Controversial Proud Boys embrace ‘Western values,’ reject feminism and political correctness

In May, eight men met at Mackesey’s Irish Pub in downtown Madison to drink beer and talk politics. The men, all of them white and most in their 20s, had met online and were getting together for the first time.The meeting would establish the Wisconsin chapter of an emerging national group called the Proud Boys. For Thaddeus Pall, it was a rare opportunity to openly express his support for President Donald Trump in liberal Madison.As the men were leaving the bar for a member’s apartment, Pall, then 26, separated from the group to buy cigarettes. According to Madison police, as Pall was returning to his new friends, he was approached on the street by men in hoodies with what Pall described as baseball bats or wooden sticks.Pall said one yelled, “He is wearing a Trump shirt! He’s a Nazi!” and three surrounded him, pummeling his head, hands and arms and shattering his cell phone. Pall told the officer he did not know who the attackers were but thought he knew what they were: anti-fascist activists known as “antifa.” An “antifa” website later published a blog post detailing the attack and claiming responsibility.After the beating, Pall tweeted a photo of his face and hands covered in blood. As a member of the Proud Boys, a libertarian men’s club that conveys special status on members who are attacked by anti-fascists, Pall had just achieved the highest degree of membership.But Pall, a former Madison resident who now lives in northern Michigan, said in an interview that he is no longer active in the Proud Boys, although he said the attack did not alter his feelings about the group.“I think people need to calm down. It's just politics. People can have different views. We all want the same things — we all want a better planet, a better world, a better future. This disagreement is really about how you get there,” Pall said.The Proud Boys were founded at the height of the 2016 presidential campaign Continue Reading

The Electoral College is a covenant between the government and the people

Thanks to Donald Trump’s surprising election as President, there has been much talk about the abolition of our country's Electoral College. At times this suggestion has been uttered as if the Electoral College was anti-democratic, and a perversion of the hopes and ideas of our Founding Fathers. Nothing could be further from the truth. America was founded as a republic as opposed to a democracy. Our Founding Fathers were cognizant of the excesses and terrors of the "pure" democracies, such as ancient Greece, where you could be banished or executed upon the vote of the majority writing your name on a sea shell; Revolutionary France, which was then a bloodbath; and several other states, which used their power to redistribute the wealth of their citizens to win the votes of the poor. As a republic, American citizens were not to vote on matters directly, but were to elect qualified, stable and wise persons to make those laws for them in a U.S. Congress. Our country began as a loose confederation, which did not work as well as the government we see today. For example, each state was setting up its own customs laws and tariffs and they were levying duties on all articles which came in from other states; and other states were retaliating. Interstate commerce was virtually impossible. Some states were discussing issuing permits to commit piracy upon the ships of European nations. In 1787, a Constitutional Convention was called to remedy these defects, and others, which had arisen under the Confederation. In the Constitutional Convention of 1787-89, the separate states were being asked to bind themselves to a larger, more powerful, entity. Many states were skeptical and felt that they would be ceding the power of governance of their citizens to an all-powerful entity over which they had little or no control. Once the Constitution was adopted, it was to become a binding, solemn covenant between the Federal Government and the several states. Continue Reading

Harlem’s hallowed ground: Remembering when uptown Manhattan was the center of black cultural and political life in America

New York has just lived through a turning point in political history: the victory of state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in the recent congressional primary — a win that positions him, in the overwhelmingly Democratic 13th District, for an all-but-certain election in November to become the first Dominican-American ever to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Espaillat's fellow Dominicans, here and abroad, should enjoy what a friend of mine calls "a Barack Obama moment," a time when ethnic pride and American opportunity meet and merge in a formidable demonstration of real and symbolic power, with the intoxicating promise of more to come. But after the confetti gets swept away and the posters, palm cards, newspaper clippings and other treasured mementos have been saved in scrapbooks, Espaillat must salve the wounded feelings of older constituents still stunned by the unmistakable evidence that a fascinating, often glorious chapter in the story of Harlem politics has come to a close. The rise of Latino political power comes at the same time an influx of white residents is transforming a place once considered the capital of black America. That makes the new changes all the more jarring to many black residents. Harlem remains one of the most famous neighborhoods in the world — but, when it comes to politics, one of the least understood. Countless books, movies, poems and studies have explored the rich cultural explosion of music and literature known as the Harlem Renaissance. But far less attention has been paid to the equally compelling story of Harlem as a source of political movements, leaders and philosophies that were central to shaping America in the 20th century and beyond. For more than a century, this remarkable four-square-mile inner-city community — among the poorest in America — gave rise to wave after wave of leaders, institutions, movements and ideas that shaped 20th-century American law and Continue Reading

Mayor de Blasio proposes $82.2B budget, warns of looming financial and political dangers to city

Mayor de Blasio on Tuesday proposed a $82.2 billion budget for next year — boosting spending slightly while warning the city must be careful in the face of looming economic and political threats. De Blasio said there's reason for caution because the economy shows signs of turning around — and the state has shown a "consistent pattern" of trying to undermine city finances. The city managed to beat back massive cuts de Blasio's rival Gov. Cuomo proposed to Medicaid and CUNY, but Hizzoner said he sees more trouble on the horizon. "This last state budget dialogue obviously proved to us that there's additional danger," de Blasio said. "This attempt to cut back was very real. ... We're now seeing a proliferation, if you will, of the state government looking for more and more places to cut back resources for New York City." DE BLASIO'S $82B BUDGET TO ADD GRAB BAG OF NEW INITIATIVES De Blasio griped that $220 million in state funding for homelessness approved in last year's budget over a year ago was never handed over. And he said the state has moved forward with an effort to grab $600 million in sales tax revenue. "We don't think there's any justification for this action," he said. Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever said: "The state budget includes record-level investments in New York City schools, the MTA capital plan, housing, homelessness prevention, and healthcare. This unprecedented level of funding will produce real tangible benefits and services for millions of New Yorkers." Closer to home, de Blasio said the growth in tax revenue that has swelled city coffers is starting to slow — with projected growth of 3.6% in 2016 and 1.9% in 2017, compared to an average of 7% in the last five years. "When we factor in where things could be going, it made us very cautious," he said. "We tried to be very balanced in our approach, very careful, very cautious." DE BLASIO'S BUDGET BOOSTS BEACON CENTER SOCIAL SERVICES IN CITY'S PUBLIC Continue Reading

U.N. depicts Syria as lawless battlefield where both government and opposition forces commit ‘widespread’ rape and murder

WASHINGTON — Syria is a battlefield where “massacres are perpetrated with impunity” and both sides are guilty of murder, torture, rape and other “gross violations of human rights,” according to a new United Nations report. Hours after President Obama made a case for military strikes against the government, the report underscores that the hands of both sides are bloody and are acting “in defiance of international law.” In his Tuesday night White House address to the nation, Obama focused on the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb. He repeated that the government of President Bashar al-Assad is responsible and must pay a price, possibly via targeted and limited military strikes by American forces. Now the UN says that Assad and pro-Assad forces “conduct widespread attacks on the civilian population, committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance as crimes against humanity. “They have laid siege to neighbourhoods and subjected them to indiscriminate shelling. Government forces have committed gross violations of human rights and the war crimes of torture, hostage-taking, murder, execution without due process, rape, attacking protected objects and pillage.” But, as for the forces the Obama administration appears to back, it says “anti-government armed groups have committed war crimes including murder, execution without due process, torture, hostage taking and attacking protected objects. They have besieged and indiscriminately shelled civilian neighbourhoods.” In addition, anti-government and Kurdish groups have recruited and used child soldiers, the report says. There is no military solution to the conflict, it concludes. The report came from the four-member Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. It’s headed by Paulo Pinheiro, a Brazilian diplomat and legal scholar, and for two years Continue Reading

Gillum’s ‘gray area’: Emails reveal a mayor’s office entangled in professional and political work

Weeks before Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum announced he was running for Governor, he sent Neera Tanden an email thanking her for her work on the Hillary Clinton campaign.But something else was on his mind that day in March that he wanted to discuss with Tanden, former policy director for President Barack Obama and the president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy research center.From his campaign account <[email protected]> Gillum wrote:Using another email address, [email protected], Gillum cc'd subsequent emails from Tanden to his assistant at City Hall, Angie Whitaker ([email protected]). Whitaker asked what "the preferred number that Mayor Gillum should call to connect with Ms. Tanden on Tuesday, February 14 @ 12:30pm?  Thank you."More than just an interesting anecdote about Gillum's gubernatorial campaign, it's one of numerous examples of campaign-related and political emails that went through City Hall since last January. Many of them involve city staff and mayoral interns setting up meetings and appointments and passing messages of a political and campaign nature, often using their private accounts during working hours to relay campaign-related messages, frequently through Whitaker.State ethics rules prohibit public officials from "corruptly" using their position, staff or resources for personal gain. They also prohibit public employees from campaigning on behalf of their favorite candidates on the taxpayer's time.The more than 13,000 emails obtained from the Mayor's Office by the Democrat from January 2016 to March of this year show a busy and confusing intersection between the personal, the political and the professional -- one that may blur ethical boundaries between the worlds of city business and political aspirations, between public employees and campaign staff as well as his work with People for the American Way as director of the YEO Network."It Continue Reading

Trump remarks on churches and politics stir debate

For the Rev. Alex Joyner, religion and politics don't mix.“Too much of our political discourse already leaves us polarized, demonizing people on ‘the other side,'" said Joyner, the superintendent of the United Methodist Church district overseeing the Eastern Shore of Virginia. "I don’t want that to distort the church."For that reason, he supports the federal government's long-standing law limiting churches' political speech. The Eisenhower-era rule, known as the Johnson Amendment, prohibits religious organizations and charities from endorsing political candidates and making campaign contributions.President Donald Trump announced his desire at the recent National Prayer Breakfast to "totally destroy" the Johnson Amendment. He framed the move as a victory for the First Amendment since it would allow ministers to speak freely on political issues.Evangelical groups, a key constituency in Trump's come-from-behind presidential campaign, have long sought to have the amendment abolished. On Delmarva, the proposal to bring religious groups into the political arena is being greeted with little enthusiasm.“The Johnson Amendment doesn’t keep me from proclaiming gospel values or speaking forcefully to the issues of our day," Joyner said. "It may also help me from being led into temptation.”But not everyone agrees. READ MORE:  Inside the mind of a 'quiet' Trump supporter Jonathan Carpenter is a pastor at Exmore Baptist Church. He applauds Trump's proposal, saying the amendment unnecessarily forces ministers to walk a political tightrope with their speech.“I think many pastors are misinformed as to what they can do legally now so many choose to remain silent because it’s safer," he said. "But I’m not one of them.”Carpenter said he favors any measure that allows for more free speech. Congregations are bound to be better informed about issues that land at the intersection of religion and Continue Reading

2016: A year of terror, war and political turbulence

Terrorism, war and political upheaval were the top international stories of 2016, following a pattern that has become tragically familiar in recent years.Here is a look at USA TODAY's list of the 10 biggest world events of the year:Explosions at Brussels' airport and a downtown metro stop killed 32 people and wounded scores more on March 22. Belgium's federal prosecutor confirmed the explosions were terrorist attacks, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility.President Obama said the United States stands with Belgium, and the attacks are "yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism." He ordered all American flags in the U.S. to be flown at half-staff.The exhaustive list of foreign leaders and famous people exposed on April 3 in a massive leak of confidential documents held by a Panamanian law firm illuminated a sprawling network of offshore investment accounts often used to make secretive investments and pad luxury lifestyles.The swath of 11.5 million records — known as the Panama Papers — made its way into the hands of the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and then the U.S.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, part of the Center for Public Integrity. The news organizations coordinated a massive onslaught of investigative reports about the revelations found in the documents.The list of people tied to offshore activities named about 140 politicians from more than 50 countries, including 12 current or former heads of state, with links to the Panama law firm Mossack Fonesca.The United Kingdom voted to end 43 years of European Union membership after a divisive referendum campaign that prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to resign. The June 23 vote sent global Continue Reading

Bush mixes sports and politics at Olympics

President Bush pressed his Olympic hosts Sunday to permit greater political and religious freedom, warning Chinese leaders they can expect to hear similar blunt talk from his successor. In an Olympic medley of sports and politics, Bush also cheered from the stands as U.S. athletes launched their hunt for gold, while behind the scenes he and aides appealed to Russia to halt what the White House called "dangerous and disproportionate" attacks on Georgia, a staunch U.S. ally. The president worshipped at a Beijing church and declared China has nothing to fear from expressions of faith. Later, he met with Chinese leaders and again voiced concern about the jailing of dissidents and religious activists, aides reported. "As you know, I feel very strongly about religion," he told President Hu Jintao in a meeting at the Zhongnanhai government compound while reporters were present. After they were ushered out, Bush told Hu that human rights concerns are a key part of the U.S.-China dialog, and "the Chinese can expect that any future American president will also make it an important aspect," said adviser Dennis Wilder, who accompanied Bush. But Bush did not raise specific cases of dissidents. At the same time, Bush praised his hosts for their swift response to a stabbing attack that killed the father of a 2004 U.S. Olympian. "Your government has been very attentive, very sympathetic, and I appreciate that a lot," Bush said. Todd Bachman, the father of Olympic volleyball player Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman, was killed Saturday and his wife Barbara was gravely injured as they toured Beijing's 13th-century Drum Tower. The Bachmans of Lakeville, Minn., are in-laws of U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. The assailant, identified as Tang Yongming, 47, jumped to his death. The motive for the attack, which also left a tour guide wounded, remained unclear, though officials doubt Tang knew the Bachmans. Bush also discussed with Hu efforts to verify North Korea's Continue Reading

Facebook censored me. Criticize your government and it might censor you too.

Responding to Russian-funded political advertisements, Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg declared last month that “we will do our part to defend against nation states attempting to spread misinformation.” But Facebook is effectively sowing disinformation by kowtowing to foreign regimes and censoring atrocities such as ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. In the name of repressing fake news and hate speech, Facebook is probably suppressing far more information than Americans realize.Facebook blocked a post of mine last month for the first time since I joined it nine years ago. I was seeking to repost a blog article I had written on Janet Reno, the controversial former attorney general who died last year. I initially thought that Facebook was having technical glitches (no novelty). But I checked the page and saw the official verdict: “Could not scrape URL because it has been blocked.” More: Trump owes Orwell for '1984.' Big Brother is his role model. More: Fake news is a test for citizens. Here's how to pass it. “Pshaw!” I said, or some other one-syllable epithet. I copied the full text of the article into a new blog post. Instead of using “Janet Reno, Tyrant or Saint?” as the core headline, I titled it: “Janet Reno, American Saint.” Instead of a 1993 photo of the burning Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, I substituted an irreproachable official portrait  of Reno. Bingo — Facebook instantly accepted that crosspost. I then added a preface detailing the previous blockage and explaining why I sainted Reno. The ironic headline attracted far more attention and spurred a torrent of reposts by think tanks and other websites.I contacted Facebook’s press office to learn why the initial post was blocked. Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja checked into the matter Continue Reading