Nel's New Day

August 19, 2019

Antifa Battles Fascism in Portland

Filed under: protests,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 10:01 PM
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Organizer Joe Biggs of the racist, sexist, xenophobic violent white supremacy/fascist groups including Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, Three Percenters, and American Guard, some of them wearing body armor and carrying weapons, got what he wanted on the Portland (OR) downtown waterfront last Saturday—national attention for their unpermitted event. They failed in their other goal, to “exterminate” antifa, anti-fascist opposition. Before the event, members, claiming to be non-violent, posted images of beatings, knives slicing throats, and corpses in body bags on social media.

Before the rally, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) sided with white supremacists and called for “naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION OF TERROR,’” something that doesn’t exist for domestic groups. Earlier in August, he criticized antifa for promoting what he called “supremacy” in its fight against white supremacists. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) proposed a resolution to designate antifa a domestic terrorist group (a designation given to no white supremacist groups). He claims the Rose City Antifa “explicitly rejects the authority of law enforcement officers in the United States.” Cruz will fail because antifa doesn’t kill anyone, and the U.S. uses the designation of “hate groups” for extremist organizations such as the KKK. Members of far-right extremist groups have committed 73 percent of extremist murders in the U.S. between 2009 and 2018, 

The night before the event, Joey Gibson, leader of the fascist Patriot Prayer from across the Columbia River in Washington state, turned himself in for felony rioting outside a Portland cidery but got out on bail in time to join the few hundred fascists. Six men were charged this month for violence at a bar favored by the left, and violence always marks Gibson’s frequent events in Portland. White supremacist groups such as Identity Evropa and the PDX Stormers often support Gibson’s rallies in Portland, but the Proud Boys led he August 17 event. Biggs sent threats to “antifa” after conservative writer Andy Ngo was “milkshaked”—having a drink poured over him—and punched on June 29. A police-generated rumor that the milkshakes contained concrete—a false statement—generated backlash from both right-wing media and traditional media counterparts (notably CNN) in their sympathy for Ngo. After Ngo’s appearance on Fox’s Tucker Carlson, his GoFundMe website raised more than $200,000.

Over 700 law enforcement officers from 15 agencies tried to keep the 1,300 members of opposing groups apart in an effort that cost the city millions of dollars. Outnumbered by over three to one, the fascist groups wandered for about 30 minutes before Portland police, criticized for their friendly relationships with one of he fascist groups, escorted them to a bridge blocked to the public where they marched across the Willamette River. Law enforcement willingness to accommodate groups terrorizing Portland residents for a rally with no permits in a public park may have avoided bloodshed, but it showed support for fascist protesters. The groups stayed for only an hour of their planned five-hour rally.

The counterprotest, organized by the Popular Mobilization (or PopMob) coalition of leftist groups, distributed flyers stating:

“If you oppose racism, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and the xenophobic, ultranationalist ideologies of the far right (and our current administration), you are an EVERYDAY ANTIFASCIST.

“If you are not a fascist — then you are Antifa.”

The 1,000 counterdemonstrators included local Jewish and Buddhist faith leaders and a marching band in bright yellow banana costumes. Others dressed as unicorns and pandas, blowing giant bubbles and singing along the waterfront.

Biggs said that the Proud Boys will come to Portland monthly to deplete its resources until the mayor rids the city of antifa. The Proud Boys sometimes say that their violence is only self-defense, but Biggs’ videos are violent, such as the one in which he swings a DDT-themed baseball bat that he brags will be “put to good use” in Portland. In his announcement of the rally, Biggs wore a shirt reading “Training to Throw Communists Out of Helicopters” and issued violent threats to his antifa critics:

“You’re not gonna feel safe when you go out in public. Every time you turn your shoulder or your head, you look over, you’re always gonna feel like myself or someone else is gonna be there looking, because that’s what we’re going to do. You’re scum, you’re filth, you’re anti-American socialist fucking pricks, and I’m not gonna let that shit happen in this country.”

Later Biggs tweeted his followers:

“Get a gun. Get ammo. Get your gun license. Get training. Practice as much as you can and be ready because the left isn’t playing anymore and neither should we.”

His supporters responded with memes depicting ISIS-style beheadings of antifascists with large knives. One of them said:

“I fully expect [an] armed conflict to break out on Aug. 17. People may die this is the real deal.”

Republicans have a history of supporting the violent fascist Proud Boys. Almost two years ago, the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan invited former Proud Boys to attend and their leader Gavin McInnes to speak. Following their riot outside, the Club defended the racist group and denied that the speech “was certainly not inciting violence.” Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) posed for photos with Proud Boys on the campaign trail, and Fox talk show host Tucker Carlson posed in a Fox green room with two Proud Boys and GOP operative Roger Stone who used Proud Boys as his security force at an Oregon GOP event after the Proud Boys were well-known for their Portland brawls.

