Monday, August 29, 2016
FP | A main element of the biological revolution will be its impact on security in the broadest sense of the term, as well as on the more specific realm of military activity. Both of these are part of the work being done by various laboratories around the globe, including here in the United States at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, where I serve as a senior fellow.
Some of the most promising advances made at JHU APL and elsewhere involve man-machine interfaces, with particular emphasis on brain-machine connections that would allow the use of disconnected limbs; more rapid disease identification in response to both natural and man-made epidemics; artificial intelligence, which offers the greatest near-term potential for both positive benefit and military application (i.e., autonomous attack drones); human performance enhancement, including significant reduction in sleep needs, increases in mental acuity, and improvements in exoskeleton and skin “armor”; and efficient genome editing using CRISPR-Cas, a technology that has become widely available to ever smaller laboratory settings, including individuals working out of their homes.
The most important question is how to appropriately pursue such research while remaining within the legal, ethical, moral, and policy boundaries that our society might one day like to set, though are still largely unformed. Scientists are like soldiers on patrol in unmarked terrain, one that is occasionally illuminated by a flash of lightning, revealing steeper and more dangerous ground ahead. The United States needs to continue its research efforts, but, equally important, it needs to develop a coherent and cohesive biological strategy to guide those efforts.
But national biological research efforts will also have international implications, so over time there will need to be international diplomacy to set norms of behavior for the use of these technologies. The diplomacy that went into developing the Law of the Sea, and is under consideration in the cyberworld, could serve as a useful model.
A major challenge for such diplomacy is that individual nations, transnational organizations, or even individuals will soon have access — if they don’t already — to biological tools that permit manipulation of living organisms. The rise of low-cost synthetic biology technologies, the falling cost of DNA sequencing, and the diffusion of knowledge through the internet create the conditions for a breakout biological event not dissimilar to the Spanish influenza of roughly a century ago. In that plague, by some estimates, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population was infected, with a 10 to 20 percent mortality rate. Extrapolated to our current global population, that would equate to more than 400 million dead.
tomdispatch | By 2008, congressional legislation had been written -- the Veterans’ Mental Health and Other Care Improvement Act -- directing the VA to develop a plan to evaluate all patients for pain. When the VA objected to Congress dictating its medical procedures, Big Pharma launched a “Freedom from Pain” media blitz, enlisting veterans’ organizations to campaign for the bill and get it passed.
Those painkillers were also dispatched to the war zones where our troops were physically breaking down under the weight of the equipment they carried. By 2010, a third of the Army’s soldiers were on prescription medications -- and nearly half of them, 76,500, were on prescription opioids -- which proved to be highly addictive, despite the assurance of experts like Rollin Gallagher. In 2007, for instance, “The American Veterans and Service Members Survival Guide,” distributed by the American Pain Foundation and edited by Gallagher, offered this assurance: “[W]hen used for medical purposes and under the guidance of a skilled health-care provider, the risk of addiction from opioid pain medication is very low.”
By that time, here at home, soldiers and vets were dying at astonishing rates from accidental or deliberate overdoses. Civilian doctors as well had been persuaded to overprescribe these drugs, so that by 2011 the CDC announced a national epidemic, affecting more than 12 million Americans. In May 2012, the Senate Finance Committee finally initiated an investigation into the perhaps “improper relation” between Big Pharma and the pain foundations. That investigation is still “ongoing,” which means that no information about it can yet be revealed to the public.
Meanwhile, opioid addicts, both veterans and civilians, were discovering that heroin was a cheaper and no less effective way to go. Because heroin is often cut with Fentanyl, a more powerful opioid, however, drug deaths rose dramatically.
This epidemic of death is in the news almost every day now as hard-hit cities and states sue the drug makers, but rarely is it traced to its launching pad: the Big Pharma conspiracy to make big bucks off our country’s wounded soldiers.
It took the VA far too long to extricate itself from medical policies marketed by Big Pharma and, in effect, prescribed by Congress. It had made the mistake of turning to the Pharma-funded pain foundations in 2004 to select its Deputy National Program Director of Pain Management: the ubiquitous Dr. Gallagher. But when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency finally laid down new restrictive rules on opioids in 2014, the VA had to comply. That’s been hard on the thousands of opioid-dependent vets it had unwittingly hooked, and it’s becoming harder as Republicans in Congress move to privatize the VA and send vets out with vouchers to find their own health care.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
RT | Earlier this week, the Associated Press (AP) has revealed that more than half of all Clinton's meetings with the people outside the government, when she was secretary of state, were with donors to her private foundation.
