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Is the Attack on Abortion Rights Backfiring in the South?

Abortion Protest

(Reuters/Jim Young)

Alabama just became the latest bright spot in efforts to defend abortion rights against consistent attacks at the state level. On Monday, federal judge declared unconstitutional a 2013 law requiring that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at area hospitals.

Proponents of the law had argued that it was intended to keep women safe, and that without the requirement, providers can’t ensure that a patient will be moved quickly to the hospital when the need arises. But the judge disagreed, echoing the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ and the American Medical Association’s arguments against the alleged medical basis for such laws. Complications requiring hospitalization occur in just .05 to .3 percent of early-term abortions, the type performed at the Alabama clinics in question. With the safety argument exposed as empty, the judge found that the law serves no purpose other than to outlaw abortion in huge swaths of the state.

According to the decision: “If this requirement would not, in the face of all the evidence in the record, constitute an impermissible undue burden, then almost no regulation, short of those imposing an outright prohibition on abortion, would.” In other words: if this isn’t a sneaky way to ban the procedure, I don’t know what is.

Had it gone into effect, the law would have put access to abortion out of reach for many Alabama women, particularly those in the southern part of the state. Clinics in Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery—Alabama’s three most populous cities—would have been forced to close. In 2012, these clinics performed 40 percent of all legal abortions in the state. According to the decision, it would have been unlikely that providers there could have gotten staff privileges, either because they don’t live within a specific radius of the local hospital, the early-term abortions they provide are too safe to necessitate that they admit a patient for additional care (after all, you have to use the privilege in order to get and maintain it), or because the granting of such privileges is subjective, often made at the whims of hospital administrators.

The ruling comes on the heels of a federal court’s decision last week to continue to block a similar law in Mississippi. If that state’s admitting privileges law is eventually allowed to go into effect, Mississippi’s last abortion clinic will close.

“These laws have little to do with women’s health, and they’re 100 percent about politics,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, ACLU’s lead counsel on the Alabama case, told me. The ACLU argued the case along with Planned Parenthood.

Judge Myron Thompson appears to agree. His entire decision is worth a read, in part because it paints such a vivid picture of the political climate surrounding abortion in the state and the region. It recounts a history of violence against providers and clinics, including murders and firebombings throughout the last two decades. It details the high consequences doctors there face when their practices include providing abortions (one reason providers fly into Alabama from their homes elsewhere), and the lack of training available for medical students in the South. According to the decision: “Only 8 percent of OB/GYNs in the South perform any abortions at all, compared to 26 percent in the Northeast. In Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, no residency program offers abortion training to OB/GYN medical residents.” Clearly, access to abortion is already a challenge for families in the state. In 2001 a dozen clinics provided the procedure in Alabama. Today, there are only five.

Poor women pay the price. At the three clinics that would have closed, more than half of abortion patients live at or below 150 percent of the poverty line, according to the decision. Simply traveling elsewhere for the procedure isn’t so easy when transportation and lost wages make the endeavor just too expensive.

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On a conference call for media earlier this summer, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project Director Jennifer Dalven pointed out that admitting privileges as a backdoor ban on abortion is especially worth watching in the South, where a contiguous five state block faced such laws. In addition to Alabama and Mississippi, similar requirements passed in Oklahoma and Louisiana earlier this year. A review of the Texas law is pending. Further north in Wisconsin, attorneys with the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have challenged an admitting privileges law and a ruling in that case is expected soon. The Alabama decision sends a critical message, according to Kolbi-Molinas.

“It should be instructive to future courts as they look at these issues,” she said. “And hopefully [instructive] to legislators that politicians should stop trying to practice medicine and stop trying to play doctor.”

 

Read Next: George Zornick on how this bill could end state abortion restrictions

Circular Debate: Special Israel/Palestine Edition

Tom Tomorrow

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There’s No ‘War on Whites’

mo brooks immigration 2011

Mo Brooks, R-AL, left, on Capitol Hill in Washington (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

There’s an obvious ridiculousness to Congressman Mo Brooks’s comment about there being a “war on whites” that isn’t worth examining. In discussing the Republican party’s stance on immigration and how it hurts them with Hispanic voters, Brooks said this to radio host Laura Ingraham: “This is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else. It’s part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things. Well that’s not true.”

Yes, the first black president who rose to prominence by saying there was only one America, who ran on hope and change, has (frustratingly) attempted to govern through compromises that have lent legitimacy to the most reactionary of right-wing ideas, and has (infuriatingly) chastised black Americans for not defeating racism has also been laying the groundwork for a war on white people. Sly fox, that Barack Obama.

It’s clear Brooks wants to borrow the “war on women” language for his own purposes, but it’s also clear that he has nothing to support his claim. The idea that America wasn’t already divided when it comes to race before the Obama era is to ignore our entire history as a country.

