December 18, 1944 – Supreme Court Decides Korematsu v. United States

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there was a great deal of anger and fear towards Japanese Americans.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942) authorized the Secretary of War and U.S. armed forces commanders to declare areas of the United States as military areas “from which any or all persons may be excluded,” although it did not name any nationality or ethnic group. It was eventually applied to one-third of the land area of the U.S. (mostly in the West) and was used against those with “Foreign Enemy Ancestry” — Japanese, Italians, and Germans. In March of 1942, the War Relocation Authority was created to: “Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.”

Even before the Japanese-Americans were relocated, their livelihoods were seriously threatened when all accounts in American branches of Japanese banks were frozen.

On May 19, 1942, western Japanese Americans were forced to move into relocation camps by Civilian Restrictive Order No. 1, 8 Fed. Reg. 982.

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More than 120,000 American Japanese were taken from their homes and put in ten “relocation centers” and several prisons in California, Utah, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming. Three categories of internees were created: Nisei (native U.S. citizens of Japanese immigrant parents), Issei (Japanese immigrants), and Kibei (native U.S. citizens educated largely in Japan).

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These Japanese Americans, half of whom were children, were incarcerated for up to four years, without due process of law or any factual basis, in bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Families were crammed into 20- by 25-foot rooms and forced to use communal bathrooms. No razors, scissors, or radios were allowed. Children attended War Relocation Authority schools. None of them were ever charged of any crime against the United States.

In desert camps, the evacuees met severe extremes of temperature. In winter it reached 35 degrees below zero, and summer brought temperatures as high as 115 degrees. Rattlesnakes and desert wildlife added danger to discomfort. At Gila, there were 7,700 people crowded into space designed for 5,000. They were housed in messhalls, recreation halls, and even latrines. As many as 25 persons lived in a space intended for four.” (Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.)

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The Supreme Court delayed challenges to the mass incarceration until after the 1944 presidential election. Richard Reeves, in his book Infamy: The Shocking Story of The Japanese American Internment in World War II, quotes Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy declaring in a memo, “We can cover the legal situation . . . in spite of the Constitution. Why the Constitution is just a scrap of paper to me.”

It was not as if there were a great deal of sympathy for the Japanese in any event. Governor Chase Clark of Idaho declared: “The Japs live like rats, breed like rats and act like rats.” Nels Smith, Governor of Wyoming, told the Director of the War Relocation Authority, “If you bring Japanese into my state, I promise you they will be hanging from every tree.”

Reeves tells the story of the incarceration not only in terms of the officials who perpetrated the injustice or the heroes who fought against it, but also by relating the stories of the families themselves and what they endured. As he notes:

This is an American story of enduring themes: racism and greed, injustice and denial – and then soul-searching, an apology, and the most American of coping mechanisms, moving on.”

But in fact, few of the American Japanese affected by this process were able to return to their prewar lives. They had lost their money and property – losses were estimated by the government as more than $200 million in 1942 – as well as their jobs and their reputations.

A Japanese family returns home to find their garage vandalized with graffiti and broken windows in Seattle, May, 1945. AP Photo

A Japanese family returns home to find their garage vandalized with graffiti and broken windows in Seattle, May, 1945. AP Photo

Nevertheless, and importantly, Reeves emphasizes:

Through it all, the desert heat and windstorms and bitter cold, the breakdowns and suicides, the overwhelming majority of the Japanese aliens and Japanese Americans remained loyal to the United States.”


In Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), the United States Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision concerning the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, ruled that the exclusion order was constitutional. The opinion, written by Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Fred Korematsu’s individual rights, and the rights of Americans of Japanese descent.

Justice Frank Murphy dissented, saying that the exclusion of Japanese “falls into the ugly abyss of racism,” and compared the rationale for the Japanese exclusion to that supporting “the abhorrent and despicable treatment of minority groups by the dictatorial tyrannies which this nation is now pledged to destroy.” He also compared the treatment of Japanese Americans, on the one hand, with persons of German and Italian ancestry, on the other, as evidence that race, rather than the emergency alone, led to the exclusion order which Korematsu was convicted of violating.

Justice Frank Murphy

Justice Frank Murphy

His stirring closing paragraph reads:

I dissent, therefore, from this legalization of racism. Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life. It is unattractive in any setting, but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States. All residents of this nation are kin in some way by blood or culture to a foreign land. Yet they are primarily and necessarily a part of the new and distinct civilization of the United States. They must, accordingly, be treated at all times as the heirs of the American experiment, and as entitled to all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.”

On December 17, 1944, Public Proclamation No. 21, effective January 2, 1945, allowed evacuees to return home, just ahead of two new Supreme Court decisions finding that citizens should be allowed to go home after proving their loyalty.

In order to rejoin society, each individual received a $25 payment and transportation tickets at the time of release.

In 1982, law professor Peter Irons found that the Justice Department had withheld or destroyed evidence before the Korematsu case reached the Supreme Court. He assembled a team of Japanese american lawyers who successfully petitioned for the dismissal of charges against Korematsu forty years before by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 1990, reparations were made to surviving internees and their heirs in the form of a formal apology by the U.S. government and a check for $20,000.

This is an important story about which too many Americans are unaware. In addition, as Reeves quotes one veteran and local historian:

This is a great nation, and we’ve done many wonderful things. … This isn’t one of them, and we always need to be mindful of how we treat and how we interact with each other.”

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December 16, 1773 – The Real Story of The Boston Tea Party Told in “American Tempest” by Harlow Giles Unger

On December 16, 1773, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians board three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 chests of tea into the water.

This is the real (as opposed to commonly taught) story of the Boston Tea Party and the network of greed, smuggling, bribery, and personal vendettas that provided the impetus to the American Revolution. Truly, if you want to believe in the sanctity of the pursuit of liberty and freedom from tyranny that allegedly motivated the Founding Fathers, this is a book you should avoid. Unger, a respected historian, documents in this carefully written history the way in which, as he writes:

. . . many were ready to sacrifice their honor as human beings – and the blood of innocents – by disguising their struggle for wealth as a quest for liberty for the common man.”

Unger reveals that the problem the Bostonians had with taxation issues and writs of assistance (or search warrants) was that they interfered with the huge smuggling operations which had been making them exceedingly rich. The purpose of the smuggling was to avoid paying any tax or duties to the Crown.

As an example, Unger points out that at the time of the passage of the inflammatory Molasses Act of 1733, rum was New England’s most popular drink. To make it, New England merchants smuggled an estimated 1.5 million gallons of molasses a year. They should have paid 37,500 pounds in duties for this molasses, which amounted to only three percent of their gross revenues. The proposed six-pence-per-gallon duty would have cut their gross profits from 1,200 percent to 1,161.5 percent! This is what caused Bostonians to get so incensed about their “natural right” to import cheap, duty-free molasses from the French, Spanish, and Dutch West Indies! (And it was so cheap, of course, because it was produced by slave labor.)

The Americans, it should be noted, still expected the British to support and protect the colonies, but just not with their money. Moreover, the colonists also wanted to retain the right to sell supplies to the countries with which Britain was at war, including France, even when Britain and France were fighting in America!

When the French and Indian War began in 1754 (started after an order to fire on the French by then twenty-one-year-old Lieutenant Colonel George Washington), the British, who lost thousands of men in America over the course of the next seven years, discovered that French forces were kept well-supplied in spite of being separated from their homeland by an ocean that was controlled by the British navy. Astonishingly, most of their supplies were British! The supplies were smuggled to Newfoundland by American merchants. As Unger observes,

Clearly, many merchants in Massachusetts had prolonged the war by smuggling essential goods to French forces, not only undermining the British military effort but depriving the British treasury of revenues to help pay for the war.”

This is the reason that William Pitt, in the British government, demanded that Parliament pass an act allowing customs officers to obtain writs of assistance to search and seize without specifying in advance specifically for what they were searching.

British Whig Statesman Willliam Pitt

Parliament also hoped to stop the new practice of bribing customs officials to overlook the mislabeling of shiploads of molasses, a technique to ensure the shipments would be duty-free. The practice worked so well that colonists soon expanded their operations to include a wide range of other dutiable goods including tea. The ensuing wave of smuggling enabled the merchants to amass enormous wealth and power, while the British treasury suffered huge loses, and as Unger writes, “duty-free smuggling soon metamorphosed into one of the basic human rights afforded to all Americans.”