Nine Proud Boys were arrested because of the Metropolitan Republican Club riot, and McInnes quit the group after the FBI classified them as an extremist organization. He said he did it to “alleviate the sentencing” of the arrested members to “show jurors they are not dealing with a gang and there’s no head of operations.” The FBI backed off from its designation because it “does not and will not police ideology.” DDT’s 2020 campaign may cause more Proud Boys violence; they prominently appear at his rallies. Proud Boys have also gone to alt-right researcher Gwen Snyder’s Philadelphia home and threatened her

Scholars of fascism note that fascist skinhead groups pose serious political threats when a mainstream political party endorses them, and they “become functional equivalents of Hitler’s SA and Mussolini’s squadristi.” Conservatives cultivating or tolerating white supremacists as weapons against an eternal enemy such as immigrants raise fascist insurgency to “Stage Two.” Proud Boy lawyer Jason Lee Van Dyke said that the group has been welcomed by DDT’s GOP party. Group umbers grew after the disastrous riots at Charlottesville (VA) caused other groups to dissipate, but the 3,000 membership seems to be shrinking everywhere except in the Pacific Northwest, especially Portland, perhaps because of some police sympathy toward the group.

The white supremacist groups violently invading cities reflect the neo-Nazi skinhead gangs of the 1980s and early 1990s who controlled music venues, bars, and street corners. They recruited disaffected members of the white working class just as groups like the Proud Boys develops its presence by trolling blogs.

The conservative USA Today explains antifa, short for “anti-fascist,” as a movement, not an “organization” as DDT tweeted, because it lacks leadership and structure. The oldest alliance of anti-fascists, the ten-year-old Rose City Antifa in Portland, has been the object of attacks by fascist groups. Antifa’s goal is stopping Neo-Nazis from having its racist, sexist, homophobia public forum by confronting them and protecting counterprotesters. They “dox” fascist group members by spreading private information about them to the public and employers because “the goal of fascism is to exterminate the vast majority of human beings.”

Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook, emphasized the importance of publicizing fascist believes to blunt their growth:

“We should be wary of those who are more distressed about alleged violations of the speech of fascists than the actual violence they perpetrate.”

Bray writes about the importance of stopping fascist groups before they take over countries. Bloodshed could have been avoided by blocking Mussolini in 1919 when his nucleus had only 100 men or the 54 members of German Workers’ Party at Hitler’s first meeting. Earlier intervention might have prevented the murder of heather Heyer at Charlottesville.

A counterprotester said:

“If we ignore fascism, it emboldens fascism, and we must confront fascism with all necessary force, even if that just means showing up and saying, ‘You’re not welcome here.’”

Despite the protesters against fascists outnumbering the opposition over three to one, the fascists declared the event a victory for them—probably because the man they call the president of the United States sided with them and not with opponents of fascism. Counterprotesters might have wanted more fascists to attend the event: they collected pledges of money for each one who attended. Proceeds went to Causa, a local group that helps protect local undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Two days later, the gathering of 300 fascists in Portland seems a flash in the pan as DDT struggles against the reality of a possible recession, angers from farmers loss of income, calls for gun safety legislation, crises around the world, and his disastrous polls.  

June 9, 2019

Some World Elections Pointing to Nationalism

In talking about the rise of fascism across the world during the early 20th century, Noam Chomsky cited an article that he wrote soon after the fall of Barcelona in February 1939, ending the Spanish Republic. The year before, Nazi Germany annexed Austria and then gained Czechoslovakia at the Munich Conference. Revolution against fascist control had lost since 1936. At that time, many in the United States, including parts of the government, supported the Nazi rise before deciding that its spread might be unstoppable. The State Department and Council on Foreign Relations decided that the world be divided into Nazis controlling most of Eurasia and the U.S. controlling the Western Hemisphere, the former British Empire, and the Far East. At least until Russia drove back Nazis in 1942, the world was on the brink of being totally fascist.

The 21st century sees the spread of ultranationalists, early represented by Steve Bannon who has moved on to push his movement in Europe. The U.S. under the guidance of State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is helping Israel, now led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, solidify the reactionary nationalist movement. Threats of right-wing ultranationalists in Latin America are led by Brazil’s election of Jair Bolsonaro.

With the U.S. media largely focused on DDT, watching the rest of the world has been difficult. Yet after the re-election of far-right Netanyahu, other huge countries have moved to right-wing anti-immigration control. After Narendra Modi’s re-election for another five years, citizenship in India will be redefined with the publication of an updated National Registry of Citizens, a 1951 census to search for migrants from the neighboring, Muslim-majority East Pakistan and now Bangladesh. Conducted only in the northeastern state of Assam, the census requires proof that people were residents of India before 3/24/71, the day before Bangladesh declared its independence, to be considered citizens. Without documentation of lineage, people are declared illegal. Yet obtaining these documents is difficult because of poor record-keeping, illiteracy, or insufficient funds for the $750 to file a legal claim. Four million people believing themselves to be Indian are missing from the Registry. Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) makes the Registry a priority and will deport all illegal immigrants.

Modi’s first five years was notable for lynchings and other violence, and 1,000 Muslims were killed in anti-Islam riots under his leadership. In his victory speech, he announced that his 2019 election marked the official death of secularism in India. He claims to support the poor, but nine people in India have the combined assets of 500 million Indian residents. Like DDT, Modi is not only highly conservative but also has deep business interests and demonstrates hostility to journalistic media while embracing social media.

India’s re-election was disturbing but not the surprise about conservatives keeping control in Australia. Preventing climate change cost liberals votes from those dependent on mining and forestry. The liberal Labor Party also proposed income tax increase on households making more than $180,000 Australian ($124,000 in the U.S.) and hikes in capital gains tax while eliminating writing off investment property losses. Like the United States, Christian conservatives exploited liberal positions on secularism, anti-abortion, and homosexuality. https://www.devex.com/news/australia-s-election-and-its-impact-on-the-pacific-views-from-the-us-94970  It’s expected that the new leader, Scott Morrison, will likely take a hard line against China, affecting its relationship with Australia. Because of Morrison’s hard-line approach toward immigration, some asylum seekers are attempting suicide.

Although he was elected Israeli prime minister in April, Benjamin Netanyahu has been unable to form a governing right-wing coalition in the parliament, and his conservative Likud party succeeded in passing a bill that dissolves parliament and calls for a new election on September 17. A prime minister-designate has never before been able to get selected by the parliament. Netanyahu stays in power until the election while facing accusations of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust charges for taking gifts and giving favors for better press coverage. He wants a coalition of right-wing, ultranationalist and religious parties to change laws to override the Supreme Court and protect him from prosecution.  A demonstration of approximately 80,000 people protested his changing the law to grant himself immunity.

Elections for European Union representatives from 28 countries resulted in a more ambiguous conclusion than either India or Australia. Both conservatives and liberals are claiming some victory. One obvious outcome is that the center, losing over 80 seats, moved to either the left or the right. Liberal Democrats are up 40, Greens 20, and Nationalists 30. Marine Le Pen, who tried to take over France, is working with nationalist parties with Italy’s Matteo Salvini to get a majority from Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Finland. Far-right reps from Poland and Sweden are avoiding Salvini because of his support for Vladimir Putin; free-marketers from Germany and Denmark disagree with Le Pen’s opposition to “uncontrolled globalization.” Country by country results.

Instead of taking over Europe, hard right parties won where they already had support and kept their minority positions in other countries. Their numbers are still too small to be spoilers or kingmakers. France helped achieve the coalition of pro-EU, pro-market liberals—the parliament’s third-largest force. Social democrats and allies still thrive in Spain and Portugal where they lead the country’s governments. DDT and Brexit may have created enough fear to keep nationalists from taking over with the biggest turnout for the vote since 1994.

Some EU election results are positive. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his ministers before he could call an election to strengthen his party, after the scandal in which a minister offered election favors to a Russian investor. The center right Austrian People’s party won over one-third of the EU representatives; Social Democrats got 23.6 percent, and the neo-Nazi Freedom Party took 18.1 percent.

The Green Party placed second in Germany with almost 21 percent of the vote and gained in Finland, France, and Ireland, possibly because of the youth activists trying to slow climate change. The 71 seats in the EU Parliament are up almost 40 percent from the 52 Green seats five years ago.

The Scottish National party, with its position of staying in the EU, wiped out the progressive Labour Party and has three seats, half Scotland’s representatives.   

UK followed the polarization pattern in the EU elections: Conservatives moved to the Brexit party looking for a no-deal separation from the EU while Labour voters picked the Liberal Democrats. Most of the Brexit gains were in rural areas but made some progress in a few cities where Tories left for the Lib Dems. Brexit gained 28 seats with 15 more for the Lib Dems. Labour lost seven, Greens won seven (a gain of four), and Tories had only three seats.

Prime Minister Theresa May is due to leave her position on June 7 with her replacement determined in late July. With the EU elections finished, the British parliament will return to the torment of a Brexit approach.

With many other countries, except for Israel, settled in for at least a short while, the campaign for the 2020 presidential election continues with DDT ramping up his dishonest and vicious approach. His ruthless comments make the lying ads about John Kerry and Michael Dukakis look like a walk in the park. DDT came back from Japan where he tweeted negative agreements about former vice-president Joe Biden with dictator Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, and the first Democratic debate is in four weeks on June 26. For a sample of what’s ahead, check out Corey Lewandowski’s threatening strategy on the Fox network. As former GOP presidential candidate Evan McMullin, tweeted:

“This is truly a dangerous abuse of power. [AG Bill] Barr will selectively release sensitive information, as he did with Mueller’s report, to shape a favorable narrative for Trump and impede the intelligence community’s ability to collect intel on foreign threats that assist the president.”