I’d rather focus on another part of what he said. Still speaking on immigration, he told Ingraham: “It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a white American, a black American, a Hispanic American, an Asian-American or if you’re a woman or a man. Every single demographic group is hurt by falling wages and lost jobs.

“Democrats, they have to demagogue on this and try and turn it into a racial issue, which is an emotional issue, rather than a thoughtful issue. If it becomes a thoughtful issue, then we win and we win big. And they lose and they lose big.”

It’s true, we’re all hurt by falling wages and lost jobs (except black Americans can’t even catch a break when there’s an increase in jobs). It’s also true, however, that that has nothing to do with immigration. But it’s Brooks’s assertion that a “racial issue” is an “emotional” rather than “thoughtful issue” I most take umbrage with.

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It’s the type of language used to dismiss the real-world concerns of those of us who live on the oppressed side of racism in America. Our issues aren’t considered serious intellectual questions but emotional reactions that are to be dealt with personally. But any discussion of jobs and wages that doesn’t consider race (or gender) is intellectually dishonest. To pretend there are not groups of people who are disproportionately disadvantaged under our current economic model and that our ongoing legacy of racism and white supremacy are not contributing factors means you are not actually looking for solutions. You’re turning the same blind eye that has allowed the suffering in the first place.

But let me also say that racism is an emotional issue, and that’s OK. It doesn’t make it any less serious. We owe it to the health of our country to directly confront the issue. Racism is actively killing us. Of course we’re emotional.

 

Read Next: Mychal Denzel Smith on how Americans insist on being delusional about racism

Hillary Clinton Joins GOP 2016 Hopefuls in Bashing President Obama

Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Seven—count ‘em—seven Republican 2016 hopefuls will be traveling through Iowa over an eleven-day stretch between August 2 and August 12, kissing babies, praising pigs, bashing teachers and, most of all, tearing into President Obama—when the person they’ll be running against in 2016, of course, will be Hillary Clinton, not Obama. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry will all be there. Not one of them has a snowball’s chance in Nevada of getting the nomination, which will go to one of the more “mainstream” Republicans: Chris Christie, Jeb Bush (Jeb Bush?!), Paul Ryan, or maybe one of the dark-horse GOP governors, such as Scott Walker (Wisconsin) or Mike Pence (Indiana). But Iowa, where Christian conservative caucus-goers hold the high cards, will send one or two of the GOP’s kooky far right into New Hampshire, and so they’re each hoping they’ll be the one. Perry, the goofy governor of Texas, is trying to go from Mr. Oops! to Mr. Iowa, with nine events scheduled in the state by this Tuesday, according to The Des Moines Register, leading the pack by far with a total of twenty-three appearances in Iowa.

The Register, in another piece, quotes an Iowa political analyst, Steffen Schmidt, thusly:

It probably would have been better if five or nine were coming because some smart-aleck political analyst will no doubt comment about Hillary Clinton as Snow White and the seven dwarfs.

There is widespread discontent bordering on despair among Republicans looking ahead to 2016, which is what probably accounts for the continuing speculation about whether Mitt Romney will suddenly emerge as the GOP’s favorite son once again, along with concern that so far the Republicans have been unable to put forward even a single female candidate to challenge what, after all, will be a female Democrat in 2016. Meanwhile, despite growing hopes and dreams among progressives that someone will emerge to challenge Clinton from the left—such as Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Zephyr Teachout, someone!—the former first lady and secretary of state is building an unassailable redoubt. (The latest CNN/ORC poll, released July 29, has Clinton leading Warren 67-10.) And while the Republicans are bashing Obama nonstop, ridiculously suing him in court, threatening impeachment and denouncing the White House’s alleged tyranny, Clinton is conducting her own assault on Obama, from the right, especially in regard to what she considers her strong suit, foreign policy.

In today’s edition, The Washington Post has a lengthy piece about Hillary Clinton’s eclipsing Obama in popularity, citing among things a Quinnipiac University poll in Ohio—the swing state on which Republican fortunes almost wholly depend in 2016—in which voters polled rated Obama an abysmal 36-59 percent job approval rating while giving Clinton a much more robust 52-43 approval, and backing Clinton by substantial margins against any and all GOP challengers. The Post also notes, with some glee, that Wall Street loves Clinton:

Some of the groups who have felt alienated by the Obama presidency are being won round by Clinton. Take Wall Street, always one of the president’s most complicated relationships. Although Wall Street financiers raised over $12 million during Obama’s last campaign, few financiers appear to have much love for the president. It was his administration that pushed the Dodd-Frank banking reforms into law, and Obama said recently that “further reforms” are required. As one banker put it to CNN Money: “There’s been so much finger pointing. He’s made it seem bad to be successful and to be millionaires and billionaires.”

