We are in a college debt crisis. Almost 70 percent of college students graduate with approximately $30,000 in college debt. In 1992, it was one-third of that average. Why has the cost and burden of debt for higher education risen so dramatically in just over 20 years? One of the answers is college athletics, namely football. The new short above by Brave New Films entitled The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education explains just how that happens.
Tuition to state universities across the nation has risen, on average, about 30 percent since 2000 alone. But an even more disturbing trend emerges when the data is looked at closely. Most states with strong college football traditions and programs have increased tuition, on average, by 55percent with some as high 65 percent. The trend is in direct correlation to increases in student fees that go directly to the athletic departments.
At places like Ohio University, athletic fees run students $48 a credit hour. That means that a typical student will use almost $6000 of financial aid or scholarships to pay for the athletic programs at their school. That's two thirds of what their entire college debt would have been 20 years ago.
But the problem becomes even more convoluted when faculty budgets and school programs are added into the equation. To continue to fund such high-price athletic programs, school budgets have to be balanced out somewhere. At many universities, this means cutting faculty and entire degree programs. University of Akron recently cut 215 jobs and $40 million dollars from their budget. But their tuition did not go down. Instead, they signed Terry Bowden, head coach of their football program, to a $2 million dollar contract. That is $400,000 a year. Compare that to the average $25,000 salary of an adjunct professor and it begins to get fuzzy as to whether colleges are still institutions of higher learning, or professional sporting arenas.
Critics would argue that athletic programs bring so much to the school, that it is worth the money the students pay. But there is simply is no evidence behind that. Over 80 percent of collegiate athletic departments actually lose $11 million dollars or more for their universities yearly. And contrary to critics, who believe licensing and boosters bring in the majority of funds for the department, most big football programs see over half of their budget come from student fees. The ones who entice students to come because of their strong tradition of football? Many of those see over 70 percent of their income paid for by student credit hours. All the massive programs do is create die-hard fans that want to come to the school, and in turn are used to make the programs even more massive...not to bring more money to academics.
The numbers for this crisis are daunting. One of America's favorite pastimes is essentially draining the lifeblood and the future wealth out of the next generation and few realize it. What's worse, we are watching yet another round of the corporatization of American colleges and universities and the toll it's taking on the country and excusing it as tradition. If we don't stop this gross misuse of student fees and the student debt crisis, the only tradition our country will know is that of being in poverty if you chose to get a college education. Watch the Brave New Films new short The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education. Share it with your friends, colleagues, and college-age children. Our alma mater's were not created for us to provide their financial future, but to secure a financial future for their...
Last Thursday, Americans paused as they have become accustomed to doing, as national news reported a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Politicians and lawmakers immediately began publicly sending their condolences and calls to prayer via social media sites like Twitter for the "senseless" loss of life. Ironically, many of those same politicians had the victim's blood on their hands as they offered their thoughts. In a new video (above) produced by Brave New Films, we highlight their culpability.
President Obama gave an emblazoned and passionate speech a few hours after the reported tragedy. He lamented about the "routine" our nation has fallen into with our response to mass shootings. In 2015 alone there have only been 274 days, but 294 mass shootings. "Our thoughts and prayers are not enough!" President Obama said.
He is correct. Of the hundreds of tweets that were sent out from men and women of Congress, a strange contradiction occurred: dozens who offered their condolences were indebted to gun manufacturers and the NRA to keep them in office. Thus, they were the enablers of blocking the common sense gun laws that could have helped prevent the tragedy in Oregon.
While over 92 percent of gun owners and over 70 percent of NRA members support universal background checks and improved reporting of mental health checks when purchasing a firearm, the NRA DOES NOT support these common-sense measures.
In short, the NRA has become a front for gun companies to create marketing strategies that keep Americans in fear for their lives if they DON'T own a gun, and a vehicle to purchase politicians to clear the path for as little intervention as possible. The gun companies dole out close to $100 million dollars to the NRA who, in turn, generously donate to any politician willing to push the agenda of the gun companies, even if they are directly in contradiction to the wants of NRA membership. To keep membership high, they use those dollars to run smear campaigns of anyone that does NOT support their politics, claiming attacks on the 2nd Amendment, the desire to eliminate gun ownership, and an attack on American values. They do this by buying politicians.
Mitch McConnell, for instance, who tweeted his prayers to the families of the UCC shooting, has received over $37,000 in campaign contributions from the NRA. McConnell has used his social media in the past to mock Senator Harry Reid after aiding in a filibuster to stop a legislative provision for universal background checks after the Sandy Hook shootings. Presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham has been no stranger to speaking of the failures of universal background checks and offering prayers to victims like last week's shootings and the mass shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME church in his home state of South Carolina this year via social media. And yet his A rating from the NRA, his over $36,000 in campaign contributions, and his extensive record of voting in line with his friends at the gun companies didn't stop him from offering prayers to mourning families who's loved ones could have been helped if members of Congress like him not been bought out.
Watch the new film Prayer Won't Stop Gun Violence above by Brave New Films. Wherever you stand on guns, ask yourself if your true feelings are really being represented in Washington. Don't rely on the answers you've always given, but really decide if your perception of the gun violence problem in this country is based on fact or clever advertising models of people who have no regard for your life or your rights, but are determined to turn huge profits. Check your conscious. Pray if it suits you. But then get up and do...
It is September. School is starting and kindergarten teachers across the nation are making their way back to their students. Many are buying supplies for their students from their own stressed personal funds. Most are making under $40,000 a year and are generally taxed at a rate of about 25 percent. Sometimes over 30 percent.
The 2016 election season is also starting. Hedge funds managers are trying to decide which candidate will be best for business and who they will put their money behind. Money that is taxed at a rate of 20 percent or lower a year . Top hedge fund managers make in excess of $200 million dollars annually -- in many cases, billions.
If something doesn't quite seem right with this scenario, that's because it shouldn't. Why are kindergarten teachers being taxed so much higher than hedge fund managers when they make so much less? That is the same question posed in the new short by Brave New Films: Hedge Fund Billionaires vs. Kindergarten Teachers: Whose Side Are You On? (Available above.)
In a recent article, Vox did the math and found that the top 25 hedge fund managers make more (in fact double) than every kindergarten teacher in America combined. As if that news wasn't troubling enough, they are also taxed at a significantly lower rate. The reason is simple: The carried interest tax loophole otherwise known as the hedge fund managers' tax subsidy.
This tax loophole, created by the IRS in 1993 was never even intended for hedge fund managers. In fact, when it was created there was no such thing as a hedge fund. The carried interest tax loophole was initially created for real estate and small business. The premise was simple: entrepreneurs and small businesses take greater, longer term risks than buying and selling off shares of stocks. Because they invest so much and so much time, they deserve a tax break. Fair enough.
As hedge funds began to emerge in the late '90s, they began to apply the taxes to themselves since they took commission off of their clients' earned income in long-term investments. Even though it was dubious at the time, so few hedge funds existed and were so small and relatively new at the time, the IRS allowed it.
Twenty years later, times have changed.
Now, hedge fund managers are some of America's wealthiest people. Presidential candidates court them for healthy donations. Some make billions of dollars a year not just on singular clients, but on pensions and endowments. And they still use the carried interest tax loophole. They argue that, because part of their own compensation is based on how well their investments perform, they too are taking a risk that justifies special tax treatment. But that perverts the original intent of the carried interest law, which was to reward entrepreneurs who take a risk by investing their own money in order to grow the economy.
