Tuesday Reads: Zimmerman Speaks, Cruz Announces, and Hillary Clinton Prepares to Run

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Good Morning!!

Get your barf bags ready before you read the new “interview” with George Zimmerman. I put that word in quotes, because the so-called “interview” was with Zimmerman’s divorce lawyer Howard Iken, not an objective journalist who might have asked uncomfortable questions. I couldn’t bring myself to read the whole thing, but you can do so at the Ayo and Iken website. You can also watch the video if you can stomach it. I did read a couple of press reports:

The Orlando Sentinel reported, George Zimmerman: President Obama amped up racial tension against me.

In his first public comments since the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute him for violating Trayvon Martin‘s civil rights, George Zimmerman says he was victimized by President Obama….

In it, he faulted the media for portraying him as a racist and the criminal justice system for bringing him to trial but saved his harshest criticism for Obama, whom he accused of trying to prosecute “an innocent American.”

“For him to make incendiary comments as he did and direct the Department of Justice to pursue a baseless prosecution, he by far over-stretched, over-reached,” Zimmerman said.

The president, whom he referred to as “Barack Hussein Obama,” should have told the public, ” ‘Let’s not rush to judgment,’ ” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman told his attorney that he doesn’t feel guilty about killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed and walking to his father’s home after buying skittles and iced tea at a local convenience store.

He said he’s convinced there’s nothing he could have done differently that would have allowed both him and Trayvon to survive their confrontation that night.

“In all fairness, you cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving,” he said.

Talking Points Memo: George Zimmerman Compares Himself To Anne Frank, Says Obama Victimized Him.

“I believe that God does everything for a purpose, and he had his plans and for me to second guess them would be hypocritical and almost blasphemous,” Zimmerman said. “Had I have had a fraction of a thought that I could have done something differently, acted differently so that both of us would’ve survived then I would have heavier weight on my shoulders.”

His lawyer, Howard Iken, asked him whether he was the same man he was five years ago.

“Absolutely not,” Zimmerman said. “I have to have my guard up significantly. … I still believe that people are truly good at heart, as Anne Frank has said, and I will put myself in any position to help another human in any way I can.”

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Apparently “God” actually wanted Trayvon dead and Zimmerman just happened to be the medium for “God’s” handiwork. Because, you know, “God” is a racist who hates black teenagers….

Don’t put away that barf bag just yet. The next topic is Ted Cruz’ announcement yesterday that he’s running for president. Cruz made the big announcement at Liberty University in Virginia, which was founded by Jerry Falwell. You can read the full transcript at Time Magazine. Cruze praised the “christian” college profusely, but please note that Cruz himself chose to get his education at Princeton and Harvard.

Cruz led off the speech with a lengthy and sentimental description of his and his wife’s family history. Then he launched into his dream for the future of America.

I want to talk to you this morning about reigniting the promise of America: 240 years ago on this very day, a 38-year-old lawyer named Patrick Henry stood up just a hundred miles from here in Richmond, Virginia, and said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison “we demand our liberty.”

Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.

Today millions of young people are scared, worried about the future, worried about what the future will hold. Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together, saying “we will stand for liberty.”

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That’s not too specific, but I’m pretty sure that by “liberty” Cruz means taking away freedom of choice from women, taking away health care from millions of Americans, blocking immigration reform, and increasing income inequality through tax cuts and removal of government regulations that protect the environment and the health and safety of workers.

Cruz went on to provide some specifics:

Five years ago today, the president signed Obamacare into law. Within hours, Liberty University went to court filing a lawsuit to stop that failed law. Instead of the joblessness, instead of the millions forced into part-time work, instead of the millions who’ve lost their health insurance, lost their doctors, have faced skyrocketing health insurance premiums, imagine in 2017 a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare.

Imagine health care reform that keeps government out of the way between you and your doctor and that makes health insurance personal and portable and affordable.

Yes, you’ll just have to imagine that, because you won’t get it with a Republican president.

Instead of a tax code that crushes innovation, that imposes burdens on families struggling to make ends met, imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard.

Imagine abolishing the IRS.

So taxes would get paid on the honor system? And with a flat tax, the burden would fall mostly on lower wage earners. Again, it’s about “freedom” for the rich and the rest of us can pay for it.

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Women  and LGBT people can forget about their freedom under a Ted Cruz presidency.

Instead of a federal government that wages an assault on our religious liberty, that goes after Hobby Lobby, that goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor, that goes after Liberty University, imagine a federal government that stands for the First Amendment rights of every American.

Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.

There’s much more of Cruz’s “freedom” talk at the link.

Some reactions to the speech:

Think Progress: Ted Cruz Just Laid Out The Most Anti-Woman Agenda Yet.

