Nel's New Day

March 23, 2019

DDT: Week 113, Part 2 – Deny, Give Orders

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants to destroy free speech in the media but signed an executive order to protect “free speech” on campus—like the First Amendment. DDT said, “People who are confident in their beliefs do not censor others.” Conservative legislatures have already passed laws promoting conservative language on campus. For example, Wisconsin students can be expelled if they interrupt the speech of another student three times. DDT was so excited by signing the executive order that he grabbed a young blonde and kissed her. As he said, “Grab them …. You can do anything.” At least all he did at the signing ceremony was kiss her. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project’s new website, Gov404, tracks online “censorship” on U.S. government websites to show how they have erased important information, especially LGBTQ rights and climate change, with no justification. One of the biggest federal changes began with EPA’s removing the climate change site followed by climate change pages and information from departments of Transportation, Interior, BLM, National Park Service, etc.

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” ― George Orwell, 1984

About any problems, DDT says, “Deny, deny, deny.” Now he adds that he knows nothing:

Nothing about Jared Kushner and Ivanka’s extensive use of private email accounts for White House business after constantly using the “lock her up” chant for Hillary Clinton’s emails on the campaign trail. Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) used the same chant at a fundraising event at Mar-a-Lago.

Nothing about DDT giving Kushner top-secret security clearance despite proof.

Nothing about the major crackdown, involving many kidnappings and tortures, of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his political foes.

Nothing about MBS’ death squad asking for bonuses for overtime because they worked overtime.

Nothing about MBS torturing and dismembering U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Nothing about the rising threats of white supremacists despite the employment of people; i.e., Confederacy fan and white supremacist Corey Stewart leading DDT’s MAGA PAC because of Stewart’s promise to “run a very vicious and ruthless campaign.”

DDT condemned Rep. Ilham Omar (D-MN) for so-called anti-Semitic remarks but stayed silent about white nationalist Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) tweet about “another civil war” between red and blue states:

“One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use. Wonder who would win….” [visual King]

King represents Iowa, depicted on the losing side.

Counties hosting at least one DDT rally experienced an average 226 percent increase of hate crimes afterward. A large number of the reported hate crimes referenced Trump. In Virginia racist bullying in school increased in counties backing DDT and decreased in regions carried by Hillary Clinton.

Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill to stop participating in Title X and put aside more state dollars to expand its family planning program passed two years ago if DDT’s gag rule preventing any mention of abortion succeeds. The new bill declares that Maryland will not participate in a program proving substandard care and require providers to physically and financially separate abortion from other medical services to keep the federal funding. Maryland is also one of 22 states suing the federal government over the gag rule.

DDT will put more elders into poverty with a new policy that employers can give current retirees a one-time payment in exchange for their pensions. Pensions are big liabilities for companies because they depend on investments which are unsure. Retirees with a lump sum of money tend to spend them quickly, within 5.5 years according to a 2017 study, and use the money for short-term items like home improvements. Typically, people get 20 to 30 percent less with that one-time payment than with a pension.

DHS is considering staffing detention centers with the 1,000-person force of government workers who volunteered to leave their jobs to help disaster victims. The Surge Capacity Force, created after Hurricane Katrina to help FEMA if it needs extra staff on short notice, was activated only in 2012 for Hurricane Sandy and 2017 for Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Force members have no training in staffing detention facilities, and the proposal leaves FEMA with no help during disasters from climate change, currently the horrific flooding in three Plains Area states. Wildfire season also begins early this year.

Eric Trump, DDT’s son, accidentally argued on Fox & Friends in favor of net neutrality when he lied in complaints that private sources such as Twitter and Google block conservatives and not “liberals.” He wants the internet to be governed by free speech guidelines, perhaps ignorant that this ruling was made in 2015 when the FCC declared the internet a “utility” to establish “net neutrality” protections, guaranteeing that its traffic be treated equally no matter what the content. DDT’s FCC repealed that rule over a year ago so that companies can dictate what the content that consumers will or not receive and how quickly they will get this content. Eighty percent of people in the United States support net neutrality. Companies have made exceptions to anti-hate speech limits so that DDT doesn’t suffer consequences for his tweets, and research indicates that conservative companies such as Fox get more traffic on Facebook than progressive counterparts.

DDT gets all his “news” for tweets and press conferences from Fox, and now the daily White House “news” releases follow suit with the “announcement that ISIS “has crumbled.”  It does claim that “the official announcement hasn’t yet been made,” but Fox reported it.

The new tax “cut” law can cost 11 million taxpayers $323 billion from the limit on deductible state and local levies, according to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Due process lost in the Supreme Court after the conservative majority ruled that the government can indefinitely detain immigrants, even legal ones, for past criminal records and release. Charles Pierce explains:

“If you did a two-year bid 30 years ago for whatever, and you’ve been the choir director in a Trappist monastery since you got out of stir, ICE can now grab you up and detain you, theoretically, for the rest of your life.”

The plaintiff in the case was arrested twice for cannabis and released in 2006. Seven years later ICE picked him up and locked him in detention. In another case last term, Justice Stephen Breyer read his dissent from the bench:

“Would the Constitution leave the government free to starve, beat, or lash those held within our boundaries? If not, then…, how can the Constitution authorize the government to imprison arbitrarily those who, whatever we might pretend, are in reality right here in the United States? The answer is that the Constitution does not authorize arbitrary detention. And the reason that is so is simple: Freedom from arbitrary detention is as ancient and important a right as any found within the Constitution’s boundaries.”

