Thursday Reads: Donald Trump, the Worst Person in the World, and Other News

Good Afternoon!!

Every day I wake up to find that Trump has topped himself in terms of cruelty, ignorance, and selfishness. I guess if Hitler were alive, he’d be a worse person than Trump, but Trump is just beginning his attack on human decency from his powerful position.

The Washington Post: Trump threatens to abandon Puerto Rico recovery effort.

President Trump served notice Thursday that he may pull back federal relief workers from Puerto Rico, effectively threatening to abandon the U.S. territory amid a staggering humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Declaring the U.S. territory’s electrical grid and infrastructure to have been a “disaster before hurricanes,” Trump wrote Thursday that it will be up to Congress how much federal money to appropriate to the island for its recovery efforts and that relief workers will not stay “forever.”

Three weeks after Maria made landfall, much of Puerto Rico, an island of 3.4 million people, remains without power. Residents struggle to find clean water, hospitals are running short on medicine, and commerce is slow, with many businesses closed.

Trump on Thursday sought to shame the territory for its own plight. He tweeted, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes.” And he quoted Sharyl Attkisson, a television journalist, as saying, “Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.”

He also wrote: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz comforts a hurricane survivor.

It has been three weeks, and the Federal Government response has been pathetic and incompetent. People in Puerto Rico have been for help, and Trump has interpreted their pleas as criticism of him personally. This is a very sick man, and he must be removed from power before he destroys our country.

Vox: Everything that’s been reported about deaths in Puerto Rico is at odds with the official count.

Death tolls are the primary way we understand the impact of a disaster. And for nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, as a humanitarian crisis was intensifying, the death toll was frozen at 16.

“Sixteen people certified,” Trump said on October 3 during his visit to the island, repeating a figure confirmed by the territory’s governor. “Everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s taken place in Puerto Rico.” ….

The death toll from the hurricane is now up to 45, according to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. But 90 percent of the 3.4 million American citizens on the island still don’t have power, and 35 percent still don’t have water to drink or bathe in. And given how deadly power outages can be, 45 deaths seems low, according to disaster experts.

At Vox, we decided to compare what the government has been saying with other reports of deaths from the ground. We searched Google News for reports of deaths in English and Spanish media from Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. We found reports of a total of 81 deaths linked directly or indirectly to the hurricane. Of those, 45 were the deaths certified by the government. The remaining 36 deaths were confirmed by local public officials or funeral directors, according to the reports. We also found another 450 reported deaths, most of causes still unknown, and reports of at least 69 people still missing.

Please go read the rest if you can.

Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump during 1988 U.S. Open in 1988 (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

In case you imagined Trump ever had any human decency, here’s a little about what he did to his eldest son Donald Jr.

At The New York Times: Gail Collins discusses some revelations from Ivana Trump’s new book: The Trumps, the Poodle, the Sex Scandal.

The book is supposed to be about good parenting. But the most important thing you learn is that we can never say another mean thing about Donald Jr. again. Really, it sounds like the worst childhood ever. His story begins with Dad resisting the idea of naming the baby after him, in case his first born turned out to be “a loser.”

As a toddler, Don Jr. broke his leg due to a negligent babysitter. Then one day when Ivana was out of town, he and Eric called hysterically to report they had found their nanny unconscious in the basement. (She died.)

Wait, there’s more: During their infamous divorce, Dad sent a bodyguard from his office to get Junior, announcing: “You’re not getting him back. I’m going to bring him up myself.”

Ivana says she responded: “O.K., keep him. I have two other kids to raise.” Silence and 10 minutes later the bodyguard returned her son.

It was, Trump’s ex-wife concluded, “a tactic to upset me.” However for some reason, at around this time Don Jr. stopped speaking to his father and wound up getting shipped to boarding school.

After several more years of being the namesake of a man who was then famous for starring in the most sensational tabloid stories of the era, Don Jr. graduated from college, moved to Colorado and got a job bartending. Ivana said she made her disapproval clear by “cutting him off” until he gave up, returned to New York and joined the Trump Organization.

People Magazine recounts the stories told by a college classmate–I wrote about this when it first came out.

Vanity Fair reported that Scott Melker, a Penn classmate, wrote on Facebook, “Donald Jr. was a drunk in college. Every memory I have of him is of him stumbling around on campus falling over or passing out in public, with his arm in a sling from injuring himself while drinking. He absolutely despised his father, and hated the attention that his last name afforded him.”

Melker also described an alleged incident in which Trump showed up to his son’s dorm room to take him to a Yankees game. Trump Jr. was dressed in a Yankees jersey and when he opened the door to his father, “without saying a word, his father slapped him across the face, knocking him to the floor in front of all of his classmates. He simply said, ‘Put on a suit and meet me outside,’ and closed the door.” A spokesperson for the Trump family told Vanity Fair this story is “completely false.”

The man in the White House is pure evil. There is so much horrifying news about him that it’s impossible to pay attention to all of it. Here’s more proof that Trump is not only evil, but he is a moron, just as Rex Tillerson said last summer.

CNBC: Trump just claimed stock market gains actually offset national debt.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that, “in a sense,” gains made by private financial markets reduce the national debt. The claim is incorrect on its face, but it does point to how the president views the economic interplay between the federal government and Wall Street.

“The country — we took it over and owed over $20 trillion,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News, referring to the total national debt, which has hovered near $20 trillion since early 2016.

“As you know, the last eight years, [the federal government] borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country,” Trump said. “So they borrowed more than $10 trillion, right? And yet we picked up $5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months, in terms of value.”

“So you could say, in one sense, we’re really increasing values. And maybe in a sense we’re reducing debt. But we’re very honored by it,” Trump said.

WTF?!

For evidence that the two metrics have little to no bearing on one another, look no further than the eight years of the Obama presidency: Between 2009 and 2017, the S&P 500 returned 235 percent while the national debt soared.

And while Trump likes to talk about “reducing debt,” the economic policy proposals he’s unveiled so far, especially his tax reform plan, could easily add another trillion dollars to the debt, according to economists.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal continues as more women come forward every day. Oh, and have you heard that the whole thing is Hillary Clinton’s fault? I wonder was it also her fault when Trump said he liked to “grab them by the pussy?”

Sady Doyle at Elle: Harvey Weinstein and the Crisis of Complicity.

When giants fall, they fall fast. We haven’t even been living with the revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment history for a week, yet the news has gotten worse every day. From the New York Times’ initial report — which specified the now-familiar details of hotel meetings, ulterior motives, and “massages” that were less than optional — the accusations have escalated to include masturbating in front of an actress, forced oral sex, and vaginal rape. (Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, says ““Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”) Weinstein’s accusers now include Gwyneth Paltrow, Asia Argento, Patricia Arquette, and Angelina Jolie. Meanwhile, a former New York Times reporter has now alleged that a story she was working on in 2004 related to Weinstein’s behavior was “gutted” after she received phone calls from Russell Crowe and Matt Damon vouching for a former Weinstein colleague. (Damon vigorously denies he knew anything about Weinstein’s behavior). Weinstein himself has been forced out of the Weinstein Company.

As always, with such a disturbing story, people are looking to assign blame. Whose fault is Harvey Weinstein?

Harvey Weinstein, apparently, is Hillary Clinton’s fault.

Click on the link to read the rest.

Actress Rose McGowan was suspended from Twitter after she accused actor Ben Affleck of having “prior knowledge of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct, including toward her”.

From the New York Times:

Rose McGowan

In a sign that the controversy over the producer Harvey Weinstein could engulf other people in the film industry, the actress Rose McGowan accused Ben Affleck of lying on Tuesday about his knowledge of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults of women.

Ms. McGowan, in a tweet and a subsequent email exchange with The New York Times on Tuesday night, said she had told Mr. Affleck that Mr. Weinstein had behaved inappropriately with her.

Mr. Affleck, who rose to stardom with help from Mr. Weinstein on the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting,” had said earlier Tuesday that he was “angry” over Mr. Weinstein’s alleged abuse of women, but he gave no indication of whether he knew about it. “I find myself asking what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others,” Mr. Affleck said in a statement.

From Shakesville: This is Rape Culture.

Two things I’ve seen this morning are perfect, terrible illustrations of how the rape culture works.

First, there was the news that Twitter has suspended Rose McGowan for publicly stating that Ben Affleck had lied about what he knew regarding Harvey Weinstein.

Yesterday, Ben Affleck has to apologize for actually sexually assaulting someone, which trended on Twitter all day, but he isn’t suspended. Who is suspended is Rose McGowan, who merely contradicted Affleck’s claim not to have known about Weinstein’s sexual abuse, which she knows because she’s the one who told him. 

This, as I shouldn’t have to point out, couldn’t be a clearer case of the way institutions work to protect abusers and their abettors, while silencing survivors.

The second thing Melissa wrote about is this excerpt from a piece by Doree Shafrir at Buzzfeed: What To Do With “Shitty Media Men”?

I’ve never been assaulted or harassed by someone I worked with, and it’s only been lately that I’ve realized how messed up it is that I feel fortunate that’s the case. There have been a few uncomfortable incidents for me personally, like the editor who Gchatted me late at night, seemingly drunk, and propositioned me, or the art director who was way too interested in my intern experience and put his hand on my thigh at a party. But people whispered about the guys who were really bad, the ones who coerced young women into sex, the ones who were physically abusive. The ones to stay away from.

Back to Melissa’s piece:

Shafrir begins by saying she’s “never been assaulted or harassed,” only to then describe two instances of harassment. To be clear, I’m not auditing the way she feels about or identifies those experiences, but simply noting they meet the definition of workplace harassment.

The instinct to mitigate manifests in different ways: Here, Shafrir straightforwardly discounts her own experiences as harassment. My go-to strategy as a younger woman was always to turn incidents of sexual harassment and/or assault into “humorous” anecdotes, which allowed me to talk about what happened without really talking about what happened.

I hope you’ll go to Shakesville to read the rest.

I have so many more links saved up, but I’m out of time and space. Please post your thoughts and recommended links in the comment thread below.

Advertisements

Lazy Saturday Reads: Victorian Photo Tricks, Homeschooling Horrors, and Hillary and Boko Haram

hiddenmother5

Happy Saturday!!

 

This might turn out to be a strange post; I’m not really sure yet. I’m writing it somewhat in response to Dakinkat’s Friday offering. I was really taken with the images she used of Victorian women and babies with bat wings, so I decided to share some Victorian baby pictures I came across recently.

In addition, following on what Dak wrote about home-schooling, I have some articles on people who survived homeschooling horrors. I think it’s an outrage that child abuse like this is permitted in supposedly civilized countries. The government should not be kowtowing to fundamentalist Christian sects that engage in uncivilized behaviors. I’m still trying not to think too much about politics, but I have some follow-up info on Boko Haram and it’s use in the latest Hillary-bashing episode.

The Hidden Mother 

682

I originally saw these photos on Twitter (of course), but I found them so fascinating that I tried to find out a little more about them. You’ll notice in the photos at the top of this post that there are ghostly fabric things behind or beside the children. Those are the hidden mothers keeping their kids still for the slow-developing cameras of those days. Lots of the photos look really eerie, and they hardly ever show the children smiling.  Here’s an article from the Guardian from December 2013 that provides an introduction to the strange Victorian practice of “hidden mother” photography: The lady vanishes: Victorian photography’s hidden mothers.

Babies may be insatiably photogenic, but somehow they don’t really suit the whole business of photography. The flash makes them startle. They wriggle. They cry. They blink. You prop them up with cushions – and seconds later, they’re upside down gnawing their own toes. They make Dr Evil hand-signals. They fall asleep. They drool.

And if it’s bad now, it was worse then. Now we have cameraphones to record every last gurgle, but for the Victorians it was much more complicated. A 19th-century parent would have to dress the baby in a starchy gown, transport it and perhaps its siblings to the nearest photographer’s (orambrotypist’s) studio as early in the morning as possible, climb several flights of stairs to the skylit attic, arrange the family group against the studio backdrop, get everyone to remain completely still for 30 seconds or so, part with a large chunk of money, and then wait several days for the copies to be finished, before sending them round to family and friends as calling cards, or pasting them into albums.

The main problem was the length of the exposure. However bright the photographer’s studio, it took up to half a minute for an image to register on wet collodion. Getting an adult to sit completely still for half a minute is a challenge, but getting a wakeful baby to do so is near-impossible. The photographer could position anyone old enough to sit on a chair by placing an electric chair-style head clamp behind them, but the only way of photographing a baby was for the mother to hold it (or dope it with enough laudanum to keep a grown man rigid for a week).

hidden mother1

These photos recently came to light in a book called The Hidden Mother, by Linda Fregni Nagler

Though there are plenty of Victorian studio portraits of family groups, there are also many in which the mothers are concealed: they’re holding babies in place while impersonating chairs, couches or studio backdrops. They wanted a picture of just the baby, and this was the best way to achieve it. Sometimes, the figures are obvious, standing by the side of a chair and waiting to be cropped out later; sometimes, they really do appear as a pair of curtains or as disembodied hands. To a 21st-century viewer, the images look bizarre – all these unsmiling children strangled by smocking and framed by what appears to be a black-draped Grim Reaper, or by an endless succession of figures in carpets and chintz burqas.

The book also highlighted another weird Victorian practice–photographing the dead. Some of the children in the photos are dead.

Until the 1880s and the advent of mass-market photography, most people might only have a snapshot taken once in a lifetime. Since many children did die in infancy, the only memento the parents might have would be the single posthumous photograph of their baby propped up to look as if it was merely asleep.

It turns out that not just children were memorialized in photos after death. Below you can see a photographer taking a postmortem picture of a corpse propped up in a chair with eyes open.

postmortemvictorian1

Weird, huh? Sometimes they even painted in eyes to make the person look more alive. Another “Victorian photo trick” was “headless photographs.” Here’s an example:

headlessphotograph1

You can read more about these strange Victorian photographic practices and see more examples at the following links.

Hyperallergic art blog: Victorian Photo Tricks, From Hidden Mothers to Eyes on the Dead (1/2014)

Daily Life: Why did mothers once conceal themselves in photographs?

Pinterest: Mothers, Photographs, and Memento Mori.

Flickr page, Hidden Mother: Tintypes and Cabinets

 

hiddenmothers3

 

 Home Schooling Horrors

Again I came across this on Twitter. There’s apparently a Twitter group made up of home schooling survivors, and they were having some kind of home schooling awareness day awhile back to call attention to a law in Virginia that gives religious exemptions to parents who don’t want to send their kids to school. I started reading their descriptions of what they had experienced, and I was just horrified. I saved a few links at the time that I’ll share. From The Washington Post: Student’s home-schooling highlights debate over Va. religious exemption law.

Josh powell

Josh Powell wanted to go to school so badly that he pleaded with local officials to let him enroll. He didn’t know exactly what students were learning at Buckingham County High School, in rural central Virginia, but he had the sense that he was missing something fundamental.

By the time he was 16, he had never written an essay. He didn’t know South Africa was a country. He couldn’t solve basic algebra problems.

“There were all these things that are part of this common collective of knowledge that 99 percent of people have that I didn’t have,” Powell said.

