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Archive for January 19th, 2013

Bending the needle: Former UNC dean of students says she was forced to underreport sexual assault cases

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If the number of rapes on campus is too high, one easy “solution” is simply to misreport the number. At least that’s the UNC approach, as described in this Salon article by Katie McDonough:

According to a complaint filed to the U.S. Department of Education, the University of North Carolina pressured former Assistant Dean of Students Melinda Manning to underreport sexual assault cases.

Manning, three students and one former student filed the complaint earlier this week, alleging that the University violated the Clery Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, among other federal laws.

The complaint, obtained by the Daily Tar Heel, scrutinizes UNC’s handling of sexual assault cases and serves as a large-scale indictment of the actions of high-level UNC administrators.

As reported by the Daily Tar Heel:

The complaint alleges Manning was told by the University Counsel’s office that the number of sexual assault cases she compiled for 2010 was “too high” before the total was decreased by three cases without her knowledge; that she was made the victim of a hostile work environment in the dean of students office.

Much of Manning’s work focused on strengthening UNC’s sexual assault reporting system, but she says her efforts were met with open hostility from senior UNC officials: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2013 at 11:53 am

Posted in Education, Government

GOP brags about how its majority in the House is by gerrymandering

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An amazing admission by the GOP, reported in ThinkProgress by Scott Keyes:

In a classic Kinsley gaffe, the Republican State Leadership Committee released a report boasting that the only reason the GOP controls the House of Representatives is because they gerrymandered congressional districts in blue states.

The RSLC’s admission came in a shockingly candid report entitled, “How a Strategy of Targeting State Legislative Races in 2010 Led to a Republican U.S. House Majority in 2013″. It details how the group spent $30 million in the 2010 election cycle to sweep up low-cost state legislature races in blue states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Their efforts were so successful, in fact, that Republicans went from controlling both legislative chambers in 14 states before Election Day to 25 states afterward.

In turn, the new Republican majorities would be tasked with redrawing congressional districts for the 2012 election. “The rationale was straightforward,” the report reads. “Controlling the redistricting process in these states would have the greatest impact on determining how both state legislative and congressional district boundaries would be drawn.”

This effort paid off in spades. As the RSLC’s report concedes (and ThinkProgress has documentedextensively), a majority of Americans voted for Democratic congressional candidates on Election Day, but only through the miracle of gerrymandering did Republicans wind up controlling the House. From the report:

Farther down-ballot, aggregated numbers show voters pulled the lever for Republicans only 49 percent of the time in congressional races, suggesting that 2012 could have been a repeat of 2008, when voters gave control of the White House and both chambers of Congress to Democrats.

But, as we see today, that was not the case. Instead, Republicans enjoy a 33-seat margin in the U.S. House seated yesterday in the 113th Congress, having endured Democratic successes atop the ticket and over one million more votes cast for Democratic House candidates than Republicans. The only analogous election in recent political history in which this aberration has taken place was immediately after reapportionment in 1972, when Democrats held a 50 seat majority in the U.S. House of Representatives while losing the presidency and the popular congressional vote by 2.6 million votes.

The report credits gerrymandered maps in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin with allowing Republicans to overcome a 1.1 million popular-vote deficit. In Ohio, for instance, Republicans won 12 out of 16 House races “despite voters casting only 52 percent of their vote for Republican congressional candidates.” The situation was even more egregious to the north. “Michiganders cast over 240,000 more votes for Democratic congressional candidates than Republicans, but still elected a 9-5 Republican delegation to Congress.”

Though party officials typically dance around the unseemly issue of gerrymandering, this report is surprisingly candid and unabashed. The RSLC, after all, is tasked with winning control of state legislatures in large part so they can redraw congressional maps to the GOP’s benefit after redistricting. Because most states allow partisan redistricting, its understandable that the RSLC would release a report boasting of its gerrymandering success that “paved the way to Republicans retaining a U.S. House majority in 2012.”

