Lazy Caturday Reads

Balinese god Barong-Ket, a combination of lion, tiger, cow, and dragon.

Good Morning!!

I said this a few days ago, and I’m still feeling it: I don’t want to live in this world. America’s toxic culture of white supremacy and mass shootings is spreading around the globe, enabled by Trump. I stayed offline for much of the day yesterday so I wouldn’t have to read about the horror in New Zealand.

I did hear last night that somehow the massacre on the other side of the world was the fault of Chelsea Clinton. At least according to some Bernie Sanders supporters. Here’s the video of a young women in a Bernie T-shirt poking her finger at Chelsea and screaming in her face.

From Business Insider:

Clinton, who attended and worked at the university in various capacities, including co-founding the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership, was said to be invited to the vigil, according to students at the vigil.

But Clinton’s presence at the vigil was not a welcome sight for at least two activists who were at the vigil.

A video went viral on Twitter Friday night showing a confrontation between Clinton and a student activist, filmed and tweeted out by a friend, who can be seen in the video telling Clinton, “This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put into the world. And I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deeply — 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.” [….]

On Twitter, an account that appears to belong to the student activist wrote, “the CAUCASITY that chelsea clinton has showing up to a vigil for the 49 muslims massacred in an islamophobic hate crime after STOKING ISLAMOPHOBIA AND RACISM surrounding ilhan omar… f—ing ridiculous.” The account retweeted the video, posted by her “best friend,” writing, “apparently my brand is yelling at white politicians.”

Ancient Egypian goddes Sekhmet

Fact check: Chelsea Clinton is not a politician. Chelsea’s offense was that she sent a tweet about anti-semitism, after which she politely interacted with Rep Ilhan Omar, who had been criticized for tweets about politicians supporting Israel because they received donations from AIPAC. Here is what Clinton tweeted: “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”

On the other hand, let’s take a look at Trump’s history. Brian Klaas at The Washington Post: A short history of President Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry.

Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry has a long history. In 2011 and 2012, Trump insinuated that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim. In September 2015, at a campaign rally, Trump nodded along as a supporter claimed “we have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims.” Trump continued nodding, saying “right,” and “we need this question!” as the supporter then proceeded to ask Trump “when can we get rid of them [Muslims]?” In response, Trump said: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.”

In November 2015, on “Morning Joe,” Trump said that America needs to “watch and study the mosques.” Four days later, he indicated that he would “certainly implement” a database to track Muslims in the United States. Two days after that, he falsely claimedthat “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Then came the most egregious statement — one that should haunt Trump’s legacy forever and taint everyone who supported him subsequently: On Dec. 7, 2015, he called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Three days later, Trump tweeted that the United Kingdom is “trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem.” On March 9, 2016, Trump falsely claimed that “Islam hates us.”

Upon taking office, Trump surrounded himself with anti-Muslim bigots. Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser, was fired by the FBI for his Islamophobia. Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced national-security-adviser-turned-felon, said that Islam “is like a cancer.” And top officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have also stoked hatred of Islam.

Egyptian goddess Bastet

In late November 2017, Trump retweeted three videos by Jayda Fransen. She was one of the leaders of Britain First, a neo-fascist hate group. She has been convicted of multiple hate-crime offensesand was involved in organizing “Christian patrols,” which included what Britain First called “mosque invasions” aimed at intimidating British Muslims. While Fransen was out on bail, she appeared on Radio Aryan, a neo-Nazi radio station. Her interview began right after the station concluded its reading from “Mein Kampf.” That is who the president of the United States chose to amplify to his millions and millions of Twitter followers.

There’s much more at the link if you can stand to read it.

More from Vox: The New Zealand shooter called immigrants “invaders.” Hours later, so did Trump.

President Donald Trump just used similar language to describe immigrants coming into the United States that the alleged mass shooter did to justify killing nearly 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.

On Friday, Trump issued the first veto of his presidency to override a congressional blockade of the national emergency he declared at America’s southern border. During the veto signing ceremony, Trump explained why he felt a national emergency was warranted to stop migrants from entering the US.

“People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, according to the White House pool report.

That is chillingly similar to the language the main suspect in Friday’s Christchurch terrorist attack used to explain why he chose to gun down at least 49 Muslims. In the rambling 74-page manifesto the 28-year-old suspected shooter posted online shortly before the attack, he writes that he was committing the killings “to show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.”

It’s also the same language the man who killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last October used: In that case, the perpetrator blamed Jews for helping what he called “invaders”in the Central American migrant caravans who were trying to enter the US.

Informative articles on the New Zealand terrorist attack, links only:

Cat in mosaic at Pompeii

David C. Atkinson at The New Republic: The Longer History of the Christchurch Attacks. For over a century, the United States has played a role in inspiring and enabling white supremacy in Australia and New Zealand.

Wajahat Ali at The New York Times: The Roots of the Christchurch Massacre. All those who have helped to spread the worldwide myth that Muslims are a threat have blood on their hands.

NBC News: New Zealand shooting leaves online extremism researchers ‘hopeless and furious.’

The Daily Beast: New Zealand Mosque Shooting Suspect Used Swedish Girl’s Death as License to Kill.

 

More interesting reads to check out

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a fascinating story on that former Putin pal who supposedly died accidentally in a DC hotel room: Exclusive: Washington Autopsy Files Reveal Lesin Sustained Broken Bone In Neck.

WASHINGTON — Mikhail Lesin, the former Russian press minister who turned up dead in a Washington hotel room in 2015, sustained a fracture to a neck bone just below the jaw line “at or near the time” of his death, according to documents released by the city’s medical examiner that provide new details about his final days….

That detail, however, and others contained in the 149-page file released exclusively to RFE/RL offer the most precise scientific description to date about Lesin’s death, which officials ruled accidental and said was caused by blunt-force injuries amid excessive alcohol consumption.

Once a powerful media adviser to President Vladimir Putin, Lesin fell out of favor with the Kremlin elite sometime around 2012 and had lowered his public profile before he was discovered dead in the Dupont Circle Hotel, located a few blocks from the White House, on November 5, 2015….

