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      BREAKING: Episcopalians vote to allow same-sex couples to have religious weddings in churches: http://t.co/6aO5xKQPuA pic.twitter.com/JCWbRhXM5A — NOH8 Campaign (@NOH8Campaign) July 2, 2015 Not all the way there, but definitely a step in the right direction: The bishops of the Episcopal Church have authorized their clergy to perform same-sex weddings, but do […]
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      To recap: French Taxi drivers went on strike, beat cars with metal baseball bats, and damn near shut down Paris’s airport. As a result, France arrested two French Uber executives. It has also been seizing the cars of Uber drivers. Unions work. Violence, done smart, works. (French truck drivers, when they want something, will en-masse [...]
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Lest you think I am exaggerating…

… about how dangerous undue influence can be, check out Confederate Pam’s twitter feed. When I first saw her tweets popping up at #freebree, I thought she must be a troll or something. Her stuff is so over the top it’s a wonder she hasn’t been banned by Twitter for hate speech. But it looks like she is the real thing. She hates African Americans, healthcare and gay people. And she’s got a special place in her, well, let’s not call it a heart, for liberals.

She could be one of my sister’s friends.

Oh, and she seems to watch an awful lot of Fox News. Hmmm…

I’m sure there’s no correlation. Butcha know, you are who you hang out with.

Just sayin’.

Who are they still fighting?

I saw this earlier today but am happy to make the video go viral.

Bree Newsome took down the Confederate battle flag at the South Carolina statehouse. Watch as she climbs the pole and quotes the good parts of the bible (you know, the parts that are about not being afraid):

I was wondering when someone would finally get around to doing this.

But my question is, if it’s not about race (call me skeptical), who do the confederate battle flag supporters think they are still fighting?

And I don’t completely buy it that it’s just Scots Irish rednecks. There’s something bigger and far more menacing behind it if they can keep that middle finger in flag form up for 150 years. That flag means the war is never going to end. It means that there are forces in this country who think they are entitled and are going to make it as difficult as humanly possible for the rest of us to move away from feudalism, aristocracy and privilege. They’re going to keep this battle up with the North for as long as it takes and we the rest of us are told over and over and over again to compromise and give in and respect their Southern pride.

The people who love that flag have no respect for the rest of us. They don’t care about your climate. They don’t like public schools because ignorance is a good way to keep the help in line. They feel it is their right to do what they want with their property and they are never going to get over having some of it emancipated away from them.

Bree is awesome and brave. Thank you, Bree.

But in light of what happened last week, it shouldn’t have to take a bill and six months of waiting for a legislative session to get that flag removed from the statehouse. It’s the very least that South Carolina legislators could do before the sun set on the Thursday after the shooting.

Update: The FreeBree IndieGoGo page started by Credo is up to more than $43000 and growing at a really fast clip! After they bail Bree out, maybe they can apply that money to other courageous non-violent acts.

Meta: Reflections on Race and Gender

If you haven’t read this post by Digby at Hullabaloo on the media gearing up to use the 2008 election campaign tactics as a way to crush women politicians in 2016, go read it now. I’ll wait.

In this one post, Digby comes so close to seeing the political landscape the way we did back in 2008. What she writes makes perfect sense but at the last moment, the thought-stopping conditioning springs into action and she calls anyone who draws the obvious conclusions racists.

I don’t have time to clear this up for her but I will say that we called the phenomenon that she is describing as “Penis Years” back in 2008. That is, no woman, no matter how much experience she has, regardless of her accomplishments, is as qualified as a man who simply wants the job. The presence of a penis adds eight to ten years of authority to his CV over any female that gets uppity enough to get in his way. This is hardly relegated to politics. It’s rampant in the private sector as well.

As for the racism aspect of all this, that’s in the mind of the beholder and that was the whole point of the 2008 campaign exercises. There are some Democrats who saw two potential interest group constituencies and through clever messaging, made sure that sexism was combined with the desire to finish the Civil Rights movement. It’s called marketing.

I think we can all agree after six long, painful years that Obama was not ready to be president, that his candidacy was rushed by some self-interested financial industry donors and that he has been the most conservative Democratic president of our lifetimes. He got the nomination using Penis Years reasoning and his campaign was ruthless in describing anyone who opposed him as a racist. The fact that some political scientists are making a bungling mess of pointing out this reality doesn’t make it less true. The legacy of the 2008 “Bros vs Hos” campaign is going to haunt the first woman nominee no matter who she is. We will be lead to wonder whether another inexperienced, less than competent in a time of economic crisis president is going to be shoved down our throats to satisfy some politically correct teachable moment.

