On Tuesday, I wrote about the sudden mainstreaming of the so-called “lab leak theory” of the origins of Covid-19 in China. Today David Leonhardt has an “explainer” of this sudden attention to this long-dismissed notion.
Suddenly, talk of the Wuhan lab-leak theory seems to be everywhere.
President Biden yesterday called on U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble their efforts” to determine the origin of Covid-19 and figure out whether the virus that causes it accidentally leaked from a Chinese laboratory. Major publications and social media have recently been filled with discussion of the subject.
The origin of the virus remains unclear. Many scientists have long believed that the most likely explanation is that it jumped from an animal to a person, possibly at a food market in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Animal-to human transmission — known as zoonotic spillover — is a common origin story for viruses, including Ebola and some bird flus.But some scientists have pointed to another possibility: that it escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. As in other laboratories, researchers there sometimes modify viruses, to understand and treat them.
“It is most likely that this is a virus that arose naturally, but we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident,” Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told senators yesterday.
Leonhardt writes–as I did on Tuesday–that the reason this is suddenly getting so much attention is because a number of scientists have recently argued that the lab leak theory should be investigated.
Among the reasons: Chinese officials have refused to allow an independent investigation into the lab and have failed to explain some inconsistencies in the animal-to-human hypothesis. Most of the first confirmed cases had no evident link to the food market.
But has anything really changed?
In some ways, not much has not changed. From the beginning, the virus’s origin has been unclear. All along, some scientists, politicians and journalists have argued that the lab-leak theory deserves consideration.
Almost 15 months ago, two Chinese researchers wrote a paper concluding that the virus “probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.” Alina Chan, a molecular biologist affiliated with Harvard and M.I.T., made similar arguments. David Ignatius and Josh Rogin, both Washington Post columnists, wrote about the possibility more than a year ago. Joe Biden, then a presidential candidate, didn’t mention the lab-leak theory in early 2020 but he did argue that the U.S. should “not be taking China’s word” for how the outbreak started.
But these voices were in the minority. The World Health Organization initially dismissed the lab-leak theory as implausible.
Read the rest at the link–I’ve probably quoted too much.
If you read the comments on the Tuesday post, you know that Quixote, who is quite knowledgeable on this subject, vehemently argued against the lab leak theory. Quixote posted another comment yesterday that I didn’t see until this morning:
The virus isn’t engineered because you can tell by the RNA sequence. If it had been, the inserted bits will be obvious when you compare it to related viruses. Sort of like Frankenstein’s monster is visibly sewn together from parts that don’t go together.
The early cases don’t particularly center on the lab or on people associated with it. They’re outside Wuhan, inside Wuhan, at the abandoned mine / bat cave, at the captured animal food market, and so on. The pattern is what you’d see if a virus mutated to be able to infect people, but wasn’t very good at it yet, and had been moving through the population for a while. In the course of simmering through the population, the most successful virus would be the one that changed enough to infect people easily.
It had enough time to do that, and that was exactly the threat the Wuhan lab, and also CDC people there, were looking for. (Trump, by the way, cut funding for both of those because what the hell do we need to be paying people in China for.) The danger was noticed by Chinese doctors (one of whom soon died of the disease) who tried hard to alert the world. They were squelched by the government. If the CDC people had still been there, it would have been a lot harder to squelch.
So tl:dr; no evidence covid19 was an intentional bioweapon thing. Poor evidence that it could have unintentionally leaked. It’s a fact that the attempted coverup by the Chinese let the pandemic get going. If procedures at the lab need improving, they certainly should be.
The other things you mention about China are all true. (Tibet too. Never forget Tibet.) It’s been obvious for decades that China was going to abuse whatever power it could get. But that’s another whole train of thought.
As bad as they are, covid19 does not fit the lab leak story at all well. Both things can be true: they’re bad and covid was an incompetent accident made infinitely worse by self-serving dictators all over the world, including China.
I agree that there certainly is no evidence for the lab leak theory. The only reason I thought there could be something to it was that several people in the lab got sick with something that looked like Covid-19 and were hospitalized. I thought they could have gotten the virus from the cave samples–not that the virus was engineered in the lab–and that somehow the virus got into the population that way. But there is no way to ever know if this happened, as China would never cooperate with any investigation.
Now that Biden has ordered an investigation, we will likely hear more about this, but I can’t see how we’re ever going to know for sure how the virus originated. The crossover from animal to human explanation makes the most sense.
It’s also worth checking out this thread on Twitter by a China expert.
In other Covid-19 news, The New York Times reports that two studies have found that Immunity to the Coronavirus May Persist for Years.
Immunity to the coronavirus lasts at least a year, possibly a lifetime, improving over time especially after vaccination, according to two new studies. The findings may help put to rest lingering fears that protection against the virus will be short-lived.
Together, the studies suggest that most people who have recovered from Covid-19 and who were later immunized will not need boosters. Vaccinated people who were never infected most likely will need the shots, however, as will a minority who were infected but did not produce a robust immune response.
Both reports looked at people who had been exposed to the coronavirus about a year earlier. Cells that retain a memory of the virus persist in the bone marrow and may churn out antibodies whenever needed, according to one of the studies, published on Monday in the journal Nature.
The other study, posted online at BioRxiv, a site for biology research, found that these so-called memory B cells continue to mature and strengthen for at least 12 months after the initial infection.
“The papers are consistent with the growing body of literature that suggests that immunity elicited by infection and vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 appears to be long-lived,” said Scott Hensley, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the research.
