Opinions and Editorials


Playing Nuclear “Chicken” With Our Lives

By Lawrence S. Wittner

What kind of civilization have we developed when two mentally unstable national leaders, in an escalating confrontation with each other, threaten one another―and the world―with nuclear war?

That question arises as a potentially violent showdown emerges between Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Donald Trump of the United States. In recent years, the North Korean government has produced about 10 nuclear weapons and has been making them increasingly operational through improvements in its missile technology. The U.S. government first developed nuclear weapons in 1945, when it employed them to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and currently possesses 6,800 of them, mostly deployed on missiles, submarines, and bombers.

According to the North Korean government, its nuclear weapons are necessary to defend itself against the United States. Similarity, the U.S. government argues that its nuclear weapons are necessary to defend itself against countries like North Korea.

Although, in recent decades, we have grown accustomed to this government rhetoric about the necessity to possess nuclear weapons as a deterrent, what is particularly chilling about the current confrontation is that Kim and Trump do not appear deterred at all. Quite the contrary, they brazenly threaten nuclear war in an extremely provocative fashion. Responding on August 8 to North Korean threats, Trump publicly warned that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Later that day, North Korea’s state media announced that its government was considering a strategy of striking the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with mid- to long-range nuclear missiles―a strategy that a spokesman for the Korean People’s Army said would be “put into practice” once Kim authorized it.

This kind of reckless and potentially suicidal behavior is reminiscent of the game of “Chicken,” which achieved notoriety in the 1950s. In the film Rebel Without a Cause (1955), two rebellious, antisocial male teenagers (or juvenile delinquents, as they were known at the time) played the game before a crowd of onlookers by driving jalopies at top speed toward a cliff. Whoever jumped out of the cars first was revealed as “chicken” (a coward). A more popular variant of the game involved two teenagers driving their cars at high speed toward one another, with the first to swerve out of the way drawing the derisive label. According to some accounts, young James Dean, a star of Rebel Without a Cause, actually died much this way.

With news of the game spreading, Bertrand Russell, the great mathematician and philosopher, suggested in 1959 that the two sides in the Cold War were engaged in an even crazier version: nuclear “Chicken.” He wrote: “As played by irresponsible boys, this game is considered decadent and immoral, though only the lives of the players are risked.” But the game became “incredibly dangerous” and “absurd” when it was played by government officials “who risk not only their own lives but those of many hundreds of millions of human beings.” Russell warned that “the moment will come when neither side can face the derisive cry of `Chicken!’ from the other side.” When that moment arrived, “the statesmen of both sides will plunge the world into destruction.”

It was a fair enough warning, and only several years later, during the Cuban missile crisis, the game of nuclear “Chicken” played by Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy could have resulted in a disastrous nuclear war. However, at the last minute, both men backed off―or, perhaps we should say, swerved to avoid a head-on collision―and the crisis was resolved peacefully through a secret compromise agreement.

In the current situation, there’s plenty of room for compromise between the U.S. and North Korean governments. The Pyongyang regime has offered to negotiate and has shown particular interest in a peace treaty ending the Korean War of the 1950s and U.S. military exercises near its borders. Above all, it seems anxious to avoid regime change by the United States. The U.S. government, in turn, has long been anxious to halt the North Korean nuclear program and to defend South Korea against attack from the north. Reasonable governments should be able to settle this dispute short of nuclear war.

But are the two governments headed by reasonable men? Both Kim and Trump appear psychologically disturbed, erratic, and startlingly immature―much like the juvenile delinquents once associated with the game of “Chicken.” Let us hope, though, that with enough public resistance and some residual sanity, they will back away from the brink and begin to resolve their differences peacefully. That’s certainly possible.

Even if the current confrontation eases, though, we are left with a world in which some 15,000 nuclear weapons exist and with numerous people who, in the future, might not scruple about using them. And so the fundamental problem continues: As long as nuclear weapons exist, we teeter on the edge of catastrophe

Fortunately, this past July, in an historic development, the vast majority of the world’s nations voted at a UN conference to approve a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Nations will begin the process of signing onto the treaty this September. Although, sadly, all of the nuclear powers (including the United States and North Korea) oppose the treaty, it’s long past time for nuclear weapons to be prohibited and eliminated. Until they are, government officials will remain free to play nuclear “Chicken” with their lives … and with ours.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. He is the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

Terrorism for profit

By Robert C. Koehler

Donald Trump stands cluelessly at the edge of history, exemplifying everything wrong with the past, oh, 10,000 years or so.