"At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press," the investigating journalists reported, saying that "it's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president."
In total, the Clinton Foundation received as much as $156 million from those 85 donors, who contributed financially either personally or through companies or groups, according to AP. At least 20 of those donors gave more than $1 million each, the report added.
Some of Clinton's emails that she failed to turn over to the US government, but were released after a Freedom of Information Act request, suggest the charitable foundation might have possibly rewarded its donors with special access and influence inside the State Department. The social media reacted with a #PayToPlay hashtag, with Twitter users angered by the Democratic candidate's alleged "corruption."
zerohedge | Is the Hillary Victory Fund using state democratic committees to launder donations from wealthy individuals to the Democratic National Committee? Evidence gathered by Bloomberg would certainly seem to suggest so.
So how does it work? Campaign finance laws specifically restrict the amount of money any single person can give to individual candidates ($2,700), a party's various state committees ($10,000) as well as a party's national committee ($33,400). In theory, therefore, that would imply a person would be capped out at $46,100 if he contributed the max his Presidential candidate, his party's national committee and his party's state committee. But, that's just a narrow "interpretation" of the "intent" of the campaign finance laws and Hillary isn't really all about "intent"...just ask FBI Director Comey.
So, the Hillary Victory Fund has come up with a clever way to use state democratic committees (of which there are 33) as money-laundering tools to effectively increase the amount that can be contributed to the Democratic National Committee from $33,400 to $363,400 (it's only like 1,000% more than intended).
How do they do it? Well, the rules say that a single person can only contribute $10,000 to any one State. That said, they don't restrict people from contributing $10,000 to multiple states. Moreover, there are no restrictions on transfers of funds from Democratic State Committees to the Democratic National Committee. See where we're going with this?
Effectively the Hillary Victory Fund acts as a "bundler" which collects large donations from wealthy investors. Per the diagram below, contributions are then maxed out to "Hillary For President" and the "Democratic National Committee." Any remaining funds are then spliced up and sent in $10,000 increments to the 33 different State Democratic Committees. That said, the state committees simply act as flow through entities which subsequently pass the contributions from the Hillary Victory Fund along to the Democratic National Committee. Isn't that neat?
The beauty of this system, of course, is that once the money is aggregated at the Democratic National Committee it becomes very "flexible." The DNC can then use that money to support Hillary and/or any of a number of contentious races in any state it wants (e.g. battleground states).
wikipedia | Follow the money is a catchphrase popularized by the 1976 drama-documentary motion picture All The President's Men, which suggests a money trail or corruption scheme within high (often political) office. For the film, screenwriter William Goldman attributed the phrase to Deep Throat, the informant who took part in revealing the Watergate Scandal. However, the phrase is neither mentioned in the non-fiction book that preceded the film, nor any documentation of the scandal. The book does contain the phrase "The key was the secret campaign cash, and it should all be traced," which Woodward says to Senator Sam Ervin. This may have been condensed to the phrase "follow the money" in the screenwriting process.
The phrase Follow the money was mentioned by Henry Peterson at the 1974 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings as Earl J. Silbert was nominated to U.S. Attorney. A 1975 book by Clive Borrell and Brian Cashinella, Crime in Britain Today, also uses the phrase.
Since the 1970s, Follow the money has been used several times in investigative journalism and political debate. One example is Follow the Money, a series of CBS reports.
In an episode of "The Wire," Detective Lester Freamon uses the phrase when investigating the dealings of a Baltimore criminal gang to explain the political difficulty of investigating organized crime, saying "You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money, and you don't know where the fuck it's gonna take you".
wikipedia | Influence peddling is the illegal practice of using one's influence in government or connections with persons in authority to obtain favours or preferential treatment for another, usually in return for payment. Also called traffic of influence or trading in influence. In fact, influence peddling is not necessarily illegal as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has often used the term "undue influence peddling" to refer to illegal acts of lobbying.  However, influence peddling bears the stench of corruption that may de-legitimise democratic politics with the general public.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
HuffPo | Perhaps Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) thought he had been too subtle in expressing his views on black and Hispanic people in the past. How else to explain what he said in a Friday press conference while discussing a threatening, expletive-filled voicemail that he’d left for a state legislator?
