The horror, the horror


It was a Saturday morning when the world unexpectedly endured two events of terrifying proportions. Despite being vastly different in each of their effects, their causes remain depressingly similar.

On August 10th, just as a Manhattan prison guard began to open a jail cell, fires began spreading in the Amazon rainforest. Shocking images of destruction began to circulate, especially among young people on social media. Too much deforestation of the Amazon would cause the rainforest to reach a tipping point where it would be permanently damaged beyond recovery, this would be dire because the Amazon rainforest helps slow down climate change by absorbing greenhouse gases. As the chaos grew, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t just a Brazilian crisis, but a global one.

On August 10th, just as a tree in the Amazon began to catch fire, multimillionaire and international sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was found dead by a prison guard in his Manhattan jail cell. Epstein made friends with famous and powerful people including, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prince Andrews, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, and more. The source of Epstein’s vast wealth was shrouded in secrecy, although many alleged that at least some of it was from the smuggling of underage girls to his wealthy friends. Just as Epstein was once again charged with sex trafficking and poised to name his influential clients, he mysteriously died from an apparent suicide.

The Amazon wildfire was the result of the Brazilian government pushing it to happen. The far-right Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, is a climate change skeptic who campaigned on opening more of the Amazon rainforest to industrial development and agribusiness. Once in office, Bolsonaro cut the budget of Brazil’s environmental agenc, and began supporting the hunting of endangered rainforest species. When a Brazilian space-agency official estimated that the number of forest fires were eighty-three percent higher than they were last year, the head of the space-agency was fired. In addition, Bolsonaro’s hatred for environmental protections intersects with his hatred for Indigenous people, who he has repeatedly made racist remarks about while proposing to seize their land for commercial use.

The crimes Epstein committed were the result of the American government allowing it to happen. In 2007, Epstein was facing a 53-page federal indictment for trafficking underage girls from around the world and facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in a federal prison. Just as the case seemed surefire, Epstein was able to reach a bizarrely lenient plea deal with federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta for only 13 months in a county jail. The plea deal also granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators” which shut down the ongoing FBI probe into whether there were other powerful clients. For years afterwards, eye witnesses say that Epstein was frequently seen ushering clearly underage girls onto his jet in order to fly them to his private island as authorities did nothing to stop him.

In Brazil, there was virtual certainty that the fires were intentionally set. President Bolsonaro blamed environmental groups who he claimed were trying to make him look bad. The truth

turned out to be much less complicated, the fire was set by farmers trying to signal their support of the President’s environmental policies by clearing land for development. Unsurprisingly, the Amazon wildfire is good for business.

In America, there was virtually no certainty that Epstein committed suicide (only 33% of Americans believe he actually died by suicide). Epstein was inexplicably taken off suicide watch after an earlier alleged attempt, both of the guards assigned to watch him supposedly fell asleep at the same time, and the two cameras outside of cell turned out to both be broken. Republicans blamed the death on Bill Clinton (who had taken several rides on Epstein’s private jet, which was nicknamed “The Lolita Express”) and Democrats responded by blaming Donald Trump (who nominated Acosta as his Labor Secretary and said that Epstein “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side”). The truth is much less clear, but it’s unambiguous that many wealthy and powerful people had an interest in making sure Epstein didn’t testify about them. Unsurprisingly, Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide is good for business.

The facts of both the Amazon wildfire and Epstein’s life/death are so alarming that they run the risk of driving people insane if they stare too long. You are either reduced to standing on the street corner holding a sign reading “THE END IS NIGH” or you devolve into a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist ranting about a secret and powerful cabal of pedophiles. It can make you feel powerless and incredulous. Why would people purposefully light the earth on fire? Why would people allow the rape of children?

That answer is simple: it’s profitable.

Powerful people will always try to get you to blame someone else, especially as the world gets increasingly horrific. The scapegoats they chose will always range from environmental groups, indigenous people, immigrants, Jews or Muslims. Sometimes they’ll try to convince you that a problem is solely the fault of everyone in a certain political party, whether that is Republican or Democrat. If you really want to know what’s going wrong, find out what morally reprehensible actions are profitable, find the wealthy people who are profiting from that moral rot the most. Those are the people responsible for the horror.

You deserve better (or worse)!


Many Americans believe that our society functions as a meritocracy, an informal governing system where people climb the ranks based on their ability. The best, brightest, and most hardworking can get all the way to the most influential positions in the country. While everyone else exists in lower roles that are better suited for their skill-level.