Meanwhile, at the end of the French and Indian War, colonists began to move west into land that was owned by Indians according to treaties made with the British. Both sides fought one another, and both demanded protection by the British. The French and Indian War had left the British government badly in debt, however, even while colonial merchants had reaped fortunes from it. Some 40,000 English were in debtor’s prisons and there were anti-tax riots across the country. The British Prime Minister felt he had no choice but to try and enforce tax collection in the colonies. There were, after all, some 10,000 British regulars guarding the western frontier, and the British navy protected the eastern coast.

U.S. Territory 1775

But Boston merchants, intoxicated by wealth and inflamed by the ideas of the new philosophers on the Continent such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau “(“Man was born free and everywhere he is in chains”) seized upon the idea of “natural rights” and ran with it. (Rousseau, Unger explains, was not talking about the right not to support the necessary sacrifice of some individual liberties in order to support the social contract, but colonists preferred a selectively understood version.)

And thus Bostonians ranted and raved about “taxation without representation,” even though in truth, Boston itself limited voting to “freeholders” – the wealthiest, most influential white, propertied males. Only about four percent of their own population was allowed to vote!

There were other complications. For instance, both Samuel Adams, Jr. and James Otis, Jr. (later declared insane), the two biggest agitators in Boston, had personal grudges against the British government fueling their passion. In fact, of James Otis, it was later said that he “provided the ‘spark’ that kindled the conflagration that eventually engulfed Boston.” Otis had earlier sworn that if his father was not appointed justice of the superior court in Massachusetts, “he would do all the mischief he could to the government [and] would set the province in a flame if he died in the attempt.” Samuel Adams had been humiliated when his father lost a great deal of money trying to make more, in a paper currency scheme. Young Sam was forced to endure a humiliating demotion in social rank at Harvard. He, also, was reported willing to “commit any crime” to overthrow the British government.

James Otis, Jr.

In the end, on top of everything else, the very issues for which the Tea Party leaders had fought were only made worse by their actions:

. . . .the revolution they had helped foment not only failed to end taxation, it forced the new, independent state governments to tax more heavily than the British had proposed or would ever have conceived of proposing.”

The states now had to support their own governments and provide for their own defense. They couldn’t steal arms, ammunition, and materiel from the British. The states were soon facing bankruptcy and antitax riots.

John Hancock, the first governor of Massachusetts, resigned in 1785 rather than deal with the issue of a bankrupt state with no options but taxation. He had amassed a great deal of wealth and political power from smuggling operations during the French and Indian War. But he was one of the few of the Tea Party originals who tried to stay true to his principles [sic].

John Hancock circa 1765

James Bowdoin, a rich friend of Sam Adams who helped write inflammatory pamphlets and “who seldom let facts stand in the way of his conclusions” was elected to succeed Hancock in 1785. He quickly intuited that there was no recourse but to raise taxes to cope with the enormous state debts from the Revolutionary War. He ended up coping with Shays’ Rebellion instead.

James Bowdoin

Sam Adams, the one-time arch enemy of taxation, served as governor of Massachusetts from 1793 until 1797. He now insisted taxes must be paid, declaring that “The man who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death.”

Discussion: I felt like I was reading a young adult novel. The greedy, rebellious kids learn that Mom and Dad weren’t so bad after all, and that their parents actually knew what they were talking about from time to time. But in this story, when the kids grew up, they got control of the teaching of the family history, and created myths to make themselves look good in spite of a lot of evidence to the contrary.

Evaluation: This is a “must read” for serious students of American history. Unger’s style is quite accessible and even though he goes into great detail, these are characters with whom most of us are familiar, so I don’t think the specifics are onerous.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Da Capo Press, an imprint of Perseus Books Group, 2011

December 15, 1791 – Congress Ratifies the Bill of Rights, Thanks in Part to George Mason

One of the people most responsible for the Bill of Rights, ratified on this day in history, is generally forgotten in the invocation of our pantheon of Founders, and that is George Mason.

George Mason

Jeff Broadwater has written a biography of Mason (George Mason: Forgotten Founder, 2006) in which he attempts to educate us not only on Mason’s role but on why it may not be as well-known as the roles of the other Founders.

