Chelsea Manning: to those who kept me alive all these years, thank you

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/13/chelsea-manning-prison-sentence-commutation

When I was afraid, you taught me how to keep going. When I was lost, you showed me the way


Monday 13 February 2017

To those who have kept me alive for the past six years: minutes after President Obama announced the commutation of my sentence, the prison quickly moved me out of general population and into the restrictive housing unit where I am now held. I know that we are now physically separated, but we will never be apart and we are not alone. Recently, one of you asked me “Will you remember me?” I will remember you. How could I possibly forget? You taught me lessons I would have never learned otherwise.

When I was afraid, you taught me how to keep going. When I was lost, you showed me the way. When I was numb, you taught me how to feel. When I was angry, you taught me how to chill out. When I was hateful, you taught me how to be compassionate. When I was distant, you taught me how to be close. When I was selfish, you taught me how to share.

Sometimes, it took me a while to learn many things. Other times, I would forget, and you would remind me.

We were friends in a way few will ever understand. There was no room to be superficial. Instead, we bared it all. We could hide from our families and from the world outside, but we could never hide from each other.

We argued, we bickered and we fought with each other. Sometimes, over absolutely nothing. But, we were always a family. We were always united.

When the prison tried to break one of us, we all stood up. We looked out for each other. When they tried to divide us, and systematically discriminated against us, we embraced our diversity and pushed back. But, I also learned from all of you when to pick my battles. I grew up and grew connected because of the community you provided.

Those outside of prison may not believe that we act like human beings under these conditions. But of course we do. And we build our own networks of survival.

I never would have made it without you. Not only did you teach me these important lessons, but you made sure I felt cared for. You were the people who helped me to deal with the trauma of my regular haircuts. You were the people who checked on me after I tried to end my life. You were the people that played fun games with me. Who wished me a Happy Birthday. We shared the holidays together. You were and will always be family.

For many of you, you are already free and living outside of the prison walls. Many of you will come home soon. Some of you still have many years to go.

The most important thing that you taught me was how to write and how to speak in my own voice. I used to only know how to write memos. Now, I write like a human being, with dreams, desires and connections. I could not have done it without you.

From where I am now, I still think of all of you. When I leave this place in May, I will still think of all of you. And to anyone who finds themselves feeling alone behind bars, know that there is a network of us who are thinking of you. You will never be forgotten.

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NFL warns Texas over bathroom bill

From The Hill:  http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/319206-nfl-warns-tx-over-bathroom-bill

By Reid Wilson
02/13/17

The National Football League waited just a week after the Super Bowl in Houston to warn the state of Texas that a proposal to limit transgender access to bathrooms could impact future decisions about the location of major sporting events.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the league hinted that Senate Bill 6, introduced last month by conservative lawmakers, would become a factor in the NFL’s future decisions about event locations.

“The NFL embraces inclusiveness. We want all fans to feel welcomed at our events and NFL policies prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law [in Texas], that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”

After this year’s event in Houston, the NFL does not have a Super Bowl planned for Texas in the foreseeable future. Super Bowls have been scheduled in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles through 2021.

But opponents of the legislation, modeled on the controversial HB 2 law passed in North Carolina last year, say the NFL’s threat is just the tip of the iceberg. Several sports leagues, including the Atlantic Coast Conference, the NBA and the NCAA, pulled events out of North Carolina after its law passed last year, and a number of businesses said they would cancel or reevaluate decisions to move operations or build facilities in North Carolina.

The NCAA has not weighed in on the Texas legislation. The finals of the NCAA’s annual men’s basketball tournament are scheduled for San Antonio in 2018.

Supporters of the measure, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and its chief sponsor, state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R), said their bill has carve-outs that address concerns raised by the NCAA and the NFL.

Continue reading at:  http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/319206-nfl-warns-tx-over-bathroom-bill

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Ordinary Americans carried out inhumane acts for Trump

The banality of evil. Evil depends on good people saying nothing.

From The Baltimore Sun:  http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-airport-inhumanity-20170206-story.html

By Chris Edelson
Feb. 6, 2017

A week ago, men and women went to work at airports around the United States as they always do. They showered, got dressed, ate breakfast, perhaps dropped off their kids at school. Then they reported to their jobs as federal government employees, where, according to news reports, one of them handcuffed a 5-year-old child, separated him from his mother and detained him alone for several hours at Dulles airport.

At least one other federal employee at Dulles reportedly detained a woman who was traveling with her two children, both U.S. citizens, for 20 hours without food. A relative says the mother was handcuffed (even when she went to the bathroom) and threatened with deportation to Somalia.

At Kennedy Airport, still other federal employees detained and handcuffed a 65-year-old woman traveling from Qatar to visit her son, who is a U.S. citizen and serviceman stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. The woman was held for more than 33 hours, according to the New York Times, and denied use of a wheelchair.

