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Homophobia in Russia is taking a Kafkaesque turn
June 12, 2014

We all know things are bad for LGBT people in Russia, right?

 In fact, we have no idea. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Tatiana Vinnichenko, director of the Russian LGBT organization Rakurs, revealed how much most of us in the West don’t know about Russia’s anti-gay crackdown. And all of it is bad news.

First, official state prosecutions and persecution of LGBT organizations has morphed and intensified. Previously, LGBT organizations were pressured to register as “foreign agents”—spies, basically—but those registrations were subject to judicial review. The results were uneven: Some courts rubber-stamped the government’s positions, but others found a lack of evidence and ruled for the LGBT organizations.

Earlier this year, says Vinnichenko, the law was quietly changed. Now the government has the power to declare an organization a foreign agent as an administrative matter. In other words, what was once a matter of law, however imperfect, is now a matter of bureaucracy. With one fell swoop—and one that can come at any moment, without warning—a gay community center, or film festival, or support group can be branded a spy.

The St. Petersburg-based LGBT organization Coming Out has been immersed in Russia’s Kafkaesque bureaucracy for months, having endured four hearings to ascertain whether it is a foreign agent. But it has endured, thanks to the rule of law. Without that protection, Coming Out would have no recourse. And once one is labeled a foreign agent, even routine administrative errors can result in criminal prosecution.

“We are being boiled in a pot,” Vinnichenko said.

The foreign agents law and the “anti-propaganda law” are really just the tip of the anti-gay iceberg, however. The newest phase of Putin’s campaign has been, ironically, privatization.

According to Vinnichenko, Russian authorities are putting pressure on all kinds of institutions—banks, landlords, employers—not to do business with LGBT people and LGBT organizations. Because licenses are required for just about everything in Russia, this “pressure” is existential. Banks are being told, “Dump your LGBT customers, or we’ll shut you down,” she said.

Rakurs’s bank and landlord have come under similar pressure. Vinnichenko says all banks have been told that if they have any LGBT organizations as clients, they will lose their licenses; it’s just a matter of time until all of the organizations’ accounts are closed. And the local LGBT community center she runs, she says, is in danger of losing its lease and will have nowhere else to go. No one will rent to her.In Vinnichenko’s case, the threat is immediate and personal. A mother of two, she works for the Northern Federal University. Her employers have been pressured from above and have in turn demanded that she stop her advocacy work. “I am going on leave, because you cannot be fired while on leave, but as soon as I return, I expect to be fired,” she said. How she will replace her lost income, especially as she is publicly blacklisted, she has no idea.

This subcontracted homophobia has largely escaped the notice of the Western media so far. It is off the books, so to speak, propelled by threats and extortion rather than overt acts like legislation or prosecution. And it has plausible deniability. “Putin is asked about LGBT people whenever he goes abroad, and he just lies or says he doesn’t know,” said Vinnichenko. “But he knows the situation—he’s the homophobe in chief.”

Surprisingly, Vinnichenko—like other Russian LGBT activists I’ve spoken to—insists that Western pressure would be helpful, despite the obvious potential for backlash. “We’re going to lose anyway,” she said, with typically Russian fatalism. “The only question is whether anyone will know about it.”

What she has in mind is for the Russian businesses participating in the privatization of homophobia to be confronted overseas. She points to her own university, which frequently partners with other European and American universities. “The president should be picketed everywhere she goes,” Vinnichenko said. So, too, should the leaders of banks and other businesses.

And Vinnichenko is calling for the United States to follow Canada in providing expedited and “favored” review to LGBT applicants for asylum.

Including herself? I asked Vinnichenko what’s keeping her in Russia, and she replied: “Everyone I know. Not everyone can leave—there are people without enough money, without specialized skills, women with children. How can I leave them?”

Full article


A Brilliant Plan To Give Billionaires Who Try To Buy U.S. Elections A Taste Of Their Own Medicine

How bad has the money-in-politics situation gotten? A new study by researchers at Princeton and Northwestern universities found that, and I’m quoting directly here: “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

In other words, if you can’t afford to hire a lobbyist or raise money for politicians, your opinion literally does not matter.

But don’t go into a hopeless despair spiral just yet. On May 1, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig launched Mayday PAC: a crowdfunded Super PAC with the sole mission of forcing Congress to get money out of politics. The response so far has been overwhelming: They’ve raised over a half-million dollars in the first week alone.



I think this is very important for everyone to see.


