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Kids Don't Need a Cellphone—They Need a Digital Diet

January 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Naomi Schaefer Riley, Los Angeles Times

When you take away phones and tablets, you have to give your kids other things—more time outside, more low-tech toys or more time with you.


According to a recent survey by the toy company Melissa & Doug, 70% of parents want their children to spend less time watching electronic media and 62% want them to spend less time on electronic devices. They are right. After all, studies show that screen time is associated with higher levels of obesity, shorter attention spans and more psychological problems, including higher rates of depression. The new year is as good a time as any to rethink your house rules.

A media diet is just like a regular diet. If you’re not consistent in the first few weeks and months, you will fail. You can lay out a couple of exceptions for your kids ahead of time — car rides longer than two hours, trips to the emergency room. But if you start with no screen time on school nights, and then you make an exception because you need to do some work, you should expect that your kids will ask you for screens the next night and the one after that. If you let them play on your phone in the line at the supermarket, they will take note and expect you to supply them with screens when they are forced to wait anywhere for anything. They know how to wear you down.

But keep in mind, you cannot simply remove the devices and offer nothing in return. As any nutritionist will tell you, deprivation is not sustainable, substitution is. When you take away phones and tablets, you have to give your kids other things — more time outside, more low-tech toys or more time with you.

A significant temptation of technology is its portability. In a widely read rant in the Washington Post, Amanda Kolson Hurley wrote about our culture of “snackism” for kids: “We walk around with trail mix and Sun Chips stuffed in our bags like we’re mobile, no-fee vending machines.” The same is true of our digital devices. Kids used to sit too …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump and the GOP Didn't Want Americans to Have Health Care This Year, But Their Efforts Backfired

January 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Liz Posner, AlterNet

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By creating chaos and fear, Republicans may have unintentionally fueled the demand for Obamacare.


Republicans should have learned their lesson back in June. As Republicans fought to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017 with no plan for its replacement, and more and more Americans feared that their health care would be yanked from them with no alternative, popular support for the government health plan rose significantly. Opinion polls like one from the Kaiser Family Foundation demonstrate the rising favorability of Obamacare from January 2017 to the end of the year, with a steady rise during the spring ACA repeal debate.

Now, similarly, after months of the GOP threatening to revoke the individual health care mandate through their tax bill and eventually succeeding, HealthCare.gov, the online portal for government insurance registration, was flooded with enrollments over the past two months, astounding industry experts and defying expectations.

More than 8,743,642 people are now enrolled in Obamacare. Those who renewed last year received automatic re-enrollment, but many in the health sector were surprised at the number of new enrollments: 2,460,431 as of December 23, according to a final CMS report. In some highly populated states like New York, California, Colorado, and Massachusetts, enrollment is still open, so the number may surge in the remaining weeks as Americans try to enroll before the deadline.

Larry Levitt, a spokesperson for the Kaiser Family Foundation, tweeted his amazement at the figures just before the holidays: “I confess to being very surprised that ACA marketplace enrollment is down only slightly. That didn't seem possible… About 8.8 million people have signed up through the ACA federal marketplace for 2018, down slightly from 9.2 million this year. That is truly remarkable.”

Joshua Peck, former HealthCare.gov CMO, wrote in response to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Art in 2018 Will Spotlight Radical Women and Climate Change

January 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Nadja Sayej, The Guardian

A look ahead at the next 12 months suggests diverse work based on imprisonment, civil rights and the Vietnam war.


Sexual misconduct reports, vital signs of climate change, altering net neutrality: 2017 was a tumultuous year for America. A number of upcoming art exhibitions continue the protest, debate and argument around free speech, the environmental crisis, civil rights and feminism – and look back on a year that changed the game.

The Brooklyn Museum opens an exhibition devoted to pioneers of feminist art in Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985 on 13 April, which explores the groundbreaking work of 120 artists from 15 countries. The politically charged artwork is used as a form of social critique, especially in the works of Brazilian performance artist Lygia Pape, Cuban film-maker Sara Gómez and Afro-Latina activist and artist Marta Moreno Vega, the founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute.

How did women enter the workforce before their right to vote? After this year’s centennial of the women’s suffrage movement, In Her Words: Women’s Duty and Service in World War I opens on 2 February at the National Postal Museum in Washington, which shows how the military helped shape the women’s workforce in the early 1910s. This exhibition features four heroic women, including a nurse named Greta Wolf, by putting their personal artifacts and letters on view.

