The American Bear


A Football Stadium Becomes Ground Zero in the Fight Against the New Jim Crow | Dave Zirin

A sit-in at the university president’s office; calls for their resignation; a packed, campus-wide meeting that resolves nothing and opens the door to further conflict. Such actions are notable enough on their own, but we’ve never seen a protest movement quite like what’s happening at Florida Atlantic University. For the first time on record, hundreds of students are raising their voices against the renaming of their school’s football stadium. FAU decided to sell the stadium’s naming rights to Geo Group, a notorious private prison corporation, and students are saying, “Hell no.” Their efforts signal something even more significant than pushing back against the inviolate prerogatives of a school’s football program. It’s a high-profile sign of the growing movement against our system of mass incarceration otherwise known as “the New Jim Crow.”

Geo Group will pay $6 million over twelve years to rebrand the football stadium, home of the FAU Owls. Protesters have now also rebranded the stadium, calling it “Owlcatraz.”

Students marched and occupied President Mary Jane Saunders’ office last week, submitting a letter that read, “We are protesting because we believe that institutions of higher learning like FAU have the responsibility to stand up to the systemic racism, corruption and human rights violations that define the prison-for-profit system, and advocate instead for the equality and human rights.”

The students are, of course, correct. Private prisons are immoral, Orwellian institutions. To combat any trend against growing levels of incarceration, they spend millions on political lobbying to make sure that provably racist institutions like “the War on Drugs”, “three strikes” laws and, their latest ripe plum, the incarceration of undocumented immigrants, remain the rule of the land. But if private prisons are diseases, then Geo Group is the Ebola virus. Describing one of their juvenile jails in Mississippi, a judge called Geo Group’s facilities “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions.”

Throwing more gasoline on the fire, President Saunders’s initial response to Geo Group’s offer was pure, uncritical glee, calling it “delightful” and saying without a sprig of irony, “This gift is a true representation of The GEO Group’s incredible generosity to FAU and the community it serves.”

[…] This movement isn’t stopping despite President Saunders’s most fervent wishes. By, at best, not doing her due diligence or, at worst, valuing the money over any attendant moral or ethical concerns, Saunders has turned the school into a national punch line. By standing up to this synthesis of football and prison, and Geo Group’s uniquely American horror story, the students are trying to map a different way forward for the university. If it’s remembered as a place where a campus movement was finally launched against the private prison industry and the New Jim Crow, that will be a far prouder legacy than the place that sold their soul for the dirty money of a for-profit gulag.

Notre Dame and Penn State: Two Rape Scandals, Only One Cry for Justice | The Nation


Two storied college football programs. Two rape scandals. Only one national outcry. How do we begin to explain the exponentially different levels of attention paid to crimes of violence and power at Penn State and Notre Dame?

At Penn State, revered assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was raping young boys while being shielded by a conspiracy of silence of those in power at the football powerhouse. At Notre Dame, it’s not young boys being raped by an assistant coach. It’s women being threatened, assaulted, and raped by players on the school’s unbeaten football team. Yet a sports media that’s overwhelmingly male and ineffably giddy about Fighting Irish football’s return to prominence has enacted their own conspiracy of silence.

As unbeaten Notre Dame prepares to play in tonight’s national championship game against Alabama, the sports media has chosen not to discuss the fact that this football team has two players on its roster suspected of sexual assault and rape; two players whose crimes have been ignored; two players whose accusers felt harassed and intimidated; two players whose presence on the field Monday night should be seen as a national disgrace. 

The main reason this is taking place is because their accusers are not pressing charges. One cannot, because she is dead. 19-year-old Lizzy Seeberg, a student at neighboring St. Mary’s College, took her own life after her claims of being assaulted in a dorm room were met with threats and indifference. The other accuser, despite description of a brutal rape, won’t file charges “absolutely 100%” because of what Seeberg experienced.

 … But the cone of silence that surrounds a company college football town is not enough to understand why Penn State’s rape scandal was front-page news the second the Sandusky scandal went public and Notre Dame has been largely protected by the press. The only answer that makes sense is that raping women has become “normalized” in our culture while raping little boys has not. The only answer that makes sense is that the rape of a young boy sets all sorts of alarms of horror in the minds of the very male sports media, while the rape of women does not. The only answer that makes sense is that it’s been internalized that while boys are helpless in the face of a predator, women are responsible for their assault. The accusers are the accused.

Militarization of London Olympics Shows One More Host Country's Fetish for Displays of Force

"… we fail to question what it means to live in a time when the distinctions between war and peace, global and local, private and public, soldier and citizen, blur."

