AMERICAblog News http://americablog.com A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Thu, 27 Nov 2014 20:00:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Le Grande Thanksgiving, by Art Buchwald http://americablog.com/2014/11/le-grande-thanksgiving-art-buchwald.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/le-grande-thanksgiving-art-buchwald.html#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 20:00:41 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124994 From Art Buchwald, decades ago.

I’ll excerpt the first part, but do read the rest:

This confidential column was leaked to me by a high government official in the Plymouth colony on the condition that I not reveal his name.

One of our most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in France as le Jour de Merci Donnant.

Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of Pilgrims ( Pelerins ) who fled from l’Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World ( le Nouveau Monde ) where they could shoot Indians ( les Peaux-Rouges ) and eat turkey ( dinde ) to their hearts’ content.

Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey via Shutterstock

They landed at a place called Plymouth (now a famous voiture Americaine) in a wooden sailing ship called the Mayflower (or Fleur de Mai ) in 1620. But while the Pelerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pelerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux-Rouges helped the Pelerins was when they taught them to grow corn ( mais ). The reason they did this was because they liked corn with their Pelerins.

In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pelerins’ crops were so good that they decided to have a celebration and give thanks because more mais was raised by the Pelerins than Pelerins were killed by Peaux-Rouges.

Every year on the Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration.

It concerns a brave capitaine named Miles Standish (known in France as Kilometres Deboutish) and a young, shy lieutenant named Jean Alden. Both of them were in love with a flower of Plymouth called Priscilla Mullens (no translation). The vieux capitaine said to the jeune lieutenant :

“Go to the damsel Priscilla ( allez tres vite chez Priscilla), the loveliest maiden of Plymouth ( la plus jolie demoiselle de Plymouth). Say that a blunt old captain, a man not of words but of action ( un vieux Fanfan la Tulipe ), offers his hand and his heart, the hand and heart of a soldier. Not in these words, you know, but this, in short, is my meaning….


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WKRP Thanksgiving: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly” http://americablog.com/2014/11/wkrp-thanksgiving-god-witness-thought-turkeys-fly.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/wkrp-thanksgiving-god-witness-thought-turkeys-fly.html#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 18:00:27 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124996 WKRP’s infamous Turkey Drop.

Here’s the famous scene:

And here’s the longer set-up to the scene:

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The Sarah Palin Thanksgiving turkey massacre (video) http://americablog.com/2014/11/sarah-palin-thanksgiving-turkey-massacre-video.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/sarah-palin-thanksgiving-turkey-massacre-video.html#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 16:54:02 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124992 I don’t know why, but with Thanksgiving upon us, I happened to remember a certain scene back in 2008 when a soon to be half-a-term Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska decided she was going to pardon a turkey.

In fact, John Aravosis has covered this several times now, so I have to figure this is one of his favorites, too.

As ever, check out the chyrons under the screen as MSNBC has fun with it, too.

MSNBC has fun at Sarah Palin's expense during turkey slaughter

Word salad for the cameras, utterly oblivious to the bloody carnage going on directly behind her.

My favorite part is when the turkey farmer keeps glancing over at the camera as if he wants to say, “I gotta get this work done. You people sure you don’t want to go do that interview somewhere else? No? Okay…

Here’s MSNBC’s take on it (caution — these videos are rather gory):

And an alternate view:

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Ferguson burns while Mississippi flames http://americablog.com/2014/11/ferguson-burns-mississippi-flames.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/ferguson-burns-mississippi-flames.html#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:28:15 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124980 It’s been a year (or two) of contradictions.

Last year, around the time the Supreme Court opened the door to nationwide gay marriages in its historic decision in US v. Windsor, the court also gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

And this year, while Ferguson, Missouri is aflame over the lack of an indictment against Officer Darren Wilson over the shooting death of Michael Brown, gay marriage bans have just been struck down in Arkansas (remember Arkansas?) and Mississippi (Mississippi!).

I’ve written before about the seeming contradiction between the pro-gay juggernaut of the past several years and the overall progressive inability to move its agenda forward.

In specific, I wrote about the women’s movement, and noted, among other things, that gays are awfully good at PR. Whether we’re getting in your face, or donning a suit and tie to suck up to ma and pa middle-America, our movement has been quite savvy about what face to show when. And in particular, gays had a strong independent phalanx of media (and politics) savvy activists:

The cover of the Arkansas Times.

The cover of the Arkansas Times.

On gay rights, the most innovative, and some of the most influential, work in the past few years came from non-standard players.  You had the gay Netroots, Get Equal, Dan Choi and a number of ticked off current and former servicemembers, which included upstart groups like OutServe and Servicemembers United, and some mainstream groups like SLDN.  And all of them were effective because they were willing to exert more pressure than is polite on the administration, and Congress.

I also pointed to the fact that gays have a more-easily demarcated injustice that they face, and can exploit in a PR-sense. Women, less so.

Dinnertime at St Pancras Workhouse, London.

Dinnertime at St Pancras Workhouse, London.

Do women face the same demonization [as gays]?  Maybe, but I don’t think the public perceives it the same.  I think today’s gay rights movement is more akin to the fight for women’s suffrage – a clear discriminatory harm that made it easier to rally against, and eventually easier to poke holes in, than the current battles facing women.  I’m not saying suffrage was easy – I’m saying that as an organizer, a political operative, the battle lines were clearer, and the issue easier to sell, in my view, than the problems women face today.

Women’s advocates, in many ways, are fighting a war of nuance.  Where gays want to get married, women don’t want the right to choose, which varies by trimester, cut back any further by a seemingly-endless series of small, but significant, legislative advances by anti-choice forces that slowly but surely whittle away at the right to choose.  The gay battle lines, and message, are much clearer, and thus an easier sell, I think.

Also, people perceive women as having already won. Gays, not so much.

From a man’s perspective, you see women getting the same jobs as man as never before.  Women are corporate CEOs, doctors and pilots and lawyers and astronauts (something noteworthy if you’re in your 40s or older and lived through a time when women simply didn’t hold those jobs), and they even become Speaker of the House, and might even become President in 2016.  And, for all appearance, Roe v Wade is still the law of the land, so it’s understandable that some might scratch their heads and ask, what are pro-choicers complaining about?  They’re complaining because in the 40 years since Roe the religious right and the Republican party have so whittled away at Roe as to make it meaningless, according to some lead women’s advocates.  And, even though women now hold many of the same jobs as men, they don’t always get the same pay.  But that takes some complicated explaining, and it contradicts what the public might consider an obvious “truth,” that Roe hasn’t been overturned, so how can it be in danger, or nearly already gone, and women “have the same jobs as men,” so what’s the problem?

Now, how does this all apply to Ferguson? I addressed that too:

[I]n many ways, African-Americans face the same problem as women.  It’s easy for people to say “slavery ended 150 years ago, and the Civil Rights Act passed 50 years ago, so the African-American struggle is over,” without realizing that, for example, some schools in the south still hold segregated proms.  People see African-American CEOs, doctors, lawyers, astronauts, and might think “they’ve won, employment discrimination over,” without understanding that, in some ways, it may never be over, at least not for a very long time.  But the devil is in the details much more so than it is with gay rights because we’re still fighting for some of the rights that African-Americans got (at least on paper) fifty years ago.  It makes our  (gay) cause, I think, easier to explain.  It also means that once we get many of our basic civil rights, gays may have the same difficulty fine-tuning those rights once people already think we have them.

