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Sunday, May 31, 2015

I've heard of leopard sharks, but this is something else

by digby


In other leopard news:

In an amazing tale of recovery, Amur leopard populations have more than doubled in just seven years. New census data reveals Amur leopards in Russia’s Land of the Leopard National Park now number at least 57 cats (up from just 30 cats in 2007). And an additional 8-12 leopards were counted in adjacent areas of China.

For the census, camera traps were spread out over more than 900,000 acres of leopard habitat. Scientists then reviewed 10,000 images and identified nearly 60 individual animals, judging by the distinctive pattern of spots on the leopards’ fur. The census was carried out by the Land of the Leopard National Park jointly with the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, with the support of The Amur Leopard Center and WWF-Russia.

Established in 2012, Land of the Leopard National Park includes all of the Amur leopard’s known breeding areas and about 60 percent of the critically endangered cat’s remaining habitat. "The national park became the main organizational force for leopard protection and research,” said Yury Darman, head of WWF Russia Amur Branch and a member of the Supervisory Board of The Amur Leopards Center.

Saving the world’s rarest cat

Conservationists are also working towards monitoring leopard populations across the border in neighboring Chinese nature reserves. One of the highly anticipated next steps would be the establishment of a Sino-Russian transboundary nature reserve.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in order to secure a safe future for the Amur leopard, but these numbers demonstrate that things are moving in the right direction,” said Dr. Barney Long, Director of Species Conservation for WWF-US.

The dramatic good news for Amur leopards comes on the heels of WWF’s release of the first footage of a family of Amur tigers inside China. Both animals share the same habitat.

Animal species can be saved if the human species would get its act together. I can't imagine how bland and colorless this world would be without these beautiful creatures in it.

Update: The swimmer is a Jaguar, btw. Im told they're known to be exceptional swimmers.  Who knew?'

Hey, they don't put dates on those things

by digby

Numbers don't mean nuthin':
Canadian Edgar Nernberg isn't into the whole evolution thing. In fact, he's on the board of directors of Big Valley’s Creation Science Museum, a place meant to rival local scientific institutions. Adhering to the most extreme form of religious creationism, the exhibits "prove" that the Earth is only around 6,000 years old, and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

Unfortunately, Nernberg just dug up a 60-million-year-old fish.

Local outlets report that the man is far from shaken by the bony fish, which he found while excavating a basement in Calgary.

Because here's the thing: He just doesn't believe they're that old. And he's quite the fossil lover.

“No, it hasn’t changed my mind. We all have the same evidence, and it’s just a matter of how you interpret it,” Nernberg told the Calgary Sun. “There’s no dates stamped on these things."

No sir, no dates. Just, you know, isotopic dating, basic geology, really shoddy stuff like that. To be fair, I'm not any more capable of figuring out when a particular fossil is from than Nernberg is. I'd be one sorry paleontologist, given the opportunity. I've never even found a fossil, so he's got me there. But the science of dating fossils is not shaky -- at least not on the order of tens of millions of years of error -- so this fossil and the rocks around it really do give new earth creationism the boot.s. Adhering to the most extreme form of religious creationism, the exhibits "prove" that the Earth is only around 6,000 years old, and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

This piece by Chris Mooney explains that recent studies have proved that religion also plays a substantial role in whether one believes in climate change:

Biblical literalism also, needless to say, is tied to conflicts with the theory of evolution. (We’ve all seen that movie.)

Moreover, these results persisted even after the researchers controlled for other major variables that influence views on the environment, including gender, level of educational attainment, and most of all, ideology and party affiliation (which have the biggest influence of all on environmental views). Despite these controls, faith remained an important factor in shaping environmental stances. “What we find is that the effects of these denominational affiliations is on par with some sort of typical demographic variables,” said Konisky, like gender or level of education.

In other words, while faith doesn’t have as much of an influence on environmental views as outright politics does, it still has a meaningful one.

And so in some cases does religiosity, or, how intensely a faith is practiced through factors, such as prayer and church attendance. For Catholics and Evangelical Protestants, the study found, more religiosity was also linked to less climate concern.
The new study does not probe why evangelicals seem more inclined to reject climate concerns, but a recent blog post by Christian author Scott Rodin, entitled “As a Conservative, Evangelical Republican, Why Climate Change Can’t be True (Even Though It Is),” provides an intriguing hint.

Much of the animus in what he calls the “conservative evangelical” community, Rodin suggests, is about viewing environmentalists negatively, as a sort of “other” who don’t share the same worldview and values. Thus, Rodin writes that he had been “conditioned” to think that “People who care about the environment are left-wing, socialist, former hippies who have no job and hate those who do” and that “People who care about the environment are atheists who worship nature, hate Christians and believe humans are intruders on the earth.”
That sounds right. And the same holds true of right wing politics, obviously.

