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Cost of War
You’ve heard about the one percent. Now how about the twenty percent?
The Associated Press’ Hope Yen has a detailed look at the twenty percent of adult Americans who may pose a barrier to lessening income inequality. While these people are socially liberal, they don’t want their taxes raised in an effort to reduce inequality. In the years 2007-2009--a time when many Americans saw their paychecks decrease--twenty percent of working-age Americans saw their salaries stay the same or rise.
Defined as making $250,000 a year or more for at least one year in their lifetime, the twenty percent’s members include older professionals, educated singles and working married couples. Making at least $250,000 a year puts them in the top two percent of earners, though they are also operating in a fragile economy that could easily jolt them out of their comfortable position.
This group of people is less likely to support public assistance programs. According to a Gallup poll released in October, 60 percent of those who earned $90,000 or more said average Americans had a lot of opportunities to get ahead. At the same time, many support the Democratic Party, though Mitt Romney garnered 54 percent of their votes. That fact may temper Democrats’ willingness to air full-throated populism.
“For the Democrats' part, traditional economic populism is poorly suited for affluent professionals,” Alan Abramowitz, a professor at Emory University who focuses on political polarization, told the AP.Related Stories
Religion has once again become the “opiate of the people.” But this time, instead of seducing the proletariat into accepting its position in a capitalist society, it lulls atheists into believing that abolishing religion would bring about utopia.
It is rather disturbing trend in a country whose greatest reformer was a Reverend — Dick Gregory has said, “Ten thousand years from now, the only reason a history book will mention the United States is to note where Martin Luther King Jr. was born” — to believe that religion is the root of all evil. And yet this is what the “New Atheism” (an anti-theist movement led originally by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late — and great — Christopher Hitchens) movement asserts.
The fundamental error in the “New Atheist” dogma is one of logic. The basic premise is something like this:
1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality
2. Religion is irrational
3. Religion is the cause of all human suffering
The “New Atheist” argument gives religion far, far too much credit for its ability to mold institutions and shape politics, committing the classic logical error of post hoc ergo propter hoc — mistaking a cause for its effect.
During the first Gulf War, Christopher Hitchens famously schooled Charlton Heston, asking him to name the countries surrounding Iraq, the place he was so eager to invade. A flummoxed Heston sputtered, naming a few random Middle Eastern countries (including, rather humorously, the island nation of Cyprus).
But then Hitchens decided that, in fact, bombing children was no longer so abhorrent, because these wars were no longer neocolonial wars dictated by economics and geopolitics but rather a final Armageddon between the forces of rationality and the forces of religion. The fact that the force of rationality and civilization was lead by a cabal of religious extremists was of no concern for Hitchens. To co-opt Steven Weinberg, “Good men will naturally oppose bad wars and bad will naturally support them. To make a good man support a bad war, for that, you need an irrational fear of religion.”
Somehow the man who denounced Kissinger’s war crimes now supported Bush’s — both wars, of course, supported by the scantest of logic. The man who so eloquently chronicled the corruption of the Clinton administration became the shill of his successor.
Ruber Cornwell wrote of Hitchens in The Independent,
At that point [during the Gulf War], Hitchens, still the left-wing radical, opposed the conflict against Saddam Hussein. By contrast, George W Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq couldn’t come soon enough for him. The great catalyst for change was, of course, 9/11. Appalled by what he saw as the left’s self-flagellation over the terrorist attacks, and the argument that America had brought the disaster on itself, Hitchens became arguably the most eloquent advocate in Washington of the need to overthrow Saddam Hussein. He quit The Nation, made friends with the likes of Paul Wolfowitz and, in foreign policy at least, was indistinguishable from the neocons… The fact that the terrorist attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists also sealed – if sealing were needed – Hitchens’ belief that religion, and the “absolute certainty” of its followers was nothing but trouble.
For something so dreadfully asinine to be written about a man as well-traveled and well-read would be almost obscene if it were not true. But after 9/11, Hitchens stopped seeing the world in terms of geopolitics but rather saw it, like the Neocons in the Bush administration, as a war between the good Christian West and the evil Muslim Middle East.
Religion has a tendency to reflect political and economic realities. Hitchens, in fact, has made ample use of this Marxist analysis, questioning religious experts whether it was Constantine or the truth of Christ’s words that were largely responsible for its breakneck spread. Constantine was, and his proclivities shaped the church. The doctrine of the Trinity was not decided exclusively by decades of intense debate; the whimsy of Constantine and political maneuvering between by Arius and Athanasius had a significant influence on the outcome.
But if Hitchens is right, as he is, then why not take the observation to its logical conclusion? Is not the best explanation for the Thirty Years’ War more likely political than religious? Might it be better to see jihad as a response to Western colonialism and the upending of Islamic society, rather than the product of religious extremism? The goal of the “New Atheists” is to eliminate centuries of history that Europeans are happy to erase, and render the current conflict as one of reason versus faith rather than what is, exploiter and exploited.
Bernard Lewis writes,
For vast numbers of Middle Easterners, Western-style economic methods brought poverty, Western-style political institutions brought tyranny, even Western-style warfare brought defeat. It is hardly surprising that so many were willing to listen to voices telling them that the old Islamic ways were best and that their only salvation was to throw aside the pagan innovations of the reformers and return to the True Path that God had prescribed for his people.
I have to wonder if Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris truly believe that eliminating religion will also make the Islamic world forget about centuries of colonization and deprivation. Without religion, will everyone living in Pakistan shrug off drone strikes and get on with their lives? If religion motivated 9/11, what motivated Bill Clinton to bomb the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory and leave millions of Sudanese people without access to medicine?
Liberals who once believed that the key to understanding hate and violence is deprivation now have embraced the idea that religion is the culprit. Religion is both a personal search for truth as well as a communal attempt to discern where we fit in the order of things. It can also motivate acts of social justice and injustice, but broad popular movements of the sort generally indicate a manipulation of religion, rather than studied reflections on religious doctrine. Shall we blame Jesus, who advocated “turning the other cheek,” for Scott Philip Roeder, or more plausibly his schizophrenia?
Of course, I’m entirely aware of the problems in modern American Christianity. I havewritten an essay excoriating what I see as the false Christianity. But any critique of religion that can be made from the outside (by atheists) can be made more persuasively from within religion. For instance, it would hardly be the theologian’s job to point out that, according toThe Economist, “Too many of the findings that fill the academic ether are the result of shoddy experiments or poor analysis. A rule of thumb among biotechnology venture-capitalists is that half of published research cannot be replicated.” I’m sure scientists are well aware of the problem and working to rectify it. Similarly, within the church there are modernizers and reformers working to quash the Church’s excesses, no Hitchens, Dawkins or Harris needed. Terry Eagleton writes,
Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster.
The impulse to destroy religion will ultimately fail. Religion is little different from Continental philosophy or literature (which may explain the hatred of Lacan and Derrida among Analytic philosophers). It is an attempt to explain the deprivations of being human and what it means to live a good life. Banish Christ and Muhammad and you may end up with religions surrounding the works of Zizek and Sloterdijk (there is already a Journal of Zizek Studies, maybe soon a seminary?). Humans will always try to find meaning and purpose in their lives, and science will never be able to tell them what it is. This, ultimately is the meaning of religion, and “secular religions” like philosophy and literature are little different in this sense than theology. Certainly German philosophy was distorted by madmen just as Christianity has been in the past, but atheists fool themselves if they try to differentiate the two.
As a poorly-practicing Christian who reads enough science to be functional at dinner parties, I would like to suggest a truce — one originally proposed by the Catholic church and promoted by the eminent Stephen J. Gould. Science, the study of the natural world, and religion, the inquiry into the meaning of life (or metaphysics, more broadly) constitute non-overlapping magisteria. Neither can invalidate the theories of the other, if such theories are properly within their realm. Any theologian or scientist who steps out of their realm to speculate upon the other is free to do so, but must do so with an adequate understanding of the other’s realm.
Religion (either secular or theological) does not poison all of society and science should not be feared, but rather embraced. Both can bring humanity to new heights of empathy, imagination and progress. To quote the greatest American reformer, “Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”
“New Atheists” believe that religion threatens progress and breeds conflict and that were religion eliminated, we would begin to solve the world’s problems. But abolishing religion is not only unfeasible, it would ultimately leave us no closer to truth, love or peace. Rather, we need to embrace the deep philosophical and spiritual questions that arise from our shared existence and work toward a world without deprivation. That will require empathy and multiculturalism, not demagoguery.
It’s official. The mayor of the island of Hawaii, Billy Kenoi, has signed bill 113 into law. This bill prohibits biotech companies from operating on the island, and it bans farmers from growing any new genetically altered crops. (The papaya industry, which has more than 200 farms on the island, is exempt from the bill.)
Hawaii is joining Mexico, which last month banned (on an interim basis) the planting of all genetically engineered corn, and Italy, which in July became the 9th European country to ban planting of Monsanto’s GMO corn.
Monsanto and its allies are trying to convince you and I and the rest of the American public that the case is settled and GMOs have been proven safe. But counties and nations around the world are banning them. And a group of 230 scientists from around the world, including Dr. Belinda Martineau, who helped commercialize the world’s first GM food (the Flavor Savor tomato), recently joined together to sign a declaration that they: “deplore the disinformation over the safety of GMOs.” They add: “Claims that there is a consensus among scientific and governmental bodies that GM foods are safe, or that they are no more risky than non-GM foods, are false.” (Read the scientist’s statement in full here.)
Do you think GMOs should be labeled? If you do, you are far from alone. The vast majority of people in the United States would like to see the country join 64 other nations, including all of Europe, in labeling GMOs. It’s a cause supported, according to polls, by 93% of the American public.
But last month the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA), funded by secret donations from the junk food industry, led a campaign to block labeling in the state of Washington. And now recently uncovered documents have revealed that the GMA is plotting a campaign for federal preemption that would permanently block any state from requiring mandatory labeling of GMOs.
Monsanto and the GMA want to keep you eating in the dark. That’s why the Food Revolution Network, for which I serve as CEO, has launched a campaign that seeks to peel away the GMA’s funding base, and expose the “natural” brands whose corporate owners are funding the GMA’s anti-labeling agenda. We’ve started with a petition and boycott campaign that targets Coca-Cola’s “healthy” brands.
Most people don’t realize that Coca-Cola owns Honest Tea, Odwalla, Zico Coconut Water, Simply Orange, and Vitamin Water. And that this corporation, which sweetens most of its beverages with genetically engineered high fructose corn syrup, recently contributed more than $1 million in an illegal money laundering scheme to the cause of GMO secrecy. But now, hundreds of thousands of people like you are finding out and joining the campaign.
The people of Hawaii, and their mayor, have spoken. Now it’s your turn. Together, we can force Coca-Cola to honor the wishes of the vast majority of Americans who want to see GMOs labeled.Related Stories
- Coca-Cola Now Owns Zico Coconut Water, Honest Tea, Odwalla, and Vitamin Water: The Dark Side of Coke's "Healthy" Brands
- The Growing Realization That Our Individual Struggles Are All Connected Makes This “Our Moment”
- The Growing Realization That Our Individual Struggles Are Connected to a Larger One Makes This “Our Moment” for Transformation
An unarmed college student at University of the Incarnate Word in Texas was killed by a campus police officer last Friday, and now the police are investigating the incident. The officer who fired the gun has been placed on administrative leave, but the family of the victim still has a lot of questions.
The 23-year-old communications arts major Robert Cameron Redus was pulled over for allegedly driving recklessly, according the police. After a “struggle” took place, the officer, Christopher Carter, fired six shots. The incident took place at an apartment complex not far from the school.
“I didn't hear him say anything like, 'Get down on your hands and knees,' you know? I didn't hear him say anything. He just started shooting,” one witness told KSAT.com.
Another witness told the San Antonio Express News that he heard Redus’ last words. “I heard (a man) say, 'Oh, you're gonna shoot me?' like sarcastic almost,” said Mohammad Haidarasl.
The university says that Carter had an extensive law enforcement background and that he worked for the school for a few years. But documents published by the San Antonio Express News show that he worked for the Texas university for two and a half years after holding nine different jobs at eight separate law enforcement agencies.
Players of fantasy games like World of Warcraft are usually worried about their character dying or running out of money. But new documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal that they should have another concern: government spying.
The New York Times’ and Pro Publica’s Mark Mazzetti and Justin Elliott have written a story detailing how the National Security Agency and its British counterpart, Government Communication Headquarters, have infiltrated the online games World of Warcraft and Second Life. Known as massively multiplayer online role-playing games, World of Warcraft and Second Life create virtual worlds for players.
The NSA and GCHQ have collected data and the content of communications of players in the games. They have also created characters for the express purpose of infiltrating the games to spy on and recruit players to become informers. It’s the latest revelation to show that the NSA has a “collect it all” model that now extends to video games.
The intelligence agencies say they are worried that terrorists could use the games to communicate. But so far, there is no evidence the spying has gathered evidence on terrorists, though the NSA has said that they have identified militants who play the games. Still, there’s no evidence they have played the games for illegal or violent purposes. As cyberwar expert Peter Singer told the reporters, these games “are built and operated by companies looking to make money, so the players’ identity and activity is tracked...For terror groups looking to keep their communications secret, there are far more effective and easier ways to do so than putting on a troll avatar.”
It’s unclear whether Americans’ data have been scooped up in the efforts, which could be a violation of the law.
Blizzard, the company that makes World of Warcraft, said they had not granted permission for the NSA to spy on their players. GCHQ would not comment. While Blizzard says they are not cooperating with the NSA, Second Life, on some level, has cooperated. In 2007, NSA officials met with the head technology officer of the manufacturer of the game, Cory Ondrejka, a former naval official who had worked with the NSA. By the end of 2008, the British intelligence agency had begun spying on Second Life.
- What Happens When Neoliberalism and White Privilege Meet in the College Classroom? Black Professors are Disciplined for Talking About Racism
- Time to be Afraid in America: The Frightening Pattern of Throwing Police Power at Social Problems
- It Is Time to Be Scared in America: The Increasing Danger and Failure to Solve Myriad Social Problems with a Militarized Police Solution
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Sometimes a single story has a way of standing in for everything you need to know. In the case of the up-arming, up-armoring, and militarization of police forces across the country, there is such a story. Not the police, mind you, but the campus cops at Ohio State University now possess an MRAP; that is, a $500,000, 18-ton, mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle of a sort used in the Afghan War and, as Hunter Stuart of the Huffington Post reported, built to withstand "ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IEDs, and nuclear, biological, and chemical environments.” Sounds like just the thing for bouts of binge drinking and post-football-game shenanigans.
That MRAP came, like so much other equipment police departments are stocking up on -- from tactical military vests, assault rifles, and grenade launchers to actual tanks and helicopters -- as a freebie via a Pentagon-organized surplus military equipment program. As it happens, police departments across the country are getting MRAPs like OSU’s, including the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota. It’s received one of 18 such decommissioned military vehicles already being distributed around that state. So has Warren County which, like a number of counties in New York state, some quite rural, is now deploying Afghan War-grade vehicles. (Nationwide, rural counties have received a disproportionate percentage of the billions of dollars worth of surplus military equipment that has gone to the police in these years.)
