There are so many ways that my city and state are being used as an incubator for unholy ideas that it’s not even funny. I’ve got a series of rather depressing links this morning. However, I think we should all think about the common thread here. Didn’t many of our immigrant ancestors come here hoping that this new country would not fall prey to an aristocratic group of assholes who inherit stuff just because of the privilege of birth? Do these news items strike you as something you’d read about in a country founded on the idea of government by the people instead of government over the people? Let’s begin our search for the ways plutocracy is changing our lives.
Our public school system in New Orleans has been decimated and turned into one big charter school education experiment. Part of the “detritus” that the state washed out with the Katrina waters were our teachers. They were just some of the folks that were thrown over when a natural disaster was turned into a way to turn a purple state red. They’re getting their day in court. Will they really get Justice? A recent court decision has given many fired teachers some back pay. But, justice runs deeper than a few dollars to teachers. What about the children set adrift in libertarian, for profit incubators that cherry pick the best and leave the rest far behind?
But aside from recompense for “disaster leave,” New Orleans public schools will remain adrift in a flood of drastic reforms. After Katrina, the city became an incubator for non-unionized charter schoolsand “experimental” restructuring plans.
But rather than “saving” New Orleans schools from failure, the overhaul has aggravated divides between black and white, wealthy and poor, by pushing schools to operate more like corporations.
Maynard Sanders at the Bankstreet College of Education wrote last year about the New Orleans Recovery School District as a case study in de facto segregation between “selective schools” and those serving poor students of color. Often, he added, the charters that many have hailed as an emblem of progress “are run like private schools by self-appointed boards without any parent, community, or teacher representation… There is no transparency in charter school operations, finances or hiring while they receive public money and operate rent free in public school buildings.”
One major plank of the agenda for restructuring New Orleans schools–which reflects national reform trends promoted by the Obama administration–is “decentralization” of the system and the expansion of “choice” of schools across districts. But critics say a decentralized school system can become dangerously fractured, and choice is constrained by feudal social barriers.
Here’s proof that it’s just not enough to elect any woman to an office. Jan Brewer—the throwback governor of Arizona–is at it again. She’s asking SCOTUS to overturn a ruling allowing benefits for same sex partners. Republicans are routinely asking courts to remove rights from citizens and assign them a lesser-than status.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has requested that the Supreme Court overturn a ruling that allows state employees to keep their same-sex partners on their benefits, including health insurance.
Brewer filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on July 2, requesting that the high court overturn the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s September 2011 ruling in Diaz vs. Brewer. The pushback comes three months after the Ninth Circuit denied a request by Arizona state lawyers to re-hear the case with an 11-judge panel.
Last September, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling prevented Arizona from implementing a law that would have barred state employees’ same-sex partners from remaining on their health plans. The ruling affirmed a lower court’s decision to place a preliminary injunction on the law.
Black Americans will likely suffer long term consequences for the financial damage caused by the subprime crisis. Think of all the billions of dollars spent on bailing out banks while huge numbers of families have lost the hope of ever owning their own home again. Will property ownership once again be the province of the aristocrats?
For blacks, the picture since the recession has been particularly grim. They disproportionately held subprime mortgages during the housing boom and are facing foreclosure in outsize numbers. That is raising fears among consumer advocates, academics and federal regulators that the credit scores of black Americans have been systematically damaged, haunting their financial futures.
The private companies that calculate credit scores say they do not consider race in their formulas. Lenders also say it is not a factor when deciding who qualifies for a loan; federal laws prohibit the practice. Still, studies have shown a persistent gap between the credit scores of white and black Americans, and many worry that it is only getting wider.
The impact of strict voter ID laws pushed by ALEC and Republicans is having an impact and could block thousands from voting. It’s all about vote suppression and electing Romney. No better way to ensure your interests are enshrined in law than through disenfranchisement of minorities, the elderly, and the poor, is there?
The numbers suggest that the legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent. Thousands more votes could be in jeopardy for this November, when more states with larger populations are looking to have similar rules in place.
More than two dozen states have some form of ID requirement, and 11 of those passed new rules over the past two years largely at the urging of Republicans who say they want to prevent fraud.