Read more at the NYT.
There was another mass shooting yesterday–so what else is new?
It’s also not new that the perpetrator had a history of violence against women. Fox News: San Jose shooting leaves 9 dead, deceased suspect identified; victims shot in separate buildings.
The eight people initially killed by a gunman at a Northern California rail yard Wednesday morning were shot in two separate buildings before the suspected shooter took his own life, authorities said Wednesday.
A ninth victim died in a hospital late Wednesday evening, authorities said.
Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith expressed her grief for the families of the victims before praising the quick response of law enforcement officers who went into a Valley Transportation Authority building as the active shooting was happening. She said deputies and San Jose police officers were the first on the scene.
The suspect was identified Wednesday as Samuel Cassidy, 57, who was a VTA employee, officials said. No motive is known for the shooting at this time.
An ex-girlfriend told the San Francisco Chronicle he was prone to alcohol-fueled mood swings and had been accused in a March 2009 court filing of rape and abuse. The documents were filed in response to a domestic violence restraining order that Cassidy had filed earlier that month.
The former girlfriend alleged his mood swings worsened when he drank alcohol and that he played “several mind games which he seems to enjoy.” She listed several incidents of alleged sexual assault in which he would hold her arms and force his weight onto her.
He would apologize and promised to never do it again afterward, the report said.
Cassidy’s ex-wife said he had threated workplace violence years ago. KCRA3.com: What we know about Sam Cassidy, the suspect in the San Jose VTA shooting.
The man who opened fire Wednesday at a rail yard in San Jose, killing nine other people and ending his own life, has been identified as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy. He was an employee of the Valley Transportation Authority, which provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, authorities said.
Cassidy was identified as a maintenance worker at the Valley Transportation Authority….
According to The Associated Press, Cassidy had talked to his ex-wife about killing people at work more than a decade ago.
“I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now,” a tearful Cecilia Nelms told The Associated Press.
She said he used to come home from work resentful and angry over what he perceived as unfair assignments.
“He could dwell on things,” she said. The two were married for about 10 years until a 2005 divorce filing and she hadn’t been in touch with Cassidy for about 13 years, Nelms said.
I’m still perplexed and fascinated by the Q-Anon phenomenon. There a couple of stories about it today.
Washington, we have a problem — politically, informationally and societally — when 15 percent of Americans agree with the QAnon statement that the U.S. government, media and financial worlds “are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.”
Or when 20 percent agree with this statement: “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.”
Or when another 15 percent agree that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
These are the results of a PRRI-IFYC study that was conducted online March 8-30, but that was just released Thursday.
And the study finds that Republicans, those who trust far-right news outlets like OANN and Newsmax, and white evangelicals and Hispanic Protestants are all more likely to believe these statements than other Americans.
It’s hard to call something fringe when approximately one-in-five Americans believe these statements, especially one that true patriots “may have to resort to violence” to save the country.
Here’s the PRRI story: Understanding QAnon’s Connection to American Politics, Religion, and Media Consumption.
Three Components of the QAnon Conspiracy Movement
The far-right conspiracy theory movement known as QAnon emerged on the internet in late 2017 and gained traction throughout former president Donald Trump’s time in office. QAnon’s core theory revolves around Satan-worshipping pedophiles plotting against Trump and a coming “storm” that would clear out those evil forces, but the movement has also been described as a “big tent conspiracy theory” that involves a constantly evolving web of schemes about politicians, celebrities, bankers, and the media, as well as echoes of older movements within Christianity, such as Gnosticism.
To understand how this loosely connected belief system is influencing American politics, religion, and media, we fielded three questions, each containing a tenet of the QAnon conspiracy movement….
QAnon Beliefs and Partisanship
A nontrivial 15% of Americans agree with the sweeping QAnon allegation that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,” while the vast majority of Americans (82%) disagree with this statement. Republicans (23%) are significantly more likely than independents (14%) and Democrats (8%) to agree that the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.
Similarly, one in five Americans (20%) agree with the statement “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders,” while a majority (77%) disagree. Nearly three in ten Republicans (28%), compared to 18% of independents and 14% of Democrats, agree with this secondary QAnon conspiracy theory. Trends among demographic groups are similar to those of the core QAnon conspiracy theory.
Fifteen percent of Americans agree that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country,” while the vast majority (85%) disagree. Republicans (28%) are twice as likely as independents (13%) and four times as likely as Democrats (7%) to agree that because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence.
Click the link to read the rest.
So…that’s a mixed bag of news for you. What else is happening? As always, this is an open thread.
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
If you read one thing today make it this opinion piece at The Guardian by Rebecca Solnit: “Women are harmed every day by invisible men”. The title really doesn’t say it all but the body of the essay does.
I was a teenage advocate to challenge how women and children are treated by about every layer of society and the justice system when men do something untoward and harmful to them. My neighbor was in Junior League that established one of the first rape and abuse crisis lines for women in the country. It is now nationally recognized and run by the YWCA in Omaha. At the time, we had one phone in a psychologist’s office in West Omaha, training to use the list we had and to listen, and then various resources that we could provide to callers. It was small but became mighty. Fortunately, it now has skilled counselors on phones instead of teenage volunteers and homemakers.
I learned many things at the time about exactly how unfair the entire criminal justice system was to women and child victims at the time. Sex crimes were in the property crimes divisions of police stations. Women officers? Nope. Could a man rape his wife? Nope. Have at least three witnesses present to see the entire thing? No? Then, forget prosecution. My job at the crisis line was to say here’s the person you call, here’s a hospital that will help you, and eventually we started having lists of safe houses and counsellors. This was the mid 70s. A lot has changed on that front but one thing hasn’t.
