Thursday, June 15, 2017

When the Nazis Come Marching In

What a lot of folks on the Left don't get is that the Second Amendment gives them the right to keep and bear arm precisely to prevent the take over of our nation by totalitarian forces be they Nazi or Communist.  The First Amendment guards the rights of all people to speak their minds.  It does not guarantee them any particular platform but prevents the denying of any platform to anyone no matter how hateful others might find their speech.

I am more afraid of those well meaning people who attack both the First and Second Amendments to our Constitution than I am of the Nazis.

From Slate:  https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2017/06/fear-of-the-first-amendment-in-time-of-violent-protests.html

I never feared the First Amendment until white supremacists came to my hometown

By Dahlia Lithwick Jun 07, 2017
As a resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, I have been forced of late to spend too much time thinking about Nazis. In mid-May, a handful of white supremacists, Holocaust deniers, xenophobes, and recreational racists—among them Richard Spencer—marched through one of our parks with flaming torches in support of a Robert E. Lee statue that has been slated to be sold by the City Council. The demonstration grabbed headlines worldwide, the statue’s removal has been placed on a six-month hold by a judge, and the Ku Klux Klan is now seeking permission to march here in July. A few weeks after the first march, a Facebook post from a local black farmer went viral due to its suggestion that the arrival of the white supremacists was more a culmination than an inciting incident, and that the fight over the Lee monument was empty symbolism that distracted from a meaningful discussion about the systemic racism that already exists here. The post included the claim that “it isn’t Richard Spencer calling the cops on me for farming while Black. It’s nervous White women in yoga pants with ‘I’m with Her’ and ‘Coexist’ stickers on their German SUVs.” White women in yoga pants were upset. Alt-right websites rejoiced.

My little city in central Virginia has become the stuff of reality TV. The local police, who didn’t see the Lee Park thing coming, are dialed up to 11. And with threats, incitement, and actual assaults perpetrated both by alt-right sympathizers and the protesters who oppose them, their job is no longer to stand back but to surge in almost as soon as the shouting begins. Now, when we come to meet in our town square, we are uncertain of whether we are suiting up for events that fete the Constitution or violent altercations for which we should park with an eye to high-speed retreats. Lee Park itself, where my babies learned to walk, has become ground zero for people expecting the worst.

This is how I felt as I headed to a local counter-protest the morning of May 31: afraid for the first time in my 16-year residence in a town I love. I was afraid that the cycle of arrests and assaults that have followed the Richard Spencer march would lead to more arrests and assaults, afraid about where we parked the car because white supremacists in this town have followed protesters home from rallies, afraid for the first time in the small town where my kids walk everywhere alone. For the first time in a lifetime of journalism, I was also afraid to wear my press credentials because today, in this town, they might invite punching.

Last week, I had come to a place where I was thinking—if not saying aloud—that maybe it was time for me and the First Amendment to see other people. It’s not me, to be sure, it’s the First Amendment—or at least what’s become of it. I am weary of hate speech, wary of threats, and tired of the choice between punching back and acquiescing. I am sick to death of Nazis. And yet they had arrived, basically on my doorstep.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

In Defense of Cultural Appropriation

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/14/opinion/in-defense-of-cultural-appropriation.html

June 14, 2017

LONDON — It is just as well that I’m a writer, not an editor. Were I editing a newspaper or magazine, I might soon be out of a job. For this is an essay in defense of cultural appropriation.
In Canada last month, three editors lost their jobs after making such a defense.

The controversy began when Hal Niedzviecki, editor of Write, the magazine of the Canadian Writers’ Union, penned an editorial defending the right of white authors to create characters from minority or indigenous backgrounds. Within days, a social media backlash forced him to resign. The Writers’ Union issued an apology for an article that its Equity Task Force claimed “re-entrenches the deeply racist assumptions” held about art.

