Glenn Greenwald speaks at the University of Arizona. (Gage Skidmore, Flickr CC 2.0.)
While those on the right frequently refer to Glenn Greenwald (now at The Guardian) and Bill Maher (eternally at HBO) as liberals or lefties, that is, of course, a gross simplication. So what else is new? Naturally they don’t see eye to eye on many issues, so when Greenwald was scheduled for last Friday night’s Maher show you could predict that some fur would fly.
Well, the debate started when Maher went into one of his weekly rants against the Muslim religion as being particularly and uniquely guilty of inspiring hatred and violence in the modern world. Greenwald pushed back strongly and Maher nearly lost his temper in responding. It was an unsually extended and testy set of exchanges for the show these days, and rather than summarize it, I’ll suggest you watch it here.
But what happened next was: Critics, and not just from the right, jumped on Greenwald for allegedly declaring that the United States was fully to blame for Muslim extremists and most of the other ills of the world. Greenwald, indeed, did place a lot of blame on America, but also clearly qualified that. He posted about that on Saturday at The Guardian, calling Maher “one of the most vocal and extreme advocates of the view that—while religion generally should be criticized—Islam is a uniquely threatening and destructive force and that Muslims are uniquely oppressive and violent, and that mentality has infected many of his policy views.”
In any case, the anger directed at Greenwald as a blame-America-first zealot provoked longtime ace blogger Digby (a.k.a. Heather Parton) to rise to his defense. You can read her lengthy defense here. One excerpt:
To me, it is simply indisputable that the United States’ sometimes well-intentioned but often brutal and violent use of its global dominance as a military and economic power has resulted in the blow-back we call terrorism. Is it everything? Of course not, and Greenwald was careful to say he didn’t believe so either. It’s economics, culture and yes, religion as well. All these factors play into this problem. But there’s only one factor that Americans have any direct influence over—the actions of their democratically elected government. So that’s probably the smartest first step to try and correct, don’t you think?
Do I think Islam, fundamentalist or otherwise, is unusually lethal as religions go? No, frankly, I don’t. I think the embrace of fundamentalist Islam—and especially terrorism—among a sub-set of Muslims is driven mostly by the politics of the era, probably at the hands of opportunistic leaders who use it to keep their followers on their path to power.
Greg Mitchell’s current books are So Wrong for So Long (on media failures and Iraq war) and the wild tale of MGM and Harry Truman scuttling a 1947 anti-nuclear epic, Hollywood Bomb. His personal blog, updated several times day, is Pressing Issues.
A store below the Palace bar in Mexico City, where Malcolm Shabazz was killed. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Malcolm Shabazz had everything going for him. He was 28 years old, handsome as hell and a remarkably charismatic public speaker. He was an activist, an organizer and a proud father. He also had the blessing of being the grandson of Malcolm X.
Malcolm Shabazz had everything going against him. He was a young black man with a criminal record in the age of the New Jim Crow. He proudly allied himself with countries resisting US occupation and influence. He spoke to audiences across the earth, earning the unwanted attention of the Department of Homeland Security. He was treated with persecution, scorn and incarceration instead of the utmost sympathy for his role in a fire that took his grandmother Dr. Betty Shabazz, when he was only 13. He also had the burden of being the grandson of Malcolm X.
Now Malcolm Shabazz is dead. He was in Mexico City to meet in solidarity with a labor organizer deported from the United States and ended up beaten to death outside of a bar. Details of how and why he was killed are extremely sketchy, and I am not writing this to add to that noise, except to say that I’ll trust a police report about the death of Malcolm X’s grandson around the time I grow a tail.
I’m more writing out of anger: anger that this young man, whom I was able to get to know after meeting at a panel on fatherhood, is having his character assassinated in death. For reasons it should have to answer for, USA Today chose to display a picture of him in handcuffs alongside a brief notice about his killing. The Huffington Post—and no, I won’t link to this garbage—provided no sense of who he was except to write that he “pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in 2002 and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Just months after his release in 2006, he was arrested again, this time for punching a hole in a store window.”
With very few exceptions, not a single piece has what you would expect in a typical obituary: remembrances of loved ones and colleagues to give a three-dimensional portrait of someone’s life. The grandson of Malcolm X can only be seen in one dimension. That dimension, as the Associated Press wrote, was just that he “led a troubled life.”
There is no question Malcolm Shabazz had troubles. As he himself said, “Considering what I’ve been through, it’s a miracle that I’ve been able to hold it together. I’m just trying to find my way… Some of the things I’ve been through, the average person would have cracked.”
