For those who've watched his public career over the years, the three-part essay just published by the Boston Globe on the need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian standoff, and the importance of America's role in achieving that peaceful resolution, is classic George Mitchell.
He begins by acknowledging the complexity of the situation and the legitimacy of the deeply felt emotions experienced by all parties.
"Conflicts in the Middle East are many and overlapping: Arabs and Jews; Israelis and Palestinians; Persians and Arabs; Sunni and Shiite Muslims; fundamentalists and moderates; Sunni-led governments and Sunni opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. In this highly complex and volatile region, what should the United States do? What can we do?"
See what he did there? Having acknowledged the complexity and seeming intractability of the problem, Mitchell immediately frames the discussion in terms of his own country's moral and pragmatic responses, and responsibilities. He's intensely interested in dealing with the world as it is...but always in the context of thinking about the world as it should be.Read more
Well, someone already is, and he’ll probably keep his job. But if Andrew Cuomo (class of ’79) manages to lose, New York’s Jesuit university will still be represented. His Democratic primary opponent Zephyr Teachout is on the faculty of Fordham’s law school, while Republican challenger Rob Astorino is a 1989 graduate.
Fordham has noted the connection (“We’re pleased, if not surprised that our alumni are represented in the governor’s race,” says Fordham spokesman Robert Howe), and a group of students had already tried to raise support for a debate among the candidates on campus. Unsuccessfully, as it turned out—though even the candidates are learning, firsthand, how aloof, to put it politely, Cuomo can be: just watch the brush-off Teachout gets from the governor at the weekend’s Labor Day parade in the video below. Not very collegial!
Ducking debates isn’t all that uncommon a maneuver for incumbents, though Cuomo’s defense—that they’re “a disservice to democracy”—is new. One could reasonably counter that the governor’s unilateral, premature dissolution of a commission he formed to investigate political corruption performs a similar disservice, whether or not that investigation might have led in the direction of the governor (which it did, and now there is a federal investigation into possible obstruction of justice). It was a move that cost Cuomo the presumptive endorsement of the New York Times and helped win Teachout the outright backing of, among others, the state chapters of the National Organization for Women and the Sierra Club, the Public Employees Federation, and The Nation—which compares her progressivism favorably to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s. Even if, as likely, Cuomo wins Tuesday’s primary, that progressivism could still find representation in Albany via Teachout’s running mate Tim Wu (McGill ‘95, alas): the lieutenant governor is elected separately in New York, and Cuomo’s choice, former congresswoman Kathy Hochul, is not quite the lock that he is. Regardless of what happens, writes John Cassidy, Cuomo will emerge “a diminished figure." Even a respectable finish for Teachout, The Nation says, “could illustrate the strength of the progressive base and keep the proposals that Teachout and Wu have been fighting for alive.”
Oh yes – Astorino. He won elective office even before graduating Fordham, taking a board of education seat in suburban Mount Pleasant, New York, and he’s held a number of other offices since, including, currently, Westchester County Executive. But did you know he was the first program director at the Catholic Channel on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio, where he also hosted a weekly radio show from St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Cardinal Edward Egan and, later, Timothy Dolan? "I think it's a great opportunity not just for the archdiocese but for the Catholic Church as a whole to reach out to people across the country with a message, and have a two-way conversation," Astorino said in a 2006 interview about the Catholic Channel. If (let’s say when) Cuomo and Astorino meet in the general, perhaps the governor will by then have reconsidered what constitutes a disservice to democracy and agree to have a two-way conversation in the form of a debate, if not several. It’s the least he could do for a fellow alum, not to mention fellow New Yorkers.
(Reuters) - Hispanic lawmakers and immigration advocates harshly criticized President Barack Obama's decision to delay executive action on immigration and vowed to keep pressuring him to make bold changes. Story here. "Latinos Furious at Obama"
GIVENS: The whole immigration paralysis is the fault of the Republicans. Some Democrats are not enthused about this Executive Action. Obama really wants to issue the order. Come a Republican president and/or Senate, it would be withdrawn. The numbers of immigrants affected ranges from about 1 million to 10 million (what's the real number?). Advocacy organizations can complain--it's a free country.