DDT’s personal television network, Fox, will control the message for its watchers, and congressional Republicans are terrified of DDT. There will be no accountability for DDT. He has already accused a large number of people of “treason” for investigating a presidential campaign, a charge punishable by death. With DDT, anything goes.

January 16, 2018

Orwell’s ‘Newspeak’ Precursor to Today’s Fascism

The most popular expression in 2017, according to the Washington Post, was “fake news,” and Merriam-Webster announced that “feminism” was the term with the most internet searches. Cambridge Dictionary highlighted “populism” because Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) claimed to support the working people, and Dictionary.com selected “complicit.” The real Word of the Year might be #, as in hashtag, such as the #MeToo movement. A term for current politics could be “faux populism” or “nationalism” because of the mushrooming acceptance of white supremacists in the United States. Gone are terms such as “diversity” and “togetherness.” The President’s Challenge Coin even lost the term “E pluribus unum,” the U.S. motto meaning “out of many, one.”

Throughout foreign affairs this past year, up is down and war is peace. “Normalization” used to mean making the abnormal conform to the standard perception, but DDT has changed it to acceptance of deviancy as the new normal. “Pivot” once meant turning but now means a pretense. The biggest reversal may be the word “fake.” Defined as “counterfeit” until the time of DDT, its meaning is now “I deny your reality” or “hoax.” Evidence and reason are now “fake science” or “fake news.” Those who lack any support or background for their arguments simply assert “fake …” to make facts vanish or “alternative facts,” introduced by Kellyanne Conway in an attempt to cover DDT’s lies.

Conservatives know how words can hurt their causes. A theme of the ruling class in George Orwell’s novel 1984, is “ignorance is strength.” The phrase “climate change” disappeared from the White House website minutes after DDT was inaugurated, and accurate science, climate, energy, and environment information has been erased on federal websites. References to rising sea levels, worsening wildfires, and threatened wildlife have disappeared. The Interior Department eliminated links to 92 national parks’ climate action plans.

EPA officials are ordered to eradicate the term “climate change” in grant solicitations and funding for initiatives. Public communications information also cannot use “climate change.” Colorado College environmental science professor Miroslav Kummel was told that he would need to revise his syllabus for his class, “Introduction to Global Climate Change” at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument because “all references to [climate change] in future documents, orientation talks, etc. will not be allowed.”

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention distributed a “language guidance” document to employees and contractors listing words and phrases to be avoided and accompanied by acceptable alternatives. For example, “underserved youth” are now “all youth.” “Substance abuse disorder,” no longer a disease, was replaced with “substance abuse issue.” Youths who have committed crimes are defined only as “offenders.” Last year, a request for grants to mentor child victims of sex trafficking specifically cited LGBTQ youths, one-third of the trafficked population; this year the requrest does not mention LGBTQ.

Providing more censorship, DDT’s administration is stopping the use of such words as “vulnerable, “entitlement,” and “diversity” in the Department of Health and Human Services budget. During a meeting, CDC employees were told to avoid “fetus,” “transgender,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” Only the last two terms were given an alternative: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” “Abstinence-only” programs are being rebranded as “sexual risk avoidance” to acquire government funds. The government knows that these programs fail to work. Violence Against Children surveys from eleven countries “showed that an average of 1 in 3 young women had a first sexual experience that was forced or coerced,” according to a State Department report.

Humpty Dumpty told Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.” Alice asked him how a word can have so many definitions, and Humpty Dumpty replied, “The question is which is to be master, that’s all.” Centuries later, Orwell agreed when he wrote that meaning is about power. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once defined truth as “the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.”

Many of the words popularized in the new administration, including DDT’s latest vulgar term “shithole countries,” smack of authoritarianism supporting white supremacy and ethnic cleansing evidenced by fascist dictators leading up to World War II. They gained their power through suppression of the media just as DDT is trying to do. He is also using the one-party system in Washington and the tactics of Hitler’s Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists to control the nation.

Words that reveal injustices and encourage critical analyses disappear when people who use them are punished. Orwell’s “Newspeak” in 1984 has gone from fiction to the GOP standard operating procedures, especially since all scientific evidence and dissent is regarded as “fake news.” According to DDT, the critical media is the “enemy of the American people.” He maintains that he is the only person who can “Make America Great Again,” the only one who can save the nation. Repetition of these positions has led to almost a third of people in the nation believing that the media—except the Fox network and other more conservative sources—are false. DDT now declares Fire and Fury a “fake book.”

Authoritarianism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat noted that fascism starts with words. Language normalizes brutality and cruelty with metaphors of racial purity, expulsion, war, and dehumanization. In The Third Reich in Power, Richard J. Evans wrote:

“The German language became a language of superlatives, so that everything the regime did became the best and the greatest, its achievements unprecedented, unique, historic and incomparable …. The language used about Hitler … was shot through and through with religious metaphors; people ‘believed in him,’ he was the redeemer, the savior, the instrument of Providence, his spirit lived in and through the German nation…. Nazi institutions domesticated themselves [through the use of a language] that became an unthinking part of everyday life.”

