• Martin Luther King Day: Lady Liberty is Black

    January 15, 2018 // 42 Comments »

    The United States will release released a gold coin featuring Lady Liberty as a Black woman on this day in 2017, the first time she has been depicted as anything other than white on the nation’s currency.

    “Part of our intent was to honor our tradition and heritage,” stated a spokesperson from the Mint. “But we also think it’s always worthwhile to have a conversation about liberty, and we certainly have started that conversation.”

    Good for everyone. Only the most dark hearted could be upset that a fictional character is represented in any particular way. This can’t be bad.

    …Unless we acknowledge that America is apparently satisfied with “having conversations,” raising awareness about race, and various other symbolic gestures. The Academy Awards are again coming up, and the Golden Globes just passed, and lots of people will be keeping track of how many are given out to non-white men and making much of the tally, their “much” depending on which side the scale tips. Gestures of all types are all good enough on their own, but they never really affect much. The issues of race stretch back to the Founders, well before we elected a Black president and then elected one who throws racist statements around on Twitter. We’re still dealing with the same questions.

    The same day the new liberty coin was announced in 2017, the Department of Justice released a terrifying report describing the failures throughout the Chicago Police Department, saying excessive force was rampant, rarely challenged and chiefly aimed at African-Americans and Latinos. The report was released as Chicago faces skyrocketing violence, with murders are at a 20-year high, and a deep lack of trust among the city’s Black and white residents. And yeah, of course, the police force is very, very white.

    Where was this report a year ago, or eight years ago, or ten years ago? Because the implication here is that the Obama administration issued this in its final days, allowing it (and not any solution or progress) to be part of his legacy. Suspecting Trump will not make dealing with these issues a priority, Obama’s DOJ can take credit for “starting a conversation” about Chicago while walking away from the heavy lifting of helping fix it. DOJ might as well have issued a commemorative coin in lieu of the report.

    We all know the rest: 1 in every 15 African American men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, one in three Black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Once convicted, Black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. You can find similar numbers for poverty (nearly a quarter of blacks are living in poverty, almost the same as in 1976), unemployment (double that of whites), life expectancy, and voter disenfranchisement.

    Clearly over the last seven decades somebody could have fixed some of that. It can’t all be impossible.

    Now, there has been some progress. America wrapped up formal slavery in 1865, only 76 years after the Bill of Rights. And then it was only another 100 some years before the Civil Rights laws tried hard to grant Blacks the rights the 1865 victory gave them. We don’t have lynchings and killings much anymore (though the Chicago PD keeps its hand in) and places that wish to discriminate against Blacks have to do it much more subtlety.

    I’m not making light of suffering, but I am using sarcasm to show how angry I am about lack of real progress. We seem content to see presence as progress — first Black major leaguer, first Black Supreme Court Justice, first Black _____, first Black president. Again, there is nothing bad there, but now that the top box has been checked, what happens next?

    In other words, we get Martin Luther King day as a Federal holiday while at the same time we don’t get the values King embodied. There you go. As one person put it “The Dr. King we choose to remember was indeed the symbolic beacon of the civil rights movement. But the Dr. King we forget worked within institutions to transform broken systems.” Change is not organic; it must be made to happen.

    It is hard to come to any conclusion other than we as a society just don’t care. There are so many excuses (he was blocked by the Republicans, they’re still a tiny minority in Congress, the media, etc.) but even America’s Black president failed hard to make much of a real difference. We seem satisfied with symbolic gestures, blowing them out of proportion while the real problems sit in plain sight, unattended. What people will characterize over the next four years as sliding backwards on racial progress seems more like business as usual, albeit without the eloquent speeches.

    Related Articles:

    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Trump

    MEK Location Called “Concentration Camp”

    March 5, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    Once again, the MEK people adrift in Iraq re-surface in the news. You’ll recall that resettling the MEK into the former Camp Liberty became a State Department task, and the World’s Largest Embassy was assigned to commit “robust observation” of the facility to ensure proper treatment. State apparently did not robustly observe anything, as the Camp Liberty site is a dump, without water or sewage.

    “This is not a relocation camp. I have seen relocation camps. I know what relocation camps look like. And I know what jails look like. This isn’t a jail. This is a concentration camp. That’s what it is. This is a concentration camp. Let’s call it what it is,” Rudi Giuliani said after his own personal robust visit.

    Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz agreed with Giuliani’s take on the conditions at Camp Liberty. “This is a scandal. This is a fraud; a fraud not involving money, but a fraud involving threats to human life. What we need immediately is a commission of inquiry to determine how this fraud was perpetrated,” Dershowitz said. “Who certified, who approved that hell hole, that garbage dump?”

    Hah hah, State did.

