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Cher bizarrely broadcasts support for jailed Saudi billionaire prince

Sun, 04/01/2018 - 20:10
One of Trump’s meetings with Saudi dictator Mohammad Bin Salman in Washington, D.C. – link

American pop legend Cher has tweeted her support for a jailed Saudi Arabian royal, appealing to powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to “be kind… and let him go”. Cher tweeted on March 30 that her son, Elijah, was “heartbroken” — using the broken heart emoji — over the fate of his “good friend Prince Turki…

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North Korea Meets K-Pop in Pyongyang Concert

Sun, 04/01/2018 - 19:33
Red Velvet at KCON 2015 in Los Angeles – link

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and his wife attended a concert of South Korean singers, commonly called K-pop, performing at a rare event in Pyongyang on Sunday. After the concert, which lasted more than two hours, Kim met the stars and took pictures with them backstage. It was the first time in more than a…

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Sarah Jessica Parker Endorses Friend Cynthia Nixon as Governor

Sun, 04/01/2018 - 15:03
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Actress Sarah Jessica Parker provided her full support Thursday for her friend and former Sex and the City (SATC) castmate Cynthia Nixon amid her New York gubernatorial bid. “A mother, an activist, an advocate, a fighter, a NY’er,” Parker wrote. “A dear friend running for Governor of our great state. My sister on and off screen,…

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How the Turkmen dictator’s son is being groomed for power

Sun, 04/01/2018 - 14:59
Vladimir Putin in Turkmenistan – link

The son of Turkmenistan’s leader has been appointed deputy foreign minister, state media reported Saturday, just days after he scored a huge victory in a parliamentary election. Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 36, the son of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, won a whopping 91.4 percent of the vote to retain his seat in last Sunday’s poll, leading to suggestions he…

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Communist Party in Ever Tightening Grip on China’s Media

Sun, 04/01/2018 - 14:58

China’s Communist Party leadership is taking new steps to assert its control over state broadcasters and a regulator for all types of media from movies to TV programs and books. The moves will put the party more squarely in charge as it seeks to improve it’s messaging at home and boost China’s image abroad. But analysts…

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The Realignment of the American Political Mind

Sun, 04/01/2018 - 12:07

Recently we’ve seen the electorate change as past notions of left versus right have been bent into new alignments. Family favorites like guns, God and abortion still divide us predictably, but two new factors have rearranged former loyalties. Now the sides are educated or not, and angry or not.

While Democrats and many traditional conservatives stand shocked and agog at Trump’s latest atrocity, his red-hatted fan base love him all the more. “How could anybody support such an indecent, damaging person?” liberals cry, not seeing that to his supporters Trump is not their representative, but rather he is their weapon, a view endorsed by controversial political scientist Charles Murray.

It doesn’t matter if one’s weapon is dirty, or damaged, or embarrassing because the weapon itself is not one’s representative, it only matters if it strikes effective blows. To his backers, Trump’s silver spoon, golden toilets and billions describe a man who is certainly not “one of them” in a demographic or economic sense, placing him at a further, sometimes nose-holding, remove from his base. Similarly the Christian Evangelicals stress a distance between themselves and Trump. What he promises them (somehow believable from a mega-grifter) makes him their tool of convenience. Their calculation is shamelessly transactional and ethically Judas-worthy, but so far quite effective. This explains why people will vote for a candidate who is nothing like them.

But why need a weapon and who are its intended victims? The sneering liberal “elites.” It’s payback. Today every single group, right down to the granular scale of minorities of race, orientation or circumstance, are protected by law and societal opprobrium – except being uneducated or just plain stupid: it’s been open season on them for some time. Ditto rural folk, the “faith community” and blue-collar workers. Never before has the status of being college-educated (or not) been one of the most salient divisions in our political affiliations. This new bright line of anger division rearranges old-school party loyalties.

It doesn’t explain though, why they’ll vote against their own self-interest. The Left is mystified as to how people can endorse a candidate whose policies will harm them particularly; savaging government assistance and Obamacare, mass incarceration, tax cuts for the rich and corporations, etc.

