We see the bill as the starting point for the conversation about a more rational marijuana policy, [one] that doesn’t result in a system that costs taxpayers an awful lot of money and generates racially discriminatory outcomes. — Andrew Goldston, spokesman for New York State Senator Liz Krueger. This week, Krueger will introduce a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in New York State.
Democracy don’t rule the world
You’d better get that in your head
This world is ruled by violence
But I guess that’s better left unsaid — Bob Dylan, Union Sundown
There are so many tributes to Nelsons Mandela that have been and will be written in the coming days that it hardly seems fitting to pollute the airwaves with another one. But I would like to bring up a point that Vijay Prashad mentioned this morning:
Everybody now is sad that Madiba is dead. Not a dry eye can be found. But many of these same people opposed freedom in South Africa to the very end. Many of these same people pilloried the struggles around the world in solidarity with Mandela’s ANC. And many of these people now ridicule the kind of views that Mandela held to the very end. When Mandela opposed the Iraq war (“All Bush wants is Iraqi oil”), the Western press lambasted him — the same press that is now aggrieved at his passage. All the obituaries detail what he did in his life, but none go into his political views.
This is a common phenomenon when iconic political figures pass away. It unfortunately continues long after their death. Glenn Beck famously tried to claim the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at his “Restoring Honor” rally, ignoring the fact that King would have disagreed with virtually every political stance that Glenn Beck has ascribed to himself. In an effort to make King’s legacy more accessible to everyone, his personal, radical politics are downplayed. Most public school history books, for example, discuss King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, but glaze over the most controversial sections, like this one:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
The same is true of King’s opposition to the Vietnam war. There are undoubtedly people alive today who believe in the most basic facet of King’s message of racial equality (i.e. judging someone by their character rather than their skin color), while thinking the War in Vietnam was a fine idea—a war that King was deeply opposed to (see below).
King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail was a condemnation of every White person and institution that, claiming to support the struggle of Black Americans in the 1960’s, sat idly by and did nothing; or worse yet, tried to convince King and his supporters that “now was not the time.” He lambasted middle class Whites who sat comfortably in their homes while Black children were attacked by police dogs and murdered while sitting in church. Meanwhile, King’s position on the Vietnam war was equally vehement:
As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.
This effort to sanitize iconic historical figures to make them more accessible is not limited to MLK. Gandhi, whose politics were somewhat different from King’s, has nonetheless also been subject to some historical whitewashing for accessibility’s sake. Gandhi’s program of non-violent resistance to a foreign oppressor makes sense to everyone (That’s what the American colonies did, after all!), so that’s what gets taught in schools. Yet Gandhi’s politics included things like this:
Gandhian economics do not draw a distinction between economics and ethics. Economics that hurts the moral well-being of an individual or a nation is immoral, and therefore sinful. The value of an industry should be gauged less by the dividends it pays to shareholders than by its effect on the bodies, soul and spirits of the people employed in it. In essence, supreme consideration is to be given to man rather than to money.
Of course, Gandhi also opposed Communist notions of “Class Warfare” because he felt it leads to unnecessary violence that would be suffered disproportionately by the poor. But it doesn’t change the fact that his politics were far more nuanced (and often radical) than the history books give him credit for.
The same is true of Nelson Mandela. He will be widely hailed as a hero and moral leader of humanity, which is appropriate. But in America, I suspect that many of the same people praising Mandela will conveniently ignore elements of his politics that they would find offensive in any other arena.
For starters, Mandela was a fierce supporter of Palestine and unapologetically referred to Israel as an Apartheid State:
Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.
When one learns about Mandela’s position on Israeli-Palestinian relations, it becomes strange to see institutions like the Anti-Defamation League, for example, penning tributes to Nelson Mandela, given that the ADL has consistently condemned others for using the “A” word to describe Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Secondly, individuals who unapologetically believe America is the greatest country in the world will probably paper over the fact that Mandela once said that the “attitude of the United States is a threat to world peace”:
[America’s] unqualified support of the Shah of Iran led directly to the Islamic revolution of 1979. Then the United States chose to arm and finance the [Islamic] mujahedin in Afghanistan instead of supporting and encouraging the moderate wing of the government of Afghanistan. That is what led to the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the most catastrophic action of the United States was to sabotage the decision that was painstakingly stitched together by the United Nations regarding the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan.
If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace. Because what [America] is saying is that if you are afraid of a veto in the Security Council, you can go outside and take action and violate the sovereignty of other countries. That is the message they are sending to the world.
And of course, business leaders who praise Mandela’s moral example will probably quietly forget to mention that Mandela was a die-hard supporter of Labor Unions. Which seems fitting today, given that on the same day Mandela died, thousands of fast-food workers across 100 cities in the U.S. were on strike for better wages.
