New York City just named a day after a woman who fought for justice — so why did the US government execute her?

5 Oct
image of Ethel Rosenberg via desert peace

image of Ethel Rosenberg via desert peace

Originally posted on Rawstory

A woman was honored by New York City Council members and Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer on Monday, September 28th, on what would have been her 100th birthday. But she didn’t make it to 40.  She died at the young age of 37, in an electric chair in Sing Sing prison on June 19, 1953, minutes after her husband was electrocuted. Her  sons–Robert, 6 and Michael, 10–were now orphans. Her name was Ethel.



Ethel and her husband, Julius Rosenberg, were the only civilians in American history ever executed for espionage during peacetime and their trial took place during the Cold War at the height of Red Scare hysteria. The case is extremely complicated and controversial, but here are some of the facts that aren’t disputed and that are key to understanding the story. In 1950, Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British scientist who worked on developing the atomic bomb was arrested for passing top secret information to the Soviet Union. Fuchs named American Harry Gold as his liaison with the Soviets. Gold in turn, named David Greenglass and his wife, Ruth. And Greenglass named his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg, the husband of David’s sister Ethel. Julius was arrested on June 17, 1950, and Ethel was arrested on August 11.

While it appears true that Julius Rosenberg and David Greenglass had been involved in sharing information with the Soviet Union, the U.S. Ally during World War Two, Julius’s role was much more minor than the government stated and it certainly did not deserve the death penalty. This isn’t just a moral or ethical position, but a legal one. The Rosenbergs were indicted for  “conspiracy to commit espionage,” which doesn’t carry a death sentence.

And even more egregious is the fact that Ethel was arrested and charged to pressure her husband into naming names. And the entire case against Ethel was based on the testimony of her brother David, who would later admit that he lied about his sister to protect his wife. Greenglass himself admitted this to journalist Sam Roberts in the 1990s:

I told them the story and left her [Ethel] out of it, right? But my wife put her in it. So what am I gonna do, call my wife a liar? My wife is my wife. I mean, I don’t sleep with my sister, you know.

tumblr_ndhuilk1pM1qhk04bo4_1280And previously sealed grand jury records, that were only released this summer, corroborate that Greenglass did perjure himself when he implicated his sister. While testifying in front of the Grand Jury, Greenglass said he had no knowledge of Ethel’s involvement: “My sister has never spoken to me about this subject,” he said at one point. On another occasion he stated, “I never spoke to my sister about this at all.” He had also confessed to handing information to Julius on a New York street corner. But right before and during the actual trial, David sang a very different tune. Only ten days before the start of the trial against his brother in-law, David claimed that he handed off the documents in the Rosenbergs’ apartment. Then Ruth told FBI agents that “Julius then took the info into the bathroom and read it, and when he came out he told [Ethel] she had to type this info immediately. Ethel then sat down at the typewriter … and proceeded to type the info which David had given to Julius.” And that was the version they stuck to during the trial. It was Ethel’s alleged typing of notes that got her charged, convicted, and ultimately executed.

But what is more disturbing is the fact that the government was aware that they lacked sufficient evidence against Ethel. According to then FBI Director (and Martin Luther King-hater) J. Edgar Hoover, “There is no question… [that] if Julius Rosenberg would furnish details of his extensive espionage activities, it would be possible to proceed against other individuals. [P]roceeding against his wife might serve as a lever in this matter.” In the same vain, Assistant U. S. Attorney Myles Lane told a Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy,

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Here’s the one thing nobody can do as well as Jon Stewart

7 Aug

Jon Stewart mocks House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on 'The Daily Show' on March 2, 2015. [YouTube]

Jon Stewart mocks House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on ‘The Daily Show’ on March 2, 2015. [YouTube]

One of the things that makes Jon Stewart so irreplaceable is how much he made himself replaceable. Except for on one issue.

The world is waiting to see how Trevor Noah will do when he replaces Jon Stewart in the news desk chair he occupied for the past 16 years. But the replacement has been a work in progress for Stewart.  From the start,  Stewart showcased correspondents who would go on to create their own shows that shared the same mission: using humor to inform audience about important stories demonstrating hypocrisy, dishonesty, racism, exploitation, bigotry and ignorance of politicians, the media, corporations, and powerful individuals. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart became, and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah will be, just one of a constellation of shows that are guided just as much be a sense of justice and empathy as by a sense of humor.

Stewart has always maintained that his politics are secondary to his comedy, “I’m a comedian first… My comedy is informed by an ideological background… But . . . I’m not an activist. I am a comedian,” he once said. But there are a number of times when he has explicitly dropped his comedic intentions and framing. Most recently, following the Charleston shooting in which a white supremacist killed nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Church, Stewart was unable or unwilling to bring the funny to his opening monologue:

Maybe if I wasn’t nearing the end of the run or this wasn’t such a common occurrence, maybe I could have pulled out of the spiral, but I didn’t… So I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend it doesn’t exist… I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jack shit. Yeah. That’s us.

Stewart acknowledged his departure from the comedy monologues which usually start the show, finishing up by saying, “Sorry about no jokes.” He had similarly earnest responses to 9/11 and to the Tucson shooting in 2011, which injured 13 people including Gabby Giffords.

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7 Ways Donald Trump and 50 Cent Are the Same Person

28 Jul

The unlikely presidential candidate and the rap star share eerie similarities

Donald Trump and 50 Cent

Donald Trump and 50 Cent Alexander Tamargo/Getty; D Dipasupil/FilmMagic/Getty

Originally posted on Rolling Stone

Bill Maher recently described Donald Trump as “the white Kanye.” But Maher, who’s not known for his in-depth hip-hop knowledge, is a little off with that comparison. If anything, Trump is more like Kanye West’s sometime frenemy 50 Cent. The overlap between the two larger-than-life figures is so far-reaching that it’s a little eerie. Come to think of it, have you ever actually seen 50 Cent and Trump in the same place at the same time? The Nightly Show‘s Mike Yard called Trump “the 50 Cent of the Republican Party” this week. We’ll go even farther: We propose that the Donald and 50 are actually the same person. Here’s our airtight case:

1. They both represent Queens.

Not only did Trump and 50 grow up in the same New York borough – they’re both from Jamaica, Queens. To be fair, the two men are products of very different parts of the neighborhood. Trump was raised in the bucolic Jamaica Estates, a moneyed community founded at the turn of the century, while 50 Cent grew up in working-class South Jamaica.

2. They’re both renaissance men of business.

Trump followed in his wealthy father’s footsteps, working for his old man’s real estate firm, which he eventually took over and expanded. In addition to owning worldwide residential real estate, hotels, resorts and, of course, golf courses, the Donald has developed products and ventures including Trump Restaurants (located in Trump Tower and consisting of Trump Buffet, Trump Catering, Trump Ice Cream Parlor, and Trump Bar), GoTrump (an online travel website), Donald J. Trump Signature Collection (menswear, men’s accessories and watches), Donald Trump the Fragrance, Trump magazine, Trump Golf, Trump Chocolate, Trump home (home furnishings), Trump Productions (a television production company), Trump Institute, Trump the Game (a 1989 board game), Donald Trump’s Real Estate Tycoon (a business simulation game), Trump BooksTrump Model ManagementTrump Shuttle (an airline), Trump Ice (bottled water), Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks. And, until recently, The Apprentice on NBC!

50 Cent, meanwhile, followed his late mother into the drug trade around age 12. Beyond his own lucrative rap career, he’s founded G-Unit Records and G-Unit Clothing. Like Trump, he dipped into the beverage business, releasing an enhanced drink called Formula 50 with Vitamin Water. On the olfactory front, he joined forces with Right Guard deodorant to put his name on Pure 50 RGX body spray. He tried, and failed, to penetrate the prophylactic market with Magic Stick Condoms. And he had his own Apprentice-esque show called 50 Cent: The Money and The Power on MTV.

3. They’re both bestselling authors.

Donald Trump has written over a dozen books, including the bestseller Trump: The Art of the Deal. Less well-known but equally transformative titles include Think BIG and Kick Ass in Business and Life, Trump: How to Get Rich and Trump: The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received.

50 Cent launched his own publishing imprint, G-Unit Books, and is the author of successful volumes like The Fiftieth Law, Formula 50: A 6-Week Workout and Nutrition Plan That Will Transform Your Life, and 50 X 50: 50 Cent in His Own Words. Unlike Trump, however, 50 has also branched out into fiction, writing novels like Death Before Dishonor and Harlem Heat.

4. They both love to brag about how rich they are.

It would take all year to compile all of Trump’s boasts, so let’s focus on four gems – all taken from his presidential announcement speech last month. “I’m really rich, I’m really rich,” he observed at one point. “I’ll show you in a second. I’m not saying that in a bragging way.” And: “I’m proud of my net worth. I’ve done an amazing job.” And: “I have the best [golf] courses in the world.” Also: “One of the big banks came to me and said, ‘Donald, you don’t have enough borrowings. Could we loan you $4 billion?’ I said, ‘I don’t need it.’ ”

50 Cent is proud of his net worth, too. Since we stuck to four examples for Trump, we’ll do the same here. From “I Get Money”: “Have a baby by me, baby, be a millionaire!/I’ll write the check before the baby comes, who the fuck cares?” From “Piggy Bank”: “Clickity-clank, clickity-clank/The money goes into my piggy bank.” From “Money”: “I’m eating, I get money…I shit money/It smells like Benjamins, it boosts my adrenaline.” From “Straight to the Bank”: “I’m laughing straight to the bank with this…./I keep nothing but hundred dollar bills in the bankroll/I got the kind of money that the bank can’t hold.”

5. They both declared bankruptcy.

What makes all of this bragging kind of awkward is when you have to declare bankruptcy. Donald Trump’s companies did so four times: Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City in 1991, Trump Plaza Hotel in Atlantic City in 1992, Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts in 2004 and Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009. Whoops!

Funnily enough, even though Forbes estimated that 50 Cent had a net worth of $150 million just this May, he had to file for bankruptcy in July. Coincidentally, his financial woes occurred right around the time a jury was determining how much money he would have to pay in damages to a woman whose sex tape he allegedly posted online without her permission. The jury decided on $5 million. In response, 50’s lawyer said his client’s net worth is just 4.4 million! What are the odds? So how could a man worth so relatively little have such a brag-worthy lifestyle? The rapper testified that he borrowed his cars and jewelry. They were lies! All lies!

6. They both have lots of beefs with other famous people.

The lawsuit above was the end result of an old feud between 50 and Rick Ross: The only reason 50 leaked the sex tape at all is because it allegedly featured Ross’ ex. 50 Cent has also had public beefs with rappers from Ja Rule to Fat Joe to Jadakiss to Cam’Ron to Lil Wayne to his own former protégés the Game and Young Buck …and many more.

We’ll never know exactly how many people Trump has picked fights with, but a few of his targets include President Obama, Rosie O’Donnell, Russell Brand, Jay Leno, Cher, Neil Patrick Harris, Lawrence O’Donnell, Arianna Huffington, Jon Stewart – and most recently, John McCain. Last weekend, Trump went after the Arizona Senator for having been a prisoner of war (classy!): “He’s not a war hero… I like people who weren’t captured.” On Tuesday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham responded by calling Trump a jackass. Hours later, Trump gave out Graham’s private phone number during a speech.

Trump is also in a public spat with the entire country of Mexico after his tasteless anti-Latino comments. So, there’s that.

7. They’re both Republicans . . . sort of.

Donald Trump is currently seeking the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. During a speech delivered from the border at Laredo, Texas, on Thursday, Trump said, “Look, I’m a Republican . . . I’m a conservative. I’m running. I’m in first place by a lot, it seems, according to all the polls. I want to run as a Republican. I think I’ll get the nomination.” But loyalty is a two-way street, as Trump made clear in an interview with The Hill on Wednesday: “The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy. The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.” A third-party run is a possibility if he fails to secure the GOP nomination.

50 is also a man of political contradictions, and is probably the only rumored Republican to make a PSA in support of Occupy Wall Street. He also espoused some Jerry Falwell-esque views on Hurricane Katrina in 2005, saying, “The New Orleans disaster was meant to happen. It was an act of God.” But that’s nothing compared to the praise 50 heaped on George W. Bush the same year, calling Bush “incredible . . . a gangsta. I wanna meet George Bush, just shake his hand and tell him how much of me I see in him.”

10 Songs Republican Candidates Should Use in Their Campaigns

27 Jul

These tracks are much better suited to the GOP presidential hopefuls

Rick Perry and britney Spears

Rick Perry and Britney Spears
Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty; Larry Marano/Getty

Originally posted on Rolling Stone

Republicans are notorious for using artists’ music without their permission, sometimes hijacking songs critical of Republican values. During his 1984 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan tried to use Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” – somehow missing its critique of American exceptionalism and militarism. Springsteen said no, but that didn’t stop Reagan from quoting it in a stump speech.

Cut to 2015, and Donald Trump has set his presidential announcement to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World – a pretty clear indictment of George Bush the first – prompting the Canadian rocker to chastise the Donald and endorse Bernie Sanders.

To help other Republicans who may be struggling to choose an appropriate campaign song, we’ve put together a list of tracks that would work well for some of the 2016 presidential hopefuls.

Jeb Bush: “Chain Gang,” Sam Cooke

Bush, one of the frontrunners in the crowded GOP field, has this advice for Americans: Work longer hours! Oh, and by the way, don’t ask for overtime. This song seems to embody his ethos, which – as you can imagine – has gone over super well with already overworked voters.

Ben Carson: “Hands,” Jewel

Carson isn’t only a presidential hopeful and Tea Party darling – he’s also a renowned neurosurgeon who wrote a 1996 memoir called Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (which became a made-for-TV movie with Cuba Gooding Jr.). Carson is almost certainly not going to be president, so Gifted Hands might be his most lasting legacy. Play him out, Jewel.

Lindsey Graham: “Call Me,” Blondie

Graham recently learned the hard way what happens when you repeatedly call Donald Trump a “jackass”: Trump will retaliate by giving out your personal phone number during a stump speech.

Ted Cruz: “Girl on Fire,” Alicia Keys

Speaking at a Strafford County Republican Committee meeting in New Hampshire in March, Cruz vilified President Obama and the Democrats – as is his wont – and described the world as being “on fire.” When a three-year-old girl from the audience asked the senator, “The world is on fire?” Cruz responded by surely terrifying her: “Yes!” he exclaimed. “Your world is on fire! But you know what? Your mommy is here and everyone is here to make sure that the world you grow up in is even better.”

“Your World Is on Fire” unfortunately hasn’t been recorded yet, so this will have to do in the meantime.

Carly Fiorina: “Got Your Money,” Ol’ Dirty Bastard Featuring Kelis

With no political experience under her belt, Fiorina likes to sell herself as a good businesswoman. Unfortunately, her track record is so bad, a high-level former campaign staffer once said, “I’d rather go to Iraq than work for Carly Fiorina again.” And a dozen people who worked on Fiorina’s unsuccessful 2010 Senate campaign have said they wouldn’t work for her presidential campaign, because she didn’t pay them. In all fairness, Fiorina, who is worth $120 million, had other financial obligations after her Senate bid: She repaid herself $1.2 million and then bought a $6 million five-acre waterfront estate in Virginia.

Bobby Jindal: “The Exorcist” Theme Song

Plenty of dudes brag about college exploits. Jindal is no different – except the wild time he talks about involves an apparent exorcism. This song will remind people of the Louisiana governor’s healing powers.

George Pataki: “Say My Name,” Destiny’s Child

Pataki is almost as memorable and charismatic as Anne Veal of Arrested Development. (“Who?”) This song may be the former New York governor’s only shot at fixing his name recognition problem.

Rick Perry: “Oops!. . .I Did It Again,” Britney Spears

If there’s anyone this Britney classic would be appropriate for, it’s Perry, who during a 2011 Republican debate couldn’t remember the third government agency he would absolutely, positively, most definitely cut as president. “I will tell you, it’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, education and the, um, what’s the third one there?” he said. “Oops.”

Donald Trump: “Hot Stepper,” Ini Kamoze

It’s grandiose, inappropriate and awkward – yet undeniably amusing. It’s like it was handcrafted for the Donald’s campaign.

A Brief History of People Getting Fired for Social Media Stupidity

20 Jul

17 of the most offensive and dumb Twitter, Facebook and Instagram fails

Social Media Backfire

Originally posted on Rolling Stone

Not a day goes by, it seems, without a new story of someone posting an unbelievably tasteless, offensive, stupid, racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise inappropriate thing on social media. Bigotry expressed in private is inexcusable, but bigotry voluntarily scribbled upon the un-erasable blackboard that is the Internet is a new kind of unbelievable. It boggles the mind that people will actually document and broadcast their terrible ideas online – especially given the documented and broadcast history of people getting fired over similar behavior. And yet, they do.

Just this month, we’ve gotten fresh examples of the genre from Paula Deen, who apparently likes ethnic drag as much as she likes cooking with butter; and from the British bankers who thought it would be fun to playact an ISIS beheading. Here’s a look back at those and some of the other most ridiculous and terrible things people have posted to their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts before losing their jobs as a result. We apologize in advance to anyone whose idiocy and/or bigotry didn’t make the cut, but if we listed everyone we’d be here all month.

The Bankers Who Think ISIS Killings Are a Hoot

Isis Mock

Just last week, six HSBC bankers in Birmingham, England, were fired over re-enacting (and recording, and posting on Instagram) a mock ISIS beheading. One of the bank employees – the one who nabbed the coveted leading role of beheading victim – rocked an orange jumpsuit as he kneeled in front of his five colleagues, who did a lovely job as a supporting ensemble in black tracksuits and balaclavas. They were fired after the super-insensitive clip circulated online, of course. In their defense, the video was reportedly made during a work-sponsored team-building exercise, and you can only do so many trust falls before it becomes boring and, quite frankly, dangerous.

Paula Deen Does It Again

Paula Deen

Paula Deen is the most racist celebrity chef ever – or at least the most racist one we know of. Two years ago, when it was revealed that she was a racial-slur aficionado, Deen lost deals and contracts with the Food Network, Smithfield Foods, Walmart, Target, QVC, Caesars Entertainment, J.C. Penney, Sears, Kmart and her then-publisher Ballantine Books. (On the plus side, sales for her cookbooks soared, and Deen was immortalized by a riveting if perhaps overly ambitious episode of Law & Order: SVU.) This time, however, it was Deen who did the firing. Last week, a photo of the chef and her son Bobby dressed as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy – complete with skin-darkening makeup for Bobby – showed up on her social media accounts, along with the allegedly funny caption,  “Lucyyyyyyy! You got a lot of esplainin’ to do!” There’s nothing wrong with dressing up as characters from a beloved TV show, but let’s go out on a limb and say that no one should ever incorporate black face or brown face into their Halloween costumes, or their social media strategy, or their lives. The photo was from a 2011 Halloween episode of Paula’s Best Dishes; it’s unclear what inspired Deen’s social media manager to dig this gem out of the vault in July. Needless to say, the social media manager has been fired.

The Prison Official Who Joked About Prison Rape

prison guard
Ian Waldie/Getty

Michael Allred, a Maryland state statistics official and police liaison (whatever that job combination entails), had only been on the job for a few weeks when he updated his Facebook status thusly: “Visiting the prisons… haven’t been groped this much since the flight on the honeymoon… and this is just the guards.” Because he’s so diligent and conscientious, Allred tagged his boss as well as the exact prison he was visiting, writing, “with Steve Moyer at Maryland House of Correction.” It was that very tagged boss who went on to relieve Allred of his no-doubt-important duties. “I immediately called Mike and told him to immediately remove that post from his Facebook page and I never want to see a page like that again,” Moyer eloquently said.

The Bartender Who Called Black People Un-hirable

Racist bartender

Making explicitly racist statements is always wrong – and it’s extra dumb in an era when right-wingers have worked so hard on establishing coded language to help racists cloak their bigotry in euphemisms. Witness the case of Jessica Harr, who is white, and worked as a bartender at the Chicago nightclub Proof in her spare time from spewing old-school racist pseudo-science on Facebook. Throwing caution, good sense and punctuation to the wind, Harr wrote, “wow so insane how one race of people can be so fucking incompetent and disgusting…. they make everything dirty ignorant and cant act like normal human beings.” She went on to toss in some racial slurs and “apes,” adding, “Even when theyre in their 40’s they cant act intelligent. and they wonder why they cant find jobs?!?! Id never fucking hire one either.” In the end it was Harr who had to hit the job market – she got the axe for her racist screed.

The Hospital Employee Who Suggested Police Should Commit Genocide in Ferguson

Non nurse

A woman who worked at a Houston hospital took to Facebook to share her deep thoughts in response to events in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of Michael Brown: “The police need to just start mowing them down with machine guns, purge them.” A member of the public alerted her employer, reasonably arguing that “a hospital is a place where you’re supposed to have compassion upon people of all races.”  The hospital agreed and fired the aspiring war criminal.

The Taco Bell Employee Who Urinated on a Signature Dish

Taco Bell

Cameron Jankowski, a worker at a Fort Wayne, Indiana, Taco Bell, urinated on an order of Nachos BellGrande. . .and took a photo of his urinary output. . .and tweeted the photo. No, this was not a performance art protest against Taco Bell’s history of racist ad campaigns. Nor was this a symbolic attack on the inauthenticity of the BellGrande name, which isn’t even Spanish – an example of the chain’s coopting and distortion of Mexican cuisine and culture. Jankowski’s goal was much more noble: to win the admiration of revenge porn media magnate Hunter Moore. Jankowski’s tweet contained the hashtag #pissolympics,” “#nacobellgrande,” (leaving out the “h” in nacho is the least of his problems) and the intriguing question, “guess where I work.” When critics objected, Jankowski proclaimed, “there are no laws saying what you can and cannot piss upon.” That’s not actually true, as a cursory review of the case law on food contamination and indecent exposure reveals. Jankowski was fired.

The Radio Jock Who Tweeted About “Dirty Mexicans”

Mike  Bacsik basic racism tweets about dirty mexicans

Former major league pitcher turned radio personality Mike Bacsik had a Twitter meltdown after his beloved Dallas Mavericks were defeated by the San Antonio Spurs. His contribution to the conversation: “congrats to all the dirty mexicans in San Antonio.” At first Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket in Dallas suspended him indefinitely for his racist comments. Then they fired him. Bacsik was semi-remorseful, telling, “Obviously, I made a terrible mistake. It was very bad and stupid on my part.” But he was mostly kind of full of it: “When you tweet like I did, you can’t see the sarcasm. It’s not a good joke. You can’t tell if it was pure hate or sarcasm.” We’re with him on the “not a good joke” part.

The Daycare Worker Who Mocked Children

Child Care

It’s what everyone looks for in a caretaker: a passion for mocking children over their appearance and disabilities, along with a high level of social media engagement. A daycare worker at A Heavenly Haven Learning Center in Newport News, Virginia, made headlines for making fun of the children in their care on Instagram. One post paired a photo of a boy who looks sad with a caption reading, “I’m sick of this shit!!” A comment below this charming image says, “he really looks like that’s exactly what’s he is thinking cuz he sure can’t talk. LMAO.” (Subsequent reports indicated that the child “can’t talk” because of a speech delay.) The worker was fired after the kid’s mom found the posts on Instagram; the daycare cited its record as a “Christian-based Childcare Development Center.” Isn’t that reassuring?

The GOP Staffer Who Slutshamed Sasha and Malia Obama

Obama Girls

You would think a communications director for a congressman would have some grasp on what and how to communicate through social media. But Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, defied expectations and etiquette when she decided to pen an open letter on Facebook to the daughters of the President of the United States, chiding them for looking bored during the annual White House turkey pardoning ceremony. The condescending, petty and embarrassingly off letter read as follows:

“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.”

Nothing says classy like slutshaming the president’s teenage daughters. Lauten apologized and then resigned.

The Russian Paramedic Who Took Selfies With Dying Patients

Selfies From Russia with love and dying ambulance patients

Whatever tensions may rise between the U.S. and Russia, it is heartwarming to know that the two countries are united by a stupidity that transcends borders and politics. Tatiana Kulikova worked as a paramedic in Kirov, Russia. She enjoyed her work, if by work we mean taking selfies in the ambulance with unconscious and sometimes dying patients and posting them on Instagram. She also took the time to add helpful captions and titles and strike creative poses. In one photo, for instance, which she called “another moron,” she is flipping the bird toward a man who has been in a car accident. She captioned another photo of a man having a heart attack with, “how I hate my job.” Lucky for her, she no longer has it.

The Neo-Nazi Hockey Coach

Racist Coach
Cameron Whitman/Getty

Chris Sandau worked as a youth hockey coach at the North Delta Minor Hockey Association in Canada. When a parent complained that his Facebook page featured pro-Nazi propaganda – like images of swastikas and Adolf Hitler and posts suggesting that the Holocaust didn’t happen – the hockey club didn’t fire Sandau. They merely asked him to remove the Nazi stuff from Facebook. Sandau refused, articulately stating that he wasn’t “trying to impose my political beliefs or anything.” He added that he’s just a “history buff” – you know, the kind of history buff who denies the Holocaust, no big deal. At this point the association fired him – but they can’t stop him from continuing to share his repellent views on Facebook. “Does the truth offend Jew?” he wrote. “There there, you’ll get over it someday . . .” The puns are almost worse than the rank bigotry.

The Assisted-Living Staffer Who Took a Photo of a Client on the Toilet

Assisted Living CareGiver
Universal Images Group/Getty

An employee at Deer Crest Assisted Living Home in Red Wing, Minnesota, thought it would be totally appropes to take a photo of a client on the toilet and then upload it to Instagram. We know what some of you are thinking: “Maybe it was an innocent mistake. Maybe the woman had no idea it was bad to broadcast an assisted-living facility client’s image during what should be a private moment. Who could predict anyone would have a problem with that?” Alas, it turns out, the employee handbook explicitly states that photos of clients are prohibited. So, there’s that.

The Waiters Who Complained About “Cheap Jews”

Waiters complain abourt heap Indian Jews

Two employees of a Delaware Thai-Japanese restaurant were fired after posting photos of credit card receipts on Instagram and tagging them with offensive hashtags. One example is so stupid it’s hard to believe: One waiter, using the clever Instagram handle Fumanchu85, posted a photo of a bill that came out to $53.80, with a measly tip of $5.20. Fumanchu85’s caption: “What do you expect from a last name like that?… #cheap #jew.” Confusing matters further, reports indicate that the customer in question had “an Indian surname.” Huh?

The Teacher Who Facebook-Creeped on His Students

perverted teacher

Chadwin Reynolds, a high school teacher in the Bronx, added several female students on Facebook and left comments like “this is sexy” under their photos. Reynolds wanted to make sure nobody was missing the creepy “I’m a total pervert” vibes he was sending out through his Facebook comments – so, just to be sure, he had a catchy Facebook tagline that concisely captured his sketchiness: “I’m not a gynecologist, but I’ll take a look inside.” He was fired.

The Cop Who Documented Her Own Police Brutality

Police brutality

Senior Corporal Cat Lafitte of Dallas claimed she was acting in self-defense when she threw her boot at a hospital worker. Unfortunately for her, her Facebook posts tell another story. Lafitte thought it would be a good idea to brag on Facebook, “I threw my boot at him, Jerry Springer style, and nailed him in the face. It broke his glasses and cut his face and bruised it up real good.” Lafitte also posted to Facebook a photo of a small black boy surrounded by police officers and the comment, “Quick . . . sprinkle some crack on him!” An equal opportunity offender, Lafitte also disrespects homeless people and described herself on Facebook as an “Official Bum Roller.” She was fired for the attack on the hospital worker and for Facebook posts that put the department in a bad light.

The Blackface Halloween Costume That Made Fun of Trayvon Martin

trayvon martin
Mario Tama/Getty

Two white guys named William Filene and Greg Cimeno decided to join forces and work together on a horrifically offensive Halloween costume. One would be George Zimmerman and the other would be Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager whom Zimmerman infamously murdered. It’s hard to say which of the two bigoted revelers was luckier. Sure, one got to dress up as their racist vigilante hero – but the other got to wear blackface, which apparently some racist morons find super-fun. When Caitlin Cimeno, a Massachusetts mother of two who posed with the two numbskulls, posted a deeply disturbing image of the group to Instagram – so awful that we’re not including it in this post – the Facebook user Stop Blackface on Halloween contacted her employer and was told she had already been fired. More time for Halloween costume-planning!

The Jeb Bush Employee Who Ranted Against Sluts and Gays

Jeb Bush

Ethan Czahor was the chief technology officer for Jeb Bush’s political action committee, Right to Rise, until he was forced to step down over some offensive tweets. To be fair, he did start deleting the social media trail he had left behind him, but it was too late. The screenshots had been taken. In a uniquely American twist, Czahor went on to invent an app that scans your social media accounts for things that could get you fired or force you to resign. And he would know.

Katie on Huffpost Live’s #WMN

18 Jul
Screen shot from Huffpost Live

Screen shot from Huffpost Live

I recently participated in #WMN on Huffpost Live.  Topics ranged from Hillary putting paycheck feminism at the forefront of her economic agenda to a video claiming Planned Parenthood sells fetal body parts and the women who rule Pluto, #WMN goes into the stories for, by and about women.

Click here to watch the video.


Meet the Mexican artist behind the Donald Trump butt plug

18 Jul
image via political

image via political

Donald Trump may be asking the FBI for protection against Joaquin Guzman Loera, the notorious Mexican drug lord known as el Chapo, who recently escaped from prison, again. But The Donald has already been attacked by a more formidable adversary who also hails from The Mexico. And his weapon of choice? Not bullets, not machetes, not gruesome torture…… Butt plugs!

Meet Fernando Sosa, the 32-year old 3D artist based in Orlando, Florida, who was born and raised in Puebla Mexico. Sosa, who came to the United States when he was 11, was enraged when he heard Donald Trump spew his racist vitriol about Mexican rapists. So he decided he would turn his anger into a product… a butt plug, made of “fully colored material with a coarse finish and a delicate feel,” more specifically, as his website explains. In case you don’t know, a butt plug is a sex toy that does exactly what it sounds like it does.

In an interview with me on this week’s The Katie Halper Show, Sosa explained that he was initially incredulous that Trump had said what he had about Mexicans.

In case you missed it, the Donald peppered his presidential announcement speech with the following:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

I asked Sosa how he felt when he heard that and he said, “I was really enraged and I was like, what better way to insult him back than to make a Donald Trump Butt plug.”

Continue reading…

Stats wiz Nate Silver: For black Americans, US is about as dangerous as Rwanda

17 Jul
image via wikipedia

image via wikipedia 

For black and white americans, the difference between life and death is literally worlds apart. Although we may know this on some level, Nate Silver, the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight, has the startling statistics that demonstrate this reality.

As he explained to me on the latest episode of The Katie Halper Show,  “If you’re a white person your chance of being murdered every year is 2.5 out of 10,000… If you’re a black person it’s 19.4, so almost eight times higher.”

To put this into context, Silver explained, the murder rate for white Americans is similar to the murder rate for people living in Finland, Chile or Israel. The murder rate for black Americans, on the other hand, is similar to the rate found “in developing countries that are war zones even, like Myanmar, or Rwanda, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, places that have vast disorder. To me that stat was so striking that I thought this was a case where even if you kinda zoomed out, that was a data point that helped to inform the discussion.”

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Historian Jelani Cobb on racism denial: ‘unless you are an actual 2015 slave owner, you don’t qualify as racist’

9 Jul
William Jelani Cobb on Feb. 13, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

William Jelani Cobb on Feb. 13, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

A recent CNN/ORC poll  found that the majority of Americans still believe that the Confederate Flag is a symbol of Southern pride and not racism. Among the 1,017 people polled, 57% saw the flag as an expression of pride. Not surprisingly, more white participants, 66% of them, considered the flag to be about Southern pride, while only 17% of the Black participants did. 27% of the white participants and 75% of the Black participants  saw the flag as racist. That’s a pretty big discrepancy. It must be that a lot of Black people are delusional and/ or Highly Sensitive Persons. Or it could be that a lot of white people don’t understand or pretend to not understand racism. I’m going with option two.

Jelani Cobb, a professor of History and the director of the Africana Institute at the University of Connecticut, and a staff writer at The New Yorker, spoke about the distortion of the Confederate Flag, of history, and of the very definition of racism, when he was a guest on my WBAI radio show on Wednesday:

we have engaged in what I called a translucent lie. We know what the symbol [the Confederate Flag] is and we know the circumstances under which the symbol came into existence. When people would say this is heritage, not hate I would always respond by saying what makes you think those two things are mutually exclusive?  Because the racial hatred that we’re talking about is a cornerstone of the heritage that people are trying to avoid or the heritage that people are trying to photoshop. Why does the Confederate flag have the appeal that it has to right wing, white supremacist organizations? If this is in fact about such a benign southern heritage, then why do we see it cropping up in such close proximity to organizations that are avowedly racist.

Cobb’s point about the white supremacist tendencies found among the most avid defenders of the Confederate flag reminded me of Anna and Nathan Robb, the married couple of Branson, MO, who own Dixie Outfitters, which sells confederate souvenirs, T-shirts and memorabilia. Business at Dixie Outfitters is booming now that retailers like Walmart, Amazon, Sears and eBay have stopped selling Confederate flag merch. Anna is adamant that there is nothing racist or hateful about her store’s confederate tchotchkes. (A tchotchke is the Yiddish word for a trinket. Cobb and I decided it was probably not kosher to combine “confederate” and “tchotchke” but let’s file it under subversive.)  Instead, insists Anna, her store is about

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Geraldo Rivera: ‘Hip-hop has done more damage to African-Americans than racism’

6 Jul
image by Mark Taylor via flickr

image by Mark Taylor via flickr

Reporter/entertainer Geraldo Rivera is famous for speaking truth to power, and shifting blame away from racism and onto Black people. Who can forget when he spoke the uncomfortable truth that nobody wanted to say, but that everyone who has ever seen a sweatshirt with a hood knew and felt: “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.” So true.

Well, now, Rivera is back with more cultural critique and reality distortion. Appearing on the Fox News program, The Five, on Monday night, Rivera indicted Hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar’s performance of “Alright” on Sunday night’s BET Awards, in which he rapped, “We hate the po-po, wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho.” Rivera described the performance and song as

not helpful, to say the least. This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years. This is exactly the wrong message.

I think we can all agree that, over the past few years, hip-hop and their lyrics, especially their critique of police brutality, have claimed way more lives than actual police brutality, AND institutionalized racism combined.I’m not sure how, exactly. But I feel it. In my gut. And my gut is never wrong. Except when it’s full and I feel hungry.

Continue Reading…


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