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How Dolls Helped Win Brown v. Board of Education

March 27, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Dolls are for kids. So why were they in front of the most esteemed judges in the United States?

As they deliberated on Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 case that eventually overturned “separate-but-equal” segregation in the United States, the Supreme Court Justices contemplated oral arguments and pored over case transcripts. But they also considered black and white baby dolls—unexpected weapons in the plaintiffs’ fight against racial discrimination.

The dolls were part of a group of groundbreaking psychological experiments performed by Mamie and Kenneth Clark, a husband-and-wife team of African-American psychologists who devoted their life’s work to understanding and helping heal children’s racial biases. During the “doll tests,” as they’re now known, a majority of African-American children showed a preference for dolls with white skin instead of black ones—a consequence, the Clarks argued, of the pernicious effects of segregation.

The Clarks’ studies, and their testimony in the underlying cases that became Brown v. Board of Education, helped the Supreme Court justices and the nation understand some of the lingering effects of segregation on the very children it affected most.

For the Clarks, the results showed the devastating effects of life in a society that was intolerant to African-Americans. Their experiment, which involved white- and brown-skinned dolls, was deceptively simple. (In a reflection of the racial biases of the time, the Clarks had to paint a white baby doll brown for the tests, since African-American dolls were not yet manufactured.) The children were asked to identify the diapered dolls in a number of ways: the one they wanted to play with, the one that looked “white,” “colored,” or “Negro,” the one that was “good” or “bad.” Finally, they were asked to identify the doll that looked most like them.

All of the children tested were black, and all but one group attended segregated schools. Every child preferred the white doll to the African-American one. Some of the children would cry and run out of the room when asked to identify which doll looked like them. These results upset the Clarks so much that they delayed publishing their conclusions.

Mamie Clark had connections to the growing legal struggle to overturn segregation—she had worked in the office of one of the lawyers who helped …read more

Source: HISTORY

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New Analysis: 2018's Blue Wave Must Be as Big as What Followed Nixon's 1974 Resignation to Retake House

March 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

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Brennan Center analysts say Democrats need an 11 percent national popular voter margin to win 23 more House seats.


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On the eve of the Supreme Court hearing its second major gerrymandering case this term—a Democratic power play in Maryland to grab a House seat—new research on Republican extreme gerrymanders in swing states is underscoring that a blue turnout wave in November must be a political tsunami in order to retake the House majority.

“Because of [political district] maps designed to favor Republicans, Democrats would need to win by a nearly unprecedented nationwide margin in 2018 to gain control of the House of Representatives,” the report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School said. “To attain a bare majority, Democrats would likely have to win the national popular vote by nearly 11 points. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have won by such an overwhelming margin in decades. Even a strong blue wave would crash against a wall of gerrymandered maps.”

Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing political districts by segregating each major party’s reliable voters so the typical voter turnout favors one side. In 2011, the Republicans, in a plan overseen by a handful of top GOP operatives (including Karl Rove), targeted the mapmaking …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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In John Bolton, Donald Trump Has an Adviser Who’s Radical Even by Neocon Standards

March 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Natasha Ezrow, The Conversation

With his foreign policy terminally mired in chaos, Trump has almost fully surrounded himself with a mixture of yes-men and warmongers.


The appointment of John Bolton to be the Trump administration’s third national security adviser in the past 14 months, signals a more confrontational approach to the world from an already belligerent regime. Bolton is one of the key figures of neoconservatism, a political tendency that believes that the US should pursue and defend primacy or unlimited power – especially by military means.

The neocons were originally a small group of conservatives who were frustrated with the US’s refusal to spend adequately on military defence. Many started working for the anti-communist Democratic senator, Henry Jackson, in the 1970s, but by the Reagan era, they had become Republicans. In contrast to conservatives who favoured détente with the USSR, the neocons advocated an aggressive confrontation and huge increases in military spending. Under Ronald Reagan, they began to get what they wanted.

When the Cold War ended, the US no longer faced a credible challenger to its military supremacy, and talks of pre-emptive military action were mostly shut down. But the neocons, concerned that US military spending was dropping again, never gave up their cause. Unlike conservatives who were reluctant to intervene militarily, they still advocated a much more hostile foreign policy, insisting that all options be kept on the table to tackle new “threats” facing the US.

They spent the 1990s crafting a blueprint for American power, which included military intervention and nation-building in the Middle East. With the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, this vision became Bush administration policy. Neocons advocated the invasion of Iraq in order to pursue a democratic transformation of the Middle East; in the words of Donald Rumsfeld, to pursue terrorists in the region and “drain the swamp they live in”.

This is the ideological foundry in which Bolton’s views were cast – and he is one of its most hardline products. Though Bolton was close with other neocons, including former vice-president Dick Cheney, he is even more extreme than many in the Bush administration, including Bush himself. Bolton felt that …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The 'Gig Economy' Is the New Term for Serfdom

March 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig

The corporate architects of the new economy have no intention of halting the assault.


A 65-year-old New York City cab driver from Queens, Nicanor Ochisor, hanged himself in his garage March 16, saying in a note he left behind that the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft had made it impossible for him to make a living. It was the fourth suicide by a cab driver in New York in the last four months, including one Feb. 5 in which livery driver Douglas Schifter, 61, killed himself with a shotgun outside City Hall.

“Due to the huge numbers of cars available with desperate drivers trying to feed their families,” wrote Schifter, “they squeeze rates to below operating costs and force professionals like me out of business. They count their money and we are driven down into the streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry. I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead.” He said he had been working 100 to 120 hours a week for the past 14 years.

Schifter and Ochisor were two of the millions of victims of the new economy. Corporate capitalism is establishing a neofeudal serfdom in numerous occupations, a condition in which there are no labor laws, no minimum wage, no benefits, no job security and no regulations. Desperate and impoverished workers, forced to endure 16-hour days, are viciously pitted against each other. Uber drivers make about $13.25 an hour. In cities like Detroit this falls to $8.77. Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber and one of the founders, has a net worth of $4.8 billion. Logan Green, the CEO of Lyft, has a net worth of $300 million.

The corporate elites, which have seized control of ruling institutions including the government and destroyed labor unions, are re-establishing the inhumane labor conditions that characterized the 19th and early 20th centuries. When workers at General Motors carried out a 44-day sit-down strike in 1936, many were living in shacks that lacked heating and indoor plumbing; they could be laid off for weeks without compensation, had no medical or retirement benefits …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Congressional Map Is Even More Rigged in Favor of Republicans Than You Realize

March 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Jacob Sugarman, AlterNet

New research indicates Democrats may need a tidal wave to reclaim the House this fall.


The chatter began in earnest after Ralph Northam's blowout win in the Virginia gubernatorial race, and has only grown louder since Doug Jones' and Conor Lamb's upset victories in Alabama and Pennsylvania, respectively. This November, the political media class has determined, is going to be a wave election for the Democratic Party.

There's plenty of evidence to support their theory. Since World War II, the opposition has gained an average of 25 seats during midterms, and Donald Trump's approval rating is currently hovering around 40 percent. Yet new research suggests it might take a virtual blue tsunami for Democrats to retake the House. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the GOP could lose the popular vote by as much as 10 percentage points and still hold both chambers of Congress thanks to partisan redistricting. As Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress notes, “congressional races are so heavily rigged in favor of Republicans that the United States can barely be described as a democratic republic.”

The Brennan Center may be bearish on Democrats' chances this fall, but its findings are hardly anomalous. Forty-nine Democratic senators currently represent 20 million more people than 51 of their Republican counterparts. During the final year of the Obama administration, when the GOP refused even to grant a hearing to his Supreme Court appointee, Merrick Garland, 54 Republican senators represented 25 million fewer constituents than 46 Democrats. And of course, Donald Trump currently occupies the Oval Office despite Hillary Clinton earning three million more votes.

On a state level, the numbers are even more appalling. The Brennan Center estimates that Democrats could capture 47 percent of the electorate in Alabama and still wind up with a single seat in the House; in Georgia, 54 percent of the vote could translate to just five of a possible 14.

Neither party has proven immune to this kind of outrageous gerrymandering. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Benisek v. Lamone regarding the constitutionality of Maryland's Democratically redrawn congressional map. Still, this latest …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Let’s Commit to Lowering Gun Deaths by 50 Percent in Ten Years, Will The Parkland Students’ Proposals Help?  —  A Report Card

March 27, 2018 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

The “March for Our Lives” brought hundreds of thousands of
people to the National Mall to protest gun violence. It was an
understandably emotional and evocative event that hopefully can
spur a constructive discussion about what to do about the problem.
As someone who has studied gun violence for more than 10 years, a
productive discussion would be a welcome change from the yelling
and shouting that typically accompanies the gun debate. The kids
have spoken, and I applaud them for their passion and effective
activism. Now it’s time for the adults to talk about what to
do.

America is a great nation that, when it buckles down and stops
bickering, can do great things. In 1961, President Kennedy
committed the country to putting a man on the moon before the
decade was out. So let’s make a similar pledge: let’s commit
ourselves to lowering American gun deaths-meaning both homicides
and suicides-by 50 percent in the next ten years. Like the moon
landing, we will employ the best thinkers on this issue and
instruct them to doggedly pursue the task at hand.

Every thinker we put to this task will tell us the same thing:
don’t focus on mass shootings and “assault weapons,” focus on
inner-city violence and suicides of middle-aged men. Fifty percent
of gun deaths equates to roughly 17,000 per year. Because suicides
are two-thirds of gun deaths, any policy proposal that doesn’t
focus on those will not, by itself, get us to our goal. Even
eliminating all gun homicides would not get us there.

Here’s a further break down of the gun-death
numbers. Roughly 6,000-7,000 people are killed in homicides using
pistols, and two-thirds of those are young black men between the
ages of 15-34, often living in urban areas. “Assault weapons” are
difficult to define, but they are a type of rifle that is sometimes
used in high-profile mass shootings at schools and elsewhere. All
rifles, of which “assault weapons” are a subset, killed approximately 524
people in 2016, compared to 7,105 killed by pistols (there are some
holes in the FBI’s data). While we’re not sure because the data
don’t go deep enough, “assault weapons,” as a popular subset of
rifles, likely kill approximately 200-300 people per year. About
10 students per year
are killed by gunfire in schools, sometimes by “assault weapons.” A
“mass shooting” can be defined in a variety of ways (it’s a highly
contentious question),
but if we’re talking about public “spree killings,” where someone
goes to a public place to indiscriminately kill, they’re only …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The US Disrupts a Delicate Balance on Taiwan

March 27, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Recent actions that Congress and President Trump have taken
threaten to shatter a crucial, delicate balance in U.S. policy
towards Taiwan. Their conduct provokes China and is heightening
already worrisome tensions between Washington and Beijing. U.S.
officials need to reassess their course of action before it
triggers a major crisis in East Asia.

On March 1, the Senate passed the Taiwan Travel Act, which the House of
Representatives had previously approved in January. That measure
states that it should be the policy of the United States to
authorize officials at all levels to visit Taiwan to meet with
their counterparts and allow high-level Taiwanese officials to
enter the United States for meetings with U.S. officials. Notably,
the TTA specifically encouraged interaction by “cabinet-level
national security officials.”

The measure does not compel the executive branch to change
policy, but it clearly constitutes a congressional desire for
closer U.S. ties, especially defense ties, with the Taiwan
government. Since the Senate passed the legislation with no
dissenting votes, it reinforced the intensity of the congressional
position. At the very least, the Taiwan Travel Act creates the
foundation for a much more substantive bilateral relationship and
prods the Trump administration to move in that direction.

China’s government clearly seems worried that a significant U.S.
policy shift may be on the horizon. Beijing strongly protested
passage of the TTA. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China was “extremely
dissatisfied” with the legislation, which “seriously contravenes”
the understanding between the two countries.

Although it was a matter of informal restraint rather than a
legal requirement, Washington’s policy since it switched official
diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 has been to
authorize only low-level policymakers, usually economic, to
interact with their Taiwanese counterparts. Prominent officials
such as the President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of
Defense, were always careful not to provoke China by meeting with
leaders from Taiwan.

It is not certain such caution will dissipate now, but the
likelihood certainly exists. President Trump could have allowed the
measure to become law without his signature. Instead, he signed the
bill, signaling his approval of the substance-a step that heightens
Beijing’s dissatisfaction.

Chinese leaders already had reason to be uneasy about Trump’s
stance on the Taiwan issue. The much-discussed December 2016
telephone conversation between
then-President-elect Trump and Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen
created a major stir. No previous president-elect since the 1979
recognition of the PRC as China’s rightful government had ever
interacted with a Taiwanese leader. PRC officials worried that the
incoming administration might abandon the “one-China” policy that
served as the basis of U.S.-China relations. Trump alleviated those
concerns when he assured President …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Justice John Paul Stevens Is Absolutely Wrong about the Second Amendment, Again

March 27, 2018 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’
New York Times op-ed
calling for the repeal of the
Second Amendment has made quite a stir. It’s one thing for
traumatized teenagers to demand that we “do something” to stop gun
violence, quite another for a distinguished jurist to call for a
fundamental constitutional change.

Yet Stevens effectively agrees with the high-schoolers, arguing
that the rallies they orchestrated last weekend “demand our
respect” because they “reveal the broad public support for
legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren
and others in our society.”

But what does that mean? Should all schools be on permanent
lockdown, with entrance and exit allowed only if accompanied by a
parent or administrator? Should they be required to have armed
guards — which Parkland did, and they failed to act —
and metal detectors (which many urban schools already have)? Or
maybe we should mandate even higher-level security equipment and
procedures more typically seen on army bases and prisons?

It’s one thing for
traumatized teenagers to demand that we “do something” to stop gun
violence, quite another for a distinguished jurist to call for a
fundamental constitutional change.

Heck, get rid of lockers and any other opaque storage facilities
and make students go to school in their underwear. There are plenty
of things that could “minimize the risk of mass killings” that are
ridiculous nonstarters. For that matter, traffic accidents cause
astronomically more deaths annually than gun crime, so why don’t we
set all speed limits at five miles per hour and institute the death
penalty for DUI?

So we have to be clear about what we’re talking about —
and whether it would indeed “minimize the risk of mass killings.”
Because actually enforcing existing law by updating
background-check databases and investigating suspicious reports
(like they weren’t in the Parkland case), would have prevented a
lot more tragedies than raising the age of purchase, limiting
magazines to 10 rounds, and any other number of “common sense
reforms” now bandied about.

Moreover, you can’t simply legislate all guns away. Even if the
Second Amendment were repealed — which would mean that state
and local bans would be constitutionally permitted, not that guns
would instantly be illegal nationwide — there would still be
more than 300 million firearms out there. Would we send law
enforcement to hunt down the ones that aren’t voluntarily turned
in?

And that’s before you even get to Stevens’ argument that the
“March for Our Lives” is a “sign to lawmakers to enact legislation
prohibiting civilian ownership of semiautomatic weapons.” This
apparently needs repeating every single time gun policy is in the
national …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Complicated Pasts of 6 Trailblazing Women

March 27, 2018 in History

By Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

Self-made millionaire Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C.J. Walker. (Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

“Well-behaved women seldom make history,” wrote Harvard historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich memorably in 1976. She argued that “ordinary” women who don’t happen to marry future presidents…or lead the way to be the first in their fields…or get burned at the stake are rarely remembered by History with a capital H.

But when it comes to the handful of extraordinary, accomplished women who routinely get remembered during Women’s History Month, K-12 curricula or popular celebrations rarely go deeper than a two-dimensional, sanitized version of their lives. Yet it is these women’s more complicated—and occasionally unflattering—pasts that can help us more realistically and effectively imagine the future.

Not only are those nuanced stories more accurate; they’re also usually far more interesting.

Take the founding of national Women’s History Month, which itself has a juicy back story. According to official accounts, a small passionate group of scholars and activists, inspired that Sonoma, California honored the female half of the population with a Women’s History Week, traveled to Washington in the summer of 1979 to convince President Jimmy Carter—successfully—to expand that regional celebration into a national one. The group had just concluded a summer women’s history institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and its founder Gerda Lerner, a pioneering figure in the field, later detailed the historic moment in her memoir.

But that wasn’t the whole story, by a longshot. According to historian Alice Kessler-Harris, one of the institute’s organizers, the Sarah Lawrence workshop had actually been funded, in part, by the Lilly Endowment, the charitable arm of the drug company that had knowingly marketed DES, a synthetic estrogen that caused cancer and infertility in women. Disturbed by what they saw as “guilt money,” one faction of the group demanded the scholars and activists return the funds and publicly denounce the pharmaceutical giant. Ultimately Lerner and others kept the Lilly funds—and kept quiet—spending the money to travel to Washington and successfully lobby for the presidential declaration of the first national Women’s History Week. Seven years later, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity. Knowing how this group that included union leaders, gay liberation activists, Girl Scouts, and academics navigated these differences, as well as a major ethical dilemma, provides a clearer picture of the past and can inspire activists of the present in a moment when the women’s movement has never been more diverse.

It’s a good example of how, when …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Viking Village With ‘Graffiti’ Found in Dublin

March 27, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

12th century slate with graffiti art. (Credit: Kevin Weldon/ACAS- Aisling Collins Archaeology Services)

Archaeologists in Dublin have discovered an 11th-century Viking village, along with several other artifacts from the Norse seafarers who famously traveled through Europe and the Middle East several centuries ago.

One of the most notable finds is an example of Viking “graffiti”—which, though it sounds like a modern hipster trend, actually predates Techno Viking by hundreds of years. As Vikings’ moved from place to place, they graffitied words or images along the way that historians have used to track their travels.

At the Dublin site, researchers uncovered a 12th-century image of a man on horseback that a Viking had drawn on slate. Previous Viking ‘graffiti’ uncovered by archaeologists includes the names of two Vikings etched into a wall of Hagia Sophia, a former church and mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. In addition, Viking runes have been found on a statue of a lion that once stood in Piraeus, Greece (later, it moved to Venice, Italy).

12th century slate with graffiti art. (Credit: Kevin Weldon/ACAS- Aisling Collins Archaeology Services)

Archaeologists found the latest graffiti artifact at a site where a hotel company, the Hodson Bay Group, is building a new development. The company’s director, Johnny O’Sullivan, told the Irish Times that he wants to include some of the discovered artifacts in the hotel’s decoration, and also preserve some of the archaeological site.

Because the site has been waterlogged for centuries, artifacts made from organic materials like wood and leather are well-preserved.

“The preservation of the organic material was excellent, with lots of 12th-century leather shoes, a wooden spoon, a wooden bowl, a copper alloy decorated stick pin, a 12th-century copper alloy key, and worked bone objects,” said Aisling Collins, an archaeologist at the site, according to the Independent. “There was also a lot of pottery sherds found, including an almost complete jug.”


A wooden spoon, a silver coin, and a copper alloy key found at the excavation site. (Credit: ACAS-Aisling Collins Archaeology Services)

This news follows another major Viking discovery the United Kingdom this year. In February, researchers announced that a mass grave in the English county of Derbyshire held fallen soldiers from a “lost” Viking army.

On the other side of the Atlantic, archaeologists are attempting to uncover the Viking’s travels in North America. Although at …read more

Source: HISTORY