Tuesday, December 25, 2007

No One Should Be Illegal: Oklahoma Denying Health Care to Citizens without Documentation

It is a sign of the impoverishment of this country's immigration debate that the most traction to be gained against kooks who listen to Lou Dobbs comes from instances of the state misapplying its discriminatory policies, and not the inherent unfairness of the policies even if they were to be administered correctly.

The latest example of this is a report I heard this morning (Christmas) on NPR about Oklahoma denying poor legal residents access to health benefits because of rules designed to prevent undocumented aliens from receiving aid. Here's an excerpt from an article from the Oklahoma newspaper the Muskogee Phoenix:
"A law designed to remove illegal aliens from public assistance has instead denied thousands of U.S. citizens their Oklahoma SoonerCare benefits. SoonerCare is a state program through which Medicaid services are managed. The federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 changed how states verify the citizenship of recipients. U.S. citizenship has always been necessary, but the new law requires documentation such as a birth certificate."

Oklahoma Health Care Authority spokesperson Nico Gomez said most of the 5,841 people whose SoonerCare benefits were terminated Dec. 1 are probably U.S. citizens:
"'The reason we can make that assumption is because that has been the pattern in other states,' he said. 'Some of the letters we sent have been returned as undeliverable.'"
More direct evidence of the law limiting benefits due citizens are the demographic features of the applicants denied. The article above states: "58 percent are Caucasian; 18 percent are African-American; 13 percent are American Indian; 10 percent are Hispanic and one percent are Asian." Among the program participants, 62 percent are children.

Equally disturbing is that not only are U.S. citizens and undocumented adult aliens being denied care, but Oklahoma politicians are trying to deny prenatal care to "illegal" fetuses (and whoever else is caught in that ugly net). In a separate development, as reported in the Tulsa World on October 10, 2007, legislators in Oklahoma are trying to reverse an Oklahoma Health Care Authority policy that will allow all pregnant women to receive prenatal care. The policy is presently in effect, but is likely to be overturned by a legislature appealing to the nativist bigots who dominate blue and red states alike. According to Randy Terrill, the policy is a "'dangerous precedent' and 'we cannot allow Oklahoma to subsidize illegal activity,'" i.e., being a fetus without a state license.
The rhetoric is another case of nationalism trumping fundamentalism, a point that was made somewhat differently by a Democrat in the Oklahoma Senate,Tom Adelson: "Anyone who professes to embrace a culture of life would not turn their back on 2,800 innocent children born each year in Oklahoma."

But enough of parsing humanity. There is no rational reason that a fetus should have more claim to health care than someone who is 80, and no good reason that someone born in Mexico City should not be allowed the legal privileges of being born in Tulsa. The argument against illegality is tautology and the argument based on cost hubris. Leaving aside the pragmatic benefits of a prenatal health program touted by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, no computer is powerful enough to produce definitive figures on the total financial impact of removing impediments to free movement, and those who have made this effort generally find the economic arguments will not support the nativists.
(Image is from U.S. government site on history of Native American health care by federal government.)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On The Shock Doctrine

On Wednesday, November 28, 2007 I heard Naomi Klein speak at NYU to a standing room only audience about her most recent book, Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Klein actually was sharing the stage with my colleague Lisa Hajjar, an expert on torture and international law. The main argument Klein put forward was that the Chicago School of economic theory initiated by Milton Friedman advanced a program of what became known as neo-liberalism (and is now called neo-conservatism) that was so unpopular in developing countries that it could be advanced only by the use of brute force. Torture was not used to gain information but to terrorize populations so that they would not resist the economic policies imposed by dictators influenced by an ideology that nurtured cronyism and corporatism.

The argument is an intriguing one but it is not ultimately sustainable because it ignores the role nationalism played in establishing these military regimes, the nationalism of the U.S. as well as the developing countries. Hajjar began her talk by trying to elide the difference between Klein's analysis and Hajjar's own focus on the nationalism informing the Israeli use of torture, subtly mentioning national security as an independent ideology also allowing governments to impose practices that otherwise would be opposed but without mentioning the absence of neo-liberalism in many contexts. During the Q and A I asked Klein about this. To paraphrase, I suggested that there are numerous examples of torture that is not being done to advance neo-liberal agendas; and there are numerous examples of neo-liberal reforms that did not require torture. In fact some populations accept torture and other repressive policies used on their fellow citizens out of nationalist fervor, and not because they are afraid. I also mentioned the U.S. Congress's rejection of the immigration bill last summer as an example of the majoritary's nationalism trumping the alleged neo-liberal values of economic elites.

Klein replied that by privatizing homeland security, neo-liberalism has absorbed
nationalist values. Homeland security and nationalism is another avenue to make money--and the private security firms in Iraq would be another example. Her point was that capitalists have figured out how to make money off of nationalism--a lot of money--and therefore the business community no longer sees nationalism as antagonistic to their agenda.

For reasons I'll explain below, I don't buy this dismissal of the role of nationalism in perpetrating state violence, and nationalism's incommensurability with liberalism, but Klein seemed to know a lot and I bought her book. Although her central political point is not supportable, the narrative masterfully weaves together microanalyses of historically independent episodes from the CIAs mind control research in 1950s Canada to the compromised role of the Ford Foundation in supporting Friedman's South American economic shock troops to detailed stories of neoliberal programs from Chile to South Africa to Poland and Russia. The theory is wrong but Klein's facts are one important piece of the story about government repression and she is an outstanding writer.

Here's the problem: Klein is partly right but neoliberalism is not the complete story, and not even the most important one in most contexts. Everyone from Israel to Iraq tortured for reasons that had nothing to do with neoliberalism, and the U.S. "war on terror" has nothing to do with neoliberal agendas, though these accommodate the war. Klein does not want to discuss noneconomic motives for torture and state violence because focusing on the nationalism explicitly invoked by the various political and military leaders who are her protagonists in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Poland, and Russia, is not good for Klein's 1990s "anti-globalization" agenda. Klein comes out of the anti-NAFTA, anti-GATT, anti-WTO movements that were advancing the very parochial, nationalist commitments of the juntas who were torturing people.

This is not to say that so-called indigenous peoples protesting in Seattle favored torture or any other policies of the death sqauds, but it is to say that the belief in a "native" people that should be protected from "outsiders" was also an ideology the Nazis shared and that in less dramatic circumstances appears in political contexts worldwide.

For instance, in today's elections, Putin did not receive 61% of the vote in Russia because people are pleased with his economic reforms, or because he is torturing people, but because he has been bellicose in defying the U.S. on Russian defense (recently withdrawing from a treaty that would have limited Russian army presence near European borders), renationalization (not privatization) of oil, and feeding bigotry against non-Russian residents. And in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is telling voters that voting against the Constitutional change that would make him a dictator is the same as voting for George Bush. In other words, dictators are gaining power from majorities to deprive people of civil rights from the people themselves because of nationalism and not merely compliance under the threat of force.

Klein's story is one of WTO strong arm tactics against suffering developing economies, but the truth always has been that rich countries have had more money to devote to protecting their domestic industries than have poor countries. As long as the WTO could be enforced across the board and rich countries did not evade the rulings it promised to help developing countries, and now this promise is bearing fruit as developing countries are using the WTO mechanism to file complaints against the U.S., a fact Klein ignores. For instance, in July, 2007 Brazil filed a claim against the U.S. for subsidizing agricultural exports.

The Left seems still to have an easy time talking about economic inequality and political economic structures of oppression, but a very hard time grappling with nationalism and embracing cosmopolitanism. Today's Left would not be responsive to servants of aristocrats worried about the fading of old world culture alongside the demise of feudalism, but reveal a misplaced sentimentality for "indigeneity," a code word for nativism or nationalism. (For more on the nationalist and not economic motives for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, see this posting.) Perhaps a way to bring together Klein's persuasive account of the state robberies that required extreme violence with the nationalism that accompanied this is to refuse to use the Chicago
School's language of liberalization altogether. As Klein points out, the main thrust of the plans was privatization. Robbers also like to privatize. This has nothing to do with liberalism.

