Addicting Info – U.S. Maternal Death Rate Now Highest In The Western World, Thanks To GOP War On Women

via Addicting Info – U.S. Maternal Death Rate Now Highest In The Western World, Thanks To GOP War On Women.


Worldwide, fewer and fewer women are dying during pregnancy or from complications related to childbirth. In fact, women living almost anywhere in the developed world are safer today, than they were in the year 2000. Here in the United States, however,women are twice as likely to die during or after pregnancy, than they were 15 years ago. Thanks to the regressive party, otherwise known as the GOP, the United States is moving backwards, not forwards, when it comes to women’s health.

According to the latest State of the World’s Mothers report, released in May, 2015, the U.S. has the highest rate of maternal deathin any western nation. Women in the U.S. are ten times more likely to die from pregnancy as women living in Poland or Norway. Compared to women living in Belarus, the country with the lowest rate of maternal deaths, women in the U.S. are twenty times more likely to die before, during, or immediately after childbirth.

Globally, the rate of maternal deaths has been steadily declining over the past two decades. Around the world, the rate of maternal deaths has been reduced by 45 percent since the mid-1990’s. Meanwhile, a woman’s risk of death from pregnancy in the U.S. today is double what it was a decade and a half ago.

It gets worse, though. The rate of maternal deaths in the United States is calculated according to the number of deaths reported annually. According to a report published by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, at least 38 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are not reported as such in the United States. Research also estimates that at least half of all maternal deaths are not listed as “maternal deaths” on the death certificate in cases where the fetus was not delivered, when a woman died more than a week after delivery, or in cases where a woman died from a condition that existed before pregnancy, which was worsened because of pregnancy.

Disturbingly, there is no federal law that requires U.S. hospitals to keep records regarding maternal deaths. So while we know that the maternal death is climbing in the U.S., we don’t really know how many women are dying as a result of a pregnancy.

What we do know is that in spite of all the advances in medicine and technology, the risk of pregnancy-related death in the US is going up every year, not down.

The State of the World’s Mothers report, which is published yearly by the nonprofit Save The Children Foundation, ranks 179 nations on ‘the Mother’s Index,’ illustrating where in the world “women and children fare best.” The U.S. has been steadily falling in rank, since the year 2000, when the study first began.

In 2000 the U.S. ranked among the top ten countries in the world for women’s health and well-being. It was listed as the 4th best country on earth for mothers’ health on the Mother’s Index. Only Norway, Canada and Australia ranked higher.

In the 15 years since the first State of the World’s Mothers report was published, the U.S. has dropped to number 33 on theMother’s Index. America now ranks 61 in maternal health, falling behind every other Western nation when it comes to protecting the health of pregnant women. In the year 2000, a US woman’s risk of death from pregnancy-related causes was 1 in 3500. Today that risk has risen to 1 in 1800, according to this year’s annual report.

The republican War on Women is not just a catchphrase used by the left. Every war has casualties, and this one is no different. Government restrictions on reproductive rights have a direct impact on women’s health and well-being. While national statistics can be informational, it’s also important to understand that not all states are equal, when it comes to maternal deaths.

A 2014 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights shows that states that have the highest number of abortion restrictions, score lowest on women’s overall health. On the contrary, states with the least amount of restrictions on abortion are doing a much better job of protecting women’s health.

image credit: screen capture Center For Reproductive Rights & Ibis Reproductive Health, Evaluating Priorities, 2014 report

This chart shows how abortion restrictions impact women’s health in the states:

image credit: screen capture Center For Reproductive Rights & Ibis Reproductive Health, Evaluating Priorities, 2014 report

The state of Vermont, which does not place any restrictions on abortion, has the second lowest maternal mortality rate in the country, with just 2.6 deaths per 100,000 live births. At the other end of the spectrum, the rate of maternal deaths in Oklahoma, a state with 14 laws designed to restrict a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health, ranks 48th in the country. Oklahoma has a maternal death rate that is almost ten times higher than Vermont, at 20.1.

The state of Maine also places very few restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. As of January of 2015, the Guttenmacher Institute reports that the only restrictions in the state are in regards to the use of public funding to pay for abortion services. Maine has the distinction of being the state with the lowest rate of maternal deaths, at 1.2 per 100,000 live births.

In contrast, states that undermine women’s rights, including their right to decide when or if they will have a child, have maternal death rates that are as much as 20 times higher than those in Maine. Mississippi, which has some of the most restrictive laws in the country when it comes to women’s reproductive health, has a maternal death rate of 19.0. Other states with 11 or more restrictions on abortion access also have alarmingly high maternal death rates. Those states include Michigan, which has amaternal death rate of 21.0 per 100,000 live births, the highest among the 50 states. Georgia’s maternal death rate is 20.9. In Louisiana, the maternal death rate is 17.9.  Arkansas and Idaho have maternal death rates of 16.0 and 15.0, respectively, according to the most recent report on maternal deaths by state.

According to the research from the Center for Reproductive Rights, states that have six or fewer laws regarding abortion access rank highest in the country for women’s health, overall. States that have 11 or more laws restricting a woman’s right to control her own body, rank at the bottom of the country, when it comes to women’s health and well-being.

This data tells us that, while the maternal death rate is climbing in the United States, not all states are equally responsible for the increase. As a nation it’s time for us to come together to ensure that the health and well being of all women is protected, no matter where in the United States they choose to live.

The United States also needs to catch up to the rest of the civilized world when it comes to collecting complete and accurate information on maternal deaths. More than a decade ago, the United States set a goal of reducing the maternal death rate to 3.3 per 100,000, by 2010. If this had actually been a priority for state and federal representatives, then accurate data collection would also have been a priority. But that never happened.

The reality is that saving women’s lives is not a priority for too many U.S. representatives. Religious fanatics elected to office view women as baby-makers, nothing more, nothing less. The life a woman matters to the extent that it doesn’t interfere with a man’s right to procreate by using her body. That becomes all too clear when Republican politicians go to great lengths to protect rapistsand child molesters, or when they advocate for laws that would allow men to sue women for not giving birth to their fertilized sperm. In their warped minds, a woman’s body is not her own. A woman’s body only exists to be used by men, in an act of procreation. If the woman does not want to be impregnated, if she doesn’t want to birth a kid, as far as republicans are concerned, she can go ahead and die.

While the rest of the civilized world is working to protect women from the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, regressive US republicans are working to ensure that women birth those babies, or die trying. As a nation we cannot accept these horrifying statistics. We can not accept Republican policies that fail to protect the lives of the women we love because of their religious devotion to the idea that someone that was never born is just as important as someone who is obviously born.

*Featured image credit:, creative commons license 3.0


How We Got Gay | Discovery Channel HD Documentary 2015 – YouTube

via How We Got Gay | Discovery Channel HD Documentary 2015 – YouTube.

This is a useful survey of an all too easily forgotten and shameful era in our history…

History Channel

Published on 21 Apr 2015

How We Got Gay | Discovery Channel HD Documentary 2015



Slavoj Žižek on Greece: This is a chance for Europe to awaken

via Slavoj Žižek on Greece: This is a chance for Europe to awaken.

The Greeks are correct: Brussels’ denial that this is an ideological question is ideology at its purest – and symptomatic of our whole political process.





The unexpectedly strong No in the Greek referendum was a historical vote, cast in a desperate situation. In my work I often use the well-known joke from the last decade of the Soviet Union about Rabinovitch, a Jew who wants to emigrate. The bureaucrat at the emigration office asks him why, and Rabinovitch answers: “There are two reasons why. The first is that I’m afraid that in the Soviet Union the Communists will lose power, and the new power will put all the blame for the Communist crimes on us, Jews – there will again be anti-Jewish pogroms . . .”

“But,” the bureaucrat interrupts him, “this is pure nonsense. Nothing can change in the Soviet Union! The power of the Communists will last for ever!”

“Well,” responds Rabinovitch calmly, “that’s my second reason.”

I was informed that a new version of this joke is now circulating in Athens. A young Greek man visits the Australian consulate in Athens and asks for a work visa. “Why do you want to leave Greece?” asks the official.

“For two reasons,” replies the Greek. “First, I am worried that Greece will leave the EU, which will lead to new poverty and chaos in the country . . .”

“But,” interrupts the official, “this is pure nonsense: Greece will remain in the EU and submit to financial discipline!”

“Well,” responds the Greek calmly, “this is my second reason.”

Are then both choices worse, to paraphrase Stalin?

The moment has come to move beyond the irrelevant debates about the possible mistakes and misjudgements of the Greek government. The stakes are now much too high.

That a compromise formula always eludes at the last moment in the ongoing negotiations between Greece and the EU administrators is in itself deeply symptomatic, since it doesn’t really concern actual financial issues – at this level, the difference is minimal. The EU usually accuses Greeks of talking only in general terms, making vague promises without specific details, while Greeks accuse the EU of trying to control even the tiniest details and imposing on Greece conditions that are harsher than those imposed on the previous government. But what lurks behind these reproaches is another, much deeper conflict. The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, recently remarked that if he were to meet alone with Angela Merkel for dinner, they would find a formula in two hours. His point was that he and Merkel, the two politicians, would treat the disagreement as a political one, in contrast to technocratic administrators such as the Eurogroup president, Jeroen Dijsselbloem. If there is an emblematic bad guy in this whole story, it is Dijsselbloem, whose motto is: “If I get into the ideological side of things, I won’t achieve anything.”

This brings us to the crux of the matter: Tsipras and the former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who resigned on 6 July, talk as if they are part of an open political process where decisions are ultimately “ideological” (based on normative preferences), while the EU technocrats talk as if it is all a matter of detailed regulatory measures. When the Greeks reject this approach and raise more fundamental political issues, they are accused of lying, of avoiding concrete solutions, and so on. It is clear that the truth here is on the Greek side: the denial of “the ideological side” advocated by Dijsselbloem is ideology at its purest. It masks (falsely presents) as purely expert regulatory measures that are effectively grounded in politico-ideological decisions.

On account of this asymmetry, the “dialogue” between Tsipras or Varoufakis and their EU partners often appears as a dialogue between a young student who wants a serious debate on basic issues and an arrogant professor who, in his answers, humiliatingly ignores the issue and scolds the student on technical points (“You didn’t formulate that correctly! You didn’t take into account that regulation!”). Or even as a dialogue between a rape victim who desperately reports what happened to her and a policeman who continuously interrupts her with requests for administrative details.

This passage from politics proper to neutral expert administration characterises our entire political process: strategic decisions based on power are more and more masked as administrative regulations based on neutral expert knowledge, and they are more and more negotiated in secrecy and enforced without democratic consultation. The struggle that goes on is the struggle for the European economic and political Leitkultur (the guiding culture). The EU powers stand for the technocratic status quo that has kept Europe in inertia for decades.

In his Notes Towards a Definition of Culture, the great conservative T S Eliot remarked that there are moments when the only choice is the one between heresy and non-belief, ie, when the only way to keep a religion alive is to perform a sectarian split from its main corpse. This is our position today with regard to Europe: only a new “heresy” (represented at this moment by Syriza) can save what is worth saving in European legacy: democracy, trust in people, egalitarian solidarity. The Europe that will win if Syriza is outmanoeuvred is a “Europe with Asian values” (which, of course, has nothing to do with Asia, but all with the clear and present tendency of contemporary capitalism to suspend democracy).


In western Europe we like to look on Greece as if we are detached observers who follow with compassion and sympathy the plight of the impoverished nation. Such a comfortable standpoint relies on a fateful illusion – what has been happening in Greece these past weeks concerns all of us; it is the future of Europe that is at stake. So when we read about Greece, we should always bear in mind that, as the old saying goes, de te fabula narrator (the name changed, the story applies to you).

An ideal is gradually emerging from the European establishment’s reaction to the Greek referendum, the ideal best rendered by the headline of a recent Gideon Rachman column in the Financial Times: “Eurozone’s weakest link is the voters”.

In this ideal world, Europe gets rid of this “weakest link” and experts gain the power to directly impose necessary economic measures – if elections take place at all, their function is just to confirm the consensus of experts. The problem is that this policy of experts is based on a fiction, the fiction of “extend and pretend” (extending the payback period, but pretending that all debts will eventually be paid).