The belief in an American Meritocracy is heartening for a couple reasons. It tells us that anyone can reach the top if they try hard enough, including you! And if you don’t quite reach the top, then at least the people who managed to climb higher deserve to be there. It can be comforting to know that those serving at the highest levels of government or those put in charge of the biggest corporations are qualified to make decisions that affect millions of people. There is a reason we spread the word about our favorite candidate or read the Forbes “400 Wealthiest People” list: we think these people are inherently smarter and better than we are.

On March 12, this idea was challenged. Federal prosecutors announced an investigation into a college admissions bribing scandal. The FBI investigation (nicknamed “Varsity Blues”) found that William Singer, a college admissions counselor, had unethically carried out admissions for more than 750 wealthy families. District of Massachusetts prosecutors have released indictments and complaints against 50 people, including parents who have used bribery and various kinds of fraud to gain admission for their children at the country’s top colleges and universities. The federal prosecutor revealing the scheme assured the nation that there would be justice, and that “There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy.”

Despite the valiant efforts of these federal prosecutors, there is a separate college admissions system for the wealthy, and it will continue to exist even after this investigation concludes. There are many ways that wealthier families get advantages in the admission process by the simple virtue of having more money, and most of them are very legal.

Nearly half of private colleges and universities take into account whether an applicant’s family members attended that school, giving special preference to “legacy admission” students who are more likely to have come from richer backgrounds. Many colleges consider if an applicant has made a campus visit, which can be trip that’s too expensive for other families. Wealthy parents can pay thousands of dollars for test prep and college consulting for their children, in contrast to struggling families who may need their children to spend their time working jobs in order to support the household.

Wealthier school districts can offer far more sports and extracurriculars which can help those students distinguish themselves in ways that kids from poorer school districts can’t. Wealthier parents can also simply donate large amounts of money to schools in order to get their children unofficial special preference. And some high school students will simply never be able to afford college no matter how smart and talented they are, unlike their more privileged peers.

The college admission scandal is not an isolated event in well functioning system, it’s a crack in the lie that there is a meritocracy that deserves to rule over us.

Many of the people at the top aren’t there because they’re far smarter or more hard-working than you are, they’re there because they had more money or knew the right people. The CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch, who raised the price of EpiPens from $50 to $600 didn’t become CEO and jack prices because she was smarter than you, she did it because she was the child of a senator and was provided every opportunity in life. White House advisor Jared Kushner didn’t get into Harvard because of his spectacular GPA and SAT scores, which his high school administrator says “did not warrant it,” he got in because his father donated $2.5 million dollars to the school. Bresch and Kushner now both make decisions that affect millions of Americans because of their parent’s wealth rather than their own merit. And they aren’t the exception, they are the rule.

You could consider me hypocritical for writing about this. My family’s secure financial position allowed me to spend more time studying so I could perform better academically than the average student. My high school had enough money to run a whole host of extracurriculars which I had the time to join because I wasn’t working to support my family. My decision to go to Alma was aided by the fact that my mom’s employment here grants me an almost tuition-free college education. I could afford to work an unpaid internship over the summer and use it to build my resume. I’m the result of many privileges. Yet, I have also turned down my favorite college because of the costs associated with it, like many other people have.

There are students who are far smarter and more qualified than me who aren’t in college because of their financial situation. Similarly, there are students less smarter and less qualified than me who are in more prestigious colleges because of their financial situation. We’re all products of our environments, and some of these environments are better than others. None of us are hypocrites for admitting this.

We don’t live in a meritocracy, we live in a system ruled by inequalities. To recognize this doesn’t mean we should all be ashamed of the advantages and privileges that we have or don’t have. You may have deserved better or worse than what you got, and you may have gotten more or less opportunities than the person next to you. But you aren’t defined by what you deserved or how many opportunities you had. You are defined by how you use what you have to make sure that those after you are more deserving and that they have more opportunities.

The contradictory Captain Marvel


At its core, Captain Marvel is a story of empowerment. The film’s protagonist, Carol Danvers, is both a strong yet nuanced woman, capable of tearing apart entire spacecrafts, yet she is also capable of showing a personal side when interacting with her best friend. It helps that the star of the movie, Brie Larson, is an incredibly outspoken feminist herself. This combination of factors led to Captain Marvel being the highest-grossing movie with a female lead of all time.

