Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Cruising the Web

This is rather amazing. Fox News has a leaked report from a meeting of Iranian political and religious leaders.
A leaked report provided to Fox News shows how Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with political leaders and heads of the country's security forces to discuss how to tamp down on the deadly nationwide protests.

The report covered several meetings up to December 31 and was provided to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) from what it said were high level sources from within the regime.

The meeting notes, which have been translated into English from Farsi, said the unrest has hurt every sector of the country's economy and “threatens the regime’s security. The first step, therefore, is to find a way out of this situation.”

The report added, “Religious leaders and the leadership must come to the scene as soon as possible and prevent the situation (from) deteriorating further.” It continued, “God help us, this is a very complex situation and is different from previous occasions....

The regime's notes claimed protesters “started chanting the ultimate slogans from day one. In Tehran today, people were chanting slogans against Khamenei and the slogans used yesterday were all against Khamenei.”

The notes added that the intelligence division of the feared Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is “monitoring the situation” and “working all in coordination to prevent protests.”

It says that a “red alert” has not yet been declared, which would lead to direct military intervention in the protests. But it then predicted that sending IRGC or the Bassij forces would “backfire” and would further “antagonize the protesters.”

Messages of support for the protesters from President Trump and other administration officials were also mentioned in the report. “The United States officially supported the people on the streets.” The notes continued by saying the U.S. and the West “have all united in support of the Hypocrites,” the regime’s pejorative description of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) which is one of the groups making up the NCRI.”
What amazes is that someone with access to this report leaked it to the western media.

Rita Panahi, an Iranian émigré to Australia who now writes for a newspaper there, writes about what it was like as a small child to undergo and observe the Islamic Revolution.
For me, growing up in Iran went from idyllic to harrowing in what seemed like record speed. The Islamic Revolution of 1978-79 turned a relatively modern and secular country into a backward, oppressive theocracy. As a young child, I didn’t understand the socio-political issues or the religious forces behind the revolution; all I knew was that I had reason to be afraid.

The women of my mother’s generation, used to being free, independent and growing in power, were suddenly forced to cover up in compulsory Muslim garb or face arrest, imprisonment or worse. Of course, it didn’t stop with forced veiling. The embrace of sharia law has seen women reduced to second-class citizens in many ways, from institutionalised gender discrimination to bans on entering sporting stadiums.

It starts early. For me, it was at the age of five that I was expected to conform to the strict moral code and forced to wear a hijab to attend school or leave the home.

Many Westerners are shocked to see images from the 1960s and ’70s of pre-Revolution Iran featuring women in miniskirts and beehive hairdos, or beachside in bathing suits. It is a sobering reminder of how women’s rights can regress dramatically.
I can't imagine what it must have been like to go from that relatively free society to being immediately transformed into a second-class citizen with few rights at all. This is what a tyrannical government can impose on its people. But it can also be imposed by a government that succumbs to pressure from an immigrant minority. And we're starting to see that happen in some European countries.
Whether in the Middle East or Western Europe or here in Australia, we must remain vigilant in guarding individual freedoms.

A cowardly culture of appeasement has seen authorities in Germany and Sweden resort to segregated zones and events.

Berlin’s New Year’s Eve celebrations had a “safety zone for women” after hundreds were groped, robbed and assaulted by groups of men of “Arab or North African appearance” during last year’s event in Cologne.

This year, Sweden will hold a women-only music festival in Gothenburg after a spate of sexual assaults, including rapes, at similar events. The Bråvalla music festival, Sweden’s largest, has been cancelled after a number of rapes at the 2016 and 2017 events.
Imagine living in a country where authorities can't protect women from rape in public places. How long would we tolerate such a solution here in America? It's troubling to observe how European countries have accustomed themselves to the acknowledgment that they can't protect women in public events.

Panahi goes on to remark on the ridiculous position that some feminists in America have taken to hold up the hijab as a symbol of protest against Trump. Don't they realize what that says to the women imprisoned in societies like Iran or Saudi Arabia?
In 1979, about 100,000 women bravely took to the streets of Tehran to protest the imposition of Islamic law, including the compulsory hijab requirement. Some of the protesters were stabbed by Islamists, others were imprisoned, and ultimately the fight was lost.

To see the feminists of the 2017 Women’s March embrace the hijab as a symbol of diversity and empowerment is an affront to many women forced to wear it.

Those who fetishise the hijab, niqab and burqa ignore the fact that they are instruments of oppression forced on millions of women in the Muslim world.
It's fine for those Muslim women who voluntarily wear these clothes, but western women should be willing to acknowledge that there are millions of women who don't have the choice that women in the United States do about what they can wear. We've seen progressives cheer and honor Linda Sarsour for her pro-Palestinian and anti-Trump politics and for organizing the Women's March in Washington. They have ignored her anti-Semitism and cheering of Palestinian terrorists. Apparently, it's fine in their eyes to adopt such positions if she's also anti-Trump. Being anti-Israel has become a seemingly popular position among some on the left.
Sarsour is a well-known Muslim and Palestinian activist who supports a Palestinian state but denies Jews the right to national self-determination. Moreover, she has appeared alongside a convicted Palestinian terrorist murderer whom she has lauded for her “resistance” to the Zionist occupation.

Sarsour told an audience recently that she was “honored to be on this stage with Rasmea Odeh,” a member of the PFLP convicted in 1969 for her involvement in the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket that murdered two university students and maimed nine more.
The New School brought her in to speak on a panel on anti-Semitism without even realizing the irony of that invitation.
Contrary to its idealistic statement, the New School apparently has abandoned the principle of social justice in favor of an immoral principle of social injustice: equating the advocates of antisemitism and the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state with the Jewish people’s imperative of survival.

A New School representative was quoted as saying, as if in justification: “We understand that there are different views on this issue.” Different, yes; but not equally valid.

Greenblatt’s analogy was too mild. The New School’s holding a forum of “antisemites on antisemitism” makes as much sense as a KKK forum on civil rights....

Speaking freely, but hardly morally, in a recent address to “the largest gathering of Muslims in America,” it is also notable that Sarsour, the social-justice champion, did not once call on the American-Muslim community to oppose the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis in Syria that has been raging for six years.

Similarly, the pro-Palestinian activist who became known for her support of January’s Women’s March on Washington has repeatedly made the absurd claim that Zionists don’t support human rights and, therefore, cannot claim to support women’s rights, thus Zionism necessarily is incompatible with feminism.

Take that, Golda Meir.
And then there are the accusations that she did nothing when a Muslim woman working as an Americorps employee at the Arab American Association complained to her about a Muslim man in the same building sexually harassing and assaulting her. Sarsour denies the allegations so it's more of a she said/she said story. But why is Sarsour, a woman who has viciously attacked Ayaan Hirsi Ali for criticizing Islam's treatment of women, the darling of the left while Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was a victim of female genital mutilation as small child and has to travel with an armed guard because of threats from the radical Islamists whom she criticizes, the one under attack by radicals such as Sarsour or by the Southern Poverty Law Center?

The events this past weekend in Iran serve as a stark reminder of who the real victims are of radical Islam are and why we shouldn't make false of heroines of women like Linda Sarsour simply because she is Muslim and criticizes Trump. There is a lot more to supporting women's rights than opposition to Trump. And for those who have had such fears about the Trump-Pence administration that they marched wearing Handmaid's Tale clothes, perhaps they'll wake up to realize that they marched against Trump over and over and nothing bad happened to them. I wish we could say the same for these brave women in Iran.

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Meanwhile women's groups in the U.S. seem strangely slow to speak out in solidarity with the women protesting in Iran. They have more important tasks, apparently.
Moms Rising, a group of "progressive, feminist" parents who organize mostly using Twitter, is talking about a clean DREAM Act, hosting a seminar on reducing sugar, and touting their own "impact" on 2017 (since Donald Trump is still in office, and the Republicans passed comprehensive tax reform, that "impact" appears minimal).

The National Organization of Women (NOW) isn't talking about how to help male protesters as the government cracks down on social media in Iran. Nope — it's bellyaching about Betsy DeVos, as is the National Women's Law Center. The American Association of University Women, which is dedicated to the "advancement" of women worldwide, hasn't even tweeted a photo of women in the streets of Iran, despite the clear need for support for their "advancement." They're talking about a "pay gap" that may or may not exist.

And what about those Women's Marchers? Those pussy-hatted progressives, determined to fight in the streets for equality, who said they stood for freedom across the globe, as cataloged in nearly a dozen Nelson Mandela quotes tweeted by their members this year alone? Where are those great champions of women?

Nowhere to be found. Their Twitter feed is one, giant advertisement for an upcoming conference in Las Vegas. They're begging for pre-orders for their "Together We Rise" book as women beg in the streets of Iran to be treated as humans.

It's just as well. Linda Sarsour, one of the Women's March leaders, has spent the last year trying to claim that hijabs are a symbol of "empowerment"; it would be tough for the Marchers to continue to promote their propaganda as women in Iran throw their headscarves off in the streets as a symbol of their own freedom.
As Emma-Kate Symons, another Australian journalist wrote in June after the murderous attack on fans at an Ariana Grance concert, "Why do Muslim feminists turn a blind eye to Islamist misogyny?"
Arguments over the veil and the purity culture surrounding it have long divided Muslim women.

But now, thanks to the shaming of girls murdered in a terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert as "whores", the split has spilled out into the open.

Self-styled "homegirls in hijabs" — like New York militant Linda Sarsour — and many of their progressive western backers afraid of being labelled racist or "Islamophobic" are staying silent or downplaying the anti-women Islamist ideology linked to the terror strike in Manchester.

Meanwhile, their reformist Muslim sisters are speaking out and asking why figures who hold such conservative views around modesty are held up by feminists and sections of the media as representative of Muslim women, and as role models and progressives, when they're not.

Terrorism analysts have pointed out the attack was an assault on individual freedoms and musical expression.

Yet as American Muslim Reform Movement co-founder Asra Nomani argued in Women in the World last week, the concert-goers were also seen by jihadists as "dangerous", unveiled women.

Some radical conservative Muslim men and women agreed.

For example, a group Ms Nomani calls the "hijabi honour brigade", who operate as mini-armies of trolls on social networks in an organised campaign to silence critics of Islam, even post-attack suggested the young girls were asking for it — as were their parents who had no business letting them stay out late.

Or as one veil-wearing French woman declared on Twitter, girls as young as eight were targeted because they had been encouraged by Grande to dress "like whores" and dared to go out after dark in a sign of "decadence and deviance".
The natural response of so many in the West is that people should be allowed to wear whatever they like. We can honor the choice of those who desire to wear the hijab or the decision of those women who decide not to. The important thing is that there is freedom of choice and the decision is not forced by family members, the government, or society in general. Those who support women's rights should be quick to throw their support to those who have been denied the choice. But that is not what we've observed.
Ms Sarsour co-led the Women's March on Washington after Donald Trump's election, a march that expressly portrayed the veil as a symbol of feminist struggle, despite millions of women around the world being forced or pressured to wear it.

ust as she and her identity politics fans have never joined Iranian dissident Masih Alinejad in her campaigns against compulsory hijab in the Islamic Republic, or backed exiled Saudi women's activist Moudhi Aljohani in her push to stop Riyadh's enslavement of women, they are not standing against the deadly Islamic ideology of purity and honour that provides context and clues to the motives of the suicide bomb attack in Manchester.

They brandish their veils as a standard-bearer of liberation and speak out when veiled women are harassed or attacked, however there is little or no solidarity when victims are not hijabis.

This week, for example, when two brothers were acquitted in Turkey of helping the "honour killing" of their sister in Berlin because she refused to wear a hijab and dated a German boy, the homegirls were nowhere to be seen.

Under fire for her virulent anti-Israel stance, claims "Zionists can't be feminists", and support for convicted terrorists, Ms Sarsour has instead presented herself as a victim of a far-right campaign of vilification after her opponents protested against her speaking at a graduation ceremony at a New York university this week....

Meanwhile, Afghan women's activist Nushin Arbadzadah accuses Western feminism of failing the girls in Manchester.

"We need to understand the connection between the girls in the concert with misogyny as an integral part of Islamism," or political Islam, she says.
And we can wait for Linda Sarsour to tweet anything in support of the protesters in Iran.

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Hmmm. I'm usually very skeptical of a story based on anonymous reports. But we've also observed enough in this era of women finally feeling free to speak out about the sexual harassment and misbehavior they've experienced and witnessed at work to at least want to know more. So I'd like to hear more from women who work with Chris Matthews before I totally dismiss these reports.
Two former NBC producers independently alleged Matthews would rate the looks of his female guests on a scale and said Matthews was so abusive that staff joked about being battered women. The interviews in total paint Matthews as a tyrant liable to fly off the handle at the slightest mistake, who was eager to objectify women and made inappropriate sexual comments appear to be a matter of course for someone in his position.

Both former NBC producers requested anonymity out of concern for their future careers. One is actively seeking a job in media and the other still works closely with MSNBC. One expressed fears about being labeled a “troublemaker” and cited the string of former Fox News women who have all but disappeared from television.

“Sadly, I know other women who won’t even be an anonymous source regarding Chris [Matthews] because they’re that concerned about the door closing on career opportunities in media,” the producer concluded.

According to the two producers, whose combined time at the network nearly spans the existence of “Hardball,” Matthews frequently objectified his female guests and staffers, inappropriately commenting on their appearance and clothing. Matthews would allegedly use pet names like “cutie” and “sweetie pie” to refer to female guests and was constantly making uncouth and “boorish” remarks about women.

“He would eye down a woman who walked on set or comment on their features or what they were wearing,” one former producer said, explaining that it looked like Matthews was undressing the women with his eyes. “He would objectify them and interrupt them in a way that he would never do to his male guests. He has a very outdated view of women.”

The other producer likened his behavior to that of a “teenage boy,” alleging that Matthews would rate his female guests on a numerical scale, deciding which guest was the “hottest of the week,” and would talk about how “hot” various women in the office were, including herself.

One host on a CNBC show was allegedly on the receiving end of many of his comments and tried to avoid being around Matthews in the office.

“She didn’t want to be in the same room as him,” the former NBC producer claimed. “She wouldn’t want to get her makeup done if he was in there too.”

The former producer said that while Matthews made comments about her appearance, she never felt like she was being harassed. She described the comments as “unprofessional” and “inappropriate” and said his remarks made multiple women uncomfortable....

The two former producers independently referred to incidents involved screaming at staffers, throwing objects around, and generally demeaning guests and the people who worked for him.

“I would describe it as verbal abuse,” one former producer asserted, recalling their own experiences with Matthews. “The screaming is beyond the screaming you’ve ever heard. You just feel so under attack.”

“He did it so openly,” the producer continued. “It’s not just sexual harassment … what are you supposed to do when somebody is verbally abusing you and attacking you this way?”

The former producers claimed that multiple female employees were often left in tears after Matthews’ angry tirades, which would frequently occur in front of guests during commercial breaks or after his show ended.
These allegations against Matthews are in addition to the story that MSNBC had paid a woman who had complained about Matthews harassing her.
The spokesman said Sunday the woman approached CNBC executives in 1999 to report Matthews made inappropriate comments about her in front of others. CNBC is a sister company of MSNBC.

The company declined to identify the comments, other than to say they were inappropriate and never meant as propositions. The spokesman said Matthews was formally reprimanded at the time.
That was back in 1999; it doesn't sound as if he's learned his lesson if any of these anonymous reports are true. Given that NBC and MSNBC have gone through scandals about sexual misconduct involving Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin, and senior vice president Matt Zimmerman, and MSNBC contributor Harold Ford, and contributor NYT reporter Glenn Thrush, one would think that this would be the time for women to feel brave enough to come forward to make their complaints about Chris Matthews. The last thing the networks need is to see another one of their stars brought low amid complaints that the bosses looked the other way amid complaints.

THe Washington Post has a story about how the federal bureaucracy has been changing under Trump as he's instituted a hiring freeze and limited spending.
By the end of September, all Cabinet departments except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January — with most shedding many hundreds of employees, according to an analysis of federal personnel data by The Washington Post.

The diminishing federal footprint comes after Trump promised in last year’s campaign to “cut so much your head will spin,” and it reverses a boost in hiring under President Barack Obama. The falloff has been driven by an exodus of civil servants, a diminished corps of political appointees and an effective hiring freeze.

Even though Congress did not pass a new budget in his first year, the drastic spending cuts Trump laid out in the spring — which would slash more than 30 percent of funding at some agencies — also has triggered a spending slowdown, according to officials at multiple departments....

Federal workers fret that their jobs could be zeroed out amid buyouts and early retirement offers that already have prompted hundreds of their colleagues to leave, according to interviews with three dozen employees across the government. Many chafed as supervisors laid down new rules they said are aimed at holding poor performers and problem workers to account.

A hiring freeze technically lifted in the spring has been kept in practice at most agencies, hollowing out many offices. And the slow pace of political appointments has left a number of departments with a leadership vacuum in their upper ranks.
The Post details how low morale is at so many agencies although an annual survey of federal workers doesn't bear out that anecdotal evidence. You'd think there was some massive shift going on until they present the actual numbers compared to the Obama years.
Trump already has begun to reverse the growth of the Obama era, when the government added a total of 188,000 permanent employees, according to Office of Personnel Management data.

By the end of September, the federal government had 1.94 million permanent workers, down nearly 16,000 overall since the beginning of the year, according to the most recent OPM data. In the first nine months of 2009, Obama’s first year in office, the government added 68,000 permanent employees, growing to 1.84 million.
Oh, horrors! There are 16,000 fewer people so, when subtracted from the Obama additions there are still 172,000 more federal employees than there were in 2008. I'll wait to bring out the handkerchiefs and start weeping. And it seems that a lot of the people who are leaving are leaving voluntarily.
During the first six months of the administration, 71,285 career employees quit or retired. That’s up from 50,000 who left during the same period in 2009, according to the most recent OPM data.
Well, if there are that many additional employees since Obama's presidency began, I don't know that a growth of over 21,000 people leaving voluntarily is that startling.

Yes, I can believe that it is tough in some of these offices to shift responsibilities around as people leave and their jobs aren't filled. But that is what private companies always have to do. It's what we've had to do at my school since the recession began and we realized that we couldn't simply hire more people even as we faced more responsibilities. It's part of business for everyone - why should the federal government - full of people with secure, well-paying jobs with lovely benefits be any different from the rest of the working world?

It's a bigger problem that Trump hasn't nominated people to fill the top political positions. He needs to get on that since they can't keep going with acting agency heads any more.
The clock ran out for hundreds of acting officials in November when a little-known law called the Vacancies Act — designed to spur presidents to staff their government — kicked in, limiting them from making official decisions.

The law allows acting officials to serve for up to 300 days, at which point they must yield their authority to the agency head, unless the president has nominated someone to the job. An official action taken in violation of the law could face a legal challenge.

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It must be heartening to Trump to have Woodward and Bernstein kinda, sorta defend him against the tone of media coverage of his presidency.
Appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," the two longtime reporters said there should be less pettiness and outrage in the media when it comes to President Trump.

"We oughtn’t be too provocative, which we sometimes are with a president who’s putting a lot of bait out there and sometimes we take the bait and get a little petty," said Bernstein.

"The tone is a big issue here," added Woodward. "In lots of reporting, particularly on television commentary, there’s a kind of self-righteousness and smugness and people kind of ridiculing the president. When we reported on Nixon, it was obviously a very different era but we did not adopt a tone of ridicule. The tone was, what are the facts?"

Ah, this is what happens when you mock Whataburger. It does not turn out well.
The Stanford marching band is learning the hard way, “You Don’t Mess with Texas,” and much less the state’s most iconic fast-food chain, Whataburger.

The band performed a tribute to what it called "alternative facts" during halftime of Thursday night’s Valero Alamo Bowl against TCU....

The band received some of its loudest boos from the crowd when it joked about Whataburger and queso dip.
“Everything is super normal here, yup, for instance, we all love Whataburger, a fast-food chain that apparently only serves water,” the band’s announcer said over the stadium’s speakers. "And of course, there’s queso, the popular sports drink that Texans use as a refreshing alternative to Gatorade, yum.”
Whataburger immediately took to social media to respond to the band’s joke by tweeting, “Maybe if the Stanford band had some Whataburger they wouldn’t be so unhappy.”
In the end TCU and Whataburger fans had the last laugh as they beat Stanford 39-37.

I must confess that I've never eaten at a Whataburger, but I'm a big San Antonio Spurs fan and see their ads on NBA League Pass all the time, along with my favorite ads the HEB ads with Spurs players. I end up wishing I could live there for just a while so I could try Whataburger and shop at HEB.

Ah, news we can really use - what is behind that "Dilly, dilly" catch phrase?