African-Americans won the right to marry in 1967. Gays are still fighting for that right today today. (Ironically — well, tellingly — in nearly the exact same battlefield.)

gay-marriage-interracial

One could argue that gays aren’t on some kind of unique roll at all. We’re simply finally winning the same successes that women and blacks won over 40 years ago. And the challenge will be to avoid the inevitable and piecemeal rollback that those other movements have suffered for decades.

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Never mind http://americablog.com/2014/11/never-mind-kim-kardashian-kanye-west.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/never-mind-kim-kardashian-kanye-west.html#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 22:09:07 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124941 The NYT has issued a correction over its embarrasingly-erroneous report about Kim Kardashian and Kayne West.

I have no idea who Kardashian is — I had to ask a friend about her last week. And I’m only marginally more familiar with Kanye West.

In any case, I still got a chuckle of out this, considering it comes from the New York Times:

nyt-kardashian-kayne-west

Oh NYT, why can’t I quit you?

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Was there a plot to kill JFK in Chicago, just weeks before his assassination? http://americablog.com/2014/11/plot-kill-jfk-chicago-just-weeks-assassination.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/plot-kill-jfk-chicago-just-weeks-assassination.html#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:38:51 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124932 Was there a plot to kill JFK in Chicago, just weeks before his assassination on November 22, 1963? And did the unraveling of that scheme force the plotters to move on to a secondary plan, in Dallas?

There is so much fascinating — and often mind-boggling — information in James W. Douglass’ meticulously researched, extensively footnoted book “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.” (“The 2013 edition of the book was endorsed by Kennedy’s nephew Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who said it had moved him to visit Dealey Plaza for the first time.”)

Douglass relates that several days before Kennedy’s planned visit to the city on November 2, “an informant” alerted Secret Service agents in Chicago of a plot to kill Kennedy by a four-man sniper team, probably from one of the overpasses of the Northwest Expressway (now called the Kennedy Expressway). Two men were seized on October 31, soon after a landlady had independently called the FBI about men with rifles and telescopic sights in their rooms, along with a sketch of Kennedy’s route into the city from the airport. They were said to be “right-wing fanatics.”

jfk-bookAlso in Chicago, and of interest to the Secret Service, was Thomas Arthur Vallee, an ex-Marine described as a John Birch Society member and paranoid schizophrenic.

As Douglass relates it, Vallee’s story twins oddly with Oswald’s; Vallee, like Oswald, had worked with the CIA while in the Marines. A few months before Kennedy’s planned visit, Vallee had taken a job at a warehouse with a direct view of the president’s route along the expressway.

A few days before the president’s planned arrival, a police lieutenant named Berkeley Moyland met Vallee at a cafeteria, where he had been heard to make loud and violent statements against Kennedy. Moyland saw Vallee, who had suffered a serious concussion in the Korean War, as unstable and suggested he keep his thoughts to himself.

After meeting Vallee, Moyland alerted the Secret Service office in Chicago, and Vallee was picked up by Chicago police officers on the day Kennedy was set to arrive. (One of the police officers who picked up Vallee was Sargent Daniel Groth, who in 1969 led the attack on the apartment where Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were assassinated.) Vallee, it turns out, was driving a car with a license plate whose registration information was classified; that is, “restricted to U.S. intelligence agencies.”

The events in Chicago took place just as a U.S.-supported military coup was unrolling in South Vietnam, which ended with the murder of President Diem. As a result, Kennedy’s Chicago trip was cancelled at the last moment.

Lieutenant Berkeley Moyland was soon contacted by federal officials about his encounter with Vallee and ordered, “Don’t tell anyone about it. Just forget about it.” Which he did, until near the end of his life.

And the two alleged snipers seized by Secret Service? They disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.

Douglass sees Vallee as a character who could have perfectly filled the role of the “lone wolf” assassin that Lee Harvey Oswald performed in Dallas a few weeks later.

Who tipped off the FBI in Chicago of the plot to kill the president?

An informant named “Lee.”

JFK addresses the nation on civil rights, June 11, 1963. (Photo by federal employee Abbie Rowe.)

JFK addresses the nation on civil rights, June 11, 1963. (Photo by federal employee Abbie Rowe.)

Much of the information of the Chicago plot related by Douglass comes from Anthony Bolden, a Chicago-based agent who in 1961 had been tapped by Kennedy himself to become the first black Secret Service agent to serve at the White House. While there, he questioned the actions and allegiances of agents charged to protect the president, most of whom seemed to loathe Kennedy. He also heard gross racial epithets.

Disgusted, Bolden decided to leave Washington and return to Chicago. There, he witnessed much that disturbed him before and after Kennedy’s assassination, including odd actions by superiors.

Soon thereafter, Bolden was found guilty of seemingly trumped-up charges that sent him to a federal prison, where he was eventually placed in a psychiatric unit and heavily medicated. His home on the South Side was repeatedly vandalized. After New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone’s JFK) visited Bolden in prison, Bolden was placed in solitary confinement.

He was released in 1969.

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Chuck Hagel’s resignation: McCain and Cornyn were right http://americablog.com/2014/11/mccain-cornyn-right-hagel.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/mccain-cornyn-right-hagel.html#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:00:53 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124921 Republican senators who opposed the Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary were right about one thing: Hagel wasn’t qualified.

Hagel resigned on Monday, reportedly under administration pressure to do so.

Two years ago, when President Obama nominated the Vietnam veteran and former Republican senator from Nebraska to join his cabinet, he might have thought it would boost his bipartisan bona fides after the bitter 2012 presidential election. He might have even thought that senators would rally around one of their own nominated to a position that historically saw confirmations occur with little controversy.

It didn’t work out that way. The GOP immediately went into attack mode. Hagel had always shown insufficient fidelity to the hard-core conservative line. He had even donated to a few Democratic candidates. Republicans also questioned whether he supported Israel and would cut support defense spending cuts.

Chuck Hagel.

Chuck Hagel.

The most deplorable attacks came from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who suggested that North Korea was funneling cash to Hagel, and that he had ties to Iran.

A short-lived filibuster threat delayed the confirmation vote, and when it did happen, it was an almost party-line vote.

But credit where credit is due. A few Republican senators assessed Hagel correctly.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., warned, “I do not believe that Chuck Hagel, who is a friend of mine, is qualified to be secretary of defense.”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was even blunter. “There’s simply no way to sugar coat it,” he said. “Sen. Hagel’s performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee was remarkably inept, and we should not be installing a defense secretary who is obviously not qualified for the job and who holds dangerously misguided views on some of the most important issues facing national security policy for our country. Sen. Hagel is clearly the wrong man for the job.”

There was some self-fulfilling prophesy in this. By making the confirmation process so controversial and partisan, Hagel took the job damaged. It was never clear that he had the support he needed to lead America’s armed forces effectively.

Nevertheless, it turns out that McCain and Cornyn made a valid point. As news broke that Hagel was being forced to resign, an anonymous White House official admitted, “He wasn’t up to the job.”

This raises legitimate concerns about Obama’s decision process. Did he choose someone unqualified simply because he was so desperate to appear bipartisan?

There is a lesson in all of this, too, but it is not that Republicans were right two years ago. Rather, it is that when a party is throws every accusation it can think of against the wall, sometimes one of them sticks.

The GOP used Hagel to punish Obama for trouncing Mitt Romney. Their goal was and is to deny him even the smallest victory.

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BREAKING: Grand jury refuses to indict Officer Wilson http://americablog.com/2014/11/reporting-live-ferguson-missouri.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/reporting-live-ferguson-missouri.html#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 01:54:42 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124944 UPDATE: A grand jury has decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown.
______________

It’s pandemonium out here, they’re stampeding the police, they’re pushing down the barriers.

Michael Brown’s mother was standing on a car when the decision was read, she broke down. The crowd broke down the temporary gate, things were being thrown at the cops, but things have now calmed down. I have a front row seat.

Here’s video of Michael Brown’s mother, wearing the brown leather jacket and white hat (the paper confirms that’s her), speaking after the decision not to indict:

A quick video of the crowd after the announcement, once things calmed down a bit:

And here’s a better video of a portion of the crowd chanting:

I’m on the ground in the Ferguson, Missouri, taking photos and videos and sending them to John back in Chicago.

I’m at the main street in Ferguson, and it’s impassable. The tension is rising, people are saying “the only thing we have to lose is our chains,” and “stop killing our kids.”

This is ground zero, the heart of downtown Ferguson, directly in front of police and fire station.

ferguson-poic-1

This is the most intense part. The second protest is in another neighborhood, Shaw, but this is the heart of it.

justice-michael-brown

main-street-impassable

Main street is unpassable.

ferguson-2

Here is some video I shot. The quality is somewhat weak, as I’m having to upload it from my phone:

There are about 600 people here right now (though I’m not good at crowd numbers). And at least 200 media as well.

ferguson-gushy-on-car

police-lined-up amnesty-observer

Another friend I’m with is scared. She says people are ready to blow, and she’s getting scared. The tension is so volatile.

More in a moment.

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Ferguson grand jury has reportedly reached a decision http://americablog.com/2014/11/ferguson-grand-jury-reported-reached-decision.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/ferguson-grand-jury-reported-reached-decision.html#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 19:54:01 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124923 The media is reporting that the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri has reached a decision about whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Wilson is white, brown was black.

No one knows what the grand jury has decided.

I’ve not weighed in much about this topic because I’m a lawyer, and I have a lawyer’s sensibility.

That means I tend not to knee-jerk believe, or disbelieve, any accusation or allegation. I tend to dissect the news, and let the chips fall where they may. And I’ve found that sometimes the masses, on an increasingly large list of topics, don’t take kindly to a dispassionate legal look at the facts.

Ferguson, Missouri, by Wikipedia user Loavesofbread.

Ferguson, Missouri, by Wikipedia user Loavesofbread.

I remember a year or two ago when a young lesbian in Nebraska claimed she had been the victim of a horrible hate crime. I had a gut feeling that she was lying. I didn’t say so publicly, but something about her story gave me a bad feeling, so I didn’t report on it until we got more information about it.

A week later we found out that she was lying, there was no hate crime. And all the people who accused me of hating lesbians (that, they said, was why I wasn’t reporting on the “obvious hate crime”) were suddenly quiet.

My expertise is in dissecting the news, piecemeal-style, and trying to make sense of the facts, wherever they may lead. I’m worried that in today’s America, a lot of stories, a lot of subjects, aren’t really open for objective discussion any more. That “anti-gay hate crime” was one of them.

I fear Ferguson and the overall discussion of race maybe be another.

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The problem with electoral history predicting Hillary’s political demise http://americablog.com/2014/11/problem-electoral-history.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/problem-electoral-history.html#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:51:18 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124866 “If you torture the data enough, nature will always confess.” – Ronald Coase.

Writing in The New Republic on Sunday, John Judis argued that Hillary Clinton is likely to lose in 2016.

The reason is relatively simple: Political parties generally have a difficult time holding on to the presidency for three consecutive terms. Exiting presidents typically have low popularity, and the electorate blames the incumbent party for eight years of pent-up frustrations.

He isn’t the first to make this argument, and he won’t be the last.

Before I go into why this is a weak argument, I’ll add another pillar to it: The more presidential elections a party loses, the more moderate their nominees become, which theoretically raises their chances of ending their losing streak.

Hillary Clinton

The reports of her political death have been greatly exaggerated.

While Judis isn’t wrong on its face — parties seeking a third consecutive term have only won twice (three times if you count Al Gore) in the modern era, with Harry Truman and George H. W. Bush maintaining control of the White House — he’s basing his case on a dubiously small dataset.

After all, there have only been eight such elections (1948, 1952, 1960, 1968, 1976, 1988, 2000 and 2008).

To put that in perspective, Judis’ analysis is the statistical equivalent of saying that a baseball player won’t get a hit because his batting average through the first two games of the season is .250.

There are a number of data-driven ways to poke holes in Judis’ analysis. For starters, if you walk your timeline back to include the full duration of the two-party era (1856 onward) the incumbent party has won four of eleven times (five counting Gore) when going for a third consecutive term. One could also point out that Hillary Clinton is an unprecedentedly strong candidate as measured by pre-campaign polling.

This speaks to a point that anyone with a cursory knowledge in statistics could make: It is difficult to draw significant conclusions from a small number of observations. Given how few federal elections we have had — let alone presidential elections — every one is likely to defy history in some way or another. We can identify trends, but we have nowhere near enough observations to derive political Truth.

For example, here’s the Washington Post‘s breakdown of fifteen “firsts” that happened in the 2012 elections. The big one? First president in the modern era to be re-elected with unemployment above 7.2 percent: Barack Obama. Journalists started throwing that stat around about this time four years ago, producing nifty clickbait to keep the 2012 cycle interesting. The stat, of course, ignored the fact that a president had recently been re-elected with unemployment at 7.2 percent. And that president was Ronald Reagan, who won by 15 points. At least Nate Silver was there to remind us how silly the argument was.

All this is to say that 70+ years of modern presidential history is useful qualitative guide for handicapping presidential races, but you want to make quantitative claims, you need a lot more to go on. Judis himself makes such concessions in his last paragraph, where he basically rejects his whole premise and points out that Republicans need a lot more than eight years of Barack Obama to take back the White House:

The Democrats could benefit if the Republicans nominate a relatively inexperienced right-winger or someone who possesses the temperament of a high school football coach rather than a president. But in the last elections, they opted for the more centrist contenders who had some credibility as presidential candidates. If they opt for an experienced centrist in 2016—Florida’s Jeb Bush is the obvious example—and if the party’s right wing doesn’t demand he toe the line, they could stand a good chance of reclaiming the White House and of confirming Americans’ reluctance to keeping the same party in the White House three terms in a row.

After spending a whole article (mistakenly) asserting that historical fundamentals are likely to make for a red night on Election Eve 2016, Judis accidentally sums up the 2016 cycle perfectly. History aside, if the GOP stops acting like the GOP, moves to the left and finds a way to keep from saying flamingly derogatory things about large segments of the American electorate, they have a reasonable shot at winning the presidency — even against a strong candidate like Clinton. But that’s an argument based in a qualitative analysis of current political trends, not a quantitative analysis based on decades of data.

