Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Deb Kory

I first wrote about psychologists and torture for Tikkun in 2007 when I was working toward my doctorate in clinical psychology and all hell was breaking loose around revelations that psychologists were involved in torture at Guantánamo Bay and other CIA black sites. I had just started writing my dissertation, which sought to explore the history and social forces that led to such insanity in the profession I was immersing so much time, money, and energy into making my vocation.

I frankly had hoped the whole issue would be resolved by now - the perpetrators would be in prison, the system would be reformed so that it could never happen again, psychologists would have organized and taken a powerful stand against this misuse of power in their name. Yet here we are, ten years after the first revelations of torture appeared in the media, my dissertation long since bound in obscurity in my school's library, and not only are the revelations still coming, there is only now the first hint of a real investigation into the specific role psychologists played in this process.

But as psychologist Steven Reisner states in his new piece in Slate, there would be no torture without psychologists. Also, just this morning there was a very informative and comprehensive segment on Democracy Now! featuring both Steven Reisner and Alfred McCoy, whose book A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror provided the original road map to many of the issues I covered in my dissertation. I was at the 2007 American Psychological Association (APA) Conference in San Francisco shown in this segment, where psychologists made a desperate plea to the APA to put an end to these practices, while military officers in full camo fatigues stood menacingly around the room and Col. Larry James (chief psychologist at Guantánamo) made the case that "if you remove psychologists from these facilities, people will die."

I'm obviously not going to be able to dive deeply into this issue for purposes of this blog, but I want to offer a few key points for you to keep in mind as the discourse around this recedes out of public consciousness and we all go back to business as usual.

1. This was not the case of a "few bad apples" defaming the good name of our profession. The CIA and the psychology profession have been tight since the beginning of the Cold War, when hysteria about communism led the CIA to begin hiring psychologists to perform research on "mind control." At the time it was believed that, Manchurian-Candidate style, the whole United States would be hypnotized into communism (it was even believed the Soviets had bought the world's supply of LSD and were planning to drop acid on the entire U.S. population) and it was important that the U.S. be able to preempt that terrible fate by developing mind-control mastery of our own. Huge Defense Department contracts started rolling out for researchers, who soon became known as "behavioral scientists." Seriously, google "CIA and LSD" - it will blow your mind.

2. The most notorious of all the research programs commissioned by the CIA was known as MKULTRA. The CIA sent scouts out to APA conferences to find the best and the brightest to study mass mind control and individual coercion. The twenty-five-year program included research on unwitting participants, prisoners of war in Vietnam, and an unknown number of deaths around the world. The Kubark Counter Intelligence Interrogation Manual, a distillation of all of this research, formed the basis of training programs adopted all through Latin America, and guided the CIA's training of the secret police in Iran and the Philippines. The most famous of these training programs, the School of the Americas, has alone trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers who have tortured, raped, assassinated, "disappeared," massacred, and made refugees of hundreds of thousands of people throughout Central and South America.

3. With professional psychology emerging out of war, 15 percent of psychology internship programs and 40 percent of post-doc programs funded by the Veteran's Administration, and over sixty years of Department of Defense funded research, the psychology profession has a long history of financial embeddedness within and indebtedness to the American military.

4. The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association both condemned participation in any kind of "coercive interrogations" (not just enhanced interrogations) at Guantánamo and other black sites, which left psychologists in a power vacuum. Psychologists, some of us at least, get very excited about power, since we are, among the sciences, considered a "soft science." In giving the Bush administration an assurance that these enhanced interrogation techniques were based in "good science" (in actuality all experts agree that torture is excellent for producing false confessions), and that they were necessary to avoid further terrorist attacks, psychologists provided the legitimacy the administration needed to subvert both constitutional and international law around the detention of prisoners of war and their treatment therein.

5. Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, the rich, idiot psychologists who "reverse-engineered" torture tactics to employ on "detainees" of the War on Terror are actually just the tip of the iceberg. There were other psychologists involved in torturing prisoners and, what's worse, the American Psychological Association actively covered it up with their much-maligned APA PENS Task Force (six of the ten task force members had close ties to the Department of Defense, and five of those six had direct experience with coercive interrogations at Guantánamo, Afghanistan, Iraq or other CIA black sites). There has been no serious investigation into the actions of these psychologists until the recent revelations in Pulitzer-prize winning reporter James Risen's new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War. Risen, who had access to hundreds of previously undisclosed emails involving senior APA staff reports that the APA "worked assiduously to protect the psychologists ... involved in the torture program."

6. Just a reminder: Most of the people swooped up into custody and sent to CIA black sites were completely innocent. These roundups included farmers, cooks, taxi drivers - in short, anyone who had been "turned in" for the large bounty (as much as $5,000 per head) that the U.S. promised to Afghan informants. I'm linking here to an article reported on Fox News about revelations by Bush's Republican former chief of staff to Colin Powell so you know this is not Lefty propaganda. Their lives have been ruined. Here's a short video about one kid, Fahd Ghazy, seventeen when he was kidnapped, now thirty, who has been trapped at Guantanamo for thirteen years despite being "cleared" to return to Yemen in 2007. Notice the kindness and humanity of his family and the sweet life he used to have.

7. Not a single person involved in the torture program, from psychologists on up to folks in the Bush administration, has been prosecuted. Oh, except for the CIA whistleblower who revealed the existence of the torture program. He's in prison.

8. No safeguards have been put in place in the American Psychological Association's ethics code to keep this from happening again. They have made several good sounding statements, but no actual changes have been made. As Steven Reisner states, "In 2008, a group of APA members appealed to the entire membership in a referendum to prohibit psychologists from participating in any operation that violates the Geneva Conventions or the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The referendum passed overwhelmingly and in February 2009 was made APA official policy by the member-run council. Yet to date, APA leadership refuses to implement the referendum, claiming the APA cannot determine when U.S. national security policy violates international law; the APA holds to this position even in the face of judgments rendered by the United Nations Committee Against Torture, for example, as to the illegal status of indefinite detentions at Guantanamo Bay."

9. It's just us chickens, folks. No one else is going to make this right for us, and the same handful of vocal psychologists have been out on the frontlines for the last eight years, doing their best to sound the alarm. We therapists are all busy, I know, and we're doing our best to help individuals transcend and heal from the pain of their lives and find joy and meaning. But the very people who accredit our institutions of learning (you know how everyone goes to APA-accredited schools and gets APA-accredited internships?) supported an illegal and immoral program of torture because... power and money. That and an atmosphere of fear after September 11 that, generally speaking, is extremely hard to resist unless our guidelines, punishments, and incentives (to be instruments of healing) are clear as the bright blue sky.

