November 22 is of course the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. I haven’t read all 1,000 books about it, but I have five favorites:
Don DeLillo, Libra
“We will build theories that gleam like jade idols,” says DeLillo’s surrogate, a CIA historian writing the secret history of Dallas. “We will follow the bullet trajectories backwards to the lives that occupy the shadows, actual men who moan in their dreams.” In the novel, two CIA veterans of the Bay of Pigs seek to arouse anti-Cuban sentiment by organizing an assassination attempt by a Castro supporter. But in their plan, the assassin—with an identity “made out of ordinary pocket litter”—will miss. DeLillo, as John Leonard wrote in The Nation, “is an agnostic about reality.”
Stephen King, 11/22/63
When Jake steps thru the secret passage in Al’s Diner in Maine, it takes him back to 1958; can he stick around and change the course of history by stopping Oswald before November 22, 1963? And what if he discovers that the conspiracy theorists were right, and JFK was shot by someone else? Eight hundred and fifty wonderful pages of time travel romance and adventure in a world where the food tastes better and the music is more fun—and where history itself resists change, with all its might.
Robert Caro, LBJ: The Passage of Power chapters 11–13
The assassination seen through LBJ’s eyes, one car back in the motorcade in Dealey Plaza: after Oswald’s first shot, Secret Service agent Rufus Youngblood shouted, “Get down! Get down!” Then LBJ “was on the floor, his face on the floor, with the weight of a big man lying on top of him,” as the two cars sped toward Parkland Hospital. When they arrived, Agent Youngblood said, ‘I want you and Mrs. Johnson to stick with me and the other agents as close as you can. We are going into the hospital and we aren’t gonna stop for anything or anybody. Do you understand?’ ‘Okay, pardner, I understand,’ Lyndon Johnson said.”
Norman Mailer, Oswald’s Tale
Mailer in his reporter-researcher mode: at age 70, he spent six cold months in Minsk, where Oswald had lived with his Russian wife Marina for thirty months starting in 1960. Mailer interviewed fifty people and used the KGB’s tapes from Oswald’s bugged apartment to paint a vivid picture of the dullness and misery of their lives. Mailer said he started “with a prejudice in favor of the conspiracy theorists,” but he found Oswald to have been a lonely Marxist megalomaniac and an angry loser. In the end, Robert Stone wrote in The New York Review of Books, Mailer had to conclude that “absurdity and common death gape far wider beneath us than high conspiracy, tragedy, or sacrifice.”
Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History
An encyclopedia of assassination conspiracies, with each and every one refuted, “revealed as a fraud on the American public.” One thousand six hundred oversize pages, plus a CD with 1,100 pages of notes, written by the legendary criminal prosecutor. “No group of top-level conspirators,” he argues, “would ever employ someone as unstable and unreliable as Oswald to commit the biggest murder in history, no such group would ever provide its hit man with a twelve-dollar rifle to get the job done, and any such group would help its hit man escape or have a car waiting to drive him to his death, not allow him to be wandering out in the street, catching cabs and buses to get away, as we know Oswald did.”
In the early hours of November 2, Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old black woman from Detroit, was in a car accident in the largely white city of Dearborn Heights. When she sought help by knocking on someone’s door, she was shot in the face and killed.
As McBride’s family grapples with her death and searches for answers, the man who killed her has yet to be charged with any crime. He has said both that he felt threatened and that the gun went off accidentally, and it’s possible, in a case reminiscent of the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, that he will invoke Michigan’s version of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The law, called the “Self-Defense Act,” could protect him from criminal prosecution if he believed that he was in danger, however wrongheaded or rooted in racial bias that belief may have been.
As The Nation’s Mychal Denzel Smith points out, “We have been here before.”
In her powerful video, dream hampton highlights the calls for justice in the wake of Renisha McBride’s death.
According to Ruth Moore, she was 18, just months out of Navy boot camp when an officer raped her, twice. Although Moore reported the crimes to a chaplain, her attacker was never prosecuted. After a suicide attempt and a stay in a psychiatric facility, Moore was repeatedly denied disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, because the VA said she could not prove the rape.
The VA discriminates against thousands of military sexual trauma (MST) survivors like Moore each year, alleges a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Service Women’s Action Network and the Veterans Legal Service Clinic at Yale Law School. In trying to obtain compensation for the impact of sexual trauma on their mental health, survivors face bureaucratic hurdles and long delays. Ultimately, a disproportionate number of their claims are rejected.