More interestingly, the Post notes that Clinton didn’t miss an opportunity to slam Obama’s handling of foreign policy during an appearance on CNN on Sunday:

On foreign policy, look for Clinton to contrast her more hawkish tendencies with the Obama administration’s approach. During an interview on CNN on Sunday, Clinton appeared to criticize the Obama administration’s interactions with other nations. “How do we try to enlist the rest of the world in this struggle between cooperation and order and conflict and disorder, which is really at the root of so much that’s going on today? And I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of that,” she said. She also noted the popularity of George W. Bush in Africa because of his efforts to battle AIDS there. He made me “proud to be an American again,” Clinton said.

In other words—no surprise, Christie Watch guesses, to readers of The Nation—Clinton is courting Wall Street, bashing Obama’s diplomatic efforts and saying that George W. Bush made her “proud to be an American.” Sounds like there’s a country song in their somewhere.

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Unfortunately for the GOP, which insists on attacking Clinton from the right, none of their nonsense (such as Benghazi) is having much effect, and that leaves her lots of running room to run as a candidate more hawkish and more pro –Wall Street than Obama. The Republicans are each finding it difficult to separate themselves from the pack while simultaneously figuring out a way to build the case against Hillary Clinton, as The Hill’s Campaign Blog notes in “The GOP’s 2016 Hillary paradox.”

So, as Joan Walsh points out in Salon:

Promising GOP governors—McDonnell, Christie, Walker—find themselves dogged by scandal. The Tea Party trio of Paul, Cruz and Rubio still vies for media attention and right wing adoration, but Rubio’s immigration reform work doomed him on the right. Unbelievably, Paul is widely labeled the frontrunner (but don’t tell that to Cruz), while the party establishment and neocon hawks search for an alternative. Despite all that impressive talent, Mitt Romney leads the pack in New Hampshire.

 

Read Next: Christie touts anti-public schools record on 2016 campaign trail.

The End of Reefer Madness?

Marijuana

(Reuters/Nir Elias)

Dropping “a bomb on our country’s disastrous war on marijuana with unprecedented force,” The New York Times launched last month High Time: An Editorial Series on Marijuana Legalization, a seven-parter that puts the paper squarely—I believe—on the right side of history on this issue. (Happily, with the exception of its title, “High Time” is refreshingly free of bad puns and Cheetos jokes.) Citing “vast social costs,” “racist results,” and “overwhelming evidence that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems,” the Timeseditorial board advocated a repeal of the nation’s cannabis prohibition.

Last November, of course, The Nation went all-in on marijuana-law reform with our “Dope and Change” issue, and I wrote, “If Congress—with its dismal 8 percent approval rating—wants to enjoy a popularity as high as marijuana’s, it might consider revisiting pot’s federal prohibition.” The blanket federal ban is unworkable on many levels, not least of which is the capriciousness of its enforcement: Given the crazy-quilt of state and local medicinal and decriminalization laws, the actual prohibition of marijuana in this country comes down to, as the Times puts it, “the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.” Needless to say, this type of jurisprudence is neither fair nor just; Harry Levine reported in “Dope and Change” that since 1997 in New York City, 87 percent of NYPD’s 600,000 marijuana-possession arrests were of blacks and Latinos.

The data-driven, nuts-and-bolts reasons for legalization are legion, and—to an unbiased eye—overwhelmingly convincing. But the bias behind prohibition, born out of 1920s- and ’30s-era xenophobia and racism, continues to impress itself on the minds of pundits and policymakers across the political spectrum. “The problem that prohibition advocates have,” writes Paul Waldman at The American Prospect, “is that so much of their rhetoric hasn’t changed in decades, steeped in culture war resentments and reliant on fear-mongering.” A 2008 article on AlterNet illustrates that twentieth-century drug prohibition was born in places where white minorities ruled over non-white majorities—South Africa and Jamaica, for example—before becoming a xenophobic tool of law enforcement (against Latinos in California and Texas, Middle Eastern immigrants in New York, Asians on the Pacific Coast) in places with white majorities.

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An examination into the whys and wherefores of our broken cannabis policy is well overdue. After all, this story can and should be about more than just marijuana. American pot prohibition ought to be seen as a cautionary tale of what happens when we create policy based not on appropriately reasoned ideas, but rather on fear, racism and the sensational-but-unfounded caterwauling of policymakers and think-tankers who should know better.

If American drug prohibition laws were enacted, as is convincingly argued, in the service of furthering discrimination, then you’d have to say—based on the arrest and incarceration numbers—that they’ve been a smashing success. But as far as advancing public health goes… well, they’re a disaster. This discrepancy is worth noting. At a time when governmental dysfunction is so prevalent and the demand for congressional action—any action—is high, we need to be aware of the real motives we’re asking our elected officials to promote (For example, how much of our “homeland security” policy is actually driven by xenophobia and racism? How much resistance to the Affordable Care Act?). With marijuana, bigotry-based policy has delivered a nearly 100-year-long quagmire from which we’re only now beginning to extricate ourselves with fact-based debate and informed dissent.

