Tag Archives: longreads

Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build "God’s Kingdom"

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

It’s Christmastime in Holland, Michigan, and the northerly winds from Lake Macatawa bring a merciless chill to the small city covered in deep snow. The sparkly lights on the trees in downtown luxury storefronts illuminate seasonal delicacies from the Netherlands, photos and paintings of windmills and tulips, wooden shoes, and occasional “Welkom Vrienden” (Welcome Friends) signs.

Meet the New Kochs: The DeVos Clan’s Plan to Defund the Left

Dutch immigrants from a conservative Protestant sect chose this “little Holland” in western Michigan more than 150 years ago in part for its isolation. They wanted to keep “American” influences away from their people, and their orthodox ways of running their community. Many of their traditions have lasted generations. Until recently, Holland restaurants couldn’t sell alcohol on Sundays. Residents are not allowed to yell or whistle between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. If city officials decide that a fence or a shed signals decay, they might tear it down, and mail the owner a bill. Grass clippings longer than eight inches have to be removed and composted, and snow must be shoveled as soon as it lands on the streets. Most people say that rules like these help keep Holland prosperous, with low unemployment, low crime rates, good city services, excellent schools, and Republicans at almost every government post. It’s also where President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos, grew up.

Sitting in his spacious downtown office suite, Arlyn Lanting is eager to talk about his longtime friend, who will begin confirmation hearings Tuesday to become the nation’s top-ranking education official. DeVos is married to Amway scion Dick DeVos (whose father, Richard DeVos, is worth more than $5 billion, according to Forbes) and is seen as a controversial choice due to her track record of supporting vouchers for private, religious schools; right-wing Christian groups like the Foundation for Traditional Values, which has pushed to soften the separation of church and state; and organizations like Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which has championed the privatization of the education system.

President-elect Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos at a January rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan Paul Sancya/AP

But Lanting, a tall, 75-year-old businessman, investor, and local philanthropist, is quick to wave off the notion that DeVos has it out for traditional public schools. “Betsy is not against public schools,” he says. “She does believe that teachers in charter and private schools are much more likely to lead the way toward better education—the kind that will actually prepare students for our current times and move us away from standardization and testing. But Dick and Betsy have given money to public schools, too.”

Teachers Are “Shocked and Worried” About the Future for Kids and Schools

Lanting is a warm and generous host who’s quick to point out his favorite Bible verse, painted right there on his wall: “‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the Truth’ (3 John 4).” He and Betsy were both raised in the tradition of the Christian Reformed Church—a little-known, conservative Dutch Calvinist denomination whose roots reach back to the city’s founders. They went to the same grade school in the city’s parallel private school system, the Holland Christian Schools, which was first established by members of the church. Like many people I met in Holland, Lanting wasn’t a Trump supporter initially—he voted for Ben Carson in the primaries—but he couldn’t bring himself to vote for Hillary Clinton, whom he calls “a professional spin doctor.” “Trump is much more likely,” Lanting says, “to bring Christ into the world.”

For deeply devout people like Lanting and DeVos, that’s no small detail, and education plays a key role in that mission. Since her nomination, DeVos hasn’t said much publicly about her views on education—or whether she plans to defend the separation of church and state in public schools. (DeVos declined Mother Jones‘ request for an interview, but a Trump transition team spokeswoman replied in an email, “Mrs. DeVos believes in the legal doctrine of the separation of church and state.”) However, in a 2001 interview for “The Gathering,” a group focused on advancing Christian faith through philanthropy, she and her husband offered a rare public glimpse of their views. Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied: “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…versus what is currently being spent every year on education in this country…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s Kingdom.”

Trump’s Billionaire Education Secretary Has Been Trying to Gut Public Schools for Years

Said Dick DeVos: “As we look at many communities in our country, the church has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity…It is certainly our hope that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education.”

Although the DeVoses have rarely commented on how their religious views affect their philanthropy and political activism, their spending speaks volumes. Mother Jones has analyzed the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation’s tax filings from 2000 to 2014, as well as the 2001 to 2014 filings from her parents’ charitable organization, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. (Betsy DeVos was vice president of the Prince Foundation during those years.) During that period, the DeVoses spent nearly $100 million in philanthropic giving, and the Princes spent $70 million. While Dick and Betsy DeVos have donated large amounts to hospitals, health research, and arts organizations, these records show an overwhelming emphasis on funding Christian schools and evangelical missions, and conservative, free-market think tanks, like the Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center, that want to shrink the public sector in every sphere, including education.

The couple’s philanthropic record makes clear that they view choice and competition as the best mechanism to improve America’s education system. Overall, their foundation gave $5.2 million from 1999 to 2014 to charter schools, which are funded by taxpayers but governed by appointed boards and often run by private companies with varying degrees of oversight by state institutions. Some $4.8 million went to a small school they founded, the West Michigan Aviation Academy. (Flying is one of Dick’s passions.) Their next biggest beneficiary, New Urban Learning—an operator that dropped its charter after teachers began to unionize—received $350,000; big-name charter operators Success Academy and KIPP Foundation received $25,000 and $500, respectively.

America’s Schools Desperately Need Black Teachers. Why Are We Driving Them Away?

Meanwhile, when it comes to traditional public schools run by the districts and accountable to democratically elected school boards—the ones that 86 percent of American students attend—the DeVoses were far less generous: Less than 1 percent of their funding ($59,750) went to support these schools. (To be fair, few philanthropists donate directly to underfunded public school districts.)

But the DeVoses’ foundation giving shows the couple’s clearest preference is for Christian private schools. In a 2013 interview with Philanthropy Magazine, Betsy DeVos said that while charters are “a very valid choice,” they “take a while to start up and get operating. Meanwhile, there are very good non-public schools, hanging on by a shoestring, that can begin taking students today.” From 1999 to 2014, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave out $2,396,525 to the Grand Rapids Christian High School Association, $652,000 to the Ada Christian School, and $458,000 to Holland Christian Schools. All told, their foundation contributed $8.6 million to private religious schools—a reflection of the DeVoses’ lifelong dedication to building “God’s Kingdom” through education.

Most people I meet in Holland tell me that it’s hard to understand the DeVos and Prince families without learning something about the history of Dutch Americans in western Michigan. In the mid-1800s, a group of mostly poor farmers, known as the “Seceders,” rebelled against the Dutch government when it tried to modernize the state Calvinist church, including changing the songbooks used during worship and ending discriminatory laws against Catholics and Jews. In 1846, an intensely devout Calvinist priest named A.C. van Raalte led several hundred settlers from the Netherlands to the United States.

Those who ended up in western Michigan overcame hunger and disease to clear thickly wooded, swampy land with much colder winters and deeper snow than their native Netherlands. In the city of Holland, they built a virtual replica of their Dutch villages. And just like back home, their church was essentially their government, influencing almost every part of farmers’ lives.

Ten years after first Seceders came to Holland, one-third of the Dutch community broke off from the Reformed Church of America and created the Christian Reformed Church. What really solidified this split were disagreements over education, according to James D. Bratt, professor emeritus at Calvin College and author of Dutch Calvinism in Modern America. Members who stayed in the Reformed Church of America supported public schools; Christian Reformed Church members believed that education is solely the responsibility of families—and explicitly not the government—and sent their kids to religious schools.

It was the Christian Reformed Church that opened Holland Christian Schools and Calvin College in nearby Grand Rapids. Betsy DeVos, 59, is an alum of both and was raised in 1960s and 1970s in the Christian Reformed tradition. (Her brother, Erik Prince, is a former Navy SEAL and the founder of Blackwater, the private-security contractor infamous for its role during the Iraq War.) During those years, that often meant growing up in a home that forbade dancing, movies, drinking, working on Sundays, or even participating in the city’s May Tulip Festival, with its Dutch folk costumes and dancing in wooden shoes. Holland Christian Schools’ ban on teaching evolution wasn’t lifted until 1991, according to Larry Ten Harmsel, the author of Dutch in Michigan. (DeVos left the Christian Reformed Church about a decade ago and has been a member of the evangelical Mars Hill Bible Church.)

When the 1960s cultural revolution rocked the nation, many members of the Christian Reformed Church—including Betsy’s parents, who would become one of the richest couples in Michigan thanks to Edgar’s automotive parts company—allied themselves with the evangelical movement. While the Princes would go on to contribute to some of the country’s most powerful far-right religious groups, like the Family Research Council, Betsy and Dick DeVos eventually focused on funding education reform groups and think tanks pushing for vouchers, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars through their foundation to organizations seeking to privatize education and blur the separation of church and state in public schools, including:

Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty: Betsy DeVos once served on the board of this Grand Rapids-based think tank, which endorses a blend of religious conservatism and unrestrained capitalism. It is headed by a Catholic priest, Fr. Robert Sirico, who has argued that welfare programs should be replaced by religious charities. In a paper titled “America’s Public Schools: Crisis and Cure,” a former Acton advisory board member named Ronald Nash wrote: “No real progress towards improving American education can occur as long as 90 percent of American children are being taught in government schools that ignore moral and religious beliefs.” The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation contributed $1,289,750 from 2000 to 2014, and the Prince Foundation donated at least $550,000.

The Foundation for Traditional Values: Led by former priest James Muffett, the organization is the education arm of Citizens for Traditional Values, a political action group whose mission is preserving “the influence of faith and family as the great foundation of American freedom embodied in our Judeo-Christian heritage.” On the website dedicated to Muffett’s seminars, a page devoted to a lecture titled “The Greatest Story Never Told” states: “There was a time when schoolchildren were taught the truth about the Christian influence in our foundations but no longer. Our past has been hijacked by a secular philosophy, and we have lost the original vision, ideas, and principles of our forefathers who gave birth to the greatest free nation the world has ever seen.” The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation contributed $232,390 from 1999 to 2014.

Focus on the Family: Both the DeVoses and the Princes have been key supporters of Focus on the Family, which was founded by the influential evangelical leader James Dobson. In a 2002 radio broadcast, Dobson called on parents in some states to to pull their kids out of public schools, calling the curriculum “godless and immoral” and suggesting that Christian teachers should also leave public schools: “I couldn’t be in an organization that’s supporting that kind of anti-Christian nonsense.” Dobson also has distributed a set of history lessons that argue that “separating Christianity from government is virtually impossible and would result in unthinkable damage to the nation and its people.” The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave $275,000 to Focus on the Family from 1999 to 2001 but hasn’t donated since; it gave an additional $35,760 to the group’s Michigan and DC affiliates from 2001 to 2010. The Prince Foundation donated $5.2 million to Focus on the Family and $275,000 to its Michigan affiliate from 2001 to 2014. (It also gave $6.1 million to the Family Research Council, which has fought against same-sex marriage and anti-bullying programs—and is listed as an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FRC used to be a division of Focus on the Family before it became an independent nonprofit, with Dobson serving on its board, in 1992.)

Meanwhile, the DeVos clan is perhaps best known for aggressive political activism against organized labor. A 2014 Mother Jones investigation revealed that the DeVoses had invested at least $200 million in various right-wing causes: think thanks, media outlets, political committees, and advocacy groups. In 2007, coming off Dick’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in their home state of Michigan, the DeVoses focused their advocacy and philanthropy on controversial right-to-work legislation that outlawed contracts requiring all employees in unionized workplaces to pay dues for union representation. Back in 2007, such a proposal in a union-heavy state like Michigan was considered a “right-wing fantasy,” but thanks to the DeVoses’ aggressive strategy and funding, the bill became law by 2012.

Right-to-work laws, now on the books in 26 states, have been a major blow to the labor movement—including teachers’ unions, the most powerful lobby for traditional public schools and opponents of charter schools (whose instructors often aren’t unionized). Teachers in Michigan are not allowed to strike; when educators in Detroit demanded a forensic audit of their district’s murky finances and protested classrooms plagued by mold, roaches, and rodents, they used sick days to make their point. A month later, Betsy DeVos wrote a Detroit News op-ed arguing that teachers shouldn’t be allowed to stage sick-outs, either.

DeVos in 1992 Detroit Free Press/Zuma

Which brings us back to Michigan, “school choice,” charter schools, and vouchers. Betsy DeVos has spent at least two decades pushing vouchers—i.e., public funding to pay for private and religious schools—to the center of the Republican Party’s education agenda, thanks in large part to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based think tank.

In the mid-’90s, Mackinac leadership suggested a long-term strategy on how to make the unpopular voucher policies more palatable for the mainstream America. Its then-senior vice president, Joseph Overton, developed what became known as the Overton Window, a theory of how a policy initially considered extreme might over time be normalized through gradual shifts in public opinion. Education policies were placed on a liberal-conservative continuum, with the far left representing “Compulsory indoctrination in government schools” and the far right, “No government schools.”

Charter schools became the main tool of voucher advocates to introduce school choice to public school supporters, with the aim to nudge public opinion closer to supporting tax credits to pay for private schools. Since about 80 percent of American students outside the public system attend religious schools, “universal choice”—or allowing taxpayer money to follow individual students to any private or public school—could eventually mean financing thousands of Christian schools.

In Michigan, Detroit has been at the heart of the charter push, which began in the early ’90s. In 1996, former Metro Times reporter Curt Guyette showed how the Prince Foundation, as well as the foundation run by Dick DeVos’ parents, funded a carefully orchestrated campaign to label Detroit’s public schools as failing—and pushed for charters and “universal educational choice” as a better alternative. While Betsy DeVos has not called for an end to traditional public schools, she has written about the need to “retire” and “replace” Detroit’s public school system and pressed for aggressively expanding charter schools and vouchers. (In 2000, Dick and Betsy DeVos helped underwrite a ballot initiative to expand the use of vouchers in Michigan and lost badly.)

Detroit’s schools—where 84 percent of students are black and 80 percent are poor—have been in steady decline since charter schools started proliferating: Public school test scores in math and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have remained the worst among large cities since 2009. In June, the New York Times published a scathing investigation of the city’s school district, which has the second-biggest share of students in charters in America. (New Orleans is No. 1.) Reporter Kate Zernike concluded that lax oversight by state and insufficiently regulated growth—including too many agencies that are allowed to open new charter schools—contributed to a system with “lots of choice, with no good choice.”

Statewide, about 80 percent of Michigan’s charter schools are run by for-profit management companies, a much higher share than anywhere else in the country. And two years ago, DeVos fought aggressively against legislation that would stop failing charter schools from expanding, and she and her husband were the biggest financial backers of the effort to oppose any new state oversight of charters.

“School choice” is now accepted by nearly two-thirds of Americans—although 69 percent oppose using public funding for private schools. Donald Trump’s signature education proposal calls for dedicating $20 billion in federal money to promote “school choice” to help families move away from what the he has called our “failing government schools” and instead choose private, religious, or charter schools. With most states under Republican leadership and some major charter school proponents signaling their willingness to work with the Trump administration, the stage is set for an aggressive push to lift state caps on charter schools (26 states have some kind of charter cap) and expand voucher programs (13 states and the District of Columbia have active programs). In 2008, then-DC Public Schools chancellor and staunch charter school advocate Michelle Rhee—whom Trump also considered for the position of education chief—refused to express support for vouchers. By 2013, she’d made her support public.

It’s hard to tell how many more charter advocates will support—or simply overlook—the inclusion of vouchers for private schools in “choice” policies, but one thing is clear: The prospects for an aggressive policy push for “universal choice”—including funding more religious schools with taxpayer money—have never been better.

Betsy and Dick DeVos and three of their children at Michigan’s Republican conventions in 2006 Regina H. Boone/Detroit Free Press/Zuma

On my last day in Holland, a retired public school teacher, Cathy Boote, is giving me a tour of the city she has called home for 37 years. Dressed in a black cashmere sweater and a white winter jacket, Boote is a self-described moderate Republican and teachers’ union member who went to public schools and later taught art in the nearby West Ottawa public school district. In her close to four decades of working in public schools, she saw how the decline of the automotive industry, and the hollowing out of the middle class, affected poor and working-class kids she taught more than any other factor. “When parents have to work longer hours, more jobs, and get paid less, there is more stress at home,” Boote reflected. “That means less time to read and do homework, more time spent watching TV and online rather than learning.”

“Betsy’s father, Edgar Prince, is considered the patron saint of Holland,” Boote says as our truck rolls over heated asphalt—a unique underground grid of tubes circulates hot water beneath the streets and melts snowflakes just as they touch down. It was Prince who helped bring this innovative system here, suggesting the heated streets in 1988 and forking over $250,000 to cover nearly a quarter of the cost. Like Boote, most Hollanders I talked to credit Prince’ vision for the city’s transformation in the ’90s to a tourist destination.

It was this business acumen, and a drive to take care of “our people,” that turned Prince into the wealthiest man in Michigan. In 1965, Prince left his job as chief engineer at Buss Machine Works after workers decided to unionize. He opened his own company that eventually specialized in auto-parts manufacturing and became one of the biggest employers in Holland. When Prince Automotive was sold for $1.35 billion in 1997, two years after his death, some 4,500 former employees received a combined $80 million in bonuses. “Most people here feel that you build your own family. You don’t need a union to build a competing family,” Boote explains, adjusting her glasses. “You treat your employees well and they don’t need to complain. Complaining, protesting is bad. You work hard and you don’t complain.”

Boote’s truck takes a sharp turn into the predominantly Latino section of town, with large, free-standing Victorian cottages, fenceless yards, and ancient trees. Most kids in this neighborhood go to public schools. In the two decades since school choice was implemented, white student enrollment in Holland’s public schools has plummeted 60 percent, according to Bridge Magazine. Latino students are now the face of the system, and 70 percent of all students are poor, more than double the district’s poverty rate when choice began. The Holland Christian Schools are predominantly white.

We leave downtown and drive along Lake Macatawa for about three miles before parking in front of a huge, castlelike mansion. This is Betsy and Dick DeVos’ summer home—a three-story, 22,000-square-foot estate that the Holland Sentinel once boasted was the the biggest in the city, if not the county.

As we look out at the stone-and-shingle house, Boote reflects on how most people around here—her family, Betsy DeVos’ family—grew up among proud Dutch immigrants who overcame deep poverty. DeVos went on to attend a small, elite, mostly white private religious school, and a similar college. She married into a rich dynasty.

“‘Look at us. God has given to us. I can fix this. All you have to do is be like me.’ You can understand how you might think that way, if you grew up here,” Boote says later, as we take one final glance at the mansion over its tall, iron gate. “If you come from the small, sheltered, privileged environment of Holland, you are most likely going to have a very limited worldview—including how to fix education.”

Holland, Michigan, in summer Craig Sterken/iStock


Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build "God’s Kingdom"

Posted in alo, Casio, Citizen, Everyone, FF, Free Press, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build "God’s Kingdom"

Obama’s Climate Legacy Will Be Harder to Undo Than Trump Thinks

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

This story was originally published by High Country News and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Eight years ago, President-elect Barack Obama wanted Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar to be his Interior secretary. David Hayes, who was leading Obama’s transition team for Interior and other agencies, remembers trekking to Salazar’s office on Capitol Hill at least twice to make the case for the Cabinet post.

