Jeh Johnson, President Obama’s nomination for the new Department of Homeland Security secretary, is a uniting figure, with both liberals and conservatives suspicious of him. Liberals object to Jonhson’s record as general counsel for the Department of Defense, a role he held from 2009 to 2012, during which he authored the legal defense for using weaponized drones abroad. (A fact that Code Pink brought to the attention of Johnson’s Georgetown neighbors by projecting a “No Killer Drones” sign onto the outside of his house.) Conservatives dislike the fact that Johnson has been quiet about his position on immigration issues. When asked during a confirmation hearing about his first priority as DHS secretary, Johnson replied that he would improve the agency’s leadership, “champion” its employees and improve overall morale. He sounded like a professor at a business school, more of paper-pusher than a chest-thumper. It was a strangely low-drama performance for a secretary of homeland security. Senator John McCain said he would refuse to approve Johnson’s nomination until he gave a more detailed plan for border security; late last month, six Republican congressman on the House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Johnson asking that he spell out his beliefs on immigration matters. Despite these suspicions, Johnson is all but guaranteed to have his nomination approved as a result of Congress’s recent vote to forbid filibustering executive appointments.
Johnson’s previous support for drone use is more relevant to his new post than it might originally seem. A Customs and Border Patrol report obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation this summer showed that the agency was considering equipping its Predator drones with “non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize” targets—perhaps the first-ever proposal for flying weaponized drones domestically. But Johnson might have a more complicated—and more remorseful—view on drone use than in the past. According to Gregory Johnsen’s book The Last Refuge, Johnson was distraught after watching a drone attack in Yemen from a monitor in the White House—a device often referred to as “Kill TV.” “If I were a Catholic, I’d have to go to confession,” Johnson told a friend.
Improving morale may sound like a managerial platitude, but at DHS it’s a matter of some urgency. The agency is a mess. Over 40 percent of the agency’s top positions are vacant or have an “acting” placeholder. Surveys show that DHS employees are among the most dissatisfied of all government employees. The organizational dysfunction has become a security risk. DHS has been plagued by flagrant corruption and a shortage of oversight, as evidenced most recently by a GAO report showing that immigration detention officers were not reporting inmates’ sex abuse claims. A good manager is just what the agency needs.
Jeh Johnson is a New Yorker. He once said that he’d like to be a conductor on the 7 train between Manhattan and Queens in his next life. He was living in Manhattan on September 11, a fact he mentioned when he accepted the nomination: “I wandered the streets of New York,” Johnson said. “And asked, what can I do? Since then, I have tried to devote myself to answering that question.”
Janet Napolitano, Johnson’s predecessor at DHS, was previously the governor of Arizona and used her federal post to be a spokesperson for the country’s southern border states. During her tenure, she deployed thousands of agents to the Mexico border and oversaw the deportation of 400,000 people a year—the most deportations of anytime in history. She made immigration enforcement a top national security priority and created a culture in which nonviolent immigrants were cast as major threats, in which a parent might very well be “immobilized” while crossing the Sonoran desert to reunite with his family in the United States.
With Johnson, the New Yorker with a defense background, DHS will be realigned with its original, post–September 11 purpose—a brand that has much less to do with immigration enforcement. His nomination represents a narrative shift for an agency that has, as Johnson said, lost its morale and its identity. Johnson offers the DHS a new story. How that story will play out is anyone’s guess.
Remember when the Occupy movement demanded that issues like income inequality, race-to-the-bottom globalization and the failures of the free market be placed on the agenda?
Remember the silly critique of Occupy that said the movement’s necessary challenge to austerity lacked specifics?
The pope has gotten specific.
Condemning the “new tyranny” of unfettered capitalism and the “idolatry of money,” Pope Francis argues in a newly circulated apostolic exhortation that “as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”
The pope has taken a side, not just in his manifesto but in interviews, warning: “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the center.”
