Newswire

New President and National Unity Government Announced in Afghanistan

Feminist Daily News - September 22, 2014 - 6:47pm
Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is the next president of Afghanistan. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, his opponent, will serve as Afghanistan's new chief executive. Related posts:
  1. Afghanistan Celebrates 95th Anniversary of Independence
  2. $92 Million Project Will Improve Higher Education in Afghanistan
  3. Afghan Girls Compete in Bike Race to Raise Awareness About Violence Against Women
Categories: Newswire

Why Vote in 2014

In These Times - September 22, 2014 - 4:55pm

In Ferguson, Missouri, a town where 67 percent of residents are black and 29 percent white, five of the six city council members are white, as is the mayor. This white-dominated city government employs a police force in which 94 percent of the officers are white (50 out of 53).

How did this happen? In Ferguson’s 2013 municipal elections, 6 percent of black registered voters cast ballots, compared with 17 percent of whites.

On a national scale, a similar electoral scenario has played out, with similarly unfortunate results. In 2010, key progressive voting blocs—young people, single women, African Americans and Latinos—were underrepresented at the polls. Their alienation is understandable. People need a reason to think their vote matters. But the under-participation of these contingents has been disastrous.

In 2010, voters elected union-busting Republican governors and legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina—six swing states that went for Obama in 2008 and 2012 (the one exception being North Carolina in 2012). Should this 2010 midterm trend repeat itself in 2014, the consequences could be even more dire.

In the February 2013 In These Times cover story, Rob Richie, director of the electoral reform group FairVote, wrote about a GOP scheme to change the way Electoral College votes are allocated in swing states. At the time, three influential Republicans—Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi and Michigan’s elections committee chair, state Rep. Pete Lund—had all expressed interest in distributing their states’ electoral college votes proportionally, rather than winner-take-all. That means that in a tight race like 2012, when these states swung Democratic, the Republican candidate would still receive almost half of the state’s crucial electoral votes. Had such a system been in place in 2012 in the above-mentioned swing states and Virginia, Romney would have won the Electoral College by 16 votes.

According to Richie, rumor has it that such an Electoral College switcheroo will occur at the end of 2014 in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Both Michigan and Pennsylvania have a history of lame-duck legislative activism. And since Democratic nominee Tom Wolf is favored to beat Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) in November, this year’s Pennsylvania lame-duck session will be the GOP’s one chance to change their state’s Electoral College rules without the threat of a veto.

Were this to go down, in a close 2016 presidential election the Democratic-leaning Michigan and Pennsylvania could vote blue and still swing the election to the Republican candidate. Once again, as in 2000, we could have a president who was elected by a minority of the voters—and a president who might well have the opportunity to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice.

For example, if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg—who is 81 and has been treated for two types of cancer—decides to remain on the bench until her dying day (she shows no signs of stepping down), a Republican president elected in 2016 might be blessed with the opportunity to increase the court’s conservative majority of five to an unassailable six. That would give the GOP a lock on the Supreme Court for years to come.

The lesson: You get what you don’t vote for.

Categories: Newswire

The Mysteries of Inequality Are Only Mysterious to Elites

truthout - September 22, 2014 - 3:39pm

Developing explanations for the growth in inequality over the last three decades has been a huge growth industry in economics and policy circles. Many economists have made their careers with a novel explanation of how the natural development of technology and the market has concentrated income and wealth in the top 1 percent. It’s even better if you can show that inequality hasn't risen.

Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committe in Washington, July 15, 2014. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)Developing explanations for the growth in inequality over the last three decades has been a huge growth industry in economics and policy circles. Many economists have made their careers with a novel explanation of how the natural development of technology and the market has concentrated income and wealth in the top 1 percent. It’s even better if you can show that inequality hasn’t risen. While the explanations that blame inequality on technology can get complicated, there were three items in the last week that painted the picture very clearly for the rest of us.

First, we got new data from the Federal Reserve Board and the Census Bureau, both of which showed that typical families are still seeing very little benefit from the recovery to date. The Fed released the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finance which showed median family wealth was still below the 2010 level in spite of the run-up in the stock market.

The Census Bureau released its annual data on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage. While there was some good news on the latter two, median income remained flat. The story in both the Fed and Census analysis remains the same; those at the top continue to get the bulk of the benefits from economic growth.

The other two items tell us why this is not a surprise. First, we had a meeting of the Federal Reserve Board in which they discussed when they should start raising interest rates. There was a bit of good news for the nation’s workers as Janet Yellen, the Fed chair, continued to hold sway with her policy of maintaining the Fed’s zero interest rate policy.

However the bad news is that many members of the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) already are pushing for the Fed to pull the trigger and start raising interest rates. Furthermore, others have indicated that they are prepared to join the trigger happy group as soon as there is any evidence of wage growth. Yellen as chair has the most important voice, but if she loses the support of the rest of the FOMC, interest rates will rise.

There should be no doubt what that means. The purpose of the Fed’s raising interest rates is to slow the economy to keep people from getting jobs. By keeping the unemployment rate up, the FOMC will be reducing workers’ bargaining power and keeping them from getting pay increases. This disproportionately hurts those at the bottom of the income distribution, but puts downward pressure on the wages of most workers.

In other words, we have the central bank of the United States acting deliberately to keep workers from getting pay increases. They justify their actions over concerns about inflation, but we need not take these seriously. Who knows what they believe, but the real world risk of a dangerous inflationary spiral ranks alongside the risk of attacks by Martians. It ain’t going to happen and they should know this.

Of course high unemployment is not the only policy that has kept wages down over the last three decades. Trade policy has also been designed for this purpose. Our manufacturing workers have to compete with low paid workers in the developing world; our doctors are protected from this competition. The downward pressure on the wages of ordinary workers is worsened by our high dollar policy which puts domestic workers at an even greater disadvantage.

Government policy has also made it almost impossible for workers to organize unions. And of course we have let the minimum wage fall way behind the cost of living and even further behind productivity.

The other item in the news last week was the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman and the beginning of the bailout. This is the other essential part of the picture. While the government is prepared to act to keep wages from rising, when the Wall Street banks effectively put themselves into bankruptcy, the government was very quick to come to the rescue. Both the Fed and the Treasury Department made it their central mission to keep the Wall Streeters alive. As former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said repeatedly in his autobiography, there would be no more Lehmans.

So that’s the basic story in the simplest possible terms. The government openly acts to ensure that wages don’t rise and also to protect Wall Street high flyers who managed to sink their banks with their bad bets. Maybe an economist will win a Nobel prize for figuring out why inequality is increasing.

Categories: Newswire

Obamacare

truthout - September 22, 2014 - 1:44pm
Categories: Newswire

Chicago’s Cop Watchers

In These Times - September 22, 2014 - 1:00pm

The spontaneous uprising in Ferguson over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown has cast the national spotlight on racially charged police violence, a slower-burning but increasingly potent movement has been building in Chicago. Young activists and veteran organizers are working to demand accountability and justice for communities that routinely endure violence and harassment at the hands of the city’s police force.

In late August and early September, hundreds of people marched in a series of protests on the West Side against the fatal police shooting of 19-year-old Roshad McIntosh. As in Ferguson, community members are demanding the department release the name of the officer who shot McIntosh. Police say McIntosh pointed a gun at officers; community members have said he was unarmed and on his knees when he was killed. 

Chicago has a long history of struggles between communities and police, from union members who fought with police in the 1800s to the Black Panthers in the 1960s to the 1990s-2000s movement against police torture—namely the alleged systematic use of electric shocks, beatings and other brutality to obtain confessions under former Police Commander Jon Burge. Burge is now in prison, serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence for perjury and obstruction. But police brutality, misconduct and shootings continue to make headlines and roil communities in Chicago. 

In late August, for example, prosecutors brought charges against a West Side police commander accused of shoving a gun down a man’s throat, holding a Taser to his groin and threatening to kill him during an incident in 2013. A lawsuit filed this spring involved officers videotaped beating and threatening a handcuffed, diminutive woman who managed a tanning salon being raided over prostitution allegations.

A Chicago Reporter analysis found that black people are 10 times more likely than white people to be shot by police in the city. This year, over the Fourth of July weekend alone, at least five people were shot by police, two of them fatally, in separate incidents. 

Such situations have fueled a growing movement around police behavior in Chicago that began even before the uprising in Ferguson. In May, the city hosted activists from New York City, Austin, Louisville, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities for the National Forum on Police Crimes, organizing to fight police violence, racial profiling, the incarceration epidemic and related issues. The keynote speaker was Angela Davis—the scholar, activist and writer who in 1970 landed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for her alleged involvement in the killing of a judge during a shootout in northern California, only to be acquitted later of all charges. 

Speaking with In These Times, Davis framed police repression as a consequence of worldwide shifts toward neoliberal and austerity policies, of which Chicago has been a poster child. “The emergence of global capitalism in the ’80s and its subsequent destruction of social services and the welfare state have created the most fertile kind of ground for police violence,” Davis said. “In light of the dismantling of these services, it is police and the prison system that are left to address these populations affected by deindustrialization [and the] removal of jobs to other parts of the world.”

The forum was hosted by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR), an affiliate of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which was founded 41 years ago as part of the movement to free Davis and other political prisoners. One of those political prisoners, Frank Chapman, served as the executive director of the national alliance for a decade and relocated to Chicago in 2011 to organize a reinvigorated national campaign. 

Chapman tied the lack of amenities and resources on the South and West Sides to the conditions that lead to police harassment and violent confrontations.  “Young people need recreation, they need jobs,” Chapman told In These Times. “We as a society have a responsibility—we’re not measuring up. Our solution to the social unrest is police repression.”

While long-time organizers like Chapman provide a link to the past, youth are largely taking the lead in the Chicago movement against police violence. Several youth-driven groups are pushing for more police accountability, including Project NIA, We Charge Genocide and the L.Y.R.I.C. SQUAD (Let Your Rhymes Inspire Creativity).

On August 2, We Charge Genocide—an all-volunteer organization that takes its name from a 1951 petition to the United Nations documenting policeviolence—hosted a forum in downtown Chicago for youth to testify about incidents where they felt they were racially profiled or mistreated by police. One after another, young Black and Latino men and women took to the microphone to describe situations where they were pulled over, searched, questioned, harassed, arrested and even beaten.  

