June 20, 2012
This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.
June 20, 2012
In late April, Geert Wilders arrived in New York City to tell his quixotic tale to a rapt American audience. The far-right Dutch Party of Freedom leader—perhaps the world’s most prominent anti-Muslim populist—was poised to release Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me, a memoir just out from Regnery, the right-wing US publishing house, in which he recounts his courageous efforts to stop the “Islamicization” of Europe. On his US tour, Wilders proudly portrayed himself as a man on the run—a round-the-clock security detail guarding him against radical Muslims whose violent passions he had supposedly inflamed by his truth-telling—and as a man on the rise: the exodus of his party from the governing coalition had forced new elections in the Netherlands, throwing the country’s ossified establishment into chaos.
Upon Wilders’s arrival in New York, a little-known think tank called the Gatestone Institute rolled out the red carpet for him. On April 30, before a select crowd that according to Gatestone’s website had paid $10,000 a head, he held forth on the persecution he had endured during his recent trial for incitement to hatred and discrimination. “This charade that happened in the Netherlands for the last few years could not have happened in your great country,” Wilders said in his speech. Then he cut to the heart of his appeal: “Islam is primarily a dangerous ideology rather than a religion. This is the truth. This violent ideology wants to impose Islamic Sharia law on the whole world, including us—the Kafirs, the non-Muslims…. Islam is the largest threat to freedom which the world is currently facing.”
Some Dutch liberals have branded him a demagogue who summons the ghosts of Europe’s dark past, but Wilders counters the accusation by assiduously cultivating Jewish support. He quotes Zionist forefather Theodor Herzl and boasts of his more than forty trips to Israel, where he once toiled on a rural kibbutz. Wilders, in fact, has made a special friend of right-wing Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. In Wilders’s world, the Jewish state represents Fort Apache on the frontiers of the war against the barbarians threatening Western civilization. “Mothers in the West can sleep safely because Israeli mothers at night worry about their sons in the army,” he told the Gatestone Institute. “Their fight is our fight. We should support it.”
At the April event, Wilders’s seamless fusion of anti-Muslim bombast and pro-Israel cant was gratefully received by the Gatestone Institute’s founder and director, Nina Rosenwald, whom he acknowledged at the top of his jeremiad as another of his good friends. An heiress to the Sears Roebuck fortune, Rosenwald spreads her millions through the William Rosenwald Family Fund, a nonprofit foundation named for her father, a famed Jewish philanthropist who created the United Jewish Appeal in 1939. His daughter’s focus is more explicitly political. According to a report by the Center for American Progress titled “Fear Inc.,” Rosenwald and her sister Elizabeth Varet, who also directs the family foundation, have donated more than $2.8 million since 2000 to “organizations that fan the flames of Islamophobia.”
Besides funding a Who’s Who of anti-Muslim outfits, Rosenwald has served on the board of AIPAC, the central arm of America’s Israel lobby, and holds leadership roles in a host of mainstream pro-Israel organizations. As groups like AIPAC lead the charge for a US military strike on the Islamic Republic of Iran, threatening to turn apocalyptic visions of civilizational warfare into catastrophic reality, Rosenwald’s wealth has fueled a rapidly emerging alliance between the pro-Israel mainstream and the Islamophobic fringe. (In 2003 alone the Rosenwald Family Fund donated well over half of its $1.6 million in total contributions to pro-Israel and Islamophobic organizations.) This alliance serves to sanitize and legitimize professional anti-Muslim bigots like Wilders, allowing their ideas to mingle easily with those of neoconservative foreign policy heavyweights intent on promoting the appearance of a convergence between US and Israeli interests by invoking the specter of a common “Islamofascist” enemy. With Gatestone—which publicizes the writings of figures ranging from pro-Israel super-lawyer Alan Dershowitz to “counter-jihad” propagandist Robert Spencer, and boasts Harold Rhode, a neoconservative former Pentagon official credited, as a senior fellow, with helping to try to push the Bush administration to invade Iraq—Rosenwald has attempted to shift the alliance into overdrive.