Of course, that move to the left is highly unlikely to happen, and even if it does it won’t be Jeb Bush making it. Mother Jones has 23 reasons why.

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Terry Bean’s creepy (ex) boyfriend Kiah Loy Lawson http://americablog.com/2014/11/terry-beans-creepy-ex-boyfriend-kiah-loy-lawson.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/terry-beans-creepy-ex-boyfriend-kiah-loy-lawson.html#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:00:39 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124868 On first reading the news that top Democratic donor and gay civil rights advocate, Terry Bean, was arrested for allegedly having sex with an underage teen, something about the charges against Bean just didn’t add up.

As a result, I spent the weekend researching the story, and found a disturbing amount of troubling information about the other man at the center of this controversy, Bean’s now ex-boyfriend Kiah Loy Lawson (who also has been accused of having sex with the teen).

Lawson is so central to the charges against Bean, and his credibility is so tainted by a long record of violence and lawlessness, including a rather lengthy rap sheet, I’m all the more unsure what to believe at this point.

(I’m also surprised that much of the reporting on this story hasn’t mentioned any of Lawson’s disturbing past and present, which includes at least four different arrests for crimes as varied as possession of methamphetamine and a stolen vehicle, a probation violation, and two charges of tampering with evidence. Quite an accomplished list for someone only 25. But we’ll get to all that in a moment.)

This is the first of a series of stories I’ll likely write on this topic. I’ve reached out to Bean for comment; but for the moment, all of the information below is from the public record.

Terry Bean (l) and Kiah Loy Lawson (r) during Christmas of 2013.

Terry Bean (l) and Kiah Loy Lawson (r), Christmas of 2013.

Terry Bean and Kiah Loy Lawson

Terry Bean, age 66, is a longtime lead gay right advocate, in Oregon and nationwide, who helped found both the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, two of the largest and most important civil rights organizations in America.

Bean is also at the center of a rather complicated story involving his now-ex boyfriend, Kiah Loy Lawson, age 25. (And before anything looks askance at the difference in their ages, let’s face it — if it were an older man and a younger woman most (men at least) would call him a lucky dog.)

Bean met Lawson in 2013, and immediately took Lawson under his wing, providing Lawson a free home in one of Bean’s condos, and giving Lawson a $1,600 per month expense account. Bean, a rich and well-connected man, took Lawson with him around the country and the world, including a visit to Washington, DC in which Lawson briefly met President Obama.

Kiah Loy Lawson (r) meets President Obama at a Democratic event in Washington, DC in November of 2013.

Kiah Loy Lawson (r) meets President Obama at a Democratic event in Washington, DC in November of 2013. (From Kiah Loy Lawson’s Facebook page.)

Earlier this year, things began to fall apart between Bean and Lawson. At one point, both men filed restraining orders against each other. (Lawson eventually withdrew his; Bean’s remains in effect.) Lawson claims that his problems with Bean began when he “discovered” that Bean had an alleged secret camera in his bedroom. Bean counters that the camera is part of a security system he installed after being the victim of a theft, that he used it for nothing illegal or improper, and that Lawson’s allegations are part of a larger extortion attempt that Lawson is at the center of.

I have to admit that when I first heard Bean’s “extortion” defense, I said “come on.” But after everything I found on Lawson this weekend, including four recent arrests and an alleged history of violence against former coworkers and boyfriends, I’m now less of a skeptic.

Why Kiah Loy Lawson matters

Before getting to the crux of Lawson’s criminal past, a word about why Kiah Loy Lawson matters.

After all, you might say, this story isn’t about Lawson, it’s about whether or not Terry Bean had relations with a 15-year-old. And that is certainly the most serious charge Bean is facing (one that he denies). But that allegation can’t be separated from the fact that Lawson is the one responsible for putting the police in touch with the teen; Lawson is the person responsible for Bean facing these charges.

And Lawson’s credibility is nonexistent.

It was Lawson, after all, who reportedly gave the police the teen’s phone number. (Oddly, Lawson’s mother now claims that her son never had contact with the teen; that in fact it was Bean who communicated with the kid. So how then did Lawson have the teen’s phone number; and why did he still have it, still keep it, one year after their encounter?)

Bean is suggesting that the underage-sex charge stems from Lawson’s (alleged) larger extortion scheme against him. And the fact that Lawson has a history of alleged vendettas (and violence) against his boyfriends and coworkers certainly doesn’t detract from Bean’s claim.

Meet Kiah Loy Lawson

Let me walk you through Kiah Loy Lawson’s history with the law. I’ve not seen any story to date that reported all of this information.

Lawson graduated from high school in 2007. He has quite literally had run-ins with the law his entire adult life.

2007, Anti-stalking order: “A co-worker of his at the Hollister store in Eugene’s Valley River Center obtained an anti-stalking order against Lawson in 2007, after telling a judge Lawson had threatened him and tried to run him down with a car.”

2008, Protective order: “Lawson’s boyfriend at the time went to court and won a protective order, saying Lawson had a history of ‘criminal behavior and being vengeful,’ according to court records.”

November 2012, Beating boyfriend bloody: “Lawson was accused of breaking down an apartment door and beating another boyfriend, spattering blood on the walls. Lawson later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault.”

January 2013, Theft: “Lawson pleaded guilty to theft after stealing headphones and a PlayStation 3 console from the Hillsboro Best Buy.”

May 2013, Arrested driving without license: “Kiah Loy Lawson, 24, was arrested and jailed on suspicion of driving [with a suspended license].”

August 2013, Arrested probation violation: Kiah Loy Lawson is arrested for a probation violation, and failing to appear in court for his previous license-related arrest.

April 2014, Arrested for possession of meth: Kiah Loy Lawson is arrested at Sea-Tac airport for possession of methamphetamine on his way back from a trip to Hawaii.

August 2014, Arrested for meth, stolen vehicle, tampering with evidence: Kiah Loy Lawson is arrested for unlawful possession of methamphetamine, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, and two counts of tampering with evidence.

Kiah Loy Lawson has no credibility left

Kiah Loy Lawson is central to the case against Terry Bean. And he has a criminal record, and zero credibility.

Terry Bean has a lifelong record of fighting for the civil rights of gays and lesbians, all the way back to the late 1960s, when it was neither the cool, nor the safe, thing to do.

Terry Bean says the charges against him are part of a larger extortion plot that involves Lawson.

Lawson has a record of seeking vengeance. Lawson pled guilty to beating one boyfriend bloody; and has had two separate restraining orders issued against him, one by a former boyfriend, and a second for threats against a coworker.

Putting aside the disturbing nature of the repeated recent meth arrests, and the issue of the stolen vehicle, it’s the two charges of tampering with evidence that I find most salient to this case.

Terry Bean says that he’s being set up for a crime he didn’t commit. Kiah Loy Lawson, who has a record of being accused of seeking vengeance against former boyfriends, has been arrested for two charges of tampering with evidence, which usually means you’re either trying to help someone get away with a crime, or you’re trying to wrongfully get someone convicted of one. That sounds an awful lot like what Terry Bean alleges happened in this case.

I don’t know any more than the rest of you what actually happened back in 2013. (Though I will delve more into that issue in future articles.) I do know that the one person who got this entire accusation rolling is the least credible person in this entire story. And that is why I’m withholding judgment until all the facts are in.
_________________________

The long-term effects of meth, from DrugAbuse.gov:

In addition to being addicted to methamphetamine, chronic abusers may exhibit symptoms that can include significant anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. They also may display a number of psychotic features, including paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin). Psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after a person has quit abusing methamphetamine, and stress has been shown to precipitate spontaneous recurrence of methamphetamine psychosis in formerly psychotic methamphetamine abusers.

That’s one heck of a state’s witness.

kiah-loy-lawson-mug-shots

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Stephen Colbert on Obama’s immigration plan http://americablog.com/2014/11/stephen-colbert-obamas-immigration-plan.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/stephen-colbert-obamas-immigration-plan.html#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:49:04 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124863 Stephen Colbert weighs in on President Obama’s new immigration plan.

“Folks, my great grandfather did not come here from Ireland to see this country overrun by immigrants.”

obama-immigration-colbert

It is interesting to see how Fox News dutifully repeats the same talking points that the most conservative Republicans are using.

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The Bill Cosby story, and the time I got sexually harassed in the Senate http://americablog.com/2014/11/bill-cosby-story-time-got-sexually-harassed-senate.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/bill-cosby-story-time-got-sexually-harassed-senate.html#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:00:43 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124855 I was watching Erin Burnett’s reporting on the ongoing, and growing, sexual harassment accusations against comedian Bill Cosby, and it got me thinking of the time I was sexually harassed while working in the US Senate.

My harasser was a woman working in George H.W. Bush’s Department of Transportation; and at the time several people, including her boss, didn’t take my complaint seriously. After all, I was a guy. And how can a woman sexually harass a man?

I’m writing about this because I was reading the other day about one of Bill Cosby’s accusers, and how she continued to see him after he had allegedly drugged and had sex with her, and I found myself wondering why she didn’t stop seeing him and call the cops. Then I thought back to what happened to me, and how one’s reaction, and reflexes, are decidedly more numb than you’d expect when experiencing something like this.

I was a legislative attorney working on commerce issues and foreign affairs, and I need to call a deputy assistant secretary at DOT who I regularly worked with, and ask him about something. I called, got his secretary Ally, who I’d spoke with a million times before, and asked if he was available. Ally said he wasn’t. So I asked her if he was going to be quick, and whether it was worth holding. In response, Ally said to me: “That depends, what are you holding?”

Now, I had a collegial rapport with this woman, as we spoke practically every week. We weren’t friends; we never shared with each other any details of our lives; but I’m a friendly guy, and am always happy to be politely chatty with anyone I speak with (it’s a midwestern thing).

I knew what Ally meant, but at the same time couldn’t believe that I was understanding her correctly. I must have misunderstood, so I ignored what I thought she’d said, instead said something else about talking to her boss — I don’t even remember now what it was — and got another definitively more sexual response that left no question what Ally was getting at.

I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even believe it was happening. And it wasn’t funny. It really wasn’t funny. I was pretty much mortified. And frozen.

All I could muster was telling Ally to tell her boss that I called and have him call me. That’s when Ally said to me:

“Well let me breathe heavy for you three times before you hang up the phone. Here goes: Huuuh, huuuh, huuuh.”

I sat for a second. Said nothing. Then all I could muster, in a hushed voice, was to say: “Stop it, Ally. Stop it.”

Ally giggled and hung up.

I just sat there. Speechless. Confused. Numb.

The legislative correspondent who worked for me walked in, saw my face, and with great concern asked me what was wrong. I told her. She then said: “Let me guess: You feel dirty, like it’s your fault, and you’re afraid to tell anyone.”

I did tell someone, after she urged me to. I went downstairs, told our office manager, and our chief staff, and then was left to call the deputy assistant secretary at DOT myself, to explain what had happened. As I recall, he laughed.

So when I hear people, or even hear myself, question why alleged victims of sexual harassment don’t speak up more often, I think back to my speechless self dealing with Ally at the Department of Transportation.

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Gay Santa: Saint Nick has a special elf, and some parents are not pleased http://americablog.com/2014/11/gay-santa.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/gay-santa.html#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:31:11 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124842 There’s a documentary out about the men who play Santa this time of year at malls across America.

The film, called “I am Santa Claus,” comes with a few twists.

One of the Santas being chronicled is professional wrestler Mick Foley.

mick-foley-santa

Another is gay. And that’s caused quite a bit of blowback.

Santa Jim and his "special elf."

Santa Jim and his “special elf.”

Ironically, the entire point of the film is to introduce you to the men who “whose lap your child is sitting on.”

And let’s face it — 99.99% of people who bring their kids to meet Santa have no clue who they’re handing their kids over to.

Is he a drunk?

Wife beater?

Child molester?

Axe murderer?

All distinct possibilities.

But once it’s confirmed that one of the Santas is gay, then suddenly some parents care.

The gay Santa is “Santa Jim.” Here’s his description from the Kickstarter project that funded the movie:

Santa Jim resides in Ft. Worth, TX and is the proud winner of “Mr. Texas Bear Round-Up,” the largest gathering of hairy, overweight, homosexual men in the country. Although retired, he has seasonal work as a Santa. He is in a relationship with a Denver Colorado man 30 years his junior whom he calls “his special elf.”

Responding to the controversy, Mick Foley (who’s been awfully good on gay rights the past several years) had this to say:

“I am a guy who used to go out of my way to make people dislike me for a career. But this is what puts people over the edge?”

Amen, sister.

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Hawaii hospital charges Canadian family $1m for baby’s birth http://americablog.com/2014/11/hawaii-hospital-charges-canadian-family-1m-babys-birth.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/hawaii-hospital-charges-canadian-family-1m-babys-birth.html#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:00:52 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124834 A Canadian family is refusing to pay a Hawaii hospital million-dollar-bill for their baby’s premature birth while visiting on vacation.

The family, from the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, had the forethought to buy traveler’s insurance from Blue Cross — the woman wasn’t due for over two months.

Nonetheless, Blue Cross is refusing to cover the birth because the woman had a “pre-existing condition.”

What was the deadly condition that this Canadian vixen failed to disclose to all-caring innocent-victim Blue Cross (even though the woman says Blue Cross never asked)?

A bladder infection.

Welcome to health care costs in America, and oddly, health care cruelty in Canada.

You see, the insurance company that turned the family down was “Saskatchewan Blue Cross” — a Canadian company.

When will it all be too much?

I spent the afternoon calling back and forth from my insurance company to Costco to my local pharmacy to find out how much prescription drug coverage I have left for this year. You see, I still have a pre-Obamacare health insurance plan, and I only get $1,500 in prescription drug coverage every year.

For those of you under the age of 50, or living outside of the US, prescription drug prices are obscene in the US. Take the Asmanex I’m now on for my asthma. It’s much cheaper than the Advair I was on before. Asmanex is “only” $193 per month.

And guess how much I bought the same Asmanex, made by the same pharmaceutical company (Merck), for this past summer in Paris?

$25.

Comparative drug prices, US vs. Europe.

Comparative drug prices, US vs. Europe. Note that several pharmaceutical companies have been cutting already-low drug prices in Europe, while raising them drastically in America.

