Category Archives: Sex

Chart of the day: Room at the top, for some


From the Asahi Shimbun:

BLOG Women

Fox stoops to new low: ‘Boobs on the ground’


Via TPMTV, conclusive proof that. . .well, just watch this clip aired today on Fox News:

Fox Hosts Dub Female Fighter Pilot ‘Boobs On The Ground’

Context from the New York Times:

Emirates’ First Female Fighter Pilot Led Mission in Syria

When fighter jets from the United Arab Emirates took part in airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria on Monday night, the mission was led by a woman, the country’s ambassador to the United States said Thursday morning.

The pilot, Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, was among the first women to graduate from the Emirates’ air force academy after it began to admit women, and became the nation’s first female fighter pilot.

“She is a fully qualified, highly trained, combat-ready pilot, and she led the mission,” the ambassador, Yousef Al Otaiba, said on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe.”

Also taking to the air at the stick of a jet with full load of bombs and similarly photogenic was Saudi Prince Khaled bin Salman, though not so easy a target for Foxy boyish boorish bombast.

John Oliver: Guilty of investigative journalism


Really.

A realization suddenly dawned as we watched this latest and much-viewed clip from HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver about the Miss America pageant: John Oliver and his crew were doing something truly subversive. They were committing an act of actual investigative journalism.

Not only that: The episode captures in a fairly accurate manner the thought process giving rise to a completed print/video/audio investigative report.

So close to to the actual process is the episode that it captures the very thought processes of the journalist. John Oliver’s remarks are precisely similar those we’ve heard and made during the course of a writing newspaper stories, magazine articles, and books investigating various phenomena we consider it important for folks to know about.

What clinched our surmise was that hefty stack of IRS 990 forms Oliver plunked down at his desk, an act we’ve done many times before [for example], with precisely the admixture of humorous triumph and exasperation.

Indeed, the clip’s so good that a wise journalism professor would show it at the very first lecture in a course on the art of investigative reporting.

So our hat’s off to you, John Oliver, and welcome to the ranks of the Fourth Estate.

Form Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Miss America Pageant

Program notes:

The Miss America Pageant…how is this still a thing?
They claim to give more scholarships to women than any other organization, and, unfortunately, they’re right.
To illustrate these problems, John Oliver stages his own pageant with the help of Kathy Griffin.

Here are the links to the women’s scholarship funds that John mentioned on air:

Society of Women Engineers: http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/

Jeanette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund: www.rankinfoundation.org

Patsy Mink Foundation: www.patsyminkfoundation.org

Poll: Major changes in views toward LGBT folks


While the American racial crisis remains very much alive, one very where national attitudes have shifted profoundly in recent years has been in the arna of sexual orientation, as results from a new Mc Clatchy-Marist Poll reveal.

Among other things, the percentage of Americans favoring same-sex marriage has doubled in the last 18 years, rising from 27 percent in 1996 to 54 percent today.

Some of the other findings from the poll:

  • 71% of Americans know someone who is gay, and 52% of adults nationally say the number of gay and lesbian people they know has grown over the past ten years.  This is especially true for younger Americans.  When the Pew Research Center asked a similar question in 1999, only 39% of Americans said they had a friend, colleague, or family member who was gay.
  • More than eight in ten adults, 83%, say knowledge that a congressional candidate is gay or lesbian would make no difference in how they vote.  14% would be less likely to cast their ballot for a gay or lesbian candidate.  The Los Angeles Times Poll asked this question of Americans in 1985.  At that time, 49% said a candidate’s sexual orientation would not make any difference in deciding their vote, and 47% reported they were less likely to cast their ballot if a candidate was gay.
  • 62% of Americans would not be upset if their child were gay, including 48% who would not be upset at all and 14% who describe their reaction as not very upset.  35% of adults nationally would be upset if their child came out to them.  This includes 13% of residents who would be very upset and 22% who would be somewhat upset.  Age matters.  21% of Americans under 30 would be upset if their child shared this with them compared with about one-third of adults between 30 and 59 years of age and nearly half, 48%, of Americans 60 or older.
  • But, attitudes are significantly different than they were in 1985.  In a Los Angeles Times Poll, conducted nearly thirty years ago, 89% of Americans said they would be troubled if their child was gay.  In that earlier poll, 64% of Americans characterized their reaction as very upset and 25% were somewhat upset.  Five percent said they would not be very upset, and only 4%, then, said they would not be upset at all.

