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Week in Review: Occupy Wall Street, Saudi Women Suffrage, DADT Cases Moot

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 This Week in Review is highlighted by gay xenophobia in Serbia, and the burgeoning “Occupy Wall Street” protests were marked by labor unions joining the fight along with 700 arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, and after seven years of victories one flagrantly partisan decision renders a landmark DADT case “moot.” 

International

Belgrade Gay Pride Banned by Serbian Officials

The Serbian government’s National Security Council declared its police forces could not maintain public safety and protect LGBT Pride marchers in Belgrade today, because of the threat of violence by an array of ultra-nationalistic groups, empowering Minister of Interior Ivica Dacic to declare the historically marred event to be legally banned. European Union officials expressed their regret at the unsurprising action, noting the Belgrade Pride ban would be considered in Serbia’s EU accession review scheduled for early 2012.

Saudi Women Extended the Vote

Saudi King Abdullah in Abdulaziz al-Saud announced this week that women will be extended the right to vote and run for office in 2015. A bold action by the 88-year-old monarch who assumed power six years ago as a reformer, but has been cautious in his governing style. Notwithstanding the advance in women’s human rights in Saudi Arabia, for the time being, women remained banned from driving automobiles. So if a Saudi woman wants to get to the polls, or run for office, she will have to ask her father, husband, uncle or son to take her there. Could Suburu offer to send some of their auto makes and models to Saudi women, as an incentive for government reform? We could come up with a memorable commercial in Suburu tradition.

Anwar al-Awlaki Assassinated in Yemen

Radical Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki, an American but considered an enemy of the United States, was assassinated early Friday morning somewhere in Yemen, by missiles launched from an unmanned drone aircraft, under orders by President Obama. Born in New Mexico, al-Awlaki became an influential recruiter of English-speaking home-grown terrorists via the Internet and was considered a key figure in the radicalization of Major Nidal Malik Hassan, the Ft. Hood Army psychiatrist who killed 12 people in 2009 and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “Underwear Bomber,” who attempted to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear while traveling on a Northwest plane, Christmas Day, 2009. This blog notes the sigh of relief that must be felt among U.S. government intelligence officers who have been tracking this bad guy for two consistent years.

The German Bundestag Votes to Support Euro Bailout

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor of Germany and all of Europe took a deep breath, when the Bundestag, the lower House, voted three days ago, overwhelmingly in support of a German government bailout plan of more than $598 billion that will also expand the authority of the European Financial Stability Facility, the main fund for bailing out indebted euro countries, including Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain (known as the PIIGS). Europe continues to wrestle with reticent politicians across the continent, who have hesitated to cover the sovereign debt of the PIIGS countries, while more countries have been urged by the International Monetary Fund and Tim Geithner, the U.S. Treasury head, to contribute to the bailout fund.  Additional parliamentary votes will take place over the next several weeks. America watches and waits for Europe to act.

OSCE Reviews Human Rights in Eastern Europe, Former USSR

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe began its annual “Human Dimension” meeting in Warsaw, on Sept. 26-Oct. 7, that includes a review of human rights record and practices by 56 participating member states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. Ian Kelley, the U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE,  in his opening statement at the meeting, addressed the issue of violence against persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, calling it a “widespread problem.” Although LGBT rights are not on the formal meeting schedule, the informal side meetings are populated by organizations who work on LGBT rights in the OSCE region. Mark Bromley, chair of the Council on Global Equality traveled to Warsaw over the weekend to participate  in the second week of the review. We will report Bromley’s observations to our readers next week.

Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Laureate Dies at 71

The first African woman to win a Nobel Prize, Wangari Maathai, leader of the “green belt” environmental movement, died this week in Nairobi, Kenya, after sucumbing to ovarian cancer. The most highly regarded woman leader on the African continent, Maathai, a feminist, politician and “rabble-rouser” rose to international acclaim, working with women to plant trees throughout and in the process uplifted many women and their communities, while raising mass consciousness about the vital role of the environment in support of human life.