Powell was taught at home, his parents using a religious exemption that allows families to entirely opt out of public education, a Virginia law that is unlike any other in the country. That means that not only are their children excused from attending school — as those educated under the state’s home-school statute are — but they also are exempt from all government oversight.

School officials don’t ever ask them for transcripts, test scores or proof of education of any kind: Parents have total control.

Powell’s family encapsulates the debate over the long-standing law, with his parents earnestly trying to provide an education that reflects their beliefs and their eldest son objecting that without any structure or official guidance, children are getting shortchanged. Their disagreement, at its core, is about what they think is most essential that children learn — and whether government, or families, should define that.

Josh’s story is heartbreaking and inspiring. The scariest thing about this law is that the children wishes are given no consideration at all. After years of struggle, Josh finally cobbled together an education managed to get accepted to Georgetown, but it was a long road and at the time of this article he still worried about his siblings who had not been able to escape the home schooling nightmare.

In 2008, Josh Powell wrote to Buckingham school officials, telling the board that he didn’t share his parents’ religious objections to public school and asking to enroll.

He said the administrator he spoke with was kindly but dismissive.

Crushed, he tried a home-school co-op for a while, then a class to study for a high-school equivalency test. “I figured if I can’t make any headway with my parents, can’t make any headway with the school board, what . . . am I going to do?” he said.

He Googled “financial aid” and applied to Piedmont Virginia Community College. A neighbor gave him a ride, an hour each way every day, until he had earned enough to afford an apartment nearby. It was terrifying, he said, as he was unsure how to behave in a classroom or whether he was going to embarrass himself answering questions. But he was thrilled.

“With the addition of lectures, the structure, the support, the tutoring — things just finally clicked. I remember my first semester sitting in my developmental math class. No one wanted to be there except for me. I was thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I have a chance to learn!’ ”

It’s a long article, but well worth reading in full. Here are a few more links for more info:

An interview with Josh Powell at NPR: Brother Wants Parents To Stop Siblings’ Homeschooling

Anthony B. Susan blog: It’s Time To Rethink Virginia’s Homeschool Laws.

A blog devoted to Homeschooling’s Invisible Children – “Shining a Light on Abuse and Neglect in Homeschooling Environments.”

It doesn’t just happen in the U.S. Some information on a homeschooling religious cult in Germany:

Der Spiegel: Life after the sect: “I have no roots and no strength to flyThe google translation is horrible, but you can read all about the Twelve Tribes cult here:

Yeshua Here I Am (Part 11, with links to parts 1-10).

Hillary Clinton and Boko Haram Follow-up

As I wrote on Thursday, the latest GOP attack on Hillary is over her supposed failure to deal with Nigeria’s Boko Haram when she was Secretary of State by adding them to the State Department’s list of terrorist groups. I’m not going to get deeply into this argument, because it just makes me tired; but here are a couple of in-depth treatments of the issues involved.

Tom Cohen at CNN: Clinton’s handling of Boko Haram questioned.

Howard LaFranchi at The Christian Science Monitor: Why Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. didn’t list Boko Haram as a terrorist group.

Chris McGreal at The Guardian UK: Nigeria kidnapping: why Boko Haram is a top security priority for the US

And from Mother Jones, a background article on Boko Haram: What is Boko Haram and Why Do Its Members Kidnap Schoolgirls?

So . . . What’s on your mind today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads

blancoynegroGood Morning!

It’s amazing what people will do to children and it’s amazing what kind of people think  assaulting children with belts is just okey dokey.   This is one of those stories that’s actually hard to believe.

A Dollar General employee arrested in Wrightsville last week for hitting a child with a belt has now been charged with aggravated assault and cruelty to children. The charges were upgraded from simple battery because store video showed the woman hitting the 8 year old at least 25 times.

After initially saying they were looking into the details of the case before acting, Dollar General told 11Alive News Monday afternoon the employee, Emilia Graciela Bell, had been fired. “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the reported incident at our store in Wrightsville, Georgia,” read the statement, “And have expressed our sincere apologies to the child’s family.”

Investigators have not yet released the video, but the boy’s family told WMAZ Macon over the weekend it was more severe than a spanking.

“It was more or less a beating than a spanking the way she was hitting him,” said Logan Ivey’s father Jody. “I don’t know how to explain it, and I don’t want to think about it.”

Eight-year-old Logan said it was very painful.

“I felt like I had five needles sticking in me; it really hurt, I was screaming ‘Momma,'” he said. “And I was crying real bad because she had actually hurt me…when she stopped whipping me my pants were actually a little bit warm.”

Wrightsville Police Chief Paul Sterling said Logan Ivey was running around in the store and got into a confrontation with 39-year-old store clerk. Bell told investigators the boy threw a cookie at her and that’s when she removed her belt, chased the boy down and spanked him behind the counter.

What’s even more interesting is that Eric Erickson seems to think it’s perfectly appropriate.  Any one with children or small animals should keep them far away from the Red State Zombie Sadist.

Fox News contributor Erick Erickson wrote that a Dollar General employee deserves “a medal” for reportedly responding to an eight-year-old child who threw a cookie at her by hitting the child with her belt dozens of times.

What is wrong with these people?b&n flapper

A 16 page memo has been obtained by NBC and outlines the Justice Department case for drone attacks.

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the  September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director.  Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses  “an imminent threat of violent attack.”

But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described  by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches.  It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.

You can watch Micheal Isikoff speak with Rachel Maddow on the white paper at the link above.

I’ve written a lot about some of the Nordic Countries–like Finland and Norway–that show strong economies while still maintaining strong social nets and a commitment to income equality.  The Economist this week has a special  on the countries and shows how they’ve carved a middle path between markets and government.

Denmark has one of the most liberal labour markets in Europe. It also allows parents to send children to private schools at public expense and make up the difference in cost with their own money. Finland is harnessing the skills of venture capitalists and angel investors to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. Oil-rich Norway is a partial exception to this pattern, but even there the government is preparing for its post-oil future. This is not to say that the Nordics are shredding their old model. They continue to pride themselves on the generosity of their welfare states. About 30% of their labour force works in the public sector, twice the average in the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation, a rich-country think-tank. They continue to believe in combining open economies with public investment in human capital.

You can read more about these countries and their initiatives throughout the magazines pages.

b&y with peacockHillary Clinton may not be our SOS but she is still thinking about how to better the lives of people in the US and around the world.  Here’s one of her initiatives that partners Silicon Valley with the developing world.

One of those new initiatives, the Alliance for an Affordable Internet, barely got a mention in Clinton’s speech. But it merits attention. If successful, the project—a public-private partnership among the State Department, the World Wide Web Foundation, and tech companies such as Cisco Systems (CSCO), Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), Yahoo (YHOO) and Intel (INTC)—could end up helping many people in poor countries get onto the Web. It could also cement long-term ties between the State Department and the companies—while opening new markets and reaching new customers for Silicon Valley. “We’re going to help the next billion people come online,” said Clinton, quickly announcing the project before going on to talk about clean cook stoves for women in the developing world.

Only a quarter of people in developing countries are online, compared to three-quarters of those in developed nations. If the U.S. is to play a role in changing that equation, credit will go in part to a State Department employee named Ann Mei Chang.

Chang, a 25-year veteran of Silicon Valley—most recently she was a senior engineering director at Google—joined the State Department in November 2011 to be an adviser on technology and women’s issues. Now she lives in Nairobi, Kenya, a city recently billed by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt as Africa’s soon-to-be Silicon Valley. Chang has been spending her time studying Kenya’s technological success and teaming up diplomats with U.S. tech companies to figure out how other countries can follow its example.

Chang says that in most developing countries, an entry-level Internet connection costs the equivalent of the average person’s monthly income. One reason is high taxes. In many places, computers, mobile phones, modems, and other software are taxed as luxury goods. “It’s one of the few things they can tax,” says Chang. The effect is that fewer people can afford to log on. “That’s short-sighted,” she says.

Here’s some interesting political speculation on Janet Napolitano.  Would she run if Hillary chooses to stay retired?

So, what happens if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run in 2016?

It is hard to imagine the presidential field without a woman contender, and here’s one to keep your eye on: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Napolitano is quietly making it known that she is considering the race, and there is reason to take her seriously.

Before coming to Washington, Napolitano was a highly regarded and very popular governor in Arizona, a state not known as a hospitable one for Democrats. In 2005, Time Magazine named her one of the nation’s five best governors, noting: “Positioning herself as a no-nonsense, pro-business centrist, she has worked outside party lines since coming to office in January 2003 to re-energize a state that, under her predecessors, was marked by recession and scandal.”

While in Arizona, she was criticized for not being aggressive enough in dealing with the influx of illegal immigrants. But her more recent job gives her an opportunity to change that image. This week, for instance, finds her on a high-profile tour of the southwest border, where she will highlight the stepped-up resources that the Obama administration has been devoting to reducing the flow of illegal entrants to this country.

Still, running for the White House from the cabinet is not an easy thing to do. Not since then-Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover did it in 1928 has anyone successfully made the leap from the president’s cabinet to the Oval Office.

So, there’s a few things to get us started off today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Late Night: The Disappearance and Death of Celina Cass

Celina Cass

In my Tuesday Reads post I wrote about the many women and children who go missing in the U.S.–so many that this horrible state of affairs has been almost normalized in our society. One of the recent cases I mentioned was that of and 11-year-old girl from northern New Hampshire, Celina Cass.

Celina had been missing since Thursday, July 25. Her family said they had last seen her working on her computer before she went to bed. In the morning, she was gone. Celina’s body was found on Monday in the Connecticut river near a hydroelectric dam, wrapped a blanket. Reportedly, the body was wrapped in a blanket. Even after an autopsy, the cause of her death is unknown. Investigators are still waiting for the results of toxicology tests.

Wendell Noyes

Celina lived with her mother, Louisa Noyes, her older sister Kayla, 13, and her stepfather, Wendell Noyes. Yesterday, I wrote that I suspected Celina’s stepfather had something to do with her death. Noyes has a criminal record. He was arrested for violating a restraining order taken out by his former girlfriend–breaking into her home during the night and threatening to push her down the stairs. Afterwards, he was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

It was because of his previous violent behavior and the fact that Celina was not his child that made me suspect him–not his apparent mental illness. Statistically, stepfathers are five times as likely to abuse children as natural fathers. In addition, Police said Noyes was “uncooperative” when questioned. Then on Monday, he was rushed to a Concord, NH, hospital, apparently having had another breakdown.

Well, it looks like I may have been correct in my suspicions. Today, police searched Celina’s family home and seized Noyes’ pickup truck. From ABC News:

Noyes, 47, was taken by ambulance to a hospital Monday after behaving bizarrely. His odd behavior and hospitalization came about the same time that searchers found the girl’s body in a nearby lake next to a dam.

I hope someone has been able to talk to Celina’s older sister Kayla, because it is quite likely that Celina–and perhaps Kayla as well–had been sexually abused by their stepfather. According to his Facebook page, Noyes is interested in “hot girls,” and most of his “friends” reflect that interest. For what it’s worth, Noyes’ brother Gordon is a registered sex offender, convicted of molesting a child.

Celina’s natural father is Adam Laro. I haven’t yet been able to find out how Celina got the surname “Cass.” How many stepfathers has she had? I have questions about Laro as well. He is currently living with his parents, and his former wife did not contact him about Celina’s disappearance.

Laro was in the hospital because of a heart condition when Cass disappeared from her home. He said he was not contacted by Cass’s mother, who had custody of the child. Instead, he turned on the television and saw his daughter’s school photo on the morning news.

“I thought, ‘That looks like a picture of my daughter,’” Laro recalled. “And then I realized that it was my daughter.”

Marcia Laro, Celina’s grandmother, said of her:

“She was such a unique little girl,” said the woman, 65. “She was adorable, lovable, trusting, happy.”

Cass’s grandmother said she was disappointed that Celina’s mother did not come forward to speak to the media while the search for Celina went on. Both Louisa and Wendell Noyes have declined requests for interviews.

Marcia Laro said she did not understand why the mother did not reach out to Celina’s father after the child’s body was discovered.

“We haven’t heard from her,” the grandmother said. “We’re confused.”

Two other troubling issues:

First, as you can see from this photo, Celina desperately needed some dental work. Why didn’t her father and grandparents see that she got it?

Second, Adam Laro originally said he thought Celina and her sister Kayla were well cared for, but more recently he told a different story. He says Celina and her sister shared a room and then,

“The next thing I know they are staying on an air mattress on the cellar floor, staying down in the cellar and to me it’s like, why would they do that? It wasn’t a good atmosphere over there, there were a lot of people in and out of that place and a lot of faces every time I went over there. It hurts me incredibly. I don’t even know how to explain it–it’s crushing–it’s heart crushing–it’s like a sore that is never going to leave,” said Laro.

Did he ask his daughters what was going on? Did he try to help them? This is very troubling to me.

So–lots of unanswered questions. Perhaps more will come out soon. But a beautiful young girl is dead and many people’s lives will be affected–not just those of her family members, but her classmates, teachers, and even the people whose job it is to find out what happened to her.

In summary, this is an obvious and very sad case of child neglect and abuse. Celina’s natural father clearly was not close to her, and her stepfather has a history of violence and a brother who is a sex offender. His Facebook page speaks shows that he doesn’t mind who knows that he is interested in porn and “hot girls.” Celina’s mother has not been heard from so far. I’m guessing she was a doormat for her husband. Celina’s sister Kayla needs to be removed from the home as soon as possible.


Late Night: Pedophiles, Parks, and Playgrounds

Kids playing in Central Park, NYC

A few years ago I was at a children’s playground with my sister-in-law and my two nephews. The younger boy was about 3 years old. My sister-in-law usually reads while the kids are playing, but being a doting aunt, I like to hang out with them as much as I can.

This day that I’m talking about, a small man, probably in his 50s, was hanging around by himself, watching the kids. He was carrying what looked like a very expensive camera. He started following my 3-year-old nephew around, snapping numerous pictures of him. He even asked me how old my nephew was and said, “he’s such a beautiful boy.”

Right away I had a bad feeling about the guy, so I asked him what he was doing. He gave me a hokey story about wanting to try out his new camera. So why do that in a kids playground? I asked if one of the kids was his, and he said no. From that point on, I didn’t leave my nephew’s side, and eventually the guy moved on.

I tried to talk to my sister-in-law about this incident, but she kind of blew me off. She seemed to think it was no big deal that this older man was hanging around a kid’s playground taking pictures.

Tonight I read a blog post that validated the thoughts I was having that day–that the man taking pictures was a pedophile who could very well be trading his photos with other pedophiles on-line. Most people don’t realize that child pornography is big business–especially now that photos can be shared on the internet.

If you wish, you can read the post via a link at The Hinky Meter. When you click on the link, you’ll get a warning that the material in the post could be disturbing. I didn’t find it all that surprising, but as a psychologist I may be more familiar with the behavior of pedophiles than many other people are.

In case you choose not to read the post, I’ll just say that it describes an outing by young schoolchildren in New York’s Central Park and the efforts of several fathers to chase off men trying to photograph the kids. The solution I learned from the post is to take photos of these guys and let them know that you’re hanging onto pictures of their faces for future reference.