When questioned on the utility of its new MRAP, Warren County Sheriff Bud York suggested, according to the Post-Star, the local newspaper, that “in an era of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and mass killings in schools, police agencies need to be ready for whatever comes their way... The vehicle will also serve as a deterrent to drug dealers or others who might be contemplating a show of force.” So, breathe a sigh of relief, Warren County is ready for the next al-Qaeda-style show of force and, for those fretting about how to deal with such things, there are now 165 18-ton “deterrents” in the hands of local law enforcement around the country, with hundreds of requests still pending.
You can imagine just how useful an MRAP is likely to be if the next Adam Lanza busts into a school in Warren County, assault rifle in hand, or takes over a building at Ohio State University. But keep in mind that we all love bargains and that Warren County vehicle cost the department less than $10. (Yes, you read that right!) A cornucopia of such Pentagon “bargains” has, in the post-9/11 years, played its part in transforming the way the police imagine their jobs and in militarizing the very idea of policing in this country.
Just thinking about that MRAP at OSU makes me feel like I grew up in Neolithic America. After all, when I went to college in the early 1960s, campus cops were mooks in suits. Gun-less, they were there to enforce such crucial matters as “parietal hours.” (If you’re too young to know what they were, look it up.) At their worst, they faced what in those still civilianized (and sexist) days were called “panty raids,” but today would undoubtedly be seen as potential manifestations of a terrorist mentality. Now, if there is a sit-in or sit-down on campus, as infamously at the University of California, Davis, during the Occupy movement, expect that the demonstrators will be treated like enemies of the state and pepper-sprayed or perhaps Tased. And if there’s a bona fide student riot in town, the cops will now roll out an armored vehicle (as they did recently in Seattle).
By the way, don’t think it’s just the weaponry that’s militarizing the police. It’s a mentality as well that, like those weapons, is migrating home from our distant wars. It’s a sense that the U.S., too, is a “battlefield” and that, for instance, those highly militarized SWAT teams spreading to just about any community you want to mention are made up of “operators” (a “term of art” from the special operations community) ready to deal with threats to American life.
Embedding itself chillingly in our civilian world, that battlefield is proving mobile indeed. As Chase Madar wrote months ago, it leads now to the repeated handcuffing of six- and seven-year-olds in our schools as mini-criminals for offenses that once would have been dealt with by a teacher or principal, not a cop, and at school, not in jail or court. In his recent piece “The Over-Policing of America,” Madar explains just how this particular nightmare is spreading into every crevice of American life.
The facts are indisputable, the conclusion painful. The wealthiest people in the U.S. and around the world have used thestock market and the deregulated financial system to lay claim to the resources that should belong to all of us.
This is not a matter of productive people benefiting from their contributions to society. This is a relatively small number of people extracting massive amounts of money through the financial system for accomplishing almost nothing.
1. They've Taken $1.6 Million Per Family in New Wealth Since the Recession
The richest 5% of American families each gained at least that much in five years, mostly from the stock market. Using data from Credit Suisse, the Economic Policy Institute, Pew Research, and the Census Bureau and two separate analyses (shownhere and here), this extraordinary wealth grab can be calculated.
To briefly summarize, the richest 5% (six million households) own about two-thirds of the wealth, or about $10 trillion of the $15 trillion in financial wealth gained since the recession. That's $1,667,000 per household. Calculations based on alternate sources resulted in a gain of over $2 million per household.
It is noteworthy that most of their windfall came from stock market gains rather than from job-creating business ventures. The stock market has, once again, been forming an overblown bubble of wealth that does not reflect the relative degrees of productivity of workers around America. The market has more than doubled in value since the recession, and the richest 5% own about 80% of all non-pension stocks.
2. They Create Imaginary Money That Turns Real
The world's wealth has doubled in a little over ten years. The financial industry has, in effect, created a whole new share of global wealth and redistributed much of it to itself.
In the U.S., financial sector profits as a percentage of corporate profits have been rising steadily over the past 30 years. The speculative, non-productive, and fee-generating derivatives market has increased to an unfathomable level of over $1 quadrillion -- a thousand trillion dollars, twenty times more than the world economy.
With the U.S. driving the expansion of this great bubble of wealth, our nation has become the fifth-most wealth-unequalcountry in the world, while global inequality (between rather than within countries) has become even worse than for any one country. Just 250 individuals have more money than the total annual living expenses of almost half the world - three billion people.
3. They've Stopped Payment on Productive Americans
Reputable sources agree that the working class has not been properly compensated for its productivity, and that the "rent-seeking" behavior of the financial industry, rather than changes in technology, is extracting wealth from society.
As a result, our median inflation-adjusted household wealth has dropped from $73,000 to $57,000 in a little over 25 years. We've lost another five percent of our wealth since the recession.
Shockingly, only one out of four Americans, according to a survey by Bankrate.com, "have six months' worth of expenses for use in emergency, the minimum recommended by many financial planning experts."
The End Result? That suction-like sound is the financial industry soaking up our country's wealth.
What Happens When Neoliberalism and White Privilege Meet in the College Classroom? Black Professors are Disciplined for Talking About Racism
The noted historian Eugene Genovese once said that a teacher is not doing their job if they are not making their students uncomfortable at least once every class.
Genovese's wisdom about how effective teaching and learning should challenge and disrupt a student's priors and beliefs does not apply to those faculty who do not have tenure or are contingent labor. Genovese's rubric most certainly does not hold for professors who happen to be female or people of color.
For example, see the experience of Shannon Gibney, an African-American professor who was disciplined by administrators for making white students "uncomfortable" because she dared to talk about structural inequality in her classroom.
Salon details how:A black female professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College was formally reprimanded by school officials after three of her white male students were upset by a lesson she taught on structural racism.
Shannon Gibney says that the students reacted in a hostile manner to the lesson in her Introduction to Mass Communication class, with one of them asking her, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?”
“His whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st century America,” she explained in an interview with City College News.
Gibney says that, after this initial comment, another white male student said, “Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?” These students continued to argue and disrupt the lesson until Gibney told them that if they were troubled by her handling of the subject, they could file an official complaint with the school’s legal affairs department.
The students then filed a complaint, and Gibney was formally reprimanded by the school’s vice president of academic affairs for creating a ”hostile learning environment” for trying to educate her students about the existence and operations of structural racism.
As an African-American, who for several years has taught on the college level, I can empathize with Gibney's sense of frustration (and likely anger) at being punished for doing her job, and the abuse she received from several white students who were "offended' that race was discussed in class. I would suggest that the greater insult for Shannon Gibney is not that these entitled and narcissistic students complained. Rather, it is that her superiors took such intellectually vacuous and petty complaints seriously.
Like most people of color who are members of the professional class or work in higher education, we can offer up many examples of our experiences with day-to-day racism and white supremacy. These challenges are especially problematic, because people of color who are members of the professional classes quite literally have the paper to prove their competence and training. Yet, for many white folks (and some black and brown folks who have internalized white supremacy) this is not enough.
The bonafides may be present, hung on the wall, in the office, or listed as the authors of monographs and chapters in books; but, for a particular type of person, they/we are not "qualified" because our not being "white" is a de facto statement of our inherent lack of talent and ability.
I have been a college lecturer for several years.
In that time I have experienced white students--male students in particular--showing great resistance and disrespect toward me. This is more than the difficulty of dealing with entitled and narcissistic students who have more than earned the title of "snowflake", are part of a generational cohort that is highly resistant to receiving any type of constructive criticism, and lack the ability to understand that there is a difference between opinion, scholarly consensus, and learned expertise.
No, it is the way the energy changes in a space, the surprised looks, the head-shakes, and subtle combativeness (or overt resistance) by some white men when a person of color or a woman walks into a room in their professional capacity as a teacher, manager, doctor, consultant, or boss.
I have experienced a white male student look aghast upon my entering the seminar room, utter that there is no way someone like me could teach him, and then make a scene of walking out. I have had white students email my superiors and concoct wicked lies about what is being taught in class, my comportment, and how I am somehow "hostile" to white people. I have had white students demand that I demonstrate my competence to be a faculty member and to teach students as "smart" and "bright" as they and their peers are (the subtle coding? all of said students were overwhelmingly white) because I must be an "affirmative action hire" or a "quota". And yes, as the question may be looming for some readers, I was once, for all intents and purposes, called a "nigger" to my face during a related interaction.
Those are relatively rare experiences. I count myself very lucky and fortunate to have colleagues and superiors who have been very supportive, helpful, and encouraging.
College course evaluations are also a space where white students show hostility towards faculty of color.
Beyond the typical complaints about too much reading, or dissatisfaction with grades, evaluations are spaces for students to retaliate against professors and lecturers. It is a one-way fight because evaluations are usually anonymous. And at many institutions they are heavily relied upon for determining promotions, raises, and tenure. In the worst examples, college evaluations are just a score without any context that are used to punish and reward faculty members.
There is a great amount of research which suggests that course evaluations are heavily impacted by an instructor's race, gender, age, ethnicity, and perceived sexuality. Students, who as a practical matter do not have the expertise to determine the quality of what they have been taught (they can only accurately comment on their normative experience in the class), are in fact evaluating a professor based on what they expect their grade to be, and how/if that person fit into some preconceived box of what a "professor" should look and act like.
Consequently, women who are not "comforting" and "nurturing" are evaluated worse than men in the same scenario. Men who teach seminars, as opposed to the classic lecture with its pretense of the "authority figure", are evaluated lower by students.
Students in required classes will often reveal their frustration and sense of being imposed upon through their course evaluations. Because people of color and women may tend towards fields in the social sciences and humanities that explore questions of identity, culture, and power, they in turn face the double burden of teaching courses and material that many white students are resistant to, and then being evaluated as less competent, precisely because they are not white and male.
As is demonstrated in other areas of American public and cultural life, course evaluations are spaces where ability and aptitude are not assessed equally across lines of race and gender: the smart and confident black professor is branded as "arrogant"; the smart and confident woman is a "bitch".
If the classroom is supposed to be a space where the truth is distilled down to its core essence, college faculty face a dire dilemma. Do they engage in parrhesia, radical truth-telling, that may upset their students?
For those not at Ivies or elite R1's where evaluations are not as important, does an instructor risk their academic career by eschewing student evaluations because high standards, rigor, and truth-seeking are the most important values for them? Because the personal is political and is not neatly separated from one's intellectual work, should faculty of color and others so oriented, simply stay silent on those topics that will upset white students?
These are important questions which speak to a more important concern. Racism and sexism are central to how Shannon Gibney was treated by her students and the administrators at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. But, Gibney's story should be located relative to the structural forces that are negatively reimagining and reshaping higher education in the United States--and the country's economy, politics, and culture, more generally.
Ultimately, Gibney's experience is one more data point which reveals the overwhelming power of neoliberalism and the surveillance society to impact every aspect of American life.
Neoliberalism is a political and economic philosophy which argues that models of extreme capitalism and the marketplace should be used to organize society. Capitalism and democracy are made synonymous with one another. The type of biopolitics which has been ushered in by the neoliberal order is one of a culture of cruelty, mass incarceration, the destruction of the middle class, where the poor are treated as "useless eaters", and the State monitors and spies upon its citizens through omnipresent means.
Higher education in America shares all of those traits. Evaluations are used to monitor, assess, intimidate, and control faculty members. Rate My Professor is part of this apparatus, as are websites by Right-wing "watchdog" groups that seek to bully and fire professors who are "hostile" to the conservative agenda.
Because higher education is profit driven--as opposed to being focused on creating active and critical citizens--the classroom is being transformed into a version of McDonald's or Burger King where the customer is always right.
In many states, faculty are being required to submit their syllabi for public inspection and approval. If higher education is the last redoubt of critical thinking and a bulwark against neoliberalism, rising Christian Dominionism, and the anti-intellectual thuggery of contemporary populist conservatism, faculty members must then conform to the expectations of a lay public who have neither the expertise or qualifications to judge a given professor's ability or competence.
Shannon Gibney's experience resonates here: the White Right is pursuing a nativist and racist political agenda. Consequently, attacking faculty members who dare to engage in truth-telling and truth-seeking on those matters is a necessity.
Neoliberalism is predicated on creating a sense of insecurity and fear on the part of the American worker. If wages are stagnant, being undercut by globalization, and unions are destroyed, then CEO's and the 1 percent can further extract wealth from the masses. The destruction of the middle class is the foundation for a neoliberal order. Tenure for college faculty, which grants the intellectual freedom to engage in truth-seeking and truth-telling, is being destroyed in America. Tenured and long-term faculty members are being replaced by adjuncts who are underpaid, without health benefits or retirement funds, and possess no job security. Tuition rates continue to rise. Executive compensation for senior administrators remains extravagant.
The result of neoliberalism's influence in higher education is that the quality of student instruction will be made lower, universities and colleges will be preoccupied with expanding corporate support and donations (as well as giving them even more control over departments, hiring, and research), and faculty will be made made expendable and disposable. Those who remain will either have been lucky enough to be grandfathered through to tenure or will have adapted to the new reality of simply giving students the grades they want, i.e. "A's" (as opposed to what they have earned) and abandoning any commitment to the life of the mind and the role of the intellectual as truth-teller.
Shannon Gibney's experience is an example of racism and sexism in action. White privilege empowered the white male students to harass her. It was not white racism and white supremacy operating either together or alone that then led to Shannon Gibney being disciplined for daring to talk about structural racism in her class.
Neoliberalism is the main villain in Gibney's story. Black and brown folks are once more "the miner's canary".
The forces of corporatization, hyper conservatism, and extreme capitalism came after Shannon Gibney because she is a black woman who dared to engage in truth-telling about white supremacy in the United States. As such, Shannon was the most vulnerable and opportune target of the moment.
The neoliberal order operates on the same calculus as organized crime or a hitman. It ain't personal. It's only business. Neoliberalism is coming for everyone. White supremacy and white racism are just a means to an end.Related Stories
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Last night, Jon Stewart delivered quite the smackdown to financial news hosts, specifically CNBC's Larry Kudlow and Fox's Stuart Varney, for their insipid arguments against raising the minimum wage. Jon took each one of them and showed why each one was full of crap.
So if you know any right-wingers who've been spewing crap about raising the minimum wage on social media, send 'em the link to the second clip where Jon just rips the shit out of Varney and Kudlow.If it took you a little longer to get your ol' Sausage McMuffin this morning, it wasn't because this year's sausage crop has suffered a particularly poor congeal.
ABC7 (12/5/2013): Fast food workers in about 100 cities are staging a one-day strike, demanding higher wages. It is the largest effort yet in the year-long push for more money. The workers say it's nearly impossible to survive on a full-time salary of $7.25 an hour.The wages are so low, some fast food workers have had to resort to a life of crime.
Or worse, prostitution.
(wild audience laughter)
You got a pretty mouth there, Grimace.
