Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The fall of Harvey Weinstein should be a moment to challenge extreme masculinity

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/12/challenge-extreme-masculinity-harvey-weinstein-degrading-women

Too many men seem aroused by their ability to inflict pain and humiliation on women. But now their victims are being listened to

Thursday 12 October 2017

This past week was not a good week for women. In the United States, it was reported that a man who allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl was granted joint custody of the resultant eight-year-old boy being raised by his young mother.

Earlier in the week, the severed head and legs of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who disappeared after entering inventor Peter Madsen’s submarine, were discovered near Copenhagen. A hard drive belonging to Madsen, Danish police said, was loaded with videos showing women being decapitated alive.

A Swedish model received rape threats for posing in an Adidas advertisement with unshaven legs. The University of Southern California’s dean of medicine was dumped after reports resurfaced that he had sexually harrassed a young medical researcher in 2003. A number of men at liberal publications were revealed to have contacted Milo Yiannopoulos, urging him to attack women – “Please mock this fat feminist,” wrote a senior male staff writer at Vice’s women’s channel, since fired. And, of course, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was described by the New York Times as a serial sexual harasser; his alleged offences, according to a TV journalist, including trapping her in a hallway, where he masturbated until he ejaculated into a potted plant.

This week, the New Yorker ran a follow-up story by Ronan Farrow (the biological son of Woody Allen, who has repudiated his father for his treatment of his sisters), expanding the charges women have made against Weinstein to include sexual assault. He quotes one young woman who said “he forced me to perform oral sex on him” after she showed up for a meeting. She added, “I have nightmares about him to this day.” Weinstein denies any non-consensual sex.

Saturday 7 October was the first anniversary of the release of the tape in which the United States president boasted about sexually assaulting women; 11 women then came forward to accuse Donald Trump. And last week began with the biggest mass shooting in modern US history, carried out by a man reported to have routinely verbally abused his girlfriend: domestic violence is common in the past of mass shooters.

Underlying all these attacks is a lack of empathy, a will to dominate, and an entitlement to control, harm and even take the lives of others. Though there is a good argument that mental illness is not a sufficient explanation – and most mentally ill people are nonviolent – mass shooters and rapists seem to have a lack of empathy so extreme it constitutes a psychological disorder. At this point in history, it seems to be not just a defect from birth, but a characteristic many men are instilled with by the culture around them. It seems to be the precondition for causing horrific suffering and taking pleasure in it as a sign of one’s own power and superiority, in regarding others as worthless, as yours to harm or eliminate.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/12/challenge-extreme-masculinity-harvey-weinstein-degrading-women

Jeff Sessions wants to crack down on legal weed — will Congress let him?

From Salon:  https://www.salon.com/2017/12/08/jeff-sessions-wants-to-crack-down-on-legal-weed-will-congress-let-him/

Limits on federal pot prosecution just got a brief extension, but medical marijuana may still be at risk

Amanda Marcotte 12.08.2017

UPDATE: Congress gave the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment a temporary reprieve after this piece was originally published, extending protections until Dec. 22. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., responded by saying, "[T]wo weeks is not enough certainty," and adding, "Congress must act to put an end to the cycle of uncertainty and permanently protect state medical marijuana programs — and adult use — from federal interference."
In all the budget and tax negotiations frantically being hammered out on Capitol Hill, one small amendment that might get lost in the shuffle could have huge ramifications. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment was originally set to expire on Friday (see update above), which would open the door for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do what he's been hinting he wants to: Launch a federal war on states that have partly or completely legalized marijuana use.
The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, originally passed as the the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment in 2014, bars the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute people buying or selling medical marijuana in states that have legalized it. It's a popular bipartisan amendment that protects 46 states, but there have been concerns about whether it will be renewed after Sessions exerted pressure in May on Congress to let the amendment die.
Sessions argued that the DOJ's hands need to be untied when it comes to prosecuting marijuana dispensaries, "particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime." There is, of course, no evidence that marijuana use is contributing to the opioid crisis and, in fact, there's a significant link between legalized medical marijuana and a decrease in opioid overdoses.