You can pretend this is not true but when both Amanda Marcotte and Digby start writing posts about Penis Years in the lead up to 2016, they are actually acknowledging this fact.

I guess they are racists now.

Stupid and Irresponsible ZMapp Conspiracy Theories

I’ve written a couple of times about ZMapp, the monoclonal antibody treatment for ebola infection.  Short summary: ZMapp is a cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies, in other words, human proteins, that were genetically engineered to grow in tobacco plants.  Yes, it sounds like FrankenPharma but it’s perfectly normal to do it this way.  ZMapp is produced by company in San Diego.  In it’s PR blurb from January of this year, the company producing it, known as Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, indicated that they had tested ZMapp in 7 primates, 4 of which died.  If you are assuming that all primates will die of ebola, that’s not too bad but in the current outbreak, the lethality is about 60% so this result is nothing to write home about. (note that the in the Business Insider article linked below, the company claims to have improved their success rate in primates but there’s still no proof that it works in humans.)  In other words, the public is grasping at this very early research as if it were the holy grail and it’s not.  The best thing about ZMapp is that it draws attention to the fact that our research for infectious diseases is woefully underfunded.

In any case, Mapp is all out of ZMapp.  Business Insider has some info about what’s going on, which gems nicely with what I’ve been saying:

And scientists acknowledge that despite the new efforts, they may not be able to produce more than a few hundred treatment courses by early next spring. That will be far behind the international demand and will confront officials with life-and-death challenges of rationing and priorities.

“The biology just doesn’t allow you to do it tomorrow,” Alan Magill, a programme director at the Gates Foundation which is helping to organise ZMapp development, told The New York Times .

[…]

The doses with which the US aid workers were treated were manufactured from biologically-engineered tobacco leaves grown at a facility in Kentucky, but it only has extremely limited production capacity.

Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services are now in advanced talks with a Texas company that could produce the drug in millions of tobacco plants.

The New York Times also reported that the US government and two of the world’s biggest charities — the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust – are in talks to arrange for production of ZMapp in animal cells. That is a more conventional production method in the biotechnology industry and could allow for greater overall production, but the initial stages of development will take longer. “We’re going with multiple manufacturers,” a federal official said,

BusinessWeek has reported on the delays in federal bureaucracy that held up research of the drug for up to four years.

“That’s why we don’t have an Ebola countermeasure,” said Robert Kadlec, a consultant and public health physician who held high-level posts in biodefence in the Bush administration. “We failed to invest enough dollars to have it mature.”

Part of that failure to invest might have something to do with Republican assholes writing Op/Eds in the NYTimes claiming that you’re washed up as a scientist after the age of 36 , which is about 4 years after you finish your last starvation diet salaried post-doc.  After that age, you don’t deserve the limited funding from NIH grants as some young whippersnapper who has just started his career (and has about 4 years to make his name in the world before it’s all over).  Funny, I started feeling my mental cheerios about two years before I was laid off.  Whatever.  Ahhh, Republicans, always expecting to get some new major breakthrough from hard working intelligent people without spending any money at all.  Typical. I’m going to address that idiotic Op/Ed at a later time, once my blood pressure has returned to normal.

Like I said yesterday, if production of ZMapp is really that crucial, the government or the Gates Foundation can hire a couple thousand currently unemployed, laid off American pharma researchers who used to do protein production.  Or they can let us just sit on our asses while Rome burns.  Their choice.

In the meantime, I’ve read a post on another blog that suggests that there is a new conspiracy theory about the availability of Zmapp.  According to this theory, the Dallas ebola patient, Thomas Duncan, is not getting Zmapp not because Mapp ran out of supply.  No, he’s not getting it because he’s black.  In fact, there’s discrimination going on and that’s why black people won’t be getting it.

uh-huh

That’s ridiculous and stupid and anyone who thinks that or spreads that rumor has not been paying attention to the logistics of producing this cocktail of human proteins in tobacco plants.

To the contrary, I would go so far as to say that the only person in the United States who probably has a stash of ZMapp for his own personal use is a black man.   In fact, the White House physicians and Surgeon General wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t corner the market on whatever was left for the president’s exclusive use.  It only makes sense.  You don’t want your president dying on you from ebola.  (This possibility is extremely remote but he does shake a lot of hands)  It’s bad optics and it’s bad for the country, assuming he can actually get ahead of this crisis and be proactive on this one thing after six years of being constantly behind the curve, too cautious and deferential to the ultra wealthy on every other crisis.

So, you know there’s that.

In general though, Americans should continue to think of ebola as a disease without a cure.  If you get it, you will have to rely on your body’s own defenses to fight it off.  So, don’t get it.  Racism has nothing to do with it.  Racism *might* have something to do with poorer people having access to insurance or health care in Texas and several other states.  But when the ZMapp is gone, you can’t make tobacco plants grow any faster, no matter who you are or how much money you’ve got.

 

Twitter campaigns necessary but probably insufficient.

There’s a “Hands up/ Don’t shoot” Friday campaign going on over at Twitter. It’s a nice gesture, no pun intended. But I can’t help thinking about how much more powerful the message would be if we could get ordinary Americans, not just the social media savvy and political activist types, out on the sidewalks banging pots together.

I used to think that internet campaigns would be enough.  Not anymore.  Non-violent, but non-silent demonstrations are probably the way to go.

MLK Jr. would approve.

Update: My sisters-in-law were a little uncomfortable with me using the word “thug” to describe Michael Brown in a post the other day.  I see their point.  I based my assessment on the video that was released of his actions in the convenience store.  One of the things that struck me as I watched it was that I really couldn’t tell what was going on with him and the clerk behind the counter.  Reaching over the counter to get something doesn’t mean stealing, not that stealing something in a convenience store is justification for getting shot 6 times.  It’s not, by the way.  This is not 18th century Williamsburg where a servant could be hanged for stealing a silver spoon.  But I couldn’t tell with any certainty what was transpiring at the counter. Plus, the volume on the video was off so for all I know, he might have had a perfectly friendly interaction with the proprietor.  There just wasn’t sufficient data for me to determine what was going on there.  I would not be friendly to the prosecution on a jury if the charge was shoplifting or robbery based on that video.

No, what bothered me was when he left the store and roughed up the clerk on the way out.  The clerk clearly looks distraught and Brown’s actions looked aggressive and unnecessary.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing that out.  But “thug” is a right wing word, apparently.  I’m not a cable news junky so I’m going to have to rely on the SILs here when they tell me to refrain from using it to avoid looking like a right wing nutcase.  Maybe “bully” would be more appropriate.  Still not a killing offense, though probably more prosecutable than we can feel comfortable with, considering what happened shortly afterwards.  It looked like a minor assault to me.  I guess it would have been up to the clerk as to whether it was worth pursuing.  For sure Brown needed a stern talking to, but, um, not 6 shots to the torso.

I’m troubled by this piece of footage for many reasons.  Matt Taibbi’s book, The Divide, describes so many instances of young black men being arrested and harassed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like on the sidewalk or the stoop in front of their apartment buildings.  And the trouble they face because of these arrests is unconscionable.  Really, it’s overkill and debilitating.  Then I see this video and I think, that kid definitely needed correction.  Maybe not jail, and not a mark on his permanent record and certainly not death, but something.  Like, maybe his grandmother should have been sent that tape so she could see he wasn’t a choirboy.  Shaming your grandmother might have been enough.

So, this one time, I’m correcting my language from the right wing “thug”, which I came to independently of cable news based on my first impressions, to “bully”, because that’s what Brown’s actions show.

We shouldn’t be afraid to tell it like it is though.  That kind of behavior is unacceptable.  Not worth dying for but certainly not good.  It doesn’t diminish the horrible and unnecessary impact of Brown’s death.  Or of Eric Garner’s death as he was chokeholded by police.  Or any of a number of tragic deaths at the hands of people who think black people are less than human.

So, to all you Fox News watchers out there, there is a reason why racism is not acceptable, in thought, word and deed.  If you are thinking it, it becomes OK to hurt people who are not like you.  You need to ask yourselves if it’s Ok to be an anti-semite in your head as well.  Of course it’s not OK.  What we are seeing in Ferguson is a variation of the dehumanization and malignant behavior described by Phillip Zimbardo based on his Stanford Prisoner Experiment and his investigation of Abu Graihb in his book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

It starts in your head when you allow yourself to think other people are less than you are and it’s all downhill from there.