Instead of a compatbility between liberalism, neo- or otherwise, and nationalism--the ostensible narrative--Klein's is a story of nationalism and force, assisted by a lie that these were outcomes of open markets and choice. If only these reforms really were liberal, and not the expression of U.S. military priorities determined by its Cold War with Russia, as well as the nationalism and greed motivating the repressive forces in other countries as well. Klein herself begins with the CIA's Cold War development of shock therapy but then fails to see how the facts she discovers mark a trail of nationalist and not just economic pathways of violence.

Again, this is a compelling book presenting fascinating material with clarity, intelligence, and passion.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Pleasures of Reading Garrett Hardin

I'm in the last throes of finishing the ms. and looking over Garrett Hardin's famous "Tragedy of the Commons" Science 162 (1968), pp. 1243-48, which I hadn't read carefully since I was an undergraduate. It's a much more compassionate and thoughtful piece than its invocation by neo-classical economists would suggest. Used as a citation to justify property rights of all sorts, Hardin is himself not persuaded of their utility in many contexts. In fact, the essay would be more aptly titled, "The Tragedy of the Commons for People with Property Rights."

Property rights do not create solutions, but Hardin describes how they contribute to the tragedy of the commons. His paradigmatic example is grazing. But grazing only poses a problem if land is held in common while individuals have private rights to their herd. (If herds also are held in common then neo-classical economists worry about laziness, which would be bad for productivity but would not lead to overgrazing.) Similarly, Hardin's solutions do not require more property rights and market solutions but appeal to an inventive use of regulations.

For instance, noting the degradation of the national parks, he suggests entrance policies based on a lottery, a proposal now in place. And he writes: "[O]ur particular concept of private property, which deters us from exhausting the positive resources of the earth, favors pollution. The owner of a factory on the bank of a stream--whose property extends to the middle of the stream--often has difficulty seeing why it is not his natural right to muddy the waters flowing past his door" (1245).

And Hardin in 1968 was one of the first to point out the inability of property rights to handle pollution of what he calls pleasure. As a result of property rights to a store, "The shopping public is assaulted with mindless music, without its consent. Our government is paying out billions of dollars to create supersonic transport which will disturb 50,000 people for every one person who is whisked from coast to coast 3 hours faster. Advertisers muddy the airwaves of radio and television and pollute the view of travelers" (1248).

Hardin also writes with some sadness that each generation is in the habit of forgetting lessons of previous generations. It is indeed a sign of the times that Hardin's lessons on the dangers of overpopulation and the commons, which have not proven the problem he thought they would be, would be the ones for which he is remembered, while his more astute observations about the harms of property rights have been ignored, though not by the folks at anti-advertising, whose bus stop intervention appears above.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Barney Frank Sells out for Job in Clinton Administration: Insider Revelation

On April 24, 2007 Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) did something he's done before, introduce a bill that would "prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender," HR 2015.

The "gender identity" language would help transgendered employees battle discrimination, but it's important for other reasons as well. Including "gender identity" is the only way to make sure sex discrimination laws, including sexual harassment laws, will apply to gays and lesbians. Courts previously have confined application of sexual harassment to different-sex scenarios. Stipulating that "gender identity" should not affect the interpretation of employment protections will protect men from sexual harassment from male bosses, and women from female bosses. Analyses by the LAMDA Legal Defense Fund also suggest that removing "gender identity" would allow employers to fire people on the basis of their being "too effeminate" or "too mannish."

On September 27, 2007, Rep. Frank did something that he appears not to have done before, introduce a competing bill that sells out gays and lesbians by removing the "gender identity" language, HR 3685.

The LGBT community is furious with Frank. According to an October 18, 2007 article in the Bay Area Reporter, "More than 200 LGBT groups around the nation have, in the past 10 days, signed onto a letter to House leaders asking them to 'oppose any substitute legislation that leaves part of our community behind.'"

The question is why did Rep. Frank do this? Frank's explanation: "We do not have the votes to pass the bill with transgender."

But no one who knows anything about Washington politics believes Frank. Indeed Frank himself admits that his proposed bill, even if it passes in both houses, will not become a law until a Democrat wins the presidency. So why is Frank really pushing Congress to pass a law that is being actively opposed by the constituencies in whose name he is acting?

Insiders have an explanation, and it's not a pretty one. According to a source who works with many of these LGBT groups, Frank and others are pressing Nancy Pelosi and Senate colleagues for a vote on a bill without "gender identity" protections at the insistence of presidential candidate and bully Senator Hillary Clinton. In exchange for helping her with this, word is that Frank's been assured a position in her administration.

Why would Hillary want this so badly? Getting the weakened bill on the Senate floor gives Clinton something she can vote for to bolster her substantively weak LGBT credentials and loosen some spare change and good will in the LGBT community. Getting Frank to lose the "gender identity" language in a bill that will not become law allows Clinton to appeal to the mainstream's sense of fairness in the workplace without allowing the Right to scare the general public by suggesting Clinton wants to protect fairies and other people with a gender imagination.

The most hopeful scenario in these cynical dealings is that perhaps after Clinton is elected and the Democrats have an even stronger grip on Congress, and perhaps after Frank receives a cabinet post and other muscle, the administration will push for a real bill that will be really signed, one that includes the "gender identity" language.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Federal Government Persecuting Science-Art Team

Steve Kurtz is the founder of Critical Art Ensemble, a renown art and critical inquiry group whose installations have been in museums, galleries, and classrooms worldwide. A few years ago Steve's wife, Hope, died in her sleep. When the police showed up they found Steve's research materials and after quickly dismissing the possibility that these played any role in Hope's demise, the police brought in the FBI and began an inane bio-terrorism investigation. This eventually led them to an equally silly mail fraud charge against a research scientist, and, in the midst of his struggle against non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the scientist has just agreed to plead guilty to an even lesser charge, still not disclosed. The press release quoted in its entirety below is from the Critical Art Ensemble defense fund, and many links to further information are contained there.

After participating together in an evening of presentations on genetic research and art at a community center in Los Angeles around 2001, where Steve educated the audience on the uses and abuses of genetically modified crops, I spent some time talking with Steve at a friend's home in Silverlake. He is a super-smart, community-minded guy who wants people to think and take control over genetic discourse and genetic material, and all other thought and matter corporate giants want to make their exclusive domain. Rather than the passive, inert matter of Dupont's chemical Zeitgeist, Steve was inspiring people to consciously shape their political and biological worlds.

The thought police do not appreciate such gestures. Use the mail to ship guns? No problem. Use the mail to ship cigarettes? Great! Use the mail to ship something to help educate people beyond the DNA illiteracy? Call the FBI bio-terrorist team and criminalize learning. I'm writing about this on the "states without nations" blog because it's the nationalist paranoia of the Patriot Act that led to Steve's arrest. Here are the details:

October 11, 2007

Email: mailto:media@caedefensefund.org
Claire Pentecost: 773-383-9771
Gregory Sholette: 212-865-3076
Edmund Cardoni: 716-854-1694
Igor Vamos: 917-209-3282
Lucia Sommer: 716-359-3061
Dianne Raeke Ferrell: 412-352-2704

Scientist's Wife and Daughter Comment on Case

Buffalo, NY - Today in Federal District Court, Dr. Robert Ferrell,
Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate
School of Public Health, under tremendous pressure, pled guilty to
lesser charges rather than facing a prolonged trial for federal
charges of "mail fraud" and "wire fraud" in a surreal post-PATRIOT
Act legal case that has attracted worldwide attention.

"From the beginning, this has been a persecution, not a prosecution.
Although I have not seen the final agreement, the initial versions
contained incorrect and irrelevant information," said Dr. Dianne
Raeke Ferrell, Dr. Ferrell's wife and an Associate Professor of
Special Education and Clinical Services at Indiana University of
Pennsylvania. "Bob is a 27 year survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
which has reoccurred numerous times. He has also had malignant
melanoma. Since this whole nightmare began, Bob has had two minor
strokes and a major stroke which required months of rehabilitation."

