Jul 232016
 
furies

I have three items today which seems to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

We start in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police on July 5.  "Wait a minute, Erynator," I can hear you thinking, "this is old news."  Well, yes, it is, but there keep being new twists to it.  There was the killing itself.  There was the unconscionable way police dealt with peaceful protestors, which I wrote about last week – forcing them off of private property where they were invited guests, in order to arrest them for being in the streets.  And now, there is the story of two men, one who made a video of the killing, and a second who saw a different video of the same killing, and publicized it.

The store in front of which Alton Sterling was shot and killed (for selling CD's?), the Triple S Food Mart, is owned by Ahmed Muflahi.  Born in Yemen, he is now a resident of Baton Rouge.  He knew Alton Sterling when he was alive, and considered him a good friend.  So, for him, this story began when he had to watch his friend die.  But that was just the beginning.

Naturally the Triple S had surveillance cameras with video, but in addition to that, Muflahi filmed the killing on his cell phone, creating a video which clearly shows that the officers involved in the incident were not truthy.

Muflahi has now filed a lawsuit, which may end up providing some compensation for him, but, even were such compensation to be adequate, will not, experience suggests, do anything to improve the behavior of police.  According to the lawsuit:

Immediately after the killing of Mr. Sterling officers came inside Triple S Food Mart and without a warrant confiscated the entire store security system and took Plaintiff Muflahi into custody…. [police] then illegally placed Mr. Muflahi into custody, confiscated his cell phone and illegally locked him in the back of a police vehicle and detained him there for approximately four hours…. [After a warrant was finally issued, it] only authorized a search of the video surveillance at the scene for evidence and did not authorize a search of the building or the physical removal of the equipment both of which had already transpired when the warrant was issued.” (emphasis mine)

But this apparently was not sufficient.  Instead, they apparently felt it necessary to reach out all the way to Georgia, where Chris LeDay, originally from Baton Rouge but now an aerospace ground technician at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, GA.  That's his day job.  He is also a music producer, a fact which has led to his having a lot of followers – thousands, in fact – on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  When he received the first video to be released, from contacts in his old home town, he saw an opportunity to get some justice for the sterling family, and he published the video on all three forums.

Twenty-four hour later, he was arrested as he arrived at his day job.  He was just able to post on Facebook, “I just made it to my job on base and I'm being detained. They said I fit the description of someone and won't tell me anything else. If anything happens I did not resist! Please be aware!”  Arrested by MPs, he was handcuffed, shackled, and jailed – he was originally told on assault charges, but later advised it was for unpaid parking tickets.  Before being released the next day, he had to pay $1,231.  As of July 15, he was still not allowed back on base, so he was (and may still be) losing wages.

The extended story from this killing seems like it will never end.  Alecto – please go after the guilty, and then put on your Eumenides hat to justify the innocent heroes.

Now on to Oklahoma City, where a young man got to celebrate his fifth birthday by watching police kill his dog.

Dog0723Even a local Fox TV channel could not stomach this.

The officer who shot the dog [whom the Wynnewood Police Department will not identify] had come to the Malone home to serve a warrant to a person who lived there 10 years ago. The warrant, he said, gave him the right to enter private property and take whatever action he deemed appropriate under the circumstances. The Malone family says they never saw any warrant.

Chief Moore said that the police department was aware that the Malone family had been in the house for a year and that the officer had been advised that the address was a rental property through which people had “moved in and out” over the years.

“I respect what the police do, but this was senseless, but he didn’t show any remorse and didn’t even act like he was sorry or anything,” Vickie Malone said to Fox 25.

Eli Malone told reporters that he misses his dog. The 5-year-old said that he wishes someone from the Wynnewood Police would at least apologize for killing his friend.

The family have marked Opie’s grave with a small wooden cross

Eli understands that Opie is gone forever.  But Megaera – perhaps you could get them to stop being so grudging as to deny even an apology.

Finally, we come to Houston, TX, where the story is so horrendous I don't know how to speak about it, so I will simply quote Leslie Salzillo's (from the Daily Kos) first paragraph, and recommend you click through for more details and for analysis, both that provided by Leslie and that in the comments:

A Houston woman in her 20’s who is called “Jenny” was raped and choked by a convicted serial rapist Keith Hendricks. While testifying against him in court, she had a breakdown, became incoherent, and ran out of the courtroom saying she’d never return. The prosecutor in the case had her arrested and put in jail for threatening not to show up to testify. Her mother and her attorney thought “Jenny,” who suffers from bipolar disorder, was put into a psychiatric hospital, when if fact, she was only hospitalized for a few days then then transferred to the Harris County Jail and put into the general population. The jail staff received erroneous reports that said Jenny was the sexual abuser rather than the abused victim. While incarcerated she was beaten.

Tisiphone – there just was no need for this – it was pure vengeful destruction.  Please school the DA.  (If you feel that waiting until November would help her opponent win the election, please feel free to wait.)

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross-posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4000478

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Jul 092016
 

I have two items today which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

Frankly, I did not expect to be sharing this story of grudgingness today.  I try to find outrages that go under the radar, as it were, and, although this is a followup to an earlier story you may remember, I still expected it to be picked up by other sites and get a lot of publicity.  I was wrong.  I find that sad.

"Please accept our condolences on your loss,” explained a letter from the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority of New Jersey. “After careful consideration of the information you provided, the authority has determined that your request does not meet the threshold for loan forgiveness. Monthly bill statements will continue to be sent to you.”