Captain Marvel chronicles the journey of a tenacious Air Force pilot who battles sexist expectations as she demolishes her (both human and alien) enemies. The film’s themes go further than feminist empowerment with it’s second act twist, which reveals that the Skrull aliens, that Captain Marvel had been hunting down the entire movie, are actually victims of the very Kree soldiers that she had been working with. The Skrull leader tells Danvers that they are forced to live in ruins of their former communities because of frequent bombings by the Kree, contrary to what the Kree had told her. In the climax of the film, the super heroine changes sides and helps the refugee Skrulls escape the oppressive Kree forces and quite literally catches bombs out of the sky in order to protect the innocent civilians below. Captain Marvel’s final lesson is that we should be empathetic of people, even if they look different than us.

However, the film’s final message of peace strikes as inconsistent with its enthusiastic promotion of the Air Force.

The military has a long record of collaboration with Hollywood, working to maintain a positive image of its various branches by requesting changes to scripts, while in exchange letting movies use logos, props, and locations. From 1911 to 2017, more than 800 feature films received quid-pro-quo support from the Department of Defense.

One of the main reasons for collaboration is that movies can be a powerful recruiting tool for the military. The Air Force noted an uptick in sign-ups after the release of Top Gun and even set up recruiting tables inside theaters to catch people exiting the film. They now seem intent to recreate that success with the release of Captain Marvel, running ads for the Air Force before showings of the film in which a group of female fighter pilots narrate, “Every superhero has an origin story. We all got our start somewhere. For us: it was the U.S. Air Force.”

Todd Flemming, chief of the Community and Public Outreach Division at Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, told military issues website Task & Purpose that, “Our partnership with ‘Capt Marvel’ helped ensure that the character’s time in the Air Force and backstory was presented accurately. It also highlighted the importance of the Air Force to our national defense.”

The Air Force provided advisement, training, shooting locations, and even promotions for the film. In exchange, Marvel had Brie Larson star in promotional material for the branch aimed at recruiting more young women, and let Air Force pilots give testimonials during the film’s red carpet premiere.

Unmentioned during these mutual promotions was the Air Force’s grim record of civilian causalities. A 2018 report by the United Nations found that there had been 8,050 civilian causalities in Afghanistan as a result of U.S. Air Force led bombings of the region in nine months alone. From 2004, up to 3,224 people have been killed by U.S. Air Force drones in Pakistan. Just earlier this month, President Trump signed an executive order revoking the requirement that U.S. intelligence officials publicly report the number of civilians killed in drone strikes.

Today, drone operators outnumber any other type of pilot in the Air Force. Which means that young women recruited into the Air Force by Captain Marvel promotional material will most likely end up in a drone program which unaccountably racks up a completely unknown civilian causality rate.

Young women will have been encouraged to enter this program by a movie that told them that indiscriminately bombing people is bad, while simultaneously encouraging them to join an institution that seems almost dedicated to indiscriminately bombing people. They will be put into a job that requires them to feel no empathy for different-looking people because of a movie that asked them to feel empathy for different-looking people. They will help drop bombs on innocent civilians because of a role model who stopped bombs from dropping on innocent civilians. That is the contradiction at the core of Captain Marvel.

Only Robert Mueller can deliver the fatal blow to Trump, and everyone else is just there to support him as he collects all the evidence. While it’s important to hold powerful people accountable, the hinging of all hope on a prosecutor to possibly catch the President violating a law is an ineffective and unsustainable way to lead a resistance against someone in power. Even if Mueller does catch Trump, and Republicans in the Senate somehow decide to impeach, that is simply a return to the status quo. Without significant societal changes, we return to an America that has simply just reset the ticking time-bomb of another person like Trump rising to power.

True resistance is more than just finding a way to go back to the status quo when conditions get bad. It’s about examining and fixing the inherent problems and assumptions in the status quo that allowed conditions to get bad in the first place. Harry Potter may have been unable to, but reality is often stranger than fiction.

Omar braves heat from America


The views expressed by contributors are their own and do not represent the views of the Alma College.

America does not have a strong success record when it comes to “helping” other countries.

