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Tread Carefully on Mental-Health Reform

February 28, 2018 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

In the aftermath of the horrible tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman
Douglas High School, there has been an understandable desire to do
something. Much of the debate fueled by that desire has
been focused on gun control. And the anger, fear, and raw politics
on both sides of the divisive issue have largely overshadowed other
important questions that deserve serious discussion.

Among those is the tricky issue of mental-health reform. In
fact, it has become a bizarrely automatic call and response that
when Democrats say “gun control,” Republicans respond
with “mental-health reform.” And, clearly mental-health
reform is needed. According to some estimates, at least 60 percent
of mass shooters are mentally ill. Many would probably consider
this a vast understatement. Indeed, it’s hard to think that
anyone who commits such a heinous crime could not be mentally

Mental illness is also at the heart of many other social
problems as well. Researchers estimate that between 25 and 45
percent of the homeless have mental-health issues, depending on how
one defines such issues. Roughly 16 percent of those in prison have
been diagnosed with a mental illness. And America’s
substance-abuse epidemic has undeniably been made worse by mentally
ill people who self-medicate.

We should be every bit as
cautious in giving the government more power to deal with
mental-health issues as we are in giving it more power to regulate
gun ownership.

But we should be every bit as cautious in giving the government
more power to deal with mental-health issues as we are in giving it
more power to regulate gun ownership.

Recently, for example, President Trump spoke to the
nation’s governors about the need to reopen mental
institutions, suggesting a return to the era of widespread
involuntary commitment. Many social scientists agree that the mass
deinstitutionalization that took place in the 1970s and 80s
didn’t turn out as well as planned. The country once had more
than 500,000 inpatient psychiatric beds available to treat the
mentally ill; today, that number has dropped below 40,000. Many of
those who were released during deinstitutionalization were
ill-equipped for life on their own, and alternative treatment
methods were frequently unavailable. At the same time, legal
changes made it increasingly difficult to commit someone against
their will, which is problematic since those with the most serious
mental illnesses are often the least likely to seek treatment on
their own. It is a tragic Catch-22, and it is certainly possible
that we have moved too far in a direction that puts both the
mentally ill and the wider society at risk.

Yet, we should understand why deinstitutionalization happened in
the first place, and why it enjoyed …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How Japan Took Control of Korea

February 28, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Japanese officers in Korea. (Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

During the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, outraged South Koreans demanded an apology from NBC after a commentator asserted that Korea’s transformation into a global powerhouse was due to the “cultural, technological and economic example” of Japan. For many South Koreans, analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo’s statement reopened old wounds—ones carved by a generation of occupation of the country by Japan.

“Any reasonable person familiar with the history of Japanese imperialism, and the atrocities it committed before and during WWII, would find such a statement deeply hurtful and outrageous,” read the apology petition signed by tens of thousands of South Koreans.

In 1910, Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan after years of war, intimidation and political machinations; the country would be considered a part of Japan until 1945. In order to establish control over its new protectorate, the Empire of Japan waged an all-out war on Korean culture.

Schools and universities forbade speaking Korean and emphasized manual labor and loyalty to the Emperor. Public places adopted Japanese, too, and an edict to make films in Japanese soon followed. It also became a crime to teach history from non-approved texts and authorities burned over 200,000 Korean historical documents, essentially wiping out the historical memory of Korea.

Japanese officers in Korea. (Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

During the occupation, Japan took over Korea’s labor and land. Nearly 100,000 Japanese families settled in Korea with land they had been given; they chopped down trees by the millions and planted non-native species, transforming a familiar landscape into something many Koreans didn’t recognize.

Nearly 725,000 Korean workers were made to work in Japan and its other colonies, and as World War II loomed, Japan forced hundreds of thousands of Korean women into life as “comfort women”—sexual slaves who served in military brothels.

Korea’s people weren’t the only thing that were plundered during Japan’s colonization—its cultural symbols were considered fair game, too. One of the most powerful symbols of Korean sovereignty and independence was its royal palace, Gyeongbokgung, which was built in Seoul in 1395 by the mighty Joseon dynasty. Soon after assuming power, the Japanese colonial government tore down over a third of the complex’s historic buildings, and the remaining structures were turned …read more


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Why Are the D.C. Dems Attacking a Progressive Candidate for Congress in Texas?

February 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Is the attack a sign of what awaits other progressives running for Congress in 2018?

The Democratic Party’s internal civil war is continuing in Texas.  

In the first primary elections of 2018, Washington-based operatives overseeing its congressional campaigns have taken the unusual step of publicly trashing a progressive newcomer, Laura Moser, one of seven candidates running in Texas’ seventh House district representing parts of Houston.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) did so by posting a negative endorsement—opposition research usually used to discourage an opponent’s supporters—on its website, characterizing Moser as an opportunist who would lose to the Republican incumbent in the fall. It cited a tongue-and-cheek article Moser wrote for the Washingtonian, a D.C. publication, where she lived before returning to her home state to run. In it, Moser chided people complaining about Washington, joking that she would “rather have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia” than move back to Paris, Texas (where her grandparents lived; she's from Houston). The DCCC also said her husband’s Washington-based political consulting firm was making money off her race.

The attack roused progressive groups to rally behind Moser, an ex-freelance journalist, who, after Donald Trump won the presidency, created Daily Action, a text-messaging program giving frustrated people a task to do each day. Since the DCCC’s post surfaced Thursday, Moser has raised $86,700 from 4,515 people in every state, with one-sixth coming from Houston, her press secretary, Freeland Ellis, said Monday. The campaign also crossed the 1,000-person volunteer threshold, the Texas Tribune reported. Taken together, Moser’s campaign has become a progressive rallying cry, somewhat akin to 2017’s candidacy of Jon Ossoff in George’s sixth House district (which Ossoff narrowly lost after a runoff). At its heart, the fight pits new progressive blood against centrist party insiders.

“Why would the DCCC do such an awful thing to a strong Democratic candidate in a critical race? There are many possible reasons, but one likely reason could be that Laura Moser stood up to the DCCC last summer in support of abortion rights,” Democracy For America Chair Jim Dean said in another email, referring to a Vogue article she wrote in August. “When …read more


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6 States Where Voters Could Push Democracy Forward in the Midterms

February 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Kevon Paynter, YES! Magazine

From raising the minimum wage to enacting police reforms, here are ballot initiatives progressives should watch in 2018.

The 2018 midterm elections in November present a real chance for Democrats to regain control of the U.S. House, Senate, and many state legislatures. Yet choosing newly elected officials won’t be the only important items on the ballot. In at least six states, American voters have the chance to directly enact legislation that would curb corporate lobbyist influence, raise the minimum wage, enact police reforms, or restore voting rights.

California was the first state to enact an initiative process in 1911, at the time in reaction to the unchecked power of the railroad barons. Now 11 states allow citizens to bypass state legislatures and enact laws directly.

“That history is extremely relevant today as progressives find themselves with state governments that have been bought by conservative-corporate billionaires types—the Koch Brothers,” says Justine Sarver, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. “How do we have a proactive, hopeful, equitable strategy for the ballot that builds each election cycle and develops the narrative of what we care about?”

Sarver says her group will support measures in the next election cycle that address economic inequalities and expand access to democracy. Here are six state ballot initiative progressives should watch in 2018.

De-escalating Washington state

A coalition of Washington state residents called De-Escalate Washington believes racial bias and inadequate training are frequent and dangerous determinants of how and when police use deadly force. Initiative 940 would require that police use deadly force only when it is unavoidable and a last resort. It would require every law enforcement officer in the state to receive violence de-escalation, mental health, and first aid training, and would establish officer duty to apply first aid to save lives at the earliest opportunity.