The recipient of this letter received no direct benefit from the loan in question, and indeed, no indirect benefit, such as being related to someone who has increased earning power, which sometimes comes to those who graduate from college.  The student, the borrower, was her son.  And he was murdered last year.

The loans were not Federal loans.  The Federal Government has provisions to give some relief to borrowers who experience life-changing circumstances – such as losing a job.  Wken non-Hodgkins lymphoma survivor Chris Gonzales was laid off by Goldman Sachs, the Federal Government suspended his federal student loan payments.  However, he had also received some loan funds from New Jersey – which sued him and confiscated his state tax refund.

Marcia DeOliveira-Longinetti, the bereaved mother who received the letter quoted above, has been forced to make 18 monthly payments of $180 to the state.  Only 92 to go.

Not every state administers its own student loan program (states that do not do administer their states' share in the Federal loan programs.)  Two that do are New Jersey and Massachusetts.  But, in Massachusetts, there is automatic debt forgiveness if the borrower dies or becomes disabled.  New Jersey, on the other hand, goes aggressively after loan repayment regardless of the circumstances.  And, since federal law does provide some possibility of relief, New Jersey pretty much stopped giving federal loans some years ago, substituting their own loans instead.

But New Jersey will sell students taking out loans life insurance!  My, what a big heart!  Knock yourself out, Megaera.

There is another story, this one of vengeful destruction, which needs to be told.  THere is a church in Kansas where a volunteer in 2014 attempted to rape and electronically solicit two girls under fourteen who attended the church.  Last year he pleaded guilty to these charges.

The volunteer, who was seventeen, at the time of the crime, had a string of past sexual conduct and crimes behind him, but was still allowed to be around children without supervision.  On June 9 of this year, the girls and their families filed a lawsuit against the church, alleging that the church violated its own protocols, thereby allowing the assaults to occur.

Naturally, the church has filed a petition asking the court to require the victims and their parents to identify themselves publicly before the case can proceed.

Wait a minute, you are probably saying to yourself.  What is this church?  Westboro Baptist?  That's in Kansas, right?  Well, no, it isn't Westboro Baptist, though it is a Southern Baptist church.  It's just creepily similar.  Its name is Westside Family Church.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has been a victim advocate for 28 years, and has never seen a petition like this before in a case involving children, and only occasionally when the victim(s) are adult.  And children these victims still are.  If they were under fourteen in 2014, they cannot now be older than sixteen.

Clohessy called the move "a shameful move by officials who profess to be 'Christians.'"  I concur.  Tisiphone, you know what to do.

(Note: the photo of mother and son shows the mother and son in the story.  The photo of the girl is a stock photo from Shutterstock, which AlterNet picked to illustrate the narrative.)

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross-posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/3997742

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Jul 022016
 
furies

I have a situation today which seems to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I'm sure that no one is unaware that a little over a week ago (on June 23, to be precise) the Supreme Court, being deadlocked on the case of United States v Texas, allowed a ruling of a lower court to stand, in effect overturning executive orders of President Obama to expand DACA and DAPA.  That alphabet soup stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (and Lawful Permanent Residents).  Both of those programs, and all of President Obama's executive actions to expand tham, have been aimed at keeping families together.  It's hardly worth even mentioning that the objections to these measures have come from the party of so-called "family values."  That is now a given.

The case did not involve, so the split decision doesn't affect, the original DACA of 2012.  Anyone eligible for that should continue to apply, including for renewal.  But expanded DACA, and all of DAPA, is gone for now.

Let me put a face on this.  Josefina Mora is an American citizen, old enough to vote for the first time.  Here mother, Maru Mora Villalpando, is not.  She is just a parent of an American citizen.  Democracy Now spoke with both:

VILLALPANDO: Thank you. Well, it keeps me the same as I’ve been in these past 20 years: trying to avoid police, ensuring that my daughter knows everywhere I go, creating a network that will support me in case I get detained and placed in deportation proceedings….

MORA: I’m 18. I just turned 18, so I’ll be 19 this year. I participated in that rally [a Trump rally in Washington State at which she was arrested] because I wanted my community to know that we will not allow bigotry to be in our community, because more—it’s bigger than the Trump campaign, really. It’s just representing a country that’s founded on hate, on racism, on the taking of native peoples’ land.

If none of this, nor any similar stories, moves you in the slightest; if you think anyone who "breaks a law" – any law – needs to be locked up and the key thrown away, please just take a second to consider how many and who would be locked up, or have been locked up, if that were put into practice.  Jesus.  All of the barons who got King John to sign the Magna Carta.  Ummm – all of our founding fathers.  Thoreau.  Gandhi.  Most if not all of the civil rights activists in the sixties and seventies.  And, of course great numbers of people who have escaped being locked up because of their wealth and prestige.  George W. Bush.  Dick Cheney  Donald Rumsfeld.  All those Nixon aides who invented the War on Drugs as a ploy to lock up decent people.  And, of course, Donald J. Trump.  Is that going to happen?  Should we not be consistent?

But beyond fairness, there is an additional factor that I suspect few are aware of.  All those immigration prisons?  The ones not under the supervision of DOJ or the Bureau of Prisons, but of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)?  The agency subject to a 2009 congressional mandate to keep no fewer than 34,000 people locked up at all times?  Oh, you didn't know that?  Well, a new report is out prepared jointly by the Detention Watch Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights on this.  It expands on their 2015 report with additional information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

After noting that the "detention bed quota," as it is known, is "unethical and financially wasteful, costing American taxpayers over $2 billion a year and separating hundreds of thousands of families," it goes on to state (emphasis mine):

In addition to the national quota, the immense size of the U.S.’s immigration detention system isbolstered by a series of local-level quotas, written into detention facility contracts as “guaranteed minimums.” Guaranteed minimums, which appear mostly in ICE contracts with private contractors (though some exist with local governments), guarantee that ICE will pay for a minimum number of people to be detained at any given time. Because the government seeks to avoid paying for detention space that isn’t being used, guaranteed minimums are essentially local “lockup” quotas that influence ICE’s decision-making about immigration enforcement, whether or not people will be released, where people will be detained, and ultimately, who will profit or benefit from their detention.

Yes, you read that right.  "Private contractors."  Privately owned for-profit prisons.  Mostly the two biggest, CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and The Geo Group.

Obviously there is a lot wrong with this.  There is far more detail in the report than I will even try to explicate here.  Yet, as Sarah Lazare says in her article in AlterNEt, "one thing is clear: profits are soaring for GEO Group and CCA, the two largest private prison companies in the United States. Both boasted to their shareholders recently that revenues are spiking, thanks in part to the windfall from locking up families."

Karnes County Residential Center, in Karnes, TX, is owned by the GEO Group, and is cited as among the worst.  "Karnes, in particular, has been the site of repeated hunger strikes over inhumane conditions, including nearly free labor, lack of legal representation and contaminated drinking water. In 2014, some women detained at the prison alleged that guards sexually assaulted them."  You can Google "Karnes County Residential Center" and you will get quite an eyeful, just on the search results page.

Dear Erinyes, I hardly even know where to start.  Congress is reponsible for the quota system, and, though the current Congress is not the same Congress that did it, and hopefully the next one will be even more different, it is up to Congress to change it – no one else can.  It was a particularly grudging measure, right, Megaera?  And then there's the GEO group, profiting from the suffering of others, taking grudging all the way the vengeful destruction, Tisiphone, I would say (not to let any other actors off the hook, however.)  And Alecto, this just has to cease.  Onward.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross-posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/3996231

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Jun 182016
 
furies

I have just one "subject" today which seems to me to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I say it's a "subject" because it isn't a single incident, which is what I usually try to find, nor even a group of incidents tied by a common thread, but all having names attached, as I used last week.  It's a systemic issue which affects people in every one of the United States' fifty.  It's nothing we haven't seen before in individual cases, but we may not have looksd at how thoroughly our justice system is permeated with it.  And just this month a new book has been published about it.

Now, I'm not here to sell books (or anything else), and I haven't bought this one, so I'll be leaning heavily on the interview in Take Part which led me to the subject, and on a white paper the author, Dr. Alexes Harris, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington, posted while the book was still in progress.

When we think about a person "paying" for his crimes, we generally think about someone spending time in prison, or occasionally and if the sentence is short enough, in jail.  Unless it's, say a speeding ticket, and then one simply pays the fine and it's over.  We don't think that "anyone convicted of any type of criminal offense is subject to fiscal penalties or monetary sanctions."  Nor that "[T]he base fine of, say, a speeding ticket or even a major criminal conviction is just a small portion of the total cost. There are fines, fees, interest, surcharges, per payment and collection charges, and restitution."   Least of all does it occur to us that "Until these debts are paid in full, individuals who have otherwise 'done their time' remain under judicial supervision and are subject to court summons, warrants, and even jail stays."

Naturally, no one wants debt haning over their heads.  So those who can manage to do so, pay the fines up front.  For those who cannot, all the additional charges, particularlt those which accrue over time, combine to make legal debt a life sentence.  One which disproportionately affects the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, and those suffering mental or physical illness.

Every state has provision in law for fines to be imposed upon conviction in addition to incarceration.  Also, individual counties, judicial district, parishes, whatever, can impose their own fines and fees, by county code, or informally, at the discretion of local clerks' offices.  Some of these appear to me to be in violation of the Constitution.  For example, in Louisiana, indigent defendants are assessed an up front fee for their public defender.  In North Carolina, every felony defendant, regardless of whether or not convicted, is assessed a "cost of justice"  fee.  Wasn't there something in the Fourth Amendment about unreasonable search and seizure?

Legally speaking, monetary sanctions like fines and fees are part of a court sentence.  Until these are paid in full, the individual's life belings to the court.  Even if all else is completed, imagine trying to get a job, rent a place to live, or, God forbid, get a loan with legal debt hanging over your credit record.  Legal debt effectively derails prospects for success after conviction.

So why do states (and counties) keep piling these on?  Are they actually getting any money from those who are desperately poor?  Well, if they can get enough very small payments, they can at least believe they are.  In 2012, for insance, Washington State generated $29 million from half a million people.  Dr. Harris added, "The court clerks I talked to all said they needed this source of income but couldn’t tell me where it was going. I have a new project where I’m trying to figure out where all of this money goes—how much is generated and recovered and what percentage goes where."

