Correction: In the original version of this piece, I mistakenly attributed Omar Barghouti's words about academic freedom to Judith Butler. I came across the quote in Judith Butler's journal article "Israel/Palestine and the Paradoxes of Academic Freedom." In the original, from Radical Philosophy, Barghouti's words are clearly set off to indicate that they are, in fact a quotation. In the version I read, at the European Graduation School website, that formatting is absent, making them seem as if Butler authored them. I regret the error and sincerely apologize to Butler. (Editor's Note: The text of this blog post has been changed to correct this error.)
Here is something confusing about the debate over the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel: its supporters, in general, have lesser expectations for its concrete impact than its opponents do. The people fighting for it also minimize it as largely symbolic.
On Wednesday, the ASA’s national council voted unanimously in favor of boycotting Israel. In an unusual move, the council then threw the question to the ASA’s approximately 5,000 members, who have until December 15 to vote. If it passes, the ASA will become the second significant American academic association to boycott Israel, after the Association for Asian American Studies, which joined the boycott in April. It will be a sign that the BDS movement, long far more influential in Europe than in the United States, is gaining a real foothold in American academia.
That’s likely to be alarming to many Israelis, even if they’re not particularly concerned with the opinions of radical American professors. Indeed, one of the strongest arguments in favor of BDS is the degree to which it seems to be shaking the Israeli establishment. As Haaretz editor in chief Aluf Benn wrote in June, “Netanyahu is worried about the growing international boycott against Israel….He hears warnings in the business community about the damage the diplomatic impasse is causing…. If he thought it was harmless noise, he would ignore or minimize the problem. But Netanyahu apparently fears being remembered as the leader during whose time Israel was distanced from the family of nations.”
Many in Israel were shocked earlier this year when Stephen Hawking, acceding to the boycotters, pulled out of Israel’s prestigious President’s Conference. Discussing the reaction of Israel’s leadership, former Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner wrote, “Behind closed doors they’re laughing at Kerry’s peace mission; they’re not laughing at Stephen Hawking or BDS, are they?”
So BDS appears to be working. But even if you believe, as I do, that the Israeli occupation is a great crime, the movement presents real ethical problems when it’s applied to academia. It’s repellant to contemplate Israeli professors being shut out of conferences or barred from journals for no reason other than their ethnicity, or forced to prove sufficient opposition to the occupation to be part of international intellectual life. Arguing against the resolution, New School History professor Claire Potter, who runs a blog called “Tenured Radical” at The Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote, “Scholars of any nation ought to be free to travel, publish and collaborate across borders: I consider this to be a fundamental human right, and so does the United Nations. We in the American Studies Association cannot defend some of those human rights and disregard others.”
Some fervent backers of academic BDS reject this argument on the grounds Palestinians are denied their rights to travel and collaborate across borders; in this view, concern for the freedoms of Israeli scholars smacks of bourgeois privilege. Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, has been blithely dismissive of academic freedom as a first principle: “The right to live, and freedom from subjugation and colonial rule, to name a few, must be of more import than academic freedom,” he wrote. “If the latter contributes in any way to suppression of the former, more fundamental rights, it must give way.”
This argument is alarming—who, one might ask, gets to decide when academic freedom must be jettisoned?—but it’s not the one that supporters of the ASA boycott are making. To be sure, they believe that they’re championing Palestinian academic freedom. But they also say that their boycott is narrowly drawn to apply only to collaboration with Israeli institutions, not individual professors, and so its impact on the academic freedom of Israeli intellectuals and the people who work with them will be negligible. “There is no limitation on Israeli scholars coming to give lectures or talks or engaging in any other kind of dialogue or project,” says national council member Sunaina Maira, a professor at UC Davis. “It is targeted at formal collaboration with or sponsorship by Israeli academic institutions. Mere affiliation is not boycotted.”
What does that mean in practice? The boycott “bars the ASA as an organization from entering into partnerships with Israeli institutions,” says Matthew Frye Jacobson, a Yale professor and past president of the ASA, another national council member. “Not that there’s a whole lot of that that has ever gone on anyway, so in that sense it’s symbolic.” The boycott would also prohibit invitations to representatives of Israeli universities in their official capacity—in other words, deans and provosts speaking on their schools’ behalf—but, again, that’s not something that happened much, if at all, to begin with.
Still, there’s reason to think that, informally, the boycott will go further. On the ASA website, there’s a link to the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which calls for institutional boycotts like the ASA’s to be broadly interpreted. Even if invitations or conversations with Israeli colleagues aren’t prohibited, it says, “[A]ll academic exchanges with Israeli academics do have the effect of normalizing Israel and its politics of occupation and apartheid. Academics could consider whether equally valuable contributions might not be made by non-Israeli colleagues; whether an invitation to a Palestinian intellectual might be preferable; whether the exchange is intellectually or pedagogically essential.”
