Sunday, April 24, 2011

Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010

Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010

The State Department of the United States released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010 on April 8, 2011. As in previous years, the reports are full of distortions and accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China. However, the United States turned a blind eye to its own terrible human rights situation and seldom mentioned it. The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010 is prepared to urge the United States to face up to its own human rights issues.

I. On Life, Property and Personal Security

The United States reports the world's highest incidence of violent crimes, and its people's lives, properties and personal security are not duly protected.

Every year, one out of every five people is a victim of a crime in the United States. No other nation on earth has a rate that is higher. In 2009, an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes, 15.6 million property crimes and 133,000 personal thefts were committed against U.S. residents aged 12 or older, and the violent crime rate was 17.1 victimizations per 1,000 persons, according to a report published by the U.S. Department of Justice on October 13, 2010 (Criminal Victimization 2009, U.S. Department of Justice, The crime rate surged in many cities in the United States. St. Louis in Missouri reported more than 2,070 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, making it the nation's most dangerous city (The Associated Press, November 22, 2010). Detroit residents experienced more than 15,000 violent crimes each year, which means the city has 1,600 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. The United States' four big cities - Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York - reported increases in murders in 2010 from the previous year (USA Today, December 5, 2010). Twenty-five murder cases occurred in Los Angeles County in a week from March 29 to April 4, 2010; and in the first half of 2010, 373 people were killed in murders in Los Angeles County ( As of November 11, New York City saw 464 homicide cases, up 16 percent from the 400 reported at the same time last year (The Washington Post, November 12, 2010).

The United States exercised lax control on the already rampant gun ownership. Reuters reported on November 10, 2010 that the United States ranks first in the world in terms of the number of privately-owned guns. Some 90 million people own an estimated 200 million guns in the United States, which has a population of about 300 million. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled on June 28, 2010 that the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms that can not be violated by state and local governments, thus extending the Americans' rights to own a gun for self-defense purposes to the entire country (The Washington Post, June 29, 2010). Four U.S. states - Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia and Virginia - allow loaded guns in bars. And 18 other states allow weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol (The New York Times, October 3, 2010). Tennessee has nearly 300,000 handgun permit holders. The Washington Times reported on June 7, 2010 that in November 2008, a total of 450,000 more people in the United States purchased firearms than had bought them in November 2007. This was a more than 10-fold increase, compared with the change in sales from November 2007 over November 2006. From November 2008 to October 2009, almost 2.5 million more people bought guns than had done so in the preceding 12 months (The Washington Times, June 7, 2010). The frequent campus shootings in colleges in the United States came to the spotlight in recent years. The United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph reported on February 21, 2011 that a new law that looks certain to pass through the legislature in Texas, the United States, would allow half a million students and teachers in its 38 public colleges to carry guns on campus. It would become only the second state, after Utah, to enforce such a rule.

The United States had high incidence of gun-related blood-shed crimes. Statistics showed there were 12,000 gun murders a year in the United States (The New York Times, September 26, 2010). Figures released by the U.S. Department of Justice on October 13, 2010 showed weapons were used in 22 percent of all violent crimes in the United States in 2009, and about 47 percent of robberies were committed with arms (, October 13, 2010). On March 30, 2010, five men killed four people and seriously injured five others in a deadly drive-by shooting (The Washington Post, April 27, 2010). In April, six separate shootings occurred overnight, leaving 16 total people shot, two fatally ( On April 3, a deadly shooting at a restaurant in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, left four people dead and two others wounded (, April 4, 2010). One person was killed and 21 others wounded in separate shootings around Chicago roughly between May 29 and 30 (, May 30, 2010). In June, 52 people were shot at a weekend in Chicago (, June 21, 2010). Three police officers were shot dead by assailants in the three months from May to July (Chicago Tribune, July 19, 2010). A total of 303 people were shot and 33 of them were killed in Chicago in the 31 days of July in 2010. Between November 5 and 8, four people were killed and at least five others injured in separate shootings in Oakland (World Journal, November 11, 2010). On November 30, a 15-year-old boy in Marinette County, Wisconsin, took his teacher and 24 classmates hostage at gunpoint (abcNews, November 30, 2010). On January 8, 2011, a deadly rampage critically wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Six people were killed and 12 others injured in the attack (Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2011).

II. On Civil and Political Rights

In the United States, the violation of citizens' civil and political rights by the government is severe.

Citizen' s privacy has been undermined. According to figures released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in September 2010, more than 6,600 travelers had been subject to electronic device searches between October 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010, nearly half of them American citizens. A report on The Wall Street Journal on September 7, 2010, said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was sued over its policies that allegedly authorize the search and seizure of laptops, cellphones and other electronic devices without a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. The policies were claimed to leave no limit on how long the DHS can keep a traveler' s devices or on the scope of private information that can be searched, copied or detained. There is no provision for judicial approval or supervision. When Colombian journalist Hollman Morris sought a U.S. student visa so he could take a fellowship for journalists at Harvard University, his application was denied on July 17, 2010, as he was ineligible under the "terrorist activities" section of the U.S.A. Patriot Act. An Arab American named Yasir Afifi, living in California, found the FBI attached an electronic GPS tracking device near the right rear wheel of his car. In August, ACLU, joined by the Asian Law Caucus and the San Francisco Bay Guardian weekly, had filed a lawsuit to expedite the release of FBI records on the investigation and surveillance of Muslim communities in the Bay Area. The San Francisco FBI office has declined to comment on the matter "because it' s still an ongoing investigation." (The Washington Post, October 13, 2010). In October 2010, the Transportation Security Administration raised the security level at U.S. airports requiring passengers to go through a full-body scanner machine or pat-downs. It also claimed that passengers can not refuse the security check based on their religious beliefs. Civil rights groups contended the more intensive screening violates civil liberties including freedom of religion, the right to privacy and the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches (AP, November 16, 2010). The ACLU and the U.S. Travel Association have been getting thousands of complaints about airport security measures (The Christian Science Monitor, November 20, 2010).

Abuse of violence and torturing suspects to get confession is serious in the U. S. law enforcement. According to a report of Associated Press on October 14, 2010, the New York Police Department (NYPD) paid about 964 million U.S. dollars to resolve claims against its officers over the past decade. Among them was a case that an unarmed man was killed in a 50-bullet police shooting on his wedding day. The three police officers were acquitted of manslaughter and the NYDP simply settled the case with money (China Press, October 15, 2010). In a country that boasts "judicial justice," what justice did the above-mentioned victims get? In June 2010, a federal jury found former Chicago police lieutenant Jon Burge guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. Burge and officers under his command shocked, suffocated and burned suspects into giving confessions in the 1970s and 1980s (The Boston Globe, November 5, 2010). According to a report on Chicago Tribune on May 12, 2010, Chicago Police was charged with arresting people without warrants, shackling them to the wall or metal benches, feeding them infrequently and holding them without bathroom breaks and giving them no bedding, which were deemed consistent with tactics of "soft torture" used to extract involuntary confessions. On March 22, a distraught homeless man was shot dead in Potland, Oregon, by four shots from a police officer (China Press, April 1, 2010). An off-duty Westminster police officer was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and raping a woman on April 3 while a corrections officer was accused of being an accessory (Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2010). On April 17 in Seattle, Washington, a gang detective and patrol officer kicked a suspect and verbally assaulted him (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 10, 2010). On March 24, Chad Holley, 15, was brutally beaten by eight police officers in Houston. The teen claimed he was face down on the ground while officers punched him in the face and kneed him in the back. After a two-month-long investigation, four officers were indicted and fired (Houston Chronicle, May 4, June 23, 2010). On August 11, three people were injured by police shooting when police officers chased a stolen van in Prince George' s County. Family members of the three injured argued why the police fired into the van when nobody on the van fired at them (The Washington Post, August 14, 2010). On September 5, 2010, a Los Angeles police officer killed a Guatemalan immigrant by two shots and triggered a large scale protest. Police clashed with protesters and arrested 22 of them (The New York Times, September 8, 2010). On November 5, 2010, a large demonstration took place in Oakland against a Los Angeles court verdict which put Johannes Mehserle, a police officer, to two years in prison as he shot and killed unarmed African American Oscar Grant two years ago. Police arrested more than 150 people in the protest (San Francisco Chronicle, November 9, 2010).