Dr. Ferrell added that her husband was indicted just as he was
preparing to undergo a painful and dangerous autologous stem cell
transplant, the second in 7 years.

The Ferrells' daughter, Gentry Chandler Ferrell, added: "Our family
has struggled with an intense uncertainty about physical, emotional
and financial health for a long time. Agreeing to a plea deal is a
small way for dad to try to eliminate one of those uncertainties and
hold on a little longer to the career he worked so hard to develop...
Sadly, while institutions merely are tarnished from needless
litigation, individuals are torn apart. I remain unable to wrap my
mind around the absurdity of the government's pursuit of this case
and I am saddened that it has been dragged out to the point where my
dad opted to settle from pure exhaustion." (To read Gentry Ferrell's
full statement, please visit:

Dr. Ferrell's colleague Dr. Steven Kurtz, founder of the
internationally acclaimed art and theater group Critical Art
Ensemble, was illegally detained and accused of "bioterrorism" by the
U.S. government in 2004 stemming from his acquisition from Dr.
Ferrell of harmless bacteria used in several of Critical Art
Ensemble's educational art projects. After a costly investigation
lasting several months and failing to provide any evidence of
"bioterrorism," the Department of Justice instead brought charges of
"mail fraud" and "wire fraud" against Kurtz and Ferrell. Under the
USA PATRIOT Act, the maximum penalty for these charges has increased
from 5 years to 20. (For more information about the case, please see
"Background to the Case" below or http://caedefensefund.org)


The government is vigorously attempting to prosecute two defendants
in a case where no one has been injured, and no one has been
defrauded. The materials found in Dr. Kurtz's house were obtained
legally and used safely by the artist. After three and a half years
of investigation and prosecution, the case still revolves around
$256 worth of common science research materials that were used in
art works by a highly visible and respected group of artists. These
art works were commissioned and hosted by cultural institutions
worldwide where they had been safely displayed in museums and
galleries with absolutely no risk to the public.

The Government has consistently framed this case as an issue of
public safety, but the materials used by Critical Art Ensemble are
widely available, can be purchased by anyone from High School science
supply catalogues, and are regularly mailed.


"The government's prosecution is an ill-conceived and misguided
attack on the scientific and artistic communities," said Dr. Richard
Gronostajski, Professor of Biochemistry at SUNY Buffalo, where
Professor Kurtz also teaches. "It could have a chilling effect on
future scientific research collaborations, and harm teaching efforts
and interactions between scientists, educators and artists."

"It's deeply alarming that the government could pressure someone of
Dr. Ferrell's stature into agreeing to something like this. The case
threatens all Americans' Constitutionally guaranteed right to
question the actions of their government," said Igor Vamos, Professor
of Integrated Electronic Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


The plea bargain agreement comes at a time of overwhelming public
support for the two defendants. A film about the case, Strange
Culture - directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson and featuring Tilda
Swinton (Chronicles of Narnia, Michael Clayton), Thomas Jay Ryan
(Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and Peter Coyote (E.T., Erin
Brockovich) - has drawn widespread critical praise and public
interest, with screenings in dozens of U.S. cities after its
selection to open both the 2007 Human Rights Watch International Film
Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival documentary
section. An October 1 screening of the film at the Museum of Modern
Art in New York City drew a crowd of 400 who stayed for an hour
afterward for a discussion with Professor Kurtz, director Hershman
Leeson, and actress Tilda Swinton. Special benefit screenings of the
film in numerous cities have raised thousands of dollars to offset
the two defendants' escalating legal costs.


The legal nightmare of renowned scientist Dr. Robert Ferrell and
artist and professor Dr. Steven Kurtz began in May 2004. Professor
Kurtz and his late wife Hope were founding members of the
internationally exhibited art and theater collective Critical Art
Ensemble. Over the past decade cultural institutions worldwide have
commissioned and hosted Critical Art Ensemble's participatory theater
projects that help the general public understand biotechnology and
the many issues surrounding it. In May 2004 the Kurtzes were
preparing a project examining genetically modified agriculture for
the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, when Hope Kurtz died of
heart failure. Detectives who responded to Professor Kurtz's 911 call
deemed the couple's art suspicious, and called the FBI. Within hours
the artist was illegally detained as a suspected "bioterrorist" as
dozens of federal agents in Hazmat suits sifted through his work and
impounded his computers, manuscripts, books, his cat, and even his
wife's body.


The government has pursued this case relentlessly for three and a
half years, spending enormous amounts of public resources. Most
significantly, the legal battle has exhausted the financial,
emotional, and physical resources of Ferrell and Kurtz; as well as
their families and supporters. The professional and personal lives of
both defendants have suffered tremendously. A trial date has not yet
been established.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Google Explains Jew Results

Google has replied to the petition to remove JewWatch.com from its search engine. No surprise that they won't remove the site, but their reply is more than a standard form letter and offers some interesting, though not entirely persuasive thoughts, on why anti-Semitic results appear.
f you recently used Google to search for the word "Jew," you may have seen results that were very disturbing. We assure you that the views expressed by the sites in your results are not in any way endorsed by Google. We'd like to explain why you're seeing these results when you conduct this search.

A site's ranking in Google's search results relies heavily on computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page's relevance to a given query. Sometimes subtleties of language cause anomalies to appear that cannot be predicted. A search for "Jew" brings up one such unexpected result.

If you use Google to search for "Judaism," "Jewish" or "Jewish people," the results are informative and relevant. So why is a search for "Jew" different? One reason is that the word "Jew" is often used in an anti-Semitic context. Jewish organizations are more likely to use the word "Jewish" when talking about members of their faith. The word has become somewhat charged linguistically, as noted on websites devoted to Jewish topics such as these:

* http://shakti.trincoll.edu/~mendele/vol01/vol01.174
* http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/jonah081500.asp

Someone searching for information on Jewish people would be more likely to enter terms like "Judaism," "Jewish people," or "Jews" than the single word "Jew." In fact, prior to this incident, the word "Jew" only appeared about once in every 10 million search queries. Now it's likely that the great majority of searches on Google for "Jew" are by people who have heard about this issue and want to see the results for themselves.

The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the comprehensiveness of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.

We apologize for the upsetting nature of the experience you had using Google and appreciate your taking the time to inform us about it.

The Google Team
I applaud Google's interest in ordinary language philosophy, i.e., the different motives for the use of "Jew" as distinct from "Jewish" or "Judaism." However suggestive their hypotheses, they are not entirely satisfying. First, most of the sites that appear when people use "Jew" are not "disturbing," including what is now the second-ranked site, the Wikipedia entry, which used to be first until this controversy appeared to bump up the JewWatch.com ranking to #1. Also, Google makes an uncharacteristically inaccurate statement about its own search engine: if you type in "Jews" and not "Jew," JewWatch.com also appears as the second site on the list (after the Wikipedia entry) and the third url on the list is for Jews for Jesus. And finally, as I pointed out yesterday, the explanation does not explain why similar results do not show up when people enter "Christian" or "Muslim."

While the details of Google's response are not entirely accurate, the spirit of its engagement is a welcome change from corporate double-speak that ignores the substantive issues. Their engagement, if not expertise in linguistics and counting (the results in their own search engine), are much appreciated.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Website Banning Petition in Progress

A few hours ago my girlfriend received a note forwarded from her mother's friend, asking her to sign a petition to remove "JewWatch.com" from the Google search engine. The note tells people, correctly, that JewWatch.com comes up very high on the google.com search engine if you type "jew." It was the second entry, after the Wikipedia entry. (A website has a high ranking on the google pages if a lot of people visit it through the google keyword searches or if a lot of other sites link to it, which the google engine can figure out by crawling through the web and finding the urls on other pages.)

The message says the site is anti-Semitic and tells recipients that if 500,000 people sign a petition requesting its removal from the search engine, Google will oblige. (The petition itself states Google will do this with a mere 50,000 signatures.)

I find it hard to believe that Google will in fact remove a site from its search regardless of the number of people who request this. If it does, this is a well-kept secret in the normally transparent Google operation, as its not mentioned in any of the means for removing site content. Hard to prove a negative, so I have a query into the Google Press Center about this.

The emailed message does raise an interesting question, and it's not about whether google should remove the site. (Of course not. That's a no-brainer for anyone who doesn't want their viewing habits controlled by the preferences of 50,000 or 500,000 people with too much time on their hands, though not enough time to realize that their messages are going to send people to the JewWatch.com site and further bolster its ranking.)

The intriguing question is why would JewWatch.com be the second site listed when "jew" is entered? Moreover, what does it mean that other entries on the first google page for "jew" are actually much more pernicious than JewWatch, including "The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem," a 1920 anti-Semitic screed by Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford car company. That site also includes links to the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and other creepy sites.

I tried typing in "Christian," "Muslim" to see if something similar occurred, but it didn't. One reason is probably that Christians comprise 33% of the world's population and about 20% are Muslim. Jews are fewer than one half of one per cent of the world's population. Assuming that people who are members of a group are more favorably disposed to that group than those who are not, chances are that in absolute numbers, a lot more people are not-Jews than not-Christian or not-Muslim. If ten percent of Jews are not favorably disposed to Muslims and Christians, that's about 138,000 potential anti-Muslim or anti-Muslim website viewers. If 10 percent of Muslims (120 million) and 10 percent of Christians (198 million) hate Jews, that's 318 million people, more than enough for a robust Google ranking.

The sites that appear if you type "jew" are not just anti-Zionist or "anti-Israel Lobby" sites, to use the less charged language of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. These are sites that denounce people as Jews, and not just those who favor Israel.

The obvious reason for the sites' popularity is that a ton of people fear and hate Jews. However this is not a reason but another question. Why? What's going on with the hypothetical ten percent driving these rankings, people markedly singling out Jews and not other minority groups for international approbation? While it's true that hatred is more likely toward a religion other than one's own, the first pages of Google hits for "Confucian" or "Zoroastrians"--religions with fewer adherents than Judaism--display no links to hate-filled websites.

I don't think the answer is the one that B'nai B'rith has in mind but rather, that it lies in Israel's own policies that conflate Jewishness with Israeliness and hence encourage those who oppose Israel to oppose Jews. When I was living in Istanbul and a Turkish sect supporting Al Qaeda blew up nearby synagogues in 2003 and killed 29 Jewish Turks while they were worshiping, Israel arrived to assist with the removal of corpses and the investigation. Much to the country's dismay, the bodies were buried with Israeli and not Turkish flags. Perhaps this was the decision of the families, or of the Turkish government to show their solidarity and appreciation of Israeli aid. But this decision to collapse dying for being Jewish with the celebration of Israel was not made by the folks running JewWatch or other anti-Semitic sites.

Indeed Israel puts itself forward as a Jewish state. It allows anyone who can prove Jewish descent to become a citizen and denies this to anyone not already in its borders, including those who have been removed by force. It is therefore not all that surprising that Jews and not just the Israel lobby would be held responsible for the crimes committed by and in the name of Israel. Indeed to do otherwise, which has been demanded of outsiders since Israel's founding, is to expect a high if not absurd level of sophistication. During World War Two the United States government interned its own citizens if they happened to be Japanese. If Franklin Delano Roosevelt, married to a great civil rights leader, could conflate nationality with ethnicity, then it seems unsurprising that folks with far less cosmopolitan aspirations would do the same.

This does not mean that FDR was correct in assessing the loyalty of his citizens. The confusion reflects that nationality creates ethnicity: Ireland makes possible "the Irish," Korea "the Koreans," and so forth. Before Judaism was Judaism, the Israelites were a nation, one that God told Abraham he would choose for covenant. (Jews were named such much later, by the Romans after the largest tribe in Judea.) Yes, anti-Semitism existed before the modern state of Israel. Long before that. But it did not exist before Israel the patrilineal nation of descent, the one following from the lineage of Abraham before becoming matrilineal after the destruction of the Second Temple. In both cases, belonging to the Jewish or Israeli nation is largely a matter of descent and kinship, just like all other nations, a mark of belonging and therefore of exclusion as well.

If Jews want to stop being targeted in the fight against Israel, then Israel needs to forsake its status as a Jewish nation, and join all other countries in opening their borders. The best way to make sure JewWatch goes away, is to remove the Muslim Watch at the Israeli borders.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Citizenship Fast Track for Mercenaries

The military-industrial complex is at it again. After failing to ram the nightmare Nuremberg laws for the 21st century through the U.S. Senate, the forces that crave a two-tiered labor system have broken up the old omnibus immigration bills (s. 1348 and s. 1639) into pieces that they're trying to pass through smaller bills.
The next one up for a vote next week is a Defense Department authorization bill that would give citizenship to undocumented residents who arrived when they were 15 or younger and serve two years in the military.
This means that while the Department of Homeland Security is threatening fines and criminal sanctions against private employers whose workers lack documentation, the military will be cheerfully recruiting these people. An immigrant can be hired by one branch of government security to kill Iraqis, but will be imprisoned by another branch of government security for picking a tomato.

At present the government already has waived legal residency requirements for those who have "performed active duty during World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, [or] on or after Setpember 11, 2001." (U.S. Congressional Budget Office. "immigration Policy in the United States." Table A-1, Requirments for Naturalization (2006), p. 18.
True, the distance between being part of the military and active service is now largely hypothetical, but the proposed legislation should be a call to action against the current measures, not grounds for their extension.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gene Therapy Kills

It's tempting to think that we could crack the secret to long life and cure all diseases. The lure is not only one to perfect health but a fantasy about the overall importance of our genes, our heredity, in contrast with the influences of this world on our well-being.
There is a fantasy that an individual secret identity tying one back to a select community of special ancestors is the true source of one's history, culturally as well as medically. The fantasy is deadly not only as a source of warfare but also as lure to poor medical research. The unfounded faith in genes as a cure-all for human disease diverts scarce government funding from proven public health solutions to alchemy-like pursuits, and for the individual patients involved in this research, the experiments can be deadly.

To give one example: asthma rates in the United States have increased 100% in the last 20 years. This cannot possibly be attributed to changes in our genes. And yet more resources are devoted to finding genetic than environmental causes of asthma. I have published a few articles on this, including one about the first gene therapy death in 1999 discussing the origins of the Human Genome Project in the Manhattan Project. There's also a critique of racialized genetic medicine's intellectual history I published in Social Text and a policy article advising on alternative approaches to health research comparing ethnic and racial groups.

Here's what the New York Times reported today about Jolee Mohr:
Jolee Mohr, who had a 5-year-old daughter, died on July 24 at the University of Chicago Medical Center, three weeks after trillions of genetically engineered viruses were injected into her right knee as a test of an experimental treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. The type of virus used as a gene carrier has widely been considered safe and is being used in 35 other trials.

Autopsy data presented at the committee meeting yesterday in Bethesda, Md., suggested that the main cause of death was a fungal infection, histoplasmosis, that had gone out of control, destroying her organs. Ms. Mohr also suffered from internal bleeding, with a pool of blood in her abdomen that was so large that it displaced her kidneys and other organs.
The Times buried this story on A20, in contrast with its front page coverage of "promising" developments in the field, thereby contributing to the mindset of someone like Ms. Mohr. Her widower says that she was betrayed by researchers, who should not have enrolled a largely healthy 36-year-old in their risky experiment. But the fault is also with the media who perpetrate genetic iconography. Who doesn't want to be in on the ground floor of the next exciting cure?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Study of International Relations: Brought to You by Racists

With sheepish apologies for the silence, I'm back. The APSA meetings in Chicago were a blast, which surprised me. Got to catch up with some old friends and colleagues, and also meet new ones. Among these are Errol Henderson, a University of Michigan PhD whose day job is writing on war and civil war, and who is on the faculty of the Political Science department at Pennsylvania State University. He asked a sharp question of his colleagues on the Black Political Thought panel (with many eminences participating, including Cathy Cohen, Michael Dawson, Hawley Fogg-Davis, and Michael Hanchard, with Cornell West jammed in the audience with the rest of us. Henderson took issue with the idea that Black Political Thought was just emerging and not a full-on project with its own illustrious roots, especially W.E.B. DuBois. Afterwards we chatted and he sent me an amazing chapter he'd written.

"Navigating the Muddy Waters of the Mainstream: Tracing the Mystification of Racism in International Relations," is in a collection African-American Perspectives on Political Science edited by Wilbur Rich and with a forward by Charles Hamilton (Temple University Press). Hendeson's essay is the best researched and most insightful article on the racist roots of international relations I've read. I knew the discipline of political science was founded by social Darwinists, but Henderson provides some eye-openers that should grab the attention of cynics and the naive alike. For instance:
The centrality of race in the analysis of world politics can be documented in the origins of the most venerable international relations journal in the US, Foreign Affairs. It became the house organ of the council of Foreign Relations in 1922, having been renamed that year from its previous title, the Journal of International Relations from 1919-1922. However, from 1910 to 1919 it bore its original title, which suggests its dominant orientation: the Journal of Race Development.
Henderson also dishes dirt on Woodrow Wilson, who was President of Princeton University before slumming it as President of the United States. Henderson points out the noble sentiments Wilson uttered in the name of the League of Nations and their incompatibility with his actions in the academia.
As president of Princeton he advised a black seminary student interested in attending the school that 'it is altogether inadvisable for a colored man to enter Princeton' and he suggested Harvard, Brown, or Dartmouth as alternatives ... In 1889 he had argued in The State: Elements of Historical and Practical Politics, that in order to understand the origins of modern government, 'one should not study the 'savage' traditions of 'defeated' primitive groups but rather the contributions of the 'survived fittest,' primarily the grups compsing the Aryan race" (quoting from Ido Oren's research Our Enemies and US: America's Rivalries and the Making of Political Science

And Henderson points out Wilson's obstruction of language in the charter of the League of Nations to require racial equality. In addition, Henderson provides an insightful, biting overview of the double-talk used in policy circles to demonize anti-racists questioning colonization policies in the interwar era by stigmatizing them as race conscious:

Race-consciousness was neither a characteristic of white peoples pursuing racist policies in the colonies nor was it even a reflection of white racism, but it came to be seen as a condition that afflicted indigenous (i.e., nonwhite) peoples that at times compelled them to seek 'racial revenge.'

This is great stuff. Read and learn.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Political Science of Love and Hate

That's the title of the paper I'm about to give at the American Political Science meetings in Chicago. Leaving for the airport shortly but if you're interested in my day job, here you go: "The Political Science of Love and Hate."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

DePaul University Violates Honor Code

I've been posting less this week, trying to tie up those loose ends before Labor Day, and preparing for the American Political Science Association meetings that begin tomorrow in Chicago. But events unfolding in that vicinity do not inspire much enthusiasm. One of my colleagues was about to start teaching a political science course at DePaul University, when the administration without warning canceled his class.

Norman Finkelstein, the guy whom DePaul University turned down for tenure because Alan Dershowitz and some of his powerful friends insisted on it, has had insult added to injury. A few days ago, the administration decided not to give him the traditional, and contractual, grace year afforded those denied tenure and at the last minute canceled his fall classes. Here's what the Chicago Tribune had to say about this:
The required reading was at the bookstore, the students had the course syllabus, and space in Political Science 235, "Equality in Social Justice," was standing-room only when DePaul University pulled the plug Friday on what was to have been Norman Finkelstein's final year at the school.

A controversial scholar -- accused by critics of fomenting anti-Semitism and lauded by supporters as a forthright critic of Israel -- Finkelstein attracted wide attention across the academic world when he was denied tenure in the spring.

By Monday, the books for his course had been pulled from the DePaul bookstore's shelves, while his case was restarting a firestorm of protest. The American Association of University Professors was preparing a letter to the university, protesting Finkelstein's treatment as a serious violation of academic ethics.

Finkelstein vowed not to take the rebuff lying down -- or, perhaps more correctly, to do something just like that. In addition to canceling his course, the university informed him that his office was no longer his.

"I intend to go to my office on the first day of classes and, if my way is barred, to engage in civil disobedience," Finkelstein, 53, said in a telephone interview. "If arrested, I'll go on a hunger strike. If released, I'll do it all over again. I'll fast in jail for as long as it takes."

Fall classes start Sept. 5 at DePaul, where Finkelstein has been a faculty member for six years. During that time, his star has risen and fallen at the Catholic school, founded by the Vincentian order.

His books brought him far-reaching renown. They also were condemned for their provocative language, as in the "The Holocaust Industry," where he called efforts to get compensation from Germany for World War II slave laborers a "shakedown." Finkelstein, himself Jewish, has described leaders of American-Jewish organizations as "Holocaust-mongers."

He has engaged in a long-running feud with Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz, a strong supporter of Israel. He has charged Dershowitz with appropriating other scholars' findings; Dershowitz was similarly skeptical of the legitimacy of Finkelstein's work when asked by DePaul to comment on his application for tenure, the academic equivalent of a lifetime job guarantee.

Nonetheless, Finkelstein's work has been praised by ivory-tower luminaries such as the distinguished linguist Noam Chomsky and the late Raul Hilberg, dean of Holocaust historians. Finkelstein's supporters are planning a lecture-rally for him in October in Chicago.

Two years ago, Finkelstein was held up as an example of DePaul's commitment to freedom of inquiry by its president, Dennis Holtschneider.

Students have held Finkelstein in high regard, reporting that his tone in the classroom is measured, quite unlike the red-hot rhetoric of his books.

This year, though, Dean Chuck Suchar found Finkelstein's scholarship inconsistent with "DePaul's Vincentian values," among them respect for others' views. Holtschneider seconded that motion in refusing Finkelstein's tenure.

Student support continues

DePaul officials declined to comment on the case. Denise Mattson, associate vice president for public affairs, said: "Finkelstein has been assigned to an administrative leave with full pay and benefits for the 2007-08 academic year. Administrative leave relieves professors from their teaching responsibilities. He was informed of the reasons that precipitated this leave last spring."

He was denied tenure in June, but officials could offer no explanation for why his courses were left in the schedule.

On Friday, Andrew Riplinger, a DePaul student registered for Finkelstein's course, received an e-mail from him.

"Professor Finkelstein wrote that if the course was canceled by the university, it would be taught at another location," said Riplinger. "Then the university sent an e-mail announcing the course had been canceled."

Riplinger and other student supporters, fearing such an action, have been meeting regularly over the summer and communicating their uneasiness to the administration. Their committee was scheduled to meet Monday evening in the DePaul student center, Riplinger said.

Final year at school threatened

According to the norms of academia, a professor denied tenure has the right to a final year of teaching at the university that turns him down. The watchdog of those rights is the American Association of University Professors, the umbrella organization of college teachers, which can censure a school found in violation of its ground rules. Such a finding also can be the preliminary to a lawsuit against the university by the faculty member.

According to Jonathan Knight, director of the AAUP's program in academic freedom and tenure, a university owes a faculty member denied tenure more than just a year's salary. He or she has the right to a classroom (and presumably an office). A university can't simply buy him or her out by invoking administrative leave, Knight said.

He added that a faculty member can't be put on administrative leave without a hearing except in an extreme emergency.

"We're not aware of an emergency requiring DePaul to take such action at the 11th hour and 59th minute," Knight said.

Finkelstein said that, rather than filing a lawsuit, he intends to fight the university's action with a hunger strike, and the attendant publicity.

"In the court of public opinion, I can win," Finkelstein said. "I say: 'Let the people judge.'"

Let's hope the court of political scientists and scholars also weighs in on this as well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Bible on the Immigration Debate about Elvira Arellano

The L.A. Times set up a forum next to its article about Elvira Arellano's deportation from Los Angeles on Sunday, August 19, 2007. (Arelleno had spent a year in a Chicago church, which gave her and her son, a U.S. citizen, sanctuary. For details, you can read the Times article.)

The comments next to the article make Lou Dobbs sound like Jesse Jackson. Here are the most recent ten postings, along with some brief replies.
1. She`s no activist... She`s a convicted illegal alien who was ordered deported, and hid behind the cross and her anchor baby for her own selfishness!
Submitted by: T
8:57 AM PDT, August 21, 2007

JS: "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Exodus 22:21

2. Cannot get a post in. Typical l.a.times editing to do anything to support illegal immigration.
Submitted by: Ru
8:55 AM PDT, August 21, 2007

JS: This one speaks for itself.

3. We used to live next door to coyotes who lodged the illegals when they first came into the country. Our house was broken into several times, there was always trash and diapers in the streets. Why should we put up with that when poor Americans are already capable of trashing their own neighborhoods?
Submitted by: sick and tired
8:55 AM PDT, August 21, 2007

JS: "The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 19:34. "sick and tired" makes this point as well: Punish people for what they do; treat them as you would those born here, and not differently because of who they are or where they are from.

4. 1. Anchor babies ineligible within the last 5 years 2. The hiring of illegal immigrants subject to heavy fines Prosecute and deport MS13 members housing them in mexican jails or cuban.
Submitted by: options
8:55 AM PDT, August 21, 2007

JS: "For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding." 1 Chronicles 29:15. To whom did God give the United States? Certainly not the author of the posting above, who, like David addressing God, is passing through the world and has no true claim to any of it.

5. I suggest illegal aliens read Mexico's constitution. Perhaps then they would understand that they cannot have it all there and here too.
Submitted by: Ru
8:48 AM PDT, August 21, 2007

JS: "The punishments did not come upon the sinners
without prior signs in the violence of thunder,
for they justly suffered because of their wicked acts;
for they practiced a more bitter hatred of strangers." Solomon 19:13.

6. She and her support team expended a lot of energy defying our laws. Did any one of them think about making her legal? Probably not ... no profit in doing it that way. If I'm right, she's out for 20 yrs on her 2nd deportation. Any wagers on how soon she'll try to slip across the border?
Submitted by: T.G.
8:46 AM PDT, August 21, 2007

JS: "Others had refused to receive strangers when they came to them,
but these made slaves of guests who were their benefactors." Solomon 19:14

7. Finally the U.S. Gov. has done something to give the americam people a little hope that we will get our country back from illegal aliens.
Submitted by: Ru
8:46 AM PDT, August 21, 2007

JS: "And not only so, but punishment of some sort
will come upon the former for their hostile reception of the aliens; but the latter, after receiving them with festal celebrations, afflicted with terrible sufferings
those who had already shared the same rights." Solomon 19: 15-16.

8. She should have done time for that stunt in Chicago, then got deported, keep coddling these criminals and they keep coming back.
Submitted by: Paul
8:44 AM PDT, August 21, 2007

JS: " Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body." Hebrew 13: 1-3

9. Elvira needs to put her energy into changing her country. She was a felon many times over and if she did in her country what she did in ours she would have been "handled" years ago. All the illegal aliens in America should learn the immigration laws for Mexico by heart. It would serve them well.
Submitted by: CJ
8:40 AM PDT, August 21, 2007

JS: "Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers." 3 John 5.

10. criminals are criminals thats why we do not like illegals.other countries break their laws on immigration you go to prison. here the democrats treat them like royalty for votes. on the backs of tax payers.
Submitted by: bsl7678
8:39 AM PDT, August 21, 2007

JS: "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'" Matthew 25: 31-36. The passage refers to Jesus separating nations not by ancestry but deeds. The ones blessed are the ones that shelter strangers and care for prisoners.

I quote and discuss these passages to show the hypocrisy of a so-called Christian country led by a self-declared born-again Christian, and not because these sentiments are unique to the Bible. Absent the promise of heaven to those who abide by these norms, they are the beliefs of numerous organizations and people worldwide, including atheist critics of nationalism such as this author.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Israel Violates International Law and Moral Decency, Refusing Targets of Genocide

Sudanese refugee held in an Israeli jail because he is a national of a country Israel regards as an enemy.

One of the reasons that Adolf Eichmann gave for the "final solution" being genocide was that Jews could not be removed from Germany in any other way, since no other country would take them in sufficient numbers, including the United States. (See Hanna Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem [1963].)

In recognition of the impediments national borders pose to victims of state violence -- serving as armed guards for the perpetrators -- the United Nations passed a resolution affirming that signatories would allow all those presenting themselves as refugees due to state persecution entry into their countries and hearings to determine the legitimacy of these claims.

In yet the latest expression of its hypocrisy, symptomatic of the untenability of the international system of nation-states more generally, Israel has just turned away thousands of refugees from Darfur, without mandated hearings and in violation of their commitments under international law. Here's some of what the Washington Post reported today.
Authorities announced that they had expelled 48 of more than 2,000 African refugees who have entered illegally from Egypt in recent weeks. Officials said they would allow 500 Darfurians among them to remain, but would deport everyone else back to Egypt and accept no more illegal migrants from Darfur or other places ....

Egyptian police told the Associated Press, however, that Egypt would send the Sudanese back to Sudan. An Egyptian Foreign Ministry official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel had sought no assurances about the future of the refugees. "Israel just said, 'Please take them,' " the Egyptian official said.

Refugees from Darfur are escaping what President Bush and others have called genocide by government-allied Arab militias against ethnic African villagers. In addition, Sudan and Israel officially are enemies, and Sudan's government has said any refugees sent back from Israel would be considered as having dealt with an enemy state and treated accordingly....

srael apparently expelled them without hearings, in contravention of a refugee accord it has signed that requires countries to determine whether deportation will subject asylum-seekers to mistreatment, said Ben-Dor, the Israeli refugee lawyer.

More than half the members of Israel's parliament, including opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, signed a petition earlier this month urging Israel not to send the refugees back to Egypt....

"The expulsion is an inhumane act that violates international law," said lawmaker Dov Khenin of the Hadash party, according to the Haaretz newspaper Web site.

If even Israel cannot abide by the only meager protection available to those facing slaughter by their states, i.e., allowing them a place of sanctuary, then this seems rather damning evidence that the nation-state is a failure and it might be time to try new rules for controlling movement and membership.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Israel Lobby

The image is from a website for fake PhDs, which have the same value these days as the ones from Ivy League universities, or so it seems to the folks messing around with the free speech and exchange of ideas at elite academic institutions.

Over the last couple of years two very prominent political scientists, John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt, teaching in two of the most reputable universities in the world (University of Chicago and Harvard University) have been promoting a paper and now a book (The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy) pointing out the discrepancy between U.S. strategic interests and support for Israel.

Mearsheimer and Walt argue that the only reason that the U.S. has given huge amounts of military and foreign aid to Israel has been the political and economic clout of Israel's domestic lobbying interests, namely U.S. citizens who are zealots on this cause. Ironically, proof of their argument is that their own book tour is being interfered with by Zionists who apparently made statements that rattled a variety of potential venues, including the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that had committed to and then canceled their talk. According to the New York Times:
The subject will certainly prompt furious debate, though not at the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Jewish cultural center in Washington and three organizations in Chicago. They have all turned down or canceled events with the authors, mentioning unease with the controversy or the format.