The amendment survived, despite Sessions' pressure, through a couple rounds of budget debate in Congress this year, but as Ames Grawert of the Brennan Center for Justice told Salon, "Every time, there’s sort of a dance around whether it will actually get cut this time or not." It’s reasonable to be at least "a little concerned," Grawert said, that Sessions' pressure will eventually convince congressional Republicans to dump the amendment. 
This will-they-or-won't-they game is why Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, and a bipartisan group of 24 other lawmakers have introduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017, which would prevent the federal government from prosecuting any marijuana users, growers or distributors who are in compliance with state laws.
“You have booming economies in several states, some of whom allow the recreational use of marijuana but many also just for medical purposes, and no real data linking that to a public safety problem," Grawert said, noting that the Brennan Center objects to using federal resources to prosecute people or break up thriving economies without any data to show that doing so would improve public safety.
In March, Sessions argued that marijuana use is "only slightly less awful" than heroin addiction, making it clear that his priority was to aggressively prosecute marijuana users and distributors. He's been stymied by both the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment and a memo issued by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole that discouraged the Justice Department from prosecuting people who were following state-level marijuana laws. The obvious concern here, however, is that Sessions would seize upon the first political opening available to reinvigorate the federal war on pot.

Continue reading at:  https://www.salon.com/2017/12/08/jeff-sessions-wants-to-crack-down-on-legal-weed-will-congress-let-him/

Capitalism Is Not the Only Choice

From Yes Magazine:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/solidarity/capitalism-is-not-the-only-choice-20171114

We have opportunities every day to build economies that lift each other up and spread joy.

Nov 14, 2017

Since the breakup of the Soviet bloc and China’s turn toward free markets, many economists have pronounced an “end of history,” where capitalism reigns supreme as the ultimate form of economy. Perhaps “there is no alternative” to a globalized neoliberal economy, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher often said. Indeed, free markets in which individuals compete to get what they can while they can are glorified in popular culture through reality shows such as Shark Tank.

But many of us in the 99 percent are not feeling so happy or secure about this economy’s results. Many are working harder and longer just to maintain housing and keep food on the table. Even the college-educated are mired in student debt, keeping the American Dream beyond their grasp. And then there are those who have never been served well by this economy. African Americans were liberated from enslavement only to be largely shut out of “free” market opportunities. Immigrants continue to work in the shadows. Women still earn only about three-quarters of what men make for the same work.

So, are we trapped in capitalism? While many of us may want a new economy where people and planet are prioritized over profit, we remain skeptical that another world is really possible. We make some progress locally but then feel powerless to affect national and global forces. Too often “the economy” is equated with markets where corporations compete to make profits for the wealthiest 1 percent and the rest work for a wage or salary (or don’t make money at all). Work itself is seen as legitimate only if it legally generates income. Value is measured only in money terms, based on what people are willing to pay in the market. The capitalist mindset also separates economy from society and nature, as if it exists apart from people, communities, government, and our planet. Economy is its own machine, fueled by profit and competition.

When everything that we label “economic” is assumed to be capitalist—transactional and market-driven—then it is no wonder that we run short on imagination.

Redefining economy beyond capitalism

To escape this “capitalocentrism,” we need to broaden the definition of economy beyond capitalism. What if, instead, economy is all the ways that we meet our material needs and care for each other? And what if it’s not a singular thing? Then we would see that beneath the official capitalist economy are all sorts of thriving non-capitalist economies, where there may not be a profit motive or market exchange. They include tasks that we do every day. We care for our children and elderly; we cook and clean for ourselves and each other; we grow food; we provide emotional support to friends. These are all ways of meeting our material needs and caring for each other.

