I read this link in the morning thread from BB and thought it was about the worst thing I had read for some time. It’s called the “Oklahoma Test” and it’s written by one of our blog favorites Charlie Pierce. It shows how absolutely vile some republican officials are these days. Monsters. Psychopaths. A$$holes. You choose the name. Today’s republicans are poster children for depravity.
Remember that Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is often cited as one of the Republicans with whom the president might be able to do business. He is a conservative, but not a crazy person, like his colleague, James Inhofe. He can be expected to listen respectfully to other points of view and to at least consider the virtues of the kind of compromises that take the Davids, Gregory and Gergen, to their respective happy places.
Then remember that, fundamentally, Tom Coburn is also a monster.
”That’s always been his position [to offset disaster aid],” Coburn spokesman John Hart said. “He supported offsets to the bill funding the OKC bombing recovery effort.”
This is a guy who, one day after a devastating natural disaster killed his own constituents, said he will not vote to alleviate their suffering unless he can inflict some pain on someone somewhere else in the country. And his spokesman defends this as a matter of principle, and uses the worst act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States as a salutary example. (And the link demonstrates that Coburn’s aversion to tossing money down various ratholes is not universal.) Does Senator Coburn really believe you can budget for the unthinkable? That tornadoes are zero-sum events? That you can horse-trade on human suffering as though it were a line-item on a transportation rider? I no longer am willing to try to understand how people like this think. They are monsters and they operate on their own monstrous imperatives.
I frequently find myself in disbelief at the depths of ignorance, selfishness, and utter disregard for human life and our country that makes up the minds of today’s Republicans. That was Senator Coburn. Now try the pretzeled psychosis that is the mental and moral state of Senator Jim Inhofe.
Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) said on Tuesday that federal aid to tornado-ravaged parts of his home state will be “totally different” than a Hurricane Sandy aid bill he voted against late last year.
Speaking on MSNBC, the lawmaker said that in the case of Hurricane Sandy, “everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place.” However, he said, “that won’t happen in Oklahoma.”
President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he has already signed a federal disaster declaration for parts of Oklahoma, where tornadoes have caused dozens of fatalities and flattened entire communities.
Inhofe said the Sandy Relief bill “was supposed to be in New Jersey,” but “they were getting things … in the Virgin Islands, fixing roads there, and putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C.” Both Inhofe and Coburn voted to slash aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, with Inhofe saying he considered the full proposed aid amount to be a “slush fund.”
While Northeastern states like New Jersey and New York suffered some of the worst damage from Hurricane Sandy, the storm affected 24 U.S. states in total during October of 2012. Sandy carved a destructive path from the Caribbean Sea to the Great Lakes, where it produced 25-foot waves in Lake Huron.
Hurricane Sandy is believed to have cost more than $50 billion, making it the second-costliest storm in U.S. history.
While it’s too early to estimate what the damage from the Oklahoma tornadoes might cost, in 1999 the state requested and received more than $67 million after a series of tornadoes.
I still live with the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. I will never forget that money and help was doled out faster to Mississippi than Louisiana for pure political reasons. They wanted to turn Louisiana red and bring down the governor a lot more than they wanted to help those of us that suffered from that huge horrible storm. I felt the long shit-stained hand of Karl Rove in the treatment of our diaspora and especially of our middle class black population who voted solidly democrat and kept the state purple.
FEMA Director Michael Brown, who resigned over his handling of the response, later told a group of students that the White House only wanted to federalize the response in Louisiana, where the governor was a Democrat, and not in Republican-led Mississippi in order to embarrass Louisiana officials. Brown said the White House believed they had a chance to “rub [Kathleen Blanco’s] nose in it.”
Even my asshole Senator David Vitter came up with money for Sandy victims. You can’t spend time in the wake of death and utter destruction and stay heartless. Or can you?
For these two and many more of their ilk, it seems you can.
It seems that disasters in republican states are more deserving than disasters in democratic states. It also seems that you can help your own by taking from the mouths of others. Time and time again, we see the absolutely unhinged policies put forth by the Republican party. We see them block the most reasonable national responses to national problems for unhinged, fanatical reasons usually based on myth, lies, and greed. Of course we won’t leave Oklahoma in the dust and destruction. But, it won’t be their elected officials that lend them real helping hands without taking from some of the rest of us. C’mon Oklahoma … my birth state … how can you justify reelecting psychopaths like these? How can you keep sending your country these monsters? Please, pen them up somewhere and build them a personal hell realm here on earth.
I’m still really tired and quite removed from the total weirdness of the current Beltway antics. From my groggy eyes, it seems like some odd, abstract dance done to music with an oft-repeated, dissonant theme. I’m very much lost in a world of books and games right now and catching up with things around the house. Oh, and sleep. I just can’t seem to get enough of that. Who invited all these tacky people and why hasn’t some one taught them how to behave properly at a national cotillion?
So, the journalistic dance theatrics orchestrated by the right wing appear to be spinning out there in a place that no one cares much about. However, it should be noted that while no one real seems to care, the press is still tap dancing to the jingoism. Have the little republican boyz cried wolf so many times that only the villagers listen and no one else? Cue the polls and the pols,
President Barack Obama comes out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady, according to a new national poll. But a CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation’s capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously.
“That two-point difference is well within the poll’s sampling error, so it is a mistake to characterize it as a gain for the president,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Nonetheless, an approval rating that has not dropped and remains over 50% will probably be taken as good news by Democrats after the events of the last week.”
The CNN poll is in-line with Gallup, which also indicated a very slight rise in Obama’s approval rating over the same time period. And Gallup’s daily tracking poll also indicated a slight upward movement of Obama’s approval rating over the past week. But as with the CNN poll, it was within that survey’s sampling error.
More than seven in 10 in the CNN poll say that the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of tea party and other conservative groups that were applying for tax exempt status was unacceptable. While the White House and both parties in Congress are criticizing the IRS actions, congressional Republicans are depicting the controversy as a case of the federal government gone wild.