So, the question is, raise the minimum wage from the very difficult to live on $7.25 an hour to something more liveable. It seems reasonable for an industry that is that profitable. So let's hear why it will destroy the very foundations of our democracy.12/3/2013:
BEN WHITE: Let's get people a little more purchasing power.
LARRY KUDLOW: That's the Keynesian view, that more government assistance, in this case, a minimum wage....Government assistance?! How is that government....? "Yeah, I'm sick of these welfare queens, suckling at the teat of the employer they work for." (audience laughter)
The government's not kicking in the extra money. But painting a raise in the minimum wage as akin to welfare pales in comparison to our next argument: well, these jobs are supposed to suck.CAROL ROTH (12/3/2013): I'm a big fan of empowerment over entitlements. And these minimum wage jobs are not meant to be lifelong jobs. You're supposed to get your foot in the door, and get skills.Oh, it's like a starter gig. A fryer's apprenticeship, if you will. A grill squire.
Now I know what you're thinking: "Jon, these arguments against raising the minimum wage are entertainingly shitty. But I feel like I need more of them. Is there any way I could supersize them, with a side of slippery slope?"12/3/2013:
ERIC BOLLING: What should the minimum wage be?
BOB BECKEL: I think — for me, personally? — $15, $20 dollars.
ERIC BOLLING: Why not $50?RICK SANTELLI (9/3/2013): If it really works, why not raise it to $35 or $40 an hour?
LARRY KUDLOW (12/3/2013): If it's all that good, why stop at $50? Let's go to $100 bucks an hour!
FOX BUSINESS GUEST (7/29/2013): And why stop at $15? Why not raise the minimum wage to $100,000?And then... and then, we can all live like kings! Burger Kings! (audience applause0
But let's for a moment engage her argument, seeing as she is making this argument on a financial news network. The reason you don't raise the minimum wage to $100,000 an hour is because it would be unreasonable economically for someone working the drive-thru to make $4 million dollars a week. But I feel like there might be a reasonable place in between the $290 dollars a week they make now, and the $4 million dollars a week you suggest. Perhaps we can come to a negotiated compromise.
So we've engaged in some absurd arguments. Can I get an argument against raising the minimum wage, but one that's deep-fried in contempt, seasoned with disdain?STUART VARNEY (12/2/2013): I know you're going to give us the emotional side of the story, people need $15 dollars per hour to live on, they're starving without it. OK, I got that. I want to ask you about the economics of it.(shocked audience laughter)
Dude, are you serious? That is the type of statement that is usually followed by a visit from a dead business partner and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
(wild audience cheering and applause)
"All right, all right, we've heard the argument that you need it to feed your family. Fine! I've got that. Let's hear the argument treating it as though you're not human."
So Mr. Varney would like to strip the emotion away from all this, until he doesn't.STUART VARNEY (12/2/2013): Do you think that someone fresh out of high school that didn't get a diploma, they don't really have any basic skills, do you think that they deserve $15? ... I'm asking you to make a moral judgment here.Oh, I'm making one. (audience laughter and applause)
I'm thinking everybody who just heard you say that is making a moral judgment right now. You might want to reinforce your Christmas stocking this year. Cuz you gettin' coal.
But I get it, Mr. Varney, you're a supply-sider. You want to hear a moral argument about that type of economics. Well let's look to a gentleman seen as a voice of moral authority for millions of people.SCOTT PELLEY (11/26/2013): Today, Pope Francis denounced trickle-down economics as unfair to the poor.
ALISON KOSIK (12/1/2013): He calls unfettered capitalism a new tyranny, and he urges world leaders to fight poverty and inequality.
FOX NEWS (12/4/2013): (quoting Pope Francis) "Money must serve, not rule! ... I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings."Ooh, somebody light some incense, that's gonna go over like a fart in church.
STUART VARNEY (12/3/2013): I disagree with the Pope, who doesn't like free market capitalism. I think free market capitalism is a great liberator.Ahh!! You're going up against the Pope?? You're going up against the Pope on how to help the poor? Helping the poor is in this man's wheelhouse! This Pope helps the poor! But you're telling him how to do his job?? Pope doesn't come over to where you work, and slap Jamie Dimon's dick out of your mouth. (HYSTERICAL audience laughter and cheering and applause)
That's weird, that wasn't in the prompter.
Can anyone actually have a rebuttal for the Pope?LARRY KUDLOW (12/2/2013): With all due humility, and as a church-going Catholic convert, a devotional convert, I adore the Holy Father. I still must completely disagree.
LARRY KUDLOW (12/3/2013): Need I remind his Holiness, Pope Francis, charity is a gospel value. And that puts free market capitalism on the right side of the Lord.Exactly! Free market capitalism on the right side of the Lord! Who says you can't serve both God and money?
(audience cheering and applause)
Who would say such a thing? Who... could... say... such a.... That's not fair. Look at the beard. Guy's clearly a Marxist.
All right, step right up. Who's got next?STUART VARNEY (12/3/2013): When the Pope criticizes an entire economic system, and he's negative about it, he's indulging in politics. And I don't think he should.
STUART VARNEY (11/27/2013): I personally do not want my spiritual life mixed up with my political life. I go to church to save my soul.(jeering audience response)
Then why aren't you there right now? (audience laughter and applause)
I do think we've got some common ground here. I think we both actually agree, that some people are being paid too much money to shovel unappetizing, unhealthy shit to the American public. We just disagree about who those people are and where they work.
(audience cheering and applause)
We'll be right back.
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America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.
There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west. I don’t think it’s unique to America.
I think we’ve perfected a lot of the tragedy and we’re getting there faster than a lot of other places that may be a little more reasoned, but my dangerous idea kind of involves this fellow who got left by the wayside in the 20th century and seemed to be almost the butt end of the joke of the 20th century; a fellow named Karl Marx.
I’m not a Marxist in the sense that I don’t think Marxism has a very specific clinical answer to what ails us economically. I think Marx was a much better diagnostician than he was a clinician. He was good at figuring out what was wrong or what could be wrong with capitalism if it wasn’t attended to and much less credible when it comes to how you might solve that.
You know if you’ve read Capital or if you’ve got the Cliff Notes, you know that his imaginings of how classical Marxism – of how his logic would work when applied – kind of devolve into such nonsense as the withering away of the state and platitudes like that. But he was really sharp about what goes wrong when capital wins unequivocally, when it gets everything it asks for.
That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.
We understand profit. In my country we measure things by profit. We listen to the Wall Street analysts. They tell us what we’re supposed to do every quarter. The quarterly report is God. Turn to face God. Turn to face Mecca, you know. Did you make your number? Did you not make your number? Do you want your bonus? Do you not want your bonus?
And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.
Capitalism stomped the hell out of Marxism by the end of the 20th century and was predominant in all respects, but the great irony of it is that the only thing that actually works is not ideological, it is impure, has elements of both arguments and never actually achieves any kind of partisan or philosophical perfection.
It’s pragmatic, it includes the best aspects of socialistic thought and of free-market capitalism and it works because we don’t let it work entirely. And that’s a hard idea to think – that there isn’t one single silver bullet that gets us out of the mess we’ve dug for ourselves. But man, we’ve dug a mess.
After the second world war, the west emerged with the American economy coming out of its wartime extravagance, emerging as the best product. It was the best product. It worked the best. It was demonstrating its might not only in terms of what it did during the war but in terms of just how facile it was in creating mass wealth.
Plus, it provided a lot more freedom and was doing the one thing that guaranteed that the 20th century was going to be – and forgive the jingoistic sound of this – the American century.
It took a working class that had no discretionary income at the beginning of the century, which was working on subsistence wages. It turned it into a consumer class that not only had money to buy all the stuff that they needed to live but enough to buy a bunch of shit that they wanted but didn’t need, and that was the engine that drove us.
It wasn’t just that we could supply stuff, or that we had the factories or know-how or capital, it was that we created our own demand and started exporting that demand throughout the west. And the standard of living made it possible to manufacture stuff at an incredible rate and sell it.
And how did we do that? We did that by not giving in to either side. That was the new deal. That was the great society. That was all of that argument about collective bargaining and union wages and it was an argument that meant neither side gets to win.
Labour doesn’t get to win all its arguments, capital doesn’t get to. But it’s in the tension, it’s in the actual fight between the two, that capitalism actually becomes functional, that it becomes something that every stratum in society has a stake in, that they all share.
The unions actually mattered. The unions were part of the equation. It didn’t matter that they won all the time, it didn’t matter that they lost all the time, it just mattered that they had to win some of the time and they had to put up a fight and they had to argue for the demand and the equation and for the idea that workers were not worth less, they were worth more.
Ultimately we abandoned that and believed in the idea of trickle-down and the idea of the market economy and the market knows best, to the point where now libertarianism in my country is actually being taken seriously as an intelligent mode of political thought. It’s astonishing to me. But it is. People are saying I don’t need anything but my own ability to earn a profit. I’m not connected to society. I don’t care how the road got built, I don’t care where the firefighter comes from, I don’t care who educates the kids other than my kids. I am me. It’s the triumph of the self. I am me, hear me roar.
That we’ve gotten to this point is astonishing to me because basically in winning its victory, in seeing that Wall come down and seeing the former Stalinist state’s journey towards our way of thinking in terms of markets or being vulnerable, you would have thought that we would have learned what works. Instead we’ve descended into what can only be described as greed. This is just greed. This is an inability to see that we’re all connected, that the idea of two Americas is implausible, or two Australias, or two Spains or two Frances.
Societies are exactly what they sound like. If everybody is invested and if everyone just believes that they have “some”, it doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to get the same amount. It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be people who are the venture capitalists who stand to make the most. It’s not each according to their needs or anything that is purely Marxist, but it is that everybody feels as if, if the society succeeds, I succeed, I don’t get left behind. And there isn’t a society in the west now, right now, that is able to sustain that for all of its population.
And so in my country you’re seeing a horror show. You’re seeing a retrenchment in terms of family income, you’re seeing the abandonment of basic services, such as public education, functional public education. You’re seeing the underclass hunted through an alleged war on dangerous drugs that is in fact merely a war on the poor and has turned us into the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind, in terms of the sheer numbers of people we’ve put in American prisons and the percentage of Americans we put into prisons. No other country on the face of the Earth jails people at the number and rate that we are.
We have become something other than what we claim for the American dream and all because of our inability to basically share, to even contemplate a socialist impulse.
Socialism is a dirty word in my country. I have to give that disclaimer at the beginning of every speech, “Oh by the way I’m not a Marxist you know”. I lived through the 20th century. I don’t believe that a state-run economy can be as viable as market capitalism in producing mass wealth. I don’t.
I’m utterly committed to the idea that capitalism has to be the way we generate mass wealth in the coming century. That argument’s over. But the idea that it’s not going to be married to a social compact, that how you distribute the benefits of capitalism isn’t going to include everyone in the society to a reasonable extent, that’s astonishing to me.
And so capitalism is about to seize defeat from the jaws of victory all by its own hand. That’s the astonishing end of this story, unless we reverse course. Unless we take into consideration, if not the remedies of Marx then the diagnosis, because he saw what would happen if capital triumphed unequivocally, if it got everything it wanted.
And one of the things that capital would want unequivocally and for certain is the diminishment of labour. They would want labour to be diminished because labour’s a cost. And if labour is diminished, let’s translate that: in human terms, it means human beings are worth less.
From this moment forward unless we reverse course, the average human being is worth less on planet Earth. Unless we take stock of the fact that maybe socialism and the socialist impulse has to be addressed again; it has to be married as it was married in the 1930s, the 1940s and even into the 1950s, to the engine that is capitalism.
Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.
The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It’s a juvenile notion and it’s still being argued in my country passionately and we’re going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I’m astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?
If you watched the debacle that was, and is, the fight over something as basic as public health policy in my country over the last couple of years, imagine the ineffectiveness that Americans are going to offer the world when it comes to something really complicated like global warming. We can’t even get healthcare for our citizens on a basic level. And the argument comes down to: “Goddamn this socialist president. Does he think I’m going to pay to keep other people healthy? That’s socialism you know. HMO [health-maintenance organisation] contract. Motherfucker.”
What do you think group health insurance is? You know you ask these guys, “Do you have group health insurance where you …?” “Oh yeah, I get …” you know, “my law firm …” So when you get sick you’re able to afford the treatment.
The treatment comes because you have enough people in your law firm so you’re able to get health insurance enough for them to stay healthy. So the actuarial tables work and all of you, when you do get sick, are able to have the resources there to get better because you’re relying on the idea of the group. Yeah. And they nod their heads, and you go “Brother, that’s socialism. You know it is.”
And … you know when you say, OK, we’re going to do what we’re doing for your law firm but we’re going to do it for 300 million Americans and we’re going to make it affordable for everybody that way. And yes, it means that you’re going to be paying for the other guys in the society, the same way you pay for the other guys in the law firm … Their eyes glaze. You know they don’t want to hear it. It’s too much. Too much to contemplate the idea that the whole country might be actually connected.
So I’m astonished that at this late date I’m standing here and saying we might want to go back for this guy Marx that we were laughing at, if not for his prescriptions, then at least for his depiction of what is possible if you don’t mitigate the authority of capitalism, if you don’t embrace some other values for human endeavour.
And that’s what The Wire was about basically, it was about people who were worth less and who were no longer necessary, as maybe 10 or 15% of my country is no longer necessary to the operation of the economy. It was about them trying to solve, for lack of a better term, an existential crisis. In their irrelevance, their economic irrelevance, they were nonetheless still on the ground occupying this place called Baltimore and they were going to have to endure somehow.
That’s the great horror show. What are we going to do with all these people that we’ve managed to marginalise? It was kind of interesting when it was only race, when you could do this on the basis of people’s racial fears and it was just the black and brown people in American cities who had the higher rates of unemployment and the higher rates of addiction and were marginalised and had the shitty school systems and the lack of opportunity.
And kind of interesting in this last recession to see the economy shrug and start to throw white middle-class people into the same boat, so that they became vulnerable to the drug war, say from methamphetamine, or they became unable to qualify for college loans. And all of a sudden a certain faith in the economic engine and the economic authority of Wall Street and market logic started to fall away from people. And they realised it’s not just about race, it’s about something even more terrifying. It’s about class. Are you at the top of the wave or are you at the bottom?
So how does it get better? In 1932, it got better because they dealt the cards again and there was a communal logic that said nobody’s going to get left behind. We’re going to figure this out. We’re going to get the banks open. From the depths of that depression a social compact was made between worker, between labour and capital that actually allowed people to have some hope.
We’re either going to do that in some practical way when things get bad enough or we’re going to keep going the way we’re going, at which point there’s going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody’s going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there’s always the brick. I hope we go for the first option but I’m losing faith.
The other thing that was there in 1932 that isn’t there now is that some element of the popular will could be expressed through the electoral process in my country.
The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what’s a good idea or what’s not, or what’s valued and what’s not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans.
Right now capital has effectively purchased the government, and you witnessed it again with the healthcare debacle in terms of the $450m that was heaved into Congress, the most broken part of my government, in order that the popular will never actually emerged in any of that legislative process.