    State Department stenographer Josh Rogin, over at Foreign Policy’s The Cable blog, chimed in with a snarky “Neither man (Giuliani and Dershowitz) ever called Camp Liberty a ‘concentration camp’ or a ‘garbage dump’ when it housed hundreds of U.S. soldiers for years during the Iraq war.”

    You’re a funny guy Josh. Ignorant, but funny. During the war, Camp Liberty was a paradise, home to Iraq’s largest PX and all the amenities. As the Occupation ended, the Camp was abandoned by the US, and the Iraqis promptly and efficiently looted it into its present state.

    The MEK-Camp Liberty dilemma is yet another example of US desires hitting reality head on in Iraq. After hoping the MEK issue would just go away for the nine years of Occupation, the State Department threw together an expedient policy, appointed an Ambassador to give it all gravitas and then made false promises of oversight. When the problem actually persisted, all State can do is enlist its loyal media trolls to make fun of any critics.

    Maybe the State Department can just issue the MEK medical visas for the US? That’s the best strategy they could come up with for Yemen’s fave dictator Saleh.

    Related Articles:

    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Trump

    Robust Briefing on Camp Ashraf and the Robust MEK

    December 31, 2011 // Comments Off on Robust Briefing on Camp Ashraf and the Robust MEK

    Holding what might be the worst job at the State Department other than whatever is in store for me in 2012, Ambassador Daniel Fried is the Special Advisor for Camp Ashraf. He is tasked with overseeing a nice ending to a problem the US (and Iraq) have conveniently put off for almost nine years during the Occupation.

    The MEK people are still living in Iraq, at a place called Camp Ashraf, and Iraq would generally prefer that they all die, or disappear or die and disappear. The US has run the gamut of emotions and policy positions on MEK (it’s complicated), but prefer that they just disappear without the being massacred by Iraqis part. That would upset the whole illusion of democracy thing for sure.

    The UN has come up with a solution that might work. The MEK people will move from distant, tainted and often rocketed Camp Ashraf into the recently-abandoned Camp Liberty. Once the home of Iraq’s largest PX store during the Occupation, Liberty now has lots of openings for new residents. The nice thing is that Liberty is pretty close to the World’s Largest Embassy (c) and so the US can play a “monitoring” role, basically visiting once in a while to deter the Iraqis from just rolling in and killing everyone one night. The UN is later supposed to arrange something for the 3,200 MEK folks– refugee status, immigration, Publisher’s Clearing House prize, anything to get them out of Iraq before they all are ground into sausage meat by the democracy there.

    There will be “bumps” in the road. On the day the MEK agreement was signed, rockets hit Camp Ashraf. The attacks repeated on the following nights. A statement by people in Camp Ashraf said that as a first step, a group of 400 are ready “to move to Camp Liberty with their vehicles and moveable belongings on December 30.” The transfer, however, did not happen as the Iraqi government stepped in to require that people did not carry more than a travel bag to the new looted camp which now lacks basic infrastructure and drinking water.

    Ambassador Fried (his real name) held a briefing at the State Department that was quite informative, with a transcript now online. Among the many complications, he reveals that there are at least two (Iranian-) Americans among the Camp Ashraf residents. The briefing sidesteps the messy question of MEK’s status on the US terrorist list and keeps the focus on the humanitarian side, which is probably the best way out.

    Sorry but minus three points for the Ambassador for using the word “robust” three times, twice in the same paragraph, to describe the planned State Department monitoring of the MEK people at Liberty. Can you find another adjective in the New Year, please?

    Here are some suggestions:

    healthy, strong, able-bodied, athletic, boisterous, booming, brawny, built, concentrated, fit, full-bodied, hale, hardy, hearty, hefty, husky, live, lusty, muscular, peppy, potent, powerful, powerhouse, prospering, prosperous, roaring, rugged, sinewy, snappy, sound, stout, strapping, sturdy, thriving, tiger, tough, vigorous, vital, well, zappy, zippy

    (P.S. Go with “zippy” or “brawny.”)

    Related Articles:

    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Trump

    The National Counter Terrorism Center Kids Page!

    November 17, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    Almost too much to bear, the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) has a special kids page on its web site to, I guess, make kids happy about counter terrorism, or maybe to get them to turn in their parents for thought crimes.

    Your tax dollars pay for such Orwellian pablum as this:

    The people who work for the NCTC and our partner agencies have a vested interest in keeping the country and the world safe from terrorists and terrorist acts. Thinking of their families, friends, and country is more than motivation enough in this fight against terrorism.

    They also have a coloring book. The page has groovy multi-everything cartoon characters, including for some reason an African-American statue of liberty person and a hip computer kid named “Chip” in a wheelchair.

    It’s just like Glee!

    Related Articles:

    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Trump