You are browsing the archive for 2014 December 24.

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I Got Slimed by Rush Limbaugh

December 24, 2014 in Blogs

By Sophia A. McClennen, Salon

Rush went after me when I suggested we were better off getting our civics lessons from Colbert's satire than Limbaugh's hate speech.

There seems little doubt that nuance, subtle thinking and critical insight are well beyond the grasp of Rush Limbaugh. So this piece is not directed at him. But the power of his arguments is real and the force they have in shaping public debate can’t be overlooked. So for that reason alone it seems worthwhile to debunk some of the arguments he made when he attacked the piece I wrote for Salon last week.

The core argument of my piece was that Stephen Colbert’s character from “The Colbert Report” had offered the U.S. public a refreshing alternative to the partisan spin of patriotism so often in play today. As I explained — referring to the research of Geoffrey Nunberg — in past decades, the right has dominated the discourse of what it means to care about this nation. And they have suggested that any questioning of the right is equal to treason. Colbert, I argued, exposed the fallacies of this view and reclaimed patriotism for his fans. A key part of the Colbert persona was his hyper-patriotism, and I pointed out that, as the character was put to rest, it was time to speculate on what this would mean for the future of left-leaning nationalism.

It is perfect irony that Limbaugh does, in fact, accuse me of attacking America. As he puts it, “I can’t escape these professors and these lies and all this crap that’s in the media about everything that’s so-called wrong with America.” This was his response to a piece that indicated that Colbert had encouraged a large fan base to enthusiastically pursue their own version of what it means to be patriotic — one that we might argue has as much, if not more, affinity with the founding principles of our nation than the version offered by the right.

In fact, Colbert’s character often schooled Limbaugh on his understanding of U.S. history.  In a bit from March 5, 2009, Colbert shows Limbaugh attacking Obama for …read more


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4-Year-Old Handcuffed, Shackled and Hauled off to Sheriff’s Office by the Cops

December 24, 2014 in Blogs

By Scott Kaufman, Raw Story

He suffers from nightmares as a result of his brush law enforcement.

A four-year-old Virginia boy with attention deficit disorder (ADD) was handcuffed and shackled, then taken away in a squad car after his teacher and principal were unable to calm him down, WVTF reports.

According to officials at the Nathanael Greene Primary School, on the day in question the pre-kindergarten student had thrown blocks, climbed on and over deks, and scratched and kicked both the principal and the director of special education.

“The boy was out of control, basically, throwing his arms around and kicking– trying to kick the deputy, trying to run away, and the deputy felt that putting the handcuffs on him was for his safety as well as everybody else’s,” County Sheriff Steven Smith said.

“Once he got inside the office,” the sheriff added, “since he tried to run and kick the deputies, they took the handcuffs off him and put the leg shackles on him.”

The boy’s mother, Tracy Wood, was appalled at the way in which the school officials allowed her son to be treated.

“When you call a parent to get their child, when they get to the school, you expect the child to be there,” she said, “especially when you arrive in a timely manner.”

Instead, she was greeted by the principal, who informed her that her shackled 4-year-old had been transported to the sheriff’s office.

According to child psychologist Jeffrey Fracher, the use of shackles on a child that young could have a long-term effect on his psychological well-being.

“I can’t imagine any scenario where it would be appropriate to handcuff a child that young,” he told TVTF. “What we know about childhood development and psychological development suggests that could be also be highly traumatizing to a child.”

The boy’s mother says that is exactly what has happened. Her son, who was suspended indefinitely after the incident, suffers from nightmares as a result of his first brush law enforcement.

…read more


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Santa Gets Tear-Gassed In Palestine: How Israel Suppresses Christmas for Palestinians

December 24, 2014 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

Palestinian Christians don't have much to celebrate under the occupation.

Tomorrow is Christmas, and more than a billion people will be waking to presents, hot cocoa and holiday jingles. But for Palestine's 40,000 to 90,000 Christians, most of whom live in the West Bank, Christmas takes place under Israeli occupation.

Bethlehem, the fabled location of Jesus's birth, is under siege. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, had to pass through a massive separation barrier and military checkpoints that split Jerusalem and Bethlehem in order to arrive at Manger Square to begin Christmas Eve celebrations.

The city's mayor, Vera Baboun, included a solemn nod to the occupation in her annual Christmas message, saying, “Despite all Israeli occupation practices, including the siege, ongoing land seizure and settlement expansion, the city is flooded with happiness as it welcomes visitors while sending a message of hope and love. The residents of Bethlehem are still seeking justice, hoping that the world will help bring peace. The city faces an undeclared war, the basis of which is the wall, and the isolation of the northern district of the city.”

