Category: Culture

35,000 Germans rally in Dresden against ethnic, religious, hatred


Anti-bigotry rally in Berlin

A rally against racism and xenophobia on Saturday drew tens of thousands of people in the eastern German city of Dresden, which has become the center of anti-immigration protests organized by a new grassroots movement called PEGIDA.

“We won’t permit that hate will divide us”, Dresden’s mayor Helma Orosz said in front of the 18th-century Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).

Around 35,000 people attended the rally that was jointly organized by the state government of Saxony and the city of Dresden…

The movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) is holding weekly rallies in Dresden with a record number of 18,000 people attending last Monday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the anti-Muslim demonstrations, urging Germans to turn their backs on the movement and calling their organizers racists full of hatred.

The Paris attack has fueled fears that it could boost anti-immigration movements around Europe and inflame a culture war about the place of religion and ethnic identity in society.

Speaking after a party meeting of her Christian Democrats (CDU) in Hamburg earlier on Saturday, Merkel stressed the need for intercultural dialogue and warned against prejudice.

Good to see this. If there is a nation in the world capable of taking the lead in opposing rightwing populism, opportunist ethnic hatred. it is Germany. They know the potential results almost as well as the nationalities murdered by German fascists in the mid-20th Century.

5% of Americans want their sex tracked online … Really

spreadsheets-app

The Consumer Electronics Show is in full swing in Las Vegas, which means editors’ inboxes are flooded with press releases about it.

Here at MedPage Today, we received one Monday that made us do a double-take. Well, one line in it, anyway.

The release, on behalf of “A&D Medical, the worldwide leader in connected health and biometric measurement devices, was about a survey of Americans’ attitudes on using smartphones and other “connected health devices that automatically connect online and send information to their doctor or other people they choose.”

We had just posted a story with a headline including the phrase “Smartphone in Bedroom Is Not So Smart Choice,” albeit for kids. Still, we were primed for some cognitive dissonance when we saw a line in the release saying that “And only 5% of Americans wanted their sexual activity monitored online.”

Really? We wondered whether “only” was really the right term there. We’re not PR experts, but we might have gone with something more like “More Americans want their sexual activity monitored online than voted for a third-party candidate in 2012.”

I must be out-of-date. I recall [in 1965] causing a disturbance in the middle of orientation for a group of activists when a pedant started listing distractions from strategic goals. He said something about food, where to eat in Chicago. He said something about sex.

I said “I don’t especially differentiate between the two…food and sex, that is.” Made some good friends on the West Side that day.

Now, I guess I need a new simile about smartphones and sex. I don’t think it works as well.

Study confirms that Fox News makes you stupid

fox-truth

Yet another study has been released that proves that watching Fox News is detrimental to your intelligence. World Public Opinion, a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, conducted a survey of American voters that shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources. What’s more, the study shows that greater exposure to Fox News increases misinformation.

So the more you watch, the less you know. Or to be precise, the more you think you know that is actually false…

In eight of the nine questions below, Fox News placed first in the percentage of those who were misinformed (they placed second in the question on TARP). That’s a pretty high batting average for journalistic fraud:

91% believe that the stimulus legislation lost jobs.

72% believe that the health reform law will increase the deficit.

72% believe that the economy is getting worse.

60% believe that climate change is not occurring.

49% believe that income taxes have gone up.

63% believe that the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts.

56% believe that Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout.

38% believe that most Republicans opposed TARP.

63% believe that Obama was not born in the US (or that it is unclear)…

This is not an isolated review of Fox’s performance. It has been corroborated time and time again. The fact that Fox News is so blatantly dishonest, and the effects of that dishonesty have become ingrained in an electorate that has been been purposefully deceived, needs to be made known to every American. Our democracy cannot function if voters are making choices based on lies

Madison Avenue hucksters have proved for decades that Americans are conditioned to believe almost anything presented to them as fact, as desirable, as having qualities of holy goodness. You can start with Chesterfield cigarettes having “Not a cough in a carload!” — and top it off with The Bush/Cheney campaign against weapons of mass destruction requiring our invasion of Iraq and the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of American Homeland Security.

Obama offers plan for free community colleges


“Show us the Republican plan!”

President Obama will call on Congress to pass legislation making the first two years of community college free for students.