The necessity for fundamental change in humanity’s global organization is not only profound, but urgent.

Trump’s latest outburst about North Korea’s nukes — threatening that country “with fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen before” — creates a comic book Armageddon scenario in the media, except, of course, his power to launch a nuclear war on impulse is real.

What this makes clear to me is that no one should have the authority — the power — to declare any war whatsoever. The fact that this is still possible, so many decades into human awareness of war’s utter insanity, reveals the paradox that civilization remains economically tied to its own destruction.

Another icon of this paradox is Erik Prince, immensely wealthy mercenary, notorious founder of the terror organization Blackwater, who had cozy ties to the Bush administration back when the 21st century’s endless wars were just getting underway and now, with another unelected Republican in the White House, has recently made a grab at the business opportunity still represented by these wars:

Let’s privatize the quagmire!

Sixteen years on, the war in Afghanistan is the longest in American history, and presently in a state of “stalemate,” according to the mainstream consensus that unquestioningly justifies this country’s ongoing militarism. For instance: “The U.S. can’t win but can’t afford to lose,” USA Today opined in a recent editorial about Afghanistan, inanely demanding that Trump “at least should decide what to do next” and setting the stage for Prince’s business plan, which is to restructure and privatize the war.

In an op-ed a few days ago in that same publication, Prince wrote: “The option to simply abandon Afghanistan is enticing but in the long run would be a foreign policy disaster. The Kabul government would collapse. Afghanistan would be a rallying cry for global jihadists.”

And suddenly there it was, the American paradox in full splendor: Oh yeah, we’re fighting terrorists. We have to keep killing people, keep pouring trillions of dollars into our wars, because bad people are out there threatening us because they hate our freedoms. And the guy reminding us of this is the founder of Blackwater, private contractor in Iraq, whose mercenaries were responsible for one of the most shocking acts of lethal aggression — a.k.a., terrorism — of the early years of that war.

Blackwater contractors were accused of “firing wildly into cars stalled in midafternoon traffic at Nisour Square on Sept. 16, 2007, pouring machine-gun bullets and grenades into crowds, including women clutching only purses and children holding their hands in the air,” as the Washington Post reminded us recently.

This act of carnage, in which 17 Iraqis were killed and 20 more injured, typifies what you might call American terrorism. It may, at some quasi-conscious level be religiously motivated. Indeed, Jeremy Scahill, reporting in 2009 for The Nation on the lawsuit filed on behalf of Iraqis harmed in the Nisour Square massacre, wrote that, according to a former Blackwater employee who testified in U.S. federal court during the trial:

“Prince ‘views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,’ and … Prince’s companies ‘encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.’ …

Furthermore, Scahill wrote,

“Mr. Prince’s executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to ‘lay hajiis out on cardboard.’ Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as ‘ragheads’ or ‘hajiis.’”

This all fits quite horrifically into the definition of jihadism, or terrorism, but because it’s American, it brings something extra to the table as well. This is terrorism for profit. And it’s been going on for a long time, in a realm far bigger than that occupied by Erik Prince’s business interests. You could call it colonialism, or the domination complex. The world is ours. This is the “greatness” Trump sold to enough Americans to squeeze into the Oval Office.

Not only does he have no patience with a military stalemate in Afghanistan — “we aren’t winning, we’re losing” — but he can’t stand the fact that the shattered country’s mineral wealth isn’t in our hands.

At a recent, well-publicized meeting with his generals, Trump “lamented that China is making money off of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion in rare minerals while American troops are fighting the war,” according to NBC News.

“Trump expressed frustration that his advisers tasked with figuring out how the U.S. can help American businesses get rights to those minerals were moving too slowly, one official said… .

“The focus on the minerals was reminiscent of Trump’s comments early into his presidency when he lamented that the U.S. didn’t take Iraq’s oil when the majority of forces departed the country in 2011.”

Trump leads a political system that’s still grounded in the colonial era. His reckless arrogance is its global face. He stares at the audacity of nuclear-armed North Korea and threatens to blow it to kingdom come, imagining that there will be profit to reap in the aftermath.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

The Pathetic Left

From American News X:

1968: Humphrey wasn’t good enough for the leftist/progressives, so they got Nixon.

1980: Carter wasn’t good enough for the leftist/progressives, so they got Reagan.

2000: Gore wasn’t good enough for the leftist/progressives, so they got G.W. Bush.

2016: Hillary Clinton wasn’t good enough for the leftist/progressives, so they got Trump.