The United States has always called itself "land of freedom," but the number of inmates in the country is the world' s largest. According to a report released by the Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project in 2008, one in every 100 adults in the U.S. are in jail and the figure was one in every 400 in 1970. By 2011, America will have more than 1.7 million men and women in prison, an increase of 13 percent over that of 2006. The sharp increase will lead to overcrowding prisons. California prisons now hold 164,000 inmates, double their intended capacity (The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2010). In a New Beginnings facility for the worst juvenile offenders in Washington DC, only 60 beds are for 550 youths who in 2009 were charged with the most violent crimes. Many of them would violate the laws again without proper care or be subject to violent crimes (The Washington Post, August 28, 2010). Due to poor management and conditions, unrest frequently occurred in prisons. According to a report on Chicago Tribune on July 18, 2010, more than 20 former Cook County inmates filed suit saying they were handcuffed or shackled during labor while in the custody, leaving serious physical and psychological damage. On October 19, 2010, at least 129 inmates took part in a riot at Calipatria State Prison, leaving two dead and a dozen injured (China Press, October 20, 2010). In November, AP released a video showing an inmate, being beaten by a fellow inmate in an Idaho prison, managed to plead for help through a prison guard station window but officers looked on and no one intervened until he was knocked unconscious. The prison was dubbed "gladiator school" (China Press, December 2, 2010).

Wrongful conviction occurred quite often in the United States. In the past two decades, a total of 266 people were exonerated through DNA tests, among them 17 were on death row (Chicago Tribune, July 11, 2010). A report from The Washington Post on April 23, 2010, said Washington DC Police admitted 41 charges they raised against a 14-year-old boy, including four first-degree murders, were false and the teen never confessed to any charge. Police of Will County, Illinois, had tortured Kevin Fox to confess the killing of his three-year-old daughter and he had served eight months in prison before a DNA test exonerated him. Similar case happened in Zion, Illinois, that Jerry Hobbs were forced by the police to confess the killing of his eight-year-old daughter and had been in prison for five years before DNA tests proved his innocence. Barry Gibbs had served 19 years in prison when his conviction of killing a prostitute in 1986 was overturned in 2005 and received 9.9 million U.S. dollars from New York City government in June 2010 (The New York Times, June 4, 2010).

The U.S. regards itself as "the beacon of democracy." However, its democracy is largely based on money. According to a report from The Washington Post on October 26, 2010, U.S. House and Senate candidates shattered fundraising records for a midterm election, taking in more than 1.5 billion U.S. dollars as of October 24. The midterm election, held in November 2010, finally cost 3.98 billion U.S. dollars, the most expensive in the U.S. history. Interest groups have actively spent on the election. As of October 6, 2010, the 80 million U.S. dollars spent by groups outside the Democratic and Republican parties dwarfed the 16 million U.S. dollars for the 2006 midterms. One of the biggest spenders nationwide was the American Future Fund from Iowa, which spent 7 million U.S. dollars on behalf of Republicans in more than two dozen House and Senate races. One major player the 60 Plus Association spent 7 million dollars on election related ads. The American Federation of States, County and Municipal Employees spent 103.9 million U.S. dollars on the campaigns from October 22 to 27 (The New York Times, November 1, 2010). U.S. citizens have expressed discontent at the huge cost in the elections. A New York Times/CBS poll showed nearly 8 in 10 U.S. citizens said it was important to limit the campaign expense (The New York Times, October 22, 2010).

While advocating Internet freedom, the U.S. in fact imposes fairly strict restriction on cyberspace. On June 24, 2010, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, which will give the federal government "absolute power" to shut down the Internet under a declared national emergency. Handing government the power to control the Internet will only be the first step towards a greatly restricted Internet system, whereby individual IDs and government permission would be required to operate a website. The United States applies double standards on Internet freedom by requesting unrestricted "Internet freedom" in other countries, which becomes an important diplomatic tool for the United States to impose pressure and seek hegemony, and imposing strict restriction within its territory. An article on BBC on February 16, 2011 noted the U.S. government wants to boost Internet freedom to give voices to citizens living in societies regarded as "closed" and questions those governments' control over information flow, although within its borders the U.S. government tries to create a legal frame to fight the challenge posed by Wikileaks. The U.S. government might be sensitive to the impact of the free flow of electronic information on its territory for which it advocates, but it wants to practice diplomacy by other means, including the Internet, particularly the social networks.

An article on the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Magazine admitted that the U.S government's approach to the Internet remains "full of problems and contradictions" (Foreign Policy Magazine website, February 17, 2011).

III. On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The United States is the world's richest country, but Americans' economic, social and cultural rights protection is going from bad to worse.

Unemployment rate in the United States has been stubbornly high. From December 2007 to October 2010, a total of 7.5 million jobs were lost in the country (The New York Times, November 19, 2010). According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Labor on December 3, 2010, the U.S. unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent in November 2010, and the number of unemployed persons was 15 million in November, among whom, 41.9 percent were jobless for 27 weeks and more ( The jobless rate of California in January 2010 was 12.5 percent, its worst on record. Unemployment topped 20 percent in eight California counties (The Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2010). Unemployment rate of New York State was 8.3 percent in October 2010. There were nearly 800,000 people unemployed statewide, and about 527,000 people were collecting unemployment benefits from the state (The New York Times, November 19, 2010). Employment situation for the disabled was worse. According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Labor on August 25, 2010, the average unemployment rate for disabled workers was 14.5 percent in 2009, and nearly a third of workers with disabilities worked only part-time. The jobless rate for workers with disabilities who had at least a bachelor's degree was 8.3 percent, which was higher than the 4.5 percent rate for college-educated workers without disabilities (The Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2010). The unemployment rate for those with disabilities had risen to 16.4 percent as of July 2010 (The Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2010). In 2009, more than 21,000 disabled people complained to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about their experience of employment discrimination, an increase of 10 percent and 20 percent over the numbers of 2008 and 2007 (The World Journal, September 25, 2010).

Proportion of American people living in poverty has risen to a record high. The U.S. Census Bureau reported on September 16, 2010 that a total of 44 million Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, four million more than that of 2008. The share of residents in poverty climbed to 14.3 percent in 2009, the highest level recorded since 1994 (The New York Times, September 17, 2010). In 2009, Mississippi's poverty rate was 23.1 percent ( Florida had a total of 2.7 million people living in poverty (The Washington Post, September 19, 2010). In New York City, 18.7 percent of the population lived in poverty in 2009, as an additional 45,000 people fell below the poverty line that year (New York Daily News, September 29, 2010).

People in hunger increased sharply. A report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in November 2010 showed that 14.7 percent of U.S. households were food insecure in 2009 (, an increase of almost 30 percent since 2006 (The Washington Post, November 21, 2010). About 50 million Americans experienced food shortage that year. The number of households collecting emergency food aid had increased from 3.9 million in 2007 to 5.6 million in 2009 (The China Press, November 16, 2010). The number of Americans participating in the food-stamp program increased from 26 million in May 2007 to 42 million in September 2010, approximately one in eight people was using food stamps (The Associated Press, October 22, 2010). In the past four years, 31.6 percent of American families tasted poverty for at least a couple of months (The Globe and Mail, September 17, 2010).

