How journalism helps lunacy become reality – by Larry Beinhart September 27, 2015 2:00AM ET

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After the second prime-time Republican presidential debate on Sept. 16, The New York Times published an astonishing editorial. It said the candidates must be “no longer living in a fact-based world” and described what they said as “a collection of assertions so untrue, so bizarre that they form a vision as surreal as the Ronald Reagan jet looming behind the candidates’ lecterns.”

It was about time that someone as authoritative as The New York Times editorial board said it as bluntly as that.

One of the things that made the editorial so striking is that the news coverage of the same events, in the same paper as well as in the rest of the media, treated what the candidates said as almost entirely unremarkable.

That prompts interesting questions. Why was this only an editorial? Why wasn’t it in the news? Shouldn’t it be newsworthy that the leading contenders for the Republican nomination are “no longer living in a fact-based world” and that what they say is “untrue … bizarre … surreal”?

A political problem

It may have been hearing it all in a chorus that so excited the Times editorial board. But no candidates on that stage said anything much different from what they and their colleagues in the Senate, the House and state governments say every day.

Normally the news takes what a person in authority says at face value. Then the media publish or broadcast it, usually without question or challenge. Quoted statements are certainly not described as lunatic assertions, however much they might be.

The news then becomes part of a political and social problem: By reiterating and repeating such assertions, they normalize the surreal. If it happens enough without challenge, lunacy becomes reality.

Consider the false stories about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction leaked by Vice President Dick Cheney’s associates to New York Times reporter Judith Miller. After she got the misinformation published, Cheney and his team quoted the Times to prove that the falsehoods must be true.

Or consider the example of tax-cut plans described as pro-growth. Anytime tax reform is described as pro-growth, it is proposing tax cuts for the rich. There are several more accurate tags that could be hung on them: greater inequality tax plan, “them that’s got shall get” tax reform and bubble and crash economics.

Is it possible for journalists to move from objective journalism, as practiced, to the more difficult task of reporting objective reality?

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The Shaun King controversy, explained – Updated by German Lopez on August 21, 2015, 10:52 a.m. ET

Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King is currently at the center of a controversy that has nothing to do with a police shooting or brutality — it’s, instead, about his personal life and racial identity.

Over the past several weeks, conservative media outlets have published multiple pieces disputing different claims King has made about his life over the years. And the latest accusations — which caused the story to trend on Twitter — have called into question whether King is biracial, forcing the activist to disclose personal details about his life in hopes of disproving the accusations.

There’s a bit of history to this conflict. But the fact that a self-identified biracial man is being chastised by conservative media outlets as part of an attempt to discredit him shows just how fluid the entire concept of race can be, and that makes it difficult to know who’s right and wrong when questions about race come up.

Conservative media outlets have questioned Shaun King’s background

Black Lives Matter marchAndrew Burton/Getty Images

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In Measuring Post-Katrina Recovery, A Racial Gap Emerges – Cheryl Corley AUGUST 15, 2015 8:42 AM ET


Large homes and lush lawns are common in Lake Forest Estates, a subdivision in New Orleans East. After Katrina, 6-foot-deep flood waters devastated the region.

Large homes and lush lawns are common in Lake Forest Estates, a subdivision in New Orleans East. After Katrina, 6-foot-deep flood waters devastated the region. Cheryl Corley/NPR


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How can you tell if a city has come back from a tragedy as devastating as Hurricane Katrina?

Ten years after the levees failed in New Orleans, and the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, whipped up by Hurricane Katrina, flooded most of the city, New Orleans residents say there’s been much progress since then.

A new NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that a majority surveyed — 54 percent — says New Orleans has mostly recovered, measured by returning population, new housing, jobs, infrastructure and quality of life.

Break the results down by race, however, and the numbers show a big gap. Just 44 percent of black New Orleanians think the city has come back. The number is much higher for white residents, at 70 percent.

In the Broadmoor area, one of the most diverse in New Orleans, residents fought down plans to turn a parcel of low-lying land into a park. Now a new library and community center at the site hosts classes, clubs and events.

“This is one of the anchors the community worked really, really hard to rebuild and to renovate in the years after the storm,” says Emily Wolf, director of the Broadmoor Improvement Association.

Cheri Babich (center) and her friends gather at the Broadmoor library for a weekly game of mahjong. Residents rallied to save the building after the low-lying area was designated to become a park in the aftermath of extensive Katrina-related flooding.i

Cheri Babich (center) and her friends gather at the Broadmoor library for a weekly game of mahjong. Residents rallied to save the building after the low-lying area was designated to become a park in the aftermath of extensive Katrina-related flooding.

Cheryl Corley/NPR

On this day, a group of friends has come in to play its regularly scheduled game of Mahjong. They’re white, and one of them, Cheri Babich, is enthusiastic about the city’s prospects.

“Now we’ve got young people moving in here,” Babich says. “There’s new restaurants opening every week. It’s just amazing. So many people are just bustling around and working. It’s great.”

Some areas have more people and housing than even before Katrina. Mary Logsdon, who lives in one of those neighborhoods, says there’s a bit of a downside to the boom.

“Rents have gotten unbelievably high,” Logsdon says.

For many long-time residents, rents are unaffordable and they’ve had to move elsewhere. But two-thirds of whites and those with higher incomes say the recovery efforts have helped people like them, either some or a lot.

About 10 miles northeast of Broadmoor is the Lake Forest Estates subdivision, one of several neighborhoods in the New Orleans East region. Houses here are big, lawns expansive.

Realtor Sylvia Scineaux-Richard, a black former biology professor, describes this neighborhood as well-to-do.

Realtor Sylvia Scineaux-Richard says residents of New Orleans East were among the first to return to repair flood-damaged homes. Scineaux-Richard doesn't expect New Orleans to fully recover from Hurricane Katrina for another five to 10 years.

Realtor Sylvia Scineaux-Richard says residents of New Orleans East were among the first to return to repair flood-damaged homes. Scineaux-Richard doesn’t expect New Orleans to fully recover from Hurricane Katrina for another five to 10 years. Cheryl Corley/NPR

“You’re not going to see a whole lot of blight in these areas here, because people had invested quite a bit of money in these homes, as you can see,” Scineaux-Richard says. “These are not throw-away types of properties.”

Most of the homes here are occupied; in other areas of New Orleans East, not so much. One reason for the disparity is the way the rebuilding grants worked. The Louisiana Road Home program maxed out federal rebuilding money at a home’s pre-Katrina value, meaning more money for wealthier homeowners and substantially less for those in poorer neighborhoods.

Civil rights activists and homeowners filed suit, accusing the program of discrimination. A settlement eventually allowed homeowners to apply for additional funds.

Scineaux-Richard says there should be more of a focus on New Orleans East.

“New Orleans East deserves to have the rebirth here and the renovation as a priority, because we were so badly devastated and damaged,” she says.

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Scott Walker is a pastier Donald Trump: The Wisconsin governor’s ethno-nationalism is just as egregious – ELIAS ISQUITH SATURDAY, AUG 1, 2015 05:00 AM PDT

A conservative pundit blames Trump for racism in the GOP. But is governor union-buster also “the Donald’s” fault?

Scott Walker is a pastier Donald Trump: The Wisconsin governor's ethno-nationalism is just as egregious

A few days ago, the Daily Beast published an article by self-styled Reasonable Conservative Matt K. Lewis on “cuckservative,” a relatively new term of abuse that has recently set off some intramural sniping within the conservative movement. As Lewis rightly noted, the term is tribalist and racist. It’s also misogynist, paternalistic and xenophobic — the nasty consequence of racial panic and toxic masculinity, but in word form.

It wasn’t Lewis’s willingness to criticize a bunch of white supremacists, however, that made his piece interesting. (His response, in truth, was an unsympathetic mix of whining and unearned chest-puffery.) What made the column noteworthy instead was the way Lewis tried to load such ethno-nationalist sentiments — or “this white nationalism business,” as he put it — entirely on the shoulders of the cuckservative-slinging Republicans’ favorite candidate. A fellow by the name of Donald Trump.

Lewis granted that “these people have always been around.” But before Trump, he wrote, they were “confined to the nether regions of the Internet.” White ethno-nationalists only became significant members of the conservative crusade because “Twitter allows them to spread their pernicious message, and Trump has given them a candidate to get behind.” But apparently it wasn’t until 2015 that the movement behind the Southern Strategy, Willie Horton and Obamaphones started flirting with racists.

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Do You Trust The Police? – The People Speak Vice News Published on Jul 31, 2015

VICE News traveled around the world speaking to people about what they think about the police, and the role law enforcement should play in society.

Find out what people from Oakland, CA to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam had to say about about the cops.

Watch the People Speak on Church and State –

How schools push black students to the criminal justice system – Updated by German Lopez on July 30, 2015, 3:30 p.m. ET

A recent study found misbehaving white students are more likely to get medical help, while misbehaving black students are more likely to face punitive measures like arrest and suspension.

David Ramey, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State and the author of the study published in Sociology of Education, analyzed a data set of more than 60,000 schools in more than 6,000 districts. He found schools with relatively larger minority and poor populations are more likely to implement criminalized disciplinary policies — such as suspensions, expulsions, police referrals, and arrests — and less likely to medicalize students by, for instance, connecting them to psychological or behavioral care.

Ramey put the findings succinctly to the Daily Beast’s Abby Haglage: “White kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem. Black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn.”