The man who confessed to murdering Leiby Kletzky had been observed staring at neighborhood children and hanging around schoolyards and playgrounds. Now, it is being reported that he previously tried to abduct other boys. I’m not sure what can be done about people like this. It’s not against the law to take pictures of children, so I guess parents and other caregivers need to be on the lookout for these sickos.


Breaking… Verdict Reached in Casey Anthony Trial

Casey Anthony

The jury informed the court a short time ago that a verdict had been agreed upon. The result will be announced at approximately 2:15.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The jury has reached a verdict in the murder trial of Casey Anthony, who is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. Judge Belvin Perry says he will read the verdict at 1:15 p.m. Chicago time Tuesday.

The Florida jury deliberated for more than 10 hours. If convicted of first-degree murder, the 25-year-old Anthony could get a death sentence.

She could also be acquitted or convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

She is also charged with lying to sheriff’s detectives investigating her daughter’s 2008 disappearance.

The panel of seven women and five men appeared briefly in the courtroom Tuesday before Perry sent them to continue their work behind closed doors. The jurors had worked through much of the long weekend, hearing closing arguments Sunday and Monday morning and deliberating for six hours that afternoon.

Such a short deliberation time sounds bad for the defense, good for the prosecution. Of course the OJ jury only deliberated for four hours, but he had better attorney’s and a biased jury.

I’ll add more info as I get it. Let us know what you’re hearing.


Tuesday Reads: Voodoo Economics, Whistleblowing, Torture, and Violence against Women and Children

Coffe and Morning News, by Tim Nyberg

Good Morning!!! Gee, that title doesn’t look so cheery, does it? Sorry, but please read on. Since we just ended a long holiday weekend, there’s not a whole lot of news happening, but I located a few interesting reads for you.

Dakinikat has been hammering away at the lack of economic knowledge in the media and in our government. Yesterday, she pointed me to this great piece by Mark Thoma in which he once again explained what actually caused the economic meltdown and why our “leaders” are doing the wrong things to help the economy recover.

I’ve written about this so much it’s hard to muster the will to take it on yet again, especially with the attitude it deserves, and I liked the second column better. But with David Brooks, George Will, and a new book by Gretchen Morgenson and Josh Rosner recently pushing the idea that Fannie, Freddie, and Democrats caused the financial crisis it’s important to push back. The right is very good at repeating their story line over and over and over, and if that redundancy goes unmatched — if they are allowed to have the last word many, many times over — they stand a good chance of capturing the narrative.

Actually, they’ve already “captured the narrative,” and President Obama has bought into it too. I don’t know if I can excerpt this piece, you really need to read the whole thing. But here’s just a bit:

…the targets for home ownership that supposedly led to Fannie and Freddie’s aggressive entry into subprime markets were set in 1992. If these targets were the problem, why didn’t the crisis occur sooner?

….if Fannie and Freddie had never existed, securitization would have likely happened anyway. As Barry Ritholtz notes, “securitized credit card receivables, auto loans, small biz loans, etc. took place without GSEs. I assume there would likely have been a private sector version for conforming loans, the way there was a private sector securitizing response to the demand for non-conforming (sub-prime) loans.”

The bottom line is that the case that the CRA, Fannie, and Freddie – and by implication Democrats supporting these institutions – were key players in the crisis is at odds with the evidence. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots for reasons to be concerned about Fannie and Freddie, and I’m not trying to defend them or their choices, but the idea that support of these institutions caused the financial crisis is wrong.

Hey, I’ve said this till I’m blue in the face, but I’ll say it again. We needed to put a Democrat in the White House in 2008.

Paul Krugman is also lamenting the economic ignorance in high places.

Watching the evolution of economic discussion in Washington over the past couple of years has been a disheartening experience. Month by month, the discourse has gotten more primitive; with stunning speed, the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis have been forgotten, and the very ideas that got us into the crisis — regulation is always bad, what’s good for the bankers is good for America, tax cuts are the universal elixir — have regained their hold.

And now trickle-down economics — specifically, the idea that anything that increases corporate profits is good for the economy — is making a comeback.

On the face of it, this seems bizarre. Over the last two years profits have soared while unemployment has remained disastrously high. Why should anyone believe that handing even more money to corporations, no strings attached, would lead to faster job creation?

Nonetheless, trickle-down is clearly on the ascendant — and even some Democrats are buying into it.

Once again, if we had put a Democrat in the White House in 2008, perhaps things would be different….

Via Kevin Drum, this article about NJ Governor Chris Christie contains some priceless quotes from NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney went to bed furious Thursday night after reviewing the governor’s line-item veto of the state budget. He woke up Friday morning even angrier.

“This is all about him being a bully and a punk,” he said in an interview Friday. “I wanted to punch him in his head.”

Sweeney had just risked his political neck to support the governor’s pension and health reform, and his reward was a slap across the face. The governor’s budget was a brusque rejection of every Democratic move, and Sweeney couldn’t even get an audience with the governor to discuss it.

“You know who he reminds me of?” Sweeney says. “Mr. Potter from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ the mean old bastard who screws everybody”….The governor’s budget, he says, is full of vindictive cuts designed to punish Democrats, and anyone else who dared to defy him. And he is furious that the governor refused to talk to him during the final week….“He’s mean-spirited,” Sweeney said in the Friday interview. “He’s angry. If you don’t do what he says, I liken it to being spoiled, I’m going to get my way, or else.” And: “He’s a rotten prick.”

Jeeze, why doesn’t he tell us how he really feels?

Glenn Greenwald has a great post up about Bradley Manning’s motives for whistleblowing, drawn from some recently released “chat logs and other on-line communications” between Manning and another young man. The information was published in New York Magazine in an attempt to make Manning look psychologically troubled, but Greenwald reads the information differently. Here’s how Manning responded when asked what he was trying to accomplish:

hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms – if not, than [sic] we’re doomed – as a species – i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens – the reaction to the [Collateral Murder] video gave me immense hope; CNN’s iReport was overwhelmed; Twitter exploded – people who saw, knew there was something wrong . . . Washington Post sat on the video… David Finkel acquired a copy while embedded out here. . . . – i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.

Greenwald goes on to argue that many of Manning’s goals have actually been achieved. He made a difference, and that’s why our government is persecuting him.

At Danger Room there’s a very interesting review of a new book by former CIA operative Glenn Carle. The memoir tells the story of a CIA “black site” and a supposed senior al-Qaida operative that Carle was assigned to break. Eventually, Carle realized the man was innocent.

Uneasy with the CIA’s new, relaxed rules for questioning, which allow him to torture, Carle instead tries to build a rapport with the man he calls CAPTUS. But CAPTUS doesn’t divulge the al-Qaida plans the CIA suspects him of knowing. So the agency sends him to “Hotel California” — an unacknowledged prison, beyond the reach of the Red Cross or international law….

Carle provides the first detailed description of a so-called “black site.” At an isolated “discretely guarded, unremarkable” facility in an undisclosed foreign country (though one where the Soviets once operated), hidden CIA interrogators work endless hours while heavy metal blasts captives’ eardrums and disrupts their sleep schedules. But Carle — codename: REDEMPTOR — comes to believe CAPTUS is innocent….

“We had destroyed the man’s life based on an error,” he writes. But the black site is a bureaucratic hell: CAPTUS’ reluctance to tell CIA what it wants to hear makes the far-off agency headquarters more determined to torture him. Carle’s resistance, shared by some at Hotel California, makes him suspect. He leaves CAPTUS in the black site after 10 intense days, questioning whether his psychological manipulation of CAPTUS made him, ultimately, a torturer himself. Eight years later, the CIA unceremoniously released CAPTUS.

The jury has begun deliberations in the Casey Anthony case. I have continued to watch the trial closely and listened to all of the closing statements.

I know I’ll probably get yelled at for saying this, but if I were on the jury, I would have to go with one of the lesser charges, because there just isn’t any evidence to show how the child was killed. I do believe Casey Anthony should go to prison for a long time, but this trial has turned into a witch hunt.

If a man had done what Anthony did, there would never have been this much publicity and this amount of rage against the perpetrator. I shouldn’t have to point out that both men and women kill their children every day in this country. Both women and children are devalued in this country, and they are routinely abused and murdered. There are a number of reasons why this woman has been treated differently, but what she did is far from unique.

I honestly think Casey’s father George was involved with the disposal of the body at least. What motive did he have? I’ll tell you. George and Cindy Anthony thought the father of the child could have been either George or Casey’s brother Lee. I am convinced there was sexual abuse in that family. I can’t see how Casey could have become what she is without severe abuse. JMHO, based on personal experience and serious study of the effects of child sexual abuse.

Until we get serious about protecting children in this country, children will continue to die at the hands of their parents and other caregivers.

There is some possible news in the other case I’ve been following–the young Indiana University student who disappeared about four weeks ago, Lauren Spierer. The body of a woman has been found in a creek in Indianapolis. There are a couple of other missing women in Indiana, so it’s not clear this is Spierer. I just have a feeling it might be.

Police investigating the disappearance of Indiana University student Lauren Spierer are awaiting the results of an autopsy Tuesday of a decomposed female body found Sunday on the northeast side of Indianapolis.

The body, found a month after the Edgemont, N.Y., native went missing, had not been identified as of Monday night, and Bloomington, Ind., police have given no indication whether it may be her.

Spierer disappeared after a night when she had told her boyfriend she wanted to stay home. There are reports that they had had a fight. After midnight, she went out with some male friends, spent some time with them watching TV and then went with one of the young men to popular local bar. When she returned to her apartment with him, a group of men (possibly friends of her boyfriend) accosted them and punched her companion in the face.

The two then left and supposedly went to this young man’s apartment where he passed out. She then went to another apartment where another male friend lived. This man claims to have seen her leave his place at 4:30AM and turn the corner on her way home, but there is no independent confirmation of that.

At first this was investigated as a stranger abduction, but Spierer’s “friends” have all clammed up, and several have refused to talk to police and have retained lawyers. Most of them, including the boyfriend and the last guy to see Spirer, hightailed it out of town almost immediately. So now it looks like something bad happened to Spierer that night and these “friends” know something.

Since I grew up in Indiana and my sister lives in Bloomington, I’ve been following this case pretty closely. But women “disappear” every day too. Why do Americans tolerate it? Why do so many Americans seem to see the pervasive violence against women in this country as somehow normal?

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?