Another editor, Jonathan Kay, of The Walrus magazine, was also compelled to step down after tweeting his support for Mr. Niedzviecki. Meanwhile, the broadcaster CBC moved Steve Ladurantaye, managing editor of its flagship news program The National, to a different post, similarly for an “unacceptable tweet” about the controversy.

It’s not just editors who have to tread carefully. Last year, the novelist Lionel Shriver generated a worldwide storm after defending cultural appropriation in an address to the Brisbane Writers Festival. Earlier this year, controversy erupted when New York’s Whitney Museum picked for its Biennial Exhibition Dana Schutz’s painting of the mutilated corpse of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American murdered by two white men in Mississippi in 1955. Many objected to a white painter like Ms. Schutz depicting such a traumatic moment in black history. The British artist Hannah Black organized a petition to have the work destroyed.

Other works of art have been destroyed. The sculptor Sam Durant’s piece “Scaffold,” honoring 38 Native Americans executed in 1862 in Minneapolis, was recently being assembled in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. But after protests from indigenous activists that Mr. Durant was appropriating their history, the artist dismantled his own work, and made its wood available to be burned in a Dakota Sioux ceremony.

What is cultural appropriation, and why is it so controversial? Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, defines it as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission.” This can include the “unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

Appropriation suggests theft, and a process analogous to the seizure of land or artifacts. In the case of culture, however, what is called appropriation is not theft but messy interaction. Writers and artists necessarily engage with the experiences of others. Nobody owns a culture, but everyone inhabits one, and in inhabiting a culture, one finds the tools for reaching out to other cultures.

Critics of cultural appropriation insist that they are opposed not to cultural engagement, but to racism. They want to protect marginalized cultures and ensure that such cultures speak for themselves, not simply be seen through the eyes of more privileged groups.

Certainly, cultural engagement does not take place on a level playing field. Racism and inequality shape the ways in which people imagine others. Yet it is difficult to see how creating gated cultures helps promote social justice.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Why Wonder Woman is a masterpiece of subversive feminism

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/05/why-wonder-woman-is-a-masterpiece-of-subversive-feminism

Yes, the new movie sees its titular heroine sort of naked a lot of the time. But the film-makers have still worked to turn sexist Hollywood conventions on their head

Monday 5 June 2017

The chances are you will read a feminist takedown of Wonder Woman before you see the film. And you’ll probably agree with it. Wonder Woman is a half-god, half-mortal super-creature; she is without peer even in superhero leagues. And yet, when she arrives in London to put a stop to the war to end all wars, she instinctively obeys a handsome meathead who has no skills apart from moderate decisiveness and pretty eyes. This is a patriarchal figment. Then, naturally, you begin to wonder why does she have to fight in knickers that look like a fancy letterbox made of leather? Does her appearance and its effect on the men around her really have to play such a big part in all her fight scenes? Even my son lodged a feminist critique: if she were half god, he said, she would have recognised the god Ares immediately – unless he were a better god than her (being a male god).

I agree with all of that, but I still loved it. I didn’t love it as a guilty pleasure. I loved it with my whole heart. Wonder Woman, or Diana Prince, as her civilian associates would know her, first appeared as a character in DC Comics in 1941, her creator supposedly inspired by the feminism of the time, and specifically the contraception pioneer Margaret Sanger. Being able to stop people getting pregnant would be a cool superpower, but, in fact, her skills were: bullet-pinging with bracelets; lassoing; basic psychology; great strength and athleticism; and being half-god (the result of unholy congress between Zeus and Hyppolyta). The 1970s TV version lost a lot of the poetry of that, and was just all-American cheesecake. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman made her cinematic debut last year in Batman v Superman, and this first live-action incarnation makes good on the character’s original premise, the classical-warrior element amped up and textured. Her might makes sense.

