Nicholas Kristof writes: It’s true that Muslim Americans — both born in the United States and immigrants from countries other than those subject to Trump’s restrictions — have carried out deadly terrorism in America. There have been 123 such murders since the 9/11 attacks — and 230,000 other murders.
Last year Americans were less likely to be killed by Muslim terrorists than for being Muslim, according to Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina. The former is a risk of approximately one in six million; the latter, one in one million.
The bottom line is that most years in the U.S., ladders kill far more Americans than Muslim terrorists do. Same with bathtubs. Ditto for stairs. And lightning.
Above all, fear spouses: Husbands are incomparably more deadly in America than jihadist terrorists.
And husbands are so deadly in part because in America they have ready access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence. In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves. [Continue reading…]
Austin Sarat writes: There is much to celebrate in the court decision against President Trump’s immigration ban. It was a stirring victory for the rule of law and reaffirmation of the independence of the judiciary. Yet America faces a serious problem which that decision did not address: the erosion of public faith in the rule of law and democratic governance.
While we have been focused on partisan divides over government policy and personnel, an almost invisible erosion of the foundations of our political system has been taking place. Public support for the rule of law and democracy can no longer be taken for granted.
In 2017, the rule of law and democracy itself are under attack by President Trump and his administration. This is as much a symptom as a cause of our current crisis. Public Policy Polling has released the startling results of a national survey taken this week. Those results show significant fissures in the public’s embrace of the rule of law and democracy.
Only 53% of those surveyed said that they “trust judges more than President Trump to make the right decisions for the United States.” In this cross-section of Americans, 38% said they trusted Donald Trump more than our country’s judges. 9% were undecided. Support for the rule of law seemed higher when respondents were asked whether they thought that President Trump should “be able to overturn decisions by judges” when he disagrees with those decisions. Here only 25% agreed, with 11% saying they were unsure. [Continue reading…]
Paul A Kramer writes: The Statue of Liberty’s long career as a beacon to the oppressed began in 1882 with refugees whose religion some Americans feared. The czar was cracking down on Jews, and tens of thousands of people fled across Europe, many reaching the East Coast of the United States. Jewish American organizations rushed to aid them, as commentators debated what the sudden influx meant. What, if anything, did America owe these impoverished strangers, with their non-Christian faith? In a booming industrial society hungry for workers but fearful of beggars and bomb-throwers, were they a benefit or a danger?
It was at this moment that a Jewish American poet in New York, Emma Lazarus, made her way to the depot on Wards Island, where the refugees were being housed. Moved by their suffering, she taught classes and pressed for better shelter, food, and sanitation. Later, Lazarus was asked to contribute a poem for an auction to raise funds for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, and here she did something strange.
Until then, the icon had symbolized Franco-American friendship and trans-Atlantic republicanism. But in her sonnet, Lazarus recast it as a welcome signal to the poor and threatened, a “Mother of Exiles” calling out to the world to give over its “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Lazarus’ statue was not asking: “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me”; it commanded. The poem wore its ambivalence about immigrants on its sleeve — “wretched refuse,” it called them — but it also expressed the idea of the United States as a haven for outcasts in bold new ways, ways that would face repeated onslaughts in the coming decades.
Last week, Donald Trump launched the latest of these attacks, issuing an executive order that suspends the entrance of all refugees for 120 days, prohibits the entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries for at least 90 days, and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely. Given the racist, anti-immigrant nationalism at the center of Trump’s presidential campaign, his action came as no surprise. For his supporters, it represented a blow against menacing Islam and an assertion of white, Protestant identity as the genuine core of what it means to be American. For Trump’s many critics, it represented an outrageous affront to the United States’ deepest values as a beckoning “nation of immigrants,” the tradition that Lazarus championed.
Both stories about immigration and America — that there was a glorious past in which America was pure and protected from outsiders, or that Americans have always prized multicultural inclusion — remake the past to score political points in the present. In fact, Trump’s vile exercise in nativism — the xenophobic celebration of the national self — is only the latest maneuver in a series of battles over immigrants’ role in American life and America’s place in the world. Viewed historically, the claim that these anti-immigrant policies are “not who we are,” while stirring, does not hold water. American nativist politics have deep roots.
The founders made clear enough who among immigrants they envisioned to be potential citizens, barring naturalization to all but “free white persons” who had been in the country two years. In the mid-19th century, America’s first mass nativist movement directed Protestant nationalist fury against Irish Catholic immigrants suspected of depravity and papal allegiances that would corrupt the United States’ free institutions. In the 1880s, anti-Chinese movements, fired by fears of labor competition and civilizational decline, won the first congressional legislation restricting immigrants on the basis of racialized national origin. Hatred of immigrants as poor and working people — assumed to be lazy, immoral, and given to “dependency” on American largesse — animated U.S. nativism from its birth. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: Imposing a temporary travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim countries, President Donald Trump said the move would help protect the United States from terrorism. But less than one-third of Americans believe the move makes them “more safe,” according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.
The Jan. 30-31 poll found roughly one in two Americans backed the ban, which also suspends admission of all refugees for 120 days, although there were sharp divisions along party lines.
Trump has pushed back against critics who say the travel ban targets Muslims. He says the “extreme vetting” is necessary to protect the country and its borders.
“This is not about religion,” Trump said in a statement after announcing the travel ban on Friday. “This is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
In the Reuters/Ipsos poll some 31 percent of people said the ban made them feel “more safe,” while 26 percent said it made them feel “less safe.” Another 33 percent said it would not make any difference and the rest said they don’t know. [Continue reading…]
As usual, the unimaginative pollsters sliced the pie in a predictable way by identifying Democrats and Republicans. What would perhaps have been more enlightening would have been to differentiate between those who do or do not possess passports.
The implications of border regulations are significantly different for people who never venture overseas.
Amanda Erickson writes: The government of the United States got a downgrade this week: We’re no longer a “full democracy,” according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Democracy Index. For the first time, we were bumped down to “flawed,” thanks to an “erosion of public trust in political institutions.”
According to the report’s authors, a flawed democracy has free elections but “weak governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.” Other countries that share this dubious honor include Italy, Japan, France and India. Rankings are based on a country’s electoral process, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture.
That downgrade puts us at 21 in the rankings. Norway, Iceland and Sweden were ranked as the world’s most vibrant democracies, followed by New Zealand and Denmark; Canada and Ireland tied for sixth place. Syria and North Korea came, somewhat predictably, in last. [Continue reading…]
Governor Jerry Brown’s California State of the State address given in Sacramento yesterday begins 20 minutes into this video:
Jerry Brown: The recent election and inauguration of a new President have shown deep divisions across America.
While no one knows what the new leaders will actually do, there are signs that are disturbing. We have seen the bald assertion of “alternative facts.” We have heard the blatant attacks on science. Familiar signposts of our democracy — truth, civility, working together — have been obscured or swept aside.
But on Saturday, in cities across the country, we also witnessed a vast and inspiring fervor that is stirring in the land. Democracy doesn’t come from the top; it starts and spreads in the hearts of the people. And in the hearts of Americans, our core principles are as strong as ever.
As we face the hard journey ahead, we will have to summon, as Abraham Lincoln said, “the better angels of our nature.” Above all else, we have to live in the truth.
We all have our opinions but for democracy to work, we have to trust each other. We have to strive to understand the facts and state them clearly as we argue our points of view. As Hugo Grotius, the famous Dutch jurist, said long ago, “even God cannot cause two times two not to make four.”
When the science is clear or when our own eyes tell us that the seats in this chamber are filled or that the sun is shining, we must say so, not construct some alternate universe of non-facts that we find more pleasing.
Along with truth, we must practice civility. Although we have disagreed — often along party lines — we have generally been civil to one another and avoided the rancor of Washington. I urge you to go even further and look for new ways to work beyond party and act as Californians first.
Democrats are in the majority, but Republicans represent real Californians too. We went beyond party when we reformed workers’ compensation, when we created a rainy day fund and when we passed the water bond.
Let’s do that again and set an example for the rest of the country. And, in the process, we will earn the trust of the people of California.