Read Next: Lee Fang on the real reason pot is still illegal

Why Waiting Your Turn in Line Doesn’t Make Sense for Desperate Immigrant Families

immigration detention

Undocumented immigrants wait in a holding facility after arriving at the US Border Patrol detention center in Nogales, Arizona. (Reuters/Jeff Topping)

Whenever the issue of immigration comes up in Congress, lawmakers point to “the line.” Just get in line, wait your turn! This magical, invisible line encapsulates an enduring myth of immigration policy—the idea that if you play by the rules and make an honest case for yourself, your patience will pay off, your American dream redeemed in a timely fashion. But the reality for countless immigrants is that when they attempt to line up for their “turn” to finally gain that coveted green card, the process is more a game of roulette than an orderly queue. Each day, Congress, the White House and the courts are all making the legalization process ever more arbitrary and byzantine.

The House voted Friday to accelerate deportations and intensify border enforcement for the tens of thousands of Central American children now seeking safe passage through the southwest border. And just to double-down on that anti-immigrant bill (which is politically bound to fail) conservatives also voted to repeal the White House’s existing initiative to give temporary protection to undocumented youth. Those measures aimed to expand the Obama administration’s mass deportation campaigns, which have already split up thousands of families. Meanwhile, although a large portion of the stranded children would likely qualify for humanitarian relief, immigration officers and courts continually fail to uphold legal immigration avenues in a way that makes sense for families or addresses humanitarian needs.

In fact, while Congress dithered this summer, the Supreme Court further botched the immigration system with a ruling that upends a law designed to keep immigrant families intact. In the case of Scialabba v. Cuellar de Osorio, the Court issued a narrow interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act (2002), a measure dealing with children of immigrants who had gotten stuck “in line” while their family’s immigration petitions were pending. The reforms aimed to relieve young people who had effectively “aged out” of the “child” category in the family reunification process, because of many years of administrative delays and legal backlogs. The reform would “freeze” the children’s applications at the age when their parents petitioned for them, to prevent their applications from inadvertently lapsing once they turned 21 while waiting “on line” for legal status.

But the Court interpreted this law so narrowly that it will now only offer relief to certain green-card holders who petitioned for their children, leaving out countless other families. Many children in more obscure immigration categories—particularly asylum seekers and special employment visas—can still age out. Those youth will join the floating population of those “without papers,” though their families might have diligently filed piles of paperwork on their behalf.

At best, according to immigration advocates, those youth must rely on the discretion of immigration authorities to determine their status on an individual, case-by-case basis. So instead of providing a rational legal pathway for these young people, the Supreme Court decision leaves them in an even deeper limbo.

According to Michele McKenzie, an attorney with the Minnesota-based Advocates for Human Rights, for the aged-out children of asylum seekers, including those still stranded in their home country after their parents escaped, “There is no right to relief and no way to immigrate from abroad—despite what appears to be the stated purpose of the law.”

If the law functioned reasonably, McKenzie explains, an asylum seeker would petition immediately for reunification with her spouse and children, and the reassembled family could naturalize within a few years. But in the asylum cases that her organization sees, the process is much messier. Typically, family members arrive separately, depending on their circumstances back home, which are often deeply violent and unstable. To obtain asylum, they undergo extensive interviews and legal vetting, on top of petitioning for their estranged kids, and may then have to appeal if their claim is initially rejected. “Your case could easily take longer than childhood,” McKenzie says. And once the asylum seeker’s family reunification process is ruptured by the child’s twenty-first birthday, “all that time is lost to the family through the delay.” In some cases, the parents’ only hope is to wait for a green card and start the process all over again, putting their adult children in an indefinite wait on a new “line.”

There are many other “lines” for children of immigrants leading to nowhere. In New York City, hundreds of teachers who were recruited from abroad to work in local schools may now find their families split by this esoteric legal gap—with kids becoming aged out, and legally severed from their parents, many of whom are by now legal residents.

Mikhel Crichlow, who migrated from Trinidad with his school teacher mother over a decade ago, has spent the prime of his young adulthood in a legal rut. Now in his late 20s, he has obtained temporary status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the White House’s temporary reprieve for undocumented youth who came as children (yes, the same politically popular policy that House Republicans just voted to repeal, thus smothering another futile border enforcement bill). But now that he has aged out, he cannot settle permanently to study and find work—which was, ironically, the main reason his family came to the US in the first place.