Quotable — ‘The Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.’ – Here’s why the Mayor of New Orleans is taking down Confederate monuments

Louisiana Politics & Government

Read Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s speech on removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments

Updated on May 22, 2017 at 2:18 PM Posted on May 22, 2017 at 2:07 PM

By Katherine Sayre

ksayre@nola.com,

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave a historic speech at Gallier Hall on Friday, May 19, 2017 as the final of four Confederate monuments was taken down at Lee Circle just blocks away. So ended a process Landrieu began in 2015, when at his request the City Council declared the monuments public nuisances. Lawsuits and controversy slowed the process, but the four targeted monuments came down in a 26-day period that ended just hours after his speech.

Here is the full text of the speech, as provided by the mayor’s office:

Thank you for coming.

The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way – for both good and for ill. It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans – the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto , Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle , the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Colorix, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of France and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

You see – New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum – out of many we are one. But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions; why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame… all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.

For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.” So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other. So, let’s start with the facts.

The historic record is clear, the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal – through monuments and through other means – to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city. Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. He said in his now famous ‘corner-stone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears… I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us. And make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago — we we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and a more perfect union.

Last year, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments about the need to contextualize and remember all our history. He recalled a piece of stone, a slave auction block engraved with a marker commemorating a single moment in 1830 when Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay stood and spoke from it. President Obama said, “Consider what this artifact tells us about history… on a stone where day after day for years, men and women… bound and bought and sold and bid like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet. For a long time the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.”

A piece of stone – one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or maybe even purposefully ignored. As clear as it is for me today… for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family’s long proud history of fighting for civil rights… I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought. So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race.

I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes. Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too? We all know the answer to these very simple questions. When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth.

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naive quest to solve all our problems at once.

This is however about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division and yes with violence.

To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past. It is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future. History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.

And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans – or anyone else – to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd. Centuries old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place. Here is the essential truth. We are better together than we are apart.

Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world? We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz, the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures. Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think.

All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity. We are proof that out of many we are one – and better for it! Out of many we are one – and we really do love it! And yet, we still seem to find so many excuses for not doing the right thing. Again, remember President Bush’s words, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we need each other. We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial. We still find a way to say ‘wait’/not so fast, but like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “wait has almost always meant never.” We can’t wait any longer. We need to change. And we need to change now.

No more waiting. This is not just about statues, this is about our attitudes and behavior as well. If we take these statues down and don’t change to become a more open and inclusive society this would have all been in vain. While some have driven by these monuments every day and either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence casts; not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the Confederacy and the cult of the lost cause intended to deliver.

Earlier this week, as the cult of the lost cause statue of P.G.T Beauregard came down, world-renowned musician Terence Blanchard stood watch, his wife Robin and their two beautiful daughters at their side. Terence went to a high school on the edge of City Park named after one of America’s greatest heroes and patriots, John F. Kennedy. But to get there he had to pass by this monument to a man who fought to deny him his humanity.

He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride… it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don’t respect us. This is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.” Yes, Terence, it is and it is long overdue. Now is the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians who can follow in Terence and Robin’s remarkable footsteps.

A message about the future, about the next 300 years and beyond; let us not miss this opportunity New Orleans and let us help the rest of the country do the same. Because now is the time for choosing. Now is the time to actually make this the City we always should have been, had we gotten it right in the first place.

We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves – at this point in our history – after Katrina, after Rita, after Ike, after Gustav, after the national recession, after the BP oil catastrophe and after the tornado – if presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to curate these particular spaces… would these monuments be what we want the world to see? Is this really our story?

We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations. And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people. In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals. We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That is what really makes America great and today it is more important than ever to hold fast to these values and together say a self-evident truth that out of many we are one. That is why today we reclaim these spaces for the United States of America. Because we are one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all… not some. We all are part of one nation, all pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America. And New Orleanians are in… all of the way. It is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted and flourishes. Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans and set the tone for the next 300 years.

After decades of public debate, of anger, of anxiety, of anticipation, of humiliation and of frustration. After public hearings and approvals from three separate community led commissions. After two robust public hearings and a 6-1 vote by the duly elected New Orleans City Council. After review by 13 different federal and state judges. The full weight of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government has been brought to bear and the monuments in accordance with the law have been removed. So now is the time to come together and heal and focus on our larger task. Not only building new symbols, but making this city a beautiful manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become.

Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned and now universally loved Nelson Mandela and what he said after the fall of apartheid. “If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.” So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered. As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history.

Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause. Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish – a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Thank you.