Let me end in the immortal words of Woody Guthrie:
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me…
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
California is not turning back. Not now, not ever. His truth is marching on.
The Guardian reports: Global warming obviously refers to temperature increases across the entire globe. We know the Earth is warming, we know it is human-caused, we have a pretty good idea about how much the warming will be in the future and what some of the consequences are. In fact, when it comes to the Earth’s average climate, scientists have a pretty good understanding.
On the other hand, no one lives in the average climate. We live spread out north, west, east, and south. On islands, large continents, inland or in coastal regions. Many of us want to know what’s going to happen to the climate where we live. How will my life be affected in the future?
This type of question is answered in a very recent study published by scientists from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The team, which includes Dr. Raymond Bradley and researcher Dr. Ambarish Karmalkar looked specifically at the Northeastern United States. They found that this area will warm much more rapidly than the globe as a whole. In fact, it will warm faster than any other United States region. The authors expect the Northeast US will warm 50% faster than the planet as a whole. They also find that the United States will reach a 2 degree Celsius warming 10–20 years before the globe as a whole. [Continue reading…]
The Verge reports: A utilities company in Vermont has detected evidence of Russian malware, according to a report this evening from The Washington Post, which cited anonymous US officials. The code is said to be connected to a Russian hacking outfit the US government has named Grizzly Steppe.
According to the company, later revealed to be the Burlington Electric Department, the code linked to Grizzly Steppe was found on just one laptop, and the laptop wasn’t connected to the electrical grid — allaying earlier fears that Russia had hacked into the nation’s electrical grid. Owned by the city of Burlington, the utility firm confirmed the breach in a post on its Facebook page.
“The grid is not in danger,” Vermont Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia told the Burlington Free Press. “The utility flagged it, saw it, notified appropriate parties and isolated that one laptop with that malware on it.” [Continue reading…]
Quartz reports: Historic events come to define our national identity. But do we all agree on what’s important?
Pew asked 2,025 Americans from each generation to name the 10 events in their lifetime with “the greatest impact” on the country. The answers reveal a world newly redefined by the rise of domestic and foreign terrorism, and the transformative role of technology and civil rights.
Everyone agreed on one thing. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, stood out as the most important event, cutting across age, race, and political party. Roughly three-quarters (76%) of all respondents included the terror attacks in their top 10, and the events of that day were seen as the most defining overall for each generation, even ranking ahead of World War II for the Silent Generation (born between 1901 and 1927). The next closest contender was Barack Obama’s election to the White House, which 40% of the public named as one of their top events. (It shared the top spot among the survey’s black respondents.) [Continue reading…]
Asma Khalid writes: Sometime in early 2016 between a Trump rally in New Hampshire, where a burly man shouted something at me about being Muslim, and a series of particularly vitriolic tweets that included some combination of “raghead,” “terrorist,” “bitch” and “jihadi,” I went into my editor’s office and wept.
I cried for the first (but not the last) time this campaign season.
Through tears, I told her that if I had known my sheer existence — just the idea of being Muslim — would be a debatable issue in the 2016 election, I would never have signed up to do this job.
To friends and family, I looked like a masochist. But I was too invested to quit.
I was hired by NPR to cover the intersection of demographics and politics. My job required crisscrossing the country to talk to all kinds of voters. I attended rallies and town halls for nearly every candidate on both sides of the aisle, and I met people in their homes, churches and diners.
I am also visibly, identifiably Muslim. I wear a headscarf. So I stand out. And during this campaign, that Muslim identity became the first (and sometimes only) thing people saw, for good or for bad.
Sometimes I met voters who questioned the 3-D nature of my life, people who viscerally hated the idea of me.
One night an old journalist friend called me and said, “Look, don’t be a martyr.”
It was a strange comment to me, since the harassment seemed more like a nuisance than a legitimate threat. And I knew if I was ever legitimately concerned, I had two options: I could ask for a producer to travel with me, or I wouldn’t wear a headscarf. (And a couple of times I didn’t.) Without a hijab, I’m incognito, light-skinned enough that I can pass as some sort of generic ethnic curiosity.
For many journalists, the 2016 campaign was the story of a lifetime. And it was indeed the story of a lifetime for me, too, but a story with real-life repercussions.
And I hung on, because the story of Donald Trump’s America is not some foreign story of a faraway place; it’s my homeland.
I’m from Indiana. We grew up in a mostly Democratic county. But my town was predominantly white and fairly conservative, a place where the Ten Commandments are engraved in marble outside the old County Courthouse.
I loved our childhood — summers playing basketball, winters sledding. We weren’t outsiders — I sold Girl Scout cookies, was captain of the tennis team.
We were part of the club — or so we thought. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: The United States has a higher tolerance for torture than any other country on the U.N. Security Council, and Americans are more comfortable with torture than citizens of war-ravaged countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Ukraine.
Those are two key findings reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday, in a new report highlighting global perspectives on war.
The American willingness to use torture was part of a worrying trend identified by the ICRC — a growing belief globally that enemy combatants can be tortured for information. When researchers asked that question in 1999, just 28 percent of respondents said enemy combatants could be tortured. This year, 36 percent said it was justified.
That finding has raised concern, ICRC researchers said, about the role of international law in the world’s numerous armed conflicts. The report said the rules of armed conflict, like the Geneva Conventions, “are being questioned perhaps more than at any time in recent history.”
But there’s also a shocking lack of awareness that those rules exist — 39 percent of the Americans who supported torture told the ICRC they “didn’t realize my country had agreed to ban torture” as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. [Continue reading…]
Toni Morrison writes: This is a serious project. All immigrants to the United States know (and knew) that if they want to become real, authentic Americans they must reduce their fealty to their native country and regard it as secondary, subordinate, in order to emphasize their whiteness. Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force. Here, for many people, the definition of “Americanness” is color.
Under slave laws, the necessity for color rankings was obvious, but in America today, post-civil-rights legislation, white people’s conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. Rapidly lost. There are “people of color” everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of America. And what then? Another black President? A predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The threat is frightening.
In order to limit the possibility of this untenable change, and restore whiteness to its former status as a marker of national identity, a number of white Americans are sacrificing themselves. They have begun to do things they clearly don’t really want to be doing, and, to do so, they are (1) abandoning their sense of human dignity and (2) risking the appearance of cowardice. Much as they may hate their behavior, and know full well how craven it is, they are willing to kill small children attending Sunday school and slaughter churchgoers who invite a white boy to pray. Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street.
To keep alive the perception of white superiority, these white Americans tuck their heads under cone-shaped hats and American flags and deny themselves the dignity of face-to-face confrontation, training their guns on the unarmed, the innocent, the scared, on subjects who are running away, exposing their unthreatening backs to bullets. Surely, shooting a fleeing man in the back hurts the presumption of white strength? The sad plight of grown white men, crouching beneath their (better) selves, to slaughter the innocent during traffic stops, to push black women’s faces into the dirt, to handcuff black children. Only the frightened would do that. Right?
These sacrifices, made by supposedly tough white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status.
It may be hard to feel pity for the men who are making these bizarre sacrifices in the name of white power and supremacy. Personal debasement is not easy for white people (especially for white men), but to retain the conviction of their superiority to others—especially to black people—they are willing to risk contempt, and to be reviled by the mature, the sophisticated, and the strong. If it weren’t so ignorant and pitiful, one could mourn this collapse of dignity in service to an evil cause. [Continue reading…]
Vann R Newkirk II writes: You learn a lot about America on its country roads.
My education came under the tutelage of my father, a man who taught me his love for driving through the South. There’s a beauty in the neat tobacco rows on Highway 64 and the tall, quiet sentinel trees on 87. With mouths full of sunflower seeds, my daddy would quiz me on each plant, animal, and landmark we passed, and I picked up both his habits of driving and cataloguing the things that made us Southern, black, and whole.
But things ain’t always beautiful, and I learned those too. One hot summer afternoon, taking the 74 east from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Elizabethtown in my daddy’s black Toyota truck, a man ran us off the road. We skidded on the dirt shoulder as the man sped on past, his Confederate battle flag license plate a final insult to our situation. The bile rose in my throat, and the hot anger and shame at the symbol made my skin prickle. Here was a man who could just be a jerk having a bad day, but whose choice of a single symbol suddenly made that bad day personal. My dad just cussed a little bit, put another handful of sunflower seeds in his mouth, and continued on our way down that road.
At a gas station just outside of Rockingham, serendipity found us. As we pulled up to the pump, just there in front of our car was Mr. Confederate Plate, leaning like all villains do against the side of his car. I’m not sure who recognized whom first, but I remember the shouting match, and Mr. Confederate Flag calling my father the one name he would never answer to, looking at me and saying the same, and then pantomiming that he had a gun in the car. I remember looking around at similar flags on another truck and inside the gas station, and knowing instinctively that we were not in friendly territory. I also remember my father shaking with rage and that same hot shame as my own when he climbed back in the truck.
After another cussing fit, Vann Newkirk, Sr. looked at me and said the thing that’s always stuck with me since. “This is who we are,” he told me. “Don’t forget.” And we went back down the road.
This is who we are. Those words often come to me when I see the ugly things in life now. When the first details about Tamir Rice’s death at the hands of police officers came to me on Twitter, they were a scream in the dark. When people questioned with straight faces if our president was even born in America, they echoed about my ears. When the Department of Justice report revealed that Ferguson, Missouri was a racial kleptocracy, they were a whisper in the wind.
When a man who was accused of multiple sexual assaults, was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, characterized Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” and promoted stop and frisk as a national campaign of “law and order” was elected president, they boomed like thunder. [Continue reading…]
The 2016 American presidential campaign has renewed concerns about the specter of violence in American electoral politics. The campaign has been marked by tense – and occasionally violent – altercations between supporters and critics of Republican nominee Donald Trump.
By refusing to commit to accepting the results of the election, he has confirmed the doubts among his supporters about the integrity of American elections. Thereby, he has increased the risk of possibly violent resistance by hard-core Trumpists.
It would be comforting to conclude that the menace of violence surrounding the 2016 presidential election is unique. But my research on the history of voting rights in the United States suggests that this is far from the case. Indeed, the threat and execution of violence around elections has a long, sad history in American politics.
Somewhat like the 2016 election – which has revolved around issues of race and immigration – efforts by disadvantaged (and often nonwhite) citizens to secure greater political influence have been met with violent repression by those already enjoying power (usually more affluent whites) throughout American history.
Alyssa Rosenberg writes: Movies, television and novels have trained audiences to excuse almost any police shooting, including the deaths of children — until now, when the emergence and near-ubiquity of real-life videos have made the gap between fiction and reality undeniable.
Whether a shooting is legal is determined in part by an officer’s fear. But when the Los Angeles Police Department cleared scripts for television series such as “Dragnet” or “Adam-12,” “any shooting that was done on the shows was squeaky clean,” explained former detective sergeant Joseph Wambaugh, who worked briefly in the LAPD’s public information office, where the scripts were reviewed. “Any officer would have to be in total control.”
If this standard had nothing to do with how officers actually reacted after shooting someone, it was intended to bolster the audience’s confidence in police officers.
In fact, officers on early cop shows such as “Dragnet” and “Naked City” were often presented as so decent that they questioned their own decisions to shoot and had to be convinced that they’d done the right thing. Often, the person doing the convincing was a parent or relative of the dead person.
The first time Joe Friday (Jack Webb), the archetypal stoic police officer, killed a person in the “Dragnet” episode “The Big Thief,” he was so distressed that his partner had to help him fill out his incident report. “I kind of wonder if there was another way,” Friday declared glumly, unconvinced that he was right to shoot even though the other man had a gun. Friday was ultimately reassured by the law itself, when the shooting was ruled a justifiable homicide.
Friday’s question hangs in the air, but it both casts and dispels doubt in a single sentence. If someone who cares as much as Joe Friday does couldn’t find a better solution when confronted with a dangerous criminal, then maybe one doesn’t exist. Friday’s concerns are themselves the proof that he would never do the wrong thing. [Continue reading…]