Australian comedian perfectly sums up why other countries think US gun laws are crazy

VOX

The assault on the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, is officially the deadliest mass shooting in American history — with 50 people dead (including the shooter) and over 50 more wounded. The shooter has been identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, and he appears to have pledged allegiance to ISIS before the attack.

The shooting raises questions about why the United States, which has by far the highest rate of gun violence in the developed world, makes it so easy to acquire guns.

This baffles people from other countries — for reasons that Australian comedian Jim Jefferies explains in a bit from his 2014 Netflix special, which we’ve noted before. Jefferies was actually attacked in his home and tied up while captors threatened to rape his girlfriend. But instead of making him pro-gun, it taught Jefferies that a gun would never have protected him — “I was naked at the time. I wasn’t wearing my holster.”

Instead, Jefferies says, he decided that America’s approach to gun violence is totally bonkers:

In Australia, we had the biggest massacre on earth, and the Australian government went: “That’s it! NO MORE GUNS.” And we all went, “Yeah, all right then, that seems fair enough, really.”

Now in America, you had the Sandy Hook massacre, where little tiny children died. And your government went, “Maybe … we’ll get rid of the big guns?” And 50 percent of you went, “FUCK YOU, DON’T TAKE MY GUNS.”

He hammers home the idea that Americans keep guns just because they enjoy them, not because they seriously think they can protect themselves:

You have guns because you like guns! That’s why you go to gun conventions; that’s why you read gun magazines! None of you give a shit about home security. None of you go to home security conventions. None of you read Padlock Monthly. None of you have a Facebook picture of you behind a secure door.

And Jefferies also notes that the underlying mentality behind American gun culture, that people are always out to get you, is utterly bizarre:

By the way. Most people who are breaking into your house just want your fucking TV! You think that people are coming to murder your family? How many fucking enemies do you have?

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Obama kills it at White House Correspondent Dinner (Full text and video)

Barack Obama drops mic

Barack Obama drops mic at White House Correspondents Dinner (Screen capture)

RAW STORY

Well played, Mr. President. Well played.

Good evening everybody. It is an honor to be here at my last — and perhaps the last — White House Correspondents’ Dinner. You all look great. The end of the Republic has never looked better.

I do apologize. I know I was a little late tonight. I was running on CPT, which stands for “jokes that white people should not make.”

Anyway. Here we are. My eighth and final appearance at this unique event. And I am excited. If this material works well, I’m gonna use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans! That’s right. That’s right.

My brilliant and beautiful wife, Michelle, is here tonight. She looks so happy to be here. It’s called “practice.” It’s like learning to do 3-minute planks. She makes it look easy now, but next year at this time, someone else will be standing in this very spot. And it’s anyone’s guess who she will be (laughter). But standing here, I can’t help but be reflective — a little sentimental. You know, eight years ago I said it was time to change the tone of our politics. In hindsight, I clearly should have been more specific.

Eight years ago, I was a young man, full of idealism and vigor. And look at me now: I am grey, grizzled, just counting down the days til my death panel.

Hillary once questioned whether I’d be ready for a 3am phone call. No, I’m awake anyway, because I gotta go to the bathroom! (laughter.) I’m up.

In fact, somebody recently said to me, “Mr. President, you are so yesterday. Justin Trudeau has completely replaced you. He’s so handsome. He’s so charming. He’s the future.” And I said, “Justin, just give it a rest.” I resented that.

Meanwhile, Michelle has not aged a day. The only way you can date her in photos is by looking at me. Take a look. Here we are in 2008. Here we are a few years later. And this one if from two weeks ago.

So time passes.

In just six short months, I will be officially a lame duck. Which means Congress will now flat-out reject my authority. And Republican leaders won’t take my phone calls. And this is really gonna take some getting used to! It’s a curve ball. I don’t know what to do with it. Of course, in fact for months now, Congressional Republicans have been saying there are things I cannot do in my final year. Unfortunately, this dinner was not one of them.

But on everything else, it’s another story. And you know who you are, Republicans. In fact, I think we’ve got Republican Senators Tim Scott and Cory Gardiner, they’re in the house. Which reminds me: Security, bar the doors. Judge Merrick Garland? Come on out! We’re gonna do this right here, right now!

It’s like the Red Wedding.

But it’s not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders have been looking ahead, anticipating my departure. Last week, Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe. That was a slap in the face. A clear breach of protocol.

Although, while in England, I did have lunch with the Queen. Took in a performance of Shakespeare. Hit the links with David Cameron. Just in case anybody is still debating whether I’m black enough, I think that settles the debate.

This is a tough transition. It’s hard. Key staff are starting to leave the White House. Even reporters have left me. Savannah Guthrie, she’s left the White House press corps to host The Today Show. Nora O’Donnell left the briefing room to host CBS This Morning. Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN.