So, the Olympic Games are finally upon us. Whether we perceive this global extravaganza to be a triumphant social gathering which reveals all that is remarkable about the human spirit or yet another corporate feast of plenty, it nevertheless provides us with a pertinent moment to evaluate the operations of power in contemporary liberal societies. Not only does it illustrate how our post-industrial lifestyles are increasingly defined by “event-based” experiences, it also shows how terror has become normalized in the current historical conjuncture. As securitization policies become more visible, the corporate militarization of public space appears routine. It is even to be applauded as a reasoned and rational choice.

For the past few weeks, the British public has been caught in an emotional cross-fire which hallmarks liberal societies. From one direction, we have been encouraged to positively embrace the “spirit of the Games” as it promises to transcend the daily miseries affecting people the world over. The official sales pitch is that this is more than a sports event; it reveals something of the ethical possibility for global togetherness and peaceful cohabitation. From another direction, however, we have been made acutely aware of the dangers forever lurking in our midst. That we need to “secure the Games” is not in any doubt: from what exactly, only speculative reason or a catastrophic passage of time may begin to reveal.

The security operation witnessed today is an Olympic effort. More than 18,000 military personnel are deployed on the streets. This includes some 1,000 combat support troops - a number which is greater than British forces on the ground in Afghanistan. They are accompanied by state police and private security personnel - who, by conservative estimates, add another 30,000 staff. Drones hover over the London skies. HMS Ocean (the Royal Navy’s biggest warship) is moored in the Thames; RAF Typhoon jets remain on permanent standby with the directive to use “lethal force,” while surface to air missiles are deployed on housing estates in East London, leaving us in no doubt to the lethality of the freedom our liberal societies thankfully receive. [++]

Olympics are society on steroids. They exaggerate wider trends. Far removed from their notional or founding ideals, these events dramatically embody changes in the wider world: fast-increasing inequality, growing corporate power, the rise of the homeland security complex and the shift toward much more authoritarian styles of governance utterly obsessed by the global gaze and prestige of media spectacles Stephen Graham

Britain puts tens of thousands of troops at the ready for Olympics


  • 18,200 the number of British troops prepared to assist in this month’s Olympic Games in London
  • 9,500 the number of British troops currently in Afghanistan fighting, y’know, an ongoing war source

» And more troops were just added: The country added another 1,200 troops to the roster in an effort to tighten security even further. They ain’t messing around. ”On the eve of the largest peacetime event ever staged in this country, ministers are clear that we should leave nothing to chance,” said Olympics Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Follow ShortFormBlog • Find us on Twitter & Facebook


Israel released a member of the Palestinian national soccer team on Tuesday after holding him in jail without trial for three years, during which he staged an intermittent four-month hunger strike in protest, Palestinian officials said.
Mahmoud al-Sarsak, 25, alleged by Israel to have been active in the Islamic Jihad militant group, received a hero’s welcome on his return home to Islamist-ruled Gaza.
Soccer legend Eric Cantona and other international figures had signed a letter drawing attention to Sarsak’s plight. Sepp Blatter, president of world soccer’s governing body FIFA, also wrote to the Israeli soccer authorities to seek their help.
READ ON: Israel frees Palestinian soccer player from prison


Israel released a member of the Palestinian national soccer team on Tuesday after holding him in jail without trial for three years, during which he staged an intermittent four-month hunger strike in protest, Palestinian officials said.

Mahmoud al-Sarsak, 25, alleged by Israel to have been active in the Islamic Jihad militant group, received a hero’s welcome on his return home to Islamist-ruled Gaza.

Soccer legend Eric Cantona and other international figures had signed a letter drawing attention to Sarsak’s plight. Sepp Blatter, president of world soccer’s governing body FIFA, also wrote to the Israeli soccer authorities to seek their help.

READ ON: Israel frees Palestinian soccer player from prison

Missiles on standby to protect London Olympics


Surface-to-air missile defence systems will be deployed at six sites in London during the Olympics as a “powerful deterrent” against attack, Britain’s Ministry of Defence confirmed Tuesday.

The news came despite angry protests from residents at two locations where missiles are being deployed on top of blocks of flats. One residents’ group is taking legal action to try and stop the missile deployment.

Other steps being taken to protect the Olympics include mooring a helicopter carrier in the River Thames and stationing RAF Typhoon jets and Puma helicopters on the outskirts of London.

The ministry announced plans last year to deploy high-speed missile systems to protect the Olympic Park from aerial threats, as part of a mammoth security operation for the Games.

It placed the unarmed equipment at six sites in east London for nine days in May during a military exercise to test its air security plan.

Rapier and high velocity missile systems will be installed at those locations from mid-July and will remain there throughout the Games, the ministry said in a statement confirming the plans.

“Collectively, the systems include a range of air defence capabilities, including radar and detection equipment as well as weapons which will provide a powerful deterrent and protection against the threat of an attack from the air,” the statement said.

It added that similar systems had been deployed at all recent Olympic Games.

Britain’s biggest-ever peacetime security force of more than 40,000, backed by a huge intelligence operation, will also guard venues, athletes and the millions of visitors expected to throng the British capital.

(via queerencia-deactivated20130103)

Ethical Consumer Reports on the Great Olympic Tax Swindle | Tax Justice

The Olympics - where you can demolish urban communites and displace the lifelong residents in the name of transnational corporate brand placement. All of the facilities you require will be paid for with a few extra billions of pounds somehow scraped from the bottom of the host nation’s empty treasury, and then you can walk away - never ‘giving back’ to the community in any way whatsoever. A true celebration of athleticism:

Ethical Consumer magazine reports that for a few short weeks in July and August, Stratford, in east London, will become a tax haven. Millions upon millions of profits made by multinational companies with monopoly rights to exploit the 2012 Olympics will flow direct into the pockets of shareholders and CEOs without a penny being refunded to the British taxpayers who paid for the event. How did this happen? Well, according to Ethical Consumer this has become normal practice:

“The sad fact is that enacting tax avoidance legislation has now become a criteria for hosting international competitions such as the Olympics. Big name athletes such as Usain Bolt (along with the organisers) have applied pressure to potential host nations to ensure that winnings (and profits) are not taxed.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we witnessed exactly the same rip-off around the 2010 World Cup. As we reported in May 2010, FIFA managed to strong-arm the South African government into creating a tax-free bubble around the entire World Cup event, which meant that the financial benefits of the World Cup flowed out to the corporate sponsors, with little or no lasting benefit to the South African economy. Granting tax haven status to major sporting events appears to have become the norm, reflecting the power that big sport is able to exert over politicians. As Ethical Consumer notes:

“Without these tax sweeteners the IOC would simply take their corporate circus elsewhere and so begins a race to the bottom in a bidding process that echoes the offshore system. New tax rules ushered in as part of the winning Team GB bid include ‘a temporary exemption from UK Corporation Tax and UK Income Tax for certain non-resident companies’.”

Companies like Visa, with a monopoly on payments for the 2012 Olympics, and McDonalds, which will be operating its largest outlet in the world at the Olympic village, stand to make a tax-free fortune. According to the ever accommodating British tax authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs:

“For the purpose of this exemption a London 2012 Partner is an organisation (known as a Commercial Delivery Partner) that is supplying services to LOCOG in return for the right to market and advertise themselves or their products for commercial purposes by reference to their association with the Games. It includes a company connected with the Commercial Delivery Partner.”
Winning athletes will also be exempt from tax on their earnings.

All of which is music to the ears of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which, like FIFA, is Swiss-based and therefore enjoys low taxes on its worldwide profits in addition to the tax-free bubble it managed to negotiate for itself around the 2012 event.

But the real winners of the 2012 Olympics are the corporate sponsors. While the mega-event is unlikely to provide a lasting legacy in the form of a healthier and fitter society, or a useful boost to the UK economy, ‘commercial delivery partners’ will be making tax-free killings. Trebles all round in the director’s enclosure.

You can read the full Ethical Consumer report here.

Mind the Gap: London's Olympic Games Are Falling Down | Dave Zirin

"… the Olympic Torch is not the most noteworthy thing passed from Greece to London."

All Olympics produce debt like a cow produces methane. But this one happens in the context of a double-dip recession. It happens with round-the-clock UK media coverage of the “Euro-panic,” as voters in Greece are threatening to tell Angela Merkel, David Cameron and the European Union to take their austerity agenda and cram it sideways. The fears of crisis and debt surround even the cheeriest propaganda about the looming games. The BBC led every broadcast while I was there with these two separate stories. First, “Crisis in Greece” and then with a different anchor, reporters and even music, “Getting Ready for the Olympics.” Nowhere was any discussion about the fact that the 2004 Athens Olympics, came in at over ten times the proposed budget. Those games aggravated the crisis Greece is currently slogging through, with the country’s homeless now even squatting in dilapidated, unused Olympic structures. There is scant discussion that these London games could come in at ten times their proposed 2005 budget as well, causing another “debt crisis” that will be taken from the hides—not to mention the pensions—of the UK’s workers. At several events involving trade union workers and bureaucrats, the message was repeated to me over and over: when the Olympics are over, the gloves will come off.

In other words, faced with the pressures of austerity and recession, Cameron and company are cooling their jets until the Olympics are over and then they will try to do their level best to disembowel the unions and further cut taxes for the wealthy. Why wait until after the Olympics? Because Cameron needs the unions’ cooperation to make sure that the games come off on time and on schedule. They need to make sure the unions don’t take strike action or join the demonstrations planned for July 28, the first Saturday of the games. This is why they agreed to sizable bonuses for London’s subway workers. Anything to make sure that the Olympics show London, and more critically David Cameron, in the best possible light.


