Rape Apologia, Objectification of Women’s Bodies, and State Ownership of Women: Where does it end?

women are not objects
Recently, there have been scads of news stories and legislative actions that make me fear for the present and future of girls and women.  I really wanted to not front page the Cohen WAPO piece because it was such an obvious piece of slut slamming and rape apologia that  I could hardly bear to read it. There have been hundreds of good rubutals that remind us that in America, no woman or girl is truly safe.  Many of us are not safe in our homes.  It is likely we are not safe in our schools or workplaces.  We are not safe in parking lots and streets.  We are still subjected to all of the mythology around “asking for it” which includes our past sex lives, our clothing, and our drinking/drug habits.

Framing a piece about rape around the perpetrators of a crime, rather than those who have been the victims of that crime, is a sign that the entire argument needs to be refocused. Rape victims are frequently erased in discussions of sexual assault that focus solely on the perpetrators (in 2011, the Onion aptly parodied this dynamic in a video entitled “College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed”), which is offensive to the people who have been subject to those sexual crimes.

During the Steubenville rape trial, for example, the media spent most of its time lamenting the fact that the perpetrators’ “promising football careers” were going to be thrown into question by being convicted of rape. That sparked massive backlash, but editorial pieces continue to be guilty of perpetrating this dynamic. A recent piece published in the Atlantic argued for the need to “change the preconceptions and misconceptions that society has when it comes to pedophiles” because not many people “think about the millions who grapple with sexual feelings on which they can never act.” And a Washington Post op-ed published over the weekend suggested that teachers who have sex with students shouldn’t be punished so harshly because those poor teachers probably thought it was a consensual relationship.

We’ve written about these horrible stories that infer girl children some how want to be raped and “boys are just be being boys”,   I have to admit that the Montana Judge who handed out a light sentence to a rapist whose 14 year old victim took her life was just about the worst thing I’ve seen in a long time. Oh, and he’s apologized.

A Montana judge has apologized for claiming a 14-year-old girl was “as much in control of the situation” as a former teacher who admits raping her.

Yellowstone County District Judge G. Todd Baugh also said Monday teen Cherice Moralez was “older than her chronological age” while sentencing ex-teacher Stacey Rambold to serve just 30 days of a 15-year prison sentence.

Moralez killed herself in 2010 with the case still pending, and her mother claimed the abuse by Rambold was a “major factor” in her daughter’s suicide, the Billings Gazette reported.

The mother, Auliea Hanlon, stormed out of Monday’s sentencing, shouting “You people suck!”

Baugh has reconsidered his comments, although not the sentence. He wrote an 81-word letter to the Billings paper apologizing for his statements.

“In the Rambold sentencing, I made references to the victim’s age and control,” Baugh wrote. “I’m not sure just what I was attempting to say, but it did not come out correct.

“What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens.”

Raise your hand if you believe that!   I recently quit playing some on-line games where the “boys will be boys” attitude and the crude, awful comments about women’s bodies, gay men, and women in general just became too much for me.  There appears to be very few men that understand there’s a line between joking about sex or being bawdy and degrading women.  They also all live in fear of gay men and gay sex which still reminds me that what they all fear is that gay men will treat them they way they treat women.  Oh, did I mention these jerks have wives and daughters and of course mothers.  I got every excuse from “well, I tell my daughter all men are pigs” to “you don’t seem to have a sense of humor” and “you’re okay joking about sex, what’s the difference?”.   I’m getting to old for this.  It’s the same shit I heard and saw when I was a preteen, a teen, a young woman, until right here right now.

When will men say to each other this is not the way you treat another human being?

So, given all of the crap we’ve seen these past two years coming out of state legislatures who seem to think they also own our bodies and lawmakers talking about “real” rape or “rape” rape versus their own personal version of she asked for it, I came across this news article.  Diana the Hunter is said to be on a killing spree and she’s taking out rapists in Northern Mexico.

Authorities are seeking a woman accused of killing two bus drivers in northern Mexico amid claims that the murders were committed by a vigilante avenging rapes, officials said Tuesday.

Local media have received an anonymous message signed by “Diana, the hunter,” claiming to act as “an instrument of vengeance” for the sexual abuse committed by drivers in Ciudad Juarez, a border city with a dark record of violence against women.

Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office, told AFP that the email, sent over the weekend, “has been included in the investigation.”

Witnesses said a woman wearing a blonde wig shot the drivers in the head after stopping the buses last week. Sandoval said prosecutors believe they were either crimes of passion or motivated by vengeance.

The drivers were working on a route used by women who work in assembly plants known as “maquiladoras,” and who regularly suffer sexual abuse as they head to their night shifts.

Authorities are investigating 12 cases of female passengers allegedly sexually assaulted by drivers. Investigators are looking into whether the killer is among the women.

Officials are also investigating any links with an arson attack against a bus at dawn on Tuesday. The vehicle was set ablaze after gasoline was poured on it, said Fire Chief Ramon Lucero.

The anonymous message from “Diana” stated: “My colleagues and I have suffered in silence, but they can no longer keep us quiet.”

“We were victims of sexual violence by drivers who worked during the night shift at the (plants) in Juarez. While many people know about our suffering, nobody defends us or does anything to protect us,” it said.

“They think that we are weak because we are women,” the message said, warning that there would be more deaths.

“I am an instrument of vengeance.”

Authorities have drawn up a profile of the suspected killer and launched an operation to find her with undercover agents in buses.

Witnesses describe her as a woman in her 50s, 1.65 meters tall (5-feet-four), with a dark complexion.

When the justice system fails you, when the legal system fails you, when the nation’s largest and most respected newspapers fail you, when the men in your life fail you, it is really easy to think bout cheering on that “instrument of vengeance”.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to no longer need to take back the night? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to play a game or work some where or go into a bar without continually having to be on guard?   Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get a group of women together in a room and there would be at least one of us that wasn’t either raped, beaten, harassed, or threatened simply because she is a woman?

Today’s perpetrators are the Government of Texas, most elected Republican officials, a good number of Churches and pastors, the judicial and criminal justice system, the military and the men who do not call out other men when justice and wrong is done to women.  Until justice is ours,  I actually have to say that I would like a world wide army of Diana the Hunters.


Friday Reads: Potomac Fever

penn rrd poster

Good Morning!

I continue to feel lethargic even though we’ve switched to a pattern of thunderstorms that has broken the most severe heat.   It’s August and things seems just wet,soggy, hot and tired.  That statement really includes me.   Everything seems unresolved and oppressive just like the heat.  I do have some really good news to share.  I got an email last night from a scholarly publisher in the EU–Germany actually–that wants to publish my recent research as a book.  I am seriously in a state of awe and humility.  I published my first academic book at the ripe old age of 29 but it was nothing like this work which is the basically the culmination of a lot of deep personal grok.   It is basically all the essays surrounding my dissertation.  I am in a state of OMG.  It probably won’t sell many copies, but it sure will look great on my VC, add salary potential, and up my creds.  I am registering as an author with them this morning.  Please tack my feet to the floor!

Here’s some stats on how badly the NSA has been managing the rules surrounding surveillance from WAPO. Maybe WAPO will just have to seek asylum in Russia!  (J/K)

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by law and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.

In another case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for many months. The court ruled it unconstitutional.

The Obama administration has provided almost no public information about the NSA’s compliance record. In June, after promising to explain the NSA’s record in “as transparent a way as we possibly can,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole described extensive safeguards and oversight that keep the agency in check. “Every now and then, there may be a mistake,” Cole said in congressional testimony.

There is an extensive interview with Senator Ron Wyden on the NSA at  Rolling Stone Magazine that’s worth reading.

You went from supporting the Patriot Act in 2001 to pushing relentlessly for its de-authorization. What was the tipping point?
My concerns obviously deepened when I first learned that the Patriot Act was being used to justify the bulk collection of Americans’ records, which was in late 2006 or early 2007. So Senator Russ Feingold and I dutifully set about to write classified letters to senior officials urging them to make their official interpretation of the Patriot Act public. Back then, in those early days, we were rebuffed after we made repeated requests that the intelligence community inform the public what the government had secretly decided the law actually meant. In fact, there was a secret court opinion that authorized massive dragnet domestic surveillance, and the American people, by that point, were essentially in the dark about what their government was doing with respect to interpreting an important law.

You use the term “secret law” quite frequently – what do you actually mean by that?
I use the term “secret law” to refer to the federal government’s increasing tendency to rely on secret legal analysis to justify major programs and activities, without telling the public exactly what government agencies believe the law allows them to do. This is fundamentally inconsistent with democratic principles, but it’s unfortunately become increasingly common over the past decade. And the broad interpretations of the Patriot Act and other laws that have been issued by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are still secret, so right now the public can’t see how the Court concluded that the government’s authority to obtain records that are “relevant to an investigation” allowed the NSA to collect information on hundreds of millions of ordinary Americans. But there are an increasing number of lawmakers who are interested in pushing for more openness in this area, which is encouraging.

In a strange turn of events, WAPO has been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army.  This is a bizarre story if ever there was one.0000-1114

So, you may have heard we’re having some problems with the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) lately. Earlier this week the Twitter account of one of our journalists was compromised as part of a larger attack aimed at social media management groupSocialFlow, and Thursday an attack on content recommendation service Outbrain caused some of our stories to redirect to the the SEA homepage.

Who is the Syrian Electronic Army?

The SEA is a group of computer hackers who support embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It initially emerged in April 2011 during the rise of anti-regime protests in Syria.

Are they supported by the Assad regime?

Probably not. While Assad has a background in computing, and once explicitly referenced his “electronic army,” the group’s formal ties to the administration are unclear. The quality of their attacks suggest that the SEA includes both professional quality hackers, who might be receiving some form of compensation, and young volunteers who believe in the regime.

Those volunteers might include Syrian diaspora; some of their hacks have usedcolloquial English and reddit memes. After Washington Post reporter Max Fisher called their jokes unfunny, one hacker associated with the group told a Vice interview “haters gonna hate.”

Who has this “army” been attacking?

The group targets both dissidents within Syria and “sympathizers” outside the country. But that “sympathizer” label appears to be applied to anyone who talks about the Syrian conflict in almost any context without expressly endorsing the Assad regime.

Some of the SEA’s early activity included spamming pages with pro-Assad comments, but activity later escalated to large scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Those attacks work by jamming Web sites with too many traffic requests and making normal visitors unable to access the page. The group has also battled onlinewith hacker collective Anonymous, who once hacked the Syrian Ministry of Defense Web site.

Alana Hinojosa writes that raising young black men and daughters of any color in the US is similar. That is because you live in perpetual fear that something bad will happen to them.  Here is her analysis.

Parents of all backgrounds have had to live with a very similar anxiety, worrying whether  their daughter(s) is walking alone at night, if a date (or a stranger) will rape her, if ruphees will be slipped in her drink at a party, if the older brother at her friend’s slumber party will sneak into bed with her at night, etc.

Since the beginning of time, parents with daughters have had to sit their girls down and teach them simple guidelines about how to avoid violence in everyday life, too.

So, really, the anxieties and responsibilities of parenting young black males and young women in the U.S. aren’t so different. In fact, I think they are remarkably similar.

Let’s take, for example, what one parent blogging on the Huffington Post called the Black Male Code – a series of guidelines that he taught his 12-year-old black son to prevent him from becoming the next Trayvon Martin.

It went like this:

Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.

Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up.

Please don’t assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. America is better than that. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.

With a very slight reworking, the code is likely something parents of daughters might use:

Always pay close attention to your surroundings, daughter, especially if you are walking at night, and especially if you are alone (but please don’t ever walk alone at night, or down alley ways). Understand that even though you are not a slut, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.

Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a gun who is demanding your purse, do not argue, just give them your purse. But don’t be afraid to use your pepper spray.washington american airlines

Wow, something to think on!!

Calling all Cops!  Calling all Cops!! There appear to be some Ex-JP Morgan Traders on the loose over the Whale debacle.

U.S. prosecutors urged former London-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) traders Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout to surrender and face charges that they attempted to hide trading losses tied to the bank’s $6.2 billion loss on derivatives bets last year.

Martin-Artajo, a Spanish citizen, andGrout, a French citizen, should “do the right thing,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a press conference yesterday. Both men face as long as 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious counts, including conspiracy and wire fraud.

While Bharara said he was “hopeful” they would return, he had arrest warrants filed under seal along with criminal complaints Aug. 9, according to court records. The warrants were to be served on the State Department, Interpol and foreign law enforcement agencies. The next day, police showed up at Grout’s London home, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Grout wasn’t there. His lawyers have said he’s inFrance.

Martin-Artajo oversaw trading strategy for the synthetic portfolio at JPMorgan’s chief investment office in London, while Grout was a trader who worked for him. They are charged with conspiring to falsify securities filings from March to May of 2012. The U.S. sought to keep the charges secret while arrests were attempted, but eventually had them unsealed yesterday.

JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon characterized the $6.2 billion loss as “the stupidest and most embarrassing situation I have ever been a part of.” First disclosed in May 2012, the bad bets led to an earnings restatement, a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing and probes by the Securities and Exchange Commission and U.K. Financial Conduct Authority.

Why can’t we hold Jamie responsible?

Anyway, that’s my contribution today.  What’s on you reading and blogging list?


Monday Reads

6bedecaa0b54b1f638346ba2237669e2Good Morning!

I’m afraid if you’re looking for a cheery Monday morning set of reads that I am not going to fill your bill today.

I’m not sure if you’ve been following the story of  Zerlina Maxwell who suggested that we consider teaching men not to rape since we’ve got so many incidences of rape in so many places here and around the world.  This is a timely question given the awful Steubenville Rape Trial that is scheduled to start today in Ohio.  In many ways, the videos and tales from Steubenville show that rapists are more common than the psychopathic sexual predator that many want to conjure up to gloss over the problems we with have with rampant male entitlement. Get ready for this week in rape culture and apologia. It will be coming to media near you.

With the trial scheduled to start this week and after a judge refused to change the trial location, officials are again prepping for the glare of the media spotlight to descend on the town.

In a press conference last week, DeWine told reporters that additional charges may be brought against the other teenagers after this trial concludes. He estimated the case would last between three to four days.

DeWine also met with protesters lead by Jacqueline Hillyer of the Ohio chapter of the National Organization of Women, who called for the arrest of Nodianos and the other teens involved for failing to report a crime.

“The worst thing about the crime in Steubenville and it was a crime, it was not that it was so ugly and horrible and disgusting but that it was ordinary,” Hillyer said. “It happens all the time across the state, across the country in high schools and people don’t intervene.”

Rape is all too ordinary. So, to many of us, Maxwell asks a legitimate question.  She even braved Hannity–the patron saint of white male entitlement–to begin a conversation on why rape is so pervasive and how we might try telling boys that it’s not okay to rape girls instead of telling girls to be in a constant state of alert and fear.  She got way more than she bargained as a result.

As Maxwell, a rape survivor herself, told Salon on Friday, “I don’t think we need to be telling a rape survivor that statistics are not on your side. That’s insensitive.” But where she drew outrage was in her suggestion to Hannity that “I don’t think that we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there.” She told Hannity, “You’re talking about this as if it’s some faceless, nameless criminal, when a lot of times it’s someone you know and trust,” adding, “If you train men not to grow up to become rapists, you prevent rape.”

The mere notion that maybe men need to be involved in the conversation about sexual violence earned Maxwell instant disdain, anger – and a lot worse. The Blaze called her remarks “bizarre” and the Washington Times reported that she’d “argued against women arming themselves.” Deeper down on the Internet, the responses got even more scathing, from bloggers who said she’d been “oversimplifying” to the Twitter trolls who told her she ought to get raped. Thanks for the feedback, Internet dopes. Why would anybody think that you need some sensitivity training?