But, the prospect of leaving the White House is a mixed bag. You might have heard that someone jumped the White House fence last week. But, I have to give Secret Service credit. They found Michelle, brought her back. She’s safe, back at home now. It’s only nine more months, babe. Settle down.

And yet somehow, despite all this, in my final year my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high, I was trying to decide on my major.

And here’s the thing: I haven’t really done anything differently. Even my aides can’t explain the rising poll numbers. What has changed? Nobody can figure it out.

Puzzling.

Anyway. In this last year, I do have more appreciation for those who have been with me for this amazing ride. Like one of our finest public servants, Joe Biden. God bless him. Love that guy. I love Joe Biden. And I want to thank him for his friendship, for his counsel. For always giving it to me straight. For not shooting anybody in the face. Thank you, Joe.

Also, I would be remiss — let’s give it up for our host, Larry Wilmore. Also known as “One Of The Two Black Guys Who’s Not Jon Stewart.” You’re the South African guy, right?

I love Larry. And his parents are here, who are from Evanston, which is a great town. I also would like to acknowledge some of the award-winning reporters that we have here tonight: Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Shriver. Thank you all for everything you have done.

I’m just joking. As you know, Spotlight is a film — a movie — about investigative journalists with the resources, the autonomy, to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable. Best fantasy film since Star Wars.

That was maybe a cheap shot.

I understand the news business is tough these days. It keeps changing all the time. Every year at this dinner, somebody makes a joke about Buzzfeed, for example, changing the media landscape. And every year, the Washington Post laughs a little bit less hard.

There was kind of a silence there. Especially at the Washington Post table.

GOP Chairman Reince Priebus is here as well. Glad to see that you feel you’ve earned a night off. Congratulations on all your success. The Republican party, the nomination process; it’s all going great. Keep it up!

Kendall Jenner is also here, and we had a chance to meet backstage. She seems like a very nice young woman. I’m not exactly sure what she does, but I’m told my Twitter mentions are about to go through the roof.

Helen Mirren is here tonight. I don’t even have a joke here, I just think Helen Mirren is awesome. She’s awesome. Sitting at the same table I see Mike Bloomberg. Mike, a combative, controversial, New York billionaire is leading the GOP Primary and it’s not you. That has to sting a little bit. Although it’s not an entirely fair comparison between you and The Donald. After all, Mike was a big city mayor, he knows policy in depth, and he’s actually worth the amount of money that he says he is.

What an election season! For example, we have the bright new face of the Democratic Party here tonight, Mr. Bernie Sanders. Bernie, you look like a million bucks. Or to put in terms you’ll understand, you look like 37,000 donations of $27 each. A lot of folks have been surprised by the Bernie phenomenon, especially his appeal to young people. But not me I get it. Just recently a young person came up to me and said she was sick of politicians standing in the way of her dreams. As if we were going to actually let Malia go to Burning Man this year. Bernie might let her go, but not us.

I am hurt though, Bernie, that you’ve been distancing yourself a little from me. I mean, that’s just not something that you do to your comrade.

Bernie’s slogan has helped his campaign catch fire among young people. “Feel the Bern.” Feel the Bern. It’s a good slogan. Hilary’s slogan has not had the same effect. Look, I’ve said how much I admire Hilary’s toughness, her smarts, her policy chops, her experience. You’ve got to admit it though, Hilary trying to appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative signing up for Facebook. “Dear America, Did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hilary.” It’s not entirely persuasive.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, things are a little more . . . how should we say this. . . a little loose. Just look at the confusion over the invitations to tonight’s dinner. Guests we asked to check if they wanted steak or fish, but instead a whole bunch of your wrote in Paul Ryan. That’s not an option people. Steak or fish. You may not like steak or fish, but that’s your choice.

Meanwhile, some candidates aren’t polling high enough to qualify for their own joke tonight. The rules were well established ahead of time.

And then there’s Ted Cruz. Ted had a tough week. Ted went to Indiana — Hoosier country — stood on a basketball court, and called the hoop a basketball ring. What else is in his lexicon? Baseball sticks? Football hats? But sure, I’m the foreign one.

Let me conclude tonight on a more serious note. I want to thank the Washington Press Corps. I want to thank Carol for all that you do. You know, free press is central to our democracy. . . Nah I’m just kidding. You know I’ve got to talk about Trump! We weren’t just gonna stop there. Come on!

Although, I am a little hurt he’s not here tonight. We had so much fun the last time. And it is surprising. You’ve got a room full of reporters, celebrities, cameras, and he says no. Is this dinner too tacky for The Donald? What could he possibly be doing instead? Is he at home, eating a Trump steak, tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel?

The Republican establishment is incredulous that he is their most likely nominee. Incredulous! Shocking! They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. But in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world: Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan. There is one area where The Donald’s experience could be useful, and that is closing Guantanamo. Because Donald knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground.

OK, that’s probably enough. I’ve got more material. [But] I don’t want to spend too much time on The Donald. Following your lead, I want to show some restraint. Because I think we can all agree that, from the start, he’s gotten the appropriate amount of coverage befitting the seriousness of his candidacy. I hope you all are proud of yourselves. The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost, and now we’re praying that Cleveland makes it through July.

As for me, and Michelle, we’ve decided to stay in DC for a couple more years. This way our youngest daughter can finish up high school. Michelle can stay closer to her plot of carrots. She’s already making plans to see them every day. Take a look.

But our decision has actually presented a bit f a dilemma because, traditionally, presidents don’t stick around after their done. And it’s something I’ve been brooding about a little bit. Take a look.

I am still waiting for all of your to respond to my invitation to connect on LinkedIn. But I know you have jobs to do, which is what really brings us here tonight. I know there are times that we’ve had differences, and that’s inherent in our institutional roles. It’s true of every president and his press corps. But we’ve always shared the same goal — to root our public discourse in the truth, to open the doors to this democracy, to do whatever we can to make our country and our world more free and more just. And I’ve always appreciated the role that you have all played as equal partners in reaching these goals. And our Free Press is why we once again recognize the real journalist who uncovered the horrifying scandal and brought some measure of justice to thousands of victims throughout the world that are here with us tonight. Sacha Pfeiffer, Mike Rezendes, Walter Robinson, Matt Carroll, and Ben Bradlee Jr. — please give them a big round of applause.

Obama: Sanders Deserves Credit For Campaigning On Small Donations

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TPM LIVEWIRE

Obama said, “Heyy” back to her.

Watch the exchange:

Donald Trump’s supporters are so fanatical that now they’re sending threats to other conservatives

Donald Trump's supporters are so fanatical that now they're sending threats to other conservatives

AP/Matt Rourke

SALON

A Daily Beast article highlights the role of right-wing news site Breitbart in agitating the abuse of Trump critics

As Donald Trump rolls around in the heap of delegates he won on Tuesday, let’s all break out the world’s tiniest violins for the conservative political and media figures who opposed him, and whose opposition resulted in their suddenly noticing that their movement attracts vile racists and anti-Semites. Welcome to the party, folks!

Even while being disgusted by the abuse targeting conservative critics described in this Daily Beast article that dropped on Tuesday, one has to also feel just the tiniest bit of schadenfreude. Or maybe not even a tiny bit. Maybe you’re swimming in a vast ocean of satisfaction as the chickens that liberals have been talking about for years have finally come home to roost.

The piece in question examines the role of the right-wing Breitbart news websites in fluffing Donald Trump’s candidacy and defending the tangerine-shaded mogul from other conservatives who have questioned his right-wing credentials. In doing so, Breitbart has unleashed (wittingly or unwittingly) mobs of anonymous, angry wingnuts spewing such vitriolic threats that one writer mentioned in the piece, Bethany Mandel of the Federalist, recently bought her first gun.

Savor that irony for a minute. A card-carrying member of a political movement that often espouses unfettered gun ownership for protection from the scary hordes of (implicitly dark-skinned) haters and knockout gamers and members of ISIS who might invade Miami has had to buy a gun to protect herself and her family from fellow conservatives. Other conservatives profiled by the Daily Beast article mention death threats and promises to gang-rape family members.

Here’s a thought for conservatives: Maybe next black president, you won’t spend eight years telling the mouth breathers who make up your audience that his agenda revolves around destroying America by handing out food and healthcare to people with darker skin. Of course you’ll all deny you’ve done this, but liberals have spent years watching the right pump up every vaguely racialized trope it could to dog-whistle at its adherents.

Which is how you find yourselves needing guns to protect from people who are now angry to find out you are not their ideological allies.

But back to Breitbart. Conservatives seem to have only noticed in the last year or two that the website is a sewer filled with racist neo-Nazis. If you have followed the site’s falling out of favor with other right-wing media organs, you might have seen conservatives lamenting the ruination of its “good name,” or moaning about how far it has fallen since the death of Andrew Breitbart four years ago.

But Breitbart has always been a purveyor of the worst kind of reactionary, racist, dog-whistle politics, since long before Trump declared his candidacy. No, scratch that. The site didn’t send out dog-whistles. It blasted full-on air-raid sirens. Anyone with half a brain noticed this years ago, which I guess explains how the conservatives quoted by the Daily Beast missed it.

