Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday Sermon:
America at War: Infographic Reveals How the U.S. Military Is Operating in 40% of the World’s Nations

from: OpenCulture

Earlier this month, NBC reporter and analyst William Arkin ended a 30-year career as a journalist, announcing in a “scathing letter,” Democracy Now! reports, that “he would be leaving the network. Arkin accuses “the media of warmongering while ignoring the, quote, ‘creeping fascism of homeland security.’” He does not equivocate in a follow-up interview with Amy Goodman. “The generals and the national security leadership" are also now, he says, “the commentators and the analysts who populate the news media” (Arkin himself is a former Army intelligence officer).

The problem isn’t only NBC, in his estimation, and it isn’t only supposed journalists cheerleading for war. Most of the conflicts the country is currently engaged in are un- or under-reported in major sources. His letter “applies to all of the mainstream networks, applies to CNN and Fox, as well…. We’ve just become so shallow that we’re not really able even to see the truth, which is that we’re at war right now in nine countries around the world where we’re bombing, and we hardly report any of it on a day-to-day basis.”

This isn’t the case with independent media organizations like Democracy Now!, The Intercept, or Airwars. Secular and religious refugee relief organizations like the International Rescue Committee, World Relief, or Muslim Global Relief are paying attention. Many of these organizations are non-U.S.-based or connected to the “civilian experts” Arkin says once appeared regularly in the national media and represented opposing views, “people who might be university professors or activists… or experts who were associated with think tanks.”

Airwars, affiliated with the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London, has monitored conflicts around the world since 2014, with extensive coverage and records of alleged civilian deaths, military reports, and the names of victims. For a comparable U.S.-focused deep dive, see the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International & Public Affairs. The project’s website not only tracks the enormous economic costs of wars in the Middle East and Africa since 9/11; it also tracks “the human toll,” as you can see in the video below.

At the top of the post, see a map (view in a larger format here) from the Cost of War Project’s Stephanie Savell, 5W Infographics, and the Smithsonian of all the regions where the U.S. is “combatting terrorism.” While most of the media orgs and non-profits mentioned above would probably dispute the use of that term in some or all of the conflict zones, Savell sticks with the official language to describe the situation—one in which the nation “is now operating in 40 percent of the world’s nations," as she writes at

Maybe no one needs an editorial to imagine the enormous toll this level of military engagement has taken over the course of 17 years since the inception of the “Global War on Terror.” The map covers the past two, illustrating “80 countries, engaged through 40 U.S. military bases,” and conducting training, exercises, active combat, and air and drone strikes on six continents. The selections, writes Savell, are “conservative,” and sourced from both independent and mainstream media outlets and international government and military sources.

“The most comprehensive depiction in civilian circles of U.S. military and government antiterrorist actions overseas,” the America at War map provides information we don't often get in our daily—or hourly, or by-the-minute—diet of news. "Contrary to what most Americans believe, the war on terror is not winding down.” It is expanding. Given the country’s history of sustained mass movements against legally suspect, grossly expensive wars with high civilian casualties, disease epidemics, starvation, and refugee crises, one would think that a sizable segment of the population would want to know what their country's military and civilian defense contractors are doing around the world.


click here for original article with further LINKS and RESOURCES,

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Sunday, March 24, 2019

'Boulevards of death': why pedestrian road fatalities are surging in the US

from The Guardian:
Study cites population growth, driver distraction because of increased phone use and the growing popularity of SUVs as deaths reached an almost three-decade high last year
A fluorescent pink banner taped to the street light at a dangerous intersection in the New York City borough of Queens is framed with flowers. “Rest In Peace Sherena,” it reads. “Killed by a reckless driver.”

Passersby stop to read the poster, which serves as a temporary memorial for Sherena Hundalani, 26. She worked in her father’s restaurant but was struck and killed by a taxi while waiting at the intersection of the infamous boulevard on 24 February. Police are still investigating the tragedy.

Queens Boulevard has been known locally as the “Boulevard of Death”, the site of more than 130 pedestrian deaths since 1990. Such accidents sharply decreased after the city invested $4m to redesign the street, however, creating bicycle and bus lanes.

And although it’s the most densely populated city in the US, with a reputation, perpetuated in thousands of movies, for crazy streets jammed with honking cabs, roaring trucks and feisty pedestrians, New York City has become a national poster child for pedestrian safety. In 2017, it had its lowest number of pedestrian deaths since 1910. Yet Hundalani’s death serves as a reminder of the continued carnage on America’s roadways. Nationally, pedestrian deaths are rising and reached an almost three-decade high last year, according to new figures.

The tragedy plays out 17 times a day on average in the US. The latest study shows an estimated 6,227 pedestrians were killed in traffic in 2018. The report, from the Governors Highway Safety Association, found that while overall US traffic deaths fell 6% from 2008 to 2017, pedestrian deaths increased by 35% – and continue to rise.

“This was a total reversal of the progress that we’ve made in the past 30 years,” Richard Retting, a transportation engineer and author of the report, told the Guardian.

Although 23 states achieved decreases in pedestrian deaths in 2018, 25 saw increases. Five states – Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas – accounted for 46% of all pedestrians deaths in the country.

The study cannot point to a lone factor in the surge, but cites population growth, driver distraction because of increased phone use at the wheel and the growing popularity of SUVs over smaller family cars. Other issues such as poor street lighting, alcohol and drugs on the road and speeding are cited as factors in the increasing death toll because they have been largely unaddressed, Retting added.

He called for more effort with relatively simple but effective policies such as improved street lighting and stricter enforcement of traffic laws. For example, Florida is spending $100m for street light improvements to address a persistent problem of nighttime pedestrian fatalities.

Increasing the legal consequences for hitting a pedestrian could make drivers more alert, Retting said, while stricter standards for obtaining a driver’s license, especially after it’s suspended, could keep more bad drivers off the road.

Globally, the flagship initiative to end traffic-related deaths, adopted by many countries, is known as “Vision Zero”. The concept was developed in Sweden in 1997 and focuses on re-engineering streets, along with enforcement and education, with the ultimate goal of eliminating all traffic-related deaths.

In the US, more than 30 cities have adopted Vision Zero policies over the last five years, said Veronica Vanterpool, deputy director of the Vision Zero Network, a non-profit that helps cities design safety policies and shares data.

“We [need] to really account for the inevitability of human behavior,” Vanterpool said. “Designing our roadways so that if we make an error … that’s not necessarily a death sentence.”

Vision Zero plans have brought mixed success. Despite implementing Vision Zero policies in 2015, pedestrian deaths in Los Angeles spiked in 2017. The city has responded by identifying dangerous streets and modifying crosswalks and traffic lights, but political pushback from commuters halted some bolder provisions.

Comparatively, New York City, the first in the US to adopt Vision Zero in 2014, has seen success after gathering data about its most dangerous streets, redesigning some, and lowering the standard city speed limit from 30mph to 25mph, with $1bn further investment promised by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that New York, which has the largest Vision Zero program, also had the largest drop in pedestrian fatalities,” Retting said.

Joseph Cutrufo, communications director for Transportation Alternatives, a city pedestrian and bicycle advocacy group, said adjusting street design had the most impact.

“They’ve taken some of the more complicated intersections and the most dangerous and simplified them,” he said.

One so-called “priority corridor” lies between Bushwick and Ridgewood in Brooklyn, where three two-way streets once came together to form a six-legged intersection. After three pedestrian deaths there and more than a dozen injuries over a five-year period, the city permanently closed a leg of the intersection in December 2016 to form a pedestrian plaza.

Though the now-five-legged intersection still buzzes with vehicles, locals say it’s now easier to be a pedestrian.

Local resident Nymia Espinosa, 18, said: “It used to be more hectic … cars coming in from every street. “Re-engineering like this is very helpful … Now there are more people coming into this area.”

Back on Queens Boulevard, crossing the vast street is still stressful. Pedestrians have just 40 seconds to dash across 10 lanes of traffic.

“I’ve had multiple times crossing where [drivers] just don’t watch, where I’ve seen people been nearly hit or I’ve also nearly been hit,” said Vicky Straszak, 30, who works at a coffee shop on a corner overlooking the intersection.

Prakash Hundalani, the bereaved father of Sherena, who runs the restaurant in Manhattan where she was a floor manager, told the Guardian his daughter’s death proves that cities must focus on pedestrian safety.

“My daughter was just standing there” when she got hit, Hundalani said.

He sighed, clearly devastated after losing his child. “It’s so sad. Very, very painful,” he said.

by Lauren Aratani and Hazar Kilani in New York

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Boogie Down Productions - The Bridge is over

I believe I was at the show when this was filmed.


(The Club "Union Square" where the live segments were filmed, was located where "PetCo" is now on 17th st. & B'Way on the north west corner of Union Square park)

Monday, March 18, 2019

School of Life Monday:
First World Problems

Many issues are nowadays dismissed as mere 'first world problems'. But the problems of the first world are deeply important and need to get addressed - as the whole planet will eventually have them.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez outrages Republicans
by refusing to respect their ignorance

from The Guardian:

The young congresswoman has turned the tables on the Wall Street Journal after it accused her of taking ‘pride in ignorance’

by Arwa Mahdawi
AOC is ignorant, ungrateful and coming for your meat
Large swaths of America appear to be suffering from a debilitating condition known as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Derangement Syndrome (AOCDS). Symptoms include bouts of extreme condescension, an inability to stop sputtering the word “socialist”, and overwhelming anger that a young woman of colour is unapologetically succeeding.

The latest conservative to succumb to AOCDS is Grace-Marie Turner, the president of a non-profit devoted to “counter[ing] the march towards toward government-controlled medicine”. (Can we just pause for a moment and contemplate what sort of person spends their life trying to ensure there will never be affordable healthcare in the United States?)

On Tuesday Turner ranted in the Wall Street Journal that Ocasio-Cortez “has little regard for the system that made it possible for her to be elected to Congress”. Turner also lamented that the congresswoman “leads a generation of young people to take pride in their ignorance – of the laws of nature, of history, of the Constitution, of the eternal battle for freedom – and still succeed”.

As you can imagine, the congresswoman had a few words to say in response to this, tweeting on Thursday that: “I guess WSJ Editorial Page takes pride in their ignorance of our nation’s history of slavery, Jim Crow, & mass incarceration; willful doubt on the decades of science on climate change; targeting of indigenous peoples, and the classist, punitive agenda targeting working families.”

Ocasio-Cortez hit the bigoted nail on the head with that. After all, what Turner was essentially saying in her op-ed was that minorities should respect a system that doesn’t respect them. That Ocasio-Cortez, who “doesn’t come from a rich and powerful family”, doesn’t have an Ivy League education, and has Puerto Rican heritage, should be grateful she is allowed to exist in America, let alone succeed. And that AOC certainly shouldn’t mess with the laws of nature and history that mean rich white men, and a few rich white women, are our leaders and superiors. Turner, and conservatives like her, are terrified by Ocasio-Cortez because she symbolizes a new generation who aren’t going to shut up and be grateful, but are intent on changing an unequal system.

If you need any more evidence of how panicked conservatives are about the young congresswoman, just take a look at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which features heavy doses of Ocasio-Cortez scaremongering. Perhaps the most ridiculous examples of this was Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump official, announcing to the crowd that democratic socialists like Ocasio-Cortez “want to rebuild your home … [and] take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.” Republican men are clearly terrified AOC is coming for their meat.

Serena Williams says ‘Dream Crazier’
“Crazy” and “hysterical” are gendered insults that have been used to belittle women for centuries. A new Nike ad featuring Serena Williams takes on the C-word, with Williams saying: “If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic … if we dream of equal opportunity, we’re delusional … And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.” It’s a powerful ad and Williams, who has been relentlessly vilified as an Angry Black Woman, is the perfect person to narrate it. However, before we start applauding Nike, it’s worth remembering that the company is currently in the middle of a class-action lawsuit accusing it of gender discrimination. So while it’s great that big companies are taking on important issues in their advertising, let’s not forget that it is much easier to make feelgood ads than it is actually walk the walk and implement equality in your workplace.

Female leaders warn women’s rights are being eroded
Dozens of female leaders have signed an open letter warning that populist movements around the world threaten gender equality. Susana Malcorra, the former Argentinian foreign minister, told the Guardian that women’s rights are particularly threatened in countries that have seen the rise of “a macho-type strongman”, such as Brazil, the Philippines and Italy.

Only six countries give men and women equal legal rights
According to a new report by the World Bank the only countries in the world where men and women have equal legal work rights are Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden.

Running while Muslim and female
Decathlon, a French sports retailer, has cancelled its plans to sell a runner’s hijab after backlash. The budget minister, Gérald Darmanin, was one of the many politicians who spoke out about the hijab: “I value women’s freedom more than commercial freedom,” he told French radio station Europe 1. Look, everyone’s entitled to their opinion on the hijab. But speaking out against a product that would lead to more Muslim women going out running because you “value women’s freedom” is disingenuous to say the least. Just say you’re Islamophobic and get it over with, mate.

‘Give women their names’
Tabitha King is an author and an autonomous human being – but is usually referred to in the media as “Stephen King’s wife”. King recently spoke out about being treated as an appendage in a series of messages shared on her husband’s Twitter account. “Wife is a relationship or status. It is not an identity,” she wrote. “You might consider the unconscious condescension in your style book, and give women their names.”

America celebrates Women’s History Month
Speaking of giving women their names, Happy Women’s History Month. Why not kick it off by reading about Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman. Her campaign slogan was “unbought and unbossed” and one imagines Grace-Marie Turner would not have liked her at all.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Monday, March 11, 2019

School of Life Monday:
How to Improve Capitalism

Capitalism doesn't have to be overcome or destroyed. It could just be improved. Here's how.

Just an opinion.... interesting

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Marketers intentionally enrage social conservatives to promote brands

from Boing Boing:
Cottonelle and Walmart have both recently produced social media video commercials starring gay men. Predictably, social conservatives flipped out, calling for boycotts and for their god to mete out punishment against the evil doers. According to Curtis Sparrer, Bospar PR principal, this is exactly what Cottonelle and Walmart were counting on.
“It looks like the marketers of both Walmart and Cottonelle were counting on social conservatives’ outrage to drive their business objectives,” said Curtis Sparrer, Bospar PR principal. “Neither video was a traditional broadcast segment, but rather produced for social media. So conservatives didn’t simply stumble across these segments, but rather they were alerted to them, likely by the companies themselves.” 
"There’s a method behind the madness: marketers count on public reaction to their campaigns,” Sparrer continued. “Conservatives can be reliably counted on to provide an immediate reaction to any pro-LGBT storyline, creating a newsworthy controversy for a journalist to cover. That media coverage will not only feature both sides of the controversy but also provide top-of-mind brand recognition that research has found is more effective than traditional advertising. That means social conservatives have become useful tools for marketers and public relations. As a marketer myself I am loathe to reveal this tactic because social conservatives might get wise and not take the bait the next time a campaign features LGBT people. However since I’ve been gay longer than I’ve been in marketing I am eager for the day when LGBT people can be featured in media and people will simply react to the spot on the merits of its content.”

The American Family Association (AFA), which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, issued the following statement about the Walmart commercial:
We've seen many large corporations reject that in their marketing, but I honestly never thought Walmart would join the cultural revolution and reject the beliefs of its customer base.
The ad is part of a campaign called "Love is in the aisle: A dating show at Walmart." Episode 2 features Pat and Andy, two homosexual men on a "blind date" as they meet at the store and shop together. Through this process they discover whether or not they are compatible.
It's clear that Walmart is on the path of elevating homosexual relationships to the same level as the male-female model of marriage. We have no choice but to ask our supporters to let the company know how they, the customers, feel about Walmart's shift away from neutrality on this controversial issue to full support for same sex relationships.

Friday, March 8, 2019

‘Punk’: Johnny Rotten, Marky Ramone Spar
at ‘Off the F–king Rails’ Documentary Event

interesting all the short clips around the internet took all this insanity out of context and made it so much worse than what it was.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Fox News was always partisan,
but now it is rudderless and "anti-democratic"

from Boing Boing:
Building on her excellent work in 2017's Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer takes to The New Yorker with a deeply researched, lively and alarming 12,000-word longread on the radical shifts at Fox News that have taken place since the Trump election, as #MeToo has claimed the organization's senior leaders, leaving it rudderless and under the nominal command of an ailing Rupert Murdoch, whose main management contributions have consisted of purging the minor dissenting voices at Fox, leaving behind a kind of Hannity-and-Co version of Lord of the Flies.

Mayer traces the current state of Fox to the disgraced departure of Fox's top brass, starting with CEO Roger Ailes (who promptly dropped dead) and then Bill O'Reilly, both implicated in a string of grotesque, longrunning sexual abuse scandals that also claimed Bill Shine, abettor of these abuses, who quickly took over as Trump's communications director, where he serves while collecting millions of dollars from Fox.

The departures left Fox rudderless, for while Ailes was a monster who raped a female subordinate for decades (she was eventually paid off for $3.1 million) and kept a "Black Ops" department that performed oppo research on a long list of his enemies (including his biographer!), he also represented (incredibly) the voice of reason and balance at the company, punishing on-air talent who campaigned for and provided cover to Republican politicians.

With Ailes gone, Murdoch himself took over, purging the company of those dissenting voices who had kept things somewhat in check in Ailes absence. Then Murdoch, who is elderly and frail, was hospitalized with an injury that also necessitated a long convalescence.

Thus began the new Fox, where anything that protects Trump goes. Where once Glenn Beck was fired for spouting deranged conspiracy theories on-air, now Hannity can say pretty much anything he wants, so long as it's good for Trump.

And Trump has returned the favor: under Trump's rule, Fox and Murdoch have benefitted from regulatory decisions that permitted the Fox Studios' merger with Disney (which put billions into Murdoch's pockets), a block on the merger between Sinclair and Tribune (which would have created a national right-wing competitor for Fox), and a near-block on the Time-Warner/AT&T merger (Trump ordered that this be prevented, but his top aides secretly vetoed him because they didn't want the appearance that Trump was punishing Time-Warner for CNN's unflattering coverage).

With Shine acting as a conduit between Fox and the White House, Fox has been transformed into a kind of state media under presidential control, with power flowing in both directions: Fox enjoys near-exclusivity when it comes to interviewing Trump, while Trump can simply call the network and reverse their policies, for example, he got Ann Coulter reinstated to the network after she was blackballed for being an obnoxious troll.

And if Murdoch is absent from the daily operations of Fox, he remains solid in his role as kingmaker for far-right regimes, with reported daily phone calls between Kushner and Murdoch where Kushner seeks Murdoch's advice on how to run the country.

From its beginning, Fox was not exactly a "conservative" voice, rather, its business model was to build ratings through "fear-based, anger-based politics that has to do with class and race." But in the post-Ailes era, Fox's has a new role that it has never quite had before: running defense and interference on behalf of the White House.
As Murdoch’s relations with the White House have warmed, so has Fox’s coverage of Trump. During the Obama years, Fox’s attacks on the President could be seen as reflecting the adversarial role traditionally played by the press. With Trump’s election, the network’s hosts went from questioning power to defending it. Yochai Benkler, a Harvard Law School professor who co-directs the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, says, “Fox’s most important role since the election has been to keep Trump supporters in line.” The network has provided a non-stop counternarrative in which the only collusion is between Hillary Clinton and Russia; Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is perpetrating a “coup” by the “deep state”; Trump and his associates aren’t corrupt, but America’s law-enforcement officials and courts are; illegal immigration isn’t at a fifteen-year low, it’s “an invasion”; and news organizations that offer different perspectives are “enemies of the American people.”

Benkler’s assessment is based on an analysis of millions of American news stories that he and two co-authors, Robert Faris and Hal Roberts, undertook for their 2018 book, “Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation and Radicalization in American Politics.” Benkler told me that he and his co-authors had expected to find “symmetric polarization” in the left-leaning and the right-leaning media outlets. Instead, they discovered that the two poles of America’s media ecosystem function very differently. “It’s not the right versus the left,” Benkler says. “It’s the right versus the rest.”