This can be understood, though, with a deeper psychological reading of a metric that has only in the last few years been included in polls. It also forsakes right vs left for a new division: a psychological one. One most important predictor of Trump support was the appeal of the authoritarianism (McWilliams et al). The anger and appeal of authoritarianism is sufficiently supercharged to split the electorate more firmly than the traditional conservative vs liberal mindsets, as we’ve seen by the large and decisive number of crossover voters.

On a deeper level, an experiment from economics helps us analyze that rage. In what is known as the “Ultimatum Game”, one person is given some money and asked to offer a share s/he decides to another person. If the second person accepts the offer, both keep the money, but if he or she rejects it, both get nothing. You’d think the second person would rather get something than nothing and accept any offer, but experiments on thousands of subjects around the world show that offers below around 30 percent are typically rejected, thus harming both individuals.

Extensive form representation of a two proposal ultimatum game. Player 1 can offer a fair (F) or unfair (U) proposal; player 2 can accept (A) or reject (R). – link

In groups of all sizes and across the globe people will take a detriment to themselves and override self-interest to punish wrongdoers. Humans are what economists call strong reciprocators and altruistic punishers because from an evolutionary level we’re wired for reciprocity. Altruistic in this context doesn’t mean anything pleasant, but rather accepting self-sacrifice to harm those deemed needing it. For want of a simpler term: spite.

One of the defining features of the third of Americans who are Trump supporters is anger and with anger comes this desire to punish wrongdoers (see above), regardless of the consequence of a wildly unqualified and probably dangerous president.

Their rage is exacerbated by workplace upheavals (which particularly algorithm or robot will kill your career?), and stagnant middle class wages feed into an increased popularity of authoritarianism. Additionally, cultural factors – always immigration, the “uppity” minorities, “the gays all in our faces” and secularism contribute to this realignment of loyalties. The resultant push back against the above from an authoritarian leader brings out authoritarian tendencies in (apparently 30-40% of) people normally immune to the lure of a charismatic conman promising simple solutions to complex problem and making bigotry great again.

This desire to punish, the separating of Americans between angry and not, on cultural grounds, is enhanced by the feelings in “flyover country” and the “non-college educated” with an economic gripe wherein not only are their wages stagnant, their misfortune is seen as exacerbated by the wealth and success of the (seemingly moneyed) coastal elites. Be this true or not, it’s a very popular notion and closely resembles reasons for persecution of the Chinese in S.E. Asia or Jews in Eastern Europe, except that in the former ethnic gripes come into play, whereas here the division is cultural and economic.

These changes, the slide into authoritarian dynamics and the “spite factor” in voting, both coalesce into a political tribalism which has been brewing for the past 30 years. The “moral majority” pushed for this in earnest in the 1980s with the politicization of Christianity. It was supercharged by Gingrich and friends’ desire to delegitimize the opposition not just politically, but as humans. Fox News is the blood through which this disease spreads to the entire body politic.

The above won’t take us all the way to an understanding of how we’re here in 2018, split in new ways. Also important are the political “bubbles” of social media upon a citizenry educationally ill-prepared to parse lies from truth, the algorithmic gaming of these new platforms by Cambridge Analytica and the Russians. Circumstances are changing faster: societal change is exponentially moving nearly as fast as Moore’s law. Who could have predicted gay marriage as early as 2000, or the damage social media would do in splitting the citizenry? Change creates fear, which triggers latent authoritarianism; the consequence of that is the alteration of traditional party allegiances.

Whether we were once graduate students at fancy schools or not, whether the lure of authoritarianism is strong or is awakened in us, whether we’re angry or not: these are the new divisions. As fractured in so many metrics as we are, the result in this new America is we’re all now student-victims at Trump University.

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Are apolitical pop musicians missing an opportunity?