I think liberals do the same thing to some degree, but it doesn't carry over to whether they believe in science. If they reject conventional scientific consensus it's based on a distrust of corporations not because Tea Partyers believe it.

Robert Taft's ghost is nowhere to be found

by digby

Via Steve Benen

I get that many Dems (and Indies for that matter) backed that horrible war at the time. We all remember the battle that went on within the party. But the Republicans have never reconsidered their position that attacking a country that had not attacked us was a righteous thing to do. The modern GOP is a war party and has been for decades. I wish I could understand why so many people persist in the belief that because Rand Paul and three libertarians in the House are isolationist that means the GOP is changing. No, it just means that libertarians care more about taxes than they do about war.


The NRA has won the day

by digby

The NRA honchos must cheer every time they see an article like this:

A surge in New York City murders — including four people slain in just five bloody hours as the weekend began — has grieving family members begging Mayor de Blasio to bring back the NYPD’s right to search for guns.

“We need stop-and-frisk,” Stacey Calhoun, the devastated uncle of one of the four fatalities, said Saturday afternoon, tears filling his eyes over the nephew he had just lost.

“Somebody has to put their foot down,” the anguished uncle said.

“A lot of people would agree with stop-and-frisk if it’s for the safety among us,” he said.
“They used to fight with their hands, he said. “It seems like all these kids have guns these days.”

I understand why people think this. Because the proliferation of guns on our streets is an act of God and there's nothing we can do about that, in order to be safer we must focus on keeping those whom police see as most likely to have them under constant surveillance, regardless of whether they have them or not.

There were some people in the article who sense the problematic trade-off:

“It’s scary how many guns are out here now,” said a resident of the Brownsville project, who gave her name as Ann and her age as 72.

“They shouldn’t just stop and frisk any of our young black men — but they need to do something about these guns,” she said.

As another woman at the Marcus Garvey Houses said of stop-and-frisk, “They need to target it. With all these shootings, people getting killed, do it, but stop and frisk the guys you know from experience might have a gun, and not some kid who’s trying to better his life and get out of here.”

Easier said than done, obviously.

Whenever I read these stories, I feel the need to reprise this post:

British doctor John Snow couldn’t convince other doctors and scientists that cholera, a deadly disease, was spread when people drank contaminated water until a mother washed her baby’s diaper in a town well in 1854 and touched off an epidemic that killed 616 people.
Dr. Snow believed sewage dumped into the river or into cesspools near town wells could contaminate the water supply, leading to a rapid spread of disease.

In August of 1854 Soho, a suburb of London, was hit hard by a terrible outbreak of cholera. Dr. Snows himself lived near Soho, and immediately went to work to prove his theory that contaminated water was the cause of the outbreak.

“Within 250 yards of the spot where Cambridge Street joins Broad Street there were upwards of 500 fatal attacks of cholera in 10 days,” Dr. Snow wrote “As soon as I became acquainted with the situation and extent of this irruption (sic) of cholera, I suspected some contamination of the water of the much-frequented street-pump in Broad Street.”

Dr. Snow worked around the clock to track down information from hospital and public records on when the outbreak began and whether the victims drank water from the Broad Street pump. Snow suspected that those who lived or worked near the pump were the most likely to use the pump and thus, contract cholera. His pioneering medical research paid off. By using a geographical grid to chart deaths from the outbreak and investigating each case to determine access to the pump water, Snow developed what he considered positive proof the pump was the source of the epidemic... Snow was able to prove that the cholera was not a problem in Soho except among people who were in the habit of drinking water from the Broad Street pump. He also studied samples of water from the pump and found white flecks floating in it, which he believed were the source of contamination.

On 7 September 1854, Snow took his research to the town officials and convinced them to take the handle off the pump, making it impossible to draw water. The officials were reluctant to believe him, but took the handle off as a trial only to find the outbreak of cholera almost immediately trickled to a stop. Little by little, people who had left their homes and businesses in the Broad Street area out of fear of getting cholera began to return.

It took many more years before it was widely accepted that cholera came from the water. (In fact, it took a priest trying to prove that it was God's will to finally do it!)

But here's the relevant takeaway: they didn't need to cure the disease to end the epidemic. What ended it was shutting down the pump.

Here's another story for you to think about today:

From 1984 to 1996, multiple killings aroused public concern. The 1984 Milperra massacre was a major incident in a series of conflicts between various 'outlaw motorcycle gangs'. In 1987, the Hoddle Street massacre and the Queen Street massacre took place in Melbourne. In response, several states required the registration of all guns, and restricted the availability of self-loading rifles and shotguns. In the Strathfield massacre in New South Wales, 1991, two were killed with a knife, and five more with a firearm. Tasmania passed a law in 1991 for firearm purchasers to obtain a licence, though enforcement was light. Firearm laws in Tasmania and Queensland remained relatively relaxed for longarms. In 1995, Tasmania had the second lowest rate of homicides per head of population.

The Port Arthur massacre in 1996 transformed gun control legislation in Australia. Thirty five people were killed and 21 wounded when a man with a history of violent and erratic behaviour beginning in early childhood opened fire on shop owners and tourists with two military style semi-automatic rifles. Six weeks after the Dunblane massacre in Scotland, this mass killing at the notorious former convict prison at Port Arthur horrified the Australian public and had powerful political consequences. 
The Port Arthur perpetrator said he bought his firearms from a gun dealer without holding the required firearms licence.

Prime Minister John Howard, then newly elected, immediately took the gun law proposals developed from the report of the 1988 National Committee on Violence and forced the states to adopt them under a National Firearms Agreement. This was necessary because the Australian Constitution does not give the Commonwealth power to enact gun laws. The proposals included a ban on all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and a tightly restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls.

Some discussion of measures to allow owners to undertake modifications to reduce the capacity of magazine-fed shotguns ("crimping") occurred, but the government refused to permit this.

Surveys showed up to 85% of Australians supported gun control,but some farmers and sporting shooters strongly opposed the new laws.

This did not solve the problem of mental illness or end the primitive capacity of human beings to commit murder and mayhem. Those are huge problems that their society, like all societies, is still grappling with every day. But it did end the epidemic of mass shootings. They have not had even one since then. 

The lesson is this: End the epidemic and then we can --- and must --- talk about root causes and mental health facilities and our violent culture. But first things first --- shut down the damned pump.

Zombie Blue Dogs

by digby

Unfortunately, they still roam the land searching for brains:
Rejecting a trade agreement with Asia, expanding entitlement programs that crowd out other priorities and a desire to relitigate the financial crisis are becoming dominant positions among Democrats. Although these subjects may make for good partisan talking points, they do not provide the building blocks for a positive and bold agenda to create jobs and improve the lives of Americans. ...

[W]e need a philosophical shift in the Democratic Party, a new willingness to support programs that create pathways for nongovernmental and philanthropic innovation and investment to help solve the problems of society. We should embrace approaches, such as social impact bonds, that combine private-sector capital and expertise with public-interest goals to produce better government services. Such changes will require Democrats to leave our ideological comfort zone and move away from the idea that government, and government alone, is the answer to our problems. But instead of being used to voice an agenda that can bring the country together, the party microphone has been hijacked by people more interested in scoring points than in solving problems. They propose expanding Social Security rather than prioritizing serious efforts to preserve the program-- even though it will be unable to provide full benefits as soon as 2032, the Congressional Budget Office has made clear. The only way a large-scale expansion could work is by allocating new revenue away from needed investments in the next generation or by shifting the financial burden to workers or our children.


Howie explains who this fine fellow is:
John Delaney spent $2,370,556 in 2012 to buy himself a seat, the third most-- after Suzan DelBene and Scott Peters-- among the wealthy Democratic freshmen (all of whom immediately joined the extremely corrupt, pro-business/anti-family New Dems). Now a Maryland congressman in a safe blue seat, Delaney is often a fount of Republican ideas-- like forbidding the EPA from protecting clean drinking water in streams and lakes and raising the retirement age for the working poor and forcing chained CPI down the throats of Social Security recipients. He was at it again yesterday-- another op-ed in the Washington Post, this one to go on a deranged attack against the values and principles of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt that made the Democratic Party great.

Delaney is the perfect Democrat for Fox, always eager to blame progressives for everything, always eager to equate progressives with the extremists, Confederates and fascists that dominate the Republican Party. He's an advocate of the "both sides are equally wrong" simplemindedness. "Washington," he wrote, "is paralyzed by extreme political rhetoric that creates powerful sound bites but poor policy... With Washington already broken, the last thing we need is a left-wing version of the tea party. But I am worried about where some of the loudest voices in the room could take the Democratic Party." Delaney is worried. Why doesn't he hop the fence and join the GOP?

If any of you leftwing extremists happen to live in his district maybe you should think about running against him in a primary. If there were as many left wing extremists agitating to give undeserving senior citizens a few extra bucks so they don't have to eat cat food as this guy thinks there are, there would already be one.  This is a safe Democratic district.  There's no excuse for this.


Much too young

by digby

I think most of us assumed that we'd see Beau Biden in higher office some day.  He died much too young. Some families are over burdened with tragedy and the Bidens are one of them. It's always inspirational to see people like Joe Biden be able to maintain their humanity and their optimism in spite of it.

