The U.S. Has Treated Poor Countries Like Shitholes for Decades


(Photo: Afghanistan Pashtunistan / Flickr)

The United States has never invaded Norway. It has never bombed Oslo. It has never rounded up Norwegians and thrown them in Guantanamo.

Perhaps some U.S. diplomats have referred to the country as “shithole” — because the food’s rather bland and the nightlife rather staid — but the important thing is that the United States has never treated Norway as a “shithole.”

Between the word and the deed lies a world of difference.

Donald Trump outraged everyone outside his ever-more concentrated base with his recent comment that the United States should stop accepting immigrants from “shithole” countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean and instead bring people in from places like Norway.

Foreign governments from Botswana and Haiti to El Salvador and even Norway denounced the president. Rupert Colville, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called the president “racist.” Even a handful of Republican lawmakers put some distance between themselves and the insulter-in-chief.

But all of this outrage is outrageously beside the point. Trump was only putting into words an underlying principle of U.S. foreign policy. For decades, the United States has treated countries like “shitholes” even if policymakers haven’t called them such, at least not in public.

Trump is a racist and the names he blurts out are offensive, no question about it. But it’s the sticks and stones of U.S. foreign policy that are really going to hurt you. So, why is everyone more upset about Donald Trump’s frank utterances — saying what many of his equally racist Washington colleagues are thinking — than the far more brutal excesses of U.S. foreign policy?

Insult, Then Injury

All armies train their soldiers to dehumanize the enemy. If you think of your enemy as a person, it’s very difficult to shoot him or her between the eyes.

The same holds true for countries. If you think of a country as a civilized place, it’s very difficult to bomb it back to the Stone Age.

The United States, in its more than a century of imperial ambitions, has long been subjecting other countries to the “shithole” treatment. At the outset of empire, the United States branded the Philippines as a place beyond the pale — filled with, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy Teddy Roosevelt put it, “savages, barbarians, a wild and ignorant people.” Such rhetorical dehumanization made it easier for U.S. troops to kill 20,000 Filipino fighters and preside over a three-year war that left more than 200,000 Filipino civilians dead.

The northern parts of Korea and Vietnam received similar “shithole” treatment in the Cold War era. The Koreans and Vietnamese suffered from the same dehumanizing epithets as the Filipinos several generations before. Worse were the saturation bombings that they endured. This was the era of destroying the village to save it. If a place is a “shithole” to begin with, this kind of logic makes perfect sense.

For geopolitical reasons, Vietnam is back in the good graces of the United States: After all, it serves as a wedge against China.

North Korea is another matter. It is the “scourge of our planet” ruled over by a “depraved regime,” Trump said at the UN last year. Trump’s epithets aren’t part of a campaign to bring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the International Criminal Court. Trump cares little about human rights, and after all, he either “has a very good relationship” with Kim, according to The Wall Street Journal, or “he’d have a good relationship (according to Trump). Honestly, who cares about the verb tense? It’s the adjective “good” that counts most: These two guys are cut from the same cloth.

So, forget about human rights. Trump has reduced North Korea to rhetorical rubble as a strategy to prepare the American public for a future military action against the country — an option that Trump continues to cultivate despite the recent inter-Korean warming. Thus does insult precede injury.

But the United States isn’t just in the business of identifying “shitholes.” It’s also in the business of making them.

Sow the Wind, Reap the Shitstorm

After September 11, the United States adopted a more muscular foreign policy that produced one “shithole” country after another.

The Bush administration invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. The Obama administration led from behind in a regime-change effort in Libya. First Obama and then Trump waded into the quagmire of Syria. U.S. Special Forces are involved throughout most of what was once called the Third World (and now, according to Trump, should be renamed the “Shit World”).

In Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States played the pivotal role in turning brutally run countries into certifiable “shitholes.” With Libya and Syria, Washington has helped accelerate the virtual collapse of the countries. Forget nation-building and post-conflict reconstruction: The United States over the last couple decades has been much better at breaking things than putting them back together.

Trump didn’t single out Afghanistan as a “shithole” in his recent comments. He didn’t have to. His policy toward the country conveys very clear what his evaluation is.

