Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Stop talking right now about the threat of climate change. It’s here; it’s happening

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/11/threat-climate-change-hurricane-harvey-irma-droughts?CMP=fb_us

Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, flash fires, droughts: all of them tell us one thing – we need to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and fast

Monday 11 September 2017

For the sake of keeping things manageable, let’s confine the discussion to a single continent and a single week: North America over the last seven days.

In Houston they got down to the hard and unromantic work of recovery from what economists announced was probably the most expensive storm in US history, and which weather analysts confirmed was certainly the greatest rainfall event ever measured in the country – across much of its spread it was a once-in-25,000-years storm, meaning 12 times past the birth of Christ; in isolated spots it was a once-in-500,000-years storm, which means back when we lived in trees. Meanwhile, San Francisco not only beat its all-time high temperature record, it crushed it by 3F, which should be pretty much statistically impossible in a place with 150 years (that’s 55,000 days) of record-keeping.
That same hot weather broke records up and down the west coast, except in those places where a pall of smoke from immense forest fires kept the sun shaded – after a forest fire somehow managed to jump the mighty Columbia river from Oregon into Washington, residents of the Pacific Northwest reported that the ash was falling so thickly from the skies that it reminded them of the day Mount St Helens erupted in 1980.

That same heat, just a little farther inland, was causing a “flash drought” across the country’s wheat belt of North Dakota and Montana – the evaporation from record temperatures had shrivelled grain on the stalk to the point where some farmers weren’t bothering to harvest at all. In the Atlantic, of course, Irma was barrelling across the islands of the Caribbean (“It’s like someone with a lawnmower from the sky has gone over the island,” said one astounded resident of St Maarten). The storm, the first category five to hit Cuba in a hundred years, is currently battering the west coast of Florida after setting a record for the lowest barometric pressure ever measured in the Keys, and could easily break the 10-day-old record for economic catastrophe set by Harvey; it’s definitely changed the psychology of life in Florida for decades to come.

Oh, and while Irma spun, Hurricane Jose followed in its wake as a major hurricane, while in the Gulf of Mexico, Katia spun up into a frightening storm of her own, before crashing into the Mexican mainland almost directly across the peninsula from the spot where the strongest earthquake in 100 years had taken dozens of lives.

Leaving aside the earthquake, every one of these events jibes with what scientists and environmentalists have spent 30 fruitless years telling us to expect from global warming. (There’s actually fairly convincing evidence that climate change is triggering more seismic activity, but there’s no need to egg the pudding.)

That one long screed of news from one continent in one week (which could be written about many other continents and many other weeks – just check out the recent flooding in south Asia for instance) is a precise, pixelated portrait of a heating world. Because we have burned so much oil and gas and coal, we have put huge clouds of CO2 and methane in the air; because the structure of those molecules traps heat the planet has warmed; because the planet has warmed we can get heavier rainfalls, stronger winds, drier forests and fields. It’s not mysterious, not in any way. It’s not a run of bad luck. It’s not Donald Trump (though he’s obviously not helping). It’s not hellfire sent to punish us. It’s physics.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/11/threat-climate-change-hurricane-harvey-irma-droughts?CMP=fb_us

When History’s Losers Write the Story

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/15/sunday-review/civil-war-statues-losers.html

By Sept. 15, 2017

I visited a summer camp in western Russia in July 2015. Its theme was “military patriotism,” and it involved dozens of teenagers lounging around in tents, wrestling, carving wood and making garlands. They were also taking history classes. Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader who killed millions of Soviet citizens, was remembered fondly.

“Whatever your view of Stalin, you can’t deny that he was a strong leader,” a counselor told me later over steaming bowls of cabbage soup. “Stalin won the war. He made it possible for us to go to space. You can’t just throw out a person like that from history.”

Russia has not faced the darker parts of its past, something I spent a lot of time thinking about as a correspondent there. But my own country has memory problems, too. Take the Civil War. Historians tell us it was fought over slavery. But an entirely different version unspooled last month at an Applebee’s in Delaware.

“It’s too simplified to say the war was over slavery,” said Jeffrey Plummer, head of a local chapter of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. “That’s what’s been taught in the schools, but there’s more to it.”

Selective memory, it seems, is a global phenomenon. Think of Turkey and its blank spot where the Armenian genocide should be. Or Japan with its squeamishness about its aggression and mass murder in China. It starts as a basic human impulse to take the sting out of defeat or to avoid admitting some atrocity. But it’s also a way to help cope with a difficult present. And like a growth on a tree ring, it can keep the past off-kilter until some future generation is brave enough to right it.

“In most countries you are more likely to get evasion and nationalistic versions of history than tough grappling with the darker parts of your past, and the U.S. is no exception,” said Gary Bass, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton.

In the United States, the Civil War remains “the most divisive and unresolved experience Americans have ever had,” according to David Blight, a historian at Yale. “The Civil War is like a sleeping dragon. If you poke it hard enough, it will raise its head and breathe fire.”

That is, in part, because the loser was allowed its own interpretation. The South, facing catastrophic loss of life and mass destruction on a European scale, wrote its own history of the war. It cast itself as an underdog overwhelmed by the North’s superior numbers, but whose cause — a noble fight for states’ rights — was just. The North looked the other way. Northern elites were more interested in re-establishing economic ties than in keeping their commitments to blacks’ constitutional rights. The political will to complete Reconstruction died.

“The whole notion of honoring the Confederacy and the sacrifice that your family made became part of what we taught in the schools,” said Charles Dew, a Williams College historian whose book “Apostles of Disunion” describes the white supremacist arguments that underpinned the South’s case for leaving the Union.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Americans Are Confronting an Alarming Question: Are Many of Our Fellow Citizens ‘Nazis’?

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/05/magazine/americans-are-confronting-an-alarming-question-are-many-of-our-fellow-citizens-nazis.html

By


One morning in mid-August, Americans woke up in what felt, to some, like an altered country. The week’s most notable political event had begun with hundreds of Americans carrying torches while chanting “Sieg heil” and “Jews will not replace us.” White supremacist radicals like these had been active and energized throughout the presidential campaign, but much of their energy had been restricted to the internet. The rally in Charlottesville was markedly different. It confronted America with an unlikely question: Was it possible the nation was seeing a burgeoning political faction of ... actual Nazis? People we should actually call Nazis?

“Nazi” is a remarkable example of the very different routes a word can take through the world. In this case, that word is the Latin name “Ignatius.” In Spanish, it followed a noble path: It became Ignacio, and then the nickname Nacho, and then — after a Mexican cook named Ignacio Anaya had a moment of inspiration — it became delicious, beloved nachos. In Bavaria, a much darker transformation took place. Ignatius became the common name Ignatz, or in its abbreviated form, Nazi. In the early 20th century, Bavarian peasants were frequent subjects of German mockery, and “Nazi” became the archetypal name for a comic figure: a bumbling, dimwitted yokel. “Just as Irish jokes always involve a man called Paddy,” the etymologist Mark Forsyth writes in his 2011 book “The Etymologicon,” “so Bavarian jokes always involved a peasant called Nazi.” When Adolf Hitler’s party emerged from Bavaria with a philosophy called “Nationalsozialismus,” two of that word’s syllables were quickly repurposed by Hitler’s cosmopolitan opponents. They started calling the new party Nazis — implying, to the Nazis’ great displeasure, that they were all backward rubes.

That original, taunting meaning of “Nazi” is now long gone, replaced forever by the image of history’s most despised regime. This is precisely why the word has resurfaced in American conversation, aimed at the white supremacist arm of the so-called alt-right: It is perhaps the single most potent condemnation in our language, a word that provides instant moral clarity. Not everyone, though, is entirely comfortable with this new usage. The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb finds “Nazi” insufficient as a label for American racists, because when we use it, he writes, “we summon the idea of the United States’ moral victories, and military ones” — references that make little sense when we’re talking about American-made moral failures. Lindsey E. Jones, a Ph.D. student of history in Charlottesville, tweeted that a long history of American racism is “conveniently erased” when figures like the white nationalist Richard Spencer are reduced to “Nazis.”

But if “Nazi” isn’t quite the right word for the fringe groups now attempting a takeover of national politics — if it’s sloppy and inexact and papers over just how widespread some of these bigotries are — then “Nazi” will, in a way, have returned to its roots. It began as a broad, imprecise and patronizing slur. Then it became a precise historical classification. (One that, you might argue, “conveniently erased” widespread anti-Semitism throughout Europe and America.) Now we find ourselves arguing over whether it can serve as a general epithet again — a name for a whole assortment of distasteful ideologies. Nearly 80 years after Kristallnacht, we are not exactly sure what a Nazi is, or should be.

'No Fascist USA!': how hardcore punk fuels the Antifa movement


From The Guardian UK: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/sep/09/no-fascist-usa-how-hardcore-punk-fuels-the-antifa-movement

The anti-fascist movement draws on punk’s political awareness and network for activism – and right now may be its most crucial moment

by  
Saturday 9 September 2017 

“No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA!” 

When Green Day chanted the repurposed lyrics from Texan punk trailblazers MDC’s 1981 song Born to Die during the 2016 American Music Awards, it gave the burgeoning anti-Trump, anti-fascist movement the slogan it needed – and it would soon appear on placards, T-shirts and be chanted by protesters in their thousands in months to come. 

It was a tiny piece of punk history writ large on American cultural life – but it only gave the merest hint of US hardcore punk’s influence on the current political landscape. 

As political commentators struggle to nail down the exact nature of Antifa’s masked legions, they’ve overlooked one thing: Antifa has been critically influenced by hardcore punk for nearly four decades. 

From the collectivist principles of anarchist punk bands such as Crass and Conflict, the political outrage of groups such as the Dead Kennedys, MDC and Discharge, Antifa draws on decades of protest, self-protection and informal networks under the auspices of a musical movement. 

Mark Bray, author of The Antifa Handbook, says that “in many cases, the North American modern Antifa movement grew up as a way to defend the punk scene from the neo-Nazi skinhead movement, and the founders of the original Anti-Racist Action network in North America were anti-racist skinheads. The fascist/anti-fascist struggle was essentially a fight for control of the punk scene [during the 1980s], and that was true across of much of north America and in parts of Europe in this era.”

“There’s a huge overlap between radical left politics and the punk scene, and there’s a stereotype about dirty anarchists and punks, which is an oversimplification but grounded in a certain amount of truth.” 

Drawing influence from anti-fascist groups in 1930s Germany, the UK-based Anti-Fascist Action formed in the late 70s in reaction the growing popularity of rightwing political parties such as the National Front and the British Movement. They would shut down extreme-right meetings at every opportunity, whether it be a march or a gathering in a room above a pub. Inspired by this, anti-racist skinheads in Minneapolis formed Anti-Racist Action, which soon gained traction in punk scenes across the US. Meanwhile, in New York, a movement called Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice sprung up. 

The term “Antifa” was adopted by German antifascists in the 80s, accompanied by the twin-flag logo, which then spread around Europe, and finally pitched up in the US after being adopted by an anarchist collective in Portland, Oregon. 

Continue reading at: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/sep/09/no-fascist-usa-how-hardcore-punk-fuels-the-antifa-movement

The Media Doesn’t Understand What Trump is Doing | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann


Who Is Weaponizing Religious Liberty?

From People For The American Way:  http://www.pfaw.org/report/who-is-weaponizing-religious-liberty/
It Takes a Right-Wing Village to Turn a Cherished American Principle Into a Destructive Culture-War Weapon

In 2016, for the second year in a row, more than 100 anti-equality bills targeting LGBT people were introduced in state legislatures, many of them described as measures to protect religious liberty. This flood of anti-LGBT and “religious liberty” legislation is not the result of isolated local efforts. It is part of a larger campaign by Religious Right groups to resist and reverse advances toward equality for LGBT Americans by portraying equality as inherently incompatible with religious freedom. That effort began well before the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling, but it has kicked into overdrive since.

Religious Right organizations have long equated criticism with persecution, and portrayed legal and political defeats as attacks on Christianity and religious freedom. Efforts to frame opposition to reproductive choice and LGBT equality as religious liberty issues picked up steam with the issuing of the Manhattan Declaration in 2009. This manifesto, co-authored by right-wing Catholic intellectual Robert George, pledged that its signers would refuse to “bend” to “any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.” 

Since then, Religious Right groups, their allies at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and allied politicians have increasingly framed their opposition to marriage equality, nondiscrimination laws, reproductive choice, and the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act as questions of religious liberty.

Included in the recent anti-equality wave are various types of legislation, including state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs), modeled to different degrees on the federal law of the same name; so-called Government Nondiscrimination Acts (GNDAs), which do away with the federal RFRA’s balancing tests to give special legal protection to discrimination based on anti-equality religious beliefs; and anti-LGBT laws that don’t explicitly fly under the religious liberty banner, like bills barring transgender people from using the public bathrooms appropriate for their gender identity.

Some of those bills have been defeated, thanks to mobilization by equality advocates and their allies in progressive, religious, and business communities. Others have been approved by state legislatures but vetoed by governors, including Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia and Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia. Still others have been signed into law, including Mississippi’s “religious liberty” law and North Carolina’s now notorious HB2, a law overturning local nondiscrimination ordinances and banning transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity. Inflammatory rhetoric about transgender people has fed an increasingly ugly climate in which states and localities are literally making it a crime for a transgender person to go to the bathroom.

All of these approaches are being promoted by a network of national Religious Right organizations that oppose legal recognition for the rights of LGBT people. These organizations are part of a larger infrastructure of colleges and law schools, think tanks, media outlets, and advocacy groups that has been built over the last few decades. They work together to promote the false and destructive idea that legal equality for LGBT Americans is incompatible with religious freedom for those who oppose it — just as early civil rights opponents claimed that eliminating enforced racial segregation was an attack on southern white Christians’ religious beliefs.

This network of anti-equality groups is engaged in a high-stakes effort to convince Americans that preserving religious liberty requires giving individuals and corporations the power to disobey laws that promote the common good and protect other constitutional principles like equal treatment under the law.

Together these organizations constitute a powerful cultural and political force that will not disappear after a few losses in the courtroom or at the ballot box. Indeed, in the wake of their marriage equality defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, they have redoubled their efforts. They are eagerly creating folk heroes out of public officials and business owners who refuse to provide services to same-sex couples. And they are pushing Republican officials to enact legislation at federal as well as state levels that would further weaponize religious liberty, turning it from a shield meant to protect individual religious practice into a sword to be wielded against individuals and groups disfavored by Religious Right leaders.

Continue reading at:  http://www.pfaw.org/report/who-is-weaponizing-religious-liberty/

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Chelsea Manning: The Dystopia We Signed Up for

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/13/opinion/chelsea-manning-big-data-dystopia.html

By Chelsea Manning Sept. 13, 2017

For seven years, I didn’t exist.

While incarcerated, I had no bank statements, no bills, no credit history. In our interconnected world of big data, I appeared to be no different than a deceased person. After I was released, that lack of information about me created a host of problems, from difficulty accessing bank accounts to trouble getting a driver’s license and renting an apartment.

In 2010, the iPhone was only three years old, and many people still didn’t see smartphones as the indispensable digital appendages they are today. Seven years later, virtually everything we do causes us to bleed digital information, putting us at the mercy of invisible algorithms that threaten to consume our freedom.

Information leakage can seem innocuous in some respects. After all, why worry when we have nothing to hide?

We file our taxes. We make phone calls. We send emails. Tax records are used to keep us honest. We agree to broadcast our location so we can check the weather on our smartphones. Records of our calls, texts and physical movements are filed away alongside our billing information. Perhaps that data is analyzed more covertly to make sure that we’re not terrorists — but only in the interest of national security, we’re assured.

Our faces and voices are recorded by surveillance cameras and other internet-connected sensors, some of which we now willingly put inside our homes. Every time we load a news article or page on a social media site, we expose ourselves to tracking code, allowing hundreds of unknown entities to monitor our shopping and online browsing habits. We agree to cryptic terms-of-service agreements that obscure the true nature and scope of these transactions.

According to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center, 91 percent of American adults believe they’ve lost control over how their personal information is collected and used.

Just how much they’ve lost, however, is more than they likely suspect.

The real power of mass data collection lies in the hand-tailored algorithms capable of sifting, sorting and identifying patterns within the data itself. When enough information is collected over time, governments and corporations can use or abuse those patterns to predict future human behavior. Our data establishes a “pattern of life” from seemingly harmless digital residue like cellphone tower pings, credit card transactions and web browsing histories.

The consequences of our being subjected to constant algorithmic scrutiny are often unclear. For instance, artificial intelligence — Silicon Valley’s catchall term for deepthinking and deep-learning algorithms — is touted by tech companies as a path to the high-tech conveniences of the so-called internet of things. This includes digital home assistants, connected appliances and self-driving cars.

Simultaneously, algorithms are already analyzing social media habits, determining creditworthiness, deciding which job candidates get called in for an interview and judging whether criminal defendants should be released on bail. Other machine-learning systems use automated facial analysis to detect and track emotions, or claim the ability to predict whether someone will become a criminal based only on their facial features.

How Did Trump Remember 9/11? | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann


Fascism, American Style

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/opinion/fascism-arpaio-pardon-trump.html

Aug. 28, 2017

As sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio engaged in blatant racial discrimination. His officers systematically targeted Latinos, often arresting them on spurious charges and at least sometimes beating them up when they questioned those charges. Read the report from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and prepare to be horrified.

Once Latinos were arrested, bad things happened to them. Many were sent to Tent City, which Arpaio himself proudly called a “concentration camp,” where they lived under brutal conditions, with temperatures inside the tents sometimes rising to 145 degrees.

And when he received court orders to stop these practices, he simply ignored them, which led to his eventual conviction — after decades in office — for contempt of court. But he had friends in high places, indeed in the highest of places. We now know that Donald Trump tried to get the Justice Department to drop the case against Arpaio, a clear case of attempted obstruction of justice. And when that ploy failed, Trump, who had already suggested that Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job,” pardoned him.

By the way, about “doing his job,” it turns out that Arpaio’s officers were too busy rounding up brown-skinned people and investigating President Barack Obama’s birth certificate to do other things, like investigate cases of sexually abused children. Priorities!

Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style.

So how did we get to this point?

Trump’s motives are easy to understand. For one thing, Arpaio, with his racism and authoritarianism, really is his kind of guy. For another, the pardon is a signal to those who might be tempted to make deals with the special investigator as the Russia probe closes in on the White House: Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Trump’s DACA Decision is a Grim Turning Point | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann


Gays and Guns: The Rise of LGBTQ+ Gun Use in America


Kate Millett, Influential Feminist Writer, Is Dead at 82

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/obituaries/kate-millett-influential-feminist-writer-is-dead-at-82.html?_r=1

Kate Millett, whose 1970 book, “Sexual Politics,” made her, as one writer put it, “the principal theoretician of the women’s liberation movement,” and who went on to be a leading voice on human rights, mental health issues and more, died on Wednesday in Paris. She was 82.

Her spouse, Sophie Keir, said the cause was cardiac arrest. Living in New York City, they had been going to Paris every year to celebrate their birthdays, she said.

Ms. Millett was in her mid-30s and a generally unknown sculptor when her doctoral dissertation at Columbia University, “Sexual Politics,” was published by Doubleday and Co. Her core premise was that the relationship between the sexes is political, with the definition of politics including, as she once said, “arrangements whereby one group of persons is controlled by another.”

“However muted its appearance may be,” Ms. Millett wrote, “sexual dominion obtains nevertheless as perhaps the most pervasive ideology of our culture and provides its most fundamental concept of power.”

The book became a central work of what is often called second-wave feminism, but being a star of the movement did not come naturally to Ms. Millett.

“Kate achieved great fame and celebrity, but she was never comfortable as a public figure,” Eleanor Pam, another leading feminist, said by email. “She was preternaturally shy. Still, she inspired generations of girls and women who read her words, heard her words and understood her words.”
Katherine Murray Millett was born on Sept. 14, 1934, in St. Paul. As a 1970 profile in The New York Times put it, “after a series of clashes in the local parochial schools over her rapidly dwindling belief in Roman Catholic doctrine,” Ms. Millett enrolled in the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1956, then went to Oxford.

After teaching briefly at the University of North Carolina, she pursued her art career in Japan and then New York, where she took a job at Barnard College teaching English literature. In 1965 she married the Japanese sculptor Fumio Yoshimura, but she rejected many traditional ideas of marriage and eventually came out as a lesbian. (The couple divorced in the 1980s.)

Her autobiographical work “Flying,” published in 1974, told of the dizzying fame “Sexual Politics” had brought and her reaction to it. “Sita,” in 1977, dealt with her sexuality.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Redneck Reflection on the Past Week

From A Wandering Minister:  http://awanderingminister2.blogspot.com/2017/08/a-redneck-reflection-on-past-week.html

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ever since the civil rights movement, groups like SNCC and the Black Panthers have been telling white people to look to and take care of their own communities. And, consistently, white, mostly middle class, liberals have marched in the streets, presented themselves as allies of black communities, and signed people up to vote. They are quick to denounce open displays of white supremacy and quick to denounce poor white communities as gun toting, bigoted racists. But they have never been quick to do what they were asked to do: take care of and do the hard work of working in white communities.

I am a redneck. I grew up target shooting with shotguns and rifles, grew up in a majority white rural community—and I grew up reading white power materials and using racial slurs, alongside listening to sermons that said we were all created equal.

I now work very close to where I grew up, as pastor to a very poor, heavily criminalized, majority white community. A lot of the young people I work with have been recruited into white power gangs: everything from the KKK to the Skinheads and Peckerwoods to the newish Thor’s Hammer. They are not the face of the alt-right; most of the folks who gather in places like Charlottesville are middle class armchair racists turned activists who join neo-Nazi, Patriot, and White Nationalist groups for ideological reasons. My kids join white gangs that run drugs, provide protection in prison and on the streets, and give them somewhere to belong.

Because no one answered the call 100 years ago, and again 50 years ago, to organize in white communities, my kids have few alternatives to white power gangs. The left has abandoned white poor communities, time and again, to deepening poverty, to heavy criminalization, to hunger, to police violence—and to the Skinheads.

Young white kids join white power gangs for similar reasons that black and brown kids join black and Latino gangs: for protection, for belonging, for economic survival. Of course, they have an added, deadly commitment to white supremacy. It is especially easy for young people who have grown up in rural, white communities to join white supremacists: the racist structure of our society insure that many of them have not had much contact with people of color. At least, until they are incarcerated.

Kellan Howell interviewed several former neo-Nazis about how to confront the recent public rise of white power protests. They said, in part:

When it comes to engaging with far-right extremists, Meeink and Angela said it's all about making them feel human again.

"Maybe, a simple kind word, a simple act of compassion, and that is not an easy thing to do," King said, adding that her own transformation came after a Jamaican woman in prison asked her to play a game of cribbage…

…Both Meeink and King say that a rough childhood and feelings of isolation and emptiness led them to seek solace with white power groups, but they say people who have had similar experiences can help show those who are currently struggling that they don't have to turn to hatred to find purpose.

My work centers in part around this work. While our ministry reaches a number of native kids who are frequently the target of racial violence (including a young kid who was just killed in a racially motivated vehicular homicide), the majority of people we work with are white. Many of them are, or have been, members of white power gangs. We focus on “making them feel human again.” None of them are, first and foremost, white supremacists. They are young people who have been beaten time and again by the police, who have been jailed from the time they were around 13, who got their first felonies as teenagers and who have never had a stable life since, who run drugs because there is no other economy in town, who have experienced extreme violence and abuse, who have lost their parents and their children to a system that offers them no first chance, much less a second. They are tired. They are brave. They are angry. In jail, they have native friends and Latino friends who have experienced the same thing and sometimes they have each other’s backs.

But they have never had the opportunity to see that, perhaps, they have more in common with poor communities of color than they have with the wealthy and powerful leaders of organizations like the KKK, the Patriots, and other alt-right groups. The white supremacist plan to divide and conquer the poor has worked. Sometimes, anyway.

Continue reading at:  http://awanderingminister2.blogspot.com/2017/08/a-redneck-reflection-on-past-week.html

Liberal elite, it's time to strike a deal with the working class

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/23/liberal-elite-its-time-to-strike-a-deal-with-the-working-class

Coalitions need compromise. But it’s coalitions that win, writes Joan C Williams, the author of White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Abortion rights are central to my identity. As an ambitious teenager, I wanted to have both a vital career and a vibrant intellectual life, and I felt that having a baby at the wrong time would doom me. I went on to a both a full career and motherhood. It all worked out for me, but only because I could control my fertility.

My life has centered around what the sociologist Mary Blair-Loy calls the “norm of work devotion”. Work has provided me with joy, social status, dignity, and financial stability. To me, the image of the stay-at-home mom epitomized oppression and thwarted self-fulfillment. Abortion rights are crucial to the logic of lives like mine, which is why I and about two-thirds of college grads support them.

But only about half of Americans without college degrees do. The logic of their lives is different. They fault white-collar professionals for unhealthy work worship and a failure to understand that “family comes first”. Elites think they are so high and mighty, but it’s we who keep the world in moral order, the working class believes.

The demise of blue-collar jobs means that many families face a daily scramble between two not-very-fulfilling or well-paid jobs, with Mom working one shift and Dad working a different shift, and with each parent caring for the kids while the other is at work.

Tag-team families are under such pressure, and these parents see each other so rarely, that they have three to six times the national divorce rate. In the light of this harsh reality, it’s no wonder they look back with yearning at the breadwinner-homemaker family, supported by the husband’s blue-collar job.

This helps explain why abortion rights look different to those with good jobs and education and those who are struggling. To women like myself, they are the bare minimum of human rights. To working-class women, who often see motherhood, not work, as the key source of social honor, obsession with abortion rights among well-off women is selfish, exemplifying lack of an adequate devotion to family. Seen in this light, opposition to abortion rights becomes, for high-school educated women, a way of claiming social honor.

That’s why research since the 1980s has found class differences in the levels of support for abortion rights. The fight over abortion becomes a fight over what it means to be a good person. That’s why things get ugly really fast. When elites dismiss abortion opponents as mindless misogynists and non-elites dismiss abortion rights advocates as selfish careerists, class conflict becomes acute.

Debates over guns and gun control are similarly visceral, again because identities are at risk. To me, the ready availability of guns is associated with killings among young black men without a future, struggling to find dignity in a society that offers them precious little. Guns mean Sandy Hook and other horrors, and living in a country where mentally unstable kids regularly murder their classmates.

But even as I feel so strongly, I understand how other Americans feel differently. If the abortion debate involves ideals of femininity, guns involve ideals of masculinity. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of women but less than half (43%) of men support stricter guns laws.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/23/liberal-elite-its-time-to-strike-a-deal-with-the-working-class

No more ‘purity’ tests for Dems

From The Washington Blade:  http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/08/30/unity-reform-commission-opinion/

by Peter Rosenstein August 30, 2017

If its recent press release is any indication, the Democratic National Committee Unity Reform Commission is having problems. While the Commission can agree President Trump is disgraceful and has hateful policies, reading between the lines of the following second paragraph shows that rifts continue:

“As we wrap up our latest meeting of the Unity Commission in Chicago, Democrats have never been more united against this disgraceful president and his hateful policies. And we know, the best way to fight back is to win elections.” This last sentence is most telling. “That’s why we’re working together to build a Democratic Party that speaks for every Democrat, that is inclusive and welcoming to all Americans, and that is working tirelessly to organize and elect Democrats up and down the ballot who represent our values.”

We know many of the Sanders people on the Commission are fighting for open primaries, hence ‘welcoming all Americans’ and we know ‘Our Revolution’ the group Sanders began headed by Nina Turner is saying they won’t support Democrats who don’t meet their ‘purity’ test and support their values. So whose values are being referred to in the press release?

The DNC should continue to hold ‘closed’ primaries, which means only members of the party get to vote on who will represent the party in a general election. Why would one open the primary to those who don’t care enough to be members of the party and work to develop its values and principles? Democrats have a basic set of values and principles clearly enunciated in the platform voted on at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. Those values call for economic equality and raising the minimum wage; choice; human and civil rights for all; affordable healthcare for all; continuing to fight climate change; quality public education; and reform of the judicial system among other tenets of a free and just society.

The desired result of a Unity Commission should be an agreement that everyone there will fight for every Democratic candidate representing the party in the general election. If we listen to Nina Turner and her quest for a purity test based on her values the result will be a repeat of what we got in 2016 — a Republican Congress and Trump.

The role of the DNC should be to support building effective state and local Democratic Parties. The one requirement any organization or candidate they support should meet is to say they are proud Democrats and will support general election Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.

I have been a Democrat my entire life supporting candidates from Adlai Stevenson to John F. Kennedy to Hillary Clinton. I voted for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; stood with Congresspersons William Fitts Ryan and Bella S. Abzug and supported Abe Beame, Shirley Chisholm and Christine Quinn. In not one case did I agree with every position those candidates held. But what we had in common was support for the basic principles of equality, human and civil rights for all, economic opportunity and a great public education system allowing everyone the chance to succeed.

The Democratic National Committee and all Democrats should follow the lead of environmentalist Tom Steyer, who recently said he will invest $2 million in the campaign to elect Democrat Ralph Northam governor of Virginia. While not agreeing with every Northam position, Steyer rejected the idea of purity saying, “We think he is much better than Republican Mr. Gillespie on environmental policies in general.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/08/30/unity-reform-commission-opinion/

Why the Media Refuses to Understand Antifa

From The Pacific Standard:  https://psmag.com/social-justice/understanding-antifa

While establishment pundits fret over civility, the antifascist movement in America is working for peace.

Aug 31, 2017

For months, the American public has debated how best to confront the fascist right as its members attempt to build power. Now, after being chased out of Boston and then the Bay Area, America's white-power activists seem to be on their collective back foot for the first time in over a year. How did this happen, and what can we learn about how to keep them in retreat?

Among those on the broadly defined left, the main strategic split with regard to fascists has been between those who favor prevention by any means (up to and including physical confrontation), and those who think it's best to let the marketplace of ideas take care of their worthless ideology. Call it antifa versus free speech. A lot of people have changed their position on this in reaction to unfolding events, but the poles have remained intact. Antifa still wants to bash the fash, and free-speechers still want to tease the KKK into obscurity like Superman did. Somehow, both sides still think they're right.
It's important to note the antifa/free speech division doesn't split evenly between liberals and the far left. There are capital-D Democrats like former congressman John Dingell, who tweeted "I signed up to fight Nazis 73 years ago and I'll do it again if I have to," and there are ex-revolutionaries like Todd Gitlin who think antifascism is "alienating."

The free speech crowd certainly does know how to speak, and their central success has been publishing articles that reinforce the idea that antifa scares away allies and emboldens the right. 

These pundits clearly do speak for a segment of the population, and it's possible that black bloc outfits and videos of street fighting—touted incessantly by right-wing media—are turning them away from the antifascist cause. The more alienated these observers feel, the more correct they consider themselves in condemning antifa. But antifa isn't trying to earn the support of 51 percent of any electorate. Our main concern is winning, and we don't need nearly that many people to do it.
The chaos and brutality in Charlottesville showed what's at stake, and what happens when antifascists are outnumbered. Fascists showed up hoping to hurt people, a posture that gave them a fighting advantage when both sides were equal in strength. Antifascists were able to protect other activists from further harm and possible death, while the struggle of Corey Long and Deandre Harris and the martyrdom of Heather Heyer inspired nationwide introspection—even if President Donald Trump thought about it and landed on the wrong answer. It's hard to watch this footage and not conclude that standing up to white supremacists—literally just standing—requires conscious self-defense.

People were horrified by the white-nationalist show of strength in Charlottesville. But since then, fascists attempting to maintain their momentum have instead crashed into a brick wall. In Boston and San Francisco, thousands of antifascists flooded the streets to shut them down, leading to a reversal of the infamous torch march pictures: a few dozen white supremacists, surrounded by the outraged citizenry. Compared to Charlottesville, the violence was minimal, and that's how it's supposed to work. When antifa wins, there's little fighting, and participants move on to other things, like disaster relief; when the fascists win, there are death camps.

Luckily, the free speech side is right about one thing: Fascists are not a dominant force in American politics, their West Wing access notwithstanding. If we want to make them feel deeply unwelcome and vastly outnumbered, antifascists don't need everyone to the left of the KKK to show up ready to throw down. A 10- or 20-to-one anti-to-fa ratio is sufficient, which means we're talking about minor-league baseball attendance numbers here, tops. And I don't mean a 10,000-person black bloc: a small militant core can protect a broad diversity of antifascists. That's what Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer saw in Berkeley: "Many attendees expressed surprise at the unprecedented level of coordination between groups that don't always get along," he wrote.

Continue reading at:  https://psmag.com/social-justice/understanding-antifa

Rabbi blames wave of white supremacists on conservative talk radio, TV and politicians

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/2017/08/rabbi-blames-wave-of-white-supremacists-on-conservative-talk-radio-tv-and-politicians/

Sarah K. Burris 30 Aug 2017

Wisconsin Rabbi David Cohen was horrified listening to the chants from white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia just weeks ago.

Cohen began an op-ed for The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle by saying that the rallying cry “blood and soil” used by “khaki clad, torch carrying clean cut American youth was, in a word, chilling.” The phrase comes from Nazi Germany to define legitimacy of citizenship and race.

He explained that Americans should have seen this coming after “decades of conservative talk radio, television, and some conservative politicians, blaming immigrants, people of color, Muslims and Jews for society’s problems.” Those desperate for opportunity look for a scapegoat when they don’t get it. All of society’s ills are placed on those who’ve been able to pull themselves up.

Meanwhile, “the White House has taken deliberate steps that have amplified racist voices,” Cohen wrote, citing cuts in funding to focus on counter-terrorism and put them on the fight against ISIS. “Programs to encourage people to leave white supremacist groups were defunded. These are not coincidences,” he wrote.

He agreed that the adage “one step forward — two steps back” can too often be true, but the gains in civil rights cannot falter. But he’s not fearful they’ll have to refight battles from the 1960s, he’s worried about having to fight the policies of the 1930s again. The fights over monuments seem like Americans are being forced to relive the 1860s.

“As Jews, none of this is new; we’ve seen such discrimination before,” he wrote. “It’s only recently that we’ve been accepted in America as ‘white’ and, in some corners, are still considered ‘other.’ Witness the Charlottesville demonstrators shouting ‘Jews will not replace us.’ We know these anti-Semites; we’ve seen them before.”

“Having seen all this before, we Jews know what we have to do,” Cohen wrote, urging Jews not to allow this behavior to flourish. He goes on to beg people to hold policymakers, including President Donald Trump, accountable when they allow this racism and antisemitism to continue.

Similarly, “we have to make sure that Holocaust education is expanded and strengthened. As the survivors become fewer and fewer, we now have to speak for them,” he urged.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/2017/08/rabbi-blames-wave-of-white-supremacists-on-conservative-talk-radio-tv-and-politicians/

Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/opinion/cultural-appropriation.html?ref=opinion

I haven’t watched MTV’s annual Video Music Awards since Bill Clinton was president. I was wearing a plastic choker and Alanis Morissette won for “Ironic.” But I wish I had tuned in this Sunday night. The award show was a veritable orgy — not of sex, but of cultural appropriation.
First up was Kendrick Lamar, whose backup dancers wore ninja outfits as they scaled a wall of fire. While the popular rapper went home with an armload of trophies, he was criticized for borrowing Asian dress. Later, Katy Perry, who just recently finished an apology tour for her previous sins of cornrows and kimonos, “snatched” off her long blond wig — a bit that was torn apart for caricaturing African-American women. Luckily for Ms. Perry, the floodlights lingered longer on her nemesis, Taylor Swift, who unveiled a new video that was immediately blasted for appropriating Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” Speaking of Queen B, I’m just waiting for the charge that she’s exploited Persian culture by naming her new daughter Rumi after the 13th-century Sufi poet.

And that’s just the rap sheet from a single night in pop music. Charges of cultural appropriation are being hurled at every corner of American life: the art museum, the restaurant, the movie theater, the fashion show, the novel and, especially, the college campus. If there’s a safe space left, I’m not aware of it.

The logic of those casting the stones goes something like this: Stealing is bad. It’s especially terrible when those doing the stealing are “rich” — as in, they come from a dominant racial, religious, cultural or ethnic group — and those they are stealing from are “poor.”

Few of us doubt that stealing is wrong, especially from the poor. But the accusation of “cultural appropriation” is overwhelmingly being used as an objection to syncretism — the mixing of different thoughts, religions, cultures and ethnicities that often ends up creating entirely new ones. In other words: the most natural process in a melting-pot country like ours.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered some of the most sublime speeches of the 20th century. In them he used a mostly Latinate language to evoke the trials of the Israelites while quoting the writings of a slave-owning founding father. Irving Berlin, the songwriter who wrote “White Christmas” and “God Bless America,” was a Jew born in a Russian shtetl in a home with a dirt floor. Jessye Norman, one of the greatest opera singers of our time, is a black Southerner who is famous for her Wagner repertoire. Hamdi Ulukaya is a Kurd born in Turkey who now runs the most popular Greek yogurt company in America.

The point is that everything great and iconic about this country comes when seemingly disparate parts are blended in revelatory ways. That merging simply doesn’t happen in places where people are separated by race and ethnicity and class. And it’s not only what makes American culture so rich, but it is also a big part of the reason America is so successful. When we see a good idea, we steal it; when we have a good idea, the rest of the world is welcome to it as well.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Trump's Media Pals Are Busy Creating a Left-Wing 'Threat' to Balance Out the Awful Racist Right-Wing Hordes That Threaten Civil Society

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/activism/media-busy-creating-left-wing-threat-balance-out-awful-racist-right-wing-hordes-who

We have to be vigilant about the coming smear project against Antifa.

By Thom Hartmann August 29, 2017

In these dark days, an intergenerational warning is in order: Antifa folks, be wary. They are coming for you.   

Some of us have seen this movie before. In my generation, when I was a teenage member of MSU’s SDS in the late 1960s, I remember the guy who was always yelling, “Kill the pigs,” and encouraging us to burn down the ROTC building on campus. In later years, I heard from old SDS colleagues that when they sued the police, they learned that the outspoken guy was a police officer and his friends were informants.

For my dad’s generation, the right-wing takeover of a protest movement happened in Germany generations ago, so most Americans don’t even recognize Marinus van der Lubbe’s name. But the Germans remember well that fateful day 84 years ago: Feb. 27, 1933. And many of them are looking at the confrontations in our streets and worrying.

It started when the government, struggling with questions of its own legitimacy and the instability of its leader, received reports of an imminent terrorist attack. Historians are still debating whether the “terrorist” was a mentally incompetent young man maneuvered into place to take the fall for the crime, or was an actual communist ideologue (of limited intellectual means and probably schizophrenic; that seems to be one thing most agree on).  

But the warnings of investigators were ignored at the highest levels, in part because the government was distracted; the man who claimed to be the nation's leader had not been elected by a majority vote and the people claimed he had no right to the powers he coveted.

He was a simpleton, some said, a cartoon character of a man who saw things in black-and-white terms and didn't have the intellect to understand the subtleties of running a nation in a complex and internationalist world. His coarse use of language, reflecting his background of hanging out with disreputable sorts, and his simplistic and often-inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended the aristocrats, foreign leaders, and the well-educated elite in the government and media.

He desperately wanted to be appreciated and loved by the “old money” crowd, but he also hated them because they had never accepted him and, deep down inside, he knew they never would.
Nonetheless, he knew the terrorist was going to strike, and he had already considered his response. When an aide brought him word that the nation's most prestigious building was ablaze, he rushed to the scene and called a press conference.

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," Hitler proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out German Parliament building, surrounded by national media.

"This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning." He used the occasion—"a sign from God," he called it—to declare an “all-out war on terrorism” and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their evil deeds in their religion.

And, he said, their fellow travelers —"communists” like the man who’d set the Reichstag on fire—needed to be tracked down and utterly destroyed.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Cultural Diffusion and Cultural Appropriation

From Frontier Centre:  https://fcpp.org/2017/08/24/cultural-diffusion-and-cultural-appropriation/

Philip Salzman August 24, 2017

Anthropologists have long known that one of the major origins of culture is diffusion, the spreading of culture from one place, one population, one society to another.[i] Since the beginning of mankind, every culture developed and evolved through both internal innovation and borrowing from outsiders. This is not debated; it is a fact of human history. It can easily be illustrated by well-known historical examples.

The languages we know as Spanish and French are classed together as Romance languages, because they were adopted and adapted from the Latin of the Romans who conquered the tribes of what is now Spain and France. What we know now as English, is a result of the mixing of Germanic Anglo-Saxon and Norman French. The home of the Semitic language Arabic is the Arabian Peninsula, but its spread throughout Egypt, and North Africa, followed Arab conquests, with Arabic being adopted by the subject populations, while Egyptian and Berber fell into eclipse.  The spread of English around the world, now as the language of science and business, followed the expansion of the British, but the adoption of English continues long after the retreat of the British. Russian was established throughout Central Asia by the expansion of the Russian and later Soviet empires. Today, some Central Asian republics, such as Kyrgyzstan, maintain Russian as an official language. Chinese is the dominant language of the Chinese heartland, but now the language used by Mongols, Turks, and Tibetans under the sway of China. Imperial conquests were not chosen by their recipients, but the imperial languages often were, in some cases entirely superceding local languages.

Religions are not all local inventions, but often are borrowed. Christianity was born in ancient Israel, and originally seen as another form of Judaism, which is not surprising, because Jesus and his followers were all Jews, and the basic ideas of one God and a messiah were integral parts of Judaism. Islam adopted Jewish monotheism and the entire list of Jewish prophets, plus Jesus and Mary, all of whom are claimed to be Muslims, as well as many Jewish customs such as  circumcision and the ban on pork. Christianity and Islam have been adopted in many parts of the world. In the East, there have been adoptions and borrowing among Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism, among others.

Although all cultures include practical knowledge and applied technology, modern science and industry were developed in Western Europe during the Enlightenment and agricultural and industrial revolutions. Other European countries followed to a greater or lesser degree, as did the Americas, borrowing the knowledge generated by these revolutions. The demonstrated superiority of science and industry in technology led to them being adopted widely in the world. Asian countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, have borrowed and mastered both science and industry, with China and India rapidly catching up. Science and industry serve as examples of culture evolved in one culture centre defusing around the world, borrowed by other peoples and cultures to improve and enrich their lives.

People around the world have borrowed from each other’s cuisine. Hamburgers, pasta, pad thai, bagels, frankfurters, pizza, Chinese, curry, and barbeque have been integrated into popular consumption in many cultures. All of these “foreign” foods are what we serve regularly in our home. Styles of clothes are also widely borrowed. I usually wear an Australian, kangaroo skin hat. Music too is inspired by others’ music, synthesized, and then borrowed and transformed by others. Western music from European classical to American rock and roll has been adopted around the world. Rock and roll and jazz drew on black music, which included elements carried from Africa. Dance too: Latin dances, Scottish dances, Western dances, Irish dances, all danced by anyone and everyone. Our daily life is rife with examples of cultural borrowing.

Recently, a moral or moralizing approach has been taken to cultural borrowing by various commentators and social critics, an approach which deems some borrowing bad, or even evil, and labels it “cultural appropriation.”[ii]

The examples are myriad, creative, and in some cases, surprising.

According to a piece written by a student at Louisiana State University, white women styling their eyebrows to make them look fuller is an example of cultural appropriation. “Current American eyebrow culture also shows a prime example of the cultural appropriation in the country,” Lynne Bunch writes in an article for the Daily Reveille, the school’s official student newspaper.[iii]

Continue reading at:  htps://fcpp.org/2017/08/24/cultural-diffusion-and-cultural-appropriation/