Two easy examples from the early years of the Obama administration tell you all you need to know. The first was the scandal over the ACORN videos made by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles. As the videos allegedly showed ACORN employees giving a pimp advice on how to hide the income his prostitutes were bringing in, O’Keefe spiced them up by filming himself dressed like a pimp right out of a Blaxploitation flick from the 1970s. He even appeared on Fox News to promote the videos while wearing the costume. Since ACORN was devoted to helping low-income, often African-American people, the dog-whistle was hard to miss.

The videos were later found to be heavily edited, but by that time it was too late to save ACORN from being shut down. The footage was first acquired, shown and heavily promoted by Andrew Breitbart, who let the story that he was a sort of mentor to O’Keefe float around. They were the first exclusive of Breitbart’s Big Government website, and helped launch the organization into the stratosphere, making it a major player on the conservative side.

Breitbart followed this up with the infamous Shirley Sherrod incident, in which he also presented video to “prove” that an African-American employee of the Department of Agriculture was actually a reverse racist who hated white people. This smearing cost Sherrod her job and her reputation, even though it quickly became clear the video, like those of ACORN, had been misleadingly edited, leaving out important context that negated the central thesis that the mild-mannered Sherrod was some sort of Foxy Brown cosplayer. She later sued Andrew Breitbart for defamation, eventually reaching a settlement with his widow.

Were Mandel, John Podhoretz or any of the other conservatives cited in the Daily Beast worried in 2010 that these kinds of bullshit stunts were creating a danger to the party by fueling the racial resentments of white conservatives, playing to their innate fears that the homogenous America they knew was being replaced by a multicultural, multiethnic society where previously marginalized people gained power and agency? Or were they perfectly happy to have Andrew Breitbart and his site out there feeding this monster because it meant more elected Republicans and more engaged conservatives reading not just Breitbart, but their own work as well?

I know which of those possibilities I’m betting on.

The ACORN and Shirley Sherrod events were only two of the highly racialized events the right wing has played up for years. Who can forget the New Black Panthers, or the constant demonization of Eric Holder and his Justice Department as being some sort of racial justice squad primed to get revenge on white people for centuries of oppression? Who can forget the smearing of Debo Adegbile or all the new voter ID laws that disproportionately prevent minorities from casting ballots?

Breitbart made its name by hyping and promoting these incendiary racial politics. It played up every single one of these events, and more, and heard nothing from conservatives beyond Attaboy! Now those who ginned up the voters by pushing this kind of garbage are finding out that the wave they have been riding is too big to handle, that it threatens to drown the GOP, and all they can do is blame other people when it was they who ignored the warnings of rough surf.

Newt Gingrich: Donald Trump Is “The Candidate That ‘Fox & Friends’ Invented”

Newt Gingrich: Donald Trump Is “The Candidate That ‘Fox & Friends’ Invented”

Screenshot

THE NATIONAL MEMO

Newt Gingrich unloaded at the Fox News morning chat show on Monday, for the role that TV hosts have played in giving Donald Trump an easy platform for his candidacy. The Fox hosts actually mounted a decent rebuttal, illustrating how other campaigns have failed to exploit the media as effectively as The Donald has.

Fox & Friends Co-host Steve Doocy asked Newt what the Republican establishment is doing now about the rise of Trump: “This is their nightmare scenario. What are they trying to do?

“Oh, I think they live in a fantasyland right now,” Gingrich said bluntly. “Donald Trump is tapping into something in the country that’s real. And if you take Trump’s vote, and Cruz’s vote, and Carson’s vote, the three outsiders, they are once again at about 62 percent in South Carolina. And they have been consistently above 60 percent everywhere in the country, if you pool together all of the insurgents. And there’s a message there: People believe the country’s decaying; they believe Washington is the heart of that decay. They want somebody who’s gonna kick over the table and change Washington. That’s why Cruz has done so well, and it’s why Trump has done so well.

Co-host Brian Kilmeade chimed in. “What’s interesting is, I remember Mitt Romney, one of his great advantages was money, and that’s why a lot of you guys couldn’t keep up,” Kilmeade said, which got Newt laughing. He continued: “This time, the billionaire is spending the least amount of money, and running away with this thing.”

“Wow,” Newt said, in a suddenly stern tone, “But that’s because of you guys.”

“What?”

“Look, that’s because of you guys,” Newt explained. “Donald Trump gets up in the morning, tweets to the entire planet at no cost, picks up the phone, calls you, has a great conversation for about eight minutes — which would’ve cost him a ton in commercial money. And meanwhile his opponents are all out there trying to raise the money to run an ad — nobody believes the ad.”

Kilmeade then felt the need to defend himself from the charge of building up Trump — and indeed, he offered a good critique of how other candidates simply didn’t embrace the free media strategy in the same way as Trump.