But “troubled” is not the sum total of who this young man was. Here’s a different take on Malcolm Shabazz by someone who actually knew him. Former NBA player Etan Thomas organized the fatherhood panel I mentioned earlier and worked with Malcolm on numerous events. I asked Etan for his thoughts. He said,
There is a lot of mischaracterization going on from people who know nothing. They never met Malcolm. They stayed far away from him but now they want to inaccurately characterize him. I knew Malcolm. Talked with him, worked with him, he was my friend. Malcolm had a heart of gold. He wanted to help people and change the world. He had been through so much in his young life. He went with me to Riker’s Island to talk to young incarcerated men under 18 and they were focused on his every word. He shared with them the mistakes he made in the past, the absence of a father’s presence, gave them words of encouragement and upliftment. And they were hanging on his every word because they saw the sincerity in him. He genuinely cared. It was an honor to work with him, and to have had him as a friend. He will be missed.
When I met Malcolm Shabazz, I had to ask him the question I’m sure he’d been asked a thousand times. I asked, “Is it more burden or blessing to be Malcolm X’s grandson?” He smiled and said, “I wouldn’t say it’s been easy. Yes, being his grandson is a blessing. But you know what? Being a father is a blessing. Being in the struggle is a blessing. And just being alive is a blessing.”
We should mourn for the family of Malcolm Shabazz. We should also mourn for ourselves. In a selfish world where the offspring of the famous are more likely to use their cultural capital to become media parasites, we lost someone truly special. He wanted to wield Malcolm’s memory to fight for a better world. Now we should do the same with the memory of both of these Malcolms. They were both brilliant. They were both maligned. They were both taken far too young with far too much unfinished work in front of them. Malcolm Shabazz: Presente!
In the US, people under the age of eighteen can be held in solidarity confinement. Check out Nation Action for what you can do to stop it.
Ed Schultz at a motor home in Fargo, North Dakota. (AP Photo/Dave Samson)
Saturday morning’s editions of The New York Times report that “the nation’s unemployment rate would probably be nearly a point lower, roughly 6.5 percent, and economic growth almost two points higher this year if Washington had not cut spending and raised taxes as it has since 2011, according to private-sector and government economists.”
That’s headline news in the nation’s newspaper of record.
But Ed Schultz could have told you that a couple years ago.
That’s because Ed consults with the folks who really understand the economy: the working men and women who do their research on Main Street—as opposed to Wall Street.
I’ve known Ed since he was making his name as a populist radio host, broadcasting out of Fargo, North Dakota, on a handful of small stations. He is now consistently ranked by Talkers magazine as one of the ten most important talk radio hosts in America.
Ed built his national following on the strength of what he referred to as “straight talk from the heartland.” And he remains distinct from most other hosts in that he’s still rooted in the upper Midwest, not just as a proud Minnesotan but as a host who is genuinely interested in what the whole of America is talking about.
When Ed joined the MSNBC cable television network, he kept doing his radio show—an uncommon move in an industry that tends to focus on television gigs. Ed wanted to keep talking with people across the country, especially the listeners in what media insiders on the East and West coasts deride as the “flyover country” between New York and Los Angeles.
As he has moved through various time slots and hosting duties with the cable network, Schultz has had more demands on him. Yet he has always kept the radio show, doing three hours a day, when other cable hosts were, for the most part, focused solely on television. Ed never wanted to lose the connection to the working people who formed his base of listeners: the farmer in North Dakota, the factory worker in Illinois, the snowplow driver in Minnesota, the teacher in Wisconsin. As his prominence has grown, that base has expanded to include the baggage handler at LaGuardia, the taxi driver in Washington, the small business owner in Denver, the retiree in the Florida panhandle.
When I do Ed’s radio show, I am always struck by the calls—from all those listeners, in all those small towns and cities across the country. No matter what the issue of the moment might be, they tend to remain focused on fundamental economic concerns. Washington spin doesn’t sway them: They’ve got no taste for “grand bargains” that would cut Social Security cost-of-living increases with a chained CPI scheme. They know Paul Ryan’s austerity economics don’t add up.
The listeners care, a lot, about grassroots struggles for jobs and the rights of working people. And they’re enthusiastic about Ed’s talk of using his new weekend gig on MSNBC to tell more of their stories. But he’s not doing them a favor. He is adding an essential element to a national discourse that is being overwhelmed by the false prophets of austerity.
What Ed understands is this: “There’s a lot more economic common sense on Main Street than there is on Wall Street.”
The new weekend show debuts at 5 pm EST Saturday. And the plan is to do a lot more of what he did in 2011 and 2012, when he took his show on the road to Freeport, Illinois; Des Moines, Iowa; Toledo and Columbus, Ohio; and Madison, Wisconsin, to tell about the real-life struggles of working Americans.