Adolf Hitler banned words, books, and authors while he made people disposable. The GOP goal is to destroy ways to protect vulnerable people and plunder the world’s resources for their personal gain.

DDT’s initial statement in his campaign on June 16, 2015, described the people coming into the United States as human garbage, the same message that he has repeated during the past two and a half years. In a speech to FBI graduates in December, he described immigrants coming by lottery as the “worst people …. the worst of the worst.” With no outrage from people, he normalized evil, just as authoritarianism does, in his statements about how immigrants (except those from Norway) despoil the (white) United States by raping and killing (white) women. Nobody was shocked until he used the word “shithole”; for many people it is only the word and not the policy behind it that is heinous.

Gina Apostel wrote, “When norms shift, one of the first things to change is language. In a fascist world, shocking neologisms become everyday speech.” She continued in a description about her experiences when Philippines’ late dictator Ferdinand Marcos decreed martial law in 1972 and compared that to today’s life under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who killed more people in his first year of martial law than Marcos did in a decade. “Extrajudicial killings” is a polite term for being killed by the police, and being “ka-DDS,” meaning “fellow-Davao Death Squad” rallies Duterte’s supporters, just as DDT’s supporters adopted the term “deplorables.” A new eatery north of Manila has a menu that includes “handcuffed pork belly” and “tortured pork chops,” referring to the people who Duterte kills. Another item is “the ham that fought back” because police can kill any suspect who resists arrest.

DDT praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job” in combating the illicit drug trade. Duterte called reporters “spies” when he met with DDT. Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here about the rise of an authoritarian fascist leader in the U.S. parallels DDT’s admiration dictators around the world.

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” In this way, DDT uses words that make this passage from 1984 as the theme of his administration.

October 11, 2016

Out of the Closet

National Coming Out Day has been commemorated every October 11 for the past 28 years. It began in 1988 by marking the one-year anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington Lesbian and Gay Rights and continues to invite LGBT people to come out of the “closet” and proudly announce their sexual orientation and gender identity. The “closet” has been more and more associated with the LGBT community because, as Judy Grahn wrote in 1984:

“At present the term ‘closet’ implies a scandalous personal secret, or skeleton, in the family closet. In the case of a Gay person, it refers more precisely to being the skeleton in the family’s closet. That skeleton is the reality of Gayness itself. The sometimes violent and always frightening suppression of Gay culture often forces Gay people to live in the closet, in a secret world….”

The past few decades have marked a time when LGBT people have openly declared their true selves in vastly increasing numbers, a process that has helped increase the extent of legal LGBT rights despite its danger. Because some people suffer from homophobia because of their fear, being openly LGBT is not always safe. San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was assassinated on November 27, 1978, knew that he lived in danger because he refused to hide his sexual orientation.

The conservative environment fostered during the two terms of George W. Bush and solidified in many states by the Tea Party legislators elected in 2010 continue to create peril for many LGBT people. Over half the states in the nation—29 in all—discriminate against LGBT people, many of them worse than others. For example, trans people can be arrested in North Carolina if they use the bathroom that the state thinks is not correct. Same-gender couples can legally marry, but they are still struggling with punitive laws about divorce, adoption, Social Security rights, etc. In those 29 states, people can be fired if they’re merely considered LGBT. This map shows which states continue to discriminate.

Although “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts,” like the one supported and signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, GOP vice-presidential candidate, don’t always identify LGBT people, that community is the focus of these laws.

At one time, it seemed that the LGBT people were the major scapegoats, but the election campaign for 2016, an event that started 16 months ago and still has another four weeks, has pushed far more people into the closet. Many Muslims are forced to hide their religion to avoid hate crimes against them. Homeless people are at risk because Donald Trump encourages violence against them. Others are afraid to openly explain their preference in a presidential candidate because of fear. I have a sign supporting Hillary Clinton that I am concerned about posting because it may encourage damage to my property. Hiding our religion and political beliefs because of fear is just one example of the movement toward fascism in the United States.

This year, National Coming Out Day coincides with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement when people go forward and leave transgressions behind. As Max Antman writes about Yom Kippur and coming out of the closet:

“Coming out is often one of the most challenging, terrifying, and life-altering experiences an LGBTQ person faces in their lifetime. Regardless of whether the process is one of pain or ease, to come out is to surrender the privilege of a heterosexual life, and for many people, that is not only difficult – it’s impossible.

“Move forward into a space of opportunity and growth or remain trapped within perils of the past and fears of the future? The choice seems obvious enough, but the path to renewal is far from easy. Choosing ‘life and prosperity’ requires us to recognize our previous misgivings, but it also challenges us to accept whatever consequences lie ahead. Deciding to move into the new Jewish year through repentance and coming out of the closet are both very difficult choices, for they rely upon our faith in God and in ourselves.”