One young man described being beaten by an officer after he attempted to evade police. After “lighting up a blunt” while in a car with his girlfriend, he saw a squad car turn on its lights and siren to pull him over. Knowing he had an outstanding warrant, he jumped out of the car and ran, he said, but he turned himself in to an officer half an hour later. That’s when, he said, an officer gave him a beating so bad that he ended up needing 22 stitches in his face. 

“I still can’t talk right to this day. I can’t eat certain things, I had a nasal fracture. They had to stitch my tongue back together,” he said.  

Even police encounters with less dramatic outcomes cause trauma. One young woman recalled the fear she felt when she and some friends were pulled over while driving on the University of Chicago campus. The officer claimed he smelled marijuana, and searched the car. “I felt helpless, my heart just pounding,” said the young woman. The search uncovered nothing illegal, but “afterwards everyone was quiet. The whole mood had changed,” she said. “So many times people in our community deal with that on a daily basis.” 

We Charge Genocide and other groups are training youth to record instances of police misconduct and share them on Twitter under the hashtag #chicopwatch

On August 13, an ensemble of young, mostly Black and Latino actors captivated the crowd packed tightly into Chicago’s Free Street Theater with their dramatic slow-motion performance about the death of Deonta Dewight Mackey, a 16-year-old fatally shot by police at a Chicago gas station last February after he tried to rob an off-duty officer at gunpoint. The actors were the Young Fugitives, a performance ensemble directed by Ricardo Gamboa that gained much attention last year for its production “Cold Summer,” about Chicago violence and the closing of public schools.

The group’s performance about Mackey’s death is in the workshopping stages and will debut in January, a few weeks before the anniversary of the incident.

While different groups raise awareness in different ways, a main focus for CAARPR is pushing to institute an elected civilian police review board with the power to launch investigations and spark prosecutions. The group has collected about 10,000 signatures on a petition calling for a city ordinance that would create the board, and on August 27, CAARPR submitted a letter to both the U.S. Attorney in Chicago and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder detailing specific incidents of alleged police abuse. Nearly 50 people went to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to deliver the letter, including victims of police torture and family members of people killed by police.  

The U.S. Attorney’s Office seems to be feeling the pressure. In late August, a Chicago lawyer who specializes in representing police officers reportedly sent a memo to the president of Chicago’s police union alerting him that “it has come to my attention that the FBI and  U.S. Attorney’s Office are investigating certain police-involved shootings, specifically ones in which an offender’s gun was not recovered.” 

Thanks to a lawsuit by journalist Jamie Kalven, Chicagoans can now get more information about police misconduct. In March, an Illinois appellate court ruled in Kalven’s lawsuit that complaints against police officers may be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Kalven and his allies have filed and received responses for an initial round of FOIA requests, and they are urging others to do the same, calling it a powerful way to demand accountability from the department. 

Chapman said that when it comes to relations between police and communities of color, “many people have been in a coma.” But he believes that the events in Ferguson have lit a fire under the burgeoning movement in Chicago and other cities. 

“[Ferguson] is a wakeup call,” said Chapman. “Our country is quickly morphing into a police state—unless we do something about it.”

Categories: Newswire

Policing After Ferguson

In These Times - September 22, 2014 - 12:00pm

In the fury over the police killing of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, it feels as though White America is waking up to what Black America has long known: Policing looks different in communities of color.

Study after study has shown that low-income areas home to people of color are the most heavily policed, and that blacks, despite being far less likely than whites to be found carrying weapons or drugs, are far more likely to be stopped and frisked by police, to have their vehicles searched, to be tased, to be shot and to be killed. Black parents routinely have “the talk” with their sons, as Jazmine Hughes writes on Gawker: “There are so many things I need to tell my future son… Don’t wear a hoodie. Don’t try to break up a fight. Don’t talk back to cops. Don’t ask for help. But they’re all variations of a single theme: Don’t give them an excuse to kill you.”

Now, outrage over Ferguson has sparked a flurry of proposals to curb police violence and racism: body cameras on all officers, anti-racism training, accountability boards. Demilitarization, too, has been a rallying cry, after footage showed Ferguson officers using government-supplied tanks and tear gas to suppress protesters.
Yet police reform is notoriously easier said than done. In 2007, the city of Chicago set up a civilian body, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), to investigate police misconduct after cries that the existing Police Board was corrupt and ineffective. According to an analysis by the nonprofit Chicago Justice Project, the rate of cases referred for discipline increased by only 0.28 percent.

So how can activists best seize the moment? In These Times asked Frank Chapman, a field organizer for the Chicago-based National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Frederick Collins, a police officer in Chicago’s near West District and a 2015 mayoral candidate, and Kristian Williams, the author of Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America.

How hopeful are you that Ferguson can open a space for real change?

Frederick: I’m very hopeful. As a 21-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, I am neither naïve nor blind to the changes we need to make within the department and law enforcement agencies around this country. To see youth mobilize so quickly around Ferguson via social media gives me hope. What made the civil rights movement begin to have an effect was youth, and gaining that media coverage.

Frank: The media is not an engineer of social change in our country. The civil rights movement spent many, many years fighting uphill. There were the boycotts, like in Montgomery, Alabama, that did not get overwhelming national support. Then the explosion took place, and the media acted like this was something new. Ferguson isn’t unique. Black citizens have been struggling against police brutality for a long time. Ferguson was a big spark to ignite a bigger movement. It gives us an opportunity to see in a microcosm what is going on in the whole entire country.

What should we push for?

Frank: In Chicago, we are fighting for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. [Editors’ note: The IPRA’s head is appointed and its staff is hired.] The council would appoint the Superintendent of Police; rewrite the police rule book, including all use of deadly force guidelines and standard operating procedures; investigate and prosecute police crimes; and have the final word regarding discipline in the Chicago Police Department.  

Frederick: A civilian review panel  is only part of the puzzle. You have to have diversity within the rank-and-file that reflects the communities the department serves. You also need blacks and Latinos in positions of power. In Chicago, we’ve got some really good officers working, but we only have speckles of African Americans in power in the police department.

Kristian: There may be secondary benefits to police departments becoming more diverse—helping normalize the idea that people of color hold positions of authority, for example—but I don’t think that they actually limit police racism and violence in the way that is suggested. The police force in Washington, D.C., is majority black in a majority black city. The cops in D.C. behave the same as cops everywhere else. Police violence and police racism aren’t just a matter of individual prejudice. Racism is institutional. It’s how policing evolved. It’s how it’s practiced in the day to day.

Frank: You know white cops are racist. It comes out of their mouth when they approach us on the street. It’s part of their culture. The composition of the department tells you how little say communities have in how the police police them.

What about other reforms, like mandating police body cameras?

Frederick: I’ve talked about making sure the squad car cameras work in every car, and that police in riot gear have the small video cameras attached to their helmets. You see them in other cities, you don’t see them in Chicago.

Do you think demilitarization is important?

Frank:  I don’t know of any movement going on right now against police brutality that has demilitarization as its priority. We are struggling for community control.

Frederick: When we talk about militarization, what we have to keep in mind is that it’s like being between a rock and a hard place. I have responded to calls where my 9mm was no match for the criminal element who had an AK47 and a bulletproof armor vest. But I am not for using armored tanks and military tactics against American citizens who are convening to voice dissent.

Kristian: It’s telling that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are suddenly concerned about the militarization of the police when previously they were actively engaged in militarizing the police. We have an opening here to push for reversing that process—reducing the police weaponry, reducing the military hardware. But reform measures have a tendency to re-legitimize the institution. They can make the police seem like they have repaired themselves; that the problem is not really with the institution but instead with the gear and the equipment.

So do you think any reform measures can be worthwhile?

Kristian: Reforms that open up space for active resistance against racism and poverty, and that put a check on the worst police abuses, should be pursued. But there’s not a review board in the world that’s going to change fundamental inequality. That requires a social movement and a more ambitious agenda. At the end of that, what we’ll see is not better police, but something to take their place, to guarantee public safety and resolve disputes without ubiquitous  surveillance and violence.

What would that something look like?

Kristian:  It’s hard to generalize. In Our Enemies in Blue, rather than comeup with my utopian fantasy, I look at situations where the police have been so discredited and the social movement so powerful that people stopped looking to the cops for public safety, and started looking to social movements. A restorative justice project in Northern Ireland and “street committees” in South Africa share certain features: They are both very participatory, localized and emphasize a restorative, reparative approach to justice rather than retribution or punishment. But they are also very different and were so tailored to their unique situations that it’s hard to know how they would transfer to the United States. In practical terms, solutions are going to have to arise from communities. A good start is asking people what it is they are looking for in public safety. Some of those things the existing criminal justice system gives us. Some, it doesn’t.

Frank: A Civilian Police Accountability Council would be a step forward. The struggle for reform has to take place before the struggle for revolution. People don’t just say, “Let’s dump the system.” First, they got to fight for things within the system that they believe they’re entitled to. And only when they come to the understanding that they absolutely cannot get them will they take more drastic measures.
People in the communities affected by police crimes, by brutality, by racial profiling, know what they want. They want justice. The mothers we work with, they want their sons out of jail, sons who’ve been framed up by police for crimes they did not commit and subjected to torture. African Americans want some say over the use of guns in their communities. Not just in terms of the gang bangers, but also the police. The struggle to determine how police policies are made—that’s a struggle for political power.

Categories: Newswire

From Watts to Ferguson

In These Times - September 22, 2014 - 11:00am

It usually started with the police.

In July of 1964, barely hours after the close of the Republican National Convention that nominated Barry Goldwater, 15-year-old James “Little Jimmy” Powell was shot to death by an off-duty cop in an apartment building vestibule on East 76th Street in New York. Just as in the shooting of 25-year-old Kajieme Powell this past August 19 in St. Louis, the officer claimed that the victim had charged him with a knife, though eyewitnesses denied that. A bystander cried, “Come on, shoot another nigger!” Within hours, Harlem was ablaze.

That was the first in the wave of apocalyptic racial riots that swept American cities in the 1960s. Later that week, in Rochester, New York, the fires started after cops roughed up the very woman who’d called them in to break up a rowdy, drunken party. The next summer, in Watts, Los Angeles, the most famous of the 1960s riots kicked off after police hit people with batons at the scene of a drunk-driving arrest. In 1966, in Chicago, it began when cops turned off a fire hydrant in which kids were frolicking on the third straight day of 90-degree heat. In 1967, the most tumultuous year, the first riot came after cops in Newark beat a cabdriver because they thought he was a Black Muslim.

The parallels with this summer’s uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, are undeniable.

In the 1960s, neighborhoods or cities that were overwhelmingly black were patrolled by police forces that were overwhelmingly white. The same is true in Ferguson today, where the force has an atrocious history of racial profiling: According to annual reporting from the office of the Missouri Attorney General, in a city that is about 30 percent white, 92.7 percent of those that police arrested in 2013 were black. Michael Brown’s shooter, Darren Wilson, learned his policing on a force in nearby Jennings, Missouri, that was so corrupt and racist (a cop once kicked a woman in the stomach when she told him she couldn’t move her van because it didn’t run) it had to be shut down. Blatant racism, too, was a pattern in forces where police abuses set off riots in the 1960s. Los Angeles cops were led by William H. Parker, who coined the phrase “thin blue line”—as in, the cops were a thin blue line between chaos and civilization. Parker liked to recruit white officers from the Mississippi Delta. Parker explained the origin of the Watts riots to an investigating commission: “One person threw a rock and then, like monkeys in a zoo, others started throwing rocks.” His patrolmen, meanwhile, would begin tours of the ghetto with a ritual cry taken from a cigarette commercial, “LSMFT”—“Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.” Only, for them, the letters stood for “Let’s Shoot a Motherfucker Tonight.”

In Chicago, a Ku Klux Klan cell operated inside the force, stockpiling its very own arsenal (which included hand grenades). The San Francisco precinct responsible for patrolling Hunters Point, a black neighborhood that rioted in 1966 after cops shot a black 17-year-old, displayed a photo of a KKK imperial wizard on its bulletin board.

In cities like Cleveland, when it came to black neighborhoods, police simply refused to police; though when blacks dared enter white space, they were policed with an Old Testament vengeance—like the time a bus-station porter was beaten on and off in jail for four days, and made to bark like a dog, for the crime of sitting on the floor of the bus station after a tiring shift. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights convened hearings on the situation after Cleveland suffered one of the worst riots in 1966, which began one hot night outside a tavern where the white owner posted a sign reading “NO WATER FOR NIGGERS,” and bar employees patrolled its perimeter with shotguns. What did they find? Cops collaborating with pimps; “it has got to the place whereby a man’s wife or daughter is not safe to walk the streets,” an African-American minister testified. The police chief said he was for capital punishment “to keep the Negroes in line.”

In Ferguson, police racism is built in, institutionalized in the town’s business model of using revenue from fines to pay its bills (and in the process, turning some residents into unemployable criminals). The encounter with Ferguson’s fierce justice system, if you are black, works like this: You have an overwhelming chance of being cited or arrested by police, for doing little or nothing that is wrong. A report from the legal group ArchCity Defenders found that in 2013, “the Ferguson Municipal Court disposed 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases, or about three warrants and 1.5 cases per household,” an incredibly high rate. Then you are likely to face a fine you cannot afford to pay—ArchCity Defenders calculates that the average fine is $275—or a summons to a court that is rigged against you showing up on time. “The bench routinely starts hearing cases 30 minutes before the appointed time and then locks the doors to the building as early as five minutes after the official hour, a practice that could easily lead a defendant arriving even slightly late to receive an additional charge for failure to appear,” reads the report. Thus, you might end up in jail—with a criminal record that frequently bars employment.

That Kafkaesque sense of futility explains some of the frustration that boiled over in Ferguson with the shooting of Michael Brown. But that’s only one half of it. The other part is political.

Ferguson’s six-person city council has only one black member. It’s been much discussed that the dearth of African-American political representation has been helped along by what has been described as the apathy of black voters there, only 1.78 percent of whom turned out from one of the city’s black townships in a recent municipal election. But reporters on the ground in Ferguson—and possibly the Justice Department—should be looking at whether the powers that be have been practicing the sort of dark arts of malapportionment that disenfranchised other municipalities with sizable black populations in the past. Boston, for example, was able to defy a 1963 state law demanding school integration for nearly a decade by electing its school board “at large,” instead of by district. And prior to its 1967 riot, Newark’s Mayor Hugh Addonizio practiced a form of “urban renewal” that had a political twist: By building high-rises downtown, he was able to break up geographic concentrations of blacks, to ensure they would have no political power base.

Black Fergusonians have shown that they will vote when they have something to vote for and know that their vote will count. Seventy-six percent of them turned out in November 2012, when Missouri was a key swing state for Barack Obama’s reelection. When it comes to local elections, they might just be making the rational decision that a hike to the polls is a waste of time. Even that one black council member, Dwayne James, has baffled observers by remaining mum in the face of the single issue now galvanizing his constituency, Michael Brown’s killing. He’s said only, “Our city charter provides that our mayor is the spokesperson for the city.” I don’t want to be unfair to James—I don’t know his motives—but such quiescence recalls the behavior of Chicago’s “Silent Six”: the six African-American alderman, during the 1960s heyday of the Cook County Democratic Organization, who were so in thrall to Mayor Richard J. Daley that they didn’t even support a proposed anti-housing discrimination ordinance. (In response, wags dubbed the one alderman who forcefully advocated anti-discrimation, Leon Despres—who was white—the city’s “only black alderman.”)

Then as now, the national political context matters. Mainstream white liberal politicians of the 1960s, flummoxed that blacks would be rising up at the very moment when so much was “being done for them” (of course, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act only affected the South) began making strikingly radical connections. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy said, “There is no point in telling Negroes to obey the law. To many Negroes, the law is the enemy.” Vice President Hubert Humphrey predicted that unless slum conditions improved, and quick, there would be “open violence in every major city and county in America.” He added a note of empathy, saying that if he lived in one of those slums, “I think you’d have more trouble than you have had already, because I’ve got enough spark left in me to lead a mighty good revolt.”

Conservatives didn’t want to hear it—and pivoted off such pronouncements to fuel a backlash. Rep. Howard Smith of Virginia replied to Humphrey, “The vice president will bear a grave responsibility in blood and lives if he tries to provoke minority group members to riot for rent supplements.” During a 1966 debate over an open housing bill, Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina said, “The record shows that the more laws that are passed in the nation on the national, state and local levels, the more rioting and looting we have.”

That soon became the conservative, and even the centrist, consensus: Laws to ameliorate misery, not the misery itself, were the problem. The bill failed—the first civil rights package not to become law in three years. Then, in 1967, a new Congress filled with freshly elected right-wingers, borne aloft on the backlash against civil rights, debated a modest federal outlay for rodent control in the slums. It was derided as the “civil rats” bill. The debate became an occasion for mockery: grown men guffawing about “rat patronage,” “rat bureaucracies” and a “high commissioner of rats.” Rep. Martha Griffiths, a Michigan Democrat, tried to shut them up: “If you’re going to spend $79 billion to kill off a few Vietcong, I’d spend $40 million to kill off the most devastating enemy that man has ever had.” 

Her argument failed. The bill was slapped down. The next year, 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., saw the deadliest riots of all. In light of all that, an answer to the mystery is clear: Why would people, no matter how angry, burn down what are, after all, their own neighborhoods? Because they feel so dispossessed that their neighborhoods don’t seem liken their own at all.

The fire this time

But history is the study of change as well as of continuity. And there are striking differences between the disturbances in Ferguson and those in Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, Detroit, and all the rest more than 45 years ago. For one, what we saw in Ferguson was much less bloody. Violence and property damage were more rumor than reality. An early photo of what looked like someone throwing a Molotov cocktail turned out to be of a man throwing a steaming tear gas canister back at the police. Despite the rhetoric of the Right—New York Post columnist Linda Chavez called Attorney General Eric Holder “Eric the Arsonist” for daring to observe that as a black man, he understood black Fergusonians’ mistrust of police—the one building that fell to  arson was a QuikTrip store. Compare this to Watts in 1965, which created a third of a billion dollars in property damage, or the Chicago riot in 1968, which left two straight miles of Madison Street in ruins.

One difference between then and now, for good or ill: The 1960s had a set of black self-appointed leaders who made a political virtue of arson and looting. In 1967, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee Chair H. Rap Brown visited the racially tense city of Cambridge, Maryland, stood on a street corner, and cried, “Detroit exploded, Newark exploded, Harlem exploded! It’s time for Cambridge to explode!” He pointed to a dilapidated school down the street: “You should have burned that school a long time ago!” So, promptly, his listeners did.

Stokely Carmichael became a virtual riot circuit rider, tooling through Atlanta telling milling throngs it was time to “tear this city up” (they did), and announcing, “In Cleveland, they’re building stores with no windows. I don’t know what they think they’ll accomplish. It just means  we have to move from Molotov cocktails to dynamite.”

A then-militant named Julius Lester— now a rabbi and children’s book author—praised the work of a sniper in a city 13 miles down I-70 from Ferguson for cutting down what Lester termed “known enemies of the black community.” This, he said, was a “move from self-defense to aggressive action,” just like what the Vietcong were doing. Posing as a wartime guerrilla strategist, he wrote, “What is happening in East St. Louis points up once again the advantage of medium-sized cities, leaving Saigon, Danang and other large cities for the last.” Despite the perfervid pornoviolent fantasies of Tea Partiers, no one’s saying anything like that now.

Another difference: Despite the awful, inexcusable responses of law enforcement now, what is happening is the palest shadow of the response of law enforcement then.

Take Newark. After the first wave of looting and arson, the state police were sent in. Alongside the local police, they commenced, as documented by a brave investigative reporter named Ron Porambo in a 1971 book called No Cause for Indictment, a veritable turkey shoot. First they shot and killed a 45-year-old mother searching for one of her children; then a 28-year-old former basketball star who was shot shortly after advising his companions to submit quietly to police; then a young man shot in the back while running from a liquor store. Nine were killed by the end of the first day. That went on and on for six days, including one group cut down by police who fired into the milling crowd even as the men began waving their undershirts like white flags.

The death toll from these acts of official terror in Newark was 25. Newark’s white residents, meanwhile, set up armed patrols at the perimeters of their neighborhoods, promising to shoot anyone who might “spill over onto white ground.” No one was ever indicted in these deaths; hence the title of Porambo’s numbing, classic book. (Two attempts on Porambo’s life followed its publication.) A similar massacre by police, National Guardsmen and white vigilantes unfolded in Detroit a week and a half later, precipitated when police raided an afterhours bar that was operating illegally. The official death toll was 43. Then, such white terrorists were protected by their anonymity. Perhaps it is because these protections are all but impossible in the era of cell phone cameras and social media that no one else has died in Ferguson. The whole world is watching, in a way that was impossible then, and the media is less able to filter events. In 1967, CBS executives decided not to run a wrenching dispatch from the funeral of a beloved 72-year-old victim in Newark, Isaac “Uncle Daddy” Harrison, fearing a sympathetic portrait of “rioters” would be far too controversial. Now, such a funeral would be a YouTube sensation and Uncle Daddy a household name. Similarly, far too many eyes are on the street for even a tepid ur-establishmentarian Democrat like Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri to get away with a pro-police affirmation like the one offered by New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Richard Hughes, a close ally of President Lyndon Johnson, after Newark: “I felt a thrill of pride in the way our state police and National Guard have conducted themselves.”

