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Archive for June 18th, 2014

Spain Eliminated from World Cup After 2 Games

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Spain Eliminated from World Cup After 2 Games
Spain followed its 5-1 thrashing by The Netherlands with a 2-0 loss to Chile Wednesday, ending its defense of the World Cup crown it won in 2010 after just two games. Chile’s Eduardo Vargas poked a close-range shot past Spain keeper Iker Casillas and Charles Aranguiz doubled the lead by hitting an ill-advised Casillas punch off a free kick into the net. Chile, which entered the tournament with the daunting task of being grouped with both World Cup finalists of four years ago, advances out of the group with The Netherlands.

Joint Chiefs Chair: Iraq Asked U.S. for Air Power Help
While Iraq’s military claimed Wednesday to have driven back militants battling for control of the country, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress that the United States has received a request from the Iraqi government to use its air power in the conflict. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the senior ranking member of the U.S. armed forces, spoke before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday on Capitol Hill in Washington, saying that the United States’ “national security interest [is] to counter [ISIS] where we find them.”

Older Not Always Better at FIFA World Cup

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Older Not Always Better at FIFA World Cup
Defending World Cup champ Spain was sent packing after losing its first two games. Are aging teams at a disadvantage?

The Indicted Michael Grimm Still Performed at a Shakespeare Fundraiser
Many a political player got a roast at the annual Will on the Hill event, but only one was onstage.

Brazil homeless workers protest in WCup host city
SAO PAULO (AP) — A Brazilian homeless workers group that said it would not stage protests during the World Cup has nevertheless held a demonstration in Sao Paulo a day before the city hosts its second match there.

Louisiana governor tries to block use of Common Core test

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Louisiana governor tries to block use of Common Core test
However, state education officials say roll-out of Common Core academic standards will go forward

Right-Wing Media Ignore Fact That Civilian Courts Are Better Than Military Commissions At Prosecuting Terrorists

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Right-Wing Media Ignore Fact That Civilian Courts Are Better Than Military Commissions At Prosecuting Terrorists

Right-wing media are criticizing the Obama administration for bringing Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged leader of the Benghazi attacks, to trial in a U.S. criminal court. But federal civilian courts have proven significantly more successful at convicting terrorists than military commissions, give terrorists tougher sentences, deprive terror suspects of the “honor” of being considered enemy combatants, and do not prevent the gathering of intelligence.

Suspected Leader Of Benghazi Attack Captured, Will Face Trial In Federal Court

Wash. Post: Alleged Benghazi Ringleader Ahmed Abu Khattala Captured In Secret Raid. The Washington Post reported on June 17 that the suspected leader of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Ahmed Abu Khattala, has been captured by U.S. Special Operations forces:

One of the suspected ringleaders of the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans, Abu Khattala is the first of the alleged perpetrators to be apprehended. He now awaits a transfer to the United States and a federal trial in the District.

U.S. officials said the joint Special Operations and FBI mission had been planned for months and was approved by President Obama on Friday. The Pentagon said that there were no civilian or other casualties and that all involved U.S. personnel had safely left Libya. [The Washington Post, 6/17/14]

Politico: Khattala Will Be Interrogated On U.S. Ship Before Facing Charges In Federal Criminal Court. According to Politico, Khattala will be tried in a civilian court in the United States:

The alleged perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks seized in Libya by a U.S. military and law enforcement team will face charges in federal criminal court, Obama administration officials made clear Tuesday, rebuffing suggestions from Republican lawmakers for a military trial at Guantanamo.

The handling of Ahmed Abu Khatallah is likely to unfold according to an established administration script followed in other terrorism cases: he’ll be interrogated for several days, likely aboard a U.S. ship, and then brought to the United States for a trial in a civilian court. [Politico, 6/17/14]

Conservative Media Reject Plan To Try Khattala In Civilian Court

Wall Street Journal: Khattala Is “An Ideal Candidate For Guantanamo.” In a June 17 editorial headlined “An Ideal Candidate for Guantanamo,” the Wall Street Journal argued that, as an “illegal combatant,” Khattala deserves “to be treated according to the rules of war” and should not be tried in a civilian court. The Journal held that Khattala does not deserve an attorney or the legal protections of the U.S. court system but is, as its headline read, “An Ideal Candidate For Guantanamo”: 

But not every detainee breaks down or cooperates quickly, and one reason for sending Mr. Khattalah to Gitmo would be to see what secrets he is willing to reveal over time and before he gets a white-shoe defense attorney and is read Miranda rights he doesn’t deserve.