So I don’t know what we do if we can’t actually control the representative government that we claim will manifest the popular will. Even if we all start having the same sentiments that I’m arguing for now, I’m not sure we can effect them any more in the same way that we could at the rise of the Great Depression, so maybe it will be the brick. But I hope not.Related Stories
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If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving” social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them, with generally disastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.
By now, the militarization of the police has advanced to the point where "the War on Crime” and “the War on Drugs” are no longer metaphors but bland understatements. There is the proliferation of heavily armed SWAT teams, even in small towns; the use of shock-and-awe tactics to bust small-time bookies; the no-knock raids to recover trace amounts of drugs that often result in the killing of family dogs, if not family members; and in communities where drug treatment programs once were key, the waging of a drug version of counterinsurgency war. (All of this is ably reported on journalist Radley Balko’s blog and in his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.) But American over-policing involves far more than the widely reported up-armoring of your local precinct. It’s also the way police power has entered the DNA of social policy, turning just about every sphere of American life into a police matter.
The School-to-Prison Pipeline
It starts in our schools, where discipline is increasingly outsourced to police personnel. What not long ago would have been seen as normal childhood misbehavior -- doodling on a desk, farting in class, a kindergartener’s tantrum -- can leave a kid in handcuffs, removed from school, or even booked at the local precinct. Such “criminals” can be as young as seven-year-old Wilson Reyes, a New Yorker who was handcuffed and interrogated under suspicion of stealing five dollars from a classmate. (Turned out he didn’t do it.)
Though it's a national phenomenon, Mississippi currently leads the way in turning school behavior into a police issue. The Hospitality State has imposed felony charges on schoolchildren for “crimes” like throwing peanuts on a bus. Wearing the wrong color belt to school got one child handcuffed to a railing for several hours. All of this goes under the rubric of “zero-tolerance” discipline, which turns out to be just another form of violence legally imported into schools.
Despite a long-term drop in youth crime, the carceral style of education remains in style. Metal detectors -- a horrible way for any child to start the day -- are installed in ever more schools, even those with sterling disciplinary records, despite the demonstrable fact that such scanners provide no guarantee against shootings and stabbings.
Every school shooting, whether in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, or Littleton, Colorado, only leads to more police in schools and more arms as well. It’s the one thing the National Rifle Association and Democratic senators can agree on. There are plenty of successful ways to run an orderly school without criminalizing the classroom, but politicians and much of the media don’t seem to want to know about them. The “school-to-prison pipeline,” a jargon term coined by activists, is entering the vernacular.
Go to Jail, Do Not Pass Go
Even as simple a matter as getting yourself from point A to point B can quickly become a law enforcement matter as travel and public space are ever more aggressively policed. Waiting for a bus? Such loitering just got three Rochester youths arrested. Driving without a seat belt can easily escalate into an arrest, even if the driver is a state judge. (Notably, all four of these men were black.) If the police think you might be carrying drugs, warrantless body cavity searches at the nearest hospital may be in the offing -- you will be sent the bill later.
Air travel entails increasingly intimate pat-downs and arbitrary rules that many experts see as nothing more than “security theater.” As for staying at home, it carries its own risks as Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates found out when a Cambridge police officer mistook him for a burglar and hauled him away -- a case that is hardly unique.
Overcriminalization at Work
Office and retail work might seem like an unpromising growth area for police and prosecutors, but criminal law has found its way into the white-collar workplace, too. Just ask Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin state employee targeted by a federal prosecutor for the “crime” of incorrectly processing a travel agency’s bid for state business. She spent four months in a federal prison before being sprung by a federal court. Or Judy Wilkinson, hauled away in handcuffs by an undercover cop for serving mimosas without a license to the customers in her bridal shop. Or George Norris, sentenced to 17 months in prison for selling orchids without the proper paperwork to an undercover federal agent.
Increasingly, basic economic transactions are being policed under the purview of criminal law. In Arkansas, for instance, Human Rights Watch reports that a new law funnels delinquent (or allegedly delinquent) rental tenants directly to the criminal courts, where failure to pay up can result in quick arrest and incarceration, even though debtor’s prison as an institution was supposed to have ended in the nineteenth century.
And the mood is spreading. Take the asset bubble collapse of 2008 and the rising cries of progressives for the criminal prosecution of Wall Street perpetrators, as if a fundamentally sound financial system had been abused by a small number of criminals who were running free after the debacle. Instead of pushing a debate about how to restructure our predatory financial system, liberals in their focus on individual prosecution are aping the punitive zeal of the authoritarians. A few high-profile prosecutions for insider trading (which had nothing to do with the last crash) have, of course, not changed Wall Street one bit.
The past decade has also seen immigration policy ingested by criminal law. According to another Human Rights Watch report -- their U.S. division is increasingly busy -- federal criminal prosecutions of immigrants for illegal entry have surged from 3,000 in 2002 to 48,000 last year. This novel application of police and prosecutors has broken up families and fueled the expansion of for-profit detention centers, even as it has failed to show any stronger deterrent effect on immigration than the civil law system that preceded it. Thanks to Arizona’s SB 1070 bill, police in that state are now licensed to stop and check the papers of anyone suspected of being undocumented -- that is, who looks Latino.
Meanwhile, significant parts of the US-Mexico border are now militarized (as increasingly is the Canadian border), including what seem to resemble free-fire zones. And if anyone were to leave bottled water for migrants illegally crossing the desert and in danger of death from dehydration, that good Samaritan should expect to face criminal charges, too. Intensified policing with aggressive targets for arrests and deportations are guaranteed to be a part of any future bipartisan deal on immigration reform.
As for the Internet, for a time it was terra nova and so relatively free of a steroidal law enforcement presence. Not anymore. The late Aaron Swartz, a young Internet genius and activist affiliated with Harvard University, was caught downloading masses of scholarly articles (all publicly subsidized) from an open network on the MIT campus. Swartz was federally prosecuted under the capacious Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for violating a “terms and services agreement” -- a transgression that anyone who has ever disabled a cookie on his or her laptop has also, technically, committed. Swartz committed suicide earlier this year while facing a possible 50-year sentence and up to a million dollars in fines.
Since the summer, thanks to whistleblowing contractor Edward Snowden, we have learned a great deal about the way the NSA stops and frisks our (and apparently everyone else’s) digital communications, both email and telephonic. The security benefits of such indiscriminate policing are far from clear, despite the government’s emphatic but inconsistent assurances otherwise. What comes into sharper focus with every volley of new revelations is the emerging digital infrastructure of what can only be called a police state.
Sex is another zone of police overkill in our post-Puritan land. Getting put on a sex offender registry is alarmingly easy -- as has been done to children as young as 11 for “playing doctor” with a relative, again according to Human Rights Watch. But getting taken off the registry later is extraordinarily difficult. Across the nation, sex offender registries have expanded massively, especially in California, where one in every 380 adults is now a registered sex offender, creating a new pariah class with severe obstacles to employment, housing, or any kind of community life. The proper penalty for, say, an 18-year-old who has sex with a 14-year-old can be debated, but should that 18-year-old's life really be ruined forever?
Equality Before the Cops?
It will surprise no one that Americans are not all treated equally by the police. Law enforcement picks on kids more than adults, the queer more than straight, Muslims more than Methodists -- Muslims a lot more than Methodists -- antiwar activists more than the apolitical. Above all, our punitive state targets the poor more than the wealthy and Blacks and Latinos more than white people.
A case in point: after the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, a police presence, including surveillance cameras and metal detectors, was ratcheted up at schools around the country, particularly in urban areas with largely working-class black and Latino student bodies. It was all to “protect” the kids, of course. At Columbine itself, however, no metal detector was installed and no heavy police presence intruded. The reason was simple. At that school in the Colorado suburb of Littleton, the mostly well-heeled white families did not want their kids treated like potential felons, and they had the status and political power to get their way. But communities without such clout are less able to push back against the encroachments of police power.
Even Our Prisons Are Over-Policed
The over-criminalization of American life empties out into our vast, overcrowded prison system, which is itself over-policed. The ultimate form of punitive control (and torture) is long-term solitary confinement, in which 80,000 to 100,000 prisoners are encased at any given moment. Is this really necessary? Solitary is no longer reserved for the worst or the worst or most dangerous prisoners but can be inflicted on ones who wear Rastafari dreadlocks, have a copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War in their cell, or are in any way suspected, no matter how tenuous the grounds, of gang affiliations.
Not every developed nation does things this way. Some 30 years ago, Great Britain shifted from isolating prisoners to, whenever possible, giving them greater responsibility and autonomy -- with less violent results. But don’t even bring the subject up here. It will fall on deaf ears.
Extreme policing is exacerbated by extreme sentencing. For instance, more than 3,000 Americans have been sentenced to life terms without chance of parole for nonviolent offenses. These are mostly but not exclusively drug offenses, including life for a pound of cocaine that a boyfriend stashed in the attic; selling LSD at a Grateful Dead concert; and shoplifting three belts from a department store.
Our incarceration rate is the highest in the world, triple that of the now-defunct East Germany. The incarceration rate for African American men is about five times higher than that of the Soviet Union at the peak of the gulag.
The Destruction of Families
Prison may seem the logical finale for this litany of over-criminalization, but the story doesn’t actually end with those inmates. As prisons warehouse ever more Americans, often hundreds of miles from their local communities, family bonds weaken and disintegrate. In addition, once a parent goes into the criminal justice system, his or her family tends to end up on the radar screens of state agencies. “Being under surveillance by law enforcement makes a family much more vulnerable to Child Protective Services,” says Professor Dorothy Roberts of the University of Pennsylvania Law school. An incarcerated parent, especially an incarcerated mother, means a much stronger likelihood that children will be sent into foster care, where, according to one recent study, they will be twice as likely as war veterans to suffer from PTSD.
In New York State, the Administration for Child Services and the juvenile justice system recently merged, effectively putting thousands of children in a heavily policed, penalty-based environment until they age out. “Being in foster care makes you much more vulnerable to being picked up by the juvenile justice system,” says Roberts. “If you’re in a group home and you get in a fight, that could easily become a police matter.” In every respect, the creeping over-criminalization of everyday life exerts a corrosive effect on American families.
Do We Live in a Police State?
The term “police state” was once brushed off by mainstream intellectuals as the hyperbole of paranoids. Not so much anymore. Even in the tweediest precincts of the legal system, the over-criminalization of American life is remarked upon with greater frequency and intensity. “You’re probably a (federal) criminal” is the accusatory title of a widely read essay co-authored by Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. A Republican appointee, Kozinski surveys the morass of criminal laws that make virtually every American an easy target for law enforcement. Veteran defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate has written an entire book about how an average American professional could easily commit three felonies in a single day without knowing it.
The daily overkill of police power in the U.S. goes a long way toward explaining why more Americans aren’t outraged by the “excesses” of the war on terror, which, as one law professor has argued, are just our everyday domestic penal habits exported to more exotic venues. It is no less true that the growth of domestic police power is, in this positive feedback loop, the partial result of our distant foreign wars seeping back into the homeland (the “imperial boomerang” that Hannah Arendt warned against).
Many who have long railed against our country’s everyday police overkill have reacted to the revelations of NSA surveillance with detectable exasperation: of course we are over-policed! Some have even responded with peevish resentment: Why so much sympathy for this Snowden kid when the daily grind of our justice system destroys so many lives without comment or scandal? After all, in New York, the police department’s “stop and frisk” tactic, which targets African American and Latino working-class youth for routinized street searches, was until recently uncontroversial among the political and opinion-making class. If “the gloves came off” after September 11, 2001, many Americans were surprised to learn they had ever been on to begin with.
A hammer is necessary to any toolkit. But you don’t use a hammer to turn a screw, chop a tomato, or brush your teeth. And yet the hammer remains our instrument of choice, both in the conduct of our foreign policy and in our domestic order. The result is not peace, justice, or prosperity but rather a state that harasses and imprisons its own people while shouting ever less intelligibly about freedom.
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Copyright 2013 Chase Madar
© 2013 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175781/
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The Bankruptcy and Privatization of Detroit Is a Terrifying Preview of What Republicans Want to Do to the Rest of the Country
Mitt Romney should be proud of what’s happening in Detroit.
That’s because during his time at Bain Capital, he perfected the type of glorified extortion tactics Rick Snyder and Kevin Orr are using right now rob city workers of their hard-earned pension plans.
When Mitt was running Bain during the 1980s and 1990s, the company made its money by forcing companies into debt and then robbing them blind for every last bit of cash they had.
Bain would take out a loan for, say, a billion dollars. It would then use that billion dollar loan - its leverage - to buy a company. But instead of paying back that billion dollar loan itself, Bain would dump it on the company it just bought. In other words, Bain would make the company it just bought pay for its own acquisition.
And where would that company get the billion dollars to do that? Well, good old Mitt would say that it got the money by eliminating fraud and waste. But in reality that money came from stripping the company of its assets and converting them into cash.
It came from taking employee assets - like pensions and decent paychecks - and converting them into cash to pay for the debt, and even converting future assets - the viability of the company itself - into cash to pay for the debt.
It came from gutting retirement funds and firing workers.
In the end, Bain not only ended up with the company, but also got rich off the fees associated with the entire debt repayment process.
And if the company didn’t survive, well, then so be it, because Bain got to make a tidy profit through their fees even if the company died. All that mattered was to strip profitable companies bare and put the money into Mitt’s pocket.
But back to Detroit. Now that Judge Steven Rhodes has OK’ed the city’s bankruptcy plan, massive cuts to Motor City worker pension plans are all but certain.
This is despite the fact that, as a recent Demos study concluded, “Detroit’s bankruptcy was primarily caused by a severe decline in revenue and exacerbated by complicated Wall Street deals that put its ability to pay its expenses at greater risk.”
That’s right, even though they have nothing to do with the city’s financial problems public workers will now have to foot a big chunk of the bankruptcy bill.
Just as Bain Capital trapped companies with massive debt obligations, so too did Wall Street trap Detroit with its risky debt schemes. And now, just as Bain forced everyday employees to pay for the debt forced on their company, so too is Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s Emergency Manager, making public workers pay for the banksters gambling away Detroit’s finances.
Like one of Bain’s acquisitions , Detroit’s will be sold at auction to pay off debts created by banksters.
But It’s not public just workers who will suffer - the whole city is on the chopping block. Kevyn Orr wants the city’s art collection sold off. The water department might be put on the market. And to top it all off, right-wing billionaires are trying to buy Belle Isle Park and turn it into some sort of libertarian-gambling paradise.
The privatization of Detroit is about to begin, and there’s no way the billionaire class is going to miss it.
Mitt Romney grew up in Michigan, so it’s fitting, in a way, that the first attempt to use the Bain strategy on a public institution would be in Detroit.
But make no mistake about it, the fire sale of Detroit is just a preview of what Republicans will do when they force their privatization fantasies on the rest of the country.Related Stories
The week that began with talk of the socialist pope, ended with right-wing absurdities about Nelson Mandela. Is nothing sacred?
1. Rush Limbaugh: The pope rips America, causing Obama to orgasm! And then Mandela really showed those American blacks how to do civil rights!
