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A federal panel helped cities cope with climate change. Trump killed it.

Today, the president signed two proclamations drastically cutting land from two federal monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by 80 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

When President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument last year, it was a huge victory for five Utah tribes — the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zuni — who came together in 2015 to push for the preservation of what they estimate are 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD, in the region.

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said in statement. “But we came back.”

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to establish national monuments, largely to thwart looting of archaeological sites. Trump is the first president to shrink a monument in decades.

The five tribes have said they will bring a legal case against the administration — the outcome could redefine the president’s powers to use the Antiquities Act. “We know how to fight and we will fight to defend Bears Ears,” Filfred said.

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A federal panel helped cities cope with climate change. Trump killed it.

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Owls Aren’t Wise & Bats Aren’t Blind – Warner Shedd


Owls Aren’t Wise & Bats Aren’t Blind

A Naturalist Debunks Our Favorite Fallacies About Wildlife

Warner Shedd

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: June 27, 2000

Publisher: Crown/Archetype

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

In this fascinating book, wildlife expert and enthusiast Warner Shedd refutes popular animal myths like squirrels remembering where they bury nuts, wolves howling at the moon, and oppossums "playing dead." Have you ever seen a flying squirrel flapping through the air, watched a beaver carrying a load of mud on its tail, or ducked when a porcupine started throwing its quills? Probably not, says Shedd, former regional executive for the National Wildlife Federation. Offering scientific evidence that refutes many of the most tenacious and persevering folklore about wild animals,  Owls Aren't Wise & Bats Aren't Blind  will captivate you with fascinating facts and humorous anecdotes about more than thirty North American species– some as familiar as the common toad, and others as elusive as the lynx.  Owls Aren't Wise & Bats Aren't Blind  is an entertaining dose of scientific reality for any nature enthusiast or armchair adventurer.


Owls Aren’t Wise & Bats Aren’t Blind – Warner Shedd

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She Was Desperate. She Tried to End Her Own Pregnancy. She Was Thrown in Jail

Mother Jones

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Gracia Lam

One night in May 2009, Jocelyn packed a backpack and left the ramshackle house in Naples, Utah, where she lived with her mom and two of her five siblings. She was six months pregnant—a condition that had caused the 17-year-old to drop out of high school and become alienated from her Mormon family. That night she’d broken up with her new boyfriend, who, though not the father, was her biggest source of support.

She planned to hitchhike 2,000 miles to Florida, where her dad lived, even though they hadn’t spoken in years. She only made it to a gas station a block away before she stopped, in tears. Aaron Harrison, a “Goth” 21-year-old, approached Jocelyn and asked if he could help. “I was a mess, I was crying, I didn’t know what to do,” she remembers. “I told him everything. I even told him about thinking of ending the pregnancy.” He asked if she wanted to go to his place nearby and talk.

Jocelyn (which is not her real name), a petite woman with wavy brown hair and a soft twang, told Harrison that her boyfriend had suggested an abortion could be caused by a punch in the stomach, and that they had even discussed resolving her pregnancy problem this way. So Harrison struck a deal with her. If he beat her up so she would miscarry, Jocelyn would give him the $150 she’d brought for her trip. If anyone asked, she’d say she had been sexually assaulted.

He was more than cooperative. Once inside his house, he punched her in the stomach, slapped her face, and bit her neck. Jocelyn says they also had sex, thinking it would help their cover story.

But things quickly got out of hand—”he hit me really hard”—and Jocelyn ran out of the house, shocked, bruised, and appalled by what they’d done. “I felt so sad for my baby,” she tells me. “I felt awful that I’d just agreed to any of it. But I also felt like a victim.” She called her mom and told her she’d been sexually assaulted. Jocelyn’s mom took her to the police station, where she was questioned by a detective. Jocelyn stuck with her story at first, but the cop kept questioning her, she says, well into the middle of the night. After she finally confessed, the police took her to the hospital. Her unborn baby was alive.

The next day, Jocelyn was arrested. “The county attorney said, ‘Take her straight to detention,'” she says. “‘This is insane, this is unacceptable, this is attempted murder.'” Jocelyn was moved to Split Mountain, a juvenile center, and charged with solicitation of murder, which would have been a felony if she were an adult. Harrison was also arrested and charged with attempted murder.

“That was the worst moment of my life,” Jocelyn, now 25, tells me from her home in Vernal, Utah, with two young children cooing behind her.

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said women who end their pregnancies ought to face “some form of punishment.” He was met with an onslaught of criticism, even from anti-abortion groups, which characterized his position as “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement.” Before efforts to decriminalize abortion began in the late 1960s, women were rarely prosecuted for attempting to access the procedure. Anti-abortion advocates argued then, as most do now, that women, like their fetuses, were victims. After Trump’s comments, March for Life issued a press release with the headline “No Pro-Life American Advocates Punishment for Abortion.” Jeanne Mancini, the organization’s president, went further, saying, “Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.”

Trump quickly walked back his statement; doctors, he said, not women, should be punished. But his remarks exposed a tension at the heart of the pro-life legal movement: How can abortion become illegal without punishing the women who seek them? The question has come into greater relief over the last several decades, as state and federal laws have evolved to regard fetal deaths as potential homicides. With Republicans now in control of federal judicial nominations and most statehouses, growing gaps in the abortion rights landscape seem likely to drive more women to self-abort, just as several high-profile cases have shown prosecutors willing to bring charges against those who take desperate measures to end their pregnancies.

Mother Jones has identified at least two dozen cases since Roe v. Wade in which women faced investigation or prosecution for a self-induced abortion, according to a review of news reports, scholarly articles, and court documents. But Jill E. Adams, who leads the Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team at the University of California-Berkeley, says the real number is unknown. In the eight years following Jocelyn’s arrest, eight women, almost all in the Midwestern or Southern United States, have been investigated, charged, or prosecuted for trying to end pregnancies, or for being suspected of doing so. About half the women charged since Roe, including Jocelyn, were accused of homicide, manslaughter, or a related crime—charges enabled by “fetal homicide laws,” which are on the books in 38 states and make killing a fetus a crime.

Fetal homicide laws are the result of a two-pronged strategy that anti-abortion groups adopted after their 1973 Supreme Court defeat in Roe: They pushed state laws that made abortions harder to get and expanded the legal rights of fetuses so that the public, and eventually the courts, would begin to regard the unborn—no matter what stage of development—as children. Advocates started by working to define life as beginning at conception in nonabortion contexts—property or contract law, for instance.

But criminal prosecutions of anyone who killed a fetus soon followed. In one of the earliest such cases, attorneys for Americans United for Life, the nation’s most influential pro-life legal group, fought to get an Illinois man prosecuted for murder after he shot a pregnant woman, allegedly killing her unborn child. (He was found not guilty; a judge was not convinced his bullet had killed the fetus.)

In 1984, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state’s vehicular homicide statute should apply to a driver who crashed into a pedestrian and killed her eight-and-a-half-month-old fetus. In 1986, a year after the Minnesota Supreme Court held that the state’s vehicular homicide law shouldn’t apply to fetuses, the Legislature stepped in to pass a fetal homicide law starting from the moment of conception.

These rulings and laws represented the first cracks in the so-called “born alive” rule, which required a child to be alive and out of the womb before it could be considered the victim of a homicide; the standard had been used by virtually every jurisdiction in the United States for more than a century. In 1987, Clarke Forsythe, a new Americans United for Life lawyer, released a paper (paywall) with model fetal homicide legislation aimed at further unraveling the born-alive standard. He led a team of young pro-life lawyers and advocates who argued that in an era with technology that is capable of determining the precise status of a fetus in utero and even, in rare occasions, the cause of death, the born-alive standard was arcane and immoral. “Modern medicine made that rule obsolete,” Forsythe told me.

By 1994, 17 states had fetal homicide laws on the books. Mary Ziegler, a legal historian and author of the book After Roe, says the particular genius of fetal homicide laws was “you could convince lawmakers to pass them even if they were uneasy with the pro-life movement. They were personhood laws, but they didn’t apply to abortion.”

Mountain ranges and hills surround Uintah County, where Jocelyn grew up. Giant dinosaur statues are scattered throughout the area, an homage to nearby paleontology digs. For decades, many of Uintah’s 38,000 mostly Mormon residents worked extracting oil and shale gas. Jocelyn and her five siblings grew up in Jensen, with a population of fewer than 500, in the northern part of the county. Her mother waitressed and her father worked as a carpenter until a back injury forced him to stop. When Jocelyn was 10, he left without a goodbye. Jocelyn’s mom struggled with addiction, and eventually she moved her family into a small condemned home, with no running water or electricity, on her parents’ property in nearby Naples.

By the time she was in 11th grade, Jocelyn, fed up with her mother’s problems and the family’s living situation, moved into a small apartment in Naples, a town lined with fly-fishing shops, industrial facilities, and motels. She was working toward a welding certificate in high school and had started dating a senior she met in class. Then she found out she was pregnant. She knew her ex was the father and her new boyfriend wouldn’t raise someone else’s kid.

“I kind of spiraled,” Jocelyn remembers. “I started to show, and then I was embarrassed to go to school, so I dropped out.” She moved back in with her mother and brothers. Lights and space heaters were powered by extension cords running from her grandparents’ house. If Jocelyn had to go to the bathroom after the doors were locked for the night, she’d have to pee outside.

She struggled with what she should do, weighing the pressure she felt from her new boyfriend to have an abortion. “I didn’t think abortion was wrong or right or indifferent. I was just a 16-year-old with a boyfriend who was the closest person to me at that time.” Utah’s nearest abortion clinic was about 170 miles away in Salt Lake City, and Jocelyn convinced her mom to drive her the three-plus hours across mountains and snow and pay several hundred dollars to end her pregnancy. According to court records, clinicians told her an abortion would be impossible because she was too far along. At the time, state law banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy; Jocelyn does not recall being so far along. (Later that year, the Legislature moved the limit to viability, usually considered 24 weeks.)

On the ride home, Jocelyn remembered the ultrasound and hearing the tiny heartbeat; she worried that abortion wasn’t for her. Adoption was one option, but she couldn’t imagine giving the baby to an anonymous couple. After being turned away from the clinic, Jocelyn swallowed a handful of pills in a failed suicide attempt. “I tried to just get rid of us both. And when I did survive, there was even more disappointment,” she says. “There were no other options. There was nothing else.”

Following success in the states—26 had passed fetal homicide laws by the end of the ’90s—then-Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other congressional Republicans introduced a bill in September 1999 that would make it illegal to injure or kill a fetus in the commission of a federal crime. Their proposal, called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, mirrored state laws, with one key difference: Most state laws only protected fetuses starting from some point after the first trimester, but the federal bill sought to cover fetuses from conception. Democrats argued that the measure encroached on abortion rights, and President Bill Clinton threatened to veto it. As a countermeasure, Democrats, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), introduced a “single victim” bill that increased federal punishment for harm done to a pregnant woman, without mentioning her fetus. Neither House bill made it over to the Senate, and the same battle played out for the next three and a half years.

Then, on Christmas Eve in 2002, Laci Peterson—supposedly on a fishing trip with her husband, Scott—went missing. She was eight and a half months pregnant with a son she’d named Conner. Scott’s odd behavior quickly made him the focus of the investigation. When a mistress came forward, three months of tabloid coverage ensued before Laci Peterson’s body washed up on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. Scott Peterson was eventually convicted of murder. At his sentencing, Laci’s mother read a statement to the court, written in Conner’s voice. “Daddy,” Sharon Rocha read, “why are you killing Mommy and me?” Scott was sentenced to death.

Congressional Republicans had found their rallying cry. In 2003, while the Peterson case was ongoing, Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Rep. Melissa Hart (R-Pa.) introduced the Unborn Victims of Violence Act yet again, now dubbing it Laci and Conner’s Law. Rocha wrote to the bill’s sponsors to thank them, adding that she hoped for a future where “no surviving mother, grandmother, or other family member is ever again told, ‘We’re sorry, but in the eyes of the law, there is no dead baby.'” On March 25, 2004, the Senate passed the bill in a 61-38 vote.

At the signing ceremony a week later, President George W. Bush praised Laci and Conner’s Law: “Any time an expectant mother is a victim of violence, two lives are in the balance, each deserving protection, and each deserving justice.”

With the federal law in place, fetal homicide legislation gained new momentum. In several states, legislators enlisted a survivor whose pregnancy had ended after an attack, or a deceased woman’s family, to become the public face of their campaign—Alexa’s Law in Kansas, for instance, or Ethan’s Law in North Carolina. Americans United for Life and other pro-life organizations pointed out that domestic violence can spike during pregnancy and argued that fetal homicide laws could deter abusive fathers. With the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act as a model, the newest state fetal homicide laws protected fetuses from the moment of conception; several states with laws that previously only applied after viability amended them to start earlier in pregnancy.

Unsurprisingly, abortion rights advocates argued the measures were part of a broader push to roll back Roe, this time by pitting women against the fetuses they’re carrying. “There is no way the state can protect embryos and fetuses separate from the woman without subtracting the pregnant woman,” says Lynn Paltrow, the founder of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, warning that if people come to see fetuses as human beings who can be murdered by an angry boyfriend, they will extend that idea to abortions sought or performed by the woman herself.

But pro-life groups dismissed such criticisms, noting that most fetal homicide laws have exceptions for abortion or other actions (intentional or otherwise) a woman might take to end a pregnancy. “Pro-life legislators and pro-life leaders do not support the prosecution of women and will not push for such a policy,” Forsythe, now the acting president of Americans United for Life, wrote in 2010.

In June 2009, a month after her arrest, Jocelyn skipped trial and was advised by her public defender not to challenge the charge of solicitation of murder. She was sentenced to detention until age 21 and transferred to a juvenile secure facility south of Salt Lake City.

After nearly three months behind bars, she went into labor in August and was transported to a hospital in handcuffs and leg shackles. After giving birth, she was allowed to hold and breastfeed her new daughter while locked to the bed. Leaving her baby at the hospital “was the hardest part,” Jocelyn remembers. “Once they start moving and you watch them come out of you, you love them—they are you. And you can’t even fathom life without them. And then they’re gone. And you’re alone again. And people looked at me and told me I deserved it.” Her daughter, born with a clean bill of health, was adopted by Jocelyn’s aunt, who lives two hours from Naples.

Meanwhile, Jocelyn and her mom found a new lawyer, Richard King, who petitioned the juvenile court to reverse her plea deal, arguing that she had broken no law and that her previous lawyer, who had also represented her ex-boyfriend after he was charged with producing pornographic pictures of her, had a conflict of interest. In October 2009, a juvenile court judge, Larry A. Steele, agreed to reverse the deal.

The judge may have rescinded Jocelyn’s plea deal, but she still had to face the state’s charges in a new trial. King’s defense focused on the text of Utah’s 2009 fetal homicide law, which defined homicide as a person causing the death of another person, “including an unborn child”—except when that death is the result of an abortion. He argued that Jocelyn’s actions had been part of an abortion attempt and demanded the charges be dismissed. Steele agreed: “No one should interpret this ruling to mean this court thinks the minor’s conduct was justifiable. What the minor did was terribly wrong. However, only the legislature can determine whether such conduct as set forth here should be criminal.” The state appealed the decision, but Jocelyn was free.

Days after her release, Carl Wimmer, an ex-cop who was then a prominent Mormon state representative, told reporters that he was going to close the “loophole” that Jocelyn’s lawyer successfully used in her defense: “Abortion and right to life is the top issue for me, and it is something I feel very passionate about.” A month later he introduced a new fetal homicide bill that redefined abortion as a medical procedure performed in the care of a physician. “Jocelyn revealed an extreme weakness in the law, that a pregnant woman could do anything she wanted to do—it did not matter how grotesque or brutal—all the way up until the date of birth to kill her unborn child,” Wimmer told The Nation. He boasted that his bill would make Utah the only state to “hold a woman accountable for killing her unborn child” in cases other than a medical abortion. In March 2010, less than a year after Jocelyn’s arrest, Wimmer’s bill became law.

While Aaron Harrison pleaded guilty in 2009 to attempted murder, Jocelyn’s case climbed to the state’s highest court. In December 2011, the Utah Supreme Court sided with the state, reversing the juvenile court’s decision to dismiss the charges. She was once again at square one, this time under the shadow of the new and more punitive law. Though the law wouldn’t apply to her, a draining and very public trial still loomed. She wanted out. Jocelyn pleaded guilty to solicitation of a crime, a second-degree felony. The charge was reduced to a misdemeanor after she completed 60 hours of community service.

Thus far, Utah is the only state that has strengthened a fetal homicide law in direct response to a self-induced abortion. But several recent cases have shown there are prosecutors ready to use the laws to punish women who perform their own abortions. The methods can be desperately brutal. Women have been targeted for shooting themselves, stabbing their bellies, and drinking toxic levels of herbal tea. In 2015, a Tennessee woman named Anna Yocca was charged with attempted first-degree murder after allegedly using a coat hanger to try to end her pregnancy. She took a plea deal this January after spending a year and a half in jail. In 2009, Indiana amended its 1998 fetal homicide law after a robber shot a pregnant bank teller in the abdomen. In 2013, prosecutors used the law against Purvi Patel, who went to the emergency room after taking pills she bought online to end her pregnancy and experiencing heavy bleeding. A pro-life doctor turned her in to the police. After three years behind bars, Patel was convicted of feticide and neglect of a dependent. She was sentenced to 20 years before the state’s appeals court overturned the feticide conviction last September, accusing prosecutors of “unsettling” overreach.

“I don’t think any of us have any sense of how common home abortion is right now,” says Adams. But surveys sampling the approximately 900,000 women who get clinical abortions each year help give a rough sketch. A national study found that about 2.6 percent of patients reported taking drugs, herbs, or vitamins before seeking an abortion. A 2014 study in abortion-hostile Texas found that 7 percent of patients surveyed in 2012 said they’d done something in the hopes of having a miscarriage before coming in. In 2011, after nearly 100 new state-level abortion restrictions had been enacted, a New York Times analysis found that Google searches for “how to have a miscarriage” or “how to do a coat hanger abortion” had jumped 40 percent compared with the year before. The state with the highest rate of searches, Mississippi, has just two abortion providers. The Times noted that a few hundred searches occurred nationwide for information on inducing abortion by being punched in the stomach.

Having an abortion at home, without the supervision of a physician, is not necessarily unsafe. Misoprostol, a prescription drug in America that is given over the counter in other countries, effectively ends upward of 88 percent of pregnancies within the first 12 weeks. When taken with mifepristone, a prescription-only drug usually dispensed under supervision of a doctor, the effectiveness jumps to over 95 percent. But if the Trump years bring further restrictions to choice, the number of women looking to end a pregnancy outside of clinical care seems certain to increase. Even safe drugs—whether purchased from online dark markets or provided by abortion activists—can be misused or abused or fail, sending women to the emergency room to face not only life-threatening complications, but prosecutors backed by fetal homicide laws. “In the new political reality of 2017,” Adams says, “we could foresee an emboldened anti-choice movement that places women who end their own pregnancies in the bull’s-eye.”

Jocelyn never left the Uintah Basin. When I visit, she takes me on a drive up to Split Mountain, the namesake of the detention center she once called home. A massive cliff face that hulks over the Green River, it’s been a place of solace and reflection for Jocelyn over the last eight years. After being released, she searched for structure and found the Jehovah’s Witness faith and a husband who shares it. Her religious convictions have changed her views on abortion: No longer ambivalent, Jocelyn now believes it is wrong. She’s not in touch with the daughter she birthed while incarcerated. In her community, she can’t talk about her own abortion attempt for fear of judgment. For her husband, an auto mechanic in Naples, the decisions Jocelyn made as a teenager are referred to just as “her past.”

With the youngest of their two daughters, not yet a year old, in tow, we walk to the base of Split Mountain, where our figures are dwarfed. Though her views on abortion have changed, Jocelyn remarks that women who end their own pregnancies aren’t “heartless.” She wishes she’d made a different choice that night. But she understands why she didn’t. “It was the fact that I was left up to my own options, which were…nothing,” she says. But she doesn’t judge other young women. “I know being put in that situation, how desperate women can be.”

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She Was Desperate. She Tried to End Her Own Pregnancy. She Was Thrown in Jail

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Michael Eric Dyson Wants White People to Step Up and Actually Do Something About Racism

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>
St. Martin’s Press

The election of Donald Trump sent things spinning in America and got people talking about “whiteness.” Did Democrats ignore the white working class? Was Trump making a legitimate appeal to rural America, or was his rhetoric a thinly masked courtship of white racists? If progressives want to win the next presidential election, do they need to abandon identity politics?

As befuddling as it all seems, the author Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor and Baptist minister, has a pretty simple message: If America is to improve racial harmony, then white people—all of them—will need to get on board.

In Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, out this week, Dyson doesn’t sugarcoat what he expects from “white brothers and sisters.” He demands action, not just empathy. The book calls on all whites, urban and rural, to get involved, and Dyson even offers a list of ways to do so. You might start reading notable black authors (James Baldwin is a favorite), create an “individual reparations account,” or find another way to pay a “secular tithe” that helps young black people in your neighborhood. He even calls on whites with social-media savvy to use their resources for good: If young whites were to tweet, for example, every time a cop let them off the hook for a minor infraction that a minority kid might have been punished for, it might help highlight policing disparities.

Not everyone, as Dyson is well aware, will be receptive to his ideas—in fact, he might just piss some people off. But minority voices in America can’t be buried, Dyson writes, least of all during a Trump administration

Mother Jones: Tell me a little bit about your childhood in Detroit.

Michael Eric Dyson: I grew up on the West Side—the “near West Side,” as they say—in what would be considered now the inner city. I had an exciting, interesting childhood, to be sure, with all of the challenges that ghetto life provides—but had loving parents. I was born in ’58, so the riot in Detroit in 1967 was a memorable introduction to the issue of race and how race made a difference in American society. And then the next year, of course, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. And the Detroit Tigers winning the World Series. All of that made a huge impression on my growing mind.

MJ: Why the World Series?