It is something to see: a political party bragging that it does not represent the will of the voters.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2013 at 11:49 am

Posted in Congress, Election, GOP

Threats (and acts) of violence from the Far Right

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This study is stirring up the GOP, which does not wish to recognize or admit the dangers of far-right domestic terrorists. The description of the study at the link:

In the last few years, and especially since 2007, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating from individuals and groups who self-identify with the far-right of American politics. These incidents cause many to wonder whether these are isolated attacks, an increasing trend, part of increasing societal violence, or attributable to some other condition. To date, however, there has been limited systematic documentation and analysis of incidents of American domestic violence.

This study provides a conceptual foundation for understanding different far-right groups and then presents the empirical analysis of violent incidents to identify those perpetrating attacks and their associated trends. Through a comprehensive look at the data, this study addresses three core questions:

(1) What are the main current characteristics of the violence produced by the far right?

(2) What type of far-right groups are more prone than others to engage in violence? How are characteristics of particular far-right groups correlated with their tendency to engage in violence?

(3) What are the social and political factors associated with the level of far-right violence? Are there political or social conditions that foster or discourage violence?

It is important to note that this study concentrates on those individuals and groups who have actually perpetuated violence and is not a comprehensive analysis of the political causes with which some far-right extremists identify. While the ability to hold and appropriately articulate diverse political views is an American strength, extremists committing acts of violence in the name of those causes undermine the freedoms that they purport to espouse

You can download a PDF of the study.

Hayes Brown of ThinkProgress reviews the study and the need for it:

new study from a think tank connected to the West Point Military Academy highlights the threat of violent far-right movements in the United States, leading to the conclusion that, while diverse in in their causes, they are similar in their use of violence to achieve their aims.

West Point’s Combatting Terrorism Center was founded in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, and has primarily focused its research on international terrorist threats. Titled “Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right,” this new report instead looks as the risk that domestic groups pose to the U.S. Breaking down these groups into three categories — the Racist/White Supremacy Movement, the Anti-Federalist Movement, and the Christian Fundamentalist Movement — allows the study to examine the background ideologies and methods of each subset thoroughly, opposed to lumping them all together as most studies have.

Each of the groupings in the study represent competing ideological views, with none of them likely to cooperate in achieving their aims. The chances that each of these groups will use violence also varies. What they share, however, is a use of violence against their chosen targets — be it minority races or abortion clinics — to draw attention to and emphasize their given ideology. After charting out the various instances of violence carried out by each of the categories, the paper offers up several policy recommendations on responding to their actions:

From a theoretical perspective, this constitutes a further indication of the perception among some parts of the academic community that terrorism is an instrument of symbolic discourse which is shared by violent groups and their adversaries. Target selection is thus not based just on operational considerations, but is one component, among others, which allows violent groups to shape their message using violent practices—timing, weapons used and target locations, are only a small measure of the other components which contribute to the shape of the symbolic message conveyed via the attack.

In this context, policy implications are clear. If the numerous far right groups are driven by different ideological sentiments, and are thus also engaged in distinguishing tactics, then the response in terms of counterterrorism policies must be flexible and group/movement oriented.

The study is already coming under attack by Republicans for not properly defining what constitutes a member of the “far right.” . . .

Continue reading.


Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2013 at 11:36 am

Posted in GOP, Terrorism

Stopping waste, fraud, and corruption: A Sisyphean task

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Sen. Claire McCaskill finds that those riding the gravy train want it never to stop. Lindsey Wise reports for McClatchy:

When Claire McCaskill set out to crack down on waste and fraud in wartime contracting six years ago, the newbie senator from Missouri figured that finding ways to save taxpayer dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be a no-brainer project, even in the highly partisan halls of Congress.

“Like most who come to Washington for the first time, I assumed that this would not be a heavy lift,” McCaskill said in a recent interview with McClatchy. “I assumed that cleaning up war contracting and profiteering would be a consensus item that would fly through the process, and I learned quickly that that was very naive.”

