TPM Cafe: Opinion

A long time ago, Harry Truman successfully desegregated the Armed Forces. And recently we lifted the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ban on gays and lesbians in the military to a collective yawn. Now is the time to finally let women do any job in the military. This means giving women the right to compete for any job in the Armed Services, and it’s a benchmark for progress that Defense Secretary nominee Ash Carter clearly endorsed in his confirmation hearing this week.

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In his State of the Union address, President Obama unveiled a number of proposals he grouped under the heading of "middle-class economics." These included things like raising the minimum wage and expanding the child care tax credit. Fair enough: We need new ideas for supporting working American families, since our child poverty rates remain among the highest in the developed world. One in four American kids is growing up poor in the United States. More than half of our children come from low-income families.

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The legend of Gertrude Stein’s final words is that her partner Alice B. Toklas despairingly asked her on her deathbed: “What is the answer?” And Gertrude responded: “What is the question?”

Ironic as it may seem that an expat Jewish lesbian avant-garde writer famous in the 1920s could articulate the operating principle of the Republican Party nearly a century later, it sort of does sum it all up. For today’s ideologically rigid GOP, the “answers” to national challenges are clear; the trick is to adapt them to different “questions.”

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On June 30th, 1974, Alberta Williams King was gunned down while she played the organ for the “Lord’s Prayer” at Ebenezer Baptist Church. As a Christian civil rights activist, she was assassinated...just like her son, Martin Luther King, Jr. But most people remember only one. Until a month ago, I was one of those people.

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Every year at my school around Halloween, we have a door decorating contest. This year, my class decided to take fake mugshots of our teachers, where they could make any silly face they wanted. After taking the pictures, my friend (a boy) and I were at the printer watching the mugshots print out. The boy in question is a friend to this day, the kind of guy who gets good grades, is totally nice and is okay to just hang out with. We were looking over the pictures, laughing at the funny ones, and he paused on a picture of his former Humanities teacher. She was making a silly “duckface,” pouting her lips and wearing cat ears; it was a funny picture that would look great on our door. Out of nowhere, in a totally casual way, my friend said: “Ugh. What a slut.”

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In his State of the Union speech last month, President Obama said, “Our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.” Remember 1999? It was a year worthy of playing the Prince anthem named after the year on repeat. A gallon of gas was less than a dollar, health care costs were high-but-not-too-high, and we were not yet a banana republic. Prince’s prophetic lyrics warned us that in “two thousand zero zero” the party would be over. And he was right.

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It seems that anti-vaccination advocates are immoveable. As in, they cannot be moved by rational arguments based on evidence. They weren’t moved when Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who authored the discredited paper linking autism to vaccines, lost his license to practice medicine. Retracting that paper, originally published in the Lancet, didn’t move them, either. They clearly are not moved by appeals to the public good. The recent outbreaks of whooping cough and measles don’t seem to be moving the needle much, either, as the New York Times reports that anti-vaxxers are digging in their heels, denying responsibility, and minimizing the dangers of the various diseases they have helped usher back when medical science thought they were nearly over.

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Black History Month has a new Twitter hashtag: #28daysarenotenough. It’s hard to argue with its message: Even among people who are committed to honor African-American history, many find the idea of Black History Month patronizing, even insulting. Setting aside only one month of the year to remember and celebrate these vital American stories and identities? And picking the shortest month to boot?

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One of the few missing ingredients in the film Selma is the centrality of music during the Selma-to-Montgomery, Alabama march. A tiny snippet of field recordings from the march can be heard at the very end of the movie's credits, but otherwise the movie ignores the constant singing that emboldened the marchers during the four-day, 54-mile trek.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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