The U.S. Needs a Constitutional Right to Vote

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, is leading to a new era of voter suppression that parallels the pre-1960s era—this time affecting not just African-Americans but also Hispanic-Americans, women, and students, among others.

The reasoning employed by Chief Justice John Roberts in Shelby County—that Section 5 of the act was such a spectacular success that it is no longer necessary—was the equivalent of taking down speed cameras and traffic lights and removing speed limits from a dangerous intersection because they had combined to reduce accidents and traffic deaths.

In North Carolina, a post-Shelby County law not only includes one of the most restrictive and punitive voter-ID laws anywhere but also restricts early voting, eliminates same-day voting registration, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and bans many provisional ballots. Whatever flimsy voter-fraud excuse exists for requiring voter ID disappears when it comes to these other obstacles to voting.

Read more. [Image: Gary Cameron/Reuters]

“For a democracy to function correctly, we need as many citizens as possible to at least have an understanding of the scientific method.”

Brian Cox on why science is essential to modern democracy. Pair with Ray Bradbury on why reading is essential to democracy. (via explore-blog)

Posted 1 year ago With 1,006 notes


36 Photos From Russia That Everyone Needs To See

Russia is hosting the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi. What does this mean for gay athletes and spectators? Is the US Olympic Committee okay with this?


 I’ve created these flyers for a school activist project where I bring more attention to the women in history that have been forgotten or ignored. This blog will be an extension of those flyers where I post longer biographies of these women and other bad-ass women like them. Too often women’s achievements have been pushed aside, either by others in their lives, or else by the historians who choose to ignore them. This tumblr is dedicated to celebrating them and bringing their achievements to light!




(via Addicting Info: Debunking More Right-Wing Bulls**t: Liberal Shooters)

Conservatives always lie.

This “letter to the editor” has been making the rounds since January so I think it’s about time we debunked it. The letter is a hit job that originated with right-wing radio host Roger Hedgecock. The former mayor of San Diego has a radio show and podcast which he uses to spew his ugly messages. This one was picked up by viewers and redirected at local LTE pages nationwide. Let’s have a look, shall we?

The overall assertion is that progressive liberals are anti-gun and anti-second Amendment. Speaking as a progressive liberal gun-owner, um…. no. No we are not. What we are is anti-loophole and pro-sensible gun laws. The piece goes on to ask why we “… acquire guns, then kill movie goers and children in schools.” This charge is unsubstantiated and inflammatory, just like the rest of this piece of garbage. After setting up a nice, big straw man, the list begins…

Ft. Hood Shooter – registered Democrat and Muslim. Okay, that last one is correct, Nidal Hasan was a Muslim. However, he was not a registered Democrat. He lived in 2 states: Virginia and Texas. Neither state requires a partisan registration. Ergo, no registered Democrat here. Move along.

Columbine Shooters – Too young to vote – both families were registered Democrats and progressive liberals. Harris and Klebold were, indeed, too young to vote. They lived in an affluent, conservative suburb of Denver, Littleton. Harris’ father was a retired Air Force pilot and Eric had expressed a desire to join the Marines. Both boys admired Tim McVeigh. So the idea that the boys were liberal is iffy while the claim that they were registered Democrats is demonstrably false.

Virginia Tech shooter – Wrote hate mail to President Bush and his staff, registered Democrat. Bzzzt! Wrong again! Seung-Hui Cho was, first of all, a resident alien and ineligible to vote in the U.S. Even if he could, Virginia is, as mentioned before, a non-partisan registrations state. He was not a registered Democrat. Whether or not he wrote letters, that’s not been shown to have merit.

Colorado theater shooter – registered Democrat, staff worker on the Obama campaign, Occupy Wall Street participant, progressive liberal. This one is completely off-base. It’s based on shoddy research done by someone at (wait for it) (I’m sure you’re shocked). That guy found A ”James Holmes” but it was not the one who opened fire in a Colorado theater. It is doubtful that the shooter was registered as anything. Some outlets that had taken Breitbart’s word for it (when will they learn?) retracted the allegations. Some, including Breitbart, did not.

Connecticut school shooter – registered Democrat, hated Christians. This one is based on the faulty reasoning that since Connecticut voted for Barack Obama at a 2-1 ratio, Adam Lanza must have been a Democrat. I don’t have to tell those of you who understand logic and statistics how dumb that premise is. In fact, Newtown voted for Romney. Lanza’s mother was a doomsday prepper and a home schooler who was, according to one source, a registered Republican. There is nothing to indicate that he hated Christians. But investigators did find an NRA membership certificate in his name. So we can call this one false as there is nothing to substantiate the claim that Lanza was a registered Democrat.

This is not to say that all mass shooters are Republican. Obviously, neither party sanctions this sort of behavior, at least, their leaders do not. The idea that a crazy person can actually act on behalf of any political party is a step too far. These are ideological crimes, when there is any motive at all – there often is not. That being said, a great many mass killings were committed by far right crazies. If you’ll recall the DHS report  – the one that Fox raised such a stink about – it stated that there had been an uptick in right-wing violence and warned of further incidents from the same quarter. What happened there? Fox likes to play the false equivalence card and, short of reaching back into the 1970s, they were unable to find similar incidents of violence from the left-wing. So they whined and bitched and the new administration knuckled under. That doesn’t change the fact that they were correct.

Below is just a sampling of incidents of right-wing violence. Of course, the biggest attack was the Oklahoma City bombing, a horrible attack driven by political ideology.

  • Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber, killed one (and one indirectly) and wounded 111 others. His motive for the bombing, according to Rudolph’s own admission, was political.  He also had bombed an abortion clinic in an Atlanta suburb, killing 2 and injuring six. Extremist chatter on the Internet while he was evading capture praised him as “a hero.”
  • In 1993 Michael Frederick Griffin murdered Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida. He waited outside Gunn’s clinic and shot him three times, yelling, “Don’t kill any more babies.” He is currently serving a term of life in prison.
  • A little more than a year later, Paul Hill shot Dr. Bayard Britton in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun. Hill also killed Britton’s bodyguard, retired Air Force lieutenant James Barrett, 74, and wounded Barrett’s wife June, a retired nurse. Hill bragged that “…  no innocent babies are going to be killed in that clinic today.”
  • Anti-abortion terrorist John Salvi carried out two fatal attacks on two abortion clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts in December 1994. Receptionists Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, were killed in the attacks. He escaped but was captured after another clinic attack in which he killed 2 more receptionists on March 19, 1996.
  • Anti-immigrant vigilantes murdered Raul Flores Jr and his 9-year-old daughter Brisenia at point-blank range in their Tucson, Arizona home in 2009. A month earlier another young girl had died in a gun massacre in which anti-immigrant protestors were implicated.
  • In 1998, James Kopp shot and killed Dr. Barnett Slepian. Kopp was affiliated with the militant Lambs Of Christ anti-abortion group.
  • Militia wanna-be Bruce Turnidge went apeshit after Barack Obama was elected in 2008. He and his son, Joshua, succumbed to NRA hype and fear. They built and planted a bomb at a bank in Woodburn, Oregon on Dec. 12th, killing 2 police officers and wounding two others.
  • George Richard Tiller, MD was murdered inside his church on May 21, 2009 by Scott Roeder, a militant anti-abortion protestor. Tiller had been shot and wounded 16 years earlier by another anti-abortion militant, Shelley Shannon.

We can see from this sampling that these crimes were driven by ideology, not party. Mostly, it’s anti-abortion militants who seem to think it’s okay to murder people to protect life. Now there’s an oxymoron for you.

As far as the bogus letter to the editor, it is simply not true.

Re-reblogging because XKit’s one-click reblog removes all captions.

Commentary is awesome.

Tea Party fear x Pundit fear-mongering-for-profit + RepCon approval and/or silence = Today’s GOP.


I’m Weighing Whether Or Not I Want To Go Through The Hell Of Appealing To You Idiotic, Uninformed Oafs: Full Commentary

Tagged: #politics #ugh


Here is a collection of anti suffragette posters, postcards and cartoons. They’re old, and comically out of date, but looking at them gives me something like despair, because as a woman today I cannot imagine facing that attitude, and fighting it.  Going out there and demanding better, and getting this kind of … unbelievable ignorance and intolerance in your face.  This article has also been making the rounds. 

I can’t believe that in 2012 I read about an American congressman who really believes that women’s bodies have a way of shutting down pregnancy if they are “really” raped.  I cannot believe a lot of the things I have seen come out in American news lately. 

You are voting today, right?

As Rose Winslow wrote from prison in 1917:

“All the officers here know we are making this hunger strike that women fighting for liberty may be considered political prisoners; we have told them. God knows we don’t want other women ever to have to do this over again.”