The NAACP has just passed a historic resolution demanding an end to the War on Drugs. The resolution comes as young Black male unemployment hovers near 50 percent and the wealth gap's become a veritable gulf. So why is the forty-year-old "War on Drugs" public enemy number one for the nation's oldest civil rights organization? Well here's why: it's not extraneous - it's central: the war on drugs is the engine of 21st century discrimination - an engine that has brought Jim Crow into the age of Barack Obama.     Author Michelle Alexander lays out the statistics -- and the stories -- of 21st Century Jim Crow in her ought-to-blow-your-socks off book: "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness." I had a chance to sit down with Alexander earlier this summer. We'll be posting the full interview in two parts.  
More GRITtv   "We have managed decades after the civil rights movement to create something like a caste system in the United States," says Alexander in part one here "In major urban areas, the majority of African American men are either behind bars, under correctional control or saddled with criminal record and once branded as criminal or a felon, they're trapped for life in 2nd class status."     It's not just about people having a hard time getting ahead and climbing the ladder of success. It's about a rigged system. Sound familiar? Like the Pew Research Center report on household wealth and the Great Recession -- the NAACP resolution story was a one-day news-blip - despite the fact that it pierces the by-your-bootstraps myth that is at the heart of - you pick it - the deficit, the stimulus, the tax code - every contemporary US economic debate.     White America just maybe ought to pay attention. With more and more Americans falling out of jobs and into debt, criminal records are a whole lot easier to come by than life-sustaining employment. Contrary to the conventional media version, the "Drug War" story is not a people with problems story - it's a policing and power story that reminds us that racism's not a figment -- and it just might contain a hint or two, too, about what a high-unemployment America could come to look like -- for all of us.  
Three years ago, on May 12, 2008, the first episode of GRITtv hit the air. Given life by Free Speech TV, the project we imagined was a daily forum for changemakers that would welcome new voices and celebrate diversity. In those three years, we've brought to public attention hundreds of fresh thinkers not seen anywhere else, and drilled down hard, and day after day, on critical themes like the foreclosure crisis and the Wall Street meltdown. We spoke regularly with real experts as well as real working people. We traveled to D.C. for the inauguration of President Obama. “What are we going to inaugurate?” was our question. And we stood in the cold with labor protesters, week after week, in Wisconsin. Special guests I remember -- the extraordinary Eduardo Galeano reading aloud from his book Mirrors, labor rank and file like Angel Warner describing what it is to organize. The much missed Juliano Mer Khamis with his students from Jenin talking about theater and freedom. When the National Portrait gallery caved to the censors we played David Wojnarovicz's video on homophobia and AIDS for all to see. And we platformed the work of our brilliant GRITtv Commentators, GRIT Group partners and friends at The Nation, Brave New Films, Women Make Movies, and many more. Three years later, you can find all that work permanently archived at our website. Just check it out. Effective today, though, we're suspending daily production to retool. Come this fall, with your help, you'll see a new project: a one-hour weekly program, right here, and also on PBS stations from coast to coast. You can contribute to that effort online, right now. I think of the words of a few recent guests. Vandana Shiva reminded us of the principles of Gandhi: self governance, self-sufficiency, struggle for truth. The reality is that effective self governance requires a free media, but independent media makers have yet to make ourselves self-sufficient. We hope a weekly show will have a better chance. But today it breaks my heart to close down a daily platform for movements, and to say goodbye to an extraordinary team - Gina Kim, Diane Shamis, Sam Alcoff, Rich Kim, Diane Pottinger, Sarah Jaffe, Jason Abbruzzese, Danya Abt and Rebecca McDonald---  most of whom have been with me since day one. We asked Bob Herbert recently if it's hard to stay on the beat of the "left out" people when our money culture so prioritizes insiders and fame? His answer -- it's what I'm interested in. The same is true for us too. Fight for Truth. While we're taking a break today, that work will carry on. You can support GRITtv at GRITtv.org and support Free Speech TV. We'll see you in the next place soon. The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on
