Archive | 3:16 pm

A Conclave Of Blowhards

19 Mar

PanmunjomThis sounds ominous (dum da dum…da dum).

The Pentagon said the US had informed China, North Korea’s neighbour and closest ally, of its decision to add more interceptors but declined to characterise Beijing’s reaction.

The US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, announced plans on Friday to bolster American missile defences in response to “irresponsible and reckless provocations” by North Korea, which has threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the US.

A senior US military official visiting Seoul sent a message to both Koreas: warning Pyongyang over recent threats and reassuring South Korea that military backing won’t be hurt by a congressional budget debate.

The deputy secretary of defence, Ashton Carter, said on Monday that Pyongyang’s threats would only deepen Washington’s defence commitment to Seoul. He said that includes a “nuclear umbrella” security guarantee for Seoul, which doesn’t have atomic weapons.

Ashton said deep US budget cuts won’t alter Pentagon efforts to make South Korean security a priority.

Enter the B-52s (via The Marmot’s Hole).

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Steubenville Is Guilty

19 Mar

steubenville_protestSteubenville, Ohio has been found guilty, and its role in a sexual assault of a young woman has succeeded in adding to a long list of legal and moral travesties.

It wasn’t enough that ABC aired a rosy profile of one of the now-convicted rapists before the trial, emphasizing his happy mood the night of the rape and his football career. Instead, CNN anchor Candy Crowley and correspondent Poppy Harlow talked about how hard it was to watch the convicted rapists break into tears, given their good grades and, again, their football-playing prowess. NBC’s Ron Allen spoke eloquently about the boys’ “dreams” of college and, again, their football skills now wasted by their convictions. And, of course, the AP, USA Today and Yahoo stories about the convictions all led off with how the victim in the case – of whom the boys were convicted of raping – was reportedly drunk on the night in question. The convicted rapists’ intoxication, or lack thereof, was not, apparently, editorially important.

Generally speaking, the news media don’t lament the theretofore bright futures of young men (or women) convicted of other violent crimes, such as the killing of girlfriends or executing down-on-their-luck job-hunters. They don’t grieve at the loss of college football careers for kids convicted of drug-related offenses, or empathize with would-be murderers who break down in tears when faced with consequences for the crimes they committed. They don’t assign deeper motivations to the tears of men and women who must now contend with the most openly broken part of the American criminal justice system – incarceration – to which around 2.2 million Americans are currently consigned (at 730 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, the highest rate of imprisonment in the world) and which is widely recognized as minimally rehabilitative and maximally punitive.

But rape isn’t any other crime in America, or elsewhere. Statistics show that every 100 rapes in America results in only five felony convictions. It’s the only crime in which the level of intoxication of the victim is considered by some, like the convicted rapists’ lawyers and some in the media, to be mitigating evidence. It’s the only crime in which the perceived attractiveness of the perpetrators to other people or the victim is considered relevant information. It’s the only one in which we’re encouraged to sympathize with why perpetrators picked their victims – their supposed drunkenness, their clothes, their reputations – and then blame the victims for making themselves attractive targets.

And it’s probably the only crime these two boys could have committed and gotten international coverage for their football prowess and the supposed harm that the victim – not the two rapists – did to their team. But when everyone is done being sympathetic to two convicted rapists whose own bad decisions – not those of the victim, or those made within the criminal justice system – put three promising young lives on very different paths than the ones on which they started that terrible night, maybe then they can give some thought to the young girl. It is she, whose body was violated by two boys and hundreds of thousands of strangers, who has to walk into a school and among residents of a town where some people want her not just shamed for her own sexual assault but dead for reporting it. For her, the few memories of that night but the many of its extended aftermath cannot be erased.

And then, there’s Alexandria Goddard’s role and the state attorney-general’s call for a grand jury, to investigate how “bystanders” on social media sites might have exacerbated the travesty.

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Kate Brown Gets Up Close And Personal

19 Mar

Chelybinsk MeetingInitially excited about reading this plug for Kate Brown’s new book, Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, I’m increasingly skeptical.

Brown’s willingness to chop firewood or risk harassment to get closer to the history she writes is nothing new. In the late 1980s and early 1990s she traveled throughout the collapsing Soviet empire as she helped lead a glasnost-era student-exchange program. Today, at the age of 47, she commutes to UMBC by riding a bicycle across more than three miles of Washington traffic before getting on a train.

But colleagues and students observe that Brown’s physical intrepidness is matched (and even surpassed) by her willingness to take intellectual risks. For instance, her forthcoming book, Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (Oxford University Press) is a tale of two cities: Ozersk and Richland, a city in Washington state that abuts the first major U.S. plutonium facility at Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

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