And the debt keeps increasing:  (emphasis mine)

Ironically, as a result of mass conviction and incarceration, jurisdictions cannot afford criminal justice costs. They are attempting to literally transfer these expenses to defendants. Since the vast majority of people who receive felony convictions in the U.S. have minimal employment and income prospects post-conviction, monetary sanctions deepen existing inequalities. Poor people carry the onerous weight of a criminal record in very different ways and for longer periods of time than those with financial resources and good connections (that is, people from whom they can borrow money). In effect, because they can’t pay their debts, the poor become perpetual subjects of the criminal justice system.

I think perhaps we will need a multi-pronged strategy to deal with this situation.  Tisiphone, because it's difficult for mortals to find out the facts – court systems are not autmated, and, in the rare cases in which they are, they are not consistent – "[W]e cannot know how many are jailed or how much is spent on monitoring, arresting, and incarcerating people for non-payment. Researchers truly cannot calculate the total criminal justice resources consumed in managing legal debtors, collecting outstanding debt, and sanctioning those who have not made payments."  I am asking you to find out how much of this mess, if any, is productive – and how much is just vengeful destruction.  Megaera, you need to attack the grudging attitudes of those who would make all criminal justice into "pay to play," further disadvantaging the poor.  And, Alecto, you need to pester legislators, bureaucrats, and activists without ceasing, because this travesty will never end until we end it, and we apparently need our feet held to the fire and our noses to the grindstone (now, there's an image).

Not that there aren't plenty of other things wrong with criminal justice in the United States.  But this would be a start.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/3993483

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Jun 112016
 
furies

I have just one news item today (although it includes a fair number of different incidents) which really calls for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I am trying to stay away from the election right now since everything else seems to be about it.  I went and looked at Right Wing Watch, some of which is pretty awful, but it all belongs in the Right Wing Doozies of the week rather than here (and if James Dobson doesn't show up there I will have to add him.)  But then I came upon this story, and I knew I had to share it with the Furies.

We have all heard of lynching, right?  It used to be really, really bad, and it wasn't just in the Southern United States (although the Southerners seem to have taken more pictures for souvenirs than most in other areas).  California in fact felt the need to put an anti-lynching law on the books in 1933, to prevent mobs from forcibly taking people out of police custody for vigilante justice.

So how absurd is it that this law is now being (and has been for too long) used to persecute black activists organizing group political action and peaceful protests?

I'll start with the newest incident, because there are petitions on this one, and then go into some history.  In Pasadena, on June second (last Thursday week), Jasmine (Abdullah) Richards, was convicted of felony lynching.  The offense allegedly occurred on August 29, 2015, at a local park.  BLM had held a peaceful protest earlier in the day in memory of Kendrec McDade, who had been killed by police in 2012, unarmed and nineteen years old.  Some of the protesters were still at the park when the owner of a nearby restaurant apparently called 911 to state that a young black woman had not paid for her meal.

The law defines lynching thus: “The taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer is a lynching.”  Video of the incident shows confusion and raised voices, but not a riot, by any definition.  The concern of the non-LEOs appears to be that the police are large and the arrestee is petite, and that the LEO's roughness is hurting her.  With the record that police in the United States have (and Pasadena has a record of its own) of harming people in custody, I would think that any honest person would understand the concern of activists.

Jasmine's attorney states, and based on the video I would agree, that the charge was not established.  "It … includes an element of inciting a riot."  There is no incitement to anything in the video.

On June 7, Jasmine was sentenced to 90 days in jail, "with 18 days served, three years on probation, and one year of anger management."  To me, the three years of probation and one year of anger management are powerful attempts to neutralize Jasmine, to turn her into a "good little girl."  Well, well-behaved women seldom make history.  And history needs to be made for black people in America.

Two of the petitions for Jasmine are on Color of Change and Care2.

While Jasmine is the first to be actually charged in court and convicted of felony lynching, there is a fair history of the charge being cited at the time of arrest.  Here are some:

1999, San Francisco, anti-fur protestors.  Prosecutors declined to take the case to court.
2011, Oakland, Occupy movement, Tiffany Tran and Alex Brown.  Charges were dropped.
2012, Los Angeles, Occupy movement, Sergio Ballesteros.  The charge was dropped.
2014, Murrieta, protest in support of migrant detainees, Janet Mathieson, bargained to a misdemeanor
2015, Sacramento, rally againse law enforcement brutality, Maile Hampton. All charges were dropped.  Maile actually did try to pull her half brother away from an officer (can you blame her for being worried?)

After Maile's arrest, Governor Brown changed the language of the law so that it no longer uses the terms "lynch" and "lynching."  Aside from that, the law remains unchanged, and many people are still saying "lynching."  My take on that is that changing the language helps no one, fools no one, and probably serves to target the law even more towards people of color, without even honesty about its motives.

Dear Furies, please put on your Eumenides hats to help Jasmine here – and then go after that law.  If it's going to be targeting peaceful protest it should say so.  Thank you all.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/3992040

Update 6/20/16 Update: Per an email from the Center for Media Justice, Jasmine is home – only on bail at this point – but home.

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Jun 042016
 
furies

Just one article this week which seems to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I need to tip my hat to Nicole Hollander this week.  She is the cartoonist who for years drew the "Sylvia" cartoons.  If you haven't ever met Sylvia, go to her blog and look around, because you have been missing out.  She is retired from drawing the cartoon, but posts from the archives on the blog, and (sigh) little has changed.

Being a cartoonist, she has super-long antennae for what is happening to cartoonists.  She came across this story on Facebook, but since I am not on Facebook, I have sourced it from the New York Times and the Columbia Journalism Review (both of which Nicole also cited).

Let me start with the New York Times (emphasis [bolding] mine).

Rick Friday was not immediately available on Wednesday to explain why he was fired after two decades working as a cartoonist for Farm News. That is because he was feeding the cows on his Iowa farm, as he does early every morning before most people have gone to work.

But the cartoon that got him into trouble last week had already spoken for him, circulating online well beyond the audience of the thousands of Farm News readers of his weekly “It’s Friday” column, which has been published since 1995….

After the cartoon was published last Friday, Mr. Friday said he was told in an email from an editor the next day that the cartoon would be his last for Farm News because a seed company had withdrawn its advertising in protest.

He was told his run with the Farm News, for which he said he had been paid “embarrassingly low” wages on a freelance basis, was over, per instructions from the publisher [The Messenger in Fort Dodge, Iowa]….

“…someone complained about it, and this is the philosophy I use when I explained it to my children: They were being fed by two hands,” Mr. Friday said, referring to Farm News and its relationships with him and with its advertisers.

“They knew they had to chose one, and they chose the hand that they knew would hurt the least,” he said. “After 21 years, that is what really bothered me.”

Thomas Jefferson famously said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."  However, Thomas Jefferson never saw a newspaper owned by the tangle of corporations which own them today.  I suspect that, could he see today's newspapers (and other news media), he might just rethink that.

The Columbia Journalism Review is quite concerned, not just about this incident, but about a trend.

Cartoonists have a long history of retribution from their powerful targets. Most of the backlash has come from governments and political leaders, extremist groups, and even grassroots protesters. Until now, pressure from advertisers and self-censoring editors has mostly spiked individual cartoons, not led to cartoonists being canned. Neither outcome benefits readers, but the case of Friday and Farm News seems a predictable step forward for those who aim to curtail freedom of the press.

First, let’s look at why cartoons—which are inherently rowdy—draw so much scrutiny and anger. “It’s a form of public humiliation, and people receive it differently than they receive words,” says Victor Navasky, publisher emeritus of The Nation and author of The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power. At least some of the ire stems from the visual nature of the medium, which makes cartoons both striking and accessible. They sow discomfort for subjects and their followers, with no recourse for the aggrieved, Navasky says. “The response to these things is disproportionate.” (Disclosure: Navasky sits on CJR’s board of overseers.)

….Yet, somehow, oft-persecuted cartoonists have rarely, if ever, been fired over business-side conflicts. “I’ve seen cartoons be removed from the site or sort of censored by the editors for that kind of reason. That happens almost all the time,” says Adam Zyglis, president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. “But for someone to lose a gig over it, I don’t know if there has ever been a situation like that.” A 2004 study on cartoons and censorship reached the same conclusion.

Rick Friday is a cartoonist, and cartoonists are pretty good at responding to nonsense by defining it as nonsense.  And, today, cartoonists have the internet for a "bully pulpit" (though had TR lived today, he might have called it an "awesome pulpit" – he didn't know what would happen to the word bully over the years.)  But, dear Furies, it is part of a trend.  Please report back when you can, and tell us what we have to do to get it stopped – if it isn't already too late.  Thank you.

The Furies and I will be back.

Posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/3990117

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May 282016
 
furies

Just one article this week which seems to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I doubt whether the Furies need to eat, you know, being immortal and all, and if that's correct, they probably do not barf.  But if any story could do it, it's this one.  For the rest of us, you have been warned.  Barf bags are in order

A young black man with "mental disorders including learning disabilities," who is a player on the footballl team at Dietrich High School in Dietrich, Idaho, was sexually assaulted by teammates last October 23, after football practice, the Washington Post has learned.  The report was written by Michael E. Miller, a foreign affairs reporter for the Post, who also blogs for their Morning Mix.  [If you want to keep your breakfast down, you may want to avoid the Post’s “Morning Mix” every day] 

The Post does not print names of sexual assault victims, nor of suspects charged as juveniles (both policies with which I heartily concur), so I can't use names when I say that, after practice on that date, the youthful suspect held out his arms to the victim as if to hug him.  Instead, the suspect restrained the victim so that the other two suspects could attack.

There is both a criminal case and a civil suit regarding this incident.  Both say that as the victim was restrained, another teammate, Tanner Ward, 17, who is being charged as an adult, used force to insert a coat hanger into the victim's rectum, after which the third teammate, John R. K. Howard, also being charged as an adult, kicked the coat hanger several times (five or six?), causing "rectal injuries" that required hospital treatment.

This John R. K. Howard sounds like a real jewel.  According to the lawsuit, which describes all manner of harassment to which the victim was subjected, he is "a large and aggressive male who had been sent to live with his relatives in Idaho due to his inability to keep out of trouble in Texas."  Ummm – how much of a menace does one have to be to be kicked out of Texas, if one is white?  The lawsuit also says, "Mr. Howard is a relative of prominent individuals in the community and, at least in part due to his athletic ability and community connections, the Defendants ignored or were deliberately indifferent to the behavior of Mr. Howard which included aggression, taunting and bullying of The Plaintiff and other students in the District." 

The community referred to, by the way, is a town of 334 people, and predominatly white.  The victim was adopted by his white parents when he was four years old.

The amount and types of abuse doled out should be shocking – but even if we have seen so much now not to be shocked, they are certainly repugnant.  I won't list everything, but I will quote this from the article: "It was Howard who, with his bare fists, knocked out the victim, who was made to wear boxing gloves, as teammates and coaches formed a circle around them, the suit says."

Excuse me?  Teammates and coaches formed a circle around them?

Sounds like that $10 million lawsuit is pretty solid.

Instead of going into more detail on the abuse, I would like to quote some comments from the Daily Kos diary on the case.

CharlesCurtisVotes:  "This makes my heart [hurt] so much. I'm in the verge of tears. My brother (who I lost 4 years ago) was special needs and I can see his face lighting up at the thought of getting a hug only to see it turn so horrible. I can't even begin to describe my sadness."

jusducky:  "My brother too….same. Like his health issues were not a big enough hurdle, the bullying was terrible, but it was nothing like this."

Kela5283:  "The idea that teachers and other school officials were complicit and cheered this on is just so morally repulsive to me. It just sickens me. They should be fired."

rainmanjr:  (in response to Kela 5283) "No. They should be prosecuted as accessories."

Local news and views can be found in what is apparently the major news source in Dietrich, "Magic Valley."

Dear Alecto, dear Megaera, dear Tisiphone, I hope I'm right that you do not barf.  I feel like I need a shower just asking you to even be in the same state as these – people.  Let alone to pay close enough attention to sort out the guilt.  Because I am sure there is plenty of guilt to go around, and plenty of guilty parties who have not even been mentioned.  May the Force be with you.  (Yeah, I know, different mythology, but this will need all the mythology it can get.)

BTW, my husband had a suggestion for one way the perps might be treated, but if you don't eat or barf, you probably don't do that either.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross-posted to Care2 at

http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/3987590

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May 212016
 
furies

Just one article this week which seems to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I saw on AlterNet and traced to Raw Story the report that a teacher at a private Christian Science high school in St. Louis, MO was fired after reporting that her underage daughter had been sexually abused by a school employee.  Looking for more information, I found the Courthouse News Service website to have a great deal more on the story, and after checking their Terms of Use, which explicitly grant permission to other blogs to copy an individual article provided Courthouse News Service is credited, I will be quoting their coverage of this complex story.  (Any emphasis – bolding – will be mine.)

     A former teacher at a Christian Science boarding school claims in court that she was fired after reporting that a fellow faculty member raped her daughter.
     Phoebe McVey sued The Principia Corporation in St. Louis County Court on Thursday.
     The Principia operates a school and college in suburban St. Louis.
     Neither the School nor the College is affiliated with the Christian Science Church, but the principles of Christian Science form the basis of community life at Principia, according to Principia's website.
     McVey claims 31-year-old Zachary Retzlaff began sexually assaulting her daughter, M.M. in the lawsuit, when she was 16. Retzlaff is not named as a defendant.
     McVey, who now lives in Arizona, lived on the Principia campus at the time with her husband and daughter. She says Retzlaff was Principia's director of telecommunications and related to several people at the school. He [is a] nephew-in-law of Adriane Fredrikson, the dean of admissions, and Hans Fredrikson, a former trustee, and also nephew-in-law of Bill and Cheryl Whitney, who both worked with Retzlaff in the computer information department.
     None of them are parties to the lawsuit.
     McVey says the sexual abuse went on from July 2014 to May 2015 and that Retzlaff spent time with M.M. at the Fredriksons' home during that time. She says she found out about the relationship while chaperoning a class trip to New Hampshire and Boston on May 21, 2015.
     She reported Reztlaff to the police the next day.
     A grand jury indicted Retzlaff for statutory rape in the second degree on July 22, 2015. He pleaded not guilty and is free on $35,000 bail. The criminal case is pending.
     Two days after she reported the rapes, McVey says, the school told her she would be terminated effective July 31, 2015.
     "Just prior to her termination, plaintiff had reported to the police that one of Principia's employees had committed the criminal acts of sexual intercourse with a minor, her daughter," the complaint states. "Such criminal acts were in violation (among other statutes) of Section 566.034 RSMo. As a result of McVey's reporting of illegal conduct, Principia's employee, Retzlaff was indicted on July 22, 2015.
     "Any other reason offered for Plaintiff's termination is pretextual to cover up Principia's illegal conduct."
     McVey's lawsuit does not go into detail, but a separate lawsuit filed by a Jane Doe against The Principia on Oct. 16, 2015, in St. Louis County may. Though it does not name McVey as Doe's parent, it states that Jane Doe was sexually assaulted dozens of times by Retzlaff during the same time period as McVey's daughter.
     That complaint says Retzlaff practiced sadomasochism with Doe.
     "During several of the sexual assaults, assailant choked Ms. Doe with his hands until she lost consciousness," the complaint states. "After the child was unconscious, assailant would begin engaging in vaginal intercourse with her while she was passed out so that when she awoke, his penis would already be inside of her."
     That lawsuit also accused Retzlaff of forcing Doe into group sex.
     "In addition to the sadomasochism, assailant invited other minors to join him in 'group sex' with Ms. Doe, including other Principia students, both male and female," the complaint states. "On several occasions, these other minors chose to flee the group sex session because the sexual acts assailant was performing on Ms. Doe became so extreme."
     That lawsuit claimed The Principia knew about Retzlaff's actions and even told him to "cut it out."
     That lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed in February.*
     McVey seeks punitive damages for wrongful termination and breach of contract. She is represented by Brandy Barth with Newton Wright and Barth in St. Louis.
     Laurel Walter, communications director at The Principia, said in an email: "We are in the process of reviewing the allegations and do not have any comment at this time."
     Principia was involved a football hazing scandal involving sexual violence in August 2014. Three football players were kicked out of the school and faced criminal charges. Two were charged with four counts of first-degree sodomy and another with seven counts of third-degree assault.
     In an Oct. 22, 2015 story about the first lawsuit, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Retzlaff, then 33, was accused of sexually assaulting an underage student "more than 40 times on or around the campus here, choked her as part of sex play and held group sex parties for students."

Despite the comments I have been reading on this, both on AlterNet and on Raw Story (Courthouse News Service does not appear to have comments), I trust that I don't need to remind the Erinyes, or anyone here, that any man who thinks that a sixteen year old child has the mental capacity to consent to sex is thinking with the wrong head.  While Tisiphone, therefore, addresses herself to Mr. Retzlaff, I believe Alecto and Megaera are needed to deal with misconceptions which seem to be all too common in society about the nature of consent – and that sex without both parties consenting is rape.

*Incidentally the lawsuit referred to as "voluntarily dismissed in February" was specifically dismissed in such a way as not to preclude Ms. Doe from re-filing (presumably after the criminal charges have been dealt with).

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross-posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/3985226

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May 142016
 
furies

I only have one small article this week which seems to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it, and you and the Furies may not even agree with me on it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I'm sure everyone can remember SOMETHING that Maine Governor Paul Lepage has said or done at one time or another which was bat-guano crazy, and hurtful with it.  Most recently he has been in the news for complaining about drug dealers coming up to Maine and impregnating white women (Huh?), and stating he wanted the authority to behead said drug dealers publicly.  But that's just recently.

Last Tuesday, or rather, Tuesday week, May 3rd, the Governor went to the Androscoggin Humane Society to check out the dogs there – apparently he and his family had a dog who had recently passed away, Baxter.  They saw a Jack Russell, decided on the spot to adopt him, named him Veto and posted on Facebook.

However – this puppy had been advertised on the Humane Society website as becoming available on WEDNESDAY morning, on a first come, first served basis.  And there was another Mainer who wanted him, who had arranged to take off work so she could be there early  and be first in line.

Heath Arsenault, a victim of sexual assault, told local news outlet NECN she had been hoping to adopt the animal herself as an emotional support dog. She said she was heartbroken when she learned that the shelter had bent the rules to allow the governor to adopt him before he became available to the public.

"I just saw the picture and I broke down," Arsenault said. "He was just the right size for my apartment and he's just really sweet." ….

"It wasn't about, 'Oh, I wanted that dog and somebody else adopted it," Arsenault, added. "It just felt like my happiness was taken away from me. Bettering my relationships—that was taken away from me."

"No one should be given special privileges, even if they are the governor," she told the Portland Press Herald.

The shelter has since admitted to breaking its own rules by giving LePage a chance to adopt the dog a day earlier than the public.

It remains to be seen if Veto will soon be moving to Washington, DC, as LePage is reportedly gunning for a position in the Trump administration.

I said most of what I am going to say now in my comment on the site, but I doubt if I can say it much better, so from here I am quoting myself (I promise not to sue), with just a few small edits, mostly for context.

There are a number of old sayings along the lines of "adding insult to injury," "the straw that broke the camel's back," "the frosting on the cake," "the cherry on the sundae," which express how human it is, after suffering, or even just seeing, large or at least significant injuries without losing one's temper, when a small one comes along from the same source, to "blow one's top" – another old saying.  Cliches, but they become cliches because they speak to us.  This is how I feel about this incident. 

He makes remarks about drug dealers coming into "his" state and impregnating white women.  He says he wants to be able to cut off drug dealers' heads in public.  He decides to veto a bunch of bills he doesn't like, so he ignores them, in which he displayes his ignorance of Maine's constitution – they all become law.  So he decides he just won't enforce them.  A private school hires someone he personally doesn't like, so he directs them to fire the guy or lose state funding.  And so on and so on.  He has already abundantly proved he has no respect for constitution, no respect for law, no respect for rules, no respect for citizens.  Over major issues.

Now comes along this sweet little dog – and Jack Russells are sweet, if not always 100% predictable.  (And if you deduce from that that I hope Veto bites his ass, you would be right.)  No, he didn't know someone else wanted the dog.  But he did know he was there a day early, and therefore was breaking a rule.  Yes, the shelter is also at fault, whether he threatened and bullied the staff, or whether they were only too happy to kiss the boots of their Governor, or anything in between.  I admit this is a minor issue.  I admit I am being petty.  But for me, this is the frosting on the cake, because it FROSTS me.

And I think that is what many people who have commented on the article are feeling, and why so many are excoriating him (and of course many are also defending him, and are entitled to their opinion).

Plus, of course, I can see from other comments that I am not the only one who fears for the fate of that sweet little dog in that household.

Dear Furies, if you can see your way to looking into this there are many people who would or should be grateful – including the entire state of Maine.  It may be the punishment would not fit the crime.  But there are other unpunished crimes.  And God help the nation if he should get into Donald Trump's cabinet!  (OK, God help the nation if Donald Trump gets a cabinet, period.)

