NPR's Throughline had a great recent episode about what's essentially the branding of the American Empire. Host Rund Abdelfatah speaks with Daniel Immerwahr, a history professor at Northwestern University, who the changing ways that America has identified itself over the years.
I always found it kind of strange to say "America" (even though I do it), as it also refers to two entire continents. And I've similarly found it interesting when I hear Europeans refer to the country as "the States." But Immerwahr took things a step further, and traced the history of self-reference through American presidential speeches. Prior to 1898 — the time of our rarely-mentioned war with Spain, which saw American expansionism grow beyond the continental borders and into the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba and so on — it was rare to hear a President refer to the country as "America." It could be the Republic, or the Union, or the United States, sometimes even Columbia or Freedonia (like "land of the free people," yes that was apparently a real thing at one time).
Immerwahr smartly connects this to curiosity to the country's intrinsic relationship (and subsequent, neverending identity crises) with imperialism. We were founded on conquered land, and though we aspired to be a union of independent nation-states with open borders and shared currency, that never actually happened. The "free" people of the United States distinguished themselves from the black slaves who tilled their fields, and the various Native American nations with whom they sometimes shared the land. Read the rest
Oh my heart. The Muppets of Sesame Street had their own Tiny Desk concert!
NPR's Bob Boilen:
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The news has stopped! Count von Count and the NPR kids count us down: 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1!
And there they are at the Tiny Desk: Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Rosita, Abby Cadabby and Cookie Monster, all singing about a sunny day and how everything is A-OK. The Sesame Street crew — including Elmo, Grover and other surprise guests — visited NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C., to celebrate Sesame Street's 50 years of teaching the world its A-B-Cs, its 1-2-3s, how to be kind and how to be proud, all while spreading love and joy.
Sesame Street has won more major awards than any other group to play the Tiny Desk, including 11 Grammys and 192 Emmys. There was a lot of love as the cast of Sesame Street got to meet NPR hosts and newscasters, who in turn got to geek out meeting their favorite Muppets and the creators behind the felt and fur. These folks include Matt Vogel, Sesame Street's puppet captain and performer, and music director Bill Sherman.
I even got to sing with Grover. And I'll also say, on a personal note, that this may well have been the hardest-working, most dedicated group of performers I've ever worked with. I'm so proud of these Muppets and so happy to celebrate all that they've meant to the world for these 50 years.
For many of us, the Cliven Bundy story started when a fringey rancher got a bunch of his militia pals to flex their white privilege by threatening to shoot federal law enforcement officers who'd demanded that Bundy stop stealing public land and grazing; then Bundy's loathsome offspring led a terrorist takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon.
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The Air Carrier Access Act, written back in 1986, was kind of lazy in how it defined ‘what a service animals is, to the point where almost anything goes. As such, there’s been a whole lot of folks of late bringing their animals on board of airplanes claiming that they’re emotional support animals. This peacock is an example of that sort of thing. Maybe some help calm their owners on what would be a harrowing in-air experience, without them. But for individuals with verifiable medical conditions who have been given specially-trained psychiatric service animals to help them better navigate their lives, it’s a serious pain in the ass.
With travelers and airlines alike getting tired of people attempting to bring their ‘comfort’ and ‘support’ animals on flights with them, the idea of bringing along an animal for legitimate medical reasons, even one that comes with documentation from a doctor or mental health professional, can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. That’s not OK. It’s a problem that can be especially prevalent with veterans afflicted with PTSD. Many rely on their service dogs to ground them during a flashback, make them feel like someone is watching their back in public places or wake them from reoccurring nightmares. It's not the sort of tool that you want to leave at home when you travel.
Thanks to a pair of new registries currently in development, the epidemic of false service animals that’s cropped up in the news of late could come to an end while, at the same time, helping those with a legitimate medical need to have their prescribed pooches with them on a flight do so, with less hassle. Read the rest
Hipster quirkcore band Superorganism recorded this delightful live performance replete with sounds made by toy cars, apples, and soda cans. Read the rest
I don't know about you, but back when I was working a nine-to-five gig that forced me to wear pants and show up on time, I had days at work where I wanted nothing more than to knock everything off my desk and set the office on fire. I'm betting it's a feeling that former U.S. Army Sergeant John T. Skipper can relate to.
During a training exercise back in 2016, Sgt. Skipper, now a former member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, decided that he'd totally be into finding out what happens to a Humvee when its parachute straps are tampered with during a tactical airdrop from a C-130 Hercules.
The answer: As this YouTube video captured by spectators on the ground illustrates, nothing good. However, the premise that a vehicle that reaches terminal velocity during a fall will be destroyed on impact with the ground can't be taken as gospel. An experiment has to be repeated, with the same result, for it to become a fact that you can rely on. So, apparently in the name of Science, Skipper cut the straps on not one, but three Humvees during the course of the exercise.
This past week, Sgt. Skipper was court-martialled for his dabblings with gravity. As a result, he was convicted of three counts of destroying military property with a value of more than $500 and providing a false official statement. "More than $500" is an understatement. While you can buy a well-loved Humvee at auction for a few grand, these days, the ones still in service, or bought new, have an estimated worth of starting at around $70,000. Read the rest
Hedgehogs dream of musical glory in these charming announcements for NPR's annual Tiny Desk Concert competition. Read the rest
Last November, evil Trump-supporting billionaire Joe Ricketts shut down Gothamist (and its sister sites) to punish its staff for forming a union.
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“The worst part of my whole encounter with Oreskes [was] the fact that he utterly destroyed my ambition,” says one victim.
Michael Oreskes is now NPR’s Senior Vice President of news. He is accused by two women of sexual harassment dating back a number of years, including “unwanted physical contact with them” while he was employed by another news organization “nearly two decades ago.”
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NPR celebrated July 4 by tweeting the Declaration of Independence, one line at a time: when they got to "A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people," America's fragile right-wing broflakes went berserk, unhinged by reality's well-known liberal bias. Read the rest
One of the things I love about long summer weekends is catching up on podcasts and filling my mind with something other than bummer political news. The third season of NPR's most popular podcast, Invisibilia, just launched, and I'm really enjoying it.
One of their latest episodes is about the minds of dogs. You should subscribe. Read the rest
Six thousand musicians entered NPR's Tiny Desk Concert competition, but this year's unanimous winner was Tank and the Bangas for this delightful jam. Read the rest
David A Banks argues that the boom in NPR explainer podcasts -- Radiolab, Note to Self, Hidden Brain, Freakonomics Radio and others -- are ideologically bankrupt, presenting individual, often neurological explanations for social phenomena -- rather than turning to the traditional social science accounts of these issues, so that the weird, broken, messed up things in our world are the result of our human "hardwiring" rather than the outgrowth of policies and ideology. Read the rest
One after another, ex-Wells Fargo employees have come forward to reveal that when they blew the whistle of millions of frauds committed against the bank's customers, the bank's management fired them and blackballed them from the banking industry for life, by falsifying claims of wrongdoing on a semi-secret list of corrupt bankers that is consulted by the industry before they make new hires. Read the rest
Nationally the High School graduation rate has been on the rise. NPR reports the rise is due to a combination of hard work that benefits students, and some states simply lowering standards so they earn passing grades.
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While the graduation rate continues to climb, the improvement comes at a time when the scores of high school students on the test known as the "Nation's Report Card," are essentially flat, and average scores on the ACT and SAT are down.
As we've reported, the rising graduation rate reflects genuine progress, such as closing high schools termed "dropout factories," but also questionable strategies by states and localities to increase their numbers.
"For many students, a high school diploma is not a passport to opportunity, it's a ticket to nowhere," says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a national nonprofit that's long advocated for higher standards and graduation requirements.
Cohen points out that roughly half of states now offer multiple diplomas. Some of those credentials are rigorous, some aren't. "You don't know how many students who were in that graduation rate actually completed a rigorous course of study. We're not transparent about that. We're concealing a problem."
In many places, the high school graduation exam is also a low bar, Cohen says, while some states have dropped it altogether.
Just last month, in a major school funding ruling, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher excoriated his state for watered down graduation standards that, he says, have already resulted "in unready children being sent to high school, handed degrees, and left, if they can scrape together the money, to buy basic skills at a community college."
Boing Boing pal Isabel Lara writes to give us a heads up about a new NPR series, “Changing Minds.” NPR launched the project this week and it looks at stories of people who’ve changed their positions in what has become a cultural moment of partisan polarization and extremism. The stories so far focus on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
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In an NPR report from 1984, a revelation: There are people who do not like to go shopping and some of them might enjoy buying things from the comfort of their own home with the help of a computer. I know. It's crazy. Bonuses: Description of a kludged-together, TV-based system that "will eventually be replaced by a home computer" and an early version of the audio editing and production style now famous from its use on Radiolab. Read the rest