What Ailes The Republican Party?

Posted July 19, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Evil, Journalism and its discontents, Republican knavery, Uncategorized, Women's rights are human rights

Tags:

I’ve been thinking about Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against that omphalos of evil, Roger Ailes, since it dropped.  You all know the essence:

In a suit filed Wednesday in superior court in Bergen County, N.J., Carlson alleges that Ailes “unlawfully retaliated” against her and “sabotaged her career after she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment.”

“I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better,” the complaint says Ailes told Carlson last September when she complained to him. He allegedly added, “Sometimes problems are easier to solve that way.”

Even in that first story, there was plenty of evidence that Ailes is a serial harasser, a man for whom the women in his employ are objects to be manipulated (in the root sense of that word) at his pleasure:

While an executive at NBC, Ailes was accused of making sexually suggestive comments to various female underlings, according to a 2014 biography of Ailes, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” A young woman named Randi Harrison said Ailes offered to her increase her salary by $100 a week if she would have sex with him, according to the book. A producer named Shelly Ross said Ailes posed “romantically suggestive questions and made flirtatious comments about her appearance.” Ross said she told him, “This is making me uncomfortable.”

Over the next several days, many more women have come forward to add their accounts:

In recent days, more than a dozen women have contacted Carlson’s New Jersey–based attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, and made detailed allegations of sexual harassment by Ailes over a 25-year period, dating back to the 1960s, when he was a producer on The Mike Douglas Show. “These are women who have never told these stories until now,” Smith told me. “Some are in a lot of pain.” Taken together, these stories portray Ailes as a boss who spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities…

Vouet,_Simon_-_Lucretia_And_Tarquin

Read the whole piece at that link for some heart breaking memories.

If Ailes is really gone, the nail in the coffin may have been hammered by the Fox News megastar,  Megyn Kelly:

According to two sources briefed on parent company 21st Century Fox’s outside probe of the Fox News executive, led by New York–based law firm Paul, Weiss, Kelly has told investigators that Ailes made unwanted sexual advances toward her about ten years ago when she was a young correspondent at Fox. Kelly, according to the sources, has described her harassment by Ailes in detail.

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman has been doing seriously good work on this story, which makes this nugget from his Kelly post so interesting:

According to two sources, Monday afternoon lawyers for 21st Century Fox gave Ailes a deadline of August 1 to resign or face being fired for cause.

So, good.  It looks like a truly monstrous figure is on his way out.

I’m as thrilled as anyone at that likely outcome, for all that Ailes’ well-padded crash ($40,000,000 buys a lot of whisky to cry into) is coming decades late.  But there’s a larger story that isn’t getting enough attention.

That is:  Roger Ailes isn’t just a network boss who has managed to deliver ratings to his owner.  He has been perhaps the single most important figure in the forging of today’s Republican party.  His Fox News has set the agenda, constructed the alternate reality, shattered the norms, and altered much for the worse what it means to be a Republican leader or voter.

He’s the architect and engineer of the hate-based, race-focused, anti-science, know-nothing tendency in American politics.  His triumph, his conquest of so much of American government at every level, has reached its apotheosis in the home-video version of Triumph of the Will we’re all seeing in Cleveland this week.  And he is a person who has, throughout his entire working life it seems, defined women as toys to be played with or broken at his whim.

I do not suggest that the Republican party, even in its current desperately debased state, is filled with people who would do as Ailes is alleged to have done.  But Ailes’ signal success has been in shaping how the party thinks, how its members and leaders think the world works.  And that influence is shot through with a sense of whose views count and whose don’t.  In Ailes life, half the world doesn’t rise to the level of agent, of people whose existence demands respect.

The fish rots at the head.

Image:  Simon Vouet, The Rape of Lucretia, 17th century. (Not my favorite of this subject. Rubens’ is great, and I’m a sucker for Tintoretto’s pearls.  But I wanted to keep the post SFW, so Vouet will do.)

Stupid/Evil Venn Diagram

Posted July 17, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Evil, Guns, Stupidity, The Way We Live Now, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Not sure how complete the overlap would be on this one, but if we took a solar eclipse as our diagram generator, I’m pretty sure you’d see a corona around this guy:*

The shooting in Baton Rouge took place as protesters and Republicans were arriving in Cleveland for the party’s national convention. Steve Thacker, 57, of Westlake, Ohio, stood in Cleveland’s Public Square on Sunday holding a semiautomatic AR-15-style assault rifle as news broke that several officers had been killed in Baton Rouge.

