thing we do, every picket line we walk on, every letter we write, every act of civil disobedience we engage in, any recruiter that we talk to, any parent that we talk to, any GI that we talk to, any young person that we talk to, anything we do in class, outside of class, everything we do in the direction of a different world is important, even though at the moment they seem futile, because that’s how change comes about. Change comes about when millions of people do little things, which at certain points in history come together, and then something good and something important happens.
Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Legendary historian Howard Zinn, speaking in 2006. Well, three years later, in May of 2009, just a year before he died, Professor Zinn joined us in the Democracy Now! studio as he launched the paperback edition of A Young People’s History of the United States. I asked him if he thought his retelling of history about Columbus and other traditional heroes was suitable for children.

HOWARD ZINN: It’s true that people have asked that question again and again. You know, should we tell kids that Columbus, whom they have been told was a great hero, that Columbus mutilated Indians and kidnapped them and killed them in pursuit of gold? Should we tell people that Theodore Roosevelt, who is held up as one of our great presidents, was really a warmonger who loved military exploits and who congratulated an American general who committed a massacre in the Philippines? Should we tell young people that?
And I think the answer is: We should be honest with young people; we should not deceive them. We should be honest about the history of our country. And we should be not only taking down the traditional heroes, like Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt, but we should be giving young people an alternate set of heroes.
Instead of Theodore Roosevelt, tell them about Mark Twain. Mark Twain — well, Mark Twain, everybody learns about as the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but when we go to school, we don’t learn about Mark Twain as the vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League. We aren’t told that Mark Twain denounced Theodore Roosevelt for approving this massacre in the Philippines. No.
We want to give young people ideal figures like Helen Keller. And I remember learning about Helen Keller. Everybody learns about Helen Keller, you know, a disabled person who overcame her handicaps and became famous. But people don’t learn in school and young people don’t learn in school what we want them to learn when we do books like A Young People’s History of the United States, that Helen Keller was a socialist. She was a labor organizer. She refused to cross a picket line that was picketing a theater showing a play about her.
And so, there are these alternate heroes in American history. There’s Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses. There are the heroes of the civil rights movement. There are a lot of people who are obscure, who are not known. We have — in this Young People’s History, we have a young hero who was sitting on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to leave the front of the bus. And that was before Rosa Parks. I mean, Rosa Parks is justifiably famous for refusing to leave her seat, and she got arrested, and that was the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and really the beginning of a great movement in the South. But this 15-year-old girl did it first. And so, we have a lot of — we are trying to bring a lot of these obscure people back into the forefront of our attention and inspire young people to say, “This is the way to live.”

AMY GOODMAN: Howard Zinn in the Democracy Now! studio in 2009 as he launched the paperback edition of A Young People’s History of the United States. He died unexpectedly the next year, in January of 2010. We end today’s show with one of Howard Zinn’s last public appearances. He spoke in November 2009 at Boston University.

HOWARD ZINN: When I was discharged from the Army, from the Air Force, I got a letter from General Marshall. He was the general of generals. He was sending a letter, not a personal letter to me — “Dear Howie…” No. A letter that was sent to 16 million men who had served in the Armed Forces, some women, too. And the letter was something like this: “We’ve won the war. Congratulations for your service. It will be a new world.” It wasn’t a new world. And we know it hasn’t been a new world since World War II. War after war after war after war, and 50 million people were dead in that war to end all wars, to end fascism and dictatorship and militarism. No.
So, yes, I came to a conclusion that war cannot be tolerated, no matter what we’re told. And if we think that there are good wars and that, therefore, well, maybe this is a good war, I wanted to examine the so-called good wars, the holy wars, and — yeah, and take a good look at them and think again about the phenomenon of war and come to the conclusion, well, yes, war cannot be tolerated, no matter what we’re told, no matter what tyrant exists, what border has been crossed, what aggression has taken place. It’s not that we’re going to be passive in the face of tyranny or aggression, no, but we’ll find ways other than war to deal with whatever problems we have, because war is inevitably — inevitably — the indiscriminate massive killing of huge numbers of people. And children are a good part of those people. Every war is a war against children.
So it’s not just getting rid of Saddam Hussein, if we think about it. Well, we got rid of Saddam Hussein. In the course of it, we killed huge numbers of people who had been victims of Saddam Hussein. When you fight a war against a tyrant, who do you kill? You kill the victims of the tyrant. Anyway, all this — all this was simply to make us think again about war and to think, you know, we’re at war now, right? In Iraq, in Afghanistan and sort of in Pakistan, since we’re sending rockets over there and killing innocent people in Pakistan. And so, we should not accept that.
We should look for a peace movement to join. Really, look for some peace organization to join. It will look small at first, and pitiful and helpless, but that’s how movements start. That’s how the movement against the Vietnam War started. It started with handfuls of people who thought they were helpless, thought they were powerless. But remember, this power of the people on top depends on the obedience of the people below. When people stop obeying, they have no power. When workers go on strike, huge corporations lose their power. When consumers boycott, huge business establishments have to give in. When soldiers refuse to fight, as so many soldiers did in Vietnam, so many deserters, so many fraggings, acts of violence by enlisted men against officers in Vietnam, B-52 pilots refusing to fly bombing missions anymore, war can’t go on. When enough soldiers refuse, the government has to decide we can’t continue. So, yes, people have the power. If they begin to organize, if they protest, if they create a strong enough movement, they can change things. That’s all I want to say.