Hindu sacret tigress Dawon

Among the new details revealed by the documents:

• Lesin’s hyoid — a bone located about midway between the larynx and the jaw bone — was completely fractured;

• The FBI considered possibly taking over the case in early 2016. It wasn’t clear whether the agency formally did so, though earlier files released by the agency show its agents were involved in questioning witnesses and examining video recordings from hotel cameras;

• Lesin’s son, Anton, who lives in Beverly Hills, California, told investigators he did not know why his father was in the U.S. capital, and also reported that Lesin regularly had serious bouts of drinking while on business trips;

• The day after the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released an initial report, one of its officials was summoned to appear before a criminal grand jury looking into Lesin’s death;

• In a report filed the day of Lesin’s death, a forensic investigator with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner wrote that a detective had called and said a “friend” of the former Russian official had contacted him and “inquired about the decedent’s location.”

Read many more details at the link.

The media has begun vetting Beto O’Rourke. Two interesting reads:

Reuters: Beto O’Rourke’s secret membership in America’s oldest hacking group.

While a teenager, O’Rourke acknowledged in an exclusive interview, he belonged to the oldest group of computer hackers in U.S. history.

The hugely influential Cult of the Dead Cow, jokingly named after an abandoned Texas slaughterhouse, is notorious for releasing tools that allowed ordinary people to hack computers running Microsoft’s Windows. It’s also known for inventing the word “hacktivism” to describe human-rights-driven security work.

Members of the group have protected O’Rourke’s secret for decades, reluctant to compromise his political viability. Now, in a series of interviews, CDC members have acknowledged O’Rourke as one of their own. In all, more than a dozen members of the group agreed to be named for the first time in a book about the hacking group by this reporter that is scheduled to be published in June by Public Affairs. O’Rourke was interviewed early in his run for the Senate.

Mayan Jaguar god

There is no indication that O’Rourke ever engaged in the edgiest sorts of hacking activity, such as breaking into computers or writing code that enabled others to do so. But his membership in the group could explain his approach to politics better than anything on his resume. His background in hacking circles has repeatedly informed his strategy as he explored and subverted established procedures in technology, the media and government.

“There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it,” O’Rourke said. “I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”

That doesn’t seem to problematic to me. As younger candidates come forward, they are likely to have on-line histories. This story from Politico is a bit more embarrassing: O’Rourke ‘not … proud’ of teenage murder fantasy writing.

Beto O’Rourke said Friday he is “not … proud” of fiction he wrote as teenager about murdering children, while acknowledging its surfacing could hurt his campaign.

“Stuff I was part of as a teenager … not anything that I’m proud of today,” O’Rourke told reporters outside a meet-and-greet here. “And I mean, that’s the long and short of it.”

O’Rourke’s remarks followed a report in Reuters that O’Rourke, as a young member of the computer hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow, wrote an online article about how society could work without money and, in a more disturbing missive, about killing children.

“One day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street. They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles. … This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams,” he wrote, according to Reuters. “As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”

There’s more of this stuff, definitely creepy; but it was a long time ago. Bernie Sanders survived his early fantasy writings about rape and his theories about breast cancer being caused by sexual frustration.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Trump Being Trump Is Going To Kill Us All

Good Morning!!

I’ve been feeling almost catatonic with shock for the past few days, ever since Trump appointed John Bolton as National Security Adviser. And that was on top of his nomination of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State.

It just feels as if we’re inching closer and closer to a real world-wide disaster. With those two in charge, it seems likely Trump will pull us out of the Iran agreement and maybe even get us into wars in Iran and North Korea. The joke’s over, folks. This is getting way too real.

The photos of baby elephants in this post are an attempt to keep me from going completely around the bend.

At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky writes: Trump Does Trump, and Things Get Worse. Tomasky notes that Trump appears to have concluded that he doesn’t need advisers who tell him he can’t do what he wants to do. He’s decided to run the country the way he the business that he repeatedly drove into bankruptcy.

The hiring of John Bolton highlights Donald Trump’s instability, his total lack of any coherent worldview, and most of all—and most dangerously of all—his need to feel that no limits are being imposed on him. Here’s what I mean. When talking foreign policy, sometimes Trump sounds like Bolton, with all that overheated rhetoric he’s thrown at Kim Jong Un. But at other times, he’s an isolationist. At still other times, like when he’s agreeing to meet with Kim with no preconditions, he’s a Neville Chamberlain in the making. (By the way, is Lloyd’s of London taking odds yet on whether that summit will actually happen?)

So if he wasn’t happy with H.R. McMaster and wanted new blood, he could have gone in any number of ways. That he chose the guy who will reinforce his worst instincts tells us, I think, that what he values most (aside from unquestioning loyalty) is someone who won’t hem him in; in other words, Trump may decide to launch a first strike against North Korea, or he may not. But if he does, by God, he doesn’t want some globalist ninny telling him not to. So the principle at work here is not hawkishness per se. It’s having someone who won’t tell him no.

Tomasky discusses Trump’s ludicrous handling of economic issues, and his total lack of knowledge and understanding of how legislation is crafted. Now Trump is facing the Stormy Daniels problem, and it may get him into real trouble:

The Stormy Daniels story was kind of non-newsy on certain levels. That Trump slept with a porn star and behaved crudely toward her is about the least shocking thing in the world. But the threats made against her are the real story here. That’s going to be the new iteration of this story, and depending on how it plays out it stands the chance of reminding the country of something that many have forgotten, or never knew: The president of the United States has mob ties.

Here’s David Cay Johnston cataloguing a few of them, like how Trump went out of his way to use Mafia-controlled companies to pour the concrete for Trump Tower. The great Wayne Barrett was the master chronicler of all this, going back to the 1990s. All you need to know for now is that back in the day, the government of Australia denied him a permit to open a casino in Sydney because the government deemed him to be too mobbed up. Trump will say of this failure that he lost interest in Australia, but Australia also lost interest in him.

How can anyone who is paying attention not be frightened to have this idiot running our government?

At Vox, Zach Beauchamp writes about one serious problem with Trump’s two recent appointments: How John Bolton and Mike Pompeo mainstreamed Islamophobia.

John Bolton, President Trump’s pick for his next national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick to be the next secretary of state, are well-known hawks. Less well known are their deep and extensive ties to an organized group of anti-Muslim writers and activists.

The members of the so-called “counter-jihad” movement aren’t exactly household names. But its leading lights — people like Reagan Defense Department official Frank Gaffney, activist Brigitte Gabriel, and blogger Pamela Geller — are surprisingly well-financed and influential. Their major arguments include the idea that Islam is an intrinsically violent religion and that most mainstream American Muslim organizations are involved in a secret plot to replace American law with Islamic law. One “study” published by Gaffney’s organization, the Center for Security Policy, argued that 80 percent of mosques in America “are incubators of, at best, subversion and, at worst, violence and should be treated accordingly.”

Neither Bolton nor Pompeo has endorsed views this radical, though both have come relatively close. In February 2015, Pompeo appeared on Gaffney’s radio show and warned darkly of an Islamic conspiracy against America.

“There are organizations and networks here in the United States tied to radical Islam in deep and fundamental ways,” Pompeo said in a February 2015 interview on Gaffney’s radio program. “They’re not just in places like Libya and Syria and Iraq, but in places like Coldwater, Kansas, and small towns all throughout America.”

Bolton, for his part, has defended the Islamophobic attacks against Huma Abedin, a Muslim American who spent years as a top aide to Hillary Clinton. Some Republican members of Congress accused Abedin being a secret Islamist operative (which, it goes without saying, is wholly unfounded) in 2012; that July, Bolton went on Gaffney’s show and said there was nothing wrong with that line of attack. “What is wrong with raising the question?” Bolton asked.

Read all the scary details at Vox.

The Economist on Pompeo’s religious views:

Even among broadly conservative watchers of American foreign policy, there is worry that Mr Pompeo’s apparent sectarian sentiment might be a problem. In the words of Robert D. Kaplan, a veteran global-affairs writer, Mr Pompeo “emblemises an increasingly theological bent in American politics, and in particular in a strand of American conservatism.” This contrasted with earlier eras when “American leaders were often churchgoers but their governing spirit was refreshingly secular.”

As is noted by Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution think-tank, Mr Pompeo comes across as an educated person whose negative ideas about Islam are more thought-through, and hence perhaps more worrisome, than the “visceral, almost incoherent” suspicion of that faith which Mr Trump exuded as a candidate. “It is not a good thing when the public face of American diplomacy holds views which demean an entire religion,” says Mr Hamid.

Several things have earned Mr Pompeo the reputation of being a kind of latter-day Crusader. One is a video clip in which he argues vigorously that at least some individuals are motivated by their Muslim beliefs, and by things they read in the Koran, to commit terrible violence. Watched closely, the video does not show him to believe that all Muslims think that way. What is more striking is the remedy of Christian solidarity he proposes: Islam-inspired terrorists “will continue to press against us until we make sure…we know that Jesus Christ is the only solution for our world.”

There is also concern about Mr Pompeo’s reaction to the bomb attack on the Boston marathon in 2013. As a Congressman, he said Muslim leaders who failed to condemn the outrage, and to call it incompatible with Muhammad’s teaching, were “potentially complicit”. Arsalan Iftikhar, a writer and lawyer who helps run an anti-Islamophobia programme at Georgetown University, was one of many Muslim-Americans who found those comments insulting to leaders of Islam in America, who used all their authority to excoriate the bombing.

Read the rest at link.

Could Trump’s behavior with women finally be causing serious problems for the GOP? The New York Times: After Stormy Daniels, Republicans Face a Referendum on Trump’s Conduct.

When Representative Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania announced on Sunday that he would join more than 40 other congressional Republicans not seeking re-election in November, he left no doubt about the reason: President Trump’s conduct made it impossible to talk about anything else.

Were he running, Mr. Costello said in an interview, he would be inundated with questions about Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film actress known as Stormy Daniels, who has said she had an affair with Mr. Trump and was threatened to stay silent about it.

“If I had a town hall this week, it would be question after question,” Mr. Costello said. “‘Do you believe him or do you believe her? Why don’t you believe her?’”

While Republicans have been bracing for months for a punishing election in November, they are increasingly alarmed that their losses may be even worse than feared because the midterm campaign appears destined to turn more on the behavior of the man in the White House than any other in decades.

As much as gun control, immigration, the sweeping tax overhaul and other issues are mobilizing voters on the left and the right, the seamy sex allegations and Mr. Trump’s erratic style could end up alienating crucial blocs of suburban voters and politically moderate women who might be drawn to some Republican policies but find the president’s purported sex antics to be reprehensible.

Some funny quotes from the article:

“Trump is way more than the proverbial elephant in the room — he’s the elephant in the room with political bad breath, B.O. and a foul mouth,” said Ace Smith, a veteran Democratic consultant, who argued that the last time a president’s conduct loomed so large in congressional midterms was in the post-Watergate election of 1974….

“I don’t see headlines with: ‘Porn star sues Nancy Pelosi,’” said Representative Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, when asked about his party’s polarizing House leader.

Trump’s new “trust his gut” approach has talking about bringing back fired staffer Rob Porter. I’ll bet that would be a big hit with women voters. Wonkette reacts: Sad And Lonely Trump Misses His Old Wife-Beaty Friend Rob 😦

A few days/years back, the White House unceremoniously fired a guy whose main fault seems to be that he loves Donald Trump for some reason. His name was Johnny Feelgood, Johnny Right On, Johnny Miss You, Johnny Light On, Johnny Makes Me Feel Strangely Good About Myself, AKA Johnny McEntee. He was Donald Trump’s body man, and he is very pretty, and UH OH seems to have gotten himself into some fraudy financial trouble of some sort, for which he is being investigated by the Secret Service.

We only bring up Johnny McEntee to point out that that he would be a completely reasonable person for Donald Trump to be pining for, wandering the halls of the West Wing with a Big Mac stuffed down the front of his pants and a lost look in his eyes. Instead, Donald Trump is reportedly broken-hearted and lost without Rob Porter, the guy who got fired from the White House because he couldn’t stop beating his wives all the time, which meant he couldn’t get a permanent security clearance. Yeah, THAT guy.