But more than six in 10 say that the president’s statements about the IRS scandal are completely or mostly true, with 35% not agreeing with Obama’s characterizations. And 55% say that IRS acted on its own, with 37% saying that White House ordered the IRS to target tea party and other conservative groups.
It’s nice to see that a lot of real folks are not taking all these conspiracy theories very seriously. How can any one take them seriously with idiots like Senator Aqua Buddha pushing them? Why does any one give this whackadoodle air time? Not every US senator deserves national face time. This one should be placed in a carnival sideshow in a Scheherazade costume. However, this crackpot may try to take on Hillary Clinton for the presidency next time out so it’s a way for the press to rattle the Clinton cage. Rand Paul’s trying to spin his little tail and tale into something credible. Good luck with that!! It all come off as fundraising theatrics to me. A little snake oil music from the maestro please!!!
Sen. Rand Paul continued with his charges from earlier this week that former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton had “her fingerprints all over these talking points” on the Benghazi attack and claims that she never “really accepted culpability” because she failed to resign shortly after the tragedy. When CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Paul if he was worried about appearing to politicize the controversy by making his remarks in Iowa and other presidential battleground states, Paul dismissed the notion that his remarks were based on politics.
It’s laughable that anyone expects us to believe that Republicans care one iota about this trumped up Benghazi story for any other reason than to muddy up Hillary Clinton, because they all assume she’s going to be the front-runner for the next presidential election.
And I’d say it’s safe to assume Rand Paul is going to take up his father’s mantle and make a career out of perpetually running for president as a fundraising scheme. It worked out pretty well for his dad and the press is already propping him up because of it — with this being the latest example — so why not?
Meanwhile, the choreography of the supposed liberal bias in the press came apart when ABC’s Jonathan Karl was caught telling right wing whoppers and had to apologize. Actually, he kinda sorta, sashayed towards an apology. Here’s his anti-mea culpa. Oh, and you gotta laugh about exactly who got to read it on air yesterday!!!
Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News, addressed criticism of his reporting on the Benghazi talking points controversy, saying in a statement to CNN that he regrets the inaccuracy of his report.
“Clearly, I regret the email was quoted incorrectly and I regret that it’s become a distraction from the story, which still entirely stands. I should have been clearer about the attribution. We updated our story immediately,” he said in the statement to Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
Earlier this month, Karl reported that he obtained emails by White House staff that indicated they had a dramatic role in altering the talking points that were later used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Sunday morning talk shows to explain the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
From those talking points, she said the attack spurred from a spontaneous demonstration outside the compound, while the Obama administration later stated the violence came from a premeditated terror attack.
Questions soon arose over how the error took place, as reports showed that initial drafts of those talking points included references to extremists but were later changed to attribute the incident to protests over an anti-Islam film.
Karl reported on May 10 that, based on summaries of the emails, the White House had a leading role in the editing process and had scrubbed vital information from the talking points.
But CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s “The Lead,” reported days later that the actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told a different story.
Karl’s high profile at ABC demonstrates that conservative messages can find a comfortable home inside the so-called “liberal” media. Karl channeled former ABC corporate cheerleader John Stossel with a segment (3/5/11) complaining that regulation of the egg and poultry industries was “almost embarrassing,” since different government agencies regulate different aspects of the industries. “Got that?” Karl asked. “Fifteen separate agencies have responsibility for food safety.”
During the rollout of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Karl (1/26/11) gushed that the Republican media darling was “a little like the guy in the movie Dave, the accidental president who sets out to fix the budget, line by line.” And while Democrats were saying Ryan “is a villain,” Karl was clear about which side he was on: “Ryan knows what he sees…. Paul Ryan is on a mission, determined to do the seemingly impossible: Actually balance the federal budget.” (Actually, even with its draconian spending cuts and absurdly optimistic economic assumptions, the Ryan plan still foresees a cumulative deficit of $62 trillion over the next half century—Congressional Budget Office, 1/27/10.)
On a This Week roundtable (2/20/11), Karl declared that state budget debates were “the Tea Party’s moment” and “also the Chris Christie phenomenon. Will politicians be rewarded for making tough choices—again, something I don’t think we’ve ever seen happen?” Of course, it’s hard not to conclude that the “tough choices” made by Christie and other Republicans are the ones that ought to be rewarded.
And in one World News segment (2/14/11), Karl likened the federal budget to stacks of pennies in order to demonstrate that deeper spending cuts would be necessary in order to balance the budget. Karl concluded that “the bottom line, Diane, is unless you’re willing to talk about cutting entitlements or defense or both, really, there’s no way you can even think about balancing the budget.” This is not actually true—one could raise revenues by increasing taxes on the wealthy—but it is how Republicans want to frame the budget debate.
Just think of how horrible things are going to get when the Koch Brothers take over media outlets. Eric Alterman–writing for The Nation–things that they could make Rupert Murdoch look good. May the wisdom beings protect us all!! Talk about your odd dance partners!! Could Murdoch actually step in to take over the Trib and could that make us all actually breathe easier? Well, not really.
But chill out for a minute and consider the following: should they enter the newspaper publishing business, the Koch brothers would be King Midas in reverse. Their commitment to producing disinformation designed to defame liberals, moderates and, indeed, all manner of sane individuals would result in the destruction of the professional purpose of their purchase. A Los Angeles Times or a Chicago Tribune answerable to Koch ownership would soon lose most of its serious journalists and all of its credibility with readers. This would vaporize the value of their investment and leave them with extremely expensive propaganda sheets to publish and loads of legacy costs to assume. Other publications would jump in to fill the vacuum, though it’s unlikely that any of them would be able even to approach the scope and reach of what will be lost. Ideally, the Koch brothers will soon recognize the folly of their ambitions and withdraw.