Quote of the day: Latter-day Hidden Persuaders


From Lisa Wade, chair of sociology at Occidental College [Barry O's undergrad alma mater], writing in Sociological Images:

Earlier this year I reviewed a study that found that, simply by changing the weight of an object in hand, psychologists can manipulate how seriously a person takes an issue.  In other words, when holding something heavy, matters seem heavy.  Or, concerns seem weightier when one is weighed down.

Thanks to an email from USC professor Norbert Schwarz, I was introduced to a whole series of studies on what psychologists call metaphorical effects.  These are instances in which a metaphor commonly used to describe a psychological state or social reality can, in turn, induce that state or reality.  So, for example, holding a warm cup of coffee makes people feel warmly toward each other (here), getting the cold shoulder makes people feel cold (here), people placed in a high location seem to be high in a hierarchy (here), and cleaning one’s hands makes a person feel morally clean (here).

Schwarz was the co-author, with Spike W.S. Lee, on another example of a metaphorical effect.  They wanted to know if smelling something fishy made people suspicious.  It did!

Asked to participate in a fake study on whether they’d be willing to invest money in a scheme, subjects who were exposed to a fishy smell invested less than those exposed to no smell and less than those exposed to another icky smell that was “metaphorically irrelevant”: fart.

From sensory perception to psychological state.  Boom.

Our headline comes from the The Hidden Persuaders, an influential 1957 best seller by journalist and author Vance Packard, who we had the pleasure of conversing with during a faculty cocktail reception during our freshman year in college. While some of the research touted by Packard has been debunked, the general truth remains: Corporations, politicians, and other institutions with a vested interest in shaping your opinion for their benefit will resort to using any tools at hand to exploiting us for fun and profit.

Here’s an excerpt from a previous post:

In my second book, Deadly Blessings, Faith Healing on Trial , I suggested two books as good sources for anyone interested in learning some of the basic steps of critical thought. In quoting myself, bear in mind that I was writing about them in the context of exploring the reasons folks get drawn into adopting beliefs which ultimately prove not only false but self-harming.

The first is psychologist Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

A social psychologist, Cialdini approached his field from the inside out, learning the tricks of the trade from the very practitioners who exert their wiles on us in the marketplaces of goods and ideas. His inventory:

  • Consistency. Once people commit to a decision, they change their thought to conform with their commitment, Advertisers call it brand loyalty; religions call it fidelity.
  • Reciprocation. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. As social beings, humans expect favors to be returned, and to return those others do them.
  • Social proof. People look to others to see what actions are appropriate in the context of the moment. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Uncertainty produces imitation.
  • Authority. “Follow the leader.” “Leave it to the experts.” “Listen to mother.” “I am the teacher here.” Social existence mandates authority.
  • Liking. Human beings are more inclined to listem to and be influenced by people they like. Hence the con game victim’s “How could he do that to me. He was so nice.”
  • Scarcity. The harder something is to get the more valuable it becomes. Humanity survived by learning to value and conserve scarce resources, and that habit has carried over into everything we do.”

A second set of tools for grasping the pitches hurled your way was advanced by the late and always controversial biologist Garrett Hardin in Filters Against Folly: How To Survive Despite Economists, Ecologists, and the Merely Eloquent.

While I don’t agree with all the ideas Hardin advanced, Filters is spot on. To evaluate the claims constantly bombarding us from every quarter, Hardin advanced three skills as indispensable. Again, the definitions are my own, adapted to the context of my book:

  • Literacy. For an idea to be accessible, it must be effectively communicated. Before you can load the language you must learn the language.
  • Numeracy. For one claim to be tested against another, each must be tested within defined limits. The numbers tell the story.
  • Ecolacy. The recognition that all literate and numerate definitions are limited; that planned real-world actions always carry unintended consequences. The “wow”/”oops” phenomenon.

