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Sallie Ford’s Raucous Self-Help

Mother Jones

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Sallie Ford
Soul Sick
Vanguard

Courtesy of Vanguard

The ingredients of Sallie Ford’s stunning fourth album are easy to identify: ’50s teen ballads, ’60s reverb-heavy surf guitar, and plenty of timeless garage rock, among other familiar sounds. (Love those trashy organ riffs!) But that doesn’t begin to hint at the passionate immediacy she brings to these vivid stories of mental health struggles and the attempt to rise above “that feeling when you feel like giving up.” A deceptively powerful singer who splits the different between an earnest folkie and a fiery punk shouter, Ford reveals her darkest thoughts with fearless candor, daring to “imagine the worst that it could be/Fantasize, romanticize, my demise,” in the raucous “Loneliness Is Power,” and confessing, “It’s the feeling of failing that’s freeing,” on the lovely “Failure.” If she bends, Ford never breaks, concluding with the rousing, soul-inflected “Rapid Eyes,” exclaiming, “I need professional help…Gotta try and fix what’s inside.” Soul Sick is a riveting self-help session that could buoy the spirits of others facing their own challenges—and it’s great Rock ‘n’ Roll to boot.

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Sallie Ford’s Raucous Self-Help

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Here’s What It’s Like to Be Muslim in the Bible Belt in 2017

Mother Jones

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In August 2012, a mosque opened in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a bustling college town outside of Nashville that is home to students, long-time residents, refugees, suburban families, and everyone in between. The national headlines for the stories about the event suggested some of the conflicts that had led to this moment: The New York Daily News wrote, “Tennessee Mosque Opens After Years of Controversy,” the New York Times wrote “After a Struggle, Mosque Opens in Tennessee”, and NPR wrote “Murfreesboro Mosque Finally Opens.”

But the summer day when it opened was peaceful and harmonious, with the exception of a lone protester, wearing an “I Love Jesus” hat and a shirt bearing the 10 Commandments. The day was one for celebration, and the members of the Muslim community who had gathered were not dwelling on the fact that during court battles over permits, Rutherford County had spent more than $340,000 in legal fees fighting the right to build this place of worship. Or that the lieutenant governor of Tennessee at the time, Ron Ramsey, had described Islam as a “cult” while voicing opposition to the mosque.

The community itself was split between those attacking the approximately 300 families of the mosque for being Muslim and those who banded with their Muslim neighbors. The peaceful community was the target of a bomb threat—the anonymous caller, later found to be a Texas man, promised it would go off inside the office space where the community was worshipping in the interim on Sept. 11. A vandal scrawled “not welcome” across a sign announcing the construction of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. Construction equipment used to build the walls of the mosque was set on fire, its charred remains a warning to worshippers that they were not safe. But after two troubled years, the mosque finally opened, and residents began to take its presence on Veals Road for granted.

Then Donald Trump was elected, and the anti-Muslim rhetoric that once inflamed the Bible Belt town of 126,000 was reignited.

Murfreesboro is home to a very small fraction of American Muslims, but it was primed for a backlash in a unique way. Most residents remember the saga of the mosque, and the Baptist church next door made its anti-Islam position very clear by erecting 13 10-foot-tall crosses into the ground “to make a statement.” There are residents of Murfreesboro who stood with their Muslim neighbors, leaving flowers and handwritten cards at the front door of the mosque, but there are increasingly louder voices that threaten the safety of others who happen to be Muslim. It’s a sort of microcosm of what has happened across the country, where tensions and even violence have escalated against Muslims in the wake of the inflammatory rhetoric of President Donald Trump.

“People are afraid, and they won’t tell others about harassment,” says Saleh Sbenaty, a leader in the Muslim community, who was deeply involved in the struggle to get the mosque built. “It’s really scary and dangerous.”

He added that some members of the mosque have told him they are considering not attending services because they are frightened of the possibility of an attack. When news broke that a mosque in Texas had been set on fire shortly after Trump announced an executive order temporarily banning refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, they prayed for safety. When a shooting at a Quebec City mosque by a 27-year-old white male who was reportedly “a right-wing troll who frequently took anti-foreigner and anti-feminist positions and stood up for U.S. President Donald Trump” left six dead and more injured three days after Trump’s executive order, they felt their worst fears were being confirmed.

The Sbenaty family left Syria because it was unsafe, and they wanted a better life for themselves and their children. His daughter Dima was born in Damascus, but her mother brought her to the United States when she was eight months old to join Saleh, who was earning his PhD at the time. Their son, Salim, was born in Murfreesboro. A week after the election, 20-year-old Salim, was waiting tables at a local restaurant when he was asked, “Son, where are you from?”

“I was born and raised here in Murfreesboro,” he replied.

The response was abrupt. “You look foreign.”

“My parents came from Damascus a long time ago,” Salim said. The man stared.

“I’m going to the car to get my gun.”

Later that night, he told his father, who was horrified, and asked how he responded. Salim said the man had probably never met anyone who looked like him before, and he did not want to deepen his hatred. Saleh says many people in the Muslim community in Murfreesboro would have done the same, although he encouraged his son to report the incident.

During his campaign, Trump went back and forth on a proposal to create a “Muslim registry.” When he was asked about it in November 2015, he said, “We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques.” Later, he said he wanted to have a database on Syrian refugees who immigrate into the United States. Less than a month later, in December 2015, he proposed banning all Muslim immigration. Trump has consistently talked about the threat of “radical Islam,” and in an interview with CNN last year, he told Anderson Cooper, “I think Islam hates us.”

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, has also been vocal about his views on Islam. “We are in an outright war against jihadist, Islamic fascists,” Bannon said in a 2014 speech. He also said the religion was metastasizing—like cancer.

Some Tennessee lawmakers have spouted similar claims—Tennessee state Sen. Mae Beavers told town hall attendees on Feb. 16 that Muslim terrorists were “infiltrating churches” and planning jihad in the Bible Belt. She also has expressed support for Trump’s “Muslim ban.” Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who served as a vice chair of Trump’s transition team, said Trump’s immigration order was a “security test, not a religious one.”

“Our intelligence and security agencies must ascertain the scope of the Islamic terror threat in order to develop proper refugee vetting protocols—if possible,” she wrote in an op-ed for The Tennessean.

And now, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, anti-Muslim hate groups have tripled since 2015.

Ossama Bahoul, the former imam at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, said there is a big difference between what the Muslim community in Middle Tennessee went through when the mosque was being built and what is happening now. Back then, the government was on their side—it defended his people’s right to worship and promised to take swift action against anyone who threatened them. Now, he hears the Islamophobia that used to come from the mouths of protesters coming from the government. “It is really disturbing for me to be talking about this,” Bahloul said. “The people who are supposed to protect us are singling our community out. That’s tough.”

Bahloul and Saleh Sbenaty tell Mother Jones about women who had been threatened for wearing the hijab and sometimes, Bahloul said, people have tried to assault them. Schoolchildren have come home crying because other children asked if their headscarves are hiding a bomb. Other Muslims have told him they have heard mutterings of “it’s about time to clean up America” and “go back home” when they pass by.

Recently, when another student at school referred to one of the children in his congregation as “Bin Laden,” Bahloul found himself at a loss. “Our kids were born in America—they don’t speak any language but English,” he said. “They are American kids, and they will come at a very young age and say, ‘Why do they hate us?'”

The effects of Trump’s comments about Muslims is not restricted to the random acts of violence directed at Muslims in the United States. The executive order he signed banning refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly-Muslim countries—including Syria—mean the Sbenatys and other families fear they’ll be separated from family members for quite some time. Saleh hasn’t seen his mother, who is 83, in 11 years. He wants to bring her to America, but the recent events make that seem unlikely. His siblings got married after he left Syria, and he has nieces and nephews he has never met. Minutes after the Ninth Circuit Court filed a preliminary injunction against Trump’s immigration order, effectively putting it on hold, Trump tweeted, in all caps: “See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake!”

“Now there is no option for me to go and visit or for them to come over here,” Saleh told Mother Jones before the court ruling. “It’s something you cannot explain in words.”

Dima Sbenaty, Saleh’s daughter, is a 27-year-old clinical coordinator for the stroke unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. The week after Trump’s “Muslim ban” took effect, she spoke at a vigil in support of Muslim Americans. Thousands showed up. “Islam taught me to give back…As a Muslim, it is my obligation to you to be strong, to uphold justice, and to protect your rights,” she told the crowd that night. “That is how America raised me.”

Recently, she decided to start wearing a hijab, and because of the outward signifier that she is Muslim, she has encountered some animosity in the workplace. Sometimes, when she’s out running errands, she gets an uncomfortable sensation, like she’s being watched by someone with less-than-friendly intentions. But she’s determined not to let fear rule her. “I’m practicing my freedom by covering my hair; I’m practicing my freedom by saying that I’m Muslim and going to the mosque,” she tells Mother Jones. “That’s my freedom as an American, and I don’t think I should be afraid…Refugees are leaving a place where they’re being dehumanized. They’re coming into America to seek refuge, and they’re entering another hell.”

As for Imam Bahloul, he is still wrestling with how to explain to the community what is happening and how to deal with being targeted. “For a girl to cry and say, ‘I want to cover my hair, but I’m scared,’ that girl must not be scared in America,” he said. “We’re part of the American fabric.”

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Here’s What It’s Like to Be Muslim in the Bible Belt in 2017

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The Dead Pool – 26 February 2017

Mother Jones

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Man of the people that he is, Donald Trump likes to pick rich guys for high-level positions in his administration. Unfortunately, that poses a problem:

President Donald Trump’s nominee for Navy secretary, investor Philip Bilden, is expected to withdraw from consideration, sources familiar with the decision told Politico, becoming the second Pentagon pick unable to untangle their financial investments in the vetting process….Like billionaire investment banker Vincent Viola, who withdraw his nomination to be secretary of the Army earlier this month, Bilden ran into too many challenges during a review by the Office of Government Ethics to avoid potential conflicts of interest, the sources said.

To become Secretary of State, maybe all this divesting of huge fortunes is worth it. But Navy Secretary? Probably not.

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The Dead Pool – 26 February 2017

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Donald Trump Obliterates the Deficit!

Mother Jones

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Behold the echo chamber. Here is Gateway Pundit two days ago:

Here is Herman Cain this morning:

Here is Donald Trump shortly afterward:

The strangest thing about this is that…it’s true. I’m not really used to that from Trump. I guess accidents do happen, though.

Now, it’s also meaningless, and not just because Trump hasn’t actually done anything yet. The deficit bounces up and down monthly depending on how much the government happens to spend and how much tax revenue it takes in. For example, take a look at the following chart:

The month of April is shown in blue. Let’s make that into its own chart:

Impressive! During Obama’s presidency, he turned around America’s finances. We went from a deficit of $80 billion in 2010 to a surplus of over $100 billion in his final year. Why didn’t the mainstream media ever report that?

Because who cares, that’s why. You know what happens in April? Everyone pays their taxes. Does that mean the deficit is in great shape every April? Of course not. That just happens to be when a lot of the money comes in.

But it doesn’t matter. As I’ve mentioned before, Trump’s tweets are for for his fans, not for us. And his fans now think that in his very first month Trump has erased the deficit. The guy promised action, and by God, he’s delivered. It just goes to show that all this deficit stuff wasn’t really so hard to solve after all. It just needed a man of action to go in and straighten things out.

Not that the FAKE NEWS media will ever admit that, of course.

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Donald Trump Obliterates the Deficit!

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Tom Perez Wins Race for DNC Chair

Mother Jones

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The election for DNC chair is over, and Tom Perez won:

Sigh. This is so ridiculous. I know that Keith Ellison was the “Bernie guy” and Perez was the “Obama/Hillary guy,” but it’s nuts that this got turned into some kind of ideological showdown. Not only are Ellison and Perez about equally progressive, but DNC chair isn’t a policy position anyway. It’s a fundraising and managerial position. I didn’t really care one way or the other between the two because I have no idea which of them is a better manager and fundraiser.

In any case, thank goodness that Ellison and Perez themselves are grownups. Perez, in what was obviously a prearranged move, immediately offered Ellison the deputy chair job, and Ellison accepted:

This strikes me as the best of all outcomes. Democrats get to keep Ellison in Congress, and hopefully Perez will give him some real authority at the DNC. Better two high-profile guys there than one.

Besides, national-level purity contests are stupid. Democrats are fine at the national level. It’s every other level that they suck at. Anybody who spends any time or energy continuing to fight over some national standard of progressiveness at the DNC is just wasting everyone’s time. From a party standpoint, state and local races are all that matter for the next couple of years.

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Tom Perez Wins Race for DNC Chair

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