LePage was widely criticized earlier this year for claiming men with names like “Smoothie, D-Money and Shifty” were coming into his state to deal drugs. Earlier this week, he said he keeps a binder with mugshots of all the drug dealers arrested in Maine, and he claimed that 90 percent of the people in that binder were black or Hispanic.
Note that 95 percent of Maine residents are white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
On Friday, LePage first denied that Maine police officers were racially profiling people ― an obvious concern if they really are arresting almost exclusively people of color for drug crimes.
Then the governor suggested that people of color in Maine were “the enemy.”
PressHerald | LePage later invited a Portland Press Herald reporter and a two-person television crew from WMTW to the Blaine House, where during a 30-minute interview the governor described his anger with Gattine and others, told them he had left the phone message and said he wished he and the lawmaker could engage in an armed duel to settle the matter.
“When a snot-nosed little guy from Westbrook calls me a racist, now I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825,” LePage said. “And we would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be (Alexander) Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this Legislature to help move the state forward.”
Gattine is the House chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, which has opposed some of LePage’s welfare, drug enforcement and other reforms. He said the governor’s phone message was uncalled for.
thehill | According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, Breitbart embraces “ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas.
Race-baiting ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant ideas –– all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’”
Alt-Right is short for “Alternative Right.”
The Wall Street Journal describes it as a loosely organized movement, mostly online, that “rejects mainstream conservatism, promotes nationalism and views immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.”
The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for the “Alt-Right.” A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party.
This is part of a broader story -- the rising tide of hardline, right-wing nationalism around the world.
Just yesterday, one of Britain’s most prominent right-wing leaders, Nigel Farage, who stoked anti-immigrant sentiments to win the referendum on leaving the European Union, campaigned with Donald Trump in Mississippi.
Farage has called for a ban on the children of legal immigrants from public schools and health services, has said women are quote “worth less” than men, and supports scrapping laws that prevent employers from discriminating based on race -- that’s who Trump wants by his side.
The godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism is Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In fact, Farage has appeared regularly on Russian propaganda programs.
Now he’s standing on the same stage as the Republican nominee.
Trump himself heaps praise on Putin and embrace pro-Russian policies.
He talks casually of abandoning our NATO allies, recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and of giving the Kremlin a free hand in Eastern Europe more generally.
American presidents from Truman to Reagan have rejected the kind of approach Trump is taking on Russia.
We should, too.
All of this adds up to something we’ve never seen before.
Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.
On David Duke’s radio show the other day, the mood was jubilant.
“We appear to have taken over the Republican Party,” one white supremacist said.
Duke laughed. There’s still more work to do, he said.
No one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here. The names may have changed… Racists now call themselves “racialists.” White supremacists now call themselves “white nationalists.” The paranoid fringe now calls itself “alt-right.” But the hate burns just as bright.
And now Trump is trying to rebrand himself as well. Don’t be fooled.
There’s an old Mexican proverb that says “Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are.”
We know who Trump is. A few words on a teleprompter won’t change that.
He says he wants to “make America great again,” but his real message remains “Make America hate again.”
Friday, August 26, 2016
counterpunch | The main architect of Washington’s plan to rule the world has abandoned the scheme and called for the forging of ties with Russia and China. While Zbigniew Brzezinski’s article in The American Interest titled “Towards a Global Realignment” has largely been ignored by the media, it shows that powerful members of the policymaking establishment no longer believe that Washington will prevail in its quest to extent US hegemony across the Middle East and Asia. Brzezinski, who was the main proponent of this idea and who drew up the blueprint for imperial expansion in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, has done an about-face and called for a dramatic revising of the strategy. Here’s an excerpt from the article in the AI:
“As its era of global dominance ends, the United States needs to take the lead in realigning the global power architecture.
Five basic verities regarding the emerging redistribution of global political power and the violent political awakening in the Middle East are signaling the coming of a new global realignment.
The first of these verities is that the United States is still the world’s politically, economically, and militarily most powerful entity but, given complex geopolitical shifts in regional balances, it is no longer the globally imperial power.” (Toward a Global Realignment, Zbigniew Brzezinski, The American Interest)
Repeat: The US is “no longer the globally imperial power.”
We have not yet reached the tipping point for US primacy, but that day is fast approaching and Brzezinski knows it.
In contrast, Clinton is still fully-committed to expanding US hegemony across Asia. She doesn’t understand the risks this poses for the country or the world. She’s going to persist with the interventions until the US war-making juggernaut is stopped dead-in-its-tracks which, judging by her hyperbolic rhetoric, will probably happen some time in her first term.