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Now an activist with The International Youth Association, an advocacy group for undocumented youth, Crichlow tells The Nation via e-mail: “Congress needs to fix their mistake, they intended [for] this law to cover more people than it does now.” And as long as the immigration reform impasse continues in Washington, he hopes local and federal authorities can work out some legal arrangement for young people like him, whose parents migrated to fill government jobs. “It is bad enough that they are tearing apart desperate immigrant families in this country,” Crichlow says, “but to then fail the families of their own employees is especially egregious.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, lawmakers remain baffled as to why people can’t just follow the rules and get in the “back of the line.” Wherever that is.

The absurdity will deepen as more migrant kids fill the legal dockets along the southwestern border. In the courts, the immigration office, or the detention center, there is no “line” for them, just chaos and desperation. And the brutal incompetence of the system speaks to the moral hollowness of the call to “wait your turn.” These youth are tragically patient, because they simply have nowhere to go. So they wait, aged beyond their years, for our politicians to grow out of their shameful ignorance.

 

Read Next: Óscar Martínez on why migrant children will not stop fleeing to the United States

His Name Was Ahed Zaqout: Former Palestinian Soccer Star Killed in Gaza

Palestine soccer fans

Palestinians cheer as they watch their team play in the AFC Cup final. (Reuters/Mohammed Salem) 

All it took was a recording of Donald Sterling insulting Magic Johnson in a derogatory manner for the twenty-four-hour news world to stop on its axis. Now imagine if Donald Sterling—in all of his paranoid, racist fervor—had an army at his disposal and bombed Magic Johnson in his home, killing him in his sleep.

If such a scenario sounds like hacky Phillip K. Dick fan fiction as written by Mike Lupica, then you have not been paying attention to the dystopian, genocidal panorama in Gaza, where no one is safe. You are unfamiliar with the name Ahed Zaqout.

Ahed Zaqout was a 49-year-old sportscaster and television host in Gaza, a national sports voice for a people without a nation. Two decades ago, he was a soccer star: the midfielder for the Palestinian national soccer team. On Wednesday, he was killed in his bed by the bombs of the Israeli Defense Forces.

As Gaza sports journalist Khaled Zaher told Reuters, “Palestine has lost one of its best players, he may have been the best midfielder we ever had.”

Why the IDF was “defending” itself against Zaqout is a mystery. He was no Muhammad Ali, using sports to advance any kind of political cause. He was that most conventional and familiar of person in sports: the ex-star jock turned broadcaster. But in Gaza, what we may see as conventional can become political. Zaqout was someone whose voice, sharp wit, and trenchant analysis was a source of joy and escape for a people under constant siege. Providing escape to the trapped of Gaza was in and of itself a political act.

Was Zaqout actually targeted, or did he die in yet another pitiless IDF bombing of civilians? If we believe Netanyahu and his defenders—that the reports by journalists and the United Nations of indiscriminate mass killings are a fabrication—then it is worth asking, Why did Ahed Zaqout have to die?

Based on the description and reports of the bombing, it is doubtful that his was a pinpoint assassination. Far more likely, Zaqout was a victim of Netanyahu’s mania for total war—a mania that makes my earlier Donald Sterling comparison frankly insulting to Mr. Sterling. But if he was in fact targeted, it would be yet another example of the ways in which Israel has attacked the soccer community of Gaza as a way to choke any respite or relief that the people could possibly possess.

Soccer is about people feeling a sense of collective joy and hope. It creates scenes, like the ones in earlier this year—it feels like a lifetime ago—of thousands of people on the Gaza beach celebrating the ascension of their national team.

Attacking soccer is about attacking these very national aspirations. It’s the inhumane act targeting a collective expression of humanity.

Currently FIFA is debating sanctions against Israel’s membership in the organization because of formal accusations that it has used state violence to stunt the Palestinian national team

Ahed Zaqout should be a part of this debate. Whether Zaqout was targeted or was caught up in an indiscriminate killing should be irrelevant to FIFA. One of their own was killed, and that has to count for something.

A critical voice in this debate is FIFA’s European President Michel Platini. Platini has been sharply critical of Israel yet also has championed the staging of tournaments there over international objections. Platini was also once a great player for the French national team. In a 1994 friendly match between France and the Palestinian national squad, Platini played across a fair-haired whippet named Ahed Zaqout. Perhaps he will remember his name as this debate moves forward.

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I know it is stunning to think that FIFA could be any kind of force for social justice, but unlike the United Nations, the United States can’t unilaterally block FIFA’s decisions. And unlike the United Nations, FIFA could do something that would have teeth and that people across the world would actually notice. Perhaps in the face of the bloodshed in Gaza and in the memory of Ahed Zaqout, it will send a message that a country that imprisons another has no place in the world of international sports. If the politicians won’t act, then perhaps the world of sports must. After all, even Magic Johnson just cancelled an event in Jerusalem.

 

Read Next: Dave Zirin on the luxury of medical care in a country where hospitals aren’t bombed

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 08/01/14?