Mr. Obama desperately wants to close Gitmo to fulfill a campaign promise, but Mr. Khattalah reminds us why we still need it. The civilian justice system is intended to protect defendants who are innocent until proven guilty. Illegal combatants are trying to kill the innocent and they deserve to be treated according to the rules of war. [The Wall Street Journal, 6/17/14

Fox’s Megyn Kelly: Why Is Khattala Being Tried Like “Any Common Criminal?” Fox News host Megyn Kelly objected to the idea of Khattala standing trial in a U.S. court, suggesting that he doesn’t deserve to be treated like “any criminal that’s arrested off the streets of Detroit”:

KELLY: Ahmed Abu Khattala is now on his way to the United States for a potential trial in Washington, D.C. just like any common criminal would be. Why?


KELLY: Now the guy’s going to be Mirandized at some point. He’s going to assert his rights. The administration points out that we’ve done this with other terrorists, and it’s worked out okay. The Times Square bomber, the underwear bomber. Both of those guys were here in the United States. They weren’t captured in Libya. But they’re dragging this guy back here to face a trial the same as any, you know, criminal that’s arrested off the streets of Detroit would be brought into federal court. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 6/17/14

National Review Online: Guantanamo Commissions Were “Designed For Men Like Khattala.” The National Review Online’s Tim Rogan argued that Khattala should be sent to Guantanamo’s military commission rather than a civilian court because the lumbering bureaucracy of the American the legal process is “fundamentally incompatible” with the need for quick action in response to the threat of terrorism: 

First, the evidence requirements of a civilian trial are fundamentally incompatible with the urgent terrorist threat we face. Consider that it took the U.S. over a year to detain Khatallah. Why? Because, as Eli Lake notes, the Justice Department was struggling to gather evidence for a civilian trial. And so, while American bureaucracy lumbered, Khatallah remained on the battlefield.


That’s why the Guantanamo commissions are specifically designed for men like Khatallah. And that’s why Guantanamo is where Khatallah should be heading. We need the courage to face these enemies as they are: not a few criminals, but a global movement of totalitarians dedicated to our destruction. Putting transnational Salafi-Jihadists in a civilian court is not a testament to American strength. Rather it’s a choice born of strategic delusion. [National Review Online, 6/18/14]

Fox’s Steve Doocy: Khattala “Shouldn’t Be Taken To A Federal Courthouse.” On June 18, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy parroted the conservative argument that Khattala should be taken to Guantanamo Bay and not tried in a civilian court:

DOOCY: We should point out that there are a lot of Republicans who say this is exactly the wrong way to do it. He shouldn’t be taken to a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. He should be hauled down to Gitmo where we could interrogate him and keep him. But a National Security Council spokesperson said since day one of the Obama administration, not one additional person has been added to Gitmo and we’re not going to take anybody else down there right now. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/18/14]

But Civilian Courts Are More Effective In Prosecuting Terrorists Than Military Commissions

Human Rights First: Civilian Criminal Courts Have Convicted 500 Terrorists, Military Commissions Have Only Convicted Eight. A fact sheet from Human Rights First noted that significantly more terrorists have been successfully convicted in civilian criminal courts than by military commissions:

Federal civilian criminal courts have convicted nearly 500 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 9/11. Military commissions have convicted only eight. Federal court convictions include those resulting from investigations of terrorist acts and of criminal acts by those with an identified link to international terrorism. [Human Rights First, accessed 6/18/14]

Center For American Progress: Civilian Courts Are Tougher On Suspected Terrorists. Senior fellow for the Center for American Progress Ken Gude called the military commissions system “shockingly poor” and explained that criminal courts “are a far tougher and more reliable forum for prosecuting terrorists than military commissions” that and give harsher sentences (emphasis added):

Military commissions give terrorists short sentences

It’s a near universal presumption that military commissions are the “tougher” forum for prosecuting suspected terrorists, but the experience since their formation in 2001 shows the opposite. Two of the three individuals convicted in military commissions are already out of prison living freely in their home countries of Australia and Yemen.

Australian David Hicks was the first person convicted in a military commission when he entered into a plea agreement on material support for terrorism charges in March 2007. He was given a nine-month sentence, which he mostly served back at home in Australia. Hamdan–convicted by a military jury of material support for terrorism–received a five-month sentence and was sent back to his home in Yemen to serve the final months before being released in January 2009.

The only person convicted in a military commission that remains in jail is Ali al-Bahlul. Bahlul was Al Qaeda’s top propagandist and video maker and was charged with soliciting murder and material support for terrorism. Bahlul, however, only received his life sentence after he boycotted the entire trial process and was convicted without mounting a defense.

The most surprising feature of the military commissions is their leniency. The lesson to defendants seems to be to participate in your defense and you will be set free.


Criminal courts hand out tougher sentences than military commissions

The sample size of military commissions’ sentences is very small, but there are some analogous cases in the criminal justice system to compare the length of sentences in the two forums. The allegations against David Hicks in a military trial were quite similar to those leveled against John Walker Lindh–the so-called American Taliban–in a criminal court, while comparable charges to the material support for terrorism conviction for Salim Hadman can also be found in criminal courts.

Hicks pleaded guilty to the charge of material support for terrorism with the underlying allegations that he trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and that he was an armed participant in numerous engagements with American and Northern Alliance forces. Lindh pleaded guilty to serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons. Hicks received a nine-month sentence while Lindh got 20 years. Even if all of the time Hicks served prior to his plea bargain is counted, his total time in custody was only six years, less than one-third of the sentence Lindh received.

Hamdan was convicted of providing material support for terrorism for being Osama bin Laden’s chauffer. In 2006, Ali Asad Chandia was convicted in a criminal court of material support for terrorism for driving a member of Pakistani extremist group Lashkar-e-Taibi from Washington National Airport and helping him ship packages containing paintball equipment back to Pakistan. Hamdan received a five-month sentence while Chandia got 15 years. Even if all of the time Hamdan served prior to his conviction in a military commission is counted, his total time in custody would be only eight years.

At most, Osama bin Laden’s driver got a little more than half the sentence from a military commission that a criminal court doled out to someone for driving a low-level Pakistani extremist. [Center for American Progress, 1/20/10]

Fmr. U.S. National Counterterrorism Director: “We haven’t had Anyone Convicted In A Tribunal Whose Conviction Wasn’t Ultimately Overturned.” On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, NBC National Security Analyst Michael Leiter, who also served  National Counterterrorism Director under Presidents George W. Bush and President Obama, argued that civilian courts “do a better job of convicting people” and give tougher sentences. He also noted military tribunal convictions are typically overturned upon appeal (emphasis added):

LEITER: I think if we look at the record, federal courts have actually done thus far a much better job of convicting people and giving people longer sentences for terrorism than the military tribunals are. Now, we can blame that on how the military tribunals are set up, bad law and the like. But the fact is the federal courts have worked really well for this and the military tribunals haven’t. We haven’t had anyone convicted in a tribunal whose conviction was not ultimately overturned by an appeals court. So, the federal courts I think are a pretty good system. From the intelligence community perspective, the important thing is that he’s interrogated, the important thing is that that he’s not immediately turned over to a lawyer and quiets down. And that is not what is happening in this case. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 6/18/14]

Human Rights Watch: Terrorists Consider Military Trial A “Badge Of Honor.” As Human Rights Watch noted, terrorists “enjoy the heightened status associated with being an ‘enemy combatant,'” and treating them like common criminals strips them of that supposed honor:  

Finally, using the civilian criminal justice system serves the additional value of treating terrorists as the common criminals they are. Terrorists, having political motivations, enjoy the heightened status associated with being an “enemy combatant.” When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed appeared before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, he wore the label of combatant proudly, comparing himself to George Washington and saying that had Washington been captured by the British, he, too, would have been deemed an “enemy combatant.” Treating terrorists as criminals strips them of that badge of honor. [Human Rights Watch, 11/16/08]

DOJ: Criminal Justice System Has Provided “Extremely Valuable” Intelligence While Successfully Prosecuting Terrorists. A Department of Justice fact sheet argued that the “criminal justice system provides powerful incentives for suspects to provide accurate, reliable information” while successfully prosecuting terrorism suspects:

The criminal justice system has been the source of extremely valuable intelligence on al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.  The criminal justice system provides powerful incentives for suspects to provide accurate, reliable information, and the Department of Justice and FBI work closely with the rest of the intelligence community to maximize information and intelligence obtained from each cooperator.


Hundreds of terrorism suspects have been successfully prosecuted in federal court since 9/11.  Today, there are more than 300 international or domestic terrorists incarcerated in U.S. federal prison facilities.  Events over the past year demonstrate the continuing value of federal courts in combating terrorism.  In 2009, there were more defendants charged with terrorism violations in federal court than in any year since 9/11. [Department of Justice, 1/26/10]

The Shattering Middle East

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

The Shattering Middle East
David Ignatius, RealClearPolitics
WASHINGTON — Let’s look at the reality on the ground in the Middle East: Iraq and Syria are effectively partitioned along sectarian lines; Lebanon and Yemen are close to fracturing; Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia survive intact, but as increasingly authoritarian states. In the current, chaotic moment, we see two post-imperial systems collapsing at once: The state boundaries drawn by the Versailles Treaty in 1919 to replace the Ottoman Empire can’t hold the fractious peoples together. And a U.S.-led system that kept the region in a rough balance has been shattered by America’s failed…

Slaughter in Iraq — Bush’s Fault?
Larry Elder, RealClearPolitics
President Barack Obama, on Dec. 12, 2011, called Iraq “self-reliant and democratic.” He praised that country, calling it a “new Iraq that’s determining its own destiny — a country in which people from different religious sects and ethnicities can resolve their differences peacefully through the democratic process.” Obama said, “I have no doubt that Iraq can succeed.” He campaigned to end the war in Iraq. He did — at least he ended America’s military involvement in the war. He pulled out all the troops, without leaving a residual force behind as we did, for example, in South Korea, where we…

Cameron’s EU battle over Juncker

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Cameron’s EU battle over Juncker
UK fights on as Juncker eyes victory

VIDEO: House of Commons
Prime Minister David Cameron takes questions from Labour leader Ed Miliband and MPs.

US Patent Office ruling cancels ‘disparaging’ Redskins trademark

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

US Patent Office ruling cancels ‘disparaging’ Redskins trademark
Officials said the registrations were disparaging to Native Americans.

Diplomatic Memo: Conflict in Iraq Adds New Angle to U.S.-Iran Nuclear Talks

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Diplomatic Memo: Conflict in Iraq Adds New Angle to U.S.-Iran Nuclear Talks
Negotiators are growing skeptical that the United States and Iran can reach a permanent deal on Iran’s nuclear capabilities before a July 20 deadline.

Uneasy Alliance Gives Insurgents an Edge in Iraq
Former loyalists of Saddam Hussein have been crucial in helping ISIS capture vast amounts of territory so quickly.

U.S. Asserts Self-Defense in Benghazi Suspect Case
The Obama administration told the United Nations that the suspected ringleader of attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was plotting more attacks on Americans.

World Briefing: Vatican: Pope to Beatify Korean Martyrs
Pope Francis will beatify 124 Korean martyrs and celebrate a Mass of peace and reconciliation on the war-divided peninsula during a visit to South Korea in August, the first papal trip to Asia in nearly 20 years.

Leader’s Words About Women Jolt Morocco
Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane of Morocco told Parliament this week that women would be better off at home than in the workplace.

Slugging Moonshine And Talking Twitter, Glitter With Tween Hobo

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Slugging Moonshine And Talking Twitter, Glitter With Tween Hobo

She’s only twelve, but she’s a hard twelve. Talking to author Alena Smith about Tween Hobo, Twitter star turned road-weary novel protagonist.

The post Slugging Moonshine And Talking Twitter, Glitter With Tween Hobo appeared first on ThinkProgress.


CREDIT: Photo courtesy of Alena Smith

Tween Hobo is out there riding the rails, but she was born and raised on Twitter.

This pint-sized vagabond was created on Twitter by playwright and The Newsroom staff writer Alena Smith in late 2011. Tween Hobo is like your typical twelve year old, except she’s skipping out on Social Studies to hop from train to train with her BFFLs Stumptown Jim and Tin Cap Earl. She loves Justin Bieber and bedazzling her bindle and Twilight and moonshine and glitter. She is not to be confused with other railroad lovin’ youngins, the Boxcar Children. She says things like “Nobody ever had too many coonskin caps” and “This world ain’t nothin’ but bums, thieves, and frenemies.”

In a very in-character move, Tween Hobo is embarking on her next adventure: she’s jumping out from the internet and into a new book, Tween Hobo: Off The Rails. I talked to Smith about bringing this forever young vagrant into a novel and why people who don’t use Twitter are always hating on Twitter. (Spoiler alert: it’s because people are the worst.)

Was Tween Hobo your first foray into Twitter, or had you already been active on the site?
This is kind of how I got involved with Twitter. I joined Twitter and, very shortly after that, I just kind of noticed that there were a lot of joke accounts and I wanted to start one. I had this blog with my friend Emma Rathbone, a novelist, where we just wrote funny things to entertain each other, and I’d written something about a tween hobo. I looked at that blog for ideas about fake twitter accounts, and I thought Tween Hobo would be a good one. And then I did a Google image search for “tween hobo” and found the picture which goes to the account. I later ended up getting the rights to it, and it was an Oklahoma City woman’s photo of her daughter in a Halloween costume. The picture was definitely crucial to the success of the account. I did it completely as a joke, and I had no idea how it was going to take off at all.

How long did it take you to find Tween Hobo’s voice?
In the beginning, Tween Hobo was really more or less like a straight-up mash-up. It was just like, every tweet would combine one sort of hobo thing and one tween thing. I think the first ever tweet was like, “sure as my bowl of mulligan stew I’ll meet those Jonas brothers one fine day.” And over time, the voice got more and more complicated in ways that are sort of hard to explain, but I guess are mostly motivated by my own obsessions and my own musings and ramblings about culture. And it was really surprising to me how much fell under Tween Hobo’s purview. There was so much that it was possible for her to comment on without breaking character. So it would be everything from Twilight movies to economic stories, or the Oscars, or the Super Bowl, which are events that people tend to gather around Twitter and participate in. I found it strangely easy to be speaking in that voice.

So is she a modern tween, or is she a tween living in this yesteryear? When does she live? Where does she pull her references from?
That’s a great question. I think that she is a modern tween who is obsessed with times gone by, and for her, that would include Jack Kerouac times and it would also include the ‘90s, which is when I was a tween. Which also, that word “tween” didn’t even exist in the ‘90s. Tween Hobo has these friends that she hangs out with that she calls the old hobos and they’re all in their late twenties and early thirties, and they’ll tell her about things like Nirvana and she gets really interested and looks it up on YouTube, but it might as well be the Beatles. She’s very curious about everything that’s sort of pre-internet.

Does Tween Hobo like being called a “tween”? Do real tweens? It seems to me like one of those words people only use in mockery or judgment, like “hipster” or “millennial.” But I’m not a tween so I don’t want to project.
I think there’s definitely something derogatory about the word “tween,” like “millennial” and “hipster,” like you said. It’s a patronizing word. It’s a marketing contrivance. I don’t know if [real tweens] would identify as tweens or not. But I think there was this faux-empowerment to the word when they were invented, like, they’re not kids, they’re tweens. Tween Hobo is perpetually 12. In the book she goes from being 11 to being 12. So she’s not yet a teen.


CREDIT: Kate Harmer

Talk me through the process of turning Tween Hobo from a Twitter feed into a book. Because oftentimes these internet hits work online because of the format, and when you remove them from the format, they don’t really translate. Were you concerned about that?
It was very clear to me, when I sold the book, because the publishers made it clear, that it was not going to just be a compilation of the tweets. They weren’t just going to publish a collection of old material… So I guess part of what made me feel confident that I could do that was my illustrator, Kate Harmer, who is absolutely brilliant and without her contributions, I don’t think the book would be successful. So I knew there had to be a visual element, and I further complicated that with the Instagrams, and dividing the book up into a million sections. For such a sort of seemingly scatterbrained structure, it was very challenging to put it together. It wasn’t like a normal book that you could hit a button and it would all fill in whatever. It was very meticulously designed and thought out.

And the next sort of leap that I made was to think about it in terms of a diary, and the diary format made sense on both levels. First of all, it’s the tweeniest of forms, and it also has been a classic form of literature of the road. I read On the Road, I read a bunch of hobo literature, but certainly the most helpful and influential was The Road by Jack London… His book is told in past tense, so it’s more of a memoir looking back at his experiences. On the Road, too, is a memoir. So that was one of the more challenging things: the idea of someone going on the road and keeping a diary makes sense and is instinctive, but these books are told in the past tense and someone is looking back. But because Tween Hobo was originally on twitter, and she has to be experiencing herself in the present as it happens because otherwise she wouldn’t be a tween anymore. So that became one of the biggest sort of writing challenges of the book: how to keep the action moving forward while keeping it totally present tense, in a way. The most perspective she could ever be retelling one of her adventures from was that night, or the next day. So it wasn’t as if “now that I’ve had all this traveling, I’m going to sit back and cross my legs and tell you what happened to me.” It was like a tween girl carrying her notebook on the road. So, difficult! But I at the end of the day, I love books, and I particularly love children’s books, and that was a huge inspiration for writing this and part of why I thought that I could do it: I could do it because I wanted to do it.

A lot of the classic road narratives, including the two you just mentioned, are male-centric. It always seems to be boys and men who go on these adventures. What made you decide to have Tween Hobo be a girl? Was it just a default setting, because you’re female, or was it a conscious decision to make her different from the guys who usually tell these stories?
I never for one second thought of Tween Hobo being a boy. I don’t even know if they call boys tweens… A lot of people have said [that] it’s kind of crazy, because it’s so dangerous for her to be out on the road. It’s really a little scary to think about this girl being out there by herself, surrounded by men, but she never seems scared. Tween Hobo never seems scared. And I never thought about that, at least not consciously. But hearing people talk about it, it’s become one of my favorite things about Tween Hobo. That’s sort of what makes her a hero: she’s not scared. She’s a real little trailblazer. Except the whole thing is like, don’t try this at home because it’s not actually safe. But if she can evoke a world where a girl could do that and be safe, there’s a powerful message in that, even if it’s just saying, well, why isn’t that our world?

What are the guidelines of Tween Hobo’s day-to-day life? How much is hobo stuff, and how much is typical tween things like school dances and homework?
She never has to go to school. She never does homework. She lives on the rails. And her day-to-day life is, we only find out about it when she happens to come into a WiFi zone or wherever she can tweet. The Twitter character never had a backstory or a goal, or any plot. Twitter was utterly plot-free. And so one of the things I had to do for the book was come up with all of that, and part of what made me able to do that, for a while I had been talking with B.J. Novak, who I’d met on Twitter, about developing Tween Hobo for television, and we went through a process for six months. We were fleshing out a grounded, emotional backstory for this character that would service a television show. The TV show hasn’t happened but I ended up selling the book, and I was able to go back to what we had done, which was really helpful. Because that really wasn’t my instinct on Twitter; it was just a joke, it was just a “let’s play with words, let’s play with Twitter,” and do strange little kind of performance art, I suppose, using this new medium of Twitter. But it wasn’t about telling a story about a girl; it was about commenting on the action of the scene. So now that Tween Hobo is in a book, she really has a bigger life. The book has an arc, and she has a heart, and she has something she wants, and those kinds of classic storytelling elements.

When did you realize that Tween Hobo had the potential to be more than just a Twitter feed, that there could be a real story to her?
I suppose the moment when B.J. reached out to me, at which point the Twitter account had only existed for a month… And six months after that, a poetry professor at Harvard wrote about Tween Hobo in The Believer, and said that it was the first successful literary use of Twitter. That was the best compliment I could have possibly gotten. I think there have always been people appreciating Tween Hobo on different levels. There’s certainly a way in which it’s a piece of cheap junk food. But there’s also a way in which it’s a serious literary experiment, and it’s very meaningful to me when people can feel moved by that.
(editor’s note: in that same Believer story, the writer, Stephen Burt, also says Tween Hobo “passes what we might call (after G.E. Lessing) the Laocoön test: it could only be a Twitter feed, not a book, not a video, not a stage show.” Wonder if he’s changed his mind since then.)


CREDIT: Kate Harmer

Can you talk a little more about your early embrace of Twitter as a place where interesting, creative writing could take place? There’s definitely a mindset among a certain literary crowd that Twitter is worthless, a timesuck, where our attention spans go to die, etc.
I wrote this piece, “Literary Parkour,” for Grantland [about this]… I have certainly found that among people who do not participate in Twitter, that there tends to be a dismissive attitude towards it. And I believe that that is because there is a misunderstanding of what Twitter is for. I think that people always say the thing that, “I don’t want to read the thing that people had for breakfast.” But no one ever tweets what they had for breakfast because no one would follow them. There’s an element of meritocracy that is not there to Facebook. I found that Facebook was the place where you suffocated and drowned in what people ate for breakfast, and sonogram photos and self-promotion to boot. I actually quit Facebook when Tween Hobo took off… it was a kind of aesthetic revolt against Facebook.

Sure, Twitter can be used for self-promotion. But Twitter can be used for breaking news, and Twitter can be used for pretty cutting-edge cultural dialogue, and discourse, and I think that with Tween Hobo, what I had gotten interested in and been part of is that Twitter can be a space for public art… No one is getting paid for their tweets – at least, I wasn’t. So it’s like, for anyone who’s been following Tween Hobo for three years, we’ve been having a creative experience together that’s not about status, and it’s not about money. It’s really free speech, you know? It still boggles my mind that you can go on Twitter and write anything you want… You can listen to everyone. You can see so much. You can get such an incredible take on the way that people are thinking and feeling and communicating with each other, and I think a lot of it is really positive. I think that Twitter has been a very fertile creative space.

So it’s funny, the dismissiveness, I think it has a little bit to do with the word “Twitter.” It sounds silly… Like all social media, it has a bent toward self-promotion. I believe you can be subversive on Twitter in a way that’s difficult to do on Facebook. And social media, increasingly, is just where we live. And you can turn your nose up at it all you want but I’m more interested in people who are asking the question of, “if this is going to be where we live, what’s it going to be like?”

Who else is using Twitter in a creative way that you love or admire?
So I loved Real Carrot Facts. And similar to Real Carrot Facts is Coffee Dad; those are similar experiments. In a super abstract realm, there’s people who use twitter as glitch art. So they’re putting out keyboard strokes and dashes and slashes that make visual aberrations in your Twitter feed. I really enjoy that. I love when Twitter is used for quoting classic authors, like all the Emily Dickinson feeds. Or the philosophy mashups, like Kim Kierkegaardashian. It’s sort of the ultimate Dada space… There’s the example of Patricia Lockwood who has used Twitter to really challenge the literary establishment, and I’m very fascinated by her as a person and a Twitter presence and a poet, and how all of those things overlap.

What do you think is the next frontier, after Twitter? What’s next for creativity on the internet?
I am very interested in the internet itself as an art form. But one of the things that’s unique and strange about the internet as a form is that it can imitate all other forms: we have books and movies and TV and art on the internet. But when you’re watching Orange is the New Black, you’re not actually watching TV. You’re watching something on the internet that’s imitating something we call television. So I think more and more, there’s going to be artists making art for the internet, rather than just trying to adapt the internet to these old purposes. And I’m very eager to see where that goes over the next decade.

Tweens are the group to be asking this question, because they are the people who have never lived without the internet. On the one hand, they’re not clutching their pearls the way we all are, but on the other hand, they might have better instincts than we have, in the end, about what it means to spend your life online. Maybe there’s more alteregos and hiding and playing with identity because we just have a human need to be able to shed identities as we age. It is really cruel to force someone to have the same identity for their whole life. And that’s what happens when you have one Facebook profile from birth to death. I don’t think that’s how it’s going to go down; I think Facebook will not be the relevant social hub for our children’s lives.

Is there anything about Tween Hobo’s evolution that’s surprising to you?
I think Tween Hobo is cooler than me. So that’s surprising! She’s always had a lot more followers than me. And only the fact that she’s been so unguarded and yet people have continued to like her.

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Billions Of Taxpayer Dollars Go To Universities With Massive Dropout Rates Every Year (Updated)

A new proposal lays out how the government could start to hold higher education institutions accountable for student outcomes like it does for K-12 schools.

The post Billions Of Taxpayer Dollars Go To Universities With Massive Dropout Rates Every Year (Updated) appeared first on ThinkProgress.

College students

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Thanks to the lack of accountability in higher education funding, taxpayers are sending billions of dollars each year to “dropout factories” where fewer than one in seven students graduate within six years, according to a new report.

The Education Trust’s report labels schools as college “dropout factories” if they fall into the bottom 5 percent of higher education institutions with regard to six-year completion rates. More than $4 billion in federal money goes to those schools every year, but the problems go deeper than graduation rates. The report finds that almost 600,000 students are attending “failing schools,” a category that includes “dropout factories” and other types of dysfunction. These troubling school groups combined account for almost $15 billion in federal loan, work-study, and grant money. That amounts to about 8 percent of annual federal spending on higher education.

The report also notes a baffling contrast between how little the government does to police institutions that get federal higher education money and how it micromanages the K-12 education system. Where primary and secondary schools “have had to set improvement goals for every major demographic group of students they serve” and are held financially and administratively accountable to those goals, higher education institutions can keep getting taxpayer money every year “regardless of outcomes.”

To close the accountability gap between the two categories of educational institutions, The Education Trust suggests adopting the same sort of bare minimum standards for higher education performance that the government has for primary and secondary schools. Just as a K-12 school that consistently falls into the bottom 5 percent on federal measures of student achievement will be targeted for government intervention, the group suggests, any college or university that can’t beat the worst-performing twentieth of schools should be held accountable. That 5 percent threshold is a guiding principle for the group’s policy recommendations, which range from a crackdown on “dropout factories” to a new set of incentives for campus economic diversity and graduates’ success at finding work.

If the report’s recommendations were implemented, schools labeled “dropout factories” would have four years to raise their 6-year graduation rate over 15 percent. Schools in the bottom 5 percent of economic diversity, meaning that fewer than 17 percent of freshmen were low-income students eligible for Pell grants, would have three years to improve. Schools in the bottom 5 percent on graduate loan repayment rates would also have a three-year window to shape up. Chronic failure to meet the new standards could eventually freeze a school out of the federal aid system, which is effectively a death sentence for a college.

In order to install a 5 percent threshold rule for graduate economic success, however, the Department of Education must first begin collecting data on graduate loan repayment rates by institution so that schools can be compared and “diploma mills” can be weeded out. The government currently monitors only the rate of graduate defaults, which the report points out “represents the final stage of financial distress.” The current system means that a student who avoids default by making bare minimum payments that will never actually reduce her loan balance — hardly a success story — is still counted as evidence that a school is fulfilling its obligations to graduates. In order to get a clearer picture of graduate success, the group proposes gathering data on the percentage of graduates who are able to reduce their student loan balance each year rather.

The group’s proposals come as student loan default rates stand at record highs and outstanding loan balances total more than a trillion dollars. Despite that historic level of failure in the higher education financing system, however, some lawmakers are fighting to protect for-profit colleges that tend to perform worst on the sorts of student achievement accountability measures that The Education Trust wants to impose.


This post has been updated to more accurately reflect the relationship The Education Trust reports between the total amount of money that goes to “failing schools” and the various types of institutional failure the report identified.[/updated]

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‘Black Women, Like Black Men, Scar’: Conversation on My Brother’s Keeper Heats Up

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 18th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

‘Black Women, Like Black Men, Scar’: Conversation on My Brother’s Keeper Heats Up
From: Dani McClain

A new letter signed by 1,000 women of color calls on the president’s initiative on boys and men to include girls and women.

Would the Tea Party Welcome Jeb Bush? Or Vice Versa?
From: The Christie Watch

The Tea Party is losing influence, and centrist Republicans are losing patience with it.

Three Days After Speaking at a Koch Summit, McConnell Says He’s For the Little Guy
From: Joe Sonka

McConnell fights for “the little guy” at a secret billionaire summit.