Why the Right Is So Freaked Out about the Inconvenient Truths of Actual U.S. History

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/education/why-right-so-freaked-out-about-inconvenient-truths-actual-us-history=3

Conservatives are going bonkers over “unpatriotic” history tests. Time for a little tutorial.

By Sean McElwee
October 7, 2014

 Conservative hero Ben Carson is worried about American teenagers joining ISIS. But it’s not because of “radical Islam.” It’s  because of new high school history standards.

American’s right wing, you see, is terrified of history because it is always sentimentalizing it. Many of its arguments rely on a feeling of nostalgia for “good old days,” that appeals almost exclusively to aging whites. That means that a more accurate history, one that considers groups that are traditionally marginalized — women, people of color, Native Americans, immigrants and the poor — don’t necessarily sit that well. Their stories, the stories of the downtrodden, crush the false narrative that many conservatives like to imagine — that of a idyllic past marred by the New Deal, women’s liberation and civil rights.

In Jefferson County, Colorado, a school board recently tried to limit the historical curriculum  to only events that would, “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.” Needless to say, much of American history — the Great Depression, the Trail of Tears and the internment of Japanese-Americans — would, under those parameters, need to obfuscated. The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, has issued a statement calling the new Advanced Placement U.S. History  standards ”radically revisionist.” But conservatives may want to take the plank out of their own eye before examining the speck in their neighbors. Here are the most important distortions of history the right has promoted recently.

Before Welfare, Everything Was Awesome 

Example: Marvin Olasky’s “Tragedy of American Compassion,” which argues, “Americans in urban areas a century ago faced many of the problems we face today, and they came up with truly compassionate solutions.”

The Problem: As with most conservative revisionism, the idea is that before nasty programs like welfare, the poor did just fine, because private charity aided them. Many conservatives will argue that the War on Poverty has done nothing to reduce poverty and instead we should rely on private charity. But the War on Poverty has  actually done much to eliminate poverty and private charity  could never fill that chasm that would open up if federal poverty programs were eliminated. So how did we get rid of poverty before government? The answer is that there never was a mythical time without government.

As Mike Konczal  writes,

“There has always been a mixed welfare state made up of private and public organizations throughout our country’s history. Outdoor relief, or cash assistance outside of institutions, was an early legal responsibility of American towns, counties, and parishes from colonial times through the early nineteenth century.”

Later, Congress established a pension system for civil war veterans that consumed about 25 percent of all government spending. Rather than “welfare queens” being a post New-Deal development, some 40 states had programs to support single mothers in 1920. In fact, far from being an invention of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and liberals, social insurance programs are staple in civil society. Frederik Pedersen  finds that back in the 10th through 12th centuries, Iceland had an extensive social welfare program. Rome, too,  had a system of public support designed to aid poor children.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/education/why-right-so-freaked-out-about-inconvenient-truths-actual-us-history=3

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The Antidote to Mansplaining: Rebecca Solnit on Everyday Sexism and What We Can Do About It

From Yes Magazine:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-end-of-poverty/the-antidote-to-mansplaining

Useful as it may be as journalistic shorthand, “mansplaining” is cultural bubblegum in comparison to Solnit’s actual body of work.

by
Sep 03, 2014

It’s fortunate for our understanding of the dynamics of oppression that the writer Rebecca Solnit attended a certain party one evening in Aspen years ago. That’s when she encountered an instance of everyday sexism so staggering it sparked her widely shared and quoted 2008 essay, “Men Explain Things to Me.” Her description of a man unheedingly explaining to her what she already knew—the subject of her own recently published book, in fact—struck a familiar chord for those who had experienced their own encounters with the “confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant.” A reader’s label for the phenomenon—“mansplaining”—went viral. It’s now an established cultural reference for the patronizing rhetoric of a man who assumes he knows more than a woman solely because of his gender.

The term has come in handy over the past few years for comically describing all manner of arrogance buoyed by privilege—most startling that of a male politician who justified denying women access to abortion in the case of rape with his utterly fanciful ’splaination of the female reproductive system.

Useful as it may be as journalistic shorthand, “mansplaining” is cultural bubblegum in comparison to Solnit’s actual body of work, most recently Men Explain Things to Me, a collection of essays that begins with that eponymous piece, goes on to illuminate aspects of her argument, and, finally, seeks solutions.

Mansplaining reveals the assumption that women know less than men, are less capable of knowing, and are therefore less deserving to be listened to or heard. And there’s the great harm. “At the heart of the struggle of feminism to give rape, date rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and workplace sexual harassment legal standing as crimes,” writes Solnit, “has been the necessity of making women credible and audible.”

That necessity is evidenced in “The Longest War,” the book’s second essay. A rape is reported in the United States every 6.2 minutes; one in five women will be raped in her lifetime—statistics Solnit presents not to condemn all men or to alarm women, but to help us begin the hard work of confronting “a pattern of violence against women that’s broad and deep and horrific, and incessantly overlooked.”

Confronting reality—often by looking at phenomena from unexpected angles—is at the core of Solnit’s impressive body of work. Her articles, essays, books are all informed by her background as a journalist, art critic, historian, and activist. That pursuit ultimately takes her beyond reporting facts, statistics, or even lived experience. Solnit’s great undertaking is the exploration of imagination and consciousness. One of her recurring concerns is how those most personal qualities are subjugated by imbalances and abuses of power—sexism, racism, colonialism—and how they may be liberated.

Continue reading at:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-end-of-poverty/the-antidote-to-mansplaining

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It’s time to shout stop on this war on the living world

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/oct/01/george-monbiot-war-on-the-living-world-wildlife

Our consumption is trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce


Wednesday 1 October 2014

This is a moment at which anyone with the capacity for reflection should stop and wonder what we are doing.

If the news that in the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) fails to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it’s hard to imagine what could. Who believes that a social and economic system which has this effect is a healthy one? Who, contemplating this loss, could call it progress?

In fairness to the modern era, this is an extension of a trend that has lasted some 2 million years. The loss of much of the African megafauna – sabretooths and false sabretooths, giant hyaenas and amphicyonids (bear dogs), several species of elephant – coincided with the switch towards meat eating by hominims (ancestral humans). It’s hard to see what else could have been responsible for the peculiar pattern of extinction then.

As we spread into other continents, their megafauna almost immediately collapsed. Perhaps the most reliable way of dating the first arrival of people anywhere is the sudden loss of large animals. The habitats we see as pristine – the Amazon rainforest or coral reefs for example – are in fact almost empty: they have lost most of the great beasts that used to inhabit them, which drove crucial natural processes.

Since then we have worked our way down the foodchain, rubbing out smaller predators, medium-sized herbivores, and now, through both habitat destruction and hunting, wildlife across all classes and positions in the foodweb. There seems to be some kink in the human brain that prevents us from stopping, that drives us to carry on taking and competing and destroying, even when there is no need to do so.

But what we see now is something new: a speed of destruction that exceeds even that of the first settlement of the Americas, 14,000 years ago, when an entire hemisphere’s ecology was transformed through a firestorm of extinction within a few dozen generations, in which the majority of large vertebrate species disappeared.

Many people blame this process on human population growth, and there’s no doubt that it has been a factor. But two other trends have developed even faster and further. The first is the rise in consumption; the second is amplification by technology. Every year, new pesticides, fishing technologies, mining methods, techniques for processing trees are developed. We are waging an increasingly asymmetric war against the living world.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/oct/01/george-monbiot-war-on-the-living-world-wildlife

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Gay marriage opponents reduced to blabbering incoherently

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/10/gay-marriage-opponents-reduced-to-blabbering-incoherently/


13 Oct 2014

I’m hesitant to be one of those people who declares victory in the battle over same-sex marriage before it’s, you know, actually legal and honored in all 50 states. Remember that desegregation is still being battled in much of the South, even if they do it in more oblique ways than they used to. (Though not always.) It’s never as easy as you think it’s going to be. But the tide really does seem to be turning, so much so that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council got a hostile hearing on Fox News of all places. Raw Story’s David Edwards explains how both Ted Olson and Chris Wallace tore into his notion that same-sex marriage somehow degrades the institution and harms straight couples:

“Do you want the sky to fall because because two people that are living next door to you?” Olson asked. “Court after court has said that allowing people of the same sex to marry the person that they love and be a part of our community, and to be treated equally does no damage to heterosexual marriage. And what court after court after court has said [is] that children living in a same-sex relationship do as well or better that people in other communities.”

And:

“Alright, you and your wife live happily in this house,” Wallace said. “There’s a same-sex couple living here. What’s the damage to you?”

“Let’s talk about the wedding vendors that have been put out of business,” Perkins said.

“I’m not talking about that,” Wallace interrupted. “That’s a different issue. I’m asking you, what’s the impact on you and your family to have these people living next to you.”

Perkins insisted that his children would be “taught values and morals against what I teach as a parent at home.”

Olson pointed out that there was no evidence that heterosexual couples were getting divorced because LGBT people had the right to marry.

Of course, the notion that your neighbors should be denied rights in order to impart your values on your own children would be a double-edged sword, if taken seriously. What if an atheist couple claimed their neighbors should be denied the right to go to church in order to prevent atheist children from getting ideas?

But watching all this go down was another reminder that anti-gay activists are, in a lot of ways, their own worst enemies. They’re so afraid of being called “bigots” that they refuse to make their arguments openly, instead just gesturing at them and hoping people get the hint. The problem with arguing by implication, however, is people have to know what you’re implying. But the real argument for why same-sex marriage supposedly hurts straight marriage is so rarely uttered that people legitimately forget what the argument was. The argument is that by allowing gay people to get married, you “degrade” the institution of marriage and straight people won’t want it anymore because gay people ruined it, merely by existing.

