Stop calling the Baltimore protesters ‘thugs’

Published: Daily Dot (April 30, 2015)

Language matters, and in light of how frequently the word “thug” is used as a substitute for outright racial slurs, it’s time for everyone to eliminate it from their vocabulary when discussing the Baltimore protests.

It may not seem like a big deal that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sent out a tweet referring to the predominantly African American rioters in her city as “thugs,” but as Salon’s Brittney Cooper explained on MSNBC earlier this week, the term is “rooted in a racialized understanding of black people,” one that “has been used to delegitimize the actions of many because of the actions of a few.”

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Emperor Vespasian and the Art of Making Choices

Published: Good Men Project (April 30, 2015)

Matthew Rozsa shares a brief story from Roman history to teach a life lesson.

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Whenever I discover an anecdote from ancient history that offers a clear lesson for the present, my inner history nerd rejoices at the opportunity to share my latest find with anyone who might offer me their attention.

Much as you, dear reader, are doing right now. Which brings us to Vespasian, the 9th Emperor of the Roman Empire, and the most important decision he ever made.

Whenever I discover an anecdote from ancient history that offers a clear lesson for the present, my inner history nerd rejoices at the opportunity to share my latest find with anyone who might offer me their attention.

After finding that Rome had been devastated by a terrible economic crisis and sweeping fires (which many suspected, without proof, had been intentionally set by Nero three years earlier), Vespasian took it upon himself to spearhead a series of ambitious public works program, constructing and/or repairing buildings, roads, aqueducts, and a whole host of other infrastructural necessities within the city. One day, a brilliant inventor found Vespasian while he was personally supervising an aspect of his city’s construction. After receiving permission to approach him, he proceeded to show the emperor a blueprint he had drawn of an innovative new machine he claimed would make it possible to complete all of Vespasian’s construction goals more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently than ever before. As the historian Will Durant later wrote, Vespasian may very well have been faced with the possibility of starting the Industrial Revolution right then and there, seventeen hundred years early. Instead, much to the engineer’s shock, Vespasian declined his offer. “My people need jobs,” he simply said, before turning back to his work.

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5 ways to fix America’s crippling student debt problem

Published: Daily Dot (April 28, 2015)

Back in 2011, Occupy Wall Street swept America due in large part to its members’ savvy use of social media (one professor of journalism even referred to the movement as a “hashtag revolt”). While no catchy Twitter slogan has yet been created for the student loan reform movement, the Internet is warming up to the cause in a similar fashion.

“The federal student loan system has become predatory due to the Congressional removal of standard consumer protections and congressionally sanctioned collection powers that are stronger than those for all other loan instruments in our nation’s history,” argues StudentLoanJustice.org, a popular site founded by activist Alan Collinge (who OnlineCollege.org determined was the third most powerful leader of the student loan reform movement, following only President Obama and one of his advisers).

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5 reasons Marco Rubio will never be elected president

Marco Rubio

Published: Daily Dot (April 28, 2015)

If the recent polls are to be believed, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is all but guaranteed to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2016.

The Hill, a prominent Beltway blog, reports that Rubio is besting his Republican challengers in two different early polls, one from Fox News and the other from Quinnipac University. According to Fox, 13 percent of surveyed Republicans plan on voting for Rubio, while Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin trails with 12 percent. The Quinnipac survey tallies Rubio with 15 percent, with Jeb Bush next at 13 percent.

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Social Reparations for Racist Incarceration: What Americans Owe Men Like Kalief Browder

Published: Good Men Project (April 28, 2015)

Matthew Rozsa argues that it’s time for Americans to pay their debt to non-whites suffering from racial discrimination.

If Americans truly wish to eradicate the scourge of racial oppression from our nation, we must start by paying our debts.

Last week, The New Yorker obtained footage from two surveillance cameras that depicted the horror of Kalief Browder’s experience on Riker’s Island. As the videos and subsequent interviews confirm, Browder was beaten by a corrections officer and various inmates during his time in prison. He also alleges that officers would starve him as a form of punishment, and records back up his claim that he spent nearly two years in solitary confinement during his three year stay behind bars.

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Adam Sandler’s ugly track record with race: The dumb, offensive, unfunny movie moments that came before ‘The Ridiculous Six’

Published: Salon (April 27, 2015)

You know it’s bad when you see how “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” is his most empathetic recent comedy.

Adam Sandler is probably not a racist, but his movies definitely have a long history of racial insensitivity. If anything, it’s surprising that he hasn’t been called out about this (at least on a larger scale) until now.

As the moviegoing world learned last week, roughly a dozen Native American actors walked off the set of Sandler’s upcoming comedy “The Ridiculous Six” to protest his depiction of Apaches. Among other things, they were offended by the various vulgar puns used as character names (e.g., Beaver’s Breath, No Bra, Sits-on-Face), a scene in which a Native American woman is shown squatting down to urinate while smoking a peace pipe, and the fact that the costumes resorted to visual stereotypes instead of accurately representing how Apaches looked. The inevitable hashtag movement protesting the film sums up the fundamental complaint rather succinctly: #NotYourHollywoodIndian

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The right wing’s bloodthirsty obsession: How conservatives poisoned the debate over capital punishment

Published: Salon (April 24, 2015)

A conservative columnist paints those against executing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as terrorist sympathizers

Once Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense attorney wraps up her closing statement, the jury will need to decide whether the terrorist should receive the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison. This is a thorny question, one that should compel civic-minded Americans to engage in serious soul-searching about the use of capital punishment in cases where a perpetrator’s guilt and lack of remorse are beyond question.

For that to happen, however, we will first need to overcome our own baser instincts.

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How the Internet could force Barack Obama to back medical marijuana

Published: Daily Dot (April 23, 2015)

On Sunday night, President Obama backed Medical Pot Reform—and the Internet noticed.

President #Obama doesn't have the balls to #legalize #marijuana – WATCH: http://t.co/8uxKwsX9mC #420 #MMOT pic.twitter.com/UQH8Pug5vf

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