Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.

Tag Archives: First Freedoms


When the mob of white men marched in Charlottesville carrying flaming torches Friday night shouting “Heil Trump” as the curtain-raiser for a day of violent clashes with counterprotesters that left three people dead, they showed the world that America is once again playing with fire. And Trump was the one with the match.

— The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak: Trump lit the torches of white supremacy in Charlottesville. We must extinguish them.

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The best way to fight neo-Nazis is to… laugh?

The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat writes: “Hate is marching in the streets. Some of the same groups that marched in Charlottesville are growing in the Northwest. A local author has argued the best thing to do to confront it all is to … show up and mock them.” The local author Westneat talked to is none other than David Neiwert, the respected creator of Orcinus and an expert on right wing extremism and eliminationists.

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Facebook says it shouldn’t have to stay mum when government seeks user data

“Major technology companies and civil liberties groups have joined Facebook in a closed courtroom battle over secret government access to social media records,” reports The Washington Post’s Ann Marimow.

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Without mentioning him, Meryl Streep eviscerated Donald Trump’s bigotry and his despicable campaign for the presidency. “Violence incites violence,” she noted.


Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year, so I have to read.

Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

But who are we, and what is Hollywood anyway?

It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island; Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates?

And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London — no, in Ireland I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a girl in small-town Virginia.

Ryan Gosling, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian, and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

They gave me three seconds to say this, so: An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. O.K., go on with it.

O.K., this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

One more thing: Once, when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.

As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.

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Trump weighing Muslim registry, says adviser

Can you say “unconstitutional”? “Un-American”?

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President Obama at Maryland mosque: ‘You fit in here’

The Baltimore Sun reports: “President Barack Obama, speaking in Baltimore County during his first visit to a U.S. mosque, urged voters to reject the ‘inexcusable political rhetoric’ he said is emanating from the presidential campaign trail as he called on Americans to embrace a common humanity.”

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On Wednesday, February 3rd, President Barack Obama delivered a landmark speech on religious freedom and tolerance to the Islamic Society of Baltimore.

Watch his speech above in high definition. Read the transcript here.

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Francis: A pastoral pope, slipping conservatives’ grasp

“Francis, a Jesuit priest and master politician who defies, and despises, narrow interpretations, seemed to be once again slipping the conservatives’ grasp with broad and generous calls for tolerance and contemplation,” writes The New York Times’ Jason Horowitz, in the wake of the pontiff’s speech at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, which discussed religious liberty from a progressive perspective.


It’s become a real badge of honour to have that sticker on your CD now… It came out of this puritanical drive in America against rock and gangsta rap but completely backfired because bands would add in extra swearing just to get the sticker. Kids would want to buy that album because it had the label on and it made your CD seem cool. After all, isn’t music partly about annoying your parents?

— Dan Stubbs, news editor of music weekly NME, speaking to BBC News about the folly of the Parental Advisory Explicit Content sticker, developed by the Parents Music Resource Council in the 1990s.

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Senator John McCain has a short fuse, as a group of protestors discovered when he snarled at them to “get out of here, you low-life scum” after they disrupted a committee hearing at which Henry Kissinger was testifying.

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It is sadly unclear whether this article will put lives at risk

The Onion, one of America’s best known satirical publications, responded to the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France with a sobering article that concludes, “At press time, although the consequences of this article are reportedly still unclear and actual human lives may hang in the balance, sources confirmed that the best thing to do—really the only thing to do—is to simply put it out there and just hope that it does some good.”


Satire must always accompany any free society. It is an absolute necessity. Even in the most repressive medieval kingdoms, they understood the need for the court jester, the one soul allowed to tell the truth through laughter. It is, in many ways, the most powerful form of free speech because it is aimed at those in power, or those whose ideas would spread hate.

— Joe Randazzo, the former editor of well known American satirical publication The Onion, writing for MSNBC (Freedom of speech cannot be killed).


We stand absolutely united with the French people against terrorism and against this threat to our values – free speech, the rule of law, democracy. It’s absolutely essential we defend those values today and every day.

— United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, responding to the attack on Charlie Hebdo in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Je suis Charlie! The people of France take a stand against terrorism

A man in Strasbourg, France shows solidarity with the staff of Charlie Hebdo, who were targeted by Islamic terrorists in a brutal attack in Paris earlier today. “Je suis” is French for “I am”. (Photo: Claude Truong-Ngoc / Wikimedia Commons)