The report is based on previously withheld data that the VA released to settle Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the Yale clinic. The numbers reveal that the VA grants disability claims for PTSD related to sexual assault at significantly lower rates than for PTSD caused by other types of trauma. In 2011, for example, the VA granted benefits to 74.2 percent of veterans who submitted non-MST-related trauma claims, but only to 44.6 percent of those with MST-related PTSD, a gap of nearly 30 percent.
“Under the current regulations, survivors of military sexual trauma have to provide a decent amount of documentation in order to get a compensation pension exam, as part of the benefits process,” explained Rose Carmen Goldberg, one of the authors of the report. Because of widespread retaliation, only a fraction of those who are sexually assaulted while in service report the crimes against them. Without a paper trail it is difficult for them to meet the VA’s evidentiary standards. Even with it, the report found, “claims adjudicators often fail to give adequate weight to the evidence that MST survivors do produce.”
Veterans with PTSD linked to combat or other sources of trauma, on the other hand, don’t bear the same burden of proof: their own testimony is sufficient to prove that their trauma is connected to their military service. “We think that very obvious and overt discrimination in the regulations is definitely an underlying factor, but there are probably many factors at work,” Golberg said. For example, until 2011 the Defense Department destroyed all restricted reports of sexual assault that were more than five years old.
As incidences of sexual assault in the military have risen, so have associated claims of PTSD, which increased by more than half between 2010 and 2011. Women who suffered a sexual assault in the military are nine times more likely to develop PTSD than other female veterans. More than 15,800 veterans filed claims for PTSD related to sexual trauma in the five years spanning 2008 and 2012. About two-thirds of the applicants were women.
The VA’s ruling determines whether they have access to an essential lifeline. Female veterans are the fastest growing sector of the homeless population, according to The New York Times, and more than half of female veterans living on the street were sexually assaulted in the service. “The mental health effects of PTSD related to sexual trauma can make it very difficult if not impossible to work, so in many cases [disability benefits] will be their only source of income,” said Goldberg.
Overall, men are 10 percent more likely to be granted benefits for PTSD than women. That’s because so many women with PTSD link it to sexual trauma, while men are more likely to suffer PTSD related to combat and other traumas, which the VA grants benefits for at much higher rates. However, male survivors of sexual assault are even less likely to receive PTSD benefits than female MST survivors.
A veteran’s chance of receiving benefits for MST-related PTSD also varies by location. For example, the VA regional office in St. Paul, Minnesota, granted only a quarter of PTSD benefit claims related to sexual trauma. Compared with non-MST claims, the discrepancy was 35 percent.
Congress is considering several bills aimed at ending the discrimination detailed in the report. One, named for Ruth Moore, who was eventually granted full benefits after twenty-three years, would allow an assessment from a mental health professional to serve as corroborating evidence, and shift the burden of proof to put “every reasonable doubt in favor of the veteran.” That bill passed the House in June, but has languished in the Senate. Two other bills to reform the claims process are pending in the House.
“The reforms that are needed are very urgent,” said Golberg. “We’re hoping the data will speak strongly for the changes that are needed.”
Anu Bhagwati, the executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network and a former Marine Corps captain whose disability claim related to sexual harassment was initially denied, pointed out that a rejection from the VA is a veteran’s second betrayal. “VA’s claims process often serves as a brutal and extended retriggering of veterans’ most horrific experiences, when no one believed them, when no one supported them and they were made to feel as though they did something to deserve being raped, assaulted or harassed in uniform,” she said.
The Senate is now debating reforms to the military justice system responsible for that first betrayal. The Defense Authorization Act, expected to pass before Thanksgiving, includes measures preventing commanders from overturning jury convictions and criminalizes retaliation against victims who report crimes. Several senators are expected to offer amendments that would institute even greater reform. The most contentious is a proposal from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that would give military lawyers, rather than commanding officers, the authority to decide whether an alleged crime warrants prosecution.
Since many perpetrators are within the victim’s chain of command, the measure is intended to limit retaliation and improve reporting, which would make it easier for survivors who develop PTSD to obtain benefits as veterans. The Pentagon and top Democrats on the Armed Services Committee, however, are fighting to maintain commanders’ authority. The authorization bill could hit the Senate floor as early as this week, and opponents are likely to use procedural rules to make sure Gillibrand’s amendment cannot pass with less than sixty votes. So far, forty-seven senators have pledged their support.
Mychal Denzel Smith: misogyny has no place in progressive politics.
So much of writing/thinking/working around issues of race, racism and blackness in America is to say “again.” Again, the right to vote is under attack. Again, the unemployment rate creeps near depression levels. Again, police chiefs and mayors push racist stop-and-frisk policies. Again, our children face criminalization and the school-to-prison pipeline.
Again, we mourn the death of a young black person killed, seemingly, for doing nothing more than being black. This time, her name is Renisha McBride.
Like Jonathan Ferrell before her, Renisha, a 19 year-old Detroit native, got into a car accident in Dearborn Heights, and sought help at a nearby house. The still unidentified homeowner answered the door armed with his shotgun, presuming Renisha was a burglar. Alternately being described as “accidental” and “justified,” he shot Renisha in the face.
As with Trayvon Martin’s death before that, Renisha’s killer has not been arrested. And due to similar Stand Your Ground laws in Michigan as in Florida, it’s possible that he may never be charged with any crime. Another black teenager has been killed, and again, their family may have to go forward without anyone being held accountable.
We have been here before. Our history becomes our present so often it becomes difficult to distinguish the two. Politicians and cable news hosts and the naïvely colorblind ask us to forget, most of the country obliges, and black people, again, are left to piece together the fragments of history, suffering, rage, and pain so that we may have hope for something better.
Again we advocate for justice. Again we question what justice would even look like. Again we demand that black life be valued. Again we wonder why it never was in the first place. Again we weep, we pray, we march, we raise our voices. Again we prepare ourselves to be let down. And again we ask when will the moment come where we won’t have to go through this again.
Again, we wait on the answer.
If you believe Renisha McBride and her family deserve justice, sign this ColorofChange.org petition on their behalf.
Despite outrage from Israel, loud complaints from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf monarchies, and bitter skepticism from members of Congress, it appears as if the United States and Iran, backed by the P5+1 world powers, are on the verge of an historic first step toward a deal over Iran’s nuclear program. That the interim accord wasn’t reached during the round of talks that concluded on Saturday doesn’t make that accord less likely, perhaps as soon as the talks resume later this month.
There were, it appears, a number of stumbling blocks that prevented the preliminary accord from being reached, including disagreements over how to finesse the dispute over Iran’s “right to enrich” under the Nonproliferation Treaty’s opaque language, what to do about Iran’s heavy water reactor now under construction in Arak, and how to handle the disposition of Iran’s stockpile of medium-enriched uranium at 20 percent purity.
But, the outlines of an accord have been clear for quite some time, only waiting for the United States and Iran to move forward, and according to The Wall Street Journal—in an important background piece by Jay Solomon and Carol Lee—the United States has been quietly talking to and meeting with Iranians for a long time to explore whether Tehran was amenable to talks.
It’s significant that not only Western media but Iranian newspapers and news agencies, too, are predicting an accord. Why is that important? Because the new government of President Hassan Rouhani has to prepare Iranian public opinion to expect a deal with the country that Iran has long referred to, sometimes half-seriously and sometimes not, as the “Great Satan.” A report by the usually hardline Fars News Agency says that the Geneva talks could be “the first confidence-building step towards ending over a decade-long nuclear standoff between Iran and the West.” And the Tehran Times, an English-language daily paper in Tehran, Iran’s capital, writes, “Negotiators from Iran and world powers were about to draft a nuclear agreement on Friday.” The Tehran Times continued to give the news from Geneva a positive spin since the talks were suspended on Saturday, positively quoting Secretary of State Kerry’s comments and trumpeting an agreement, in parallel talks, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over a “road map” on inspecting Iran’s facilities.
That agreement didn’t quite happen, of course, in part apparently because France—seeking to curry favor with Israel and the arms-purchasing big spenders of the gulf states—raised last-minute objections (drawing sharp criticism from Iran’s Supreme Leader) and in part because Iran’s negotiators wanted to run the details by the powers-that-be at home.
But the reports from Iran’s media about the talks in Geneva are crucial because, just as President Obama has to face down hardliners among Congress, neoconservatives,= and the Israel lobby, Rouhani and his foreign minister, Javad Zarif, have their own hawks to deal with, including a relatively small contingent that rallied in front of the old American embassy in Tehran chanting “Death to America!”
In a hilarious comment, Zarif dismissed the Iranian hawks as Iran’s own, home-grown version of a tea party. He said: “You said we don’t have a tea party? I wish you were right.” Added the Christian Science Monitor:
Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, a hard-line group of Iranians have scored points against political rivals, sometimes putting at risk broader national policies for their gain. In some Iranians’ eyes, that makes them a perfect comparison for the American “tea party” that recently spearheaded a US government shutdown.
And the paper quoted a US official who refused to be alarmed about Iran’s anti-American hawks: “Iran is a culture with many elements in it, as is ours. We have hardliners in our culture—probably not hardliners like Iranian hardliners, but a different variety.”
The deal that almost happened in Geneva would have given Iran access to some of the $50 billion in oil revenue that it has abroad but has been unable to repatriate because of banking and finance sanctions and eased pressure from the United States and the West on Iran’s oil customers (read: China, Japan, India), in exchange for Iran’s agreement to freeze some of its nuclear work, perhaps for six months. It is designed to create a climate in which a final deal could be reached with six months.
The New York Times, in its report the other day, asked a series of questions about how to move an accord forward:
So the rigor of the initial understanding will turn on an array of thorny questions. How many and what type of centrifuges would Iran be able to retain to enrich uranium? Would Iran be barred from making additional centrifuges even if it did not immediately use them?
What would happen to the stockpile of uranium Iran has already enriched to 20 percent, which can be rapidly enriched to weapons grade? What sort of verification would be provided for?
Would Tehran be willing to suspend construction of a heavy-water plant that would produce plutonium? Such a step is important, experts say, because a military strike against the plant, should it come to that, could result in the dispersal of highly radioactive material if the plant was functioning.
All good questions—but the central question is: Will the United States accept Iran’s right to enrich uranium under the Nonproliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed? Most countries, including Iran, say that the NPT certifies that right, but the United States formally disagrees. Yet Iran says that retaining that right is a red line that it won’t cross.
Indeed, in a speech to parliament yesterday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani made explicit Iran’s commitment to retaining its NPT-guaranteed right-to-enrich:
“We have said to the negotiating sides that we will not answer to any threat, sanction, humiliation or discrimination. The Islamic Republic has not and will not bow its head to threats from any authority.… For us there are red lines that cannot be crossed. National interests are our red lines that include our rights under the framework of international regulations and enrichment in Iran.”
American diplomats, who explicitly and repeatedly have stated that Iran does not have a right to enrich, believe that they can finesse that gap by weasel-worded diplomatic language. The key to that maneuver will be an explicit acceptance by the United States that Iran can continue to enrich uranium up to the low-enriched 3.5 percent level.
As Roger Cohen writes in today’s New York Times:
According to people who have spent many hours with them, Rouhani and Zarif are prepared to limit enrichment to 3.5 percent (well short of weapons grade); curtail the number of centrifuges and facilities and place them under enhanced international monitoring; deal with Iran’s 20 percent enriched stockpile by converting it under international supervision into fuel pads for the Tehran research reactor; and find a solution on the heavy-water plant it is building at Arak that could produce plutonium. In return, as these steps are progressively taken, they want sanctions relief and recognition of the right to enrichment.
Robert Scheer looks at John Kerry's homage last week to the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian regimes.
This article is a joint publication of TheNation.com and Foreign Policy In Focus.
It seems these days that whenever Mother Nature wants to send an urgent message to humankind, it sends it via the Philippines. This year the messenger was Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda.
For the second year in a row, the world’s strongest typhoon barreled through the Philippines, Yolanda following on the footsteps steps of Pablo, a k a Bopha, in 2012. And for the third year in a row, a destructive storm deviated from the usual path taken by typhoons, striking communities that had not learned to live with these fearsome weather events because they were seldom hit by them in the past. Sendong in December 2011 and Bopha last year sliced Mindanao horizontally, while Yolanda drove through the Visayas, also in a horizontal direction.
That it was climate change creating the super typhoons that were taking weird directions was a message from Nature not just to Filipinos but to the whole world, whose attention was transfixed on the televised digital images of a massive, angry cyclone bearing down, then sweeping across the central Philippines on its way to the Asian mainland. The message that Nature was sending via Yolanda–which packed winds stronger than Superstorm Sandy, which hit New Jersey and New York last October, and Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005–was especially meant for the governments of the world that are assembling in Warsaw for the annual global climate change negotiations (COP 19), beginning on November 11.
