You are browsing the archive for 2018 February 16.

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Want to See Gun Control Enacted? Support a Movement to Arm Black Folks En Masse

February 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

The gun control bills will get signed so fast your head will spin.


The only greater certainty than another mass shooting in this country is the likelihood that it will be met with inaction. Since the 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there have been a staggering 1,607 mass shootings across the U.S., nearly 240 in schools. Each has been met with useless thoughts and prayers from craven conservative politicians, all of whom insist there’s never a right time to discuss gun control. The fatigue incurred from the whole circular spectacle makes it feel like it might just be easier to start labeling lawmakers either “pro-child murder” or “anti-child murder.”

It’s impossible to reason with the disingenuous logic that mass slaughter is just the cost of freedom, and not a consequence of NRA-owned politicians, which is why even the mildest gun reform seems impossible. Sandy Hook proved the GOP is willing to take donor dollars to look away from dead American children. The correlation between levels of gun ownership and gun deaths has similarly failed to rouse GOP political will, as have arguments that military-style killing machines should be kept off U.S. streets. While the “mental health problems” of white “lone wolf” shooters bring Republicans to crocodile tears, Trump signed a bill making it easier for mentally ill people to buy guns just a year ago. The knowledge that toddlers accidentally shoot more Americans annually than foreign terrorists do didn't stop Iowa Republicans from proposing a bill to let “1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds [and] 4-year-olds…operate handguns,” leading one Democratic lawmaker to observe, “We do not need a militia of toddlers.” Perhaps relatedly, studies find the reflexive GOP tendency following mass killings is to make gun laws more, not less permissive, as evidenced by Florida Republicans’ attempts to loosen state gun restrictions just 24 hours after the Parkland massacre.

Ending mass shootings might seem like a hopeless cause in light of all this, but that kind of thinking ignores the historic infallibility of racism to move American political …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why Are There So Many Urban Legends About Mr. Rogers?

February 16, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

You may have read it on the internet or heard it from a friend: Before Fred McFeely Rogers became a beloved TV legend, he was a sniper in Vietnam. Then he took to the airwaves, adopting his signature sweater to cover his full-sleeve tattoos, using his platform to abuse children and flipping off television cameras along the way.

Everything in that paragraph is untrue—so why do these stories keep being repeated? The persistence of these stories, and their stark contrast from the truth, tells us a lot about urban legends and how they spread. In fact, folklorists, who study how people express themselves in everyday life, say that the stories we tell about public figures can actually tell us a lot about ourselves.

Mr. Rogers’ real biography reads like a squeaky-clean fable: A Pittsburgh native, he entered a seminary but left to pursue a career in children’s television. A deft puppeteer and storyteller, Rogers had a deep love of—and respect for—children that made him a uniquely qualified kids’ entertainer. “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” his iconic TV show that debuted 50 years ago this month, ran for 33 years on public television and is still shown in reruns. Rogers’ soft-spoken persona, his inventive puppets and the familiar residents of his “neighborhood” turned the show into a much-loved kids’ classic filled with gentle lessons and quiet entertainment. The cherished star made a famously emotional plea for public television before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications in 1969, and was a devoted Presbyterian minister who neither smoked nor drank.

Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

He’s also the subject of a string of tall tales. Supposedly, he flipped off a television camera in an uncharacteristic show of aggression, captured in a GIF that’s reached meme status. (In truth, he was raising his fingers during an innocent on-air game of “Where is Thumbkin.”) Other myths have it that he fought in Vietnam or was a particularly violent Navy SEAL. (He did neither, though he did receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush for his work in television.) Some even claim that Rogers created his show in order to abuse kids, despite the fact that no one ever actually alleged misconduct by the star.

Trevor J. Blank, an assistant professor of communication at the State University of New York at Potsdam, who studies folklore and urban legends, has an idea why …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Hidden Costs of America's Wars

February 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Stephanie Savell, TomDispatch

We're losing money, lives, and our sense of morality.


I’m in my mid-thirties, which means that, after the 9/11 attacks, when this country went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq in what President George W. Bush called the “Global War on Terror,” I was still in college. I remember taking part in a couple of campus antiwar demonstrations and, while working as a waitress in 2003, being upset by customers who ordered “freedom fries,” not “French fries,” to protest France’s opposition to our war in Iraq. (As it happens, my mother is French, so it felt like a double insult.) For years, like many Americans, that was about all the thought I put into the war on terror. But one career choice led to another and today I’m co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

Now, when I go to dinner parties or take my toddler to play dates and tell my peers what I do for a living, I’ve grown used to the blank stares and vaguely approving comments (“that’s cool”) as we quickly move on to other topics. People do tend to humor me if I begin to speak passionately about the startlingly global reach of this country’s military counterterrorism activities or the massive war debt we’re so thoughtlessly piling up for our children to pay off. In terms of engagement, though, my listeners tend to be far more interested and ask far more penetrating questions about my other area of research: the policing of Brazil’s vast favelas, or slums. I don’t mean to suggest that no one cares about America’s never-ending wars, just that, 17 years after the war on terror began, it’s a topic that seems to fire relatively few of us up, much less send us into the streets, Vietnam-style, to protest. The fact is that those wars are approaching the end of their second decade and yet most of us don’t even think of ourselves as “at war.”

I didn’t come to the work that’s now engulfed my life as …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Memo to DHS: The Lone White Wolf Network Is the Biggest Terror Threat to Americans

February 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Jefferson Morley, AlterNet

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It's time to talk about mass shooters as the shock troops of Republican extremism.


To: Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security

From: Office of Domestic Terrorism/Threat Assessment Unit

Re: Terror Attack in Parkland, Florida

The terror attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed 17 lives on Valentine's Day shows all the marks of the so-called Lone White Wolf Network (LWWN). The motives of the perpetrator, now in custody, remain unknown, but news reports show he fits the profile of previous LWWN attackers, with a record of gun worship, domestic violence, depression, racial chauvinism, and aspirations for complete impunity from social control.

BACKGROUND: LWWN is an amorphous domestic terror phenomenon, not unlike Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Middle East. Its members are not linked by an organizational structure so much as an ideology of individual salvation through indiscriminate violence. Like ISIS militants, LWWN attackers favor brutal and public displays of violence to glorify themselves and intimidate opponents.

LETHALITY: In terms of people killed, LWWN activity was at least four times more dangerous to Americans in 2017 than Islamic terror groups. Four of the five most lethal LWWN attacks in America have taken place since President Trump took office.

MEMBERSHIP: LWWN consists almost exclusively of white males in the United States. While exact figures are elusive, they potentially number in the tens of thousands. While LWWN attacks are usually suicidal, there seems to be no shortage of new attackers.

IDEOLOGY: The ideology of Lone White Wolf attackers is radically individualistic, rooted in an ahistoric interpretation of the Second Amendment. While there is no one statement of doctrine, the data show members are unified by a worship of guns, violent behavior toward women and an abiding conviction they have the right to inflict violence and death on …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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GOP Takes Another Ruthless Step to Control Federal Courts

February 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

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The most egregious partisan intervention since Mitch McConnell blocked Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee.


Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans ended a century-old tradition Thursday that will accelerate the appointment of right-wing federal judges in purple and blue states, where they will preside over thousands of cases that will never reach the Supreme Court.

The move, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa, was the most egregious partisan intervention in the judiciary since Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked 2016 hearings on President Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, which would have given the court a center-left majority. (After the 2016 election, conservative Neil Gorsuch was appointed and confirmed.)

“Michael Brennan gets voted out of Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines despite fact that he refused to acknowledge implicit racial bias in the justice system,” tweeted Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Obama. “Grassley kills the blue slip tradition with this vote. Brennan voted out over objection of a home-state senator.”

“Chuck Grassley's blue slip policy blocked three of Obama's African American circuit noms. But now he's changed his policy to ram through two of Trump's white circuit noms, inc Michael Brennan,” tweeted Christopher Kang, who served in the Obama White House Counsel’s Office for more than four years and was in charge of its judicial nomination process.

These comments underscored that Republicans under President Trump are packing the federal courts with right-wing nominees, many of whom are not qualified to hold these lifetime posts. The public often underestimates the power of federal judges, especially at the appellate level. While the Supreme Court gets about 7,000 appeals annually and hears between 100-150 cases, federal appeals courts receive …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Does Jared Kushner's Massive Debt Make Him a Threat to National Security?

February 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Heather Digby Parton, Salon

The Kushner family owes hundreds of millions on botched real estate ventures, while he travels the world for Trump.


On Wednesday night, in the midst of wall-to-wall coverage of yet another horrific bloody massacre of American children by a violent misfit with a semiautomatic weapon, NBC news reported that more than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017. It's understandable that this news didn't get much play, considering the nightmare taking place in Florida, but it's pretty astonishing in any case.

Among those who didn't have clearances, as of three months ago, were Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, White House Counsel Don McGahn and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Even more stunning is the fact that 10 of 24 National Security Council officials had only interim clearances. This includes former deputy national security adviser for strategy Dina Powell and her replacement, Nadia Schadlow, who was hired in March 2017. A number of other high-level National Security Council members and staff were also working on interim clearances, as of the last available evidence.