Just as 2017 became an outspoken year of social criticism, on 20 January, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles opens Unspeakable, featuring the works of three artists defined as “social critics”. One piece is by text-based artist Barbara Kruger, who shows a video inspired by the cultural theorist Homi Bhabha, while Kara Walker shows a video inspired by the civil war and the life of a Virginia slave named Sally Hemings, believed to be the mother of six children with Thomas Jefferson.

It has been a complicated year with Trump dropping climate change from the US national security strategy and on 19 May, an exhibition opens …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Jeff Deist: The Small Revolution

January 5, 2018 in Economics

By Jeff Deist

Mises Weekends with Jeff Deist

By: Jeff Deist

Speaking at our recent event in Orlando, Jeff Deist discusses how libertarians should confront the current political landscape. Given the stubborn tendency for governments to emerge and endure in human societies, we should focus our efforts on creating smaller political units that more closely allow for a Misesian vision of democratic self-determination.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Why Jeff Sessions' War on Weed Is a Futile Pursuit

January 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith, AlterNet

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He can do some damage, but he can't roll back the clock.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement Thursday that he is rescinding Obama-era guidance to federal prosecutors directing them to take a laissez-faire approach to state-legal marijuana except under specified circumstances (violence, out-of-state diversion, money laundering, etc.) is sending shock waves through the marijuana industry, but its impact is likely to be limited.

That's because marijuana prohibition is a dying beast, and while the twitching of its tail in its death throes could cause some injury, neither the attorney general nor his minions are going to be able to get that beast back up and roaring again. They are too late.

At least one of them recognized as much Thursday afternoon. Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, a Sessions appointee, said within hours that there would be no changes in his office's enforcement priorities. He  would continue “identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our communities around the state,” he said, an approach “consistent with Sessions' guidance.” 

Sessions' move comes days after California, the nation's most populous state, began recreational marijuana sales, joining Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Maine and Massachusetts have also already legalized marijuana, with taxed and regulated sales being just a matter of time. Washington, D.C., has also legalized marijuana possession and cultivation, although not sales, and another 21 states allow for medical marijuana.

More states are likely to legalize it this year (although the Sessions move could cause some hesitation at state houses), as even slow-to-act legislators eye marijuana legalization's ever-increasing popularity. The latest Gallup poll has 64 percent supporting legalization, suggesting that going after legal weed is likely to be a political loser.

Which is not to say that Sessions and the Justice Department can't do …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why Populism in America is a Double-Edged Sword

January 5, 2018 in History

By Steven Gillon

William Jennings Bryan, Democratic Presidential nominee, delivering a campaign speech in 1910. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

History Reads is a weekly series featuring work from Team History, a group of experts and influencers, exploring history’s most fascinating questions.

In the closing days of 2017, President Donald Trump scored his sole major legislative victory by pushing through Congress a sweeping tax cut. Every objective analysis of the new legislation has found that it overwhelmingly benefits wealthy people and corporations—and adds more than $1 trillion to the national debt—but Trump sold the tax cut as a “Christmas gift” to average, middle-class Americans.

It was a pitch that revealed the enduring power of populism in American politics.

Trump clearly sees himself as a man of the people, but he and his allies should be aware that throughout American history populism has been a double-edged sword: While it has inspired great political-reform movements, it has also been manipulated by demagogues to promote fear, divide the nation and infringe on individual rights.

The populist tradition is nearly as old as the republic itself, but it was a farmers’ revolt in the late 19th century that broadened its appeal and codified a language and style of politics that would endure long after the formal movement ended. A combination of forces had conspired against farmers: declining prices for their crops, rising debt and a railroad monopoly that controlled the cost of shipping to the growing cities on the East Coast. Things got so bad that corn farmers in Kansas burned their crops for fuel because corn was cheaper than coal. In response, farmers banded together, organized their own political party and advocated for federal intervention to regulate the railroads and inflate the money supply. William Jennings Bryan, the most revered populist leader of his age, declared that the money issue represented a clash between “the common people” and “the encroachments of organized wealth.”

William Jennings Bryan, Democratic Presidential nominee, delivering a campaign speech in 1910. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Populists disagreed about the best strategy for addressing their grievances, but they all shared a common worldview. They romanticized “the people,” convinced that all Americans embraced the same agenda and spoke with one voice. When government failed to follow the will of the people, they suggested, it was because powerful interests had intervened and corrupted the institutions of government.