QUESTIONS: Is this protest over-blown and ultimately counter-productive? Moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats are certainly in favor of immigration reform. Some of them think Obama's executive order, Dream Act, encourages illegal immigration. Would it be politicially astute for these advocates, once they finish fund-raising off this, to step back and wait?
Deep inside one of those lively and far-ranging discussion threads that makes dotCommonweal such a pleasure to read, I made a passing allusion last month to the issue of reparations and promised to come back to the topic. This post is a fulfillment of---or at least, a downpayment on---that promise.
Ta-Nehisi Coates' cover story for the June issue of The Atlantic is a tour-de-force. "The Case For Reparations" begins with Clyde Ross---born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1923 and living today in his home in North Lawndale, Chicago---as the reader's guide into Coates' central argument: that institutionalized racism in the US did not end with slavery in 1865, and was not ever confined to the former Confederate states; and that paying reparations to African-Americans is the only (or best) way for the the nation to settle "our compounding moral debts".
It's the kind of magazine essay that wins awards and---in a better country (or a better moment in this country's life)---changes history. Coates' masterful research and writing rings a clarion call that should (but probably won't) win a full and fair hearing for Rep. John Conyers' HR 40, A Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.
A study completed two years ago asked college students at 17 colleges and universities: "How important to you personally is helping to promote racial understanding?" The question was posed three times: upon arriving at college, at the end of freshman year, and at the end of senior year. The researchers reported that each time the question was asked, the interests diminished: the longer students were in college, the less interested they became in racial understanding.
The researchers write:
These findings cast doubt on research and conventional wisdom that argues for the liberalizing effects of higher education on racial attitudes. Instead, it suggests that, for some students, negative experiences with diversity may dampen the relatively progressive racial views they hold when entering college.
These findings should have been expected; American universities were warned earlier about the need for to anticipate the challenges that would arise from increasing campus diversity.
In 1996 Ernest T. Pascarella, one of the researchers of the 2012 study, led a study entitled, “Influences on Students' Openness to Diversity and Challenge in the First Year of College (Journal of Higher Education 67.2 (1996) 174-195).” They found that women were more interested in diversity than men and nonwhite students were more interested than their white classmate. White college men were the least interested.
Their study of roughly 4000 students at 18 institutions over the course of four years led them to make a variety of fundamental assertions about what a university needed to do to become a place that promotes racial understanding. They recommended putting racially and ethnically mixed students together to face controversial issues; such encounters positively impacted the participants. Leaving them alone, however, only increased negative stances from disinterest to suspicions and intolerance. They recommended “purposeful policies and programs that both sensitize faculty, administrators and students to what constitutes racial discrimination and demonstrate unequivocally that such behavior is anathema to the institutional ethos.” In short they urged universities to create a nondiscriminatory racial environment, acknowledging that such an environment will not happen on its own.
Another study in 1999 found “that increasing the racial/ethnic diversity on a campus while neglecting to attend to the racial climate can result in difficulties for students of color as well as for white students.” And they found that, in fact, universities mistakenly think that increasing racial diversity increases a healthy racial climate.
Nonetheless they found that in those select instances where diversity functioned well, students engaged in more complex thinking about problems and considered multiple perspectives. The results not only bettered campuses’ racial climate but also students’ learning outcomes for students. In a word, taking race seriously could be a win-win for American universities.
As Brown university taught us years ago, however, taking race seriously might be more work than university administrators and faculty realize. American universities like Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, Dartmouth, Pennsylvania, and William and Mary were connected to the mind and resources of slavery as Craig Steven Wilder reports in his Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities. Racism runs deep in the American academy.
Both the 1996 and 1999 studies warned us that if we increased racial diversity without attending to the overall campus climate we would create a more negative atmosphere at the university. Walking across many campuses today we often find a certain self-selected racial segregation that further confirms the 2012 investigation.
My column in the current issue (September 12) tries to show that decisions made in 1919-1920 at the Versailles peace talks did not settle all the issues thrown up by World War I. They simply set the table for new rounds of conflict. Today's Ukraine-Russia, Israel-Palestine were my examples. As we see everyday in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, history is never past; sometimes it is simply very quiet.