Mcdonald's

(Reuters/Mike Blake)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

Facebook for Space? Airbnb’s Weird Corporate Nationhood,” by Kate Losse. Dissent, July 26, 2014.

This article in Dissent looks at the oddness of corporations’ constant appeal to emotional ties through the case of Airbnb: you no longer simply pay for a room, you actually belong to a community. The odd sense that you have to love the person you rent a room from hides the purely transactional nature of the company. It is not only tedious and slightly shallow, but it also makes bargaining harder and fundamentally transforms the way we think of payment, concealing it.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

Whiteness is Still a Proxy for Being American,” by Peter Beinart. The Atlantic, July 27, 2014.

The thought that someone might mistake me for a foreigner has crossed my mind many, many times since I was a child. Despite my Filipino ethnicity, my nationality is American, since I was born and raised here. Although the dialogue of America as a “melting pot” is a well-known one, it seems that the default image of an American has always been that of a white person. White people are the “norm” in society, which is evident from beauty standards to the fact that they’re more likely to uphold the image of the “American dream.” Let’s make this clear: race and ethnicity don’t devalue how “American” someone is.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

‘Water, Water Everywhere’: Racial Inequality and Reproductive Justice in Detroit,” by Cortney Bouse and Elizabeth Mosley. RH Reality Check, July 22, 2014.

This piece situates the water shutoff in Detroit in a larger sociopolitical context. The authors begin with the story of a woman named Kendra, who must push a cart several blocks every morning in order to access water, a basic human right, from a friend whose water hasn’t yet been shut off. They take this seemingly isolated story and draw connections to a rural area in Western Uganda where Mosley often saw women having to make these same daily trips for water. Mosley and Bouse also draw on the European colonization of East Africa in the twentieth century, “characterized by depletion of resources, exploitation of communities of color, and underinvestment in social infrastructure,” similar to what is currently happening in Detroit. And as if it wasn’t enough to make connections between the two “populations of color [facing] similarly devastating consequences from the inherently intertwined systems of capitalism and racism,” Mosley and Bouse tie the water shutoffs to reproductive health and justice.

They state how such water shutoffs “carry significant consequences for the health of racially and economically marginalized women,” and are “life-long assaults against personal autonomy endured by women.” This piece had my attention right away with its multilayered discussion, uncovering various intersections of gender, race and class regarding access to reproductive health and the movement for reproductive rights. I would go even one step further and consider the deteriorating situation of Detroit in the larger context of America’s “War on Terror,” just one example of the incarcerated “other” here at home. In an essay titled, “Detroit: Incarcerated and Disappeared in the Land of the Free,” by Trinh Minh-ha, the author states, “The war on terrorism has crystallized many of our phobias and prejudices. It gives racial profiling a new twist, while highlighting issues of immigration, identification,…as well as cultural and gender discrimination,” but “[c]olor, class, gender, culture are not categories, but an ongoing project and dimension of consciousness.”

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

‘Even If You Don’t Like It, You’re Supposed to Appear That You Do,’” by Noah Berlatsky. The Atlantic, July 28, 2014.

As of late, increasing attention has been paid to women’s social justice movements, and along those lines, this week The Atlantic interviewed Feminista Jones, a writer, activist, social worker and founder of the street harassment hashtag campaign #YouOkSis. The interview centralizes around what every person can do to support victims of street harassment and highlights the failure of both law enforcement and public policy on this issue. Street harassment, as Feminista Jones articulates, has not always amplified black women’s voices (as many women’s movements have historically framed themselves to be) and the consequence of this history is as follows: “[Black women] have not been given the opportunity to express the pain that we feel. What happens when we’re walking down the street is that people will harass us and see us being both women and also black, and they understand that nobody gives a shit about us.”

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.

I’m Sick of Hearing About Political Polarization,” by Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg View, July 30, 2014.

The media’s driving narrative about Washington mostly focuses on political polarization, and rampant partisanship has become almost a cottage industry with new charts and studies coming out, it seems, on almost a weekly basis to show just how far apart the two parties are, harkening to a golden age of civility that never really existed, at least in the way that the press often presents it. Jonathan Bernstein discusses how the focus relies on how we got here—which is, admittedly, fascinating—but never on how to affect change through the framework of our representative government. Bernstein is right, too, that the focus on the trend of the conservative coalition (of southern Democrats and conservative Republicans) from the 1930s through the 1960s was an anomaly in what has been a history that’s rife with partisanship. (It should be noted, of course, that this coalition is what thwarted civil rights legislation for decades). Bernstein doesn’t provide any answers, but he does at least ask questions, the first step toward progress.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

Got Your Back.” This American Life, July 25, 2014.