The American drive to interfere in the affairs of other countries often results in incidents such as in 1953, when America overthrew the Prime Minister Mossadeq of Iraq, installing Reza Shah as a dictator. Or in 1963, when America backed the assassination of South Vietnamese President Diem, and killed 2 million Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnamese war. Or in 1973, when America staged a coup in Chile to replace President Salvador Allende with the infamously cruel dictator Augusto Pinochet, who murdered 5,000 of his critics through massacres and silenced others through rape and torture. Or in the 1980’s, when America covertly financed and armed Islamist fundamentalists in Afghanistan (which likely included Osama Bin Laden) to fight against Soviets. Or starting in 1991, when America-led sanctions and bombings of Iraq lead to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. Or starting in 2008, when America covertly used 10 times the amount of previous American drone strikes which resulted in the deaths of up to 807 civilians.

With all these horrific failures, it might seem like common sense to simply stop interfering. Yet, while America doesn’t have a strong success record on its imperialist actions, it does have a strong record of inflicting backlash against its critics.

The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 gave the American government authority to close newspapers and jail citizens for having anti-war views. From 1955 to 1970, the FBI regularly targeted critics of American involvement in the Vietnam War and the American government jailed those who refused to serve. In 1970, the National Guard fired 67 rounds into a crowd of Kent State University students protesting the American bombing of Cambodia, killing four students and wounding nine others. In the wake of 9/11, Barbara Lee was the subject of scores of death threats and called a traitor in major newspaper editorial boards for being the sole lone vote against the authorization against the Afghanistan war, a war most Americans now believe to be a mistake.

In light of these historical missteps, it comes as no surprise that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has now faced similar accusations for daring to question the American Empire. Omar came to America at the age of ten as a refugee, force to flee because of the Somali Civil War in which American forces were involved. Consequently, Ilhan Omar was given a personal and real view of American imperialism that most Americans will never truly understand. Omar would go on to win her Minnesota representative seat with 73% of the vote.

Omar drew scorn in February for spending her time, during a Congressional hearing on Venezuela, harshly criticizing and questioning Reagan-era administrator Elliot Abrams for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. Abrams pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal, which involved the Reagan administration illegally funding and arming Nicaraguan contras under the guise of “humanitarian aid.” Omar also criticized and questioned Abrams for his role in covering up a massacre by an American-trained El Salvadoran army which left hundreds of civilians dead including 131 children. Because of this, Ilhan Omar was called “uncivil” by both Republican and Democratic officials. Elliot Abrams has now been

appointed US Special Representative for Venezuela and is in charge of distributing what the Trump administration deems “humanitarian aid” to the politically unstable country. At the time of writing, Congresswoman Omar is the only member in both the House and Senate to oppose American intervention in Venezuela.

Omar drew even more scorn last week for repeatedly criticizing the influence of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbyist group. In tweet that was later deleted, Omar wrote “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” Despite Omar apologizing for accidentally using anti-Semitic tropes, it’s become clear that the backlash against Omar is overwhelmingly not about anti-semitism but rather about criticizing the American-Israel relationship.

Human rights groups have condemned the actions of the Israeli government repeatedly for their human rights violations, including the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to the occupied west bank, the killing of 189 Palestinian protestors including 31 children and 3 medical workers, and the frequent air and artillery strikes in the Gaza strip. Despite this, criticizing the American-Israel relationship remains a deep taboo.

AIPAC spent $3.5 million dollars last year on lobbying, resulting in bipartisan support for support for the state of Israel to the tune of $500 million for missile defense and $3.3 billion for security assistance. Last month, bipartisan support passed a AIPAC-backed Senate bill that would allow state governments to punish those who boycotted products from Israel. In Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer’s running mate, Garlin Gilchrist, was forced to apologize during the gubernatorial campaign for a 2009 tweet disapproving American support for Israel military.

Omar has had a slew of death-threats filed against her, yet many of her congressional peers have refused to support her. Instead, House Democrats tried to pass a bill condemning anti-semitism as an attempt to censure Omar, but decided to broaden the bill to include all types of discrimination after many members of the Jewish community spoke out against the move and supported Congresswoman Omar. Omar ended up being one of many of the “yes” votes to support the bill.

Undeterred, Omar would go on to condemn Obama last Friday. Calling Obama’s image of “hope and change” to be an illusion, as she called out his practice of droning countries and locking up undocumented immigrants. “We can’t only be upset with Trump,” Omar said fiercely, “His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was.”

America has never been good at interference despite its unified support of crushing opposition to interference. Americans should reflect on why we cling so hard to the unsuccessful idea of an American Empire and why we punish those that don’t in an almost cult-like fashion.