Broadwater points out the following:

  • Mason was a mentor to George Washington.
  • Mason took the lead in drafting Virginia’s first state constitution and its famous Declaration of Rights, which influenced not only Thomas Jefferson (he adopted the second paragraph for the Declaration of Independence) but all constitution writers who followed.
  • He was one of the most respected delegates to the Convention and had a great influence on the shape of the emerging government. (Notably, Mason shared Adams’ fear of unchecked government because he feared corruption in the political process.)
  • Mason’s insistence at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 that a bill of rights be appended to the federal Constitution is routinely credited with initiating the movement that culminated in the first ten amendments, known as The Bill of Rights.

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Why don’t we know more about Mason? Broadwater argues (1) Mason refused to sign the Constitution because he thought it failed to protect the interests of minorities, and because he could not in good conscience endorse the expansion of slavery (although he was not an abolitionist); (2) Mason died in 1792, and thus did not play a major role in the new government; and (3) Mason himself had a reluctance to seek the historical spotlight.

[On the matter of slavery, Mason was a slaveholder himself, but opposed it for economic reasons. His view was that land was being cleared and planted with tobacco faster than the market for it could expand, meaning that its price would drop even as more and more capital became tied up in land and slaves. Moreover, such a system would result in a huge future slave population in Virginia, which could only cause trouble.]

We owe him a great deal, however, and it is therefore appropriate we remember him on this anniversary of the nation’s adoption of the first ten amendments.

(Of the original twelve, Articles 3-12 were ratified. Accordingly, in 1791 these articles became the first ten amendments to the Constitution…..known collectively as The Bill of Rights.)

Here are the original twelve amendments as they appear in The Laws of The United States of America, printed by Richard Folwell, Philadelphia, in 1796.

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December 14, 1972 – Last Steps on the Moon in the 20th Century

On December 11, 1972, Apollo 17 touched down on the Moon. This was the final lunar landing mission of the Apollo program, and remains our last visit to the moon. The three-man crew – Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt – made 75 orbits of the moon and spent over 22 hours on its surface. They brought back over 240 pounds of samples from the moon. Fortunately, back then, they were not required to pay for their excess baggage.

Crew of Apollo 17.   From left, astronauts Harrison Schmitt, Eugene Cernan and Ronald Evans are photographed with a lunar rover trainer and the mission's Saturn V rocket

Crew of Apollo 17. From left, astronauts Harrison Schmitt, Eugene Cernan and Ronald Evans are photographed with a lunar rover trainer and the mission’s Saturn V rocket

The BBC has an interview with Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan – the last man on the lunar surface on December 14, 1972, who discussed what it was like to be part of history and why he became unhappy about the American space program.

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

But how did Apollo 17 and the other flights which preceded it manage to get there and back? Amazingly, it all took place because of the theories devised by Isaac Newton in 1686. His three laws of motion enabled scientists to formulate precisely the three necessary stages of moon exploration: rocket lift-off, rocket momentum, and rocket engine thrust.

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If you would like to read more about Newton’s laws and how they were applied to rocketry, you can learn more here or here.

You can also take a “real-time” journey through the Apollo 17 mission, reliving every moment, on this terrific site. It has over 300 hours of audio, 22 hours of video, and over 4,200 photos.

December 11, 1816 – Indiana Joins the Union as the 19th State

The Congress of the Confederation, or the Confederation Congress, formally referred to as the United States in Congress Assembled, was the governing body of the United States of America that existed from March 1, 1781, to March 4, 1789. This Congress formed the Northwest Territory under the terms of the Northwest Ordinance on July 13, 1787. The territory, which initially included land bounded by the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes, and the Ohio River, was subsequently partitioned into the Indiana Territory (1800), Michigan Territory (1805), and the Illinois Territory (1809), and later became the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and part of eastern Minnesota.

Formal use of the name Indiana dates from 1768, when a Philadelphia-based trading company gave their land claim in the present-day state of West Virginia the name of Indiana in honor of its previous owners, the Iroquois.

When the Indiana Territory was established in 1800 its total white population was 5,641; however, its Native American population was estimated to be nearly 20,000, but may have been as high as 75,000. Unhappy with their treatment since the peace treaty of 1795, Native tribes led by the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa formed a coalition against the Americans. Tecumseh’s War started in 1811, when General Harrison led an army to rebuff the aggressive movements of Tecumseh’s pan-Indian confederation. The Battle of Tippecanoe (1811), which caused a setback for the Native Americans, earned Harrison national fame and the nickname of “Old Tippecanoe,” helping to propel his political career.

Moreover, as the Indiana Department of Natural Resources writes:

. . . beginning in 1830 indigenous tribes were forcibly removed from Indiana to territories further west. Indian removal was happening on a national scale with the passage of the Indian Removal Act by the United States Congress in 1830.”

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Walter A. McDougall’s, in Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History 1585-1828, describes various religious emissaries that arrived in the new state to set up schools and ministries. A Jesuit missionary, Benjamin Marie Petit, was ordained a priest at Vincennes, Indiana and served in a mission to the Potawatomi Indians near the south bend of the St. Joseph River. When the Potawatomi were forcibly removed to the west, the priest went with them, but died en route at age 28. The body of “Father Black Robe” was shipped back to the site of his old mission in 1856, which has been known, since 1842, as the University of Notre Dame.

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Indiana has had two constitutions. The first was adopted in 1816 and provided that only white male citizens over the age of 21 who had lived in Indiana for one year could vote. Slavery in Indiana was prohibited, but this law did not apply to slaveholders who lived in Indiana prior to the constitution taking effect.

By 1851, the state was in debt and its citizens felt the state was poorly managed. They voted to amend the original constitution. The 1851 constitution called for more frequent elections, put restrictions on state debt and established biennial (every other year) sessions for the General Assembly. Notably, it also prohibited African-Americans from settling in the state. The 1851 constitution has been amended numerous times, but it still stands as Indiana’s constitution today. (You can read the text of the original 1851 constitution here.)

Before the Civil War and subsequent emancipation of slaves, Indiana’s location just across the Ohio River from the slave state of Kentucky made it a popular stop on the “Underground Railroad.” (The term “Underground Railroad” does not refer to an actual railroad, but rather denotes a network of Americans, black and white, who gave food, shelter, and other assistance to enslaved blacks attempting to gain their freedom.) Ironically, in 1937 the Indiana General Assembly adopted “The Crossroads of America” as the state motto.

Underground Railroad historical marker in Evansville, Indiana

The “state stone” is Salem Limestone (also known as Bedford limestone) which is quarried in south and central Indiana. Bedford, Indiana, has been noted to have the highest quality quarried limestone in the United States. Indiana limestone is one of the state’s biggest exports, and those who work in the quarries are called “cutters.” The stone can be found in such buildings as New York’s Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Pentagon, Yankee Stadium and the U.S. Treasury, as well as many state capitol buildings. In addition, in the Lincoln Memorial, the interior walls and columns are Indiana limestone.

Lincoln Memorial

Basketball was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1892 by James Naismith but it took Indiana by storm. Reverand Nicholas McCay, a protegé of Naismith moved to Crawfordsville, Indiana and brought the basketball rule book with him. The game took off like fire. It not only could be played indoors in the winter, so it didn’t interfere with farming, but it was inexpensive. The first game in Crawfordsville drew some 300 fans. As the Indy Star reports:

The game became an epidemic because it was so easily accessible. A boy didn’t need 10 friends, or five or three. He didn’t even need one. Fathers would swipe slabs of wood from the nearby lumberyard and nail makeshift baskets to barns, trees and outhouses. All a boy needed was a ball.”

Instructed by his boss to come up with a new winter time diversion, Springfield, Mass. YMCA instructor James Naismith stayed up all night one evening and invented basketball.

The Indiana Basketball History Magazine tells what happened next:

By 1911, the state had a state high school basketball tournament, won by none other than the team from Crawfordsville. . . . And through the 1920s and 1930s basketball spread throughout the state, earning converts in schools from Evansville to Gary. And the state tournament grew as well. 

In 1925, James Naismith himself visited Indiana, to see what enthusiasm his game had inspired among Hoosiers. He watched the state finals among 15,000 screaming fans of Hoosier Hysteria. Later he wrote, “Basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport.”

Historically, Indiana has produced more professional basketball players per capita than another state, sending 26 of every million citizens to the NBA. Indiana’s tenth-largest city, Muncie, also holds the distinction of being the metropolitan area to produce the most players per capita (with 59 players per every million). Indiana is also responsible for the largest number of high school students to participate in the McDonald’s All-American game: 44 of the 888 young men to play in the competition since 1977 have hailed from Indiana.

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Indiana is also the home of the Indy 500, an automobile race held annually in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the biggest sporting venue in the world; it has permanent seating for 257,000 people, and temporary on-field seating brings that up to 400,000.