Is it a coincidence, ask some people who are not exactly religious, that both Pablo and Yolanda arrived at the time of the global climate negotiations? Pablo smashed into Mindanao during the last stages of the Conference of Parties (COP 18), in Doha last year.
To reinforce Haiyan’s message, Commissioner Naderev Sano, the top negotiator for the Philippines in Warsaw, went on a hunger strike when the talks began.
COP 19: Another Deadlock?
It is doubtful, however, that the governments assembling in Warsaw will rise to the occasion. For a time earlier this year, it appeared that Hurricane Sandy would bring climate change to the forefront of President Obama’s agenda. It did not.
While trumpeting that he was directing federal agencies to take steps to force power plants to cut carbon emissions and encourage movement toward clean energy sources, Obama will not send a delegation that will change US policy of non-adherence to the Kyoto Protocol, which Washington signed but never ratified. Although 70 percent of Americans now believe in climate change, Obama does not have the courage to challenge the fanatical climate skeptics that fill the ranks of the Tea Party and the US business establishment.
It is also unlikely that China, now the world’s biggest carbon emitter, will agree to mandatory limits on its greenhouse-gas emissions, armed with the rationale that those that have contributed most to the cumulative volume of greenhouse gases, like the United States, must be forced to make mandatory emissions cuts. And as China goes, so will Brazil, India and a host of the other more industrially advanced developing countries that are the most influential voices in the “Group of 77 and China” coalition. What the governments of these countries seem to be saying is that the carbon-intensive industrial development plans they are pursuing are not up for negotiation.
According to the Durban Platform agreed on in 2011, governments are supposed to submit carbon emissions reduction plans by 2015, which will then be implemented beginning in 2020. To climate scientists, this leaves a dangerous gap of seven years where no mandatory emissions reductions can be expected from the United States and many other carbon-intensive countries. It is increasingly clear that every year now counts if the world is to avoid a rise in global mean temperature beyond 2 degrees Celsius, the accepted benchmark beyond which the global climate is expected to go really haywire.
Countries like the Philippines and many other island-states are in the frontlines of climate change. Every year of massive and frequent disastrous climate events like Yolanda and Pablo reminds them of the injustice of the situation. They are among those that have contributed least to climate change, yet they are its main victims. Their interest lies not only in accessing funds for “adaptation,” such as the Green Climate Fund that would funnel, beginning in 2020, $100 billion a year from rich countries to poor countries to help them adjust to climate change (contributions so far have been small and slow in coming.) With typhoons and hurricanes now on the cutting edge of extreme weather events, these frontline countries must push all major greenhouse-gas emitters to agree to radical emissions cuts immediately and not wait until 2020.
During last year’s Doha negotiations, one of the leaders of the Philippine delegation cried when he pointed to the ravages inflicted on Mindanao by Pablo. It was a moment of truth for the climate talks.
This year, the delegation must convert tears into anger and denounce the big climate polluters for their continued refusal to take the steps needed to save the world from the destruction that their carbon-intensive economies have unleashed on us all. Perhaps the best role the Philippine delegation and the other island-states can play is by adopting unorthodox tactics, like disrupting the negotiations procedurally to prevent the conference from falling into the familiar alignment of the rich North versus the Group of 77 and China. Such a configuration guarantees a political deadlock, even as the world hurtles toward the four-degree-plus world that the World Bank has warned will be a certainty without a massive global effort to prevent it.
This post is co-written with Elaine Weiss.
The negative impact of poverty on a child’s educational achievement is indisputable. Whether the metric is school grades, state assessments, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the SAT—the scores of low-income children are far lower than those of their wealthier peers. The reasons for that gap—and how our nation should respond—is the subject of heated debate and is explored by filmmaker Jyllian Gunther in the award-winning documentary, The New Public.
The film is inspiring and sobering as it examines the experiences of students and teachers at the Brooklyn Community Arts & Media (BCAM) High School. BCAM is a new, small public school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where one-third of the residents live below the poverty line and the graduation rate is 40 percent.
With nuance and humor, Gunther shows how poverty presents many obstacles to effective teaching and strong learning. It showcases BCAM’s ability to overcome some of those obstacles through relationship-building and teaching to students’ strengths. But it also demonstrates that no matter how dedicated and focused the teachers and leaders are, a school will too often be unable to transform its students’ academic lives.
