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The seedy Georgia campaign reveals the right wing's animosity for the Black church: historian

December 21, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Despite their professed commitments to religious freedom, Republicans often find themselves attacking people whose faith doesn’t conform to the dominant views in the white evangelical community. This tendency has been on display in the campaign against Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is trying to unseat incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler in one of two U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia. Loeffler has attacked Warnock for his views expressed from the pulpit, and an article by historian Audrey Farley for The New Republic cites Warnock as an example of African-American Christians coming under fire from far-right Republicans.

“Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler has based her reelection campaign on maligning the Black liberation theology that informs the ministry of her opponent, the Rev., Raphael Warnock,” Farley explains. “Loeffler would have voters believe Warnock is a ‘dangerous radical,’ because he preaches, like the Rev. Dr. James Cone and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before him, that God desires the collective liberation of the oppressed and, further, that Christians have a moral responsibility to root out racism and other societal sins.”

The phenomenon that Farley describes — far-right Republicans attacking the Black church — has been going on for many years. During the 1950s and 1960s, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr. (who went on to found Liberty University and co-found the Moral Majority) was highly critical of King and even defended Jim Crow laws during his sermons. And Farley cites the late evangelical Billy Graham as a critic of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Farley notes: “Graham and other high-profile conservatives likewise perceived workers’ movements and the New Deal to be, at best, misguided attempts on the part of liberal Christians, which were actually going to give rise to the Antichrist…. It was much better for Americans’ spiritual welfare if they worked long hours under unsafe conditions and let big corporations operate as they pleased.”

According to Farley, Loeffler’s attacks on Warnock have reopened an old wound: the major division between the Black church and far-right white evangelicals. And Farley points out that “Black religious leaders” have defended Warnock and “condemned Loeffler’s tactics.”

“If the intensity of their attacks on people like the Rev. Warnock are any indication, conservatives take Christian progressives — and particularly Black Christian progressives — very seriously,” Farley writes. “They may soon take them even more seriously, now that many are taking formal action against institutions …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'Newsmax is so WEAK': Right-wing viewers are furious after pro-Trump outlet debunks election fraud claims

December 21, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic have received a great deal of attention as right-wing media figures promote the claims of attorney Sidney Powell and other Trump allies who have made up claims that ballot-counting software stole the 2020 election for Joe Biden. But now Newsmax, which has grown in popularity since the election by elevating President Donald Trump’s bogus election fraud claims, has been forced to debunk unfounded claims about Smartmatic and Dominion stealing the election, much of to the chagrin of its own readers and viewers.

Recent Newsmax segments showed anchors reading conspicuously and carefully scripted claims about the election systems companies that sharply contrasted with the outlet’s previous claims.

Host John Tabacco explained: “Since Election Day, various guests, attorneys and elected officials have appeared on Newsmax and offered opinions and claims about Smartmatic and Dominion Systems — both companies that offer voting software in the U.S. And Newsmax would like to clarify its news coverage and note that it has not reported, as true, certain claims made about these companies. There are several facts our viewers and readers should be aware of.”

Tabacco continued: “Newsmax has found no evidence that either Dominion or Smartmatic owns the other or has any business association with each other. We have no evidence that Dominion uses Smartmatic’s software or vice-versa.”

An article published on Newsmax’s website offers some more clarifications — for example, “Dominion has stated its company has no ownership relationship with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s family, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s family, the Clinton family, Hugo Chavez, or the government of Venezuela. Neither Dominion nor Smartmatic has any relationship with George Soros.”

Powell has claimed that Dominion’s equipment was used in Venezuela to the advantage of the late Huge Chavez. But Dominion, in response, stressed that its equipment has never even been used in that country. And Newsmax’s article noted, “Smartmatic is a U.S. company and not owned by the Venezuelan government, Hugo Chavez or any foreign official or entity. Smartmatic states it has no operations in Venezuela.”

Newsmax TV, like One American News, has been promoting itself as more favorable to President Donald Trump than Fox News. The viewers have clearly gotten used to this positioning, though, and comments on the outlet’s site suggest many are …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why Democrats must make a firm break from the CIA's horrifying record on torture

December 21, 2020 in Blogs

By Medea Benjamin

It was painful enough to live through the U.S invasion of Iraq that caused untold devastation and human misery for no justifiable reason.

Now we are again reminded of the grim Bush legacy with President-elect Biden’s nomination of Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence. Haines, who has an inside-the-beltway reputation for being nice and soft spoken, was a little too nice to CIA agents who hacked the computers of Senate Intelligence Committee investigators looking into the CIA use of torture–waterboarding, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, rectal feeding, whippings, sexual humiliation–at prisons in Guatanamo and Afghanistan during the Bush War on Terror.

