The 99.5 Percent Act.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Roots Action is an activist group I happily allow to gain entrée into my inbox. Even on the rare occasions when I disagree, their messaging is always informative and concise, and their target selection is spot-on. (More on the group here.)

Today’s missive concerns a bill being introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressdude Jimmy Gomez called the 99.5% Act, and provides a link to send a letter to the Goldman Sachs puppets on Capitol Hill who pretend to represent your interests and those of your fellow citizens who reside in your congressional district and state. The letter urges these assholes to get on board with this bill.

Hahaha. Yes, I know.

[Read more…]

Conservatives still ruining everything: Turkey edition.

[CONTENT NOTE: graphic descriptions of violence against women including murder.]

[via The Guardian*/Beril Eski and agencies]

A rally to mark International Women’s day in Istanbul where protesters demanded government commitment to the European accord on violence against women. Photograph: Bülent Kılıç/AFP/Getty ImagesA rally to mark International Women’s day in Istanbul where protesters demanded government commitment to the European accord on violence against women. Photograph: Bülent Kılıç/AFP/Getty Images

__________

Protests as Turkey pulls out of treaty to protect women

 

[Read more…]

The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross and Banksy.

LONDON (AP) — Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind a campaign to turn a former prison in the English town of Reading into an arts venue, a town spokesman said on Thursday, after the street artist confirmed that artwork that appeared on a red brick wall of the prison was of his making. The elusive artist confirmed the picture was his when he posted a video of him creating it on his Instagram account… More: https://apnews.com/article/banksy-reading-prison-artwork-bebac98ca76807d260985cd18e58adc8

I fuckin’ love this guy.

Questions for Secretary of State Nominee Antony Blinken.

Roots Action is an online activist groups that I happily allow to exist in my inbox: I find their messaging educational and their activism worthwhile. In case you are unfamiliar with them:

RootsAction is an online initiative dedicated to galvanizing people who are committed to economic fairness, equal rights for all, civil liberties, environmental protection — and defunding endless wars.

(More info at this link.)

Today they sent me an exemplary missive regarding Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Of course all such nominees are subject to Senate approval, so Roots Action has helpfully drafted questions for Senators to use when they query Mr. Blinken during the vetting process. These are questions that elected officials in any functioning democracy could, should and would demand be answered to the public’s satisfaction before handing over a set of keys to the kingdom. Which means these inquiries are highly unlikely to be asked, or even considered.

But that doesn’t mean that such email campaigns are not worth your click. For one thing, when a sizable enough number of constituents bombards your Senators’ offices with a single concern, some poor staffer is duty-bound to bring it to his or her attention. Unless the Senator in question is, say, Bernie Sanders, this particular collection of emails will have the effect of pissing them off. I mean really irritating the shit out of them.

Now doesn’t that mere thought alone warm your little black heart? Click here, and ruin a Goldman Sachs puppet’s day!

Second, I am a very big fan of taking actions that shift the Overton window. It is certainly in need of a hell of a lot of shifting, especially after conservatives have spent the last several decades on a singular mission to convince us all that people like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are godless communists. There is no question this effort has worked out splendidly for conservatives.

Yet in more recent years we have finally witnessed “fringe” ideas enter the mainstream from both the right and the left. For instance, Medicare for All is not yet seriously on the table, but it no longer gets you laughed out of the room, either. Lowering the Medicare eligibility age, as Biden pretends he wants to do, would certainly be a shift in the same direction. Even more promising, a public option/Medicare buy-in has picked up traction, too. If enacted, I predict this would drag the Overton window toward the single payer point much farther and faster than many now envision. That’s because a Medicare buy-in would never be restricted to individuals: here in ‘Murikka where Corporations ‘R People®, big business buy-in to more affordable employee health coverage could topple the private insurance industry with lightning speed.

Meanwhile, poor Mr. Overton must be nearly dead now from all that punching from the right. Not very long ago the violent overthrow of Congress at the direction of the US president by a bunch of badly dressed mooks sure seemed like a pretty fringe idea. Yet here we are.

The Roots Action email campaign is set up so you can modify the text before it gets routed to your Senators, and I took full advantage of this opportunity. Roots Action’s message is serious and well-documented, though still outside of more mainstream discourse. So is mine, but in the current political environment I’m quite sure I sound like a deranged lefty berserker. Good. Because you know what? It takes an awful lot of little pushes to budge that fucking window.

Why not help kick it a little.

_________

(My added text is right up front; the Roots Action text is below the cut.)

Subject: Questions for Antony Blinken

Dear [Senators Schumer and Gillibrand]:

War profiteering used to be universally reviled as the evil that it patently is. And yet now, it’s in the job description of the Executive Branch to shill for US “defense” companies like a bunch of used car salesmen. Incentivising the spread of war, violence and weapons around the globe for obscene private profits should not be the business of anyone, much less the United States government. Quite the opposite, in fact. Why, one might think the Executive Branch works on commission, rather than remuneration from US taxpayers. And yet here we are, with a man perfectly emblematic of this problem, nominated to head the State Department.

I have some questions for you to ask Mr. Blinken, but perhaps you could start with asking this one of yourself: Wouldn’t it be more accurate to rename the US Department of State the US Department of Sales? And while you’re at it, please think about how you might use your considerable power to dismantle the system that enables war profiteering and all of the evils that flow from it. Here’s a thought, and I’m just spitballing here: if US weapons manufacturers cannot enrich their shareholders without using the US government to ensure they are the preeminent arms dealers for the entire world, perhaps they should all be run as nonprofits?

__________

[Read more…]

MLK Day 2021: A Time to Break Silence.

Black Lives Matter

While the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are perhaps his most notable and oft-cited works, it has become my habit on this day to highlight another. Delivered on April 4, 1967 at Manhattan’s Riverside Church, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence reveals King as his fiery and ever-eloquent self, though as a wiser, wearier man than he was just four years earlier, sitting in that Birmingham jail cell.

With the Vietnam conflict raging at the time, King directly linked the profound injustices of that war to many other injustices in our own society – injustices which remain to this day. I wonder what King might say of the Black Lives Matter movement, and of the protests sparked by the police murder of George Floyd, if he were alive today. Of course, we’ll never know. But for me, one overarching message that the movement for Black lives delivered loud and clear to white America is that it is not enough to personally reject racism. If we are not doing the necessary anti-racist work, we whites are failing as human beings. Especially after reading Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, I get the feeling that King could not agree more.

Silence is complicity.

This work was urgent then. It is just as urgent now. That fact is as infuriating as it is heartbreaking. Let us use it, then, to rekindle our own sense of urgency, and to redouble our anti-racist work.

Speaking as a die-hard atheist, I would be remiss if I did not address King’s repeated references to religion. First, as I’ve noted before,

King tethers these to his eloquent defenses of secular ideas of justice, compassion and love to make the same case; in this way they function to bolster his arguments (for the religious-minded) instead of standing in for them.

Second, as a die-hard anti-theist, I’ll take any opportunity to point out that Christians don’t own every virtue- including forgiveness.

Speech below the cut.

[Read more…]

Veterans Day 2020: Fun, free and low-cost ways to honor U.S. vets.

Today is Veterans Day in the US.

Here are some things you can do for the veterans of our wars:

Veterans for Peace™.

Veterans for Peace™ is a coalition of military veterans and their allies whose mission is threefold: exposing the true costs of war (economic, environmental, human casualties, PTSD & suicide, social); building a culture of peace; and healing the wounds of war, at home and abroad. VFP is at the forefront of our most pressing issues – see e.g. this open letter from veterans to recently activated National Guard troops – and on the right side of many others with which it stands in solidarity. Current National Projects include:

It offers many ways to donate and participate meaningfully in making a better world, not just for veterans but for everyone.

__________

Wounded Warrior Project®

Because America’s Owners believe themselves entitled to the sacrifices made by these men and women and their families, VA programs are chronically underfunded and veterans benefits are perpetually on the chopping block. Until we can fix that problem, Wounded Warrior steps in with counseling, job resources and material support for veterans and their families. Even if you cannot donate funds, there are all kinds of opportunities to donate time. You can also stay on top of WWP’s news by signing up for their emails. If you’d like to keep on top of precisely how and where the U.S. government is failing veterans, just sign up for their weekly e-newsletter here.

__________

Contact Your Representatives and Senators.

Call them up and tell them exactly what you think of cutting veterans benefits so that the planet-polluting corporations who benefit from the sacrifices of our soldiers and their loved ones can pay low-to-no taxes! Email your congresscritters a little note telling them to cut the defense budget in half and fund universal single-payer health care with mental health parity! Demand legislation requiring that all companies benefiting financially in any way from our wars be run as non-profits! I am sure you can think of numerous hilarious and fun things to say!