Gunther follows BCAM’s inaugural class during its freshman year, and then returns to document its senior year as well. Several of the Bed-Stuy ninth-graders entering BCAM’s doors speak frankly of their unhappiness at their past schools. Students and parents discuss the failures in those schools to reach students, or of being kicked out or asked to leave.
We see BCAM faculty and staff grapple with how they can best overcome gaps in their students’ learning. Research suggests that those learning gaps begin prior to kindergarten and widen over subsequent years. As Kevin Greer, a veteran teacher of honors English at a large public high school in the Bronx, describes, “Kids here have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about.”
The teens also face deficits in skills that are often misnamed “non-cognitive”—like social, emotional and behavioral skills. Because we can’t measure resilience, perseverance, capacity to communicate, and appropriate interaction with peers, we tend to pay far too little attention to these qualities that researchers know contribute to academic and life success.
But BCAM educators strive to nurture these characteristics. Gunther highlights some of the school’s less orthodox approaches, such as students’ engaging in meditation practice. A social worker, Charlene Fravien, also leads the “Fly Young Women” empowerment group, where we listen in on discussions about body image and race. Fravien says the group is designed to help these students communicate more effectively—the members were selected because they are known to be “much more short-tempered—the girls you don’t mess with.”
One of the group’s participants is Lateefah. We see her quick intellect, sharp sense of humor, and leadership abilities from the outset of the film. She says her old school was bad—that the students were “uncontrollable” and so was she. BCAM seems to be helping her.
“Before I had a terrible look on life,” says Lateefah. “Now I’m not wasting my time on nothing, I’m going straight for what I need and what I want.” Yet she confides to the Fly Young Women that you can never leave your “baggage outside at the door.”
“Because there’s still gonna be that one thing in the back of your mind that’s bugging you and that piece missing from your heart,” she says.
Indeed, the “baggage” Lateefah has accumulated over the years soon returns. Despite the efforts of Fravien and supportive teachers, Lateefah finds herself once again fighting and struggling with peers.
Ninth-grader John reveals another challenge children growing up in poor households disproportionately face—maternal depression. His mother is physically present but emotionally absent. John says she suffered a series of severe seizures that forced her to stop working and has shut her in their small apartment for years.
Luckily, John is close to his warm, funny father. But that father, who works six or seven days a week and has little time to do much besides work and sleep, dies before John’s senior year. This compounds John’s struggle to come out as a gay man while also pursuing college and the financial aid he needs.
Moses enters BCAM as one of the school’s most promising new students. His mother and father push him hard to excel. Both his parents and teachers emphasize Moses’ strong aptitude, great energy, and potential. Yet, as Moses puts it, “the street” proves too strong a lure. As his enthusiasm for BCAM’s creative, arts-based approach wanes, he distances himself from teachers who want to help him. Senior year, just as he is being urged to get his college applications in order, his grades slip and his interest in school reaches new lows.
We also learn that the inaugural class has dropped from 104 students freshman year, to just sixty senior year, with thirty on track for graduation.
“I think small schools go through a wake-up call that third or fourth year and then they make adaptations,” says BCAM humanities teacher Lavie Raven. “These schools desperately need that fifth to seventh year, because when we’re measured by our first year graduates, the measurements are horrible. But the schools with the good staffs and leaders—learn.”
The New Public successfully depicts poverty’s complex impact on education, especially at the high school level. It offers nuanced suggestions that aren’t nearly so catchy as “no excuses,” and it doesn’t suggest the existence of a silver bullet like “grit and character” or “miracle teachers.” What the film does demonstrate is that creating schools where students in high-poverty neighborhoods can thrive calls for far more than teaching to a test and punishing teachers for not obtaining mandated results.
“Inner-city school teaching is like no other job,” Greer offers. “Because you’re dealing with basic American inequalities. Our society’s problems are so enormous. And they’re all foisted upon the schools to fix them all.”
Elaine Weiss is the national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, where she works with a high-level task force and coalition partners to promote a comprehensive, evidence-based set of policies to allow all children to thrive.
Aura Bogado delves into the school-to-prison pipeline in Los Angeles Public Schools.
After last night’s ninety-second “apology” by Lara Logan on 60 Minutes—the show spent more time on photos of the Beatles with their wives in 1964—it’s certain that CBS wants to turn the page. An insider even confirmed this was the case, according to the New York Times: No internal or independent probe, no disciplining of reporter or producer.
