Archive | February, 2018

The Excesses of Call-Out Culture

By Conor Friedersdorf

One of America’s best attributes wasn’t fully real to me until I studied abroad in Seville, Spain, with Asian American classmates. Their answers to the question “Where are you from?” were often met with confusion by locals, who had trouble even conceiving of a nation without an ethnic conception of citizenship. As a Californian, I knew not only that people of Asian descent were as American as white people like me, but that many of their ancestors arrived before mine. And I saw why Americans who don’t grasp those truths offend.

Another of America’s best attributes concerns those who immigrate here. People who become U.S. citizens later in life—as did Albert Einstein, Desi Arnez, and Patrick Ewing—are no less American, no more “other,” than the native born. In fact, when my friend Andrew Sullivan was finally granted U.S. citizenship, as well as when efforts began to secure legal protections for undocumented immigrants brought here as children, I realized that my own conception about what it means to be an American is even broader than the legal definition: I’d long considered people like Andrew as well as those kids to be “one of us.”

To reflect on these matters at length—as some immigrants and people of color are forced to do, and as I’ve done in part because my journalism has often contested the stances, assumptions, and double-standards of restrictionist politics—is to become highly attuned to the language used to talk about immigrants.

Had I been on Twitter, for example, I’d have noticed when New York Times writer Bari Weiss celebrated Team USA Olympic ice-skater Mirai Nagasu by tweeting, “Immigrants: they get the job done.” I’d have understood why that reference to the California-born skater, whose parents immigrated to the U.S., would strike some people as accurate shorthand, others as an …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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The FBI’s War on Black-Owned Bookstores

By Joshua Clark Davis

In the spring of 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover announced to his agents that COINTELPRO, the counter-intelligence program established in 1956 to combat communists, should focus on preventing the rise of a “Black ‘messiah’” who sought to “unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement.” The program, Hoover insisted, should target figures as ideologically diverse as the Black Power activist Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture), Martin Luther King Jr., and Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

Just a few months later, in October 1968, Hoover penned another memo warning of the urgent menace of a growing Black Power movement, but this time the director focused on the unlikeliest of public enemies: black independent booksellers.

In a one-page directive, Hoover noted with alarm a recent “increase in the establishment of black extremist bookstores which represent propaganda outlets for revolutionary and hate publications and culture centers for extremism.” The director ordered each Bureau office to “locate and identify black extremist and/or African-type bookstores in its territory and open separate discreet investigations on each to determine if it is extremist in nature.” Each investigation was to “determine the identities of the owners; whether it is a front for any group or foreign interest; whether individuals affiliated with the store engage in extremist activities; the number, type, and source of books and material on sale; the store’s financial condition; its clientele; and whether it is used as a headquarters or meeting place.”

Perhaps most disturbing, Hoover wanted the Bureau to convince African American citizens (presumably with pay or through extortion) to spy on these stores by posing as sympathetic customers or activists. “Investigations should be instituted on new stores when opened and you should recognize the excellent target these stores represent for penetration by racial sources,” he ordered. Hoover, in short, expected agents to adopt the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Selfishness Is Killing Liberalism

By James Traub

The death of liberalism constitutes the publishing world’s biggest mass funeral since the death of God half a century ago. Some authors, like conservative philosopher Patrick Deneen, of Why Liberalism Failed, have come to bury yesterday’s dogma. Others, like Edward Luce (The Retreat of Western Liberalism), Mark Lilla (The Once and Future Liberal), and Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (How Democracies Die) come rather to praise. I’m in the latter group; the title-in-my-head of the book I’m now writing is What Was Liberalism.

But perhaps, like God, liberalism has been buried prematurely. Maybe the question that we should be asking is not what killed liberalism, but rather, what can we learn from liberalism’s long story of persistence—and how can we apply those insights in order to help liberalism write a new story for our own time.

Liberalism is not a doctrine founded on a sacred text, like Communism. It is something more like a set of predispositions—a faith in individuals and their capacity for growth, a tempered optimism that expects progress but recoils before utopian dreams, a belief in open debate and the possibility of persuasion, an insistence upon secularism in the public realm, an orientation towards civil rights and civil liberties. Precisely because it has no canon, liberalism perpetually redefines and renews itself. Liberalism is not intrinsically majoritarian, but because it fully thrives only in democracies, seeks to align itself with the broad public will.