Security forces are busily militarizing the urban terrain. Olympics security officials recently unboxed the military-grade Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), an eardrum-shattering weapon that has been war-zone tested in Iraq. There are plans to station surface-to-air missiles on the roofs of London apartment buildings. The Royal Navy’s biggest warship will sit along the Thames. Typhoon jets and Lynx helicopters will be ready for action. Scotland Yard has stockpiled more than 10,000 plastic bullets. Police are constructing mobile stations to facilitate swift bookings. And ‘dispersal zones’ have been set up where police can freely ban anyone they deem to be engaging in antisocial behavior. Protest Is Coming to the London Olympics

'Drones, Missiles and Gunships, Oh My!' Welcome to the 2012 London Olympics | Dave Zirin

"[The] Olympics aren’t about sport any more than the Iraq War was about democracy. The Olympics are not about athletes. And they’re definitely not about bringing together ‘the community of Nations.’ They are a neoliberal Trojan Horse aimed at bringing in business and rolling back the most basic civil liberties."

As many as 48,000 security forces. 13,500 troops. Surface to air missiles stationed on top of residential apartment buildings. A sonic weapon that disperses crowds by creating “head splitting pain.” Unmanned drones peering down from the skies. A safe-zone, cordoned off by an eleven-mile electrified fence, ringed with trained agents and fifty-five teams of attack dogs.

One would be forgiven for thinking that these were the counter-insurgency tactics used by US army bases in Iraq and Afghanistan or perhaps the military methods taught to third world despots at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning Georgia. But instead of being used in a war zone or the theater of occupation, they in fact make up the very visible security apparatus in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

London, which has the most street cameras per capita of any city on earth, has, for the last seven years since the terror attacks of July 7, 2005, been a city whose political leaders would spare no expense to monitor its own citizens. But the Olympic operation goes above and beyond anything we’ve ever seen when a Western democracy hosts the games. Not even China in 2008 used drone planes or ringed the proceedings with a massive, high-voltage fence. But here is London, preparing a counter insurgency, and parking an aircraft carrier right in the Thames. Here is London adding “scanners, biometric ID cards, number-plate and facial-recognition CCTV systems, disease tracking systems, new police control centres and checkpoints.”

Stephen Graham at the Guardian refers to the entire state of affairs as “Lockdown London” as well as “the UK’s biggest mobilisation of military and security forces since the second world war.” He is not exaggerating in the slightest. The number of troops will exceed the forces the UK has had in Afghanistan.

Read on

What If Kobe Bryant Were an Imprisoned Palestinian Soccer Player? | Dave Zirin

Imagine if a member of Team USA Basketball—let’s say Kobe Bryant—had been traveling to an international tournament only to be seized by a foreign government and held in prison for three years without trial or even hearing the charges for which he was imprisoned. Imagine if Kobe was allowed no visitation from family or friends. Imagine if he was left no recourse but to effectively end any future prospects as a player by terminating his own physical health by going on a hunger strike. Chances are we’d notice, yes? Chances are the story would lead SportsCenter and make newspaper covers across the world. Chances are all the powerful international sports organizations—the IOC, FIFA—would treat the jailing nation as a pariah until Kobe was free. And chances are that even Laker-haters would wear buttons that read, “Free Kobe.”

This is what has happened to Palestinian national soccer team member Mahmoud Sarsak. Sarsak, who hails from Rafah in the Gaza Strip, was seized at a checkpoint on his way to a national team contest in the West Bank. This was July 2009. Since that date, the 25-year-old has been held without trial and without charges. His family and friends haven’t been permitted to see him. In the eyes of the Israeli government, Sarsak can be imprisoned indefinitely because they deem him to be an “illegal combatant” although no one—neither family, nor friends, nor coaches—has the foggiest idea why. Now Sarsak is one of more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike to protest their conditions and lack of civil liberties. As the New York Times wrote last week, “The newest heroes of the Palestiniancause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.”

But no organization has claimed Sarsak as a member or issued fiery calls for his freedom. All we have is a family and a team that are both bewildered and devastated by his indefinite detention. His brother Iman said, “My family never imagined that Mahmoud would have been imprisoned by Israel. Why, really why?”

His family doesn’t understand how someone, whose obsession was soccer, not politics, could be targeted and held in such a manner. But in today’s Israel/Palestine, soccer is politics. Sarsak is only the latest Palestinian player to be singled out for harassment or even death by the Israeli government. In 2009, three national team players, Ayman AlkurdShadi Sbakhe andWajeh Moshtahe, were killed during the bombing of Gaza. The National Stadium as well as the offices of the Palestinian Football Association were also targeted and destroyed in the Gaza bombing. In addition, their goalie, Omar Abu Rwayyis, was arrested by Israeli police in 2012 on “terrorism charges.” If you degrade the national team, you degrade the idea that there could ever be a nation.