He is encouraging resistance to “the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation” that creates “a throwaway culture that discards young people as well as its older people.”
“What I would tell the youth is to worry about looking after one another and to be conscious of this and to not allow themselves to be thrown away,” he told a television audience in his native Argentina. “So that throwaway culture does not continue, so that a culture of inclusion is achieved.”
The reference to a “culture of exclusion” is not casual.
In his manifesto, the pope decries the current “economy of exclusion and inequality.”
“Such an economy kills,” he explains. “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”
What makes the contribution from Pope Francis to the emerging global dialogue about the next economy so significant is his explicit rejection of the basic underpinnings of the broken economic models that have created the current crisis—of the failed ideas that, remarkably, continue to be promoted by fiscal fabulists like House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan.
“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” writes the new pope in his manifesto. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.”
As a global figure with a significant following and an ability to speak to the political and corporate elites, Pope Francis’ voice may be heard where others are dismissed. And the fact that he is embracing a critique of capitalism that has come from the streets—rather than the apologias issued from the suites—has the potential to move the debate. The point here is not to suggest that the dictates of any religious leader will be followed by Wall Street or Washington—nor that pronouncements from the Vatican are going to guide the economic and social discourse of secular society.
The point is to recognize that an alternative argument has taken shape. And new voices are being added to the chorus of complaint about an austerity agenda that would undermine universal guarantees such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, cut food stamps, and barter off basic services such as the Post Office, while at the same time restructuring tax and regulatory policies in order to redistribute wealth upward.
The world is in the midst of a rapidly evolving—and absolutely vital—debate about “the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”
On one side are the billionaires and their political pawns, angling for more of the income inequality that has so benefited them.
George Zornick reflects on the challenges of a food stamp Thanksgiving.
Eighty-two years after being pulled off a Memphis-bound freight train, accused of raping two white women, threatened with lynching and subjected to years of blatant miscarriages of justice, the three Scottsboro Boys who had not yet been acquitted or pardoned were cleared by the state of Alabama on November 21. “Today is a reminder that it is never too late to right a wrong,” said State Senator Arthur Orr, who sponsored a bill to create a legal framework for the pardon. But however important as a symbolic gesture, the overdue action only underscored the fact that justice delayed is by definition justice denied: Clarence Norris, the last of the Scottsboro Boys, died in 1989.
Edited and published at the time by NAACP co-founder Oswald Garrison Villard, The Nation immediately recognized Scottsboro as a vital front in the battle for civil rights and dispatched associate editor Dorothy Van Doren to Alabama to report on the case. Eight of the nine boys arrested had been charged in a snap trial lasting less than two weeks and were scheduled to hang in June 1931, but that date was postponed as a motion for a new trial was granted. They would remain in legal limbo, enduring numerous retrials and new convictions at the hands of all-white juries—even after one of the accusers admitted her allegation was a lie—for years.
In “Eight Who Must Not Die” (June 3, 1931), Van Doren wrote that precisely what made the accused such ripe targets for a racist and bloodthirsty Alabama judicial system was precisely what made their exoneration—if, as seemed clear to Van Doren and most observers, they were innocent—all the more necessary. In words sure to make twenty-first-century progressives uncomfortable, she wrote of the defendants:
None of them can read or write. All have unsavory reputations. They have been accused of various petty crimes—gambling, thieving, more or less harmful mischief in general. They are not noble characters; it is a safe guess that not one of them will ever amount to much. They are the products of ignorance, of the most wretched and extreme poverty, of dirt, disorder, and race oppression. Yet there is no reason in the world why they should not have every legal right accorded to the finest and most cultivated person in the land. They are poor and ignorant and irresponsible. All the more should the state protect them, all the more should every device of the courts and every safeguard of the law be invoked to the end that justice be served.
Two years later, as the proceedings were moved from Scottsboro to Decatur—“from all reports just a larger Scottsboro”—The Nation wrote in an editorial: “The Scottsboro boys are now more than ever in mortal danger. It is likely that only the pressure of public opinion upon the State of Alabama can save their lives. We hope that that pressure will be increasingly applied, by letter, by telegram, and by widespread publicity.”
In 1936, the great journalist Carleton Beals—who otherwise mostly wrote for The Nation on South and Central American politics—traveled to Alabama to interview Ozie Powell, the Scottsboro defendant who told a judge he had only three months of schooling and who, earlier that year, had been shot in the head by a police officer after pulling out a knife. Beals wrote in his article not only about the accused, but also about their accusers—the Alabaman whites looking for scapegoats:
As one rides through the countryside and sees the shacks in which they live, the boards warped and rotting, the windows broken and stuffed with rags, as one looks at the stony hillsides and the pine trees standing in swampy pools, one realizes that many of these people in America in the twentieth century live worse than most peasants in the Balkans and certainly have fewer cultural attainments. They fear the Negroes. It is an economic fear. It is a physical fear. It is a cultural fear. It is a blind fear.
In 1937, four of the Scottsboro Boys were acquitted of all charges, while the remaining four—Haywood Patterson, Andrew Wright, Charlie Weems and Clarence Norris—were convicted of rape and sentenced to seventy-five years, ninety-nine years, 105 years and death (later commuted to life), respectively. The peculiar and uneven conclusion to the case perplexed outside observers and prompted Morris Shapiro, secretary of the Scottsboro Defense Committee, to write in The Nation: “Alabama justice has yielded to expediency in the Scottsboro case. No other explanation is possible for the farcical finale which left the state in the anomalous position of providing only 50 per cent protection for the ‘flower of Southern womanhood.’”
All of the defendants were out of prison by 1950. Norris had jumped parole and wasn’t found until 1976, in Brooklyn; George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, pardoned him. Many of the others had found life extraordinarily difficult after the hardships they endured: Patterson died in prison after being convicted of manslaughter; Wright, living in Albany, New York, was again falsely accused of rape and later stabbed his wife; his little brother, Roy, just 13 at the time of his arrest, shot his wife and then himself in 1959.
As early as June 1931, Dorothy Van Doren had predicted that even if exonerated the Scottsboro Boys would not have easy lives. This was not so much because of the trauma of their recent ordeal, she wrote, as because of the overwhelmingly hostile and racist world into which they had been born. It was worthwhile, Van Doren wrote,
to consider for a moment to what sort of world they will get out, if they get out. Earnest persons who want to help somewhere and do not quite know how might ponder this point. They will reenter a world of poverty, ignorance, and race repression. Their chances of being in it a credit either to themselves or to their country are not large. Their chances even of living out their lives peaceably and dying in their beds are not large. They are the children of violence, and it is altogether likely that violence will overtake them in the end.
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It’s “Giving Tuesday” on December 3. Following Black Friday, on Giving Tuesday, people all across the United States will be kicking off the holiday season not with shopping, they say, but with giving.
In just its second year, Giving Tuesday is attracting thousands of participants large and small. Whenever haves help have-nots that’s worthy of praise. Still, when massive global corporations want praise too, I get a little queasy.
Don’t get me wrong, GRITtv is viewer-supported. We’re all for charitable giving, and every day, we’re reminded of just how much generosity is out there. This year, an anonymous donor enabled us to hire a third team member and start a podcast. We thank that donor daily.
But the massive corporations taking part in Giving Tuesday aren’t anonymous. They want positive PR, and for that they deserve serious scrutiny.
Take Verizon. For Giving Tuesday, the Verizon Foundation says it will contribute to three large nonprofits as directed by the votes of Verizon workers. The company calls it giving back and “giving voice” to employees.
Call me cynical, but I bet most Verizon workers would have preferred more voice and fewer givebacks in their contracts. Over the last decade Verizon’s forced concessions on everything from wages to pensions to job security and the right to organize. Giving Tuesday’s nice, but Verizon workers give back every day.