The authors were particularly disturbed by the Chicago council’s decision, since plans for that event were complete and both authors have frequently spoken there before. The two sent a four-page letter to 94 members of the council’s board detailing what happened. “On July 24, Council President Marshall Bouton phoned one of us (Mearsheimer) and informed him that he was canceling the event,” and that his decision “was based on the need ‘to protect the institution.’ He said that he had a serious ‘political problem,’ because there were individuals who would be angry if he gave us a venue to speak, and that this would have serious negative consequences for the council. ‘This one is so hot,’ Marshall maintained.”

Mr. Mearsheimer later said of Mr. Bouton, “I had the sense that this phone call pained him deeply.”

Mr. Bouton was out of town, but Rachel Bronson, vice president for programs and studies at the council, said, “Whenever we have topics that are particularly controversial or sensitive, we try to make sure someone from another point of view is there.” In this case, she said, there was not sufficient time to set up that sort of panel before the council calendar went out. There are no plans to have the authors speak at a later date, however.

Two months ago Norman Finkelstein--another Israel lobby critic who has debunked work by Alan Dershowitz and written a terrific, incisive, and well-documented book The Holocaust Industry, about the intellectual, political history of "the Holocaust"--was denied tenure at De Paul University even though his department had unanimously supported him. As bad as this is, even more bizarre are the efforts underway by a former Barnard alum whose firm does technical writing for Israeli firms to hold up the tenure of Dr. Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropology professor at Barnard College. The online petition has over 1,000 signatures, supposedly from Barnard alumnae, though a brief scan suggests that at least half of them are from men, which is fitting for an enterprise placing such a low value on integrity.

The concerns are supposedly directed to a book published by the University of Chicago Press in 2001, but since the woman who authored the petition is in no position to second-guess the faculty who peer-reviewed the book at the University of Chicago Press, it appears that Paula Stern, the petition's author, is acting on the old-fashioned value of narrow-minded bigotry. Since it now seems that tenure is being determined by petition, feel free to sign one supporting Dr. Nadia Abu El-Haj here.

One thing I never understood: why do conservatives point to the large numbers of progressives in academia and complain about bias, rather than scratch their heads and ponder the consequences of the general population's poor education, contemplating the possibility that they might be dead wrong through ignorance. If experts trained in the best universities in the world hold views that are more open, cosmopolitan, egalitarian, and tolerant than the views held by everyone else, doesn't that suggest these scholars might be onto something? We don't look at the general public's opinion on physics and, since no one there can explain why e=mc2, say that Einstein was biased in favor of relativity, so why is it cause for censure if people in universities, professors, no less, have knowledge on other matters about which the general public also is uneducated?

During the first Gulf War, in 1992, Professor Kirin Chaudhry, in the Political Science Department at UC Berkeley (when I was a grad student) was on a local news show asked if she thought the U.S. invasion was a good idea. She said no. The local anchor's eyebrows shot up, "You realize you are disagreeing with 85% of the rest of the country?" he said. I'll never forget Dr. Chaudhry's reply. She looked him straight in the eyes and very calmly replied, "That's because they're poorly informed by news programs such as yours."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

At Least 62 Die in ICE Custody Since 2004

Three of those deaths have been in the last month, and the ACLU National Prison Project has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of detainees held in dangerous conditions. Of the three recent deaths, two were being deported and one, a woman seven months pregnant, was a legal resident.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) houses on average 19,400 inmates day, about the same population as the number of those enrolled at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where fewer than five people died last year. If the average number of annual deaths at UCSB were the same as those for the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, then that would mean about 20 students annually would die, which is probably an understatement since the data come from ICE and if they are not conscientious enough to respond to life-and-death situations with a pregnant woman for whom they are responsible, then there is no reason to think they are diligent in their record-keeping of such negligence.

According to today's article in the Washington Post:
The dead were a pregnant Mexican woman who lost consciousness at a facility in El Paso, a Mexican AIDS patient whose condition steadily deteriorated in a San Pedro, Calif., prison and a Brazilian whose family implored authorities to give him medicine for his epileptic seizures in Rhode Island, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and published reports.

By the way, someone I know had a friend in detention who also was denied his AIDS medication after a late-night ICE raid of an AMTRAK train near Buffalo.

The Post story continues:
With the exception of the pregnant woman, Rosa Isela Contreras-Dominguez, 38, those who died were illegal immigrants being processed for deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a Department of Homeland Security division known as ICE. The two others were identified as Edmar Alves Araujo, 34, of Brazil and Victoria Arellano, 23, of Mexico....

"We've been saying for a long time now that we have serious concerns about the medical care provided to individuals in detention," said Tom Jawetz, a staff lawyer for the ACLU's National Prison Project.

"It's been a closed system for far too long. People are going to continue to die unless changes are made," Jawetz said.

Arellano, a transgender person whose given name was Victor, was the first to die, on July 20. She was detained in May for entering the country illegally for a second time.

During detention in San Pedro, attorneys said, her AIDS treatment lapsed. As she vomited blood, fellow inmates cared for her in vain. She was eventually taken to a San Pedro hospital and died while shackled to a bed, an attorney for the family said.

Contreras, a legal resident from Juarez, Mexico, died about a week after entering ICE custody in El Paso on Aug. 1. She was seized for deportation after serving an 18-month prison sentence for bringing 65 pounds of marijuana into the United States.

Raimondi said Contreras, who was seven weeks pregnant, was taken to an emergency room immediately after notifying the medical staff that she suffered from blood clotting. Later, after complaining of pain in her leg, she was taken to a hospital, where she died.

Araujo died shortly after being taken into federal custody on Aug. 7. His sister, Irene, said she tried to give his medication for seizures to Woonsocket, R.I., police who detained him for a traffic violation but they refused to accept it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Memorandum of Understanding in Action: How L.A. County Jails Screen for Criminal Aliens

I had a very enlightening conversation this morning with Sergent Lightle, who supervises the Classification program in the L.A. County jails. INS has had a Memorandum of Understanding allowing it to train and supervise L.A. County Sheriff employees to screen for undocumented aliens since 2005, although Sergent Lightle said that the INS has been in the jails since 1985.

In the period from January 31, 2006 to August 10, 2007, INS Custody Assistants had interviewed 13,598 inmates who were being released and issued holds on 7,391. These 7,391 could either agree to be removed to their country of origin or request a hearing to appeal this decision. Sergent Lightle did not know the total number of inmates released since January 31, 2006, but since at any given point there are 20,000 inmates, the number actually interviewed would seem to be a small fraction of the total number released.

The question raised by Pedro Guzman's case, a U.S. citizen by birth who was mistakenly deported, is how inmates are selected for these interviews. According to Sargent Lightle, there are three avenues that would lead to an interview. First, the inmate might have self-declared as an alien. An interview would examine whether he or she had legal documentation for residence in the United States. Second, an inmate's fingerprints might produce a match with the those of a known alien based on the FBI's Law Enforcement Fingerprint Database. Or third, and what must have happened with Pedro Guzman (who did not volunteer he was foreign-born before his interview), the Custody Assistant based on a perusal of the inmate's folder, can decide to interview the inmate.

"What in the folder might trigger an officer's interest?" I asked. Sargent Lightle said "whatever criteria they [the custody assistants] select." I wondered if there was a manual that might tell them what to look for. Sargent Lightle said she did not know of such a manual and said that the criteria would come from their training in immigration law by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE)(more on them later). Ethnic profiling is clearly one of the factors Figueras was considering when she decided to interview Guzman, but it couldn't be the only one. Most Latinos born in the United Stated are not selected by custody assistants for an interview.

Once identified for an interview, Sargent Lightle said, the Custody Assistant might request the inmate be held by INS if they "don't speak a word of English and can't answer questions that someone born in the United States could answer in Spanish." Sargent Lightle emphasized that for those who seem to be from Mexico, the whole interview would be done in Spanish." Of course there are many other reasons that someone might not be able to answer questions that most people born in the United States can answer, including mental disabilities. If the INS questions cannot distinguish between people who are mentally disabled (or simply poor civics students) and people who are non-citizens, and if these interviews are the basis for deportation, then this means that the INS may be guilty of kidnapping.

Sargent Lightle did clear up one question that I've been wondering about. As we all know from Paris Hilton's adventure, virtually no one receiving a sentence for time in the L.A. County jails serves the entire sentence. Instead the Sheriff has a number of criteria for early release. Was one of these being identified as an illegal alien? (And therefore, might inmates strategically misstate their nationality in order to be released early and then return to the United States, as has happened in at least one case?) It turns out the answer to this question for the L.A. County jails is no, meaning that Pedro Guzman had no incentive to lie about his country of origin.

One final question that Sargent Lightle was not able to answer: why was the order to hold Pedro Guzman sent to an inn in Colorado instead of the L.A. County Jails, where he was being held? She said that she was not allowed to comment on the Guzman case because of pending litigation, and that any orders for a hold would be the responsibility of the INS.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

L.A. County Jail Deputy Blames INS for Pedro Guzman's Deportation

Last week, before Pedro Guzman was allowed to enter his homeland, I called the L.A. County Jail to see if I could learn more about the procedures leading to a deportation.

All the legal filings from the government in response to the ACLU lawsuit refer to the screening procedures in the passive voice, i.e., "subject was encountered at L.A. County Jail by Custody Assistant Sandra Figueras as part of routine assigned duties to interview suspected criminal aliens" (from the June 13, 2007 Petitioner's Reply in Support of Ex Parte Application for Temporary Restraining Order). But there is no information as to the substance of these routine duties that would lead to such an encounter.

According to the ACLU, Pedro Guzman was singled out because of race. Either there are rules for profiling in place that the jail followed to initiate the interview with the INS that led to Guzman's confusion and deportation, or this occurred in an ad hoc fashion in violation of the jail rules. Which was it?

Before turning to the interview, a little background: In 2005 the Los Angeles County Jails entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Homeland Security, allowing it to train some of its deputies to assist as INS agents in screening and detaining criminal aliens for deportation from the county jail. Sandra Figueras was one of those employees.

The Deputy I spoke to was very forthcoming about the jail procedures, explaining that when inmates are booked they're asked to identify their birthplace. If it's outside the United States, then the jail contacts the INS for an interview to ascertain their legal status. However, it's clear from all the records that Guzman initially identified his birthplace as California, so there would be no reason for the jail to initiate Guzman's INS interview.

I pressed the deputy a bit, asking if they did any screening on their own to ascertain if arrestees lied about their birthplace. He told me that they protect against this through consulting earlier records when the "roll" the arrestees for fingerprints, but if there's nothing there, then they would never call the INS: "We don't do background checks. We just process inmates here. We don't waste our time on that; we don't intervene in any way, unless we see someone who says they're born outside the country."

I then asked if he was familiar with Guzman's deportation--again this was last week--and he was not, so I gave him a summary and asked how Guzman would have come to the attention of the INS. He told me that the INS agents in the jail do their own screenings and he didn't know how those worked. When I told him that Guzman definitely was born in the United States and his mother had the birth certificate to prove it, he said, "That would have been their foul up. The family should have had the opportunity to bring in a birth certificate and clear things up."

This is obviously true, and underlined by the fact that all of the Guzman's documents in his criminal record indicate that he was born in California. Indeed, if the judge who sentenced Guzman to 90 days in jail on April 19, 2007 had the slightest idea that Guzman would be deported as a criminal alien he would not also have sentenced Guzman to 3 years probation, and the state would not have issued a warrant for his arrest for missing the probation hearing, which, ironically, appears to be why the DHS finally allowed him back into the country. In other words, there was plenty of information available to any interested parties that would indicate Guzman's nationality.

In reflecting about the above confusion over the missed probation hearings--why wouldn't the L.A. Sheriff process the paperwork indicating Guzman had been deported, which would render the probation hearings moot?--it seems possible that the incorrectly addressed "Immigration Detainer--Notice of Action" issued by Sandra Figueras on April 26 could be the culprit. Perhaps absent this piece of paperwork, inexplicably addressed to an inn in Colorado with which Guzman had no connection and which knew nothing of Guzman, it was easier for L.A. jail to drop the ball when it came to tracking Guzman's legal whereabouts. Again, hard to know because the DHS is not talking.

(Believe me, I tried. No one in the Santa Ana Detention and Removal office would answer the first question: "how do the INS agents in the jails decide whom to interview?" even though these are the folks making these decisions. They did not refuse to answer the question but the passed me around to numerous people until a gentleman named Leo said he had to ask his supervisor about speaking to me, and then left me on hold for 15 minutes, at which point I hung up and called back. At that point, all the numbers I had been given had turned on their voice mail. )

In any case, it's not surprising that this happened, given that the DHS is recruiting from...Craigslist. The heading from the L.A. posting for August 1, 2007 says, "TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR CAREER PROTECTING AMERICA’S BORDERS" and tells potential applicants they can look forward to working in an "exciting environment with wide-open spaces..." Perhaps it was someone responding to one of these ads who ignored the alerts the DHS sent to its field offices telling them to allow Guzman into the country if he presented himself and turned him away, back into Mexico. Maybe they were surfing for used ping-pong tables.

Pedro Guzman Detained in Colorado Inn

Pedro Guzman is not the only one with an interesting story we have yet to hear (for previous postings, click on Guzman tag at bottom). ICE and their minions in the L.A. County jail need to come forward with a much better story about what happened than the one they've been sticking to so far, which is that Guzman said he was born in Mexico and requested to be sent there.

Among the many questions that deserve answers: why did the L.A. Custody Assistant routing Guzman out of the country address the Immigration Detention notice to "1st Choice Inns" in Glenwood Springs, Colorado?

This notice is generally sent to law enforcement agencies by the INS. The INS, often illegally, instructs jails and prisons to hold those suspected of being in the USA without documentation until the inmate is taken into custody by the INS.

This particular form for Pedro Guzman tells the addressee, which presumably should have been the L.A. County Jail, to "detain the alien...to provide adequate time for the INS to assume custody"; to "Notify this office of the time of release at least 30 days prior to release or as far in advance as possible"; and to "Notify this office in the event of the inmate's death or transfer to another institution."

Perhaps, I thought, 1st Choice Inns rents out space as a holding facility for the County jails or DHS. Perhaps one result of the new privatization of the government is that misidentified criminal aliens are sent to inns. So I looked up 1st Choice Inns online and gave them a call.

I asked to speak to a manager. The person who answered the phone identified herself as Natalie in Accounting and was very happy to answer my questions. According to her the Inn has never had any contracts with any government agency to house anyone. "We just wouldn't be prepared for that sort of thing," she said. I told her about the notice I was looking at, addressed to them and she confirmed the address and said she did not recall receiving such a notice and that if she had she probably would have thrown it away.

If this is just some sort of clerical error by the Sheriff's Department then at best it is a sign that they are sloppy in general and in the particulars of this case.

The DHS is not offering any explanation beyond their court filings. More on what the L.A. County Sheriff told me soon.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Pedro Guzman, Welcome Home!

According to an AP story, Pedro Guzman
"ate out of garbage cans, bathed in rivers and was repeatedly turned away by U.S. border agents when he tried to return to California, his family said Tuesday. Pedro Guzman, 29, was picked up at the Calexico border crossing over the weekend and released to his family on Tuesday. Guzman was shaking, stuttering and appeared traumatized, his family said at a news conference. The family said it planned to seek medical attention for Guzman, who was not at the news conference. 'They took him whole, but only returned half of him to me,' his mother, Maria Carbajal, said in Spanish while crying. 'The government is responsible for this.'"

He apparently had several encounters with border guards but despite the Department of Homeland Security alert to be looking for Guzman and allow him entry, he had been turned away from his homeland on several occasions.

There still is no clear narrative from Guzman about what exactly happened during his deportation interview. I'll be posting more on this tomorrow.

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