After the shooting in Dallas, Stephen Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, urged people not to take their guns anywhere near Cleveland’s downtown during the convention because officers were already in a “heightened state.”

When asked about Mr. Loomis’s comments and the Baton Rouge shooting, Mr. Thacker said despite the shooting, he wanted to make a statement and show that people can continue to openly carry their weapons.

“I pose no threat to anyone. I’m an American citizen. I’ve never been in trouble for anything,” Mr. Thacker, an information technology engineer, said. “This is my time to come out and put my two cents worth in, albeit that it is a very strong statement.”

Schuttersstuk_Ferdinand_Bol

Dear Mr. Thacker,

Let me see if I can explain this in words which even an information technology engineer can understand.

Just because you say you are not a threat doesn’t make it so.  To everyone but you, you are a guy with a tool for mass murder standing in the street for no apparent reason…which makes you, as seen from outside the eternal sunshine of the inside of your head, a threat to every person in your line of sight.  That you think you are a good person puts you alongside just about every self-justifiying shooter.

We do know is that the best possible gloss on your actions is that you’re a bully. Guns are tools of intimidation as well as physical violence. That you would show up heavily armed in public spaces suggests you think it’s part of civic life to scare your neighbors.  There’s a word for people like that, or rather many, of which the most mild is “asshole.”

And, forgive me for being so blunt, but you’re not just an asshole.  You’re an imbecile too.  Guns are, of course, both weapons and target designators.Anything goes wrong during the convention  — anything — and you’re a man with a gun in a chaotic situation.  How is the federal sniper on the rooftop to know who you might be aiming at?  Dumb is as dumb does.

Here’s the kindest advice I can muster: go home.  Put your freedom-wand penis-extension away.  With rights come responsibilities, and one of the most often ignored is the duty not to be a putz.

Try it.

*Yeah, that’s a ridiculously tortured metaphor, but it’s that kind of day.

Image: Ferdinand Bol, Archer Unit, militia led by Colonel Govert Suys, 1653

Donald Trump’s Bank Is Tottering

Posted July 8, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Uncategorized

I don’t know about you, but I feel the need to spend a little while thinking about something other than the miseries of the day.

So how about this:

Donald Trump has a problem with bankers — or they with him:

Other Wall Street banks, after doing extensive business with Mr. Trump in the 1980s and 1990s, pulled back in part due to frustration with his business practices but also because he moved away from real-estate projects that required financing, according to bank officials. Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley are among the banks that don’t currently work with him.
At Goldman Sachs Group Inc., bankers “know better than to pitch” a Trump-related deal, said a former Goldman executive. Goldman officials say there is little overlap between its core investment-banking group and Mr. Trump’s businesses.

Marinus_van_Reymerswale_-_The_Banker_and_His_Wife_-_WGA19323

That’s why, to a great extent, the Trump organization has come to rely on Deutsche Bank, the one global bank that will do significant business with him:

While many big banks have shunned him, Deutsche Bank AG has been a steadfast financial backer of the Republican presidential candidate’s business interests. Since 1998, the bank has led or participated in loans of at least $2.5 billion to companies affiliated with Mr. Trump, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of public records and people familiar with the matter.

All that’s in trouble now:

Deutsche Bank started the year by announcing a record-setting loss in 2015 of €6.8 billion.

….

In [recent] weeks, here’s what happened:

  • May 16, 2016: Berenberg Bank warns that DB’s woes may be “insurmountable”, noting that DB is more than 40x levered.
  • June 2, 2016: Two ex-DB employees are charged in ongoing U.S. Libor probe for rigging interest rates. Meanwhile, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority says there are at least 29 DB employees involved in the scandal.
  • June 23, 2016: Brexit decision hits DB hard. The bank is the largest European bank in London and receives 19% of its revenues from the UK.
  • June 29, 2016: IMF issues statement that “DB appears to be the most important net contributor to systematic risks”.
  • June 30, 2016: Federal Reserve announces that DB fails Fed stress test in US, due to “poor risk management and financial planning”.