“I knew going in I was going to get a lot of pushback,” Maxwell says. “I didn’t think I would receive rape threats. I can’t even go on my Facebook page; it’s full of people wanting to rape me. It’s too triggering. The amount of insensitivity is shocking.”

As Maxwell tells Salon, her point to Hannity was not about self-defense; it was about how we look at the big picture. “Telling every woman to get a gun is not rape prevention,” she explains. “The reality is that we need to be changing how we train and teach young men. We need to teach them to see women as human beings and respect their bodily autonomy. We need to teach them about consent and to hold themselves accountable.” And when we do, things change. After Canada launched a “Don’t be that guy” consent awareness campaign in 2011, the sexual assault rate dropped for the first time in years — by 10 percent.

There’s a basic problem with the argument that Hannity made which is essentially a similar statement made by the victim’s father in 6a7c8f5ed4b0f6e18840db1ad7410edeSteubenville.  The father said

“I’ve tried to show my girl that not all men are like this, but only a despicable few,” and their mothers that ignore the truth that they gave birth to a monster”

while Hannity told Maxwell that “evil exists in the world”.  I don’t think mothers give birth to monsters.  I think most cultures teach men that women and children are prey and property and can be brought into control in whatever ways it takes.

One in three women will be raped in her life time. Rape is all too ordinary.

I suppose I should backstory this by letting you know that I’ve never been raped by a stranger but I sure as hell have had to fight off bosses and high school and college peers to varying degrees.  I am  not a rape survivor.  I’m a girl who got lucky many times.  I  was ‘volunteered’ by a Junior League neighbor when I was a junior in high school for a rape and violence line they were establishing in Omaha.  There were very few things like that at the time.  It’s now a major program staffed with professionals. The program resides with the local YWCA.  Back then, it was a few psychologists and concerned women.  They got volunteers where they could and trained us with what little they had.

Two years of answering that phone one night a week morphed me into an advocate for changing rape laws by the time I got to university. By that time, I fully understood the threat of date and acquaintance rape. We succeeded in getting most Nebraska police departments to take officers responding to rape out of the property crimes division and asked for trained, women police officers.  Sex crimes are now properly placed into the major crimes divisions.  We also got the law changed so that a women married to her rapist could be legally recognized a a victim.  We fought the clause that said two people had to witness the rape and testify in order for it to be ‘rape rape’.  We also worked to block a woman’s previous sexual history as well as things like where she was or what she was wearing or had been eating or drinking.

Then there were changes that had to be made by the hospital and police responses to rape victims too.  I remember when one of my friends got raped by a stranger on campus.  She told me she thought she couldn’t report it because she’d been smoking pot before she was ambushed in the library by this criminal. She was afraid no one would take her seriously.  I told her hell no and let’s call a police woman right now.  But, of all the times I went to speak about rape at high schools and sororities, it became apparent to me what is apparent in the numbers.  The majority of women are not raped by ski-masked, gun wielding strangers that could be taken care of with the careful aim of the right caliber of gun.  I learned that was a myth of the old west about 40 years ago.  I still want to strangle any one that says women make up rapes or ask for it.  It’s obvious there needs to be some education out there otherwise this crap would go away instead of showing up in US Senator debates and on major news shows.

No one would ever blame a man for being the victim of a burglary or hold up.  But, our rape culture gives many folks the idea that women are always at least partially to blame for the aggressive sexual behavior of men.  No matter how old we get, how dowdy we dress, or how careful we are about the locks on our doors or where we park, the fear and danger is there. It’s not about our behavior, it’s about theirs.

Think about what kinds of things we teach children not to do via school.  These things include not engaging in consensual sex, not stealing, not fighting, and a lot of other things.  Check out these statistics on sexual assault and tell me it’s not a pervasive problem in this country. Many children–of both sexes–are not even safe in their homes, churches, or social groups.  Anyway, I know that we have many rape survivors here whose stories are more compelling than anything I could write.  It’s just that it’s going to be a week of watching this trial and listening to the same old canards.  I’m prepackaging my hugz already because I’m aware that were going to hear rape apologia along with the facts of the case.626d36d1d019d0b75a8e5cef86f58b25

Anyway, if you want to see how cruel the world can be to victims of crime, here’s a look at some of Maxwell’s twitter stream via TPM.  It’s awful beyond words. That she’s a rape survivor makes it more than awful beyond words.

So, here’s a few other things that you might want to read this morning that are slightly less traumatizing.

This is a compelling article on punditry and presidential scandal by Robert Parry.

A favorite saying of Official Washington is that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” But that presupposes you accurately understand what the crime was. And, in the case of the two major U.S. government scandals of the last third of the Twentieth Century – Watergate and Iran-Contra – that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Indeed, newly disclosed documents have put old evidence into a sharply different light and suggest that history has substantially miswritten the two scandals by failing to understand that they actually were sequels to earlier scandals that were far worse. Watergate and Iran-Contra were, in part at least, extensions of the original crimes, which involved dirty dealings to secure the immense power of the presidency.

There’s an amazing piece of cinema out on America’s Hunger Epidemic called ‘A Place at the Table’.  It couldn’t be more timely given the impact of the sequester on basic programs like WIC.  I watched it On Demand so I’m sure it’s probably there for you too if you have access to that or some other on-line movie source.