10. Psychologists, psychotherapists, and anyone professing to have an interest in the psyche, which is the Greek word for soul, simply have no business being anywhere near torture, either in spirit or law. Given that things have only gotten worse politically and economically over the last decade, with violent extremism at an all-time high, there is nothing to keep this from happening again. Get educated. Get involved. Join me in starting a task force of the Network of Spiritual Progressives for psychologists and psychotherapists to work on social justice and healing the planet (email me at: debkory@gmail.com if you are interested)! Join Psychologists for Social Responsibility and Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. Email me about your organization, or one that you know about that is doing awesome work out in the world - I want to know about it! Sign this petition calling for a special, independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute (if there is sufficient evidence) any former officials involved in torture. If you are not a psychologist, spread the word to psychologists you know and, everyone, be sure to teach this history. The dark side of the profession needs to be known, made conscious, and integrated into our training curricula that is otherwise filled with so much self-congratulatory "expertise."

I will argue in various ways in upcoming blogs that psychotherapy is fundamentally about love. It is through love that we connect and heal one another and is, in my humble opinion, what is being referred to when we talk about the "therapeutic alliance," or refer to the ineffable healing process in therapy that scientists just can't quantify, try as they might. But we therapists mustn't be content to keep our love confined to the therapeutic hour or the individuals with whom we work. Just because our work with clients is private and confidential doesn't mean that we must live private and confidential lives. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love." As a group we tend to be conflict-averse and we're used to holding a great deal of space for complexity, can imagine the inner lives of perpetrators and victims alike, and have trained ourselves to reflect instead of react. In this way we have a great deal to offer the suffering world, but we must step out of the confines of our cozy offices and actually find one another first. Otherwise we are just passing each other in life's hallway for a quick pee break between sessions.

And for any of you brave souls who would like to know more about the dark side of the psychology profession and its role in torturing people the world over, feel free to request a copy of my dissertation. I'm hoping to turn it into a book and your interest will help motivate me!

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Deb Kory, PsyD, is a psychologist in private practice in Berkeley, CA and works as content manager for Psychotherapy.net. She was formerly managing editor of Tikkun and has written for Tikkun, the Huffington Post, and Alternet. She currently writes a blog, Bad Therapy, at Psychotherapy.net. A longer version of this blog can be found at Psychotherapy.net.

Photo Credit: Deb Kory

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by David Ragland with Arthur Romano

We stood there on South Florissant in Ferguson almost two weeks ago. As a friend and I walked through the crowds gathered there, all waiting for the grand jury outcome, the feeling was beyond tense. We heard voices, some declaring there would be no indictment and others hoping that the right thing would be done and there would be a trial. Then a path opened through the crowd and Michael Brown's mother appeared a few feet away from me making her way past us, escorted by family members. They guided her to a podium set up in the street in front of what seemed like waves of people between her and the Ferguson police station. She briefly paused and glanced over to the police station as if to make sure they would hear her words and said, "...they don't care...they think it's a joke..." She stood there, hurt and visibly angry, tears streaming down her face.

That moment when we learned of the non-indictment, the reasons why we protest became solidified in my mind and heart in a way they had not before. The protests reflect a community disenchanted with the status quo of (in)justice in the U.S. with what seems like the frequent inability to see black and brown people as worthy of the dignity of which all humans are equally deserving.

The protest chants, many created by young people from Ferguson and beyond make visible deep knowledge that is often hidden to many who do not face the daily indignities that young African Americans endure. We often chant "Black Lives Matter" and "the Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell." We affirm what we know when we chant: that the dignity of our lives that grounds and sustains us is too often undermined and assaulted by a deep system of inequality. Yet, the fact that the words "Black Lives Matter" have to be said reflects a social, cultural, and political system that is either largely blind or in deep denial, yet complicit in a multi-generational process of structural racism that is violent toward People of Color.

The far-reaching impacts of this inequality were not necessarily recounted in detail that night when Michael Brown's mother spoke to us. The truth is there is too much to tell in a single night but the lives of many people bear an often hidden testimonial in this country that lies just beneath the surface. I believe there is something healing in openly expressing this righteous indignation in response to injustice in the presence of others, in making what is hidden seen with national and international support. I know this first hand since I grew up in Baden in North St. Louis, less than five miles from Ferguson. I was taught to be fearful of police because of experiences that shaped my life and the lives of my family and friends. I grew up knowing my uncle was badly beaten by police because he was wrongly accused of stealing a jar of jam. That was a sign of things to come as my entire life I navigated through Ferguson and areas like it with a foreboding sense that the absurd was possible because of my color, that whether I lived or died could be decided without any sense of justice or accountability.

Many African American youth of this generation are rightly angered by this situation and we need to listen to them if we are going to find a lasting solution to these problems. Political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal describes a kind of psychic energy expressed in music that often conveys a sense of little hope:

"the music arises from a generation that feels, with some justice, that they have been betrayed by those who have come before them. That they are, at best, tolerated in schools, feared on the streets and almost inevitably destined for the hell holes of prison."

While it is important to acknowledge the anger and paralyzing numbness that comes from this relentless institutional oppression, the fact that so many young people are expressing themselves and demanding that the system be changed shows how deeply people do care and opens up pathways for change.

A New Generation

The protests in response to murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and many others and the inability to indict the police that killed them, offers an opportunity to understand where we are in history. Youth, already aware of their conditions, are proclaiming their humanity and their commitment to changing the status quo through protest and in so doing are challenging us to think through each of our contributions as well. This truth-telling as heard in the protest chants excavates the shared knowledge of past movements for liberation, not in a nostalgic sense but with a fierce urgency to shed light on the devastating effects of structural racism today. The protests engage us in the conflict, removing the comfortable moral high ground that too often obscures our complicity. This is powerful work as this sustained direct action--faith in action--reveals and dramatizes the injustice that is too often portrayed as normal outside of the escalated conflict's context. As a result, it makes us all uncomfortable and pushes us to consider how we can make a higher-level commitment to racial and economic justice in our work and in our lives.

Truth, Justice and Reconciliation

Let's head back to Ferguson on the night of the grand jury announcement. Within minutes of the news of the non-indictment, police donned in expensive new riot gear appeared and pushed forward trying to disperse the crowd. That night as we came to grips with the decision, we lacked a supportive space for mourning or reflection on the part of the authorities. Instead we were met with a fear of protestors and a hunger amongst the media for some broken windows and destruction of property to report. They missed the importance of creating spaces for people to grieve and be heard, and the need for deeper conversation about justice and accountability.

As the police closed in, the words of a chant that has inspired this movement from the beginning, clearly cut through the cold air that night, "the whole damn system is guilty as hell." I believe this chant voices the knowledge that spans generations: the experience of a militarized response to protests is not just a product of this moment, but of a inherited system that seeks to silence truth telling about inequality through the use of violent force. It is important that we do not miss this opportunity for sustained truth telling, to see that the protests are not simply blaming or trying to displace responsibility, but acknowledging work that needs to be done while the world is listening. What we see now is a shift from moments of resistance to a movement working to change systems that create this inequity. The broader picture of disproportionate imprisonment and inequitable education leading many to the criminalization, underemployment, and criminal mistreatment that Black people (and People of Color) in this country face is a stark reminder that we do not have the same moral values as white Americans. This statement does not invalidate the suffering many Whites living in poverty experience or that so many people in this country face oppression, but instead reinforces the need to demand structural change for the American system of procedural justice whenever it fails to address the dignity of all of its citizens.

What's next?

