CRF Blog

What’s actually in the Green New Deal

by Bill Hayes

Vox explains What’s actually in the Green New Deal.

Wendell Willkie: The Forgotten Maker of History

by Bill Hayes

In Wendell Willkie: The Forgotten Maker of History for the New York Times Book Review, Lynne Olson reviews The Improbable Wendell Willkie: The Businessman Who Saved the Republican Party and His Country, and Conceived a New World Order by David Levering Lewis.

Lewis astutely notes the fact that although Willkie was still regarded as a dark horse when he arrived in Philadelphia, “the entire convention machinery belonged to the Willkie team.” On the convention’s final night, after more than eight nail-biting hours of voting, he emerged the winner.

As shocking as this coup was, Willkie’s cooperation with Roosevelt just weeks after his nomination was even more staggering. In the summer of 1940, the White House was considering a plan to send 50 old destroyers to Britain to help protect its shipping from German submarines, but Roosevelt refused to sign off on it unless Willkie promised not to make it a campaign issue. Willkie agreed, setting off a Republican firestorm that escalated when, in his campaign kickoff speech, he pledged to support legislation to create America’s first peacetime draft. The bill was political dynamite: If Willkie had opposed it, it almost certainly would have failed. Thanks to its passage, some 1.65 million men were in uniform when America finally entered the war in December 1941. [more]

The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran

by Bill Hayes

In The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran, the New York Times Magazine reports on the decade-long push for a war against Iran’s nuclear program. One push came from John Bolton, the president’s recently departed national security adviser. But others were also pushing both for and against a war.

In July of 2017, the White House was at a crossroads on the question of Iran. President Trump had made a campaign pledge to leave the “terrible” nuclear deal that President Barack Obama negotiated with Tehran, but prominent members of Trump’s cabinet spent the early months of the administration pushing the mercurial president to negotiate a stronger agreement rather than scotch the deal entirely. Thus far, the forces for negotiation had prevailed.

But counterforces were also at work. Stephen K. Bannon, then still an influential adviser to the president, turned to John Bolton to draw up a new Iran strategy that would, as its first act, abrogate the Iran deal. Bolton, a Fox News commentator and former ambassador to the United Nations, had no official role in the administration as of yet, but Bannon saw him as an outside voice that could stiffen Trump’s spine — a kind of back channel to the president who could convince Trump that his Iran policy was adrift.

As a top national security official in the George W. Bush administration, Bolton was one of the architects of regime change in Iraq. He had long called not just for withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A., as the 2015 nuclear deal was known, but also for overthrowing the Iranian regime that negotiated it. Earlier that July, he distilled his views on the matter in Paris, at an annual gathering in support of the fringe exile movement Mujahedeen Khalq, or the M.E.K., which itself had long called for regime change in Iran. Referring to the continuing policy review in Washington, he repeated his belief that the only sufficient American policy in Iran would be to change the Iranian government and whipped the crowd into a standing ovation by pledging that in two years, Iran’s leaders would be gone and that “we here will celebrate in Tehran.”

The document that Bolton produced at Bannon’s request was not a strategy so much as a marketing plan for the administration to justify leaving the Iran deal. It did little to address what would happen on Day 2, after the United States pulled out of the deal. But Bolton’s views were hardly a secret to those who had spoken to him over the years or read the Op-Ed he wrote in The New York Times in 2015: Once American diplomacy had been set aside, Israel should bomb Iran.

Trump pulled out of the Iran deal in May 2018, just weeks after Bolton took over as his national security adviser, and now the president is navigating a slow-motion crisis. This June, attacks were launched against oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and the United States pointed the finger at Tehran; in July, Britain impounded an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, and Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the Persian Gulf. American spy agencies warn of impending attacks by Iranian proxies on American troops in the region, and over the summer, Israel launched flurries of attacks on Iranian proxies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The least surprising outcome of America’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran, though, is that Iran now says that it, too, will no longer abide by the terms of the deal — a decision that could lead Tehran to once again stockpile highly enriched uranium, the fuel to build a nuclear bomb.

The president and his advisers have cited all these acts as evidence of Iran’s perfidy, but it was also a crisis foretold. A year before Trump pulled out of the deal, according to an American official, the Central Intelligence Agency circulated a classified assessment trying to predict how Iran would respond in the event that the Trump administration hardened its line. Its conclusion was simple: Radical elements of the government could be empowered and moderates sidelined, and Iran might try to exploit a diplomatic rupture to unleash an attack in the Persian Gulf, Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East.

Ilan Goldenberg, a senior Pentagon official during the Obama administration, recalls the standoff in the years before the Iran nuclear deal as a kind of three-way bluff. Israel wanted the world to believe that it would strike Iran’s nuclear program (but hadn’t yet made up its mind). Iran wanted the world to believe it could get a nuclear weapon (but hadn’t yet made a decision to dash toward a bomb). The United States wanted the world to know it was ready to use military force to prevent Iran from getting a bomb (but in the end never had to show its hand). All three were taking steps to make the threats more credible, unsure when, or if, the other parties might blink.

Trump’s abrogation of the Iran deal has revived the poker game, but this time with an American president whose tendency to bluster about American power but avoid actually using it has made the situation in recent months even more volatile.

“President Trump cannot expect to be unpredictable and expect others to be predictable,” Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said during a speech in Stockholm in August. “Unpredictability will lead to mutual unpredictability, and unpredictability is chaotic.” Trump’s immediate goal appears to be to batter Iran’s economy with sanctions to the point that the country’s leaders will renegotiate the nuclear deal — and its military support for Hezbollah and other proxy groups — on terms that the administration deems more favorable to the United States. But it is also based on a gamble that Iran will break before November 2020, when the next American election could bring a new president who ends Trump’s hardball tactics. [more]

Politico’s Cartoons for This Week

by Bill Hayes

See Politico’s selection of this week’s political cartoons from across the country and the political spectrum.

For how to use editorial cartoons in the classroom, see Teaching With Editorial Cartoons.

The best books to read at every age, from 1 to 100

by Bill Hayes

The Washington Post has created a list of The best books to read at every age, from 1 to 100.

 Books are a portal to our personal histories. Pick up a worn copy of a childhood favorite and you might be transported to the warmth of a parent’s arms or a beanbag chair in a first-grade classroom or a library in your hometown. Avid readers could build autobiographies around their favorite books and come to the realization that what they have read is almost as meaningful as when they read it. A high schooler poring over “To Kill a Mockingbird” for a summer reading assignment encounters a different book than someone who reads it decades later, closer in age and outlook to Atticus than Scout.

In light of that reality, we took a stab at picking the best book for every age. There’s no definitive way to do this, of course. What moves one reader may not resonate with another, regardless of their birth year. So think of this list as a starting point, plus an invitation to look back at your own literary chronology: What spoke to you during a certain time in your life — and why? ….

Here are our picks for worthwhile books to read during each year of life, from 1 to 100, along with some of the age-appropriate wisdom they impart. [more]

Powerful, Disturbing History of Residential Segregation in America

by Bill Hayes

In A Powerful, Disturbing History of Residential Segregation in America for the New York Times Book Review, David Oshinsky reviews The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein.

One of the great strengths of Rothstein’s account is the sheer weight of evidence he marshals. A research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, he quite simply demolishes the notion that government played a minor role in creating the racial ghettos that plague our suburbs and inner cities. Going back to the late 19th century, he uncovers a policy of de jure segregation in virtually every presidential administration, including those we normally describe as liberal on domestic issues. [more]

The enduring influence of Mao Zedong

by David De La Torre

In The enduring influence of Mao Zedong, The Economist reviews Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell.

As Julia Lovell of Birkbeck, University of London, describes in “Maoism: A Global History”, the abstract chairman inspired revolutionaries around the world, from the highlands of Peru to the jungles of Cambodia, from the cafés of Paris to inner-city America. Mao’s ideology, distilled into a few pithy epigrams (“to rebel is justified”, “serve the people” and “bombard the headquarters” is all you need to know), helped foster suffering and mayhem not only in his own country, but around the world. His was the thinking behind Pol Pot and his Cambodian killing fields. It was his personality cult that encouraged an envious Kim Il Sung to push his own to similar heights of absurdity; North Koreans remain in its terrifying thrall today.

The cult of Mao did not end with the anarchy of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. It has enjoyed a tenacious afterlife that has not received the attention it deserves. [more]

For free classroom lessons related to Mao and other post–World War II happenings in China, see:

“Mao Zedong and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”

“The Chinese Civil War: Why Did the Communists Win?”

“Communism, Capitalism, and Democracy in China”

“The Dispute Over the South China Sea”

All are available from CRF’s Bill of Rights in Action Archive, it is currently only in PDF and you may have to register (if you haven’t already), which is free.

Confronting Implicit Bias

by Bill Hayes

Jennifer Eberhardt, a social psychologist at Stanford University, speaks on her new book: Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do.

China’s Latest Crackdown Target Is Liberal Economists

by Bill Hayes

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that China’s Latest Crackdown Target Is Liberal Economists.

Unirule [Institute of Economics] is the brainchild of Mao Yushi, a respected 90-year-old economist who was among the first scholars to spread free-market ideas such as deregulation and privatization within China. Until recently, the think tank was one of the country’s more influential nongovernmental organizations, benefiting from the relative liberty granted to economics since the rule of Deng Xiaoping, who once declared that he didn’t care “if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” So long as they stayed mostly clear of politics, scholars were free to discuss Western thinkers and how their ideas applied to China. The result was a vibrant intellectual community that interacted with government decision-makers, providing data-driven reality checks for officials with little experience outside the Communist Party.

That space has shrunk drastically under President Xi Jinping, who has forcefully reasserted the party’s power and the state’s economic role, and has attacked the civil society that emerged under his predecessors. A crackdown on dissent that began shortly after he took office in 2012 has seen Unirule, which has a small but consequential following among entrepreneurs and academics, hounded almost into oblivion. Its Chinese website and social media accounts have been shut down, its events broken up, and some of its staff barred from traveling abroad.

As China navigates the challenges of a slowing economy and a bruising trade war with the U.S., some foreign observers have become alarmed. “Economic decision-making has become incredibly personalized under Xi. An economist who raises questions may be seen as raising questions with Xi personally,” says Julian Gewirtz, a researcher at Harvard and the author of Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists, and the Making of Global China. He calls the resulting chill “a profound source of risk for China’s future.” [more]

44 African Americans Who Shook Up the World

by David De La Torre

The Undefeated has created a slide show, in alphabetical order, with biographies of 44 African Americans Who Shook Up the World.

This Week’s New Yorker Cartoons

by Bill Hayes

To see a slide show of this week’s New Yorker cartoons, go here, scroll down to “Cartoons from the Issue,” and click on the arrow beneath each cartoon on the right to go through the slide show.

Interview on Conditions at Rikers Island

by Bill Hayes

For PBS’s Amanpour and Company, Alicia Menendez interviews Dr. Homer Venters on his book Life and Death in Rikers Island.

Many Americans Say Made-Up News Is a Critical Problem That Needs To Be Fixed

by Bill Hayes

In a new study, the Pew Research Center reports that Many Americans Say Made-Up News Is a Critical Problem That Needs To Be Fixed.

Many Americans say the creation and spread of made-up news and information is causing significant harm to the nation and needs to be stopped, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 6,127 U.S. adults conducted between Feb. 19 and March 4, 2019, on the Center’s American Trends Panel.

Indeed, more Americans view made-up news as a very big problem for the country than identify terrorism, illegal immigration, racism and sexism that way. Additionally, nearly seven-in-ten U.S. adults (68%) say made-up news and information greatly impacts Americans’ confidence in government institutions, and roughly half (54%) say it is having a major impact on our confidence in each other.

U.S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of made-up news intended to mislead the public. But they believe it is primarily the responsibility of journalists to fix the problem. And they think the issue will get worse in the foreseeable future.

The vast majority of Americans say they sometimes or often encounter made-up news. In response, many have altered their news consumption habits, including by fact-checking the news they get and changing the sources they turn to for news.

In addition, about eight-in-ten U.S. adults (79%) believe steps should be taken to restrict made-up news, as opposed to 20% who see it as protected communication.

Similar to Americans’ news attitudes generally, stark partisan differences exist when it comes to made-up news and information, particularly in the area of assessing blame. Differences also emerge based on political awareness and age. In general, Republicans, the highly politically aware and older Americans express higher levels of concern about the impact of made-up news than their counterparts.

These concerns about made-up news are mingled with pessimism about the future of the issue. Most of those surveyed (56%) think the problem will get worse over the next five years. Only one-in-ten believe progress will be made in reducing it. [more]

Modern Slavery: An exploration of its root causes and the human toll

by Bill Hayes

InfoGuides from the Council on Foreign Relations provide basic information on current issues around the world. InfoGuides usually include histories, summaries, case studies, images, graphs, video, and links to additional resources. A recent InfoGuide was on Modern Slavery: An exploration of its root causes and the human toll.

Slavery dates back to ancient times and has left its trace across cultures and continents. Though slavery is now universally prohibited, with protections for individual rights enshrined in national and international laws, it persists.

Slavery exists any time a person has been recruited, transported, or compelled to work by “force, fraud, or coercion,” according to the U.S. State Department. Victims do not have the means to leave of their own will. Slavery today most often occurs in industries that are labor intensive, low skilled, and underregulated.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. — Article 4, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Slavery occurs in the gulags of North Korea, on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, and in the brothels of Eastern Europe. Its victims are children forced into military action in the Democratic Republic of Congo or born into debt bondage at brick kilns in India, young men laboring on rickety fishing boats in Thailand, and children and women pressed into domestic servitude in Haiti. An estimated 40.3 million people are enslaved worldwide. [more

CPJ’s database of attacks on the press

by Bill Hayes

The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, non-profit group that promotes press freedom worldwide. Among its projects is a database of attacks on the press. You can generate reports to show reporters killed, imprisoned, or missing, between certain years, and sorted by year and country.

Older