Clearly CBS is terrified of where a probe might lead—for example, revealing why they did this story in the first place and didn’t vet their source. (See my piece on The Nation.com yesterday on the CBS News chief’s background as a honcho at Fox News throughout the Bush years—and Lara Logan revealing her own bias last year. And then there’s the Mary Matalin book connection.)
Only a strong push from other journalists will force CBS to launch such an investigation. I’ll log below what key journalists are saying. Many are making strong statements, although some are still giving CBS points for making any sort of limited apology—as if it could not do that after their source was thoroughly discredited. Others are presuming—with no evidence that I’ve seen—that CBS will make a much longer statement later.
Mike Calderone, who has been on this since beginning, offers a list of unanswered questions at the Huffington Post. For starters:
“Sunday’s brief acknowledgment didn’t resemble a news program seriously trying to get to the bottom of how it got duped. Logan didn’t address during the show how Davies came to be a source for ‘60 Minutes,’ the vetting process of his account, whether the FBI was contacted during the original reporting or after doubts were raised, and the connection between the television booking on Oct. 27 and publication by a CBS subsidiary on Oct. 29.”
Brian Stelter of The New York Times on TV today raises the question I have asked: Did Lara Logan come in with “an agenda”? And why did it take so long to react and will they probe? This may be “in some ways worse” than the Dan Rather affair, but those charging “liberal bias” are louder than critics on the left.
Jay Rosen at his blog:
“Attention now turns to Jeff Fager, as the person at CBS (executive producer of ‘60 Minutes’) who approved the final cut of a deeply flawed report starring a source CBS knew to have lied to his employer, and the executive at CBS, boss of the news division, who decided that it was time to move on from that mistake. Can that conflict of interest stand? So far it looks like it will.”
Frank Rich: “Failure of @CBSNews to report how Lara Logan was duped for ‘a year’ (her claim) by a Benghazi hoax guarantees others will do it for them.” Dan Kennedy: “Pathetically inadequate.” Mike Signorile: “60 Minutes ‘apology’—or ‘mistake,’ as Logan put it— is pathetic. Needs full investigation, ramifications.” Gabriel Sherman: “A show w/ reporting legacy of 60 Minutes should have turned its reporting muscle back on itself to explain to viewers what happened, and why.” Roger Simon of Politico: “60 Minutes needs to do an ‘Anatomy of a Mistake’ piece on its Benghazi story, not just a ‘gee, we’re sorry’ mini-apology.” Marvin Kalb, also at Politico: An apology not enough. “CBS News remains an immensely important resource, but it has now suffered an avoidable setback at a time when all of the media is under a cloud of doubt and suspicion. The network must regain the credibility it lost in Benghazi.”
Terence Smith, the former CBS and PBS correspondent, told the Washington Post that CBS needs “to do a thorough reconstruction of their reporting . . . and assure us that this was not done to help sell books for Simon & Schuster." Logan, he said, “has major egg on her face.”
David Folkenflik of NPR: “CBS gets points for a) apology b) not using own airwaves vs critics, as Rather did amid Bush memo fiasco. But concerns remain. CBS needs to offer transparent account of how the process went off the rails. Has not happened yet.” Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo: “I just watched the 60 Minutes correction’/apology tonight and thought was pretty amazing for its brevity, lack of substance and general obfuscation.… If you’d come to this 90 seconds without knowing anything that had happened over the last couple weeks, you would probably think that one person interviewed in a 60 Minutes segment may have been misleading in some of the things he said.” Michael Moore: “You can tell the media is liberal by the way CBS fired Lara Logan but never did anything to Dan Rather.” David Corn: “60 Minutes also notes its report that Barack Obama was the Umbrella Man in Dallas on 11/22/63 was a mistake.”
Eric Boehlert: “fact CBS won’t open up shop to independent review just proves how terrified execs R of truth behind Benghazi fiasco coming out.” (More from him here.) Will Bunch: “So ‘60 Minutes’ apology totally inadequate—now what? We know CBS is terrified of right wingers…they need to be terrified of rest of us.” David Brock of Media Matters: “This evening’s ‘60 Minutes’ response was wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving. The network must come clean” and appoint independent panel to probe. Jeff Greenfield: “Will CBS investigate and make results public, as it and other nets did in past? So far this is a ‘modified limited hangout.’” Blake Hounshell: “mistakes were made….” Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones: “apology is weak. Not covered: promoting source pubbed by CBS imprint run by Mary Matalin. Or failure to check w/ FBI sources.” John McQuaid, a Forbes blogger: “At this point, more shoes would have to drop to force any further accounting from CBS. They must think that’s not going to happen.”
