Here are some of the people writing about some of the stuff I wish I had time to write about, for February 22nd through February 23rd:
Most Americans Say the Rich Aren’t Taxed Enough – Tax season is here and more than two-thirds of Americans think the wealthy pay too little in federal dues, according to a new poll. What’s more, six in 10 say the middle class pays too much.
Talent Does Not Decide Whether You Succeed – It can be easy to ground ourselves with the notion that we don't have—or weren't born with—the talent to succeed. While some people may naturally have the upper hand in some skill sets, being successful at something really comes down to dedicating yourself to develop and master skills. Talent is just a starting point.
The Three Stooges of the Grand Obstructionist Party – Three grumpy old white men form a triumvirate of virtually everything that is wrong with the political system of abject dysfunction that currently is preventing anything positive or hopeful for the American people. Dick Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, and Rudy Giuliani represent a modern day version of the Three Stooges, take your pick who is who but for my money Cheney is Moe, O'Reilly is Larry, and Giuliani is Curly. But their antics, while reflective of the foolishness of their namesakes, have consequences that are all too real and destructive.
Why Do People Feel Entitled to Tell the Poor What to Eat? – Why do people think they’re entitled to decide how food stamps, in particular, are used? Not all government benefits elicit such feelings. When we give people assistance through the home-mortgage interest deduction, we don’t feel entitled to tell them what house to buy or what neighborhood to live in; when we subsidize a college education through student loans, we don’t tell students what school to go to or what to major in. When we tax capital gains income at a lower rate than income made from labor, we certainly don’t tell those stock pickers what to do with the extra cash.
Here are some of the people writing about some of the stuff I wish I had time to write about, for February 18th through February 19th:
Doctor Refuses to Treat Same-Sex Couple’s 6-Day-Old Baby – A flurry of state lawmakers are trying to pass “religious freedom” legislation that they say is necessary to stop the government from infringing on religious rights – but which would have the added effect of allowing businesses to discriminate. In Michigan, we're seeing exactly where this kind of ideology leads.
You Know You’re a Bigot When… – You know you're a bigot when you can't take out the word "Muslim" from a sentence you stated and replace it with "Jew" and still have it be socially acceptable.
While Republicans Block “Bomb Train” Safety Changes, A “Bomb Train” Explodes in West Virginia
On Monday, a tanker train carrying more than 3 million gallons of oil derailed in Fayette County, West Virginia, just outside of Montgomery. Nineteen tanker cars, each carrying up to 30,000 gallons of crude oil, left the track and caught fire, setting off an explosion that one resident said was “like an atomic bomb went off.” At least one tanker plunged into Armstrong Creek, a Kanawha river tributary.
No injuries or deaths were reported, but two homes were destroyed, and about 1,000 people were displaced. Two water treatment facilities were temporarily closed. The West Virginia National Guard is testing water samples, but has been unable to determine how much, if any, of the oil that spilled has made it into the Kanawha River, which supplies water to thousands of West Virginians.
Thanks to the boom in the Bakken shale oil patch in North Dakota and Montana, the number of rail cars used to ship crude oil has increased 4,000 percent — from 9,500 carloads in 2008, to 435,000 in 2013. They’re called “bomb trains” because they’ve been involved in similar accidents in Virginia, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Alabama. In 2013, 47 people were killed when a derailed train exploded near Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
A similar accident in Lynchburg, Virginia, last year prompted the Obama administration to consider recommending safety upgrades, including thicker tanks, shields to prevent tankers from crumpling, rollover protections, and electronic brakes to stop tanks simultaneously, instead of slamming into each other. These requirements, currently under White House review, would cause tens of thousands of older tank cars used to carry oil and other flammable liquids to be phased out, costing the oil and rail industries billions of dollars.
It’s no surprise that the oil and rail industries are against these safety upgrades. They’d prefer better track maintenance and slower speeds, to spending money to make sure their tankers don’t explode. These industries have successfully blocked new recommendations from the Department of Transportation for twenty years, thanks in part to lawmakers like California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, chairman of House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials
Rep. Denham’s industry backers got their money’s worth out of him this month. On February 3, almost two weeks before the train derailment in West Virginia, Denham’s subcommittee held a hearing titled, “How the Changing Energy Markets Will Affect U.S. Transportation,” featuring witnesses from the American Petroleum Institute and the Association of Railroads.
One witness got under Rep. Denham’s skin — Greg Saxton, chief engineer for the tank car manufacturer Greenbriar. Saxton was heavily quoted in an oped in The Modesto Bee, a paper in Denham’s home district. Saxton visited Lac-Mégantic, Quebec as the train cars were still smoldering. “There was a funeral every day,” Saxton recalled, “morning, noon, and night.” Saxton’s solution was to build a better tank car. His new design informed the safety upgrades currently under White House Review.