Why is the fiction so stubborn? It is not only that this fiction makes debt extension more acceptable to German voters; it is also not only that the write-off of the Greek debt may trigger similar demands from Portugal, Ireland, Spain. It is that those in power do not really want the debt fully repaid. The debt providers and caretakers of debt accuse the indebted countries of not feeling enough guilt – they are accused of feeling innocent. Their pressure fits perfectly what psychoanalysis calls “superego”: the paradox of the superego is that, as Freud saw it, the more we obey its demands, the more guilty we feel.

Imagine a vicious teacher who gives to his pupils impossible tasks, and then sadistically jeers when he sees their anxiety and panic. The true goal of lending money to the debtor is not to get the debt reimbursed with a profit, but the indefinite continuation of the debt, keeping the debtor in permanent dependency and subordination. For most of the debtors – for there are debtors and debtors. Not only Greece but also the US will not be able even theoretically to repay its debt, as is now publicly recognised. So there are debtors who can blackmail their creditors because they cannot be allowed to fail (big banks), debtors who can control the conditions of their repayment (the US government) and, finally, debtors who can be pushed around and humiliated (Greece).

The debt providers and caretakers of debt basically accuse the Syriza government of not feeling enough guilt – they are accused of feeling innocent. That’s what is so disturbing for the EU establishment about the Syriza government: that it admits debt, but without guilt. They got rid of the superego pressure. Varoufakis personified this stance in his dealings with Brussels: he fully acknowledged the weight of the debt, and he argued quite rationally that, since the EU policy obviously didn’t work, another option should be found.

Paradoxically, the point Varoufakis and Tsipras have made repeatedly is that the Syriza government is the only chance for the debt providers to get at least part of their money back. Varoufakis himself wonders about the enigma of why banks were pouring money into Greece and collaborating with a clientelist state while knowing very well how things stood – Greece would never have got so heavily indebted without the connivance of the western establishment. The Syriza government is well aware that the main threat does not come from Brussels – it resides in Greece itself, a clientelist, corrupted state if everthere was one. What the EU bureaucracy should be blamed for is that, while it criticised Greece for its corruption and inefficiency, it supported the very political force (the New Democracy party) that embodied this corruption and inefficiency.

The Syriza government aims precisely at breaking this deadlock – see Varoufakis’s programmatic declaration (published in the Guardian), which renders the ultimate strategic goal of the Syriza government:

A Greek or a Portuguese or an Italian exit from the eurozone would soon lead to a fragmentation of European capitalism, yielding a seriously recessionary surplus region east of the Rhine and north of the Alps, while the rest of Europe would be in the grip of vicious stagflation. Who do you think would benefit from this development? A progressive left, that will rise Phoenix-like from the ashes of Europe’s public institutions? Or the Golden Dawn Nazis, the assorted neofascists, the xenophobes and the spivs? I have absolutely no doubt as to which of the two will do best from a disintegration of the eurozone. I, for one, am not prepared to blow fresh wind into the sails of this postmodern version of the 1930s. If this means that it is we, the suitably erratic Marxists, who must try to save European capitalism from itself, so be it. Not out of love for European capitalism, for the eurozone, for Brussels, or for the European Central Bank, but just because we want to minimise the unnecessary human toll from this crisis.

The financial politics of the Syriza government closely followed these guidelines: no deficit, tight discipline, more money raised through taxes. Some German media recently characterised Varoufakis as a psychotic who lives in his own universe different from ours – but is he so radical?

What is so enervating about Varoufakis is not his radicalism but his rational pragmatic modesty – if one looks closely at the proposals offered by Syriza, one cannot help noticing that they were once part of the standard moderate social-democratic agenda (in Sweden of the 1960s, the programme of the government was much more radical). It is a sad sign of our times that today you have to belong to a “radical” left to advocate these same measures – a sign of dark times, but also a chance for the left to occupy the space which, decades ago, was that of the moderate centre left.

But, perhaps, the endlessly repeated point about how modest Syriza’s politics are, just good old social democracy, somehow misses its target – as if, if we repeat it often enough, the Eurocrats will finally realise we’re not really dangerous and will help us. Syriza effectively is dangerous; it does pose a threat to the present orientation of the EU – today’s global capitalism cannot afford a return to the old welfare state.

So there is something hypocritical in the reassurances about the modesty of what Syriza wants: in effect, it wants something that is not possible within the co-ordinates of the existing global system. A serious strategic choice will have to be made: what if the moment has come to drop the mask of modesty and openly advocate the much more radical change that is needed to secure even a modest gain?

Many critics of the Greek referendum claimed that it was a case of pure demagogic posturing, mockingly pointing out that it was not clear what the referendum was about. If anything, the referendum was not about the euro or the drachma, about Greece in the EU or outside it: the Greek government repeatedly emphasised its desire to remain in the EU and in the eurozone. Again, the critics automatically translated the key political question raised by the referendum into an administrative decision about particular economic measures.


In an interview with Bloomberg on 2 July, Varoufakis made clear the true stakes of the referendum. The choice was between the continuation of the EU politics of the past years that brought Greece to the edge of ruin – the fiction of “extend and pretend” (extending the payback period, but pretending that all debts will eventually be paid) – and a new, realist beginning that would no longer rely on such fictions, and would provide a concrete plan for how to start the actual recovery of the Greek economy.

Without such a plan, the crisis would just reproduce itself again and again. On the same day, even the IMF conceded that Greece needs large-scale debt relief to create “a breathing space” and get the economy moving (it proposes a 20-year moratorium on debt payments).

The No in the Greek referendum was thus much more than a simple choice between two different approaches to economic crisis. The Greek people have heroically resisted the despicable campaign of fear that mobilised the lowest instincts of self-preservation. They have seen through the brutal manipulation of their opponents, who falsely presented the referendum as a choice between euro and drachma, between Greece in Europe and “Grexit”.

Their No was a No to the Eurocrats who prove daily that they are unable to drag Europe out of its inertia. It was a No to the continuation of business as usual; a desperate cry telling us all that things cannot go on the usual way. It was a decision for authentic political vision against the strange combination of cold technocracy and hot racist clichés about lazy, free-spending Greeks. It was a rare victory for principle against egotist and ultimately self-destructive opportunism. The No that won was a Yes to full awareness of the crisis in Europe; a Yes to the need to enact a new beginning.