The men and women who work for the federal government completed these and other tasks and then returned to their families, where perhaps they had dinner and read stories to their children before bedtime.

When we worry and wonder about authoritarian regimes that inflict cruelty on civilians, we often imagine tyrannical despots unilaterally advancing their sinister agendas. But no would-be autocrat can act alone. As a practical matter, he needs subordinates willing to carry out orders. Of course, neither Donald Trump nor Steve Bannon personally detained any of the more than 100 people held at airports over the weekend pursuant to the administration’s executive order on immigration, visitation and travel to the United States. They relied on assistance.

The men and women who reportedly handcuffed small children and the elderly, separated a child from his mother and held others without food for 20 hours, are undoubtedly “ordinary” people. What I mean by that, is that these are, in normal circumstances, people who likely treat their neighbors and co-workers with kindness and do not intentionally seek to harm others. That is chilling, as it is a reminder that authoritarians have no trouble finding the people they need to carry out their acts of cruelty. They do not need special monsters; they can issue orders to otherwise unexceptional people who will carry them out dutifully.

This should not be a surprise. The famous Milgram experiment and subsequent studies suggest that many people will obey instructions from an authority figure, even if it means harming another person. It is also perfectly understandable (which does not mean it is justifiable). How many of us would refuse to follow an instruction from a superior at work? It is natural to want to keep one’s job, even if at the price of inflicting cruelty on another human being, even perhaps a child.

Continue reading at:  http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-airport-inhumanity-20170206-story.html

 

 

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Top White House Adviser Wears Nazi Collaborator Medal

From The Forward:  http://forward.com/fast-forward/363065/top-white-house-adviser-wears-nazi-collaborator-medal/

The White House’s omission of Jewish victims from its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement on January 27 raised unanimous objections from the community.

To defend it, the White House sent out Deputy Assistant to the President, Sebastian Gorka. He accused those who had attacked the omission of trying “to twist” the statement.

On February 12, Eli Clifton noted on LobeLog — a blog of foreign policy experts — that Gorka had been photographed wearing a medal from a viciously anti-Semitic group of Hungarian Nazi collaborators in World War II.

The vitezi rend was established by Miklos Horthy in 1920. Horthy was an avowed anti-Semite whose group was officially labeled by the State Department as being “under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany.”

On Gorka’s PhD dissertation he lists his name as “Sebestyén L. v. Gorka.” This is a reference to his grandfather’s title from Horthy. Though it’s not clear that the title is in any way heritable, Clifton quotes Eva Balogh, founder of the news analysis blog Hungarian Spectrum and former professor of Eastern European History at Yale University, as saying:

Many supporters of the Horthy regime were enamored by the Nazis and Hitler and the ‘knights’ were especially so. Put it that way, after 1948 one wouldn’t have bragged about his father being a ‘vitéz.’ Lately, however, especially since 2010, it has become fashionable again to boast about such ‘illustrious’ ancestors.

Apparently it’s fashionable again to wear anti-Semitic medals for inauguration day.

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Democrats Demand Inquiry of Russian Role in U.S. Affairs; G.O.P. Concern Grows

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/us/politics/congress-nsc-flynn.html

WASHINGTON — The stunning resignation of Michael T. Flynn as White House national security adviser has emboldened congressional Democrats to demand a broader investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia — and compelled a small group of leading Republicans to acknowledge growing concerns over the episode.

“It’s dysfunctional as far as national security is concerned,” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said of the Trump White House. “Who’s in charge? Who’s in charge? Who’s making policy? Who’s making decisions?”

While many Republican lawmakers remained largely silent on Tuesday about the deep turmoil in Mr. Trump’s national security apparatus, some allowed that further inquiry might be necessary, to a point.

Republican leadership in the Senate said that it was likely that Mr. Flynn would be asked to speak to the Intelligence Committee, which is looking into Russia’s efforts to disrupt the 2016 election, and that his discussions with the Russian ambassador would probably be folded into the review.

But there still appeared to be little momentum for a select committee to investigate Russian interference — an idea that Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has long resisted.

Few Republicans in Congress lamented Mr. Flynn’s departure from the administration, crediting Mr. Trump for hastening his resignation, despite reports that White House officials knew for weeks that Mr. Flynn had misled colleagues.

“I think it’s pretty obvious why he decided to make the decision he did,” Mr. McConnell said of Mr. Trump.

At the same time, in a striking role reversal, the party long known for its universally hawkish stance toward Russia is now ceding some of that ground to Democrats.

On Tuesday, Democrats tried to make it clear that Mr. Flynn’s resignation must be only the first chapter in the story of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.

“The crisis here rises above party,” said the Democratic leader in the Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, calling for an “independent, nonpartisan” investigation and insisting that Jeff Sessions, the new attorney general who was active in Mr. Trump’s campaign alongside Mr. Flynn, recuse himself from any review.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/us/politics/congress-nsc-flynn.html

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