The scenario that should truly alarm and depress the rest of us is the one that many have posed as the salvation of these papers: a Tribune Company takeover by Rupert Murdoch. While one group of Los Angeles businessmen is interested in buying the LA Times, they have no interest in the package of eight. That leaves Murdoch. And while resistance to a Koch purchase among editors and reporters is strong enough to convince the new owners that they might be buying an empty shell, the attitude toward a Murdoch takeover is quite the opposite. When, during a meeting of the entire staff, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez asked those assembled to “raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Rupert Murdoch,” only a handful reportedly did so (compared with about half of the staff when the Koch purchase was proposed). Similarly, one member of the Baltimore Sun staff wrote Jim Romenesko that “Murdoch, at least, is a newsman,” a view that was echoed nearly word for word by a Chicago Tribune journalist: “Murdoch, for all his flaws, is a newspaper man.”
True, but by the same logic, Jack the Ripper was a lover of the ladies. Murdoch may be a “newspaper man,” but he is surely not a man who respects honest journalism or even the laws of society as they apply to it (or much else, for that matter). Just in the past few weeks, Murdoch has been making news in the following ways:
He paid out $139 million to settle a class-action suit by News Corp. shareholders, who accused the board of directors of putting the Murdoch family’s interests above those of the company with regard to both the British phone-hacking episode—one of the most egregious criminal scandals in the history of journalism—and News Corp.’s sweetheart acquisition of his daughter Elizabeth’s television production company. The lawsuit alleged that the board “disregarded its fiduciary duties” and allowed Murdoch to run News Corp. as his “own personal fiefdom.”
So, want the worst example? Guess who was on MTP yesterday? Dancing Dave managed to embarrass the entire journalistic bordello in one short hour.
GREGORY: And we’re back. For our remaining moments, joining me now, author of the new book Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, the Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mister Secretary, welcome back. You have such an interesting distinction here because I remember President Bush who I covered called you a matinee idol and now you’re soon to be a great grandfather. That’s a pretty good combination.
MR. DONALD RUMSFELD (Former Secretary of Defense/Author, Rumsfeld’s Rules): Think of that. It’s exciting.
GREGORY: I want to ask you first about a very disturbing subject within the military that of course you’ve worked over for so long and that is sexual assaults in the military. Some of the reported cases going back to when you were Defense Secretary and reported and then the estimates is that much larger number and the alarming rise between 2010 and 2012. And the issue at hand here is what should the military do about it? Does it have to change the way these crimes are reported at the chain of command and go outside of that to a special prosecutor? What would you do?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t know that a special prosecutor is the answer, but there is an argument that can be made for handling them in a way different than they’re being handled because they’re serious. And– and I would suspect that an awful lot of them don’t even get reported.
MR. RUMSFELD: And– and that’s probably true in the public sector, in private citizens as well as in the military.
MR. RUMSFELD: But– but it’s a terrible thing. There has to be zero tolerance. And it– it appears that– that something different is going to have to be done and I wish I knew what the answer was. I don’t. But– but it had– people have simply got to not tolerate it.
GREGORY: What about the culture in the military? Is that a part of what’s contributing to this? Is it a major part of what’s contributing to it?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, people talk about that. The military– they talk about athletic teams and– and male environments. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think– there’s certainly nothing about the military that would contribute to it in terms of– of the purpose of the armed forces. The– but I don’t know the answer. I– and I think they better– they better really land all over people that are engaged in any kind of abuse of that nature.
GREGORY: There’s so much happening in Washington and you are a veteran of so much controversy as even in your most recent incarnation as defense secretary in the Bush administration. You write this from the book, Rumsfeld’s Rules, “If you foul up, tell the boss and correct it fast. Mistakes can usually be corrected if the adminis– the organization’s leaders are made aware of them and they are caught up early enough and faced honestly. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. If you have fouled something up, it’s best to tell the boss first.”
MR. RUMSFELD: That’s true.
GREGORY: Accountability. Whether it’s IRS or the questions about Benghazi, who is accountable? How do you assess that in these cases?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, in these cases, I don’t think they know yet. Clearly, the president and in the case of Benghazi, the Secretary of State. That’s the way life works. But what bothers me about it is that two things really concern me. One, you think of a manager, a leader. When something like that happens, you call people in, you sit them down and you let them know that you intend to find ground truth fast. And he seems not to have done that. The other thing that’s worrisome is, as they say, truth leaves on horseback and returns on foot. What’s happening to the president is incrementally trust is being eroded because of the different messages coming out. You know, it’s important that you avoid the early reports because they’re often wrong, and you have to get people in, find ground truth, and then communicate that as fast as you can to the extent information goes out that’s– proves not to be accurate. Presidents and leaders lead by persuasion and for persuasion to work, they don’t lead by command. You have to be trusted. And to the extent trust is eroded, as it is when stories get changed and something more is learned and– and it kind of incrementally destroys your credibility, I think that clearly is a problem. I was worried, for example, I came back from being ambassador of NATO when President Nixon had resigned and President Ford was in office. And the reservoir of trust had just been drained during the– that– that experience that we went through.
Yes. I saved the best for last. Dancing Dave asked Donald Rumsfeld about how to hold the federal government accountable for made up scandals. Hasn’t this man been put in jail for crimes against humanity yet? And, aren’t you glad I didn’t quote the rest of the damn panel?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
So, I picked a good week to get lost in jet lag and my sister’s long to do list. I didn’t get my first flight out of Seattle Wednesday because of mechanical problems. The pilot wouldn’t fly the plane. That meant about 300 people+ me were scrambling for alternatives at the 11th hour. Fortunately, my sister is a ninja of travel arrangements and got me right on a flight to Chicago where I then spent a good portion of the day and night in Chicago at O’Hare living through multiple gate changes. I got in really late but at least I got a free update which meant I had some really great leg room on the way home, even though it was at terribly ungodly hour and at that point I just wanted to be unconscious. I have to admit to staying in bed pretty much all day on Thursday. Now that I’ve looked at the headlines, I’ve decided I should’ve stayed there longer. Good gawd, did they put some hallucinogenic mushroom in the DC water supply while I was gone?