I remember watching this speech at the DNC and seeing Joe mouth the words to his wife "wasn't Bowie great?" It was a sweet moment.

Sunday funnies

by digby


Round up the unusual suspects

When the IRS' chief of criminal investigation this week uttered the phrase "World Cup of fraud," for a moment I thought he meant criminal indictments were finally being issued for Wall Street bankers over the criminal practices that precipitated (and followed) the 2008 financial crisis. How naive.

"If you touch our shores with your corrupt enterprise, whether that is through meetings or through using our world class financial system, you will be held accountable for that corruption," FBI Director James Comey said of the charges leveled this week against officials of FIFA, international soccer's governing body.

Not being a big team sports guy myself – as the Monkees' Davy Jones said, "It's 'cause I'm short, I know." – I had to Google FIFA. This explainer from Vox helps:

The BBC wonders what the U.S. is doing policing international sports, finding, "To prosecute cases that involve foreign nationals, US authorities need only prove a minor connection to the United States." So, the U.S. Department of Justice finds the time and the authority to investigate an international sports organization that "falls into a netherworld of governance," to indict and arrest its officials in foreign countries for paying bribes through U.S. banks, yet cannot seem to show the same courtesy to top bank officials in this country for bringing the world economy to its knees, for hurting two-thirds of American families and continuing to hurt states years later.

Just so we're clear.

Again, the usual suspects are implicated:

CitiBank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, HSBC Holdings PLC and Bank of America Corp. are deeply involved in the bribes, kickbacks and laundering money schemes of some top FIFA officials and sports executives that have been indicted by the US law enforcement. According to a 164-page indictment released by the US Department of Justice, the banks participated in illegal payment schemes and wire transfers in the amount of millions of US dollars.

On Wednesday, US authorities charged nine officials of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and five sports executives, alleging they were part of a scheme in which more than $150m in bribes were paid in exchange for the commercial rights to football tournaments.

The scheme involves top global financial institutions such as JPMorgan and HSBC, both of which have recently paid billions of dollars in fines for illegal trading and manipulation of foreign exchange markets.

Yet it is the unusual suspects who got rounded up while Wall Street's Ugartes wring their hands over FIFA's "poor devils."

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies 

SIFF-ting through cinema: Wrap party!

By Dennis Hartley

As the Seattle International Film Festival enters home stretch (it wraps on June 7th) I have a few more highlights for you. SIFF is showing 263 films over 25 days. Navigating such an event is no easy task, even for a dedicated buff. Yet, I trudge on (cue the world’s tiniest violin). Hopefully, some of these films will be coming soon to a theater near you…

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution- If this rote recap of The Black Power Movement feels destined for PBS…it’s because it is. However, that shouldn’t deter you from catching it; it’s an eminently watchable (if not necessarily revelatory) look at an important corollary of the 1960s civil rights movement that, despite its failures and flaws, represents one of the last truly progressive grass roots political awakenings in America. For a fresher perspective, I’d highly recommend The Black Power Mixtape (my review).

Rating: **½   (Plays June 1)

Liza, the Fox Fairy- If David Lynch had directed Amelie, it might be akin to this dark and whimsical romantic comedy from Hungary (inspired by a Japanese folk tale). The story centers on Liza (Monika Balsa), a somewhat insular young woman who works as an assisted care nurse. Liza is a lonely heart, but tries to stay positive, bolstered by her cheerleader…a Japanese pop singer’s ghost. Poor Liza has a little problem sustaining relationships, because every man she dates dies suddenly…and usually under strange circumstances. It could be coincidence, but Liza suspects she is a “fox fairy”, who sucks the souls from her paramours (and you think you’ve got problems?). Director Karoly Ujj-Meszaros saturates his film in a 70s palette of harvest gold, avocado green and sunflower orange. It’s definitely off-the-wall; but it’s also droll, inventive, and surprisingly sweet.

Rating: ***½   (North American premiere; plays June 3 and 5)

Challat of Tunis- While this qualifies as a “mockumentary”, there’s nothing “ha-ha” funny about it. That is, unless you consider sexual violence an amusing subject… which it decidedly is not, although (sadly) it is a global scourge that knows no borders. This is precisely the point that writer-director Kaouther Ben Hania is (bravely) making in her film, which is a scathing feminist sendup of the systemic sexism that permeates not only her native Tunisia, but Arab culture (and the Earth). The “Challat” refers to a motorbike-borne, self-anointed crusader who slashes the buttocks of women who dress “immodestly”. As the film opens, a decade has passed since this twisted customer has victimized anyone. An investigative journalist (played by the director) is trying to track him down, so she can get inside his head to see what makes such an odious individual tick. A young man comes forth, who may or may not be the elusive “Challat”. She calls his bluff, and things get interesting. Thought-provoking, yet also disheartening when you contemplate the distressing universality of the misogynist credo: “She was asking for it.”

Rating: ***   (Plays June 4, 6 and 7)

The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor- If you’ve seen Roland Joffe’s 1984 war drama The Killing Fields, you’ll likely never forget the extraordinarily moving Oscar-winning performance by “non-actor” Dr. Haing S. Ngor. Ngor didn’t need to call on any Actor’s Studio “sense memory” tricks to deliver his utterly convincing turn as a man who somehow survived and escaped from captivity during Cambodian dictator Pol Pot’s unspeakably bloody purge of his own people…he had lived the experience himself. Arthur Dong’s documentary fills us in on what led up to Ngor’s surreal moment in the Hollywood spotlight, and his subsequent second life as a political activist. Unfortunately, despite the late Dr. Ngor’s admirable achievements and Dong’s noble intentions, the workmanlike construct of the film makes it a bit of a slog; it loses focus and runs out of steam about halfway through. Still worth seeing for the simple fact that (Joffe’s film aside), few have expended time and energy to document the worst holocaust since WW2.

Rating: **½     (Plays June 5 and 6)

Rebel Without a Cause- 60 years have passed since the day a 24 year-old rising star named James Dean put the pedal to the metal and “…bought it sight unseen” (as the song goes). At this point in time, the massive cult of personality surrounding him has arguably eclipsed the actual work, so it’s easy to forget that he only starred in three feature films. Two of those films were released posthumously, including this 1955 Nicholas Ray classic, which is being shown at SIFF via a newly restored print presented by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation. Resplendently attired in his now-iconic blue jeans and blood-red jacket, Dean mopes, mumbles and generally masticates all available scenery in an archetypal performance as a “troubled youth” desperately trying to fit in…somewhere. While they have been traditionally stiffed by Dean’s legend, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo deliver equally outstanding and touching performances. Granted, modern audiences may be tempted to snicker at the admittedly dated histrionics and soapy melodrama, but this was pretty powerful stuff for its era, and there’s no denying Dean’s charisma, or the genuine chemistry between the three leads. Ray’s direction is rock solid; Ernest Haller’s cinematography is truly striking, with inspired use of many L.A. locales.

Rating: ****   (Special archival presentation; plays May 31)

Previous posts with related themes:

15% of bad apples spoil the whole bunch

by digby

Read this piece by an African-American ex-cop talking about his experiences in the profession, He says that 15% of cops are abusers, 15% would never abuse and 70% could go either way depending on the leadership and the culture. And whether the cop is black, white, female, hispanic whatever makes no difference:
The effect of institutional racism is such that no matter what color the officer abusing the citizen is, in the vast majority of those cases of abuse that citizen will be black or brown. That is what is allowed.
He relates some stories that will make your hair stand on end. Here's one:
As a new officer with the St. Louis in the mid-1990s, I responded to a call for an "officer in need of aid." I was partnered that day with a white female officer. When we got to the scene, it turned out that the officer was fine, and the aid call was canceled. He'd been in a foot pursuit chasing a suspect in an armed robbery and lost him.

The officer I was with asked him if he'd seen where the suspect went. The officer picked a house on the block we were on, and we went to it and knocked on the door. A young man about 18 years old answered the door, partially opening it and peering out at my partner and me. He was standing on crutches. My partner accused him of harboring a suspect. He denied it. He said that this was his family's home and he was home alone.

My partner then forced the door the rest of the way open, grabbed him by his throat, and snatched him out of the house onto the front porch. She took him to the ledge of the porch and, still holding him by the throat, punched him hard in the face and then in the groin. My partner that day snatched an 18-year-old kid off crutches and assaulted him, simply for stating the fact that he was home alone.

I got the officer off of him. But because an aid call had gone out, several other officers had arrived on the scene. One of those officers, who was black, ascended the stairs and asked what was going on. My partner pointed to the young man, still lying on the porch, and said, "That son of a bitch just assaulted me." The black officer then went up to the young man and told him to "get the fuck up, I'm taking you in for assaulting an officer." The young man looked up at the officer and said, "Man ... you see I can't go." His crutches lay not far from him.

The officer picked him up, cuffed him, and slammed him into the house, where he was able to prop himself up by leaning against it. The officer then told him again to get moving to the police car on the street because he was under arrest. The young man told him one last time, in a pleading tone that was somehow angry at the same time, "You see I can't go!" The officer reached down and grabbed both the young man's ankles and yanked up. This caused the young man to strike his head on the porch. The officer then dragged him to the police car. We then searched the house. No one was in it.
This makes my blood boil. Read the whole thing. It's quite interesting and he makes a good case for body cameras being an important change.


Santorum on ISIS

by digby

I think he represents the Republican argument quite well:

I don't see how he's not calling for another invasion. And a crackdown in the US. This is what they're running on.  And it unfortunately leaves a whole lot of room for Clinton to be far more hawkish than is necessary if she wants to be. Anything short of full scale war is more reasonable by comparison to what they're saying.

"Abuse is the new racism"

by digby

That comes from a conservative Christian writer who isn't suggesting that abuse is a problem or even that it's real. He's saying that the people who are accused of abuse, like those who are accused of racism, are the real victims:
A conservative Quiverfull writer with ties to the Duggars has come out swinging in defense of the “19 Kids & Counting” stars, posting a series of outraged Facebook posts praising the family in spite of an ongoing sexual abuse scandal.

In the posts, which were first cited by watchdog group Homeschoolers Anonymous, homeschooling activist Rick Boyer — also the author of the Jim Bob Duggar-endorsed book “Take Back the Land” — asserted that the reality-show family appropriately handled allegations of incest and assault by eldest son Josh Duggar, and that they do not deserve to be criticized.

“‘Abuse’ is the new ‘racism,’” Boyer, who also sits on the board of the Home Educators Association of Virginia, wrote. “As soon as you’re accused of it, you’re considered guilty. Just what would you like the Duggars to have done? Turn all their kids over to a godless psychologist? Maybe one supplied by the local public school system where ‘abuse’ is so unheard of? Should they have skinned Josh alive, rolled him in salt and hung him on a meathook?”

Josh Duggar, who admitted to sexually assaulting several young girls when he was a teenager, stepped down from his position at the anti-LGBT Family Research Council after the allegations came to light last week. His parents also issued a statement corroborating the abuse claims, and stating that his “mistakes” led the family closer to God. The Duggars also emphasized that Josh’s victims had “forgiven” him.

“Do you hear Josh’s sisters railing against him?” Boyers continued. “No, it’s not the victims howling for scalps, it’s pagans and gullible Christians, eagerly grabbing the bait and shooting their own wounded.”

Boyers also defended disgraced religious activist Bill Gothard, whose hyper-conservative homeschool curriculum has been endorsed consistently on the Duggar family blog and promotes a victim-blaming mentality for handling sexual assault. Gothard stepped down from his position as head of the Institute in Basic Life Principles last year, after being accused of sexually harassing more than 30 women.

Yeah, these people are true believers --- in themselves.

You can read his entire hypocritical whine here.

The closet memo

by digby

All this talk about former Speaker of the House hastert and his "indiscretions" reminded me of this affair of 25 years ago.

"Have you no sense of decency, sir?" That was the question Army counsel Joseph Welch asked Joseph McCarthy 35 years ago when the Senator ruined the lives of those who did not agree with him by impugning their character and patriotism. The same question could be posed to Republican National Committee chairman Lee Atwater, his communications director Mark Goodin and Congressman Newt Gingrich.

Acting directly or through subordinates, this trio last week worked to spread a long-standing unsubstantiated rumor designed to humiliate new House Speaker Thomas Foley. Just as Foley was poised to take the gavel from departing Speaker Jim Wright's hand, a memo from the Republican National Committee was circulating to state party chairmen and G.O.P. Congressmen. Titled "Tom Foley: Out of the Liberal Closet," the memo compared his voting record with that of Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, an acknowledged homosexual. For days, an aide to Republican minority whip Newt Gingrich had been calling more than a dozen reporters trying to get the homosexuality rumor into print.

An effective smear has at its core an outrageous charge that would be devastating if true. The author must be both coy and cowardly: he must make the charge stick while retaining deniability. Although Goodin, Atwater's friend of a decade, took the fall, the tactic bore the unmistakable Atwater stamp. As Bush's 1988 campaign manager, Atwater specialized in character assassination: last summer Michael Dukakis was dogged by rumors that he had been treated for depression. In a similar incident in 1980, Atwater was managing the campaign of South Carolina Congressman Floyd Spence when a reporter asked Spence's Democratic opponent whether he had undergone psychiatric treatment. When the Democrat accused Atwater of planting the question, Atwater said he wouldn't respond to charges made by someone who had been "hooked up to jumper cables." Atwater's candidate won.