Conspiracies, Witch Hunts and “Moderate Muslims”
Over the past decade, Rosenwald’s generosity has helped sustain the pet projects of “Islamofascism Awareness Week” organizer and Stalinist apostate David Horowitz. Her largesse has also supported former Lebanese Maronite TV anchor Brigitte Gabriel, who told an evangelical audience in 2006 that Muslims “have no souls—they are dead set on killing and destruction.” The Center for Security Policy (CSP), a Washington-based think tank directed by neoconservative former Pentagon official Frank Gaffney, has also thrived as a result of Rosenwald’s beneficence. The $437,000 in donations Gaffney reaped from the Rosenwald family enabled him to churn out conspiratorial pamphlets like his 2010 “Shariah: The Threat to America,” in which he warned that American Muslims were engaged in a “stealth jihad” to place the country under the control of Sharia, or Islamic law. At the Conservative Political Action Conference the following year, Gaffney sent his cadres to distribute fliers accusing top Republican anti-tax activists Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan of organizing a secret campaign dedicated to “the replacement of our constitutional republic…with a theocratic Islamic caliphate governing according to Shari’ah.” (David Steinmann, president of the Fund, sits on the board of Gaffney’s CSP.) Norquist is married to an Arab-American, and Khan, a former Republican Party official, is a fellow for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Institute for Global Engagement. The American Conservative Union investigated Gaffney’s charges and declared them “reprehensible.”
Rosenwald has also used her money to support a seemingly sober set of self-proclaimed “dissident” Muslims who have seized the post-9/11 media spotlight to defend pro-Israel positions, Western military intervention in the Arab world and police spying on Muslim Americans. These beneficiaries include Irshad Manji, an openly gay Canadian TV personality and self-described “Muslim refusenik” who argued in her 2005 book, The Trouble With Islam Today, that “desert Arabs” and “Arab cultural imperialists” were imposing an anti-democratic, sexist and endemically anti-Semitic mindset on the rest of the world’s Muslims. In 2007 Rosenwald provided $10,000 in seed money for Manji’s new nonprofit, Project Ijtihad, which she founded to “help build the world’s most inclusive network of reform-minded Muslims and non-Muslim allies.”…
Losing One Generation After Another: The overincarceration of African American and Latino young men is a national scandal
June 20, 2012
The overincarceration of African American and Latino young men is a national scandal. Low-income young men of color—especially those growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods—are fated under current circumstances to end up in prison in percentages that far exceed their share of the population. We are losing generation after generation.
Check the boxes: father in and out of prison or whereabouts unknown or never known. Mother struggling to find steady work and often not succeeding. Drugs or alcohol in the parental picture somewhere. Violence in the home. Early childhood inattention or worse. Terrible schools. No caring adult other than the mother or grandmother in the boy’s life. Street culture that valorizes defiance and denigrates educational achievement. Police all too willing to arrest.
Result: time in prison, likely fathering children and not marrying the mother, and difficulty in finding work for the rest of his life. Poverty in childhood makes these young men strong candidates for getting into trouble with the law in the first place, and time in prison makes them even stronger candidates for lives of poverty and disenfranchisement from the democratic process, pushing the arithmetic of politics to the right and shrinking the constituency for support of low-income communities.
Not all boxes apply to each young man, of course, but enough do. Whether the underlying facts are George W. Bush’s “soft bigotry of low expectations” or Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, which brilliantly describes the targeting of young black men in the criminal justice system—and both ideas are operative—the situation is truly dire. Comprehensive reform of the juvenile and criminal justice systems, including our misbegotten “war on drugs,” is a must.
