August 10, 2015 archive

The Thomas Drake Report

Thomas Drake is a former Senior Executive at the National Security Agency.  He was targeted by the NSA because he exposed that the agency had intel that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks and because he blew the whistle on a massive secret surveillance program aimed at Americans.







ACM: On attacks on women’s reproductive rights: budgets, no choices, and eugenics, oh my!

By NY Brit Expat

An incident at dinner in Italy during my vacation there and the subsequent discussion has driven me to prioritise this piece. Following a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant, one man decided that it was time for us to listen to his misogyny on women’s reproductive rights. I knew he was saying offensive things as the two English speakers at the table refused to translate what he was saying. Upon my insistence, he tried to speak in English, but what he was saying was so offensive I refused to believe he was saying it. I turned to my husband and the other English speaking friend and they shook their heads yes, that is what he was saying. This man argued that women have to the right to choice but if they get pregnant with a child they do not want, they must be forced to carry the child to term and to give it up for adoption. Those that know me would not be surprised at my angry response in which I spoke of women having the right of property in their own body, spoke of bodily autonomy and reminded him that we were not incubators, but human beings. I concluded by calling him a misogynist and telling him that this was not an opinion but hate speech.

Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978 when Law 194 was passed. While not a perfect law, it was won after intense struggle by the women’s movement. This law not only guaranteed access to abortion, but access  to reproductive health care, contraception, and a whole range of rights for women and these were tied into public health provision. Like in the US (and this has been a failing in both countries), the conscientious objector clause has led to a decrease in the numbers of medical professionals willing to carry out the procedure on religious grounds (and in the US due to pressure from anti-abortion activists). So to hear someone (who is not religious) babbling this crap at me following dinner was way too much. So, who ruined dinner? Was it him or me?

This incident highlighted something that has become extremely obvious and this applies both to women’s rights and to racism. The days when someone who held these offensive positions knew to keep their mouths shut is long gone; instead they pose hate speech as opinion and demand their right to preach it.  Our response must be swift and strong so that these troglodytes are driven back to the primordial soup from which they have barely crawled out from.

In a follow-up discussion on the way to the car park, I told my English speaking friend what just passed the British parliament as part of the Welfare Bill. I told him that the Tories are changing the nature of the social welfare state which covered all women (child-tax credits, child benefits) to only cover the poor and working class. And then I told him about the limits to benefits only to 2 children in the future. I explained that the former made it easier to eliminate benefits totally (why should taxpayers take care of the working class – employed and unemployed — after all?). I explained the latter policy was a form of eugenics and was a neo-Malthusian policy. While he agreed with the former (he is a mainstream neoclassical after all), he was horrified at the latter (maybe because he has 5 children and has benefited from receiving benefits in several countries to help with covering the costs for all his children).

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When women talk about reproductive rights and justice they are not only speaking about women’s rights to not have children. This is an essential part of reproductive rights: the right to choose not to have children, to have access to birth contraceptives abortion and voluntary sterilisation. But we are also speaking of the right of women to have children and to determine when and how many. This right has been most often denied to working class women, disabled women and to women of colour. Sterilisation abuse and forced usage of birth control against working class women, disabled women and women of colour is part of a long-term agenda of eugenics and neo-Malthusianism.

Wealthier white women fought for the right to not have children and to choose when they had them and to demand sterilisation without the consent of their husbands. Eugenics law that promoted the “betterment of the human race” by forcing wealthier white women to have children also led to laws that demanded the use of birth control to access welfare benefits and forced sterilisation for working class women. These laws have been the tools of choice against working class women, women of colour and disabled women and have been used to prevent their choosing to have children and to limit the numbers that they had. In the US, to this day, eugenics laws are still on the books to be used against disabled women; Buck vs Bell (1927) in which the Supreme Court ruled that compulsory sterilisation of the unfit did not violate the Due Process Clause of the US constitution.  This endorsement of negative eugenics has not been repealed and still stands as US law. So to say that to leave things of the past in the past doesn’t really hold up as these things of the past tend to revive. After all, patriarchy is still strong and these arguments are not only a position of patriarchy but of the bourgeoisie that does not feel the need to humour women in their bizarre beliefs that they, not the family, not the church and not the state control their own bodies.

The Breakfast Club (Donnie Barnes)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgWe’re trying a new piece today based on sports and entertainment because by Sunday there’s not much left.

This will mean nothing at all to most of you but does illustrate the kind of sensibility I’m trying to bring to the post.  There is a show I like called Girl Meets World and it’s a silly Disney ‘tween comedy.  What makes it interesting to me is that in some respects it breaks almost every rule.

It was just a matter of knowing the secret of all television: at the end of the episode, everything is back to normal.

Things change.  In a way it’s like a 30 minute Gilmore Girls except that Cory and Topanga are Cory and Topanga, a power couple that make Ward and June look like the Bundys (the Gilmores, as you are well aware, have their own kind of family dynamic).  This year’s primary story arcs have been about Maya’s damaged family hooking up with Shawn, and Riley dealing with her feelings about Luke (see, Gilmore Girls!).  It’s not without its charms.

So what made this episode, Girl Meets Yearbook so interesting?  Well partly because it’s about acting and partly because it’s about change.

The change thing first.  Farkle Minkus is the son of Stuart Minkus, one time suitor of Topanga now filthy rich which he never tires of reminding you.  Stuart is whip smart and charming in that Lex Luthor kind of way.  He’s also a total dweeb.  Farkel is his mini-me.