I learned a lot about right wing republicans when I ran for office. You probably have heard a lot of my war stories if you’ve read me at all. The one big lesson I learned–besides staying as far away from bible banging pro-lifers as possible–is that if you have really nothing scandalous in your life they were simply make something up. I learned from the Omaha World Herald that I had been fired from a bank teller job in college for embezzling money. I did work as a bank teller. I didn’t stay with it very long mostly because it interfered with school but I had to call the old retired VP of the branch to write to the paper to tell them nothing like that ever happened when he or I was there. There are a few other things that were whispered about me involving lesbians and abortions and doing things in the street, but I won’t share them here because they were really the reflection of the most twisted brains I’ve ever experienced. All generously spread at mass and in between halleluiahs and rolling at the big box churches. I’ve decided hyper-religiosity is a mental illness and it manifests delusions. It’s omnipresent in the Republican Party these days. Just imagine a party full of Pat Robertsons! That’s about the size of it. So, all the hooplah over Benghazi and now the IRS strikes me as just one more bit of hysteria on the part of really sore losers who think some godbag is encouraging them to do his dirty work. What kills me is there are some really troubling things going on and they’re just blowing right by it like the little schools of fish they are.
MEMORANDUM’s greatest hit list looks like conspiracy theory central. It’s hard to even know which hysterical ninny to read first. Pearl Clutching Bush enabler Peggy Noonan is all over the WSJ probably trying to get us all to forget the torture, Gitmo, no WMDs, and all that with her take on the rogue IRS agents. Politicization of the IRS threatens our GOVERNMENT!!! Damn Pegster, what about making up shit about WMD’s to throw us into a war, using torture, and then let’s have a nice chat about Iran-Contra. None of that was the least bit threatening to democracy from your viewpoint dearie? Hallelujah and pass the water boards!!!
We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. The reputation of the Obama White House has, among conservatives, gone from sketchy to sinister, and, among liberals, from unsatisfying to dangerous. No one likes what they’re seeing. The Justice Department assault on the Associated Press and the ugly politicization of the Internal Revenue Service have left the administration’s credibility deeply, probably irretrievably damaged. They don’t look jerky now, they look dirty. The patina of high-mindedness the president enjoyed is gone.
Something big has shifted. The standing of the administration has changed.
As always it comes down to trust. Do you trust the president’s answers when he’s pressed on an uncomfortable story? Do you trust his people to be sober and fair-minded as they go about their work? Do you trust the IRS and the Justice Department? You do not.
Where does this kind of shit come from? What level and number of two martini-lunches has this woman been having to come up with THIS being the worst thing since Watergate? Get the lady a glass of cold water and a compress! Fetch the Fainting Couch! Check out the Oscar nominations! Sheesh! So, Peggy and Lady Lindsey must disagree on which of these blown up bits of nonsense are the worst EVAH!!! Lady Lindsey told me it was Benghazi and Lady Peggington tells me its the IRS. I am so confused!!!
As BB told me this morning when I asked if I missed anything … it’ like the second Clinton Term Redux. Let’s get all bent out of shape over things that really don’t matter … MEANWHILE, ground hog’s day continue in the House: House votes to repeal ObamaCare. Don’t foget, Obamacare is the worst thing since WaterGATE!!! Oh, wait …
The House voted to repeal ObamaCare on Thursday for the third time since Republicans took over the chamber in 2011.
Only two Democrats sided with Republicans in the party-line 229-195 vote — Jim Matheson (Utah) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.). All Republicans voted in favor of repeal.
This is the 37th time the House GOP has voted to repeal or defund at least part of the bill, but this latest bill will also not become law given Democrats’ control of the Senate.
So, in Pakistan, the number of drone strikes increased exponentially under President Obama. He also began issuing a series of secret orders, at times through General David Petraeus, who was theCENTCOM commander responsible for all military operations in the Middle East. And they started to issue what are called execute orders for joint special operations forces commandos, elite SEALs, Delta Force, Army Rangers and others, to begin penetrating countries that were outside of the stated battlefields, like Yemen and Mali and Somalia and elsewhere in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and began constructing drone bases in Saudi Arabia, in Djibouti, where the U.S. has its major hub of operations in East Africa. Camp Lemonnier was a French military base that was taken over by the U.S. And so you had the expansion of these wars where you didn’t have embedded journalists, you didn’t have congressional hearings, and the administration tried to portray its drone wars as a smarter, cleaner war. But there is no such thing as a clean war.And what we see happening right now is that the signature strikes, this policy that Kade mentioned, has become the tip of the spear of U.S. policy in both Yemen and Pakistan, where you have what is almost—it’s a grotesque form of pre-crime, where people, because of the region that they live, the fact that they are, quote-unquote, “military-aged” males, and they may or may not have had association with certain people, makes them worthy of preemptive designation as terrorists. And so, when they are killed, and then we hear a report about 11 militants being killed or suspected militants being killed, oftentimes those are people that have been determined through the pre-crime process—and that’s even not the right term, because who knows if they were even going to commit a crime? When you’re killing people whose identities you don’t know, who you have no intelligence to speak of that they’re actually involved with criminal activity or plotting terrorist acts, and you bomb them, what you’ve done in doing that is to create new enemies that have an actual legitimate grievance against the United States. Our actions in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia are going to come back to blow against us. It will be blowback. We will pay a price for our actions around the world. There is no clean war in Yemen. There is no clean war in Pakistan.
When President Obama was asked about his resolve during the political campaign, he said, “Ask the 22 or 30″—I forget which number—”leaders of al-Qaeda who have been killed under my administration about my sense of resolve.” And it’s true. They’ve killed a number of leaders. The number three man in al-Qaeda has been killed 20-something times. There’s Said al-Shihri. Said al-Shihri, who’s one of the heads of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, by my count has died eight times this year—and just released a new audiotape last week. But there have been individuals that we’re told are these notorious leaders of al-Qaeda that have been taken out, and some of them very clearly have been involved with horrid activities. But for the most part, the end result of the drone policy has been to inflame hatred, to inspire new enemies.
I spent Mother’s Day napping on dad’s sofa mostly. I am such an exciting person!! I have no idea why I am so cold and so worn out but it is what it is.
Meanwhile, all hell broke loose in New Orleans. The gun violence that hit a Mother’s Day parade there was pretty much the kind of urban violence we see all too often with such easy access to guns. I wish I could say that gun violence was rare in the 7th ward. But it is not. Here’s a word from my congressman Cedric Richmond:
According to FBI data, 1,464 people were killed by firearms in New Orleans between 2008-2011. That’s 1,464 families who will never see their loved ones again. If we were to have passed the entirety of President Obama’s proposed reforms, sadly, many of those victims would probably have still been killed because violence is a pervasive and complex problem with a diverse set of causes. Economic insecurity, poor mental health treatment options, inferior education options and the scarcity of positive opportunities are all contributors, which one regulation alone cannot eliminate. That being said, if we only acted on just a few of the president’s proposals, we could decrease the supply of guns used in the homicides by reducing the supply of illegally purchased guns via universal background checks. This would decrease the use of guns in violent crime and keep a few more families from having to bury a loved one.
While I was serving as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, I introduced an assault weapons ban bill on numerous occasions. I took on the National Rifle Association in these battles not because I have a grudge against gun owners, but because I could find no reasonable defense of having these weapons of mass destruction on our streets. As a resident of Sportsman’s Paradise, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. However, I do not ascribe to the belief that Congress has no role in responding to the gun violence epidemic plaguing communities like New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit.
A Mother’s Day second-line shooting on Frenchmen Street in the 7th Ward, on Sunday about 1:45 p.m., left 19 people injured, according to the latest NOPD numbers. Earlier Sunday afternoon, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said that about 12 people had been injured, but the toll later grew to 19, with the NOPD explaining that some victims initially hadn’t reported being injured and more people continue to come forward.
Police said 10 adult men, seven adult women, a 10-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were struck by bullets. Both of the 10-year-old victims had graze wounds to the body and were in good condition. A man and a woman were reported to be in surgery Sunday evening.
The shooting occurred in the 1400 block of Frenchmen Street at the intersection of North Villere Street. Immediately after the shooting police reported seeing three suspects running from the scene. One suspect was seen running on Frenchman toward North Claiborne, police said.
NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden said many of the victims were grazed, some by bullets that ricocheted. “At this point, there are no fatalities, and most of the wounds are not life-threatening,” she said in an email.
“But all medical conditions are not known at this time as victims were rushed to nearby hospitals,” Braden continued. “Detectives are conducting interviews, retrieving any surveillance video in the area and, of course, collecting all evidence. This is an extremely unusual occurrence, and we’re confident that we will make swift arrests.”
Kevin Allman, editor of Gambit Weekly, said one of the publication’s writers, Deborah Cotton, also known as the blogger Big Red Cotton, was shot and was in stable condition after undergoing surgery.
Shannon Roberts, 32, was in the Interim LSU Hospital in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon and early evening alongside reams of other crying and fear-ridden – and at times, angry - family members whose loved ones were injured in the shooting. Roberts said she was waiting on a 21-year-old nephew who was shot in the arm and stomach, a 37-year-old niece shot in the arm, and a 39-year-old cousin shot in the back.
“All innocent bystanders got hit,” Roberts said. “When I got the call saying they were shot, I wasn’t thinking at all, I was just shivering and crying… just hoping they be all right.
Hatred evidently has a basis in geography in this country. This is an interesting twist on studying information from Twitters, locations, and displays of racism, homophobia, and basic hate speech.
Twitter, even more than many other social media tools, can feel disconnected from the real world. But a group of students and professors at research site Floating Sheep have built a comprehensive map of some of Twitter’s most distasteful content: the racist, homophobic, or ableist slurs that can proliferate online. Called Geography of Hate, the interactive map charts ten relatively common slurs across the continental US, either by general category or individually. Looking at the whole country, you’ll often see a mass of red or what the map’s creators call a “blue smog of hate.” Zooming in, however, patches appear over individual regions or cities; some may be predictable, while others are not.
The map builds on an earlier Floating Sheep project that showed where President Obama was referenced with racial slurs, but it’s far more comprehensive and well-constructed. Unlike many other studies, for example, the tweets weren’t collected and analyzed algorithmically — a method that could accidentally collect non-derogatory uses of these terms. Instead, the team first searched through a year’s worth of geotagged tweets for words, then had a group of students at Humboldt State University look at each one. Only tweets they found explicitly negative went on the map: a derogatory use of the word “dyke” would be added, for example, but one reclaiming the term for a gay pride parade would not. In total, the map charts about 150,000 negative, slur-filled tweets.
Here is some “Terrible News About Carbon and Climate Change”.
This past Thursday, the daily average atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, as measured by the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, passed four hundred parts per million. In some way it was a meaningless milestone. We know that CO2 is increasing; we knew this moment would come; we know that four hundred is no more different from three hundred and ninety-nine than it is from four hundred and one.
Still, the number should shake us, if not shock us. We’ve got more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any point since the Pliocene, when there were jungles in northern Canada. And the number hurdles ever upward, as ocean levels rise and extreme weather becomes routine. Three-fifty was the old target; four-fifty is the new one. But what indication is there that we’ll stop at five hundred, six hundred, or even more?
We’ve failed collectively. As Ryan Lizza explained in miserable detail in 2010, the United States government couldn’t pass a tepid, eviscerated law. Activists have failed. We’ve all failed morally: a problem created by the world’s rich will now crush the world’s poor. In a grand sense it’s also a failure of the creators, and deniers, of climate change: the Exxon-Mobils, say, or the Wall Street Journal editorial page. A victory isn’t worth much if your children and grandchildren will one day think of you with anger and shame.