MED: It introduced me for the first time to a team with a lot of black players. Detroit had about three of them: I think it was Willie Horton, Gates Brown, and Earl Wilson—might have been one or two more in ’68. But the St. Louis Cardinals, the team we were facing and eventually beat in a seven-games series, had Lou Brock and Bob Gibson, who just mowed down 17 batters in that first game and made me want to become a pitcher. To see all those beautiful black ballplayers in one place and thriving and doing so well made a huge impression on me.

MJ: So you were a good student? A big reader?

MED: Yep.

MJ: You have a great list of black authors at the end of your book. When did you start reading their books?

MED: Mrs. James, my fifth-grade teacher, introduced us to some of the great literature of African American culture. I won my first blue ribbon reciting the vernacular poems of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, in particular “Little Brown Baby.” She introduced us to these authors early on and taught us that their literature is important. Langston Hughes—we read his poetry. We studied who W.E.B DuBois was. And so she whetted our appetites.

And then I went to the library and began to read some of this stuff on my own. My discovery of James Baldwin was life-changing. I read Go Tell It on the Mountain first, and that was hugely impactful. The beauty of the literary art, the grappling with the black church, the wrestling with one’s identity in the bosom of a complicated black community that was both bulwark to the larger white society as well as a threshing ground, so to speak, to hash out the differences that black people have among ourselves.

MJ: You were ordained as a minister pretty young, right?

MED: Yeah, I grew up in the church and began to recite set pieces at the age of four and five, like many of the other kids. We began to connect literacy and learning and the lively effects of biblical knowledge and preaching pretty early. That was a tremendous impact. When I was 12 years old, my pastor came to the church: Dr. Fredrick Samson. And that was revolutionary because he mentored me and I got a chance to see up close the impact of a rhetorical genius. I received my calling and accepted it at around 18. I went to school four years later than most people because I was a teen father, hustled on the streets, worked, lived on welfare and the like, and didn’t get to college until almost 21. That’s when I officially got licensed and ordained, right after that.

MJ: You note in this book that you felt a sermon coming—as opposed to a sociological work.

MED: I was trying to write a straightforward book of sociological analysis, or at least cultural criticism, and I failed. I’ve written a lot of other books and this book was different. I couldn’t just say what I wanted to say in the same style that I said it in those other books. I felt compelled to preach.

MJ: You also write that Trump’s victory was America’s response to eight years of Barack Obama. In terms of racial attitudes, do you think his victory uncovered something new—or merely revived things that never went away, but that many of us had forgotten?

MED: I think it’s both. When people are not sure about their future, when their economies are suffering, when their personal fortunes are flagging, we have often in this country turned to nativism and xenophobia and racism and anti-immigrant sensibilities and passions to express our sense of outrage at what we can’t control—and to forge a kind of fitful solidarity that turns out to be rather insular—we look inward and not outward.

As a result, the demand for racial (and sexual) justice gets reduced to politics of identity—and excoriating the so-called perpetrators of the identity politics. What the left ends up missing is that politics have always been at the heart of American culture; it’s been a white identity that’s been rendered invisible and neutral because it’s seen as objective and universal. As a result, we don’t pay attention to how whiteness is one among many racial identities, and that identity politics have been here since the get-go. But they only become noticeable when the dominant form gets challenged—when the invisible is made visible, when the universal is seen as particular. That’s what people of color do when they challenge white privilege and unconscious bias. In that sense, it’s an ongoing process.

MJ: One line that really stuck with me came when you were talking about urban white people looking down on rural whites as “poor white trash.” You write, “In the end, it only makes the slaughter of our people worse to know that your disapproval of those white folks has spared your reputations but not our lives.” Are you basically saying to the “good” white people who didn’t vote for Trump that not being racist isn’t enough?

MED: Right. It’s not enough to be against something. What are you for? It may be, to a degree, consoling that white brothers and sisters did not vote for Trump, and do not participate in that brand of animus, that gas-bagging of enormous bigotry. But the problem is we are left only with empathy—which is critical, if it can be developed—without substantive manifestations of that empathy. It’s one thing to attain it intellectually, but it’s another thing to do something about it. To challenge norms, presuppositions, practices in communities across this country—where the unconscious valorization and celebration of whiteness and conscious resistance to trying to grapple with black and brown and other peoples of color’s ideas and identities—makes a huge difference.

MJ: So you would say that’s one of the more important roles for an enlightened white person?

MED: Yeah, that kind of peer learning, that peer teaching, that peer evaluation, and then administration of insight. That is an extremely important role: how white brothers and sisters laterally spread knowledge, insight, and challenge in a way that white brothers and sisters will not hear it from a person like me, necessarily. I hope they read this book and engage with it, but other white people have a better chance of speaking more directly to the white folk they know, because they’re less likely to be subject to ridicule. They’re insiders, so to speak.

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Michael Eric Dyson Wants White People to Step Up and Actually Do Something About Racism

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Here Is Your Morning Donald

Mother Jones

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One of Donald Trump’s favorite words is “strong.” He came out “strongly” against the Iraq War. Vets who are “strong” don’t get PTSD. We have to be strong against ISIS, strong on law-and-order, strong against illegal immigrants, and strong on guns. On Wednesday, he even preemptively insisted he’d eventually be strong on an issue he knew nothing about:

I’m gonna take a very strong look at it and I will come very strongly one way or the other. I will have an opinion.

Trump was in Nevada and was asked about the nuclear waste facility being built at Yucca Mountain. He actually admitted he knew nothing about it, but then said that once he did know something—BOOM! He’d be strong. Very strong.

In other Trump news, we learn that back during his bankruptcy days, Trump’s own lawyers always met with him in pairs. Why?

In other words, Trump lied to his own lawyers so routinely that they had to have backup whenever they met with him. His. Own. Lawyers.

Elsewhere, we learn that Asian-Americans really, really don’t like Trump. This is from the Fall 2016 National Asian American Survey, released yesterday:

Trump is losing to the rest of the field by ratios of 2:1 all the way up to a staggering 10:1, with an average of 4:1 against him. That’s bad, but I’m not sure it’s strongly bad. He needs to up his game. I don’t think he’s insulted Asian-Americans lately,1 but if he did he could probably drive his support down to 15 percent or even lower. Come on, Donald.

1But then again, maybe he has. It’s hard to keep up.

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Here Is Your Morning Donald

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FX Series "Atlanta" Is Like the Black "Master of None"

Mother Jones

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Triple threat Donald Glover—writer, actor, and rapper—can now tuck another feather into his cap, as showrunner of Atlanta, a worthy new series premiering September 6 on FX. The 32-year-old Glover, known for his portrayal of the lovable Troy on Community, opted to leave that series after five seasons to pursue a show of his own. With Atlanta, he looked to his own roots on the periphery of the Atlanta drug scene who attended an elite northeastern college to bring a bit of realism to a fictional story.

Glover, a native of Stone Mountain, Georgia, and a graduate of NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, plays Earn (Ernest), a Princeton dropout and a young dad who is “technically homeless” but at the moment is living with Vanessa (Zazie Beets), his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his daughter. Earn’s job selling travel deals at the airport only pays him on commission, which means his finances are constantly in disarray—at times he gets so desperate he has to borrow $20 just to take Van, whom he’s struggling to win back, to dinner. Discouraged and at his wit’s end, Earn approaches his rapper cousin Alfred (a.k.a. Paper Boi, played by Brian Tyree Henry) whose career is beginning to take off locally, and asks if he can be Alfred’s manager.

As is the case with most dramedies, many of the jokes here aren’t laugh-out-loud funny, even though Glover, during a previous three-year stint as a writer for 30 Rock, gave us many of Tracy Morgan’s absurd lines. Rather, Atlanta has a similar feel to Aziz Ansari’s Netflix hit Master of None. It provides an introspective look into the lives of millennial men navigating work, romance, and their own shortcomings as they become painfully aware of the people they’ve grown up to be.

Glover largely trades in his sillier comedic sensibilities for a more nuanced approach, while bringing much of the same charming awkwardness to Earn that he brought to Troy on Community. As a writer, Glover saves his most humorous lines for Darius (Keith Stanfield), Paper Boi’s hilariously enigmatic right-hand man.

What makes Atlanta particularly unique in the world of half-hour comedies is that fact that all its writers are black, and many are rookies in the writers’ room. “I wanted to show white people, you don’t know everything about black culture,” Glover told Vulture last month. The premise of exploring race in a comedic format is compelling enough, but Atlanta also manages to tackle gun violence, mass incarceration, sexual identity, and authoritarian abuse in the Black community (all within the first four episodes). Glover relies on humor, not preaching, to get his serious points across.

In the debut episode, Earn runs into a (presumably) old friend, a white man around his age. The friend uses the N-word while telling Earn a story about a party he’d attended, but he doesn’t use it when he tells the story to Paper Boi—a discrepancy highlighting flawed notions of whether, when, and with whom it’s appropriate for a white person to use the word.

In another episode, Paper Boi, now a rising star, spots a child playing outside with a toy gun pretending to shoot another child and proclaiming he’s “just like Paper Boi.” The rapper’s efforts to set the kid straight are lost on the child, thwarted by Paper Bio’s public persona. Elsewhere, as Earn awaits bond after being on a weapons charge after pulling a gun from his cousin’s glove compartment, another man in the jail’s holding area (where most are black) runs into his ex, a trans woman, who’s also awaiting bond. In this uncomfortable scene, the other men ridicule the man as a “faggot.” Glover then breaks the tension with humor: “Sexuality is a spectrum,” he stage-whispers to the distraught guy. “You can really do whatever you want.”

But then our attention is then drawn to a mentally unstable man clad in a hospital gown. Earn asks a guard why the man is even there—”He looks like he needs help”—and is told to shut up. Then, after the unhinged man spits some toilet water he’s been drinking on a guard, he is repaid with a beatdown.

Social issues aside, the show gives a dreamlike window into Earn’s personal growth (or lack thereof) and his life, which seems to consist of one obstacle after another. “I just keep losing,” Earn tells a wise stranger on a city bus. Yet if Atlanta maintains its careful balance of laughs and gritty reality, the show could well prove to be a winner.

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FX Series "Atlanta" Is Like the Black "Master of None"

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Why some enviros are cheering the death of a solar project


Why some enviros are cheering the death of a solar project

By on Aug 24, 2016Share

California’s San Bernardino County narrowly rejected a controversial solar panel project over concerns that it would threaten groundwater and wildlife in the region.

Soda Mountain Solar was slated to be built just a half-mile from the Mojave National Preserve. The 3-2 vote against certifying the project is a big win for environmentalists who claimed constructing the facility would use up tons of water — a precious resource in drought-stricken California — without any benefit to locals.

The Soda Mountain installation was initially proposed by Bechtel — a contractor probably best know for Iraq war profiteering — and later sold to Regenerate, when it gained support from the Bureau of Land Management. It was touted as a promising part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan’s goal of producing 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy on public lands by 2020.

But local residents and chambers of commerce, leading environmental scientists, conservationists, and even National Park Service officials opposed the project, as it would endanger Mojave’s bighorn sheep and desert tortoises without lowering electricity prices for locals, who already get about 30 percent of their power from wind and solar. Regenerate wasn’t even able to find a potential public utility to purchase the 287 megawatts of renewable energy it would have produced.

It’s important to move forward on renewable energy projects — and the vast Mojave, with its constant sunshine, might seem like the best place to fast-track solar power. But when those projects threaten a way of life for local residents and unique wildlife, the cost is too steep.

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Trump’s Economic Adviser Said the Economy Was Fine—Right Before It Imploded

Mother Jones

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Following a tumultuous week in which Donald Trump’s poll numbers tanked and reports of staff unrest dogged his campaign, the GOP nominee is trying to change the conversation by focusing on his economic vision. On Friday, ahead of a big economic policy speech Trump is expected to deliver next week, the Trump campaign released a list of his economic advisers. The roster of 13 men—all are men and five are named Steven or Stephen—includes a handful of billionaires and financial moguls, several of them longtime Trump friends. Also on Trump’s economic brain trust is an economist, David Malpass, who downplayed concerns about the economy shortly before his firm collapsed and the economy cratered.

Malpass is a former economic adviser to Ronald Reagan whom the Trump campaign touts as having “extensive private sector experience.” That experience includes serving for 15 years as the chief economist for Bear Stearns—the Wall Street firm that was deeply enmeshed in the subprime mortgage market—in the lead-up to the investment bank’s spectacular March 2008 collapse.

The fall of Bear Sterns lit the fuse on the economic crisis. And perhaps more so than its competitors, the 85-year-old investment bank came to exemplify the excesses and short-sighted economics that led to the financial meltdown. If Trump is counting on Malpass for economic advice, he had better hope it’s an improvement on the wisdom the economist dispensed as the financial system hurtled toward a cliff. Nine months before his company fell apart, Malpass wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal titled “Don’t Panic About Credit Markets.” He derided the “hyperventilation over the coming U.S. economic slowdown” and wrote:

The slowdown talk weighing on equities also reflects the Wall Street view that debt, mortgage and takeover businesses have replaced General Motors as the economy’s bellwether. According to the bears: As goes the credit market, so goes the economy. Fortunately, Main Street is not that fickle. Housing and debt markets are not that big a part of the U.S. economy, or of job creation. It’s more likely the economy is sturdy and will grow solidly in coming months, and perhaps years.

So, that was wrong.

Malpass did fine, though. He currently sits on the board of New Mountain Capital, a multi-billion-dollar private investment firm, and runs his own market research firm.

Malpass is not the only person on Trump’s list of economic advisers who played a controversial role during the economic crisis.

In July 2008, several months after Bear Sterns fell apart, the federal government was forced to take over Indy Mac, which was overwhelmed by the bad mortgages it had issued. The government was eager to get rid of the bank’s assets, and Steve Mnuchin, who serves as the Trump campaign’s finance co-chairman and is a member of his economic team, swooped in. Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker and hedge funder, made much of his current fortune by organizing a new bank, called OneWest, to buy IndyMac’s portfolio of mortgages. Part of the deal was that the federal government and taxpayers would cover any losses if more mortgages went bad, and OneWest would make the profits on anything that didn’t. Mnuchin’s bank would become infamous for its hardball tactics and willingness to foreclose on struggling homeowners.

Perhaps the biggest name on Trump’s economic team is John Paulson, a hedge fund manager whose firm foresaw the subprime mortgage meltdown and made billions betting against the big banks that were heavily invested in mortgage-backed securities. In 2010, Paulson’s fund made more than $5 billion, setting a record. Previously, Paulson was a major donor and fundraiser for Mitt Romney and the super-PAC backing his 2012 presidential run.

The defining characteristic of Trump’s team of economic advisers seems to be that they are friends of the GOP nominee, financial backers of his campaign, or both. That includes Tom Barrack, who has been friends with Trump for decades, ever since negotiating the sale of the Plaza Hotel in New York City to Trump. Barrack is well known in financial circles for getting involved with unorthodox deals—in one case, he arranged oil sales between Saudi princes and Haitian dictator Baby Doc Duvalier, giving the autocrat his watch to help smooth the deal.

It’s unclear how extensively Trump will be relying on the counsel of his brain trust. Last year, when asked whom he consults with on foreign policy matters, Trump remarked that his top adviser was himself.


Trump’s Economic Adviser Said the Economy Was Fine—Right Before It Imploded

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In battle over new Canadian pipeline, it’s Trudeau vs. tribes

In battle over new Canadian pipeline, it’s Trudeau vs. tribes

By on May 24, 2016Share

The ghost of the Keystone XL pipeline is hovering over every new fossil fuel project — and it’s haunting the Canadian prime minister’s office.

In the latest action against new Canadian oil and gas infrastructure, a coalition of First Nations groups publicly asserted their right to block the construction of pipelines that cross their land — and informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that they fully intend to do just that. Led by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, the group’s assertion follows a legal challenge that North Vancouver’s Tsleil-Waututh Nation filed earlier this month, which argued that the government has not sought proper consent for development projects on their lands.

In response to the tribes’ announcement, Trudeau told Reuters, “Well, communities grant permission. Does that mean you have to have unanimous support from every community? Absolutely not.”

It’s not the first time Trudeau has found himself caught in the middle of Canadian pipeline politics. Aboriginal objection is a growing element of the “Keystone-ization” of fossil fuel infrastructure in Canada. The term for the spread of opposition to major oil and gas infrastructure projects takes its name from the failed TransCanada Keystone XL project, which President Barack Obama vetoed last February.

A fitting example of Canadian Keystone-ization is Enbridge Inc.’s ever-delayed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would export diluted bitumen from northern oil sands to Asian markets, and has been blocked for years by both aboriginal and climate activists. Another is TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, which has been tied up with opposition lawsuits since 2013. 

But in terms of the strength of its opposition, the Canadian project most reminiscent of Keystone XL belongs to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project — the one most recently contested by tribes in British Columbia. It’s a proposed pipeline that would stretch 715 miles between Alberta and British Columbia, alongside the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system. The controversial project was conditionally approved by Canada’s National Energy Board last Thursday. If construction goes through, Kinder Morgan would increase its transport of bitumen from oil sands from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.

Now, Trudeau finds himself at an impasse. In 2014, he told Metro Calgary, “I certainly hope we’re going to get that pipeline approved,” in reference to the Trans Mountain project. But after his election, the Prime Minister’s stance on oil and gas infrastructure has grown more complex. In January, Trudeau’s administration began requiring all new pipeline projects to pass a tougher environmental review, one that takes into account the emissions produced by the fossil fuels that the pipeline would carry. But despite this more stringent vetting process, Trudeau remains firmly in the pro-pipeline camp, reportedly calling the approval of the Trans Mountain project a top priority during his tenure.

In Vancouver last March, when asked about the potential for these proposed pipelines to damage the environment around them, Trudeau dodged the question:

“We have hundreds and hundreds of pipelines across this country carrying all sorts of different things, and we need to make sure that we’re getting the reassurance of communities, Indigenous people, environmentalists and scientists that we’re doing it responsibly.”

As of this week, it’s clear that reassurance has not arrived for many indigenous groups. And if the Trudeau administration goes ahead with their pipeline plans, that reassurance will probably never come.


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Look at These Great Portraits of Doc Watson, Ralph Stanley, Etta James, and Algia Mae Hinton

Mother Jones

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I didn’t come up in the rural mountains, but my mother did, and during our vacations we’d find ourselves in the forest-and-meadows paradise of Southern Vermont, where just about any social gathering is an excuse to break out the instruments and play some old-time country tunes.

It’s also a place where just about everyone, it seems, has some kind of side talent, or at least something to barter. Wendy makes winter wreaths. Jerry sells jugs of home-brewed hard cider, milk, butter, and fresh eggs from his chickens. And Pete will carve you a custom mantelpiece when he isn’t building post-and-beam barns. People raised in these mountains don’t have a lot of cash, but they tend to be self sufficient—and they’re that way with music, too. If you can’t play some damned instrument, well, you can at least do the spoons, can’t you? It’s the people’s music.

Roan Mountain Hilltoppers at Fiddler’s Grove, 2003, Iredell County, N.C.

All this is by way of background as to why Hands in Harmony, a collection of portraits of Appalachian craftspeople and musicians by photographer Tim Barnwell, hit a note. It’s a long way from the mountains of Southern Vermont to the mountains of North Carolina, but in the music and lifestyle the distance is not so vast.

There’s a simple honesty, a complete lack of pretension, in Barnwell’s subjects, who consist both of notable artists—such Doc Watson, various Seegers, Earl Scruggs (who cut his teeth playing for Bill Monroe), Etta Baker, Ralph Stanley, and Laura Boosinger—and the unsung artisans and craftspeople who are equally skilled in their way, producing not songs but furniture, baskets, stories, pottery, or musical instruments. (This selection focuses on the music.)

Doc Watson backstage, 1983, Buncombe County, N.C.

The accompanying soundtrack, put together by Barnwell and dulcimerist Don Pedi, is appropriately hillbilly. That’s no put-down. That’s actually Ralph Stanley’s word for the music, since a lot of it came along decades, in some cases centuries, before anyone started calling it bluegrass. (That coinage emerged from the popularity of Kentucky’s late Bill Monroe, also pictured in the book, who named his backing band the Bluegrass Boys.)

Ralph Stanley Sr. with grandson Ralph III, 2007, Wise County, VA.

The producers did well. The CD features a nice gritty selection of songs, kicking off with 87-year-old Clyde Davenport of Kentucky doing “Over the Hill to See Betty Baker”—a lonely fiddle tune to put your mind on location—followed by a raw a cappella version of “William Riley” by Mary Jane Queen of North Carolina, who passed on recently at the age of 93. I already knew a number of these songs, and have even performed a few, but most of the versions were new to me. Old-time musicians borrow and steal bits from one another the way hip-hop producers do.

Algia Mae Hinton, 2007, Nash County, N.C.

I especially liked Algia Mae Hinton’s “Out of Jail,” and Barnwell’s portrait of her just makes you want to give her a hug, doesn’t it? I also liked the old fiddle tunes, including Byard Ray’s version of “Billy in the Low Ground,” Marcus Martin’s “Wounded Hoosier,” Roger Howell’s “Lafayette,” and Charlie Acuff‘s rendition of the old dance tune, “Two O’Clock.” Etta Baker‘s guitar work on “Carolina Breakdown,” stylistically similar to Doc Watson, is a pleasure, as is Pedi’s “That Pretty Girl Won’t Marry Me.”

Charlie Acuff, 2003, Anderson County, TN.

Now I like some grit in my hillbilly music, but no less alluring are Laura Boosinger’s more polished “Letter from Down the Road” and Sheila Kay Adams’ pairing of the old murder tale “Young Hunting” with “Elzic’s Farewell,” a Civil War-era song out of West Virginia.

It’s a solid collection in all, and just the thing to set the mood as you study Barnwell’s portraits, peruse the accompanying histories, and ponder how it would be to live in the mountains his camera inhabits.

Etta Baker, 2005, Burke County, N.C.

Earl Scruggs and son Gary, 2007, Jackson County, N.C.

Grover Sutton, 1987, Haywood County, N.C.

Laura Boosinger, 2006, Buncombe County, N.C.

Roger Howell, 2002, Madison County, N.C.

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Look at These Great Portraits of Doc Watson, Ralph Stanley, Etta James, and Algia Mae Hinton

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