Whatever happens to a woman is still likely seen to be her fault. The perpetrator eventually becomes invisible. She asked for it. She provoked him. She had a drink. I even had a friend while at university who knew I was still passionately working on campus and at the legislature to change things who had just been raped by the library rapist. She asked if it was worth reporting it because she had a couple of hits off a joint before she went there to study. I’m like Go to the hospital! Call the police! Do not make this man the winner of anything!
Ask any woman and they’ll have similar stories from either their own lives or women they know. I grew up with my mother pointing to the imprint of an iron on her inner thigh and the stories of how it got there. My mild mannered banker of a grandfather was violent and abusive. My family oozed white, WASPY upper mild class privilege so I don’t want to hear any of that other kind’ve stuff that excuses men’s–and especially white men’s–actions and behaviors. It’s still rampant.
Solnit’s writing always hits home but this one hit home so hard my house shook. She’s speaking to the latest spree shooter who targeted Asian Women working for Day Spas in the Atlanta area. However, she reminds us that we’ve seen this and we’ve seen the response over and over and over.
Some white guy with no emotional or self control has to eliminate “temptation” or was forced into a “rage” or a “hard on” by some women. So, rather than get his act together he kills the “objects” of his temptation or rapes her. Then, the media continues with his narrative. Women are to blame for what happens to them. Women are just men’s property. They are objects. They are less. These guys have a right to feel resentful and harmed and to correct that by taking it out on the woman or women or they’re just lone wolves, disturbed little boys, men with issues we can’t possibly understand.
This is Solnit’s opening narrative.
The alleged murderer of eight people, six of whom were Asian American women, reportedly said that he was trying to “eliminate temptation”. It’s as if he thought others were responsible for his inner life, as though the horrific act of taking others’ lives rather than learning some form of self-control was appropriate. This aspect of a crime that was also horrifically racist reflects a culture in which men and the society at large blame women for men’s behavior and the things men do to women. The idea of women as temptresses goes back to the Old Testament and is heavily stressed in white evangelical Christianity; the victims were workers and others present in massage parlors; the killer was reportedly on his way to shoot up Florida’s porn industry when he was apprehended.
This week an older friend recounted her attempts in the 1970s to open a domestic-violence shelter in a community whose men didn’t believe domestic violence was an issue there and when she convinced them it was, told her, but “what if it’s the women’s fault”. And last week a male friend of mine posted an anti-feminist screed blaming young women for New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s travails, as though they should suck it up when he violated clear and longstanding workplace rules, as though they and not he had the responsibility to protect his career and reputation.
Sometimes men are written out of the story altogether. Since the pandemic began there have been torrents of stories about how women’s careers have been crushed or they have left their jobs altogether because they’re doing the lioness’s share of domestic labor , especially child-rearing, in heterosexual households. In February of this year, NPR opened a story with the assertion that this work has “landed on the shoulders of women” as if that workload had fallen from the sky rather than been shoved there by spouses. I have yet to see an article about a man’s career that’s flourishing because he’s dumped on his wife, or focusing on how he’s shirking the work.
Informal responses often blame women in these situations for their spouses and recommend they leave without addressing that divorce often leads to poverty for women and children, and of course, unequal workloads at home can undermine a woman’s chances at financial success and independence. Behind all this is a storytelling problem. The familiar narratives about murder, rape, domestic violence, harassment, unwanted pregnancy, poverty in single-female-parent households, and a host of other phenomena portray these things as somehow happening to women and write men out of the story altogether, absolve them of responsibility – or turn them into “she made him do it” narratives. Thus have we treated a lot of things that men do to women or men and women do together as women’s problems that women need to solve, either by being amazing and heroic and enduring beyond all reason, or by fixing men, or by magically choosing impossible lives beyond the reach of harm and inequality. Not only the housework and the childcare, but what men do becomes women’s work.
Please Read the entire thing. Then, consider this stream of tweets by Bruce Bartlett on research by Pew Research. It’s basically a reading list of things surrounding white–but especially white male–fragility. Yes. Racial discrimination is a problem for white males in their minds just about the same way that the mass murderer felt women tempting him were his problem.
The research thankfully shows that the majority of all of us in this country see racial discrimination and even white people. But, then there’s the wipipo that think it’s all about them. Bartlett writes about this at The New Republic: “The Ultimate White Fragility. White people in not-insignificant numbers maintain a persistent belief that they’re the ones suffering historic levels of racial discrimination.” Robin DiAngelo, coined the term in a best-selling book in 2011. Yes, that’s 10 years ago and look where we are on this.
Over the last 10 years, the issue of reverse racism and its social and political implications have drawn extensive interest from social scientists. The most well-known study was by Michael I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers of the Harvard Business School and Tufts University, respectively, in 2011. They found that whites increasingly viewed racial prejudice as a zero-sum game—reduced bias against black citizens automatically led to increased bias against their white counterparts. As the chart from their article shows, perceived discrimination against whites by both whites and blacks rose as discrimination against blacks was perceived to have fallen. (This analysis is available through Tufts University.)
Further studies in 2014, 2015, and 2016 confirmed that many whites do indeed see racial progress as a zero-sum game. However, the latest study, published last year, was more skeptical of this trend. Nevertheless, the idea of zero-sum racial discrimination is very popular in the Republican Party. Then-Senator Jeff Sessions expressed the widely held GOP sentiment in 2009 when he said, “Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.”