The Making of the Fox News White House [Jane Mayer/The New Yorker]

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Donald Trump tells a fake American story.
We must tell the real one.
OpEd: Robert Reich

from The Guardian:

The Triumphant Individual, the Benevolent Community, the Mob at the Gates, the Rot at the Top. Four narratives define America – true Americans must define them
Donald Trump has perfected the art of telling a fake story about America. The only way to counter that is to tell the real story of America.

Trump’s story is by now familiar: he alone will rescue average Americans from powerful alien forces – immigrants, foreign traders, foreign politicians and their international agreements – that have undermined the wellbeing of Americans.

These forces have been successful largely because Democrats, liberals, cultural elites, the Washington establishment, the media and “deep state” bureaucrats have helped them, in order to enrich themselves and boost their power. Not surprisingly, according to Trump, these forces seek to remove him from office.

What makes Trump’s story powerful to some Americans despite its utter phoniness is that it echoes the four tales Americans have been telling ourselves since before the founding of the Republic.

To combat Trump’s fake story, we need a true story based on facts, logic and history. But in order for that true story to resonate with Americans, it must also echo the same four tales.

Donald Trump has perfected the art of telling a fake story about America. The only way to counter that is to tell the real story of America.

Abraham Lincoln, seen in November 1863.
Abraham Lincoln. Photograph: Alexander Gardner/AP
Trump’s story is by now familiar: he alone will rescue average Americans from powerful alien forces – immigrants, foreign traders, foreign politicians and their international agreements – that have undermined the wellbeing of Americans.

These forces have been successful largely because Democrats, liberals, cultural elites, the Washington establishment, the media and “deep state” bureaucrats have helped them, in order to enrich themselves and boost their power. Not surprisingly, according to Trump, these forces seek to remove him from office.

What makes Trump’s story powerful to some Americans despite its utter phoniness is that it echoes the four tales Americans have been telling ourselves since before the founding of the Republic.

To combat Trump’s fake story, we need a true story based on facts, logic and history. But in order for that true story to resonate with Americans, it must also echo the same four tales.

Trump’s fake benevolent community is a nationalism that requires no sacrifice from anyone. But today’s real benevolent community necessitates all of us doing our parts for the common good. The most fortunate among us, for example, must pay their fair share of taxes so that everyone can have what’s needed to triumph. A rising tide of productivity and wealth will lift all Americans.

The third tale is the Mob at the Gates – threatening forces beyond our borders. Daniel Boone fought Indians, described then in racist terms as savages. Davy Crockett battled Mexicans. Much the same tale gave force to cold war tales during the 50s of international communist plots to undermine American democracy. The moral: we must be vigilant against external threats.

As with the other tales, this one has an important element of truth. America battled Hitler and other fascists in the second world war. The Soviet danger was real.

But Trump wants Americans to believe that today’s Mob at the Gates consists of immigrants, foreign traders and democratically elected governments that have been our allies for decades or more.

Wrong. These days the real Mob at our gates are thugs like Vladimir Putin and other tyrants around the world who are antagonistic toward democratic institutions, intolerant of ethnic minorities, hostile toward the free press and eager to use government to benefit themselves and those who support them.

The fourth and final tale is The Rot at the Top. It’s about the malevolence of powerful elites – their corruption and irresponsibility, and tendency to conspire against the rest of us.

This tale has given force to the populist movements of American history, from William Jennings Bryan’s prairie populism of the 1890s through Bernie Sanders’ progressive populist campaign in 2016, as well as Trump’s authoritarian version.

Trump wants us to believe that today’s Rot at the Top are cultural elites, the media and “deep state” bureaucrats.

But the real Rot at the Top consists of concentrated wealth and power to a degree this nation hasn’t witnessed since the late 19th century. Billionaires, powerful corporations, and Wall Street have gained control over much of our economy and political system, padding their nests with special tax breaks and corporate welfare while holding down the wages of average workers.

In this, the rich have been helped by Republicans in Congress and the White House whose guiding ideology seems less capitalism than cronyism, as shown time and again through legislative and regulatory gifts to big pharma, Wall Street, big oil and coal, big agriculture and giant military contractors.

America’s true story shouldn’t end with Trump’s authoritarianism and nativism. An end that’s far truer to America’s ideals is a reinvigorated democracy. This will require a benevolent community free from the crony capitalists who have corrupted America.

The next chapter is up to us.

Monday, March 4, 2019

School of Life Monday:
What's Education For?

The greatest problem of the modern education system is that it doesn't focus on systematically preparing students for many aspects of the real challenge out there: Life itself.

Friday, March 1, 2019

From Parkland to Sunrise:
A Year of Extraordinary Youth Activism

from the New Yorker:
By Emily Witt
This Valentine’s Day marks a year since seventeen people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. On February 14th, the Web site and social-media feeds of the March for Our Lives, the youth-led gun-control movement that began in the aftermath of the shooting, will go dark. The founders of the movement will not give interviews or make any public comments.

“It’s about recognizing that we need to take time for ourselves because we’ve been going so strongly for the past year without a breather,” Jaclyn Corin, a senior at Stoneman Douglas and one of the co-founders of the movement, told me in a recent phone call. “We’re giving ourselves that time to be with our friends and our family.”

Last year, on February 15th, I travelled to Parkland to cover the tragedy and was surprised to find myself also documenting the rise of a political movement. Along with the rest of the country, I watched as Sarah Chadwick, Cameron Kasky, Delaney Tarr, David Hogg, and their classmates addressed the media and lawmakers with a controlled fury and eloquence made more potent by their youth. Three days later, I attended a rally organized by the Broward County school board in nearby Fort Lauderdale, where a Parkland senior named Emma González made what seems to be the first speech with national resonance by a member of her generation.

Her concluding refrain, “We Call B.S.,” has been printed on buttons and painted on signs. It’s easy to forget how spontaneous it was, written from a place of raw emotion and delivered with urgency by someone with a preternatural rhetorical talent. It was also informed by being a member of a generation that has had to train for school shootings for years. As González said that day, “The students at this school have been having debates on guns for what feels like our entire lives.”

From the beginning, what made the March for Our Lives students seem different was the simple fact that they believed that the worsening epidemic of gun violence in this country could actually be fixed. Only days after the shooting, they directly lobbied representatives in the Florida state capital of Tallahassee and in Washington, D.C. On March 14, 2018, to commemorate a month since the event and to advocate for stricter gun laws, they led more than a million students to walk out of schools across the country. On March 24th, hundreds of thousands of people rallied outside the Capitol for the March for Our Lives, the largest youth protest in Washington since the Vietnam War. Another walkout followed, on April 20th, the nineteenth anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado.

The protest phase of the movement mostly ended there, but the young activists continued their work. They organized two bus tours to encourage young people to vote, one in Florida and one that toured nationwide, and registered thousands of young voters over the summer. They held public meetings and formed alliances with other local youth gun-control activists—Good Kids Mad City and the Peace Warriors—and survivors of mass shootings in Santa Fe, Texas; Aurora, Colorado; and the Red Lake Indian Reservation, in Northern Minnesota, among many other places. They showed their commitment not only to ending mass shootings but to educating the public on the ways that guns increase the likelihood of fatality in acts of suicide, domestic violence, and gang strife. During a fall college tour, they continued their voter-registration push, partnering with Rock the Vote and the N.A.A.C.P.

Previously, mass shootings had been met with collective mourning followed by inaction. The students condemned the inertia. They perfected the art of puncturing the N.R.A.’s attacks on proposals like universal background checks and banning assault rifles. They encouraged voters to see gun violence not as some kind of natural disaster but as rooted in policy decisions made by elected officials who should be held responsible. Fixing the problem would require the will of the people with power. The students asked, rightly: Where was the will? Why were adults so inept at protecting their children?

The March for Our Lives students marked the beginning of a year of youth activism, but it would be a mistake to say that they ignited it. Youth activism had been growing for several years: United We Dream, the youth-led immigrant organization that advocated for the dream act and occupied the halls of Congress last spring, was founded in 2008; the anti-racism and anti-police-violence movement Black Lives Matter, which has since grown into the Movement for Black Lives, started in 2013. Young people who worked for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Presidential campaign went on to revive the Democratic Socialists of America as a political force and, in some cases, ran for office themselves. The Sunrise Movement, the youth-led climate-change-advocacy group that has helped put the proposal for a Green New Deal on the Democratic policy agenda, started in late 2017. And, as the Parkland students discovered when they began their work, there was already a network of youth activists working to end the epidemic of gun violence.