Obviously, that argument relies on bigotry. It’s an argument in favor of segregation, similar to the arguments made in favor of excluding black people from schools and neighborhoods. It so quickly marks the person arguing it as a bigot that it’s understandable that anti-gay activists are wary of making it directly, and instead are reduced to shrugging in its general direction. But they’ve been shrugging so long and are so afraid to make the argument that people forgot what their argument was in the first place.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/10/gay-marriage-opponents-reduced-to-blabbering-incoherently/

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Naomi Klein: Diverse Climate Movement United by Love of Place, Need for Water

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/10/07/naomi-klein-diverse-climate-movement-united-love-place-need-water

Speaking in the UK, Canadian author of the new book, ‘This Changes Everything,’ says that our atmosphere should be seen as the biggest political tent of. ‘We’re all under it and we need to start acting like it.’

by Jon Queally

Published on Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Speaking with the Guardian’s Owen Jones in London on Monday night, Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein continued to broadcast the message of her new book, This Changes Everything, by arguing that the anti-fracking movement that has taken hold in the United Kingdom is a prime example of people rising up against the fossil fuel industry in ways that were once unheard of. Though these fights are always grounded in the particulars of local politics and dynamics, Klein says, they also share common bonds that are turning otherwise singular battles into a unified global movement.

“The movement against fracking has been heroic,” Klein said. “People get involved in fighting fracking not because of climate change but because they’re worried about their water. Water is what unites so many of these movements, whether it’s against tar sands, pipelines or fracking, coal mining, it’s water and love of place.”

Klein said the power of the global climate justice movement is not only the number of people involved, but about the movement’s inherent and growing diversity. Asked about the recent People’s Climate March in New York City, which drew more than 400,000 people to the streets ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September, she said: “To me, it was not just the size of it, this march had a quality to it that I’d never seen at a mass environmental demonstration.”

To the applause of the crowd, Klein continued, “I think we need to be very clear about this – the only way you can win against forces with a huge amount to lose is to build a movement of people, many more people, with a huge amount to gain.”

From saving our local natural resources to fighting back against what she called the “brutal logic of austerity,” Klein said the crisis of climate change is offering new ways to organize against the existing neoliberal order that is ravaging our economies and democracies, our ecological systems, and the places where people live.

“Climate is the big tent we’ve been waiting for, and why wouldn’t it be,” she said. “The atmosphere is the biggest tent of all, we’re all under it and we need to start acting like it.”

Watch the full discussion:  http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/10/07/naomi-klein-diverse-climate-movement-united-love-place-need-water

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Christian right’s huge dilemma: How social conservatives could doom Republicans

From Salon: http://www.salon.com/2014/10/09/christian_rights_huge_dilemma_how_social_conservatives_could_doom_republicans/

Tension between the GOP and its religious base is a long tradition — but it all may come to a head now. Here’s why


Thursday, Oct 9, 2014

I wrote a piece earlier about the GOP’s “three-legged stool” that stands for “family values, small government and strong national defense” in light of the recent resurgence of jingoistic fear-mongering in the 2014 campaign ads. The commentary on the right has been shifting perceptibly day by day as the threat of ISIS and our renewed military involvement in the Middle East tickled the martial lizard brain into action. But what of the other legs on the stool? The Christian Right is very likely to be on board with whatever military adventures the Republicans push (they usually are) but they are also likely to be agitated at the loss of prestige within the party and what they see as a defeatist attitude toward such issues a gay marriage and contraception.

The right wing firebrands’ reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision not to make a decision on marriage equality this week is instructive. The Tea Party king Ted Cruz wasted no time in condemning the Court saying, “by refusing to rule if the states can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution.” (He went on to bizarrely call the Court’s failure to act “judicial activism at its worst.” Ok.)

Christian Right leader and possible presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said:

“It is shocking that many elected officials, attorneys and judges think that a court ruling is the ‘final word,’” Huckabee said. “It most certainly is not. The courts are one branch of government, and equal to the other two, but not superior to either and certainly not to both. Even if the other two branches agree with the ruling, the people’s representatives have to pass enabling legislation to authorize same sex marriage, and the President (or Governor in the case of the state) has to sign it. Otherwise, it remains the court’s opinion. It is NOT the ‘law of the land’ as is often heralded.”

(And then he stood on the courthouse steps and thundered, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say No gay marriage now! No gay marriage tomorrow! No gay marriage forevuh!”)

In fairness, Huckabee has been out of government for some time now, kicking back, playing guitar on his Fox News gig with his buddy Ted Nugent so he’s probably forgotten how American government works. Still, he probably spoke for many members of the religious right in his anger that the Court didn’t take the opportunity to strike down the abomination of marriage equality, especially since they’d been led to believe that they finally achieved their goal of a conservative majority that would give them everything they want when they want it. Why if it weren’t for decisions allowing corporations “religious liberty” and banning buffer zones at abortion clinics, they wouldn’t have had anything to cheer about in 2014 at all.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/10/09/christian_rights_huge_dilemma_how_social_conservatives_could_doom_republicans/

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ISIS-ISIL-IS: Thy Name Is Slavery, Rape and Murder

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/evelyn-leopold/isis-isil-is-thy-name-is_b_5948208.html

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