Keep in mind that all these people were working on the most important and sensitive issues in the federal government, without proper clearance, after President Trump's first national security adviser had been fired and later pleaded guilty to a crime as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. You might have thought the administration would go to extra lengths to ensure there were no other such issues. Instead, they hired dozens of people who had problems obtaining the proper clearances and apparently didn't think it was a problem.

The most dangerous hire of all may turn out to be the one the president is the least likely to fire. That would be Jared Kushner, whose supposed portfolio runs the gamut from creating Middle East peace to diplomacy with Mexico and China, as well as an array of domestic duties. As Salon's Matthew Sheffield reported on Wednesday, we don't know exactly why Kushner …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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10 Modern Presidential Speeches Every American Should Know

February 16, 2018 in History

By Allison McNearney

Franklin Delano Roosevelt making his inaugural address as 32nd President of the United States, 1933. (Credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

Presidential speeches reveal the United States’ challenges, hopes, dreams and temperature of the nation, as much as they do the wisdom and perspective of the leader speaking them. Even in an age of Twitter, the formal, spoken word from the White House carries great weight and can move, anger or inspire at home and around the world.

Here are the 10 most important modern presidential speeches selected by scholars at the Miller Center—a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia that specializes in presidential scholarship—and professors from other universities, as well.

You can find these speeches, with their commentary, as well as dozens more on the HISTORY speeches skill for Amazon Alexa.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address

Franklin Delano Roosevelt making his inaugural address as 32nd President of the United States, 1933. (Credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

When: 1933, during the Great Depression

What Roosevelt Said: “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself… Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war.”

Why It Was Important: Roosevelt is embarking on something audacious, proposing that the national government has an obligation to provide an economic safety net for its citizens to protect them from the unpredictability of the market. In making a case for bold intervention in markets, he’s also making a case for a stronger executive at the top. But for all the disruptive talk in this speech, Roosevelt delivers reassurance. I think a hallmark of the speeches that we remember the most by presidents from both parties are ones that not only address the circumstances at hand, but also give people some hope.

— Margaret O’Mara, professor of history, University of Washington

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Fireside Chat “On Banking”


Franklin Roosevelt preparing for his first “fireside chat” in which he explained the measures …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How George Washington’s Farewell Address Inspired Lincoln, Ike, Reagan and Obama

February 16, 2018 in History

By John Avlon

George Washington's Farewell Address, written in his own hand, on display at the New York State Museum. (Credit: Mike Groll/AP Photo)

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

Hyper-partisanship. Excessive debt. Foreign influence in our elections. Sounds like a litany of some of America’s greatest challenges today.

But some threats never end and these topped the list of what kept George Washington up at night, fearing for the future of the nation he helped found.

They were cautionary touchstones of Washington’s final revolutionary act: a Farewell Address in which the nation’s first president voluntarily stepped down from power, establishing the two-term tradition. Instead of delivering the message to Congress, Washington instead delivered it directly to the American people in the pages of a Philadelphia newspaper on September 19, 1796. It quickly became the most famous address in the nation, more widely reprinted than the Declaration of Independence for the first 100 years of our republic.

No valedictory victory lap, Washington’s farewell warning was a prescient document, full of durable wisdom that inspired and informed presidents from Lincoln to Eisenhower to Reagan and Obama, to name just a few. Below, are examples from my book Washington’s Farewell, how great statesmen have studied and applied the lessons of history, providing a conversation across the ages:

George Washington’s Farewell Address, written in his own hand, on display at the New York State Museum. (Credit: Mike Groll/AP Photo)

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Civil War was the revolutionary generation’s greatest fear, preoccupying George Washington’s presidency. But two generations later, war loomed. And during the 1860 presidential campaign, the nominee of the newly formed Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, cited the Farewell Address repeatedly in his stump speech, calling out the divisiveness that had led the nation to the brink:

“Some of you delight to flaunt in our faces the warning against sectional parties given by Washington in his Farewell Address,” Lincoln said. “Could Washington himself speak, would he cast the blame of that sectionalism upon us, who sustain his policy, or upon you who repudiate it? We respect that warning of Washington, and we commend it to you, together with his example pointing to the right application of it.”

In the heat of the presidential campaign, Lincoln presented himself as Washington’s heir, defending his legacy against the secession-threatening southern Democrats. Lincoln nailed the hypocrisy of men who tried to twist history to their advantage while ignoring original intentions, “calling not …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Which American President Was the First to be Photographed?