He had the perfect bait. Three years earlier, Sen. Salazar had led a successful effort to require the Bureau of Land Management to authorize renewable energy projects on public land. The agency was supposed to approve 10,000 megawatts of solar, wind and geothermal electricity by 2015, but under then-President George W. Bush, its congressional mandate went nowhere. Hayes, seeing a rare opportunity, told Salazar that as Interior secretary, he’d have the chance to make renewables on public land a signature issue.

“We talked about renewable energy and how the Interior Department could turbo-charge potential renewable energy on public lands and make up for the historic and long-standing failure to give renewable energy anything like the attention fossil fuels had gotten on public lands,” Hayes recalled in a recent interview.

Salazar took the job, and made clean energy projects on public land a top priority. The initiative took the department from zero to 60 on renewables, and it is a clear example of the paradigm shift that the Obama administration brought to the West and to its energy development.

Eight years later, a new president-elect has dismissed climate change as a hoax, promised to revive coal and other extractive industries, and sworn to cut—or gut—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Come Jan. 20, 2017, many of Obama’s initiatives will be under sustained attack. Some of them won’t survive. But Obama helped transform the West’s view of its energy potential, and he encouraged the region to get involved in the global fight against climate change. Changes like that go deep and may prove harder to undo.


The president’s work on climate change started slowly. During his first term, Obama spent most of his political capital on the Affordable Healthcare Act and his economic recovery plan to lift the nation out of recession. Following his re-election, however, he focused broadly on domestic energy production and later the growing threat of climate change.

In early 2012, Obama traveled to Boulder City, Nevada, to stand in the midst of a sea of photovoltaic panels at what was at the time the largest facility of its kind in the country. “I want everybody here to know that as long as I’m president, we will not walk away from the promise of clean energy,” he told the crowd. But he also underscored his commitment to drilling. “We are going to continue producing oil and gas at a record pace. That’s got to be part of what we do. We need energy to grow.”

In his 17-minute speech, which was entirely about energy, Obama did not use the term “climate change” once, signaling an administration-wide retreat that continued for many months. Congressional Republicans, some of whom deny that climate change is a threat and others who reject attempts to deal with it as economically risky, kept attacking. Meanwhile, activists grew impatient.

In February 2013, 48 climate scientists and activists were arrested after some of them cuffed themselves to the White House gate, determined to force Obama to make potentially politically perilous decisions to fight global warming, such as rejecting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who was among them, told me before the demonstration that their civil disobedience signaled “a new level of urgency regarding climate change, and a growing impatience about the lack of political courage that we’re seeing from the president and from leaders in Congress.” The demonstration also marked a major shift for some mainstream environmental groups, who began prodding the president more and cheering him less. This period also saw the rise of brasher environmental groups like 350.org and WildEarth Guardians, who staged large public demonstrations or tackled the president in the courts.

In response, Obama came out with his Climate Action Plan in June 2013. It outlined a sweeping agenda to use his executive powers to slash greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production and cut the federal government’s carbon pollution. It also recommended preparing communities for bigger storms, rising seas and fiercer wildfires, and it called for better climate science. In January 2014, Obama recruited John Podesta, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, to implement the plan. Soon, the administration was ticking off successes.

In his final years in office, Obama has produced a powerful National Climate Change Assessment, preserved vast stretches of land as national monuments, won court battles over its clean car rules and the EPA’s right to regulate carbon pollution from power plants, drafted regulations to slash greenhouse gases, and negotiated major bilateral treaties with China, India and Brazil, as well as the historic Paris Climate Agreement with nearly every nation on the planet. What had started slowly was picking up steam.

Under Obama, the Interior Department started examining climate impacts across broad landscapes, combining the forces of various state and federal agencies and universities. The department set up and staffed 22 landscape conservation cooperatives across the country and eight regional climate centers. The National Park Service, which had no climate change program before Obama, has completed climate impact assessments on 235 of 413 of the nation’s parks—documenting intensified wildfires, hastened snowmelt, vanishing glaciers, rising sea and lake levels, warming streams and displaced plants and animals.

All told, Obama has elevated climate change’s importance for federal land and water managers and invigorated state and local action.

“It’s a gargantuan legacy,” says Douglas Brinkley, a historian at Rice University. “I put him as one of the top environmental presidents in history. He’s not Theodore or Franklin Roosevelt. But he’s in that league with Lyndon Johnson, J.F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.” Climate change is shaping up to be a major issue for Obama’s post-presidential life. “It’s become personal to him. His wife and daughters have helped him reach this conclusion.”

Obama himself underscored his dedication on a trip to Yosemite National Park in June with the First Lady and their daughters. “When we look to the next century, the next 100 years, the task of protecting our sacred spaces is even more important,” he told some 200 invited guests, against the stunning backdrop of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. “And the biggest challenge we’re going to face, in protecting this place and places like it, is climate change. Make no mistake: Climate change is no longer just a threat; it’s already a reality.”


Throughout the West, climate change has exacerbated forest fires, threatened water supplies, flooded communities, killed millions of trees and irreversibly altered the landscape. As these consequences have become clearer, the Obama administration has helped steer the West toward a cleaner energy future.

Eight years after Salazar became Interior secretary, the BLM has approved plans for 15,000 megawatts of renewable power, enough to power millions of homes. Projects providing up to 5,500 megawatts’ worth of power are already built or under construction, mostly in California and Nevada.

By establishing a system for approving renewable energy projects on public lands, the Obama administration helped drive phenomenal growth in renewable electricity in the West and a precipitous drop in prices. “I think it is an unsung part of the administration’s legacy, and I think the administration can and should be taking credit for really creating the conditions for this huge clean energy revolution to take off,” says Rhea Suh, who was assistant secretary of Interior for policy management and budget until she became president of the Natural Resources Defense Council last year.

After Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Ray Brady was tapped to be the BLM’s manager for implementing the law. With targets for renewable energy 10 years in the future, nothing much happened. The top staff at the agency gave the new program little notice. Expediting oil and gas production was their chief focus. The agency didn’t even open a renewable energy office. That all changed when Salazar walked in the door.

In his first secretarial order, in March 2009, Salazar moved up the deadline for permitting 10,000 megawatts of clean power on BLM lands three years, to 2012. “We have to connect the sun of the deserts and the wind of the plains with the places where people live,” Salazar said at the time. He pushed his staff to identify specific zones on U.S. public lands suitable for large-scale production of solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy.

This was a revolutionary vision at the time; there weren’t any large-scale solar plants anywhere in the United State. Brady had to travel to Spain in 2008 just to glimpse the technology. For decades, Brady had been an obscure bureaucrat, but suddenly he found himself regularly summoned to high-level meetings with Salazar and other Interior leaders. Meanwhile, Salazar met regularly with other Cabinet members—including the secretaries of Defense, Agriculture and the Treasury—to knock down barriers to nascent projects.

The timing was right: Obama had campaigned, twice, on the promise of clean energy and its ability to create good jobs for the future. And there was a growing market for renewable power, because many Western states had passed renewable energy requirements, while California was pursuing one of the world’s most aggressive commitments to greenhouse gas reduction.

The enormity of the endeavor really struck Brady when he first visited the Ivanpah Solar Generating System project in San Bernardino County, California, in 2012: Three shining towers, emerging from the desolate desert, each surrounded by a huge circular field of mirrors, 173,500 of them, and covering 3,500 acres of BLM land. (Critics say such facilities endanger birds and other wildlife, but the project stands as a monument to the shifting attitudes toward energy on public lands.)

For much of his career, Brady worked on oil and gas, where drilling pads covered a single acre. “It’s awe-inspiring,” said Brady, who recently retired from the BLM. “I was absolutely amazed by the scope and scale and size of the project. It had not sunk into me before that. It really was, in my mind, the most exciting period in my 40-year career.”

While nudging individual projects forward, the agency’s new renewable energy office worked to track down Western locations suited to solar power. They looked for easy access to transmission lines and big metropolitan areas, lack of conflicts with local tribes, and few risks to endangered wildlife and plants or other fragile natural resources. In these so-called solar energy zones, the agency conducts the environmental analysis up-front, to reduce permitting times. The BLM held its first-ever competitive auction for solar projects in the summer of 2014. Three companies won bids, and one recently started construction in Dry Lake, Nevada, north of Las Vegas.

Interior was much less successful at establishing wind power on public land. The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project in south-central Wyoming, for example, has been a priority since Salazar took the helm at Interior. The enormous project would erect up to 1,000 wind turbines, employing as many as 1,000 people during peak construction, and eventually provide clean electricity to about a million homes. The BLM gave it basic approval in 2012, but many more permitting requirements remained. “To put it bluntly, they lost momentum,” says Bill Miller, president of two ­subsidiaries of the Anschutz Power Company of Wyoming and TransWest Express. Miller still believes in the project despite the delays. He told me: “There is no better wind asset in the country.” And he’s optimistic that he’ll get final approval before Obama leaves office to erect the first 500 turbines.

With plenty of windy places on private land, wind developers may simply ignore public land. But both geothermal and solar projects have a bright future, even under a Donald Trump administration. The price of photovoltaic solar systems continues to drop, making public land attractive for small and mid-sized projects, especially in areas where the agency has done the upfront work, so developers can get relatively quick ­approval. This fall, the administration and California state government completed the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which charts a course for developing clean power across 22 million acres of desert. In November, the administration finished the regulations that will govern competitive leasing for renewable power projects on public land.


Still, when it comes to fossil fuels, the administration’s record remains mixed as far as what it did, and didn’t do, for the climate. Obama curtailed fossil fuel pollution but failed to significantly limit industry’s access to the public’s vast fossil fuel resources. Even while promoting renewable energy, the White House simultaneously supported an expansion of oil and gas drilling. Shale gas production grew fourfold from 2009 to 2015, oil production nearly doubled, and oil exports tripled.

On the regulatory side, though, the EPA set new rules to reduce leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from new oil and gas drilling. Near the end of the administration, the BLM went even further, setting new requirements to reduce methane leaks from existing oil and gas operations on public land.

Obama was slow to apply his climate change principles to fossil fuels beneath federal land. Throughout his administration, the Interior Department continued to lease federal lands for oil and gas development and fought in court against environmentalists’ “keep it in the ground” campaign.

Coal, long the mainstay of U.S. electricity production, declined dramatically during Obama’s tenure, a fact that helped the nation reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This was primarily due to competition from abundant, low-price natural gas, caused by the boom in hydraulic fracturing. But Obama’s air pollution policies played a role, too. By setting the first-ever limits for mercury and other toxic air pollutants, Obama forced companies to decide whether it was cheaper to install expensive pollution-control devices or switch to natural gas or renewables. “What the Obama administration rules did was force utilities to consider the question about whether or not to keep coal online,” the Sierra Club’s Brune explained.

But most of this progress was the result of the EPA’s work. It was only in the final 18 months of Obama’s term that Sally Jewell, who replaced Salazar as Interior secretary, started scrutinizing the department’s coal policies. She held listening sessions in coal country and in Washington, D.C. In January, she set a moratorium on new coal leasing and ordered the first-ever analysis of greenhouse gas impacts from federal coal, which accounts for more than 40 percent of the coal used to produce electricity in the U.S. In Obama’s last State of the Union address, in January, he declared that it was time to revamp the way the country manages its coal and oil, “so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and the planet.”

Despite this, the administration pulled its punches on federal coal until its final days. Most notable was its decision to support Colorado’s plan to allow expansion of coal mining into otherwise roadless national forest areas in the North Fork Valley (where High Country News is headquartered).

In 2014, a federal judge halted an expansion of Colorado’s West Elk Mine because the BLM and Forest Service had failed to take a “hard look” at the climate impacts that an exemption to the roadless rule would create. Environmental groups had sued, demanding that the BLM and Forest Service calculate the costs to society of greenhouse gas emissions from the mining and combustion of that federal coal.

In November, the Forest Service released an environmental impact statement that revealed that its preferred alternative could increase greenhouse gas emissions 433 million tons over time and cost society billions of dollars. Yet it continued to insist that the expansion should take place.

The pollution would come from burning the coal for electricity and from venting methane into the air during mining. Methane is high at West Elk because the coal seams are especially gassy.

Robert Bonnie, undersecretary of Agriculture for natural resources and the environment, justified the decision. “No one is under the belief that we’re going to immediately change the energy mix starting today,” he said. “There’s going to be some level of coal for some time to come.”

But Earthjustice attorney Ted ­Zukoski sees a deep hypocrisy in the decision. “There is a conflict between this administration’s soaring and bold rhetoric on the need to address climate change and its failure to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” he says. “Billions of tons of federal coal were leased on Obama’s watch.”

As for natural gas and oil, the administration purposefully avoided regulations that would slow the upsurge in production. “This administration was not willing or able to take on two fossil fuel industries at the same time,” Brune told me. “And it proactively took many steps to help support the gas industry. We’re going to be wrestling with the effects of that for decades. An increased reliance on natural gas is a disaster for our climate.”


During most of his administration, Obama faced Republicans in Congress who simply refused to legislate. In response, Obama turned to executive action. Now, however, Trump’s win endangers much of the progress he made. Trump has vowed to abandon the Paris climate treaty and cancel the Clean Power Plan. Although the specifics remain unclear, many of Obama’s other climate policies, such as his methane rules, are also at risk. But some important changes may escape Trump’s chopping block. The administration and its policies don’t stand alone, so they can have lasting impact. Obama’s energy and climate change policies augmented on-the-ground realities, such as many Western states’ eagerness to embrace renewable energy and the improving economics of solar power. “They helped facilitate it,” said Mark Squillace, law professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “But the story of the West will be about what the states are doing.”

In the Southwest, for example, local, state and federal government officials, scientists and businesses have long worried about the impacts of climate change on water supply, fragile species and wildfire. Obama’s conservation cooperatives and regional climate centers filled a void. “Everybody knew these things were happening,” said Jonathan Overpeck, director of the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment. “Now we have a mandate for research and figuring out what can we do about it. We’re trying to not just generate scientific knowledge for the sake of curiosity, but to make sure we’re generating science that’s useful.”

Hayes, meanwhile, who had been tapped for a big role in a Clinton transition, was flabbergasted by the election results. He hopes the Interior Department’s commitment to climate science will survive the new administration.

Even if research continues, many of Obama’s fossil fuel regulations surely will be targeted by Trump’s administration. The new EPA chief and Interior secretary could settle industry lawsuits by asking courts to send Obama’s rules—including the Clean Power Plan, methane rules and BLM’s fracking regulations—back to agencies to rewrite them. Environmental groups would then likely sue to block Trump’s new rules and reinstate Obama’s, and the ensuing legal battles could take years.

“If Trump gets only one term and is replaced by a Democrat, damage will be significant but also limited,” Squillace said. “I think if Trump gets two terms, all bets are off and significant change in public lands and environmental policy will occur.”

Another danger is a possible government “brain drain.” Squillace, for example, was a young lawyer at the Interior Department when President Ronald Reagan appointed Interior Secretary James Watt, who was hostile to conservation. Squillace remembers asking to be taken off one case after another, because he considered Watt’s positions indefensible. After nine months of this, he resigned. Trump may inspire a similar exodus of scientists and lawyers.

High Country News

Regardless, some of Obama’s climate policies likely will withstand at least the early years of a Trump administration, particularly the BLM’s renewable energy program. If Trump kills the Clean Power Plan, that would take away one driver for big solar projects on public land. But others won’t disappear, most significantly, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s directive that his state gets 50 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030.

Steve Black, who was Salazar’s counselor at Interior and now is an energy and climate policy consultant based in California, sees other reasons for optimism. More than 100 full-time, career BLM staffers work in renewable energy offices across the West that didn’t exist before Obama. Massive projects like Ivanpah will keep delivering clean power to the grid. “There’s steel in the ground,” he said. “We built 15 utility-scale projects. Those things can’t be changed. I do think there are lasting elements of this legacy.”

Despite Trump’s cheerleading for coal, the new administration is unlikely to rescue the dirtiest fossil fuel. Market forces, namely low natural gas prices, are the main reason for its downturn, but the growing international desire to combat climate change is another. Trump similarly is unlikely to boost oil and gas production, as long as prices are low. For instance, Trump and a Republican Congress may open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil companies, but high costs could deter drilling.

And even with a president and Congress unwilling to tackle tough questions on energy and the climate, states will remain largely responsible for their own energy choices. Even with big utilities fighting hard against solar, low renewable energy prices and state mandates will make the clean energy revolution hard to stop. It’s unlikely that Trump will want to be responsible for killing the good jobs that renewable energy is creating. For all its starts and stops, the Obama administration helped the West embrace a clean energy future that takes climate change into consideration. Trump’s administration won’t be able to change that.

