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How Hate Groups are Hijacking Medieval Symbols While Ignoring the Facts Behind Them

December 18, 2017 in History

By Becky Little

In August 2017, hundreds of white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, for a violent rally that killed one woman and injured at least 19 others. They bore images and chanted slogans that evoked Nazi Germany, the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan. But they also carried symbols from an even older time—symbols whose origin they did not seem to understand.

One man carried a round shield decorated with a black eagle. It was a curious choice, considering the eagle image is strongly associated with a Saint Maurice, a Roman general of African descent who became a saint in the early Middle Ages.

“Nazis aren’t very happy that I keep posting the *original* medieval European bearer of this standard, Saint Maurice,” tweeted Malisha Dewalt, who runs a blog about people of color in European art history. In that tweet, she attached a side-by-side comparison of the man in Charlottesville holding his shield and Saint Maurice holding a flag with the same eagle on it.

The white supremacist in Charlottesville carrying that image was probably unaware that it’s strongly associated with a black Catholic saint, and this disconnect illustrates a larger trend. Hate groups that adopt medieval iconography as symbols of white supremacy usually have misconceptions about that historical era. One of the most common? That Europe in the Middle Ages was unvaryingly white.

“The understanding of medieval Europe as a homogeneously white space is completely erroneous, as scholar after scholar has shown time and time again,” says Cord J. Whitaker, a medieval literature professor at Wellesley College who is writing a book called Black Metaphors: Race, Rhetoric, Religion, and the Literature of the Late Middle Ages.

Recent work by archaeologists and anthropologists “shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, Northern Europe in the Late Middle Ages—even the Middle Ages generally—was an incredibly diverse space,” he says. In 2015, when researchers at the Museum of London analyzed the skeletons of four people who lived in Roman London between the first and fifth centuries, their groundbreaking investigation found that one of them had Near Eastern ancestry, and another was likely born in North Africa. In a 2013 roundtable interview for NPR, art historians also noted that medieval art is more …read more


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Review: The International Monetary System and the Theory of Monetary Systems

December 18, 2017 in Economics

By Carmen Elena Dorobăț


By: Carmen Elena Dorobăț

Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 20, no. 2 (Summer 2017)

The International Monetary System and the Theory of Monetary Systems
by Pascal Salin
Edward Elgar, 2016

The present volume is an accomplished theoretical inquiry into the workings of the international monetary system. As the author himself explains in the introduction, the book is intended to provide readers with a good understanding of the economic principles and economic problems of international monetary economics, while drawing on sound general economic theory. Salin fully succeeds in painting a clear and concise picture of the current issues in international monetary relations, and of the theoretical discussions and proposed solutions surrounding them.

Adopting an almost exclusively theoretical point of view, Salin guides his readers in textbook-like fashion through the intricate core propositions of international monetary economics. The first two parts of the book discuss the basic statements and analyses in the field, such as the theory of exchange, the demand for money, the exchange rate, and the fundamental principles of balance of payments analysis. Part III delves into the issue of international monetary equilibrium, touching on the concepts of inflation and devaluation, the formation of international prices, and a range of exchange rate systems including fixed and flexible exchange rates. In Part IV, Salin concludes his investigations with a brief analysis of monetary policy, monetary crises, and monetary integration.

From the beginning, the building blocks of Salin’s arguments are excellently set up, and together they form an almost self-contained and complete system of thinking about monetary problems. But the strength of the book comes primarily from the fact that this system is grounded in general economic theory. While particular discussions are specialized, and thus somewhat narrow, the overall volume adds to the big picture of the workings of monetary macroeconomics, with a solid foundation in microeconomic theory. Each chapter neatly draws a conclusion on which Salin builds further arguments, but which also constitutes a valuable lesson in itself. Eventually, his analyses lead up to a refreshing overarching remark: “a surprising paradox in monetary theory: people debate about the best monetary policy, although the best solution would be not to have any monetary policy. This was the case in a pure gold standard (that is, without central banks)” (p. 245).

In relation to this welcome insight, three of the valuable lessons that Salin’s short volume offers warrant particular attention. …read more


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How Stereotypes of the Irish Evolved From ‘Criminals’ to Cops

December 18, 2017 in History

By Livia Gershon

The Irish Memorial at Penn's Landing, Philadelphia. (Credit: Cindy Hopkins/Alamy Stock Photo)

New York’s longest-serving police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, is an Irish-American. So is the department’s current commissioner, James O’Neill. Municipal police departments across the country celebrate the role of Irish-American cops with Emerald Societies—and there’s historic reason for all of this. Through the 20th century, Irish-Americans dominated many urban police departments. To some extent, they still do today.

The flood of Irish into law enforcement in the second half of the 19th century was particularly striking because, just a couple of decades earlier, city authorities had viewed Irish immigrants as the source of a serious crime problem. In fact, to a large extent northern U.S. cities invented their police departments as a way to control the Irish “problem.

In the mid-19th century—and particularly after the Great Famine that ravaged Ireland in the late 1840s—families fled to America with no money to buy land, ending up in the growing shantytowns and slums of cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston. They took the jobs they could get—as unskilled laborers or domestic servants, making very little money. Like other struggling groups before them, some turned to petty theft or sex work to make ends meet.

The Irish Memorial at Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia. (Credit: Cindy Hopkins/Alamy Stock Photo)

But it wasn’t just crime that worried the authorities. Historian James Barrett, author of The Irish Way, says anti-Catholic prejudice, combined with cultural differences, made the influx of Irish families seem particularly threatening. Irish immigrants of the era mainly came from the countryside, where a rougher way of life, including drinking and clashes between rival clans, was common. In the tightly packed urban neighborhoods of a country gripped by temperance fever, it created a power keg.

“Most historians would agree that there was very strong prejudice” against the Irish, Barrett explains. “That translates into a lot of different things, like problems getting jobs.”

One early, violent clash came in 1837 in Boston, when an Irish funeral procession blocked a volunteer firefighting company—made up of American-born Protestants—returning from a fire. As history blogger Patrick Browne writes, the riot that followed involved 15,000 people, about a fifth of the city’s population. “Yankees” ransacked and virtually destroyed the city’s Broad Street Irish neighborhood, though the only people convicted in the wake of the riot were Irish-Americans.

Police did nothing to stop the Broad Street Riot because formal police squads didn’t yet exist. According to Marilynn S. Johnson, a history …read more


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Why Jane Austen Never Married

December 18, 2017 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Thomas Lefroy. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Fanny Knight didn’t know what to do. She was supposed to be in love, but when it came time to marry, she couldn’t muster up much feeling for her intended. A concerned aunt warned her not to look a gift horse in the mouth—but not to marry too hastily.

“Nothing can be compared to the misery of being bound without Love,” the aunt wrote in an 1814 letter. “If his deficiencies of manner strike you more than all his good qualities, give him up at once.”

Auntie should know—she was Jane Austen, one of history’s most astute observers of love, marriage and flirtation. But though the novelist published six novels about love, including Pride and Prejudice, she never married. Not that she didn’t get the chance—she turned down multiple chances at long-term love.

Like her heroines, Austen was witty, pretty and flirtatious. And like the heroines she would later create, it was up to her to translate those charms into a financially stable marriage. At the time, marriage was a complex economic decision, because women’s wealth was tied up in the marriage market.

Women’s fortunes passed from their fathers to their husbands, who controlled their wealth until their death, and men had to decide on wives whose fortunes could help fund their lands and lifestyles. As a result, it was common for engagements to be contracted not for love, but for economic reasons—a common trope in Jane Austen’s novels.

For Jane, things were complicated by the fact that she had no dowry. Her father had financial difficulties and no money to pass on to his daughters, and Jane knew that she’d have to overcome that financial speed bump by being so charming or witty that a man could not refuse her. She got her chance in 1795, when she met Tom Lefroy.

Thomas Lefroy. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Irish nephew of a family friend, Lefroy piqued the 19-year-old Jane’s interest. She attended several parties with him and liked him enough to write about him to her sister, Cassandra, bragging that they had frequently danced and visited at several balls.

Then, in January 1796, Jane wrote an intriguing letter to Cassandra. “I …read more


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The Tea Party, Ten Years Later

December 18, 2017 in Economics

By Dale Steinreich


By: Dale Steinreich

December 16, 2017 is the tenth anniversary of the modern Tea Party. That fact will surprise many laypersons who uncritically accept the mainstream narrative that the Tea Party began on February 19, 2009 when Rick Santelli, live on CNBC from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), declared a rebellion against “socialism” one month into the Obama administration.

But wait a minute: Rick Santelli on establishment NBC lighting the spark of an anti-establishment rebellion? An uprising over mere proposed Obama bailouts of mortgage holders coming four months after silence over (if not a defense of) George W. Bush's $700 billion TARP bailout of Wall Street?

If the mainstream narrative seems fishy, that is because it is. What really happened ten years ago and how was the Tea Party transformed from a libertarian grass-roots movement to today's controlled (and just-about dead) establishment version? What are some of the lessons that can be learned?

The Ron Paul Revolution (October 2007)

The ground-zero event in the formation of the Tea Party occurred when supporters of Ron Paul's first presidential campaign registered the Web address on October 24, 2007 (below is's snapshot of the site on November 13, 2007).

Twelve days later, on November 5, Guy Fawkes Night, Paul supporters held the first “money bomb” fundraiser, which (for Internet fundraising) raked in a record $4.3 million. Days after this came the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Paul supporters in Boston re-enacted the dumping of tea into Boston Harbor and a newcomer to politics, ophthalmologist Rand Paul, spoke at Faneuil Hall. A second money bomb held on this commemoration of the Tea Party raised over $6 million, shattering the previous record set eleven days before.

What was this schism on the American right about? It was a rebellion against the Bush Republican party's wars (in particular, the twin disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq), drunken-sailor federal spending (e.g., a $500 billion unfunded expansion of Medicare for a new prescription drug program), and a burgeoning post-9/11 federal spy and police state (e.g., the Patriot Act of 2001, etc.).

From Grass Roots Activism to Big-Money Corporatism (February 2009)

By February 2009, the GOP lay in complete tatters. In addition to its endless wars and domestic spending spree, it had added a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street after the financial crisis of 2008. (Never mind a series of smaller outrages such as a …read more


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Robert Mueller Has the Trump Team Panicked, No Matter What the President Says

December 18, 2017 in Blogs

By Mark Sumner, DailyKos

The special prosecutor has reportedly obtained thousands of campaign emails.

Donald Trump responded to questions on Sunday saying he had no intention to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But while Trump was making this statement, both his team inside and outside the White House and Republicans in Congress continued to beat the drums for Mueller’s dismissal.

The president’s comments came a day after a lawyer representing Trump’s transition team accused Mueller of wrongfully obtaining thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration — a legal and public relations maneuver seen as possibly laying the groundwork to oust the special counsel.

The revelation that Mueller has obtained a large number of emails issued during the transition period had clearly sent Trump’s team scrambling. It’s not just that Mueller had this material now, but that he seems to have obtained it weeks ago, meaning that recent questioning of everyone from Jared Kushner to Hope Hicks may have been responding to questions for which Mueller already had the answers in hand. Considering that half the people Mueller has already indicted were convicted for lying, that has to have everyone in the White House carefully reviewing their time with the special counsel.

The Republican play on Mueller’s acquisition of the emails is that it is “illegal”—a charge made without bothering to state just what law might have been broken. On Sunday, Trump joined in the vague grumbling.

Trump criticized Mueller for gaining access to those emails, telling reporters the situation was “not looking good.”

But the letter from Trump’s lawyer and additional charges of partisanship by Mueller’s team, was enough to generate a rare statement from Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr.

“When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.”

Mueller’s gathering up the transition emails is giving Donald Trump a sad.

“It’s quite sad to see that,” Trump said. “My people were very upset about it.”