Hedge fund managers mostly don't invest their own money, they invest the money of kindergarten teachers, firefighters, social workers, and other workers whose pensions they manage. In fact, they typically have very little, if any, skin in the game in their investments. If their investments fail, it is the pension funds and endowments who are on the hook for the losses. The hedge fund managers will still make money for managing the failed investments, but they may have to forgo their performance-based bonuses. The idea that such a large tax break should apply to these managers is both unfair and exploitative.
The good news: it's far easier to fix this problem than having to maneuver through Congress to get a change. The carried interest tax loophole is completely in the hands of the IRS, headed by the Secretary of the Treasury -- a member of the President's cabinet. That's right, with one telephone call, the next POTUS could fix this mess. The problem is the money hedge fund managers give to campaigns. Not so ironically, hedge fund managers are huge contributors to politicians in both parties. Making it very unlikely that whoever wins the 2016 elections will end the carried interest tax loophole without significant pressure from every day Americans. It is seen as something we can effectively live with, as we have for some 20 years.
But can we live with it? What could teachers do with the money we see hedge fund managers make with the carried interest tax loophole? Well, we've run some numbers. If hedge fund managers were taxed like everyone else, there would be at least $17.7 billion extra tax dollars. That money could:
● Pay the salary of 560,000 new classroom Aides for overcrowded classrooms
● Purchase 1,700,000,000 new books for students instead of teachers having to buy them out of their own pockets
● Fund free school lunches for the entire country with $5billion dollars to spare.
It is time that anyone running to be POTUS does more than lip service to one of the most egregious tax evasion schemes and one of the biggest contributors to the 1 percent stealing from the 99 percent. That is why Brave New Films and Mayor Bill de Blasio have issued a challenge to all 2016 Presidential Candidates: Commit to ending the carried interest tax loophole in your first 100 days of office.
No more rhetoric. No more empty promises. It is time to give this country real financial change and to stop valuing the rich over the everyday working American. Watch our film Hedge Fund Billionaires vs. Kindergarten Teachers: Whose Side Are You On? and stand with us on this challenge. Our children's future is far more valuable than continuing to pad a hedge fund manager's bank...
Efraim Halevy, former director of the Mossad (Israel's Central Intelligence Agency), recently spoke out about the deal with Iran: "What is the point of canceling an agreement that distances Iran from the bomb?" That is the exact question that many American's are asking as Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) holds out on supporting the Iran deal until he talks to some of his friends. That's right. Some of his friends. The 29 world renowned scientists, the diplomats, even the Israeli leaders were not enough to convince Wyden and others. At a recent engagement, he outwardly spoke out against it. Many of his statements can be seen in our new film, Is Wyden on the Path to War? (above).
Senator Wyden is not the first politician, or Democrat for that matter, to take issue with the Iran Deal. Like many dissenters, Wyden is scared that lifting sanctions on Iran would cause them to be a more economically viable power, that the deal is not invasive enough, and fears that Iran may "cheat".
While all of these may seem like viable questions, no one has a BETTER strategy for securing a deal. And as international diplomats and former generals agree, some deal is better than no deal; an America with no deal is completely vulnerable. An America who launches into a military assault is at war. The country is absolutely safer with this deal. As with any negotiations, lifting sanctions is some of the "give" in a give and take. Though many neo-cons and opposition would like to portray strong negotiations as those that compromise nothing, the truth is that is not negotiation. Reagan lifted sanctions from Russia. Bush lifted sanctions from South Korea. There MUST be something that gives Iran incentive to join this deal.
Nevertheless, what the Iran deal has that others DID NOT was the unilateral ability for Congress to snap all sanctions immediately back in place if Iran is even suspected of cheating. There is also nothing stopping the US or other countries from imposing sanctions on Iranian banks or businesses that are found to deal with terrorists. Punishment is still on the table for terrorism. Because this deal is not about their terrorism in the region. It is about their nuclear capacity that threatens the entire world.
