The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Laughter

The Politics of Laughter

Pretend you’re a hacker, just like in the movies. [Hacker Typer]

Well played, deadsleep. Well played. [screencap]

Thoughtful Bear [picture]

Ugly Flower [Popstrip]

Glasses [Nuclear Delight]

Cyanide and Happiness #2626 [Expolsm]

Scott Piro: “Pinkwashing” Deconstructed

The RP’s Huffington Post column about Israel this week has sparked considerable interest at this site and over the rest of the Internet tubes as well. (Already more than 650 comments have been made over at HuffPo).

For another perspective on one of the central issues at stake — LGBT rights in the Middle East, we turn to the RP Nation’s Scott Piro who submitted the following piece.  We would love your feedback, as always.

In 2007, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated a nation-branding campaign informally known as ‘Beyond the Conflict.’ The goal was to change people’s perception of Israel from a war zone populated by the ultra-religious into a more normal place – rich with culture, dominated by high-tech and scientific achievement and grounded in identifiable, Western values.

American nonprofit organizations joined the effort by making sure non-conflict stories saw the light of day – everything from Israeli companies being listed on the NASDAQ and Israeli-made computer chips powering everyday products, to stories about Tel Aviv’s nightlife and Israeli model Bar Rafaeli gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue.

Nation-branding is practiced by many states, from established democracies like the U.S., Canada, France, Japan, South Korea, South Africa and New Zealand to developing countries like Tanzania, Colombia and Guatemala. It’s not unique to Israel.

In addition to the cultural and technology stories, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought ways to emphasize Israeli values. Israel’s record on LGBT rights was smartly identified as a way to highlight its societal tolerance and diversity, and draw contrast with more repressive regimes in the region and around the world. In reality, Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where people are not persecuted because of their sexual or gender identity. Here are the facts for LGBTs in Israel:

  •  Anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTs
  •  Recognition of same-sex marriages performed abroad
  •  Legalized LGBT adoption rights
  •  LGBT soldiers serve openly in all military branches, including special units; discrimination is prohibited
  •  Same-sex couples have the same inheritance rights as heterosexual, married couples

LGBTs enjoy these rights nowhere else in the Middle East. In fact, every other Middle Eastern country makes homosexuality a crime punishable by death (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen) or jail time (Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, Algeria), or LGBTs face risks of violence, torture and “honor killings” by militias or their own families (the West Bank, Iraq, Turkey) or harassment and crackdowns from the government and non-state actors (Bahrain, Jordan). In fact, when compared to states outside the region – including most Western democracies – Israel has one of the strongest records for LGBT rights in the world.

Read the rest of…
Scott Piro: “Pinkwashing” Deconstructed

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of the Web.

The Politics of the Web



Is Siri – of iPhone 4 fame – pro life? The answer appears to be yes. [Gizmodo]

Mozilla amps up its fight against anti-piracy and internet protection bills. [Washington Post]

Cyber Monday, a shopping day truly invented for the internet, finally comes of age. [New York Times]

Jason Atkinson Featured in Christian Science Monitor: The Myth of the Maverick

Our very own contributing RP, Oregon State Senator Jason Atkinson, was featured in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor’s cover story, “The Myth of the Maverick.”  Here’s an excerpt:

It’s that time again: stump speeches and town-hall meetings, policy debates, and primaries about to kick off.

It’s presidential election time – which means Americans are, yet again, in the season of mavericks.

It has become a ritual of American elections for politicians to pretend as if they’re anything but politicians, and polls suggest voters like them better when they believe that. But this isn’t simply a political phenomenon. From business to medicine to technology, America loves a visionary outsider willing to follow a dream – and break a few rules, maybe even make a few sacrifices, on the way.

“There are some people who are wired differently to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this thing in my heart, this opportunity in my profession, and I’m going to shake things up,’ ” says Jason Atkinson, an entrepreneur-turned-Republican state senator in Oregon. “That leadership style is quintessentially American”…

Though you probably haven’t heard of him, Senator Atkinson is something of a local maverick in Oregon – or at the very least not a stereotypical Republican. Earlier this year, for example, he cosponsored bills to ban plastic bags in Oregon stores. But his most personally meaningful maverick moment came last January, when his friend Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic congresswoman from Arizona, was shot at a public meeting in Tucson.

The shooting came just months after the 2010 elections – marked nationally, as well as in Oregon, by militant rhetoric and bitter fighting, Atkinson remembers.

“We had just come off of very, very dirty campaigns, and there was a lot of really raw emotion,” he says. “You had a lot of very upset and wounded people serving in the Oregon Senate.”

The Giffords shooting resonated with Atkinson, who had himself been accidentally shot nearly three years before. Atkinson weighed whether to speak out against the extremity of political rhetoric, locally and nationally.

“Nobody wanted to say anything because everybody understands the anger” that was in the air after fierce campaigns on both sides, he says. “If you say something, you know you’re going to get beat up on talk radio, and by the critics…. But in my mind, something had to be said.”

Without consulting party leadership, Atkinson gave an impromptu, impassioned speech on the Senate floor asking for greater civility in politics. He wanted to see a conversation between politicians about ideas, rather than reducing debates, as he said in his speech, to “the idea that I am right, and you are evil.”

If his fellow politicians were listening, they missed his point. “The blowback for that decision was nothing I had ever experienced,” he says. He received hate mail and threatening telephone calls. “For weeks I had the sheriff’s office parked outside my house,” he says.

Some of that backlash, he thinks, was simply because some politicians thought they could score points by disagreeing with Atkinson. But he thinks there may also have been something else: guilt.

“The big bullies in politics don’t make up 50 percent of one side and 50 percent of the other, so why is that driving everything?” he says. “I think there was a pretty big chunk of guilt.”

Nearly one year later, though, he also thinks that speech made a difference. For starters, the sheriff’s cars are gone and people are being a lot nicer to him. “People who talk to me now want me to think they’re being civil. It’s kind of like, you don’t swear in front of the pastor,” he says with a laugh.

He’s also received dozens of invitations to speak about civility to groups across the state. He’s been sought out for conversations about meaningful bipartisanship. The local conversation, he says, has begun to change.

Click here to read the full, fascinating story.

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of College

School spirit varies from college to college, but several across the country are known for the intense devotion of the student body to their schools. [Online Colleges]

In front of every roaring college crowd, there is a mascot in the school’s traditional costume. See here for a list of the best college mascots. [Bleacher Report]

While some college mascots are a symbol around which the entire student body can rally, others do not serve the same inspirational role. Whether it’s an anteater, a “geoduck,” or an artichoke, these mascots do not always effectively intimidate the competition.  [TopTenz]

While some schools show their spirit through athletics, others do it through long standing traditions. Many of these traditions, however, are more than a little unusual. [Online Universities]

Pro Bono Dude Quoted in CNN Story

Friend of RP Steven Schulman, best known to the world as “Pro Bono Dude,” was quoted in a CNN story, “Hard Times for Lawyers Spell Pro Bono Cuts”:

At Akin Gump, a prominent law firm in Washington, D.C., Steve Schulman, head of the pro bono practice, notes, “as a firm, we are a bit leaner, so, of course, pro bono hours are down.” A firm restructuring trimmed nearly 200 attorneys from its roster since 2007, which has resulted in a reduced pro bono case load, Schulman says.

Akin Gump lawyers have racked up 48,000 free hours so far this year, and the firm expects to be close to last year’s 57,000 total hours. Such work, he says, “is still a draw to recruit top law students.”

Larger firms also have deeper pockets to cover expenses, such as travel, to pursue a pro bono case. But, Schulman maintains, that while “our attorneys are on salary, which is a fixed cost, and it doesn’t cost that much to generate an extra free hour, the cost to the firm of these hours is not zero.”

Click here to read the full story.

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Fashion

Politics of Fashion

BREAKING NEWS: The shopping extravaganza known as Black Friday brings in billions for retailers! [CNN]

There is still time to take advantage of Cyber Monday! Check out this tips:   [CBS News]

Gisele and Givenchy – is it true?   [The Cut]

Would you buy a version of Pippa Middleton’s bridesmaid dress? By Alexander McQueen? For $3,100?   [People]



Herman Cain




A third woman comes forward against republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain. Ginger White, of Atlanta, GA, claims that she had a 13 year affair with Cain. [Fox News Atlanta]

Andrei Cherny: American Spring

In those days before kids, I was fast asleep when the phone by my bed rang at about half past six in the morning. It was my father calling. Planes had flown into the World Trade Center. America was being attacked. I knocked on the door of my guest bedroom to awaken a visiting friend. Together, thousands of miles from New York and Washington, we experienced the day—the fall of one tower and then the other, the attack on the Pentagon, the confusion, the rumors, the terror—the way most Americans did: watching television in stunned silence. It’s not just that we all still remember where we were when we heard; it’s that at that very moment we knew we would always remember.

But even as it was already clear on September 11, 2001 that the attacks were a turning point in American history, no one could have foreseen the direction of that pivot. The terrorists struck an ascendant America that had seen a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity. While so much was destroyed that day, our confidence was unshaken. Most Americans anticipated a long war in Afghanistan with many casualties, but were certain of victory.

In the days after 9/11, according to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive, two-thirds of Americans said they had prayed and a similar number admitted to having wept. Eighty percent told someone they loved them as a result of the attack, and 60 percent kept in closer touch with relatives. Seventy percent had sung “God Bless America” and 63 percent sang the national anthem. But by September 27, 2001, 60 percent of Americans believed life had returned to normal. Looking back after ten years, we were clearly wrong. September 11 ushered in a sorry, sad, low decade. Ten years later, we are a nation that has been humbled abroad and felled at home. In a Time poll conducted this summer, only 6 percent of Americans now believe the country has fully recovered from the attacks.

It is more than the tragedies of Iraq or the sorrows of economic stagnation that have beset America in the ten years since 2001. It is the widespread sense that we are no longer the young, brave nation that brushes off adversity and charges forward—the America that went from Sputnik to Apollo in 11 years and from “malaise” to “Morning in America” in five. It is the belief that we are a slower, older country—an America stuck in its ways, no longer able to tackle big challenges and make big changes. More than a hundred years ago, the transition into the Industrial Age saw the rise of the Progressives and a new approach to public action. But now America moves into an individualized economy while politicians still repeat the familiar arguments of a bygone era. The Great Depression brought about the New Deal and a transformation of government while the Great Recession has produced little more than tinkers to an ossified system. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, America mobilized its manpower and machinery to win a global war against fascism. We invaded North Africa and Normandy. Four years after the attack, Hitler lay dead and Tojo was in chains. The occupations and transitions to democracy of Germany and Japan began and would succeed. Ten years after 9/11, the case for victory is far more muddled—at best.

In a nondescript house on a leafy street in a medium-sized city in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden—surrounded by porn and Pepsis—met his long overdue end on May 1. With the news, cheering crowds poured into Times Square and gathered in front of the White House. It had the feeling of a victory celebration, a national relief after a decade of frustration. But, in many ways, it was the Arab Spring—as much as a Navy SEAL’s bullet—that closed the chapter on bin Laden. And it is the impulse that led to that Arab Spring—for all its contradictions and uncertainty—that provides the best hope for a regeneration of an optimistic, forward-looking American spirit at home and around the world.

Read the rest of…
Andrei Cherny: American Spring

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Pigskin

The Politics of Pigskin

Reports this morning suggest that Ohio State University is set to hire Urban Meyer as their new head football coach. This would be a big hire after Jim Tressel resigned amid scandal. [ESPN]

In MMQB this week you can read about Matt Leinart going down in his first game back as a starting QB, if Denver is a fluky team, and Ndamukong Suh. [Sports Illustrated]

Yeah, you read that right, Matt Leinart got his first shot at starting as an NFL QB for the first time in a long time and was promptly injured. It looks like he will be out for the rest of the season. Read on to find more winners and losers from the weekend. [Yahoo! Sports]

The Football Outsiders break down how amazing Aaron Rodgers has been this season. [Football Outsiders]

The new NCAA BCS rankings still have LSU and Alabama sitting at #1 and #2 and likely headed to an all-SEC national championship game. [ESPN]

The Recovering Politician Bookstore


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