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 10:21
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The current single from Justin Timberlake’s new album “Man of the Woods” is called “Say Something.” It’s a collaboration with Timberlake’s country singer pal Chris Stapleton that’s a fairly successful realization of the shift the middling album’s outdoorsy artwork seemed to portend (but failed to deliver on), mashing up a JT pop-R&B groove with a strummy…

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Union Organizing in Milwaukee: A T-Shirt Story

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 12:37

Some years back, I got a call one Saturday morning from my friend Gilberto in Austin to ask if I knew people in Milwaukee. Sure, I said, I used to work there. Great, he said “Because Little Joe is playing there this afternoon and wants to know how to get a Union T-shirt so he can wear it when he’s on stage”, adding that Little Joe has always been a strong supporter of Unions, workers and community issues.

“No problem”, I said “I have the right person for you” thinking about Christine who has coordinated major workers campaigns through the Voces de la Frontera workers center. I figured Little Joe was in town for La Fiesta, an annual summer event held by Lake Michigan organized by local Latino organizations that attracts some of the biggest Raza numbers. Ok, Gilberto said and gave me the number of Paul, Little Joe’s assistant put in charge of getting the T-shirt.

Well, getting a hold of Christine was not as easy because I only had her office number which off course nobody answered when I called. No need to leave a message someone will get Monday morning I thought and went on to call Peter, one of my best friends but most important a Labor attorney. Unfortunately when Peter answered his cell phone, he was entering a Madison hospital on a family matter so needless to say our conversation was short. Call me in 90 minutes he said before he hung up. Frankly I was not about to bother him when he had more important matters to attend so I decided to try yet another friend.

Cesar is too a Union activist friend of mine who lives in Milwaukee and someone who I know was active lending support during the solidarity rallies in Madison against Governor Scott Walker. After some small talk, I asked if he had Christine’s cell number. Well, as it turned out Cesar was up north spending the weekend in his ranchito.

After I explained to him the reason for my call he said he was aware of Little Joe’s concert in Milwaukee and went on to say that he had Christine’s cell number back at home. He did mention however that he knew Michael, one of the persons in Milwaukee who coordinated Labor solidarity support for the rallies in the Capitol. So after a short search he found Michael’s number and said “give him a call and let me call you back in ten minutes”, adding that he’ll call home to get Christine’s cell number for me. Ok, I said and went on to my quest.

All the while I was looking at the clock because when I got the call from Gilberto it was around 11:30 and he mentioned that Little Joe would be playing around 2:30 in the afternoon. The only thing I had in my favor was that Wisconsin is an hour before Michigan.  But in the back of my mind I knew I only had a couple of hours to get a Union

T-shirt before the concert started.

I did try Michael and, as I suspected I got another voicemail to talk into. I did leave a message and then I remembered that Labor Notes had organized a couple of organizing schools in Chicago and Wisconsin so I figured they should have Union contacts in Milwaukee.

All I needed to do is contact the schools coordinator only that I was drawing a blank on his name since I hadn’t talked to him in a long while.  I went down the list of names in my cell phone and my email box but nothing triggered my memory.

Then, I remembered he was one of the people on my Facebook. I don’t know why but over 50 percent of the people I call never pick up. So after I tried him I figured I better make a direct call to Mark, the director of Labor Notes and yet again, I left another message.

It had been after two hours when I got the call back from Peter. He was on his way back to Milwaukee after his hospital visit. After we talked about his family issue he asked me what I needed so after I explained he said Little Joe was one of his favorites.

After reminiscing about his music for a while he said let me look into my cell to get Christine’s number adding that he had to pull over because he had just gotten a smart cell phone and was still learning how to use it. As I am talking to Peter I noticed a call coming in from an undisclosed number so I let it go since I make it a practice not to answer calls when there is no number displayed.

I tell Peter I better call him back once he has found Christine’s number in his smart cell phone. Meanwhile I noticed that the unidentified caller left a message. It turned out that the undisclosed number was from Michael, Cesar’s contact responding to my call from his office. As I was about to call him back, the phone rings again and this time it was Mark from Labor Notes who gave me a contact in Milwaukee from the Steelworkers.