The Iran deal is also seeing criticism for not being invasive enough. There's not much to say there other than that simply isn't true. Even top Reagan and Bush Administration counsel agree that they have never seen a deal SO invasive in all of their time in the foreign policy arena. The rhetoric that Iran would have "over 24 hours" to destroy evidence of their nuclear program before a visit could be scheduled is at best clever posturing, at worst an outright lie. Even if they tried to do that, we would be able to detect chemicals for up to 24 days.
Even if that happened; even if Iran did "cheat" as so many are concerned about, what of it? Is it better to be fearful of a POSSIBLE war than to be CERTAIN of a war with a country less than two months away from a nuclear bomb and no solid diplomatic relations in the West? What is the real goal here? To keep the world safe or to exert control?
It is easy for some to call people like Senator Wyden and Schumer "brave" for going against their party and "standing up for our allies". What is not as easy to see is that as Wyden's 2016 re-election campaign approaches, he will take controversial stances to secure campaign donations. After all, it was only 4 months ago that Wyden deserted his party to back the fast-track trade bill for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. A trade bill the majority of the very people who got him elected do not support, but that big corporations who will benefit from outsourcing do support. That kind of support is far more lucrative to campaign financing than the average middle class citizen. Wyden doesn't care about if we are a more secure, safer nation with this deal. He cares about re-election.
Watch Is Wyden on the Path to War? and see for yourself. Let Senator Wyden and others against or undecided on the deal know that we will not stand for their playing politics with the lives of our soldiers and the American people. War is - and always should be - a last...
The recent success of the California Federation of Teachers' (CFT) battle to remove investment in guns and pro-guns organizations from their retirement fund is a major victory. In the years since the ultimately successful divestment campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, the tactic of using one's money...
In our new film series, some of the smartest thinkers of our time warn that the runaway national security state, and the endless war and surveillance that underpins it, is creating a more perilous world.
So why aren't these issues being discussed by the 2016 presidential candidates? How come new ideas about national security aren't part of the platforms being debated? When will candidates start devising smart, compassionate solutions, not the same old militaristic pathways that, this century alone, have cost over one million human lives, trillions of dollars, and driven a global surge of violence?
Too many candidates are endorsing the conventional political wisdom that more military invasion, occupation, droning and Pentagon spending will somehow make us more secure.
That's why we think that now is a more important time than ever to challenge the status quo.
The Henry A Wallace National Security Forum Series features interviews with 11 experts -- including journalist Glenn Greenwald, activist and scholar Noam Chomsky, political scientist Andrew Bacevich, and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes -- about the critical questions of our day: What does real safety look like, and where did America go wrong?
Brave New Films has a proud history of telling the hidden stories of war, from Iraq to Afghanistan to the domestic war on whistleblowers to drones.
This latest series, moderated by Sonali Kolhatkar of Uprising Radio, is unique in its deep investigation of the origins, human costs, and apparatus of the modern security state.
Our experts examine the security state from all angles, providing in-depth analyses, as well as new information and facts.
Feminist historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz traces the roots of the security state to the birth of the U.S. as a settler colonial nation whose expansion was driven by an "imperialistic urge." Noam Chomsky looks at U.S. empire from its colonial origins to its post World War II decline, arguing that, in the "dimension of violence," America remains far ahead of the world. Others, like political scientist Andrew Bacevich, emphasize the Cold War as an era of rapid security state enlargement, predicated on false assumptions that such expansion can bring safety and stability. And Linda Bilmes looks at how the security state, and the wars it breeds, is built on money borrowed from future generations.
Whatever its origins, the security state comes at a tremendous human cost. Journalist and author Anand Gopal tells us the stories of the "nameless and faceless" occupied -- from Iraq to Afghanistan -- who face a region spiraling into violence as a result of the so-called War on Terror. "Groups like ISIS only exist because of the chaos sewn by the U.S. invasion in 2003 and the subsequent civil war," he emphasizes. Bilmes explains that the toll of war also includes the long-term economic and human costs of sending U.S. troops into harm's way, and then caring for them when they suffer long-term physical and mental wounds as a result.
