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After the Death of Two Cops, Right-Wing Media Demonize #BlackLivesMatter Protests

Former mayor Rudy Giuliani (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

For much of the right-wing media it was payday. Two New York City cops were murdered by a troubled gunman who had allegedly suggested on social media that he’d kill cops to avenge the deaths of unarmed blacks by police—and that was all some of the rightward press needed to finally justify attacking Mayor Bill de Blasio and the entire #BlackLivesMatter movement without restraint.

For the New York Post in particular this has been a moment of sweet revenge. During the 2013 mayoral campaign, the Post continually red-baited the left-leaning de Blasio, warning that his opposition to police stop-and-frisk practices would plunge the city’s crime rates back to those of the 1970s (so far, it looks like the city’s become safer). But the Post failed to stir the required hysteria and de Blasio won election handily. But now, with PBA president Pat Lynch accusing both anti–police-brutality protesters and the mayor of having "blood on the hands,” and with police turning their backs on de Blasio when he entered a Brooklyn hospital to pay his respects to the slain officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, the Post can seem—if you’re not looking closely—to be vindicated.

It’s running cover headlines like “Shamed mayor begs New Yorkers to save cops,” and letting ridiculous invective run loose. “Like most radicals with no real-world experience,” columnist Michael Goodwin wrote of de Blasio, “he assumes the way to fix things is to first smash them into pieces. That’s what he’s doing to New York.” No real-life experience? Smash NYC to pieces? Whatever he’s talking about, it doesn’t matter. The details get swept up by the fury.

The national media smell blood, too, and that’s encouraging them to take bolder moves than usual. Bill O’Reilly interrupted his vacation to call into The O’Reilly Factor and demand that de Blasio resign. Joe Scarborough, who had been railing for weeks against the protesters, the Rams players who supported them, and anyone who chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” did something Monday he almost never does: he made a direct-to-camera speech; it amounted to an I-told-you-so that “these assassinations were too predictable.”

And of course the usual suspects are all over Fox: former mayor Rudy Giuliani keeps insisting that the largely peaceful (exceptions below) protests that de Blasio rightly allowed wouldn’t have occurred on “my streets” (as if the streets didn’t belong to the public). Former NYPD detective and Fox contributor Bo Dietl has been shouting nonstop about “comrade” de Blasio” and advising him to “take his wife...and go back to Cuba and live there.” (De Blasio and Chirlane McCray’s honeymooned in Cuba in 1994.) Former New York City Police commissioner Bernard Kerik joined in the bloody-hands demands that de Blasio resign. “I personally feel that Mayor de Blasio, Sharpton and others like them, they actually have blood on their hands.” (Fox doesn’t mention it, but Kerik had to resign from the Giuliani administration and was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to eight felony charges in 2010.)

The resignation meme is no longer confined to Fox. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked a guest last night whether de Blasio should leave office. (The answer was “yes.”) As long as people, even if it’s mostly media people like O’Reilly, are putting it out there, it’s a legit question, but you rarely hear a cogent argument for just why he should resign. For losing the respect of some of the police? (For all we know now, most may actually support de Blasio.) For allowing the protests to take place? (De Blasio called for them to cease until after the funerals of the two slain officers, a plea many protesters have ignored.) For even sympathizing with the protesters?

The anger is such that de Blasio’s foes are begrudging a black kid from getting the sound and classic advice to be careful about how he acts around police, advice de Blasio said he’s given to his 17-year-old biracial son, Dante. Former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly has been all over TV denouncing de Blasio’s public statement as a terrible breach. The right is acting as though the murders of the two police officers nullify every problem with every police force in the US. Suddenly, it's dicey to question law enforcement.

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This is a far cry from how conservative media cover the stories of right-wing, anti-government cop-killers.

From Eric Frein, who allegedly shot and killed a Pennsylvania state trooper, which set off a manhunt this fall to Glenn Beck fan Richard Poplawski, who fatally shot three Pittsburgh police office in 2009 to the assassinations in June of two local policemen in a Las Vegas restaurant by Jerad Miller (who had hung with the Clive Bundy crew) and his wife Amanda, the right’s coverage of anti-government cop murderers has been sparse at best. As Eric Boehlert writes of the Miller case:

Raw Story reported that Miller “left behind social media postings that show his concerns over Benghazi, chemtrails, gun control laws, and the government’s treatment of rancher Cliven Bundy.” And according to an NBC News report, the shooter had talked to his neighbor about his “desire to overthrow the government and President Obama and kill police officers.”

Fox News primetime hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity both ignored the shocking cop-killer story the night after it happened; Megyn Kelly devoted four sentences to it.

This stands in sharp contrast to how Fox and friends have covered the Brooklyn killings, says Boehlert, by leaning “heavily on assigning a larger cultural and political blame.” Yet…

Fox News has routinely paid very little attention to breaking news stories that feature right-wing, or anti-government, gunmen….