De-Escalate Washington has been working for two years on statewide policing standards, but the initiative was underscored by the fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old African American pregnant mother of four killed by police in June. Lyles, who was struggling with mental health issues, called the police to report a home burglary, …read more


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As Student Outrage Builds, Gun Manufacturers Continue Targeting 'Next Generation of Shooters'

February 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Amy Goodman, Juan González, Democracy Now!

Gun manufacturers market to young people through magazines like Junior Shooters.

In Parkland, Florida, students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday afternoon for the first time inside their school since February 14, when a 19-year-old former student named Nikolas Cruz walked into the school and opened fire with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, killing 17 people. This comes as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill today after a one-week vacation. Congress is facing massive pressure to pass gun control measures amid the rise of an unprecedented youth movement, led by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who survived the mass shooting. President Trump has reiterated his calls to arm teachers with concealed weapons. For more, we speak with The Intercept’s investigative reporter Lee Fang, whose recent piece is entitled “Even as a Student Movement Rises, Gun Manufacturers Are Targeting Young People.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In Parkland, Florida, students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday afternoon. It was their first time inside their school since February 14, when a 19-year-old former student, Nikolas Cruz, walked into the school and opened fire with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, killing 17 people. The students’ return is part of what school officials are calling a phased reopening of the school.

This comes as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill today after a vacation. Congress is facing massive pressure to pass gun control measures amidst the rise of an unprecedented youth movement, led by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who survived the mass shooting.

Meanwhile, President Trump has reiterated his calls to arm teachers with concealed weapons. This is Trump speaking at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, on Friday.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The beauty is, it’s concealed. Nobody would ever see it, unless they needed it. It’s concealed! So this crazy man who walked in wouldn’t even know who it is that has it. That’s good. That’s not bad, that’s good. And a teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened. They love their students. They love those students, folks. Remember that.

AMY GOODMAN: According …read more


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Top 11 Biggest Lies of the Junk Food Industry

February 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Kris Gunnars, Authority Nutrition

Junk food companies are willing to sacrifice children's health for profit.

There is no decency in the way junk food companies do their marketing.

All they care about is profit and they seem willing to sacrifice even children’s health for their own monetary gain.

Here are the top 11 biggest lies of the junk food industry.

1. Low-Fat or Fat-Free

One of the side effects of the “war” on fat was a plethora of processed products with reduced amounts of fat.

These products typically have labels saying “low-fat,” “reduced fat” or “fat-free.”

The problem is that most of these products are not healthy at all.

Foods that have had the fat removed from them typically do not taste as good as the full-fat versions. Few people want to eat them.

For this reason, food producers load these products with added sugar and other additives (1).

It is now known that fat has been unfairly demonized while growing evidence has been revealing the dangers of added sugar.

What this means is that “low-fat” foods are usually much worse than their “regular” counterparts.

SUMMARY: If a product has the words “low-fat” or anything similar on the label, it probably contains added sweeteners. Keep in mind that these processed foods are not necessarily a healthy choice.

2. Trans Fat-Free

Processed foods often have “trans fat-free” on the label. This doesn't necessarily have to be true.

As long as a product contains fewer than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving, they are allowed to put this on the label (2).

Make sure to check the ingredients list. If the word “hydrogenated” appears anywhere on the label, then it contains trans fats.

It's actually not uncommon to find hydrogenated fats in products that are labeled trans fat-free.

SUMMARY: Avoid everything that contains the word “hydrogenated.” Food products labeled trans fat-free may actually contain up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

3. Includes Whole Grains

Over the past few decades, consumers have been led to believe that whole grains are among the healthiest foods they can eat.

I agree 100% that whole grains are better than refined grains, although there is no evidence that eating whole grains is healthier than …read more


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See the Unseen: How to View the World like an Economist

February 27, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Have you ever wondered why economists hold seemingly
counter-intuitive opinions on issue after issue?

It certainly perturbs friends (and my girlfriend in particular).
To the non-economist, those of us trained in the dismal science
have a frustrating, sometimes inhuman, ability to detach ourselves
from emotive arguments, all the while trying to poke holes in
popular ideas.

Where does this desensitisation come from?

The best answer was articulated by Russ Roberts on Twitter last
week, and originates from an under-appreciated nineteenth century
French economist called Frederic Bastiat.

Using the example of a broken window, Bastiat pointed out that
with most actions, there is a first order consequence —
something directly observable or “seen”. When a window
is smashed, a glazier comes to repair it. We may observe this, and
in isolation identify this activity as “good” for the

Have you ever wondered
why economists hold seemingly counter-intuitive opinions on issue
after issue?

Yet too often human beings ignore the “unseen”
— the opportunities foregone, and the likely long-term
consequences of a choice. “If he had not had a window to
replace,” Bastiat explained, “he would, perhaps, have
replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his
library.” To finance the repair of a broken window, the
window’s owner cannot use his money in other ways, which
he’d no doubt prefer.

This distinction between the “seen” and
“unseen” may seem obvious. But example after example,
particularly in political discourse, shows how it strains our human
instinct to weigh up alternatives or consider unintended

Remember when the coalition government’s policy of
“free” school meals for five to seven year-olds was
announced in 2013?

Campaign groups rallied to praise the £600m commitment, claiming
it would enhance educational attainment, based upon results from
narrow pilot schemes. It was only economists who seemed to question
whether this spending really obtained the best bang for the buck to
increase attainment, or whether the money could be better used in
other departments — or even, heaven forfend, be left with

Similar narrow thinking dominates the debate around the customs

Commentators talk about the potential costs for existing
businesses of complying with rules of origin tests and other
administrative requirements if we leave.

Yet few ever quantify exactly how significant a problem this is.
It seems to be taken as given that any new costs are reason enough
to either resist leaving or reach some extensive new customs
arrangement. Few weight these costs against the potential upsides
stemming from an independent tariff and commercial trade

The great thing about economics is that, once you get it drummed
into you that (as the great Thomas Sowell once said) “there
are no solutions, only trade-offs”, you …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Frederick Douglass Was His Own Man

February 27, 2018 in Economics

By Timothy Sandefur

Timothy Sandefur

Whom does Frederick Douglass belong to? The question suggests
its own answer: Douglass belonged to himself, having escaped from
slavery at the age of 20 and vindicating his right to freedom for
the remainder of his long life. He was not someone else’s
man, but his own: he was a free individual.

In today’s culture wars, unfortunately, that’s not
quite enough. Pervasive identity politics and fashionable
“social justice” concepts, including the insidious
notion of “appropriation,” have transformed American
history and culture into a battle zone defined by political lines.
And even worse, those lines are drawn in the most naïve and
simplistic manner — in terms of partisanship where nobody but
Republicans and Democrats are even acknowledged to exist.

Douglass was a classical
liberal — today called a libertarian — who believed
that government’s proper role was to free people to pursue
happiness on their own terms.

A good example of this cartoonish partisanship appeared in the
New York Times recently, when Yale professor David Blight

new biography
of Frederick Douglass for seeking to
“co-opt” Douglass and for “cherry-pick[ing] his
words to advance [my] narrow vision of libertarianism.” This
is wrong, Blight insists, because Douglass was not really the
individualist that he himself claimed to be. “Without many
people,” writes Blight, “especially women (his
grandmother, two wives, a daughter and countless abolitionist women
who supported his career) as well as male mentors, both white and
black, he would not have survived and become Douglass.”

That’s certainly true, and Douglass often said so. In his
famous celebration of “Self-Made
— his most popular lecture, and one he
delivered scores of times in the last half of his life —
Douglass began by noting that “Properly speaking, there are
in the world no such men as self-made men…. It must in truth be
said, though it may not accord well with self-conscious
individuality and self-conceit, that no possible native force of
character, and no depth of wealth and originality, can lift a man
into absolute independence of his fellowmen.”

Yet Douglass also saw that this did not vitiate the honor of
those distinctive individuals who overcome obstacles and make
something special of themselves without having the advantages of
birth and wealth. These were the “self-made men” that
Douglass defined as people “who are not brought up but who
are obliged to come up…[who] are in a peculiar sense, indebted to
themselves for themselves…. If they have ascended high, they have
built their own ladder.”

A fierce individualist, Douglass emphasized that nothing could
give people freedom—they had to claim it for themselves, and
they had to do …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Did Anyone Else Pick Up on the Disturbing Messages in Marvel's 'Black Panther'?

February 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Leslie Lee, AlterNet

Black America deserves a more radical superhero to call its own.

The revolution has been commodified. During its opening weekend, Black Panther sold nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of tickets, thanks in large part to Marvel's ability to sell black pride to black people. It's a proven strategy used by some of the world's most successful brands. 

Take two figures as dissimilar as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Beyoncé. In recent years, the former has been photographed in a T-shirt with the hashtag #StayWoke printed above the website's logo, while the latter performed her Super Bowl halftime show alongside dancers in berets and leather outfits inspired by the black radicals of the 1960s. But just as Twitter has branded itself as socially conscious while verifying the accounts of white supremacists, and the NFL has nodded to black radicalism while black-balling Colin Kaepernick, Marvel has promoted a film as revolutionary whose politics are fundamentally conservative.

As a popcorn spectacle, Black Panther is one of the more competent superhero movies of the past decade. It's well-acted, well-written and frequently entertaining, even if its plot feels like several television episodes fastened together by lifeless CGI set pieces. Marvel's latest is more serious, thoughtful and ambitious than the likes of Ant-Man or Dr. Strange, and no one can accuse it of wasting its audience's time. Scratch beneath the surface, and Black Panther is a troubling film that preaches moderation to black audiences in a multiverse of radical white superheroes. A $200 million anti-revolutionary superhero film would have been hard to stomach during the Obama administration. In the age of Trump, when even a Star Wars prequel can be interpreted as a call to arms, it's inexplicable.

The film's fictional African setting is itself problematic. In the comic book series, Wakanda is an afro-futuristic paradise, lovingly rendered by the likes of Jack Kirby and John Romita Jr. In Black Panther, it's a mostly drab reimagining of Dubai—a utopia only insomuch as it hasn't been ravaged by the twin evils of white supremacy and capitalism.

Like Cloud City, Asgard, Themyscira or Atlantis, the Wakanda of Black Panther floats above the world, both its inhabitants and their troubles. …read more


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Academy Award Winners Who Rejected Their Oscars

February 26, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

George C. Scott as World War II General George Patton, his 1971 Oscar nominated role. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

It’s become cliche for actors, writers, and directors to say that they don’t care about winning an Academy Award, even if they do. But in the 90-year history of the Oscars, there have been very few people who won a golden knight statuette and then told the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to keep it.

One of the most famous instances was in 1973, when Marlon Brando won Best Actor for his role in The Godfather. When the presenters announced that he’d won, the camera panned to an Apache actress named Sacheen Littlefeather, whom the announcer stated would accept the award on Brando’s behalf. But Littlefeather, who was the president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, soon clarified that she was actually rejecting it for him.

“[Brando] very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award,” she said. “And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry … and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee.” (The federal government was then waging armed conflict against Native American activists in Wounded Knee, South Dakota.)

The backlash was swift. Midway through Littlefeather’s speech, audience members booed. Later that night, Clint Eastwood mused about whether he should present the Best Picture award “on behalf of all the cowboys shot in John Ford westerns.” After the ceremony, many people falsely claimed that Littlefeather was not really Apache. John Wayne, for instance, told the New York Times that “[Brando] should have appeared that night and stated his views instead of taking some little unknown girl and dressing her up in an Indian outfit.”

It was the first time an actor had sent someone to reject an Oscar in person, but it wasn’t the first time someone had refused the award. George C. Scott also famously rejected his Best Actor Oscar for the 1970 film Patton. Yet unlike Brando, whose snub caught the Academy by surprise, Scott had actually been saying he wouldn’t accept an Oscar for years.

George …read more