There is urgent need for a transparent, democratic, and peaceful process that invites the American community more widely to begin sharing their stories and listening to the experiences of others within a Truth-Telling Process. In a context in which the formal legal system so often fails the most vulnerable and where exploitation is woven into the social and economic structure of the nation, community-lead truth-telling processes provides a foundation for greater justice. Truth and reconciliation emphasize radical listening and acting with victims in finding solutions to these problems. Truth and Reconciliation processes do not have to be lead by outside experts and can take a variety of forms depending on the needs and capacity of each community.

While listening is an important component of these processes it is not by itself enough and these processes need to be grounded in a core commitment to identify forms of action that restore and rebuild whenever harm has been done. This process must address the recent murders of Michael Brown, John Crawford, Akai Gurley, Eric Garner, Vonderrick Myers, Kajieme Powell, Tamir Rice and the continuous onslaught of police shootings of black and brown people that have resulted in wide-spread disenchantment with the militarized police and official response to protests and their supporting institutions and communities. While there have been many attempts to separate each of the murders suggesting that they are isolated and not connected to race and class, there is a broader picture of disproportionate criminalization and educational and economic discrimination that corresponds with the police violence that we need sustained commitment to transforming.

This is why we are emphasizing that reconciliation requires justice, both in the narrow sense of accountability for officers and departments that are engaged in discriminatory practices and violence and in addressing the wider conditions that often rob people of dignity and opportunities to thrive. At this point in the movement many of us are asking how might we move toward a break from this cycle of direct and structural violence in a way that supports communities in taking the lead on this long-term work?

The Center for Educational Equity with the Peace and Justice Studies Association and many other local organizations are calling for a nation-wide process of Truth-telling. This process uses a truth and reconciliation framework to call on victims of police violence, their families and communities to document their perspective as evidence for structural change characterized by community initiated programs, and having local legislation adopt international human rights standards so local police become subject to standards that require them to recognize and respect the human dignity of the residents they serve.

In St. Louis the Center for Educational Equity with the Peace and Justice Studies Association are using a truth and reconciliation framework to begin a truth-telling process. The project involves the following:

1. Building interest for process through editorials, living room conversations, structured intragroup dialogue and video experiences on thetruthtellingproject.org

2. Coalition building with local and national organizations

3. Begin Truth-Telling in early 2015 using international human right testimony/deposition where local victims share and others are invited to St. Louis to testify, as well as other communities simultaneously holding independent non-government truth-telling hearings

4. Giving voice to histories and experiences of police violence, examining their structural causes and developing legislation and community programs based on these knowledge garnered from these processes.

5. A reconciliation process that involves national conversations on racism and police violence once structural change is underway

This is an exciting moment of awakening and the protests are a sign of the impending necessity for our entire society to embrace a creative solution that involves the acknowledgement of our equal moral value and worth. We learned from the civil rights movement that racism and hate couldn't be legislated out of the hearts and minds of people. The education and human connection that truth-telling and reconciliation inspires has that possibility to deepen changes in attitudes and beliefs about the necessity for greater social and economic equality and to connect the personal and the political in communities across this country.

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David Ragland, PhD is a North St. Louis Native and Visiting Professor of Education at Bucknell University. He is on the national board of the Peace and Justice Studies Association and is the United Nations Representative for the International Peace Research Association.

Arthur Romano, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the School of Conflict Resolution and Analysis at George Mason University. He is a scholar-practitioner whose research and applied interests include youth social justice leadership, global educational movements and educational responses to transforming violence and poverty.

Photo Credits: Wikipedia

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Michael Hulshof-Schmidt

This has been a good year for marriage rights for the LGBT community in the United States. Since the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor gutted the so-called Defense of Marriage Act - an unfortunate legacy of the Clinton administration - a tide of legal decisions has washed away state bans on marriage equality. At this moment, thirty-five states offer full access to marriage for same-sex couples, covering nearly two-thirds of the country's population. Five more states are poised on the brink, and the high court has refused to even take up appeals from the forces of bigotry.

Yet while marriage is an important right that carries many benefits, opening the nuptial doors hardly signals the eradication of homophobia or misogyny. In twenty-nine states, it is still legal to discriminate against the LGBT community in employment, housing, and education. In fact, fourteen of the states that offer marriage equality simultaneously refuse to provide these basic protections (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming). And all of the five that are likely to have marriage equality soon (Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas) allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is a horrible disconnect. In practice it means that a couple who celebrate a happy, significant occasion are in fact opening themselves up to more discrimination, perhaps even the loss of their homes or livelihoods. Again, we have a labyrinthine system for LGBT individuals to navigate with a level of risk that can result in loss of income, housing, healthcare, and consequently further targets in their communities.

Knowing which rights are protected and conveyed by one's home state and which are denied is confusing at best and potentially hazardous. Adding in the layer of rights and benefits provided by the federal government - and the risks associated with claiming them - makes it even harder. People of color, the poor, the disabled, and other targeted and marginalized communities are hit even harder. The intersections of oppression make this confusing, dangerous situation just one more set of barriers standing in the way of equity.

Homophobia and misogyny share deep roots in our culture, which targets and punishes any variance from so-called traditional gender roles and expression - demonstrating again how the varying forms of discrimination intersect. This overlap is also an opportunity, however, as many LGBT employees are using a 1989 sex discrimination case to fight for their rights. Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins held that it was unlawful to discriminate against a person based on how well they fit social norms of gender expression. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has agreed in several cases that firing a gay or lesbian employee for not being "appropriately" masculine or feminine violates this protection.

Using this case to fight against employment discrimination of gays and lesbians illustrates how interwoven the threads of discrimination are in our country. Sadly, it is another example of how hard it is to fight for equality and equity. People with limited access to legal resources and without the time and money to fight long battles while struggling to survive cannot take advantage of these nuanced arguments - especially when those battles are not always successful. Our nation desperately needs a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act that prohibits workplace and accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Even though the Senate has passed such a law, the Republican-held House has refused to take it up. With the shift in congressional power moving far to the right, it is unlikely that there will be any action toward equity in the near future. President Obama has used his legal authority to provide some protection, making discrimination in employment illegal for government contractors. That's a great step and demonstrates his commitment, but it also creates one more confusing set of piecemeal rules. Until the law of the land - ALL the land - provides equal rights and protections, the LGBT community is caught in a web of confusing contradictions, a tangle of rights and risks.

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Michael Hulshof-Schmidt teaches at the Portland State University School of Social Work. He is also the Executive Director of EqualityWorks, NW, a company that provides workshops on racial equity and how to stand in solidarity with targeted populations. Follow this link to read more of his work.

Photo credit: Creative Commons / Center for American Progress

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There is no admittance at Craig Watts' Perdue contract chicken farm in Fairmont, North Carolina. Nor is Watts allowed to open the barns to admit air or sunlight. But, fed up with the abuse to farmers, consumers and animals he has tolerated for too long, Watts allowed cameras into his barns so the public could see what Perdue calls "humane." It is "not as advertised" says Watts, an understatement.

 

There is such a gap between Perdue's slick marketing and the reality, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof devoted a whole column to the video, released this month by Compassion in World Farming, a 47-year-old international group.

 

Many people have seen undercover footage of modern chicken farming which the big chicken brands always claim is inaccurate, staged and not representative of true operations. This is possibly the first time a legitimate video from an authorized Perdue producer has surfaced and can’t be readily dismissed. The video not only indicts Perdue who is clearly marketing sick and dying chickens to the public, it indicts the government which inexplicably allows Perdue to call its birds USDA Process-Verified and "humanely raised."

 

Who is Craig Watts? He is a 48-year-old chicken farmer who had his fill of the human and animal conditions Perdue permits, Leah Garcés, US Director of Compassion in World Farming, told me in an interview. Farmers like Watts are close to "indentured servants," says Garcés, 71 percent of them living at the poverty level. Watts, who has three children and is married to a school teacher, procured his $400,000 a year contract only to end up making a minimum wage. He has no control over the health of the birds he receives from Perdue or the way he is required to treat and raise them. His "take" as a Perdue contact farmer is 5 cents a pound per bird.

 

 

And it gets worse. Working in the sealed and packed chicken barns with their high concentrations of ammonia has compromised his lungs and given him respiratory problems, says Garcés. Besides Watts, there is only one worker caring for the entire flock of 120,000 chickens, housed 30,000 to a barn on the North Carolina Perdue operation.

 

Over the months Garcés worked with Watts, she says they became unlikely friends because both would like to give chickens "a better life" and both are appalled at Perdue's large-scale deception. Perdue birds, bound for the dinner table, are shown in the video to have raw, bloody stomachs because their legs are too weak to support them and they wallow in the fetid litter. They are panting, barely able to breathe and clearly suffering as Watts admits. They are nobody's idea of a good meal, a healthy animal or humane farming.

 

Will Watts lose his contract with Perdue after speaking out? Possibly says Garcés but he may become a leader among poultry farmers no longer willing to tolerate the human, animal and food consumer abuse that is today's modern chicken farming. "We are passed rewind," says Watts about current chicken production "this has gone too far."

 

For more information about the Perdue expose, go to http://www.ciwf.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tinas_trailer
Not a feel-good post. No serve-cookies-to-homeless-kids kinda holiday joy. Nope. I’m too worried about a formerly-and-(likely)soon-to-be-homeless family, mom and her 7 small kids that I know. 

Stop with the “why did she have 7 kids if she was going to be homeless?” crap. That’s a dead giveaway that you don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, and you certainly don’t understand homelessness. Few women I know planned for homelessness. Most don’t have 100% control over their reproductive “choices,” to say the least. Need to know more? View my film, on the edge: Family Homelessness in America.

Tina’s homeless/near-homelessness saga has been going on for years following the divorce which needed to happen. It’s an in/out form of torture that would appeal to the likes of Dick Cheney. You think you can breathe once you get your “own” place—a HUD-subsidized rental that often comes with a landlord that thinks roaches and other vermin should be on the lease—then your life crumbles again

Tina sat talking to me last year as roaches scampered up and down the walls and across the same floor her baby girl crawled on. Not because Tina was slovenly—quite the contrary. She had done everything possible at her own expense to rid this place of the critters. She had to move. 

Tina would tell you she was “lucky,” having the double-wide roof over her head after living in a 13’ camper for 6 months—extreme heat and cold temperatures—while she and her kids waited for the crumpled housing assistance “program” in this country to work for them.

They’ve lived in this Las Cruces house for the past 11+ months. The landlord gets paid promptly per his Section 8 agreement with the housing authority. Tina pays her share of the rent, $168, from the pittance of child support she gets. They don’t party or do other things to make them bad tenants. Nope. This one’s on the landlord.

Possible financial troubles? I’ve tried calling him, to no avail. I was going to beg for an extension for Tina and her kids. Moving at Christmas sucks. 

What sucks more is that they can’t find a place to rent. Her housing certificate guarantees her rent. She’s diligently scoured the list the housing authority gave her.

She and I both shudder at the looming possibility of her not finding a place to live. The lack of affordable housing, especially rental housing for large families, is dire. It’s a major cause of family homelessness.

Oh yeah, to make things worse, Las Cruces has no family shelter that will take her older boys. Few know that many shelters, especially gospel missions and privately-run shelters don’t accept boys over the age of 10 or so. And the only family shelter in Las Cruces is the rescue mission.

My nonprofit, HEAR US Inc., will help her if she finds a place. Even with the Section 8 certificate, the renter has to come up with the deposit, far beyond her budget. 

Countless families like Tina’s face this same daunting challenge. Too many people don’t know it’s happening. Too many elected officials don’t seem to care enough to push for an adequate supply of decent affordable housing. 

Few mayors follow the admirable efforts of NYC’s Mayor de Blasio who wants impoverished families to at least have access to a lawyer when facing eviction and other common legal housing related dilemmas. 

I’ve communicated with the Las Cruces mayor, Ken Miyagishima. He’s helped before. But this time it will take a miracle, coming up with a 3-4 bedroom rental in less than 2 weeks. 

The reality of family homelessness is that it’s never pretty. Seeing it up close at this otherwise festive time of the year hits me hard, and I’m not the one who will be living on the streets with my 7 vulnerable kids. 

HELP! I don’t know what else to say. (If you know of a viable possibility in Las Cruces, contact me.)

Under billions of tons of imports, the American dream is suffocating.

The American people have lost faith. They know that bad trade has bled factories, middle class jobs and wage increases from the country.

A report issued last week by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) details how bad trade has cost Americans hope. And hope is the essence of the American dream, hope for a good, steady job with benefits and a pension, one that supports a family and a home, one that enables the kids to achieve even better lives. Bad trade has battered all of that. And more damage is threatened by pending trade deals and a so-called fast track process to approve them without in-depth deliberation.

The EPI report, China, Trade, Outsourcing and Jobs, details the devastation caused by just one trade arrangement, the deal to allow China to enter the World Trade Organization in 2001. After that, the United States’ trade deficit with China climbed dramatically.

As a result, EPI calculated that between 2001 and 2013, the United States lost 3.2 million jobs. Every state and every Congressional district except one lost jobs because of ever rising imports from China that were not matched by exports from the United States.

And most of the destroyed jobs – 2.4 million – were good, family-supporting manufacturing positions.

The workers jilted from those jobs suffered terribly. Those who could get new work earned less because pay for exporting industries and service employment is lower than that for jobs slashed by imports. EPI figures the net wage loss at $37 billion per year.

In addition, trade with low-wage countries like China suppressed pay in the United States by 5.5 percent – about $1,800 a year – for full-time workers without college degrees. The nation has 100 million such workers. That loss to them and the U.S. economy: $180 billion.

It’s gut wrenching. And Americans feel it. A New York Times poll released last week found the lowest level of faith in the American dream in two decades. Only 64 percent of those surveyed believed.

Despite low gas prices, declining unemployment, and falling foreclosures, Americans perceive a shrinking future.  That’s because virtually everyone knows someone who worked at a factory that closed.