To explain how a small group could attain so much power, populists often turned to conspiracy theories. The Populist party platform of 1892 stated bluntly …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Sexual Exploitation Was the Norm for 19th Century Ballerinas

January 5, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

The Paris Opera House in the 19th century. (Credit: Michael Maslan/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

The star’s moment should be triumphant. She’s brilliantly lit, her leg lifted in a graceful ballet pose, and she’s clearly the star of the show. But in the wings lurks a black-clad figure—a symbol for the sordid backstage reality of the ballerina.

It’s not clear who Edgar Degas used as the model for the 1879 painting, L’Etoile, that depicts that tense moment. But it’s likely that she was a prostitute. Sex work was part of ballerinas’ realities during the 19th century, an era in which money, power and prostitution mingled in the glamorous and not-so-glamorous backstage world of the Paris Opera.

The Paris Opera Ballet, founded in the 17th century, was the world’s first professional ballet company, and continues as one of the preeminent outfits today. Throughout the 19th century, it raised the bar for dance—but on the backs of many exploited young women.

The Paris Opera House in the 19th century. (Credit: Michael Maslan/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Women entered the ballet as young children, training at the opera’s dance school until they could snag a coveted position in the corps de ballet. Girls who studied at the school became apprentices to the Opera; only after years of militaristic training and a series of brutal exams could they get guaranteed, long-term contracts.

In the meantime, they attended classes and auditioned for small, walk-on roles. Often malnourished and dressed in hand-me-downs, the “petits rats” of the ballet were vulnerable to social and sexual exploitation. And the wealthy male subscribers of the Paris Opera—nicknamed abbonés—were often on hand to exploit them.

“The ballet is…what the bar-room is to many a large hotel,” wrote Scribner’s Magazine in 1892, “the chief paying factor, the one from which the surplus profits come.” Men subscribed to the opera not for the music, but for the beautiful ballerinas who danced twice per show—and, behind the scenes, they bought sexual favors from the women they ogled on stage.


‘Rehearsal on the Stage’ by Edgar Degas, 1874. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

The abonnés were so powerful, they were part of the Opera’s very architecture: When Charles Garnier designed his iconic opera house in the 1860s, he included a special …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Insulting Pakistan Solves Nothing

January 5, 2018 in Economics

By Sahar Khan

Sahar Khan

President Donald Trump began 2018 by tweeting about Pakistan and withholding $255 million in aid until Pakistan
took decisive action against the Haqqani Network.
Pakistan reacted swiftly and angrily. On Friday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister
Khawaja Muhammad Asif stated that the United States is turning
Pakistan into a “whipping boy” and no longer sees the U.S. as an
ally.

Insulting Pakistan is unproductive, especially given that the U.S.
troops in landlocked Afghanistan depend on Pakistan for supplies. More importantly, Pakistan will
not simply change its policy of using jihadi groups just because Trump is
tweeting at them to do so or because the U.S. has decided to
withhold assistance. With the latest U.S. troop
surge to Afghanistan now complete, harsh words and short-sighted plans
are counterproductive to U.S. interests in the region.

This is not the first time Trump has called Pakistan out for
harboring militant groups. In August 2017, as the president
outlined his new strategy for Afghanistan, he
reprimanded Pakistan for continuously harboring terrorists. The
U.S. National Security Strategy, released in
December, stated, “We will insist that Pakistan take decisive
action against militant and terrorist groups operating from its
soil.”

While belligerent tweets
and cutting off aid may be popular with Trump’s base, they are
detrimental to diplomacy, which is essential if the administration
hopes to find a solution to America’s longest war.

So what was the point of Trump’s latest tweet, and will
depriving Pakistan of aid actually change its behavior?

Perhaps the tweet was simply impulsive: just another day with
another tweet in the life of the president. But singling out
Pakistan for harboring terrorists has two broad implications.

First, the Trump administration is in the process of expanding
U.S.-run counterterrorism operations within Pakistan – and without
Pakistan’s consent. Trump’s rhetoric mirrors that of President
George W. Bush, who famously stated “you are either with us or against us” after the Sept.
11, 2001 attacks. Trump’s message to Pakistan seems to be, “stop
harboring terrorists or we’ll come in and get them ourselves.”

Not only would this show careless disregard for Pakistan’s
sovereignty, but more significantly, it would simultaneously
jeopardize the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan and
U.S.-Pakistan relations overall. Whether the United States want to
admit it or not, stability in Afghanistan is tied to Pakistan, and hence, the United States
needsPakistan, especially if it ever hopes to
withdraw its troops.

