Friday Reads: Bigots Among Us

images (36)Good Morning!

I have read the most horrifying stories this week.  It makes me wonder if a good portion of humanity has a death wish. I’m going to share a variety of links that I’ve found; and a lot of them aren’t the most uplifting, I’m afraid.

Knowledge is power.  Ignorance may be bliss to the holder but not to the folks around them. There is no lack of headlines in the area of bigotry and intolerance. This is truly discouraging to those of us that care passionately about social justice.

Crime rates have been falling recently but our incarceration rates are not. There’s a huge study out on the economic costs of our prison society and its images (37)findings are not pretty.  We’re spending billionaires of dollars locking up the poor, the uneducated, and the mentally ill in a distinctly racist way.

While crime rates have fallen 45 percent since 1990, the memo said that the incarceration rate is now at a “historically unprecedented level,” jumping 222 percent between 1980 and 2012. An African-American man who never graduated from high school has a 70 percent likelihood of being imprisoned by his mid-30s; for similarly educated white men, the rate is about 15 percent. And the United States imprisons at a rate six times greater than most peer nations, including those of the European Union, Japan, Israel, and Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced rules last month that would give the Obama administration wider latitude to extend clemency or reduce sentences for drug-related prisoners who don’t present a threat to public safety. In addition, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously in April to reduce sentencing guidelines for certain nonviolent criminals, a move now before Congress that could go into effect Nov. 1 if lawmakers don’t take any further action.


Ronald S. Sullivan Jr.
 is a clinical professor of law and director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. The program focuses on criminal practice, education, and research, and hosts a teaching clinic for third-year law students to represent indigent criminal defendants in local and juvenile courts. Sullivan spoke with the Gazette about racial and national sentencing disparities, the economic and social costs of mass incarceration, and the sentencing reforms now under consideration.

GAZETTE: According to the memo, while the overall crime rate fell 45 percent between 1990 and 2012, the rate of imprisonment has spiked 222 percent between 1980 and 2012. What’s behind this disparity? Is that strictly the result of policy decisions like mandatory minimum sentencing, repeat-offender laws, and the growth in for-profit prisons? Or are other factors at work?

SULLIVAN: That’s certainly a big piece of it. … policy decisions in respect of mandatory minimums drive the huge incarceration rate. But there are other factors as well. What those factors are is the subject of a lot of academic debate nowadays. And to be honest, we’re not exactly sure what it is. We do know that on a per-capita basis the U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world, including Rwanda, Russia, Cuba, all of the places one does not associate with a robust tradition of liberty. And that’s in many ways shocking.

The theory would be … with the high rates of incarceration that the crime rate would go down and then that would be followed by less incarceration because there just wouldn’t be as many crimes committed. But those numbers have gone in opposite directions. Mandatory minimums simply don’t explain all of it. Part of it, at least I think, has to do with selective law enforcement — the over-policing of certain neighborhoods, particularly minority neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods. That is to say, if police are there and looking for crimes, and over-police certain neighborhoods, you’re going to produce more defendants in particular areas. And if the populations are drawn from poor populations, they’re unable to afford to be released on bail, they’re unable to afford good lawyers, and studies show that if you’re not released on bail you tend to stay in jail after sentencing. An unfortunate reality of the United States is that far too often the justice you receive is a function of how much money you have.

The prison-industrial complex is also an important factor. It doesn’t take an economist to know that if … you make your money by people going into prison, then there’s going to be higher incarceration rates. So I think that certainly plays a role as well.

GAZETTE: What are the areas of debate among scholars?

SULLIVAN: One explanation has to do with the United States’ articulated goals of punishment. Back in the ’70s and before, rehabilitation was an articulated goal of the criminal justice system. The Supreme Court has said clearly now rehabilitation is no longer a penological goal. We look at incapacitation, we look at deterrence, and we look at retribution as goals that the penal system serves. When you take rehabilitation out of the mix, then that de-incentivizes the system from having shorter sentences because there’s no longer an affirmative goal of reintegrating people meaningfully back into the community. That’s one of the things that scholars argue drive up the incarceration rate.

The other has to do with our system of elected judges in most states. Judges who are elected, the argument runs, respond to democratic pressures. We live in a political economy where people think that more and harsher punishment is better, even though most competent data suggests that longer sentences, after a certain point … make people worse as opposed to making them better. But you have democratically elected judges who respond to the will of the people, and if that will is for longer sentences, no matter how misinformed, then judges oftentimes acquiesce to those pressures.

The other issue has to do with legislators. It, again, has to do with the political economy in which we live. With this mantra of being “tough on crime,” legislators essentially race to see who can draft legislation with the harshest, longest penalties. I think that legislators don’t believe that prosecutors will attempt to enforce the most harsh provisions of particular laws, and in that sense, from the vantage point of the legislator, it’s sort of a win-win situation: They can get the political credit for drafting an incredibly harsh law, but not really have to deal with the effects because the notion is the prosecutor will sort it out and will recommend a fair sentence. That assumption, though, just hasn’t really been borne out in reality.

GAZETTE: The current incarceration gap between white men and African-American men is particularly striking. Does that figure surprise you, and what accounts for this gap? Is access to justice a factor?

SULLIVAN: The figure does not surprise me, and it is unfortunate that the figure does not surprise me. The figure reaffirms that race insinuates itself into almost every aspect of our life still, and it has a particular salience in the criminal justice system. … Here we see the effect of over-policing much more dramatically. In our culture, unfortunately … blackness is seen as a proxy for criminality. So the same or similar conduct engaged in by a person of color is seen through a lens that views that conduct as criminal, where others simply are not taxed in the same way.

The debate over the use of lethal injections and the drugs used for state executions continues.   Three newspapers–including the UK Guardian–have sued to 8706624f946740fb5bfd634de4b31b58make public the source of drugs for these injections. Most states are trying to make that information private.  Many of the recent botched executions came from simple druggists compounding the formulations because many of the major drug manufacturers–especially those in Europe–refuse to do so.  Should the formulation and the source of death penalty drugs be kept from the public?

The growing secrecy adopted by death penalty states to hide the source of their lethal injection drugs used in executions is being challenged in a new lawsuit in Missouri, which argues that the American people have a right to know how the ultimate punishment is being carried out in their name.

The legal challenge, brought by the Guardian, Associated Press and the three largest Missouri newspapers, calls on state judges to intervene to put a stop to the creeping secrecy that has taken hold in the state in common with many other death penalty jurisdictions. The lawsuit argues that under the first amendment of the US constitution the public has a right of access to know “the type, quality and source of drugs used by a state to execute an individual in the name of the people”.

It is believed to be the first time that the first amendment right of access has been used to challenge secrecy in the application of the death penalty. Deborah Denno, an expert in execution methods at Fordham University law school in New York, said that more and more states were turning to secrecy as a way of hiding basic flaws in their procedures.

“If states were doing things properly they wouldn’t have a problem releasing information – they are imposing a veil of secrecy to hide incompetence.” “This is like the government building bridges, and trying to hide the identity of the company that makes the bolts,” said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center. “Those involved in public service should expect public scrutiny in order to root out problems, particular when the state is carrying out the most intimate act possible – killing people.”

A Guardian survey has identified at least 13 states that have changed their rules to withhold from the public all information relating to how they get hold of lethal drugs. They include several of the most active death penalty states including Texas, which has executed seven prisoners so far this year, Florida (five), Missouri (four) and Oklahoma (three). Attention has been drawn to the secrecy issue by the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma on 29 April in which the prisoner took 43 minutes to die, apparently in great pain, from an untested cocktail of drugs whose source was not made public.

Lockett’s lawyers had argued in advance that he might be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment as a result of the lack of information surrounding the drugs, but the state supreme court allowed the procedure to go ahead having come under intense pressure from local politicians, some of whom threatened to impeach judges.

In the wake of the events in Oklahoma, in which the prisoner writhed and groaned over a prolonged period, the state has agreed to pause for six months before carrying out any further judicial killings to give time for an internal investigation to be completed. President Obama described the Lockett execution “deeply troubling” and has asked US attorney general Eric Holder to review the way the death penalty is conducted.

Until last year, Missouri which is now executing prisoners at a rate of one a month, was open about where it obtained its lethal injection chemicals. But like many death penalty states, its drug supplies have dwindled as a result of a European-led pharmaceutical boycott, and in a desperate move to try to find new suppliers it has shrouded their identity in secrecy. In October, the state changed its so-called “black hood law” that had historically been used to guard the identity of those directly involved in the death process.

The department of corrections expanded the definition of its execution team to include pharmacies and “individuals who prescribe, compound, prepare, or otherwise supply the chemicals for use in the lethal injection procedure”. Six inmates have been executed by Missouri since the new secrecy rules came in –they went to their deaths entirely ignorant of the source or quality of the drugs used to kill them. All that is known is that the pentobarbital that Missouri deploys in executions probably came from a compounding pharmacy – an outlet that makes up small batches of the drug to order in the absence of stringent regulation.

We continue to see GLBT civil rights characterized by the right as an attack on their religious rights and their homobigoted behavior and language The-Birth-of-a-Nationwrapped up as a first amendment issue. How does the right play the victim card in a debate about limiting the rights of others?  It is doing the same things with women’s reproductive rights.

While Religious Right leaders are quick to equate criticism as an attack on their freedom of speech and religion, some of them are all too happy to limit the free speech or religious liberty of the people they disagree with. That includes the Benham brothers.

In the flurry of public appearances in the wake of the HGTV cancellation, the Benhams and their right-wing fans have portrayed themselves as committed to the principle that everyone in America should have a chance to express themselves.  On the O’Reilly Factor, David Benham denounced the gay agenda for seeking “to silence those that disagree with it, and it begins with Christians.” Jason warned that “when an idea seeks to silence any other idea that may disagree with that, then we have ourselves a problem on hand.”

But as blogger Jeremy Hooper recently pointed out, back in November 2004, David, Jason, and Flip Benham were all part of a group of about 15 people who went to a Charlotte, North Carolina city council meeting to complain about the gay pride celebration that had taken place in a city park six months earlier. They were among a group of people who had gone to the Pride event to, in Jason’s words, “tell them that Jesus loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way.” But the Benhams and their friends were appalled at what they saw. “This is filth, this is vile and should not be allowed in our City,” said David. Jason urged city council members to reject future permits for Pride celebrations – and seemingly for any LGBT-themed event:

They have a right to apply for this permit, but you have a right and responsibility to deny it. I [implore] you not to be governed by the fear in which you feel. If you deny them this permit you will open a can of worms but you in your leadership position have to take that responsibility and you have to not allow the fear of making this homosexual community mad. You have to accept that responsibility and deny them every permit that they ask for.

In the words of Charlotte Pride organizers, “The Benham brothers once tried to silence us. They failed.”

Some Benham fans, like the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, say flat-out that the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections were only meant for Christians and don’t apply to Muslims, Mormons or other minority faiths. Back when many self-proclaimed “religious liberty” advocates were opposing efforts by Muslims in New York to build a community center – which critics gave the inaccurate and inflammatory name of “Ground Zero Mosque” – David Benham and his father Flip were among them. According to the Anti-Defamation League, David participated in protests against the Center, calling it a “den of iniquity” and labeling Muslims “the enemy” that was attacking America.

In these public debates, “Christian” as used by Religious Right leaders often doesn’t really apply to all Christians, but only to a subset of Christians who share their right-wing politics. Other Christians don’t count.  The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who has bemoaned “cultural elites” who want to “silence” and “bully” people like the Benhams, recently said that pro-gay-equality Christians don’t deserve the same legal protections as he does because “true religious freedom” applies only to those with religious views that align with those of the political Right.

We’ve seen a lot of this coming from Governor Bobby Jindal who is a bully that insists that GLBT rights activists are bullies. 

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s commencement speech at Liberty University was a masterpiece in this type of dishonest projection. Posing as a champion of free speech and freedom of religion, he actually made a chilling argument in favor of stripping both of those freedoms away from ordinary Americans, businesses and anyone who might disagree with turning this country into a theocratic state. He started by defending Hobby Lobby for trying to strip contraception coverage out of their employees’ own healthcare plans. “Under the Obama regime,” he argued, “you have protection under the First Amendment as an individual, but the instant you start a business, you lose those protections. And that brings us to the second front in this silent war: the attack on our freedom of association as people of faith.”

It’s all nonsense, of course. In fact, Hobby Lobby’s intention here is to reduce religious freedom by forcing their employees to adhere to certain religious rules in order to get the benefits they already earned. ( They have a history of trying to impose their religious dogma on non-believers through other means as well.) The only people in any real danger of losing freedom are women, who are in danger of losing their freedom to use their insurance benefits in a way that fits their personal beliefs.

But Jindal was just warming up, claiming the “Obama administration” was gunning to decide “who can preach the Gospel.” This outrageous conspiracy theory was justified, in his opinion, by supposed other attacks on “free speech,” namely that TV networks are reluctant to house the opinions of open bigots. “The left no longer wants to debate. They simply want to silence us,” he said of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, who was never silenced and has, to this date, been allowed to say any fool thing he wants. But he was briefly suspended from A&E, leading conservatives to decide that “free speech” means you have a right to your own TV show.

All of this has gotten me interested in again in White Supremacist movements.  I really believe that most of these Southern Republicans fall squarely 67294811_blossoms_241543binto the neoconfederate mold and aren’t that far off the KKK tree.

White supremacy is referenced in relation to specific news events as well. For example, the murder rampage by the neo-Nazi Frazier Glenn Miller, the recent weeks-long debate between pundits Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait about “black pathology”; birtherism; stand-your-ground laws; and the open embrace of the symbols and rhetoric of the old slave-holding Confederacy by the Republican Party have been framed and discussed in terms of white supremacy.

Conservatives and progressive often use the phrase “white supremacy” in divergent ways. Conservatives use the phrase in the service of a dishonest “colorblind” agenda, evoking extreme images of KKK members and Nazis as the exclusive and only examples of white racism in American life and politics. Conservatives use extreme caricatures of white supremacy in order to deflect and protect themselves from charges that the contemporary Republican Party is a white identity organization fueled by white racial resentment. Liberals, progressives and anti-racists use the phrase “white supremacy” to describe the overt and subtle racist practices of movement conservatism in the post-Civil Rights era, and how American society is still structured around maintaining and protecting white privilege. This analysis is largely correct: however, it often conflates concepts such as racism, white privilege, and white supremacy with one another. Language does political work. In the age of Obama, the phrase “white supremacy” is often used in political discussions like an imprecise shotgun blast or a blockbuster bomb. If the Common Good and American democracy are to be protected—countering how the right wing has used the politics of white racial resentment, racial manipulation, and hate to mobilize its voters in support of a plutocratic agenda—a more precise weapon is needed. A necessary first step in that direction requires the development of a more detailed and transparent exploration of the concept known as “white supremacy.”

tumblr_m643ofO3Mw1r194ulo2_1280One of the sure signs to me of either a racist or a misogynist or a homophobic bigot is that they all insist they have no problem women, racial minorities, and/or gay people.  The believe they are the victims by being forced to deal with any one else in terms other than their own choosing. Therein lies the problem.  Here’s a perfect example from Kristen Powers writing at USA Today.   You can’t call out bigotry without being called a bully obsessed with political correctness.  Then, you’re told that the real victims are white conservative christians.

Each week seems to bring another incident. Last week it was David and Jason Benham, whose pending HGTV show was canceled after the mob unearthed old remarks the brothers made about their Christian beliefs on homosexuality. People can’t have a house-flipping show unless they believe and say the “right” things in their life off the set? In this world, the conservative Tom Selleck never would have been Magnum, P.I.

This week, a trail-blazing woman was felled in the new tradition of commencement shaming. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde withdrew from delivering the commencement speech at Smith College following protests from students and faculty who hate the IMF. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, this trend is growing. In the 21 years leading up to 2009, there were 21 incidents of an invited guest not speaking because of protests. Yet, in the past five-and-a-half years, there have been 39 cancellations.

Don’t bother trying to make sense of what beliefs are permitted and which ones will get you strung up in the town square. Our ideological overlords have created a minefield of inconsistency. While criticizing Islam is intolerant, insulting Christianity is sport. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is persona non grata at Brandeis University for attacking the prophet Mohammed. But Richard Dawkins describes the Old Testament God as “a misogynistic … sadomasochistic … malevolent bully” and the mob yawns. Bill Maher calls the same God a “psychotic mass murderer” and there are no boycott demands of the high-profile liberals who traffic his HBO show.

The self-serving capriciousness is crazy. In March, University of California-Santa Barbara women’s studies professor Mireille Miller-Young attacked a 16-year-old holding an anti-abortion sign in the campus’ “free speech zone” (formerly known as America). Though she was charged with theft, battery and vandalism, Miller-Young remains unrepentant and still has her job. But Mozilla’s Brendan Eich gave a private donation to an anti-gay marriage initiative six years ago and was ordered to recant his beliefs. When he wouldn’t, he was forced to resign from the company he helped found.

Got that? A college educator with the right opinions can attack a high school student and keep her job. A corporate executive with the wrong opinions loses his for making a campaign donation. Something is very wrong here.

The right seems to be really confused about the first amendment, which clearly deals with the relationship between the federal government, religion, the press, and the people’s free speech.  The same idiots that scream that Hobby Lobby can deny its employees contraception and say that businesses should be able to refuse to serve GLBTs will shout out a corporation that says they don’t want to be known for bigotry of any kind.  They also misunderstand the protection given to University professors when it comes to academic freedom.  Companies have to comply with the law.  They do not have to keep employees that don’t represent their corporate values.  PERIOD.

Anyway, it just amazes me that this intense amount of uncivil bigotry and hatred seemed to have burbled up again after all these years.  All it took was an African American President and a few powerful women–namely Hillary Clinton–to bring the crazy out.

I just wanted to mention that most of these silent film images come from “Birth of  a Nation” but one comes from “Broken Blossoms” also known as the “Yellow Man and the Girl”.  Both of these films were directed by DW Griffith around 1919. Both movies starred Lillian Gish and were received differently by white audiences than by the racial minorities they also depicted.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Here We Go Again . . .

Brigit Ganley, The Dramatist

Brigit Ganley, The Dramatist

It’s Saturday!!

 

And a glance at the news headlines today reveals that everything old is new again. Remember 14-year-old Cherise Morales, who committed suicide after being raped by her teacher Stacy Dean Rambold? And G. Todd Baugh, the judge who blamed Cherise for the rape and sentenced the Rambold to only 31 days in jail and probation?

Well that decision *may* be overturned, but now we have another judge in Texas who sounds like a clone of Baugh–except she’s a woman! From the Dallas News: Judge says sexually assaulted 14-year-old ‘wasn’t the victim she claimed to be’.

A man sentenced to five years probation by a Dallas County judge after admitting he raped a 14-year-old girl won’t have to follow many of the restrictions typically given to sex offenders.

And the judge who issued the light sentence said Thursday that she did so in part because the girl wasn’t a virgin and “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be.”

State District Judge Jeanine Howard, who gave 20-year-old Sir Young deferred probation last week, also altered Young’s probation requirements. As a result, Young does not have to stay away from children, attend sex offender treatment, undergo a sex offender evaluation or refrain from watching pornography.

Wait a minute. Let me check my calendar. Is this really 2014?

District Attorney Craig Watkins said Thursday that his prosecutors would “always fight for our most vulnerable victims” like the one in this case. It is rare for prosecutors to critique a judge’s actions, but Watkins said he was “alarmed” by Howard’s decision.

“This young lady was 14 at the time she was sexually assaulted at school, and we cannot send the wrong message to rape victims who have the courage to seek justice,” Watkins said. “I am disappointed the judge would choose to give the defendant probation after he admitted guilt, but even more alarmed the judge failed to impose standard sex offender conditions of probation designed to protect society.”

Make sure you’re sitting down before you read this next bit. Judge Howard is a Democrat. She’s going to withdraw from the case now so she can better explain herself, but she doesn’t have to worry about being reelected because she’s running unopposed.

Howard said she made her decision for several reasons, including: The girl had texted Young asking him to spend time with her; the girl had agreed to have sex with him but just didn’t want to at school; medical records show the girl had three sexual partners and had given birth to a baby; and Young was barely 18 at the time.

“She wasn’t the victim she claimed to be,” Howard said. “He is not your typical sex offender.”

The girl’s mother said Friday morning that her daughter has never been pregnant and she was “livid” over the judge’s comments.

WTF?!

The victim, who is now 17, told The News on Thursday night that she feels it would have been better if she had never come forward about the 2011 assault. She and Young testified last week at his trial that she had told Young “stop” and “no” numerous times before and during the attack at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where both were students.

“I did what I was supposed to do. I went to the law about this situation,” she said. The judge’s probation sentence and the removal of the restrictions — “that says everything I went through was for nothing.”

Unbelievable! We’ll have to watch what happens with this case. But when will judges learn that 14-year-old girls are not able to consent to sex in the first place?

“Don’t Run for President, Hillary”

Why won't that stupid bitch quit? (WWTSBQ)

Why won’t that stupid bitch quit? (WWTSBQ)

Remember when MSNBC’s Krystal Ball told Hillary Clinton she shouldn’t run for President? Ball said that Elizabeth Warren, who  is approximately the same age as Hillary and has zero experience and would be unlikely to win should run instead because Hillary was once on the board of Walmart … or something? Of course Ball’s nonsensical “advice” was ignored by most rational Democrats.

Now comes Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast to lecture Hillary some more: Don’t Run for President, Hillary. Become a ‘Post-President’ Instead. Except Brown seems not to care at all about Hillary’s positions on issues or her qualifications. She simply thinks Hillary should do the easiest thing and avoid the “stress” of a campaign and a tough job like the presidency. Brown apparently has projected her own values onto Hillary, assuming that she (Clinton) is as narcissistic and self-involved as Tina Brown is. Never mind that Hillary has spent most of her life focusing on public service and fighting for causes like women’s rights.

Brown writes:

I know as much as anyone how much her most fervent supporters want Hillary Clinton to run for president. On the opening night of the Women in the World Summit the mere mention of the possibility had the audience on their feet. The fan base is there, and constituencies beyond it.

Because American women want a woman in the White House in their lifetimes, and Hillary has the experince, strength, and passion to do the job.

But should she do it? Would the bravest and best decision be for her to skip it? In the 2008 campaign the chronic negativity of the ladies and gentlemen of the press was relentless, and the gouging of Hillary was wholly unrelated to either her record or her behavior. It was just that her story had gotten old. It required new angles, or, heaven forbid, new facts, to make it interesting—whereas Barack Obama was a story that wrote itself.

The first black president was a hotter plot line than the first woman president. Bad luck for Hillary. Obama stole her exceptionalism, leaving the press only with the hair, the alleged cackling laugh, and the over-familiar back-story, which meant dogging Bill around, hoping he’d lose it once in a while. (He obliged.)

I joined the Hillary bus for a Newsweek story in 2008 I was fascinated how little attention in their copy the traveling reporters actually paid to anything she said when she got out. They were too busy filing recaps of blogs by commentators who weren’t there. Suddenly there would be media uproar about some killer soundbite from Hillary that someone had gotten traction for that in context wasn’t controversial at all. Remember that shit-storm when she said MLK’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act?

In other words, the media is full of assholes and even though Hillary could probably handle it, why bother? She should just be a “post-president” in the mode of Jimmy Carter and bask in the reflected limelight of her former-president husband.

Even the Wall Street Journal’s wingnut comumnist James Taranto seems to think Brown’s column is a little strange.

Does Brown disagree with Mrs. Clinton on matters of policy or doubt she would be a good president? One assumes the answer is no, though the column doesn’t say. Nor does Brown offer a more coldly political rationale–say, that Mrs. Clinton would be unlikely to win, or that a different candidate would better enhance the long-term fortunes of the Democratic Party.

Brown sums up her argument as follows: “She should forget it. If she wins, it’s too much stress for too little return.” By “return,” Brown means nothing more than “personal benefit.” By forgoing a campaign, Brown writes, Mrs. Clinton “can have her glory-filled post-presidency now, without actually having to deal with the miseries of the office itself.” ….

Brown….credits Mrs. Clinton with standing for something, namely “her global mission to promote women’s rights, education, and political participation.” She asks if skipping the presidential candidacy would be “the bravest and best decision,” though she doesn’t say a word about why it would be brave.

Her central argument, however, is that running for and serving as president would entail too much suffering, in large part because people, particularly in the media, would not respond to Mrs. Clinton fairly…

Taranto thinks he may have figured out Brown’s real motivation: she’s floating a trial balloon for Hillary, because maybe Hillary has doubts about running and wants to see how her supporters react to Brown’s arguments.

No, Mr. Taranto, that’s not it. Brown is just the latest example of women being women’s worst enemies–like when Gloria Steinem supported Barack Obama over Hillary in 2008. And, by the way, could you please stop referring to Hillary as “Mrs. Clinton?” She is a former Senator and Secretary of State for god’s sake!

Benghazi!!!!

Remember when Boehner thought Benghazi investigations were stupid?

Remember when Boehner thought Benghazi investigations were stupid?

And then there’s the GOP’s obsession with Benghazi!!–which is of course the stick they hope to beat Hillary Clinton with in 2016. From U.S. News and World Report: Boehner says he intends to appoint select House committee to investigate Benghazi.

Boehner said U.S. officials misled the American people after the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. He said emails released this week showed the White House has withheld documents from congressional investigators and asked, “What else about Benghazi is the Obama administration still hiding from the American people?”

“Americans learned this week that the Obama administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the people’s House,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen.”

Because Darrel Issa hasn’t already investigated enough? If only the House had spent half this much time investigating 9/11, we might know why the Bush administration ignored all those warnings.

Here’s Brian Beutler at The New Republic: The GOP’s Benghazi Obsession Returns With a Vengeance. Pay Attention, Hillary.

It is by sheer coincidence that just as Obamacare recedes as an issue, House GOP leaders have announced their intent to create a Select Committee on Benghazisomething they’ve long resistedand that Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, perhaps overcome by zeal to maintain control over the issue, subpoenas Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about the 2012 attackdespite the fact that Kerry was a senator at the time, and hasn’t been invited to testify, and is currently visiting Sudan.

The pretext for all this is the release of an email from White House adviser Ben Rhodes, which includes as a bullet point the goal that in speaking about the attack, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice should “reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”

Slate’s Dave Weigel did a great job earlier this week of placing the email in chronological context, to discredit the argument that the email represents evidence of a “coverup.” And while it might appear a bit unseemly for administration officials to be concerning themselves with the president’s image and the administration’s competence in the midst a crisis … this is actually completely uncontroversial. Would John Boehner and Darrell Issa have preferred it if Susan Rice went on TV that week and granted that the administration was in complete disarray? Or had refused to take a position on the administration’s handling of the situation?

Beutler goes on to explain that even though all of the Republicans’ claims on Benghazi have been debunked, he is *concerned* because they are still going  to use it to attack Hillary.

if Republicans are serious about working their base into a frenzy over Benghazi, it’d probably behoove liberals to mix a bit more clarity about the events in with the mockery. What’s really happening is pretty straightforward. Of all the Americans who’ve died in dangerous parts of the world over the last decade, Republicans have concerned themselves with Benghazi’s four victims, because they think there’s political utility in fostering suspicion that the administration was more concerned with the coverup than the attack itself.

Something tells me Beutler is another one of those “Please don’t run, Hillary” folks.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments and, as always, post your links on any topic!


The Kitty Genovese Case 50 Years Later

kitty_genovese-kitty-outside-l

Today is the 50th anniversary of the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York. This was a crime that shocked and outraged America and the world, and still horrifies and fascinates people to this day. At The New Yorker, Nicholas Lehmann describes some of the reasons this news story has become so iconic and reviews two new books on the case. Lehmann argues that New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal created a news environment in which this particular murder became the focus of so much attention. Lehmann deliberately shaped the coverage of the murder in a sensational and misleading manner. The story ended up as the focus of a classic psychological study.

a post about this in August 2009, and I thought I’d put that post up again today.

I wrote a piece about this in August 2009. I thought I’d repost it today. I’ve made a few minor edits to the original. At the end, I list some recent books and articles for further reading.

The Kitty Genovese Case: A Fascinating Intersection of True Crime, Psychology, and Media Misinformation

A Murder in Kew Gardens

On March 13, 1964, at around 3:30AM, there was a murder in the Kew Gardens section of Queens, New York. The murder probably wouldn’t have gotten much publicity at all if it hadn’t been for a sensational article that appeared on the front page of The New York Times, a couple of weeks later. The Times story led to groundbreaking research in social psychology and the discovery of new and counter-intuitive information about human behavior.

It was very late, very cold, and very dark when 28-year-old Catherine “Kitty” Genovese parked her car at the Kew Gardens train station after driving from Ev’s Eleventh Hour Bar in Hollis, where she worked nights as manager. When she got out of her car, she saw a stranger walking toward her. The man, Winston Mosley, 29, stabbed Genovese two times as she hurried past a bookstore on Austin Street, pehaps headed a local bar named Bailey’s to seek assistance. She called out, “Oh my God. He stabbed me. Please help me,” and fell to the ground. Winston was leaning over her to stab her again, when he heard a man’s voice calling from a window in an apartment building across the street, “Leave that girl alone!”

Winston Mosley
Winston Mosley

Startled, Mosley ran down an alley, got into his car, and backed up, ready to drive off. Lights had gone on in the nearby apartment building, but they went off again. Mosley got out of the car and again followed Genovese, who had reached the doorway of her apartment building, which was in the back of the building at 82-62 Austin Street. As she fell forward through the doorway, crying out, “I’m dying, I’m dying,” Winston caught up with her, stabbed her again, and then raped her. A short time later, a neighbor, Greta Schwartz, who had called the police after receiving a phone call from another neighbor, ran down to the lobby and cradled Kitty in her lap until the paramedics arrived.

From interviews in the neighborhoods of the two stabbing incidents, police learned that as many as 37 people had seen or heard part of the stalking and murder of Kitty Genovese by Winston Mosley, but supposedly none of them had called the police except Greta Schwartz.

The New York Times Breaks the Story

On March 27, 1964, The New York Times published a front page story by Martin Gansberg (Warning, PDF) headlined “37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call Police.”

Apathy at Stabbing of Queens Woman Shocks Inspector

For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

Twice the sound of their voices and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.

That was two weeks ago today. But Assistant Chief Inspector Frederick M. Lussen, in charge of the borough’s detectives and a veteran of 25 years of homicide investigations, is still shocked.

He can give a matter-of-fact recitation of many murders. But the Kew Gardens slaying baffles him–not because it is a murder, but because the “good people” failed to call the police.

Just that brief excerpt contains a number of inaccuracies, which I’ll get to a little later. Nevertheless, it was from this newspaper article that Americans–and people around the world–formed their lasting impressions of the tragic death of Kitty Genovese. The story shocked the nation; everyone was talking about how terrible it was that in big cities like New York, people just didn’t seem to get to know their neighbors or care about them. Those of us who lived in small cities and towns were sure things would be different in our neighborhoods.

Psychological Study of the Bystander Effect

In 1968, J.M. Darley and B. Latane published a study (pdf) in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that was inspired by the supposed behavior of the 37 “witnesses” to Kitty Genovese’s murder. They hypothesized that the reason bystanders did not take action was “diffusion of responsibility,” and that the more bystanders in an emergency situation, the more these bystanders believe that “someone else will help, so I don’t need to.”

Participants in the study were college students in an introductory psychology class at New York University.
Darley and Latane told participants that they wanted to study how students adjust to university life in a highly competitive, urban environment. They said they wanted participants to discuss their problems honestly with other students; and in order to avoid personal discomfort, participants would sit in separate rooms equipped with an intercom system.

There were three different groups. Students in group one were told they would be talking with one other person. In group two, students were told there would be two other people on the intercome with them. Group five was told there would be five other people listening in to the conversation. In reality, all of the students were alone and they the other voices they heard were on tape. The emergency was that one of the participants in the discussion has epileptic seizure (the sounds of the seizure were actually played on tape).

As the intercom discussions began, students heard the first student, a male, tell about his difficulties concentrating on his studies and problems adjusting to life in New York City. He then added, with some embarrassment, that he sometimes had severe seizures, especially when under a lot of stress. Then the conversation switched to the next student. In group 1, the actual student’s turn came next. In the other two groups, the real student heard one or more other students speak first. After the real student took a turn speaking, the first “student” again started to speak normally, then began having a seizure, and asked for help. Darley and Latane measured how long it took subjects to help the student in trouble (helping was defined as leaving the cubicle and notifying an experimenter of the problem).

Why? Not because they were apathetic. All subjects were anxious and showed physical signs of nervousness. Darley and Latane conclued that as the number of people involved in an emergency situation increase, it’s easier for bystanders to assume that someone else will handle it; and the potential guilt for not helping is divided up. Other possible reasons for failure to act are fear of embarrassment or ridicule, fear that they are misinterpreting the situation. The authors also pointed out that most people don’t have much experience with emergency situations and are likely to become confused or overwhelmed when they encounter one.

Joseph De May, Jr., and the Kew Gardens History Page

In 2000, Joseph De May, who had lived in Kew Gardens since 1974, decided to build a website that would contain a comprehensive pictorial history of the neighborhood. As part of his project, De May dug up as much information as he could about the Kitty Genovese murder and then critiqued the original New York Times article and debunked some myths that had grown up around the case. Here is the “short version” of his critique:

# There were only 2 attacks, not 3.

# The attacks were not continuous. There was about a 10 min. interval between them when the killer moved his car to a parking place farther away.

# There were not 38 eye witnesses to either of the attacks. Only 3 people are known to have seen one or the other of the stabbings.

# The first attack on Austin Street – the one that awakened the witnesses – was likely over before all but a few of the witnesses got to their windows.

# Probably many more than 38 were ear witnesses to Kitty’s screams. However, that first attack occurred a few yards away from a bar known for its late night rowdiness.

# After the first attack, Kitty left the scene under her own power without making any outcries for help.

# The second attack took place in a small vestibule in the rear of a building where only one witness was in a position to see it.

# Given the layout of the crime scene, it would have been impossible for anyone to have seen or heard everything.

# Assuming the police were not timely called – a big assumption in my opinion – there were reasons apart from apathy why they were not.

Crime scene photo: back of apartment building where Kitty died
Crime scene photo: back of apartment building where Kitty died

Furthermore, a 15-year-old boy named Michael Hoffman saw Winston Mosley run away after the first attack in front of the bookstore and saw Kitty Genovese get up and stagger in the other direction. He didn’t know there had been a stabbing, but he told his father what he had seen and the father called the police. The police later admitted they had received several other calls. One man did see the knife and understood that a woman was being stabbed. This man never called the police and couldn’t explain his inaction. At least five other people saw Mosley return to the original scene, but by that time Kitty Genovese was gone.

There were two attacks, not three as the New York Times reported. A man on the first floor of Kitty’s building open his door and saw the final attack. He wanted to call police, but said his wife didn’t want him to get involved. He went to Greta Schwartz’s apartment and asked her to call police, which she did. She then ran downstairs with a friend, found Kitty still alive and cradled her until an ambulance arrived. Also contrary to The New York Times story, the occupants of Kitty Genovese’s apartments building knew and were friendly with each other. Many knew and liked Kitty and her roomate Mary Ann Zielonko.

The Real Kitty Genovese

In 2004, on the fortieth anniversary of Kitty Genovese’s death, Mary Ann Zielonko came forward and talked about Kitty publicly for the first time. She was interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. In the interview, Zielonko, who now lives in Vermont, revealed that she and Kitty Genovese were lovers. A lesbian blogger in Vermont wrote a piece about her own feelings after she learned about Kitty’s sexual orientation.

Hearing that Genovese was a lesbian has shaken up my psyche. Genovese’s name was always a cautionary tale – about being a woman alone in the city at night, about the need to care and take action in the face of assault. But now it’s also somehow more about me as a lesbian, about our denied and undiscovered herstory, about the dangers we faced then – and now.

In 1964, it was not okay to be queer. The only place to go to hold your lover’s hand in semi-public was a bar. Mary Ann remembers the Swing Rendezvous on MacDougal St. and the Seven Steps on Houston. Police raids and being beaten up for wearing butch or femme drag were common events.

Until now we’ve never had the opportunity to ask whether the neighbors’ indifference might have had an element of homophobia (not that the word existed then). Kitty and Mary Ann lived together in the apartment Kitty was so desperately trying to reach that March night. Mary Ann says some of the neighbors suspected they were lesbians, because they were always together. “But we didn’t look ‘gay,’ whatever that means.” Mary Ann got home from her own shift tending bar and went to sleep – until the police knocked at her door at 4 a.m. and drove her from the tree-lined streets of their Kew Gardens, Queens, neighborhood where Kitty died, to the hospital morgue to identify Kitty’s body.

Some of the neighbors may have suspected that Kitty and Mary Ann were gay, but several reported in interviews that she was a friendly, smiling young woman whom they liked. A few told police and reporters that they “didn’t want to get involved,” but most weren’t sure what they had seen or heard and couldn’t say why they didn’t call for help. It was after 3AM on a winter night, in a neighborhood where there were often loud voices and even fighting among people leaving local bars. As with the participants in Darley and Latane’s study, some of the witnesses may have feared giving a false report to police and looking foolish.

In addition, Joseph De May reports that in those days, NYC police demanded that callers identify themselves rather than just accepting reports of emergencies. That may have deterred some from calling police or holding on long enough to get someone to listen. Even if witnesses had called police to report screaming or fighting, they would likely have taken a long time to respond, because of the bars in the area.

In 2004, The New York Times interviewed De May about his research.

In the end, Mr. De May’s conclusion about the murder is that, while the behavior of the witnesses was hardly beyond reproach, the common conception of exactly what occurred that night is not in fact what occurred. What did occur, he argues, is far more complex and far less damning to the residents of Kew Gardens.

”Yeah, there was a murder,” Mr. De May said. ”Yeah, people heard something. You can question how a few people behaved. But this wasn’t 38 people watching a woman be slaughtered for 35 minutes and saying, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be involved.”’

Mr. De May began his research with the seminal Times article of March 27, 1964. ”I remember reading through it, then putting it down and thinking, ‘Well, this doesn’t hang together at all,”’ he said. ”And then I read it again carefully. I knew the area. I knew the crime scene because I go by there every day.”

Mr. De May soon found himself poring through legal documents related to the case, scouring books and articles, and interviewing neighbors. At one point, he even ran the route of Ms. Genovese’s flight up Austin Street, timing it with a watch. He became convinced that his first impression was correct. ”Here’s something that everyone thinks happened,” he said, ”that isn’t so.”

Winston Mosley

Kitty’s murderer had no idea that she was a lesbian. He had set out that night to kill a woman. He was certainly a sociopath and may have been a serial killer. He confessed to having killed at least one other woman after he was arrested for the Genovese murder. In 1968, Mosley managed to escape from police custody and raped a pregnant woman in her home. In April, 2008, the New York Daily News reported on Mosley’s latest parole hearing.

Forty-four years after stalking and stabbing Kitty Genovese, her killer still blames his wife-beating father for the vicious murder.

“My father was at the time stalking my mother and thinking about killing her,” Winston Moseley told the parole board last month when asked about the infamous 1964 slaying.

“But the problem was not just at that moment in time,” he said. “It existed for many years of sort of the emotional trauma that I was going through.”

Moseley, whose parole bid was rejected for a 13th time, has long displayed little remorse for the March 13, 1964, slaying – although he did offer an apology this time, a transcript of the hearing shows.

Further Reading:

Books

In 2008, Charles E. Stoller, the man who prosecuted Winston Mosley for the murder of Kitty Genovese and two other murders, published a book about the cases, Twisted Confessions: The True Story Behind the Kitty Genovese and Barbara Kralik Murder Trials.

Catherine Pelonero, Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and Its Private Consequences (2014)

Kevin Cook, Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America (2014)

Articles

Boston Globe book review, ‘Kitty Genovese’ by Kevin Cook and ‘Kitty Genovese’ by Catherine Pelonero

Nicholas Lehmann, A CALL FOR HELP: What the Kitty Genovese story really means.

AP (via CBS Local NY), 50 Years Later, Kitty Genovese Murder Case Still Grips NYC, Nation.

Fabian Tepper (Christian Science Monitor),  Kitty Genovese murder: would you have helped? 

Nancy Dillon (NY Daily News), Brother of Kitty Genovese to release documentary about sister’s 1964 murder, which prompted ‘Genovese Syndrome’ research


Tuesday Reads: Military Scandals, Hollywood Problems and Perversions, and Other News

Hedgehog newspaper

Good Morning!!

Winter weather continues to dominate my world. I was all ready to go out for groceries yesterday when I looked outside and saw snow coming down. Sigh . . .

We’ve got a couple of inches on the ground now–not a big deal except that there are two more storms on the way. We get one day’s respite, and then a big storm on Wednesday (5-9 in.) and a nor’easter coming on Saturday.

The storm we’re getting tomorrow is already impacting the plains states of Oklahoma and Kansas and the Midwest. If you’re in its path, you’d best stay inside and find some indoor activities to keep you occupied–like reading a good book or surfing the internet. Speaking of which, let’s see what’s in the news today.

Here’s some good news from Talking Points Memo: Obama Persuades Dems To Back Off Iran Sanctions, Give Peace A Chance.

Senate Democrats came close to blowing up President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran by toying with a new sanctions bill that negotiators cautioned would poison talks.

But in recent days it has become clear that they’re going to hold off, after aggressive lobbying from the White House, as diplomatic negotiators’ attempt to turn an interim six-month deal struck last November into something more permanent. The goal is to get Iran to surrender its nuclear weapons capabilities in exchange for relief from a swath of economically devastating sanctions….

Legislation to beef up sanctions on Iran, authored by Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ), has a whopping 58 additional sponsors, 15 of which are Democrats. Criticism of the interim deal from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, boosted the bill. But in the last three weeks, numerous Democrats have backed away and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he’ll wait to see how negotiations play out before considering the sanctions bill.

Obama, Kerry and their top aides pulled Democrats back from the brink by making their opposition to any sort of new sanctions bill clear in a series of public remarks and private face-to-face meetings with top senators. They’ve warned that bringing up a sanctions bill amid talks would empower the hard-liners in Iran, making it politically untenable for President Hassan Rouhani to cut a long-term deal. They’ve conveyed their strong belief that pushing sanctions legislation at this pivotal moment would only increase the chances of a war, according to sources familiar with the matter.

It’s too bad that Obama has to deal not only with Republicans trying to undermine his initiatives, but also with Democrats who seem to be more concerned with what Israel wants then what is best for the U.S.

Recently the Navy has been caught up in a scandal involving “nuclear force officers” caught cheating on proficiency tests. According to Fox News:

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Thursday the number of nuclear force officers implicated in a proficiency test cheating scandal has grown to 92 out of a force of 500.

James spoke to reporters after touring nuclear bases around the country, which The Associated Press has revealed suffers from such low morale and burnout that they have committed serious security lapses other breakdowns.

James, who is new to the job, said the nuclear force is beset by “undue stress and fear,” and said the nuclear force suffers “systemic problems.”

Today we’re learning of a serious fraud scandal in the Army. The Washington Post reports: Army probes allegations of fraud by recruiters and others in enlistment referral program.

Army criminal investigators are probing the actions of more than 1,200 individuals who collected suspect payouts totaling more than $29 million, according to officials who were briefed on the preliminary findings of the investigation and would discuss them only on the condition of anonymity. More than 200 officers are suspected of involvement, including two generals and dozens of colonels.

The alleged fraud drew in recruiters, soldiers and civilians with ties to the military who submitted, or profited from, false referrals registered on a Web site run by a marketing firm the Army hired to run the program. Suspects often obtained the names of people who had enlisted from recruiters, claimed them as their referrals, and then kicked back some of the bonus money to the recruiters.

The abuse is feared to be so widespread that Army investigators do not expect to conclude all audits and investigations before the fall of 2016.

But there are even more scandals. At the National Journal, Sara Sorcher and Jordain Carney offer A Pocket Guide to the Military’s Many Scandals to help us keep score.

Hoffman

Quite a bit more has come out about the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The New York Daily News is now reporting that 70 bags of heroin and numerous prescription drugs were found in the Greenwich Village apartment he was living in had been living in.

Seventy glassine baggies of heroin packed for individual sale — at least 50 of them unopened — were discovered in the $10,000-a-month rental where the Oscar-winning actor was found dead Sunday with a needle stuck in his left arm, sources said.

Some of the envelopes had the words “Ace of Spades” written on them, and others were stamped with the name “Ace of Hearts.” Both are brands of heroin that are often cut with a powerful pain reliever called fentanyl, and have become a plague in Pennsylvania, where they were used in 22 overdose deaths.

Police are now trying to learn where Hoffman got the drugs.

Apparently Hoffman had gotten sober when he was 22 years old. He told 60 minutes interviewer Steve Kroft in 2006 that he stopped drinking and drugging because he was “panicked for my life,” and that there were “things I wanted to do” and he wouldn’t be able to do them if he kept on the way he was going. Reportedly Hoffman stayed clean and sober for 23 years, until he began using again in 2013. He checked himself into a brief rehab program last May, but he had been struggling to stay straight since then.

As a recovering alcoholic and addict who has been sober more than 30 years, it’s very difficult for me to read about this. When I went into treatment at age 33, I met people who had been sober for more than 20 years and then drank again. It’s hard to believe, but the disease never goes away no matter how many years go by. And they say if you use again, the results will be much worse than when you quit. It sounds like once Hoffman went back to the drugs, he simply couldn’t stop. Although I am one of the fortunate people who have never had a desire to drink again after I quit, I know it still could happen to me. No recovering person is immune.

Last link on Hoffman: CNN pieced together a timeline of his last couple of days. Some friends said he seemed fine, but his ex-partner told police he seemed high the day before he died. Read more details at the link.

Mia Farrow and Woody Allen with adopted children Satchel and Dylan

Mia Farrow and Woody Allen with adopted children Satchel and Dylan

There’s been quite a bit of talk lately about Woody Allen’s creepy interest in young girls, after his adopted daughter Dylan wrote an open letter to The New York Times about her childhood experiences with the famous actor and director. Frankly, I believe her, but as usual many powerful people like Barbara Walters are defending Allen and suggesting that Dylan is either lying or reporting false memories. Of course, these people must ignore the facts that when 7-year-old Dylan first spoke up, Allen had been in therapy for two years for his inappropriate behavior toward her and that the prosecutor in the case found probable cause to charge Allen but felt that Dylan was too fragile to handle a trial. Read the decision in Allen v. Farrow here.

For anyone interested in this case, I recommend reading two long Vanity Fair articles by Maureen Orth–From 1992, Mia’s Story and a follow-up from 2013, Mama Mia! I also want to point to some circumstantial evidence. Of course we all know that Allan began having sex with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn when she was barely out of high school; but I didn’t realized until yesterday that Allen’s movie Manhattan was based on a sexual relationship he had with a high school girl when she was 17 and he was in his 40s.  Predictably, the girl, Stacey Nelkin is defending Woody Allen today.

From CNN: Former girlfriend Stacey Nelkin defends Woody Allen, refutes accusations of child abuse and seductive tendencies.

…on Monday evening “Piers Morgan Live” welcomed Stacey Nelkin for an exclusive, primetime interview.

Having dated Allen as a teenager, when she was 35 years his junior, Nelkin remains skeptical of the statements penned by Dylan Farrow, who is alleging to have been molested by her adoptive father as a seven-year-old. To Monday’s guest, the latest claims are simply an extension of the ugly separation between Allen, and Dylan’s adoptive mother, Mia Farrow:

“These accusations came on the heels of a horrible custody battle, Mia being extremely upset, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and she was hell-bent and determined to destroy something that he loved,” said Nelkin, who insisted her own relationship with Allen was entirely consensual and not corrupt in the least. “Woody loved Dylan. We were in contact at the time, and he would talk about her a lot. He loved the kids that they had adopted together, and she took Dylan away by creating this whole scenario.”

Maybe Nelkin is hoping Allen will finally acknowledge her and give her a part. She had a small role in Annie Hall, but here performance was left on the cutting room floor. How would Nelkin know what is true–I wonder if she knows that Woody was having sex with Soon-Yi while he was adopting his two children with Mia Farrow?

One more bit of circumstantial evidence from a 1976 People article about Woody Allen’s neuroses:

Woody will admit now only to “dating around” and living with girls for stretches ranging from “two days to two weeks—if you call that living together.” Could he possibly have mellowed from the days when his movies rated horniness as a human malaise second only to bubonic plague? “I try to have sex only with women I like a lot,” Woody explains solemnly. “Otherwise I find it fairly mechanical.” (He has little interest in family life: “It’s no accomplishment to have or raise kids. Any fool can do it.”)

He goes on: “I’m open-minded about sex. I’m not above reproach; if anything, I’m below reproach. I mean, if I was caught in a love nest with 15 12-year-old girls tomorrow, people would think, yeah, I always knew that about him.” Allen pauses. “Nothing I could come up with would surprise anyone,” he ventures helplessly. “I admit to it all.”

Okay, enough about the problems and perversions of movie stars. Did you hear about the man who claims he survived being adrift in a boat for more than a year? BBC News:

“I want to get back to Mexico,” Jose Salvador Albarengo reportedly said as he was taken to the islands’ capital, Majuro, for a medical examination.

Mr Albarengo said he left Mexico with a friend for a trip in a fibre-glass boat in December 2012.

He was found by people living on the island of Ebon Atoll on Thursday.

He had initially identified himself to authorities as Jose Ivan.

The castaway told the local deputy US ambassador Norman Barth, who was acting as an interpreter for Marshall Islands authorities, that he was originally from El Salvador, but had been living in Mexico for 15 years before his epic voyage.

From ABC News:

Alvarenga, who said he got lost after a shark fishing trip off the coast of Mexico in December 2012, said he survived 13 months drifting in the Pacific Ocean by eating fish, birds and turtles, a representative at the  Washington D.C. Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands told ABCNews.com.

The man also scooped up little fish that swam alongside his drifting boat and ate them raw, while also drinking bird blood to quench his thirst, Thomas Armbruster, U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, told the Associated Press.

Alvarenga told officials he is  from El Salvador but had been living and working in Mexico as a fisherman for 15 years before his ordeal.

In December 2012, Alvarenga said he left Mexico in a 23-foot fiber glass boat with a teenage companion named Ezekiel for what was supposed to be a day trip of fishing, the ambassador said.

A storm blew their boat off course, Armbruster said, and caused them to become disoriented and adrift. He said the castaway told him Ezekiel died a month later.

Who knows if it’s true?

Now it’s your turn. What stories have captured your interest today? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Wednesday Reads: Overpriced GOP-Head Pumps and When No Means Yes

052c36fbc9a1863be6e9eb834c46544eGood Morning

What a crappy few days it has been… such terrible stories in the news lately. Yeah…text messages, popcorn, penis pumps, poor dead children, (that should be dead poor children), rich GOP dead-beat dads, murdering cops, and judge’s decisions. Oh boy, and let me tell you, things are Fukushima’d up!

Let’s start with Fukushima:  The Nuclear Disaster That Won’t Go Away

On New Year’s Day (nearly three years after the initial incident) operators of the Fukushima plant reported that “plumes of most probably radioactive steam” had been seen rising from the reactor 3 building. According to RT.com, “the Reactor 3 fuel storage pond still houses an estimated 89 tons of the plutonium-based MOX nuclear fuel composed of 514 fuel rods.” Unfortunately, high levels of radiation inside the building make it nearly impossible to determine the source of the mystery steam. Although TEPCO, the plant’s operator, claims there’s no increased danger (small comfort from the people who admitted to the world that they have no control over the situation), most agree that the plant is just seconds away from another disaster.

4d45ce57c4dea24d3eef37127cf2d5e3Meanwhile, here in the US, another meltdown has been brewing. A fire arm meltdown.

The latest on the Shooting down in Tampa: Profiles Of Man Allegedly Shot For Texting And His Suspected Killer

They say the gun jammed when the killer tried to shoot a second time. Who the fuck was he going to shoot the wife of the man he just killed?

After officers read him his rights, Reeves told the detective that Oulson struck him in the face with an unknown object, and that’s when he removed a .380 caliber gun from his pants pocket. The report said Reeves fired the gun and struck Oulson once in the chest and that he “was in fear of being attacked.”

The sheriff said at a news conference that Reeves’ son — who was off duty from his job as a Tampa officer — was walking into the theater when the shooting happened. Nocco said Reeves briefly struggled with an off-duty deputy but released the weapon. The gun was jammed and unable to fire again.

I want to know where Reeves went and who he talked to and what was said…what was the son doing there just as the shooting occurred? The management probably to Reeves to move to another seat, I mean how ridiculous was his complaint. It was the damn previews.

Devon Detrapani and her husband Joseph were friends with the Oulsons and that the men worked together at Sky Powersports, a motorcycle and off road vehicle dealer.

Chad Oulson was the company’s finance manager and a hard worker, Detrapani said. He rode dirt bikes on the weekend and “liked” several motocross stars on Facebook, but his true love was his baby daughter, Lexi.

“They are awesome parents,” said Devon Detrapani. “They love that little girl so much.”

Detrapani said that Oulson was texting with his daughter’s daycare on the afternoon he was shot. She said that Oulson was a kind man with no anger issues.

“He is a very nice guy,” she said. “He would give the shirt off his back to help someone.”

Oulson had Monday off and his wife, Nicole, worked at USAA Insurance and took the day off so they could go to the movies together.

Detrapani said she and her husband, who attended kids’ birthday parties with the Oulsons, are in shock.

“This does not make sense. I don’t understand,” she said. “It should have never happened. Now poor Lexi has to grow up without a daddy and Nicole doesn’t have a husband.”

And…on that shooting in New Mexico:

Officials: Boy opens fire in New Mexico middle school gym, wounding 2 – CNN.com

A 12-year-old boy entered his middle school gym, pulled a shotgun out of a bag and opened fire on students waiting for school to start Tuesday, wounding two, authorities in Roswell, New Mexico, said.

A girl, 13, was in stable condition Tuesday night following surgery, authorities said. A boy, 11, was in critical condition after surgery.

The bloodshed rattled students and other citizens of Roswell, a city of just under 50,000 people 200 miles southeast of Albuquerque. Monique Salcido, a Berrendo Middle School student who saw two of her friends get shot, admitted she is “in shock.”

“I don’t want to go to Berrendo again because of what happened,” she told CNN’s Piers Morgan. “Because I’m afraid it’s going to happen again.”

The horror might have been much worse if not for one staff member. “(He) walked right up to him and asked him to put down the firearm,” said New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

For some thoughts on this, Charlie Pierce: Gun Shootings January 14, 2014 – Two Days In Gun America

As it happens, I’m sitting in a hotel room a few exits east up I84 from the town of Newtown in Connecticut, where a crazy man named Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 26 people including 21 children. In the immediate aftermath, it was decided by elite opinion leaders that the country had reached a Teachable Moment in its insane attachment to its firearms. And this is what we’ve learned — people are coming to get our guns and we must buy more and better and bigger guns and carry them everywhere so that we can fight off the gun-grabbers and the insane people who we still must allow to have guns because the Second Amendment has no exception for insane people and therefore freedom.

That’s what we’ve learned.

And, in the past couple of days, we’ve had a school shooting in New Mexico, the killing of a man in a movie theater for the crime of texting his daughter, and a Republican group in Oregon which thought the best way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln was to raffle off a rifle. I mean, why not? Only one of those two guys was murdered with one.

It doesn’t end there. News of the acquittal of cops who beat Kelly Thomas to death is another nugget of shit from the past two days that has pissed me off and Digby has some good coverage of the story here: Hullabaloo

So they found the police not guilty of a crime in the torture and beating death of Kelly Thomas. I haven’t heard what the jury thought they were doing but the defense was based upon the idea that the officers were fighting for their lives.

Take a look at the victim after the beating he endured…

Go…go and look at it and read the rest. I could not bear to put the picture up on the post it is that graphic and disturbing.

204957f815870cda4a0013d51e8d4051I’ve got a few more stories on court rulings for you:

Federal court throws out net neutrality rules | Al Jazeera America

A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out rules from the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, that required Internet service providers to treat all Internet traffic equally, a principle known as “net neutrality.”

The decision in the case, which pitted telecommunications giant Verizon against the FCC’s Open Internet rules, might open the door for ISPs to charge major companies like Google or Facebook for speedier access to content, edging out smaller content providers.

This next one really takes the fucking cake: Judge Rules That ‘No’ Means ‘Yes’

57ca7c68eb6ae6e0777e9a5aa906aabeLast week, a Swedish judge ruled that a man who proceeded to have sexual intercourse with a woman who was screaming “NO” so loudly that she went hoarse was not guilty of rape. People were understandably upset. And so, today, the judge wrote an op-ed clarifying that what he MEANT was that rape really depends on whether or not the rapist feels like they’re raping someone. Much better!

The case that’s causing forehead slaps across Sweden involves a 27-year-old woman who met a man at a restaurant and invited him back to her home accompanied him back to his home. After some consensual kissing, the man attempted to push for other sex acts, which the woman declined. The man proceeded to have sex with her, anyway, as she screamed “NO” loudly enough for the neighbors to hear. Which, you know, is rape. Pretty obviously rape.

Hmmm…..of course, you know…no means not no.

Lund district court judge Ralf G. Larsson, who listened sympathetically to the rapist’s claim that he didn’t think the woman actually meant that “NO” (which she was yelling); rather, she meant YES, which is a common synonym for NO. The woman countered that she most certainly did not mean YES, as she was screaming NO, but the judge ruled that because the rapist doesn’t know what NO means and thought that his victim was kind of into it, that thing he was doing to her as she was yelling NO, no rape was committed.

Today, he explained his big strong man judge logic with an op ed column that was both condescending and idiotic. Larsson wrote,

If the thought had not occurred to him, that she did not want to have sex with him, then he didn’t have any intention to do what he did.

He should have been acquitted. That’s how the rule of law works and that’s how the rule of law should work if I’m going to be a part of the justice system. [...]

The woman had made very clear to the man at least six times that she did not want to do what he wanted to do. For example, oral and anal sex came up, and at each such incident the man did not proceed with what he wanted to do.

In other words, because he didn’t every kind of rape, he therefore could not have committed one form of rape. Rock solid logic.

939b54b3428aa558e12c4e80730acbfeYeah, he didn’t fuck her up the ass so he could not have “raped” her. Then this dickhead of a judge goes on to say:

If what is happening right now in mass and social media has the potential to scare less experienced judges, we’re on a dangerous path.

Raise your hand if you think Rolf Larsson has NO business being a judge. And by NO, I mean NO.

I will second that and add a NO and I mean FUCK NO!

In other ridiculous rape news: Anonymous Hacker Who Exposed the Steubenville Rapists May Get More Prison Time Than Rapists : Political Blind Spot

Deric Lostutter, the 26-year-old “hacktivist” who leaked the evidence that led to the conviction of two of the Steubenville, Ohio rapists is now facing more time behind bars than the rapists he exposed. The Steubenville Rape Case made national headlines when a video made by the rapists themselves, and their friends, proved that their victim was unconscious and unable to consent.

Instead of giving Lostutter thanks for exposing these criminals, however, the FBI raided his house last April. At first, Lostutter had denied that he was the man in the video, but he decided to come forward after the appalling reaction of the rapists after they were exposed.

Lostutter is now facing ten years behind bars if indicted for obtaining tweets and social media posts which revealed the details of the rape as well as for threatening action against the Steubenville rapists and school officials who helped to cover up the crime. Lostutter posted the video to the Steubenville High School football team website, bringing national attention to the case and the cover-up.

Word of Lostutter’s 10-years comes just as one of the rapists themselves, Ma’Lik Richomond, 16, was just released from prison for “good behavior.”

8ebc91cb27492af220d6e075ce8c4ed9More at the link…outrageous. The rapist gets less time than the dude who got the news of the rape and cover-up out to the public.

I think we need a new Superhero…make it a SuperShero. She is defender of rape victims everywhere, and she pulls a Bruce Wayne ala Peter Parker con Clark Kent on your ass if you rape or attempt to rape a person. Fuck yeah…this is gonna be good. Someone has to help me come up with a good name for her. And a good cover story and job and superpower.

She could be the Sky Dancer mascot…no that won’t do, it doesn’t go with the Buddhism thing.  The idea of kicking someone’s ass to a pulp is not very peaceful is it. (I guess that is why the 5th season of Dexter resonated so much for me…not to mention the film Thelma and Louise.)

And while we are on the topic of Women’s Issues and how bad the situation is in the United States: America Gets An Embarrassing C- In Women’s Reproductive Health

The Population Institute has released its annual State of Reproductive Health And Rights report card, and it seems that in the opinion of the massive educational nonprofit, America isn’t doing so hot. If America were a high schooler, America would be grounded until America gets its grades up, otherwise America won’t be getting into any colleges.

The report consolidates information most people who have been paying attention to the news probably suspected: as the federal government attempts to expand access to reproductive health care, right wing ideologues at the state level are working busily to ensure that women can’t physically access the care the federal government is trying to expand. It’s like the federal government built a dream house halfway up a mountain and handed women the keys, but states were like, let’s make it illegal to build a driveway and then put a fence around the house and remove all the doors. And the women of states run by conservatives are like, hey, why can’t I get into my house? And the state legislators are like, use your bootstraps to get in. Monday morning analogy!

Because of this, the United States still lags embarrassingly behind other developed countries in women’s reproductive health (half of pregnancies in the US are “unintended,” which is absurdly high) and, if social conservatives at the state level get their way, could slip even further.

055bd132a3f262985577fda60aa6a09aWell, nothing else would be more depressing then the attitude of those right-wing assholes once those pregnancies come to fruition. They just don’t give a damn. Like this next story out of Indiana, which is so upsetting, I can’t even tell you how it disturbed me to read about it. Three Children Died During The Polar Vortex After Their Heat Was Cut Off | ThinkProgress

Like the rest of the mid-west, the town of Hammond, Indiana, spent the first part of last week plunged below zero degrees. But while some families tried to shut out the cold by turning up their heat and staying under blankets, the bitter temperatures turned deadly for the family of a man named Andre Young.

The house that Young was renting for himself, his wife, and five children had its electricity cut off since March, gas since April, and water since October, according to records obtained by the Chicago Tribune. On that fateful night last week, the family was getting by on propane space heaters. Authorities suspect that’s what sparked a flame that engulfed the house around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 8th.

According to witness accounts, Young ran in to the house to try to rescue his five children inside. He successfully saved two — a two-year-old and a six-year-old — before the flames caused serious injury and he collapsed into the snow. Another man tried to kick in the door and save the three children who remained inside, ages four, three, and seven months. But the attempts were unsuccessful; when first responders arrived, they found the three and the four-year-old holding on to one another, just feet from the door. The seven-month-old was nearby. All three children died.

Young, who remains hospitalized in critical condition, works in lawn care, according to the Tribune. His wife worked at Walmart, but most recently was a stay-at-home mom. As is the case with so many low-income families across the U.S., neighbors say the money was not enough to make the utility payments. 1f7bdb424636fcc5aaa8c0abda64a005On two occasions, he had tried to take electricity from meters hooked up to other houses.

Turns out the house had not been inspected and the landlord was ignoring officials and refusing to pay fines, in fact the landlord was supposed to be in court this past Thursday, but did not show. The mother worked at Walmart, the father was in lawn care.

“We inspect every rental property and this one was not inspected,” City Attorney Kristina Kantar told ThinkProgress. “No water, no power, no electricity, that’s bad. But we can’t tell that from the outside of the property.”

Kantar said that she sees cases like this “every day.” Sometimes people are squatters, or sometimes, like Young, they’re just behind on utilities, and no city officials realize there is a family inside. “It’s only because there’s a fire that you even know about this,” Kantar said.

There are some programs meant to assist families like Young’s. In Hammond, Indiana, the North Township Trustee administers the federal money provided by the federal low-income energy assistance program (LIHEAP). The office can give amounts between $100 and $500 starting in October to individuals and families within 125 percent of the poverty line. Indiana’s utility, NIPSCO, also offers a hardship program and a discount program. NIPSCO spokesperson Kathleen Szot confirmed to ThinkProgress that Young was on some form of assistance, though she did not specify which kind.

Read the rest of this story. It is heartbreaking. These fucking Republicans have so much blood on their hands. Real human being blood, and not a zygote clump of cells. PLUB assholes.

73fd00d5b52a80c0759d6b04b83efa83 Robert SchulzCheck this out, Rich GOP Donor Gets Lawmaker to Draft a Bill to Lower His Child Support Payments | Mother Jones

After Michael Eisenga, a wealthy GOP donor and Wisconsin business owner, failed to convince several courts to lower his child support payments, he came up with an inventive plan B—he recruited a Republican state legislator to rewrite Wisconsin law in his favor.

A set of documents unearthed Saturday by the Wisconsin State Journal shows Eisenga and his lawyer, William Smiley, supplying detailed instructions to Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch on how to word legislation capping child support payments from the wealthy. Kleefisch began work on the legislation last fall, weeks after an appeals court rejected Eisenga’s attempts to lower his child support payments.

For example, in a September 13 letter, a drafting lawyer with Wisconsin’s legislative services bureau complained to a Kleefisch aide, “It’s hard to fashion a general principle that will apply to only one situation.”

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Eisenga’s current child support payments for the three children he has with his ex-wife are set at $216,000 a year. (Per the couple’s prenuptial agreement, the divorce settlement left his $30 million in assets untouched.)

The balls on these guys!

In 2010, Eisenga donated $10,000 to Kleefisch and his wife, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, according to the Journal Sentinel. Eisenga also donated $15,000 to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The drafting documents, available on the Wisconsin legislature’s website, leave little not doubt that the bill was written to Eisenga’s specifications. According to the documents, on September 5, Eisenga’s lawyer briefed him on changes he was suggesting to a draft of Kleefisch’s bill. “We focused only on the portion that would require the court to modify your child support order based solely on the passage of the bill,” Smiley wrote. Eisenga then forwarded that letter to Kleefisch and one of his aides, saying, “Please have the drafter make these SPECIFIC changes to the bill.” The next day, Kleefisch’s aide forwarded the letter to the legislative lawyer drafting the bill.

A hearing for the bill is scheduled Wednesday before the Assembly Family Law Committee.

Eisenga and Smiley declined to speak to local news outlets about their emails with Kleefisch. On Saturday, Kleefisch told the Journal, “I do a gamut of legislation with the help and assistance of many, many constituents, and whether they gave a contribution or not has not made a difference.”

Oh…I think Kleefisch is full of Bullshit!

1340a3e360de713968f28bbd404135aeWhile on the subject of inflated dickheads: Medicare Is Grievously Overpaying for Penis Pumps – Jordan Weissmann – The Atlantic

Perhaps you had assumed that penis pumps were merely novelty items, sold mostly by email spammers and in a few musty sex shops. If so, you might be interested to learn that they’re actually considered a medical fallbackoption for men whose erectile dysfunction cannot be cured by drugs like Viagra—and that Medicare has been vastly overpaying for them for years.

So says a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, descriptively titled: “Medicare Payments for Vacuum Erection Systems Are More Than Twice As Much As the Amounts Paid For the Same or Similar Devices By Non-Medicare Payers.”

A “vacuum erection system,” in case anybody’s unclear, is just a penis pump. Between 2006 and 2011, Medicare spent a total of $172 million to purchase 473,620 such devices, at an average cost to the government of $360 each. The Veterans Administration, by comparison, pays just $185 per pump. With a little Google searching, the OIG found options available for an average of $164.

Had Medicare paid those sorts of prices, it could have saved $14 million during each of the five years the report examined.

Ugh…go and read the rest of that shit too.

This next link is full of information, and it is just neat. 40 more maps that explain the world

Maps seemed to be everywhere in 2013, a trend I like to think we encouraged along with August’s 40 maps that explain the world. Maps can be a remarkably powerful tool for understanding the world and how it works, but they show only what you ask them to. You might consider this, then, a collection of maps meant to inspire your inner map nerd. I’ve searched far and wide for maps that can reveal and surprise and inform in ways that the daily headlines might not, with a careful eye for sourcing and detail. I’ve included a link for more information on just about every one. Enjoy.

And I will end with this wonderful tweet from NYC:

Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander Seen Outside Tom’s Restaurant In NYC (PHOTO) (UPDATE)

Innit it great to see the two of them outside that familiar diner once again?

Have a great day and stop by for a comment or two.