Maggie Haberman reports, because of course it is Maggie Haberman:

President Trump has stayed in touch with Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who stepped down after allegations that he had abused his two former wives came to light, according to three people familiar with the conversations, and has told some advisers he hopes Mr. Porter returns to work in the West Wing.

Oh for Christ’s sake. Without a security clearance? Because remember how Rob Porter can’t get a security clearance because he’s a rage douche who couldn’t stop beating his wives all the time?

Haberman reports that Trump ‘n’ Rob are always on the phone talking about clothes and boys and tariffs because, big sadface, Trump has fired everybody else, or else they have quit. Hope-y Hicks is gone, McMaster has cleared out his office to make room for John Bolton’s mustache grooming table, and of course Johnny Feelgood is off being hot in greener pastures, and though many of the people who have left the White House were fired in petulant fits of rage by the historically stupid man known as President Poop Waffle, that doesn’t mean the president doesn’t hate to see them go. This is because the president of the United States is a pathetic and lonely person who doesn’t have real friends.

Now look, don’t assume Trump is going to let his head get ahead of his heart and sneak Rob into the White House or anything:

The president has told the advisers he has talked with that he knows he probably cannot bring Mr. Porter back.

Because of the whole wife-beater thing. 😦

This is our reality now. This moron is the “president.” What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads: I Don’t Belong in This World

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Good Morning!!

I hardly know where to begin today. Following the news these days is like going through the looking glass into an alternate reality.

So often in my life I’ve felt that I don’t belong in this world. I have that feeling today. There are so many people and events that I just don’t understand.

I’ll begin with yesterday’s Supreme Court arguments in an important case about affirmative action. Yesterday in a comment, Dakinikat posted this article from Mother Jones: Justice Scalia Suggests Blacks Belong at “Slower” Colleges.

Scalia’s comments came during arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case over whether the university’s use of race in a sliver of its admissions decisions is constitutional. The University of Texas-Austin is being challenged over its use of race in admissions decisions for about 25 percent of its freshman class. About 75 percent of the students at UT-Austin are admitted through what’s known as the Top Ten Percent program, in which any student graduating within the top 10 percent of his or her class is guaranteed admission, regardless of race. The other 25 percent are admitted via a “holistic” process that takes race, and other factors, into account. It’s the “holistic” program that Abigail Fisher—who was denied admission for the university in 2008—is challenging.

The University of Texas has determined that if it excluded race as a factor, that remaining 25 percent would be almost entirely white. During the oral arguments, former US Solicitor General Greg Garre, who is representing the university, was explaining this to the justices. At that point, Scalia jumped in, questioning whether increasing the number of African Americans at the flagship university in Austin was in the black students’ best interests. He said:

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.

He went on to say, “I’m just not impressed by the fact the University of Texas may have fewer [blacks]. Maybe it ought to have fewer. I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible.”

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This morning some writers are claiming that Scalia’s comments weren’t racist because he was referring to studies by respected researchers and not expressing his personal opinion.

Alex Griswold at Mediaite: Media Jumps The Gun, Attacks Scalia For Perfectly Reasonable Question.

First of all, it’s worth noting that oral arguments are not an avenue for justices to share their views on the case at hand; it’s an opportunity to suss out any holes in the arguments of both parties. To that end, justices often advance arguments and theories they do not necessarily hold….

As it happens, Scalia was pretty accuratelyciting a brief filed by two members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. They point to a study showing that black scientists are much more likely to have graduated from historically black colleges, even though those schools are less academically stringent than elite universities:

With only twenty percent of total black enrollment, these schools were producing forty percent of the black students graduating with natural science degrees, according to the National Science Foundation. Those same students were frequently going on to earn Ph.D.s from non-HBCUs. The National Science Foundation reported, for example, that thirty-six percent of the blacks who earned an engineering doctorate between 1986 and 1988 received their undergraduate degree from an HBCU.

Why have HBCUs been so successful? [The authors] believed that unlike at mainstream institutions, African-American students at HBCUs were not grouped at the bottom of the class. Roughly half were in the top half of the class.

Scalia isn’t citing some crackpot theory that only these two civil rights officers are worried about, by the way. The“mismatch effect” is a pretty common critique of affirmative action in academia that’s based on pretty hard data. The most prominent book on the subject wasn’t written by cranks, it was written by UCLA and Stanford law professors.

Reading by the fireplace. Photo by Caroline Jensen.

Reading by the fireplace. Photo by Caroline Jensen.

OK, but Scalia did express a personal opinion at the end of his remarks. Furthermore, these studies apparently do not address the issue of whether diversity in the student bodies and faculty at “elite” universities is a good thing for the college experience and for society as a whole.

James Warren also defended Scalia’s remarks at Poynter: Media muddle: Was Scalia being racist?

And then there’s the question of why so many Americans love their guns more than life itself–or at least the lives of their children and fellow citizens. Many of these people are the same ones who are constantly claiming they are “pro-life.” Someone please explain to me why this makes any sense.

The Christian Science Monitor: Why are gun rights activists planning a fake mass shooting?

Two gun rights groups in Texas have planned a mock mass shooting event on Saturday in order to raise awareness about their view of the relationship between gun rights and mass shooting casualties. They believe that by increasing open carry rights, mass shootings can be reduced or even prevented.

Gun control advocates have been vocal about their desire to enact new restrictions on ownership of certain kinds of guns in the wake of two mass shootings in Colorado Springs, Colo., and San Bernardino, Calif., in less than a week. The groups hosting the mock shooting event say that it will demonstrate how the intervention of responsible gun owners can reduce the number of lives lost in a mass shooting scenario.

The two groups, Come and Take it Texas and Dontcomply.com, had originally planned to hold their event at the University of Texas but later moved the event off campus after meeting with university officials.

Sorry, but I have no clue how this exercise could relate to an actual mass shooting event.

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And what about the phenomenon of Donald Trump? Why does he think it’s useful to fan the flames of racism, nativism, and Islamophobia and in the process increasing the visibility of hate groups and encouraging violent attacks on minority groups in the U.S.?

Politico: White supremacist groups see Trump bump.

The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers to najlepszy hosting. And former Louisiana Rep. David Duke reports that the businessman has given more Americans cover to speak out loud about white nationalism than at any time since his own political campaigns in the 1990s.

As hate group monitors at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League warn that Trump’s rhetoric is conducive to anti-Muslim violence, white nationalist leaders are capitalizing on his candidacy to invigorate and expand their movement.

“Demoralization has been the biggest enemy and Trump is changing all that,” said Stormfront founder Don Black, who reports additional listeners and call volume to his phone-in radio show, in addition to the site’s traffic bump. Black predicts that the white nationalist forces set in motion by Trump will be a legacy that outlives the businessman’s political career. “He’s certainly creating a movement that will continue independently of him even if he does fold at some point.”

Reading by the fire, Edward Lamson Henry.

Reading by the fire, Edward Lamson Henry.

Are Trump’s statements actually likely to energize hateful individuals to resort to violence?

According to experts at the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center who monitor hate groups and anti-Muslim sentiment, Trump’s call on Monday to halt the entrance of Muslims to the United States is driving online chatter among white supremacists and is likely to inspire violence against Muslims.

“When well-known public figures make these kind of statements in the public square, they are taken as a permission-giving by criminal elements who go out and act on their words.” said Mark Potok of the SPLC. “Is it energizing the groups? Yeah. They’re thrilled.”

Marilyn Mayo, co-director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said Trump’s proposal this week to halt the entrance of Muslims into the United States is only the latest statement to inject vigor into the racist fringe of American politics. “Since the beginning of Donald Trump’s candidacy, we’ve definitely seen that a segment of the white supremacist movement, from racist intellectuals to neo-Nazis have been energized,” she said.

Check out this piece by Steve Benen: Trump spokesperson: ‘So what? They’re Muslim.’

Katrina Pierson, a spokesperson for Donald Trump’s campaign, argued this morning on CNN that her boss’ proposed Muslim ban has merit because “never in United States history have we allowed insurgents to come across these borders.” Reminded that Trump’s policy would block lots of peaceful people who have nothing to do with violence, the spokesperson was unmoved.
“So what?” Pierson replied. “They’re Muslim.”
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How are voters responding to Trump’s hate speech against Muslims?
As for public opinion, it’s too soon to gauge polling reactions, but we already have a sense of Republican voters’ general attitudes on the subject.
Public Policy Polling published results yesterday on GOP voters’ attitudes in North Carolina. Among the findings:
* 48% of North Carolina Republicans endorse the idea of a national database of Muslims.
* 42% of North Carolina Republicans believed thousands of Middle Easterners cheered in New Jersey on 9/11.
* 35% of North Carolina Republicans support shutting down American mosques.
* 32% of North Carolina Republicans believe practicing Islam in the United States should be illegal.

WinterTan

We are certainly seeing plenty of attacks on Muslims around the country. On Tuesday I posted a story about someone leaving a pig’s head at a mosque in Philadelphia. Today, I saw this on Raw Story: Texans begin nightly smashing windows of Muslim family only six weeks after they move in.

A Muslim family in Plano, Texas fear that they may have been targeted with a hate crime after rocks smashed through their windows at least two times in the last week.

The family told KTVT that they moved to Plano six weeks ago, and that they believe that the people throwing the rocks may be sending a message about their religion.

Windows in the home have been smashed twice in the last two days. At their request, the names of the family members were not being released.

Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesperson Alia Salem explained to KTVT that there had been a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes in recent weeks.

“Right now, we’re getting multiple hate crime reports every single day,” Salem said.

Why? This is not the America I want to live in. I’d rather escape into a book, but somehow I feel compelled to stay aware of what is happening.

What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads: Rehashing the Debate of the Living Dead

Well, I’ve had one of those days and I’m much later than I thought I would be getting to this post. I went to pick up a ‘script and some groceries which I expected to take an hour and a half tops. It turned into an all afternoon ordeal that’s left me crabby and behind on everything. At least Z Nation is on tonight and I have a good supply of red wine.

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 4: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during the victory party for Texas Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott after an apparent victory over Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis on November 4, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

I’m still reeling from the absolute cock and bull show that was the three hour Republican Primary Debate.  How can so many people tell so many lies and still have folks call some winners and losers.  What ever happened to telling the truth and calling people out on absolute fantasy?

Stephanopoulus called Fiorna out on the whopper she told about Planned Parenthood but not until the next day. 

Former Democratic activist turned journalist George Stephanopoulos on Thursday went after Carly Fiorina for attacking Planned Parenthood during Wednesday’s presidential debate. The Good Morning America co-host grilled, “Another powerful moment last night was when you talked about those Planned Parenthood tapes. But analysts who’ve watched all 12-plus hours say the scene you’ve described, that harrowing scene you described, actually isn’t in those tapes.”

He wondered, “did you misspeak?” Fiorina shot back at the man who secretly donated $75,000 to the Clintons: “I don’t know whether you’ve watched the tapes, George….Certainly none of the Democrats who are still defending Planned Parenthood have watched those tapes.”

I’m beginning to think they should just come out and ask them if they’re stupid or if they’ve just decided to just lie to every one if that’s what it takes to get attention.

None of the nonsense escaped the sharp eyes and tongue of Charles Pierce. He singled Fiorina out for the completley out-to-lunch comments of Fiorina who many pundits feel won the debate.

How do you win a debate by talking trash crisply?

There is a monumental question facing political journalists this morning. How do you cover a campaign in which 15 candidates are running on the basis of things that simply are not true, on the basis of things that simply do not exist? There are two choices: call bullshit for what it is, or just surrender to the unceasing barrage of truthless performance art.  Here’s Ezra Klein, pretty much running up the white flag.