I thought this quote at Pat Lang's site (on the coming Scottish vote for independence) succinctly summed up the power of history in national stories and imagination (ironically the essay is focused on Arabism and Islam.)
“The historical memory of a nation is not merely a repository. Our vision of the past channels our vision of the future by constraining options, but also it plays a proactive role.Read more
Yesterday the Church's Liturgy remembered the Passion and Beheading of John the Baptist. While in past years I may have focused uniquely on the Baptist and his role in the drama of salvation, it was impossible to read the gospel without remembering James Foley, imprisoned and beheaded. James sent a last message to his family through a freed captive who had committed the words to memory. He said:
I remember going to the Mall with Dad, a very long bike ride with Mom. I remember so many great family times that take me away from this prison. Dreams of family and friends take me away and happiness fills my heart. I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.
James's last words were for his grandmother:
Grammy, please take your medicine, take walks and keep dancing. I plan to take you out to Margarita’s when I get home. Stay strong because I am going to need your help to reclaim my life.
May the God of mercy reclaim the life of James Foley and may his prayers for his family come now bathed in light.
"Strikes don't strike me" was a favorite saying of Catholic Worker cofounder Peter Maurin; but even Maurin might have been pleased with the eight week strike by Market Basket workers and managers that ended yesterday with tears of joy shed at most of the supermarket chain's 71 stores in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
It's not just the fact that thousands of Market Basket's nonunionized workers happily went back to work after winning on their one and only demand. Or that the strike was led by a nine member council of senior store managers who'd all worked for the company for decades. Or that the workers were supported by a boycott semi-spontaneously organized and adhered to by hundreds of thousands of Market Basket's loyal customers.
No, what might have pleased Maurin was the workers' solitary demand: the rehiring of fired long-time CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. When's the last time workers---without the (admittedly meager under current US law) protection of a union contract---went on strike for their boss?Read more
Many of you already know about the Steven Salaita affair at the University of Illinois. Here’s an excellent summary of what has happened so far, with an important update on external pressures that may have influenced Chancellor Wise’s decision.
My question here is straightforward and brief: What’s the relevance of this case to the current state of Catholic higher ed?
Connie Bruck, who writes regularly on business and politics for the New Yorker, has a run down on AIPAC's history and influence on U.S. policy toward Israel. She points to some recent setbacks in its lobbying (on Iran, negotiations, and sanctions), but over-all she illustrates that it is a formidable influence not only in Washington but everywhere anyone runs for national office. More formidable she says than the NRA.
One congressman, who gave up, points out how hard it is to vote in the U.S. national interest when AIPAC is on your case. "Friends of Israel" @ the New Yorker.
Breaking News: Rev. Sirico Expresses Approval of Citizens United and Hobby Lobby cases, Cites Study that Claims “Biblical Precedent” for Corporate Persons. Centuries-Long Debate over Pauline Term "Body of Christ" Finally Resolved!
I too have read the Pew Center report on the sad state of affairs in Ferguson. And like E.J. Dionne, I think that acknowledging division – certain sorts of division that cut across different cleavages and not simply the single cleavage of race – is a positive thing, something that opens and encourages debate and provides the potential for coalition-building. A positive thing too is the growing sense that the militarization of American police may finally be on the table, politically speaking, as a topic of discussion. This militarization has a history that begins in the immediate aftermath of the 1999 WTO protests, and loses all sense of proportion after the attacks of 9/11. Local law enforcement and mayors across the US were suddently flush with cash from a federal government eager to fight terrorists, and in the absence of immediate external threats, the enemy was reconceptualized as any group that wanted to demonstrate in the streets. City authorities became obsessed with preventing another “battle in Seattle,” even at the expense of squelching the freedom of speech and severely limiting the freedom of assembly.
Under these conditions, any claim to democratic consensus becomes meaningless. One has to be free to disagree – and to express that disagreement publicly with others – if the principle of majority rule is to mean anything. Perhaps Ferguson teaches us this lesson: the real danger is not in too much disagreement but in the false presumption that all problems have been solved, that there really is no problem, that dissenters are agitated by private grievances or even worse are simply criminals stirred up by “outside agitators.” It’s not that the claim to totality isn’t democratic, but that any time a political figure or a televisual talking head claims “we all agree” on a powerfully divisive issue like class or race, we must be especially attentive to the police power that enforces that so-called agreement. For over a decade, for most of us, that power has worked behind the scenes; the events in Ferguson have brought it center stage and exposed it for what it is, a broken machine for the construction of a false consensus. The truth is: we don’t agree. We are divided. This reality is not unhealthy for democracy.
A poster, Freddie deBoer, at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish has come under fire for not being even-handed in the Israel-Palestine debate. He has decided to take some time off, he says, but before he goes he has posted a short reflection on what "balance" might mean and what is required to strike a true balance.
Here is a piece of what he was to say:
I also don’t seek balance because I don’t pretend that there is equality of blame in this issue. Many smart, decent people I know treat this issue with a “plague on both houses” attitude, talking about a “cycle of violence,” or “ancient grudges.” They speak as though this issue is so polarized and so complex that we can’t make meaningful judgments. I find that, frankly, bullshit. I’m not usually a big fan of Max Fisher’s work, but he had this perfectly right: the occupation is wrong, it is the problem, and Israel is to blame. Israel has been illegally and immorally occupying the Palestinian territories for almost 50 years. And Israel has the ability to end it. The Israeli government could unilaterally withdraw from the territories and leave the Palestinians to build their own state, or they could fully incorporate Palestinians into a new unified Israeli-Palestinian state that recognized total and complete political and social equality between all people. If you find those ideas radical, consider that they are merely what basic liberal democracy requires.
Naturally, I have some sympathy for his views. NB: Skip the references to John Chrysostom.
Maybe more than you want to know: A fascinating and revelatory piece by J.J. Goldberg in the Forward on the politics of the Israeli war cabinet.
The New York Times has a useful timeline of events in Ferguson, Missouri since the August 9 killing of Michael Brown. Grantland's Rembert Browne has a gripping and harrowing personal account of his first 48 hours reporting in Ferguson. Recent racial profiling data from the office of the Missouri Attorney General gives a statistical snapshot of the institutionalized racism that exists in Ferguson. The Wall Street Journal reports that in a city where 2/3 of the residents are African-American, 50 of 53 police officers are white. By following #Ferguson on Twitter, not only can you get up-to-the-minute reporting of events on the ground, you also can get an introduction to a slew of talented journalists like the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery, the New Yorker's Jelani Cobb, the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Boston Globe's Akilah Johnson and others who can answer (and often, already have) just about any question you might have about the crisis centered on Ferguson.
I know a priest who once began a sermon on Matthew 25:31-46 by noting that in 30 years of ministry, every conversation he'd had about this parable eventually---and usually quickly---turned to the question, "Does that mean I have to give change to every beggar who asks?". Similarly, almost every discussion of institutionalized racism in America today eventually ends up with someone saying, "Are you calling me a racist? Because I didn't/don't have anything to do with _____ (fill in the blank: slavery, Jim Crow, racially exclusive housing covenants, Ferguson....).Read more
In a previous installment...
- mention was made of the US resupplying Israel with armaments: Stars & Stripes; according to reports, mortar rounds and ammuntion for grenade launchers.
- Then, before Congress left for its unearned summer vacation, it voted funds for a resupply of Israel's Iron Dome rockets; some sleight of hand it turns out.
- Then, there are reports that the U.S. National Security Agency supplies Israel with targeting information. Perhaps for Gaza? Glenn Greenwald's account.
And then: various countries and international bodies support UNRWA, the organization that cares for Palestinian refugees from Israel both in Gaza and the West Bank. These funds will be solicited to rebuild Gaza, perhaps in time for the next Israeli assault.
If the world in various guises is paying both Israel and Hamas, can we ask why? And should we? What if each had to pay their own expenses? What if taxpayers in the U.S. and the EU all said, not in our name.
ADDENDUM: There's a gremlin in a link to a Haaretz story (citing the WSJ) to the effect that the weapons' transfers were done without WH or State Dept. approval. The transfers are now being held up by the WH. Haaretz "According to a senior U.S. official, the decision to tighten oversight and require approval of higher-ranking officials over shipments, was intended to make it clear to Israel that there is no "blank check" from Washington in regards to the U.S.-made weapons the IDF makes use of in its Gaza operations."
There is much else in this report including expressions of Netanyahu's arrogance: he can outwait whatever Obama may do, because he has Congress in his pocket as well as the direct links Israeli officials have to officials and departments of the U.S. government. Here is a link to the Wall Street Journal story in case you have access.
UPDATE, AUGUST 3: JJ Goldberg of the Jewish Daily Forward is, I hope, on top of the news this morning. He has a rundown of a possible scenario to bring the carnage in Gaza to closure. Whether Netanyahu will follow this path may be up in the air. Reading between the lines, it appears that the Israeli military thinks its job is done. (Goldberg is my neighbor and I salute his general sanity on Israel and his ability to keep five or six conflicting ideas in the air at the same time.) Jewish Forward
August 2: PM Netanyahu has issued marching orders to President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and perhaps the rest of us: "Netanyahu told [U.S. Ambassador] Shapiro the Obama administration was "not to ever second-guess me again" and that Washington should trust his judgment on how to deal with Hamas, according to the people. Netanyahu added that he now "expected" the U.S. and other countries to fully support Israel's offensive in Gaza...." AP at Yahoo News
Obama and Kerry seemed to have clicked their heels and saluted. "I have been very clear throughout this crisis that Israel has a right to defend itself. No country can tolerate missiles raining down on its cities and people having to rush to bomb shelters every 20 minutes or half hour. No country can or would tolerate tunnels being dug under their land that can be used to launch terrorist attacks. And so, not only have we been supportive of Israel in its right to defend itself." 8/1 Obama News Conference. Kerry's statement.Read more
Today’s New York Times story on Argentina’s apparent financial default isn’t likely to make anyone more fond of hedge fund firms, except maybe those who, like the fund’s manager, tend to valorize the “rights of creditors.” The lead:
The hedge fund firm of billionaire Paul E. Singer has about 300 employees, yet it has managed to force Argentina, a nation of 41 million people, into a position where it now has to contemplate a humbling surrender.
Presented that way, the development seems an example of what Pope Francis had in mind when he used the term “savage capitalism” during a visit to a soup kitchen last year, and in fact, it’s exactly how Jubilee USA president Eric LeCompte characterizes it: “When Pope Francis has used the term savage capitalism he refers to a group of extreme actors who profit from exploitation of the poor. I can’t think of a more appropriate example than the actions of the vulture hedge funds and Argentina.”
Imagery and metaphor are inevitable in accounts of crises like these, precisely because they can be useful in beginning to understand details that can otherwise be confounding. More from the Times story:
The campaign against Argentina shows how driven and deep-pocketed hedge funds can sometimes wield influence outside of the markets they bet in … While Mr. Singer’s firm has yet to collect any money from Argentina, some debt market experts say that the battle may already have shifted the balance of power toward creditors in the enormous debt markets that countries regularly tap to fund their deficits. Countries in crisis may now find it harder to gain relief from creditors after defaulting on their debt, they assert.
“We’ve had a lot of bombs being thrown around the world, and this is America throwing a bomb into the global economic system,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, the economist and professor at Columbia University. “We don’t know how big the explosion will be — and it’s not just about Argentina.”