The potential for additional indictments over lying under oath gives Mueller even more leverage in his efforts to collect testimony directly …read more


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Sean Hannity Has a Long, Shady History of Deceptively Editing Videos

December 18, 2017 in Blogs

By Natalie Martinez, Media Matters

The Fox News host's latest attack on CNN is part of a much broader pattern.

On December 11, Fox News host Sean Hannity aired an edited quote from CNN analyst Paul Callan regarding Wikileaks and Donald Trump Jr. in order to label CNN as “fake news.” This is not the first time Hannity has deceptively edited clips to attack his perceived opponents.

During his December 11 show, Hannity aired a portion of a CNN segment about the network’s report that claimed that during the presidential campaign, Trump Jr. received an email providing website and login information for Hillary Clinton’s hacked campaign emails from Wikileaks. CNN later corrected some parts of its initial report. As reported by Mediaite, Hannity aired a part of the CNN segment on the report that implied Callan said Trump Jr. violated federal and New York state laws. But Callan’s full comment shows that he was speaking hypothetically, and actually said there was not enough evidence for a criminal case against Donald Trump Jr.

Hannity has a history of airing deceptively edited video clips to go after his perceived enemies. In 2011, CNN host Anderson Cooper called him out for clipping Cooper’s words out of context to make his straightforward report on former diplomat Joseph Wilson seem like an attack against the administration of former President George W. Bush. In that same episode, Hannity also deceptively edited clips from journalist Katie Couric and former CBS correspondent Mike Wallace.

Hannity also aired deceptive edits to attack then-President Barack Obama. In 2010, now-Fox host Howard Kurtz criticized Hannity for cropping an Obama speech, making it seem like Obama said that he was raising taxes  when he was actually saying that the Bush administration had planned for the tax increase to occur after Bush left office.  A year before that, Hannity aired clips from a Fox News interview with Obama, editing out specific lines in order to make it seem as if Obama had not acknowledged the role U.S. presidents played in lifting the Iron Curtain. Hannity’s deceptive edits and misrepresentations of Obama’s comments were part of his extensive anti-Obama, conservative disinformation campaign during Obama’s presidency.

In addition to clipping videos to fit …read more


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The Right-Wing Backlash Against #MeToo Is Coming Sooner Than You Think

December 18, 2017 in Blogs

By Amanda Marcotte, Salon

Conservatives are angry and scared. This can only end badly.

At first blush, the story about Texas associate deputy attorney general Andrew Leonie, who resigned hastily after making ugly comments about the #MeToo movement on Facebook, seems like another sign of a sea change happening in the United States when it comes to sexism. But for me, it only adds to the growing sense of dread that another shoe is lifting and that the big drop is coming soon, and it's going to be a bad one.

Sexists are getting angry. They're getting scared. They're starting to lash out. I worry that it's just a matter of time before some of their punches start landing.

Leonie, who identified as a man of “Christian faith” and father to “great kids” on his Facebook page, also took to Facebook at 2:40 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and wrote, “Aren't you also tired of all the pathetic 'me too' victim claims? If every woman is a 'victim,' so is every man. If everyone is a victim, no one is. Victim means nothing anymore.”

It's tempting to believe that a man who was making more than $150,000 a year representing the great state of Texas in court is merely another casualty who failed to follow the rule that there's nothing worth saying on social media between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. But, as Noor Al-Sibai of Raw Story noted, Leonie had a habit of saying gross things on social media, including posting a cartoon calling the Women's March protesters “cunts.”

Leonie was shown the door with haste, even though he's in Texas and works for Attorney General Ken Paxton, a profoundly misogynistic politician who whined that Texas would become a “sanctuary state for abortions” if undocumented immigrants were legally allowed to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Despite many fears to the contrary, it does seem that the #MeToo movement is affecting Republican careers. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., was pushed out after it was discovered that he tried to pay female aides to have babies for him. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, has agreed not to run again, and is getting …read more


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Robert Reich: American Oligarchs' Day of Reckoning Is Nigh

December 18, 2017 in Blogs

By Robert Reich,

The GOP tax bill is a triumph for the 1 percent, but recent election results suggest it won't last.


