Friday Reads: The Medium isn’t the Message

martha-gellhornGood Morning!

I’ve been looking at media stories this week.  That includes both traditional and nontraditional forms.  The internet continues to influence the release of news and how news is made and reported. Several topics really caught my eye.  The first is the ease with which we’re seeing documentation of Bill O’Reilly’s exaggerations on places he’s been and news stories he covered.  It seems like one exaggeration/lie after another is popping up from all kinds of places since David Corn of Mother Jones found out that O’Reilly was never near a battlefield during the Falklands War despite the stories O’Reilly tells.  Here’s some of the latest on the life and times of the blustery, on line person who really is a serial liar.

Former colleagues of Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host whose tales of past reporting exploits are facing renewed scrutiny, have disputed his account of surviving a bombardment of bricks and rocks while covering the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.

Six people who covered the riots with O’Reilly in California for Inside Edition told the Guardian they did not recall an incident in which, as O’Reilly has claimed, “concrete was raining down on us” and “we were attacked by protesters”.

Several members of the team suggested that O’Reilly may instead be overstating a fracas involving one disgruntled Los Angeles resident, who smashed one of their cameras with a piece of rubble.

Two of the team said the man was angered specifically by O’Reilly behaving disrespectfully after arriving at the smoking remains of his neighbourhood in a limousine, whose driver at one point began polishing the vehicle. O’Reilly is said to have shouted at the man and asked him: “Don’t you know who I am?”

O’Reilly, 65, is one of the most influential figures in American broadcasting and publishing. He is paid a reported $20m a year to host his show, the O’Reilly Factor, which consistently ranks among the most-watched current affairs programs in US cable TV. He has also authored several bestselling books and memoirs.

He has for several days been defending himself against accusations that he inflated his recollections of reporting from Argentina at the end of the Falklands war as a young correspondent for CBS News. The Guardian found he had told differing versions of an apparent encounter at gunpoint with Argentinian forces.

He has also been accused of lying in one of his books about being present at the scene when a CIA source, who had allegedly been linked to the assassination of President John F Kennedy, killed himself in 1977.

imagesXS1GNOQHFox News and Holt–publisher of O’Reilly’s book on Kennedy–have stood firmly by their man. O’Reilly’s show has never much been about facts any way as delivering anger to a key republican base.  This would seem hard to ignore.  Additionally, O’Reilly has actually threatened reporters.  Every one expected the name calling but it’s gone way beyond that now. How can Fox stand behind an on air personality that lies and threatens journalists?

As the controversy surrounding Bill O’Reilly and his war reporting experiences continues to heat up, with more allegations coming out each day, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow wonders how much longer Fox News can stand by the host.

On Wednesday evening, Maddow spoke with Mother Jones author David Corn, one of the journalists who wrote the original report revealing the inaccuracies in O’Reilly’s story. O’Reilly subsequently called Corn “a liar” and said that he deserves to be put in “the kill zone.” On Tuesday, the Fox News host threatened a New York Times reporter covering the scandal: “I am coming after you with everything I have,” O’Reilly said.

“Apparently, they [Fox News] think it’s proper for one journalist to call another one names,” Corn told Maddow. “Not that it scares me off the story, but I have family and I have friends who are concerned about me now.”

Corn called the threats “highly inappropriate” and noted that O’Reilly still has not disproven “a single fact” from his piece.

Maddow said that after his threats to Corn and the Times’ reporter, it is “untenable” for Fox News to stand by him.

“They employ a lot of journalists, including those who work in risky situations,” she said. “Fox is a good place to work for journalists.”

Maddow made a similar point on her show one night earlier, questioning what O’Reilly’s behavior will do to Fox News’ “work environment” and to the “real reporters” that work there

Why on earth do news personalities like O’Reilly and Brian Williams lie when their jobs should be all about integrity? photogsDo they all yearn to be seen as Walter Cronkite?  Do their memories and egos just run amok?

News in America has increasingly become infotainmenthalf factual information about the world’s events, half dazzling production and splashy narratives. Simultaneously, fewer and fewer Americans have ever seen battle; most of us only know war from what we see in film and television. So war itself becomes difficult to distinguish from entertainment. American Sniper, with its ambiguous moral commitments, is now the highest grossing American war film of all time, adjusted for inflation. Unlike popular war films about battles long past, American Sniper is set during the Iraq war, the effects of which are only beginning to ripple across our culture. Moreover, its story allegedly reflects the true-life story of its central character, sniper Chris Kyle. It’s somewhat true, like the news, but with a better script and pretty actors.

Which makes it hard for the news to keep up, even when you’re as handsome as Brian Williams. Unlike most cinematic retellings of wars, actual wars are multifaceted, complicated, anti-climactic, and grim. When war is already a successful subject in mainstream cinema, news purveyors whose professions have become increasingly akin to entertainment are shrewd to play up war stories in relaying the narrative of the day. The trouble is that shrewdness, for some news professionals, has morphed into a calculated consideration of the entertainment value of war stories, regardless of their factuality.

Maybe Williams and O’Reilly are merely victims of the fallible human brain. Or maybe that hunger to entertainand, perhaps, for a touch of gloryoverwhelmed their professional duty to the facts. What, after all, is more exciting than a war story in which you’re the star.

imagesH6SL6G62The other story I’ve followed has been yet another installment of “Is blogging dead?”  These are articles that I’ve seen a lot of since around three years ago. I guess the collapse of the Andrew Sullivan experiment has brought on another deluge.  The link explores the musings of bloggers from “The Golden Age” which seems an odd way to describe a period of maybe 5 years.  Any way, there are a few bloggers with opinions both ways.  I’ve followed a few of the links including this one from fellow economist/blogger Noah Smith.

In a nutshell, what is dying is the idea of the blog as a news source. In the old days, as a reader, you would have a favorite blogger, who would write many frequent posts throughout the day. That would be your main news source, your portal to current events. Often the post would have a slight bit of commentary or reaction. Basically, you got to hear the world narrated through the voice of someone you liked. For me, those narrators were University of California, Berkeley, economist Brad DeLong and Matt Yglesias, now at Vox. For many, it was Sullivan.

Twitter has basically killed that. With a Twitter feed you can integrate a bunch of different narrators into a single, flowing newsreel. It turns out that most of the micro-commentary that used to accompany a blog post can be squeezed into one or two tweets.

But the thing about micro-blogging is that, well, it’s micro. If you look at the blogs that Klein lists as the future (and there are many, many more), you will see that they all do posts that are about the length of a news article. That’s something Twitter complements, but can’t replicate.

However, that doesn’t mean that blog posts are now just news articles freed from the tyranny of professional editors. With blogs, you can do something that news can’t easily do — you can carry on a conversation.

imagesN5QQ6TZYI have to admit that I have mixed feelings about those declaring blogging to be the refuge of 40 year olds with kids or that nothing relevant happens on blogs these days. Maybe it’s because many of my friends are bloggers. But, I would like to point out that Lamar White–a blogging law student–broke two huge stories in the last year. The first was the shoddy situation with moonlight Congressman–now Senator–Double Bill Cassiday. The LSU med center just audited  whitewashed its findings and Lamar is still on top of it.  His second piece connecting Congressman Steve Scalise to the local white supremacists and David Duke nearly cost Scalise a leadership position.  Indeed, bloggers can frequently do good local investigations which is something local and national media rarely fund any more.

I would agree that blogging is changing but then so are all forms of written communication as well as broadcast media. Chris Cilliza has another notion.

The idea inherent in all of the death knells for blogging is that blogging is any one thing. It’s not. As I explain to anyone who will listen to me  an ever-shrinking populace  a “blog” is simply a publishing medium. It’s a way to put content on the Internet  usually a fast and, relatively, user-friendly way. But, the conflating a publishing medium with a sort of online writing  opinionated, snarky  that tends to be the preferred approach of many of its users is a mistake.

Well, we’re still standing–or sitting as the case may be–while sharing information with each other. We’ve all come a long way since we were booted from various communities for being loyal to Hillary back in 2008. I think there will always be a place for alternative voices. I say this as a former writer of an “underground” newspaper–The Aardvark” from way back in the day.  The medium evolves. The writer’s voice and need to write carries on.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Media Ignorance and Brian Williams’ Flashbulb Memory

Edvard Munch, Winter landscape at Hvitsten, 1918

Edvard Munch, Winter landscape at Hvitsten, 1918

Good Morning!!

I’m still snowed in. I’ve been shoveling for two days, but 40+ inches of snow in a week was just too much for me to handle alone. My sister-in-law was going to come down from New Hampshire today to help me dig out, but it’s snowing again, so she may have to wait until tomorrow. My cold is still hanging on too, so this post may be a little disjointed. I’m going to focus on a “shocking” story about newscaster Brian Williams that broke over the past couple of days. The illustrations I’m are paintings of winter scenes by Edvard Munch.

Yesterday, NBC News anchor Brian Williams was caught telling a false story about being shot down in a helicopter in Iraq. From Politico:

On Friday night’s broadcast, Williams cited “a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG. Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”

One crew member responded to the story on Facebook the following day, writing to Williams, “Sorry dude, I don’t remember you being on my aircraft. I do remember you walking up about an hour after we had landed to ask me what had happened.”

This week, crew members of 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook helicopter also told Stars and Stripes that Williams had not been in the shot-down helicopter but had arrived an hour later.

On Wednesday, Williams conceded that he was not onboard the shot-down helicopter, but he told Stars and Stripes he did not intentionally make the mistake.

“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams said. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”

Edvard Munch, Winter Night with Stars

Edvard Munch, Winter Night with Stars

From Stars and Stripes’ exclusive: NBC’s Brian Williams recants Iraq story after soldiers protest.

Williams made the claim about the incident while presenting NBC coverage of the tribute to the retired command sergeant major at the Rangers game Friday. Fans gave the soldier a standing ovation.

“The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG,” Williams said on the broadcast. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”

Williams and his camera crew were actually aboard a Chinook in a formation that was about an hour behind the three helicopters that came under fire, according to crew member interviews.

That Chinook took no fire and landed later beside the damaged helicopter due to an impending sandstorm from the Iraqi desert, according to Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, who was the flight engineer on the aircraft that carried the journalists.

The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove: Brian Williams’ War Story Is FUBAR.

Unfortunately for Williams, this is not the first time he has made “this mistake” on network television. On the March, 26, 2013 episode of CBS’s Late Show With David Letterman, he told the host (at the 3-minute, 50-second mark): “Two of our four helicopters were hit by ground fire, including the one I was in.”

“No kidding!” Letterman exclaimed.

“RPG and AK-47,” Williams elaborated.

“What altitude were you hit at?” Letterman asked.

“We were only at 100 feet doing 100 forward knots…”

“What happens the minute everybody realizes you’ve been hit?” Letterman asked.

“We figure out how to land safely—and we did,” Williams answered. “We landed very quickly and hard…”

Stars and Stripes left open the possibility that Williams also misreported the incident initially on March 26, 2003, but it turns out that back then, at least, he never claimed to have been aboard the attacked chopper—during two different broadcasts on that date. Television news analyst Andrew Tyndall dipped into his videotape library and screened the Nightly News segment in which Williams said “he was in a convoy of helicopters, one of which got hit,” Tyndall told The Daily Beast.

NBC News, meanwhile, unearthed a March 26, 2003 Dateline segment in which Williams reported: “On the ground, we learn that the Chinook ahead of us was almost blown of the sky.”

Edvard Munch, Workers in the Snow

Edvard Munch, Workers in the Snow

Grove compared Williams’ conflation of events with a story Hillary Clinton told in 2008.

2008 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s false assertion that, as first lady in March 1996, she came under sniper fire during a trip to Tuzla, Bosnia. “I remember landing under sniper fire,” Clinton said during a speech. “There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” CBS News video of Clinton’s arrival showed no such thing; instead she alighted on the tarmac and greeted a welcoming child who offered her a poem.

I would compare Williams’ flub to tales that then presidential candidate Ronald Reagan told about events he recalled that never happened. A famous example from memory expert Daniel Schacter:

In the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan repeatedly told a heartbreaking story of a World War II bomber pilot who ordered his crew to bail out after his plane had been seriously damaged by an enemy hit. His young belly gunner was wounded so seriously that he was unable to evacuate the bomber. Reagan could barely hold back his tears as he uttered the pilot’s heroic response: “Never mind. We’ll ride it down together.” …this story was an almost exact duplicate of a scene in the 1944 film “A Wing and a Prayer.” Reagan had apparently retained the facts but forgotten their source (Schacter 1996, 287).

An even more dramatic error by Reagan was his claim to have been present at the liberation of Auschwitz.

In November 1983, he told Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir during a White House visit that while serving in the U. S. Army film corps, his unit had shot footage of the Nazi concentration camps as they were liberated. He repeated the same tale to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and other witnesses. Reagan had indeed served in the Army and worked on morale-boosting movies for the War Department. But he had done so without ever leaving Hollywood for the entire duration of the war.

Edvard Munch, Winter Night

Edvard Munch, Winter Night

And then there was the story about 9/11 that George W. Bush was repeatedly criticized for–he claimed on that morning he had seen the first plane hit the World Trade Center twin towers before he went into a school for a photo op of him reading to children. But that was impossible, because film of the first tower being hit was not aired until the next day later that day. Here’s Bush’s story quoted in a piece at e-Skeptic by memory expert Daniel Greenberg

I was in Florida. And my chief of staff, Andy Card — actually I was in a classroom talking about a reading program that works. And I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower — the TV was obviously on, and I use[d] to fly myself, and I said, “There’s one terrible pilot.” And I said, “It must have been a horrible accident.” But I was whisked off there — I didn’t have much time to think about it, and I was sitting in the classroom, and Andy Card, my chief who was sitting over here walked in and said, “A second plane has hit the tower. America’s under attack.”

Two weeks later Bush’s story had evolved:

Bush remembers senior adviser Karl Rove bringing him the news, saying it appeared to be an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. In fact it was American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 out of Boston’s Logan International Airport. Based on what he was told, Bush assumed it was an accident. “This is pilot error,” the president recalled saying. “It’s unbelievable that somebody would do this.” Conferring with Andrew H. Card Jr., his White House chief of staff, Bush said, “The guy must have had a heart attack”… At 9:05 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175, also a Boeing 767, smashed into the South Tower of the trade center. Bush was seated on a stool in the classroom when Card whispered the news: “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.”

Edvard Munch, Yellow Log

Edvard Munch, Yellow Log

The fact is that memory errors like these are quite common. Human memory is not perfect–we tend to get basic facts right, but when we retell a memory again and again or even go over it in our minds, specific details can change. There are a number of ways this can happen. We can forget the source of a memory, as Ronald Reagan did with the movie scene he believed to be real. It’s also comment to retroactively alter a memory, as Bush did with his 9/11 flashbulb memory. That is caused by “interference.” I doubt that Williams deliberately lied about his flashbulb memory from Iraq. Why would he put his reputation at risk in that way? Most likely, he conflated his memories with other things he learned later about the event that made a strong impression on him at the time.

You can read more about false flashbulb memories in this scholarly article by Greenberg (pdf): President Bush’s False ‘Flashbulb’ Memory of 9/11/01. A flashbulb memory is a very vivid recall of a dramatic event in which we have a sense “remembering” exactly where we were and who we were with when we experience or heard about the event.

Back to the Williams story.

At Slate, Ben Matthis Lilly provides a detailed timeline of the various stories Brian Williams has told about his 2003 experience over the years. The initial story Williams told in 2003 was also inaccurate, according to soldier witnesses, but Williams still claims his original report was true.

In the initial account (given on both the Nightly News and a Dateline episode on March 26, 2003), Williams clearly states that he was part of a group of helicopters that was fired upon while performing a mission:

We are one of four Chinook helicopters flying north this morning, third in line. As we head toward the drop point the Iraqi landscape looks quiet. We can see a convoy of American troop carriers and supply vehicles heading north.

This 2003 account, like Williams’ apology, implies the helicopters landed together after ground fire:

All four choppers dropped their load and landed immediately.

However, Stars and Stripes‘ piece says unequivocally that Williams’ helicopter was not part of the group that was fired upon—not third in line, and not part of the line at all.

…Crew members on the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire told Stars and Stripes that the NBC anchor wasnowhere near that aircraft or two other Chinooks flying in the formation that took fire. Williams arrived in the area about an hour later on another helicopter after the other three had made an emergency landing, the crew members said.

The soldiers quoted by Stars and Stripes say that they recall being upset at the time by the inaccuracies in this 2003 version of events.

Edvard Munch, New Snow on the Avenue

Edvard Munch, New Snow on the Avenue

But do these soldiers really recall being upset in 2003? We can’t know for sure, because they didn’t tell their stories in public at the time.

I’m sure Brian Williams will continue to be attacked for his false memory. He might even lose his job over it, because lazy reporters would never consider consulting a psychologist who actually conducts research on human memory errors and their causes. Here’s Eric Wemple’s evaluation of Williams’ apology at the Washington Post:

That’s a very nice admission, though “conflating” the experience of taking incoming fire with the experience of not taking incoming fire seems verily impossible.

It might seem “verily impossible” to Wemple, but it isn’t impossible at all. It’s not even surprising to anyone who knows anything about how human memory works. I have no way of knowing for sure whether Williams lied or not; but if I had to guess, I think it’s more likely that he inadvertently created a false memory.

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts on the Brian Williams story and/or your recommended links in the comment thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Immigration Facts and Ferguson Fears

Vivien Leigh reads

Good Afternoon!!

 

President Obama’s executive action on immigration tops the news today. Ferguson is a close second. I’ll be focusing mostly on those two stories in this post.

Immigration

Before I get started, I want to point you to a new post by Darren Hutchinson of Dissenting Justice. It will give you some reality-based ammunition to deal with crazy wingnut friends, relatives, and Facebook and Twitter followers.

FACTS: President Obama’s Immigration Policies Are Absolutely LEGAL.

ATTENTION: Before you can argue that the government has violated a law, you must actually READ the law.

FACT: Congress has the exclusive power to pass laws regarding immigration (U.S. Const. Article I, Section 8, Cl. 4).FACT: Executive Power of the US is vested in the President, which means the President, not Congress, executes the immigration laws (U.S. Const. Article II, Sect. 1, Cl. 1)….

FACT: Consistent with the Constitution, the INA gives the Executive Branch (President, Homeland Security, Attorney General, and Secretary of State) the power to enforce immigration laws (8 U.S.C. Sect. 1103-1104)….

FACT: The Executive Can “Cancel” the Removal of Certain Deportable Individuals. 
The INA allows the Attorney General to cancel removal (deportation) or adjust the status of certain categories of undocumented individuals. The statute explicitly spells out the criteria for doing so. Thus, the statute provides an “intelligible criteria” for the Attorney General to follow. (8 U.S.C. Section 1229b(a)-(b))….

The Executive Can Give Temporary Protected Status to Certain Deportable Individuals. The INA also allows the Attorney General to grant “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS) to deportable individuals from certain countries that the Attorney General has placed on a TPS list. As required by Supreme Court doctrine, the INA gives SPECIFIC guidelines – or an intelligible principle – for the Attorney General to follow when determining whether to give TPS designation to a country. The statutory factors include serious conditions in the individual’s home country, like armed conflict; natural disasters; a request for temporary protected status by the country; or “extraordinary and temporary conditions” that preclude the safe return of the individual, so long as TPS does not conflict with the interests of the US.
(8 U.S.C. Sections 1254a-i)

Those are the highlights. There’s more at the link. I plan to save Hutchinson’s post for future reference. I’m thinking of printing it out in case I get in a political argument with my brother over Thanksgiving dinner.

jimmy stewart reads in bed

Obama has been vilified from day one by people who obviously have never read the Constitution or any U.S. laws dealing with their various political hobby horses, and I’m sick and tired of it.

You all know I not a fan of Obama when he ran for president in 2008, and I still think he’s a conservative technocrat who is far to willing to support privatization of public services. But he is the President of the United States now. I support his efforts to reform immigration laws. He’s only taking executive action because Congress is full of stupid and irrational people who are too lazy or stubborn to cooperate with him. Sadly, the DC media is largely made up of wealthy, privileged people who got their jobs because through nepotism and/or because they attended elite universities and are too lazy or stupid to provide accurate information to the public. Therefore, people who don’t focus on politics like we do get false information from TV news or “journalists” who do not understand what journalism is.

Rant over.

A few more links on the immigration story:

Washington Post Wonkblog, Flow chart: Who qualifies for Obama’s immigration offer?

The president’s executive action would delay deportation for the undocumented mother of a child born in the U.S. on Thursday — but not an undocumented mother who gave birth here one day later. Similarly, the president has offered deferrals to children brought to this country by their parents before their 16th birthday — but not a few weeks after.

Such deadlines serve a purpose: They’re meant to discourage new immigrants from coming in the future, or to dissuade women already here from giving birth with the goal of securing deferrals. But they also show that the president’s action falls far short of a comprehensive solution. It offers, instead, a fragmented answer that will leave many immigrants disappointed.

Check out the flow chart at the link for details.

liz-taylor_steve-mcqueen

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, Bringing perspective to Obama’s move on deportations.

Now that President Obama has announced his executive action to temporarily shield millions from deportation, confirming the administration’s view that this move is well within his authority, the battle now shifts to a political fight over the policy itself, and over whether it violates “political norms.” Is this action so provocative an affront to Congress that it sets a precedent for future GOP presidents to use discretion to selectively enforce laws liberals like?

Embedded in the legal opinion that the Office of Legal Counsel released to justify the move is an important nugget that should, in theory, help take the steam out of the idea that this move is a flagrant violation of political norms.

Obama’s action temporarily shields from deportation the parents of children who are U.S. citizens and legal residents, and also expands the program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to protect people brought here illegally as children. But it excludes parents of DACA recipients.

The reason for this offered by the OLC memo is that protecting parents of legal residents is in line with Congressional intent, as expressed in statute, while protecting DACA parents isn’t:

[T]he parents of DACA recipients are differently situated from the parents of U.S. citizens and LPRs [Legal Permanent Residents] under the family-related provisions of the immigration law. Many provisions of the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] reflect Congress’ general concern about separating individuals who are legally entitled to live in the United States and their immediate family members….But the immigration laws do not express comparable concern for uniting persons who lack lawful status (or prospective lawful status in the United States with their families…Extending deferred action to the parents of DACA recipients would therefore expand family-based immigration relief in a manner that deviates in important respects from the immigration system Congress has enacted.

This legal opinion probably precludes any future expansion of this program to cover parents of DACA recipients. And it underscores two things: First, that the proposal is heavily focused on providing relief from humanitarian hardship endured by U.S. citizens and permanent residents, a longtime intention of Congress, as expressed in statute. Second, it shows that the proposal’s legal rationale is tightly circumscribed to reflect that Congressional intent.

Follow me below the fold for much more . . .
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Tuesday Reads: Obvious Misogyny (at least to us anyway)

Good Morning!barbarella-1968--01

I avoid pop culture whenever possible. I admit to being an effete snob about the music, the fashion, the sheeplike behavior of the entire thing. Sometimes, pop culture just forces itself on you to the point you have to just sit down and ask yourself WTF were they thinking? So, with that and a series of face palms, I direct your attention to obvious misogyny with definite agist and racial overtones. Nothing breaks the internet quite like some one who just refuses to see what they’ve done.

So, first up is an ad that’s attacking Senator Mary Landrieu that just makes me want to scream bloody murder.  I’m really tired of the entire ploy to make older women irrelevant.  This definitely falls into this category and the boyz behind it are like “what, sexist and agist, who me?”

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is denouncing an attack ad against her as being sexist because it shows her aging.

The ad, paid for by the Ending Spending Action Fund, suggests Washington has changed Landrieu, 58, over time and uses the age progression to illustrate that change.

Landrieu campaign spokesperson Fabien Levy called the ad “appalling.” He said it’s an example of Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy and his allies distracting from the issues.

“It is appalling that Congressman Cassidy and his allies would illustrate the senator’s age progression with a leading phrase that Washington has ‘changed’ her,” Levy said. “The ad is as classless as it is sexist, and Congressman Cassidy and his allies should remove [it] from television immediately.”

It’s hard to know what to say to below the belt optics like this that play into the idea of how a woman of a certain age–past the change–is all used up.  I see it. Do you?  Of course, we’ve seen this and many other sexist tropes applied to Hillary Clinton and I’m getting prepared for a lot more. 

Let me first be transparent here: I’m a Republican, and I’d like nothing more than to see Clinton go down in flames. And, as a recent front-page story in The New York Times noted, many in my party are already seeking to label the former first lady a “has-been” by virtue of her decades on the political stage.

Their case is as follows: Clinton has been in the spotlight in one form or another since the late 1970s when her husband, Bill, first became attorney general in their home state of Arkansas at the age of 30. Ironically, as Times reporter Jonathan Martin pointed out, it was Bill’s youthfulness that propelled him to the Arkansas governorship and later the presidency. Now, it could be the inverse that puts the brakes on the Hillary freight train.

There is undoubtedly a lot of spin in this new anti-Clinton narrative. But there are indeed signs that the baby boomers are going to have a tough time winning another presidential race.

That is a really stale link to an article titled “Hillary Clinton is too Old to be President”.

tumblr_inline_nf521tI78n1ri3npoThe next thing up is one ESA scientist who has all the sympathy the dudebro crowd can muster.  He did a major interview about the Rosetta project while wearing a Hawaiian shirt.  I generally expect scientists to be quirky so that doesn’t bother me at all.  What bothered me and many other women is that it was bedecked with the stereotypical male fantasy of a submissive, naked female in fetish wear with space guns.  You won’t believe the deep denial of the dudebro crowd on this one.  I kept seeing nerd guys acting like women were upset because NAKED!  Dude, it’s not the lack of clothes.  It’s the impossible body image, the obvious visual references–repeatedly–to the submissive woman, and the overall lack of awareness of the wearer who should know that women frequently feel pushed out of career areas where this kind of subtle, perpetual sexual harassment happens.  The scientist cried when he figured it out but the dudebro crowed continues to call us the new puritans because we’d rather have a more female-centric idea of our bodies and expressions of our sexuality.  I see it.  Do you?

Dr. Matt Taylor, one of European Space Agency scientists responsible for landing a spacecraft, on the surface of a comet, offered a tearful apology today for his tasteless choice in button-downs. On a streamed Google Hangout, hosted by the ESA, Dr. Taylor said he was “very sorry” and called wearing the shirt “a big mistake.”

In a post Philae landing-interview, Dr. Taylor was wearing a Hawaiian-style shirt covered with scantily clad women. Many picked up on this outfit choice, and were understandably outraged. A deluge of tweets and responses spilled onto the Internet. (In an aside there was the not shocking discovery that women who tweeted displeasure with the shirt were attacked, and men who tweeted criticism of the shirt were not.)

The shirt itself is pretty tasteless. The women on it are another reinforcement of our icky societal standard of beauty; the women are celebrated for their sex appeal. And the fact that Taylor thought that this was appropriate could point to the fact that he doesn’t work with enough women, or that he lacks the judgement to see how this could be offensive. Both are serious and issues.

Young girls are discouraged from the sciences (myself included, but that is a different story). There is also a huge terrible dearth of women in STEM fields, and when women are in those fields they must often contend with harassment, sexism and unequal pay. Because even if a woman does make it through the pipeline into STEM, they are not treated properly.

The shirt was more than just nearly naked women.

However, I think there is a bigger problem. I’ll admit I don’t know the full gender breakdown of every scientist who worked on the Rosetta mission (and I searched for a list). However, watching the livestream of the Philae landing, during the MattTaylorvictory speeches I saw microphone passed from man, to man, to man, and a female master of ceremonies (who had to call someone out for flirting). And on the Google Hangout, where Taylor made his apology, there were two women: one was the moderator, and one lone female scientist. That is a problem.

Hey little girls!  Welcome to your  STEM career where we constantly remind you that your role as a space engineer is to be Barbarella!!!

o-SEXY-PHD-900Perhaps you’d like a sexy Ph.D costume to go with that doctorate in astrophysics?  Yes, yes, I am a humorless feminist on this one.  (h/t to Delphyne for this one.)

The “Delicious Women’s Ph.D Darling Sexy Costume,” available on Amazon, features a “micro mini graduation robe” and cap, but you’ll have to provide your own high heels.

Women who actually hold Ph.Ds have started reviewing the costume, and their responses are nothing short of incredible. Here are eight of the best responses:

1. This costume doesn’t live up to its name. — Alyssa Picard

Sleeves are too short & have no stripes. Costume does not feature a hood. This is a “sexy BA” at best.

2. This product definitely helps women with Ph.Ds feel sexier. – Dawn Rouse

Like all lady Ph.Ds, I frequently ask myself: “How could I be sexier?”

Delicious costumes has come to my rescue! I can now lecture in my 5 inch gold spiked heels and “barely there” regalia while giving nary a thought to the male gaze and its implications on the prevalence of rape culture in our society.

I fully expect my chili pepper rating on RMP to go through the roof once I begin to greet my students in this costume. Hopefully I can keep my “post structural hegemonies” from engaging in some wardrobe malfunctions. Then again, who cares?

I’m sexy! Forget about the 7 years I spent sweating out a dissertation and engaging in innovative research!

SEXY!!!!

3. The perfect outfit for showing off one’s accomplishments. — Mary from MN

When I left my nursing job for graduate school, I was so distressed. I mean what was I going to wear? There were plenty of sexy nurse costumes that I could wear to honor my accomplishments in that profession, but after I attained my PhD there was something missing. I was better educated, but not sexy. Until now. Thank you, Delicious Costumes, for filling the void. You’ve given women like me who have worked our asses off earning our degrees a way to show our asses off, too. Keep it classy, Amazon.

4. Why wasn’t this available in the ’90s? – Elizabeth P. Mackenzie

I got my Ph.D. in 1997. If only I had known about this costume. I would have worn it to liven up my doctoral defense. Instead of my committee focusing on the boring experiment they made me do over the course of several years and giving me a three hour long exam, I could have worn this, popped out of a cake, batted my eye lids asked adorably, “Puwease let me have a Ph.D.? I’ve been so good.”

Also, math is hard.

5. Perfect for all graduate student activities! — Tracy L. Brock

Wow! Super-slinky yet surprisingly comfortable for those long nights lounging around grading poorly organized undergrad essays. Thanks to my five-year diet of ramen noodles and caffeine pills, the xs/s size fits me like a glove. I’ve never felt sexier–or smarter!

6. This outfit failed to get me tenure. Would not recommend. — PassionPhD

I spent 6 years working hard to get my PhD, which was extra hard because I am a lady, and it hurt my ovaries to think so much. After obtaining this advanced degree, the only position I could secure, like the majority in my field, was an adjunct position teaching for less than $2000 a course. Then I got this LadyPhD regalia and my life immediately changed! My department, full of esteemed and very prestigious senior male tenured faculty, saw me walking in the hall, invited me into the department meeting, and right there on the spot, immediately voted to make me a TENURED FULL PROFESSOR.

Sadly, the next morning, I found out it was NOT a faculty meeting that I had wandered into, just professors having an office cocktail party and I was not tenured after all. I WANT MY MONEY BACK. I have student loans to pay off!!

Here are some twitter comments on the Taylor shirt to check out what women and supportive men were saying.   You can go find the stunned misogynist comments on your own.

Okay, so here it is.  This is the one topic that I really didn’t want to write about but am doing it any way.  The obviously photoshopped, distorted picture of Kim Kardashian’s body was last week’s topic.  But, I’ve finally decided I want to take it on.  Again, champagne1it’s not about the nudity.  It’s not about her being a mother and being nude or sexual.  It’s the overt misogyny with an objectification of a distorted female form that’s the problem. Kim obviously is a willing participant in all of this and seems to thrive on being the subject–or object–of voyeurism.

The problem is that her photos are just the latest run at an old theme from an artist that has used similar pictures to objectify black women as willing exotic savages all ready for pillage. So, here we go with the Kim Kardasian Butt Saga.

The photographer responsible for the image is Jean-Paul Goude, and there’s more to know about him than that he’s “French” and “legendary.” Both those things are also true, but there’s this too: his artistic history is fraught with justified accusations of objectifying and exoticizing black women’s bodies. This isn’t a tangent of his work –- it’s what his entire oeuvre is built upon. It’s not a coincidence that his 1983 pictorial autobiography is titled Jungle Fever. “Blacks are the premise of my work,” the artist told People magazine in 1979, “I have jungle fever.”

To create his exoticized images, Goude would photograph black women in poses which ranged from athletic to primitive. He would then literally cut the image into pieces and reassemble it to create something even more formidable. You can see how he pulled off the pre-photoshop manipulation via the infamous photo he created of Grace Jones, with whom he had a turbulent relationship in the ’80s, for the artist’s now-iconic Island Life album cover:

grace3

Criticizing Kim’s cover because “it’s Photoshopped” is missing the point of his art. As Goude said of the Jones cover, “…unless you are extraordinarily supple, you cannot do this arabesque. The main point is that Grace couldn’t do it, and that’s the basis of my entire work: creating a credible illusion.”

Paper is wrongly attributing the inspiration for Kim Kardashian’s cover to a vintage Goude photo called “Champagne Incident.” The photo is actually 1976′s “Carolina Beaumont,” and it’s about more than balancing skills. An innocent mistake perhaps, but the fact that Beaumont is being literally obscured by it seems sadly appropriate.

So, this has not gone unnoticed in places where racism and sexism matter.

So last night while everyone else was arguing over Kim’s K’s right to show her butt, my focus was on something else entirely. When I looked at the spread all I saw was a not so subtle reincarnation of Saartjie Baartman – imagery that is steeped in centuries of racism, oppression and misogyny. For those who don’t know who she is, here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman (before 1790 – 29 December 1815 (also spelled Bartman, Bartmann, Baartmen) was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as freak show attractions in 19th-century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus—”Hottentot” as the then-current name for the Khoi people, now considered an offensive term, and “Venus” in reference to the Roman goddess of love.

Saartjie was a woman whose large buttocks brought her questionable fame and caused her to spend much of her life being poked and prodded as a sexual object in a freak show.

Saartjie Baartman called the Hottentot Venus (from Namibia ) Credit: (Apic/Contributor)

Sound familiar?

But something tells me Kim probably has no clue about the cultural and historic significance of what she’s done. Instead, she probably just thought it would be cool to do an edgy photo shoot with famous photographer. And many of you have fallen for that oversimplified stance as well.

I’m the first to admit that some of the work that Jean-Paul Goude has done over the past 30 years has become iconic, particularly his work with his (then-girlfriend) Grace Jones. But the one he chose to recreate for Paper Magazine is problematic for several reasons.

The original shot is of a black woman standing in front of a blue wall while she pops champagne into a glass placed on her rear end. And it’s from a book entitled: Jungle Fever.

Let that soak in for a second. Jungle. Fever.

According to a People Magazine article written about the couple in 1979:

Jean-Paul has been fascinated with women like Grace since his youth. The son of a French engineer and an American-born dancer, he grew up in a Paris suburb. From the moment he saw West Side Story and the Alvin Ailey dance troupe, he found himself captivated by “ethnic minorities—black girls, PRs. I had jungle fever.” He now says, “Blacks are the premise of my work.”

This is a man who boldly told news reporters that his black girlfriend was a “schizo… outrageous bitch”and that at times he would get hysterical and explode in violence during their arguments.

You can learn more about the artist here. 

Though he was criticized at the time—and still is—for exoticizing African-American women in his work, a claim that wasn’t helped by his book Jungle Fever, Goude’s images of Grace Jones at least presented her as a strong female. In some ways, they were arguably feminist, with Goude broadening her shoulders and lengthening her neck so she appeared to be towering over the viewer. It’s also hard to imagine Grace Jones, an innovator who did it all—production, recording, singing, acting, modeling—not being in full control of her image. (In the case of “Carolina Beaumont,” the original image is certainly a conversation starter about race and femininity but, judging from that photo, the model looks like she’s having just as much of a good time as Kim K.)

Arguably feminist?  Discuss!

Yes, here we are again in a time still promoting body dysmorphia for women. It just makes me damned mad.  But then, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading why feminism isn’t necessary and what it’s terrible because men are the real victims of sexism like that poor scientist and his Groovy shirt.  I personally feel like I just wrote part deux to my 1975 Feminist Philosophy class midterm essay during my sophomore year of university.  Really! This still? Really?

Will it ever end?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Governor, Police, and Media Stoke Fears of Riots in Ferguson

 King reads2Good Afternoon!

A Grand Jury decision is imminent in the Michael Brown shooting case in Ferguson, Missouri. For the past couple of weeks the media has been full of reports of how police departments in the St. Louis area are preparing for what they predict will be violent protests.

The general assumption is that Ferguson police officer, who killed Brown at about noon on August 9, will not be charged. The simple truth is that white police officer who kill black people are rarely charged and almost never convicted. Furthermore, the LA Times reports that law enforcement officers who kill citizens in Missouri are given “wide latitude.”

Missouri law provides wide latitude for police to use deadly force, particularly if the officer believes it’s necessary to protect his or her safety or the safety of others.

But that law might not shield Wilson. “If Michael Brown was trying to surrender at the time, that makes this defense not applicable,” Washington University law professor Peter Joy said. “So the question is: Was Michael Brown clearly trying to surrender at the time that the fatal gunshots were fired?”