Will the death of Osama bin Laden bring change in US policy?  Last week on this show, one by one, our guests said no. Hopes are one thing; likely reality is something else. Meanwhile, criticizing the killing seems to have become taboo and even progressives who were vociferous against Bush now cheerlead for extrajudicial targeted assassination inside a sovereign state. President Obama told the country on 60 Minutes, again, that justice was served. Those who disagree, he said, need to have their heads examined. It's a kindler, gentler, "with us or against us," but Obama's words are having the same impact. Shutting down debate. Sparking shouting matches, on TV, on Twitter, face to face. Due process, not war, in terror cases -- which John Kerry and the Democrats ran on, not even a decade back -- As one sad viewer put it to me this week -- "Due process is dead and I miss it." A tiny bit of hope came this week when Democracy for America sent out an email to its supporters calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan. We might not be able to stop the cheering, but if we work together, maybe we can finally stop the war, say some. DFA is catching up with the majority of Americans who've polled for pull out for years now -- and they're partnering with four Senate co-sponsors of a bill to do just that. But a warning to DFA and those valiant politicians: it's hard to rally people around issues of war and peace at the best of times -- and even harder when standing up for ideals like justice and the rule of law has liberals aiming  at your heads. The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on
The Senate and the House of Representatives agree: single-payer health care is the only way to provide real coverage for all. Insurance companies are never going to do the right thing and put people before profits, so the only option is to go around them, and politicians in both houses have voted to create a real health care system. In Vermont, that is. Mary Gerisch of the Vermont Workers Center joined us last month on GRITtv to explain the grassroots organizing campaign that finally resulted in victory in the state legislature. She noted that two years ago, they were told that it was not politically possible to pass single-payer legislation, but they didn't take no for an answer. The insurance companies will no doubt keep fighting this bill—even one small state single-payer plan could provide a powerful example for the rest of the country. Already, California Democrats are reviving a bill that would create single-payer care in that state—and it's already moved out of the Health Committee. We've spoken before to Wendell Potter, formerly a CIGNA executive, about the way the health insurance industry fought national health care reform, and we know that misinformation, attack ads, and millions of dollars will be flowing Vermont's way as the bill moves through reconciliation and toward the governor's desk. But for now, Vermont—and all of us--should be celebrating the proof that a grassroots campaign can lead to victory for single-payer advocates and progressives in general. We're that much closer to recognizing health care as a human right. And much closer to the big fight which will show really, which side our for-profit insurers are on. Keep an eye on Vermont, people. An alternative model. . . the US has invaded small countries for less. The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on
This week, the news hit that Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, perhaps best known for his Angels in America, was being blocked from receiving an honorary degree from the City University of New York because of his views on Israel. Kushner, who also has an honorary degree from Brandeis University, told Salon's Justin Elliott that this was an “unprecedented and pretty ugly experience.” Sadly, though, it's not that rare for academia to balk at support for Palestinians. Elliott notes that just this January, a Brooklyn College adjunct professor was fired—and later reinstated—after students and an assemblyman complained about his views.  Last summer, GRITtv guest and fellow Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi was the center of a controversy around his book, How Does it Feel to Be A Problem? Being Young and Arab in America. And back in 2009, Joel Kovel visited us at GRITtv to discuss his termination from Bard College, which he believed was over his pro-Palestinian views. It's notable that the same cast of characters turns up again and again in these stories. Bruce Kesler, a Brooklyn College alum, caused a stir in both Brooklyn College cases, and Jeffrey Wiesenfeld is the CUNY board member who blocked Kushner's honor. Wiesenfeld is, Elliott notes, a trustee at the pro-Israel think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and an organizer of the Salute to Israel Day Parade Committee. His views are clearly not considered controversial or problematic. Instead, even a famed Jewish playwright like Kushner, who reiterated in his letter to the CUNY trustees that he supports the continued existence of Israel even as he opposes the state's policies, is accused of being an extremist. At a time when dancing in the streets is accepted as a proper response to the killing of Osama bin Laden, it's ironic  to see that support for human rights - in this case in Palestine - is still controversial. The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on
