Category Archives: Signs of the Times

Gwynne Dyer: Putin’s Fans May be Italy’s Next Rulers

Power close at hand for hard-right populist party as Italy’s snap election draws near

Gwynne Dyer – Sept. 20, 2022

There’s an election in Italy next Sunday, almost exactly 100 years after Benito Mussolini’s ‘blackshirts’ marched on Rome and brought the first fascist dictator to power.

Giorgia Meloni, the hard-right populist politician who is likely to win that election, rejects any comparison with that ugly past. The party she leads, Brothers of Italy, has some nostalgic neo-fascists in its ranks, but she prefers to compare it to Britain’s post-Brexit Conservative Party or the U.S. Republican Party as rebranded by Donald Trump.

She shares her hostility to the European Union with Britain’s Conservatives, her hatred of immigrants, gays and Muslims with the U.S. Republicans and her truculent nationalism with both those parties. She is also militantly Christian and she dabbles in Great Replacement paranoia. And just like them, she wages a non-stop culture war. Continue reading Gwynne Dyer: Putin’s Fans May be Italy’s Next Rulers

Gavin Newsom takes Pro-Choice fight to Anti-Abortion States

On September 15, California governor Gavin Newsom announced that billboards with the assertive pro-choice messages below were going up in several states. Very striking. How many more to follow?

 

 

 

 

South Carolina? Way too close for my comfort. North Carolina could join his target list if the midterm elections go badly.

 

 

 

 

What’s this thing about states that start with “South”??

 

 

 

 

Hoosier daddy? Mike Pence has a plan . . .

 

 

 

The Buckeye Ban could STOP you here . . .

 

 

 

 

Politics aside, The flame of liberty will not be put out . . .

Preserving Liberty & Justice

 

On the Brink of Autumn: Quote of the Season

 

Joe Biden, 09/15/2022, United We Stand Summit, at the White House:

George Floyd mural, Minneapolis

“Too much hate that’s fueled extremist violence [has] been allowed to fester and grow.

Heather Heyer, spontaneous memorial, Charlottesville

You know, as a result, our very own intelligence agencies — our own intelligence agencies in the United States of America, have determined that domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy is the greatest terrorist threat to our Homeland today.

I’ve been around a while.I never thought I’d hear that or say that.

Enough.”

Russia’s top Pop Singer Denounces Ukraine War

[NOTE: two hundred and fifty million pop records, 500+ songs, in a dozen or more languages, over a 50-year career and I never heard one of them. A reminder that I’ve led a very sheltered western life. Now, it sounds like she may be the loudest public voice in Russia against Putin’s war. Will it have impact? Can she do it and stay out of jail?]


Russian pop star Alla Pugacheva speaks out against war in Ukraine

Singer who shot to fame in Soviet era asks to be labelled ‘foreign agent’ after husband denounced conflict

Published: Sunday, 18 September 2022

The Russian singer Alla Pugacheva has spoken out against the war in Ukraine and the “death of our boys for illusory goals”.

The remarks are the first time that the pop star, an icon in Russia, has publicly criticised the conflict.

Her husband, Maxim Galkin, joined journalists, human rights activists and Kremlin opponents in being labelled a “foreign agent” last week for opposing the war.

Addressing the Russian justice ministry, Pugacheva told her 3.4 million Instagram followers: “I am asking you to include me on the foreign agents list of my beloved country.

“Because I stand in solidarity with my husband, who is an honest and ethical person, a true and incorruptible Russian patriot, who only wishes for prosperity, peace and freedom of expression in his motherland.”

Alla Pugacheva, the longtime top popstar singer in Russia-USSR. Cover of her song, “Some Day.”

She said her husband wanted “the end of the deaths of our boys for illusory goals that make our country a pariah and weigh heavily on the lives of its citizens”.

Pugacheva, 73, who has sold more than 250m records, became hugely popular during the Soviet era and has remained so over a career spanning more than 55 years.

Galkin, a TV presenter who now lives abroad, has often criticised the war in Ukraine.

Russian media said Pugacheva left the country after the invasion began in February. She was seen in Moscow at the funeral of the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on 3 September.

Russian authorities have clamped down on any criticism of the war in Ukraine, handing out fines and prison sentences to dissenters. Many Russian artists who denounced the conflict had their shows cancelled.

Pugacheva has met the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, several times, but she has never publicly supported him.

Listen to: “Some Day”:

https://youtu.be/dlLbb-Em6bE ”

 

Hope Fatigue? Is there a remedy here?

[NOTE: I’m usually dubious about self-help lists. But maybe some readers will find this one helpful.]