AMY GOODMAN: Historian Howard Zinn, speaking in 2009, just months before his death. Northwestern professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has written, “We need Howard Zinn now more than ever. Not for the sake of romance or to construct another hero in history. We need his insights, his politics, and his commitment to the struggle for a better world.”

And that does it for our Zinntennial celebrating the historian Howard Zinn, born 100 years ago, in 1922. Special thanks to Mike Burke, Neil Shibata and Brendan Allen. Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Mary Conlon. Our executive director is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, Denis Moynihan, David Prude and Dennis McCormick. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

Progressive prosecutors win key races despite GOP attacks on criminal justice reform

We look at the wave of progressive prosecutors elected in Tuesday’s midterms and what the results mean for the movement to reform the criminal justice system. Voters have an “understanding that we can’t incarcerate our way to safety,” says law professor Lara Bazelon, who explains how progressive prosecutors won several key races in blue, purple and red states despite Republican candidates across the country campaigning with a focus on crime and public safety. “The progressive narrative, far from being dead, is very much alive.”

Progressive Prosecutors Win Key Races Despite GOP Attacks on Criminal Justice Reform

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

As we continue our coverage of the midterm races, we turn now to look at what the results mean for the movement to reform the criminal justice system. Progressive prosecutors won several key races, including in counties in Texas, Iowa and Minnesota, despite Republican candidates across the country campaigning with a focus on crime and public safety.

We go now to San Francisco, where we’re joined by Lara Bazelon. She is a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, the author of the book Rectify: The Power of Restorative Justice After Wrongful Conviction. She’s also the former [sic] head of the Innocence Commission inside the San Francisco DA’s Office, which was set up by Chesa Boudin, who was recalled in a controversial vote in June.

Professor Bazelon, great to have you with us again. Why don’t you start off by talking about these victories, and losses, across the country? Not a lot of the corporate media is paying attention to that right now.

LARA BAZELON: They’re not. And it’s surprising, because there was this prediction that progressive prosecutors were going to lose and that the progressive prosecutor movement itself was in deep trouble, and that is not at all the story coming out of this election. In fact, quite surprisingly, progressive candidates won across the board, and they won in purple and blue but also red states. There were some resounding victories in unexpected places like Oklahoma City, Polk County, Iowa, and a number of counties in Texas.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you talk about this controversial recall of Chesa Boudin?

LARA BAZELON: Yes. So, I think that Chesa Boudin’s recall was seen as kind of a harbinger for what was in store for other progressive prosecutors. In fact, I think the real story is that it was an outlier, and I’ll tell you why. I think the population of San Francisco is very unique. And while we’re thought of and mocked as this extremely liberal, over-the-top city, it’s in fact, in many ways, a very traditional liberal bastion with some very well-entrenched, pretty centrist moderate roots, and it has a very, very small minority population.

What we’re seeing in a lot of these jurisdictions, from Marion County, Indiana, to Hays County, Texas, to places like Philadelphia and Chicago, is that in cities with large minority populations — and we’re talking about the populations that are most directly impacted by crime — the people who live there, they want a different solution. They want a progressive prosecutor. And we know that, not only because they are continuing to elect new progressive prosecutors, but also — and this is another story of this election — they are reelecting the people they put in office four years ago.

