No More Liberals!

A modest proposal. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Ok. Let’s rid the country of liberals. I read a conservative post that said that “liberalism is a disease.” Others chimed in and made it clear that liberals are “destroying America” that they are “stupid” and “don’t live in reality.”

So. Let’s deport them. That seems like an up and running directive these days for “undesirables.” Let’s get rid of all of the liberals. I know that I am sealing my own fate as the scarlet “L” emblazoned across my chest will surely reveal me, but I am willing to accept this exile. If we are, in fact, sick, stupid and diseased, I don’t want to be part of what is bringing down America. I love this country that much.

Let’s not worry at the moment about where the liberals will be sent, they (we) might be lost without government handouts, but there’s enough Hollywood money to buy half of Australia since that continent has been designated a terrorist waystation. Suffice to say that America will be populated entirely by the conservatives who, after all, have always been the true Patriots. I mean, unless, of course, you are considering the original conservatives who wanted to reconcile with King George, but I digress…

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Weekend open thread: Exposing abuse edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The Pulitzer Prizes announced this week recognized some powerful reporting on the misuse of power. The Associated Press won the public service award for “an investigation of severe labor abuses tied to the supply of seafood to American supermarkets and restaurants, reporting that freed 2,000 slaves, brought perpetrators to justice and inspired reforms.” Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza, and Esther Htusan contributed to this incredible investigative work; the whole series is available here.

The Washington Post won the Pulitzer’s national reporting category for its “revelatory initiative in creating and using a national database to illustrate how often and why the police shoot to kill and who the victims are most likely to be.” The database is available here; reporters who contributed to this work include Kimberly Kindy, Wesley Lowery, Keith L. Alexander, Kimbriell Kelly, Sandhya Somashekhar, Julie Tate, Amy Brittain, Marc Fisher, Scott Higham, Derek Hawkins, and Jennifer Jenkins. In one of the articles for this series, Kindy and Tate explored the common practice of police departments withholding video footage of fatal shootings, using the January 2015 death of Autumn Steele in Burlington, Iowa as the touchpoint.

The Pulitzer for explanatory reporting went to T. Christian Miller of ProPublica and Ken Armstrong of The Marshall Project “for a startling examination and exposé of law enforcement’s enduring failures to investigate reports of rape properly and to comprehend the traumatic effects on its victims.” An Unbelievable Story of Rape was a stunning and depressing piece.

Speaking of stunning and depressing, previously unreported abuses of teenagers at the now-closed Midwest Academy boarding school came to light earlier this year. Several former students spoke to Ryan Foley of the Associated Press about being kept in isolation boxes for days or weeks at a time. (Isolation is particularly harmful to developing adolescent brains.) The Des Moines Register’s Lee Rood reported on approximately 80 law enforcement calls to the facility in Keokuk during the last three years the school was open. Abusive practices by staff went back more than a decade, though.

No state agency had ever inspected the Midwest Academy, prompting calls for the Iowa legislature to prevent future problems at unregulated schools. The Iowa Senate unanimously approved a bill setting out certification and inspection standards for boarding schools. House Republicans amended Senate File 2304 before approving it in the lower chamber, making “some exemptions for religious facilities.” The Senate refused to concur in the House amendment, and on a mostly party-line vote, the House rejected the Senate version. The school oversight bill now goes to a conference committee. I hope lawmakers will work out a deal before adjourning, but this legislation is not a must-pass bill like the health and human services budget (currently hung up over disagreements on Medicaid oversight and Planned Parenthood funding).

Alleged verbal abuse by Iowa State University women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly was among the actions that inspired a discrimination lawsuit by former star player Nikki Moody. The AP’s Luke Meredith and Ryan Foley broke news about that lawsuit on April 18. After the jump I’ve enclosed excerpts from their report and some reaction, but I highly recommend reading the plaintiff’s jaw-dropping twelve-page court filing. Looking through some Cyclone fan board threads about the lawsuit, I was struck by two contradictory lines of argument from the coach’s defenders: Moody is lying, because this or that former player says Fen was always supportive and would never behave that way; or alternatively, Moody is lying, because Fen is tough on all his players, not just the black ones. Cheyenne Shepherd, an unheralded player for ISU during the 1990s, provided strong support for Moody in a guest column for the Des Moines Register about her experience as one of Fennelly’s “non-favorites.” Retired ISU journalism professor Dick Haws discussed the “not-very-well-hidden secret” of how Fennelly berates and humiliates some of his players. Gavin Aronsen asked at Iowa Informer whether the lawsuit is “A Symptom of Broader Diversity Problems at ISU.”

Since Thursday, I’ve been reading reflections on the life and work of Prince. I remembered his exceptional creativity, charisma, and talent as a songwriter (for many other artists as well as for himself), but I didn’t realize how highly regarded he was as a guitarist. His solo during this performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was mesmerizing. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top described Prince’s “sensational” guitar playing in an interview with the Washington Post: “Even today, I’m struggling to try and emulate that guitar introduction to ‘When Doves Cry.’ It’s just a testament to his extraordinary technique.” The whole “Purple Rain” album brings back strong high school memories for me, especially “When Doves Cry.” Prince’s biggest fan in the Iowa blogosphere was John Deeth, easily recognized at political events by his raspberry beret. Deeth reflected on what the music meant to him here.

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The Loneliest Number: Being Black in Iowa

(Thanks to Stacey Walker for sharing this perspective. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I used to loathe the end of January. Around that time, anxiety-ridden managers would start suggesting that I help organize the Black History Month activities for February. Bless their hearts. They either genuinely felt our staff needed to be more conscious of the contributions African Americans made to society, or somewhere in their manager handbook, this was mentioned in the cultural sensitivity part.

