The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.
[CONTENT NOTE: state violence, brutality and death]
On Wednesday, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke told right wing radio he will resign to take a job in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under Donald Trump.1
Clarke’s resignation is great news for Milwaukee County, but if he really is being appointed to DHS, that’s terrible news for the country. That’s why we’re joining forces with our partners at Voces de la Frontera to stop Sheriff Clark and hold the DHS accountable.
Amazingly, DHS has not confirmed that they actually offered Clarke the job he claims. There’s still time to sign the petition urging DHS Secretary John Kelly to not appoint Sheriff Clarke to any position.
Clarke is incompetent and corrupt. He has abused his power by attacking political opponents. He has enriched himself by acting as a media mouthpiece for white supremacists. He is unfit for any office and should face criminal charges for the deaths and human rights abuses at the Milwaukee County Jail.2
If Clarke is appointed to this position, his job would be to bully other local law enforcement nationwide into enrolling in the 287g program to deputize officers as Immigration agents, as he has tried to do in Milwaukee.3 That is unacceptable!
Thank you for all you do and ¡adelante!
– Matt, Favianna, Erick, Reetu, Oscar, Erica and the Presente.org team.
P.S. Can you donate $5 to support our work? We rely on contributions from people like you to see campaigns like this through.
1.“Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke says he’s taking job in Department of Homeland Security.”Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. May 17, 2017.
2.“4 People, Including A Baby, Have Died In A Jail Run By Potential Trump Nominee Sheriff David Clarke.”Huffington Post. November 29, 2016.
3. “Bice: Letter details Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s plan for immigration enforcement.”Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. March 16, 2017.
David Clarke speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
[image: Gage Skidmore/CC 2.0]
Words like fascist and authoritarian get thrown around too promiscuously. But there is no other way to describe David Clarke, who today announced that he was named assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security…Clarke occupies the extremist, anti-democratic fringe of far-right officials, even by the standards of the Trump administration.
O.o That certainly got my attention, particularly in an article written by Jonathan Chait, a pundit as conservative as
Squirrel People conservative Democrats come.
Or so I thought.
Yesterday I read about a new study—I cannot read the actual paper itself of course because it is behind a fucking paywall—that examined non-academic characteristics of a sample of incoming freshman to see which factors might predict their success or failure at college. High school grades are the single best predictor of college grades, but they still only account for about 20 percent of the difference between students’ ending up with good or bad college GPAs. The new research focused on outliers: the “thrivers” and “divers” who did much better or much worse in college, respectively, than would be expected based on their high school grades. Continue reading
We often quickly forget – perhaps because history focuses on the individual, rather than the conditions of a culture and society at any point in time and space – that no singular individual has themselves actually threatened the stability of of a country, or single handedly destroyed the moral and ethical fabric of a government.
This has never occurred in all of human history. We have no “supermen.”
Instead it has always been the hundreds of millions that stand behind a demagogue, and willingly do his bidding; willingly imprison, marginalize, institutionally enslave and murder the innocent.
Mobs of psychopaths; throngs of the fearful that turn as quickly as the undead into mindless monsters that violently consume anyone unwilling to submit to their narrow and bigoted view of existence; vast gangs of greedy, self-righteous insanely uneducated or willfully cognitively dissonant and yet mindful monsters that would be kings…. So many angry and poisonous weeds growing and choking out the splendor of human kindness…
It has never been just one man,… And if your only goal is preventing one man from becoming president while ignoring the hordes at his back….
I feel sad for you and the day you realize how short-sighted you were.
Fascism doesn’t knock at the door… It is a disease that you can’t see until half the body politik is coughing up blood.
By now everyone in the world with an Internet connection knows the story: 14-year-old Muslim student Ahmed Mohamed was arrested at his Texas high school for the unconscionable crime of bringing in a home-built clock to show his engineering teacher. Teachers, administrators and police pretended the clock might be a bomb (because OMFG he’s a Muslim! HELLO?!!!), but of course they never for one second believed any such thing. Otherwise the school would have been evacuated immediately, and a bomb squad sent in. Instead, five regular cops showed up and proceeded to physically handle the scary, scary clock, search all of Ahmed’s belongings, confiscate his tablet, and then sit around with the principal interrogating the kid. When he was first pulled out of class to meet the officers, one whom the teen did not recognize leaned back in his chair and said: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.” The principal threatened to expel him if he did not make a written statement.
“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.
“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”
“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”
OH NOEZ NOT A MOVIE BOMB!!!11!!!!!
