My kids are into Angry Birds, a game they love for the same reason I once obsessively played Super Mario Brothers: its appeal is incomprehensible to the adults around them. This inscrutable game, however, has one essential truth: you have some pissed off birds compelled by rage to put down some zombie-looking pigs. After a sad effort to play the game myself, I had my own epiphany: this game is actually a metaphor for the city of Chicago. Please bear with me. Angry Birds is more Chicago than the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field or deep-dish pizza. The lunacy, the violence, the plethora of increasingly crazed pigs and those fierce feathered fowl all represent the politics actors in a city that’s gone over the edge.
It all starts with the person who seems committed to win the current spirited competition as the most loathsome person in American political life: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The same Mayor overseeing the closing of fifty-four schools and six community mental health clinics under the justification of a “budgetary crisis” has announced that the city will be handing over more than $100 million to DePaul University for a new basketball arena. This is part of a mammoth redevelopment project on South Lakeshore Drive consisting of a convention center anchored by an arena for a non-descript basketball team that has gone 47-111 over the last five years. It’s also miles away from DePaul’s campus. These aren’t the actions of a mayor. They’re the actions of a mad king.
If you want to understand why Mayor Rahm has approval ratings to rival Rush Limbaugh in Harlem, you can point to priorities like these. The school closures are taking place entirely in communities of color while the city's elite feed with crazed abandon at an increasingly sapped trough. As Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teachers Union chief who led a victorious strike last September fueled by rage at Mayor Rahm, said, “When the mayor claims he is facing unprecedented budget problems, he has a choice to make. He is choosing between putting our communities first or continuing the practice of handing out millions of public dollars to private operators, even in the toughest of times.”
It’s hardly just the labor-left of Chicago pointing out how breathtakingly heartless these priorities are. Rick Telander, the lead sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, penned a piece subtly titled, “With Rahm’s DePaul plan, we’ve entered a new arena of stupidity.” After making clear that DePaul’s team is hardly a magnet for city hoops fans, Telander wrote, “But forget that. Guess who will have to cough up about $100 million to build the thing for the private Catholic university of 25,000, through bonds and the usual sneak attacks of wallet-siphonage—Yes! Taxpayers! Ta-dah!”
The fact that Rick Telander wrote these words matters. The wine is out of the bottle and the horse is out of the barn. In 2013, it’s no longer a few of us cap-wearing Cassandras shouting that the end is nigh if we keep hollowing city budgets to pay for these monuments to corporate welfare. It’s Rick Telander. It’s the Chicago Sun-Times sports page. It’s all of us.
It must be pointed out that this deal, even by the standards of shady stadium operations, has people scratching their heads. Building an arena for a third-tier college basketball program as the heart of a new convention center? Was his second best idea a new snack called Nuts & Gum? I spoke to Neil DaMause, the co-author of the bible on stadium boondoggles, Field of Schemes to get his thoughts. He said,
I’ve seen dumber things than a mayor offering to spend $173 million in tax money on a building for a private college that already has its pick of several arenas to play in—but not much dumber…. I can't for the life of me imagine what Emanuel thinks Chicago is likely to get out of this deal, unless he really thinks that convention planners are just waiting for a 12,000-seat arena to hold their plenary sessions in, at which point they'll start throwing wadded-up hundred-dollar bills at any Chicagoan they can find.
DeMause is right. The only explanation for this is that Rahm is scratching someone’s back in the DePaul Catholic hierarchy of Chicago. This is power politics the likes of which Chicago has honed into a crude, low art form, with the myriad public officials behind bars to prove it. In this case, the hottest rumor is that approval of legalized gambling is on the horizon and the convention center’s locale will be its epicenter. The arena is, in effect, a Trojan Horse for a casino.
If true, Chicagoans should shudder. Even better, they should take a field trip four hours east to Detroit. The Motor City has gambling, and I’ve been to their casinos. If you ever want to see exhausted families spend their last dollars in hopes to make enough to last the month, go to a Detroit casino. That’s the future Rahm Emanuel dreams about for the working people of Chicago. The difference now is that the pigs aren’t feeding at an overflowing trough. They’re feeding on the last grizzled meat sticking to our bones. There’s simply not enough slop to go around and people are fed up with being fed upon.
