Friday Reads: White Male Privilege Apologia on Display

Good Morning!

images (1)I’m not exactly sure why people don’t get the absolutely appalling display of racism and sexism wrapped up in one big dose of White, Male, Christian privilege that is crippling this country at the moment.  The examples are just slapping the country in the face right now.

Both BB and JJ have been posting about it this week.  Frankly, ever since there was a Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seriously headed towards the White House it’s been noticeable.  Now it’s dialed up to 11. There’s not many months left in the Obama presidency, but you’d think he was appointed to a lifelong term by the way  right wing is snarling and growling.  But the racism and sexism are just over the top and white male privilege is driving the media coverage of Ferguson, the latest revelations in Gillibrand’s book, the topics of rape, abortion, and birth control, and even the discussion of what color suit the President chooses for a presser.  WTF?

Let’s start out with the latest in rape apologia. Then I’ll show exactly how they’re basically doing the same damned thing in the Ferguson coverage.   All levels of sexual assaults are prominent on campus. It’s been 40 years since my little freshman backside trained as a rape counselor and self defense coach.  Basically, if you don’t here a clear “yes, let’s have sex”, it’s likely rape men!  But, according to this University President, drunk women are to blame.

The former president of George Washington University suggested that college women should drink less to help avoid sexual assault.

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg told the Diane Rehm Show that while victims should not be blamed, women need to not drink so much alcohol so they are in a better position to “punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave.”

Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard.

His remarks unleashed a wave of criticism on social media.

You know the drill. You have to watch where and when you walk. You shouldn’t walk alone. You have to watch what you wear. Well, rapes still happen in places like Saudi Arabia and women are dressed in supposedly “unappealing” ways, aren’t allowed to drive or be out without a male relative, and no one’s allowed to drink.  Being held up in a house and being the little sweetest virgin on earth didn’t stop the rape of the so-called Virgin Mary.  Right?  It’s the same language that controls discussion of birth control, abortion, and women working.  It’s the language that says women are property and it’s front and center from the Republican Party.

article-0-16B0E78E000005DC-570_964x852Chuck Todd asked Rince Priebus about the woman problem showing up continually, constantly, and in the latest Republican Polls.  Are there too many “crazy white men” in the Republican Party” these days?

According to the report, obtained by Politico on Wednesday, women said the GOP was “stuck in the past” and “intolerant.” The poll found that 49 percent of women view the Republican party unfavorably and 39 percent view the Democratic party unfavorably.

When asked why the party is doing worse with female voters than in 2010, Priebus argued that the GOP can close this 10-point gap by ramping up outreach and focusing on the economy.

“You know, I’m not sure,” Priebus responded. “But I think the point of that poll wasn’t reported by Politico. The point was if you looked at it, women were rejecting the Democratic party by 40 percent; they were rejecting the Republican party by 50 percent. I don’t think either party can do a victory lap here.”

He continued to say that Republicans just need to “fight” for the votes by countering Democratic attacks and pushing conservative economic policy ideas.

Todd pressed him on this.

“But the problem you seem to have is when it comes to women voters, do the — do the arguments about contraception end up blind — basically putting the party on mute with those same women voters who may like your economic proposals but say, you know what, there’s just too many crazy white guys who have crazy theories about my reproductive system?” Todd asked, adding that Republicans have the same issue with Latino voters and immigration issues.

“That’s two different issues,” Priebus retorted.

“But same problem,” Todd insisted.

Priebus then repeated that the report found that “the economy is the number one issue.”

“In fact women actually don’t really — don’t really — aren’t really moved on these issues as much as I think the pundits and everyone thinks they are moved.

In fact if Republicans talk about things like the economy, the debt and make the case for jobs and schools and education and push back…” he said.

Todd then cut in to say, “Democrats are winning by 30 and 40 points on economic issues.”

Andrea Mitchell came to the defense of Senator Kristin Gillibrand discussing the number of warnings out for all women on the Hill when she worked there in the Little_Rock_integration_protest’80s and ’90s.  There was a list of guys not to get into the elevator.  I heard about it 20 years ago from a Republican Media consultant who basically told me who to keep a very safe distance from in the Republican Guard if and when I ever got there. No wonder these guys turned a deaf ear to Anita Hill and stopped the other women from speaking out.  They were likely afraid they’d be outted too.  Some are calling for Gillibrand to out her harassers now.

MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell is less than surprised by the revelations of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) about being subjected to sexual harassment by her congressional colleagues, sharing her own experiences reporting on “the oldest white male club in the world.”

“We all had our stories of whom you’d not get in an elevator with and whom you’d protect your young female interns from,” Mitchell told her guests, Bloomberg editor Jeanne Cummings and WaPo political reporter Chris Cillizza.

“Some of those former senators were actually expelled,” Mitchell added, a possible reference to Sen. Bob Packwood (R-OR), who resigned in 1995 before he could be expelled for serial sexual misconduct.

The panel was responding to the revelations by Gillibrand in a forthcoming interview with People magazine promoting her new book, in which she details episodes of harassment from male colleagues in Congress.

Among other things, Gillibrand was at different times squeezed on the waist, called “chubby,” and told to improve her looks in order to win election. The same day her stories came to light, a reporter for Politico tweeted he didn’t believe her, before backing down and apologizing.

Cummings called the senators’ conduct “outrageous,” but said they were unfortunately nothing new, citing her time covering the Anita Hill hearings in the early 90s, in which Hill revealed incidents of sexual harassment from then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

“We’ve been there. We know this lesson was supposedly learned 25 years ago. And the very idea that one of them touched her, just totally creeps me out,” Cummings said. “I mean, we’re [regressing] here. We’re not getting better. We’re going backwards.”

“So women and men and people who are in this country and covered the Senate should not be surprised. They should be angry. This is ridiculous,” she added.

Again, the Senator was post partum and dealing with the usual after baby body recovery and they were still bothering her.  It isn’t about what we wear, what we drink, who we’ve had consensual sex with at one point or another, or anything.  It’s about them.  They think they have they have rights to our bodies.  So, what other group has to watch what they wear, watch where their walking, watch their body language?  They won’t be sexually harrassed, raped or fired.  They won’t be denied birth control, abortions, or other kinds of things that go to a moral and capable adult.  They’ll likely be jailed, fined, or killed.

For a moment there, things were looking pretty good. A boy shot multiple times with his hands up. College bound. Poor. Innocent. And in response: helicopters and tanks. Maybe this time, we thought, they would believe us.

But that’s all been ruined.

We now have all sorts of reasons to make us doubt Brown’s humanity. He may have stolen some cigarillos. He may have been facing the officer when he was shot. He got shot in the top of the head, which might mean that he was surrendering, or might mean he was being defiant. He made amateur rap songs. Perhaps worst of all, he’s been caught grimacing at a camera making a contorted peace sign, and it turns out that he was pretty tall.

And Fox News has been trying to cast doubt on whether he was actually going to go to college in the first place.

All signs that his life was worth less than we might have hoped.

It’s like what happened with Trayvon Martin, really. Over the course of a few days, he went from an innocent boy holding a bag of Skittles to a vicious, ruthless thug. We found out that he smoked pot. We found out that he said bad words. We found out that he was wearing a hoodie. We saw a picture of him making an angry face. Zimmerman’s lawyers released his text message logs, and we found out that he didn’t speak the Queen’s English

And with each new revelation about both of these boys — some true, some false — we let out another collective sigh. We had been let down.
Of course, we knew that our reaction was ridiculous. We know that pushing someone at a convenience store, or being a less than stellar student shouldn’t be a death sentence. And hell, if you think that throwing up acontorted peace sign, or even an actual verifiable ‘gang sign’ means that you are in a violent gang, well, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you, and a few thousand thug white women I’d like you to call 911 about, because there’s an epidemic going on.

So, yes, we’re seeing the same thing.  We’re hearing Privilege Apologia that supports a Privilege Culture.  Why, Mitch McConnell just even explained it to the rest of them.  Not to worry their privileged little balding heads.  Nothing was going to change under his watch.  Not those horrible minimum wage bills. Not anything that’s going to keep the overlords from wallowing in privilege and subsidized by everyone else with blood, sweat, and bodily sanctity.

Last week, in an interview with Politico, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlined his plan to shut down President Obama’s legislative agenda by placing riders on appropriations bills. Should Republicans take control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, McConnell intends to pass spending bills that “have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.”

What McConnell didn’t tell Politico was that two months ago, he made the same promise to asecret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers. The Nation and The Undercurrent obtained an audio recording of McConnell’s remarks to the gathering, called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society.” In the question-and-answer period following his June 15 session titled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights,” McConnell says:

“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board [inaudible]. All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.”

They’ll be going after anything that means appropriation can’t happen smoothly. If we weren’t so lazy, we’d have well paying jobs. If we weren’t drunk, we wouldn’t be raped. If we just wouldn’t wear hoodies, we wouldn’t be shot.

Welcome to White Christian Male Apologia and the culture of Privilege it sustains. Not matter what we do, how hard we work, how educated we are, they are not letting us into their club.

Here’s some more headlines that got my goat this week.

Republican Governor of Pennsylvania wants to remove blue laws on alcohol.  Publicly says that the ladies will love it because it will give them more time to cook.

“I think a lot of people want to be able to walk into a grocery store, particularly, a lot of the women, want to go and buy a bottle of wine for dinner, go down, buy a 6 pack or two 6 packs, buy dinner and go home rather than what I described as 3 stops in Pennsylvania.”

Governor Corbett knows binders full of women want to be able to buy a 6 pack and then go right home to prep dinner because he knows women. And all they care about is dinner prep.

Hispanic College student asks Governor of Georgia question about immigration and he assumes she’s undocumented.  She’s not.

Deal addressed a variety of topics, including immigration, during a question and answer session sponsored by the UGA College Republicans Tuesday night.

“There’s a fundamental problem that can only be resolved at the Congressional level and that is to deal with the issue of children, and I presume you probably fit the category, children who were brought here,” said Deal who was looking toward Lizbeth Miranda, a Hispanic student who was standing up with others asking questions.

“I’m not an illegal immigrant. I’m not,” said Miranda. “I don’t know why you would have thought that I was undocumented. Was it because I look Hispanic?”

The governor replied: “I apologize if I insulted you. I did not intend to.”

 Bill Reilly’s denial of white male privilege blasted yet again.

Denial of white privilege is too central to the worldview that drives his monologues on race, social issues, America’s decline and beyond. Anyone who has read his memoir “A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity” or his biography (“The Man Who Would Not Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O’Reilly“) or tuned into his cable-news-reigning program knows that O’Reilly is far too enamored of his own story to abandon what he believes are its lessons for all Americans: The beneficiary of a strict Catholic education, O’Reilly worked and worked and worked. Starting in his early teens, O’Reilly made cash mowing lawns and graduated to house-painting. He made a mad dash through local and big-time broadcast news before landing at Fox News. And in recent years, the guy has cranked out a series of bestselling books — “Killing Jesus” and other such titles, with the help of co-author Martin Dugard — while juggling the rigors of “The Factor.” His talent as a broadcaster is undeniable, as this segment on the end of summer showcases.

Admitting that his bootstrapping rise to King of Cable News happened to take place in a society of white privilege, however, is apparently too much to ask.

Those of us that have been advantaged by one type of privilege or another should recognize the impact it’s had on our lives.  Denying that reality only denies the humanity of others.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: A Victory for Workers, Women Overcoming Misogyny, and Other News

Market Basket employee Tony Khater (left) celebrates with store director Al Jussaume (right) after learning of the sales agreement.

Market Basket employee Tony Khater (left) celebrates with store director Al Jussaume (right) after learning of the sales agreement

Good Morning!!

Score one for the workers! The Market Basket war is over and the the good guys won for a change. Late last night Arthur T. Demoulas signed an agreement to buy out his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas’ share of the business for $1.5 billion.

From The Boston Globe:

The epic battle over Market Basket that sparked an extraordinary worker revolt and captivated the public through the summer ended Wednesday when Arthur T. Demoulas reached a deal to buy the company from rival relatives for more than $1.5 billion.

Market Basket’s shareholders announced the deal at 11:15 p.m. after several days of suspenseful negotiations. Arthur T. Demoulas and his sisters will buy the shares of their cousin Arthur S. Demoulas and other relatives on his side of the family, who collectively own 50.5 percent of the company.

In a statement stripped bare of the emotion of recent days, the company and its shareholders asked managers, employees, and customers to return to stores to help get Market Basket running again. It also announced the reinstatement of Arthur T., who had been fired as president in June.

Market basket2

“Effective immediately, Arthur T. Demoulas is returning to Market Basket with day-to-day operational authority of the company,” the statement said. “All associates are welcome back to work with the former management team to restore the company back to normal operations.”

The sale agreement, which will take months to formally close, ends a fight so bitter it took the intervention of the governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire to help the Demoulas family resolve it after nearly a quarter-century.

The agreement authorizes Arthur T. to manage the business and stabilize operations at its 71 stores, where employee walkouts and customer boycotts had brought business to a virtual standstill for six weeks. He will also be able to rehire several managers who were fired along with him. However, until the deal closes, he will continue to work with the chief executives hired to replace him, Felicia Thornton and James Gooch.

Forbes: Warring Billionaires Finally Settle Family Score With Market Basket Deal.

Market Basket’s 25,000 employees will be heading back to work following a summer of discontent. The New England supermarket chain has been rocked by protests and customer boycotts since Arthur T Demoulas was ousted as President and CEO June 24th. He and his team, many of whom were also fired during the crisis, will be reinstated as management while the deal wraps up. They’ll work alongside co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch, who were brought in by the board after Arthur T and his management team were removed.

“Effective immediately, Arthur T. Demoulas is returning to Market Basket with day-to-day operational authority of the company,” reads a statement from Arthur T. “All associates are welcome back to work with the former management team to restore the company back to normal operations.”

“Tonight we raise a glass to Artie T and each other as we have achieved the most improbable of upsets,” writes the anonymous blogger behind website wearemarketbasket.com. The website as well as social media have been key sources of information for employees refusing to work following Arthur T’s dismissal. “Tomorrow we go to work and never, in the history of people going to work, will so many people be so happy to punch the clock.”

Arthur T2

Arthur T. will address workers this morning, according to the Boston Herald; but in the meantime, the job of restocking Market Basket shelves in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine has begun. From AP (via ABC News), Deliveries Roll Following Deal in Supermarket Feud.

Tractor-trailers bearing the Market Basket logo and laden with the tons of food it will take to restock the chain’s 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, as well as vendor vehicles, pulled up to loading docks before business Thursday, just hours after the announcement late Wednesday that Arthur T. Demoulas paid $1.5 billion for shares of the company owned by the rival family faction, led by cousin Arthur S. Demoulas….

“All associates are welcome back to work with the former management team to restore the company back to normal operations,” Arthur T. Demoulas said in a statement

“I feel like I won the lottery,” Market Basket truck driver Buddy Wemmers told The Boston Globe.

“I’m thrilled, this is epic,” said Tom Trainor, a district supervisor, told the Boston Herald.

Gary Sessa, a front end manager at the chain’s Tewksbury store, told WFXT-TV that company bakers came in at midnight after hearing the news and started baking cakes that say “Welcome back Artie T: Market Basket Strong.”

It does my heart good to see the workers win this battle. I hope this will encourage others to stand up against efforts to make businesses less worker-friendly and more profitable for stockholders. Perhaps it will even convince a few CEOs that treating their employees with respect can pay off in the long run.

Will Misogyny Never Die?

Kirsten Gillibrand with her preferred candidate for President

Kirsten Gillibrand with her preferred candidate for President

Senator Kirstin Gillibrand has a book coming out, and yesterday People Magazine released some tidbits from their interview with her. It seems that the mostly elderly men in Congress who are making decisions about women’s health and working conditions feel entitled to make judgmental remarks about their female co-workers’ bodies. The Washington Post reports: “I like my girls chubby,” a male Senator told Kirsten Gillibrand. Yes, really, by Jaime Fuller.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) has a new book coming out, “Off the Sidelines,” and has been making the media rounds to promote it. The New York Post highlighted parts of the book today, in an article titled, “Gillibrand: Male colleagues called me ‘porky’ after baby.”

As awful as that headline is, things get worse in the book, according to the story. One quote in particular stands out. Gillibrand reveals that one male Senator, after she lost about 50 pounds, came up behind her and gave her waist a squeeze. “Don’t lose too much weight now,” he told her. “I like my girls chubby.” She says that he was one of her favorite senators(!).

As Gillibrand’s title infers, the book goes into detail about the things that women in politics still have to deal with that their male counterparts, well, don’t….

Gillibrand surely isn’t alone in having to deal with such comments with her male colleagues at the Capitol, although some of her encounters are jaw-droppingly bad/offensive. When she was still in the House, a Southern representative told her, “You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat.”

I only wish Gillibrand had named names.

Fuller includes a link to this 2013 article by Olivia Messer at the Texas Observer, The Texas Legislature’s Sexist Little Secret in which she writes about what she experienced and observed as woman reporter covering the Texas legislature. The stories are probably representative of legislative bodies (pun intended) around the country.

It didn’t take me long to realize that as a woman, and especially a young woman, I’d be treated differently than my male colleagues. Within weeks, I’d already heard a few horrifying stories. Like the time a former Observerstaffer, on her first day in the Capitol, was invited by a state senator back to his office for personal “tutoring.” Or, last session, when Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton interrupted Marisa Marquez during a House floor debate to ask if her breasts were real or fake.

Thankfully I never experienced anything so sexually explicit. Instead, I encountered a string of subtle but demeaning comments. One of the first interviews I conducted for the Observer, in February, was with a male senator about an anti-abortion bill. I was asking questions about whether the bill would reduce access to abortion. At the end of the interview, as soon as I turned off my recorder, he said, “How old are you, sweetheart? You look so young.”

Another day, near the end of the regular session, I was at the Capitol (doing interviews for this story, coincidentally) when a House page stopped me on my way out of the chamber. “I’ve never seen you in here before,” he said. “Who do you work for?” I answered the question, assuming that he wanted to see my press badge. “Well, uh, this may seem forward,” he stammered, “but I’m not sure if I’ll ever see you again—could I maybe take you out to lunch or dinner some time?” He looked about 16, red-faced and innocent. I politely declined. When I walked over to the Senate chamber, a staffer stopped me. “Wow,” he said. “You look really beautiful today.” My face turned red. I thanked him and walked to a seat at the press table. It was the third time that day the staffer had mentioned my appearance, and I was beginning to feel that what I looked like mattered more than my work—at least to the men in the building. At a certain point, after enough of these run-ins—which included male staffers from both chambers, some of whom I knew to be married, hitting on me, making comments about my physical appearance, touching my arm—it finally occurred to me that, when I was at work, I was often fending off advances like I was in a bar.

What surprised me was how many women who work in the Capitol—legislators, staffers, lobbyists, other reporters—felt the same way. Everyone, it seemed, had a story or anecdote about being objectified or patronized.

Messer’s article is long, but it’s fascinating reading. At one point she writes about the night Wendy Davis and her female colleagues “took over the capital” and filibustered an anti-abortion bill.

Here’s another great commentary on the Gillibrand story by Olivia Nuzzi at The Daily Beast, Senate Pigs Called Kirsten Gillibrand ‘Porky’.

Clueless Politico reporter John Bresnahan

Clueless Politico reporter John Bresnahan

Naturally, these stories about sexism among male politicians were all over Twitter yesterday. One male Politico writer named John Bresnahan doubted whether Gillibrand was really telling the truth. He got shot down pretty thoroughly and later apologized and stopped tweeting for the night. Even plenty of young men like Bresnahan just don’t get it.

Politics isn’t the only field where men treat women like pieces of meat. Women in the tech field usually have plenty of horror stories about things their male colleagues. Here are just a few random links to stories about it from the past couple of years.

The New York Times, Technology’s Man Problem.

The Washington Post, Snapchat, sexism and the reason women don’t stay in tech.

The Washington Post, Google statistics show Silicon Valley has a diversity problem.

Alternet, High-Tech Industry Focused on Babes and Boobs Needs Killer Sexism App.

Business Insider, 9 Stomach-Churning Posts From Secret That Show Awful Sexist Behavior In The Tech Industry.

Women who write critically about video games–or even play games on-line–are targets for hatred and violent threats. This isn’t the first story like this I’ve seen: Feminist video game critic forced to leave her home after online rape and death threats. Raw Story reports:

Anita Sarkeesian, creator of an online video series analyzing problematic representations of women in video games, was forced to leave her home on Tuesday after death threats made online against herself and her family, Polygon reported.

“Some very scary threats have just been made against me and my family,” Sarkeesian posted on Tuesday. “Contacting authorities now.”

After confirming she had found a safe place to stay, Sarkeesian posted a screengrab of the threats, posted by a Twitter account calling itself “Kevin Dobson,” which identified her address and her parents, as well as several vulgar threats, including one to “ram a hot tire iron up [her] c*nt” (read the messages at Raw Story)

Sarkeesian reported the threats a day after she released a new episode of her series, Feminist Frequency, dealing with games that feature sexualized female victims or female characters introduced solely to highlight either a villain’s aggression or provide motivation for players to complete their missions.

The effect of introducing these “mature themes,” she argues in the episode, is the trivialization of painful experiences that are all too common….

“When games casually use sexualized violence as a ham-fisted form of character development for the bad guys, it reinforces a popular misconception about gendered violence by framing it as something abnormal, as a cruelty committed only by the most transparently evil strangers,” she says in the video. “In reality, however, violence against women — and sexual violence, in particular — is a common everyday occurence, often perpetrated by ‘normal men,’ known and trusted by those targeted.”

A few more links to interesting stories:

stonehenge

CNN, U.S. official says 1,000 Russian troops enter Ukraine.

Christian Science Monitor, UN: Ebola cases in W. Africa could top 20,000.

Wall Street Journal, Rebels in Syria Capture Border Crossing With Israel.

Reuters, U.S. air strikes on Syria would face formidable obstacles.

New York Times Video, Michael Brown’s Body (an amazing collection of interviews with residents of Michael Brown’s neighborhood).

Christian Science Monitor, What Republican wave? (Writer Doug Mataconis doesn’ think a Republican takeover of the Senate is inevitable).

E on Line, Discovery Channel’s Sons of Guns Canceled After Star Will Hayden Is Charged With Raping His 12-Year-Old Daughter.

Washington Post, Report reveals the horrors of 1,400 sexually abused children in a British town and the system that failed them.

WBUR Boston, Growing Number Of War Correspondents Work For Themselves.

Nature World News, Mystery of Sailing Stones Unveiled in Death Valley.

Discovery News, 2,700-Year-Old Phoenician Shipwreck Discovered.

Huffington Post, Archaeologists Discover 15 Previously Unknown Monuments Buried Around Stonehenge.

News.Com.AU, The truth about Stonehenge: New survey reveals more secrets

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Thursday!


Wednesday Reads: Math, Dogs and Sheep

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Good Mid-Morning

Just a quick thought this morning before we get to the links. Yesterday Boston Boomer linked to an article about Janet Yellen, and there were a few sentences that made me stop and think. Which is really something because usually when it comes to articles containing anything associated with numbers, my brain tends to retreat like a coward who is being bombarded by incoming aerial livestock.

la vache in flightBut seriously…the article Boston Boomer linked to was from CNN. Here is the quote:

CNN Money’s report on Yellen’s speech, Janet Yellen: Job market not recovered.

That was Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s main message Friday in a much anticipated speech.

“It speaks to the depth of the damage that, five years after the end of the recession, the labor market has yet to fully recover,” she said.

ae0607c9a034b49a4870b3b008599168The debate now is whether the job situation in America is healthy enough for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates, which have been at historic lows in recent years in an effort to jump start the economy. Yellen, however, said little new on Friday, and U.S. stock markets stayed flat.

Yellen is chair of the committee that sets interest rates, but she only gets one vote. Other members have differing views. The Fed board and other top economists are spending the weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, debating these key issues.

Though the unemployment rate “has fallen considerably and at a surprisingly rapid pace,” Yellen said problems remain.

Emphasis mine.

Okay, maybe I am a bit hypersensitive, but why the specific mention about her getting only one vote. Is this something new? I was under the impression that whenever Greenspan or Bernake or Geithner spoke…it was as if the all powerful Oz had spoken. Doris from the Outer Hebrides by Ron Gilmore, via Flickr. Doris took a shortcut through the fern grove!!Especially with Greenspan, I mean that guy was the equivalent of verbal Dow Jones Industrial Average “pusher” in that whenever he opened his mouth…he spewed economic commentary uppers or downers.

Anyway, if this is not a big deal…then just forget about all that shit and continue with the post. As it is, the thread is late this morning. I got distracted finding images of sheep on Pinterest. Oh well, you know what that means…another dump. Link dump that is….

The latest news:

Two Men Abducted, Drowned in Philadelphia River, Third Man Escapes, Police Say – ABC News

The bodies of two men who had been bound were found today dumped a Philadelphia river, while a third man who had been repeatedly stabbed narrowly escaped the abductors believed to be responsible for the double homicide, authorities said.

The survivor, a 20-year-old man, was taken off the street by four or five men early this morning and thrown into the back of a van, police said.

He was then stabbed about nine times, in the torso and legs, Philadelphia police said, and his hands were tied behind his back with duct tape and his ankles were bound as well. Duct tape was also placed over his mouth, and once in the van, he realized there were two other people in the van who had also been bound, police said.

Valais Blacknose SheepAll three were taken to the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park, where they were thrown into the water, police said, noting that the two other people were tethered to some kind of weight and drowned in five to ten feet of water.

This is a new story obviously so no real info as of yet…cops say they may have surveillance video of abduction.

And you may be one of the millions without internet service: Time Warner Cable Suffers Massive Outage

Time Warner Cable suffered a nationwide outage on Wednesday morning, leaving many users unable to access the Internet.

The company issued a statement to Mashable, acknowledging the outage and reporting that much of its service had been restored. TWC said the service outage was due to an issue with its “Internet backbone” that occurred during routine maintenance.

At 430am ET this morning during our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services. As of 6am ET services were largely restored as updates continue to bring all customers back online.

sheepish by karena goldfinch on FlickrTWC outage leaves 12M people without Internet access — and it’s only going to get worse

On Tuesday, Time Warner Cable agreed to pay the Federal Communications Commission $1.1 million for failing to disclose a “substantial number” of outages affecting its customers. Now today, the company announced that it is suffering from multiple outages affecting 12 million people.

Making matters worse is that many of those consumers probably didn’t have much choice when they signed up for the service, given Time Warner Cable’s effective monopoly in a number of its markets. As I wrote when I compared its service against the only other option for Internet service in my area,

The problem is, there are no options for someone living in the boonies. If they want to connect to the Internet they have to use something like [Finger Lakes Technologies Group, a regional Internet provider]; there are no other options. [...] So far as choices go, it’s clear that people who live in small towns like this one are totally screwed.

This is a problem all across the country. Many people have access to just a handful of ISPs, many of which are regional offerings that pale in comparison to their national counterparts, which enjoy a monopoly on the high-end service market in many of the places they operate.

8fcbafa0f238f79808e0fe22f6071cf6That problem will only be made worse if Time Warner Cable is allowed to merge with Comcast and become what Netflix called the “nation’s largest onramp to the Internet.” The combined company is unlikely to care much about leveling the playing field and allowing other ISPs to give consumers more options for Internet service. It’ll just amass as much power as it can.

Does that seem like a company that’s going to solve problems that lead to outages affecting 12 million people around the United States? Hell, even with the scant competition they have now, both Time Warner Cable and Comcast have done little to make their services better. As I wrote in May, the companies are the least-liked in every industry in which they operate. (Surprise!)

We have this problem with Windstream being the shitty internet service monopoly here in Banjoville.

Next: Why Israel’s bombardment of Gaza neighborhood left US officers ‘stunned’ | Al Jazeera America

The cease-fire announced Tuesday between Israel and Palestinian factions — if it holds — will end seven weeks of fighting that killed more than 2,200 Gazans and some 69 Israelis. But as the rival camps seek to put their spin on the outcome, one assessment of Israel’s Gaza operation that won’t be publicized is that of the U.S. military. Still, even though the Pentagon shies away from publicly expressing judgments that might fall afoul of a decidedly pro-Israel Congress, senior U.S. military sources speaking on condition of anonymity offered a scathing assessment of Israeli tactics, particularly in the battle for Shujaiya.

Eduardo GageiroOne of the more curious moments in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge came on July 20, when a live microphone at FOX News caught Secretary of State John Kerry commenting sarcastically on Israel’s military action: “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.”

Rain of high-explosive shells

The secretary of state’s comment followed the heaviest bombardment of the war to that point, as Israeli artillery rained thousands of high-explosive shells into the neighborhood of Shujaiya, a residential area on the eastern edge of Gaza City. A high-ranking U.S. military officer told this reporter that the source of Kerry’s apparent consternation was almost certainly a Pentagon summary report assessing the Israeli barrage, on which the Secretary had been briefed by an aide moments earlier.

Irving Penn - A young Berber shepherdess of the Aït Yazza people in the High Atlas, with a newborn lamb.According to this senior U.S. officer, who had access to the July 21 Pentagon summary of the previous 24 hours of Israeli operations, the internal report showed that 11 Israeli artillery battalions —a minimum of 258 artillery pieces in all, according to this officer’s estimate — had pumped at least 7,000 high explosive shells into the Gaza neighborhood, which included a barrage of some 4,800 shells during the seven-hour period marking the height of the operation. Senior U.S. officers were stunned by the report.

Twice daily throughout the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) operation, a select group of senior U.S. military and intelligence officers at the Pentagon received a lengthy written summary of Israeli military action in Gaza. The reports — compiled from information gleaned from open sources, Israeli military officers with whom U.S. officials speak and satellite images — offered a detailed assessment of Israel’s battlefield tactics and the performance of its weaponry, a considerable portion of it supplied by the United States.

Although these reports shy away from offering political judgments on the operation, a number of senior U.S. military officers who spoke about the contents of those daily reports with this reporter were highly critical of some of the IDF’s tactics, particularly in the Israeli ground invasion of Shujaiya. An official spokesman at the Pentagon declined to comment on the contents of this article.

65d7b88498df7aae340ab92e8d434944More at the link.

50 years later, SNAP proves its continuing vitality | Opinion | McClatchy DC

Even as SNAP policies and procedures change with the times, the program’s core mission remains the same. When the Food Stamp Act was passed in 1964, it aimed to provide better nutrition to low-income households while benefiting our agricultural economy. Fifty years later, research shows SNAP is still doing just that.

For example, SNAP benefits boost the economy by creating markets, and spurring economic growth and jobs in urban and rural communities at grocers, superstores, farmers’ markets, military commissaries, manufacturers and farms. And because SNAP benefits are so urgently needed, they are spent quickly – 97 percent of benefits are redeemed within the month of issuance – and therefore have great positive economic effects. Moody’s Analytics and USDA estimate that the economic growth impact of SNAP ranges from $1.73 to $1.79 per $1 of SNAP benefits.

“Leapsheeping Lambs” by Roeselien RaimondOne component of SNAP that needs to change and hasn’t is the amount of the monthly benefit allotment. While we know the program is capable of reducing food insecurity, improving the health and well-being of recipients, and ultimately saving taxpayer dollars on avoided healthcare costs, it could work much better. Current benefits are based on assumptions developed in the 1930s for emergency diets. That plan is now woefully outmoded on every front from nutrition to practicality. Multiple studies, including the USDA’s own analysis of a recent (temporary) boost in benefits, show the value of a healthier allotment.

OSheep at Stanton Drew by elaine's life in images on Flickrver the course of any 50-year period, change is inevitable. Since August 1964, SNAP’s strength has been recognizing and responding to those changes. Today, the program’s mission is as necessary as it was 50 years ago: providing relevant, vital help to boost nutrition, economic security and health among seniors, children, people with disabilities, and unemployed or low-income working families. This is an anniversary worth celebrating.

Black Agenda Report is out, and here is their coverage of the “events” at Ferguson | Black Agenda Report

bc9ea1ec82f69b079338d510cc7d8751Did y’all see the latest in ironic pro-gun nut death by gun shot? DEATH BY MISADVENTURE | Gin and Tacos

On Tuesday a 39 year old firearms instructor was fatally shot near Kingman, AZ when the nine year-old girl he was instructing on the use of an Uzi submachine gun lost control of it…while it was on full automatic. This resolves once and for all the question of whether it is a good idea to give a nine year old girl who appears in the linked video to weigh about 20 pounds (note: the video shows only the events leading up to the fatal incident, but does not include the incident itself) a submachine gun set on full auto. The facility, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, caters to the vacationing yahoo crowd:a8f7be7a6c29bdbc291eb3f61896b6df

KINGMAN, Ariz. — An instructor who was shot by a 9-year-old girl who fired an Uzi at a northwestern Arizona shooting range died Monday night at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

The girl fired the weapon at the outdoor range that caters to heavy tourism traffic along U.S. Highway 93 between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Highway signage and Internet advertising beckons visitors to stop in, fire a machine gun and enjoy a meal at the Bullets and Burgers enterprise at the Last Stop, about 25 miles south of Las Vegas.

The instructor had, among others, the following hilarious pro-gun images posted on his Facebook wall (h/t Balloon Juice)

a5f4ebc59149f626d77d94a1c1c14bb4Go to the link to see the images and commentary that this man had posted on his wall. It is the typical shit…

What about a look at what makes Houston…colorful? Immigrants reshape Houston, America’s most diverse metropolis | Al Jazeera America

In the past 20 years, Houston — that most Texan of Texan cities — has come to look more and more like the taxi drivers. Between 1990 and 2010, Greater Houston added more than 2.2 million people (PDF) and now boasts a population of more than 6 million (the city proper has 2.2 million residents). The metropolitan area has eclipsed New York and Los Angeles to become the most racially and ethnically diverse in the United States.

4240f24bd326893a797d4327d5d943e9A joint report published last year by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas (PDF) found that Greater Houston scores highest on the Entropy Index, which measures diversity according to the presence and relative proportions of the four major racial groups (white, black, Hispanic and Asian). All five Houston counties have become more diverse over the past two decades, with increased numbers of Hispanics (from 21 to 35 percent) and Asians (from 3.4 to 6.5 percent), a stable population of blacks (about 17 percent) and a decrease in whites or “Anglos” (from over 50 to under 40 percent), though rates of residential segregation remain high.

Oh boy, it is really getting late…here are the rest in real quick dump format:

A lamb jumping over a trough, 1950Video shows police shot Ohio man ‘on sight’ as he leaned on toy gun in Walmart, attorney says

Dueling demands in Walmart shooting case | WDTN

Scarlett Johansson designs shirt for Planned Parenthood | TheHill

Archaeologists Discover 15 Previously Unknown Monuments Buried Around Stonehenge

Jon Stewart Goes After Fox in Powerful Ferguson Monologue | Mediaite

ec7c81f2b4f070513900f2313f8e5f3a– Another Ferguson? Young Black Man Shot In Chest With Hands Cuffed Behind Back. Police Say Suicide.

The Emmys Censored the Punchline of That Last Robin Williams Bit

Ferguson Police Officer Justin Cosma Hog-Tied And Injured A Young Child, Lawsuit Alleges

50 Shades of Grey: Harmful to Your Health? | Care2 Causes

It’s being hailed as a “provocative new study” worthy of Christian Grey himself — a group of researchers have just published an article in Journal of Women’s Health claiming that women who read “50 Shades of Grey” are at a higher risk for domestic abuse, disordered eating, a high number of sexual partners and even binge drinking. But don’t throw your romance novel to the curb just yet: The study is another example of the good old “correlation does not equal causation” trope.

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During the study, a group of scientists surveyed 655 18-to-24-year-old women online, a third of whom had read some or all of the ’50 Shades’ series. They asked them questions about their personal sexual practices, their experiences of partner victimization such as sexual and psychological abuse, and binge drinking. When they adjusted their findings for age and race, researchers learned that women who had read at least the first book in the series were more likely to report partner victimization, cyberstalking, fasting and using diet aids. 5b03d93e5435018f1fdedd169a22f7caWomen who had read all three books in the series were also more likely to report having five or more sexual partners in their lifetime. Their conclusion? There is an association between reading the series and negative health outcomes for women.

At the Guardian: The 100 best novels: an introduction | Books | The Observer

They are at week 49: The 100 best novels: No 49 – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (1925) | Books | The Observer

You can see the past weeks here: The 100 best novels | Books | The Guardian

A border collie herding sheep at the Rockefeller Center, 1948. Photo for LIFE magazine by George Silk.Now for the article that explains the title of this post: BBC News – ‘Two simple rules’ explain sheepdog behaviour

The relationship between a shepherd and his sheepdog has always seemed almost magical, but scientists now say it can be explained by two simple rules.

Researchers have used GPS data to reveal the mathematical secrets of how sheepdogs do their job.

The new model helps to explain why one shepherd and a single dog can herd an unruly flock of more than 100 sheep.

It could be used to help develop “shepherd robots”, for controlling crowds or cleaning up an oil spill.ce2d03bff1e703b2b3fce681272fc1ea

The first rule: The sheepdog learns how to make the sheep come together in a flock. The second rule: Whenever the sheep are in a tightly knit group, the dog pushes them forwards.

NERC fellow Dr Andrew King of Swansea University helped to design backpacks fitted with highly accurate GPS technology. These trackers were attached to a flock of sheep and a sheepdog.

“What’s so interesting about this is how simple the rules are,” Dr King told the BBC.

“At the beginning we had lots of different ideas. We started out looking from a birds eye view, but then we realised we needed to see what the dog sees. It sees white, fluffy things. If there are gaps between them or the gaps get bigger, the dogs needs to bring them together.”

Sheep Bridge by Mountain Mike on FlickrAccording to Dr King, sheepdogs are making the most of the “selfish herd theory” to bring the animals close together and move them where they want.

“One of the things that sheep are really good at is responding to a threat by working with their neighbours. It’s the selfish herd theory: put something between the threat and you. Individuals try to minimise the chance of anything happening to them, so they move towards the centre of a group.”

A colleague, Dr Daniel Strombom from Uppsala University in Sweden, used the GPS data from the collars to develop computer simulations. This enabled them to develop a mathematical shepherding model.

The algorithm displays the same weaving pattern exhibited by sheepdogs. It helps to solve what has been called the ‘the shepherding problem': how one agent can control a large number of unwilling agents.

John Hooper. The Shepherd, 1982.The research was published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Read the rest at the link…and how they are working to use this information in other ways.

This made me look for a couple of more sheepy links:

Shrek the runaway sheep is a shear celebrity – Telegraph

29 Apr 2004

Shrek, the New Zealand merino sheep which spent the last six years on the run from his owners, finally had his long-postponed encounter with a pair of shears last night.

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Shrek the sheep is shown before, during and after being sheared

 

The woolly creature was shorn of his 15-inch long, 59lb fleece during a live television broadcast.

Viewers around the country watched eagerly to see the wool carefully snipped away by a former world champion shearer, Peter Casserly.

Despite his years as a hermit, Shrek was as meek as a lamb and co-operated fully.

“He is probably looking forward to getting this lot off,” Mr Casserly said confidently as he got to work.

 

And from 2012, Shepherds around the world – in pictures | World news | theguardian.com

They used to be an important part of the global economy but with the increase of estates the need for shepherds has declined. However, the tradition does still exist in many parts of the world

 

That one is just a gallery…so go and enjoy it.

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Sorry this is so damn late!

4c319fb74892acf1e5be87bd61c8c747


Tuesday Reads

The Dog Days of Summer, Janet Hill

The Dog Days of Summer, Janet Hill

Good Morning!!

It’s the last week of August, and the dog days of summer have supposedly passed; but the Boston area is supposed to hit ninety degrees today and tomorrow. I’m actually looking forward to it, because it has been so cool here lately–in the sixites and low seventies in the daytime and the fifties at night. Yesterday it got into the high eighties, and it felt wonderful.

The Boston Globe has a story today about Peter Theo Curtis, the writer who was just released from captivity in Syria. His mother lives in Cambridge. I had never heard of Curtis before; apparently his kidnapping was kept secret. The Globe reports: Militants free US writer with Mass. ties who was held in Syria.

Peter Theo Curtis, a writer and scholar with ties to the Boston area who was held captive for nearly two years by one of the Islamic militant groups operating in Syria, was released Sunday after emissaries from the government of Qatar won his freedom on humanitarian grounds, in a stark contrast to the brutal murder of fellow war correspondent James W. Foley .

Curtis’s 22 months in captivity were kept from the public at his family’s request since he was nabbed near the Syrian border in October 2012 by Al Nusra Front, one of the groups seeking to topple President Bashir Assad of Syria. Al Nusra Front has ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Curtis, 45, who wrote dispatches under the name Theo Padnos and previously chronicled disaffected young Muslims in Yemen in a book titled “Undercover Muslim,” had studied Arabic in Syria.

He was handed over to United Nations peacekeepers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday evening, a UN spokesman in New York said. After it was determined he was in good medical condition, he was transferred to representatives of the US government, according to the UN.

“We are so relieved that Theo is healthy and safe and that he is finally headed home after his ordeal,” his mother, Nancy Curtis, who lives in Cambridge, said in a statement, “but we are also deeply saddened by the terrible, unjustified killing last week of his fellow journalist, Jim Foley, at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS.”

Foley was from New Hampshire, and the two families have gotten to know each other well, according to Curtis.

Garden Shed - Late Summer, KK Marais

Garden Shed – Late Summer, KK Marais

Syria and Iraq

President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, according to BBC News.

Correspondents say the move could mark the first step towards US air strikes inside Syria, where the jihadist group controls vast swathes of territory.

The US is already carrying out strikes against IS in neighbouring Iraq.

On Monday, the Syrian government said it would work with the international community in the fight against IS.

Western governments have so far rejected suggestions that they collaborate with President Bashar al-Assad in an attempt to counter the growing regional threat posed by IS….

On Monday evening, US officials said Mr Obama had approved over the weekend reconnaissance flights by unmanned and manned aircraft, including drones and possibly U2 spy planes.

The US military has been carrying out aerial surveillance of IS – an al-Qaeda breakaway formerly known as Isis – in Iraq for months and launched air strikes on 8 August.

From The Boston Globe, citing “AP sources,” U.S. planes have already begun flying over Syria.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria after President Barack Obama gave the OK, U.S. officials said, a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against Islamic State militant targets there.

While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step. Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes.

One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights an important avenue for obtaining data.

Two U.S. officials said Monday that Obama had approved the flights, while another U.S. official said early Tuesday that they had begun. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter by name, and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Jim Michaels of USA Today spoke to Gen. Dempsey on Sunday about what is being done to deal with ISIS in Iraq.

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT — U.S. airstrikes on Islamic militants in Iraq have blunted their momentum, but defeating them will require a broad regional approach that draws support from Iraq’s neighbors and includes political and diplomatic efforts, the top U.S. military officer said.

The long-term strategy for defeating the militants includes having the United States and its allies reach out to Iraq’s neighbors, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday….

Dempsey is working with Central Command to prepare “options to address [the Islamic State] both in Iraq and Syria with a variety of military tools including airstrikes,” said Col. Ed Thomas, Dempsey’s spokesman, in a statement.

The militant group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has shown itself to be so brutal that Iraq and the U.S. should be able to find “willing partners” to join efforts to defeat the militants, Dempsey said.

But military power won’t be enough, Dempsey said. The strategy must take a comprehensive approach that includes political and diplomatic efforts to address the grievances of millions of Sunnis who have felt disenfranchised by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, he said.

Late Summer Garden, John Gordon

Late Summer Garden, John Gordon

I get the feeling that we’re never going to escape involvement in the endless Middle East conflicts, thanks to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of the neocon gang. What a horrible mess! We have our own messes to deal with here, but foreign wars always seem to trump the needs of the American people.

John Cassidy speculates at The New Yorker: What’s Next in Iraq and Syria?

On his first full day back from vacation, President Barack Obama could be forgiven for wishing he were still on Martha’s Vineyard. With confirmation that ISIS fighters have just captured another military base from the government forces of President Assad, and that Qatar has engineered the release of an American freelance journalist who was being held by a non-ISIS jihadist group, Obama has two formidable challenges to deal with.

The immediate task for Obama is deciding whether to launch American bombing raids on ISIS positions inside Syria, while simultaneously preparing his Administration, and the country at large, for the possibility of another video showing an American hostage being butchered. The ISIS militants, having carefully orchestrated the beheading of James Foley following the launch of U.S. strikes inside Iraq, will surely seek to exploit the fate of its remaining American hostages for maximum effect. Any U.S. decision to expand its air campaign is almost certain to be met with the release of more snuff films.

No President—no American—could take such a prospect lightly. At the same time, Obama has to guard against allowing emotion and wishful thinking to take over U.S. policy. That’s what happened after 9/11, and some of the chaos that we now see in the Middle East can be traced back to that historic blunder. What’s needed is calm cost-benefit analysis of the options open to the United States, taking account of its strategic interests, its values, and its capabilities. In short, we need what Danny Kahneman, the Princeton psychologist who pioneered behavioral economics, would refer to as some Type 2 thinking: a disciplined weighing of the likely consequences of our actions. If we give into our Type 1 reaction—horror, outrage, anger—we will be playing into the hands of the jihadists.

One place to start is by acknowledging two errors in thinking that have blighted U.S. policy in the past decade: the conservative delusion that the United States could, more or less single-handedly, use its military power to reinvent the Middle East, and the liberal illusion that we could simply walk away from the mess that Bush, Cheney & Co. created. Without the political willingness and the financial capability to garrison the region in the manner of postwar Germany and Japan, U.S. influence has to be exercised through air power, political proxies, economic inducements, and regional alliances. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that the United States and other Western countries have vital interests at stake, one of which is preventing the emergence of a rogue Islamic state that would provide a rallying point, and a safe haven, for anti-Western jihadists the world over.

Read the whole thing at the link.

A Garden in a Sea of Flowers, Ross Turner

A Garden in a Sea of Flowers, Ross Turner

The Economies of the U.S. and Europe

There has been so much breaking news for the past couple of months that we haven’t talked much about the economies of the U.S. and Europe. But today the European Central Bank is topping the headlines, and last week Fed Chairperson Janet Yellen spoke at Jackson Hole, so I thought I’d post a few economics stories.

Here’s CNN Money’s report on Yellen’s speech, Janet Yellen: Job market not recovered.

That was Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s main message Friday in a much anticipated speech.

“It speaks to the depth of the damage that, five years after the end of the recession, the labor market has yet to fully recover,” she said.

The debate now is whether the job situation in America is healthy enough for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates, which have been at historic lows in recent years in an effort to jump start the economy. Yellen, however, said little new on Friday, and U.S. stock markets stayed flat.

Yellen is chair of the committee that sets interest rates, but she only gets one vote. Other members have differing views. The Fed board and other top economists are spending the weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, debating these key issues.

Though the unemployment rate “has fallen considerably and at a surprisingly rapid pace,” Yellen said problems remain.

Yellen called attention to what Americans in the job market already know–though the employment numbers look better, many people have stopped looking for work, and most of the new jobs are part-time and pay low wages.

A few more U.S. economy stories to check out:

The Wall Street Journal: Fed’s Yellen Remains Mum on Timing of Rate Change.

Bloomberg Businessweek: Yellen Job-Slack View Muddied by Pent-Up Wage Deflation.

Slate: The Fed Is Not As Powerful As We Think.

If you think the economy is struggling here, you should take a look at Europe, where austerity thinking has ruled since the economic crisis hit. Yesterday the French government collapsed. From The New York Times, French Cabinet Is Dissolved, a Victim of Austerity Battles.

PARIS — The collapse of the French government on Monday exposed widening divisions both within France’s leadership, and Europe more broadly, over austerity policies that many now fault for threatening to tip the eurozone back into recession.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced that he would dissolve his government after a rancorous battle in his cabinet over whether the belt-tightening measures taken by President François Hollande — at the urging of Germany and European Union officials in Brussels — were impeding France’s recovery.

The dispute broke into the open when Mr. Vall’s outspoken economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg, insisted in an interview over the weekend that austerity had gone too far. “The priority must be exiting the crisis, and the dogmatic reduction of deficits should come after,” he told the newspaper Le Monde.

He also took direct aim at the policies of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. “Germany is caught in a trap of austerity that it is imposing across Europe,” he said.

Even the formerly strong German economy is struggling now, according to Reuters (via NYT), Crisis in Ukraine Drags Economy in Germany.

The eurozone’s flatlining economy took another hit on Monday when data showed German business sentiment sagging for the fourth consecutive month. Chancellor Angela Merkel attributed some of her own country’s decline in the second quarter to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, over which tit-for-tat sanctions threaten trade. The Munich-based Ifo, a research firm, echoed some of those sentiments as it reported its business climate index, based on a monthly survey of some 7,000 companies, fell to a worse-than-expected 106.3 from 108, the lowest level in more than a year. The findings agreed with data earlier in the month on the second-quarter contraction in Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy. Klaus Wohlrabe, an Ifo economist, said his institute expected growth in Germany to be “close to zero” in the third quarter.

A few more headlines on the European economic situation:

The Guardian: An austerity revolt has broken the French government. Will the EU follow?

Bloomberg Businessweek on the European Central Bank, Draghi May Again Find Bazooka Words Beat Action With QE, and an editorial from The Financial Times, Central banks at the crossroads.

Wisteria Flowers in Bloom at Pergola at Portland Japanese Garden Stone Path

Wisteria Flowers in Bloom at Pergola at Portland Japanese Garden Stone Path

Ferguson Stories

Yesterday, on the day of Michael Brown’s funeral, The New York Times published a story that got a great deal of attention because of its insensitive characterization of the dead teenager. Here the paragraph that attracted the angry reaction:

Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.

Would the authors have written a similar paragraph about a white homicide victim? From Vox, The New York Times called Michael Brown “no angel.” Here’s how it described serial killers.

The New York Times’s description of Michael Brown as “no angel” has prompted a swift, critical reaction from other media outlets, including Vox, and various people on social media.

Alison Mitchell, national editor for the Times, defended the term in conversations with the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple:

“It comes out of the opening scene,” says Mitchell, who notes that “like many teenagers,” Brown was indeed “no angel.” Okay, but would the New York Times have chosen this term — which is commonly used to describe miscreants and thugs — if the victim had been white? Mitchell: “I think, actually, we have a nuanced story about the young man and if it had been a white young man in the same exact situation, if that’s where our reporting took us, we would have written it in the same way.” When asked whether she thought that “no angel” was a loaded term in this context, Mitchell said she didn’t believe it was. “The story … talks about both problems and promise,” she notes.

The Times’s response has done little to calm the storm. Sean McElwee, research assistant at Demos, dug into the archives to compare the Times’s description of Brown to the newspaper’s previous descriptions of serial killers and terrorists. Of course, comparing articles produced decades apart by different writers and editors isn’t an exact science. But it does lend context to the widespread frustration over how young black men are portrayed in the media.

A series of McElwee’s tweets are posted at the link, and are well worth reading.

One more from Salon by Joan Walsh, Ferguson’s booming white grievance industry: Fox News, Darren Wilson and friends. Check it out at Salon.

How did this post get so long?! I’d better wrap it up. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Tuesday!

 

 


Monday Reads: Pork Puller Edition

Good Morning!

col-9991.1LOne of the most appalling things I’ve been witnessing the last few years is how costly it is for the taxpayers to fund Republican witch hunts, theocratic laws pandering to christianists that wind up being declared unconstitutional over and over again, lawsuits defending crooked Republican governors or prosecuting crooked Republican politicians, and then the tax breaks they immediately give to their donors and cronies that don’t do anything except cost everyone money and jobs.  So, welcome to socializing Republican graft, crime, and cronyism in the USA!

First, let’s see what NJ Taxpayers have to pay for Chris Christie’s defense in his bridge scandal.

New Jersey taxpayers are on the hook for more than $6.5 million to the law firm Gov. Chris Christie hired to represent his office in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.

The state attorney general’s office released recent bills from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher on Friday.

The law firm represents Christie’s office in the state and federal investigations into last September’s lane closures. It published a 350-page report in March that found Christie and his top staffers were not involved in the lane closures ordered by a former Christie aide, apparently as political retribution.

The report has been criticized by some as a whitewash.

Gibson Dunn earlier this year agreed to reduce its rate from the original agreement of $650 per hour to $350.

Wisconsin is another state where the Governor has instituted every possible failed Republican economic policy offered up by the Koch Brothers.  Get a load of col-10443.1Lthese huge tax cuts that went to a business for being a job creator while they laid off 1900 people.  Ashley Furniture got a $6 million dollar tax cut for that lovely set of job creation.

The board overseeing the state’s flagship job-creation agency has quietly approved a $6 million tax credit for Ashley Furniture Industries with a condition allowing the company to eliminate half of its state workforce.

As approved by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board, the award would allow the Arcadia-based global furniture maker to move ahead with a $35 million expansion of its headquarters and keep 1,924 jobs in the state.

But it wouldn’t require Ashley to create any new jobs, instead granting the company license to lay off half of its current 3,848 Wisconsin-based workers in exchange for an enterprise zone tax credit, one of the most valuable and coveted state subsidies.

The board’s decision has not been made public because a contract with the company has not been finalized. But in a statement Friday, in response to questions from the State Journal, Ashley Furniture confirmed it is seeking state subsidies that include terms allowing for job reductions.

The company said it injected $394 million into the Wisconsin economy in 2013, including supporting 610 Wisconsin businesses.

“It is more expensive for Ashley to manufacture in Arcadia than it is to do so closer to its major markets,” the company said. “The loss of Ashley’s contributions to the regional economy of west-central Wisconsin would be catastrophic.”

WEDC spokesman Mark Maley said the agency doesn’t comment on pending or possible WEDC awards.

“Obviously, WEDC is very interested in working with one of the largest employers in northwestern Wisconsin to find ways to help ensure that the company can continue to flourish here in our state,” Maley said. “WEDC is committed to doing whatever it can to work with the company and preserve those jobs.”

Maley declined comment on whether WEDC had provided any other awards conditioned on retaining a percentage of jobs, as opposed to creating jobs.

2522042When Bobby Jindal isn’t busy trying to prove his pet laws aren’t really unconstitutional or campaigning for President, his appointees are busy ripping off the state by taking advantage of retiree early payoffs.  The deal is, however, they retire from one job, take a huge cash bonus, then get another job with another agency.  So far, we’ve had two of his top folks double dip and slice a bonus from us.  So, that’s one way to get away from Jindal’s hiring freeze and salary freeze and spending freeze on everything except his campaign travel. How can this be legal let alone moral?

On April 23 of that year, DPS Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux sent an email to all personnel informing them that the Department of Civil Service and the Louisiana State Police Commission had approved the retirement incentive as a “Layoff Avoidance Plan.”

In legal-speak, under the incentive eligible applicants would receive a payment of 50 percent of the savings realized by DPS for one year from the effective date of the employee’s retirement.

In simpler language, the incentive was simply 50 percent of the employee’s annual salary. If an employee making $50,000 per year, for example, was approved for the incentive, he or she would walk away with $25,000 in up-front payments, plus his or her regular retirement and the agency would save $25,000 over the course of the next year. The higher the salary, the higher the potential savings.

The program, offered to the first 20 DPS employees to sign up via an internet link on a specific date, was designed to save the state many times that amount over the long haul. If, for example, 20 employees, each making $50,000 a year, took advantage of the incentive, DPS theoretically would realize a savings of $500,000 the first year and $1 million per year thereafter.

That formula, repeated in multiple agencies, could produce a savings of several million—not that much in terms of a $25 billion state budget, but a savings nonetheless.

The policy did come with one major caveat from the Department of Civil Service, however. Agencies were cautioned not to circumvent the program through the state’s obscure retire-rehire policy whereby several administrative personnel, the most notable being former Secretary of Higher Education Sally Clausen, have “retired,” only to be “rehired” a day or so later in order to reap a monetary windfall.

“We strongly recommend that agencies exercise caution in re-hiring an employee who has received a retirement incentive payment within the same budget unit until it can be clearly demonstrated that the projected savings have been realized,” the Civil Service communique said.

And, to again quote our favorite redneck playwright from Denham on Amite, Billy Wayne Shakespeare from his greatest play, Hamlet Bob, “Aye, that’s the rub.” (often misquoted as “Therein lies the rub.”)

Basically, to realize a savings under the early retirement incentive payout, an agency would have had to wait at least a year before rehiring an employee who had retired under the program.

Boudreaux, by what many in DPS feel was more than mere happenstance, managed to be the first person to sign up on the date the internet link opened up for applications.

In Boudreaux’s case, her incentive payment was based on an annual salary of about $92,000 so her incentive payment was around $46,000. In addition, she was also entitled to payment of up to 300 hours of unused annual leave which came to another $13,000 or so for a total of about $59,000 in walk-around money.

Her retirement date was April 28 but the day before, on April 27, she double encumbered herself into the classified (Civil Service) Deputy Undersecretary position because another employee was promoted into her old position on April 26.

A double incumbency is when an employee is appointed to a position that is already occupied by an incumbent, in this case, Boudreaux’s successor. Double incumbencies are mostly used for smooth succession planning initiatives when the incumbent of a position (Boudreaux, in this case) is planning to retire, according to the Louisiana Department of Civil Service.

brown-pigHere’s an example of how much the state is paying for one bad law after another.  Jindal’s voucher experience is not only sending students to segregated and underperforming schools with no accountability, but attorneys are racking up fees trying to defend it.  Imagine spending this kind of money to have a court throw out these failed laws?

The price tag for defending Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education policies against legal challenges is growing.

The Department of Education is boosting its contracts for outside lawyers by $750,000, to represent the department in lawsuits against Jindal’s voucher program that uses tax dollars to send children to private schools.

A majority of members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed Tuesday to the legal spending.

The education department’s contract with Washington-based law firm Cooper & Kirk is growing from $150,000 to $650,000. The agency’s contract with the Louisiana-based Faircloth Law Group – the law firm of Jindal’s former executive counsel, Jimmy Faircloth – is rising from $20,000 to as much as $270,000.

“I regret that there is this litigation,” said Superintendent of Education John White. But he added, “We have to defend our priorities in court.”