One of the great Christian holy sites is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is found in Jerusalem. For Palestinian Christians, reaching the site is practically a biblical trial. Israel is currently denying Palestinians under the age of 35 from visiting the site. One Christian pastor in Gaza who works with refugees in Jordan, told Middle East Monitor that because of the series of military checkpoints, his trip from Jordan to his family home took 17 hours. “The challenge for us as Christians, by the grace of God, we are able to forgive because we experienced God's forgiveness. The challenge for us as Evangelical Christians, as a pastor, is how to keep your mind and your heart pure and to live by the spirit of forgiveness and not to let hatred rule in your life,” said.

The system of military domination the Palestinians live under, designed to secure an ever-expanding series of settlements in the West Bank, naturally provokes protests. …read more


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Why Hollywood's Cowardice Is So Destructive

December 24, 2014 in Blogs

By Andrew Lam, The Huffington Post

Art should be loud and challenging — not muffled and silenced.

Free speech in America may be a constitutional right but self-censorship is an American congenital habit. From government officials to corporation executives, from filmmakers to the media, it happens at great frequency and intervals.

Sony Pictures, threatened by North Korea, is currently in hot water for canceling “The Interview,” a comedy about an assassination plot against North Korea's leader, Kim Jung Un, but it is not the first film company to pull a flic out of fear. “The Quiet American,” a movie produced by Miramax, starring Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine, directed by Phillip Noyce, ended up on the shelf for a year and a half after 9/11 because of the public mood at the time.

Based on Graham Green's book of the same title, it's a movie that prophesied how America's naiveté would lead to misadventures and tragedy in Vietnam. “The Quiet American,” ironically, had the distinction of premiering in Vietnam, a country that routinely arrests bloggers, writers and journalists, long before it was shown in American theaters, and only then in limited theaters.

Government officials and world institutions are even worse when it comes to self-censorship. On Feb 5, 2003, before then Secretary of State, Colin Powell in his infamous WMD speech at the United Nations in New York, U.N. officials rushed tocover up the giant tapestry version of Pablo Picasso's anti-war mural “Guernica.” Powell held up a little vial and told the world that, had that vial really contained WMD, it could kill tens of thousands. He managed to convince the already paranoid public that US invasion Iraq is a must. A somber artwork showing men, women, children and animals killed and maimed by falling bombs therefore wouldn't exactly be appropriate as backdrop since it evoked the very vision of the horror that was to come.

On Feb. 12, 2003, a week later, a month before the US invasion of Iraq, a poetry reading scheduled at the Bush White House was canceled for fear that invited poets might read works by the likes of Walt Whitman, Emily …read more


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Outrage: After Killing Missouri Teenager Antonio Martin, Police Say He 'Made Bad Choices'

December 24, 2014 in Blogs

By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent

The 18-year-old was shot by a white officer who says he acted in self-defense.

Police in St Louis have defended themselves in the aftermath of the shooting of a black teenager they said pointed a handgun at an officer and made “bad choices.” The local mayor said the incident was “not like Ferguson.”

Still reeling from the protests that erupted following the August shooting of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, and the more recent decision not to charge the officer involved in the incident, police released video footage they said supported their claim that the white officer involved in the latest shooting in the St Louis suburb of Berkeley was acting in self-defense.

The footage taken late Tuesday night, which appeared to show someone raising what appeared to be a gun, stops before the actual shooting of 18-year-old Antonio Martin. Police said they were trying to obtain additional footage. The officer was not wearing a personal camera and the video camera installed in the patrol car was not working, police said. An independent prosecutor is investigating the circumstances of the incident. 

The mayor of Berkeley, Theodore Hoskins, said the incident was not the same as that which played out in Ferguson in August. He said while Ferguson was a predominantly black town with a white mayor and white police chief, Berkeley has a black mayor and a black police chief. “We’re different than Ferguson,” Hoskins said.

He added that he understood the anger that has emanated from Berkeley’s black residents. “We all said the same thing [on Tuesday night],” Hoskins said at a press conference. “A white policeman killing a black man. When does this stop?”

At his own press conference Wednesday morning, Col. Jon Belmar, the chief of St. Louis County Police, said Antonio Martin, the young man who was shot dead, was known to the police and had been arrested three times since he was 17. He said the incidents involved armed robbery, assault and the illegal use of a weapon. He said a 9mm pistol recovered from the scene and purportedly carried by Martin, bore a serial number that had …read more


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My Horrible Right-Wing Past: Confessions of a One-Time Religious Right Icon

December 24, 2014 in Blogs

By Frank Schaeffer, Salon

I was a religious fanatic appealing to political leaders. Today, the fanatics are the political leaders.