FactCheck.org: FactChecking Ted Cruz

The Week: The Obama-like rhetoric, record, and divisiveness of Ted Cruz.

Mediaite: Jon Stewart Mocks Ted Cruz’s Televangelist-Like Big Speech.

SFGate: The Ten Best Things About Ted Cruz Running for President.

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On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton seems to be getting close to announcing her own run for president. Yesterday she had a private meeting with President Obama.

From Politico: Hillary Clinton meets Barack Obama at the White House.

Clinton was in Washington for an event about the future of urban policy hosted by the Center for American Progress in the morning and the presentation of the Toner Award at a dinner in the evening.

In between, the all-but-declared Democratic presidential candidate swung by to see her old boss in the building she’s hoping to move into.

The White House wouldn’t comment about whether a meeting was going to happen earlier in the day, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed afterward that it had happened — though he provided few details.

“President Obama and Secretary Clinton enjoy catching up in person when their schedules permit,” Earnest said. “This afternoon they met privately for about an hour at the White House and discussed a range of topics.”

I wonder if they talked about Clinton’s announcement and what Obama would do to back her up?

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Also at Politico, Gabriel DeBenedetti wrote that Clinton and other Democrats are thrilled that Ted Cruz will be running for the GOP nomination.

Ted Cruz: Hillary Clinton’s wrecking ball.

Democrats from both inside and outside the Clinton camp have groused for months that the all-but-certain candidate was moving too slowly in formulating and projecting a rationale for running for the White House outside of her gender and the dreaded “it’s my time” argument. She was relying too much on a platform of inevitability, they said — the same platform that doomed her bid in 2008. But those closest to the former secretary of state have counseled patience, arguing that a core element of Clinton’s plan was to get out of the way and let the dueling wings of the Republican Party savage each other while she floats above it all.

Cruz, they say, is Hillary’s wrecking ball.

People close to Clinton smiled at the sight of the first-term senator wandering alone on stage at Liberty University, implicitly threatening a civil war with the “mushy” establishment of his party that he loves to decry — while at the exact same time Clinton sat comfortably alongside heavyweights from her own party’s progressive and labor elements, who have thus far entirely declined to challenge her.

Meanwhile the clamoring of some liberal groups to recruit Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the progressive darling, was entirely unheard in downtown Washington as Clinton spent her morning discussing domestic policy at the headquarters of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank run by her allies. The presumptive Democratic front-runner sat near a pair of union bosses and current and former urban mayors, making sure to throw in some love for liberal hero Bill de Blasio, the New York City mayor, as she previewed pieces of her likely domestic policy platform.

She touched all corners of the Democratic Party in the morning performance before meeting with President Barack Obama in the White House and speaking at an award ceremony for political reporters in the evening, dogged only by barbs from her Republican critics.

So for Clinton, Monday was smooth sailing. For Republicans, her camp figures, it signaled the beginning of a wild and messy primary contest that will let Clinton appear to be the adult in the room before she takes on a bloodied GOP nominee.

Could the GOP clown car be even more packed with loonies in 2016 than it was in 2012?

What are you hearing? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great day.

NOTE: The paintings of piano players by Matisse are meant as a tribute to our fearless leader Dakinikat and her new moneymaking enterprise.


Friday Reads and all that Jazz

10710993_10152844142993512_6766093555877670106_nGood Morning!

I’ve spent this week getting used to some changes in my schedule and activities while trying to find a way to get all the things paid for above and beyond teaching for what seems like next to nothing any more.  One of the things I learned this week is that some things really never change.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans is pretty much an endless parade of the same kinds of people  in the same groups with the same clothes and looks on their faces.  I’ve never gigged on Bourbon Street until this week even though I’ve gigged around New Orleans and the French Quarter a lot over the 20 years I’ve lived here.  I usually play at upscale restaurants so mostly, I’m very much in the background.

I’m still somewhat in the background but now it’s more like being the music behind the performance.   I’m accompanying a very talented drag performer with an awesome voice and having great fun!  I hope you enjoy the pictures!  I’m going to share a few other stories that are locally relevant and not as happy.  So, this top picture is Miss Jessica Duplantier singing with me checking out her show last week.   You’ll see a lot more of her and Eureka Starfish as the post goes on.

I’ve been thinking once again on how tribal human beings can be and how easily we forget how badly we can treat each other.  I also think we all have convenient short memories and long standing insensitivities to wrong done to others.   I’m getting tired of watching racism parade its ugly head.   I’m also getting extremely tired of people acting willfully ignorant about things that seriously represent injurious historical actions.

I‘m pretty sure we all know about  “pickaninny” culture even though many of us were not raised in the deep south.  It was a staple of Hollywood movies, literature, advertising, and many other aspects of popular culture prior to the civil rights movement.  I’m not going to actually reproduce any of that here on the post but I will point to the links and to this article highlighting the new poster for the North Shore Strawberry Festival.

The 2015 Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival poster was unveiled Tuesday (March 17), and immediately provoked a social media debate, with some calling the image racist.

The poster, created by artist Kalle Siekkinen, depicts two faceless children rendered in dark brown or black paint. One holds a flat of strawberries. The poster made the rounds on various Facebook pages, with some saying the image, done in a folk art style, implied cultural insensitivity. Others wrote that such concerns were misplaced.

Shelley Matherne, public relations director for the Strawberry Festival, said that the annual poster is produced by the Ponchatoula Kiwanis Club and that officials of the festival had not seen the work until Thursday’s unveiling. They became aware of the controversy via social media. Festival organizers are meeting with Kiwanis representatives Thursday (March 19) evening to discuss how to proceed, Matherne said.

The festival put a post about the poster on its Facebook page. The comments under the post — 81 as of 5:15 p.m. Thursday — were no longer public.

I have followed, spoke to and seen most of the social media storm.  I cannot believe that folks do not recognize the “pickaninny” stereotype and what it means to the historical movement to dehumanize and infantilize Black Americans.  You can look at the variety of comments there exclaiming that it’s racist free ‘folk art’ showcasing black children and judge for yourself.  The Festival people are standing by the poster and the poster’s defenders are vociferous.  I’m still appalled and I stand by that.

eureka starfish gagaI’m appalled on many levels by several recent events indicating that the struggle does indeed continue on many fronts.  There were several notable absences in the Selma commemoration including the Congressman that spoke at a White Supremacist gathering on his way to his seat.  He was in a posh resort being wined and dined by the AEI.  That’s obviously much more important than making a symbolic gesture to his constituents many of whose lives were profoundly changed by the civil rights movement.

U.S. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 3 House Republican who has been criticized in the past by civil rights leaders, stayed at a posh Georgia resort with his wife earlier this month rather than attend events in Alabama marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma civil rights march.

A newly filed congressional “post-travel” disclosure dated Wednesday shows Scalise skipped the Selma event to attend a Republican “off-the-record” retreat hosted in Sea Island, Ga. The event was hosted by the American Enterprise Institute from March 5-8.

Not far away from us, Mississipi Trees still bear “strange fruit”. All of this is a haunting reminder that our President may be black, but our American Society still has far to go to achieve the dream of liberty and justice for all.

CLAIBORNE COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -The FBI and the MBI are investigating a suspicious death in Claiborne County.

A body was found on property located off of Rodney Road.

The Coroner, J.W. Mallett, confirms the man was found hanging from a tree. Officials say the body was hung using bed sheets.

According to the Coroner the body has not yet been identified because the body has apparently been there so long that identification, by visual means, is nearly impossible. The body has been sent to the State Crime Lab for autopsy.

The Claiborne County branch of the NAACP is indicating the man found hanging is Otis Byrd.

The FBI is only saying that he is a “man last seen March 2nd; and his family filed a missing persons report with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department on March 8th.”

In a news release, the FBI say the body was found during a ground search by the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks.

54-year-old Otis James Byrd was last seen when a friend dropped him off at Vicksburg’s Riverwalk Casino earlier this month.

His family and friends hadn’t heard from him since then.

The NAACP has now sent an email requesting the US Department of Justice “join the current investigation of the suspicious hanging death of Mr. Otis Byrd.”

The email goes on to say: “Mr. Otis Byrd’s body was [found] today, Thursday, March 19, 2015. After several days of missing, [he] was found hanged to death.”

The FBI says the body was found “a half mile from his last know residence.”

Some odd things have been happening in the city that relate to a really strange true crime case.  I thought I’d bring up the arrest and extradition of Robert Durst.  It’s one of those stories that makes you wonder St Pat's with Jessica DuPlantier and Dasani Watershow our society can manage to let so many folks rot in jail for very little while a true sociopath can wander about at will.  I guess you shouldn’t wonder too much because the guy is and was rich and can pretty much afford to work the justice system.  It’s a strange story, nonetheless.

Durst was arrested Saturday in New Orleans in connection with the 2000 fatal shooting of Berman at her Benedict Canyon home. He was charged Monday with murder, and the next day transferred to the mental health facility at a state-run prison in Louisiana.

His extradition to California has been delayed as authorities in New Orleans deal with the drugs and weapons allegations.

Meanwhile, New York authorities remain interested in Durst as they continue to investigate what happened to his first wife, Kathleen, who disappeared in 1982.

Kathleen Durst vanished after she expressed the desire for a divorce. To a friend, she had confided worries about what her husband might do.