Number of homeless Americans increased sharply. According to a report by USA Today on June 16, 2010, the number of families in homeless shelters increased 7 percent to 170,129 from fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2009. Homeless families also were staying longer in shelters, from 30 days in 2008 to 36 in 2009, and about 800,000 American families were living with extended family, friends, or other people because of the economy. The number of homeless students in the U.S. increased 41 percent over that in the previous two years to one million (The Washington Post, September 23, 2010; USA Today, July 31, 2010). In New York City, 30 percent of homeless families in 2009 were first-time homeless ( The city's homeless people increased to 3,111, with another 38,000 people living in shelters (The New York Times, March 19, 2010). New Orleans had 12,000 homeless people (News Week, August 23, 2010). An estimated 254,000 men, women and children experienced homelessness in Los Angeles County during some part of the year. Approximately 82,000 people were homeless on any given night. African Americans made up approximately half of the Los Angeles County homeless population, 33 percent were Latino, and a high percentage, as high as 20 percent, were veterans ( American veterans served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars could become homeless one year and a half after they retired, and about 130,000 retired veterans become homeless each year in the US ( Statistics from the National Coalition for the Homeless showed that more than 1,000 violent offences against homeless people have occurred in the U.S. which caused 291 deaths since 1999. (The New York Times, August 18, 2010)

The number of American people without health insurance increased progressively every year. According to a report by USA Today on September 17, 2010, the number of Americans without health insurance increased from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009, the ninth consecutive annual rise, which accounted for 16.7 percent of the total U.S. population. Sixty-eight adults under 65 years old died due to lack of health insurance each day on average in the US. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in November 2010 showed that 22 percent of American adults between 16 and 64 had no health insurance (Reuters, November 10, 2010). A report issued by the Center for Health Policy Research, University of California, Los Angeles indicated that 24.3 percent of adults under 65 in California State in 2009 had no health insurance, representing a population of 8.2 million, up from the 6.4 million in 2007. Proportion of children without health insurance in the state rose from 10.2 percent in 2007 to 13.4 percent in 2009 (The China Press, March 17, 2010, citing the Los Angeles Times).

IV. On Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination, deep-seated in the United States, has permeated every aspect of social life.

An Associated Press-Univision Poll, reported by the Associated Press on May 20, 2010, found that 61 percent of people overall said Hispanics face significant discrimination, compared with 52 percent who said blacks do. The New York Times reported on October 28, 2010 that more than 6 in 10 Latinos in the United States say discrimination is a "major problem" for them, a significant increase in the last three years.

Minorities do not enjoy the same political status as white people. The New York city's non-Hispanic white population is 35 percent, while more than 70 percent of the senior jobs are held by whites. Since winning a third term in November 2009, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced a parade of major appointments: bringing aboard three new deputy mayors and six commissioners. All nine are white. Of the 80 current city officials identified by the Bloomberg administration as "key members" on its Website, 79 percent are white. Of 321 people who advise the mayor or hold one of three top titles at agencies that report directly to him - commissioners, deputy commissioners and general counsels, and their equivalents - 78 percent are white. And of the 1,114 employees who must live in the city, under an executive order, because they wield the most influence over policies and day-to-day operations, 74 percent are white (The New York Times, June 29, 2010).

Minority groups confront discrimination in their employment and occupation. The black people are treated unfairly or excluded in promotion, welfare and employment (Chicago Tribune, March 12, 2010). It is reported that one-third of black people confronted discrimination at work, against which only one-sixteenth of the black people would lodge a complaint. The Washington Post reported on October 15, 2010 that about 30 black firefighters alleged systematic racial discrimination within the D.C. Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, claiming that black employees faced harsher discipline. Shirley Sherrod, who was black, was fired by the Agricultural Department after a blogger posted her truncated comments that 24 years ago, she did not help a white farmer when she was working for a nonprofit agency established to help black farmers. The U.S. Agriculture Department in February, 2010 reached a 1.25-billion-dollar settlement in a decades-long struggle by African-American farmers who had suffered from discrimination within farm loans (The Washington Post, July 23, 2010). The New York Times reported on September 23, 2010 that by September 30, 2009, Muslim workers had filed a record 803 claims of complaints over employment discrimination, up 20 percent from the previous year.

Minority groups have high unemployment rate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in July 2010, among the population 16 to 24 years of age, 2,987,000 unemployed people were white, with unemployment rate reaching 16.2 percent; 992,000 were black or African American people, with unemployment rate of 33.4 percent; 165,000 were Asians, with unemployment rate of 21.6 percent; 884,000 belonged to Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, with unemployment rate of 22.1 percent ( According to a report of the working group of experts on people of African descent to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in August 2010, unemployment was a very serious issue for the Afro-descendant community in the United States, with levels of unemployment being, proportionately, four times higher among this population than in the white community. Reference was made to a case where the New York City Fire Department was found to have discriminated against people of African descent who had applied for employment as firemen. Of the 11,000 firemen employed by the New York City Fire Department, only about 300 were of African descent, despite their being about 27 percent of the population of New York (UN document A/HRC/15/18). Nearly one-sixth of black residents in the city were unemployed in the third quarter of 2010. About 140,000 of the city's 384,000 unemployed residents, or 36 percent, were black (The New York Times, October 28, 2010).

Poverty proportion for minorities is also high in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau announced in September, 2010 that the poverty proportion of the black was 25.8 percent in 2009, and those of Hispanic origin and Asian were 25.3 percent and 12.5 percent respectively, much higher than that of the non-Hispanic white at 9.4 percent. The median household income for the black, Hispanic origin and non-Hispanic white were 32,584, 38,039 and 54,461 U.S. dollars respectively (The USA Today, September 17, 2010). A survey released by the America Association of Retired Persons on February 23, 2010 found that over the previous 12 months, a third (33 percent) of African Americans age 45+ had problems paying rent or mortgage, 44 percent had problems paying for essential items, such as food and utilities, almost one in four (23 percent) lost their employer-sponsored health insurance, more than three in ten (31 percent) had cut back on their medications, and a quarter (26 percent) prematurely withdrew funds from their retirement nest eggs to pay for living expenses. Even in the tough employment environment, 12 percent of African Americans age 65+ returned to the workforce from retirement, while nearly 20 percent of African Americans age 45 to 64 increased the number of hours worked and 12 percent took a second job (The Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2010). In 2009, there were more than 30,000 black children living in poverty in the nation's capital, almost 7,000 more than two years before. Among black children in the city, childhood poverty shot up to 43 percent, from 36 percent in 2008. In contrast, the poverty rate for Hispanic children was 13 percent, and the rate for white children was 3 percent (The Washington Post, September 29, 2010).

The U.S. minority groups face obvious inequality in education. A latest report released by America's Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University showed that 81 percent of white, 64 percent of Hispanic, and 62 percent of African-American students graduated from high schools in 2008 (The World Journal, December 2, 2010). As of 2008, among white men aged 55 to 64, the college completion rate was 43 percent, while 19 percent of Hispanics. Among white men aged 25 to 34, the completion rate was 39 percent, compared with 14 percent of Hispanics (The Washington Post, October 20, 2010). In New York City, the number of white adults with a master degree were three times more than Hispanics. According to a report released by the Sacramento State University, only 22 percent of Latino students and 26 percent African American students completed their two-year studies in the university, compared with 37 percent of white students (The San Jose Mercury News, October 20, 2010). A report released from New York City' s Department of Education in January 2010 found that 6,207 or 4.7 percent-out of a total of 130,837 disciplinary incidents reported in the City's public schools during the 2008-09 school year were bias-related with gender, race/color, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation (The China Press, January 18, 2010). The USA Today on October 14, 2010 reported that African American boys who were suspended at double and triple the rates of their white male peers. At the Christina School District in Delaware, 71 percent of black male students were suspended in a recent school year, compared to 22 percent of their white male counterparts. African-American students without disabilities were more than three times as likely to be expelled as their white peers. African-American students with disabilities were over twice as likely to be expelled or suspended as their white counterparts (USA Today, March 8, 2010).

