Anyone who’s had the briefest of brushes with “The Great Gatsby” remembers Tom Buchanan, the bombastic old-money alpha male with a severe distaste for the lower classes. What if, however, Nick Carraway’s account of the matter was just as colored by conceit and artifice as any other man’s, his impartiality a mere front, and Tom was done an injustice?
This week, Tom (given voice by essayist Robert Atwan) began to tell his side of the story:
“I am a gravely misunderstood man and have been for a very long time, thanks to a perennial bestseller written by a Manhattan bond salesman turned procurer, one Nicholas Carraway, the author of a deceptive and biased memoir that thinly disguises itself as a pseudonymous novel.”
For more of this alternate history of the American Dream, head over to The Believer.
“It turns out that the same policies that President Bush followed were followed by President Obama,” said District Court Judge Edward Korman on Tuesday morning, in a charged and dramatic two-hour hearing in which the Obama administration defended its arbitrary policy to limit contraceptive access.
Korman was explaining why, when previously ruling on access to Plan B emergency contraception, he had initially waited for the administration to act on its own and make the drug widely available based on scientific evidence, rather than on politics. “The process had been corrupted by political influence. I remanded because I thought with a new president” things would be different, Korman said. But in 2011, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overruled, with the president’s explicit blessing, the FDA’s recommendation to lift all age restrictions, which Korman ruled in March was a decision made in “bad faith” because of the politics around sex and contraception. He ordered the administration to lift all restrictions. Instead, it accepted a manufacturer’s petition to make Plan B available over the counter only with photo ID showing the purchaser was at least 15, and the Department of Justice is appealing.
This morning, Korman repeatedly slammed his hand down on the table for emphasis, interrupting the government counsel’s every other sentence with assertions like, “You’re just playing games here,” “You’re making an intellectually dishonest argument,” “You’re basically lying,” “This whole thing is a charade,” “I’m entitled to say this is a lot of nonsense, am I not?” and “Contrary to the baloney you were giving me …” He also accused the administration of hypocrisy for opposing voter ID laws but being engaged in the “suppression of the rights of women” with the ID requirement for the drug.
A high school science teacher in Idaho is under investigation by the state’s professional standards commission because he reportedly used the word “vagina” during a biology lesson.
Tim McDaniel, who teaches 10th grade science at Dietrich School, told the Twin Falls Times-News that four parents were upset when they learned that his lesson included the word “vagina” and information about the biology behind female orgasm.
“I teach straight out of the textbook, I don’t include anything that the textbook doesn’t mention,” McDaniel remarked. “But I give every student the option not attend this class when I teach on the reproductive system if they don’t feel comfortable with the material.”
McDaniel said that he had never before received a complaint in the 18 years that he had taught science class at Dietrich School.[…]
Sixty-six percent of church goers in Lincoln County, where Dietrich is located, are affiliated with the Mormon LDS Church, according to 2002 Glenmary Research Center data.
“[T]here are a couple people in the community that are trying to get Mr. McDaniel fired for teaching the reproductive system, climate change, and several other science subjects,” students wrote. “All these subjects were taught from the book and in good taste. He cares for each of his students and goes the extra mile to help them all. Now is the time for us to help by supporting him!”
McDaniel acknowledged that he may have angered some parents by showing the film “An Inconvenient Truth” during a lesson about climate change.
He explained to the Times-News that students were asked to write a paper on their thoughts about climate change after seeing the film.
“I’m not looking for one answer, I just want them to be able to explain what they believe,” McDaniel said.
“This sort of thing makes you worry about what you teach,” he added. “That’s not right.
What is it with the word “vagina”? Why do wingnuts hate it so much? If you can’t even say the word, you shouldn’t be able to legislate it:
Someone uttered the horribly offensive, borderline criminal V-word during a Michigan House of Representatives debate over an abortion bill. Which is to say, a woman said “vagina,” and now Republicans are mad about it.
During a debate over a package of abortion regulation bills, state Rep. Lisa Brown finished her remarks against the bills with, “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’” The quote doesn’t seem wildly out of line. It’s reasoning we’ve come to expect from pro-choice lawmakers and advocates, but in Michigan it shocks and offends.
On Thursday, Brown and another female member of the House were blocked from participating in a House debate over an education bill because of remarks they made during the abortion debate. Rep. Mike Callton was offened by Brown’s choice of language. “What she said was offensive,” he said. “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”
Brown, thankfully, responded beautifully. First, she pointed out that vagina is the “medically correct term” to use when referring to a woman’s, ahem, down there. Brown also took a wild leap in logic, asking, “If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?” Then she asked the question we’re wondering ourselves: “What language should I use?” What does Mike Callton say when he has to refer to a vagina?