Yes, she is sort of naked a lot of the time, but this isn’t objectification so much as a cultural reset: having thighs, actual thighs you can kick things with, not thighs that look like arms, is a feminist act. The whole Diana myth, women safeguarding the world from male violence not with nurture but with better violence, is a feminist act. Casting Robin Wright as Wonder Woman’s aunt, re-imagining the battle-axe as a battler, with an axe, is a feminist act. A female German chemist trying to destroy humans (in the shape of Dr Poison, a proto-Mengele before Nazism existed) might be the most feminist act of all.

Women are repeatedly erased from the history of classical music, art and medicine. It takes a radical mind to pick up that being erased from the history of evil is not great either. Wonder Woman’s casual rebuttal of a sexual advance, her dress-up montage (“it’s itchy”, “I can’t fight in this”, “it’s choking me”) are also feminist acts. Wonder Woman is a bit like a BuzzFeed list: 23 Stupid Sexist Tropes in Cinema and How to Rectify Them. I mean that as a compliment.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/05/why-wonder-woman-is-a-masterpiece-of-subversive-feminism

Why the Middle East’s Christians Are Under Attack

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/26/opinion/why-the-middle-easts-christians-are-under-attack.html

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Rhiannon Giddens














Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Has Michael Flynn Already Flipped on Trump? | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann


Shouldn’t Jared Kushner Be Arrested? | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann


Breaking: Palestinian Authority Paid Out Over $1 Billion for Terror Over the Past Four Years

From The Tablet:  http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/236115/breaking-palestinian-authority-paid-out-over-1-billion-for-terror-over-the-past-four-years

Former Israeli military intelligence research chief reveals startling extent of transfers from PA budget to terrorists and the families of terrorists killed while carrying out terror attacks against Israelis

By Yosef Kuperwasser May 29, 2017

The Palestinian Authority has paid out some NIS 4 billion—or $1.12 billion—over the past four years to terrorists and the families of terrorists who were killed while carrying out terror attacks. Anyone who has sat in prison for more than 30 years gets NIS 12,000 ($3,360) per month, nearly 10 times the average salary the PA pays employees. The Palestinians’ own budgetary documents clearly state that these payments to the Terrorists are salaries and not welfare payments. When terrorists are released, they get a grant and are promised a job at the Palestinian Authority. They also receive a military rank that’s determined according to the number of years they’ve served in jail.

People say, “Okay, we know that they pay salaries to terrorists,” but we have not properly understood the scale or significance of this practice. The money that the Palestinian Authority pays to reward terrorists now amounts to seven percent of the PA’s approximately annual $4 billion dollar budget. Over 20 percent of the annual foreign financial aid that the PA receives is now dedicated to the salaries of imprisoned terrorists as well as to the salaries of prisoners who are released from prison. Released Palestinian terrorists continue to receive salaries for terrorism, as do the families of those who died in their “struggle against Zionism.” The total payment was roughly 1.5 billion shekels for fiscal year of 2016.

This is hardly a unique occurrence. Every year, the PA has released a similar sum, roughly over one billion shekels (approx. $320 million dollars) per year for the past four years. I’m only providing the past four years as an example, but if we went back further, we would see that the number has also been higher than one billion. Due to international pressure, the Palestinian Authority decided that it was unable to directly pay the money, and so from its budget, through a trick that satisfied many international entities, they transferred the money, not directly to a ministry responsible for payments to prisoners, but to the PLO so that the terrorists’ salaries could be formally paid through Palestinian National Fund, which was declared afterward by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to be a terror-supporting organization. But this money all comes from the Palestinian Authority’s own budget.

The PA’s official support of terror is a deliberate and official act of state: It occurs on the basis of PA laws that have been passed since 2004, and provide legal grounds for payments to incarcerated terrorists and the families of Terrorist killed carrying out terror attacks against Israel. These are explicit PA laws, which mandate payments to prisoners of war, or as they call them “al-asra”; a normal prisoner is “sijir” in Arabic. “Prisoners of war and released prisoners of war,” says the second clause of the law, “are an inseparable part from the fighting sector of Palestinian society.” On that basis, the PA has determines that Palestinian terrorists are entitled to “heroic treatment and recognition.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/236115/breaking-palestinian-authority-paid-out-over-1-billion-for-terror-over-the-past-four-years

Waking Up With Sam Harris #79 -The Road to Tyranny (with Timothy Snyder)


Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Night Culture: Guy Clark

Last year on May 17, Guy Clark passed away.  A song writer and a poet, a true Texas Troubadour.















