Tag: human rights

What is patriotism?

To me, it seems like the Democratic Party has completely lost its way in regards to patriotism. You almost never hear Hillary Clinton talk about patriotism in any way (and Hillary is an ardent internationalist), and, although Bernie Sanders is a left-wing nationalist (or the closest person to a left-wing nationalist in American politics), you don’t hear too much of any patriotic rhetoric from Bernie. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has been pushing a brand of phony patriotism that involves thumping the Bible at every opportunity and stirring up hatred and resentment to anyone who isn’t a white, male, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon, evangelical Southern Baptist for decades.

I think that it’s time to ask ourselves: what is patriotism?

My own vision of patriotism is derived from two pieces of inspiration. The first is from the late former Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, who was twice the Democratic Party’s nominee for President, but lost both times to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, from his 1952 speech to the American Legion convention in New York City:

We talk a great deal about patriotism. What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility which will enable America to remain master of her power — to walk with it in serenity and wisdom, with self-respect and the respect of all mankind; a patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. The dedication of a lifetime — these are words that are easy to utter, but this is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.

The second is a country music song called “America First”, performed by Merle Haggard:

Now, I’ll talk about what is not patriotism. Patriotism is not shoving your religious beliefs (or lack thereof) down everyone else’s throats. Patriotism is not sending American troops off to war for the mere sake of sending troops off to war. Patriotism is not making America more a part of an international community that threatens America’s economy on a daily basis. Patriotism is not making America the police force for the entire world. Patriotism is not putting the national security of foreign countries before the national security of America. Patriotism is not infringing on the rights of the American people in the name of a religious deity and/or America.

Most importantly, I’ll talk about what is patriotism. Patriotism is fighting to make America, not foreign countries, a better place to live for everyone. Patriotism is fighting to ensure justice and fair treatment for all Americans. Patriotism is protecting and expanding the most important of all rights, voting rights. Patriotism is understanding that civic duty is a lifelong responsibility. Left-wing nationalism is true patriotism.

47 House Dems side with ISIS and Nazi-like bigotry from the GOP

47 House Dems side with ISIS and Nazi-like bigotry from the GOP

A total of 47 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted for anti-Syrian refugee legislation straight out of a Nazi Germany mindset. Here are the House Democrats who voted for the legislation:

Pete Aguilar California 31st
Brad Ashford Nebraska 2nd
Ami Bera California 7th
Sanford Bishop, Jr. Georgia 2nd
Julia Brownley California 26th
Cheri Bustos Illinois 17th
John Carney Delaware At-large
Gerry Connolly Virginia 11th
Jim Cooper Tennessee 5th
Jim Costa California 16th
Joe Courtney Connecticut 2nd
Henry Cuellar Texas 28th
John Delaney Maryland 6th
Lloyd Doggett Texas 35th
Tulsi Gabbard Hawaii 2nd
John Garamendi California 3rd
Gwen Graham Florida 2nd
Gene Green Texas 29th
Janice Hahn California 44th
Jim Himes Connecticut 4th
Steve Israel New York 3rd
Marcy Kaptur Ohio 9th
Bill Keating Massachusetts 9th
Ron Kind Wisconsin 3rd
Ann McLane Kuster New Hampshire 2nd
Jim Langevin Rhode Island 2nd
Dan Lipinski Illinois 3rd
Dave Loebsack Iowa 2nd
Stephen Lynch Massachusetts 8th
Sean Patrick Maloney New York 18th
Patrick Murphy Florida 18th
Rick Nolan Minnesota 8th
Donald Norcross New Jersey 1st
Scott Peters California 52nd
Collin Peterson Minnesota 7th
Jared Polis Colorado 2nd
Kathleen Rice New York 4th
Raul Ruiz California 36th
Tim Ryan Ohio 13th
Kurt Schrader Oregon 5th
David Scott Georgia 13th
Terri Sewell Alabama 7th
Kyrsten Sinema Arizona 9th
Louise Slaughter New York 25th
Marc Veasey Texas 33rd
Filemon Vela Texas 34th
Tim Walz Minnesota 1st

When I say that these 47 Democratic traitors sided with ISIS, I mean that they are effectively fueling ISIS propaganda by refusing to take in the very people who have been oppressed by ISIS and the Syrian dictatorship of Bashir al-Assad. When I say that this legislation is straight out of a Nazi Germany mindset, I’m referring to public opposition here in the U.S. to accepting Jewish refugees who were fleeing the Holocaust and the Nazi Germany regime of Adolf Hitler in the late 1930’s.