The Chicago Teacher’s Union strike from last September showed that the priorities of Rahm can be beaten back. The same rage that fueled their struggle animates those following this stadium swindle. I spoke with Alison McKenna, an adjunct professor in social welfare policy at DePaul. She said,
I have nothing against basketball and nothing against DePaul. But Rahm Emanuel and his upside-down priorities disgust me. In a deeply segregated city like Chicago, the gun violence that’s been all over the national news is the result of systematically tearing apart communities. Gentrification is not the answer for this city. The answer is decent jobs, social services, quality affordable housing, access to health care and fully funded schools, not another round of corporate welfare.
Rahm may have an army of zombie pigs who know how to do nothing but feed, but each and every neighborhood facing violence, school closures, clinic closures and public graft has a slew of increasingly angry birds. The people are long done playing Rahm’s game.
It's been slowly building for quite some time, but now the mainstream media is finally flashing a Red Alert concerning the Obama administration's anit-leaks campaign. They used to refer to it as simply a "war on whistleblowers." Now, after the Associated Press and Rosen/Fox News probes, they see it as a "war on the press"--with consequences already quite apparent.
Consider just the following.
A New York Times editorial today declared, "the Obama administration has moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news." It concluded: "Obama administration officials often talk about the balance between protecting secrets and protecting the constitutional rights of a free press. Accusing a reporter of being a 'co-conspirator,' on top of other zealous and secretive investigations, shows a heavy tilt toward secrecy and insufficient concern about a free press."
Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, added on Tuesday that going after “routine news-gathering efforts as evidence of criminality is extremely troubling and corrodes time-honored understandings between the public and the government about the role of the free press.”
And Greg Sargent at The Washington Post interviews Mark Mazzetti, one of the chief Times' investigative reporters, who tells him, “There’s no question that this has a chilling effect. People who have talked in the past are less willing to talk now. Everyone is worried about communication and how to communicate, and [asking if there] is there any method of communication that is not being monitored. It’s got people on both sides — the reporter and source side — pretty concerned...
It certainly seems like they’re being very serious about hunting down people talking to reporters. All we know are the results. The fact that you have so many [cases] now, it scares people who talk to us. [Sources] who might have talked to us once may not talk to us now...Those of us doing national security reporting feel it’s a very difficult climate to work in right now.
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.
In February 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, after a lengthy feud with the state teachers’ union, came to an agreement over a comprehensive teacher evaluation system for the state. The arrangement was made so that New York State would be eligible to receive $700 million of Race to the Top funds, a national sweepstakes spearheaded by President Obama that allocated monies to states that adopted his education policies.
Under the new system known as the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation would be based on standardized test scores, while the remaining 60 percent would be based on subjective measurements, like classroom observations and student surveys. Then, teachers would be sorted into four categories: ineffective, developing, effective or highly effective.
However, there’s one catch. In the bill, it states: “The new rating system would prohibit a teacher or principal who is rated ineffective in the objective measures of student growth from receiving a developing score overall.” In other words, if a teacher is unable to raise their students’ test scores for two consecutive years, even if he or she is deemed highly effective on the subjective measures, the teacher could be fired.
I recently graduated from Syosset High School. My district’s APPR plan was approved at the beginning of this school year. A month later, the Student Learning Objective (SLO) exams were unleashed on all the students in my school in every subject, including art, music, and physical education. Yes, in gym class, multiple choice exams with colorful green Scantrons were doled out. I wish I were kidding.
Teachers would administer the same exam at the beginning and at the end of the year. By means of value-added measurements and an obtuse formula, the teachers’ effectiveness would be determined. Moreover, in New York general state aid for schools is now tied to teacher evaluation, which puts further strain on the most impoverished communities in our state.
I cannot begin to describe some of the conversations I’ve had with educators, many of whom are veterans with decades of experience in this profession, who are feeling humiliated, demoralized and beaten down by this process.
I didn’t want anything to do with the tests, so I opted out of every single SLO exam. Each time, I put my name on the test booklet and Scantron and then handed the blank items back to my teacher. There were no consequences.
At the same time, a groundswell of opposition was growing. Two principals, Sean Feeney of the Wheatley School and Carol Burrris of South Side High School, took the lead and drafted a letter protesting the evaluation system. As of January 2013, 1,535 principals as well as 6,500 parents, educators, and students have signed onto the document.
If there’s one thing that is absolutely clear to me, it’s that Governor Andrew Cuomo has ignored the voices of students, teachers, principals, and parents who have grave concerns about the evaluations. He is frankly telling millions of students and teachers that their value is no more than a number in a spreadsheet.