And, you know, it’s interesting, with respect to Chesa Boudin, you had introduced me as the former head of the Innocence Commission. In fact, I’m still the head of the Innocence Commission. And I think that’s because, even though we have a new DA, this was a progressive idea that a more moderate centrist DA is continuing to embrace, and she has, in fact, kept our commission intact. So there are certain progressive ideas that, even though voters maybe rejected the overall person in Chesa Boudin, they very much wanted to keep certain kinds of reforms, including the reform that I’m lucky enough to head up.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, we’ve seen a lot of Brooke Jenkins right now, the San Francisco DA, because of the hammer attack, this horrid attack on the House speaker’s husband, Paul Pelosi, Brooke Jenkins bringing the charges against the perpetrator. Yet we now know, based on exposés in the San Francisco papers, she was paid to lead the campaign to unseat Chesa Boudin. How has that changed the office in other ways, in terms of the kind of criminal justice reform that Chesa was pushing forward?

LARA BAZELON: Well, it’s definitely true that the office has moved very much rightward since Brooke Jenkins took over as interim head. Of course, she was appointed by our mayor. And now, I think yesterday, she declared victory over her more progressive challenger.

And you’re right that there have been a number of questions swirling around the administration. There was the question whether she was actually being paid at the time that she said she was a volunteer for the recall. There is a question of some emails that she sent from her official account about a case that was a very high-profile case when Chesa was first under attack, sending them in a way that was not authorized by the policy of the office or by law. So there are continuing to be these questions, and I think it will be really interesting to see what happens in the next two years.

Another thing that San Francisco did was we changed our DA elections to match presidential elections. So she’s going to be up in 2024 with Joe Biden and many federal elected officials, so that will be a big turnout election. But also at that point we’ll have more data. So, the truth of the matter is, in places like San Francisco, where we did oust the progressive, we’re going to have a lot of data a couple of years from now in terms of how the more moderate centrists are doing and how people are feeling. And if the story doesn’t really change, then I’m not sure how effective that recall story is going to be overall. You could see voters turning in a different direction. But, of course, we’re not going to know for a little while.

AMY GOODMAN: So, here in New York, Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul did defeat the Trump-backed challenger, Lee Zeldin, who repeatedly attacked Hochul on crime.

LEE ZELDIN: I don’t think that if you’re two Mexican cartel drug smugglers busted with $1.2 million worth of crystal meth, that you should just be instantly released on cashless bail. Now, Kathy Hochul supports cashless bail. As soon as it got implemented, she was out there bragging about it. She chose the champion of the defund the police movement and the architect of cashless bail, Brian Benjamin — yeah, that guy who got arrested and had to resign. That was her first big decision, to make him the lieutenant governor. We need to repeal cashless bail. We need to repeal the HALT Act, amend Raise the Age and Less Is More. We need to make our streets safe again.

AMY GOODMAN: We saw this issue of crime raised across the country. And, of course, people are concerned about crime across the political spectrum, but the question is how to deal with it. So I want to go from New York — I mean, Zeldin did this in a very typical way — to places like Minnesota, specifically Minneapolis, talking about defund the police. I mean, the issue of the police force in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, was so central. In Minnesota, the former Hennepin County chief public defender Mary Moriarty will become the next county attorney, after prevailing in a campaign to replace the retiring chief prosecutor, Mike Freeman — and even to Keith Ellison, who was just reelected as Minnesota’s state attorney general.

LARA BAZELON: Minnesota is really a remarkable story, isn’t it? Because it was kind of ground zero for the campaign, quote-unquote, to “defund the police.” And so you would think that the Lee Zeldin rhetoric in New York, which of course was deployed at maximum volume, in state but also local races in Minneapolis and Minnesota would have been extremely effective. And in fact, it was not at all. And it’s so interesting. You’re absolutely right. Mary Moriarty, she had a much more tough-on-crime challenger. She is a lifelong public defender. She was the chief public defender in Minneapolis in Hennepin County. So, if anybody would have, I think, been doomed to fail under the tough-on-crime narrative, it would have been her. And in fact, it wasn’t even close. Keith Ellison, under a lot of pressure, a very strong challenger, really, people were predicting he might lose his reelection bid to be attorney general, and in fact he won. And so all of those reforms are going to stay in place.