It’s not just moderate and conservative “Democrats” who are effectively siding with ISIS and repeating the history of the Nazis by opposing Syrian refugees. Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson have used racist, Nazi-like language to stir up fear of Syrian refugees among white racist Americans.

Here’s what Trump recently said, courtesy of Yahoo! News:

“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”

Yahoo News asked Trump whether this level of tracking might require registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion. He wouldn’t rule it out.

“We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said when presented with the idea. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”

Here’s what Carson recently said, courtesy of NBC News:

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Thursday suggested that concerns about Syrian refugees in the United States are akin to a parent’s concerns about “mad dogs.”

“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you’re probably going to put your children out of the way,” he said during remarks in Mobile, Alabama. “[It] doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs, by any stretch of the imagination, but you’re putting your intellect into motion and you’re thinking ‘How do I protect my children? At the same time, I love dogs and I’m gonna call the humane society and hopefully they can come take this dog away and create a safe environment once again.'”

Any Democrat who voted for the anti-Syrian refugee legislation has effectively sided with right-wing racists like Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who are using Nazi Germany-like language in opposition to allowing Syrian refugees to enter the United States. Supporting requiring that Muslims have special identification is eerily reminiscent of the Nazis forcibly tattooing identification numbers onto Jewish people in concentration camps, and comparing Syrian refugees fleeing war and terrorism to mad dogs is eerily reminiscent of Nazi propaganda comparing Jewish people to rats (in fact, at least one British newspaper, the Daily Mail, actually compared Syrian refugees to rats). Normally, I’m not a fan of Nazi comparisons, but, if there’s actual historical context behind a Nazi comparison, then I’m all for it.

One last thing, I find it ironic that the number of House Democrats who voted for the anti-Syrian refugee bill (47) equals the number of Senate Republicans who signed a letter to Iranian leaders in an attempt to undermine diplomacy in efforts to stop a nuclear deal designed to keep Iran from producing nuclear weapons (47), as well as the percentage of Americans that 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney claimed were dependent on the government (47).

Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for the University of Illinois’s war on academic freedom

It’s been recently announced that the University of Illinois (U of I) reached a legal settlement with Stephen Saliata, who had a job offer revoked by the U of I because he tweeted his personal opinion about far-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a staunch opponent of peace in the Middle East.

Last year, Saliata was offered a tenured professorship at the U of I. After the U of I received backlash from students, alumni, and donors who are to the Netanyahu regime in Israel than they are to America, the U of I pulled their offer of a tenured professorship from Saliata. Saliata rightfully sued the U of I for infringing on his First Amendment right to free speech and infringing upon academic freedom, and the lawsuit has now been settled, but not before the U of I is legally bound to pay out a total of $875,000, $600,000 of which will go to Saliata himself, and $275,000 of which will go to Saliata’s attorneys.

In short, Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for the U of I’s war on academic freedom and caving to pro-Israel interests. Had the U of I actually hired Steven Saliata, it would have cost Illinois taxpayers less than what it cost to settle the lawsuit over not hiring him for political reasons.

Explaining why Scott Walker is a fascist

By my definition of a “fascist”, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker is a fascist. That’s because Scott Walker meets every single one of the 14 points of fascism, as compiled by political scientist Dr. Laurence Britt in 2004:

  1. Powerful and Continuing Expressions of Nationalism – In his presidential announcement speech (transcript here), Walker repeatedly talked about his patriotic love for America and used it to advocate for a far-right political agenda. While being patriotic in and of itself isn’t fascism, constant displays of nationalism, combined with all 13 of the other points of fascism that I’ll list below, is fascism.
  2. Disdain for the Importance of Human Rights – As Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker has repeatedly disregarded the human rights of the people of Wisconsin, including stripping rights from workers, women, political dissidents, and voters. Since this point largely goes hand in hand with several of the other points of fascism, I’ll explain this in more detail in points 5, 8, 10, 12, and 14.
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – Walker and his political allies have repeatedly used progressives and others who have protested Walker’s policies in a non-violent manner as a scapegoat to justify their far-right agenda and (falsely) portray Walker as a strong leader. In fact, Walker himself has openly compared non-violent protesters who have criticized his political agenda to the Islamic fundamentalist terror group Islamic State (IS, commonly called ISIS).
  4. The Supremacy of the Military/Avid Militarism – During his presidential campaign announcement, Walker repeatedly used veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces to defend his far-right agenda. While Walker and his political allies were enacting legislation stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees in Wisconsin, Walker publicly threatened to use the Wisconsin National Guard, a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces, against state legislators that opposed Walker’s legislation.
  5. Rampant Sexism – As Governor of Wisconsin, Walker and his allies enacted numerous laws that specifically targeted women, including a law prohibiting women who have been illegally paid less than their male counterparts by their employers from suing in the state court system, as well as numerous laws that determine what kind of reproductive health care women can and can’t receive.
  6. A Controlled Mass Media – While there isn’t formal state control of the mass media in Wisconsin, the corporate-controlled mass media in Wisconsin covers political news in an manner that is very biased in favor of Walker and regularly smears political opponents of Walker.
  7. Obsession With National Security – Since he started being taken seriously as a prospective presidential candidate, Walker has displayed an obsession with national security, including, as I described above, comparing non-violent protesters to Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.
  8. Religion and Ruling Elite Tied Together – Throughout his political career, Walker has repeatedly shown complete disregard towards the separation of church and state that is supposed to be mandated by the U.S. Constitution, and Walker often deploys a religious tone on the campaign trail. Walker has repeatedly claimed that God is guiding him through his political career, and he and his allies have expanded school voucher programs designed to give taxpayer money to religious schools as Governor of Wisconsin.
  9. Power of Corporations Protected – During his time as Governor of Wisconsin, corporate interests have had virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government, including writing state laws through a far-right political organization known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
  10. Power of Labor Suppressed or Eliminated – I mentioned this in point 4, but Walker has suppressed the power of workers as Governor of Wisconsin, including stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees and allowing non-union workers at unionized places to effectively steal wages and benefits negotiated by a labor union without paying for them in the form of union dues or some other type of payment to the union.
  11. Disdain and Suppression of Intellectuals and the Arts – Walker and his political allies have repeatedly shown a deep-seeded hatred of intellectuals and the arts, most notably stripping University of Wisconsin System (UW System) professors of tenure protections and cutting hundreds of millions of dollars of funding from UW System institutions of higher education.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – As Governor of Wisconsin, Walker’s Wisconsin Capitol Police have illegally and repeatedly arrested non-violent protesters for singing in the rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol, which is legally a public forum. Additionally, Walker has refused to even consider issuing pardons to convicted criminals.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – As Milwaukee County Executive and Governor of Wisconsin, corruption and cronyism have been and are absolutely rampant on Walker’s watch. Political allies of Walker have frequently been appointed to various government posts on the basis of being political allies of Walker, and, as Milwaukee County Executive, five of Walker’s allies were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, crimes involving stealing taxpayer money intended for providing for veterans and their families, campaigning on government time, and illegally funneling campaign donations to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign.
  14. Fraudulent Elections – As Governor of Wisconsin, Walker has enacted voter ID laws designed to keep political opponents of him from voting. Additionally, Walker and his political allies gerrymandered Wisconsin’s congressional and state legislative districts in a manner that his political allies get a considerably higher percentage of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and both houses of the Wisconsin State Legislature than his party’s percentage of the statewide vote.

To fully clarify, in order for one to meet my definition of a “fascist”, one must meet all 14 points of fascism that I displayed above. As I explained point-by-point, Scott Walker fully meets my criteria of a fascist.

Corporate media hack Don Lemon asks a ridiculously stupid question once again

CNN anchor and corporate media hack Don Lemon asked yet another ridiculously stupid question. This time, he asked Arsalan Iftikhar, an editor of The Islamic Monthly and a human rights lawyer, if he supported the Islamic fundamentalist terror group ISIS in a televised interview:

Here’s the transcript of the relevant part of the interview:

Don Lemon: Again, in August, 16 percent of French citizens support ISIS. Would you describe those who support ISIS as Islamic extremists? Do you support ISIS?

Arsalan Iftikhar: Wait, did you just ask if I support ISIS? I just answered your question. I said that obviously these 16 percent of people support the ideology, but again, I don’t think that would necessarily extrapolate to the killing of innocent people.

Iftikhar publicly stated earlier in the interview that he was “shocked and appalled” by the attack on the Paris, France-based satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and condemned the attacks as “something that is against any normative teaching of Islam or any religious teaching” and “a crime against humanity and an act of mass murder”. It’s absolutely clear from Iftikhar’s thoughts and remarks about the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters that Iftikhar does not support terrorism, whether it be from ISIS, al-Qaeda, or any other group or individual.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time that Lemon has asked a downright asinine question to a guest he was interviewing on national television. Just a couple of months ago, Lemon asked Joan Tarshis, one of over two dozen women who have accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault, about why she didn’t bite Cosby’s dick off. Don Lemon is one of many reasons why CNN has gone from a well-respected institution of journalism to total garbage over the past several years.

George W. Bush-era CIA torture program violated human rights and made America less secure

The report by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the CIA’s program of torturing enemy combatants who were captured by the U.S. in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, which was active during the administration of former Republican President George W. Bush, has been declassified, and here is the executive summary of the report.

According to the report, the George W. Bush-era CIA’s detention and torture program, among other things:

  • Didn’t help the CIA get intelligence from detainees
  • Violated the human rights of detainees
  • Put American national security at an even greater risk by impeding national security efforts at other federal agencies
  • Wasted American taxpayers’ money
  • Detained individuals who didn’t meet the legal standard for detention
  • Was badly mismanaged and unaccountable
  • Hurt our country’s standing in the world

Additionally, the George W. Bush-era CIA lied to Congress and the media about the detention and torture program’s activities, and had repeatedly impeded oversight by various government entities, including the Office of the CIA Inspector General.

Long story short, the CIA’s program of torturing enemy combatants in U.S. custody was one of the most disgusting things that the U.S. federal government has ever done and served no purpose whatsoever. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other officials involved in the program should be charged with perjury, war crimes, and other applicable offenses.

U.S. Supreme Court lists marriage equality cases for consideration at its next conference

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which has five Republican-appointed judges and four Democratic-appointed judges, has formally listed seven marriage equality cases with cert petitions pending from five different states (three from Virginia and one each from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin) for consideration at its upcoming conference on September 29, the first such conference after SCOTUS’s summer recess began:

The U.S. Supreme Court has formally listed all marriage cases with cert petitions pending — Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Indiana — for consideration on September 29, at its very first conference after coming back from summer recess.

Kathleen Perrin, the legal eagle behind Equality Case Files, adds: “While this is an encouraging move, if the Court follows the pattern it followed last term, no case will be granted cert without being relisted at least once… For comparison, the (California) Prop 8 case was distributed to four conferences and (United States v.) Windsor to three before the Court granted cert in those cases.”

Indeed, the AP reports that the justices could put off deciding to take up a case until as late as January and still be able to hear arguments and issue a decision by the end of June.

The marriage equality cases that have been formally listed by SCOTUS are as follows: Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah), Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma), Rainey v. Bostic (Virginia), Schaefer v. Bostic (Virginia), McQuigg v. Bostic (Virginia), Bogan v. Baskin (Indiana), and Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin). SCOTUS could decide to take up the marriage equality cases at its next convention or at a later date.

I hope that the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling in favor of marriage equality for the entire country because same-sex couples deserve the same right to marry that heterosexual couples currently enjoy. Given that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) for violating the U.S. Constitution last year with Republican-appointed justice Anthony Kennedy joining Democratic-appointed justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer, those same five justices forming a majority opinion in favor of marriage equality is certainly a possible outcome.