How Can You Keep Standing with Standing Rock? Move Your Money

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(Photo: Peg Hunter / Flickr)

After months of Native American water protectors gathering in peace, prayer and solidarity to protect their sacred lands, the Obama administration announced on Dec. 4 that it’s sided with the Standing Rock Sioux and halted the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

A battle was won. But with a Trump administration looming, the fight isn’t over.

The president-elect has pledged to remove constraints on fossil fuel projects, and it’s likely he’ll try to reverse this decision once he takes office. But there’s something you can do to help stand up for life and for justice.

The controversial pipeline would be 1,170 miles long and cost $ 3.7 billion. A project of that scale doesn’t build itself. Behind the lead investor, Energy Transfer Partners, stand heavily armed police forces, sound-cannon trucks, water cannons, tear gas and attack dogs – and 38 banks funding it all.

That’s why the Institute for Policy Studies, where we work, is pulling its money from one of these banks – SunTrust – and switching to a more socially responsible institution. Banks that fund the planet-destroying fossil fuel economy and undermine Native American land rights aren’t the ones we should be doing business with.

Read the full article on US News and World Report’s website.

The post How Can You Keep Standing with Standing Rock? Move Your Money appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

John Cavanagh is the director of the Institute for Policy Studies.
Domenica Ghanem is the media manager at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Keep Elites Accountable, But Don’t Dumb the Issues Down

You know you’re a wonk when your nighttime reading is as thick as the latest Stephen King novel, but no one in your family is clamoring to borrow your doorstop.

Consider, for instance, the Iran nuclear agreement. It’s a mere 159 pages, but it’s full of technical language that requires the parsing of a physicist. The deal’s opponents in Congress, the ones who would like to rip it up as soon as President Obama exits the White House, have not likely read the full text.

Meanwhile, the typical accession agreement between the European Union and a prospective member state is at least as long — the most recent one, with Croatia is 250 pages — and consists of equally turgid prose that only an economist could love. Going into the recent referendum on EU membership, most Brexit supporters didn’t have a clue what their membership entailed or even what the EU was precisely.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is larger still, more than 2,000 pages, and it really gets down to the nitty gritty of such subjects as tariff rate quotas, post-market surveillance, and whey protein concentrate. I’m not sure who has had to read the entire document, but pity the poor wonk.

Whatever you might think about these agreements, they are the result of long negotiations by teams of experts. They represent difficult compromises and carefully balanced trade-offs. There might have been some drama in the negotiating process — particularly the nuclear agreement, which went down to the wire — but the results are not page-turners.

These agreements are also, by their very nature, the product of elites. They are negotiated by elite diplomats and elite experts. Even if they eventually garner popular support, these agreements represent the geopolitical interests of elites. They are the supreme expression of the inside game.

Elites are insiders — but they’re not exactly “in” at the moment. The world is currently experiencing a backlash against elites. The British voted themselves out of the European Union, American voters have rallied around Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, and populist leaders from Pauline Hanson of Australia to Julius Malema of South Africa are gaining strength all over the world.

Some of the anti-elite political organizing is done in the spirit of inside-outside strategizing — exerting pressure in the streets to strengthen the hands of sympathetic allies at the negotiating table on the inside. Bernie Sanders, for instance, decided to run for president within the Democratic Party, not as an independent, and now Sanders campaign alumni are trying to translate street heat into institutional change.

But much of the recent populism is quite different. The British who rejected the EU were not interested in reform. They had no interest in staying inside at all. They wanted out.

Similarly, the Trump candidacy is a bombshell directed at “powerful corporations, media elites, and political dynasties,” as the candidate declared back in June in his jobs speech. “I want you to imagine how much better our future can be if we declare independence from the elites who’ve led us to one financial and foreign policy disaster after another,” he went on.

“Throw the bums out” is a rousing cry that has attracted support for centuries. Indeed, the exclusively outside game — of just saying no — is indispensible when dealing with crushing injustice such as apartheid in South Africa, dictatorships in the Middle East, or genocide against minority populations. But these are the outliers in today’s complex world. Preventing wars, stopping global warming, bridging the wealth gap: These challenges require committed activists who stand on principle as well as allies on the inside who can play the political game.

