What Calling Congress Achieves (New Yorker)
Well, call it a flood. Call it, like Noah, the flood. Never mind the end of the day; last month, Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, got three thousand calls in one night. Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, got thirty-one thousand in three weeks. Last year, in a fourteen-day period in January, Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, got a thousand pieces of mail on the subject of education; this year, during that same period, he got forty-five thousand. Compared with 2016, his over-all constituent correspondence shot up nine hundred per cent. Members of Congress claim that, Senate-wide, the call volume for the week of January 30, 2017, more than doubled the previous record; on average, during that week, the Senate got 1.5 million calls a day. Three of those days—January 31st, February 1st, and February 2nd—were the busiest in the history of the Capitol switchboard. (Even those numbers are necessarily underestimates. Once the lines are all busy and the voice mail is maxed out, all the other calls coming in go undetected, a storm after the rain gauge is full.)
Unlike most political protests, this recent surge in citizen action has not been limited to a single issue. Many early calls were about Betsy DeVos, Trump’s then-nominee for Secretary of Education, but they quickly extended to include other Cabinet nominations, the executive order on immigration, the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, tax returns, ethical violations, Russian involvement in the elections and with the Trump Administration, and Steve Bannon’s presence on the National Security Council, among other areas of concern. Nor have callers been limited to the so-called coastal élites. People have taken not only to the phone but to the streets in cities and towns all around the country—in Oklahoma and Nebraska and Anchorage, Alaska; in Auburn, Alabama, and Little Rock, Arkansas, and Beckley, West Virginia. They have also taken to attending real and virtual town halls in truly staggering numbers. One House member, who typically has three or four thousand constituents call in to his telephone town halls, found himself joined at his latest one by eleven thousand constituents.
For political watchers, the most striking thing about this outpouring of political activism is its spontaneity. “If Planned Parenthood sends out an e-mail and asks all their donors to contact their Congress members—that’s honest, it’s real, it’s citizen action,” Fitch said. “But this thing was organic: people saw something in the news, it made them angry, and they called their member of Congress.” At this point, he paused and informed me that he was “not one for hyperbolic statements.” But what was happening was, he said, “amazing,” “unprecedented,” “a level of citizen engagement going on out there outside the Beltway that Congress has never experienced before.”
When the Generals Become Democracy’s Guardians (Atlantic)
In many democratic societies, the military officer corps is, along with the church, among the most reflexively conservative institutions. In the United States, that conservatism has led some prominent general officers to take on a new role: the defenders of liberalism and its core values.
In recent weeks, whether it has been Jim Mattis on torture or Bill McRaven on press freedoms, some of the most prominent retired officers in America—men with impeccable combat credentials—have pushed back on some of the uglier populist impulses of the new Trump administration.
As encouraging as that has been, it makes me worry about what that means for both liberal values and the role of the military officer corps in American society. For some answers, it’s worth taking a look at another country in which the senior ranks of the military officer corps have been thrust into a role as the vanguard of liberalism: Israel.
Fear: The History of a Political Idea (New Republic)
Podcast: Moral Exploitation
When one Army soldier discovered the propagation of torture tactics during the Iraq war, he engaged in a one-man mission inside the organization to learn about their origins, and the effect they had on lower-level soldiers who were implementing them. From there, he took on the Bush administration. Years later, he is training to be a philosopher.
As a new U.S. administration takes hold, with talk of military action against ISIS and the reinstatement of Bush-era torture policies, we embark on a two-week exploration of the philosophy of war. We follow the story of soldier philosophers, the first generation who served in a large-scale American war since Vietnam, returning to bring new thinking about the morality of warfare. On this episode, we look at the side-effects of moral decision-making on the soldiers who are asked to carry-out a President’s orders.
At Labor’s Crossroads (The Nation)
From its mid-20th-century peak, in which about 35 percent of workers were in a union, organized labor has seen its numbers shrink to about 11 percent of all workers and around 6 percent in the private sector—the lowest figures since the early 20th century, before industrial labor took off in the United States.
The Kalief Browder Story (Spike)
TIME: The Kalief Browder Story is a six-part documentary series about a 16-year-old student from the Bronx who spent three years on Rikers Island without ever being convicted of a crime.
Meet the evangelicals trying to make the GOP care about refugees (Vox)
World Relief is one of the nine officially sanctioned organizations that resettle refugees in the US. And it has been in the driver’s seat of a push to rally evangelicals to challenge Trump’s ban on moral, practical, and biblical grounds.
“When you look at the parables in the Bible about how Jesus carried out his ministry, Jesus didn’t just talk about who he was,” Yang will argue. “He tangibly met people’s needs.”
Yang is part of a growing movement within the evangelical community that focuses on “living out the gospel” — that is, acting as Jesus would have acted — over partisan politics. Refugees, as they see it, should not be a political question but a humanitarian one.
For a movement long associated with following the GOP’s party line, talk of privileging what evangelicals refer to as the “kingdom of God” over party doctrine is no small thing. Yang’s work — welcoming refugees and guiding the faithful to do the same — represents that theological and political perspective.