Brzezinski presents a rational but self-serving plan to climb-down, minimize future conflicts, avoid a nuclear conflagration and preserve the global order. (aka–The “dollar system”) But will bloodthirsty Hillary follow his advice?
Not a chance.
NYTimes | Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do not agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia’s support for “radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.” He has called the Saudis “the world’s biggest funders of terrorism.”
The first American diplomat to serve as envoy to Muslim communities around the world visited 80 countries and concluded that the Saudi influence was destroying tolerant Islamic traditions. “If the Saudis do not cease what they are doing,” the official, Farah Pandith, wrote last year, “there must be diplomatic, cultural and economic consequences.”
And hardly a week passes without a television pundit or a newspaper columnist blaming Saudi Arabia for jihadist violence. On HBO, Bill Maher calls Saudi teachings “medieval,” adding an epithet. In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria writes that the Saudis have “created a monster in the world of Islam.”
The idea has become a commonplace: that Saudi Arabia’s export of the rigid, bigoted, patriarchal, fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism has fueled global extremism and contributed to terrorism. As the Islamic State projects its menacing calls for violence into the West, directing or inspiring terrorist attacks in country after country, an old debate over Saudi influence on Islam has taken on new relevance.
Is the world today a more divided, dangerous and violent place because of the cumulative effect of five decades of oil-financed proselytizing from the historical heart of the Muslim world? Or is Saudi Arabia, which has often supported Western-friendly autocrats over Islamists, merely a convenient scapegoat for extremism and terrorism with many complex causes — the United States’s own actions among them?
Thursday, August 25, 2016
bloomberg | Since January, police have been testing an aerial surveillance system adapted from the surge in Iraq. And they neglected to tell the public. Since the beginning of the year, the Baltimore Police Department had been using the plane to investigate all sorts of crimes, from property thefts to shootings. The Cessna sometimes flew above the city for as many as 10 hours a day, and the public had no idea it was there.
A company called Persistent Surveillance Systems, based in Dayton, Ohio, provided the service to the police, and the funding came from a private donor. No public disclosure of the program had ever been made.
Outside the courthouse, several of the protesters began marching around the building, chanting for justice. The plane continued to circle overhead, unseen.
RT | An independent police monitor found the New York Police Department violated surveillance laws, particularly when spying on Muslim groups. The report found NYPD’s intelligence division often continued surveillance after court permission for it expired.
As far back as 2004, the NYPD failed to get permission to continue investigations of Muslims groups, the New York Inspector General said. For its investigation, the IG used a sample of all cases closed between 2010 and 2015, some of which go back to 2004.
In 25 percent of the cases, surveillance investigations continue for more than a month past the when the bureau should have obtained renewed authorization.
The report, released on Tuesday, found that more than 95 percent of the people under investigation in the cases were “associated with Muslims and/or engaged in political activity that those individuals associated with Islam.”
chomsky | The Trilateral Commission has issued one major book-length report, namely, The Crisis of Democracy (Michel Crozier, Samuel Huntington, and Joji Watanuki, 1975). Given the intimate connections between the Commission and the Carter Administration, the study is worth careful attention, as an indication of the thinking that may well lie behind its domestic policies, as well as the policies undertaken in other industrial democracies in the coming years.
The Commission’s report is concerned with the “governability of the democracies.” Its American author, Samuel Huntington, was former chairman of the Department of Government at Harvard, and a government adviser. He is well-known for his ideas on how to destroy the rural revolution in Vietnam. He wrote in Foreign Affairs (1968) that “In an absent-minded way the United States in Vietnam may well have stumbled upon the answer to ‘wars of national liberation.'” The answer is “forced-draft urbanization and modernization.” Explaining this concept, he observes that if direct application of military force in the countryside “takes place on such a massive scale as to produce a massive migration from countryside to city” then the “Maoist-inspired rural revolution may be “undercut by the American-sponsored urban revolution.” The Viet Cong, he wrote, is “a powerful force which cannot be dislodged from its constituency so long as the constituency continues to exist.”