A lot of this work coalesced in the 2018 midterms, which were seen even by nonpartisan organizations like March for Our Lives as an opportunity to question the complacency of Congress, where the reëlection rate has traditionally been about ninety per cent. Young former Bernie Sanders staffers started the political-action committee Brand New Congress with the intention of reviving a primary election cycle that in many districts was merely symbolic. Brand New Congress recruited a dozen candidates. One actually won her election: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. By that time, the group had merged with Justice Democrats, a political-action committee that supported the candidacies of Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. All of these groups emphasized youth-voter turnout—and an estimated thirty-one per cent of eligible voters between the ages of nineteen and twenty-nine turned out in the 2018 elections. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, out of Tufts University, reported that that number, as low as it is, represented the highest youth turnout in a midterm election since 1982.

The Green New Deal, gun control, and Medicare for All are now seen as central issues in the 2020 Presidential primaries, but March for Our Lives has chosen to advocate for issues rather than individual candidates. Along with groups like Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety, March for Our Lives can claim credit for changing laws. In 2018, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, sixty-seven gun-safety bills were signed into law in twenty-six states and Washington, D.C. On February 6th, March for Our Lives founders joined the parents of slain Stoneman Douglas students at the first House hearings on gun violence in eight years.

As the Parkland students and others from their generation have shown, there is much political momentum to be gained simply by describing what is wrong with greater urgency: a broken health-insurance system; several generations who collectively owe more than one and a half trillion dollars in student loans; the existential threats of climate change, gun violence, police violence, stagnant wages, and widening inequality. But, unlike previous generations of youth activists, the ones today are eager to work within the existing political processes. Asked if a year of close scrutiny of electoral politics had left him disillusioned, Matt Deitsch, one of the March for Our Lives co-founders, told me that it had not. “It’s not about being disillusioned, it’s about being upset.” He quoted Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the namesake of his alma mater, who was an advocate for the preservation of the Everglades: “Be a nuisance when it counts.”

Earlier this week, I accompanied a group of Sunrise Movement activists as they visited the Los Angeles office of Dianne Feinstein, a senator from California, hoping to encourage her to support the resolution for a Green New Deal. Like the youth gun-control activists, they describe the issues they face as not abstract but genuine fears.

“People who are in their sixties right now don’t need to worry about these things nearly as much as we do,” a Sunrise volunteer and third-year student at U.C.L.A. named Natalie Rotstein said. “I’m surrounded by friends who don’t want to have kids because they don’t feel like they can in good conscience put children into the imminent apocalypse that looks like our future right now. It’s such an everyday, grinding kind of acceptance that there’s probably going to be an apocalypse within our lifetime, and nobody is really doing anything to stop it, so it’s the young people who feel the need to save our own futures because no one else is doing it.”

The group of twenty or so activists proceeded across Santa Monica Boulevard into the glossy lobby of a building where Feinstein’s office is on an upper floor. Security would not let them upstairs. When two of Feinstein’s staffers descended from an elevator to meet with the activists, they found them sitting in a circle on the floor, listening to a song about the recent California wildfires performed by a seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter and high-school student named Arielle Martinez Cohen. The activists were then relocated to an atrium between the office building and the parking deck. Peter Muller, Feinstein’s deputy state director, received their complaints under the decorative plant walls there. Asked why Feinstein had not yet endorsed the proposal, Muller replied that the senator is a very deliberative person who reviews things very closely. At this the crowd erupted with anxiety: “We don’t have a lot of time!” “There is no time!”

“She’s been my representative my entire life, and these issues have existed since I was born!” a twenty-five-year-old Sunrise volunteer named Ruby Dutcher said. Muller agreed to meet with a smaller group of activists in the office upstairs. In a scene I had watched play out many times in the past year, beginning with the lukewarm reception of lawmakers in Tallahassee to their visitors from Parkland, a staffer promised once again to relay the views of the young people to the person in power, as the young people made clear that the time for deliberation had passed.

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