Before Atwater saw that he had gone too far, he stood by Goodin's memo. On Monday he called it "no big deal" and "factually accurate." Like the police captain in Casablanca who was shocked that gambling was going on, Atwater professed astonishment that anyone could interpret the memo as a slur on Foley. Other Republicans who understood the memo's unmistakable meaning dissociated themselves, from George Bush on down. Even Congressman Vin Weber, a close friend of Gingrich's, called the memo an "abomination," pointing out that this had nothing to do with enforcing tough ethical standards and everything to do with "character assassination." By Tuesday, Atwater was backpedaling, saying he had not approved the memo: "I feel confident that if I had seen this, it would not have gone out." Atwater apologized to Foley; Gingrich also apologized and disavowed his aide's actions. Wednesday Goodin cleaned out his desk.

Democrats like Beryl Anthony of Arkansas contend that this is another episode in the "bad employee-good superior" political mud wrestling that Atwater perfected during the campaign. Staffers, encouraged by their bosses, go on the attack, then -- like a corps of civilian Ollie Norths -- take the blame and are publicly rebuked. The superiors apologize.

Yet by the time Atwater and Gingrich apologized, the rumor had achieved its purpose. Foley was forced to deny it both on national television and before a party caucus. One Democrat at the meeting said that all around him eyes were averted when Foley, married 20 years and with the bearing and rectitude of a parish priest, had to assure his colleagues he was not a homosexual.

Whether out of embarrassment or conciliation, Foley sought to downplay the incident, calling for an end to this "political Beirut." Barney Frank was less forgiving. Calling the story scurrilous, he warned Republicans, "If they don't cut the crap, something's going to happen, and I'm going to happen it." He knows of five top Republican officials who are homosexual, he says, adding, "My list will be accurate."

Barney Frank was on Chris Hayes last night and said he had no idea about Hastert. And thank goodness times have changed to the point at which saying someone gay is no longer considered a smear.

You may recall that Foley became speaker in 1989 when Newt Gingrich engineered the takedown of Speaker Jim Wright over profits from a book deal --- something which Gingrich went on to do himself as Speaker.

Foley lost his seat in the GOP sweep of 1994. And Newt Gingrich became Speaker.

BIll Maher's liberals

by digby

There wasn't any violence, thank goodness:
Protesters at Friday's "Freedom of Speech" rally outside a Phoenix mosque were met by counterprotesters.

The two groups lined both sides of the street in front of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix and yelled at each other, with a line of police officers standing in the middle of the street to keep them separated, CNN affiliate KNXV reported.

Jon Ritzheimer, organizer of the rally, is a former Marine, and he has no middle ground when it comes to Islam.

His T-shirt pretty much says it all: "F--- Islam." Some of the counterprotesters wore shirts that said, "Love Thy Neighbor."

The Islamic Community Center of Phoenix is the mosque that Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi attended for a time. They're the men who drove from Arizona to a Dallas suburb to shoot up a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest there. Both were killed by police early this month.

Many Muslims consider demeaning depictions of Mohammed to be blasphemous and banned by Islamic law.

"This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist(s), with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad," the event's Facebook page said.

Some 600 people said they would attend.

The rally was to start about the same time evening prayers were taking place inside the center.

The rally was to feature its own cartoon contest, similar to the one targeted in Texas.

"I think the whole thing, the cartoon contest especially, I think it's stupid and ridiculous," Ritzheimer said beforehand, "but it's what needs to take place in order to expose the true colors of Islam."
He knows from stupid, alright. And they have the desired effect: scaring innocent people:
Events like this one and other developments have Muslims in the area scared, said Imraan Siddiqi with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"Recently, the mosques here in Phoenix actually received threatening letters -- very specific threats, saying that we are going to massacre your congregations," he said...

"When we see these two things ... then obviously it becomes more of a concern," he said. "We're advising people ... it's better to stay clear from the event, don't engage with these people."
No kidding.

There's some video here.
QOTD: Orin Kerr

by digby

The Volokh Conspiracy in the Washington Post
"If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy."

Uhm, yeah, that's pretty much it. Oh, by the way, the other 90s scandals were even more bullshit than that. They weren't even true, much less scandalous. Something to keep in mind as you get excited over the obscure innuendo and scandal bullshit they're throwing now.



More than meets the eye

by Tom Sullivan

When a conservative politician uses some oddball term that makes my ears prick up, makes me cock my head like a dog and baroo, I have learned to dig deeper and not simply shrug it off. It is often a dog whistle. There's more going on than meets the ear.

So when President Obama went to bat for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, kept it out of public view, and seemed ready to go to the mat for an agreement that seems likely to hurt American workers, you would think I might have done the same instead of thinking it was just the neoliberal agenda. But when Mike Lux yesterday (Slavery? Really?) highlighted that, in pursuit of the TPP, the first African-American president was ready to oppose any moves by the Senate requiring Malaysia to put the brakes on its tolerance for slavery, something finally clicked. Perhaps there was more going on than meets the eye. I dug deeper.