It is now up to the EU to act. Will it be able to awaken from its self-satisfied inertia and understand the sign of hope delivered by the Greek people? Or will it unleash its wrath on Greece in order to be able to continue its dogmatic dream?

Slavoj Žižek’s is a senior researcher at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia and international director at Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. His latest book is “Trouble in Paradise: from the End of History to the End of Capitalism” (Allen Lane)


Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt – Chris Hedges on Reality Asserts Itself (1/3) – YouTube

via Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt – Chris Hedges on Reality Asserts Itself (1/3) – YouTube.


Published on 6 Jul 2015

On Reality Asserts Itself, Chris Hedges discusses his new book with Paul Jay. In part one, they focus on the revolutionary significance of the life of Tom Paine, a man who understood the moral imperative of revolt and was willing to pay the price.


I am a recovering racist: I was somehow taught hate as a gift of love –

via I am a recovering racist: I was somehow taught hate as a gift of love –


I grew up in the segregated South. It took a question from an 11-year-old to teach me how I really felt about it


I am a recovering racist: I was somehow taught hate as a gift of love

(Credit: In Tune via Shutterstock)

As a native Mississippian and recovering racist, I finally discovered why a seemingly innocuous thing like a state flag can bring out the absolute worst in us. It took a group of 11-year-old students to teach me that lesson.

After reading about my most recent novel dealing with race in Jim Crow Mississippi, the principal of a private school in Minneapolis invited me to speak with his fifth-grade students. All the classes had been studying the civil rights movement. He said, “I read an interview with you in the newspaper and you said you were a recovering racist. Would you come talk to our kids about your experiences?”

Got it, I thought. They need a token racist. I agreed, but I was anxious.

The principal was honest. He explained that his kids were white, affluent Minnesotans. They assume they are not racist because they come from good families, but the only people of color they ever see are the ones who clean their houses, cook their food and tend their lawns.

The kids were attentive, well-behaved and terrifyingly self-assured for 11-year-olds. I spent a good half–hour sharing my memories of growing up in the segregated town of Laurel, Mississippi, in the 1950s and ‘60’s, emphasizing the politically correct messages I was sure their teachers wanted the students to hear.

Then, just when I figured I had drawn out all the moral lessons they were capable of grasping, one emboldened kid asked me something that, at least momentarily, left me speechless.  It was the type of direct yet guileless question only folks who have not learned to be politically correct could ask.

“Did you like having your own special place in the restaurant when you were growing up?” He was referring to the nicer, cleaner, air-conditioned “whites only” sections I sat in, while blacks had their food shoved at them through a window that opened into the alley.

“Like it?” I responded. At first the question seemed irrelevant. What did it matter if I enjoyed it? The point is, it was wrong. But from the way all the kids’ eyes lit up, I could tell the class wanted me to address the boy’s question. He had drawn an adult off script and they couldn’t wait to see how I responded.

I knew what I was supposed to say: “No. I did not enjoy it.”  I was supposed to tell him that it was wrong, and that it’s a horrible thing to discriminate against people like that. “We’re all losers when that happens,” I was supposed to say.

But the boy’s instincts were right. And fifth graders know when you are lying to them.

“Yes,” I admitted. “It felt good. I felt like I was on the winning team or voted most popular. I never thought of it before, but yes, it made me feel special.”

I glanced at the teachers in the room. They seemed concerned. This was not going the way they had anticipated.

A girl raised her hand.  “Did a black person ever have to give up her seat so you could sit down?”

It was obvious they had been studying Rosa Parks.

I was still off balance from the first question, editing my race history to include the fact that I liked segregation for the feelings of superiority it gave me. The thought was disorienting.

“Yes!” I answered, and knowing where she was going with her question, I continued. “I liked that, too. To see a grown man offer me his seat because I was more important than he was a good feeling.”

Before I entered the classroom that day, I felt it was enough to have condemned my past, along with those old white men who had created my racist world. After all, I was born into that society. I didn’t have a choice. I had to follow the rules. I’m certainly not to blame for it. I figured a little liberal guilt was enough to buy my redemption.

But the kids’ questions presented me with a moral dilemma. I was not a neutral or innocent bystander after all, even as a child. My enjoyment of the privileges testifies to that. In addition, it became clear to me that I got my seat because someone was forced to give up his. For every meal I was served in the pristine restaurant, somebody had to eat hers in an alley.  My college scholarship came at the expense of some field hand’s son who couldn’t afford to finish the eighth grade. Each time I benefited because of my whiteness, an African-American paid because of his blackness. Guilt or moral repugnance is not enough. There is a real debt to be paid.

But the hardest thing to admit was that my racism and its inherent privileges were gifted to me by devoted parents, dedicated teachers, righteous preachers—an entire white community conspired to make me feel special. These were good people. How could I turn on them?

What a conundrum! That would make racism a gift of love! As toxic as those gifts were, they were presented to me out of love, by someone I loved. What adult, much less child, doesn’t want to feel special? What child is going to say, “No, I don’t want your gift because it takes away from others!” We hunger for the experience of feeling special and are grateful to those who see that specialness within us.

No wonder it’s so hard to uproot racism from our souls. If we had acquired our racism from folks we detested, the monsters of the world, the lynchers and the church-bombers, the murderous, tobacco-spitting sheriff or the buffoonish sheet-shrouded Klan member, or our race-baiting governor standing in the schoolhouse door, how easy it would be to denounce our racism and to leave that kind of destructive thinking behind.

But it’s not the villains we must reckon with. Our role models were people we loved and trusted, those whom we allowed into our souls without question. It’s an elderly white neighbor whom I loved dearly, telling me that her black yardman, Joe, was not to be referred to as a “Mister.” My schoolteacher who acted like it was the right thing, the appropriate thing, the moral thing for her students to have nice schools and new textbooks and a school bus, while the black kids went to class in dilapidated buildings, used our castaway textbooks and walked to school regardless of the weather. It was my preacher who told us to love black people, but that God wanted the blood of the white race to remain pure.  The kind clerk who attended to me, a child, the minute I walked into his store while black adults remained waiting in line.