Nevertheless, liberalism has a core, and that is the right of the individual to stand apart. John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” is the closest thing liberalism has to a founding tract. Mill set out to explain why it was in the interest of society in general to give individuals the greatest possible right to speak and act as they wish. Individuals, that is, do not have some …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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“Violence Is in the DNA of American Society”: Henry Giroux on Gun Violence and Administration Agendas

Donald Trump holds up a replica flintlock rifle awarded him by cadets during the Republican Society Patriot Dinner at the Citadel Military College on February 22, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo: Richard Ellis / Getty Images)

Donald Trump holds up a replica flintlock rifle awarded him by cadets during the Republican Society Patriot Dinner at the Citadel Military College on February 22, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo: Richard Ellis / Getty Images)

How should we think about the recent gun violence in Parkland, Florida? How do we understand the ascent of Donald Trump as part of a longer trend? What does the coming administration portend? And what is the way forward? Allen Ruff is in conversation with radical social critic and educator Henry Giroux.

To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

In this interview, Giroux discusses his recent Truthout article, “The Ghost of Fascism in the Age of Trump,” and how the corporate media influence US society. Giroux also argues that the US does not have a democracy in crisis, but rather a democracy that has disappeared.

…read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Why Are More Cities Divesting From Big Oil? It's Moral — and Practical

Thousands of New Yorkers came together for the #Sandy5 march on October 28, 2017, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. Participants demanded powerful climate action from New York's elected officials. (Photo: Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)

Direct divestments and lawsuits that began on the West Coast are spreading, with New York being the latest city to pull its funding out of oil and coal. The global financial and insurance industries are starting to recognize that fossil fuel investments don’t make moral or economic sense.

Thousands of New Yorkers came together for the #Sandy5 march on October 28, 2017, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. Participants demanded powerful climate action from New York’s elected officials. (Photo: Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)

In January, New York City announced that it would both divest its $189 billion pension fund from fossil fuel companies and sue the world’s five biggest oil companies for their contributions to catastrophic climate change. The city plans to move the $5 billion it now invests in fossil fuel companies into other investments within the next five years. The lawsuit, in turn, cites climate change-caused damage, such as flooding and erosion and future threats, and asks BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell to pay for it.

This playbook was written on the West Coast. In September, San Francisco and Oakland filed separate lawsuits against the same five oil companies seeking payment for the construction of new seawalls and other infrastructure required to protect the cities from rising sea levels. Marin and San Mateo counties, and the city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County, sued dozens of fossil fuel firms, making similar arguments.

These actions are accelerating under the Trump administration’s multipronged effort to undercut environmental protections and boost fossil fuel production and use, which would exacerbate climate change. States, cities, and the people retain considerable power to effectively challenge the administration’s reckless quest to pump more and more greenhouse gas into …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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How Trump's Medicaid Restrictions Will Stop People From Voting

Voting booths. (Photo: Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com)

(Photo: Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com)

This article was published by TalkPoverty.org.

The Trump administration released its fiscal year 2019 budget, and it doubles down on what the administration has already been doing to undermine Medicaid — including more than $300 billion in cuts to the program and a call to take health insurance from those who can’t find a job.

Last month, the administration began testing these policies at the state level. On January 11th, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) announced that states can now compel low-income people who rely on Medicaid to meet “work and community engagement requirements” in order to keep their health insurance. Within a day of making this announcement, CMS approved Kentucky’s plan to implement such requirements. The plan strips Medicaid coverage from most adults who fail to comply, including those who do not complete paperwork on time or report “changes in circumstances” quickly enough.

All told, Gov. Matt Bevin’s office estimates that around 350,000 Kentucky residents will be subject to the new requirements and 95,000 will likely lose their Medicaid benefits. But once those people are booted from the program, Kentucky is giving them a chance to get it back: through “a financial or health literacy course.”

Of course, this is not the first time that Americans have been required to meet economic standards or pass a literacy test to exercise their rights. Discriminatorily applied literacy tests, known for their impossible difficulty, were administered by election officials who were given immense discretion over who to test, what to ask, and how to assess the answers when (mostly black) citizens attempted to vote. Similarly, extractive poll taxes disenfranchised poor black populations (and sometimes poor whites) from the end of …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Five Activism Suggestions That Worked: When Your Representatives Don't Listen

Nearly every Friday since Trump took office, constituents of longtime Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) took time out of their busy lives to visit his Morristown, New Jersey office to encourage him to protect Obamacare, to vote no on a GOP tax plan, and most importantly, to hold a town hall meeting (which it seemed like he bent over backward to avoid). Members of this tireless group, NJ 11th for Change, a branch of the Indivisible movement, never did get that town hall, but their tenacity may have landed them something better: his retirement.