“Harry Potter” & the deathly status quo


In the wake of the 2016 election, confused and angry liberals reached around for the most allegorical piece of literature they could use to orient themselves to these new and scary times, and landed on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Lines were drawn, and comparisons were made. Donald Trump was Voldemort. Mike Pence was Quirinus Quirrell. His supporters were Death Eaters. Betsy Devos was Dolores Umbridge. John McCain was Snape. The #Resistance was Dumbledore’s Army.

Thousands of protest signs read with references like “When Voldemort is President, we need a nation of Hermiones,” “ICE=Dementors,” and “What Would Dumbledore Do?” Author J.K. Rowling took frequent shots at Trump on Twitter saying, “Voldemort was nowhere as bad.” Real life Harry Potter fan clubs dedicated to fighting Trump popped up on the internet, calling themselves “Dumbledore’s Army.”

Perhaps the comparison isn’t that surprising. Harry Potter is one of the best-selling books in the entire world (second only to the Bible), and the books tells a cautionary tale of how authoritarian powers can be used to manipulate existing institutions in order to push their agenda, and Hermione serves as a wonderful role model for young girls in contrast to Trump’s frequent misogynistic comments.

Despite that, the implications in its comparisons to real world politics are clear and unfortunate. Harry Potter is not a flattering allegory for the liberal resistance, no matter how much liberals believe it to be, but it is an accurate one.

If you’ve read Harry Potter, you might come away with the notion that Voldemort was an anomaly. The wizard world was pretty much magical and perfect before Voldemort arrived on the scene. As a result, the sole goal for Dumbledore’s Army is defeating Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Dumbledore’s Army fights for a return to the status quo and nothing beyond that.

If you’re a liberal, you might come away with the notion that Donald Trump is an anomaly. America was doing fine before Trump got elected. As a result, the sole goal for liberals becomes defeating Donald Trump and his supporters. They celebrate Nancy Pelosi for sarcastically clapping, the small amount of Republicans who superficially disavow his crudeness, or SNL for making fun of Trump’s frequent misspellings. Liberals have been overwhelmingly reduced to fighting for a status quo as they reminisce over a time when Obama was President and things were “good.”

Consider, instead, that the wizard world of Harry Potter isn’t a status quo worth returning to. The “magical and perfect” wizard world is based on class, racism and segregation. In a society where magic can magically fix and duplicate things, somehow there are still wizard families living in poverty. The protagonist fights against the enslavement of Dobby and shows disdain for the house-elf system, but doesn’t pursue any real institutional change beyond joining Hermione’s S.P.E.W. club (which is played as a ridiculous joke and completely left out in the movies). The protagonist fights against Voldemort’s persecution of half-bloods, but never has any problem with the strictly enforced apartheid between muggles and wizards.

Consider, also, that the PreTrump world of America isn’t a status quo worth returning to either. The “good” Obama refused to prosecute anyone from Wall Street after their systemic fraud caused the 2008 financial crisis, used I.C.E. to deport 2.5 million people (more than any other president in history), ran a warrantless NSA program that invaded the privacy of millions of Americas, aggressively fought to silence whistleblowers and conducted an unaccountable drone program that left thousands of civilians dead throughout his time in office.

Obviously, Voldemort is worse for the wizard world, but he’s also a product of it. An apartheid society where no one questions the “supremacy” of magical beings over muggles is a society that will eventually yield a fanatic like Voldemort who believes in the persecution and extermination of those who are “inferior.” The return to the status quo at the end of the seventh book isn’t a victory; it’s a tragedy that shows that all the hero’s efforts were in vain. The epilogue in the final film shows an unchanged society that is basically a ticking time bomb, counting down until the rise of the next evil wizard who will once again try to follow this segregated society to its logical next step by oppressing muggles.

Similarly, Trump has far more flagrantly abused his power than Obama and dramatically expanded the deportation and drone program, but he didn’t get here by himself. The election of Trump isn’t an anomaly; it’s the logical conclusion of a society that refuses to hold the rich accountable and is comfortable with the use of a racist deportation systems. The problem is no more emblematic than when liberals celebrate Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats for resisting Trump, but they are overwhelmingly quiet when Pelosi and the Democrats block progressive advancements that could solve the issues that got us here in the first place.

The allegory of Harry Potter to liberal resistance shares one more fatal flaw: the idea of the chosen one. In J.K. Rowling’s series, there is a strong resistance built up against Voldemort, but no matter how big or united this resistance gets, all their hopes hinge on Harry. Only Harry Potter is the one who is fated to deliver the fatal blow to Voldemort, everyone else is just there to support him as he collects all the Horcruxes. Liberals share this same fascination with a singular person: Robert Mueller.

