Columns & Articles
As many as 5,000 children in Pennsylvania have been found guilty, and up to 2,000 of them jailed, by two corrupt judges who received kickbacks from the builders and owners of private prison facilities that benefited. The two judges pleaded guilty in a stunning case of greed and corruption that is still unfolding. Judges Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan received $2.6 million in kickbacks while imprisoning children who often had no access to a lawyer. The case offers an extraordinary glimpse into the shameful private prison industry that is flourishing in the United States.
President Obama held his first prime-time news conference Monday night. When questioned on Afghanistan, he replied, "This is going to be a big challenge."
Marcy Kaptur of Ohio is the longest-serving Democratic congresswoman in U.S. history. Her district, stretching along the shore of Lake Erie from west of Cleveland to Toledo, faces an epidemic of home foreclosures and 11.5 percent unemployment. That heartland region, the Rust Belt, had its heart torn out by the North American Free Trade Agreement, with shuttered factories and struggling family farms. Kaptur led the fight in Congress against NAFTA. Now, she is recommending a radical foreclosure solution from the floor of the U.S. Congress: "So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes. Don’t you leave."
Karl Rove recently described George W. Bush as a book lover, writing, "There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one." There will be many histories written about the Bush administration. What will they use for source material? The Bush White House was sued for losing e-mails, and for skirting laws intended to protect public records.
It started with a train ride. Barack Obama rode to Washington, D.C., for his presidential inauguration on a whistle-stop tour. “To the children who hear the whistle of the train and dream of a better life—that’s who we’re fighting for,” Obama said along the tour, which was compared to the train ride taken by Abraham Lincoln from Springfield, Ill., to Washington, D.C., in February 1861, en route to his first inauguration.
Fifty million Americans are without health insurance, and 25 million are “underinsured.” Millions being laid off will soon be added to those rolls. At this perilous moment, we need sweeping New Deal-caliber changes, not the impotent tinkering that has been proposed.
Israel’s assault on Gaza, by air, sea and now land, has killed (at the time of this writing) more than 600 Palestinians, with more than 2,700 injured. Ten Israelis have been killed, three of them Israeli soldiers killed by friendly fire. Beyond the deaths and injuries, the people of Gaza are suffering a dire humanitarian crisis that is dismissed by the Israeli government. There is, however, Israeli opposition to the military assault.
Strong voices for peace have left us this year, people who used their art for social change, often at a high personal price. A look at the lives and politics of Odetta, Miriam Makeba and Eartha Kitt.
The global financial crisis deepens, with more than 10 million in the U.S. out of work, according to the Department of Labor. Unemployment hit 6.7 percent in November. Add the 7.3 million “involuntary part-time workers,” who want to work full time but can’t find such a job. Jobless claims have reached a 26-year high, while 30 states reportedly face potential shortfalls in their unemployment-insurance pools.
While the Nobel prizes recognize lifetime achievements in medicine, chemistry, physics, literature, economics and peace, and Sweden is a paragon among progressive, social democracies, there is another side to Sweden and the Nobels that warrants a closer look.
President-elect Barack Obama introduced his principal national-security Cabinet selections to the world Monday and left no doubt that he intends to start his administration on a war footing. Perhaps the least well known among them is retired Marine Gen. James Jones, Obama’s pick for national security adviser. The position is crucial—think of the power that Henry Kissinger wielded in Richard Nixon’s White House. A look into who James Jones is sheds a little light on the Obama campaign’s promise of “Change We Can Believe In.”
As President-elect Barack Obama focuses on the meltdown of the U.S. economy, another fire is burning: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You may not have heard much lately about the disaster in the Gaza Strip. That silence is intentional: The Israeli government has barred international journalists from entering the occupied territory.
Evo Morales knows about “change you can believe in.” He also knows what happens when a powerful elite is forced to make changes it doesn’t want.
Alice Walker is the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. But Monday, I called her to talk about a true story. The Obamas had just visited the White House. The first African-American elected president of the United States had visited his soon-to-be residence, a house built by slaves.
You could almost hear the world’s collective sigh of relief. This year’s U.S. presidential election was a global event in every sense. Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, represents to so many a living bridge—between continents and cultures.
Election Day approaches, and with it a test of our election system’s integrity. Who will be allowed to vote; who will be barred? Who will get paper ballots; who will use electronic voting machines? Will polls be open long enough to accommodate what is expected to be a historic turnout?
The candidates’ coffers are swelling with larger and larger bundles of cash, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the extended television discussions of this, because it’s the broadcasters who profit the most.
The 2008 presidential election may see the highest participation in U.S. history. Voter registration organizations and local election boards have been overwhelmed by enthusiastic people eager to vote. But not everyone is happy about this blossoming of democracy.
The reviews are in, and the latest U.S. presidential debate, the “town hall” from Nashville, Tenn., was a snore. One problem is that in a debate it is important for the debaters to actually disagree. Yet Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain substantively agree on many issues. That is one major reason that the debates should be open, and that major third-party or independent candidates should be included.