It’s the same with Google. Google’s co-hosting a Giving Tuesday “Hangout-a-thon” for charities and socially conscious businesses. Lovely, but if it had a real social conscience, Google would let less of its wealth hang out in tax shelters. Last year, Google dodged about $2 billion in income taxes by funneling revenues into a Bermuda shell company. What it gives on Tuesday will be pennies on what it’d owe if it were to pay its fair share on tax day. And poor taxpayers might need less charity.
At Microsoft, well, at Microsoft, they’re matching dollar for dollar the contributions given to a group of youth charities on Giving Tuesday. It must be some mistake, but I’ve read the site five times and it seems to me that the tenth-most profitable corporation in the world has set a goal for the GivingTuesday campaign of just $50,000.
As the Verizon Foundation puts it, on Giving Tuesday “giving back has never been easier.” For huge corporations, it’s also never been cheaper.
For more qualms about charities, check out my interview with Peter Buffett, who says philanthropists like himself should aim to put themselves out of business. You can see all GRITtv’s interviews, free at www.GRITtv.org. And if you are that anonymous donor, thank you again. Anyone out there want to fund that staff person for a second year? For more information on Giving Tuesday, go to GivingTuesday.org.
Allison Kilkenny reports on the arrests of activists during Black Friday protests against Walmart.
Activists in Secaucus, New Jersey, engage in an act of civil disobedience during a Black Friday Walmart protest. All photos by Allison Kilkenny
Walmart employees and supporters protested in cities all across the country on Black Friday in opposition to Walmart’s low wages and poor treatment of workers. In some cases, protesters volunteered to engage in acts of civil disobedience and were arrested by police. Organizers expected 1,500 total protests in California, Alaska, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington and Canada. In Secaucus, New Jersey, thirteen activists were arrested after sitting in the middle of the street to block traffic.
Marc Bowers said he worked at a Walmart in Dallas, Texas, for eight years before he was fired for participating in a strike. After Walmart fired him, he decided to get more involved with worker organizing, including traveling to New Jersey for this year’s Black Friday protest. Bowers said he hopes to inspire other workers enduring similar hardships. (Photo: Elaine Rozier and Marc Bowers, right, at today’s New Jersey protest)
“If you let people know what’s going on, they’ll get involved too. They’re probably fed up with the same things,” he said.
Bowers added that this labor struggle will influence future generations.
“I’m here to fight for everybody who has been done wrong. I feel like, if I don’t fight, our next generation of kids will not have a future. As a man, I have the right to stand up on my own two feet. And I’m doing it right now,” he said.
The National Labor Relations Board announced last week that it plans to pursue charges against Walmart for threatening and punishing workers who planned to go on strike last year. The agency’s general counsel investigated and “found merit” in workers’ claims that Walmart “unlawfully threatened” employees for participating in walkouts during last year’s Black Friday.
According to the agency, Walmart intimidated, surveilled or punished workers in fourteen different states, which is illegal under US labor law.
The threats and intimidation include comments from official Walmart spokesperson David Tovar, who told CBS Evening News last year, “There could be consequences” for workers participating in any actions.
Also in attendance at the Secaucus protest was Elaine Rozier, who worked at a Walmart in Miami, Florida, for eight years.
“I’m here today to represent all the solid Walmart workers that are afraid to stand up for their rights. I’m here to represent the nation, to let Walmart corporation know that we’re not standing back. I’m stand up for my rights, for my kids, for my grandkids and their kids. I’m tired of not getting living wages,” Rozier said, before thanking the other activists for lending support.
Other arrests occurred in Chicago, where ten protesters were arrested for allegedly blocking traffic, along with nine activists in Alexandria, Virginia. In Balch Springs, Texas, thirteen protesters were also arrested for blocking traffic and “creat[ing] a dangerous situation” for themselves and drives, according to Deputy Chief Paul Haber.