This is ugly and stupid. One might just as easily make an argument for shunning Noam Chomsky on the ground that his employer, MIT, is a major defense contractor, making him in some ways a party to America’s manifold misdeeds in the Middle East.
So the boycott could turn into a de facto blacklist, though if it manages to contribute to a powerful movement against the Israeli occupation without discriminating against individual scholars, it could also be a force for good. One of the best arguments in favor of BDS in general comes from Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, who wrote in July, “On the assumption that the current status quo cannot continue forever, [BDS] is the most reasonable option to convince Israel to change…As long as Israelis don’t pay a price for the occupation, or at least don’t make the connection between cause and effect, they have no incentive to bring it to an end.” But when it comes to the university, exacting that price has a price of its own.
Update, December 7, 2013, 5:30pm:After I posted this piece, I learned that Claire Potter had changed her position on the ASA resolution and voted yes. Reached by phone, she explained how the shift in her thinking came out. When she first expressed qualms about the academic boycott, she says, “The response was overwhelming. There were massive numbers of people, including a lot of people I know, just writing these nasty things on my blog about what a horrible person I was.”
As the debate about BDS and academic freedom has moved forward, she looked for a way to engage in it constructively, but increasingly felt like she couldn’t do so from outside. “The problem, when you hold to a position so rigidly, you yourself become part of the polarization,” she says. “I all of the sudden became a cause célèbre for all kinds of other people, when that is really not what I intended at all. I would like to have a conversation about academic freedom within this strategy.”
A couple of things convinced her that that was possible. First, the ASA National Council adapted the boycott resolution to make its commitment to academic freedom clearer. And then, rather than simply passing the resolution itself, it took the unusual step of putting it to a vote of the ASA membership, which struck her as an effort at compromise. “If there had been concessions on both sides and they had been able to come to a consensus around this vision, I felt like I should support them, because compromise is hard work.”
Essentially, she decided to give her colleagues the benefit of the doubt. “It has become clear to me that there is a shift in political concerns, that maybe I need to see how it works,” she says. “Everybody in BDS says this is not a restriction of academic freedom, that individuals will not be targeted. I’m going to take a leap of faith and say ok, lets see if this does in fact work out the way you say its going to work out.”
Elizabeth Segran writes about a recent groundswell of feminist sentiment throughout the Muslim world.
Nation national security correspondent Jeremy Scahill appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about his film Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, which was shortlisted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for an Oscar this week. Dirty Wars takes a critical look at the US targeted killing campaign in Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia and beyond. Scahill also dismissed a plan announced by the Obama administration in July to narrow the scope of its killing program. “It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors,” Scahill said, arguing that Obama and his team have set a precedent of pre-emptive war for future presidents.
If Third Way is truly concerned about electing Democrats, they chose a strange fundraising firm to partner with.
When Third Way’s president and senior vice president of policy published a Wall Street Journal opinion piece this week decrying the economic positions of Bill de Blasio and Elizabeth Warren, namely, taxing the rich and expanding entitlement programs, their arguments rested on (weak) grounds that such ideas are bad for Democratic Party electoral prospects.
Earlier this week, TheNation.com obtained the latest disclosure forms for Third Way and reported that the think tank relies on a corporate lobbying firm called Peck, Madigan & Jones—a company featured by The Hill as among the “Top Lobbyists” of 2013—to raise more than half a million dollars a year. What makes Peck, Madigan & Jones such a top player on K Street?
Peck, Madigan & Jones’s largest client is the US Chamber of Commerce, a corporate trade group that represents large corporations like AIG, Bank of America and Dow Chemical. The Chamber, through its financial policy and legal affiliates, has paid Peck, Madigan & Jones $570,000 this year alone.
While the Third Way op-ed made a point of claiming that progressive economic policies wouldn’t play well with voters in Colorado, in 2008, their fundraisers’ client ran nasty attack ads against a Third Way leader in the state. When Third Way co-chair Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) first ran for the Senate, the US Chamber sponsored an advertisement against him on energy policy, declaring, “Every time he’s blocked American energy production, he’s made the tyrants and sheiks happy. But we’ve paid the price.”