National 

Log Cabin DADT Cases Declared Moot

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the Log Cabin Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell challenge this week, ruling that the repeal of the statute rendered the legal challenge “moot”. DADT repeal activists were crestfallen in the decision, having banked on a legal strategy that could have rendered reparations to the 14,000 service members who were discharged under the law. SOme called the decision “as bad as it could have been.” The repeal legislation disallowed that option.

Wall Street Protests Grow, Unions Join 

As the “occupy Wall Street” protests progressed into their third week, labor unions joined the growing effort when the Transit Workers Union of New York City declared their active support and joined the burgeoning grass-roots activists who had a number of confrontations with local police,culminating in the arrests of 700 people on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday, while chanting “We got sold out, banks got bailed out!”

https://youtube.com/watch?v=a1tCYAEDl6g%3Fversion%3D3%26hl%3Den_US

A major national union, SEIU 32BJ New York City, announced they would hold a rally in the support of the protesters on Oct. 12th. Other actions erupted in Los Angeles and social media activists have launched a website Occupy Together with a full complement of Facebook pages. Twitter handle @OccupyWallStNYC has become a new phrase in American social media vernacular that is migrating into everyday conversations. Is this the beginning of a new political movement in America? Stay tuned.

Nyad:  Marathon Swimmer Withdraws in Third Attempt in Swim to Miami from Havana

Diana Nyad, the 61-year-old ultra-endurance athlete and lesbian heart-throb, reluctantly ended her third-time marathon swim quest from Cuba to Florida last Sunday,after sustaining life threatening stings by man-of-war jelly fish while attempting to swim the 103 miles to Miami’s South Beach.  Nyad’s efforts were closely reported by the New York Times, Associated Press and USA Today, among others. Bye, bye Diana! We lesbians especially will miss you!

Obama Takes a Congratulatory Bow at HRC Dinner

President Barack Obama took a victory lap by appearing at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner last night  just 12 days following the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But to no activist’s surprise, Obama did not make news by announcing his full-throated support for marriage equality, or that he would sign an executive order to extend non-discrimination job protections to federal workers based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. It appears that those two perks, can wait, for now.

 

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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OPINION

Pence Defense of Alito’s Insurrectionist Flag Highlights Its Ties to Violent Government Overthrow

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Mike Pence is defending far-right U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, whose ethics and ability to serve on the nation’s highest court are being questioned after The New York Times revealed he had been flying a highly-controversial flag used by the January 6 insurrectionists, neo-Nazis, and a far-right neo-fascist hate group. Democrats are demanding the justice recuse himself from all cases involving Donald Trump and the 2020 presidential election, and some are also demanding his resignation or impeachment.

The former Trump Vice President, in defending Alito, may have made the situation even worse for the 74-year old jurist by highlighting the flag’s ties to revolution and the overthrow of government. In his defense Pence also encourages all Americans to fly the flag: “The ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag is part or our proud heritage of Faith and Freedom and every American should be proud to fly it,” he writes.

“The Appeal to Heaven Flag” dates back centuries, to the American Revolution, but in recent years was very clearly co-opted by the radical religious right and was seen being carried by the insurrectionists during the assault on the U.S. Capitol, some of whom who chanted, “hang Mike Pence,” as he and his family were being whisked away by Secret Service on January 6:

MSNBC columnist Sarah Posner, who for years has been writing about religion and politics, on Thursday noted, “the more one knows about the background of the flag, the more chilling its presence at [Alito’s] house becomes.”

READ MORE: ‘You Just Don’t Do It’: Federal Judge Denounces Alito’s Flags as ‘Stop the Steal’ Stickers

Posner says the flag is “an unmistakable emblem for an influential segment of Christian nationalists who claim the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, contrary to God’s will, and that believers’ spiritual warfare is essential to restoring God’s anointed leader to his rightful office.”

“It was one of numerous Christian nationalist flags and other iconography carried by Trump supporters Jan. 6 and at the Jericho March, a series of prayer rallies that were like jet fuel for the insurrection,” Posner explains. “The Jericho March featured right-wing evangelical and Catholic speakers alongside militants such as conspiracist Alex Jones, Trump’s disgraced national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Oathkeepers founder Stewart Rhodes, now serving an 18-year prison sentence for seditious conspiracy and other crimes.”

Posner adds the flag “originated in Revolutionary times as a call to take up arms against unjust rulers who ignored the pleas of their citizens.”

Pence also refers to the Revolutionary War in his defense of Justice Alito, ignoring that the Revolutionary War was won several hundred years ago, and ignoring that a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice promoting the very concept of taking up arms against rulers, unjust or otherwise, is, as constitutional scholar and University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Laurence Tribe wrote, “close to treason.”

Pence calls the “controversy” of Justice Alito’s flag-flying “absurd and anti-historical.” He quotes English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke, promoting his idea of the right to revolution, to replace a government.

In its Bombshell report Wednesday announcing the existence of a second Alito flag tied to the insurrectionists, The New York Times explains the Locke tie to the “Appeal to Heaven” flag.

READ MORE: Trump Adviser Scanned and Saved Contents of Box That Had Classified Docs: Report

“Since its creation during the American Revolution, the flag has carried a message of defiance: The phrase ‘appeal to heaven’ comes from the 17th-century philosopher John Locke, who wrote of a responsibility to rebel, even use violence, to overthrow unjust rule. ‘It’s a paraphrase for trial by arms,’ Anthony Grafton, a historian at Princeton University, said in an interview. ‘The main point is that there’s no appeal, there’s no one else you can ask for help or a judgment.'”

Coincidentally or not, Grafton’s “trial by arms” seems to echo Trump acolyte Rudy Giuliani’s January 6 speech in which he specifically called for “trial by combat.”

Religious studies scholar Matthew Taylor, quoted in The New York Times’ report on Alito’s “Appeal to Heaven” flag, told CBS News (video below) Christian nationalist leader Dutch Sheets “was given one of these flags and he believed that he received a prophecy when he received this flag, that it was a symbol of a revolution that would take place in America, a spiritual revolution that would reconstitute the United States as a truly Christian nation.”

He adds the “Appeal to Heaven” flag has become a “very potent symbol of Christian nationalism, Christian Trumpism, opposition to abortion, opposition to gay marriage, and the desire for a more Christian America.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: Trump’s Bronx Rally Attendance Claim Fuels Mockery as Aerial Images Show a Different Story

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OPINION

‘You Just Don’t Do It’: Federal Judge Denounces Alito’s Flags as ‘Stop the Steal’ Stickers

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A senior U.S. district judge is denouncing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito‘s flying of two insurrection-related flags at his homes in Virginia and New Jersey, declaring the actions “improper. And dumb.”

Judge Michael Ponsor, 77, who has served on the federal bench since 1984, writes in a Friday New York Times op-ed that he has “known scores, possibly hundreds, of federal trial and appellate judges pretty well,” and “can’t think of a single one, no matter who appointed her or him, who has engaged or would engage in conduct like that.”

“You just don’t do that sort of thing, whether it may be considered over the line, or just edging up to the margin. Flying those flags was tantamount to sticking a ‘Stop the steal’ bumper sticker on your car. You just don’t do it.”

Justice Alito’s first flag scandal came late last week, when The New York Times reported an upside down U.S. flag had flown at his Virginia home jut days before Joe Biden was sworn in as President. That flag is associated with the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. As of January, more than 1200 who were there that day have been arrested and charged with crimes.

Alito blamed his wife, claiming she made the decision to fly the flag upside down, which according to the U.S. flag code should only be done to signal distress. Martha-Ann Alito, her husband claimed, had gotten into an argument with a neighbor and manifested her anger by flying the “Stop the Steal” flag.

READ MORE: ‘Investigate Now’: As Alito Scandal Grows Pressure Mounts on ‘MIA’ and ‘AWOL’ Judiciary Chair

The second flag scandal came on Wednesday, when The Times again revealed an Alito insurrection-related flag, this time at his New Jersey home, where the Alitos were flying the “Appeal to Heaven” flag which has ties both to the insurrectionists, and to extreme right Christian nationalists.

Justice Alito has not made any public comment defending his second flag.

Judge Ponsor offered up a hypothetical to counter Justice Alito’s claim his wife was to blame, in this case, an example of him presiding over a death penalty case.

“Let’s say my wife was strongly opposed to the death penalty and wished to speak out publicly against it. I’m not saying this is true, but let’s imagine it. The primary emotional current in our marriage is, of course, deep and passionate love, but right next to that is equally deep and passionate respect. We would have had a problem, and we would have needed to talk,” Ponsor explained.

“In this hypothetical situation, I hope that my wife would have held off making any public statements about capital punishment, and restrained herself from talking about the issue with me, while the trial unfolded. On the other hand, if my wife had felt strongly that she needed to espouse her viewpoint publicly, I would have had to recuse myself from presiding over the case, based on the appearance of partiality.”

READ MORE: ‘Going for the Jugular’: Legal Scholar Warns ‘Trumpers’ Want to End Major Civil Right

Note he mentions as a sitting federal judge he would have applied the same standards that jurors are expected to observe: to not discuss the case with anyone, including their spouses.

And should there have been a discussion, or if she were to air her views publicly, he would be forced to recuse himself from the case.

Justice Alito has not recused from any 2020 presidential election cases, any Trump-related cases, any insurrection-related cases.

That includes the Trump “absolute immunity” case the Supreme Court heard in April, for which they have yet to rule.

The Supreme Court “recently adopted an ethics code to ‘guide the conduct’ of the justices,” Ponsor observes. “One of its canons states that a justice should ‘act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.’ That’s all very well. But basic ethical behavior should not rely on laws or regulations. It should be folded into a judge’s DNA. That didn’t happen here.”

READ MORE: Trump Adviser Scanned and Saved Contents of Box That Had Classified Docs: Report

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OPINION

Trump’s Bronx Rally Attendance Claim Fuels Mockery as Aerial Images Show a Different Story

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Once again the Trump campaign is claiming massive attendance at his latest rally, and once again internet users are making a mockery of those claims – as a local ABC reporter reveals a few facts about attendance and the attendees.

“Trump vows to ‘save’ deep-blue New York City in massive, historic Bronx rally,” Fox News‘s Brandon Gillespie, Paul Steinhauser, and Michael Ruiz reported Thursday evening. “25,000 supporters of the former president descended on Crotona Park, Trump’s campaign said.”

The Associated Press offered a different take.

“Former President Donald Trump campaigned Thursday in one of the most Democratic counties in the nation, holding a rally in the South Bronx as he tries to woo minority voters days before a Manhattan jury will begin deliberations on whether to convict him of felony charges in his criminal hush money trial.”

ABC 7 New York’s Jim Dolan, reporting from the Trump rally in the South Bronx Thursday, served up a reality check (video below).

READ MORE: Trump Adviser Scanned and Saved Contents of Box That Had Classified Docs: Report

“Donald Trump can now say he held a rally in the South Bronx, home to immigrants and minority communities, and that it was well attended. It’s just not clear that the people who attended were from the Bronx. The campaign controlled who got in and the campaign of course, picked only supporters,” Dolan revealed. “Trump’s motorcade arrived in Crotona Park tonight. The crowd surged to get a look at him, more like a pop star than a politician. Not everyone wants a pop star for President.”

One person in the park told ABC 7, Trump is “a big fat bigot. And he just doesn’t have any love in his heart, for anyone, anyone of color. Anyone who’s in the LGBTQ plus community.”

Another called Trump, “a crook, a liar, and he tries to make money off people. And that’s what he’s doing right now,” and claimed the attendees are “all from out of state.”

“Go out there and look at all them cars that are parked and check where they came from? Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas.”

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), who represents the South Bronx, was also at the park and told ABC 7, “If you did a poll about who’s more popular, Donald Trump or lead paint. I suspect lead is more popular than Donald Trump in the Bronx.”

READ MORE: ‘Not an Accident’: Trump’s ‘Unified Reich’ Video Alarms Historians and Fascism Experts

Congressman Torres also posted this commentary to social media:

The Trump campaign’s claim of 25,000 in attendance was belied by ABC 7’s aerial photography (screenshot, above), which was from Dolan’s report:

Meanwhile, some internet users had a good time mocking the Trump campaign’s claims by posting images clearly not of Trump’s Bronx rally.

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Contemptuous’: Justice Alito’s Actions ‘Close to Treason’ Suggests Constitutional Scholar

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