Following the disappearance, Berman acted as an “informal spokesman” for Durst. The pair had met at UCLA, where they went to school together.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles allege that Durst killed Berman to prevent her from speaking to police about the disappearance of his wife. Durst could face the death penalty for the murder charge with special circumstances.
Less than a year after Berman’s death, Durst turned up in Galveston, Texas, in connection with the killing of an elderly neighbor, Morris Black. Black’s dismembered body, in several plastic bags, was discovered in the waters offshore. A trail of clues led to Durst’s arrest.

Durst didn’t deny dismembering Black, but he said he inadvertently shot him while wrestling a gun from him.

A jury acquitted him in 2003.

Although Durst’s life has seen a series of high-profile brushes with the law, suspicions about him exploded into a national sensation as they played out in a six-part HBO series, “The Jinx.”Eureka Starfish

The making of the documentary had opened up some new evidence.  Durst’s New Orleans Hotel Room is turning out to be one of those FBI forensic crime scenes from TV dramas mixed with crime psychologists and crime scene scientists.  Check out the picture on this one.  The guy oozes sociopath.

Murder suspect Robert Durst, subject of HBO’s ‘The Jinx,’ had more than $42,000 in cash, a fake ID and a latex mask when authorities arrested him in New Orleans last weekend, newly obtained records show.

Inside Durst’s hotel room at the J.W. Mariott on Canal Street, police say they found $42,631 in cash, mostly in $100 bills packed in small envelopes, according to an affidavit for a warrant to search Durst’s home in Houston, signed by a judge in Harris County, Texas, on Tuesday (March 17).

The new details were made public Wednesday after authorities in Houston searched the real-estate scion’s home at the request of Los Angeles officials, who have charged Durst in the 2000 death of his longtime confidante and spokesperson, Susan Berman.

According to the document, members of the FBI’s Violent Offenders Task Force found Durst on in the lobby of the hotel a little before 7 p.m. Saturday. When FBI Special Agent William Williams approached the 71-year-old man from behind and identified himself, Durst had a small backpack with him but claimed he did not have any type of identification.

When agents searched Durst’s room — he was staying in room 2303 under the name Everette Ward — they found a Texas ID with the same alias, and not his real name, the record states.

“That’s pretty good,” Durst said to the agents when confronted with the fake ID, according to the Texas document.

So, now I suppose I will have to watch the HBO thing.

Bourbon Street on a Monday
Well, that’s enough for me today.  I’m going back to sleep for awhile!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Utter Exhaustion Edition

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Good Morning!!

I finally arrived in Boston yesterday after driving for three days. With the days so short, and the nights so dark, I ended up having to stop for the night earlier than I would have in the summer. I was tired last night, but I’m even more exhausted this morning. Everything hurts, and my brain isn’t working properly. I’m supposed to drive up to New Hampshire for Christmas, and I have no idea how I can do that.

I’d like to write a beautifully organized post, but I don’t think I’m capable of it. So here are some news stories that caught my flawed attention this morning.

Another police officer gets away with murder, this time in Milwaukee. From the Journal-Sentinel:

In one of the most highly anticipated legal decisions in recent memory, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced Monday that former Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney will not be charged in the fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park.

Chisholm determined that Manney’s use of force was justified self-defense.

Hamilton’s family has repeatedly called for Manney, who has since been fired, to face criminal charges.

Speaking to supporters outside the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, Hamilton’s brother Nathaniel said he and the other family members would not waver in their determination.

“We deserve justice,” he said. “Justice is our right.”

As you’ve probably already guessed, Dontre Hamilton was a black man, and Christopher Manney is white. This is getting to be a regular thing, and it’s really getting old. The police unions can complain all they want. The simple truth is that police officers are killing a hell of a lot of black men.

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The NY Daily News reports that the Department of Justice will review the shooting to determine whether Hamilton’s civil rights were violated.

There’s been some pushback on the claims by police unions that protesters of police-involved deaths like those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and government officials who sympathized with their families are responsible for the recent murders of two NYPD police officers in Brooklyn. Here’s an essay by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Time Magazine: The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is.

According to Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” For me, today, that means a time to seek justice and a time to mourn the dead.

And a time to shut the hell up.

The recent brutal murder of two Brooklyn police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, is a national tragedy that should inspire nationwide mourning. Both my grandfather and father were police officers, so I appreciate what a difficult and dangerous profession law enforcement is. We need to value and celebrate the many officers dedicated to protecting the public and nourishing our justice system. It’s a job most of us don’t have the courage to do.

At the same time, however, we need to understand that their deaths are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day. He even Instagrammed warnings of his violent intentions. None of this is the behavior of a sane man or rational activist. The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.

Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.

More at the link.

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The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have each editorialized on the issue.

WaPo: The blame game over police deaths in New York goes too far.

LA Times: Protesters didn’t cause slayings of New York police officers.

The Daily Beast: The NY Police Union’s Vile War with Mayor De Blasio.

And from HuffPo: Police Unions ‘Standing Down’ After Controversial Comments In Wake Of NYPD Shooting.

Despite all the complaints about Obama’s leadership from Republicans, the economy is growing; and wealthy Americans sure seem to be doing okay.

The Hill, GDP grows by 5 percent as US economy picks up strong pace.

The economy grew at a 5 percent rate from July to September, the fastest pace in 11 years.

The strong growth recorded by the Commerce Department adds to the sense that the economy is approaching full speed for the first time since the recession of 2008 — and since President Obama was first elected….

The government found consumer spending grew by 3.2 percent from July to September, compared to 2.5 percent in the previous quarter.

The Commerce Department also shifted its estimate for the second quarter, finding strong growth of 4.6 percent between April and June. That’s up from its previous estimate of 3.9 percent.

Reuters, Dow Tops 18,000 for First Time on Upbeat GDP Report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through 18,000 for the first time Tuesday, propelled higher by a better-than-expected report on the economy in the third quarter. If the Dow closes above 18,000, it will have taken the index only six months to climb there from 17,000.

It took only seven months to get from 16,000 to 17,000.

The market’s rise has been good news for Americans who own shares, including the wealthy, corporations, financial firms and workers with retirement funds and pensions invested in stocks. For those who don’t own shares, it could mean a widening wealth gap, however.

How much wider can it get?

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But there’s also good news for us ordinary folks. From CNN, 89 straight days of lower gas prices.

The streak, the longest on record according to AAA, has shaved nearly $1 off the national average price of regular gas, taking it to $2.38 a gallon for the first time in five years. September 25 was the last day prices were higher for drivers. That day they increased by only a tenth of a cent. Prices have tumbled 36% since the high of the year, which was back in late April.

Not only have they been falling, but the plunge in gas prices has been picking up speed, tumbling nearly 2 cents between Monday and Tuesday.

Prices were 15 cents higher only a week ago and 44 cents higher a month ago. In numerous cities — including Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Topeka, Kansas — the average price now stands less than $2 a gallon, according to AAA. Springfield, Missouri became the first state to break the $2 average price last week. Missouri drivers are enjoying the lowest statewide average price at $2.05 a gallon.

The plunging price of oil — a 50% drop off the cost of barrel of crude since April, is the main driver in the gas price slide. But there are many other factors also affecting prices. Weakening economies in Europe and Asia, as well as more fuel efficient vehicles worldwide, have all cut demand for gasoline.

Unfortunately, I can testify that gas prices on the New York Thruway are still very high, with regular priced at close to $3.00 a gallon.

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North Korea suffered a major internet breakdown yesterday. Was the NSA responsible? The CIA. If so, good work! From Reuters, North Korea’s Internet links restored amid U.S. hacking dispute.

North Korea, at the center of a confrontation with the United States over the hacking of Sony Pictures, experienced a complete Internet outage for hours before links were restored on Tuesday, but U.S. officials said Washington was not involved.

U.S.-based Dyn, a company that monitors Internet infrastructure, said the reason for the outage was not known but could range from technological glitches to a hacking attack. Several U.S. officials close to the investigations of the attack on Sony Pictures said the U.S. government had not taken any cyber action against Pyongyang.

U.S. President Barack Obama had vowed on Friday to respond to the major cyberattack, which he blamed on North Korea, “in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

Dyn said North Korea’s Internet links were unstable on Monday and the country later went completely offline. Links were restored at 0146 GMT on Tuesday, and the possibilities for the outage could be attacks by individuals, a hardware failure, or even that it was done by North Koreaitself, experts said.

Matthew Prince, CEO of U.S.-based CloudFlare which protects websites from web-based attacks, said the fact that North Korea’s Internet was back up “is pretty good evidence that the outage wasn’t caused by a state-sponsored attack, otherwise it’d likely still be down for the count”.

Almost all of North Korea’s Internet links and traffic pass through China and it dismissed any suggestion that it was involved as “irresponsible”.

So what happened then, I wonder . . . . ?

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Here’s a story that should please JJ: Dish Network dumps Fox News, setting off social media war on Facebook.

Satellite-TV provider Dish Network dropped the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network on Saturday night after the companies couldn’t come to terms on a new distribution contract, reports TVNewser.

According to Fox Executive Vice President of Distribution Tim Carry, contract talks have broken off and nothing is happening, depriving Dish’s 14 million subscribers of Fox News’ “fair and balanced” approach to current event coverage.

“Our phone line is open, we’re willing to talk,” Carry said. “Am I negotiating right now? I’m not.”

Executives at Dish say Fox is playing hardball with them by attempting to use the news channel as  leverage to increase fees for their sports and entertainment channels normally covered by separate contracts.

“It’s like we’re about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish Network’s Senior Vice President of programming. “Fox blacked out two of its news channels, using them as leverage to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that are not in this contract.”

Hahahahaha! The Fox fans in Banjoville must being going nuts. But at least they can watch Turner Classic Movies.

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And here’s some even more scary news for racist Southerners. From Raw Story: Southern whites have more black DNA than whites in the rest of US: study.

Some of the states with the most racially charged attitudes towards African-Americans are also the states where the most whites have black ancestors, according to a recently released study.

Researchers examined 145,000 DNA samples provided to genetic testing company 23andme for ancestry analysis to determine that at least six million Americans who called themselves white had 1 percent or more African ancestry.

The study published this month in the American Journal of Human Genetics found that whites in the South were far more likely to have at least 1 percent black ancestry than any other part of the country.

“European Americans with African ancestry comprise as much as 12% of European Americans from Louisiana and South Carolina and about 1 in 10 individuals in other parts of the South,” the authors wrote….

And black Americans living in the South also had more African ancestry than any other region of the country. African-Americans in West Virginia and Oregon had the lowest percentage of African ancestry.

So . . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Tuesday Reads: Can The News Get Any Worse? Probably.

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Good Morning!!

It’s difficult to imagine how the news can get any worse . . . and then it does.

Bloomberg: CIA Torture Report Set for Senate Release Over Bush Objections.

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) — The Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee are preparing to issue their report on the harsh interrogation tactics the CIA used on terrorism suspects, defying the objections of current and former U.S. officials including former President George W. Bush.

The panel plans to release today a summary of a 6,200-page report concluding that the Central Intelligence Agency used extreme interrogation methods at secret prisons more often than legally authorized and failed to disclose all the activities to lawmakers and other officials.

Despite warnings from opponents of the report’s release, including some Republicans on the panel, that Americans would face retaliation overseas, President Barack Obama supports making the conclusions public, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said yesterday.

“The president believes that, on principle, it’s important to release that report, so that people around the world and people here at home understand exactly what transpired,” he said. Earnest said the administration has taken steps to improve security at U.S. facilities around the world.

Read the arguments for and against releasing the report at the link.  A brief summary of the conflict at USA Today: Obama, Bush teams battle over torture report. Of course Dick Cheney felt the need to butt in.

While Obama and aides support release of the report as to way to prevent future abuses, some Bush administration officials call it partisan second-guessing of techniques that proved necessary during the war on terrorism.

“What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” former vice president Dick Cheney told The New York Times. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.” [….]

The dispute between Obama and Bush officials revolves around the legality of the interrogation programs and whether they yielded valuable intelligence as the U.S. raced to block terrorism in the years following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Cheney and other Bush administration officials say the programs yielded actionable intelligence that helped uncover possible terrorist plots.

Congressional Democrats say the report shows that tactics like waterboarding yielded nothing that could not have been obtained by other means.

The two sides agree on one thing: Release of the Senate report, detailing some of the less savory methods used to extract testimony from terrorism suspects, could lead to violent, anti-American protests in some countries.

Matisse woman reading2

Reuters has a minor preview on the contents of the report: Sexual threats, other CIA methods detailed in Senate report.

The report, which Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said would be released on Tuesday, describes how al Qaeda operative Abdel Rahman al Nashiri, suspected mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was threatened with a buzzing power drill, the sources said. The drill was never actually used on him.

It documents how at least one detainee was sexually threatened with a broomstick, the sources said.

Preparing for a worldwide outcry from the publication of such graphic details, the White House and U.S. intelligence officials said on Monday they had shored up security of U.S. facilities worldwide.

The report, which took years to produce, charts the history of the CIA’s “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation” program, which President George W. Bush authorized after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush ended many aspects of the program before leaving office, and President Barack Obama swiftly banned “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which critics say are torture, after his 2009 inauguration.

The Christian Science Monitor asks what I think is an irrelevant question: Did torture yield results? I really don’t care; some things are just wrong period.

The 480-page document reveals the results of Senate investigation into the CIA’s use of torture and other techniques that violate international law against prisoners held on terrorism-related charges. Though many details of the Senate’s findings will remain classified – the document is a summary of a 6,000-page report that is not being released – the report is expected to conclude that the methods used by the CIA to interrogate prisoners during the post-9/11 years were more extreme than previously admitted and produced no intelligence that could not have been acquired through legal means….

The Los Angeles Times writes that the report is expected to say that the CIA used methods of “waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques more frequently than was legally authorized at then-secret prisons known as ‘black sites.’ ”

The report will also likely state that the intelligence acquired from the use of such techniques was not useful to finding Osama bin Laden or preventing attacks on US interests, and “nearly all the intelligence gleaned through harsh techniques could have been obtained from more traditional intelligence-gathering systems,” the Times adds.

woman-reading-at-a-dressing-table-interieur-nice-1919

We probably should brace for attacks on President Obama for daring to go on BET and talk about racism and then follow that up by joking around with Stephen Colbert.

