Thursday, April 15, 2021
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Staying Gone Is the Hardest

 photo ShelterPoster_4_Small_zpsd53ac9ac.jpgThe cloak of silence surrounding intimate partner fatalities is nearly impenetrable. Details are buried with the victims. Family members deny evidence of abuse before their very eyes. But partners who have survived and healed provide a window on the methods and complexity of power wielded by their abusers.

What follows are stories told by women who could be your sister, mother, neighbor, or boss. These women came together in October at Charlottesville's Shelter for Help in Emergency to share their lives; to try to explain and describe how they were bound to their abusers, how they left, and how they continue to suffer though the healing process. Looking at them you would never know what is inside or be able to distinguish them from the staff at the Shelter. These are striking women who you know but who live secret parallel existences; hidden even from themselves.

The stories that follow are at once different and the same. One striking aspect of these is that the methods the abusers employ are from the same kit familiar to anyone who has studied child or elder abuse or, for that matter, financial exploitation of the wealthy in Ponzi schemes. They are just applied in different variations depending upon the situation and prey. If we recognize the tools in the toolkit, then maybe observing them being applied is the red flag to defend ourselves and others. This, as suggested in A Journey Into Intimate Power and Abuse, provides a perspective that hints a "healthy cynicism" is the necessary defense against any form of nefarious advantage.

All of these women were and are like any of us, reaching to achieve their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. What makes us vulnerable is how and when we assign trust. That vulnerability is an aspect of human commerce as is trust. Sociopaths leverage an intuition crafted from their own experiences to recognize prey and know how to "close the sale."

Note: The posters featured here line the walls of the conference room at the Charlottesville Shelter office. Like the stories that follow, there are no names displayed out of respect for the privacy and security of these survivors. (click to embiggen)

Senator Warner on Reducing the Burden of Student Loans

Student debt is currently about $1.2 trillion. Even more staggering is that, according to Brookings Institution figures, the amount increased by 20% in just the past 2 years. And though Brookings' research plays down the consequences, the analysis is flawed. Warner has recognized what could become a significant crisis.

There were stories about student debt on the Wall Street Journal This Morning today and in the Journal's newspaper yesterday mentioning initiatives by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and others. Unfortunately and maybe intentionally, our Senator's initiatives went unheralded.

During a swing through Virginia last month, Senator Warner stopped at a number of campuses to discuss his concerns. The commercial media has not given Warner's ideas the attention they deserve and his opponent hasn't been challenged on the issues.

Studies like the one done at Brookings that downplay the impact of student loan debt rely on data from 2010 and before; not recent enough to capture the changes to the economic landscape precipitating from the financial crisis. They also fail to account for the debt generated from loans that paid for "educations" from predatory for-profit colleges and universities and the waste of veterans benefits squandered at those same institutions.

Plus there is an intangible factor bearing on the psyche of graduates that the Senator lays out after explaining that his own first two ventures in entrepreneurship and capitalism ended in failure and financial loss:

"The point of the story is: if I had come out with, the way many students are now, with forty, fifty, sixty, seventy thousand dollars' worth of debt, I'm not sure I would have had the courage or ability to try to take those multiple chances."

College debt may be an obstacle to the kind of freedom necessary for the creativity and invention that made America the leader in innovation. Warner offers a number of ideas to mitigate the challenge that student loan debt presents.  

Why U-VA Should Be Compensated for Cuccinelli’s Follies

Virginia Senate Democrats recently submitted their demands for the state budget, and in a stroke of inspiration, included compensating the University of Virginia $576,000 for its legal costs in fighting Attorney General Cuccinelli's appalling legal assault on it.

In the grand scheme of an $85 billion budget, this is a relatively small item and I suspect that even some of the Senators who submitted this demand may just see it as a political gimmick to get some publicity and impress key constituents.  Here's why it needs to be treated as much more than that:

Our Attorney General, acting officially in the name of every citizen of the Commonwealth, tried to inject the powerful hand of government into a scientific matter.  As the Virginia Supreme Court found in its slapdown of him, he wrongly tried to use a state statute aimed at prosecuting cases of fraud against the government to actually criminalize a climate scientist for engaging in fully legitimate research.  The Supreme Court threw his trumped-up case out based on the threshold issue that the University was not covered under the fraud statute -- meaning that this was at a minimum an instance of unbelievable official incompetence which cost a great Virginia university money, time and aggravation for no reason other than raw politics.

Prof. Michael Mann strikes back

Looks as though Professor Michael Mann has had enough.

Mann, you will recall, is the climate scientist that Ken Kookynelly is demonizing and trying to "investigate."

In this letter to the editor, Mann responds to a published attack on his work.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Mann's response -- the rest of the article is as strongly-worded as the opening:

An individual named Martin Hertzberg did a grave disservice to your readers by making false and defamatory statements about me and my climate scientist colleagues in his recent commentary in your paper.

It's hard to imagine anyone packing more lies and distortions into a single commentary. Mr. Hertzberg uses libelous language in characterizing the so-called "hockey stick" -- work of my own published more than a decade ago showing that recent warming is unusual over at least the past 1,000 years -- as "fraudulent," and claiming that it "it was fabricated from carefully selected tree-ring measurements with a phony computer program."

These are just lies, regurgitation of dishonest smears that have been manufactured by fossil fuel industry-funded climate change deniers, and those who do their bidding by lying to the public about the science.

Go to the link, read Mann's article, then, give him some help by clicking on the RECOMMEND link at the top of the article.

Kooky had better re-think his desire to get Mann on the witness stand because it's clear Prof. Mann is not about to roll over for anyone.

Prof. Mann vindicated by National Science Foundation — Is Cuccinelli paying...

Climate researcher Michael Mann -- the focus of Ken Cuccinelli's assault on academic freedom at UVA -- has been vindicated, again. This time, it was a report from the National Science Foundation finding that the allegations constantly being heaped on him by the right wing bloviocracy are -- shocker -- completely baseless.

As the report from NSF's Inspector General states, direct evidence has been presented that indicates the Subject fabricated the raw data he used for his research or falsified his results. Much of the current debate focuses on the viability of the statistical procedures he employed, the statistics used to confirm the accuracy of the results, and the degree to which one specific set of data impacts the statistical results. These concerns are all appropriate for scientific debate and to assist the research community in directing future research efforts to improve understanding in this field of research. Such scientific debate is ongoing but does not, in itself, constitute evidence of research misconduct.

This follows similar studies findings of no misconduct based on the so-called "climategate" emails, by the Inspector General of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Penn State University, University of East Anglia, and the British Parliament.

If our Attorney General were a real man, he would at this point admit that he is wrong in continuing to harass Professor Mann and UVA, drop this case, and focus on actually doing his job for the taxpayers of Virginia.  But...alas.  

Mr. Cuccinelli’s Bully State

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

There are Republicans who genuinely believe in a weak government that steps aside to let other sectors of society take the lead.  But Ken Cuccinelli is not one of them.  His approach, demonstrated time and time again, is to use government as a weapon to harass and strip the rights of any people and institutions that do not share his point of view.   The net effect is to increase the power of himself and future government officials at the expense of most everyone else in the state. 

Whereas an attorney general would normally be expected to use his position to protect the citizens of his state from genuine threats to their rights and well being, I cannot think of a single occasion on which our attorney general has done so.  To the contrary, most of his acts involve attacking any institution that seeks to protect Virginia citizens in any way that does not conform with Cuccinelli's rigid (and at times delusional) right-wing ideology.  And in nearly every instance, he has done so on the thinnest of legal grounds, stretching any law he can find to justify his ideological assaults. 

While conservatives and libertarians like to talk about a "Nanny State", our Ayatollah General presents us with something much worse -- the Bully State: government not as protector, but as a threat to anyone who does not support his agenda. 

The right way to free information

It looks like the University of Virginia will be responding to a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request for documents related to Prof. Michael Mann's climate research there.  Yes, this is the same stash of info that Attorney General Cuccinelli is pushing U-VA to turn over, through a conspiracy-laden courtroom drama aimed at throwing Mann in prison for engaging in research that big oil and coal companies don't like.