Craig Silverman of Regret the Error commented for The New York Times:
“Aside from the fact that it struck a very passive tone and pushed the responsibility onto the source, Dylan Davies, it said nothing about how the show failed to properly vet the story of an admitted liar. There are basic questions left unanswered about how the program checked out what Davies told them, and where this process failed. In the short term, this will confirm the worst suspicions of people who don’t trust CBS News. In the long term, a lot will depend on how tough and transparent CBS can be in finding out how this happened—especially when there were not the kind of tight deadline pressures that sometimes result in errors.”
He also produced a valuable comparison of Dan Rather and Lara Logan 60 Minutes scandals.
Kevin Drum lists unanswered questions and adds:
I'm afraid that CBS no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. Someone there needs to demonstrate that they actually care about accuracy these days, rather than treating a huge fraud as a minor issue requiring only a short correction. And Lara Logan, who reported the story, and Jeff Fager, who is both CBS News chairman and the executive producer of 60 Minutes, really need to be held more accountable for both the story itself and their response to its obvious problems after it aired.
Greg Mitchell explores a possible Fox News connection with the 60 Minutes Benghazi report.
Gene Farley and I shared a deep affection for Tommy Douglas, the Baptist preacher-turned-statesman who as the leader of Saskatchewan’s Cooperative Commonwealth Federation established the framework for what would become Canada’s single-payer national healthcare system.
Douglas, who is often recalled as “the Greatest Canadian,” had a congenial style that belied his determination to address social and economic injustices he knew to be immoral. “The inescapable fact,” he argued, “is that when we build a society based on greed, selfishness, and ruthless competition, the fruits we can expect to reap are economic insecurity at home and international discord abroad.”
Paraphrasing Tennyson, Douglas roused Canadians with a promise: “Courage, my friends; ‘tis not too late to build a better world.” That line always came to mind when I was with Gene, who died Friday at 86.
Gene was an internationally renowned physician, an originator of family practice residency programs and innovative public-health initiatives who finished a distinguished academic career as chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Wisconsin.
Yet, his great passion was as a “build a better world” campaigner. The man who proudly recalled joining the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 was still marching for those same causes in 2013.
With his beloved wife, Dr. Linda Farley, Gene devoted two decades of “retirement” to advancing a broad justice vision that— after Linda’s death in 2009— could be seen in the remarkable ecological, agricultural and community-building work of the Linda & Gene Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability.
Because of their professional backgrounds, Gene and Linda focused particularly on advancing the cause of universal healthcare. With their longtime friend Dr. Quentin Young, they were early and enthusiastic leaders of the “Physicians for a National Health Program” movement, which for decades has encouraged US leaders to develop “an expanded and improved version of Medicare [to] cover every American for all necessary medical care.”
The man who refused offers of prestigious international positions because he felt a duty to carry on the battle to reform the US healthcare system understood the challenge of seeking that reform at a time “when society is going toward selfish extremes…when [governments] pay anything to build up the military but don’t want to give to the social good.” Still, he remained “fantastically optimistic.” And that optimism was often rewarded—especially with the 2012 election of his friend and ally Tammy Baldwin as the junior senator from Wisconsin.
Though Farley warned that the Affordable Care Act, with its deference to insurance companies, was more complicated and costly than need be, he hoped that the passage of the act would serve as an important step on the road to a creating a single-payer system in the United States. As we traveled in eastern Canada together last month— on a Nation cruise where Gene delighted in comparing notes with his dear friends Dr. Michael Klein and Bonnie Sherr Klein— we spoke a good deal about the difficulty of implementing what has come to be known as “Obamacare.”
Yet, Gene, “fantastically optimistic” as ever, recalled that Canada went through decades of bitter wrangling before finally establishing a universal healthcare system that delivers longer life expectancy more efficiently and at a lower cost than the American system. “We have to be patient, but we have to be determined,” he said, explaining that the establishment of the principle of “healthcare as a right” is not just a medical mission, not even an economic or social responsibility.
It is, Gene said, “about morality.”
Canada came to recognize that morality, embracing the vision of Tommy Douglas.
And it is right and necessary to expect that America will come to recognize that morality, embracing the vision of Gene Farley.