These are good starting points for the development of a truly subversive skill, one that will lead the young mind to ask inconvenient questions—and there’s nothing we need more at this moment.

A reporter and a televangelist’s gold Rolex

We became acquainted with Cialdini’s book when it first came out, a consequence of doing book reviews for the Sacramento Bee.

Shortly after we finished our read, we were sent to cover a press conference by political televangelist Pat Robertson, who was flying to the state capitol during his Moral Majority convention in San Francisco, the location chosen as an act of “witnessing” in a latter-day Sodom-by-the-Bay.

When Falwell strode into the room, he made a point of greeting and glad-handing each reporter by name. Having just read Influence, we were instantly on guard, knowing that just such a personalization was demonstrated to reduce critical distancing of the sort needed by a reporter obligated to present an unobligated account of events to our readers. [The same presentation also cost a great many car buyers a great deal of money.]

We had noticed that a few devotees had managed to make their way into the room, and each was presented with a little pin as well as getting the dental glare and personalized grip-and-grin. We also noted that reporters didn’t get the pin.

So when we were subjected to the high-wattage display, we did two things. First, we made a point of truly looking at his person. Second, after the dazzling intro, we gave him a sincere smile of my own, then a quick frown. “Don’t I get a pin?”

He fumbled a hand into his coat pocket, extracting the little plastic pouch. Inside, a “Jesus First” pin, cheap and thinly clad in a golden wash. But it was the other wrist that caught our eye, mostly because of the solid gold diamond-bezeled Rolex Presidential that adorned it so spectacularly.

Our subsequent story, carried by the McClatchy News Service, received considerable play nationally and, we were told, lead to a Country/Western song about Rolex-wearing celebrity preachers.

But, of special satisfaction to esnl, in every photo op thereafter, Falwell’s wrist no longer sported a watch worth more than the yearly wages of many Americans. Replacing it, a leather-banded televangelical equivalent of Richard Nixon’s “good Republican cloth coat.”

UPDATE: Here’s the opener of our 14 July 1984 piece for the Bee:

The watch was a Rolex, conservative but made of gold. The suit was navy blue, well-tailored for the broad-shouldered physique, and the loafers fashionable but conservative. There was a wedding band on the left hand, encircled by small but brilliant diamonds.

The hair was impeccable, graying, blow-dried and sprayed, with not a strand out of place. Fastened to his left lapel was a small gold pin with a two-word message.

Jerry Falwell had come to town.

Such are the dangers of facing a reporter armed with a knowledge of the tools deployed against him.

Headlines of the day I: Spies, lies, zones, threats


Once again, we missed a day, leaving us with a lot of catching up on the latest development in the world of the dark arts, corporate snooping, and military posturing.

Most notable [and after the jump], rapid escalation of the Asian security crisis and the latest in corporate cyber-stalking.

We begin with a headline from Reuters:

Man arrested for suspected plot to blow up Kansas airport

Authorities have arrested a man suspected of plotting to blow up the Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Kansas, in a suicide attack with a carload of explosives, officials said Friday.

Terry Loewen, a 58-year-old aviation technician from Wichita, intended to die a martyr in the bombing, U.S. District Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom said at a news conference.

Authorities said Loewen was believed to have been motivated, at least partly, by religious beliefs. Officials said Loewen had made statements prior to the attempted attack that he was resolved to commit an act of violent “jihad” on behalf of al Qaeda against the United States.

Now, on to the latest twist in the one story that has been capturing global headlines for months. From News Corp Australia:

US spy ‘open to cutting deal with Snowden’

A NATIONAL Security Agency official has said in an interview he would be open to cutting an amnesty deal with US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden if the fugitive agreed to stop divulging secret documents.

Rick Ledgett, who heads the NSA’s task force investigating the damage from the Snowden leaks, told CBS television’s 60 Minutes program that some but not all of his colleagues share his view.