February 16, 2018 in History

By Dan Jones and Marina Amaral

JohnQuincyAdams_History

The Past in Color features the work of colorist Marina Amaral, bringing to life black and white photos with color applied digitally.

Farsighted but underrated, John Quincy Adams was a president of firsts. He was the first president not to have been a founding father. The first son of a president to be elected. The first to marry a woman born outside the United States. He is also the first president of whom we have surviving photos: including this one, taken at his home in Massachusetts in 1843, long after Adams had left office—his presidency ran 1825-29—and only five years before his death at the grand old age of 80.

The image was made by a German-born artist named Philip Haas, who emigrated young to the United States but travelled to Paris to learn the art of the daguerreotype. This exciting new technology, the first photographic technique to be made available to the public, emerged in 1839, named for its inventor Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. It changed the way that humans looked at the world—and at world leaders.


Daguerreotype portrait of John Quincy Adams, c. late 1840s. (Credit: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

THE PHOTOGRAPH

Daguerreotypes were hard to produce—they required the chemical treatment of silver-plated copper sheets, which had to be exposed for a long time, risking image blur. They are technically difficult to colorize, too. Their sheer age means they usually contain a lot of texture, scratches, and visual ‘noise’ throughout the image—often in vital areas such as the face and hands. All this requires a balancing act, in which the colorizer must soften the imperfections without compromising the content of the original photo.

Adams’ fame means that we know very well the colors of his hair, eyes and skin in old age: A glance at the George Caleb Bingham oil portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery gives us plenty of information in that regard. But then we come back to the daguerreotype, and find that even when we know the colors we want to use, it is sometimes tricky to make them ‘stick’ to the image, particularly in its brightest and darkest areas—here the carpet, chair and table.

PRESIDENTS’ DAY

Pictures of presidents are knitted into the fabric of American culture and society. At the start of the Civil War, Demand Notes (the forerunners of federal banknotes) were printed with Abraham Lincoln’s image on them. Mount Rushmore, featuring giant sculptures …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Syria Could Be Washington's Next Big Foreign Policy Failure

February 16, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

President Donald Trump criticized candidate Hillary Clinton for
her interventionist tendencies. Now he plans to maintain U.S.
forces amid battling Kurds, Turks, Russians, Iranians and
contending Syrian factions. Washington’s policy is frankly mad.
Having attained its primary objective, defeating the Islamic State,
or ISIS, the Trump administration should wrap up American
operations in Syria.

As a superpower the United States has interests all over, but
few of them are important, let alone vital. Syria is peripheral to
America economically and militarily. It is a humanitarian tragedy,
but the United States has remained aloof from worse conflicts.
Although the Assad government is odious, the country’s civil war
featured numerous murderous, undemocratic, radical and otherwise
undesirable factions.

President Barack Obama resisted the temptation to intervene
directly in the Syrian imbroglio. In contrast, President Trump
launched airstrikes against the Assad government. He quadrupled the
number of U.S. troops to about two thousand. Moreover, reported
Reuters, “U.S. forces in Syria have already faced direct threats
from Syrian and Iranian-backed forces, leading to the shoot-down of
Iranian drones and a Syrian jet last year, as well as to tensions
with Russia.” Now the president is going all in, planning an
extended occupation and expansive nation-building program, and
risking conflict with multiple antagonists.

Some analysts have even less realistic ambitions. Declared the
Washington Post: “The United States cannot prevent a
resurgence of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, prevent Iran from
building bases across Syria, or end a civil war that has sent
millions of refugees toward Europe without maintaining control over
forces and territory inside the country, just as Russia and Iran
do. Only by being a factor on the ground will Washington be taken
seriously as it seeks the implementation of a UN peace plan for
Syria — a road map calling for nationwide democratic
elections — that Russia and the regime of Bashar al-Assad are
trying to bury.”

How did the United States
get into this mess?

Seriously? Officials in Washington, with a few troops on the
ground, are going to deter terrorist organizations, constrain Iran,
end sectarian fighting, cow Moscow, and create a democratic Syria?
Washington spent decades wrecking the region through misguided
meddling and now is going to fix the mess in a few months or couple
years? It is a delusion, a fantasy.

With the defeat of the Islamic State, Syria’s civil war has
changed form. The Syrian government, with Iranian and Russian
support, is targeting the few remaining Sunni Arab insurgents while
Turkey has turned several Sunni rebel groups into anti-Kurdish
proxies. Russia has deployed S-400 antiaircraft missiles, giving it
leverage against Turkey and the United States.

Washington plans a permanent military presence …read more

Source: OP-EDS