Stop trying to change the name of Black Lives Matter

Protesters carry signs insisting all lives matter.

Protesters carry signs insisting all lives matter.

Since it became a national movement, Black Lives Matter has been met with antagonism for its name alone. The phrase “black lives matter” is seen by some as divisive, confrontational and perhaps even racist. It reveals a great deal about the struggle black Americans face that controversy arises when they assert the value of their lives.

But there’s an important reason why the name shouldn’t be changed: In our criminal justice system, black lives are not treated like they matter. The name is therefore both an expression of what we wish reality to be and an exposé of what reality isn’t. Continue reading

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Criminal charges should be brought to Volkswagen

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn issues an apology for his cars' gross emissions violations.

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn issues an apology for his cars’ gross emissions violations.

Another major corporation has been caught in an environmental scandal, and again the news media is as sympathetic as possible. Last week, the EPA confronted German automaker Volkswagen about allegations that certain of their diesel-engine vehicles violated Clean Air Act standards. The response from Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn was the kind of “Aw, shucks” apology we’ve become accustomed to from the powerful: “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public.”

But Winterkorn did far more than violate trust. According to the LA Times, Volkswagen has sold nearly half a million affected cars in the U.S. since 2009 and 11 million worldwide. These cars, which were heavily marketed as burning “clean diesel,” were emitting up to 40 times the allowed amount of nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere. Software in the car’s computer – apparently common enough in the industry that it has a nickname, a “defeat device” – tricks inspectors by switching over to a special mode at inspection time. That excess nitrogen oxide combines with oxygen in the atmosphere to form nitrogen dioxide and smog. Continue reading

Right-wing causes célèbres expose endorsement of extremism

Kim Davis, an unrepentant hypocrite and bigot, was greeted with an adoring crowd and a smile from presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on her release from jail.

Kim Davis, an unrepentant hypocrite and bigot, was greeted with an adoring crowd and a smile from presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on her release from jail.

Every now and then – and especially around election time – someone from the general public becomes a household name thanks to a politically exploitable controversy. Politicians are eager to highlight how their philosophy and policies interact with real people, so they seek these representative examples. But the recent causes célèbres that have been exploited by the right are much worse than your average Joe the Plumber. They are of a distinctly nasty character and help expose conservatives’ mainstreaming of bigotry, lawlessness and violence. Continue reading

National Geographic’s future editorial integrity is in doubt over Murdoch merger

A 100-year-old National Geographic from January 1915.

A 100-year-old National Geographic from January 1915.

Rupert Murdoch, the Australian mogul who owns a vast media empire encompassing, among other important holdings, 21st Century Fox and FOX News, has purchased a 73 percent share of the National Geographic Society’s media assets for $725 million. The society will join with Murdoch in running National Geographic Partners, which will henceforth produce commercial National Geographic media.

Most notably, this includes the society’s revered National Geographic Magazine, published since 1888. And while the society will supposedly continue to play a predominant role in generating the magazine’s content, there is worry that its new, profit-oriented owner will compromise its strong editorial stance, particularly given Murdoch’s denial of man-made climate change. Continue reading

We need more days like Labor Day and stronger unions to get them

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pickets with Iowa workers last week. As a senator, Sanders also recently introduced legislation that would guarantee paid vacation time to full-time workers.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pickets with Iowa workers last week. As a senator, Sanders also recently introduced legislation that would guarantee paid vacation time to full-time workers.

Today is Labor Day, a day on which millions of Americans will enjoy a luxury that, sadly, is rarely afforded to them: a day off from work.

Unlike some holidays, there’s little ambiguity about what Labor Day represents. It’s a day that first gained momentum, and eventually legal status, in the late 1800s. Organized labor had been fighting bloody battles with factory owners and police to help end the injustices of the Gilded Age, and Labor Day was set aside to recognize the contributions of those workers to America’s success.

Now, workers have their holiday, but also face the very real prospect of a return to that Gilded Age. Wages are stagnating, hours are increasing, benefits and pensions are disappearing, and union-busting is back in full force. And all of this is happening at a time when GDP is expanding and the wealthiest Americans are the richest they’ve ever been. Continue reading

Media: Enough with the polls and distractions; talk about issues

A woman pulls Donald Trump's hair at an event to prove it's real. This passes for

A woman pulls Donald Trump’s hair at an event to prove it’s real. This passes for “political news” during a presidential election cycle.

Like the holiday season, the presidential election cycle seems to begin earlier and earlier every go-round. And also like the holiday season, the election brings to the surface all the lowest points of our media, society and culture.

The next president won’t be decided until Nov. 8, 2016 and the coverage is already relentless. It’s difficult to turn on TV news or visit any news site, no matter its political affiliation or lack thereof, without seeing stories about the 2016 election. What a shame that for the next 14 months we’ll be forced to endure so much exposure to our national mediocrity. Continue reading

Washington hypocrisy and warmongering jeopardizes breakthrough nuclear deal with Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, second-left, stands on stage with diplomats in Switzerland, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, far right.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, second-left, stands on stage with diplomats in Switzerland, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, far right.

As diplomats from the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany move closer to reaching a historic deal with Iran that would temporarily block it from pursuing certain nuclear ambitions in exchange for relaxation of sanctions, Republicans are vowing to do all they can to scuttle the deal. It’s remarkable that, at a time when the first modern meaningful international agreement between the US and Iran is about to go through, Republicans are rattling sabers as aggressively as ever.

Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker called the deal “one of America’s worst diplomatic failures.” “Instead of making the world safer,” Walker alleges, “this deal will likely lead to a nuclear arms race in the world’s most dangerous region.” In keeping with the lockstep obstructionism that has defined the GOP throughout Obama’s presidency, other Republicans have protested the deal, citing Iran’s untrustworthiness and existential threat to world peace.

For years, Washington and the news media have portrayed Iran as the most dangerous national power on the planet. That opinion is not widely shared by the global community, however, which by a significant margin places the United States at the top of a list of the biggest threats to world peace. Despite the abundance of negative public opinion on Iran in the US, the question of what exactly makes the country such a threat is rarely meaningfully explored.

A brief history of US/Iranian relations reveals everything about who should be distrustful of who. Continue reading