Notice it’s the same set of white evangelicals and republicans that tend to come up in all the quotes and polls that Bartlett cites in that 2019 article. It’s a complete taste of Trumpism. All of this is deeply intertwined with both patriarchy as viewed by many religious traditions like white evangelical Christianity and white supremacy which has been at the root of native genocides and slavery of Africans and black Americans since the country’s inception. It continues to poison the well.
So, the Supreme Court is considering reinstating the death penalty of the Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Remember that Domestic Terrorist Timothy McVeigh of the Oklahoma bombings was the last to receive the federal death penalty in 2001 until Trump went on killing spree at the end of his term. You may remember that a woman was one of them. The other were primarily black men This is from January and BBC Canada.
Five people have been executed in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s 20 January inauguration – breaking with an 130-year-old precedent of pausing executions amid a presidential transition.
They make Mr Trump the country’s most prolific execution president in more than a century, overseeing the executions of 13 death row inmates since July of this year.
The five executions began with convicted killer 40-year-old Brandon Bernard who was put to death at a penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. They ended with the death of Dustin Higgs, 48, at the same site on 16 January.
President Biden does not support the Death Penalty. This is from the AP link.
The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider reinstating the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, presenting President Joe Biden with an early test of his opposition to capital punishment.
The justices agreed to hear an appeal filed by the Trump administration, which carried out executions of 13 federal inmates in its final six months in office, including three in the last week of President Donald Trump’s term.
The case won’t be heard until the fall, and it’s unclear how the new administration will approach Tsarnaev’s case. The initial prosecution and decision to seek a death sentence was made by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president.
Justice and jobs are not generally meted out equally in this country and many white men fear they will be. The Capitol Hill Riot/Insurrection will be a test of this certainly. Today’s NYT: “Evidence in Capitol Attack Most Likely Supports Sedition Charges, Prosecutor Says.“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” said Michael Sherwin, who had led the Justice Department’s inquiry into the riot. “. This is from Katie Benner.
Evidence the government obtained in the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol most likely meets the bar necessary to charge some of the suspects with sedition, Michael R. Sherwin, the federal prosecutor who had been leading the Justice Department’s inquiry, said in an interview that aired on Sunday.
The department has rarely brought charges of sedition, the crime of conspiring to overthrow the government.
But in an interview with “60 Minutes,” Mr. Sherwin said prosecutors had evidence that most likely proved such a charge.
“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Mr. Sherwin said. “I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”
Scott Pelley’s interview on 60 minutes can be found at this link.
I’d like to point you to a more inspiring read from Vogue: “5 Female Artists From Around the World Who Celebrate Women in Their Work.” If you’d like to share something with the kids or grand kids, try the Multicultural Kids Blog.: “7 Women Artists Who Changed History.”. You can also check out this from Art and Design: “Famous Female Artists – 5 Incredible Women Artists That You Need To Know”
I hope you have a good week. It’s so nice to have so many flavors of spring decorating the avenue now. All the azaleas and camellias are in bloom. I hope they’re finding they’re way to your corner of the northern hemisphere!
Meanwhile enjoy a live performance of Suzanne Vega and her song “Luka”. And then listen to Natalie Merchant and “Motherland”. Gee, I like this Women’s History month thing! And, I notice I’m really late in the day already! This was my morning to sleep 2 hours later than the I usually get up in Fake Time and 1 hour later in Real Time. My body is really not liking this time change. But, anyway … your turn!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
(Rape and sexual assault trigger warnings)
I went to undergraduate school at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska where I immediately joined the University Women’s Action Group and followed the work I did in high school as a volunteer for what was the the nascent Rape Crisis line set up by the Junior League in Omaha. I had been assaulted in the choir room at my high school when I was a junior by two seniors. I was forcibly held down for a period of time and had bible verses and other things shouted at me. It made me realize how vulnerable every girl and woman is to the pack mentality of white men and boys with privilege who are taught by their parents, religions, coaches, teachers and friends to go out and grab anything they want because they are told they are the masters of the universe and entitled to go for it.
I worked hard to change the old laws in Nebraska when I hit college so that violent crimes against women and children would be removed from the Property Crimes Divisions of police departments, so that female police officers were assigned to victims, so that women didn’t need 3 witnesses to their assaults to even be considered assaulted rather than just telling tales, so that husbands could be found guilty of rape, and so that women’s sexual history and facts not pertinent to the rape would not be brought up to slander the victim in court. I taught basic self defense and lectured at sororities which mostly meant telling my peers to assume they’d be assaulted at some time so here’s ways to lower your risk.
I wound up helping a friend who had been raped in the stacks at the library through the legal process that re-victimized her. She was afraid to even report the rape since she had been smoking pot earlier in the evening. This was in the mid 1970s. My lecture to those girls was to basically warned them to avoid the male athletes; especially the football players and travel and stay in packs in well-lit areas. But how and why should you tell any student to avoid studying in the library? A serial rapist was later found to haunt there and it proves women can’t assume they are safe anywhere, and that thought rules our lives.
I had planned to be a lawyer at that time and the way the system treated women and children that were assaulted by men was at the top of my list of things I intended to change. At 60, a full forty years later after my core activism, I know now that even systemic changes do not change men like Judge Aaron Persky. He’s getting some blow back but, he just won another term. It also hasn’t apparently changed how many boys are raised in this country.
I’d like to think that my work at that time made women and children safer but then I read about Brock Turner, Stanford University where rapes are frequent , Turner’s parents, and our justice system that still metes out justice based on levels of privilege.