Dire as it is, though, the cradle-to-prison pipeline is comparatively narrow. There is a wider pipeline yet. I call it the cradle-to-nowhere pipeline, and it is full of girls as well as boys. There are 804,100 youth and young adults (ages eighteen to twenty-nine) in prison or jail, and about 92.4 percent of them are men. But there are three million or more youth and young adults who are not in school and are out of work for a long time, most of whom will not spend time in jail or prison. (Andrew Sum of Northeastern University puts the number as high as 5.2 million.)
These young people have come to be called “disconnected.” Depending on the estimate involved, they constitute from one in twelve up to as many as one in six of the sixteen- to twenty-four-year-old age group. About one-third are parents, approximately fifty thousand are homeless, and many have lived for long periods of time in foster care. If nothing changes, at least half of these three million young people will spend much of their lives unemployed or sporadically and marginally employed at best. Not surprisingly, African American, Latino, and Native American young people are disproportionately represented among the disconnected.
Three million disconnected youth is a number that was in wide currency before the Great Recession. It includes some high school graduates, because young people who do not pursue postsecondary education or training face increasingly impassable pathways into the legal labor market. The pathway is even less reliable for disconnected youth who do not graduate from high school. Only about two-thirds of all students—and only half of all African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans—who enter ninth grade graduate with regular diplomas four years later. For minority males, the figures are even lower. And dropping out is disastrous. In 2000, when unemployment was comparatively low, 50 percent of high school dropouts were employed, compared to 93 percent of adults holding an associate’s degree or better. It’s a lot worse than that now.
What should we be doing about all of this? Early childhood development, competent teaching from kindergarten on, and so on, but what about high school? Is the answer college for all?
Here we wade into a debate that has been going on at least since the days of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. Basically, every high-performing academic high school articulates its main goal as going to college. There have been some spectacular successes, and I have no interest in arguing with the approach they use. It works for them.
But it is not a shoe that fits everyone, even at those schools. If you look a little closer at many of the graduates of good high schools that serve low-income students, you will see that a number of students go on to community colleges and may or may not obtain a bachelor’s degree. You will see that some who don’t get a BA do get a diploma or certification to pursue a productive career that doesn’t require a four-year degree. College for all may be the flag they fly, but the outcomes—and I mean the good outcomes—are more varied.
The stakes are highest at large public inner-city high schools—the dropout factories that are scarring so many lives. The first task is to get students’ attention, to convince them to stick around. Inner-city high schools should offer motivated students a full opportunity to go to as good a college as they can get in to, but students also need options that are more tangible, more hands-on, and more immediately rewarding than the promise of an education that leads one to a rich life of the mind. Of course, some young people will thrive on a liberal education regardless of their background, and some young people resonate with a more hands-on option wherever they grow up. Young people of all economic strata flock to good career- and technical-education programs in suburban schools. But it is especially important that there be strong career pathways in inner-city high schools. We don’t want to reinvent the dysfunctional vocational education of the twentieth century, and we don’t have to. Vocational High School in Minneapolis, where I grew up, was a dumping ground. We don’t want to go back there…
For we who believe that great men, not impersonal forces, make history, George Washington is Exhibit A. As the Revolution’s commander in chief, president of the Constitutional Convention, and first president of the United States, he was luminously the Founding’s indispensable man, in biographer James Flexner’s pitch-perfect phrase. A pragmatic visionary—that familiar American combination—he conceived from his hard-won experience in the French and Indian War the central Founding ideas of an American union under a strong executive three decades before the Constitutional Convention, and his hardships in the Revolution led him to forge that vision into a plan. An ambitious entrepreneur, he shared the “spirit of commerce” he knew was America’s ruling passion, and he eagerly foresaw a nation where industry and trade, not just farming, would provide opportunity for all and would generate the wealth he thought key to national power and security, a vision he fulfilled in his two terms as president. He had a born leader’s knack of attracting brilliant, like-minded young men to work with him to fill in the details and make his dream a reality, and he fired them up with ample measures of praise and credit. They were visionaries together, but he was the visionary in chief.
His youthful friendship with the Fairfax family, English aristocrats who, with 5 million colonial acres, were among the grandest of Virginia’s grandees, set him going on both his entrepreneurial and military careers. After learning surveying, the 16-year-old Washington began laying out plots in 1748 for Lord Fairfax to sell on his rich Shenandoah Valley lands. Within two years, he had earned enough to buy 1,500 acres himself, and with 2,315 acres by the time he was 20, he was on his way as a high-rolling land speculator.
Whatever the spark was that the Fairfaxes saw in Washington—some mix of will, focus, courage, and honor—Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie, the crown’s highest Virginia official, saw too when the young surveyor called on him in January 1752, bearing letters of recommendation that gained him a dinner invitation, which led to his appointment as a major in the Virginia militia just before his 21st birthday, February 22, 1753. Certainly he looked the part: “Six feet high & proportionably made,” he wrote to his London tailor, “rather Slender than thick . . . with pretty long arms & thighs,” narrow shoulders and chest compared with his wide hips, big hands, piercing gray-blue eyes above a long, straight nose, powdered brown hair tied in a queue, a firm mouth clenched ever tighter as age decayed his teeth, and with “a Constitution hardy enough to encounter and undergo the most severe tryals, and I flatter myself resolution to Face what any Man durst,” he boasted to Dinwiddie. As Jefferson later marveled, he was also “the best horseman of his age.”
Late that fall, the neophyte major put his hardihood to the test, volunteering for a mission that “I believe few or none would have undertaken,” he wrote. It set earthshaking events in motion. British and French ambitions collided in the Ohio Valley, when France made plans to build a string of forts there to enforce its territorial claim, and the British responded with plans for outposts of their own, along with an ultimatum demanding the French troops’ “peaceable Departure.” Washington’s mission: to deliver the ultimatum. It’s easy to see how his published report of his two-month midwinter mission, with its exotic tales of savage Indians, daring wilderness adventure, and haughty French defiance, made the 22-year-old an instant celebrity on two continents. In London, theGentleman’s Magazine praised him as “a youth of great sobriety, diligence, and fidelity,” and Dinwiddie jumped him to lieutenant colonel.
No applause greeted his next wilderness exploit, though. Instead, quipped the era’s gossip, Horace Walpole, “a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire,” and it took until 1763 for the Seven Years’ War that Washington ignited to blaze through the New World, Europe, and even India and Africa, before it burned itself out.
Responding to rumors that the French were probing a strategic site where Pittsburgh later rose, Dinwiddie ordered his new lieutenant colonel to “restrain all such offenders” or “kill and destroy them.” Washington and his militiamen marched into the forest on April 2, 1754, but with 50 miles still to go, their scouts reported that 1,000 French soldiers had seized a half-finished British stockade, renaming it Fort Duquesne. Washington camped at a seemingly defensible spot named Great Meadows and called for reinforcements.
Meanwhile, hearing that a French scouting party was “sculking” about, Washington leaped into action—disastrously. His Indian allies led him and 40 men to “a very obscure place surrounded with Rocks,” where on May 28 they attacked 36 French soldiers and quickly captured 21 and killed ten, including wounded men whom Washington saw the Indians “knock . . . on the head and bereave them of their scalps.” Among the dead: a 35-year-old nobleman, the Sieur de Jumonville, who, like Washington on his earlier mission, was an envoy bearing an ultimatum demanding that the British clear out of the Ohio Valley, as the captured French officers indignantly insisted.
At first, Washington didn’t want to believe that he’d erred so grossly. The French officers, he blustered in his dispatch to Dinwiddie, were “bold Enterprising” men “of gt subtilty and cunning,” and “the absurdity of this pretext is too glaring as your Honour will see.” To his brother Jack, Washington boasted of “a signal Victory,” in which “I heard Bulletts whistle and believe me there was something charming in the sound.” When the London Magazine printed the letter, the battle-hardened George II scoffed, “He would not say so, if he had been used to hear many.”,,,