How do we get out of this mess? The political system seems hopeless. Yes, government regulation has done much to relieve us of acid rain and smog. But global warming combines two intractable problems. Reducing emissions mainly benefits people who aren’t born and don’t vote. And it requires international coördination, which is hopeless, and international law, which is toothless. We should do things like build more public transportation, which helps people here and now. We should design our cities for a future with terrible weather. But solving the problem of climate change through the U.N. is like a small man with olive oil on his hands trying to pull a whale from the water.
I’ve become somewhat fascinated with charter schools given their presence in New Orleans and their supposed success. Who makes money from these things and why is that important? It has a lot to do with Real Estate Developers and Hedge Fund Managers. This is worth reading.
Studies shows that charter schools don’t typically outperform public schools and they often tend to increase racial and class segregation. So one must wonder, what exactly is motivating these school “reformers”? And why have they pushed for more and more closure — and new charter schools — at such an unprecedented rate in recent years?
Pro-charter supporters will tell you that it’s time for public institutions like our schools to start competing more like for-profit institutions. Test scores and high enrollment, then, define success. Unsuccessful schools, they say, should close just as unsuccessful businesses do. For neoliberal school reformers from today’s Arne Duncan-led Department of Education to scandal-ridden movement leader Michelle Rhee to billionaire Bill Gates, it is taken on faith that market principles are desirable in education.
But since it’s not clear that market principles are benefiting students on a large scale, it seems likely that something else is at stake. And reformers may be more than a little disingenuous in publicly ignoring that other, less high-minded thing: Profit. Critics of charter schools and school closings point out that proponents may not really be motivated by idealism, but by self-gain.
But who precisely is profiting? And how? Untangling answers to these questions is a more daunting task. Compared to public schools, charters schools are an extremely unregulated business. They contract with private companies to provide all kinds of services, from curriculum development to landscaping. Most of the regulations that bind charter schools are implemented at the state level. And unlike public institutions, the finances of charter schools are managed on a school-by-school basis. Because they are not consistently held accountable to the public for how they distribute funds, charter schools are often able to keep their business practices under wraps, and thus avoid too much scrutiny.
Here’s economist Joseph Stiglitz warning us about the crushing student debt in the U.S.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, almost 13 percent of student-loan borrowers of all ages owe more than $50,000, and nearly 4 percent owe more than $100,000. These debts are beyond students’ ability to repay, (especially in our nearly jobless recovery); this is demonstrated by the fact that delinquency and default rates are soaring. Some 17 percent of student-loan borrowers were 90 days or more behind in payments at the end of 2012. When only those in repayment were counted — in other words, not including borrowers who were in loan deferment or forbearance — more than 30 percent were 90 days or more behind. For federal loans taken out in the 2009 fiscal year, three-year default rates exceeded 13 percent.
America is distinctive among advanced industrialized countries in the burden it places on students and their parents for financing higher education. America is also exceptional among comparable countries for the high cost of a college degree, including at public universities. Average tuition, and room and board, at four-year colleges is just short of $22,000 a year, up from under $9,000 (adjusted for inflation) in 1980-81.
Compare this more-than-doubling in tuition with the stagnation in median family income, which is now about $50,000, compared to $46,000 in 1980 (adjusted for inflation).
Like much else, the problem of student debt worsened during the Great Recession: tuition costs at public universities increased by 27 percent in the past five years — partly because of cutbacks — while median income shrank. In California, inflation-adjusted tuition more than doubled in public two-year community colleges (which for poorer Americans are often the key to upward mobility), and by more than 70 percent in four-year public schools, from 2007-8 to 2012-13.
With costs soaring, incomes stagnating and little help from government, it was not surprising that total student debt, around $1 trillion, surpassed total credit-card debt last year. Responsible Americans have learned how to curb their credit-card debt — many have forsaken them for debit cards, or educated themselves about usurious interest rates, fees and penalties charged by card issuers — but the challenge of controlling student debt is even more unsettling.
Curbing student debt is tantamount to curbing social and economic opportunity. College graduates earn $12,000 more per year than those without college degrees; the gap has almost tripled just since 1980. Our economy is increasingly reliant on knowledge-related industries. No matter what happens with currency wars and trade balances, the United States is not going to return to making textiles. Unemployment rates among college graduates are much lower than among those with only a high school diploma.
Who is the one person in the beltway looking for answers? Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is looking at handing the loans over the Fed. The problem is that no one seems to be taking the bill seriously.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has just introduced a new bill, the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, to offer student loans at the same rates that the Federal Reserve charges big banks through its discount window lending program. At the moment, that rate is about 0.75%. The rates on federally guaranteed student loans, meanwhile, is set to double to 6.8% this summer.
“Some may say we can’t afford this proposal,” said Senator Warren as she introduced the bill. “I would remind them that the Federal Government currently makes 36 cents in profit for every dollar it lends to students . . . meanwhile, the banks pay interest that is one-ninth of the amount that students will be asked to pay. That’s just wrong. It doesn’t reflect our values.”
“Now some explain that the banks get exceptionally low interest rates because the economy is still shaky and banks need access to cheap credit to continue the recovery.” She sighed loudly. “But our students are just as important to the economic recovery as our banks, and the debt they carry poses a serious risk to that recovery.”
It’s probably true that some say banks need low interest rates to keep the economy growing. But no one except possibly a lunatic has told Elizabeth Warren that banks are getting 0.75% at the discount window as a thank you for all the hard work they’re doing helping the economy. Discount window loans are cheap for three reasons: the borrowers have assets and income that are easy to seize, the loans are quite short term, and the banks are required to put up collateral.
As you’ll have discovered with your own mortgage or car loan, the shorter the term of the loan, the lower the interest rate. You will also have discovered that loans secured by collateral, like your car loan or mortgage, carry lower interest rates than loans such as credit card expenditures, which are secured by nothing more than your heartfelt promises to pay. You may even have noticed that the more durable the collateral, the more attractive a rate your banker will extend on it.