Hamida Gulistani of Ghazni, Afghanistan was exactly the type of woman that the US wanted in its camp. Since 2005, she has been fearless about advocating for women’s rights, often intervening in abusive family relationships, using a combination of religious leadership and the press to shame men into treating their wives and daughters more humanely. With US support, she became a known figure in Afghanistan—a spokesperson for women’s rights who felt she could speak her mind in the public arena. Now that the US is leaving Ghazni, Gulistani is in a lot of danger—she’s been shot at in a mall, and her driver was shot in the arm. Kevin Sieff, the Afghanistan bureau chief for The Washington Post, reported her story for This American Life.

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

The Unknown History of Latino Lynchings,” by Maximo Anguiano. independentcreativeservices.tumblr.com, July 9, 2014.

The title says it all: “The Unknown History of Latino Lynchings.” A summary of Richard Delgado’s 2009 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review article, Maximo Anguiano brought this predominantly unknown history back onto the online stage this week via his Tumblr page, Independent Creative Services. In doing so, he reminded America of its deep roots in multiracial racism, where Latin@s and African-Americans were being lynched alongside one another from 1846 to 1925. (Which, when you think about it, wasn’t really that long ago.) Unfortunately, as Delgado points out, Latin@ lynchings were edited and minimized out of documented history since most lynching accounts were reported in Spanish language newspapers—sources that few mainstream American historians consult. Interestingly, Delgado goes on to wonder if remnants of Latin@ lynching may still be present today in the form of current movements to make English the official language of the US, attempts to end bilingual school and/or enforcing English-only speaking at jobs. It’s absolutely fundamental, Anguiano writes, that people of color and whites alike educate themselves on this history and refuse to be quite about the modern day “lynchings”—like the school-to-prison pipeline, stalled immigration reform, deportations, etc. “In order to achieve our full capabilities,” he says, “we need to reject a fragmented history and seek a personal revolution, which starts with ourselves.

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora, immigration, black feminist thought, and police brutality.

The Girls Obama Forgot,” by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. The New York Times, July 30, 2014.

For too long, to be black in America has meant to be black and male. The struggle of men of color in this country is now broadcasted more than ever through Obama’s My Brothers Keeper program. The discourse in the United States today is about “fixing men of color—particularly young black men…[and] this hits a political sweet spot among populations that both love and fear them.” But while “liberal” advocates clench their purses and tend to the needs of men, women of color remain in crisis. To be black and female in America means that you are both absent and exploited. Black women’s bodies and experiences are continually appropriated to entertain the masses, but when it comes time to create racial justice policy, women of color are continually forgotten. As Kimberle Crenshaw states in her op-ed for The New York Times, “The median wealth of single black and Hispanic women is $100 and $120, respectively—compared with almost $7,900 for black men, $9,730 for Hispanic men and $41,500 for white women.” But what has been overlooked is that the women and girls of color who put the president in the White House refuse to be viewed as stepping stools for their male counterparts. My Brother’s Keeper advocates addressing individual circumstances and not systematic inequality. As Crenshaw outlines, it’s the classic analogy of the canary in the coal mine. Men of color have been used to alert everyone of the toxic environment in the mine, and policy creators and advocates have created narrow solutions to only alleviate the of distress of the canary. Women and girls have been left to survive in the mines toxic environment—holding their breath while continually being told that they are strong enough to endure. But systematic oppression is not the Olympics. Men of color must realize that their experiences are intricately bound to the women in their lives. Because this movement—that allows patriarchy and not gender equality to dominate—will never be sustainable.

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

McDonald’s Ruling Could Open Door for Unions,” by Steven Greenhouse. The New York Times, July 30, 2014.

The Fight for $15 campaign just won a small victory that could lead to big consequences for the McDonald’s franchise. On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the fast-food giant could be held “jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators.” The ruling was a result of the labor board’s legal team’s investigation of complaints from fast food workers accusing McDonald’s and its franchisees of unfair labor practices. The cases stemmed from the five one-day strikes demanding a $15 wage in November of 2012, when over 100 workers complained that they were retaliated against for protesting, either by having hours cut or losing their jobs entirely. The ruling is significant on many levels, one being the prospect of companies finally being held accountable for violating worker’s rights. As temp agencies proliferate, blame for workplace abuses is constantly tossed between employer and contractor, ending ultimately with no action. With this latest ruling, however, McDonald’s will no longer be able to partake in that model by diverting blame onto its franchisees.

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GOP: How Dare You Say What I Said About Impeachment

John Boehner

John Boehner (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) 

The Republican leadership is furious that the media keep talking about their plans to impeach Barack Obama, and the GOP knows who’s injecting this false idea into the talking heads: Barack Obama.