I am a white, privileged, well-off, 61-year-old former Republican religious right-wing activist who changed his mind about religion and politics long ago. The New York Times profiled my change of heart, saying that to my former friends I’m considered a “traitorous prince” since my religious-right family was once thought of as “evangelical royalty.”

Only in the Mafia, the British Royal family and big-time American religion is a nepotistic rise to power seen as normal. And I was good at it. And I hated it while hypocritically profiting from it; until, that is, in the mid-1980s, I quit.

These days I describe myself as an atheist who believes in God.

Ironically, I helped my father become famous in the religion sector. In the 1970s I directed and produced two film series featuring Dad with book companions that became evangelical bestsellers: How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? By the time Dad and I completed two nationwide seminar tours launching those projects, I was being invited to speak at the biggest religious gatherings, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters.

The leaders of the new religious right were gleefully betting on American failure. If secular, democratic, diverse and pluralistic America survived, then wouldn’t that prove that we were wrong about God only wanting to bless “Christian America?” If, for instance, crime went down dramatically in New York City, for any other reason than a reformation and revival, wouldn’t that make the prophets of doom look silly? And if the economy was booming without anyone repenting, what did that mean?

What began to bother me was that so many of our new “friends” on the religious right seemed to be rooting for one form of apocalypse or another. In the crudest form this was part of the evangelical fascination with the so-called end times. The worse things got, the sooner Jesus would come back. But there was another component. The worse everything got, the more it proved that America needed saving, by us! Plus, it was good for fundraising.

Some 30 …read more


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Rush Limbaugh Is Furious That a Black Actor Might Be the Next James Bond

December 24, 2014 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

The right-wing radio host is apparently thoroughly confused by the concept of fiction.

If it feels like an unusually long time – days even – since Rush Limbaugh said something stupid, take heart: the right-wing host used a portion of his show yesterday to rail against black actor Idris Elba being cast as James Bond. According to Limbaugh, Elba couldn't possibly be a convincing Bond because the character “was white and Scottish, period.” With his statement, Limbaugh joins fellow conservative Megan Kelly in tacitly admitting that he does not understand how fictional characters work.

Limbaugh, who has been curiously silent about the recent dust-up over white actors being cast as Egyptians in the film Exodus, was reacting to a leaked email from Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal. In the letter, Pascal wrote to another studio head, “Idris should be the next bond.”

Even after recognizing that Bond is a creation of author Ian Fleming — a pretend person who never actually lived — Limbaugh complained about the casting of a black actor in the role of the superspy because “that’s not who James Bond is.” He goes on from there:

I know it’s racist to probably even point this out, but the franchise needs to get with it. The franchise needs to get hip. It needs to get with the 21st cetury! That’s right — we had 50 years of white Bonds because Bond was white! He was never black. Ian Fleming never created a black Brit to play James Bond. The character was always white. He was always Scottish.

Oddly, Limbaugh has previously been mum about the fact that not a single Bond has been Scottish since Sean Connery, whose last film in the franchise was more than three decades ago. Current Bond Daniel Craig is English. Other Bonds have been Irish, Welsh and Australian. 

In perhaps the most damning evidence of the character’s essential whiteness, Limbaugh pointed out that “[h]e always drank vodka, shaken not stirred.”

He might have rested his case there, but in an ill-conceived effort to drive home his point, Limbaugh conceded that he might be okay with Bond, a fictional character, …read more


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7 Ways to Be Less Wasteful This Holiday Season

December 24, 2014 in Blogs

By Anastasia Pantsios, EcoWatch

Holiday guests and piles of food and presents all add up to lots of waste.

Piles of food, piles of presents, piles of holiday guests—it all adds up to piles of waste. And while the wrappings and boxes might temporarily make great playthings for your cats, what do you do with it all? And how do you make sure there is less of it to begin with?

1. Be creative in wrapping your presents. Recycle materials you already have on hand to make gift wrapping. Wrap gifts in newspaper and decorate it. Or wrap gifts in another, reusable gift. For instance, wrap those cute salt and pepper shakers in some pretty dish towels. Instead of a bow, find a little trinket or toy the recipient can keep and reuse.

2. Once you’ve got the wrapping and ribbons on hand, save them all. They can fuel craft projects at your local school or for a girl scout troop all year long. Do the same with the Christmas cards, something scout troops have been doing for decades. They were recycling pioneers!