Excerpt from: 

Obama’s Climate Legacy Will Be Harder to Undo Than Trump Thinks

Posted in alo, ATTRA, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Radius, solar, solar power, Uncategorized, Venta, wind power | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Obama’s Climate Legacy Will Be Harder to Undo Than Trump Thinks

7 Great Environment Longreads From 2015

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

From California’s nut boom to the green guru of professional sports, it’s been a great year for longreads about the environment here at Mother Jones. In case you missed them (or you just want to read ’em again), here are some of our favorites, in no particular order:

  1. “Invasion of the Hedge Fund Almonds,by Tom Philpott. In California, farmers are converting their farms to almond, pistachio, and walnut orchards at a breakneck pace—and Wall Street firms are buying them up. No wonder, since these nuts are extremely valuable right now. That’s because they’re the health food du jour, both here and in China. There’s just one problem: Tree nuts suck up more water than practically any other crop. So how can there be a nut boom during the worst drought in California’s history? Tom Philpott has the fascinating answer.
  2. “How the Government Put Tens of Thousands of People at Risk of a Deadly Disease,” by David Ferry. Valley fever, a potentially fatal fungal disease, recently reached near-epidemic proportions among the Golden State’s prisoners. The illness is endemic to California’s Central Valley—which also happens to house a high concentration of state prisons. African American and Filipino people are particularly susceptible to the fungus, yet correctional officers repeatedly ignored recommendations to transfer these vulnerable prisoners away from Central Valley facilities. The results were nothing short of tragic.
  3. “Bark Beetles Are Decimating Our Forests. That Might Actually Be a Good Thing,” by Maddie Oatman. Ever-worsening infestations of pine beetles have killed large swaths of forests in the Western United States. As climate change intensifies, the beetle carnage is only expected to increase. The US Forest Service maintains that the only way to stop the marauding bugs is by thinning: cutting down trees to stop the beetles’ progress. But entomologist Diana Six, who has devoted her career to beetle ecology, thinks the beetles may actually know more than we do about how to make forests resilient in the face of big changes ahead as the planet warms.
  4. “This May Be the Most Radical Idea in All of Professional Sports,” by Ian Gordon. If you’ve ever been to a pro sports game, you may have noticed that most are not exactly green operations. In addition to the mountains of beer cans, Styrofoam nacho trays, and peanut shells, there’s the giant energy cost of powering a stadium, and all the carbon emissions that go with it. Sports execs considered all of that an unavoidable cost of doing business—until a charismatic scientist named Allen Hershkowitz came onto the scene a decade ago. Since then, thanks to Hershkowitz and his Green Sports Alliance, at least 28 venues have started using some kind of renewable energy and 20 stadiums have been LEED certified, while the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball have all made major changes to reduce their environmental footprints. So how did Hershkowitz do it?
  5. “Does Air Pollution Cause Dementia?,” by Aaron Reuben. Scientists have long known that air pollution causes and exacerbates respiratory problems—such as asthma and infections and cancers of the lungs—and they also suspect it contributes to a diverse range of other disorders, from heart disease to obesity. But now cutting-edge research suggests these particles play a role in some of humanity’s most terrifying and mysterious illnesses: degenerative brain diseases.
  6. “This Scientist Might End Animal Cruelty—Unless GMO Hardliners Stop Him,” by Kat McGowan. Scientist Scott Fahrenkrug has big plans to make life for millions of farm animals a whole lot better. Through a technique called gene editing, Fahrenkrug’s company has made dairy cows that can skip the painful dehorning process—because they don’t grow horns in the first place. He’s created male pigs that don’t have to be castrated because they never go through puberty. He’s tweaking the DNA of a few high-performance cattle breeds so they’re more heat tolerant and can thrive in a warming world. Fahrenkrug’s ultimate goal is animals with just the right mix of traits—and much less suffering. But many people see genetically modified foods as a symbol of all that’s wrong with the industrial food system. Fahrenkrug will have to convince them that it offers the surest and fastest route to more ethical and sustainable farming.
  7. “Heart of Agave,” by Ted Genoways. In Mexico, fine tequila is serious business. That’s in part because over the last 25 years, US imports of pure agave tequila have doubled—with the greatest leap coming in the super-premium division, where sales of high-end tequilas have increased five times over. The billion-dollar market has become so lucrative that George Clooney, Sean Combs, and Justin Timberlake each have their own brands. All that growth has pushed growers to plant vast monoculture fields and deploy the products of American agrichemical companies, like pesticides and synthetic fertilizer. But that could soon change: Journalist and author Ted Genoways tells the story of the rogue Mexican optometrist who has started an organic tequila revolution—and how his radical ideas are catching on.


7 Great Environment Longreads From 2015

Posted in Anchor, FF, GE, LG, ONA, organic, PUR, Radius, Ultima, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 7 Great Environment Longreads From 2015

Robby Mook Just Took the Hardest Job in Politics—Saving the Clintons From Themselves

Mother Jones

By Andy Kroll and Patrick Caldwell | Thurs Apr. 9, 2015 06:00 AM ET

Robby Mook awoke on November 14, 2014, with a knife in his back.

At 6:01 that morning, ABC News published what it billed as a juicy scoop revealing the existence of a loyal, clubby group of Democratic staffers who called themselves the “Mook Mafia,” so named for the star political operative, who was then a leading contender to run Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. In leaked emails, Mook, the group’s self described “Deacon,” urged his friends to “smite Republicans mafia-style.” Mook’s on-again, off-again colleague Marlon Marshall—a.k.a. “Most High Grown Ass Reverend Marlon D”—echoed his friend’s bro-ish, mock-dramatic tone. “F U Republicans,” he wrote to the list. “Mafia till I die.”

ABC didn’t name its source but described the person as a Mook Mafia list member who “does not support the idea of Mook or Marshall holding leadership roles” in a second Clinton presidential run. By leaking a cherry-picked series of emails, this source sought to knock Mook out of the running for the campaign manager job. Clinton’s campaign was still in the earliest stages, and the infighting had already begun.

But the attempt to kneecap Mook backfired. Instead, the episode illustrated the dysfunctional, cutthroat atmosphere surrounding the Clintons and underscored the need for a campaign chief who could manage the competing factions within Hillary Clinton’s universe. Embarrassing though the leak may have been, it bolstered the case for Mook, who’s known for inspiring loyalty and handling outsize egos, to take the reins of Clinton 2016.

Within days, Clinton is expected to officially launch her next presidential bid—and Mook will be her campaign manager. He has the formidable task of repackaging perhaps the most widely known and picked-over public figure in modern politics and convincing a weary electorate that she should lead the country for the next four years. He will have to hold together the many tribes and fiefdoms within the Clinton community, while sidestepping—and surviving—the sort of backstabbing that felled his predecessors.

Clinton Inc. Planet Hillary. Hillaryland.

Whatever it’s called, this is the vast network of advisers, fixers, donors, lackeys, celebrity pals, old campaign hands, State Department staff, friends of Bill, friends of Hillary, and friends of Chelsea that surrounds the Clintons. “They just keep building on all of the people who are well intentioned, well meaning, extremely loyal, but all have an opinion and want to be heard,” says Patti Solis Doyle, a former aide and friend of Hillary dating back decades.

Solis Doyle was the first campaign manager of the former first lady’s 2008 presidential run. But Hillaryland’s warring factions and score-settling press leaks proved too much. In the thick of the 2008 nomination fight, Clinton relieved her of operational duties—via email and a surprise conference call—and so Solis Doyle quit.

Mook, for his part, got a sense of what it will be like to manage the Clintonworld cast of characters when he ran the campaign of Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Bill and Hillary who was elected governor of Virginia in 2013. McAuliffe’s first run for governor, in 2009, was a disaster. He lost the Democratic nomination by 23 points. Four years lat­er, with Mook at the helm, McAuliffe’s campaign was so focused and disciplined it caught some of the candidate’s own friends by surprise. One senior McAuliffe aide says he couldn’t recall a single leak from a campaign surrogate.

Hillary Clinton took note of Mook’s work on the McAuliffe campaign. She wants desperately to avoid the mistakes of her last race and run a low-drama campaign. Knowing this, advisers and former aides say, it’s not surprising she chose Mook. “He’s cut from a very different cloth from the bold, brash campaign managers that we hear about so often,” says pollster Geoff Garin, who worked with Mook on McAuliffe’s 2013 run. “He does not seek out the spotlight and in fact does everything he can to avoid it.”

Mook is widely known as Robby, not Robert, and at 35, he’s still boyish—handsome and clean-shaven with close-cropped brown hair. His usual uniform consists of chinos and bland dress shirts rolled up to the elbows. He couldn’t be more different from, say, James Carville, the loudmouth Ragin’ Cajun who advised Bill Clinton’s first presidential bid and now makes a living as a consultant and TV commentator. Mook rarely appears in news stories or on TV. He did not respond to repeated interview requests. He has no Facebook page. He has a Twitter account but never tweets and has forgotten the password.

Mook, who will be the first openly gay manager of a major presidential campaign, is largely unknown beyond the insular world of Democratic staffers but well liked within it. In addition to the email listserv, his loyal following—the Mook Mafia—plans yearly reunions, during which they return to a state where they once operated for a weekend of bar-hopping mixed with volunteering for a local campaign.

Mook’s friends and colleagues struggle to identify any particular policy issue that drives him. Mark Penn-style theories about key demographic groups (remember Soccer Moms?) don’t inspire him either. He’s a political nerd who lives and dies by data and nuts-and-bolts organizing. At heart, according to those who know him, he’s a mechanic. “What drives Robby is the opportunity to run a better campaign than he did the last time,” says Tom Hughes, who hired Mook for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.

Yet in the McAuliffe race, relying on data, organizing, and a test-everything standard wasn’t enough. The secret sauce in Mook’s stewardship of the McAuliffe operation was his ability to manage and harness all the friends and well-wishers in the candidate’s orbit, from Bill and Hillary Clinton down to the lowliest county chairman. “This is where temperament comes in,” says Paul Begala, a former adviser to Bill Clinton who helped out on the campaign. “Robby corralled us, engaged us, channeled us, used us, but didn’t let us hijack all his time or the campaign.”

Think of Mook, then, as the Hillaryland Whisperer. But Mook can’t focus on Clintonworld alone. He will also need to manage the influx of Obama alums expected to join Hillary’s team and ensure that old grudges and bad habits from the 2008 campaign don’t resurface. (John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s chief of staff who went on to lead Obama’s transition team and now chairs Hillary’s presumptive campaign, might be able to help with that.)

Mook can’t eliminate all of the internal chaos that sunk Solis Doyle. He can’t reshuffle Hillary Clinton’s inner circle to his liking. His charge will be handling the egos, absorbing the sharp elbows, and putting to good use the brains, money, and connections of the ever-expanding Clinton universe.

“Hillary’s not going to dispense with Maggie Williams. She’s not going to dispense with Cheryl Mills. She’s not going to dispense with Huma Abedin just because the new boy’s on the block,” says one Democrat close to the Clintons, listing three of Hillary’s closest longtime advisers. “The new boy on the block has to learn who those people are, how to accommodate them, and, importantly, how to harness them towards the common enterprise. They all want Hillary elected, but they also all have their own turf.”

The political education of Robby Mook began at the local dump. “Everybody has to go to the dump on weekends,” he told the Vermont weekly Seven Days in 2013, in one of the few interviews he’s ever given. “My earliest memory campaigning was going to the dump to get petition signatures or handing out literature.” The son of a Dartmouth physics professor and a hospital administrator, Mook organized phone banks for the Clinton-Gore ’96 campaign as a 16-year-old. He parlayed a freshman-year bit part in Hanover High’s production of Molière’s comédie-ballet The Imaginary Invalid into a volunteer gig for the play’s director, Matt Dunne, a 24-year-old then running for his second term in the Vermont state Legislature. (Dunne says Mook’s Invalid audition was one of the funniest he’s ever seen.) A few summers later, Dunne asked Mook to launch a political action committee to raise funds for Vermont’s House Democrats. Mook was a rising college sophomore who could not yet legally drink a beer, but he won the trust of the state party’s old guard. After graduating from Columbia in 2002 with a degree in classics, Mook spent a year as the Vermont Democratic Party’s field director. Soon after the 2002 election, the state party’s former executive director, Tom Hughes, recruited Mook to join the New Hampshire staff for Howard Dean’s insurgent presidential run.

When Mook signed on in the spring of 2003, Dean, the former governor of Vermont, had just 425 official supporters—nationwide—and $150,000 in the bank. The New Hampshire team set up shop in a decrepit, asbestos-riddled mill warehouse in Manchester. “It looked like where Walter White might make meth,” one Dean staffer recalls. Hughes, who shared a Manchester apartment with Mook, says Mook arrived with a futon, a few changes of clothes, and a pair of dumbbells. Steve Gerencser, the Dean campaign’s deputy political director in New Hampshire, recalls Mook buying groceries and taking them straight to the office fridge.

“Mini-Mook”: For Mook’s 24th birthday, his colleagues at the Dean campaign bought a life-size, stand-up cardboard cutout of him. Meryl Levin / Originally published in Primarily New Hampshire

At 23, “Mookie” quickly became the heart of the New Hampshire operation, former colleagues say, the rare boss beloved and respected by his charges, a workaholic who would put on a wickedly funny Scottish accent, a raconteur quick to deploy a joke or funny story at staff parties. (For Mook’s 24th birthday, his colleagues bought a life-size, stand-up cardboard cutout of him—”Mini-Mook”—looped a red-white-and-blue lei over its shoulders, and made sure it was waiting when he arrived at his party at a local sports bar.) John Hagner, who interned on the Dean campaign and worked with Mook for years afterward, recalls his old colleague’s knack for motivating those around him. When Mook asked Hagner to stay on with Dean after his internship, Hagner didn’t hesitate. “Of course I’ll quit my job,” he says, “sleep on a someone’s floor, get paid $800 a month—and be grateful for it.”

At some point, the Deaniacs in New Hampshire realized that their strategy—paying canvassers to knock on doors and make phone calls—was not going to reach enough voters to win the primary. So on a broiling hot day in July 2003, the campaign staff gathered at the University of New Hampshire for a retreat with organizing guru Marshall Ganz, a wise, crusty Harvard professor who had worked with Cesar Chavez and members of the civil rights movement. As if the yoga and team-building exercises weren’t hippie-dippy enough, the campaign held Ganz’s crash course on community organizing in a rustic yurt. Ganz told the staffers they should ditch paid canvassers promoting Dean with a cookie-cutter script and instead organize a network of volunteers who would speak to their neighbors and friends and share their personal reasons for supporting Dean. With these techniques, Ganz argued, the Deaniacs could assemble an army of local volunteers and organizers capable of turning out huge numbers of voters. The Dean campaign embraced it.

As if the yoga and team-building exercises weren’t hippie-dippy enough, the campaign held a crash course on community organizing in a rustic yurt.

But as Mook would learn, a well-designed ground game can’t compensate for a flawed candidate. Dean’s infamous scream after the Iowa caucuses sapped the New Hampshire campaign’s momentum. Still, with the help of 4,500 volunteers working on Election Day, Dean outperformed the polls and finished second in the primary behind then-Sen. John Kerry, who went on to win the Democratic nomination.

Despite the loss, the merry band of Deaniacs would use Ganz’s teachings to reinvent Democratic campaigning. Jeremy Bird, a regional field director for Dean in New Hampshire, is one of the most sought-after consultants in Democratic politics, having masterminded Obama’s Ganz-like organizing strategy during the ’08 and ’12 campaigns. Karen Hicks, the head of Dean’s New Hampshire team, brought her grassroots chops to Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Ben LaBolt, a Dean field organizer, went on to become the press secretary for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. Buffy Wicks, who worked in Iowa and New Hampshire for Dean, played key roles overseeing Obama’s get-out-the-vote efforts in ’08 and ’12; she now runs Priorities USA Action, the super-PAC aiming to raise upwards of $300 million to elect Hillary Clinton next year.

The Kerry campaign and party pooh-bahs in Washington were impressed enough to hire Hicks, Mook, and Bird for the general election. But in contrast to the scrappy Dean alums, Kerry’s senior staff sneered at using volunteers to win elections. Fucking drum-circle weirdos—that’s what some Kerry insiders called Mook and his colleagues. Mook, who hated being stuck in DC crunching numbers, would wander around headquarters slapping mailing stickers onto himself and colleagues in a not-so-subtle call for getting out of the office. He spent the campaign’s final weeks in Wisconsin, where Kerry won by a scant 11,000 votes.

George W. Bush’s reelection left Mook and Bird, now roommates in a tiny studio apartment in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, searching for new gigs. Bird fondly remembers sitting around one night, the two roommates buried in books, Bird whipping through fiction while ribbing Mook for reading slowly. Mook’s excuse: He was reading in Greek. His bookshelves are still stocked with books in the original Greek and histories of esoteric topics including numismatics, the study of currency.

Mook could have sought a cushy job at a political consulting firm or a senior slot on a high-profile race. Instead, he decided to run the campaign of Dave Marsden, a candidate for state delegate in northern Virginia. “You could look at it and say, ‘Ew, that looked like a backwards move,’ but in fact it was very deliberate,” says Hicks, Mook’s boss on the Dean and Kerry campaigns. “He wanted to learn to manage from the ground up and wanted experience not just from the field side but from the entire campaign.”

Marsden was a first-time candidate, but Mook treated the campaign like a presidential run in miniature. He hired five full-time organizers to cover the tiny 13-precinct district and enlisted Bird to train them. Drawing on his Rolodex of friends, congressional staffers, and campaign operatives, he threw a packed keg party fundraiser for Marsden at a mansion on Capitol Hill, though few, if any, of the paying attendees could vote in the race. By Election Day, the campaign and its volunteers had so thoroughly blanketed the district that Mook’s master list of likely Marsden supporters showed one voter unaccounted for. Forty-five minutes before polls closed, Mook drove to her home, waited outside until she returned, and confirmed that, yes, she’d voted. Marsden won by 20 points in a toss-up district. “I don’t think Fairfax County had ever seen a campaign organized on this level before,” Marsden says.

The following year, Mook managed the Maryland Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign, a thankless job plotting strategy, keeping dozens of candidates on the same page, and fundraising for Dems up and down the ballot. “It’s a small state, but they have a lot of very big players,” says Josh White, who ran Martin O’Malley’s successful gubernatorial campaign that year. “It was important to have somebody who could literally coordinate everybody and try to keep everybody happy.” In Maryland, Mook met Marlon Marshall, who became a close friend and collaborator. He was as brash and effusive as Mook was unassuming. But the two shared a healthy helping of ambition, and in early 2007, they joined Mook’s old boss Karen Hicks on Hillary Clinton’s nascent presidential campaign. Mook and Marshall were dispatched to Nevada, where they set out to build a Dean-style, volunteer-powered, grassroots machine that could deliver Clinton an early caucus win.

Soon after her victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary, Hillary Clinton flew to Las Vegas. It was mid-January 2008, and there was a week to go before the Nevada caucuses. Huddled with her senior staff in a private room at a steakhouse, Clinton vented her frustrations.

She felt burned, having sunk huge amounts of time and money into the Iowa caucuses only to be routed by Obama, who was proving difficult to dispatch. Now, her campaign was broke. Why would Nevada—another caucus state, one where the most powerful labor unions had endorsed Obama—be any different from Iowa? Local elected officials bitched to Clinton about her Nevada operation’s progress. “Everybody was sort of freaking out about where we were,” Hicks recalls. Bill and Hillary said they’d just as soon skip Nevada and focus on Super Tuesday, the one-day primary bonanza in February.

The task of convincing Clinton not to retreat from Nevada fell, in large part, to Mook. Seated across from Clinton and her top aides, Mook pointed to strong levels of support in the state among women, Latinos, and low-income voters. Despite being starved for funds, Mook and his team had pulled out all the stops to win over key activists throughout the state. He had even attended, unbeknownst to his staff, a Celine Dion concert at Caesar’s Palace at the request of a local LGBT rights group. (He made it back to the Nevada campaign office on Tropicana Avenue in time for the nightly check-in call.)

Hillary and Bill thought it over. In the end, they agreed: Stay and fight it out. President Clinton planted himself in Nevada for the final week, and Hillary went door-to-door.

By midafternoon of caucus day, it was clear that Mook was right; Clinton won with 51 percent of the popular vote. (Obama, however, wound up with more of Nevada’s delegates.) The media, so eager to write off Clinton’s candidacy after Iowa, described her roaring back. Rory Reid, the Clinton campaign’s Nevada chairman, invited Mook to the Clintons’ suite in the Bellagio to celebrate. Mook had spent the previous two days in a frantic final push; grimy and sweaty, he arrived last to the suite. “When everybody else was celebrating,” says Reid, a son of Sen. Harry Reid, “he was trying to wash off the results of a 48-hour organizing effort.”

“He beat us three times; his footprint was on our back,” said David Plouffe. “Our sense was he did the best job of anyone over there.”