This year, Breyer wrote about “the Government’s duty not to deprive any ‘person’ of ‘liberty’ without ‘due process of law’; the Nation’s original commitment to protect the ‘unalienable’ right to ‘Liberty.’” Breyer’s dreams are gone.

Companies must report pay data by race and gender after a federal ordered DDT to reinstate the rule. Neomi Rao, DDT’s appointment to replace Brett Cavanaugh on the DC Circuit Court, had blocked the collection. Being forced to report this information, companies provide more equal pay.

DDT wanted the Federal Reserve to stop interest increases, but he didn’t expect the reason for the decision—failing economy. The Feds expect GDP to drop to 2.1 percent, down from a 2.3 estimate three months ago, whereas DDT promised over 3 percent. DDT brags that his “economic miracle” has a 93 percent rating, but the poll was taken at the recent CPAC of the farthest-right conservatives.  Bloomberg has reported gloom in several areas: a reduction in housing activity, consumer spending and consumer confidence shrinking, falling investor confidence shown by the flattening Treasury yield curve, and February’s low job increase.

The news is full of the Robert Mueller investigation, reporting that no one knows anything. DDT warned that “people will not stand for it” if the report makes him look bad and called for his attorney general to “do what’s fair” and open investigations into Hillary Clinton, James Comey, James Clapper, and James Brennan.

March 13, 2019

Facebook Controlled by U.S. Government

Everything on Sue Hardesty’s Facebook page disappeared today, and she couldn’t post anything. Gone were all her writings and photos about marine life, dredging, a trip along the Oregon Coast, and much more. Disclaimer: I have never liked Facebook from its founding for misogynic cruelty through its formation via fraud and theft to the peak of aiding the election of a U.S. president. Now the ultra-wealthy Mark Zuckerberg, worth over $65 billion, has plans to take over the world by controlling everything that you do online—messaging, commerce, payments, etc. FB has destroyed self-esteem with the concept of “defriending” and eliminating privacy, especially for young people. Some people think it’s a nice way to make friends and keep in touch, but Facebook has a much darker side. Hardesty’s FB page may be back—temporarily—but my research shows how Zuckerberg’s company is controlling what you read.

Recently FB removed advertising information from Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren about breaking up Amazon, Google, and Facebook giants to unwind “anti-competitive” tech mergers, including Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram. Her ads read:

“Three companies have vast power over our economy and our democracy. Facebook, Amazon, and Google. We all use them. But in their rise to power, they’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field in their favor.”

The message on the ads read: “This ad was taken down because it goes against Facebook’s advertising policies.” FB claimed that it took down the ads because it used their “corporate logo” but returned them after public protest. Warren responded:

“Curious why I think FB has too much power? Let’s start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power. Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor.”

FB keeps material supporting Israel—including a page from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—while removing pages about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with “a strong bias in favor of Palestine.” In 2016, the Israeli Justice Ministry in 2016 bragged that FB removed 95 percent of content according to their requests and proposed a bill to allow government to remove content from the internet based on its preferences. Israel’s National Cyber Directorate announced that FB removed “thousands” of accounts ahead of municipal elections. The same thing could happen in the U.S.

Gone is the Hebrew @Polcartoons. Zuckerberg has partnered with the Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Lab (DFRLab) to decide what should be removed, and it claimed “curated cartoons from various Israeli news outlets that lampooned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and conservative Israeli political sentiment.” DFRLab told FB to remove @StopMEK for promoting views against the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, an Iranian group opposed to the country’s clerical leader because it was “the largest and most active political opposition group against the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership.” Yet the FB of the Majlis, a coalition critical of President Hassan Rouhani much larger than the MEK, has 2.1 million followers, far more than the tiny MEK.

Atlantic Council, FB’s new partner to vet its content, has been described as a neoconservative “think tank,” directly funded and composed of groups connected to big pharma, the military complex, and government. Contributors include the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and multinational giants like energy titan such as Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, weapon-makers Raytheon, and banks such as JPMorgan Chase. Many foreign countries supporting Atlantic Council lack a strong belief in human fights and press freedoms. FB gave Atlantic Council almost $1 million. Now, Atlantic dictates who is permitted on FB and who is “removed,” and the federal funding takes away FB as a “private” company classification.

Immediately before midterm elections, FB purged years of hard work and six million followers for The Free Thought Project (TFTP) that now follows the government involvement in FB. Under the leadership of Nathaniel Gleicher, FB removed another 800 “pages” with missions of “anti-corruption” or “protest” movements at the same time, many of them antiwar and pro-peace—immediately before last fall’s midterm elections. FB claimed that they were spam. Top adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jamie Fly, took credit for the massive purge of antiwar pages.

Matt Taibbi, a highly respected investigative journalist, reported on the FB purges in December. He began his piece on James Reader, San Diego resident whose pro-Democratic site, Reverb, was judged “high for factual reporting, as all news is sourced to credible media outlets.” With 30 contributing writers, four full-time editors, and an IT specialist, the site reached 13 million people a week on FB and social media. He paid $2,000 to $6,000 a month to FB and followed their suggestions to grow the page. Starting in 2016, Reader’s articles went to right-wing FB groups with negative comments and reports to FB that his stories were spam. Traffic dropped, sales declined, and his investments in FB’s boosting tools weren’t successful. He couldn’t find a human at FB so that he could address these problems. On October 11, 2018, Reverb was taken offline, as an example of “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” That day saw the first of two purges with no leading announcement. Twitter accounts also disappeared. All on the same day. Reader was never told why his site wasn’t published. Also gone were his Everlasting TOP Stoppers blog and his America Against Trump with 225,000 followers. He said, “Everything I’d worked for all these years was dead.”