This helps I said but it was the public workers unions who were leading the protest rallies. “Right”, Mark said “…but he can give you a lead with some of the teachers and city workers unions”. Right on, I thought.

It’s now after one in Milwaukee with barely an hour to get a Union T-shirt to Little Joe and after seven leads I’m not even close. I decided to return Michael’s call and explained the whole thing to him which frankly seemed to be too much for him.

First of all he didn’t know who Little Joe was and besides, he had plans with the family. I can help you with a shirt he said the question is how do we get the shirt to him?

Long story short, things were not as complicated because it happened that he was calling me from his downtown office and I figured Little Joe’s staff would be staying in the downtown area. So the rest was easy I dialed Paul’s cell number who was already expecting my call.

I’d expect Paul to be freaking out since we were working against the clock but he was pretty cool I think he was actually giving his secretary a hard time when I called, so I gave him Michael’s number and told him he had five T-shirts ready to get picked up.

Later on around 5 I got a call from Gilberto to thank me, saying that Paul had called him to tell him that Little Joe got the T-shirts delivered to the stage when he was performing.

No Gilberto”, I replied, “gracias a ti y a Little Joe por ayudar a la causa de los trabajadores”.

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My Coverage of the NYC March for Our Lives Protests

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 12:36
At the New York City March for Our Lives protest

Thousands of people turned out in New York City to March for Our Lives in solidarity with the students from Parkland, Florida and others who know someone killed by gun violence yesterday, meeting near 72nd Street and Central Park West.

Banner on a lamp post by the New York Historical Society shows the dates of the American War in Vietnam 1945-1975 above the heads of demonstrators marching against gun violence. The stage of speakers was set up near Trump Tower at Columbus Circle with amplification up Central Park West. This is near 72nd St. and Central Park West.

Before going too much further, I wanted to share this link by Veterans For Gun Reform expressing that it’s only military and “law enforcement” who should have the guns.

This is simply not accurate. It is this country and it’s illegitimate “War on Terror” that created people like Nicholas Cruz in the first place! These students need to know that it is the 16-year “war on terror” with no sign of slowing down, and this country’s death “economy” that is responsible for the killing of their classmates. Our country has been militarized and armed to the teeth.

Standing atop a rock inside Central Park near W 72nd Street overlooking the event.

This marcher was holding a sign with the photo of a victim of gun violence in a school in Alabama unrelated to the Parkland shooting, which many do not hear about. Trump Tower at Columbus Circle

Inside Central Park by ‘Tavern on the Green’ were these heart signs against gun violence.

Me with my sign

I made a sign for this event because the students and young people speaking out sound exactly like me trying to bring the issue of child abuse to light for decades. It’s no secret anymore, children and the vulnerable have been sold out by the “adults” to corporate “profit”, just like the planet. I call it Health Climate Change.

When those who should be raised to be the future are, instead being abused, that should be a glaring red flag that something is VERY wrong in this society. Disaster Capitalism goes in direct conflict with health and nature. The signs have been CLEAR for decades but, still, too many people put the paycheck first.

Money is the weapon the ‘Powers that Should Not Be’ use to enslave and it is not backed by any real value. What gives anything real value is when it’s aligned with Natural Law. Money is the opposite of that. The more money circulates and is created out of nothing, the more disaster will occur. $ = Death

Bill Johnson of Staten Island and of Occupy Wall Street had his home severely affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Photojournalist Erik McGregor snapping a shot of a young boy marching along Central Park South holding a sign that reads: NEVER AGAIN!

Just like the planet, the youth have no other agenda than have the right to exist and thrive. Corporations want it all though: endless “profits” and fake money. Nature and health are what we as a society need to align with. We have a serious problem as Disaster Capitalism and Nature increasingly collide.

The laws of nature have been turned upside down and inside out. A Frankenstein world is being created and picking up speed. We should have been taking steps to reverse Climate Change years ago. The planet will not forgive.