Denham made it clear where he stood.
Rep. Denham went to bat for the railway and oil industries, to delay safety standards for oil tankers rolling through American towns and cities every day — maybe yours. (Check here to find out if you live in an oil train blast zone.) Modesto is also home to Greenbriar’s manufacturing facility. New safety upgrades would likely mean new jobs in Rep. Denham’s home district, but he seems more concerned with making sure his industry friends don’t have to spend money upgrading their tankers. (After all, that means they can give more of it to his campaign. )
While conservatives like Rep. Denham play to an anti-science conservatism that values “liberty” over safety, and allow his corporate donors to put profit above public safety, the rest of us are left to wonder: When will the next “bomb train” go off? And where?
The Worst Sort of Violence Against Children – Keeping public schools defunded and dysfunctional is also a form of violence. Promoting privatization and competition when kids really just need resources is also cruelty. Pretending that standardized curriculum and tests are a Civil Right is also savagery. It’s called class warfare. Its most prominent victims are children. Its most active soldiers are teachers. And we’re on the front lines every day.
Could we please not forgive Sarah Palin? She is an unrepentant nightmare – Everyone. I am begging you. Do not participate in or encourage the aw-shucks redemption of Sarah Palin – or any other unrepentant nightmare person, for that matter. She does not deserve it. She is the same person she was in 2008 (though seemingly even more desperate and eager to pander) and she is still actively trying to make the world worse.
Lesley Gore, Feminist Icon – …while the girl group genre, at the behest of older male producers like Phil Spector, was dominated by songs that portrayed girls as boy-crazy damsels in distress—"The Leader of the Pack" by the Shangri Las and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" by the Shirelles being iconic examples—Gore stood out by showing a more defiant, feminist side with her 1963 hit "You Don't Own Me." The song portrays a narrator standing up to her controlling, possessive boyfriend: "You don't own me, don't try to change me in any way/You don't own me, don't tie me down 'cause I'd never stay."
It’s not just Alabama. The Supreme Court is due to rule on marriage equality, and Justices Thomas and Ginsburg are already dropping hints that the court will rule in favor of marriage equality. So, the madness spread far beyond Alabama.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has written a letter asking Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to explain her inaction and the Fed’s silence on Greece’s stand against austerity. The stakes are too high for the U.S. to let Greece go it alone.
“Make it clear to the leadership of the European Central Bank that the United States and the Federal Reserve object to actions that affect our national interest and risk U.S. and global financial stability through the unnecessary and counterproductive implementation of deflationary policies,” Sanders asks Yellen in the letter.
Report: Black Girls Face Extreme Inequality At School, But Little Is Being Done About It – Black girls around the country were suspended from school six times more often than their white counterparts during the 2011-2012 school year, even though they only represent a small share of public school enrollment. Black boys also faced disproportionate rates of discipline, but to a lesser degree. They were suspended at three times the rate of white boys.
This week, conservatives’ anti-science agenda blew up in their faces, Republican Aaron Schock landed in hot water for his interior design choices, and Bobby Jindal got an enlightening makeover.
No Vaccine For Stupid
It started innocently enough. Asked about a recent measles outbreak during a visit to London, New Jersey governor Chris Christie responded by backing parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Sen. Rand Paul (R, Kentucky) weighed in, and — apparently channeling Michele Bachmann — said that vaccinations cause “profound mental disorders.” The usual anti-science wingnuttery ensued.
Conservatives tried to “teach the controversy,” but this time it didn’t work.
Washington Post writer Ben Terris created “a bit of a crisis” when he popped by Schock’s office to check things out. Then Schock’s interior decorator — Annie Brahler, of the (you can’t make the stuff up) Euro Trash design firm — invited him in to see the rest of the place. When Terris started snapping pictures, Schock’s communications director Benjamin Cole halted the tour, and later tried to pressure Terris into deleting the photographs and ditching the story.
UPDATE: It just keeps getting better. Colby Itkowitz, at WaPo, uncovered that Benjamin Cole was once featured in a film about “saving” the Jews. Filmed in 1999, the hour-long documentary about the Southern Baptists efforts to convert Jews never aired, but it was posted to YouTube. It’s now posted here for your viewing pleasure.
Will The Real Piyush “Bobby” Jindal Please Stand Up?
My pediatrician was an anti-vaxxer – This piece originally appeared on DAME. In 2006, when I found the family physician I’ll call Dr. Jessica, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I was pregnant with my second child, and tired of my…
Football: An American tragedy – The nation's favorite pastime is a multibillion dollar industry—carried on the backs of men savaged by its violence.