Liberal America from Tiffany Willis Clark was removed on November 2, 2018. With 750,000 followers, the site is about “raising conscious kids who are aware of the suffering of others.” The most political she got was the list “87 Things Only Poor Kids Know and Conservatives Couldn’t Care Less About” including “We go to the doctor when we’re sick, but mom doesn’t.” She put her life savings into boosting readership on a platform that “seems to be redefining its mission minute to minute.”

By claiming to be a “private” company” FB can censor at will, but its connection with official or quasi-official groups creates a problem with “soft censorship,” according to Eric Goldman of the Santa Clara University School of Law. “We’re seeing removal of content that isn’t illegal but the government doesn’t like. It’s a backdoor form of censorship.”

When U.S. senators met with representatives of FB, Google, and Twitter, they supposedly answer outrage about the Russian” fake news” that had been influential for the 2016 presidential election. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) expressed concern about content “intended to worsen racial tensions” with stories about law enforcement abusing blacks. Google revised its search tools that resulted in deep drops for reputable alternative progressive news sources such as Common Dreams and Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now as they almost disappeared from the search sources. Traffic for a dozen anti-war, progressive-leaning sites dropped 67 percent, and Alternet went down 63 percent.

A major critic of FB, The Free Thought Project has suffered under fact-checking, but two of its four “false” ratings were later overturned. Yet the FB page was eliminated with no explanation. The methodology for removing pages is opaque. Many removals come from user complaints, another method of information suppression. As Taibbi wrote:

“We’ve empowered a small cadre of ex-spooks, tech executives, Senate advisers, autocratic foreign donors and mainstream-media panels to create an unaccountable system of star-chamber content reviews—which unsurprisingly seem so far to have mostly targeted their harshest critics.”

In the past day, FB apologized for banning content from Zero Hedge, a conservative anti-finance website that predicted the 2008 recession. Complaints have also come about censorship of cannabis content. FB blocks anything about sale or use of the product despite its legality in Canada and many states in the U.S.

After the “paranoia” about being removed from FB with no notice, people finally discovered—with no notice—that FB has been down for much of the day in both Americas and Europe. Nobody knows why, but it bodes ill for using FB for more than social media.

Hardesty has saved much of her beautiful FB posts, some of them in hard copy. Losing the record of her “friends,” many of them school classmates and other writers, would have been sad, but she could recreate some of the material on a new page. On the other hand, my eighth anniversary of writing posts for this blog is April 30, 2019. Publishing almost 400,000 words a year on Nels New Day, I have about 3 million words—far too many to copy. I sometimes use past posts for historical reference and illustrations that have been removed from the internet for political purposes. People like James Reader and Tiffany Willis Clark lost not only years of work but also hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We are all at risk; our history is being “removed.” I’ll subscribe to the saying, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you.” The loss of FB for a day or two may not be a problem to most people, but it should have been a wake-up call about what would happen if FB decided to take you off its social media.

May 9, 2018

Take a Journey with ‘George

I love to read. Not just politics and other news that inundates my blog but also books. Each year, I read about 200 books for adults—mostly mysteries—and hundreds more books for youth, many of which I review for a local organization. My main requirement for a quality book is that the language has a cadence like music, that it sings. Although I lack that skill in writing, I greatly appreciate it in others.

Recently I talked with an author who had received editing notes on her most recent book from a first-time editor. The extensive notes provided hundreds of suggestions for improving the book, a few of them quite helpful in identifying inconsistencies, repetitions, and awkward writing.  Keeping track of these problems in a book of 80,000 words can be hard. An author grows very close to the writing and can overlook some of these problems; therefore a fresh reading is invaluable.

Other editing recommendations for this specific book, however, suggested eliminating much of the novel’s narrative, including conversations, descriptions, and events that break the linear nature of the plot. The editor also urged that the author rewrite the protagonist’s personality, making her more authoritarian to fit the editor’s image of realism. After long consideration, the book’s author chose to keep the approach that corresponds with how she perceived the personality and actions of her protagonist.

As I talked with the author, I began to think about her process in evaluating the editor’s recommendations for improving her book in the light of readers’ expectations and their relationships to books. Reading a book is like taking a road trip, I decided. One way might be to thoroughly study a map before departure, use a GPS in the car, and stay on interstate highways, stopping only for necessary stops such as meals. Totally in control of the passengers, the driver would keep to the speed limit and obey all other traffic laws. This would be one way to approach writing a novel. An alternative to writing fiction could be an expedition on back roads with side trips while different sights call for exploration. During the trek, the reader open to unexpected experiences could revel in a variety of perspectives.

Now when I pick up a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, I immediately contemplate that I don’t know what to expect. Each book is a different adventure with varying subjects, styles, and approaches. One example of that concept has recently been highlighted by the controversy in Oregon about a choice of a book for the state’s “Battle of the Books,” a reading program in which students volunteer to join teams, read the books, and compete in a gameshow-style tournament with questions about the books’ content. Each year, titles for the program are selected by professionals and vetted with public comment. Students are not required to participate in the program or read every book if they choose to compete. Yet one book chosen for the upcoming year has caused two Oregon school districts, Cascade and Hermiston, to refuse participation in the program, and Tigard-Tualatin School District considered requiring permission slips to take part in the program until parents objected.

The book causing some districts to reject the entire program is Alex Gino’s George. Kalpana Krishnamurthy, the national field and policy director at Forward Together, explains why she supports the book’s presence in the “Battle of the Books.”

My 10-year-old son and I love books. We can spend hours reading a new book—or re-reading one of our favorites again and again. We both get so engrossed in our book that we can’t even hear when people say our name or talk to us.

When I first heard about the Battle of the Books, I was jealous. Where was this kind of thing when I was a kid? I would’ve ruled at this sport.

For those that don’t know, the Battle of the Books is a reading event that grew out of a Chicago radio show in the 1940s and is now in school districts and libraries all over the country. Once a year, kids in grades three through five, six through eight and students in high school read selected books for their age range. Kids form teams and meet to battle in a game-show format, answering trivia questions about books on the Battle of the Books list.

The trivia questions are mind-bendingly detailed. As in, “In which book, did a character sneeze during the talent show?” And they have to be able to name the book and author. Yikes. I can’t even remember what I read this morning in the newspaper, let alone that level of detail.

Getting my son to read has never been a problem. But getting him to read new things—new genres, nonfiction, books that feature girl lead characters? That’s a problem. Left to his own devices, he would read adventure, spy stories, manga and anything by Rick Riordan.

But as part of his Battle of the Books team this year, he’s read almost all of the books on the list. My son never would have picked up Esperanza Rising and read about a girl and her mom who leave Mexico and go to work in a southern California agricultural labor camp before the Great Depression. He wouldn’t have read Dash and dove into Mitsi’s world, a Japanese American internment camp where she is separated from her home, classmates and her beloved dog. He wouldn’t have dug into the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s or Helen Keller’s life.

As a young boy, I want him to see the world through these characters’ eyes. They have something to teach him about their experiences in the world. Even if it’s a fictional one.

That’s why the controversy around George, a book selected for the 2018-2019 Oregon Battle of the Books, is frustrating. George, written by transgender author Alex Gino, centers on a story about a transgender fourth-grader who increasingly learns to be herself, the reaction of the people in her life and the struggle to live her truth.

In the past few days, the Hermiston and Cascade School Districts both announced that they will not participate in the program because they felt the book wasn’t suitable for elementary students. In fact, George went through the entire selection process, which included time for public feedback. It met a rigorous selection criteria and was chosen by a committee of educators and librarians.

As any parent who is raising a child that has complicated identities will tell you, what our kids read and watch matters. We all want our children to see themselves reflected in popular culture. But the truth is, if you have biracial kids, a black nerd, gay or lesbian kids, or a kid with cerebral palsy—there just aren’t that many books out there that show your kid’s experience. And even fewer books are written by authors who share those same complex identities. Parents raising trans kids know that it matters to have a main character who is struggling to put into words the person they hold inside, who is navigating friendships and bullying. It shows trans kids they are not alone.

But it’s not just parents raising trans kids who ought to be dismayed. As someone raising a child who doesn’t identify as transgender, this is an opportunity for my child to be immersed in the struggle and experience of a trans kid. It is a chance for him to put aside what he thinks or knows is true — and see the truth of someone else.

That’s called empathy. And it’s one of the most important lesson that any book teaches us.

Basic Rights Oregon has started a petition to show support for George and for trans inclusion in our schools across Oregon. If the selection of George can stir up this much controversy in our state, we must all pay attention to our schools and make sure that adult fears and transphobia don’t get in the way of kids learning and inclusion.

Several of the posted comments about Krishnamurthy’s op-ed in the Oregonian criticized the mother for pushing her agenda for social justice on her son (their opinion)—just as the commenters pushed their personal agenda of exclusion. They might be surprised that the Oregon Health Education Standards for grades K-12 designated Grades 3-5 for teaching students about gender identity and expression.

Books are journeys. As a former librarian and avid reader, I encourage everyone to take trips into the minds of others. As Krishnamurthy wrote, “That’s called empathy.”

November 9, 2014

Christians Attempt to Subsume Freedom in U.S.

When I write my weekly blog on religion, I worry that I’m obsessed with it. At least one newly-elected senator shows that I’m right to be worried about the growing flood of intolerant Christians.  For example, James Lankford, Oklahoma’s GOP senator-elect, who plans to use his Christian bible to make decisions:

“I look at Nehemiah and how he handled things when he stepped into Jerusalem. It was that the people were in disgrace and the wall was broken down, but the two things that he focused in on was the constructive side of things and the debt. Half of the Book of Nehemiah is just getting the people out of debt, so they could actually take on the other things.”

Think Progress gave the award for most extreme election winner to Colorado’s state senator Gordon Klingenschmitt with his history of attempting to run the country according to his personal Christian beliefs.

In a prayer “against the enemies of religious liberty”—anyone who disagrees with him–he said, “Let their days be few, and replace them with godly people. Plunder their fields and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants. And remember their sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

He blessed Lowes Home Improvement stores for stopping its advertising on the TV show All-American Muslim, which is nothing but Islamic propaganda.” According to Klingenschmitt, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act promotes beastiality, and “federal bureaucrats will enforce Obamacare to exterminate the elderly, systematically.” He tells everyone to get a gun, “sell your clothes and buy a gun.”

Klingenschmitt is big on exorcisms: “I said, “You foul spirit of lesbianism, this woman has renounced you, come out of her in Jesus’ name,’ and she began to wrestle with that and suddenly her eyes began to bug out and then she began to weep, and weep, and weep as the Holy Spirit forgave her sins.” He also performed one on President Obama long-distance on his television show when he tried to remove “the demon of tyranny who is using the White House occupant … to oppress us.” In his book, The Demons of Barack H.Obama, Klingenschmitt claims he discovered fifty demons “ruling” Obama , including the dark spirits of “sexual abuse,” “genocide,” “paganism,” “witchcraft,” and “homosexual lust.” Klingenschitt’s overriding policy is that “only people who are going to heaven are entitled to equal treatment by the government.”

Another example of the merging of church and state is Ava Maria (FL), billed as a utopia where kids are safe, neighbors are friends, and life is good. Created in 2005 by Domino Pizza’s founder, Tom Monahan with Barron Collier companies, it’s a place where then-governor and possible future presidential candidate Jeb Bush described it as “a new kind of town where like-minded people live in harmony between faith and freedom.” That’s because Monahan intends to create the city “according to strict Roman Catholic principles”—no sale of pornography, any contraception (including condoms), and X-rated channels on cable TV. Monahan also created the Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law where Justice Antonin Scalia had “significant input” in the law school’s curriculum.

The ACLU started paying attention to the religious control of Ave Maria when Naples Community Hospital negotiated with Ave Maria to open offices in the town. That process brought the questions that all Catholic control brings: would the hospital respect an order of Do Not Resuscitate? what advice and referrals would a rape victim get? would she get information about abortion of emergency contraceptives? Eventually Ave Maria did not get a Naples Community Hospital satellite because the health center refused to restrict the availability of birth control, abortion, and abortion referrals.

As Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State pointed out, Ave Maria is not an anomaly. Among insular religious communities attempt in the U.S. are Zion (IL), founded in 1901; Rehoboth (DE), founded in 1873; and Ocean Grove (NJ), founded in 1869. Although these municipalities are now secular, other such as Kiryas Joel (NY), Hildale (UT), and Colorado City (AZ) still exert religious authority over their residents.

“Historically,” Boston adds, “one of two things typically happens in places run by religious denominations. First, outsiders often move in and change the character of the area. Secondly, these communities tend to be riven by internal dissent.” In Hildale and Colorado City, run by polygamist Warren Jeffs before his 2010 imprisonment on child endangerment and sexual abuse charges, so-called “outsiders” have had to contact the FBI and Department of Justice because they were denied housing and public utilities.

Police in another Utah town, St. George, closed down a party because people were dancing without the permission of the city council. Organizer Jared Keddington had even gotten a permit from the council, but the police said that it was missing pages that Jeddington had not received that stated the party could not allow “random acts of dancing by patrons.”

Kiryas Joel, 50 miles north of New York City, is an enclave of over 22,000 Hasidic Jews. The New York ACLU learned in late 2012 that the town planned to make a public 283-acre park into a sex-segregated play area restricting boys and girls according to the town leaders’ religious law. Fifteen months later the suit was dropped after the town removed signs mandating the separation of genders.

Frederick Clarkson, senior fellow at Political Research Associates, quoted Thomas Jefferson when he talked about whether a town can take away individual rights: “Are you as free to go out of a church as you are to go into one? Or are you a captive of the company store?”

Determined to keep students ignorant, the Gilbert School District in Arizona voted 3-2 to tear out pages from the biology book used in the schools Advanced Placement curriculum. The offending portion of the textbook describes methods of contraception and includes Mifepristone, also called RU486, that can terminate pregnancies in their early stages. Members of the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom objected to this information and claimed that it violated a state law requiring schools to emphasize childbirth and adoption over adoption. One of the minority said that the textbook “discussed biological principles and in a very understandable way.”

The ACLU protested the censorship, and a state Department of Education official agreed that the textbook doesn’t violate the law. Texas also wants censorship about climate change, affirmative change, and segregation while trying to teach students that Moses inspired modern American democracy. Last year, the Kentucky governor used an executive order to provide accurate science standards in public schools after the legislature tried to do away with these.

Actions in West High School in Tracy (CA) invite a challenge to school policies. Assigned to lead the school in the Pledge of Allegiance, Derek Giardina, 17, received detention and a considerably lowered grade after he omitted the words “under God,” added to the Pledge in 1954. A California high school is practically begging to be sued in court after school officials punished a student for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance without the words “under God.” The school demanded the “traditional way,” used for less than half the time since a Christian Socialist wrote the Pledge in 1892.

Arizona’s GOP Rep.Trent Franks has also gained notoriety by warning that ISIS will succeed because “the secular left” in the United States is diluting the country’s Christian heritage. He claims that secularism is telling people in the United States that they can’t wear crosses, say “God bless you,” and show Bibles. According to Franks, a lawsuit is trying to take religious icons from tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery. In fact, the United States government has approved 65 religious symbols for engraving on markers in national veterans’ cemeteries.

In a reversal of Christian beliefs in Florida, even Jesus would be arrested in Fort Lauderdale if he tried to hand out loaves and fishes. Ninety-year-old Arnold Abbott was arrested and is facing 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for giving food to homeless people. This didn’t stop the man who has been giving food to the homeless for 23 years; he was back, doing the same thing, after his arrest. As Stephen Colbert pointed out on his show, this is the same town where police ignore college students drinking, puking, and partying with abandon every spring.

Neo-Confederates in Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union, are trying to declare the state Christian and English-only, designate “Dixie” as the official state song, and require preservation of Confederate symbols at the University of Mississippi. The proposed initiative also establishes a Confederate History Month and a Confederate Memorial Day. Its rationale is that “the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues. Accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens.”

Meanwhile, a federal district court in Oregon has declared that Secular Humanism is a religion, defined as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces.” Humanism may end up the same special rights as traditional religions. California’s West High School might want to take notice.

February 11, 2013

Indifference Leads to Culture of Rape

“If you think that rapes only happen at Notre Dame or in India or in Steubenville, you are wrong. A person is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes, and many of these are in small towns, including where you live. For every 100 rapes, only three lead to jail time for the rapist.”

I wrote this on January 23, 2013 in Nel’s New Day. Since then, the Portland (OR) chief of police, Mike Reece, has shown that his ignorance may promote the culture of rape in this Northwestern city. The media is forcing Reece to rethink his personnel decisions,  but without the prevalence of newspaper articles about his indifference to—or ignorance about—what constitutes sexual contact, a demoted police officer might have continued to direct detectives who investigate sexual assault and human trafficking in this city of over 2 million people.

Reece’s problem went public last summer after a Portland police review board voted 5-1 to fire a captain, Todd Wyatt, because he inappropriately touched female employees and continued a road rage confrontation by pointing a gun at another motorist when he was off duty. Board documents showed that it found him “untruthful” and questioned his ability to perform with integrity. Part of the testimony was an audiotape of Wyatt’s meeting with a subordinate and the employee’s union representative in which he lost his temper and threatened to have the subordinate arrested. One board member “believed that [Wyatt] manipulated the truth in these encounters and never saw himself at fault,” instead mischaracterizing the motives of those who complained about his behavior.

Reece demoted Wyatt to lieutenant and re-assigned him to supervising robbery and sex crimes investigators. Wyatt said that he had apologized to one of the several female employees complaining about his behavior four different times and had attended sexual harassment training four times.

Even Reese has found Wyatt a problem employee. In a lengthy letter after an internal investigation relying on multiple credible witnesses including Washington State patrol officers, Reece showed Wyatt to be a hot-tempered bully who makes insulting and inaccurate snap judgments about civilians, says demeaning things about women, and engages in unwanted thigh-touching at work. Reece also indicated that he reassigned Wyatt to the sex crimes division because he needed “close supervision.”

The letter quoted Washington State patrol officers who described Wyatt as “arrogant and cocky” after they stopped Wyatt following another driver’s 9-1-1 call and faulted Wyatt for escalating the road rage incident. Reece wrote, “Even after six months following the incident, your statements do not reflect a thoughtful and appropriate approach.”

Wyatt’s reference to one woman who complained about his touching was redacted in his disciplinary letter, but the response remains readable: “The victim’s ‘physical appearance or level of education or skill is irrelevant. Your comment is insulting and unprofessional and shows a lack of accountability or awareness as to how your actions are perceived by others.'” In addition, the letter states, “… your [Wyatt’s] response lacks a general sense of awareness of the different points of view regarding power and authority. Additionally, your comments about [redacted] are unprofessional to say the least.”

In a meeting with the editorial board of Portland’s newspaper The Oregonian, Reece said that he didn’t consider the women’s complaints to be “sexual in nature.” The “inappropriate touching” described in the women’s complaints was Wyatt’s rubbing them on their legs and thighs at work. Wyatt claimed that he only touched one of the women on her knee with his knuckle when he said good morning to her.

Since the media attention, Reece has reassigned Wyatt to his own office to handle special projects. Wyatt, who contends that he was the subject of frivolous claims retaliating for his part in contract talks, plans to sue the city over his demotion. The Portland Police Commanding Officers’ Association, which represents lieutenants and captains, also has filed a grievance with the city, challenging Wyatt’s discipline. Rob Wheaton, an AFSCME Local 189 union representative for civilian employees in the police bureau’s records division, dismissed Wyatt’s allegation that the complaints were retaliatory. “I think that shows an exaggerated sense of self worth,” Wheaton said.

According to columnist Susan Nielson, a 2007 city audit of Portland’s rape response found that detectives often see sex crimes as a less desirable assignment, partly because of very high turnover among supervisors. “Many detectives who do come to work in the sexual assault detail,” auditors said, “are waiting until other assignments open elsewhere.” National crime surveys show that the majority of victims of sexual assault don’t go to the police. Victims fear being judged, demeaned, and touched by strangers; they fear people with power will side against them.

Yet Reece chose to send Wyatt to be in charge of these investigators after a series of complaints by his female colleagues about his unwarranted touching. He said, “The women never complained it was a sexual encounter.”

Phyllis Barkhurst, who spent 17 years in Oregon assessing sexual harassment complaints for businesses and local governments, said about Wyatt’s case, “This is inappropriate behavior targeting one gender, and sexual harassment under the law is a form of sexual discrimination.” Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature that’s directed toward a person because of gender. It can include physical touching or graphic comments. Perhaps Reece needs to attend sexual harassment training.

This “culture of indifference” is repeated across the nation.  Members of “the Athletics department and the Penn State administration contributed to a climate where athletes, staff, and faculty within the Athletics program either felt immune from possible repercussions of their actions or felt fearful in reporting what they saw or heard,” according to NOW activist Joanne Tosti-Vasey. Last summer Tosti-Vasey, past president of Pennsylvania NOW, called on “every school in this country [to] heed and change their policies and programs to end any form of campus violence against anyone who steps foot on their campuses.”

The culture of indifference continues with the prosecution of the alleged rape in Steubenville (OH) when perpetrators made a video of carrying a teenage girl from one house to another and raping her. Although Ohio A.G. Mike DeWine stated that “knowledge in and of [the rapes] is not a crime under Ohio law,” a blog pointed out that “Ohio Law decrees that ‘no person, knowing that a felony has been or is being committed, shall knowingly fail to report such information to law enforcement authorities… Whoever violates division (A) or (B) of this section is guilty of failure to report a crime.'”  DeWine criticized the social media for their involvement, but without their participation, it is likely that no one would have been charged in this crime.

Erin Matson reported that the Washington, D.C. police would not file a report about a man who exposed himself to her and masturbated because she didn’t stay with the man until the police came. Her treatment by the police shows a culture of indifference.  Watson’s blog about parent Laura Murphy wanting to ban Toni Morrison’s Beloved for all students in the Fairfax County School District (VA) also demonstrates that parents are trying to shield everyone from the problems that surround them.

Despite the school district’s policy that allow students to opt out of reading assigned texts because of parental objection, Murphy is working for a state law that would require schools to notify parents before sexual topics arise in the classroom so that they can remove their children from the class. When school officials explained that AP English is a college-level class that often involves discussions of adult topics, Murphy said, “To me, mature references means slavery or the Holocaust.”

Murphy’s position that it’s okay talk about the history of the Holocaust in another country but not about the problems in our own community supports the culture of indifference—an attitude that leads to the culture of rape.

March 10, 2012

Newspapers Censor ‘Doonesbury’

Republicans can force women to do their will, but they can’t talk about it. Neither can the media, at least not on the “funny pages.” After Gary Trudeau used the obscenely ridiculous occurrences within the past few weeks in next week’s comic strip Doonesbury, many newspapers are refusing to run this series because of its “graphic imagery” and “graphic language.” At least some of the newspapers are moving the comic strip series to the opinion pages or posting it on their websites although others are out and out rejecting it.

In Oregon, the Register-Guard (Eugene) plans a link on registerguard.com for readers who want to see the series while The Oregonian (Portland) posted on its website that Gary Trudeau “in our judgment went over the line of good taste and humor in penning a series on abortion using graphic language and images inappropriate for a comics page.” They also plan to post the series with a poll about the decision not to run it in the newspaper at gocomics.com/doonesbury. Of the 44 comments to the decision thus far, only one commended the newspaper. Sample comments to the decision:

This newspaper thinks its readers are morons.

I disagree with your shortsighted decision.

When did the Oregonian become the arbiter of “good taste” for its readers?

You are eroding your trust with the public you serve by this decision.

It is an embarrassment to the state of Oregon that our largest newspapers so freely practices censorship.

Apparently the obscene nature of the matter and its substance can be reported, but mocking the asinine nature of the subject is verboten.

For its premise, the “shocking” series uses the recent spate of state legislation requiring ultrasounds–many of them transvaginal–for women seeking abortions.It shows a woman going to a clinic where she is confronted people who state that she should be ashamed. A doctor reads a script for Gov. Rick Perry (TX) inviting her to a “compulsory transvaginal exam,” and a middle-aged legislator calls her “slut.” In one panel, the mandated procedure is compared to rape with the device described as a “ten-inch shaming wand.”

Complaining about the “language” and “imagery” is ironic because the same information has been on the news where children can see and hear it. Rush Limbaugh’s program is aired at a time that children have ready access to it.

In defense of the Texas law that requires an ultrasound before an abortion, abortion being a legal medical procedure in this country, Perry’s spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said that the governor is proud of his leadership on the sonogram laws. Frazier also said, “The decision to end a life is not funny. There is nothing comic about this tasteless interpretation of legislation we have passed in Texas to ensure that women have all the facts when making a life-ending legislation.”

Frazier is right about ending a life not being funny. People in Texas, more than in any other state, should be knowledgeable about ending lives because of the huge number of people, some of them innocent, executed by that state. This is also the same state that will no longer receive federal monies to help 130,000 low-income women in obtaining contraceptives and breast cancer examinations.

Thus Texas will protect the children and guarantee that more women become pregnant because they are unable to obtain birth control, an action probably leading to more abortions. This is the country where a political party that claims to be for “limited government” can force doctors to perform medical procedures with which they disagree. Women can be forced to hear a description of the image and the fetal heartbeat, but comic strip readers are “protected” from hearing about the horrific law passed by some of the states, with Virginia making the eighth one earlier this past week.

Doonesbury is satire, defined as an attack on or criticism of any stupidity or vice or a critique of dangerous religious, political, moral, or social standards. Stephen Colbert used satire when he employed an ultrasound wand to make Margaritas during his Super Tuesday program. (In my viewing area, Stephen Colbert’s show aired at 6:00 pm and therefore readily available to young people.) Laughter comes from shock, and the states’ mandates to force women to have transvaginal ultrasounds before an abortion is shocking.

The fact that Doonesbury is influential may frighten conservatives. The comic strip has caused social change, for example when it satirized a law in a Florida county that required minorities to have a passcard in the area. The law repealing this act was nicknamed the Doonesbury Act. Conservatives know that the most effective way to defeat opposition is to silence it.

Kudos to the Washington Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer for running the satiric comic strip where it has always been—on the “funny pages.” Debbie Van Tassel, assistant managing editor of features at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, said that she and other top editors have decided to run the next Doonesbury. “We didn’t deliberate long. This newspaper deals with those issues [abortion and transvaginal ultrasounds] routinely in the news sections and in our health section.” She pointed out that the first page carried a story about the movement by women legislators across the country to curb men’s abilities to get vasectomies and prescriptions for erectile dysfunction. “I haven’t heard of any objections to that story yet,” Van Tassel said.

Fortunately some newspapers don’t want to suppress negative reactions to the conservatives’ attack on women.

December 17, 2011

Conservatives Ambivalent about Controlling Internet

Net neutrality was a big story a month ago when the Senate Democrats, in a 52 to 46 vote, stopped a Republican attempt to repeal rules that prohibit Internet service providers from slowing down or blocking access to legitimate websites. Even FCC spokesman said the vote was “a win for consumers and businesses.”

