Friday Reads: You might be BernieBro if …

20150822_USD006_0It’s the Friday before Mardi Gras and it’s way too cold and way too early this year! The only good news I can pass on about this is the decided lack of AirBnB/BnB tourists invading my hood.  I’ve actually started to wonder if the alternative rental leeches have finally saturated the market here because the vacancies are giving me some much needed peace and quiet.

It also means that I don’t have to dread going out for groceries and wondering if the one little spot in front of the kathouse will be taken over by a stationwagon on steroids (e.g. SUV) usually with a Texas license plate. My street is still a bit of a cab stand atm. Taxi cab alarms going off at all hours are enough for me to go all Clint Eastwood on some one. However, the cabbies aren’t happy about the UberDudes here so they’ve filed a suit and I’m taking some mercy on them.

More than two dozen cab drivers will make a plea before a New Orleans judge Friday (Feb. 5) to block UberX drivers from picking up passengers, a decision that could have an impact on the big Mardi Gras weekend and beyond.

The cabbies filed a lawsuit Jan. 26 in Orleans Civil District Court against 10 drivers for UberX — the ride-hailing app’s lower-cost service — who cabbies say are violating state law by taking fares without having a commercial or chauffeur driver’s license, which amounts to unfair competition.

“The majority of UberX drivers do not possess the proper license required by law and … the requirement to hold such a license is not being enforced by the City of New Orleans against UberX drivers,” the lawsuit says.

Taxicab drivers are routinely checked for the appropriate permits and service owners can lose their city operator’s license for violating the requirements, which include background checks, drug testing, and installing cameras inside their cars.

Orleans Civil District Judge Piper Griffin will hold a hearing Friday at 10 .m. on the taxicab drivers’ request for a preliminary injunction keeping their competitors from picking up passengers.

I really can’t blame any one who files suit against these “sharing economies” companies frankly because they completely ignore local health and safety laws.  They ignore zoning laws, noise ordinances, and all kinds of things.  I understand the need for a side hustle but why do something that hurts other folks’ livelihoods while giving a piece of your action to a third party parasite?  I’m still waiting for the city to come down harder on short term rentals.  I guess we’ll have to see what Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest vacancies look like around here.  I am ground zero for all this damn stuff and it’s nothing but a nuisance.

So, all of us that have been Hillary supporters for some time can tell tales of hair-raising misogyny on line and else where.  The press is finally beginning to notice that not all of Bernie Sanders supporters are nice folks.  I actually heard Chris Matthews ask John Heilemann if there was anything to it and Heilemann said yes.   The national press secretary for Hillary Clinton Brian Fallon discussed the Bernie Bros at a Bloomberg Politics Breakfast this week.  Any Hillary supporter active on social media has experienced a Bernie Bro Bash and Dash.  Fallon asked the Sanders Campaign to rein in the angst and testosterone of their supporters and to watch the candidate for signs of Bro Creep.

Brian Fallon, national press secretary for the Hillary Clinton campaign, spoke at a Bloomberg Politics breakfast in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday. He addressed social media attacks against Hillary Clinton by the “Bernie Bros,” saying that Senator Bernie Sanders’ shouldn’t let the “crudeness” of some of his supporters seep into his own criticism of Clinton. On the issue of whether some of Sanders’ attacks are sexist, Fallon said, “he knows what he’s doing when he does these little hip checks.”

BernieBro sexism is not imaginary.  It’s also not all about the guys who say they’ve never done anything like that.  It’s about how every woman spends every day fighting off something related to some guys’s issue with women and his own hyped-up idea of masculinity.

But the live controversy over the alleged bros’ existence and activities didn’t begin until months later, after many women began to notice that when they criticized Sanders online or praised Hillary Clinton, male Sanders supporters would reliably turn up in swarms to tell them they were wrong. And that this swarming occasionally escalated further, intomisogynistic abuse that was upsetting or even frightening for them.

Several women, including some who were themselves Sanders supporters, pointed this out online. A greater number noticed that they’d had the same experience, sighed, and resignedly added “Bernie Sanders” to the category of things women tweet about at their own peril, along with “feminism,” “guns,” “Muslims,” “pop culture,” and “probably everything else.”

The Sanders campaign, to its credit, took swift and sensible steps to try to improve its followers’ behavior. And there is absolutely no reason to believe that this slice of online abusers represents the views of either Sanders or the bulk of his supporters, who have better things to do than fight on social media. But some prominent Sanders supporters perceived the complaints about Bernie Bros as a threat to the Vermont democratic socialist’s candidacy, and decided that they needed to set the record straight.

And so, predictably, the “Not All Men” portion of the debate followed. Contributions ranged from measured but only marginally relevant to the issue of abuse (actually, the real divide between Sanders and Clinton supporters isn’t gender but age) to bonkers (Glenn Greenwald going Full Greenwald, claiming that the entire Bernie Bro narrative was a “concoction” by “pro-Clinton journalists,” a “cheap campaign tactic masquerading as journalism and social activism”).

But those efforts weren’t just an unnecessary fight against a perceived media-industry-wide campaign to discredit Bernie Sanders that didn’t actually exist. They were actively counterproductive. The women who complained about their treatment were talking about their own lives, and how the insults and harassment had affected them. And so the debunkers, intentionally or not, sent the message that the really important thing here was not women’s experiences but rather how they might affect a man.

The most maddening thing about this phenomenon is the mansplaining on sexism. It’s a bit like being told by Bill Cosby that you’re being passed out on a roofie makes for better orgasms and has nothing to do with rape.

Some look at these demographic breakdowns and say that Sanders supporters aren’t representative of the diversity of the Democratic base. Others say that many Sanders supporters are motivated, whether they realize it or not, by sexist bias against Clinton. This second critique was expressed perhaps best by a viral “ALL CAPS” critique (worth reading in full) of the “Bernie Bro” phenomenon by Pajiba’s Courtney Enlow.

And, of course, because there are actually women who do support Sanders, the term has come full circle; Sanders supporters sometimes use the term “Bernie Bro” ironically to mock the idea that there aren’t women in their ranks.

But while such responses from Sanders supporters are often straw men, they’re right that the critique is off base.

berni bro

What people really mean when they talk about “Bernie Bros”

Often, though, when supporters of Clinton or critics of Sanders complain about “Bernie Bros,” they’re not actually talking about Sanders supporters as a whole. They’re talking about a specific subset of Sanders supporters who are particularly active on social media (especially Twitter) and can be particularly aggressive in defending their candidate.

Complaints about the behavior of Sanders supporters on Twitter are by no means new. Here’s how Roderick Morrow, who started the joke hashtag #BernieSoBlack, put it to me in August:

there’s all these people who, I don’t know, they’re just sitting around searching his name on Twitter or something, they just come and get in your mentions and start harassing you, they start saying the same things over and over to you.

There are names for these tactics, many of which are associated with the ongoing online-movement-cum-dumpster-fire known as Gamergate. There’s “sea lioning” — trawling tweets from people they don’t actually know to start demanding answers and debate. There’s “mansplaining” — being condescendingly pedantic to people who may very well know what you’re telling them. There’s “dogpiling” — a disproportionate (and sometimes coordinated) group response to an individual comment. And, of course, there are actual threats.

Tiger Beatdown’s Sady Doyle articulated it this way:

I am now the subject of blog posts labeling me “the most extreme opponent of the Bernie Army” (yes, it’s an army now) and various gross-out pictures of pig testicles. There have been, I’d estimate, a little over 100 messages on Twitter today alone – give or take a paltry few interactions about things I actually wrote at some point.

This — the trope of the mansplain-y, harass-y Sanders supporter who gets all up in the mentions of anyone insufficiently praiseful — is the definition of “Bernie Bro” that journalists tend to use when writing about the phenomenon.

But, the deal is that Bernie does mansplain and play into sexist tropes. One of the very things that irks women of a certain age is remembering how all the early movements in the 1960s and 1970s were their own brand of raging patriarchal malarkey.

In the week leading up to the Iowa caucus, the internet was abuzz with a Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton meme that highlighted the pair’s ideological differences. Although the poster-like graphic was mocked up to look official—from the patriotic blue background to the tagline, “Be informed. Compare them on the issues that matter”—it employed decidedly non-political matters (e.g., wolves, sleeping, caves, jetskis, Pokémon) to demonstrate their opposing viewpoints. The obvious goal was to play up Sanders’ perceived complexity and contrast it with Clinton’s supposed #basic nature, in order to illustrate why the former was a better, hipper candidate.

Translated to internet humor: Compared to Sanders, Clinton isn’t as evolved in her tastes and approaches. And so graphics popped up which imagined what the candidates might say about Olive Garden (Sanders: “Only when I’m high.” Clinton: “An authentic Italian restaurant for the whole family”) or lizards (Sanders: “[covered in lizards] ‘Hell yeah! I love these little guys!’” Clinton: “No”). The meme’s absurdity wasn’t quite as successful (or humorous) once it ventured into pop culture territory, however: Clinton was portrayed as being oblivious to the nuances of “Star Wars,” anime and “Harry Potter,” as well as a philistine when it comes to jazz (“It’s not Christmas until I put on Kenny G’s Christmas album”), Iggy Azalea, industrial music(“Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, the list could go on”), Radiohead (“I love ‘Creep’”) and the Grateful Dead (“I like ‘Touch of Grey’”).

Radiohead and the Dead have zero to do with the election or candidate platforms, which of course is the point—it’s all speculative humor meant for social media virality and a Facebook chuckle or two. Still, the meme’s subtext has uncomfortable parallels to the authenticity wars that continue to rage in rock circles, the idea that certain acts and genres are more real because they don’t employ an army of songwriters or laptops. It’s also reminiscent of the indie-vs.-mainstream music dichotomy of the ’80s and ’90s—when the idea of “selling out” and going overground was often anathema—and the negative perceptions around the concept of a “casual fan”: Liking only the big single or a band’s surface output is often considered hopelessly uncool.

These jabs at Clinton’s imagined sonic preferences reinforce the tired idea that the tastes of non-cis-male cultural consumers—from teenagers on through boomers and beyond—are something to be mocked and disrespected. It’s seen in the way the term “fangirl” has become a term of derision directed at supporters of any band with an adolescent fanbase—everyone from My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy to One Direction and 5 Seconds Of Summer—or the way having the musical taste of a “soccer mom” is worthy of an eyeroll. Women of all ages have their favorite artists or genres mansplained to them online every day, when they’re not having their expert opinions or reviews viewed with condescension.

Younger people may want to take a look at the Bernie Sanders “rape fantasy” writing to see just exactly how bad it could be back there trying to be groovy with the primordial DudeBro.  It may have been a way to look at gender roles but it was definitely a look steeped in white male privilege.  Even in revolutions, women’s positions are described as “being prone” and cooking dinner.  The Sanders campaign is making an effort to reel the Bros in but mostly what I’ve seen is dudes mansplaining to me that I’m taking them all wrong.

On Reddit, Sanders’s digital director, Héctor Sigala, told Sanders’s digital army to join the fight against the Bros. The campaign speaks very frankly with its digital cadre, whose volunteer efforts are a huge part of Sanders’s current success and whose political and grassroots sophistication is the envy of most of the candidates running for president this cycle.

Sigala’s message: The Bros are making it tougher for Bernie and they need to stop.

“We love our supporters and we know we wouldn’t be here without you all, but it does add a layer of complexity when we have to track what you all do during some moments when we are shaping our messaging,” he wrote. “Above all: just know you represent our movement and be respectful with those who disagree with you.”

Walsh said she senses the Sanders campaign is aware of what is going on, and urged the campaign to step up its efforts to push back.

“I think they are getting concerned that they have this set of keyboard warriors who revel in insulting women, not just Hillary,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I think they just have to get that message out more aggressively. I don’t blame Sen. Sanders personally, at all. But it is disturbing to see such a misogynist strain in the male left. It’s not a new thing, but it’s tough to experience.”

Even men have been targeted by the Bernie Bros.mansplainers-of-FB-feature

I myself have written a few pieces about the Vermont senator, varying in perspective. And I’ve found that even coverage that tips toward the positive garners a torrent of strongly worded reader responses, from “Your article is misleading” to “Has Hillary offered you a job in the White House press corps?” (That’s not how the press corps works, if anyone was wondering.) In fact, I receive exponentially more criticism when I write about Sanders than any other candidate. And I’ve essentially called Ted Cruz a sociopath, and straight-up called Donald Trump a fascist.
These interactions have been more irritating than anything else—though I’ve significantly worn out Twitter’s mute function. I don’t feel especially threatened by Bernie Bros, and any large-scale negative attention directed toward my inbox typically lasts a few hours at most.

The women writers who dare question or criticize Sanders have it much worse. A subset of Sanders’s supporters have been known to orchestrate campaigns of relentless, misogynistic harassment against them. The phenomenon is so widespread that Cosmopolitan’s Prachi Gupta put together a comprehensive roundup of the women who’ve been targeted—one of whom, Sarah Jeong, a writer for Vice, temporarily locked her Twitter account to stanch the flow of vitriol.
Funnily enough, Jeong actually considers herself a Sanders supporter. And this highlights a significant inconsistency at the root of the Bernie Bro problem.
A number of vocal Sanders supporters prefer to deny the existence of Bernie Bros altogether. The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, for example, considers the meme a “blatant, manipulative scam” attributed to “Clinton media operatives” who are “campaigning for their candidate under the guise of journalism and social-issue activism.” Others dismiss the Bernie Bros moniker because there’s nothing traditionally “bro-y” about Sanders’s overall support base. But the most common talking point trotted out is also the most nonsensical: Sanders supporters aren’t all men, ipso facto, the Bernie Bro is a myth.
But pointing to the existence of women supporters is hardly a sufficient refutation of misogyny within political movements. Who else enjoys a significant female support base? A slew of anti-choice politicians across America.

CaE8WcvUcAAj8GtBB wrote about this last month before the narrative took hold in the broader media.   We’ve all noticed the condescending, superior tone that comes along with being raptured by the Sanders Campaign.

So, it’s getting worse out there and I’m already ready to hit some one.  The right wing and Republicans are back in full metal jacket misogyny. It’s been bad. JJ and BB have documented some of it already.  Here’s a good round up from Amanda Marcotte with my favorite explanation of the Morning Joke discussion on Hillary Shouting.

And on Wednesday, the pundits on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC could not get over the audacity of a woman raising her voice at a noisy rally, like she was a politician or something. “There is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating,” Bob Woodward complained, all aflutter that a lady is raising her voice above a soft, man-soothing whisper.

Cokie Roberts jumped in, pointing out, “These are rallies, though, and it’s hard to do that at a rally.”

“I’m sorry to dwell on the tone issue,” Bob Woodward, said, before bravely charging ahead, “but there is something here, where Hillary Clinton suggests that she’s almost not comfortable with herself.” Women who are comfortable with themselves, you see, speak in low tones so as not to be heard. To communicate true self-acceptance, a proper lady will not speak at all. He’s just concerned and trying to help, you see.

As writes like Ann Friedman and Amanda Hess, as well as the folks at “The American Life” have shown, policing women’s voices is a time-honored way to make it clear to women the only way they’ll be accepted is if they refrain from talking at all. This is a game Clinton cannot win. If she took this oh-so-concerned advice and started talking in a whisper, she’d immediately be accused of not presenting herself as an authoritative figure. You get to be a bitch or a bimbo, and the promised middle ground between the two is an illusion.

And yes, that’s the media that Sanders calls the establishment supporting the Clinton Machine and the Bernie Bros say are friendly to Hillary.

Yup, 2016 is going to be a bumpy ride.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 

 

 

 


Friday Reads

mardi-gras-decs2

Where Y’at?

Today is one of those perfect New Orleans Winter days!  It’s sunny and 68 degrees F.  It’s brisk enough for a walk in a sweater which is just how I like it.  It’s a great day for checking out the local Mardi Gras decorations prior to the descent of the Ugly Tourist.  It’s always so glittery until the day it all goes down. Then, it’s mostly drunk people and disappointment.

Speaking of drunk people and disappointment, the Iowa caucuses are Monday night which supposedly signals the end of the silly season.  I guess we’ll see about that. I’m still struck by the similarities between the Trump and Sanders campaigns.  Perhaps it’s the nature of so-called “outsider” campaigns.  You know me, I still wonder how a long term Senator and a Trust fund Baby Billionaire can be outsiders.  It just seems that mostly what we’re getting is attacks on the press and disassociation of policies with reality and intersectionality.

Bernie Sanders and WAPO are going back and forth today about the paper’s criticism of his campaign and policy suggestions.  Jonathan Capehart–speaking on Hard Ball last night–said that the voice of the editorial page on this was Chris Cillizza so that’s who probably wrote this response today.    I actually find myself agreeing with him.  Sanders ideas simply are lofty goals. They do not add up when actually put to the pencil which is the kind of thing that I’ve spent my 35 years of adult life having to do for huge corporations, for the Fed Atlanta, and for primary research.  The term used at WAPO was “half-baked”.

Sanders suggests they are too “bold” for the staid WAPO.  Today, WAPO characterizes them as over-promising.

What concerns us is not that Mr. Sanders’s program to tackle these issues is “radical,” as he put it, but that it is not very well thought out. We are far from the only ones, for example, to point out that his health-care plan rests on unbelievable assumptions about how much he could slash health-care costs without affecting the care ordinary Americans receive. “Their savings numbers are — well, politely said — simply wrong,” Emory University health-care expert Kenneth E. Thorpe told Vox. Mr. Thorpe, who is not hostile to single-payer systems of the type Mr. Sanders favors and has even advanced single-payer plans of his own, released an analysis Wednesday finding that Mr. Sanders’s proposal would cost $1 trillion more than the candidate estimated. That is not over a 10-year budget window. That is every year.

Mr. Sanders’s response to concerns over health-care costs was that other countries, such as Canada and France, spend much less than the United States per person on health care. That is true, but the question is how, specifically, he would make the model work here. The countries he praises ration care in ways that federal health programs in the United States, such as Medicare, do not. While there may be a fair case for a single-payer health-care system, Mr. Sanders does not make it. Instead, he promises comprehensive benefits without seriously discussing the inevitable trade-offs. That is not just bold; it is half-baked.

Health-care policy is only one place where Mr. Sanders makes solving the country’s difficult problems seem easy and obvious when reality is messier. He would use higher taxes on Wall Street and the rich to fund vast new programs, such as free college for all, but has no plausible plan for plugging looming deficits as the population ages. His solution to the complex international crises the United States must manage is to hand them off to others — though there is no such cavalry. This might not distinguish him much from other politicians. And that is part of the point: His campaign isn’t so much based on a new vision as on that old tactic known as overpromising.

Mardi Gras decorations on a Bourbon Street balcony, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana USA

Mardi Gras decorations on a Bourbon Street balcony, French Quarter

This is one thing that I’ve really noticed from all the outsider campaigns this year which definitely have some political steam.  Trump promises a wall across our Southern Border paid for by the Mexican Government.  This project would cost tens of billions of dollars. 

“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words,” Trump said in his presidential announcement speech.

The jingoistic Rubio and Cruz promise to level ISIS and hundreds and thousands of their innocent victims right along with them.  The rhetoric in this campaign is so over the top that I find myself wondering if so many candidates have overpromised on so many things in one presidential primary before.  It’s really odd because I actually found Jeb Bush’s attempts to bring the Republicans back to reality last night at the debates both sad and heartening.  No one seemed to care much about Jeb’s pronouncements except the few folks with a firm grip on political and scientific reality.  But even then, we continue to get treated to crap like the question-ability of global warming and the call to defund Planned Parenthood which provides so many health care services to so many people that it’s essentially a call for mass slaughter of one’s own citizens.

We continue to see absolute phony promises and little desire on the part of electorate to wake the fuck up. They cannot complain about being sorely disappointed in their elected officials when the elected officials they fall in love with spout absolute crap and nonsense.  The numbers are relevant.  The analysis is by Albert Hunt for Bloomberg so it comes with a be forewarned from me.

The overpromising may be more egregious than ever in the 2016 presidential race. Yet taxes were glossed over in the debate of Republican candidates last week.

Donald Trump says that his tax plan, which has huge reductions in rates and on the amount paid on investment income, focuses on working folks and sticking it to billionaires such as himself. A recentanalysis by the Tax Policy Center showed just the opposite. The Trump plan would cost the Treasury $9.5 trillion over the first decade, and almost $25 trillion over 20 years. The tax cuts would principally benefit the wealthy, almost 40 percent would be for the top 1 percent. The superrich — the top one-tenth of 1 percent — would get an average annual tax cut of $1.3 million.

By comparison, the lowest, or poorest quintile, would get an average tax cut of $130, or 1/1000th of what the wealthiest receive. In percentage terms, the top 1 percent gets a 7 percent cut, the poorest taxpayers a 1 percent reduction.)

The center also analyzed Jeb Bush’s proposal, which would cost less: $6.8 trillion in a decade. The distributional effects would be almost the same, the center found, with upper-income taxpayers receiving much of the benefit. The wealthiest 1 percent would get an average annual tax deduction of $167,325.

The center plans to examine the plans of Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz next week. Although some of the specific proposals are different, the bottom lines are expected to be similar.

Both the Bush and Trump tax plans would “improve incentives to work, save, and invest,” the center stated, while noting that these gains could be partly offset by increases in the national debt.

Also, while both these Republican plans would remove any limits on exemptions for charitable contributions, the Tax Policy Center projected that the steep reduction in rates would reduce the incentive to give to charities.

Conservatives complain that the center is associated with the left-leaning Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. But the analysts include Republicans, and the team reached out to the campaigns and Republican economists for input. The conservativeTax Foundation, while projecting smaller revenue losses, concurs that the distribution of the cuts heavily tilts to the wealthy.

The center has also said that the liberal Democrat Bernie Sanders significantly exaggerates the revenue that would be brought in by his financial transaction tax. The Vermont senator hasn’t produced a comprehensive tax plan that would pay for the enormous expansions of social programs he proposes: universal health care coverage, free tuition at public institutions and huge infrastructure projects. He advocates further tax increases on the wealthy, but some hikes for the middle class seem inevitable under his plan.