“Everyone has a living wage and we need one, too,” said Myron Byrd, 45, a Walmart worker who was led away in handcuffs by police.
According to organizers, at least fifty-five people have been arrested during this year’s Black Friday Walmart protests.
Update: Organizers from UFCW and Our Walmart now estimate more than 110 activists have been arrested.
We’ve lauded the tireless New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan—tirelessly—but it now seems that there’s another example of how her work has resulted in a truly important shift at the paper (though she won’t say so directly) .
Last June she wrote that the Times produces high-quality reporting on poverty—but far too little of it. Now she observes that there has been a lot more lately, including Wednesday’s haunting portrait on how many kids go hungry in New York (even at Thanksgiving). Much of this, of course, is related to devlish cuts in money for food stamps, post-stimulus.
And she notes, looking ahead:
The Times has other changes in mind. For example, the reporter Rachel Swarns on Monday will begin a weekly column, “The Working Life,” exploring “the experience of working—or not working—in New York,” Mr. Jamieson said. And Michael Powell’s “Gotham” column will change to twice from once a week to help highlight some of the experiences of lower-income New Yorkers.
Prediction: Though awards may be largely trumped-up and meaningless, I think Sullivan will be a Pulitzer finalist if not winner next April.
Activists protesting outside of Walmart on Black Friday were arrested, reports Allison Kilkenny.
Young Lakota, which is airing on PBS and available to view online for the next few days, focuses on reproductive justice on the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to an estimated 30,000 Oglala Lakota. The documentary follows the political efforts of one-time President Cecilia Fire Thunder, and introduces us to Sunny Clifford, who returned to the rez to both understand her roots, and to make a difference. While the film does a good job at highlighting some of what’s at stake on Pine Ridge, it also misses the opportunity to recognize the institutional barriers created by the US federal government that create profound poverty on the reservation.
Pine Ridge exists within South Dakota, where in 2006, voters took to the polls to decide on a ballot measure aimed to ban any and all abortions, including terminations for pregnancies that were the result of rape or incest. In response, Oglala Lakota President Cecilia Fire Thunder suggested that her nation would open a women’s clinic on Pine Ridge. As is made clear in the film, Native nations hold tribal sovereignty, which trumps state law—so while it would be controversial to open a clinic that provides abortion, it would be perfectly legal to do so on Pine Ridge, regardless of South Dakota’s law.
What follows is an internal battle between Fire Thunder and Tribal Council members. This is one way Young Lakota thrives. It doesn’t collapse all Oglala Lakota people into one. Some stand with Fire Thunder, but others do not. At a time when there are few films about Natives and the challenges their nations face, filmmakers Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt illustrate the agency with which the people highlighted in the film come to their own conclusions.
But perhaps most central to this film is the way it captures 21-year-old Sunny Clifford’s political awakening. Clifford is transformed by the battle on Pine Ridge, and is obviously inspired by Fire Thunder. While other young people are also featured in the film, Clifford’s story is the most compelling. She chooses a side in the abortion ban battle, and her decision to campaign against the proposition and for Fire Thunder are almost metaphors for her decision to campaign for own dignity—along with the dignity of her people.
The film opens by introducing us to Clifford, and almost immediately to her boyfriend, 18-year-old Rodney Spotted Elk. He’s shy and quiet, and we don’t know much about him—but the relationship ends after Spotted Elk becomes violent. We know he is a drinker, especially at night. It’s facts like these where the filmmakers fail to make connections to larger structural issues facing Pine Ridge.
Pine Ridge borders the tiny town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, population 14. What Whiteclay lacks in population however, it makes up for in liquor stores and alcohol sales—four outlets sell more than 4 million cans of beer there per year, almost exclusively to Oglala Lakota. Alcohol was long banned on Pine Ridge, but people knew they could cross the border to obtain it. The sales are lucrative for white-owned companies, and grew so out of control that the Oglala Lakota sued storeowners, along with corporations like Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, and Miller in 2012. But Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Jason Schwarting was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
While the federal government holds obligations to the Oglala Lakota, it hasn’t stepped in to solve the problem of alcoholism—a problem that kills Natives on Pine Ridge, while making white corporations wealthy. The federal government also ignores the systemic issues that make Pine Ridge one of the most dangerous places to live—and to die—in the United States: average life expectancy for women in the US is 81, but it’s 52 on Pine Ridge; for men in the US it’s 76, but 48 on the reservation. The numbers are no better when it comes to unemployment, wealth, diabetes and infant mortality. While Spotted Elk’s violence towards Clifford is nowhere near excusable, Young Lakota glosses over his possible alcoholism as if it’s merely a personal issue, and not part of the structural reasons why Pine Ridge is the way it is.
Nevertheless Young Lakota is worth watching. It’s a rare glimpse into Pine Ridge that celebrates the resistance and complexity of the Oglala Lakota who live there—and remind us that people like Sunny Clifford are working to make meaningful change.
It’s a rough for too many families this Thanksgiving. With an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent, with nearly a million of discouraged no-longer-job-seekers, ashamed and invisible, not even showing up in that total; with an unemployment rate for black teenagers of 36 percent and, as The Nation’s George Zornick points out, the season of feasting a season of fasting for too many families on food stamps—cheer can be hard to find.
Keep our suffering neighbors in your thoughts as you celebrate. And for a possibly cheering contrast, consider a time when things were even worse: 1973, which I’ve researched for my upcoming book on the 1970s, when it was oh-so-much harder to head over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house because the Arab oil embargo quadrupled the price of a barrel of crude.
October was rung in with biblical prophecies from an assistant secretary of the interior. “With anything less than the best of luck,” Stephen Wakefield announced, “we shall probably face shortages of heating oil, propane, and diesel fuel this winter.… I am talking about men without jobs, homes without heat, children without schools.” In Los Angeles the Department of Water and Power predicted a 35 percent energy shortage by April. It came the day after the President’s Cost of Living Council set a new ceiling on the price of domestic crude; the major oil companies responded by raising the prices they charged their affiliate service stations by about a penny a gallon. In San Francisco 3,000 service stations shut down for three days in protest—street corners became ghost towns in the beautiful City by the Bay. And all this was before the Arab oil embargo.
That began October 17, after America decided to airlift weapons to Israel in its war with Egypt and Syria. A Watergate-scarred president went on TV and announced “a very stark fact: we are heading into the most acute energy shortage since World War II.” Americans, he said, would have to cut back: “less heat, less electricity, less gasoline”—almost stop being Americans at all. He called for shorter school and factory hours. And the cancellation of 10 percent of jet flights. The federal government would provide an example by setting thermostats to sixty-eight degrees or less, he said (“and that means in this room, too, as well as in every other room in the White House”); government vehicles would be limited to fifty miles an hour. He told governors to pass laws mandating fifty miles per hour for everyone, Congress to pass an emergency statute returning to year-round daylight savings time and to relax environmental regulations. Start carpooling, he recommended: “How many times have you gone along the highway,” he quizzed, “with only one individual in that car?”
Thousands, of course—for wasn’t zooming alone across endless vistas of highways supposed to be the most American pastime of all? Not any more, apparently. What he was describing, he allowed, sounded “like a way of life we left behind with Glenn Miller and the war of the forties.”
Honoring a non-binding presidential request, gas stations began closing down from 9 pm Saturday through midnight on Sundays. So people began “topping off”—filling their tanks every time they passed a gas station, leading to hours-long lines in which idling cars… just wasted more gas. Everyone wanted to get to a pump before the last drop was gone and one of the ubiquitous sorry, no gas signs was hoisted up. Then, they would have to return the next day—when prices were usually two-cents-a-gallon higher. Tempers flared, no architect having thought to design a corner gas station for the eventuality of dozens of angry motorists cutting fellow motorists off on street corners like it was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Time called the energy crisis the “most serious economic threat to face the nation since the Depression.” Cities began reducing bus service. Schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut, states reliant on oil for heat, announced Christmas break for the entire months of December and January. At the New England School of Art, heated only to sixty-five degrees in the Boston chill, nude models were afforded the comfort of roasting in their own body heat in a clear plastic tent. In Rhode Island, a prize high school composition was customarily chosen to be signed by the governor as the official state Thanksgiving proclamation. The governor refused to sign this year’s winner, in which a 17-year-old wrote, “Thanksgiving seems to be pretended, a farce, little more than an outdated tradition no one has yet found time to discard.”
Time’s Thanksgiving cover had Archie Bunker in his trademark easy chair, stalactites of frost hanging from his cigar and winter cap—he couldn’t afford home heating oil. Plastic bags, made with petroleum, became prohibitively expensive; petrochemicals were also ingredients in many lifesaving drugs—so pharmaceutical executives projected a shortage. Twenty-five New Hampshire towns suspended police, fire protection, garbage pickups, road repair and school transportation.
The mayor of Rensselaer, Indiana, turned off the city’s 425 street lights, until a rash of burglaries forced him to turn them on again. In an interview he revealed his motives as less than Christian: “If everyone in the country would make this kind of effort, we could tell the Arabs to go to hell.” Unchristian motives were everywhere. A gas station owner stopped letting owners of big cars buy more than a dollar of gas at a time—“just enough to keep them off the road.” People started driving with a full can of gas in the trunk, which turned them into inadvertent firebombs. The Senate came within eight votes of passing a law rationing gasoline, and the White House ordered the Bureau of Engraving to prepare by printing over 10 billion ration coupons.
A coffee table book, They Could Not Trust the King, with text by William Shannon of the New York Times editorial board, went to press. It called Watergate “a complex and far-reaching political plan that could serve as dress rehearsal for an American fascist coup d’état.”
Then December, and the presidentially mandated closing of service stations from Saturday evening until Monday morning. A Hanford, California, gas station owner shot up six of the pumps of a rival who stayed open across the street. A Miami man yelled to a gas station attendant who wouldn’t sell to him on a Saturday night, “I am going to get some gas even if I have to kill somebody”—and then, waving a pistol, almost honored his pledge. Auto supply houses ran out of siphons, tools of the new street crime of choice—and locks for gas caps. More ambitious crooks started hijacking petroleum trucks. Brooklyn motorists filled up with “Gambinoil”—oil the Gambino stole from bulk plants in the area and sold to area dealers at 70 percent more than legitimate distributors.
A cheap paperback came out, Predictions for 1974, starring a panoply of psychics with names like “Countess Amy, the Gypsy Seeress,” and “Aquarius, Campus Clairvoyant.” It featured, alongside news-to-come about traffic accidents (“A submarine and a UFO will collide off the Aleutian Islands”), the occult (“reincarnation will be espoused by more and more young people as a valid explanation for the dislocations in modern society”), celebrities (“Dean Martin may have a health problem and definitely should be careful of his nose”), and celebrities and the occult (“A youthful female actress of sudden fame will publicly announce that she used witchcraft to obtain her current level of success and happiness”), prediction after prediction about how of the world would collapse. That was what the future looked like now. Deaths from record bitter cold. Deaths from a “nerve gas leak” off the coast of Florida. A 1929-style stock market collapse. A declaration of bankruptcy by New York City—“the first tangible sign of the collapse of our entire civilization.” Single people banned from buying big cars. Locusts and floods, “like the plagues of Egypt,” worldwide droughts, rising sea levels “inundating all coastal areas throughout the world.” Rationing of every staple, urban blackouts, riots, martial law. “Disaster will hit one of New York’s skyscraper landmark buildings." "Man is an endangered species,” as one soothsayer put it. It was a map of the dreads of a nation.