Frank Walsh talked to the New York Times last week about what it’s like to lose a good job. He hasn’t worked as an electrician in four years. He’s run up $20,000 in credit card debt and withdrawn $15,000 from his retirement account. “I lost my sense of worth, you know what I mean?” Walsh told the New York Times.

He was among those polled by the Times, CBS News and Kaiser Family Foundation as they looked at the lives of the 30 million Americans aged 25 to 54 who are jobless. The share of unemployed men in this age group has more than tripled since the late 1960s.

The poll found the 10 million men in this group unhappy to be out of work and eager to find new jobs. Like Walsh, they struggle with loss of income and dignity.

Though skilled, Walsh couldn’t find new work that would enable him to earn what he did as a union electrician. Even for those willing to take minimum wage jobs, securing work isn’t easy, with 30 million unemployed people and 4.8 million job openings.

Eighty-five percent of the men in the survey did not have bachelor’s degrees. And for them, landing a family-supporting job is much harder than it once was. The Times explains why: “Foreign competition and technological advances have eliminated many of the jobs in which high school graduates like Mr. Walsh once could earn $40 an hour, or more.”

Foreign competition means trade.  And the problem for workers like Walsh is that there’s too much bad trade and very little done about it.

My union, the United Steelworkers, has fought bad trade vigorously, filing cases repeatedly with the U.S. Commerce Department seeking sanctions against foreign producers of steel, paper, tires and renewable energy technologies such as solar panels. To win these cases, though, the law says industry and workers must first suffer losses and unemployment. And wins too often are quickly followed by new losses.

Tires are a good example. The USW sought relief after imports of Chinese tires surged by 75 percent from 2004 to 2007. Four U.S. tire plants closed, destroying 5,100 jobs. Shortly after the USW petitioned for sanctions in 2009, three more factories shut down, killing an additional 3,000 jobs.

President Obama imposed three years of tariffs, and the U.S. tire industry rebounded, increasing production and employment. But as soon as the sanctions ended, Chinese tire imports surged again, and U.S. production and jobs declined again.

So the USW filed another trade case in June. A preliminary ruling by the Commerce Department determined sanctions were justified because China was providing improper subsidies to its tire makers.

And that’s the point. American workers aren’t whining. They can compete with anyone in the world on an even playing field. But when foreign countries provide illegal subsidies, manipulate their currency, and hand no-cost land, no-interest loans and tax breaks to producers, then it’s bad trade.

It’s trade that kills U.S. jobs and wrecks American lives. Producing in a country where exploitation of workers is permitted and environmental regulations are non-existent certainly lowers costs. But prohibited subsidies such as currency manipulation and tax forgiveness are much more significant. 

American workers need a new kind of trade agreement, one that protects U.S. industry and workers from bad trade practices before they close factories, destroy jobs and devastate communities.

And yet, the United States is negotiating massive trade agreements with European and Pacific Rim nations in secret, so there’s no way to know if they are any different from previous bad trade deals. In addition, some supporters are seeking fast track negotiating authority under which Congress would relinquish its right to make changes.

Congress must reject fast track and realize its duty to protect American industry and workers. It must end bad trade to revive the American dream.

Earlier this week, the lgbt community suffered a nasty defeat in Fayetteville, Arkansas. According to LGBTQNation:

Voters in Fayetteville, Ark., on Tuesday repealed a controversial LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance approved by the city council in August.

KFSM-TV reports that 52 percent of voters cast ballots to repeal the ordinance, compared to 48 percent who voted to retain the measure — a difference of fewer than 500 votes, with turnout less than 30 percent of registered voters.The ordinance, approved by the city council in a 6-2 vote on August 20, prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations.

LGBTQNation points out how this vote got nationwide attention due to the inclusion of the reality television stars, the Duggar family:

Opposition to the ordinance gained national attention due in part to the efforts of the Duggar family of TLC’s reality series “19 Kids and Counting.” In August, Duggar matriarch Michelle Duggar recorded a robocall urging residents to pressure council members to oppose the measure, claiming it would lead to women going topless at public swimming pools, men using women’s restrooms, and allow pedophiles and sexual predators to abuse people. As of October 31, the Duggars had donated $10,000 toward the city council campaigns of the ordinance’s three most outspoken critics, two of whom were listed as contacts on a press release for the repeal effort.

In fact, when vote was announced, Josh Duggar, who spoke against the ordinance and is also employed by the anti-gay Family Research Council, sent out a mindboggling tweet claiming that overturning the ordinance was in actuality a victory for equality.

One good thing about this setback – however minor – is that it exposes the hypocritical nature of the Duggar family.

Folks who were angry at how the Duggars were spreading inaccurate information about the ordinance signed a petition demanding that their show be canceled. Other lgbt activists used the controversy to raise a large amount of money for an Arkansas charity, Lucie’s Place, devoted to helping homeless lgbt youth.

The Duggars themselves and their allies claimed that they were under a so-called “malicious attack” by “radical homosexual activists” who attacked them because of their faith and sought to deny them their “religious liberty.”

However, this victory in Fayetteville contradicts the “religious liberty” card played by the Duggars.

You can’t exploit your fame as reality tv stars to bear false witness against the lgbt community and deny us equality while simultaneously claiming victimhood status when we react to your actions.

The sad thing is that I think the Duggars family actually think they can get away with this subterfuge.

The good thing is that in reality, they can’t. And they won’t.

In its deranged madness to prevent a second 9/11 attack on "the homeland", the United States tortured and brutalized suspected "terrorists" with drownings, beatings, forcing food through their anuses, handcuffing people with broken legs to the ceiling, parading them around naked, threatening to sexually assault their mothers and families, exposing them to extreme temperatures, and sensory deprivation.

This is a sterile bullet point-like summary--the irony of that office speak MBA language is fitting and unintentionally macabre and darkly humorous--of the tortures that the CIA will publicly admit to having committed; the real horrors are likely far worse, hiding behind redacted passages and in dark corners, hushed rumors that circulate in the alcohol influenced bar and private conversations of CIA agents and private contractors, never to be publicly admitted to or spoken of.

A willfully ignorant public and a deceptive lying chattering class wrap themselves in American exceptionalism as a means of claiming surprise, shock, and horror at the faux revelations in the CIA torture report. They do this because the truth cannot be reconciled with the myths of an America that never really existed.

America tortures people. It has done this domestically to war resisters, conscience objectors, pacifists, suffragettes, slaves, civil rights workers, and inmates.

Inflicting pain on the black body is a special obsession and paraphilia for white America. In its pogroms, land theft, and riots, white Americans lynched at least 10,000 black citizens.

The CIA torture report is a damning document and a difficult read. It is child's fare compared to the tortures inflicted on black people by white folks for centuries in their ritual birthright of American Apartheid and Jim Crow.

A member of the white lynching party that destroyed Mr. Claude Neal in 1934 offers this account of White America's habit of racial torture on the black body:

“After taking the nigger to the woods about four miles from Greenwood, they cut off his penis. He was made to eat it. Then they cut off his testicles and made him eat them and say he liked it. Then they sliced his sides and stomach with knives and every now and then somebody would cut off a finger or toe. Red hot irons were used on the nigger to burn him from top to bottom.” From time to time during the torture a rope would be tied around Neal’s neck and he was pulled up over a limb and held there until he almost choked to death when he would be let down and the torture begin all over again. After several hours of this unspeakable torture, “they decided just to kill him.”