Donald Trump Tweeted About Less Than a Quarter of Those 78 ‘Underreported’ Terrorist Attacks (gizmodo)
The Trump White House’s release of this list is an attempt to boost the American people’s latent Islamophobia that unwittingly puts Trump’s hypocrisy on display; journalists weren’t the ones ignoring so many of these attacks—Trump was. For better or for worse, this is the sort of thing that gets journalists’ hackles up. In response, the New York Times and the Washington Post published extensive accountings of their coverage of the listed events, and CNN’s Jake Tapper played Kellyanne Conway clips of himself and his colleagues traveling around the world to report on the attacks. In contrast, Trump used his favorite platform, Twitter, to discuss only a fraction of the terror attacks he claims journalists ignored.
Here are some highlights from what he was tweeting about instead, during those 78 incidents.
The National Academies’ Guide to President Trump’s Address to a Joint Session of Congress
In keeping with our seven-year tradition of providing resources on the topics in Presidents’ State of the Union addresses, we’ve annotated the complete text of President Trump’s Address to Congress with relevant reports from the National Academies that provide authoritative, independent guidance on these issues.
The Fiscal Ship Game (Brookings)
A Blueprint to End Mass Incarceration (Atlantic)
Much of the debate surrounding mass incarceration is centered on its statistics: The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its prisoners; American prisons hold more inmates than Soviet gulags at their peak; a greater proportion of black Americans are imprisoned than black South Africans under apartheid. Now there’s a new figure worth remembering: 39 percent.
That’s the percentage of people in U.S. prisons who are “unnecessarily incarcerated,” a new Brennan Center study claimed last week. The report, which took three years to complete, studied criminal codes, criminal-justice research, and prison populations throughout the country to determine how many prisoners are incarcerated without a justifiable public-safety rationale. It concludes that 576,000 inmates currently locked up for crimes ranging from mail fraud to simple burglary could be swiftly released without endangering their fellow Americans.
James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe’s Forgotten Conversation About Beauty, Morality, and the Political Power of Art (BrainPickings)
Those who tell you “Do not put too much politics in your art” are not being honest. If you look very carefully you will see that they are the same people who are quite happy with the situation as it is. And what they are saying is not don’t introduce politics. What they are saying is don’t upset the system. They are just as political as any of us. It’s only that they are on the other side.
Lessons from Syria on women’s empowerment during conflict (opendemocracy)
“I risked my life to participate in demonstrations against dictatorship and the oppression of Bashar Al-Assad. I’m not afraid of anyone, anymore. I’m a free woman.” (Syrian woman activist from Women Now’s network, 2012)
Evangelicals can no longer speak as one voice (Religion News Service)
The evangelical grass-roots support of Trump’s travel ban sheds light on two serious problems with the movement today.
I Did Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Workout. It Nearly Broke Me. (Politico)
“Justice Ginsburg does 10 pushups and she does not do the so-called ‘girl pushups,’” explained Georgetown Law Professor Mary Hartnett during an appearance with the justice earlier this month at the Virginia Military Institute. “She does not use her knees. And then she stretches back for a very brief pause and she does 10 more.
I was able to match Ginsburg’s pushups feat with only a little grunting, though Ginsburg never grunts, as Johnson felt compelled to tell me at one point. He also let me know, as I peppered him with questions, that unlike me, Ginsburg barely rests between sets.
High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of his Office and recent human rights developments (OHCHR)
In the United States of America, I am concerned by the new Administration’s handling of a number of human rights issues. Greater and more consistent leadership is needed to address the recent surge in discrimination, anti-Semitism, and violence against ethnic and religious minorities. Vilification of entire groups such as Mexicans and Muslims, and false claims that migrants commit more crimes than US citizens, are harmful and fuel xenophobic abuses. I am dismayed at attempts by the President to intimidate or undermine journalists and judges. I am also concerned about new immigration policies that ban admission of people from six predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days, as well as policies which greatly expand the number of migrants at immediate risk of deportation – without regard for years spent in the US or family roots. These threaten to vastly increase use of detention, including of children. Expedited deportations could amount to collective expulsions and refoulement, in breach of international law, if undertaken without due process guarantees, including individual assessment. I am especially disturbed by the potential impact of these changes on children, who face being detained, or may see their families torn apart.
Christian Evangelicals Say They Face More Discrimination Than Muslims (TeenVogue)
The poll found people overall were twice as likely to say Muslims face discrimination as they were to say Christians do. Other groups, including Democrats, white Catholics and Protestants agreed with the overall numbers, but white Protestant evangelicals stuck out. Among that group, 57% said Christians face a lot of discrimination, compared to 44% who said the same thing about Muslims. This has changed from past years, when Christian evangelicals were in line with other groups in agreeing Muslims face discrimination.
The Healing Justice Fast (wordpress)
Still Fighting, and Dying, in the Forever War (NYTimes)
Our country has created a self-selected and battle-hardened cohort of frequent fliers, one that is almost entirely separate from mainstream civilian culture, because service in the Forever War, as many of us call it, isn’t so much about going as returning. According to data provided by the Center for a New American Security, of the 2.7 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, half have done multiple tours. More telling, 223,000 have gone at least four times, and 51,000 have done six or more deployments.
“There are some 40-year-old sled dogs that Uncle Sam has been relying on since 9/11,” one of Scotty’s friends said. “They’ll pull and they’ll pull till their hearts explode.”
Fire, hatred and speed! (aeon)
Obama lawyers form ‘worst-case scenario’ group to tackle Trump (Politico)
“When people hear concerns about democracies declining into authoritarianism, they expect that moment to come in a singular thunderclap where everyone can see that this is the time,” said Ian Bassin, who’s leading the new group. “In reality, often times, democracies decline over a period of years that happen through a series of much smaller steps.”