And critically, when they have touched on those deadly attacks, Fox talkers have stressed that it’s not fair to blame politics. Note that in 2013, after racist skinhead Michael Page started killing worshipers at an Oak Creek, WI., Sikh temple, and then murdered a police officer, Fox’s Andrea Tantaros stressed that the killing spree was an isolated event that didn’t have any larger implications. “How do you stop a lunatic?” she asked. “This is not a political issue.”

Progressives have been trying again and again to point out that protesting police brutality is not the same as protesting the existence of police, much less calling for their death. (After Fox host Brian Kilmeade painted Jon Stewart as anti-police, Stewart came back with: “By the way, jackass, you can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.”)

The tens of thousands of New York protesters have been overwhelmingly peaceful. It is true that some marchers in New York were chanting “What do we want? Dead cops!” about a week before the December 20 shooting of Ramos and Liu. But as the Daily Beast writes, “Evidence from photos, video, social-media posts and interviews suggests it was a single group, desperate to ‘turn up the anger’ at otherwise-peaceful protests.”

At a Monday press conference, after a reporter repeatedly asked de Blasio about the violent rhetoric, the mayor rather uncharacteristically, lashed out at the media. “It was wrong, it’s nasty, it’s negative,” he said. “They should not do that. But they, my friend, are not the majority. So stop portraying them as the majority.”

As if actual calls for “dead cops” weren’t disgusting enough, some in the media are so intent at portraying protesters as violent that they’re putting words in their mouths. Over the weekend, Fox TV affiliate WBFF in Baltimore was found to have deceptively edited footage of a Washington, DC, march to make it sound as if protesters were shouting “kill a cop.” As Gawker pointed out, the actual chant was: “We won’t stop, we can’t stop, ‘til killer cops, are in cell blocks,” but on WBFF it became: “We won’t stop, we can’t stop, so kill a cop.” (Al Sharpton had attended that march, and TPM found that “YouTube videos of the misinterpreted chant contain labels such as “Sharpton’s ‘Go Kill A Cop’ March.”)

WBFF said it was an “error” and apologized on-air to Tawanda Jones, who had led the nonviolent chant. She is the sister of Tyrone West, who died in police custody in 2013. Jones confronted the station, saying, “The interesting part that really gets to me is, where you guys edited it and stopped—like, how could that be a mistake?”

“Once you play that whole thing, you would know that’s not something that’s being said,” she added.

The station didn’t quite come up with an answer.

Making One’s Mark

We usually eschew end-of-clue punctuation, even when we manage to have a clue that is a bona fide sentence, as in this example:
   EMIGRANTS  They have moved away from streaming illegally (9)

One exception is the exclamation point; as is standard in American cryptic usage, we generally use that to indicate an &lit clue. But the more common exception is the question mark. At the end of a clue, it can indicate quite a few different things. Sometimes it signals a jokey or punny definition (either the main one or the second part of a double-definition clue):
   ANDROCLES  Mythical bird, originally living in a mountain range with amateur

   veterinarian? (9)

   DEMOCRATIC PARTY  A pretty rad comic playing the blues? (10,5)
   GREAT DEPRESSION  Economic catastrophe in the Grand Canyon? (5,10)
   HARD TIMES  1854 novel in the print edition of a newspaper? (4,5)

Sometimes it indicates a heteronymic reading of the entry:
   ANTIQUITY  In olden times, a health club that won’t let you give up? (9)
   HATRACK  Something you might see in the front hall or hear on a sitcom? (7)

It might flag a reading that is far-fetched or unexpected:
   ASSESSES  Rates female donkeys? (8)
   COOPERATION  Teamwork in making barrels? (11)
   DEMEANING  Shameful process of making people nicer? (9)

…or even absurd or ridiculous:
   ACTIVIST  Militant whose favorite part of a Shakespeare play is the penultimate section? (8)
   BUCOLIC  Rural ailment afflicting infants at a New England school? (7)
   CORONATION  Installation of a sovereign in Chad or Oman? (10)
   FOREARMED  Prepared, like, half an octopus in the sound? (9)
   HAMBURGER  One who encourages second choice for pork as a fast-food standard? (9)

A question mark could reveal that we suspect someone out there will object to a clue they will deem, well, questionable:
   FREE THROW  Worth undertaking after a foul? (4,5)
   DETERGENT  Barman’s cleanser? (9)
   GOLDENEYE  Objective: refuse to be heard in a thriller about a duck? (9)

In short, all you can conclude from a question mark is that “something is going on here.” Or not! Sometimes a question mark is just a question mark:
   CROSSWORD  Sorcerer, half looking back at weapon: “You’re wasting your time with

   this?” (9)

This week’s cluing challenge: INTERROGATE. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen. And now, four links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines | PDF
• Our e-books (solve past puzzles on your iOS device—many hints provided by the software!)
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where every one of our clues is explained in detail. This is also where you can post quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle, as well as ask for hints.