Yes, it’s that post. It’s where we confront a society that raises and enables rapists. We face a judge and court system that fails when it comes to privileged white males. My oldest daughter’s first labor day weekend at LSU turned into an ER visit when she was roofied at a local college bar and temporarily paralyzed. Fortunately, she was with other girls and some properly-raised boys took her to the hospital. Believe me, I never lectured my daughters on much of anything because my mother raised me in fear of all kinds of things like being captured for white slavery. You kinda stop listening to it after awhile and I never wanted that to happen so I chose my lectures carefully. I lectured my daughters on never, ever leaving their drinks uncovered or unattended at any time. Gigging in the French Quarter left me knowing that the tricks of Bill Cosby live on. Let me tell you about a local eye surgeon on that account … but that’s for another day.
The deal is that we still live in a world where many men think they have a right to anything they want including the bodies of women. To quote one of my favorite lyricists, “you have to be carefully taught.”
Well, it’s as good a day as any to discuss how a judge in California enabled a rapist after a jury of his peers delivered a guilty plea on 3 felony accounts. The six month sentence–which appears to look more like a three month sentence–has outraged the American Public. Follow this link to CNN for a good understanding of the basics of the case.
Please be aware that this post will contain information that may trigger visceral responses in any of our readers that have been sexually assaulted. I know that we have quite a few survivors here, so I want to make it clear that this post and the links may upset you.
Believe me, I’m amazed that our country is finally at the point where a sexual assault case can garner so much attention. I don’t know what got us to that point. I only know that it’s been a long time coming. One in five women and one in thirty three men will be the victims of sexual violence at least once in their lives. An American is sexually assaulted every two minutes. That is no small number.
The victim’s statement to Brock Turner, the former Stanford student convicted of sexually assaulting her, has been viewed online millions of times since last week. A CNN anchor read the statement, in full, on television. Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, read it aloud on the House floor. The case, which resulted in a six-month jail sentence and probation for Turner, has touched off furor among those who say the punishment is too light, and sparked vigorous debate about the intersection of sexual assault, privilege, and justice.
This is an astounding moment, in part because it’s so rare for sexual violence, despite its ubiquity, to garner this kind of attention.
“It’s incredible,” said Michele Dauber, a Stanford Law School professor who has pressed for the recall of the judge who sentenced Turner. “Why did that happen? First of all, it’s the tremendous power and clarity of thought that is reflected in the survivor’s statement.”
“She is helping people to understand this experience in a visceral and clear way,” Dauber added. “And she’s brushing away all the really toxic politics around campus assault that have built up. People have said, ‘How can we really believe these women? It’s his word against hers.’ This men’s rights movement has emerged. And there’s been a lot of rage happening out there. Then, whoosh, [this statement] really reframed it.”
It wasn’t just the statement. In March, Turner was convicted of three felony counts: sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and assault with an intent to commit rape. If it’s rare for someone to report a sexual assault in the first place, it’s even more unusual for that report to result in a conviction. In the vast majority of sexual assaults the perpetrators never serve time in prison—97 percent of cases, an analysis of Justice Department data by the anti-sexual violence advocacy group RAINN concludes.
Another unusual component of the case at Stanford: There were eyewitnesses. Two graduate students were riding their bikes through Stanford’s campus when they saw, “a man on the ground, thrusting toward a body,” The Mercury News reported in March.
We’ve found out some horrible things since the sentence was handed down. The parents wrote letters to the judge pleading for leniency that are so appallingly clueless and selfish that you wonder how this boy has not become a full blown sociopath. The letters fell on sympathetic ears, however, since the judge himself was a Stanford athlete at one time. I’ve linked to the mother’s newly released letter since the father’s has pretty much gone viral and we’ve discussed it already in some downthread conversations.
A letter to the judge from Brock Turner‘s mother calls the convicted rapist the “most trustworthy and honest person I know.”
The emergence of Carleen Turner‘s glowing assessment of her “beautiful son,” a former Stanford swimmer, comes after his victim’s letter went viral, his father’s letter sparked outrage, andBrock’s own statement maintained the encounter was consensual.
His mother’s letter depicts Brock as a model student and citizen, and she laments the misfortune that has struck her son:
My first thought upon wakening every morning is “this isn’t real, this can’t be real. Why him? Why HIM? WHY? WHY?”
She goes on to describe the devastating effect of this “awful, horrible, terrible, gut-wrenching, life-changing verdict” on her family:
My once vibrant and happy boy is distraught, deeply depressed, terribly wounded, and filled with despair. His smile is gone forever-that beautiful grin is no more. … We are devastated beyond belief. My beautiful, happy family will never know happiness again.
In her concluding plea for mercy, she says Brock isn’t tough enough to survive prison and would be a “target” for other inmates:
I beg of you, please don’t send him to jail/prison. Look at him. He won’t survive it. He will be damaged forever and I fear he would be a major target. Stanford boy, college kid, college athlete- all the publicity……..this would be a death sentence for him.
This is from the mother of a convicted rapist worrying about her son being raped in prison. No one should be raped. EVER. Not even her rapist son deserves to be raped. But, really, how can anyone be so unaware of the suffering of her son’s rape victim and yet be so concerned about his potential rape? Here are some new developments found by the press since the story has garnered so much attention. Turner sent pictures of the rape victim’s breast to his friends.
Investigators believe Brock Turner may have photographed his assault victim’s breasts, then sent the pictures to a group of friends, the Daily Mail reported.