Thus “in the immediate future” peace must “be based on accommodation” particularly since the US is unwilling to undertake the “expensive, time consuming and frustrating task” of ensuring that the constituency of the Viet Cong no longer exists (he was wrong about that, as the Nixon-Kissinger programs of rural massacre were to show). “Accommodation” as conceived by Huntington is a process whereby the Viet Cong “degenerate into the protest of a declining rural minority” while the regime imposed by US force maintains power. A year later, when it appeared that “urbanization” by military force was not succeeding and it seemed that the United States might be compelled to enter into negotiations with the NLF [National Liberation Front] (which he recognized to be “the most powerful purely political national organization”), Huntington, in a paper delivered before the AID-supported Council on Vietnamese Studies which he had headed, proposed various measures of political trickery and manipulation that might be used to achieve the domination of the U.S.-imposed government, though the discussants felt rather pessimistic about the prospects….
In short, Huntington is well-qualified to discourse on the problems of democracy.
The report argues that what is needed in the industrial democracies “is a greater degree of moderation in democracy” to overcome the “excess of democracy” of the past decade. “The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” This recommendation recalls the analysis of Third World problems put forth by other political thinkers of the same persuasion, for example, Ithiel Pool (then chairman of the Department of Political Science at MIT), who explained some years ago that in Vietnam, the Congo, and the Dominican Republic, “order depends on somehow compelling newly mobilized strata to return to a measure of passivity and defeatism… At least temporarily the maintenance of order requires a lowering of newly acquired aspirations and levels of political activity.” The Trilateral recommendations for the capitalist democracies are an application at home of the theories of “order” developed for subject societies of the Third World.
RT | Forty-five years ago this week, a single memo written by Lewis Powell kicked off the corporate takeover of the US government and inspired a generation of think tanks, lobbyists, and dirty money.
The conservative corporate lawyer, who would later be appointed to the US Supreme Court by Republican President Richard Nixon, wrote a memo to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Eugene Sydnor, putting forth a plan to tackle the environmental and civil rights movements which were pushing for more health and safety regulations.
Powell was addressing concerns held by conservatives surrounding the New Deal and the Great Society, which included Social Security, the Labor Relations Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and anti-discrimination laws.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
zerohedge | Yesterday's report that more than half, or at least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or spoke to Hillary Clinton while she led the State Department, donated at least $156 million to her family charity or pledged commitments with at least 16 foreign governments donating as much as $170 million, has become the latest goldmine for Donald Trump and Republicans who finally have a break in the anti-Trump news cycle to pounce on.
"It is now clear that the Clinton Foundation is the most corrupt enterprise in political history," Trump said in a statement, reiterating a claim he made earlier in the week. "We've now learned that a majority of the non-government people she met with as secretary of state gave money to the corrupt Clinton Foundation. ... It was wrong then, and it is wrong now -- and the foundation must be shut down immediately."
archive | A “brilliant” barrister who represented Julian Assange ended his life by leaping under a train after he was allowed to leave a private mental health hospital to go for a walk at 5am.
John Jones QC, a 48-year-old married father of two who worked at renowned legal chambers Doughty Street, was being treated for severe depression and had recently had his medication changed when he died at West Hampstead Thameslink station on April 18 this year.
An inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard that the lawyer – who worked on high profile war crimes cases at The Hague – suffered from “obsessive overthinking” which had become prevalent following a stressful period in his life.
He lived in Golders Green, and was staying as a voluntary patient at The Nightingale hospital in Marylebone in the weeks leading up to his death.
dailymail | FBI agents' reports of interviews documenting that Hillary Clinton's stinging humiliation of her friend and mentor Vince Foster in front of White House aides triggered his suicide a week later are missing from where they should be filed at the National Archives, Daily Mail Online has learned exclusively.
On two separate occasions, this author visited the National Archives and Records Service in College Park, Md., to review the reports generated by FBI agents assigned to investigate the 1993 death of Bill Clinton's deputy White House counsel.
On the first visit, archivist David Paynter provided the box of records that he said contained the FBI reports of interviews conducted by FBI agents on Foster's death.
On a second visit, archivist James Mathis provided what he said were those same documents.
While the box contained dozens of FBI reports concerning Foster's death - including interviews with the medical examiner, U.S. Park Police officers, and White House aides about the contents of Foster's office - the reports on Hillary Clinton's role in his death were absent.
After filing a Freedom of Information request with the National Archives, Martha Murphy, the archives' public liaison, reported that she directed a senior archivist to conduct a more thorough review of the relevant FBI files, including those that had not been previously made public in response to FOIA requests.
'He examined all eight boxes but found no interviews by any investigator that detail either a meeting between Hillary Clinton and Vince Foster or the effects of a meeting between Hillary Clinton and Vince Foster on Vince Foster's state of mind,' Murphy reported in an email.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
theroot | American empires are built on the little white lie that rests on the premise that people of color are scary and dangerous. There is a long history of white people gaining money, power, influence, sympathy or a few more Twitter followers by using the currency that is the dark-skinned demon. It buys white fright, and in America, with white fright on your side, you can get anything you want.
There are countless white-fright stories of white men coercing women into accusing black men of rape to initiate lynchings and retake valuable land from newly freed slaves in the post-Reconstruction South. In 1918, when black sharecroppers in Phillips County, Ark., decided to unionize and combine resources, farmers spread the word as far as Mississippi of a black conspiracy to murder white planters. The result was 237 dead black men, women and children in one of the worst mass lynchings in U.S. history. Lying-ass dogs.
America’s war on drugs began when newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst decided that hemp production might endanger his pulp and paper empire, so one of his papers editorialized the now famous quote, “Marijuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.” That the drug war was a black thing always sounded like a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory until last year, when an aide from the Nixon administration—who invented the term “war on drugs”—revealed to CNN:
You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the [Vietnam] war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. […] We could arrest their leaders[,] raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
One of the reasons accusations of racism seem so inflammatory is that there is widespread belief that pointing out a racist act automatically means the person who did it hates people of color. Contrary to popular belief, racism does not necessarily equal hate. Racism sometimes manifests itself in the privileged apathy that does not consider people of color a lower, lesser form of humanity. Instead, people of color aren’t considered at all. To some people they are just brown props on a white stage—to be manipulated and used as needed. We are step stools and tools. They don’t always shoot black people in the face or string them from trees; sometimes they just carelessly toss us under the bus of their choosing.
Like when, in 1994, white fright went viral with Susan Smith, who told the story of how a black man carjacked her in South Carolina while her sons were in the car, only for it to turn out that she murdered them and drove them into a lake.
vox | Contrary to Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, welfare had created chronic dependence on subsidies like Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). But rather than adjust the policy or address the core reasons so many people were stuck in the cycle, the conversation focused largely on vilifying welfare recipients as corrupt drains on society, leeching off hard-working American’s tax dollars.
And even though white and black families made up similar numbers of AFDC cases between 1983 and 1995, black women were the face of both welfare’s failure and the culprits who corrupted it, and an indictment of the Democratic Party that supported them.
Clinton, however, offered a different vision. After some back and forth with the GOP, the AFDC was effectively renamed the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Through block grants, the policy required recipients to find a job two years after they began seeking benefits, and put a five-year lifetime limit on receiving benefits. Also among its goals was a push to promote two-parent households and marriage, drawing heavily from dubious ideas that women were using out-of-wedlock births to cash in on welfare checks.
PWRORA helped Clinton effectively dismantle a social safety net for the poorest Americans with a program that incentivized them to seek work because there was little money invested in supporting them otherwise.
Clinton also found a way to rebrand the political party he led by putting an end to the system championed by Democratic presidents before him. But he did so by following Reagan and other Republicans.
Clinton drew the ire of liberals, including Mary Jo Bane, Wendell Primus, and Peter Edelman — prominent officials at Health and Human Services under his administration who resigned in protest.
In a 1997 Atlantic essay titled "The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done," Edelman, a longtime friend of Clinton, lambasted just what was wrong with PRWORA: "The bill closes its eyes to all the fact and complexities of the real world and essentially says to recipients, Find a job. That has a nice bumper-sticker ring to it. But as a one-size-fits-all recipe it is totally unrealistic."
A part of this was simply politics. Clinton entered the White House as a Democrat appealing to "white flight Democrats," or those voters prepared to leave the party out of resentment for its growing alignment with the concerns of racial minorities. And like his infamous "Sister Souljah moment," welfare reform helped him capture racial resentment to his advantage.
In the 1990s, Clinton sought to champion both hard-working Americans and nonworking Americans alike by gutting government subsidies for the nation’s poorest, who, due to welfare, had little if any reason to work like their counterparts.
But with Harden, Clinton did what his GOP counterparts couldn’t: advocate for welfare reform without completely alienating black constituents. By pushing personal responsibility, Harden helped Clinton chastise welfare without completely vilifying black women. Harden showed that the "welfare queen" could be redeemed, transforming the face of welfare’s alleged problems into the same fare of welfare reform’s promise.