Mixed Media

Let John Oliver Explain How Standardized Testing Makes Kids Anxious and Vomit Under Pressure

| Mon May 4, 2015 9:31 AM EDT

Every year, students around the country are subjected to an insane amount of mandatory, standardized testing. So much so, the average number of tests a student completes by the time they graduate high school is a staggering 113, according to the latest "Last Week Tonight." As host John Oliver noted on Sunday, all the stressful bubble-filling is taking an inevitable toll—with teachers reporting their students throwing up under the pressure so often, official testing guidelines specifically outline how to deal with kids vomiting on their test booklets.

"Something is wrong with our system when we just assume a certain number of students will vomit," Oliver said. "Standardized tests are supposed to be an assessment of skills, not a rap battle on '8 Mile' Road."

Watch below as Oliver explains how our education system arrived at this extreme point:

 

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Re-live the Kingbees' Rockabilly Revival

| Mon May 4, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

The Kingbees
self-titled
Omnivore

The rise of punk and new wave back in the late '70s and early '80s was accompanied by a mini-rockabilly revival, the most notable commercial success being Brian Setzer's Stray Cats. Another eminently satisfying act was Los Angeles' Kingbees, a spunky trio fronted by Jamie James, a spirited dude seemingly possessed by the ghost of Buddy Holly. There's nothing profound on the expanded edition of this crisp 1980 debut album—just a bunch of snappy originals, including the semi-hit "My Mistake" and deft covers of Don Gibson ("Sweet Sweet Girl to Me"), Eddie Cochran ("Somethin' Else") and Buddy himself ("Not Fade Away"). But if you need a quick pick-me-up, check out "Shake-Bop" or "Ting-a-Ling." They'll put a spring in your step, guaranteed.

White People Could Learn a Thing or Two About Talking About Race From the Orioles' Manager

| Thu Apr. 30, 2015 6:14 PM EDT

On Wednesday, after the Baltimore Orioles trounced the Chicago White Sox in front of over 48,000 empty seats at Camden Yards, Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter offered a blunt assessment of the ongoing protests happening just beyond the stadium gates.

When a Baltimore resident asked what advice Showalter would give to young black residents in the community, the manager explains [emphasis added]:

You hear people try to weigh in on things that they really don't know anything about. ... I've never been black, OK? So I don't know, I can't put myself there. I've never faced the challenges that they face, so I understand the emotion, but I can't. ... It's a pet peeve of mine when somebody says, 'Well, I know what they're feeling. Why don't they do this? Why doesn't somebody do that?' You have never been black, OK, so just slow down a little bit.

I try not to get involved in something that I don't know about, but I do know that it's something that's very passionate, something that I am, with my upbringing, that it bothers me, and it bothers everybody else. We've made quite a statement as a city, some good and some bad. Now, let's get on with taking the statements we've made and create a positive. We talk to players, and I want to be a rallying force for our city. It doesn't mean necessarily playing good baseball. It just means [doing] everything we can do. There are some things I don't want to be normal [in Baltimore again]. You know what I mean? I don't. I want us to learn from some stuff that's gone on on both sides of it. I could talk about it for hours, but that's how I feel about it.

Fans watched from outside the stadium gates after demonstrations in response to the death of Freddie Gray forced the team to play the first game behind closed doors in Major League Baseball history. At Wednesday's press conference, outfielder Adam Jones, who related to the struggles of Baltimore's youth as a kid growing up in San Diego, called on the city to heal after the unrest.

Jones goes on to say:

The last 72 hours have been tumultuous to say the least. We've seen good, we've seen bad, we've seen ugly...It's a city that's hurting, a city that needs its heads of the city to stand up, step up and help the ones that are hurting. It's not an easy time right now for anybody. It doesn't matter what race you are. It's a tough time for the city of Baltimore. My prayers have been out for all the families, all the kids out there.

They're hurting. The big message is: Stay strong, Baltimore. Stay safe. Continue to be the great city that I've come to know and love over the eight years I've been here. Continue to be who you are. I know there's been a lot of damage in the city. There's also been a lot of good protesting, there's been a lot of people standing up for the rights that they have in the Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, and I'm just trying to make sure everybody's on the same page.

[...]

It's not easy. This whole process is not easy. We need this game to be played, but we need this city to be healed first. That's important to me, that the city is healed. Because this is an ongoing issue. I just hope that the community of Baltimore stays strong, the children of Baltimore stay strong and gets some guidance and heed the message of the city leaders.

Like team exec John Angelos, Showalter, Jones and the rest of the Orioles organization get it.

This Kid Just Gave the Entire DC Press Corps a Lesson In Telling Truth to Power

| Thu Apr. 30, 2015 4:14 PM EDT

President Obama may be known for his exceptional oratory skills, but from time to time, he like every other politician falls victim to doling out the standard long-winded, sleep-inducing response no one could possibly be interested in hearing. One kid has apparently had enough.

While participating in a "virtual field trip" with a group of middle-school students on Thursday, the president was asked about how one should aspire to be a good writer. As Obama proceeded to launch into yet another rambling answer, student interviewer Osman Yaha took the reins and stepped in. Watch below for the expertly executed cut-in:

(h/t Washington Free Beacon)

 

Today Is The 23rd Anniversary of the Rodney King Riots. Obama Is Right, Not Much Has Changed

| Wed Apr. 29, 2015 1:20 PM EDT

Speaking from the White House on Tuesday, President Obama told reporters that the tensions between Baltimore residents and local police were "not new, and we shouldn't pretend that it's new."

He's right. Wednesday is the twenty-third anniversary of the riots that followed the acquittal of four white police officers accused of beating Rodney King.

"Why does it take a catastrophe like this in order for America to hear our cry?" one demonstrator asked an MSNBC reporter on Tuesday.

New Bud Light Tagline Wants to Remove "No" From Your Vocabulary

| Tue Apr. 28, 2015 5:20 PM EDT

"The perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night."

This is the very real tagline the tone-deaf marketers at Bud Light have slapped onto beer bottles as a part of the company's #UpForWhatever campaign. That initiative looks like this:

The slogan, which was captured in a photo and posted onto Reddit Monday, sparked a wave of anger from social media users who took to Twitter to blast the language for promoting a culture of rape.

Bud Light has already issued an apology, saying they merely "intended to encourage spontaneous fun." But think about it: Bud Light is a very large company. It's therefore safe to assume any new catch phrase attached to their widely distributed, watered-down brews would go through a number of gatekeepers before it was greenlighted. How this bad idea became a worse reality may turn out to be the perfect reason for removing Bud Light from your vocabulary every night.

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"Violence Is Not the Answer": Baltimore Icon Ray Lewis Calls For Peace

| Tue Apr. 28, 2015 4:10 PM EDT

Athletes and celebrities have taken to social media to call for an end to the Baltimore riots that flared overnight after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody having suffered a spinal cord injury.

Ray Lewis, who played for the Baltimore Ravens for 17 years before retiring in 2013, posted this fiery speech to residents on Facebook on Tuesday, asking for peace: "Young kids, you gotta understand something. Get off the streets. Violence is not the answer. Violence has never been the answer." (Ray Lewis was charged with murder in 2000 after a brawl in Atlanta, but those charges were later dropped.)

I've got a message for the rioters in Baltimore. #BaltimoreRiots

Posted by Ray Lewis on Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Professional basketball player and Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony delivered this message to his hometown.

 
 

We all want Justice. And our city will get the answers we are looking for. My deepest sympathy goes out to the GRAY Family. To see my city in a State of Emergency is just shocking. We need to protect our city, not destroy it. What happens when we get the answers that we want, and the media attention is not there anymore? We go back to being the same ol Baltimore City again. If not yourself, then Think about the youth. How this will impact them. Let's build our city up not tear it down. Although, we want justice, let's look at the real issues at hand. For example, When was the last school built in Baltimore? That's just one example. I know my community is fed up. I'm all about fighting for what we believe in. The anger, the resentment, the neglect that our community feels right now, will not change over night. Continue, fighting for what you believe in. But remember, it takes no time to destroy something. But, it can take forever to build it back up. Peace7. #Thisonehitshome #BeMore #LetsNotFallForTheTrap "Please Understand What State Of Emergency Mean"(Destroy and Conquer) #StayMe7o

A photo posted by @carmeloanthony on

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce also denounced violence, recalling the Los Angeles riots after the 1992 beating of Rodney King by police, which he witnessed as a teenager in Inglewood, California:

Comedian Cedric The Entertainer, who was born in Jefferson City, Missouri, linked the upheaval to what happened in Ferguson (near his hometown), after the death of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson.

At least 15 police officers were injured in Monday's riots. On Tuesday morning, about 2,500 residents responded, sweeping debris throughout the city left in the wake of buildings destroyed by fires and looted businesses.

Orioles Executive on Baltimore Unrest: It's Inequality, Stupid

| Tue Apr. 28, 2015 12:45 AM EDT

Unrest and violence in the streets Monday forced the postponement of a matchup between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox—but an impassioned speech on Twitter from one Orioles exec days earlier puts the ongoing clashes between police and demonstrators over the death of Freddie Gray in a different light.

Two days ago, when Orioles fans were briefly locked in Camden Yards during protests outside the stadium, sports broadcaster Brett Hollander decried the demonstrations as counterproductive and an inconvenience for fans. Team executive John Angelos, son of owner Peter Angelos, responded with a flurry of tweets, defending the people's actions as a reaction to long-term economic hardship and dwindling protections of civil liberties.   

Deadspin transcribed Angelos' tweetstorm (emphasis added):

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

As Major League Baseball decides whether to play a day game at Camden Yards on Tuesday, Angelos' message is clear: At the end of the day, it comes down to social and economic inequality.

"The Wire" Creator David Simon to Baltimore Rioters: "Turn around. Go home. Please."

| Mon Apr. 27, 2015 8:35 PM EDT

As tensions escalate between residents and police on the streets of Baltimore, David Simon, a former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun and showrunner for the critically-acclaimed show The Wire, took to his personal site to call for an end to the protests.  

First things first.

Yes, there is a lot to be argued, debated, addressed.  And this moment, as inevitable as it has sometimes seemed, can still, in the end, prove transformational, if not redemptive for our city.   Changes are necessary and voices need to be heard.  All of that is true and all of that is still possible, despite what is now loose in the streets.

But now — in this moment — the anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray’s name needs to cease.  There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today.  But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a dimunition of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.

If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore.  Turn around.  Go home.  Please.

The demonstrations erupted Monday after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black Baltimore resident who died in police custody over a week ago. Reports of looting, cars set aflame and violent clashes between protestors and Baltimore police led Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to declare a "state of emergency."

In March, President Barack Obama, a self-described fan of "The Wire", riffed with Simon about the challenges in today's criminal justice system for communities like Baltimore affected by the drug trade. Watch that interview below:

Update: Andre Royo and Wendell Pierce, cast members from "The Wire", joined Simon in calling for an end to the violence in Baltimore on Twitter.

We Buy an Insane Amount of Cheap Fashion. John Oliver Reminds Us It All Comes at a Huge Price.

| Mon Apr. 27, 2015 9:37 AM EDT

Despite decades of outrage over the widespread use of sweatshops and child labor overseas, cheap fashionable garments have continued to prove irresistible to American customers. On the latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver said the appetite for such low-priced fashion has gotten to the point where Americans now purchase an average 64 new items of clothing every year.

"For the consumer, low prices are fantastic," Oliver explained. "And nowadays those clothes will even look good because trendy clothing is cheaper than ever and cheap clothing is trendier than ever."

But Oliver reminds us that all of the cheap fashion we're scoring comes at an incredibly high moral price. Watch below: