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?


Who Could Have Predicted…. “Dr. Sex” Issues Non-Apology Apology

The sex toy in question ("the f@cksaw")

I knew this was coming. I posted a link to this story in a comment on the Thursday morning thread: “Northwestern University defends after-class live sex demonstration.”

More than 100 Northwestern University students watched as a naked 25-year-old woman was penetrated by a sex toy wielded by her fiancee during an after-class session of the school’s popular “Human Sexuality” class.

The woman said she showed up at the Feb. 21 lecture in the Ryan Family Auditorium in Evanston expecting just to answer questions, but was game to demonstrate. The course’s professor on Wednesday acknowledged some initial hesitation, but said student feedback was “uniformly positive.”

At first Northwestern stood behind their controversial professor, J. Michael Bailey AKA “Dr. Sex.”

“Northwestern University faculty members engage in teaching and research on a wide variety of topics, some of them controversial and at the leading edge of their respective disciplines,” said Alan K. Cubbage, vice president for University Relations. “The University supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge.”

Faith Kroll

Uh huh. I wonder what knowledge was advanced by a woman (Faith Kroll, see photo) having an orgasm on a stage in front of 100 students? I’m no prude, but come on! Please someone explain how this “furthers the advancement of knowledge?” Was it the part where the woman who was stimulated on stage announced that she gets off on being watched while having sex?

Next, a woman took her clothes off, and—with an audience of around 100—lay down on her back, legs spread. As students moved forward from the theater’s back seats, for a closer view, “The girl grabbed the mic,” says Sean Lavery, a Northwestern freshman. “She explained that she had a fetish for being watched by large crowds while having an orgasm.”

Again, I’m no prude. This was an optional session, with a warning about a graphic demonstration. The students were presumably chronological adults. Frankly, I wouldn’t have stuck around to watch, but I probably wouldn’t have taken the class to begin with.

But if I had been there, it would have been very easy for me to foresee that this after class “demonstration” would lead to Trouble with a capital T. The trouble is those “adult” college students have parents who don’t see them as full adults yet, and universities are surrounded by communities of people who tend to get a bit worked up about the idea of professors organizing live sex shows for their students.

Guess what? After some reflection, the president of Northwestern is “troubled,” and has launched an “investigation.”

….after the incident received national attention, officials now say they are investigating. In a statement, the university president said the demonstration “represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member” and was not “appropriate, necessary, or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission,” the Daily Northwestern reports.

Professor Bailey

No kidding. And today Dr. Sex has issued an apology.

“I apologize,” he writes. “As I have noted elsewhere, the demonstration was unplanned and occurred because I made a quick decision to allow it. I should not have done so.”

He said he was surprised by the public outcry over the after-class incident in the Ryan Family Auditorium, where a man used a high-powered sex toy on his girlfriend in front of 100 students.

“During a time of financial crisis, war, and global warming, this story has been a top news story for more than two days,” Bailey wrote in his statement. “That this is so reveals a stark difference of opinion between people like me, who see absolutely no harm in what happened, and those who believe that it was profoundly wrong.”

Obviously, this man has been in his ivory tower studying human sexual behavior for so long that he missed the fact that we live in a country where people search for titillating and even sordid distractions from the nightmare of our current political and fiscal situations. He must not be aware that Americans love “reality TV” almost as much as they love the “unreal” world of Fox News. The controversy Bailey set off fit right into that picture.

As part of his non-apology “apology,” Bailey said:

Bailey said that while he regretted allowing the Feb. 21 sex toy demonstration he also does not believe those who were offended made a good case for why the act should not have been allowed.

“Those who believe that there was, in fact, a serious problem have had considerable opportunity to explain why: in the numerous media stories on the controversy, or in their various correspondences with me,” the statement reads. “But they have failed to do so. Saying that the demonstration ‘crossed the line,’ went too far,’ ‘was inappropriate,’ or ‘was troubling’ convey disapproval but do not illuminate reasoning.”

He adds that if he was grading the arguments against allowing a man to use a custom high-powered sex toy to bring his naked girlfriend to orgasm before 100 students, “most would earn an ‘F.’”

Others can make the “right or wrong” argument. For me, the reason no professor should do some thing like this is because it’s just plain stupid and if the uproar gets too great, it could lead to the loss of tenure and dismissal.

Even if he keeps his job, Bailey has drawn a great deal of negative attention on the academic institution he works for and his human bosses, including the university president, the dean, and the department chairman. His actions could cost his university in terms of alumni support and contributions from large and small donors. It could even lead some parents to discourage their children from attending Northwestern.

And for what? What are the arguments in favor of doing the demonstration? How was the cause of science or knowledge advanced by what what Professor Bailey did? In my opinion, Professor Bailey’s decision was just plain stupid, childish, and egotistical.