This is the second debate Fiorina won. She dominated the JV stage in the Fox News debate, forcing CNN to change the rules to ensure she made the main stage in their event. She validated their decision tonight. She had the crispest answers, received the biggest cheers, and proved the only candidate on the stage capable of standing against Trump. She made everyone else on the stage — especially Trump — look unprepared. But she did it in part by playing fast and loose with the facts. Her barrage of specifics often obscured a curious detachment from reality.

If a cop sees someone on the sidewalk evincing a “curious detachment to reality,” he will run that person in for medical observation, but read on, and Klein correctly points out that Fiorina doesn’t really know what she’s talking about. On foreign policy, and on immigration, and on a host of other issues, she simply asserts that which is not true.

This has become something of a habit for Fiorina, who has a notable facility for delivering answers that thrill conservatives but fall apart under close examination. In a recent interview with Katie Couric, for instance, Fiorina delivered a four-minute riff on climate change that the National Review enthused “shows how to address the left on climate change.” The only problem, as David Roberts pointed out, was that every single thing she said in it was wrong. But if presidential campaigns were decided by fact checkers, Al Gore would have won in a landslide.

Were I young Ezra, I would not use the events surrounding the Gore candidacy as precedent for how political reporters should cover presidential campaigns, and Gore did win by half-a-million votes nationwide. If the elite political press is going to treat fiction as fact as long as the fiction is delivered in a compelling, dramatic manner, then the country truly is lost. If Carly Fiorina is adjudged to be the winner of a debate simply because of how “crisply” she delivered lies about Planned Parenthood, or how “forcefully” she responded to a cartoon like Donald Trump, or how “sharply” she presented her nonsense about reining in Vladimir Putin with “aggressive military maneuvers” on his borders, then there is a problem in the political process that is metastasizing by the hour. Ronald Reagan was the index patient for that problem. They truly are his children now.

76b17cf0c5cd0132d996005056a9545dPaul Krugman followed up on this general topic in his op-ed today.

I’ve been going over what was said at Wednesday’s Republican debate, and I’m terrified. You should be, too. After all, given the vagaries of elections, there’s a pretty good chance that one of these people will end up in the White House.

Why is that scary? I would argue that all of the G.O.P. candidates are calling for policies that would be deeply destructive at home, abroad, or both. But even if you like the broad thrust of modern Republican policies, it should worry you that the men and woman on that stage are clearly living in a world of fantasies and fictions. And some seem willing to advance their ambitions with outright lies.

Let’s start at the shallow end, with the fantasy economics of the establishment candidates.

You’re probably tired of hearing this, but modern G.O.P. economic discourse is completely dominated by an economic doctrine — the sovereign importance of low taxes on the rich — that has failed completely and utterly in practice over the past generation.

Think about it. Bill Clinton’s tax hike was followed by a huge economic boom, the George W. Bush tax cuts by a weak recovery that ended in financial collapse. The tax increase of 2013 and the coming of Obamacare in 2014 were associated with the best job growth since the 1990s. Jerry Brown’s tax-raising, environmentally conscious California is growing fast; Sam Brownback’s tax- and spending-slashing Kansas isn’t.

Yet the hold of this failed dogma on Republican politics is stronger than ever, with no skeptics allowed. On Wednesday Jeb Bush claimed, once again, that his voodoo economics would double America’s growth rate, while Marco Rubio insisted that a tax on carbon emissions would “destroy the economy.”

The only candidate talking sense about economics was, yes, Donald Trump, who declared that “we’ve had a graduated tax system for many years, so it’s not a socialistic thing.”

If the discussion of economics was alarming, the discussion of foreign policy was practically demented. Almost all the candidates seem to believe that American military strength can shock-and-awe other countries into doing what we want without any need for negotiations, and that we shouldn’t even talk with foreign leaders we don’t like.

Trump, meawhile, took the spotlight today by taking a pass on the idea that Obama is a Muslim that wasn’t born in this182country unlike how Senator John McCain approached birthers during Obama’s first run at the presidency.  Trump was an infamous birther so it’s not surprising he’d still be attracting them and playing off the meme.

Donald Trump came under fire Friday morning for his handling of a question at a town hall about when the U.S. can “get rid” of Muslims, for failing to take issue with that premise and an assertion that President Barack Obama is Muslim.

Trump, who has shaken off several high-profile controversies that would have ended other presidential campaigns, faced an immediate backlash from advocacy groups, and members of his own party distanced themselves from the GOP front-runner. The incident recalls Trump’s 2011 quest to challenge Obama on where he was born, which ended with Obama releasing his long-form birth certificate. It also follows a debate performance Wednesday that garnered mixed reviews for the billionaire businessman.

“We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims,” an unidentified man who spoke at a question-and-answer town hall event in Rochester, New Hampshire asked the mogul at a rally Thursday night. “You know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.”

A seemingly bewildered Trump interrupted the man, chuckling, “We need this question. This is the first question.”

“Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us,” the man, wearing a “Trump” T-shirt, continued. “That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?”

“We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things,” Trump replied. “You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We’re going to be looking at that and many other things.”

The real estate mogul did not correct the questioner about his claims about Obama before moving on to another audience member.

i_walked_with_a_zombieMeanwhile, most reporters seem to just keep mum while crap like this goes on.  Anderson Cooper finally showed some shock and surprise during one particularly bad White Christian Supremacist Trump Supporter landed on his program.  Can we expect any more of this?  Probably not, because Coop apologized later.


Fat Tuesday Reads

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

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

Good Morning!!

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

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

From IB Times:

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

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

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

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

Rasberry pakzi

Rasberry pakzi

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

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

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

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

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

Paczki.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In winter weather news . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hardest hit areas, according to NBC today:

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

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

More news links

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at the link.

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

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

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

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

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


These are not My American Values

The U.S. Constitution clearly states that the government shall not establish any religion as a state religion.  It confirms the rights of people to be safe in their privacy and that they should not be subject to unreasonable search or seizure. There are very clear powers delineated so that the majority cannot assert a form of tyranny and remove the rights of the minority.  For a group that holds that Constitution supposedly in esteem, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann,  many Republicans, and a good deal of the so-called Tea Party movement sure don’t seem to get the fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution. I descended from two signers of that document and five signers of the Declaration of Independence.  I grew up surrounded by lawyers and veterans of foreign wars that knew what it meant to fight for the rights there in. That is why I get totally mad when I read things like this: Herman Cain: Americans Have The Right To Ban Mosques .

Herman Cain says voters across the country should have the right to prevent Muslims from building mosques in their communities.

In an exchange on “Fox News Sunday,” the Republican presidential contender said that he sided with some in a town near Nashville who were trying to prevent Muslims from worshiping in their community.

“Our Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state,” he said. “Islam combines church and state. They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community, and the people of that community do not like it. They disagree with it.”

Asked by host Chris Wallace if any community could ban a mosque if it wanted to, Cain said: “They have a right to do that.”

Cain, an African-American who grew up during the civil rights era, claimed he was not discriminating against Muslims. He said it was “totally different” than the fight for racial equality because there were laws prohibiting blacks from advancing.

Nonetheless, Cain has drawn backlash for comments about Muslims in the past, saying that he would be uncomfortable if a Muslim served in his Cabinet if he were elected president.

“I’m willing to take a harder look at people that might be terrorists,” Cain said Sunday. “If you look at my career, I have never discriminated against anybody. … I’m going to err on the side of caution.”

It’s difficult to think of things to say to this other than it’s plain old bigotry and hatred.  Bigotry and hatred are not one of my American Values.  I value tolerance.

Here’s another example of something that should go without saying.

He may not agree with the vote in New York to legalize gay marriage, but former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the Republican Party should butt out of the bedroom and stick to fiscal policy. “I think the Republican Party would be well advised to get the heck out of people’s bedrooms and let these things get decided by states,” Giuliani said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’d be a much more successful political party if we stuck to our economic, conservative roots.”

It saddens me to see one of the two major political parties hellbent on preventing women from practicing their constitutional right to abortion and access to birth control, stopping GLBT citizens from having full civil rights, and standing in the way of any religion to practice their beliefs as they see fit.  These are extremist religious positions and have nothing to do with any American Value that I’ve ever grown up knowing.   We need to keep speaking up vehemently that we will not tolerate any one in this country decimating the civil liberties and constitutional rights of others. It’s WE THE PEOPLE, not we the white, right wing, extremist christians in the country.

Something to think about from My Fellow American.


Tuesday Reads: U.S.-Pakistan Deal, “Dr. Sex,” Fearful Republicans, Violence against Women, and More

Good Morning!!

The Guardian posted a story last night that seems to put the lie to all the supposed arguing about whether the Obama administration had the right to unilaterally enter Pakistan and raid Osama bin Laden’s residence. The two governments had agreed ten years ago that this would be acceptable in the event bin Laden’s location was found.

The US and Pakistan struck a secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil similar to last week’s raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, the Guardian has learned.

The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.

Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.

“There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him,” said a former senior US official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations. “The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us.”

So Pakistan kept its word. No wonder they are so insulted by all the accusations that they protected bin Laden. The agreement would protect the Pakistan government from public reaction at home. The only problem is that neither side seems to have thought about what the reaction would be here in the U.S.

Anyway, as I mentioned in a comment a couple of days ago, the Pakistan ISI has retaliated by outing the CIA station chief in Islamabad for the second time . Joseph Cannon has been doing a fantastic job of covering the ins and outs of this story, see here and here.

Back in March, I wrote a post about Professor J. Michael Bailey, AKA “Dr. Sex,” who taught a course in Human Sexuality at Northwestern University. In an optional after-class session, Bailey had a allowed a man to bring a woman to orgasm using a sex toy called “the f*cksaw.” Today Northwestern announced that the human sexuality course will not be offered next year.

Northwestern University will not offer a controversial human sexuality class next academic year after its professor came under fire for allowing a live sex-toy demonstration during an after-class lecture.

About 100 of psychology professor J. Michael Bailey’s students observed a naked woman being penetrated by a motorized sex toy on Feb. 21. The university said in March that it would investigate the incident; officials said Monday that the review continues.

“I learned a week or two ago that they had decided to cancel the course for next year,” psychology department chair Dan McAdams said Monday. “The decision was made higher up than me at the central administration level.”

No other Northwestern psychology professor is qualified to teach the subject, McAdams said. Bailey “will have other teaching assignments in the coming year,” according to a university statement.

I’m not particularly surprised. I wonder what “other teaching assignments” Bailey will be getting–Psychology 101, perhaps? There is bound to be some kind of disciplinary action that we won’t be told about.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has admitted that the raucous town hall crowds faced by Republicans over his Medicare Destruction Plan have had an effect (although not on him). John Nichols has a great piece about it at The Nation.

But the outcry over his plan to mess with Medicare, heard in Wisconsin communities from Milton to Kenosha, and at spring recess sessions in the districts of Republican freshmen from Pennsylvania to Florida, obviously influenced other Republicans.

Images from Kenosha – a historic factory town in Ryan’s district, where hundreds of people showed up to criticize his scheming to cut benefits for working Americans while giving billionaires and multinational corporations new tax breaks – were featured nationally on broadcast network news shows.

Cable news programs focused intense attention on the story. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz devoted much of a program last week to the outcry. (In addition to a blistering analysis of the congressman’s proposal by the host, this writer provided some on the ground reporting from Kenosha, including details of a brief interview with Ryan, who was typically dismissive of the popular discomfort with his plan.) But other networks — even Fox — at least touched on the congressman’s troubles.

The reporting was noticed in Washington where, last week, GOP leaders began almost immediately to distance themselves from Ryan’s plan to use Medicare funds to enrich the private insurance firms that have donated so generously to his campaigns.

At Salon, Michael Winship has a good article about the many corporations who don’t pay any taxes–yet the Republicans constantly complain that poor people don’t have to pay any on their paltry incomes.

What’s greasing the wheels for these advantages is, hold on to your hats, cash. Over the last decade, according to the New York City public advocate’s report, those same five companies — GE, Exxon-Mobil, Bank of America, Chevron and Boeing — gave more than $43.1 million to political campaigns. During the 2009-2010 election cycle, the five spent a combined $7.86 million in campaign contributions, a 7 percent jump over their 2007-2008 political spending.