Ahmed’s clock was decorated with a hologram tiger image on the front, which to me suggests a movie time machine, not a movie bomb, but what do I know? I am not a professional law enforcement officer trained to spot movie bombs (but not clocks).
Choking back tears, Ahmed was hauled through the hallways in handcuffs to shocked looks and gasps from other students and his guidance counselor. He was taken to a juvenile detention facility for processing: mug shots, finger prints, the whole deal—plus another round of interrogation by police, again with neither his parents nor a lawyer present. The ordeal ended when his parents arrived to pick him up.
Police have admitted they did not alert the bomb squad because, just like the teachers and school administrators, no one ever actually suspected Ahmed’s clock was a bomb. They arrested him because, they say, “he could offer no ‘broader explanation’ for his clock besides describing it as a device that measures time.”
I have to admit they’ve got me there. I am sitting here scratching my head, trying to come up with a broader explanation for a clock besides, you know, a device that measures time. But try as I might, I cannot for the life of me conceive of any other explanation. Any Ph.D. physicists among my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ who would care to enlighten me? Because apparently the Irving Texas police department understands something about a broader explanation for clocks that I…I just don’t get. :(
So then the flaming asshole principal sent a self-righteous ass-covering letter to district parents, posing as the Great and True American Hero™ of this colossal farce:
In Irving ISD and at MacArthur High School, your child’s safety and well-being is always our top priority [unless your child is named Ahmed Mohamed, obviously] and we want to maintain open, honest and timely communication with you [and/or lie to you to cover up our comical negligence and overt racism and bigotry]. If there was ever an imminent threat to your child [again, unless your child is named Ahmed Mohamed], we would take immediate and necessary precautions [except for evacuating during a bomb scare], and we would inform you immediately. [Or maybe not: we might call the police instead, and then we’ll all sit around interrogating, searching and bullying your child.]
Irving Police Department responded to a suspicious-looking
item[person] on campus yesterday. We are pleased to report that after the police department’s assessment the item[person] discovered at school did not pose a threat to your child’s safety [except if your child is named Ahmed Mohamed—then of course all bets are off].
Our school is cooperating fully with the ongoing police investigation [!!!?], and we are handling the situation in accordance with the Irving ISD Student Code of Conduct and applicable laws [which CLEARLY prohibit all clocks, watches and any other devices by which students might discover the time of day]. Please rest assured that we will always take necessary steps to keep our school as safe as possible [for those students who are not named Ahmed Mohamed. In case that wasn’t clear].
If the principal were not a case study in Conservative Personality Disorder, the letter might have read something more like this one, at the blog Without Bullshit:
I need to run a school in a town with a community of Muslims and a few Muslim-haters, too. Please stop thanking me and the police chief for our vigilance. I know this looks bad. In the future, I’ll try to hassle students of all races and religions equally.
Have a conversation with your kids about making friends with people who are different from themselves. That’s the best way to make sure we all know what’s going on, and can tell a boy with a clock from one with an assault rifle.
Sincere but stressed, your principal
Yeah. And maybe include in that conversation with your kids the fact that “over the last three decades, 90 percent of high school or elementary school shootings were the result of White, often upper-middle class, perpetrators.” Which reminds me of this:
The upside for Ahmed is that the Twitterverse rose mightily to the occasion: he now has a personal invitation from our American Muslim child murdering president to bring his clock to the White House, an invitation from Mark Zuckerberg to meet with him at Facebook, and invitations from MIT and Harvard to tour their physics labs. An anonymous donor has paid for a scholarship for Ahmed to attend Space Camp. YAY.
Meanwhile, here is a story about another 14-year old boy, who built a fucking nuclear reactor in the lab at his school. Not a clock, mind you, and not a movie bomb (or even a movie nuclear reactor). No. AN ACTUAL NUCLEAR FUSION REACTOR. Not surprisingly, officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy took a keen interest, which is why his belongings were confiscated and he was arrested, searched and interrogated multiple times, without his parents or a lawyer present.
I’m just kidding. DHS and DoE offered that kid technical assistance, equipment and an invitation to submit a grant proposal. The kid paraded around with his fusion reactor at a bunch of science fairs to much acclaim, and won over $100,000 in prizes, a trip to Switzerland and a tour of the Large Hadron Collider.
Care to guess what color his skin was? Go ahead, guess. I’ll give you a hint: his name is Taylor Wilson.
Via Gawker, here are seven clock-building students not named Ahmed Mohamed “who got off scot-free for the heinous crime of DIY timekeeping, plus a bonus kid who brought an actual inert bomb to school.” He wasn’t even suspended.
Anyway, I fucking love this Ahmed Mohamed kid.
Fortunately, Ahmed has no plans to return to his shitty high school. “I’m thinking about transferring from MacArthur to any other school,” he says. Good thinking there, Ahmed. Perhaps you might consider transferring to any other country. I highly recommend Costa Rica! :D
Ahmed Mohamed embodies everything that used to be great about this country: education, innovation, opportunity, ambition, optimism, freedom. Now, he represents what we have become: a fascist, racist police state.
Welcome to post-racial ‘Murikkka, people. Nothing to see here.
Have a nice day.
AP did some good investigative reporting and published this story yesterday:
By JACK GILLUM, EILEEN SULLIVAN and ERIC TUCKER
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology – all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.
The planes’ surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.
“The FBI’s aviation program is not secret,” spokesman Christopher Allen said in a statement.
And technically this is true: as the AP piece notes, “A 1990 report by the then-General Accounting Office noted that, in July 1988, the FBI had moved its “headquarters-operated” aircraft into a company that wasn’t publicly linked to the bureau.” But then the spokesweasel says this:
“Specific aircraft and their capabilities are protected for operational security purposes.”
The surveillance flights comply with agency rules, an FBI spokesman said. Those rules, which are heavily redacted in publicly available documents, limit the types of equipment the agency can use, as well as the justifications and duration of the surveillance.
Got that? The existence of the FBI’s aviation surveillance program is not secret. However, everything about the FBI’s aviation surveillance program is secret. But not to worry: they are complying with their own secret rules that they made in secret.
Then the spokesweasel says:
Allen added that the FBI’s planes “are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance.”
The FBI does not generally obtain warrants to record video from its planes of people moving outside in the open, but it also said that under a new policy it has recently begun obtaining court orders to use cell-site simulators.
A cell-site simulator, in case you were wondering, mimics a commercial cell tower, thereby tricking cell phones in the region into providing identifying information, even if the phone is not in public or actively using a cellular network (i.e. on a call or texting). This technology can effortlessly sweep up thousands of identities. So while the official FBI spokesweasel says its planes “are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance,” it turns out that other official spokesweasels interviewed by the AP say that use of cell-site simulators is “rare.” So which is it, nonexistent or rare? And rare compared to what? Capturing HD video of the public without warrants? Get your shit together, official spokesweasels!
President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance, and has called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified programs.
The Obama administration had until recently been directing local authorities through secret agreements not to reveal their own use of the devices, even encouraging prosecutors to drop cases rather than disclose the technology’s use in open court.
A Justice Department memo last month also expressly barred its component law enforcement agencies from using unmanned drones “solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment” and said they are to be used only in connection with authorized investigations and activities. A department spokeswoman said the policy applied only to unmanned aircraft systems rather than piloted airplanes.
According to my Ladylogic™, that means piloted aircraft can indeed be used solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment.
“Aircraft surveillance has become an indispensable intelligence collection and investigative technique which serves as a force multiplier to the ground teams,” the FBI said in 2009 when it asked Congress for $5.1 million for the program.
“Force multiplier” is a military term. Hell, I’m actually surprised they used the words “ground teams” instead of “boots on the ground.” Of course all of this technology comes out of our disastrous War on Terror generally, and drone use specifically. In other words, America’s Owners (Military-Industrial Weasel Division) have seen to it that domestic law enforcement is a lucrative and booming market for their war toys, which necessarily means that the US public is the intended target. Need I remind anyone that virtually all of this is paid for by taxpayers? Or that we are all terrorists now in the eyes of the state?
Among many other salient facts apparently lost in the NSA reform “debate”—like the fact that none of these domestic surveillance programs work for their alleged purposes—is that NSA is only one of many local, state and federal agencies, including the FBI, funneling surveillance intel to fusion centers. Loyal Readers™ should not be surprised to learn that a two year Senate investigation into fusion centers “could identify no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot.” But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been very busy treating enormous swaths of the citizenry as threats to national security: anti-war and peace activists, Muslim lobbyists, abortion rights activists, environmental groups, third-party voters and motorcycle clubs. The Maryland State Police put anti-death penalty and anti-war activists in a federal terrorism database; a foreigner with an expired visa who had been caught shoplifting shoes at a Neiman Marcus was added to the list of “known or appropriately suspected” terrorists. The right isn’t spared*, either: fusion centers have tracked Tea Party groups, a Second Amendment rally, Ron Paul supporters and pro-lifers.
Tl:dr: The idea that even the most radical, ACLU-endorsed reform of NSA’s activities will in any way hinder the surveillance state is laughably absurd.