Despite the Clinton campaign’s top-down approach to winning the nomination, giving more weight to national polls and fundraising totals than state-level organizing, Mook did his part to bring the Dean style of campaigning to Clintonworld. His record wasn’t lost on his foes in the Obama campaign. “He beat us three times; his footprint was on our back,” David Plouffe, one of the architects of Obama’s presidential campaigns, told Bloomberg News. “Our sense was he did the best job of anyone over there.”

Clinton’s Nevada campaign was the birthplace of the Mook Mafia, with the core group following Mook and picking up additional members as Mook bounced from one state to the next for Clinton, winning primary victories in Ohio, Indiana, and Puerto Rico. The group’s name became official in Indiana, when the mafiosi surprised Mook with T-shirts emblazoned with a Marlon Marshall mantra: “Mook Mafia: Please Believe.”

After Clinton lost the nomination to Obama, Mook spent the fall of 2008 managing Jeanne Shaheen’s Senate race in New Hampshire. But he never strayed far from the Clinton camp. After Obama tapped Clinton to serve as his secretary of state, Mook had the option of taking a job in Foggy Bottom, but decided against it. Instead, he went to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party organization focused on electing Democrats to the US House of Representatives. There, Mook would learn the mechanics of congressional races from Maine to Hawaii. For his first job as political director, he recruited new candidates to run for office for the 2010 midterms, and he accumulated an obsessive knowledge of the nation’s 435 House districts. He was later promoted to a job presiding over the DCCC’s $65 million war chest for independent ad spending in 2010. He witnessed up close and personal the rise of the tea party and the shellacking the Democrats endured that year. During the 2012 cycle, when House Democrats upended pundits’ grim predictions by winning more than a dozen seats, he ran the entire organization.

Mook hadn’t yet left the DCCC when he agreed to run Terry McAuliffe’s second bid for governor. Going into Terry 2.0, Mook knew the job would require imposing discipline on the famously restive “Macker.” (“Sleep when you’re dead!” was McAuliffe’s refrain to his sleep-deprived staffers.) Despite McAuliffe’s prodigious fundraising abilities, Mook drew on the technological wizardry of the Obama ’12 campaign and the DIY culture of Dean ’04, borrowing furniture from local Democratic committees and putting staffers up at Super 8 motels; Mook’s own standing desk, one staffer recalls, was a stack of copy-paper boxes.

Mook assembled a team that included Mook Mafia members and top talent from Obama’s two campaigns. One of the first things he did was to call his old friend Jeremy Bird, fresh off Obama’s reelection, and ask which field organizers he should hire from the president’s campaign. Mook chose early on to invest in a statewide ground game—a decision that ultimately increased turnout across Virginia, especially among black voters. McAuliffe squeezed past Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and his 3-point win marked the first time in 40 years that a Virginia gubernatorial candidate won with a president from the same party in the White House.

There was a predictable flood of “How McAuliffe Won” stories after Election Day, but they did not spotlight the operatives behind the curtain, as campaign postmortems tend to do. That was no accident. According to Brennan Bilberry, McAuliffe’s communications director, a few weeks out from the election, Mook told the McAuliffe campaign’s press shop that there would be no glorifying of staff members or dramatic retellings of the moments when the contest hung in the balance. Even after victory, he insisted, the focus should remain on the candidate.

On March 10, Hillary Clinton stepped to the microphone at a hastily arranged press conference at the United Nations. A week earlier, the New York Times had reported that Clinton used a personal email when she was secretary of state, potentially in violation of federal recordkeeping rules. Her address—hdr22@clintonemail.com—was hosted on a private server registered to the Clintons’ Chappaqua, New York, home, raising concerns about the security of the sensitive emails sent and received by Clinton while at State. Of the 60,000 emails from her four years as secretary of state, she handed over roughly half to the department and deleted the remaining 30,000 or so messages, which she claimed were personal. “Looking back,” she told reporters, “it would have been probably smarter” to have used a government email account.

Politico‘s write-up of the press conference, quoting “sources in the Clinton camp,” revealed the internal divisions over how best respond to the email controversy. Several Clinton advisers had encouraged her to sit for one-on-one interviews with TV networks, rather than the harder-to-control atmosphere of a traditional press conference. Mook had pushed for a quicker, more aggressive pushback. The debate inside Clinton’s political operation, Politico noted, took on a “generational cast.” (A Clinton spokesman disputed this description of the campaign’s internal debate.)

Clinton’s campaign-in-waiting had yet to sign an office lease, and already internal deliberations were spilling out into public view. The mess indicated that Mook had a long way to go to get control of the lumbering ship he would soon be piloting.

Mook, though, is doing his best to recreate his past drama-free campaigns. He’s brought on his old friend Marlon Marshall, McAuliffe senior staffers Michael Halle, Brynne Craig, and Josh Schwerin, and a mix of respected Obama alums.

At this early stage, it’s unknown whether stocking the Clinton campaign with Mook mafiosi can bring order and discipline to Planet Hillary. No doubt, a series of contretemps, slipups, and scandals (real or trumped-up) will hit the Clinton campaign in the months to come. And in the past—with or without scandals—the competing elements of Clintonworld have always seemed to find a way to create conflict of their own.

Can Mook impose an inner calm and make sure Team Clinton focuses on one imperative: electing Hillary? “It’s very difficult,” Patti Solis Doyle says with a resigned laugh, “I will tell you that.” But should Mook succeed, nothing could be more dramatic.

See the original post: 

Robby Mook Just Took the Hardest Job in Politics—Saving the Clintons From Themselves

Posted in Accent, alo, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Ultima, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Robby Mook Just Took the Hardest Job in Politics—Saving the Clintons From Themselves

"That’s What That N—– Deserved"

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

“The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.” —Lawyer Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird

In April 2005, nearly eight years after Kenneth Fults was sentenced to death for kidnapping and murdering his neighbor Cathy Bounds in Spalding County, Georgia, one of the trial jurors made a startling admission under oath: He’d voted for the death penalty, he said, because “that’s what that nigger deserved.”

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given the circumstances—a black man admitting to the murder of a white woman in the deep South—that some white jurors might secretly harbor racist views. The surprising part was that this juror, Thomas Buffington, came right out and said it. And what should have been the most surprising development of all (alas, it wasn’t) came this past August, when a federal appeals court, presented with ample evidence, refused to consider how racism might have affected Fults’ fate.

Continue Reading »

Original link – 

"That’s What That N—– Deserved"

Posted in Anchor, Casio, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, organic, PUR, Radius, Scotts, Ultima, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on "That’s What That N—– Deserved"

How a Confused Mom Drove Through a White House Checkpoint and Ended Up Dead

Mother Jones

By Jennifer Gonnerman | Thurs Mar. 11, 2015 03:00 PM ET

At 2:13 p.m. on October 3, 2013—10 months before Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, nine months before Eric Garner was choked in Staten Island—a 34-year-old African American woman drove into a checkpoint in Washington, DC. Her car, a Nissan Infiniti, had Connecticut license plates; her one-year-old daughter sat in the back. Maybe the driver knew this checkpoint leads to the White House. Or maybe not. She did soon appear to realize, however, that she was somewhere that she did not belong: Secret Service officers began hollering at her—”Whoa! Whoa!”—and she turned her car around. When she attempted to drive out of the checkpoint area, an off-duty Secret Service officer placed a section of metal fencing in front of her, even as he held on to what appeared to be a cooler and a plastic bag. She pressed on the gas, knocking the officer and barricade to the ground, and zoomed down Pennsylvania Avenue.

A Secret Service officer blocks Miriam Carey’s car with a metal fence. Photo: US Attorney General

There was less traffic than usual this afternoon; the federal government had shut down after Congress had failed to approve a budget on time. Despite the relative quiet, a sense of unease pervaded the capital: 17 days earlier, a former Navy reservist had killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard. Maybe the lingering memory of this mass murder helps explain what happened next. Maybe not. Either way, the driver was now “weaving through traffic and ignoring red lights,” according to a later government account, with Secret Service in hot pursuit. Soon she arrived on the west side of the US Capitol, where she drove the wrong way around Garfield Circle “almost hitting another vehicle head-on.”

She stopped next to a curb, and six officers on foot surrounded her Infiniti. Guns drawn, they yanked on the doors, demanding she step out. Instead, she put the car in reverse, slammed into a police cruiser behind her, then lurched forward onto a sidewalk, forcing officers to scatter. Three officers—two from the Secret Service, one from the Capitol Police—fired eight rounds at her. But she kept going, careening down First Street NW, turning right on Constitution Avenue, police cruisers tailing her, lights spinning and sirens screaming.

Soon she encountered a raised barrier. With nowhere else to go, she pulled the steering wheel to the left, rode onto a grassy median, and plowed into a parked car. Then she shifted into reverse, forcing a Capitol police officer to dart out of the way. That officer and a Secret Service officer each fired nine rounds at the Infiniti. Finally the vehicle stopped, its tires atop the median. The driver was taken to a hospital; her baby was somehow unharmed.

A damaged Capitol Hill police car is surrounded by crime scene tape after a collision on October 3, 2013.* Evan Vucci/AP

Only seven minutes had elapsed from the moment the car chase began until it ended, and throughout the rest of the day, CNN broadcast footage of it over and over. Within hours, the whole country knew the driver’s name. Hundreds of law enforcement officers raced to her condo in Connecticut, with hazmat suits, bomb-sniffing dogs, body armor, assault weapons, and a bomb-detecting robot. Reports of “shots fired” had sent Capitol Hill into a frenzy, sparking a temporary lockdown, and terrifying politicians and staffers alike. At 4:38 p.m., Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Minority Whip, stood up on the floor of the House to express “our gratitude to the Capitol Police.” Members of Congress rose from their seats to applaud, giving the officers a 35-second standing ovation.

Ninety minutes earlier, at a hospital nearby, a doctor had declared the Infiniti’s driver dead.

At first, October 3, 2013, looked like it was going to be a slow-news day. Senate and House leaders were still bickering about who was to blame for the government shutdown, now three days old. Samantha Power, then the newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on the Today Show to talk about, as the tagline read, “balancing diplomats and diapers.” The trial of a lawsuit brought by Michael Jackson’s family had just ended, with a jury deciding that the concert promoter (which had hired Dr. Conrad Murray) was not responsible for the singer’s death. And then, at 2:30 p.m., a story pushed the cable TV networks into overdrive.

“Gunshots have been reported on Capitol Hill,” Wolf Blitzer told CNN’s viewers. “There are at least two dozen police vehicles and multiple emergency response vehicles arriving on the scene…This situation is unfolding even as we speak…We’re here on Capitol Hill ourselves, and we can hear the sirens going off…This is a serious situation, clearly, and we have no clue as to what exactly, what exactly happened.” A witness reported that he could make out “the sulfur smell of gunshots.” Blitzer described it as “an extremely tense situation.”

Soon one CNN correspondent after another filled the screen. “This is early information. As we know, sometimes early information is not correct,” Jake Tapper said, then reported that “gunfire was exchanged.” In fact, no gunfire was exchanged; the Infiniti driver did not have a gun. Tapper also said that “one officer was injured at the Capitol.” This was true: A Capitol Police officer had been injured, though not by gunshots or because he was hit by a car; rather, he had driven into a concrete barrier during the chase and crumpled his own cruiser.

Shortly after 4 p.m., a clearer picture emerged. “It basically looked like a car chase that went really bad,” said Evan Perez, who covers the Justice Department for CNN. “And it appears that none of the shots were fired by any suspect.”

Even after these revelations, after it was confirmed that the driver was not a terrorist and had not been armed, CNN did not dial down the fear and panic. Instead, many of its on-air personalities continued to play to their viewers’ anxiety—and applaud the actions of the police. Dana Bash, CNN’s chief congressional correspondent, told viewers that the Capitol Police “got a standing ovation on the House floor, and they deserved that and much, much more.”

Carey did not try to “ram” through any White House gate or White House barrier. The only barrier she banged into was the metal barricade that an off-duty Secret Service officer placed in front of her car—not to stop her from getting close to the White House, but to prevent her from leaving the checkpoint area.

Eight and a half hours of coverage culminated at 11 p.m. with a “CNN Special” titled Capitol Scare. Tapper filled viewers in on the “frantic car chase” that “left lawmakers on lockdown” and the “Capitol police officer who was hurt while trying to keep others safe.”

Some 1,300 miles away, in a very different sort of newsroom in Texas, another media personality had a completely different take on the events of the afternoon. Two hours after the car chase ended, Alex Jones, America’s best-known conspiracy theorist, stood in front of a video camera and delivered a six-minute rant: “A woman drove around a roundabout not knowing how to get out of there, so they killed her! And that’s what they do in America now…This is a crazy police state, with a system where they’re power-mad and out of control…It is insane…It’s just total mental illness.” He pivoted to face a flat-screen behind him, where CNN showed footage of the chase. “There they are, breathlessly just hyperventilating over the fear, and the great job they did killing the woman with the kid in the car…This is really making me sick…I’m actually sad for the dead lady….This is nuts. She’s dead, and they’re up there talking about what heroes they are.”

In the late afternoon of October 3, 2013, Valarie Carey was at her apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, getting ready to go out for the night, when her cellphone rang. She didn’t recognize the number, so she let the call go straight to voicemail. Soon the same thing happened again. And again. She ignored the calls, until she saw one with a Connecticut area code—her sister lived there; maybe it was her?—and she picked it up. A man on the other end of the line identified himself as a reporter. As she recalls, he told her: “Turn your TV to CNN.”

That’s how she found out that her sister Miriam, a dental hygienist and mother of one, had been in a car chase near the Capitol. Staring at the screen, Valarie, who’s a former NYPD police officer, thought the car looked like her sister’s. The baby who’d been removed from the backseat had her face blurred to conceal her identity, but Valarie saw enough to think the girl resembled her niece. What was going on? The whole thing made zero sense: Her sister and niece lived in Stamford, Connecticut. What were they doing in DC?

“I can’t talk to you right now,” she told the reporter, and hung up.

As she flipped back and forth between stations, trying to get more information, her phone kept buzzing.

Photo courtesy Valarie Carey

“Call me. It’s about Miriam,” somebody texted her at 5:17 p.m.

“Who ARE you?” she wrote back.

“I’m a reporter with abc news. Do you have a minute?”

“No I do not.”

At 6 p.m., in Washington, DC, Cathy Lanier, the chief of the DC police, held a press conference. When asked the name of the woman driving the Infiniti, she refused to reveal it. (“We would make next-of-kin notification before we released that information,” she said.) By then, however, Valarie’s cellphone was already blowing up. Throughout the evening, reporters kept texting her, trying to confirm that the driver of the Infiniti was definitely her sister.

“Hey Val! What did you find out. This is david in new haven.”

“Have cops reached out to you to tell u it was Miriam. We want to respect your family and don’t want to report anything until police speak with you. Please let me know.”

“Can you confirm that you’re Marian’s sister? We haven’t reported her name yet on CNN.”

Reporters had good reason to be extra cautious about publicly identifying the driver. Two weeks earlier, CBS and NBC had mistakenly named the wrong guy on Twitter as the mass murderer in the Navy Yard shootings. From what Valarie could see on the television, switching from station to station, it seemed her sister was dead. But how could she be sure? No law enforcement official had called to notify her of her sister’s death—or to tell her anything at all.

At 6:43 p.m., she wrote back to the ABC reporter who kept sending text messages: “So are you saying my sister is dead?”

“Police said the suspect is dead,” he wrote, “we want to make sure it’s Miriam.”

Meanwhile, three miles across Brooklyn, Idella Carey, 68, was babysitting one of her granddaughters inside her apartment when she got a call from a reporter about her daughter Miriam. Soon Idella’s telephone was ringing nonstop, and she could hear a swarm of strangers outside her front door. Terrified, she retreated to a bedroom and huddled there with her granddaughter. Elsewhere in Brooklyn, Amy Carey-Jones, another of Miriam’s sisters, had run out of power on her cellphone; as soon as she plugged it in, it began ringing too. The first call came from a reporter, who, she recalls, told her: “Turn on the TV.”

Miriam at age 7. Photo courtesy Valarie Carey

The Pink Houses—a housing project in one of the poorest parts of Brooklyn—popped up in the news last November after an NYPD officer killed a young man there by firing his gun inside a darkened stairwell. Three decades earlier, the Pink Houses were Miriam Carey’s home. Her mother, Idella, raised five daughters there; Miriam was the fourth. After high school, Miriam enrolled in a dental-hygienist program at a community college in the Bronx, then went on to Brooklyn College. Photos from the early 2000s show Miriam with her older sisters Amy and Valarie, now all adults, out together at night, each wearing a stylish outfit and radiant grin.

One especially memorable party, a Kwanzaa celebration, took place at Valarie’s apartment near the end of 2005. Valarie served champagne and apple martinis, and laid out a book for guests to record their resolutions. In careful, slanted print, Miriam wrote:

Miriam at age 11. Photo courtesy Valarie Carey

Goals 2006

Complete spring semester at Brooklyn College

Buy a car

Better money management

Take anesthesia course at NYU in March

Go on a vacation

She finished her degree—a bachelor’s in science—in 2007, and before long moved to Stamford, Connecticut, where she bought her own condo, decorating it with framed copies of her diplomas. Her apartment, 1-C, was located on the first floor of an aging brick building in a complex called Woodside Green. A dental practice in Hamden later hired her, announcing in its newsletter: “We are excited to have Miriam!” Finding a decent guy proved harder. “I need to start doing reference and back ground checks on men lol,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “its 2010 and the BS is getting tired.”

By 2011, however, she had found a boyfriend, and in early 2012, she discovered that she was pregnant. One week after her 33rd birthday on August 12, 2012, she gave birth to a girl. Soon pictures of the baby started popping up on her Facebook page. “She was ecstatic about her daughter because she had waited so many years,” says Melony Nunez, a childhood friend. “She was crazy about the baby, absolutely crazy about her.”

Miriam (left) with sisters Amy (center) and Valarie at a New Year’s Eve party in 2007. Photo courtesy Valarie Carey

Before long, however, things began to go awry. Shortly after 9 p.m. on November 29, Miriam called the Stamford Police. “I have some people prowling outside of my window,” she said. “They’ve been prowling outside of my window for all day.”

The 911 operator said, “They’re what outside your window? Loitering?”

“Loitering and actually trying to videotape me though my window.”

The operator asked, “Why are they trying to videotape you?”

“Because they’ve been stalking me for the past several months.”

“And why are they stalking you?”

“I don’t know. I mean they have special interests and items…”

The operator sent officers to her condo, but they found nobody loitering or videotaping or stalking. The call was classified as an EDP or “Emotionally Disturbed Person.”

Eleven days later, Miriam’s boyfriend called 911 from her home and told the police that they “need to take her somewhere to get help.” When officers arrived, she told the cops that she wanted her boyfriend out of her apartment. When an officer asked her why, she said “it was because Stamford and the state of Connecticut is on a security lock down,” an officer later wrote in a report. “She stated that President Obama put Stamford in lock down after speaking to her because she is the Prophet of Stamford. She further stated that President Obama had put her residence under electronic surveillance and that it was being fed live to all the national news outlets.”

In the hours after her death, reporters raced to uncover every detail about Miriam’s life, tracking down relatives, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, former employers, neighbors of her sister, neighbors of her mother, a neighbor of her boyfriend. The public learned all sorts of details, relevant or not: The tires on her Infiniti had been stolen several months earlier; she had once been fired from a dental-hygienist job; her condo had cost almost $250,000; discharge papers from a 2012 mental-health evaluation were found in her home. The same questions hung over every news story: Why had she driven with her baby to DC? And why had she turned into a checkpoint that leads to the White House? Had she been trying to target the president?

The day after her death, her sister Amy told reporters that Miriam had been diagnosed with “postpartum depression with psychosis” after the birth of her daughter. This condition is extremely rare, affecting only 1 or 2 out of every 1,000 women who give birth, and it’s considered temporary as long as it’s treated. Symptoms include delusions, paranoia, hyperactivity, hallucinations. Miriam had been “very compliant with her medication,” her sister Amy said; she had “worked very closely with her doctor to taper off” and was not “walking around with delusions.” Indeed, one day before the car chase, she had gone to her job at a dental office and seemed fine. Whether or not she was delusional when she drove to DC, nobody seemed to know for certain.

Her sister Amy told reporters that Miriam had been diagnosed with “postpartum depression with psychosis.” One day before the car chase, she had gone to her job at a dental office and seemed fine. Whether or not she was delusional when she drove to DC, nobody seemed to know for certain.

As quickly as Miriam popped onto the radar of the national media, she disappeared. Calls to her family members stopped; her name dropped out of the papers; reporters moved on to the next tragedy. Despite her sisters’ efforts to raise questions about her death—was it totally necessary to gun her down? Had there really been no other options?—there was virtually no debate in the mainstream media about whether her shooting was justified. As Talking Points Memo put it: “If you try to ram through the White House security barrier with a car, I think there’s little question the Secret Service immediately goes into attempted assassination, car bomb mode and proceeds accordingly. If you flee toward the US Capitol and resist arrest, I think you’ve probably signed your death warrant unless you very clearly surrender.”

The notion that Miriam Carey tried to “ram through the White House security barrier” ran through virtually all the coverage of her car chase, including many headlines:

Attempt to Ram White House Gate Ends With Conn. Woman Dead.

Woman Who Tried to Ram Car Through White House Barrier Had Delusions About President Obama.

Woman Killed After Trying to Ram White House Barrier Buried in N.Y.

The only problem with these stories was that they weren’t quite true: Carey did not try to “ram” through any White House gate or White House barrier. The only barrier she banged into was the metal barricade that an off-duty Secret Service officer placed in front of her car—not to stop her from getting close to the White House, but to prevent her from leaving the checkpoint area. This distinction did not get made in the mainstream media, however, before most reporters had moved on. And her case didn’t receive scrutiny even after the Secret Service found itself embroiled in scandal last fall. (An exception was this fine piece by the Washington Post’s David Montgomery.) Nor did it receive much attention yesterday, when it was revealed that on March 4th two Secret Service agents drove their own government-issued car into a White House barricade allegedly after a night of drinking.

Also Read: What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones?

After Miriam’s death, the progressive voices one might have expected to take up her cause—Al Sharpton, the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus—remained silent. And in a strange reversal, media outlets on the opposite end of the political spectrum embraced her: conservative, libertarian, conspiracy-minded. Alex Jones’s rage in the hours after her shooting was shared by the American Spectator, which soon ran a piece with the headline: “Why Is This Not a National Tragedy? A troubled young mother is shot dead and our ruling class applauds.” The media outlet that pursued Miriam’s story with the most zeal was WorldNetDaily (WND), a conservative news site, which published more than 50 pieces about her.

Perhaps it is inevitable that any tragedy that grabs the attention of the national media will eventually spawn a hundred conspiracy theories, but there was something about Carey’s story—the media mishaps, the fact that even her family did not know why she was in DC, the reports of her having delusions about the president—that became catnip for a certain sort of internet junkie. On blogs, in homemade YouTube videos, in the comment sections of news sites, myriad theories popped up to explain why she had driven into a White House checkpoint: She got lost and made a wrong turn; she had to get a message to Obama; she was mad about the government shutdown; she was mad about Obamacare; she was a “targeted individual” with her mind controlled by the government; her car was remote controlled; she had cleaned Obama’s teeth in the past and knew him. And then there was the inevitable claim that the whole event was a “false flag,” intended to distract the public from some other, more nefarious government activity occurring at the same time. But perhaps the most creative theory was the one pushed by James David Manning, a Harlem pastor with a deep dislike of Obama. His theory: Someone had Miriam “assassinated” so that nobody would discover the truth about her daughter in the backseat—that the baby was “Obama’s love child.”

One afternoon last August, Miriam’s mother and sisters Valarie and Amy gathered in Valarie’s apartment, and they invited me to join them. Ten months had passed since Miriam’s death; in Valarie’s foyer, a shrine to Miriam greeted visitors with the smell of lilies. I sat down in the living room, where a framed portrait of President Obama hung near the entrance to the kitchen. Soon the family’s lawyer, Eric Sanders, a former NYPD officer and Valarie’s friend, showed up too. (Sanders has filed a claim—the precursor to a lawsuit—on the family’s behalf against the federal government, the Secret Service, and the Capitol Police.) Valarie offered glasses of ginger ale and set out some mixed nuts. The mood was friendly, but wary too; the family did not seem especially eager to talk to another reporter, but they did have a few things they wanted to say.

As it happened, on this same day at a church in St. Louis, thousands of people were gathering for the funeral of 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose death at the hands of a police officer had sparked two weeks of angry protests. The fact that Eric Holder, the US attorney general, had already traveled to Missouri and met with Brown’s parents had not gone unnoticed. “I just find it interesting that nobody in Washington has commented on Miriam,” Valarie says. “But you can leave from your capital and travel to a location where a young man was shot. These are the people who are there to protect the capitol—the Capitol Police, the Secret Service—and you don’t hear any comment from President Obama. You don’t hear any comment from Eric Holder. And this woman was unarmed, she was a law-abiding citizen, she was a professional.”

DV.load(“//www.documentcloud.org/documents/1686350-miriam-carey-amended-legal-claim.js”, width: 300, height: 400, sidebar: false, container: “#DV-viewer-1686350-miriam-carey-amended-legal-claim” ); Miriam Carey’s Amended Legal Claim (PDF)
Miriam Carey’s Amended Legal Claim (Text)

Read the Carey family’s legal claim.

Miriam Carey’s death certificate lists the manner of death as “homicide,” but her family has yet to receive a full account of exactly what occurred. In the absence of answers, Valarie and Sanders have come up with their own theory (as outlined in the family’s legal claim): Miriam turned into the White House checkpoint by mistake; an off-duty Secret Service officer who happened to be there overreacted, grabbed a metal barricade, and “threw himself in front of her vehicle”; she panicked and tried to drive around the officer to escape; there wasn’t enough room, so she bumped into him. The family’s legal claim refers to this off-duty officer as “an unidentified aggressive Caucasian Male,” and posits that once Miriam banged into him with her car, he became “completely agitated,” jumped into a car, and the chase began. (Footage does show an officer at the Capitol four minutes later who appears to match the description of the one who blocked her car at the checkpoint; the Secret Service has released no details about any personnel involved in the incident.)

A tourist from Oregon who saw Miriam’s Infiniti enter the White House checkpoint did later tell a reporter that “the Secret Service guy was just having a cow,” that he was “yelling at her and banging on the car.” A surveillance photo, released by the US Attorney in DC, shows Miriam’s Infiniti knocking into the off-duty officer, in his shorts and holding a cooler, as he jams the metal barricade into her car. Maybe Miriam didn’t realize he was a cop, notes Valerie. “His actions were very aggressive,” she says. “Where in your police training does it state to take a metal barricade and block a moving vehicle? I’m sure it doesn’t.” Analyzing the car-chase video, Valarie says, “What I saw was that my sister was afraid, and she was trying to get away, because there was something in her mind that that guy said to her that incited her to flee.”

DV.load(“//www.documentcloud.org/documents/1686389-the-autopsy-report-of-miriam-iris-carey.js”, width: 300, height: 400, sidebar: false, container: “#DV-viewer-1686389-the-autopsy-report-of-miriam-iris-carey” ); The Autopsy Report of Miriam Iris Carey (PDF)
The Autopsy Report of Miriam Iris Carey (Text)

Read Miriam Carey’s autopsy report.

As devastating as Miriam’s death had been, in some ways the months that followed were even more upsetting. The family says it never received official notification of her death. No letter explaining what happened, no condolence note from any elected official in Washington. When Miriam’s autopsy report was made public last April, her family learned that she had been shot once in the arm, once in the head, and three times in the back.

Last July, nine months after her death, the US Attorney’s Office in DC and the Metropolitan Police Department finally announced that they had finished reviewing her shooting, only to conclude there was not enough evidence to bring charges against the officers. This was not surprising; proving that officers used excessive force and “willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right” is extremely difficult. But the news still stung. “When an injustice is committed against you or your family,” Valarie wrote on Twitter that day, “it cuts DEEP and sharp like a hot knife.”

Of all the Carey family members, Valarie spends the most time on the internet, tracking everything that anyone is saying about her sister. In the days after Miriam’s death, Valarie says, strangers sent her messages through Facebook and Twitter along the lines of: “I have information about your sister. She was being mind-controlled. I’m being mind-controlled, too.” One woman in California even emailed a packet of mind-control information to the family, addressed to the funeral home. When I ask to see it, Valarie disappears into the back of her apartment, then returns with a thick envelope.

In the months that followed, when protesters took to the streets to rally on behalf of people killed by the police—Eric Garner and Michael Brown and others—Miriam’s name did not show up on their posters.

She pulls out a stack of papers and spreads them on the sofa. One page shows the results of a Google search for “GOVT MIND CONTROL TECHNOLOGY.” Another is a collage made with a photocopier, which features a picture of Miriam, a photo of officers aiming their guns at her car, and hand-scrawled messages, like: “Miriam Carey was not crazy. She was under a microwave attack.” The envelope also includes one highly unusual condolence note: “IN MEMORIES OF MIRIAM CAREY FROM THE (TI) TARGETED INDIVIDUAL COMMUNITY,” it states. “WE ARE HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST AND LEADERS WHO FIGHTS AGAINST ELECTRONIC SURVEILLANCE HARASSMENT AND TORTURE USED ON THE MINDS OF HUMANS — MAY HER SOUL REST IN PEACE…SHE WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.”

On the first anniversary of Miriam’s death—on an unusually warm afternoon this past autumn—a charter bus traveled from Brooklyn to Washington, DC, arriving at Garfield Circle at 1:30 p.m. Miriam’s mother, two sisters, and a slew of friends, relatives, and supporters exited. They walked toward the US Capitol, each holding up a poster with a picture of Miriam and a message: “Miriam Carey Mattered” or “Why was Miriam Carey Killed???” For the next 30 minutes, they held a “silent protest” on the steps of the Capitol, then chanted Miriam’s name five times, once for each bullet that hit her.

Miriam’s name on the buzzer at the Stamford condo where she lived.

Afterward, everyone walked the route that Miriam had driven, beginning on the sidewalk here, where officers had first discharged their weapons at her. The family’s attorney led the way down 1st Street SW and along Constitution Avenue before stopping near 2nd Street SE. “This is where the last shots were fired at Miriam,” he says, pointing toward the middle of the street. “This is where she died.” Everyone turned to study the strip of grass in the center of the road, not far from a sign directing drivers to I-95. There was nothing to mark the spot, nothing that made this median seem any different from any other one in America.

In the months that followed, when protesters took to the streets to rally on behalf of people killed by the police—Eric Garner and Michael Brown and others—Miriam’s name did not show up on their posters. There was, however, one place where her name did still appear. Inside the entryway to the building in Stamford where she last lived, next to a row of buzzers, one name-label still read: “MCarey 1C.” A year after her death, her condo appeared unoccupied, and the shades remained closed. Her daughter, now two years old, had moved in with her father. And Miriam’s bullet-marked body lay buried at a cemetery on Long Island, sealed inside an orchid-gray steel casket.

Family and friends of Miriam Carey protest her death on the West Front of the Capitol on October 3, 2014. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP

Correction: A previous caption for this image misstated that the damage to the police car was inflicted by Miriam Carey’s car. The damage was in fact the result of a separate collision.

Visit site – 

How a Confused Mom Drove Through a White House Checkpoint and Ended Up Dead

Posted in alo, Citizen, Everyone, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, LG, Nissan, ONA, Oster, PUR, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How a Confused Mom Drove Through a White House Checkpoint and Ended Up Dead

The Shockingly Simple, Surprisingly Cost-Effective Way to End Homelessness

Mother Jones

By Scott Carrier | Tuesday Feb. 17, 2015 06:00 AM ET

It’s early December, 10:30 in the morning, and Rene Zepeda is driving a Volunteers of America minivan around Salt Lake City, looking for reclusive homeless people, those camping out next to the railroad tracks or down by the river or up in the foothills. The winter has been unseasonably warm so far—it’s 60 degrees today—but the cold weather is coming and the van is stacked with sleeping bags, warm coats, thermal underwear, socks, boots, hats, hand warmers, protein bars, nutrition drinks, canned goods. By the end of the day, Rene says, it will all be gone.

These supplies make life a little easier for people who live outside, but Rene’s main goal is to develop a relationship of trust with them, and act as a bridge to get them off the street. “I want to get them into homes,” Rene says. “I tell them, ‘I’m working for you. I want to get you out of the homeless situation.'”

And he does. He and all the other people who work with the homeless here have perhaps the best track record in the country. In the past nine years, Utah has decreased the number of homeless by 72 percent—largely by finding and building apartments where they can live, permanently, with no strings attached. It’s a program, or more accurately a philosophy, called Housing First.

Scott Nowlin, 60, was homeless for 20 years before he was given a home as part of Utah’s Housing First program.

One of the two phones on the dash starts ringing. “Outreach, this is Rene.” He’s upbeat, the voice you want to hear if you’re in trouble. “Do you want to meet at the motel? Or the 7-Eleven?” he asks. “Okay, we’ll be there in five minutes.”

Five days ago, William Miller, 63, was diagnosed with liver cancer at St. Mary’s Hospital in Reno, Nevada. The next day a friend put him on the train to Salt Lake City, hoping the Latter Day Saints Hospital might help. For the past two nights he’s been sleeping under a freeway viaduct. He vomits when he wakes up in the morning and has gone through two sets of clothes due to diarrhea. Yesterday he went to the LDS Hospital for a checkup and slept for five and a half hours in a bathroom. Now he’s sitting on the back of the van in a motel parking lot. A friend staying at the motel let him take a shower in his room, but then William started feeling weak, so he called Rene.

“I’m one that rarely gets sick,” he says. “It takes a lot to get me down, but I’m all out of everything.”

He has bushy sideburns and a lot of hair sticking out from a beanie and looks as if he was once much bigger than he is now, like he’s shrinking inside oversized clothes.

“I had two cups of Jell-O yesterday. My buddy got me a cup of coffee and a couple of doughnuts, but I’m gagging and throwing up everything. I’m nodding out talking to people, and that’s not good.”

Rene helps William get in the passenger seat and drives him to the Fourth Street Clinic, which provides free care for the homeless and is where Rene used to work as an AmeriCorps volunteer. He knows the system and trusts the doctors and nurses. William gets out of the van and walks inside very slowly and sits down in the waiting room. Rene checks him in. “I’m a tough old bird,” William says to me. “I ain’t never had something like this. I’m just weak as all get out, and in a lot of pain.”

Watch: Hanging Out With the Tech Have-Nots at a Silicon Valley Shantytown

Then he nods off.

The next stop is at a camp next to the railroad tracks. A 57-year-old man and a 41-year-old woman are living in a three-man dome tent covered with plastic tarps. Patrick says he’s doing okay, even though he’s had two strokes this year and has two tumors on his left lung and walks with a cane.

“My legs are going out. I’m sure it’s from camping out. We were living in the hills for two years,” he says. “My girlfriend, Charmaine, is talking about killing herself she’s in so much pain.” Charmaine is a heroin addict who suffers from diabetes, grand mal seizures, cirrhosis, and heart attacks. “When we lived in the foothills we both got bit by poisonous spiders,” she says, showing me a three-inch scar above her swollen right ankle. “The doctor tried to cut out the infection, but he accidently cut my calf muscle.”

She walks slowly, with a limp. As Rene is getting Charmaine in the van, Patrick takes him aside and asks if maybe Rene could get her into one of the subsidized apartments for chronically homeless people.

“If she comes back here she’ll die,” he says. “Especially with the cold weather coming.”

Rene tells him he’ll look into it.

On the way to the Fourth Street Clinic, I ask Charmaine how many times she’s been to an emergency room or clinic this year.

He lost his job, home, and kids to drug use. Now Patrick Bartholomew is clean and has full custody. “I can talk about my story now,” he says. “For a long time I couldn’t.”

“More times than I can count,” she says.

By the end of the day, Rene has met with 12 homeless people, all with drug and alcohol problems, many requiring medical help, all needing the sleeping bags, warm clothes, food, and supplies that he hands out. As the sun sets we head back to the office with an empty van.

“I do it for the money and glamour,” he says, laughing. “No, I mean you cross a line and you really can’t go back, ’cause you just know this is out here.”

We could, as a country, look at the root causes of homelessness and try to fix them. One of the main causes is that a lot of people can’t afford a place to live. They don’t have enough money to pay rent, even for the cheapest dives available. Prices are rising, inventory is extremely tight, and the upshot is, as a new report by the Urban Institute finds, that there’s only 29 affordable units available for every 100 extremely low-income households. So we could create more jobs, redistribute the wealth, improve education, socialize health carebasically redesign our political and economic systems to make sure everybody can afford a roof over their heads.

Instead of this, we do one of two things: We stick our heads in the sand or try to find bandages for the symptoms. This story is about how Utah has found a third way.

To understand how the state did that it helps to know that homeless-service advocates roughly divide their clients into two groups: those who will be homeless for only a few weeks or a couple of months, and those who are “chronically homeless,” meaning they have been without a place to live for more than a year, and have other problems—mental illness or substance abuse or other debilitating damage. The vast majority, 85 percent, of the nation’s estimated 580,000 homeless are of the temporary variety, mainly men but also women and whole families who spend relatively short periods of time sleeping in shelters or cars, then get their lives together and, despite an economy increasingly stacked against them, find a place to live, somehow. However, the remaining 15 percent, the chronically homeless, fill up the shelters night after night and spend a lot of time in emergency rooms and jails. This is expensive—costing between $30,000 and $50,000 per person per year according to the Interagency Council on Homelessness. And there are a few people in every city, like Reno’s infamous “Million-Dollar Murray,” who really bust the bank. So in recent years, both local and federal efforts to solve the homelessness epidemic have concentrated on the chronic population, currently about 84,000 nationwide.