“As Yom Kippur and National Coming Out Day approach, we are challenged to take advantage of the opportunities they hold. We look at our past both individually and communally, and are given the chance to craft a better way. Even as we acknowledge the challenges and complexities of some of our less inclusive texts, these holidays give us the opportunity to look back at how far we have come in our journey towards acceptance and inclusion – not just as individuals, but as communities and a broader society.”

As more and more people know at least one LGBT person—frequently a relative—the acceptance grows. Two days ago, Anderson Cooper was the first openly gay person to moderate a presidential candidate, an historic occurrence. There were sneers, including from Donald Trump, but Cooper’s ability makes the job easier for the next LGBT person. As people know more open members of the LGBT people, the more accepting they have become. In the 22 years between 1993 and 2015, the percentage of people who were aware that they knew someone LGBT went from 61 to 88 while the level of acceptance ratcheted upward.

Not all LGBT people are safe coming out. I waited until I retired and left the state where I had worked because I would have lost my job. Staying closeted is something that shouldn’t cause guilt. But we all need to work for a world in which declaring a sexual orientation or gender identity or religion or political preference doesn’t put a person into jeopardy. People need to think about this factor in voting on November 8.

rainbow-flag

Meanwhile, LGBT people and our allies can take pride in the latest location of a rainbow flag. Planting Peace, a socially active group, sent a flag into outer space with a high-altitude balloon where it stayed 21.1 miles about Earth for over three hours. The universe is now an LGBT-friendly space; we can work to create the same atmosphere here on Earth.

For more joy, check out these top 20 tweets including one great message from President Barack Obama.

October 1, 2016

Who Are the Trump Supporters?

People follow Trump because they admire him—“say it like it is,” avoid “political correctness,” make money by cheating and call is capitalism, and make up their own rules. There are some specific characteristics of Trump supporters (TS) based on his values and approaches:

A desire to be ruled, not governed: The top predictor of being a TS is a belief in authoritarianism. TS are inclined to believe in obedience; they want strong leaders and respond aggressively to outsiders because they feel threatened. Trump’s promises to close mosques, ban Muslims, build a wall, and the generality of “make American great again” rises above constitutional rights or capitalism. The model for Trump is Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia.

Lack of class (as in quality): TS appreciate that Trump ridicules a disabled person, calls POWs losers, denigrates women because he doesn’t find them physically attractive, makes inappropriate sexual comments about his daughter, blasts a Gold Star family, etc.

Willingness to cheat and lie to people: Trump deflates his numbers to get low taxes, incessantly tells falsehoods, defrauds his employees, rips off people for his own benefit, etc. He fits the description of a pathological liar as words automatically pour out of his mouth that contradict what he’s said earlier or just “misrepresents” reality.

Racist beliefs: Trump embraces the alt-right movement, led the birther movement, belittles minorities by accusing them of being criminals and rapists, demands that judges in his thousands of lawsuits be white, fires minorities because of their skin color, etc.

Misogynist way of life: Trump’s attacks on Megyn Kelly brought his sexist attitude to the forefront of media, and he continues to incessantly insult women. In debates he brags about the size of his genitalia and claims that female opponents are too ugly to be president. Approached about his abusive statements about women, he doubles down on the outrageous comments by blaming the women for his beliefs. An acquaintance from Trump’s days in a military academy said that they learned about women from Playboy magazine and that Trump never got over this sexism.

Deficiency in religious/spiritual ethics: Trump grew up with the gospel of prosperity and has continued this conviction throughout his life. (See “Willingness to cheat and lie to people.”)

No credence in the U.S. Constitution: Republicans have rabidly sworn for the past almost eight years that President Obama doesn’t obey the constitution, yet GOP members ignore Trump’s plans to break the First Amendment by curbing free speech while forcing one religion on the nation’s entire population. He also wants to remove due process from anyone who annoys him—which covers a large number of people—and remove birthright citizenship, both enshrined in the constitution.

Rejection of hard work: For the most recent presidential debate, Hillary Clinton studied the issues, prepared specifics, and practiced for her encounter with Trump. People, including Trump, made fun of her because she worked hard to be ready for a difficult job—that of the President of the United States. Trump came in with no preparation, almost unable to stand for 90 minutes, but was praised for his energy and excitement. No information, just rude interrupting and repetitive generalities.

A reason for Trump to not prepare might be that he suffers from the Dunning-Kruger effect, an overweening confidence in his ignorant sense of superiority. With this effect, incompetents fail to recognize their own incompetence. Because they don’t understand that they are not good at something, they fail to see their personal flaws and don’t bother to work on self-improvement. The more incompetent they are, the greater their confidence.

For example, Trump is supremely confident that the solution for defeating ISIS is to steal oil from Middle Eastern countries, both a militarily impractical solution and a violation of international law. Not understanding cyber warfare, he makes a reference to “400-pound” hackers sitting on their beds. Trump thinks he can create stability in Asia by getting China to invade North Korea although both countries have nuclear weapons and China is a sponsor of North Korea. The man with no experience in politics or public policy accuses the former secretary of state as lacking “basic ability” compared to him.

People question why Clinton is only a few points ahead of Trump despite her superiority in knowledge and ability. The GOP, who now has no idea what to do with the monster they created, led its constituency into a state of racial resentment and bigotry in order to move the country’s assets to the wealthy. This audience is ripe for Trump support after watching the bullying star of a “reality” TV show for fourteen years and another year of almost all the media—not just the Fox network—promote him in a competition for ratings. At the same time, the media, both cable and mainstream, has spent 30 years constantly accusing Clinton of being “untruthful” and “untrustworthy.” Finally facing veracity, the media is helpless to change the situation that they created.

Think of “an egomaniac who ‘only loved himself’ — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization…”  A man with “bottomless mendacity” who magnifies himself with “a slick propaganda machine”—a “big mouth” who rose to power, embraced by millions for his “doctrine of hatred.” A man who promises to lead the country “’to a new era of national greatness,’ though he was typically vague about his actual plans.” A man whose “ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity” and those who found him an “evening entertainment.” Conservatives believed that they could “fence” him in.

These quotes are from a book review by Michiko Kakutani about Volker Ullrich’s new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939. The parallels between Donald Trump and the man who almost ruled the world are frightening.  

Hitler, who played on the people’s bitterness and resentments, was described as “so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth.” Editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.” Aaron Blake writes about “Trump’s tendency to make up facts, spew utter distortions and rely on innuendo.” Hitler claimed to be the visionary leader who could restore law and order just as Trump does, perhaps getting his lines from reading Hitler’s speeches. Hitler gained power from the uncompromising government dysfunction by giving his supporters the belief that they needed “a man of iron” to shake up the country. That’s what TS think that Trump will bring them.

The country has survived presidents who were hot-headed (Lyndon Johnson), dishonest (Richard Nixon), unprepared (Ronald Reagan), and overwhelmed (George W. Bush). But the U.S. has not faced a fascist who appeals to anti-immigrant sentiment, creates anger with the political and economic establishment which includes an attack on NAFTA, and expresses extreme intolerance toward non-Christian people. That’s what Patrick Buchanan did in the 1992 campaign when conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote that this mix of “nativism, authoritarianism, ethnic and class resentment” follows the classic mold of fascism.

Throughout history, fascism has started with lack of economic opportunity giving the wealthy almost the entire pie. As promoters of two political sides separate into their corners, the center vacuum leaves a space. The “center” fills with people who maintain superiority to everyone except the “right kind of people”—in the U.S., that means people born here who manage to have large salaries. The “superior” people dehumanize everyone else by calling them animals, thugs, and terrorists. If indiscriminate murderers are white, they are “mentally damaged.” All others are sub-humans.

A large middle class during the 1950s, more educated and financially well-off, disappeared when stagnating incomes throughout GOP leadership decreased advantages of savings, education, and healthcare. “Trickle-down economics” and deregulating Wall Street moved more wealth to the top. The two Bill Clinton terms during the 1990s started a reversal, but the appointment of George W. Bush to the presidency created a hit to the economy from lower taxes, trillions of dollars in war expenditures, and the severe recession from deregulation of borrowing.

People who support Trump come up with many excuses for casting their votes for Trump, but they could not support him if they didn’t believe that he is right in all his lying, fraudulent, racist, sexist, authoritarian, anti-constitution, nativist, incompetent, ill-prepared approaches toward ruling.

July 9, 2014

U.S. Mimics Sunnis, Moves toward Fascism

Good versus evil: that’s how conservatives in the United States frame their relationship with Middle Eastern countries. The current determination of the Sunnis to take back Iraq after the U.S. destroyed the country has brought this belief to a roiling boil. Using religion as an excuse to control the country, Sunnis and Shiites are vying for political power in Iraq. It’s a parallel to the attempt of the conservatives–primarily Christians–to take over control of the United States.

The most recent move toward this control was the ruling by five white men to put themselves about federal law and deny contraception to thousands of people. These five men decided that 90 percent of U.S. for-profit “human” corporations have the right to control millions of women’s lives, many of them minorities. Their excuse for supremacy is the Christian bible, which says nothing about contraception.

Fundamentalist religion has morphed the New Testament’s brown-skinned liberal Jewish messiah, who freely gave away health care and redistributed wealth, into a muscular masculine warrior so blond and white that he would have been admired by the Nazi culture. To promote this new vision of the Christian leader, people needed to negate women’s value because of the Christian male belief that feminists have created an effeminate clergy.

Conservatives have increasingly spewed their hatred of anyone different from them. In the past, they mostly concentrated on destroying themselves, for example overeating sweets after First Lady Michele Obama tried to educate people about stopping obesity with sensible eating. The libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has declared Salvation Army’s annual Doughnut Day as a time for “patriotic civil disobedience” by asking people to eat at least two, not one, doughnut.

Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform demonstrates conspicuous waste by throwing a “sin tax party,” where guests can enjoy the spirits and foods being hit by higher taxes. An invitation to the 2012 party announced that guests could “celebrate finally paying off the burden of government by enjoying these extra-taxed goods that bear the strain of the growing Nanny State.”

Resentful of people who want to make people aware of the energy that we use, CEI asks people to leave all their lights burning during the “Earth Hour,” 60 minutes when many people turn off all electricity. CEI calls its waste, “Human Achievement Hour.”

Trying to show their power over everyone else, ammosexuals use “open carry” laws to carry as many of their biggest and baddest assault rifles in as many open spaces as possible.

Coal Roll bicycleNot satisfied with just causing fear and chaos, a group of truck owners have a new “game”—a way to retrofit a diesel truck so that it requires more fuel. As one person who sells the stack kits to do this said, “I run into a lot of people who really don’t like Obama at all. If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you.”

coal rollingThe “rolling coal” trucks can be easily identified by the “Prius Repellant” decals that most of them sport. At a cost of $1,000 to $5,000, truck owners can add smoke stacks and switches—maybe even revamp the entire fuel system. High school senior Ryan explained why he does it:

  “If someone makes you mad, you can just roll coal, and it makes you feel better sometimes. The other day I did it to this kid who was driving a Mustang with his windows down, and it was awesome.”

So the reason is to upset someone else. Who cares that these pollutants cause 21,000 premature deaths every year and cancer at seven times more than the combined risk of all other 181 other air toxics.

Norfolk, Nebraska, a small town in the northern central part of the state, openly showed off its vicious bigotry during the Fourth of July parade with a float depicting a zombie-like statue of President Obama in front of an outhouse. For those who might not get the point, the building was labeled “Obama Presidential Library.” The mostly white audience cheered and pointed at it.

outhouse

Mayor Susan Fuchtman tried to disavow any connection with the parade on the town’s public streets when she claimed it was put together by the Odd Fellows Lodge. Defenders called it “political satire,” and parade emcee Wally Sonnenschein said it wasn’t meant to be racist. The float won honorable mention.  The Odd Fellows has been active in the United States for almost two centuries. Its home page for the Odd Fellows organization states that “Friendship, Love and Truth are the basic guidelines that we need to follow in our daily lives.”

Parade committee member Rick Konopasek said that the outhouse float was the most popular one in the parade. “It’s obvious the majority of the community liked it. So should we deny the 95% of those that liked it their rights, just for the 5% of people who are upset?”

The hatred of many conservatives for the undocumented children caught at the Texas border and shipped to Arizona and California is another mark of the deep schism within the U.S. Screaming “USA! USA! USA!” angry white people pounded on buses with Latino children and even spit in the faces of Hispanics in the crowd. At Murrieta (CA), protesters forced bus drivers to go to another facility in the state. Fox network and other conservative sources have inflamed the violence by reporting—with no basis—that the children are disease-ridden with scabies, measles, and tuberculosis.

Many of the children are actually refugees, fleeing gang violence in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. In demanding that all the children be immediately sent home, conservative networks and Internet sites ignore—or are ignorant of—a law passed during George W. Bush’s second term. Large bipartisan majorities passed the law in 2008 to protect young victims of sex trafficking and slavery. According to this law, children from countries that do not border the U.S. must be placed with family members or with foster families while waiting for deportation hearings. That process can take two or three years.

In her Christian/nationalist fervor, conservative Christian Holly Fisher celebrated the Hobby Lobby decision by posing with a pro-life t-shirt, and Chick-fil-a cup outside one of the stores. Evidently the image wasn’t strong enough for her so she added guns, Bible, and U.S. flag. This iconic image of fundamentalism is startlingly similar to one from the other side of the world. Even the crooked smiles are the same on the two women clutching their religious books and similar rifles in front of their flags.

Holly fisher

These actions reflect characteristics of fascist regimes that use patriotic and religious symbols to show how dedicated they are to a religiously-based government.  At the same time, fascists have great disdain for human rights, scapegoating liberals and racial, ethnic, or religious minorities who conservatives consider enemies. Fascists believe in torture and long prisoner incarceration while providing a disproportionately high percentage of federal funding for their military. Because fascist countries are male-dominated, gender roles are more rigid, and women’s rights are suppressed. And because they rule by fear, fascists protect corporate power that gives government leaders their positions. Rulers of fascist regimes suppress labor, indulge in rampant cronyism and corruption, and reject education and the arts.

Fraudulent laws in fascist countries suppress the right to vote as evidenced throughout the U.S. Recent Supreme Court rulings have monetized the electoral process and promoted state religion. Almost 80 years ago, Sinclair Lewis wrote, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.” We’re almost there.

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