3. Give “virtual” gifts instead of things. Promise your grandparents a dinner at their favorite restaurant; give your science-loving niece a membership at the natural history museum. Movie passes and books of restaurant discount coupons are great gifts, too. Think about what your recipient likes to do and contribute to the cost of doing it.

4. Be sure to keep recycling. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and just throw everything together. Don’t! And make it easy for your guests. Don’t leave them wondering where to dump the leftovers and trash. Sure, your family knows, but visitors won’t. Label everything.

5. Make your last-minute shopping trips more efficient. Make a list of things you need to do and make one final trip instead of going back and forth. Not only will this conserve gas, it will save your time and your sanity. And be sure to take reusable totes. You don’t want to contribute to the mass of one-use plastic bags you probably have stuffed in a drawer somewhere.

6. To reduce your environmental footprint, shop locally for food. Go to farmers markets, …read more


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Robert Reich: Why We Can't Get the Government We Want and Deserve

December 24, 2014 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

Our biggest problem isn't the size of our government, it's who the government works for.

Some believe the central political issue of our era is the size of the government. They’re wrong. The central issue is who the government works for.

Consider the new spending bill Congress and the President agreed to a few weeks ago. It’s not especially large by historic standards. Under the $1.1 trillion measure, government spending doesn’t rise as a percent of the total economy. In fact, if the economy grows as expected, government spending will actually shrink over the next year. 

The problem with the legislation is who gets the goodies and who’s stuck with the tab.

For example, it repeals part of the Dodd-Frank Act designed to stop Wall Street from using other peoples’ money to support its gambling addiction, as the Street did before the near-meltdown of 2008. Dodd-Frank had barred banks from using commercial deposits that belong to you and me and other people, and which are insured by the government, to make the kind of risky bets that got the Street into trouble and forced taxpayers to bail it out. But Dodd-Frank put a crimp on Wall Street’s profits. So the Street’s lobbyists have been pushing to roll it back.

The new legislation, incorporating language drafted by lobbyists for Wall Street’s biggest bank, Citigroup, does just this. It reopens the casino. This increases the likelihood you and I and other taxpayers will once again be left holding the bag. Wall Street isn’t the only big winner from the new legislation. Health insurance companies get to keep their special tax breaks. Tourist destinations like Las Vegas get their travel promotion subsidies.

In a victory for food companies, the legislation even makes federally subsidized school lunches less healthy by allowing companies that provide them to include fewer whole grains. This boosts their profits because junkier food is less expensive to make.

Major defense contractors also win big. They get tens of billions of dollars for the new warplanes, missiles, and submarines they’ve been lobbying for.

Conservatives like to portray government as a welfare machine doling out benefits to the poor, some of …read more


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Obama Warmly Legitimizes Cuban Dictatorship

December 24, 2014 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

I have long been reporting on Castro-ruled Cuba and, indeed, was there not long after Fidel Castro had taken over the country. What became clear, as the number of Castro’s political prisoners increased, was that his revolutionary Cuba was a dictatorship, like the regime he had ousted.

After I wrote that, a member of his administration rebuked me for my rank ignorance.

I responded by saying that he knew that if I were a Cuban in Cuba, I would be in prison.

Later, at the United Nations, I was one of a number of reporters interviewing Che Guevara, the young, dashing Latin American revolutionary who had acquired fans among many American college students.

Sitting by his side that day was a translator; we had been told he could not conduct an interview in English.

I asked him: “Mr. Guevara, can you see at any time in the future when there might be elections by freedom of choice in Cuba?”

Without waiting for the translator, Guevara burst out laughing, saying: “Aqui? In Cuba?”

I kept reporting — often using sources from within Cuba that I cannot, for their sake, name — details about the impact of the dictatorship. For example, kids who heard their parents criticize Fidel were required to inform the authorities.

Currently, Cuba is under the active leadership of Raul Castro, who is not markedly different from his brother.

In The Wall Street Journal last week, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whose parents fled Cuba to live here in freedom, declares “it has been the policy and law of the U.S. to make clear that re-establishing diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba is possible — but only once the Cuban government stops jailing political opponents, protects free speech, and allows independent political parties to be formed and to participate in free and fair elections” (“A Victory for Oppression,” Marco Rubio, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17).

“The opportunity for Cuba to normalize relations with the U.S. has always been there, but the Castro regime has never been interested in changing its ways.

“Now, thanks to President Obama’s concessions, the regime in Cuba won’t have to change.”

I can still hear Che Guevara laughing at my question about the future of free elections there. Of course, there’ll be changes in the economy, but I continue to have regular access to news from inside Cuba of the Castro brothers’ stifling dissent. I am still trying to establish indirect contact and even talk …read more

Source: OP-EDS