The man who has continually raised the ante on outrageousness brought his A-game this week, starting with comments about Pope Francis and President Obama. “The pope is ripping capitalism, ripping trickledown economics, ripping America. And Obama is having an orgasm,” Limbaugh spewed. “The pope has co-opted Obama.” Because what really gets this president’s motor going is “ripping this country apart.” (Are you listening, Michelle?) Obama demonstrated his ejaculatory pleasure in criticizing America a few days later when he had the audacity to say that “increasing inequality is most pronounced in this country.” The nerve!
Nelson Mandela’s death provided fodder for the right-wing radio ranter to reach new paroxysms of offensiveness and denounce the civil rights movement in America, which of course helped bring about Obama’s presidency. Here’s his case:
“Nelson Mandela actually lived through the indignities, the punishment, the discrimination, the horrors of the South African apartheid system. Came out of it — you realize when he was inaugurated president, he invited as his special guests the white jailers from his Robben Island prison? He literally did forgive everybody.
“Nelson Mandela would not qualify as a civil rights leader in this country with that philosophy. They can’t let it go. It’s become too big a business. They will not let it go. Mandela let it go. It's just — amazing.”
Of course, Mandela went on to decry the ongoing “cancer of racism” in America and elsewhere. He did not think racism had ended (unlike the RNC, it seems: see item #3 below).
2. Sarah Palin: Thomas Jefferson and I agree. Those meanie atheists are trying to abort Christ from Christmas.
Sarah Palin managed to combine those dreaded atheists with abortion, Christ-killing and the dastardly war on Christmas all in one fell swoop in a speech at Liberty University. She was, of course, promoting her new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, and the former not full-term Alaska governor is nothing if not good at self-promotion.
She also revealed a new talent for channeling the founding fathers. She knows exactly what Thomas Jefferson would do if he were alive today: He’d go on Fox News to complain about the war on Christmas. In other words, he’d be Sarah Palin.
That’s because—and this might come as a surprise to those who have read the part of the constitution about separation of church and state—Jefferson and his buds wrote the constitution specifically for religious people. Nonreligious people, in other words, amoral people, are not capable of understanding the constitution, and they are therefore not able to follow its precepts.
Here’s an excerpt from this marvelous bit of oratory:
“If you lose that foundation, John Adams was implicitly warning us, then we will not follow our constitution, there will be no reason to follow our constitution because it is a moral and religious people who understand that there is something greater than self, we are to live selflessly, and we are to be held accountable by our creator, so that is what our constitution is based on.”
There’s some more rambling after that, but you get the idea.
From there, she jumped back to her favorite topic and the one that promotes her book, saying Jefferson would agree with her that “angry atheists armed with an attorney” had set their sights on destroying the religious themes in Christmas celebrations.
“Why is it they get to claim some offense taken when they see a plastic Jewish family on somebody’s lawn—a nativity scene, that’s basically what it is, right?”
A plastic Jewish family. Is that in the scripture?
3. Tin-eared RNC: Racism and sexism have ended.
The national Republicans deftly demonstrated how they can appeal to both women and blacks this week. They started offering lessons to candidates on how not to say offensive things about women, especially when you are running against one, as Todd “legitimate rape” Akin did. Clearly, a steep learning curve there. Emergency reinforcements may be needed.
Over the weekend, the RNC declared that racism has ended in a tweet marking the anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and celebrating Rosa Parks’ famous act of civil disobedience. “Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in ending racism,” they said. Hilarious tweets ensued under hashtag #racismendedwhen, with answers like “when Mr. Drummond adopted Arnold and Willis,” “when Bill Clinton played the sax on Arsenio Hall” and “when the Fresh Prince moved to Bel-Air.”
Realizing their mistake after, well, millions of people ridiculed them, the RNC amended the tweet, “clarified it,” by saying Parks fought to end racism. But, let’s face it, they really think racism has ended. We’ve got a black president and the Supreme Court itself ruled there is no need for a Voting Rights Act anymore. That ought to settle it.
Does anyone still wonder why more than 90 percent of black America votes for anyone but the GOP?
4. Rick Santorum: Obamacare is like apartheid. And I am like Mandela. O’Reilly: Oh, you mean that commie?
Wow. Flabbergasting things happen when you combine two idiots on Fox with the death of a great man.
Here’s Santorum on Mandela:
“He was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives—and Obamacare is front and center in that.”
Apartheid and affordable healthcare. Yes, very similar. And that would, of course, make you Mandela-like in fighting this injustice. Amirite? We’ve seen some questionable analogies before, i.e. Obamacare and Katrina, Obamacare and the Fugitive Slave Act, Obamacare and the Nuremberg Laws, but this one might be the biggest doozy of them all. Points for creativity, Rick!
O’Reilly couldn’t top that, so he just kept repeating the one thing he did have to say about Mandela.
“He was a communist, this man. He was a communist, all right? But he was a great man! What he did for his people was stunning!...He was a great man! But he was a communist!”
So, uh, wait? Does that make Santorum a communist?
5. Fox News: Sharia law is here and the proof is that Muslim girls are taking swim classes at the Y.
Head for the hills. Sharia is here and it’s coming after your women. Fox continued its quest to stoke the fires of Islamaphobia when it targeted a seemingly harmless YMCA swim class in St. Paul Minnesota that offers hour-long swim practice once a week for Muslim Somali-American girls between the ages of 5 and 17. The YMCA (that’s “C” for Christian, hello) even makes considerations for the girls’ modesty and religious beliefs. On Fox & Friends, an outraged Heather Nauert said this is just one more piece of evidence that "Sharia law is now changing everything."
Modesty considerations have long kept observant Somali-American Muslim girls from learning even basic swimming skills, which, of course, is the problem that the program is designed to overcome. This pernicious tolerance trend is spreading all over the Midwest, Fox reports. Thankfully, Nauert promised viewers that Fox will keep an eye on it.
We are sure they will.
6. S.C. Sheriff refuses to fly flag at half staff for Mandela.
Another great American with a modicum of power and a desire to use it, Rick Clark, the sheriff of Pickens County, S.C., is taking a bold stand against... ummm... Obama’s tyranny? Sheriff Clark is refusing to lower the flag to half staff in honor of Mandela on December 9, 2013, as the president ordered.
Now, we know what you are thinking, but this has nothing to do with race, Clark swears. It has to do with Amurrica. "Nelson Mandela did great things for his country and was a brave man but he was not an AMERICAN!!!” Clark wrote on his Facebook page. “The flag should be lowered at our Embassy in S. Africa, but not here."
Clark knows full well when it is appropriate to lower that flag. He did it last Friday in honor of a deceased deputy, and on Saturday in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. But then it’s straight back up for Ole Glory. Unless another Amurrican dies.
7. Texas Republican Rep.: Minimum wage, schminimum wage.
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. So, in a week when low-wage workers went on strike to demand an increase in the minimum wage, and President Obama finally acknowledged that inequality is the defining challenge of our time, Rep. Joe Barton decided to be deeply offensive.
Abolish minimum wage, he told the National Journal. “I think it’s outlived its usefulness,” he said. His view is that it was only useful during the Great Depression.
Raising the minimum wage is bound to be on the list of things not to do in the Republican obstructionist playbook, now that Obama has announced making structural inequality the focus of the rest of his presidency.
Think Progress reports:
“At least 67 Republicans who are still serving in Congress today supported an increase under President George W. Bush, including Alexander and Ryan. Yet House Republicans unanimously voted down an increase in March.”
But while many of them won’t raise it, Barton’s going one better.
Let them eat cake!
8. House Chair of Science Committee Lamar Smith: Climate change, no way; aliens, sure.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who chairs the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, has no use for climate change science, and less use for the efforts to regulate carbon emissions. Setting standards for polluting power plants is partisan politics, he recently argued, blasting the EPA for trying to do so, not science. And the petroleum industry favorite knows from science. He’s using one of the seven days left on the legislative calendar to talk about extraterrestrials in a hearing called, “Astrobiology: Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond.”
Well, if there are aliens out there living on some other planet, that could help give people a hint about where to go when the Earth becomes uninhabitable due to global warming, which isn’t happening, of course, no matter what 97 percent of scientists say.
9. California GOP-er: It’s part of Middle Eastern culture to lie.
Rep. Duncan Hunter must have been a cultural anthropology major. He displayed his deep knowledge of Middle Eastern culture in an interview with CSPAN this week when he expressed his opposition to the recent treaty with Iran. They lie, he said, in essence. Not only do they lie, they revere lying. Here’s how he knows. He’s heard about how bargaining goes on over there. "In the Middle Eastern culture it is looked upon with very high regard to get the best deal possible, no matter what it takes, and that includes lying," Hunter said.
His interlocutor gave him the chance to add some nuance to this keen geopolitical observation, and asked if he meant "all Middle Eastern countries are this way."
Yep, he said: "They like to barter there."
In damage control mode later, his communications director clarified that Hunter was talking about Middle Eastern political leaders, not all the people, especially Iranians.
Furthermore, Hunter, who also thinks U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants should be deported and opposes gays in the military, recommends using a nuclear bomb on Iran if necessary.
"I don’t think it’s inevitable but I think if you have to hit Iran, you don’t put boots on the ground, you do it with tactical nuclear devices and you set them back a decade or two or three."
Then you can go back to the bargaining table.
10. GOP Rep: "I wake up every day not thinking about social issues."
Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell is up for re-election next year, and he just wants to clarify what does and what does not keep him up at night. He apparently told Politico: “I wake up every day not thinking about social issues.”
You have to admire his succinctness!Related Stories
Here's an Idea! Let the Fed Drop Money into Your Bank Account Instead of Raining it Down on the Rich
The Federal Reserve is the only central bank with a dual mandate. It is charged not only with maintaining low, stable inflation but with promoting maximum sustainable employment. Yet unemployment remains stubbornly high, despite four years of radical tinkering with interest rates and quantitative easing (creating money on the Fed’s books). After pushing interest rates as low as they can go, the Fed has admitted that it has run out of tools.
At an IMF conference on November 8, 2013, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers suggested that since near-zero interest rates were not adequately promoting people to borrow and spend, it might now be necessary to set interest at below zero. This idea was lauded and expanded upon by other ivory-tower inside-the-box thinkers, including Paul Krugman.
Negative interest would mean that banks would charge the depositor for holding his deposits rather than paying interest on them. Runs on the banks would no doubt follow, but the pundits have a solution for that: move to a cashless society, in which all money would be electronic. “This would make it impossible to hoard cash outside the bank,” wrote Danny Vinik in Business Insider, “allowing the Fed to cut interest rates to below zero, spurring people to spend more.” He concluded:
. . . Summers’ speech is a reminder to all liberals that he is a brilliant economist who grasps the long-term issues of monetary policy and would likely have made an exemplary Fed chair.
Maybe; but to ordinary mortals living in the less rarefied atmosphere of the real world, the proposal to impose negative interest rates looks either inane or like the next giant step toward the totalitarian New World Order. Business Week quotes Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office: “We’ve had four years of extraordinarily loose monetary policy without satisfactory results, and the only thing they come up with is we need more?”
Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, calls the idea “harebrained.” He is equally skeptical of quantitative easing, the Fed’s other tool for stimulating the economy. Roberts points to Andrew Huszar’s explosive November 11th Wall Street Journal article titled “Confessions of a Quantitative Easer,” in which Huszar says that QE was always intended to serve Wall Street, not Main Street. Huszar’s assignment at the Fed was to manage the purchase of $1.25 trillion in mortgages with dollars created on a computer screen. He says he resigned when he realized that the real purpose of the policy was to drive up the prices of the banks’ holdings of debt instruments, to provide the banks with trillions of dollars at zero cost with which to lend and speculate, and to provide the banks with “fat commissions from brokering most of the Fed’s QE transactions.”
A Helicopter Drop That Missed Its Target
All this is far from the helicopter drop proposed by Ben Bernanke in 2002 as a quick fix for deflation. He told the Japanese, “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.” Later in the speech he discussed “a money-financed tax cut,” which he said was “essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman’s famous ‘helicopter drop’ of money.” Deflation could be cured, said Professor Friedman, simply by dropping money from helicopters.
But there has been no cloudburst of money raining down on the people. The money has gotten only into the reserve accounts of banks. John Lounsbury, writing in Econintersect, observes that Friedman’s idea of a helicopter drop involved debt-free money printed by the government and landing in people’s bank accounts. “He foresaw the money entering the economy through bank deposits, not through bank reserves which was the pathway available to Bernanke. . . . [W]hen Ben Bernanke fired up his helicopter engines he took the only path available to him.”
Bernanke created debt-free money and bought government debt with it, returning the interest to the Treasury. The result was interest-free credit, a good deal for the government. But the problem, says Lounsbury, is that:
The helicopters dropped all the money into a hole in the ground (excess reserve accounts) and very little made its way into the economy. It was essentially a rearrangement of the balance sheets of the creditor nation with little impact on the debtor nation.
. . . The fatal flaw of QE is that it delivers money to the accounts of the creditors and does nothing for the accounts of the debtors. Bad debts remain unserviced and the debt crisis continues.
Thinking Outside the Box
Bernanke delivered the money to the creditors because that was all the Federal Reserve Act allowed. If the Fed is to fulfill its mandate, it clearly needs more tools; and that means amending the Act. Harvard professor Ken Rogoff, who spoke at the November 2013 IMF conference before Larry Summers, suggested several possibilities; and one was to broaden access to the central bank, allowing anyone to have an ATM at the Fed.
Rajiv Sethi, Barnard/Columbia Professor of Economics, expanded on this idea in a blog titled “The Payments System and Monetary Transmission.” He suggested making the Federal Reserve the repository for all deposit banking. This would make deposit insurance unnecessary; it would eliminate the need to impose higher capital requirements; and it would allow the Fed to implement monetary policy by targeting debtor rather than creditor balance sheets. Instead of returning its profits to the Treasury, the Fed could do a helicopter drop directly into consumer bank accounts, stimulating demand in the consumer economy.
John Lounsbury expanded further on these ideas. He wrote in Econintersect that they would open a pathway for investment banking and depository banking to be separated from each other, analogous to that under Glass-Steagall. Banks would no longer be too big to fail, since they could fail without destroying the general payment system of the economy. Lounsbury said the central bank could operate as a true public bank and repository for all federal banking transactions, and it could operate in the mode of a postal savings system for the general populace.
Earlier Central Banks Ventures into Commercial Lending
That sounds like a radical departure today, but the Fed has ventured into commercial banking before. In 1934, Section 13(b) was added to the Federal Reserve Act, authorizing the Fed to “make credit available for the purpose of supplying working capital to established industrial and commercial businesses.” This long-forgotten section was implemented and remained in effect for 24 years. In a 2002 article on the Minneapolis Fed’s website called “Lender of More Than Last Resort,” David Fettig noted that 13(b) allowed Federal Reserve banks to make loans directly to any established businesses in their districts, and to share in loans with private lending institutions if the latter assumed 20 percent of the risk. No limitation was placed on the amount of a single loan.
Fettig wrote that “the Fed was still less than 20 years old and many likely remembered the arguments put forth during the System’s founding, when some advocated that the discount window should be open to all comers, not just member banks.” In Australia and other countries, the central bank was then assuming commercial as well as central bank functions.
Section 13(b) was eventually repealed, but the Federal Reserve Act retained enough vestiges of it in 2008 to allow the Fed to intervene to save a variety of non-bank entities from bankruptcy. The problem was that the tool was applied selectively. The recipients were major corporate players, not local businesses or local governments. Fettig wrote:
Section 13(b) may be a memory, . . . but Section 13 paragraph 3 . . . is alive and well in the Federal Reserve Act. . . . [T]his amendment allows, “in unusual and exigent circumstances,” a Reserve bank to advance credit to individuals, partnerships and corporations that are not depository institutions.
In 2008, the Fed bailed out investment company Bear Stearns and insurer AIG, neither of which was a bank. Bear Stearns got almost $1 trillion in short-term loans, with interest rates as low as 0.5%. The Fed also made loans to other corporations, including GE, McDonald’s, and Verizon.
In 2010, Section 13(3) was modified by the Dodd-Frank bill, which replaced the phrase “individuals, partnerships and corporations” with the vaguer phrase “any program or facility with broad-based eligibility.” As explained in the notes to the bill:
Only Broad-Based Facilities Permitted. Section 13(3) is modified to remove the authority to extend credit to specific individuals, partnerships and corporations. Instead, the Board may authorize credit under section 13(3) only under a program or facility with “broad-based eligibility.”
What programs have “broad-based eligibility” is not clear from a reading of the Section, but it isn’t individuals or local businesses. It also isn’t state and local governments.
No Others Need Apply
In 2009, President Obama proposed that the Fed extend its largess to the cash-strapped cities and states battered by the banking crisis. “Small businesses and state and local governments are having serious difficulty obtaining necessary financing from debt markets,” Obama said. He proposed that the Fed buy municipal bonds to cut their rising borrowing costs.
The proposed municipal bond facility would have been based on the Fed program to buy commercial paper, which had almost single-handedly propped up the market for short-term corporate borrowing. Investors welcomed the muni bond proposal as a first step toward supporting the market.
But Bernanke rejected the proposal. Why? It could hardly be argued that the Fed didn’t have the money. The collective budget deficit of the states for 2011 was projected at $140 billion, a drop in the bucket compared to the sums the Fed had managed to come up with to bail out the banks. According to data released in 2011, the central bank had provided roughly $3.3 trillion in liquidity and $9 trillion in short-term loans and other financial arrangements to banks, multinational corporations, and foreign financial institutions following the credit crisis of 2008. Later revelations pushed the sum up to $16 trillion or more.
Bernanke’s reasoning in saying no to the muni bond facility was that he lacked the statutory tools.. The Fed is limited by statute to buying municipal government debt with maturities of six months or less that is directly backed by tax or other assured revenue, a form of debt that makes up less than 2% of the overall muni market.
The Federal Reserve Act was drafted by bankers to create a banker’s bank that would serve their interests. It is their own private club, and its legal structure keeps all non-members out. A century after the Fed’s creation, a sober look at its history leads to the conclusion that it is a privately controlled institution whose corporate owners use it to direct our entire economy for their own ends, without democratic influence or accountability. Substantial changes are needed to transform the Fed, and these will only come with massive public pressure.
Congress has the power to amend the Fed – just as it did in 1934, 1958 and 2010. For the central bank to satisfy its mandate to promote full employment and to become an institution that serves all the people, not just the 1%, the Fed needs fundamental reform.Related Stories
The above photograph from the NYC Light Brigade came at the end of an incredible day of action on December 5 when fast food workers in 100 cities walked off their jobs and joined with supporters in their communities to protest poverty wages. The photo proclaims “ALL OF US” with people holding signs that identify different members of the community; and proclaims “THIS IS OUR MOMENT.”
The solidarity at the fast food worker protests on December 5 echoed the solidarity seen on December 3 when people throughout the United States and around the globe protested toxic trade agreements especially the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And, that “ALL OF US” solidarity was seen last Friday, November 29 when workers walked out at 1,500 Walmarts with widespread community support at their rallies.
We are moving toward becoming a movement of movements that cannot be ignored because more people are coming to the realization that our individual struggles are all connected to a larger struggle and that we have more strength when we act together rather than alone. As the unity shown in that photograph becomes a reality, we will succeed in creating the kind of solidarity that will make this era “OUR MOMENT.”
Lessons From Nelson Mandela
South Africa is mourning the death of Nelson Mandela. His vision for South Africa was of a rainbow – uniting all people, no one race white or black dominating others. The liberation he sought was not only ending the racist and abusive apartheid system but also ending an economic system which allowed the white minority to profit while the black majority was impoverished. He believed in human rights and democracy, questioned capitalism and was a socialist. His vision of a country without poverty, with adequate housing for all and equal opportunity has not yet been realized. But he saw the whole and today the country is united around his legacy.
Mandela said, “The most vital task facing the democratic movement in this country is to unleash such struggles and to develop them on the basis of the concrete and immediate demands of the people from area to area. Only in this way can we build a powerful mass movement which is the only guarantee of ultimate victory in the struggle for democratic reforms.” In other words, Mandela saw the need to build a movement of movements connected in purpose but organized around the immediate needs and demands of various communities.
Such a united movement is growing in the United States and around the world as people organize around the issues that affect them directly but recognize they are working toward a common goal of ending the rule of money and putting the needs of the people and protection of the planet first. In Wisconsin, Occupy Community Organizing has been reaching out to work across issues at the local level and they are now sharing what they’ve learned with people in other communities.
Recent reports expose that a growing number of people are struggling due to a rigged economy and austerity spending which further fuels the movement. Philadelphia and other cities are hurting from school closures. Pensions are under attack in Detroit which a court ruled was bankrupt this week; pensions of public workers are also threatened in Illinois. And while our public institutions are being dismantled, our public dollars are subsidizing CEO profits. A report by the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center finds that poverty wages of bank tellers require $900 million in public assistance, while a report from the Institute for Policy Studies found the same for low wage fast food workers. We all pay for this unjust business model.
Extreme methods of energy extraction such as the tar sands, mountaintop removal and fracking have also spurred a larger and more aggressive movement to stop them. This past week, students from the University of Chicago protested fracking at a public hearing. New blockades and occupations have sprung up and the Elsipogtog and Mi’kmaq in New Brunswick continue to try to protect their land from drilling.
According to leaked Stratfor documents, the energy industry’s worst nightmare is coming true because of the actions that environmentalists are willing to take to nonviolently protect the land, air and water. In fact, one oil CEO revealed that the Department of Homeland Security is now placing community members who oppose fracking on the terrorist watch list, revealing their fear of mobilized people.
The Urgent Need For Unity To Stop Transnational Corporate Power
In addition to fighting back in communities, people across movements are connecting their struggles and working together on specific campaigns. This was demonstrated best over this past week in the Global Day of Action against Toxic Trade Agreements on December 3 which coincided with the first day of the World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Bali, Indonesia. Hundreds of civil society members gathered in Bali to protest provisions in the WTO package that jeopardize food and climate security as well as including other threats to human rights and wellbeing.
There were colorful actions outside of the meetings in Renon Square and creative surprise actions on the inside such as this flash mob by women leaders from the Philippines for climate justice. Indian farmers, laborers and their allies also protested inside as they monitored whether their representatives would compromise the needs of the people. They reminded WTO members that “aggressively upholding the rights of its citizens is not tantamount to collapsing the ministerial talks. On the contrary, such pressure tactics [of the negotiators] must be exposed as a conspiracy to keep people hungry and poor.”
Civil society groups from around the world held their own Global Peoples Tribunal in which testimonies of those affected by the WTO’s policies were heard. The Tribunal issued its findings which concluded with this statement: “We recognize that the struggle of resistance goes hand in hand with the construction of alternatives of an economy for the people and the planet, with initiatives such as the indigenous knowledge systems, seed banks, food sovereignty, and a new paradigm for trade and investment, as well as a new juridical system that will deliver justice.”
Likewise, civil society groups in North America joined the Global Day of Action on Dec. 3 with actions in 35 cities focused on stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And thousands of farmers in Japan protested the TPP during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Japan. In Washington, DC, we joined local activists to deliver thousands of petition signatures to US Assistant Trade Representative Stan McCoy at his office to tell him to stop bullying negotiators from other countries into accepting harmful provisions. McCoy who is in charge of intellectual property rights has been pushing policies that would deny lifesaving health care to many around the world in order to prop-up pharmaceutical profits as well as policies to restrict Internet freedom. He refused to meet with us.
Due to our persistence, we did meet with Jewel James, the public liaison, and told her of our serious concerns, especially the reality that many will die due to lack of access to necessary health care if the patent protections for medications and other treatments are passed as currently written. We told Ms. James that we wanted Stan McCoy to know he is being watched. She told us “He is well-aware that he is being watched.” He only knows because the movement has exposed his actions. We hope that the knowledge that the TPP is literally trading away lives for corporate profits will motivate a brave person in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to release the text of the TPP.
Analysis of text that has been leaked to date finds that the language being pushed by the United States on intellectual property rights violates international norms. Last month, more than 80 law professors and academics sent a letter to President Obama and Congress criticizing the secrecy with which the TPP is being negotiated and calling for the text to be released to the public and for a new negotiation process that is more inclusive and democratic.
This weekend, TPP negotiators are meeting in Singapore in an attempt to complete the agreement. And pressure is being put on Congress to give the President Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority to sign the TPP into law himself. This would prevent a transparent and democratic process in Congress and a full review of the potential impacts of the TPP. Members of Congress are pushing back against this executive power grab, including more than three-quarters of Democrats in the House. Labor unions released a statement to let the TPP negotiators know that opposition to the TPP is broad and deep in the United States.
Frustration is building among corporate trade advocates like Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Rep. David Camp (R-MI). They know they must pass Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority to serve the transnational corporate interests, without Fast Track these rigged trade agreements will never become law. A few days ago Baucus and Camp leaked to the press that they were almost there, even started rumors they were introducing a Fast Track bill for a quick vote. But, then the push back from the people and opposition in Congress responded and they pulled back. They are pushing hard so we need to push back, now is the time to act – we have an opportunity to put a nail in the coffin of Fast Track and the TPP. Act now, here’s how.
Lessons from the Success of the Battle of Seattle
Since the mass protests in Seattle in 1999, the WTO has not been able to move forward with its agenda and it looks like the current meeting did not accomplish much. The TPP and its European sister, TAFTA which began negotiations in July, are thought to be attempts to advance the WTO agenda through another path. As we go to press, news reports that the WTO reached a scaled down deal have come out. While much will be made of this by corporate trade advocates, it looks like a minimalist deal that still may never come to real fruition. If this is the best they can do since their founding in 1995, it is evident that we are nearing the cusp of a new age of trade as this approach is not working. The opportunity is rising for us to push away from corporate-dominated rigged trade that allows transnational corporations to exploit people and the planet with impunity to an era that is transparent, inclusive and democratic and that puts the needs of people and the planet before profits.
This week was also the 14th anniversary of the Battle of Seattle, David Solnit wrote about the “Lessons for Today” from that success. He interviewed Paul deArmand, a researcher and activist; and a giant who passed away this year. This article brought up many important points for a movement of movements to succeed, but first he highlighted one we should not forget “the unexpected political power of ad-hoc, even accidental, coalitions.” Seattle was a success because it brought people together across issues in a focused effort to stop the WTO. Let’s not forget the success of working together. He also points out that “Movements grow by expansion and recruitment” and that after Seattle there was too much looking inward, contracting, not expanding (we agree this was true until recent years).
Another lesson of Seattle was the value of networks, rather than institutions. Networks confuse the opposition: “Networks operate by ‘swarming’ their opponents, approaching stealthily and from many directions in offense . . . leaving opponents unclear about what is occurring and how to respond.” Networks have multiple centers of power “all moving toward a shared general goal.” The energy for the network comes from sharing information; the goal is to grow the network, not just one node of it. Further, by spreading our values widely, we make some in the power structure question themselves and their values thereby weakening the pillars that hold the status quo in place.
Making ALL OF US Real
When we make the “ALL OF US” photo on the top of this article a reality, and become an inclusive movement that spreads its values widely, communicating not just with each other but more broadly, we will unite our base and create a foundation to build a mass movement on and grow to a point that cannot be ignored. A mobilized mass movement can erase the artificial political limitations of today and change the political culture of the nation. When that happens, things that seem impossible to change, like apartheid in South Africa, become remnants of history.
The immediate priority of stopping Fast Track for the TPP, TAFTA and other corporate trade rigging, is an opportunity for us to act in unity. It is an “ALL OF US” moment. The rigged trade of the TPP is stalling and united we can stop it. Find out what you can do here.
Let’s take advantage of the opportunity to stop this transnational corporate power grab – let’s swarm them, come from many directions and confuse them. Let us move from our multiple centers of power toward the common goal of building the power of the people. We have a common goal, together we can achieve it; and then we can build from that success as we will have shown that this is indeed, OUR MOMENT for transformation.
Rising From The Ashes: Miraculous Tale Of Man Who Survived Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb A Mile From Explosion
It was 1945 and 19-year-old Shinji Mikamo was on the rooftop of his Hiroshima house helping his father just like any other day when there was a blinding flash. As Shinji turned toward the noise, a fireball sent him into darkness. An atomic bomb less than a mile away had just shattered Hiroshima, instantly killing 140,000 people. Yet, Shinji miraculously managed to survive.
While he experienced severe burns and wounds and watched his city crumble around him, Shinji managed to overcome extensive physical injuries and extreme hardships that plagued him for decades to come, by adopting a philosophy that allowed him to see past the cruelties to which he was exposed.
Much like many Americans felt following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were filled with resentment and bitterness which prevented many from moving forward from the disaster. Yet, Shinji managed to rise above the hate and forgive those who were accountable, offering a perspective that went against his strictly controlled military regime.
‘Rising from the Ashes’ is Shinji’s personal story of survival and forgiveness, written by his daughter, Dr. Mikamo Akiko, in a bid to carry on his message of peace and humanity. On the anniversary weekend of Pearl Harbor, AlterNet sat down with Akiko to talk about the book, Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima and the psychological impact of forgiveness.
JODIE GUMMOW:Take us through the journey of writing this book. What compelled you to tell this story?
AKIKO MIKAMO:I grew up listening to my father’s stories. Since I was a child, I always wanted to re-tell the narrative of how my father survived his ordeal. My father offered a unique perspective in that he was less than a mile away from the explosion and yet survived. My father always raised me to believe it was wrong to hate America or any other nation who commits war atrocities. He would say, ‘You have to understand the bigger picture of what was happening in the world at that time. Blame the war on people’s unwillingness to understand another person’s perspective, not on the individual.’ He wanted me to learn English and about foreign culture to act as a bridge across oceans to help people from other premises with different values understand and empathize with one another so that no one would ever suffer from a nuclear bombing again. So I grew up thinking I am going to write this book and tell the world the story of my family and how they survived. If we have to go through such a terrible tragedy, what can we learn from this? First and foremost, we can hold hands in unity and never allow this to happen again. Our worst enemy of yesterday can be our best friend of tomorrow. It was because of my father’s words that I moved to the United States twenty-five years ago and studied multicultural psychology. It took me three years of comprehensive research before the book came together.
JG:The book is written in the first person as though you are your father telling the story yourself. Why did you write this book from Shinji’s perspective and not your own?
AK: I wanted Shinji to talk to the readers and talk to everybody in the world. I knew that this would ultimately have the strongest impact on the readers. This is a person who went through unbelievable physical pain, underwent numerous surgeries without anesthesia, suffered radiation poisoning, lost his entire family to the war and endured extreme poverty and hardships in a tightly controlled strict societal structure where he was considered an orphan, street rat and discriminated against by the Japanese Hiroshima survivors. Yet, he still had hope and managed to build a family. He never hated Americans like so many others around him and instead tried to teach people about the power of forgiveness. He got bashed for doing so and for not expressing hate towards the United States. He would say that the events in history, what happened in China and Pearl Harbor, were not because one person was wrong and the other right. Rather, humans have a tendency and weakness to lash out and retaliate against others because we believe in our righteousness. But the paradox is that this is what got us into the disaster in the first place.
JG: Your father, who at 87-years-old is still alive and well, lost his entire family to the war. How did he manage to survive?
AK:How he survived on the rooftop less than a mile away from the explosion is a miracle. In an explainable sense, my father’s father was a really strong man and pulled him from the rubble literally. He put my father first and refused to let him give up, even when everything looked bleak. He convinced my father that it was impossible for him to think he could die. A father in Japan has much authority over the family. His father ultimately pushed him through and physically dragged him across Japan looking for help. From a practical sense, my father heard from medical specialists that radiation intensity is not evenly distributed at all distances. Some spots have higher levels and lower levels, with the debris in the air affecting its distribution differently. My father thinks he must have been in the shadow of such debris. But he did suffer from radiation sickness and tuberculosis. Yet somehow, he found a lot of angels who were kind and really self-sacrificing and after five days my father was transported to a military hospital alongside other injured civilian employees. The military came and picked him up to take him to the temporary shelter but his father was unable to go. That was the last time he ever saw his father.
JG: You talk about the political situation in the book and say the public was led to believe the actual reverse of what was really going on. Can you take us through the scene of Japan during that period?
AK:After the Midway battles in the Second World War, Japan started to lose. However, the media was heavily censored and anyone who uttered or talked independently was severely punished by authorities. It was totally military controlled. Anyone who expressed doubt was punished for treason. At that time Japan was so scarce with materials, they put every metal into the forge to make ammunition. Pots and pans were taken, nails, all metals were to be donated or sold to the government forcefully or at very cheap rates. When my father saw a statue of a prominent prime minster laying on the ground to forge into metal, he thought to himself, ‘We’re not going to win’. Placing a statue or picture of a person on the ground is the ultimate disrespect in Japan. If we have to put this prime minister into the forge to melt him to make ammunition, then such scarcity certainly could not point to success. Yet, when you’re taught that Japan is going to win and the media only shows success of that kind, in consciousness you still believe it.
Right after the attack, there were no newspapers, no radios and everything was burned. Hiroshima got the news much, much later. They didn’t know what the bomb was. They thought it was a series of bombs, not one single powerful bomb. My father didn’t hear the news about surrendering until days after. In the nation, after the bomb, the media changed. And all of the sudden, there was Emperor Hirohito surrendering in his most famous line telling the Japanese people that we 'bear the unbearable' and we 'tolerate the intolerable' but as a nation we have decided to surrender for our future. The whole country was devastated. He was a living God. Nobody had even ever heard the Emperor's voice up until that point. It was only then that he became a living person. And the whole nation fell apart.
JG:You include both the historical aspect of what transpired and also an ultimate message of forgiveness in your book. Why is this message of forgiveness so important for society today in the current political climate in the context of war?
AM: As a clinical psychologist, I have seen firsthand the hatred and grudges that people on an individual level to a country level hold when they don’t understand things or each other, whether it’s religious, cultural or language. And it’s all based on fear. People strike out with hatred when they feel threatened or deprived or damaged or attacked. It’s universal. It’s not about an atomic bomb or an attack on Pearl Harbor. It all falls under an umbrella of human emotion, which is what gets us into trouble as a society. Every time there is bombing or hate crime, it hurts all of us in one way or another. Holding a grudge is poisonous to our souls. Spiritually and psychologically, it is proven that grudges hurt us but forgiveness helps us heal and sends a positive message to offenders and to our children and generations to come and that has a ripple effect. Forgiveness is the key to solving conflict on all levels.
JG:In the media today, what do you think is greatest misconception about what happened during that period in World War II?
AK:From the Japanese perspective, our government continues to minimize what the Japanese were doing in the Pacific and even now debates the facts surrounding Pearl Harbor. As for American history, it seems some believe that it was necessary to use the atomic bomb to end the war, but this is not quite true. If you look at historical and legal documentation, Japan had already begun peace talks with the Soviet Union to mediate with the allies before the bombings. The atomic bomb was not done to end the war. If that had been the case, the second bomb in Nagasaki would never have been dropped. In fact, both cities were much more smaller in size than larger cities which had been air-raided many times before, yet remained untouched.
JG: In the book your father says that in terms of who is to blame, the fault lay with the war itself, not the United States. How was your dad able to push aside any feelings of resentment, and instead show the world that it's important for us all to strive to understand each other?
AK: One big factor which shaped his ideology was his own father. In the first couple of days after the bombing, his father saved him and pushed him to live. His father was in a way a renaissance man. He had this foresight and insight and advocated against the government. The reason my father and his father were on the top of the roof in the first place when the bomb struck was because of the government’s ridiculous strict demolition order to destroy certain houses, which my father and his father opposed. The government believed that with all the ongoing air strikes, our homes spread fires. Shinji and his father were forced to take down their home even though they knew it made no logical sense. But nobody could question the government. The government didn’t concern itself with where we would go or make any housing arrangements for its people. They were able to brainwash the masses because everybody believed the Emperor was God. Those who wanted to leave the city were prevented.
JG:Tell us about your non-profit organization, San Diego Worldwide Initiative to Safeguard Humanity (San Diego-WISH). Did this arise from feeling a sense of responsibility to carry on your father’s legacy?
AK:Yes, I set up this organization to carry on my father’s philosophy. I started WISH three years ago after I felt I had gained enough perspective, insight and understanding of humanity to put the message of forgiveness and peace together. The message of WISH is to raise awareness for peace education and promotion. We want to educate children so that we will never have a mass disaster like this again. We do a lot of activities and workshops to teach people how to get along. I feel I was born for that purpose to carry out this legacy to send a message that would positively impact upon people.
JG: Do you have concerns for the future of your own children in today’s world?
AK:I have serious concerns. There is so much hatred in the world. So much premature judgment and people not willing to hear the other person’s point of view. In my work, I teach empathy which is different from sympathy. Empathy means that you can have different opinions but put away your own subjective feelings and judgment even if you think the other side is wrong. Empathy is the essence of providing psychotherapy. My father chose to empathize with Americans to understand the context and environment they were in which led them to drop the bomb. I want people to know that there are ways to let go and find peace and that we can promote love and forgiveness and develop empathy to forge a healthy mental state.
JG:With Pearl Harbor anniversary this weekend, and a film adaptation of the book in the works, what are you hoping Americans might take away from this story in commemorating history?
AK: My message is that while we must commemorate those whose lives were lost, we don’t have to hold resentment and we don’t have to hate, because if we love ourselves, if we strive to believe in our children and the next generation, then such action is counter-intuitive. If someone killed my children, sure, I might want to be bitter too. It’s natural. I have a complete understanding for people who may still feel resentment toward the Japanese for bombing Pearl Harbor. People use grudges as a crutch to live on when have a big blow of huge loss in their life. But the fact is, that’s not going to bring back the lost ones and holding on to hatred will not make you stronger inside. I really invite people to read this story, relate to the universal notions of forgiveness and find a means to apply it to their own lives.
‘Rising from the Ashes’ by Dr. Akiko Mikamo can be purchased onlinehere.Related Stories
Why do we go on diets, anyway? Two answers immediately come to mind: To look better, and to be in better health.
A provocative new study doesn’t address the first point, but it pretty well debunks the second.
After analyzing 21 papers reporting the results of a variety of diets, a trio of researchers discovered “a disconnect between weight loss and health outcomes.” Traci Mann and Britt Ahlstrom of the University of Minnesota and A. Janet Tomiyama of the University of California-Los Angeles report the diets they examined led to only “minimal improvements” in five key health indicators.
What’s more, the few health benefits they found appear to be the result of participants adopting specific healthy habits such as exercising and eating more fruits and vegetables. Weight loss—or lack thereof—was apparently not the defining factor.
Their study, published in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Compass, was deliberately restricted to rigorously designed studies. The ones they looked at all included a control group where participants did not diet, and they all followed participants for at least two years from the start of the diet.
As different studies measured different health indicators, the researchers focused on five common ones: total cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose.
“Overall,” the researchers report, “there were only slight improvements in most health outcomes studied.”
“We uncovered no clear relationship between weight loss and health outcomes related to hypertension, diabetes, or cholesterol,” they write, “calling into question whether weight change per se had any causal role in the few effects of the diets. Increased exercise, healthier eating, engagement with the health-care system, and social support may have played a role instead.”
In other words, adopting a healthier lifestyle—including eating better foods and exercising more—apparently has some (limited) health benefits, regardless of whether you lose any weight.
This study provides more evidence in the debate over whether we truly can be fit and fat. Just in recent weeks, one group of researchers has said yes, while another said no. Mann and her colleagues seem to come down on the “yes” side, as their research suggests weight loss isn’t really the issue.
“We believe the ultimate goal of diets is to improve people’s long-term health,” they conclude. “Our review of randomized controlled trials on the effects of dieting on health finds very little evidence of success in achieving this goal.
“If diets do not lead to long-term weight loss or long-term health benefits,” they add, “it is difficult to justify encouraging individuals to endure them.”
Amazon, Applebee’s and Google’s Job-Crushing Drones and Robot Armies: They’re Coming for Your Job Next
Alienation comes easy when you stumble into the glare of a modern airport off a red-eye flight. Bleary-eyed after three hours of fitful sleep, unready for the dawn, I did not know what to make of the bewildering sea of iPads that surrounded me on all sides.
Concourse G in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has given itself up wholeheartedly to tablet worship. Every single seat in the gate area came with its own iPad-equipped table. A restaurant sprawling nearby continued the theme — no wait-staff visible, but an iPad in a cradle sitting upright in front of every chair.
Facing a long layover, I knew I had to eat. But for a moment I was paralyzed. Any substantive distinction between the boarding area and restaurant had been annihilated and I didn’t know where to turn. I’m no stranger to screen-addiction, but my first reaction to this hall of iPad mirrors — I could see hundreds from where I stood — was queasiness. I felt like I had stumbled inside a sadistic Apple commercial, rather than a place meant for living, breathing humans.
I eventually realized that I could sit down and order breakfast-via-iPad from any seat in the concourse. Before starting, I was required to input my flight details (presumably so I could be warned when my flight was boarding). Then I ordered coffee and breakfast — two eggs sunny-side up, home fries, bacon and orange juice — through a clunky menu interface. A card-reader to my right enabled payment.
A few minutes later, a waitress appeared with a cup of coffee. Ten minutes after that, she returned with the rest of the food. We exchanged hardly a word.
And I wondered: Why was the airport bothering with any human touch at all? Why wasn’t a drone bringing me my bacon? I mean, isn’t that the obvious next step?
* * *
It’s been a provocative week to think about robots and the ongoing technologically mediated evisceration of labor. On Sunday night, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that his company might one day cut delivery times to half-an-hour through the deployment of drones. On Tuesday, Applebee’s revealed that the casual dining chain would be installing tablets in all of its restaurants. On Wednesday, the New York Times’ John Markoff reported that Google had gobbled up a half-dozen robotics start-ups over the past year.
One quote from Markoff’s piece got straight to the point.
“The opportunity is massive,” said Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business. “There are still people who walk around in factories and pick things up in distribution centers and work in the back rooms of grocery stores.”
There are still people employed to pick things up and move them around! Can you even imagine?! It’s almost 2014, people!
In response to Bezos, a flood of naysayers immediately decried the impracticality of drone-package delivery in any short-term time frame. One of my own Salon colleagues was also quick to dismiss the potentially dehumanizing aspects of Applebee’s tablet move. (She made the hard-to-argue-with point that Applebee’s move to tablet ordering won’t wreck the social experience of dining, because “everything is already wrecked.”) Meanwhile, a majority of economists still seem to be convinced that a robots-everywhere world will spur job-creating economic growth, rather than further accelerate a rising tide of unemployment.
Nobody knows how it will play out, but one thing seems certain: We won’t have to wait too long to find out whether a robot apocalypse is going to ravage society. The sense of increasing momentum toward a more robot-infested future is undeniable. No matter what the regulators say, I find it impossible to imagine that there won’t be more drones in our skies, more tablet menus replacing human beings, more jobs accomplished by automation. Whether this transition is driven because it delivers true convenience for consumers, or whether it simply makes economic sense for the masters of capital, the logic of this technological evolution is inexorable.
The landscape of Concourse G sent a clear message: We are doing everything in our power to take the human out of the equation.
I suppose it is possible that my Minneapolis nausea should properly be blamed on lack of sleep, but I still found myself wondering: When the humans are gone, what’s left?
* * *
The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport isn’t alone. OTG, an airport food-and-beverage operator whose “mission is to transform the airport experience for travelers,” has similar tablet test projects under way in New York’s LaGuardia and Toronto’s Pearson airports. So far, however, Minneapolis is probably the largest; one news report says OTG installed more than 2,500 iPads in Concourse G.
And size matters. It’s one thing to order a cocktail and a roast-beef sandwich from the seat-back display screen in front of you on a Virgin America flight, and be gratified when the flight attendant drops it off a few minutes later. It seems an efficient and sensible way of organizing logistics on a plane. It’s quite another to see the mass reorganization of a large physical space into something designed to minimize the necessity for human labor. Because the obvious implication is: Why stop here? If it makes economic sense to automate the food-ordering process in an airport, what point is there in having a human waiter to take your order at any dining establishment that isn’t already charging a premium for high-class flesh-and-blood service.
The current not-quite-prime-time technological capabilities of drones and regulatory constraints on airspace may make Jeff Bezos’ grandiose dreams seem like wishful thinking at the moment. But is there any doubt that drone technology will become both better and cheaper?
If it turns out there is money to be made by automating package delivery, I can guarantee you that regulatory barriers will fall. Drones have already been used in attempts to deliver drugs and tobacco across prison walls. We’re going to find lots of things to do with them — and some of them might even be socially progressive.
Similarly, if insurance companies determine from their number crunching that Google’s self-driving cars are safer than human-operated cars, they will write the insurance policies that put those cars on the street. They’d be crazy not too. And so Google’s robot armies will march everywhere.
Panglossians believe that robots will perform the world’s drudgery, ushering in an era of affluence and leaving humans free to nurture their creative instincts. Whether our creative instincts will be able to generate the capital necessary to purchase the products of robot labor is as yet unknown. I’ve noted before that the big difference between the current technological revolution and the Industrial Revolution is that the initial technological advances of the 18th century created jobs for unskilled workers, while today’s robot armies are increasingly replacing the jobs of unskilled workers.
When the warehouse and the delivery and the waitress and taxi driver jobs are gone, where do those workers go? Will our education system be robust enough to keep them ahead of the rising technological curve?
But now I have a new worry. As I sat in the Minneapolis airport watching waiters and waitresses scurry about the concourse delivering food and drink, it occurred to me that they didn’t actually need to be replaced by drones — because they had already become drones.Their job requirements had been reduced to the bare minimum. From the kitchen to the customer and back again they went. And that was it.
But the customers themselves had also become drones. Each staring into their own iPad, alone, even if traveling as a family or a group. Watching them, I felt the same frustration that badgers me when I try to fit my particular customer support problem into the constraints of the decision tree of an automated voice-mail menu. I am a living, breathing human being — my problem is unique! Don’t force me to become like you, an automated, unthinking algorithm!
The truth is, my problem almost assuredly isn’t unique. The voice-mail robots are just too dumb. And as the robots get smarter, they’ll fit into their world better and better. In this future, we’re all drones.Related Stories
A year after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, America’s gun nuts are in a major tizzy over what may be the biggest and most unlikely victory for sane firearms policy in 2013: the National Football League’s rejection of an assault rifle TV ad in the upcoming Super Bowl.
“There was a time when a black man couldn’t kiss a white woman on TV. That day has passed,” wrote Robert Farago on his TruthAboutGuns blog about the NFL's decision to ban the ad from Georgia gunmaker Daniel Defense. “Yet a firearms company can’t advertise its products on network TV. It’s high time that ballistic barrier was broken.”
Farago’s twisted sense of history was hardly alone in pro-gun circles. “What a bunch of hypocrites! The 2nd Amendment is ultimately what allows the NFL to even exist,” wrote TreeManTwo on the website of Guns & Ammo magazine, which broke the story last Friday that the NFL rejected the ad for violating its advertising policy. “It does have to do with us being able to keep and protect our rights to do things like play football.”
The 60-second ad is not exactly the most gripping Super Bowl commercial. It follows a cleancut young white man driving home, where we learn that he is a recently returned vet and a new father who is worried about his wife and baby. He’s “responsible for their protection,” the voiceover says, adding that, “no has the right to tell me how to defend them,” and that he’s chosen “the most effective tool for the job.” The ad doesn’t show a real gun, but ends with the company’s logo: a drawing of a military-style assault rifle.
According to Guns & Ammo, the gun maker bought local TV advertising time during the 2012 Super Bowl from NBC. This time around the NFL barred Fox, the network nationally airing the Super Bowl, from running the ad. When the gun maker offered to replace its logo with an American flag, the NFL rejected that too. The League’s policy has an exception for stores that sell firearms and other wares, but apparently Daniel Defense’s weapons and apparel stores didn’t clear that threshold, said UCLA law professor and gun historian Adam Winkler.
“Conservatives like Michelle Malkin were quick to point out—not incorrectly—a certain hypocrisy behind the NFL’s policy and how they apply it,” Winkler wrote in a New Republic piece. “Though the policy prohibits firearms and ads that promote movies and video games that are 'excessively violent,' the League has approved ads in which characters get 'electrocuted, run over by buses, kicked, punched, tackled, thrown out of high-rise buildings, and attacked by crotch-biting dogs,' according to Malkin. The NFL’s policy also prohibits ads for movies and video games with 'overtly sexual material'—even though that condition seems to be met by at least half the Super Bowl’s ads.”
The contradictions about arguably one of America's most violent team sports drawing a line against a bland but provocative TV ad are almost endless. Even comments on the Guns & Ammowebsite didn’t know where to begin with the NFL’s morals. “NFL—won’t show this ad, but you have made me have a talk to my 8 year old daughter about what an erection is and why you might need a doctor if it is lasting for more then 4 hours,” wrote Mad Dad.
Winkler noted “this isn’t the first time the NFL and its broadcast partners ran afoul of gun advocates.” In 2012, “they were furious when sports commentator Bob Costas, during halftime of a Sunday Night Football game, blamed the ‘gun culture’ after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend before taking his own life. Challenging the very essence of gun rights ideology, Costas had the audacity to say that ‘handguns don’t save lives.’”
A year before, Winkler said that pro-gun forces accused the NFL of “being behind ESPN’s firing of Hank Williams Jr., who sang the rousing theme on Monday Night Football. William’s offense: On an episode of ‘Fox & Friends,’ he compared Obama to Hilter.”
There’s even more fodder for paranoid gun nuts that the NFL will not be intimidated by the gun lobby's threats. In 2011, Wisconsin loosened state law to let people with gun permits carry concealed weapons in public. The gun lobby failed to pressure the Green Bay Packers into letting people bring concealed guns into Lambeau Field. “What could be safer, they ask, than a stadium full of lawful gun owners?” Winkler wrote. “You know, more guns, less crime.”
Right-wing blowhards such as Alex Jones have proclaimed that the NFL’s decision was “anti-liberty,” “anti-family” and “anti-American,” and said that the NFL was conspiring with President Obama to use the Super Bowl for propaganda as Adolph Hitler did with the 1936 Olympics, and called for Americans to boycott the NFL. That’s about as likely as for the League to get serious about preventing player’s brain injuries—when physical contact drives the NFL's more than $9 billion annual revenues.
But on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the NFL’s refusal to air a milquetoast TV ad about an anxious father wanting a military-style assault rifle might become one of the biggest gun control victories of the year. And that’s pretty shocking.
The National Rifle Association and its allies stopped new federal gun control laws, which were supported by 90 percent of the American public and by President Obama last spring. The gun lobby pressured the last state in the country that banned people from carrying guns in public, Illinois, into weakening that law. It led a successful recall campaign against two Colorado state legislators who supported tougher gun controls.
Some blue states, notably New York, acted quickly after Sandy Hook to update gun laws. But until now, it’s been a bad year for gun control. “Yet gun advocates may finally have found an opponent they can’t beat: The National Football League,” wrote Winkler. “If there’s one thing Americans love more than their guns, it is football.”Related Stories
Madiba A to Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela by Danny Schechter was published on November 26, 2013 by Seven Stories Press. Reprinted with Permission.
What’s the difference between a liberation movement and a band of terrorists? The simple answer . . . is point of view. Consider the African National Congress (ANC). During the long struggle against apartheid, what the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) saw as a liberation movement the racist minority government of South Africa labeled as terrorists. Ask one person in Washington and another in Riyadh today about Al Qaeda and you’re bound to get the same diversity of opinion. —South African Institute of International Relations, 2004
Nelson Mandela was not always loved; for years, many right-wingers and defenders of apartheid defamed and detested him as a terrorist, and several politicians went on record expressing such views:
“This hero worship is very much misplaced.”—British Member of Parliament (MP) John Carlisle, on the BBC screening of the Free Nelson Mandelaconcert in 1990.
“The ANC is a typical terrorist organization. . . . Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land.”—Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, 1987
“How much longer will the Prime Minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?”—British MP Terry Dicks, mid-1980s
“Nelson Mandela should be shot.”—British MP Teddy Taylor, mid-1980s
Under the terms of South Africa’s Suppression of Communism Act, and as a result of the conviction at the Rivonia Trial, Mandela was found guilty of sabotage, and the ANC was branded a terrorist organization.
Here are the charges Mandela faced:
- One count under the South African Suppression of Communism Act No. 44 (1950), charging that the accused committed acts calculated to further the achievement of the objective of Communism;
- One count of contravening the South African Criminal Law Act (1953), which prohibits any person from soliciting or receiving any money or articles for the purpose of achieving organized defiance of laws and country; and
- Two counts of sabotage, committing or aiding or procuring the commission of the following acts:
1. The further recruitment of persons for instruction and training, both within and outside the Republic of South Africa, in:
a) the preparation, manufacture and use of explosives—for the purpose of committing acts of violence and destruction in the aforesaid Republic, (the preparation and manufacture of explosives, according to evidence submitted, included 210,000 hand grenades, 48,000 anti-personnel mines, 1,500 time devices, 144 tons of ammonium nitrate, 21.6 tons of aluminum powder and a ton of black powder); b) the art of warfare, including guerrilla warfare, and military training generally for the purpose in the aforesaid Republic;
2. Further acts of violence and destruction (these include 193 counts of terrorism committed between 1961 and 1963);
3. Acts of guerrilla warfare in the aforesaid Republic;
4. Acts of assistance to military units of foreign countries when involving the aforesaid Republic;
5. Acts of participation in a violent revolution in the aforesaid Republic, whereby the accused, injured, damaged, destroyed, rendered useless or unserviceable, put out of action, obstructed with or endangered: a) the health or safety of the public; b) the maintenance of law and order; c) the supply and distribution of light, power or fuel; d) postal, telephone or telegraph installations; e) the free movement of traffic on land; and f) the property, movable or immovable, of other persons or of the state.
Significantly, the people who worked with him then didn’t see themselves as terrorists, but as part of a liberation struggle.
Once the ANC was banned, there were internal struggles as the activists reimagined themselves as an underground organization. Nelson Mandela called for a new underground structure in what was known as the “M Plan.” In a 1986 book called Apartheid’s Rebels, Stephen M. Davis, who had been with the US State Department explained: “The M Plan’s intention was to wean the ANC away from dependence on characteristics of organization most vulnerable to governmental pressure. Mandela envisioned the construction of a discreet but firm cellular network at the grass roots level.”
“It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always successful,” recalled ANC veteran Mac Maharaj, the former Robben Island prisoner turned government minister and spokesperson. “We were all amateurs. We were learning as infants do how to live as outlaws, and so we made a lot of mistakes. We were terribly trusting with our own colleagues. We assumed that if you were arrested and you were interrogated and you were tortured, you could withstand it. Kathy is perhaps one of those who helped to write the rules in the Communist Party that if you were an arrested comrade and a tortured comrade, don’t talk. This is not a sustainable thing under modern forms of torture. But when it comes to strategy, I think there is a lot of room, and I have not known a single struggle that has started off with a readymade strategy that went through [to the end]. Strategy has to change all the time. . . .
“We must not run ourselves down with criticisms of ourselves that we threw out the baby with the bathwater. All revolutions have this. Fidel Castro was asked whether if he was to live his life again, would he have carried the raid on the Moncada Barracks and he said, ‘No.’ But he also said, ‘At that time it was the right thing to do.’”
In South Africa, the armed struggle was undermined by naïveté and a lack of security. The “high command” met at farm called Liliesleaf, now a tourist museum, but then operated by the Communist Party in the leafy suburb of Johannesburg called Rivonia. It was there that the plans were being made and even weapons assembled for a sabotage campaign. It was also there that the police raided on July 11, 1963, sweeping up top leaders who were prosecuted in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. Nelson Mandela was not arrested with the others but he had been there and later joined the defendants.
In his book, The Mission, one of the men convicted of sabotage in the Rivonia Trial, Denis Goldberg, reveals that even the intelligence wing of the ANC government that has access to old files doesn’t know or won’t say where the leak was. “To this day, we are not sure how the police found us,” he wrote. “We know that foreign agents were active because it is known that Nelson Mandela was betrayed by the American CIA in exchange for one of their South African operatives who had been arrested.”
Overseas, Mandela’s supporters rejected the terrorist designation, but not so his detractors. London’s Independentreported, “In his autobiography, Conflict of Loyalty, former foreign secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe says that even as late as October 1987, at a press conference following the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Vancouver, Mrs. Thatcher was quick to dismiss the African National Congress as “a typical terrorist organization.” Sir Geoffrey added sadly: “Absolutism still held sway.”
Years later, however, the BBC reported that when Ahmed Kathrada took Thatcher on a tour of Robben Island, he was surprised to hear her say that she believed her intervention had helped save his comrades’ lives. Kathy said: “She assured me that she had played a positive role during our trial. We were expecting a death sentence. We were well aware that there was all sorts of pressure both from within South Africa and from abroad—pressure from people not necessarily agreeing with the ANC’s policies, he said, but who didn’t want the defendants to be turned into martyrs of the revolution. At the time, Mrs. Thatcher was a frontbench MP in Harold Macmillan’s government. I’m not interested in whether she was prime minister or whatever. I have no reason to doubt what she was saying and it was good to hear she played a role.”
South African writer Alan Paton testified in court that if the defendants were executed then the South African government would have no one to negotiate with. On the night before the judge’s verdict, George Bizos was with Paton, who was staying at the home of British Consul General Leslie Minford, who had also been in British intelligence. Minford told them, after a night of hard drinking, that there would be no death sentence, according to the judge. Later, according to former Afrikaner government economist Sampie Terreblanche, British Ambassador Robin Renwick secretly pressed the government to release Mandela and his fellow ANC prisoners.
Nevertheless, Mandela’s name remained on the US terrorism list for years, until nearly at the end of his presidential term and eighteen years after his release from prison. On July 1, 2008, NBC reported:
This morning, President Bush signed into law a bill granting Secretary Rice the authority to waive travel restrictions on President Mandela and other members of the African National Congress (ANC). The bill was sponsored by Democratic Sens. John Kerry and Sheldon Whitehouse, along with Republican Sen. Bob Corker.
The senators say Mandela and ANC members remained on the list “for activities they conducted against South Africa’s apartheid regime decades ago.” They also said in their written statement that the removal “end[s] an embarrassing impediment to improving US–South Africa relations.
On the occasion of the ANC’s removal from the watch list rolls, New York Timescolumnist Nicholas Kristof commented:
Sometimes government officials become intoxicated by the counter-terrorism portfolio. Indeed, totally inebriated. To put it simply, they go nuts.
That’s one explanation for Guantánamo, for torture memos, for the Iraq invasion. But of all the ridiculous things we did in the name of protecting American security, putting Nelson Mandela on a terrorism watch list may be the most absurd. Mandela, the symbol of peaceful conciliation, the former president of South Africa, the 90-year-old hero—what did we think he would do, strap on a suicide vest?
Even still, the question comes up, such as at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference. Mother Jonesmagazine reported on one of the conference sponsors:
As Right Wing Watch notes, one of the sponsors at February’s conference [was] Youth For Western Civilization, a group dedicated to, as the name suggests, preventing the “extinction” of Western Civilization at the hands of multiculturalism. . . .
Among other things, the group is a passionate defender of South Africa’s white heritage. A recent blog post featured at the site accuses the African National Congress, the nation’s ruling party, of waging a “genocide” against Afrikaners, and pins much of the blame on revered former president Nelson Mandela.
So the issue of who and what is a terrorist remains a hotly contested and inflammatory one in the era of the war on terror. It does not belong to the past, but is still being debated today. Nelson Mandela’s success and emergence as a global icon has not changed that.Related Stories