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:

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.”

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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:

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:
Tim Rymel, M.Ed., Contributor

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:

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The End of Trump

From Robert Reich:
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:

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:

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.

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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:
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.”

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Who’s Faking, Trump or the News?

From Bill Moyers:

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.

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

From NPR:

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:

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.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Trump’s ‘Religious Liberty’ Executive Order Should Scare The Bejesus Out Of Jews

From The Forward:
Jay Michaelson May 4, 2017

Be careful what you wish for.

For years, the Christian Right, abetted by some Orthodox Jewish allies, has claimed that there’s a war on religion in America. Sometimes it’s the “War on Christmas,” sometimes it’s alleged persecution of Christians for practicing their faith, and sometimes it’s hard to articulate at all.

Well, today, the president of the United States bought into that rhetoric, and announced that he’s ending the war, signing an executive order that was heavy on symbolism and light on substance. Trump’s order focused on fake issues rather than real ones — good news for LGBTs and others who feared being targeted, but bad news for American Jews and other religious minorities.

On the substantive side, the Jewish backers of the action didn’t get anything they had wanted. No changes in funding for religious schools, no religious exemptions to allow discrimination.

But what we all got was an earful of gospel. In case there was any doubt about what “religious liberty” really means in a country that is 70% Christian, the audience in the Rose Garden got serenaded by Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman (one of his songs was a setting of the Lord’s Prayer) and preached to by televangelist Paula White (who sells “resurrection seeds” for $1,144).
 Oh, and Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. For a change.
In fact, the one substantive change of note will probably come back to haunt American Jews. That was the effective repeal by Trump of the 1954 “Johnson Amendment,” which prohibits nonprofit organizations — including religious ones – from political campaigning.

Critics had characterized the Johnson Amendment as a gag order on pastors, prohibiting them from preaching about politics. That’s hogwash.
Not only does the law not prohibit political sermons, it’s almost never enforced against churches – the Washington Post hasn’t been found only one investigation in the last 10 years.

But with the Johnson Amendment gone (it’s still on the books, but Trump’s IRS will not enforce it), pastors and rabbis and imams will be under more pressure to be more explicitly political. That’s why most grassroots evangelical pastors actually opposed the change. Can you imagine, now that the gloves are off, rabbis endorsing American and Israeli political candidates from the pulpit? Or being pressured to do so by their biggest donors? It’s a disaster.

Continue reading at:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Chechnya’s Anti-Gay Pogrom

From The New York Times:
By Ekaterina Sokirianskaia
May 3, 2017

MOSCOW — At the beginning of April, reports surfaced that a crackdown on gay men was afoot in Chechnya, the small, turbulent republic on the southern edge of the Russian Federation. According to the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, more than 100 gay men were rounded up by the police and brutalized in secret prisons, and at least three of them were killed. Many remain in detention.

In fear and desperation, 75 people called in to the Russian LGBT Network’s Chechnya hotline. Of these, 52 said they had been victims of the recent violence, and 30 fled to Moscow where they received help from L.G.B.T. activists.

“Once they bring you there,” a survivor told me, referring to the secret prison in Chechnya where he’d been detained, “they immediately start the beatings and electrocutions, demanding information about who you were dating.” The guards, he said, would spit in the prisoners’ faces, and worse: “We were such hated creatures that each guard felt obliged to hit us when passing by.”

This persecution of gays is symptomatic of the repressive regime that now runs Chechnya. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago, that rugged outpost of the old empire has lived through separatist agitation, terrorism and two bloody wars. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, some 5,000 are still missing, and its towns were left in ruins.

Chechnya’s autocratic leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has enjoyed near unconditional support from Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad, started out as a separatist Islamic leader, but at the beginning of Russia’s second military campaign against Chechen rebels, which began in 1999, he swapped sides to support Moscow.

When Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in a terrorist attack in 2004, his son took his place, muscling out rival strongmen and monopolizing power in the republic by placing his people in charge of federal institutions. Mr. Kadyrov ensured that his fighters were integrated into the local police force, largely preserving the command chains, and their violent skills were deployed in heavy-handed counterterrorism operations on behalf of the Kremlin.

In 2009, by the end of what was officially called “the counterterrorism operation,” he had succeeded in suppressing the separatist insurgency and consolidating his regime. Loyalty to Moscow was rewarded with lavish federal funds to raise Chechen towns from rubble and build shiny skyscrapers in the capital, Grozny.

Collective punishment is the hallmark of Mr. Kadyrov’s repression. Relatives of those who displease the authorities are threatened, beaten, held hostage, expelled from the republic or have their homes burned down. Such methods were first applied to suspected rebels but have spread to regime critics, religious dissenters, even drunken drivers. The same techniques have now been applied to the families of men thought to be gay, which are threatened with detention unless the suspects turn themselves in to the police.

“If somebody does not obey my orders in this republic, I’ll force him,” Mr. Kadyrov boasted on Chechen TV in 2013.

In this climate of humiliation and immense fear, Chechens are fleeing the Russian Federation en masse. Yet the Kremlin turns a blind eye to such excesses in return for allegiance. Mr. Kadyrov calls himself a foot soldier for Mr. Putin. Chechnya sends thousands of state employees, students and schoolchildren into the streets to celebrate Russia Day, Mr. Putin’s birthday and the annexation of Crimea. Chechen “volunteers” have fought in Ukraine and in Syria, and Mr. Kadyrov regularly assails the West, Russian liberals and the opposition. Above all, Mr. Kadyrov has pursued the fight against separatism and Islamist insurgency.

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Ron Howard: There are alarming similarities between 1930s Nazis and Trump

From Raw Story:
25 Apr 2017

Famed physicist Albert Einstein is the subject of a new series produced by Ron Howard. The National Geographic Channel’s show depicts the funny and controversial side of the “Genius” scientist who was known for being silly and political as well as amorous.

According to a Daily Beast interview with Howard, the first episode of the series breaks down the man who became known as one of the world’s most well-known Jews to stand up against the Nazis. Einstein ultimately ends up on a Nazi hit list and the pilot episode opens with the assassination of one of his dearest friends. The scene that follows it shows Einstein “shagging his secretary,” Howard explained.

The team working on “Genius” was keenly aware of the existing political problems scientists are facing with conservatives, many of whom reject science on a number of issues from climate to evolution and even basic biology. The second episode finds Einstein and his wife trying to flee Nazi Germany but the U.S.’s immigration policies block them. Einstein’s science was often dismissed as “Jewish physics” by anti-Semites and detractors. The story follows the couple as they come to the U.S. as a refugee.

“Those pressures and threats on people and narrow-minded thinking and greed and careerism around science and politicizing science and discovery—they’ve never faded entirely,” Howard told the Daily Beast. “But it certainly has not been lost on us that these issues are more up front and center, and reemerging with a level of intensity that we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s the U.S. but it’s also around the world. So those scenes in episode one and in the series definitely carry with them more impact than I think we expected when we began.”

Howard also wondered openly about the ways in which the world would have been different if Einstein had simply arrived in the U.S. and hidden from public view. Instead, Einstein continued his anti-Nazi political activism and continued doing his life’s work.

Complete article at:

Why Won’t the Press Ask Trump Anything? | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann

More black women are learning to use guns: 'this is a movement, and it starts now'

From The Guardian UK:

African American women organizing shooting classes are finding a surge of interest – and many say it comes down to feeling less safe in the era of Trump

in Lawrenceville, Georgia Thursday 27 April 2017 

It was a modest setting for the launch of a movement: 10 African American women sat on folding metal chairs lining the edges of a small, gray-carpeted room on the second floor of the Bullseye Indoor Range and Gun Shop in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

They nervously giggled as Marchelle Tigner began her lesson. Seven of them had never held a gun before.

“This is a movement, and it starts now,” Tigner told her students. Heads nodded.

The class was one of four scheduled back to back on 26 February, to meet unexpected demand as dozens had responded to announcements on Facebook for Tigner’s first Atlanta-area class for black women to learn to shoot.

micThe movement, she said later, is no more and no less than “black women learning how to shoot, and purchasing firearms”, and it’s happening in cities across the country.

Tigner, who lives in Savannah, Georgia, sensed that there was pent-up demand when she launched Trigger Happy Firearm Instruction in November. She found the Bullseye firing range near Atlanta and offered the class through social media, hoping for 20 students. But the class sold out in two days, so she expanded it to 40. Another class scheduled for 4 March sold out to 40 students in 24 hours; a third class for 30 on 18 March sold out in 30 hours; and so did a fourth on 19 March. Tigner’s now got classes scheduled through the end of May, including several in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
She said she’s surprised at the response her classes have received. “The growth of these classes – I never expected it,” she said. “It shows me how unsafe these women feel in their communities.”
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Tiffany Ware, 44 – founder of the Brown Girls Project, which offers makeup workshops and other activities for building self-esteem in young black girls – organized a group of black women for a firearms training class on 18 December. The cap of 20 was quickly met; 45 signed up for a waiting list. Another class was held a few weeks later. A waiting list soon grew to more than 100, and now Ware organizes monthly classes.

In Dallas, the Black Women’s Defense League, launched in 2015, has seen the number of black women signing up for time at local shooting ranges at least double in the past 10 months or so.
“I can confirm that more African American women are learning to shoot,” said Kenn Blanchard, author of Black Man with a Gun, a gun ownership manual. “I’m getting emails from places like Pennsylvania, Arizona, saying: ‘Hey Kenn, these seven ladies were shooting – look at their scores.’ That’s never happened before,” said Blanchard, who’s based in Maryland.

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Yes, I Can Be A Zionist And A Feminist

From Huffington Post:

I am tired of people pitting my identities against one another.

Andrea Cantor 04/16/2017
Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American political activist, expressed back in March how feminists need to care for Palestinian women, and alluded to the sentiment that Zionism and feminism are incompatible. Sarsour said to The Nation, “It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.”
Big Bang Theory actress and Orthodox Jew, Mayim Bialik, retaliated by writing an article for Grok Nation, which outlined how Sarsour’s statements were not only offensive, but also false. Bialik wrote on her Facebook page, where she also apologized for making it seem as though Sarsour directly said that Zionism and feminism are incompatible, “[The] conversation surrounding Zionism finally went too far for me to keep my big mouth shut.” Bialik vocalized her frustrations, and now I am following suit. I am tired of the discrimination against my people and of activists, such as Sarsour, who think they can pit my identity as both a Zionist and feminist against each other.

The headline-making feud between Sarsour and Bialik made me start to think about the correlation between my feminism and my support of Israel. Zionism is the belief that Jews have the right to a state, just as feminism is the right to equality. But both definitions have been shanghaied by anti-Semitic and misogynistic rhetoric. This is where I realized that the ways in which people express anti-Zionism are very much alike to sexism.
My stances with Israel are not straightforward, because sociopolitical realities are complex. As a liberal Zionist I do not support Likud or Netanyau, just as I do not support Trump. But as a Jew, I was raised to love my Jewish homeland and to appreciate it as the only true sanctuary for my people. My view is further complicated because as an academic I praise the country for being the only democracy in the Middle East. Most importantly for me, as a feminist, I value Israel for its progressive stances on women’s and LGBTQIA’s rights.
As a Zionist and a feminist my stances have been relegated to black and white understandings, leaving me a blank canvas for others to picture me. Once people at my liberal arts college, Sarah Lawrence, discovered the dark truth that I do not despise Israel, I was labeled as a Zionist-extremist. Similarly, as a female, I am labeled as a slut or prude, dumb or overbearing—the latter being when they realize I have a brain. It is this labeling of my Zionism and of my womanhood that reduces the beauty of belief to something ugly and untrue.
Beyond the labels themselves, it is the mindset behind them that is disturbing. It is as though they are created in a moral-complex vacuum, which only spouts double standards but refuses to take in any insight. If a woman speaks her mind she is considered angry, whereas a man is deemed intelligent and forthright. Similarly, Israel is constantly under threat of destruction by surrounding countries, but Israel is seen as the Goliath perpetrator.
The Israel-Palestine conflict cannot be reduced to good and evil. This is not to relegate the human rights violations that have occurred, but to contextualize them. We are dealing with Likud, a right-winged government, and Hamas, a UN recognized terrorist regime. I am critical of the government just as I am with most current countries. But Israel is more than a government. It is a country that allows trans people into the army, has Arab women representation in government, and maintains women’s rights, such as education, in their legislature.

It is absurd, especially when one looks to any country North, South, East, or West of Israel and understands their human rights violations, that I am told my feminism and Zionism are incompatible. Our allegiances should be with the people—both Israeli and Palestinian—and not focused on demonizing either, that is unless we demonize the entire Middle East for their relatively greater human rights violations. People call Israel an ethnic cleansing, apartheid state but Israel has a more diverse population than its surrounding countries and, unlike South Africa apartheid, has laws of nondiscrimination within its constitution. Yes, racism exists within Israel, as it does in most parts of the world. But singling out the Jewish State above the rest shows how these double standards are a projection of anti-Semitism as opposed to true concern for the people.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The alt-right hates women as much as it hates people of colour

From The Guardian UK:

The alt-right was key in getting Trump into power. But its strain of misogyny differs in sometimes surprising ways to that of the traditional Christian right

Tuesday 2 May 2017

One hundred days on from Donald Trump entering the White House with its help, what will the alt-right do next? The small, loosely organised movement, which has helped to revitalise far-right politics in the United States, has made skilful use of internet activism and has a receptive ear in Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, who as former head of Breitbart News once proclaimed his network “the platform of the alt-right”. More than shaping White House policy, however, the alt-right’s greatest impact may come from its efforts to shift the political culture.

Although best known for its white nationalist brand of racist ideology, there’s growing recognition that patriarchal politics is also central to the movement. Several observers have pointed out that the alt-right advocates not just white supremacy, but more specifically white male supremacy, that the movement feeds on “toxic resentment of women”, and that sexism serves as a “gateway drug” pulling a lot of young men into it. The few alt-right women who have been profiled embrace their own subordination.

Missing from these accounts is a recognition that the alt-right is reshaping patriarchal politics. Its version of male supremacy is not just more explicit or aggressive – it’s strikingly different from the version that’s been dominant among US rightists for decades.

Consider abortion. Some alt-rightists, unsurprisingly, argue that abortion is simply immoral and should be banned. Yet many others in the movement disagree – and for reasons that have nothing to do with respecting women’s autonomy or privacy. These alt-rightists support legal abortion because, they claim, it’s disproportionately used by black and Latina women and, secondarily, because they see it as a way to weed out “defective” white babies. In other words, they support abortion as a form of eugenics. Both sides of this internal alt-right debate agree that women have no business controlling their own bodies. As Greg Johnson of the alt-right website Counter-Currents put it, “in a White Nationalist society … some abortions should be forbidden, others should be mandatory, but under no circumstances should they simply be a matter of a woman’s choice”.

As far as I can tell, the only outsiders who have responded to this discussion are Christian rightists. For decades they’ve used the “black genocide” canard in an effort to smear abortion rights proponents as racist; now they have some actual racists to go after. But alt-rightists aren’t the least bit intimidated.

For 40 years, the Christian right has been the benchmark of anti-feminist, patriarchal politics in the United States. The Christian right was the first large-scale movement in US history to put the reassertion of male dominance at the centre of its programme. Since the 1970s, it has spearheaded a whole series of patriarchal initiatives, from the campaign to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment to the self-described “biblical patriarchy” movement, which tells women they have a sacred obligation to treat their husbands as “lord”.

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