The DB share price has been cut almost in half since the start of the year, and is at 8% of its all time high.

Will the bank survive? Damned if I know.  This isn’t my field and I’ve just stumbled on the latest reports of its woes.  But one thing seem obvious.

Y’all may have noticed that Herr Drumpf is a candidate for an office that has a significant role in the regulation of credit markets.  We’ve never had anyone this close to the presidency whose wealth was so personally at play in decisions that he and his administration would have to make, were that evil day ever to arrive.  As Russ Choma and David Corn note in Mother Jones,

…the presumptive GOP nominee also has a tremendous load of debt that includes five loans each over $50 million. (The disclosure form, which presidential candidates must submit, does not compel candidates to reveal the specific amount of any loans that exceed $50 million, and Trump has chosen not to provide details.) Two of those megaloans are held by Deutsche Bank, which is based in Germany but has US subsidiaries. And this prompts a question that no other major American presidential candidate has had to face: What are the implications of the chief executive of the US government being in hock for $100 million (or more) to a foreign entity that has tried to evade laws aimed at curtailing risky financial shenanigans, that was recently caught manipulating markets around the world, and that attempts to influence the US government?

There’s a little schadenfreude to be added to the terror within the thought that Herr Drumpf might actually reach the point where that conflict of interest becomes real.  That, of course, comes in the thought that [I devoutly hope] on November 8, the Donald will return to a business wholly dependent on other people’s money to face a financial community that holds no one left willing to lend him a dime.

A boy can dream….

Image:  Marinus van Reymerswaele A Banker and His Wifefirst half of the 16th century.

Understatement Of The Year Competiton May Already Be Over

Posted July 1, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Snark, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Still too swamped to do much in the way of serious posting, but I’ve got something too sweet not to share.

Seems that there is a little trouble in paradise with the new hires to Herr Drumpf’s campaign — the folks brought on post-Lewandowski to bring adult supervision to the romper room masquerading as the national campaign of the GOP’s presumptive nominee.  Here’s what Keven Kellems, in charge of surrogate operations, had to say [Politico link] as the door was flapping shut:

“While brief, it has been an interesting experience.”

James_Tissot_-_The_Farewell

I’ll bet.

Image:  James Tissot, The Farewell, 1871.

Racism Kills…And Kills…And Kills

Posted June 15, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Medicine, Race, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Anger?  Heartbreak? Disbelief? Berserker rage?  Which should come first in response to this?

For forty years, the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male passively monitored hundreds of adult black males with syphilis despite the availability of effective treatment. The study’s methods have become synonymous with exploitation and mistreatment by the medical community. We find that the historical disclosure of the study in 1972 is correlated with increases in medical mistrust and mortality and decreases in both outpatient and inpatient physician interactions for older black men. Our estimates imply life expectancy at age 45 for black men fell by up to 1.4 years in response to the disclosure, accounting for approximately 35% of the 1980 life expectancy gap between black and white men. (h/t Jesse Singal at The Science of Us)

Graveyard_in_the_Tyrol_1914-1915_JS_Sargent (1)

That’s the abstract of a paper by Stanford Medical School’s Marcella Alsan and the University of Tennessee economist Marianne Wanamaker. It’s currently in the working paper stage at the National Bureau of Economic Research (which is, despite its name, not a government research institution).

As Singal writes over at New York Magazine that means both that this is not quite the final draft of this paper (or at least, that it hasn’t yet gone through the whole journal process yet) — and that there is a host of nuance and specific contingencies that surround the Tuskeegee story.  But the central point remains:  specific acts of racial cruelty harm not just those bearing the immediate brunt, but also can — and did here — do  lasting and lethal damage to so many more.

Alsan and Wanamaker conclude:

Our findings underscore the importance of trust for economic relationships involving imperfect information. Typically the literature on trust has focused on trade settings (Greif, 1989); however, much of medical care depends on health providers and patients resolving information asymmetries. Trust, therefore, is a key component of this interaction…

Indeed.

And if we needed any more reasons to take this election seriously (we don’t) think on this:  Donald Trump’s candidacy is based on racism, on the denial of a share in American polity and society to those who look the wrong way.  There’s a breach of trust there, deep and dangerous — and in so many ways, deadly as hell.

John Singer Sergant, Graveyard in the Tyrolbetween 1914 and 1915

Beyond The Watch List

Posted June 15, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Guns, Uncategorized, Women's rights are human rights

Tags: , ,

ETA: As Botsplainer relates in this comment to the mirror post over at Balloon Juice, there is already federal law on gun ownership and domestic violence:  if you’ve been convicted of misdemeanor or felony domestic violence, you can’t own a gun. In certain circumstances and in some states that applies to those under restraining orders.  The law is far from comprehensive, though. For example, partner violence in a couple that hasn’t lived together/shared a child falls through its cracks.

Current law also depends on some basic functions at the state level that don’t always happen, including proper updating of lists of domestic violence convictions/restraining orders so as to invoke the federal ban when an offender sets out to buy weapons.

To be clear: I erred in my first pass at this, caught up in my generalized anger, and I apologize for the mistake.  At the same time a deepened, broadened and intensified approach to the new law that is needed and the application of existing law around guns and domestic violence is absolutely needed.

Back to a corrected version of your previously scheduled program:

I’ve my doubts whether this time will be different, but there are some signs that the Orlando massacre will persuade some (I hope enough) of the GOP of the need for the first baby steps towards a useful gun control regime.

But denying guns to those on the terror watch or no-fly lists — and even a much-less-likely assault weapon ban — will still leave an enormous gateway to murderous violence to be dealt with:

When Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group, analyzed F.B.I. data on mass shootings from 2009 to 2015, it found that 57 percent of the cases included a spouse, former spouse or other family member among the victims — and that 16 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.

It is, as always, important to note that correlation does not equal cause. As

David_Remeeus_Portrait_of_a_Lady

Reporter Amanda Taub writes,

There are, of course, a tangle of factors behind every murder, especially terrorism inspired by foreign groups. But research on domestic violence hints at a question that often surrounds seemingly inexplicable events like Mr. Mateen’s massacre of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub — what drives individuals to commit such mass attacks? — and sheds light on the psychology of violence.

That is, as Taub argues:

Terrorist attacks and mass shootings garner attention and frighten the public much more than episodes of domestic violence. But domestic violence has a much higher death toll in the United States.

According to the Violence Policy Center, 895 women in the United States were murdered by their current or former intimate partners in 2013 (and this does not include those killed amid mass shootings). That single-year tally is more than nine times the 92 people the New American Foundationhas counted as killed in jihadist attacks on American soil in the past decade.

But there are striking parallels between the intimate terrorism of domestic violence and the mass terrorism perpetrated by lone-wolf attackers like Mr. Mateen. Both, at their most basic level, are attempts to provoke fear and assert control.

Most chilling, this informed speculation:

Paul Gill, a senior lecturer at University College London who studies the behavior of lone-actor terrorists, said that violence was, in a sense, a learned psychological skill: “Having a history of violence might help neutralize the natural barriers to committing violence.”

From that perspective, domestic violence can be seen as a psychological training ground for someone like Mr. Mateen to commit a mass attack.

Read the whole thing — and for a lagniappe, check out Nancy LeTourneau’s gloss on Taub’s piece over at The Washington Monthly.

Here I just want to add to minimal list of necessary gun control measures: full enforcement and extension of federal law prohibiting access to guns — including seizure of weapons already in possession* — not only for convicted domestic abusers, but also and urgently for anyone subject to a restraining order.  As noted in the correction at the top of this piece, there are gaps in the current legal and enforcement system that helps deepen the misery of our existing domestic partner violence.  (See, e.g., this story.)

This shouldn’t be controversial:  if the threat you pose has risen to the level that a judge is willing to bar you from your home and partner and/or family — then the threat is too high to leave you with such ready means to kill.

*this is one of the areas of concern in current law.

Image: David Remeeus, Portrait of a lady with a gold chain and pistol-shaped charm 1597.

 

If You Need A Break (I Do)

Posted June 10, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Art, Fun

Tags:

Here’s some utterly non-political awesomeness with which to launch the weekend:

My regret:  the strandbeests came to Massachusetts last fall — the MIT campus even! — and I didn’t manage to see them in action.

Anyway…Enjoy!


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