From riots to mobilization

By 1969, the urban riots all but stopped. With a handful of notable exceptions over the years Miami’s Liberty City in 1980, Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict in 1992, Cincinnati in 2001—police violence no longer automatically sparks flare-ups. In recent years, there have been many, many police shootings of innocents: Think of Amadou Diallo in New York in 1999, or Oscar Grant in Oakland in 2009, whose shooting by BART transit cops inspired the movie Fruitvale Station. None inspired the level of uprising of the 1960s, or that we saw in Ferguson this year. So what explains the hiatus—and what made Ferguson et al the exceptions?

Categories: Newswire

Hundreds of Thousands of Climate Marchers Make History

In These Times - September 22, 2014 - 8:30am

The People’s Climate March wasn’t just the biggest environmental protest ever.

If the estimates of organizers are correct, then the 400,000 people who marched in Manhattan on Sunday took part in one of the largest mass mobilizations in American history—more than the March on Washington and right up there with the biggest of the anti-Iraq and Vietnam war rallies.

“I feel so tiny right now, but I feel like I’m a part of something huge,” says Erika Weiskopf, a student at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, who came to the march with dozens of classmates. “It’s amazing to be here with people who have the same priorities that I do. It’s nice to not feel alone.”

“We really need to do something now,” says Ryan Wade, who took a bus to the rally from Philadelphia. “Climate change is already happening. It’s starting to impact us and it’s only going to get worse.”

Initiated by 350.org and the online advocacy group Avaaz—and planned to coincide with a pivotal United Nations environmental summit—the People’s Climate March pieced together a gigantic coalition that exemplified a “big tent.”

Indigenous and “front-line” community groups already dealing with the effects of climate change led the march. Next came high-profile public officials like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Green groups like Food & Water Watch turned out members in droves. So too did local unions like Teamsters Joint Council 16, the New York State Nurses Association, Transport Workers Union Local 100, and Service Employees International Union locals 32BJ and 1199. Anti-capitalists of all stripes trailed behind, in a procession that stretched nearly four miles.

“It’s incredibly important to show that hundreds of thousands of people are unified in wanting to see action taken and that is what’s most important about this,” says May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. “We haven’t been able to do that before.”

The march also underlined an ongoing, groundbreaking shift in U.S. environmental politics: As the planet’s carbon problem has become more dire, mainstream green groups are developing a penchant for direct action.

“It is true that in recent years there was a reluctance from the Sierra Club to do these kinds of larger, national events,” says Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who famously ended the group’s longstanding ban on civil disobedience when he tied himself to the White House gate and was arrested at a Keystone XL protest on February 13. “I think as new people have come on, we realized that is a role we have to play.”

I asked Brune what he thought of Naomi Klein’s latest book, which argues we need to ditch capitalism to save the planet.

“I think we do need to see a more rapid [inclusion] of economic, social and political values that will enable us to address common causes,” Brune says. “What we call the economic system that emerges from that, that’s unclear to me. But I think Naomi’s critiques are strong and valuable and some of the solutions she offers are practical and helpful.”

Despite the march’s impressive size, and the national and international headlines it generated, questions linger over its overall impact.

The march had no official set of demands, and a quick stroll along the slow-moving procession revealed a cacophonous mix of messages. Posters stated everything from “Cook Organic—Not the planet,” “Carbon Tax Now,” “No Coal Exports” and “Stop Capitalism” to “Horse Abuse Is Not Romantic—Stop Horse Abuse.”

Some on the Left have derided the action as little more than a PR stunt, designed to fundraise rather than build a movement.

Others worry the march will not translate into anything concrete.

May Boeve, from 350.org, disagrees. Plenty of those who made the trek to New York are already engaged on issues in their hometowns, she says, and connecting with a larger movement will give those campaigns a boost.

“Mass mobilizations play a particular role, which is, we get to see each other in the movement,” Boeve says. “We get to be wowed and amazed by what we’re capable of, by how we’re growing. That gets translated into victories on a number of key fronts.”

Climate week in New York isn’t over just yet. Today, three years after Occupy Wall Street, thousands of protesters are expected to “Flood Wall Street,” risking arrest at the New York Stock Exchange. The message: “Stop Capitalism. End the Climate Crisis.”

Al Gore probably won’t be there.

Categories: Newswire

Afghanistan Survival Skills

truthout - September 21, 2014 - 7:37pm

You can make a contribution to Truthout and get a copy of "No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes." Click here and order the book now.

(Image: Metropolitan Books)Former US Army Ranger and conscientious objector Fanning reviews Anand Gopal's No Good Men Among the Living, a book that was recently be long-listed for the National Book Award and Truthout's Progressive pick of the week. 

It has been more than a decade since I trudged through the mountains of Afghanistan, and drove over the country's broken roads for the 2nd US Army Ranger battalion. I did two tours in the country. The first, in 2002, was willingly. The second, in 2004, was by force after declaring conscientious objector status. Leaving the Rangers as a CO was one of the most difficult challenges of my life. There are many reasons I left, some of which I am still coming to understand - Anand Gopal's book No Good Men Among the Living has helped me reconcile these reasons more than any of the many books I've read on Afghanistan. 

Gopal's book answers the questions that haunted me both during and after my tours: What were the women who would peek out from second floor windows in dusty clay homes feeling as we barreled down their streets in armored Humvees with 50-calibur machine guns at the ready? Were those who fired Cold War-era Russian rockets at our camps motivated by knowing we would respond in kind with 500-pound bombs dropped from jets? What went through the minds of Afghan men when we stormed into their homes, threw sandbags over their heads in night raids? Why did so many of our missions seem like we were little more than pawns in village disputes? Were we preventing another 9/11? Did they really hate us for our freedom? Was it Islam that was creating terrorists - or was it US imperialism?

Gopal moved to Afghanistan in 2008, and for more than two years found the answers to these questions. He wasn't part of the embedded press crew that is vetted for their allegiance to the US mission. Gopal traveled to remote regions of the country on the most treacherous roads in the world to talk to those who were eye-witness to the Russian occupation in the '80s, the country's Civil War in the '90s, and then the US occupation post 9/11. Gopal gets in-depth with a US-backed warlord, a Taliban fighter and a housewife.

Akbar Gul, aka Mullah Cable, (a nickname he received for his brutal use of cable whips during the Civil War) a Taliban commander and father, retreated to Pakistan as the Taliban fell. As a refugee, without work prospects, he returned to Afghanistan and opened a cell-phone repair shop - a highly valued profession in a place where cell-phones are not easily replaced. Gul's attempt to live as a simple merchant proved impossible as shakedowns from US-backed Afghan police and US military raids ended his business. When it came to supporting his family, his options became: fight the US occupation as a part of the Taliban or starve.

Jan Mohammed, a close friend of Hamid Karzai, pedophile, and vicious warlord, was appointed governor of Oruzgan Province, where he manipulated the US military to pad his own pockets with millions of dollars by providing false claims that his political rivals were members of the Taliban. Gopal shows that the US aligned with men like Momhamad because the system the US put in place, as Gopal puts it, "did not reward stability legitimacy or popularity. Instead it rewarded those who could serve up enemies." We see that the US was quite content to cast a wide and bloody net over the country. Gopal relates stories of many who did everything possible to align themselves with US interests. But even these people found themselves imprisoned indefinitely without due process in Guatanamo and the like. The US saw little difference between innocent Afghans and members of the Taliban. They just wanted blood - anyone's. 

Heela, a college-educated housewife, is the most fascinating person in the book. Run out of Kabul during the Civil War to an isolated village dominated by primitive religious rites, Heela was confined to her home under threat of death, with permission to leave only under the supervision of a blood-related male chaperone. These impossibly restrictive conditions did not prevent Heela from creating an underground educational system for other women in her village. These efforts, as well as the actions of her politically active husband made her a target of Jan Mohammad. She lost her husband to the warlord's henchmen and barely escaped from her village with her own and her children's lives.

Gopal frames these stories with the ten-year occupation of the country by the Russians, the US financing of fundamentalists during the 80s, and the horrific Civil War that befell the country. We learn why the Taliban came to rule following the power vacuum left by the Russians and the US when both turned a blind eye to the country following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The most frustrating revelations of the book, for those of us who lost friends in Afghanistan, were the details of why the Taliban surrendered, and al-Qaeda fled to Pakistan within months of the US invasion. Everything that happened, the US casualties, the thousands of Afghan civilian deaths, and the half a trillion dollars spent not on infrastructure but destruction could have been avoided if the US had accepted the surrender. But the Bush and then Obama administration demanded unending blood.

No Good Men Among the Living is not a self-serving adventure story about what it takes to get a report from a war-torn and exotic place like Afghanistan. For the most part, Gopal takes himself out of the book and we are led by those we never hear from in the mainstream media. Despite not mentioning very much about his own story, Gopal should be commended and thanked for putting his life on the line to create such an important book.

Poverty, war, and decades of occupation have made finding new and creative survival techniques a way of life for most Afghans. It is the pressing weight of uncertain future and the regular threat of loss that make allegiances so fickle for many. Anyone who understands this will see why the Taliban surrendered so quickly following the initial US invasion. And this is where we can begin to find the motivation for Gopal's title. "No good men among the living" is a Pashtun proverb that means, as Gopal writes:

There are no heroes, no saviors in this world. Neither side of the conflict offered much hope for a better future. The categories of the American war on terror - terrorists, fundamentalists and democrats - mattered little, not when [the] abiding goal was simply to finish each day.

Give this book to anyone you know who plans on joining the US military or blames Islam for the US occupation of Afghanistan - they are sure to rethink their position after reading it. There is hope, much humanity, and the power to end our unending wars in Gopal's magnificent work.

Categories: Newswire

Afghanistan Survival Skills

truthout - September 21, 2014 - 7:37pm

You can make a contribution to Truthout and get a copy of "No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes." Click here and order the book now.

(Image: Metropolitan Books)Former US Army Ranger and conscientious objector Fanning reviews Anand Gopal's No Good Men Among the Living, a book that was recently be long-listed for the National Book Award and Truthout's Progressive pick of the week. 

It has been more than a decade since I trudged through the mountains of Afghanistan, and drove over the country's broken roads for the 2nd US Army Ranger battalion. I did two tours in the country. The first, in 2002, was willingly. The second, in 2004, was by force after declaring conscientious objector status. Leaving the Rangers as a CO was one of the most difficult challenges of my life. There are many reasons I left, some of which I am still coming to understand - Anand Gopal's book No Good Men Among the Living has helped me reconcile these reasons more than any of the many books I've read on Afghanistan. 

Gopal's book answers the questions that haunted me both during and after my tours: What were the women who would peek out from second floor windows in dusty clay homes feeling as we barreled down their streets in armored Humvees with 50-calibur machine guns at the ready? Were those who fired Cold War-era Russian rockets at our camps motivated by knowing we would respond in kind with 500-pound bombs dropped from jets? What went through the minds of Afghan men when we stormed into their homes, threw sandbags over their heads in night raids? Why did so many of our missions seem like we were little more than pawns in village disputes? Were we preventing another 9/11? Did they really hate us for our freedom? Was it Islam that was creating terrorists - or was it US imperialism?

Gopal moved to Afghanistan in 2008, and for more than two years found the answers to these questions. He wasn't part of the embedded press crew that is vetted for their allegiance to the US mission. Gopal traveled to remote regions of the country on the most treacherous roads in the world to talk to those who were eye-witness to the Russian occupation in the '80s, the country's Civil War in the '90s, and then the US occupation post 9/11. Gopal gets in-depth with a US-backed warlord, a Taliban fighter and a housewife.

Akbar Gul, aka Mullah Cable, (a nickname he received for his brutal use of cable whips during the Civil War) a Taliban commander and father, retreated to Pakistan as the Taliban fell. As a refugee, without work prospects, he returned to Afghanistan and opened a cell-phone repair shop - a highly valued profession in a place where cell-phones are not easily replaced. Gul's attempt to live as a simple merchant proved impossible as shakedowns from US-backed Afghan police and US military raids ended his business. When it came to supporting his family, his options became: fight the US occupation as a part of the Taliban or starve.

Jan Mohammed, a close friend of Hamid Karzai, pedophile, and vicious warlord, was appointed governor of Oruzgan Province, where he manipulated the US military to pad his own pockets with millions of dollars by providing false claims that his political rivals were members of the Taliban. Gopal shows that the US aligned with men like Momhamad because the system the US put in place, as Gopal puts it, "did not reward stability legitimacy or popularity. Instead it rewarded those who could serve up enemies." We see that the US was quite content to cast a wide and bloody net over the country. Gopal relates stories of many who did everything possible to align themselves with US interests. But even these people found themselves imprisoned indefinitely without due process in Guatanamo and the like. The US saw little difference between innocent Afghans and members of the Taliban. They just wanted blood - anyone's. 

Heela, a college-educated housewife, is the most fascinating person in the book. Run out of Kabul during the Civil War to an isolated village dominated by primitive religious rites, Heela was confined to her home under threat of death, with permission to leave only under the supervision of a blood-related male chaperone. These impossibly restrictive conditions did not prevent Heela from creating an underground educational system for other women in her village. These efforts, as well as the actions of her politically active husband made her a target of Jan Mohammad. She lost her husband to the warlord's henchmen and barely escaped from her village with her own and her children's lives.

Gopal frames these stories with the ten-year occupation of the country by the Russians, the US financing of fundamentalists during the 80s, and the horrific Civil War that befell the country. We learn why the Taliban came to rule following the power vacuum left by the Russians and the US when both turned a blind eye to the country following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The most frustrating revelations of the book, for those of us who lost friends in Afghanistan, were the details of why the Taliban surrendered, and al-Qaeda fled to Pakistan within months of the US invasion. Everything that happened, the US casualties, the thousands of Afghan civilian deaths, and the half a trillion dollars spent not on infrastructure but destruction could have been avoided if the US had accepted the surrender. But the Bush and then Obama administration demanded unending blood.

No Good Men Among the Living is not a self-serving adventure story about what it takes to get a report from a war-torn and exotic place like Afghanistan. For the most part, Gopal takes himself out of the book and we are led by those we never hear from in the mainstream media. Despite not mentioning very much about his own story, Gopal should be commended and thanked for putting his life on the line to create such an important book.

Poverty, war, and decades of occupation have made finding new and creative survival techniques a way of life for most Afghans. It is the pressing weight of uncertain future and the regular threat of loss that make allegiances so fickle for many. Anyone who understands this will see why the Taliban surrendered so quickly following the initial US invasion. And this is where we can begin to find the motivation for Gopal's title. "No good men among the living" is a Pashtun proverb that means, as Gopal writes:

There are no heroes, no saviors in this world. Neither side of the conflict offered much hope for a better future. The categories of the American war on terror - terrorists, fundamentalists and democrats - mattered little, not when [the] abiding goal was simply to finish each day.

Give this book to anyone you know who plans on joining the US military or blames Islam for the US occupation of Afghanistan - they are sure to rethink their position after reading it. There is hope, much humanity, and the power to end our unending wars in Gopal's magnificent work.

Categories: Newswire

Can "Womenomics" Stem the Feminization of Poverty in Japan?

truthout - September 21, 2014 - 5:39pm

Tokyo - Fifty-four-year-old Marlyn Maeda, an unmarried freelance writer living in Tokyo who never held a permanent job, is now watching her dream of aging independently go up in smoke.

“I work four jobs and barely survive,” said the writer, who disclosed only her penname to IPS. Her monthly income after writing articles, working at a call centre, selling cosmetics five days a week and working one night at a bar hovers at close to 1,600 dollars.

Maeda belongs to the burgeoning ranks of the poor in Japan, a country that saw its poverty rate pass the 16-percent mark in 2013 as a result of more than two decades of sluggish growth that has led to lower salaries and the cutting of permanent jobs among this population of 127.3 million people.

She also represents an alarming trend: rising poverty among women, who now comprise the majority of the poor and old in Japan, the world’s third-largest economy and fastest-aging society.

Indeed, Maeda points out her pay is now a low 50 dollars per article, down from the heady era of the 80s and 90s when she earned at least three times that rate.

Japan defines the poverty threshold as those earning less than 10,000 dollars per year. The elderly and part-timers fall into this category, and Maeda’s hard-earned income, which places her slightly above the official poverty line, nonetheless keeps her on her toes, barely able to cover her most basic needs.

“When the call centre cut my working days to three a week in June, and payment for freelancers [dropped], I became really worried about my future. If I fall sick and cannot work, I will just have to live on the streets,” Maeda asserted.

After paying her rent, taxes and health insurance, she admits to being so hard-pressed that she sometimes borrows from her aging parents in order to survive.

Maeda’s story, which echoes the experience of so many women in Japan today, flies in the face of government efforts to empower women and improve their economic participation.

In fact, a sweeping package of reforms introduced earlier this year by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was met with skepticism from gender experts and advocates, who are disheartened by the myriad social and economic barriers facing women.

Dubbed ‘Womenomics’ in line with Abe’s economic reform policies – based on anti-deflation and GDP-growth measures that earned the label ‘Abenomics’ in early 2013 – the move calls for several changes that will pave the way for Japanese women, long discriminated in the work place, to gain new terms including equal salaries as their male counterparts, longer periods of childcare leave and promotions.

Given the fact that 60 percent of employed women leave their jobs when starting a family, Abe has promised to tackle key barriers, including increasing the number of daycare slots for children by 20,000, and upping the number of after-school programmes by 300,000 by 2020.

Another target is to increase women’s share of leadership positions to 30 percent by that same year.

Writing about the scheme in the Wall Street Journal last September, Abe claimed the government growth plan could spur a two-percent increase in productivity over the middle to long term, which in turn could lead to an average two-percent increase in inflation-adjusted GDP over a 10-year period.

“We have set the goal of boosting women’s workforce participation from the current 68 percent to 73 percent by the year 2020,” Abe wrote, adding, “Japanese women earn, on average, 30.2 percent less than men (compared with 20.1 percent in the U.S. and just 0.2 percent in the Philippines). We must bridge this equality gap.”

But for experts like Hiroko Inokuma, a gender researcher focusing on the challenges facing working mothers, this is a “tall order”, especially in the light of “growing job insecurity, which is already leading to dismal poverty figures among women.”

Indeed, the numbers paint a grim picture: one in three women between the ages of 20 and 64 years of age and living alone are living in poverty, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (NIPSSR), a leading Tokyo-based think tank.

Among married women, the poverty figure is 11 percent and counts mostly older women whose husbands have died. Almost 50 percent of divorced women have also been identified as grappling with poverty.

In addition, the poverty rate was 31.6 percent among surveyed working women, compared to 25.1 percent among men.

Health and Welfare Ministry statistics indicate that Japan is now registering record poverty levels; the year 2010 saw the highest number of welfare recipients in the last several decades, with 2.09 million people, or 16 percent of the population, requiring government assistance.

Against this backdrop, Akiko Suzuki, of the non-profit ‘Inclusive Net’, which supports the homeless, explained to IPS that Abe’s proposed changes and targets are highly illusive.

“After years of working with low-income people, I link the increase in females grappling with poverty to the rising number of part-time or contract jobs that are replacing full-time positions in companies,” she said.

The nursing industry, for instance, employs the highest number of part-time employees in Japan, of which 90.5 percent are women.

Inclusive Net reports that women currently comprise 20 percent of the average 3,000 people per month actively seeking support for their economic woes, up from less than 10 percent three years ago.

“We have women who are desperate. Because they do not hold secure jobs, they endure searing problems such as domestic violence or workplace harassment,” said Suzuki.

Japan has 20 million temporary workers, accounting for 40 percent of its workforce. Females comprise 63 percent of those holding jobs that pay less than 38 percent of a full-time worker’s salary.

Aya Abe, poverty researcher at the NIPSSR, told IPS that poverty among women has been a perennial problem in Japanese society, where they traditionally play second fiddle to men.

“For decades women have managed to get by despite earning less because they had earning husbands or lived with their parents. They also lived frugally. The recent poverty trend can then be related to less women getting married or being stuck in low-paid, part-time or contract work,” she stated.