This month – after half a dozen years of hearings, reports, overseas fact-finding trips, painful compromises and some last-minute, round-the-clock negotiating – the first substantial overhaul of the federal government’s wartime contracting practices since World War II finally became law, with McCaskill as its chief architect. The president signed it Jan. 2 as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, the day before McCaskill, a Democrat, was sworn in for her second Senate term.

In the end, McCaskill didn’t get everything she wanted. Some of her proposals were dropped or scaled back, and she acknowledges that one consequence of the new law will be additional paperwork for the federal bureaucracy – without any additional funding. But she said the bill was among the most satisfying accomplishments of her Senate career.

Among the worst examples of waste, fraud and abuse that the new law was designed to prevent were an ineffective water plant that Iraqis couldn’t operate or maintain, a still-unfinished highway in Afghanistan that’s wildly over budget at $176 million and a $300 million power plant near Kabul that Afghans can’t afford to operate because the diesel fuel required to run it is too costly.

The power plant was a project by Black & Veatch, an engineering and construction firm based in Overland Park, Kan. . .

Continue reading.

More on Black & Veatch.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2013 at 10:45 am

Recognizing at last what we did in Vietnam

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A very interesting post at TomDispatch:

[For TomDispatch Readers: Note that personalized, signed copies of Nick Turse’s stunning new book, Kill Anything that Moves, published this week and the topic of today’s post, are still available for a donation of $100 (or more). It’s the sort of gesture that helps keep TomDispatch afloat in rough seas.  Check out our offer by clicking here or go directly to our donation page by clicking here.  If you are an Amazon customer and go to that site to buy the book (or anything else) by clicking here or at any other TD book link, we’ll get a small cut of your purchase at no cost to you. Tom]

Forty-six years ago, in January 1966, Jonathan Schell, a 23-year-old not-quite-journalist found himself at the farming village of Ben Suc, 30 miles from the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon.  It had long been supportive of the Vietcong.  Now, in what was dubbed Operation Cedar Falls, the U.S. military (with Schell in tow) launched an operation to solve that problem.  The “solution” was typical of how Americans fought the Vietnam War.  All the village’s 3,500 inhabitants were to be removed to a squalid refugee camp and Ben Suc itself simply obliterated — every trace of the place for all time.  Schell’s remarkable and remarkably blunt observations on this grim operation were, no less remarkably, published in the New Yorker magazine and then as a book, causing a stir in a country where anti-war sentiment was growing fast.

In 1967, Schell returned to Vietnam and spent weeks in the northern part of the country watching from the backseats of tiny U.S. forward air control planes as parts of two provinces were quite literally blown away, house by house, village by village, an experience he recalls in today’s TomDispatch post.  From that came another New Yorker piece and then a book, The Military Half, which offered (and still offers) an unmatched journalistic vision of what the Vietnam War looked like.  It was a moment well captured in a mocking song one of the American pilots sang for him after an operation in which he had called in bombs on two Vietnamese churches, but somehow missed the white flag flying in front of them. The relevant stanza went:

“Strafe the town and kill the people,
Drop napalm in the square,
Get out early every Sunday
And catch them at their morning prayer.”

If Afghanistan is the war we somehow haven’t managed to notice most of the time, even while it’s going on, Vietnam was the war Americans couldn’t forget and have never been able to kick, possibly because we never managed to come to grips with just what it was and what we did there. Now, so many years later, in a monumental essay appearing in print in the Nation magazine and online here at TomDispatch, Schell returns (via Nick Turse’s new book, Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam) to the haunted terrain he last visited so many decades ago All of us, whether we know it or not, still live with the ghosts of that moment. Tom

How Did the Gates of Hell Open in Vietnam? 
A New Book Transforms Our Understanding of What the Vietnam War Actually Was 
By Jonathan Schell

For half a century we have been arguing about “the Vietnam War.” Is it possible that we didn’t know what we were talking about? After all that has been written (some 30,000 books and counting), it scarcely seems possible, but such, it turns out, has literally been the case.