The federal government would cover three-quarters of the cost, with states kicking in the final 25 percent…

The program is likely to be dead on arrival in Congress, but it’s the administration’s first major college affordability proposal in some time.

As much as Republicans like Governor Susana here in New Mexico like to blather about their support for education, their concern for better education – they don’t offer a single positive and programmatic step forward. Their agitprop is meaningless when it comes to actually doing something that helps workingclass folks.

Obama is proposing two years of free community college for students who attend at least half-time and maintain a grade point average of at least 2.5. That wouldn’t cover the entire cost for most students — students who finish community college in two years are rare — but the White House estimates it would save 9 million students around $3,800 per year in tuition if every state chose to participate.

The White House said details will be in the president’s 2016 budget request but declined to offer specifics on how much the program would cost. It’s not clear how the program would work, how the grants to states would be structured, or how the federal money would interact with the Pell Grant, federal aid for low-income students that about 38 percent of all community college students receive.

Other states and cities, including Tennessee and Chicago, have proposed programs that cover any remaining tuition and fees after other grants and scholarships are applied…

Obama has praised Tennessee’s program, the Tennessee Promise, which begins with this year’s high school class and offers two years of free community college tuition. About 50,000 high school seniors completed the initial sign-up — more than three-quarters of all high school seniors in the state.

That’s one effect free college programs can have: they can make college seem possible for everybody, even students who didn’t think they could afford to go…

The total amount of student debt in the US has more than tripled in the past 10 years, from $363 billion in 2005 to more than $1.2 trillion today. It’s increasing for a few reasons: More students are going to college than they used to, a higher proportion are taking out loans, and they’re borrowing more than students did in the past…

Republicans love that part. Anything that offers profits for money-lenders is OK with conservatives.

RTFA. It wastes the required amount of space on beancounter arguments, offers up some of the pet sophistry from pretend-liberals who think such programs favor middle-class students over poor. Mail me a penny postcard when patent leather populists actually show up to work in a chile patch in Hatch, NM or sign on as a laborer building the newest Walmart for some cheap-ass contruction company.

It does dot most i’s, cross the t’s. The article is clear about Republican lies. You might be able to find one or two conservative politicians in the GOUSA who actually deliver on promises to aid education for workingclass kids. That’s like the proverbial stopped clock that has the time right for 2 seconds a day.

Republicans walked away from any progressive agenda a couple of days past the end of the Civil War..

Republican priority in Congress — paying off the owners of the whorehouse!

school for scoundrels
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So how did House Republicans kick things off when they came back into session this week? Answer: They quickly passed a few noncontroversial bills (the Hire More Heroes Act, etc.), but then came the real top priorities. Something about abortion? Or gun rights? Maybe an immigration bill? Some other tea party hot button?

Nope. First up was a new rule that would speed the bankruptcy of the Social Security disability fund. It passed. Next they tried to sneak through a massive omnibus bill full of goodies for Wall Street

Democrats rushed in to squash the Republican Frankenbill. H.R. 37 came up for a vote Wednesday under a suspension of the rules, meaning that it needed a two-thirds vote. So Democrats would have to supply several dozen votes for the bill to pass….“It has not yet been 24 hours since members of Congress have been sworn in,” said Democrat Dan Kildee (D-MI) on the House floor, “When Main Street had its needs we couldn’t get a hearing. When Wall Street asks, we suspend the rules without taking a breath.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi termed it a “brazen attempt” to “sneak through a New Year’s present to big banks.” Ultimately, enough Democrats shied away from the bill for it to fail by a vote of 276 to 146. Only 35 Democrats voted with all but 1 Republican in favor. The lack of two-thirds support means that the bill would not survive a Presidential veto either.

There you have it. All the tea-party stuff will come eventually, but the very first actions of the Republican House were ones to hurt disabled workers and give a huge gift to Wall Street. Actions speak louder than words, and these were their first actions. Welcome to 2015.

Meanwhile, mainstream media – which conservative fools say is guided by the Left – sits quietly and obedient, rewriting excerpts from press releases by Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Joseph Goebbels.

OK, I made up the last name.

Point being, there is no criticism or comparison with years of unproductive stonewalling by today’s version of Republican conservatism. Our Free Press tiptoes away from any acknowledgement of the class basis of Congressional folderol. Of course. They are owned by the same pimps.

The completion of the Republican transition into the Christian Confederacy Party is left at the feet of the Tea Party nutballs. They aren’t yet allowed total control of the Republican Party. But, they get to stand and chant dirges from the Dark Ages as counterpoint to Smiling Mitch-and-Serious John’s sophistry lessons.

Just another rightwing Republican nutball who hates a Free Press

Republican idiot Kirby Delauter

Kirby Delauter is not having a good week.

A council member of Frederick County, Maryland, he got into an online spat with local reporter Bethany Rodgers, attacking her for “for an unauthorized use of my name” in a “hit piece.”

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Delauter warned the reporter to never again “use my name or reference me in an unauthorized form.”

After Rodgers responded that reporters do not have to seek permission to write about public figures, the councilman simply wrote, “[u]se my name again and you’ll be paying for an Attorney [sic].”

BYW, the news article was about parking spots for county commissioners. Delauter got a one-sentence mention about supporting the complaints.

On Tuesday afternoon, Rodgers’ paper, the Fredericks News-Post, mercilessly mocked the councilman in an editorial entitled, “Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter…”

“[H]ow should we now refer to Kirby Delauter if we can’t use his name (Kirby Delauter)?” the paper asked. “Could we get away with an entire editorial of nothing but ‘Kirby Delauter’ repeated over and over again — Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter..?”

Kirby Delauter’s ignorance of what journalism is and does is no joke, and illustrates one disturbing aspect too prevalent in conservatives’ beliefs: That the media are all-liberal stooges hell bent on pursuing some fictional leftwing agenda,” the editorial said.

The article mentioned Kirby Delauter’s name 27 times. It also contained one footnote: the words “Kirby Delauter.”

Finally, as something of an Easter egg for the careful reader, the first letter of each paragraph spelled KIRBY DELAUTER.

Today’s flavor of American conservative are united in their support for Free Speech and a Free Press. Their own. No one else should have access to such freedoms, of course. That would be like allowing civil rights for everyone.

That would be socialism.

Simple brief ceremonies wedding same-sex couples throughout Florida

Edgard Perez, Charles Windham
Wedding photo for Edgard Perez and Charles Windham

With arms interlocked, about 20 gay and lesbian couples, too eager to wait any longer, were married in a five-minute ceremony at 3 a.m. on Tuesday at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale as Florida marked a long, arduous journey to become the 36th state to legalize same sex marriage.

Now the nation’s third-largest state, Florida joined the list allowing same-sex unions just six years after the state, led by Republican lawmakers, voted to approve a constitutional ban on gay marriage, which garnered 62 percent of the vote.

“Do you take each other to be your spouse for life?” asked Howard C. Forman, the Broward County clerk of courts, slightly stressing the word spouse. Together, the couples uttered their individual vows to one another. “I pronounce you legally married,” Mr. Forman said.

With that, the couples, their families and friends roared, cheered and clapped, and Frank Sinatra’s “Love” blasted into the room. For Anthony Butera, 44, and Abdel Magid, 45, there was no doubt that marrying as soon as possible in their home state was a must-do. A couple for 12 years, the two donned wedding finery — Mr. Butera wore a cream tuxedo jacket with a black handkerchief and Mr. Magid a black tuxedo jacket with a white boutonniere — and infectious smiles.

“It’s special to be recognized and be treated like everyone else,” Mr. Magid said.

More victories in a nation that supposedly believes in equal opportunity, that preaches to the rest of the world that we are the bastion of democracy and reason – and there still are states and politicians, religions and zealots who believe they have a mandate to prevent equal civil rights for every American. They believed they could do it because of skin color, They believe they can do so because of sexual inclination.

Understanding their misbegotten belief doesn’t make it anymore defensible. Such bigotry belongs in history’s cesspool. Witnessing expressions of love and freedom from these newly-married folks is worth so much more than the hatred and fear of fools.

RTFA for more examples of a new kind of freedom creeping cautiously through the halls of Florida’s backwards government, a state which still tries to dignify the fascist time-warp infecting their brains.

Ground broken for California’s 130-miles high-speed rail project

Gov. Jerry Brown and state political leaders on Tuesday celebrated their perseverance over lawsuits and skeptical lawmakers and voters as they ceremonially started work in the Central Valley on the initial 29 miles of the nation’s first high-speed rail system.

Speaking to about 700 supporters of high-speed rail in a vacant lot in Fresno, the governor was cheered when he called critics — about 30 of whom protested outside the fenced-off festivities — “pusillanimous … that means weak of spirit,” and said the state owed it to the future to think big and invest in projects like high-speed rail.

Brown noted that the State Water Project, BART and the Golden Gate Bridge all faced opposition in their time. “We need to be critiqued,” he said, “but we still need to build…”

While high-speed rail backers made speeches and signed a symbolic section of rail in lieu of cutting a ribbon or wielding golden shovels, a new Congress whose Republican majority has vowed not to contribute more federal funding to California’s high-speed rail project took office in Washington. They include House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, whose district would be bisected by the fast rail line…

Surely no one expects a 21st Century Republican to favor transportation, logistics and commerce considered modern in most nations.

Along with the financial challenge comes the need to complete the project without significant delays or massive cost overruns, and the question of whether state legislators have the political will to keep the project going when it runs into trouble.

The current construction is expected to be completed by 2018…The authority expects to award a contract this month for the next phase, which would take the tracks south to Bakersfield. Once that stretch is completed, with work overlapping the initial leg, the plan is to work on a connection to Palmdale, not from Bakersfield but from Burbank. Not only is that a critical stretch in connecting high-speed rail into the Los Angeles area, but officials believe it could operate as a profitable line even before the connection to the valley is completed.

By 2017 or 2018, the agency expects to have a 130-mile stretch through the valley that can be used as a test track for high-speed trains. And by 2022, it expects to be able to run trains from Merced to the Burbank Airport. Connections to San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center and Los Angeles’ Union Station would be finished by 2029.

Critics…waved signs with such messages as blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

In the same time period China is scheduled to build several hundred miles of standard rail – only travel at 110mph – for Thailand connecting Bangkok and major cities to Laos and southern China. Myanmar’s main industrial areas will be linked to the deep-sea port of Dawei. 2000 miles of rail will be built in a trilateral project for India, Myanmar and Thailand – linking those nations to Laos, Cambodia and VietNam. The ASEAN north-south corridor will be extended down to Malaysia and Singapore.

Besides ASEAN nations, there are six more partner countries – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, combining half of the world’s population.

Good thing ain’t many of them as backwards as American conservatives.

Report Card for 10 top world leaders

In a rare poll, citizens on five continents and in 30 countries, including China, were asked to identify and evaluate the job performance of 10 of the most widely recognized global leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.S. President Barack Obama…

Respondents in India (87.8 percent), Russia (79.6 percent), and China (78.6 percent) overwhelmingly said that their home country was moving in the right direction, while only a minority in the United States (44.8 percent), Japan (30.4 percent), and South Africa (29.3 percent) felt their nation was making progress.

WL2
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The results also offer a glimpse into what kinds of information about other nations filter down to the average citizen, Anthony Saich said, “so you can begin to ask questions about how both geopolitics and about how national presses begin to report activities and behavior of other countries and how that reflects onto particular leaders.”

“Two things did surprise me — how well Modi came out. I just put that down to the fact that he’d only just been elected and so I suspect that a lot of people didn’t really know very much about him, and his own nationals were probably still in the phase of him having won the election,” said Saich. “I thought what was interesting, though, was how well Merkel came out across the board. From the surveys, she really emerges as a leader of international respect.”

Saich, who serves as faculty chair of HKS’s China program, said granular data about how Chinese citizens viewed other world leaders was groundbreaking and supports what was generally known already. Their positive assessment of Xi’s performance both at home and abroad is explained by a multitude of factors…

“For a large number of people, life has generally gotten better year by year — more freedom of choice, probably more income, better living conditions, better material conditions, a lot more to watch on the television,” Saich added. “I think that also plays into it.”

Saich doesn’t try to draw too much from the results of this initial survey. It can and will serve as a baseline for returning efforts in the future.

That doesn’t mean that TV talking heads and directly-employed government PR-types won’t try for a special spin. Not that I expect much of that in a nation as parochial as the United States.