There’s an article in Think Progress today about Saxby Chambliss, who said in defending his support for marriage inequality:
: I’m not gay. So I’m not going to marry one.
As Think Progress points out, this is only the most recent of a series of statements by Republican lawmakers where their glaring empathy gap becomes apparent— they’re good only at feeling sorry for themselves and are seemingly incapable of feeling compassion or empathy for circumstances they haven’t experienced themselves:
Just last week, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) lashed out at the Violence Against Women Act because it included protections for people who are transgender, a term the Congressman seemed unfamiliar with.
In 2009, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) tried to cut a requirement for maternity care, arguing, “I don’t need maternity care,” and thus it’s unfair that his policy should have to be more expensive.
In 2006, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) justified his opposition to marriage equality by boasting his pride that there’s never been “any kind of homosexual relationship” in the “recorded history of our family.”
When the House Oversight Committee held a hearing about Obamacare’s requirement for employers to provide contraception to employees, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) invited a panel of all men to testify against the provision, claiming the hearing was about religious liberty, “not about reproductive rights and contraception.”
Newt Gingrich opposed allowing females to serve in military combat roles because if they were to stay in a ditch for 30 days, they would “get infections,” whereas men are “basically little piglets” who when dropped in a ditch, “they roll around in it.”
Joking that in his state they “vote early and vote often,” Mitt Romney expressed his support for Voter ID laws during his presidential campaign, even though they suppress voters of color, students, and the elderly.
As TP comments:
If Republicans truly want to reach out to diverse groups as their “Growth and Opportunity Project” claims, they are going to have to begin to learn how to empathize with the experience of people [who] are different from themselves.
Reflecting on the apologetic Iraq War retrospectives many writers have published in recent days, Freddie deBoer observes that “one of the most obvious and salient aspects of the run up to the war” is being ignored: “the incredible power of personal resentment against antiwar people, or what antiwar people were perceived to be.” As he remembers it, “the visceral hatred of those opposing the war, and particularly the activists, was impossible to miss. It wasn’t opposition. It wasn’t disagreement. It was pure, irrational hatred, frequently devolving into accusations of antiwar activists being effectively part of the enemy.” Now, he says, it is all but forgotten.
Is he exaggerating?
Judge for yourself. And may the quotes I’ve assembled serve as a caution: All this is what was said about the people who protested a war that a majority of Americans now regard as a tragic mistake, that began on false pretenses, and that proved far more costly than any advocates anticipated. Keep in mind as you read that tens of millions of people in dozens of countries protested against the impending invasion of Iraq over a period lasting several years. To be sure, some behaved in ways that justified criticism. But none could discredit the cause generally, and any reductive description of “what anti-war protesters are like” is self-evidently nonsense. […]
Doves are held up to ridicule, their patriotism disparaged, their allegiances questioned, their aesthetics mocked, and their position attacked from every rationally irrelevant angle imaginable. Humans do it again and again, even though it always seems discrediting in hindsight. Says deBoer, “I think people don’t want to admit that hatred of the left-wing was part of their problem in 2002 and 2003 because they still hate the left, and recognizing the irrationality of their earlier hatred would compel them to think over their current hatred.” He is right.
It is 10 years after the invasion of Iraq, and images of Iraqi women from various political parties are filling the streets of Baghdad ahead of April’s local elections — a sign to casual observers that women’s equality is on track in this war-ravaged country.
But although the women of Iraq have obtained some benefits on paper, the reality is that they have lost far more than they have gained since the war began in 2003.
On the political front, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not appointed a single woman to a senior cabinet position, despite the fact women are guaranteed 25% of the seats in parliament by the constitution. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, a poorly-funded and mostly ceremonial department, is the lone ministry headed up by a woman.
Constitutionally, women were able to secure the ability to pass their citizenship on to their children by non-Iraqi husbands, making Iraq one of a handful Arab countries with such a provision for their female citizens.
But on the other hand, women are no longer guaranteed equal treatment under one law in terms of marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody. That law, the Family Statutes Law, has been replaced one giving religious and tribal leaders the power to regulate family affairs in the areas they rule in accordance with their interpretation of religious laws.
This not only is making women more vulnerable, it is giving women from various sects (Sunni or Shia) or religion (Muslim or Christian) different legal treatments on the same issues.
Economically, women have gone from being visibly active in the Iraqi work force in the 1980s — particularly in the farming, marketing and professional services sectors — to being nearly non-existent in 2013.
The women who could afford it withdrew from the public space due the violence dominating the streets. 10 years ago Iraq produced much of its own food and had a productive industrial sector — but now Iraq imports practically all of its food, and farmers and factory workers simply found themselves out of a job as industry ground to a halt. And while both women and men suffered as a result, the impact on women was greater due to their limited mobility in the face of poor security.
Violence against women — and the lack of legal protection for women — is also on the rise. Women’s rights groups blame the increase in violence on the social and economic pressure that families face, the lack of public and political will to stop it, and the increase religious conservatism that often justifies the violence. […]
It has been just over 20 years since I left Iraq. Today, female college students ask me if it is true that the streets of Baghdad were once full of women driving, that women could walk around in public at all times of the day without worry, that university campuses were once filled with women who did not wearing headscarves.
More at the link. h/t ggt.
The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.
Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.
After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the membership of the special police commandos was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups like the Badr brigades.
A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman,worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding. Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq between 2003-2005, and kept returning to the country through 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.
The allegations made by both American and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, for the first time implicates US advisers in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that General David Petraeus - who last November was forced to resign as director of the CIA after a sex scandal - has been linked through an adviser to this abuse. Coffman reported to Petraeus and described himself in an interview with the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes as Petraeus’s “eyes and ears out on the ground” in Iraq.
“They worked hand in hand,” said General Muntadher al-Samari, who worked with Steele and Coffman for a year while the commandos were being set up. “I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centres. They knew everything that was going on there … the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture.”
See the full-length documentary film of the 15-month investigation at the above link.
Sanford is the exgovernor whose office claimed he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail” when he went AWOL to visit his mistress. There’s an interesting piece from Jason Zengerle yesterday about what he’s up to now, and Ed Kilgore’s take in the Washington Monthly is worth a read:
Reading the piece, I couldn’t help but marvel at what a relatively easy time Sanford has had recovering from such a spectacular implosion, spending his post-gubernatorial days “almost Thoreau-ing” on his family’s plantation, building a cottage to house his political memoranda, mulling life in the big picture and occasionally jetting off to New York or Miami or Buenos Aires to spend time with his lover (and eventually fiancee). If Sanford hit bottom or struggled through a Dark Night of the Soul, it was in considerable comfort. Nor did his first steps back involve community service or anything selfless at all:
After a year and a half, he left Coosaw [the plantation] and moved to an apartment in Charleston. He did some commercial-real-estate deals and joined a couple of corporate boards. He popped up on Fox News to offer some political analysis. Then last summer, he took the plunge and traveled to Tampa for the Republican National Convention.
But here’s the most revealing part of the story:
Empathy is a dominant theme of Sanford’s campaign, and it came up in my own conversations with him. “I would argue, and again I’m not recommending the curriculum to my worst enemy, but if one fails publicly at something, there’s a new level of empathy toward others that could not have been there before,” he told me.
When I asked Sanford how that new empathy had changed his views on public policy—whether it had made him, for instance, more inclined to support public-assistance programs he’s long denounced as unnecessary—he said it had not. “Convictions are convictions,” he explained. His empathy is for other public figures recovering from sex scandals and personal humiliations. “I used to open the paper and think, How did this person do that? Now it’s all, But by the grace of God go I.”
Unbelievable. Here’s this man who grew up on a plantation and married an heiress, and then presided over a state that is a living monument to inequality, proudly championing the most churlish and self-righteous instincts of its privileged classes. But his new empathy still extends no further than people just like him. And odds are he’s going to go back to Congress, where I suspect he will declare his rehabilitation complete.
Remember, It’s OK If You’re Republican= IOKIYAR
At a private fundraiser in Naples, Fla., on Thursday, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan mocked the so-called “war on women.”
“Now it’s a war on women; tomorrow it’s going to be a war on left-handed Irishmen or something like that,” Ryan told the crowd of donors, according to Shushanna Walshe of ABC News.
Democrats began using the “war on women” rhetoric in late 2011 to describe an unprecedented legislative focus by Republican lawmakers during the last two years on limiting women’s access to abortion and contraception. Ryan has cast 60 votes on abortion and reproductive rights issues during his time in the House of Representatives, and all of them were deemed “anti-choice” by women’s health advocates.
In addition to passing or proposing laws that would limit abortion rights, mandate ultrasounds, allow employers to deny women birth control coverage and defund Planned Parenthood, Republicans have repeatedly come under fire during the past several months for making inflammatory comments about women’s health. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” for advocating for contraception coverage, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) said victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant, and Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) said on Thursday that there should be no abortion exception for the “life of the mother” because “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” in which a woman would actually die from a pregnancy.
Republicans, in response, have long claimed that the “war on women” is a figment of Democrats’ imaginations and that women’s issues are “shiny objects of distraction” Democrats are using to take the spotlight off the real issues this election.
I think it’s a very good strategy for the Republican Party to continue to mock the concerns of women and minorities in general. What could go wrong?