#OccupyBergdorfs: Barbarella’s Mortgage

Welcome to #occupybergdorfs, a weekly ruination of the absolute worst that the world of fashion has to offer. Each week, we’ll bring you a new eyesore, and break down exactly what makes this particular outfit “WTF”-worthy. A partnership between Change Machine (Jen Blair) and Super Roller Disco Monkey Hullabaloo (John Jarzemsky), #occupybergdorfs is dedicated to giving you that extra dose of schadenfreude you so desperately need to get you through the week.

Without further ado, may we present…

Marc Jacobs Wave 3/4 Sleeve Tunic & Flared-Leg Pants

$13,400.00 @ Bergdorf Goodman

Who would wear this?

Jen: London trust-fund socialites. Wannabe London trust-fund socialites. David Bowie.

Best time to wear this?

John: If you were going to a space-themed costume party hosted by snooty rich assholes who would judge you if your outfit didn’t cost almost as much as the down payment on a house.

Worst time to wear this?

Jen: Casual lunches, daytime errand-running, meeting the future in-laws, unless your future in-law is David Bowie.

Who, if anybody, can pull this off?

John:  Someone like Stevie Nicks or Cher, or maybe the ghost of Liberace.

Is it fashionable?

Jen: For better or worse, printed pants are definitely having a moment.

Is it fairly priced?

John:  …No. Women’s clothing, from my understanding, is usually heinously overpriced, especially when compared to men’s, but $13k for one outfit made of something other than baby-skin and diamonds should be cause for outrage.

What do you wear with this?

JenStatement platforms and a ray gun.

What would be a better use for the cash?

John:  Well, $13k would pay the rent on a pretty decent room in Brooklyn for a year or so, but you could also spoil yourself with a slightly used mid-size sedan, or approximately 26,000 tacos from Jack in the Box.


Paul Ryan, Women’s Health, and The Long Con

Paul Ryan didn’t used to scare me.

When Mitt Romney first announced his running mate choice, my initial reaction was “who?” followed by “oh yeah, the guy with the road map”. There followed the usual reactionary blather from both left, right, and right pretending to be middle about how scary Ryan was for the Obama campaign. All of the things that made him so supposedly dangerous for the democrats in 2012 were part of a song and dance we had heard before: he’s good looking, in touch with the common people, etc, etc. It all seemed part of the usual Republican playbook.

It wasn’t long before the blogosphere had started digging up dirt on Ryan, or at lest spreading around the dirt that was already in full view: his views on gay marriage and women’s health (read: abortion and birth control) were correctly identified as liabilities in a political climate that, despite the economic situation in the U.S., is quickly becoming a culture war.

But today, something happened that chilled me to the bone, and made me think, for the first time, that maybe the Ryan-bandwaggoners are onto something. It started, like most horrible things, when I was looking through my facebook news feed, a tried and true method of antagonizing your intellect by bombarding it with poorly researched hyperbole. A friend of mine who shall remain nameless posted a link to a HuffingtonPost (go figure) story that quoted Ryan as referring to rape as a “method of conception”. The woman in question was of course dutifully horrified, as were several other commenters.

I was not. Mainly because nothing anybody on the right side of the aisle said would faze me at this point, but more to the point: Ryan didn’t actually say this. This quote, taken from an interview, began circulating in its appropriate context a few days ago. In the full video of the interview–which dishearteningly enough, HuffPo embedded with the commentary (a move that directly contradicted the site’s own commentary)–a journalist asks Ryan about Todd Akin and his now infamous blather concerning women’s bodies being able to shut down pregnancy resulting from rape.

Ryan reiterates that he and several other party members encouraged Akin to resign, as the comments were so damaging that he felt Akin’s running would do a disservice to the GOP (or something to that effect). The journalist then asks Ryan if he is pro-life, to which Ryan gives an enthusiastically affirmative response. The journalist then asks Ryan how he feels about abortion in instances of pregnancy resulting from rape. Here’s an unedited quote from Ryan’s response:

“I’ve always adopted the idea–the position–that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life. But let’s remember, I’m joining the Romney/Ryan ticket, and the President makes policy. And the President, in this case, the future President, Mitt Romney, has exceptions for rape and exceptions for the life of the mother, which is a vast improvement over where we are now.”

So, clearly, what Ryan is saying is that he is pro-life, meaning he believes that life begins at conception, and therefore, in his eyes, a life that begins at conception, regardless of the method of that conception, consensual or forced, is still a life that society has an obligation to protect. Within the framework of the pro-life view, this is a logical stance. Ryan then goes on to emphasize that he is not running for President, and the policy of the Romney White House would be to make exceptions and allow abortions in instances of rape and in order to save the life of the mother.

To clarify: I do NOT agree with Ryan or Romney on this issue, and I am decidedly pro-choice. However, the spin this clip of video has received from the hard-left blogosphere is mind-boggling, with commentators saying Ryan considers rape “just another form of conception” and alleging that the VP nominee makes no distinction between forced and consensual sex.

This is A)terrible journalism B)intellectually dishonest C)ethically reprehensible and, most importanlty, D)counterproductive to the cause of Dems and progressives everywhere.

If you’re going to attack Ryan, and lord knows, the man needs some attacking, on so many issues, attack the viewpoint he actually holds, which is that we can’t let women have control over their own bodies because the Bible says so. Don’t move the goalposts and pretend that he said or implied something that he clearly did not using a view out-of-context quotations.

This kind of move only adds ammunition for the Republican talking point that the mainstream media in this country can’t be trusted on ANYTHING related to radical-right insanity because they will constantly spin the hell out of anything a Republican says. The consequence of ACTUALLY spinning the hell out of something a Republican says is that they get a free pass on that particular quote, and in many ways, that particular issue.

One of the commentators on said facebook post actually said they were unnerved by the “casualness” with which Ryan responded to the question. It has to be said: I’m a registered Democrat, I voted for Kerry in 2004, Obama in 2008, and will vote for Obama again in 2012. However, if the left is going to start trying to play the neo-con-patented, spin-the-news card in order to keep an incumbent in office, they will fail, and miserably. This move never works out for Democrats, mainly because when they do they not only piss off undecided voters and Republicans, they piss off intelligent members of their base who don’t appreciate having bullshit shoved down their throats. Ryan, for all his flaws, has thus far impressed me with his poise and his remarkably articulate responses in interviews. His answer to the question about rape, pregnancy, and abortion was honest, clear, and completely lacking in any fire-and-brimstone rhetoric. I don’t agree with the guts of his argument, but his method of communication is sound.

If the Dems are already running scared and trying to make Ryan into the bogeyman, then we’re clearly in trouble. As far as veeps go, Joe Biden isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, and he’s not too great on the mic either. I still think this race belongs to Obama, and as it comes down to the wire, social issues that used to be radioactive are going to be the final shove over the hill (I’m predicting Obama making a big push on gay rights, women’s rights, and gun control). But please, the-rest-of-the-left: as one of your own, I’m begging you, stop this foolish chicanery and nonsense. Stop stooping to the level of a party that is so bereft of good people they have to ask THEIR OWN SENATORS TO SUSPEND CAMPAIGNS OUT OF EMBARRASSMENT. Facts are important, and becoming even more important in an age where talk is as cheap as it is in the age of non-vetted “news”.

6th Street Raid Re-Cap: Shit Gets Deeper

New developments in the Yassine brothers case:

Hussein Ali, aka “Mike” Yassine has been named as a “person of interest” in a cold-case file by the APD, according to prosecutors. Details about the case were sketchy at first, but as the day progresses, it’s become clear that Yassine is being implicated in the case of Paresh Patel, a former business partner who went missing in the fall of 2000. The investigation reveals that Patel had been arguing with the Yassine’s prior to his disappearance.

Then, a new piece of information which sheds a little light as to the federal nature of the raid and ensuing investigation. Those who have been following this story might be surprised at the timeline: authorities began investigating Yassine enterprises way back in 2007. Five years seems like an awfully long time to build a drug case, even for a small city police department. Furthermore, we’ve all seen The Wire , right (if not, shame on you). Doesn’t the FBI have bigger fish to fry these days than some relatively small-time drug dealers?

