America’s Power Couple: Samantha Power Fights Atrocities, Cass Sunstein Defends Child Labor

These two things happened in the same week.

On Monday, Obama rolled out his Atrocities Prevention Board. While in reality, this appears an excuse to sanction Israel’s enemies, in theory at least, it’s an initiative to find alternative tools to prevent the massacres of women and … children.

Obama put Samantha Power in charge of this effort.

On Thursday, Obama’s Labor Department withdrew rules designed to prevent kids under the age of 16 from being paid to perform dangerous farm jobs.

Obama’s equivocations regarding imposing limits on businesses are usually attributed to Samantha Power’s husband, Cass Sunstein.

It must take a lot of effort for this power couple, working so hard to help and hurt kids all in one week.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

32 replies
  1. Phil Perspective says:

    Has anyone asked the President, or Sunstein, why they’ve declared a war on children? Given that the President’s prior remarks re: the birth control debate, did anyone ask him how he’d like it if his kids lost an arm or a leg in a farm accident that could have been prevented?

  2. Rangoon78 says:

    U.S. Department of Labor – Wage and Hour Division (WHD) – Child Labor – Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Child Labor in Agriculture Regulations

    parental exemption allows children of any age who are employed by their parent, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or such person standing in the place of a parent. The re-proposal process will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions.

    Thomas Hobbes voiced the stark traditional English view of the legal status of children: “For the child like the imbecile and the crazed beast there is no law.”

    Children therefore, whether they be brought up and preserved by the father, or by the mother, or by whom- soever, are in most absolute subjection to him or her, that so bringeth them up, or preserveth them. And they may alienate them, that is, assign his or her do- minion, by selling, or giving them, in adoption or servi- tude to others; or may pawn them for hostages, kill them for rebellion, or sacrifice them for peace, by the law of nature, when he or she, in his or her conscience, think it to be necessary. —The Elements of Law 23.8 (EW 4 157)

    http://www.dol.gov/whd/CL/AG_NPRM.htm

    http://www.faqs.org/childhood/Ke-Me/Law-Children-and-the.html

    http://individual.utoronto.ca/pking/articles/Hobbes_on_Children.pdf

  3. Rangoon78 says:

    Child farm labor takes a heavy toll worldwide the “family Exemption” is reprehensible.

    US Department of Labor
    Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT)
    By the Sweat & Toil of Children (Volume V)
    Efforts to Eliminate Child Labor
    U.S. Department of Labor
    Bureau of International Labor Affairs
    1998
    Chapter 2 excerpts:
    Work hazards affect children to a greater degree than adults, in some cases causing irreversible harm to their physical development, with serious consequences for their futures.13 For one, children beginning work at a young age have a longer period of exposure to cumulative hazards. Carrying heavy loads or adopting unnatural positions during work can permanently distort or disable a child’s growing body. Working children often grow up to be smaller than their counterparts who have attended school.14 Children are particularly vulnerable to accidents since they are often unaware of the dangers or precautions to be taken at work.15 Safety equipment designed for adults often does not fit children, and tools and equipment designed for adults are difficult for children to handle.16
    More of the world’s working children are employed in agriculture than in any other sector.

    Children often begin work in the agricultural sector at a very young age and perform a variety of tasks related to the planting and harvesting of crops. They work, often along with their parents, in subsistence (purely family-based), small-holder, and commercial farming.36 As described below, the dangers faced by children working in agriculture are manifold. Their work frequently interferes with their education, 

    This report was produced by the staff of the International Child Labor Program and is published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs.
    http://www.dol.gov/ilab/media/reports/iclp/sweat5/chap2.htm

  4. orionATL says:

    i don’t know about now, but not so many years ago far labor was the most dangerous job category for children under 18.

    farming, and i think commercial fishing, also happen to be among the most dangerous for adults. the ubiquitous tractor and attachments gets a lot of credit here.

    sounds like the dept of labor may have held onto the proposed rules to kill them. the white house may then have sent their letter feigning concern to the dol to mollify supporters of the ban.

    i can say one thing from experience, small family farms can’t thrive without the labor of the family’s children.