Don’t start down that road.

 

Confirmation bias and bias

Someone on the internet is wrong.  That someone is Melissa at Shakesville.

Earlier today, she tweeted about the case of the unfortunate mother who was jailed for leaving her 9 year old daughter to play at a local park while she was working.  You can read a commentary on this case at Reason by Lenore Skenazy of Freerangekids.com.  Melissa and I had a difference of opinion about this case.  She seems to think race was a factor in the mother’s arrest.  I do not.  Here’s why.

As Lenore has documented over the last several years, the arrest and detention of parents because their children were left unattended is ubiquitous.  There have been cases where a mother has been pursued by family services and taken to court for leaving her kids off at the mall with a 12 year old sibling.  There have been numerous cases of mothers arrested for leaving their kids in the car while they dash into the grocery store or post office for something.  There are many other cases of mothers getting fined and served and investigated for letting their children walk to school or ride their bikes by themselves. By the way, nowhere in Lenore’s commentary does she mention race as the reason for the arrest.  That’s because it’s not the common thread that holds these instances together.

I have two personal experiences with the rampant crackdown on mothers.  The first happened when Brook was in first grade when she innocently told a Lifeskills volunteer that I had forced her to drink wine.  When the principal called me to tell me he was calling DYFS on me, I had no idea what he was talking about.  Was the kid slurring her words?  Falling off her chair?  Asking for something to treat her hangover?  I don’t keep that much alcohol in my house.  What the hell was she talking about?  Then I remembered the Easter at my mom’s house when Brook had the zooms and was driving everyone crazy and I joked about giving her a swig of my chardonnay.  That was it.  That right there nearly got me a permanent record with the state of NJ and the potential lost custody of my daughter.

In the second experience, it was about 11 am on a Sunday in November when I got a knock on my door.  There were two policemen there.  They were responding to a report that there was a mentally disabled boy wearing an orange shirt, jeans and bare feet wandering around the neighborhood doing strange and suspicious things.  They asked me if I knew anything about it.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  Then they hinted darkly that they were on the alert for that kid and left.  Then I turned around and saw my 10 year old Brook with her short hair, orange shirt, jeans and bare feet standing in the doorway trembling.  What the heck were you doing, I asked?  She burst into tears.  She got up that morning and wanted to make an art project out of acorns.  So she went out to the back of our row of townhouses without her shoes on and was looking under the trees for them.  She was very upset and neither one of us could figure out which one of the neighbors was mean enough to report her for something like that.

Butcha know, people do it all the time.

As for the case that has hit the news, I have some problems with attributing this to a race problem.  First, we have no idea who reported the kid to the police.  Are we assuming that the conscientious citizen was white and was deliberately targeting an African American mother?  We have no evidence on this.  The report doesn’t say who did the snitching or what was the race of the arresting officers or even if such a thing would have mattered in the least.

Secondly, if this were a case of race, we would have to disregard the countless reports from women all over the world who have been put through the same process.  The perps come in all shapes, sizes, colors and socio-economic groups and the punishments are all pretty much the same.

But that doesn’t seem to stop people from assuming this is a race issue or that, yes, it is primarily directed at women but maybe it’s harder on African American women or some such nonsense.  If that’s what you want to see in this case, you would be a victim of confirmation bias.  You want to see a racial angle to this when it’s much more insidious than that.

If you had been a long time follower of Freerangekids, you would see that the problem emanates from “stranger danger”.  My bet is that the person who reported that kid neglected has been hearing a steady drumbeat of stories of violence against children ever since Fox and the local news channels figured out that their audiences loved to be terrified.  Like the anti-vaxxers, it is impossible to reason with these people, particularly older white women, that the rate of violent crime has actually done down in the past 30 years.  All they see are rapes and murders of little kids on TV 24/7.  Lenore points out that the chances that your kid will be snatched is infinitesimally small but people have a hard time reasoning when their logic boards have been short circuited by violent sexual imagery.  It’s emotional, not rational.  This is what I think has happened in this instance as well.  Little girl, left in park by herself for hours playing, something I would have done when I was her age, now looks like a sitting duck for any male who can walk by to prey upon her and satisfy his filthy secret lusts.  Where is her mother??

