Question of the Day

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 18:00
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Suggested by Shaker Sue Kerr: "Are you a breakfast eater? If so, what's on your menu?"

I never have much of an appetite in the morning, but I try to eat something. This morning I had a banana and some nuts.

The Second Sentence on Page 116

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 17:30
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Whatever book you're reading right now, turn to page 116 and share the second sentence. No titles. Just the sentence. Let's see what story we end up telling together, in these series of isolated sentences!

"If I didn't have logic, history, and economics to counsel me otherwise, I might throw everything away and go prospecting."


Discussion Thread: How Are You?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 16:30
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

As relieved as I am that Senate Republicans have delayed the vote on their revolting excuse for a healthcare bill, I am feeling anxious that the delay will only give them time to regroup and convince the hold-outs to return to the fold, as they always seem to evitably do, when the choice is between principles or party.

I'm trying to be optimistic, though: The delay gives us more time to resist, too — to make more calls, to disseminate the facts, to move people to take action.

Overall, I'm feeling frustrated with and powerless about national politics. Every day, however, I feel more strongly that building community in order to validate each other and create Ungaslighting Zones is more important than ever, and I am here for it. Harm mitigation motivates me.

Aside from politics, I'm all right. Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend at a restaurant I'd never tried before, and I ate some delicious manicotti. Can't complain about that.

How are you?

This Week in Fandom, Volume 54

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 15:21
otw_staff: 'Comms' and 'Janita' written beneath the OTW logo (Janita)
[personal profile] otw_staff posting in [community profile] otw_news
This Week in Fandom

This Week in Fandom: Harry Potter's 20th anniversary, a legal victory for fair use, an academic survey on fanfiction, and more:

So This Just Happened

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 15:30
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: —people in this room, but news outlets get to go on, day after day, and cite unnamed sources, use stories without sources, have, you know—you mentioned the Scaramucci story where they had to have reporters resign— [crosstalk]

BRIAN KAREM: Come on. You're inflaming everybody right here and right now with those words. This administration has done that, as well. Why in the name of heavens— Any one of us [gestures to reporters in room] are replaceable, and any one of us, if we don't get it right, the audience has the opportunity to turn the channel or not read us.


KAREM: You have been elected to serve for four years, at least. There's no option other that that.


KAREM: We're here to ask you questions; you're here to provide the answers! And what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, "See? Once again, the president is right and everybody else out here is fake media." And everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I disagree completely. First of all, I think if anything has been inflamed, it's the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media. And I think it is outrageous for you to accuse me of inflaming a story when I was simply trying to respond to his question.
To recap: White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders babbles some Trump-standard nonsense about "fake news." Reporter Brian Karem quite rightly calls out what she's doing as irresponsible and notes that she's demonizing the members of the White House press corps who are just trying to do their jobs. To which she responds: "I disagree completely." And then demonizes the press again.

Listen, I'm not always thrilled with the way the White House press corps and the broader political media does their jobs. But they are doing important work, exactly as Karem describes: Asking questions of the elected officials who owe We the People answers to those questions.

The Trump administration's war on the press is a refusal to be accountable to voters. (No information, no recourse.) This, too, is what happens in authoritarian regimes. #Resist.

Daily Dose of Cute

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 14:30
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

image of Dudley the Greyhound sitting on the couch with his tongue hanging out and a big grin on his face
Dudley's a happy chappie after a walk!

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

Wonder Woman’s Vision of Empire

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 19:09
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Posted by Reina Gattuso

So I saw Wonder Woman last weekend with my grandma, and oh my god guys, I exited that theater like a classy martini—shaken.

Now if you’re like many of my friends, you probably never want to hear anything uttered about the Wonder Woman movie (hey, maybe the entire franchise) ever again. That’s real. But even if you wanna skip my hot take (now’s your chance!), it’s definitely worth engaging with the great writing about the film that’s already out there, particularly the film’s representation of Black people and the debates around Gal Gadot, feminism, and Zionism.

Because Wonder Woman has not only swept box offices as the highest-grossing first weekend for a film directed by a woman ever — it’s also been banned in Lebanon and blocked from screenings in Algeria and Tunisia due to Gal Gadot having fought in the IDF.

That’s why despite the endless takes already out there, I left the theater, Grandma at my side, so politically jittery I felt like I’d just eaten seventeen espresso beans. Wonder Woman is a film about empire and (in the way superhero films sort of inevitably are) “Western Values,” which has proven a flashpoint in actual contemporary politics—all of this implicating feminism. That seems worth engaging with.

Now in my humble opinion, we’re not gonna arrive at an emancipatory political program from a Hollywood film that celebrates a (fictional) white American government agent dude, a (real) woman who has publicly justified the Israeli military’s egregious abuses of Palestinians, and the Western World (a construct).

But pop culture is all about negotiation. If we want to watch films and also stay true to our politics in a literal way, we’re presented with the uniquely daunting prospect of having to discard 99% of the cultural production of human history. Definitely we can try to do that, but many of us get by instead by picking and choosing from pop culture — cherrypicking what tickles us, condemning what we must condemn, and picking the rest apart to start critical conversations about the ideas propagated by the people with the capital.