Even as he led the House in the unprecedented step Wednesday of voting to sue a POTUS, House speaker John Boehner insists that all this talk about impeachment is “coming from the president’s own staff, and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they’re trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year’s election. We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,” Boehner emphasized. “Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”

And although any alert reporter knows it’s Boehner’s protest that’s the scam (a dozen or so Republican congressmen have openly called for Obama’s impeachment; White House spokesman Josh Earnest named some of them, including Representative Steve King of Iowa and Steve Stockman of Texas, earlier this week), some in the corporate media nevertheless sniff a chance to deploy false equivalencies once more.

Chuck Todd, for example, said on Morning Joe, “I think the White House ought to be embarrassed at how they’re trying to play it. Boehner, the idea that he’s saying, Oh, we’re not talking impeachment. The lawsuit, please. That’s about placating the impeachment caucus in his own party. This is sort of an embarrassing moment for Washington. The leaders of both parties here, they’re driving away people from the polls. They’re driving people away from politics. This is cynical, it’s ugly, it’s disgusting.”

This pox-on-both-your-houses rant ignores the two houses’ very different dimensions. Calling for impeachment when no grounds for it exist and responding to those calls by raising funds to beat the impeachment-wingers at the polls are not equally cynical. It’s true that Democrats are exploiting GOP calls for impeachment to raise ire and money—several million dollars so far. And good for them. Why, in the age of Citizens United, shouldn’t they? “It would be malpractice if they didn’t do it,” Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart said on Hardball.

The Republicans’ inability to throw their base red meat without sane people noticing drives them into high-dudgeon denial. Hilariously so. On Tuesday, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said, “Republicans, conservatives, not talking about it. Only Democrats. It’s to gin up the base before November.” He said this even though, just days earlier, as Media Matters points out, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano appeared on F&F “and counseled the GOP to impeach the president, which Napolitano claimed would ‘focus his attention immediately.’”

Fox is also trying to gloss over the impeachment soap opera coming from some of its other contributors, like Allen West and, most famously, Sarah Palin. Yeah, but those are just has-been fringers, not to be taken seriously, centrists point out. Chuck Todd even mocked Josh Earnest for listing pro-impeachment officials currently in office. The White House spokesman, Todd said, was “sitting at the podium trying ticking off names of—oooh-oooh—look at Republicans that want impeachment.”

But look who’s wagging the dog here. According to a CNN/ORC International poll, 57 percent of Republicans say they support impeaching Obama. And Representative Steve Scalise, the new House majority whip, wouldn’t put impeachment off the table when Chris Wallace asked him about it three times. (It was a fascinating example of getting hoisted on your own talking point: each time Scalise refused to rule out impeachment, he blamed Obama for keeping the issue alive.)

For the record, John Boehner won’t take impeachment off that increasingly crowded table either.

Worse, Boehner is ignoring the top GOPer who “started” it: himself. The notoriously weak speaker set this latest round of impeachment talk in motion by bringing the lawsuit against Obama to the floor in the first place. The idea of this “impeachment lite” was to let his Tea Party masters vent their Obama hatred in a way that it would squelch talk of actual impeachment. The Republican leadership knows the issue could backfire on them during the 2014 elections, just as it did when the GOP impeached Clinton in 1998 and lost five House seats that year they previously had in the bag.

But rather than cool impeachment fever, the lawsuit has in fact heated it up by giving extremists in the House another way to question “responsible” Republicans’ true commitment to the cause. At least four of the five conservatives who voted against the lawsuit did so because they think it’s a weenie version of impeachment.

Here’s the bottom line: Boehner responded to impeachment talk from his right wing by filing a lawsuit. Yet when Democrats responded to that same impeachment talk from the same right wing, Boehner claims that it doesn’t exist—and if it does, the Dems are behind it.

We’ve seen this political blame-the-victim game before. Republicans from Glenn Beck to Karl Rove blamed Obama for keeping the birther issue alive by not releasing his long-form birth certificate as soon as they demanded it. (When he did, the Trump-led crazies received a very public pie in the face.) Last October, Republicans with presidential ambitions, like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, blamed Obama for the government shutdown, even though they both voted for it and maneuvered around their leadership to make it happen. It’s worth recalling that before the shutdown went down, Boehner insisted that it was going nowhere—just as he now swears that impeachment ain’t gonna happen.

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Making the GOP bear some responsibility for the crazy in their ranks is the real purpose behind the spotlight Democrats are shining on the right-wing fever swamps. The media’s “both sides do it” reflex obscures the real meaning of this particular charade. Chris Matthews, I think, has it right: he’s been saying the right wants to delegitimize this president (more than they did even Clinton), to put an “asterisk” by his name in the history books so they can pretend that a black man was never really the president of the United States.

If Republicans win the Senate in November, then we’ll be hearing more a lot more about impeachment, no matter how much John Boehner says otherwise.

 

Read Next: Katrina vanden Heuvel on how Obama could strengthen the middle class