“It is easy to boo,” Sanders told his supporters at the Democratic National Convention as he was executing his pivot to supporting the party ticket. More difficult is to craft political compromises that deliver on the promises made during the campaign.

It’s not just anti-elitism that fuels these efforts. It’s a yearning for simple solutions. As the world becomes ever more complex, one response has been to chuck it all in favor of “simpler times.” It’s a fundamentalist message that appeals to British nationalists, Trumpian exceptionalists, and Islamic State reactionaries alike.

The Reality of Complexity

Modern complex societies require new elites for their maintenance. Gone for the most part are the kings and the feudal lords.

In their place, a modern technocracy administers democratic political systems. Economists and Wall Street manage an increasingly interconnected global economy. Media elites preside over television, the printed page, and the blogosphere. Entertainment elites produce the movies and TV shows that translate our dreams into virtual reality. We have academic elites, religious elites, NGO elites, and even anti-elite elites (see, for example, Alex Jones).

All of these elites have developed expertise in their fields. They are also, almost by definition, arrogant. It is the rare member of an elite who doesn’t believe that he or she knows better. If they didn’t know better, they’d be out of a job. This is not the explicit arrogance of a megalomaniac like Trump. Rather, it’s structural arrogance. It goes with the territory.

So, yes, the economic transformations of the last several decades have not benefitted everyone. Rage against the European Union, anger at both liberals and conservatives in the United States, and the retreat into extremisms of various types are all fueled by economic dislocation, income inequality, and the perception that government helps the unworthy. But Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, and their ilk rely on a much deeper disaffection with complexity, the institutions that manage it, and the people who make their livings sustaining it.

Computers have enabled the creation of ever more complex institutions and relationships. The new science of complexity helps explain phenomena that hitherto exceeded our grasp, such as the behavior of consumers in a retail market and the myriad interactions in an ecosystem. But there will always be a backlash against this complexity, if only because control drifts further and further up the great chain of authority. The desire for simplicity is really about power and who wields it.

The Tower of Babel

In the story of Genesis, the people once spoke a common language. Together they worked to fashion bricks and wedge them together with tar. In this way, they built a tower that rose higher and higher. They built this structure “so that we may make a name for ourselves.” As their tower climbed ever higher, humans set their creation against their creator in what seemed an effort to storm heaven. And so the Lord set out to “confuse their language so they will not understand each other” and then scatter his most arrogant of creatures to every corner of the planet.

The EU is a similar structure, the creation of many different people who have found a common functional language to build something complex out of simpler parts. Yes, the EU is arrogant, in the sense that it arrogates to itself the role of administering a political, economic, and social overlay. The bureaucracy of Brussels could do with a dose of humility, a dash more democracy. But to enjoy the fruits of modern life — greater economic prosperity, freedom of movement — Europeans have until now been willing to cede a measure of power to an elite over and above their own national leaders.

The British rejected the EU because a large number of voters didn’t perceive the obvious benefits of membership, resented the elites that seemed to hold sway over their lives, and felt uncomfortable with complex solutions to complex problems. They wanted to destroy what they didn’t fully understand.

Donald Trump has taken aim at his own towers of Babel: multiculturalism, government, NATO, the global economy.

He has a deep aversion to complexity. He talks at the level of a third or fourth grader(occasionally reaching the eloquence of a sixth grader). He boils down his adversaries to cutting nicknames (that are usually only partial words like “lyin’” and “cheatin’”). He traffics in conspiracy theories that reduce the messiness of reality to simple narratives of hidden manipulation. He presents the world in black and white with no grey subtleties in between. Anything that does not elevate his own name — Trump Plaza, Trump Tower — is automatically under suspicion.

Trump and the Euroskeptics are keeping it simple. They appeal to the pieties of homeland. They are not interested in cultural diversity. They are fundamentally uninterested in the politics of give-and-take (as opposed to the politics of popularity contests). Like the Islamic State, they don’t want a place at the table — they want to blow the table up.

The Roman Empire, for all its myriad faults, created a complex set of political and economic institutions. Swept away by the barbarians, the empire devolved into a few enlightened duchies and monasteries scattered across Europe. In place of aqueducts and Roman law came Attila the Hun, the Plague, and a great cultural leap backward.