Frelinghuysen, who served as the chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, announced recently that he would not seek reelection in New Jersey’s 11th congressional district. He is the eighth long-serving Republican to call it quits in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, and the second in the last week, after Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania. Unlike Meehan, and fellow retiree Blake Farenthold, sexual harassment allegations didn’t push Frelinghuysen out the door. It was activism.

“Frelinghuysen won his last election by 19 points, but by this November, his race had been called a tossup,” Elizabeth Juviler, a co-executive director of NJ 11th for Change, told AlterNet. “That was the power of people’s voices in a classically democratic process. People spoke up, they were heard, and our institutions and government are changing as a result. It’s a shame that Frelinghuysen refused to hear our voices until it was too late for him.”

The group started in 2016, and in January 2017, Fridays Without Frelinghuysen, as their visits to his office became known, gained the …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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A Note to Media: Don't Tell Us Republicans Care About Deficits

President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence arrive to speak about newly passed tax reform legislation during an event December 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images)

Republicans do not act like people who are concerned about budget deficits. Given the opportunity, they pursue policies that increase budget deficits. This is not just true in the present; it was also true when George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were in the White House.

President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence arrive to speak about newly passed tax reform legislation during an event December 20, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images)

Most Republicans in Congress, along with the Republican president, supported tax cuts and increased spending, consequently raising the projected deficits for 2018 and 2019 by nearly $380 billion a year. This is an increase of almost 2 percent of GDP — roughly the size of the stimulus pushed through by Barack Obama at the trough of the recession in 2009. That’s real money.

There are grounds on which the merits of the tax cuts can be debated, although it does seem hard to justify giving still more money to the country’s richest people. There are also arguments for the spending — although the increases for the military, which got the majority of the additional spending, may be hard to justify.

But one thing is not debatable. The Republicans who supported this tax cut and additional spending do not place a priority on deficit reduction and balanced budgets.

While this deduction should be obvious, sort of like Kim Jong-un not being a big promoter of human rights, many in the media feel the need to tell us the opposite. There is a never-ending flow of articles telling us about how Republicans feel the “urgency” to reduce the deficit, or that they are not concerned about deficits created by the …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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“The US's Culture of Violence Contributes to the Sanctification of the Second Amendment”: An Interview With Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

A gun display showing the Statue of Liberty holding a pistol is seen at a National Rifle Association outdoor sports trade show on February 10, 2017 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Second Amendment was born of slave patrols and militia massacres of Indigenous people. (Photo: Dominick Reuter / AFP / Getty Images)

A gun display showing the Statue of Liberty holding a pistol is seen at a National Rifle Association outdoor sports trade show on February 10, 2017, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Second Amendment was born of slave patrols and militia massacres of Indigenous people. (Photo: Dominick Reuter / AFP / Getty Images)

The Second Amendment had little utility while white supremacy reigned, says Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Loaded. It was only in the post-World War II era — with the rise of the Black, Indigenous and Mexican freedom movements — did white nationalists, including state and local officials, being using it as a legal tool to preserve or restore white dominance.

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Trump Budget Would Undo Gains From Conservation Programs on Farms and Ranches

Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are starting to shape the 2018 farm bill — a comprehensive food and agriculture bill passed about every five years. Most observers associate the farm bill with food policy, but its conservation section is the single largest source of funding for soil, water and wildlife conservation on private land in the United States.

Farm bill conservation programs provide about US$5.8 billion yearly for activities such as restoring wildlife habitat and using sustainable farming practices. These programs affect about 50 million acres of land nationwide. They conserve millions of acres of wildlife habitat and provide ecological services such as improved water quality, erosion control and enhanced soil health that are worth billions of dollars.

Sixty percent of US land is privately owned, and it contains a disproportionately high share of habitat for threatened and endangered species. This means that to conserve land and wildlife, it is critical to work with private landowners, particularly farmers and ranchers. Farm bill conservation programs provide cost shares, financial incentives and technical assistance to farmers and other private landowners who voluntarily undertake conservation efforts on their land.

President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget request would slash funding for farm bill conservation programs by about $13 billion over 10 years, on top of cuts already sustained in the 2014 farm bill. In a recent study, we found that it is highly uncertain whether the benefits these programs have produced will be maintained if they are cut further.

Funding Cuts and Future Prospects

Conservation on private land produces tangible benefits for …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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