And then there is the global trail of destruction left behind by CIA interventions across the globe, including torture, covert drone wars, and attempts to oust more than 50 governments since World War II, explains former state department worker turned critic William Blum.
Aggression and intervention have been central to U.S. foreign policy for over a century. In the words of scholar, author, and journalist Stephen Kinzer, "It's not up to the United States to sit in front of a map of the world and decide which countries are going right and which countries are going wrong and deserve American intervention."
But the war is not just overseas. Glenn Greenwald discusses the "surveillance state" exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, noting the "chilling effect" this government spying has on civil rights and democracy itself, as people behave differently -- and less freely -- when they think they are being watched.
The American public is then forced to foot the bill for surveillance. And more than that, we're paying for a global military buildup. The Pentagon budget alone has jumped by approximately one trillion dollars over the past ten years, but given the military's repeated failure of audits, we don't know exactly what its true total expenditures amount to, Bilmes points out.
At a time of high inequality and poverty, this is money that could be going to health care, food aid, and housing assistance. In other words, these public funds could be spent on real security. Likewise, amid historic uprisings from Ferguson to Baltimore, safety cannot be delivered by national guard deployments against U.S. citizens or the militarization of police. Security comes when we address the root causes of public outrage by pursuing real solutions, like access to education and living-wage jobs.
On both sides of the political aisle, presidential candidates can't truly address these domestic needs without taking on the bloated security state. This requires a painful reckoning with our country's bloody policies -- and a reimagining of what safety, democracy, and justice look...
The day after the first night of the Baltimore uprising following the death of Freddie Gray, ABC News used the word "thug" almost 800 times.
It was no rare occasion. "Thug" was thrown around in the media after the demonstrations in Ferguson and New York. Practically every person of color who has protested the killing of young black men by law enforcement -- seemingly no matter how peaceful their demonstration -- has been labeled a "thug."
As NFL star Richard Sherman so memorably noted, and as the black activists on the ground in Ferguson and Baltimore so often remind us, the word "thug" has become little more than a socially acceptable version of the rightly outlawed n-word.
When white students at the Keene State College Pumpkin Festival threw rocks, glass, bottles, and even skateboards at police, set multiple fires, and forced police to respond with riot gear, rubber bullets, and tear gas, they were never declared "thugs." When white people riot because their baseball team won, no one throws around the word "thugs." But when black people respond to physical violence with protests against inanimate objects, that word is all you hear.
This blatant hypocrisy is the creative spark behind White Riots, a new short film from Brave New Films. Starting with the absurd reporting from ABC News the day after the Baltimore uprising began, White Riots explores the biased language so often employed by media to describe black Americans exercising their first amendment rights. And contrasts it with the kiddie-gloves treatment of everything from violent students to biker gang shootouts.
Just look at the language around Keene State "students," "youthful debauchery," "kids." Then compare to the language of Ferguson and Baltimore: "thugs," "criminals," "offenders." Or take the word, "gang." Black people wearing the blue of their sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, were reported to be in a gang. Groups of white men can wear matching jackets and murder nine people and injure 18 more in broad daylight, and the media will still describe them as a "social club." (This actually happened.)
We could go on. Dr. King called riots "the language of the unheard." When young, prosperous university students -- who have a voice in our society -- riot, some media outlets will actually deem those riots a "form of protest." But when the actual unheard raise their voices in anger, even if there is no violence, the black community is condemned. When property damage occurs, the sins of the few are laid at the feet of the broader community and blamed on a "lack of leadership" in the "black community." But in contrast, when was the last time you saw 72 hours of breathless criticism of university students "wasting taxpayer dollars" with "destruction of public property," even though universities actually do have clear leadership?
The problem here is that biased media coverage and racialized language shape dangerous stereotypes. Those stereotypes, in turn, are used to justify discriminatory policing, violence against people of color, and a mass incarceration system that is so racist that one author calls it the "new Jim Crow."