Last year, Third Way co-chair Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) faced a barrage of attacks from the Chamber. One ad during the election last year instructed viewers, “Call Claire McCaskill. Tell her Missouri doesn’t need government-run health care. Support the repeal. We need jobs!” Watch it:
As The Huffington Post’s Luke Johnson reported, other Third Way co-chairs have commented on the growing controversy over the Wall Street Journal column. Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Ron Kind (D-WI)—all Third Way co-chairs—have distanced themselves from the arguments laid out in the piece.
We noted earlier this week that several Third Way trustees gave campaign money to Mitt Romney. But it might be even more problematic for the group that it has ties to the US Chamber, an organization that is dedicated to unseating Third Way leaders.
Peter Rothberg lists the top ten songs about Nelson Mandela.
On the same day that President Obama eloquently described his vision of an economy defined by economic mobility and opportunity for all, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow was busy cutting a deal with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to slice another $8 to $9 billion from food stamps (SNAP), according to a source close to the negotiations.
“One study shows that more than half of Americans will experience poverty at some point during their adult lives,” said President Obama. “Think about that. This is not an isolated situation.… That’s why we have nutrition assistance or the program known as SNAP, because it makes a difference for a mother who’s working, but is just having a hard time putting food on the table for her kids.”
Indeed it does, but the chairwoman consistently fails to get the memo.
There are currently 47 million Americans who turn to food stamps to help make ends meet. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 72 percent are in families with children; and one-quarter of SNAP participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. Further, 91 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line, and 55 percent to households below half of the poverty line (about $9,500 annually for a family of three).
Despite the fact that the Institute of Medicine demonstrated the inadequacy of the SNAP benefit allotment, and that a child’s access to food stamps has a positive impact on adult outcomes, the program was just cut by $5 billion on November 1. The average benefit dropped from $1.50 to $1.40 per meal. The Senate Agriculture Committee’s previous proposal to cut yet another $4 billion from SNAP would have led to 500,000 losing $90 per month in benefits, the equivalent of one week’s worth of meals.
“That was the first time in history that a Democratic-controlled Senate had even proposed cutting the SNAP program,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “The willingness of some Senate Democrats to double new cuts to the program…is unthinkable.”
The president recognized in a very personal way the need for a SNAP program that protects families from severe hardship.
“When my father left and my mom hit hard times trying to raise my sister and me while she was going to school, this country helped make sure we didn’t go hungry,” he said.
In contrast, Berg tells of a mother he recently met who now sees this country turning away from her and her children.
“I recently met a mother of two, trying to advance herself and her family, by working her way through college,” said Berg. “After November 1st, she lost $46 worth of groceries a month, which equals at least thirty fewer meals for her family.”
It seems she and her kids are about to absorb another hit.
“These SNAP cuts will be devastating to families across the nation,” said Dr. Mariana Chilton, co-principal investigator of Children’s HealthWatch, a research organization analyzing the effects of economic conditions and public policy on children in emergency rooms and clinics around the country. “Not only will families lose significant SNAP dollars—which will make it harder for them to feed their kids and also reduce their children’s nutrient intakes—but it will also cause major health problems for children, increased hospitalizations for very young kids, and greater need for psychosocial and mental health services for school aged kids.”
President Obama perfectly captured what it means for this country to turn its back on children.
“The idea that a child may never be able to escape poverty because she lacks a decent education or healthcare, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action,” said President Obama.
We are the community, and it is offensive. Now is the time to tell the president: if these cuts land on his desk, he must veto the bill.
Update, December 7, 3:39pm: Senator Stabenow's office did not initially respond to a request for comment, but have replied to this post. Their statement:
Senator Stabenow strongly opposes any changes to food assistance that make cuts in benefits for people who need help putting food on the table for their families. She has been the number one defender against the House Republican proposal to cut food assistance by $40 billion, including rule changes that would throw four million people off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) altogether.
Unlike the House proposal, the Senate Farm Bill protects critical food assistance for the over 47 million Americans who need help. The Senate bill saves $4 billion solely through ending program misuse—like stopping lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance, cracking down on retailer benefit trafficking, and curbing the misuse of a LIHEAP paper work policy by a small number of states. It is very important that we continue to maintain the integrity of these critical food assistance programs so that opponents cannot use rare examples of misuse as arguments for gutting assistance to children, families, seniors and disabled Americans.
While no final agreement has been reached, Senator Stabenow will not support any policies that arbitrarily remove people in need from SNAP or make across-the-board cuts to benefits. She will only support savings focused on program misuse.
Update, December 9, 11:31am: Response from Greg Kaufmann:
I think many anti-hunger advocates would disagree with the notion that the Chairwoman has been “the number one defender” against the draconian SNAP cuts proposed by House Republicans. Representatives Jim McGovern, Barbara Lee, John Conyers, and Marcia Fudge come to mind, as does Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. They not only defend against Republican cuts, but also try to strengthen benefits at a time when nearly 50 million Americans aren’t necessarily sure where their next meal is coming from.