21 Savage silenced


On February 3rd, a few hours before the Superbowl started, news broke out about the arrest of 21 Savage. Savage, whose legal name is She’yaa Bin AbrahamJoseph, had been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and slated to be deported. The situation was made even more shocking when an ICE spokesperson told the media, “His whole public persona is false. He actually came to the U.S. from the U.K. as a teen and overstayed his visa.”

Immediately, memes began to dominate social media accusing Savage of being a fake or jokingly insinuating that he was really rapping about being British the whole time. While most of us were sharing jokes, another story was left untold.

To truly understand this story, we’re going to have to rewind to January 28th. 21 Savage performed his song “A Lot” on The Tonight Show in front of millions of people. In this live performance, he added lyrics that weren’t in the original song. With a mournful look, Savage rapped, “Lights was off, the gas was off, so we had to boil up the water / Went through some things, but I couldn’t imagine my kids stuck at the border / Flint still need water, niggas was innocent, couldn’t get lawyers.”

21 Savage’s line about “kids stuck at the border” was a clear reference to the 3,000+ immigrant children who have been separated from their parents at the border under President Trump’s “zero tolerance policy.” While many children were reunited after backlash, an untold amount still remain separated. Children who were reunited exhibited psychological issues which have permanent effects and are typically associated with abandonment and confinement. It can also be considered a reference to the two Guatemalan children who died in Border Patrol custody after being arrested at the border. Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, died on December 8th. And Felie Gomez Alonzo, 8, died on December 24th.

Both the ACLU and immigration advocates have stressed that ICE seeks out and targets activists that speak against them. “They’re trying to intimidate people,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “These are well-known activists who’ve been here for decades, and they’re saying to them: Don’t raise your head.” ICE was sued for targeting activists in February by the immigration advocacy group New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City.

This type of intimidation is almost routine. “Migrant Justice,” a non-profit in Burlington, Vermont, had six undocumented leaders arrested over a period of 14 months, none with criminal records. Mere hours after humanitarian group “No More Deaths” released a video showing Border Patrol kicking over and destroying jugs of water that had been left for dehydrated migrants, volunteer Scott Daniel Warren found himself being arrested under the felony charge of harboring undocumented immigrants. When immigrant activist Daniela Vargas spoke out for undocumented rights at a rally in Jackson, Mississippi, she was immediately pulled over on her way home and arrested by ICE because her DACA status had expired, despite the fact that she had already applied for it to be renewed. And, of course, when 21 Savage spoke out against migrant children being on national TV, he found himself being arrested by ICE days later. All these cases are just the tip of the iceberg in a war by ICE to suppress dissenting views.

ICE immediately got to work by trying to defame Savage and turn his fan base against him. Yet many of the facts surrounding his arrest are unclear or simply contradictory. ICE claims that Savage came here when he was 14, but his lawyers say they have proof he came here at 7. ICE claims it has grounds to deport Savage because of a misdemeanor sentence in 2014, yet Hudson, 21 Savage’s lawyer at the time, claims that this sentence was expunged after his sentence was served. Savage had already applied for a visa in 2017, but it’s unclear if that will be considered by immigration officials. It’s important to remember that ICE is hardly infallible. In June, former ICE spokesperson James Schwab told CBS that he was instructed by superiors in Washington to “flat-out lie.”

Regardless of your personal feelings on 21 Savage or immigration, we as Americans should not tolerate a government who selectively enforces laws in order to silence those who speak out against them.

The billionaire veto


Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, is introducing a new power to our American system of checks and balances: the “Billionaire Veto.”

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever see a Schoolhouse Rock video about this. The Billionaire Veto is a power that only exists informally, with the sole qualification required for use being the possession of obscene wealth. Let’s explore how we got here.

Howard Schultz teased his run for President on January 27th by tweeting “I love our country, and I am seriously considering running for president as a centrist independent.” The tweet was immediately ratioed, with 47,000 overwhelmingly negative replies far outweighing the 25,000 likes and the 4,000 retweets.

Nevertheless, Schultz persisted. First by criticizing Senator Elizabeth Warren for her proposed wealth tax and her support for progressive policies such as Medicare for All. Then by telling CNBC “I respect the Democratic Party. I no longer feel affiliated because I don’t know their views represent the majority of Americans. I don’t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America,” in reference to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed plan of a 70% marginal tax rate on income made above 10 million dollars.

Schultz’s view on the “majority of Americans” was demonstrably incorrect. Recently, a Hill-HarrisX survey found 59% of registered voters approve of Ocasio-Cortez’s plan, and a Fox News poll found that 70% of registered voters backed hiking taxes for families making more than $10 million a year.

Schultz didn’t let these quickly debunked statements stop him from making more misinformed statements. Schultz proceeded to claim that Reagan was the best Republican president in the past 50 years, in part because he had so much respect for the position that “he never took his jacket off in the Oval Office” (there are several photos of Reagan with his jacket off in the oval office). Schultz rejected claims he was out of touch but struggled to guess the price of cereal (it’s $4, or more if you buy it at Joe’s).

It doesn’t help that Schultz has very little actual policy positions besides wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare (these are proposals that have historically always polled poorly). Schultz has mainly focused on vague platitudes about how the Democrats and Republicans are too mean-spirited towards each other, engaging too much in what he dubs “revenge politics” instead of working together.

Schultz claims that there would be broad support for a centrist candidate like himself. This is perhaps Schultz’s most ignorant assertion, a recent poll from Change Research found that only 4% of registered voters view Schultz favorably, with 40% viewing him unfavorably, and 56% not having an opinion.

This would have been more than enough to disqualify any normal candidate, but Howard Schultz has 3.4 billion dollars. He can self-fund his campaign regardless of how unpopular or disliked he is by the broader American public. While his chances for becoming president are non-existent, he has the power to make the difference in the 2020 presidential race by causing a “spoiler effect,” when two candidates split the vote and cause a third less popular candidate to win the race.

Schultz seems to be aiming his campaign at a traditionally center-left Democratic base. Doing so could take small percentages away from the Democratic nominee in battleground states where voting margins as small as 2% can sometimes make the difference, effectively handing the race to Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee.

This is the first ever blatant use of the Billionaire Veto. Howard Schultz isn’t taking his presidential campaign seriously because it’s not a serious presidential campaign –– it’s a threat. The threat is that if Democrats attempt to tax the rich, billionaires like Schultz will throw the election to the opposing side.

The very fact that a single man with no other qualifications other than making a fortune selling overpriced coffee can upset our electoral process to such a degree is emblematic of how broken our electoral process is. Wealth inequality continues to escalate in America, with no signs of stopping.

The top 1% of households own more than the bottom 90% of households combined. As this inequality becomes more apparent, people will support measures to decrease it, and billionaires like Howard Schultz will try to stop them. Don’t let it happen.

Bangladeshi workers go on strike


For over two weeks now, 50,000 Bangladeshi garment workers have been striking against a multi-billion-dollar fashion industry. The protests turned violent when Bangladeshi police opened fire on garment workers using rubber bullets; killing one worker and injuring 50 others. Since then, undeterred garment workers have been burning tires, blocking roads, and shutting down over 140 factories. Police have responded with an increased use of water cannons, tear gas and batons.

Allegations of corruption surround the government’s response strike. Bangladeshi Prime Minister won a fourth term on December 30th in an election that caused thousands of arrests and violence that workers say have continued over to the strikes. Many activists say that the harsh police response is the result of The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association, which has significant political influence over the government. Association President Siddikur Rahman told reporters, “We may follow the ‘no work, no pay’ theory, according to the labour law,” and warned that all factories might shut down if the strike was not quickly put down. Mohammad Abdullah, a striking worker, said manufacturers had hired local musclemen to stop workers in other factories from joining protests.

Striking garment workers are demanding a higher wage, an end to bad faith trade deals and protections against sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. In an attempt to compromise, the Bangladeshi government has announced a 50% rise in wages for mid-level factory workers, but many workers say $95 a month no longer reflects the rising cost of living.

Striking workers also say that there is a clear disconnect between the amount of money garment workers make from the fashion industry and the amount that the fashion industry makes from them.

Bangladesh was the second largest exporter of fabric and apparel after China. 4,500 textile and clothing factories shipped more than $30 billion worth of materials last year, supplying companies like H&M, Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour and Aldi. It’s clear that garment workers played a key role in making a developing nation into a worldwide manufacturing hub, but garment unions say that working conditions have not reflected this. Bangladesh plans to expand the garment sector into a $50 billion-a-year industry by 2023, but many workers think this will be untenable unless working conditions are improved.

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