Now, in Kill Anything that MovesNick Turse has for the first time put together a comprehensive picture, written with mastery and dignity, of what American forces actually were doing in Vietnam. The findings disclose an almost unspeakable truth.  Meticulously piecing together newly released classified information, court-martial records, Pentagon reports, and firsthand interviews in Vietnam and the United States, as well as contemporaneous press accounts and secondary literature, Turse discovers that episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, and torture once considered isolated atrocities were in fact the norm, adding up to a continuous stream of atrocity, unfolding, year after year, throughout that country.

It has been Turse’s great achievement to see that, thanks to the special character of the war, its prime reality — an accurate overall picture of what physically was occurring on the ground — had never been assembled; that with imagination and years of dogged work this could be done; and that even a half-century after the beginning of the war it still should be done. Turse acknowledges that, even now, not enough is known to present this picture in statistical terms. To be sure, he offers plenty of numbers — for instance the mind-boggling estimates that during the war there were some two million civilians killed and some five million wounded, that the United States flew 3.4 million aircraft sorties, and that it expended 30 billion pounds of munitions, releasing the equivalent in explosive force of 640 Hiroshima bombs.

Yet it would not have been enough to simply accumulate anecdotal evidence of abuses. Therefore, while providing an abundance of firsthand accounts, he has supplemented this approach. Like a fabric, a social reality — a town, a university, a revolution, a war — has a pattern and a texture.  No fact is an island. Each one is rich in implications, which, so to speak, reach out toward the wider area of the surrounding facts. When some of these other facts are confirmed, they begin to reveal the pattern and texture in question.

Turse repeatedly invites us to ask what sort of larger picture each story implies. For example, he writes: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2013 at 10:13 am

Posted in Books, Government, Military

Why David Brooks generally makes no sense

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Jonathan Chait explains:

Moderate Republicanism is a tendency that increasingly defies ideological analysis and instead requires psychological analysis. The psychological mechanism is fairly obvious. The radicalization of the GOP has placed unbearable strain on those few moderates torn between their positions and their attachment to party. Many moderate conservatives have simply broken off from the party, at least in its current incarnation, and are hoping or working to build a sane alternative. Those who remain must escape into progressively more baroque fantasies.

The prevalent expression of this psychological pain is the belief that President Obama is largely or entirely responsible for Republican extremism. It’s a bizarre but understandable way to reconcile conflicting emotions — somewhat akin to blaming your husband’s infidelity entirely on his mistress. In this case, moderate Republicans believe that Obama’s tactic of taking sensible positions that moderate Republicans agree with is cruel and unfair, because it exposes the extremism that dominates the party, not to mention the powerlessness of the moderates within it. Michael Gerson recently expressed this bizarre view, and the pathology is also on vivid display in David Brooks’s column today.

Brooks begins by noting that the Grand Bargain on the deficit, which he has spent the last two years relentlessly touting, is not actually possible. Why is it impossible? Because, he writes, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2013 at 10:09 am

Posted in GOP, NY Times

BBS and fragrant face

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SOTD 19 January 2013

The ominous black bottle is Creed’s Green Irish Tweed, as is the shaving soap. Once again I got a wondrous lather, today with the Simpson Persian Jar 2 Best. The fragrance of the lather is excellent, and the Weber DLC with a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade did its usual wonderful job. And, as in all things, practice makes one better: I got a much better nick this morning. It was actually a small cut on my lower lip: it had some width, but not much depth at all—it barely bled, but it did leak enough to be a better test of the Clubman Nick Relief, and that did a fine job. So there’s a good alternative to My Nik Is Sealed, though I still prefer the latter’s rollerball. But the nick efficiency of the two seems to be on a part.

The Creed Green Irish Tweed in the bottle uses a very fine spray—it’s not really a splash. I sprayed a few sprays on my hand, then rubbed hands together and rubbed my face. I enjoyed both the smoothness and the fragrance. Great shave to start the weekend.

And, as a bonus, note this wonderful thread at Wicked_Edge with its homage to Henry V.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2013 at 9:38 am

Posted in Shaving

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