First, Ryan Grimm at Huffington Post:

That measure would bar governments considered to be complicit in human trafficking from receiving the economic benefits of a fast-tracked trade deal. Menendez, the author of the provision, has described it as a human rights protection that will prevent U.S. workers from competing with modern-day slave labor. The administration has pushed against the provision, saying it would prevent Malaysia from participating in the deal, and eliminate incentives for the country to upgrade its human trafficking enforcement. Human rights advocates strongly support the language that passed the Senate on Friday.

The president argues that if the U.S. doesn't cut deals with these partner countries, China will, to U.S. disadvantage.

But you know all that. Mike Lux at C&L writes, "We're not going to object to slavery because a country that openly engages in it might trade more with China than with us? Doesn't this kind of blow up the whole 'most progressive trade agreement in history' thing?"

Then I came across this post from Gaius Publius at Down With Tyranny, referencing Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism:

Cue Antifa:

Malaysia’s membership in the circle of TPP nations is not vital because Malaysia — it’s vital because of the Malacca Straits, through which virtually all the shipping in that part of the world passes. It’s a bottleneck, a chokepoint, and if Malaysia is “driven into the arms of China” then China can close those Straits to shipping how, when, and as they please.

Which would neuter the US Navy in that part of the world, reducing them to observer status. When people at the Pentagon talk about America’s role as the world’s policeman, they are talking about the Navy’s ability to project overwhelming force wherever and whenever needed. The three little chokepoints world trade and shipping depend on are the Strait of Hormuz, the Straits of Malacca, and the Panama Canal. Taking one of those and giving control of it to China and Friends — or to anyone but the US Navy — puts the world’s policeman in a clown suit.

And Andrew Watts added yesterday:

In terms of geopolitics, a pseudo-science imo, there isn’t a more strategic chokepoint in the world. A quarter of the world’s shipping goes through the Straits of Malacca. Look at a list of member states of TPP and tell me this isn’t an anti-Chinese military alliance or there are alternative shipping lanes. The transportation routes via the Eurasian Silk Road is one way to circumvent this potential naval blockade but shipping via the sea has always been cheaper than shipping by land.

The only reason why business and intellectual property rights is apart of the deal is because Obama needs to bribe as many domestic power centers as possible to pass it. This is straight outta his Obamacare playbook. The reason for the secrecy is probably due to the military nature of the pact. in any case nobody wants the perception that this is preparation for some future Sino-American war.

But if I were a Chinese political leader in Beijing I would not trust any assurances to the contrary that come from Washington.

Strait of Malacca control was also one of the domino theory issues that contributed to the Vietnam War.

Correct. Which proves that the US military has always had it in it’s sights AND they’re willing to go to war for control over it.

Gaius has much more must-read background at Down With Tyranny. But he offers three possible (and non-exclusive) explanations for why Obama might accept being the "Slavery in Asia" president:

▪ One explanation is pretty simple. He thinks no one will notice, or if they do, they'll quickly forget. Pretty simple explanation, especially given that his best corporate friends control almost all of the messaging via corporate media.

▪ Another explanation is best expressed by Andrew Watt above. To repeat:

The only reason why business and intellectual property rights is [a part] of the deal is because Obama needs to bribe as many domestic power centers as possible to pass it. This is straight outta his Obamacare playbook.

That's actually very kind to Obama. It says that he's being a responsible president from a military standpoint, and bribing all major U.S. corporations — Nike, for example, corrupt as it is (do click) — to get the deal he needs because of solid national security concerns. As explanations go, this results in higher legacy points than the other ones do.

▪ The final explanation? He's simply cashing out, feathering his future nest, foaming his own landing, getting his meal ticket punched, setting the table for the feast of his 20 years of life — his post-electoral, Obama Global Initiative legacy-tour life. You can't ride the corporate stratospheric rails to Davos if corporate jet owners don't like you. You can't give speeches for $400,000 each (give or take) if you don't give the check-writers a reason to say thanks.

Having lived through the Vietnam War and having seen the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution debunked decades after it passed, I find the Straits of Malacca explanation compelling. Although I wonder how an ice-free Arctic Ocean might impact its importance for world shipping. (And the U.S. controls one side of the Bering Strait.)

Great, now we're probably going to hear insufferable chatter again from OFA about Obama playing multi-dimensional chess.

What a tangled web. I wonder, if we're going to raise a stink about entering a trade pact with a Malaysia that tolerates slavery, is Malaysia going to raise a stink about entering a trade pact with a United States whose past president the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal so recently convicted in absentia for war crimes? Guess it's a good thing the Senate didn't pass language excluding countries that engage in torture from joining the TPP.