Several witnesses who saw the shooting reported that Brown’s hands were in the air when Darren Wilson shot and killed him, but, as far as I can tell, most media sources recently have changed the narrative to the police version–not based on direct observation–in which Wilson supposedly feared for his life because the unarmed Brown “charged” at him after being hit with at least two bullets.

There is another investigation by the Justice Department into whether Darren Wilson violated Michael Brown’s civil rights, but

Joy said a federal indictment seemed unlikely, at least according to the publicly reported accounts of the shooting thus far.

“That would require that Officer Wilson intentionally planned or intentionally meant to violate the civil rights — that is, take the life of — Michael Brown because of his race,” Joy said.

The media narrative has gradually been revised since August, when we saw what were essentially police riots in which Ferguson and St. Louis police used military surplus equipment to control peaceful protesters and reporters and photographers who were covering events on the ground. Now we’re repeatedly being told that Brown was the aggressor, with the unwritten implication that he deserved to die.  Back in August, some law enforcement officers threatened to kill protesters and even arrested numerous members of the media who were simply doing their jobs.  But that’s all forgotten now. Now the corporate media appears to be fully behind the Ferguson and St. Louis police; and both the police and the media are preparing for what they expect–and apparently hope–will be violent and dangerous riots.

Moneta Sleet Jr./Ebony Collection

Since the Grand Jury decision may come very soon, I thought I’d gather the latest updates on this important story for today’s post. I’ll admit up front that I’m not an nonpartisan observer in this case.

First, the LA Times article I linked to above has a good summary of the two sides to the story of the shooting, Back Story: What happened in Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo.?

Also from the LA Times, a report of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s recent announcement about government preparations for what he apparently assumes will be riots, National Guard on call if Ferguson grand jury decision triggers violence.

The National Guard will be ready to assist law enforcement in Missouri if unrest erupts after a grand jury announces whether to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday.

“Violence will not be tolerated,” Nixon said at a news conference with officials from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County police and St. Louis Metropolitan police. The governor said the agencies would form a unified command to deal with protests. “Residents and businesses of this region will be protected,” Nixon said….

Nixon said that the rights of peaceful protesters would be respected but that officials would have no tolerance for violent agitation. “Our dual pillars here are safety and speech,” Nixon said in the televised news conference from St. Louis. The National Guard, he said, would be available “when we determine it is necessary to support local law enforcement.”

Nixon added: “The world is watching.”

Photo of Martin Luther King Jr

Nixon did not say whether there have been any efforts to diffuse anger on the part of local police officers or prevent more police overreactions to peaceful protests.

The story also quoted St. Louis police chief Jon Belmar.

“The community is on edge. … There is a large sense of anxiety out there. This is a little unprecedented,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters in a televised news conference. Belmar added: “If you talk to chiefs around the country [as I have], they’re concerned and prepared for this to perhaps lap into their communities also.”

Gee, I wonder why? Could it be because police shootings of unarmed black men are so common in this country? Belmar also defended the use of military equipment to control protests.

Belmar defended the agency’s response by saying that such gear was necessary for his officers’ protection and pointed out that no protesters lost their lives during August’s demonstrations, which were occasionally marred by looting and gunshots. “My goodness, could we be that fortunate moving forward?” Belmar said of the absence of fatalities.

The St. Louis County Police Department has spent about $120,000 to replenish equipment such as shields, batons, tear gas and flex handcuffs after weeks of unrest in the aftermath of the shooting depleted supplies and damaged equipment.

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Here are some recent examples of white policemen shooting unarmed black men:

The New Republic, A Dash Cam Didn’t Stop This White Officer From Shooting an Unarmed Black Man (fortunately, this officer was arrested and charged. Whether he’ll be convicted or not, we don’t know yet)

Mother Jones, August 13, 2014, 4 Unarmed Black Men Have Been Killed By Police in the Last Month.

Here’s piece on this subject by Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, The terrifying police shootings of unarmed black men.

One of the burdens of being a black male is carrying the heavy weight of other people’s suspicions. One minute you’re going about your life, the next you could be pleading for it, if you’re lucky. That’s what happened to Trayvon Martin in February 2012 and Michael Brown last month. And two other recent shootings add further proof that no standard of conduct, it seems, is too good or too mundane to protect a black man’s life particularly from a police officer’s bullet.

John Crawford III was talking on his cell phone in the Beavercreek, Ohio, Wal-Mart and carrying an unloaded BB air rifle he picked up in the superstore on Aug. 5. “There is a gentleman walking around with a gun in the store,” Ronald Ritchie told the 911 operator. “Yeah, he’s, like, pointing at people….He’s looking around, waving it, waving it back and forth….He looked like he was trying to load it. I don’t know.” Fair warning: As the graphic video shows, Crawford was shot and killed by police. Ritchie has since changed his account of what happened.

You can watch the video at the link. Capehart also discusses the Brown case and the case in South Carolina (story linked above).

Levar Jones was pulled over for a seat-belt violation by now-former South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert on Sept. 4. Thanks to the startling and graphic dashcam video we get to see every African American’s worst nightmare unfold in seconds….

Groubert asks Jones, “Can I see your license, please?” Jones, who was standing outside his car at the gas station convenience store, turned and reached inside to retrieve it. “Get out of the car! Get out of the car!” Groubert shouts before opening fire on Jones at point-blank range. After being hit in the hip, Jones can be seen moving backwards away from his car with his hands in the air as two more shots ring out.

injustice2

Instead of using these recent cases to highlight and deal with the problem of police shootings of unarmed people, it seems that local and state governments like those in Missouri are simply doubling down on the people who protest them. I’m really concerned that all the talk of “riots” being inevitable in Ferguson is going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Caitlin Dickson of The Daily Beast reports that at least one expert agrees with me: Riot Prep Could Fuel Ferguson Violence.

Despite a concerted police effort to quell demonstrations, protesters have carried on consistently and, for the most part, calmly since Brown’s death at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson this past August. But the impending grand jury decision on whether Wilson will be indicted in Brown’s death—and leaks of evidence suggesting he won’t—has law enforcement, residents, and business owners preparing for violence on the streets.

In addition to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s announcement on Tuesday that the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis Metropolitan police, and the St. Louis County police will join forces (with the National Guard on standby) in handling demonstrations following the grand jury decision, almost every national news organization—from CNN to The New York Times, the Associated Press and Reuters—has reported that Ferguson residents and business owners have been taking matters into their own hands. Gun sales are up, local gun-shop owners told reporters. People like Dan McMullen, whose insurance agency is located near a spot where the few instances of vandalism and looting took place following Brown’s death, was quoted by both the New York Times and CNN as saying he’s stocking up on guns in case of a riot….

Despite Governor Nixon’s declarations that “violence will not be tolerated” and “residents and businesses of this region will be protected,” some experts wonder whether all the emphasis on preparedness—from the $120,000 spent by the St. Louis County Police on riot gear to the sudden demand for guns—may do more harm than good.

“I don’t think this is the way we should be thinking about what might happen,” American University professor Cathy Schneider told The Daily Beast.  Instead, Schneider, who is an expert on social movements and racial tensions, argues that what we should be thinking about is, ‘how do we convince a community that the police will act to serve them, that the justice system will defend their interests, and that the verdict will be just?” [….]

“If one side is buying guns and preparing, what do you think the other people are doing, who think those guns are going to be used against them?” Schneider asked. Instead of acknowledging that Ferguson’s black community “is in pain and wondering whether justice will be done,” Schneider said, such intense preparation sends the message that “we think your community is dangerous and we’re armed and prepared to kill you.”

King reads5

It also doesn’t help that Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson–who should have been fired by now–has announced that Darren Wilson, the man who killed Michael Brown, will be welcomed back to the local force if he isn’t indicted by the Grand Jury.

Here’s an excellent op-ed by Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star: The fire next time … may engulf Ferguson, Mo.

By every indication — from both the street and civic offices — Ferguson, Missouri is expected to blow.

The grand jury decision on whether a white police officer will be charged in the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old black man could come any day. Many are expecting no indictment of the officer, no criminal charges alleging that he went too far the day Michael Brown died.

If that’s the outcome, God help us all. Keeping the lid on the public reaction will be a gargantuan task.

Of course local leaders fed the outrage from the very beginning by trying to protect Darren Wilson and by leaving Michael Brown’s body lying exposed in the street for four hours.

Sanchez refers back to the riots in Los Angeles in 1965 as well as those in 1992 after the failure to indict police who beat Rodney King within an inch of his life. Why don’t government leaders deal with the root problems at work in these cases?

In Watts nearly 50 years ago the name was Marquette Frye, not Michael Brown. Frye, 21, was pulled over in a traffic stop, suspected of being drunk. When other family members arrived, a fight broke out with police. Word spread, alleging police had over-reacted.

For six days people rioted. There were 34 deaths, more than 1,000 people injured, $40 million in property damage and more than 1,000 buildings were destroyed.

In 1992, the person at the center was Rodney King. He’d led police on a high-speed car chase, fleeing after fearing that his probation would be revoked from a robbery conviction. When he finally was stopped, what happened next shocked the nation. The video of the officers assaulting King without mercy when they could have simply handcuffed him was played over and over on television.

When those officers weren’t indicted, the city erupted again. This time, 53 people died, more than 2,000 were injured, the property damage was pegged at $1 billion and another 1,000 buildings were destroyed.

In both cases, commissions were formed and good people went to work unraveling how one incident could ignite such violence. The underlying causes were found to be similar despite the nearly 30 years that had passed: the burdens of poor education, lack of jobs, poverty, racial tensions, and inferior housing and transportation.

Sanchez goes on to recommend changes that local and state governments will most likely either ignore or respond to with lip service.

Martin Luther King Jr Day Pic

We’ve seen over the past several years that virulent racism is alive and well in this country, and we simply are not dealing with it.

This nation was founded on the enslavement of black people, and despite the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, efforts to desegregate schools, and affirmative action, black people are still treated as second class citizens by many Americans. A number of states have even instituted voter ID laws that essentially act as poll taxes did in the Jim Crow era to keep black people from voting, and the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of states to do this.

We are now on the verge of another flashpoint in the history of race conflicts in our country–the possibility of violence following a failure to punish Darren Wilson for essentially ignoring the humanity of black teenager Michael Brown.

When will it end?

A few more reads to check out if you’re interested:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Protesters prepare for the worst in Ferguson.

Huffington Post, Beyond the Indictments: Black and Brown Deaths at the Hands of Police Are a Crisis Boiling Over.

Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ferguson Under Indictment.

Juan Williams at Fox News, Are liberal news outlets begging for a race riot in Ferguson?

Ben Swann, Michael Brown’s Parents Testify Before UN Committee Against Torture.

Michael Martinez at CNN, Ferguson case raises question: Where’s the data on officer-involved killings?

Christian Science Monitor, Ferguson verdict: Why St. Louis schools will know first.

AP via Boston Globe, Churches prepare for possible Ferguson unrest

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


Super-Lazy Saturday Reads

Avengers read

Good Morning!!

Just three more days until election day. The political pundits are hammering us day after day with the news that a Republican-controlled Senate is a foregone conclusion.That’s why I liked the NYT piece by Nate Cohn that Dakinikat included in her post yesterday on how the polls under-count Democratic voters. Cohn claims the inaccuracies may not be as important this year, because young voters and minority voters may not bother to vote. But what if he’s wrong? Democrats are making concerted efforts to turn out African American voters, and Democrats are traditionally better at getting out the vote.

Cohn’s article was based on an analysis at Huffington Post, which found that polls underestimated Democratic results in 2010 Senate races by 3.1 percent. The polls also underestimated President Obama’s vote totals in 2012. A number of important Senate races are close enough to be within the polls’ margin of error, so we really do have some reasons for hope. Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy on October 16:

For the last four weeks, HuffPost’s poll tracking model has given Republicans slightly better than a 50/50 probability of winning a majority in the Senate, largely on the basis of leads of 3 percent or less by Republican candidates in critical states like Iowa, Colorado and Arkansas. On TuesdayHuffPollster noted the real potential for late shifts or polling errors of the same magnitude, a possibility that explains why considerable uncertainty remains about our current forecast of a Republican takeover.

RealClearPolitics election analyst Sean Trende added more data on this issue Thursday morning, sharing an analysis showing that polling leads of 1 to 2 percentage points in the final three weeks of the election translate into victory just over 60 percent of the time. Even candidates with leads of 3 to 4 percentage points sometimes end up behind on Election Day.

“Be wary of Senate polls,” Emory University political science professor Alan Abramowitz tweeted on Tuesday, adding that the RealClearPolitics Senate race polling averages in 2010 “underestimated D performance in all 7 tossup states.” HuffPollster data scientist Natalie Jackson checked the backtesting conducted on our current model and the same result. Our final run of the model before the 2010 election would have underestimated the performance of Democratic candidates in all seven of the Senate races rated as late toss-ups, and would have miscalled winners in two states, Nevada and Colorado.

We also looked at the the prior midterm election in 2006, and found a similar pattern. The polling model understated the Democratic performance in five of seven races rated as late toss-ups (we used the Cook Political Report classifications for both years. Cook and RealClearPolitics rated the same seven states as toss-ups on 2010).

Brando readsHere’s another article by the same authors, published yesterday: How The Senate Polls Could Be Wrong.

With less than a week remaining before Election Day, HuffPost’s poll tracking model continues to report roughly the same forecast for control of the U.S. Senate as it has for the past two weeks: The polling averages show Republicans leading at least nominally in enough states to gain a 53-seat majority. The margins remain close enough, however, that the overall probability of a Republican majority is just 63 percent as of this writing. In other words, polling shows the Senate battle leaning Republican, but there is still a real potential that Democrats could hang on due to late shifts or polling errors. So how could these polling averages be wrong?

The biggest problem for pollsters is reaching people who use cell phones and have no land line. It’s often assumed that only young people do this, but I’m an old lady and I got rid of my land line years ago. There must be others like me.

…the approaches many pollsters are using to attempt to reach the cell-only population remain unproven and, effectively, experimental. Pollsters that use an automated, recorded voice methodology are barred by federal law from dialing cell phones, and many are relying on interviews conducted over the Internet to make up the difference. Live interviewer phone polls conducted at the state level in 2014 are mostly using samples drawn from cell phone directories compiled by data vendors — methods that may have their own limitations.

More important, the missing cell-phone-only voters may have been only part of the problem. Another theory is that the questions most media pollsters use to identify likely voters missed less enthusiastic Democrats who ultimately turned out to vote. In some polls, that pattern was evident in sample compositions that understated non-white voters.

The state with the greatest potential to see a repeat of these problems is Colorado, where polls understated Democratic candidates by 2 to 3 percentage points the last two elections, and two additional factors could lead to a repeat in 2014. First is the unique challenge of reaching Colorado’s Spanish speaking Latino voters, who tend to be more Democratic than those more fluent in English. Second, the state shifted to all-mail voting in 2014, with every registered voter automatically receiving a ballot via U.S. mail. Political scientists who studied similar shifts in Washington State found that a shift to all-mail voting produced a 2 to 4 percentage point increase in turnout, with the largest increases occurring among “lower participating registrants,” in particular those who had previously voted only in presidential elections. In Colorado and elsewhere, these “drop off voters” are the primary targets of the massive Democratic get-out-the-vote campaign.

Billie Holliday reads

And from Bloomberg, Why Political Polling Is Getting Harder.

…[I]t’s getting harder for survey researchers to corral enough people on the line for a representative sample.

“It’s becoming a much more difficult, nerve-wracking business,” said Geoff Garin, the president of Hart Research Associates and a leading Democratic pollster, who spoke to Bloomberg News editors and reporters Wednesday. “The willingness of respondents to participate in polls has declined, the move to cellphones has had an impact,” and more people are screening their calls, Garin said.

The challenges are acute in states like Iowa, where the highly competitive Senate election between Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst has drawn more than $54 million in general-election outside spending (including party committees). That’s a lot of TV, radio, mail, and phone calls.

According to Kantar Media’s CMAG, Iowa Senate ads have run on local broadcast stations more than 34,000 times in just the past 30 days, second only to the 38,948 ads in North Carolina, which has more than three times Iowa’s population.

“If you are in reasonably small state—there are only four congressional districts in Iowa—with a reasonably competitive election, you are getting a lot of phone calls at your home, and not just polling phone calls,” Garin said.

And the ones who don’t hang up immediately may have been polled before.

Finally, here’s a detailed post at Five-Thirty-Eight on how the polling “sausage” is made. There are lots of possibilities for polling error.

Ferguson Updates

MSU-Standard

The Washington Post is at it again, reported leaks from “law enforcement sources” who claim that the DOJ isn’t going to have enough evidence to bring civil rights charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing teenager Michael Brown.

Justice Department investigators have all but concluded they do not have a strong enough case to bring civil rights charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., law enforcement officials said.

That is so vague as to be meaningless. What law enforcement officials? Are they from Ferguson PD, St. Louis PD, the St. Louis DA’s office? It doesn’t sound like they’re from the DOJ.

“The evidence at this point does not support civil rights charges against Officer Wilson,” said one person briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

One person did speak on the record:

Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said the case remains open and any discussion of its results is premature. “This is an irresponsible report by The Washington Post that is based on idle speculation,” Fallon said in a statement.

But, says the Post:

Other law enforcement officials interviewed by The Post said it was not too soon to say how the investigation would end. “The evidence we have makes federal civil rights charges unlikely,” one said.

F**k you, Washington Post!

A few more Ferguson links:

CBS St. Louis, Report: Darren Wilson Expected to be ‘Eased Out’ of Police Department.

Ryan J. Reilly at HuffPo, Police In Ferguson Stock Up On Riot Gear Ahead Of Grand Jury Decision.

KSDK.com, MSU paper prints racial slurs directed at Ferguson protesters. Stay classy, MSU!

Little richard reads

Ebola Panic

Kaci Hickox talks about the judge’s decision that she doesn’t have to be locked in her home under police guard and can simply follow CDC guidelines on Ebola. From ABC News:

A nurse who fought quarantine rules after returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa said a court ruling in her favor today will ensure that other health care workers returning from Africa are given “human treatment.”

“I am humbled today by the judge’s decision and even more humbled by the support that we have received by the town of Fort Kent, the state of Maine, across the United States and even across the border,” Hickox, 33, told reporters today from her home in Fort Kent.

A judge in Maine this morning ruled that Hickox could leave her home and spend time in public spaces despite other state officials’ attempts to force her into a mandatory quarantine until a 21-day potential Ebola incubation period ends.

The judge noted in his ruling that although the state’s fears may be irrational, they are real and Hickox should be mindful of them.

“I know Ebola is a scary disease,” Hickox said today. “I have seen it face-to-face.”

I can’t begin to say how much I admire this woman’s courage. Some reactions to Hickox from the Maine town she’s living in, Fort Kent residents divided on feelings over Kaci Hickox.

SeanConnery reads3

FORT KENT, Maine — On Friday afternoon Kaci Hickox, the nurse released from isolation after returning last week to the U.S. from West Africa, where she treated Ebola patients, thanked the residents of Fort Kent for their support and assured them she was sensitive to their concerns.

But not everyone in this northern Maine community is convinced Hickox has their best interest at heart and some say the fears people have of possibly being exposed to Ebola are negatively affecting local businesses.

The situation “is bound to affect the whole town,” Steve Daigle, owner of Stevie D’s Panini Plus said Friday. “The economy around here is already so fragile, every dollar we lose hurts us.” ….

On Friday, another business owner in Fort Kent, who did not want to give his name, said he, too, has heard from customers planning to shop out of town in the wake of the Ebola concerns.

A local dentist also voiced his displeasure that Hickox has not committed to home quarantine.

“I think that is very irresponsible of her,” Dr. Lucien Daigle said. “She cannot guarantee 100 percent she will not become symptomatic [and] in that worst-case scenario the ramifications will be beyond what you can imagine.”

Daigle said he has spoken to several customers who have told him they plan to shop out of town until the 21-day incubation period for the virus ends for Hickox on Nov. 10.

“People are afraid,” Daigle said.

At least people named Daigle are afraid…

A few more links:

WaPo, These scientific studies show that airport Ebola screenings are largely ineffective.

SFGate, Stanford doctor in Ebola quarantine in Bay Area.

Boston Globe, Vermonter being monitored for Ebola, governor says.

Reuters, Oregon resident hospitalized for possible Ebola virus infection.

NPR, How Liberia Is Starting To Beat Ebola, With Fingers Crossed.

Other News

Steve-McQueen-readsMore suggested reads, links only:

Alternet, How Conservative Christianity Can Warp the Mind.

Alternet, Why the GOP Is Going to Be in Deep Trouble If Their Crazy Tea Party Candidates Get into the Senate.

Politico, Why a GOP Senate could be short-lived.

The Daily Beast, If you like personhood, you’ll love the GOP Senate.

Five Thirty Eight, Senate Update: With 4 Days Left, Here’s The State Of The Races

Raw Story, Texas GOP’s Greg Abbott met border militia leader busted days later with explosives

ABC News, 2 Adult Human Skulls Found in Trash in Connecticut.

Medium, Fountains of Blood: The Supernatural Science of Immortality and Biological Magic.

Business Insider, A Virus Found In Lakes May Be Literally Changing The Way People Think.

Raw Story, Alex Jones’ website: Global elites producing an army of ‘killer clowns’ through unemployment.

LA Times, Liberal or conservative? Brain’s ‘disgust’ reaction holds the answer.

Boston.com, How GamerGate Is Influencing MIT Video Game Teachers.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a wonderful weekend!


Monday Reads: Why Voting Matters more than Ever

imageGood Morning!

I spent some time this weekend canvassing the Esplanade Ridge neighborhood of the 7th Ward.  I hadn’t canvassed neighborhoods since I ran for office 20 years ago.  I’m about this close to going back to being a clinic escort volunteer also.  I was scared to death of the nascent right wing radical christian movement back then, but now I’m just mad as hell and not going to hide from them any more.

I was sitting next to a seventy-three year old black woman in my first organizational meeting for Mary Landrieu’s GOTV effort here in New Orleans a few weeks ago.  We were mostly surrounded by very young and optimistic activists.  Demographics that have a lot to lose depending on the outcome of these midterm elections were well represented.

We were asked to introduce ourselves by telling others why we were there.  My answer was pretty easy.  I’m tired of the backlash on rights around the country. I explained that my grandmother was a middle aged mother before she could even vote and that every young woman owed it to their grandmothers to get out there and defend their rights. I said restrictions on voting and rights were pulled down by people that wanted to make life better for us and now we have to turn around and do the same for those that come after us.  That woman sitting next to me said that every time a black person does not vote it’s a slap in the face of Dr. King.

Think about that.

It may seem futile.  It may drive you nuts to read about all the insanity going on.  But, we have to stop this wherever we are right now because the kids coming after us deserve better.  Many of us are the children of people who did a lot of fighting and activism to give us the rights that we have today.  We owe it to them to pass a better situation forward like they did for us.

My Great Uncle Jack died from the lingering effects of Mustard Gas in the War to End all Wars.  We now seem to have perpetual war and even though we have no money to feed our nation’s starving children, there seems to be more than enough money for drones, air strikes, and military advisers.

Quite a few of us spent years trying to get police departments to put violent crimes and rapes against women and children in the major crimes divisions instead of the property crimes area that housed them 40 years ago.  We fought for laws that gave credence to the victim’s testimony so that she didn’t require at least two witnesses to prove sexual assault and so that any personal information about her other than what was going on at the time of the crime couldn’t enter into the courtroom.

Yet, look at the problems we still face.  Many fought for my girls and me so we could control our bodies and not rely on back alley abortions or rich relatives to get us to where we could get birth control or abortions. We are nearly there again. Look at things now.  Why, they’re even trying to tell us that slavery ended voluntarily and that we shouldn’t make a point of teaching our kids about the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2 or atrocities that were committed along The Trail of Tears or at Wounded Knee. Right wing nuts say that history should be glossed over and forgotten in case any kids find out that our past wasn’t all parades and prayers in the classroom to the proper imaginary friend.

f5ac82c403345cc091c80fad60a44326Elections matter now more than ever.

Here, in Louisiana, we are losing so many things to the damage done by oil companies and the attempt to make the river more compliant to commerce.  We have a very ambitious lawsuit pending against these interests and the governor and government of Louisiana is doing everything it can to hurt YFT123suffragettethe people and environment of Louisiana.  Whoever voted these jerks into office is killing themselves, their livelihoods, and the living things down here up to and including people. The companies that have damaged our coasts and wetlands should pay for their destruction and its consequences.

Beneath the surface, the oil and gas industry has carved more than 50,000 wells since the 1920s, creating pockets of air in the marsh that accelerate the land’s subsidence. The industry has also incised 10,000 linear miles of pipelines, which connect the wells to processing facilities; and canals, which allow ships to enter the marsh from the sea. Over time, as seawater eats away at the roots of the adjacent marsh, the canals expand. By its own estimate, the oil and gas industry concedes that it has caused 36 percent of all wetlands loss in southeastern Louisiana. (The Interior Department has placed the industry’s liability as low as 15 percent and as high as 59 percent.) A better analogy than disappearing football fields has been proposed by the historian John M. Barry, who has lived in the French Quarter on and off since 1972. Barry likens the marsh to a block of ice. The reduction of sediment in the Mississippi, the construction of levees and the oil and gas wells “created a situation akin to taking the block of ice out of the freezer, so it begins to melt.” Dredging canals and pipelines “is akin to stabbing that block of ice with an ice pick.”

The oil and gas industry has extracted about $470 billion in natural resources from the state in the last two decades, with the tacit blessing of the federal and state governments and without significant opposition from environmental groups. Oil and gas is, after all, Louisiana’s leading industry, responsible for around a billion dollars in annual tax revenue. Last year, industry executives had reason to be surprised, then, when they were asked to pay damages. The request came in the form of the most ambitious, wide-ranging environmental lawsuit in the history of the United States. And it was served by the most unlikely of antagonists, a former college-football coach, competitive weight lifter and author of dense, intellectually robust 500-page books of American history: John M. Barry.

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005, John Barry was a year and a half into writing his sixth book, “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul,” about the puritan theologian’s efforts to define the limits of political power. Barry is not a fast writer; his books take him, on average, eight years to complete. “I tend,” Barry says, “to obsess.” Earlier in his career, he spent nearly a decade as a political journalist, writing about Congress, an experience he drew upon for his first book, “The Ambition and the Power.” But after that book’s publication, he quit journalism and cocooned himself in research, reading and writing. He took on vast, complex episodes in American history that in his rendering become Jacobean dramas about tectonic struggles for power. “The Ambition and the Power” would make an appropriate subtitle for any of his books — particularly “Rising Tide,” his history of the 1927 Mississippi River flood, the most destructive in American history.

Barry’s research for “Rising Tide” had made him an amateur expert on flood prevention, and in the days after Hurricane Katrina, he received requests from editors and television-news producers for interviews. He accepted nearly every one of them and within days of the storm had become one of the city’s most visible ambassadors in the national press. “I felt I had an obligation,” Barry told me, “to convince people that the city was worth rebuilding.”

Like many others, Barry was frustrated that he couldn’t figure out why New Orleans had flooded so catastrophically. When he studied the numbers — the wind shear on Lake Pontchartrain, the storm surge, the inches of rainfall — they didn’t add up. After making calls to some of his old sources, he concluded that the levees hadn’t been overtopped, as officials from the Army Corps of Engineers assumed, but had collapsed because of design flaws. (He was among the first to draw attention to this fact in an Op-Ed article published in The New York Times that October.) Barry concluded that just as in 1927, people died because of cynical decisions made by shortsighted politicians drawing on bad science. For Barry, Hurricane Katrina was not the story of a natural disaster; it was a story of politics, science and power.

a2f886cad0b9662f2e5a35761211db3bThe interest of we the people is not served by protecting the very few rich that control so much wealth and income in our country.  They are not job creators.  They are wealth extractors.  Just yesterday, JJ reminded us how important the Senate Race is in her state.  The Republican Candidate may talk about Job Creation on the campaign trail but to the folks that matter he brags about Job Outsourcing.

Yes, it’s late in the cycle, and of course all sorts of “fundamentals” are baked into the cake, and without question, many voters probably won’t hear about this or understand what it’s about. But still, having said all that, this report from Politico’s Bresnahan and Raju is not good news for GA GOP Senate candidate David Purdue, who’s already been hammered in both the primaries and the general election for being a Mitt-Romney-like specialist in corporate downsizing:

David Perdue has run aggressively as a “job creator,” touting his record as a top executive with Fortune 500 companies as the chief selling point in his Georgia Senate campaign.
Yet during a controversial chapter in his record — a nine-month stint in 2002-03 as CEO of failed North Carolina textile manufacturer Pillowtex Corp. — Perdue acknowledged that he was hired, at least in part, to outsource manufacturing jobs from the company. Perdue specialized throughout his career in finding low-cost manufacturing facilities and labor, usually in Asia.
During a July 2005 deposition, a transcript of which was provided to POLITICO, Perdue spoke at length about his role in Pillowtex’s collapse, which led to the loss of more than 7,600 jobs. Perdue was asked about his “experience with outsourcing,” and his response was blunt.
Yeah, I spent most of my career doing that,” Perdue said, according to the 186-page transcript of his sworn testimony.
The Georgia Republican then listed his career experience, much of which involved outsourcing.

A good part of the rest of the story involves Perdue and his campaign spot bobbing and weaving and explaining that “sourcing” doesn’t always mean “outsourcing” and that “outsourcing” isn’t always overseas, and this is just cherry-picking, and let’s blame the government for businesses shedding workers, bark bark woof woof. But the reality is that when you are defending your “outsourcing” record, you have lost at least half the argument, especially in a state currently leading the nation in unemployment.

A Hash Bash party at U-M Diag leads to arrests in Sept. 1973.

So, we’re not supposed to complain or dissent.  We’re supposed to just shut up and appreciate the appalling violations of our rights and destruction of our democracy.  Yesterday, Reince Preibus actually said that the  GOP Shuts Down Abortion Clinics because women ‘deserve compassion, respect’ and evidently forced birth no matter what the pregnant woman believes about the nature of life or the circumstances of the pregnancy.

NBC host Chuck Todd on Sunday pressed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus about why his party opposed most regulations on business, except when it came to abortion clinics.

“One of the things is you don’t like a lot of regulations on business,” Todd noted during an interview on Meet the Press. “Except if the business is an abortion clinic.”

The NBC host pointed out that 80 percent of the clinics in Texas could be forced to close because of a strict Republican-backed anti-abortion law.

“Too much regulation, is that fair?” Todd wondered. “Why regulate on the abortion issue now [instead of waiting until] you win a fight in the Supreme Court and ban abortion altogether? Why restrict a business now in Texas?”

“The fact of the matter is we believe that any woman that’s faced with unplanned pregnancy deserves compassion, respect, counseling,” Priebus replied.

“But 80 percent of those clinics are gone,” Todd pressed. “So they have to drive for 2 or 300 miles. Is that compassion?”

Priebus, however, shot back that Republicans were most concerned with “whether you ought to use taxpayer money to fund abortion.”

“I mean, that’s the one issue that separates this conversation that we’re having,” he insisted, adding that the 2014 election would be decided on other issues.

“Obamacare, jobs, the economy, Keystone pipeline,” Priebus opined. “So you can try to steer — talk about abortion again, but the fact is of the matter is, if you’re in Skagway, Alaska, you’re thinking about the fact of why my life isn’t better off today than it was when this senator was elected six years ago.”

But the women in Skagway may also be concerned with the scarcity of reproductive services in their area. The nearest Planned Parenthood clinic is about 100 miles away in Juneau, but the trip takes over six hours because the route includes a five-hour ferry ride.

morty-jeanne-manford-1972-d1af71c54b419cd5803f30251d62031f2a4db4b3-s6-c30There are three SCOTUS justices over the age of 75 and one of them is Ruth Bader Ginsburg whose dissent from the tyranny of the majority has been an essential release to those of us that have had our rights destroyed.

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Republicans] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided.

She knows how good she is and she is not afraid to judge others. (When Weisberg asks why the Court, while moving forward on gay rights, has swung in such a conservative direction on women’s rights, Ginsburg says, “To be frank, it’s one person who made the difference: Justice [Anthony] Kennedy.”) Given her profession, that’s as much as saying that she’s not afraid. And she is quite right: if she had resigned when the party-line worriers would have liked her to, one wouldn’t have her magnificent dissent in the Hobby Lobby case, or her matchless voice. That 1973 case was about whether the husbands of soldiers had to prove that they were economically dependent before getting benefits, while wives got them automatically. The Court’s jurisprudence on gender is something that Ginsburg has been building since then. And not only on gender: she, not John Roberts, deserves the credit for saving the Affordable Care Act. The Court is, no doubt, an extremely partisan institution. But that doesn’t mean that its members are just pegs to be traded. The Court is also an institution where seniority matters. There is no Ginsburg whom Ginsburg is holding back.

Do Democrats want to make sure that a President of their party is in office when Ginsburg leaves the Court? Then win the next election; battle it out, rather than fretting and sighing about how an older woman doesn’t know when it’s time to go. (Ginsburg is urged to be selfless a lot more loudly than is Stephen Breyer, who, at seventy-six, is only five years younger, and less of a presence.) If all this talk reflects sublimated doubt about the candidate that the Democrats look likely to field in 2016, then be open about that, and deal with it. Or make sure that the same constraints that—as Ginsburg quite correctly points out— the Republicans, even as a minority party in the Senate, place on Obama, are put on any Republican in the White House. As Dahlia Lithwick put it in a thorough dismantling of the Ginsburg-should-go nonsense, “It’s perverse in the extreme to seek to bench Ginsburg the fighter, simply because Senate Democrats are unwilling or unable to fight for the next Ginsburg.” (Lithwick adds, “I have seen not a lick of evidence that Ginsburg is failing…. If anything, Ginsburg has been stronger in recent years than ever.”)
But, the counter-argument goes, Obama could appoint a fifty-year-old Democrat—maybe not, to borrow Ginsburg’s phrase, “anyone I would like to see in the court,” but also not a Republican, and that would be enough. (That thinking helps explain why the President tried to name Michael Boggs to the federal bench, despite his anti-choice, anti-same-sex-marriage votes in the Georgia legislature; earlier this week, Democrats effectively killed his nomination.) Justices can be unpredictable: John Paul Stevens, admired by liberals, was appointed by Gerald Ford (and was on the Court until he was ninety). But this is clearly not a good moment to get anyone with ambitious positions—anyone interesting—through the Senate. Why seek it out? An exchange that requires the certain sacrifice of Ginsburg for the uncertainty of whomever Obama could get through is not even sensible in a coldly pragmatic way.

There is another reason why Ginsburg should be on the Court for this particular stretch of its history. In the Elle interview, Ginsburg speaks about the period after Sandra Day O’Connor, the only other woman on the Court at the time, retired (to take care of her dying husband). “When Sandra left, I was all alone,” she says.

I’m rather small, so when I go with all these men in this tiny room. Now Kagan is on my left, and Sotomayor is on my right. So we look like we’re really part of the court and we’re here to stay. Also, both of them are very active in oral arguments. They’re not shrinking violets. It’s very good for the schoolchildren who parade in and out of the court to see.

MAKERS_RightsProtest1969_tx800We have no guarantees these days other than enough votes gets these folks out of office.  We also know that there are entire channels that are supposed to be dedicated to news but are dedicated to propaganda and to getting angry, ignorant people  out to the polls.  They do so by using fear and lies.

Miles O’Brien, the science correspondent for PBS Newshour, lamented on Sunday that he was embarrassed at some of the coverage of Ebola on Fox News that had a “racial component,” and seemed intended to scare viewers.

On the Sunday edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter looked back at the last week’s coverage of Ebola on Fox News. In one case, Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck seemed almost disappointed when an expert downplayed the threat of the disease in the United States.

“We’ve heard the words ‘Ebola in America,’ a lot the past few days,” Stelter noted. “It’s technically true. There is a case of Ebola here in America. But to say Ebola is here, doesn’t that sort of inflame people’s fears?”
“It borders on irresponsibility when people get on television and start talking that way when they should know better,” O’Brien explained. “They should do their homework and they should report in a responsible manner.”

“Unfortunately, it’s a very competitive business, the business we’re in, and there is a perception that by hyping up this threat, you draw people’s attention,” he added. “That’s a shame to even say that and I get embarrassed for our brethren in journalism.”

Stelter also pointed to Fox News host Andrea Tantaros, who had warned viewers that West Africans might come to the U.S. infected with Ebola, and then go to a “witch doctor” instead of the hospital.

“We could digress into what motivated that and perhaps the racial component of all this, the arrogance, the first world versus third world statements and implications of just that,” O’Brien remarked. “It’s offensive on several levels and it reflects, frankly, a level of ignorance which we should not allow in our media and in our discourse.”

The success of these lies plays out in politics.  This vile human being votes and is active in politics.BwI6YDqIMAA9ksR

The  former general counsel and executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party is coming under fire for the novel solutions to the Ebola epidemic he is posting on Twitter.

The vehemently pro-life Todd Kincannon began by arguing that anyone who contracts Ebola should be summarily executed:

Today is the last day to register to vote for many states including Louisiana.  Please make sure you are registered and that you vote.  Encourage every one you know to vote.  It’s important.

People DIED so you could vote.   Don’t ever forget that.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?