TPM Cafe: Opinion

I recently met Jonathan Ross, a single father trying to support his daughter on $10,000 a year. Jonathan works at a cafe at the Smithsonian American History Museum, a federal building that houses an exhibit on the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Like those who marched in 1963, Jonathan is standing up for his family and all workers who deserve decent pay for a full day's work. This week, hundreds of workers like Jonathan went on strike at federally owned buildings around D.C., refusing to be ignored any longer. They called for a living wage and a voice on the job. They're standing up because they want to support their families and give their children a chance at a better future. President Barack Obama should take executive action to help working families. During a recent speech on the economy, the president said we should focus on increasing wages. "We have to make the investments necessary to attract good jobs that pay good wages and offer high standards of living." But you might be surprised to find out that the largest low-wage job producer in America isn't some big corporation--it's Uncle Sam.

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The highly-anticipated annual list features a collection of the top African-American influencers between the ages of 25 and 45 who are boldly breaking new ground in their respective fields, and impacting American society with their accomplishments. The Root's editorial team calculated the rankings of the nominees using data from Lexis Nexis, Google, and Twitter to determine their level of influence or influence score. With over 800 names submitted, the team ranked leading names by combining their influence score with a substance score for their contributions to their communities and professions.

The following are the top elected officials and political operatives from The Root 100 list. To see the full list, click here.

Elected Officials:

Corey Booker (No.2)

Kasim Reed (No.10)

Nina Turner (No.47)

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[Ed. note: The following post is republished from the New York Public Library as part of its series on Banned Books Week.]

Our next title under the microscope during Banned Books week is the canonical nonsense tale of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. "I do not like them, Sam-I-am, I do not like green eggs and ham." The People's Republic of China most notably concurred with this key mantra of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham. Beginning in 1965, it was forbidden to read Green Eggs and Ham in Maoist China because of its "portrayal of early Marxism," and the ban was not lifted until author Theodor Seuss Geisl's death in 1991.

First published in 1960, this whimsical book of rhyme aimed at encouraging children to try new things was great for early readers because it conveyed this complex message while using less than 50 words. Through repetition of simple words, protagonist Sam-I-Am insistently implores his nameless counterpart to try the book's eponymous dish (in a box with a fox, with a goat in a boat), who stubbornly refuses to taste the verdant breakfast. A bargain is finally struck between the debating characters; Sam's bedraggled friend will taste the meal if Sam-I-Am agrees to finally leave him alone. Lo and behold, Sam's friend discovers that he not only likes green eggs and ham, but he can't wait to eat them in all the scenarios Sam-I-Am had been suggesting all along.

In addition to the decades-long suppression of Green Eggs and Ham in Communist China, Yertle the Tertle (1958) has recently crawled back onto banned book lists; in April 2012 the Prince Rupert School District in British Columbia, CA removed the book from schools because it violated a school ban on political messages for the line "I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom, we too should have rights." The Lorax (1972) similarly raised the ire of a community in California because of its portrayal of loggers as being environmentally unfriendly.

Dr. Seuss himself admitted that as an author he was "subversive as hell," and did not want to write stories about modeling good behavior for children. His books encouraged standing up to authority while comically illustrating the consequences of fear-based thinking--bold ideas that have made a Grinch out of those opposed to instilling such attitudes in children.

Liberman is a senior librarian at the New York Public Library's Mulberry Branch.

"Stock Photo: United States - Circa 1999: A Postage Stamp Printed In USA Showing An Image Of The Cat Character From The Book The Cat In The Hat Written By Dr. Seuss, Circa 1999." on Shutterstock.

Last week, a phony story supposedly from the writers of Playboy magazine asserted that the publication had scrapped its annual college party school rankings piece for a commentary on improving consent. According to the viral hoax, Playboy's mission was the stuff anti-rape advocates dream of. "Consent is all about everyone having a good time," the fake story instructed.

It's easy to see why the Playboy hoax was so appealing. The gold standard of consent says that each one of us consistently consents to events, transactions and interactions -- which in real life aren't always so clear. The Playboy hoax highlights the idea that in popular culture we tend to only contemplate consent -- and what it really means -- when we hear about the really terrifying instances of what is clearly rape and not in our day-to-day sexual lives.

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While the budget showdown is getting the lion's share of the attention, another conservative strategy to derail Obamacare is quietly forming on the right. The idea is to keep people from actually going to their computers and signing up for health insurance through the health care exchanges that open on Oct. 1. To do this, conservatives are borrowing a strategy from a much older and more established movement, the anti-abortion movement. Because if you want to reduce people's access to health care, then of course the people you want to imitate are anti-choicers, who are the world experts on trying to throw up obstacle between patients and doctors.

As documented by Jill Filipovic at Salon, the anti-abortion movement has long used a two-pronged strategy to keep women from getting to abortion providers when they need them: 1) Use your activist wing to make the actual process of going to the doctor seem fraught with peril and 2) back this up by having the government throw as many obstacles as they can legally get away with between you and your doctor. This strategy, while not doing much to reduce the actual abortion rate, has successfullyreduced the number of providers in the country and created a burgeoning black marketfor abortion drugs.

Now the same tactics are being used by the anti-Obamacare movement. Since there's no physical location to sign up for Obamacare for protesters to target, conservatives have had to get creative in trying portray the experience of signing up for health insurance as dangerous. Generation Opportunity, Koch brothers-funded group, is running ads that dishonestly suggest that people who sign up for Obamacare will be subject to unnecessarily invasive and torturous medical testing. One ad specifically insinuates that the gynecological tests women will be able to afford if they get insured are close to sexual assault, an idea that is directly borrowed from anti-choice rhetoric that equates getting an abortion with assault. (Unsurprisingly, Generation Opportunity employs at least one prominent anti-abortion activist.)

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Out of 300 million Americans, a few thousand wield disproportionate economic and political influence because of their positions at the pinnacle of America's corporate and media establishments or their roles as political allies (or puppets) of the corporate ruling class. C. Wright Mills described this group in his 1956 book, The Power Elite, G. William Domhoff has updated this analysis in his book, Who Rules America? (now in its 7th edition), and Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have described how the power elite wields its influence in Winner-Take-All Politics

Many of them have overlapping memberships on the boards of the largest corporations, business lobby groups, universities and think tanks, foundations, and media conglomerates. They are not part of conspiracy. They do not meet secretly to plot America's future. And they disagree with each other on some issues, particularly same-sex marriage, abortion and gun control. Some are corporate conservatives and moderates; some are right-wing reactionaries and racists; others are lunatic libertarians. 

But they agree on the essential concerns about the economy. The top Wall Street and Wal-Mart CEOs, the media monopolists and their talk-show agitators, the billionaire benefactors, and the business lobbyists share an antipathy toward unions, progressive taxes, and government regulations that protect consumers, workers, and the environment. They fund think tanks and hire college professors to promote their views and to cry wolf about government rules -- denying the reality of global warming, warning that raising the minimum wage or strengthening regulations on banks will "kill jobs," and attacking Obamacare (and Obama) as "socialist." They work closely with right-wing, conservative, and moderate politicians to carry out their agenda. They act on behalf of big business and the super-rich, but to translate their ideas into public policy they have to persuade voters that their agenda benefits middle class Americans -- a task that is getting harder and harder to do. 

Yet even among the few thousand members of the power elite, there are a small number whose influence is greater than the others. Here is a list of the 20 most influential members of the power elite. 

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Who do you trust to accurately evaluate scientific studies and make medical recommendations based on them: Scientists and medical professionals, or political zealots with clear agendas? If you went with option B, welcome to the United States Congress. You'll fit right in.

A few months ago, the House of Representatives passed a Republican-sponsored bill banning abortions after 20 weeks. The bill, titled the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," justified its restrictions for the reason stated in its title: That fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, and therefore abortion must be outlawed after that point. On its face, the passage of the bill looked a waste of time (and taxpayer dollars), given the unlikelihood of it passing in the Senate, and the inevitable White House veto. But the point was never to turn the bill into law. The point was to lay the groundwork for a fetal pain framework, with National Right to Life penning the legislation and proposing the bills at the state and national levels, and smaller anti-choice groups rallying their troops around the issue. It's working: A dozen states have passed abortion restrictions justified by fetal pain claims. Many more have proposed bans. Anti-abortion activists are hoping fetal pain will be an issue that reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, since limiting abortion at 20 weeks directly challenges the abortion rights framework outlined in Roe v. Wade, which created the framework that abortion restrictions could be enacted after "viability" outside of the womb, which generally happens between 24 and 27 weeks.

Just one problem: The weight of the scientific evidence points to the conclusion that fetuses cannot feel pain at 20 weeks.

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About 11,000 Americans die each year from firearm-related homicides. Monday's shooting at Washington, D.C.'s Navy Yard that killed 12 victims and the gunman is sure to spawn debates about gun rights, gun control and how to reduce those deaths. All too often, these discussions are not based on logic and science, as with other public health problems, but are awash in heated emotions and void of substance.

As we saw with the horrendous Newtown, Conn. shooting that killed 20 elementary school children and six faculty members last December, debates over gun violence often devolve to senseless shouting matches.

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On Monday morning, as the news of the tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard began to surface, I had a thought I'm certain I shared with millions of Americans - I hope it wasn't a veteran. Unfortunately, in this case, it was a Navy reservist never deployed overseas.

But whether or not the alleged shooter was a vet begs the question -- why do we associate acts like these with veterans?

One of the primary reasons that we have come to almost subconsciously associate violence -- and in particular, large-scale violence -- with our veterans, is that many in the media have encouraged an over-generalization and simplification for all of these tragedies. If you watched cable news coverage this week, the narrative quickly evolved into a "disturbed vet" trope: he had served in the military and may have been diagnosed with PTSD, there's nothing too surprising about that. After all, who among us hasn't seen movies like "Rambo"? With less than 1 percent of the population serving in the today's military, it's all too easy to think, "Oh, he was just another 'disturbed' veteran with PTSD. That makes sense."

This irresponsible narrative is sadly not only inaccurate and cuts journalistic corners, but it's also unfair to the millions of those who have served this country, in peacetime and in war, and who are contributing positively to their communities. It disregards the real stories that could and should shape a national conversation around mental health and our nation's responsibility to our veterans.

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In a recovering economy, one would think that our legislators would do everything in their power to assist struggling Americans. For the past five years, ordinary people have been trying to keep their heads above water in the midst of mounting foreclosures, historic unemployment levels and rising levels of food insecurity. Yet this week in the House of Representatives, Republicans have continued their ruthless crusade against the poor by taking up a measure that would cut $40 billion in food assistance.

Somehow along the way, conservatives in this country began to criticize people on public assistance programs - including food assistance - and categorize those individuals who rely on these programs as "dependent on government." Sadly, the GOP seems to have internalized this faulty rhetoric in every way. We, however, cannot allow their ideological arguments to determine the fate of our core anti-hunger program.

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