Young white people are seen as "kids," prone to make mistakes, well into their twenties. But a 12-year-old black kid is seen as a dangerous criminal once he is old enough to play alone in the park -- so inherently dangerous that police are considered to be justified even when shooting unarmed children in "self defense." Law enforcement will even target African-American neighborhoods on drug sweeps or through programs like "stop and frisk," based in large part of the perception of black criminality pushed on us by the biased, fear-mongering media. If we force unbiased reporting, we can chip away at the foundations of the injustice within our criminal justice system.
The media drumbeat shapes our opinions, and our opinions in turn shape the destiny of a generation of young people. If we allow media to speak of students protesting the firing of a coach in understanding terms, while heaping scorn upon those protesting soul-crushing levels of poverty, violence, and forgotten neighborhoods, our nation will end up poorer for it.
Brave New Films wants to change the language the media uses. The newest release "White Riots" is a startling look on how deep the problem runs. It is a call to conscience for journalists across the nation to no longer use racially charged terminology to describe black protestors and civil unrest. We can change the biased narrative -- one word at a...
Without the video from the cases of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott, these cases and many others would have gone uninvestigated and unnoticed; with many holding staunchly to the belief that whatever is written in a police report is fact. Still, even with these cases, large public outcry, and overwhelming evidence, there is still mistrust and demonization of the people decrying their treatment by law enforcement. The bias is so bad, in fact, that as opposed to doing further investigation into the claims of misconduct on a larger, more comprehensive scale, such as those seen in our video above, local law makers and states have attempted to curtail the filming of law enforcement that bolsters the claims.
That's right. Instead of admitting that the state of policing in this country is hugely problematic and working with communities to fully uncover depths of the problem, many are systematically working to cover up any trace that a problem exists. Some of the more notable attempts as of late:
· Just this March, Texas State Rep. Jason Villalba(R) tried to pass a law in Texas that would make it a class B misdemeanor to film police within 100 feet if they have their handgun out.
· In Missouri, State Senator Doug Libla opposed a bill that required police to wear body cameras. Instead, he proposed his own bill, that not only didn't require body cameras, but would have exempted all footage of police encounters from state open records laws.
· Twelve states have adopted what is known as a two party consent eavesdropping law that police have successfully used to confiscate and arrest anyone filming them on duty. These laws simply mean that if someone, including police, has "a reasonable expectation of privacy" when they are filmed, they have to give their consent to be recorded.
The problem, of course, is that public servants, such as police, should NOT have a reasonable expectation of privacy while performing their public duties, in public spaces, amongst the public. It IS punishable to interfere with an arrest or their work, as it should be. But if all protocol is being followed, filming should not be considered interference.
Luckily, the Supreme Court seems to agree that outlawing citizens' right to film is not constitutional. The First, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal and New Jersey have determined that forbidding the video and audio recording of police officers and public servants IS ILLEGAL under the First Amendment. SCOTUS refuses to hear the cases because they have ceded to these precedents set by the lower courts.
So why is this still an issue? Why are we still arguing and attempting to legislate something that has already been proven unconstitutional? Why was the man who filmed the arrest of Freddie Gray in Baltimore arrested, with no probable cause, along with countless others over the years?
We know that even if arrested and convicted of an eavesdropping law, few cases would ever hold up in appellate court. But that's not the point. The point is the mere THREAT of being put through the legal system is enough of an intimidation tactic to dissuade people from being brave and doing this civic duty. Not to mention that the legal process takes a ton of time. If in that time, the footage of police brutality can be inadmissible in, say, a homicide case, it was well worth the loss on appeal for that city government.
All of these tactics are tools in the politics of oppression; ways to keep control and disempower the average citizen. These are not laws about protecting the public or creating a more just society.
