TPM Cafe: Opinion

In 1964, at the height of the civil rights movement, the organizer Ella Baker said: "Until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother's sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest." Bernice Johnson Reagon later wrote “Ella's Song" based on those words, made famous by the a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock.

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In 2014, TPM's readers loved takes on everything from sexism on Fox News and rape in New Orleans, to illegal immigration and being the daughter of Cuban exiles, to interracial couples and black people (not) camping. We published open letters, tackled American myths, illuminated political flareups, and more. Below are the best pieces at TPMCafe—and a few from our new features section—in 2014:

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For both alarmed non-Christians and embarrassed moderate-to-progressive Christians, there were promising signs in 2014 that conservative Christian paranoia and determination to wage spiritual battles against “liberal secular culture” might finally be abating. Pope Francis has led the way in encouraging believers to look inward with self-criticism instead of outward with self-righteousness in encountering the world. As unlikely a voice as the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore has lashed his co-religionists for aligning with political reactionaries in denying the need for racial progress. And even Bill O’Reilly appears to have declared victory in his annual Christian self-pity party, the War on Christmas, which implicitly compares the faithful to the persecuted saints and martyrs of the ages for having to suffer the torment of “Happy Holidays” greetings.

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It was entirely predictable that those in the “police can do no wrong” camp would blame the tragic murder of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, at the hands of Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, on the recent protests against police violence. But it was just as predictable that other, more clever rightwing sorts would use liberals denying that linkage as cover to excuse any and all rightwing terrorism, past or present, by blurring the distinctions between what Brinsley did and what other, more clearly ideological killers do.

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Ferguson with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten last week, after participating in protests in DC the preceding weekend. He was the first member of Obama's cabinet to come since Eric Holder visited in August. "The division between young people and the police is huge," he said. “The division along race in this community is huge. The division along educational opportunity being based on where you live, your zip code, is huge. The inequities are huge.”

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The critics of President Obama’s actions on Cuba are trying to fit a decades-old problem into a post-9/11 “Axis of Evil” mindset. But while conservatives are condemning Obama for “coddling dictators” (just as they once attacked him for “palling around with terrorists”), their attack requires forgetting a huge amount of history. Here is what you need to know—and what they have forgotten.

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The tendency of many Texas districts to elect anyone, no matter how obviously embarrassing, to Congress so long as he has an “R” by his name, strikes again. This time, it’s Rep. Blake Farenthold, out of Corpus Christi, who is being sued by former communications staffer Lauren Greene for sexual harassment. The details of the lawsuit are just what you’d hope they’d be when considering a conservative Texas congressman who had a prior career as a Rush Limbaugh wannabe at a local talk radio station: Heavy drinking leading to harassing women at parties, hitting women up for pity sex by trotting out the “my wife won’t sleep with me” line, bragging that a lobbyist tapped him for a threesome. Greene-specific leering accusations include suggesting she had semen on her skirt, telling her he had “wet dreams” about her and talking about her nipples.

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This week, local and national media have been stunned by the revelation that Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) filed H.B. 131, a bill that would change the state’s informed consent requirements for an abortion to mandate that the pregnant person obtain written consent from the “father of the unborn child.” The only thing surprising about Missouri’s proposed “father’s consent” abortion bill? That it took so long for it to get filed.

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Yesterday morning, American U.S. aid worker Alan Gross, in prison for five years on charges of covert action against the Cuban government, was released after months of negotiations. In addition, the U.S. traded three jailed Cuban spies for another of our jailed intelligence assets. And the news grew bigger: At noon, Presidents Obama and Raúl Castro gave concurrent speeches. President Obama told the nation that his administration was taking the first steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba—establishing embassies and ambassadors; re-assessing Cuba’s position on the list of state sponsors of terrorism; increasing travel, commerce, and the flow of information between the two countries. President Castro told his country that the economic embargo should stop, and that President Obama deserves respect for taking the first step towards healthier relations between the two nations.

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This morning, I was in Havana in a room filled with Cubans watching their president, Raul Castro, announce the news that diplomatic relations with the United States would be resumed. When his speech ended, the room filled with cheers. The Cubans sang their national anthem and stood at their seats clapping with tears wetting their faces.

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

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