“These tax breaks were put in place to promote growth and create jobs, not bankroll the political causes of corporate executives,” Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said. “… No company that can afford to spend millions of dollars to influence our elections should be pleading poverty come tax time.”

And by the way, those campaign cash figures don’t even include all the money those companies funneled into the 2010 campaigns via trade associations and tax-exempt non-profits. Thanks to the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, we don’t know the numbers because, as per the court, the corporate biggies don’t have to tell us. Imagine them sticking out their tongues and wiggling their fingers in their ears and you have a pretty good idea of their official position on this.

Meanwhile, last week Republicans like Utah’s Orrin Hatch, ranking member of the US Senate Finance Committee, grabbed hold of an analysis by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and wrestled it to the ground. The brief memorandum reported that in the 2009 tax year 51 percent of all American taxpayers had zero tax liability or received a refund. So why, the Republicans asked, are Democrats and others so mean, asking corporations and the rich to pay higher taxes when lots of other people – especially the poor and middle class — don’t pay taxes either.

The great Chris Hedges has a new post up at Truthdig: Your Taxes Fund Anti-Muslim Hatred [PDF]

…perhaps most ominously—as pointed out in “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace,” a report by Political Research Associates—a cadre of right-wing institutions that peddle themselves as counterterrorism specialists and experts on the Muslim world has been indoctrinating thousands of police, intelligence and military personnel in nationwide seminars. These seminars, run by organizations such as Security Solutions International, The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, and International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association, embrace gross and distorted stereotypes and propagate wild conspiracy theories. And much of this indoctrination within the law enforcement community is funded under two grant programs for training—the State Homeland Security Program and Urban Areas Security Initiative—which made $1.67 billion available to states in 2010. The seminars preach that Islam is a terrorist religion, that an Islamic “fifth column” or “stealth jihad” is subverting the United States from within, that mainstream American Muslims have ties to terrorist groups, that Muslims use litigation, free speech and other legal means (something the trainers have nicknamed “Lawfare”) to advance the subversive Muslim agenda and that the goal of Muslims in the United States is to replace the Constitution with Islamic or Shariah law.

“You would not expect a Democratic administration to fund right-wing groups,” Thom Cincotta, a civil liberties attorney and the author of the Political Research Associates report, told me, “and yet we continue to have hard-right, Islamophobic speakers and companies being paid taxpayer dollars to promote racist doctrines that undermine U.S. national security policy concerning Islam and the Muslim world. Policy expert after policy expert point out that framing our counterterrorism efforts as a war against Islam is a recipe for building increased resentment among Muslims, as well as a potent recruiting tool for those who would like to carry out violent attacks against us. This kind of demonizing breaks down communication between law enforcement agents and Muslim communities, which have proven to be strong allies in the rare instances of domestic extremism. Not only does it threaten to erode basic civil liberties, it threatens freedom of expression and freedom of worship.”

Also recommended at Truthdig, an article about the “anti-war orgins” of Mother’s Day.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe responded to the horrors of the Civil War by issuing her “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” calling on women around the world to rise up and oppose war in all its forms.

It would be decades before Americans officially began celebrating Mother’s Day, and much of the original spirit of the proclamation has since been lost.

Some new (and horrifying) information came out today in the case of the bodies that have been found in Long Island. It turns out there may be as many as three murderers on the loose in New York.

“It is clear that the area in and around Gilgo Beach has been used to discard human remains for some period of time,” Spota said at a Hauppauge news conference with investigators Monday. “As distasteful and disturbing as that is, there is no evidence that all of these remains are the work of a single killer.”

Jeeze, I’m glad I don’t live in Oak Beach, LI. The most interesting (and very horrifying) information is that some of the body parts found belong to a woman named Jessica Taylor whose mutilated body was discovered 30 miles away in Manorville, NY, in 2003.

Authorities Monday made one new identification: Jessica Taylor, 20, who went missing in July 2003 and whose torso was found at that time near Manorville.

Spota said her death appears related to another woman, still unidentified, parts of whose body was found off Ocean Parkway in April and in Manorville in 2000.

Why do so many men murder women? Serial murder is relatively rare, but it sure seems to happen pretty often in this country. And men murder their wives and girlfriends every day in the U.S. Will violence against women ever be treated as seriously as it should be? It should be seen as an epidemic that needs to be vigorously addressed through public policy. I don’t know if that will happen in my lifetime.

Change would have to start with teachers and textbooks that value women’s current and historical contributions to our society, along with public education campaigns for adults. I also wonder if the anti-abortion movement doesn’t contribute to the general attitude that women have no right to protect the integrity of their own bodies.

It would also help if law enforcement personnel could be made to understand that rape is a serious crime even if the victim isn’t killed or beaten within an inch of her life. Rape is still rape even if the victim knows the perpetrator. With that in mind, I’m going to end with a story from Boston: Thousands Attend Boston’s “SlutWalk” March. The march was a response to an ignorant remark made by a policeman in Toronto.

In January, a Toronto police officer told a group of university students that women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to avoid being raped. He later apologized. The officer who made the comments, Constable Michael Sanguinetti, was disciplined but remained on duty, said Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash.

However, advocates in Toronto held a “SlutWalk” to protest the officer’s remarks and to highlight what they saw as problems in blaming sexual assault victims. Since then, SlutWalks, organized mainly through social media, have been held in Dallas, Asheville, N.C., and Ottawa, Ontario. Organizers say the events also were held to bring attention to “slut-shaming,” or shaming women for being sexual, and the treatment of sexual assault victims.

“I had watched the Toronto walk happen from afar,” said Jaclyn Friedman, author of “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape” and resident of Medford, Mass. “When I heard it was coming to Boston I just emailed the organizers and said, `How can I help?”‘

The Boston march attracted 2,000 people, even though organizers expected only 30.

Chanting “We love sluts!” and holding signs like “Jesus loves sluts,” approximately 2,000 protesters marched Saturday around the Boston Common as the city officially became the latest to join an international series of protests known as “SlutWalks.”

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?