Brave New Films' new Film The Police, is a strong, reminder of how important it is for all of us to fight for our rights. It is absolutely legal for you to film the police. Moreover, organizations like the ACLU are creating apps for people to directly send their videos to be seen by attorneys, just in case phones are illegally confiscated
So take a look. Share it. But most importantly, know your rights. America is built on a Constitution that will not be overlooked because it doesn't suit the needs of those in power. We should all be equal under law. Even police....
You would think that a net worth of $4.6 billion would make a guy comfortable. But that's not the case for Paul Tudor Jones II, an American billionaire and the founder of the Tudor Investment Corporation, a private asset management company and hedge fund. Because despite this huge...
The death of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police sparked outrage and protests by thousands of Baltimore residents and people of color around the world. It seems that almost daily, the headline "Unarmed Black Man Killed By Police" has pulled back the veil on what many white Americans, liberal and conservative alike, have been blinded to by privilege: racism is real in American society. Our new film, which we have shared here, highlights it.
With the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the success of entrepreneurs like Oprah and Tyler Perry, and the increase in African Americans attendance in college, about half of white American's have wrongly concluded that the US has entered a "post-racial" phase, where race is no longer the determining factor in inequality.
This couldn't be further from the truth.
The crux of much debate surrounding the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent civil unrest by both moderate and conservative media and pundits lay the blame squarely on the backs of the protestors and victims of such assaults. They contend that these deaths and protests are a result of those unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. That criminal activity and arrests are a result of poor choices and poor moral character. That, in this post racial society, everyone has equal ability to change their circumstances if only they try hard enough.
What happens when we try to qualify those beliefs?
Well, we find that blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, but blacks are four times more likely to get arrested for it, and six times more likely to go to prison. This certainly proves that arrest has a whole lot more to do with what you look like than the actual crime.
Or what about when we compare resumes, and find that identical resumes sent to the same employer have a 50 percent less chance of being called if they have a "black sounding" name. This certainly demonstrates unequal ability to change your circumstances.
Want to complain about all of this to your local Congressperson? Good luck. People with black sounding names consistently see less responses from their representatives -- in both parties. So much for taking responsibility!
The truth is, Jim Crow grew up, cleaned up, and started writing laws. Laws that create institutionalized racism without having to have a sign that reads "whites only." Our current policies and criminal justice system do that implicitly. To get a real handle on what is going on in Baltimore, Ferguson and around the nation; to understand why people feel stuck, angry, and frustrated, we have to be willing to face the fact that racism has not disappeared. It has instead morphed into less conspicuous white privilege and social and economic inequality. One that many American whites are unwilling to face out of guilt and the belief that they have somehow "earned" a position in life that they have, in fact, inherited by virtue of simply being white. At Brave New Films, we have produced a short film entitled Racism is Real that can be seen here. It highlights institutionalized racism in America. It is by no means exhaustive. But it is a start. If America wants to hold onto the belief that what we inherit is unabashedly what we deserve, then we must be willing to acknowledge that we force minorities to inherit inequality at no fault of their...
The framework agreement that the U.S. and its international partners reached with Iran that blocks Tehran's pathways to building a nuclear bomb is barely a week old, yet the usual suspects have already denounced it as a "bad deal."
Former George W. Bush administration official John Bolton called...
In America, media critics are supposed to keep journalists honest and play referee on matters of import.
But what happens when, in the middle of the Ferguson tragedy, a media critic violates every rule of good reporting to launch a fact-free attack on a prominent black commentator?
Mamana Bibi was a 67-year-old Pakistani grandmother and midwife, killed by a U.S. drone strike on October 24, 2012. One year ago, the family of Mamana Bibi came to Washington,, D.C., to share their sad story with Members of Congress.
Mamana's son, Rafiq ur Rehman, is a 39-year-old primary-school teacher. He and his two children, Zubair, 13, and Nabila, 9, were the first family members of a U.S. drone strike victim ever to speak to Members of Congress. Rafiq explained that he and his family were educators, not terrorists. He wanted to know why his family was targeted by the U.S. military. Zubair, a teenager, recalled how he "watched a U.S. drone kill my grandmother." He described why he now fears blue skies: "Because drones do not fly when the skies are gray." Nabila was picking okra with her grandmother for a religious holiday meal, when day became night. "I saw from the sky a drone and I hear a dum-dum noise. Everything was dark and I couldn't see anything, but I heard a scream."
Only five Members of Congress came to hear this family's testimony. Only five listened to the real impact of one of America's most ruthless, extrajudicial, error-laden and enemy-producing war policies. The briefing was organized by both of us, Rep. Alan Grayson, and Director Robert Greenwald. It was part of our effort to change discourse about drone warfare. It also led the release of a new drone documentary, Unmanned: America's Drone Wars. The film told these and other drone victims' stories, focused on the government's shadowy "signature strike" policy allowed spy agencies to target and kill hundreds based on suspicion alone, and posed difficult questions that far too many lawmakers and national security officials still want to duck.
Those questions include: Should America be killing people in other countries with which we are not at war? What constitutional framework allows the President and spy agencies to be judge, jury and executioner? Where only four percent of victims are even "linked" to Al Qaeda, what role are the killings , playing in inciting warfare and making anti-American enemies? Why do national leaders--in the White House, the Pentagon and Congress--believe that so-called military "solutions" are the only way to address global hot spots? And why is it that every time they see something they don't like, they feel the urge to bomb it?
For a brief period, it appeared that some progress was being made on drone policy. The President announced that he would transfer the program from the CIA to the Pentagon, where it would, theoretically be subject to more significant Congressional oversight. Legislation codifying that transition was introduced. Significantly, the frequency of drone strikes dropped as well.
But a recent event--the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq--has resuscitated America's dependence on drones. Our desire to avoid placing American troops on the ground again in the Middle East has had the perverse effect of promoting error-prone drones as the nation's weapon of choice. No substantive change has been made to this secretive foreign assassination program. Reform efforts in Congress have stalled. The Administration has cloaked its addiction to drone warfare with the label "national security," seeking to end any possibility of rational public discourse on the matter.
That's a problem for many reasons, but especially because drone strikes cause considerable "collateral damage" (an Orwellian phrase created by the military-industrial complex to sanitize the slaughter of the innocents). For every Al Qaeda "target" that a drone attack eliminates, it spawns dozens of new radicals intent on exacting retribution against the U.S. - vindication for the corpses and memories of hundreds of innocent civilians who have been killed, in regions where the U.S. needs allies, not enemies.
We cannot afford to delay reform any longer. We should start by acknowledging a simple truth: Many drone strike victims are not terrorists. These are real people - mothers, children, parents, cousins, human beings - not some nameless, faceless enemy. And any reform efforts should bring the drone program under the rule of law, with checks and balances on the actions of the Executive Branch, subjecting drone strikes to Congressional oversight, and compensation for the families of innocent victims.
Our politicians can no longer pretend that America's policy of drone strike vigilantism is going unnoticed by the international community. The United Nations and international human rights groups have issued multiple reports detailing the deaths of innocent civilians resulting from these strikes. The documentary Unmanned: America's Drone Wars, has been seen by millions of people abroad, including in Pakistan; it was featured at a UN Human Rights Council meeting; and it is being screened on college campuses and universities across the globe. And last October, Congressional testimony by the Rehman family finally put a face to "collateral damage."
Not one of us would stand by idly while a foreign government killed American grandmothers, children, and other innocent civilians via remote-controlled weapons that rain down death from the skies. Yet that's precisely what the U.S. military-industrial complex has done for years, and we American citizens have let this happen in our good name. It's time we all paid attention. It's time we all acknowledged the immorality, the illegality, and the repercussions of U.S. drone strikes...
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