But U-VA's FOIA response is actually good news.

First, from a First Amendment perspective, there is a huge difference between responding to a citizen petition vs. being compelled to respond by the heavy, tyrannical hand of Big Gov'mint. If you don't understand the difference, then please read the Bill of Rights, which is all but obsessively focused on protecting individual rights vis-a-vis the government.

VA Supremes to Hear Case of Cooch v. Academic Freedom

The case of Ken Cuccinelli's unconstitutional harassment of climate scientist Michael Mann is now headed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

This ought to be interesting.  According to the Virginia Times-Dispatch story,

In granting the full hearing, the court outlined key legal questions to be considered, including what is the standard Cuccinelli had to meet for believing that U.Va. had relevant documents; how much proof of wrongdoing Cuccinelli had to show to have his request granted; and whether a Virginia statute aimed at combating fraud of taxpayer dollars applies to federal grant money that only passes through the state's hands.

Considering that Cooch's case is based solely on wacko climate change conspiracy theories - even though many climate skeptics have actually condemned Cooch's actions in this case - and he presented ZERO evidence that Professor Mann committed anything resembling fraud, this ought to be the very definition of an open-and-shut case.  

Still, I have to admit I have rarely followed the VA Supreme Court and don't know quite what to expect to them.  Per Judgepedia, I see a 3-2 Republican-Democratic split on the court.  Will the Republican appointees slavishly defend Cooch, or will they act like actual judges considering the facts of the case?

I encourage all interested parties to file amicus briefs arguing for academic freedom at the University of Virginia and beyond.  I'd also like to hear from some of our lawyer friends about what they think we should expect from the court and any suggestions on how to file such briefs successfully.  

Ultimately, I'm confident that we will win this fight, because freedom of speech and inquiry is what America is all about.

Tyranny’s A-Okay If You’re – Cuccinelli!

When government officials overreach and abuse their powers, they are wicked, tyrannical, communist and anti-American.  Except when they're Republican.  Then, they're heroes!

That seems to be the conclusion of a recent Op-Ed in the Washington Examiner, a right wing rag so worthless that it has to be given away for free.  In this commentary, state Delegate Bob Marshall and two conservative nobodies defend Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's assault on climate scientist Michael Mann and the University of Virginia, and proclaim that they're backing up Cooch's Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs) to U.VA. with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of their own.

They join the attack on Thomas Jefferson's university by - conservatives' favorite strategy - blaming the victim.  Their argument being that a university that defies the efforts of a powerful government official to accuse a former professor of criminal fraud for supporting climate change - based on zero evidence, as one judge has already found - must be "hiding something."  

All this from the same conservatives who compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler for, um, requiring people to buy health insurance?  How can people survive with such cognitive dissonance without their heads exploding?

Why It’s Time to Impeach Ken Cuccinelli

Cross posted at Daily Kos

The moment to impeach a public official is when they begin to represent a tangible threat to the very democracy they have been elected to serve.  This moment has come for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

There are a number of potential grounds upon which to make the case against Cuccinelli, who has spent his first year in office pursuing partisan goose chases rather than performing his job as the chief legal officer for ALL Virginians.  But I will focus on just one issue, the one that, I believe, is so utterly offensive to the American democratic tradition that it demands an equally aggressive rebuke.

And that is his relentless pursuit of Professor Michael Mann and the University of Virginia, in a poisonously misguided effort to turn the threat some vested interests feel at the concept of climate change into an official state criminal investigation of a scientist for his research.  Cooch's decision to appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court the rightful ruling of Judge Paul Peatross, who threw out Cooch's baseless case against Mann, shows that a state official who will not listen to reason needs to be challenged himself.

We are not talking here about politicians having policy differences and hashing them out fairly and squarely in the public arena.  Cuccinelli's witch hunt against Mann escalates our political wars to the unheard-of level of actually criminalizing scientific research that threatens one's donors.  Let's be blunt here: we are talking here about an unprecedented act in American history.