It is true that Senator Stabenow has spoken clearly in her opposition to the extreme cuts and rule changes in the House Republican proposal. But that’s hardly a reason to claim bragging rights—it would be like a WNBA player boasting that she can whup any Junior High School player in a game of one-on-one.
The statement that $4 billion (of the more than $8 billion in SNAP cuts agreed to in current negotiations) is found through cracking down on lottery winners, retailer benefit trafficking, and addressing “misuse” of the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) seems misleading. The amount of SNAP benefits misspent due to fraud by lottery winners and retailers is negligible, and of course everyone supports vigilance to protect the integrity of the program.
But the bulk of the $4 billion in cuts alluded to here—and the other $4 billion-plus agreed to in negotiations—is found through a change to the rule that currently allows families receiving SNAP assistance to qualify for additional benefits if they receive LIHEAP assistance to help with their utility bills. (If a state’s governor opts in to what is called the “heat and eat” program.) The heat and eat program—which boosts SNAP benefits for families receiving utility assistance—is based on the recognition that too many Americans are choosing between paying for food or paying for energy. Some states sign families up for $1 in heating assistance so that they then qualify for the additional food stamp benefits, decreasing the likelihood that they will face the “heat or eat” dilemma. According to Politico, the agreement between Senator Stabenow and Republican leaders would require $20 in LIHEAP assistance in order to receive additional SNAP benefits. That change would result in up to $8 billion in SNAP cuts. Currently, roughly 20 percent of eligible households receive LIHEAP, so there is little reason to believe that most states would step up to meet the $20 threshold for people who need it.
While Senator Stabenow might not be in a position to defend the $1 work around that helps get families the assistance they need, she surely is in a position to explain why both Democratic and Republican Governors alike are looking to obtain additional benefits for families that qualify for food stamps, and why we need to be increasing, not decreasing, those benefits.
The Chairwoman might remind the country that the average benefit is $1.40 per meal for an individual. She might point to the report by the Institute of Medicine that clearly describes the inadequacy of food stamp benefits: from the way a family’s net monthly income is calculated by using a standard shelter deduction capped at $478; to the assumption that low-wage workers with erratic schedules will have time to cook unprocessed ingredients from scratch, as well as access supermarkets that offer a variety of healthy foods at lower costs in urban and rural areas. The Chairwoman might tell America that the SNAP program assumes food prices are consistent no matter where one lives in the nation. She might point to the millions of families that include children with special health care needs—families not permitted to deduct their out-of-pocket health care costs to calculate their net income. She might draw attention to USDA testimony—all the way back in 1933—that the theoretical “Thrifty Food Plan” currently used in the SNAP program to determine a nutritious diet at minimal cost is for “restricted diets for emergency use,” and that “a reasonable measure of basic needs for a good diet… should be as high as the cost of the low-cost food plan” which would result in more generous food stamp benefit levels.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the staff asserts that the Senator “strongly opposes any changes to food assistance that make cuts in benefits for people who need help putting food on the table for their families.” But the fact is that the proposed changes would indeed cut benefits for people who need help putting food on the table. As the Food Research and Action Center writes, “Bottom line, elimination of ‘Heat and Eat’ means lost meals for elderly and disabled households.”
The Chairwoman is in a position to educate the country about how the SNAP program really works, and how it could and should be made better. If raising benefits through LIHEAP isn’t the right avenue, then she and her fellow-Democrats should suggest the myriad of reforms that would more accurately measure the existing need of hungry families in this country and would consequently raise their benefit levels.
The point isn’t that Republicans would never go for those reforms. The point is to speak the truth to the American people, shatter the myths and end the misinformation, and make the Republicans defend policies that are indefensible.
Update, December 9, 11:31am: Response from Joel Berg, executive director, New York City Coalition Against Hunger:
In the year 2000, as a private citizen on vacation time, I volunteered for a week in Grand Rapids, Michigan to help elect Debbie Stabenow to the United States Senate. That is why it is particularly painful to me that not only is she playing a key role in cutting nutrition assistance for struggling families, but she also is not being straightforward with the public about the impact of the policies she is promoting.
Virtually all advocates—myself included—agree with her efforts to stop lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance and to crack down on retailer benefit trafficking. But given how rare lottery winners and retailer fraud are, those changes are mostly cosmetic and have nothing to do with the more than $8 billion in nutrition cuts that she is proposing.
The third provision she is proposing—the one that would cut all the money—would eliminate a current feature of the SNAP program that now allows governors in 14 different states, of both political parties, to better combine home energy assistance with SNAP benefits in order to boost food aid to some of the hardest-hit families. Every single penny Senator Stabenow is proposing to take out of SNAP would come directly out of the grocery baskets of families that are very low-income and are currently eligible for the benefits.
It is important to again note that the $5 billion in SNAP cuts which went into effect on November 1 were also enabled by Senate Democrats. Senator Stabenow’s contention that she must advance massive additional cuts of more than $8 billion—as the only possible way to forestall even more massive cuts proposed by the GOP—is misleading as well. As Chair of the Agriculture Committee, she has it well within her power to propose a Farm Bill with no additional SNAP cuts whatsoever. The House Republicans have no legal ability to pass additional cuts unless the Senate Democrats and President Obama consent to such cuts. The Democrats should join together in scrapping this horrible bill that slashes food for struggling families while boosting corporate welfare, and instead start from scratch with a brand new farm bill that aids small to mid-sized family farmers, slashes hunger, and boosts rural economic development.
Update, December 9, 11:31am: Response from Dr. Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH, Director, Center for Hunger-Free Communities, Drexel University School of Public Health:
When Senate Ag leadership likens the cuts to SNAP as “savings” that curb “misuse of a LIHEAP paperwork policy,” we can see that they do not fully grasp the way that American families experience hunger and food insecurity.
Families don’t go hungry in a vacuum. Families make terrible tradeoffs- between paying for heat or paying to eat. The women of Witnesses to Hunger—who use their photography and stories to describe their experiences with hunger and poverty—can tell you that first hand. Jill Shaw, a Member of Witnesses to Hunger from Central Pennsylvania shows a picture of her stove, and writes: “I am a witnesses to hunger everyday. I am a witness to the disappointment in my children’s eyes when they tell me they are hungry and I tell them there’s no food. My stove is a source of heat more than it is a source for cooking food.” To learn more about housing and utilities and how they relate to hunger, just take a brief tour here of America’s reality in Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, and Camden NJ. If you want this in cold hard numbers instead of pictures and experiences, see our Children’s HealthWatch research.
Those of us on the ground: pediatricians, public health researchers, social services providers, and the true experts—those who know hunger and poverty first hand—recognize that the forward thinking states have attempted to prevent the worst of hunger and the worst of frigid mornings. The states that utilize the heat and eat provision, are actually improving our current income support systems, because they are calculating the amount of SNAP benefits needed when one considers the true cost of shelter. To learn more about this, check out the Congressional Research Service explanation.
This LIHEAP provision is a protection for families based in a cold hard reality: food insecurity is a form of hardship based on trading off costs of basic needs. It’s a smart work around that ought to be scaled up across the country, not slashed as a technical expediency. If there were really forward thinking change coming out of the Senate and House, the SNAP benefit calculation would be based on the true cost of shelter regardlessof whether or not a family receives LIHEAP. It’s a frigid wake-up indeed, to see these proposed cuts. Some have said that the House GOP is out of touch with low-income America, but sometimes it seems as if all of our leaders are out of touch.
Editor's Note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this headline suggested that Stabenow was pushing for the cuts to food stamps.
Last week, Greg Kaufmann wrote about the need for a shared agenda to combat poverty.
Few, if any, of the towering figures of the twentieth century inspired as many people, or as many songs, as Nelson Mandela. Artists of all genres and stripes found different ways to pay tribute to Mandela, the architect of the ANC’s resistance strategy, as he served twenty-seven years in prison before emerging to lead his country into a peaceful transition to majority rule. As the world mourns the loss of Mandela, 95, here are ten of my favorites presented in tribute. Please use the comments field below to let me know what I missed. RIP.
1. Free Nelson Mandela, The Specials
2. Mandela (Bring Him Back Home), Hugh Masekela
3. Asimbonanga, Johnny Clegg
4. When You Come Back, Vusi Mahlasela
5. Nelson Mandela Song, Nomfusi & The Lucky Charms
6. Give Me Hope Joanna, Eddy Grant
7. Black President, Brenda Fassie
8. House of Exile, Lucky Dube
9. Sooner Than Later, Kent O’Shea
10. Number 46664, Bono, Joe Strummer and Dave Stewart
Fox Business, an affiliate of Fox News, has responded to the rise of worker protests across the country by inviting on a finance industry trader to trash them.
The network aired several segments this week designed to criticize efforts to raise the minimum wage. In one, guest Jonathan Hoenig made a range of strange and misinformed comments, including a declaration that “every prominent economist over many, many decades has agreed [that] the minimum wage is discrimination.”
In reality, more than 100 economists have called for raising the minimum wage to benefit workers. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz signed onto a letter last year arguing that “a minimum wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers.”
Hoenig then argued, “Only about 4 percent of people making the minimum wage are actually supporting a family full-time.” The Economic Policy Institute notes that over a quarter of those who would be affected by increasing the minimum wage are parents, and a third are married. Also, one in every five children in the United States has a parent who would benefit from a federal minimum wage increase.
Finally, Hoenig said his opposition to increasing the minimum wage stems from his belief that doing so would prevent workers from becoming the CEO of McDonald’s and other fast-food chains. One has to wonder if Hoenig, a financial investment advisor based in Chicago, has ever bothered to meet with the McDonald’s workers in his city who are gainfully employed, yet, homeless.
Gabriel Thompson goes on NPR to discuss how Walmart is exploiting its warehouse workers.
“Five shirtless dudes are running through downtown Tallahassee in front of courthouse spelling JAMEIS on their chests.”—Tweet from USA Today Sports Reporter Dan Wolken
Ten takeaways from news that Florida State’s star quarterback, and shoe-in Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston will not be charged with rape after a year-long investigation:
1) This country has a long and ugly history of accusing African-American men of rapes that did not occur. From the lynch mobs of the Old South, to the legal lynchings of the Scottsboro Boys and the defendants in the Central Park Jogger case, to countless stories we will never know, this has been a scar on the history of the United States. Black men have been repeatedly targeted and seen their lives destroyed by accusations that splice the horror of sexual violence and the stereotype of the ravenous predator.
2) This country also has a more recent history of allowing athletes, particularly star athletes, particularly amateur athletes compensated with status, hero worship and entitlement, to get away with rape.
3) This country has an even more recent history in the Internet age of destroying women on social media and threatening their families, if they dare bring forward any accusations of rape against athletes.
4) College football culture will place a black man on a pedestal as long as he can deliver bragging rights, championships and millions of dollars in revenue to small-town colleges and universities. Off the football field, or after your playing career ends, good luck. If Florida’s system of criminal justice has sent any discernable message this past year, it is this: if you are an African-American teenager, you want to be Jameis Winston, not Trayvon Martin.
5) I do not have the slightest idea what happened between Jameis Winston and his accuser. I do know that the statement from this woman’s family could not be more correct: “The victim has grave concerns that her experience, as it unfolded in the public eye and through social media, will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting.”
6) If it is proven true that a local police detective said to the accuser’s lawyer that Tallahassee is “a big football town, and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable,” then we can only hope that the family will pursue charges against the Tallahassee police department and sue them back to the Stone Age.
7) There are too many cases of too many women who are intimidated to come forward and pursue charges of sexual assault. There are too many cases where jock culture and rape culture are so intertwined you don’t know where one ends and the other begins.
8) There are too many cases where sports fans believe defending your team means destroying any young woman who dares stand up and try to speak about what happened. Seriously, if you are one of these people, get a life.
9) There are too many sports reporters, overwhelmingly men, that believe the myth that there are just lines of women trying to bring false rape charges against star athletes.
10) No matter the result, the Jameis Winston case has become yet another instance where the sports environment sends a message to women that if you are sexually assaulted, your best course of action is silence. That, above all else, must change.
Dave Zirin looks at how jock culture can support rape culture.
If there were any lingering fears that the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City would usher in an era of communist revolution beholden to black nationalist interests, the news from this morning should quell such concerns. From The New York Times:
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio was expected on Thursday morning to name William J. Bratton to lead the New York Police Department, according to two people with knowledge of Mr. de Blasio’s decision.The move will return Mr. Bratton to the helm of the nation’s largest force at a time of historically low crime rates and a deepening rift between officers and the public.
After riding the wave of anti-stop-and-frisk activism to a decisive mayoral victory, it’s rather disappointing that de Blasio would tap the architect of that policy, who also spent his years as police commissioner in Los Angeles increasing its usage, to once again lead the NYPD. But it’s hardly surprising.
While he criticized outgoing commissioner Ray Kelly for the “overuse-and-abuse of stop-and-frisk,” de Blasio has stopped short of calling for an end to the policy altogether. He has been in favor a “mend, don’t end” approach, supporting the reforms as handed down by US district court judge Shira Scheindlin as a result of the Floyd v. City of New York case. His choice of Bratton for police commissioner is consistent with his previously stated positions. For the progressives who helped elect him, as predictable a move as it may have been, it’s still disappointing.
Bratton has been credited with the improvement of community relations between police and the public in LA, particularly among black and Latino communities, as well as reductions in crime. He has also voiced support for affixing police officers with cameras, a practice that could lead to a reduction in the use of force/the number complaints filed against police. But he is hardly the type of choice one makes to signal a radical shift in the way policing will be done. He is the commissioner responsible for instituting the “broken windows,” zero-tolerance style of policing that has meant more harassment of the poor/working-class and communities of color. As veteran police reporter Len Levitt put it, appointing “Bratton, [means] change within the NYPD will be that of style rather than substance.
In a statement, Joo-Hyun Kang, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, said: “It’s critical that Mr. Bratton rejects policies that rely on discrimination, demonstrates a commitment to true accountability, and works to ensure the department values officers’ abilities to build respectful community partnerships based on respect for the dignity and rights of all New Yorkers rather than on discrimination-based stop, summons and arrest quotas.” These are changes to the culture of policing that I’m not quite sure someone of Bratton’s pedigree is equipped to implement.
The mayor-elect had an opportunity to signal a fundamentally new approach to the way policing would be done in NYC, but chose instead the safe and familiar, which has never benefited the communities that elected him to office. De Blasio has always been the most progressive candidate with a chance of winning, not the most progressive. His choice for the “new” police commissioner is the first action that should signal to liberals/progressives that now is not the time to rest. What got the issue of stop-and-frisk to the forefront of national consciousness and the subsequently the mayoral race was grassroots activism and organizing. The same will be required to ensure that not only are reforms to stop-and-frisk implemented but that the policy be overturned altogether in favor of community-based policing that relies on trust, not fear, to ensure that crimes that actually effect quality of life (rape, robbery, murder) are fully investigated.. That’s true no matter who occupies the office of mayor or police commissioner.
Mychal Denzel Smith explains why it doesn’t matter that race relations are “better” than they were in previous generations.
John Graham, who died on November 26, at age 92, was perhaps the most popular cryptic crossword constructor in the world. He created puzzles for The Guardian as Araucaria, which is the Latin name of the monkey puzzle tree. In the Financial Times, he was Cinephile, an anagram of Chile Pine, which is another name for the same tree. He announced he had cancer in a cryptic crossword a year ago, and his last puzzle included the phrase TIME TO GO.
He was a minister in the Church of England, and a man of the left who would not contribute puzzles to Murdoch-owned newspapers. Henri solved a few of his puzzles over many years when visiting relatives in the UK, and remembers one puzzle whose theme was the leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa—not something one would find in most US cryptics.
Cryptic crosswords, of course, are much, much more popular in the UK, where five different newspapers offer cryptic crosswords daily. Perhaps because of this broad audience, there are different styles among British constructors. (Or perhaps the causation goes the other way?) Araucaria was a leading exponent of a relatively easy-going style, perhaps best summarized in this quote: “Any clue is legitimate which leads, by whatever route, to an answer which, 80 per cent of the time, can be known to be correct as soon as it appears to the mind” (quoted in his obituary in the Financial Times).
His editor at The Guardian wrote:
Araucaria once articulated his difference with extreme Ximeneans thus. To clue the word CAIN (who killed Abel) his device might be to insert an “I” into “CAN,” which has the slang meaning of “prison”. His clue might be: “Having committed a murder, I am in prison.” A Ximenean would object that the “definition” in the clue for Cain is unfair, because “Cain” is a noun and “Having committed a murder” is not; and, because here “I” is a letter of the alphabet and not a personal pronoun, it should be followed grammatically by “is” not “am.” So a strict Ximenean would require some clue like: “Being guilty of murder, I must be put in prison.” In Araucaria’s view, Guardian solvers would find that his clue was fair—and better. Most of them were on his side.
Ximeneans describe their cluing principles as “square dealing.” In the United States, Frank Lewis was the main constructor who did not subscribe to square-dealing orthodoxy, although Richard Maltby arguably also falls in that category (which did not prevent either of them from having a loyal following). As far as we know, everyone else on this side of the pond writes puzzles from a Ximenean perspective—as do we. For the most part, we share with the British Ximeneans and with our US colleagues a concern for grammatical correctness and an insistence that cryptic readings should work exactly as written. But this does not prevent us as solvers from enjoying a wide range of styles, or as constructors from loosening the reins once in a while. We realize that solving every clue with an eye to 100 percent correctness is part of the fun for many solvers, but Araucaria’s prodigious output and popularity are evidence that there are other ways to enjoy cryptic crosswords.