  5. Rangoon78 says:

    @orionATL: When I was 13 I was driving my grand uncle’s tractor on his small dairy spread in  Snohomish Washington. I was told to turnoff the engine and leave it in gear when I climbed down to open the gate. There was a sort of a parking brake but he warned me not to trust it…

    Well he was right. As I reached the gate I heard the brake pop.  I risked my life to stop the runaway tractor; I ran after it as it rolled backwards down the hill toward the creek, I was able run and grab the steering wheel and pull myself up into the seat and stop it. I was scared and never told anybody. 

    Rich

    Recently here in Sonoma, another 13 year old wasn’t so lucky-

     

    David Yenni of Sonoma’s Boy Scout Troop 16, releases a dove during a Memorial Day Observance in Sonoma, Monday May 25, 2009.

    PD FILE, 2009
    By PAUL PAYNE
    THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
    Published: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 10:16 a.m.
    Last Modified: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 10:16 a.m.
    David Yenni, the 13-year-old from Schellville who was killed in a grain loading accident, was remembered by friends Wednesday as an avid Boy Scout with a wry sense of humor.

    —————

    Human Rights Watch:

    Agriculture is the most dangerous occupation open to children in the United States. Children work with sharp tools, heavy machinery, and dangerous chemicals, and die at four times the rate of other young workers. Yet they can legally do hazardous work in agriculture from which they would be banned by law in any other industryb

  6. ondelette says:

    People who use censorship to protect themselves from the emotions that their obtuse opinions and ignorance create have no business commenting on the atrocity field. If you can’t stand being told you have a tin ear for the suffering of the world, then you shouldn’t write opinion pieces damning others on their attempts to stop atrocities.

    You have a tin ear for the suffering of the world.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Sunstein in charge of child labor? Does that make him the new employment czar? Will he reform, instead, child labor practices in the US, including its notorious Pacific islands? Or will he make one of those island prime ministers his chief of staff, which would be truer to form for this administration?

    Mr. Bush was pilloried by the Democrats, to little avail, for his astoundingly hypocritical behavior. Mr. Obama is hailed by them for it. Surely, it’s time for the Nobel Committee to award Mr. Obama a new World Employment Prize. It would be as deserved as his peace prize.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    That “tin ear” you imagine is really Mr. Obama’s tin drum. He is banging away at it, purportedly in pursuit of reform, the way he banged away at it when he called to electioneering arms those who wanted humanitarian civil reform as an antidote to the brutal excesses of CheneyBush.

    Mr. Obama’s record of hypocrisy does not entitle him to the benefit of the doubt, let alone that his works be taken for face value rather than ironically. His performance routinely belies his promises in ways that only Karl Rove could admire.

  9. ondelette says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: Oh, really?

    And what benefit of the doubt is it to which you are entitled? Get out a map of Africa, of Cambodia, of wherever, and look at the places that were mentioned in their announcement. Then get another map and look at the criticisms in the essay above. Match the numbers of dead, if you can, you hypocritical nag.

    The times I run face into the atrocities that are enumerated in the Obama speech are precisely those nights on which I know in advance I won’t be sleeping. I have no reason at all to forgive you for ignoring them. I forgive others, but others don’t laugh at people who try to raise awareness of them or do something about them.

    So go bang your drum all you like. You won’t convince anyone you care when you can’t add up the numbers and you deny people the opportunity to try to stop violence against hundreds of thousands or millions on the basis of fifties or hundreds, however legitimate the claim may be. Make your claim and then either lead, follow, or get out of the way. But never obstruct, and for god’s sake don’t catcall. And never, ever make the ridiculous statement that someone has no right to call out an atrocity. The silence here and elsewhere on the supposedly progressive or whatever it fancies itself blogosphere after the verdict yesterday speaks volumes on the humanitarian illiteracy of the threadbare minds.

    A little convenient world divided into two parts by a fantasy of imperialism and a thousand Saints George rushing to rescue the fair damsel of liberty from the fire breather. Trampled underfoot are the people who die in conflicts and atrocities more complex than fer em or agin em U.S. politics.

  10. emptywheel says:

    @ondelette: There is not a catcall here against Power. It is a fact that the initiative rolled out on Monday targets only Israel’s enemies in the ME and not–as I have noted–Bahrain, which is a much more urgent problem than Iran right now.

    But as I also note here Power’s larger program is about finding better tools to stop atrocities. There was no catcall there.

    In fact, this entire post would be nonsensical if I weren’t relying on the illogic of Power working to save children while her husband worked to ensure they remain exposed to accidents.

    I’m sorry if you didn’t understand that.

  11. orionATL says:

    @Rangoon78:

    thanks for sharing that story..

    when i typed some of the above, i was thinking of two such incidents involving me.

    in this first, a couple of farm hands i was tagging along with decided it would be fun to let me “drive” the tractor. they let climb me on the seat and helped me to get it rolling – at a very low speed. then one of the bastards thought it would be fun to turn the handle that was the throttle wide to open. the tractor took off bumping across the field. somehow i figured – guessed is more like it – to put my feet on clutch and brakes. my legs were barely long enough to reach them. i might have been 10.

    in another, my own doing as a 13 yr old, i decided the side of a rocky hill that was never mowed needed tidying up. i hooked up the mower and went to work. at some point i started straight up the slope. the front wheels began to rise and rise some more. again, without knowing what i was doing, i hit the clutch and the machine drifted back and settled back to ground. i went home.

    as you say, many, children included, have not been so lucky. a friend of a cousin was killed when his tractor fell on top of him as he tried to lift a dead cow with a front-end loader.

    i was looking thru the bls stats and noticed how many injuries there were for dairying and also for grain operations.

  12. orionATL says:

    @Rangoon78:

    “…Human Rights Watch:

    Agriculture is the most dangerous occupation open to children in the United States. Children work with sharp tools, heavy machinery, and dangerous chemicals, and die at four times the rate of other young workers. Yet they can legally do hazardous work in agriculture from which they would be banned by law in any other industry…”

    that comment or one like it is what i was recalling in my initial comment.

    “oil seed and grain production” was one of the very high incidence agricultural categories i mentioned in my response to you.

    another high category (“mine”) was “dairy cattle and milk production”.

    and these stats are not limited to children but include all workers. stats involving children say 10-18 yrs might be much higher.

  13. P J Evans says:

    @orionATL:
    Where I used to live in West Texas, one of the local farmers fell off his tractor onto a slab of concrete some months back. It wasn’t clear if he managed to get up and get back home, or if he called someone, but he spent some time in the regional hospital for a fractured skull – and he’s lucky he’s alive.
    I’ve heard also of people being killed when the tractor rolled over and landed on them. And everyone gets told to turn the engine off and pocket the key before working on any kind of powered machine, even a lawn mower, because otherwise you can’t guarantee it won’t start while you have a hand in it. (Cotton strippers and combines have chains that pull the plants in and effectively shred them.)

  14. ondelette says:

    @emptywheel:

    If you say so. Personally, I still read your column as a swipe at both husband and wife and at Obama. You’re almost as good as Greenwald at trying to weasel out of having said the opposite of what you’re now claiming. You called it a program for screwing Israel’s enemies and only an atrocity program in theory. I’d call that a catcall.

    Some of us have to confront the results of atrocities from time to time. Did you know that unlike when you read about them, when they are absorbed by a human-to-human interface, it’s about guaranteed you won’t sleep for a while, possibly just feel like staring at nothing for hour after hour? And it’s just secondary stress.

    Pay attention to the list and stop trying to find a vulgar ulterior motive for everything. Go meet somebody from those places and stop all this incessant hammering on nits. It’s totally infuriating that no one can do anything without you showing up with a secondary explanation and a list of things you want done first. I gave you my list, most of the casualties and atrocities had figures in the 10^5 to 10^6 approaching 10^7 range. NO we don’t have to stop in our tracks to answer your “scores”, first. You’ve never answered us.

  15. ondelette says:

    @Bob Schacht: I call ’em the way I see ’em. I’m not interested in the good I do to myself. I’m interested in seeing that atrocities stop happening. Someone who thinks that making fun of a program to stop them is the right response deserves what they get. Maybe, just maybe, the response will more clearly point out that we do need some attempt to stop the atrocities next time.

    Or maybe not. But blog columnists who are way too shielded from criticism by censorship and protective commenters shouldn’t lob bombs at humanitarian initiatives without something constructive to say.

  16. Rangoon78 says:

    @P J Evans:” Turn off the engine and pocket the key.” Good advice, but my point was that you can’t count on a 13 year old boy to take good advice.

  17. Frank33 says:

    Samantha Power is a “Hawk” who helped win the war in Libya.

    But although she is an expert on Genocide, she has not noticed the genocide in Irak and Afghanistan. Then she also married Cass Sunstein who regularly commits crimes. And Sunstein is part of the Government’s Police State and censorship program. Remember everything is censored, including the damage from the BP Gulf pollution. Samantha is a shill, same as her husband.

  18. Petrocelli says:

    The conflict between helping and hurting children, affects most parents of teenagers …

    *Ducks and runs*

  19. Petrocelli says:

    Well shucks, Marcy … I guess we finally found someone smarter than you, who also fact-checks her/his opinions. /s

  20. Bob Schacht says:

    @P J Evans: “…I’ve heard also of people being killed when the tractor rolled over and landed on them…. ”

    A prominent example was Doc Watson’s son, Merle, who until then had always accompanied Doc on stage with his guitar, until the tractor rollover killed him. Doc still performs, without his son, but Merle is sorely missed.

    Bob in AZ

  21. ondelette says:

    @Frank33: Wanna back some of your shit up?

    Let’s start with genocide. Do you know the definition of genocide? Can you prove genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan? Be my guest, please lay it out, right here, right now. We can bring the case to the ICC. Any person may bring such a case to the Office of the Prosecutor, and any such genocide case compels the Security Council to act under a treaty signed 3 hours before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So if you’ve got the case, I know the address, and we can file it right away. We didn’t get them to take our case the first time, but I’m sure you can enlist some real firepower here, much better than me, real lawyers and shit. You’re so sure.

    There is a case in the Sudan, though. That’s one of the places I mentioned to EW before she deleted my comment. Not to mention that some indictments are already issued. In fact, there’s probably a case for the Nuba mountains, right now this very moment. It’s one of those atrocities that the new group is formed to try to deal with, I bet. There’s a provincial governor and a commanding general on tape (go look it up on al Jazeera) giving orders for no quarters for military and civilians, a.k.a. “scorched earth.” That’s illegal under any regime of international law you like and a possible case for genocide, because it looks to fit the “intent to destroy in whole or in part” test.

    But, hell, probably just an Israeli agenda or a shill or something. The women and children are hiding in the caves in the hills with no food, because the bombers are killing anything that moves, and some of the children are in a refugee camp just over the border. UNHCR can’t convince them to move further from the border so it can’t properly feed and sustain them, because they want to stay there so they can move back again because, well, they’re children and they are too young to leave home. The older kids looking after the younger ones. 2,000 of them. But the hell with it, not our problem, there isn’t an anti-Obama gong to bang here, nothing to see, move on.

    Exposing some of these things to the cold light of international attention really helps, but how often do you write about it?

    It’s more important to scream about Samantha Power and Libya. I took no stance on Libya, other than that we were not informed well enough before the Security Council acted, and I continue that position. I explained at the time on FDL that I had to do that for my own reasons.

    Believing that there was an impending genocide in Libya wouldn’t make someone a hawk, as multiple neutral organizations believed that. Believing in R2P also does not, unless the entire UN GA is a hawk, since it was adopted twice — by a body that rejected the ‘Right to Interfere’, France’s (Koechner’s) original proposition. It’s a more complicated doctrine than just an excuse to go to war, the “Responsibility” in most cases, is that of the state itself, not others. So I would be careful before deciding that on the basis of Libya, the group put together by the Administration necessarily sees a military solution to atrocities. Especially right after they have been handed an example (Syria) in which a military solution cannot possibly work.

  22. Frank33 says:

    @ondelette:
    “Do you know the definition of genocide? ” Yes.

    “Can you prove genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan? ” Yes. There was ten years of sanctions against Irak. Then a criminal war, based on lies. During this war toxic products, weapons such as depleted uranium will kill for decades. In Afghanistan, we have ten years of murder by drones and bombs.

    “There is a case in the Sudan, though.” Linkies? What would that be? Another war, added to Libya, Yemen, and what other wars are there. It is hard to keep count. There are only a finite number of wars that I can afford to pay for. So prioritize your favorite wars and make a list of the most necessary.

    “I took no stance on Libya, other than that we were not informed well enough”

    None of us are well informed about any of this because it is all TOP SECRET. Why should we believe Samantha. She is part of Total Information Disinformation. Samantha did marry a truly evil man. That is plenty of proof she is just another dee cee neo-con.

  23. ondelette says:

    @Frank33: You haven’t proved a thing. You need to prove, if you actually read what I wrote, “intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national, racial, ethnical, or religious group”. So go prove it, lay it out in detail.

    What case would there be in the Sudan? Go look it up in the news, it’s been in the news, or don’t you read the news? Look up the Nuba Mountains. Look up South Kordofan. Look up Blue Nile. Look up Yida refugee camp. I told you where the videotape could be found, if you couldn’t find it, here’s the link:

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/03/2012331114433519971.html

    Evidence of “intent to destroy in whole or in part”. See? Did you know that law is done by evidence? Not by yelling and screaming at the person you’ve framed in your head as some kind of conspirator? I’m not a conspirator. I want people like those shown in the video arrested and brought before a court. Do we understand each other? The man in the video perpetrates atrocities. Do you understand what atrocities are?

    We should see what her group comes up with. Do you understand her resume? She has worked in a lot of places where there are very complicated situations of violence. With the right team and the right motivation she might come up with something. Right now, we don’t have a plan, so when atrocities start, the only people with a stack of paper on the table are the military. If you want to see something different, we need to start somewhere.

    There have been some changes over the past few years, and the civilians have encountered some things to give them reason to work on their strategies. USAID is beginning to recover from having Bush dismantle them. The notion of running all of our relief aid out of our farm subsidies is running into stiff international opposition. The rest of the world is formulating climate change strategies. So this is a good time to be working on an initiative like this.

    So let’s at least see what they have before trying to stop them. Because if some jerk like you stops them and they would have done some good, I call it that you get the blood on your hands and I’m not going to let you wash them and go on to the next topic to yell about. I promise.

  24. Frank33 says:

    @ondelette:
    Your struggles against genocide are admirable. I wish I was wrong that Power has done little to stop genocide. But you have not provided much information that she has actually done anything. We would like to believe this President is not a murderous psychopath. But he is and Power is supporting him. I was disappointed time and time again by the Hope and Change Administration, but not anymore because they always choose violence and secrecy.

    As for the Sudan, do you want US soldiers put in harm’s way there. And some may be fatalities? Is it worth that much? But with the manipulation of facts, why should we believe anyone in Government about the Sudan or about anything. Wikileaks, showed the US Government ALWAYS LIES. If Sudan has raw materials worth stealing, then there will be a military intervention.

  25. leftwinghook says:

    @ondelette you are so out of your element, you little Stockholm Syndrome sufferer, that you should just shut your mouth, walk outside, and shut the door quietly behind you. There was NO chance of genocide in Libya. Samantha Powers cares not one whim about genocide. She only cares about crying genocide when it is in the direct interest of the 1%. Libya, ironically, is experiencing genocide, but this time by the rebels that NATO supported. An entire town of 30,000 black Africans in Libya has been looted, demolished, and thousands massacred by the Libyan transitional army. Oh, BTW hard core jihadists now control large sections of Libya, which wasn’t true when Gadaffi was in power. So not only are you and your idiot heroes responsible for real ethnic cleansing bordering on genocide, you’re going to be responsible for the degradation of women and children by Islamic jihadists for decades to come. Pat yourself of the back, you vile anti-human, you should be so proud.

    You and Bernard Henry Levi and Samantha Powers need to grow up and read some books. You support a leader who has destabilized an entire nation with NO PLAN to win the peace. Fools like you jumped into Libya head first without even thinking about the outcome, just like George W Bush did.

  26. leftwinghook says:

    @ondelette: Oh, and I’ve got news for you. Obama is buddy buddy with the Sudanese government. There’s a reason why no one gave a crap about Darfur, and official US foreign policy to the Sudanese government is one of them.

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