The suddenly toxic confederate flag

In a previous post, I expressed some pessimism that southern states would disassociate themselves from the confederate flag, pointing out that the determination of fans and owners of the Cleveland Indians baseball team to retain their racist mascot in the face of opprobrium shows the strength that symbols have on people. If a baseball mascot could not be gotten rid of, what are the chances of doing so for a flag in a nation that fetishizes flags?
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John Oliver and chicken farmers

Recently John Oliver exposed the abusive practices by the four big companies who exploit chicken farmers by misleading them with various promises that entice them into signing contracts that result in a form of indentured servitude, and being protected by some members from Congress, funded by the big chicken lobby, who blocked any corrective legislation. The video got over 3 million viewers on YouTube. I linked to the clip and wrote about this issue earlier.
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A possible end to long-term solitary confinement?

There are many problems with the American criminal justice system. It is too easily prone to use excessive and even lethal violence, it can be very abusive, it treats people differently based on their color and/or socio-economic status, it incarcerates people for too many things and for too long, it kills people using the death penalty, it tortures, and so on. But there is one other feature that is less discussed and that is the fact that it is not uncommon for prisoners to be kept in solitary confinement for very long periods of time, even though we know that this can cause serious psychological damage. Some states like Texas and Virginia automatically put death row inmates in solitary confinement irrespective of whether they are judged to pose a danger or not.
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The absurd fuss over Obama’s use of the n-word

In an interview with Marc Maron, president Obama used the n-word quite casually while making the pretty obvious point that its use or non-use should not be the measure of the state of racism in the US. Of course, his use of the word gave many people the vapors. As a result, the rest of the hour-long interview has been pretty much ignored but you can get a synopsis here.
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A possible meeting of the minds on same-sex marriage

As the time approaches when the US Supreme Court will weigh in with its ruling on same-sex marriage, anticipation is running high on both sides. There are two possible days when the opinion will be released, on this coming Thursday or (more likely) the following Monday, June 29, the last day of the term, although it is always possible that the justices might extend the term if they are finding it hard to finalize their opinions due to sharp disagreements. There are just seven cases where oral arguments were heard and for which no rulings have been given, and those include the Obamacare and the same-sex marriage cases.
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What to do about the confederate flag

In the wake of the murders in Charleston, SC, even president Obama seems resigned to the fact that there seems to be little or no chance of even slightly reducing the ease with which lethal weapons are available to practically anyone so that they can engage in carrying out their violent fantasies. As a result we are reduced to rhetoric and symbolism, such as calls for the confederate flag to be removed from its mast on the state capital grounds
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How could people do something like this?

Today comes yet another story of the incredible cruelty that the US government is willing to inflict on totally innocent people, sacrificing them to its militaristic goals. NPR had a shocking story about how the US Army tested chemical weapons on 60,000 of its own soldiers during World War II. They picked out black, Puerto Rican, and Japanese-Americans to test out a theory that their skin might have greater resistance to chemical weapons.
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Online harassment of women

On his show Last Week Tonight John Oliver points out that the internet provides a medium for some of the worst elements of society to mercilessly attack women via revenge porn and other means just for the ‘crime’ of being a woman online or expressing an opinion publicly. There is something very, very disturbing about this phenomenon because it reveals a really ugly side of humanity and the fact that there seems to be little recourse for the targeted women makes it even worse.
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The ‘lone wolf’ theory implicates us all

The murder of the nine people in a church in Charleston, SC has of course prompted discussions of why anyone would commit such a terrible act. If the killer had been a Muslim, there would be no debate. He would have been immediately branded a terrorist and his motive would have assumed to be that it was driven by his religious beliefs and was part of the war waged by Muslims against the US and civilization in general and Christians in particular.
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