Salon

Monday, Aug 7, 2017

FCC exploits loophole to push massive expansion of pro-Trump Sinclair Broadcasting

Trump’s FCC enables the Sinclair-Tribune merger, allowing the conservative media group to reach 72 percent of U.S.

Sinclair Media Group, the conservative outlet that pushes the Trump administration’s agenda on local news stations, will soon have a nation-wide presence thanks to Donald Trump.

President Trump’s handpicked Federal Communications Commission chairman, Ajit Pai, resurrected an old regulatory loophole earlier this year that will allow Sinclair to own a segment of the media landscape that would have previously exceeded federal limits. The regulatory change will empower Sinclair to reach 72 percent of U.S. households once it buys Tribune Media’s stations, Politico reported on Sunday. Congress had established a nationwide audience cap at 39 percent.

Politico reported that “the Tribune deal would not have been viable if not for Pai’s intervention.”

Pai, a Republican who became FCC chairman earlier this year, told Congress in a July hearing that he did not revive the regulatory loophole for Sinclair’s singular benefit.

“If you look at any of our regulatory actions, they’re not designed to benefit any company or segment of the industry,” he said.

The loophole provides a discount to stations with ultra-high-frequency signals, allowing them to count only half their actual audience when determining their national reach. Despite his annoyance with federal regulations, Pai did show support for the loophole in the past.

Sinclair’s growth in the Trump era has stirred quite a bit of a controversy. The media group does little to hide its partisan bias. In April, Sinclair hired former White House aide Boris Epshteyn as on-air talent. Epshteyn’s pro-Trump segments run unedited on stations across the country.

Politico reported that in the 2016 election cycle, Sinclair and its executives donated nearly $300,000 to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The company and its executives also contributed $120,000 to Democrats.

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

Motherhood Isn’t Sacrifice, It’s Selfishness

By KAREN RINALDI

The New York Times

AUG. 4, 2017

I was taking a few weeks’ break from work over the summer. My family and I — my husband and my sons, then 9 and 7 — planned to spend the time at our house on the New Jersey shore. When my mother asked what we would be doing on our vacation, I told her we would be together — going to the beach and the nearby amusement park, cooking, playing in the yard.

In response, my mother said: “Oh, that’s not much of a vacation for you. I’ll bet you can’t wait to get back to work. Motherhood, it’s the hardest job in the world. All sacrifice!”

“Really?” was all I could say in response.

I was looking forward to uninterrupted time with my boys. We would spend days by the ocean and take trips to the boardwalk, where they would scream with delight while riding the roller coaster — the same one I’d ridden when I was their age, then ridden alongside them until Hurricane Sandy deposited it into the Atlantic. We’d ram one another with bumper cars; we’d ride the old-fashioned merry-go-round, waiting until my youngest son’s favorite horse, bright-blue Freddy, became available. Some days were sure to end in tears of exhaustion, but the tears didn’t outweigh the joy. Even on the bad days.

My mother was only trying to be sympathetic to my life as a working mother, but the self-satisfied way she proclaimed the sacrificial nature of motherhood grated. I don’t believe for one second that motherhood is the hardest job in the world nor that it is all sacrifice. Still, it wasn’t fair to blame her; she was merely parroting a common refrain. Once my annoyance lifted, in its place spread a kind of clarity that helped me to understand how these linguistic tropes reinforce the disempowerment of mothers and women.

The assertion of motherhood as sacrifice comes with a perceived glorification. A woman is expected to sacrifice her time, ambition and sense of self to a higher purpose, one more worthy than her own individual identity. This leaves a vacuum in the place of her value, one that others rush to fill.

When a woman becomes pregnant, she seems to become public property. Perhaps because bearing children ensures the continuation of the species, it is often prioritized as part of a larger social contract. Not only does this logic lead to an attempt to legislate women’s bodies, but also in smaller, everyday gestures, boundaries get crossed. Many friends tell stories about being touched by strangers during pregnancy, as if a woman’s maternal status turns her into a vessel to handle.

Written more than 30 years ago, Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” offers a cautionary tale of womanhood as sacrifice. In this dystopic novel, women are grouped according to the uses men determine for them: namely, sterile wives married for appearance or fertile “handmaids,” who are raped routinely for procreation. One male character declares that the woman must “learn in silence with all subjection” and that “she shall be saved by childbearing.” In this scenario, the act of motherhood is subverted for the benefit of those in power, and they get away with it because of the concept of motherhood as sacrifice.

When we cling to the idea of motherhood as sacrifice, what we really sacrifice is our sense of self, as if it is the price we pay for having children.

Motherhood is not a sacrifice, but a privilege — one that many of us choose selfishly. At its most atavistic, procreating ensures that our genes survive into the next generation. You could call this selfishness as biological imperative. On a personal level, when we bring into the world a being that is of us, someone we will protect and love and for whom we will do everything we can to help thrive and flourish, it begets the question, How is this selfless? Selflessness implies that we have no skin in the game. In motherhood, we’re all in.

By reframing motherhood as a privilege, we redirect agency back to the mother, empowering her, celebrating her autonomy instead of her sacrifice. Granted, some of us have more autonomy than others. There are many mothers who would not have chosen motherhood, for financial or personal reasons. Still, by owning our roles as mothers and refusing the false accolades of martyrdom, we do more to empower all women.

In my experience, when women talk among women, our ambivalence or frustration is rarely about our roles as mothers. (That doesn’t mean our kids don’t drive us crazy sometimes.) Rather, conversations turn to questions of how to manage the best part of our lives (those very kids who are driving us crazy) with our partners, careers and other responsibilities. And while many women derive their deepest fulfillment as mothers, it doesn’t preclude their ambition or fly in the face of leaning in or out or sideways.

Calling motherhood “the hardest job in the world” misses the point completely because having and raising children is not a “job.” No one will deny that there is exhaustion, fear and tedium. Raising a family is hard work, but so is every other meaningful aspect of our lives.

The language surrounding child rearing as a job surely derived from caregivers’ and homemakers’ efforts to be acknowledged as fulfilling an important role. And clearly raising children is one of the most important things we do — for both women and men — but that does not make it a job. In a job, an employer pays for services an employee agrees to perform. And there is a boss to whom the employee reports. In the case of parenting, who would that be?

That doesn’t mean we don’t want support — paid parental leave, more flexible working hours, publicly funded day care. But the cultural shift has to happen for the policies to follow. Martyrs, after all, don’t need or expect public services.

Fathers are rarely, if ever, spoken about in the same way that mothers are. It’s culturally acceptable for men to have children and professional identities without having to choose between the two. These unspoken biases run deep.

It reminds me of a friend whose husband complained about having to “babysit” the children while she went to dinner with friends. Has a woman ever “babysat” her own children? Things are changing, but the insidious inferences persist.

Further, with “women” and “family” as go-to cultural corollaries, studies show, terrifyingly, that these biases are being adopted by artificial intelligence, too. Calling motherhood a woman’s “job” only serves to keep a woman in her place. The priorities of mothers who work outside the home are often questioned. It’s as if women are forced to choose between ambition (or simply earning a living wage) and family.

If we start referring to motherhood as the beautiful, messy privilege that it is, and to tending to our children as the most loving yet selfish thing we do, perhaps we can change the biased language my mother used. Only when we stop talking about motherhood as sacrifice can we start talking about mothers the way that we deserve.

Karen Rinaldi is the author of the novel “The End of Men” and the founder and publisher of the Harper Wave imprint at HarperCollins.

Trump Is Floundering As Commander In Chief In Dealing with North Korea

Donald Trump has once again proven through his social media tantrums that he lacks the poise and temperament to lead the United States through any kind of national security crisis. The American people deserve a President who can mitigate this kind of incident with North Korea with collaboration, diplomacy, and dialogue.

Here is a roundup of what editorials across the country are saying about Trump’s behavior:

Las Vegas Sun: By stooping to N. Korea’s level, Trump proves he’s a risk to the world

“By responding in kind, Trump showed he was dangerously incompetent in addressing U.S.-North Korea tensions.

“In a situation that screamed for a measured, deliberate response, Trump instead chose to stoop to Kim’s level and up the ante. Predictably, North Korea played right along, turning up the heat a notch by threatening to launch a pre-emptive strike on Guam.

“The exchange came off as a deranged version of an after-school playground fight, which might have been funny in other circumstances but was shocking considering that nukes were involved.”

The Mercury News: Who is crazier, Donald Trump or North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un?

“Where are the grownups?

“We’ve come to expect childish behavior from Donald Trump, the bully-in-chief who attacks and belittles anyone who challenges him. But this week’s game of nuclear roulette with equally egocentric and pathologically defensive Kim Jong-Un goes magnitudes beyond the norm.

“Where was Chief of Staff John Kelly Tuesday when Trump was threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike against North Korea? Where were Rex Tillerson, James Mattis and the rest when news broke that North Korea might have a miniaturized nuclear weapon that could fit on its missiles? Surely these smart men should have seen what was coming from their own fearless leader?”

Richmond Times-Dispatch: On North Korea, the U.S. has no good options

“On Tuesday President Trump took things up another notch with a rhetorical clusterbomb, insisting that North Korea never threaten the U.S. again and warning that if it does, it will be met with ‘fire and fury … the likes of which the world has never seen.’ That was stupid.”

The Guardian: The Guardian view on North Korea: careless talk costs credibility, and perhaps lives

“It is not reassuring when the US secretary of state has to reassure his country that it is not on the brink of war. ‘I think Americans should sleep well at night,’ Rex Tillerson told reporters on Wednesday. He was playing down the incendiary words of his president, who had promised ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen’ in response not to an attack but to mere threats from North Korea. It was ‘language designed to send a strong message’ to Pyongyang, Mr Tillerson said.”

Boston Globe: Trump’s reckless rhetoric on North Korea

“President Trump’s reckless words directed at North Korea on Tuesday risk inflaming one of the world’s worst headaches. Speaking at his golf club in New Jersey, Trump said: ‘North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States… . They will be met with the fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.’ Left unclear was whether the president was demanding a halt to the North’s nuclear program, or simply an end to the stream of hyperbolic threats Pyongyang is known for.

“It would understate Trump’s rhetoric to call it saber-rattling, and it would defy all past experience to imagine his tirade will persuade North Korea to change course. On the contrary, Trump’s words risk spooking American allies in the region and undermining recent steps toward stopping the North’s nuclear program.”

Chicago Tribune: An alarming North Korea report and an explosive exchange

“North Korea and President Donald Trump have dialed up the incendiary rhetoric. North Korea’s news service said earlier this week, ‘There is no bigger mistake than the United States believing that its land is safe across the ocean.’ It threatened retaliation for new sanctions ‘thousands of times’ over.

“Trump responded Tuesday with his own harsh words. If North Korea continues to threaten the U.S. ‘they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,’ Trump said.”

Greensboro News & Record: Our Opinion: The unthinkable?

“The United States has avoided the use of nuclear weapons since dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 72 years ago this week to force Japan’s surrender and end World War II. Through the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War, even through the harrowing Cuban Missile Crisis, wise leaders stood back from the brink of nuclear destruction.

“Everyone knew what was at stake and understood the devastating capabilities of these weapons. They didn’t brag about it or engage in blustery rhetoric and threats.”

Charleston Post & Courier: So far, a war of words

“Scary doesn’t begin to define the naked nuclear threats uttered on Tuesday by President Donald Trump against North Korea. Americans are not used to such verbal excess from their presidents. […]

“Consider it done. There should be no necessity for Mr. Trump to follow with an escalation of verbal threats in response to those of North Korea. The U.S. should continue to pursue its strategy of diplomacy backed by economic sanctions and military resolve.”

Sacramento Bee: President Trump talks as crazy as North Korea’s dictator, escalates nuclear crisis

“By escalating unnecessarily, our hothead commander-in-chief has worsened the most serious foreign policy crisis of his young presidency. That’s one big problem.

“The other is that Trump doesn’t have the trust of the American people for the possibly life-and-death decisions ahead. Because this president and his top aides have lied and misled so much, Trump’s credibility is at a low point. Only 24 percent of Americans say they trust all or most of what comes out of the White House. In another poll out this week, only 35 percent express confidence in Trump to handle North Korea.”

Lexington Herald Leader: Trump must not bluster or blunder into war

“The president of the United States got himself into a tit-for-tat with the heir to a rogue dynasty that brutally rules one of the world’s poorest nations — and didn’t even get in the last chest-thump.

“Meanwhile, the resolve and unity that Ambassador Nikki Haley had achieved at the United Nations evaporated into dismay and heightened tensions. Experts warned that the escalating rhetoric makes war, perhaps based on miscalculation, more likely.”

Florence, AL Times Daily: Trump must cool North Korea rhetoric

“Conjuring apocalyptic images, Trump warned North Korea on Tuesday, ‘North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.’

“That is a strong statement for a world that has seen the likes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the only nuclear weapons used in war were dropped 72 years ago this week.”

Sorry, Mike Pence, You’re Doomed

The New York Times

Frank Bruni

AUG. 8, 2017

The other day, from the Naval Observatory in Washington, you heard a howl of such volume and anguish that it cracked mirrors and sent small forest animals scurrying for cover. Vice President Mike Pence was furious. He was offended. Someone — namely, my Times colleagues Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns — had dared to call him out on the fact that he seemed to be laying the groundwork for a presidential bid.

Problem No. 1: His president is still in the first year of his first term. Problem No. 2: That president is Donald Trump, who doesn’t take kindly to any glimmer that people in his employ are putting their vanity or agenda before his. Just ask Steve Bannon. Or Anthony Scaramucci. They were too big for their britches, and Trump snatched their britches away.

The Times report put Pence in similar peril, so he pushed back with an operatic outrage that showed just how close to the bone it had cut. When a story’s actually wrong, you eviscerate it, exposing its erroneous assertions without ever breaking a sweat. When it’s a stink bomb at odds with your plotting, you set your jaw, redden your face and proclaim it “disgraceful,” never detailing precisely how.

That was Pence’s route. And his rancor, I suspect, reflects more than the inconvenient truths that Martin and Burns told. It’s overarching. It’s existential. On some level, he must realize that he’s in a no-win situation. Without Trump he’s nothing. With Trump he’s on a runaway train that he can’t steer or brake. If it doesn’t crash, Trump can scream down the tracks straight through 2020. If it does, Pence will be one of the casualties.

So why has Pence formed a political action committee, the only sitting vice president ever to do so? Why is he taking all these meetings, building all these bridges? I guess there could be some imaginable future in which Trump falls and Pence is left standing strong enough to soldier on. But mostly he’s in denial, and he’s living very dangerously.

Many Republicans wonder if Trump will remain in the picture and viable in 2020. He could implode — even more than he already has, I mean. He could be run out of town, one way or another. He could stomp off. The scenarios are myriad, and to prepare for them, Pence indeed needs an infrastructure and a network of his own. But there’s simply no way to assemble those without looking disloyal to Trump and courting the wrath of alt-right types who know how to go on a Twitter jihad.

Other would-be successors to Trump aren’t in the same bind. They don’t owe Trump what Pence does. They never pledged Trump complete allegiance. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, whose unofficial 2020 campaign commenced even before Trump’s inauguration, can raise money, stage news conferences, take up residence on CNN and pick apart Trump’s proposals all he wants. It won’t endear him to Trump’s base, but it won’t make him a marked man.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska can style himself as a humble, homespun remedy to Trump’s cupidity and histrionics. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas can take a calibrated approach, more hawkish than Trump on foreign policy but eager to link arms with him on immigration.

Pence, though, is squeezed tight into a corner of compulsory worship. And despite his behind-the-scenes machinations, he has done a masterful job of appearing perfectly content there.

In news photographs and video, you catch other politicians glancing at the president in obvious bafflement. Not Pence. Never Pence. He moons. He beams. It’s 50 shades of infatuation. Daniel Day-Lewis couldn’t muster a more mesmerizing performance, and it’s an unusually florid surrender of principles.

I’m not referring to policy and the fact that before he agreed to become Trump’s running mate, he blasted Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, tweeting that it was “offensive and unconstitutional,” and fiercely advocated free trade. I’m referring to Pence’s supposed morality.

He trumpets his conservative Christianity and avoids supping alone with any woman other than his wife, then turns around and steadfastly enables an avowed groper with a bulging record of profanely sexual comments.

He publishes a testimonial, “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he invokes Jesus while vowing never to repeat such political ugliness in the future, then turns around and collaborates with a politician whose ugliness knows no limit.

No wonder he wants and expects a reward as lavish as the White House itself: He sold his soul. But I don’t think he studied the contract closely enough and thought the whole thing through.

There’s no political afterlife in this equation, just the loopy, mortifying limbo in which he and so many of Trump’s other acolytes dwell.

Maybe the howling is cathartic. Won’t change a thing.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter (@FrankBruni) and join me on Facebook.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Poland: New evidence suggests Russia may have killed the country’s former president

By Tom Rogan | Aug 9, 2017

Washington Examiner

In a striking announcement Wednesday, a Polish government committee suggested that traces of explosives have been found on the wreckage of a Polish plane that crashed in 2010.

As the committee put it, “much damage to the left wing of the TU 154M plane carried traces of an explosion.”

But this flight wasn’t just any flight. As it crashed on approach to landing in Smolensk, Russia, the plane was carrying Poland’s government and armed forces elite. The passengers included then-President Lech Kaczynski, eighteen members of the parliament, the commanding generals of all three branches of the armed forces, a former president, and the head of Poland’s national bank.

While earlier investigations suggested pilot error and poor visibility caised the crash, these latest allegations pertain to a new investigation opened in 2015.

This investigative committee was set up by the ruling Law and Justice party, chaired by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the brother of the late president who had died in the crash. The surviving Kaczynski has long been convinced that a conspiracy was behind his brother’s death, and some believe the new investigation exists to create facts to support his thesis.

Still, I’m not so sure we should deride the investigation so quickly. After all, last December, the committee investigators retained explosive analysis experts from the British military. Those experts are highly professional and well-insulated from Polish domestic politics. And if they found the explosives residue that the committee now claims to have recovered, that residue is real.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the residue necessarily came from an explosion that brought down the plane, but it does demand our attention.

There are serious questions about what happened that April day in 2010. For one, Russia has been reliably uncooperative with Polish investigators since the day the crash occurred. Along with other elements crucial to the investigation, Russia continues to hold the wreckage on its soil. Moreover, reports suggest that Russia may have manipulated the flight data recordings. And this wouldn’t be the only flight the Russians have downed in recent years. Put simply, the latest allegations do not exist in a vacuum.

Poland is an important U.S. ally. If the committee’s allegations are true, or might be true, President Trump should pledge any and all support for Poland’s investigation.

Hillary and Libya

By Georgia Bristow – June 27, 2016

Yesterday morning a House of Representatives report was published completely exonerating the Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

The sad reality is that the House Republicans were the ones who cut funding for embassy security in 2011 and 2012, meaning if you’re looking for someone to blame it’s the House Republicans. The year before the attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually warned against the embassy budget cuts, and emphasized that it would be detrimental to America’s national security, but her warnings were completely ignored.

In the report it’s also pointed out their committee wasted millions in an effort to “attack a presidential candidate.” The Committee has been working with no set budget while conducting business. There was no set plan of action. They also purposely withheld information in order to make Clinton appear at fault. They purposely, hand-picked pieces of evidence in order to make their fabricated allegations appear valid. They also used political threats to bully other Departments into complying.

The end conclusion of the report was:

‘THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT COULD NOT HAVE DONE ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY ON THE NIGHT OF THE ATTACKS THAT WOULD HAVE SAVED THE LIVES OF FOUR BRAVE AMERICANS KILLED IN BENGHAZI, AND ALTHOUGH THE MILITARY’S GLOBAL POSTURE PREVENTED IT FROM RESPONDING MORE QUICKLY THAT NIGHT, IMPROVEMENTS WERE MADE YEARS AGO.’

The Role of Religion

From Redux: Nobody can deny the fact that Christianity has played a huge role in our history. From the first Thanksgiving to the ideas of Jesus Christ that are embroidered in our culture today, Christianity and the Bible is responsible a big part of our heritage.

However, many conservatives will take this fact way out of context. They’ll think that you have to be a Christian to be patriotic, which is simply not true. Following the more secular teachings of Jesus Christ (being charitable, loving one another, treating strangers with kindness) is what the men who founded this country were for. For example:

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

— George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (1789)

From someone’s Facebook post:

“Consider the following.

Donald Trump does not believe in freedom of the press.

Donald Trump threatens his political enemies with violence and/or prison.

Donald Trump uses ethnocentrism, bigotry, nativism and racism to mobilize his voters.

Donald Trump does not believe in standing norms of democratic governance or tradition.

Donald Trump is a misogynist.

Donald Trump is obsessed with “strength” and his own “virility.”

Donald Trump promises “law and order.”

Donald Trump is a militant nationalist.

Donald Trump traffics in conspiracy theories and lies.

Donald Trump admires authoritarians and political strongmen.

Donald Trump’s most recent press conference was modeled on the way Vladimir Putin manipulates Russia’s news media.

Donald Trump has surrounded himself with a cabal that consists of family members and self-interested Cabinet appointees, who — like him — stand to enrich themselves through the agencies they are supposed to administer in the public interest.”

.neFileBlock {
margin-bottom: 20px;
}
.neFileBlock p {
margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px;
}
.neFileBlock .neFile {
border-bottom: 1px dotted #aaa;
padding-bottom: 5px;
padding-top: 10px;
}
.neFileBlock .neCaption {
font-size: 85%;
}

An inflatable chicken mimicking US President Donald Trump is set up on The Ellipse, a 52-acre (21-hectare) park located just south of the White House and north of the Washington Monument (rear). (Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
http://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2017/08/web1_598bc5901500007d208b5f00.jpegAn inflatable chicken mimicking US President Donald Trump is set up on The Ellipse, a 52-acre (21-hectare) park located just south of the White House and north of the Washington Monument (rear). (Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
THEIR VIEW

Guest Columnists