At Issue

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”  ― Isaac Asimov

How Do Fascists Get Democratically Elected?

We must always resist the temptation to oversimplify history, especially when doing so serves our own ends. There are way too many contributing factors to Hitler’s ascendancy to squeeze into a five minute animation.

On the other hand, you can’t dump a ton of information on people’s heads and expect them to absorb it all in one sitting. You have to start somewhere.

It seems like we’ve been hearing about Hitler’s rise to power a lot lately…

TED-Ed lesson planners Alex Gendler and Anthony Hazard, in collaboration with theUncle Ginger animation studio, offer a very cogent explanation of how “a tyrant who orchestrated one of the largest genocides in history” achieved such a calamitously powerful position. All in a democratic fashion.

When viewers have more than five minutes to devote to the subject, they can delve into additional resources and participate in discussions on the subject.

Changing Our Racial Narrative

“There is a narrative that explains how we got here. Mass incarceration was created by policy decisions. We decided to deal with drug addiction and drug dependency as a crime issue rather than a health issue . . . We didn’t do that for alcoholism. We said, ‘Alcoholism, that’s a disease,’ and now we don’t have a consciousness that when we see an alcoholic going into a bar that we have to call the police — but we didn’t do that for drug addiction. The reason why we didn’t do that was because of a narrative. And there’s a narrative of fear and anger out there.”

The State of White America

Today, less privileged white Americans are considered to be in crisis, and the language of sociologists and pathologists predominates. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 was published in 2012, and Robert D. Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis came out last year. From opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, they made the case that social breakdown among low-income whites was starting to mimic trends that had begun decades earlier among African Americans: Rates of out-of-wedlock births and male joblessness were rising sharply. Then came the stories about a surge in opiate addiction among white Americans, alongside shocking reports of rising mortality rates (including by suicide) among middle-aged whites. And then, of course, came the 2016 presidential campaign. The question was suddenly no longer why Democrats struggled to appeal to regular Americans. It was why so many regular Americans were drawn to a man like Donald Trump.

This Land Is Our Land

One little known fact about Woody Guthrie’s iconic song is that the earliest known recording from 1944 includes the following verse:

There was a big high wall there, that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.

This verse was stripped from the song and largely forgotten until 1997, when an archivist at the Smithsonian heard a master version as it was being transferred to a digital recording for preservation in the National Archives.

This summer, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Parks Service, we must not take our public lands for granted. There are those who would turn these magnificent places over to private interests to exploit the land for its resources or develop and wall off areas for the benefit of a few. We should take note of the nearly forgotten verse from Guthrie’s song and heed its warning.


From EARTHJUSTICE: Leaders in Washington, D.C., largely dismissed the militants involved in the standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as law-breaking fringe elements. But at the same time, some in Congress were quietly working up legislation that would indeed sell America’s birthright to the highest bidder.

Confessions of a Payday Lender

Payday Loans

FEDERAL REGULATORS EARLIER this month unveiled new rules aimed at reining in payday lenders and the exorbitant fees they charge. Now expect to hear a lot of what one payday lender named Phil Locke calls “the lies we would tell whenever we were under attack.”

The new rules announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are relatively straightforward, if not also a disappointment to some consumer advocates. A payday loan is typically a two-week advance against a borrower’s next paycheck (or monthly social security allotment, for that matter); lenders commonly charge $15 on every $100 borrowed, which works out to an annual interest rate of almost 400 percent (600% in Virginia). Under the CFPB’s proposal, lenders would have a choice. One option would require them to perform the underwriting necessary to ensure that a borrower, based on his or her income and expenses, can afford a loan. Another option requires them to limit the customer to no more than six of these loans per year (and no more than three in a row).

The state-by-state interest rates customers are charged on payday loans. The rates are calculated based on a typical $300, two-week loan. Source: Center for Responsible Lending

The state-by-state interest rates customers are charged on payday loans. The rates are calculated based on a typical $300, two-week loan. Source: Center for Responsible Lending

Read more at THE INTERCEPT

Need help? Contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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