Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Truest statement of the week

So it was shocking -- in a good way, for once --  to hear these words from Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, as he vetoed a bill that would have banned puberty blockers and hormones and gender-affirming surgeries for trans and nonbinary minors in Ohio and blocked transgender girls and women from participating in sports as their chosen gender:

“Were House Bill 68 to become law, Ohio would be saying that the state, that the government, knows better what is medically best for a child than the two people who love that child the most -- the parents,” DeWine said in prepared remarks. “Parents are making decisions about the most precious thing in their life, their child, and none of us, none of us, should underestimate the gravity and the difficulty of those decisions.”

DeWine, by situating his opposition to the bill on the chosen battlefield of far-right activists -- parents’ rights -- was tapping into an idiom that is at once deeply familiar to me and yet has almost entirely disappeared from our national political discourse: that of a mainstream, Midwestern Republican. It is a voice I know well because it is one I heard all my life from my Midwestern Republican grandparents.

--  Lydia Polgreen, "A Midwestern Republican Stands Up for Trans Rights" (NEW YORK TIMES).




Truest statement of the week II

It is no mere coincidence that state legislatures, in addition to banning reproductive healthcare, are banning gender-affirming transition procedures for trans people, working to revoke the legal status of marriage equality for same-sex couples, banning classroom discussions of race, gender, and sexuality in the public schools and libraries, and criminalizing drag story hour for children. In addition, many Republican-dominated state governments are limiting access to the ballot box for marginalized populations to ensure continued Republican control of power.

Historian Amanda Tyler defines Christian nationalism as “a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s promise of religious freedom.” Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a “Christian nation,” singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purpose on earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.

Anthea Butler distinguishes, more specifically, the definition of white Christian nationalism: “Simply put, it is the belief that America’s founding is based on Christian principles, white protestant Christianity is the operational religion of the land, and that Christianity should be the foundation of how the nation develops its laws, principles and policies.”

Though I rarely offer comparisons between the German Third Reich’s ascension to power and the contemporary United States – since to do so could trivialize one of the most horrific episodes in human history – I am nonetheless haunted by certain parallels that demand voicing.

I am troubled by multiple similarities between that time not so very long ago and the events transpiring today. I highlight in particular the parallels in Nazi portrayals and understandings of sex, sexuality, and gender with white Christian nationalism’s divisive and brutal agenda that is anti-feminist, anti-reproductive freedom, anti-lesbian, anti-gay, anti-bisexual, anti-transgender, anti-gender nonconforming, and anti-sexuality education in schools.

A note to our readers

Hey --

Late Sunday.

Let's thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with? 

Starting the year out with some new truests people.


For Gaza coverage, we swiped from C.I.

Ava and C.I. wrote this New Year's Eve with the expectation that we'd have an edition ready.  We did not.

Responding to e-mails.

Short feature.

Dona loves it when we do short features.

Paul Rudnick.

Notable deaths.

What we read in 2023.

Links to the year in review pieces.  We did consider reposting them in full.

What we listened to while working on the edition.



-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Gaza -- the slaughter continues

 Repost from THE COMMON ILLS:

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, January 2, 2024.  The assault on Gaza continues, Joe Biden continues to search for a spine, and much more.

The government of Israel is pulling a small number of troops from Gaza and some outlets are trying to distort this into some sort of end of war or move towards a cease-fire.  It is nothing of the sort.  They're being pulled so that the Israeli government can attack other areas.  CNN's Amir Tal and Charbel Mallo note that the Israeli military is also now attacking Lebanon and Syria. NBC NEWS adds, "Israel says it will withdraw five military brigades, including many reservists, from the Gaza Strip this week in an effort to pace itself for an expected long-term conflict and to mitigate damage to its economy."

Gaza remains under assault.  Yousef Aljamal (ZNET) notes:

The number of Palestinians killed by Israel since October 7 is more than 20,000 according to the Gaza Health Ministry, although no one can give an exact number under these circumstances. As I write, in early December, Israel has just bombed a residential bloc in the crowded Shuja’iyya district in Gaza City, destroying 50 more houses on top of their residents. The amount of destruction brought upon the people of Gaza, unseen since 1948, suggests one thing: Israel’s clear intention to depopulate Gaza, a plan that Tel Aviv tried to implement in the past but has never succeeded at.

While grieving the dead, Gazans are also mourning the loss of familiar landscapes as major landmarks in Gaza City turn to rubble. Israel seems intent on eradicating not just Gaza’s future, but its past. Churches, universities, cultural sites and the city’s main archive, which housed more than 100 years of historical records, have been destroyed in airstrikes. In early December 2023, Israel bombed the Great Omari Mosque, the largest mosque in the city and the site of thousands of years of history spanning multiple faiths. On that site is believed to have stood the temple of Dagon central to the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, which later became a Byzantine church to the patron god of Gaza, Marnas, which Rome then destroyed to build a Christian church, whose ruins were used to build the mosque.

But Gaza’s people, known for their love for spices and chiles (brought to the Arabian Peninsula through Gaza’s old seaport), have always been stubborn. The coastal enclave has been conquered and destroyed numerous times in the past 3,500 years; the city’s symbol is the phoenix, rising from the ashes. Alexander the Great lost three battles before conquering Gaza; the Allied Forces during World War I, more than two millennia later, lost two.