Yeah, about that…turns out that the Yassines have been funneling money to a family member in Lebanon, who has ties with Hezbollah. It seems like a logical leap to think the reason for federal involvement stems from this angle. I’d bet dollars to donuts that the feds are way more interested in why the Yassines were sending cash to this guy than some distribution and weapons charges. Seems even more likely when you consider that the authorities sat on the case for five years before last week’s raids.

Curiouser and curiouser, friends. More on this case as it develops…

Geraldo on Hoodies

Remember Geraldo? The idiot who got kicked out of Iraq for drawing a map, on-air, that detailed the approximate location of the troops he was embedded with? He’s gone and done it again, this time insisting on Fox and Friends that  Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed for the crime of walking down the street, shouldn’t have had his hoodie up.

You can watch the video here.

To be fair, I don’t think Geraldo was saying Martin deserved to die because he had his hoodie up. Rather, he was saying that in this day and age, when we’re still so scared to death of young, dark-skinned men, that people may react poorly to the sight of a dark-skinned figure wearing a hooded sweatshirt at night. Fair. His wording, though, that the hoodie was “just as responsible” as George Zimmerman, is idiotic.

This type of rhetoric is often employed by the ultra-right when they try to shift blame onto victims of rape and sexual assault. Saying Trayvon should have “known better” than to have his hood drawn (at night, while it was raining, who would DO such a thing?) is tantamount to telling a woman who was brutally raped that she shouldn’t show so much cleavage. The problem has nothing to do with Trayvon Martin’s fashion choices, the problem is that being black and wearing a hoodie is considered by some to be “probable cause”.

Dirty 6th Gets a Little More Dirty

So, earlier today the FBI raided Treasure Island, Kiss ‘n’ Fly, Pure, and Fuel, as part of an ongoing investigation that reportedly dates back to 2007. This resulted in the arrest of 10 people on a variety of charges, including money laundering and drug trafficking.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Treasure Island (the only of the four bars in question I’ve ever visited), but a glance at my twitter and Facebook feeds seems to indicate that this comes as a shock to just about nobody. I remember the place being pretty trashy, but hey, they call it “Dirty 6th” for a reason, right?

Hussein Ali, Mohammed Ali, and Hadi Ali Yassine were all arrested, along with their sister, Marissa Marthe Ruales, who acted as their executive assistant. Other persons involved with Yassine Enterprises (the parent company that owns several other downtown bars in addition to those raided)  were also arrested: Alejandro Melendrez, Amar Thabet Araf, Sami Derder, Karim Faiq, and Edgar Orsini were charged with distribution of cocaine, and Nizar Hakiki was charged with distribution of cocaine and transferring a firearm to be used in a drug trafficking crime.

It’s not the first time Yassine has been in hot water. Employees brought a class action lawsuit against the company in January, claiming that several bars neglected to pay the minimum wage of $2.13 tip in addition to a share of pooled tips. Additionally, a patron of the Yassine-owned Qua filed a suit in February, claiming that bouncers had carried her out the back of the club and sexually assaulted her.

Trayvon Martin

The death of Trayvon Martin, and even more so, the aftermath and public reaction, push many questions towards the spotlight, and currently, it doesn’t seem as though anyone has any answers.

Here are the facts: Trayvon, 17 years old, black, and wearing a hooded sweatshirt, was walking back to the house of his father’s girlfriend from a convenience store, where he had purchased a bottle of iced tea and a bag of skittles. It was dark. George Zimmerman, 28, Hispanic, and driving his neighborhood watch circuit, spotted Trayvon walking around the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community. He called the Sanford police department to report a “suspicious person”. From the 9-1-1 call, it’s apparent that Zimmerman thought Trayvon might be related to a number of recent burglaries that had been reported in the neighborhood. Zimmerman follows Trayvon, against the advice of the dispatcher, and the call ends. Other 9-1-1 calls from neighborhood residents describe a physical altercation, and the sounds of someone screaming for help. When the police arrived, Trayvon Martin had been fatally shot by George Zimmerman.