BET Exclusive: Obama Talks Race, Racism and How Far America Has to Go. Watch the interview at the link. Joyce Jones highlights the main points:

Barack Obama – not the president, but the man – has a dream: his children will be viewed as individuals and judged not by the color of their skin but based on the content of their character, their behavior and their talents and gifts. Sadly, he observed in an exclusive interview with BET Networks, “misguided attitudes” mean that people of color still have less margin for error, particularly if they are male….

Hours before the interview aired, his critics on the right began lashing out at him for, according to Breitbart News, “playing the race card more overtly than ever before.” Others will say it’s about time he spoke up about the series of police-involved deaths of a disproportionate number of African-American men, which he acknowledged. But he also said that “institutionally” he is required to remain silent during the investigations of those incidents, which would be compromised “if it appeared that I was trying to steer to a particular outcome.”

That doesn’t mean he does not empathize with those who’ve expressed their anger and frustration more publically. The president recalled a meeting he had last week that included several young African-American leaders whose experiences of being stopped or treated suspiciously for no reason reminded him of his own. He also said that as long as the protests remain peaceful, they are necessary.

More details from CNN:

“I’m going to stay on this,” the President said Monday in an interview with BET, a network that reaches a predominately young African-American audience. “Not only am I going to stay on it … but hopefully the entire society says, ‘Let’s finally try to make some real progress on this.'”

Once criticized for shying away from the topic of race early on in his presidency, Obama has recently taken a more active role in sharing how his personal experiences help him to empathize with all kinds of people affected by the recent protests on racial tensions — from protesters, to victims, to law enforcement officers, to families, and most importantly, to black youth.

In his interview with BET’s “106 & Park,” the President cited a meeting he had with nonviolent protesters Monday — between ages 18-25. For him, he says, listening to young African-Americans describe their own experiences of being stopped for no reason, or being unjustly labeled as suspicious, strikes a personal chord.

“My mind went back to what it was like for me when I was 17, 18, 20,” the President said. “As I told them, not only do I hear the pain and frustration of being subjected to that kind of constant suspicion, part of the reason I got into politics was to figure out how can I bridge some of those gaps and understandings so that the larger country understands this is not just a black problem or a brown problem, this is an American problem.”

The President also made a point to invoke Attorney General Eric Holder’s race and civil rights record, saying, “He’s got a similar set of stories and experiences he can share.”

reader on black background matisse

The Boston Globe on Obama’s Colbert Report appearance:

Obama kicked off the show sitting in for Colbert to perform a regular feature of the program called ‘‘The Word’’ wherein Colbert’s rants are accompanied by snarky messages to the audience.

So when Obama, as Colbert, declared that there are aspects of ‘‘Obamacare’’ that people from both parties actually like, the text aside to the audience read, ‘‘Everything but the Obama.’’

Later, Colbert observed that the economy had been creating more jobs of late.

‘‘You have employed a lot of people — mostly as secretary of defense,’’ Colbert cracked in a reference to Obama recently nominating his fourth top civilian at the Pentagon.

‘‘That’s boosted our numbers a little bit,’’ Obama replied.

Colbert, whose on-screen persona is that of an insufferable conservative scold, accused Obama of exceeding his authority on immigration. ‘‘When did you decide to burn the Constitution and become emperor?’’ he asked. The question was heard as a joke by many in the audience at George Washington University. But to Obama’s critics, the question had a ring of truth.

Obama dropped the comedy and replied, ‘‘Actually, Steve, everything that we have done is scrupulously within the law and has been done by previous Democratic and Republican presidents.’’

Watch part of the episode at the link.

Matisse the red table

You know how Republicans are constantly claiming that their anti-abortion laws are designed to keep women safe? From Think Progress: Large Study Confirms That Abortion Is Extremely Safe.

After analyzing data from nearly 55,000 women who received abortion care under California’s Medicaid program, researchers at UC San Francisco concluded that hardly any of them had serious complications within six weeks of their procedure. Just 126 cases necessitated follow-up care for surgery, a blood transfusion, or other conditions that require hospital admission.

Other studies, including data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have also confirmed abortion’s safety. We already had some evidence, for instance, that giving birth is about 14 times riskierthan having an abortion. But the new UCSF study goes a bit further than previous research by tracking the complete data on all of the health care used by women who have received abortions. Since many women have to travel long distances to end a pregnancy, the UCSF researchers also examined women’s follow-up care at facilities closer to where they live….

Despite the mounting evidence in this area, the notion that abortion may be dangerous for women is a pervasive assumption that hasbolstered the passage of dozens of state laws tightening restrictions on clinics and doctors. In a press release announcing their findings, the study authors indicated that they hope the new study “will contribute to the national debate over abortion safety.”

“Abortion is very safe as currently performed, which calls into question the need for additional regulations that purportedly aim to improve safety,” said Ushma Upadhyay, an assistant professor at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a leading research program based at UCSF.

Of course scientific studies won’t move right wing extremists, who do not believe in science in the first place.

The moorish floor

Yesterday I was relieved to see many women writers pushing back against the UVA rape story backlash and asking readers to remember that “Jackie” is a real person with real emotions, and the kinds of memory failures she may have evidenced are comment in human beings. I’m running out of space, so I’ll just provide some links to some of the articles I found.

From Buzzfeed, Annie Clark writes: There Are Too Many Jackies.

Clark and her friend Andrea Pino were students at UC Chapel Hill when they were sexually assaulted. Together they filed a complaint with the Department of Education under Title IX. Their work is what triggered the Obama administration to take a stronger position on sexual assaults on college campuses.

Read about it in Vogue, Campus Sexual Assault: Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino Are Fighting Back—And Shaping the National Debate. Clark and Pino started an organization called End Rape on Campus (EROC).

More important articles:

Roxanne Gay, Our Stories.

TPM, UVA Rape Victim’s Roommate Says Her Story Is Not A ‘Hoax’.

Buzzfeed, How Police And Hospitals Shut Down Rape Victims.

Jessica Valenti, Who is Jackie? Rolling Stone’s rape story is about a person – and I believe her.

Amanda Marcotte, UVA controversy allows woman-haters to get really, really ugly.

Maya Dusenbery, On Rolling Stone, lessons from fact-checking, and the limits of journalism.

Caroline Fairchild, Why the media obsession with Rolling Stone’s UVA rape story is all wrong.

Matisse.Woman-with-a-Veil-cr

Finally, some NBA players have begun wearing “I Can’t Breathe T-Shirts.”

From ESPN, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving address reasons for ‘I can’t breathe’ shirts.

NEW YORK — As he stood amid 70 or so media members inside a cramped Cavaliers locker room Monday night, LeBron James explained the significance of the powerful words that stretched across his torso during pregame warmups.

“If it feels important to me then I respond,” said James, who wore a black t-shirt with the words “I CAN’T BREATHE” prior to the start of his team’s game against the Nets at the Barclays Center. “If it doesn’t, I don’t. There are a lot of issues I have not talked about. For me, it is about knowledge and about a gut feeling that hits home for you. You feel it, and go about it.” [….]

…the story of the night was the activism of a number of NBA players. Before the game, the Cavaliers’ James, Kyrie Irving and the Nets’ Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett among others all wore the same black t-shirts. They are the latest professional athletes to make a personal statement on the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island man who was killed on July 17 after he was wrestled to the ground and choked to death by police officers arresting him for selling untaxed cigarettes. Last week a Staten Island grand jury decided not to bring charges in the police-involved death. That decision has prompted protests around the country, as protesters have mobilized around Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe.” A video recording of the arrest has been viewed by millions.

Unbeknownst to the players, protesters swarmed Atlantic Avenue outside the Barclays Center during the game, holding a “die-in” to protest the Garner ruling. The hashtag #RoyalShutdown was used by activists on Twitter as a rallying point.

That’s all I have. What stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and enjoy your Tuesday.

 

 

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Immigration Facts and Ferguson Fears

Vivien Leigh reads

Good Afternoon!!

 

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

Immigration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jimmy stewart reads in bed

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

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

Rant over.

A few more links on the immigration story:

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

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

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

Check out the flow chart at the link for details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Morning!barbarella-1968--01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shirt was more than just nearly naked women.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEXY!!!!

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

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

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

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

Also, math is hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grace3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can learn more about the artist here. 

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

Arguably feminist?  Discuss!

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

Will it ever end?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Super-Lazy Saturday Reads

Avengers read

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Billie Holliday reads

And from Bloomberg, Why Political Polling Is Getting Harder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ferguson Updates

MSU-Standard

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

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

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

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

One person did speak on the record:

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

But, says the Post:

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

F**k you, Washington Post!

A few more Ferguson links:

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

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

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

Little richard reads

Ebola Panic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SeanConnery reads3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“People are afraid,” Daigle said.

At least people named Daigle are afraid…

A few more links:

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

SFGate, Stanford doctor in Ebola quarantine in Bay Area.

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

Reuters, Oregon resident hospitalized for possible Ebola virus infection.

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

Other News

Steve-McQueen-readsMore suggested reads, links only:

Alternet, How Conservative Christianity Can Warp the Mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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