Gaza was the last Palestinian city to convert to Christianity, around the year 400. After the Islamic conquest of Palestine, in 636, a strong Christian minority remained (although it has dwindled to 1,000 people in recent years, as young Christians fled the occupation).

In 1948, the Greater Gaza district included 45 villages, mostly agricultural communities. All of these villages were ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias seizing the land. The Palestinians from these villages ended up as refugees in what became the Gaza Strip, a tiny territory that makes up 1.3% of historic Palestine. Between May and October 1948, the population of Gaza tripled, from 100,000 to 300,000.

Today, the population is 70% refugees. Since 2007, Gazans have been living under a tight Israeli land, air and sea blockade, suffocating their potential and their ability to lead a normal life. The unemployment among young people has risen to 70%. Hundreds of Palestinians have died waiting for Israel to issue permits for access to medical care. In 2007, my sister, 26 at the time, needed a minor surgery, but her application to leave Gaza was denied for a week; when she was finally able to have the surgery, she was unable to handle it, and she lost her life.

Gaza remains under assault.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is now well over  20,000. NBC NEWS notes, "The vast majority of its 2.2 million people are displaced, and an estimated half face starvation amid an unfolding humanitarian crisis."  ABC NEWS notes, "In the Gaza Strip, at least 20,915 people have been killed and more than 54,900 others have been wounded by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry and the Government Media Office."  Actually, that figure has already been updated.  ALJAZEERA notes, "The Palestinian death toll in Gaza rose to 21,978."  That's an increase of nearly one thousand since Friday.  What is the magic number, by the way, the death toll that moves Joe Biden to action?  Friday, THE GUARDIAN notes, "The ministry reported that 55,243 people had been wounded. It said 195 people were killed and 325 injured in the last 24 hours."  In addition to the dead and the injured, there are the missing.  AP notes, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."  Max Butterworth (NBC NEWS) adds, "Satellite images captured by Maxar Technologies on Sunday reveal three of the main hospitals in Gaza from above, surrounded by the rubble of destroyed buildings after weeks of intense bombing in the region by Israeli forces."

In Palestine the turn of the year was marked by continuing horror. In the final days of 2023 Israel only accelerated its plan to massacre and displace as many Palestinians as possible.

The terror state continued to flatten whole neighbourhoods in Gaza with its bombs. And it targeted those left homeless with a bloody ground assault. The Red Cross wrote last week that Israel’s war has now forced 1.9 million people out of their homes.

Most are now internally displaced within Gaza and have been forced to shelter in makeshift tents that do little to keep out the rain or the cold. Ibitsam, who lives in Deir el-Balah, in central Gaza, told Socialist Worker, “People have nowhere but streets. Hundreds and maybe thousands are homeless in Gaza as people’s houses and shelters are full. Gazans don’t only die from rockets but also from cold, dirt, diseases and hunger.”

Zahrat, who lives near Nablus, in the West Bank, told Socialist Worker that watching from close by is “terrifying and heartbreaking.”

“The bombing is now intensifying to increase the death toll, and homes are being demolished over the heads of their owners without warning. And the Israelis are killing journalists to prevent the truth from reaching the world. This is a war of deliberate killing and extermination of civilians.

“The remaining population lives in fear, without food, without shelter, without electricity, and in the open in this cold weather. I don’t understand how the world could have celebrated Christmas and New Year. While the children of the world received gifts, the children of Palestine were under bombardment.

“Save what is left of Gaza by pressuring your governments across the world to stop this war.”

Palestinians are still trying to count the dead after Israel bombed the Maghazi refugee camp, in central Gaza, on Christmas Eve. After the attack, Israeli said it “regretted” how many civilians had been killed because its soldiers “accidentally” used the wrong kind of bombs.

An Israeli Defence Forces spokesperson said that “the type of munition did not match the nature of the attack, causing extensive collateral damage that could have been avoided.”

The Maghazi camp was one of the areas Israel had instructed Palestinians to evacuate to and which it had labelled “safe”. The official death toll following the attack currently stands just under 100, but residents of the camp say that figure is likely to rise.

Ahmed Maghari, a resident of Maghazi, said, “We pulled out so many body parts that we can’t even estimate the total number of deaths yet. In each home, there’s a minimum of 50 people.

“A lot of them are displaced Palestinians from other parts of Gaza who were forced to flee their homes. They’re all in pieces, and we’re pulling them out with our bare hands,” he added.

“We’ve now gathered at least two piles of body parts.”

If the scale of death at Maghazi was unintentional, as Israel suggests, that must mean the numbers of dead after every other massacre it commits are intentional.

Delegates at the United Nations (UN) last month finally passed a resolution on the war on Gaza. But rather than calling for an immediate ceasefire, as millions of people across the world are demanding, it instead is just a promise for more aid.

Western powers have repeatedly blocked calls for a break in Israel’s bombardment. They ensured only language acceptable to Israel was contained in the final motion.

The resolution now says the UN will “facilitate and enable the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale.” Farcically, the West prevented the UN from calling for an end to Israel’s targeting of its own agencies in Gaza.

The UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees was hit by Israeli troops last week. “Israeli soldiers fired at an aid convoy as it returned from northern Gaza along a route designated by the Israeli army,” Thomas White, director of the agency in the Gaza Strip, said in a statement. “Our international convoy leader and his team were not injured but one vehicle sustained damage,” he added.

In total, 180 UN facilities have been targeted by Israel, including schools and medical facilities. Even if the UN were to take a tougher line, Israel would likely ignore it. Since 1968 it has broken over 30 UN resolutions.

Meanwhile, Chris Marsden (WSWS) critiques some efforts in the UK:

Millions of workers and young people have protested in the UK and internationally, outraged by the slaughter carried out by Israel in Gaza with the explicit aim of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians. Their anger is directed not only against Netanyahu’s fascist government, but their backers in Britain’s parliament and paymasters in the United States.

But Britain’s Stop the War Coalition (STWC) and its political leader Jeremy Corbyn have sought to limit all protests to placing pressure on the Conservative government, and its de facto allies in the Labour Party, to shift from their naked support for Israel and instead demand a ceasefire.

Week after week, the Israeli war machine grinds on and the mountain of Palestinian corpses grows while governments have either made their appeals for “pauses” or ceasefires in the United Nations, or abstained like the UK—all knowing that the US-Israel axis will ensure the genocide continues unabated.

In the mouths of everyone from President Macron in France to the despotic rulers of various Arab regimes, calls for a ceasefire are a transparent cover for their active collusion with Israel in its efforts to ethnically cleanse Gaza, to be followed by the West Bank and Israel itself. Yet the more bankrupt this perspective has proved, the more Stop the War insists that success will come by just getting more people onto the streets.

December 9 saw the seventh national march demanding a ceasefire since October 7 and the last scheduled to take place until January 13 next year. The lead-up to that march saw the campaign for Britain to demand a ceasefire go down to a catastrophic defeat. On November 15, the first UK vote of any kind was held on Israel’s genocidal assault, on a Scottish National Party’s (SNP) ceasefire amendment to the King’s Speech.

In the weeks before this vote, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer became a hate figure for millions because of his justification of war crimes by citing Israel’s “right to self defence”. Facing a backlash, more than two dozen Labour councillors quit, while thousands wrote condemning the party’s position and demonstrations took place outside MP’s constituency offices.

On November 11, 800,000 marched in London demanding a ceasefire in the biggest protest in the UK since the 2003 march against the Iraq War. Despite this, and after five weeks of mass murder, Starmer did not budge an inch—just four days later whipping his MPs to oppose the ceasefire amendment. The SNP’s motion met with a resounding No, with 293 against and just 125 in favour. A large portion of the Tory Party’s 350 MPs were not even required to cast a vote to ensure its defeat.

Close to three quarters (142) of Labour MPs followed Starmer’s order to abstain. Only 56 voted for a ceasefire. As the WSWS wrote, “Not one of the Labour MPs who broke with Starmer’s orders in this vote has any intention of breaking with the Labour Party or waging any fight against its pro-genocide majority. Few were thinking about saving anything other than their chances of re-election.”

In the vote’s aftermath, eight members of Labour’s frontbench resigned or were sacked and the party machine rumbled on. Most who did resign professed their continued loyalty to Starmer, with Labour Friends of Israel member Jess Phillips’s “Dear Keir” resignation letter noting her “heavy heart”, pride in “your Labour Party” and pledge to “do everything I can to deliver a Labour government…” Most of these scoundrels will be back on board in due course.

More revolting still was the refusal of a single nominally “left” MP to break from the party, after weeks of near blanket refusal to even criticise Starmer by name for his criminal collusion with genocide.

In the US, Joe Biden remains committed to the slaughter as it continues to destroy his chances of re-election.  He stands on the world stage exposed as a scared and elderly man not fit to lead a nation as evidenced by his refusal to show true leadership and demand an immediate cease-fire.  Instead of demanding what is required, he continues to back the slaughter and supply weapons.  Jordan Shilton (WSWS) notes, "The far-right government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can only proceed with such aggression because it knows it enjoys the unconditional support of US imperialism and its European allies. In the latest example of this fact, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken declared an emergency situation to bypass the requirement to obtain congressional approval for the sale of M107 155mm shells worth close to $150 million to Israel. The shells are typically fired from howitzer guns and will enable the IDF to continue its indiscriminate bombardments of densely populated areas."

March 31, 1968, then-President LBJ declared, "Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President."  If Joe can't find his spine, it's time for him to start crafting his speech announcing he will not seek re-election because he's destroying the party currently.  Young people are not motivated to vote for him, they are horrified by his actions.  Muslim Americans who had to live through the witch hunts following 9/11 are not on board with a second term of Joe Biden.  He should not be allowed to drag the entire political party down with him.

The only way he can be re-elected currently is for the media to fall in line and lie for him.  That's what the silencing is about.



Janine Jackson: Depending on when you hear this, the Rutgers/New Brunswick chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine might be the most recent campus group to be suspended for what administrators called “disruptive and disorderly conduct,” and “failure to comply with university or civil authority.”

 SJP is a student-activist network of campus groups in support of Palestinian lives and liberation, and naturally very active now in the midst of Israeli military attacks on Gaza that, as we record, have killed some 20,000 Palestinians minimally, injuring and displacing orders of magnitude more.

Calls for a ceasefire, at least, are growing in this country and around the world, but that’s in the face of ever-more aggressive, top-down efforts to shut those calls, and the people making them, down. If we are to resist what many are calling a new McCarthyism, we need to inform ourselves of what and where the concerns are, and to stay in conversation with one another.

Here to help us with both of those is Wadie Said, professor of law and dean’s faculty fellow at the University of Colorado Law School, and author of the book Crimes of Terror, out from Oxford University Press. He joins us now by phone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Wadie Said.

Wadie Said: Thank you for having me.

JJ: Listeners will have heard the unsettling reports—more, it seems, each day—of not only student groups being shut down on campus, but powerful people calling for publishing lists of the names of any students who even sign a petition, so that they can be denied future jobs.

We’ve seen editors and journalists and other workers fired, forced out or reprimanded for indicating in any way that they oppose, not even the state of Israel, but the killing and harming and displacing of thousands and thousands of people. Poetry and art events canceled, just for suggesting support for Palestinians, and many of it coming with this kind of fig leaf of: This targeting—which to be clear, we do hope ruins your life—it isn’t just because you don’t support Israel in all of its actions, but because, by our reckoning, you insufficiently oppose Hamas and what it does.

It is lost on few people who are paying attention that we are living in a very disturbing moment for an aspiring democracy, and it’s within this context that we see the piece that you recently co-authored with Anthony O’Rourke for Dissent, in which you warn that this is potentially moving beyond private institutions like universities or Wall Street companies using their power to sanction or to intimidate—not that that doesn’t mean real, material harm—but moving to federal law enforcement facing pressure to employ a particular federal statute that kicks a number of other things into play.

And you note that this tool wasn’t even at the hands of the FBI during the COINTEL Program, which some of us will remember from the 1960s. So there are levels of troubling things happening here, but let’s get started with: What is the statute that you’re talking about, and why are you concerned that it could come into play right now?

WS: The ban on providing material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations, with the law that was passed by Congress as part of a larger omnibus bill that purported to reform both—and, I use “reform” in the most euphemistic sense of the word, it was actually a kind of crackdown on immigration to this country, and also on habeas corpus rights for federal and state prisoners, where the avenues for relief were significantly narrowed.

And within the confines of this larger bill, there was an element that purported to take on the problem of terrorism. And this was in 1996 that the law was actually passed. So it predates the September 11 attacks by over five years. And the way the law works, is it gives the secretary of state the authority to designate organizations, provided that they’re one, foreign; two, engage in terrorist activity; and three, that terrorist activity hurts American national security, or other foreign interests or economic interests of the United States.

And this is a finding that’s completely within the province of the secretary of state. So this isn’t something that you or I or anyone else can challenge in a court. In fact, the only way to challenge a group being designated as a foreign terrorist organization is if someone were to argue, well, you got the wrong group, or you got the name wrong, or something like that. Just on purely administrative basis. There’s no substantive basis to challenge this.

And once the group is designated as an FTO, or foreign terrorist organization, individuals, wherever they are, are prohibited from providing what is called material support. And when the law was passed in 1996, the idea was that there was a problem in the United States that Congress was cracking down on, terrorist organizations raising money via humanitarian or charitable activity.

And the idea was that Congress made a finding in passing this law that money is fungible, and so money for legitimate charitable activity—the government never challenged that the activity in question was charitable activity. They just said that if a terrorist group is raising money for charity, that frees up money for buying weapons and conducting violent activity. And it can be banned as such. It can be criminalized as such.

The interesting thing here of—well, there are many interesting things, but some of the interesting things here are, for example, one, this bill created a list of foreign terrorist organizations, but it was passed in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, which was a decidedly domestic act. And there’s no corresponding list of domestic terrorist organizations.

Two, this purported problem of terrorist organizations raising money in the United States under the cover of humanitarian activity, I personally have never seen, and I’ve been following this law since it was passed, and litigating it and studying it for over 20 years. And I do have to say I have never seen evidence that this was a really pressing problem, that the United States was somehow a way station for terrorist organizations to raise money under cover of charitable activity. So there’s that issue as well.

And then, the final issue is that the concept of material support, money and weapons and things like this, tangible items that contribute to an organization’s illegal ends or illegal goal, that has expanded to include things like free speech. So in 2010, the Supreme Court, in a case called Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, decided that “material support” in the form of speech could be criminalized.

So the group of the day is Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement; if I wanted to say, “Hey, you need to work according to international law and be less violent and use peaceful means to pursue your goals and get away from violence,” I could be prosecuted for providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, provided that that support is done in coordination with, or under the direction of, the foreign terrorist organization.

The key stop that the Supreme Court put in place, because they realized that this was going after what was otherwise protected free speech, the key stop or safety valve provision that they put in, well, they said, provided the speech that is being criminalized with material support has to be “in conjunction with,” or “at the behest of,” a terrorist organization. Independent advocacy is not covered.

So that’s why when we see, for example, the Brandeis Center (which is not affiliated with Brandeis University, as my co-author Tony O’Rourke has pointed out several times), and the ADL, when they make the call for students, pro-Palestinian activist students, to be investigated under this law, it’s disingenuous for numerous reasons, but primarily because there is no evidence, as far as I know of, that these students are acting in coordination with or at the behest of Hamas, for example.

So this is a kind of an interesting gray area, where the call to investigate and the concept of material support, it’s broad enough that perhaps the FBI or other federal agencies could investigate. It may not lead to criminal charges, but the fact of an investigation is enough of an impediment and enough of a chill to be alarming to those of us who believe that free speech rights should be much better protected.

JJ: Absolutely. And I think the word “chill” is of course important here. There was, listeners may know, a Senate resolution that condemned anti-Israel, pro-Hamas student groups. And that language—you don’t have to be a historian or a regional expert to understand that “anti-Israel,” “pro-Hamas,” is very inexact language, and intentionally broad and leading. And you can hear the echoes of it. If you were someone who condemned the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, there were people online who called you pro–Al Qaeda or whatever, but it didn’t necessarily, although it did in some cases, come with this law enforcement, federal definition that that speech was in fact in support of a foreign terrorist operation.

So I think what we’re trying to say, or what I’m trying to say, is there’s a whole lot of discretion involved here by federal law enforcement: who they choose to identify as a threat, what they call material support, who they use it against, who gets to bring the cases. These are kind of the questions that you’re bringing up in that piece, that it’s not like, this is a law and it’s just being applied. This is a law with a whole lot of discretion being very particularly or potentially particularly applied.

WS: Of course. And I think one of the things that I identified, again, many years ago, when I was a federal public defender and working on a case involving material support charges, and I’ve talked about this quite a bit in terms of my writing, but I initially saw it in the context of a terrorism prosecution, where you see how the material support law has what I call a double selectivity problem.

The first is, “Who gets on the list?” So it’s not every group that engages in—not every non-state group, it has to be said; these are all non-state actors, with the one exception of the Iranian, it’s kind of confusing, the Iranian Republican Guard, but they call themselves the Islamic Republican Guard, that’s part of the Iranian government. So that’s the one exception to the whole apparatus that targets non-state groups, with the one exception of this Iranian group, but basically targets these non-state groups.

So there’s a question of who gets on the list, OK, which is 100% within the discretion of the secretary of state. It’s not something that you or I can say anything about or influence.

And then there’s a question of, even if a group gets on the list, it doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone’s going to be prosecuted for providing material support to any particular FTO, because, like you mentioned, this is all discretionary. Prosecutors have basically unreviewable discretion to bring these type of cases, provided they’re free of overt bias, which is almost impossible to prove.

Silencing also includes burying reality about Israelis reacting against the slaughter.  Which is why 60 MINUTES avoids Tal Mitnick and it's left to Omri Wolfe (WSWS) to report:

Tal Mitnick, an 18-year-old conscript to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), refused to serve and was sentenced to a 30-day prison term. Mitnick is one of hundreds of Israeli teenagers who have refused military enlistment this year to protest the Palestinian occupation. His refusal became a lightning rod in Israeli politics because of his sentence and the sharply worded political statement he published on social media, tearing down the arguments of the defenders of genocide.

Fortress Israel always requires an endless stream of fresh recruits, guaranteed through Israel’s conscription laws, which mandate military service for both men and women, including reserve duty until age 40 or beyond. 

Israel is a garrison state. Its navy strictly controls the shared coastline with the Gaza Strip; pilots crisscross the skies to carpet bomb the Palestinians or evade air defenses en route to Iran; drone pilots operate the densest reconnaissance network in the world; intelligence agents capture and process millions of signals a day; spies conduct assassinations abroad; and engineers maintain a massive nuclear arsenal, the Iron Dome missile shield, and sophisticated cyber operations. The West Bank is crowded with young foot soldiers guarding illegal settlements, patrolling endless checkpoints, and meting out military justice against an occupied population.

Military service functions as a pipeline to private industry, and placement in competitive military units is a prerequisite to specialized careers. The question, “In what unit did you serve?” is the Israeli equivalent of “How’s the weather?” and a non-answer may invite condemnation.

Mitnick’s decision to refuse would therefore be a courageous act of defiance at any time. Amid the xenophobic anti-Palestinian hysteria whipped up to justify genocide in Gaza, it assumes even greater significance. Despite widespread enlistment exemptions granted for religious, health, and increasingly mental health reasons, the Zionist state views Mitnick’s refusal under conscientious objector status as treasonous and, consequently, is making an example of him. 

While first-time refusal often carries a sentence of 7-10 days, Mitnick has been sentenced to thirty days’ imprisonment, after which he will again be called up, again refuse, and face further punishments to act as a deterrent to others contemplating similar protests against the war crimes of the Israeli state.

Mitnick published a statement on Twitter/X, stating, “Violence cannot solve the situation, neither by Hamas, nor by Israel. There is no military solution to a political problem.” He lays out the political problem in clear and powerful language: “Before the war, the army guarded the settlements, maintained the murderous siege on the Gaza Strip, and upheld the status quo of apartheid and Jewish supremacy in the land between the Jordan [river] and the [Mediterranean] Sea.”

2023 end of the year pieces:  Rebecca's "sexiest men of 2023,"   "2023 in film (Ann and Stan)" and Stan's "2023 in film (Ann and Stan)," Mike's "Idiot of 2023,"  Ruth's "Ruth's Streaming Report." Martha & Shirley's "2023 in books (Martha & Shirley)." Kat's "2023 in music"  and our "2023: The Year of Touch Grass."

The following sites updated: 

  • Media: The Talking Pig From Dallas

    Miss Piggy made talking pigs looked so cute.  Then again, she was a puppet.  Allie Stuckey?  What's an Allie Stuckey? Imagine Miss Piggy without the charm, without the feminine wiles, without the brains and without the humor. without the talent but with the smell of corn chips and piss cloaking her and you've got Allie Stuckey.


    Last week, like most Americans, we learned of Allie's existence.  Prior to THE MAJORITY REPORT WITH SAM SEDER, Allie Stuckey had been confined to her sty. 

    Every child deserves a mother and a father, Allie oinks.  But before you think she's trying to help children get adopted or bemoaning the reality of children whose parents pass away when they're young, grasp that she's just an ugly bigot.  Well . . . ugly and stupid.

    Sam and the crew dissect some of her stupidity.  Stream the video for that.  


    Portly Pig Allie Stuckey rages about the Supreme Court decision OBERGEFELL V HODGES because if other people have rights, she's not pleased with what she has.  


    "Only God," piggie snorts can define marriage.  Whose God?  The Hindu God?  The Muslim God?  The Christian God?  The Hebrew God?  There are a lot of gods worshiped in the US.  


    She can't live and let live because she's too pig headed, too ugly and too anti-democracy.  Maybe it is time to kick people out of the United States -- you know, the ones who don't actually believe and practice democracy.  

    If you don't support basic freedoms, then you really don't belong in this country.  Let's kick Allie out and let her resettle in Afghanistan where they also believe that a god trumps democratic rights.  

    She keeps invoking THE BIBLE and God and it's mainly to remind you of just how stupid she is.

    Marriage, she insists, citing her God and BIBLE, is between a man and a woman.  She specifically cites Genesis, for example.  Okay.  What about Genesis 26:34 and 28: 6 -9?  Does she want to explain how Esau fits with her 'knowledge'?  Or maybe she wants to flip over to Genesis 29:15 - 28?  That would bring her to the Biblical figure of Jacob.  What do Esau and Jacob have in common?  The same thing that they have in common with Elkanab, David, Samuel and Solomon -- among other Biblical figures.  Not one of them is in a relationship with one man and one woman -- no, all those men have multiple wives and it's in THE BIBLE so, according to the 'logic' of the Talking Pig, it must be what God wants and what God has ordered.

    Carrollton trash -- we understand she was a big 'party' gal but that just might be a mean rumor -- born in Dallas and inflicting her garbage education on the rest of us.

    She's one of those people Maria McKee sang about in "Why Wasn't I More Grateful?"

    Some people want and want and want what they don't have 
    'Til it keeps ‘em awake at night in their bed just twitchin'
    Some people like to complain about ev'ry little thing
    Some folks just never stop bitchin'

    Why wasn't she more grateful?  Because she couldn't stop bitching.  Among the 'causes' she's taken up in the last seven days?  Protesting a calendar geared to dads -- featuring attractive women -- fully clothed.  Yes, that's how pathetic she is and how empty her life is.

    This is not an activist.  This is a busybody.  A meddler.  Someone whose own life is so pathetic and empty that she can only find satisfaction in attempting to destroy others.

    On BEWITCHED, her name was Gladys Kravitz.  On LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE, she was called Harriet Oleson.   On ROSEANN, it was Kathy Bowman. 

    Worthless people who have nothing better to do than be a busybody.  

    Allie Beth, believe there's this thing called The Golden Rule.  Why don't you look into it sometime -- and why don't you learn THE BIBLE that you pretend to know.

    As Whitney Houston rightly told MTV all those years ago, "We're all God's children."  Maybe find some meaning in your currently pathetic life and stop picking on others.  Otherwise why don't you just go wee-wee-wee all the way home and then stay there.



    Jobi e-mailed, "Just want to say, especially after Christmas edition, too much is pushed off on Ava and C.I."

    We agree.  We didn't intend for it to got that way.  If you missed it, the last edition was Ava and C.I. and Stan, Ann, Rebecca and Trina joined in to help out.  We -- Dona, Jess, Jim and Ty -- planned to help.  Or intended to.  The problem was no one planned.  Ava and C.I. did what they usually do.  They started their piece on the media (that they do every week) early in the morning on Sunday and were done with it in about four hours.  (Researching on BILLBOARD and counting added to the time they spent.)  Then they said goodbye to one another (Ava's home is next to C.I.'s) and Ava went straight to sleep while C.I. got some posts for THE COMMON ILLS in the queue and then went to sleep.  They thought we'd be calling later that day.  We didn't.  (And Jess didn't care to.  Jess lives with Ava and their child.)  By Sunday night, Ava and C.I. thought, "Well, they're going to say something Christmas Day."  By Christmas Day Night, they feared we were going to propose working Tuesday night to which they say, "Oh, hell no."  So they started working on trying to do a quick edition.  We just spend too much time with family and friends enjoying the holiday and they got stuck with the edition.  We'll plan better next time.

    Still on last week's edition, Rhonda notes all the music listened to while working on the last edition was Diana Ross.  

    Yes, Ava and C.I. usually listen to Diana when working on their media piece each week.  That's why Diana always has at least one spot.  All Diana?  That tends to happen -- check the archive -- when Ava and C.I. steer an edition.

    Bradley e-mailed, "Where are the book discussions?"  

    We're not sure yet if we'll be doing those in 2024.  How it works is that a community member posts a review at their site and then Ava and C.I. speak with them for the book discussion here.  How it also works is that community members vote on the books of the year for Martha and Shirley's yearly summary.  Once ballots are out -- for the book you liked most in the year -- we stop reviewing.  

    Which brings up the next question.  Colin e-mailed that he was glad Ava and C.I. noted Ryan Grim's book in "Media: The shell game continues."  "But where was the review of it?"

    It ran in the Saturday before of POLLY'S BREW -- a community newsletter.  That was the last day for book reviews in the community because the ballots went out the next day.  Many book reviews appear in the community newsletters.  And Ava and C.I. write for everyone of the newsletter's (the gina & krista round-robin, POLLY'S BREW, HILDA'S MIX and LA PAZ) each week.  So there are topics they address there and they're also on a book review rotation for each one of those newsletters.  

    Teadore writes, "Can you please up your music content?  Even if you're just reposting Kat's music reviews every time, I'd appreciate it."

    We would too.  We've got a music feature planned for next edition.  We'll see if we can do one music feature each month in 2024.

    What's the weirdest thing to you about the transdebate?

    Ty, Ava and C.I. have noted how strange it is that 'concerned' people keep whining about trans women competing with women but that no one seems 'concerned' about trans men competing with men -- in football, in boxing, in whatever.  

    Best e-mail address is common_ills@yahoo.com.



    Did you see this:  "A McDonald's outlet in Columbus, Ohio was allegedly closed down after a crack pipe was found in a customer's order."

    What is that?  McDonald's new happy meal!!!!

    WTF in journalism?

    The headline to Edward Segarra's USA TODAY report?  "Bobbie Jean Carter found 'unresponsive' in bathroom after death, police reveal."  Wouldn't most of us be found "unresponsive" if we were found "after death"?

    Tweet of the week


    2023 passings




    These are the deaths community members found worth noting this year.


    Lisa Presley -- Elaine noted her passing.

    Christine McVie -- Kat covered her passing.


    Adam Rich -- Marcia noted his passing.


    Jeff Beck -- Kat noted his passing.


    Lance Kerwin -- Rebecca noted his passing.

    Barrett Strong -- Ruth noted his passing.


    Lisa Loring -- Rebecca noted her passing.


    Burt Bacharach -- Rebecca noted his passing.


    Raquel Welch -- Elaine noted her passing.


    Stella Stevens  -- Rebecca noted her passing.


    Richard Belzer -- Ruth noted his passing.  


    Kevin Alexander Gray -- C.I. notes his passing.


    Pat Schroeder -- Kat noted her passing.


    Lance Reddick -- Mike notes his passing.  


    Darcelle XV -- Elaine notes his passing.


    "Mark Russell" -- Ruth notes his passing 


    "Elizabeth Hubbard" -- Trina notes her passing.


    "Mary Quant and more Peabody nominations" -- Elaine notes a passing.


    "Harry Belafonte" -- Kat notes a passing.

    Gordon Lightfoot" -- Kat notes a passing.


    "jacklyn zeman, rose schlossberg, john travolta and..." -- Rebecca notes the passing of Jacklyn Zeman.


    "Iraq snapshot," "Tina Turner (1939 to 2023)," "The groundbreaker Tina Turner," "Tina Turner," "Lauren Boebert gets burned by AOC," "MAX and NETFLIX, Eva Longoria," "Tina Turner, Eric Swalwell, John Roberts," "They've ruined their reputation," "Hate merchant Tulsi Gabbard," "tina turner passed but the hideous gop lingers," "Tina " and "The wrong people are dying" -- The community notes the passing of Tina Turner.


     "Gay actor George Maharis has died" -- Stan notes the passing. 

    "10 great songs that Cynthia Weil co-wrote" and "Cynthia Weil" -- Marcia and Kat note Cynthia Weil's passing.

    "Hate merchant Pat Robertson has passed away" -- Kat notes the end of Pat Robertson.

    "Glenda Jackson" -- Ruth notes the actress's passing.



    "Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. notes the passing of Daniel Ellsberg.


    "Andrea Evans" -- Kat notes the passing of a soap opera icon. 


    "Tony Bennett" -- Kat notes the passing of a great singer.


    "Paul Reubens," "Pee-Wee's Big Holiday" and "One more time on Pee-Wee Herman" -- Betty and Marcia note the passing of Paul Reubens.

    "Robbie Robertson" -- Kat covers the passing.

     "David Jacobs" -- Kat notes the passing of a TV creator. 


    "Arleen Sorkin" -- Marcia notes the passing of a voice, sitcom and daytime TV actress.


    "billy miller has passed away" -- Rebecca notes a passing. 

    "DiFi dies" -- Betty notes the passing of an elderly fool.

    "David McCallum led a long life" -- Stan notes the passing of an actor who starred in two huge TV shows. 


    "rudolph isley " -- Rebecca notes the passing of a music legend.


    "Phyllis Coats -- TV's original Lois Lane" -- TV's first Lois Lane remembered by Kat.


    "Piper Laurie" -- Marcia remembers the late actress.

    "Suzanne Somers" -- Isaiah notes the significance of Suzanne Somers.


     "Mailbag" -- noting the passing of Mark Goddard.

     "lara parker" -- Rebecca covers the passing of Lara Parker.


    "Carla Bley" -- Marcia notes the passing of a jazz pioneer.


    "Gregg Sutton" -- Kat notes the passing of a musician.


    "Richard Roundtree" -- Stan covers the death of a pioneer.


    "Matthew Perrry" -- Ruth notes the passing of a sitcom star.


     "Tyler Christopher" -- Betty notes the passing of a popular soap opera actor.