Growing up, I was always slated to read the “I Have A Dream,” speech in class or chosen to explain how the Underground Railroad operated without physical tracks. Back in 1st grade, when our progressive music teacher wanted us to learn about soulful pop music, she wrote a play and cast me as Michael Jackrabbit, the moonwalking bunny with a culturally ambiguous face.

All of this was a version of tokenism that I had become accustomed to before I even knew tokenism was a thing. Tokenism is race and gender agnostic. No one is safe. Consider the exemplary woman who has broken into the good ‘ole boys club of corporate America, or the lone gay man at a job  brimming with tough guys and their laughable displays of machismo, or in my case, the prototypical black face in nearly every social group to which I’ve belonged. Anyone can become a victim of tokenism, but it will always befall the Only One in the Room, a phrase that I’ve borrowed from a recent NPR article. The article, “On Wyatt Cenac, Key & Peele, And Being The Only One In the Room,” describes situations wherein there is only one minority in a group, otherwise known as the last 20 years of my life. Life is hard for the token, and it’s hard for the Only One. When you are both at once, it feels like playing a game of chess while balancing on a high wire.

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Weekend open thread: "The Lost Girls" edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Jason Cherkis’s investigative piece for the Huffington Post, “The Lost Girls,” went viral instantly and has struck a chord with many women I know. Cherkis tells the story of Jackie Fox (real name Jackie Fuchs), the bass player for the all-girl band The Runaways. I literally knew nothing about the group before reading this piece, not even that it launched Joan Jett’s career. The focus of “The Lost Girls” is manager Kim Fowley’s horrific rape of a drugged Fox, then 16 years old, in front of her bandmates and others associated with The Runaways. Cherkis spoke with Jessica Hopper about the challenges of researching and writing Jackie’s story. Evelyn McDonnell, author of a book about The Runaways, assesses the journalist’s conduct critically here.

A thread running through “The Lost Girls” is current understanding of the “bystander effect.” Why do multiple witnesses to a crime sometimes do nothing, and how do they process the event later? If Cherkis’ reporting is accurate, some people who witnessed Jackie’s rape were shattered by what happened in that room. But according to the woman who later played bass in the group, other band members had a “running joke” about what Fowley had done to Jackie. This open letter to Jett from Hether Fortune of Wax Idols echoed a lot of my feelings after reading the article. It’s easy to understand why no one in the band spoke up for Jackie at the time. Fowley had near-total control over their future careers. The way he brutalized Jackie sent a strong message to the other Runaways: you could be next in line, and no one will protect you. But how disappointing, nearly 40 years later, for Jett to pretend (through a representative) that she didn’t know about the rape. How much would it cost her to express regret for what Jackie went through and remorse about her bystander role?

Judging by numerous threads I’ve read on social media, “The Lost Girls” has prompted many women to reflect on disturbing events we experienced or observed as teenagers–not only crimes, but also consensual relationships that now stand out as an abuse of power by an authority figure.  

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In Des Moines, a rare left-wing take on 1950s nostalgia and American exceptionalism

Sunday night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines marked its 100th anniversary at a dinner gathering downtown. The gala was unusual in several respects. For one thing, I don’t recall seeing such a large and bipartisan group of Iowa politicians at any non-political local event before. Attendees included Senator Chuck Grassley, Governor Terry Branstad, State Senator Jack Hatch, Lieutenant Governor nominee Monica Vernon, Representative Bruce Braley, State Senator Joni Ernst, Representative Dave Loebsack, IA-03 candidates David Young and Staci Appel, State Senator Matt McCoy, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, State Representatives Helen Miller, Marti Anderson, and Peter Cownie, and several suburban mayors or city council members. (Insert your own “a priest, a rabbi, and an Iowa politician walk into a bar” joke here.)

The keynote speech was even more striking. It’s standard practice to invite a Jewish celebrity to headline major Federation events. This year’s guest was award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss. But other than a “Borscht belt”-inspired opening riff about learning to nod and say “Yes, dear” to his wife, Dreyfuss left obvious material aside. He didn’t dwell on humorous anecdotes from his Hollywood career, or talk about how being Jewish helped his craft. Instead, Dreyfuss reminisced about a cultural place and time that could hardly be more foreign to his Iowa audience, regardless of age or religious background.

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Rest in peace, Robin Williams

The actor Robin Williams died today at his home. He was only 63. I am old enough to remember watching him on the “Mork and Mindy” tv show. He landed the role of an alien by sitting on his head at the audition, and ad-libbed frequently during filming. Though the show will never make any list of all-time great sitcoms, it hinted at Williams’ immense talent.

I haven’t seen the most recent Robin Williams movies. He won most of his numerous awards during the 1980s and 1990s, including the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Good Will Hunting.” To my mind, his strongest performances were in “Moscow on the Hudson,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” and “The Fisher King.” His range was incredible. Not long ago I saw a rerun of “Law and Order SVU” featuring Williams, and he was way more terrifying than the average guest star villain.

Though the medical examiner has not made any official determination, many media are reporting that Williams likely died from suicide, which compounds the tragedy. Like many comedians, he struggled with depression over the years, and periodically with drug and alcohol use. Suicide kills roughly 30,000 Americans every year. Here’s some basic information about the epidemic. Here are some warning signs that a suicide attempt may be imminent, as well as factors that put someone at greater risk of killing himself.

Feel free to share your own favorite Robin Williams moments in this thread.

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