The Republican tax plan to be voted on this week is likely to pass. “The American people have waited 31 long years to see our broken tax code overhauled,” the leaders of the Koch’s political network insisted in a letter to members of Congress, urging swift approval.

They added that the time had come to put “more money in the pockets of American families.”

Please. The Koch network doesn’t care a fig about the pockets of American families. It cares about the pockets of the Koch network. 

It has poured money into almost every state in an effort to convince Americans that the tax cut will be good for them. Yet most Americans don’t believe it. 

Polls shows only about a third of Americans favor the tax plan. The vast majority feel it’s heavily skewed to the rich and big businesses – which it is.  

In counties that Trump won but Obama carried in 2012, only 17 percent say they expect to pay less in taxes, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Another 25 percent say they expected their family would actually pay higher taxes.

Most Americans know that the tax plan is payback for major Republican donors. Gary Cohn, Trump’s lead economic advisor, even conceded in an interview that “the most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.”

Republican Rep. Chris Collins admitted “my donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’” Senator Lindsey Graham warned that if Republicans failed to pass the tax plan, “the financial contributions will stop.”

By passing it, Republican donors will save billions – paying a lower top tax rate, doubling the amount their heirs can receive tax-free, and treating themselves as “pass-through” businesses able to deduct 20 percent of their income (effectively allowing Trump to cut his tax rate in half, if and when he pays taxes).

They’ll make billions more as their stock portfolios soar because corporate taxes are slashed.

The biggest winners by far will be American oligarchs such as the Koch brothers; Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley …read more


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Trump to North Korea: Surrender First, Talk Later

December 18, 2017 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

For Washington, the most satisfactory solution to the North
Korea Problem would be Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s surrender.
Complete and abject. Abandon nuclear weapons, close labor camps,
hold elections, invite South Koreans to take over, and recognize
President Donald Trump’s international leadership.

Maybe that will happen. It would be great if it did. We can
dream — but it wouldn’t be wise to count on that outcome.

Yet that appears to be the Trump administration’s approach to
the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Kim says a nuclear deterrent is necessary for his nation’s
defense. The president responded by stepping into a corner,
insisting that he will loose the dogs of war before the North
develops the capability to hit the United States.

Of course, it is difficult to determine the actual reach of
Pyongyang’s weapons, allowing the Trump administration to fudge a
bit. However, some officials already stated that they have only
months to act. Moreover, the DPRK routinely claims inflated test
results and regime capabilities. In fact, Pyongyang recently
declared its deterrent to be complete. Unless Kim soon genuflects
toward Washington, it will become obvious to all that Pyongyang has
called Washington’s bluff.

So, if the administration is serious, war seems inevitable.

The Costs of War

Alas, this would be no “cakewalk” à la Iraq. Presumably the
administration would target missile and nuclear sites — but
not all locations are known, some facilities are buried deep
underground and the North relies on mobile launchers. Washington
also could try to kill Kim, but that might merely reinforce other
members’ concerns about regime security, rather than bring forth a
liberal regime that is well disposed toward America.

There is plenty wrong
with U.S. foreign policy. But the single worst approach, which
could lead America into a devastating war in Northeast Asia, might
be that toward North Korea.

Unfortunately, retaliation is highly likely. Pyongyang might
focus on U.S. military facilities, threatening to hit South Korean
and Japanese cities if Washington went another round. Or Kim might
decide an American attack was a prelude to regime change, and go
all in at the start. Although the United States would ultimately
triumph, the course of any war would be unpredictable, and
estimates of potential casualties routinely break a million. If the
North dropped nukes on Seoul and Tokyo — North Korea’s
capabilities remain uncertain — the number of dead and
wounded would rocket upward.

Thus, few analysts believe there is a viable military option.
That claim should be filed with proposals for preventive war
against the Soviet Union and China when they were developing nukes.
Uncle Sam played it safe, and was not sorry as a …read more

Source: OP-EDS