Both of them have suffered the normal harassment which being an individual in that environment entails.  Farkle is lucky enough to have fallen into Riley’s circle and they’ve stood for him.  In this episode, Farkle is disappointed he’s become an adjective in the yearbook (despite editing it apparently, because that’s just the kind of dweeby job he and Riley like), so he rips off his distinctive Farkle outfit and emerges as Donnie Barnes, regular guy.

Riley is not unhappy with her description- ‘Most likely to smile herself to death’, even though her friends tell her it’s a total dis’.  That is until she finds out that she and Luke are not the cutest couple, it’s Maya!

And here we branch-

There is no resolution for the change plot (so far).  At the end Farkle Minkus admits to Luke and the gang that he still knows stuff but is not interested in conforming to previous expectations and pre-conceptions.  It makes one wonder what is going on at Casa de Minkus and if Stuart shows up with a Topanga clone wife I’m thinking we’re going Twin Peaks with the plot.

I’ll add this.  In some ways the character resembles my personal experience, but my image was exactly what I expected and cultivated.  Once I had made my connections I didn’t really have to behave in any particular way at all.  Study Hall?  I work at the Library, see you.  I got away with some atrociously massive crap that would have had me expelled if I wasn’t labeled and categorized.  I had a key to my own office!

Which brings us to acting.

The McGuffin on the second arc is that Riley is set off by Farkle’s rebellion and her non-pairing with the one she thinks is her dream Corey guy so she dramatically adopts the gothic character of Morosia M. Black (the second ‘M’ stands for Morosia too).  Maya is upset that Riley is not around to help her fix Farkle (that’s what Riley does, and she smiles all the time).

The details don’t count, but they end up carrying this dispute into the cafe Riley’s mother owns and Maya’s mother, an out of work actress, manages.  Maya asks her mother how she can be Riley.

Alright, but before you become another person understand you may learn things about them you didn’t know before.  You may learn a secret even they don’t know about themselves.

And then Katy Hart delivers a spot on Riley.

I love today!  Today is even better than yesterday and yesterday was the best Day EVER!!!  I’d think about tomorrow but I am afraid I would burst into sparkles!

Maya is supposed to be the rebel tomgirl but she’s grown a lot less dark since her mom and Shawn seem to be getting along.  Next day in class she shows up as Riley, fooling even Cory momentarily.

She is likewise a virtual clone of Riley, exposing the artifice of the character, in fact all of them.  Maya’s classmates tell her that they’re happy she’s playing the role, that they need a Riley and don’t care who does it (with the implication that they don’t much need a real Maya, or a Riley either).

Maya throws herself into the role until…

When you become someone else, even though you’re just acting, it’s impossible not to discover something you didn’t know before.

In this case Maya is reacting (in character as Riley) in defense of Luke and Riley being the perfect couple ‘it’s like we’re brother and sister’.


Now do it again for the cameras.  Action!

My point has multiple layers, multiple layers has my point.  ‘Kid’s’ programming tackles some scary stuff in ways that are unexpected, especially by adults wedded to their tropes.  The actors are talented, some of them.  The writing and direction can be good.  I don’t expect you to like it.

And the final layer is that this spot shall oscillate between discussions of TV and Movie Trivia and Sports of varying popularity.


Rethinking an Olympic Format in Light of Katie Ledecky’s 1,500 Feat

By KAREN CROUSE, The New York Times

AUG. 9, 2015

Ledecky charmed her hosts last week on her way to becoming the first swimmer to sweep the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyles in a major competition.

Ledecky broke her 1,500-freestyle record on consecutive days in front of crowds that enthusiastically cheered her on. She had to strike while she was rested because she will not race the event again in a major meet until 2017, at the earliest. After Ledecky’s performance, the exclusion of the 1,500 freestyle from next year’s Olympic program has never seemed more ridiculously retrograde.


Yes, Fantastic Four is really just as horrible as you heard.

Not the Fantastic Four

That last is not as bad as it sounds.  Moffat really wanted to write for a Peter Capaldi Doctor, there was never any serious second choice.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History August 10

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

August 10 is the 222nd day of the year (223rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 143 days remaining until the end of the year.

The term ‘the 10th of August’ is widely used by historians as a shorthand for the Storming of the Tuileries Palace on the 10th of August, 1792, the effective end of the French monarchy until it is restored in 1814.

On this day in  1846, Smithsonian Institution was created. After a decade of debate about how best to spend a bequest left to America from an obscure English scientist, President James K. Polk signs the Smithsonian Institution Act into law.

In 1829, James Smithson died in Italy, leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote. In the event that his only nephew died without any heirs, Smithson decreed that the whole of his estate would go to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Smithson’s curious bequest to a country that he had never visited aroused significant attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

After the nephew died without heirs in 1835, President Andrew Jackson informed Congress of the bequest, which amounted to 104,960 gold sovereigns, or US$500,000 ($10,100,997 in 2008 U.S. dollars after inflation). The money, however, was invested in shaky state bonds that quickly defaulted. After heated debate in Congress, former President John Quincy Adams successfully argued to restore the lost funds with interest.  Congress also debated whether the federal government had the authority to accept the gift. Congress ultimately accepted the legacy bequeathed to the nation and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust July 1, 1836.

Eight years later, Congress passed an act establishing the Smithsonian Institution, a hybrid public/private partnership, and the act was signed into law on August 10, 1846 by James Polk. (See 20 U.S.C. ยง 41 (Ch. 178, Sec. 1, 9 Stat. 102).) The bill was drafted by Indiana Democratic Congressman Robert Dale Owen, a Socialist and son of Robert Owen, the father of the cooperative movement.