Yes, Merck charges American citizens nearly 8x what it charges Europeans. Why? Because they can. Americans are quite literally subsidizing “socialized medicine” (as the Republicans love to call it) in Europe. And our politicians are doing nothing to stop it. In fact, they’re doing everything to protect it. You see, US law forbids the US government from negotiating with drug companies to get better prices in the Medicare program, for example. So, seniors get socked with higher bills.

Also, US laws bars Americans traveling abroad from bringing more than 3 months’ worth of prescription drugs home with them. Why? Because the FDA claims they’re afraid you’ll buy bad knock-off drugs, and kill yourself. What horrible sewer-like countries is the FDA concerned you might buy drugs from? Canada.

From the FDA Web site:

Is it legal for me to personally import drugs?

In most circumstances, it is illegal for individuals to import drugs into the United States for personal use. This is because drugs from other countries that are available for purchase by individuals often have not been approved by FDA for use and sale in the United States. For example, if a drug is approved by Health Canada (FDA’s counterpart in Canada) but has not been approved by FDA, it is an unapproved drug in the United States and, therefore, illegal to import. FDA cannot ensure the safety and effectiveness of drugs that it has not approved.

Seriously — Canada?

But let’s look at this a bit more closely. I’ve been buying my asthma drugs in France. They’re the same drugs, made and sold by the same companies that sell them to me in America, but at a 3 to 8 times mark-up. Does the FDA seriously expect us to believe that it’s protecting us from Merck’s, GlaxoSmithKline’s and AstraZeneca’s “unsafe” drugs they sell to Europeans? Seriously?

If Advair, Symbicort and Asmanex are so unsafe, then why are they sold in America at all? We’re to believe that unsafe drugs suddenly become safe simply because the drug companies charge American several hundred dollars more than they charge Europeans for a one-month supply? 

And adding to the fun, countries like France have a national health care system similar to Medicare — there’s a national plan, and then a supplemental private plan that you can pay extra for if you want additional coverage. Because the French government negotiates with drug companies, and gets the price down by a factor of anyone from 3 to 8, the drug companies simply make up the difference by charing Americans more.

A lot more.

So is anyone really surprised that having a baby, even a premature birth, cost a million bucks? My dad got sick last year, and his bill came in at a whopping $1.4 million. Fortunately, all but $400 was paid for by Medicare. But seriously, $1.4 million? How many million-dollar cotton-swabs were included in that bill?

Obamacare was only the beginning of the kind of reform our country needs. And a big part of the reform is the insane prices that we get charged for all kinds of medical services. It’s basically one big pyramid scheme, where hospitals and doctors fleece each other, when they’re not fleecing you and me.

When will enough be enough?

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Graphic video, animal rights group says Chick-fil-A abuses chickens http://americablog.com/2014/11/graphic-video-animal-rights-group-says-chick-fil-abuses-chickens.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/graphic-video-animal-rights-group-says-chick-fil-abuses-chickens.html#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 21:25:53 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124830 Mercy for Animals has released a disturbing video which it says shows abuses against animals at a farm and slaughterhouse that provides chicken to fast-food giant Chick-fil-A.

The video shows chickens being violently thrown into storage areas, often by their wings and legs; others being scalded alive; and still others “having their throats, wings, and chests sliced open while still conscious.”

Chick-fil-A says it no longer uses the farm and slaughterhouse, run by Koch foods (no apparent relation to the Koch Brothers), but Mercy for Animals disputes this.

Live chickens being violent thrown into storage bins, often by their legs and wings.

Live chickens being violent thrown into storage bins, often by their legs and wings.

The video is pretty disturbing. Though I suspect it’s not a very pleasant business killing animals en masse, regardless of how one ends their lives. I’d have liked to seen some information as to what the norm for the industry actually is. In other words, is Chick-fil-A’s (previous?) supplier breaking the rules, or, and potentially even worse, is this the way chickens are treated everywhere? Because, while I’m not quite ready to become a vegetarian, it isn’t a fun thing to watch.

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Put the breaks on the per-mile vehicle tax http://americablog.com/2014/11/put-the-breaks-on-per-mile-vehicle-tax.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/put-the-breaks-on-per-mile-vehicle-tax.html#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:41:56 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124824 America’s roads and bridges are crumbling.

Historically, motorists have paid for roads with a gas tax, but it has not kept pace with inflation, nor wirh fuel-efficient hybrid and electric cars that use little to no gas. Some states therefore are considering charging per mile instead of per gallon.

Strangely, this un-progressive idea is gaining traction in progressive states. California, Washington, Nevada and Massachusetts all are kicking the idea around. The liberal Center for American Progress likes it too.

Oregon, one of the few bright spots for Democrats in this month’s elections, seeks 5,000 volunteers to pay 1.5 cents per mile instead of 30 cents per gallon as part of a pilot project.

A mileage tax does have a progressive veneer. It would raise desperately needed money for infrastructure, and it would benefit low-income drivers who typically own older, less-fuel-efficient vehicles.

Scratch the surface, though, and one finds conservative outcomes that will harm the environment, climate change and civil liberties.

Sure, some of the people who drive gas-guzzlers are poor, but many more are just selfish owners of pickup trucks and SUVs. They will save big with a mileage tax.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 2, 2013: White Hummer H2 limousine at the city street. Art Konovalov / Shutterstock.com

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JUNE 2, 2013: White Hummer H2 limousine at the city street. Art Konovalov / Shutterstock.com

The Oregon proposal illustrates this. Imagine two Oregonians who each drive 10,000 miles per year. Driver A has a hybrid car and gets and average 45 mpg. Under the current per gallon tax, she pays $67 per year. Driver B has an SUV that optimistically gets 17 mpg. He pays $176 in gas tax.

Both would pay the same $150 for 10,000 miles under the proposed mileage tax. Energy-efficient Driver A winds up paying more than double what she paid under the gas tax so that Energy Inefficient Driver B can pay less, and the state can raise some money.

The mileage tax therefore eliminates one of the biggest incentives for choosing a fuel-efficient vehicle.

Supporters spin that as a plus. Everyone pays the same for the same amount of driving, they say. Yet their impacts on the roads, the planet and society are not the same at all.

The idea of using the tax code for social engineering is nothing new. Elected officials from the right and the left hand out tax breaks to things they like, and impose heavier taxes on things they don’t. They levy sin taxes on alcohol, tobacco and marijuana (where applicable) to discourage consumption. They let people who pay mortgages or have children pay less to encourage homeownership and reproduction.

Larger, heavier vehicles cause more wear to pavement than lighter, fuel-efficient ones. The gas tax captures that disparity. (If Oregon really wants to target the people who cause the most wear and tear, it would ban or tax the studded tires that needlessly chew up the roads to the tune of $50 million every year.)

Meanwhile, the more gasoline a vehicle burns, the more greenhouse gases and other nasty chemicals it emits. Society has a compelling interest in encouraging more-efficient use of natural resources and keeping our air breathable. Making people pay higher taxes for polluting more is one way to do it. A mileage tax, on the other hand, allows people to use as much gas as they like, as inefficiently as they like, without any additional consequence.

Motorists would also lose a great deal of privacy under this scheme as someone would need to track their driving to tally their mileage.

Oregon hopes to get around the Big Brother aspect by contracting GPS tracking and billing to private companies. The companies would store the personal travel information, not the state. But it’s hard to take comfort in that. We have all how seen how well the private sector shields personal data from government snooping (or from hackers). All it will take is one call from an NSA agent, or overzealous police officer, and where one has traveled winds up in a government database. (Such information can also prove useful in contentious divorce cases.)

The Oregon Department of Transportation also figures that those private partners will not charge the state much because what they really want is access to the personal information of all of the state’s vehicle owners. Rather than bill the state, companies would use that data to sell things like insurance and maintenance warranties. If you want to drive, you’ll have to agree to receive more junk mail and aggressive marketing of dubious services. Seeing as those companies will know everywhere you drive, they’ll be able to target their pitches.

The mileage scheme turns out to be a money-loser, too. According to ODOT, overhead on the gas tax is about 0.5 percent in Oregon. Under the mileage tax, even once upfront implementation costs are paid, overhead runs about 5 percent of gross revenue. For the state to maintain its current revenue, it will have to charge motorists more in aggregate just to make up the difference, let alone actually raise more money for roads.

Many states are in a transportation funding hole because lawmakers feared raising the gas tax to keep up with inflation and the marketplace. Sadly, the mileage tax is not the answer.

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Progress on finding a gay gene http://americablog.com/2014/11/progress-finding-gay-gene.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/progress-finding-gay-gene.html#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 13:00:58 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124815 A new study has just been published that has some evidence that may support the gay “gene” (or “genes”) concept.

Some research has focused on a number of different areas of human biology. Such diverse areas as brain anatomy, brain physiology, male children’s birth order, mother’s genetic makeup, psychology, social interactions and others, may play a role.

For example, some researchers have found differences in certain physical structures in the brains of straight and gay men. Structures that seem to be different may be the anterior commissure, massa intermedia, suprachiasmatic nucleus and other areas of the hypothalamus.

Other research has shown that birth order of male children in the same family seems to be linked to an increasing chance of later-born children being gay.

Xq28

In the early 1990s some research on the genetics of gay male brothers showed that gay men had more gay uncles and cousins on the maternal side of their families than they did on the paternal side. This implied that there might be a gene on the X chromosome (inherited only from the mother) that was causing some of these men to be gay. Further testing showed that there was an area of X chromosome (Xq28) that was found in a much higher percentage in gay brothers than would be expected. Over the next 20 years, some studies confirmed this result, but a few got significantly different results. And at least one small study showed the opposite result. There’s been some controversy as to whether there is a gay gene, and if so, is it on the X chromosome in the area of Xq28.

Chromosomes 7, 8 and 10

Human chromosomes, by Steffen Dietzel.

Human chromosomes, by Steffen Dietzel.

As research continued, other areas of different chromosomes were implicated as being involved in determining whether an individual male child developed a gay or straight sexual orientation. Some areas of chromosomes 7, 8 and 10 may also contribute to the cause of being gay. Interestingly, some animal studies have shown that a related area of the X chromosome in those animals predisposes to gayness as well.

The most recent study: Xq28 and Chromose 8

The most recent study used a large number of gay brothers and looked closely at their genetic makeup. The findings showed that a discrete area of the X chromosome (Xq28), and a portion of chromosome 8, seemed to predispose to their gayness.

The authors of the study concluded:

Results, especially in the context of past studies, support the existence of genes on pericentromeric chromosome 8 and chromosome Xq28 influencing development of male sexual orientation.

But the statistical analysis doesn’t conclusively demonstrate that the correlation is true. Therefore it doesn’t prove that this particular genetic combination is the cause of homosexuality. But it may suggest that they play a role in determining sexual identity. Perhaps the interactions of the products of these genes predisposes to one’s becoming gay.

While it would be convenient to think that the cause of someone’s sexual orientation might be entirely genetic, research indicates that other factors (biologic, social, psychological, etc.) may still play a role.

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The facts about cardiac arrest and resuscitation (CPR) http://americablog.com/2014/11/facts-cardiac-arrest-resuscitation.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/facts-cardiac-arrest-resuscitation.html#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 17:00:54 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124781 The American Heart Association (AHA) is having its annual Scientific Session and some of the information below is taken from presentations made there.

First, some initial information.

A cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack

A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping. It may stop pumping effectively because of an arrhythmia or chaotic heart rhythm (like ventricular fibrillation.)

Therefore, in some cardiac arrests, the heart is not at a standstill. But since it isn’t pumping, blood pressure falls to zero and the patient rapidly loses consciousness. Almost always without resuscitation the patient will die. The goal of the resuscitation is to get the heart to beat rhythmically again and raise the blood pressure so that blood can perfuse vital organs like the brain, heart, liver, kidneys and others.

A heart attack occurs when the circulation though one or more coronary arteries is blocked. The part of the heart served by that artery gets starved for oxygen and nutrients and may die. A heart attack may cause a cardiac arrest.

Some basic data on cardiac arrests:

  • Almost 400,000 cardiac arrests occur in the United States per year.
  • About 88% of cardiac arrests don’t occur in a hospital, they occur at home. The life you save may be that of a spouse, parent, child, other relative, close friend or neighbor.
  • Many cardiac arrest victims don’t look ill before the arrest. They may not have any history of heart disease or previous heart attack.
  • Only 32% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims receive CPR from a bystander. Because of this and other facts, only about 8% of cardiac arrest patients survive when an arrest occurs at home or in public.
  • Blacks are almost twice as likely to experience cardiac arrests in a public place as whites.
  • A survey showed that 70% of Americans feel helpless during a public cardiac arrest. The reasons are that those people either don’t know how to do CPR, or don’t do it because there has been a lapse between their training in CPR and when they are called upon to use it.
  • More men experience cardiac arrests (53%) than women (47%.)
  • Women tend to have worse outcomes than men when resuscitated.

Early initiation of CPR is important

It follows from some of the above information that if more victims of cardiac arrest received bystander CPR, more might survive. One study looked at how to do just that.

hands-only-cprEmergency Medical Service (EMS) dispatchers were told to get the caller to EMS to start CPR. The dispatchers were given instructions to read to the bystander(s) to walk them through CPR even if they had no previous training. They would read form a script and encourage the bystanders to continue CPR till EMS arrived. Though their instructions were more detailed than this, the AHA recommends the following:

Don’t be afraid; your actions can only help. If you see an unresponsive adult who is not breathing or not breathing normally, call 911 and push hard and fast on the center of the chest.

The data showed that:

  • More bystanders were willing to attempt CPR
  • Time from the receipt of the 911 call to the start of CPR decreased
  • There was an increase in survival from 7.9% to 11.2%

This last data point, that the survival rate increased from 7.9% to 11.2%, might not look like much of an increase. But remember, some of these patients may have been in cardiac arrest for some time before being discovered and there may have been nothing that could have been done to reverse that situation. Or they may have experienced cardiac arrest secondary to another fatal concurrent illness (massive stroke, aneurysm rupture, etc.) that CPR would not cure. And finally, when you do that the math, 7.9% to 11.2% is nearly a 42% increase in survival.

Cardiac arrest survival, male v. female

There are mixed results from data compiled from two European studies.

  • In a French study that reviewed data on almost 500,000 patients, researchers found that more women did not receive CPR from bystanders.
  • More women did not have a “shockable” rhythm [a “shockable” rhythm is one that may convert to a more normal, perfusing rhythm after a shock (defibrillation.) Some rhythms do not respond to shocks.]
  • Many women were older than their male counterparts and may have other associated illnesses.
  • Yet, in spite of these factors, more women who survived the resuscitation were discharged alive from the hospital than were men in similar circumstances. The reason for this is unknown.

But a Dutch study presents some different data.

Researchers identified 22,443 out-of-hospital cardiac deaths (52.8 percent male) and reviewed data on 6,038 out-of-hospital CPR attempts by emergency medical services (72.5 percent male) in the same study region, all aged over 20. They found:

  • Women have a significantly lower chance of receiving a resuscitation attempt from emergency medical personnel than men (15 percent women vs. 35 percent men).
  • Women had a significantly lower chance of successful survival after a resuscitation attempt than men (13 percent women vs. 20 percent men).
  • Women had a lower proportion of “shockable” initial heart rhythm (34 percent women vs. 49 percent men), a strong determinant of survival.

Social factors (such as older women living alone) as well as biological factors (such as women presenting with different symptoms or more heart failure as cause of the sudden cardiac arrest) may be reasons why women have less chance of receiving CPR, researchers said.

Much of the data supports information from the French study – few women have “shockable” rhythms, not as many women as men receive CPR, etc. But the Dutch study didn’t look at the number of women surviving and leaving the hospital love after treatment.

Many of the reasons for the poorer response in women may be due to social circumstances (older, living alone) or medical ones (many older people have more advanced cardiovascular disease, may have other illnesses contributing to the outcome, etc.) Thus, the lower survival rate may not be due to a gender difference. What is surprising is that, in both studies, there were fewer attempts to resuscitate women by both bystanders and by EMS personnel. That isn’t addressed by either data abstract.

The take home message

The take home message is that, in most cases:

  • Cardiac arrest is not a rare event and can often occur in public places or in the home.
  • Cardiac arrest can occur in otherwise healthy-appearing people.
  • More people survive cardiac arrest when bystanders act quickly to start CPR.
  • Bystanders should be trained (and retrained periodically) in CPR and encouraged to initiate resuscitation.

A quick word about “Hands-Only CPR.” John had mentioned to me that when he was in high school, they taught CPR with compressions and breaths. Hands-Only CPR only requires compressions. The American Heart Association has developed this technique for use in witnessed cardiac arrests, meaning you see the person collapse. Formerly, a rescuer gave two breaths and then started chest compressions after first calling 911. It’s been found that usually, in the first few minutes after a cardiac arrest, the victim has enough oxygen in his lungs and blood to supply the tissues without having someone breathe for him.

So, if an adult or teen is seen to collapse, hands-only CPR is appropriate.

But, for infants, children, someone with known breathing problems, drowning victims or an unwitnessd arrest, standard CPR (calling 911, giving breaths alternating with compressions) is preferred.

Rather than get bogged down in the details, use this as your general rule: Hands-only CPR is for a witnessed arrest in an adult or teen. Others will probably need CPR.

To see or learn “Hands-Only CPR,” find CPR classes, get additional information, read stories of resuscitation survivors, and more, check out these videos from the American Heart Association. It’s surprising how easy hands-only CPR really is:

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The Mormon Church’s odd explanation for Joseph Smith’s polygamy http://americablog.com/2014/11/the-mormon-churchs-odd-explanation-for-joseph-smiths-polygamy.html http://americablog.com/2014/11/the-mormon-churchs-odd-explanation-for-joseph-smiths-polygamy.html#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 15:00:02 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=124733 Last week, the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-Day Saints announced that its founder, Joseph Smith, had as many as 40 wives.

The news itself isn’t that surprising, and subsequent assertions in the media that this was the first time the LDS Church had admitted to their founder’s plural marriages are a bit of an exaggeration.

After all, the Church had said many times before that not only did Smith practice polygamy, he received a revelation commanding him to do so in the early 1840s.

Mormons

Mormons via Shutterstock

And, of course, Mormon President Wilford Woodruff received a similar revelation commanding the faith to cease practicing polygamy in 1890 — not too long after the practice was outlawed in the United States.

So the question one has to ask in light of the recent announcement shouldn’t be whether the Church has already acknowledged its history with respect to plural marriage. Instead, we should be asking what’s up with these new “revelations.”

Last week’s announcement includes the word “revelation” thirteen times, the first of which comes in the second paragraph:

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After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates. This principle was among the most challenging aspects of the Restoration — for Joseph personally and for other Church members…Few Latter-day Saints initially welcomed the restoration of a biblical practice entirely foreign to their sensibilities. But many later testified of powerful spiritual experiences that helped them overcome their hesitation and gave them courage to accept this practice.

Furthermore, Heaven apparently insisted rather strongly. As the announcement continues:

Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward. During the third and final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully.

In order to understand the above passages, one has to understand that young religions that plan on being successful almost always adopt principles — invariably based on some sort of divine instruction — that are designed to rapidly grow the size of the flock. Mormonism is just the most recent example of a rapidly-expanding religion adopting an evolutionarily-advantageous growth strategy.

And the strategy is working, as Mormonism is one of the fastest-growing religions in America. While the faith no longer practices polygamy, Mormons do still marry early and procreate often. Plus, every member of the religion spends two years spreading the faith through missionary work. If the religion is organized around one guiding principle, that principle is clearly this: Make more Mormons, by any means necessary.

But to say that the Latter-Day Saints considered marriage a divine contract between one man and many women, because it gave them a Darwinian advantage over other religions, would be giving Joseph Smith far more credit than he deserves.

After all, the foundation of Mormonism is the story of a con.

Joseph Smith — himself a previously-convicted fraud — concocted an obviously-false, largely plagiarized story that comprised various elements of spirituality drawn from the “Burned-Over District” of upstate New York that Smith grew up in. In “translating” the Book of Mormon into English, he used “seer stones” that were the centerpiece of the money-digging scheme he had previously been convicted of. And when the the first 116 pages of the translation were lost, the version Smith reproduced was different from the original. A fact that struck many as odd; if the words were in fact dictated by God, they should have been indentical.

Given how ridiculous the story is, it’s a wonder that the religion has seen so much success. But if members of the faith are able to square the first and most absurd circle that is the story of how the religion was founded, rationalizing polygamy as being divinely inspired isn’t all that difficult. As their statement continues:

Although the Lord commanded the adoption — and later the cessation — of plural marriage in the latter days, He did not give exact instructions on how to obey the commandment. Significant social and cultural changes often include misunderstandings and difficulties… Through it all, Church leaders and members sought to follow God’s will.

One can’t help but be reminded of the “revelation” the Mormon faith had that black people were equal to whites — in 1978. (And it’s a revelation they’re still apparently perfecting.)

So we are left with three possible explanations for why Joseph Smith established polygamy as a principle of the Mormon faith. The one being offered to us by the Church (an angel made him do it). The one suggested by the repetition of history (young religions — including Judaism and Islam — often adopt polygamy as part of the larger goal: sustainability and growth). And the one suggested by the biography of the religion’s founder (Joseph Smith was a horny con man).

I’ll leave it to you to decide which is most likely.

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