Hillary Clinton, seeking to stem a surge by Sanders in the Democratic nomination race, rushed out a proposal last week that would impose a levy on annual income of more than $5 million. Her spending proposals are more modest than those of Sanders, as is her tax plan. But she has vowed not to increase taxes on anyone making $250,000 or less, a promise that some Democratic economists say is unrealistic.

I suppose no politician ever really lost an election by overpromising, but sometimes you just have to wonder how gullible the American populace really is.  However, these are the same folks that send money to Pat Robertson and think that Rick Warren speaks for an actual and very angry Sky Fairy.

Some of us made it through the Republican Debate last night that had the notable absence of Donald Trump who is perhaps the beacon of over-promising, under-delivering, and covering it up with bravado. 02416428a205cbf7bfe68bad0e35d35d

Here comes Donald Trump, again, and again, and again, touting his prowess at dealmaking. There goes Donald Trump, again, and again, and again, touting his prowess at dealmaking. Gliding into February’s Republican presidential primaries atop a flotilla of polls, Trump has made “deals” the litmus test of his candidacy.

“If I’m president,” he announced at the most recent GOP debate, “there won’t be stupid deals anymore.”

But a well-documented and widely reported trail of bad deals litters Trump’s career as a real estate developer and gambling mogul. (Disclosure: I wrote a book about the Republican candidate,“TrumpNation,” for which he sued me in 2006 because, among other things, it questioned the size of his fortune; the suit was laterdismissed.)

Fueled by a slew of bank loans in the late 1980s, Trump absorbed an airline, a football team, a landmark hotel, a bunch of casinos, a yacht, and other nifty stuff — almost all of which he eventually lost because he couldn’t juggle the debt payments.

He overcame those setbacks, but the man who emerged from that mess wasn’t really a dealmaker anymore. Kept afloat by his wealthy father’s funds and his own gifts for self-promotion, Trump became a reality TV star, golf course developer and human shingle who licensed his name on everything from real estate and vodka to mattresses and underwear.

Through Trump’s rise, fall and rebirth, there was one major real estate project that he tried to keep. The tale of what happened to that property should be of interest to anyone looking for insight into how Trump might perform as president. It was a deal of genuine magnitude and would have put him atop the New York real estate market. And he screwed it up.

I’d like to say that gullibility is symptomatic to the new, disintegrating Republican Party but it’s alive and well in the Sanders campaign too. However, it does look like the Sanders campaign will burn out.  There’s some indication that what will happen in 2016 will be a burn out of the Republican Party itself.  Frankly, I’ve been expecting this ever since the evangelicals stormed the country club back in the 1980s. Donald Trump may be the straw meeting the camel’s back.  Read this interview with Rick Perlstein who has documented modern conservatism for a number of years.

Are you surprised that things seem to be turning up Trump?

I had a very interesting experience this summer. I remember exactly when it was. It was when I was reading an article by [Evan] Osnos in the New Yorker about Trump. He happened to be covering the white nationalist movement, basically neo-Nazis. Coincidentally, it was right when Donald Trump burst onto the scene, and he wrote about how these guys were embracing Trump, as they never had embraced any Republican candidate before. The feeling I got was that this was the first time in a very long time that I’ve read anything about the Republican Party that I couldn’t assimilate into my normal categories. That was a very uncanny and uncomfortable feeling for me. I realized that I had to go back to the drawing board and rethink what was going on. This is something that’s very new, very strange, and very hard to assimilate into what we thought we knew about how the Republican Party worked.

How has it changed your opinion of how the Republican Party works?

Well, of course, the whole of my intellectual project, which I have been working on for a good, solid 15 years now, has been the rise of a conservative infrastructure that has taken over the Republican Party and turned it into a vehicle for conservative policy. If there’s one thing that I thought I knew, it is that basically the ideas and the institutions that were born through the Goldwater movement were a backbone of this conservative takeover of the Republican Party. Donald Trump is perhaps most interesting in his lack of connections to that entire world. The first sign that something very different was happening was when he basically rejected Fox News, threw them over the side, and had no interest in kowtowing to them.

That has been amazing to behold.

By the same token, things I’ve been tracing about conservatism and the conservative takeover of the Republican Party as a backlash against the forces of liberalism—and anger at perceived liberal elites and all of the racial entailments of that—are part of the Trump phenomenon, too. So, how these things mix together and how they produce the phenomenon we’re seeing now is something that’s been very humbling for me.

Do you think the things that Trump has been exploiting have always been exploitable, or do you think that some conditions, either in the Republican Party or the country at large, have changed and made Trump possible?

That’s a good question. I think that people who base their political appeal on stirring up the latent anger of, let’s just say, for shorthand’s sake, what Richard Nixon called the “silent majority,” know that they’re riding a tiger. Whether it was Richard Nixon very explicitly, when he was charting his political comeback after the 1960 loss, rejecting the John Birch Society. Or whether it was Ronald Reagan in 1978 refusing to align himself with something called the Briggs Initiative in California, which was basically an initiative to ban gay people from teaching, at a time when gays were being attacked in the streets. Or whether it was George W. Bush saying that Islam is a religion of peace and going to a mosque the week after 9/11. These Republican leaders have always resisted the urge to go full demagogue. I think they understood that if they did so, it would have very scary consequences. There was always this boundary of responsibility, the kind of thing enforced by William F. Buckley when he was alive.

I think that Donald Trump is the first front-runner in the Republican Party to throw that kind of caution to the wind. As demagogic as so much of the conservative movement has been in the United States, and full of outrageous examples of demagoguery, there’s always been this kind of saving remnant, or fear of stirring up the full measure of anger that exists.

Mardi-Gras-bead-tree-deedeeflower-22452394-500-375Again, I will say that a good number of both Trump and Sanders supporters are angry white men and they love all these promises because the lack of talk on intersectionality is taken as a return to their predominance in one way or another.  The separating feature appears to be age.  They seem to bask in white male privilege and view the idea of any one else achieving equality with them as a lose on their score cards.   Melissa at Shakesville has some very astute analysis here about Sanders which explains to me why so many young, white, scared males are attracted to Sanders’ vision.

I will never forget having to see a female president start her campaign event by addressing misogyny, intended as a “compliment.”

I will never not understand that Hillary Clinton is not allowed to forget her womanhood for a moment, even if she wanted to, while she is running for president, and what it means that Bernie Sanders’ primary line of attack against her depends on treating her womanhood like it doesn’t matter.

This, of course, is indicative of Sanders’ entire campaign, where gender, or any identity, isn’t what’s important; the issues are. And no wonder: If Sanders actually embraced an intersectional approach that detailed how marginalized people are disproportionately and differently affected by economic, social, and political injustice, it might become abundantly clear how absurd it is to continually suggest that a woman is representative of the establishment.

And oh how absurd it is, truly, when one takes a long gaze at the uninterrogated misogyny that is being lobbed at Clinton, even by ostensible progressives. (That link shared with Erica’s permission.) If gender really didn’t matter, then it wouldn’t matter to Clinton’s opponents, either.

But it does. Clinton’s womanhood matters. Her clothes matter. Her hair matters. Her voice matters. Her tone matters. Her likeability matters. Her emotions matter. Her “murderous cackle” matters.

The thing about “the establishment” is that it’s impervious to such demeanment.

It sets the rules by which Hillary Clinton is judged ever wanting, by virtue of metrics that are inextricably tied to womanhood.

There is a person in this Democratic primary who can be visibly angry, who can shout, who can use any tone and show any emotion, who can show up to campaign events looking like they just rolled out of bed after a bender. Who can coast by on the double-standard defined and enforced by the establishment.

It is not Hillary Clinton.

All the things I am admonished to admire about Bernie Sanders, that he is passionate, that he is unpolished, that he is impolitic, that he doesn’t give a fuck, are things that the very establishment he allegedly wants to dismantle do not afford his female competitor.

i-QXR9Mdx-MHow is this different from all the things that Trump has said about Megyn Kelly which increases his viability in the eyes of so many pundits and voters alike?  Yes.  Just like we’ve had to defend Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann from slut slamming and misogyny, we have to defend Megyn Kelly.  Republican Rednecks and Democratic DudeBros both swim in the same shark tank and spout the same sexist nonsense.

Early Thursday morning, Trump followed up with a new line of attack,retweeting a pair of images from a photoshoot Kelly did for GQ magazine and the message: “And this is the bimbo that’s asking presidential questions?” The images were captioned: “Criticizes Trump for objectifying women. Poses like this in GQ magazine.”

We also were treated, last night, to Rand Paul mansplaining that Hillary Clinton can’t be a feminist icon because Monica Lewinsky and because Bill’s still her husband.

So, tell me, how are these campaigns essentially any different when you’ve got most of them promising things that they can never deliver and acting like there’s no such thing as sexism or institutional racism outside of making the right minimal  gestures and that every one will benefit the same from their beneficence? How many people are going to get fooled by this again?  And which campaigns acknowledge that the US is in fact full of a women, children, and men of many creeds and colors?  Oddly enough, it’s the two big “establishment” candidates that speak to inclusion and to varying degrees, intersectionality.

Frankly, I have one thing to say.  This country does not need any more Great White Fathers in Washington. The majority of us have been the White Man’s burden and chattel for too long.  Campaigns and politicians like these two need to be stopped now.  They’re establishment wolves in anti-establishment sheep’s clothing.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 


Tuesday Reads: Fascist Misogynist Trump Spews Sexism; Media Misses the Point as Usual

Boston Common at Twilight

Boston Common at Twilight

Good Afternoon!!

I was going to post repulsive pictures of Donald Trump, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead I decided to illustrate this post with paintings of Boston by Frederick Childe Hassam. I hope you like them and that they’ll help to ameliorate the horror of what I have to write about.

Last night Trump unleashed a sickening misogynist attack on Hillary, and many in the media are treating it like politics as usual if a little more vulgar than we’re used to. Here’s what Trump said (NBC News):

“Even her race to Obama, she was gonna beat Obama,” the GOP frontrunner told a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I don’t know who would be worse, I don’t know. How does it get worse? But she was gonna beat — she was favored to win — and she got schlonged. She lost.”

Trump also made crude references to Clinton’s bathroom break during Saturday’s Democratic debate, describing it as “disgusting.”

“What happened to her?” Trump wondered. “I’m watching the debate, and she disappeared.” He then solved his own riddle: “I know where she went. It’s disgusting. I don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting. We want to be very straight up, OK?”

It wasn’t the first time Trump used the term “schlonged.” In 2011, while discussing the race for New York’s 26th District, Trump characterized the loss suffered by Republican Jane Corwin as “not only” a loss but an instance of getting “schlonged by a Democrat.”

Naturally the candidate in question was a woman.

A Rainy Day in Boston 1885

A Rainy Day in Boston 1885

Only a few media outlets described Trump’s language as misogynist, and when they did it was often when they quoted the Clinton campaign. Some writers even called Trump’s attack smart politics. However the New York Daily News did describe the attack as demeaning to women.

Donald Trump’s attack on women reached a new level Monday night, as the GOP front-runner used a vulgar term to insult Hillary Clinton and even remarked on her bathroom habits.

They also noted that Trump attacked Caroline Kennedy–in a way that was clearly sexist.

He also took aim at Caroline Kennedy, who he said was “too nice” to be the U.S. Ambassador to Japan and couldn’t keep up with the country’s “brutal, brilliant” diplomats and negotiators.

Acorn Street Boston

Acorn Street Boston

USA Today decided to focus on Trump’s use of a “Yiddish vulgarity.”

In New York, there’s a bit of Yiddish all around you. This is the after-effect of a stream ofEastern European Jews moving into the city at the turn of the last century, bringing their native tongue with them.

Your bagel gets a schmeer of cream cheese, the trip to Brooklyn is a schlep and the jerk on a bicycle who almost runs you over at the crosswalk is a schmuck.

But there is the problem. Shmuck is actually an obscene term for male genitalia. I have been yelled at for using that term in mixed company (mixed meaning Yiddish and non-Yiddish speakers.)

Donald Trump waded into this dangerous cultural territory Monday night at a rally Grand Rapids, saying Hillary Clinton got “schlonged” in her 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama. Here’s CNN’s coverage of the event. This has set off a bunch of politicalkvetching about whether Trump was being offensive.

Schlong means the same thing as schmuck, but I have never heard either one used as a verb. The Washington Post has a good linguistic analysis. You certainly would not say someone was “schmucked.” There are a whole bunch of other useful Yiddish words for fornication, if that is the verb you are attempting to describe, but we are not going to use them here because, well, they are rude.

Author Paul Singer said that Trump’s

timing was excellent. Starting Thursday in New York is the first ever “Yiddish New York” festival, including lectures, language workshops and dance and musical performances. There are even clarinet classes for budding Klezmermusicians — Klezemer, also known as “Jewish Jazz,” is one of the most joyful forms of music you will ever hear.

Across the Common on a Winter Evening

Across the Common on a Winter Evening

So Trump’s repulsive behavior provided Singer with an opportunity to promote the festival. Isn’t that convenient? No mention of the obvious sexism of Trump’s remarks.

Zachary Goldfarb at the Washington Post: Trump played a clever trick when he called Clinton’s bathroom visit ‘disgusting.’ For Goldfarb, Trump’s commenter were just “polarizing.”

On Monday night, Donald Trump made his latest polarizing comment, saying it was “too disgusting” to talk about Hillary Clinton’s use of the bathroom during the last Democratic debate and that she had got “schlonged” by Barack Obama when she lost to him in the 2008 Democratic primary.

Trump was surely talking off-the-cuff in his usual style — and the comments were criticized as offensive and sexist — but it was another example of his mastery in exploiting the psychological biases of conservatives who see much to dislike in today’s society and express support for Trump in the polls.

In fact,a growing massof academic research has shown that conservatives have a particular revulsion to “disgusting” images. In this line of thinking, Trump’s decision to describe Clinton, one of the most disliked people by conservatives, as a “disgusting” figure would have been an especially powerful way to rile up his supporters.

The research — still debated — suggests that psychological and even biological traits divide people politically, both in the United States and abroad. These are attributes that may help explain why Trump has been so popular among a segment of the electorate, confounding political and media elites.

Some of the recent research has been most pronounced evaluating the differing responses of conservatives and liberals to “disgusting” or “negative” images. Several studies have shown that conservatives are far more likely to have strong reactions to these images or situations than moderates or liberals are. Researchers have also suggested that conservatives are more likely to respond negatively to threats orbe prone to believe conspiracies, perhaps helping explain why Trump’s calls to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States or build a wall at the southern border have resonated with many voters.

Copley Square Boston

Copley Square Boston

You can read more intellectualizing at the link if you’re in the mood for it. I’m not. Those studies would be interesting in another context, but today I think it’s incumbent on decent people to stand up and condemn Trump for the damage he is doing to the presidential race and to our country in the eyes of the world.

Here is the Clinton campaign’s Twitter response from CNN:

Hillary Clinton has one reaction to Donald Trump’s use of a vulgar term directed toward her: Rise above.

“We are not responding to Trump but everyone who understands the humiliation this degrading language inflicts on all women should. #imwithher,” Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri tweeted on Tuesday.

One more link to last night’s reaction from Jenna Johnson at the Washington Post:

This isn’t the first time Trump has attacked Clinton using phrases that some of her supporters have labeled as sexist. In recent weeks, he has repeatedly commented on her pantsuits, said she lacks the “stamina” and “strength” needed for the presidency, and accused her of sleeping too much. Clinton is 68, and Trump is 69.

This latest attack seems to be in response to a comment Clinton made about Trump during the Saturday night debate: She said that the Islamic State terrorist group has used video of Trump’s controversial comments on Muslims to recruit new members, a claim that has drawn questions and skepticism from fact-checkers. Trump has demanded an apology, which Clinton has refused to give.

“She’s terrible,” Trump said during the rally. He then impersonated Clinton’s comments at the debate, using a rather snotty voice: “Donald Trump is on video, and ISIS is using him on the video to recruit.”

“And it turned out to be a lie — she’s a liar!” Trump said to roaring cheers. “And the last person she wants to run against is me.”

Johnson points out that Trump attacked two other women, Caroline Kennedy and Angela Merkel.

Trump also said that Caroline Kennedy is too “nice” to be the ambassador to Japan and is no match for their “brutal, brilliant” negotiators.  And he questioned why Time picked German Chancellor Angela Merkel as its “Person of the Year” instead of him.

“They gave it to a woman who has not done the right thing for Germany,” Trump said, as the crowd booed Merkel. “Nice woman. I like her, I like her. I better like her — I may have to deal with her. Look, hey, Putin likes me, I want her to like me, too.”

Johnson also describes Trump’s attacks on reporters. If you watch the video, you’ll see that he even implies he’d like to kill some of them.

“I hate some of these people, but I would never kill them,” Trump said of the journalists who cover him. “I would never kill them. I would never kill them… I would never kill them, but I do hate them. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people.”

Maybe that will light a fire under some of the dudebro reporters.

What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Elite Boarding School Rape Culture

St. Paul's School in Concord, NH

St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH

Good Morning!!

I’ve been following the rape trial that is going on right now in New Hampshire. The testimony of the alleged victim of a rape at St. Paul’s School suggests that this exclusive private boarding school has an educational environment suffused with sexism, misogyny, and rape culture. We’ve all heard about the many colleges and universities where rape has been ignored and minimized. Is rape culture also widespread in secondary schools around the country? Probably, but at St. Paul’s the acceptance of sexual assault is apparently quite explicit.

I’m not sure how to frame this, so I’m going to begin with some early stories about the trial and go from there.

Associated Press: Rape case points to sordid tradition at elite prep school.

Aerial view of St. Paul's School

Aerial view of St. Paul’s School

St. Paul’s School boasts a glittering roster of alumni that includes senators, congressmen, a Nobel laureate and the current secretary of state. The elite prep school also allegedly has a sordid tradition of sexual conquest where graduating boys try to take the virginity of younger girls before getting their diplomas.

Details of a practice authorities say was called the “Senior Salute” were spelled out in stark terms by a former prefect at the New Hampshire school who is charged with raping a 15-year-old girl on the roof of a campus building in May 2014.

Owen Labrie, now 19, has pleaded not guilty to several felonies. When his trial begins Monday, prosecutors are expected to call current and former students to testify about the sexual culture at one of the country’s most selective boarding schools.

Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, talked openly about the tradition when he was interviewed by Concord police. On a campus where upperclassmen studiously avoid their younger peers in most settings, Labrie told a detective some students “take great pride” in having sex with older students before they leave school.

Labrie also told the detective of a contest where boys compete to “score” with the most girls, keeping a running tally written in indelible marker on a wall behind washing machines. The school kept painting over the scoreboard so it eventually was moved online. He acknowledged to the detective he was “trying to be number one,” the detective wrote.

The New Chapel at St. Paul's School

The New Chapel at St. Paul’s School

The school administrators were well aware of this “tradition” and, according to one counselor, were “trying to educate students against ‘sexual scoring.'”

Excuse me? That sounds pretty weak. What happened to actually banning a practice and explicitly policing the behavior at time time it “traditionally” takes place?

Labrie was an outstanding student who had been accepted to Harvard until the rape accusations surfaced. Harvard now says he’s no longer listed as a student.

Labrie’s defense attorney is well-known and expensive Boston lawyer J.W. Carney, who also defended notorious gangster Whitey Bulger.

Some background on St. Paul’s School:

Founded in 1856, St. Paul’s is an Episcopal school nestled on 2,000 pastoral acres on the outskirts of downtown Concord, New Hampshire’s capital. It enrolls about 530 students and admitted girls for the first time in 1971. Tuition, room and board currently clocks in at $53,810.

The school belongs to the Eight Schools Association, a sort of Ivy League for prep schools that includes Choate Rosemary Hall and Hotchkiss in Connecticut, Phillips Academy Andover, Deerfield Academy and Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts, The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.

Secretary of State John Kerry graduated from St. Paul’s in 1962, alongside former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau is an alum as are 13 U.S. ambassadors, three Pulitzer Prize winners, two World Series of Poker winners, actor Judd Nelson and sons of the Astor and Kennedy families, according to the school’s website.

The school also has a robust international presence: 17 percent of the 2014-15 class came from 25 countries and notable alums include Bernard Makihara, the former CEO of the Mitsubishi  Corporation, and Edmund Maurice Burke Roche, a conservative member of the British Parliament and the maternal grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Owen Labrie's mugshot

Owen Labrie’s mugshot

Labrie told police that he didn’t have sex with the alleged victim. Instead, he claims “in a moment of restraint” and “divine inspiration” he decided not to have intercourse with the 15-year-old girl even though she was “eager” to do so. He also explained that the girl lied because “it’s a “great source of pride for younger students” to have sex with seniors.

WTF?! Then why would she go through the nightmare of a trial in she knows she’ll be humiliated and shamed?

The Boston Globe: Prosecutor: St. Paul’s rape suspect talked about ‘slaying’ girls as part of hookup contest.

Prosecutors say Labrie arranged for a tryst with the girl at St. Paul’s School in a secluded machine room in a school building, prosecutors say he took it further than she wanted it to go.

took the stand late Tuesday afternoon, answering questions about her upbringing and how she ended up at St. Paul’s, where she enrolled as a freshman in 2013.

Today, the girl is testifying about what led to that night in the machine room. She initially rebuffed his message, thinking it was a form letter he sent to lots of girls.

Owen Labrie had been making a list of girls to hook up with months before a 15-year-old accused him of sexually assaulting her at their elite New England prep school, but her name was the only one written in capital letters, a prosecutor said Tuesday….

There was a game above it all: a storied hookup contest among the school’s upperclassmen called the “Senior Salute.” Labrie and his friends talked about “slaying” girls, with April and May referred to as SLAYpril and SLAY, Deputy Merrimack County Attorney Catherine J. Ruffle said.

“This case is about Owen Labrie sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl,” Ruffle said in her opening statement. “It’s about how he thought about this for months.

Prosecutor Catherine Ruffle delivers her opening arguments against Owen Labrie to the jury in the Merrimack County Superior Court, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Concord, N.H.(AP Photo/Jim Cole, Pool)

Prosecutor Catherine Ruffle delivers her opening arguments against Owen Labrie to the jury in the Merrimack County Superior Court, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Concord, N.H.(AP Photo/Jim Cole, Pool)

The girl testified on Tuesday and Wednesday and she was reportedly very emotional, describing her confusion, fear, and lack of control over what happened; but she also described how she felt responsible for what happened and, tried to soothe Labrie’s feelings. She didn’t want to cause an uproar, because her older sister was graduating from the school two days later and she (the victim) didn’t want to make it all about her.

NBC News: St. Paul’s School Rape Trial: Accuser Tells Court ‘I Felt Like I Couldn’t Say No.’

A 16-year-old girl who says she was raped at a prestigious New Hampshire prep school returned to the witness stand on Wednesday, recounting a secret date with an older boy that turned suddenly aggressive.

The girl described her confusion as he groped her in secluded room of a campus building at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire in May 2014. “I felt like I was frozen,” she said through tears as she described the accused, Owen Labrie, kissing and biting her and trying to pull down her underwear.

As the groping continued, she said, “I felt like I had no control. I felt like I couldn’t say no.”

A little later, the girl said, she did say no. But as the alleged attack continued, she said she tried to zone out, looking at the ceiling and trying to ignore the pain. That continued through what she described as unwanted sexual intercourse, she said.

“I didn’t want to believe that this was happening to me,” the girl said under questioning from Deputy Merrimack County Attorney Catherine Ruffle.

Recent St. Paul's School graduate Owen Labrie, right, stands with one of his lawyers, J.W. Carney, as jurors view the school grounds, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, Pool)

Recent St. Paul’s School graduate Owen Labrie, right, stands with one of his lawyers, J.W. Carney, as jurors view the school grounds, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, Pool)

More from the Manchester Union Leader: 

The girl, who was 15 at the time, said Labrie, then 18, sent her what she considered to be a “senior salute,” an invitation from a senior to a girl in the lower classes for a meeting that could result in as little as a kiss or as much as sexual intercourse….

The young girl Labrie was pursuing said she knew of the tradition because her older sister was also a senior at St. Paul’s in 2014.

So her first reaction was to refuse, but Labrie sent an envoy, a friend of the girl, to plead his case and she succumbed to the flattery and agreed to meet him.

Part of the reason for agreeing was his claim to have keys to one of the buildings whose roof was off limits to students. She liked the idea of being able to see a view not available to most students.

She said she expected there would be kissing involved “but that’s all.”

But she was wrong.

She said he took her to the building rooftop, but then back inside the unlighted mechanical room.  There he started by kissing her, then, despite her efforts to stop him, he removed her bra and pants and sexually assaulted her.

She said at one point he laughed and said: “You are such a tease.”

When it was over, she said, “I couldn’t believe what had just happened to me.”

The girl said when Labrie was finished with her he left her  get dressed and go back to her dorm, where she met up with her girlfriends and told them what happened.

Deputy Merrimack County Attorney Catherine Ruffle had the girl read copies of email and Facebook messages between Labrie and herself, messages that were projected on a large screen for jurors.

The girl explained that her friends dictated the messages she sent to Labrie about him using protection.

St. Paul's School

St. Paul’s School

The text messages the girl sent to Labrie are the center of the defense case that she “was a “willing participant” in the sex. I’ll get to that in a minute. First a few more details on the assault from MSNBC:

“I felt like I was frozen,” the accuser said.

“I felt so scared,” she added. “I had no idea what was going on. I had never been put in a situation like that.”

Her second day on the witness stand, the girl continued recounting the events that led to the alleged assault….

The girl said that she and Labrie stood briefly on the roof, and that later, inside an industrial area. She said that the two began kissing and removed some clothing when Labrie became too aggressive, biting her chest and forcing himself on her.

The girl grew emotional as she recounted the intimate details of the encounter, responding to questions from the prosecutor as her family looked on from reserved seating, and telling the court that she didn’t kick or scream as the encounter went on.

“In that moment, I wasn’t strong enough,” the girl said.

She later told the court she said ‘no’ three times. “I don’t know how I could have made it more clear,” she said.

Owen Labrie's defense attorney Jaw W. Carney, left, gives his opening arguments as prosecutor Catherine Ruffle, lower right and Judge Larry Smukler listen Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman at St. Paul's School on May 30, 2014, as part of a tradition known as the "Senior Salute" days before he graduated. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Owen Labrie’s defense attorney Jaw W. Carney, left, gives his opening arguments Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

The cross examination began yesterday and continues today. As I said above, the biggest problem for the prosecution is that this young girl was very focused on not making a scene or being “bitchy.” She was seemingly very concerned about upsetting Labrie or generally calling attention to herself. From the MNSNBC article cited above:

Still, the girl was pressed by prosecutor Catherine Ruffle, the Deputy Merrimack County Attorney, about an email exchange she had with Labrie after the incident, in which Labrie described her as “an angel.”

Reading from copies of the messages displayed on a courtroom projector, the girl told the court that she replied: “You’re quite an angel yourself, but would you mind keeping the events of this evening to yourself for now?”

Asked why she had called Labrie an angel, the girl said she was trying not to upset him.

“It was almost like I was sticking to the script that he was offering,” she said of his email. “I thought it would be rude otherwise to ignore it, or it would cause him to approach me again if I ignored it. I was afraid of him coming after me again.”

In subsequent messages over Facebook, the girl told the court, she asked Labrie if he wore a condom and he assured her he had, and inquired if she was taking birth control medication.

Owen Labrie in court

Owen Labrie in court

Just one last article, from The Boston Globe: Why was the prep school girl so nice to the man she says raped her?

To the defense attorneys of Owen Labrie, the now-19-year-old man accused of raping the girl last year on the campus of their prestigious New England prep school, the message and others like it are obvious evidence that she was not raped, that she was a willing participant in what happened in that dark room. Why else would she chat and giggle and seemingly flirt in some cases if what happened was rape and not a consensual encounter between two teens?

The explanation of the girl, now 16 and on the witness stand in a Concord, New Hampshire courtroom: She didn’t want to offend him. She was trying to be polite. She didn’t want to be “bitchy,” or a “withering little girl.”

And so her chats replying to him in cutesy French phrases, lamenting the loss of her favorite earring, calling him a good guy, paint a blurry picture of how she really felt after what she now calls a rape.

Personally, I can relate to what this girl says. She was only 15 and says she was a virgin.

Part of the reason why she agreed to Labrie’s emailed invitation for a “Senior Salute” on May 30, 2014 in the first place was out of fear she was too rude when she initially rebuffed him.

“I felt bad I’d sent such an attacking response back,” said the girl, who Boston.com is not naming. “I thought that I was rude and that I was wrong and I had been wrong about everything.”

The girl knew the reason Labrie sent her a flowery email asking to spend time with her. Senior Salute was well known on campus as an attempt to hook up with as many people as possible before graduation. Prosecutors said Labrie and his friends made it a game, competing to see how many girls they could “slay” before they left school.

During the assault itself, she said, she was still thinking about him and his feelings. Right after telling him that no, she didn’t want his face between her legs, and pulling his face away, she laughed.

“I wanted to be easygoing,” she said. “I wanted to not cause a conflict. I didn’t want to come off as bitchy or … I didn’t want to cause any trouble.”

Wincing, walking back to her dorm, she told no one. She wouldn’t even tell her best friend, whom she sat with immediately after the encounter, what really happened. She didn’t want to burden her with her issues.

As she saw her sister graduate, and took her exams, she kept quiet. Her family wasn’t on campus to worry about her and her problems, they were there to celebrate her sister.

Read the rest at the link, if you can. I’ve already quoted too much.

So . . . What do you think? As always, this is an open thread.


Monday Reads: Cosby and Crimes Against Women and Children

new-york-magazine-bill-cosby

Good Morning!!

New York Magazine’s latest cover features 35 women who say they were drugged and sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby. At the moment the link to the “13-page photo essay” is unavailable–apparently the site has crashed.

From The Guardian: Bill Cosby accusers detail trauma and betrayal in magazine.

Thirty-five women who have accused Bill Cosby of raping them have spoken out in an explosive photo essay for New York magazine. More than 40 women have so far accused the comedian of sexual assault, but the cover story represents a sea change in how the comedian’s alleged victims have been publicly perceived.

On Sunday, the magazine published excerpts of interviews with each woman for a 13-page photo essay, covering accusations they have made against the comedian and the backlash they have faced.

“Listen, he was America’s favorite dad,” saidBarbara Bowman, who says she was raped as a 17-year-old actress. She made her case public in 2004, when testifying on behalf of Andrea Constand, who said she was also one of Cosby’s victims.

“I went into this thinking he was going to be my dad,” Bowman told the magazine. “To wake up half-dressed and raped by the man that said he was going to love me like a father? That’s pretty sick.

“It was hard for America to digest when this came out. And a lot of backlash and a lot denial and a lot of anger.”

Inside Higher Ed reports: Spelman Discontinues Cosby Professorship.

Spelman College announced Friday that it is discontinuing an endowed professorship named for Bill Cosby and his wife. “The William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship at Spelman College has been discontinued and related funds have been returned to the Clara Elizabeth Jackson Carter Foundation,” said a statement from the college. A spokeswoman declined to comment further. Bill and Camille Cosby are major donors to Spelman and an academic building is named for Camille Cosby. The Clara Elizabeth Jackson Carter Foundation was created by Bill Cosby to provide grants to historically black colleges.

The hardest thing for many people to understand about this is the way Camille Cosby has stood by her husband through the many years it has taken for this entire ugly business to play out. Was she simply in denial? Was she reluctant to give up the money and fame that came with being the wife of a powerful man? We may never know, but she was apparently an active force in her husband’s defense.

Bill and Camille Cosby

Bill and Camille Cosby

From the July 12 New York Post: Bill Cosby’s wife says accusers ‘consented’ to drugs and sex.

Bill Cosby’s wife knows her husband is a serial philanderer, but believes his scores of accusers consented to drugs and sex, two confidants of the couple say.

Last week’s revelation that Cosby admitted during a deposition that he intended to ply women with Quaaludes before bedding them barely fazed Camille Cosby, the ­insiders told The Post.

“Camille still doesn’t believe that Bill provided drugs and had sex with women without their consent,” said a source employed by the Cosby family. “She’s well aware of his cheating, but she doesn’t believe that her husband is a rapist.”

Mrs. Cosby is “a proud, dignified but stubborn woman. You can say that she’s standing by her husband, but really, the more people stand against him, the more she perceives it as an affront to her and all that she’s done to make him a star,” said another source who’s done business with the ­Cosbys and remains close to them.

Camille Cosby, 71, who is also her 78-year-old husband’s business manager, demanded last week at a crisis meeting with advisers that their lawyers and p.r. specialists “get back out in front of this,” the business source said.

“I created him, I knew what I was getting and we’ll fix this,” she told the gathering at a meeting at the couple’s Shelburne Falls, Mass., home Tuesday night.

There’s more disgusting stuff at the link. According to the Post’s sources, Camille was also angered that longtime Cosby defenders have been changing their positions in light of recent revelations.

At Refinery 29, Kelsey Miller argues that women like Dottie Sandusky (wife of convicted child rapist Jerry Sandusky) and Camille Cosby can be simultaneoursly enablers and victims.

The Complicated Case Of Camille Cosby.

It is easy and tempting to make assumptions about Camille Cosby. “That poor woman,” some say. “That idiot,” say others. And, to some, she is “that monster.” Pity or vilification are the textbook responses to spouses in these cases. Watching and waiting for Camille’s next move, I’m reminded of last year’s TODAYinterview with Dottie Sandusky (wife of Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who in 2012 was found guilty of sexually abusing 10 boys)….

Last week, The New York Post shared a widely reported story that Camille (also her husband’s business manager) had held a crisis meeting with Bill’s team to discuss damage control. “I created him. I knew what I was getting, and we’ll fix this,” she was quoted by a source as having said. It was also alleged that she referred to the “infidelities” as an embarrassment she’d long since reconciled herself with, and emphasized them as just that — affairs, and not assaults.

Of course, reports like this should be taken with a hefty handful of salt, but it’s worth noting that Camille’s supposed remarks are certainly in keeping with Cosby’s own in the deposition. Both reveal the kind of psychological gymnastics that allow someone to leap over the evidence at hand — to find acceptable, ordinary dalliances where many would see something much more sinister….

To believe that Camille Cosby is an evil, calculating accomplice to the crimes her husband’s been accused of would be to ignore the possibility that she’s just another victim of those same alleged crimes.

Conversely, to believe that Dottie Sandusky is merely a naive grandma would be to ignore the magnificent power of deliberate denial. We know nothing of the internal lives of these women, nor can we speak to the dynamic of their marriages. Is it likely they knew of their husbands’ actions? Certainly. It is just as likely that they were subject to manipulation and abuse themselves.

The point being: One does not cancel out the other. It’s a cognitive dissonance that neither mainstream media nor its consumers can seem to resolve. We want clear answers and archetypes, and instead we’re stuck with real people, none of whom are entirely good or entirely monstrous.

I suppose Miller has a point, but it’s difficult for me to have much sympathy with either of these enabling wives. Each of these women appear to have actively covered up their husbands’ criminal behavior and allowed these men to damage the lives of so many young men and women.

Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland

Also in the news . . .

CBS Local 11: History Of Racial Tension Where Bland Died.

Waller County was named for Edwin Waller, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico in 1836, who four years later became the first elected mayor of Austin. Whites make up 44 percent of the 47,000 residents, Hispanics 29 percent and blacks 25 percent.

First settled in the early 1820s, the area became home to slave-labor cotton plantations. Hempstead was incorporated in 1858 thanks to a railroad terminus.

The plantations were dismantled with the end of the Civil War in 1865. Three years later, historical records report a race riot, followed by unrest in the 1880s, when a White Man’s Party was established to blunt active black political participation in the county where blacks outnumbered whites.

That’s when violence blamed on the Ku Klux Klan and other extremist groups gave it the “Six Shooter” sobriquet.

More recently, voter intimidation and voting-rights complaints have arisen from students at Prairie View A&M University, a college established in 1876 specifically to train black teachers.

The complaints led to a federal lawsuit. The district attorney at the time, in 2004, reached a settlement and apologized. But the issue resurfaced only two years later and again in 2008, when additional early voting sites in the county were established only after federal pressure.

“There’s a lot of prejudice going on,” said Eugene Hood, citing a history of police harassment as he cut hair at Chad’s Barber Shop on University Drive, just south of where Bland was arrested outside the main entrance to the university.

Marie Armstrong of Dallas, a Prairie View senior, remembers being pulled over and ticketed for a broken brake light and being forced to go court. She wished police would exercise some judgment.

More at the link.

A courageous woman who killed a man who was beating and trying to strangle her may have rid the world of a dangerous serial killer. David Lohr at Huffington Post:  Neal Falls, Man Killed By Escort, Had Cache Of Weapons And List Of Prostitutes, Police Say.

Neal Falls, the man shot to death by a prostitute after he attacked her on Saturday, had a cache of weapons and a list of online escorts inside his vehicle, police said Wednesday.

The items, as well as statements the woman said Falls made to her, led police to suspect he may have been involved in other unsolved crimes.

“He had a machete, shovel, two axes, a bunch of knives, a double-headed ax, a bulletproof vest, numerous sets of handcuffs, as well as the firearm used to kill him,” Lt. Steve Cooper of the Charleston, West Virginia, police department, told The Huffington Post.

Police also found a list containing the names of an unspecified number of women inside the man’s vehicle.

Photo of Neil Falls surrounded by photos of the "murder kit" police found in his car. (Source: Huffington Post)

Photo of Neil Falls surrounded by photos of the “murder kit” police found in his car. (Source: Huffington Post)

More details from a previous report by Lohr:

The man…was shot and killed in Charleston, West Virginia, on Saturday, according to WCHS-TV. The incident reportedly occurred after he met a female escort through Backpage.com, an online classified ad portal that is often used by men seeking prostitutes.

“The details that we’re able to release right now are that there was a struggle … that the man had beaten and strangled the woman and gotten her onto the ground, laid the gun down as he was dragging her back through the house, and she was able to pick the gun up and fire over her shoulder blindly, and the bullet did strike the man, killing him,” Charleston Police Lt. Steve Cooper told the Charleston Gazette on Saturday.

Police in nearby Chillicothe, OH, are looking into the possibility that Falls could be responsible for the disappearances of 6 Ohio women.

“We are in communication with Charleston regarding that situation,” Bud Lytle, a spokesman and crime prevention officer for the Chillicothe Police Department, told The Huffington Post. “Obviously, it’s not a great distance from us and it involved a prostitute and an individual known to pick up prostitutes.”

Falls, who was originally from Oregon, is also be investigated by authorities in Nevada, according to Lohr: Neal Falls Investigation Expands To Las Vegas-Area Dismemberments: EXCLUSIVE

“We received information that caused a conversation to take place between us and law enforcement in Henderson, Nevada,” Lt. Steve Cooper of the Charleston, West Virginia, police department, told The Huffington Post on Thursday.

Cooper said he couldn’t discuss specific cases Nevada authorities are now looking into because the investigation “is ongoing and we don’t want to risk comprising [sic] it.”

The FBI also is investigating, a law enforcement source told The Huffington Post on Friday. A spokesman didn’t immediately answer a request for comment.

CBS News: Woman who killed alleged serial killer recounts final fight.

Falls was answering an online ad for an escort, police said, when he showed up to a Charleston, West Virginia, home.

The woman, who wants only to be known as “Heather,” answered the door.

She said Falls, armed with a gun, asked her: “live or die?” Then he started choking her.

“When he strangled me, I grabbed my rake, and when he laid the gun down to get the rake out of my hands, I shot him,” Heather said. “I grabbed the gun and shot behind me.”

Heather ran out of the house and flagged down a neighbor, who called 911. The neighbor said she “had to defend herself,” and she had “cuts and stuff all over her.” ….

Police are not charging Heather for the shooting, which they say was in self-defense. “I knew he was there to kill me,” Heather said.

See a video of Heather describing her ordeal at WCHS ABC Local 8.

This turned into a post about crime, but–as I have written previously–for me rape and sexual assault are political issues. Crimes against women and children are often ignored and covered up in our society, with the media as enabler.

Movie shooter John Russell Houser

Movie shooter John Russell Houser

Just take a look at Dakinikat’s post from yesterday. She points out that the media are largely ignoring the fact that Louisiana mass shooter John Russell Houser specifically targeted women who were watching a movie created by a feminist.

So, let me address the mainstream media and police confusion about Houser’s “choices” of victim.  These are the same groups of people that rarely address the daily violence against and murder of women by the men in their lives. This is from a blog that tracks and monitors male misogyny called “We Hunted the Mammoth”. The author is David Futrelle.

Police in Lafayette, Louisiana are evidently struggling to understand why the outspokenly misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic John Russell “Rusty” Houser murdered two women and wounded 9 other moviegoers at a showing of “Trainwreck,” a film written by and starring Amy Schumer, a feminist comedian with a Jewish father, known for joking frankly about sex.

Please check out Dak’s post if you haven’t read it yet.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice Monday.


Fat Tuesday Reads

Revelers toss confetti at float of Momus, patron god of Mardi Gras, in New Orleans in 1960.

Revelers toss confetti at float of Momus, patron god of Mardi Gras, in New Orleans in 1960.

Good Morning!!

Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, the last day to celebrate before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday fall on different days every year, depending on the date of Easter Sunday. It begins 46 days before Easter (Sundays aren’t counted). Lent in the Catholic Church was meant to be symbolic of the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent fasting in the desert while enduring temptations from the Devil. Traditionally Christians gave up meat during lent and spent time in prayer and meditation. As kids, we gave up candy or chose some activity to perform during the Lenten season.

So how is the date of Easter determined each year? You guessed it, it depends on the date of the Vernal Equinox–one more example of how Christians absorbed Pagan holidays into their calendar. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is the culmination of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, beginning on The Epiphany, January 6–the day of the supposed arrival of Three Kings (or Wise Men) bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh for the newborn child. This year Easter falls on April 5.

From IB Times:

The time between Epiphany and Mardi Gras is commonly referred to as Carnival, during which parades take place in Catholic strongholds like Brazil, Venice, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, and New Orleans.

Like many Catholic holidays, Mardi Gras bears resemblances to ancient pagan rituals, particularly Saturnalia and Lupercalia. The former honored the god Saturn, an agricultural deity, and was marked by gift-giving, revelry and gambling. The latter was conducted in mid-February to honor Faunus, the god of fertility, which involved feasting, drinking and debauched behavior.

When Rome was Christianized, the Catholic Church adapted popular pagan holidays into the new faith. Mardi Gras season became a time to celebrate before the 40 days of Lent marked by prayer, repentance and atonement. As Christianity spread throughout Europe and the New World, so did Mardi Gras traditions. The pre-Lenten festivals continue to be marked by drinking, dancing and feasting on fatty foods containing meat, eggs, milk and cheese – ingredients that are restricted during Lent.

Shrove Tuesday falls on the same day as Fat Tuesday. It is the day before Ash Wednesday when Christians are reminded they will soon enter a season of penance. “Shrove” comes from the word “shrive,” which means to confess. In the Middle Ages, Catholics began marking Shrove Tuesday as a time to confess their sins before Lent.

Rasberry pakzi

Rasberry pakzi

In places where many Polish immigrants settled in the U.S. Fat Tuesday is celebrated as “Pakzi Day.” From Michigan Live, Fat Tuesday means paczki: One generation prepares the next for the biggest day of the year at Davison Home Bakery.

DAVISON, MI — Lydia Herron is a bit nervous. And excited.

After about five months of working at Davison Home Bakery, she’s preparing for the biggest day of the year: Fat Tuesday.

“They tell me it’s going to be pretty insane,” she said, standing in the bakery the morning of Monday, Feb. 16, wearing a white baker’s apron.

Fat Tuesday is the day before the Christian tradition of Lent, when practitioners give up something for 40 days and 40 nights. Sweets are a common thing to give up, and for many, Fat Tuesday is one last chance to splurge. And the favorite way to splurge on Fat Tuesday?

Paczki.

Paczki are like doughnuts, if you’re the kind of person who thinks there just aren’t enough calories in cream- or jelly-filled doughnuts as it is.

Diane Henson, a baker at Davison Home Bakery, has been making paczki since 1972. The morning of Feb. 16, she and baker Mitch French had already made 200 dozen, having been there since 9 p.m. the night before. They plan on having 600 dozen baked by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around.

She said to make paczki,they use their doughnut batter but add more sugar, butter, and eggs.

Of course the biggest celebration of Mardi Gras is in New Orleans. Here’s a schedule of activities for today that includes links to watch video of the parade. I’m sure Dakinikat can also fill us in on what’s happening down there.

Time Magazine has an interesting article about how Mardi Gras was liberated from being a celebration only for the rich and influential people in New Orleans.

A float in the Krewe of Proteus passes down Napoleon Avenue during their Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.

A float in the Krewe of Proteus passes down Napoleon Avenue during their Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.

These days, Mardi Gras in New Orleans — which falls on Feb. 17 this year — is a party for all. But, not that long ago, Mardi Gras celebrations were more exclusive affairs.

As TIME reported in the Feb. 9, 1948, issue, balls and “krewes” were for the city’s elites only, and that situation lasted for decades after the first Mardi Gras parade was held in the 1850s. In the 20th century, however, the celebration expanded:

For half a century, New Orleans’ fantastic Mardi Gras balls were strictly for the upper crust. Nobody without money, blue blood, or both gained membership in the secret men’s clubs or “krewes” which staged them. Before 1900 there were only five clubs: Comus, Momus, Twelfth Night, Rex and Proteus. They culled guest lists with pernickety care, asked only the fairest of debutantes to serve as carnival queens. But times changed. The socially ambitious began forming their own krewes.

In 1928 New Orleans had 16 Mardi Gras balls. In 1946 there were 36. This year, a record-breaking total of 49 are being held. Last week, with Carnival Day (Shrove Tuesday) fast approaching, New Orleans’ social whirl had assumed the proportions of a maelstrom.

By the 1940s, there were krewe options galore. “Italian krewes, Irish krewes, German krewes… krewes for college men, businessmen, professional men,” TIME wrote. “To the horror of New Orleans’ old guard, there are even krewes for women.”

But that didn’t mean Mardi Gras was an all-inclusive celebration. The krewes may have multiplied, but they were still separated along racial and gender lines.

As recently as 1991, the relative exclusivity of the Mardi Gras krewes was a source of controversy in New Orleans. That December, the city council voted to require the krewes to integrate by 1994, or else lose the right to hold parades. (The krewes are private clubs, but the city controls the streets.)

Read more history at the link. The photo at the top of this post is from Time in 1960.

In winter weather news . . .

The latest winter storm hit the South hard yesterday. NBC News reportsIce Storm Coats South from Oklahoma to Carolinas, Heads to Northeast.

A band of snow and ice sliced across the South on Monday from Oklahoma to the Carolinas, cutting off power for more than a quarter of a million customers and threatening to paralyze major cities on its way to the Northeast.

For once, Boston wasn’t the center of the winter weather. Instead, New England-like snow fell on parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia: 17 inches near Coleman, Kentucky; 15 inches in Logan, West Virginia; 14½ inches near Oceana, West Virginia; and 12 inches in Dickenson County, Virginia.

 At 3:45 a.m. ET, The Weather Channel reported that 26 million Americans were under winter storm warnings — with three million in Tennessee and South Carolina under an ice storm warning.

Ice coated power lines in Georgia where 174,000 customers were without power early Tuesday.

I sure hope JJ, RalphB, and Mouse are doing OK. Beata too–my sister reports that southern Indiana has been hit hard for the past couple of days.

At least 55,000 customers were without power in Tennessee, the state Emergency Management Agency said late Monday. It also declared a state of emergency late Monday.

Trees and power lines came down in Arkansas, where Entergy Corp. said about 17,000 customers were without power, and in Mississippi, where the state Emergency Operations Center said 10,000 customers were in the dark.

Power failures were affecting nearly 62,000 early Tuesday in South Carolina and an additional 19,000 in North Carolina.

The hardest hit areas, according to NBC today:

About 22 million people across parts of the South and the Mid-Atlantic are under winter storm warnings as a band of ice and snow continues its assault. More than 330,000 people across 13 states and Washington, D.C., are without power, according to The Weather Channel. Parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia got the brunt of the snow Monday, including more than a foot in several areas. Now, as the system starts to pull away, forecasters say D.C. could see about 8 inches of snow, New York could get 3 inches and parts of New Jersey, 7 inches.

Take care, Janicen, Delphyne and Joanelle. For once, it wasn’t Boston in the eye of the storm. A man came to my door last night and offered to shovel my car out and clear off my sidewalk for $40, and I took him up on it. I don’t know if I can actually get out. He didn’t shovel down to the pavement, but at least I don’t have to deal with that wall the plows left at the end of my driveway. I’ll go out and look at it later on.

More news links

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

NYT, Obama Immigration Policy Halted by Federal Judge in Texas.  Sigh . . .

The White House responded with a statement explaining why the policy is constitutional.

The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws—which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system. Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws.

The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts, and the district court in Washington, D.C. have determined that the President’s actions are well within his legal authority. Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe. The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.

IB Times, via Raw Story, Who is the Texas judge obstructing Obama’s immigration plan?

CNN, Poll: Most disapprove of Obama handling of ISIS.

Frankly, I doubt that “most” Americans have the slightest idea of what is going on with “ISIS” or a clue about how Obama his “handling” the “threat.”

Karoli at Crooks and Liars, The Islamophobia Fear Factory And The Billionaires Who Pay For It.

NBC News, The Chapel Hill shooter, Craig Hicks, has been indicted for murder.

Outspoken atheists Penn Gillette, Neill Degrasse Tyson,  Bill Maher,  Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins,    Ricky Gervais, Aayan Hirsi Ali

Outspoken atheists Penn Gillette, Neill Degrasse Tyson, Bill Maher, Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Ricky Gervais, Aayan Hirsi Ali

And speaking of Islamophobia, what’s with the supposedly intellectual “movement atheists” who are so obsessed with Islam? Amanda Marcotte, an atheist herself, writes: Time for atheists to take a hard look at ourselves.

One of the reasons that I was attracted to movement atheism was I believed that, by rejecting the gods-and-masters idea, it was inoculated against that knee-jerk tribalism that characterizes so many religions. Without a supernatural cover story for why we’re the chosen people/the righteous/the holy ones, I thought, we would have to rationally accept that we are nothing special. I thought it was protection against the special pleading you often see from people who are wed to conservative movements and institutions and identities. That hope of mine is being sorely tested in the light of Craig Hicks shooting, execution-style, his three Muslim neighbors that witnesses say he had an ongoing bug up his ass about. Hicks was an outspoken and aggressive New Atheist sort, but that’s all we really know about him, alongside his apparent gun-loving tendencies.

Yes, yes, I know we don’t know if it was over religion or a parking space, but it’s clear as hell that many in the atheist world are hoping—dare I say praying—that there’s some kind of exonerating evidence to show that he barely even noticed the headscarfs on the heads of two of his victims. To which I say, why? If we are, as we purport to be, rational people who are above the knee-jerk tribalism of our religious brethren, then we should be open, without any defensiveness, to an open and honest discussion about how the rhetoric of some of the big names in atheism—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher—treads past the ordinary criticisms of faith and turns into ugly and demonstrably silly arguments about how Islam is somehow uniquely poisonous as a religion. While claiming to oppose Christianity, these men have allowed themselves to be useful idiots for the cause of the Christian right, giving them an “even the atheists agree!” cover for their desire to stoke religious animosity and drumming up support for even more unnecessary wars in the Middle East.

Read the rest at the link.

Furthermore, what about the misogyny among these (mostly) male atheist obsessives? Here’s an earlier post by Marcotte: Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?

At first blush, it would seem that an atheist movement would be exactly the sort of thing that would attract many women. After all, much of the oppression of women—from forced veiling to restricting abortion rights—is a direct result of religion. Unsurprisingly, then, feminism has a long tradition of outspoken atheists and religious skeptics within its ranks.Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton preferred “rational ideas based on scientific facts” to “religious superstition.” Major feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir argued that belief in God exists in part to “repress any impulse toward revolt in the downtrodden female.” Modern feminist writer Katha Pollitt received the “Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2001, where she said that religion is dangerous because “it connects with very terrible social energies that have lain in civilization for a very long time.”

But despite the natural and cozy fit of atheism and feminism, the much-ballyhooed “New Atheism” that was supposed to be a more aggressive, political form of atheism has instead been surprisingly male-dominated. The reason has, in recent years, become quite apparent: Many of the most prominent leaders of the New Atheism are quick to express deeply sexist ideas. Despite their supposed love of science and rationality, many of them are nearly as quick as their religious counterparts to abandon reason in order to justify regressive views about women.

Atheism needs some new spokespeople. These guys are nearly as ugly and nasty as their fundamentalist christian counterparts. I nominate Dakinikat.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share your links and storm updates in the comment thread, and have a great Fat Tuesday!!


Lazy Saturday Reads: Challenging Misogyny and Electing a Woman President

hillary-clinton-book-signing

 

Good Morning!!

A couple of days ago, Dan Murphy of The Christian Science Monitor tweeted a link to a 2013 post he wrote about on-line misogyny and noted that “It’s only getting worse.” It’s refreshing that some men recognize the problem. But why is it “getting worse” this week? I doubt if even Dan Murphy knows what’s driving the recent increase in on-line expressions of woman hatred.

Hint: A powerful woman released a memoir on Tuesday. There are now 552 customer reviews of the book on Amazon, most written by misogynistic Hillary-haters who obviously have not read even a single paragraph of Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices. 

We watched it during the 2008 presidential campaign, and we always knew it would happen again if Hillary dared to run again. The truth is that misogyny is even stronger than racism in this country; hatred of women is so powerful that even pointing it out can unleash rape and murder threats. From Dan Murphy’s post from last year about misogyny in the UK:

Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman got the ball rolling this time by daring to write on Tuesday:

There’s been a lot of focus of late on the weirdy-weirdos who send rape threats on Twitter, and rightly so. But much of the coverage makes several misguided assumptions. First, that angry misogynists only communicate on Twitter (allow me to introduce you to something called Reddit). Second, that this is a man-versus-woman thing. Some of the angriest messages I’ve ever received on the Internet have come from women, usually telling me how ugly I am. Lovely to meet you, too! And third, that legislating against rape threats on the Internet is a contravention of freedom of speech. Seeing as legislation against hate speech in the real world has not, as far as I know, contravened anyone’s right to freedom of speech, this argument makes no sense, except, maybe, to people who make rape threats and whose grasp of logic is, perhaps, not whipsmart.

Ms. Freeman soon received a bomb threat on Twitter. Also in the UK last week feminist writer Caroline Criado-Perez and Labour Party politician Stella Creasy received rape threats via Twitter. After Ms. Criado-Perez complained to police she’d received dozens of sexual threats over the Internet, a 21-year old man was arrested.

Hillary cartoon

The Hillary hate has been building up for awhile now, ever since Hillary stepped down as Secretary of State and the media began shrieking from the dark heart of its collective fear of a woman president–especially *This Woman.* I don’t know how bad its going to get, but I’m already sick of it. I want so much for Hillary to stand strong and prevail over the fear and hatred of women that is and will be projected on her for the next couple of years.

Even I fell for it yesterday when we discussed Hillary’s interview with NPR’s Terry Gross. I said I thought Hillary had sounded defensive when she responded to Gross’s question about changing her position on same-sex marriage. Luckily for me, Fannie and Janicen were there to point out my mistake:

Fannie

I am glad Hillary asserted herself and her tone. I don’t know why Terry Gross didn’t do her homework, or why she took the path that lead to the “twisting of her comments, insisting it was politics”. Hillary wasn’t trying to jump her (or as the media said, Hillary was being testy), she was being spot on about her response. Get ready, now that her book is out, we are going to see underreactions, overreactions, the ups and and downs, and everything else they will thrown into the mix. Hillary will be up against the Ducks, the Rick Perry’s who thinks gays are alcoholics, the tea party candidate who says the Bible tells me to stone gay people to death, and Rich Gohmert who debates at congressional hearings about who is and who is not going to heaven. She’s been around the block a couple times.

BB, you remember when Chris Hayes was attacked by a republican woman, she hammered his ass, and it was all because they “disagreed”. Hillary was NOT being nasty like this woman. She handled it well, I thought.

Let’s get back to Hillary’s history. She was speaking out against the oppression by the Uganda Bill “Kill the Gays”. She gave a hell of speech at George University. That was early in 2009.

Did Chris and Terry forget 2009 when she said:
“On behalf of Department of State and USAID, I want to congratulate the gays and lesbians in foreign affairs agencies on winning the Employee Resource Group of the Year Award by Out and Equal Work Place.”

It was Hillary who changed the policy at the Dept. State, to help provide benefits for same sex partners of those work were in foreign service. It was after this that Obama followed with other federal agencies. Obama had been nodding his head, while she was actually changing the laws, and the records are there for everybody to see. Terry and Chris refused to see.

Hillary Clinton also developed policy on transgender employees at the state department. She said stand up and be who you are. Keep in mind, she said “the struggle for equality is never ever finished”…. and she is right.

Hillary has been advocate for LGBT community for long time. She knows that they (we) are all flustrated because change is slow to come. It coming but very slowly. It was Hillary who marched in Pride Parade when June was declared Pride Month, she was right there with them, while Obama was working out.

Chris is getting lazy, get up off his ass and speak to those she has helped for many many years.

janicen

June 13, 2014 at 11:55 am(Edit)

I have to disagree that she sounded defensive. I think she sounded decisive. Gross kept stupidly pushing her agenda again and again. Clinton was polite for as long as humanly possible and then she just had to put the idiot in her place. I’m glad she responded as she did. Until then she was sounding like a politician. Once she cold cocked her, Madame President sounded like a leader.

Thank you, my dear friends. That is a clear demonstration of the value of a community blog where we can argue share our analyses with each other. I’m so glad we are still hanging in there together!

Now a response to the chorus of media criticism of Hillary as “testy” (IOW *bitchy*) from Jeremy Holden at Media Matters: How NPR’s Terry Gross Created A False Impression That Hillary Clinton Stonewalled On Marriage Equality.

By repeatedly asking the same question, NPR correspondent Terry Gross created the false impression that Hillary Clinton was stonewalling and dodging over the issue of marriage equality, despite the fact that Clinton consistently and repeatedly answered Gross’ question.

As a senator and during her 2008 presidential run, Clinton supported civil unions for same-sex couples and opposed marriage equality. In a March 2013 statement, she announced that “I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I support it personally and as a matter of policy and law.” She explained that her travels as secretary of state and her daughter’s wedding had been key to her changing her opinion on the issue.

Gross’ central question was whether Clinton changed her publicly stated position and supported gay marriage out of political expedience, a question she asked seven separate times during an NPR interview. Clinton consistently rejected Gross’ characterization throughout the interview, instead saying that her views on the issue changed over time.

SONY DSC

To me it seemed that Gross wanted Hillary to say that she had always supported same-sex marriage, but had pretended to oppose it for political reasons. Of course if Hillary had said that, she would have been pilloried for lying about her position. The truth is, as she stated very clearly, that Hillary’s views on same-sex marriage changed as she heard the logical arguments for it from LGBT activists–whom she had long supported. Here is Hillary’s clear response at the beginning of the exchange.

TERRY GROSS: Were there positions you believed in as senator but you couldn’t publicly support because you felt that it wasn’t time yet? That the positions would have been too unpopular? That the public wasn’t ready in regards to LGBT rights? And, you know, I often think that there are politicians who, you know, in their heart really support it but don’t publicly support it.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I was fully on board with ending discrimination in the workplace on behalf of the LGBT community. I did not support gay marriage when I was in the Senate or running for president, as you know, and as President Obama and others held the same position.But it, for me, became an opportunity to do what I could as secretary of state to make the workplace fairer – something I had always supported and spoke out about. And then when I was out of the secretary of state position and once again free to comment on domestic matters, I very shortly came out in favor of fully equality, including gay marriage.

Yet “progressives” like Chris Hayes writers at Firedoglake and Huffington Post ripped into Hillary for standing up for herself against Gross’s attempts to twist her responses.

Another defense of Hillary’s truthfulness–while expressing frustration with her positions–came from the Washington Post’s Johnathan Capehart: Gross misunderstanding of Hillary Clinton on gay marriage.

The history bears out Clinton’s contention. Her evolution on marriage equality was as irksome for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as was President Obama’s. But what made Obama’s evolution especially painful to watch was knowing that as a candidate for state senate in 1996, he unequivocally stated, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” As I covered Clinton from first lady to senator to presidential candidate, I never detected a whiff of that kind of political calculation in her opposition to same-sex marriage. If anything, her march to “yes” was maddeningly slow.

Hillary profile

Here’s another interesting example of contrasting views on Hillary and her behavior. First The UK Guardian’s review of Hard Choices by David Runciman: Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton review – buttoned-up but still revealing.

If Hillary Clinton becomes the next American president she won’t just be the first woman to hold that office: she’ll be the first secretary of state to get there since James Buchanan in 1857. Unlike in Britain, where foreign secretaries and chancellors of the exchequer routinely go on to the top job, senior US cabinet positions are not seen as stepping stones to the White House. No secretary of the treasury has ever become president. Cabinet officers are meant to be functionaries: people whose job is to make sense of the world. Presidents are meant to be politicians: people whose job is to lead it. In this long, exhausting, faintly robotic but ultimately impressive book, Hillary makes her pitch to be both.

According to Runciman, Hillary’s book is way too cautious and “prosaic,” but still “an amazing story.

Above all, what comes through is Clinton’s sheer persistence. This is how she does politics, by keeping going and totting up the small victories so that they outweigh the defeats. Unlike Obama, who still appears to believe that politics is about rational argument, and unlike George Bush, who thought it was about vision, Hillary believes it is about breaking things down. She is a disaggregator, who can’t see a problem without trying to make it smaller, more manageable, and only then does she try to fit the pieces back together again. Peace, she tells us, doesn’t necessarily begin with a grand fanfare. Sometimes it comes out of the temporary ceasefire that holds just long enough to make a difference. Part of why this book is so exhausting is its thoroughness: she travels the whole world and tells us about the different challenges she faced, taking them all seriously. Early on she quotes approvingly a maxim from Deng Xiaoping: “Coolly observe, calmly deal with things, hold your position, hide your capacities, bide your time, accomplish things where possible.” The US could do worse than having Deng as its next president.

Perhaps that’s the only option for a powerful woman in the misogynistic rape culture of the U.S.?

Hillary Rodham Clinton Signs Copies Of Her Memoir "Hard Choices"

Here’s feminist writer Jessica Valenti, also from The Guardian: Hillary Clinton’s book is exactly as ‘safe’ as female politicians are forced to be.

Hillary Clinton’s new book, Hard Choices – a memoir of her time as secretary of state – is finally out, and the critical consensus is that it’s a snore. CNN’s conservative commentator Ana Navarro called it “50 shades of boring” while the network’s liberal contributor Sally Kohn called it “safe” and “dry” – and joked that the book should have been called “Boring Choices“. The New Republic criticized its “dullness and lack of critical energy”. Politico’s Mike Allen called the 596-page book a “newsless snore”.

I’m not exactly sure how action-packed the minutiae of a diplomat’s life is supposed to be, but the Hard Choices haters ignore that a “safe” book was Clinton’s only real choice. After all, whenever she’s hinted at being anything other than measured and guarded, Clinton has been attacked as hysterical, a ballbuster or worse. So if people are bored by Hard Choices, they should blame the misogynist expectations of Washington, not the careful crafting of a seasoned politician.

When then-presidential hopeful Clinton teared up on the campaign trail in New Hampshire in 2008, for example, Maureen Dowd penned a column in the New York Times that asked “Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?”On CNN, Glenn Beck said, “After spending decades stripping away all trace of emotion, femininity, and humanity, Hillary Clinton broke down and actually cried. … I don’t buy the hype.” On Fox News, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol called the emotional moment “solipsistic and narcissistic”. Similarly, when Clinton got into a heated exchange during her Benghazi testimony, the New York Post ran a cover of Clinton yelling with her fists clenched; the headline: NO WONDER BILL’S AFRAID.

Any emotion that Hillary Clinton shows has always been used against her, and it has become a kind of stand-in for the many reasons women are said to be oh-so-unfit to lead. The building-up of her protective public armor, post- and potentially pre-White House, isn’t just smart for Clinton personally – it’s essential for the growing national image of women in politics.

It’s clear from reading Hard Choices that sexism – particularly during Clinton’s 2008 run for president – has taken a toll on her. “I knew that it arose from cultural and psychological attitudes about women’s roles in society, but that didn’t make it any easier for me and my supporters,” she writes. Indeed, the frenzy of misogyny was so intense that it’s hard to imagine enduring it all while vying for the most important job in the world.

After seeing the racism that has plagued Barack Obama’s presidency–and has, if anything, increased during his second term–we now know that the misogyny from the media and society as a whole would continue throughout a Hillary Clinton presidency. That is what it will take for a woman to break through that ultimate glass ceiling. If we are going to support Hillary in her fight to do just that we will need to stay awake and aware of the various forms the efforts to bring her down will take. I learned that lesson here yesterday, and I will rely on other Sky Dancers to keep me focused on the ultimate goal. I hope I’ll be strong enough to do the same in return.

Now, what else is happening in the world today? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.