Dickens Was Right: the Real War on Christmas is the War on the Poor

British actor Albert Finney as Scrooge (AP Photo/Staff/Dear).

These are Dickensian times, when charity is rationed by politicians and pundits callously dismiss the poor as a burden best forced by hunger to grab at bootstraps and pull themselves upward.

Charles Dickens wrote of such times in 1843.

But surely he would have recognized 2014, a year that began with the Congress of the wealthiest nation in the world locked in debate over cutting funds for nutrition programs that serve those who are in need. The cuts were approved and, as the year progressed, so there came the announcements that tens of thousands of Americans would no longer have access to food stamps.

Food stamp cuts in a land of plenty are just one measure of the cruelty of the moment. There are also the threats to cut benefits for the long-term unemployed and to restrict access to welfare programs, which come even as Congress delivers another holiday-season “wish list” to the banking behemoths that have figured out how to crash economies and still profit.

Dickens captured the essence of our absurd times more than a century and a half ago with his imagining of a visit by two gentlemen, “liberals” we will call them, to a certain conservative businessman:

“Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe,” said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. “Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?”

“Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,” Scrooge replied. “He died seven years ago, this very night.”

“We have no doubt his liberality is well-represented by his surviving partner,” said the gentleman, presenting his credentials. It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word “liberality,” Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavoring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when want is keenly felt, and abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned— they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides— excuse me— I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned.

So Dickens began A Christmas Carol, a book very much in keeping with the radical tenor of a time when the world was coming to recognize the truth that poverty and desolation need not be accepted by civil society— or civilized people. The language employed by Scrooge was not a Dickensian creation. Rather, Dickens engaged in a sort of reporting on the political platforms and statements of those who opposed the burgeoning movements for reform and revolution that were sweeping through Europe as the author composed his ghost tale.

Ultimately an optimist, Dickens imagined that spirited prodding from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future would change Scrooge— just as there are those today who imagine that a bit more enlightenment might cause even the most predictable plutocrat to reconsider his disdain for the unemployed, the underemployed and the never employed.

In Scrooge’s case, a little otherworldly pressure did the trick.

After his unsettling Christmas Eve, the formerly conservative businessman hastened into the streets of London and rather too quickly for his own comfort approached one of the two liberals:

“My dear sir,” said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the old gentleman by both his hands. “How do you do. I hope you succeeded yesterday. It was very kind of you. A merry Christmas to you, sir!”

“Mr. Scrooge?”

“Yes,” said Scrooge. “That is my name, and I fear it may not be pleasant to you. Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the goodness”— here Scrooge whispered in his ear.

“Lord bless me!” cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. “My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?”

“If you please,” said Scrooge. “Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favor?”

Dickens tells us Scrooge was frightened into such humanity, But also that he was filled with delight as he prepared to open his wallet in order to “make idle people merry.”

The poor were suddenly the miser’s business.

And, notes Dickens: “He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.” Indeed, “it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

So it is in this season, as it was in the winter of 1843. The debate goes on, in much the same language Dickens heard more than a century and a half ago. The poor are still with us, as are the Scrooges. We’d best bless them all, with hopes that one day we will, all of us, keep Christmas well.

The Day the Troops Refused to Fight: December 25, 1914

Christmas Truce 1914

The Christmas Truce as depicted in The Illustrated London News in January 1915. (The Illustrated London News)

100 years ago, on Christmas Day, 1914, in the middle of World War I, British and German soldiers put down their guns and stopped killing one another. The terrible industrial slaughter had already taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of young men. But on that day, thousands of troops climbed out of the trenches in France and Belgium, sang Christmas carols, and exchanged food, gifts, and souvenirs. They traded German beer for British rum. They even played soccer. It’s a unique event in the history of modern warfare.

It’s unique in another way. Those who fought in wars—“the fallen”—are regularly remembered and honored, but remembering and honoring those who refused to fight is pretty much unheard of (except for commemorations sponsored by pacifist and anti-war groups). And yet, this season, the Christmas Truce of 1914 is being commemorated officially, especially in Europe, with a wide variety of government-sponsored memorial events.

“It’s quite remarkable,” Adam Hochschild said in an interview—he’s the author of seven books, most recently the award-winning history of WWI, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918. “The Christmas Truce has always been marked unofficially. But this year every school in the United Kingdom received a packet of materials about it—photos, eyewitness accounts, student worksheets. There’s a children’s competition in Britain to design a memorial to the Christmas Truce, and one of the judges was Prince William. In Belgium a memorial soccer field was inaugurated, the British and German ambassadors came, and they are holding a soccer tournament in memory of those Christmas Truce soccer games, with youth teams from Britain, Germany, France and Austria.”