“The gloves are off,” the Pentagon has rejoiced. Between last August and December, Washington conducted almost as many air strikes in the country as 2015 and 2016 combined. The U.S. military now attacks the Taliban anywhere and everywhere — which helped ensure more civilian deaths last year than at any other point in the 16-year war — and not just in defense of Afghan forces (which was the Obama-era policy).

Which brings us back to Trump and his woeful perspective on immigration. Afghanistan continues to be the world’s second leading source of refugees (just behind Syria). Libya and Iraq have been hemorrhaging their populations. Other sending countries — El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, Congo — can point to the United States as a key player in contributing to the violence, economic chaos, and social unrest that have uprooted a substantial portion of the population — whether it’s been U.S. support for murderous dictatorships, misguided U.S. economic programs, or the U.S. market for narcotics.

In other words, so many of the people trying to get into Europe and the United States these days are escaping the conditions that Washington helped to create.

Hey, President Trump, you want to know why those folks, and not Norwegians, are clamoring to get into this country? Ask all those generals that are sitting around your table. However profane they might be in private — just consider the military origin of the acronyms “snafu” and “fubar” — these military professionals would never violate protocol by referring to other countries in a derogatory fashion. This isn’t the 19th century. But they have blood on their hands nonetheless.

Flipping the Script

Trump made his comments about immigration shortly after meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Trump was suitably impressed with the country. No doubt he wished he could run a predominantly white country made wealthy by oil.

Although the United States currently enjoys a booming stock market and low unemployment, Trump knows quite well the economic distress in much of the country. Those are the areas that put him over the top in the Electoral College. Those are the areas he loves to visit as president to remind him of those boisterous campaign rallies where everyone, and not just 30 percent of the audience, loved him. Those are also the areas that are going to continue to suffer as a result of his feed-the-rich economic policies.

Those are the areas that, dare I say it, Trump considers “shitholes.”

I’m not putting words in his mouth. “I want to make the country great again,” he told the press back in May 2015. “This country is a hellhole. We are going down fast.”

As I said, first come the insults, then comes the injury. Trump has, in a sense, invaded the United States and unleashed his special brand of fire and fury on the homeland. Now he’s methodically turning this country into a shithole for 99 percent of its residents. He’s been busy all year destroying the United States in order to “save” it.

Trump was prophetic. We are indeed going down fast. And the Norwegians are not coming to the rescue.

The post The U.S. Has Treated Poor Countries Like Shitholes for Decades appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


This Is What Reparations Could Actually Look Like In America


(Photo: Shutterstock)

Today’s racial wealth divide is an economic archaeological marker, embedded within the multigenerational story of slavery, racial plunder, and discrimination.

It is one way the legacy of racism shows up in people’s bank accounts and, if they own a home, in home equity. It is where the past is present, where the wound at the center of US history that goes back to the destruction of indigenous communities, slavery, and Jim Crow is still open and waiting for repair. Notably, the past few decades has “supercharged” historic racial wealth inequalities.

To repair this breach, it’s becoming increasingly clear that reparations for black slavery and its legacy—including Jim Crow—must be part of the equation. Facing what activist Randall Robinson calls “the debt” to people of African descent, those of us who are low on melanin content (aka “white”) will have to address the often uncomfortable history of how lighter skin color conferred, and continues to confer, economic advantage. To do otherwise is to live a destructive lie, perpetuating a perverted myth of deservedness that holds back our entire society and each of us individually.

As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in his groundbreaking 2014 Atlantic article, reparations are “the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely.” “Reparations,” he continues, “beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.”

Read the full article on Quartz’s website. 


Here’s What It’s Like to Work for Trump’s Labor Secretary Nominee


Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Roberto Ramirez worked for nearly 18 years for the Carl’s Jr. burger chain in Los Angeles. He started doing food prep and eventually took on three additional jobs: cleaning, cashiering, and serving. Little did he know his experience would one day land him in the national political spotlight.

On January 10, Ramirez was a star witness in a sort of shadow hearing on Capitol Hill on the business practices of one Andrew Puzder, the fast-food king who is Donald Trump’s choice for Labor Secretary. Democratic senators tried to give Ramirez and others with experience working for Puzder’s Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains an even bigger platform, as witnesses in the nominee’s upcoming confirmation hearing. Republicans nixed that request.