So it is with loans to other people, and businesses. Banks get a very low rate because they’re borrowing for very short periods of time–often overnight, always less than a year. The Fed correctly figures that the bank is unlikely to go out of business by next month–and anyway, they’re putting up collateral, which is unlikely to lose all its value in such a short period of time.
Students, on the other hand, are borrowing for a decade, and the only thing they’re putting up as a guarantee is their character. How good a collateral is their character? In 2011, 9.1% of borrowers had defaulted on their student loan within the first two years of the payment period.
The interest paid by the folks who don’t default is the only thing keeping this program from hemorrhaging money. Elizabeth Warren proposes to cut that interest rate to less than the rate of inflation.
So, those are my suggestions this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I cannot believe how tired I am at the moment but I’m going to muddle through this with you somehow. I have all the good intentions of doing lots of things like hooking up with our Seattle Sky Dancers but so far, I’m freezing cold and exhausted. So, let me try to find some lighter things to share … like “Revolutionizing Classical music by mixing Beethoven and Beer”. That probably didn’t make much sense. How about small ensembles of classical musicians playing at dive bars?
PERFORMING classical music at a dive bar that serves beer and hot dogs is an unusual concept. But Ensemble HD, a group of musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra, is packing out the city’s Happy Dog bar at their monthly live shows.
The idea for the sextet—piano, flute, oboe, violin, viola and cello—to perform at the bar came from a meeting of minds. Joshua Smith, principal flautist at the orchestra and lead member of Ensemble HD, had long been interested in reaching out to people who don’t go to classical-music concerts; and Sean Watterson, owner of Happy Dog, is similarly interested in mixing high- and low-brow culture. After leaving his finance job in New York following the financial meltdown in 2008, Mr Watterson moved back to Cleveland and transformed this rust-belt bar into a hub of cultural programming. In addition to Ensemble HD, the Happy Dog hosts monthly science lectures, regular talks from curators at the Cleveland Museum of Art and polka bands during happy hour. The venue attracts a diverse crowd: “It’s great to look over at the bar and see people in mink coats next to twentysomethings covered in tattoos and piercings,” Mr Watterson says.
So, I’m frequently writing about buried things. Here’s an interesting twist on that from Argentina. A town that was submerged under water for 25 years is seeing sunlight and air again. There are some kewl pictures at the link.
A strange ghost town that spent a quarter-century under water is coming up for air again in the Argentine farmlands southwest of Buenos Aires. Epecuen was once a bustling little lakeside resort, where 1,500 people served 20,000 tourists a season. During Argentina’s golden age, the same trains that carried grain to the outside world brought visitors from the capital to relax in Epecuen’s saltwater baths and spas. Then a particularly heavy rainstorm followed a series of wet winters, and the lake overflowed its banks on Nov. 10, 1985. Water burst through a retaining wall and spilled into the lakeside streets. People fled with what they could, and within days their homes were submerged under nearly 33 feet of corrosive saltwater. Now the water has mostly receded, exposing what looks like a scene from a movie about the end of the world. The town hasn’t been rebuilt, but it has become a tourist destination again, for people willing to drive at least six hours from Buenos Aires to get here, along 340 miles of narrow country roads. People come to see the rusted hulks of automobiles and furniture, crumbled homes, and broken appliances. It’s a bizarre, post-apocalyptic landscape that captures a traumatic moment in time.
In keeping with that, we also have some news on Britain’s ‘Atlantis’. Dunwich is still submerged. A storm swept a good deal of it into the sea in 1286 but it eventually was lost completely some time in the 15th century. The storms were part of what is known as the “little ice age”.
A University of Southampton professor has carried out the most detailed analysis ever of the archaeological remains of the lost medieval town of Dunwich, dubbed ‘Britain’s Atlantis’.
Funded and supported by English Heritage, and using advanced underwater imaging techniques, the project led by Professor David Sear of Geography and Environment has produced the most accurate map to date of the town’s streets, boundaries and major buildings, and revealed new ruins on the seabed. Professor Sear worked with a team from the University’s GeoData Institute; the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton; Wessex Archaeology; and local divers from North Sea Recovery and Learn Scuba.
He comments, “Visibility under the water at Dunwich is very poor due to the muddy water. This has limited the exploration of the site.
“We have now dived on the site using high resolution DIDSON ™ acoustic imaging to examine the ruins on the seabed — a first use of this technology for non-wreck marine archaeology.
“DIDSON technology is rather like shining a torch onto the seabed, only using sound instead of light. The data produced helps us to not only see the ruins, but also understand more about how they interact with the tidal currents and sea bed.”
Peter Murphy, English Heritage’s coastal survey expert who is currently completing a national assessment of coastal heritage assets in England, says: “The loss of most of the medieval town of Dunwich over the last few hundred years — one of the most important English ports in the Middle Ages — is part of a long process that is likely to result in more losses in the future. Everyone was surprised, though, by how much of the eroded town still survives under the sea and is identifiable.
“Whilst we cannot stop the forces of nature, we can ensure what is significant is recorded and our knowledge and memory of a place doesn’t get lost forever. Professor Sear and his team have developed techniques that will be valuable to understanding submerged and eroded terrestrial sites elsewhere.”
The future of a globally warmed world has been revealed in a remote meteorite crater in Siberia, where lake sediments recorded the strikingly balmy climate of the Arctic during the last period when greenhouse gas levels were as high as today.
Unchecked burning of fossil fuels has driven carbon dioxide to levels not seen for 3 million years when, the sediments show, temperatures were 14.4 degrees Fahrenheit higher than today*, lush forests covered the tundra and sea levels were up to 40 meters higher than today.
“It’s like deja vu,” said Prof Julie Brigham-Grette, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the new research analyzing a core of sediment to see what temperatures in the region were between 3.6 and 2.2 million years ago. “We have seen these warm periods before. Many people now agree this is where we are heading.”
“It shows a huge warming—unprecedented in human history,” said Prof Scott Elias, at Royal Holloway University of London, and not involved in the work. “It is a frightening experiment we are conducting with our climate.”