Good times. Let us cherish what we have, and what we have transcended before. Love, and let yourself be loved. Fight injustice, that our children might be blessed. Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers; you help make my life immeasurably meaningful and rich.
For families on food stamps, traditional Thanksgiving meals are out of the question.
When Congress moved to regulate most child labor in 1938, an exception was carved for the agriculture industry. Children as young as 12 are allowed to engage in dangerous farmwork, which has lead to dozens of deaths and serious injuries for America’s rural youth. Though the Obama administration’s Labor Department moved better regulate child farm labor, industry pressure forced officials to back down. Mariya Strauss published a deeply reported investigation into the matter for The Nation earlier this month.
Like most economic issues, the child farm labor regulation came down to a contest of money and influence in Washington. Children and their advocates have little political resources, while the big agriculture industry hires lobbyists, bundles donations to lawmakers and shapes media coverage through slick public relation campaigns.
A little-known fact about the annual presidential pardon of a Thanksgiving turkey is that the bird is provided by the industry trade association for turkey farms, including Cargill, Perdue Farms, Dakota Provisions and Willmar Poultry Company. The industry group, the National Turkey Federation, presented Obama with two white turkeys, Popcorn and Caramel. While the event certainly provided light-hearted publicity for the turkey industry, it’s worth taking a look at the National Turkey Federation’s agenda.
Lobbying reports show the group has contacted lawmakers over immigration legislation and rules concerning animal drug use. Perhaps more surprising, and counter to the National Turkey Federation’s family-friendly public image, is the work the group has done to orchestrate opposition to the Obama administration’s child farm labor regulations. The annual report from the group celebrates its role in blocking the rule (emphasis added):
Department of Labor (DOL) Withdraws Proposed Rule on Child Agriculture Workers: The DOL withdrew its proposed rule on Child Labor Regulations in reponse to thousands of comments filed by NTF, other agriculture groups, and farm families across the country. The proposed rule included provisions that defined “parental exeption,” which would have dramatically affected rural communties and family-owned farms.”
Notably, the turkey lobby helped kill the rule by fasely claiming that the labor restrictions would prevent children from working on their own family farms. The Department of Labor rules contained a family exemption.
The National Turkey Federation certainly has the money to make things happen. The group spends over $2.1 million a year, in addition to an affiliated political action committee that doles out over $200,000 to congressional candidates. The NRF also has three registered lobbyists.
Katrina vanden Heuvel writes about the pardoning of the Scottsboro boys. Eighty years too late.
The idea behind the deletion clue is simple: the solution is obtained from another word by the removal of a letter. For example:
EXIT Be without stamina, initially, and leave (4)
(EXIST minus S)
In this post, we will take a quick tour of the many ways deletions are used in cryptic clues.
The letter can be taken from the front:
ADDLE Puzzle: how a duck can walk without a head (5)
Or it can be taken from the back:
INDIC Almost accuse in connection with the subcontinent (5)
A letter can be removed simultaneously from the front and back:
LIMB Branch rises, naked (4)
Deletions can also be combined with almost any sort of cryptic clue. Here are some more intricate examples.
With a reversal:
STAMINA Brings to life, rising without energy or endurance (7)
CARDIGAN Horse I’d almost race backwards in a sweater (8)
With an anagram:
LUDICROUS Ridiculous, absurd, lacking one bit of intelligence! (9)
EXECS Excess nearly rumpled suits (5)
With a charade:
INCENTIVE Van Gogh, a little late: “I have a carrot” (9)
IMPRUDENT Careless urchin, unrefined and not without love (9)
With a container:
MEETS Runs across Mississippi, keeping feet uncovered (5)
BIPED Devil losing heart in bed with woman, perhaps (5)
And finally, here is an example of an unusual deletion clue:
WHERE A question that might be answered by decapitation (5)
Do you know any good deletions? Please share here, along with any quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle or any previous puzzle. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen.
And here are three links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where you can ask for and offer hints, and where every one of our clues is explained in detail.