Table’s statistics are overwhelming, but they are intended to overwhelm. Whether it’s the 50 million Americans who are living in food-insecure households (which means they are struggling with hunger), or the fact that 1-out-of-2 kids in America will, at some time in their childhood, have to rely on federal assistance for food. This is happening in the richest country in the world, and the problem is only getting worse. Under President Reagan there were 20 million Americans living with food insecurity. We’re well over double that figure now.

Table’s stories will overwhelm too. Whether it’s the fifth grader who is so hungry that she envisions her teacher as a banana and her fellow students as apples, or the single mother of two who finally gets a fulltime job only to realize that she is no longer food stamp eligible, a loss of $3-per-day that puts her family into serious food insecurity. That means her kids no longer have breakfast or lunch at daycare, and her youngest is already developmentally disabled due to improper nutrition. Lest we think she’s living large off her new job, food stamp eligibility ended once her salary passed $23,000, a figure hardly sufficient to pay for rent, utilities, insurance and transport, let alone food. (Most Americans are surprised to learn that the parents of hungry children typically have fulltime jobs.) Those who think food stamps breed dependency are wrong. As a child, raised singly by my mom after my dad died early, I too depended on food stamps. For many of us, they are critical lifelines of support while we get back on our feet.

I’ve got one last suggestion for you to ponder and then I’m off to finish coffee and work with students.  How do you redefine etiquette in the Digital Age?

Some people are so rude. Really, who sends an e-mail or text message that just says “Thank you”? Who leaves a voice mail message when you don’t answer, rather than texting you? Who asks for a fact easily found on Google?

Don’t these people realize that they’re wasting your time?

Of course, some people might think me the rude one for not appreciating life’s little courtesies. But many social norms just don’t make sense to people drowning in digital communication.

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


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

A friend of mine of 30 years visited me the last few days so we did some things that I rarely do.  This included seeing a Broadway play.  We saw 220px-AnniePlaybillFlashdance the Musical, let me say, in terms of entertainment and music, those are three hours I will never get back, I’m afraid.  I even went to the bar during the intermission and got a very large gin and tonic to see me through the second act.  It really didn’t help as much as I’d hoped.  Some things are better left as chintzy 80s movies.  The supplemental songs were completely forgettable!  I was trying to forget them as they were being sung.  I actually think the last composer worth anything on Broadway was Steven Sondheim and whoever wrote these songs proved me right again.

All the musicals these days have everything but singable songs, I swear! Maybe it’s because I had just seen Bernadette Peters sing Rogers and Hammerstein,  Sondheim, and Irvin Berlin songs that still make my heart strings go zing!!!  But not even all these splashy dance numbers and a few old 80s hits could juice this show.  I’d have gone out to play Angry Birds in the Lobby if I wasn’t sitting in the middle of the row and would’ve rudely awakened my seat prisoners. “Gloria” was included.  It’s not an ice skating scene, however, it’s now a tawdry stripper club dance number.  The song had to be the worst arranged version I’d ever heard of anything  Plus, the  Michael Nouri character got morphed into some goody two shoes white male trust fund baby that rescued all the womminz, the blax, and the real working men.  Not funny. Skip it if it flashdances into a town near you.

So, I’m getting caught up with things that do intrigue me.  That means this post is going to be weird, so sit tight. First up–and you know it was coming–is about the remains of Richard the Lionheart. A group of forensic scientist had at them.

When the English monarch, nicknamed Richard the Lionheart, died in 1199 his heart was embalmed and buried separately from the rest of his body.

Its condition was too poor to reveal the cause of death, but the team was able to rule out a theory that he had been killed by a poisoned arrow. The researchers were also able to find out more about the methods used to preserve his organ. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The medieval king became known as Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a courageous military leader.
He was central to the Third Crusade, fighting against the Muslim leader Saladin. Although he ruled England, he spent much of his time in France, and was killed there after being hit by a crossbow bolt during a siege on a castle.

Tomb of Richard I Richard I’s remains were divided after he died – his heart was buried in a tomb in Rouen. After his death, his body was divided up – a common practice for aristocracy during the Middle Ages. His entrails were buried in Chalus, which is close to Limoges in central France. The rest of his body was entombed further north, in Fontevraud Abbey, but his heart was embalmed and buried in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Rouen.
The remains of his heart – now a grey-brown powder – were locked away in a small lead box, and discovered in the 19th Century during an excavation. But until now, they had not been studied in detail. To find out more, a team of forensic specialists and historians performed a biological analysis

Economist William K Black asks a great question here: “Sequester Insanity: Why Are We Flushing Economic Recovery Down the Toilet?” Yes, Mourning Joe, another economist disagrees with you and agrees with Krugman, imagine that!!

We have been strangling the economic recovery through economic incompetence — and worse is in store because President Obama continues to embrace (1) the self-inflicted wound of austerity, (2) austerity primarily through cuts in vital social programs that are already under-funded, and (3) attacking the safety net by reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits. The latest insanity is the sequester — the fourth act of austerity in the last 20 months. The August 2011 budget deal caused large cuts to social spending. The January 2013 “fiscal cliff” deal increased taxes on the wealthy and ended the moratorium on collecting the full payroll tax. The sequester will be the fourth assault on our already weak economic recovery. We have a jobs crisis in America — not a government spending crisis and the cumulative effect of these four acts of austerity has caused a certainty of weak growth and a serious risk that we will throw our economy back into recession. The Eurozone’s recession — caused by austerity — greatly adds to the risk to our economy because Europe remains our leading trading partner.

President Obama and a host of administration spokespersons have condemned the sequestration, explaining how it will cause catastrophic damage to hundreds of vital government services. Those of us who teach economics, however, always stress “revealed preferences” — it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what you do that matters. Obama has revealed his preference by refusing to sponsor, or even support, a clean bill that would kill the sequestration threat to our nation. Instead, he has nominated Jacob Lew, the author of the sequestration provision, as his principal economic advisor. Lew is one of the strongest proponents of austerity and what he and Obama call the “Grand Bargain” — which would inflict large cuts in social programs and the safety net and some increases in revenues. Obama has made clear that he hopes this Grand Betrayal (my phrase) will be his legacy. Obama and Lew do not want to remove the sequester because they view it as creating the leverage — over progressives — essential to induce them to vote for the Grand Betrayal.

Yes.  Grand Betrayal.  But, it is what he was planning all along, yes?  It’s not like he hasn’t written or talked about it.   So, we may not lose what we paid for but it certainly is going to be much watered down by the time the Beltway is done.

I’ve been meaning to read this much discussed article by Ruth Rosen.  I’m doing it now and making sure that you didn’t miss it. It was published in Slate last week and is titled: Women’s rights is the longest revolution .  It highlights many things in the women’s movement but focuses on one thing that we should never put at the end of our lists of demands; the end to violence against women.

As an activist and historian, I’m still shocked that women activists (myself included) didn’t add violence against women to those three demands back in 1970. Fear of male violence was such a normal part of our lives that it didn’t occur to us to highlight it — not until feminists began, during the 1970s, to publicize the wife-beating that took place behind closed doors and to reveal how many women were raped by strangers, the men they dated, or even their husbands.

Nor did we see how any laws could end it.  As Rebecca Solnit wrote in a powerful essay recently, one in five women will be raped during her lifetime and gang rape is pandemic around the world.  There are now laws against rape and violence toward women. There is even a U.N. international resolution on the subject.  In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna declared that violence against girls and women violated their human rights.  After much debate, member nations ratified the resolution and dared to begin calling supposedly time-honored “customs” — wife beating, honor killings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation — what they really are: brutal and gruesome crimes. Now, the nations of the world had a new moral compass for judging one another’s cultures. In this instance, the demands made by global feminists trumped cultural relativism, at least when it involved violence against women.

Still, little enough has changed.  Such violence continues to keep women from walking in public spaces. Rape, as feminists have always argued, is a form of social control, meant to make women invisible and shut them in their homes, out of public sight.  That’s why activists created “take back the night” protests in the late 1970s.  They sought to reclaim the right to public space without fear of rape.

The daytime brutal rape and killing of a 23-year-old in India in early January 2013 prompted the first international protest around violence against women. Maybe that will raise the consciousness of some men. But it’s hard to feel optimistic when you realize how many rapes are still regularly being committed globally.

So, any of you that know me closely know that I’ve been screaming about ‘new’ neighbors and wondering what’s up with my neighborhood. Here’s a great article on my New Orleans Bywater Neighborhood:  Gentrification and its Discontents: Notes from New Orleans. The house prices in my neighborhood have skyrocketed.  We are now have multiple eateries where arrugala, kale, and things that totally confused my Omaha friend are on the menus.  The article really explains what’s been going on around me as we’ve been taken over from by Class 4 hipsters.  Here’s the bit about how a neighborhood ‘gentrifies’.  You can read more about my neighborhood in particular at the link.

The frontiers of gentrification are “pioneered” by certain social cohorts who settle sequentially, usually over a period of five to bywater-art-tn1twenty years. The four-phase cycle often begins with—forgive my tongue-in-cheek use of vernacular stereotypes: (1) “gutter punks” (their term), young transients with troubled backgrounds who bitterly reject societal norms and settle, squatter-like, in the roughest neighborhoods bordering bohemian or tourist districts, where they busk or beg in tattered attire.

On their unshod heels come (2) hipsters, who, also fixated upon dissing the mainstream but better educated and obsessively self-aware, see these punk-infused neighborhoods as bastions of coolness.

Their presence generates a certain funky vibe that appeals to the third phase of the gentrification sequence: (3) “bourgeois bohemians,” to use David Brooks’ term. Free-spirited but well-educated and willing to strike a bargain with middle-class normalcy, this group is skillfully employed, buys old houses and lovingly restores them, engages tirelessly in civic affairs, and can reliably be found at the Saturday morning farmers’ market. Usually childless, they often convert doubles to singles, which removes rentable housing stock from the neighborhood even as property values rise and lower-class renters find themselves priced out their own neighborhoods. (Gentrification in New Orleans tends to be more house-based than in northeastern cities, where renovated industrial or commercial buildings dominate the transformation).

After the area attains full-blown “revived” status, the final cohort arrives: (4) bona fide gentry, including lawyers, doctors, moneyed retirees, and alpha-professionals from places like Manhattan or San Francisco. Real estate agents and developers are involved at every phase transition, sometimes leading, sometimes following, always profiting.

Native tenants fare the worst in the process, often finding themselves unable to afford the rising rent and facing eviction. Those who own, however, might experience a windfall, their abodes now worth ten to fifty times more than their grandparents paid. Of the four-phase process, a neighborhood like St. Roch is currently between phases 1 and 2; the Irish Channel is 3-to-4 in the blocks closer to Magazine and 2-to-3 closer to Tchoupitoulas; Bywater is swiftly moving from 2 to 3 to 4; Marigny is nearing 4; and the French Quarter is post-4.

I just refer to them as the barbarian hordes of yupsters, but I guess that’s not the academic term for it.  On a bright note, I could never afford my house now and can sell it for a huge amount of money.  Actually, I’m not so sure that’s a bright note because now my new neighbors do not like the charm of my slightly run down green house or the fact I prefer low up keep weeds to grass in the alley.  Oh, well … I still miss the old coterie of merchant seamen that were drag queens when they got back home, hippies thrown out of the quarter, old people left over from the old days, and section 8 rental denizens.  After all, what’s a few seedy people among friends if they’ve got character and a good story to tell over a beer?

So, there’s a little this and that to get you started on a Monday Morning.  I didn’t want to depress you with the Sunday Presskateers so, you will just have to hit the Charles Pierce link for that.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Reads: Hillary’s Glasses, Neanderthal DNA, Violence Against Women, and Much More

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy read

Good Morning!!

Every Friday, Chris Cillizza names the winner of the “Who had the worst week in Washington” award. This week’s winner was Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson for claiming that Hillary Clinton faked her emotional response to his ridiculous and annoying questions during the Senate Beghazi hearing.

So who had the best week? I’d say it was Hillary Clinton. Everyone except the most out-there wingnuts could see how brilliant she looked as she testified in Congress and made Republicans like Johnson and Rand Paul look like lightweights.

After the hearings, the media wondered why she was wearing those big glasses with the thick lenses. The Daily News explains:

Closeups of Secretary of State Clinton taken during her Senate testimony Wednesday revealed that her head injury last month left her with lingering vision problems.

As she testified about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, the secretary of state appeared to have tiny vertical lines etched onto the left lens of her new brown specs.

Clinton’s spokesman confirmed Thursday night she is wearing the special glasses as a result of the fall and concussion she suffered last month, but he did not elaborate.
Experts told the Daily News that Clinton likely has a Fresnel prism placed on her glasses. The adhesive panel is used to treat double vision.

“If she’s wearing a Fresnel prism, then she has double vision without it,” said Dr. Mark Fromer, medical director of Fromer Eye Centers.

At New York Magazine, Dan Amira noted the many faces of Hillary adjusting her glasses during the Benghazi hearings and added captions to suggest what Hillary might have been thinking at the time. Here a couple of them:

The "I'm So Going to Veto All of Your Bills When I'm President" Adjustment

The “I’m So Going to Veto All of Your Bills When I’m President” Adjustment

The "Listening to You Grandstand Is Fascinating" Adjustment

The “Listening to You Grandstand Is Fascinating” Adjustment

I know everyone has heard about the latest Republican scheme to rig future presidential elections so Republican candidates win even if they lose the popular vote in a landslide. I’ve got a couple of useful reads for you on that effort. Josh Marshall writes about it at TPM under a photo of a nuclear mushroom cloud: This is a Big Big Deal.

The US electoral college system is based on winner take all delegate allocation in all but two states. If you get just one more vote than the other candidate you get all the electoral votes. One way to change the system is go to proportional allocation. That would still give some advantage to the overall winner. But not much. The key to the Republican plan is to do this but only in Democratic leaning swing states — not in any of the states where Republicans win. That means you take away all the advantage Dems win by winning states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and so forth.

But the Republican plan goes a step further.

Rather than going by the overall vote in a state, they’d allocate by congressional district. And this is where it gets real good, or bad, depending on your point of view. Democrats are now increasingly concentrated in urban areas and Republicans did an extremely successful round of gerrymandering in 2010, enough to enable them to hold on to a substantial House majority even thoughthey got fewer votes in House races than Democrats.

In other words, the new plan is to make the electoral college as wired for Republicans as the House currently is. But only in Dem leaning states. In Republican states just keep it winner take all. So Dems get no electoral votes at all.

Another way of looking at this is that the new system makes the votes of whites count for much more than non-whites — which is a helpful thing if you’re overwhelmingly dependent on white votes in a country that is increasingly non-white.

So now the GOP wants to go beyond making voting incredibly difficult for anyone who isn’t rich and white to making the votes of rich white people count more than anyone else’s. At The Atlantic, Molly Ball reports on her interview with a “Republican operative” who is leading the effort to “Take the Electoral-Vote-Rigging Scheme National.”

Jordan Gehrke, a D.C.-based strategist who’s worked on presidential and Senate campaigns, is teaming up with Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Republican secretary of state, to raise money for an effort to propose similar electoral reforms in states across the country, he told me this week.

Gehrke and Blackwell have been talking to major donors and plan to send a fundraising email to grassroots conservatives early next week. The money would go toward promoting similar plans to apportion electoral votes by congressional district in states across the country, potentially even hiring lobbyists in state capitals.

Gehrke isn’t saying which states the project might initially target. He says he’d like to see the plan implemented in every state, not just the ones where clever redistricting has given Republicans an edge, and he justifies it in policy, not political terms.

A presidential voting system where the electoral college was apportioned by congressional district might not be perfectly fair, he says, but it would be better than what we have now. It would bring democracy closer to the people, force presidential candidates to address the concerns of a more varied swath of the American populace, and give more clout to rural areas that are too often ignored. And while it might help Republicans in states like Virginia, it could give Democrats a boost in states like Texas. Ideally, this new system, implemented nationally, would strengthen both parties, he claims.