The sediments have been slowly settling in Lake El’gygytgyn since it was formed 3.6 million years ago, when a kilometer-wide meteorite blasted a crater 100 kilometers north of the Arctic circle. Unlike most places so far north, the region was never eroded by glaciers so a continuous record of the climate has lain undisturbed ever since. “It’s a phenomenal record,” said Prof Peter Sammonds, at University College London. “It is also an incredible achievement [the study's work], given the remoteness of the lake.” Sixteen shipping containers of equipment had to be hauled 90 kilometers over snow by bulldozers from the nearest ice road, used by gold miners.
Previous research on land had revealed glimpses of the Arctic climate and ocean sediments had recorded the marine climate, but the disparate data are not consistent with one another. “Lake El’gygytgyn may be the only place in the world that has this incredible unbroken record of sediments going back millions of years,” said Elias. “When you have a very long record it is very different to argue with.”
The new research, published in the journal Science, also sheds light on a crucial question for climate scientists: how sensitive is the Earth’s climate to increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?
From Baltimore we have another disturbing story about police: “You want to film something b**ch? Film this!” Balitimore police beat a woman for filming a beating.
Baltimore police beat up a woman and smashed her camera for filming them beating up a man, telling her: “You want to film something bitch? Film this!” the woman claims in court.
Makia Smith sued the Baltimore Police Department, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and police Officers Nathan Church, William Pilkerton, Jr., Nathan Ulmer and Kenneth Campbell in Federal Court.
Smith claims she was stuck in stand-still rush hour traffic in northern Baltimore when she saw the defendant officers beating up and arresting a young man.
She says pulled out her camera, stood on her car’s door sill and filmed the beating.
“Officer Church saw plaintiff filming the beating and ran at her,” the complaint states. “He scared her and she sat back in her vehicle. As he ran at her, he yelled, ‘You want to film something bitch? Film this!’
“Officer Church reached into plaintiff’s car and grabbed her telephone-camera out of her hand, threw it to the ground and destroyed it by smashing it with his foot.
“Officer Church pulled plaintiff out of her car by her hair and beat her. Officers Pilkerton, Ulmer, and Campbell then ran to plaintiff’s car and joined Officer Church in beating plaintiff and arrested her using excessive force. At all times described herein, plaintiff’s two year old daughter witnessed her mother’s beating and arrest by the Officers, as did others.”
Smith claims the cops taunted her and threatened to take her daughter away. She says they refused to call her mother to her toddler.
“The officers, despite the pleas of plaintiff, refused to call plaintiff’s mother. Instead, the officers tormented plaintiff by telling her that her daughter would be taken from her and sent to Social Services. Seeing plaintiff’s distressful reaction to these tormenting threats, they continued,” the complaint states.
The bulls are running on Wall Street, but the chief of America’s central bank worries that the market remains dangerously fragile. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke explained why on Friday, May 10, in a speech in Chicago at the Fed’s branch there.
Here are five things that nag at Bernanke, in his own words.
1. Times may be too good. There is an “apparent tendency for financial market participants to take greater risks when macro conditions are relatively stable. Indeed, it may be that prolonged economic stability is a double-edged sword.” Stability “could … reduce the incentives for market participants to take reasonable precautions.”
2. Securities lending remains problematic. The financial crisis revealed that borrowing by securities broker-dealers “is potentially quite fragile.” In the crisis, “Borrowers unable to meet margin calls and finance their asset holdings were forced to sell, driving down asset prices further and setting off a cycle of deleveraging and further asset liquidation.”
3. Money market funds are still vulnerable.“The risk is increased by the fact that the Treasury no longer has the power to guarantee investors’ holdings in money funds, an authority that was critical for stopping the 2008 run.”
4. A default in the repo market would be no fun. This is kind of like point No. 2, except that here, Bernanke is focusing on so-called triparty repo. Repo lending is short-term lending that’s secured with collateral such as bonds. Triparty repo is where a big bank—usually JPMorgan Chase (JPM) or Bank of New York Mellon (BK)—stands between the borrower and lender, clearing the transaction. “More work is needed to better prepare investors and other market participants to deal with the potential consequences of a default by a large participant in the repo market.”
5. The rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats. “Gains in household net worth have been concentrated among wealthier households, while many households in the middle or lower parts of the distribution have experienced declines in wealth since the crisis. Moreover, many homeowners remain ‘underwater,’ with their homes worth less than the principal balances on their mortgages. Thus, more detailed information clarifies that many households remain more financially fragile than might be inferred from the aggregate statistics alone.”
Here’s something to make economists think: Markets erode moral values; Researchers from the Universities of Bamberg and Bonn present causal evidence on how markets affect moral values.
Prof. Dr. Armin Falk from the University of Bonn and Prof. Dr. Nora Szech from the University of Bamberg, both economists, have shown in an experiment that markets erode moral concerns. In comparison to non-market decisions, moral standards are significantly lower if people participate in markets.
In markets, people ignore their individual moral standards
“Our results show that market participants violate their own moral standards,” says Prof. Falk. In a number of different experiments, several hundred subjects were confronted with the moral decision between receiving a monetary amount and killing a mouse versus saving the life of a mouse and foregoing the monetary amount. “It is important to understand what role markets and other institutions play in moral decision making. This is a question economists have to deal with,” says Prof. Szech.
“To study immoral outcomes, we studied whether people are willing to harm a third party in exchange to receiving money. Harming others in an intentional and unjustified way is typically considered unethical,” says Prof. Falk. The animals involved in the study were so-called “surplus mice”, raised in laboratories outside Germany. These mice are no longer needed for research purposes. Without the experiment, they would have all been killed. As a consequence of the study many hundreds of young mice that would otherwise all have died were saved. If a subject decided to save a mouse, the experimenters bought the animal. The saved mice are perfectly healthy and live under best possible lab conditions and medical care.
With that, I will end and turn the discussion to you. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?