Battles, bombs, and explosions. That Elliott, a small New York firm generally unknown outside financial circles, can wield such power over a distant sovereign nation says much about its arsenal: It manages more than $25 billion in assets, an amount accrued through returns of 14% a year since 1977. By that measure, Elliott easily meets, if not embodies, the definition of a successful fund. And why might it be so successful? Perhaps because a hedge fund isn’t a “hedge” in the way that term might suggest—and in fact once was used, even in finance.Read more
UPDATE: Here is the Financial Times (British) on the Obama conundrum with Israel/Palestine: "The odds are that, once the dust settles in Gaza, Washington will let the situation drift. It is arguably the fourth of Mr Obama’s Middle East crises after Iraq, Iran and Syria. Why waste more capital on it? The answer lies as much within the US as in the Middle East. Unless Mr Obama is prepared to play the role of a genuinely neutral broker, talks are always likely to fail. If, as a growing number of American Jews and a brave minority of Israelis argue, Israel is digging its grave by undercutting moderate Palestinians, it is time for more thoughtful friends in the US to speak out. Why should Aipac be the one with the megaphone?" Whole article here
Original post: 7/31: "While Congress figures out how to pass $225 million in new Iron Dome funding before the August recess, DoD supplies Israel with new ammo. Stars and Stripes' story: "As conflict continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, the Department of Defense has released arms to Israel from a weapons stockpile maintained within the borders of the close U.S. ally, defense officials confirmed Wednesday. The ammunition sale from the weapons stockpile, established in the 1990s for use by both countries in case of emergency, took place within the past week, following three weeks of battle between the Israeli military and Hamas militants in Gaza." Foreign Policy Situation Report, Gordon Lubold
"But according to a defense official it was not in response to an emergency request from Israel. "Instead, the United States elected to supply 120mm mortar shells and 40mm grenades from the stockpile because the arms were approaching the date they would require replacement, he said. Israel regularly buys such ammunition when the United States rotates its stocks, he said, and the United States would meanwhile send new ammunition to refresh the stockpile." Stars & Stripes
One of the most egregious (and frankly ugly) cliches of the managerial class is the language of labor that adds value, or “value-added” activity that builds on (and builds up) the entrepreneurial self.
The human subject conceived in this way engages constantly in acts of strategic self-improvement, looking forward to the future with a speculative eye and a combative demeanor, openly seeking struggle against others to strive for success. As Dardot and Laval argue in their recent book The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society (Verso 2013), this is a kind of work ethic, but one that departs radically from the Weberian attitude we’re familiar with. The aim of the entrepreneurial subject becomes constant movement-in-improvement, continual adaptation, and an emphasis on representing all human activities in terms of an imperative of production and commodification. The pursuit of fitness “adds value” to the physical body therefore making it a more desirable erotic commodity. The pursuit of a degree “adds value” to one’s educational portfolio, making one a more desirable occupational commodity. The pursuit of certain kinds of expertise “adds value” to one’s work portfolio, making one more professionally attractive, and so on. Body and soul become the object of potentially endless projects of self-improvement.
It seems to me that religion might be (should be?) useful right here, to combat the language of the “value-added” life. In the first place, the managerial/administrative understanding seems to imply that there are forms of life without the constant movement, without the accretions, without the projects of self-improvement. Are we to call this life without value? Before value? Religion in our time has to face this quandary, and it has to do so acknowledging that market forces and their ideological expression in neoliberal/libertarian thought are responsible for making the question necessary in the first instance.
It also seems to me that the affirmation of life has to rely on what Charles Taylor has called the dimension “beyond life.” It has to address and include those kinds of activities that aren’t captured in the gross mesh of market processes or easily measured and assayed in processes of quantification and commodification. This means turning in the direction of positive experiences like love, but it also necessitates a meditation on vulnerability and weakness. Both love and death laugh in the face of self-improvement. They remind us that the meaning of every project escapes the intention of its author. Religion has the potential to reflect on this remainder/reminder. It has the potential to show that the fantasy of endless self-improvement is a delusion that mimics the market’s delusional faith in endless growth. If it doesn’t engage in this practical work of critique and counterdiscourse, it risks becoming complicit in the construction of what Augustine called the City of Man.
Writing today at Salon, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig rounds up recent polling on religious attitudes in order to propose that the Religious Right is in its twilight years and the "Christian left" is on the ascendant:
With millennial religious and political attitudes in flux compared to our predecessors, the upcoming years could be the Christian left’s big moment.
There are certainly data that prima facie support this analysis, but does it hold up to sociological scrutiny?Read more