8 ways to feel less anxious about things beyond your control


Washington Post — Sept. 13, 2022

Hope fatigue is the latest mental health challenge therapists are seeing
By Lesley Alderman, LCSW

Lesley Alderman, LCSW, is a psychotherapist based in Brooklyn.

One of my patients showed up at her virtual psychotherapy session last week looking tired. She had always been ambitious and concerned about injustice. During this session, she sighed when talking about a meeting where her colleagues complained about unfair treatment. She said: “I don’t know why they bother getting upset, when it feels like nothing matters.”

I like taking photos In The Yard

I was concerned by her disengagement. But then a colleague sounded similarly worn down. She had spent the pandemic helping her third and fourth graders with remote school while trying to keep her small business going. She confided to me: “I haven’t followed the war in Ukraine at all, I simply don’t have the bandwidth.”

To an unusual degree, people are weary.

During the spring of 2020, just as the pandemic started, the question my patients asked was, “when do you think things will go back to normal?” Now, no one talks to me about a return to normal. There’s an unspoken recognition that the chaos we are experiencing might be with us for a long time.

Patients who had been concerned about national and world events and visibly frightened during the pandemic, now seem exhausted. The murder of George Floyd was horrific, and mass shootings are increasingly common. Now it feels like we are all in a relentless game of whack-a-mole, but in this case the rodents are existential threats.

I’m noticing that many of my patients are experiencing a deficit of optimism, and are overwhelmed about important issues that are beyond their control.

I’m calling it “hope fatigue.” Continue reading Hope Fatigue? Is there a remedy here?

Cartoons — No Royalty, No overt politics . . .

[NOTE: It’s been a dry summer for cartoons in the New Yorker. The current issue is better. But it’s a very tough time for humorists.]


Next it will be kale . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What balance?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new abnormal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were originally 20, but half got borrowed by a blogger .. .

 

 

 

Confederate Monument Removal: Win Some, Lose Some


Lawsuit over Confederate monument dismissed

Isaac Groves — Sept. 15, 2022

Burlington Times-News USA TODAY NETWORK

The Confederate monument in front of the Alamance County Historic Courthouse will stay where it is after a superior court judge, in that same courthouse, dismissed a lawsuit from the NAACP demanding its removal – at least for now.

“It is abundantly clear whatever decision I make will likely be appealed,” said Judge Don Bridges.

The state and local NAACP, several other groups including business owners, individuals, and clergy members call the monument a danger to public safety and protecting it a waste of taxpayer money. They filed a lawsuit in Alamance County Superior Court in late March of 2021 against the Alamance County Board of Commissioners, alleging that keeping the monument in a prominent place violates the state constitution by denying Black residents equal protection under the law, promoting racism and wasting public funds.

The suit asked the court for an injunction to remove the statue and a judgment declaring state law does not prohibit the county from removing the monument and prohibiting the county from moving it to another location on county property.

The Monument

The county’s monument to local Confederate war dead is a statue of a soldier atop a pillar about 30 feet above the street. It has been on Court Square since 1914 in front of what is now the only public entrance to the Alamance County Historic Courthouse. It’s been the focus of demonstrations for and against it for years, but the summer and fall of 2020, after the killing of George Floyd in 2020, became nothing short of intense.

The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office estimated it spent at least $750,000 in officers’ time on 39 demonstrations in 2020 – a figure the suit used to support its argument against spending public funds to protect the monument.

2015 Law

The Alamance County Commissioners have been advised they do not have the authority to move the monument under a 2015 state law limiting when local governments can move “objects of remembrance.”

The NAACP suit claimed the county interprets the public-safety clause in that law too narrowly, treating it only as a way to move monuments before they fall and hurt someone.

But, according to the suit, the state Attorney General’s office interprets it broadly and the Governor’s Office determined that UNC-Chapel Hill was acting within the law when it removed Silent Sam after protesters tore it down and removed monuments from the capitol grounds after protesters vandalized them.

The county spent about $30,000 on a fence around the monument to prevent any such vandalism in 2021, which a hit-and-run driver damaged in June.

Plaintiffs also argued the monument created a risk of violence pointing to a number of incidents between protesters, counter protesters and law enforcement through 2020, many of which worked their way through local and federal courts.

The presence of a monument to the confederacy in front of the courthouse also sends a negative message to Black residents who must pass it on the way to seeking justice under the law, the NAACP argued.

Judge Bridges, however, said the monument protection act, as it is often called, was obviously intended to protect statues like this one, and the commissioners clearly relied on that statute when they chose not to take any action to remove it. The plaintiffs did not, Bridges said, choose to challenge the law itself or the General Assembly that made the law.

“If the statute is valid,” Bridges said, “then the county commissioners are entitled to follow it.”

Bridges said the issue wasn’t strictly political but came close enough that a court should be wary of digging too deeply into it.

“It is better addressed by the public at the ballot box than in the courtroom,” Bridges said.

 

FGC: Can This Quaker Gathering Be Saved?

In case any liberal U. S. Friends haven’t yet noticed, FGC (aka Friends General Conference) is flailing. Its crowning event, the annual Gathering, is on life support; the prognosis is grave.

As at Balmoral Castle a week or so ago, key “family” members are gathered: some keeping vigil at the bedside, as others huddle over spreadsheets and in focus groups, in a desperate effort to revive and save— err, “re-imagine” — the centenarian patient.

This “re-imagination” effort is aimed at bringing a treatment plan to FGC’s annual Central Committee sessions in October. What that plan might look like is anybody’s guess.

But here is one Friend’s simple proposal, after much thought and attending thirty-plus Gatherings since 1979:

Face the music, and pull the plug.

If that’s not clear enough:
Stick a fork in it.
Ring down the curtain.
Say it Bought the farm.
Let it bite the dust.
Turn up its toes, for
Its number is up.
Let it kick the bucket.
Give up the ghost
Cross the Rainbow Bridge,
Shake hands with Elvis, and
Meet its Maker.

Or in traditional Quaker parlance, “Lay it down.”

Why do I say that?

There are many reasons. In fact, one could point to fifteen hundred and twenty of them, give or take a few.

1520?

Yeah. That’s the difference between 1970 and 440.

1970 was the attendance at the 2000 Gathering, in Rochester, New York (That figure is from memory, but quite close; I was there, and on the planning committee for it.)

Four hundred forty is the reported tally for the summer 2022 Gathering, initially set to meet in person in southwest Virginia, then switched to remote.

Yes, but — Covid.

Sure. But step back to 2019, the last Gathering in the halcyon days before the pandemic struck. At lovely Grinnell College in Iowa’s vast rolling farmland.

The tally there was 800.

That’s off 1150, a 60% drop (again give or take a few) from Rochester. (And 440 marks an almost 80% decline.)

I don’t have all the attendance numbers since 2000, but sufficient to make the trajectory clear enough that even the Central Committee should be able to see it. Not that the Committee has been unaware. Like many other Gathering alumni, I’ve been surveyed by them about the Gathering’s condition, more than once. And I’ve not held back. Continue reading FGC: Can This Quaker Gathering Be Saved?

Alex Jones To Face Another Jury, In Connecticut

AP News: Trial set to begin for Alex Jones in Sandy Hook hoax case

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A month after losing one nearly $50 million verdict, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is set to go on trial a second time for calling the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a hoax and causing several of the victims families emotional and psychological harm.

A sixmember jury with several alternates in Connecticut will begin hearing evidence Tuesday on how much Jones should pay the families, since he already has been found liable for damages to them. The trial is expected to last about four weeks.

Alex Jones

Last month, a Texas jury ordered Jones to pay $49.3 million to the parents of 6yearold Jesse Lewis, one of 26 students and teachers killed in the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Jones lawyer has said an appeal is planned.

The Connecticut case has the potential for a larger award because it involves three lawsuits — which have been consolidated — that were filed by 15 plaintiffs, including the relatives of eight of the victims and a former FBI agent who responded to the school shooting.

Jones, who runs his web show and Infowars brand in Austin, Texas, also faces a third trial over the hoax conspiracy in another pending lawsuit by Sandy Hook parents in Texas.

Here is a look at the upcoming trial in Waterbury, Connecticut, about 18 miles (29 kilometers) northeast of Newtown. Infowars parent company, Free Speech Systems, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, is also a defendant.

WHY ARE THE SANDY HOOK FAMILIES SUING JONES?

The families and former FBI agent William Aldenberg say they have been confronted and harassed in person by Jones followers because of the hoax conspiracy. They also say they have endured death threats and been subjected to abusive comments on social media.

Some of the plaintiffs say strangers have videotaped them and their surviving children. And some families have moved out of Newtown to avoid threats and harassment.

“I can’t even describe the last nine and a half years, the living hell that I and others have had to endure because of the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones,” Neil Heslin, Jesse Lewis father, testified during the Texas trial.

The Connecticut lawsuit alleges defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the state Unfair Trade Practices Act. The families claim when Jones talked about Sandy Hook, he boosted his audience and raked in more profits from selling supplements, clothing and other items.

The families have not asked for any specific amount of damages, some of which may be limited by state laws. There are no damage limits, however, under the Unfair Trade Practices Act.

In all the Connecticut and Texas cases, Jones and his lawyers repeatedly failed to turn over records as required to the families attorneys. In response, judges handed down one of the harshest sanctions in the civil legal world — they found Jones liable for damages by default without trials.

WHAT DOES ALEX JONES SAY?

In a reversal from what he said on his show for years following the shooting, Jones now says he believes the massacre was real. But he continues to say his comments about the shooting being a hoax involving crisis actors to encourage gun control efforts were protected by free speech rights.

During a deposition in the case in April, a defiant Jones insisted he wasnt responsible for the suffering that Sandy Hook parents say they have endured because of his words.

He also has said the judges default rulings against him — finding him liable without trials — were unfair and suggested they were part of a conspiracy to put him out of business and silence him.

“If questioning public events and free speech is banned because it might hurt somebody’s feelings, we are not in America anymore, he said at the deposition. They can change the channel. They can come out and say I’m wrong. They have free speech.”

At the Texas trial, however, Jones testified that he now realizes what he said was irresponsible, did hurt peoples feelings and he apologized.

WHAT IS EXPECTED AT THE TRIAL?

Judge Barbara Bellis, who found Jones liable for damages, will oversee the trial. She is the same judge who oversaw Sandy Hook families lawsuit against gun maker Remington, which made the Bushmaster rifle used in the school shooting. In February, Remington agreed to settle the lawsuit for $73 million.

The trial is expected to be similar to the one in Texas, with victims relatives testifying about the pain and anguish the hoax conspiracy caused them and medical professionals answering questions about the relatives mental health and diagnoses.

Jones also will be testifying, said his lawyer, Norman Pattis.

“He is looking forward to putting this trial behind him; it has been a long and costly distraction,” Pattis wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Evidence about Jones finances is also expected to be presented to the jury.

Jones testified at the Texas trial that any award over $2 million would “sink us,” and he urged his web show viewers to buy his merchandise to help keep him on air and fight the lawsuits.

But an economist testified that Jones and his company were worth up to $270 million. Jones faces another lawsuit in Texas over accusations that he hid millions of dollars in assets after families of Sandy Hook victims began taking him to court.

 

Paul Krugman on Ukraine vs MAGA Machismo

[NOTE: Modern war, like politics, makes strange bedfellows.  The  Ukraine war shows this in the case of economics columnist Paul Krugman. He’s a wonk, not a warrior, but his career has some intriguing parallels to that of Army General Mark Milley, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

No wait — consider: they both served early on at Princeton & MIT.  Of course, later their paths diverged a bit: while Krugman wonked out publishing 27 books, Milley was accumulating about as many ribbons & medals. Milley wound up earning four stars; Krugman settled for a Nobel Prize.

But comes the Ukraine invasion, and their paths converged, sort of: while the Ukrainians’ courage and fighting skill properly get most of the attention, their battlefield prowess rests on a vast flow of imported weapons, and all those guns and drones and shells cost money. Further, we are told that soon winter will bring  a full-on continental energy crisis to Europe, where the most crucial battle, to include tens of  millions of civilians, will be to keep warm.  And capturing  this warmth too will be, above all, about money.

Krugman doesn’t know much about drones or AR-15s. But he knows about money. The dominant idea about money among Russian authorities from Putin on down (and their U. S. MAGA cheerleaders) seems to focus on stealing it. Ukrainian officials are no angels, but  their army leans more on using it to get the tools for winning battles. Combine that with guts and brains, and they have survived a brutal invasion and are currently on a roll.

Krugman explores this conjuncture here, from his ivory tower redoubt. I expect general Milley gets more vivid briefings; but even economists — well, they also serve who mainly crunch the numbers.]

PAUL KRUGMAN — Sept. 12, 2022

Ukraine Deflates MAGA Macho Myths

Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

On Aug. 29 Tucker Carlson of Fox News attacked President Biden’s policy on Ukraine, asserting among other things: “By any actual reality-based measure, Vladimir Putin is not losing the war in Ukraine. He is winning the war in Ukraine.” Carlson went on, by the way, to assert that Biden is supporting Ukraine only because he wants to destroy the West.

Carlson’s timing was impeccable. Just a few days later, a large section of the Russian front near Kharkiv was overrun by a Ukrainian attack. It’s important to note that Putin’s forces weren’t just pushed back; they appear to have been routed. As the independent Institute for the Study of War reported, the Russians were driven into a “panicked and disorderly retreat,” leaving behind “large amounts of equipment and supplies that Ukrainian forces can use.”

The Russian collapse seemed to validate analyses by defense experts who have been saying for months that Western weapons have been shifting the military balance in Ukraine’s favor, that Putin’s army is desperately short on quality manpower and that it has been degraded by attrition and missile attacks on its rear areas. These analyses suggested that Russian forces might eventually reach a breaking point, although few expected that point to come so soon and so dramatically.

Continue reading Paul Krugman on Ukraine vs MAGA Machismo