AMERICAblog NewsAMERICAblog News http://americablog.com A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:51:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.3 More Syrian civilian casualties http://americablog.com/2016/07/syrian-civilian-casualties.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/syrian-civilian-casualties.html#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:51:39 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138597 While the United States was transfixed by the Republican National Convention, wire reports of an American airstrike killing dozens of Syrian civilians began pouring in. The low estimate from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says 56 civilians were killed, including 11 children. This leaves US Central Command’s (CENTCOM) reports of the same strikes as targeting “ISIL tactical positions” in Manbij, and indeed, its entire system of accountability for civilian deaths, comically questionable.

Locals reported even higher death counts of 160, and as many as 212, fanning the flames calling for an investigation into the deaths. And the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) called for a moratorium on US airstrikes until the deaths are investigated, as the killing of civilians could “prove to be a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations.”

The current system, however, makes the SNC’s request tactically unfeasible: Recent press releases from US-CENTCOM show that the results of investigations are typically released two to seven months after the investigated incidents—long after they have faded from public consciousness.

Even when CENTCOM finally responds, numbers are likely to diverge significantly: By August 2015, the SOHR estimated that 181 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes, while US-CENTCOM reported the death of only two.

The same incongruities have been observed in the Obama administration’s recent fact sheets on total civilian deaths due to drone strikes outside of Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Early July, it said that such operations had killed between 64 and 116 civilians and over 2,500 combatants. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, along with other sources, has reported much higher numbers: it estimated that in Pakistan alone, between 257 and 634 civilians, including 66 to 78 children, were killed by 2009.

To be fair, the US government has surveillance capabilities that far exceed those of any one nongovernmental organization. The fog of war makes it impossible to trust any single source. The same SOHR cited here has been guilty of labeling incidents of Kurds torturing and evicting Sunni civilians on a mass scale as “isolated incidents”, despite the confinement of thousands to “security zones” reported by the Human Rights Watch.

But because the President’s report does not even break its numbers down by time, let alone by specific incidents, it is impossible to identify any potential reasons for the disagreements between third parties and the government and improve both sides’ methodologies.

Given the classified and ambiguous criteria used, the results of CENTCOM’s and POTUS’s previous studies leave our military’s estimates bordering on the absurd. It cannot claim to be conducting the “most precise (aerial assault) in history” when Syrians are looking to US-backed forces thinking “they were coming to finish ISIS, but it seems they are finishing us first.”

Real leadership in the war on terror demands accountability for the world after ISIS and Al-Qaeda, but it seems like no politician or policy-maker is interested in planning for a Syrian society beyond today’s war.

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NBA moves All-Star Game from Charlotte NC due to anti-LGBT law http://americablog.com/2016/07/nba-moves-star-game-charlotte-nc-due-anti-lgbt-law.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/nba-moves-star-game-charlotte-nc-due-anti-lgbt-law.html#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 20:44:05 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138600 Big news in sports and civil rights. The US’ National Basketball Association (NBA) has decided to move next year’s All-Star basketball game from the city of Charlotte, North Carolina because of a draconian anti-LGBT law recently passed in that state.

The impact of the NBA’s decision cannot be overstated. This could cost Charlotte $100 million in revenue from the game, and it will likely fuel other events to now pull out of the state, as the boycott had already been gaining ground even before this news.

The law at the heart of the controversy, HB2, does a number of distasteful things:

  1. It repeals city ordinances protecting the civil rights of LGBT North Carolinians;
  2. It forbids North Carolina cities from passing future LGBT rights protections; and
  3. It requires that people who are transgender to only use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, rather than their gender identity (more on that below).

The transgender provision is especially silly, and offensive.

It’s a bit complicated, but in a nutshell, your “gender identity” is how you self-identify your gender. Do you see yourself as male or female? Your gender identity is not based on what gender you look like, male or female, or what sex organs you may or may not possess. It is based on who you know, in your hearts of hearts, that you are.

Thus, the new law is going to require that trans women, who have not had sexual reassignment surgery, use men’s bathrooms. And vice-versa for trans men. And that gets particularly problematic in the case of, say, a trans man who has not had sexual reassignment surgery — so his birth certificate says “female” —  but who is undergoing hormone replacement therapy (aka receiving testosterone). That trans man is going to look like every other man. And when he enters a woman’s bathroom in accordance with North Carolina law, all bearded and hair-chested, women are going to freak out. (Though it does offer some delicious opportunities for civil disobedience, or rather, civil obedience.)

It’s really amazing the extent to which this move has backfired on North Carolina. It was only a few month’s ago that the LGBT rights movement was scratching its collective head trying to figure out how to effectively respond to the new law. Now, it’s clear that the law is toxic, and corporate America, and others, are on our side.

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Donald Trump pulled out of the GOP loyalty pledge four months ago http://americablog.com/2016/07/donald-trump-pulled-gop-loyalty-pledge-four-months-ago.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/donald-trump-pulled-gop-loyalty-pledge-four-months-ago.html#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 13:53:05 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138587 Wth all the criticism from Republicans that Ted Cruz has now repudiated the GOP loyalty pledge, to support the nominee no matter who it was, everyone seems to be forgetting that Donald Trump himself pulled out of the pledge four months ago, and Trump supporters applauded the repudiation of the pledge:

And just to make things more fun, Trump supporters applauded breaking the pledge.

Here’s Trump in Anderson Cooper’s townhall in Milwaukee, Tuesday, March 29, 2016:

ANDERSON COOPER: Before we go back to the audience, I want to ask you a question I asked to Senator Cruz as well. More than six months ago you pledged to support the Republican nominee, whoever that may be.

A lot has changed since then. It sounded, when I was pressing Senator Cruz on it, sounded like he was saying he’d have a hard time supporting somebody who went after his wife.

TRUMP: Honestly, he doesn’t have to support me. I’m not asking for his support. I want the people’s support.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Do you continue to pledge whoever the Republican nominee is?

TRUMP: No. I don’t anymore.

COOPER: You don’t?

TRUMP: No, we’ll see who it is.

I’m seeing a lot of Republicans citing this loyalty oath today, in an effort to disparage Cruz. And I’m seeing a lot of folks on CNN not noting that Trump himself tore up the pledge four months ago.

Say what you will about Ted Cruz, but don’t go after him with a loyalty pledge that Donald Trump already repudiated.

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Trump adviser suggests Trump wants Hillary executed for treason http://americablog.com/2016/07/trump-adviser-suggests-trump-wants-hillary-executed-treason.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/trump-adviser-suggests-trump-wants-hillary-executed-treason.html#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 17:08:47 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138578 An adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested today that Donald Trump agrees with him that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton should be shot for treason, or perhaps electrocuted in the chair.

The adviser, Al Baldasaro, is a Trump delegate and co-chair of Trump’s veterans coalition, and appeared with Trump recently to rebut allegations that Trump has stiffed veterans groups on millions of promised donations.

Baldasaro said the following on Tuesday to Cleveland radio station WRKO:

Talking about the raid on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, Baldasaro said Clinton “is a disgrace. The lies she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi … She dropped the ball on over 400 emails requesting backup, security. Something’s wrong there.”

“This whole thing disgusts me,” Baldasaro said. “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

Baldasaro then repeated the statements to WMUR on Wednesday, making clear he wasn’t simply speaking metaphorically:

“I’m a military man first, and anyone who takes information about our CIA or Secret Service and people at our embassy and puts it out on a server where anyone can grab it, putting Americans in danger to be killed, should be held accountable.”

“As far as I’m concerned it is treason and the penalty for treason is the firing squad – or maybe it’s the electric chair now,” Baldasaro said.

Now Alexandra Jaffe at NBC reports that when asked if he thinks Trump agrees with him that Hillary should be put to death, Baldasaro pointed to Trump’s earlier comments that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl should have been executed for leaving his post in Afghanistan:

“We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed,” Trump said to cheers at a rowdy rally inside a packed Las Vegas theater at the casino-hotel Treasure Island.

In other words, Trump agrees, per Baldasaro, about killing Hillary. Here’s Hillary’s campaign tweeting about it:

Here’s Trump appearing with Baldasaro two months ago. If you saw the event live, you’ll recognize Baldasaro. His tone was jarring.

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Racists force Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones to leave Twitter http://americablog.com/2016/07/racists-force-ghostbusters-star-leslie-jones-leave-twitter.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/racists-force-ghostbusters-star-leslie-jones-leave-twitter.html#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 15:13:03 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138517 In what has become a sorry refrain, swarms of bigoted Twitter users have forced yet another public figure to abandon the social media service. This time the victim is Leslie Jones, an African-American woman who is one of the stars of the Ghostbusters remake.

Jones announced on Monday that she was quitting Twitter after receiving incessant racist harassment from Twitter users in response to her appearance in the new movie, and then getting no help from the social media company itself.

Jones is only the latest “big name” to leave Twitter in the face of the company refusing to enforce is clear-cut policies against racist, sexist, anti-semitic and homophobic harassment.

Here is what they happened to Jones, then a look at how Jews and gays are treated on Twitter, and what happened when I filed several complaints with Twitter about neo-Nazis and homophobes using its service (spoiler alert: it didn’t go well).

UPDATE: Jones is back on Twitter, after Twitter, to its credit, took decisive action to address the harassment she was facing.

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Jones gives us a flavor of some of the non-stop harassment she’s faced:

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Another user faked an image of a homophobic tweet, claiming falsely that it came from Jones’ Twitter account, and then widely circulated the link on Twitter:

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It was only after Jones announced to her quarter of a million Twitter followers that she was leaving the service that Twitter finally acted, banning a prominent right-wing troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, who has reportedly been sending his followers to harass people on Twitter for years. And while that’s great, the troll had been doing this forever, with impunity. And just as bad, this is hardly Twitter’s first run-in with bigotry. The service has also shown little interest in policing sexists, homophobes and anti-semites in its midst — all in clear violation of Twitter’s own terms of service (aka rules).

What are Twitter’s rules on hate and intolerance?

The relevant part of Twitter’s terms of service is below. Keep this in mind as you read below about how Twitter also doesn’t enforce its terms about anti-semites and homophobes:

Any accounts and related accounts engaging in the activities specified below may be temporarily locked and/or subject to permanent suspension.

Violent threats (direct or indirect): You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.
Harassment: You may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Some of the factors that we may consider when evaluating abusive behavior include:
– if a primary purpose of the reported account is to harass or send abusive messages to others;
– if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats;
– if the reported account is inciting others to harass another account; and
– if the reported account is sending harassing messages to an account from multiple accounts.
Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.

It’s clear that Jones’ harassers were violating Twitters rules. Then why wouldn’t Twitter act until Jones publicly embarrassed the company? And why hasn’t Twitter been more responsive to complaints about organized groups of sexists, anti-semites and homophobes using the service to regularly harass women, Jews and gays?

It’s important to understand how Twitter trolls work. It’s not one person sending you a mean message that you can simply block or ignore. It’s a swarm of people, often dozens or more, incessantly sending you hateful content so that every time you use Twitter you’re harassed. Not 0nly does this make it impossible to use Twitter, it also makes it incredibly painful. Jones had to deal with a real concern that these users were sabotaging her career by creating fake homophobic content in her name.

The Twitter trolls sometimes organize via Twitter, but also organize their harassment in other online communities like Reddit or 4chan. They share information on who to attack, and how best to harass them, often including personal details, such as my friend who has been repeatedly sent photos of her deceased husband in a Nazi oven.

To coin a phrase, these are online superpredators who exist simply to harass, and have a special taste for women and minorities. It’s a walking civil rights violation, organized en masse. It’s creepy as hell, far creepier than one sole bigot. And companies like Twitter, Reddit and 4chan do little to disrupt the hate they’re enabling.

Leslie Jones and her costars in the remake of Ghostbusters.

Leslie Jones and her costars in the remake of Ghostbusters.

Twitter also doesn’t enforce its Terms of Service against neo-Nazis who swarm Jewish Twitter users

Sadly, the attack on Jones is nothing new for Twitter. The service is routinely used by anti-Semites and neo-Nazis to harass Jews and gays, again with far too little done by Twitter itself to address the obvious and growing problem.

Just last month in June, the Deputy Washington Editor of the New York Times, Jonathan Weisman, announced that he was abandoning Twitter as a social media platform. Weisman was swarmed by neo-Nazi trolls, and when he reported them to Twitter the company, bizarrely, claimed that sending him messages threatening to kill “k*kes” — Weisman is Jewish — is not a violation of Twitter’s terms of service.

In fact, it is. But Weisman says that when he reported the clear violations to Twitter staff, they responded and told him the tweets weren’t a problem.

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Here’s an example of the Tweets Weisman received:

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Weisman isn’t the only high-profile Jewish public figure to be swarmed by neo-Nazis, only to find Twitter refusing to enforce its own terms of service against such hate. NYT contributor Julia Ioffe saw perhaps the most vicious attacks when she wrote a profile of Melania Trump, Donald’s Wife, for GQ. Trump supporters on Twitter swarmed Ioffe, sending her: pictures of herself as a concentration camp victim, and repeated jokes about Auschwitz and killing Jews.

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Ioffe also received phone calls with recordings of Hitler on the other line, and someone even tried to send a dead-body clean-up service to her home. While the latter two may or may not have been perpetrated by Twitter followers, the rest of the campaign was clearly Twitter-based.

Twitter also doesn’t protect gays against homophobic swarms

I’ve had my own run-ins with Twitter trolls, often because they incorrectly think I’m Jewish, but also because I’m a prominent LGBT advocate.

First, I reported some of the anti-semitic tweets to Twitter, and Twitter informed me that they and the accounts they came from were not hateful or harassing under Twitter’s terms of service. I’d like you to see one such account that Twitter deemed perfectly “not hateful” or “harassing.”

Meet Grandpa Lampshade, who has a show at Radio Aryan. Now, for those of you don’t get the historical reference, the Nazis, some allege. made lampshades out of the skins of Jewish Holocaust victims. That’s what this account’s screen name is about. Have a look at some sample tweets from the account, below, that Twitter told me was perfectly fine and not hateful at all.

grandpa-lampshade

 

grandpa-lampshade-2

 

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This account is not a problem under Twitter’s terms of service. Here’s what Twitter had to say about it:

twitter-lampshade

 

I decided to try another experiment, and see if Weisman, Ioffe and Jones were right. Last week, several Twitter trolls I don’t even know got together and decided to start sending me unsolicited tweets calling me a “faggot.” I wanted to see whether Twitter would tell me that spitting “faggot” at a gay person, unprovoked and en masse, doesn’t violate the company’s terms of service which specifically outlaw harassment and hateful conduct based on sexual orientation, among other categories.

So I reported four of the tweets to Twitter, and a few days later was told that they didn’t violate Twitter’s TOS. Here are the tweets. Keep in mind, I never contacted these people and have no idea who they are. This was entirely unsolicited:

patrick-macdonald-fg

 

harry-flashman-fg

 

dissident-right-fg

 

race-war-mercenary-fg

And here’s the answer I received from Twitter on each of the above:

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So it’s official Twitter policy that calling a gay person “faggot” is not hateful or harassing. That’s a problem.

When will Twitter truly address this problem?

In response to the attack on Jones, Twitter has issued some strong statements about its zero tolerance for abusive behavior on its network. The problem is that Twitter in fact tolerates violations of its policies left and right: When you report violations to them, they simply refuse to help. And it’s not entirely clear from the company’s public statements that it fully understands the problem:

“We rely on people to report this type of behavior to us but we are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to prevent this kind of abuse. We realize we still have a lot of work in front of us before Twitter is where it should be on how we handle these issues.”

The problem isn’t simply needing improved tools and enforcement systems. The problem is that when a real human being at Twitter reviews an obvious violation of the company’s TOS, that Twitter employee refuses to take action, as we saw in all of the cases above. No change in tools and systems will matter if Twitter’s own employees do not believe that racism, anti-semitism and homophobia are “hateful harassment.”

Look, I like Twitter. I love Twitter in fact. As a journalist and a civil rights advocate I find Twitter incredibly useful for my work, but also personally entertaining. I enjoy being in touch with so many interesting people from around the world. And it pains me that Twitter has been having financial problems of late. It would be a huge loss if Twitter weren’t to survive. But I fear Twitter won’t survive if it doesn’t figure out how — and doesn’t find the will — to deal with the racists, sexists, anti-semites and homophobes who have taken over the service and now call it home.

Jack Dorsey, help. Please.

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Melania Trump plagiarized RNC speech from Michelle Obama http://americablog.com/2016/07/melania-trump-plagiarized-rnc-speech-michelle-obama.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/melania-trump-plagiarized-rnc-speech-michelle-obama.html#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 14:31:17 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138496 Lots of buzz this morning over the news that Melania Trump plagiarized two key paragraphs in her keynote Republican Convention speech last night.

Who did Melania steal them from? Michelle Obama.

The side-by-side comparison of the two speeches is undeniable. Melania is guilty of plagiarism. Yet, the Trump campaign is digging in, denying the entire thing, and, incredibly, blaming it on Hillary Clinton.

Though Melania claims she wrote the speech herself, these things are always written by staff, and in fact, the Trump campaign admits that the speech went through various staffers. It’s therefore extremely likely that a soon-to-be-fired Trump campaign staffer stole the sections from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech. Fire that staffer, admit the mistake, and be done with it — the controversy is over. But not Donald Trump. Trump’s campaign manager went on TV this morning and blamed Hillary Clinton for the entire thing.

NY Daily News cover Melania Trump plagiarism

Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said this morning that whenever Hillary Clinton is threatened by a woman, she demeans her. Manafort added that the talking points in Melania’s speech are “common words and values.”

UPDATE: Recently-ousted Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski says that if current campaign manager Paul Manafort approved the speech, he should resign:

The media to its credit isn’t accepting the Trump campaign’s excuses or denial. It clearly happened. Here’s the Washington Post’s analysis, damning headline, caption and all:

Melania Trump plagiarism

And here’s the side-by-side video. It’s like watching Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole sing that duet:

Let’s compare the two speeches. CNN did a great graphic that makes it clear:

melania-trump-plagiarism

One of the best ways to defuse a controversy/scandal is to admit it, fix it, and move on. Had Donald Trump simply admitted that a staffer screwed up, and that the staffer was disciplined and/or fired, the entire brouhaha would be over. The media would mention the mistake, maybe show the side-by-side of the two women speaking, and conclude by saying Trump apologized for the glitch and fired the staffer, and it would be done with.

Instead, Trump is being Trump, ego-driven and always refusing to apologize. Manafort, his campaign head, was just vicious this morning going after Hillary over all of this.

Mediaite has Manafort’s reaction:

“Well there’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech,” Manafort said with a sheepish laugh. “These were common words and values, and she cares about her family.”

“She was speaking in front of 35 million people last night. She knew that,” Manafort continued, before remarkably figuring out a way to implicate the failed policies of Hillary Clinton in his response (“This is once again an example of how when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she tries to demean her and take her down”). They’re just “common words,” said Manafort, despite the overwhelming evidence that the 2008 address was essentially transcribed at parts with a few words and phrases swapped out using only, I imagine, Microsoft Thesaurus.

Manafort falsely added that it was the Clinton campaign who first discovered the plagiarism, somehow suggesting that this makes the controversy less valid. In fact, it appears to be a writer and interior designer named Jarret Hill:

Interestingly, Donald Trump had a different view of plagiarism last year when he criticized VP Joe Biden for Biden’s own plagiarism scandal from law school, that was widely reported during Biden’s 1988 presidential run. Biden was forced to withdraw from the race as a result of the controversy.

What Trump’s campaign — aka Trump himself — is doing is feeding the story. The campaign issued a response that simply was not credible, which will invite the media, and the Clinton campaign, to reporter further on the controversy, respond to the new allegations from Manafort, giving the story yet another news cycle. And rather than have last night be about Melania Trump’s beauty, grace and intellect — hers was in fact a good speech — all we’re talking about today is why Melania stole parts of her speech from Michelle, and why she wont’ simply admit it.

The Washington Post agrees:

Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention bore some significant similarities to Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic convention eight years ago.

Calling this “amateur hour” – while accurate – doesn’t quite do justice to what a debacle this has quickly become for the Trump campaign. It is the dominant storyline out of the first night of the convention and threatens to swamp day two.

Basic vetting would have set off alarm bells. This is the kind of rookie mistake that a serious congressional campaign would never make.

Ultimately the buck doesn’t stop with Melania, it stops with Donald. He’s the one running this show. And he thinks not-backing-down is a virtue. And sometimes it is. But sometimes it simply makes matters worse. And your wife ends up paying for it, as does your entire campaign.

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Congress finally begins to address opioid abuse http://americablog.com/2016/07/congress-finally-begins-address-opioid-abuse.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/congress-finally-begins-address-opioid-abuse.html#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 13:52:19 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138466 Following 18 months of sluggish deliberation on Capitol Hill, the Senate passed last week, by a vote of 92-2, a bill to address the proliferation and intensification of domestic opioid abuse.

The sprawling legislation, know as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, authorizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to award grants to stymie the dual crises of heroin use and prescription opiate overuse.

Funds will be used to expand the availability of naloxone to emergency responders; improve systems for monitoring and limiting the distribution of legal pharmaceuticals; work to identify and clinically treat addiction in the prison population; and eliminate questions regarding drug-related convictions on FAFSA applications.

Especially prominent is a section mandating that the Secretary of DHHS, Sylvia Burwell, work with leaders from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to convene a task force of medical professionals to formulate a series of best practices on pain management. That clause seems to nod to the rampant overprescription of opiate treatments by specialists, general practitioners, and nurses, which is widely viewed as a key driver of addiction and overdose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the sale of prescription opiates nearly quadrupled between 1999 and 2014, despite no change in the amount of pain that Americans report to their healthcare providers. That quadrupling of sales is mirrored in the multiplication of deaths resulting from opioid overdose during that period. At the turn of the century, the mortality rate stood at 2/100,000; by 2014, the figure had leapt to 8.5/100,000, with nearly half of those deaths stemming from prescription (as opposed to illicit) abuse. Burwell’s task force, then, should play a critical role in orchestrating the rapid intervention necessitated by this burgeoning public health crisis.

The legislation’s twin goals, criminal justice reform and the destigmatization of mental healthcare, have been widely regarded as presenting opportunities for cooperation and compromise in a bitterly divided legislature. Since its introduction to the Senate Judiciary Committee in February of 2015, the bill has been cosponsored by half of the members of the Senate. Backing came initially from Democrats and Republicans representing states in the north and east, including portions of Appalachia and the Rust Belt, where statistics from CDC indicate that opioid overdoses are most acutely on the rise.

The legislation has left much to be desired, especially from those who viewed the CDC’s trendlines as representing an emergency whose robust address would carry a hefty price tag. Even so, President Obama has already announced that he will sign the bill when it crosses his desk. Here’s to hoping that his signature will mark the conclusion of an introductory discussion, and the opening of a first chapter in our attempts to change the way that we perceive and treat illness in this country.

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Trump VP pick Mike Pence: Cut AIDS funding, use it to “cure” gays instead http://americablog.com/2016/07/wooing-gays-trump-picks-rabid-homophobe-mike-pence-vp.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/wooing-gays-trump-picks-rabid-homophobe-mike-pence-vp.html#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:38:23 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138468 After repeatedly wooing the LGBT community in his speeches and tweets, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump today announced his choice for vice president: Indiana governor Mike Pence, a rabid homophobe.

Pence is a right-wing culture warrior, as the Daily Beast put it. He is in fact so beholden to the religious right that even his own party finds him too anti-gay.

Mike Pence is a smoking truther

As an aside, Pence is also a bit of a nutjob across the board. He believes that “smoking doesn’t kill,” for example — yes, he’s a cigarette-truther.

Mike Pence believes in curing gays, not AIDS

And perhaps Pence’s most vile anti-gay position was the time, back in 2000, when people were still dying, that Pence challenged funding for the Ryan White Care Act — arguably the nation’s most important AIDS legislation — because the bill was too pro-gay. Pence suggested that we take money away from AIDS and spend it instead on curing gays. (The GOP platform this year also advocates curing gays.)

Donald Trump is not pro-LGBT

Yet Trump claims he’s the most pro-LGBT Republican presidential candidate ever:

“Ask yourself who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community. Donald Trump with actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words? I will tell you who the better friend is and someday I believe that will be proven out bigly.”

There’s also this:

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Mike Pence’s law would permit businesses to discriminate against LGBT

Pence’s most recent claim to anti-gay fame is pushing a law through the Indiana legislature last year that permits companies in the state to discriminate against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

by default 2016-07-15 at 11.21.20 AMIt’s the same “religious freedom” law that Arizona passed, and its conservative Republican governor quickly vetoed, after America’s top businesses declared a boycott of the state. In Indiana’s case, the ensuing boycott has already cost his state $250 million in lost business.

Now that Pence is Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee, the boycott travels with him.

Mike Pence is damaged goods.

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After ISIS: Iraq gets ready for a civil war http://americablog.com/2016/07/isis-iraq-gets-ready-civil-war.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/isis-iraq-gets-ready-civil-war.html#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 16:52:44 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138458 With the Islamic State’s loss of 45% of its territory in Iraq over the past two years, we may be approaching the end of the war on ISIS.

The conflict’s progression nevertheless raises hard questions on the potential resurgence of Sunni insurgencies like ISIS as American and Iraqi governments have failed to rein in destabilizing groups operating in Western Iraq. So long as murder, torture, and other human rights violations recur with impunity among Shiite forces operating in Sunni Iraqi provinces, there will be little reason to remain optimistic for the stability of Iraq.

During the capture of major Sunni cities from ISIS, the Iraqi army’s inefficiency demanded supplementation from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a counterinsurgency umbrella group composed of 100,000-120,000 volunteers operating under numerous, mostly Shiite, militias. In many of the largest battles, Shia PMF militias have played a larger role than indigenous Sunni militias—they’ve made up a third of the forces recapturing Ramadi and Fallujah, and two-thirds of the fighters retaking Baiji and Tikrit. In Tikrit, Shiite PMF outnumbered Sunni militiamen by 20,000 to just 1,000.  In each of these cities, Sunnis comprised the majority of the population, with as many as 90% of Ramadi civilians being Sunni.

Contrary to pro-Shia sources, the PMF’s commitment to the fight against ISIS has demonstrated sectarian aims with little respect for Sunni civilians, not the rebirth of Iraqi nationalism. In Tikrit, 200 Sunni civilians were abducted, and several hundred Sunni homes were demolished by the Shia Hezbollah Battalions and League of the Righteous Forces. Reports of Shia PMF indiscriminately targeting civilians in Ramadi remain unclear, but more recently in Fallujah, they tortured more than a thousand civilians, beating them while dragging them by car. In every Sunni, they see an inhuman enemy, with a militiaman saying that “80%” of Sunnis are part of ISIS.

The PMF’s human rights violations have virtually become a national security risk—the intelligence community has said that because of fears of the Shia militias’ participation in the fight against ISIS, “Iraq’s Sunnis will remain willing to endure some deprivation under ISIL rule.”

To reign the PMF in, and perhaps because militias are prohibited by Iraq’s constitution, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi adopted the PMF as part of Iraq’s armed forces earlier this year, while calling for the appointment of thousands of Sunnis to the PMF. A prison was also established for human rights offenders last year, but these measures have translated into little accountability.

According to the Human Rights Watch, more than 90 men of the Hezbollah Battalions tortured at least 600 civilians during last month’s Fallujah assault, but as of July, only “four or five” were arrested. Basam Ridha, the Washington representative of the PMF, said that “The reality is that they do cover for each other,” making it impossible to find credible witnesses. “They have done a lot of vicious activities… but they get away with it.”

American narratives have hardly helped. Brett McGurk, the Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, dismissed the PMF’s violations as “isolated atrocities” just as reports of the mass murder of 300 civilians by PMF forces were appearing.

Today’s incidents of murder, torture, and genocide are not “merely” issues for diplomats—they are tomorrow’s paths to Iraq’s downfall. The US cannot expect Sunni civilians to root out insurgents so long as the justice system remains broken, and Shiite militias can freely murder and torture any Sunni that vexes them. When the Islamic State falls, the dominance of the Popular Mobilization Forces will renew insurgencies fighting against Kurdish and Shiite rights violations, and will tear Iraq along sectarian lines.

And Iraq will move from one war to the next.

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New Brit foreign secretary Boris Johnson: Blacks have “watermelon smiles” http://americablog.com/2016/07/new-brit-foreign-secretary-said-blacks-watermelon-smiles.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/new-brit-foreign-secretary-said-blacks-watermelon-smiles.html#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 22:45:25 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138438 At a time when America is in a full-blown national discussion over race, our closest ally, Great Britain, has appointed a new foreign secretary (aka secretary of state), Boris Johnson, with a troubling history of racism.

I’d written earlier about Boris Johnson’s birther comments about President Obama, and his sexist comments about Hillary Clinton (Johnson also suggested that Hillary had murdered her close friend Vince Foster). Now we find out that Johnson’s racism isn’t limited to President Obama.

In a piece Johnson published in the UK publication, the Telegraph, Britain’s top diplomat wrote of the “watermelon smiles” of African children, who he referred to as “picaninnies” (an offensive reference to black children).

Oh, but it gets better. Johnson wrote the above piece while he was editor of The Spectator, a British conservative magazine. Among the articles Johnson edited for the Spectator is one in which we learn that “orientals” are less horny than whites, and that blacks have smaller brains, which explains their lower IQs.

I’ll quote the article, written by someone named “Taki,” at length, lest Mr. Johnson claim the offending phrases are taken out of context. (Johnson has since distanced himself from the article, but he had no problem publishing it at the time.):

Twocoms / Shutterstock.com

Boris Johnson. Twocoms / Shutterstock.com

This might get me into hot water, but I’ve been there before. Race is more than skin deep, no ifs or buts about it. On average, Orientals are slower to mature, less randy, less fertile, and have larger brains and higher IQ scores. Blacks are at the other pole, and whites fall somewhere in the middle, although closer to the Orientals than the blacks. In sport, blacks have a genetic edge. They have narrower hips which give them a more efficient stride, and a higher centre of gravity for better balance. They have wider shoulders, less body fat, and more muscle. With more testosterone than whites and Orientals, they possess more explosive energy. Ergo their superiority in sports such as boxing and sprinting.

According to J. Philippe Rushton, professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario, the reason why whites and East Asians have wider hips than blacks, and as a result are poorer runners, is because they give birth to larger-brained babies. It all has to do with climate, according to the good prof. Modern humans evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago. Africans and non-Africans then split about 100,000 years ago. The further north they went, the harder it became to find food, raise children and find shelter. Larger brains were needed for a longer life and more family stability.

Oh, there’s more. Including a slam against Jews as well:

The problem lies with whites all right, but not the way the Left wants us to believe. It is the cult of victimology, one that treats `victimhood not as a problem to be solved, but as an identity to be nurtured’. An African-American writer, John McWhorter, points out how race hustlers `delight and revel in the cheap thrills of getting to blacks as eternal victims and whites as eternal oppressors’. Just look what the race hustlers did to The Bell Curve, a book that scientifically proved that blacks do have lower IQs than whites. It was Uncle Tom’s Cabin in reverse.

And speaking of victimhood, imagine if Prince Charles had married a black Diana. The white one already thought herself a victim. Oy veh, as Jewish victims tend to say. The feeling of victimhood must be the worse legacy liberal whites have left to blacks. It allows excuse after excuse for blacks to render themselves exempt from the rules and laws others have to follow. In America the problem of school drop-outs, pregnant teenagers, unemployment and abusive parenting is out of control.

Oy vey, indeed.

Johnson and his defenders often claim that his offending comments are “satirical.” Yes, who doesn’t appreciate a good joke about horny orientals and small-brained, watermelon-smiling, race-hustling picaninnies?

What was Britain’s new prime minister Theresa May thinking? When Johnson’s appointment was announced today, many commenters on Twitter, including a BBC reporter, thought it was a joke.

Theresa May, British Prime Minister. Charlie Bard / Shutterstock.com

Theresa May, British Prime Minister. Charlie Bard / Shutterstock.com

Prime Minister May knew perfectly well of Boris Johnson’s views on blacks, women, the sitting American president and likely future president. She also knew that America, Britain’s most important ally, is embroiled in a painful and precarious national discussion on race. Yet she went ahead and appointed a man to manage the British-American “special relationship” who is associated with the most loathsome of views on Africans and those of African descent, not to mention his boorish comments about America’s current and possibly-future leaders.

This is the kind of appointment Russia’s Putin would make, it’s not what you expect from America’s closely ally.

There’s a new xenophobic sheriff in London town, and God help us all.

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Brits appoint racist, sexist Obama/Hillary-hating loon as new Foreign Secretary http://americablog.com/2016/07/brits-appoint-racist-sexist-obamahillary-hater-new-foreign-secretary.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/brits-appoint-racist-sexist-obamahillary-hater-new-foreign-secretary.html#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 20:39:15 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138431 Britain’s new prime minister, Theresa May, has selected Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, as her new “foreign secretary” (in American terms, that’s her new secretary of state).

And while normally Americans couldn’t care less about the British foreign secretary, they should care about this one. Johnson, who has already been compared to Donald Trump, has said some pretty horrible things about Secretary Clinton and President Obama.

(UPDATE: In a piece Johnson published in the UK publication, the Telegraph, Britain’s top diplomat wrote of the “watermelon smiles” of African children, who he referred to as “picaninnies” (an offensive reference to black children. More in our new story about Boris Johnson here.)

Oh, but it gets better. Johnson wrote the above piece while he was editor of The Spectator, a British conservative magazine. Among the articles Johnson edited for the Spectator is one in which we learn that “orientals” are less horny than whites, and that blacks have smaller brains, which explains their lower IQs.

First, there’s Johnson’s downright racist birther comment about President Obama.

Johnson wrote a column in the Sun newspaper in which he aired the notion that President Obama’s “part-Kenyan heritage” gave the President an “ancestral dislike of the British empire.” For good measure, Johnson threw in the false GOP talking point that President Obama had “banished” Winston Churchill’s bust from the White House. Yeah, not so much, Boris.

Next, there’s Hillary, who Johnson said looked like “a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.” Here’s an excerpt from Johnson’s longish tome in the Daily Telegraph back in 2007:

I hum and I brood and then to my amazement a face seems to form in my mind’s eye. She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital; and as I snap out of my trance I slap my forehead in astonishment.

How can I possibly want Hillary? I mean, she represents, on the face of it, everything I came into politics to oppose: not just a general desire to raise taxes and nationalise things, but an all-round purse-lipped political correctness.

And as if that weren’t enough, Johnson also suggested that Hillary killed Vince Foster.

For you young’uns, the Vince Foster canard is an old one the Republicans threw at Hillary back in the early 1990s, and which Donald Trump recently tried to revive. It’s as baseless as everything else they’ve lobbed against her.

Oh, and Johnson also compared Hillary to Lady Macbeth:

To ask the reader to support Hillary means asking you to forget all those worrying allegations that Ambrose Evans-Pritchard used to report so brilliantly in these pages: the funny goings-on with the White House travel office, the anomalies in the position of poor Vince Foster’s gun, the curious business of the drug-runners at the Rena airfield and the Whitewater real estate imbroglio.

How could I possibly emit the merest peep of support for a woman who seems to have acted out the role of First Lady, from 1993 to 2000, like a mixture between Cherie Blair and Lady Macbeth, stamping her heel, bawling out subordinates and frisbeeing ashtrays at her erring husband?

It’s Mena Airfield, not “Rena,” Boris. And that too is a debunked right-wing talk radio myth. Now brought back to life by the new British foreign secretary. How do you like them apples?

Johnson also added this bizarre sexist comment about Hillary:

For all who love America, it is time to think of supporting Hillary, not because we necessarily want her for herself but because we want Bill in the role of First Husband. And if Bill can deal with Hillary, he can surely deal with any global crisis.

Seriously, this is the new British foreign secretary? This is the lead diplomat in charge of the Great Britain’s special relationship with the United States?

Theresa May can take her special relationship and shove it.

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It’s time for an economic blockade of the NRA http://americablog.com/2016/07/time-economic-blockade-nra.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/time-economic-blockade-nra.html#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 14:34:36 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138414 Sad. Angry. Confused. Powerless.

That’s how I felt after the gun-related deaths of last week – Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas, coming right on the heels of Orlando.

How does one untangle the threads – institutionalized racism, individual racism, mental health, homophobia, militarization of the police?

Taken together it’s overwhelming.

 

capitol-shooting

But there is a single thread that runs through all these events, and that’s the thread we need to pull. The proliferation of handguns and assault rifles, open carry, weak background checks, cop-killer bullets – the policy agenda of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Not of gun owners. Not of hunters. But of the NRA, an organization that has such a stranglehold on our political system that a rational discussion of gun policy is impossible.

fort-hood-shooting-texas

It’s easy to confuse the NRA for an interest group. They’re not. They’re a business, a $300 million dollar business whose revenue model is based on maintaining a constant level of panic among otherwise responsible gun owners, fearful that the government is just around the corner waiting to seize everyone’s guns.

dallas shooting

It’s a familiar business model. Consider Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who spent 30 years warning that the US was poised to invade. Or the propaganda that supports the brutal oppression of the North Koreans, or the Ayatollah Khomeini’s description of the United States as “the Great Satan.” It’s hyperbole meant to control the masses.

In response, to those three tyrants the United States adopted an economic blockade.

If we’re ever to advance the national conversation about sensible gun control, then the progressive movement needs to adopt a total economic blockade of the NRA – refusing to do business with ANYONE who does business with the NRA.

We need to demand that the non-profits we support, the associations we belong to and the corporations we patronize stop using firms that serve NRA. Here are a few examples:

·      InfoCision, the NRA’s call center company, boasts on their website of also having AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, the Communication Workers of America and UNICEF among their clients.

·      Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s Oklahoma City based advertising agency, also has the United Way of Oklahoma City among their clients.

·      Palm Coast Data, of Palm Coast FL, the data processing and magazine fulfillment company that handles the NRA magazine, also provides services to Audubon, Nickleodeon and The Nation.

·      The Georgia World Congress Center, which will host the 2017 NRA Convention, is also hosting the Susan Komen Breast Cancer 3 Day, and many large association conferences.

One of the most important and certainly the most public business partner of the NRA is Visa, the credit card company. The NRA has a partnership with Visa, whereby NRA members can apply for a special Visa card which generates significant revenue for the NRA.

A vigil held outside the Stonewall Inn in NYC to honor the victims of the shooting massacre in Orlando, Florida.

A vigil held outside the Stonewall Inn in NYC to honor the victims of the shooting massacre in Orlando, Florida.

Guess who else offers Visa cards to their members? The Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP, PETA, the Service Employees International Union, the Fraternal Order of Police, and dozens of other organizations.

These groups may very well be unaware of Visa’s relationship with the NRA. But they should now tell Visa that so long as the credit card company continues to partner with the NRA, they will switch their business to MasterCard. And as consumers who probably have both cards in our wallet, we should “blockade” Visa, and do our charging with a MasterCard or any other friendly card.

The progressive community has tremendous economic clout. Now’s the time to use it. The NRA is a toxic force in American politics. We need to contain their toxic influence through an economic blockade.

Money talks. It’s time to be heard.

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Black Lives Matter and the definition of terrorism http://americablog.com/2016/07/terrorism-black-lives-matter.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/terrorism-black-lives-matter.html#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 21:00:41 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138385 Terrorism — which by its very definition is violence in the pursuit of political goals — is at the core of American policy both foreign and domestic.

U.S. covert operations in Guatemala, Cuba, Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, Syria and dozens of other sovereign nations have earned America the label of “world’s leading terrorist state” from Noam Chomsky. The United States itself would not exist without the eradication of the native population through both organized military violence and spontaneous attacks by European settlers. It is only through an arbitrary distinction between warfare and terrorism that the government is able to justify its own crimes as historical necessity in the eyes of its population.

Central to this artificial construction is a massive propaganda campaign venerating the armed enforcers of the state. “Support our troops” becomes a slogan for illegal aggression, allowing for the condemnation of anti-war activists as ungrateful and unpatriotic. “Serve and protect” is used to shame those questioning the absolute power of the police over life and death, despite a 2005 Supreme Court ruling absolving law enforcement of the obligation to protect civilians. This jingoistic demand for absolute respect disguises the true nature of these occupations: Soldiers kill for elite profit and cops maintain the domestic order, a domestic order which necessitates the repression of marginalized classes.

Just as the slave patrols of the antebellum South made America a global economic leader, so too does Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racial profiling enable poverty wages for undocumented Latinos picking crops and cleaning houses. Just as the first professional police departments in America were formed as a racist reaction to the German and Irish working poor, so too do today’s law enforcement agencies disproportionately target impoverished black neighborhoods to fill beds in private prisons.

Cops kill more Americans each year than terrorists or mass shooters. Cops seize more civilian property than burglars. Cops routinely perjure themselves rather than accurately portraying their investigations. Cops inundate new recruits with propaganda, declaring themselves the “thin blue line” separating order from chaos, society from anarchy. The “blue wall of silence” keeps any would-be Serpicos from exposing the crimes of their colleagues, with morally motivated cops denounced as rats and subjected to harassment by their colleagues.

Both the Christopher Commission investigating the LAPD and the Mollen Commission investigating the NYPD made note of the role this silence plays in abetting human rights violations. The process of “parallel construction” encourages cops to gather evidence through illegal surveillance and then manufacture a story granting them probable cause. To condone these misdeeds, to paint them as painful exceptions to a necessary rule, is to ignore the failures of a supposedly democratic society that has bred a class of citizen utterly immune from the consequences of its own actions.

The mere fact that some cops do take “serve and protect” to heart does not absolve them of the oppression inherent to their social role. Even a model cop — one who treats civilians with respect, who reports his criminal colleagues, who selflessly puts his life on the line — is given a badge and a gun to enforce the laws of a terrorist state. Every tool available to law enforcement, from detention to arrest to murder, demands an abrogation of the liberties upon which the American government justifies its power. For this power to even exist, let alone remain unaccountable, is antithetical to all but the most hollow notions of democracy. To be a cop in America is to submit to the logic of racial and economic hierarchy which defines this nation, and enforcing this ideology through violent means is fundamentally a terrorist act.

I will not compare killer cops with cop killers. I will not equate the violence of oppression with the violence of resistance. Violence against the police will not solve police violence; in all likelihood, it will grant cops the public cover they need to commit crimes with impunity. But to unequivocally reject violence perpetrated by the oppressed against their oppressors is to restrain the struggle for justice within bounds set and subsequently ignored by the very system responsible for maintaining this oppression.

Nonetheless, I maintain we must operate with a morality unadulterated by the terror we combat. Indiscriminate violence leads only to chaos and thus cannot serve as the ground upon which a new society is built. Violence should be regarded like any other tactic available to liberation movements, to be deployed only in specific circumstances with specific goals. We must affirm the right of communities to defend themselves through locally-organized neighborhood patrols that provide the protection cops are supposed to, without elevating the guardians above the people they serve. So long as society preserves the privileged role of police as the sole arbiters of justified violence, racist brutality will remain a fact of American life.

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GOP adopts “cure gays” platform plank http://americablog.com/2016/07/gop-adopts-cure-gays-platform-plank.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/gop-adopts-cure-gays-platform-plank.html#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 18:07:23 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138407 The Republican party today adopted a platform plank in support of anti-gay “conversion therapy,” TIME magazine’s Zeke Miller reported today.

Conversion therapy is based on the debunked theory that you can “pray away the gay.” (Hint: You can’t.)

The Republicans’ embrace of a “gay cure” in the party platform comes on the heels of language inserted this morning that in effect bans transgender people from using public bathrooms.

The GOP is fighting quite the anachronistic battle in embracing the notion that you can cure someone’s homosexuality. Not only has the practice been debunked and denounced by all the credible medical groups, but it’s even been rebuked by many of the very groups that used to practice the “cure.” In 2011, the world’s top “ex-gay” confessed that he was still gay. And in 2013, the lead international “ex-gay” group, Exodus International, closed its doors and issued a public apology to the gay community.

So it’s a little odd that the GOP is today, in 2016, embracing an issue that’s already, for all intents and purposes, over.

The amendment to the platform, which was accepted by the subcommittee, was offered by Tony Perkins, the head of the officially-designated hate group Family Research Council. It’s no wonder that Perkins is still trying to gay-bash in the GOP platform, but why would the Republican party let him?

As I’ve said before, party platforms serve one purpose: to embarrass the party. And God bless Tony Perkins for reminding the American people once again about just how hateful and intolerance the Republican party remains.

No, thank you.

(h/t David Badash)

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GOP adds anti-trans bathroom language to platform http://americablog.com/2016/07/gop-adds-anti-trans-bathroom-language-platform.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/gop-adds-anti-trans-bathroom-language-platform.html#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:22:50 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138387 In a stunningly tone-deaf development, the Republican party has decided to use its party’s platform to weigh in on the transgender bathroom issue.

Or as someone on Twitter put it, the GOP is now in favor of universal bathroom checks.

The draft platform now includes language language “supporting and encouraging” use of bathrooms based on your gender at birth. NBC reports that the language is in the committee-draft — the platform has not been finished, so it’s still possible the Republicans could remove the language, but would they?

You may recall that this issue became hot this year when North Carolina passed legislation requiring people in state facilities to only use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. The intent, and effect, is to ban transgender people from using the correct bathroom.

The North Carolina legislation, called HB2, also repeals all LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) civil rights legislation in the state, and bans municipalities from passing any such legislation in the future.

HB2 transgender bathroom backlash

The backlash against HB2 has been massive and unprecedented, especially from corporate America. The law has already cost the city of Charlotte $80 million in lost business, and the state has lost a large number of conferences, conventions and concerts. Among the companies that have spoken out against the law: American Airlines, Apple, Cisco, eBay, General Electric, IBM, Intel, LinkedIn, Microsoft, NIKE and Salesforce. More from the Independent:

High-profile music acts – Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr and Bruce Springsteen – have cancelled concerts in North Carolina. Cirque du Soleil also pulled an appearance in the state. Corporations such as Deutsche Bank and PayPal have put expansion plans on hold.

North Carolina is particularly worried about a threat from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), is threatening to pull tournament games from North Caroline in 2017 and 2018,

trans bathroom

Transgender-friendly bathroom via Shutterstock.

So with all of that, what could possibly inspire Republicans to put the trans bathroom ban in their party’s platform? The GOP is enough trouble already with the nomination of Donald Trump as their presidential nominee. Now they’re wading into gay-bashing and trans-bashing?

Several companies had already pulled their support for the GOP convention out of concern of being associated with Trump’s extremism, so the convention overlords decided to become even more extreme? Even Donald Trump, as wacky has he is, refused to fully endorse the trans bathroom ban — though after initially opposing it, Trump then reversed himself and said the matter should be up to individual states.

Trans bathroom language undercuts Trump’s claim to be pro-LGBT

Interestingly, Trump has been running as a pro-LGBT candidate, and has repeatedly claimed that he’s more pro-LGBT than even Hillary Clinton. He’s not — in addition to his wishy-washiness on trans bathroom bans, Trump doesn’t support marriage equality. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that while Trump is trying to woo the gays, the party faithful are bashing them at the same time.

Donald Trump and his small hand, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump and his small hand, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

And the Republicans have another problem now — now that the platform contains language bashing transgender people, removing that language would make a statement, a pro-trans statement. So the Republicans are now damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

The irony of all of this is that party platforms generally serve one purpose: To embarrass the party when the platform becomes too extreme. Other than that, the platforms tend to have little impact on enacting actual legislation and policy. And true to form, the Republicans have used the platform to embarrass themselves yet again.

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Video: Why they love being LGBT http://americablog.com/2016/07/video-love-lgbt.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/video-love-lgbt.html#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 19:44:50 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138378 A neat video that I had planned to post today in any case. But now, it’s all the more appropriate to post something positive, about tolerance, and acceptance. Something happy. And gay.

This is a video from Jerwyn Guintu. He walked around LGBT Pride in NYC last week and asked people what it’s like to be LGBT (or LGBTQ, as he put it).

It’s really nice, I think you’ll enjoy it.

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Trump foreign policy adviser, in Moscow, says US isn’t “democratic,” praises Russia http://americablog.com/2016/07/trump-foreign-policy-adviser-goes-moscow-says-us-isnt-democratic-praises-russia.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/trump-foreign-policy-adviser-goes-moscow-says-us-isnt-democratic-praises-russia.html#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 16:50:58 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138368 One of Donald Trump’s key foreign policy advisers went to Moscow and criticized the United States, while praising Putin’s Russia.

Carter Page, an energy executive, criticized the US’ “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”

Page then went on to suggest that America is not “democratic.”

From the Washington Post:

When one attendee asked him whether he really believed the United States was a “liberal, democratic society,” Page told him to “read between the lines.”

“If I’m understanding the direction you’re coming from, I tend to agree with you that it’s not always as liberal as it may seem,” he said. “I’m with you.”

This is increasingly dangerous territory for Trump. Americans generally, and Republican voters in particular, don’t take kindly to candidates who root for (who they perceive to be) the enemy. Not only has Trump himself praised Russia’s Putin, but Trump also this week praised former Iraqis dictator Saddam Hussein. And in the past, Trump has praised North Korea’s brutal dictator as well.

But even in those settings, Trump didn’t suggest that the dictators were better than America. Now one of his top foreign policy advisers appears to have done just that. More from the Post:

He gave a lecture titled “The Evolution of the World Economy: Trends and Potential,” in which he noted that Russia and China had achieved success in Central Asia, unlike the United States, by pursuing a respectful foreign policy based on mutual interest.

The Post also notes that Trump adviser Page quoted Putin, in Russian, yesterday saying that Russia “does not intervene in the internal politics of other nations.”

And if you think that was a one-off mistake, Page has written before about how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is America’s fault.

Page wrote that the war in eastern Ukraine was “precipitated by U.S. meddling in the Maidan revolution,” a reference to the 2014 demonstrations that led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Someone needs to ask Donald Trump if he agrees with his own adviser’s criticism of America and praise of Russia. And specifically, whether America is “democratic” or not.

And as the Post notes, Page isn’t the only Trump adviser with strong ties to the former Soviet bloc.

It’s really unbelievable that more Republicans aren’t speaking out against this man.

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BREAKING: 5 cops dead, 12 cops shot in Dallas by snipers at anti-violence rally http://americablog.com/2016/07/breaking-4-cops-dead-11-cops-shot-dallas-snipers-anti-violence-rally.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/breaking-4-cops-dead-11-cops-shot-dallas-snipers-anti-violence-rally.html#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 04:47:01 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138347 Around 10pm tonight, during a peaceful anti-violence rally in Dallas, gunshots rang out.

11 police officers have been shot, 4 are dead.

UPDATE 10:34am ET: 12 officers have been injured, 5 are now dead. The police apparently took out the one suspect, holed up in a parking garage, by using a bomb defusing robot to carry a bomb to the shooter, and then blowing him up.

UPDATE, 1:38am Eastern Time: Police are in “negotiations” with a suspect in a garage. The Dallas police have been exchanging gunfire with the suspect. He has told law enforcement that he will kill more of them, and that he has set bombs all over Dallas. They also have a woman in custody. And have stopped a Mercedes containing two suspects who had camouflaged bags — they are in custody. The Dallas PD does not have a complete comfort level that they have all of the suspects. The chief says there may have been four people working together, coordinating their rifle fire. 

The chief makes it sound like this had been planned in advance. But this anti-violence rally likely came up out of nowhere, following the two deaths of African-American men at the hands of police in the past two days. So, it’s difficult to believe they had that much time to plan to attack this particular rally.

Along those lines:

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Video of the first shots:

More background:

There were reportedly multiple gunmen using assault weapons. The gunmen are being described as “snipers.” Two suspects are in custody.

More from the Dallas Police Department:

dallas police department update on shooting

In other news, former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh thought it would be a good time to threaten the life of the President:

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Interestingly, the Dallas Police were live-tweeting the anti-violence rally, and just four hours ago posted a really neat photo of two cops posing with a protester, all of them smiling:

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Some tweets:

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Why Hillary Clinton is not Petraeus, Snowden or Manning http://americablog.com/2016/07/hillary-clinton-not-petraeus-snowden-manning.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/hillary-clinton-not-petraeus-snowden-manning.html#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 20:16:34 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138339 In the aftermath of FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation against charges for Hillary Clinton’s email server, typical Republican and leftwing anti-establishment outrage flooded the media.

Clinton’s “extreme carelessness,” they said, was more damaging to American national security than Edward Snowden’s, David Petraeus’s, and Bradley Manning’s security violations, and thus demanded a proportionate punishment. Though Snowden himself seems puzzled with the verdict, Comey’s statement was well-reasoned on the issues of intent in the criminal prosecution of national security violations.

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

What differentiates Snowden’s, Petraeus’, and Manning’s cases from Clinton’s was that the former three intentionally distributed classified information to unauthorized individuals.

Snowden turned over documents on the PRISM program, among other government operations, to The Guardian.

Petraeus gave confidential information to Paula Broadwell, his biographer and lover.

Bradley Manning sent documents to WikiLeaks.

It does not matter whether any of these individuals’ actions were morally right or wrong. They included an intent to leak that Clinton simply did not have.

Now, Snowden and Manning might be heralded as whistleblowers fighting against an increasingly secretive American government that has violated the Constitutional and human rights of millions of Americans. And It could be argued that they, and Petraeus, did not harm national security if one truly believes that the documents were not exploited by foreign entities (and that’s a bit of a stretch).

However, as in the prosecution of libel, intent matters far more than consequences when proving the existence of a crime. Unless malicious intent—in this case, distribution of classified information to non-cleared individuals—can be proven, careless incidents endangering government secrecy are treated more like liabilities to companies: Employees are fired and security clearances are revoked, but no one is prosecuted.

David Petraeus

David Petraeus.

All individuals whom Hillary Clinton had intentionally communicated with were cleared to access the information. Is it possible that unauthorized and foreign entities accessed the server? Yes, but that does not go the issue of intent, which is lacking in this “crime.” But even if you were to ground an indictment on the basis of consequences, the FBI itself said that though Clinton’s server could have been hacked, there was no indication that it was.

As a matter of law, Comey’s recommendation was spot-on.

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Star Trek’s Sulu will be gay in new movie Star Trek Beyond: Why it matters http://americablog.com/2016/07/star-treks-sulu-will-gay-new-movie-star-trek-beyond-matters.html http://americablog.com/2016/07/star-treks-sulu-will-gay-new-movie-star-trek-beyond-matters.html#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 16:49:16 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=138308 Star Trek Beyond, the new Star Trek movie, will have a major character who is gay: Lt. Hikaru Sulu, played by actor John Cho.

Yeah, it’s a big deal.

I’ve been a trekkie my entire life, and out of the closet about 25 years, and Star Trek fans have long been asking for a gay lead character. Why? Because Star Trek is a vision into our better future — a future without hunger or war, where the citizens of Earth are united under one president, and 150 planets are united in one federation. (Yes, there is the occasional war with those outside the federation, but it’s always provoked by the other guys.)

The thing is, if Star Trek is supposed to epitomize the utopian future, why are there no gay or trans people? Well, now there are. Please sign our open letter thanking the creators of Star Trek Beyond, and congratulating the original Mr. Sulu, George Takei, on this wonderful news.

Star Trek's Lt. Sulu.

Star Trek's Lt. Sulu, actor George Takei, is himself openly-gay.

You have to remember that Star Trek began its voyage in 1966 as a cutting edge civil rights statement. Included among the bridge crew was a black woman, Lt. Nyota Uhura, played by actress Nichelle Nichols. Not only was it a big deal having an African-American woman as one of the lead characters on a TV show in the 1960s, but this character's role put her on equal footing with the otherwise white and Asian bridge crew. Star Trek even included a mixed-race kiss in the show! Again, it was a big deal at the time. (Even though the kiss was coerced by alien mind control.)

Just how big a deal to civil rights in America was Nichols' role? Ask Martin Luther King. Nichols gave an interview to NPR a while back in which she explained her decision to leave the show after the first season. When Martin Luther King found out about it, he had a few words with Nichols:

Ms. NICHOLS: I went in to tell Gene Roddenberry that I was leaving after the first season, and he was very upset about it. And he said, take the weekend and think about what I am trying to achieve here in this show. You’re an integral part and very important to it. And so I said, yes, I would. And that – on Saturday night, I went to an NAACP fundraiser, I believe it was, in Beverly Hills. And one of the promoters came over to me and said, Ms. Nichols, there’s someone who would like to meet you. He says he is your greatest fan.

Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura kiss on Star Trek.

Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura kiss on Star Trek.

And I’m thinking a Trekker, you know. And I turn, and before I could get up, I looked across the way and there was the face of Dr. Martin Luther King smiling at me and walking toward me. And he started laughing. By the time he reached me, he said, yes, Ms. Nichols, I am your greatest fan. I am that Trekkie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. NICHOLS: And I was speechless. He complimented me on the manner in which I’d created the character. I thanked him, and I think I said something like, Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you. He said, no, no, no. No, you don’t understand. We don’t need you on the – to march. You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for. So, I said to him, thank you so much. And I’m going to miss my co-stars.

And his face got very, very serious. And he said, what are you talking about? And I said, well, I told Gene just yesterday that I’m going to leave the show after the first year because I’ve been offered – and he stopped me and said: You cannot do that. And I was stunned. He said, don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen. He says, do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch. I was speechless.

Our own Becca adds a bit more to the story:

A side detail about Nichelle Nichols' encounter with Dr. King was that one of the reasons he was so adamant she stay on the show was because Uhura was one of the very first black characters on TV who wasn't a domestic or servant of white people, but an actual bridge officer, and presumably in line of command should the captain and others be disabled. That meant something.

Actor John Chu playing Star Trek's Lt. Sulu.

Actor John Chu playing Star Trek's Lt. Sulu.

And it's no different for gay and trans people. The reason we're so insistent about people coming out, declaring their sexual orientation or gender identity publicly, and about making sure we're represented on TV and in the movies, is because every time we are seen publicly we become that much more free. Perhaps you're a young gay or trans person who knows they're gay or trans, isn't open about it, hasn't told their family or friends, and knows no one like themselves. Sometimes the gay or trans character on TV is all they've got to relate to, to show them that they're not alone, to show them that they really are "normal." To show them that there's life outside the closet, and thus, life is worth living.

And these depictions also help people who aren't gay or trans. Familiarity breeds ennui, and that's a good thing. The more people see gay or trans characters on TV shows and in the movies, the more it becomes normal, expected, and eventually boring. The day "gay" and "trans" goes from shocking to "whatever" is the day we truly win.

This is why LGBT people are so insistent about Star Trek representing the true diversity of the universe.

And finally, what a wonderful tribute to the original Mr. Sulu, George Takei. The openly-gay actor has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT, and all human rights. I suspect no one is more pleased that Mr. Sulu finally gets his toaster. (h/t Joe My God)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis -- Win a pony! (not really)

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