Continue reading at:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/solidarity/capitalism-is-not-the-only-choice-20171114

Happy Hanukkah


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Exploring the radical roots of Roy Moore’s theocratic Christianity

From Salon:  https://www.salon.com/2017/12/01/exploring-the-radical-roots-of-roy-moores-theocratic-christianity/

Former judge is aligned with Christian Reconstruction, a radical ideology that wants to end secular government

Amanda Marcotte Dec. 1, 2017

Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate and alleged high school girl enthusiast, was part of a fundamentalist curriculum on law and government that taught that women shouldn't run for office — and hinted it would be best if they weren't allowed to vote. On Wednesday, ThinkProgress published a piece examining "Law and Government: An Introductory Study Course," which promised that in "addition to learning concepts of civil government and public policy, students will be strengthened in their understanding of biblical principles which govern us and which point us to the Lawgiver who governs us all -- Jesus Christ."

Moore was one of the lecturers and a co-author of the curriculum, which appears to be part of the Witherspoon School of Law and Public Policy, which is not a school in any formal sense, but rather a program of four-day seminars teaching a fundamentalist Christian interpretation of the law to male-only audiences.

The ThinkProgress coverage, which is worth reading in full, focuses largely on what this course teaches about women's rights, which is basically that feminism is "a false ideology" and a "heresy." But as Julie Ingersoll, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, explained to Salon, the implications of this curriculum go far beyond Moore's opinion of women's rights. This discovery is more evidence of Moore's links to Christian Reconstruction, a far-right, borderline theocratic ideology that has radical views on women's rights, religious freedom and the role of government.

Christian Reconstruction is an obscure far-right ideology developed by a man named Rousas John Rushdoony. In her book, "Building God's Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction," Ingersoll writes that Rushdoony "started a movement — Reconstruction, which sought to remake the whole of society to conform to his reading of the Bible — that didn't attract much support, but the movement's ideas became a driving force in American politics."

Moore doesn't identify openly as a Christian Reconstructionist, but then again, hardly anyone does. Rushdoony was, among other things, a Holocaust denier, a slavery apologist and a virulent racist who opposed racial integration and called for the death penalty for gay people. Openly calling oneself a follower of his is unwise even in the Deep South, and Christian fundamentalists understand this. But Rushdoony's ideas, Ingersoll told Salon, are pervasive in the Christian right.

The Reconstruction movement, Ingersoll explained, teaches that the role of civil government is to "
The libertarian bent of so much evangelical thought, then, owes a lot to the pervasiveness of Reconstruction, even as the word itself has fallen out of fashion. But the curriculum that ThinkProgress dug up, Ingersoll noted, is "run by the Vision Forum, which is about as close to pure Rushdoony-style Christian Reconstructionism as you get."  The Witherspoon program, she added, even included Rushdoony's best-known book, "The Biblical Philosophy of History," in its reading list.

Vision Forum collapsed in 2013 after its head, Doug Phillips, was publicly accused of sexual and emotional abuse by a woman named Lourdes Torres-Manteufel, who said Phillips used his religious authority over her to move her into his house, bully her into sexual encounters and tell her that he that he expected her to be his new wife when his current one died. (His wife, Beall Phillips, is 50 years old and appears, from her blogging activity, to be in good health.)

The view that women shouldn't run for office and possibly should not even have the right to vote, Ingersoll explained, is part of the concept of "Biblical patriarchy" that Phillips taught, which flows from Reconstructionist views about the proper roles of family, church and civil government.

Continue reading at: https://www.salon.com/2017/12/01/exploring-the-radical-roots-of-roy-moores-theocratic-christianity/

What Is 'White Sharia'? Alt-Right Blogger Doesn't Want Women To Vote, Drive Or Work

No to any brand of Sharia.

From Newsweek:  http://www.newsweek.com/what-white-sharia-and-what-does-it-have-do-americas-sexual-harassment-problem-725163

By
11/28/17


White supremacists want to take over everything — even the thing they hate the most: Islam's Sharia Law.

White Sharia—as coined by a former Marine blogger—is still anti-Muslim, but seizes on orthodox Islam's ideal of obedient women and turns it into its own movement, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

White Sharia started as an online meme by Sacco Vandal, the ex-soldier and white supremacist, who wrote on his blog that feminists and a falling American patriarchy are resulting in men losing their "barbarity."

"Whites did not conquer the entire Earth by being nice or civilized; Whites conquered the world by sailing into foreign lands and taking those lands by force," Vandal wrote. 