The weeknight slot that Ed occupied until March is now filled by Chris Hayes, a friend and colleague of mine from The Nation. Over the past year, Chris has used a Saturday and Sunday morning program on MSNBC to break a lot of new ground. I’ve been a frequent guest with Chris and I’ve enjoyed the way he’s upended the conventional wisdom regarding political talk on cable—we recently had a smart, civil discussion featuring a progressive, a liberal, a moderate and a conservative on the necessity of renewing the Republican Party. Chris is continuing to push boundaries, and that’s exciting.
But, as someone who has long argued that major media neglect the stories of the great mass of working Americans, I’m particularly appreciative of Ed Schultz’s ideas for making his new weekend show a forum for discussing what’s really going on with the American economy. Ed’s talking about using his program to highlight stories from across the country—many of them from town hall gatherings, like the one he hosted May 2 at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison.
The event sold out. Teamsters and teachers, postal workers and firefighters came from as far away as Iowa and Illinois, many with hand-made signs highlighting labor struggles that rarely get the attention of national media. The crowd’s approval was thunderous when Ed declared, “I’ve got to tell these stories!”
Prime-time shows tend to follow a relatively well-defined format, with tight segments that focus on the latest twists and turns in Washington. But Ed’s great skill as a broadcaster has always been his ability to recognize and communicate the stories of working Americans. He will have a lot more freedom to do that on the weekend. And he’ll also be well positioned on his Sunday show to rip apart the spin that the DC insiders peddle on the Sunday morning talk shows.
Cable television is not an exact science. But one thing should be clear: There are enough hours in the day and week for many voices. The voice Ed Schultz has perfected on a populist radio program, and that he has brought to cable programs that have followed stories to locations far from New York and Washington, amplifies the stories that don’t otherwise get told: those of working families struggling to keep factories open, union members rallying for collective bargaining rights, urban Americans fighting “emergency manager” takeovers of local government, rural Americans fighting to keep post offices open.
Now Ed’s talking about using that voice to bring to television more of the conversations with working Americans, struggling Americans, active and engaged Americans. To the extent that Ed Schultz succeeds in challenging the manufactured assumptions of Wall Street and official Washington, he’ll contribute mightily not just to the evolving definition of cable TV but to a national discourse that desperately needs to hear more from America.
Why does the press still take the Heritage Foundation seriously? Read Eric Alterman and Reed Richardson's take.
Fifty years ago, as today, the problem of economic inequality was very much on the minds of Nation editors. The issue of May 11, 1963 was given over—“in the spirit of thoughtful and significant dissent which is the hallmark of The Nation,” the editors wrote—entirely to a nine-chapter investigation by the economist and futurist Robert Theobald of the threat posed to the American economy by abundance. Whereas traditional economics was defined as the art of “distributing scarce resources,” in Theobald’s view the incredible developments of technology in recent years, and the promise of even greater leaps in the near future, meant that the chief economic problem of the time was not scarcity but abundance.
His magisterial essay, published later that year as a book titled Free Men and Free Markets, argued that great technological changes would free up surplus labor and capital to such an extent that it could actually prove detrimental to American society if not adequately harnessed. All the benefits would accrue to the rich, creating stress and disillusionment among the rest of the populace. Radical changes would have to be undertaken in order to accommodate that abundance: first among them what Theobald elsewhere called a “basic living guarantee,” or unconditional allotment of funds to all citizens. Piecemeal compensation like retraining, unemployment insurance, or Social Security wouldn’t improve the situation, Theobald argued. The solutions proposed by traditional economic theory were empty, he wrote:
Unemployment rates must…be expected to rise. This unemployment will be concentrated among the unskilled, the older worker and the youngster entering the labor force. Minority groups will also be hard hit. No conceivable rate of economic growth will avoid this result.
Only broad, systemic, and proactive initiatives like a guaranteed income could do that. One fault of Theobald’s essay is that he was perhaps too optimistic regarding the United States’ ability to adapt to the changes he describes, as here in Chapter IV:
The historian of the 21st century will still be puzzled as he looks back on the nineteen-sixties, for he will never understand our point of view. He will wonder how we could tolerate an exploited minority when it was possible for the remainder of the population to provide for it without damaging their own economic position. He will ask how we could accept a society in which those with money had relatively few unsatisfied needs and those with many unsatisfied needs had no money.
No historian is truly puzzled about this today, of course, since all the problems Theobald describes as of the utmost urgency have only grown worse, and the kind of structural changes advocated by Theobald in The Nation in 1963 have been deferred, to the detriment of so many, for fifty years and counting. That is why our work at The Nation is never done—as we continue to propose systemic economic changes that would lead to a more just and fair society.
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Subscribers to The Nation can access our fully searchable digital archive, which contains thousands of historic articles, essays and reviews, letters to the editor and editorials dating back to July 6, 1865.
Harvard University. (Flickr/Kelly Delay)
He’s probably the first person ever to lose his job because of his Harvard PhD dissertation: Jason Richwine, let go by the Heritage Foundation on Friday. The problem: he co-authored their position paper opposing immigration reform; and then somebody discovered that his PhD thesis at Harvard’s Kennedy School was dedicated to the proposition that Hispanics have lower IQs than white people. Not even the Heritage Foundation wanted to go there—so after two days trying to answer embarrassing questions, he left quietly.
But how did he get a Harvard PhD for work that even the Heritage Foundation wouldn’t accept?
The dissertation, uncovered by Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post, titled “IQ and Immigration Policy,” was accepted in 2009 by the Kennedy School of Public Policy. In it, Richwine argued that there are genetic differences in intelligence between races, and that they will persist for generations to come. He’s a disciple of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, whose book The Bell Curve made a similar argument back in 1994.
The problems with all the work purporting to link “race” and “intelligence” have been well-known for decades. First, the concept of “race”: There is no “Hispanic race.” It’s a census category, not a biological one. What we call “Hispanics” in the United States includes Indian peasants from Yucatan and doctors from Mexico City (and Madrid). Second problem: the concept of “IQ.” The inventors of the IQ test claimed it measured “innate intelligence.” But of course what the test really measures is test-taking ability. Our peasant from Yucatan probably wouldn’t do as well as the kid from Beverly Hills High. Both “race” and “intelligence” are culturally constructed notions, not biological or genetic facts. None of this is hard to understand.
Nevertheless, Jason Richwine concluded his dissertation, “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.” The question is: how did Harvard decide this discredited idea was worth a PhD? In other words, who at Harvard approved this travesty?
The dissertation was approved, as all dissertations are, by a committee of three. The chair was George Borjas, an conservative economist who writes about immigration for National Review and The Wall Street Journal. Borjas told Slate’s David Weigel, “I have never worked on anything even remotely related to IQ, so don't really know what to think about the relation between IQ, immigration, etc.… In fact, as I know I told Jason early on since I've long believed this, I don't find the IQ academic work all that interesting.” Not exactly an endorsement of the dissertation.
The second person on the committee was Richard Zeckhauser. He studies investing, not immigration, and his Harvard faculty website describes him as “a senior principal at Equity Resource Investments (ERI), a special situations real estate firm.” He told Wiegel that “Jason’s empirical work was careful,” but that he was “too eager to extrapolate his empirical results to inferences for policy.”
The third member of the committee is the big surprise, and the big problem: Christopher Jencks, for decades a leading figure among liberals who did serious research on inequality—a contributor to The New York Review of Books, the author of important books, including Inequality: Who Gets Ahead?, The Homeless and The Black White Test Score Gap. Christopher Jencks knows exactly what’s wrong with the studies purporting to link “race” with “IQ.”
Richwine concluded his dissertation, “From the perspective of Americans alive today, the low average IQ of Hispanics is effectively permanent.” Why would Christopher Jencks decide that that dissertation was worth a Harvard PhD? I asked Jencks whether he would comment. He replied “Nope. But thanks for asking.”
No less than Rush Limbaugh has cited the approval of the dissertation by Christopher Jencks, “a renowned left-wing academic,” as proof that the young man is being railroaded.
The last word in this story goes to a study published in 2012 in the journal Psychological Science. “In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874),” the researchers wrote, “we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood.”
Across the country, students are rising up against racism and austerity. Read StudentNation for a rundown of first-person takes.
Gregory Hicks testifies at a congressional hearing on Benghazi on May 8. (Reuters/Yuri Gripas.)
The tired Benghazi circus staged by Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee earlier this week did have one legitimately intriguing moment: Gregory Hicks, a senior diplomat at the State Department, claimed he was intimidated and then demoted for questioning the administration’s response to the September 2012 attacks.
This was a new bit of information, and fleshed out heretofore-anonymous claims in the right-wing media that Benghazi whistleblowers were being cajoled and silenced by federal authorities.
It appears, according to experts, that indeed Hicks not only fits the profile of a whistleblower but is also being unfairly retaliated against by his superiors. The unfortunate backdrop here is an administration with a troubling record of retribution against federal employees who speak out against official policy.
Hicks first testified that State Department officials would not allow him to speak with Republican members of Congress without a State Department lawyer present, which he said had never happened before when meeting with congressional delegations. He also said that Cheryl Mills, a top aide to then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called him to voice displeasure that he had met with Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz without a lawyer anyhow:
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): And didn’t you say—excuse me—didn’t you say, Mr. Hicks, in my first round, that this was the first and only time this had ever happened, where someone from the State Department accompanied a congressional visit, and you were instructed specifically by the State Department, “Do not talk to Congressman Chaffetz or anyone on the committee’s delegation who’s there without this lawyer being present?
HICKS: That’s correct.
