Thursday, May 22, 2014
Long before anyone knew the name Thomas Piketty, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston was plumbing the hidden depths of the American tax code, revealing the myriad ways it privileges the interests of corporations and the wealthy ahead of those of the 99 percent. Indeed, while it may sometimes feel as if economic inequality is the new trend, Johnston’s career reminds us that the great gulf that separates the rich from the rest in the contemporary United States didn’t happen overnight, but over a course of decades.
Despite coming out during the same year as “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” and “The Divide,” Johnston’s newest release, “Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality,” is a different kind of inequality book. Rather than a sweeping overview of centuries of economic history, or an on-the-ground examination of how our justice system ignores the powerful while brutalizing the rest, Johnston’s book is a collection of essays, speeches and excerpts — a kind of inequality reader. Featuring insights from philosophers, economists, journalists, researchers and even politicians, “Divided” reminds us how inequality is one of those rare problems that truly matters to all of us, no matter what our interests or chosen field.
Earlier this week, Salon reached Johnston via telephone to discuss “Divided,” whether American democracy can survive such great economic disparities, and how returning to a more equal society is literally a matter of life and death. Our conversation follows, and has been slightly edited for clarity and length. In addition, Johnston followed up with further thoughts via email.
What inspired you to create this book?
I had done a trilogy on hidden aspects of the American economy, “Perfectly Legal,” which was about how the rich benefit from taxes, “Free Lunch,” about all the subsidies people didn’t know about that go to rich people and corporations, and “The Fine Print,” which was about restraint of trade and monopolies. And in speaking for the last 10 years around the country, one of the things I learned is that people didn’t understand that this isn’t just a function of numbers and whatnot; they didn’t understand there’s a whole structure that affects families, health, healthcare — which are different things — incarceration, opportunity, exposure to environmental hazards, wage theft and so, there was really a need here to give people a broad understanding of, well, “How did this come about, this incredible inequality that we didn’t have in this country until recent years?”
[After the interview, Johnston emailed to add: “My trilogy on the American economy explained many of the little-known, and often deceptive, laws, regulations and official practices. But inequality involves much more than what I had written about in the trilogy. I wanted to provide people with a broad understanding of the issues, ranging from limited opportunity and obstacles to achieving a modicum of prosperity, to the remarkably cruel and thoughtless policies of the Reagan era.”]
Now that the warm weather is here, everyone is happily boxing away sweaters and breaking out their summer clothes. But as students across the country are bringing out their t-shirts and dresses, school administrators are ramping up their efforts to quash cleavage and “risqué” outfits.
According to educators and even some parents, young women’s outfits – their bodies, really – are too distracting for men to be expected to comport themselves with dignity and respect. It’s the season of the dress code – so instead of teaching girls math or literature, schools are enforcing arbitrary and sexist rules that teach them to be ashamed of their bodies.
Take the example of a young woman in Virginia who was kicked out of her prom this month because fathers attending the event though her dress was giving rise to “impure thoughts”. Clare, 17, says her dress was well within guidelines for the event’s dress code – it was “fingertip length”. She wrote on her sister’s blog, “I even tried it on with my shoes, just to be sure.”
Still, she was asked to leave – thanks to a group of ogling dads perched on a balcony above the dance floor. “I am so tired of people who abuse their power to make women feel violated and ashamed because she has an ass, or has breasts, or has long legs,” she wrote
It’s not just proms that make for problematic interactions for young women. Everyday school dress codes disproportionately target, shame, and punish girls – especially girls who are more developed than their peers. In 2012, students at Stuyvesant High School in New York (my old school) protested the biased implementation of the school’s dress code. One student noted that the “curvier” girls were singled out – a v-neck t-shirt considered acceptable on one student was seen as absolutely scandalous on another.
Like the fathers at Clare’s prom, Stuyvesant administrators defended the sexist dress code by saying girls shorts and spaghetti strap tank tops are “distracting” to male students and teachers. This is a common theme when policing the way women dress – just last month a junior high school in Illinois banned girls wearing leggings because they’re “distracting to boys”.
To assuage the supposed distraction, girls caught wearing leggings are forced to put on blue school shorts over them. At Stuyvesant, dress code violators are pulled out of class and made to change into a large baggy shirt. (There are dress codes for boys, but they’re not as frequently enforced and all a male student generally has to do is keep his pants up and t-shirts referencing drugs inside-out.)
From The Fort Worth Weekly: http://www.fwweekly.com/2014/05/21/leaving-islam/
May 21, 2014
Keys to freedom can take many forms. Samya’s was an iPod, a Twitter account, and a group of North Texas atheists.
Samya is not her real name. The young Tarrant County resident asked that a pseudonym be used in this story because she fears that the family members she left behind might track her down and try to persuade her to come home — or even kill her for dishonoring them by rejecting an arranged marriage.
Her escape began more than two years ago, several states away from Texas. Here she found intellectual and physical freedom, friends, college, and the chance to build her own life. What she left behind, the 21-year-old says, was a life of abuse and imprisonment and a future she couldn’t face.
Her family is from the Middle East and steeped in an insular, extremely authoritarian version of Islam. They moved to the United States when Samya was just an infant.
“My mother has been mentally ill most of her life, and my father was very violent and angry,” she said. “I grew up with a dad I was afraid to talk to. Anything would set him off. He would come into my room, throw me against the wall and beat me, and I wouldn’t know why.” Her parents never showed her affection, she said — no hugs, no kisses.
The older Samya got, the more her father tightened his grip on her life. She was allowed to attend public schools through eighth grade. From age 15 on, she said, she was allegedly home-schooled. But there wasn’t much schooling going on.
“They kept me locked inside the house most days, and I wasn’t really even home-schooled,” she said. “I was being taught how to take care of a family — cooking, cleaning, doing the dishes and laundry. I was learning how to be a submissive housewife.”
Her father continued to beat her, as he had her older brother, until she was about 16 but never abused her younger siblings, she said. “I’m not sure why it stopped. Maybe he got older and calmed down.”
After she was pulled from public school, Samya was told she couldn’t have non-Muslim friends. She did go to an actual school once a week to pick up lessons and about once a month to do lab work for math and science classes. She wasn’t allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.
“The only kids I saw on a regular basis were the girls from my mosque,” she said.
She still thinks sometimes about those girls, many of whom were allowed more freedom than she, but most of whom intended to follow the path laid out for them.
“Some of them were allowed to drive, go to public schools and college, and had parents that were far more liberal than mine,” but those young women still accepted the idea of arranged marriages, she said.
A few of her friends also were physically abused by parents and siblings, she said. And other girls dropped out of school because they felt no need for it since they were just going to get married and be housewives.
“It’s really horrible — some of them had rough parents or were beat up by siblings,” she said. “The parents wouldn’t do anything about it, because it’s the boy, and it’s justified.
Continue reading at: http://www.fwweekly.com/2014/05/21/leaving-islam/