The United States has tortured people abroad in its wars, secret prisons, and other covert operations. Because the United States has historically been, and remains in the present, a white racist society, it is far easier to torture those who are marked as some type of Other.

Thus, white on black and brown racial violence and torture is far more common than white on white torture.

The United States is also an expert in torture. Its School of the Americas taught soon to be petit-thug dictators and their secret police forces how to torture, intimidate, and terrorize their own people. The hundreds, if not thousands of amateurs in the art of pain would graduate from the School of the Americas as masters, proliferating and spawning many more minions in their own countries, like fruit flies or bacteria, as they "disappeared" and tortured "Communists" in the name of "democracy" and "freedom".

But ultimately, the United States tortures on both sides of the colorline--perhaps this is one of the few spaces that has been radically democratic and inclusive?

America's torture machine, and the culture of cruelty that produced it, exist internationally and across the colorline.

Torture is sustained and legitimated by the banality of evil and a numbness to violence and harm done to others as a learned behavior--one taught by violent movies, video games, and conditioned by a neverending "War on Terror" where robots and drones kill from afar with ruthless efficiency.

Consequently, the "War on Terror" is a persistent "state of emergency" that retards and damages a democratic polity and public sphere.

The philosopher and social critic Slavoj Zizek details this process with his usual keen insight:

The paradox is that the state of emergency was the normal state, while ‘normal’ democratic freedom was the briefly enacted exception. This weird regime anticipated some clearly perceptible trends in our liberal-democratic societies in the aftermath of 11 September. Is today’s rhetoric not that of a global emergency in the fight against terrorism, legitimising more and more suspensions of legal and other rights?

The ominous aspect of John Ashcroft’s recent claim that ‘terrorists use America’s freedom as a weapon against us’ carries the obvious implication that we should limit our freedom in order to defend ourselves. Such statements from top American officials, especially Rumsfeld and Ashcroft, together with the explosive display of ‘American patriotism’ after 11 September, create the climate for what amounts to a state of emergency, with the occasion it supplies for a potential suspension of rule of law, and the state’s assertion of its sovereignty without ‘excessive’ legal constraints. America is, after all, as President Bush said immediately after 11 September, in a state of war.

The problem is that America is, precisely, not in a state of war, at least not in the conventional sense of the term (for the large majority, daily life goes on, and war remains the exclusive business of state agencies). With the distinction between a state of war and a state of peace thus effectively blurred, we are entering a time in which a state of peace can at the same time be a state of emergency.

The CIA report, and the persistent "state of emergency" that was used to legitimate the crimes detailed therein, exists in the same moral, ethical, and cognitive space, as those white people which are stuck in the White Gaze, and twisted by white racial paranoiac thinking, who can watch the video of Eric Garner being choked to death, and subsequently reason that he is responsible for his own death.

The banality of evil is shown by the spokespeople and defenders of the CIA who are more concerned that wicked (and ineffective) torture was "understandable" in the context of America's fear of terrorism, and that those personnel who committed such deeds will be "unfairly" persecuted.

Fear as the justification for cruelty and evil is a common defense. It is deployed by both the nation state and individuals. Darren Wilson, the police killers of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, and other white authorities retreat as a function of habit and training to this plea of "reasonable" fear (as processed through White racial logic) when they kill unarmed black and brown people.

It is empty and possesses little moral weight. Fear as a defense for wrong-doing is a surrender to cowardice and the most low thinking, practices that are more akin to that of impulsive instinct-driven beasts than human beings who imagine themselves as possessing the highest and most evolved capacity for reason.

Half of the American people have succumbed to the banality of evil and the cultural logic of torture.

A new poll by Pew Research details how:

Amid intense debate over the use of torture against suspected terrorists, public opinion about this issue remains fairly stable. Currently, nearly half say the use of torture under such circumstances is often (15%) or sometimes (34%) justified; about the same proportion believes that the torture of suspected terrorists is rarely (22%) or never (25%) justified.

Here, civil virtue and commonsense have been betrayed by fear mongering and manipulation: the American people are legitimating and rationalizing the very policies (directly through the physical act of torture; culturally through a numbing to poverty, human suffering, and an abandonment of a humane society) that have been and will en masse be turned against them in an era of Austerity and Inverted Totalitarianism.

There are many questions that cannot be asked within the limits of the approved American public discourse.

A basic definition of terrorism is the use of violence and fear to accomplish a political goal.

What if the language of "terrorist" and "torture" were applied to the behavior of the United States government and the American people both at home and abroad? Would the same justification for torture remain?

American exceptionalism--and nationalism more generally--can through arbitrary distinctions of territory, and the various colors of dye on a piece of fabric called a flag, make what is deemed to be wrong in one context legitimate and acceptable in another. The distorting of morality, reason, and ethics through nationalism makes the above questions verboten in American public discourse. This does not mean that such questions ought not to be asked or related scenarios explored.

White racial terrorism against people of color was and remains the norm in American life, society, and culture.

The Ku Klux Klan has been (and likely remains) the largest terrorist organization in the history of the United States.

For centuries, white slave patrollers intimidated, harassed, and killed both black human property as well as free people. American Apartheid, that period from the establishment of America as a slave society in the 17th century, through to the softening of legal white supremacy and the resulting colorblind and institutional systems of white racial advantage in the post civil rights era, use(d) violence--and the threat of violence--to intimidate and control the African-American community.

In the post civil rights era and the Age of Obama, America's police have continued with their historic mission of maintaining the colorline through committing acts of both interpersonal and institutional terrorism and violence against black and brown people.

The killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and those hundreds and thousands of others (so many dead, which given the lack of police accountability and transparency, may never be fully and publicly known) killed at least once every 28 hours in the United States serve the political goal of maintaining state custodial citizenship, providing human beings for the profits to made by the prison industrial complex, and satisfying the psychological wages of whiteness in the form of "law and order" and a sense of safety and security from black people in a hyper-segregated society.

Torture as public policy by America's police and prisons has been condemned by groups such as Amnesty International and the United Nations:

The U.N. Committee against Torture urged the United States on Friday to fully investigate and prosecute police brutality and shootings of unarmed black youth and ensure that taser weapons are used sparingly.

The panel’s first review of the U.S. record on preventing torture since 2006 followed racially-tinged unrest in cities across the country this week sparked by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury’s decision not to charge a white police officer for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

The committee decried “excruciating pain and prolonged suffering” for prisoners during “botched executions” as well as frequent rapes of inmates, shackling of pregnant women in some prisons and extensive use of solitary confinement.

Its findings cited deep concern about “numerous reports” of police brutality and excessive use of force against people from minority groups, immigrants, homosexuals and racial profiling. The panel referred to the “frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.”

Incidents of torture by the police against black and brown people are many.