Democrats and voting rights groups fear that ID laws could suppress votes among people who may not typically have a driver’s license, and disproportionately affect the elderly, poor and minorities. While the number of votes is a small percentage of the overall total, they have the potential to sway a close election. Remember that the 2000 presidential race was decided by a 537-vote margin in Florida.
A Republican leader in Pennsylvania said recently that the state’s new ID law would allow Romney to win the state over President Barack Obama.
Supporters of the laws cite anecdotal cases of fraud as a reason that states need to do more to secure elections, but fraud appears to be rare. As part of its effort to build support for voter ID laws, the Republican National Lawyers Association last year published a report that identified some 400 election fraud prosecutions over a decade across the entire country. That’s not even one per state per year.
ID laws would not have prevented many of those cases because they involved vote-buying schemes in local elections or people who falsified voter registrations.
Susie takes on George Will at C&L. He evidently thinks all this heat is just typical balmy summer weather and wants us all to get over it. Yes, we’re all just whining about the weather and it’s all in our little heads. Read her classy zing!
This is how broken, distorted and hackish our public political dialogue has become: George Will, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist (his record for coasting on that one accomplishment continues), actually responds to concerns about the national’s killer heat wave with “it’s summer, get over it!”
Not only is this disingenuous, it’s an outright lie. Will knows better (for one thing, in his world, “summer” is a verb, not a noun) but just doesn’t care. His job is to rubber stamp whatever comes out of the right-wing noise machine, no matter how absurd, far-fetched, or (most importantly) harmful. George Will gets his money no matter what, and that’s all he cares about …
Meanwhile, Romney donors are proving as enlightened as ever. Where else but in the Hamptons?
A money manager in a green Jeep said it was time for Romney to “up his game and be more reactive.” So far, said the donor (who would not give his name because he said it would hurt his business), Romney has had a “very timid offense.”
A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. “Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.
“We’ve got the message,” she added. “But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who’s got the right to vote — they don’t understand what’s going on. I just think if you’re lower income — one, you’re not as educated, two, they don’t understand how it works, they don’t understand how the systems work, they don’t understand the impact.”
Gee. I wonder whose child got into the ivies because of legacy slots instead of brains this year? Look Mavis! It’s the Upper Class Twit of the Year show! Can they walk along the straight line without falling over? Don’t forget to kick the beggar!
It is time to banish the idea that forced labor and sweatshop exploitation are problems of bygone eras or distant countries. These conditions exist within America’s borders. On June 29, Wal-Mart said it had suspended one of its seafood suppliers in Louisiana for violating its workplace standards. The action came as an advocacy group for foreign guest workers announced that it had uncovered appalling abuses at the company, C. J.’s Seafood, and at a dozen other Wal-Mart suppliers too.
The workers said the company forced them to work 16- to 24-hour days, and 80-hour weeks, at illegally low rates, sometimes locked in the plant, peeling crayfish until their hands felt dead. Some were threatened with beatings. Federal agencies and Wal-Mart are investigating the charges; C. J.’s Seafood did not respond to The Times’s request for comment.
These workers are not unauthorized immigrants toiling off the books. They came here legally under the H-2B program, which grants visas to low-skilled seasonal workers in industries that supposedly cannot find enough Americans to do the job. The program has been dogged by charges of wage abuses, fraud and involuntary servitude, including in investigations by the Government Accountability Office.
New rules protecting workers’ rights were supposed to have taken effect in April, but have been blocked after business owners sued the Department of Labor and a group of senators from both parties shamefully voted to deny the department funding to enforce them.
Under the rules, employers would be barred from confiscating immigration documents and blacklisting workers who complained about working conditions and consulted with unions. Employers would have to try harder to hire Americans and cover migrants’ transportation costs and visa fees. Though the new rules do not go far enough (they should allow workers to change jobs if employers abuse them), they are a crucial step forward.
So, those are my suggestions this morning. I really didn’t set out to weave this story but rather noticed it evolve as I looked for things. Doesn’t it look like we’re devolving into a lesser country? What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
We passed an ominous milestone recently. Have we crossed the Rubicon with climate change?
Monitoring stations in the Arctic have confirmed atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm), far past the acknowledged safe limit of 350 ppm.
Global levels of carbon dioxide—the most prevalent heat-trapping gas—are around 395 ppm, but Arctic levels signal where global trends are headed, and scientists are confident that levels will soon eclipse this ominous milestone worldwide.
According to the Washington Post, Jim Butler, the global monitoring director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colorado, said “The fact that it’s 400 is significant. It’s just a reminder to everybody that we haven’t fixed this and we’re still in trouble.”
Preceding the Industrial Revolution, global levels of carbon dioxide were believed to be around 275 ppm. The meteoric rise in carbon pollution is mainly attributed to fossil fuel dependence, such as burning coal and oil for gasoline. Forest depletion and oceanic biodiversity loss complicate matters by diminishing nature’s ability to absorb and repurpose carbon dioxide.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, former Vice President Al Gore wrote via email, “The news today, that some stations have measured concentrations above 400 ppm in the atmosphere, is further evidence that the world’s political leaders—with a few honorable exceptions—are failing catastrophically to address the climate crisis. History will not understand or forgive them.”
The UK Guardian reports that 28 top US corporations are working hard to block any action meant to prevent or stop climate change.
An analysis of 28 Standard & Poor 500 publicly traded companies by researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists exposed a sharp disconnect in some cases between PR message and less visible activities, with companies quietly lobbying against climate policy or funding groups which work to discredit climate science.
The findings are in line with the recent expose of the Heartland Institute. Over the years, the ultra-conservative organisation devoted to discrediting climate science received funds from a long list of companies which had public commitments to sustainability.
The disconnect in this instance was especially stark in the researchers’ analysis of oil giants ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, and the electricity company DTE energy.
But even General Electric Company, which ranks climate change as a pillar of its corporate policy on its website, had supported trade groups and thinktanks that misrepresent climate science, the researchers found.
Caterpillar Inc, despite its public commitment to sustainability, also worked behind the scenes to block action on climate change. The company spent more than $16m (£10.3m) on lobbying during the study, with nearly five times as much of that spent lobbying to block climate action than on pro-environmental policies.
Other big corporate players were fairly consistent with their public image. Nike and NRG Energy Inc lobbied in support of climate change policy and supported conservation groups.
Peabody Energy Corporation, which produces coal, was ranked the most obstructionist of any of the companies. It spent more than $33m to lobby Congress against environmental measures and supporting trade groups and think tanks which spread disinformation about climate science, the researchers found.
“The thing we found most surprising in doing this research is just how all 28 companies expressed concern about climate change,” said Francesca Grifo who heads the UCS scientific integrity programme. “But when we took a deeper look we found that a lot of the actions they took weren’t connected to the messages.”
The result of the disconnect was growing confusion about climate science, the researchers said. That made it more difficult to push for environmental protections.
Republicans continue to chip away at abortion rights. The House is zeroing in on “sex selection” abortions. These are not a big issue in this country but could be a big issue for Republicans because the rhetoric almost always centers on Asian countries in a way that’s offensive to Americans of Asian heritage.
Republicans long ago lost African American voters. They are well on their way to losing Latinos. And if Trent Franks prevails, they may lose Asian Americans, too.
The Arizona Republican’s latest antiabortion salvo to be taken up by the House had a benign name — the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act — and a premise with which just about everybody agrees: that a woman shouldn’t abort a fetus simply because she wants to have a boy rather than a girl.
The problem with Franks’s proposal is that it’s not entirely clear there is a problem. Sex-selection abortion is a huge tragedy in parts of Asia, but to the extent it’s happening in this country, it’s mostly among Asian immigrants.
For Franks, who previously tried to pass legislation limiting abortions among African Americans and residents of the District of Columbia, it was the latest attempt to protect racial minorities from themselves.
“The practice of sex selection is demonstrably increasing here in the United States, especially but not exclusively in the Asian immigrant community,” he announced on the House floor Wednesday afternoon. He quoted a study finding that male births “for Chinese, Asian Indians and Koreans clearly exceeded biological variation.”
The Bill even has one of those weird Republican names like offensive missiles called “peace keepers.” It’s called PRENDA or Prenatal NonDiscrimination Act.
The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), H.R. 3541, was defeated in a 246-168 vote. While that’s a clear majority of the House, Republicans called up the bill under a suspension of House rules, which limits debate and requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass. In this case, it would have required more support from Democrats.
Twenty Democrats voted for the bill, while seven Republicans opposed it. The bill would have needed 30 more yeas to pass.
Suspension votes are normally used for noncontroversial bills, but the GOP-backed measure was clearly controversial. Republicans have occasionally put controversial bills on the suspension calendar in order to highlight that Democrats oppose certain policies.
Boehner said he will try again later. So much for the Republican lies about being all about the jobs.
Just when you think the state Republican groups can’t get more extreme you find out something like this item in Pennsylvania.
Republicans in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania have elected Steve Smith, a lifelong white supremacist with close ties to neo-Nazi groups and groups like Aryan Nations, to the county’s GOP Committee.
The elections, which took place in late April, were certified by the committee two weeks ago, and Smith notified supporters of his victory last week by posting a message to the online forum White News Now.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented Smith’s participation with known skinhead organizations like Keystone State Skinheads, (now Keystone United) which he co-founded in 2001. And his racist activism extends far beyond violent rhetoric as well, into actual violence:
In March 2003, he and two other KSS members were arrested in Scranton for beating up Antoni Williams, a black man, using stones and chunks of pavement. Smith pleaded guilty to terrorist threats and ethnic intimidation and received a 60-day sentence and probation.
Smith is also an active member of local Tea Party groups, a network that he used to gain support for his bid for the committee seat. According to the SPLC, Smith referred to the Tea Party as “fertile grounds for our activists.”
Our economy continues to have some of the highest poverty rates in the developed world. Seven million kids and mothers are in poverty. Georgetown Law Professor and advisor to the Kennedys and Bill Clinton explains why this is so devastating to our country’s future as well.
Peter Edelman: Extreme poverty means having an income of less than half the poverty line. That’s less than $9,000 a year for a family of three. The stunning fact is that in 2010, there were 20.5 million people who had incomes that low. And perhaps even more disturbing — 6 million people have no income other than food stamps (SNAP). That means an income at one third of the poverty line or less than $6,000 a year for a family of three. You can’t live on that.
So, these are people who are really in extreme trouble. In fact, many of them will get out of extreme poverty fairly quickly, and that makes it even more inexcusable not to have a basic safety net for them when their income dips so low. How do they survive? We don’t really know. They obviously have to have the support in one way or another of family and friends– if they have such networks. They sleep on couches, they move around a lot. If they can find casual work to get a little extra money, they do. But they are in a very tough place. The percentage of people in extreme poverty has doubled since 1976, so it is getting worse.
Public benefits, which are not counted in official poverty figures insofar as they’re not paid in cash, make the situation a little better, but not much. The fact that there could be 6 million people who only have food stamps is because of another fact: that welfare –Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) — is basically unavailable in many states in the country. In Wyoming, for example, 4% of poor children in the entire state — that’s 644 people including the mothers — receive cash assistance. In 19 states, fewer than 20% of poor children are receiving cash assistance. So that’s how you can have 6 million people living only on food stamps. About 7 million of those in extreme poverty are mothers and children. We can only imagine the damage that this does to the children. It really is a crisis, and very few people are aware of it.
So those are the stories that I’m following this week. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
These are some images from my neck of the woods from this past weekend’s round of ‘weather.’
Now granted, I’m not a native of the southeast—South Jersey girl here. But the locals tell me that vertical winds are a hellva lot different than tornado touchdowns, particularly when you’re living in hill country, in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. Locally, this time we were fortunate—some downed branches and yard mess. The major damage was to the east and south of us. Last year? Not so much.
In fact, last year’s April storm front in the southeast produced 280+ tornadoes in 3 days. Historic, the headlines screamed.
If this were merely a local event, we could chalk it up to bad luck and Mother Nature in a cranky mood. But consider that earth-orbiting satellites have been gathering scientific data not previously available, giving us the ‘big picture’, data on a global scale. The following evidence has been accumulated:
- Sea levels are, in fact, rising, the rate of the last decade nearly double that of the last century.
- Global temperatures are on the rise, increasing since the 1970s with the 10 hottest recorded temperatures within the last 12 years.
- The oceans have been warming since 1969, measureable temperatures increasing in the top surfaces [2300 ft] and the acidification of the oceans has increased by 30% since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
- Glaciers are retreating, the Arctic sea ice is shrinking and the ice sheets of Greenland [36-60 cubic miles per year between 2002-2006] and the Antarctic [36 cubic miles per year between 2002-2005] have declined.
According to NASA data, there are certain facts beyond dispute:
The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century. Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many JPL-designed instruments, such as AIRS. Increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.
Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in solar output, in the Earth’s orbit, and in greenhouse gas levels. They also show that in the past, large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking: in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands.
We can take the facts and data of NASA, their orbiting satellites and sensors or we can fall back on the word of say . . . a Rick Santorum, who has proven himself such an expert on other subjects. According to Santorum in a speech in Colorado:
[Climate change is] an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life. … I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face. And yet we have politicians running to the ramparts — unfortunately politicians who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for president — who bought into man-made global warming and bought into cap-and-trade.
We can argue the merits of cap and trade but I find it comical that Santorum is running around talking about Satan on one hand—a Santorum absolute–while denying climate change on the other. This is a ‘don’t trust your lying eyes’ moment. And certainly don’t trust science. He continued with:
We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit … We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through that course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create.
Huh? I’m not sure what this rambling statement is intended to mean, other than we shouldn’t let nature clue us in that we’re skating on the edge, pushing the health of the planet and its inhabitants to the max. Full steam ahead with those extractions, boys!
Of course, Santorum is not alone in this type of denial. Rush Limbaugh, who has had his fair share of attention in the last few days [not of the good kind], had this to say after declaring climate change a ‘hoax’:
I happen to believe in God. I believe in a loving, brilliant – I know that this – there is no way, I don’t want to sound simpleton here, but there is not – it is not possible that we would be created by a creator in such a way that we would destroy by virtue of our created existence our own planet and environment. It just doesn’t compute and yet that’s what these people are trying to tell us. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/2/11
All righty then! God, a loving brilliant God, would not allow us to destroy ourselves. Scrap all that science and data, the fat man speaketh.
Beginning to see a pattern here? We can believe in myth—Satan’s going to getcha and/or a benevolent, personal God-creator, who would never allow Man to be stupid enough to destroy His/Her creation. No problem then. Keep spewing those toxins into the air, don’t worry about contaminating our water supply and . . . heat? What heat?
Despite the relentless war on climate data in particular and science in general, it turns out the public is beginning to catch on to all the corporate-friendly tap dancing. After a dip in public sentiment about Climate Change and the mass investment in misinformation, Americans are using their powers of observation and taking heed to the mounting evidence. According to the Brookings Institute National Survey, Fall 2011, a strong majority [62%] of the American public now believes that global warming is real and poses a threat to global security. Observation to local effects of warming temperatures and world-wide reports of floods, droughts, freakishly warm temperatures, melting ice sheets, ocean acidification and the effects on wildlife and fauna are slowly turning opinion.
We cannot wait for a benevolent God-spirit to save us. We’ll need to do that for ourselves, sooner rather than later. Because we won’t get a second chance. As Naomi Klien recently stated any real shift towards climate sustainability means a shift in the entire free-market ethos that depends on continual growth, massive extraction and profit-making over people.
. . . you can’t do it all with carbon markets and offsetting. You have to really seriously regulate corporations and invest in the public sector. And we need to build public transport systems and light rail and affordable housing along transit lines to lower emissions. The market is not going to step up to this challenge. We must do more: rebuild levees and bridges and the public sphere, because we saw in Katrina what happens when weak infrastructure clashes with heavy weather—it’s catastrophe. These climate deniers aren’t crazy—their worldview is under threat. If you take climate change seriously, you do have to throw out the free-market playbook.
In the end, so many of these pressing issues are related to a flawed economic and political model—the current corporate state. It will be up to us to reimagine a new system or as Peter Barnes suggested in ‘Capitalism 3.0,’ it’s time to upgrade.
Because there’s no place to run or hide. Earth is the only home we have. Reclaiming the commons isn’t optional; it’s a must. And personally? I’m just not into wicked tornadoes.
UPDATE: The Red Cross is now asking for donations for storm ravaged areas in the Southeast. Contact your local offices for information. Or go here.
Patagonia’s Jorge Montt glacier is melting faster than any other glacier in Chile, having shrunk by more than half a mile in just 12 months, researchers announced Wednesday. And they have 1,445 photos to prove it.
The glacier is located 1,000 miles south of Santiago in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which covers 4.1 million acres in the Andes between Chile and Argentina. According to the Center for Scientific Studies in Valdivia, which has made a time-lapse video of the retreating glacier, Jorge Montt’s snout shrunk by 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from January 2010 to February 2011.
“Patagonia has experienced climate change at rates much more moderate than those observed in the rest of the world,” glaciologist Andres Rivera says in a press release about the findings. “However, almost all the glaciers of the region have lost area. And Jorge Montt is the one that has the record retreat.”
That retreat has already altered the surrounding landscape, including the emergence of the 12-mile-long, 1,300-foot-deep fjord, which wasn’t previously listed on local maps. It also highlights the plight of glaciers across Patagonia — according to a study published in April, Patagonia’s glacial melting has “increased markedly” in recent decades, contributing about 10 percent of global sea-level rise related to mountain glaciers in the past 50 years. And as glaciologist Michel Barer tells the Associated Press, the problem of retreating glaciers “is really hot in South America” overall.
Pun intended? Watch the video:
Many of you may have heard that the recent selection of “stars” for Dancing With The Stars is turning into a showdown of anti-gay sentiment. ABC receives complaints about Chaz Bono’s addition to ‘DWTS’ – MSN TV News
“Dancing With the Stars” aims for provocative casts, and Chaz Bono’s addition to the show has already yielded strong reaction — some of it ugly.
Bono, the only child of Sonny Bono and Cher, was born a woman but legally changed his gender and name last year. The announcement Monday that he would join the highly rated ABC dance competition immediately made him one of the highest-profile transgendered people in the world.
But for everyone who vented disgust — or questioned whether Bono would dance with a man or a woman — there were many who defended Bono and accused his critics of bigotry.
Bono’s casting is only the latest to make a lighthearted reality show the impetus for deeper discussions about values, tolerance, bigotry and politics.
The question now is, will America vote Bono off because of his transgender, or will they keep him on the show, no matter if he is a good dancer or not. Any voting would be seen as a statement about the perception of attitudes towards GLBTs in America.
Here are a couple of perspectives for you to think about.
First, is this article posted by David Wiegand from the San Francisco Chronicle. Dancing With the “Normal” Stars : Culture Blog!
Ok, I gotta admit, this really took me by surprise. I really didn’t just fall of the turnip truck and know all too well that bigotry, stupidity and rank ignorance not only still exist in 21st century USA, but fester in every state of the union.
But the reaction that ABC got when it announced that Chaz Bono would be among the celebrities on the new “Dancing With the Stars” season had my jaw dropping to the floor.
Homophobia itself is ugly and uninformed, of course, but those who spew anti-gay epithets often do so because they believe sexual orientation is a “choice” and, as such, some kind of mental abberation, despite what people like, oh I don’t know, doctors and pyschiatrists have said repeatedly for decades.
But just looking at some of the comments from “DWTS” fans on the show’s ABC page is nothing short of a reminder of how blindly ignorant so many people remain in this country.
Wiegand gives some examples of the bigot laden remarks and comments on the DWTS fan page, and then goes on to express how he feels about it:
I should be angry. I should be mightily pissed off, and to an extent, I am. But even more than that, I’m sad — not just that this kind of “thinking” still exists in a supposedly educated society, but because it says so much about the fractiousness of our culture and why we can’t make progress on so many issues that have nothing to do with sexuality or gender.
Faith is not a bad thing. Faith can be empowering, uplifting, reassuring — all of the things that can make human beings want to better their lives.
But it can also be used not just as a crutch, but an excuse to avoid having to open the mind to any new idea or thought. The same people who think that upper casing the “H” in “his” and the “W” in “word” reaffirms their fear-based ignorance to the facts about transexualism, are equally incapable of opening their minds to new thoughts and ideas on other issues.
And, of course, it’s ultimately their fear and tenacious adherence to their beliefs that politicians use to get elected and to keep us from finding solutions to all kinds of issues.
And, for the record, ignorance, alas, is not only the stock in trade of the right. Liberals are just as capable of this kind of intractable “thinking.”
I won’t presume to speak for God, upper or lower case. I’m just one person who finds all of this quite sad.
On Huffington Post, there is this article from Hayley Rose Horzepa: Chaz Bono Joins Dancing With the Stars: Will This Impact the Public’s Perception of the Transgender Community?
She discusses her attitude and experiences with a transgender friend of hers who when through the same gender reassignment surgery as Chaz Bono, and ends her post with this conclusion:
So will Chaz Bono’s gig on Dancing with the Stars offend some people? Most definitely. What’s more important is the courage that Chaz lends and will continue to lend to other transgenders who haven’t yet gained the courage to be themselves. His appearance on Dancing could make a big difference in a lot of lives.
People like Chaz and Jordan serve as inspirations for all; like them, we should always speak the truth within our hearts and strive to honor the unique thumb print within our spirits in a bold and unapologetic way.
Personally, I lump the DWTS show in with all the other crappy reality shows that have taken over the airwaves. I’ve never seen it, nor will I be tuning in this time, but the reaction Chaz Bono has received to being announce as a contestant is interesting indeed. Is it a surprise? Nope, and people like Wiegand, who believe homophobia, bigotry and hate are not going to express themselves like we see on the DWTS fan site, are living in a blind delusion. Just look at the group of anti-gay presidential candidates that are participating in their own version of dancing with the wingnuts…or is it nitwits?
And that is all I gotta say about that.
Recent forensic technologies are giving a possible face to the suspect of Jack the Ripper.
On this day 123 years ago, Jack the Ripper claimed his first victim. But who was this serial killer? This new e-fit finally puts a face to Carl Feigenbaum, a key suspect from Germany.
More than 200 suspects have been named. But to Ripper expert Trevor Marriott, a former murder squad detective, German merchant Carl Feigenbaum is the top suspect.
Convicted of murdering his landlady in Manhattan, Feigenbaum died in the electric chair in New York’s Sing Sing prison in 1894. His lawyer suspected him of the Ripper murders too.
No photos of Feigenbaum exist. So Marriott has produced this new e-fit for BBC One’s National Treasures Live, created from the description on the admittance form when he was in prison on remand in New York.
Just give the article a read, it goes into detail what theories and deductions Marriott has made by while investigating Feigenbaum for connections to the Ripper murders.
From serial killers to chickens? Yup…14 Fun Facts About Chickens | Surprising Science
1 ) The chicken, Gallus gallus domesticus, is a domestic subspecies of the red junglefowl, a member of the pheasant family that is native to Asia. Genetic studies have found that the grey junglefowl also contributed to the chicken’s evolution.
2 ) This bird was probably first domesticated for the purpose of cockfights, not as food.
3 ) Chickens aren’t completely flightless—they can get airborne enough to make it over a fence or into a tree.
4 ) These birds are omnivores. They’ll eat seeds and insects but also larger prey like small mice and lizards.
They will also eat their own…but that is another story.
Because they are chickens. Although chickens will happily eat chicken and other meat products. After butchering a chicken you can leave the skeleton in the pen and they will pick the bones clean. If done on a large scale, making chicken feed from chickens (especially the brain and spinal cord) can lead to an outbreak of encephalopathy, similar to mad cow disease.
Would that be called mad chicken disease?
I am sure this link makes all of you having chicken for dinner tonight happy that you read this post first. (Sorry bout that.)
This next article was something I found last week, it just seems like a good time to bring it up now. College students stumped by search engines, research finds | The Lookout – Yahoo! News
Researchers with the Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries project watched 30 students at Illinois Wesleyan University try to search for different topics online and found that only seven of them were able to conduct “what a librarian might consider a reasonably well-executed search.”
The students “appeared to lack even some of the most basic information literacy skills that we assumed they would have mastered in high school,” Lynda Duke and Andrew Asher write in a book on the project coming out this fall.
At all five Illinois universities, students reported feeling “anxious” and confused when trying to research. Many felt overwhelmed by the volume of results their searches would turn up, not realizing that there are ways to narrow those searches and get more tailored results. Others would abandon their research topics when they couldn’t find enough sources, unaware that they were using the wrong search terms or database for their topics.
The researchers found that students did not know “how to build a search to narrow or expand results, how to use subject headings, and how various search engines (including Google) organize and display results.” That means that some students didn’t understand how to search only for news articles, or only for scholarly articles. Most only know how to punch in keywords and hope for the best.
I can tell you, this is a very distressing to see this struggle first hand. Granted my own kids are 12 and 13, but to watch them look for answers to homework questions is just frustrating…considering the fact that both of their parents are history majors, and very capable of conducting research using both the “old school” and “high-tech” methods.
This can be a problem because Google organizes results in part on how many other sites link to a page. That means scholarly articles are rarely at the top of basic search results for any topic. Asher points out that searching for “How Google Works” turns up an April Fool’s prank by Google engineers in its top results.
A survey last year of 1,000 college students backed up the somewhat counterintuitive finding that the millennials (sometimes defined as those born between 1980 and 1995) are actually not that good at the Internet. Most students said they trusted whatever website was the first result for their search on Google. Other students said they trusted most the “sponsored” links that appear at the top of the page, which are actually paid advertisements.
That just makes me cringe…
I’ll just take this great opportunity to link to this article I saved a few weeks ago, Crazy: 90 Percent of People Don’t Know How to Use CTRL+F – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic
This week, I talked with Dan Russell, a search anthropologist at Google, about the time he spends with random people studying how they search for stuff. …90 percent of people in their studies don’t know how to use CTRL/Command + F to find a word in a document or web page! I probably use that trick 20 times per day and yet the vast majority of people don’t use it at all.
It makes me think that we need a new type of class in schools across the land immediately. Electronic literacy. Just like we learn to skim tables of content or look through an index or just skim chapter titles to find what we’re looking for, we need to teach people about this CTRL+F thing.
Google itself is trying to teach people a little something with their AGoogleADay.com campaign, but the ability to retrieve information via a search engine is actually much bigger than the search engine itself. We’re talking about the future of almost all knowledge acquisition and yet schools don’t spend nearly as much time on this skill as they do on other equally important areas.
Cool isn’t it? And don’t forget about the Google Scholar search engine:
It is an excellent research tool.
One last link for you today: BBC News – Species flee warming faster than previously thought
Animals and plants are shifting their natural home ranges towards the cooler poles three times faster than scientists previously thought.
In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers looked at the effects of temperature on over 2,000 species.
They report in the journal Science that species experiencing the greatest warming have moved furthest.
The results helped to “cement” the link between climate change and shifts in species’ global ranges, said the team.
The research included studies,
Analysing the range shifts of more than 2,000 species – ranging from butterflies to birds, algae to mammals – across Europe, North and South America and Malaysia over the last four decades, they show that organisms that experience the greatest change in temperatures move the fastest.
The team found that on average organisms are shifting their home ranges at a rate of 17km per decade away from the equator; three times the speed previously thought.
Organisms also moved uphill by about 1m a year.
… it seemed that species were able to seek out cooler habitats as long as there was not an obstacle in their way, like a highway.
And what happens to the animals that reach the end of that highway…damn, and I wanted this post to be lighthearted.
Well, after those species reach the top of the mountains, they have nowhere else to go…so they die.
On Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, Dr Thomas’ graduate student, I-Ching Chen, has been following the movement of Geometrid moths uphill as temperatures increase. Their natural ranges have shifted by 59m in 42 years.
These moths “don’t have options; they are being forced up, and at some point they will run out of land,” reflected Dr Thomas.
The British scientist said that it was really too early to start generalising about the characteristics of the species that had shifted their distribution to stay within their optimal temperature range.
“But we know that the species which have expanded the most and fastest are the species that are not particularly fussy about where they live,” he told BBC News.
Well, at least the moths aren’t too particular about their surroundings.
Alrighty then, that is all I got for you today. What are you reading about in the news this evening? Feel free to link to whatever you like in the comments below.