     "Peter White has passed" -- Ruth notes the passing of a soap opera icon.


    "rosalynn carter " -- Rebecca notes the passing of a First Lady. 


    "Marty Kroft" -- Elaine notes the passing of a visual pioneer.


    "Somewhere in hell, a demon just got his horns" -- Elaine notes the death of War Criminal Henry Kissinger.


     "Dead" -- Elane notes the death of useless Sandra Day O'Connor.  


    "Jean Knight" -- Marcia notes a passing.  

    "Frances Sternhagen has passed away" -- Kat notes a passing.

    "Ryan O'Neal (Dona)" -- Dona covers the passing of Ryan O'Neal.


    "Andre Braugher" -- Betty notes a passing.


    "Tommy Smothers" -- Ruth notes a passing.











    Some of the books we read in 2023.

    "Mafia Wives (Susan Williams' WHITE MALICE)" -- C.I. reviews this book.


     "The Sewing Circle" -- Marcia reads Axel Madsen's THE SEWING CIRCLE.


     "Ellen Sander's The Lifestyle That Classic Rock Unleashed" -- Trina reviews this book.

    "Phyllis Diller 1917 – 2012: News, Quotes, Interview" -- Ann reviews this book.

    "Call Her Heroic (Ava and C.I.)" -- Ava and C.I. review this book.

    "Boze Hadleigh's Hollywood Gays" -- Marcia reviews this book.


    "Robert Sellers wrote a book of garbage" -- Kat reviews HOLLYWOOD HELLRAISERS.   



    "SCREAM VI and THE BOYS" -- Stan reviews Ron and Clint Howard's THE BOYS.



    "the world according to joan" -- Rebecca reviews this book.


     "Elton John and Whitney Houston" -- Kat reviews Elton John's autobiography and a biography on Whitney Houston.

    "DON RICKLES: THE MERCHANT OF VENOM" -- Isaiah reviews this book.




     "Vincent Price and Universal" -- Marcia reviews John L. Flynn's 75 YEARS OF UNIVERSAL MONSTERS and Vincent Price's I LIKE WHAT I KNOW: A VISUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY.







    "JOAN BAEZ: THE LAST LEAF" -- Ruth reviews  this book by Elizabeth Thomas.


     "A JOYOUS TRANSFORMATION: THE UNEXPURZGATED DIARY OF ANAIS NIN, 1966 -1977" -- Ruth reviews a book by Anais Nin.


    "An aging queen writes a bitter book about The Way We Were" -- Marcia reviews a bad book about THE WAY WE WERE.



    "Travis Stewart's bad book supposedly on Stevie Nicks" -- Kat reviews a bad book supposedly about Stevie Nicks.


    "Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day"-- Trina strongly recommends this cookbook.

    "GET LOST" -- Isaiah looks at this comic magazine

    "Lucille Ball and HERE'S LUCY" -- Stan reads up on the second half of Lucille Ball's life.

    "Melody Thomas Scott's Always Young and Restless: M..." -- Ann reviews this autobiography.

    "ROCK AND ROLL NIGHTMARES" -- Elaine reviews this book about crime in the music world. 

    "ALL THE LEAVES ARE BROWN" -- Kat reviews this book about the Mamas & the Papas.

    "SAPIENS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND" -- Mike reviews a science book.




    "Split Image: The Life of Anthony Perkins" -- Ann reviews a biography about Anthony Perkins.


     "Andrea Warner's BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY" -- Mike wonders why he bothered to read this book?

    "Worst summer read ever is by Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince" and "'the fondas: henry, jane and peter' is a very bad book" -- Marcia and Rebecca review Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince's THE FONDAS: HENRY, JANE AND PETER.


    "Cookbooks and Air Fryer Cauliflower in the Kitchen" -- Trina reviews two cookbooks.


    "Do not read ENDLESS HIGHWAY at AMAZON" -- Isaiah lays it out for AMAZON's KINDLE. 


     "Naomi Klein's DOPPELGANGER" -- C.I. reviews Naomi Klein's latest book.


     "Demetrius Sherman's BLACK COMIC BOOK HISTORY" -- Isaiah reviews a book about the history of comic books.

    "Stefan Kanfer's Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball" -- Marcia reads up on one of her favorite entertainers. 

    "Anne Edwards is a waste of time and a killer of trees" -- Elaine reviews Anne Edwards' A REMARKABLE WOMAN: A BIOGRAPHY OF KATHARINE HEPBURN.  

    "Howard Zinn's A PEOPLE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES" -- Elaine reviews Howard Zinn's book.

    " robert dance - a lousy writer - knows damn little about joan crawford" -- Rebecca reviews a really lousy book about Joan Crawford. 


    "REBELS ON THE BACKLOT (Ty)" -- Ty reviews a book by a lousy writer.


    "Sam Staggs' FINDING ZZA ZZA: THE GABORS BEHIND THE LEGEND" -- Stan's review of a book on the Gabor sisters.


    "Media: MY NAME IS BARBRA, my game is pity party" -- Ava and C.I. review Barbra Streisand's MY NAME IS BARBRA. 


    "Avocado Salad With Ginger-Tamari Dressing in the Kitchen (and I review Bab's book)" -- Trina also reviews Barbra Streisand's memoir.


    "Leslie Jordan's sweet and charming biography (Ty)" -- Ty reviews Leslie Jordan's memoir.




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