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Liz Theoharis and Shailly Gupta Barnes, Don’t Grind the Faces of the Poor

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Be shocked, very shocked. As TomDispatch regular Liz Theoharis and Shailly Gupta Barnes, both of whom play key roles in the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, make clear today, the way this country has dealt with the homeless, whose numbers have soared recently, has hardly been impressive (though it was certainly better during the pandemic years). Worse yet, as they report, there’s a case before the all-too-well-housed Supreme Court that, if five of the six conservative — and that’s a polite word for them these days — justices concur, will criminalize misery in a genuinely original fashion.  It will essentially make it possible for community after community to declare homelessness illegal.

And given recent rulings, don’t be faintly surprised if (when?) they do so. As PBS’s Supreme Court expert Marcia Coyle, who listened to the oral arguments in the case, Grants Pass v. Johnson, commented: “It does seem as though the conservative majority is leaning towards the city [of Grants Pass, Oregon]. And the implications are huge… because so many cities are dealing with this problem and what the Supreme Court has to say about what Grants Pass can do is going to affect how all the other cities try to address this problem.”

And while you’re at it, imagine that, if the 2024 election goes the way the latest polls are suggesting, four-plus years from now such a ruling could seem mild. If Donald Trump and crew have the chance to appoint yet more Supreme Court justices because liberals Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan decided not to retire during the Biden presidency, the present court could seem almost “liberal” by comparison and, in a sense, so many Americans might find themselves homeless indeed in a grim new all-American world. Tom

Housing, Not Handcuffs

The Moral Response to Homelessness

On April 22nd, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Grants Pass v. Johnson, a case that focuses on whether unhoused -- the term that has generally replaced "homeless" -- people with no indoor shelter options can even pull a blanket around themselves outdoors without being subject to criminal punishment.

Before making its way to the Supreme Court on appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court held that municipalities can't punish involuntarily homeless people for merely living in the place where they are. This is exactly what the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, did when it outlawed resting or sleeping anywhere on public property with so much as a blanket to survive in cold weather, even when no beds in shelters were available. The law makes it impossible for unhoused residents to stay in Grants Pass, effectively forcing them to either move to another city or face endless rounds of punishment. In Grants Pass, the punishment starts with a $295 fine that, if unpaid, goes up to $500, and can escalate from there to criminal trespass charges, penalties of up to 30 days in jail, and a $1,250 fine.

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Clarence Lusane, Is the Racial Storm Coming?

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When it comes to demonstrations and the former president of the United States, it matters greatly just who is doing them. Recently, Donald Trump attacked campus demonstrations against genocide in Gaza this way: “These are radical-left lunatics, and they’ve got to be stopped now.” He also called the police action on Columbia University’s campus in response to peaceful demonstrations there “a beautiful thing to watch.”

Back in 2017, however, he had somewhat different feelings about the nature of demonstrations. In fact, only recently he compared the ongoing campus protests of the present moment to the unforgettable 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. You remember that one, don’t you? White nationalists, Ku Klux Klan members, and neo-Nazis, many celebrating Trump’s presidency, protested the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee by chanting, among other things, “Jews will not replace us.” And speaking of peaceful protests, one of those white nationalists (later convicted of murder) ran his car into a 32-year-old counter-protester, killing her. At the time, asked about the demonstration, President Trump all too infamously claimed that there “were very fine people on both sides,” and later, he would insist that, in saying so, he had “answered perfectly.”

Oh, and recently, just in case you missed it, he also insisted that the 2017 horror in Charlottesville was just “a peanut” compared to what’s now underway on college campuses nationwide. With all of that in mind, let TomDispatch regular Clarence Lusane, author of Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy, explore Trump’s true feelings when it comes to his Black MAGA supporters whose numbers, if you believe recent polls, are rising. Tom

Black MAGA Is Still MAGA

Trump’s Racism and Authoritarianism Should Be Disqualifying

Consider Donald Trump to be in a racial bind when it comes to election 2024. After all, he needs Black voters to at least defect from Joe Biden in swing states, if not actually vote for him. Yet, more than ever, he also needs his white nationalist base to believe that a second Trump term will be even more racist than the first and he's been openly claiming that he'll address the ghost of anti-white racism. Not surprisingly, his evolving strategy for the Black vote has been high on empty symbolism and viral moments, but distinctly low on specific promised policy benefits for the Black community.

Milkshakes and far-right policies are all the presumptive Republican presidential candidate has recently offered Blacks. Take his orchestrated photo op at a Chick-fil-A in Atlanta a preview of things to come. The event was organized by Black MAGA supporter and Republican operative Michaelah Montgomery, who recruited some young African Americans, probably students from nearby historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), to cheer for Trump when he entered the place. He proceeded to buy milkshakes for everyone. Montgomery herself gave Trump a picture-perfect hug and, to the glee of MAGAworld, stated, “I don't care what the media tells you, Mr. Trump. We support you.”

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Andrea Mazzarino, Anger and the MAGA Movement

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When some government program fails utterly, you’d think top officials would consider transferring at least part of the taxpayer funds they’re spending on it to programs that might actually do some good. When it comes to the U.S. military, however, as TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino makes all too clear today, no such luck. And really, it just couldn’t be stranger.

At this point, the U.S. spends more money on its “defense” budget than the next nine countries (mostly allies) combined, a mind-boggling figure. Yet that budget (as well as the larger national security budget) only continues to expand. And here’s the truly odd thing: though the U.S. has poured unbelievable sums into its military since the 9/11 attacks and the launching of what quickly came to be known as the Global War on Terror, it hasn’t won a war or much of anything else in this century. And now (thank you, Donald Trump and crew!), the country itself seems to be in danger of coming apart at the seams.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the invasion of Afghanistan soon after the 9/11 attacks, resulting in a two-decade-long disaster of a losing war, or the invasion of Iraq, which cost so much and led to so little. It hardly matters where you look, in fact. As TomDispatch‘s Nick Turse recently pointed out, in Africa, where the U.S. has fought a lower-level struggle against terrorism: “In 2002 and 2003, according to State Department statistics, terrorists caused 23 casualties… Last year, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Pentagon research institution, attacks by Islamist militants in the Sahel alone resulted in 11,643 deaths — an increase of more than 50,000%.”

And yet, as Mazzarino makes clear today, the money just continues to flow into the national security state, while insecurity in this country and the potential chaos that goes with it only increase by the day. Tom

Shooting Alone

America’s Social Priorities Shaped by Decades of War

An acquaintance who hails from the same New Jersey town as I do spends his free weekends crawling through the woods on his stomach as part of a firearms training course, green camouflage paint on his face and a revolver in his hand. He considers this both a way to have fun in his free time and to prepare for the supposed threat from immigrants everywhere. (“You never know when something could happen,” he tells me.) He's never gun-less. He brings his weapon to diners and dinners, to work meetings, and always on walks in his quiet neighborhood, where he grumbles “this is America!” whenever he hears Spanish spoken by neighbors or passersby. The implication, of course, is that the United States has become both less American and, to him, by definition, less safe in these years.

He spends his other weekends right-swiping on dating apps to try to find a new partner (he's being divorced) and watching -- yep, you guessed it! -- Fox News. He can be counted among a growing population of White, rural Americans who are lonely, lack people to count on as confidants, and feel poorly understood, not to say excluded from this country (at least as they imagine it).

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