Here’s where the facts become muddled: Zimmerman claims that he was acting in self-defense, but by his own admission, and as is evident from the 9-1-1 call and testimony from Martin’s girlfriend (who was on the phone with him at the time), the older man chased Martin down before a scuffle ensued. The exact details of Zimmerman’s story, and how he claims an unarmed, 17-year-old boy made him fear for his life have not been made public (judging from photographs, it would appear that Zimmerman outweighs Martin by nearly 100 pounds). Residents who witnessed the physical altercation almost uniformly stated that it was too dark to tell who was who, but in one recorded 9-1-1 call, the screaming that is heard in the background sounds like a younger male. According to police reports, the first officer arriving at the scene found Martin facedown on the ground, and observed that Zimmerman was bleeding from the head, and covered in grass.

Complicating the case is a multi-faceted racial component. First, we need to acknowledge that race absolutely matters in this incident. How many Caucasian teenagers have ever been shot to death because they looked “suspicious”? In this case, the observed suspicious activity included walking down the sidewalk while holding candy. Less cut and dried is the response by the Sanford, FLA police department, who did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol at the scene, and who released him on the grounds that they had “no evidence to contradict his story”. Outraged citizens across the nation have raised a very fair question: had Trayvon been white, and Zimmerman black (or Asian, or remained Hispanic), would the case have folded so quickly and neatly?

The answer: absolutely not. However, this case is further clouded by yet another issue, the already controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, which affords any Florida resident the right to use lethal force if they feel their life is being threatened. The language of this law, and several like it in other states, is vague at best. Following the Martin killing, critics of the law have newfound ammunition, and have argued that the it serves as a de facto endorsement of vigilantism.

Speaking of unhinged individuals, Zimmerman’s character seems…questionable, at best. Little is known about him at the time of this writing, but a few key facts paint a portrait of someone who, perhaps, shouldn’t have the authority to carry a concealed handgun and use it if he feels “provoked”. He was arrested in 2005 on a charge of assaulting a law enforcement officer (it was later revealed that this was a bit overblown) and was remanded to a pretrial diversion program. That same year, a woman filed an injunction against him for domestic violence. This didn’t stop Zimmerman from pursuing a career in law enforcement: he took criminal justice classes at a local community college and even enrolled in the Sheriff’s Department academy program (there is no word on how successful he was in either of these endeavors). In isolation, this might point to somebody with aspirations to be a police officer, or at least to be involved in public safety, but Zimmerman’s aspirations seemed more intense than a normal citizen concerned with protecting their community.

Exactly how Zimmerman wound up as the supposed captain of his neighborhood watch is still under debate. USAonWatch, the national neighborhood watch group, says Zimmerman was never registered with the group, although newsletters distributed around the Retreat at Twin Lakes suggest that members of the homeowner’s association were comfortable with Zimmerman’s role as “captain”. Since 2004, he had placed nearly 50 calls to police over mundane things like open garage doors and cars driving around the neighborhood. Most chillingly, he once reported—you guessed it—two black males who were behaving in a “suspicious” manner. If not overt paranoia, this behavior can be at least considered “overzealous”, as one neighbor put it. When you take all this information as a whole, we’re forced to ask ourselves: should a man with seemingly unrealized aspirations of becoming a police officer, with a tendency to overreact, and most of all, with a criminal record, be allowed to maintain a position of authority within a neighborhood watch program? More pressing: should this person be allowed to use his own discretion when it comes to extinguishing the life of an unarmed teenager?

Whether or not race played a role in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin may never be known for certain, but the fact remains that an innocent boy is dead, and the man who killed him has not been arrested. Law enforcement has been curiously tight-lipped about Zimmerman’s interview with officers, only saying that he was released because there was no evidence to contradict his account of events. Conveniently, the only other witness had been shot dead a few hours prior. The careful, political moves by the Sanford Police department are somewhat understandable, if not downright sad, given the sensitive nature of the case, but can we all admit that something is dreadfully wrong when cops (who, it should be noted, widely opposed the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida) shrug their shoulders and say they can do nothing to rectify a situation that left a 17-year-old deceased?