Originally from Guerrero, Mexico, Ramirez addressed about a dozen senators in Spanish, explaining through an interpreter how his workload at Carl’s Jr. eventually became so unmanageable he had to put in half an hour of free labor every day before his clock-in time to be able to finish all his duties. None of this overtime was ever compensated. Ramirez testified that a manager later stole one of his paychecks while he was away and the company refused to help him recover the compensation. When he complained about it, his manager retaliated by cutting his hours to the point where he had no choice but to quit.

Ramirez’s story was reinforced by a new Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United report. Based on questionnaires filled out voluntarily by 564 Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s workers, the report found that 28 percent of respondents had to work off the clock without pay because of understaffing. Approximately one-third reported a wide range of wage theft violations, including not receiving required breaks or overtime pay.

A high percentage of workers reported experiencing sexual harassment on the job — 66 percent, compared to 40 percent overall in the fast-food industry. This is hardly shocking, given the behavior of the company’s CEO. Puzder is notorious for boasting about his sexualized ad campaigns, including raunchy spots for a Bacon 3-Way Burger featuring oiled-up blondes in bikinis in a pseudo menage-a-trois and another with a model rubbing a piece of bacon across her breast.

One female employee told ROC that customers have asked her why she doesn’t dress like the women in the commercials. Several others charged that store managers either ignored employee complaints about harassment or were perpetrators themselves.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they’d prepared or served food while sick, the vast majority because they had no sick leave. Ramirez admitted he’d also worked while ill, and felt bad about handling meat, knowing he might be making someone else sick. Another Carl’s Jr. worker at the shadow hearing, Lupe Guzman from Las Vegas, said she also had to work when she was sick, and when her child was hospitalized, she had to show documentation proving it — not to get compensated, but to avoid being fired.

Andrew Puzder has made no secret of the fact that he would like to codify his cut-throat business approach in federal policy. He is opposed to regulations on overtime pay, paid leave, mandatory break times, and a minimum wage increase. In fact, he’s so hostile to his human employees he’s waxed rhapsodic about replacing them entirely with robots.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped Puzder from accepting generous perks for himself. The ROC report points out that this devout opponent of Obamacare and mandatory sick leave policies has enjoyed reimbursement checks of as much as $ 61,000 per year from his employer for medical costs that run above and beyond his health insurance benefits. By contrast, only 9 percent of Puzder’s non-managerial staff have access to any employer-provided health care. As CEO, Puzder’s total compensation has run as high as $ 10 million per year.

“We need fair pay and dignity at work,” said Roberto Ramirez, his voice cracking with emotion as he read his prepared testimony. “I’m afraid if Andrew Puzder is confirmed as Labor Secretary, what happened to me will happen to workers across the country.”

The post Here’s What It’s Like to Work for Trump’s Labor Secretary Nominee appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.


‘Free Trade’ Deals Like Obama’s TPP Only Widen the Economic Divide

(Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr CC 2.0)

(Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr CC 2.0)

After the November election, all eyes will be on President Obama to see if he will follow through on his vow to push for a vote during a lame-duck session of Congress on the wildly unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In a previous interview with, AFL-CIO deputy chief of staff, Thea Lee, explained why the U.S. labor movement strongly opposes the trade pact. She described the TPP as yet one more deal that would put downward pressure on U.S. labor conditions by further opening up the U.S. market and giving additional protections for U.S. corporations looking to move jobs offshore. Lee has been a leader in building international solidarity against such corporate-driven trade agreements.

To bring a developing world perspective to this issue, we turned to Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow Manuel Pérez-Rocha, who has spent more than two decades working with social movements for an alternative approach to trade that would put the interests of people and the environment first. His home country of Mexico is one of the 12 nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific deal, despite more than 20 years of experience with the failed blueprint for the TPP — the North American Free Trade Agreement.

NAFTA promoters claimed it would make life much better in Mexico and would reduce the pressure to immigrate to the United States. What has happened since the agreement went into effect in 1994? 

Pérez-Rocha: Mexico’s poverty has increased, wages have been slashed, and the country now has to import 45 percent of its food (Back in 1994, it imported only 15 percent). By lowering trade barriers and cutting subsidies for small producers, the Mexican government abandoned national food production to favor imports. This has meant declining production, employment, and income, and increasing inequality, poverty, and migration pressures.

The vacuum left behind has been occupied by organized crime. The increase in violence and public insecurity in the countryside, and really in all of Mexico, has a clear link to NAFTA. Mexico has lost more than 100,000 lives, and tens of thousands of people have “disappeared” under the so-called war on drugs.

Some claim NAFTA created jobs in the border factories. Is that not true? 

Pérez-Rocha: The jobs that were created were low-road jobs, without basic labor protections and with low wages and often dangerous working conditions. And because NAFTA prohibited governments from requiring that foreign investors use domestic suppliers, the ripple effects of this investment plummeted. When unions and other groups turned to the NAFTA labor side agreement to try to get some recourse for rights violations, it was a huge waste of time. Compared to NAFTA’s investment agreement rules, under which U.S. and Canadian corporations have successfully sued Mexico for hundreds of millions of dollars, the labor side agreement has no teeth. And when workers struggled to push up wages, many of the companies simply moved to China or other lower-wage areas.

Who has profited from NAFTA?

Pérez-Rocha: Mexico now has 12 billionaires. We didn’t have a single one in 1987, before our government started selling off public enterprises at a discount to cronies and introducing other free market reforms to lay the groundwork for NAFTA. Carlos Slim, with $ 50 billion, is the 4th wealthiest person in the world. Slim made his fortune from the privatization of the formerly state-owned Telefonos de Mexico company. Ricardo Salinas Pliego made his billions through the privatization of a national TV company (now Televisión Azteca). Others, like German Larrea and Alberto Bailleres, became extremely wealthy off industries that benefited from lower trade barriers, like mining, while causing terrible environmental impacts.

What other new privileges have gone to the top 1% under NAFTA? 

Wealthy foreign investors got the completely unprecedented power to sue governments in obscure, unaccountable, and private tribunals, like the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. Under the investor-state dispute settlement system, they can sue in international tribunals for millions and even billions of dollars over government actions that might reduce their profits. Canada and Mexico have lost many cases under NAFTA’s investment rules.

I’ve spent much of my time in recent years working in solidarity with people who are trying to fight these cases. In El Salvador, for example, we’ve been supporting activists who’ve been working for six years against a case brought by the Canadian Pacific Rim company (owned by the Australian Oceana Gold). The company is demanding $ 250 million, simply because the government is acting to protect the country’s primary watershed from poisonous gold mining.

A ruling in this case is expected soon and if it goes against El Salvador, it should be a huge wake-up call about the TPP. Even if the tribunal “favors” El Salvador, this small country should not have had to go through all of the emotional pain and financial suffering related to this case, including having to pay millions for its legal defense. The TPP would allow corporations to file the same kinds of investor-state lawsuits.

After working on these bad trade deals for so long, what gives you hope? 

Social movements have defeated corporate schemes like the TPP several times in the past. For example, in 1998 the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment failed after France and other countries withdrew from the negotiations in response to civil society demands. In 2005, negotiators gave up on the U.S.-led Free Trade Area of the Americas, a trade pact that was to include 32 countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Today, the TPP and the proposed U.S.-European Union trade deal (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) are at an impasse and in deep peril because of the power of social movements. In the United States it becomes clear before every election that so called “free trade” is very unpopular. Obama said during his presidential campaign that he would renegotiate flawed deals like NAFTA. Today both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump claim to be against the TPP. This demonstrates that free trade agreements can be obtained only through anti-democratic means.

What gives me hope is that citizens around the world know very well how damaging the free trade agenda is for people and the planet and that we are as ready as ever to take action.

The post ‘Free Trade’ Deals Like Obama’s TPP Only Widen the Economic Divide appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Manuel Pérez-Rocha is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.


What It’s Like to Be Pregnant, Depressed, and Scared of Pills – VICE

What It's Like to Be Pregnant, Depressed, and Scared of Pills
I searched for five months (and with a master's in social work, searching for resources like this used to be my full-time job) and turned up one lonely Facebook group called Perinatal Depression Awareness, last updated in 2010. … hint of the other

and more »


The return of the dogs of war: what’s it like to be a soldier for hire? – The Guardian

The Guardian
The return of the dogs of war: what's it like to be a soldier for hire?
The Guardian
“There have been a number of processes to get to a position where responsible private security companies are properly managed, properly regulated and have human rights very much at the heart of the business model. … Our job was to defend. Say you're


Toy hedgehogs banned in Russian stores as their belly buttons look like female … – Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Toy hedgehogs banned in Russian stores as their belly buttons look like female
Daily Mail
Prickly council officials have banned a toy hedgehog after claiming its 'belly button' looked like female genitalia. Russian children's rights ombudsman Gennady Prokhorychev ruled that the cuddly toys were 'erotic' and appeared in shops to 'deprave the …


Big Oil Can’t Go On Like This

Ensuring that our planet remains hospitable requires leaving about three-quarters of all oil, gas, and coal deposits underground or beneath the sea floor. And forgoing all those fossil fuels to avert a climate catastrophe means that loads of companies need to change the way they do business — or go out of business.

So it’s a relief to see Big Oil begin to scale back. But BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, and their competitors aren’t doing that because they’re worried about the climate. They’re just scrambling to keep the industry’s relatively highdividends flowing in this era of cheap oil.

“By the end of the year there will be about 4,000 fewer BP employees than at the start,” BP chief executive Bob Dudley said when he announced the company’s lousy performance between June and September. In addition to firing workers, the London-based company has slashed spending on new exploration and drilling to adjust to what this CEO calls a “new price environment.”

Shell / Flickr

Shell / Flickr

BP’s third-quarter profits were 40 percent lower than during the same period a year earlier. Yet the oil giant has actually bumped up the dividend it pays investors over the past 12 months.

“We spend time with our shareholders,” Dudley said. “We are committed to maintaining the dividend at BP.”

In case you’ve lost track, here’s why gasoline is averaging about $ 2.25 a gallon: The price for a barrel of crude topped $ 100 in mid-2014 before tumbling because of a wave of over-production that hasn’t abated. Oil experts see prices ranging between $ 40 and $ 60 a barrel as the new — and way less profitable — normal.

Goldman Sachs analysts, for example, predict that prices could lumber along like this for 15 years, and may sink as low as $ 20 per barrel. This kind of prognosis is making the industry sound tight-fisted.

“We have to live within our means,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden told investors while discussing the company’s $ 6.1 billion third-quarter loss, which was magnified by Shell’s decision to hold off on drilling for Arctic oil and mining the Carmon Creek tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

Meanwhile, the Dutch oil giant is “pulling out all the stops” to prop up its dividend, van Beurden said. And U.S.-based oil companies are equally determined to continue paying investors to hang onto their stock.

Chevron recently announced that it will scrap up to 7,000 jobs after the corporation’s third-quarter profits plunged 63.6 percent. Its dividend remains intact after increasing for 28 straight years.

ConocoPhillips, which lost $ 1.1 billion during the third quarter, intends to abstain from new offshore drilling projects and will sell leases it won’t use. The company has no planto cut its dividend.

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson promised a “relentless focus” on cost-cutting when he announced that third-quarter earnings amounted to about half of what they were in 2014. The nation’s biggest oil outfit is boosting its dividend, as it’s done for 33 years in a row.

See a pattern?

But just like it’s hard to make every mortgage payment when you wind up unemployed for a long stretch, unprofitable companies eventually pare dividends or stop paying them. That’s why Marathon, one of the 10 biggest U.S. oil companies, recently slashed its dividend by 79 percent to a nickel per share.

Anyone who sees Big Oil’s stocks as a perpetual source of investment income should take note.

And until paring dividends becomes more commonplace, the industry will inadvertently keep doing its share to leave more oil in the ground.

The post Big Oil Can’t Go On Like This appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies


Toy hedgehogs banned in Russian stores as their belly buttons look like female … – Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Toy hedgehogs banned in Russian stores as their belly buttons look like female
Daily Mail
Prickly council officials have banned a toy hedgehog after claiming its 'belly button' looked like female genitalia. Russian children's rights ombudsman Gennady Prokhorychev ruled that the cuddly toys were 'erotic' and appeared in shops to 'deprave the …


What Would a Good Trade Agreement Look Like? – Huffington Post

What Would a Good Trade Agreement Look Like?
Huffington Post
The TPP is clearly an agreement designed to advance the interests of big businesses. Looking at the members of the U.S. Business Coalition for TPP, or the companies and trade associations serving on the various USTR industry advisory boards makes it …

and more »