The typical affluent family in America now has nearly seven times the wealth of a middle-income family, the biggest wealth gap in three decades, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.Last year, the median wealth of upper-income families in the U.S. ($639,400) was 6.6 times bigger than that of middle-income families ($96,500), up from 6.2 times in 2010.Upper-income families now have a median wealth level that is nearly 70 times that of lower-income families.
It’s comforting for those whose actions are not aligned with their stated values to believe that what one does in real life is not what ultimately defines who one really is. It’s nice to think who we are is determined not by the things we did the day before, but by the stated ideals we hope to aspire to fulfill, starting tomorrow. In a nation-state founded by settler-colonial Protestants, the argument is familiar – it’s what’s deep down inside that gets one up into heaven, not the good or genocidal nature of what one does down here on Earth – and as with any half-decent lie, it’s relatable: as fallible human beings, we’d all rather like to believe that we’re not as bad as we are but as good as we say we would like to be.
What began as a private embarrassment has now become a matter of national interest. White House officials have reportedly determined that North Korea played a role in the Sony hacking, and the Obama administration is considering an official response.Already the White Houses National Security Council (NSC) has weighed in, saying the federal government was “investigating attribution” of the security breach that led to private emails from Sony Pictures being leaked. The FBI has also launched its own investigation into the leak.The White House has yet to publicly finger North Korea as the culprit. But the incident, which White House press secretary Josh Earnest called a “national security matter,” has struck right at the often fuzzy distinction between public and private interests when it comes to the security of large companies.
Human experimentation was a core feature of the CIA’s torture program. The experimental nature of the interrogation and detention techniques is clearly evident in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of its investigative report, despite redactions (insisted upon by the CIA) to obfuscate the locations of these laboratories of cruel science and the identities of perpetrators.At the helm of this human experimentation project were two psychologists hired by the CIA, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They designed interrogation and detention protocols that they and others applied to people imprisoned in the agency’s secret “black sites.”In its response to the Senate report, the CIA justified its decision to hire the duo: “We believe their expertise was so unique that we would have been derelict had we not sought them out when it became clear that CIA would be heading into the uncharted territory of the program.” Mitchell and Jessen’s qualifications did not include interrogation experience, specialized knowledge about Al Qaeda or relevant cultural or linguistic knowledge. What they had was Air Force experience in studying the effects of torture on American prisoners of war, as well as a curiosity about whether theories of “learned helplessness” derived from experiments on dogs might work on human enemies.
A friend of mine recently asked why I’m so hung up on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the adulation he’s received from Republicans in the U.S. I think it comes down to two things. The first is that GOP gushing over the Russian autocrat has always struck me as a historical oddity: I simply can’t think of a comparable moment in modern American history in which the United States butted heads with a major foreign rival, and prominent figures from an American political party started publicly praising the other country’s leader. It served as a reminder that Republican contempt for President Obama has reached levels that defy basic patriotic norms. The second, however, is more basic: a variety of conservative Americans not only expressed their admiration for Putin, they also saw him as a strategic mastermind, guiding Russia towards power and greatness, and demonstrating the kind of leadership needed in the United States.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been a consistent defender of past interrogation techniques. “We are castigating the CIA for doing what the president ordered them to do and the Justice Department said was legal,” Cheney said on NBC’s Meet the Press, Dec. 14, 2014.For Cheney, the deaths of 3,000 people on 9/11 at the hands of al-Qaida terrorists justified expanded interrogation methods and the subsequent invasion of Iraq.