Second, singling out Pakistan for harboring terrorist …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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It's High Time for New Pot Laws

January 5, 2018 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

As many expected, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has suspended Obama-era guidance documents pertaining to
the federal treatment of marijuana in those states where marijuana
has been legalized for recreational use. But Sessions’ move may
backfire. A $9.7 billion industry has been thrown into
disarray, and the 64 percent of Americans who support marijuana
legalization, including half of Republicans, are wondering how and
why an unelected federal official essentially overturned the will
of the nearly 70 million people who live in states that have
legalized recreational marijuana.

It’s time for the millions of Americans who support increased
research on marijuana, the relaxation of federal marijuana laws,
outright legalization or anything in between to call on their
representatives to clarify the relationship between federal and
state marijuana laws. It’s time to limit the ability of throwback
drug warriors like Jeff Sessions to fight a drug war the people
don’t want.

Since Colorado became the first state to allow for the sale of
recreational marijuana, United States drug policy has been on shaky
and unpredictable ground. The Obama-era memo from the Department of
Justice, known as the “Cole memo,” merely allowed states to proceed
with their legalization experiments at the sufferance of DOJ
officials. That was never a stable ground for courting investment,
building an industry or promoting research.

Congress has the power to
prevent Jeff Sessions from waging a drug war the people don’t
want.

By rescinding the Cole memo, Sessions empowered local federal
prosecutors with the discretion to “weigh all relevant
considerations” in going after marijuana offenders in their
jurisdictions. Such a move, according to Sessions, is part of the DOJ’s
mission to “enforce the laws of the United States,” and, since
“Congress has generally prohibited the cultivation, distribution,
and possession of marijuana,” Sessions views it as his duty to
follow Congress’s instructions.

While Sessions is misguided in his antiquated, if not
antediluvian, views on marijuana, he’s not wrong that, under
current law, Congress has prohibited marijuana use everywhere in
the country for any reason. In fact, federal law regards marijuana
as one of the most dangerous drugs in the world.

Federal marijuana law goes back to the Marijuana Tax Act of
1937, but the modern prohibition began with the Controlled
Substances Act of 1970. That act defined marijuana as a Schedule 1
drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical uses and has a high
potential for abuse. Despite advances in our understanding of the
medical benefits of marijuana, and despite 29 states having
legalized medical marijuana in some form, federal law treats
marijuana as dangerous as heroin. In …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Class Conflict and The Last Jedi

January 5, 2018 in Economics

By Matthew McCaffrey

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By: Matthew McCaffrey

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now the only topic more controversial than Trump, and certainly the only one causing a larger number of pointless debates. Given this dubious distinction, it’s fitting that The Intercept’s Kate Aronoff has brought the two issues together in a recent commentary on the film. Intercept writers tend to be strong on topics like war and government surveillance, but weak on economics, and Aronoff’s article, which combines both of these, is a predictably mixed bag. Yet she does raise an important point: in The Last Jedi, the Star Wars franchise has abandoned its abstract good-versus-evil narrative and taken a more specific political stand in an ongoing class conflict.

A lot of The Last Jedi revolves around the question of whether the Jedi order as such was really as good and as valuable as the legends about it have led people to believe. Luke Skywalker firmly denies that it was. Aronoff rightly sees this criticism, and the film in general, as a “rebuke of elite politics and the rule of experts, whether they wield spreadsheets or light sabers,” and also as an effective dismissal of “the prequels’ eugenicist argument that access to the force is genetic destiny.”

So far, so good. The trouble though is that Aronoff mainly views the class conflict in The Last Jedi in overly-simplistic terms as a struggle between the proletariat and the “one percenters,” or as she indicates, between the philosophies of the Obama and Trump administrations, respectively.

This kind of approach to class struggle is based on a somewhat vulgar interpretation of Marx that divides society into the broader groups of rich and poor. Yet this common understanding of class overlooks some vital questions about the foundations of conflict, for example, issues like how the rich got rich and exactly how the exploiters are able to take advantage of the rest of society with impunity. On these issues, the populist view has little insight to offer. Fortunately, there is another, older tradition that does provide some answers: the classical liberal view of exploitation.

This theory, which Marx and his followers later adapted to serve their own needs, originated in the works of the 19th-century French liberals. The liberals viewed political power and its privileges as the main sources of class distinctions. Society can be divided between the productive class and the political class: the former creates wealth …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE