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Presidential Portraits that Pop

February 12, 2018 in History

By Madison Horne

(Credit: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/Sipa/AP Photo)

It may be the age of the photo selfie, but with the recent unveiling of the presidential portrait of Barack Obama at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, Americans are again reminded that official renderings of our top leaders tend to come in the most traditional of forms: oil paintings on canvas, displayed inside a fancy frame.

As a group, the 44 images to date hew pretty closely to the venerable tradition of power portraits—think kings and popes through the ages. There are the obligatory somber backdrops, the stiff, dignified poses and occasional props, like a globe, a book or some important-looking papers. Only a handful of artists have broken from such traditional stylings. And a few have embedded pointed symbolism. Not all presidents were happy with the results.

Below, the back stories to some of the most striking presidential portraits:


(Credit: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/Sipa/AP Photo)

Barack Obama

When choosing artists to paint their portraits, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle expressed the importance of having African-American painters create the images. Mr. Obama chose painter Kehinde Wiley, known for stylized portraits that address the politics of race, saying he admired the “degree to which [the paintings] challenge our conventional views of power and privilege.” Wiley says the lush, leafy background imagery he chose for the portrait was a way of symbolically “charting [Obama’s] path on Earth,” including African blue lilies for Kenya, for his father’s heritage; jasmine for Hawaii, where the former president was born; and chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago.

(Credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

John F. Kennedy 

Prior to the unveiling of Kehinde Wiley’s canvas of Barack Obama, this image of President Kennedy, painted by abstract artist Elaine de Kooning, was arguably the most modernist rendering of all the official presidential portraits. Kennedy sat for the portrait in his Palm Beach estate in December 1962, a location reflected in the sunny shades of yellow, aqua and green.

(Credit: Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Photo)
(Credit: Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Photo)

Bill Clinton

While artist Nelson Shanks was no stranger to portraying important public figures—including royalty, world leaders and popes—his portrait of President Bill Clinton may be his most talked-about. The symbolism he chose, while visually subtle, spoke volumes. The artist said in a 2015 interview that he painted a shadow along the mantle symbolizing the infamous …read more


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The Dangerous Ideology That Threatens the Future of the Democratic Party

February 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Paul Blest, AlterNet

A new nonprofit devoted to healthcare solutions exposes a glaring lack of vision.

Earlier this week, Andy Slavitt, a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, launched the “nonpartisan, non-profit” United States of Care. According to its website, the organization seeks to “build and mobilize a movement to achieve long-lasting solutions that make health care better for everyone.” How are we going to get there? By putting “healthcare over politics.”

It's a little surprising, then, that the organization's board of directors includes so many prominent politicians. In addition to Slavitt, there are former governors Steve Bashear (D-KY) and Jim Douglas of Vermont (R-VT), along with erstwhile United States senators Dave Durenberger (R-MN) and Bill Frist (R-TN). During his four years as Senate majority leader, one of Frist's major initiatives was the privatization of Medicare.

It should go without saying that “healthcare over politics” is a platitude, one reminiscent of the now-irrelevant and soon-to-be-forgotten “No Labels” movement. These groups are not nonpartisan but bipartisan, and their goals and solutions are driven as much by ideology as those who push for single-player on the left. As the last 10 years have made abundantly clear, health care is politics, and pretending otherwise is its own form of political choice.

The United States of Care website doesn’t mention any of this. Instead it promises to provide “affordable care” rather than free care, “protection from financial devastation” and “political and economic viability.” By this, it means that health care must be “fiscally responsible and win the political support needed to ensure long-term stability.”

Because of the fact that the language is vague in pretty much every way except on these last two points—that healthcare solutions must be politically feasible, an oft-heard criticism of single-payer from the center, and that they can’t be fiscally “irresponsible,” the usual charge against Medicare for All from the right—the assumption of many on the left is that the group’s intent is to head off the growing popularity of universal healthcare in favor of less radical, more consensus-driven solutions. 

In addition, the participation of healthcare executives, as …read more


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U.S. Prison Conditions Are So Bad, the British Gov't Refuses to Extradite an Inmate There

February 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Emily C. Bell, AlterNet

Lauri Love could face solitary confinement and placement on suicide watch if sent to the U.S.

The extradition case of Lauri Love, the alleged hacker currently in the United Kingdom, is placing a spotlight on the detrimental prison conditions in the United States. On February 5, a British High Court decided in favor of Love in his appeal to remain in the UK, due to concerns over the physical and mental treatment of those incarcerated in American prisons. 

In a February 6 appearance on the BBC, Love said he was “thankful that the ruling actually spoke to the conditions in the United States, which leave a lot to be desired, relative to here in the UK.”

According to The Intercept, Love — who has Asperger’s syndrome, depression, and asthma — said along with his family and medical providers that “he would likely kill himself if he were extradited to the U.S.”

An expert report from Simon Baron-Cohen which is cited in the High Court’s ruling, states that Love’s health conditions make him “much more high-risk than prisoners who only suffer from one of these conditions.” Love might face solitary confinement and placement on suicide watch.

As experts cited in the ruling describe, U.S. prisons are ill-equipped to provide mental health services to inmates. Not only do prison services fail to provide necessary support, studies indicate they actually make the problems worse.

A study on solitary confinement and mental illness found that for those in solitary confinement with mental illness “the conditions … can exacerbate their symptoms or provoke recurrence,” according to The Intercept.

The High Court’s ruling addresses the risk of suicide and Love’s mental health, referring to expert opinion and concluding “it would be oppressive to extradite Mr Love.”

While speaking to the BBC, Love highlighted the difference in sentencing length being sought between the U.S. and the UK.

“You don’t have any hope when you’re thinking of spending the rest of your life in prison in less than humane conditions,” Love said.

Prison conditions in the United States were similarly highlighted during the incarceration of Chelsea …read more


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The Alt-Right Has Killed Far More People Than You Likely Are Aware Of

February 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

A new report reveals troubling facts about the latest wave of right-wing extremism.

Last June, the Trump administration rescinded funds previously earmarked to counter right-wing extremism and white supremacist violence. Just two months later, 19 people were injured and protester Heather Heyer was killed by a neo-Nazi demonstrator in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. Though Charlottesville has become the most cited example of contemporary right-wing terror, it hardly offers a full picture of the threat posed by those Trump described as “very fine people.”

A new study from the Southern Poverty Law Center finds there have been more than “100 people killed or injured by alleged perpetrators influenced by the so-called ‘alt-right’—a movement that continues to access the mainstream and reach young recruits.” The SPLC report tracks the rise in alt-right related violence beginning in 2014, when 22-year-old Elliot Rodger murdered six people and injured 14 others in Isla Vista, California. Like many alt-right adherents, Rodger’s radicalization began in men’s rights forums, which helped stoke his racism, misogyny and self-loathing. The study identifies 13 killers who have collectively killed 43 people and injured 67 others. “While some certainly displayed signs of mental illness,” the media tendency to depict these violent right-wing extremists as troubled loners is conveniently misguided. The SPLC notes that the most conspicuous unifying background trait among these individuals is a “history of consuming and/or participating in the type of far-right ecosystem that defines the alt-right.”

A healthy number of those identified in the report are outspoken fans of Donald Trump, the report notes. Nicholas Giampa, who in December murdered his ex-girlfriend’s parents before killing himself, was an “enthusiastic supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump [who] often used racist slurs to attack Trump’s critics.” Charlottesville killer James Alex Fields’ social media pages were reportedly filled with Trump and Pepe memes. A Daily Beast report found Sean Urbanski, the alleged killer of U.S. Army Lieutenant Richard Collins III, “apparently liked memes about Donald Trump, white supremacy, and the alt-right.” Alexandre Bissonnette, the Quebec mosque murderer and the lone Canadian in the group, was <a target=_blank …read more


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Our Interests and Their Interests

February 12, 2018 in Economics

By Murray N. Rothbard


By: Murray N. Rothbard

In the 20th century, the advocates of free-market economics almost invariably pin the blame for government intervention solely on erroneous ideas — that is, on incorrect ideas about which policies will advance the public weal. To most of these writers, any such concept as “ruling class” sounds impossibly Marxist. In short, what they are really saying is that there are no irreconcilable conflicts of class or group interest in human history, that everyone’s interests are always compatible, and that therefore any political clashes can only stem from misapprehensions of this common interest.

In “The Clash of Group Interests,” Ludwig von Mises, the outstanding champion of the free market in this century, avoids the naïve trap embraced by so many of his colleagues. Instead, Mises sets forth a highly sophisticated and libertarian theory of classes and of class conflict by distinguishing sharply between the free market and government intervention.

It is true that on the free market there are no clashes of class or group interest; all participants benefit from the market and therefore all their interests are in harmony.

But the matter changes drastically, Mises points out, when we move to the intervention of government. For that very intervention necessarily creates conflict between those classes of people who are benefited or privileged by the State and those who are burdened by it. These conflicting classes created by State intervention Mises calls castes. As Mises states,

Thus there prevails a solidarity of interests among all caste members and a conflict of interests among the various castes. Each privileged caste aims at the attainment of new privileges and at the preservation of old ones. Each underprivileged caste aims at the abolition of its disqualifications. Within a caste society there is an irreconcilable antagonism between the interests of the various castes.

In this profound analysis Mises harkens back to the original libertarian theory of class analysis, originated by Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer, leaders of French laissez-faire liberalism in the early 19th century.

“We have to abandon the cozy view that all of us, we and our privileged rulers alike, are in a continuing harmony of interest.”
But Mises has a grave problem; as a utilitarian, indeed as someone who equates utilitarianism with economics and with the free market, he has to be able to convince everyone, even those whom he concedes are the ruling castes, that they would be better off in a …read more


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A Divided Germany Came Together for the Olympics Decades Before Korea Did

February 12, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

The German Team marching under a unified flag during the 1964 opening ceremony. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)
The German Team marching under a unified flag during the 1964 opening ceremony. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

At the opening ceremonies of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, on February 9, 2018, something spectacular happened: Athletes from North and South Korea, which have been bitterly divided for 73 years, marched beneath a unified flag. Though North and South appear no closer to reunification, the move was seen as an olive branch of sorts that could pave the way for better relations between the estranged countries—and it’s just one example of how the worldwide sporting event can bring people together, if only for a few weeks.

It’s not the first time a divided nation has come together as one Olympic team. From 1956 through 1964, East and West Germany unified as a single team—until heightened political tensions tore the athletic programs apart.

At the end of World War II, the Olympics couldn’t be further from the minds of the German people. Their country had been decimated during the war, and in 1945, after Germany surrendered, the Allies split the country into four occupation zones. There was work to do: Not only did the Allies endeavor to root out Nazism from the remaining population, they also had to deal with millions of displaced persons, whose homes and families had been destroyed during the war and the Holocaust, and stabilize Germany’s collapsed economy.

In 1949, the western Allies—France, the United Kingdom and the United States—allowed their zones to self-govern, and the Federal Republic of Germany was born. Meanwhile, the USSR took over the eastern half of Germany and created the German Democratic Republic, a communist state. As daily life slowly normalized, both nations, which had been banned from competing in the 1948 games, began to look forward to the Olympic Games of 1952, 1956 and beyond.

Road blocks from the Russian-American sector boundary in Germany, 1949. (Credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

The games meant similar things to both countries. They symbolized a celebration of the return of normal life, the end of a destructive war, and recognition of two new nations. But East and West Germany distrusted one another, and the Western world felt that to recognize an East German team would be to normalize and even celebrate the growth of Communism during the Cold War. To make matters even more complicated, …read more


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ICE Chases Arizona Father of 5-Year-Old Boy with Cancer into Sanctuary

February 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Gabe Ortiz, DailyKos

The Trump administration is tearing families apart.

Jayden is only five years old, but already a large portion of his life has been spent at Phoenix Children’s Hospital undergoing chemotherapy to treat the rare form of leukemia he was diagnosed with in 2016. Because his mom, Sonia, is pregnant with his new little brother or sister and can’t physically handle some of the toxic pills herself, his dad Jesus helps him take his medicine. Jayden still has two more years of treatment to complete and getting well should be the only thing this family needs to worry over, except the U.S. government is trying to tear Jayden’s dad from him and deport him to a country he hasn’t been to since he was a toddler:

Berrones, a furniture upholsterer and air conditioning maintenance worker, lives in Phoenix and has been in the United States since he was about 18 months old, [attorney Garrett] Wilkes told The Arizona Republic.

Federal immigration authorities want to reinstate a deportation order despite the stress his deportation would put the man's young family, including a 5-year-old boy receiving intensive chemotherapy for a rare form of leukemia, Wilkes said.

Berrones has five children, all U.S. citizens including two from a previous relationship and three with his wife, Sonia Garcia, 24. She is a U.S. citizen, and pregnant, Wilkes said.

Berrones first fell onto Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) radar in 2006 for driving with a fake driver’s license and deported to Mexico. Desperate to reunite with his family, Berrones twice reentered the U.S. without permission. When he again faced deportation in 2016, he was able to get a stay of deportation based on humanitarian factors—Jayden’s illness—and was granted a work permit. But following Donald Trump’s inauguration, Berrones was told during an ICE meeting in June that he would need to check in more frequently. By December, he was told to prepare for deportation.

“It would be catastrophic in every literal and emotional sense of the word” if Berrones was torn from his family, said Wilkes. “This is not just a man who is a husband and a father, he is an example to these …read more


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End Space-Station Funding Right Now

February 12, 2018 in Economics

By Laurence M. Vance


By: Laurence M. Vance

Donald Trump’s possible decision to end NASA’s funding of the International Space Station by 2025 brings up that age-old question of the proper role of government, although it is certainly not he who is bringing it up.

The International Space Station (ISS) program is a joint operation between NASA and the space agencies of Russia, Japan, Canada, and eleven countries of Europe. According to NASA’s “Reference Guide to the International Space Station.”

NASA and the space agencies of Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada have hosted investigators from 83 nations to conduct over 1700 investigations in the long-term micro-gravity environment on-board the ISS. Many investigators have published their findings and others are incorporating findings into follow-on investigations on the ground and onboard. Their research in the areas of earth and space science, biology, human physiology, physical sciences, and technology demonstration will bring yet to be discovered benefits to humankind and prepare us for our journey beyond low Earth orbit.

The first of many components of the ISS was launched into orbit in November 1998. Assembly was completed in July 2011. The station has been continuously occupied by a maximum of six astronauts from various countries since November 2000.

The ISS is the largest man-made object to ever orbit the Earth. In NASA’s reference guide, it is described thus:

The ISS has a mass of 410,501 kg (905,000 lbs) and a pressurized volume of approximately 916 m3 (32,333 ft3). The ISS can generate up to 80 kilowatts of electrical power per orbit from solar arrays which cover an approximate area of 2,997 m2 (32,264 ft2). The ISS structure measures 95 m (311 ft) from the P6 to S6 trusses and 59 m (193 ft) from PMA2 to the Progress docked on the aft of the Russian Service Module. The ISS orbital altitude can range from 278-460 km (150-248 nautical miles) and is in an orbital inclination of 51.6 degrees. The ISS currently houses 6 crew members.

The ISS is so large it can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. It maintains an orbit between 205 and 270 miles above the Earth, and completes 15.5 orbits per day.

Of course, all of this comes at a price — an enormous price to U.S. taxpayers.

The ISS is the most expensive object ever built. According to a recent audit by NASA’s Office of Inspector General, “Through fiscal year (FY) …read more


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Virginia Farmers Issue Perfect Response to Racists Hooting Over 'Resist White Supremacy' Sign

February 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Travis Gettys, Raw Story

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

The owners of a family farm in northern Virginia publicly announced their opposition to white supremacy — and then responded on Facebook to the racist backlash.

Cox Farms posted “resist white supremacy” on the sign in front of their Centreville destination, where they hold seasonal and holiday festivals, reported WJLA-TV.

“We sincerely believe that fighting injustice and white supremacy is a responsibility that can — and should — unite us all,” Cox Farms said in a Facebook post. “We struggle to see how anyone other than self-identified white supremacists would take this as a personal attack.”

Some social media users did take offense to the farm’s sign and Facebook post, and the family painstakingly responded to critics who complained about seeing a Black Lives Matter sign there in the past but no Blue Lives Matter message.

“You’re right, Shannon — we do not support ‘Blue Lives Matter,'” Cox Farms replied. “Like Misty explained, police lives are already and by default valued in our society. Black lives are not, so we believe that a declaration that Black Lives Matter is necessary and important.”

Another social media claimed the sign was divisive and forced “black supremacy” viewports on passersby — which the family explained was illogical.

“Lisa, when we talk about white supremacy, we’re referring to a systemic racism that is much deeper and more pervasive than any individual or group could be,” Cox Farms said. “Black people do not have the institutional power in our society to benefit from so-called ‘black supremacy.’ It just doesn’t work like that.”

Not all Facebook users reacted negatively to the family’s message.

“If you see a sign that says ‘resist white supremacy’ and you first instinct is ‘well, I’m never shopping THERE again!’, guess what? You’re part of the reason signs like that need to exist. You ARE the problem,” said Facebook user Bryan Proctor Jr.

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Stop Funding Georgia Charter Schools ‘on the Cheap’

February 12, 2018 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

Atlanta has a great education opportunity ahead, because Georgia
policymakers are considering funding public schools equitably.

The new legislation, House Bill 787, would equalize public charter school
funding with traditional public schools for all 180 school
districts in Georgia, and would cost the state about $10

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Scott Hilton, says that the price
tag is a “drop in the bucket,” especially since charter
school students are currently being educated “on the

He has a point. Research shows charter schools can achieve the
same outcomes or even better than traditional public schools, and
for less money, too. It’s exciting to think about how
successful these schools would be if they received just as much
funding as their traditional counterparts.

As shown in a recent study by my colleagues at the University of
Arkansas and me, Atlanta public charter schools receive around
$2,000 less funding allocated on a per-child basis than their
district school counterparts each year, or almost $26,000 less
throughout a full K-12 education. And we find that despite the
large funding disadvantage, Atlanta public charter schools are 14
percent more cost-effective and produce an 18 percent higher
return-on-investment than their neighboring district schools.

Let’s make this a bit more concrete. The data show that
every thousand dollars spent on education in Atlanta district
schools translates to around a $4,560 increase in students’
lifetime earnings. That is commendable. But that same
thousand-dollar-expenditure produces an estimated $5,370 in
students’ lifetime earnings if allocated to a public charter
school in the city. And that 18 percent advantage is very important
considering that Atlanta taxpayers spend over $210,000 for each
child’s K-12 education in district schools.

In other words, 13 years of equal funding in charter schools
could produce around an additional $170,000 in lifetime earnings
for each charter school student in Atlanta.

Of course, this isn’t the only study finding that charter
schools do more with less. In 2014, researchers at the University
of Arkansas also found that charter schools across the country were
40 percent more productive, as measured by gains in student
achievement, than neighboring district schools. In addition,
experimental studies by researchers at Harvard University and
Princeton University found that male students that won a public
charter school lottery were less than half as likely to commit
crimes later on in life, and female students were 59 percent less
likely to become pregnant as teenagers.

And positive effects like these pay off. When charter schools
reduce the likelihood that students commit crimes as adults,
society spends less resources on policing, court cases, corrections
programs, and prisons.

Overall, the scientific evidence suggests that charter schools
improve academic outcomes for students. Researchers …read more

Source: OP-EDS