Uh huh. Sure. Read the interview at the link.

Connie from Orlando sent me this link to an article about violence against women at Truthout by Rebecca Solnit of TomDispatch: A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year: Hate Crimes in America (and Elsewhere)

We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.

Here I want to say one thing: though virtually all the perpetrators of such crimes are men, that doesn’t mean all men are violent. Most are not. In addition, men obviously also suffer violence, largely at the hands of other men, and every violent death, every assault is terrible. But the subject here is the pandemic of violence by men against women, both intimate violence and stranger violence.

It’s impossible to give the gist of this article with a few excerpts, so I hope you’ll go read the whole thing. Here’s a bit more:

Rape and other acts of violence, up to and including murder, as well as threats of violence, constitute the barrage some men lay down as they attempt to control some women, and fear of that violence limits most women in ways they’ve gotten so used to they hardly notice — and we hardly address. There are exceptions: last summer someone wrote to me to describe a college class in which the students were asked what they do to stay safe from rape. The young women described the intricate ways they stayed alert, limited their access to the world, took precautions, and essentially thought about rape all the time (while the young men in the class, he added, gaped in astonishment). The chasm between their worlds had briefly and suddenly become visible.

Mostly, however, we don’t talk about it — though a graphic has been circulating on the Internet called Ten Top Tips to End Rape, the kind of thing young women get often enough, but this one had a subversive twist. It offered advice like this: “Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone ‘by accident’ you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can call for help.” While funny, the piece points out something terrible: the usual guidelines in such situations put the full burden of prevention on potential victims, treating the violence as a given. You explain to me why colleges spend more time telling women how to survive predators than telling the other half of their students not to be predators.

To continue the violence against women theme, Amanda Marcotte gives her take on the crazy proposed law in New Mexico that would jail women if they try to abort a pregnancy caused by rape because the fetus must be preserved as “evidence.”

Of course, the entire idea that having a rapist’s baby would somehow be treated as proof of a rape is beyond silly. After all, the defense against the charge of rape is rarely to claim that the penis didn’t go into the vagina, but to accuse the victim of consenting and then, due to the unique viciousness of women, claiming it was rape for the lulz. Or to conceal her epic sluttiness by having the police grill her about her sex life, the defense attorney question her about it for the public record, and the entire community gossip about what a big slut she must be to press rape charges. I suspect Brown knows this, coming from the same anti-choice circles as Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, where the belief is that women are deceitful creatures who will lie and kill to conceal how much fun sex they’re having.

To understand what’s going on here, you have to understand that anti-choicers primarily understand abortion as an attempt by women to hide how naughty they are. Never mind that most women getting abortions are in their 20s and are mothers already; the myth that abortion patients are young girls having all this sexy fun they’re not supposed to have and then hiding the “evidence” with abortion is so erotic and enticing for anti-choicers that they’re not letting it go. That’s why hanging out in front of abortion clinics and yelling at patients is so crucial to the movement: They believe you’re trying to hide your shameful non-virgin status, and by gum, they’re going to be there to make sure they get a chance to see your face and cast judgment. You will not get to hide your non-virginity from them! They are entitled to pass judgment, and if they don’t get to do it by shaming you for being a single mother, they’ll show up and yell at you at the abortion clinic. And probably masturbate about it later. You laugh, but when you see behavior like this enough, you begin to realize that this anti-choice obsession with abortion is so profound that “sexual fetish, no matter how sublimated” is the likeliest explanation.

I really think she’s right about the fetus fetishists.

Remember that story about the scientist from Harvard who wanted to find an “adventurous woman” to bear a Neanderthal child? Turns out it was just a bunch of media hooey. From the LA Times: ‘Cloned cave baby’ stories missed the mark, scientist says.

Let’s be clear: That Harvard scientist you heard about is NOT seeking an “adventurous woman” to give birth to a “cloned cave baby.”

But that was the juicy story making its way around Web on Tuesday.

The blowup began when the German magazine Der Spiegel published an interview with Harvard synthetic biologist George Church, who is well-known for his genome sequencing effort, the Personal Genome Project, and for all sorts of other unusual and creative projects such as encoding his new book, “Regenesis,” in actual DNA.

In his interview with Der Spiegel, Church discussed a number of ways “DNA will become the building block of the future,” as the magazine put it. The interview touched on back-engineering dinosaurs, by first identifying the mutations that separated ostriches, one of the closest living relatives of the dinosaurs, from their long-extinct forebears. It discussed the possibility of using DNA to build gadgets in the future — “cars, computers or coffee machines,” as Der Spiegel put it. Church also talked about the possibility of synthesizing genes to promote virus resistance or longevity.

As for the Neanderthal baby? It did come up — as a hypothetical. Church said that the speed at which technology was evolving might make such a project possible in the relatively near future, depending on “a lot of things.” He also observed that before any woman served as a surrogate for a cloned Neanderthal fetus, society would first have to accept human cloning.

I’ve got several more reads for you, in link dump fashion.

Stephanie Fairyington at The Atlantic: The Lonely Existence of Mel Feit, Men’s Rights Advocate

Lawyers, Guns & Money: Neoconfederate Judges Rule NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional

Mia Fontaine at The Atlantic: America Has an Incest Problem

WaPo: Mitt Romney is back. But he never really left.

The Advocate: Law Professor Challenges Supreme Court’s Jurisdiction Over DOMA

Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?