A highlight of the prime minister’s gender empowerment proposals is the plan to remove a sacred tax benefit for husbands that also protects their working spouses who earn less than 10,000 dollars annually.

The tax was introduced in 1961 when Japan was composed of mostly single-income households led by male breadwinners under the life-term employment system.

Proponents say discarding the tax benefit will encourage women to work full-time while others argue this could increase women’s vulnerability by stripping them of a crucial social safety net.

While the political debate rages on, hundreds of thousands of Japanese women are struggling to make it through these dark days, with no sign of a silver lining. According to experts like Suzuki, “An aging population and unstable jobs means the feminisation of poverty is here to stay.”

Categories: Newswire

Can "Womenomics" Stem the Feminization of Poverty in Japan?

truthout - September 21, 2014 - 5:39pm

Tokyo - Fifty-four-year-old Marlyn Maeda, an unmarried freelance writer living in Tokyo who never held a permanent job, is now watching her dream of aging independently go up in smoke.

“I work four jobs and barely survive,” said the writer, who disclosed only her penname to IPS. Her monthly income after writing articles, working at a call centre, selling cosmetics five days a week and working one night at a bar hovers at close to 1,600 dollars.

Maeda belongs to the burgeoning ranks of the poor in Japan, a country that saw its poverty rate pass the 16-percent mark in 2013 as a result of more than two decades of sluggish growth that has led to lower salaries and the cutting of permanent jobs among this population of 127.3 million people.

She also represents an alarming trend: rising poverty among women, who now comprise the majority of the poor and old in Japan, the world’s third-largest economy and fastest-aging society.

Indeed, Maeda points out her pay is now a low 50 dollars per article, down from the heady era of the 80s and 90s when she earned at least three times that rate.

Japan defines the poverty threshold as those earning less than 10,000 dollars per year. The elderly and part-timers fall into this category, and Maeda’s hard-earned income, which places her slightly above the official poverty line, nonetheless keeps her on her toes, barely able to cover her most basic needs.

“When the call centre cut my working days to three a week in June, and payment for freelancers [dropped], I became really worried about my future. If I fall sick and cannot work, I will just have to live on the streets,” Maeda asserted.

After paying her rent, taxes and health insurance, she admits to being so hard-pressed that she sometimes borrows from her aging parents in order to survive.

Maeda’s story, which echoes the experience of so many women in Japan today, flies in the face of government efforts to empower women and improve their economic participation.

In fact, a sweeping package of reforms introduced earlier this year by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was met with skepticism from gender experts and advocates, who are disheartened by the myriad social and economic barriers facing women.

Dubbed ‘Womenomics’ in line with Abe’s economic reform policies – based on anti-deflation and GDP-growth measures that earned the label ‘Abenomics’ in early 2013 – the move calls for several changes that will pave the way for Japanese women, long discriminated in the work place, to gain new terms including equal salaries as their male counterparts, longer periods of childcare leave and promotions.

Given the fact that 60 percent of employed women leave their jobs when starting a family, Abe has promised to tackle key barriers, including increasing the number of daycare slots for children by 20,000, and upping the number of after-school programmes by 300,000 by 2020.

Another target is to increase women’s share of leadership positions to 30 percent by that same year.

Writing about the scheme in the Wall Street Journal last September, Abe claimed the government growth plan could spur a two-percent increase in productivity over the middle to long term, which in turn could lead to an average two-percent increase in inflation-adjusted GDP over a 10-year period.

“We have set the goal of boosting women’s workforce participation from the current 68 percent to 73 percent by the year 2020,” Abe wrote, adding, “Japanese women earn, on average, 30.2 percent less than men (compared with 20.1 percent in the U.S. and just 0.2 percent in the Philippines). We must bridge this equality gap.”

But for experts like Hiroko Inokuma, a gender researcher focusing on the challenges facing working mothers, this is a “tall order”, especially in the light of “growing job insecurity, which is already leading to dismal poverty figures among women.”

Indeed, the numbers paint a grim picture: one in three women between the ages of 20 and 64 years of age and living alone are living in poverty, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (NIPSSR), a leading Tokyo-based think tank.

Among married women, the poverty figure is 11 percent and counts mostly older women whose husbands have died. Almost 50 percent of divorced women have also been identified as grappling with poverty.

In addition, the poverty rate was 31.6 percent among surveyed working women, compared to 25.1 percent among men.

Health and Welfare Ministry statistics indicate that Japan is now registering record poverty levels; the year 2010 saw the highest number of welfare recipients in the last several decades, with 2.09 million people, or 16 percent of the population, requiring government assistance.

Against this backdrop, Akiko Suzuki, of the non-profit ‘Inclusive Net’, which supports the homeless, explained to IPS that Abe’s proposed changes and targets are highly illusive.

“After years of working with low-income people, I link the increase in females grappling with poverty to the rising number of part-time or contract jobs that are replacing full-time positions in companies,” she said.

The nursing industry, for instance, employs the highest number of part-time employees in Japan, of which 90.5 percent are women.

Inclusive Net reports that women currently comprise 20 percent of the average 3,000 people per month actively seeking support for their economic woes, up from less than 10 percent three years ago.

“We have women who are desperate. Because they do not hold secure jobs, they endure searing problems such as domestic violence or workplace harassment,” said Suzuki.

Japan has 20 million temporary workers, accounting for 40 percent of its workforce. Females comprise 63 percent of those holding jobs that pay less than 38 percent of a full-time worker’s salary.

Aya Abe, poverty researcher at the NIPSSR, told IPS that poverty among women has been a perennial problem in Japanese society, where they traditionally play second fiddle to men.

“For decades women have managed to get by despite earning less because they had earning husbands or lived with their parents. They also lived frugally. The recent poverty trend can then be related to less women getting married or being stuck in low-paid, part-time or contract work,” she stated.

A highlight of the prime minister’s gender empowerment proposals is the plan to remove a sacred tax benefit for husbands that also protects their working spouses who earn less than 10,000 dollars annually.

The tax was introduced in 1961 when Japan was composed of mostly single-income households led by male breadwinners under the life-term employment system.

Proponents say discarding the tax benefit will encourage women to work full-time while others argue this could increase women’s vulnerability by stripping them of a crucial social safety net.

While the political debate rages on, hundreds of thousands of Japanese women are struggling to make it through these dark days, with no sign of a silver lining. According to experts like Suzuki, “An aging population and unstable jobs means the feminisation of poverty is here to stay.”

Categories: Newswire

The GOP Social Security Deception Game Is On - Here's How to Fight Back

truthout - September 21, 2014 - 5:22pm

The Social Security deception game that Republican candidates have resorted to playing in recent election cycles is back. But, at a rally on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) showed how candidates and activists can defeat the gamesmanship and be true champions of strengthening Social Security.

The deception game is showing up in ads such as one now being aired in New York’s 21st congressional district, in which Republican Elise M. Stefanik is running against Democrat Aaron G. Woolf for a seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Bill Owens. The ad claims that Woolf supports policies that would dramatically cut Social Security benefits, while Stefanik says that she is committed to policies that “protect and preserve Social Security.”

The ad is blatantly false. (For starters, just read the article that Stefanik uses to base one of her claims against Woolf.) Woolf’s campaign website, while lacking details, explicitly says, “No cuts to Medicare, no cuts to Social Security.” Stefanik, on the other hand, supports raising the retirement age for Social Security and reducing the inflation adjustment seniors would receive each year. In other words, it’s Stefanik that will cut benefits, not Woolf. And that “$3,287 cut in Social Security” that Woolf allegedly would inflict on seniors if he is elected? That’s the Social Security Board of Trustees estimate of what would happen if Congress did nothing to shore up the Social Security system – by 2033.

The only way to deal with candidates who won’t let the facts get in the way of a smarmy campaign ad is to speak the truth with boldness.

At Thursday’s “Hands Off Social Security” rally, which the Campaign for America’s Future co-sponsored, Warren pointed out that according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, American households are $6.6 trillion short of what they would need to have in their savings for an adequate retirement.

“Families are squeezed,” Warren said. “The last thing we need to be talking about is cutting Social Security.”

Since the 1980s, however, Republicans have been working to do just that, Warren said, enacting policies such as tax cuts for the wealthy that increased deficits and created the pretext of a crisis that would justify cutting or privatizing Social Security. “We’re here to take the initiative to say that will not happen on our watch. Social Security benefits need to be expanded, and so does Medicare.”

As Warren said Thursday, the polling is on the side of candidates who campaign on strengthening Social Security. Conservative candidates know that; that’s why they couch their plans to defer and degrade benefits as “protecting” Social Security, even as they reject measures – ensuring wealthy individuals pay the same percentage of their salary in payroll taxes as the rest of us, as well as pushing for higher wages and full employment, which would increase Social Security reserves – that would actually protect Social Security for the next 75 years and beyond.

More important, she added, is the moral imperative, “that Social Security is about the dignity of human beings. You work hard for a lifetime and you are entitled to retire in dignity and that means a strong Social Security system and strong Medicare.”

Categories: Newswire

The GOP Social Security Deception Game Is On - Here's How to Fight Back

truthout - September 21, 2014 - 5:22pm

The Social Security deception game that Republican candidates have resorted to playing in recent election cycles is back. But, at a rally on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) showed how candidates and activists can defeat the gamesmanship and be true champions of strengthening Social Security.

The deception game is showing up in ads such as one now being aired in New York’s 21st congressional district, in which Republican Elise M. Stefanik is running against Democrat Aaron G. Woolf for a seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Bill Owens. The ad claims that Woolf supports policies that would dramatically cut Social Security benefits, while Stefanik says that she is committed to policies that “protect and preserve Social Security.”

The ad is blatantly false. (For starters, just read the article that Stefanik uses to base one of her claims against Woolf.) Woolf’s campaign website, while lacking details, explicitly says, “No cuts to Medicare, no cuts to Social Security.” Stefanik, on the other hand, supports raising the retirement age for Social Security and reducing the inflation adjustment seniors would receive each year. In other words, it’s Stefanik that will cut benefits, not Woolf. And that “$3,287 cut in Social Security” that Woolf allegedly would inflict on seniors if he is elected? That’s the Social Security Board of Trustees estimate of what would happen if Congress did nothing to shore up the Social Security system – by 2033.

The only way to deal with candidates who won’t let the facts get in the way of a smarmy campaign ad is to speak the truth with boldness.

At Thursday’s “Hands Off Social Security” rally, which the Campaign for America’s Future co-sponsored, Warren pointed out that according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, American households are $6.6 trillion short of what they would need to have in their savings for an adequate retirement.

“Families are squeezed,” Warren said. “The last thing we need to be talking about is cutting Social Security.”

Since the 1980s, however, Republicans have been working to do just that, Warren said, enacting policies such as tax cuts for the wealthy that increased deficits and created the pretext of a crisis that would justify cutting or privatizing Social Security. “We’re here to take the initiative to say that will not happen on our watch. Social Security benefits need to be expanded, and so does Medicare.”

As Warren said Thursday, the polling is on the side of candidates who campaign on strengthening Social Security. Conservative candidates know that; that’s why they couch their plans to defer and degrade benefits as “protecting” Social Security, even as they reject measures – ensuring wealthy individuals pay the same percentage of their salary in payroll taxes as the rest of us, as well as pushing for higher wages and full employment, which would increase Social Security reserves – that would actually protect Social Security for the next 75 years and beyond.

More important, she added, is the moral imperative, “that Social Security is about the dignity of human beings. You work hard for a lifetime and you are entitled to retire in dignity and that means a strong Social Security system and strong Medicare.”

Categories: Newswire

At Elite Media, "Scientific" Racists Fit in Fine

truthout - September 21, 2014 - 4:32pm

Nicholas Wade was a leading New York Times science writer for three decades, at one point the editor of the “Science Times” section. He retired from full-time work at the paper in 2012, and in May 2014 published A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, a book that has been described as a full-throated defense of “scientific racism” (New Statesman, 5/20/14). Wade’s embrace of the pseudoscience of eugenics raises questions about his tenure at theTimes, and about corporate media vigilance when it comes to racism.

Media frequently fail to challenge racism in high places (FAIR Blog, 6/27/14) - in part because some highly placed corporate media figures are themselves attracted to racialist ideologies. Extra! (4/05) documented this after New York Times columnists David Brooks (12/7/04) and John Tierney (10/24/04) approvingly cited the work of Steve Sailer, a central figure in the promotion of racist and anti-immigrant theories.

For his part, Brooks praised a Sailer article in the American Conservative (12/20/04) that celebrated white people who flouted the Western trend toward declining birth rates, having lots of children and leaving behind what Brooks called the “disorder, vulgarity and danger” of cities to move to “clean, orderly” suburban and exurban settings where they can “protect their children from bad influences.” Sailer himself made clear what those bad influences were, mentioning “ghetto hellions,” “illegal immigrants and other poor minorities.”

In 1994, when Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray published The Bell Curve, a book espousing the so-called “academic racist” theories that black people are inherently less intelligent and more prone to crime than whites or Asians, the New York Times Book Review (10/16/94) published a fawning, credulous review by Times science reporter Malcolm Browne.

The Times wasn’t the only “liberal” outlet to praise a book that, according to co-author Murray (New York Times Magazine, 10/9/94), was largely based on sources so odious he would hide them from public view. The putatively liberal New Republic verily gushed over the book, with editor Andrew Sullivan dedicating an entire issue of the magazine (10/31/94) to it.

In that issue, Sullivan himself defended the book’s key premise: “The notion that there might be resilient ethnic differences in intelligence is not, we believe, an inherently racist belief.”

FAIR’s Jim Naureckas (Extra!, 1/95) answered Sullivan and fellow Bell Curve defenders:

In fact, the idea that some races are inherently inferior to others is the definition of racism. What the New Republic was saying–along with other media outlets that prominently and respectfully considered the thesis of Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein's book–is that racism is a respectable intellectual position, and has a legitimate place in the national debate on race.

It goes without saying that a right-wing outlet like the National Review, long steeped in bogus IQ science, biological determinism and plain old racism (Extra!, 4/05, 6/08; FAIR Blog, 4/11/12), was thrilled by The Bell Curve, dedicating most of an issue to the book (12/5/94), including an approving piece by Arthur Jensen, a patriarch of scientific racism, and one of the sources Murray had to keep hidden.

This brings us to A Troublesome Inheritance, in which a long-time New York Times science writer came fully out of the closet as an adherent of racist pseudoscience.

Wade argues that race is not, as many experts say, little more than a social construct, but rather centrally important, something like destiny. One culture's superiority over another, Wade argues, is determined by evolutionary differences—genetics—forged by differing environments and manifested in various cultures. This leads Wade to some crude conclusions, like suggesting that Jews are genetically selected to be good with money:

Populations that live at high altitudes, like Tibetans, represent another adaptation to extreme environments. The adaptation of Jews to capitalism is another such evolutionary process.

Expanding on the lack of economic success in African nations relative to those in Western Europe, Wade writes, "Variations in their nature, such as their time preference, work ethic and propensity to violence, have some bearing on the economic decisions they make."

Expanding on the lack of economic success in African nations relative to those in Western Europe, Wade writes, "Variations in their nature, such as their time preference, work ethic and propensity to violence, have some bearing on the economic decisions they make."

Perhaps Wade's conclusions aren't surprising, considering his sources. As Jon Phillips writes in "Troublesome Sources: Nicholas Wade's Embrace of Scientific Racism" (Hatewatch, 5/28/14), Wade employed leading scientific racists Arthur Jensen and Richard Lynn—two of Murray's favorite sources—but didn't seem too eager to put their work in context:

Wade manages to write a summary of American eugenics that completely neglects to mention the Pioneer Fund. Founded by Nazi sympathizers in 1937, the Pioneer Fund was, and continues to be, the chief source of financial support for eugenic research in the postwar period. One cannot help but wonder if this omission is related to the fact that Wade approvingly cites Pioneer grantees like Arthur Jensen, and relies heavily on the work of the Fund's current president, Richard Lynn, for data on the low IQs of black populations worldwide.

There's one encouraging sign resulting from the publication of A Troublesome Inheritance: The book has fared badly with reviewers, even in the outlets where the harsher, more malicious Bell Curve thrived. For instance, Wade's former home, the New York Times (5/15/14), ran a review that stated half-way in, "This is where Mr. Wade's argument starts to go off the rails." The reviewer is describing Wade's views on the differences "between tribal and modern societies":

At times, his theorizing is merely puzzling, as when he notes that the gene variant that gives East Asians dry earwax also produces less body odor, which would have been attractive "among people spending many months in confined spaces to escape the cold." No explanation of why ancient Europeans, presumably cooped up just as much, didn't also develop this trait. Later, he speculates that thick hair and small breasts evolved in Asian women because they may have been "much admired by Asian men." And why, you might ask, did Asian men alone prefer these traits?

The New Republic (5/25/14), which gushed over Herrnstein and Murray's book, called Wade's "racist" and its arguments "stupid," shooting holes in its scientific rigor and unsupported assumptions. Perhaps a different editor and the fact that the piece was a reprint from the leftish UK magazine New Statesman (5/20/14) made the difference, but the New Republic seems to have changed its mind about scientific racism.

Statistician Andrew Gelman (Slate, 5/8/14) elaborated on Wade's gene obsession, showing how his assumptions often get him into trouble. For instance, in one passage, Wade asks, "Capital and information flow fairly freely, so what is it that prevents poor countries from taking out a loan, copying every Scandinavian institution, and becoming as rich and peaceful as Denmark?" Wade wants us to assume that genes are the answer; however, writes Gelman,

one might just as well ask why can't Buffalo, New York, take out a loan and become as rich (per capita) as New York City. Or, for that matter, why can't Portugal become as rich as Denmark? After all, Portuguese are Caucasians too!

And Wade's genetic obsession isn't anything new. In "The Hunt for the Hat Gene" (Language Log, 11/15/09), University of Pennsylvania linguist Mark Liberman noted Wade's bizarre insistence in his Times reporting that every human action, cultural trait or behavior must have a corresponding gene, and how this apparent genetic fetish led him to over-interpreting or even fabricating the science:

Nicholas Wade is an inveterate gene-for-X enthusiast–he's got 68 stories in the NYT index with "gene" in the headline–and he's had two opportunities to celebrate this idea in the past few days: "Speech Gene Shows Its Bossy Nature," 11/12/09, and "The Evolution of the God Gene," 11/14/09.

Liberman explains why the first of these stories was "basically nonsense," while describing the second as "a completely hypothetical just-so story" that "verges on the bizarre."

Perhaps most telling, and damning, is the warm reception Wade's book got from openly racist outlets, including the website VDARE (3/14/14), where racebaiting former National Review writer John Derbyshire weighed in with "heartfelt" praise; former National Review contributor Sailer published a positive review in Taki's Magazine (4/30/14). Self-described white separatist Jared Taylor wrote his own fawning review on his American Renaissance website (3/2/14).

"Wade admits what Dr. David Duke and many others have long maintained—that there is indeed a biological basis to race," Duke's website (5/12/14) declared in a piece about "How Jewish Supremacism Attempts to Guard the Gates of Science."

The racists' adoring reviews revealed that they have had a fond eye on Wade for years, seeing in him a like-minded thinker. For instance, in his VDARE review, Derbyshire harshly criticized the New York Times' science section, but singled out Wade as an exception:

All the more reason to treasure Nicholas Wade, longtime science reporter at the Times. Wade belongs to the older tradition of science writer.... In his articles on genetics, he has distinguished himself for at least the past dozen years by writing frankly about biological race differences.

In Taki's, Sailer also praised Wade's Times work, including a Times editorial (6/15/11) he wrote blasting the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould for being too hard on a racist scientist.

Wade last wrote for the Times on May 27, three weeks after his book was released. It's striking that in all those years that the racist right was admiring Wade's work, the Times either didn't notice or didn't care.

Categories: Newswire

At Elite Media, "Scientific" Racists Fit in Fine

truthout - September 21, 2014 - 4:32pm

Nicholas Wade was a leading New York Times science writer for three decades, at one point the editor of the “Science Times” section. He retired from full-time work at the paper in 2012, and in May 2014 published A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, a book that has been described as a full-throated defense of “scientific racism” (New Statesman, 5/20/14). Wade’s embrace of the pseudoscience of eugenics raises questions about his tenure at theTimes, and about corporate media vigilance when it comes to racism.

Media frequently fail to challenge racism in high places (FAIR Blog, 6/27/14) - in part because some highly placed corporate media figures are themselves attracted to racialist ideologies. Extra! (4/05) documented this after New York Times columnists David Brooks (12/7/04) and John Tierney (10/24/04) approvingly cited the work of Steve Sailer, a central figure in the promotion of racist and anti-immigrant theories.