Perhaps most amazing is the three-minute TV commercial running in Britain, featuring a high-budget reenactment of the truce, where, after a soccer game, a British soldier trades a chocolate bar with a German soldier. “It’s from the supermarket chain Sainsbury,” Hochschild said. “The commercial is for a commemorative chocolate bar. The proceeds from this chocolate bar will go to the Royal British Legion, the official veterans’ organization. It’s another kind of official commemoration of this startling outbreak of peace.”

What is it about this refusal to fight that makes it safe to be officially commemorated? “I’m curious about that,” said Hochschild, who wrote about the Christmas Truce for TomDispatch. “First of all, the Christmas Truce only lasted for a day or two. The war in its full fury resumed very quickly—and went on for another four years.

“Also the Christmas Truce did not represent a breakdown of military discipline. It was sanctioned by officers on the scene. Officers as high-ranking as colonels came out to greet their counterparts from the other side in no-man’s-land.”

Hochschild points to one additional factor: “Commemorating anything these days can be big business. First World War tourism in northern France and Belgium is a huge industry. In Belgium alone, the government of the Flanders region is investing $41 million in new tourist facilities for this four-year commemorative period. That’s not counting private investment. I’m sure they are thinking, ‘if we can add a few peace sites to the existing war sites, so much the better.’”

The other profit-making industry that’s gotten involved is professional soccer. “It’s a huge business,” Hochschild says, “particularly in Europe. Five of the ten most valuable professional soccer teams in the world are in Great Britain, and it’s no accident that the trade association for professional soccer is one of the groups financing this packet of information going to all the British schools. The European soccer association is sponsoring the tournament in Belgium.”

But there are no official celebrations of many other events where soldiers refused to fight in World War I—the more radical and subversive acts. Hochschild lists several of these acts—of fraternization, desertion and even mutiny—that occurred later in the war: In the spring of 1917, after the Russian revolution, photos show Russian and German troops celebrating and dancing together in couples; on the Eastern Front, a million Russian soldiers deserted and simply walked home, and German soldiers began deserting in 1918; and in 1917, hundreds of thousands of French soldiers refused orders to attack. “These folks should all be celebrated,” Hochschild says, “because they helped bring the war to an end.”

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Finally, Hochschild says, we ought to celebrate the anti-war leaders who opposed the war from the beginning and paid a heavy price: in Germany, Rosa Luxemburg spent more than two years in prison for opposing the war; in Britain, Bertrand Russell served six months in a London jail for his anti-war advocacy. And in the United States, Eugene V. Debs was imprisoned for urging resistance to the draft; he was still in the Atlanta federal penitentiary in 1920, two years after the war ended.

Now the US government is planning an official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. It’s being organized by the Pentagon, which has declared the purpose to be “to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War…for their service and sacrifice.” But more than 1,000 people have signed a petition insisting that “no commemoration of the war in Vietnam can exclude the many thousands of veterans who opposed it, as well as the draft refusals of many thousands of young Americans, some at the cost of imprisonment or exile.” Anti-war activists “are the real heroes that period,” Hochschild says, “and we have to be sure to remember and celebrate them.”

 

Read Next: Why no one remembers the peacemakers

The Change in Cuba Policy Is a Nod to Reality

American and Cuban flags on balcony

American and Cuban flags hang side-by-side on a balcony in Old Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba is a decision to recognize reality. For fifty years, the United States has pursued a policy that has failed. The embargo hurt the Cuban people it claimed to help and bolstered the regime that it intended to undermine. The effort to isolate Cuba has been increasingly isolating the United States both in the hemisphere and across the world. And as the president concluded, “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.” To believe that would be, as Albert Einstein taught us, the very definition of insanity.

The best evidence that this change was long overdue was provided by the hysterical and incoherent reactions of its opponents. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a potential presidential contender, embraced the initiative, making an indisputable comment about the embargo: “If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) replied that Paul “has no idea what he’s talking about.”

Rubio argued that the United States gets nothing in return for normalization: no free elections in Cuba, no free press, no democratic progress of any sort. But while we don’t know what the product of the new opening will be, we do know that the half-century of the embargo hasn’t produced free elections or a free press in Cuba either. By making Cuba David against Goliath, the US embargo provides the regime a rationale for its internal crackdowns while elevating its stature across the hemisphere and the developing world. Normalizing relations with Cuba enables the United States to advocate for individual liberty, without being seen as a bully trying to club a small neighbor into submission.

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Why Is No One Talking About the NYPD Shooter’s Other Target?

Shaneka Thompson

Shaneka Thompson (Facebook)

New York City’s police commissioner is laying blame for the Saturday shooting of two of the city’s police officers at the feet of protesters participating in #BlackLivesMatter actions. Patrick Lynch, the head of the police union, claimed there’s “blood on the hands” of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who, Lynch has said, didn’t do enough to disavow and put an end to local protests.

None of this is surprising, unfortunately. The tragic killing of two officers by an emotionally and psychologically unstable shooter is being used to further the political goals of an establishment that’s been challenged through effective, largely nonviolent protest. Despite that movement’s focus on the criminal justice system as a whole, from policing to the role of district attorneys and the grand jury system, police leadership and rank and file are using this moment to claim victim status, ramping up rhetoric and participating in symbolic moves such as officers and union leaders turning their backs on de Blasio during a public appearance over the weekend.

What’s equally predictable and disappointing is the near-erasure of Shaneka Thompson from the story of Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s shooting spree. Thompson is the 29-year-old ex-girlfriend whose Maryland apartment Brinsley entered before shooting her in the stomach and leaving her to scream for help. “I can’t die like this. Please, please help me,” she is reported to have shouted as she banged on a neighbor’s door. According to news reports, Thompson is a health insurance specialist with the Veterans Administration and an Air Force reservist. Brinsley took her phone with him as he headed north to New York, using it to post self-incriminating rants to Instagram before killing Officers Ramos and Liu and, finally, himself.

Thompson is hospitalized and was, as of Sunday, in critical but stable condition. She is also the latest in a series of women who have been brutalized by men whose violence only became notable when they took on targets deemed more important, more relevant to a national or international debate already in play. On Monday Muna Mire, a former Nation intern, noted on Facebook similarities between Thompson and Noleen Hayson Pal, slain ex-wife of Man Haron Monis. Monis is the gunman behind the sixteen-hour standoff in an Australian café that earlier this month left three people (including him) dead. He had a history of violence against women and at the time of the café attack was out on bail on charges including dozens of counts of sexual assault. He had also been charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, with whom he had a custody dispute. He allegedly conspired with a girlfriend, who then set Pal on fire and stabbed her eighteen times. To frame that hostage crisis as one simply driven by religious fanaticism leaves out a key element: Monis seems to have been quite sick and is alleged to have used women’s bodies as a place to target that sickness.

Monis had been charged with these crimes recently, but he wasn’t due back in court until February. This past weekend, Baltimore police started tracking Shaneka Thompson’s phone, which Brinsley had in his possession, around 6:30 am, less than an hour after she was shot. According to The New York Times, they knew Brinsley’s whereabouts, but didn’t contact New York police until after noon. They faxed a wanted poster to a Brooklyn precinct just after 2 pm.

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There may well be legitimate reasons why law enforcement could not have apprehended Brinsley earlier, even though they knew his whereabouts as he traveled north from Baltimore to New York. But in both this case and the Sydney incident, there seem to have been assumptions that public safety was not at risk despite the allegations and evidence of violence against women. Why does the threat level and stoking of public fear skyrocket when a madman is thought to be tied to an ideology that’s generally hated in the mainstream—anti-police sentiment or Islamic fundamentalism—but not when that madness has threatened a woman’s life or safety?

Salamishah Tillett raised a similar question during the trial of George Zimmerman, who had been accused of molesting a cousin as a child and of abusing a former fiancée before killing Trayvon Martin. As Tillett wrote, “Zimmerman’s attorneys successfully argued that those acts were inadmissible or irrelevant. But these accusations offer us other truths: that violence against girls and women is often an overlooked and unchecked indicator of future violence.”

It’s predictable that some opponents of police reform want to use Brinsley’s shooting spree to discredit and mischaracterize the #BlackLivesMatter movement and any politician who hasn’t tried to stamp it out. Let’s not go an equally predictable route and ignore that a woman bore the brunt of Brinsley’s instability first, before he went on to commit the type of crime that media and law enforcement consider worthy of their full attention.

Read Next: Dani McClain on why #BlackLivesMatter actions aren’t stopping

Thank Postal Workers by Fighting to Save the Postal Service

USPS van

(Elvert Barnes, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Postal workers, mail handlers, letter carriers and rural carriers will process and deliver more than 15.5 billion packages, letters, and parcels this holiday season. It’s intense, demanding, long-hours, late-night and weekend work that keeps the promise of a robust national Postal Service outlined in Article 1 of the United States Constitution.

There is something profoundly wrong—not to mention profoundly absurd—about the notion that any federal official would abandon that promise and the workers who keep it.

Yet that is precisely what is happening. Even as United States Postal Service employees get the job done, with a better track record of care and efficiency than private competitors, the postal service itself is under attack. Pressured by extreme demands from Congress and hamstrung by outdated restrictions on how it can operate, the USPS faces financial challenges that are real—but those challenges can be addressed with relative ease. Unfortunately, instead of taking steps to ease the burden it created (with a 2006 requirement that the service prefund retiree benefits for the next 75 years), Congress ignored the issue. The House and Senate passed a “CROmnibus” spending bill packed with giveaways to Wall Street, big banks and big corporations and then quit town.

Congress failed to take what the unions representing postal workers identify as the most necessary immediate step to aid the postal service: initiation of “a one-year moratorium on a reduction in service standards and plant closings.” Congress also failed to reach an agreement on a stand-alone postal bill.

Now, argue American Postal Workers Union leaders, “The situation is urgent because the lower service standards are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 5. In addition to disrupting the lives of thousands of postal employees whose work assignments will be changed, the reduction in service standards will slow mail throughout the country and virtually eliminate overnight delivery of first-class mail. It also will set the stage for the closure of 82 mail processing plants.”

That’s a view shared by other major unions that have been working with APWU—the National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association—to save the postal service. The unions have won strong support from community groups across the country, from national groups such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and from responsible members of Congress—51 senators and 178 representatives have backed a moratorium on closures and cuts.

Yet Congress continues to fail Americans who rely on the service and the communities that will be rocked by the planned closures.

“It’s an outrage,” says APWU president Mark Dimondstein. “Eight years after Congress ginned up a fake financial crisis for the Postal Service, its members still refuse to take even the smallest steps to prevent a major hit on this great national treasure.”

The fight is not done, however.

The Postal Service still has genuine advocates in Congress—led by Senators Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, John Tester, D-Montana and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and House members Pete DeFazio, D-Oregon, and Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin—who are fighting to prevent closures and cuts. When Congress returns in January, it could still intervene. And the USPS could, and should, delay devastating assaults on the USPS infrastructure and on the workers who maintain it.

Help The Nation to raise $150,000 by 12/31 and to keep delivering our progressive reporting to over 500,000 readers every week.

“We strongly urge the USPS to delay implementation of any mail processing consolidations until feasibility studies are completed and there has been adequate time for public comment and consideration of those comments,” a bipartisan group of senators wrote in a December 1 letter to Postal Service officials. “Completed feasibility studies should include service standard impacts worksheets based on the revised service standards expected to be published on January 5, 2015. There is no reason that the USPS cannot delay its consolidations to provide time for the public to see and comment on the service standard worksheets. It is only fair to allow the process to unfold in this way, and the USPS gains little by deciding to continue the consolidation process on its current, arbitrary timeline.”

The senators are right.

The United States Postal Service is an American treasure that we should all appreciate this holiday season.

For Americans who hope to appreciate the service next holiday season, however, now is the time to thank postal workers by fighting to save the Postal Service.

 

Read Next: John Nichols on what Bernie Sanders and Dwight Eisenhower have in common

Postal workers, mail handlers, letter carriers and rural carriers will process and deliver more than 15.5 billion packages, letters, and parcels this holiday season. It’s intense, demanding, long-hours, late-night and weekend work that keeps the promise of a robust national Postal Service outlined in Article 1 of the United States Constitution.

There is something profoundly wrong—not to mention profoundly absurd—about the notion that any federal official would abandon that promise and the workers who keep it.

Yet, that is precisely what is happening. Even as United States Postal Service employees get the job done, with a better track record of care and efficiency than private competitors, the postal service itself is under attack. Pressured by extreme demands from Congress and hamstrung by outdated restrictions on how it can operate, the USPS faces financial challenges that are real—but those challenges can be addressed with relative ease. Unfortunately, instead of taking steps to ease the burden it created (with a 2006 requirement that the service prefund retiree benefits for the next 75 years), Congress ignored the issue. The House and Senate passed a “CROmnibus” spending bill packed with giveaways to Wall Street, big banks and big corporations and then quit town.

Congress failed to take what the unions representing postal workers identify as the most necessary immediate step to aid the postal service: initiation of “a one-year moratorium on a reduction in service standards and plant closings.” Congress also failed to reach an agreement on a stand-alone postal bill.

Now, argue American Postal Workers Union leaders, “The situation is urgent because the lower service standards are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 5. In addition to disrupting the lives of thousands of postal employees whose work assignments will be changed, the reduction in service standards will slow mail throughout the country and virtually eliminate overnight delivery of first-class mail. It also will set the stage for the closure of 82 mail processing plants.”

That’s a view shared by other major unions that have been working with APWU—the National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association—to save the postal service. The unions have won strong support from community groups across the country, from national groups such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and from responsible members of Congress—fifty-one senators and 178 representatives have backed a moratorium on closures and cuts.

Yet Congress continues to fail Americans who rely on the service and the communities that will be rocked by the planned closures.

“It’s an outrage,” says APWU president Mark Dimondstein. “Eight years after Congress ginned up a fake financial crisis for the Postal Service, its members still refuse to take even the smallest steps to prevent a major hit on this great national treasure.”

The fight is not done, however.

The Postal Service still has genuine advocates in Congress—led by Senators Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, John Tester, D-Montana and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and House members Pete DeFazio, D-Oregon, and Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin—who are fighting to prevent closures and cuts. When Congress returns in January, it could still intervene. And the USPS could, and should, delay devastating assaults on the USPS infrastructure and on the workers who maintain it.

Help The Nation to raise $150,000 by 12/31 and to keep delivering our progressive reporting to over 500,000 readers every week.

“We strongly urge the USPS to delay implementation of any mail processing consolidations until feasibility studies are completed and there has been adequate time for public comment and consideration of those comments,” a bipartisan group of senators wrote in a December 1 letter to Postal Service officials. “Completed feasibility studies should include service standard impacts worksheets based on the revised service standards expected to be published on January 5, 2015. There is no reason that the USPS cannot delay its consolidations to provide time for the public to see and comment on the service standard worksheets. It is only fair to allow the process to unfold in this way, and the USPS gains little by deciding to continue the consolidation process on its current, arbitrary timeline.”

The senators are right.

The United States Postal Service is an American treasure that we should all appreciate this holiday season.

For Americans who hope to appreciate the service next holiday season, however, now is the time to thank postal workers by fighting to save the Postal Service.

 

Read Next: John Nichols on what Bernie Sanders and Dwight Eisenhower have in common

Introducing ‘The Almanac’: This Day in ‘Nation’ History

The first issue of 'The Nation' was published on July 6, 1865.

The first page of the first issue of The Nation.

Beginning on January 1, The Nation will be launching The Almanac, a 365-day compendium of how America’s oldest weekly magazine has covered important people and events of the last 150 years. For every single day of the year, The Almanac will take a significant event, or the birth or death of a well-known public figure, and excerpt an article The Nation published on the occasion, or by or about that person. As part of the NationNow app, as a feature at TheNation.com and in a daily or weekly e-mail, The Almanac will bring the last 150 years of history to life as never before.

March 7, 1965—“Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama: “The bleeding, broken and unconscious passed across the screen, some of them limping alone, others supported on either side, still others carried in arms or on stretchers. It was at this point that my wife, sobbing, turned and walked away, saying, ‘I can’t look any more.’ ”

July 27, 1866—The first transatlantic telegraph cable is completed: “Where it is all going to end, and what kind of life the ‘merchant of the future’ will lead, nobody knows, or pretends to know.”

November 11, 1918—World War I ends: “Everybody must rejoice without stint that the last of the German Kaisers has gone…. Under our very eyes is dying the greatest of modern empires, in some respects the greatest nation of our times. May it be the last of the empires! And out of its bitter anguish and travail may there arise in the future, without foreign interference, a new, an honest, and a glorious democratic State to help point the way toward the goal of all mankind, liberty, fraternity, equality!”

Taken together, such excerpts comprise an incredible history of the United States and of the world as seen in the pages of a magazine that has been providing indispensable reporting and commentary on politics and culture every single week since just after the Civil War. Our writing on both Andrew Johnson’s and Bill Clinton’s impeachment trials are in The Almanac, as are obituaries for Theodore Roosevelt, Vladimir Lenin and Winston Churchill—all of that before the end of January. That month alone also includes our reviews of Dr. Strangelove and James Joyce’s Ulysses, our responses to the beginnings of both the Prague Spring and the Arab Spring, as well as articles about the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Eisenhower’s warning about “the military-industrial complex,” Roe v. Wade and the announcement of a peace agreement to end the Vietnam War. Those last two, as it happens, occurred on consecutive days in 1973—just one of the many felicities, coincidences and ironies in The Almanac, an endlessly fascinating reminder of the truth of William Faulkner’s observation: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Faulkner, by the way, died July 6, 1962. For that date, The Almanac quotes our 1930 review of The Sound and the Fury. “Hardly Worth While,” was the title.

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After Cuba, Obama Can Make History by Recognizing Palestine

A Palestinian boy holds a national flag (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed).

Among the worst things that happened to Barack Obama in this annus horribilis in the Middle East was that Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to kickstart peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine crashed and burned, ending in severe West Bank and Jerusalem tensions and a massive bombardment of the tiny Gaza Strip.

It was unwise for Obama to authorize the Kerry Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the first place, given that the Likud-led government of Benjamin Netanyahu is deeply committed to continued annexation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and deeply opposed (whatever it may say publicly) to the emergence of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu’s government seemed almost gleeful as it kept announcing new housing settlements on confiscated Palestinian land, even as the talks were proceeding, and on several occasions humiliated Secretary Kerry. The negotiations raised Palestinian hopes, and when those were dashed, it was foreseeable that severe tensions would break out in that tinderbox. The Israelis dismissed Kerry’s peacemaking as narcissistic and “messianic,” which is utterly unfair. But it is true that he seems not to have realized that it is the sort of enterprise where failure comes with a cost.

The entire fiasco was based on a set of false premises about the nature of the contemporary conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. It is driven at the end of the day by Palestinian statelessness. As Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote, probably under the influence of Hannah Arendt, “Citizenship is man’s basic right for it is nothing less than the right to have rights. Remove this priceless possession and there remains a stateless person, disgraced and degraded in the eyes of his countrymen.”

Palestinians, as stateless, not only lack most basic human rights, they do not even have a right to have such rights. Their property is unstable—they never know what they actually own, and whatever they think they own can be usurped at will. Their farms are encroached on; their olive orchards sabotaged; their wells go dry because Israeli squatters dig deeper ones and extract the water for agriculture on Palestinian land. Sometimes they are murdered with impunity by militant, armed squatters, while they are kept unarmed and vulnerable by the occupation military.

An epochal evil was done the Jewish people by European fascists, who murdered 6 millon of them in death camps in the 1940s. But a great wrong was also done to the Palestinian people in 1947-48, when the British Mandate of Palestine was partitioned into Israel and Palestinian territories that came to be held in trusteeship by Egypt and Jordan. In the course of the war, involving some 500,000 Jewish settlers and various ragtag Arab armies (with a similar number of troops), about 720,000 Palestinian noncombatants, out of 1.2 million, were chased from their homes without compensation.

As late as 1939, British authorities envisaged establishing an independent Palestinian state in 1949, just as post–World War I European Mandates in Syria and Iraq eventuated in independent states. The 1948 war and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, called the “Nakba,” or “Calamity” in Arabic, forestalled any such Palestinian state. In 1967 Israel took the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (along with the Golan Heights and the Sinai) as colonies in the aftermath of the war with Egypt, Syria and Jordan, gaining millions of Palestinian subjects and creating another wave of refugees. The United Nations charter forbids the acquisition of territory by military conquest—and despite what apologies for this colonialism argue, there is no exception for territory inhabited by stateless people. The framers of the UN Charter certainly did not intend to allow any form of aggressive conquest and annexation of territory, much less against the weak. The Israelis decided from the 1970s to contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of occupied peoples, which forbids the militarily dominant power from flooding its population into the occupied territory, (e.g., the United States could not have expelled people from Basra in Iraq in 2004 and brought millions of Americans to settle in the country, without also contravening international law).

Because the Palestinians in the occupied territories have no right to have rights, no agreement made with them can be enforced. All of the promises the Israelis made in the Oslo peace accords have been reneged on by now. Netanyahu once even boasted of this achievement. In the 1990s, not only did the Israelis not gradually withdraw from the West Bank as they had undertaken to do, but they doubled the number of Israeli squatters on Palestinian territory in the eight years after the so-called peace accords. Israeli complaints about the rise in the 1990s of a new wave of terrorism by Palestinian militants are just, but do not justify putting several hundred thousand squatters on Palestinian land and undermining the authority of the Palestine Authority altogether. If the Israeli policy of torpedoing the Oslo Accords had been a security success, we would not still be hearing about the insecurity of Israelis today from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and so forth.

Secretary Kerry’s attempt to conclude another set of accords was therefore always quixotic and doomed to failure. A powerful Israeli state simply has no reason to abide by its commitments with a stateless, weak people divided into bantustans and encircled by checkpoints.

If Palestinian statelessness is at the root of the crisis, then the solution is obvious. The Palestinians must erect, and be recognized as, a state. Israeli squatting on Palestinian territory is theft on a grand scale, i.e., a tort. Palestinians, as stateless, have no forum in which they can adjudicate this tort. The United States decries the Israeli settlements verbally, but hypocritically does whatever is necessary to protect the squatters and their backers. For this reason, the acceptance by the United Nations in 2012 of Palestine as a non-member observer state was a significant advance. Likewise positive are Sweden’s recognition of Palestine and the rash of Western European parliamentary resolutions this fall in favor of doing so (in Britain, France, Spain, Ireland and Portugal). Palestine’s current moves toward joining the International Criminal Court are all to the good, since the court can deploy the Rome Statute of 2002 to sanction Israeli squatting on Palestinian land and any policies that amount to apartheid. Unlike with United Nations Security Council Resolutions, an ICC judgment cannot be blocked by a United States veto.

If President Obama truly wants to make a mark on history, authorizing Secretary Kerry for more, likely fruitless negotiations or easily derailed agreements is not the way to do it. Rather, he should show the boldness he did with regard to Cuba, and simply recognize Palestine and send a US ambassador to East Jerusalem. (This step would not imply a demand that Jerusalem be partitioned administratively; Chandigarh in India is the capital of two states, after all). Only a recognized Palestinian state can make peace, but more importantly, only such a state has standing in international institutions to help guarantee that agreements with it are honored.