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How Stan Lee's X-Men Were Inspired by Real-Life Civil Rights Heroes

November 13, 2018 in History

By Dante A. Ciampaglia

Marvel Comics Publisher, Stan Lee, with a book of ‘Spider Man’ comics which he created along with comics of the Hulk, X-Men and the Black Panther.

It’s impossible to imagine American pop culture without Spider-Man. Or the Hulk. Or, thanks to a decade’s worth of mega-blockbuster films, Iron Man, Thor, Dr. Strange, and Ant-Man. These stories—all co-creations of Marvel Comics impresario Stan Lee, who died on November 12, 2018 at 95—were swashbuckling adventures with a human bent. The characters weren’t all powerful; they felt pain, anguish, regret; they won, but also lost. And many of them were informed by the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s.

Through stories of characters who were demonized by the public as the terrifying Other, Lee drove home messages of tolerance and acceptance while rejecting demonization and bullying. “Those stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or color of their skin,” Lee said 2017 video published by Marvel. “The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.”

The greatest manifestation of that idea was the X-Men. Introduced in September 1963, the X-Men were a team of teenage mutants, led by their teacher and mentor Professor Charles Xavier, who fought super-criminals and other mutants, led by Magneto, bent on the destruction of humanity. But rather than be a black-and-white battle between good and evil, the X-Men had a wrinkle: mutants were hated by the “normal” humans they defended.

“I loved that idea,” Lee told the Guardian in 2000, as the first X-Men movie hit theaters. ”It not only made them different, but it was a good metaphor for what was happening with the Civil Rights Movement in the country at that time.”

The Long Battle Towards the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (TV-14; 2:57)

That metaphor extended to the characters themselves, with Professor X and his vision of harmonious human-mutant coexistence standing in for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while Magneto’s rigid attitude toward the defense of mutantkind reflected the philosophy of Malcolm X. The Sentinels, a brand of massive mutant-hunting robot, were introduced two years later as readers watched on TV as black Americans were beaten and abused by white police officers.

“There’s kind of an undeniable set of allegories that are going on there,” says Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. “The X-Men was probably the most explicitly political of the …read more


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'He can’t think properly': This psychiatrist explains how Trump's limited intellectual development has given him a 'God complex'

November 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Chauncey DeVega, Salon

Author of “Trump on the Couch” suggests therapy: Trump struggles against “fear of his inner chaos,” and needs help

Donald Trump evidently believes he is above the law. Last week, he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Matthew Whitaker, a political operative from Iowa whose only apparent qualification is his public opposition to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russia scandal. This is but the most recent example of Trump's apparent efforts to obstruct justice.

Trump's lack of respect for the country's long-standing democratic norms and institutions also extends to America's alliances, security arrangements with its allies and friends, and the international order more broadly. To that end  Trump has threatened to remove the U.S. from NATO, hailed the merits of nationalism (while barely pretending that does not mean white nationalism), tried to surrender U.S. security to Russian President Vladimir Putin and proclaimed on numerous occasions that America will now stand (mostly) alone in the world.

Donald Trump is also a habitual liar who is at war with the truth and empirical reality. For Trump the world (and reality) must be bent to his will. His supporters love him because of all these traits and behaviors, not despite them. Their adoration for Trump is almost libidinal.

Donald Trump is an authoritarian in waiting, who acts as though he believes himself to be God. How does he convince himself that the rules do not apply to him? What is the role of violence in Trump's appeal and power? Is Trump responsible in some ways for the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and the other hate crimes and acts of violence which have taken place during his campaign and now presidency? What role does violence play in Donald Trump's cult of personality? How do his apparent mental pathologies help him to manipulate his supporters and the American people at large?

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Dr. Justin Frank. This is our second conversation for Salon. He is a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center and a physician with more than 40 years of …read more


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Here's what history teaches us to expect if Democrats vote to impeach Trump

November 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

It's the constitutional remedy for a criminal president.

A week after the 2018 midterms, the news keeps getting better for Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats needed to gain 23 or more seats in order to obtain a House majority; as of November 13, they have gained at least 32—although that number could climb as high as 38, 39 or 40 after all the votes are counted. Republicans appear to have slightly increased their majority in the Senate, but November 6 was undeniably a blue wave in the House—not to mention all the state legislature seats that Democrats won.

And with all those victories comes talk of impeaching President Donald Trump.

But impeachment, even with the new House majority, probably isn’t on the table—which doesn’t mean that House Democrats won’t find many other ways in which to be a major thorn in the president’s side.

Only two days after the election, the New York Times ran an op-ed by billionaire Democratic activist Tom Steyer that outlined all the reasons why he favors impeaching Trump. And they aren’t alone in feeling that way: a Politico/Morning Consult poll released this week found that 61% of Democratic voters want Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump in 2019. Factoring in all U.S. voters—Democrat, Republican, independent or registered with a third party—only 33% favor impeachment. Nonetheless, the fact that one-third of all U.S. voters want Trump impeached in a post-election Politico/Morning Consult poll is hardly good news for the GOP.

Incoming House Democrats who have called for impeachment range from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York City to Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts. But according to analysis from the Washington Post, only 21% of Democrats who were elected to the House for the first time this year—either those who flipped a GOP-held seat or those who won in a district where a Democratic incumbent didn’t seek reelection—said they want to move immediately on impeachment proceedings in 2019 after the lame duck session. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is moving cautiously, stressing that Democrats should wait to see what Special Counsel Robert …read more


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A linguistics professor explains why this GOP senator's use of the phrase ‘public hanging’ is so damaging

November 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The phrase has a disturbing history in the South.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is competing with Democratic candidate Mike Espy in a runoff election in Mississippi’s U.S. Senate race, has come under fire for her use of the term “public hanging.”

Hugging a cattle rancher during a recent campaign event, the 59-year-old Hyde-Smith gushed, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Hyde-Smith was being rhetorical, but Espy—who is African-American—asserted that the remark was “tone deaf” in light of Mississippi’s history of lynching, while the NAACP’s Derrick Johnson denounced the comment as “sick.” And history and linguistics professors have been weighing in as well, analyzing Hyde-Smith’s use of the term “public hanging” as a rhetorical device.

Hyde-Smith hasn’t apologized for her comment, insisting that it was merely a harmless figure of speech. The incumbent senator asserted, “In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard—and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.”

But Paul Reed, a University of Alabama linguistics professor who is considered an expert on southern speech, told the New York Times that Hyde-Smith’s use of “public hanging” was wildly inappropriate given Mississippi’s tortured racial history. Reed explained that in the past, the term could—as Hyde-Smith said—be used as a term of regard in southern speech. But in the Mississippi of 2018, Reed explained, “It has fallen so far out of favor. I cannot believe that someone would use that today.”

Michael Pfeifer, a history professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, told the New York Times, “Sen. Hyde-Smith’s remark is curious and could certainly be read as referencing Mississippi’s white supremacist history. Even as an ‘expression of regard,’ this racialized historical context in Mississippi is important for understanding such a remark.”

On the November 13 segment of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” host Joe Scarborough commented on Hyde-Smith’s use of “public hanging.” Scarborough, a NeverTrump conservative and former Republican congressman, noted that as a native southerner who had …read more


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The photographer who took a photo of high schoolers giving a Nazi salute just gave a ridiculous explanation for the racist pose

November 13, 2018 in Blogs

By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

One student in the photo said the boys knew exactly what they were doing.

The photographer behind an image (above) showing Wisconsin teenaged boys from Baraboo High School giving a Nazi salute is insisting he merely told the boys to “wave.”

“I said to them, 'OK, boys, you're going to say goodbye to your parents, so wave,” photographer Peter Gust says, in this clip from “Good Morning America.”

“At the time I took the picture, there are all different stages of waving goodbye,” he said.

That is not what the photo, which, until Monday had been on his website for sale for months, appears to show. Gust is a parent to a Baraboo High School student.

Gust claims, “I didn’t tell them to salute anything.”

One teenaged boy who clearly was refusing to participate in the Nazi salute tells a different story.

Jordan Blue, in a blue tuxedo and red bow tie in the upper right portion of the photo told Madison 365, Gust “didn't” tell students to wave goodbye to their parents.

“Blue said Gust only told the group to raise one hand for a photo,” the local news site reports.

“I felt upset, unsafe, disappointed and scared,” Blue says. “I felt unsafe because I go to school with them, I don’t believe in what they represented and the symbol they shared … they knew it was wrong, but they still did it.”

Jules Suzdaltsev, a contributor to VICE News and The Young Turks, was the first to speak with Blue.

“The photo was taken during our Junior Prom photos. I clearly am uncomfortable with what was happening,” Blue told Suzdaltsev in a written statement. “I couldn’t leave the photo as it was taken …read more


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Inside Jonestown: How Jim Jones Trapped Followers and Forced 'Suicides'

November 13, 2018 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

The 913 deaths in Guyana under cult leader Jim Jones were more mass murder than suicide.

In 1975, Rev. Jim Jones, the religious cult leader and civil rights activist, hinted at things to come. “I love socialism, and I’m willing to die to bring it about, but if I did, I’d take a thousand with me,” he said during a sermon at his Peoples Temple church in San Francisco. Just two years later, on Nov. 18, 1978, those words became reality when 913 people, one-third of them children, died during what would be known as the Jonestown Massacre, one of the worst mass killings in American history.

In 1977, Jones, the self-proclaimed “messiah” of his evangelical flock, led his followers to a remote jungle in Guyana to live in in the days after the massacre. He told the newspaper some drank the poisonous potion willingly, while it was forced upon others. “It just got all out of order,” he told the Post, adding that it took about five minutes for the cyanide to prove fatal. “Babies were screaming, children were screaming and there was mass confusion.”

All the while, Rhodes said, Jones was telling them they would “meet in another place” and chanted, “mother, mother, mother”—”an apparent reference to his wife who lay dead not far from the altar,” according to the Post. Jones died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Scheeres says a tape recording from the last night, “the so-called death tape,” had been edited dozens of times. “It is my belief that Jones was pausing and stopping the tape any time there was any disruption, any interruption or any time anyone was protesting what was happening,” she says. “He wanted the world to think this was some uniform decision, that they willingly killed themselves for socialism, to protest the inhumanity of capitalism—he gave various reasons for the mass death.

“It’s heartbreaking—you can hear him instructing parents, don’t tell your children they’re dying. It’s scaring them. You can hear the children at the beginning of the tape—murmuring, making kid noises in the background—and then you can hear kids screaming. You can hear them saying no. It’s a horrific scene. Which is why the whole ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ saying is so odious and so completely wrong. A third of the people who died that night were minors …read more


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First Wrecked Slave Ship Discovery Yields Brutal Details

November 13, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The small, 340-ton São José-Paquete de Africa set out from Mozambique in December 1794. Even though the ship was no more than no more than 130 feet long (and probably closer to 100), the crew had packed 543 captive people aboard. The crew shackled them in place to prevent them from taking over the ship before it landed in Brazil, where they planned to sell them in the Portuguese colony’s thriving slave trade.

The crew “knew a certain number of people are probably going to die on the voyage, and to make it profitable they need as many people as possible,” says Jaco Boshoff, a maritime archeologist at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town and co-founder of the Slave Wrecks Project.

“People would literally have been squeezed up against one another,” he says. “The British eventually started chasing slave ships in the 19th century; and they mentioned that you could smell them a couple of miles away, from the stench of these poor people being squashed up together.”

But the ship never made it to Brazil. On December 27, the São José became stuck between two reefs in Cape Town’s Camps Bay. There, the ship broke to pieces, killing 212 of the captive people who’d spent the last three-and-a-half weeks in chains. That left 331 survivors, whom the crew sold to white farmers in South Africa, which was then under Dutch rule. After that, the ship remained lost at the bottom of the ocean until the 2015, when researchers with the Slave Wrecks Project announced they’d identified it.

READ MORE: The Last Slave Ship Survivor Gave an Interview in the 1930s. It Just Surfaced

The São José is likely the first discovered slave ship wreck that went down with captive people aboard, preserving pieces of shackles and barrels, and possibly biological clues about the people who died and where they came from. And the work’s not over yet. Researchers with the Slave Wrecks Project are still analyzing its remains to glean new information about the Portuguese ship, whose story holds historical importance for Europe, Africa and the Americas and highlights a shift in the Atlantic slave trade.

The São José set sail at the end of a century that had seen an explosion in the slave trade. Up until that point, most European and American slave ships <a target=_blank …read more


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California Wildfires Have Been Fought by Prisoners Since World War II

November 13, 2018 in History

By Volker Janssen

The war had turned forestry work into a form of civil defense, and prisoners a new army on the home front.

When it comes to California’s natural disasters—fires, earthquakes, floods—a surprising cohort of first responders have served on the front lines since World War II: prison inmates.

While the idea of using prisoners for back-breaking, low-cost labor on road crews harks back to the late 19th century, the state of California first tapped inmates to fight brush and forest fires in 1942. After military conscription and war industries rapidly emptied the state’s forestry camps of able-bodied men serving in the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps, the state forestry found itself in a manpower crunch. Worse, fire marshals predicted that bombing and ‘sabotage’ by Japanese Americans increased the risk of fires and could threaten crucial watersheds and food production in the area of various Army installations and ship-building plants.

Read here about how the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program helped shape America’s national parks.

Opened in 1941 as the first minimum-security prison for men in the state, Chino prison, located 50 miles east of Los Angeles, stepped into the void. Together with the state forestry service, it established 14 forest camps over the course of the war. The first one opened on a 10-acre plot at Palomar Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest early in 1942. As of 2014, there were nearly 40 camps statewide, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reports, with prisoners performing more than 3 million hours or more of emergency-response work annually. As the Golden State’s record wildfires increase, those numbers will likely rise.

Both black and white prisoners in California’s camp-conservation program would turn from public safety risks into first responders who saved not just fellow convicts, but civilians, guards and forestry personnel. Courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

View the 4 images of this gallery on the original article

The role has been a unique one. Participating inmate volunteers, who are pre-screened (no violent offenders or arsonists allowed) and trained, have worked mostly as laborers maintaining public lands. But they also have served increasingly as emergency responders to fires, floods, earthquakes and in search-and-rescue operations. In addition to pittance wages, inmates receive sentence reductions, work furloughs and a slightly greater sense of personal freedom, since shackles and armed guards are largely absent from the …read more


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Iran's Regime Is Terribly Afraid … of Dancing on Instagram

November 13, 2018 in Economics

By Matt Daniels, Doug Bandow

Matt Daniels and Doug Bandow

The end is in sight for Iran’s mullahs. It may take years, but
the demise of their oppressive theocratic regime is inevitable.
That prediction reflects one simple notion: They are afraid of

The time is coming when
young Iranian women and men will be able to dance in the streets
and celebrate the end of a long, dark, oppressive night.

We don’t know how and when the rotten Iranian theocracy will
implode on its own — a topic on which even experts can
endlessly disagree. It is a remarkable comment on the regime’s
fragility that Tehran’s rulers feel threatened by dancing on social

Specifically, they are threatened by teenage girls such as
Maedeh Hojabri. Hojabri is an 18-year-old gymnast in Iran. Like
many girls her age around the world, she loves to dance.

This past July, Iran’s morality police broke into Hojabri’s home
and arrested her in front of her parents. Hojabri’s crime? She had
videotaped herself wearing jeans and a cropped T-shirt, dancing in
the privacy of her bedroom. She had then uploaded the videos to
Instagram, where her account had 300 other videos and thousands of
social media followers.

Weeks later Hojabri appeared in another video. This time she was
not on Instagram. She was on old media: Iranian state TV. And she
was wearing the compulsory hijab covering her hair. She publicly
confessed that her videos, filmed while clothed but without a
hijab, were immoral. She cried:

I had no bad intentions. … I did not want to encourage others
to do the same. … I did not work with a network.

Scores of people who watched Hojabri’s confession believe it was
made it under duress by Iranian authorities — which provoked
a backlash on digital media. Quickly, the hashtag
#DancingIsNotACrime started peppering social media’s landscape in
support of Hojabri.

Brave Iranian women began posting videos of themselves dancing
without their hair covered. They did this to defy the Islamic
regime, knowing they were putting themselves at risk of arrest. As
Reuters reports: “Access to many social media
sites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the Instagram
messaging app are blocked in Iran. … But many Iranians evade the
state filter through the use of VPN software, which provides
encrypted links directly to private networks abroad, and can allow
a computer to behave as if it is based in another

Next, people from all around the world including Finland, Japan,
Germany, the United States, Canada, and South America joined
Iranian dissidents in solidarity on social media. Globally, men and
women were uploading videos of themselves dancing with the hashtag
#DancingIsNotACrime, too. Others …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trust Me, We’ve Been Thinking About Market Power and Competition All Wrong

November 13, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Economists, politicians, and commentators on both sides of the
Atlantic are growing more concerned with the supposed
“monopolisation” of the economy.

In a 2017 report, the Social Market Foundation found that eight
of 10 key British markets, including in phones, gas and groceries,
were highly dominated by small numbers of companies. Its director,
James Kirkup, claimed: “if you can name all the big players
in a market, or even just count them, there’s something

In America, work by the economist Jason Furman (now a UK
government adviser on digital competition) showed that the national
market share of a small number of firms had increased across many
US sectors, including in transport, retail, finance, and

This is concerning, many believe, because more highly
concentrated markets can be a cause of less effective competition.
In monopolised or oligopolised markets, consumers can face higher
prices, as firms enjoy larger mark-ups and profits.

Crude use of competition
policy to make national markets look more competitive could have
terrible consequences for local consumers.

Prominent commentators in both countries have therefore talked
up the idea of “trust-busting” — using
competition policy to break up big companies and improve outcomes
for consumers.

Yet there is a big problem with this narrative: actual markets
are not evenly spread out on a national level. A BP garage in South
Shields does not compete with a Shell garage in Exeter. A Pret a
Manger in Westminster is not in competition for the lunch market
with a Greggs in Newcastle.

Measures of market concentration at a country level therefore
tell us little about the choice consumers face.

In fact, most markets are incredibly local. Since it is costly
to transport goods and people, firms tend to set up stores,
distribution plants, and centres close to customers.

If we believe that measures of concentration are a good proxy
for consumer welfare, it is surely best to assess them at the
appropriate local level, and not across the whole country.

An excellent recent paper by economists Esteban Rossi-Hansberg,
Pierre-Daniel Sartre, and Nicholas Trachter produces a fascinating
analysis in the US doing just this.

Looking at American firms, it provides strong evidence that
local market concentration has actually fallen, even as national
level concentration has risen.

This implies that the competition actually experienced by
consumers on the ground may have become stronger, not weaker.

The research finds that local measures of product market
concentration fell between 1990 and 2014 across industries that
account for a full 77 per cent of US employment and 70 per cent of
total sales.

The phenomenon is especially true in service and retail trade,
broadly because the very top firms in these sectors …read more

Source: OP-EDS