JORDAN: And shortly after the one time when you did have a chance to interact with Mr. Chaffetz, and the lawyer was not president—was not present, you got a phone call from Cheryl Mills?
HICKS: That is correct.
JORDAN: And on that phone call, what did she say?
HICKS: She asked for a report on the visit, which I provided. The tone of the report—the tone of her voice was unhappy, as I recall it. But I faithfully reported exactly how the visit transpired.
Hicks also testified that he received an excessively negative performance review once he began speaking out:
HICKS: Prior to the visit [with Chaffetz], Assistant Secretary Jones had visited and she pulled me aside and again, said I need to improve my management style and indicated that people were upset. I’d had no indication that my staff was upset at all other than with the conditions that we were facing.
Following my return to the United States, I attended Chris’s funeral in San Francisco and then I came back to Washington. Assistant Secretary Jones summoned me to her office and she delivered a—a blistering critique of my management style, and she even said, I exclaimed, “I don’t know why Larry Pope would want you to come back,” and she said, she didn’t even understand why anyone at Tripoli would want me to come back.
Finally, Hicks testified he received an effective demotion once he voluntarily left Libya—a decision he made based, in part, on the vitriol he had received from his superior:
HICKS: Based on criticism that I received, I felt that if I went back, I would never be comfortable working there, and in addition, my family really didn’t want me to go back. We had endured a year of separation when I was in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007. That was the overriding factor. So I voluntarily curtailed. I accepted an offer of what’s called a no fault curtailment. That means that there’s—there would be no criticism of my departure of post, no negative repercussions. And in fact, Ambassador Pope when he made the offer to everyone in Tripoli when he arrived, (inaudible) he indicated that people could expect that they would get a good onward assignment out of that.
The job that I have right now the between my curtailment and my finding of this job that I have now, I had no meaningful employment. I was in a status called Near Eastern Affairs Over-complement. And the job now is a significant—it’s a demotion. Foreign affairs officer is a designation that is given to our civil service colleagues who are desk officers. So I’ve been effectively demoted from deputy chief of mission to desk officer.
The pushback to Hicks’s claims has been swift. The State Department told The New York Times that it’s simply standard policy to have lawyers present for any congressional investigation. Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings also pointed out that Hicks himself said in pre-hearing testimony that the lawyer’s only instructions for Hicks were to withhold any classified details of the ongoing FBI investigation, and nothing else.
On the matter of retaliation, the State Department asserted that after Hicks’s admittedly voluntary withdrawal from Libya, his number simply didn’t come up for a more plum assignment—a common problem. “Since foreign service officer assignments work on annual cycles, by shortening his assignment Mr. Hicks was in the position of finding an ‘off-cycle assignment’. In such situations, it is not uncommon to have difficulty finding a suitable assignment for some time,” Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy press secretary for the State Department, told The Guardian. “The department has not and will not retaliate against Mr. Hicks.”
Other anonymous State Department officials have since come forward and told reporters that Hicks’s incompetence, not deliberate retaliation, is the reason he’s having trouble getting a good assignment. A State Department employee told Hayes Brown of ThinkProgress that “[Hicks] was removed from here because he was a disaster as a manager…. [it had] nothing to do with him being a whistleblower, it had everything to do with his management capacity or lack thereof.” Another anonymous official told Foreign Policy’s Gordon Lubold that Hicks is a “classic case of underachiever who whines when big breaks don’t come his way.”
Moreover, what may be causing many people to overlook Hicks’s complaints are that the thrust of his testimony was just off—he is strongly critical of Susan Rice’s post-attack characterization that a YouTube video was responsible for motivating the assault, and also critical of high-level commands during the attacks to hold back response teams that wanted to go to Benghazi.
Those two issues have been extensively litigated for months, and there just isn’t much there. Rice was acting on incomplete information, and nothing even resembling concrete evidence has surfaced to prove some sort of cover-up. The rescue teams weren’t deployed simply because Pentagon officials didn’t believe they would reach Benghazi in time—which they probably wouldn’t have. The worst-case scenario here is incompetence, not the world-historical screw-up that Republicans are desperately trying to depict.
But that doesn’t matter, according to whistleblower experts—at all. “Hicks’s whistleblower status is not dependent on whether or not his disclosures are factually correct,” Jesselyn Radack, the Government Accountability Project’s national security and human rights director, told The Nation. “In terms of whistleblower calculus, he fits—he had a reasonable belief that he could get help there in time to at least minimize the damage.”
Radack has represented numerous federal whistleblowers, including many from the State Department. She said that not only is Hicks unquestionably a whistleblower but that his immediate poor performance review and subsequent inability to get a good assignment easily categorize as improper retaliation.
“Those are two of the most classic, beginning ways to start the retaliation,” she said.
Maybe Hicks is a bad manager, and maybe he isn’t—but Radack strongly cautioned against anonymous sources trashing his character, something she has repeatedly seen in other whistleblower cases. “This is very typical of the kinds of attacks and baseless caricatures that whistleblowers get painted about them as soon as they blow the whistle,” she said. “The kind of smears I’m hearing are pretty much in keeping with the smears I hear of other whistleblowers, including other State Department whistleblowers I have.”
Radack also noted that while it may be State Department policy to have a lawyer present at all staff meetings with Congress, it isn’t a good one. “My organization sees that as really just a whistleblower deterrent, because if you’re going to Congress over something that your agency is doing, then obviously the lawyer is going to stop you. These are impediments that are being put up, in my opinion, that work against whistleblowers,” she said.
“The whistleblower has a First Amendment right to petition Congress for a redress of grievances, and under that prong, I think they should—do not pass go, go directly to Congress,” Radack continued.
The important context here is that the administration has a initiated an unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers—it has employed the Espionage Act a record six times to prosecute government officials suspected of leaking classified information. A former CIA officer, for example, is currently in federal prison for identifying an intelligence operative involved in illegal torture. (That operative is not in jail.)
That makes the apparent retaliation against Hicks all the more troubling—even if the larger Benghazi drama being pumped up by Republicans is essentially a partisan sham.
In fact, that’s hurting the cause of whistleblowers, too, according to Radack. “The fact that [the GOP is] dramatically claiming that the hearing’s revelations would be every bit as damaging as Watergate, and that this has been so politicized, is unfortunate,” she said. “Obviously whistleblowers get smeared enough. But if they’re put in the middle of a political firestorm like this, they are even more likely to be caricatured with all the bad things that are said about whistleblowers.”
Earlier this week, Congress heard another compelling bit of testimony: Yemeni rights activist Baraa Shiban’s explanation of why drone strikes endanger the United States and its interests, George Zornick writes.
This photo essay by Caleb Savage originally appeared at NYU Local and is reprinted with permission.
Students from Cooper Union had been occupying President Jamshed Bhraucha’s office all day on May 8 in protest of the administration’s plan to begin charging tuition. This was the scene inside during the excitement of a 6:00pm rally in Cooper Square that evening.
Although there was a heavy police presence at the rally, the crowd was relatively small and well-behaved.
NYU student Paul Funkhouser spoke about solidarity between students and NYU’s own administrative controversies.
A longstanding Cooper Union faculty member voiced her support for Free Cooper Union.
Students from Columbia’s delegation, along with several other schools and organizations, were also on hand to voice their solidarity.
A member of Free Cooper Union addressed the crowd in Cooper Square on Wednesday evening. Students are upset about the lack of transparency and input from students and faculty regarding Cooper Union’s finances. Due to millions of dollars in budget deficits, Cooper Union plans to start charging tuition for the first time in its history.
This excellent sax player performed transition music and sound effects and injected the somewhat somber event with a certain amount of excitement.
In addition to the black banners flying from Cooper Union’s top floor, the large windows along Lafayette street were painted in support of Free Cooper Union.
Delve into this week's batch to find out about security in Somalia, racism at the Grey Lady and the biggest atomic security breach in United States history. Who do Syrians hate more, Assad or Israel? Can the BRICS countries relax the grip of the IMF-World Bank axis? Also: hipsters, Game of Thrones and the "Russian Facebook."
— Alleen Brown focuses on education.
“Mad Science or School-to-Prison? Criminalizing Black Girls,” by Sikivu Hutchinson. The Feminist Wire, May 2, 2013.
On screen and in real life, white girls are allowed to make mistakes in their intellectual and life pursuits. Not black girls, argues Sikivu Hutchinson. The arrest of Kiera Wilmot is case-in-point. When an impromptu experiment resulted in a small explosion in a science classroom, the 16-year-old was arrested and expelled from school.
— James Cersonsky focuses on labor and education.
“New York Times Recycles Same ‘Racist Undertones’ It Covers,” by Seth Freed Wessler. ColorLines, May 7, 2013.
How not to write about migrant labor in the US: don't quote any migrant laborers; treat migrant-labor employers as innocent exploiters of a broken immigrant system and frame the story as a race conflict between black (or any) citizens and undocumented workers. Cuing the Times' A1 coverage of a lawsuit filed by black workers against agricultural employers in Georgia who favor cheap migrant labor. As Seth Freed Wessler puts it, rather than pitting blacks against Latinos, "Why not write about the racist undertones in the policies," that is, the ones that "have systematically pushed black and Latino workers into the most vulnerable parts of the labor market?"
— Catherine Defontaine focuses on war, security and peace-related issues, African and French politics, peacekeeping and the link between conflicts and natural resources.
“France's Forgotten War,” by Robert Zaretsky. Foreign Policy, April 30, 2013.
“Somalia asks for international support.” Al Jazeera, May 7, 2013.
Somalia has been plagued by war since 1991. However, since September, a UN-backed government is in power, thus putting an end to more than a decade of transitional rule. Security remains a priority as an armed group, al-Shabbab, continues to carry out attacks in the country. In London this month, fifty countries and organizations have gathered to discuss ways to prevent Somalia from falling back into lawlessness and violence. Britain has pledged $15 million “to help train security forces and judges.” Despite the many challenges that Somalia still faces, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon remains hopeful. According to him, “a bright future for Somalia is within touching distance.”
— Andrew Epstein focuses on social history, colonialism and indigenous rights.
“Interactive: Powering the Gulf,” by Sam Bollier and Mohammed Haddad. Al Jazeera, May 1, 2013.
In this interactive feature marking International Workers Day, Al Jazeera vividly demonstrates that nations are not discreet, bounded units—border walls and maps not withstanding. There are more than 100 million migrant workers worldwide, and the fast-growing, oil-pumping Gulf states are among the biggest destinations.
— Luis Feliz focuses on ideas and debates within the left, social movements and culture.
“The ‘Fucking Hipster’ Show,” by Anthony Galluzzo. Jacobin, May 9, 2013.
This week’s article examines the populist ethos that suffuses the commonsense antipathy towards the figure of the Hipster, which is not that different from the (misrecognized) psychic hatred reactionaries invoke for the figure of the Jew and the immigrant. Galluzzo provides an accessible entry point into a broader discussion of ideology and capital, showing how the latter mystifies the former.
— Elana Leopold focuses on the Middle East, its relations with the US and Islam.
“A Syrian Reaction to Israel's Bombing; The Likely Regional Repercussions; What Happens When U.S. Presidents Draw Red Lines.” Background Briefing with Ian Masters, May 5, 2013.
This episode of Ian Masters's daily radio program takes an in-depth look at goings-on in Syria after last week's Israeli bombings. Speaking with three observers, the program considers the conflicted Syrian reaction to the strikes by a population that simultaneously abhors Israel and President Assad. It also contemplates Assad's "Plan B," as well as potential US involvement in the crisis.
— Alec Luhn focuses on East European and Eurasian affairs, especially issues of good governance, human rights and activism.
“The strange, conspiracy-filled case of ‘Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg,’” by Caitlin Dewey. The Washington Post, May 6, 2013.
Russia reportedly has the most active social networking audience in the world, and the mass opposition protests of 2011-2012 were organized largely on Facebook, Twitter and the country's homegrown leading social network, VK. While they can't do much about Twitter or Facebook (although iPad-toting PM Dmitry Medvedev couldn't resist a photo op with Mark Zuckerberg in Moscow), the Russian authorities may be attempting to crack down on "Russia's Facebook" with a bizarre case against its founder and an apparent hostile takeover attempt. Of course, widespread sharing of copyrighted material on VK has also been a headache for the Russian authorities—and something the United States has pushed them on.
— Leticia Miranda focuses on race, gender, telecommunications and media reform.
“I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet,” by Paul Miller. The Verge, May 1, 2013.
A tech writer goes on a year-long Internet cleanse to understand all the ways it has impeded his ability to connect to the "real world." But in the end, he finds that "the internet isn't an individual pursuit, it's something we do with each other. The internet is where people are."
— Brendan O’Connor focuses on media criticism and pop culture.
“What Is Going on With the Accents in Game of Thrones?” by Max Read. Gawker, May 6, 2013.
Gawker is the House Greyjoy of web publishing. What is dead may never die.
— Anna Simonton focuses on issues of systemic oppression perpetuated by the military and prison industrial complexes.
“The Prophets of Oak Ridge,” by Dan Zak. The Washington Post, April 30, 2013.
This week a trial begins for three religious peace activists who are responsible for what The New York Times called the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex. From “Mission” to “Fission,” Zak's meandering, fourteen-chapter article tells the story of the nun, the painter and the drifter who, with the help of divine grace and a pair of bolt cutters, broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
— Cos Tollerson focuses on Latin American politics and society, and United States imperialism.
“Will the Brics bank deliver a more just world order?” by Caroline Bracht. The Guardian, May 8, 2013.
For decades, Europe and North America have used shared control of the IMF and the World Bank to maintain their hegemonic hold on the global financial system. In order to counter the arbitrary dictates of representatives from the world's crumbling empires, countries in the developing world have long emphasized the need to create an alternative institution that can empower perspectives without a voice in the IMF and World Bank and redistribute global power more equitably. Now that it seems the so-called BRICS may finally establish such a bank, Caroline Bracht examines some of the possibilities, challenges and limitations that will face a new global financial institution once it's inaugurated.
— Sarah Woolf focuses on what’s happening north of the US border.
“Montreal police arrest 447 at May Day demonstration.” CBC News, May 2, 2013.
Montréal: police can kettle 447 demonstrators within mere minutes of a protest's kickoff, detain them for hours on end, fine them each $637...and nobody bats an eye. Since the beginning of the 2012 Québec student strike, this kind of police repression (sanctioned by the province and municipality with the help of Bill 78 and Bylaw P-6, respectively) has become mindbogglingly run-of-the-mill.
Every day in the United States, young people under the age of eighteen are held in solitary confinement, a form of punishment in which inmates are placed alone in a cell for 22 to 24 hours a day with little or no human contact. The practice of solitary confinement is associated with high rates of severe mental illness and suicide and the effects are compounded in young people, who are still developing emotionally, physically and psychologically. While the growing use of the practice in our prisons is cruel and unjust for all inmates, the need to end its use among youth is particularly urgent.
Add your name to The Nation's open letter in support of a call by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and the ACLU imploring Attorney General Eric Holder to ban the practice of holding young people in federal custody in solitary confinement.
This ACLU report is based on interviews and correspondence with more than 125 young people in 19 states who spent time in solitary confinement while under age 18 as well as with jail and/or prison officials in 10 states.
Young people are held in solitary confinement in jails and prisons across the US, often for weeks or months at a time. The isolation of solitary confinement causes anguish, provokes serious mental and physical health problems, and works against rehabilitation for teenagers.
Protesters, some armed (L), attend a pro-gun rally as part of the National Day of Resistance at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, February 23, 2013. (REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)
We are at a point in the debate over gun control where these are dueling headlines: “At Least 71 Kids Have Been Killed With Guns Since Newtown” versus “A march on Washington with loaded rifles.” Given the status of gun control legislation in Congress, they’re equally infuriating, but one gives insight into why this debate is stalled.
Libertarian radio host Adam Kokesh is planning a gathering of gun owners and gun rights activist where they will…maybe it’s best to read him in his words. From the Facebook page:
On the morning of July 4, 2013, Independence Day, we will muster at the National Cemetery & at noon we will step off to march across the Memorial Bridge, down Independence Avenue, around the Capitol, the Supreme Court, & the White House, then peacefully return to Virginia across the Memorial Bridge. This is an act of civil disobedience, not a permitted event. We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny. We are marching to mark the high water mark of government & to turn the tide. This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent. Should we meet physical resistance, we will peacefully turn back, having shown that free people are not welcome in Washington, & returning with the resolve that the politicians, bureaucrats, & enforcers of the federal government will not be welcome in the land of the free.
Currently, 3400+ people on Facebook have stated their intention of participating (an admittedly shoddy means by which to gauge likely attendance), but it makes me wonder if anyone involved is reading the same news that I am.
What’s telling is the language used to promote this action. On May 3, Kokesh tweeted: “When the government comes to take your guns, you can shoot government agents, or submit to slavery.”
It’s not that he doesn’t know the horrors of guns, but that he views his right to own guns as integral to his freedom as an American. That’s the strain of thinking among pro-gun folks that’s difficult to defeat.
It’s why Glenn Beck doesn’t flinch when co-opting the message and symbolism of Martin Luther King Jr., to promote a pro-gun rights agenda. King’s nonviolent philosophy isn’t as important to Beck as the fact that his life represents a fight for freedom and Beck sees his crusade in the same light.
Here’s a thought this group may want to consider: the rights we have can, and do, have and will continue to change.
Slavery was once a right. Now-outdated notions of privacy and property allowed marital rape as a right. But the costs of those rights were the violation of others’ rights, and we reached a point as a society (through much debate, struggle, blood, sweat, tears and more) where we decided that protecting rights like slavery and marital rape was no longer worth the damage they inflicted. Alcohol was a right, then it wasn’t, and then it was again because prohibiting drinking caused more trouble than we were able to tolerate. However, when the right returned it did not go unchecked. This is how we negotiate rights in a democracy.
But on guns, we seem unwilling to even consider the idea that a citizenry free to bear arms may impose more of a threat to freedom than it guarantees. I understand why that is, as guns are tied into our national identity, our sense of masculinity, our desire for power, and it frightens some of us to think who we would be without that. And then more headlines read “13-year-old Florida boy shoots 6-year-old with handgun at home” and I just want us to pause to consider: Is the right to bear arms worth the deaths of our children?
We may well decide that it is, but a debate about guns that is afraid of that core question isn’t one worth having.
Assata Shakur is a black woman who dared to fight an unfair conviction—so the US government labeled her one of its “Most Wanted Terrorists,” Mychal Denzel Smith writes.