What he’s forgotten is that evaluation is best done when the purpose is not to punish and reward teachers but to lend them support, to foster collaboration, to encourage self-evaluation, and to allow for rich and lengthy observations by principals and fellow colleagues.
So Governor Cuomo, tell it how it is. You can fire my teachers. You can close down my school. You can break up my community. You can kill the love of learning in children. But don’t tell me that it’s because you want the best for me. I’m not a stupid little kid. Do you hear me?
What happens when the New York Police Department is given free rein to stop and frisk suspects based on their own hunches? According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, it creates an environment in which African-American and Latino New Yorkers are stopped at disproportionate rates, with predictable results for suspect’s lives and on community trust.
Check out this brand new music video—featuring Yasiin Bey (a k a Mos Def), produced by CCR and featuring footage from The Nation’s exclusive report, “Stopped and Frisked: ‘For Being a F***king Mutt’”—to learn more.
A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Many heroes asserted themselves in Oklahoma yesterday, from the first responders digging through the rubble for survivors, to the teachers who shielded children from the massive tornado that touched down as the school day was ending.
While perhaps not as heralded, certainly the experts at the National Weather Service deserve some credit for saving lives as well. One of the best ways to prevent high body counts when tornadoes barrel through populated areas is to warn residents ahead of time—which is the job of the NWS. They did it well yesterday, issuing early warnings allowed countless people to seek shelter before mayhem arrived.
But the NWS has, in recent years, suffered under serious budget restraints placed on it by deficit hawks in Congress and the White House. Far from the public view, the NWS is starting to come apart at the seams—and the full effects of the sequester haven’t even been felt yet. So what if, next time, the NWS isn’t able to do its job as well?
The tornado in Oklahoma yesterday provides a good case study for both the crucial import of the NWS’s work and the very small margin for error. Tornadoes present a particular challenge because, while the conditions that create them are easily identifiable—warm, moist air from the gulf colliding with warm, dry continental air and cold, dry air from the Rockies—the tornadoes themselves are incredibly unpredictable. Scientists still are not sure why some thunderstorms produce them and others do not.
The tornado simply appears, almost out of nowhere. In Oklahoma, it was well over a mile wide, with furious 200 mile per hour winds shredding most everything in its path, which, it quickly became apparent, would include a densely populated suburb. This is what it looked like:
This is a terrifying experience for most involved, but not an uncommon one in America—in fact, 75 percent of all tornadoes occur here. This map from the Smithsonian shows fifty-six years of tornado strikes and the path they took:
When a tornado appears, the National Weather Service sounds the alarm. In Oklahoma on Monday, the alert came sixteen minutes before the tornado actually touched the ground, which is three minutes more than the thirteen-minute average warning the NWS provides. It triggered emergency broadcast alerts throughout the region and blaring air-raid sirens that allowed hundreds of thousands of people to seek shelter.
As a tornado is forming, NWS workers are synthesizing a rapid amount of data from radar, satellites, on-the-ground meteorologists, and citizens calling in what they see. The alerts have to be accurate—and they have to be quick.
“The adrenaline is building up. You’re looking at storms that you know are just really bad,” Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, told The Nation. “It takes a special kind of person because you have to juggle ten or fifteen balls all at the same time, and then make life-and-death decisions based on that.
“It’s an extremely stressful, extremely busy time,” he said. “[It’s like] when an accident is occurring and you have seconds to make a decision as to whether to turn right, or left, or slam on your brakes or whatever—but stretched out over a couple hours. That kind of feeling.”
Five minutes after the tornado touched down on Monday, but twenty minutes before it hit Moore, Oklahoma, the NWS issued a strongly worded “tornado emergency” advisory:
This no doubt saved hundreds of lives in Moore. According to ABC News, the Plaza Towers Elementary School does not have an underground shelter—but the fourth, fifth and sixth grades had enough time to evacuate to a local church, where they remained safe. The entire school building was destroyed.
The NWS deserves enormous credit here. But what if it wasn’t up to the task? That’s an increasingly real possibility. Just this month, Sobien’s group, which represents 4,000 employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (of which NWS is a part), issued a warning that the budget battles are imperiling crucial NWS functions, and creating “[r]educed efficiency and accuracy for tornado events due to reduced alertness of short staffed offices.” Hurricane monitoring and response is also endangered, along with crucial wildfire monitoring efforts and a wide array of other NWS activities.
Since taking control of the House in 2011, Republicans have targeted NOAA for severe cuts—they came out of the gate proposing a massive 28 percent cut in their first budget that year, which was moderated by the end of the process.
But the assaults on the NOAA budget continued, and the agency couldn’t escape the sequester, which will lop 8.2 percent from the NOAA budget. This lead the acting administrator to institute an across-the-board hiring freeze in March, and four days of mandatory furloughs are on the horizon. (There is already a 10 percent vacancy rate at the agency.)
This is all occurring at an agency that could badly use more money, not less. The satellite equipment there is badly antiquated, and the Government Accountability Office said the “satellite gap” is one of the thirty biggest threats facing the federal government.
“Remember that bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis? The Weather Service is like that bridge a week before it collapsed,” Sobien said. “The strains are happening. I’m just seeing things just not working the way they should be.”
In fact, amidst all the turmoil yesterday, the NWS suffered some notable problems. In the evening a communications outage affected offices in Chicago; Anchorage; Binghamton, New York; and Kentucky, according to Sobien. The Nation confirmed this outage with an official at the NWS office in Chicago.
In addition, Sobien says the NWS office in Midland, Texas—the next office upstream from Oklahoma City that does upper-air surveillance of storms with weather balloons—declined to do a special weather balloon release after the storm to help monitor conditions because of budget concerns. (An official at that office said he was not aware of that particular situation.)
Those ended up being trivial outages, but next time might be different. If a disaster strikes where a NWS office is under-staffed, it’s easy to see how lives could be lost.
“The National Weather Service is an inherent government service, like the Post Office, like the FBI, you can name a dozen others. We had this debate about the National Weather Service a hundred-plus years ago, and said, yeah, this is a service we want for everyone,” Sobien said. “To be dismantling that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”
Here’s how to help Oklahoma after yesterday’s devastating tornadoes.
Bishop E.W. Jackson publicity photo
The Republican Party knows it cannot continue to compete nationally if it remains the party of old white men. In order to not be the party of old white men, it cannot afford to look racist. It’s not so much interested in distancing itself from the racist elements within the party or abandoning racist policies, but it would like to not appear racist. To that end, it has come up with a solution wherein the few black and brown faces that dot the party are deployed to regurgitate the staid policy and rhetoric.
The newest member of this club is the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, Bishop E.W. Jackson. He’s a pastor from the Chesapeake area of Virginia with extreme right-wing views on homosexuality and abortion. In other words, he fits right in with the modern Republican Party. But he’s also joining the ranks of Herman Cain, Allen West and Ben Carson as the next great black hope of the GOP, the singular figure that will provide a counterweight to the Democratic monopoly on the black vote. It’s a long shot, as Jamelle Bouie points out, “African Americans have yet to give support to anyone from this wing from the Republican Party, but this hasn’t stopped white conservatives from embracing them.”
Republicans fail to grasp that the rejection they experience from black voters is not due solely to the lack of black faces but because of their actual record. Despite the attempts by conservatives to cherry-pick Republican Party history to highlight the good times (they’re the party of Lincoln, don’t ya know), they refuse to atone for their misdeeds.
Law and order, welfare queens, the war on drugs, Willie Horton and Hurricane Katrina aren’t ancient history. These are the living memories of the Republican Party’s engagement with black America. Republicans are still pulling from the discarded playbook of Lee Atwater, as if Atwater himself didn’t leave a warning before his death about where that path would lead. They are also still running away from the legacy of the last Republican elected president, one George W. Bush, though a generation of voters were politicized during his presidency and are now living in the wake of the wars and financial crisis over which he presided. Some cosmetic changes are in order, but they will hardly be sufficient.
Ironically, the person they should turn to in order to understand how to sell conservatism to black people is the same person they so desperately have tried to defeat: President Obama. They can take notes from the commencement address Obama gave at Morehouse College this past weekend. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Aura Bogado and Kiese Laymon have done a great job of explaining what was problematic in Obama’s speech, but I think it’s also worth looking at why he feels comfortable delivering personal responsibility lectures to black people. First, on issues of race, Obama has never been particularly progressive. Even his famed Philadelphia race speech from the 2008 campaign trafficked in the kind of false equivocation between black radical politics born out of a reaction to racism and actual racism that we generally associate with the Fox News wasteland.
But beyond that, he knows this kind of message will, generally, play well in front of black audiences. As Kai Wright notes, “There’s always been a deeply conservative strain of black politics that embraces the American ideal that we get only what we earn.” Whether we’re talking about Booker T. Washington, the Nation of Islam, Bill Cosby or Condoleezza Rice, there is long tradition of prominent black public figures and organizations touting lifestyle “improvements” as an adequate rejoinder to systemic racism. As wrongheaded a philosophy as it is, it continues to resonate in black communities, as it appeals to the intellect and sense of self-determination. It also makes for rousing speeches that touch the ethereal, especially when coupled with the bravado of the black Southern Baptist church. It shouldn’t be mistaken for a substantive critique of white supremacy, but it is anyway and Obama has mastered it. He makes it sound almost revolutionary.
This is where the GOP could find its opening if it was willing to talk to more than one black person at a time. The party’s black representatives have made the mistake of insulting black folks, like when they call the Democratic Party a “plantation,” and they’ve been using the issue of racism, which to their minds is no longer relevant, to keep blacks on that plantation while never seeing any actual benefits. In the process, Obama has beaten them to the right, tapping into the conservatism of black communities that recognizes racism but positions it as simply an extra hurdle on the path to black achievement. But he’s only one man, and he won’t be running for elected office again, so a window of opportunity will eventually be open.
If I had it my way that wouldn’t be the case, but I also only one man and can’t force the whole of black America to adopt my politics. The GOP, however, won’t win over many black voters if even their black representatives behave as if black folks don’t have eyes, ears and minds of their own.
Voting Rights Watch takes readers past the ballot box and into the community.
What’s it going to take to break down journalism’s class- and race-based barriers of entry? MSNBC’s All In blog digs into Farai Chideya’s piece in last week’s issue of The Nation on how the field needs to change to be more just—and do good for itself in the process.
Why did Al Jazeera kill an article critical of Zionism? Read Greg Mitchell’s analysis.
The exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, Friday, March 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The additional questions provided by the IRS to Tea Party and some Democratic-leaning groups seeking social welfare 501(c)(4) status appears to have been an inappropriate level of scrutiny. But is the current controversy swirling around Washington obscuring much, much bigger issues around the 501(c)(4) tax status?
The real scandal has been the blatant abuse of 501(c)(4) status by dozens of lobbyists and operatives who have set up such tax-exempt organizations as political slush funds to conceal money in political campaigns. Since the Citizens United decision, 501(c)(4) groups, have operated as Super PACs—raising and spending tens of millions in corporate funds—without disclosing a dime of their contributors. IRS rules state that the primary activity of such groups cannot relate to political advocacy, yet examples abound of 501(c)(4) groups spending well over 50 percent of their funds on attack ads, political action committees and other clearly political expenses. These potential violations of the law have gone on for several years now, with very little interest from the Beltway media or Capitol Hill Republicans, many of whom owe their election to spending by bogus 501(c)(4) organizations.
Here are just five examples of bogus 501(c)(4) groups that deserve more scrutiny under the law:
The American Action Network is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit run by corporate lobbyists like Vin Weber (of Sallie Mae) and Tom Reynolds (of Goldman Sachs). Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found that on its tax returns, “AAN reported spending a total of $27,139,009 on all activities from July 2009 through June 2011—$1,446,675 on its 2009 tax return and $25,692,334 on its 2010 tax return—making political activity 66.8 percent of its total spending.” Since IRS rules for primary activity have been interpreted to mean that 501(c)(4) groups cannot spend more than 49 percent of their funds on political endeavors, American Action Network appears to be skirting the law. The group spent more than $745,000 to help elect Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), one of the lawmakers now calling for hearings into the IRS narrowly on grounds that the agency inappropriately targeted Tea Party groups.
The Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity is a 501(c)(4) organization reportedly set up by lobbyist Scott Reed, which told the IRS when it applied for social welfare status that it would not spend money on political campaigns. In fact, Reed boasted to reporters that he had sought big donations from the health insurance, energy and banking industry to run ads against Democrats. According to disclosures, CHGO broke the primary activity threshold and spent 53 percent of its funds during the midterm elections on political advertising. The group spent big on defeating lawmakers like John Spratt (D-SC).
The American Justice Partnership is a 501(c)(4) group run in part by Republican consultants Dan Pero and Cleta Mitchell. In 2010, the group spent 77 percent of its funds moving money to political attack ad groups like the American Future Fund or to political action committees like the “Michigan Republican Party Admin Account.” Part of the remainder of the funds appears to have been spent on consulting fees to the board members of the group.
The American Future Fund is a 501(c)(4) group set up by a number of Republican operatives, and has aired millions of dollars in attack ads against President Obama and Democratic candidates for Congress. In 2010, the group spent 15.3 million of its 21.3 million expense budget on media consultants. AFF reportedly used its funds on television attack ads, direct mail against candidates and political telemarketing. In other words, the group spent 71 percent of its funds on political purposes.
The 60 Plus Association is a front group designed by Republican operatives to appeal to senior citizens. The group’s budget swelled during the 2010 midterm campaign. Through June of 2010, the group spent about $15.5 million, $11.5 million of which went to media-buying and direct mail firms for campaign advertisements—74 percent. One set of ads deceptively claimed congressional Democrats voted to cut $500 billion from Medicare, failing to note that actual cuts were to Medicare Advantage, not to regular Medicare beneficiaries. As Jim Martin, the head of the group told me last year, though the organization touts itself as a voice for seniors, the group openly solicited corporate donors as well.
It’s clear why these Republican operatives used 501(c)(4) organizations as tools to move millions in political money. Big publicly traded corporations have been eager to exploit the Citizens United decision but have avoided Super PACs because Super PACs face regular disclosure requirements. 501(c)(4) never have to disclose donors. For instance, health insurer Aetna accidentally revealed that it had provided $3 million to the American Action Network, a fact the company apparently wanted to keep secret.
The IRS 501(c)(4) system is horribly broken, but it seems the scandal surrounding added scrutiny for Tea Party groups will not fix any of the problems. The IRS should focus on big players that skirt the law, especially the ones proven to have passed the 50 percent threshold, as I’ve documented above.
And there are many ways to fix systemic issues with the IRS that go beyond investigating sham groups. For one, the minimal disclosure system for 501(c)(4) groups is only in paper/CD format and is displayed to the public over a year after the money is spent. That’s why we still have little to no data on new Democratic groups, like Priorities USA, that recently began mimicking Republican 501(c)(4) organizations that were so active in the 2010 election cycle. Moreover, PublicResource.org’s Carl Malamud has a proposal to digitize all the 501(c)(4) disclosures so the public and press can review them, and well, make a decision about “primary purpose” for themselves.
Mad at the IRS? Blame congress!
Busy day so don’t have time to delve into this too deeply but important story—as Al Jazeera gets ready to move into US market in big way—so here it is in brief, with a bunch of links. Your move.
Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian been on the case since late last week and spent the weekend asking for comment for Al Jazeera English, to no avail, last I checked.
It seems that Joseph Massad, the Middle East scholar and Columbia University prof, wrote a column for AJE last Tuesday titled “The Last of the Semites.” I’ll let Greenwald summarize it:
Massad’s argument was obviously controversial: he highlighted the shared goal between the early Zionist movement and Europe’s anti-Jewish bigots (namely, the removal of Jews from the continent), detailed the cooperation between German Nazis and Zionists to facilitate the departure of Jews out of Europe (the existence of that cooperation is not in dispute, though the extent of it very much is), and highlighted the extensive disagreements among Jews themselves over the wisdom and justness of Zionism…
Of course, this drew wide online commentary and criticism—the usual. Then the stakes were raised. Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic tweeted: “Congratulations, al Jazeera: You’ve just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory.” And John Podhoretz, even more pointedly: “Congratulations, donors to Columbia University, for paying this monstrous [Mossad’s] salary!”
On Saturday, Greenwald discovered that the op-ed had been removed from the AJE site, although it’s still around at other sites. He started sending e-mails to various AJE editors and spokespeople, with no response as of this morning.
Just go and read his piece today to catch up on what he thinks happened (who decided) and why. His working theory for the latter is that, about to launch AJ America—as a kind of challenge to CNN—their usually bold news service is going soft, not wishing to defend some of its prime and most influential American critics. Greenwald:
Although I condemned the original op-ed, I did not agree with the decision to delete it. For one thing, it’s a futile gesture: in the Internet age, everything published is permanent. For another, it’s contrary to the journalistic ethos: although it would have been appropriate to decide in the first instance not to publish it, once a decision is made to publish something, it should not be removed merely because it provokes controversy or even offense. Retractions should be reserved for serious factual errors.
He also quotes Massad’s reaction. Stay tuned for more.
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.
President Obama reportedly fantasizes about “going Bulworth,” voicing exactly what’s on his mind, like Warren Beatty’s character in the 1998 film. Steve Brodner, the artist behind the Bulworth movie poster, wonders what other films may have inspired the Obama presidency, such as The Manchurian Candidate.
It's not easy to do the right thing when outside forces are trying to corrupt your thoughts. Check out the five more illustrations at the Washington Post.