According to police, Turner received a text message via the GroupMe online app asking, “Who’s [sic] t*ts are those” from a fellow swimmer, identified as Justin Buck. However, the picture that prompted the question was deleted from the group chat by an unknown party.
A witness also told police that he saw a man standing over the victim holding his cell phone.
“The cell phone had a bright light pointed in the direction of the female, using either a flashlight app in his phone or its built-in app,” a police statement read.
The witness, identified as Blake Bolton, then “told the male subject to roll her over onto her side to breathe. The male subject did not do this. Bolton then got on his knees and checked her pulse. When he got back up, the male subject was gone.”
The U.S. governing body for the sport of swimming on Friday banned ex-Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, whose six-month jail sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman has stirred widespread outrage.
Condemning Turner’s “crime and actions,” USA Swimming said that he is not a current organization member and is ineligible for membership.
“Brock Turner’s membership with USA Swimming expired at the end of the calendar year 2014 and he was not a member at the time of his crime or since then,” USA Swimming spokesman Scott Leightman said. “As a result, USA Swimming doesn’t have any jurisdiction over Brock Turner.”
Court documents have been released and show that Brock Turner lied about his past partying exploits. Turner’s parents and the student himself indicated that Stanford made him do it. Evidence shows otherwise.
In a letter submitted to Persky prior to sentencing, Turner said he came from a small town in Ohio and never experienced partying that involved alcohol. But when he started attending Stanford, Turner wrote, he began drinking to relieve the stress of school and competitive swimming. He blamed a “party culture and risk-taking behavior” for his actions.
But prosecutors said they found text messages and photographs that show Turner lied and has a history of partying.
Investigators found photographs of Turner smoking from a pipe and another teammate was holding a bong, according to court documents. A photo of a bong was found as well as a video showing Turner smoking from a bong and drinking from a bottle of liquor.
“Furthermore, there are many text messages that are indicative of drug use, both during the defendant’s time at Stanford and during his time in Ohio when he was still in high school.”
In a message sent to a friend in 2014, Turner asked: “Do you think I could buy some wax so we could do some dabs?” Dabs is a reference to smoking a highly potent form of cannabis, known as honey oil.
Turner also talked about using acid while in high school and at Stanford. He bragged about taking LSD and MDMA together, an act referred to as “candyflippin,” according to prosecutors.
A professor in his Ohio community indicates that Turner’s surroundings enable all kinds of white privilege and bad behavior. It sounds a lot like the place where I grew up. (H/T to BostonBoomer)
The kids walk to school and go home for lunch. The schools are nationally recognized. In fact, the local nickname for Oakwood is “the Dome,” so sheltered are its residents from violence, poverty and inconvenient truths. I have lived here for more than 20 years.
Communities like this one have a dark side, though: the conflation of achievement with being “a good kid”; the pressure to succeed; the parents who shrug when the party in their basement gets out of control (or worse yet, when they host it) because “kids are gonna drink”; the tacit understanding that rules don’t necessarily apply. The cops won’t come. The ax won’t fall.
Yet now it has.
Invariably, when I tell someone who knows the Dayton area that I live in Oakwood, they assume that I am rich, narrow-minded, a Republican or some combination thereof. If most residents were just the stereotype, though, I would not have been happy here as long as I have. For the most part, I have loved raising my kids here. But I have struggled, too. My closest friends and I have a long-standing joke about needing to remember to “lower the bar” around here — about not falling prey to the pressures to conform and compete, not buying the line that the schools or the kids are special. Most of us understand our privilege and good fortune. Many do not.
There is an Oakwood in every city; there’s a Brock Turner in every Oakwood: the “nice,” clean-cut, “happy-go-lucky,” hyper-achieving kid who’s never been told no. There’s nothing he can’t have, do or be, because he is special. Fortunately, most kids like this will march into their predictably bright futures without victimizing anyone along the way. Many will do good in the world.
But it’s not hard to draw a straight line from this little ’burb (or a hundred like it) to that dumpster at Stanford. What does being told no mean to that kid? If the world is his for the taking, isn’t an unconscious woman’s body? When he gets caught, why wouldn’t his first impulse be to run, to make excuses — to blame the Fireball or the girl or the campus drinking culture? That is entitlement. That is unchecked privilege.
I’ve been in conversations about rape, violence, and rape culture for over 40 years. I feel like there’s not much new that can be added to the conversation although all the wisdom beings in the multiverse know that those of us that really care about this try angles old and new. It rarely captures public opinion unless it’s part of the rescuing the princess paradigm and that worries me.
It’s interesting that the thing that started this latest outrage also displays intersectionality so we not only see that rape culture is alive and well but the treatment of rapists by judges depends on factors like privilege and race. My guess is that treatment of victims depends on similar factors. The referenced article is by Shaun King. I wish he would investigate the justice meted out for poor women and for women that are racially minorities brutalized by men because my guess is they don’t get their day in court let alone their week in the press. Would this story have gotten so far if the victim was less educated or “articulate”? If she were a sex worker or poor? If she were a Hispanic woman who overstayed her VISA?
All victims of rape deserve justice as do all perpetrators.
Mothers and Fathers, don’t let your babies grow up to be rapists.
Happy Thanksgiving’s Eve
Damn, it is the Ghost of Thanksgiving’s Past……There is nothing like having a pissed off old bird haunting you night…and day.
Especially one who is fighting against Violence against Women!!!!!!!!!
(I am the pissed off old bird in that scenario.)
Today is November 25th, and each year….November 25th…. marks the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Why This International Day?
- Violence against women is a human rights violation
- Violence against women is a consequence of discrimination against women, in law and also in practice, and of persisting inequalities between men and women
- Violence against women impacts on, and impedes, progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security
- Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. Prevention is possible and essential
- Violence against women continues to be a global pandemic.
Facts and Figures
- 35% of women and girls globally experience some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime with up to seven in ten women facing this abuse in some countries.
- An estimated 133 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation/cutting in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common.
- Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children, 250 million of whom were married before the age of 15. Girls who marry before the age of 18 are less likely to complete their education and more likely to experience domestic violence and complications in childbirth.
- The costs and consequence of violence against women last for generations.
From 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
This year, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women invites you to “Orange the world: End violence against women and girls.” Join the UNiTE campaign and organize “Orange Events” between 25 November and 10 December 2015.
So to “celebrate” this International Day to end Violence against Women, the National Institute of Health, has a series of three articles, and various links, that you should give some time to today.
Confronting Violence: Home page Exhibition…
Nurses changed the way the medical profession identified and treated women who were battered. By the 1990s, all the major medical organizations recognized domestic violence as a significant health issue and urged their members to take action, reinforcing over a decade of advocacy by nurses and their allies.
Temperance and women’s rights advocates called attention to family violence and agitated for reform during the mid-19th century. Despite their efforts, society as a whole continued to ignore domestic violence.
Activists and reformers in the United States have long recognized the harm of domestic violence and sought to improve the lives of women who were battered.
Take a look at the main page of their program, via the NIH’s blog Circulating Now : Confronting Violence | Circulating Now
Ms. magazine, founded in 1971, ran a regular feature “No Comment” that encouraged readers to send in sexist advertisements and other media.
Printed in Ms. Magazine, July 1973
4. UPPER CRUST
The Tall Tale: Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or “upper crust.”
The Facts: An isolated source hints at such a custom. One of the first printed books on household management, John Russell’s Boke of Nurture, circa 1460, says (translated into modern English), “Take a loaf…and lay [a trencher] before your lord; lay four trenchers four-square, and another on the top. Take a loaf of light bread, pare the edges, cut the upper crust for your lord.” It’s not clear whether the upper crust was considered the tastiest nibble or the sturdiest substitute for a plate, but such instructions have cropped up nowhere else. Over the centuries, the phrase upper crust appears in reference to the earth’s surface, bread and pies. But it’s not until the 19th century that we find it used to mean upper class, so the connection with the apportioning of a loaf is dubious.
In the 19th century, upper crust appears as a slang term for the human head or a hat. In 1826,The Sporting Magazine reported, “Tom completely tinkered his antagonist’s upper-crust.” Most likely it’s simply the idea of the upper crust being the top that made it a metaphor for the aristocracy. Here’s how Thomas Chandler Haliburton put it in 1838’s The Clockmaker; or the sayings and doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville: “It was none o’ your skim-milk parties, but superfine uppercrust real jam.”
4., 5., AND 6. METEOR, METEORITE, AND ASTEROID
Although some use these terms interchangeably, meteors, meteorites, and asteroids are all different things. Here’s how to use them correctly: Asteroids are the rocky bodies that orbit the Sun mostly between Mars and Jupiter; they’re much smaller than planets, and they’re sometimes pulled out of their orbit by the force of Jupiter’s gravity and travel toward the inner solar system. The vast majority of meteorites—rocks that fall to Earth from space and actually reach the Earth’s surface—are parts of asteroids. Like meteorites, meteors are objects that enter Earth’s atmosphere from space—but they’re typically grain-sized pieces of comet dust that burn up before reaching the ground, leaving behind trails that we call “shooting stars” as they vaporize.
On Nov. 6, 1869, 25 players from Rutgers University carried scarlet handkerchiefs onto a field in northern New Jersey as a means of distinguishing themselves from the opposing Princeton squad. That matchup marked what is considered today the first football game ever played. Only weeks later, the country’s newest sport would be played on one of its newest official holidays: Thanksgiving. And so, the longstanding tradition of football on Turkey Day was born.
Football and Thanksgiving have been coupled almost since the birth of each of them. Abraham Lincoln had declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, just six years prior to the first football game on Thanksgiving, played so soon after the sport’s invention. After that inaugural game in 1869, high school and college teams throughout the rest of the century, and throughout the rest of the country, began to purposely schedule games on Thanksgiving, when the day off would bring the greatest number of people to the local fields to support the amateur squads.
I had no idea football went back that far…
Using the hashtag, Twitter users shared hilarious tweets, memes, vines and photos that all perfectly captured the spirit of #ThanksgivingWithHispanics. No topic was left untouched and no relative was spared. We’ve rounded up some of the best tweets and listed them below. You’re welcome.
Go to the link to see a few of those. As well as:
And, there is also, #ThanksgivingWithItalianFamilies:
Some of them even overlap:
This is an open thread….
Recently, there have been scads of news stories and legislative actions that make me fear for the present and future of girls and women. I really wanted to not front page the Cohen WAPO piece because it was such an obvious piece of slut slamming and rape apologia that I could hardly bear to read it. There have been hundreds of good rubutals that remind us that in America, no woman or girl is truly safe. Many of us are not safe in our homes. It is likely we are not safe in our schools or workplaces. We are not safe in parking lots and streets. We are still subjected to all of the mythology around “asking for it” which includes our past sex lives, our clothing, and our drinking/drug habits.
Framing a piece about rape around the perpetrators of a crime, rather than those who have been the victims of that crime, is a sign that the entire argument needs to be refocused. Rape victims are frequently erased in discussions of sexual assault that focus solely on the perpetrators (in 2011, the Onion aptly parodied this dynamic in a video entitled “College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed”), which is offensive to the people who have been subject to those sexual crimes.
During the Steubenville rape trial, for example, the media spent most of its time lamenting the fact that the perpetrators’ “promising football careers” were going to be thrown into question by being convicted of rape. That sparked massive backlash, but editorial pieces continue to be guilty of perpetrating this dynamic. A recent piece published in the Atlantic argued for the need to “change the preconceptions and misconceptions that society has when it comes to pedophiles” because not many people “think about the millions who grapple with sexual feelings on which they can never act.” And a Washington Post op-ed published over the weekend suggested that teachers who have sex with students shouldn’t be punished so harshly because those poor teachers probably thought it was a consensual relationship.
We’ve written about these horrible stories that infer girl children some how want to be raped and “boys are just be being boys”, I have to admit that the Montana Judge who handed out a light sentence to a rapist whose 14 year old victim took her life was just about the worst thing I’ve seen in a long time. Oh, and he’s apologized.
A Montana judge has apologized for claiming a 14-year-old girl was “as much in control of the situation” as a former teacher who admits raping her.
Yellowstone County District Judge G. Todd Baugh also said Monday teen Cherice Moralez was “older than her chronological age” while sentencing ex-teacher Stacey Rambold to serve just 30 days of a 15-year prison sentence.
Moralez killed herself in 2010 with the case still pending, and her mother claimed the abuse by Rambold was a “major factor” in her daughter’s suicide, the Billings Gazette reported.
The mother, Auliea Hanlon, stormed out of Monday’s sentencing, shouting “You people suck!”
Baugh has reconsidered his comments, although not the sentence. He wrote an 81-word letter to the Billings paper apologizing for his statements.
“In the Rambold sentencing, I made references to the victim’s age and control,” Baugh wrote. “I’m not sure just what I was attempting to say, but it did not come out correct.
“What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens.”
Raise your hand if you believe that! I recently quit playing some on-line games where the “boys will be boys” attitude and the crude, awful comments about women’s bodies, gay men, and women in general just became too much for me. There appears to be very few men that understand there’s a line between joking about sex or being bawdy and degrading women. They also all live in fear of gay men and gay sex which still reminds me that what they all fear is that gay men will treat them they way they treat women. Oh, did I mention these jerks have wives and daughters and of course mothers. I got every excuse from “well, I tell my daughter all men are pigs” to “you don’t seem to have a sense of humor” and “you’re okay joking about sex, what’s the difference?”. I’m getting to old for this. It’s the same shit I heard and saw when I was a preteen, a teen, a young woman, until right here right now.
When will men say to each other this is not the way you treat another human being?
So, given all of the crap we’ve seen these past two years coming out of state legislatures who seem to think they also own our bodies and lawmakers talking about “real” rape or “rape” rape versus their own personal version of she asked for it, I came across this news article. Diana the Hunter is said to be on a killing spree and she’s taking out rapists in Northern Mexico.
Authorities are seeking a woman accused of killing two bus drivers in northern Mexico amid claims that the murders were committed by a vigilante avenging rapes, officials said Tuesday.
Local media have received an anonymous message signed by “Diana, the hunter,” claiming to act as “an instrument of vengeance” for the sexual abuse committed by drivers in Ciudad Juarez, a border city with a dark record of violence against women.
Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office, told AFP that the email, sent over the weekend, “has been included in the investigation.”
Witnesses said a woman wearing a blonde wig shot the drivers in the head after stopping the buses last week. Sandoval said prosecutors believe they were either crimes of passion or motivated by vengeance.
The drivers were working on a route used by women who work in assembly plants known as “maquiladoras,” and who regularly suffer sexual abuse as they head to their night shifts.
Authorities are investigating 12 cases of female passengers allegedly sexually assaulted by drivers. Investigators are looking into whether the killer is among the women.
Officials are also investigating any links with an arson attack against a bus at dawn on Tuesday. The vehicle was set ablaze after gasoline was poured on it, said Fire Chief Ramon Lucero.
The anonymous message from “Diana” stated: “My colleagues and I have suffered in silence, but they can no longer keep us quiet.”
“We were victims of sexual violence by drivers who worked during the night shift at the (plants) in Juarez. While many people know about our suffering, nobody defends us or does anything to protect us,” it said.
“They think that we are weak because we are women,” the message said, warning that there would be more deaths.
“I am an instrument of vengeance.”
Authorities have drawn up a profile of the suspected killer and launched an operation to find her with undercover agents in buses.
Witnesses describe her as a woman in her 50s, 1.65 meters tall (5-feet-four), with a dark complexion.
When the justice system fails you, when the legal system fails you, when the nation’s largest and most respected newspapers fail you, when the men in your life fail you, it is really easy to think bout cheering on that “instrument of vengeance”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to no longer need to take back the night? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to play a game or work some where or go into a bar without continually having to be on guard? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get a group of women together in a room and there would be at least one of us that wasn’t either raped, beaten, harassed, or threatened simply because she is a woman?
Today’s perpetrators are the Government of Texas, most elected Republican officials, a good number of Churches and pastors, the judicial and criminal justice system, the military and the men who do not call out other men when justice and wrong is done to women. Until justice is ours, I actually have to say that I would like a world wide army of Diana the Hunters.