And so as countless more tributes to Nelson Mandela are penned, most of them will ignore his politics, and focus on the more accessible aspects of his life. They will focus, mostly on two things: (1) his suffering at the hands of a racist government, and (2) his message of forgiveness and reconciliation with his former oppressors. Both of these things are powerful and relevant aspects of Mandela’s life, and are worth remembering.
But it is wrong that, in remembering these things, the other pieces of Mandela’s politics are washed over and ignored. Mandela’s beliefs were not formed in a vacuum. To truly appreciate and understand Mandela’s life, you have to be wiling to connect the dots. You can’t praise his message of reconciliation with his former racist oppressors while refusing to recognize that he also saw economic inequality as a threat to human dignity—not least because it is often linked to racism, even in (or perhaps especially in) Western democracies. The two were very much connected in Mandela’s mind.
So as friends and family continue to announce tributes to Mandela’s legacy, don’t be afraid to tell them about Mandela’s lesser-known political stances. Ignorance about Mandela’s politics only encourages people to continue to participate in the mass cognitive dissonance that we see whenever an iconic figure dies. Their more controversial political stances are ignored, while their more palatable stances are remembered. Yet we can’t truly honor and understand iconic people without reckoning with the full range of their political views. The failure to do so is simply a form of mass self-delusion. It’s bad for public discourse—and frankly, bad for public policy—since Mandela’s legacy will inevitably be invoked by people who never took the time to understand the political stances that Mandela actually held.
To me, it’s a heroic attribute to be so committed to a principle that you apply it not when it’s easy, not when it supports your position, not when it protects people you like, but when it defends and protects people that you hate. — Glenn Greenwald (via azspot)
No one should lose voting rights because they spent time in prison. — Rand Paul
Council speaker candidate Jumaane Williams opened up Thursday about his personal opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion—positions that make him an outlier in the Democratic conference and which threaten his chances of getting the top job.
In an interview with Capital, the 37-year-old Brooklyn Democrat, who co-founded the Council’s Progressive Caucus, cited his church-going Caribbean roots and a traumatic personal experience involving a pregnancy in explaining his views. —
Capital New York
This is an interesting and unique case of a self-identified “progressive” opposing marriage equality and abortion rights. Whether it’s justifiable or not, Williams will likely be ostracized, at least to a certain extent, in some progressive circles and his bid for city council speaker is unlikely to gain traction among New York’s liberal set. Yet Williams has a terrific record on stop-and-frisk and has emerged as one of its leading opponents within the city government. I’m curious as to how big of a tent progressives are willing to build…it would be unfortunate if Williams’ talents were brushed aside.
On this day in 1933, prohibition was repealed. Cheers!
Perhaps today we’ll reflect on how prohibiting potentially dangerous substances never succeeds in curing addiction to said substances but often succeeds in dramatically increasing crime? Or, you know, alternatively we could repeat past mistakes and continue doing this.
A Metaphor for America -
Scranton, Pennsylvania, was once a robust manufacturing centre. Now its factories are abandoned, its municipal coffers empty, its citizens in despair. This is how the dream ends.
This is a fairly bleak and devastating portrait of my hometown, Scranton, Pennsylvania. It’s hard to dispute most of the core observations: loss of business, erosion of prosperity, physical and spiritual decay, etc. Yet, the author, Chris Hedges, misses some crucial points. Call it foolish pride if you want, but many people who live in Scranton love their city. Maybe the “metaphor” is that, despite challenging circumstances, Americans care deeply about their home and do their best to improve it? Waltzing into someone else’s home and then shaking your head at how miserable and awful you perceive it to be is incredibly condescending and entirely unhelpful.
Also, Scranton just isn’t as bad as this article pretends. The city’s crime rates are significantly lower than national crime rates and its current unemployment rate (7.5%) is only slightly higher than the national rate (7.3%). Hedges also violates Godwin’s law by invoking Nazi Germany at his article’s conclusion, demonstrating that he doesn’t really have anything of value to say about Scranton…or America.
I actually do vote, but I don’t have any illusions that my vote is doing anything. There are far more important things than voting. I care more about what people do the day after they vote. —
46-year-old Ron Hankins was strolling…when officers stopped him and demanded to search him, according to a complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court. In his pockets they found several loose “Pow!” brand energy breath mints and, being thorough members of the NYPD, inquired about the pills’ provenance. “Mr. Hankins explained to the officers that what they had found were mints and not drugs and asked the officers look at and smell them to confirm,” according to the suit. “He told them to break them up, to sniff them, to do whatever they had to do,” Gabriel Harvis, attorney for Mr. Hankins, explained to the Post. “But they didn’t.”
Cops turned down Hankins’s offer, choosing instead to arrest him and throw him in the slammer for 30 hours. Charges were eventually dropped in October, but Hankins and his team won’t let the case rest on principle. “There are groups of people in this city who can carry as many breath mints as they want without being interrogated and arrested,” declared Harvis. “Fresh breath is not a crime.” — Brooklyn Cops Confuse Breath Mints with Ecstasy
There were pieces of my family all over the road. I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them.
Do the American people want to spend their money this way, on drones that kill our women and children? —
Miya Jan, an Afghan man who recounts the events after a drone strike pummeled his village and killed his brother, along with his sister-in-law and 18 month old nephew.
American reports claimed 11 people died that day, the overwhelming majority being Taliban militants, while the inhabitants of the village refute saying 14 people died and they were innocent civilians.
Also more from the article, a 19 year old man named Abdul Ghafar, who lost his mother, brother, sister-in-law and nephew in drone strikes, which fly over his home several times a day states:
“The Americans say they are here to protect us. No — they’re here to kill us and terrorize our women and children. These be-pilots fly over our village almost every day. They spy on people and steal their lives. Children are afraid to go to school. People are afraid to stand in a group because they fear these planes will shoot a missile at them.”
Rights Group Is Seeking Status of 'Legal Person' for Captive Chimpanzee -
[Steven M. Wise, leader of the Nonhuman Rights Project] is not asking the courts to declare the chimps equivalent to human beings, any more than a corporation, also considered a legal person, is a human being. Because the rights group has set up a trust for all four chimps, they are already legal persons under New York law, he argues.
He also marshals evidence from various scientists that a chimpanzee has qualities, including awareness of self, past and future, that should provide it with a right to bodily liberty.
The request is not for the chimps to be set completely free, but to be moved to one of the eight sanctuaries in the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance.
There will always be human errors, but we can do something about systemic negligence. —
Amy Davidson, Speed and Human Error: From Malbone Street to Metro-North
William Rockefeller, who was operating the Metro-North train that derailed en route to New York City from Poughkeepsie, was either daydreaming or napping (depending on who you believe) moments before the disaster that killed 4 passengers and wounded more than 60. According to one source, Rockefeller was awoken and/or alerted to his train’s excessive speed by a whistle and he then immediately hit the brakes.
It’s likely that Rockefeller will be haunted by this mistake for the rest of his life; besieged by guilt for the deaths of 4 people. Undoubtedly, he erred and failed in his duties. Yet, how can it be so easy for a train to careen around a 30 MPH bend at 80 MPH without any timely warning? Was there no one communicating with Rockefeller? Was there no advanced warning signal? How could this predictable, human error have gone unchecked?
Perhaps Rockefeller was overworked or sick or just exhausted. Or maybe, in the midst of his daily workplace drudgery, he “zoned out” for a moment. It will be easy to assign blame to Rockefeller but far more challenging to reform an obviously flawed system. Let’s hope the path of least resistance is not taken.
Hillary Clinton is the Democratic frontrunner for President in 2016. Elizabeth Warren should run against her, but probably won’t win. Chris Christie is the only Republican who can attract enough liberal voters to win a general election. But Scott Walker is the only Republican who can woo moderates and the conservative base. And hell, maybe Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders should run for President too, though they obviously have no chance of winning.
These are but a few of the confusing and completely baseless assertions and predictions being propagated by the media three whole years before the 2016 Presidential election. Pundits cite early polling numbers but then are compelled to admit that polls this early in the game are essentially meaningless. Journalists uncover the growing thirst among grassroots organizations for a true believer, but then concede that such organizations have little influence on electoral outcomes. Everyone seems to know that Hillary is the Democratic frontrunner despite the fact that most Americans have never even heard of her presumed challengers. Poll respondents have magically formed opinions on the foreign policy of governors who have said almost nothing about foreign policy during their handful of years in office. If a rumored candidate ceaselessly appears on national television, they’re said to be a de facto nominee. If a rumored candidate is rarely, if ever, on CNN or the Sunday talk shows, they’re utilizing a “lie low” strategy, and waiting for their party’s field to take shape. Pundits speculate, gossip, theorize, and generally waste the time of any unfortunate person who is paying attention to them.
The giddiness is understandable. Presidential elections are at once both meaningful and pure tabloid fodder. They make for great television. They can inspire an aging movie star to talk to a chair in front of millions of people. But since campaign season officially lasts for more than a year and since the HBO version of the last Presidential election hasn’t even been made yet, let’s give it a rest, shall we, pundits? Spare us at least a few precious months and let the inane speculation commence next year, when people are actually running.