December 8, 1993 – NAFTA Signed Into Law

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on this date in history. NAFTA, a trade pact between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, eliminated virtually all tariffs and trade restrictions among the three nations. However, no protections were contained in the core of the agreement to maintain labor or environmental standards. As a result, NAFTA tilted the economic playing field in favor of investors, and against workers and the environment, resulting in a hemispheric “race to the bottom” in wages and environmental quality in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Credit: McGraw-Hill Education/Mike Wirth

Credit: McGraw-Hill Education/Mike Wirth

Americans were promised that NAFTA would generate large numbers of net new good jobs. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, economists largely agree that NAFTA provided benefits to the North American economies. Regional trade increased sharply over the treaty’s first two decades, from roughly $290 billion in 1993 to more than $1.1 trillion in 2016. Cross-border investment also surged, with U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in Mexico increasing in that period from $15 billion to more than $100 billion. But there have also been downsides.

Mexican employment did increase, but much of it in low-wage “maquiladora” industries. These are plants that moved to this region in Mexico from the U.S. near the border. U.S. companies were ecstatic to find that they could pay much lower wages to Mexicans. Mexican women work for approximately one-sixth of the U.S. hourly rate. The income one receives from work in a maquiladora is rarely enough to support a family.

Map of Mexico's maquiladora plants from The Cutting Edge

Map of Mexico’s maquiladora plants from The Cutting Edge

In addition, the dense number of maquiladoras and the inability of Mexico’s environmental regulatory program to keep up with the rapid growth of the industry over the past quarter of a century have contributed to major environmental problems. Both the United States and Mexican governments claim to be committed to environmental protection, yet environmental policies have not always been enforced. Some companies avoid paying disposal costs by dumping toxins and other waste into Mexico’s rivers or deserts. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that only 91 of the 600 maquiladoras located along the Texas-Mexico border have disposed of waste properly. But the women who work at the maquiladoras and live nearby have children who must then grow up and play in contaminated areas. (You can read more details about the hazardous waste problems here.)

Unfortunately, there were additional dangers for female workers. As reported by a Federal Advisory Committee to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

“Female workers at maquiladoras face especially serious problems. They often work in an atmosphere that includes sexual assault, violence, wage inequality, and discrimination against pregnant women.”

The continued willingness every year of hundreds of thousands of Mexican citizens to risk their lives crossing the border to the United States because they cannot make a living at home is in itself testimony to the failure of NAFTA to deliver on the promises of its promoters.

Defenders of NAFTA have two main responses. One is that the low pay given to workers abroad is still more than they could have earned without NAFTA. But it is still mistreatment, and still not a living wage. CEOs back in the U.S. who make this argument make it from their corner offices in air-conditioned high rises with floor-to-ceiling window views of their corporate fiefdoms. They would never live or work in the depressed conditions that end up supporting their lifestyles.

Political cartoon by Nick Anderson / The Houston Chronicle.

Political cartoon by Nick Anderson / The Houston Chronicle.

Supporters of NAFTA also argue that the problems of inequality are largely the result of domestic policies and have nothing to do with globalization. Yet that ignores the enormous increase in bargaining leverage over all workers provided by the ability to shift production out of the country.

As researchers at the Economic Policy Institute argue:

The reality is that the denial of social protections in the rules of an internationally integrated market inevitably undermines the protections established in the previously separate domestic economies after decades of political struggle. In that sense, the ‘vision’ of NAFTA is profoundly reactionary: it pushes nations back toward a 19th century ideology in which government’s economic function is to protect the interests of investors, while working people — the overwhelming majority in each nation — are left to fend for themselves.”

President Trump asserts NAFTA has undermined U.S. jobs and manufacturing, but the Council of Foreign Relations pointed out that while economists acknowledge troubles with U.S. manufacturing, they claim it has little to do with NAFTA. They cite effects of competition with China as well as technological changes, such as increasing automation.

Nevertheless, in October, 2018, President Trump struck a deal with Canada and Mexico on an updated version of the pact, to be known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. (To take effect, the deal will have to be approved by all three countries’ legislatures; the earliest that the U.S. Congress could vote would be early 2019.)

In the updated pact, the parties settled on a number of changes. Rules of origin for the auto industry were tightened, requiring 75 percent of each vehicle to originate in the member countries, up from 62.5 percent. New labor stipulations were added, requiring 40 percent of each vehicle to come from factories paying at least $16 an hour. Trump backed down on his threats to apply tariffs on Canadian and Mexican auto imports; the existing steel and aluminum tariffs, however, were not lifted. Meanwhile, protections for U.S. pharmaceuticals and other intellectual property were strengthened.

An analysis published by Wharton School of Business is generally favorable about the new deal, with Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor Philip Nichols describing the USMCA as “a shockingly reasonable agreement given President Trump’s professed disdain for reasonable trade agreements.”

December 6, 1906 – President Theodore Roosevelt Pontificates on the Cause of Lynching

On this day in history, Roosevelt delivered his sixth annual message to Congress.

Roosevelt subscribed to the popular view of some circles in his era that the white race was superior. He bought into (and himself espoused) the eugenics theories of the time that inspired the rise of the Nazi Party a generation later. He saw life as a violent struggle between the strong and the weak, with whites being “the forward race” and blacks and other non-whites “intellectually inferior.”

In 1905, speaking to the Republican Club in New York City, he said that if “morality and thrift among the colored men can be raised,” then those same virtues among whites, which most Americans assumed to be more advanced, would “rise to an even higher degree.” At the same time, he warned that “the debasement of the blacks will, in the end, carry with it [the] debasement of the whites.”

While TR is known for inviting Booker T. Washington, a black man, to the White House, as PBS points out, “Roosevelt invited Washington not to improve the situation of blacks, but because they agreed that blacks should not strive for political and social equality.”

Roosevelt’s Administration actually decreased the number of federal appointments to blacks, with Roosevelt promising Southerners that he would appoint local federal officials that would not disrupt the accord between north and south.

Roosevelt advocated that whites should breed as much as possible – otherwise they risked “race suicide”.

President Theodore Roosevelt

On December 6, 1906, in his address to Congress, he raised the problem of lynching of black men in the South:

. . . I call your attention and the attention of the Nation to the prevalence of crime among us, and above all to the epidemic of lynching and mob violence that springs up, now in one part of our country, now in another. . . . . A great many white men are lynched, but the crime is peculiarly frequent in respect to black men. The greatest existing cause of lynching is the perpetration, especially by black men, of the hideous crime of rape–the most abominable in all the category of crimes, even worse than murder. Mobs frequently avenge the commission of this crime by themselves torturing to death the man committing it; thus avenging in bestial fashion a bestial deed, and reducing themselves to a level with the criminal.”

He then seems to contradict his point by admitting:

Lawlessness grows by what it feeds upon; and when mobs begin to lynch for rape they speedily extend the sphere of their operations and lynch for many other kinds of crimes, so that two-thirds of the lynchings are not for rape at all; while a considerable proportion of the individuals lynched are innocent of all crime.”

Regardless of the cause, Roosevelt issues a plea for adherence to the rule of law:

The lesson is this: No good citizen can afford to countenance a defiance of the statutes, no matter what the provocation. The innocent frequently suffer, and, it is my observation, more usually suffer than the guilty. The white people of the South indict the whole colored race on the ground that even the better elements lend no assistance whatever in ferreting out criminals of their own color. The respectable colored people must learn not to harbor their criminals, but to assist the officers in bringing them to justice. This is the larger crime, and it provokes such atrocious offenses as the one at Atlanta. The two races can never get on until there is an understanding on the part of both to make common cause with the law-abiding against criminals of any color.”

In other words, blacks have an obligation to make sure these alleged black rapists of white women are brought to justice in order to prevent lynching:

Every colored man should realize that the worst enemy of his race is the negro criminal, and above all the negro criminal who commits the dreadful crime of rape; and it should be felt as in the highest degree an offense against the whole country, and against the colored race in particular, for a colored man to fail to help the officers of the law in hunting down with all possible earnestness and zeal every such infamous offender. Moreover, in my judgment, the crime of rape should always be punished with death, as is the case with murder; assault with intent to commit rape should be made a capital crime, at least in the discretion of the court; and provision should be made by which the punishment may follow immediately upon the heels of the offense; while the trial should be so conducted that the victim need not be wantonly shamed while giving testimony, and that the least possible publicity shall be given to the details.”

As he concludes on this particular issue:

Let justice be both sure and swift; but let it be justice under the law, and not the wild and crooked savagery of a mob.”

The full text is here.