The study helps explain one way black students are disproportionately affected by the school-to-prison pipeline, the criminalized disciplinary system in schools. And it shows just how badly implicit biases can feed the pipeline.

The school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately hurts black students

 Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

When lawmakers began enacting tough-on-crime policies in the 1970s and ’80s, some of the concepts trickled down to schools, which began outsourcing discipline to police through school resource officers and referrals to the juvenile justice system. The result has been a school-to-prison pipeline that acts as many kids’ first exposure to the criminal justice system — and it can lead to more interactions with the justice system later on, because the lost school time and bad marks on their records can make it much more difficult to get ahead.

Beyond Ramey’s study, there’s a lot of research and data that shows black kids are much more likely to be affected by schools’ punitive disciplinary policies:

  • Boys with imprisoned fathers are much less likely to possess the behavioral skills needed to succeed in school by the age of 5, a 2014 study published in Sociological Science found. Black children, who are more likely to have imprisoned black fathers, are therefore more likely to be set on a bad course before they start kindergarten.
  • Black students with disabilities are almost three times more likely to experience out-of-school suspension or expulsion than their white counterparts, and twice as likely to experience in-school suspension or expulsion, according to a 2014 report from the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
  • About 70 percent of students involved in in-school arrests or referred to law enforcement are black or Hispanic, according to, which seeks to expose the issues with the school-to-prison pipeline.

So schools aren’t just more likely to criminalize their students nowadays; they’re more likely to criminalize their black students in particular. Some socioeconomic issues — black kids are more likely to be poor, and poorer schools tend to be more punitive — play a role, as Ramey’s study found. But subconscious racial biases play a significant role, as well.

Confederate flags spotted outside the US – BBC News 10 July 2015

Santa Barbara D'Oeste in Brazil

The flag rises in Santa Barbara D’Oeste, Brazil

A backlash against the Confederate flag in the US has gathered pace, with its removal from state properties and off the shelves of retailers. But it is also seen flying in other parts of the world.

To its opponents, the battle flag used by Southern states in the American Civil War is a symbol of slavery but to its supporters it is part of southern heritage.

It is also seen outside the US. In the rural Brazilian town of Santa Barbara D’Oeste, descendants of Confederates that fled to Brazil hold an annual reunion at which the flag plays a central part.

Readers have been getting in touch to say where else they have seen it displayed.



I have seen it at Napoli football matches in Italy. I was told by one supporter that they liked the colours and the rebellious symbolism it carried in Italy where the South and North still have a rivalry. It goes beyond football. Gustavo M Lanata, Italy


When I visited Protaras, Cyprus, in 2004 the main strip along the beach was lined with Confederate flags. One of the oddest things I’ve come across. No one there seemed to know the flag’s history or even what country it was from. Locals and UK tourists both assumed it of Scottish origin given the angles of the “X”. The flag was everywhere and no one knew what it meant (the desired reunification of Cyprus or pre-war attempt to merge with Greece don’t seem to match the rebellion theme, though I assumed it perhaps started as some protest flag). Pete Bullwinkel, New York


The southern coastal region of Croatia is referred to as Dalmatia and I have seen the Confederate battle flag on buildings there. I was told by a Croatian that the coastal region associates this symbol with being from the southern portion of the country and distinguishes them from the mountainous regions to the north around the capita of Zagreb. Clint Hodges, Split, Croatia


Every year, the town of Millport in North Ayrshire, Scotland, holds a country and western festival and the little island is covered in Confederate flags. Emma Morgan, Belfast


While campaigning in the most recent UK general election, I saw a man proudly displaying the Confederate flag in the front window of his Battersea, London, flat. As an American living in London, I was surprised to see that flag so I asked him what he thought it represented, and he replied that he flies that flag because he’s “a rebel”, and that’s the “rebel” flag. Ben, London

I fly the North Virginia battle flag in my back garden. It is not a racist flag, it is now only a symbol of the South. My forebears fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War and I celebrate that. Britain still flies the Union flag after years of historical slavery abroad and many atrocities. D Fortesque, Market Drayton, UK


I live in Luxembourg now (moved from the USA) and I was shocked to come across several houses flying the Confederate flag in some villages here. I never had the chance to ask the people who lived at the house what it meant to them, but for me it has instant connotations of racism and hatred. It saddened me to see it here. Ann, Luxembourg


I have seen the Confederate flag being waved around the UAE while I was growing up in Dubai. There were many cars and trucks, usually owned and operated by rich wealthy Emiratis who would post the Confederate flag all over their cars and on top of their pick-ups. And just drive around waving the flags around town. It never made much sense to me there and interestingly enough it appeared to have a cultural connection to their love of cars, especially brute American muscle power cars. Very strange. Tiago Niles, Sao Paulo

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