As Deputy Director of the CIA in the Obama administration, Haines chose not to discipline those CIA hackers who violated the separation of powers, crossing the boundary line and beaching the firewall between the executive and legislative branches. To add insult to injury, Haines led the team that redacted an exhaustive 5-year, 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture until it was reduced to a censored, 500-page summary smeared with black ink to cover up the screaming horrors and shield those responsible.

That’s why torture survivors and their advocates have just released a damning Open Letter urging Senators to vote NO on Haines when her nomination lands in their laps in mid-January or February after the cyber pomp and circumstance of a virtual Presidential inauguration. The letter, signed by several decade-long detainee/survivors of torture at Guantanamo, also objects to the possible nomination of Mike Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush, for CIA Director.

“Elevating torture apologists to a leadership position within the Biden administration will damage the USA’s standing and give the world’s dictators succor and comfort,” said

Djamel Ameziane, a Guantanamo detainee from Algeria who was tortured and held without charge from 2002-2013, until he was finally released from prison.

Morell’s traction may be on the wane with the Biden administration, however, after progressives launched a campaign against Morell, the former Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Obama, and Senator Ron Wyden—a powerful Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee—called him a “torture apologist” and said his appointment to head the CIA was a “non starter.”

Objections to Morell include his defense of the Agency’s “enhanced interrogation” practices: mock drownings, “walling” — repeatedly slamming prisoners against a wall, whipping detainees with electrical cords, dumping freezing cold water on …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's coup is failing — but a similar effort backed by the U.S. already succeeded

December 21, 2020 in Blogs

By Mark Weisbrot

In recent weeks, Donald Trump has been ridiculed, slathered with contempt, and repeatedly branded a “liar,” as well as an existential threat to democracy in the United States, by the biggest media outlets in the country. This is in response to his attempts to reverse the results of the U.S. presidential election, and claiming—without evidence—that it was stolen. He still clings to these allegations, but he will be leaving the White House on January 20.

But just over a year ago, a similar effort was launched in Bolivia, and it actually prevailed. The country’s democratically elected president, Evo Morales, was toppled three weeks after the October 20 vote, before his term was finished. He left the country after the military “asked” him to resign.

The similarities are remarkable. Leaders of the Bolivian opposition indicated before the votes were counted, as Trump did, that they would not accept the result if they lost. Like Trump, they had no evidence for their allegations of fraud when the votes were counted. And as with Trump, the falseness of their charges was obvious from day one.

Some readers may question the relevance of the comparison with a developing country whose democratic institutions have a shorter history, and are in important ways weaker than those in the U.S. government. But the Bolivian right would not have succeeded, where Trump has failed, if not for another important difference: the Bolivian right had powerful help from outside the country in pulling off their coup.

Not surprisingly some of this help came from the Trump administration, which stated the day after the coup that “Morales’s departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard.”

Even more important help came from the Organization of American States (OAS), which, not coincidentally, gets 60 percent of its funding from the United States. The OAS also currently has a leader, Luis Almagro, who at the time of Bolivia’s election needed the support of Trump and his allied right-wing governments in the Americas in order to be reelected as the head of the organization. The OAS issued a statement the day after the election, expressing “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results.”

This allegation turned out …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Americans live in '3 distinct realities' — causing 'enormously dangerous' fractures: op-ed

December 21, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Countless political pundits have described the United States as a deeply divided country with two separate realities: a rural Red America that voted to reelect President Donald Trump and consumes Fox News and AM talk radio voraciously, and an urban and suburban Blue America that rejected Trump, made Joe Biden president-elect and is more likely to be consuming the New York Times, MSNBC and CNN. But liberal/progressive pundit Cenk Uygur, in an op-ed published by The Hill on December 21, argues that there are “three tribes” in the United States: (1) “the establishment, (2) “Trumpworld, MAGA Land,” and (3) progressives.

Uygur, who hosts “The Young Turks” with fellow liberal/progressive Ana Kasparian, describes “the establishment” as Americans whose “worldview is cemented by the best propaganda the world has ever seen.”

“They’ve convinced the world that the country that does the most invasions seeks peace, the country that ethnically cleansed a continent seeks equality and the country that enslaved a people stands for freedom,” Uygur explains. “And everyone believed it. These days, driven by greed, they are busy convincing people that we can afford war but not health care — and that, somehow, the carnage of war keeps us safer than high-quality medicine. That if the rich have all of the money, the poor will be better off because some small amount will one day trickle onto them.”

In other words, Uygur describes “the establishment” as traditional non-Trumpian conservatives. And he draws a distinction between the right-wing “establishment” and “Trumpworld, MAGA Land, where no facts need apply.”

“Their worldview is cemented by a neurotic insecurity buttressed by the most brazen propaganda,” Uygur observes. “Their alternative facts are wielded as blunt instruments — and that, too, works. So, now we have the largest cult the world has ever seen: 74 million people in an alternate universe where facts are the enemies of the people. This is enormously dangerous.”

Comparing the “three alternate realities” in the U.S., Uygur asks, “So, how do we communicate, when we’re not even speaking the same language anymore? We progressives think we’re speaking the language of logic, and we think the right-wing tribe doesn’t understand one word of that language — in fact, it doesn’t even think our language should exist. To them, logic is for suckers and losers; winners go for raw power, no matter what the facts are.”

Uygur concludes his op-ed on a pessimistic note, lamenting that he …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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What Was Christmas Like for America’s Enslaved People?

December 21, 2020 in History

By Farrell Evans

For some, it was a rare time of respite; for others, an opportunity for resistance.

How did Americans living under slavery experience the Christmas holidays? While early accounts from white Southerners after the Civil War often painted an idealized picture of owners’ generosity met by grateful workers happily feasting, singing and dancing, the reality was far more complex.

In the 1830s, the large slaveholding states of Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas became the first in the United States to declare Christmas a state holiday. It was in these Southern states and others during the antebellum period (1812-1861) that many Christmas traditions—giving gifts, singing carols, decorating homes—firmly took hold in American culture. Many enslaved workers got their longest break of the year—typically a handful of days—and some were granted the privilege to travel to see family or get married. Many received gifts from their owners and enjoyed special foods untasted the rest of the year.

But while many enslaved people partook in some of these holiday pleasures, Christmas time could be treacherous. According to Robert E. May, a professor of history at Purdue University and author of Yuletide in Dixie: Slavery, Christmas and Southern Memory, owners’ fears of rebellion during the season sometimes led to pre-emptive shows of harsh discipline. Their buying and selling of workers didn’t abate during the holidays. Nor did their annual hiring out of enslaved workers, some of whom would be shipped off, away from their families, on New Year’s Day—widely referred to as “heartbreak day.”

Still, Christmas afforded enslaved people an annual window of opportunity to challenge the subjugation that shaped their daily lives. Resistance came in many ways—from their assertion of power to give gifts to expressions of religious and cultural independence to using the relative looseness of holiday celebrations and time off to plot escapes.

READ MORE: 25 Christmas Traditions and Their Origins

‘Christmas Gift!’

Preparing for Christmas (Plucking Turkeys), painted by Francis William Edmonds, 1851.

For slaveholders, gift-giving connoted power. Christmas gave them the opportunity to express their paternalism and dominance over the people they owned, who almost universally lacked the economic power or means to purchase gifts. Owners often gave their enslaved workers things they withheld throughout the year, like shoes, clothing and money. According to Texas historian Elizabeth Silverthorne, one slaveholder from that state gave each of his families $25. The children were given sacks of …read more

Source: HISTORY

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9 Lucky New Year’s Food Traditions

December 21, 2020 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

From black-eyed peas to lentils to soba noodles, these foods and others are believed to bring good luck in the new year.

Champagne, noise makers and confetti are all New Year’s Eve staples. But, in some parts of the country and the world, so are black-eyed peas, lentils, grapes and pickled herring. Hailing from the Low Country of South Carolina to Japanese noodle houses to Pennsylvania Dutch homes, these are seven lucky dishes traditionally eaten around the New Year to bring good fortune.

Hoppin’ John

Hoppin’ John

This Southern menu staple, usually a mix of black-eyed peas, rice and pork, originated in the United States with enslaved Africans in the 19th century, most notably in the South Carolina Low Country.

The first known time the , they arrived in U.S. points of entry, such as Los Angeles and San Antonio, and were sold by street vendors in the 1870s. Migrant Mexican workers helped the dish spread to other areas of the country.

Soba Noodles


Soba noodles symbolize a long, healthy life.

Ringing in the year with toshikoshi soba, a soup with buckwheat “year-crossing” noodles, is a New Year’s Eve tradition in Japan steeped in tradition and now practiced in the United States. According to The Japan Times, toshikoshi means “to climb or jump from the old year to the new.”

The long, thin noodles symbolize a long, healthy life, and date back to the 13th or 14th century, “when either a temple or a wealthy lord decided to treat the hungry populace to soba noodles on the last day of the year.”

12 Lucky Grapes


Some believe eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight brings good luck.

Bottles of champagne are popped the world over on New Year’s Eve, but for some, it’s all about eating grapes. The Spanish tradition las doce uvas de la suerta, aka the 12 lucky grapes, holds that eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight—one for each chime of the clock—will bring good luck in the coming year.

Each grape signifies one month, and, according to the superstition, failing to finish all 12 in time will mean misfortune in the year to come. NPR dates the custom’s start in the 1880s, with newspapers reporting Madrid bourgeoisie swiping grape and champagne traditions from the French.

Lentils


Round and shaped like a coin, lentils are considered a symbol of prosperity.

Italian …read more

Source: HISTORY