In 2005, approximately 2,000 of these chronically homeless people lived in the state of Utah, mainly in and around Salt Lake City. Many different agencies and groups—governmental and nonprofit, charitable and religious—worked to get them back on their feet and off the streets. But the numbers and costs just kept going up.

The model for dealing with the chronically homeless at that time, both here and in most places across the nation, was to get them “ready” for housing by guiding them through drug rehabilitation programs or mental-health counseling, or both. If and when they stopped drinking or doing drugs or acting crazy, they were given heavily subsidized housing on the condition that they stay clean and relatively sane. This model, sometimes called “linear residential treatment” or “continuum of care,” seemed to be a good idea, but it didn’t work very well because relatively few chronically homeless people ever completed the work required to become “ready,” and those who did often could not stay clean or stop having mental episodes, so they lost their apartments and became homeless again.

In 1992, a psychologist at New York University named Sam Tsemberis decided to test a new model. His idea was to just give the chronically homeless a place to live, on a permanent basis, without making them pass any tests or attend any programs or fill out any forms.

“Okay,” Tsemberis recalls thinking, “they’re schizophrenic, alcoholic, traumatized, brain damaged. What if we don’t make them pass any tests or fill out any forms? They aren’t any good at that stuff. Inability to pass tests and fill out forms was a large part of how they ended up homeless in the first place. Why not just give them a place to live and offer them free counseling and therapy, health care, and let them decide if they want to participate? Why not treat chronically homeless people as human beings and members of our community who have a basic right to housing and health care?”

Tsemberis and his associates, a group called Pathways to Housing, ran a large test in which they provided apartments to 242 chronically homeless individuals, no questions asked. In their apartments they could drink, take drugs, and suffer mental breakdowns, as long as they didn’t hurt anyone or bother their neighbors. If they needed and wanted to go to rehab or detox, these services were provided. If they needed and wanted medical care, it was also provided. But it was up to the client to decide what services and care to participate in.

The results were remarkable. After five years, 88 percent of the clients were still in their apartments, and the cost of caring for them in their own homes was a little less than what it would have cost to take care of them on the street. A subsequent study of 4,679 New York City homeless with severe mental illness found that each cost an average of $40,449 a year in emergency room, shelter, and other expenses to the system, and that getting those individuals in supportive housing saved an average of $16,282. Soon other cities such as Seattle and Portland, Maine, as well as states like Rhode Island and Illinois, ran their own tests with similar results. Denver found that emergency-service costs alone went down 73 percent for people put in Housing First, for a savings of $31,545 per person; detox visits went down 82 percent, for an additional savings of $8,732. By 2003, Housing First had been embraced by the Bush administration.

Still, the new paradigm was slow to catch on. Old practices are sometimes hard to give up, even when they don’t work. When Housing First was initially proposed in Salt Lake City, some homeless advocates thought the new model would be a disaster. Also, it would be hard to sell the ultra-conservative Utah Legislature on giving free homes to drug addicts and alcoholics. And the Legislature would have to back the idea because even though most of the funding for new construction would come from the federal government, the state would have to pick up the balance and find ways to plan, build, and manage the new units. And where are you going to put them? Not in my backyard.

This is when two men who’d worked with the homeless in Utah for many years—Matt Minkevitch, executive director of the largest shelter in Salt Lake City, and Kerry Bate, executive director of the Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake—started scheming.

“We got together and decided we needed Lloyd Pendleton,” Minkevitch said.

How Does a City Count Its Homeless?

Pendleton was then an executive manager for the LDS Church Welfare Department, and he had a reputation for solving difficult managerial problems both in the United States and overseas. He’d also been involved in helping out with homeless projects in Salt Lake City, organizing volunteers, and donating food from the Bishop’s Storehouse. Dedicated to providing emergency and disaster assistance around the world as well as supplying basic material necessities to church members in need of assistance, the Church Welfare Department is like a large corporation in itself. It has 52 farms, 13 food-processing plants, and 135 storehouses. It also makes furniture like mattresses, tables, and dressers. If you’re a member of the church and you lose your job, your house, and all your money, you can go to your bishop and he’ll give you a place to live, some food, some money, and set you up with a job…no questions asked. All you have to do in return is some community service and try to follow the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. A system very much like Housing First—give them what they need, then work on their problems.

Minkevitch and Bate believed if they could get Pendleton to come on as the director of Utah’s Task Force on Homelessness he could mobilize the LDS, unite the different homeless-service providers, and sell the Housing First paradigm to the Legislature. Minkevitch’s agency had a close relationship with LDS leaders; the church had been a big donor for his shelter, The Road Home. Bate had worked with Lt. Gov. Olene Walker, who had just ascended to the governorship when Mike Leavitt was appointed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. He asked her to write a letter to LDS elders, requesting that they “loan” Pendleton to the state. She did, and the church leaders said yes. It was a perfect marriage between church and state.

“The old model was well intentioned but misinformed. You actually need housing to achieve sobriety and stability, not the other way around.”

Once Pendleton took over the task force, he traveled to other cities to study their homeless programs. But he didn’t see anything he thought would work, at least in Utah. “I wasn’t willing to go to the Legislature until we could tell them we had a new goal and a new vision,” he said.

Then, in 2005, after a conference in Las Vegas, Pendleton shared an airport shuttle ride with Tsemberis and got a firsthand account of the Housing First trial. Tsemberis bore his testimony, as the Mormons would say, about the transformative power of giving someone a home.

Kim Hansen moved into Grace Mary Manor in 2014, after 15 years of homelessness. Hansen, who once owned a restaurant, now runs the kitchen at another homeless residence.

“Going from homelessness into a home changes a person’s psychological identity from outcast to member of the community,” Tsemberis says. The old model “was well intentioned but misinformed. It is a long stairway that required sobriety and required stability in order to get into housing. So many people could never achieve that while on the street. You actually need housing to achieve sobriety and stability, not the other way around. But that was the system that was there. Some people called it a housing readiness industry, because all these programs were in business to improve people to get them ready for housing. Improve their character, improve their behavior, improve their moral standing. There is also this attitude about poor people, like somehow they brought this upon themselves by not behaving right.” By contrast, he adds, “Housing First provides a new sense of belonging that is reinforced in every interaction with new neighbors and other community members. We operate with the belief that housing is a basic right. Everyone on the streets deserves a home. He or she should not have to earn it, or prove they are ready or worthy.”

When I asked Pendleton if that struck a chord because Housing First seemed akin to the LDS Church Welfare Department, he was careful to insist that “the Mormon church is no different than other Christian churches in this way.” Whatever, he was sold.

Lloyd Pendleton is 74 years old, fit and spry with silver hair and pale-blue eyes that have the penetrating and somewhat mesmerizing stare of a border collie. He grew up relatively poor on a dairy farm and cattle ranch in a remote desert of western Utah and maybe has some cow dog in him.

“As a kid,” he says, “I was expected to do everything on the farm, from building fences to chopping wood to milking the cows. Every year I was given a new pair of work boots and a new pair of Levi’s. That was all my family could afford.”

He earned an MBA from Brigham Young University and was hired straight out of school by the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. “I remember my first day on the job, sitting at a table in the corporate headquarters, looking around and realizing everyone else had gone to Harvard or Yale, and I was just a country hick from Utah. It was intimidating, for sure, but I thought, ‘No one here can outwork me.'”

Can Tiny Houses Help Fix Homelessness?

At Ford, Pendleton began to hone what he calls the “champion method” for getting results. Champions, according to Pendleton, have stamina, enthusiasm, a sense of humor, and they focus on solutions rather than process. Getting stuff done is more important than having meetings. A perfect meeting for Pendleton amounts to him clasping his hands and saying, “Let’s get going and not waste any more time.”

Pendleton asked Tsemberis to come speak to the state task force, which he did, twice. Then Pendleton called a meeting of “all the dogs in the fight” and announced that they were going to run a Housing First trial in Salt Lake City. He told them to come up with the names of 25 chronically homeless people, “the worst of the worst,” and they were going to give them apartments scattered around the city, no questions asked. If it worked for them, it would work for everybody.

“I didn’t want any ‘creaming,'” Pendleton said. “We needed to be able to trust the results.”

Many of the people in the room were uncomfortable with Pendleton’s idea. They were case managers and shelter directors and city housing officials who worked with “the worst of the worst” every day and knew they had serious personal problems—terrible alcoholism, dementia, paranoid schizophrenia. Something bad was sure to happen. There could be lawsuits. And who would be responsible? No, they thought, it will not work.

Pendleton, however, did not want to hear complaints. This was a small-scale trial, and he only wanted them to answer one question: “What do you need to get this done?”

So they did it. They ended up with 17 people and gave them apartments, health care, and services. They took people without a home and made them part of a neighborhood. And it worked, surprisingly well. After nearly two years, 14 were still in their apartments (the other three died), and they are still there today. They haven’t caused problems for themselves or their neighbors, Pendleton says.

Utah found that giving people supportive housing cost the system about half as much as leaving the homeless to live on the street.

The cost of housing and caring for the 17 people, over the first two years, was more than expected because many needed serious medical care and spent some time in hospitals. They were, however, the worst of the worst. Pendleton felt confident that, averaged out over the whole homeless population and over a period of years, they were looking at a break-even proposition or better—it would cost no more to house the homeless and treat them in their homes than it would to cover the cost of shelter stays, jail time, and emergency room visits if they were left on the street. And those “cashable” savings wouldn’t even include less quantifiable benefits for the rest of the state’s residents: reduced wait times at ERs, faster police response times, cleaner streets.

Heartbreaking Photos and Tragic Tales of San Francisco’s Homeless

This is when Pendleton announced a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness in Utah by 2015. But finding scattered-site housing wasn’t going to cut it. To house 2,000 chronically homeless people, they would build five new apartment complexes. Around 90 percent of the construction money would come from the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, which gives tax credits to large financial corporations that provide financing for housing authorities or nonprofits to build low-income housing—an average 6 percent profit on their investment. It’s a rather complicated and circuitous route, but it’s politically easier than getting lawmakers to allocate billions for poor people. The remaining 10 percent of construction costs would come from state taxes and charitable organizations. Most of the rent and maintenance on the units would come from federal Section 8 housing subsidies—and, at the time, Utah was fortunate enough not to have a long waiting list. On-site services, such as counseling, would largely be paid for by state and county general-fund dollars.

It took the task force only four years to build five new apartment buildings with units for 1,000 individuals and families. That, and an additional 500 scattered-site units, reduced the number of chronically homeless by almost three-quarters. And nine years into the 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness, Pendleton estimates that Utah’s Housing First program cost between $10,000 and $12,000 per person, about half of the $20,000 it cost to treat and care for homeless people on the street.

As anyone who’s followed social services can tell you, however, cheery annual reports can hide a world of dysfunction. So I go to see for myself.

Sunrise Metro was the first apartment complex built following the 2005 pilot study. It has 100 one-bedroom units for single residents, many of whom are veterans. Mark Eugene Hudgins is 58 years old and has brain damage. When I first start talking to him, I wonder if he’s been drinking.

“I always get hassled because I sound a little drunk,” he says. “My brain works a little slow. They drilled a hole in it.”

He had a motorcycle accident in Santa Ana, California, the year after graduating from high school. After that he spent 22 months in the Navy, then worked as a groundskeeper for the aerial field photography office of the Department of Agriculture for 13 or 14 years. He says he was homeless for five years before he came here, but he’s not sure: “My memory is a little fuzzy.”

“This is a nice place to live,” he says. “I put up with them and they put up with me, and it’s a good deal. I like it here.”

While we talk, two other residents come up to listen. One is in a wheelchair. His name is John Dahlsrud, 63, and he says he’s had MS for 45 years. The other guy looks like a weary Santa Claus—Paul Stephenson, 62, a Navy vet who lived for three years in the bushes behind a car dealership.

“The caseworkers are good,” Paul says. “They take us bowling on Saturdays. The apartment pays for one game, we pay for the second game.”

“They let you do what you want,” John adds, “as long as you keep things down to a minimum and don’t run up and down the halls naked.”

Here’s What It’s Like to Be a Homeless Techie in Silicon Valley

“Utilities are included, except for cable,” Paul says. “They gave everybody a free cellphone with 250 minutes a month. We get a pool table, a pingpong table, 60-inch television, eight recliner rockers. They give us food boxes once a month. I got 22 cans of tuna fish last month. There’s nothing to complain about.”

They each receive about $800 a month in Supplemental Security Income, and pay a third of that toward their rent. (The balance is paid via federal vouchers, along with some Utah funds.)

Over at Grace Mary Manor, I am given a tour by the county housing authority’s Kerry Bate—one of the men who helped persuade the LDS church to loan Pendleton to the task force. Grace Mary Manor is home to 84 formerly homeless individuals with disabling conditions such as brain damage, cancer, and dementia. You have to have a swipe card or get buzzed in at the front door, and there’s a front desk manager during the day and an off-duty sheriff at night. Bate explains that one of the biggest problems in giving homeless people a place to live is that they often want to bring their friends in off the street—they feel guilty. So there are rules to limit such visitations.

“It gives the people who live here a way out,” Bate says. “They can blame it on us.”

Tom Pinkerton, 67, from Red River, South Dakota, has cancer of the esophagus. He needs to have surgery, but first has to gain 10 to 20 pounds to make it through the anesthesia. (He has since passed away.) Howard Kelly, 44, from Denton, Texas, has brain damage from falling out of a car when he was a kid. David Simmons, 39, from Texas, was living under a bridge before coming here. I’m no doctor, but I’d guess he has some mental-health problems. Lorraine Levi says she’s “over 50.” Her boyfriend beat her up and broke her back. She needs surgery and is on strong doses of pain meds.

“The average person at Grace Mary was homeless for eight years before coming here, so their health condition is really poor,” Bate says.

On the third floor there’s a library with big leather chairs, nice wooden tables, and a portrait of Grace Mary Gallivan hanging above the fireplace. She died in 2000. Her father was a manager of a silver mine in Park City, and her husband was publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune. Her family foundation put up $600,000 for the construction of the apartment complex, matched by the foundation of the heirs to Utah’s first multimillionaire, David Eccles, who built one of the biggest banks in the West. From a window in the library you can look outside and see a gazebo for picnics and a volleyball court with evenly raked sand.

Bate introduces me to Steven Roach and Kay Luther, young caseworkers who check in on their clients every day to see what they need. They take them to the Fourth Street Clinic and Valley Mental Health, bring food from the food banks—pretty much anything they can do to help.

“The point is to have a service person on-site,” Bate says. “So if Sally Jo is having a crisis, we got somebody here who can help. Their goal isn’t to take everybody off the street and repair them and turn them into middle-class America. Their goal is to make sure they stay housed.”

“We have a guy who goes out to sleep in the park every month, and we have to go get him, talk him into coming back,” Roach says.

“There’s no mandate for participation in substance abuse or mental-health care, but we can certainly encourage it,” Luther says. “We had one guy who got completely clean from heroin and is off working in a furniture store.”

Bate shows me an empty apartment, a fairly spartan studio with linoleum floors, new sheets on the bed, the kitchen stocked with canned food, silverware, plates, etc.

“The church donated all of this,” Bate says. “Before we opened up, volunteers from the local Mormon ward came over and assembled all the furniture. It was overwhelming. For the first several years we were open, the LDS church made weekly food deliveries—everything from meat to butter and cheese. It wasn’t just dried beans—it was good stuff.” (The Utah Food Bank now makes weekly deliveries.)

I ask him if this is why the programs work so well in Utah—because of church donations.

“If the LDS church was not into it, the money would be missed, for sure,” he says, “but it’s church leadership that’s immensely important. If the word gets out that the church is behind something, it removes a lot of barriers.”

“Why do you think they do it?” I ask.

“Oh,” he says, “I think they believe all that stuff in the New Testament about helping the poor. That’s kind of crazy for a religion, I know, but I think they take it quite seriously.”

“Do you think you can meet the goal of eliminating chronic homelessness in Utah by 2015?” I ask.

“Yes,” Bate says, “we have a little less than 272 remaining unhoused, and that’s a number you can wrap your head around. Not like California and other places.”

“So do you think your success can be duplicated in other places?”

“I think it can be duplicated,” he replies. “San Francisco has Silicon Valley. Seattle has Bill Gates. Almost all of our larger cities have local philanthropic organizations that can help a lot with funding and building community support.”

And that’s the question, isn’t it? Can Housing First scale to areas where land and services are expensive, where NIMBYs are accordingly more powerful, places where the full organizational zeal and experience of the LDS church aren’t in evidence, and where data about the benefits of offering the homeless a permanent residence might not withstand the whims of politicians? In New York City, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled out a well-regarded Housing First program focusing on mentally ill individuals. But he then gutted housing subsidies for the general homeless population, including families, after saying he thought they promoted passivity instead of “client responsibility.” Today, homelessness is the highest since the Great Depression, with 60,000 New Yorkers—including 26,000 children—on the streets, in the subway tunnels, and in the city’s sprawling network of 255 shelters, conveniently located far from the playgrounds of the 1 percent. “Every month I get a paper from Welfare saying how much they just paid for me and my two kids to stay in our one room in this shelter. $3,444! Every month!” one exasperated mom told The New Yorker. “Give me $900 and I’ll find me and my kids an apartment, I promise you.” The new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has pledged to reinvest in supportive and affordable housing, but 1 in 5 residents now live below the poverty line, and demand is high.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg slashed housing subsidies after saying he thought they promoted passivity instead of “client responsibility.” Today, 60,000 New Yorkers are homeless.

But the real test case might be California, where 20 percent of the nation’s homeless live. Los Angeles has 34,393 homeless people, more than a quarter of whom are chronically so. San Francisco has 6,408 homeless, Santa Clara County—home to San Jose and the greater Silicon Valley—has 7,567, and housing costs are among the highest in the nation. It takes three minimum-wage jobs to pay for an average one-bedroom apartment there. Tax credits for construction and Section 8 vouchers for rent don’t come close to the actual costs.

That’s the dilemma facing Jennifer Loving, the executive director of Destination: Home, a public-private partnership spearheading Santa Clara’s Housing First program. As in Utah, the leaders of Santa Clara’s initiative were able to marshal different agencies, nonprofits, and private groups, unifying their vision and goals to house the chronically homeless. “At first, it was tough to move out of the shelter way of doing things. It was new to all sit around the same table and change the way the system responds to homelessness,” Loving says.