And he says White Sharia can help white men become men again, and that the U.S. needs to regain its "extreme patriarchy." 

But what started as an online trolling mechanism to bring attention to the idea that feminists are hurting the alt-right movement turned into something much more aggressive.

“They don’t like Muslims, but they don’t have a problem with what are regressive treatment of women,” Heidi Beirich, the director of Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told Newsweek. “They have come to the position that Sharia law is turning women into baby factories and turning them back into the home, and they’re fine with that.”

This phrase begun gaining popularity only in the past few months. Many believe its rise to popularity is due to the #MeToo movement, in which dozens of women have come out against powerful men with sexual misconduct allegations.

“The reason you’re seeing [white Sharia] a lot more recently is this social movement against sexual harassment,” Beirich said. “These are people who don’t believe the concept of sexual harassment exists.”

Vandal seems to agree with Beirich. He wrote on his blog that men should be able to "rape, pillage, and plunder" once again.

“The Muslim world is the only civilization left on Earth today where an extreme and rigidly codified patriarchy still exists," he wrote. "Sharia law, though practiced today by some of the world’s most despicable races, is the only living example of anything that even remotely approximates the patriarchal society that Western man once had himself.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.newsweek.com/what-white-sharia-and-what-does-it-have-do-americas-sexual-harassment-problem-725163

Black People Are Being Openly Bought and Sold in Libyan Slave Markets

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/world/black-people-are-being-openly-bought-and-sold-libyan-slave-markets

This is happening today.

By Kali Holloway November 22, 2017

Black Africans are being sold like inanimate objects in slave auctions across Libya. Like so many modern horrors, there is video evidence of this atrocity.

Cellphone footage from August, captured in an unidentified Libyan town, documents an outdoor slave market during a sale in progress. In the video, below, an auctioneer describes two Nigerians as "big strong boys for farm work," before he begins calling out increasingly larger bids to an audience off-camera. The price that is settled on for both men comes to 1,200 Libyan dinars, or roughly $800 American. Two young men—two human beings—have just been sold at a price of $400 apiece.
For refugees fleeing violence, poverty and oppression in parts of Africa to its east, south and west, Libya has become a temporary landing point; a gateway that ultimately leads to the shores of southern Europe. But Libya has been torn apart by tribal warring and violence since 2011, when U.S.-led forces overthrew Muammar Gaddafi while making little effort to stabilize the region. This leadership vacuum has left Libya in a state of chaos in which “modern forms of slavery prosper,” according to human rights organization Walk Free.

Libya currently ranks among the top six countries on the Global Slavery Index, a result of its rampant “conflict, corruption, displacement, discrimination and inequality.” Longstanding North African racism toward black Africans is a contributing factor to the mistreatment of migrants. Shokri Agmar, a Libyan lawyer and journalist, told the New Internationalist in 2016 that sub-Saharan refugees are disadvantaged at every turn.

“They’re in a state of complete and utter helplessness,” Agmar explained. “Us Libyans rely on our own militias to protect ourselves, but migrants lack a militia of their own so they are defenseless against the constant threats. Whatever happens to them, no one will lift a finger, and they cannot keep a low profile because of the color of their skin.”

Add to these conditions rising racism, xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments in countries like Italy, where hundreds of thousands of African migrants seek refuge. Early this year, Italy, with EU backing, agreed to pay the Libyan coast guard to stop migrant-filled vessels from reaching Europe. Once seized, those boats are redirected back to Libya, where their occupants are placed in detention centers and camps often run by corrupt entities. The migrants are often subject to physical attacks and sexual abuse, while others are sold as human chattel. Those abuses are so common that earlier this year, UNICEF designated the Libyan path to Europe “among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women.”

CNN, which posted the slave auction video in October, verified the footage and launched its own investigation that turned up yet more evidence of how common this scene is in towns across Libya. At a nondescript private home outside the capital city of Tripoli, a team from the network secretly filmed a similar market where CNN reporters watched “a dozen people go ‘under the hammer’ in the space of six or seven minutes.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.alternet.org/world/black-people-are-being-openly-bought-and-sold-libyan-slave-markets

Monday, December 4, 2017

Is sexual harassment really difficult to understand?

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/06/sexual-harassment-consent-metropolitan-liberal-men

The idea of consent is not a ‘metropolitan’ or liberal concept yet it seems to confuse some men. They should check themselves and listen


Monday 6 November 2017

Don’t sexually harass women in the workplace. It’s clearly a big ask, isn’t it? For certain kinds of men, this appears to be an imposition that confuses them terribly. How are they to know how to make passes at women? Surely everyone understands that making a pass is not like raping someone? No, they are just being men – watching porn, sexting teenagers, saying lewd things to colleagues. Banter innit? They are the kind of men no woman wants to get in a lift with, the type for whom the acronym NSIT (Not Safe in Taxis) was invented. Do these creeps ever wonder why?

They shouldn’t worry too much. The Today programme, Have I Got News for You and Newsnight are still dominated by sniggering men who would hate to muddle a minor “indiscretion” with a major one. When Jo Brand calmly told a panel of public school boys and Paul Merton that repeated low-level sexual harassment wore women down, for a moment they were silenced – but only for a moment.

Up pops David Goodhart – Etonian, thinktanker, categoriser of people into Anywheres and Somewheres – to inform us on Twitter that the “inability to distinguish hand on knee/sleazebag behaviour from rape/serious intimidation is typical of ideological (metropolitan) thinking”. Okey-dokey. Who exactly is unable to distinguish this? Men? Women? The police? People who live in cities? We can of course distinguish, especially perhaps those of us who have experienced it – and we tend to see it on a continuum. Men who don’t require consent or who get off on making women feel uncomfortable make us both fearful and compromised in the workplace. This applies as much in an out-of-town superstore as it does in Westminster.

So for Goodhart to conjure up this bizarre metropolitan elite argument to shore up male privilege shows just how fragile these old forms of masculinity are currently feeling. The idea that outside metropolitan areas it is apparently OK to behave as a lech is deeply insulting and untrue.

If by “metropolitan” he means progressive – and this is part of his general attack on the liberal tribe who have lost touch with reality – Goodhart would be endorsing a reality that is inherently sexist and arguing that abhorrent attitudes are fundamentally unchangeable.

Away from Goodhart, there is battalion of vocal wronged men who think of women as fantasists; and in expressing that, they reveal more than we may wish to know about them. Such poor souls are wounded not by the metropolitan elite or liberal values, but by the visible refutation of their own ideology, which assumes that an entitlement to power means unquestioned sexual entitlement too.
Why is it so difficult for them? They are often, it has to be said, of a certain age. Years ago one man in Westminster told me that his attitude to sex was “throw enough mud against the wall and some of it sticks”. Pity us walls.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/06/sexual-harassment-consent-metropolitan-liberal-men

The death of Christianity in the U.S.

From The Baptist News:  https://baptistnews.com/article/death-christianity-u-s/#.WiYOOYgUmUn

November 13, 2017

Christianity has died in the hands of Evangelicals. Evangelicalism ceased being a religious faith tradition following Jesus’ teachings concerning justice for the betterment of humanity when it made a Faustian bargain for the sake of political influence. The beauty of the gospel message — of love, of peace and of fraternity — has been murdered by the ambitions of Trumpish flimflammers who have sold their souls for expediency. No greater proof is needed of the death of Christianity than the rush to defend a child molester in order to maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate.

Evangelicals have constructed an exclusive interpretation which fuses and confuses white supremacy with salvation. Only those from the dominant culture, along with their supposed inferiors who with colonized minds embrace assimilation, can be saved. But their salvation damns Jesus. To save Jesus from those claiming to be his heirs, we must wrench him from the hands of those who use him as a façade from which to hide their phobias — their fear of blacks, their fear of the undocumented, their fear of Muslims, their fear of everything queer.

Evangelicalism has ceased to be a faith perspective rooted on Jesus the Christ and has become a political movement whose beliefs repudiate all Jesus advocated. A message of hate permeates their pronouncements, evident in sulphurous proclamations like the Nashville Statement, which elevates centuries of sexual dysfunctionalities since the days of Augustine by imposing them upon Holy Writ. They condemn as sin those who express love outside the evangelical anti-body straight jacket.

Evangelicalism’s unholy marriage to the Prosperity Gospel justifies multi-millionaire bilkers wearing holy vestments made of sheep’s clothing who discovered being profiteers rather than prophets delivers an earthly security never promised by the One in whose name they slaughter those who are hungry, thirsty and naked, and the alien among them. Christianity at a profit is an abomination before all that is Holy. From their gilded pedestals erected in white centers of wealth and power, they gaslight all to believe they are the ones being persecuted because of their faith.

Evangelicalism’s embrace of a new age of ignorance, blames homosexuality for Harvey’s rage rather than considering the scientific consequences climate change has on the number of increasing storms of greater and greater ferocity. To ignore the damage caused to God’s creation so the few can profit in raping Mother Earth causes celebrations in the fiery pits of Gehenna.

Evangelicalism forsakes holding a sexual predator, an adulterer, a liar and a racist accountable, instead serving as a shield against those who question POTUS’ immorality because of some warped reincarnation of Cyrus. Laying holy hands upon the incarnation of the very vices Jesus condemned to advance a political agenda — instead of rebuking and chastising in loving prayer — has prostituted the gospel in exchange for the victory of a Supreme Court pick.

Evangelicalism either remained silent or actually supported Charlottesville goose steppers because they protect their white privilege with the doublespeak of preserving heritage, leading them to equate opponents of fascist movements with the purveyors of hatred. Jesus has yet recovered from the vomiting induced by the Christian defenders of torch-wielding white nationalists calling for “blood-and-soil.”

The Evangelicals’ Jesus is satanic, and those who hustle this demon are “false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Cor. 11:13-15, NIV).

You might wonder if my condemnation is too harsh. It is not, for the Spirit of the Lord has convicted me to shout from the mountaintop how God’s precious children are being devoured by the hatred and bigotry of those who have positioned themselves as the voice of God in America.

As a young man, I walked down the sawdust aisle at a Southern Baptist church and gave my heart to Jesus. Besides offering my broken heart, I also gave my mind to understanding God, and my arm to procuring God’s call for justice. I have always considered myself to be an evangelical, but I can no longer allow my name to be tarnished by that political party masquerading as Christian. Like many women and men of good will who still struggle to believe, but not in the evangelical political agenda, I too no longer want or wish to be associated with an ideology responsible for tearing humanity apart. But if you, dear reader, still cling to a hate-mongering ideology, may I humbly suggest you get saved.

Women, we should stop gaslighting ourselves and trust our instincts

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/20/women-sexual-harassment-gaslighting-instincts

Instincts are difficult to describe but easy to know. If we’re feeling unnerved, the very least we can do is listen to those inner voices

Friday 20 October 2017

Aside from the words “massage”, “bathrobe” and “undressed”, there’s another theme that recurs in the allegations – more than 50 of them – against Harvey Weinstein: many of the women felt uneasy as soon as they met him. The sickening allegations have reminded me just how important it is that we trust our instincts.

If you don’t get to the bottom of this piece, please remember this crucial caveat: I am not placing one iota of blame on the women whose trust was abused – the responsibility for that will always lie with the person who did the abusing.

In the case of Harvey Weinstein, and so many others, the choice about whether to ignore our instincts is distorted to the point of being almost meaningless. The women’s decisions were deeply affected by the fact that their entire careers could rest on this man – a fact Weinstein knew how to play all too well.

That’s what power does. It doesn’t just affect the choices we have available to us, it affects the way we choose between them.

But on those rare moments where we can choose; where we’re deciding whether or not to go for a second date, whether or not to share a ride, and when there’s that voice within us saying “that guy seems like a bit of a creep”, we should listen, rather than heeding the million other voices that say “you’ve got no reason to think that” or “he doesn’t seem so bad” or “stop being crazy”.

We should stop gaslighting ourselves.

Instincts are difficult to describe but easy to know. I’ve shaken hands with men and seen a look in their eye that makes my throat dry up. I’ve sat beside men on trains and felt their legs a fraction of an inch closer than they needed to be. I’ve paid for things and had men touch my hands as I place my money down on the counter. We often feel utterly paralysed in those moments. You can’t stop meeting men, riding trains or paying for things. And to speak up would be to expose yourself to ridicule, to show yourself as a monster who has lost their mind to paranoia.

The very least we can do in those situations, the absolute bare minimum, is to listen to those inner voices.

We can have so little information available to us when we meet someone new. Rather than saying “I don’t want to read too much into that”, we should trust that the little signs are revealing of something bigger.

This is about unlearning a lesson that is good in one classroom but not in another. Yes, we should be generous; yes, we should give people a second chance – but not when it comes to our mental and physical safety. It’s just not worth it.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Today Abbie Hoffman Would Have been 81 Years Old

I met Abbie on several occasions in the years between 1967 and 1969.

The world would be a better place if he, Jerry Rubin, Huey Newton, John Lennon and other 1960s leaders were still around instead of the Frat Boy Draft Dodging Scum like Trump.

From Kinky Friedman, Texas singer, song writer, author and former gubernatorial candidate

A special message from the Kinkster:

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Jewish troublemakers. And Abbie Hoffman was one of the best! I got to know him during the years of 1974 to 1980, when he was a fugitive on the run from the feds, often topping the FBI’s most wanted list. I’ve always believed that the drug charges against Abbie were totally trumped-up. In truth, he was only guilty of one crime, but it was the crime that is never forgiven: poking fun at authority. 

Abbie was a colorful, fun-loving, political prankster, highly adept at skewering the establishment, which, God knows, seems forever in need of being skewered. Abbie hid out at my place in Chappaqua long before Bill and Hillary got there. We shot about a million games of pool, with Abbie losing very few indeed. Later, I harbored my famous fugitive at our family’s ranch, a summer camp for kids, in Texas. We spent the winter playing chess, riding donkeys, and trying to figure out how the world had gotten so screwed-up. A year later, Abbie crashed with me in Hollywood and introduced me to another guy whom he sometimes hid out with, Jack Nicholson.

In the end it seemed as if Abbie had become like the character in the Billy Joe Shaver song, “Cursed to be born a serious soul/ Nobody takes seriously.” The question remains, of course, why would anybody harbor a high-level fugitive in the first place? Perhaps it was the way of my people. Perhaps I liked living dangerously. Perhaps I just liked Abbie. Perhaps I was following Charles Bukowski’s advice, “Run with the hunted.” Perhaps.

I’m writing this today on Abbie’s birthday, November 30th. He would’ve been eighty-one years old if life had been just a little bit different. But it never is. If you want to know more about Abbie, I suppose you could google him. While you’re at it, you could also google Moses and Jesus. After all, they were three good Jewish boys who got in a little trouble with the government.

Happy birthday, Dear Abbie. Wherever you are.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ken Burns' New Vietnam War Series Teaches a Flawed, Misleading Lesson

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/burns-wrong-lessons

The new film distorts what scholars, veterans and antiwar activists alike know about the war and its aftermath.

By Jerry Lembcke September 19, 2017

When Karl Marlantes takes the screen during the new PBS film series The Vietnam War, he says coming home was nearly as traumatic as the war itself. Later, he describes being assaulted by protesters at the airport, invoking the image of spat-on Vietnam veterans, an image that Los Angeles Times editorial writer Michael McGough said in 2012 was based on a myth. An edifying myth, McGough called it, but still a myth.

With The Vietnam War, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have created a film that rehashes some old, tired tropes. In doing so, they distort what soldiers, veterans, and antiwar activists alike know about the war and its aftermath, especially inside the United States.

In their May 29 New York Times op-ed advertisement for the series, Burns and Novick give a lofty rationale for their film. Succumbing to another cliché, they claim it is about healing. But the discourse of healing misleads as much as it informs, presupposing a prewar America that was a seamless unity, where everyone got along. As sociologist Keith Beattie showed in his 1998 book The Scar That Binds: American Culture and the Vietnam War, that America was mythical. The real one was already torn by racism and McCarthyism, and frayed by modern technology. Domestic class conflict and racial and gender anxieties, too, continued right through the war, as the historian Milton Bates pointed out in his 1996 book The Wars We Took to Vietnam.

That fractured America was complicit in its going to war, not simply a passive victim of it. Burns and Novick intentionally exclude scholars like Beattie and Bates, however. “No historians or other expert talking heads” mar their film, they told the Times’s reviewer Jennifer Schuessler. “Instead,” Schuessler reports matter-of-factly, their “79 onscreen interviews give the ground-up view of the war from the mostly ordinary people who lived through it.”

Ground-up views are susceptible, especially after 40 years, to the very myths they are supposed to belie. Memories that are 40 years old are too influenced by movies, novels, newspapers, and television—or those dreaded historians—to count for documentation. Lawyers, judges, and courts concluded years ago that eyewitness accounts of crimes that are only hours old are unreliable—so, 40 years? Or 50? In the hands of filmmakers, however, such accounts are too easily and too often used as a veneer to manage viewer perceptions.1 Here Burns and Novick offer false equivalences, or “balance” in journalistic parlance. In promoting healing instead of the search for truth, The Vietnam War offers misleading comforts.

The contradictions of The Vietnam War pile up from the start. Its creators might claim a ground-up view—and the film does give us lot of grunt-level footage, like Marines in rice paddies and GIs jumping out of helicopters—but the prevailing interpretations of these scenes come from elites. Some of these notables would be better cast into confessional booths than onto PBS screens, too. For example, John Negroponte, a prominent interpreter in the film, used diplomatic appointments as cover for covert activities over a half-century of US-engineered (or –attempted) regime-change operations.

Just over 30 years old when he began his Vietnam assignment, Negroponte developed a reputation as a “hardliner” in negotiations to end the war in Vietnam, once breaking with his superior officer Henry Kissinger for making too many concessions to communist North Vietnam. Later in his life, he took lessons from Vietnam to America’s adventures across the world. As ambassador to Honduras between 1981 and 1985, Negroponte built the small and friendly nation into a bustling military platform for cross-border operations against the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua; when popular opposition to the US military presence in Honduras arose, he enabled and covered for the murderous death squads of General Gustavo Álvarez Martínez, a graduate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas. As a delegate to the United Nations in the early 2000s, he helped sell the invasion of Iraq on the false claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Once characterized by journalist Stephen Kinzer as “a great fabulist,” Negroponte’s prominence in The Vietnam War will have viewers of many political stripes scratching their heads.

Continue reading at:  https://www.alternet.org/burns-wrong-lessons

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All-Out Assault on LGBTQ People by Trump, Pence, Sessions


'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/05/smartphone-addiction-silicon-valley-dystopia

Google, Twitter and Facebook workers who helped make technology so addictive are disconnecting themselves from the internet. Paul Lewis reports on the Silicon Valley refuseniks alarmed by a race for human attention

by in San Francisco Friday 6 October 2017

Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.

Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.

He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.

A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.

These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place. Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves. “It is very common,” Rosenstein says, “for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.”

Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.

There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.”
But those concerns are trivial compared with the devastating impact upon the political system that some of Rosenstein’s peers believe can be attributed to the rise of social media and the attention-based market that drives it.

Drawing a straight line between addiction to social media and political earthquakes like Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, they contend that digital forces have completely upended the political system and, left unchecked, could even render democracy as we know it obsolete.

In 2007, Rosenstein was one of a small group of Facebook employees who decided to create a path of least resistance – a single click – to “send little bits of positivity” across the platform. Facebook’s “like” feature was, Rosenstein says, “wildly” successful: engagement soared as people enjoyed the short-term boost they got from giving or receiving social affirmation, while Facebook harvested valuable data about the preferences of users that could be sold to advertisers. The idea was soon copied by Twitter, with its heart-shaped “likes” (previously star-shaped “favourites”), Instagram, and countless other apps and websites.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/05/smartphone-addiction-silicon-valley-dystopia