As is often the case, David Bowie, Brian Eno and Trent Reznor perfectly sum up my view:
*This should go without saying, but in case it does not: as much as I hate conservatives—and I do, I really, really hate conservatives—I do not want them subject to blanket surveillance either. There are constitutional law enforcement methods of investigation that cannot possibly be less effective (or any more expensive) for preventing terrorism than mass surveillance, with none of the downsides. Unless, just maybe, that is not actually what these programs are designed to do…? Oh, I forgot to mention: another source of the intel sent to fusion centers is “the private sector.” I’ll let you ruminate on what exactly that might entail, but I’m pretty sure they rhyme with Oldman Hacks, A.B. Organ Face, Crank Love Numerica and ShittyStank.
A Facebook friend posted this picture and comment:
1 COR. 13:34
WOMEN SHALL BE SILENT
READ YOUR BIBLE
My friend snarked: “The Bible Belt has the worst figures in the country for abuse of women….I wonder why that is?”
I snarked back: “Truly a mystery.”
He responded: “The mystery to me Iris is why women follow such a misogynistic book aimed at demeaning them as second class citizens at best!”
Here is what I think explains that mystery.
A: Usually they have no idea what’s in their shitty book. And like every other religious person, they believe that they personally have a line on what god is really like. (A lot like themselves, as it turns out. WHAT A COINCIDENCE.) Also women are and probably always have been the front line shock troops for patriarchy enforcement. It’s not irrational: they get something out of it, e.g. a means to have control over and feel superior to other women, physical and social protection, and various rewards from men with power.
Moreover, in traditional/religious families and communities, the church (or mosque or temple) often functions as the only socially sanctioned domain of activity outside of the home for girls and women. So of course they attend, volunteer, give their time and energy to the institution, and, as human beings are prone to doing, they inevitably bring purpose and meaning to activities in which they’ve invested so heavily and by which they derive their primary—or only—source of approval and support.
That is a very difficult thing for anyone to walk away from.
Add in all the indoctrination about sin and hell, and the lack of exposure to people with other (reality-based) points of view, and it actually seems downright miraculous that women ever leave. But indeed some do. And some of them go on to blaze a trail for others to follow. Vyckie Garrison and Libby Anne come readily to mind but there are many others—and they are having a positive effect. Pew reports:
“the religiously unaffiliated are growing among women at about the same rate as among men. Nearly one-in-five women (19%) now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 13% in 2007.”
To which I say, rock the fuck on, ladies. Oh, and I’m pretty sure that d00d with the truck is single, so please try not to fight amongst yourselves or fall all over each other in a stampede trying to hook up with him.
I adore J.K. Simmons. He is an incredible character actor, turning in outstanding and memorable performances in Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Burn After Reading and countless TV shows including Oz. I am very happy that he just won an Oscar—that is, I am happy for him, because that is the only reason I decided to see Whiplash. Unfortunately, I am now in need of emergency brain surgery to extricate all memory of this film from my head. But before I am inducted under general anesthesia and the surgeon commences drilling into my cranium, allow me to offer a few thoughts.
Whiplash centers on the relationship between a drum student (played by Miles Teller) and his instructor (Simmons) at an elite New York conservatory. As Terence Fletcher, Simmons embodies every spittle-flecked drill sergeant, volatile sports coach and tough-love father you’ve ever seen in movies. This is a common archetype who initially appears unreasonable and mean, but is eventually revealed to be acting out of love, compassion and hard-won wisdom for the benefit of others, however misguided his tactics (see e.g. Gran Torino, The Judge, etc.) Not so with Fletcher. There is no self-reflection, no come-to-Jeezus moment, nothing remotely different about him from start to finish. Consequently, there is just no way to swallow that Fletcher’s is ultimately a worthy pursuit, much less that there is any basis for his actions beyond sheer, sadistic pleasure. By the film’s end, we are certain that he is not some misguided asshole with a heart of gold: no, he is an unrepentant asshole who revels in doing harm for its own sake and the power rush it delivers.
Fletcher’s entire dynamic with Andrew is a classic, textbook cycle of abuse: the predator is a master pretender, cleverly wielding carrots and sticks to get his target to offer up concessions and information guaranteed to be weaponized later on. Fletcher’s absurdly grandiose view of his own worth—as a teacher and as a human being—is never challenged by the filmmakers. In the end it is only validated, and we have to step outside the film and reject its core narrative to even question whether Fletcher is responsible in any way for Andrew’s drive to excel. In fact, we virtually never see Fletcher actually teach Andrew anything about music; he serves up only humiliation, manipulation, spite, vengeance and violence. It is a testament to Simmons as an actor that Fletcher is no 2-dimensional cartoon villain, either. He plays it way over the top to be sure, but you recognize him. You have met him—or someone very much like him—and if you survived the encounter, it is because you eventually figured out how to escape him.