And from The Guardian, vanishing hopes for reform:

NSA review to leave spying programs largely unchanged, reports say

  • Panel to propose bulk surveillance continue – with some curbs
  • Adviser calls apparent decision to leave core intact ‘shameful’

More from Wired:

White House Task Force Urges Curb on NSA’s Bulk Data Collection

A presidential task force charged with determining what reforms are needed for the NSA and its surveillance activities has recommended the agency be led by a civilian commander, instead of a military one, and that bulk phone records the NSA wants to collect be retained by phone companies or held by a third party, rather than being stored by the NSA.

The task force also recommended restrictions on when and how the NSA can search the data, according to the Wall Street Journal. And it recommended separating the code-making division of the NSA, which develops and promotes codes, from the NSA division that breaks electronic security codes. Documents recently leaked by Edward Snowden described a decade-long effort by the NSA to crack different types of encryption and other security mechanisms in order to provide access to protected data for surveillance, a task at odds with the NSA’s traditional role in helping to develop public algorithms.

Still more from Ars Technica:

Obama panel says NSA phone spying records should be held by third party

Intelligence officials likely to oppose restrictions on surveillance.

Reuters has the response from The Most Transparent Administration in History™:

White House says plans no split of NSA, Cyber Command

The Obama administration on Friday said it will keep one person in charge of both the National Security Agency spy agency and the military’s Cyber Command, despite growing calls for splitting the roles in the wake of revelations about the vast U.S. electronic surveillance operations.

The White House had considered splitting up the two agencies, possibly giving the NSA a civilian leader for the first time in its 61-year history to dampen controversy over its programs revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.

Dogs and ponies, via The Verge:

NSA officials go on tour to heal agency image amid surveillance scandal

The National Security Agency has endured six months of criticism from media outlets since Edward Snowden released documents disclosing the agency’s massive global surveillance apparatus. With its back against the wall, NSA head Keith Alexander and Snowden task force head Richard Ledgett are speaking directly to the press as a means of getting ahead of the story, with the hope of painting themselves — and Snowden himself — in a new light.

Another Snowden link, via Ars Technica:

Archaic but widely used crypto cipher allows NSA to decode most cell calls

Snowden docs make it official: The NSA can crack 30-year-old A5/1 crypto.

The National Security Agency can easily defeat the world’s most widely used cellphone encryption, a capability that means the agency can decode most of the billions of calls and texts that travel over public airwaves each day, according to published report citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Bloomberg Businessweek has the latest form of blowback:

IBM Shareholder Sues the Company Over NSA Cooperation

Spying is not good for business. That’s been the message from many U.S. tech companies and industry groups in recent months following revelations last summer that several companies were cooperating with the National Security Agency over its Prism surveillance program. The industry says it stands to lose tens of billions of dollars as customers in other countries turn to homegrown technology instead.

Now one such company, IBM (IBM), is facing a lawsuit over its cooperation with the NSA. IBM was sued yesterday by a shareholder claiming it violated federal securities laws in seeking to hide losses that stemmed from disclosures of its relationship with the NSA.

While Business Insider has yet another disappointment from the land of Hope™ and Change™:

AP Photojournalist Blasts Obama’s Press Restrictions As ‘Orwellian Image Control’

A photojournalist for the Associated Press is pulling no punches in a scathing opinion piece published today in The New York Times, referring to the restrictions on press photographers covering the president as “draconian” and calling official photo releases “propaganda.”

The article written by Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography for the Associated Press, is titled “Obama’s Orwellian Image Control.”

Lyon takes issue with the release of pictures from official White House photographers as an “idealized portrayal of events” that could not be considered journalism. He also doesn’t mince words in his conclusion, calling these photos “propaganda.”

And the latest embarrassment for the folks at Langley from The Guardian:

CIA veterans say Robert Levinson affair may damage intra-agency co-operation

  • AP: former FBI agent missing in Iran was working with CIA
  • Relations between analysts and operatives likely to be strained

An unauthorized CIA spy operation initiated by agency analysts didn’t just lead to an American being seized in Iran. It may have damaged ties between intelligence analysts and operations specialists, according to CIA veterans.

More media embarrassment from Gawker:

ABC, NYT Repeatedly Lied About CIA Operative Robert Levinson

ABC News and The New York Times have known since 2007 that Robert Levinson, the ex-FBI agent who was kidnapped in Iran, was not, as the U.S. government and his family claimed, an independent businessman: He was working for the CIA. The Times’ report today discloses this timeline; ABC News’ report does not—but a source at the network confirmed to Gawker that ABC reporters discovered the CIA connection in 2007 as well. At the request of the government and Levinson’s family, however, both outlets repeatedly stated, without any caveats, that Levinson was on a “business trip” when he was captured. A review of their coverage indicates that ABC News did so at least 7 times, and the Times at least 3 times.

The Christian Science Monitor has more lies:

Levinson, Iran, the CIA, and lies

The US government has been lying for years about Robert Levinson, a man kidnapped in Iran after being sent there as part of a rogue CIA operation. Some media have been playing along.

While the AP reports that Levinson’s handlers were CIA employees, they all appear to have been analysts, rather than employees expert in gathering intelligence themselves and running assets in the field. The AP says the employees running Levinson as their own private collection agent weren’t authorized to do so, and that three analysts were quietly sacked in 2007 for their involvement and a further seven admonished.

BBC News offers the latest White House spin control:

White House: Robert Levinson not a government employee

The AP agency says the White House is choosing its words carefully – that Bob Levinson was not an “employee” but a “contractor”

The White House has said the ex-FBI agent believed to have been held in Iran for the last seven years was not working for the US government at the time of his disappearance.

White House spokesman Jay Carney spoke the day after the Associated Press news agency reported Mr Levinson was on an unauthorised mission for the CIA.

And more embarrassment via the London Daily Mail:

CIA star and ‘quirky’ office analyst who introduced her friend to the agency before he was sent on ‘rogue’ mission that led to disappearance

  • Anne Jablonski was forced to quit the CIA following the investigation into Levinson’s kidnapping
  • She is now working in the private sector and teaches yoga
  • She also blogs about finding inner peace and making her own cat food for her pets

BBC News has another imbroglio-in-the-making, this time for spooks across the pond:

Iran claims to have captured MI6 spy

Iran says it has captured a spy working for British intelligence agency MI6 in the south-eastern city of Kerman.

The head of Kerman’s revolutionary court said the alleged spy had admitted being in contact with four British intelligence officers 11 times, both inside and outside the country.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, California’s plutocratic senator pronounces:

Feinstein: vote soon on releasing parts of secret CIA detention report

The Senate Intelligence Committee will soon vote on releasing parts of a report that alleges that the CIA misled lawmakers and U.S. officials about the value of the information produced by the agency’s post-9/11 secret detention and harsh interrogation program, the panel chairwoman said.

But that doesn’t mean the public will get to see the excerpts any time soon.

The 300-page executive summary, findings and conclusions will still have to go through a process to determine which parts can be made public and which will be blacked out. The review – which will involve the White House and CIA – could take weeks or months, said a congressional aide, who requested anonymity.

McClatchy Washington Bureau again, this time with word of another report on another, much older Langley cockup:

Lawsuit seeks to unlock CIA’s secret history of Bay of Pigs invasion

The Obama administration on Thursday fought to keep secret a CIA account of the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle.

Half a century after the failed invasion of Cuba, and three decades after a CIA historian completed his draft study, an administration lawyer told a top appellate court that the time still isn’t right to make the document public.

And the Washington Times lends a covert hand:

Leon Panetta named as source of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ scriptwriter’s information

A Freedom of Information request filed by government watchdog Judicial Watch revealed that former CIA Director Leon E. Panetta was the source who gave up secret information to the scriptwriter of “Zero Dark Thirty,” the Hollywood movie about the raid on Osama bin Laden.

Judicial Watch said in an email that Mr. Panetta revealed the classified information during an awards ceremony on June 24, 2011, to mark the administration’s assault on Osama bin Laden. Mr. Panetta was giving a speech at the ceremony, during which he concluded: “You have made me proud of the CIA family. And you have made me proud as an Italian to know that bin Laden sleeps with the fishes.”

Next, a trip noth of the border with some unsurprising story about Canada’s NSA counterpart, the Communications Security Establishment Canada, via CBC News:

CSEC watchdog muzzled, defanged

The wish and ‘a prayer’ of keeping tabs on CSEC

The revelation that a little-known Canadian intelligence operation has been electronically spying on trading partners and other nations around the world, at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency, has critics wondering who’s keeping an eye on our spies.

The answer is a watchdog, mostly muzzled and defanged, whose reports to Parliament are first censored by the intelligence agency he is watching, then cleared by the minister politically responsible for any problems in the first place.

And from Reuters, some dronish blowback:

In Yemen, al Qaeda gains sympathy amid U.S. drone strikes

Despite the toll taken on militants, residents in various parts of Yemen told Reuters they worry that the drone program is counter-productive. In the capital Sanaa, Abdulrazzaq al-Jamal, a journalist who has interviewed several members of AQAP, acknowledged the group has taken some hits from the drones, but said the strikes have also brought it followers.

“The drones have limited their movements but it makes their ideology more attractive to people. When a Yemeni is killed, it doesn’t matter whether or not he’s al Qaeda,” said Jamal, who was wearing the dagger common among Yemeni men.

Off to Sweden for a helping hand via TheLocal.se:

US spies asked Sweden for translation help

Leaked documents from the US have shown that the NSA asked Sweden for translation help on their “high-priority” material that involved the Swedish language.

The request came in the form of an internal message at the US National Security Agency (NSA), which asked Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (Svenska Försvarets Radioanstalt – FRA) for translation help in the fight against terrorism.

From The Guardian, gag us with a spoon:

Calling for abolition of monarchy is still illegal, UK justice ministry admits

Department wrongly announced that section of law threatening people with life imprisonment had been repealed

The Treason Felony Act 1848 has been the subject of repeated legal confusion this century. It was the subject of a high court challenge by the Guardian in 2003. This week, in a footnote to a list of new offences, the MoJ said the powers in section 3 of the Act had finally been swept away in a belated, legislative pruning of unwanted laws.

From EUobserver, legal blowback in the works?:

France’s new surveillance law under fire

A new law in France, which expands surveillance monitoring powers, without judicial review, to government agencies like tax and finance authorities, may be challenged in the Constitutional Court, reports Reuters. Pro-right groups, tech companies Google and Microsoft, want the constitutional watchdog to review the law adopted earlier this week.

Moscow next, with suppressive thoughts about another perceived security threat. From The Guardian:

Vladimir Putin defends anti-gay laws as bastion of global conservatism

President says Russia stands on international stage in defence of traditional values against ‘fruitless so-called tolerance’

After the jump, the Asian security crises continue, with heads rolling, internet purging, ships nearly colliding, secrecy law protests, alliance plays, drones a-buildin’, and legal bribes; corporate cyberstalking, civil servant muzzling, and more. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day: Greekpocalypse Now


Greeks of a conspiratorial mindset might be forgiven for thinking the economic crisis masks a deeper agenda on the part of folks with money to lessen the numbers of those inconvenient poor.

Consider, for example, the following. . .

From Greek Reporter, 11 May:

Greek HIV Test Centers Shut Down

From Ekathemerini [Athens], 28 May:

Experts warn of ‘worrying’ increase in HIV infections in Greece

From Phantis:

Malaria and HIV Spike as Greece Cuts Healthcare Spending

From Greek Reporter:

Dramatic Rise in Suicides in Greece

From Deutsche Welle:

Little hope for Greece’s jobless youth

From Greek Reporter:

UNICEF: 600,000 Children Below Poverty Line in Greece

From Ekathemerini:

Crisis increases domestic violence, dampens sex drive among Greek men