So, if it’s not race, what do these cases have in common?  They almost always involve mothers.  You rarely hear of a father getting this treatment.  These mothers are almost always in a hurry, alone, busy, sometimes single or divorced, or simply ignorant of the unlikely possibility that their kids are going to be snatched.  What they aren’t is sheltering their children 100% of the time with their bodies, protecting with a maternal force field 10 feet wide at all hours of the day and night.  I’ve even read on some blogs that new mothers are afraid to take a shower while their newborns are sleeping because “something might happen” while they’re shampooing their hair. How did homo erectus escape the savannah??

We might speculate why the current culture in America, England and Australia, in particular, are coming down so hard on mothers but since Fox and other cable news sources seem to be popular media features in each of these countries, we can’t discount the idea that the effect that so many child rape/murder stories have on the audience is intentional.  Couple this with the attack on women’s reproductive choices and it sure looks to me like someone(s) is trying to get women to embrace motherhood or else… That is the message they send anyway.  We come down on mothers like a hammer if they step even a teensy bit outside the rigid rules of acceptable behavior that are prescribed to them.  If women give up their careers to stay home, it shouldn’t be surprising that they find it too hard to be the bodyguards to their children and work too.  Socially, they need to project full engagement with their children even when those kids don’t need it or be tagged the “bad mother” on the block.  If you’re the kind of mother who doesn’t care what people think, you may change your tune when DYFS pays you a visit.

As for women vs race, I got a little annoyed with Melissa when it was suggested that somehow we need to spread the problem around to include race.  Aren’t African American women still women?  And don’t women have the right to demand attention to the tribulations they face without having to sweep up every fricking non-priviliged group in their train?  Doesn’t that dilute the issues that women have to deal with simply because they are women?  Isn’t it about time for the African American community, the LGBT community, the Native American community to give something back?  Isn’t it time women stopped apologizing and sacrificing their primary concerns as women in order to let some other group steal the microphone?  Isn’t it enough that the accused in these cases are just women?? I only ask.

Well, I guess this makes me a racist again because I see no reason to stop championing the cause of the majority of people in the world who neglect themselves for the sake of others. Nor am I going to give in to confirmation bias because that is what my tribe would expect of me.  That’s what NOW and NARAL have done in the past and where are they now?  Seriously, where ARE they?  Why aren’t they all over these arrests?  Or did they cede too much to others and neutralize themselves?

The instances of arrest for “bad” motherhood are not going to end until women start to recognize it as another threat to their autonomy.

*****************************************************

Only slightly off topic, this advertisement from Pantene struck a chord with me.  How many times a day do women apologize and what makes us do it?

 

Finally, please remember that the word racism is not to be taken lightly lest it lose it’s true and serious meaning.  Use of the word will result in automatic moderation until I can fish you out of the queue.  It’s a leftover from 2008 but still a useful one.

 

Neat Trick

Dashing off a few things before I dash:

1.) The Richard Cohen thing.  The lede kind of got buried in the Richard Cohen s^&*storm.  It’s not that the Tea Party people are racist, though some of them clearly are.  It’s that they consider their views to be “conventional”.  That’s the cover that the Fox News manipulators, Limbaughians and Glen Becksters have given them.  My hypothesis about how the right wing has been able to get away with so much is that it makes it Ok for some Americans to give in to their secret desires.  They want to feel superior to some  people and exert power over others.  That’s why they tend to take it out on people of color, women, gays and immigrants.  They’re f^*(ing cowards when it comes to taking on the real culprits who are making their lives an economic nightmare.  That’s why you’ll never see them at an Occupy rally, because that might actually make a difference but would also be potentially dangerous to their physical bodies. But they’re perfectly fine bashing people who have no political power.  And they allow this because they call themselves conventional.  I think Bob Altmeyer wrote a book about conventional people called The Authoritarians.

Richard Cohen, on the other hand, makes me despair for the future of employment.

2.) When you’ve lost Bill Clinton’s support, it’s bad.  The Clintons have stood behind the party that trashed Hillary and elected an untested, inexperienced, ruthless friend of Wall Street and Obama through thick and thin.  But it looks like The Big Dog draws the line with Obamacare.  I don’t think he is enjoying this bit of schadenfreude.  Some people take policy and politics seriously.

And some people just check that box on their CVs.

3.) Sylvie Guillem recently retired from the Paris Opera Ballet but oh, how wonderful it must have been to see her dance in person.  Here’s a very short clip of her rehearsing Dulcinea.  If only every day could be like this:

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