For his part, Brooks praised a Sailer article in the American Conservative (12/20/04) that celebrated white people who flouted the Western trend toward declining birth rates, having lots of children and leaving behind what Brooks called the “disorder, vulgarity and danger” of cities to move to “clean, orderly” suburban and exurban settings where they can “protect their children from bad influences.” Sailer himself made clear what those bad influences were, mentioning “ghetto hellions,” “illegal immigrants and other poor minorities.”

In 1994, when Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray published The Bell Curve, a book espousing the so-called “academic racist” theories that black people are inherently less intelligent and more prone to crime than whites or Asians, the New York Times Book Review (10/16/94) published a fawning, credulous review by Times science reporter Malcolm Browne.

The Times wasn’t the only “liberal” outlet to praise a book that, according to co-author Murray (New York Times Magazine, 10/9/94), was largely based on sources so odious he would hide them from public view. The putatively liberal New Republic verily gushed over the book, with editor Andrew Sullivan dedicating an entire issue of the magazine (10/31/94) to it.

In that issue, Sullivan himself defended the book’s key premise: “The notion that there might be resilient ethnic differences in intelligence is not, we believe, an inherently racist belief.”

FAIR’s Jim Naureckas (Extra!, 1/95) answered Sullivan and fellow Bell Curve defenders:

In fact, the idea that some races are inherently inferior to others is the definition of racism. What the New Republic was saying–along with other media outlets that prominently and respectfully considered the thesis of Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein's book–is that racism is a respectable intellectual position, and has a legitimate place in the national debate on race.

It goes without saying that a right-wing outlet like the National Review, long steeped in bogus IQ science, biological determinism and plain old racism (Extra!, 4/05, 6/08; FAIR Blog, 4/11/12), was thrilled by The Bell Curve, dedicating most of an issue to the book (12/5/94), including an approving piece by Arthur Jensen, a patriarch of scientific racism, and one of the sources Murray had to keep hidden.

This brings us to A Troublesome Inheritance, in which a long-time New York Times science writer came fully out of the closet as an adherent of racist pseudoscience.

Wade argues that race is not, as many experts say, little more than a social construct, but rather centrally important, something like destiny. One culture's superiority over another, Wade argues, is determined by evolutionary differences—genetics—forged by differing environments and manifested in various cultures. This leads Wade to some crude conclusions, like suggesting that Jews are genetically selected to be good with money:

Populations that live at high altitudes, like Tibetans, represent another adaptation to extreme environments. The adaptation of Jews to capitalism is another such evolutionary process.

Expanding on the lack of economic success in African nations relative to those in Western Europe, Wade writes, "Variations in their nature, such as their time preference, work ethic and propensity to violence, have some bearing on the economic decisions they make."

Expanding on the lack of economic success in African nations relative to those in Western Europe, Wade writes, "Variations in their nature, such as their time preference, work ethic and propensity to violence, have some bearing on the economic decisions they make."

Perhaps Wade's conclusions aren't surprising, considering his sources. As Jon Phillips writes in "Troublesome Sources: Nicholas Wade's Embrace of Scientific Racism" (Hatewatch, 5/28/14), Wade employed leading scientific racists Arthur Jensen and Richard Lynn—two of Murray's favorite sources—but didn't seem too eager to put their work in context:

Wade manages to write a summary of American eugenics that completely neglects to mention the Pioneer Fund. Founded by Nazi sympathizers in 1937, the Pioneer Fund was, and continues to be, the chief source of financial support for eugenic research in the postwar period. One cannot help but wonder if this omission is related to the fact that Wade approvingly cites Pioneer grantees like Arthur Jensen, and relies heavily on the work of the Fund's current president, Richard Lynn, for data on the low IQs of black populations worldwide.

There's one encouraging sign resulting from the publication of A Troublesome Inheritance: The book has fared badly with reviewers, even in the outlets where the harsher, more malicious Bell Curve thrived. For instance, Wade's former home, the New York Times (5/15/14), ran a review that stated half-way in, "This is where Mr. Wade's argument starts to go off the rails." The reviewer is describing Wade's views on the differences "between tribal and modern societies":

At times, his theorizing is merely puzzling, as when he notes that the gene variant that gives East Asians dry earwax also produces less body odor, which would have been attractive "among people spending many months in confined spaces to escape the cold." No explanation of why ancient Europeans, presumably cooped up just as much, didn't also develop this trait. Later, he speculates that thick hair and small breasts evolved in Asian women because they may have been "much admired by Asian men." And why, you might ask, did Asian men alone prefer these traits?

The New Republic (5/25/14), which gushed over Herrnstein and Murray's book, called Wade's "racist" and its arguments "stupid," shooting holes in its scientific rigor and unsupported assumptions. Perhaps a different editor and the fact that the piece was a reprint from the leftish UK magazine New Statesman (5/20/14) made the difference, but the New Republic seems to have changed its mind about scientific racism.

Statistician Andrew Gelman (Slate, 5/8/14) elaborated on Wade's gene obsession, showing how his assumptions often get him into trouble. For instance, in one passage, Wade asks, "Capital and information flow fairly freely, so what is it that prevents poor countries from taking out a loan, copying every Scandinavian institution, and becoming as rich and peaceful as Denmark?" Wade wants us to assume that genes are the answer; however, writes Gelman,

one might just as well ask why can't Buffalo, New York, take out a loan and become as rich (per capita) as New York City. Or, for that matter, why can't Portugal become as rich as Denmark? After all, Portuguese are Caucasians too!

And Wade's genetic obsession isn't anything new. In "The Hunt for the Hat Gene" (Language Log, 11/15/09), University of Pennsylvania linguist Mark Liberman noted Wade's bizarre insistence in his Times reporting that every human action, cultural trait or behavior must have a corresponding gene, and how this apparent genetic fetish led him to over-interpreting or even fabricating the science:

Nicholas Wade is an inveterate gene-for-X enthusiast–he's got 68 stories in the NYT index with "gene" in the headline–and he's had two opportunities to celebrate this idea in the past few days: "Speech Gene Shows Its Bossy Nature," 11/12/09, and "The Evolution of the God Gene," 11/14/09.

Liberman explains why the first of these stories was "basically nonsense," while describing the second as "a completely hypothetical just-so story" that "verges on the bizarre."

Perhaps most telling, and damning, is the warm reception Wade's book got from openly racist outlets, including the website VDARE (3/14/14), where racebaiting former National Review writer John Derbyshire weighed in with "heartfelt" praise; former National Review contributor Sailer published a positive review in Taki's Magazine (4/30/14). Self-described white separatist Jared Taylor wrote his own fawning review on his American Renaissance website (3/2/14).

"Wade admits what Dr. David Duke and many others have long maintained—that there is indeed a biological basis to race," Duke's website (5/12/14) declared in a piece about "How Jewish Supremacism Attempts to Guard the Gates of Science."

The racists' adoring reviews revealed that they have had a fond eye on Wade for years, seeing in him a like-minded thinker. For instance, in his VDARE review, Derbyshire harshly criticized the New York Times' science section, but singled out Wade as an exception:

All the more reason to treasure Nicholas Wade, longtime science reporter at the Times. Wade belongs to the older tradition of science writer.... In his articles on genetics, he has distinguished himself for at least the past dozen years by writing frankly about biological race differences.

In Taki's, Sailer also praised Wade's Times work, including a Times editorial (6/15/11) he wrote blasting the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould for being too hard on a racist scientist.

Wade last wrote for the Times on May 27, three weeks after his book was released. It's striking that in all those years that the racist right was admiring Wade's work, the Times either didn't notice or didn't care.

Categories: Newswire

Truthout Interviews Marjorie Cohn on Racial Discrimination and Perpetual War

truthout - September 21, 2014 - 3:16pm

Marjorie Cohn. (Screengrab: Truthout)Also see: US Slammed for Failure to Fulfill Legal Obligation to Eliminate All Forms of Race Discrimination and Obama Declares Perpetual War.

To read more articles by Marjorie Cohn, click here.

While no elected leader will admit it publicly, hypocrisy is often a virtue in politics. Yet even in the political world where hypocrisy, prevarication, deceit, and cover-ups are often the currency of the culture, to be called out on one's hypocrisy in word and deed can carry its own unique shame. Case in point: the United States is a signatory to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – a treaty that is part of US law – yet actually favors policies that increase racial discrimination. The United Nations criticized the US government in a report detailing the ways in which racial discrimination has structurally intensified since the US signed the treaty. Truthout columnist Marjorie Cohn writes about what's in the UN report and reminds us how the government has failed in many ways to comply with what's set forth in the treaty.

Law professor Cohn's focus on complying with legal statutes takes her into the realm of war; specifically the impending war with Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq - and the president's lack of authority to wage war without congressional approval. As Cohn reminds us, President Obama is basing his war-making authority on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress passed in 2001 and 2002 after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC. She highlights the limitations of those congressional authorizations and how the intent of Congress was to prevent the Bush Administration from engaging in an open-ended and perpetual war – a war Obama is ready to continue with or without congressional approval.

Categories: Newswire

Truthout Interviews Marjorie Cohn on Racial Discrimination and Perpetual War

truthout - September 21, 2014 - 3:16pm

Marjorie Cohn. (Screengrab: Truthout)Also see: US Slammed for Failure to Fulfill Legal Obligation to Eliminate All Forms of Race Discrimination and Obama Declares Perpetual War.

To read more articles by Marjorie Cohn, click here.

While no elected leader will admit it publicly, hypocrisy is often a virtue in politics. Yet even in the political world where hypocrisy, prevarication, deceit, and cover-ups are often the currency of the culture, to be called out on one's hypocrisy in word and deed can carry its own unique shame. Case in point: the United States is a signatory to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – a treaty that is part of US law – yet actually favors policies that increase racial discrimination. The United Nations criticized the US government in a report detailing the ways in which racial discrimination has structurally intensified since the US signed the treaty. Truthout columnist Marjorie Cohn writes about what's in the UN report and reminds us how the government has failed in many ways to comply with what's set forth in the treaty.

Law professor Cohn's focus on complying with legal statutes takes her into the realm of war; specifically the impending war with Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq - and the president's lack of authority to wage war without congressional approval. As Cohn reminds us, President Obama is basing his war-making authority on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress passed in 2001 and 2002 after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC. She highlights the limitations of those congressional authorizations and how the intent of Congress was to prevent the Bush Administration from engaging in an open-ended and perpetual war – a war Obama is ready to continue with or without congressional approval.

Categories: Newswire
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