Eric Garner’s Only Crime Was Indignation. He Should Be Alive Today. – His offense had nothing to do with being a threat to anyone nor was he in the act of committing a crime. Had he been caught in the act of selling illegal cigarettes, Garner would have been arrested on the spot. But no, his transgression was simply an emotion and a sentiment that many Americans, both white and black, can relate to.
America is in the middle of a measles outbreak, and conservatives are rushing to embrace the anti-vaccine movement. That anti-science, anti-social position is in light with conservatism’s rejection of responsibility to the greater community.
Fox News’ Andrea Tantaros joined Sen. Paul, claiming that the “proximity” of vaccinations causes autism.
Laura Ingraham said she doesn’t think measles is “that big of a deal,” and defended Christie.
First it was “e. coli conservatism.” Now this. Anti-science, anti-social conservatism is making us sick — again.
The modern anti-vaccine movement sprang up in response to a debunked report by a disgraced and discredited doctor.
The science is settled. Measles is one of a number of diseases eradicated or practically eradicated in the US, because of vaccination. There’s no debate that the measles vaccine is perfectly safe and effective.
Vaccine Infographic by Leon Farrant
Measles, on the other hand, leads to nasty complications, and kills.
It’s one of the most infectious diseases around.
Ninety percent of those exposed to it will get it, if they’re susceptible.
It can remain airborne for hours, exposing everyone in the vicinity.
Every person who gets it can spread it to 12 to 18 people.
For every vaccinated person who gets it (resulting in a mild case), between 40 to 80 people are exposed.
Measles is transmissible and virtually undetectable for several days before the red, painful rash gives its presence away.
It’s early symptoms — high fever, cough, and muscle ache — so closely resemble the flu that it’s often initially misdiagnosed.
One in 1,000 people with measles will get pneumonia. Between one and three in 1,000 will die of pneumonia, brain swelling, or other complications.
The US declared measles eradicated in 2000. Now it’s back, along with other diseases, because the anti-vaccination movement has grown. A recent survey showed that 30 percent of Americans — especially young people — agree with Chris Christie on vaccinations.
Wealthy California parents who reject vaccinations, in favor of organic foods and essential oils, are not really the GOP’s target demographic. Evangelical conservatives who reject vaccination on religious grounds, like Donna Holman, Iowa state chair of the Vaccine Liberation, are. “Some people put faith and trust in their medical doctors, rather than put faith and trust in God,” says Holman, who started protesting vaccines in 1972, when she “heard they were using living cells from aborted babies” to make vaccines.
Vaccines don’t just protect the person who’s vaccinated. We eradicated measles because 90% of Americans were vaccinated against it. The 10 percent who weren’t vaccinated were covered by the collective immunity — or “herd immunity” — of those who were. The disease couldn’t get enough of a foothold to spread.
Now, the anti-vaccine movement is large enough to erode mandatory vaccination advances. Vaccination coverage in 17 states is now below 90 percent, and as low as 86 percent in some. That’s for the disease to gain a foothold and spread.
An outbreak caused by parents rejecting vaccinations, like the one in California, puts others at at risk. People with compromised immune systems due to illness, and children who are too young for the vaccine are particularly vulnerable; like three-year-old Maggie Jacks and her 10-month old brother Eli.
Dr. Jack Wolfson’s response to the Jacks family’s is pretty representative of the anti-vaccination movements response to this outbreak. “It’s not my responsibility to inject my child with chemicals in order for [a child like Maggie] to be supposedly healthy,“ says Wolfson, before blaming Maggie’s leukemia on (wait for it) vaccinations. Wolfson almost sounds like he could have written The Onion’s anti-vaccination ”op-ed“: ”I Don’t Vaccinate My Child Because It’s My Right To Decide What Eliminated Diseases Come Roaring Back.”
Parents who decide not to vaccinate their children aren’t just making a choice for their child or their family. They are making a choice for every they and their family come into contact with. Parents don’t just have a responsibility vaccinate their children against diseases. They also have a responsibility to the larger community, and a responsibility for the health of that community.
Conservatives love to preach “personal responsibility,” but they reject responsibility to community — or anyone outside of themselves — and as usual the rest of us pay for it.
That's the conclusion of a report released Thursday by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit organization that researches the public health impact of gun violence.
To the Teacher Who Changed My Life – Neal Tonken taught me English in 10th grade. He changed my life. He died last week. I don’t remember what he taught me about how to start an essay, but that’s the way he would have started it.
To be fair, not all conservatives were late to the party. Shortly after John McCain inflicted Sarah Palin on the American public, a live mic caught columnist Peggy Noonan saying exactly what was up.
We know the rest of the story.
Fischer Out of Water
Hardly a week goes by when Bryan Fischer, daily radio host and Director of Issue Analysis for the American Family Association (AFA), doesn’t earn a spot on the “Wingnut Week In Review.” But Fischer may have gone too far even for the AFA. Rachel Maddow broke the news that the AFA fired Fischer following media coverage highlighting Fischer’s racism and homophobia, in advance of an AFA-sponsored trip to Israel for members of the Republican National Committee.
Here’s a sampling of Fischer’s greatest hits from “Wingnut Week In Review”:
In ten years of blogging, much of my writing comes down to telling stories, and stitching them together into a bigger context. It’s been my thing, for a while now, because it just made sense to me. Individual words combine to make sentences. Sentences combine to make paragraphs, and paragraphs combine to create full-fledged stories. Stories that seem separate from one another are linked together through time by recurring themes.
After the Michael Brown was shot to death by officer Darren Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, I began gathering similar stories of unarmed black men killed by police officers. Eventually, I began putting them into a timeline to put them in chronological order. Each story I came across lead me to several more I hadn’t heard of before, until I found lists of such deaths going back several decades. Each time I came across a new story, I researched it, and added it to the timeline.
At some point, my timeline reached all the way back to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Neither was killed by police officer, but by private citizens acting as vigilantes — as a law unto themselves. I couldn’t leave their deaths out of my timeline, because I saw them in the same context as the deaths of Michael Brown, John Crawford, and Eric Garner. With them, I began including extra-legal killings in the timeline.
Opening the door to extra-legal killings raised a question. How far back would this timeline go? Around that time, I came across this quote by Angela Davis.
“There is an unbroken line of police violence in the United States that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery, the aftermath of slavery, the development of the Ku Klux Klan. There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice.”
Extra-legal and extra-judicial killings of black men and women goes back centuries. I’d started the timeline with the most recent police killings. Eventually, I expanded the timeline to include a number of lynchings — extra-judicial killings that often took place with the implicit approval or explicit participation of law enforcement, and for which few participants were ever punished.
I soon realized the enormity of the project I’d started. I came across a partial list of African-American lynching victims that contained 2,162 names. Meanwhile, every week seemed to bring new stories to add to the timeline. I learned that the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project had a of 122 Civil Rights-Era cold cases, concerning victims whose deaths may have been racially motivated. The Southern Poverty list, “The Forgotten, ” includes the names of 74 men and women who died between 1954 and 1968, whose deaths may have been racially motivated.
As I continue to review these lists and add the cases for which I find information, my hope will be to add names and faces to the“unbroken line of violence.” Davis spoke of.
Low-Wage Workers Forced to Slog Through ‘Snowmageddon’ – A huge blizzard is ravaging the East, causing thousands of flight cancellations, school closures, at least one death so far and general chaos. Many of those making minimum wage or less are forced to choose whether to venture into the cold or lose their jobs.
Does Lack of Empathy for the Poor Make You a Sociopath? – In a scathingly sardonic (and somewhat humorous) column for The Guardian, Lucy Mangan explains why those in the political class, and anyone else who has trouble understanding poverty, are despicable human beings whose actions “we should all be protected from.”
After five years of protests, demonstrations, and strikes, Greek citizens voted to throw off five years of crushing austerity. Their victory has emboldened populist parties across Europe, and should inspire Americans to resist austerity here at home.
The victory of Greece’s leftist anti-austerity Syriza party, and the election of Alexis Tsipiras as prime minister ushers in a government that will push back against the austerity measures devised by the troika of Greece’s international creditors and the International Monetary Fund, and accepted by the country’s economic elite, following the crash of Greece’s economy in 2009.
Greece’s new leaders left little doubt about their intentions as they celebrated victory.
Greece leaves behind the austerity that ruined it, at least behind the fear, leaves behind five years of humiliation, and grease moves forward with optimism and hope and dignity."
~ Alexis Tsipiras, Greece’s new prime minister
“We are going to destroy the basis upon which they have built, for decade after decade, a system, about a network that viciously sucks the of energy and economic power from everybody else in society. ”
~ Yanis Varoukis, Greece’s new prime minister, on Greece’s oligarchy.
The new Republican Congress will almost certainly try to subject Americans to the kind of austerity that Greeks have suffered. House Budget Committee chair Tom Price has already proposed measures that would reduce the federal workforce by over 400,000, leading to the loss of even more job — mostly in the private sector — supported by the economic activity of federal employees. Price’s proposed “reforms” to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are really cuts that would devastate those programs and the Americans who depend upon them.
The fight against austerity in Greece has only just begun. Greece’s creditors and economic elite will insist on more punishing austerity. In the next two years, the fight here at home will intensify. As Americans push back against homegrown austerians, Syriza’s victory should remind us that progressive, populist, people-powered movements can win — if they just keep fighting.