No one had to explain to us we were special. The evidence was overwhelming.  We learned it from those who only wanted the best for us. We believed them. And we didn’t want to disappoint them.

Those seeds of “specialness” sent roots down deep into my being.  And those roots entwine with love for my parents and God and the way I feel sad about abandoned dogs and how I get all choked up when a friend says he cares for me. All these things are planted in the same field. That horrible, disgusting hateful thing is part of me, too, entangled with the rest. And often it keeps me from seeing my own racism when it rears its benevolent, entitled head.

One of those toxic gifts is that flag.

It elevates my whiteness at the expense of one third of the population of my home state. To accept that gift of an embellished white history means cheating others out of their own proud story. It diminishes the soul. It robs black children of the chance to see themselves woven into the fabric of society.  If I’m going to be honest, I have to admit the real reason some Mississippians are so devoted to that flag: it is a symbol of our specialness, bestowed upon us by people that we love.

My admission that day in the classroom allowed a discussion about race that was more honest than any discussion I had ever had with adults. We talked about ways in which blacks, Hispanics, and others are still having to give up their seats for white people. We talked about how that applies to disparities in educational and employment opportunities, safe streets, after-school programs, police protection, racial profiling, depictions in the media. How some kids are cherished by society, watched over, taken care of without ever having to ask—and others seem to be cast away and forgotten.

Maybe my confession offered them a new way to see their own world. I don’t know. But something I am sure of: I would never see my world the same.


Jonathan Odell is the author of “The Healing” and, most recently, “Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League,” a novel that was inspired in part by his mother, one of many ill-suited 1950s housewives. Born in Mississippi, he currently lives in Minneapolis, where he is at work on a memoir and another novel.

What Moved Marriage Equality from Taboo to Justice? on

via What Moved Marriage Equality from Taboo to Justice? on

by Jim Hightower

From 1956 until 2010, CBS television’s daytime lineup included America’s longest-running soap opera: “As the World Turns.” But times change, and now a real-life human drama of profound importance has debuted in America: “As the Generations Turn.”

It’s the inspiring story of our society’s continuing struggle to evolve toward dignity and mutual respect … as well as love. The moment came on June 26, 2015, when Justice Anthony Kennedy proclaimed from the ornate chamber of the Supreme Court: “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

Kennedy and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor voted to make this higher level of inclusiveness the law of the land, but they are not the producers of it. Indeed, while the court’s ruling debuts a new day, it is the culmination of generations of painful struggle by brave gay and lesbian activists and advocates. And it is particularly the product of a defiant and determined LGBTQ movement for equality that arose from the brutal police riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York on June 28, 1969.

This democratic evolution from rank inequality literally came out of America’s closet, rising through only a few neighborhoods at first, but then entering the consciousness of today’s youth. Rejecting the shibboleths, ignorance, fears and bigotry that previously permitted such intolerable discrimination, young people have, in a remarkably short amount of time, created a generational shift in the nation’s consciousness.

The true Supremes are the people themselves, and it’s their awakening enlightenment that has transformed marriage equality from taboo to simple justice.

It is unfortunately true, however, that not everyone has evolved on the issue of equality in our Land of the Free.

The Supreme Court’s ruling that states can no longer ban same-sex marriage has set off a cacophony of howling hyperbole by the GOP’s far-out presidential wannabes.

“I will not acquiesce to an imperial court,” blustered Fox News political huckster Mike Huckabee. “Resist and reject judicial tyranny,” he bellowed. Huck even couched his cry for continued discrimination against gay people by likening it to Abe Lincoln’s principled refusal to honor the court’s 1857 ruling that African-Americans could not be citizens. Sure, Mike, you’re a modern-day Lincoln — except that he was opposing discrimination, while you’re demanding that government enforce it!

Then came the wild hair of the GOP’s presidential menagerie, Donnie Trump, trumpeting his keen insight that the court’s gay marriage decision is Jeb Bush’s fault. Really. The Donald explained that Jeb’s brother George appointed Chief Justice John Roberts to the court, so … there you have it. Shhhh — let’s not spoil Trump’s hallucination by telling him that Roberts actually voted against letting gays marry.

Now on to Scott Walker, widely touted by the GOP’s billionaires as the “serious” contender. Yet, he is seriously pushing a constitutional amendment to allow states to keep prohibiting same-sex marriages. “No one wants to live in a country where the government coerces people to act in opposition to their conscience,” said Walker, apparently oblivious to the fact that state governments have long been coercing LGBTQ people to do exactly that. And now Walker is promising, if elected, to coerce them right back into a life of unconscionable injustice.

Every one of the 13 Republican presidential candidates is marching backward into the bigoted past, piously thumbing their noses not only at millions of gays and lesbians and their families, but also at the ever-growing majority of Americans — especially young people — who support marriage equality.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at


It’s Time To Look Away, Dixieland

via It’s Time To Look Away, Dixieland.

SUN JUN 28, 2015


As a born and bred Southerner (7th generation Alabama native), I’m told I come with a ready-made set of assumptions when I mention that fact to someone from another part of the country. Well, when you “assume” anything, you make an “ass” out of yourself surely, but leave me out of that equation. I waited over a week to write anything about the Charleston shootings because it was just too horrible to talk about – walking into a church, gaining peoples’ trust, praying with them… And then gunning them down seemingly without remorse.

But here goes…..  I was born in North Alabama in 1963, a few hours before a bomb planted by domestic terrorists blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. There were no TVs in hospitals rooms then, but when my mother woke from anesthesia, the first thing she heard was about the bombing. As she held her newborn daughter, five families a hundred miles to the south were mourning the loss of their daughters.

Diane McWhorter, author of “Carry Me Home”, a history of the MLK and the Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham, recounts how that bombing changed her family. Her father, up until that point had been a segregationist, although not a KKK-type. But the bombing “broke him,” she says.  (I’d include the exact quote, but I loaned my copy to a friend who hasn’t returned it). He sat at the table and wept, horrified by what had happened and his dawning realization that his city had gotten to the point that people thought it was ok to kill little girls in church on a Sunday morning.

Sure: that should have been obvious to anyone watching the events unfold before that point, but at least he finally opened his eyes and acknowledged the rot underlying the whole Southern narrative history.

Honor, Heritage, History…. In the South, we’re full of it.  Literally (in all senses of the phrase).  Author Rita Mae Brown writes novels set in the South, and said of one character “…because she was raised in the South, she understood honor. And Fannie died with honor.”

But do we really understand “honor” when we honor the Old Confederacy? NO.

Spare me the crap about “States’ Rights.” The Civil War was about states’ rights alright, but if you’re going to say that, you have to use the entire sentence.  Repeat after me:


Truly, when you say “the war wasn’t about slavery,” what the rest of us hear is “I’ve joined the military history branch of the Flat Earth Society.”

In “Gone With The Wind,” Rhett Butler tells Scarlett that all wars are “money squabbles,” even though the rhetoric around each one is different. Sometimes it’s “Down with Popery” or “Save Christ’s tomb from the heathens!” or “Cotton, Slavery, and State’s Rights!” but the reality is… They’re all about money.

“All wars are sacred to those who have to fight them. If the people who started wars didn’t make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to fight? But, no matter what rallying cries the orators give to the idiots who fight, no matter what noble purposes they assign to wars, there is never but one reason for a war. And that is money. All wars are in reality money squabbles. But so few people ever realize it.”

The poor whites didn’t own slaves, but they either joined up or got conscripted to serve as foot soldiers for their corporate masters – the planter class that had a lot of money riding on a slavery-based economy. But not everybody was snowed. Many poor Southerners called the conflict “a rich man’s war and poor man’s fight.”  You have to wonder how many ardent defenders of the noble history of the Confederacy had ancestors who were more clear-eyed than their descendants.

This whole narrative of “most Southerners didn’t even own slaves; they were defending their homeland from invasion, and I honor their sacrifice with the flag etc.” is BS. What’s noble or honorable about having ancestors who got played? Why aren’t you pissed instead?

Here’s the unsanitized, unsentimentalized story of the war: a small group of wealthy farmers – a self-described aristocracy – sweet-talked the rest of the South into starting a war, leading to an absolute disaster that killed over 600,000 Americans, decimated the South’s economy, and led to an entrenched Jim Crow system that terrorized Black Americans for generations.

And yet, the clarion call of “racial superiority” trumped everything then – and now.

Republican Dark Lord, master strategist, and South Carolina native Lee Atwater (whorecanted his sins way too late to do anything about them) knew that the path to political power in the South hadn’t changed much in a hundred years.

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Without even realizing it (or maybe he did; he was from South Carolina, after all), Atwater was parroting Rhett Butler: all wars, even the economic war in this country (the one we don’t like to talk about), are money squabbles.

In 1865, the South lost to the United States. In 2015, the American Middle Class is losing to the oligarchy that’s buying and selling our political system. And the people pulling the strings 150 years ago had the same motivations as the Koch Brothers, hedge fund managers, wealthy casino owners, etc. do now: MONEY.

If they can keep us fighting each other for the crumbs, suspicious of anyone who looks different, angry that our job sucks, that we can’t afford to send our kids to college, and the system seems rigged against us – and convince us that it’s the fault of the Blacks, the gays, the immigrants… Then we won’t look past the bright shiny objects and realize the truth.

The last thing these guys want is for working class white voters to join up with communities of color. No, it’s much more productive to convince young men like Dylann Roof that all his problems are due to minorities and Jews (who, he said he considered to be “White” but they “act like minorities”).  Writer Milton Himmelfarb had much the same observation, that Jews “earn like Episcopalians, but vote like Puerto Ricans.”

So many Jews traveled to the South in the early days of the civil rights movement not because they themselves were being lynched or restricted from lunch counters, but because Jews knew about restriction, prejudice and the calumny of the poisoned well, the blood libels of Easter massacres. When the second or third generation of Jews learned that America had accepted them but rejected others they understood in their deepest selves the insult and the pain it brings. It was an old insult echoing the pogroms, yellow stars, dunce hats of another place, and as old as the Vienna ghetto and as recent as the “No Jews Need Apply” sign on the factory door, or the “No Jews ” sign on the hotel lawn.

Had Roof gotten way with his first murders, a synagogue could have been next.

Too many racists, young and old, believe that their problems stem from some sort of institutionalized bias against white guys. We’re all used to the whining of the “angry white men” who feel that they’re victims of discrimination and can’t get ahead because of minorities. They’re blaming fellow victims instead of the powerful corporate and monied interests who are pulling the strings. Ironically, the vast majority of those are rich white men who are playing their brothers like cheap ukeleles.

Can’t get a decent job? Well, it can’t possibly be because of globalization and a minimum wage that is way to low for full time workers to make a decent living. It must be because “quotas” are giving all the jobs to minorities. Terrified about retirement because you can’t save any money? Oh, forget how unions have been decimated, pension funds looted by corporate raiders, and retirement fund management handed over to Wall Street. No, young man… It’s because of Welfare Queens.

If they can keep us fighting each other, they know we won’t band together to demand economic reforms.

The latest bright shiny object is, IMO, the Confederate flag on state property. Yes, it’s offensive. Yes, it’s stupid. Yes, it’s divisive. And yes, it needs to go. But it’s a symptom, not the actual disease and if we focus on that alone in the wake of the Charleston shootings, we’re losing a tremendous opportunity for change.

For the past week, I’ve been sympathetic and pleased, but also vaguely dissatisfied with the momentum building to remove Confederate symbols from state property and state-issued license plates. I mean, yeah, it’s long past time to do so, but we can’t let that be our only response. Too many people are looking at the symbols and not demanding real systemic change.

It’s easy to sign an Internet petition, but did you get out and vote in the mid-terms?  Did you give your legislators hell for not expanding Medicaid or raising the minimum wage?  Those matter a heck of a lot more in everyday life than the flag. If we’re only concerned about the flag, we’re letting our elected officials off way too easy.

It wasn’t until I heard Reverend William Barber (North Carolina’s Moral Monday leader) on NPR that all this crystallized for me. The Charleston shootings were a tragedy, but also an opportunity. Other killings that shocked the nation led to landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act. Aren’t we selling those nine lives short if the only thing we ask in return now is taking a flag down?

Reverend Barber, not surprisingly, said it much better than I can

Reverend Pinckney, as a colleague in ministry, was not just opposed to the flag, he was opposed to the denial of Medicaid expansion, where now the majority of the state is opposing Medicaid expansion where six out of 10 black people live. He was opposed to voter suppression, voter ID in South Carolina. He was opposed to those who have celebrated the ending of the Voting Rights Act, or the gutting of Section 4, which means South Carolina is no longer a preclearance state, and the very district that he served in is vulnerable right now. He was opposed to the lack of funding for public education. He wanted to see living wages raised.

So I would say to my colleagues, let’s take down the flag—to the governor—but also, let’s put together an omnibus bill in the name of the nine martyrs. And all of the things Reverend Pinckney was standing for, if we say we love him and his colleagues, let’s put all of those things in a one big omnibus bill and pass that and bring it to the funeral on Friday or Saturday, saying we will expand Medicaid to help not only black people, but poor white Southerners in South Carolina, because it’s not just the flag.


Lee Atwater talked about the Southern strategy, where policy was used as a way to divide us. And if we want harmony, we have to talk about racism, not just in terms of symbol, but in the substance of policies. The flag went up to fight policies. If we’re going to bring it down, we’re also going to have to change policies, and particularly policies that create disparate impact on black, brown and poor white people.

Let’s get back to “honor,” both the noun and verb form of the word. If we really care about memorializing and honoring the sacrifice of these people, we’ll act with honor.  We’ll honor the principles and promise of our nation’s (the United States!) founding documents when we protect voting rights, ballot access, and fight for equality in the workplace and in our society.

It’s time for working class and middle class white people to step up and put down their prejudices. The political system and economic system deck is stacked against us just as much as it is our neighbors who are black, brown, yellow, or any mixture you can think of. Remember Benjamin Franklin: “If we don’t hang together, we’ll most assuredly all hang separately.”

In the 8th grade, Mrs. Lane, my English teacher, made us all learn poems to recite by heart.  I’ve never forgotten one of them: “America For Me.” In many ways, it’s a jingoistic paean to American Exceptionalism, but there are worse goals than this:

The glory of the present is to make our future free.
We love our land for what it is and what it is to be.
Oh, it’s home again, and home again, America for me!

I want a ship that’s westward bound to plough the rolling sea,
To the bléssed Land of Room Enough beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars

We don’t have any control over what this country was… But we are responsible for “what it is to be.” What future will we choose?

Let’s “look away” from the mythical land of Dixe and start building a more humane and prosperous future for everyone in the United States of America.


Has human rights group B’Tselem ended its role in Israel’s propaganda? | The Electronic Intifada

via Has human rights group B’Tselem ended its role in Israel’s propaganda? | The Electronic Intifada.

Ali Abunimah – Lobby Watch – 28 June 2015

Israeli war crimes fugitive Tzipi Livni speaking at the September 2013 J Street conference in Washington, DC, in which B’Tselem was a “strategic partner.” (J Street/Flickr)


The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has distanced itself from comments attributed to the former director of its US office that it sought to assist Israeli government propaganda against the movement for Palestinian rights and accountability for Israeli crimes.

Uri Zaki, who was initially identified by Ynet as the director of B’Tselem USA, told the Israeli publication that his organization’s efforts to help combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement had been rebuffed by the government, which only wanted to work with more right-leaning organizations.

“Uri Zaki’s term of employment at B’Tselem USA ended in May 2013,” B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli told The Electronic Intifada in response to an inquiry about the Ynet report. “If quoted accurately, his comments were not expressed on behalf of either B’Tselem or B’Tselem USA, nor do they reflect the policies of either.”

Ynet later updated its article to describe Zaki as the “former” director of B’Tselem USA.

Michaeli did not elaborate on why Uri Zaki left the organization but the former staffer’s comments nevertheless raise troubling questions about how B’Tselem’s US advocacy arm has functioned, even after his departure.

Driving a wedge

The 28 June Ynet article titled “Rift in Foreign Ministry prevents effective fight against BDS” looked at philosophical differences within Israel’s state hasbara, or propaganda, apparatus on how best to block the momentum of the Palestinian rights movement.

In a 2010 strategy paper that shaped the approach of Israel and its international lobby, the Reut Institute, a think tank with close ties to the government, argued that Israel should work closely with mild, liberal critics of the country’s policies the better to isolate so-called “delegitimizers” – those who support BDS.

According to Ynet, Reut’s director of policy and strategy Eran Shayshon “has been explaining to government representatives over the past few years that it is important to divide and drive a wedge between the leaders of the BDS campaign, but they were unable to reach a consensus on the issue, especially when it came to the political echelons.”

“To achieve this goal,” Shayshon says, “we explained to the government representatives that we have to operate with as large a base as possible; meaning, recruit not only right-wing agencies and groups to the fight, but also left-wing groups who criticize the government.”

“Israeli patriot”

B’Tselem and the US Israel lobby group J Street are offered as prime examples of such “left-wing” assets in Israel’s fight against BDS.

“Among other things, meetings were held in Washington and in Israel between representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the Strategic Affairs Ministry with J Street (which represents the Jewish left in the US), B’Tselem and others,” Ynet reports.

B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli did not respond to The Electronic Intifada’s question about the group’s participation in such meetings.

The Ynet report continues:

“It’s a major missed opportunity,” B’Tselem’s former US Director Uri Zaki says. “I went to universities in the United States, specifically on Apartheid Week, in order to explain that I was an Israeli patriot, and to oppose the boycotts. Like the Jewish left-wing groups in America who joined the fight against the boycott, our position has great influence. It is true that we will not fight a boycott of settlement products, but our efficacy in the fight over sovereign Israel’s good name is very obvious, much more than that of right-wing groups.

“It’s a shame that those who took over the hasbara efforts are excluding us for political reasons,” he adds.

Incidentally, B’Tselem has already proven its contribution when it strongly criticized the Goldstone Report, which greatly embarrassed South African jurist Richard Goldstone. Even now, after the release of the UN report on Operation Protective Edge, the fight against the boycott would surely be more effective if a way can be found to include Israeli human rights groups.

The Goldstone report, an independent inquiry commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, found evidence of extensive war crimes and crimes against humanity by Israel during its 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza.

“Proud sponsor”

In 2012, B’Tselem and its US office came under strong criticism from Palestinian human rights organizations for proclaiming that it was a “proud sponsor” of a J Street gala featuring former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert as a keynote speaker.

Olmert had been in charge during Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon and the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza which, together with other actions by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank and Gaza during his term of office, killed more than 3,000 Lebanese and Palestinians.

In an effort at damage control, B’Tselem’s then executive director Jessica Montell had claimed that the email announcing the organization’s sponsorship of the Olmert gala had been a “mistake.”

But Montell also angrily scolded Palestinian human rights organizations for their “conduct” in speaking out against B’Tselem’s participation in the gala.

Yet B’Tselem did not apparently learn anything from the “mistake.” In September 2013, B’Tselem USA once again openly aligned itself with Israel lobby efforts to defeat the Palestinian rights movement.

It touted its “strategic cooperation with J Street” and promoted its participation in the J Street conference. “We are encouraged to know that this conference will feature remarks by US Vice President Joe Biden and many other distinguished partners and allies and proud [sic] to share the stage with them,” B’Tselem USA proclaimed.

Biden, a staunch defender and abetter of Israeli crimes as part of the Obama administration, was joined at the conference by Israeli war crimes fugitive Tzipi Livni.

This was four months after Uri Zaki’s departure, indicating that B’Tselem’s “strategic” alignment with anti-Palestinian groups was not the product of a lone individual’s vision.

J Street has a long record of staunchly supporting Israeli military attacks on Palestinians including all the major assaults on Gaza, opposing key Palestinian rights including the right of return, and proclaiming itself a leader in the battle against BDS.

Signs of change?

Jessica Montell stepped down as the director of B’Tselem in March 2014 and was replaced by Hagai El-Ad.

Although a B’Tselem USA representative participated in J Street’s 2015 conference, B’Tselem is not listed as aconference sponsor.

Nonetheless, B’Tselem USA continues to count among its advisors such figures as “liberal” Zionist pundit Peter Beinart, who is on record opposing “full, equal citizenship” for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

There is no doubt that over the years B’Tselem has done important documentation of Israel’s crimes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. But such work is entirely incompatible with taking any sort of role in Israeli state propaganda and requires explicit condemnation of such whitewashing.

Even if it has yet to make a clean break, B’Tselem’s new leadership may have become more reluctant to align itself so publicly with Israeli war criminals and anti-Palestinian lobby groups.

There is no doubt B’Tselem must do more if it is to retain any credibility.


Tories are treating Muslims like sheep

via Tories are treating Muslims like sheep.

by Hassan Mahamdallie

Tory home secretary Theresa May at Al Madina Mosque in east London

Tory home secretary Theresa May at Al Madina Mosque in east London (Pic: UK Home Office)

The Tories are certainly off the leash—as prime minister David Cameron’s Muslim-bashing speech to a security conference in Slovakia last week demonstrated.

Heralding a new battery of repressive measures contained in the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, Cameron pointed the finger at Britain’s Muslims.

He accused them of secretly harbouring sympathies with Isis, thereby preparing the ideological path for those who are going off to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Of course there was no evidence produced to back this up. Cameron merely asserted that “non-violent extremists” opposed to British values in the Muslim community must be secretly encouraging young people to join Isis. After all, what other reasons could there be for them going off to fight?

The new law deliberately blurs the line between holding ideas that the state defines as “extremist” or opposing “British values” and violent acts of terrorism.

As many lawyers have pointed out, no-one can possibly know where that line is drawn—until you are arrested or your passport is taken away from you.

There is now a legal obligation on public servants, from nursery school teachers to GPs and social workers, to spot and report “signs of radicalisation”.

Everyone who is concerned to defend our civil liberties should be alarmed at the perspective that is now opening up.

The law will further instil fear into Muslims and shrink space for legitimate dissent, for example, against British foreign policy and military campaigns.

Muslims are increasingly portrayed as though they are mindless sheep easily led down the jihadi path by fiery preachers or Isis YouTube postings. Or they are vulnerable children “groomed” into doing something by an abusive adult.

They need a firm hand and a big stick to keep them on the straight and narrow.


We may furiously disagree with those individuals travelling to join Isis. But we should at least credit them having formed reasons for doing so. We might then learn something useful.

As New Statesman columnist Myriam Francois-Cerrah pointed out, according to Cameron’s view “the root of their departure is to be located nowhere in Britain or its policies (domestic or foreign) and entirely within the realm of ‘ideas’ –or ‘Islamist ideology’. Because Muslims don’t live in Britain, they live in Islam. Or Islamism. Or whatever.

“The truth of course is that while ideas play their part, material conditions have far more influence in determining people’s behaviour than ideas per se—something the government seems determined to ignore”.

I offer my humble self as a case-study.

I am not a pacifist. I believe there are circumstances when it is right to use violence, for example in self-defence or against an oppressor.

I believe that the law under capitalism is ultimately an expression of class rule, and there is any number of them I would be prepared to break.

I have no idea what “British values” are. And anyhow I have never thought of myself as British, and I never will.

How did I arrive at this worldview? Perhaps one could argue that I was groomed and radicalised by extremists at an impressionable age.

It is true that “paper sellers” would accost me on my way home from work—this was before the internet—and thrust a newspaper into my hands.  It talked of the need for a violent overthrow of society, the suppression of the ruling class and total destruction of class divisions.

Was this the first step on the conveyor-belt on my journey of radicalisation? Was I then brained-washed by years of party branch meetings?

Perhaps it was my parents’ fault for not preaching a moderate outlook and respect for authority?

Or was it joining a manipulative non-violent extremist organisation as a teenager—Amnesty International. There I was shocked and emotionally disturbed by the plight of political prisoners, usually locked in a dungeon by Western-friendly despots.

Politicised or radicalised? Extremist or dissenter? Reader, for now at least, you decide.