Marcia G. Yerman

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Sexual Assault and Undocumented Women in Trumpland

Sexual Assault and Undocumented Women in Trumpland

Since Trump took office, there is increased concern for a demographic facing sexual assault: undocumented women.

June 4, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

“The UnAmerican Struggle” — New Documentary Looks at Bigotry in Trumpland

“The UnAmerican Struggle” — New Documentary Looks at Bigotry in Trumpland

Heidi Beirich, Director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), noted that the United States has always been “deeply racist, deeply anti-Semitic.” Beirich observed, “We have a history of all that kind of bigotry. It’s part of our DNA.”

December 19, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Dr. Martin Luther King: Healing Words in Troubled Times

Dr. Martin Luther King: Healing Words in Troubled Times

Local leaders have taken up the fight against toxic waste sitings, polluting industrial locations, and incinerators near their frontline communities. From Standing Rock to Baltimore — activists are moving forward on the example set by Dr. King.

January 15, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

How the Most Comprehensive Report on Climate Change Impacts Your Family

How the Most Comprehensive Report on Climate Change Impacts Your Family

Human activity is a dominant cause of global warming.

November 21, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

Dr. Martin Luther King: Healing Words in Troubled Times

Today, the country commemorates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. More than ever, America desperately needs his healing and insightful words to position us in the direction of tolerance, understanding, and respect for all people.

Dr. King understood: Everything is interconnected. Those in the environmental justice space can point to him as a groundbreaker in recognizing how the inequity between the living circumstances of African-Americans and their white counterparts resulted in an impact on their health. (It continues to do so.)

In 1966, Dr. King protested the subpar housing conditions for African-Americans that predominated in the city of Chicago. He understood that hazardous work often fell to those at the bottom of the economic ladder. In March of 1968, he went to Memphis, Tennessee to lead a strike of black sanitation workers against their working conditions. It was upon his return to that city, to spearhead another action during the first week of April, that he was murdered.

By the 1970s and 1980s, the larger picture came into focus. It became evident that low-income people and minorities were having toxic dumps sited disproportionately near their homes and schools.

Environmental equity has since become a recognized component in the fight for social justice, even if the Trump administration shut down the Office of Environmental Justice.

Local leaders have taken up the fight against toxic waste sitings, polluting industrial locations, and incinerators near their frontline communities. From Standing Rock to Baltimore — activists are moving forward on the example set by Dr. King.

In a letter composed while in jail in Birmingham, Dr. King wrote:

“All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

It is a painful time in our country; a divided time. The loudest and most powerful voices promote the concept that commerce and money are more important than people, health, and the survival of the planet. The focus is on the benefit of the few and not the many.

It is discouraging and can feel overwhelming. However, the numerous quotes given to us through the insights and wisdom of Dr. King help. They make it possible to continue the daily fight to make a difference in small but steady increments, as we each raise our voice against injustice.

Today is a day to depend on the eloquence of Dr. King to heal our hearts and put the truth succinctly:

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”

 

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.

 

 

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Jan 15, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

“The UnAmerican Struggle” — New Documentary Looks at Bigotry in Trumpland

When Doug Jones won the Atlanta Senate seat on December 12, most Americans breathed a sigh of relief. They were able to point to the victory as a sign that the beating heart of American values was not yet dead, and that there was hope for the country’s future.

A new documentary film, “The UnAmerican Struggle,” written and directed by Ric Osuna, is a primer on how to revitalize the American quest to fulfill a vision of liberty and justice for all in the age of Trump.

Those concepts have often fallen quite short of the idealized notion Americans identify with — beginning with the decimation of the indigenous population inhabiting the land when Europeans first arrived.

Speaking to the camera, Osuna states his mission: “To examine the resurgence of bigotry that Trump brought about with his words.”

Osuna weaves darker pages from American history with the challenges the nation is currently facing. For those unaware of these narratives, they contextualize our current issues with lessons from the past.

Setting the tone with an image of the Statue of Liberty and the words of Emma Lazarus, Osuna presents the popular view of America as a haven to the oppressed and downtrodden.

How then, Osuna asks, did 62 million American voters cast their ballots for a candidate promoting a message of “racism, sexism, and xenophobia?”

Interviewing a group of experts to address this question, Osuna hopes to inform viewers by examining the specific challenges facing Hispanics, Muslims, African Americans, women, and the Transgender communities — as they struggle to achieve the promise of “Tolerance, Equality, and Diversity” in an “inclusive” America.

Throughout the film, Osuna features clips of Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric as he expounds upon his “Make American Great Again” vision. Osuna juxtaposes it with footage of previous presidents.

Trump riles up a crowd about “bad hombres” and “building a wall.” Obama states, “We can be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.” Ronald Reagan addresses Mikhail Gorbachev when he implores him to tear down the Berlin Wall. Post 9/11, George W. Bush makes a point of visiting a mosque and emphasizing, “The face of terror is not the true face of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about.”

Trump, conversely, elevates the dog whistle to a high-pitched screech. He employs the term “traditional values” to appeal to hate groups and white nationalists. Using the cult of personality, like other strongmen, Trump mobilized the fear and dissatisfaction of a swath of Americans who felt threatened about their place in society.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) qualified Trump’s methodology: “He managed to marry a populist message with a message of hate.”

Professor of Sociology and Public Health at Georgia State University, Eric Wright, points to the Trump “charisma” to attract followers. Wright suggests that Trump “tapped into the reality that diversity is actually really difficult.” It takes work, especially when it is “easier” to be surrounded by people who share your exact same identity.

Osuna calls on his experts to deconstruct the “alt-right” terminology. Heidi Beirich, Director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), believes that the term alt-right is a branding move to position white supremacists as an entity sounding like it is on the political spectrum — rather than the white nationalists that they are. Angeles Valenciano, CEO of the National Diversity Council, believes the term normalizes white supremacy.

Using technology and the internet to connect with like-minded thinkers, the alt-right philosophy embodies the concept of “ethnic cleansing to achieve a white state.” Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, expressed his fear of the Trump administration. “It should trouble everyone that the alt-right people saw something in Trump that galvanized them. They saw him as a kind of kindred spirit.”

The day after Trump’s win, life in America changed. Beirich states that at the SPLC office, “The phones were ringing off the hook.” She added, “There was a massive eruption by Trump supporters emboldened by the election.” Perhaps not totally surprised, Beirich noted that the United States has always been “deeply racist, deeply anti-Semitic.” Beirich observed, “We have a history of all that kind of bigotry. It’s part of our DNA.” 

The concept of formally documenting and registering a subset of Americans, based on religion or ethnicity, is not new. Indeed, as the documentary points out, xenophobia was previously used before to “threaten or take away civil liberties of specific groups.”

Osuna presents previous examples. In 1917, during World War I, Woodrow Wilson ordered “registrations, internment, and eventual deportation of many German born residents.” Better know are the internment camps, built by Franklin Roosevelt, to house over 120,000 Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

The Associated Press reported that the Trump administration had discussed using the National Guard as a “deportation force.” They have threatened sanctuary cities determined to protect citizens, and have given Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers latitude to use ruthless tactics.

Hate marches and gatherings are also not novel. Osuna illuminates two from the 20th century. The 1925 Klu Klux Klan march in Washington, D.C. attracted 30,000 participants. In 1939, the American Nazi Party held a huge rally in Madison Square Garden.

Breaking down the specific experiences of Hispanics, Muslims, African Americans, Women, and the Transgender community, Osuna gives viewers historical backstory combined with present-day stats. When discussing immigration, the film points out that 40 percent of undocumented immigrants are people who have overstayed their visas.

Dr. Rogelio Sáenz, Dean at the University of Texas, commented on the “influx of educated Latinos.” His family has been in America for three to four generations. Social worker Mayra Mendoza points to the fact that all Spanish speaking people get lumped together, whether they come from Central America, South America, or the Caribbean. Ironically, many have roots to America dating back from territories were part of Mexico.

There are 3 million Muslim Americans. A May 2017 report found that in 2016, there had been a 44 percent increase in acts of violence against them. The film underscores the specificity of threats to individuals, including a high school teacher who received a note suggesting she hang herself with her hijab.

When looking at the experiences of Black Americans, Osuna traces the transport of slaves to the United States from Africa — through segregation and the civil rights movement. He shows how the excessive policing of the African American community in the 1970s — under the guise of “the war on drugs” —  laid the groundwork for using the justice system to implement structural racism. The United States has 25 percent of the world’s prison population, although we make up only 5 percent of the global population.

Women and the LGBTQ population are also under fire in Trumpland. Reproductive Health options are chipping away and the pay gap may not equalize until the middle of the 22nd century. The Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage has created a backlash and given rise to government officials who want to codify their religious beliefs into law.

The biggest takeaway from “UnAmerican Struggle” is the harm that the “complacency of silence” leads to. Trump has routinized intolerance and bigotry, and it is now up to individual Americans to reject it.

Beirich sums up succinctly: “People who stay silent in the face of Trump’s extremism are accepting it…They are sanctioning it. When you don’t make a fuss, it’s as though you agree. In this situation, silence is completely unacceptable.”

Community organizer Robert Salcido, Jr. works with the Equality Texas and Pride Center He believes that we can’t retreat. Rather, Salcido suggests that we all become teachers and “educate one person at a time.”

Osuna’s final thought is conclusive: “The America of tomorrow is being defined now.”

 

Photos: Courtesy of UnAmerican Struggle

Available on Vimeo and Amazon

 

 

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Dec 19, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

“Trumping Democracy” — New Documentary Traces Trump’s Election Win

When Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million but won the Electoral College, the debate about our electoral system became more urgent.

On November 7, the New York Times editorial board published the opinion piece, “Let the People Pick the President.” It proposed the National Popular Vote interstate compact as a solution.

Now, a new documentary, “Trumping Democracy: Real $*Fake News*Your Data,” offers insights which not only a call into question the process and relevancy of the Electoral College, but points to disturbing factors brought on by the digital age.

Director Thomas Huchon, a French journalist and documentary filmmaker, has drilled down on how unvetted information — and disinformation — can rapidly go viral on the Internet. His search, post-election, to understand how Trump captured the presidency, led him to examine cutting-age digital tools, dark money, and a network of interrelated players with common ideological goals.

At the center of this configuration is hedge-fund billionaire and computer scientist Robert Mercer. (His daughter Rebekah went on to become a leader in the Trump transition team.) Breitbart NewsSteve Bannon, and KellyAnne Conway are planets in the constellation, along with David Bossie, known for his role as president of Citizens United. Mercer was a staunch supporter of altering campaign election funding rules, that for sixty years had reined in individual and corporate donations.

Huchon breaks down his story into three chapters: Lies; Cover-Up; Manipulation. The first two sections review better known material. It is the final third of the film that connects the players in a way that is revelatory and alarming. Huchon taps a group of experts from the fields of journalism, political strategy, law and technology to deliver takeaways that are unsettling.

The narrative begins with a portrait of a New York Trump voter disgusted with “mainstream media.” He gets his news from online outlets, including “pseudo-news” sites that push stories like the bogus child sex trafficking ring of #Pizzagate fame.

Paul Horner, “fake news” creator and prankster, is on hand to speak about fictitious stories he has posted. Disseminated by right wing outlets, Horner references a fictitious post he wrote that was picked up by Eric Trump, who retweeted it with the hashtag #CrookedHillary.

The backstory of Breitbart News is delineated and defined as a platform promoting anti-immigrant sentiment, misogyny, and white supremacist content. A graph depicts how the Breitbart readership expanded dramatically in 2017 during the months of October and November, from 45 million unique monthly users to over 100 million.

Tad Devine, political strategist, runs down the changed habits of how the public consumes news, unlike the days when three broadcasting stations delivered the nightly report. He emphasizes Trump’s “delegitimization of the mainstream media.” Pollster Ben Tulchin notes that Conservatives don’t believe the reporting of the New York Times, the Washington Post, or CNN.

As a candidate, Trump stated he would express the facts “plainly and honestly.”  Yet, the nonpartisan fact-checking website Politifact found differently. It showed that Trump’s statements had a 4 percent veracity rate and that 33 percent of his assertions were actually false.

FoxNews and Breitbart helped Trump to create and propagate his own truth. Trump painted himself as the sole person who could “drain the swamp” and make America a “winner” again.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the reclusive Mercer took the opportunity to put his unlimited funds into the service of his extreme vision of limited government.

This trail is fleshed out in the “cover-up” segment. No coincidence that the three entities in question share the same building address in Los Angeles. They are Breitbart News, Glittering Steel Productions, and the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies –where Mercer was co-CEO. (Note: Mercer has since stepped down.)

At RenTech, Mercer used the trading algorithm he innovated to make a fortune. That mathematics  morphed into a technology for other purposes.

Mercer has become a top billionaire on the political scene. Besides his own family foundation, he funds a host of conservative think tanks. Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr gives advice on how to get a clear picture of Mercer’s game plan: “Follow the money.”

Tax documents clearly map the recipients of Mercer’s support. Unsurprisingly, the Heritage Foundation, the Media Research Center, the Government Accountability Institute, and the Heartland Institute are on the list. Mercer also paid for an ad against the placement of a mosque near the World Trade Center locality.

In 2011, Mercer invested $10 million in Breibart News, developing a designated media arm to promote his point of view. Steve Bannon took over the Breibart helm and publicly pronounced his goal of “deconstructing the government of the United States.”

As the 2016 election season geared up, Mercer backed Ted Cruz and put $13 million into Cruz’s “Keep the Promise” campaign. As Trump decimated his opponents, Mercer shifted his allegiance to Trump — to the tune of $15 million.

With major money invested in Trump, Mercer moved to take over the campaign reins in July of 2016. His daughter Rebekah met with Trump and offered more money –along with the “talents” of Bannon to spearhead the campaign. Conway, formerly on board the Mercer train for Cruz, and Bossie, joined the team.

Trump remaining unbeholden to outside interests was no longer remotely tenable. Key clues to the incestuous entanglements became clear when monies and paper trails became evident by looking at records filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). There were no payments in the Trump campaign for Bannon’s salary. However, through a Mercer PAC, there are recurring payments to Glittering Steel, the company run by Bannon. In five months, the production company received $302,000.

The Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint maintaining that Glittering Steel is a front for Bannon, while noting that Mercer’s company and Breitbart News are in the same office building.

The third, and most powerful section, is what Huchon has been building toward. He tracks back to his original query: How did Trump win the election?

That piece of the puzzle begins with the London firm, Strategic Communications Library (SCL). Their mission is to evaluate data to determine “what impacts people and how they think.” It’s known as  “Psychological operations (PSYOP).”

SCL claims they provide “behavioral influence planning and evaluation” for clients who want to “influence or treat a problem.” It references a roster of clients like NATO, the British Ministry of Defense, the NSA, and the U.S. State Department. They polish their creds with the example of how their tactics helped to advance “healthcare in Ghana.”

The flip side isn’t as magnanimous. These methods are implemented to manipulate people without their awareness; often utilized to create a problem — in order to solve it. Instigated to organize protests in Nigeria in 2007, as Cadwalladr pointed out, “It’s been used by authoritarian regimes.”

SCL started a “subsidiary” branch to manage data in 2013 called Cambridge Analytica. They set up shop in the United States and partnered with Mercer. Bannon became Vice President. Their tagline was, “The right message in front of the right person at the right time.”

Cambridge Analytica employed “data-modeling” by taking readily available personal data off the web (age, income, address, religion, gun ownership), as well as buying it from banks, credit card companies, and the social media giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter. They were able to accrue four to five thousand pieces of data for 230 million adults in America.

And it’s all legal.

Added into the mix are data points that determine consumer and lifestyle behaviors, as well as political viewpoints. The personality traits of “openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism” (OCEAN) get calculated. “Behavioral micro-targeting uncovers what “motivates” individuals — to influence their vote.

Expert Michal Kosinski explains digital data and psychological profiling. He created a test specifically for Facebook, and explained how Facebook “Likes” can create an accurate assessment of a subject’s religious views, politics, sexual orientation, personality and intelligence.

Cambridge Analytica offered their services to Trump, who was not interested until he learned they had worked on the successful Brexit initiative. The two parties connected in June 2016. By the end of July, Trump had forked over $6 million to Cambridge Analytica. Another $5 million would be forthcoming.

What did these dollars buy? A tactic based on the realization that Trump didn’t have a shot at winning the popular vote. However, if he went after wavering voters in key swing states, winning the Electoral College was attainable. The goal was to isolate conservative Democrats who might vote for Trump and geo-target them — down to their zip codes.

Looking at Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Cambridge Analytica concentrated on those undecideds by defining thirty-two personality types and determining which voters were the most vulnerable to Trump’s messages of fear and anger.

Trump revisited those geographical areas before Election Day. Simultaneously, this demographic of anxious voters received personal messages on Facebook tailored explicitly to them. These “dark posts” disappeared hours after appearing in the specified user’s timeline. They remain untraceable and without any record — except on Facebook’s server.

It worked. Trump got 77,000 votes from those three swing states.

“Trumping Democracy” was first released in France in June 2017. During production, Cambridge Analytica refused all requests for interviews.

In October, the company was called upon by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) to share their records, detailing their relationship to the Trump campaign.

Democracy may not be dead yet.

The film is available to stream on Amazon and Vimeo beginning November 21. The DVD will be out December 5, and is available now for pre-order. Group screening options available.

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Nov 21, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

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