Now to the opposite of cuts. Over a year after the biggest oil spill in US history and even as criminal investigations continue, BP is still receiving millions of dollars in government contracts. That's according to a new story by Jason Leopold at Truthout, who notes that only last week Air BP, a division of the oil company responsible for the oil still causing problems in the Gulf of Mexico, was awarded a $42 million contract to supply fuel to Dover Air Force Base. While Leopold was unable to confirm that that fuel was going to supply planes headed to Libya, what he did find was that the contract was given under “unusual and compelling urgency,” which means that the government found the need so important that they limited the bids. So BP's not only still getting government largesse; it's getting preferential treatment -- even as other government investigators look into its negligence? Leopold also reports that twice last year the company violated its probation and faced no serious consequences.  Unlike a person, when a corporation violates its probation you can't just throw it in jail. All told, BP got 52 government contracts worth $56.5 million for fiscal year 2011 while we got oil spills, dead fisheries and $4 a gallon gas. Officials have noted that it's not so easy to debar BP from government contracts while it provides some 80 percent of Defense Department fuel. So as it was with banks, so it is with BP -- Scott Amey of the Project on Government Oversight told Leopold that BP “is a perfect example of a contractor too big to fail." US Uncut are reminding us that it's not too late to learn the lesson -- some power's too big to be safe for our democracy. Say US Uncut about the banks. --- we'd better break em up before they default again. Perhaps we need to add huge contractors to the list that should be shrunk before they hold us all to ransom. The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on
Closure. That was the word on people's lips last night after President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a firefight with US forces in Pakistan. Hours after the attack on the Trade Towers in 2001 I walked down to the site. I returned there again last night and found a loud crowd shouting mostly the words "USA, USA," in the darkness to a clutch of news cameras. While different in almost every other respect, what I found on both occasions were people searching.  A decade ago, dust still on their skin, people were looking for safety, for loved ones, for explanation. This time, with a whole lot more breath in their lungs, people were looking once again -- for others to be with and for closure. "I came because they came," one firefighter told me, pointing at the crowd. He spent days at the site a decade ago looking and ultimately finding the body of a co-worker.  Like everyone else who took time to talk, he said that he hoped the killing of Bin Laden would bring comfort, and closure to the victims of the attacks -- and to America's critics. People want this chapter closed. The longing for that is palpable. Others last night talked about bringing troops back home, putting America back on course and moving towards peace. Quite a few people talked about that. Much as we may want, history doesn't tend to roll out in neat chapters. "Justice has been done," the President said Sunday night. It's an indication of how changed we are: no arrest, no trial. Justice isn't, actually, a 40-minute firefight. Bin Laden hasn't been the leader of Al Qaeda in any operational way for years. Is his killing an achievement for US intelligence, armed forces and the president? Absolutely.  Will his death end history? No more than the attacks of 9-11 began it. To me, where we are today feels like where we were were on 9-11 itself. Americans seeking sense and getting vengeance. Seeking connection  and finding mostly media-fed jingoism. Trillions of dollars and a global ocean of tears later, Americans want to move on. It's not that simple. Just as it was ten years ago, and as it has been shown to be around the world since, remapping our way as a nation will not, in all likelihood, be done by our leaders. It'll have to be done by us. By we the people. The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on
According to polls, only about 6 percent of Americans are following with any close attention the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  But that's not stopping the media fascination on both sides of the Atlantic with American's supposed fascination with Britain's royals. “Royal wedding reminds us why we tossed Brits,” ran one letter to a local paper recently. That exorbitant $80 million spent on a medieval style ritual in time of 21st century austerity. It's shameful. It's old world. It's just what Americans fought a revolutionary war to throw off.
And then there are the folks like Rupert Cornwall at the UK Independent who argue hat people in the US love British royals precisely because they don't have their own real thing.  Gary Younge at the Nation noted that even his liberal friends wanted to know what he, a British citizen, thought of the prince marrying a "commoner." Please. The only serious and in fact actually quite insidious part about this is that it reinscribes the notion that the US has no  class. Really? When the top one percent of wealthiest Americans own 34 percent of the country's wealth and enjoyed 80 percent of the total increase in wealth here between 1980 and 2005? No class? As for ruling class?  In the UK the commoners keep state royals on welfare. Here we do the same with our corprations. Billions in tax dollars keep them afloat and keep CEOs in mansions. Why not just give them palaces? At least we could keep them open for tours. Since the Supreme Court has given corporations free speech rights and personhood -- how about marriage equality next? Then, we could string up Bunting flags for the next monopolisitic coupling... At the Comcast and NBC nuptials we'd all throw money while they stroll down the aisle. And -- with a nod to Jim Hightower -- instead of Aristocrats in coats of arms, the paid off politicains would wear their logos on their lapels. At least then we'd know who owns whom. The trinkets from a corporate marrriage might be dreary. And the offspring, who can say? But at least we'd get a day off and one hell of a party. Plus we'd move out of denial.  The more I think about it the more I like it. Monarchies or Megacorps? Why not declare them royal? The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on
Gas prices have been edging up since February, reaching $4 a gallon this Easter, and Republicans are gearing up to make a stink about it. To blame Democrats, that is, for setting things up this way. Blaming green energy initiatives for driving up prices, House Republicans are planning to hold hearings on a slurry of bills aimed at expanding domestic oil production in response to high gasoline prices. Even the President admits gas prices effect his standing in the polls. But it should be easy enough to fight back. While the five biggest oil companies report historically high profit earnings, the same GOP that would slash juice programs for poor kids in school stands firm for federal subsidies for big oil. It's enough to make your head spin. But then again, so is this country's entire relationship with big oil. Like a marriage from hell. Americans keep getting beaten up environmentally, politically and at the pump. And even as we're beaten up, we shell out: in subsidies, tax breaks, and troops sent around the world to die and kill in defense of the interests of Big Oil. While Americans keep paying; Big Oil keeps on profiting. The top five companies together made a greasy trillion dollars profit over the last decade. That's Trillion with a T. Yet Republican budgets would lay off the regulators even as they lay on the corporate welfare. House Republicans marked the anniversary of the BP oil spill by voting unanimously FOR extending oil subsidies again this year. It'll come as no surprise that for its first round of political contributions for the 2012 cycle, BP handed out a total $29,000 and it went almost entirely to House Republican leaders. The President’s response so far has been to initiate a task force to investigate illegal commodities trading. But as Public Citizen reports, it's not the illegal but the legal speculation that's most to blame. And progressive Democrats offer the President a far stronger way to go. Tax dirty energy companies, end corporate welfare, and impose a tax on commodities trading. Instead of getting on the defensive and easing up on drilling the White House should ask Senator Bernie Sanders about his end-to-subsidies bill. The President needs to take a moral stand against Big Oil for all our sakes, before Drill Baby Drill becomes Gouge Us Baby One More Time. The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on
As I perused the latest WikiLeaks releases this morning, a retweet from their Twitter feed caught my eye: “Gitmo: Compare the first paragraph of these two stories about the same thing.” One was a link to the BBC and one was CNN. At the BBC, the title is “Wikileaks: Many at Guantanamo 'Not dangerous'” and the first graf points out that the US believed many were innocent or only low-level operatives. CNN's piece, by contrast, says that the released documents “reveal extraordinary details about the alleged terrorist activities of Al Qaeda operatives” at Gitmo. Meanwhile, the Washington Post starts off with an ominous September 11 reference, and goes on to intimately describe Al-Qaeda higher-ups planning for a long war from one city in Pakistan. A blogger at Balloon Juice also noted the unwillingness of US media outlets to call torture torture. McClatchy, they note, uses the T-word, as well as the UK Guardian, but the New York Times, one recipient of the actual leaks, and NPR both use the cop-out term “harsh interrogation techniques” instead. Why does this matter, when WikiLeaks makes the info available to all? Remember that WikiLeaks simply posts the data, in this case nearly 800 assessments of Gitmo detainees, and media outlets are free to interpret. Because most people don't have time to read 800 dossiers, they will read an article or listen to a broadcast and form their opinion of the story that way. So the takeaway in the US will remain “dangerous terrorists!” and Guantanamo will most likely remain open three years after the President vowed to close it, while overseas the rest of the world will continue to wonder why the country that claims to love freedom so much is continuing to imprison and torture innocent people. The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on