“Well I mean, people make decisions. Newt, people make decisions,” Kilmeade said. “Mitt Romney made a decision — for three months he wouldn’t do us at all. I mean, people decide — for a while, Jeb Bush wouldn’t hop on any television at all.

“Oh, I know,” Gingrich responded.

“Hillary Clinton didn’t do anything in the beginning. Donald Trump from day one made himself available to big and small — it paid off.”

Doocy added: “Plus, he’s invented scenarios where suddenly he’s got all this free media. You know, that pope thing at the end of the week? Who wasn’t talking about that?

Next got accusatory again: “Look, you could say that Trump is the candidate Fox & Friends invented. He was on your show I think more than any other show.”

“Every Monday,” Doocy helpfully interjected, referring to The Donald’s old regular slot on the show, which he had for several years before ever launching his campaign.

Newt continued: “—It was always a happy, positive conversation. He just kept going around the country — and this is one of his great advantages: He loves what he’s currently doing. And he is having a ball. That gives him more energy, and the fact that he can get on his plane to go back home, to get up in the morning, get back on his plane — a pretty comfortable life for a presidential candidate.”

“You know what?” Doocy said, bringing the segment to a close. “I want to be a billionaire, too — just saying.”

 

‘The Russians are going to have a cow’: The US’ latest message to Putin ‘is a really big deal’

Carolyn Kaster/AP

BUSINESS INSIDER

The US will devote a substantial portion of its defence spending to building up its military presence in Eastern Europe in an effort to deter Russian aggression in the region, Obama administration officials told The New York Times.

Countries belonging to the NATO alliance in central and Eastern Europe will apparently receive heavy weaponry, tanks, and other equipment from the US, which quadrupled its budget from $789 million to more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe through 2017.

“This is a really big deal, and the Russians are going to have a cow,” Evelyn N. Farkas, the Pentagon’s top policy official on Russia and Ukraine until October, told The Times on Tuesday. “It’s a huge sign of commitment to deterring Russia, and to strengthening our alliance and our partnership with countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.”

The move comes four months after Russia launched an air campaign in Syria to prop up embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a move widely seen as an attempt by Russian president Vladimir Putin to secure and expand Russia’s influence in the Middle East.

Russia’s presence in Syria, however, has “undermined” virtually everything the West is trying to accomplish in Syria and beyond, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in an interview with Reuters from a refugee camp in Jordan on Monday.

That includes the US’ attempts to bolster “moderate” Syrian rebel groups — who have been targeted by Russian airstrikes — and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition’s attempts to wipe out the Islamic State in Syria (who have largely been spared the brunt of Russia’s punishing air campaign.)

As such, the new funding being allocated to fortify Eastern Europe against Russian aggression “is not a response to something that happened last Tuesday,” a senior administration official told the New York Times.

“This is a longer-term response to a changed security environment in Europe. This reflects a new situation, where Russia has become a more difficult actor,” the official added.

Russia is unlikely to react kindly to an expanded NATO military presence along its western flank. In an interview with the German daily newspaper BILD in January, Putin asserted that Russia’s tensions with the West largely resulted from NATO’s eastward expansion after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Of course every state has the right to organise its security the way it deems appropriate. But the states that were already in NATO, the member states, could also have followed their own interests — and abstained from an expansion to the east.”

He added: “NATO and the USA wanted a complete victory over the Soviet Union. They wanted to sit on the throne in Europe alone.”

Incidentally, Russia is now trying to dethrone NATO and position itself as an alternative to US influence in the Middle East, as evidenced by its alliance with Iran, Syria, and Iraq — under the guise of fighting ISIS.

“Russia is of course trying to leverage the entire intervention [in Syria]as a way to lap up as much real estate in the Middle East as possible,”Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, told Business Insider in September.”It’s classic Putin.”

In pushing himself to the forefront of an “anti-ISIS coalition” and creating a distraction from Ukraine, Putin has tried to coerce the US into accepting — and potentially embracing — Russia’s role in the conflict.

But Obama’s new funding plan to bolster NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe shows that his administration is trying to put a damper on Putin’s plans to dislodge the West from the Middle East entirely by re-asserting the US’ role in the region.

From The Times:

Administration officials said the new investments were not just about deterring Russia. The weapons and equipment could also be deployed along NATO’s southern flank, where they could help in the fight against the Islamic State or in dealing with the influx of migrants from Syria.

Another anonymous administration official speaking to The Times put it bluntly: “This is a message that we see what they’re capable of, and what their political leadership is willing to do.”

NATASHA BERTRAND

 

The White Protestant Roots of American Racism

The United States Capitol Building holds a fantastic piece of artwork titled The Apotheosis of Washington. The fresco was painted by Constantino Brumidi in 1865, taking 11 months. The painting was completed at the end of the Civil War, two years after the construction of the dome. It is 180 ft (55 m) above the rotunda floor, covering 4,664 square ft (433.3 m2). The figures in the painting measure up to 15 ft (4.6 m) tall.
Brumidi had previously worked in the Vatican under Pope Gregory XVI, yet worked on a Pagan masterpiece in the United States.
There are a number of different themed sections to the fresco, which highlight different aspects of America and the Greco-Roman gods who rule over them. | http://www.whiteartwork.com/the-apotheosis-of-washington/

The New Republic

The Apotheosis of Washington,” painted in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi, is a fresco of the first president of the United States ascending to the heavens. The goddesses of Victory and Liberty, along with 13 maidens who represent America’s original colonies, flank George Washington; here, he’s elevated to the status of a god (and it’s worth noting that “apotheosis” actually means “deification”). In the 150 years since Brumidi’s last brushstroke, the painting’s characters have borne silent witness to the machinations of the U.S. Congress from the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building. When the fresco was completed, four million black people called the United States home but were only that year able to enjoy even the most limited experience of citizenship when the Civil War ended and the Emancipation Proclamation began the process of ending slavery. Of course, Brumidi’s fresco only features white faces.

His painting illustrates the complexities of a nation inextricably informed by the religious ethics of its founders and those who continue to wield power today: Religious white men, ascending to fame on the strength of their ideals. Even those founding fathers—who identified primarily as deists—shared views that aligned with Christian theologies. American society is heavily informed by this religious foundation, specifically in terms of racial injustice, even as religious identification declines.

A recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute on police brutality showed that between December 2014 and April 2015 the percentage of white Americans who believed that police killings of black Americans were part of a broader pattern jumped from 35 percent to 43 percent. White evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, see the recent homicides as isolated incidents—62 percent of them said that police treat blacks and whites equally. This isn’t an accident of demographics; it springs from the religious framework that undergirds American societal values. To deny the ongoing influence of Protestant ethics is to be willfully ignorant.

The “Protestant work ethic” is a term coined by sociologist Max Weber, whose seminal work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,delineated how links made by theologians between religion, work, and capital laid the groundwork for capitalism. Calvinist theology holds that only an elect few are predestined for salvation from birth, while the rest are damned. The anxiety this produced compelled people to look for hints or signs that they were members of the elect; they believed that material success was among the most notable indicators of God’s favor. Doing the hard work of creating God’s kingdom on Earth through a secular vocation was considered a pathway to God’s grace. The opposite also held true: Just as material success indicated God’s grace, poverty was a sign that you’d been denied God’s grace. In this context, slaves could be both blamed for their own plight and have the legitimacy of their labor erased.

“When the Protestant work ethic was being developed here, many people who were in the country weren’t even considered people and that continues to inform how we think about work,” said Jennifer Harvey, a professor of religion at Drake University whose research includes the intersection of morality in the context of white supremacy. “It cannot see certain kinds of work and labor as real and therefore virtuous,” she continued. It’s easy to be outraged when something as tangible as a video of a man being executed by police surfaces, but more insidious forms of racism still permeate our views of what does and does not constitute valid work—even among those who don’t subscribe to Protestant ethics.

A survey of millennials conducted by MTV showed that only 30 percent of whites reported being raised in families that talked about race at all. Adifferent survey from PRRI in 2014 found that “[W]hile more than three-quarters (76 percent) of black Americans, and roughly six-in-ten Hispanics (62 percent) and Asian Americans (58 percent), say that one of the big problems facing the country is that not everyone is given an equal chance in life, only half (50 percent) of white Americans agree.” An even more comprehensive study of young Americans in 2012 showed that 56 percent of white millennials believe the government “paid too much attention to the problems of blacks and other minorities.” Considering the fact that so many white people were raised in families that erased race by not talking about it at all, it’s not hard to see how the government’s attention to other races could seem excessive.

Dr. Ray Winbush is the director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, and he said that his work in Baltimore has recently increased his exposure to racial conceptions of work and goodness. “White people will say, ‘Why don’t you black people pull yourselves up by your bootstraps. This is America, everyone is free to do what they want,’” Winbush told me. “But what was the civil rights struggle of the 1960s if not the greatest self-help movement in American history?” Through the old lens of work as an act that contributes to building God’s kingdom on Earth in a very physical way, the work of political organizing can’t be recognized as a legitimate form of labor. Denying the labor of black Americans reinforces white supremacy.

“The Protestant work ethic that influenced the founding of this country included a belief that the more material wealth you have, the closer you are to God,” said Robin DiAngelo, a professor whose research focuses on how white people are socialized to collude with institutional racism. “So during slavery, we said, ‘You must do all the work but we will never allow that to pay off.’ Now we don’t give black people access to work. Then and now they have not been allowed to participate in wealth building or granted the morality we attach to wealth.” This historical entanglement of property and virtue continues to inform racial views. “Property among white Americans is seen as something to be treasured and revered,” said Winbush. “Black Americans do not view themselves as truly owning anything in America.”

DiAngelo noted that we sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at sporting events and don’t even flinch at “the land of the free” lyric written in 1814, a time when the country was home to millions of slaves. Winbush pointed to the black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was burned to the ground in 1921 by white mobs enraged by the incredible prosperity blacks had created there. Black attempts to participate in the promise of America are met consistently with this kind of violence. Ethicist Katie Geneva Cannon has written at length about how the institutional denial of citizenship and freedom to black people essentially wrote out the possibility of them ever being seen as virtuous in white society. “The ‘rightness of whiteness’ counted more than the basic political and civil rights of any Black person… Institutional slavery ended, but the virulent and intractable hatred that supported it did not,” Cannon wrote in The Emergence of Black Feminist Consciousness. Through both erasure and ignorance, we continue to deny the virtue and legitimacy of black citizenship and labor.

As we abandon our explicit ties to religion, religious ethics still inform our views of race, prosperity, and even personhood. It’s easy to blame older white Protestant evangelicals for the country’s residual racial strife, even as it represents white America’s refusal to interrogate the source of our worldviews and our tremendous social and political capital.

What is troubling about the fresco in the rotunda is that it functions as a mirror: The Congress those white faces look down upon is 92 percent Christian and 80 percent white. George Washington and his cohort of virtuous states are enshrined above so, theoretically, we’ll forever remember the virtuous, godly work of “protecting freedom.” Meanwhile, the black human lives whose uncompensated work built America’s prosperity—and the Capitol building—with their blood, sweat, and tears are consistently forgotten.

Alana Massey

U.S. to tell Americans why they’re on no-fly list

Americans on the no-fly list can now get information about why they've been banned from flights.
Americans on the no-fly list can now get information about why they’ve been banned from flights | Attribution: none

CNN

Americans on the United States’ no-fly list will now be privy to information about why they have been banned from commercial flights and be given the opportunity to dispute their status, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department this week.

The revised policy comes in response to a June ruling by a federal judge that said the old process was in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. The decision was part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 Americans on the list.

But the ACLU isn’t satisfied with the government’s new policy, outlined in documents filed Monday in federal courts in Oregon (PDF) and Virginia (PDF).

“After years of fighting in court for complete secrecy and losing, it’s good that the government is finally now going to tell people of their status on the No Fly List,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project and the lead attorney on the case, in a statement.

“Unfortunately, we’ve found that the government’s new redress process falls far short of constitutional requirements because it denies our clients meaningful notice, evidence, and a hearing. The government had an opportunity to come up with a fair process but failed, so we’re challenging it in court again.”

People on the no-fly list, managed by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, are prohibited from boarding a commercial flight for travel into or out of the United States.

The number of people on the list is classified. An official with knowledge of the government’s figures told CNN in 2012 that the list contained about 21,000 names, including about 500 Americans.

Before the change, American citizens and permanent residents who inquired with the government about being denied aircraft boarding received a letter that neither confirmed nor denied their inclusion on the no-fly list. Now, they’ll be made aware of their status if they apply for redress, with an option to request further information.

“The U.S. government is making enhancements to the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) to provide additional transparency and process for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been denied boarding on a commercial aircraft because they are on the No Fly List,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

In cases in which travelers included on the list request to receive or submit more information about their status, the government will provide a second, more detailed response, identifying “specific criterion under which the individual has been placed on the No Fly List,” according to the court documents.

An unclassified summary of that information will be provided “to the extent feasible, consistent with the national security and law enforcement interests at stake,” court papers said.

Those who appear on the no-fly list will then have further opportunity to dispute their status in writing, with supporting materials or exhibits, and will receive a final written decision from the Transportation Security Administration.

The 2014 ruling that prompted the policy changes had called for passengers on the list to be given the opportunity to dispute their status before a judge.

Read Ronald Reagan’s executive order on immigration the GOP won’t talk about

President Ronald Reagan | AFP Photo/Mike Sargent

Raw Story

The following statement was made by then-President Ronald Reagan on July 30, 1981:

Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands. No free and prosperous nation can by itself accommodate all those who seek a better life or flee persecution. We must share this responsibility with other countries.

The bipartisan select commission which reported this spring concluded that the Cuban influx to Florida made the United States sharply aware of the need for more effective immigration policies and the need for legislation to support those policies.

For these reasons, I asked the Attorney General last March to chair a Task Force on Immigration and Refugee Policy. We discussed the matter when President Lopez Portillo visited me last month, and we have carefully considered the views of our Mexican friends. In addition, the Attorney General has consulted with those concerned in Congress and in affected States and localities and with interested members of the public.

The Attorney General is undertaking administrative actions and submitting to Congress, on behalf of the administration, a legislative package, based on eight principles. These principles are designed to preserve our tradition of accepting foreigners to our shores, but to accept them in a controlled and orderly fashion:

  • We shall continue America’s tradition as a land that welcomes peoples from other countries. We shall also, with other countries, continue to share in the responsibility of welcoming and resettling those who flee oppression.
  • At the same time, we must ensure adequate legal authority to establish control over immigration: to enable us, when sudden influxes of foreigners occur, to decide to whom we grant the status of refugee or asylee; to improve our border control; to expedite (consistent with fair procedures and our Constitution) return of those coming here illegally; to strengthen enforcement of our fair labor standards and laws; and to penalize those who would knowingly encourage violation of our laws. The steps we take to further these objectives, however, must also be consistent with our values of individual privacy and freedom.
  • We have a special relationship with our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Our immigration policy should reflect this relationship.
  • We must also recognize that both the United States and Mexico have historically benefited from Mexicans obtaining employment in the United States. A number of our States have special labor needs, and we should take these into account.
  • Illegal immigrants in considerable numbers have become productive members of our society and are a basic part of our work force. Those who have established equities in the United States should be recognized and accorded legal status. At the same time, in so doing, we must not encourage illegal immigration.
  • We shall strive to distribute fairly, among the various localities of this country, the impacts of our national immigration and refugee policy, and we shall improve the capability of those agencies of the Federal Government which deal with these matters.
  • We shall seek new ways to integrate refugees into our society without nurturing their dependence on welfare.
  • Finally, we recognize that immigration and refugee problems require international solutions. We will seek greater international cooperation in the resettlement of refugees and, in the Caribbean Basin, international cooperation to assist accelerated economic development to reduce motivations for illegal immigration.

Immigration and refugee policy is an important part of our past and fundamental to our national interest. With the help of the Congress and the American people, we will work towards a new and realistic immigration policy, a policy that will be fair to our own citizens while it opens the door of opportunity for those who seek a new life in America.

H/t: D.B.

 

Fox News Quietly Corrects Congressman’s Mistake On Ebola Response

Chaffetz Ebola
CREDIT: SCREENSHOT

Think Progress

The GOP’s persistent and oftentimes conflicting criticism of the administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis within the United States jumped the shark on Wednesday, after a prominent Republican congressman questioned why President Obama hasn’t yet named a medical doctor to manage the situation whom the party has vociferously opposed.

After the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in Dallas, Texas in September, Republicans abandoned their longstanding opposition to government czars and called on the administration to appoint an “Ebola czar” to coordinate and message the government’s response to the deadly virus.

Obama resisted such calls for weeks, insisting, primarily through White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, that “clear lines of authority” already exist within the government’s effort. But the administration ultimately named Ron Klain, a former chief-of-staff to Vice President Joe Biden, to act as the point person on the issue.

Republicans immediately pounced. They accused Obama of nominating a “hack,” claimed that Klain had no “medical experience,” and would only “add to the bureaucratic inefficiencies that have plagued Ebola response efforts thus far.”

Others still insisted that the president shouldn’t have appointed a czar at all, because he simply needed to lead. “This is a public health crisis, and the answer isn’t another White House political operative. The answer is a commander in chief who stands up and leads, banning flights from Ebola-afflicted nations and acting decisively to secure our southern border,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced.

On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on Fox News to complain that Klain had not yet agreed to testify before Congress, firing another criticism at the White House. “Why not have the surgeon general head this up?” Chaffetz said, adding, “at least you have someone who has a medical background who has been confirmed by the United States Senate, that’s where we should be actually I think going.”

But Obama can’t appoint the Surgeon General to lead the Ebola response because his nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is being opposed by the National Rifle Association and Republicans senators (as well as a few Democrats) for supporting the expansion of background checks during gun purchases. In February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officiallyplaced a hold on the nomination.

Chaffetz seemed unaware of this wrinkle during his Fox interview, and his office would not return repeated requests for comment. Confusing matters even further, a FoxNews.com article summarizing the Chaffetz interview appears to have changed his wording to correct the error. It reports that the Congressman called on Obama to nominate the “acting-United States surgeon general,” a claim he never made. In fact, that individual, Boris D. Lushniak, serves in a place-holder position that does not receive Senate confirmation. Lushniak, who is filling in because Murthy has been blocked, has not taken an active role in the Ebola response.

Still, the mistake — and the political back-and-forth over Obama’s response — underlines the GOP strategy of criticizing every aspect of Obama’s response in an effort to capitalize on the public health story ahead of the midterm elections.