Off this topic, a quick update on last week's election fraud story – about seven more funny-looking signatures have been found, and all of the voters in question have been interviewed, and deny signing anything for Keyser, but state they did sign for the other guy.  Including the first one I showed last week.  Keyser has reportedly refused to say anything except "I am on the ballot," except that he did tell one reporter "I have a really, really big dog.  Bigger than you."  (Clearly NOT a Jack Russell.)  Sweet guy.

The Furies and I will be back.

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May 062016
 
furies

I only have two articles this week which really call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them – and one that announces a way that people with talent (different kinds of talent, so don't disqualify yourself without reading further) can help them out. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

The first story is happening in my home state of Colorado.  Michael Bennet's term as a Democratic US Senator is expiring, he is running for reelection, and the Republicans want him out, naturally.  Though he's kind of a DINO, he is infinitely better than any Republican.  The Daily Kos Election Digest has the race listed as "safe Democrat," so it is unlikely that whoever gets the Republican nod will win.  But apparently, whether it matters or not, they just can't seem to help cheating.

One of them, Jon Keyser, was told he didn't have enough signatures to get on that ballot, since numerous signatures were disqualified because the petition circulator's address on the petitions did not match his (I think it was a he) address of registration.  Turned out he had moved and forgotten to change his address  with the election department.  OK, technically that's illegal.  But a technicality is exactly what it is.  I have no problem with the Secretary of State deciding to go ahead and put him on the ballot after all.  Two other Republicans were told the same thing – one is not now on the ballot, the other managed to get onto the ballot but is suing the (Republican) Secretary of State anyway.  That's typical Republican circus, and not the issue.

Here's the thing: after Jon Keyser was put onto the ballot, someone looked a little harder, and discovered possible fraud – so now he's off again.  Here's the deal.  One Republican in Littleton has her name on both Keyser's petition and also that for Jack Graham.  That's kind of illegal too – you're only supposed to be supporting one candidate.  After all, you can't vote twice (legally).  But the potential for actual, tangible, provable fraud comes in when you look at both petitions and see that the same name is in totally different handwritings, with totally different signatures.

You can see this is PROBABLY not a case of two voters with the same name (who also just happen to live at the same address.)  In any case one now wonders whether ANY Republican will now make it onto the Colorado Senate ballot.  Under one of probably the ten most Republican Secretaries of State in the nation.  I'm sure this is boring for you ladies – but maybe you can crack the whip a little to encourage the people sorting through these documents to get it right.  They don't have a lot of time.

The other story comes from California, but is national in scope.  I heard it through In The Public Interest, a group which I learned about through their work on exposing private prisons and the private contractors who supply them substandard food, poor medical care, expensive prisoner-to-family communications, etc.  Now ITPI is looking at for profit schools in direct competition with public schools in kindergarten through high school.

Despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from California’s taxpayers, California Virtual Academies (CAVA), the state’s largest provider of online public education, is failing key tests used to measure educational success. According to an investigation by The San Jose Mercury News, fewer than half of the thousands of students who enroll in CAVA schools graduate, and almost none of them are qualified to attend the state's public universities.
 All the while, the publicly traded corporation that owns the network, K12 Inc., continues to rake in massive profits.

Just like a brick-and-mortar charter school, an on-line charter school receives taxpayer funding which would (IMO should) have gone to the local public school.  And, since those funds are based on attendance, just how does an online school take attendance?  Simple – if you log in, you are "present."  When you log out is no one's business.  And this also irks me: "(W)hile records show that the company’s employees launched each of K12 Inc.’s 17 online schools in California, the applications they filed to open the schools described the founders as a “group of parents,” none of whom were named."

Probably not that surprising for an enterprise launched by a former Goldman Sachs bankster.  Tisiphone, I usually ask for you when some vile human is being vengefully destructive.  But if you decided to vengefully destroy these corporations, I wouldn't shed a tear.

Finally, the call for entries – "Calling all painters, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, dancers, graffiti artists, fine art students, animators, sculptors, designers, actors, advertisers, poets, writers, illustrators, tech specialists, crafters and anyone with a passion for creating, we’d love to hear from you."  The topic is "Where's wetiko?"

I personally am more familiar with the Ojibway form of the word, "windingo," than the Algonquin form they chose, but I suspect they chose it because it moves faster in the mouth, like the "Waldo" they are probably alluding to in the topic title.  But, you may be asking, WHAT is it?  Well …

All over the world, there is a feeling that something is deeply wrong. It is often felt more than seen, an unnamed darkness that keeps millions (even billions) of people disconnected from the reality of authentic life-affirming experience….

Wetiko is an Algonquin word for a cannibalistic spirit that is driven by greed, excess and selfish consumption (in Ojibwa it is windingo, wintiko in Powhatan). It deludes its host into believing that cannibalizing the life-force of others (others in the broad sense, including animals and other forms of Gaian life) is a logical and morally upright way to live.
•Every time someone is seen justifying the destruction of life for profit – it is wetiko.
•Every time compassion is vitally missing during a time of suffering – it is wetiko.
•Every time a privileged person uses another as a “throw away” toy – it is wetiko.
•Every time, in every way a community or country is impoverished so that others can be rich – it is wetiko.

So the answer to "Where's wetiko?" is "EVERYWHERE – but it needs to be SEEN."

The call for entries I have linked to has itself further links for anyone who wants to go deeper – but it's a good introduction, it's short and to the point, and repays reading through even if you think you do not have a creative nerve in your body.  And maybe we can help out the furies by raising awareness of injustice and consequent opposition to it.

The Furies and I will be back.

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