In 1997, New York cops tortured Abner Louima, by anally raping him with a broomstick:

One officer, Justin A. Volpe, admitted in court in May 1999 that he had rammed a broken broomstick into Mr. Louima’s rectum and then thrust it in his face. He said he had mistakenly believed that Mr. Louima had punched him in the head during a street brawl outside a nightclub in Flatbush, but he acknowledged that he had also intended to humiliate the handcuffed immigrant. He left the force and was later sentenced to 30 years in prison. The commanders of the 70th Precinct were replaced within days of the assault. As the legal case wore on, Charles Schwarz, a former police officer, was sentenced in federal court in 2002 to five years in prison for perjury stemming from the torture case. A jury found that Mr. Schwarz had lied when he testified that he had not taken Mr. Louima to the station house bathroom where the assault took place.

Mr. Louima, who was born in Thomassin, Haiti, in 1966, and immigrated to New York in 1991, suffered a ruptured bladder and colon and spent two months in the hospital. The charges against him were dropped.

More than 100 black men in Chicago were tortured by police over the course of several decades in order to force them to give false confessions:

Men who say they were tortured by Chicago police into confessing to crimes they did not commit are renewing calls for compensation from the city.

They held a news conference Thursday to ask the City Council to pass an ordinance establishing a $20 million fund to torture victims who didn't qualify for settlements because of the statute of limitations.

More than 100 men have accused former police commander Jon Burge and officers under his command of shocking, suffocating and beating them into giving false confessions. Burge has never been criminally charged with torture.

But he is serving a 4 1/2 -year sentence for lying about the torture in a civil case, and was scheduled to leave prison on Thursday to serve the remainder of his time in a halfway house.

Michael Brown's body laying in the street for four hours; Eric Garner's plea for mercy that "I can't breath!"; the sodomizing of Abner Louima; the tortures that are day-to-day policy in America's prisons and jails; police brutality and militarization; the beatings, anal force feeding, sensory deprivation, drownings, and other cruelties detailed by the CIA torture report, are part of a broader culture of cruelty where human life is cheapened and debased.

Moreover, the culture of cruelty is international and domestic. On both terrains, it is far easier for the American state and its representatives to torture and render other violence against non-whites. White racial logic deems it acceptable to kill some nebulous brown Muslim "terrorist" Other in the same way that unarmed black men are transformed into "giant negroes" with superhuman strength who are demonically possessed while they supposedly attack white police officers.

If the Pew survey is correct--and half of the American people actually believe that "terrorists" from abroad should be tortured--then philosophical consistency should demand the same treatment for (white) American terrorists at home who harass, kill, or otherwise benefit from institutional and interpersonal white on black and brown violence by police and the state.

Such a suggestion may be met with shock or upset by those who are afraid to ask foundational questions about human decency and the Common Good outside of the comforting blinders of flag-waving nationalism and the panoply of myths which sustain a belief that America is "the best country on Earth".

Torture is wrong. It is unacceptable when done against "terrorists" or other "enemies of the state" abroad. Torture and terrorism are unacceptable when done by the United States government, police, or other representatives against its black and brown citizens and communities, as well as white folks too.

Moral consistency is the simplest of principles and behaviors; it is also very difficult for many Americans, especially those drunk on American exceptionalism and Right-wing authoritarianism, to comprehend and understand.

This is the failure of national character that made the horrors detailed in the CIA torture report possible.

All Americans of conscience should decry, condemn, and hold accountable the individuals, government behavior, and cruel policies detailed in the CIA torture report. Those same Americans of conscience should demand accountability from the police who kill unarmed and innocent black and brown people.

"Not in my name!" is a slogan and command for America's broken foreign policies to be corrected.

"Not in my name!" should be shouted (and acted upon) by all of our white brothers and sisters at the police thugs who are engaging in racial terrorism against the black community.

Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Warren Blumenfeld

A grand jury in St. Louis county Missouri, on November 24, 2014, failed to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed black man, Michael Brown, Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014.

Now a grand jury has decided not to indict Staten Island police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in the July 17, 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man who was selling loose cigarettes in violation of New York law.

After my initial outrage and disgust after hearing both these decisions, I am left with so many unanswered questions that I don't know where to begin, but begin I will.

Darren Wilson Case

There is sufficient reason to doubt Darren Wilson's assertion that he was in fear for his life in the presence of Michael Brown, Jr., but for the sake of argument, if Wilson was, in fact, in fear for his life, tell us why he felt compelled to aim approximately twenty bullets at Michael Brown, Jr. hitting him six times with two to the head? Why didn't he aim to slow Brown down, to injure him rather than to kill?

Why did Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis Country prosecutor not recuse himself from the case due to a conflict of interest since his own father, a police officer, was killed by a black man?

Why was the grand jury composed of only three black people compared with nine white people? Yes, I understand that demographically, white people comprise approximately 70 percent of St. Louis country, and they represent Darren Wilson's peers, but what about a grand jury composed more equally of Michael Brown, Jr.'s peers? Did his rights to a "jury of his peers" terminate with his killing?

Why does Ferguson, Missouri have a police force that includes only three black officers and the overwhelming majority composed of white officers in a town of 70 percent black residents?

Why did McCulloch decide to announce the grand jury decision not to indict at 8:00 p.m. after dark? What was his intent? And why did the city of Ferguson concentrate police officers and the National Guard primarily downtown rather than also in the neighborhoods to protect black-owned business from vandalism and destruction?

When a young man is killed over box of smokes, where a smoke screen seems to cover the many still unanswered questions, when a grand jury acquitted an officers on charges in secret proceedings, how can healing begin when the heart is ripped from a community? And how can justice be served when so many questions linger?

Daniel Pantaleo Case

In our nation, as we see the decriminalization of marijuana in state after state, as the federal government has increasingly lowered the penalties for accumulating small amounts of pot, why does New York State maintain a law criminalizing the sale of loose cigarettes? Didn't Eric Garner and others who do so simply conform to a basic tenet of Capitalism by selling legal merchandise at a profit? Take for example the restaurant industry, which buys large quantities of food stuffs, and sells smaller amounts at a profit. Should we pass laws against the food industry as well?

Why did it take a gaggle of officers to confront Eric Garner for simply selling cigarettes? Don't Staten Island officers have more important work to perform? Was Garner's so-called "crime" so serious that the force needed to divert such a large segment of its human resources to confront Garner?

How many more times in addition to 11 would it have taken Eric Garner to utter that he couldn't breathe for Pantaleo to ease his grip on Garner's neck and chest?

With all the increased calls for police officers to wear body cams while on duty to record their interactions with the public, will juries actually consider what they see on video screens in court rooms? This grand jury had the change to witness the actually events in the Pantaleo case, which was clearly recorded by an eye witness, and still, it refused to indict?

Pantaleo argued in front of the grand jury that he "had not intended" to kill Eric Garner. When will we as a nation understand that the burden of proof in many court cases must rest on the impact of an action and not merely on the intent of the person committing the action?

Since prosecutors work closely with police departments, and they depend on police evidence for details in the vast majority of their cases, does it really make sense for prosecutors to lead efforts in investigating the very officers with whom they count on in their work? Is this system itself not a conflict of interest?

Tiered (Teared) System of Justice

"[African Americans are] born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world - a world which yields [them] no true self-consciousness, but only lets [them] see [themselves] through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity." W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903.

For DuBois, this "veil" concept can be taken three ways. First, it suggests the literal darker skin of black people, a physical delineation of separation from whiteness.Secondly, the veil suggests white people's deficiency or inability in seeing African Americans as "true" U.S.-Americans.And lastly, the veil refers to black peoples' difficulty under a racist system to see themselves apart from how white U.S.-Americans define and characterize them.

The veil hanging over African Americans, though, operates like a one-way mirror. They can easily see outward onto white America, and in this way, they develop a "double consciousness." Though not in the truest sense "bicultural," they acquire a realization of "otherness." For emotional and often physical survival, they must learn how to operate in two societies, one black and one white. White people have no such veil wrapped around them, and the mirror makes it difficult for them to perceive the realities of African Americans.

This relative inability of white people to see through the veil was reflected in a Pew Research Study of 1000 people conducted between August 14-17, 2014. It found profound racial divisions between African American and white people on attitudes surrounding the police killing of Michael Brown Jr.

Among the study's finding, fully 80 percent of African Americans compared to 39 percent of white people stated that the fatal shooting "raises important issues about race." Conversely, 47 percent of white people versus 18 percent of African Americans believe that "race is getting more attention than it deserves." In addition, 65 percent of African American and only 33 percent of white people believe the police response went "too far" in the aftermath of the incident.

Blauner wrote earlier of a United States in which there exists "two languages of race," one spoken by black people (and by implication, other people of color), the other by white people. By "language," he refers to a system of meaning attached to social reality, in this instance a "racial language" reflecting a view of the world. This echoes the conclusions of the Kerner Commission report released in 1968 in its study of urban unrest. It stated, in part, that the United States was moving toward two separate societies: one white and one black (though the report left it uncertain where other communities of color fit into this equation).

Can we as a society cut through the vail and begin to know and understand those different from ourselves, to have the ability to walk in the shoes of another, to break down these "us" versus "them" notions that separate? First, we as white people must dismantle the denial systems that prevent many of us grasping our social privileges and the realities of "race" in U.S.-America.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren's Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press); and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on  Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Holiday bells are silent in the homes of America’s struggling working poor, even with gasoline

prices at their lowest levels in years.

These are people derided as moochers because their starvation wages force them to accept food

stamps to feed their children.

On the other side of town, inside gated communities where guards demand photo ID even from

Santa, CEOs’ Christmas plums are super-sugared with record-breaking corporate profits.

These are people somehow not derided as moochers, even though their million-dollar pay

packages are propped up by tax breaks.

The parable of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” springs to mind as Wall Street banks and

law firms hand out six- and seven-figure year end bonuses while Walmart and fast food workers

protest wages so low that their holiday meals are food pantry dregs. It is CEOs, not the working

poor, who deserve public scorn for their dependence on government handouts.

The Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies issued a report last

month that details the mooching of the nation’s top corporations and CEOs. It’s called “Fleecing

Uncle Sam.” The findings are pretty galling.

Of American’s 100 top-paid CEOs, 29 worked schemes that enabled them to collect more in

compensation than their corporations paid in income taxes. The average pay for these 29: $32

million. For one year. And corporations mangle the tax code to deduct that too.

Though their corporations reported combined pre-tax profits of $24 billion, they wrangled $238

million in tax refunds out of the federal government. That’s refunds – the government gave

money to highly profitable corporations.

That’s an effective tax rate of negative 1 percent.

That means middle class taxpayers helped cover the cost of million-dollar pay packages for

CEOs. Middle class taxpayers, whose median family income is $51,324 and whose federal income taxes are withdrawn directly from their checks before they see a cent of pay, support

CEOs who pull down $32 million a year.

That qualifies CEOs as first-class fleecers!

Their corporations pay nothing for essential government services that middle class taxpayers

provide. That includes patent protection, the Commerce Department’s sanctions against foreign

trade rule violations, and federal court dispute resolution.

Some corporations haven’t developed schemes enabling them to tax the federal government.

Instead, they pay, but not at that 35 percent rate they’re always whining about. Between 2008

and 2012, the average large corporation, according to Fleecing Uncle Sam, paid just 19.4

percent.

Individuals earning $50,000 a year pay 25 percent. Clearly, corporations are not paying a fair

share at 19 percent.

There’s this wacky theory that if governments excuse corporations from paying their share, then

they’ll expand and create jobs. It’s wacky because it’s fiction. Highly profitable corporations

aren’t expanding and creating jobs; they’re buying back their own stock.

A study by University of Massachusetts professor William Lazonick, president of the AcademicIndustry

Research Network, showed that between 2003 and 2012, S&P 500 corporations used 54

percent of their earnings – $2.4 trillion – to buy their own stock.

This isn’t creating jobs. This isn’t investing in a corporation’s future. This is adding to CEO

wealth. It works like this: Stock buybacks push up stock prices. Forty-two percent of

compensation for S&P 500 CEOs comes from stock options. Thus, as Lazonick points out, stock

increases equal CEO pay raises.

Corporations don’t expand just because untaxed profits are sitting around anyway. They expand

to meet demand. And corporate practices have deflated demand.

Part of the problem is that CEOs and top executives are taking an increasing portion while doling

out less to workers. As the New York Times reported in January, wages have fallen to a record

low as a share of gross domestic product, dropping to 43.5 percent last year. It was 50 percent in

1975. The decline means less demand.

But there’s more. Just last week, the New York Times noted two other trends that contribute to

weak demand. One is wage theft. The U.S. Department of Labor found that more than 300,000

workers in New York and California are victims of minimum wage violations each month,

costing them between $20 million and $29 million each week. If corporations didn’t cheat them

out of those earnings, their spending would generate greater demand. The other trend is insecure income. Millions of Americans are unsure week to week how much

money will be coming into their households. This occurs for many reasons, but among the most

prominent is the refusal of employers to provide workers with steady weekly hours and practices

like sending workers home when retail or restaurant traffic is light. A survey by the Federal

Reserve suggests the problem of unreliable income may have worsened as Wall Street has

strengthened. Families that can’t pay their bills reduce demand.

Instead of giving workers raises and steady hours, corporations have rewarded only those at the

top. The Fleecing Uncle Sam study found that companies that paid their CEOs more than they

paid in federal income taxes gave those CEOs fat raises. The average pay of these CEOs rose

from $16.7 million in 2010 to $32 million in 2013.

They’ve got trillions for CEOs and stock buy-backs, but nothing for workers or the federal

government.

This isn’t an accident. It’s not some invisible hand of the market. It’s CEOs freeloading.

No ghosts are going to show up to convert these Scrooges into humans. Instead, the first step in

that process is recognizing that the moochers are the CEOs, not the hapless food stamp recipients

who desperately want steady, full-time, decently-paid work. The second step is to demand that

corporations pay their fair share of taxes and provide steady, full-time, decently-paid work.