Invoking the barbarians at the gate is by no means a plea to accept everything that global elites offer. The EU, for instance, desperately needs reform, and free trade agreements like the TPP continue to favor powerful corporations. Elites are indispensible to a modern society — but they need to be kept accountable through democracy, not dictatorship.

To avoid slipping back into a new Dark Ages presided over by Donald the Hun and crippled by various modern plagues, a new commitment must be made to preserving global public goods. To rescue the better part of globalism, we need stronger responses to pandemics, to global economic inequality, to human rights violations. We need more internationalism, not less.

Above all, we need a renewed inside-outside full-court press on climate change. Trump, if he improbably won the presidency, would be the only national leader to reject climate change. His counterparts in other countries — like Pauline Hanson in Australia and Siv Jensen in Norway — have a similar bias. It would be catastrophic for such populists to take the helm of their countries.

The world simply can’t afford simple-minded leaders and simple-minded solutions. As H.L. Mencken once said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

The post Keep Elites Accountable, But Don’t Dumb the Issues Down appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

John Feffer directs Foreign Policy In Focus, a project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Danger, Keep Out! Children’s Exposure to Toxic Substances – Human Rights Watch


Human Rights Watch
Danger, Keep Out! Children's Exposure to Toxic Substances
Human Rights Watch
According to the International Labour Organization, an estimated 85 million children are engaged in hazardous child labor that puts their health or safety directly at risk, for example through “exposure to hazardous substances, agents and processes

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Deepest salt mine in North America helps keep Upstate NY roads clear (video) – Syracuse.com


Syracuse.com
Deepest salt mine in North America helps keep Upstate NY roads clear (video)
Syracuse.com
Lansing, N.Y. — There's no off-season at the Cayuga Salt Mine, where Central New York gets much of its road salt. About 200 workers mine an average of 10,000 tons of salt a day, year-round. "We mine as much on July first we do on January first," said

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We must shine a light on corrupt leaders who keep citizens locked in poverty – The Guardian


The Guardian
We must shine a light on corrupt leaders who keep citizens locked in poverty
The Guardian
Instead, they suffer human rights abuses while the corrupt enjoy impunity. We give this phenomenon a … In Africa, this marriage of corruption and crime is draining the continent of its natural resources – ivory, timber, and diamonds. In doing so, it

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Bidis: The Hand-Rolled Cigarettes That Keep More Than Four Million Indians … – Bloomberg


Bloomberg
Bidis: The Hand-Rolled Cigarettes That Keep More Than Four Million Indians
Bloomberg
The poor man's smoke, cheap tobacco wrapped in a coarse leaf, the bidi cigarette is the fragrance of the jumbled streets of India. It's something rarely present in the comfort of air conditioned rooms. The scent of the bidi swirls around you when

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The Secret to Winning the Nobel Peace Prize: Keep the US Military Out – Truth-Out

The Secret to Winning the Nobel Peace Prize: Keep the US Military Out
Truth-Out
The Quartet is a group of four organizations – two national labor unions, a business group, and a lawyers' association – whose work helped prevent Tunisia from sliding into civil war in the years following that "revolution." Seeing the peace prize go

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Iowa, tops in egg production, strives to keep bird flu out – DesMoinesRegister.com


DesMoinesRegister.com
Iowa, tops in egg production, strives to keep bird flu out
DesMoinesRegister.com
The discovery of bird flu on an Iowa turkey farm has raised serious concerns that the poultry-killing virus could find its way into chicken barns in the nation's top egg-producing state and savage flocks that provide the breakfast staple. Iowa is home

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Let’s keep it real in the illegal immigration debate – The Tennessean


The Tennessean
Let's keep it real in the illegal immigration debate
The Tennessean
And the biggest food producers have kept prices relatively low by pressuring their friends in government to provide cheap, exploitable labor either in the form of guest worker programs or by looking the other way at undocumented immigrants. … The

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OSHA urges retailers to keep workers safe during major sales events

As the holiday season approaches, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is encouraging retail employers to implement safety measures to prevent workplace injuries during major sales events, including Black Friday.|||||||http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/osha/OSHA20142095.htm