How about you? Do you enjoy dissecting every clue, or are you just hoping to fill the diagram? Please share here, along with any quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle or any previous puzzle. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen.
And here are three links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where you can ask for and offer hints, and where every one of our clues is explained in detail.
It is time for a great big increase in the minimum wage.
The American people.
It is not just the thousands of fast-food restaurant workers and their allies who rallied Thursday in 130 cities across the country, although the “strike against poverty wages” puts a human face on the data charting a dramatric increase in enthusiasm for this fight.
It is vital for supporters of wage increases to recognize—as everyone from Pope Francis to President Obama is talking about income inequality—that few proposals attract such broad support as the idea of raising hourly pay so that people who work forty hours a week can support their families.
A Hart Research Associates poll conducted last summer for the National Employment Law Project Action Fund found that 80 percent of Americans surveyed favor a $10.10-an-hour wage floor. And the support cuts across lines of partisanship, ideology, race and region.
Ninety-two percent of Democrats favor the increase, as do 80 percent of independents and 62 percent of Republicans.
Support from Americans who earn over $100,000 a year (79 percent) is roughly the same as from Americans who earn under $40,000 a year (83 percent). Southerners are almost as supportive (81 percent) as Northeasterners (86 percent).
This enthusiasm is not just theoretical. It is immediate. Seventy-four percent of Americans say that Congress should make it a priority to significantly increase the minimum wage.
Where they can, voters are getting ahead of Congress. In New Jersey, voters just raised the state’s minimum wage by a dollar and cleared the way for additional hikes by indexing increases to inflation.
In the Seattle area last month, voters backed a $15-an-hour minimum wage for the airport city of SeaTac, and elected a $15-an-hour advocate, Kshama Sawant to the city council. Even before Sawant’s swearing in, newly-elected Mayor Ed Murray has announced that a city will study hiking wages. And Sawant says, “If corporate resistance results in the ordinance getting watered down or not passing in 2014, then we will need to place an initiative on the 2014 ballot…. Workers simply can’t afford to wait any longer for $15 an hour.”
Something real is happening across the country. And it is about time. When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. marched on Washington for jobs and freedom fifty years ago, the federal minimum wage was $1.25 an hour. In today’s dollars, that guaranteed base wage would be $9.54 an hour.
But the federal minimum wage today is just $7.25 an hour.
So low-wage workers are more than $2 behind where they were when King declared: “We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we’ve come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
As Congressman Keith Ellison, D-MN, said at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, “Income inequality threatens our democracy as Jim Crow segregation did in 1963. Families are working harder than ever and are still struggling to put food on the table. A full day’s work doesn’t mean a full day’s pay.”
And that is especially true for fast-food workers.
Most Americans are aware that, especially in a weak economy, fast-food restaurant jobs are no longer “entry-level” positions. In chain restaurants across the country, most workers are adults. And substantial numbers of them are trying to support families.
But if they are paid the minimum wage, or even a bit more, they live in poverty.
“Almost one-quarter of all jobs in the United States pay wages below the poverty line for a family of four. CEO compensation, meanwhile, continues to climb. It would take a full-time, minimum-wage worker more than 930 years to earn as much as the chief executive officer of Yum! Brands, which operates Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, made in 2012,” explains Christine Owens, the executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “Fast-food workers are in the lowest paid occupational category. The median hourly wage for front-line fast-food workers is $8.94 nationally. Many don’t even earn that. A shortage of hours further limits income. Fast-food workers work only 24 hours a week on average—at $8.94 an hour, this adds up to barely $11,000 a year.”
Organizing for better pay for fast-food and retail workers does not just benefit those workers and their families. “We can’t build a strong economy on jobs that pay so little that families can’t live on them,” notes Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry. “Raising the wage floor will make the economy stronger for all of us.”
Indeed, argues California Congressman George Miller, the senior Democratic member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, “Low pay…holds back our recovery from the Great Recession.”
Miller is the House author of the Fair Minimum Wage Act (HR 1010), which would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The rate would then be indexed to inflation, so that pay increases come when prices rise. Additionally, Miller’s bill would increase the required cash wage for tipped workers.
Ultimately, increases must go even higher to achieve a living-wage standard. But what Miller proposes is a meaningful step in the right direction.
“Better pay will put more money into local businesses and spur economic growth,” says the California congressman. “That’s why a living wage is not about asking for a handout. Rather, it’s about valuing work. And it’s about growing the economy from the bottom up by increasing working families’ purchasing power. Americans on today’s picket lines aren’t just standing up for themselves—they are standing up for a stronger America.”
Allison Kilkenny on the fast food workers striking for living wages nationwide.