Lee Barrios, a retired St. Tammany Parish teacher and critic of the voucher program, told BESE that the legal expense was a waste of taxpayer money.

Lawsuits were filed by two teacher unions and the state’s school board association objecting to the voucher program’s financing and by the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the program’s compliance with federal desegregation orders.

The unions and school boards association won their lawsuit, with the Louisiana Supreme Court declaring the use of the public school formula to pay for vouchers unconstitutional. Jindal and lawmakers continue to fund vouchers, now outside of the public school formula.

The Justice Department lawsuit still is pending in federal court in New Orleans.

It’s unclear how much the education department has spent defending itself and the Jindal administration against lawsuits since the governor pushed through the Legislature a series of sweeping education law changes in 2012. The department didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to a request for a full tally of its legal costs.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office also has a separate contract with Faircloth’s law firm worth up to $410,000 to represent the state in lawsuits seeking to throw out Jindal’s education policies, including the governor’s revamp of teacher tenure law.

Here’s a 2012 Jezebel article outlining how much it’s costing red states to defend those horrible anti-abortion and birth control trap laws.  This is fiscal Pigs Driving, Toastingconservatism?  Perhaps the only thing the do nothing US House is doing at all is throwing millions of federal dollars into the witch hunt that is Benghazi.

The House could spend up to $3.3 million in taxpayer dollars over seven months on a special committee to investigate the Sep. 2011 attacks against the American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, more than lawmakers have appropriated for committees dedicated to investigating ethics and helping American veterans over an entire 12 month period.

A ThinkProgress analysis of House spending on its 20 permanent committees from Jan. 3, 2013 to Jan. 3, 2014 finds that since Benghazi committee’s full-year equivalent budget would be an estimated $5,657,142, its investigation will cost more than the budgets of nine other House committees:

Committee on Rules: $2,857,408
Committee on Small Business: $2,992,688
Committee on Ethics: $3,020,459
Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: $3,048,546
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: $4,389,758
Committee on House Administration: $4,600,560
Committee on Agriculture: $5,036,187
Committee on the Budget: $5,138,824
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology: $5,282,755
House Benghazi Panel: $5,657,142
Committee on Natural Resources: $6,555,829
Committee on Armed Services: $6,563,535
Committee on Education and the Workforce: $6,952,763
Committee on Homeland Security: $7,033,588
Committee on the Judiciary: $7,077,016
Committee on Foreign Affairs: $7,388,112
Committee on Financial Services: $7,394,482
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: $8,182,307
Committee on Ways and Means: $8,423,411
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: $8,940,437
Committee on Energy and Commerce: $9,520,516

The seven House Republicans will receive a bigger share of the committee budget, $2.2 million, more than the five Democrats, who will see “just over $1 million.” Funding for the committee “comes from already-appropriated legislative branch funds” a GOP spokesperson told USA Today, and does not represent a new expenditure. The spokesperson also claimed that the $3.3 million figure represents “the high end estimate,” though the investigation is likely to bleed into 2015.

Both Louisiana and Sam Brownback’s Kansas are experiencing lower than average growth in their economies and their employment due to the bad policies they mACxgFB6dL8vFHL4ULviM9wenacted to keep donors like Club for Growth and the Kochs happy.  Brownback’s economic policies have been a complete disaster for the state.

On Friday, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest employment figures for all 50 states — the same ones the Brownback administration uses repeatedly for its “we’re getting better” press releases.

Overall, the number of private sector jobs added since 2011 in Kansas crept up to 55,100. However, that statistic loses a lot of shine once you factor in the 8,300 jobs lost in local and state government ranks since 2011. Those are people who may no longer have steady income to pay the rent, buy food, pay taxes and contribute to the Kansas economy.

Fact is, Kansas has actually gained only 46,800 total jobs since early 2011.

So how does that more realistic figure — which the Brownback team does not promote — compare to the rest of the country?

Using the federal agency’s data, The Star compiled percentages of seasonally adjusted, nonfarm total job growth for Kansas, its four bordering states, a few other Midwestern states, Texas (no income tax), New York (extremely high income tax), and the U.S. average from January 2011 through June 30, 2014.

Texas, 10.5 percent

Colorado, 9.2 percent

Oklahoma, 6.5 percent

U.S. average, 6.1 percent

Iowa, 5.0 percent

New York, 4.8 percent

Missouri, 4.1 percent

Nebraska, 3.8 percent

Kansas, 3.5 percent

Arkansas, 1.9 percent

Kansas has had one of the nation’s poorest rates of employment growth during Brownback’s time in office, including since the first tax cuts took effect in 2013.

It just amazes me that Republicans can cobble together enough voters anywhere who don’t see these porkfests and poor economies as a sham.  The only voters they are holding together are the number of whacko churches and businesses that are benefiting from being the sole enterprises to get government dollars these days.  The other seems to be very frightened white people who believe every bad thing they’ve ever been sold on any kind of minority. It seems if you want the Republicans to throw money at you, you should start and equip a war, spout some crazy religious belief and sell votes for subsidies, or be a lawyer that has to sort it all out.

What a shit load of  pricey #FAIL.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Forgotten Woman

74afa5ea0d2193d23f98b7d17016c82eGood Morning!

Yup.

———————>

That about says it all.

Plenty of links for you today, and with the way I am feeling…all the horrible things these racist bastards are saying and doing, it is just a link dump today. As usual, the post centers around a theme…this Sunday the theme is, forgotten women.

The women have different stories to tell, some are forgotten by time. Others are overlooked or ignored by the government or their husbands, and then you have those who are having an important aspect of being a woman blatantly disregarded…her rights. (Not that she really had all of them anyway.)

So, let’s just get down to it.  The link dump starts now:

I have other links on this Hobby Lobby shit below, but read this one from Imani Gandy. She will give it to y’all, finished and done. The Obama Administration Should Stop Bending to the Religious Right’s Will

 

White House revises birth control rules to comply with Hobby Lobby | Al Jazeera America

Seeking to quell a politically charged controversy, the Obama administration announced new measures Friday to allow religious nonprofits and some companies to opt out of paying for birth control for female employees while still ensuring those employees have access to contraception.

Even so, the accommodations may not fully satisfy religious groups who oppose any system that makes them complicit in providing coverage they believe is immoral. The administration’s hope is that the new accommodation will be more palatable because it creates more distance between religious nonprofits and the health services they believe are immoral, by inserting the government as a middleman between nonprofits and their insurers.

But the Family Research Council, a socially conservative group, dismissed the new accommodation as an “insulting accounting gimmick” that still leaves businesses and nonprofits complicit in something they view as immoral.

They never will be satisfied. I knew this before the compromise was first offered way back…

Effective immediately, the U.S. will start allowing faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals to notify the government — rather than their insurers — that they object to birth control on religious grounds. A previous accommodation offered by the Obama administration allowed those nonprofits to opt out of paying for birth control by submitting a document called Form 700 to their insurers, but Roman Catholic bishops and other religious plaintiffs argued just submitting that form was like signing a permission slip to engage in evil.

To opt-out of paying for contraceptives without using Form 700, religious nonprofits can send a letter to the Health and Human Services Department that includes the organization’s name, the type of health plan they offer and the name and contact information for their insurance issuers or third-party administrators, officials said. Groups must also explain which types of birth control they object to and state the objection is based on sincerely held beliefs.

The administration’s proposal to let companies like Hobby Lobby use Form 700 will apply only to “closely held” corporations that are owned by families or a small number of investors. The government is asking for the public’s input about how narrowly to define a “closely held” corporation, meaning the rule-making process will drag out for many months before the fix is finalized.

In a related move, the administration announced plans to allow for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Inc. to start using Form 700. The Supreme Court ruled in June that the government can’t force companies like Hobby Lobby Inc. to pay for birth control, sending the administration scrambling for a way to ensure their employees can still get birth control one way or another at no added cost.

More on birth control, if only these PLUB assholes would admit to the fact that when you Give Teens Access to Birth Control and, Amazingly, the Teen Pregnancy Rate Drops | Smart News | Smithsonian

he teen birth rate in the U.S. has been declining for decades—it’s decreased 57 percent since 1991. But recently, it’s begun dropping dramatically. More than half of that 57 percent change took place just the past six years, says a new report from the CDC.

Alongside the rapidly dropping birth rate, there’s been an equally precipitous dip in teen abortions, which are also down 56 percent over the past two decades. With the birth rate and the abortion rate both down, it seems that teens have decided en masse to just stop getting pregnant. But why?

[...]

In the Washington Post, Tina Griego covers that possibility. In Colorado, she writes, the teen birth rate has dropped 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, the largest drop in the country. That decline, state health officials say, can be traced to a program designed to improve teens’ access to high quality, long-lasting birth control. WaPo:

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, supported by a $23 million anonymous donation, provided more than 30,000 IUDs or implants to women served by the state’s 68 family-planning clinics. The state’s analysis suggests the initiative was responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the state’s teen birth rates.

What about the longer term downward trend? In 1957, the birth rate among teens age 15 to 19 was 96.3 per 1,000 teens. In 1991, it had dropped to 61.8 per 1,000, and in 2013, it was all the way down to 26.6 births per 1,000 teens.

Then you have the laws, like the one in Texas that is written about here under the title of:  Quackery and Abortion Rights – NYTimes.com

The deception behind the wave of state-level abortion restrictions now threatening women’s access to safe and legal abortions was strikingly revealed during a trial that ended last week in Texas.

The trial, held before Judge Lee Yeakel of Federal District Court in Austin, offered an opportunity to examine evidence and hear arguments in a challenge to crucial portions of Texas’ sweeping 2013 package of abortion restrictions. The challenge, brought by reproductive rights advocates, focuses on two rules, one requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and another mandating that clinics meet state standards for ambulatory surgical centers, an unnecessary and prohibitively costly requirement.

The admitting-privileges rule, which is already in place, has severely limited access to safe and legal care in Texas. Absent court intervention, the situation will get much worse. There are now only 19 abortion clinics in Texas, compared with 41 before the new law. This number could shrink to as few as seven after Sept. 1, when the surgical-center rule takes effect.

And this is where the quack comes in:

A team of lawyers led by the Center for Reproductive Rights and their expert witnesses presented compelling evidence of the destructive consequences of the two rules and the emptiness of the claim that they are necessary to protect women’s health and safety.

By contrast, the state’s defense of the rules was a bizarre and unconvincing show. Four of its five witnesses denied, and then conceded (when confronted with incriminating emails) that their written testimony was crafted by Vincent Rue, an opponent of women’s reproductive freedom best known for promoting kooky claims, like the existence of an abortion-related mental illness he calls “post-abortive syndrome.”

Mr. Rue does brisk business these days orchestrating testimony from pliable witnesses willing to supply “expert” support for state abortion restrictions, a task for which he has been paid $42,000, so far, by Texas. That his guidance is relied upon is incredible given that his own past court testimony and theories have been discredited by judges and others.

If there was anything about forgotten women, it is the ones discussed about in this next piece: A Deadly Epidemic of Violence Against Women – The Atlantic

There is one state where women are getting killed in record numbers. Can you guess what region it is located?

The map is of South Carolina and its counties. “All 46 counties have at least one animal shelter to care for stray dogs,” The Charleston Post Courier reports, “but the state has only 18 domestic violence shelters to help women trying to escape abuse.” One of the red dots represents a 31-year-old, Amerise Barbre, whose boyfriend strangled her. Each red dot represents a woman killed by a husband or boyfriend. In the eight-year period shown, that sort of murder happened 292 times.

The Charleston Post Courier

 

“Most state legislators profess deep concern over domestic violence,” the newspaper notes in the introduction to a seven-part feature. “Yet they maintain a legal system in which a man can earn five years in prison for abusing his dog but a maximum of just 30 days in jail for beating his wife or girlfriend on a first offense.”

Domestic abuse reportedly occurs there about 36,000 times per year.

The feature posits that public-policy failures largely explain why South Carolina’s homicide rate for women is presently the highest in the nation. It urges sweeping reforms.

They are summarized here.

As with all these links, you need to finish up the article to get the full picture.

What’s more, as we all know by now: Black women are killed by police, too – Salon.com

As law enforcement continues to use military weapons to terrorize protesters seeking justice for slain teen Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, the ache in my soul is primitive and all-encompassing.

Reporters are being arrested, children are being hit with tear gas, and political pundits are being threatened. The stench of fear, fear of the power of collective Black rage and action, is rancid. And that fear breeds desperation. The need to suppress that rage, which screams that we are worth more than this country has shown us, claws at the gate-keepers of White supremacy—elected officials, police officers, and mainstream media—until it eats at them from the inside out.

You cannot control what you can’t contain. Wilson’s cold-blooded execution of Michael Brown, who was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, while in a position of surrender, lit the fuse on years of racial profiling and inequality in the town of Ferguson.

And there can be no peace where there is no justice.

They want us believe that it’s about looting; but it’s not. This entire horrific show of violence being committed in the name of the “law” proves once and for all that the system is not broken. When a Black boy is gunned down and left to bleed out in the street, that’s American justice. When his killer is allowed to leave town under the cloak of anonymity, that’s American justice.

To paraphrase Malcolm X, we are not Americans, we are victims of America. But as conversations about Michael Brown and Ferguson segue into broader discussions about the scourge of police brutality at large, it becomes clear that, despite being on the frontlines, the we in question often does not include Black women.

 

Be clear: The need to have a very specific, targeted discussion about the fear of Black, male bodies is critical.

And Kirsten West Savali, of Dame explains more at the link.

Following this article, it may be good to place this little bit of art next: » Blog Archive » Panhandle Slim… Art for Folk…

Simone

 

Speaking of which. They Have the Authority to Kill a Minority » Balloon Juice

All these people know for sure is that a white cop gunned down a black man and couldn’t even be bothered to fill out a police report. Chief Justice John Roberts can go fuck himself with a burning cross.

That goes double for me!

Want more?

Remember that reporter who was asking for information on police killings?  We’re Compiling Every Police-Involved Shooting In America. Help Us. Well, check this out: What I’ve Learned from Two Years Collecting Data on Police Killings

A few days ago, Deadspin’s Kyle Wagner began to compile a list of all police-involved shootings in the U.S. He’s not the only one to undertake such a project: D. Brian Burghart, editor of the Reno News & Review, has been attempting a crowdsourced national database of deadly police violence. We asked Brian to write about what he’s learned from his project.

Oops, I’ve gotten off track. Back to those forgotten women: U.S. Airports Won’t Show You These Women’s Rights Ads, So We Will – Mic

U.S. airports are littered with advertisements, but that hasn’t stopped them from refusing to run displays featuring basic information about women’s rights.

UltraViolet, an advocacy group aimed at fighting sexism and expanding women’s rights, recently attempted to launch such an ad campaign in several airports. They focused on states with both booming tourist industries and histories of economic inequality between the sexes, like Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina.

When the targeted airports got wind of the ads, however, they flat-out refused to run them.

Go to the link to see the ads.

It is not like if  Men Had to Put Up With the Same Crap as Women | Cracked.com

Here…on to Israel: BBC News – Holocaust survivors condemn Israel’s Gaza ‘genocide’

More than 300 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and descendants of survivors have issued a public statement condemning Israel’s “genocide” of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

The statement was released by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and was placed as an advertisement in the New York Times.

It calls for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted and Israel to be boycotted.

The signatories expressed alarm at the “colonization of historic Palestine”.

It condemns the “racist dehumanisation of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached fever pitch”.

Go to the link to read the statement in full.

Up next, an Animated US Oil And Gas Rig Map

Business Insider had a,

 

oil rig moves

…a stunning animated map from DrillingInfo.com’s Kevin Thuot showing the evolution of the last 14 years of fracking in the U.S.

Now Thuot has put together a new incredible GIF showing how oil and gas drilling rigs are moving across states, and the country, in 2014 to the most productive formations.

“We care about rig activity because it is a leading indicator of future production in an area,” he writes. “Rig activity in an area today signals new production from that area in the near-term.”

Back to the women.

Some history? Pope Joan and the Black Swan: Medieval Christianity as a Resource for Gender Justice in the Church

In his introduction to the volume, John C. Raines summarized the group’s main findings about gender oppression. One, that world religions mirror social constructions of gender and vice versa; two, that the analysis of religious power is always a choice of political allegiance; three, that culturally specific and culturally competent academic work is needed in order to be persuasive; and four, that gender justice activism in religious domains demands multiple culturally appropriate tools and tactics. The contributors posited that all world religions carry their own seeds of positive change within. In John C. Raines’ words, “each of these religious traditions has a strong theory of social justice, and these resources can be harnessed to contemporary issues of gender. We ask, how can our Scriptures, how can our founding Prophets, how can our ancestors be used today to further justice in relations between genders?”

 

This essay offers resources from within medieval European Christianity in a feminist reading of the Christian dogma of hypostatic union, medieval political theory on royal twinning, and two medieval legends on the numinous double. Pulling these strands together as a feminist hermeneutics of double lives, I argue that the popular medieval story of a ninth century female Pope and the myth of a Fairy Lover have served to unhinge egemonic claims of male Christian superiority in the Middle Ages and in contemporary film today. As acts of subversive story telling or truth to be believed, the stories reconnoiter the possibility of a woman’s benevolent reign in the highest ecclesiastical office, and think up ingenious ways beyond institutional networks through which women might gain access to male dominated higher learning and a liberating sexuality. Safely positioned in part or in whole in the dreamlike realm of the numinous and supernatural, the narratives invite their audience to undo false consciousness. They insist that women deserve better and deserve more than what a misogynist status quo has to offer.

Click here to read this article from Temple University

 

Next a series of links that vary in subject.

Manatees could lose their endangered species status

Hilarious Marriage Equality PSA from Ireland Mocks ‘Armagayddon’

 

Claudia Cardinale on a rooftop in Rome! « Kinoimages.com

Hullabaloo- Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley – Dog days and ragnaroks, meaningless nouns

This Girl’s Baton-Twirling Skills Are a Thing of Beauty

Paris Review – In July, Sadie Stein

Our Daily Correspondent

Frozen Peas

F-for-Fake

Orson Welles in F for Fake, 1973, three years after the Frozen Peas recording.

But this…

Hmmm, frozen peas, the woman in the next series of stories would know something about that.

We all joke about running away from the shit and starting our own little commune. The lost family in Siberia did just that…For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II | History | Smithsonian

The Siberian taiga in the Abakan district. Six members of the Lykov family lived in this remote wilderness for more than 40 years—utterly isolated and more than 150 miles from the nearest human settlement. (Wikicommons)

In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family of six, lost in the taiga

russian_family_1.jpg__800x450_q85_crop_upscale

Karp Lykov and his daughter Agafia, wearing clothes donated by Soviet geologists not long after their family was rediscovered.

 

That article is from 2013, I was so fascinated, I looked for more information on the last living family member. A woman named,  Agafia Lykova.

From the Siberian Times:

Siberia’s most famous hermit swaps two ‘taiga’ kittens for a goat and a rooster

The kittens are survivors of a line of cats taken by the Lukov family into the remote forest when they fled from Stalin’s civilisation in the 1930s.

Agafya Lykova, pictured in the middle of eighties with father Karl,  left, and Krasnoyarsk professor Nazarov

Agafya Lykova, 68, is the last surviving member of the family of Old Believers who were discovered by a Soviet geologist in 1978. They had cut themselves off from the outside world.

When they were discovered, the family comprised Karp Iosifovich (the head of the family), his sons Savvin, 45, and Dmitry, 36, and his daughters Natalya, 42, and Agafya, then 34. The children’s mother Akulina had died in 1961.

The three other children died in 1981 and Karp in 1988 since when Agafya has lived alone at the family’s smallholding in what is now Khakassky nature reserve.

Rangers from the reserve visited her in February and she asked them to take two kittens back to civilisation – in exchange for a goat and a rooster which they brought her. She had earlier asked for the new animals instead of a medal ‘For Belief and Kindness’ which Governor Aman Tuleyev of neighbouring Kemerovo region wanted to present her.

‘My old cock stopped crowing, please can I have a new one? Also my old goat died and I need another one. And another thing please can I have new boots. I am feeling well thank you, do say hello to governor Aman Tuleyev.’

The reserve press office said that ‘just before their departure, Agafya Lykova gave the reserve employees two kittens, a male and a female, and asked to give them into ‘good hands’.

The woman who time forgot… Remarkable new pictures of hermit Agafya Lykova

Driven into the Siberian taiga by Stalin, she is the sole survivor of the Lykov family who cut themselves off from civilisation in 1936.

Helicopter to fly food and hay to the loneliest woman in Russia

Photo of her hut:

Helicopter brings aid to Siberian recluse Agafia Lykova – 42-55243184 – Rights Managed – Stock Photo – Corbis

Photo of Agafya:

Helicopter brings aid to Siberian recluse Agafia Lykova – 42-55242904 – Rights Managed – Stock Photo – Corbis

The last article I could find was from January of this year: Emergency services arrive to save life of hermit Agafiya Lykova, Russia’s loneliest woman

Last week the recluse warned in a letter to a newspaper that her health was failing and she did not have enough logs for the winter.

‘I don’t know how God will help me survive the winter. There aren’t any logs. I need to get them into the house’, she warned.

After her plea, a helicopter with a doctor on board was sent to check the deeply religious hermit – and to bring her vital supplies. Meanwhile, a well-known Russian millionaire has offered to pay the salary of a helper to live with Agafya in her lonely vigil. German Sterligov, one of the first dollar millionaires as the Soviet Union collapsed, has promised a 40,000 rouble a month salary to a companion who will live with Agafya in the remotest house in Russia.

The helicopter brought fresh food, medicine and household items, and a doctor examined her but the woman – a devout Old Believer – refused his offer to be flown to hospital for treatment. The mercy mission was ordered by governor Viktor Zimin.

‘Nature reserve staff gathered food and other goods for Agafya,’ said a statement from the Emergencies Ministry in Khakassia, the Siberian republic where she lives. ‘They brought cereals and flour for her and cabbage and food for her goats. They also brought vegetables for planting, and in a month Agafya will start growing them at home.’

The team ‘carried logs from the forest closer to Agafya’s house. The logs were cut but it was hard for her to carry them every day.’

‘The doctor examined Agafiya and offered to take her to hospital for treatment. The 68 year old woman complained of headaches and other problems and needs detailed examination. But she absolutely refused to go. The doctor gave her some advice and left medicine.

There are photos and more curious tidbits of information about Agafya and her life at those links, so be sure to take a look.

I will end this post with a Book review from New York Times, a connection…from one forgotten Russian woman to another. ‘Kreutzer Sonata Variations’ Has a Scorned Wife’s Rebuttal

In her long and often turbulent marriage to Leo Tolstoy, Sophia Andreevna Tolstoy put up with a lot, but “The Kreutzer Sonata” qualified as special punishment. Published in 1889, the story presented Tolstoy’s increasingly radical views on sexual relations and marriage through a frenzied monologue delivered by a narrator who, in a fit of jealousy and disgust, murdered his wife.

In her diary, Sophia wrote: “I do not know how or why everyone connected ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’ with our own married life, but this is what has happened.” Members of the Tolstoy family circle and the czar himself had expressed pity for her, she complained. “And it isn’t just other people,” she added. “I, too, know in my heart that this story is directed against me, and that it has done me a great wrong, humiliated me in the eyes of the world and destroyed the last vestiges of love between us.”

Convinced that the story was “untrue in everything relating to a young woman’s experiences,” Sophia wrote two novellas setting forth her own views, “Whose Fault?” and “Song Without Words,” which both languished in the archives of the Tolstoy Museum until their recent rediscovery and publication in Russia. Michael R. Katz, a retired professor of Russian and Eastern European studies at Middlebury College, has translated both stories into English and included them in “The Kreutzer Sonata Variations,” coming from Yale University Press on Tuesday, adding to a flurry of recent work appraising Tolstoy’s wife as a figure in her own right.

Looks like something good…especially with those cooler days coming our way. (Hopefully.)

What is on your mind today? Let’s have it.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Escape into Minecraft, Ferguson Updates, and Other News

cow reading

Good Day!!

I’m taking it slow this morning, so I’m glad JJ posted all those great cartoons last night. It’s been a long couple of weeks for news junkies, and I’m tired. I’ve been doing so much reading on line that reading books as a distraction isn’t that appealing.

Lately I’ve been  by escaping by playing Minecraft for hours at a time. I’m really glad now that I started playing it with my nephews a couple of years ago. Lots of people think it’s just a game for kids, but I really enjoy it.

When I play by myself, I like to just explore a world, go mining, and build houses in different environments. The possibilities are endless. The game is completely open-ended. When I first bought the game, I thought it was pretty expensive–I think it was $29. But once you buy it, you never have to pay for anything else. There are continuous updates, and the game keeps getting more interesting, sophisticated, and challenging.

Here’s a bit of recent Minecraft news to give you a sense of what it’s all about.

From CNet: Minecraft players build working hard drives.

Players of the popular open-world building game Minecraft, created by Markus “Notch” Persson in 2009, continue to push the game beyond any reasonable realm of everyday understanding. These players have built working components of computers within simulations running on computers.

Two such users have now revealed functioning hard drives built inside Minecraft that can read and write data. The first, created by Reddit and Imgur user smellystring can store 1KB of data, while a second, larger unit created by The0JJcan store 4KB of data.

That means it’s only a matter of time before things start going the way of “Terminator” or “The Matrix,” or at least to the point where we’re building virtual simulations of fully functioning computers that obey the laws of the physical world.

Read how they did it at the link. You can watch a video about it at Polygon.

Teachers have tapped into the popularity of Minecraft with kids and are using it in the classroom. Wired reports: New Minecraft Mod Teaches You Code as You Play.

Like many nine-year-olds, Stanley Strum spends a lot of time building things inMinecraft, the immersive game that lets your create your own mini-universe. The game has many tools. But Stanley is one of many players taking the game a step further by building entirely new features into the game. And, more than that, he’s also learning how to code.

He’s doing this with a tweak to the Minecraft game, called LearnToMod. Modifications like this, called “mods,” are a big part of the game’s runaway success. But this particular mod helps kids learn to create their own mods. For example, Strum built a teleporter that whisks him to a random location within the game world. Another lesson teaches kids to write the code to create a special bow that shoots arrows that become “portals” between different locations in the game, allowing them to reach spaces that would otherwise be quite difficult to access. It’s like being able to create your own cheat codes.

Strum is one of 150 students who are now tinkering with LearnToMod, an educational add-on teaches you the basics of programming while creating tricks and tools that you can use within the Minecraft. The mod will be available to the general public in October, and its creators hope it will help turn Minecraft into a kind of gateway drug for computer programming.

“Kids are already spending ridiculous amounts of hours on Minecraft,” says Stephen Foster, the co-founder of ThoughtSTEM, the company that’s built the LearnToMod module. “So we thought this would be a good way to help them learn skills.”

Fully functioning hard drive built inside Minecraft world

Fully functioning hard drive built inside Minecraft world

That’s great. I just hope adults don’t ruin the best part of Minecraft, which is that you can use it to express your own individuality and imagination.

Here’s a story from Fortune from Aug. 1: The new way to learn? Brick by brick.

“Minecraft is often referred to as ‘what LEGO should have done online,’” said Peter Warman, video game analyst at research firm Newzoo. “Now Minecraft has become a LEGO set itself, drawing so much time from kids and youngsters that it is seriously competing with the physical LEGO bricks. And it’s not just kids and young teens that play the game. Of the millions of Minecraft Pocket Edition players, 60% is older than 20 and one-third is female.”

“The game’s success can be attributed to the freedom of expression and the ability to build anything you can imagine,” said Carl Manneh, CEO of Mojang. “It gives people a way to visualize anything they can imagine. When you have a creative software like that, people tend to want to share it with friends. That’s really helped us in spreading the word about the game.”

When New York City teacher Joel Levin saw this explosion of popularity among his students, he decided to blog about the game. After all, kids weren’t just playing this game across multiple platforms, they were also spending countless hours perusing the 50 million-plus Minecraft videos on YouTube.

The educator had spent the past decade trying to incorporate video games into his classroom curriculum as a way to engage students and make learning more relevant to today’s generation. Levin said he was blown away at the range of possibilities that Minecraft offered, from building challenges, to having kids do research online and report back on what they learned, to exploring digital citizenship by building communities in the game that serves as virtual microcosms to high school.

“Teachers from all over the world started contacting me,” said Levin. Eventually, Levin was put in touch with Mojang. “I was able to open a dialogue with teachers and programmers in Finland, which is at the forefront of the world in education.” Levin partnered with Santeri Koivisto, a teacher in Finland, to formalize a company, TeacherGaming.

cow reading2

Back to the real world (reluctantly) for some Ferguson updates.

Last night The New York Times posted a piece on how police shootings are judged to be justified or not, Key Factor in Police Shootings: ‘Reasonable Fear’.

Each time police officers draw their weapons, they step out of everyday law enforcement and into a rigidly defined world where written rules, hours of training and Supreme Court decisions dictate not merely when a gun can be fired, but where it is aimed, how many rounds should be squeezed off and when the shooting should stop.

The Ferguson, Mo., police officer who fatally shot an unarmed African-American teenager two weeks ago, setting off protest and riots, was bound by 12 pages of police department regulations, known as General Order 410.00, that govern officers’ use of force. Whether he followed them will play a central role in deliberations by a St. Louis County grand jury over whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged with a crime in the shooting.

But as sweeping as restrictions on the use of weapons may be, deciding whether an officer acted correctly in firing at a suspect is not cut and dried. A host of outside factors, from the officer’s perception of a threat to the suspect’s behavior and even his size, can emerge as mitigating or damning.

Read the rest at the link. It’s really troubling to me that police shootings are evaluated based on the officers emotional reactions–whether he (or she) was in fear of his life. That’s far too subjective and there’s no way to prove what the cop was thinking at the time.

The other problem I’m having with all this justification of Wilson’s actions is that he didn’t really need to stop Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson in the first place. The stop was pure harassment–part of a demonstrable pattern of targeting of Ferguson’s Black citizens in order to fill the city’s coffers.

Once Wilson had made the mistake of aggressively engaging with Brown and Brown and Johnson began running away, Wilson should have remained in his car and called for backup. Presumably the Justice Department will be looking carefully at these aspects of the case.

hamster reading

For the past couple of couple of days, there’s been a lot of attention to a crowdfunding campaign established to raise money for Darren Wilson–even though he hasn’t been arrested or charged with anything. The site has been called out for posting ugly racist comments from the people who are donating; yesterday the site began deleting the worst of those comments, and now they have shut off comments completely. I guess it was too much work to keep deleting them one at a time. From NBC News, 

Created on Monday on the site GoFundMe, the campaign had raised over $225,000 as of midday Friday in support of Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. More than 5,600 people have pledged toward a goal of $250,000. Many donors added remarks while making their donations, some of which were incendiary. GoFundMe responded early Friday on Twitter saying the “comments posted in violation of GoFundMe’s terms have been removed.”

 According to the page, it was “created to support Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department. We stand behind Officer Darren Wilson and his family during this trying time in their lives. All proceeds will be sent directly to Darren Wilson and his family for any financial needs they may have including legal fees.”

Please note that Wilson is still receiving his full paycheck of more than $45,000 a year. Little Green Footballs has been following the story closely, and blogger Lawhawk decided to find out who is really behind the Wilson GoFundMe campaign. He found that “the funds going to a 501(c)(3) charity, meaning donations are tax exempt.” And guess who’s behind the “charity?” From The Wire: Non-Profit Run by a Missouri Police Union Is Now Handling Fundraising for Darren Wilson.

The GoFundMe crowdsourcing fundraiser for the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown has been taken over by Shield of Hope, a charity run by the local police union. Since Shield of Hope is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, all donations from here on out will now be tax deductible. The original fundraiser had raised over $235,000 before passing on the torch to Shield of Hope. The new Shield of Hope-run page has raised over $11,000 on its own.

Originally called the Fraternal Order Of Police Lodge 15 Charitable Foundation, Shield of Hope was founded in late 2011. (The name was changed shortly after.) According to a filing with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, the charity’s board of directors include the Ferguson Police Department’s Public Relations Officer Timothy Zoll, Missouri State Rep. Jeffrey Roorda (a former police officer), and Florissant City Council member Joe Eagan.

brazilian pig reading

So quite a few of those now-excised racist comments must have been coming from law-enforcement types in Missouri {{shudder}} Read more about these folks at the LGF link.

The Washington Post has another interesting article on segregation in St. Louis, In St. Louis, Delmar Boulevard is the line that divides a city by race and perspective.

To get a sense of the fracture that cuts this city in two, drive along Delmar Boulevard, a major four-lane road that runs east to west. Hit the brakes when you see an Aldi grocery store and put your finger on the blinker. Decide which world to enter.

In the blocks to the immediate south: Tudor homes, wine bars, a racquet club, a furniture store selling sofas for $6,000. The neighborhood, according to U.S. Census data, is 70 percent white.

In the blocks to the immediate north: knocked-over street signs, collapsing houses, fluttering trash, tree-bare streets with weeds blooming from the sidewalk. The neighborhood is 99 percent black.

The geography of almost every U.S. city reveals at least some degree of segregation, but in St. Louis, the break between races — and privilege — is particularly drastic, so defined that those on both sides speak often about a precise boundary. The Delmar Divide, they call it, and it stands as a symbol of the disconnect that for years has bred grievances and frustrations, emotions that exploded into public view on the streets of the majority-black suburb of Ferguson after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager. Ferguson is north of Delmar; the suburb of Crestwood, where the officer lives, is south.

As for how St. Louis residents see the Michael Brown shooting,

Even the way people perceive the Aug. 9 shooting and the street protests that have followed is influenced by geography.

“I’m one of those people that feels sorry for the officer,” said Paul Ruppel, 41, a white business owner who lives just to the south of the divide. “For the most part, I believe the police of St. Louis are doing a great job.”

Said Alvonia Crayton, an African American woman who lives just to the north of Delmar: “My reaction is, what took them so long? Michael Brown was basically the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The article is well worth a read.

Links to some interesting stories that are mostly positive

LA Times, Ferguson protests prove transformative for many, by Matt Pearce.

Huffington Post, Ferguson: The Untold Story, by Arianna Huffington.

Poynter, HuffPost’s Ferguson Fellow: ‘This is huge for me’, by Benjamin Mullin.

NPR, Is There Such A Thing As A ‘Good Psychopath’? by Linton Weeks.

The Atlantic, What an Introvert Sounds Like, by Olga Khazan.

The Atlantic, Your Gut Bacteria Want You to Eat a Cupcake.

The Paris Review, Mocha Dick, and Other News.

More on Mocha Dick from The Atlantic, The Whale That Inspired Moby Dick Swims Again.

Feministing, Fatal Hypothesis: How Belief in a Just World is Killing Us, by Katherine Cross.

Want some schadenfreude? Read this from TPM, Cubs Cut Workers’ Hours Too Avoid O-Care Mandate, Then Disaster Struck.

Bwaaaahahahahahah!

Bonus Cat Video

Hot Water. Simon’s Cat

 

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