This marcher speaking with ‘Now This News’ was covered with various currencies from around the world, all covered in makeshift blood, as he joined demonstrators making their way down 6th Ave for the March For Our Lives NYC.

Finally, here is a great video of a David Swanson TED Talk from TEDx Charlottesville titled “Why End War”:

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As Vietnam Clamps Down, One Hanoi Artist is Singing Out

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:55

She’s just spent about eight hours being interrogated by Vietnamese state security officials at the airport after a flight from Europe, but the intimidation hasn’t shaken Mai Khoi’s focus. “I’m busy,” she says on the phone over the clamor of rehearsing musicians hours later. “I can’t talk, I have to practice.” The outspoken musician, whose full…

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EL-Sisi claims ridiculous Egypt election win of 92 percent

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:52

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has won re-election as Egypt’s president, according to preliminary results reported by a number of state media outlets, showing the former army general winning 92 percent of the vote. The official MENA news agency and the state-owned newspapers al-Ahram and Akhbar el-Youm said on Thursday that 23 million out of the 60 million…

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Cost of Buying New Voting Machines is Good Reason to Dump Them

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:48

Congress has approved $380 million to fund state efforts to address the security of election systems ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. What’s that all about? If you’ve been paying attention to the news recently, you know there’s evidence that Russia tried to manipulate the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. How they did it and the degree…

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All eyes on landmark Supreme Court gerrymandering case

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:43

The US Supreme Court hears arguments on Wednesday, for the second time in recent months, on the practice of redrawing electoral districts’ boundaries to boost a political party’s chances in an election. The tactic, known as “gerrymandering,” is a hot topic in the run-up to November’s midterm elections — with Republicans this time suing over Democrat…

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25 of the Most Influential Women of American Democracy

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:38

Women’s History Month, established in 1987, is a celebration of women’s efforts across the nation to make the world a better place for females. Before the month is out, let’s not forget our female forefathers, um, that is foremothers. These are the ladies who paved the way for women to have a place not only in…

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Census: Undercounting the vulnerable is a danger to democracy

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:35

By Emily Klancher Merchant, Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies, University of California, Davis. US census advocates held a rally in Charlotte, NC, in 2010. AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek The 2020 U.S. Census is still two years away, but experts and civil rights groups are already disputing the results. At issue is whether the census…

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Brazil judge orders Facebook to cut fake news on slain activist

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:29

A Brazilian judge on Wednesday ordered Facebook to remove fake news posted about slain black rights’ activist Marielle Franco. Judge Jorge Jansen Counago Novelle, in Rio de Janeiro, gave the US-based giant 24 hours to pull “publications of false information with criminal content on the councilwoman Marielle Franco,” the court said in a statement. Franco was…

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Setting Example, Botswana President Leaves Office on Time

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:27

Botswana’s president has drawn attention recently for urging long-time African leaders to loosen their grip on power: first, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, then Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Now, it’s his turn. President Ian Khama steps down Saturday to make way for his vice president, exactly a decade – to the day – after…

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The Black Panther villain can teach us about revolutionary history

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:24

By Femi Kolapo, Associate Professor, African History, University of Guelph. Killmonger, the evil villain of ‘Black Panther,’ has plans of global insurgencies to liberate Black people. (Marvel/Disney) Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger is the quintessential super-villain. His character fulfils the requirements of the typical superhero movie with good guys versus bad ones and his demise at the…

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Why the Popular Vote Won’t Solve Electoral College Problem

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 12:23

This originally appeared on CT Viewpoints. The debate over a proposed compact in which Connecticut would cast its seven electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote is missing the forest through the trees. The problem isn’t that presidents win despite the popular vote. The problem is that presidents win despite not winning a…

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Federal judge orders state of Florida to restore felons’ voting rights

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 12:20

(National Sentinel) Judicial Activism: A federal judge nominated to the bench in 2012 by President Obama has ordered the state of Florida to ignore a 150-year-old law and immediately restore voting rights to convicted felons. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee issued a permanent injunction supporting the Fair Elections Legal Network, a group that sued…

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