The Didactic Interview: Sofia Ali-Khan

To confront the existential horror of President Trump, I’m joined by my longtime activist friend Sofia Ali-Khan. We discuss our lives as progressive rabble-rousers, educators, and Americans. We sort through the problems we face and some concrete steps for action. Let’s get to work, everybody!

Links to things we discussed:

Here’s the song at the end, “Simply Are” by Arto Lindsay:

Taibbi: The Divide

Matt Taibbi’s new book The Divide is superb. Everyone needs to read it right away. He oscillates from heartbreaking descriptions of people arrested for “blocking pedestrian traffic” (these arrests are purely done to meet police quotas) and enraging explanations of white-collar criminal activity that’s never investigated, let alone punished.

What emerges is a devastating critique of dysfunctional American injustice, especially for those on the top and bottom of our economic system. Toward the end he explains beautifully:

This goes far beyond the oft-quoted liberal cliché about how we now have “two Americas”, one for the rich and one for the poor, with different sets of laws and different levels of punishment (or more to the point, nonpunishment) for each. The rich have always gotten breaks and the poor have always had to swim upstream. The new truth is infinitely darker and more twisted.

The new truth is a sci-fi movie, a dystopia. And in this sci-fi world the issues aren’t justice and injustice, but biology and mortality. We have a giant, meat-grinding bureaucracy that literally alters the physical makeup of its citizens, systematically grinding down the losers in a smaller, meeker, lower race of animal while aggrandizing the winners, making them bigger than life, impervious, super-people.

Again, the poor have always faced the sharp end of the stick. And the rich have always fought ferociously to protect their privilege, not just in America but everywhere.

What’s different now is that these quaint old inequities have become internalized in that “second government” — a vast system of increasingly unmangeable bureaucracies, spanning both the public and private sectors. These inscrutable, irrational structures, crisscrossing back and forth between the worlds of debt and banking and law enforcement, are growing up organically around the pounding twin impulses that drive modern America: burning hatred of all losers and the poor, and breathless, abject worship of the rich, even the talentless and undeserving rich.

HSBC: Too Big to Jail

From The Guardian:

US authorities defended their decision not to prosecute HSBC for accepting the tainted money of rogue states and drug lords on Tuesday, insisting that a $1.9bn fine for a litany of offences was preferable to the “collateral consequences” of taking the bank to court. [...]

Had the US authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking licence in the US, the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilised.

HSBC, Britain’s biggest bank, said it was “profoundly sorry” for what it called “past mistakes” that allowed terrorists and narcotics traffickers to move billions around the financial system and circumvent US banking laws. Breuer said Mexican drug traffickers deposited hundreds of thousands of dollars each day in HSBC accounts.

At least they apologized. Soon they won’t even bother.

Meanwhile, the dealer on the corner gets ten years for having a vial of crack.

Today a student asked: “Why are you always sighing all the time?” This is why, kid.

The New Jim Crow in 2:20

This police officer explains how the so-called “drug war” is waged differently in black and white areas. Very important.

The Numbers

More African Americans are under correctional control today—in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, p. 175