Andrew hardly comes off any better, if you can believe it: he goes from being a shallow, arrogant asshole to being…a shallow, arrogant asshole more prone to the kind of explosive outbursts and cold cruelty that Fletcher so relishes. NEWSFLASH: no one wants to work with flaming assholes, no matter how talented they may be. As it turns out, being a huge douche is actually an impediment in an art form that is at its very essence collaborative.
So. Both actors turn in monster performances playing monsters. And I get it: it’s every actor’s dream to play roles like these—but in the service of what? There is absolutely nothing inspiring, redeeming or even remotely likeable about either of these characters, or their story arcs. If Whiplash plays nothing like a cautionary tale or heroic triumph, then what the fuck is it? Well, the ultimate message of the film is that behind every extraordinary talent lies a miserable, sadistic narcissist, without whose cruel ministrations a gifted artist will never achieve greatness. I reject that, entirely. Artistic “success,” however you wish to define it, requires an innate creative spark, aptitude, ambition and, like pretty much any other area of endeavor, a fair amount of luck. Of course privilege plays a role too, particularly with respect to opportunities and encouragement. And yes, it requires discipline, but not of the sort externally imposed by terror, violence and psychological abuse. Above all else, an artist is driven to make art. That is why the Terence Fletchers of the world are superfluous at best—and far more often than not, harmful in the extreme.
Wait a minute…now that I think of it, this movie would totally work a thousand times better as…gay BDSM porn!
tl;dr: NEEDZ MOAR COCKZ.
As Loyal Readers™ well know, the Palace houses the world’s most renowned research program dedicated to the study of Conservative Personality Disorder. Something that has really puzzled us over the years is that research purporting to examine the relationship between political orientation and happiness has consistently revealed conservatives as being happier than liberals. This finding not only runs counter to a lifetime of personal experience that shows unequivocally that “happy conservative” is an oxymoron, it’s also counterintuitive on its face. I mean, do abortion clinic protestors strike you as happy? How about right-wing Christian clergy? Gun fetishists? Pundits like Limbaugh, Hannity and Coulter? White supremacists? Birthers? War Hawks? I’m not just talking about raging spittle-flecked tirades, either. It is self evident to me that a truly happy person would have exactly zero interest in policing, bullying and dominating other people by any means available. And yet conservatives do all of this, and they do it in the service of getting other people to conform to their (fictional) orderly little black-&-white world—and judging and punishing them harshly when they don’t. Either way, it vindicates and validates their (also fictional) moral superiority. They are nothing if not narcissists: everything is about them, all the time, including a gay couple’s marriage five states away, and what goes into or comes out of my vagina. Have you ever met a happy narcissist? No, you most certainly have not.
But you know what? If the science says it’s so, I just have to chalk it up to another head scratcher and move on with finding the cure. (For conservatism—not for happiness. Obviously.)
Now comes an article by Rachel Feltman in The Washington Post:
When asked if they’re happy, political conservatives are more likely to say yes than liberals. But a new study suggests that liberals might be the happier bunch — and conservatives might just want to look good.
Researchers believe that conservatives may have a reputation for being happy because it’s in their nature to talk themselves up.
You don’t say.
It turns out that all of the academic research on the so-called “happiness gap” was based entirely on self reports. Self reports! This is the sign of sheer incompetence: as any serious student of conservatism can tell you, conservatives are infamous for self-reporting lies. (See e.g. church attendance, or Bill O’Reilly’s entire career.) But this new research took a different approach:
Led by Sean Wojcik, a doctoral student in psychology and social behavior at the University of California at Irvine, the experiment analyzed photos and language analysis from the LinkedIn and Twitter profiles of those identified as either liberal or conservative.
“Common sense would dictate that if you want to know how happy someone is, you can ask them,” said Peter Ditto, UCI professor of psychology & social behavior and co-author of the paper. “But what do you do if someone says they’re happy, but doesn’t act that way?”
My point exactly.
Indeed, Ditto and Wojcik found more genuine smiles (as measured by standard facial analysis) and more positive language in the Web trail of liberals, even though other members of that group self-reported as less happy in the very same study.
The reason, they say, is that political conservatives have a tendency to self-aggrandize. When they compared happiness self-reports with tests that measured a tendency to enhance one’s better qualities, they found that the happiness gap could be explained by a self-enhancement gap. In other words, liberals were being more honest about their personal pitfalls.
Huh. Well what do you know.