Monday Reads: Air BnB wrecking neighborhoods all over the country including mine

airbnb1Good Morning!

I’ve written about gentrification and the impact on inner city neighborhoods like mine.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to a real nightmare ruining my neighborhood and other neighborhoods all over the country.  I’m going to approach it from several vantage points.  First, as a person who is living the firsthand nightmare of being surrounded by illegal, unlicensed short term rentals that brings party happy tourists into quiet neighborhoods.  Second, as a person who has watched many friends get booted from their rental properties because their apartments are worth more as short term illegal rentals for tourists.  Studies in cities like New York City and San Francisco shows the impact of illegal and unlicensed AirBnB short term rentals on homelessness and increasing the unavailability of long term rentals in cities already facing issues by not having enough affordable housing.  It’s not pretty.  Get ready for an increase in homeless in a town or city near year.

The art installation you see on the left comes from the creative minds of two women in my neighborhood.  I was pleased to see this come so quickly after I’ve started emailing and calling my city council woman about what’s being going on all around me.

Over Memorial Day weekend, a Coney Island-style stand-in popped up on a porch on Royal Street in Bywater. The art piece featured two Bywater caricatures on a satirical billboard: “Welcome to the Bywater, where the vacation never ends!” Artist Caroline Thomas, who paints Mardi Gras floats for Royal Artists, created the piece and posted photos on Facebook. The spread went viral. Meanwhile, dozens of people — including many out-of-town visitors — posed for photos, gawked at and talked about the piece outside her home.

And her neighborhood is full of those visitors. Most of her block offers a room (or entire home) on Airbnb, she says. She counted 140 Airbnbs within her neighborhood, compared to just a handful of apartments for rent listed on sites like Craigslist.

“We noticed over the past six months a definite shift in the neighborhood,” she says. “Big packs of tourists where you see 20 people going down the street with rolling suitcases and you’re like, ‘What’s happening?’ … We walk outside and people are taking constant photos of our house. At first it was charming, then you start to feel like an animal in a zoo.”

She may feel like an animal in a zoo but I feel more like a hostage in my own home.  I have an endless parade of strangers at all hours of the day and night within inches of my bedroom. It’s hard to park in front of my house. I frequently hear noises that you’d expect from a frat house that’s known for wild parties.  People from New Jersey–who basically never even live here or come here any more–are buying houses on my street and renting them out for around $200 a night.  Take $200 x 30 and you’ll have a monthly income for a small apartment in Tokyo.  However, Tokyo has a lot of well paying jobs. New Orleans does not and long term rentals–while rising to east coast levels–are way too high for New Orleans incomes. I’m losing neighbors and gaining party throwing crime bait.

Here’s Caroline’s original story from her facebook page.

My roommate Chascarillo Meow and I have been struggling with a lot of anger over our neighborhood (the Bywater) and decided to work it out with some art. We’ve slowly come to realize that the entire neighborhood is being overrun by Airbnb, to the point where it’s near impossible to find long term leases (140 Airbnb listings versus 18 apartments up on craigslist). Every house around us is running an Airbnb hustle, and specifically the one to the left of us: the woman that owns it has multiple properties in the neighborhood, she doesn’t live on premise, heck, she isn’t in town half the time, she’s packing as many as 10 people into each side of the shotgun, and it’s back to back rentals. It’s bachelorette weekends and birthday getaways every day of the week over there. I used to live on a quiet block and now it’s packs of bros heading to Booty’s for craft cocktails. I walk outside and people are taking selfies in front of my house. Markey’s and the Country Club (though both very considerate establishments) are completely overrun with tourists, and no long function as the neighborhood establishments they once were.
I know this is touchy subject, because everyone knows someone who’s using Airbnb to supplement their income, but take a second to think about what you’re doing to your city. All 140 of those properties (excluding a few, I’m sure, that are just offering up something like a couch or are only renting it out a few times a year) could be filled with locals. People that pay taxes and care about potholes and our police and whether Pres Kabacoff is going to build high rise apartments along our riverfront. And people displaced from the Bywater will start filling up poorer, more vulnerable neighborhoods in the city, and those people in turn will be displaced. Pre-Katrina, people were spending 19% of their income on rent. Now it’s 41%. And when people like the lady next door are charging $250/ night how can locals compete? Her price for renting it out for a month? $5,000. That’s Tokyo prices.

Here is my letter to my City Council Woman that I sent on May 14th.

Hi! I live at (address redacted for obvious reasons) and am at my wit’s end dealing with the short term air bnb next to me at (house numbers redacted). The owners live in NJ and are never here. The property manager appears to live in San Francisco. It is like living next to a frat house. I live next to a legitimate b&b with owners in resident and it’s like night and day. Also, I can tell you that I’ve lost 4 friends whose landlords evicted them to do the same set up. We are totally losing our neighborhood to these things. The same people have just bought a property across the street and are planning to do the same thing. I don’t have time to list all the issues I have had but just ask yourself if you would want complete strangers walking within inches of your bedroom window at all hours of the day and night. One time it was with about 20 bicycles.

Help!

american_splendor-gentrification Yes I said 20 bicycles at all hours of the night and day rolling within inches of my bedroom window.  Most of these folks  act like my street is an extension of Bourbon Street.  They also seem to be unaware that they’ve introduced incredible levels of muggings in my neighborhood because most of them aren’t very streetwise and don’t know how to deal with an inner city neighborhood like me. They’re like walking crime bait.  There are laws surrounding these things but the city doesn’t have the resources to enforce them.

I also live next to one of the few licensed B&B’s in the neighborhood with resident owners.  They pay their taxes, their fees, and they follow the rules.  Their business is being hurt by the black market short term rentals that have spread like wildfire the last year or so. My neighborhood is not zoned for multiple commercial ventures. However, this is what’s happening now.  My neighbors used to be the folks that worked in the quarter, musicians and artists, writers, and just hard working people.  If they are like me and own their house, they’re still here and live in fear of the potential increase in property taxes and service fees that will have to come with supporting all this activity that is totally out of place in a neighborhood.  If they are renting, they better hope their landlord isn’t struck by the greedbug because they will be booted and will join a huge number of people having to find apartments in a city where there are fewer and fewer options all the time.

This is not unique to New Orleans.  All you have to do is start searching and you will see how New York, San Francisco, and even small cities and towns are dealing with this.  Here’s a blog relating issues that Air Bnb’s are causing in LA.

However, Airbnb has become politically controversial in high-priced, regulation-obsessed cities like Los Angeles and New York. Hotels and hotel unions quite understandably see Airbnb as competition in the short-term lodging industry, and wish to regulate it intensively (if not to destroy it). One common anti-Airbnb argument** is that Airbnb, by making short-term lodging more affordable, actually reduces the supply of traditional apartments—that is, apartments leased for a month or more at a time). The argument runs as follows: units that are on Airbnb for a few days at a time would, in the absence of Airbnb, be rented out as traditional apartments. Thus, Airbnb reduces the housing supply and raises rents.

This argument rests on an essentially unprovable claim: that Airbnb units would otherwise be rented out as traditional apartments. More importantly, the argument proves too much. If Airbnb hosts reduce the supply of apartments by not using their houses and spare rooms as traditional apartments, why isn’t this equally true of hotels who are not using their rooms as apartments, or homeowners who are not renting out every spare room? And if homeowners and hotels are reducing the rental housing supply, why shoudn’t they be forced to rent out their units as traditional apartments?

Finally, the argument rests on the assumption that Airbnb includes a significant share of the rental housing market. For example, LAANE (a union-affiliated policy organization based in Los Angeles) recently issued a report claiming that Airbnb takes ,7316 units off the Los Angeles rental market, which “is equivalent to seven years of affordable housing construction inLos Angeles.” But since Los Angeles produces very little “affordable housing” (whatever that term means) this statistic proves nothing.

A better way of understanding Airbnb’s impact, if any, on rents is to compare it to the total number of housing units in Los Angeles. There are just over 1.2 million housing units in the city of Los Angeles; thus, Airbnb units are roughly 0.6 percent of the housing market. There are about 700,000 rental units in Los Angeles—so even if every single Airbnb unit would otherwise be part of the rental market, Airbnb units would comprise only 1 percent of the rental market. (I very much doubt that this is the case, if only because since some Airbnb units are in privately owned homes and not every part-time Airbnb landlord wants a permanent roommate). Thus, it seems to me that even if every single Airbnb unit would be used as traditional apartments in the absence of Airbnb, its impact on regional housing markets would be small.

Here’s an article in The Examiner about the impact in San Francisco. Its Mission neighborhood is particularly hard hit.10035223

San Francisco is once again debating how best to regulate short-term rental websites like Airbnb, after a law legalizing the practice went into effect less than four months ago.City planners have since said the law is unenforceable and needs to change, a position supported by Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors.But just how to strengthen the law remains a point of contention, as does the question of what impact short-term rentals are having on San Francisco’s housing stock.Today, a report will be released by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose that provides new analysis of the impact of short-term rentals on The City, drawing comparisons between longer-term hosts and evictions and estimating that in some neighborhoods Airbnb units could comprise as much as 40 percent of potential rentals.

Between 925 and 1,960 units citywide have been removed from the housing market by hosts renting out entire units on Airbnb for more than 58 days, the report estimates. While this total comprises a small fraction of San Francisco’s 244,012 rental units, it does represent up to 23.2 percent of the total citywide vacant units, which are estimated at 8,438, the report says.Airbnb is not the only short-term rental website with listings in San Francisco — VRBO, for example, is the second-most popular — but the report only analyzed Airbnb because data for other companies was unavailable. The report notes that “rentals for private and shared rooms would reduce the available rental stock even further.”The data was not provided by Airbnb, but rather compiled through online research.The impact in San Francisco varies by neighborhood, with the greatest impacts in the Mission, Haight-Ashbury/Western Addition, Castro-Eureka Valley and Potrero Hill-South Beach.In the Haight, for example, nearly 32 percent of the vacant rental housing units were listed on Airbnb, some 122 total. In the Mission, 29 percent of potential rentals, or 199, were listed on the website. Another estimate says the Mission percentage could be as high as 40 percent and as high as 43 percent in the Haight.“Airbnb has made a lot of claims that they are not impacting our housing stock. This demonstrates that they clearly are,” Campos said during an interview with The San Francisco Examiner. “And that in some neighborhoods like the Mission the impact is so significant that it’s definitely pushing people out.”The report draws a comparison between the number of evictions in neighborhoods with the most hosts, though notes there is no way to draw a direct connection. In the Mission, for example, there were 315 hosts last year and 323 evictions.“There seems to be a connection,” Campos said. “We won’t know for sure until we actually get Airbnb to give us the information.”The report draws a distinction between commercial hosts, those booked in excess of 58 days, and casual hosts, and bases its analysis on 6,113 Airbnb listings identified in December, of which nearly 4,200 were casual hosts. The impact on the housing stock is based on commercial hosts, which the report defines as those not supplementing living expenses but treating short-term rentals as a steady source of income.Those debating the regulations talk about striking the right balance, such as with the cap on the number of allowable stays per year. Current law states there can only be 90 days for unhosted stays but unlimited days when a host is present. That is being proposed to change to 120 days for all types of stays by the Planning Commission. Campos is pushing for a 60-day cap. A proposed short-term rental measure for the November ballot proposes a 75-day cap.The report said that if the existing regulations were enforced, the current listings of 6,113 would decrease to 5,557. With the 120-day cap, they would decline to 5,706. A 60-day cap would lower them to 4,471.

carolita-johnson-it-ll-have-to-be-your-place-i-airbnb-d-myself-out-of-my-apartment-tonigh-new-yorker-cartoonHere’s an Alternet articel on Air BnB’s “Parasitic Impact on New York City”.  It’s an article on a New Yorker who has done a study on the impact on affordable housing.

Airbnb has permeated New York City’s housing market and its impact has been parasitic. Since its creation, the apartment-rental startup has been praised as a shining example of collaborative consumption, but like many aspects of the “sharing economy,” there’s a dark underbelly to its success. Some of the most disturbing details can be gleaned from the new website, Inside Airbnb. The site, and its interactive NYC map, are the work of activist Murray Cox. I caught up with Cox to discuss his findings and the emerging fight against Airbnb.

Michael Arria: What inspired you to create the website?

Murray Cox: There were a few things that inspired and motivated me to create the Inside Airbnb website. Firstly, I noticed the marketing campaigns that Airbnb ran in the New York City subways last year stating that “Airbnb was great for New York.”

At the same time it was widely reported that many Airbnb hosts were operating illegal hotels and that neither the hosts nor Airbnb were collecting taxes. There was an active and public debate in Albany about the laws, and a legal battle to get Airbnb to release data on how their rental platform was being used.

I get suspicious when a company engages in a public relations campaign while laws are being debated by elected officials, or in the courts. It seemed that Airbnb was being completely unaccountable to the community, yet asking for the laws to be changed for their benefit.

I was also inspired by work I did over the summer with DIVAS for Social Justice at the Weeksville Heritage Center. We taught young children from the neighborhood about gentrification using STEAM subjects. My contribution was to use statistics and maps to allow the students to understand some of the forces that shaped and is now changing their community. That experience, and seeing the reaction from the public to various exhibitions of the student’s work made me realize that data-driven storytelling about the world around us and important issues is very powerful.

MA: Did your findings confirm your suspicions? Did they surprise you?

MC: I started off just looking for data on Airbnb in my neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in central Brooklyn. I knew of a few people in my community that rent out entire apartments in their multi-family homes via Airbnb, and based on other data I had seen, I suspected that this might be widespread.

Once I saw the data for my neighborhood, it both confirmed my suspicions and surprised me. At least 1,224 Airbnb listings were on the Airbnb website for Bedford-Stuyvesant, with 633 (51.7%) of those being for an “entire home/apartment.” Looking at the calendars and reviews for the entire homes/apartments, I found that more than 90% of them were available for more than 60 days out of the year, and on average received a review from a guest once a month.

This directly refuted Airbnb’s claims that “87 percent of Airbnb hosts share the home in which they live.” And more importantly, 633 is a large number of apartments being taken off the long-term housing market in a neighborhood with historic records of homelessness, displacement and reduced housing affordability.

In addition, 43.5% of the listings in Bedford-Stuyvesant were by hosts with more than one listing, sometimes multiple entire apartments or multiple rooms in an apartment building. This is not a story of “sharing” or of a “sharing economy.”

Once I collected and analyzed the data for Airbnb in Bedford-Stuyvesant, I decided to collect data for the entire city, and saw that the same story was repeated throughout the city. I then went about building a site that made it easy for anyone, even without a statistical background, to see the true story.

Here’s further evidence of the impact of Air BnB on NYC. Basically, it’s made already unaffordable and unavailable housing even more unaffordable and unavailable.

Here’s another article at Slate featuring a view point of some one who has rented their house out in Marfa, Texas.

When I first began listing my one-bedroom adobe house in Marfa, Texas, on Airbnb, the service seemed like a godsend. When I took a weekend trip, I’d host tourists from Austin; their rental fees would more than cover the cost of a few tanks of gas and a nice dinner. The rewards weren’t just financial: The people who stayed in my house felt more like houseguests than clients. After a visitor left, I’d find a handwritten thank-you note on the kitchen table, leftover snacks in the fridge, and once, a charming pencil drawing of my cat scratching his ear. And since the hotel options in town are limited, plenty of visitors were happy to pay below-market prices for an authentic Marfa experience, housecats and all.

This utopian vision of regular people helping each other out (and making a little money along the way) is a cornerstone of Airbnb’s PR strategy: “It’s like the United Nations at every kitchen table. It’s very powerful,” Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky told attendees at a hospitality conference last year. “For us to win, no one has to lose.”

But that’s a more contentious claim than it might seem. Recent years have shown there are plenty of profits to be made in the short-term-rental world—and big profits tend to produce both winners and losers. Airbnb’s top 40 hosts in New York City have grossed more than $35 million combined. It didn’t take long for the original hosts of the so-called sharing economy to find themselves competing with enterprising property owners. “There are entrepreneurs out there who see that there’s a huge difference between the cost of a hotel room and what you can get on Airbnb, and they take advantage of it,” says Neal Gorenflo, co-founder of the nonprofit Shareable. “Basically, there’s a dramatic difference in the price of the same commodity that’s normally in two separate markets. People who have the means realize they can exploit that difference.” In a recent blog post, Gorenflo calls this “the dark side of the sharing economy.”

It’s easy to see why many landlords would be tempted: They stand to make much more renting apartments to short-term guests at higher rates than they would if they signed up tenants for yearlong leases. In many cities (although not in Marfa), laws protect tenants somewhat, but property owners are finding creative workarounds. In San Francisco a man is suing his landlord for unjust eviction, claiming that he was kicked out of the rent-controlled apartment where he’d lived for nearly a decade, allegedly so his landlord could list it on Airbnb.

“We have a dwindling stock of rent-controlled units in San Francisco,” says Steven Jones, editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. “Any of those precious few units going to visiting tourists rather than permanent residents certainly adds to the housing crisis here.”

I bump into Air BnB trippers every where.  They usually sit out on the stoops eventually next door or they wind up on the bar stools in any number of our local bars. You just walk around and see all these strangers sitting on stoops where your friends used to live and you think, well there went another one.  These Air BnB idiots are easy to spot.  That’s undoubtedly why the muggings are going up along with the rents that people around here can’t afford.  I ask them why they chose an illegal rental over an actual licensed B&B or hotel.  First, they all don’t know they’re basically breaking the law. It all looks innocent to them and they think they’re actually helping bring money into our neighborhoods.  Their answer is always that it’s cheaper than the hotels or the B&Bs.  I tell them it’s because the hotel taxes are what pays for our police, our schools, our roads, and a lot of the things that need fixing here in New Orleans.  I explain they are enabling people to make money while avoiding paying for the wear and tear on the city that all of you cause.  Including, the crime you’ve brought here.  So, crime bait, you really thinking you’re spending enough money here in the city to make up for the fact that what you’re paying for in nightly “rent” is going up to New Jersey?  C’mon.  They’re in these places because they can get them on the cheap compared to the legitimate places.  You really think they’re also spending lots of money in the city? But, like Caroline says, why should they care about affordable housing and neighborhoods when they have brunch?
Then, I tell them, I hear you walk on the floors.  I heard you arguing last night. I almost called the police because I thought some one was getting hurt.  Oh?  You were just “playing cards”.  Really?   Did you know you held a conversation outside my bedroom window and that I gig until early morning? Did any of you think that dragging 20 bicycles past my bedroom window might wake me up or bother me? Do you think that I might not like going to the grocery store loaded down with sacks and coming back to find I can’t park anywhere near my home?  Oh, great, you’re spending some money here.  That makes up for it all.  In your case, more of your money is going to New Jersey than New Orleans. Now you want to think about it next time you do this to some one else?  Would you really like to live surrounded by Air BnB tripsters coming and going loudly all the time while you’re trying to work, sleep or just relax? You just wanted to save money and be part of a neighborhood the New York Times keeps calling hip.  Let me tell you about the families that actually use to live in that place when I first moved here. They ain’t here no more.  But, hey, you’ve got your brunch!
Somebody may be making a killing off of all of this otherwise the New Jersey carpetbaggers wouldn’t have bought the double across the street that used to be home to a nice black family and doing a repeat. It’s certainly not the folks that are having to look for apartments in other parts of the city with rents that are now displacing the working poor.  It’s certainly not benefiting me although my house price is going up. I’m more afraid that I’ll have to sell because if the property taxes catch up to the market value, I’m fucked.
95438294_2fd841b9f7_oLet me point you to another New Yorker with something succinct to say:  Airbnb Will Probably Get You Evicted and Priced Out of the City.

Renting your place on Airbnb might help you pay your rent, but it’s making New York City — and San Francisco, Montreal, Berlin and other popular destinations — even less affordable than they already are.

The young and mobile love Airbnb. It’s a step up from crashing on a friend or a stranger’s couch without shelling a month’s rent on a three-day stay at a hotel. It’s also a great way to make up for rent that’s “wasted” on an empty apartment.

‘In an attempt to make an extra buck, you may be slowly screwing yourself out of the market.’For those of us trying to survive in some of the most expensive cities in the world — where everyone wants to live, but fewer and fewer people can afford to — it might even be what allows us to be able to pay the rent.

But wait until you are looking for your next place to live, and see the going rates for rentals in the city.

If you look at the economics of it, Airbnb is ruining your life. Or, at least, your chances at a lasting life in the city. In an attempt to make an extra buck, you may be slowly screwing yourself out of the market.

It’s making New Orleans totally unaffordable and it’s turning the historical neighborhoods with their unique cultures and traditions into mini-Bourbon Streets.  It’s time for City Government to Make THIS GO AWAY.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Thursday Reads: Wild Weather, Climate Change, and Other News

 reading-lady-matisse-henri-fauvism-oil-on-cardboard-genre-terminartors-1372947212_orgGood Morning!!

It has been close to 90 degrees here for the past several days, and it’s technically still spring. I’m beginning to wonder if we are going to have a summer from hell as a follow-up to the worst winter in the half-century I’ve lived in Boston.

In addition to the unusually hot weather, the pollen is so bad that every morning when I wake up it takes a few hours for my scratchy, watery eyes to clear up enough for me to read comfortably.

I’m on a regimen of Flonase, Allegra, and Mucinex; but I still feel stuffed up most of the time. Sometimes I feel itchy and even dizzy and nauseated; and I think it’s from allergies. The itchy skin would be unbearable without the Allegra.

Is anyone else noticing worse-than-usual allergies this year? Last year’s spring allergy season was very bad; this year is far worse. Anyone who actually claims to believe that there isn’t something dramatic happening with our weather is either deluded or lying. I wonder if we will manage to do something about climate change before it’s too late.

What about all that awful weather down in Texas?

Here’s a story from the Texas Tribune, via KXON: Climate change, a factor in Texas floods, largely ignored.

“We have observed an increase of heavy rain events, at least in the South-Central United States, including Texas,” said Nielsen-Gammon, who was appointed by former Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. “And it’s consistent with what we would expect from climate change.”

But the state’s Republican leaders are deeply skeptical of the scientific consensus that human activity is changing the climate, with top environmental regulators in Texas questioning whether the planet is warming at all. And attempts by Democratic lawmakers during the 2015 legislative session to discuss the issue have come up short.

“In part, it’s ideologically driven and intellectually lazy,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who earlier this year invited national security experts to the state Capitol to testify at a hearing on the risks of climate change. “My question is: What are people scared of? Are they scared of the truth?”

Asked about the role of climate change in the floods, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz declined to weigh in Wednesday. “At a time of tragedy, I think it’s wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster,” the Republican presidential candidate said during a news conference in San Marcos after surveying damage.

tumblr_mquzp94F2x1qheb2vo1_500

How does discussing scientific research on climate constitute “politicizing a natural disaster?”

Extreme weather events, and more of them, are among the most agreed-upon effects of global warming in all the scientific literature on the subject, said Nielsen-Gammon, who is also a professor at Texas A&M University. Part of the explanation is that ocean temperatures are rising, bringing more moist air into the state that can create storm systems. In the past century, precipitation in Texas is up 7 to 10 percent, and the frequency of two-day heavy rainfall spells has nearly doubled.

The scientific consensus is much stronger on this point than on whether climate change can directly cause droughts. Nielsen-Gammon’s own research has shown that warmer temperatures due to global warming did make the drought in Texas measurably worse than it otherwise would have been.

But for the last several years, legislation calling for climate-change studies has not succeeded in the Capitol.

It’s a pretty long article, and very interesting. I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.

Hypocrisy personified

Hypocrisy personified

More on Ted Cruz’s remarks from CNN: Texas flooding puts Cruz, GOP in bind on climate change.

The Republican presidential contender has held two press conferences over the past two days to address the flooding and the government’s response. At each one, he was asked about the impact of climate change on natural disasters like the Texas flooding, and at each one, he dodged the question….

“I think the focus now is on caring for those who have lost their lives and lost their homes,” he said.

At least 31 people have died in Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma from the storm since this weekend, while another 11 remain missing in Texas. Cruz promised to do all he could to ensure that Texans get access to the resources they need during the recovery.

Wait a minute. Anti-government Ted Cruz wants the Feds to help Texas? Didn’t he oppose aid to survivors of Hurricane Sandy?

climate1

Politicus USA: Ted Cruz Demands Federal Money For Texas Floods After Blocking Hurricane Sandy Relief.

During a press conference on the deadly flooding in Texas, Cruz said, “The federal government’s role, once the Governor declares a disaster area and makes a request, I am confident that the Texas congressional delegation, Sen. Cornyn and I, and the members of Congress both Republicans and Democrats will stand united as Texans in support of the federal government fulfilling its statutory obligations, and stepping in to respond to this natural disaster.

Sen. Cruz sang a completely different tune in 2013 when he called federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy wasteful:

Two-thirds of this spending is not remotely “emergency”; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 30% of the authorized funds would be spent in the next 20 months, and over a billion dollars will be spent as late as 2021.

This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington – an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.

climate2

Back to the CNN article for more Cruz climate change philosophy:

“It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier,” he said in an interview with the Texas Tribune.

Cruz also argued that “global warming alarmists” aren’t basing their arguments on facts, because “the satellite data demonstrate that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years.”

Oh really? The point of the article is that Cruz and other Republicans may be leaning toward more moderate attitudes toward climate change research. I’ll believe that when I see it.

More interesting recent articles on climate change:

Think Progress: If You’ve Wondered Why So Many Politicians Deny Climate Change, Science Has Your Answer.

Washington Post: Climate change could shrink Mount Everest’s glaciers by 70 percent, study finds.

Dallas Morning News: Exxon CEO holds line on climate change at annual meeting.

Mother Jones Exclusive: The CIA Is Shuttering a Secretive Climate Research Program.

1-the-cause-of-global-warming-marx-rehburg

In other news . . .

Bobby Jindal got some attention in Politico for attacking another member of the GOP clown car: Bobby Jindal slams Rand Paul as unfit to be commander in chief.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lashed out at Sen. Rand Paul for his recent comments about the Islamic State, saying the presidential contender is unfit to be commander in chief and is taking the “weakest, most liberal Democrat position” when it comes to fighting the militant group.

Using unusually harsh rhetoric and an unusual forum, Jindal posted a statement condemning Paul on Wednesday on his “office of the governor” website.

Story Continued Below

“This is a perfect example of why Senator Paul is unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief,” Jindal said. “We have men and women in the military who are in the field trying to fight ISIS right now, and Senator Paul is taking the weakest, most liberal Democrat position. It’s one thing for Senator Paul to take an outlandish position as a Senator at Washington cocktail parties, but being Commander-in-Chief is an entirely different job. We should all be clear that evil and Radical Islam are at fault for the rise of ISIS, and people like President Obama and Hillary Clinton exacerbate it.”

The statement from Jindal, who is also a likely GOP presidential contender, came after the Kentucky Republican suggested Wednesday morning that hawkish members of his party were to blame for the rise of the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS.

Paul said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS.”

Joseph Hutchens

Joseph Hutchens

In Touch Weekly has more breaking Duggar news.

DISGRACED COP WHO DIDN’T REPORT MOLESTATION SHOOTS DOWN JIM BOB’S STORY

In 2006, Jim Bob told Springdale police that he took Josh to see State Trooper Joseph Hutchens and that Josh “admitted to Hutchens what [Josh, redacted] had done,” according to the police report, obtained exclusively by In Touch through the Freedom of Information Act. At this point, there were five victims and multiple molestations by Josh….

Hutchens is serving 56 years in prison for child pornography and admits his “reputation is shot.” He was interviewed by a representative of a local law firm at In Touch‘s request and promised nothing in return for his recollections.

Hutchens’ failure to report the abuse caused the police to halt their 2006 investigation because the statute of limitations ran out.

In the new interview from prison, Hutchens said he was told by Jim Bob and Josh that “Josh had inappropriately touched [redacted] during the time she was asleep. He said he touched her through her clothing and he said it only happened one time.”

He said the fact that it was a one-time incident influenced his decision not to report it. “I did what I thought was right and obviously it wasn’t,” he says. “If I had to do it over again, I would have told him immediately I am going to call the hotline and contacted the trooper that worked those cases and have a full report made. I thought I could handle it myself.

The Duggar family is so corrupt that I expect there could be new revelations about them for months to come.

Jim Bob and Josh

Here’s a little tidbit that Allie Jones of Gawker Defamer found: Duggar Dad’s Political Platform: Incest Should Be Punishable by Death.

[W]hat does Jim Bob think of his own response to his son’s familial abuse? In a brief statement to People, Jim Bob and Michelle said last week that “that dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.” Maybe that’s because Jim Bob publicly stated during his 2002 campaign for U.S. Senate that he thinks incest should be punishable by death.

Jim Bob’s platform on his campaign website—preserved via web cache—states that he believes “rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes.” Jim Bob offered this belief to explain his position on abortion (only acceptable if both the mother and the baby were going to die anyway, of course)

See the screen shot at the link.

Other stories worth checking out, links only

A story from Politico that will make you–if not Charles Pierce–want to drink antifreeze: Dems view Sanders as bigger threat than O’Malley.

Since O’Malley is no threat at all, how worried could Dems really be?

Ezra Klein pontificates at length about why the SCOTUS anti-Obamacare case is total B.S.: The New York Times blows a hole in the case against Obamacare.

A poll from Qunnipac University: May 28, 2015 – Five Leaders In 2016 Republican White House Race, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Rubio, Paul Are Only Republicans Even Close To Clinton.

I haven’t read this story from the NYT yet, but I’ll bet it’s hilarious: What George PatakiWould Need to Do to Win. One more clown for the clown car.

NYT reports Climate news from India: Indians Scramble for Heat Relief, but Many Must Still Work.

Washington Post: Breakthrough HIV study could change course of treatment for millions.

BBC News: ‘New species’ of ancient human found.

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Thursday!


Wednesday Reads: Learning Life’s Lessons in a Pool Room

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Good Afternoon

Do you want ever wonder what the hell is going on with politicians today and how they can get away with this kind of shit to begin with in the first place?

That is a rhetorical question…but the setup is legit.

 
Lady Lindsey.

And away we go….

Lindsey Graham: I Know Iran’s Lying Because I Ran My Family’s Pool Room | Mediaite

In pre-taped remarks to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference over the weekend, Senator Lindsey Graham says he knows Iran’s lying because he learned how to spot a liar in his parents’ pool room.

No, seriously.

Graham, of course, kept the focus largely on politics, talking about his background, his belief in the greatness of America, his expected 2016 run, his foreign policy chops, and Hillary Clinton.

But it was when he talked about growing up that he made the connection between his time working at the pool hall and the current Iran nuclear negotiations:

“My family owned a restaurant, a pool room, and a liquor store. And everything I know about the Iranians I learned in the pool room. I ran the pool room when I was a kid and I met a lot of liars, and I know the Iranians are lying.”

Wow.

As the comic image above states, “What the fuck is this bullshit?”

Then you have the other one, Walker…the Kochsucker favorite I guess, who says… about those forced ultrasounds he makes the women in his state take who are looking to get an abortion…yeah they should just shut up about that because you know, forced ultrasounds are “lovely” and “cool.”

Scott Walker: Women should be forced to have ultrasounds because they’re ‘a cool thing’6fabe427599a85d4808b4b24bd0fdb25

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defended a bill he signed that required women to undergo ultrasound examinations before seeking an abortion, saying the medically unnecessary procedures were a “lovely” and “cool thing.”

The likely Republican presidential candidate told conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch on Friday that the law, portions of which were struck down earlier this year by a federal judge, was misrepresented by a hostile media, reported Right Wing Watch.

“The media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea,” Walker said. “Most people I talked to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time that pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, (and) we still have their first ultrasounds. It’s just a cool thing out there.”

Yes, there is nothing more lovelier than what basically can be described as a forced (uh, emphasis on forced for all those dumbass shitbags who don’t think the word rape is violent enough) rape on a woman by sticking a vaginal probe ultrasound stick up her v-hole to get a cool picture of a clump of “misogynist funded government up your uterus.”

See what I mean: The Koch brothers try to rein in the GOP presidential clown show – The Washington Post

…there are currently 10 candidates who are declared or all but certain to run, and another four who will probably run. But while the voters might find this an embarrassment of riches, for the party’s leaders and financiers, it looks like a recipe for trouble.

[…]

this news:

In a Saturday interview on the Larry Kudlow Show,  a nationally syndicated radio broadcast, David Koch let it slip that the roughly$900 million that he and his brother, Charles, plan to lavish on the 2016 presidential race could find its way into the hands of more than one GOP contender.

“We are thinking of supporting several Republicans,” David Koch said, adding, “If we’re happy with the policies that these individuals are supporting, we’ll finance their campaigns.”

Koch said the brothers would begin writing checks to individual candidates in “the primary season, winter and next spring.”

Up until now, the Koch brothers hadn’t indicated that they’d be taking a side in the primaries. It almost seemed that they viewed that as the kind of thing amateurs like Sheldon Adelson do, throwing money at some candidate based on overly irrational personal feelings, while they keep focused on the real goal of getting a Republican — any Republican — into the White House. By saying they’re going to support several candidates in the primaries, the Kochs are pledging to accelerate the winnowing process, by which the race’s chaff can be sloughed off and the focus can stay on the serious contenders.

af023f1da0fe841ac983ad93d5a9ebe5Don’t be fooled by the line about them supporting all the ones whose policies they’re happy with. That’s because there’s almost no disagreement among the candidates, at least on the issues the Kochs care about. All of them would like to see low taxes on the wealthy (most have even advocated a flat tax, a boon to people like the Kochs), a dramatic reduction in regulations that affect corporations and a rollback of the social safety net. Where the Kochs personally disagree with the candidates (as they may on some social issues or on immigration), they disagree with all the candidates, because the candidates’ positions are so similar.

Gawd, I hate those fuckers.

The rest of today’s links below are on the quick, because the Koch Brother’s have disgusted me so…

Supreme Court Agrees to Settle Meaning of ‘One Person One Vote’ – NYTimes.com

The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a case that will answer a long-contested question about a bedrock principle of the American political system: the meaning of “one person one vote.”

The court’s ruling, expected in 2016, could be immensely consequential. Should the court agree with the two Texas voters who brought the case, its ruling would shift political power from cities to rural areas, a move that would benefit Republicans.

28021bd19df44577a64ea181f3d88a0fI can’t believe this: Australia wants to scrap the tampon tax – Business News – Business – The Independent

Tony Abbott has distanced himself from comments made by one of his own ministers in which he agreed the tampon tax should be scrapped in Australia.

“I understand there’s long been a push to take the GST off goods, which are one way or another regarded as health products,” Mr Abbott said. “It’s certainly not something that this Government has a plan to do.”

The reaction comes after Treasurer Joe Hockey vowed to lobby state and territory governments to remove the consumption tax on tampons and said he would raise the issue in his next meeting with state treasurers in July.

Well, no strike that. I can totally believe it.

Sanitary pads and tampons currently attract the 10% Goods and Services tax in Australia, whereas condoms and sunscreen do not.

Mr Hockey’s pledge comes after a Sydney university student, Subeta Vimalarajah, started an online petition addressed to Mr Hockey against the tax on a “bodily function.”

The petition argues against the tax and the current categorisation of sanitary products as not “necessary” enough to be GST-free.

“On the other hand, condoms, lubricants, sunscreen and nicotine patches are all tax-free because they are classed as important health goods, but isn’t the reproductive health and hygiene of 10 million Australians important too?” the petition says.

Pads and tampons essential? Does a bear need Viagra to get stiff? And is this Viagra covered 100% here in the USA? You bet your ass it is.

8c159e8cf8df96b914210cb2c7215d9eAnyway, more links:

UN Officials Didn’t Follow Up On Sex Abuse Claims For Months, But Whistleblower Was Punished

How the Duggars’ Conservative Christianity Can Enable Abuse and Cover-Ups

Bill Cosby Gets the Trial America Craves on Inside Amy Schumer

Bill Nye Confirms ‘The Universe’ Is Trying to Tell Amy Schumer Something | Mediaite

Stop Policing Women’s Bodies | Beth Cone Kramer

Meb93c3b93ed1ee00f40e65fc5159e7dey Favorite Photographer Mary Ellen Mark Has Died

An Ode to the Feminism of Mad Men | The Mary Sue

Georgia counties seeing racial shifts amid reversal of Great… | www.myajc.com

The Cost of an Adjunct – The Atlantic

Why Humblebragging Doesn’t Work – The Atlantic

The VA Can’t Fund IVF for Soldiers Because Congress Loves Embryos More

Emoji is dragging us back to the dark ages – and all we can do is smile | Art and design | The Guardian

So it’s official. We are evolving backwards. Emoji, the visual system of communication that is incredibly popular online, is Britain’s fastest-growing language according to Professor Vyv Evans, a linguist at Bangor University.

The comparison he uses is telling – but not in the way the prof, who appears enthusiastic about emojis, presumably intends. “As a visual language emoji has already far eclipsed hieroglyphics, its ancient Egyptian precursor which took centuries to develop,” says Evans.

2dbfaccd482800605d19ef3dfcd47d65Perhaps that is because it is easier to go downhill than uphill. After millennia of painful improvement, from illiteracy to Shakespeare and beyond, humanity is rushing to throw it all away. We’re heading back to ancient Egyptian times, next stop the stone age, with a big yellow smiley grin on our faces.

[…]

…the simplest and most common-sense historical and anthropological evidence tells us that Emoji is not “progress” by any definition. It is plainly a step back.

Evans compares Emoji with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Well indeed. ancient Egypt was a remarkable civilisation, but it had some drawbacks. The Egyptians created a magnificent but static culture. They invented a superb artistic style and powerful mythology – then stuck with these for millennia. Hieroglyphs enabled them to write spells but not to develop a more flexible, questioning literary culture: they left that to the Greeks.

These jumped-up Aegean loudmouths, using an abstract non-pictorial alphabet they got from the Phoenicians, obviously and spectacularly outdid the Egyptians in their range of expression. The Greek alphabet was much more productive than all those lovely Egyptian pictures. That is why there is no ancient Egyptian Iliad or Odyssey.

Read that whole article, it is interesting, in an Idiocracy sort of way.

What is it like to be an Octopus? | Boria Sax

This is an open thread.  Have a wonderful fucking day!


Tuesday Reads: A Little Bit of This and That

mishmash

Good Morning!

Texas has been experiencing really bad weather for the past few days. From the Houston Chronicle:

Texas storms leave multiple dead, 12 missing.

Recovery teams were resuming the search early Tuesday for 12 members of two families who are missing after a rain-swollen river in Central Texas carried a vacation home off its foundation, slamming it into a bridge downstream.

The hunt for the missing picked up after a holiday weekend of terrible storms that dumped record rainfall on the Plains and Midwest, caused major flooding and spawned tornadoes and killed at least eight people in Oklahoma and Texas. More than 1,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in Texas, and thousands of residents are displaced.

Authorities were also searching for victims and assessing damage just across the Texas-Mexico border in Ciudad Acuna, where a tornado Monday killed 13 people and left at least five unaccounted for.

Scene from Houston last night

Scene from Houston last night

More on the flooding in Houston from the Chronicle: Heavy rains flood freeways, close schools, delays bus service.

Houston motorists woke Tuesday morning to swamped freeways and closed roads as heavy thunderstorms raked the region overnight, making the morning commute dangerous and even impossible for most.

The 610 Loop as well as Katy, North and South freeways were underwater in spots throughout the area. Other major roads blocked by high water include Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway near downtown.

No injuries have been reported, but dozens of vehicles were stranded in high water throughout the city. In many cases, the water came up to to the driver’s side windows of the abandoned cars, Other vehicles are almost submerged.

Firefighters with the Houston Fire Department were dispatched to several water rescues throughout the city. Areas along Brays Bayou near the 610 Loop were particularly hard hit with several rescues during the early morning hours Tuesday. Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway are closed.

According to the National Weather Service homes were reportedly flooded in the Larchmont subdivision about six miles southwest of the city early Tuesday morning. Some homes in Rosenberg were threaetened as more than three feet of water rose in the Greenwood subdivision a few hours before dawn Tuesday.

See some amazing photos posted on Twitter at News.Mic: 17 Photos of the Devastating Floods That Hit Houston. More photos at ABC 13. The Weather Channel is providing live updates.

Houston flooding

Houston flooding

NBC News reports that other states could be affected by the storms: Houston, Texas, Hit by Unprecedented Flooding; Seven States At Risk.

Flash-flood watches and warnings were issued across seven states early Tuesday as an unprecedented downpour of torrential rain triggered “extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening” conditions in Houston.

More than 30 million Americans were told to brace for dangerous thunderstorms — including flooding, hail and possible tornadoes — as meteorologists warned the weather that has centered on Texas and Oklahoma since Saturday could expand to other areas.

At least 12 people were still missing, eight people have been killed, and countless more evacuated amid the deluge that has inundated Texas and Oklahoma with record-breaking floods since Saturday.

In Houston, more than 80,000 people were without power and the flood waters closed roads including Interstate 10 and Interstate 45. Houston was among 24 counties where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster on Monday.

I hope RalphB and his family are safe. Dakinikat could also be in the path of the damaging weather. New Orleans is expecting thunderstorms for the next few days.

In other news, there has been a shooting at a Walmart in Grand Forks, North Dakota–where the University of North Dakota is located. My Dad got his Masters degree there.

Scene outside Grand Forks Walmart early this morning

Scene outside Grand Forks Walmart early this morning

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: 2 fatally shot inside Grand Forks Wal-Mart; Air Force member involved.

The shooting occurred shortly before 1:05 a.m. in the supercenter store on 32nd Avenue, just east of Interstate 29, according to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) near Grand Forks.

Grand Forks police said officers discovered “multiple victims” inside the store and one of them was taken to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks for injuries that are not considered life-threatening.

The AFOSI said there were three people involved and one was an airman. The base is about 20 miles west of the store.

Neither police nor Air Force personnel released details about whether the airman was the shooter or one of the victims. There is also no immediate information about what prompted the violence, but Deputy Police Chief Mike Ferguson added, “the Police Department does not believe there is any further on-going immediate public safety risk at this time.”

There isn’t a lot of information about the incident as yet. From the Fargo Forum: 

In a press conference at the Grand Forks Police Department, Zimmel said there was no active shooting when officers arrived on scene.

Zimmel said at this time, police believe the shooter is among the dead. Only one person involved in the incident is believed to have had a gun, Zimmel said.

Police are still investigating the motive behind the shooting, whether it was targeted or random….

Andy Legg, who was in the store at the time, told a WDAZ reporter he heard “popping sounds” going off in the store and that he and a group of customers were herded to a section of the store by authorities. Legg said he and the group later exited the building passing a Walmart employee covered in blood. Legg says he’s not sure of the person’s condition but that it “didn’t look good.”

Shortly after 4 a.m., a police SWAT team, using a special robot, began searching a car in the parking lot.

Johnson

Remember Charles C. “Chuck” Johnson, the right wing a-hole and twitter troll? His account has once again been suspended by Twitter after he threatened activist Deray Mckessen. From re/code:

Notorious Twitter troll Chuck Johnson was placed in time-out Sunday — at least temporarily — and it looks as though the company’s new policy on violent threats was the reason.

Twitter suspended Johnson, who has a long history of Internet trolling, for what appears to be a threat against civil rights activist DeRay McKesson. Johnson tweeted this morning asking people to donate money for “taking out” McKesson, who responded, saying that he took Johnson’s comments as a “serious threat.”

The account suspension is nothing new for Johnson. But what’s worth noting is that this appears to be an example of Twitter’s new policy on threats coming into play. The company changed the policy’s wording last month so that it no longer included phrases like “direct” and “specific.” Essentially, those qualifiers were limiting the types of tweets Twitter could act upon.

Not anymore. This looks like the kind of threat that may have slipped through the system a few months back. So this is good for Twitter, a company that has struggled mightily when dealing with bullying and threats.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on Johnson’s suspension, so there’s no way of knowing how long he’ll be blocked from the service.

From Raw Story: ‘Hate is organized in America': Black activist fights back after death threats from pro-cop blogger.

In a statement to Re/code, Johnson accused Twitter of “censorship.”

“I was speaking metaphorically about exposing DeRay in much the same way Slate was speaking metaphorically when they talked about ‘taking out’ a Supreme Court justice,” he wrote.

But in an interview with CNN on Monday, Mckesson said that Johnson should have known better.

“For someone who considers themselves a journalist, I firmly believe that he understands the power of his words,” Mckesson explained. “And his words are his words. ‘Take out’ functions in a certain way. And if I got on any media outlet and said something to the effect of ‘take out the police,’ nobody would think that I was talking about an exposé.”

“I was proud that Twitter took the action to move so quickly, and remember that racism doesn’t exist only in the extremes,” he continued. “It’s not just slavery and the n-word. It functions in these subtle ways too. He, again, knew very clearly what he was doing by using this language.”

29-deray-mckesson-wolf-blitzer.w529.h529.2x

And from Pando Daily’s David Holmes: Here’s the remarkable letter Chuck Johnson’s attorney sent to Twitter threatening legal action.

For at least the fourth time in his sad, shameful, misogynist, racist career, Twitter has suspended the rightwing blogger Chuck Johnson….

…Johnson is outraged over the suspension, tweeting under a new account @citizentrolling– which a few minutes prior to my writing this sentence has now also been suspended — that Twitter is guilty of “censorship” and writing that the company’s enforcement of its policies exhibits a clear political bias against rightwingers like himself.

“Twitter doesn’t seem to have a problem with people using their service to coordinate riots,” Johnson wrote. “But they do have a problem with the kind of journalism I do.”

I’m struggling to know where to begin in describing the lunacy of Johnson’s argument. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t engage at all with Johnson who has failed to build a career through producing quality journalism or analysis and instead — in what must be an overwhelmingly sad discovery — has found that the only thing anyone will pay him for anymore is to spew hatred at the most vulnerable members of society, in particular rape victims. But his complaints raise some important misconceptions about Twitter, free speech, and who controls what can or can’t be said in the new digital content paradigm.

Now it appears that Johnson is threatening legal action against Twitter for loss of income that would otherwise be generated by his hateful tweets. Johnson emailed me the letter his attorneys sent to Twitter demanding the reinstatement of his accounts, attached in full below. What makes it so absurd is the notion that Twitter is somehow guilty of “censorship” or that the company owes him a living.

Read the letter at the Pando link.

Sigh . . .  When will “journalists” finally figure out that Hillary Clinton is a separate person from her husband and there is no reason for her to feel bound by decisions Bill Clinton made back in the 1990s?

Melinda Henneberger at Bloomberg Politics: Will Hillary Clinton Run Against Her Husband’s Welfare Legacy? I’m not even going to quote from the article. It’s just a rehash of 20-year-old events. Get a clue, Melinda. Hillary is not Bill, and over the past 20 years there has been a lot of water under the bridge. Hillary is not bound by things she or her husband said and did in the distant past.

Some Duggar updates:

Anna and Josh Duggar

Anna and Josh Duggar

Raw Story: GOP ally suggests criminal charges for police chief who released Duggar sex abuse report.

State Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) told KSFM-TV that Kathy O’Kelley, chief of the Springdale police, had harmed Duggar’s sisters and other girls he admitted to fondling as they slept in 2002, when he was 14 years old.

“The law to protect minors’ identities is not a suggestion,” Hester said. “So sad to see the person charged with protecting the community being so reckless and irresponsible. I believe it is unavoidable that the Springdale police chief should be terminated. She has re-victimized these young ladies.”

I guess Hester hasn’t heard of the Freedom of Information Act.

“From every indication I have, the chief and city attorney reluctantly did what they had to do to comply with the state (freedom of information) law,” said Dough Sprouse, the Springdale Mayor.

Hester, sponsor of an Arkansas bill similar to Indiana’s anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” wondered whether other sex abuse victims should worry that O’Kelley would publicize their identities.

Like he cares even an iota about abuse victims. Give me a break!

Us Weekly: Anna Duggar Shared Cryptic Quote About Forgiveness Days Before Josh Duggar Molestation Allegations Surfaced.

Days before news broke of Josh Duggar allegedly molesting five girls back when he was a teen, the 19 Kids and Counting star’s pregnant wife Anna Duggar shared a cryptic quote about forgiveness with her Instagram followers.

“The three most beautiful and liberating words in the English language are these,” the mother of three wrote on May 17, quoting pastor Lon Solomon on her page. “‘I forgive you.'” (Solomon, a senior pastor at a Virginia megachurch, is the author of a book titled Brokenness: How God Redeems Pain and Suffering.)

Well, she apparently knew all about Josh’s history and still decided to have children with him.

Finally, from TMZ: Josh Duggar Cracks Molestation Joke. Dating Family Is What We Do!

Back in 2008 — long before Duggar’s molestation past came to light — he made a quip during an episode of what was then called “17 Kids and Counting.”

Josh describes a double date scenario with his then-fiancée Anna … he ended up going with 2 of his siblings.

Josh explains, “We chose Jana and John David. We thought why not, have a double date … We are from Arkansas!”

He then broke out in laughter.

Not so funny now …

Not funny then either, IMHO.

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Monday Reads: Human Relations or not

peace

Good Afternoon!

Today is Memorial Day but it’s also known as Decoration Day! It’s the day we celebrate the sacrifice of the soldiers and sailors who gave their lives in service to their country. Wouldn’t it be nice if no one lost their lives to war?

“Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.”

The passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 by Congress made it an official holiday.

I have a few news items to share with you.  As an economist, I cannot understand the contribution of John Nash’s game theory to our understanding of high concentrated markets like duopoly or oligopoly.  Dr. Nash and his wife were killed in a car accident over the weekend.

US mathematician John Nash, who inspired the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind, has died in a car crash with his wife, police have said.

Nash, 86, and his 82-year-old wife Alicia were killed when their taxi crashed in New Jersey, they said.

The mathematician is renowned for his work in game theory, winning the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994.

His breakthroughs in maths – and his struggles with schizophrenia – were the focus of the 2001 film.

Russell Crowe, who played him, tweeted: “Stunned… My heart goes out to John & Alicia & family. An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.”

The film’s director, Ron Howard, also tweeted his tribute to the “brilliant” John Nash and his “remarkable” wife.

Alicia Nash helped care for her husband, and the two later became prominent mental health advocates.

I loved the movie that detailed the mental health struggles of Nash and how he because the hero of his own life.

BB and I talk a lot about homeschooling and how–in the majority of cases–it’s a clear form of child abuse.  Children really need to be with their peers to learn socialization skills as well as learn about their idea of 8828027484_5561ee6ec7_mself in a world full of different kinds of people.   Many parents that home school are in it to assert control over their children and most rely on dubious curricula.  No where is this more clear than  in the Christianist Cults identified by BB in her post on Saturday. The more we learn about the kinds of things these children have been subjected to, the more outrage we should feel. Children are not their parents property to use and abuse for their personal hang ups.  Here’s a disturbing item on how to handle sexual abuse in home schooling environments but out by some even scarier people.  It undoubtedly leaves children quite scarred.  This is the material from Gothard-the Grabber–covered a bit in BB’s post. The details are just profoundly upsetting to any one that cares about young girls.

According to its website, the ATI is a “home education program” that provides parents with curriculum and support to teach their children with a Biblical worldview.

The ATI operates under the Institute of Basic Life Principles, a conservative Christian nonprofit group.

The group came under fire last year after its founder, Bill Gothard, resigned in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against him.

Gothard was accused of hiring young women, some of them teens, to work for him and then making unwanted advances toward them. The allegations stretched back for decades, the Christian Post reported.

The family has also discussed sending their sons to an ATI program called ALERT, which “focuses on training men in Biblical disciplines and character within the framework of learning skills for crisis response and ministry support.”

After the sexual abuse allegations against Josh Duggar emerged, documents from ATI’s programs about sexual abuse came under heavy scrutiny.

One document in particular, called “Lessons From Moral Failures in a Family,” is particularly striking because it describes circumstances eerily similar to what allegedly happened in the Duggar home.

The document was shared by Recovering Grace, a website dedicated to those impacted by the teachings of Gothard and ATI.

The website says the document was distributed in the late 1990s by ATI at several of its conferences.

The document describes a situation in which social workers visited a home and informed the parents that their oldest son had sexually abused younger members of his family.

According to the document, the boy repented for what he had done and was later asked to answer a list of questions in writing to shed more insight on what happened.

The questions included asking what factors had contributed to his sin, what could have been done to prevent it, and what factors “in the home contributed to immodesty and temptation.”

“The information he gives is so helpful that every parent should read it and diligently apply the lessons that this family learned the hard way,” the document states.

The most striking part of the document comes when the boy seems to blame his actions on the lack of “modesty” in his home, especially when it came to his young sisters.

The boy wrote that modesty was a “factor” in his actions because it “was not at the level is should have been in my family.”

“It was not uncommon for my younger sibling to come out of their baths naked or with a towel,” he wrote.

He also said his younger sisters acted inappropriately when they wore dresses, saying they “did not behave in them as they should.”

He then said his sisters didn’t realize what they were doing to him because they didn’t realize their “own nakedness,” and it wasn’t taught properly to them. He seems to blame this on his mother, who he says didn’t see the human body as a big deal because she is a nurse.

The boy said he spoke with his mother who had “no idea” how “visual” men are sexually compared to women. He said changes have since been made in his home.

“This was not a major reason for the offending, but it allowed my little sister to be open to what I made her do,” he wrote.

He then wrote, “A different lifestyle, with more modesty, might have prevented what happened.”

The document then provides guidelines as to how to prevent this type of situation. These include “[insisting] on modesty at all times” and “[not allowing] boys to change diapers.”

memorial-day-vintage-postcard-2This advice filled with victim shaming and blaming is totally disgusting. The more information that comes out about the Duggar scandal, the more that fans of the show realize how the behavior they’ve seen in the girls is explained by their molestation and shaming. There are all kinds of tweets that mention how their behavior differs from the show that tries to show a happy cheery family that I admit to never having watched. Tbogg lists a series of tweets that express concern for the girls, something that has failed to reach any critical level among the  Quivering Cult and Mike Huckabee.

Fans express concern and support for Duggar daughters on Twitter: ‘Run away and be free!

In their statement to the media, parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar — who hushed up the scandal — mentioned “God” six times without mentioning their daughters once.

Fans of the show, and of the daughters in particular, expressed more support for the girls on Twitter, with one advising eldest daughter Jana to “Run away and be free!”

Many noted that some of the daughters seemed to have a darker side on the normally bright and peppy show, and wondered if it was a manifestation of being molested when they were little.

Particular attention is being paid to 25-year-old Jana Duggar, known as “Cinderella Duggar,” because she is unmarried, still lives at home, and is treated like a maid, taking care of the younger Duggars.

card00780_frWhat is even more disturbing is that an Arkansas State Senator is calling for the police chief’s head who released the Duggar records on a FOI request.

A state senator from Northwest Arkansas is calling for the Springdale police chief to be fired over the recent release of a 2006 police report detailing accusations that Josh Duggar as a teenager molested five underage girls.

Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, said the girls have been re-victimized now that the report is public. He said Police Chief Kathy O’Kelley acted recklessly in releasing the report and should be held accountable.

“The law to protect minors’ identities is not a suggestion,” Hester, pictured, said Saturday (May 23). “So sad to see the person charged with protecting the community being so reckless and irresponsible. I believe it is unavoidable that the Springdale police chief should be terminated. She has re-victimized these young ladies.”

Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse said O’Kelley and Springdale City Attorney Ernest Cate determined after researching the matter that the report had to be released under law.

“From every indication I have the chief and city attorney reluctantly did what they had to do to comply with the state FOI (freedom of information) law,” Sprouse said Saturday (May 23).

The Springdale police report was obtained by In Touch Weekly magazine and posted on the magazine’s website this week. The names are redacted in the report. On May 21, Washington County Juvenile Judge Stacey Zimmerman issued a court order that the police report be destroyed and expunged from the public record.

That’s great.  Fire a police chief for doing his job!  Makes perfect sense in the twisted authoritarian minds of those trapped in Christianist cults.

In other news, hateful expressions of racism are still resplendent all over our country.  This is an example from New Orleans. It’s hit the press now but most of us that know the Neville family received notice about 5 minutes after it happened.  I’m still pretty shocked frankly.  This is a prime example of a privileged little white boy who got a job from his general manager father and just seems to think he can do anything to any one.

The waiter who wrote the N-word on a New Orleans restaurant receipt knew what he was doing when he unleashed the racial slur that caused intense backlash and calls for boycotts, according to one former coworker.

“I printed those receipts 50 times a day. I know for a fact he knew it would show up on his receipt,” a former Huck Finn’s waitress told the Daily News. “I was like, are you that hateful that you would put that on the receipt?”

Dakota Crochet, 23, was fired from the French Quarter sports bar this week after the phrase “N—– 100% dislike” appeared on a check he gave to a group of black customers Thursday.

One of the diners, Liryca Neville Branch — the daughter of New Orleans musician Cyril Neville — is now mulling a lawsuit and demanding a personal apology from both the canned waiter and the restaurant’s management.

“I’ve never had anything like this happen before to me,” she said. “Trust me — this is not over. I refuse to let this die out.”

Branch, 33, was eating lunch with three coworkers when they were given a bill with the racial slur in all capitals staring them in the face.

Another disturbing racist letter was sent to a family in Lindenhurst NY.md6

Suffolk County police are investigating a possible hate crime targeting an African-American family in Lindenhurst.

Ronica Copes, a resident of the suburban neighborhood, received a letter saying “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE” and other hateful words on Thursday.

Understandably so, she was disappointed at the sight of the hateful letter.

“Unbelievable but then it’s not…our daily reality, I’ve just never seen it in this form,” Copes posted on Facebook.

The writer of the flyer who says “Lidenhurst is 84 percent white” urges Copes in bold capital letters to “LEAVE AS SOON SHE CAN” because “IT WILL BE BETTER FOR ALL OF US.”

The racist letter gained the attention of  county executive Steven Bellone, who lashed out against the author of the flyer in a statement Friday.

“To the coward who committed a hate crime against an innocent family in Lindenhurst — There is no place for intolerance in Suffolk County.  I know the Suffolk County Police Department will do everything possible to solve this hate crime, out you and see you punished. I stand together with all Lindenhurst residents who decry this act of hatred. This community and all of Suffolk County are better than that.”

While police continue their investigation, Copes is thankful for the support she’s received during the ordeal.

So, today is a day to remember all of the beautiful minds that we’ve lost. It is also a day to ensure that the not-so-beautiful minds don’t get away with ruining other people’s lives. On many levels, we are still fighting the Civil War.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: The Church, Ireland and Reality Checks

il_fullxfull.624798709_fuxbGood Afternoon

For years there has been an inside joke in my house, my brother Denny has to watch two shows daily. Bonanza and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. If there is any satellite issues and he can’t see these shows, which air on one of those Turner networks, he has a fit of Rainman proportions.

Now for the joke. I tease Denny about his favorite show Bonanza by calling out the name Cartwright, Cartwright…like the episode from Seinfeld, where the crew are waiting for a table in a Chinese Restaurant.

In the episode, George is waiting for a woman to call him at the Chinese restaurant. When she does call, the host calls out “Cartwright” instead of George’s name. It’s super hilarious and prompts this discussion between Jerry and George:

JERRY
Who’s Cartwright?

GEORGE
I’m Cartwright …

JERRY
You’re not Cartwright.

GEORGE
[EXPLODING] Of course I’m not
Cartwright …

Well, it turns out that my little joke with Denny is more on target than even I thought.

Classic ‘Seinfeld’ Joke Is Revealed To Be A Huge Easter Egg

Secret gags in “Seinfeld” are real, and they’re spectacular.

There are Superman figures slyly appearing in episodes, writers dropping in the names of their friends and tons of hidden references the show creators even forgot were there. Well, now we know of at least one more.

When “The Chinese Restaurant” episode aired on May 23, 1991, NBC was not a fan. Larry David has said the network “hated” the episode and didn’t think waiting around to get a seat in a restaurant would work as a storyline. Now, it’s recognized as one of the most iconic episodes, and it turns out its most memorable joke has been an Easter egg this whole time, according to former “Seinfeld” writer Spike Feresten.

“Like Deep Throat … This goes all the way to the top,” said Feresten, who went on to reveal the famous line’s hidden meaning to The Huffington Post.

So what and how does “Cartwright” figure in this whole thing?

 The Big Reveal: “Costanza (sounds like) ‘Bonanza’ = Cartwright”

Yep. This whole time Cartwright has been a reference to the classic Western show “Bonanza,” which followed the wild adventures of the Cartwright family.

Though the episode happened before he joined the show, Feresten says the info comes from “an unimpeachable source.” The writer was mum on if it was in fact one of the show creators — either David or Jerry Seinfeld — but, as we mentioned, did say it went “all the way to the top.”

Whoa.

So there you have it, kids. The mystery of why the host calls out “Cartwright” has finally been solved. Now if only Jerry could get a table …

It’s the little things that get us through the day sometimes. This little tidbit just made my day, which is good because aside from what has happened in Ireland…this has been a shitty week all around.

Referendum has changed republic forever, says Yes Equality

Irish people have woken up in a kinder, more accepting Ireland

il_fullxfull.776227136_ijf4Friday’s referendum changed more than the Irish Constitution, “it has reshaped forever the republic in which we live”, the Yes Equality Campaign has said.

Speaking at the organisation’s final press conference in Dublin on Sunday, organised to thank the Irish public for voting Yes, Brian Sheehan, co-director of the campaign, said people woke up on Sunday in a kinder, more gentle, more accepting Ireland.

He said Irish people have given a new sense of belonging to their lesbian and gay family members, friends and neighbours.

The campaign was set up by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen), the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Marriage Equality to canvas for a yes vote in last Friday’s referendum to allow same-sex marriage.

Some 62 per cent of voters accepted the constitutional amendment.

Gráinne Healy, co-director of the campaign, said a question was asked, that question was answered resoundingly, and all of us are the better for that.

il_fullxfull.776227310_hvhiOh yes. That is the truth.

If only we could say the same for all of us here in the US of A.

All churches in Ireland in need of ‘reality check’

The family won the same-sex marriage referendum for gay people

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is of course correct. The Catholic Church does indeed need a reality check in the wake of the same-sex marriage referendum.

As the unequivocal result of the referendum became clear he said: “I think really that the church needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board, to look at the things it’s doing well, to look at the areas where we really have to start and say, ‘Look, have we drifted away completely from young people’?”

It’s not just young people. The people who voted for this referendum included tens of thousands of practicing older Catholics in the cities, towns and countryside of Ireland. People who will continue to practice their faith but who no longer accept that their gay sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandchildren, even their gay parents, are “objectively disordered” with a tendency to evil, as their Church teaches.

il_fullxfull.393274645_g6q4Rather, by voting Yes last Friday, they embraced their gay minority and trumpeted to the world “you are my son, you are my daughter, you are my brother, you are my sister, you are my grandchild, you are my mother, you are my father, you are my equal inlaw whatever the church may teach.”

It is an irony that those who opposed the referendum out of concern for the family were defeated by the family. The difference being that the No family was a concept, whereas last Friday’s Yes families were flesh and blood, living, breathing, flawed, impossible, loving humanity.

Read the rest at the link.

More on this fabulous news from the Green Isle…

Ireland – Lawyers, Guns & Money

The Victory for Same-Sex Marriage in Ireland – NYTimes.com

Same-sex marriage: Catholic church needs reality check, says Dublin archbishop | World news | The Guardian

Ireland overwhelmingly votes to legalize same-sex marriage – The Washington Post

il_fullxfull.767777841_s3wuGreek hospitals cannot afford painkillers, scissors or sheets as budget cuts bite – Europe – World – The Independent

Greek hospitals have run out of supplies such as painkillers, scissors and sheets as swingeing budget cuts have left the health service unable to provide even basic provisions for operations and medical procedures.

Huge cuts to the healthcare budget, amid the economic turmoil which made millions unemployed, have left than 2.5m Greeks uninsured, up from 500,000 in 2008, the Times reported.

On coming to power the Syriza government scrapped the €5 fee for attending state hospitals and pledged to hire 4,500 more health workers, despite the need for austerity and criticism from creditors.

Notwithstanding the government’s promises, healthcare spending has fallen by 25 per cent since 2009, creating shortages of the most basic surgical equipment and leaving too little money to pay nurses’ salaries.

il_fullxfull.401215610_iy9hReports have surfaced of patients being turned away from hospital because there was no meter to measure their high blood pressure, while others have had to do without painkillers during medical procedures. One patient was even asked to bring their own sheets to hospital.

A trainee surgeon at KAT, a respected state hospital in Athens, said the situation was at “breaking point”.

This is unbelievable.

Greece ‘can not afford’ to repay IMF on schedule – Al Jazeera English

A Greek government minister has said that Athens will not be able to repay the IMF on schedule next month, reiterating previous warnings by officials during tense talks on reaching a bailout deal with the country’s creditors.

“The installment to the IMF won’t be paid,” Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis told Mega TV on Sunday. “The installments for the IMF in June are $1.8bn. This money will not be given. There is not any to be given. This is a known fact.”

Voutsis added, however, that the negotiations between Athens and its creditors were taking place “on the basis of cautious optimism that there will be a strong agreement”.

Greece faces four debt repayments to the IMF from June 5. Athens would struggle to meet all of them without using bailout funds due to it that are being blocked by its international creditors.

A failure to honour the repayments could result in default, raising the spectre of a possible exit from the euro.

il_fullxfull.772740293_cyjsOn that oil leak in California: Pipeline that leaked wasn’t equipped with auto shut-off

 

It’s been a year:Let’s Victim-Blame Women for Elliot Rodger’s Murders! | Feministe

On the issue of women: When the Rapist Doesn’t See It as Rape – NYTimes.com

The rest of the links in dump format.

Peace Activists Cross Demilitarized Zone Separating Koreas – NYTimes.com

Gloria Steinem and female activists cross Korean demilitarised zone | World news | The Guardian

71 Protesters Arrested After Cleveland Police Officer Acquitted

il_fullxfull.772702483_5u2tCleveland police make 71 arrests as protests over acquittal ‘cross the line’ | US news | The Guardian

This guy jumped up on the hood of the car and shot the unarmed drivers…to pieces.

137 shots, no justice: Cleveland protests as another cop goes free – Salon.com

DuPont Chemical Plant Kills 4 Employees, Pays $99,000 Fine. That’ll Learn ‘Em. | Wonkette

History News Network | Florida professor to burn Confederate flag

“Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War” uses vivid art to tell the story of America’s darkest war – Salon.com

‘You don’t belong here': Black family receives hateful note from white neighbors | theGrio

Google Explains Why the White House Topped in Racist Search Results

il_fullxfull.767771933_tdi0Zandar Versus The Stupid: Last Call For Sons Of The South

Las Vegas tycoon Sheldon Adelson will face graft accusations in US court | US news | The Guardian

Addicting Info – PATHETIC: Conservatives Badly Photoshop Posters To Fake Anti-Clinton Sentiment (PHOTOS)

Cannonfire-They are really going after Hillary, aren’t they?

il_fullxfull.767654062_38ttAddicting Info – Hillary Clinton Apologizes For Iraq War Vote, Says It Was A ‘Mistake’

Dan Savage Points Out Hypocrisy Of Duggar Family Values

This next link is connected with the shitstorm Dugger and Huckabee…can you guess?

Walker Fills Open Judge Seats With Political Appointees | Crooks and Liars

You know that Huckabee had one of his appointed Judges make those Dugger kid molestation files disappear…anyway.

Huckabee: That Duggar Boy Made A Mistake, Just Like When My Son Murdered That Dog | Wonkette

Mike Huckabee: Next president must obey ‘Supreme Being’ instead of Supreme Court on gay marriage

Huckabee: Distrust of government at new high | TheHill

Yeah, distrust of government, nothing like it when you can’t trust your law enforcement, justice system and courts. ..when it comes to cover-ups and Jeezus.

Wallace Grills Huckabee: Would You Have Ignored SCOTUS on Desegregation, Too? | Mediaite

il_fullxfull.767658640_3av6

Shit GOP idiots say:

Larry Pratt Said Black Protesters Should be Shot, Among Other Insanities. Does Ted Cruz Agree? | The Bob and Chez Show | News and Politics Podcast and Blog

GOP Rep. Compares DREAMers to Germanic Barbarians and ISIS | The Bob and Chez Show | News and Politics Podcast and Blog

Gohmet: Iraq Was Going Fine Until Secret Muslim Obama Ruined Everything | The Bob and Chez Show | News and Politics Podcast and Blog

Oh …Memorial Day Started With a Deeper Meaning

Racing to Preserve the Underground Cities of World War I | Joseph V. Micallef

Yellowstone National Park, Super Volcano Is Active

il_570xN.767658816_o82pVampire Myth Likely Caused by Disease, Scientists Say – That article is something…be sure to read it.

10 Old English Words You Need to Be Using | Mental Floss

Mugwump

“Mugwump is a derogatory word for somebody in charge who affects to be above petty squabbles and factions. So when your boss tries to make peace at the meeting table like an impartial angel, he is being a mugwump.”

Rawgabbit

“A rawgabbit, just in case you were wondering, is somebody who speaks in strictest confidence about a subject of which they know nothing. A rawgabbit is the person who pulls you aside and reveals in a careful whisper that the head of Compliance is having an affair with the new recruit in IT, which you know to be utterly untrue because the head of Compliance is having an affair with you, and the new recruit in IT hasn’t started yet.”

Bob Dylan: 5 Most Memorable Moments in Film (Video) – Hollywood Reporter

110 photojournalists run National Geographic’s Instagram account | Poynter.

For BB: Baby Bats Babble through Childhood Like We Do – Scientific American

And this one too: The Book of Forgetting – Scientific American

This is an open thread.

Yeah it is hella late.


Lazy Saturday Reads: The Duggar Family and Dangerous Christian Cults

The Duggar family

The Duggar family

Good Afternoon!!

I decided last night that I was going to write about the Duggar family today, but I’m really resisting getting started. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday reading about Josh Duggar, the Duggar family, and Bill Gothard, who heads the home schooling/religious cult they follow.

I’m beginning to realize that I should be watching more television. I pretty much broke the TV habit back in 2008 when I wanted to avoid all the Hillary hate, and I’ve never really gotten back to watching regularly. I’ve never watched a reality TV show, and now I think I should have been checking them out selectively so I would know what’s going on in popular culture.

I come from the days of situation comedies like I Love Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, and Bob Newhart. When did TV become so sick and strange? Does it trace back to those awful talk shows that used to be on–the ones that brought on weird people to be mocked by the audience?

cult children

Everyone knows by now that one of the Duggar children, Josh Duggar has been revealed to have molested four of his sisters and another girl 12 years ago. Josh is now married with his own children, who are certainly in danger.

Here are the essentials of the scandal, based on a police report obtained by In Touch magazine, which broke the news a couple of days ago.

Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were interview by the Springdale Police department on Dec. 12, 2006. The report says that James told police he was alerted in March, 2002 by a female minor that Josh — who turned 14-years-old that month — had been touching her breasts and genitals while she slept. This allegedly happened on multiple occasions. In 2006, Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined (redacted, Josh) after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.

Jim Bob told police that about nine months later in March, 2003 “there was another incident.” Josh was again accused by a female minor of touching her breasts and genitals. Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals, often when they slept, but at times when they were awake.

Children of The Family cult from Australia

Children of The Family cult from Australia

Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003.”

He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.

Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, “it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said “kind of.”

So basically, the kid was sent to do some construction work, presumably on assumption that he didn’t have enough to do with his hands? And what about the girls? What help did they receive for their traumatic experiences?

The Duggars told police that Josh “apologized” to the female minors and that they had “forgiven” him.

An alleged victim told police in 2006 that Josh had told “mother and dad what had happened… (and) asked for forgiveness.” The report notes the alleged victim says Josh “sought after God and had turned back to God.

Josh Duggar and growing family

Josh Duggar and growing family

Oh. And then there’s this:

Jim Bob told police in 2006 that when Josh returned home in 2003, Jim Bob, accompanied by some of his church elders, took Josh to Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens. Jim Bob knew Hutchens personally. Hutchens did not take any official action and instead gave Josh a “very stern talk.” As In Touch magazine reports exclusively in this week’s issue, Hutchens is now serving 56-years in prison for child pornography. He took no action on the Duggar case.

Again, why were these sick people ever on TV? I don’t understand, and I’m realizing I need to become more aware of what’s happening. It’s just unbelievable to me that religious cults are being promoted on what are supposedly publicly-owned airwaves!

From Jezabel: The Duggars Aren’t Just a Family, They’re a Cult, by Tracie Egan Morrissey.

It’s enraging how mainstream media outlets like Today and People treat the Duggars as though they’re just an ordinary family with an extraordinary amount of children — and aren’t they so cute! — when in fact, they are not.

Yes, they’re bigots and anti-choice and weird and they subscribe to the kind of traditional gender roles that most educated people would consider “sexist.” But all of those things, however detestable, are essentially personal opinions. The real problem with the Duggars is that they are a cult.

Think about it. If there are 19 (and counting!) Duggar children, then statistically speaking, two of them are gay. What are the chances that they will be able to live happy, mentally and emotionally healthy lives as out-and-proud homosexuals in a loving relationship with the acceptance of their family members?

Nine of the Duggar children are female. What are the chances that they will get to go away to college and live on a campus and explore careers in finance or architecture or law or anything other than traditional pink-collar work? (So far, Jana, 22, and Jill, 21, are “looking into” midwifery and nursing by “studying under professionals,” and Jessa, 19, “has a passion for teaching,” which means that she gets to homeschool the younger children.)

Yes, they are a family, but they meet all the criteria of a mind-control group. The following are the eight factors used to identify a destructive cult, outlined by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton identifies in his seminal book on mind control, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.

Read about the criteria at the link.

childrenofgod

It’s also noteworthy that Josh’s history of sexual assault has been known by plenty of people since at least 2006 when Oprah Winfrey learned about it and reported him to the Arkansas Department of Human Services? Are we to believe that The Learning Channel didn’t find out about this before now? Come on!

The other important fact about the Duggars is that they are active participants in a “christian” cult, which was headed by Bill Gothard until he was forced to resign over accusations of sexual abuse of young girls. From the Washington Post: Conservative leader Bill Gothard resigns following abuse allegations.

Bill Gothard, an Illinois-based advocate for home schooling and conservative dress who warned against rock music and debt, has resigned from the ministry he founded after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at his ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.

Gothard’s resignation from the Institute in Basic Life Principles, according to a letter sent to families affiliated with the ministry he founded, comes a week after he was put on administrative leave. According to an organizer involved in the whistle-blowing website Recovering Grace, 34 women told the website they had been sexually harassed; four women alleged molestation….

Gothard’s ministry had been a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among families within the Quiverfull movement, who eschew birth control and promote big families.

Gothard has also rubbed shoulders with Republican leaders. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were photographed at a campaign lunch together; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke at one of Gothard’s conferences; and Sarah Palin, when she was a small town mayor in Alaska, attended his International Association of Character Cities conferences declaring Wasilla among Gothard’s “Cities of Character.”

Zombie

From an insider:

On Growing Up in Bill Gothard’s Homeschool Cult, by Micah Murray

We talked about how it was a cult, joking at first. Outsiders could point and accuse and question, but we knew that it wasn’t what it looked like.

Yes, we were often mistaken for Mormon missionaries. Yes, the red neckscarves were reminiscent of Nazi youth. Yes, we knew that sometimes we were simply trotted out as props for political stunts. We knew, and we joked about it. Don’t worry, it’s not what it looks like.

I remember saying, more seriously than joking, “If this is brainwashing, it feels good to be brain clean.”

But as I spiraled closer and closer to to the center, the realization began to sink in. The jokes became real.

“Cult-like”, sure. I’d call it that. Authoritarian, legalistic, overbearing. But not a real cult.

The worst thing about brainwashing is that you can’t see it for what it is. You never think you’re in a cult when you’re in a cult.

Until the day you can’t deny the reality of what you’ve seen, what you lived. Until the day you speak out loud what your mind has known for a while,

“I grew up in a cult.”

And now, perhaps, “I grew up in a cult run by a sexual predator.”

Read more of Murray’s story at his website (link above).

Duggar girls with serial abuser Bill Gothard

Duggar girls with serial abuser Bill Gothard

After the revelations about Gothard, JM Bishop wrote at The Powder Room: How are the Duggars dealing with the Gothard sex scandal?

If there is anything that the Duggars love more than tater tot casserole and Aussie Instant Freeze Hairspray, it is the Institute of Basic Life Principles (which is the umbrella organization that runs, among other things, the Advanced Training Institute, providing homeschoolers with a Bible Based curriculum, including the promotion of ideas around Young Earth Creation), the organization founded by fallen leader, Bill “Grabby Hands” Gothard. And why does he deserve this delightful moniker? Bill has harassed and assaulted many women in his organization. In response, the Duggars’ increasingly glamorous fundamentalist sheen is perhaps being used to distract us from his multitude of sins.

So let’s start with who Bill Gothard is. Bill Gothard is the famously unmarried, 79 year old head of an organization which emphasizes women’s Godly obedience to men within the confines of marriage and separateness from potentially harmful secular influences, like public school, television or the democratic party. Micah J. Murray, who grew up in “Bill Gothard’s homeschool cult,” wrote that Bill Gothard cultivated an atmosphere that was “system of absolute authoritarianism” that built on “the idiosyncratic whims of an old man with way too much money and power.”

Earlier this year, 34 women brought forth allegations that Gothard sexually harassed them and 4 women reported being sexually assaulted. In response, Gothard was forced to step down from his leadership when he was placed on indefinite leave.

Again, go to the link to read about how this relates to the Duggar family and their behavior.

god-pic-god_3091941a

There are hundreds–if not thousands of these christian cults around the world. I don’t understand it, but there’s obviously something about human psychology that makes us susceptible to being drawn in by authoritarian movements like these. What better way to brainwash people than to begin in early childhood?

These people are dangerous, and they have burrowed into our politics, our system of education, and popular culture. It’s frightening.

I’m running out of space and time, but here’s Amanda Marcotte on the phenomenon of right wing christian cults and sexual abuse:

Duggar Revelations Are Just the Latest Sex Abuse Scandal to Rock Far-Right Fundamentalism.

Score one for the tabloid press. Josh Duggar, the eldest son of the creepy super-fundamentalist clan at the center of the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, has admitted to charges of molesting multiple underage girls when he was a teenager; he has since stepped down from his position as a sex scold for the Family Research Council. Duggar admitted to molesting five girls—some of them reportedly his sisters—and while the family claims to have addressed the situation, a timeline constructed by Gawker suggests he did not get counseling while managing to dodge any prosecution.

The family’s fame guarantees this story will stay in the public memory for awhile, but it’s far from the first sex abuse scandal in the tight-knit world of far-right fundamentalism. As I wrote last year for Slate, Doug Phillips of the far-right group Vision Forum was forced to step down after admitting to “a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman.” The woman in question, Lourdes Torres-Manteufel, claims it was more than “inappropriate,” noting that they met when she was 15 and that he “methodically groomed” by moving her into the house as a nanny and becoming “the pastor of her church, her boss, her landlord, and the controller of all aspects of her life” before pushing for sex. The Duggars were tight with Phillips and Vision Forum, which promoted a lot of Duggar-related material.

Marcotte also discusses Gothard, with lots of good links to more information. Check it out.

As always, this is an open thread. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great Memorial Day weekend!