Like Pendleton, they addressed the chronically homeless cases first. In 2011, in conjunction with a national effort called 100,000 Homes, they began a trial to house 1,000 people who’d been homeless for an average of 18 years and estimated to cost the system upward of $60,000 a year. “Our motto was, ‘Whatever it takes,'” Loving says. “We built the plane as we were flying it.” That meant lots of innovation along the way, such as creating a $100,000 flex fund to do things like pay off small dings on people’s credit, so they could qualify for vouchers and establish rental history: “So if Bob has an eight-year-old violation on his credit history, we’d just pay that off,” Loving says.

By the end of 2014, they had housed 840 people in apartments scattered around the county. The remaining 100 or so have rental subsidies but can’t find a place to live due to exceptionally high occupancy rates. Still, the trial was considered a big success—in part because supported housing only cost an estimated $25,000 per person—and Santa Clara County has now officially adopt­ed the Housing First model. “We made a system out of nothing, and we used it like an assembly line to house people,” Loving says. “And the only thing in our way is the high cost of housing stock.”

So now they’re embarking on a five-year plan to house the county’s remaining 6,000 homeless. First, they’ve launched an extensive study on exactly how much homelessness actually costs taxpayers. Those costs are very hard to determine: There are so many agencies involved—hospitals, jails, police, detox centers, mental-health clinics, shelters, service providers—and they all keep separate records, separate sets of data used for separate purposes, all run on separate pieces of software. “Each department has an information system and a team that looks at the data,” says Ky Le, director of the Office of Supportive Housing for Santa Clara. “They have small teams who know their data best, how it’s configured and why, what’s accurate and what’s not.” Ky says that merging datasets has been “a tremendous effort,” but by integrating and analyzing it, Santa Clara hopes to better understand who’s already a “frequent flier” of clinics and jails, and, more tantalizingly, to develop an early warning system for who is likely to become one, and how they can be housed and cared for in the most cost-effective manner.

New housing needs to be found, or built, but with the market so tight, finding housing—any housing—is a huge challenge, one made worse when Gov. Jerry Brown slashed all $1.7 billion of the state’s redevelopment funds during the 2011 budget crisis. (Those funds have not rematerialized now that California has a huge budget surplus.) So they’re getting creative—”tiny homes, pod housing, stackable—we’re looking at it all,” Loving says. And they’re employing creative financing efforts, like “pay-for-success” bonds, in which investors (mostly foundations) would stake the construction funds and get a small return if the savings materialize for the county.

After a year and a half on the streets of Salt Lake City, Madeline Wesson, 63, moved into Grace Mary Manor when it opened. Seven years later, it’s still home.

Advocates estimate it could take up to a billion dollars, half from grants and philanthropy, the other half in the form of county land and services. “The work we’re going to be doing in the next year,” Loving says, “is determining where and how to create new units and how much they are going to cost and where we can get the resources from—whether it’s private or public money. The money is all here. We have eBay, Adobe, Applied Materials, Google.” The hope is that the emphasis on quantified efficiency will persuade tech firms and billionaires obsessed with metrics that Housing First is a solid civic investment. “It’s fascinating because we have this problem we could totally solve if we wanted to,” Loving says. “We solve complicated problems all the time, right? Silicon Valley is an example of solving complicated problems all the time.”

If places as different—economically, demographically, politically—as Salt Lake City and Santa Clara County can make Housing First work, is there any place that can’t? To be sure, the return on investment will vary, depending on how you count the various benefits of fewer people living in the streets, clogging emergency rooms, and crowding jails. But the overall equation is clear: “Ironically, ending homelessness is actually cheaper than continuing to treat the problem. This would not only benefit the people who are homeless; it would be healing for the rest of us to live in a more compassionate and just nation,” Tsemberis says. “It’s not a matter of whether we know how to fix the problem. Homelessness is not a disease like cancer or Alzheimer’s where we don’t yet have a cure. We have the cure for homelessness—it’s housing. What we lack is political will.”

Jump to original: 

The Shockingly Simple, Surprisingly Cost-Effective Way to End Homelessness

Posted in alo, Everyone, FF, GE, LAI, ONA, PUR, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Shockingly Simple, Surprisingly Cost-Effective Way to End Homelessness

How the Government Put Tens of Thousands of People at Risk of a Deadly Disease

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Sika Eteaki lay in bed, shaking uncontrollably. The pillow and sheets were soaked through with sweat, but now he couldn’t get warm. It felt like there weren’t enough blankets in all of Lancaster State Prison to keep him warm.

Just a few months earlier, Eteaki had turned himself in for illegal possession of a firearm. He’d been arrested with a gun while driving back from a camping trip. He and his family had used the pistol for target practice, for fun, but a spate of nonviolent priors from the decade before had prosecutors threatening to put Eteaki away for years. Since those early arrests, Eteaki had turned his life around. He now had four kids under five, a renewed faith in Mormonism, and steady work at a foundry. The prosecutor went easy, and after months of negotiation, Eteaki pleaded guilty to felony firearm possession and got eight months in Lancaster, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. In July 2010, Eteaki’s wife, Milah, drove him to the Long Beach courthouse, outside LA, where he surrendered and entered the system.

A hulking if slightly overweight presence, Eteaki stood 5-foot-10 and weighed 245 pounds, with broad shoulders, tattoos, and close-cropped black hair. His family was from the Polynesian archipelago of Tonga, and he’d arrived at Lancaster a strong, healthy man. But a few months into his stay, he started getting headaches and running a fever. He’d landed a plum job in the prison’s cafeteria and didn’t want to risk losing it by calling in sick, so he suffered through what he figured was a particularly rough flu for a week. He stopped by the prison clinic and was given ibuprofen and told to drink more water. He didn’t get better. He went back to the clinic and got more of the same. After a few more days of delirium, Eteaki learned from another inmate how to get the docs’ attention: “Tell them your chest hurts.” The next day, he was admitted to the prison’s hospital with a high fever and a diagnosis of pneumonia.

Continue Reading »

See original article: 

How the Government Put Tens of Thousands of People at Risk of a Deadly Disease

Posted in FF, GE, Hipe, ONA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How the Government Put Tens of Thousands of People at Risk of a Deadly Disease

Mad Men: Inside the Men’s Rights Movement—and the Army of Misogynists and Trolls It Spawned

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>
Warren Farrell Photograph by Winni Wintermeyer

On a balmy afternoon last June, dozens of demonstrators carrying “Stop the Violence” and “Rape is Rape” placards descended on the Hilton DoubleTree in downtown Detroit. They had come to protest the first-ever national gathering of the men’s rights movement, which aims to battle discrimination against men but has drawn criticism for stirring up hatred of women. Two weeks earlier, a sexually frustrated 22-year-old named Elliot Rodger had gone on a suicidal rampage in Santa Barbara, California, killing 6 people and injuring 13. He had left behind a chilling 137-page manifesto suffused with a bitter misogyny and language commonly found in men’s rights forums. “The girls don’t flock to the gentlemen. They flock to the alpha male,” Rodger wrote. “Who’s the alpha male now, bitches?” His attack ignited a firestorm online, spurring women to share their experiences of misogyny via the hashtag #YesAllWomen, and bringing major media attention to the men’s rights movement.

With irate phone calls and even death threats pouring into the hotel in the run-up to the conference, its organizer, A Voice for Men, was forced to move the event to a local Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. The group warned ticket holders by email that “ideological opponents” were likely to show up, and that they would be “looking for anything they can to hurt us with.”

When conference goers arrived several weeks later, they were greeted by a cadre of burly security guards. A computer glitch at the check-in desk sent the line snaking into the parking lot, where some men lounged listlessly on the hot asphalt. Finally, about an hour and a half after the first workshop had been scheduled to begin, the doors swung open. The crowd clattered up the stairs to a dimly lit room with scuffed mint-colored walls and a water-stained ceiling. There, amid rows of folding chairs, stood Warren Farrell.

A soft-spoken septuagenarian with a silver beard and delicate hands, Farrell explained with a smile why he’d asked the security team to stand down: “I said it didn’t look like there were any killers out there.” There was a burst of laughter. After a while, he asked everyone to stand up. “Put anything you have in your hands down and just give that person in front of you a nice shoulder rub,” he said. Tension faded from the men’s faces. Over the next several hours, Farrell doled out hugs, regaled them with stories about his days as a feminist icon, and waxed lyrical about fatherhood and male sacrifice. He also invited the men to share their personal pain. Some wept as they spoke.

Welcome to the Manosphere: A guide to terms of the men’s rights movement

Farrell is widely considered to be the father of the men’s rights movement. In a series of books published since the 1980s, he has made the case that the primary victims of gender-based discrimination are men—casualties of a society that relies on their sacrifices while ignoring their suffering. He blames this phenomenon for a litany of woes, from the plight of blue-collar workers to the state of veterans’ health care and rising suicide rates among young men. Many of today’s men’s rights activists view Farrell’s 1993 book, The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex, as their touchstone, and the online forums where they congregate are steeped in Farrell’s ideas.

For some, the “manosphere” offers a place to air real grievances about issues such as bias in family courts or sexual abuse suffered by men. But it also has spawned a network of activists and sites that take Farrell’s ideology in a disturbing direction. Men’s rights forums on sites like 4chan and Reddit are awash in misogyny and anti-feminist vitriol. Participants argue that false allegations of rape and domestic abuse are rampant, or that shelters for battered women are a financial scam. Others rail against women for being independent or sexually promiscuous.

These ideas have given rise to aggressive tactics and rhetoric. The National Coalition for Men—whose board of advisers includes Farrell—has fought to cut off state funding for domestic-violence programs if men aren’t included. A Voice for Men’s founder, Paul Elam, who is a friend and protégé of Farrell’s, has justified violence against women and written that some of them “walk through life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH—PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads.” Other activists have published names of women they consider enemies and have praised online stalkers, such as the “Gamergate” mobs who bombard feminist critics with rape and death threats.

Farrell told me that these tactics make him uncomfortable, but he argues that all movements have—and need—their extreme factions. “I’ve been through the movements,” he said. “I’ve seen how Martin Luther King alone was dismissed. It took Stokely Carmichael and Eldridge Cleaver to say things that were pretty ridiculous in some ways, but that brought the attention that led to Martin Luther King being seen as the nice, centered, balanced person.” He also cited the SCUM Manifesto written by 1960s feminist Valerie Solanas, who shot Andy Warhol. “SCUM means ‘Society for Cutting Up Men,'” he noted. (Read Farrell’s post-publication response to this story here.)

We were sitting poolside at Farrell’s home, a wood-shingled bungalow overlooking San Francisco Bay in the hills of tony Marin County. As his personal assistant served us a mélange of roasted vegetables sprinkled with pine nuts, Farrell, who has a warm and thoughtful air, mused about his walks in the woods with John Gray, author of the best-selling book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. He and Gray recently landed a contract for a sequel called Beyond Mars and Venus, which will lay out Farrell’s evolving utopian view of gender relations. “We’re all interested in beyond Mars and Venus,” he explained. “That’s the search for the unique self.”

Farrell traces his interest in gender issues to his childhood. His mother had given up a scholarship to Cornell to find a husband, but being a housewife made her miserable. “I had seen her move in and out of depression,” Farrell later wrote. “Into depression when she was not working, out of depression when she was working.” His mother took medication to ward off the gloom, but it made her dizzy and prone to stumbling. She died at age 48 after falling in the garage one day and hitting her head. Farrell was still reeling from the loss when he moved to New York in the late 1960s to pursue a doctorate in political science and encountered the fledgling women’s movement. He shifted his research focus to feminism and joined the board of the National Organization for Women’s New York City chapter, which made him a hot commodity. “Feminists were constantly asking, ‘How can we clone you?'” he recalled. “At parties, women would plop me down in front of their husbands with instructions to ‘tell him what you told me.'”

NOW tapped Farrell to organize a nationwide network of men’s consciousness groups, including one that he told me was attended by John Lennon. In these sessions, and in his popular 1974 book, The Liberated Man, Farrell argued that women were not the only ones hindered by sexism: Gender roles hurt men too, by forcing them to shoulder the financial burden of supporting families and stifle their emotions. Soon Farrell was burning up the talk show circuit and mingling with the likes of Gloria Steinem and Barbara Walters. People ran a glowing four-page spread with photos of Farrell cooking breakfast in his Upper West Side apartment and tossing a football in a park with his then-wife, Ursula, a Harvard-educated mathematician and rising IBM executive. The Financial Times named Farrell one of its 100 “top thought leaders,” while other papers hailed him as “the Gloria Steinem of Men’s Liberation.”

Farrell’s calling card during this era was role-reversal workshops. In one session at a Tony Robbins seminar in Hawaii, he made the 100-plus men in attendance gather on the stage for a beauty pageant. Contestants pumped their biceps and swiveled their hips while Farrell led the women in chants of “Shirts off! Shirts off!” and “Slut! Slut! Slut!” Those who attracted the loudest catcalls were named finalists and ordered to turn around and show off their butts, while the rejects huddled, shirtless and humiliated, on the floor. Farrell then organized the women into rows based on their earning prowess and blasted the ones in the back as “losers.” While men generally were game for these exercises, Farrell said, he was disappointed to find that women often decamped during the second half of the program.

Farrell crowning the winner of a “male beauty pageant” as Alan Alda looks on Toronto Public Library/Getty

The cultural tumult of the 1970s was also shaking up family dynamics and turning divorce into a political issue. NOW came out in favor of awarding child custody to the primary caregiver, in most cases the mother. Farrell, who was by then teaching at Rutgers University, came to believe that feminists were more interested in power than in equality—a view that resonated with a growing number of men. Women’s entrance into the workforce, combined with a stagnant economy, was making it harder for men to be sole breadwinners, and many divorced fathers found themselves cut off from their children. The men’s liberation movement began to fracture, as Farrell and others grew disillusioned with feminism.

Farrell shifted his intellectual focus again and began work on a book about incest, including case studies. One involved a New York writer who regularly had sex with his 17-year-old daughter and occasional three-way trysts involving his daughter’s friend. In a 1977 interview with Penthouse, Farrell explained that some saw incest as “part of the family’s open, sensual style of life, wherein sex is an outgrowth of warmth and affection.” The magazine also quoted him as saying that “genitally caressing” children was “part of a caring, loving expression” that helped them develop healthy sexuality.

Farrell maintains that he said “generally caressing” and that the magazine conflated his ideas with those of his subjects. “The question is, how does a man or a woman justify having incestuous relations?” he told me. “I was reporting how people justified it. In most cases the article made that clear, but in some cases what the people I interviewed had said got mixed up with what I said.”

But Farrell chose not to fight the misperception. “That taught me how the research could be misused by anyone looking for a reason to advocate incest,” he says. Instead, he abandoned the book project.

Farrell cooking dinner for his then-wife, Ursula, in 1972 Graham Bezant/Toronto Star

The following year, he and his wife, who was the primary breadwinner, divorced. Farrell says he still remembers the conversation that led to their split: He asked her who she would marry if he were to die—somebody like him or the type of man she worked with? “She said, ‘I feel I’d have a lot more in common with another IBM executive,'” he recalls. “And I took a big, deep breath.”

A few years later Ursula did marry a fellow IBM executive, while Farrell, who would not remarry for two decades, came out swinging against feminism. By 1988 he had collected his evolving views into his book Why Men Are the Way They Are, depicting a world where women—particularly female executives—wield vast influence. Even those women who are less successful have “enormous sexual leverage over men” and “can use the power to get external rewards,” he wrote. Men, on the other hand, have been reduced to “success objects,” judged solely by their status and earning potential.

After the book’s debut, Gloria Steinem quit returning his phone calls. Actor Alan Alda stopped asking him to tennis. But once again Farrell’s ideas lit up the talk show circuit. During an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, he blasted women who expected men to pick up the tab on dates. When a female guest tried to protest, Farrell pulled a fat wad of cash from his pocket and shoved it in her face. “When you say a guy can’t afford you, what you’re asking the guy to do is take the money out and say, ‘How much, honey?’…We have to ask, is there any difference between Abby and a prostitute?” The book rocketed up the bestseller list. Farrell, whose file drawers were bursting with grateful letters, outfitted his cream-colored Maserati with “Y MEN R” vanity plates.

Women Harassed Out of Their Homes. Mass Shooting Threats. How #Gamergate Morphed Into a Monster.

In 1993, Farrell published his full-throated manifesto, The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex. The book tackled a number of pressing issues affecting men. It also took some bizarre turns: At one point Farrell pondered whether the American male was the new “nigger.” (“When slaves gave up their seats for whites, we called it subservience; when men give up their seats for women, we call it politeness.”) He took a sledgehammer to bedrock feminist ideals, claiming that women have themselves to blame for unequal pay, that domestic violence is a two-way street, and that government programs to benefit women only exacerbate inequality.

Farrell also argued that female sexual power was eclipsing any societal advantages that men might have. “The powerful woman doesn’t feel the effect of her secretary’s miniskirt power, cleavage power and flirtation power,” he wrote. “Men do.” And thanks to feminism, he argued, when women felt ill-treated they could now more easily pursue sexual-harassment or date rape charges—a notion that carries strong currency among today’s men’s rights activists. “No one has taught men to sue women for sexual trauma for saying ‘yes,’ then ‘no,’ then ‘yes,'” Farrell opined. “Men were left with less than one option. They were still expected to initiate, but now, if they did it badly, they could go to jail.”

The Myth of Male Power struck a chord among a new generation of would-be activists for whom “male disposability” became a rallying cry. “It’s their bible,” says Michael Kimmel, a sociologist who studies gender issues at New York’s Stony Brook University. “It’s really the foundational text.”

Marc Angelucci, a Los Angeles attorney, first read the book as a law student in the 1990s. “It’s not an exaggeration to say it transformed my life,” he told me when we met at the men’s rights conference in Detroit. Like many in the movement, he likens this sudden paradigm shift to the pivotal scene in the dystopian sci-fi film The Matrix, when the hero swallows a red pill and wakes up thrashing and naked with a tangle of wires and plugs bored into his skin. The world he’s inhabited, the hero realizes, is merely an illusion designed to keep him docile and enslaved. (This is also a key trope for Pickup Artists, a subculture focused on manipulating women into sex. PUAs, who congregate along with men’s rights activists in the subreddit /r/TheRedPill, were a fixation of Elliot Rodger’s.)

In the late 1990s, Angelucci joined the National Coalition for Men; he later founded the Los Angeles chapter and began filing lawsuits to force battered women’s shelters to take men in too, alleging they were discriminatory. (One case ended in a ruling requiring state-funded shelters to do so.) Angelucci has also fought to make the draft compulsory for women, and he has worked to water down the Violence Against Women Act.

Farrell, who serves on the advisory board of Angelucci’s group and strongly supports these efforts, says the goal is “to create equality” and force discussion of issues such as domestic violence against men.

As Angelucci did battle in the courts, the dot-com era was taking hold, and men’s rights activists scattered around the country were coalescing into an online movement. The manosphere was littered not only with anti-feminist diatribes but also with racism, homophobia, and far-right conspiracy theories. One early site, Fathers Manifesto, interspersed excerpts of Farrell’s writing with calls to exile blacks from America and claims that Catholic priests were sexually abusing children as part of a plot to spread AIDS.

Farrell, a self-proclaimed technophobe, rarely ventured online, but he continued to write books and seek publicity for his cause. In 2003, he ran for governor of California against Arnold Schwarzenegger on a fathers’ rights platform, garnering around 600 votes. Later, Farrell approached the Obama administration with a proposal for a White House Council for Men and Boys and signed on luminaries like former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but the plan did not come to fruition.

It wasn’t until recent controversies drew attention to the men’s rights movement that Farrell began to feel his ideas were having a real impact. During an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered in September, Farrell suggested that men’s rights activists were tackling the very problems that may prompt young men to go on shooting rampages. “We’re all in jeopardy,” he said, “if we don’t pay attention to the cries of pain and isolation and alienation that are happening among our sons.”

During Farrell’s private workshop in Detroit, he focused on male sacrifice. “What I’m going to ask you to do is just close your eyes with me for a moment. I’m going to ask you to find a time in your father’s life when your father had what you would say is a glint in his eye.” As the men bowed their heads, he told a story about a man who went home after one of his workshops and spoke to his father. “He said, ‘Dad, I realized that I had thought a lot about me but not a lot about you. I didn’t ask you about what your sacrifices were and what really made you happy.’ And his dad’s response was to cry for the first time that he had ever seen his father cry.”

When the men lifted their heads, their faces were flush with emotion. Farrell went around the room asking them to share their stories. Tom, a portly, gray-haired man with Coke-bottle glasses, described how his father, a textile worker, had struggled for 20 years before stumbling into a college teaching job and finding a modicum of fulfillment. “I didn’t really realize how much of a glint in his eye it was until he passed away,” Tom said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t stick around very much to enjoy it.”

Meet the Women of the Men’s Rights Movement

Next up was Brian, a lanky, bearded 30-year-old barge hand who’d driven up from Tennessee for the event. After his parents’ divorce, he only saw his father—a power line technician who was a workaholic—once or twice a year. “The joy in him was buried so deep that it took me a minute to get clarity on where the glint came from,” Brian explained as he broke down crying. “It came from me—when he’d see me step off the plane.” As Brian spoke, Farrell wrapped an arm around his shoulder. Some of the other men wiped away tears or buried their heads in their hands.

Later Matt, a clean-cut young man in a polo shirt and khaki shorts, recalled how his father spent decades working a job he hated at the IRS. Only last December, after his father passed away, did Matt realize that his father had harbored a secret passion for writing. “Basically he drank himself to death. And when my siblings and I were cleaning out his apartment we found a lot of empty liquor bottles, but also a lot of unpublished poetry and scripts,” he said, looking down. “Also, I found his application to the federal government, which was from 1971—about the same month my older brother was conceived. So things sort of fell into place for me.”

Farrell had repeatedly asked me to serve as a stand-in for women—I was the only one present—and at the end of the exercise he called me to the front of the room and asked me to interview some of the men so that they could practice discussing their concerns. First up was Jim, a slender, amiable ex-professor with freckles and curly red hair. When I asked how he became interested in men’s rights, he faced the group and flashed a sly smile. “Well, my ex-wife had a lot to do with that,” he said. “She had me arrested for the crime of domestic violence. I went to trial because I was innocent, and I spent six months in a box with other angry men. I lost my job and my career.”

“Make good eye contact,” Farrell prodded. “Connect from the heart, so you can keep track of where you’re connecting with her and where you’re disconnecting.” Jim spun around, looked at me intently, and further explained that the episode had sparked his interest in “general biases against men in society.”

The next morning, 100 or so men were scattered around the VFW’s main hall, a vast, fluorescent-lit room with a wood-paneled bar and a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. A group from Farrell’s workshop ushered me over to where they were sitting. Jim, the redhead, smiled and patted me on the back, as if to say, “Welcome to the club.”

At the podium, Farrell was introducing Paul Elam, the founder of A Voice for Men. Farrell explained how he’d initially heard that the site was a hub for “angry” activists, but later discovered it was a thoughtful group of people wrestling with the same issues he cared about. He added that one of the main differences between him and his protégé was that Elam was “secure enough internally to allow the space for the anger.” He then embraced Elam, who went on to give a speech about the plight of blue-collar men.

A gruff man with a thick charcoal beard and glasses perched on the end of his nose, Elam says he long sensed that working men had gotten a raw deal but that he couldn’t put a finger on the problem until he cracked open The Myth of Male Power in the early 1990s and had his red-pill moment. “The next thing you know, I was two days without sleep reading it,” he told me during an interview last fall. “It turned my world upside down.”

Elam, who had been working as a drug and alcohol counselor, became convinced that his field was rife with anti-male bias. “We began to identify and treat masculinity as the disease and the cure for it was misandry—the hatred of men and boys,” he would later write. “Men’s groups devolved into sessions of shame, clinically applied and charged for by the hour.” Elam began raising unsettling questions, such as why women checking into the clinic were routinely asked whether they’d been battered while men were asked whether they’d hit their wives. His colleagues’ reaction was “incredibly hostile,” he told me, which only stoked his rage. Eventually, he waded into the manosphere. While he was put off by the bigotry and conspiracy mongering, he believed the internet could help rally scattered men’s rights activists into a formidable movement. In 2009, Elam, who was now working as a truck driver, launched A Voice for Men from a laptop in the cab of his 18-wheeler. “I aimed to attract the kind of people who could make a movement,” he said, “women, people of color, gay men—anybody regardless of demographic, as long as they were aware of and concerned by issues of men.”

A Voice for Men has succeeded in bringing some women into the fold, among them Karen Straughan, a brash fortysomething waitress turned YouTube sensation. Her most popular video, “Feminism and the Disposable Male,” which rehashes the central theme of The Myth of Male Power, has racked up more than a million views. A Voice for Men also works with Janet Bloomfield, a driving force behind the viral social-media campaign Women Against Feminism, which features photos of women holding signs with anti-feminist slogans.

Elam pairs his big-tent approach with brazen, in-your-face rhetoric. When video surfaced last September of NFL star Ray Rice punching out his fiancee in an Atlantic City elevator, Elam argued that Rice was justified because she had lunged at him (though he suggested Rice shouldn’t have hit her so hard). Elam has also dubbed October “Bash a Violent Bitch Month” and declared that men who are physically attacked by women should “beat the living shit out of them.”

“I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open-handed pop on the face to get them to settle down,” he wrote on his website. “I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles. And then make them clean up the mess.”

Elam says the post was a satirical retort to the feminist blog Jezebel, which had made light of women hitting their boyfriends. He also maintains that A Voice for Men deploys over-the-top language and tactics because it’s the only way to overcome public indifference and draw attention to the urgent problems facing men. “I don’t know a social movement that has made any progress without anger,” he told me. “We all saw what happened with Warren Farrell. He spent 40 years engaging in very reasoned, polite discourse about men and boys, and society basically said, ‘So what?'” (Read Elam’s post-publication response to this story here.)

But such rhetoric could lead to violence, warns Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups. “When you have a movement pumping out nasty propaganda, it invariably finds fertile ground in the mind of someone like Elliot Rodger or the man behind the 1989 Montreal massacre,” she says, referring to 25-year-old Marc Lépine, a misogynist who shot 14 women to death at a university.

Beirich cited a third example: mass murderer Anders Breivik, who carried out attacks on a government building and summer camp in Norway in 2011, killing 77 children and adults. Breivik wrote a manifesto that seized on men’s rights ideology—he declared that fathers had become “disposable,” that women use their “erotic capital” to “manipulate” men, and that the media turns men into a “touchy-feely subspecies who bows to the radical feminist agenda.” Men’s rights activist Peter Andrew Nolan, who runs a site called Crimes Against Fathers, praised Breivik, suggesting he was “a hero.” (Some men’s rights activists, including Elam, disavow Nolan as a dangerous radical.)

The same year, a distraught father named Thomas Ball, who had been denied visitation with his daughters, walked up to a courthouse in New Hampshire and laid his driver’s license and car keys on the steps. He then doused himself with gasoline and pulled out a lighter. Following Ball’s death, A Voice for Men published his manifesto, which called on aggrieved men to “start burning down police stations and courthouses” and warned there would be “some casualties in this war.” The group insisted it wasn’t encouraging bloodshed by publishing the document, which has since been taken down. “I regard violence as a bad outcome to be avoided,” then editor in chief* John Hembling wrote on the group’s website. “But it’s coming.”

Soon after, A Voice for Men launched a site called Register-Her.com; modeled after sex offender registries, it purported to track female murderers and rapists, as well as women who scheme against men. The site’s motto: “Fuck Their Shit Up.”

“Mary Jane Rottencrotch wants to say that her husband beat her just for the sake of gaining leverage in a divorce,” Elam complained on his online radio show. The solution, he said, was to give the husband a place to publish her personal information, “even the route she takes to work, if she bothers to have a job.” Elam added that there would no longer be “any place to hide on the internet anymore” for “lying bitches.”

Publicizing personal information to make someone a target of harassment (a.k.a. “doxing”) is a common practice among men’s rights activists. In late 2013, someone posted photos of Rachel Cassidy, a 20-year-old college student in Ohio, on the anonymous online forum 4chan, alleging she had lodged false rape accusations. Nolan, who has made it his mission to “name and shame” women who wrongly accuse men, dug up every bit of information he could find about Cassidy and posted it to Crimes Against Fathers. Police and university officials were explicit that Cassidy had nothing to do with the rape charges in question. Nevertheless, she was inundated with hateful messages and death threats, forcing her to delete all her social-media accounts and quit attending classes.

The venomous tactics deployed by some men’s rights activists have helped fuel a backlash against Warren Farrell. One cool evening in November 2012, Farrell arrived at the University of Toronto to deliver a speech on the “boy crisis.” A throng of angry students was massing near the auditorium entrance. Campus police hustled Farrell in through a rear door, but backstage he could hear demonstrators chanting, “Fuck Warren Farrell! No hate speech on campus!” Soon protesters in black hoodies were barricading the entrance and heckling ticket holders: “Fucking rape apologist! Incest-supporting, women-hating, fucking scum!”

A Voice for Men posted footage of the protests, edited to play up images of angry feminists taunting police as they cleared the scene. The video went viral and helped make Elam’s site a leading outlet for the movement. A Voice for Men later started posting video from other feminist demonstrations and publishing the names and photos of some of the protesters on Register-Her.com.

A few months after the Toronto incident, Elam, who hadn’t known Farrell previously, met Farrell at his Marin County home. “I had been just walking around with a great big man crush for 20 years, and suddenly there he was,” Elam said. He began publishing Farrell’s writings on his site, and Farrell started cohosting a monthly online chat with Elam. Soon, a new generation of activists was clamoring to read The Myth of Male Power. In early 2014, Farrell published a new edition; the cover featured a woman’s bare derriere, a paean to women’s Delilah-like sexual power.

“I felt that it was a tasteful message that had not been communicated effectively to women about how powerless men feel around the beautiful woman’s body,” Farrell told me. Cupping a hand over his crotch, he added, “Our upper brains stop working and the lower brain starts working.”

Following Elliot Rodger’s murder rampage last May, Farrell and the men’s rights movement drew attention like never before. There is no evidence that Rodger (or other killers) had any ties to Farrell, Elam, or men’s rights organizations. But commentators highlighted Rodger’s focus on the Pickup Artist scene and his ideas about women and their sexual dominion over men. “They think like beasts,” he wrote.

Conservatives rushed in to defend the men’s movement: Helen Smith, who blogs for the website PJ Media, argued that “feminists and their supporters who block funding and education going to boys’ and men’s issues” may have been to blame for Rodger’s attack. After the protesters showed up at the Hilton DoubleTree in Detroit, Fox News suggested their goal was “muzzling” men. “Feminists are up in arms, calling a men’s conference a hate group even though it included all races and sexes,” said morning show host Steve Doocy, pointing to the diverse community Elam had built. “So who are the ones being intolerant?” An opinion piece on cnn.com by Marc Randazza, a First Amendment lawyer who has spoken up for Rush Limbaugh, violent video games, and the pornography industry, suggested that A Voice for Men had endured protests and threats simply because it had the “audacity to question certain issues from a man’s perspective.”

Missing from that coverage were the group’s fierce tactics, which have continued unabated. In October, with vicious misogyny raging online around the Gamergate controversy, feminist pop-culture critic Anita Sarkeesian canceled a talk at Utah State University after administrators received an email threatening “the deadliest school shooting in American history.” A Voice for Men responded with an essay asserting that the email’s author was in fact a feminist posing as a men’s rights activist, and insinuating that Sarkeesian stood to profit from the episode.

The same month, A Voice for Men set up a copycat website that appeared intended to divert traffic and donations from the White Ribbon Campaign, a violence prevention group founded in response to the 1989 mass shooting in Montreal. In addition to claiming that its namesake was a scam, Elam’s fake White Ribbon site argued that “corrupt” academics have conspired to cover up the epidemic of violence against men, and that women’s shelters are “hotbeds of gender hatred.” When critics called him out for the deceptive site, Elam wrote a scathing retort. “Go right straight to Hell, you gang of bigoted, lying scumbags,” it read. “That is, if Hell will even have you pieces of shit.”

On day three of the Detroit conference, Elam was speaking from the podium in the main VFW hall. “One of the things that we’ve missed in this culture, especially over the last 50 or 60 years, is mentoring,” he said. “But I also think that we adapt, especially as men, and that we can receive mentoring from their words, which I’ve received for many years now from Dr. Farrell.”

Farrell posing in 1987 with Gloria Steinem. Wikimedia

Farrell, who had joined him on the stage, wiped away a tear and gave Elam a hug. “Paul, that was really beautiful,” Farrell said, touching his hand to his heart. He described how his father, after reading the first draft of The Myth of Male Power, had asked him if he was prepared to wait a whole generation for his book to be acknowledged. “Like my dad said, 21 years later, that’s finally happening. It’s happening here. It’s happening now. It’s happening with us. It’s happening, in part, because of Paul Elam.” Farrell then asked everyone who had contributed to Elam’s site, or “gone the distance” to attend the conference, to stand and give themselves a round of applause.

Two nights before, I’d met some of the men from Farrell’s workshop at an Irish pub. They were huddled around a long table on the patio. Jim, the redhead, hugged me and offered me his stool, and Peter, a sweet sixtysomething man with bifocals and a broom-handle mustache, came over to tell me that the workshop had inspired him to be more supportive of his son, who had a child out of wedlock. “I want to tell him how proud I am of him for being a good father,” he said as his eyes welled with tears.

Later in the evening, a man named Kevin sidled up and grabbed my hand. His breath smelled of alcohol and he was twitching and swaying within inches of my face. He told me a rambling story about a woman he dated who had put another man in prison on false rape charges. He claimed to have landed in jail for a week himself over phony abuse allegations. “Magically, your soon-to-be ex-wife finds an attorney,” he said, “and it’s basically all lies from then on.” With a note of triumph, he added that he left his job as a program manager for Microsoft around his 2008 divorce to avoid paying taxes to a “corrupt government” he believes coddles women at men’s expense.

When I got up to leave, Kevin handed me a business card for “John Galt Industries” (a reference to the anti-government hero of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged). As I tucked it in my pocket and headed for the door, he trailed me so closely that I could feel his breath on my neck. “I’m not stalking you,” he said. “I’m not stalking you.”

Correction: The original version of this story in the January/February 2015 issue of the magazine misstated Hembling’s job title.

This article:  

Mad Men: Inside the Men’s Rights Movement—and the Army of Misogynists and Trolls It Spawned

Posted in alo, ALPHA, ATTRA, bigo, Casio, Crown, Everyone, FF, GE, LAI, Mop, ONA, PUR, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mad Men: Inside the Men’s Rights Movement—and the Army of Misogynists and Trolls It Spawned

This Is What Happens When We Lock Children in Solitary Confinement

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>
“They left me in that little room with nothing,” Kenny said. Maddie McGarvey

One night in March 2013, a 17-year-old named Kenny was walking with a friend through farm country in Reilly Township, Ohio. The boys had been drinking and were checking car doors in the hope of finding a little money when they came across a pickup with keys in the ignition. They decided to take it for a spin.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, Kenny wasn’t exactly thinking straight. He was just three weeks out of court-ordered rehab for marijuana possession and public intoxication, and his dad had just caught him stealing his anxiety medication. The pair drove a few miles to the home of Kenny’s girlfriend, whose mother saw the purloined truck and called the cops. The boys bolted, spent the night in a shed, and the next night were arrested while partying at a frat house. A judge found Kenny guilty of receiving stolen property worth less than $7,500, a low-level felony. He deemed Kenny, who had some pot on him when he was caught, a “delinquent child,” and sentenced him to six months at the juvenile correctional facility in Circleville.

But Kenny’s sentence wound up being rougher than the judge had perhaps intended. While the Circleville facility’s website boasts rehabilitative programs such as music, worship, woodworking, and education, he didn’t have much of a chance to take advantage of them. Shortly after arriving, Kenny landed in solitary confinement for fighting. Over the next six months he spent nearly 82 days in the hole—locked in his own room or an isolation cell—once for 19 days at a stretch, according to court documents.

I learned about Kenny’s case from legal filings in a lawsuit brought by the Obama administration against the state of Ohio. They make for some chilling reading. For years, the Department of Justice has pressured Ohio and other states to fix widespread problems in their juvenile prisons. In the fall of 2013, the department learned that some facilities were punishing kids like Kenny with long stretches of solitary. It investigated and filed suit the following March, asking a judge to immediately intervene because children would continue suffering “irreparable harm” if the practice wasn’t stopped. Kenny’s case was cited as a key example of the damage solitary could do.

While in isolation, Kenny—who was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder prior to the sixth grade—wrote to his mother, Melissa Bucher, begging her to make the two-hour drive to visit him. “I don’t feel like I’m going to make it anymore,” he wrote. “I’m in seclusion so I can’t call and I’m prolly going to be in here for a while. My mind is just getting to me in here.”

Bucher, a warm, lively woman who at first glance could be mistaken for Kenny’s big sister, insists that forced isolation turned her teen from a social kid with some mental-health issues into a depressed young man who shies away from others and experiences panic attacks at night. “Other inmates would call me a lot and tell me he was not doing good and hearing voices,” she said. When she visited Kenny, she noticed “he had scratch marks all over his arms. He was just digging into them.” Alphonse Gerhardstein, an attorney representing Kenny and others in a separate lawsuit that was eventually consolidated with the Justice Department’s case, noted in an email to the state attorney general’s office that the boy “bangs his head frequently” and “had fresh injuries.”

Continue Reading »


This Is What Happens When We Lock Children in Solitary Confinement

Posted in FF, GE, ONA, PUR, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on This Is What Happens When We Lock Children in Solitary Confinement