Put those congresscritters’ numbers on speed dial and bookmark their sites. The least we can do to honor our veterans is get ourselves on a whole bunch of anti-lefty government watch lists – today.

__________

[excerpted, heavily edited and updated from a pre-FtB blog post.]

BREAKING: U.S. Army Coming Soon to a Street Near You! UPDATED.

Multiple notifications popped onto my screen yesterday announcing that the Loser-In-Chief had fired his defense secretary Mark Esper. I was working on something else (and also trying and failing miserably to observe a news blackout for personal reasons*) so I didn’t dig any deeper than the headlines.

But my mind kept on poking at me with a big stick and asking “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” For sure, the reason would be sad, funny, fascist, illegal, counterproductive, enraging, ridiculous or some combination of those. However, this morning as I looked over a few of these notifications before deleting them, our Liberal Media™ informed and enlightened me further only with something about Commander Cheetohead bashing Esper on Twitter. Which, okay, ticked A LOT of those boxes if not all of them but did nothing to shut up my shouty, stabby stick. And It’s not like I was going to click on actual links to read actual stories! I got shit to do, people.

Enter The New York Times to save the day! (Not really.) From this morning’s Times email briefing:

[Read more…]

Indigenous Peoples Day 2020.

On Friday, the preferred president of assholes everywhere issued a shitty proclamation declaring that today’s federal holiday is exclusively a celebration of Italian-American contributions to our nation and the exploits of a particular 15th century Italian explorer, said exploits necessarily encompassing the ensuing brutal colonization and genocide of Indigenous people in the Americas. This proclamation is much, much worse than I even imagined. (And I write this as a person with significant Italian-American heritage.) If you choose to read on, you will first want to ensure that your irony meter is in excellent working order and – this is the important part – still under warranty.

For one thing, consider what Pres. Alpha Asshole and his Merry Minions of Masklessness would be saying and doing about Italian immigration a hundred years ago. You know: before Italians suddenly and miraculously became white. I’m pretty sure my grandmother, who happened to be exceptionally dark-skinned even for southern Italy, would have been locked up in a cage along with her sister and all the other Italian immigrant children.

Of course those among us who think we should instead recognize and reckon with the truth of our nation’s history are deemed “radical activists” and “extremists” who “seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy” and instead promote a “radical ideology” and “revisionist history” just to “spread hate and division.”

Let us pause for a moment here so that you can recalibrate your irony meter and/or attempt to extinguish the flames emanating therefrom.

Okay now? Good. The preceding was merely setting the stage for what I really want to talk about on this Indigenous Peoples Day. If you guessed that is “Indigenous people,” you win all the internetz! 🏆⭐️🏅

[Read more…]

NYPD Beat, Arrest Peaceful Protesters in Planned Assault.

[CONTENT NOTE: police violence against peaceful protesters, lying police liars who lie.]

A new report from Human Rights Watch documents the NYPD’s brutal assaults against peaceful George Floyd protesters at a June 4 rally in the Bronx (via New York Daily News):

NYPD trapped over 300 George Floyd protesters in the Bronx and waited until after curfew to ‘assault and arrest’ them: report

The NYPD trapped over 300 protesters in the Bronx marching for George Floyd and waited until the 8 p.m. citywide curfew to arrest them for breaking the law, a human rights group wrote in a scathing report released Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch said Bronx cops surrounded protesters on June 4 in a tactic known as kettling, refused to let them disperse, then began “whaling their batons, beating people from car tops, shoving them down to the ground and firing pepper spray in their faces” as soon as the curfew hit.

The 8 p.m. shutdown was imposed a few days earlier to stem widespread looting amid marches against the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody.

“As protesters cried out — some with blood dripping down their faces — the police began to arrest them. They forced people to sit on the street with their hands zip-tied behind their backs, at times so tight that their hands went numb,” said Human Rights Watch in their report.

[Human Rights Watch] said they questioned 81 protesters and reviewed 81 videos and police scanner calls for the report. They also released a 12-minute video filled with diagrams of the Mott Haven clash, interviews with witnesses and protesters, and cellphone videos taken at the scene.

Here is video from Human Rights Watch detailing the sequence of events on June 4.

CONTENT NOTE (from the filmmakers):

“This video contains violent and disturbing images and profanity. Viewer discretion is advised.”

[Read more…]