AMERICAblog NewsAMERICAblog News A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Tue, 27 Sep 2016 19:11:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Trumpers say he won debate because of fake online polls. Sad! Tue, 27 Sep 2016 19:11:15 +0000 The Trump forces, including white supremacist Alt Right leaders, are claiming today that Donald Trump won last night’s presidential debate — which everyone agrees he lost, bigly.

How can Camp Trump claim Trump won a debate he obviously lost?

Because Trump won those all-important fake Internet polls. You know them, the polls on a Web site that you can vote in 100 times?

Yeah, Trump won that.


So I thought we’d have a little look at how Trump did in the real polls last night. The only real poll so far is CNN’s. Here are those results.

CNN poll of debate watchers
Clinton 62%
Trump 27%

It doesn’t get more thumpy than that.

Here’s more about those goofy online polls the Trump camp is now beating their chest over, and more on why the CNN poll is the real thing. From the Washington Post:

There was one poll conducted in the wake of the debate that holds some statistical validity. Accurate polling depends on getting a sample of respondents that is representative of the population whose opinion you’d like to gauge. CNN and its polling partner ORC conducted a poll after the debate that found that Hillary Clinton won easily, by a more than 2-to-1 margin. The sample leaned slightly Democratic, which CNN noted, but it was generally a good snapshot of the views of the American public. FiveThirtyEight notes that CNN’s survey has historically correlated to shifts in the polls.

There were also a lot of garbage polls conducted after the debate. There was the poll at the Drudge Report, a survey that you can take right now, if you wish. According to that one, Trump was viewed as the victor by 82 percent of those who replied, with about 570,000-plus having weighed in. A who-do-you-think-won poll at Time gives it to Trump with 54 percent of the vote; the same sort of thing at CNBC mirrors the CNN poll in reverse, 2-to-1 for Trump….

Online polls are, again, garbage, no more representative of the population as a whole than is the crowd at a Trump rally. That comparison is very apt, in fact. The crowd at a Trump rally 1) is open to all comers, 2) is geographically isolated, meaning that while anyone can attend, it doesn’t include a huge swath of people who vote, and 3) it rewards enthusiasm in a way that tends to obscure actual interest. In other words, if 20,000 people in a state press into a Trump rally to cheer lustily for his stump speech, that’s still only a tiny fraction of the population of even our smallest states.

The online polls are the same way. Open to anyone, meaning that anybody with an Internet connection can go and cast a vote. Anyone in Russia, for example, or in Canada. Anyone who is 12 years old or who is not a citizen. Literally anyone can weigh in at any time. And can do so more than once: Vote once from your phone and once at your desktop. No reason not to.

Even the lead white supremacist Alt Right Web site run by Trump’s own campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, said Hillary Clinton won last night:

Breitbart presidential poll

So the next time a deplorable starts tweeting you about how Trump really won last night, have a good hearty laugh then send them a link to this story.

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If you missed the presidential debate, here are the highlights Tue, 27 Sep 2016 16:37:50 +0000 Well that was fun.

I admit starting the debate with butterflies in my stomach. For the first time I can recall in watching a debate, I was actually nervous. The kind of nervous I get before I go on TV, or speak before a crowd. Like many on the left, I fear this election is too close. And last night was a critically important moment.

Hillary, like the president of Mexico before her, looked Trump in the eye and he sniffed and blinked.

What was up with that, anyway? Trump was sniffling and snorting the entire evening, though he denied it this morning on Fox & Friends (yeah, even Fox noticed it). That was the same interview in which Trump thought it would be a good idea to double down on his fat-shaming of Miss Universe, Alicia Machado (who he reportedly once called Miss Housekeeping because she’s originally from Venezuela). Machado got her revenge by doing an ad last night, in Spanish:

Hillary was good. Really good. She looked good. Sounded good. Was even, dare I say it, likable. She knew her facts, wasn’t too wonky, politely paid attention to Trump while he was talking (while he looked all over the place, like a kid with ADD, while Hillary spoke), and refused to take his bait over and over again, while feeding him poisoned little fact-nuggets that he eagerly and naively bit into time and again.

Hillary ticked Trump off early. Watch Trump’s reactions while Hillary is speaking.

Then she got him for rooting for the housing crisis, and check out what he said in response:

All the focus groups thought Hillary won. All the polls I’ve seen put Hillary as the victor. (Trump won the fake online polls, the ones on Web pages where the same person can vote 100 times.)

Things went so badly for Trump that ended up claiming afterward that his mic was bad, and that somehow influenced the debate. (No one heard anything with Trump’s mic.) And Rudy Giuliani is now saying that maybe Trump shouldn’t show up for the next two debates, supposedly because moderator Lester Holt was “unfair” to Trump. Lester Holt was a potted plant last night. He let Trump ramble endlessly. And even when Holt did hold Trump accountable for his Iraq lie (Trump claims he was against the Iraq war, when in fact there’s audio showing Trump was for it), Trump then lied again, claimed the audio showed him saying “maybe,” when in fact the audio shows him saying “yeah.” Holt didn’t respond when Trump lied about what the audio said. Now you can debate whether Holt should have stood down at that point, but there’s no arguing with the fact that Holt could have done more fact-checking and he didn’t.

MSNBC this morning had the architect on who Trump allegedly stiffed on his bill. Trump last night said he didn’t pay the man because maybe he did a bad job. In fact, the architect released a letter of recommendation from Trump saying the man did a fabulous job.


Image courtesy of MSNBC.

Speaking of Trump’s truthiness, Politifact (one of the big fact-check organizations) did an analysis of the number of lies told by the candidates last night. Trump won by a landslide:

Image courtesy of MSNBC.

Image courtesy of MSNBC.

At one point, cybersecurity came up, and Trump defended the Russians against charges that they were responsible for hacking the DNC. It was bizarre. The Russian state propaganda organ immediately publicized Trump’s defense of Putin:

And here’s Hillary responding to Trump’s claim that she doesn’t have the stamina to be president (in fact, he said Hillary didn’t have the presidential “look,” then lied about having said it).

Trump was particularly awful when the subject came up of Trump having led the birther movement these past 8 years. Trump actually bragged about having done it.

Then Trump, oddly, claimed that Hillary has been fighting ISIS her entire adult life. Which would put the battle’s beginning to 1966. In fact, if we’re being generous, ISIS was founded in 1999. The Associated Press tweeted that it’s really more accurate to put the modern origins of ISIS to 2013.

The Washington Post did a wonderful summary this morning on all of the debate reaction, you can read it here. But here are a few gems:

“He was exciting but embarrassingly undisciplined,” writes New York Post conservative columnist John Podhoretz. “He began with his strongest argument — that the political class represented by her has failed us and it’s time to look to a successful dealmaker for leadership — and kept to it pretty well for the first 20 minutes. Then due to the vanity and laziness that led him to think he could wing the most important 95 minutes of his life, he lost the thread of his argument, he lost control of his temper and he lost the perspective necessary to correct these mistakes as he went. By the end … Trump was reduced to a sputtering mess blathering about Rosie O’Donnell and about how he hasn’t yet said the mean things about Hillary that he is thinking.”

This was perhaps my favorite:

“After the first 20 minutes, it may have been the most lopsided debate I’ve ever seen — and not because Clinton was particularly effective. But you don’t need to be good when your opponent is bad,” writes National Review’s David French, who considered running for president as an independent. “Why didn’t he have a better answer ready for the birther nonsense? Has he still not done any homework on foreign policy? I felt like I was watching the political Titanic hit the iceberg, back up, and hit it again. Just for fun.”

CNN’s snap poll wasn’t any kinder to Trump:


img_9064 img_9063 undrstanding

CNN’s Gloria Borger, who I really like, thought Trump “totally lost control of the debate.”

I’ll close with Hillary’s comments this morning on Trump’s claim that his microphone wasn’t working:


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Presidential debate open thread Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:51:03 +0000 I’ll be watching the presidential debate tonight, and responding live on Twitter at (you don’t need to be a Twitter member to read my tweets, just click on the link).

So feel free to join in the comments below, or join me on Twitter.

Enjoy. Finger’s crossed.

Does Lester Holt have a Judge Curiel problem? Mon, 26 Sep 2016 15:47:22 +0000 Donald Trump keeps alleging that the moderator of tonight’s first presidential debate, Lester Holt, is biased against Trump. Is it because Holt is black?

Trump keeps saying that Holt is a Democrat, even though it’s already been shown that Holt is a registered Republican. So what’s the basis of Trump’s ongoing concern about Holt, and why won’t Trump say what it really is — why is Trump sticking with this absurd argument that Holt is a Democratic, when he’s not?

Is Donald Trump’s real problem with Lester Holt that he’s black? Is this Judge Curiel redux?

Let’s revisit what Trump said about the Mexican-American judge, Judge Curiel, who is overseeing his Trump University lawsuit:

Tapper: Is it not — when Hillary Clinton says this is a racist attack, and you reject that — if you are saying he can’t do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?

Trump: No. I don’t think so at all.

Tapper: No?

Trump: No. He’s proud of his heritage. I respect him for that.

Tapper: But you’re saying you can’t do his job because of that.

Trump: Look, he’s proud of his heritage, OK? I’m building a wall. Now, I think I’m going to do very well with Hispanics…because I’m going to bring back jobs. And they are going to get jobs. I think I’m going to do very well with Hispanics.

But we are building a wall. He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.

The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings, rulings that people can’t even believe. This case should have ended years ago on summary judgment. The best lawyers — I have spoken to so many lawyers — they said, `This is not a case. This is a case that should have ended.’ This judge is giving us unfair rulings. Now, I say. `Why?’ Well, I’m building a wall, OK? And it’s a wall between Mexico. Not another country.

Tapper: But he’s not from Mexico. He’s from Indiana.

Trump: He’s of Mexican heritage and he’s very proud of it.

Let’s update this dialogue for Lester Holt. What I quote below is fictional, but what would people say if Trump said this about Lester Holt, who is black (his grandparents immigrated from Jamaica):

Tapper: Is it not — when Hillary Clinton says this is a racist attack, and you reject that — if you are saying he can’t do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?

Trump: No. I don’t think so at all.

Tapper: No?

Trump: No. He’s proud of his heritage. I respect him for that.

Tapper: But you’re saying you can’t do his job because of that.

Trump: Look, he’s proud of his heritage, OK? I’m building a wall. Now, I think I’m going to do very well with blacks… because I’m going to bring back jobs. And they are going to get jobs. I think I’m going to do very well with blacks.

But we are building a wall. He’s black. We’re building a wall between here and Jamaica.

The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings, rulings that people can’t even believe. This case should have ended years ago on summary judgment. The best lawyers — I have spoken to so many lawyers — they said, `This is not a case. This is a case that should have ended.’ This judge is giving us unfair rulings. Now, I say. `Why?’ Well, I’m building a wall, OK? And it’s a wall between Jamaica. Not another country.

Tapper: But he’s not from Jamaica. He’s from Indiana.

Trump: He’s of Jamaican heritage and he’s very proud of it.

Trump is polling slightly above zero with the black community. And a recent survey showed Trump with a zero percent favorability rating among blacks. Does Trump think that an African-American moderator can’t be fair to him during the debate?

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The controversy over fact-checking the presidential debate Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:55:27 +0000 There’s been a growing discussion — I’d say controversy — over whether the presidential debate moderators should fact-check the candidates live.

The issue has been brewing for a few days, but then came to a head yesterday when the head of the presidential commission on debates gave CNN’s Brian Stelter a rather odd reason for why the debates shouldn’t be fact-checked: Because how do you decide between “big facts” and “little facts”?

As absurd as her comments sound, and are, I think her general point is that the moderator’s judgment isn’t perfect, and thus they could wrongly influence the debate. And she’s not wrong. But the same applies to any journalist — they need to get the story right, and sometimes they won’t. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.

But there’s a bigger problem here. In a high school or college debate, the judge — the moderator — decides who wins. In a presidential debate, it’s the people. But the people aren’t always sufficiently informed to know who’s lying. And while the Trump camp wants Hillary herself to fact-check Trump during the debate, why should the public believe her? Candidates always claim that their rival is lying. Trump even lies about indisputable facts, such as whether he supported the Iraq war before we went in (he did, there’s tape). So leaving it to the other candidate to call out a lie means leaving the public confused about the truth.

That’s why some sort of fact-checking needs to take place with the debate monitor. And it’s not as though this hasn’t happened before. One of the most famous examples of calling a candidate out live on his mistake was Gerald Ford in 1976, when he claimed that there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Of course, in Ford’s case, every single person watching knew the truth. So this was more an issue of a moderator spotting a gaffe and bringing it to the public’s attention, lest they miss it.

What do you think? What should the role of the moderator?

Here’s my Periscope discussion on this topic:

PS Candy Crowley was right.

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Zach Galifianakis interviews Hillary Clinton Thu, 22 Sep 2016 22:44:34 +0000 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sat down for an interview with comedian Zach Galifianakis.

While the interview was a bit (intentionally) stilted — Hillary plays the “straight man” of the comedy duo, with Galifianakis zinging both her and Trump, while she attempts not to smile.

At one point in the middle of the interview, they discuss what Hillary and Trump will be wearing to next week’s debate:


I have to say, while the skit was a bit stilted, I’m impressed that Hillary tried this. She’s done a number of things during this campaign, from her social media outreach to her TV ads, that have been quite edgy. They’re the kind of thing serious and more seasoned politicians normally wouldn’t do. Too risky, and all. But Hillary’s trying it anyway. That’s not something I’d have expected from her. And it’s a good thing, I think.

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Donald Trump Jr. still hasn’t removed anti-semitic, white supremacist meme from Instagram Sat, 17 Sep 2016 15:57:02 +0000 Twenty-four hours after Donald Trump Jr. was informed that he posted an anti-semitic, white supremacist meme on Instagram, that post is still live on Trump’s account.

As I noted the other day, in a post intending to mock Hillary Clinton’s recent comments about half of Donald Trump’s supporters being “deplorable” racists, sexists and homophobes, Trump’s son posted a picture of himself, his father and others with the title ” The Deplorables.”

In that image is a picture of a green frog — the symbol of the “Alt-right,” the growing white supremacist movement that Trump’s campaign director, Stephen Bannon, panders to with his publication Breitbart.

But the bigger problem for Donald Trump Jr. is why, after having been informed yesterday that the frog is an anti-semitic, white supremacist meme, has Donald Trump Jr. refused to delete the Instagram post?

From Politico:

Calling the frog meme a “well-known symbol of the white supremacist movement,” Stephanopoulos referred to the company of others in the photo who have propagated various conspiracy theories.

“I’ve never even heard of Pepe the Frog. I mean, bet you 90 percent of your viewers have never heard of Pepe the Frog,” Trump Jr. told Stephanopoulos, adding, “I thought it was a frog in a wig. I thought it was funny. I had no idea there was any connotation there.”

And I just checked Instagram, and the photo of the anti-semitic white supremacist meme is still in Donald Trump Jr.’s account. Why?


Joy Reid mentioned this on her show today. And she mentioned that Donald Trump Jr. was informed of how bad the meme was, and he said he didn’t know. And sure, maybe it’s not anti-semitic and white supremacist of you to accidentally post a neo-Nazi meme to your Instagram account. But what does it say about Donald Trump Jr. when, after being informed of the true nature of his post, he still leaves it up?

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Bloomberg: Breitbart writer Milo makes money from gay “sugar daddies” Thu, 15 Sep 2016 21:50:23 +0000 “Alt-Right” leader, and Breitbart News writer, Milo Yiannopoulos, was profiled today by Joel Stein in Bloomberg News.

As background, the Alt-Right are white supremacists, many of whom have a reverence for vulgar Nazi imagery, who also have issues with women, gays, Muslims and Jews. And Breitbart is the Web site of Donald Trump’s campaign manager Stephen Bannon. Bannon bragged earlier this summer that Breitbart was “the platform for the alt-right.” So this story directly reflects on the Trump campaign.

The profile alleges that Yiannopoulos said that the last time he was in Los Angeles, he was picked up at a bar by a man who gave him $10,000 after a night of sex. Yiannopoulos says the man gave him another $10,000 following a second evening of fun. According to new stories, Yiannopoulos was in Los Angeles as recently as this past May 31 (possibly later).

This claim that Yiannopoulos receives money from “sugar daddies” comes immediately after the profile tells us that Breitbart only pays some of the $1 million cost of Yiannopoulos’ nearly 30 staff members. Beyond Breitbart, the staff salaries are also subsidized by donations from conservatives, and from Yiannopoulos own family money, according to the story.

Here’s Yiannopoulos’ admission to Bloomberg:


Alt-Right leader Milo Yiannopoulos. Photos by @Kmeron for LeWeb13 Conference @ Central Hall Westminster – London

Although some of his staff are paid by Breitbart, Yiannopoulos says he’s got almost 30 people on his payroll at a total cost of about $1 million a year, not including his salary. “My salary is really big, too,” he says. Some of this is paid for by donations from conservatives. Some comes from family money. Yiannopoulos says he and a business partner bought several apartments in his huge complex years ago when it was first built, slowly selling them off for a profit. He says he also hangs around a lot of rich people, some of whom were his sugar daddies. Last time he was in Los Angeles, he says, a white man at the Sunset Tower bar hit on him and gave him $10,000 after having sex with him twice and another $10,000 the following night.

And here is more from Bloomberg about Yiannopoulos and the Alt-Right:

“Milo is the person who propelled the alt-right movement into the mainstream,” says Heidi Beirich, who directs the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and describes the term “alt-right” as “a conscious rebranding by white nationalists that doesn’t automatically repel the mainstream.”

The Bloomberg profile brings several unanswered questions to mind:

1. The claim that Yiannopoulos was given $20,000 after two nights of sex sounds as if it could run afoul of prostitution laws. As Yiannopoulos is on staff at Breitbart, and Breitbart is run by Trump’s campaign CEO, this allegation directly reflects on Donald Trump. If the head of Hillary Clinton’s campaign employed an alleged prostitute, we’d never hear the end of it from either the media or the Republicans.

2. The article is unclear as to whether any of Yiannopoulos’ own money goes to fund his staff, and if so, whether any of those self-funded staff do Breitbart work. If you look again at the paragraph above, Bloomberg’s Stein doesn’t directly say that Yiannopoulos himself pays any of his staff salaries. Stein says some of the funding comes from “family money.” But it is unclear if that means money given to the staff directly by a member of Yiannopoulos’ family, or whether it means money given to Yiannopoulos by his family, and then Yiannopoulos himself pays the staff. The distinction is important due to the fungibility of money. Any money Yiannopoulos spends — whether it be staff salaries or political donations — would arguably be tainted by the alleged “sugar daddy” money. However, even if Yiannopoulos used any of his own money to pay for the staff, we’d still want to know if that staff worked on any Breitbart matters, or whether they only worked for Yiannopoulos on other matters. (There’s more on Yiannopoulos’ staff in this Buzzfeed piece.)

3. Did Yiannopoulos claim the alleged “sugar daddy” money on his taxes?

4. Is Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon, the head of Breitbart, aware of Bloomberg’s claim that his staffer, Milo Yiannopoulos, earns money from “sugar daddies”? And can Bannon attest categorically that none of this alleged money made its way into Breitbart’s operations?

5. Is the Trump campaign aware of the allegation, and what is their response?

6. Are the California state, and Los Angeles city, authorities aware of these claims about Yiannopoulos?

7. What is Milo’s immigration status, and does it permit income from additional work?

8. US immigration law has an interesting section, which would appear to be relevant were someone to come to the US and be involved in prostitution:

(D) Prostitution and commercialized vice

Any alien who–

(i) is coming to the United States solely, principally, or incidentally to engage in prostitution, or has engaged in prostitution within 10 years of the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status,

(ii) directly or indirectly procures or attempts to procure, or (within 10 years of the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status) procured or attempted to procure or to import, prostitutes or persons for the purpose of prostitution, or receives or (within such 10-year period) received, in whole or in part, the proceeds of prostitution, or

(iii) is coming to the United States to engage in any other unlawful commercialized vice, whether or not related to prostitution,

is inadmissible.

Finally, I’ve spoken to a source familiar with the escort business in Los Angeles, DC, NYC, Las Vegas and London. They assure me that the top professional escorts in Los Angeles only get half of the $10,000 alleged in the Bloomberg article. And that’s over a period of a weekend. The source added: “And those guys are Abercrombie & Fitch type supermodels. Milo would be lucky to get $200.”

Having said that, the amount is irrelevant. The Bloomberg story appears to make a quite serious accusation that could have repercussions for Breitbart, for the Trump campaign, and for Yiannopoulos himself.

I’d be remiss not to mention that this entire affair is bringing back memories of the Jeff Gannon/James Guckert episode of a good 11 years ago. You can read more about that here.

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As elections are delayed, Palestinian leaders suppresses free speech Wed, 14 Sep 2016 17:07:01 +0000 On September 8, the Palestinian high court in Ramallah postponed the Palestinian local elections due for October.

Against the backdrop of Israel’s ludicrous arrest of a Mohammed el-Halabi, a director of the multibillion dollar World Vision charity, finger-pointing immediately ensued. Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority accused one another of foiling the election for political reasons. With their arbitrary arrest of journalists, West Bank and Gaza have joined Israel as they politicize their judicial system to demonize inconvenient actors and suppress criticism.

Just as the Israeli military has tried tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians in their courts and beaten arrested children, the PA has repeatedly tried and sentenced Palestinian journalists in military courts. Several prisoners have reported being beaten and starved repeatedly.

The PA’s concern for a forecasted Hamas victory in the local elections has led to continued harassment of journalists in the civilian court system. Charges of libel are regularly leveled against the PA’s critics, and while those arrested may never be sentenced, recurring court adjournments extend the burden of trials disproportionately.

In Gaza, Hamas’s record of violating rights of speech and the press has likewise been long and distinguished. This past week, Hamas police arrested and assaulted Muhammad Othman, a Palestinian journalist. For the first half of this year, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms has reported 22 violations of press freedoms by Hamas in 2015, 43 by the Palestinian Authority, and 133 by Israel. Beatings of prisoners seen in West Bank repeatedly occur in Gaza as well.

Because of how Israel’s political leaders have oftentimes stigmatized UN-affiliated NGOs and critics promoting Palestinian human rights as anti-Semitic, media coverage has frequently characterized the challenges faced by human rights organizations in Israel and Palestine as a conflict between NGOs (who are at times alleged to be anti-Semitic) and Israel. Since neither Hamas’s nor the PA’s rhetoric against human rights organizations has taken the center stage, these two governments appear to be apathetic, but not violently reactive, to NGOs’ criticism.

But Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have discarded the rights of the press too often to hold the moral high ground on human rights. Their relationships with NGOs and the press are forged out of political convenience, rather than genuine respect for democratic governance. While Hamas’s 2011 laws restricting NGO activity may have been forgotten, Hamas and the PA have continued to silence their critics to compete in the local elections.

Political leaders like Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein are just as guilty of attacking basic civil liberties as those who support Israeli airstrikes without question when they condemn Israeli rights violations while ignoring Palestinian censorship. This sort of identity politics breeds intolerance, violence, illiberalism, and tyranny that is antithetical to the values that BDS and pro-Palestine rights activists claim to espouse.

The movement against Israel’s illegal settlements, the assassination of journalists tied to Hamas, and the blockade that starves economic development cannot maintain its legitimacy if it fails to fight for reform in the very governments it seeks to empower. Only by standing against all rights violations equally can pro-Palestinian activists keep a Palestinian flavor of tyranny from replacing Israel’s human rights violations in the next decade.

“Safe History” does a disservice to history Tue, 13 Sep 2016 17:17:01 +0000 I had an interesting chat with an editor of an African-American Web site about a tweet I shared last night. The tweet focused on just how racist Trump’s supporters really are.

In this case, the Trump supporter posted a presumably archival image of an African-American man hanging from a noose with a sign around his neck that said “this n*gger voted.” The Trump supporter’s next tweet was about a “N*gger Tote” — a travel bag that was actually an African-American slave on all fours.

You get the idea.

I heard from one woman who understood the point in tweeting the image, but who still thought it was too extreme. I told her I respected her view and would think about it. Several others agreed with my decision to retweet the original tweet. Then I heard from the editor. The editor said that he felt the image inflicted violence on African-Americans and that there should have been a warning before tweeting it.

I told him that I had in fact considered a warning, but then wasn’t sure how to do it. If the warning is in the same tweet, you’ll see the picture before the tweet anyway. And if it’s in a separate tweet, that’s even worse — you won’t even see the warning at all before you see the image. And simply tweeting a link to the image on the troll’s Twitter feed risked people not clicking at all, but also it risked either the troll deleting the image or Twitter deleting his account (though the latter is unlikely, as Twitter rarely enforces its terms of service against hate).

I gave it some long thought before posting the image, and here’s why I ended up deciding to post it. I worry that by creating “safe spaces” in history, we change history and lessen its horrors. History isn’t meant to be glossed over. It isn’t meant to be made more palatable for the more sensitive among us. And the worst horrors of history can only be fully appreciated when people see just how horrible it was.

Even though I know about the history of lynchings in the South, that troll’s image shocked me. It educated me about just what kind of vile hate Donald Trump is tapping into. And it did it in a way far more effective than mere words.

I’ve been worrying of late about history, after seeing so many millennials who don’t even know recent history. There was an article in the paper the other day about students who didn’t even realize that Osama bin Laden was dead (President Obama had special forces kill him in 20011) and were shocked to hear the news.

Or there’s some millennials’ impression of Hillary Clinton. Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton was such a renowned Democrat, and friend to the LGBT community, to African- Americans, and so many more, that she was considered a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. Today, I’m constantly dealing with millennials who have no idea of Hillary’s pro-LGBT history, and who actually think she’s been anti-LGBT her entire career. When nothing could be farther from the truth.

There is a difference between experiencing history, and reading about history that happened before you were politically sentient. And whether the Internet makes matters worse or not, many of today’s youth seem to have a fascinating, and disturbing, misunderstanding of things that were accepted historical fact just eight years ago.

Sometimes our interpretation and understanding of history changes, and that can be a good thing. But lecturing me about how awful Hillary is on gay and trans rights isn’t a fuller understanding of the past, it’s a lie.

And that’s why I ended up opting to post the troll’s tweet on my Twitter feed. Because I think that the only way we can honor the past, to honor the lives lost, and to educate people in the hopes that this never happens again, is to be brutally honest about our past, and not try to make history safe and comfortable.

If we pull punches when describing Donald Trump’s racism, we empower that racism.

In the end, I had a very nice exchange with that African-American editor, until he, out of the blue, mocked the fact that I was violently mugged in Washington, DC a number of years ago. It seems he became enraged that I simply didn’t agree with him, that I disagreed politely while explaining why I thought it was important that we share history without pulling any punches. So now I have his followers trolling me. All because I thought it was important to educate people on the fact that Donald Trump is racist, and is courting racists.


(The editor is now complaining that I mentioned his race — which I believe is relevant, as I think an African-American’s concerns about the history of racism in America should be taken particularly seriously. Just as I would pay special attention to a gay person’s concerns about gay history. He also complained that I referred to him as an African-American — he’s “black-American,” he corrected me. I stand corrected.)

Sometimes I’m not very hopeful on this new breed of activist, or about the fact that the Internet has empowered far too many people to simply be jerks. And what’s most sad is when the jerks are on our side.

PS As I’m still thinking this through, I’ll link to the tweet rather than post it. You can find it here. It was retweeted nearly 300 times.

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The Russia-US truce in Syria leaves an Islamist mess Mon, 12 Sep 2016 16:44:12 +0000 With no official documentation publicly available, the latest Syria cease-fire negotiated by the US and Russia has been criticized as unusually vague, nontransparent, and weak.

But in the seemingly incoherent array of US policies and alliances between secular and Islamist fighters, the agreement is merely a prelude to a Syria with Islamist groups like the 20,000-strong Ahrar al-Sham, that epitomize how Syrian politics will always stubbornly transcend US and Russian interests.

Despite having perhaps as many fighters as ISIS, Ahrar al-Sham has received little public attention from the US media. Based near Aleppo, it has a record of human rights abuses, including a massacre of Alawite civilians alleged by Russia and the Syrian government in May 2016, and another of Christian civilians in March 2015. It has continued in recent months with the establishment of Sharia courts, giving them license to arbitrarily abduct civilians including human rights activists, women, and children.

As an ally of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly named Jabhat al-Nusra), Ahrar al-Sham has previously had a close relationship with al-Qaeda. One of its early leaders, Abu Khalid al-Suri, previously fought alongside al-Qaeda, and it received mentoring from al-Qaeda during AQ’s attempts to establish a foothold early in the Syrian revolution. Hawkish analysts have thus taken Ahrar al-Sham’s Sharia courts as evidence of its path towards a (presumably anti-American) Syrian theocracy, as though its foreign policy might be antithetical to Saudi Arabia’s pro-American sentiments.

Russia and Syria have seized upon these abuses and have repeatedly called for the United Nations to designate Ahrar al-Sham as a terrorist organization. But that can only happen with unanimous consent from the 15-member UN Security Council. Britain, France and the US have blocked such designations, perhaps because of some speculative reports indicating that Ahrar al-Sham is cooperating with the Free Syrian Army.

Ahrar al-Sham’s recent rhetoric has been favorable towards the West, contrary to neoconservatives’ beliefs: in May, it disavowed ties to Al Qaeda, and in August it announced that the US has the potential to play a “positive” role in the Syrian war. According to the Long War Journal, Ahrar al-Sham’ brand of Islamism is unique, having been partly modeled on the Taliban: one that tolerates all Sunnis and is willing to engage in “normal politics and diplomacy” without monopolizing governance.

This presents a rather awkward scenario for those who see the War on Terror as one exclusively against Islamism: Ahrar al-Sham, as a group that may be valuable to the Free Syrian Army’s Aleppo operations and has been at least lukewarm to US involvement and a multiparty Syria, has executed civilians and established conservative Islamism in its own territories. And while condemning Al Qaeda, it has continued to cooperate with Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

The mess has been muddied even further as its branches have issued conflicting statements both for and against the ceasefire.

So long as US and Russian policymakers think they can simplify the Syrian conflict as one for or against Bashar al-Assad and Islamic “terrorism”, Western involvement will continue to collapse under its own platitudes. As groups like Ahrar al-Sham demonstrate, Syrian rebels are not simply pro-American or anti-American. Syria’s future likewise will not fall into simplistic categories like “Islamist” or “secular”.

Syria’s rebels represent a diverse array of perspectives, each with a different vision for what Syria and its international relationships should be. When the US and Russia arbitrarily condemns or supports certain rebel groups for their politics, the West is unwittingly writing the future of Syria’s politics.

Just because a group like Ahrar al-Sham has espoused strict conservative interpretations of what Syria’s culture should be and does not mean it is wholly opposed to the idea of a multiparty state. Even its previous support for al-Qaeda’s core is not a simple issue when viewed through an American hawk’s lenses.

The only thing that has been consistently clear in Syria’s civil war is realpolitik: rebel groups and foreign actors like the US operate under fluid alliances and ideologies based on convenience rather than three-way false dilemmas of “Islamic terrorism” vs. “secular rebels” vs. Assad’s dictatorship. Rather than treating Syria as a confusing conglomerate pro-West/anti-West actors, it’s time Syria was understood as a country. Syria’s people are not America’s or Russia’s to bend.

Donald Trump Jr. honors 9/11 with racist, anti-semitic meme Sun, 11 Sep 2016 15:21:51 +0000 Donald Trump Jr., the son of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, honored the nation’s solemn 9/11 holiday by sharing a racist, anti-semitic meme on his Instagram account.

In a post intending to mock Hillary Clinton’s recent comments about half of Donald Trump’s supporters being “deplorable” racists, sexists and homophobes, Trump’s son posted a picture of himself, his father and others with the title ” The Deplorables.”

In that image is a picture of a green frog — the symbol of the “alt-right,” the growing white supremacist movement that Trump’s campaign director, Stephen Bannon, panders to with his publication Breitbart.

I just copied this myself from Trump’s Instagram account:

don-trump-jr-instagram-2 Equally bad, the picture of the racist mascot appears next to a photo of the World Trade Center.


The image Trump posted also includes Milo Yiannopoulos, an “alt-right” leader who works for Breitbart.

It cannot be overstated — this “frog” is the symbol of a white supremacist movement. The same movement that swarms blacks and Jews on Twitter, in the hopes of forcing them off of social media entirely. The same movement that boycotts movies like Star Wars for putting a woman and a black man among the lead characters of the movie.

That’s who Donald Trump is pandering to. And that’s deplorable.

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AP and the challenge organizations face with social media Fri, 09 Sep 2016 19:56:52 +0000 After considerable outrage, the Associated Press finally deleted a two-week-old Tweet that erroneously claimed that half of Hillary Clinton’s meetings as Secretary of State were with Clinton Foundation donors.

In fact, only a small percentage of Hillary’s meetings as Secretary were with people who were prior Clinton Foundation donors.

What’s more, AP was unable to find anyone who got a meeting with Hillary only because they were a Foundation donor. Nor could AP find any donor who got a meeting and then got some favor they wouldn’t have gotten without a donation.

In other words, AP found little smoke and no fire.

In response to the controversy over its erroneous tweet, the AP says it’s setting up a new “internal policy review” for its tweets.

From the Hill:

AP also said that a new internal review policy will apply to all their tweets, and any deleted content on Twitter will be accompanied by a separate explanation for the removal.

At first that sounds like an awfully onerous and silly policy. Is every tweet really going to be reviewed by a board of examiners before it goes out? Is AP really going to sit on tweets for hours while the competition scoops them?

But then, you realize just how much of an unregulated Wild West social media has become for large companies like AP. Something has to give, lest companies and politicians increasingly trash their hard-earned credibility through sloppy social media.

Social media is a de facto extension of an organization’s communications team. It ought to be de jure. In the past, only the comms team, media office, and/or press secretary could speak on behalf of the organization to the outside world. With the advent of social media, that’s all changed. We’ve empowered often- recent college grads in their early 20s — with little to no training in public relations, but who give good tweet — to speak publicly on behalf of an organization.

Is it any wonder that mistakes then follow?

When I worked at the UN, I was impressed and concerned about my organization’s strong embrace of social media. Members of my team would urge new hires from across the agency to blog and tweet about their work experience on social media like Twitter and LinkedIn. I was taken aback, and warned those same new hires that they really ought to check with their bosses before they start tweeting and blogging just anything about the office. My significantly-younger staff couldn’t understand my concern, and found it very old fuddy-duddy.

The thing is, my team didn’t have my experience watching sloppy messaging turn into a PR disaster. In fact, I’ve made my living out of taking those messaging errors and making them go super-viral with the media and grassroots, to the detriment of the organization or politician involved. It’s a serious, and valid, question whether we should be empowering people in their early 20s, with little to no PR experience or oversight, to speak publicly on behalf of their organizations.

To the degree social media gurus argue that they have the functional equivalent of a PhD in public relations because of the amount of time they spend online, I’m not so convinced. The Internet leans towards the libertarian, and has a bias towards publishing. (Wikileaks is an extreme example.) My bias, as a seasoned communications professional, who has studied law, and then worked in the media and with the media, is to be anally careful about what I write; and to make sure that my work isn’t simply accurate, but that it also will have the impact I want it to. And I’ve been pretty successful with that strategy, both online and off.

But the fact remains that in order to have a good social media presence, you have to be willing to stick your neck out a bit, be quick, spontaneous, and yes, edgy. And it’s also true that some of the young guns are pretty good at it. But many of them simply do not have the experience of an AP copy editor or headline writer — yet they’re given the equivalent of that job on social media.

The reality is that at some point you have to delegate. As the head of Internet strategy for a UN agency, I didn’t have time to review every single tweet or post we published to our multi-million subscribers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. Especially when there’s breaking news — which we didn’t have as often at the UN, but places like AP have all the time — you don’t always have the hours it can take for a boss to review every single tweet or post.

Part of the solution may be treating social media as media, and ensuring that social media staff have the kind of ongoing media training that other spokespeople have at an organization. Social media staff need to fully appreciate the gravity of their work, the potential for things to go horribly wrong, and that it’s always more important to get it right than first. This is especially true when you work for an organization, like AP, that is built on a reputation of being the gold standard for truth and accuracy.

In the end, this is definitely a conflict that is going to be difficult to resolve. Social media demands a quick and sometimes informal approach that has been traditionally anathema to corporate America and politics. But if you look at the Twitter feeds of Hillary Clinton’s campaign or San Francisco’s BART transportation system, it’s clear that some old-timers have already mastered the necessary mix of humor, personality, speed and professionalism that you need in order to succeed online.

And if Hillary and a transportation agency can do it, you can too.

AP finally deletes wrong tweet about Clinton Foundation Fri, 09 Sep 2016 17:46:12 +0000 After two weeks of complaints, including over 1,700 people signing our petition, the Associated Press has finally relented and deleted its inaccurate tweet about Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.

The AP had claimed in its tweet, incorrectly, that “more than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.” That is not only false, but it’s not even what the AP story actually alleged.

The AP story claimed that 85 of 154 people Hillary Clinton met or had a phone call with as secretary of state were donors to the Clinton Foundation. AP implied that Hillary only met or talked to 154 people during her time as secretary — in fact, Hillary and spoke with thousands. So the 85 number is pretty small.

ap clinton foundation tweet

But it gets worse for AP. In the story, AP never showed that any Clinton Foundation donor who got a meeting with Secretary Clinton wouldn’t have gotten the meeting without a donation. In fact, the “proof” that AP offered is that Hillary met with Muhammad Yunus, who had donated to the Foundation. What AP doesn’t tell you is that the Secretary of State would have met with Yunus anyway, as he’s the lead international development expert in the world, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work in fighting global poverty.

Second, AP never showed any pay-for-play — meaning, AP couldn’t find anyone who actually got something untoward in exchange for their meeting with Hillary.

So, AP could prove that anyone got a meeting who wouldn’t have gotten a meeting, and AP couldn’t show that anyone got anything they wouldn’t have gotten anyway.

As the saying goes, there’s no there there. I did a longer analysis of the AP story here.

And after two weeks of pressure, AP finally admitted its mistake.

Why did it take AP this long to fix an obvious error? It’s not entirely clear. On its face, the tweet was wrong, and any editor at AP should have recognized it the second the concern was raised. AP treated this situation as thought it required some kind of nuanced hanging-chad analysis of something that wasn’t obvious on its face. But the error was obvious on its face. It is untrue, and unsupported by AP’s own story, that “more than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.” So why two weeks to fix the error?

And by now, even with the fix, the damage is done. I’ve had several people ask me about the “fact’ that they heard more than half of Hillary’s meetings at State were with Clinton Foundation donors. And we have pundits, and media, calling for the entire closure of the Foundation itself, putting at risk the lives of 11.8m people with AIDS, 12m people with malaria, and 50,000 children saved by the Foundation every year.

So it’s good that the AP finally corrected the story, but the two-week wait has already taken its toll.

In my second story, I discuss the challenge social media poses for established organizations, and how they can address them.

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Donald Trump is no Reagan Fri, 09 Sep 2016 00:47:20 +0000 I used to feel bad for Mike Pence.

The Indiana governor gave up his re-election bid to become the vice presidential candidate of a baboon.

And as usually happens when attempting to put on a show with animals, not all goes according to plan.

Just last night, Trump appeared on MSNBC at a townhall attended by US service members. And rather than extoll the virtues of the American military, Trump attacked our generals, calling them “rubble,” while saving his praise for Russian President, and near dictator, Vladimir Putin.

Trump didn’t just praise Putin, he suggested that Putin was a popular leader in Russia (where a no-vote can get you killed) and a better leader than President Obama. Trump even jumped to Putin’s defense when NBC’s Matt Lauer mentioned that intelligence experts believe Russia to be behind the recent hack (read: theft) of emails from the Democratic National Committee. Trump responded to Lauer: “Well, nobody knows that for a fact.”

Then, Trump really stepped in it. Trump didn’t simply pick Vladimir Putin’s side against US intelligence, Trump implied that it’s wrong for Americans to criticize Putin since Obama has done things just as bad as Putin (mind you, Putin murderers political opponents). This is something a key aide for Trump also did this past summer in Moscow — suggesting that the US had no moral right to criticize Russia. It’s a charge you might hear on the far left, but never from a Republican.

Here’s the back and forth between Trump and Lauer:


Any sympathy I had for Pence evaporated after he defended Donald Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin, and in the same breath compare Donald Trump to Ronald Reagan. Oh yes, he did.

From CNN:

“Their styles are different, surely, between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, but I think both men are truth tellers,” Pence said. “They speak plainly about the failings of the administrations of their time, but they also, I think they both give voice to the aspirations of the American people, that we can be better, we can bet stronger.”

He added that comparison applies to one of his favorite adjectives to describe Reagan: “Humble.”

As Bash questioned how that word could describe a man with his name on so many buildings, Pence said Trump reveals his “humility” in private.

“Ronald Reagan had his name on a lot of marquees. I think at their very core, both men are the kind of leaders that have a core of humility.”

Mike Pence couldn’t be more wrong.

I was a Republican once, then voted for Clinton in 1992 and never looked back. Ronald Reagan is rolling over in his grave at the prospect of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee, let alone president.

Now, I’ve been a Democrat for 24 years, so far be it for me to defend Ronald Reagan’s legacy. But please. Trump as Reagan? Gag me.

Ronald Reagan, in contrast to Trump, didn’t run on a slogan suggesting that America was no longer great. Rather, Reagan always said our best days were ahead of us — “it’s morning in America,” was Reagan’s 1980 campaign slogan. Donald Trump would have you believe that America, like its generals, is little more than a pile of rubble.

Reagan’s position on the Russians also distinguishes him from Trump. Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have been caught dead saying that a former KGB officer, running Russia like a virtual dictatorship, murdering his political opponents, was a better leader than any American president. Wouldn’t be caught dead.

And Reagan would never take Russia’s side against our own intelligence community. Never.

And finally, can you imagine Ronald Reagan suggesting that America has no moral right to criticize Russia’s brutal domination of its citizens and neighbors? Reagan would have spat on anyone suggesting that America was on a moral par with Russia

The reason I liked Reagan all those years ago was that he was proudly patriotic and a strong leader. When it came to foreign policy especially, Reagan put country first, and was always willing to stand up to the biggest of bullies. And while I’m no longer a Republican, and now find ample fault with many of Reagan’s policies, my advocacy work has always been proudly pro-America and anti-bully — those ideas have always resonated with me, long before Reagan, and still do today.

Ronald Reagan stood up to the Russians, while Donald Trump blows the Russians wet woolies.

Donald Trump is many things, but Ronald Reagan ain’t one of them.

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Trump defended Putin last night re DNC hack, then criticized US Thu, 08 Sep 2016 16:20:14 +0000 Ronald Reagan would have rolled over in his grave.

Last night on MSNBC, in front of an audience of US service members, Donald Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Putin was a better leader than Obama, and then defended Putin when Matt Lauer mentioned the DNC hack.

Here’s the transcript, then we’ll discuss:

Trump defended Putin

First, Trump notes how “popular” Putin is at home, with an 82% approval rating. Trump fails to mention that those who stand up to Putin — from journalists, to dissidents, to LGBT activists — often find themselves dead. So it’s not that much of a surprise that, when asked by a stranger whether they approve of Putin, Russians roundly say “da.”

Then, and this is the really bad part, Matt Lauer names all the bad things Putin has done, including annexing Crimea, supporting Assad, undermining US influence in the Middle East and beyond, and being the main suspect in the DNC hack. How did Trump respond? He first defended Putin, suggesting that maybe Putin wasn’t responding for the DNC hack, then he said that President Obama had done things just as bad as Putin.

That second point is the most damning. The Republican presidential candidate just suggested that the United States is as bad an actor on the world stage as Russia’s Putin. Let that sink in.

So are the US service members in the audience fighting for the wrong team? And if Trump thinks America is just as morally bankrupt as Russia, then why is he trying to become president at all? Maybe Trump would be happy running for president of Russia. Oh that’s right, that’s Putin’s job, and he kills his opponents.

The thing is, this isn’t the first time the Trump campaign has suggested that the US has unclean hands when criticizing Russia. One of Trump’s key foreign policy advisers, Carter Page, was in Moscow earlier this year giving a speech. In his talk, Page criticized the US’ “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.” Page then went on to suggest that America is not “democratic.”

Which has me wondering, why does Trump seem so intent on currying favor with Putin? Is Trump trying to schmooze Putin for possible business deals after the election, should he lose in November?

Whatever the motivation, the Trump campaign’s anti-Americanism isn’t a glitch, it’s a feature.

Help us by sharing this story on Twitter, then watch the video of Trump’s comments below:

Here’s the video:

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Why ask generals for ISIS plan when Trump already has a “foolproof” one? Where is it? Wed, 07 Sep 2016 16:44:34 +0000 Donald Trump has announced that, in order to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS, he’s going to put the generals in a room for 30 days and order them to come up with a plan.

A CNN analyst, who is a former general, said Trump’s plan was “sophomoric.”

But there’s another problem with Trump’s plan. Trump told us he knew more than the generals about ISIS — so why ask the generals for a plan, they ought to be ask ing him.

And what’s more, Trump said over a year ago that he already had a plan to defeat ISIS. So why is he going to ask the generals to come up with another one, when they know less than him, and he already has a “foolproof” plan (his words)?

Yahoo has the text:

“If I run, and if I win, I don’t want the enemy to know what I’m doing,” Trump said of the Islamic extremist terrorist group that has been steadily causing trouble in the Middle East. “Unfortunately, I’ll probably have to tell at some point, but there is a method of defeating them quickly and effectively and having total victory.”

“All I can tell you it is a foolproof way of winning, and I’m not talking about what some people would say, but it is a foolproof way of winning the war with ISIS,” he said. “And it will be absolutely, 100 percent –they’ll at minimum come to the table but actually they’ll be defeated very quickly.”

And here’s the audio:

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Russian Greens blast Jill Stein’s silence on Putin’s human rights abuses Tue, 06 Sep 2016 23:18:25 +0000 Two representatives of the Russian Green Party eviscerated American Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein today for her cozy relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The Russian Greens said Stein was a willing accomplice of Putin’s human rights abuses against the LGBT community, environmentalists, artists, journalists and political dissidents:

“By silencing Putin’s crimes you are silencing our struggle. By shaking his hand and failing to criticize his regime you are becoming his accomplice. By forgetting what international solidarity means you are insulting the Russian environmental movement.”

In particular, Russian environmental activists Yevgeniya Chirikova and Nadezda Kutepova criticized Stein for her recent trip last winter to Moscow to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Russian state propaganda organ. The event included a dinner at which Stein sat at the same dinner table as Putin.

At the same dinner table was seated Donald Trump’s military adviser, retired-Gen. Mike Flynn. Flynn was seated directly next to Putin.

Photo of Jill Stein at RT anniversary dinner with Putin and Trump adviser Gen. Mike Flynn in Moscow, December 2015.

Photo of Jill Stein at RT anniversary dinner with Putin and Trump adviser Gen. Mike Flynn in Moscow, December 2015.

Chirikova and Kutepova particularly noted that during her trip Stein didn’t not even mention Putin’s horrific record on human rights, particularly as it pertains to political prisoners, environmental activists, artists and journalists.

It should be noted that Stein did mention human rights in Moscow, when she was criticizing the US.

The two also criticized Stein’s failure to bring up Russia’s relatively-new and draconian anti-LGBT propaganda law.

I had written a few weeks ago about Stein’s trip to Moscow, and within a day Russian state media came to Stein’s defense by publishing an attack on me.

Here is the Green Party activists’ letter to Stein:

Dear Dr. Stein

We are writing to you in the spirit of green values and principles, which include fighting for a sustainable future, defending the environment and human rights, and engaging in international solidarity. We are also writing to you as eco-activists, women and mothers.

In November of this year, you will face an important challenge which will have an impact all over the world, even far away from US borders. As Russian eco-activists, we are following the US presidential election with curiosity and fear. Curiosity for your democratic system and fear for the impact that the result of this election could have on our lives and the lives of our children.

As environmentalists and human rights defenders, we often support Green candidates all over the world when they run for local, national or continental election. However, we are asking ourselves if we can support your candidature for the Presidency of the United States of America. We have carefully read your program and your website and we have to admit that we are deeply shocked by the position you expressed during your visit to Moscow and your meeting with Mr. Vladimir Putin.

During the last few years, Russian authorities have continued the destruction of the rich and unique Russian environment. The Kremlin is heavily contributing to global climate change and the destruction of global biodiversity by over-using Russian natural resources and promoting unsafe nuclear energy. Corruption and anti-democratic behavior of the current Russian government has also led to negative impacts on Russia’s unique forests and natural heritage. Russian eco-activists and human rights defenders are also facing an increasingly repressive system which was constructed under Putin’s regime. The list of the victims of this system is unfortunately becoming longer and longer. Russian environmentalist Yevgeniy Vitishko spent 22 months in prison for a non-violent action. Journalist Mikhail Beketov was violently attacked in 2008, suffered serious injuries, and died in 2013. Our personal cases are also symbolic: because of our activism, and in order to protect our children, we were both forced to leave Russia and to seek political asylum in the European Union.

After your visit to Moscow and your meeting with Vladimir Putin you said that the world deserve[s] a new commitment to collaborative dialogue between our governments to avert disastrous wars for geopolitical domination, destruction of the climate, and cascading injustices that promote violence and terrorism. We agree with you. But how can this new collaborative dialogue be possible when Mr. Putin has deliberately built a system based on corruption, injustice, falsification of elections, and violation of human rights and international law? How is it possible to have a discussion with Mr. Putin and not mention, not even once, the fate of Russian political prisoners, or the attacks against Russian journalists, artists, and environmentalists? Is it fair to speak with him about geopolitics and not mention new Russian laws against freedom of speech, restrictions on NGOs and activists, or the shameful law that forbids homosexual propaganda.

By silencing Putin’s crimes you are silencing our struggle. By shaking his hand and failing to criticize his regime you are becoming his accomplice. By forgetting what international solidarity means you are insulting the Russian environmental movement.

Dr. Stein, you still have several weeks before the elections in order to clarify your position on the anti-democratic and anti-environmental elements of Putin’s regime. We sincerely hope that our voices will be heard and that our questions will not go unanswered.

Best regards, Evgeniya Chirikova and Nadezda Kutepova

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These annual 9/11 remembrances freak me out Tue, 06 Sep 2016 19:07:27 +0000 Remembering and honoring tragedy and sacrifice is a good thing.

And it’s possibly also a healthy thing for those who may be still grieving a terrible loss.

But every year around this time, when images of the Twin Towers aflame flash across my TV screen, I wonder how many years it will take until we stop reliving that awful day rather than simply honoring it?

Honoring a tragedy involves wreathes and speeches. Reliving a tragedy is when you incessantly post video of thousands of people about to die, or in the act of dying, on TV screen across the country.

NEW YORK CITY, NY - SEP 2: Light beams are lit at the site in memory of World Trade Center destroyed on September 11. September 11, 2010 in Manhattan, New York City. Songquan Deng /

NEW YORK CITY, NY – SEP 2: Light beams are lit at the site in memory of World Trade Center destroyed on September 11. September 11, 2010 in Manhattan, New York City. Songquan Deng /

Now, a big part of my problem with the annual national convulsion over 9/11 is that the wound is still fresh for me. I was living in Washington, DC on September 11, and that day freaked me out for life. I don’t need any help remembering it, I need help putting it out of my mind.

All of which makes me wonder what it was like after other tragedies — Pearl Harbor comes to mind. Were Americans forced to watch US troops slaughtered in Hawaii every year in early December? Did it bother anyone at that time — Hawaiians in particular — the way it bothers me now?

And to be clear, I’m not talking about some philosophical opposition to honoring the day. I tend to be patriotic to a fault. I’m talking about the way we honor it — by being forced to re-watch the brutal images over and over.

At some point, we ought to acknowledge that a lot of people who were freaked out that day still haven’t fully gotten over it. And I worry that the way these remembrances are crafted, for some of us at least, cause more harm than good.

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NYT invents fake scandal about one of Bill Clinton’s greatest successes Fri, 02 Sep 2016 14:46:25 +0000 The New York Times reported breathlessly yesterday on a new Clinton scandal. The only problem? There’s nothing there.

The crux of the Times’ “scandal” is that an aide to Bill Clinton asked the State Department for a diplomatic passport for two of his staff.

He didn’t get it. (And he should have.)

That’s it.

No clear connection to the Clinton Foundation. And no explanation as to why it was a bad thing for Clinton’s staff to ask for the passport.

Oh, but it gets better.

The two Bill Clinton staffers weren’t asking for a diplomatic passport so they could pick up chicks at Euro Disney. They were heading on a secret diplomatic mission to North Korea, with Bill Clinton, to negotiate the release of two American journalists held hostage by the North Korean regime. One of the journalists Bill Clinton rescued, Laura Ling, is the younger sister of CNN correspondent Lisa Ling.

You can watch my Facebook Live discussion of this “scandal” at the bottom of this page.

Yes, Bill Clinton, with the aid of a few staffers, was heading to the most brutally repressive regime on the planet, on a secret diplomatic mission on behalf of the US government, and he wanted diplomatic passports to protect his staff. And the Times is trying to portray that as some kind of frivolous, even nutty, request.

Mind you, let’s just ignore the fact that Clinton did it, he saved the two journalists.

I have to share the first two grafs of the story, so that you can fully appreciate how breathless the NYT was about their new “scandal”:

A top aide to Hillary Clinton at the State Department agreed to try to obtain a special diplomatic passport for an adviser to former President Bill Clinton in 2009, according to emails released Thursday, raising new questions about whether people tied to the Clinton Foundation received special access at the department.

The request by the adviser, Douglas J. Band, who started one arm of the Clintons’ charitable foundation, was unusual, and the State Department never issued the passport. Only department employees and others with diplomatic status are eligible for the special passports, which help envoys facilitate travel, officials said.

Note how the first two paragraphs of the story don’t mention North Korea at all. They talk about a “special” diplomatic passport, and “special access” for the adviser, as if there was nothing “special” about American citizens being asked to go on a secret diplomatic mission to the most repressive regime on the planet. Oh that’s right, none of that was mentioned in the lede of the story.

I particularly enjoyed this part of the story:

Only department employees and others with diplomatic status are eligible for the special passports, which help envoys facilitate travel, officials said.

Now that’s interesting, because I had a” special passport” as a 25 y.o. congressional staffer working in the US Senate. And I’m pretty sure my boss’ passport was a diplomatic passport — I distinctly remember it was a step above my “official” passport. So the New York Times is wrong — it’s not only State Department officials and others with “diplomatic status” who are eligible for special passports.

The Times story is reminiscent of the recent Associated Press story that claimed, falsely, that half of the Hillary’s meetings at  State were with Clinton Foundation donors. You have to read through the entire story, and do a bit of math, to realize it’s a lie. And the AP still hasn’t retracted the false story, including a series of completely erroneous tweets.

With amateur (animus?) reporting like this, it’s no wonder that Hillary Clinton refuses to do a press conference. Why should she?

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