And I think what that tells you is that this experiment, this experiment with criminal justice reform, this understanding that we can’t incarcerate our way to safety, that the kind of cruelty that some of these punishments are exerting on people to no good effect, and then the other additional problems like wrongful conviction or just criminalizing poverty so that rich people who are dangerous can buy their way out, but poor people have to stay inside, that there are a lot of voters who realize that none of these policies are humane, just or effective, and that the progressive narrative, far from being dead, is very much alive.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Lara Bazelon, we want to thank you for being with us and ask you for your final comments. What gives you hope across the country? And what message do you have for Democrats, who were caught flat-footed on this issue of crime? But now the framing of this issue, who is winning with what solutions, how that can be amplified?

LARA BAZELON: I think progressives should take heart. I don’t think running away and being terrified of these soft-on-crime labels is either necessary or effective. I think that progressives need to step forward and embrace who they are, which is, they’re going to treat people humanely; they’re going to work on alternative solutions; they’re going to bring the hammer down when it’s appropriate, but they’re not going to treat every single problem like a nail that needs to be hammered as viciously and as violently as possible, because we just know that it doesn’t work.

And so, I would tell progressive prosecutors really to embrace your platform, to stand for who you are, and to talk about your victories, whether it’s going after a serial violent predator and being effective in that respect, or doing things like restorative justice to help people who really deserve and would benefit from another kind of option. And so, to me, the message really is that be who you are, because when you are that person and the communities most impacted by crime see that you genuinely believe that the tough-on-crime approach doesn’t work, which they know, they will respond to you positively, even in the most unlikely places, like Iowa and Texas and Oklahoma, and then in purple states like Minnesota.

AMY GOODMAN: Lara Bazelon, professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, her book, Rectify: The Power of Restorative Justice After Wrongful Conviction. She is chair of the Innocence Commission inside the San Francisco DA’s Office.

Next up, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case focused on the Indian Child Welfare Act, created to prevent family separations in Native communities. If this law is overturned, it could have seismic implications for Indigenous nations in the United States. Stay with us.

Robert Reich: Democrats can no longer compromise with 'authoritarian' Republicans

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich says President Biden must “push back as hard as he can” if Republicans take control of even one chamber in Congress following Tuesday’s midterm elections. He says the administration needs to be clear there is no compromise on the debt ceiling, which he expects a Republican-controlled Congress would challenge, potentially triggering a repeat of the political crisis in 2011 under former President Obama.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Also on Democracy Now!’s election night special, Juan and I spoke to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich about the next steps for President Biden if the Republicans do take control of the House.

ROBERT REICH: There are some who say that the Democrats need to compromise more with Republicans. Well, you know, the days of compromising have to be over. There’s no compromising with authoritarianism or protofascism. There’s no halfway point between democracy and the authoritarianism we are seeing with the Republican Party now, which is becoming the party of authoritarianism. I don’t think the Democrats should attempt to compromise.
And I think the Democrats have got to stand for labor, jobs, working people. The abandonment of the working class by the Democratic Party, to a large extent over the past 40 years, has been a huge problem, not only for the Democratic Party but for the country as a whole.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Robert Reich, if, as seems likely, although we don’t know for sure, that the Democrats lose control of the House, possibly even the Senate, what do you envision that President Biden should do in the next two years to be dealing with opposition control of the Congress?
ROBERT REICH: Well, his veto pen is going to be very, very active. I think he’s going to be — if the Republicans take control over Congress, or even if they take control over one house of Congress, he’s got to be very careful to push back as hard as he possibly can.
What I expect, the first thing we are likely to get if Republicans control the House is an attempt to use the raising of the debt ceiling as a way of forcing the administration’s hand to do a lot of things that the Republican Party would like to do for its patrons in corporate America and in the moneyed interest class, such as reducing taxes further, such as providing even more rollbacks of regulations. And I think that what the administration has got to be very clear about is that there is going to be no compromising on the debt ceiling. We’re not going to have a repeat of 2011. We’re not going to allow the Republicans to use that debt ceiling fight as a way of gaining leverage, when they know they’re not going to have the ability to override a veto.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s former Labor Secretary Robert Reich speaking on our Democracy Now!’s midterm election night special Tuesday night early in the evening, before we had many results back.

When we come back, we’re going to Aimee Allison, president and founder of She the People. Among the wins we’re going to talk about with her are Summer Lee in Pennsylvania, a Democratic Socialist, who took on not only the Republicans but the Democratic establishment. Stay with us.