So let’s undertand Wonder Woman in that spirit. First I’m going to cherry-pick. Then I’m gonna condemn. Then maybe, we’ll find what we have to work with in the film—particularly, the film’s presentation of race and British Empire—to imagine better films, and better worlds around them.

Cherries: Watching Diana Prince walk around Edwardian England unaware that, as a woman, she is supposed to be subjugated is a delight. I grinned like someone had given me free ice cream. I wish I could walk around the world like that: Without realizing I am supposed to cast my eyes to the ground when men swipe their gaze up and down like a full-body scan. Diana strolling into Parliament unabashed at how abashed everyone is by her breasts is the best example of how creating other worlds in film can jolt us out of what we have naturalized in our own world. It is neat to see a woman who, free of a lifetime of brainwashing, has simply not imbibed through every one of her pores the memo that she is lesser-than.

Yet as critics wiser than I have pointed out, that vision of female power is attached to a whole set of other, less-savory visions. As great as it feels to watch a woman run around capably kicking people’s derrieres, we should disavow the ideological basis of this martial feminism — especially considering Gadot’s background in the Israeli military, which along with the U.S. has perfected the art of using the rhetoric of liberal female and LGBT empowerment to justify military violence and occupation, particularly against Muslims (“pink washing”).

And even if the film shakes up some of our assumptions about gender, it stays relentlessly attached to other kinds of subjugation. For one: Really Diana? You really didn’t have any sexy Amazon lady lovers? 

And for another: Racism.

Take the Amazons. White filmmakers’ stubborn, violent lack of imagination—the inability to imagine a world which is not shaped by American racial and class hierarchies—means that, as Cameron Glover points out, the black Amazons are depicted as racist stereotypes.

This is the persistent disappointment of Hollywood fantasy, science fiction, and super hero genres. These genres could enable us to create anything—and in black feminist science fiction, for example, they do. Yet in the mainstream stories, in the farthest of galaxies or in alternate mythological realities governed by immortal Amazons, Hollywood still, by and large, simply cannot imagine a world that is not, like the United States and the global clusterfuck we have created, scripted by capitalism and racism. Or perhaps it’s not that the writers are so impaired by whiteness that they can’t even imagine a mythological lesbian separatist society as racially egalitarian. Maybe it’s that they can, but don’t want to.

Not the soaring bullets or the creepy proto-fascists or the mustachioed British guy who is War Incarnate, but this possibility — that white Western audiences literally do not want to imagine a world with an egalitarian racial and national order— is the most frightening aspect of Wonder Woman. 

So how does this question of imagination play into the rest of the film? I’m particularly interested in an aspect which I think fewer writers have touched on: The film’s depiction of British Empire.

If you, like me, learned history in the United States, you probably also were made to think that the First World War consisted entirely of white Europeans killing each other over a set of scandalous alliances and an assassinated Archbishop. It literally took me moving to India to realize that I’m an ignorant poop who had been spoon-fed lies my entire life and, duh, the First World War involved European empires and the brown and black people they were colonizing.

So on one hand, Wonder Woman shows us Edwardian London at the cusp of woman’s suffrage, with Diana Prince flouting gender taboos to her heart’s content. But it also shows us Edwardian London at the peak of empire. In the film, for example, we briefly see a South Asian regiment at the train station, as well as one African solder visible in a sea of white. And of course, we meet Trevor’s friends: Sameer, a South Asian trickster; Chief, a Native American profiteer; and Charlie, a Scottish sniper.

We could understand Sameer, Chief, and Charlie as the same kind of gesture-at-diversity, constellation-of-POC-friends-around-the-main-white-couple logic which informs most films that are trying to seem 21st century without actually being anti-racist. Indeed, the film is not Certified Progressive because it has some characters of color. (It could be entirely characters of color, including Wonder Woman herself; the fact that it’s not is a willful choice of the filmmakers.)

But Trevor’s friends do make us think about the reality of empires past and present, and of all the lives and stories that have never made protagonist. They are, after all, characters that have been colonized or otherwise ruled by Britain or America. They force us, for a second, to feel skepticism toward our main characters’ claims of moral truth. They make us wonder whether the heroes and villains are perhaps different, opposite, than films have said.

What if we took this perspective farther that the film ultimately allows us to? What if we took the camera off cute dimples-boy Trevor, and yes, even Diana, and followed the peripheral characters, instead? What if we could actually live up to the promise of cinema, and especially superhero cinema, to imagine other worlds?

Worlds that were willfully obscured. Worlds in which the victors of imperialism, capitalism, racism, occupation — in short, the whole Western martial project — are not centered, are not even inevitable? Worlds in which humans who were not corn-fed white boys flying fighter jets or glamorous white women actually existed, had lives, were dispossessed of their land, were dominated and dominated each other, profited, giggled, died.

And for those of us who must content ourselves, for the moment, with searching for any crack in the ideological armor of Hollywood, at least for the purpose of starting conversations? We can take comfort in at least one moment in Wonder Woman which, if taken to its logical conclusion, would upend the rest of the film’s politics.

Which is this: Ares, the God of War, does not turn out to be that old Hollywood favorite, the cartoonishly-accented diabolical German general white Americans love to project our racial guilt onto. Instead, in a straight-up Joseph Conrad move, we discover that the real God of War has been at the dark heart of the Thames river, in the British Parliament, all along. He has been orchestrating the destruction of the entire world from the other side of a polite, blonde British mustache.

Not bad. Though of course, we’d really be getting somewhere for feminism if Hollywood didn’t stop there. What if we were brave enough to follow the trail of the villain across the ocean, to the polite halls of the White House itself? Or what if we took it a step further and followed the trail to the politer living rooms from which elite American viewers sit, streaming Wonder Woman onto our TV screens as the world burns?

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Posted by fcarrion

The Senate is said to have pushed the vote on their “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA) until after the July 4th recess. I say: good. It’s a bad bill that has nothing to do with promoting better health care.

 Quite the opposite, in fact: it will leave 22 million uninsured, those who remain insured will lose key protections, and it is an outright attack on women and vulnerable communities and their health. Here are ten ways the Senate’s ACA Repeal Bill is heartless: 

  1. Slashes Medicaid Funding

Medicaid, a lifeline for 13 million women of reproductive age, covers 3/4s of all publicly funded family planning services. For more than 50 years, Medicaid always covers the actual costs of providing services.

The BCRA will do away with this mechanism by placing a per capita cap (PCC) that sets a projected rate that is less than the yearly growth of health care costs. Additionally, BCRA allows states to operate their Medicaid programs as block grants, locking funding for a five-year period without accounting for increasing needs. Under both PCCs and block grants, Medicaid would cover less women and provide less reproductive health services.

  1. Less People Qualify for Medicaid

Millions of women gained access to health care when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income individuals who were neither minors, pregnant, or had a disability. The Senate bill would repeal coverage for this Medicaid expansion population by 2021.

  1. Prohibits Medicaid Funding for Planned Parenthood

Effective immediately, the BCRA forbids Planned Parenthood from participating in Medicaid for one year. Planned Parenthood is often the only service provider for millions of Medicaid enrollees. Barring Medicaid funding means that these patients will lose access to reproductive and other essential preventive care.  

  1. Allows States to Impose Work Requirements on Medicaid Enrollees

The BCRA allows states to institute a work requirement for most adult Medicaid enrollees. While pregnant women are exempted from this requirement, they must return to work as early as eight to nine weeks after giving birth, whether or not they have access to child care or experience complications like postpartum depression.

  1. Repeals Mandatory Medicaid Coverage for Children ages 6-18

Currently, children below the age of 18 with family incomes under 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) are eligible for Medicaid. The BCRA would only cover Medicaid for children with incomes below 100% of the FPL, meaning that millions of adolescents who need reproductive health care will lose coverage.

  1. Repeals Presumptive Eligibility in Medicaid Programs

Two key successes of the ACA were the extension of presumptive eligibility for the Medicaid Expansion population, and hospitals’ ability to determine presumptive eligibility. The BCRA strips these key provisions, meaning that less people will be able to enroll and gain immediate access to health care coverage.

  1. Eliminates Retroactive Eligibility in Medicaid Programs

The BCRA no longer allows states to retroactively cover medical expenses prior to the date the individual applies for Medicaid. For pregnant women who incurred costs before applying to Medicaid, they could potentially face severe medical debt due to initial expenses.

  1. Allows States to Waive Essential Health Benefits (EHBs)

Under the ACA, Medicaid expansion programs and private plans had to cover at least 10 “essential health benefit” categories. BCRA repeals this requirement, weakening  beneficiaries’ coverage with cuts to preventive and wellness services as well as maternity and newborn care. Before the ACA set this requirement, only 12% of plans covered maternity care. With the BCRA, we are back to the time where being a woman is a pre-existing condition.

  1. Makes Private Coverage for Women Less Affordable.

As I explained here, thanks to the ACA’s tax credits and premium subsidies, nearly 7 million women and girls gain access to affordable health care through marketplace plans. The BCRA significantly reduces these tax credits and also lowers the income threshold for eligible applicants.

  1. Prohibits Abortion Coverage in the Marketplaces

The BCRA prohibits the use of tax credits to purchase insurance plans that include abortion coverage, except when the woman is a rape or incest survivor or her life is in danger (i.e. Hyde Amendment).

The health care bills in the House and Senate are heartless, and we must do everything in our power to prevent them from coming into effect. You can start by following these steps.

Fabiola Carrión is a senior staff attorney in the National Health Law Program’s Los Angeles office. She directs the Reproductive Health Data and Accountability Project, which establishes systems to collect, analyze, and utilize data on access barriers to family planning and abortion services in public programs and private health insurance.

Senate "Healthcare" Vote Delayed

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 13:30
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

I can't emphasize this point strongly enough: Do not let down your guard. There is a complex strategy here, and trust that it does not involve Senate Republicans caving on this reprehensible legislation.

They will continue to delay as long as they think they can outlast our attention, so vigilance is crucial.

Announcing a delay now will suggest to lots of people who aren't paying careful attention that they can relax, because the bill is on its last legs. Nope! That's certainly what Mitch McConnell hopes voters will think, though, so vigilance is crucial.

The delay will give McConnell time to convince the equivocating members of his caucus to vote for the bill, even if it means offering them sweeteners — which, in some cases, would mean making the bill even worse, so vigilance is crucial.

Keep up the heat. It's the best and only chance we've got.
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Posted by Senti Sojwal

What happens when traditionally domestic “women’s craft” like fabric and embroidery work gets political?

At Victori + Mo gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, an exhibition by women artists called “Nasty Stitches” celebrates the political dimensions of these mediums to explore gender, artistry, and empowerment. “Nasty Stitches” includes work by Caroline Wells Chandler, Elsa Hansen, Katrina Majkut, and Sara Sachs. Weaving together these different artists’ approaches to fabric and embroidery, the exhibition presents a new look at how these “women’s” mediums are being reclaimed and reworked both politically and otherwise. As the gallery website states, “Framed within the larger context of contemporary American politics, where non-conforming bodies, reproductive rights, and sexual health are under attack, the works presented in the exhibition are all the more powerful.”

For this week’s Feministing Five, I caught up with the five artists of “Nasty Stitches” about their influences, reclaiming domestic arts, and the relationship between politics and creativity. You can catch “Nasty Stitches” on view at Victori + Mo until July 23rd.

Senti Sojwal: How would you describe your work and artistry?

Elsa Hansen: My work involves ‘weaving’ stories through the traditional women’s work of hand embroidery and hand quilting.

nastystitches2Sara Sachs: I try to get the viewer to do a double take…i.e., look a second time at what at first appears to be a conventional needlework piece only to have an unexpected subject revealed.

Katrina Majkut: I’m interested in modernizing embroidery through incorporating contemporary imagery. I use classic painting techniques in order to create freeform cross-stitched still lifes.

Caroline Chandler: Katherine Bradford told me that my work was, “Zany yet profound.”  Maria Calandra told me that my work was, “Like a visitation.”  I like both of those descriptions.

Senti Sojwal: Where do you draw your inspiration these days?

Elsa Hansen: The subject and subject-groupings come in overlapping waves.  The inspirations for them, I mean.  Similarly, they come from overlapping spaces and times.  It’s unnecessary to discriminate against a source of ideas.  Even the fabric itself can suggest the future life of a piece.  I might be looking for a connection between personas, or I might be illuminating the connections I see.  Kanye and Sisyphus?  Isn’t that terrific?  I can ride that wire til the cows come home.

Sara Sachs: My inspiration runs the gamut from ordinary objects to rare or unusual images but they have in common that they would never be the subject of traditional needlework.

nasty stitches3Katrina Majkut: Interacting with people is a huge source of inspiration (I might be the only artist who wants people to tell them what to stitch!). By listening to their physical and health needs or their stories, I hear about products or items that I might not be aware because of my limited demographic perspective. I love the intersectionality this process lends to my practice and artwork. News events and advertising are really powerful influencers too; for example, I learned about PrEP + Condoms on the New York subway and the news regarding sexual assault on campus the last few years made me realize that should be part of my series In Control too.

Caroline Chandler: I’m inspired by memories of growing up in the South, my friends, the ancient, 1970’s cults, the occult, children’s art, my imagination, the love of my life, fancy beer, and psychedelia.

Senti Sojwal: What is the significance for you of using fabric and embroidery work to explore political and gendered issues?

Elsa Hansen: It is a privilege to explore gender just by doing what comes naturally.  I’m doing what I want to do (if I’m going to do anything) and I’m occupying postures and positions that billions of females occupied before and continue to occupy.  But that’s a gift from the work to me and not crucial to my conscious motivations.

Sara Sachs: Needle work’s provenance is the sewing circles of yore whose participants lacked a political voice. My work attempts to empower today’s descendants of those old time stitchers.

Katrina Majkut: Embroidery is stereotypically thought of as a women’s domestic craft. In my own experience and research, the images that are commonly in embroidery helped to create very specific identities for women as they relate to what it means to be a woman, a wife and a mother but it never included their physical requirements. The physicality of those roles are inseparable from fulfilling them, so I set out to include them in embroidery.

Caroline Chandler: I find it really interesting that the etymology of the word queer is ‘twerka’ which means twisted.  Crochet is a process in which lines are twisted, and I find the construction of crochet which is a process by which lines are twisted to be intrinsically linked to the subject matter of my work which explores queerness and the figure outside of the heteronormative cis gaze.

Senti Sojwal: Is the current presidential administration / climate pushing you to think about your art and work in a new or different way?

Elsa Hansen: I’m increasingly aware that those elected to office will come and go.  Unless they kill most or all of us (which is plausible, I’m told), we will continue to effectively rule ourselves.  Things, though, are charged now.  An image I stitched two years ago, not to mention anything I am stitching now, is bearing more weight in this current reality since we are so desperate to find reasons.

Sara Sachs: Among the many things that are threatening about the current disheartening political environment is the attempt to silence women (e.g., Kamilla Miller) and have them revert to their voiceless places in the sewing circles of the past.

Katrina Majkut: Not really, if anything the current political climate just confirms that my art is headed in the right direction. However, I just recently started thinking about how my artwork relates to democracy – if you think about it as the pursuit of social equality through an open market that’s influenced by free choice and embroidery as its form of representation.


Caroline Chandler: No. I’m from the South.  The current administration has been a real possibility from the get go. Most of my family members voted for Trump. On some level their most cherished beliefs have inspired me to make the work that I make.

Senti Sojwal: Where can Feministing readers find you and your work?

Elsa Hansen: On my website at, or at Simon Dickinson Gallery.

Sara Sachs: My website:

Katrina Majkut: (Twitter, Instagram), (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

Caroline Chandler: Now, at “Nasty Stitches”,  for Pride and up until October, my work will be on display at the Wythe Hotel in the lobby curated by the Kimia Ferdowsi Kline.  n late October, my next solo project ‘Orange Sunshine’ will be at Andrew Rafcza in Chicago. I have a website that sometimes gets updated but has a lot of funky strata:  

We Resist: Day 159

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 12:15
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: This Is What Happens in Authoritarian Regimes and Ukraine Is Under Cyberattack.


Mallory Shelbourne at the Hill: CBO: 4 Million Would Lose Employer Health Coverage Under GOP Plan. "Four million people would lose employer-provided insurance coverage in 2018 if the Senate's plan to repeal ObamaCare became law, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected on Monday. The nonpartisan budget analyst attributed the drop to the GOP's plan to repeal ObamaCare's two central mandates: the requirement to have health insurance and the requirement that most large employers provide it. 'Under current law, the prospect of paying the employer mandate penalty tips the scale for some businesses and causes them to decide to offer health insurance to their employees. Thus, eliminating that penalty would cause some employers to not offer health insurance,' the CBO wrote."

So, if you think you're safe because you've got employee-sponsored healthcare, you may not be. KEEP CALLING.

Burgess Everett, Josh Dawsey, and Jennifer Haberkorn at Politico: McConnell Warns Trump, GOP on Health Bill Failure. "Mitch McConnell is delivering an urgent warning to staffers, Republican senators and even the president himself: If Obamacare repeal fails this week, the GOP will lose all leverage and be forced to work with Chuck Schumer." OH THE HORROR! Keep. Calling.

* * *

More on today's cyberattacks in Ukraine and now elsewhere...

Erik Ortiz at NBC News: Widespread Cyberattack Hits Major European Companies. "A widespread cyberattack rippled across Europe on Tuesday, with major companies in Ukraine, Russia, Britain, and elsewhere reporting large-scale disruptions. Merck, an American pharmaceutical company, tweeted that its computer network 'was part of the global hack.' ...A message on a cash machine for Ukraine's state-owned bank Oschadbank demanded $300 worth of Bitcoin — and taunted victims not to 'waste your time' looking for another fix. 'If you see this text, then your files are no longer accessible, because they have been encrypted,' the message read in English, according to an image take by a Reuters photographer in Kiev. 'Perhaps you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but don't waste your time. Nobody can recover your files without our encryption service.' The message then went on to say how to pay the ransom in Bitcoin."

James Booth at Legal Week: DLA Piper Hit by Cyberattack with Phones and Computers Down Across the Firm. "DLA Piper has been hit by a major cyber attack, which has knocked out phones and computers across the firm. The shutdown appears to have been caused by a ransomware attack, similar to the WannaCry attack that hit organisations such as the NHS last month. ...Steve Hill, ex-deputy director in the UK government National Security Secretariat dealing with cyber security told Legal Week at that time: 'There is a huge criminal cyber threat to law firms. The hackers perpetrating these types of attacks will not be teenage boys — they are criminal gangs set up to exploit law firms for sensitive data or lock people out of the data in return for a ransom.'"

How many attorneys are currently investigating or defending the Trump administration? I'm sure this is nothing to worry about. Everything is fine.

* * *

Claudia Koerner and Nancy A. Youssef at BuzzFeed: White House Says Syria May Be Preparing Another Chemical Attack, Warns Assad Will "Pay a Heavy Price."
Syria appears to be preparing a new chemical weapons attack against its citizens, the White House said Monday, warning that if the weapons are again used, the US will make the Syrian government "pay a heavy price."

White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced the news in a statement late Monday.
The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children. The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack.

As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.
Five US defense officials reached by BuzzFeed News said they did not know where the potential chemical attack would come from, including one US Central Command official who had "no idea" about its origin. The officials said they were unaware the White House was planning to release its statement; usually such statements are coordinated across the national security agencies and departments before they are released.

A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment on the matter and referred questions to the White House statement. A State Department spokesperson also referred BuzzFeed News to the White House statement and said the agency did not have anything to add.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis departed Monday evening for a three-day trip to Germany and Belgium, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Joseph Dunford was in Afghanistan. Earlier in the evening, both Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as well as National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, attended a White House dinner hosted by Trump for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Fucking hell, this White House is just going rogue on foreign policy. There is no communication with CENTCOM, and clearly no communication with Congressional leaders. Further to that, what in wag the dog hell is this shit, exactly?! The White House is clearly rattling the saber against Syria every time they need to distract from bad news — *cough* CBO healthcare bill score *cough* — and that garbage cannot be allowed to stand. It's intolerable.

And I say "the White House" rather than "Donald Trump" advisedly: "All this occurred this week as [Donald] Trump displayed what two White House officials characterized as relative indifference and passivity towards the subject, instead opting to focus his public and private energies towards fuming at his domestic enemies in the Democratic Party and the 'fake news.' 'The president cares more about CNN and the Russia story than [Syria] at the moment,' one official observed."

Blink. Blink.

* * *

Devlin Barrett at the Washington Post: FBI Has Questioned Trump Campaign Adviser Carter Page at Length in Russia Probe. "Over a series of five meetings in March, totaling about 10 hours of questioning, Page repeatedly denied wrongdoing when asked about allegations that he may have acted as a kind of ­go-between for Russia and the Trump campaign, according to a person familiar with Page's account. The interviews with the FBI are the most extensive known questioning of a potential suspect in the probe of possible Russian connections to associates of [Donald] Trump. ...Page confirmed Monday that the interviews occurred, calling them 'extensive discussions.' He declined to say if he has spoken to investigators since the March interviews."

Esme Cribb at TPM: Kushner Adds Defense Lawyer to His Team for Federal Russia Probe. "Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser and [Donald] Trump's son-in-law, has added a prominent criminal defense lawyer to the legal team representing him amid the federal probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to reports late Monday by Politico and NBC News. Kushner has retained Abbe Lowell, a powerhouse trial lawyer who has represented high-profile political figures including John Edwards and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, in addition to his personal attorney Jamie Gorelick, according to Politico."

Jon Swaine at the Guardian: Trump Lawyer's Firm Steered Millions in Donations to Family Members, Files Show. "Documents obtained by the Guardian show [Jay Sekulow, Donald Trump's new attorney] approved plans to push poor and jobless people to donate money to his Christian nonprofit, which since 2000 has steered more than $60m to Sekulow, his family, and their businesses. ...In addition to using tens of millions of dollars in donations to pay Sekulow, his wife, his sons, his brother, his sister-in-law, his niece and nephew, and their firms, Case has also been used to provide a series of unusual loans and property deals to the Sekulow family." Remember how I just said last week that it sounded like Sekulow was "running a charity nepotism scam not unlike the one Trump was running"? Yeah.

Lily Dobrovolskaya and Nicholas Nehamas at the Miami Herald: Russian Official Linked to South Florida Biker Club Spent Millions on Trump Condos. "Out-of-town money pouring into South Florida real estate is as old as Henry Flagler. But the tale of Igor Zorin offers a 21st-century twist with all the weirdness modern Miami has to offer: Russian cash, a motorcycle club named after Russia's powerful special forces, and a condo tower branded by Donald Trump. Zorin is a Russian government official who has spent nearly $8 million on waterfront South Florida homes, hardly financially prudent given his bureaucrat's salary of $75,000 per year." For more on this story, see Charlie Pierce.

* * *

Judd Legum at ThinkProgress: The Inside Story of How TMZ Quietly Became America's Most Potent Pro-Trump Media Outlet. "As Trump has risen, TMZ has quietly emerged as, arguably, the most important pro-Trump outlet in America. Fox News is the largest and best known, but its audience is older and already inclined to support Trump. Breitbart is the most aggressive and strident, but its connection to white nationalism limits its appeal. TMZ attracts a large and diverse audience — precisely the folks Trump needed to reach to stitch together a winning coalition. Stories on TMZ not only gain a wide audience online but also appear on two nationally syndicated daily television shows (TMZ and TMZ Live) that, in most markets, are aired multiple times each day."


Richard L. Hasen at the LA Times: Gorsuch Is the New Scalia, Just Like Trump Promised.
Whatever else comes of the Donald J. Trump presidency, already he has perfectly fulfilled one campaign pledge in a way that will affect the entire United States for a generation or more: putting another Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. The early signs from Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the Court in April, show that he will hew to the late Justice Scalia's brand of jurisprudence, both in his conservatism and his boldness.

Usually it takes a few years to get the full sense of a new justice...

Not so with Gorsuch. In a flurry of orders and opinions issued Monday, Gorsuch went his own way. The majority affirmed the right of same-sex parents to have both their names appear on birth certificates, but Gorsuch dissented. The majority chose not to hear a challenge to California's public carry gun law, thus leaving it in place, but Gorsuch dissented. Gorsuch also wrote separately in the Trinity Lutheran case, on whether a parochial school may take government money for playground safety equipment. The court found in favor of the school, but Gorsuch went even further to the right in endorsing the government's ability to aid religious organizations. This followed his dissent with Justice Clarence Thomas a few weeks ago over the court's failure to consider overturning the "soft money ban" contained in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

Gorsuch also joined with the court's other strong conservatives, Alito and Thomas, to partially dissent from the Supreme Court's Monday order in the travel ban case. The court split the baby in that case, ruling that until the court hears the case this fall, only part of the ban may go into effect. (The government cannot enforce the travel ban against foreign individuals from six predominantly Muslim nations who have family, work or university connections to people or entities in the United States.) The dissenters would have allowed the Trump administration to enforce the entire ban until the court could fully consider the case.
Please tell me again how there were no differences between the two candidates. *jumps into Christmas tree*

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

What Could Have Been, and What Is

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 11:00
[syndicated profile] shakesville_feed

Posted by Melissa McEwan

Over the last four years, I have mentioned many times the joint 60 Minutes interview with President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It is one of my favorite political interviews, for a lot of reasons. I was thinking about that interview again today — specifically the part where Obama talks about why he wanted Clinton as his Secretary of State.
Steve Kroft: It's no secret that your aides cautioned you against— actually were against you offering Secretary Clinton this job. And you were just as determined not to take it. And you avoided taking her phone calls for awhile because you were afraid she was going to say no. Why were you so insistent about wanting her to be secretary of state?

President Obama: Well, I was a big admirer of Hillary's before our primary battles and the general election. You know, her discipline, her stamina, her thoughtfulness, her ability to project, I think, and make clear issues that are important to the American people, I thought made her an extraordinary talent. She also was already a world figure. And I thought that somebody stepping into that position of secretary of state at a time when, keep in mind, we were still in Iraq. Afghanistan was still an enormous challenge. There was great uncertainty in terms of how we would reset our relations around the world, to have somebody who could serve as that effective ambassador in her own right without having to earn her stripes, so to speak, on the international stage, I thought would be hugely important.

...I think everybody understands that Hillary's been, you know, one of the most important advisors that I've had on a whole range of issues. Hillary's capacity to travel around the world, to lay the groundwork for a new way of doing things, to establish a sense of engagement that, you know, our foreign policy was not going to be defined solely by Iraq, that we were going to be vigilant about terrorism, but we were going to make sure that we deployed all elements of American power, diplomacy, our economic and cultural and social capital, in order to bring about the kinds of international solutions that we wanted to see. I had confidence that Hillary could do that.
Obama wanted Clinton specifically because of her extraordinary diplomatic skills, dating back to her tenure as First Lady, and the respect she commanded around the globe after many years as a people's ambassador for the United States.

He was walking into the White House following eight years of George W. Bush having critically undermined the United States' standing with our allies (and our enemies), which had left us less safe. He knew we had to reestablish trust and rebuild diplomatic relationships, quickly and meaningfully, and the person he wanted to do it, the person he knew would be able to do it, was Hillary Clinton.

And she did.

Had she been elected president, the era of increased global respect for a United States that centered diplomacy in its foreign policy would have continued. (That's not to say that a Clinton presidency would not have included foreign policy decisions with which I would have expected to disagree, nor that the Obama presidency did not include the same.)

Instead, the country elected Donald Trump, who has no use for diplomacy and set about alienating our allies with belligerence and ignorance. The State Department that greeted Clinton's arrival with a solid minute of enthusiastic cheering is now being run by an oil executive with no government experience who's running the department as a skeleton crew.

The difference between what could have been and what is is stark.

Only 159 days into Trump's presidency, the Pew Research Center has found: "Global views of the U.S. and its president have shifted dramatically downward since the end of Barack Obama's presidency and the start of Donald Trump's, and they are now at similar levels to ratings from the George W. Bush era, according to a new Pew Research Center report that examines attitudes in 37 countries."

All of the work that President Obama and Secretary Clinton did is gone. Vanished. In 159 days.

Trump has stomped all over their collective legacy, which would be enough, except it's far worse than that, because, in doing so, he has made this country and its every citizen less safe than we were.

Less safe than we could have still been.

Ukraine Is Under Cyberattack

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 09:45
[syndicated profile] shakesville_feed

Posted by Melissa McEwan

One week ago today, I shared Andy Greenberg's piece at Wired about how Ukraine had become Russia's test lab for Cyberwar. In Ukraine, Greenberg wrote, "the quintessential cyberwar scenario has come to life."

There had been two blackouts already, and they weren't isolated attacks, but "part of a digital blitzkrieg that has pummeled Ukraine for the past three years—a sustained cyber­assault unlike any the world has ever seen. A hacker army has systematically undermined practically every sector of Ukraine: media, finance, transportation, military, politics, energy. Wave after wave of intrusions have deleted data, destroyed computers, and in some cases paralyzed organizations' most basic functions."

Today, Ukraine is being hit with another huge wave of cyberattacks.

Via Andrea Chalupa, RFE/RL reports: "Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko said on Facebook on June 27 that every computer monitor in the cabinet of ministers was locked and displayed a message in English warning users that if they shut down their computers all of their data will be deleted."

There is no confirmation that Russia is behind today's cyberattack on Ukraine, but it would be extraordinary if that were not the case.

Meanwhile, as I have previously noted, Russian diplomats, presumed to be Russian intelligence agents, have been "waging a quiet effort to map the United States' telecommunications infrastructure, perhaps preparing for an opportunity to disrupt it," and Russia has developed "a cyberweapon that has the potential to be the most disruptive yet against electric systems that Americans depend on for daily life."

Trump is not taking these threats seriously, even as Ukraine is suffering the very cyberattacks that we should fear. To the absolute contrary, Trump seems keen to abet Russia's plotting against the U.S., by handing back to the Russians control of the compounds from which they are thought to have orchestrated the infrastructure mapping intel operations.

I don't know whether Trump is actively colluding with the Kremlin against the United States, or whether the combination of his enamourment of Putin and his own uninformed arrogance has led him to genuinely and unaccountably believe that the Russians are his pals. Either way, he clearly believes that Putin respects him, which is foolish in the extreme.

Putin is not Trump's ally. Trump is Putin's mark.

And what is happening in Ukraine today is a foreshadow of what is to come in the United States, because we have a president who doesn't believe it will ever happen here.

Sidebar wonky on reading and tags page

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 17:14
carisma_sensei: (Default)
[personal profile] carisma_sensei posting in [community profile] style_system
Hi! I'm having a bit of a problem here. I wanted to edit a layout I made for a friend to use on her community. It has a fixed navigation at the bottom of the page which I don't know if could be causing this problem, but the sidebar looks right on recent entries page but it looks wonky everywhere else.

I have it testing here so you can look through the css. If you could help me out a bit D: I would be very grateful.
[syndicated profile] shakesville_feed

Posted by Melissa McEwan

Donald Trump's corruption is so vast and his lack of ethics so profound that it has caused a lurching shift in expectations of the United States President in only 159 days. It's easy to become inured to the erosion of our democratic norms, but we must resist the normalization of authoritarianism.

This is a big story, because this is what happens in authoritarian regimes: Coral Davenport at the New York Times reports that an E.P.A. Official Pressured Scientist on Congressional Testimony, Emails Show.
The Environmental Protection Agency's chief of staff pressured the top scientist on the agency's scientific review board to alter her congressional testimony and play down the dismissal of expert advisers, his emails show.

Deborah Swackhamer, an environmental chemist who leads the E.P.A.'s Board of Scientific Counselors, was to testify on May 23 before the House Science Committee on the role of states in environmental policy when Ryan Jackson, the E.P.A.'s chief of staff, asked her to stick to the agency's "talking points" on the dismissals of several members of the scientific board.

"I was stunned that he was pushing me to 'correct' something in my testimony," said Dr. Swackhamer, a retired University of Minnesota professor. "I was factual, and he was not. I felt bullied."

...James Thurber, the founder and former director of the Center for Congressional Studies at American University, said he had never heard of an administration pressuring a witness, particularly a scientist, to alter testimony already submitted for the official record.

"It's shocking and insulting to be told before you go in to alter your testimony to what the administration wants," he said. "This just shows a certain amount of amateurishness about how these hearings work. They're supposed to be places where you get objective views. You don't go around telling people what to say."
To call this "amateurish" behavior is to extend good faith to this administration, who has not earned any. It's not a matter of a failure of comprehension about hearings work; it's a matter of trying to avoid the appearance of subverting the role of academic science in environmental policy, while actually subverting the role of academic science in environmental policy.

This, as my friend Sarah Kendzior has noted, is part of the authoritarian's agenda (emphasis mine):
Shortly after Trump's inauguration, his administration reviewed the EPA's website and, during that time, instructed its employees not to communicate on its research to the public through press releases, blog posts, or social media. If citizens became ill due to environmental protection rollbacks, policies like this could lead to people would have less information to use to seek recourse.

That censorship of scientists and national parks workers — who reportedly went on to act as "rogue" employees posting statistics on climate change in anonymous Twitter accounts — furthers the administration's authoritarian ambitions: One cannot refute information one does not know.
No information, no recourse. No information, nothing to resist.

Dr. Swackhamer said she "felt bullied." No wonder. She found herself at the blunt end of an authoritarian order. Nothing about that is going to feel right.

And it should not sit right with us.

Prompt for 2017-06-27

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 21:22
sashataakheru: (Default)
[personal profile] sashataakheru posting in [community profile] dailyprompt
Today's prompt is 'cold'.