The health care for African-American people is worrisome. Studies showed that nearly a third of ethnic minority families in the United States did not have health insurance. Life expectancy was lower and infant mortality higher than average (BBC, the social and economic position of minorities). Mortality of African American children was two to three times higher than that of their white counterparts. African American children represented 71 percent of all pediatric HIV/AIDS cases. African American women and men were 17 times and 7 times, respectively, more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than white people, and twice more likely to develop cancer.

Racial discrimination is evident in the law enforcement and judicial systems. The New York Times reported on May 13, 2010, that in 2009, African Americans and Latinos were 9 times more likely to be stopped by the police to receive stop-and-frisk searches than white people. Overall, 41 percent of the prison population was estimated to be African American. The rate of African Americans serving a life sentence was more than 10 times higher than that of whites. Males of African descent who dropped out of school had a 66 percent chance of ending up in jail or being processed by the criminal justice system (UN document A/HRC/15/18). A report said 85 percent of the people stopped in New York to receive stop-and-frisk searches over the past six years had been black or Latino (The Washington Post, November 4, 2010). According to a report of the Law School of the Michigan State University, among the 159 death row inmates in North Carolina, 86 were black, 61 were white and 12 were from other ethnic groups. During the trial process of the 159 capital cases, the number of black members taken out from the jury by prosecutors more than doubled that of non-black members. According to statistics from the Chicago Police Department, the proportion of black people being the criminals and the victims of all murder cases is the highest, reaching 76.3 and 77.6 percent respectively ( The Homicide Report of the Los Angeles Times showed 2,329 homicides in Los Angeles County from January 1, 2007 to November 14, 2010, with victims of 1,600 Latinos and 997 black people (

Racial hate crimes are frequent. The FBI said in an annual report that out of 6,604 hate crimes committed in the United States in 2009, some 4,000 were racially motivated and nearly 1,600 were driven by hatred for a particular religion. Overall, some 8,300 people fell victim to hate crimes in 2009. Blacks made up around three-quarters of victims of the racially motivated hate crimes and Jews made up the same percentage of victims of anti-religious hate crimes. Two-thirds of the 6,225 known perpetrators of all U.S. hate crimes were white (AFP, November 22, 2010).

Immigrants' rights and interests are not guaranteed. Lawmakers in the Arizona Senate in April 2010 passed a bill to curb illegal immigration. The law requires state and local police to determine the status of people if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they are illegal immigrants and to arrest people who are unable to provide documentation proving they are in the country legally (The Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2010). Another proposed Arizona law, supported by Republicans of the state, would deny birth certificates to children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents (CNN U.S., June 15, 2010). A group of UN human rights experts on migrants, racism, minorities, indigenous people, education and cultural rights expressed serious concern over the laws enacted by the state of Arizona, saying that "a disturbing pattern of legislative activity hostile to ethnic minorities and immigrants has been established". The Arizona immigration law requires state law enforcement officers to arrest a person, without a warrant. It also makes it a crime to be in the country illegally, and specifically targets day laborers, making it a crime for an undocumented migrant to solicit work, and for any person to hire or seek to hire an undocumented migrant. The law may lead to detaining and subjecting to interrogation persons primarily on the basis of their perceived ethnic characteristics. In Arizona, persons who appear to be of Mexican, Latin American, or indigenous origin are especially at risk of being targeted under the law. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on November 19, 2010 that a large group of human rights organizations prepared to hold a vigil in South Georgia in support of suspected illegal immigrants being held in a prison in Lumpkin. As of September 17, 2010, the prison was holding 1,890 inmates. Court cases for inmates at the prison were pending for 63 days on average. With regard to immigration detainees, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants said, in a report to the Human Rights Council in April 2010, that he received reports of detainees being willfully and maliciously denied proper medical treatment, to which they are entitled by legislation, while they are in the custody of the national authorities. The Special Rapporteur observed during his country missions that irregular migrant workers are often homeless or living in crowded, unsafe and unsanitary conditions (UN document A/HRC/14/30).

V. On the rights of women and children

The situation regarding the rights of women and children in the United States is bothering.

Gender discrimination against women widely exists in the United States. According to a report released on August 11, 2010 by the Daily Mail, 90 percent of women have suffered some form of sexual discrimination in the workplace. Just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. A report by the American Association of University Women released on March 22, 2010 showed that women earned only 21 percent of doctorate degrees in computer science, around one-third of the doctorates in earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences, chemistry, and math. Women doing the same work as men often get less payment in the United States. According to a report on September 17, 2010 by the Washington Post, in nearly 50 years, the wage gap has narrowed by only 18 cents. The census report released on September 16, 2010 showed that working women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. The New York Times reported on April 26, 2010 that Wal-Mart was accused of systematically paying women less than men, giving them smaller raises and offering women fewer opportunities for promotion in the biggest employment discrimination case in the nation's history. The plaintiffs stressed that while 65 percent of Wal-Mart's hourly employees were women, only 33 percent of the company's managers were (The New York Times, April 26, 2010).

Women in the United States often experience sexual assault and violence. Statistics released in October 2010 by the National Institute of Justice show that some 20 million women are rape victims in the country ( About 60,000 female prisoners fall victims to sexual assault or violence every year. Some one fifth female students on campus are victims of sexual assault, and 60 percent of campus rape cases occurred in female students' dorms (World Journal, August 26, 2010).

According to the Human Rights Watch report released in August last year, 50 detainees in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers have been alleged victims of sexual assault since 2003. Most of these victims were women, and some of the alleged assailants, including prison guards, were not prosecuted. In one case, a guard in a Texas detention center pretended to be a doctor and sexually assaulted five women in the center's infirmary (World Journal, August 26, 2010). According to figures from Pentagon, cited by the Time magazine on March 8, 2010, nearly 3,000 female soldiers were sexually assaulted in fiscal year 2008, up 9 percent from the year before. Close to one third of the retired female soldiers said they were victims of rape or assault while they were serving.

Women are also victims of domestic violence. In the United States, some 1.3 million people fall victim to domestic violence every year, and women account for 92 percent. One in four women is a victim of domestic violence at some point during her life, and the violence kills three women each day in the United States by a current or former intimate partner (CNN, October 21, 2010). In 2008, police in the New York City received reports of more than 230,000 domestic violence cases, which equals to 600 cases per day (China Press, April 3, 2010). In all homicide cases in 2009, of the female murder victims for whom their relationships to the offenders were known, 34.6 percent were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends ( In the Santa Clara County in California, police receive more than 4,500 domestic violence related calls every year, and more than 700 women and children live in shelters to avoid domestic violence (World Journal, October 15, 2010; China Press, October 9, 2010).

Women's health rights are not properly protected in the United States. According to the Amnesty International, more than two women die every day in the United States from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women in the past 20 years. Native American and Alaska Native women are 3.6 times, African-American women 2.6 times and Latina women 2.5 times more likely than white women to receive no or late pre-natal care (UN document A/HRC/14/NGO/13).

Children in the U.S. live in poverty. The Washington Post reported on November 21, 2010, that nearly one in four children struggles with hunger, citing the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More than 60 percent of public school teachers identify hunger as a problem in the classroom. Roughly the same percentage go into their own pockets to buy food for their hungry students (The Washington Post, November 21, 2010). According to figures released on Sept. 16, 2010 by the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate increased for children younger than 18 to 20.7 percent in 2009, up 1.7 percentage points from that in 2008 ( Poverty among black children in the Washington D.C. is as high as 43 percent (The Washington Post, September 29, 2010), and some 2.7 million children in California live in impoverished families. The number of poor children in six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area has increased by 15 to 16 percent. Statistics show that at least 17 million children in the United States lived in food insecure households in 2009 (World Journal, May 8, 2010).

Violence against children is very severe. Figures from the official website of Love Our Children USA show that every year over 3 million children are victims of violence reportedly and the actual number is 3 times greater. Almost 1.8 million are abducted and nearly 600,000 children live in foster care. Every day one out of seven kids and teens are approached online by predators, and one out of four kids are bullied and 43 percent of teens and 97 percent of middle schoolers are cyberbullied. Nine out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school. As many as 160,000 students stay home on any given day because they' re afraid of being bullied ( According to a report released on October 20, 2010 by the Washington Post, 17 percent of American students report being bullied two to three times a month or more within a school semester. Bullying is most prevalent in third grade, when almost 25 percent of students reported being bullied two, three or more times a month. According to a UN report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, 20 states and hundreds of school districts in the United States still permit schools to administer corporal punishment in some form, and students with mental or physical disabilities are more likely to suffer physical punishment (UN document A/HRC/14/25/ADD.1).

Children' s physical and mental health is not ensured. More than 93,000 children are currently incarcerated in the United States, and between 75 and 93 percent of children have experienced at least one traumatic experience, including sexual abuse and neglect (The Washington Post, July 9, 2010). According to a report made by the Child Fatality Review Team from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, between 2001 and 2008, injury-related deaths among children aged one to 12 years old in the United States was 8.9 deaths per 100,000. The figure for those in the New York City was 4.2 deaths per 100,000 (China Press, July 3, 2010). Thirteen children and young adults have died at a Chicago care facility for children with severe disabilities since 2000 due to failure to take basic steps to care for them (Chicago Tribune, October 10, 2010). According to a study published on October 14, 2010 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, about half of American teens aged between 13 and 19 met the criteria for a mental disorder. Fifty-one percent of boys and 49 percent of girls aged 13 to 19 had a mood, behavior, anxiety or substance use disorder, and the disorder in 22.2 percent of teens was so severe it impaired their daily activities (World Journal, October 15, 2010). Pornographic content is rampant on the Internet and severely harms American children. Statistics show that seven in 10 children have accidentally accessed pornography on the Internet and one in three has done so intentionally. And the average age of exposure is 11 years old - some start at eight years old (The Washington Times, June 16, 2010). According to a survey commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20 percent of American teens have sent or posted nude or seminude pictures or videos of themselves. (, March 23, 2010). At least 500 profit-oriented nude chat websites were set up by teens in the United States, involving tens of thousands of pornographic pictures.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

America's "War on Drugs": CIA- Recruited Mercenaries and Drug-Traffickers

When Nixon first declared war on drugs in 1971, there were fewer than 500,000 hard-core addicts in the nation, most of whom were addicted to heroin. Three decades later, despite the expenditure of $1 trillion in tax dollars, the number of hard-core addicts is shortly expected to exceed five million. Our nation has become the supermarket of the drug world, with a wider variety and bigger supply of drugs at cheaper prices than ever before. The problem now not only affects every town on the map, but it is difficult to find a family anywhere that is not somehow affected. (pp. 158, 159)

The Chang Mai factory the CIA prevented me from destroying was the source of massive amounts of heroin being smuggled into the US in the bodies and body bags of GIs killed in Vietnam. (p. 165)

My unit, the Hard Narcotics Smuggling Squad, was charged with investigating all heroin and cocaine smuggling through the Port of New York. My unit became involved in investigating every major smuggling operation known to law enforcement. We could not avoid witnessing the CIA protecting major drug dealers. Not a single important source in Southeast Asia was ever indicted by US law enforcement. This was no accident. Case after case was killed by CIA and State Department intervention and there wasn’t a damned thing we could do about it. CIA-owned airlines like Air America were being used to ferry drugs throughout Southeast Asia, allegedly to support our “allies.” CIA banking operations were used to launder drug money. (pp. 165, 166)

In 1972, I was assigned to assist in a major international drug case involving top Panamanian government officials who were using diplomatic passports to smuggle large quantities of heroin and other drugs into the US. The name Manuel Noriega surfaced prominently in the investigation. Surfacing right behind Noriega was the CIA to protect him from US law enforcement. As head of the CIA, Bush authorized a salary for Manuel Noriega as a CIA asset, while the dictator was listed in as many as 40 DEA computer files as a drug dealer. (pp. 166, 167)

The CIA and the Department of State were protecting more and more politically powerful drug traffickers around the world: the Mujihadeen in Afghanistan, the Bolivian cocaine cartels, the top levels of Mexican government, Nicaraguan Contras, Colombian drug dealers and politicians, and others. Media’s duties, as I experienced firsthand, were twofold: first, to keep quiet about the gush of drugs that was allowed to flow unimpeded into the US; second, to divert the public’s attention by shilling them into believing the drug war was legitimate by falsely presenting the few trickles we were permitted to indict as though they were major “victories,” when in fact we were doing nothing more than getting rid of the inefficient competitors of CIA assets. (pp. 166, 167)

On July 17, 1980, drug traffickers actually took control of a nation. Bolivia at the time [was] the source of virtually 100% of the cocaine entering the US. CIA-recruited mercenaries and drug traffickers unseated Bolivia’s democratically elected president, a leftist whom the US government didn’t want in power. Immediately after the coup, cocaine production increased massively, until it soon outstripped supply. This was the true beginning of the crack “plague.” (pp. 167, 168)

The CIA along with the State and Justice Departments had to combine forces to protect their drug-dealing assets by destroying a DEA investigation. How do I know? I was the inside source. I sat down at my desk in the American embassy and wrote the kind of letter that I never myself imagined ever writing. I detailed three pages typewritten on official US embassy stationary—enough evidence of my charges to feed a wolf pack of investigative journalists. I also expressed my willingness to be a quotable source. I addressed it directly to Strasser and Rohter, care of Newsweek. Two sleepless weeks later, I was still sitting in my embassy office staring at the phone. Three weeks later, it rang. It was DEA’s internal security. They were calling me to notify me that I was under investigation. I had been falsely accused of everything from black-marketing to having sex with a married female DEA agent. The investigation would wreak havoc with my life for the next four years. (pp. 168-171)

In one glaring case, an associate of mine was sent into Honduras to open a DEA office in Tegucigalpa. Within months he had documented as much as 50 tons of cocaine being smuggled into the US by Honduran military people who were supporting the Contras. This was enough cocaine to fill a third of US demand. What was the DEA response? They closed the office. (p. 175)

Sometime in 1990, US Customs intercepted a ton of cocaine being smuggled through Miami International Airport. A Customs and DEA investigation quickly revealed that the smugglers were the Venezuelan National Guard headed by General Guillen, a CIA “asset” who claimed that he had been operating under CIA orders and protection. The CIA soon admitted that this was true. If the CIA is good at anything, it is the complete control of American mass media. So secure are they in their ability to manipulate the mass media that they even brag about it in their own in-house memos. The New York Times had the story almost immediately in 1990 and did not print it until 1993. It finally became news that was “fit to print” when the Times learned that 60 Minutes also had the story and was actually going to run it. The highlight of the 60 Minutes piece is when the administrator of the DEA, Federal Judge Robert Bonner, tells Mike Wallace, “There is no other way to put it, Mike, [what the CIA did] is drug smuggling. It’s illegal [author's emphasis].” (pp. 188, 189)

The fact is – and you can read it yourself in the federal court records – that seven months before the attempt to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993, the FBI had a paid informant, Emad Salem, who had infiltrated the bombers and had told the FBI of their plans to blow up the twin towers. Without notifying the NYPD or anyone else, an FBI supervisor “fired” Salem, who was making $500 a week for his work. After the bomb went off, the FBI hired Salem back and paid him $1.5 million to help them track down the bombers. But that’s not all the FBI missed. When they finally did catch the actual bomber, Ramzi Yousef (a man trained with CIA funds during the Russia-Afghanistan war), the FBI found information on his personal computer about plans to use hijacked American jetliners as fuel-laden missiles. The FBI ignored this information, too. (p. 191)

Michael Levine is a 25-year veteran of the DEA turned best-selling author and journalist. His articles and interviews on the drug war have been published in numerous national newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Esquire.

Learn about Mr. Levine’s books and radio show at

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Martin Luther King You Still Don't See on TV

The Martin Luther King You Still Don't See on TV

01/14/2011 by Peter Hart

As we approach the Monday holiday, we're hearing a Pentagon lawyer suggest that Martin Luther King would support the war in Afghanistan. That makes it an ideal time to recall a 1995 column by FAIR founder Jeff Cohen and longtime associate Norman Solomon (Media Beat, 1/4/95). The full column appears below, and is archived here.

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV

by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon

It's become a TV ritual: Every year in mid-January, around the time of Martin Luther King's birthday, we get perfunctory network news reports about "the slain civil rights leader."

The remarkable thing about this annual review of King's life is that several years--his last years--are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

What TV viewers see is a closed loop of familiar file footage: King battling desegregation in Birmingham (1963); reciting his dream of racial harmony at the rally in Washington (1963); marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama (1965); and finally, lying dead on the motel balcony in Memphis (1968).

An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn't take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.

Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV.


It's because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King, Jr., stood for during his final years.

In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights"--including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

Noting that a majority of Americans below the poverty line were white, King developed a class perspective. He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for "radical changes in the structure of our society" to redistribute wealth and power.

"True compassion," King declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

By 1967, King had also become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967--a year to the day before he was murdered--King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

In foreign policy, King also offered an economic critique, complaining about "capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries."

You haven't heard the "Beyond Vietnam" speech on network news retrospectives, but national media heard it loud and clear back in 1967--and loudly denounced it. Life magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post patronized that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

In his last months, King was organizing the most militant project of his life: the Poor People's Campaign. He crisscrossed the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington--engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be--until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. Reader's Digest warned of an "insurrection."

King's economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America's cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its "hostility to the poor"--appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity," but providing "poverty funds with miserliness."

How familiar that sounds today, more than a quarter-century after King's efforts on behalf of the poor people's mobilization were cut short by an assassin's bullet.

As 1995 gets underway, in this nation of immense wealth, the White House and Congress continue to accept the perpetuation of poverty. And so do most mass media. Perhaps it's no surprise that they tell us little about the last years of Martin Luther King's life.

Capitalism and Alienation

Capitalism and alienation Capitalism creates a society that robs most people of their creative potential, says Phil Gasper
I’M SURE it’s not often that the ideas of Karl Marx are discussed in the prestigious pages of the British Journal of Dermatology, but an article published there in January 2008 attempted to throw light not just on Marx’s state of physical health, but also on its supposed consequences for his entire worldview.
According to the paper’s author, a professor of dermatology at the University of East Anglia in England named Stephen Shuster, medical evidence suggests that Marx suffered from a disease known as hidradenitis suppurativa in which the apocrine sweat glands—found mainly in the armpits and groin—become blocked and inflamed. According to Shuster while Marx complained of excruciating boils, he was actually a victim of this chronic skin disease.
So far so good—a medical mystery solved, perhaps. But Shuster goes on to argue that, “In addition to reducing his ability to work, which contributed to his depressing poverty, hidradenitis greatly reduced his self-esteem. This explains his self-loathing and alienation, a response reflected by the alienation Marx developed in his writing.”
Now I’ve actually read quite a bit of Marx, and this description struck me as just a little off. It is true that Marx told Engels in 1867, “The bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day.” But while I’ve noticed quite a lot of loathing of exploitation, oppression and poverty in Marx’s writing, I somehow must have missed the “self-loathing” that Schuster talks about. As for alienation, while Marx discusses it at length in his early writings, I personally find what he has to say illuminating and insightful—an analysis of one of the central problems of modern society that is still with us more than a century after his death.
Capitalism is a system that endlessly promises people happy and self-fulfilled lives. In the United States this vision even has a name: the American Dream. But when we look around us, reality falls far short. We see this reflected in everything from divorce rates, child abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, stress, mental illness, and general feelings of isolation and frustration that so many people experience.
Rather than achieving self-realization and living meaningful and fulfilling lives, many people experience some degree of alienation, and the ones that don’t are quite likely engaged in some form of self-deception, perhaps sustaining a sense of meaning and self-worth only with the help of illusions about themselves or their circumstances.
Quite a few thinkers, including existentialist philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, have argued that alienation is an unavoidable feature of the human condition, but this is not Marx’s view. Instead, Marx argues that alienation is largely a product of class society in general and of capitalism in particular, and that we could end a society characterized by pervasive alienation if we radically reorganized our economic system.
Marx’s most detailed discussion of alienation is in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which he wrote in 1844 but which were not published until the 1930s. In this work, Marx focuses on what he calls “alienated labor,” because he sees alienation at work as the central form of alienation. This is based on the assumption that the need to engage in free, creative labor is a central part of human nature. It’s precisely because capitalism systematically frustrates that need, that it is an alienating system.
One of Marx’s main claims in the 1844 Manuscripts is that for most people most of the time, work is a frustrating, unpleasant experience. That’s something that most of us would agree with. In fact it’s such a commonplace that there are endless popular songs about waiting for the weekend or Saturday night to arrive. There’s even a national restaurant chain named for the relief people feel when they get out of work at the end of the week. (By contrast, no one has opened an eatery named “TGI Monday.”)
When Marx was writing in the 1840s, he was thinking primarily of the monotonous brutality of factory labor. But what Marx wrote about blue-collar work in the mid-nineteenth century remains true of much white-collar work at the beginning of the twenty-first. In her book The Overworked American, the sociologist Juliet Schor reports the following:
Thirty percent of [American] adults say that they experience high stress nearly every day; even higher numbers report high stress once or twice a week… Americans are literally working themselves to death—as jobs contribute to heart disease, hypertension, gastric problems, depression, exhaustion, and a variety of other ailments.
Now a lot of people think that this is an unavoidable necessity, because work is intrinsically unpleasant. But Marx’s argument is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Work can be—or could be—meaningful, creative and self-expressive. And if it were like that for us all or most of the time, then our lives could be fulfilling and satisfying. The problem is that under capitalism work doesn’t have these characteristics for most people. Marx emphasizes two reasons why capitalism “robs workers of all life content.” The first is that it is an economic system that accentuates the division of labor, breaking production into a series of smaller and smaller, more specialized tasks, each performed by a different kind of worker, because this will increase profitability. As a result, “the individual laborers are appropriated by a one-sided function and annexed to it for life,” depriving them of the well-rounded variety of powers and activities that they need to be full human beings.
The second reason why capitalism generates alienation is that it is an economic system in which a small minority controls the means of production, and in which most people can survive only by selling their own labor power. Workers under capitalism have to work for someone else. As a consequence, Marx argues that work has little or no intrinsic worth for the worker —as he puts it, “it is not the satisfaction of a need but a mere means to satisfy needs outside itself.”
More generally, we find our lives dominated by impersonal powers, from labyrinthine bureaucracies to economic forces, which we are unable to control, even though they are ultimately human creations. In The German Ideology, Marx and Engels describe alienation as “the positing of social activity, the consolidation of our product as a real power over us, growing out of our control.” Capital describes the conditions of wage labor as “alienated from labor and confronting it independently,” and of capital as “an alienated and independent social might, which stands over against society as a thing.”
But if we could abolish capitalism and replace it with a society in which workers collectively and democratically control production, then work itself could be transformed into an activity that we would find rewarding for its own sake. It would become a way of exercising our individual creativity and talents, and of contributing to the common good— “not only a means of life but life’s prime want,” as Marx put it in Capital.
While capitalism continues, however, labor will continue to be alienated. In the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, Marx discusses various aspects of this alienation. First, workers are alienated from their product. What they produce does not belong to them, and the particular characteristics of what they produce are of little concern to them. All that matters is that they get paid a wage. Second, workers under capitalism are alienated from their own productive activity. They typically have no control over that activity, and it doesn’t express their own goals or projects.
Third, workers are alienated from what Marx (following Feuerbach) calls their “species-being,” in other words from those qualities that make them distinctively human. What distinguishes humans from other species is our capacity to engage in free, conscious, and creative work. But alienated labor reduces humans to the level of animals.
Earlier philosophers had seen the distinctive characteristic of humans as our capacity for rational thought. But for Marx it is the application of rational, conscious thought to productive activity that distinguishes us from other creatures. As he says in The German Ideology, “Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence.”
Unlike other species, we can step back from activity we perform to remain alive (our “life activity”), consciously assess it, and improve it. As Marx says, “The animal is immediately one with its life activity. It does not distinguish itself from this activity.” By contrast, a human being’s activity “is not a determination with which he immediately fuses.” Unlike other animals, “the human being makes his life activity an object of his will and consciousness.”
But under capitalism, labor doesn’t get the opportunity to exercise this distinctively human ability. That’s why Marx says that “in his human functions [i.e. work], [man] is nothing more than animal.” He adds that alienated labor “estranges man from his own body, from nature as it exists outside him, from his spiritual essence, his human existence.”
The final aspect of alienated labor is that, as a consequence of these other forms of alienation, workers are alienated from each other. Marx writes: “the proposition that man is estranged from his species-being means that each man is estranged from the others and that all are estranged from man’s essence.”
Marx believes that alienation is a feature not just of capitalism, but of all earlier societies too, even before classes emerged. Even in the earliest pre-class societies, humans were dominated by external forces, and in all class societies, the direct producers are under the control of a parasitical ruling class.
But Marx also argues that alienation is worse under capitalism. In the Grundrisse—the notebooks he kept while he was preparing to write Capital—he wrote: “At early stages of [human] development the single individual appears to be more complete, since he has not yet elaborated the abundance of his relationships, and has not established them as powers that are opposed to himself.”

However, he goes on:
It is as ridiculous to wish to return to that primitive abundance as it is to believe in the continuing necessity of its complete depletion. The bourgeois view has never got beyond opposition to this romantic outlook and thus will be accompanied by it, as a legitimate antithesis, right up to its blessed end.
So Marx rejects both the romantic view that we should retreat to a bygone era of supposed tranquility, and the bourgeois view that people by nature will always want more and will never be satisfied. He thinks that people are more alienated under capitalism because the gap between reality and potential is so much greater today than it was in earlier societies. Capitalism has created the wealth and technology that could allow everyone to lead fulfilled and meaningful lives. It offers us a glimpse of what our lives could be like, not in imagination but in reality. But at the same time it denies most people that kind of life. The solution is not to retreat to the past, which in any case is no longer possible, but to realize the potential that is now available to us by transforming society.
People typically experience alienation as an individual problem, and there is a multi-million dollar self-help industry that has emerged offering individual solutions. Even books that locate alienation and unhappiness in a broader social context, like Affluenza by the British psychologist Oliver James, end up offering the same kind of advice.
James attacks what he calls “selfish capitalism” for creating the “Affluenza Virus,” a “set of values which increases our vulnerability to emotional distress. It entails placing a high value on acquiring money and possessions, looking good in the eyes of others and wanting to be famous.” But the solutions that James offers all involve lifestyle changes that are beyond the means of most people. He advises mothers who are suffering from stress, for example, to find a nanny rather than use a pre-school.
The truth is that there are no lasting individual solutions to the problem of alienation. Human happiness, wellbeing, and individuality can only be fully realized in a society free of exploitation and oppression, and achieving that kind of society requires a collective struggle to change the world. Simply being participants in that kind of struggle can start to lessen the degree of alienation in our lives, but alienation can only be completely abolished in a society in which “the free development of each” has become “the condition for the free development of all.”
Phil Gasper is the editor of The Communist Manifesto: A Road Map to History’s Most Important Document (Haymarket Books, 2005) and a member of the ISR editorial board.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Death of American Dream

Death of American dream, 60 million no sick leave, 132 million no dental, 59 million without medical
Share473 42
by Democrats Ramshield
Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 04:20:39 AM PST

(Written by an American expat living in the European Union).
It wasn't until I left America that I started to realize how badly the American plutocrat owned media lies to the American people through its disinformation campaign.
Well today for a span of at least this one Daily Kos diary, you will get to see what the American plutocrat owned media never wants you to see, and that is how Europe in particular and the world in general has come to see America as a country in decline, whose people are so badly misinformed by the media, they actually don't realize that America is the only major industrialized nation in the world that by right of law does not offer universal medical access, paid sick leave, paid maternity leave and paid annual leave. It just seems almost impossible to get that word out to the American people. Even diaries on that subject at the Kos top out at just over 2,000 views. Let's please remember the purpose of the plutocrat owned commercial media isn't so much to inform us but rather to sell commercial advertising space.
Therefore this diary today will try to do something different. It will show you what the European media is saying about the American dream and you will be shocked!
Democrats Ramshield's diary :: ::

Here the British Guardian newspaper says that the so-called American middle class lifestyle for most people was fake and that was financed by three decades of a debt bubble which has now gone bust. The credit ride of working class folks living a middle class lifestyle is dead and gone. Is this article stating bluntly that it's over? The only remaining question is, will it ever come back? I mean, how long can people ride a wave of endless debt before the ride is over, all while pretending to be middle class? Is that what this British Guardian newspaper article is saying? Well, to that end I offer the quote below and a link to the full article. Please read it and decide for yourself what it says.
( America's new poor: the end of the middle-class dream
America's middle class is disappearing. A lifestyle sustained for 30 years by rising debt is dissolving as the credit dries up. And the question beyond the crisis is: can it ever come back?
In the midterm elections politicians have promised to "do something" for the middle class. The kindest thing they could do is tell the truth: Americans have been living a middle-class lifestyle on working-class wages – and bridging the gap with credit.
And it's over.
In a free-market society the real middle class is always a minority: if your street has a gate and a security camera at the end of it then you are middle class. A real middle-class kid can afford a college education, not a web-based degree. The real middle-class family does not skip meals or find its automobiles trapped in the repair shop because of unpaid bills.
This article below declares the American dream is withering away and talks about the use of food stamps in America which is growing. To which we should note that no country in the European Union uses food stamps to humiliate its poor in the grocery checkout line.
(International Business Times) - 'American Dream' withers as tent cities mushroom in promised land
By Jijo Jacob | November 21, 2010
The nation that once gloated over its ability to feed the entire world is seeing an explosion of poverty: The number of people surviving on food stamps is rising as biting unemployment refuses to abate, personal incomes have been falling while the debt bubble is inflating with each passing day and, in a more startling representation of the grim reality, tent cities are mushrooming as more and more people are pushed out of their ‘underwater’ homes.
Did you know that while 50 million Americans go hungry, the corporatist fatcats are paying themselves ever larger salaries? Shocked Europeans looking over seeing 50 million hungry Americans, the Europeans can't understand how America could let this happen to its own people.
(Daily - America starves as executive pay rockets:
50MILLION people go hungry while Wall Street fatcats take home millions
By Daniel Bates
16th November 2010
A record one in six American families went hungry last year because they did not have enough food, a shock survey has revealed.
Some 17.4million U.S. households - 50 million people - were classified as ‘food insecure’ which meant they regularly skipped meals even if they wanted to eat. Others went for entire days without eating and handed round smaller portion sizes to make their meagre offerings suffice.
The news comes as it is revealed that top U.S. executives saw their pay and bonuses shoot up last year in the face of the worst recession for 80 years.
The article below is from the British Guardian newspaper which asks, why do working class Americans keep electing millionaires to represent them in the Congress, and then proposes radically 'why not elect some poor working stiffs to Congress instead? At least maybe those people could identify with their lives, needs and working class values instead of electing millionaires to Congress, who cannot identify with their working class constituent's needs, because they live in the millionaire's bubble.
( - US Congress aka the millionaires' club
No wonder the DC political class has a bad name – it's filthy rich. Here's a revolutionary idea: why not elect some poor people? It is one of the great moans of vast numbers of American voters: Washington politicians are just not like them. They are different. They are a breed apart, unable to understand what real life is like for tens of millions of ordinary folks.
No wonder America's body politic can seem to be a little slow when it comes to reflecting the day-to-day concerns of many Americans. No wonder it is currently obsessed with working out a way to keep President George W Bush's tax cuts for the rich in place. No wonder it is seemingly willing to let slide vital unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are now entering the ranks of the long-term jobless. No wonder it is keen to bail out the financial industry and keep bankers cashing their bonus cheques, even as it shrugs its shoulders at creating jobs for those outside the vaulted halls of the finance industry.
Did you know that the British Telegraph newspaper says America has the least generous unemployment system? Let's consider that in Britain, their unemployment benefits never run out. Another example is in Germany, when your unemployment benefits ran out, you get unemployment assistance called HartzIV and it also never runs out. Under HartzIV, while unemployment, their people still get medical coverage. Why do the unemployed all over the European Union get medical coverage and the unemployed in America don't? Why is that? More over, why isn't the mainstream American media telling you this? Because most people in America don't know this. I mean, why are you having to read about this on a Daily Kos blog? Is journalism in America dead?
( America: the least generous unemployment system in the world
How is it that the American economy manages year-in-year-out to outperform its European neighbours in economic terms? There is no simple answer, of course, but this chart might hold some of the clues. It shows the comparative generosity of long-term unemployment benefits around the world – and guess who is right at the very bottom?
This is the carrot-and-stick method of galvanising your population: work hard and you can make millions; don’t work and you’re in real trouble. If you were after some evidence of how the US has managed to enshrine hard-working values in its citizens, this chart is probably a good place to start. And these figures matter.
In my experience as an American expat living in the European Union, the uniform response of Europeans seems to be shock at the fact that Americans while unemployed have no medical insurance. This fact almost never appears in the American plutocrat owned media, except in very forgettable sound bites.
The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy
Author: T.R. REID
Chapter 6 The European Social Model (p. 148 - 149)
The helping hand of the social model is particularly evident when a worker becomes unemployed. Americans on the unemployment rolls tend to get a monthly government check, together with help in buying food and paying heat and light bills. At some level, when his savings fall low enough, an American worker may also apply for free government-supplied health care through Medicaid. In Europe, by contrast, a worker is "made redundant"- that's the brutal British term for being laid off - will get a housing benefit, a heat and light benefit, a food benefit, a child care benefit, a monthly unemployment payment that is almost always higher than the American standard.
The European, of course, will have the same access as everybody else to the public health care system. The American system, in which you lose your health insurance when you lose your job, strikes Europeans as exactly backward. "I don't understand your approach to health," a junior minister in Sweden's health department told me once. "It seems to me that your country takes away the insurance when people most need it."
The chart below which the Telegraph is referring to shows America ranking last in terms of unemployment benefits.

"In the United States, the figure varies from state to state, but overall a couple with two children and an income a little below average will have about 50 percent of earnings replaced by public assistance in case of unemployment. In France, the replacement ratio for the same family is 86 percent; in Britain 83 percent; in Germany 74 percent; in Sweden and the Netherlands 90 percent."
(The United States of Europe by TR Reid, 2004; page 149)

Here the German magazine Der Spiegel says America is in decline.
(Spiegel) - A Superpower in Decline - Is the American Dream Over?
The unemployment rate in the United States is at about 10 percent. But when the people who have stopped looking for work and are not registered anywhere are included, the real number is likely to be closer to 20 percent. For the first time since the Great Depression, Americans have a problem with long-term unemployment.
Did you know that 132 million Americans have no dental insurance, whereas everyone in the European Union has access by law to some kind of dental plan.
The statistic that is being widely reported in the European press is that we have 59 million medically uninsured in America. From a country that boasts 403 billionaires, this is a scandal! While we can all be proud Americans, we don't have to be proud of the inaccessibility of the US health care system. We can do better than this.
Number of Americans without Health Insurance on the Rise
Of the 59 million who don’t happen to be covered with a health insurance, a majority of the people happen to be suffering from a lot of chronic health conditions.

After reading this quote below, ask yourself: Can America do better than this when we have 60 million people without paid sick leave?
Roughly 60 million American workers have no paid sick leave, and only a minority can draw pay if they stay home with sick children. The lack of paid leave is especially acute in this country among low-wage workers, food-service workers and part-timers, among others. Many other countries do better. According to Dr. Jody Heymann, director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University, more than 160 countries ensure that all their citizens receive paid sick leave and more than 110 of them guarantee paid leave from the first day of illness.
Why don't we do what they do in Britain? Bail out the unemployed by making their unemployment benefits permanent. Instead in the British UK Progressive we see a quote from Robert Reich telling us that the new Congress is unlikely to even extend unemployment benefits. It seems that in America, the Congress only bails out Wall Street and not the working class.
Why the Lame Duck Congress Must Extend Jobless Benefits For Hard-hit Families But Not Tax Cuts For the Rich
by Robert Reich
America’s long-term unemployed — an estimated 4 million or more — constitute the single newest and biggest social problem facing America.
Now their unemployment benefits are about to run out, and the lame-duck Congress may not have the votes to extend them. (You can forget about the next Congress.) The long-term unemployed can’t get work...
We all know that America presently has 59 million medically uninsured Americans. Here is a British newspaper called the Daily Mail that printed an alarming headline.
(Daily Mail) One in FIVE Americans is mentally ill as rising unemployment takes its toll
The 2009 mental health survey hints at the impact of record unemployment rates, which last year hit a 25-year high as struggling employers slashed jobs to cope with a weak economy. For many, lost employment meant loss of health insurance, leaving many of the nation's mentally ill unable to get treatment.
Michael Moore interviews Tony Benn about America's indebtedness.

(Full Video Transcript)
"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world. Far more revolutionary than socialist ideas or anybody else's idea because if you have power you use it to meet the needs of you and your community. And this idea of choice which capital talks about all the time you've got to have a choice, choice depends on the freedom to choose and if you're shackled with debt you don't have the freedom to choose. People in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don't vote. They always say that that everyone should vote but I think that if the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people who represented their interests it would be a real democratic revolution; and so they don't want it to happen so keeping people hopeless and pessimistic.
See I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all frighten people and secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern, and I think there's an element in the thinking of some people; we don't want people to be educated, healthy and confident because they would get out of control. The top 1% of the world's population owns 80% of the worlds wealth its incredible that people put up with it. But their poor, their demoralized, their frightened and therefore they think perhaps the safest thing to do is to take orders and hope for the best."
- Tony Benn, former British politician