Thursday, May 18, 2017

Liberal Redneck - What's It Gonna Take Yall


In our uncertain times, religion must lead by example

In spite of having been raised Catholic I have always had a very hard time relating to Christianity.  But as a hippie I've read the works of various philosophers and theologians as well as both the Bible and various works of mythology.

Seems like most religions that have made it to the modern age have an element of behavior towards others at their core.  I haven't come across one that really teaches lie to everyone and abuse your fellow humans.  Thou shall not steal or commit murder seem pretty basic and universal.  The sort of thing one shouldn't need to have a God  tell them: "Don't do this."

I always thought that how one behaves and especially how one treats others was an important part of morality.

Imagine my surprise over the last 20-30 years or so and the rise of the New Evangelical Christians for whom proclaiming their faith (what ever the fuck that means) is all important and as long as you do that it doesn't matter if you are a lying thief who abuses and even murders people.  Because you proclaim your love of Jesus all is supposed to be forgiven.

Lately I've been reading about the history of Judaism.  We owe much of what we think of as ethic, humanism and even Christianity to the often murdered and abused Jews.

It may come as a shock to many but Jesus was a Jew.  Much of his message came from Judaism and the teachings of Rabbis such as Hillel.

Maybe if people are going to call themselves Christians it would highly behoove them to try to actually act more like someone who follows the teachings of Jesus instead of running around proclaiming, while shrouded in ignorance and pompously abusing your fellow human beings.
Maybe if Christians acted more like Christians instead of pretentious bullies people would respect them and their commitment to their religion more.

Reading Thomas Cleary and Thomas Merton might be a good start.

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/08/in-our-uncertain-times-religion-must-lead-by-example

Bishops have been criticised for advocating a leftwing perspective. But surely Christianity – and other religions – should promote fairness and equality by default

Monday 8 May 2017

I was listening to a radio chat about the bishops’ election message the other day, encouraging us to vote, when I heard something rather startling. Apparently, in 2015, when the bishops last wrote a letter, there seemed to be a danger of them advocating a leftwing perspective. No chance of that this time, although they did daringly mention concern for “the weak, poor and marginalised”. But whatever is wrong with a leftwing perspective? Jesus had one. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth,” said he (Matthew 6:19), and the people of Sodom got into frightful trouble primarily because of their selfish economic behaviour.

I don’t want to sound naive, or corny, but I’ve often wondered how Trump and many members of our current government can call themselves Christians, while trampling on the weak, poor and marginalised, depriving them of healthcare, homes, food, decent jobs and such like, while goggling at the ghastly rich list, out again yesterday, and rewarding those tremendous show-offs included upon it.
Come on bishops, be bold. Promote some real Christian principles, because Anglicans are, according to YouGov, almost twice as likely to vote Conservative as Labour, which suggests that they haven’t quite got the hang of their own religion. And hurry up about it, because the world’s morals seem to be going down the plughole, and we’re beginning to worship the rich again, which no religion approves of. “He is not a believer, who eats his fill while his neighbour remains hungry at his side”, says the hadith, while Proverbs 14:31 states: “He that oppresses the poor blasphemes his maker.” 

I don’t want to sound like Dot Cotton, because this is meant to be a secular country, and the church is not solely responsible for, or the only wellspring of, moral values. We atheists also should, and do, have moral values, I promise you. And like anyone else, we succumb to evil, which I did yesterday, by feeling a tiny but immoral spark of joy when I heard that cybercrime is becoming a threat to superyachts and their increasingly boastful owners. “Ha ha,” I thought, viciously. “Serves them right.” And I can’t even pray for forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Has Evangelical Christianity Become Sociopathic?

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/has-evangelical-christianity-become-sociopathic_us_5914ce6fe4b02d6199b2ed92
 
Tim Rymel, M.Ed., Contributor
05/11/2017


Since Evangelical Christianity began infiltrating politics, officially in the late 1970s, there has been a disturbing trend to limit or remove rights from those who don’t meet the conservative idea of an American. Many of these initiatives come in the form of “religious freedom” laws, which empower discrimination, while other legislation targets immigrants who believe differently. The result has been a sharp division in American culture, and the redefinition of Christian theology.

Evangelical speaker, author, and university professor, Tony Campolo, said Christianity was redefined in the mid-70s by positions of “pro-life” and opposing gay marriage. “Suddenly theology fell to the background,” he said. And somewhere in the middle of all the change, Evangelical Christianity crossed the line of faith and belief to hatred and abuse. Those who cruelly implement the actions of their faith are oblivious to the destruction they cause to their religion, or the people their beliefs impact. Is it fair to call it sociopathic?

Psychology Today listed sixteen characteristics of sociopathic behaviors, which include: Untruthfulness and insincerity, superficial charm and good intelligence, lack of remorse or shame, poor judgment and failure to learn by experience, pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love, unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations, specific loss of insight, and general poverty in major affective reactions (in other words, appropriate emotional responses).

We see examples of these kinds of behaviors in church leaders and followers. Franklin Graham, for example, stated that immigration was “not a Bible issue.” His stand fits well with his conservative politics and vocal support of Donald Trump, but his callousness toward immigrants and those seeking asylum in the United States goes against everything he says he believes (Lev. 19:33-34, Mark 12:30-31). Yet, Graham doesn’t see one bit of irony between his political stance and his religious belief. Nor does he seem to notice the horrific casualties in war-torn countries these immigrants are desperately trying to flee.

Pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento said after the Orlando, Florida terrorist attack on a gay nightclub, “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!” This “minister of God” showed no compassion for the families of the men and women who died. He appeared incapable of laying aside his religious beliefs for even a moment of shared human connection to a tragic event.

And recently, Kim Higginbotham, a minister’s wife and teacher with a master’s degree in special education, according to her website, wrote a public blog called “Giving Your Child to the Devil.” She claimed, “Being a disciple of Jesus demands our relationship to him be greater than our relationship to our own family, even our own children.” She listed Matthew 10:37 as justification, which says, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
In a self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, martyr’s rant, she claims her son turned his back on God, and she was left with no other option but to abandon him. It turns out her son is gay and - it turns out - the day the diatribe was posted was his wedding day. Sharon Hambrick, a Christian writer, posted a wonderful response to this mom.
But mostly, rather than calling these people out for sociopathic behavior fellow Christians agree. Many of the comments on Higginbotham’s website say, “So sorry for your loss,” or, “Praying for you and your son.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/has-evangelical-christianity-become-sociopathic_us_5914ce6fe4b02d6199b2ed92

What’s Happening in Donald Trump’s Head? | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The End of Trump

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/160651192690
 
Robert Reich
May 14, 2017

 
The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Donald Trump. It is when enough Republicans will put their loyalty to America ahead of their loyalty to their party.

Trump’s statements last week about his firing of former FBI director James Comey provide ample evidence that Trump engaged in an obstruction of justice – a major charge in impeachment proceedings brought against Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.

It’s worth recalling that the illegality underlying Nixon’s impeachment was a burglary at the Watergate complex, while the illegality underlying Clinton’s was lying to a grand jury about sex with an intern in the White House.

Trump’s obstruction is potentially far more serious. It involves an investigation about whether Trump or his aides colluded with Russia in rigging a presidential election – the most direct assault on American democracy in history,

Last Thursday, in an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt about his firing of Comey, Trump said: “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.” Trump also said that he had pressed Comey during a private dinner to tell him if he was under investigation.

Trump conceded that the ongoing investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election, which includes a probe into the possibility that Moscow was coordinating with the Trump campaign, was one of the factors Trump considered before firing Comey.

“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,’ ” Trump said.

The law is reasonably clear. If Trump removed Comey to avoid being investigated, that’s an obstruction of justice – an impeachable offense.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/160651192690

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

100 Days of Trump | Real Time with Bill Maher


Sally Yates Owns And Humilates Ted Cruz During Russia Hearing


Sally Yates: I Refused To Defend Trump's Muslim Ban Because It Was Unlawful


Al Franken CRUSHES Trump During Sally Yates And James Clapper Testimony


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2017: Joan Baez Deportees


Trump’s “religious liberty” executive order is meant to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination — and may be unconstitutional

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2017/05/04/trumps-religious-liberty-executive-order-is-meant-to-legalize-anti-lgbt-discrimination-and-may-be-unconstitutional/

New order will likely grant broad rights to refuse service or jobs to LGBT people or women who have had abortions

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The religious right boosted the thrice-married, porn-loving, pussy-grabbing Donald Trump into the White House and now it appears they are going to get paid. Politico has reported that on Thursday, which is the National Day of Prayer, Trump will likely sign a “religious liberty” executive order intended to grant broad rights to religious conservatives to discriminate against LGBT people and women perceived to be sexually immoral.

The scare quotes around “religious liberty” are deliberate. If this executive order is anything like the one leaked to The Nation in February, then it has nothing to do with religious liberty, as the term is commonly understood. In fact, the leaked executive order seems to violate the First Amendment, in that it privileges one set of religious beliefs — those of fundamentalist Christians — over all others.
The original draft of the executive order covered “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” or any individuals “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

This broad category of people would be allowed to discriminate, under the guise of religion, against LGBT people or women who want or have used reproductive health services, such as abortion or some forms of contraception. Sarah Posner of The Nation explained:
Language in the draft document specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”
“This isn’t about religious liberty at all,” said Camilla Taylor, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, in a phone interview. “It’s a thinly veiled assault on LGBT people and anyone who needs reproductive health care,” said Taylor, referring to the draft order that had been leaked in February.

t’s possible, and even likely, that the White House has tried to update the new executive order in the hopes that it will be stand up to a court challenge. But that’s a move that’s been seen before from this administration when it came to assaults on First Amendment rights. When it was clear that Trump’s first “Muslim travel ban,” which was clearly an attempt to discriminate against people based on religious beliefs, would fail in court, the administration slapped together a new one with a few tweaks meant to make the bigotry less overt. Trump’s second travel ban does not seem to be passing muster in the courts either, though the matter is still in litigation.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2017/05/04/trumps-religious-liberty-executive-order-is-meant-to-legalize-anti-lgbt-discrimination-and-may-be-unconstitutional/

Sally Yates is an American Hero | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann


Monday, May 8, 2017

Trump’s 100th-day speech may have been the most hate-filled in modern history

From The Washington Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-100th-day-speech-may-have-been-the-most-hate-filled-in-modern-history/2017/05/01/da4ad496-2e99-11e7-9534-00e4656c22aa_story.html?tid=sm_fb&utm_term=.c0bbf6f3c56e
 
By Michael Gerson May 1, 2017

For those who claim that Donald Trump has been pasteurized and homogenized by the presidency, his sour, 100th-day speech in Harrisburg, Pa., was inconvenient.

Trump used his high office to pursue divisive grudges (Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is a “bad leader”), to attack the media (composed of “incompetent, dishonest people”) and to savage congressional Democrats (“they don’t mind drugs pouring in”). Most of all, Trump used his bully pulpit quite literally, devoting about half his speech to the dehumanization of migrants and refugees as criminals, infiltrators and terrorists. Trump gained a kind of perverse energy from the rolling waves of hatred, culminating in the reading of racist song lyrics comparing his targets to vermin. It was a speech with all the logic, elevation and public purpose of a stink bomb.

On a selection of policy issues (Chinese currency manipulation, NATO, the North American Free Trade Agreement), Trump has been forced to accommodate reality. But those who find the president surprisingly “conventional” must somehow dismiss or discount this kind of speech, which George Wallace would have gladly given as president. They must somehow ignore the children in the audience, soaking up the fears and prejudices of their elders. They must somehow believe that presidential rhetoric — capable of elevating a country — has no power to debase it.

It is not sophisticated or worldly-wise to become inured to bigotry. The only thing more frightening than Trump’s speech — arguably the most hate-filled presidential communication in modern history — is the apathetic response of those who should know better. 

For vigorous and insightful criticism of Trump, we should turn to someone who is not an American at all. He is a Czech intellectual, playwright and politician — who also happens to be dead.
I viewed Trump’s speech immediately after reading Vaclav Havel’s essay “Politics, Morality and Civility” (in an edition recently issued by the Trinity Forum). Havel surveyed the post-communist politics of his time and found leaders willing “to gain the favor of a confused electorate by offering a colorful range of attractive nonsense.” Sound familiar? His diagnosis continues: “Making the most of this situation, some characters with suspicious backgrounds have been gaining popular favor with ideas such as, for instance, the need to throw the entire government into the Vltava River.”

The great temptation, in Havel’s view, is for people to conclude that politics can’t be better — that it “is chiefly the manipulation of power and public opinion, and that morality has no place in it.” This demoralized view of politics would mean losing “the idea that the world might actually be changed by the force of truth, the power of a truthful word, the strength of a free spirit, conscience and responsibility.”

“Genuine politics,” argues Havel, “is simply a matter of serving those around us; serving the community, and serving those who will come after us.” And this responsibility grows out of a moral and spiritual reality. “Genuine conscience and genuine responsibility are always, in the end, explicable only as an expression of the silent assumption that we are observed ‘from above,’ that everything is visible, nothing is forgotten.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-100th-day-speech-may-have-been-the-most-hate-filled-in-modern-history/2017/05/01/da4ad496-2e99-11e7-9534-00e4656c22aa_story.html?tid=sm_fb&utm_term=.c0bbf6f3c56e

Who’s Faking, Trump or the News?

From Bill Moyers:  http://billmoyers.com/story/whos-faking-trump-or-the-news/

By Todd Gitlin May 1, 2017

For getting a sense of what Americans think, decent polls, for all their deficiencies, are better than wild guesses. So consider the findings of a major poll that last month looked into the question of whom to believe, Trump or the major media. It ain’t pretty.

First of all, how many Americans think that media are responsible for “fake news”? According to this poll, commissioned from Langer Research Associates by ABC News/The Washington Post, 52 percent of Americans think that news organizations “regularly” produce false stories. Regularly.
True, that’s not as big a number as the 59 percent of the same sample who think the Trump administration “regularly” makes false claims. Even factoring in the poll’s sampling error, the news organizations would seem to be slightly — but only slightly — more credible than the White House falsehood machine. How much of a victory is that?

Curiously, 40 percent of the same sample think that it’s a bigger problem that mainstream news organizations produce false stories than that the Trump administration makes false claims. Forty-three percent think it’s the other way round. Eleven percent think they’re equally at fault. Allowing for the sampling error, it’s a wash. Small comfort for media, I’d say.

Another poll (which asks about “national political media,” not “news organizations,” but such are the vagaries of the disorderly polling business), gives a result even less flattering to the news media as a whole:
Trump’s critiques of the media, which he commonly derides as “fake news” also seems to have struck a chord with Americans. A plurality (42 percent) said they see fake news in national newspapers or network news broadcasts more than once or about once a day. About 3 in 10 (31 percent) said they saw fake news from those sources once every few days, once a week or slightly less often than that.
Unsurprisingly, this poll was touted by Breitbart News.

Another poll, this one by The Economist/Yougov in February, asked the question more pointedly, and found a more dramatic tilt toward media over Trump. Their question was:
“When the media challenges Donald Trump about whether things he and his Administration say are correct, or not correct, do you feel… (A) Trump and the Administration usually turn out to be right on the facts; (B) The media usually turns out to be right on the facts; (C) Not sure.”
Thirty-one percent trusted Trump more, 39 percent trusted the media more.

Neither poll specified which news organizations the pollsters were asking about. That’s a serious deficiency. Presumably, respondents were welcome to include, among “news organizations,” Fox, Breitbart, Infowars and other right-wing vehicles that I have been calling the Vortex — VOices of RT-Wing EXtremism. So what are we entitled to conclude about the state of national disbelief? To judge historical tendencies, we have to resort some educated guesswork. So here goes.

It was in 1972 that Gallup started asking Americans how much “trust” (sometimes “confidence”) they had in news media generally, which the pollster sometimes labeled a bit more specifically as “newspapers, TV and radio.” For 35 years, between 1972 and 2007, the total of “great deal” and “fair amount” always stood at 50 percent or higher.  Other pollsters asked comparable questions, posing the alternatives a bit differently: high, medium and low confidence. Between 1977 and 1983, the total of “high” and “medium” confidence soared as high as 89 percent.

Continue reading at:  http://billmoyers.com/story/whos-faking-trump-or-the-news/

Kansas City Archdiocese Cutting Ties With Girl Scouts Over 'Troubling Trends'

From NPR:  http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/02/526570123/kansas-city-archdiocese-cutting-ties-with-girl-scouts-over-troubling-trends

May 2, 2017

The Archdiocese of Kansas City says it is severing its years-long relationship with Girl Scouts in nearly two dozen Kansas counties because the organization promotes materials "reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture."

"The decision to end our relationship with Girl Scouting was not an easy one," Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said in a statement released Monday. He asked pastors to "begin the process of transitioning away from the hosting of parish Girl Scout troops."

Instead, he calls for chartering American Heritage Girls troops, which he describes as "based on Christian values." According to its website, the organization was formed in 1995 by a former Girl Scouts volunteer who was "uneasy with the way her troop was asked to handle matters of faith."
Now, local pastors will choose whether to end Girl Scout programs immediately or "over the next several years, 'graduate' the Scouts currently in the program."

Girl Scouts of the USA identifies as a secular organization with ties to faith, and the national organization and the Catholic Church have had a relationship that dates back a century.

A few within the Church, instead of aligning with the Church Hierarchy's positive position on Girl Scouts, have chosen to propagate misinformation that the Catholic Church has acknowledged to be false," the Girl Scouts national organization said in a statement following the archdiocese's announcement. "Girl Scouts is always willing to work with any and every person or organization in order to fulfill our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place."

Naumann said he is troubled by materials that highlight the roles of women such as birth control activist Margaret Sanger and feminist writers and activists Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. A local representative of the Girl Scouts told NPR that these women and many others have been celebrated because of their leadership qualities.

The archbishop's letter also states that Girl Scouts of the USA "contributes more than a million dollars each year to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS), an organization tied to International Planned Parenthood."

However, on its national website, the Girl Scouts says it "does not have a relationship or partnership with Planned Parenthood." The organization says it pays membership dues to WAGGS and compares the relationship to the one between the U.S. and the U.N.: "The United States may not agree with every position the UN takes, but values having a seat at the table."

Continue reading at:  http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/02/526570123/kansas-city-archdiocese-cutting-ties-with-girl-scouts-over-troubling-trends

New Rule: The Lesser of Two Evils | Real Time with Bill Maher


Friday, May 5, 2017

Friday Night Fun And Culture: Judy Collins

These days... It sometimes seems as though my favorite artists are the ones who have provided the sound track of my life and who have grown old with me.