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Douglas Carpenter

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Corry (Erie County), Pennsylvania 16407
Home country: USA
Current location: Saipan, U.S. Commonweath of the Northern Mariana Islands
Member since: Wed Jun 1, 2005, 07:56 PM
Number of posts: 20,226

Journal Archives

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala will donate World Children's prize money to rebuild Gaza school

Activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai announced Wednesday she will donate $50,000 to rebuild a school in Gaza that was damaged over the summer during recent fighting between Israel and Palestine.

Pakistani activist for female education Malala Yousafzai attends a press conference in Sweden on Oct. 29, 2014. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty

The money, which will go toward the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, represents the full amount Yousafzai received from her World’s Children’s Prize award.

“This funding will help rebuild the 65 schools damaged during the recent conflict,” Yousafzai said in Stockholm while receiving the prize. “Innocent Palestinian children have suffered terribly and for too long. We must all work to ensure Palestinian boys and girls, and all children everywhere, receive a quality education in a safe environment. Because without education, there will never be peace.”

The UNRWA condemned the Israeli army over the summer for its attacks that hit schools in Gaza, injuring and killing Palestinian children. UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness told Andrea Mitchell in July that the organization had unsuccessfully notified the Israeli army of the exact position of several of the schools that were hit.


Posted by Douglas Carpenter | Thu Oct 30, 2014, 05:40 AM (16 replies)

Campaign Interception: GOP Blasts Dems for Threatening Social Security

That's because the small handful of Democrats who embraced the deficit-reduction plan by former Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles are being hammered by the Republicans for trimming Social Security benefits. It is a remarkable campaign turnabout by the GOP, which has long endorsed entitlement reform to hold down the long-term debt. Now, they are criticizing the few Democratic lawmakers who actually agreed with them.

Bowles and Simpson co-chaired the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that released recommendations in December 2010 -- a controversial document that almost overnight became the gold standard for deficit hawks and government reformers seeking to put government spending on a more sustainable glide path. But nothing is riskier in politics than tampering with entitlement programs -- long known as the "Third Rail of Politics” for the risks in tampering with them. And while Bowles-Simpson became a touchstone for many conservatives and government watchdog groups, few politicians were willing to actually touch it.

In Georgia, the National Republican Campaign Committee posted an ad last week charging that Democratic Rep. John Barrow was "leaving Georgia seniors behind" by supporting "a plan that would raise the retirement age to 69 while cutting Social Security benefits." And in Florida, Rep. Joe Garcia (D) has been accused of "failing seniors" in a new ad put up by the National Republican Congressional Campaign.

The Crossroads ads and others reek of hypocrisy, of course, since Rove and other Republicans previously criticized Obama for failing to support the Bowles-Simpson proposal, The Washington Post noted. "Likewise, the NRCC ads attacking Garcia and Rep. John Barrow for endorsing Social Security cuts come despite many Republicans pushing for just that," Politico reported.

Posted by Douglas Carpenter | Mon Oct 27, 2014, 08:07 AM (7 replies)

Frank Mankiewicz, 90, Press Aide to Robert Kennedy and NPR Chief, Dies

Source: New York Times

Frank Mankiewicz, left, and Gary Hart when they were both working on George S. McGovern’s 1972 election campaign. Credit George Tames/The New York Times

Frank Mankiewicz, a writer and Democratic political strategist who was Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s press secretary, directed Senator George S. McGovern’s losing 1972 presidential campaign and for six years was the president of National Public Radio, died on Thursday in Washington. He was 90.

The cause was heart failure, said Adam Clymer, a family spokesman, who is a former reporter for The New York Times. Mr.
A scion of Hollywood, the son of Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote “Citizen Kane,” and the nephew of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who directed “All About Eve,” Mr. Mankiewicz grew up with an Algonquin West round table in his Beverly Hills home, regaled by movie stars and famous writers.

He became a journalist and lawyer and, inspired by the Kennedys, went to Washington at the dawn of the New Frontier and took an executive position at the Peace Corps, full of idealistic hopes. What he encountered were assassinations, the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandals.

Frank Fabian Mankiewicz was born in Manhattan on May 16, 1924, one of three children of Herman and Sara Aaronson Mankiewicz. His father, early on a drama critic for The New York Times and The New Yorker, began his celebrated Hollywood career in 1926. The household was awhirl with the famous: Regulars included F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, the Marx Brothers, Greta Garbo, James Thurber, Margaret Sullavan, Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/us/politics/frank-mankiewicz-press-secretary-to-robert-f-kennedy-dies-at-90.html?_r=0
Posted by Douglas Carpenter | Fri Oct 24, 2014, 10:35 PM (7 replies)

Should religious people whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish or whatever be welcome in the Democratic

Party and the progressive movement?

Posted by Douglas Carpenter | Fri Oct 10, 2014, 06:52 PM (178 replies)

Representing Difference as Pathology by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg - This is a truly moving article

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg: An Example from Simon Baron-Cohen’s The Science of Evil

August 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I find it very painful to write about the work of Simon Baron-Cohen. I’ve done so extensively in the past, and this spring, I decided to take a break from it. But there is a passage in his latest book, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty, that has haunted me since I read it last year, and I feel the need to explore why. I’ve critiqued the book before, but somehow couldn’t touch this passage until now, and I think I understand why: The passage doesn’t simply speak volumes about how others view autistic people in particular, or disabled people in general, but constitutes a particularly telling example of the ways in which our society pathologizes difference and blames people outside the norm for the treatment we receive.

In Chapter 4: When Zero Degrees of Empathy is Positive, Baron-Cohen makes the extreme, pejorative, and wholly incorrect assertion that, for people on the autism spectrum, “Other people’s behavior is beyond comprehension, and empathy is impossible,” and concludes that autistic people have “zero degrees of empathy” (Baron-Cohen 2011, 117). He attempts to mitigate the impact of these statements by saying that autistic people are “zero-positive” because, in his estimation, our systemizing skills enable us to build such things as elaborate moral systems (my elaborate moral system is built on empathy, thank you, but I digress) and cutting-edge technology (for which I have no aptitude whatsoever, thank you, but I digress) (Baron-Cohen 2011, 122-123). Despite this apparent attempt to redeem us from the lack-of-empathy stigma, Baron-Cohen presents the story of a 52-year-old man named Michael, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, as representative of the lives of autistic people, and he characterizes Michael as almost robotic: controlling, anti-social, utterly logic-minded, and incapable of understanding other people’s feelings or of having any emotional responses of his own (Baron-Cohen 2011, 96-100).

To illustrate his view that autistic people are on the zero end of the empathy scale, Baron-Cohen begins by writing about Michael’s childhood. I find two things rather fascinating about Baron-Cohen’s rendering: 1) His descriptions of Michael’s childhood do not illustrate Michael’s lack of empathy, but the lack of empathy of the children around him, and 2) the wholesale lack of empathy on the part of “normal” children goes entirely unremarked. He writes of Michael:

Even as a child he found social situations confusing and stressful. He didn’t play with other children in the playground, was never invited to their birthday parties, was not picked to be on their team. He avoided the playground by going to the bottom of the playing field at primary school — alone — and counting blades of grass. In the winter when it snowed, he became obsessed with the structure of snowflakes, wanting to understand why each one was different. Other children in his class couldn’t understand what he was talking about because in their eyes all snowflakes looked the same. Although the teacher had told all the class that every snowflake is unique, it seemed that he was the only person in the class who could actually see the small individual differences in the snowflakes. The other children in the class teased him, calling him “snowflake brain.” (
Baron-Cohen 2011, 97-98)

It’s difficult, at first, to grasp all that is wrong with this passage, because Baron-Cohen is uttering entirely prejudicial things in a very kind and reasonable tone. Let’s start at the beginning: He suggests that a sign of Michael’s lack of empathy is that he didn’t play with other children, wasn’t asked to their parties, and was the proverbial last kid picked for the team. Baron-Cohen seems to take it entirely for granted that Michael is at fault, and that it was quite natural that the other children would reject him because of his as-yet-undiagnosed disability. He gives not the slightest nod to the idea that perhaps Michael didn’t play with the other children because they themselves were unempathetic — because they would not tolerate his confusion and stress, because they rejected him based on his difference, because they shut him out from every birthday party, and because they didn’t want him on their teams.

After continual social rejection, what exactly is wrong with a child running to the other end of the playing field alone and amusing himself as best he can? Counting blades of grass is not a normative response, but that doesn’t make it wrong; in fact, I can certainly understand why a stressed-out autistic kid who is being rejected for reasons he can’t fathom would try to calm himself with a counting ritual. Given the other possibilities for dealing with wholesale social rejection — lashing out in anger at others or doing harm to oneself — an obsession with grass seems to me an entirely non-retaliatory response, and says quite a bit about Michael’s gentleness. Not surprisingly, given the purpose of his narrative, the author never remarks upon this gentleness.

What I find most heart-wrenching, however, is the story of Michael’s fascination with the unique structure of each snowflake, and the ways in which the other children respond to it. Michael’s attentiveness to details that most people miss, and his love for the small and intricate beauty of the natural world, are deeply moving to me. The other children do not see what Michael sees and they do not understand his fascination, but Baron-Cohen does not tar this lack of understanding as a lack of empathy, despite the fact that he considers Michael’s inability to see what other children see, and his lack of interest in what gives them happiness, as prima facie evidence that Michael has an empathy disorder. I’m not sure on what logical basis a scientist could make such a subjective, one-sided, prejudicial assessment, but then again, it’s passages like this one that long ago caused me to give up on the idea of objectivity altogether.

Perhaps the most distressing part of the entire passage is the way in which Baron-Cohen assesses the children’s response: He writes that they “teased” Michael by calling him “snowflake brain” (Baron-Cohen 2011, 98). I take issue with Baron-Cohen’s use of the word “teased.” The children were not teasing Michael; they were calling him names and laughing at him. Teasing is good-natured fun between people of relatively equal power. There isn’t a hint of equal power here, and there is nothing good-natured about making fun of a beautiful thing that brings joy to an isolated, rejected kid. At best, several other children laughing at their defenseless classmate constitutes harassment; at worst, it’s bullying. Anyone who has ever been laughed at as a form of dismissal and exclusion knows exactly what I’m talking about. These are the kinds of microaggressions that accumulate to create self-doubt and self-hatred in those who are the targets of them. But Baron-Cohen does not seem to consider laughing at a vulnerable kid evidence of a lack of empathy in the “normal” children. In fact, he seems to imply that if Michael had any empathy for his classmates, he would have known better than to talk endlessly about snowflakes.

While Baron-Cohen’s much-cherished and erroneous belief that autism is an empathy disorder is the reason for the inclusion of this story in his book, the framing of the story is indicative of a much larger problem in writing about disability and other forms of difference: Non-normative people become responsible for our own social rejection. The accusations launched at Michael and, by extension, at us — that we’re incapable of “normal” human feelings and that we’re trapped in our own worlds — could just as easily be launched at those who reject us. How many “normal” people have enough human feeling to befriend and understand non-normative people? How many “normal” people are trapped in their own “normal” worlds, without any consciousness of what it means to be non-normative? The accusations of lack of caring and lack of engagement adhere to the ones who are different. Those in the majority are simply acting “normally” by doing all the things that, when non-normative people do them, are considered evidence of pathology.

These kinds of accusations are a form of victim-blaming that have no place in a civilized society. That people who consider themselves objective engage in it is an indication of how deeply entrenched a habit of mind it is.

Baron-Cohen, Simon. The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2011.

I'm a writer and a graduate student passionate about disability rights and disability justice.

I welcome your comments and insights. Thank you for joining the conversation
Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

Posted by Douglas Carpenter | Wed Oct 8, 2014, 08:51 PM (4 replies)

I lived and worked openly gay in Saudi Arabia and the UAE for 25 years.

And I was hardly the only one. I just want to say that because a lot of people seem to accept a cartoon caricature view of the Islamic world. But, yes all my coworkers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike were well aware that I was gay and nobody seemed to care very much. In fact the only nasty comments I ever got about it came from westerners. I am not saying the Middle East is Scandinavia like enlightened. Of course it's not. But bit by bit progress in a lot of areas is being made - albeit a bit too slowly.
Posted by Douglas Carpenter | Tue Oct 7, 2014, 06:42 AM (206 replies)

Question submitted by Douglas Carpenter

The text of this question will be publicly available after it has been reviewed and answered by a DU Administrator. Please be aware that sometimes messages are not answered immediately. Thank you for your patience. --The DU Administrators
Posted by Douglas Carpenter | Mon Oct 6, 2014, 03:23 PM (0 replies)
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