Republicans use the typical excuse in their votes to  give advantages to big business by saying that these rules are an unnecessary burden on businesses and an attempt for the government to control the Internet. Except for two absences, all Senate Republicans voted to repeal the rules, and all Democrats voted to maintain them.

Verizon has since filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that the FCC overstepped its authority by trying to regulate broadband Internet service. The same court that ruled against Comcast last year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, will hear the Verizon case. Comcast sued after FCC sanctioned Comcast for slowing down users’ access to file-sharing site BitTorrent, arguing it violated an FCC policy statement. If the court strikes down the net-neutrality rules, the FCC could choose to re-classify broadband Internet as a “telephone service” as opposed to an “information service.” The FCC has a much broader authority to regulate telephone companies.

The month before Republicans, who moaned about “government control of the Internet,” decided to control the Internet. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), demands that search engines, Internet providers, and ad networks cut ties with websites “dedicated” to copyright infringement.

SOPA would create a “blacklist” of websites that infringe on copyrights. Private companies who allege that a site is unlawfully publishing their copyrighted content could, with a judge’s signature, demand that ad networks and companies such as PayPal and Visa stop doing business with such sites. Internet service providers would need to prevent Americans from visiting them. Prosecution would result from just suspicion of wrongdoing—just like the new law stating that U.S. citizens can be indefinitely imprisoned without a trial on suspicion of terrorist activities.

A website that deliberately acts “to avoid confirming a high probability of the use…of the site” to commit infringements” faces getting shut down by a lawsuit from a rightsholder, or having its credit card and ad funding pulled by a court order. Terms like “high probability” and “avoid confirming” aren’t defined, making prosecution—even of innocent people—far easier. SOPA adds a new violation to copyright infringement called “lacking sufficient zeal to prevent copyright infringement.”

SOPA would “criminalize linking and the fundamental structure of the Internet itself,” according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and effectively break the Internet. It would punish web firms, including search engines, that link to foreign websites dedicated to online piracy. Schmidt compared SOPA to the censorship practiced by repressive foreign governments like China. He also criticized SOPA for targeting the Domain Name System, which experts have warned could undermine the security of the Web.

The House bill states that any online service provider who has a DNS server has to generally “take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers” to the targeted site. This includes DNS redirecting, but also can include any number of unspecified actions. What they are is completely unknown.

Supporters of  SOPA include the Motion Picture Association of America (not surprising), the pharmaceutical industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and even the International Association of Firefighters, who say that piracy saps the tax dollars that support emergency services.

Opponents run the gamut from progressive rights groups who say the bill could stifle free expression online to tea party activists who say that the measure gives far too much business-strangling power to the government. Wikipedia said they may temporarily blank out its pages in protest; other websites including Tumblr, Reddit and Firefox already have.

Even librarians are riled about SOPA. Representatives of 139,000 libraries stated that this bill “could threaten important library and educational activities.” If  SOPA passed, the court could find a person guilty even if the person believed the actions were legal. The new law would impose “ both misdemeanor and felony penalties for non-commercial public performances.” In addition, the proposed law would make colleges and universities far more liable to criminal prosecution even if they are operating under the assumption that their use of materials is reasonable.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law expert at Harvard Law School, argued that SOPA violates the First Amendment because it amounts to illegal “prior restraint,” suppressing speech without a judicial hearing. He also wrote to House members that the law’s definition of a rogue website is unconstitutionally vague:  “Conceivably, an entire website containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement. Such an approach would create severe practical problems for sites with substantial user-generated content, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and for blogs that allow users to post videos, photos, and other materials.” In addition Tribe argued that  SOPA undermines the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which protected websites from being held responsible for the actions of their users.

A competing legal analysis by constitutional law expert Floyd Abrams claimed that the First Amendment does not protect copyright infringement and the bill’s protections are sufficient to not cause a chilling effect on protected speech. Abrams wrote the analysis on behalf of a coalition of movie and television associations which support the legislation.

SOPA is a great way for the entertainment industry to destroy the Internet and force people to go back the movie theater or sit in front of a small screen to watch reality shows. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) took the lead in the Senate to support SOPA with the Protect IP Act and might have succeeded with no debate if Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) had not put a hold on it and promised a filibuster. (Occasionally these are good!)

The House Judiciary Committee spent 12 hours Thursday debating SOPA and adjourned yesterday without a vote to move it onto the House and without a revised schedule for any vote. The bill’s sponsors were continually exposed for knowing almost nothing about how the Internet functions. During Thursday’s session, more than one lawmaker insisted that Congress could pass the measure without understanding the architecture of the Internet and how the bill could change the way the web works.

The committee also heard no testimony from experts on internet engineering or network infrastructure, even as it faces widespread opposition from the Internet industry. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who opposes SOPA, has confirmed that talks regarding SOPA will continue Dec. 21. It’s my guess that very few representatives will be there for the meeting so soon before their holiday; their recess was scheduled to begin on December 8.

Basically the bill is about copyright infringement. The United States has laws against copyright infringement. Congress just wants to make the search engines be the police to watch for this infringement—and make them take the blame if someone else infringes copyrights.

If the bill doesn’t pass before December 31, 2011, sponsors have to start from scratch in 2012. It’s a guarantee that millions of Internet lovers will provide lots of scrutiny for the destruction of the Internet.  

Thanks to the Internet, people can track the committee’s efforts to do away with the Internet. Enjoy! (At least as long as it exists.)

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: