Monday Reads: Mergers and Trade and Wonks! Oh My!

Good Morning!

political-cartoon-of-jp-morgan-&-co-published-in-the-literary-digest-on-june-10-1933Well, it’s still morning where I’m at although it hardly looks that way since we’ve been inundated by rain for several hours.  I do believe folks have traded in their cars for pirogues as the streets have now filled up pretty quickly with water and leaves.

I have a few odds and ends to pass on to you this morning.First, the Comcast/Time-Warner merger is off which is a very good deal for consumers around the country.  The merger would’ve been a BFD and I can’t imagine the Justice Department letting it go through with the amount of concentration it would’ve caused in several markets.  It would’ve been like Coke, Pepsi and Walmart merging together.

Here’s Senator Al Franken with some thoughts on the failed deal. 

The collapse of Comcast’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable is a big victory for anyone who watches TV or uses the Internet. But it won’t be the last time the interests of consumers clash with the desires of big corporations in the media and technology space. Here are five lessons from this fight I think we should keep in mind going forward.

2. We should empower regulators to do their jobs.

This decision illustrates an important reason why we have the FCC (and federal regulatory agencies in general): to protect the American people from being taken advantage of by big corporations.

That said, far too often, those big corporations are able to wield overwhelming influence over the government agencies (and lawmakers) that are supposed to be keeping them in check. Comcast is represented in Washington by more than 100 lobbyists, more than a few of whom have passed through the “revolving door” between the company and its regulators (for example, less than four months after the FCC approved Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011, one of the FCC commissioners went to work for Comcast). Last year, it and Time Warner Cable combined to spend $32 million trying to influence the federal government.

So while it’s critical that we empower regulators to do their jobs, we also have to demand that they do them well; our activism has to outweigh the big money on the other side.

3. We should still be worried about lack of competition.

Even without this deal, there is far too little competition in the cable and broadband markets. As it stands now, 55% of U.S. households only have one choice for broadband Internet—and for a majority of those homes, it’s Comcast. Not exactly an incentive for the company to provide first-class service, as many Comcast customers can attest.

And if you want another illustration of how powerful Comcast is, consider that, during the debate over this deal, other companies who did business with Comcast told me they were afraid go public with their opposition because they feared retribution.

The Senator makes five points so you can continue to read this article at–of all places–Time Magazine.51c8d35f0a127.image

Another BFD in the area of the economy is the Trans-Pacific Partnership which I’ve hesitated to write about for several reasons.  First, much of the deal is still classified and not available to the public. Second, I look at the deal through the eyes of some one whose dissertation was about trade in ASEAN+3 so I am supremely disadvantaged by knowing WAY too many details about the region and the existing trade agreements.  My current research area is Foreign Direct Investment through out the entire region so I almost know too much to be able to explain any of it succinctly if that makes any sense.

However, I will point you to a few things.  First, there’s a document from the Congressional Research Service that outlines issues that should concern Congress.  I consider this a good place to start. This quote comes from a portion of the Executive Summary.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. U.S. negotiators and others describe and envision the TPP as a “comprehensive and high-standard” FTA that aims to liberalize trade in nearly all goods and services and include rules-based commitments beyond those currently established in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The broad outline of an agreement was announced on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial in November 2011, in Honolulu, HI. If concluded as envisioned, the TPP potentially could eliminate tariff and nontariff barriers to trade and investment among the parties and could serve as a template for a future trade pact among APEC members and potentially other countries. Congress has a direct interest in the negotiations, both through influencing U.S. negotiating positions with the executive branch, and by considering legislation to implement any resulting agreement.

The TPP negotiations have been ongoing for nearly five years and may be concluded in the near term, although several challenging issues remain unresolved. These issues are likely the most sensitive for negotiating parties and may require political-level decisions to reach final agreement. The negotiating dynamic itself is complex. For example, decisions on key market access issues on auto, dairy, sugar, and textiles and apparel may depend on the outcome of rules negotiations involving intellectual property rights or state-owned enterprises, among other issues.

Nearly 30 chapters are under discussion in the negotiations, and reports indicate that 9 have been finished. The United States is negotiating market access for goods, services, and agriculture with countries with which it does not currently have FTAs: Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Vietnam. Negotiations are also being conducted regarding disciplines on intellectual property rights, trade in services, government procurement, investment, rules of origin, competition, labor, and environment, among other issues. In many cases, the rules being negotiated are intended to be more rigorous than comparable rules found in the WTO. Some topics, such as state-owned enterprises, regulatory coherence, and supply chain competitiveness, may break new ground in FTA negotiations. As the countries that make up the TPP negotiating partners include advanced industrialized, middle income, and developing economies, the TPP, if implemented, may involve restructuring and reform of the economies of some participants. It also has the potential to spur economic growth in the region.

17679_600It also has the potential to tank some industries in this country as well as provide all consumers with a huge number of extremely cheap things for them to buy.  Trade is always win-win for countries.  However, within each country, there are huge losers.  This is something that always has to be considered.  Some jobs will move to other countries while creating jobs in totally different industries in the domestic economy.  The deal is that most of the folks in the lost jobs usually aren’t just easily transferable to the newly created jobs.  That’s especially true in this country where our advantage is in areas that are extremely technical in nature and require advanced degrees or training.  The NAFTA agreement contained “adjustment assistance” to help such workers.  An example of what it did was train a lot of Ladies Garment Workers in the South in the Health Care Field.  In many cases, the jobs weren’t all that equal but at least there was some consideration.  We’ve heard nothing about this kind of assistance but again, many of the details are still hush hush.  The discussion is heating up so I thought I’d give you some of the basics, however, so we can have a base for further discussion as this seems certain to move forward.

Here’s a good example of concerns and cross-purposes.  This is an example of two Lawyers from Harvard Law school that are distinctly split into opposing camps.

As Congress considers giving another Harvard Law colleague from that era, President Obama, special “fast track” authority to negotiate a 12-nation Pacific trade accord, the two lawyers find themselves on opposing armies in one of the biggest legislative fights of the Obama presidency. Among those nations are Japan, Australia and Chile, and smaller ones like Brunei, Peru and Vietnam.

Loyalties to the two opposing forces are stark.

“I’ve questioned Froman on Brunei. I’ve questioned him on food safety. I’ve questioned him on not doing anything when Peru walked back from environmental regulations. Nothing,” fumed Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, a fierce foe of the trade promotion authority legislation nearing House consideration and of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership that such authority would ease to completion.

By contrast, “Lori Wallach? She’s got such granular knowledge,” she said. “She’s my source of information and knowledge.”

Republicans have lauded Mr. Froman for his full-throttle effort to secure the trade accord and his constant availability to them. Likewise, Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, a Democrat more open to the trade bills, shrugged off the hostility expressed by many in his party.

“When I’m asking burning questions about human rights and labor rights and the environment and communist Vietnam, I know I’m dealing with a professional,” he said of Mr. Froman.

Clearly, though, many lawmakers have lost patience with Mr. Froman. As a result, a hard-fought compromise on the trade promotion bill approved by the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees last week practically legislates better relations.

 

One unusual provision says that if members of Congress request a meeting or ask the trade representative a question, his office has to respond. The bill would also allow congressional aides with the proper security clearance to go into rooms with the Trans-Pacific Partnership texts and read them without lawmakers or officials from the trade representative’s office present.

“This is not personal,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and another opponent of the trade effort. “It’s clearly the rules that have been established in terms of transparency. It’s been a disgrace, frankly.”

Fomenting much of that umbrage is Ms. Wallach, whose tactics, detailed treatises and Capitol Hill briefings have torn apart the chapters of the Pacific accord that have leaked out. She has castigated Mr. Froman’s tight control over the contents of the agreement and dismissed efforts by Republicans and Democrats to find common ground as smoke screens for a big-business agenda.

22198_600You can see from the list of countries mentioned above that we have a variety of things to be concerned about with this agreement.  We’ve got developed countries, emerging economies, and countries that are barely off the ground in this agreement.  There are democracies, monarchies and communist countries included in the mix.  It’s a very complex situation to say the least.

Many see this as the ultimate nod to huge MNCs (Multinational Corporations).  Here’s an example from Doctors without Borders and their concerns about the costs of pharmaceuticals.

No matter who you are or where you live, it’s time to pay attention to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. If signed in its current form, the TPP will lock in high, unsustainable drug prices, delay the availability of less expensive generic medicines, and price millions of people out of the medical care that they need.

Today, AARP and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) express our deep concerns about the TPP’s impact on drug prices. Intellectual property provisions being proposed by the U.S. put too much emphasis on drug industry priorities at the expense of consumer and patient needs.

Various provisions in the TPP would delay the introduction of lower-priced drugs and worsen an already failing system of research and development that awards patents and other monopolies to companies for producing ‘me-too‘ medicines that provide little to no therapeutic benefits over existing treatments.

More troubling are demands by the U.S. to mandate 12 years of data exclusivity for biologic medicines, which include vaccines and drugs used to treat conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis. Data exclusivity blocks competing firms from using previously generated clinical trial data to gain approval for generic versions of these drugs and vaccines.

With annual prices that can reach $400,000, the high cost of biologic drugs not only has negative effects on consumers and patients, but also on health care payers, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, as well as children in developing countries who are most vulnerable to dying from vaccine-preventable diseases.

It is noteworthy that the proposed 12 years of data exclusivity, or when clinical trial data are protected, goes well beyond the monopoly protections already provided in the U.S. Today, biologic drug manufacturers receive four years of data exclusivity that runs concurrently with 12 years ofmarket exclusivity, or when the FDA is blocked from approving generic versions of a brand name product.

Here’s more from a legal standpoint.

The most controversial provision of the TPP is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) section, which strengthens existing ISDS  procedures. ISDS first appeared in a bilateral trade agreement in 1959. According to The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe.

Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases; and the secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent gives wide scope for creative judgments.

To date, the highest ISDS award has been for $2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, this although the termination was apparently legal. Still in arbitration is a demand by Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, for compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion) under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments, after the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

Under the TPP, however, even larger judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but “the expectation of gain or profit.” That means the rights of corporations in other countries extend not just to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive there.

It really behooves all of us to look into the items leaking out of this agreement.  I do mean “leaking” too.   Here’s a great, easy-to-read article on concerns on the agreement from Vox. They argue that it’s good for14780_600 “elites” and not so good for every one else.

In the past, debates about trade deals have mostly been about trade. Ross Perot, for example, famously warned in 1992 about a “giant sucking sound” of jobs moving to Mexico if the US signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. In contrast, debates over the TPP mostly haven’t focused on its trade provisions.

That’s partly because even advocates of the treaty acknowledge that the economic effects of TPP’s trade provisions would be modest. It’s difficult to estimate the economic impact of the TPP’s trade provisions, because we don’t know exactly what’s in the deal. But one of the mostwidely cited estimates finds that TPP would add about $77 billion to US incomes in 2025. That’s less than half of 1 percent of current US incomes.

“This is not going to dramatically going to change our lives overnight,” Petri says. “We’re a very big economy, so anything compared to the size of the economy is going to be small in percentage term.”

Petri hopes the TPP will serve as a blueprint for future trade deals that include other big economies, such as the European Union and China. In that case, he says, the economic effects could be several times as large, with annual incomes increasing by as much as 2 percent of GDP.

A big reason for the deal’s modest impact is that trade barriers are already low. There are a few politically sensitive markets, such as agriculture, where significant trade restrictions remain. But previous trade deals have removed so many restrictions that there just isn’t much room for further progress.

As the opportunities for trade liberalization have dwindled, the nature of trade agreements has shifted. They’re no longer just about removing barriers to trade. They’ve become a mechanism for setting global economic rules more generally.

This trend is alarming to Simon Lester, a free trader at the Cato Institute. “We’ve added in these new issues that I’m skeptical of,” he says. “It’s not clear what the benefits are, and they cause a lot of controversy.”

And this system for setting global rules has some serious defects. We expect the laws that govern our economic lives will be made in a transparent, representative, and accountable fashion. The TPP negotiation process is none of these — it’s secretive, it’s dominated by powerful insiders, and it provides little opportunity for public input.

The Obama administration argues that it’s important for TPP to succeed so that the United States — not China — gets to shape the rules that govern trade across the Pacific. But this argument only makes sense if you believe US negotiators are taking positions that are in the broad interests of the American public. If, as critics contend, USTR’s agenda is heavily tilted toward the interests of a few well-connected interest groups, then the deal may not be good for America at all.

So, with that I start the conversation.  Get ready, because it will be wonky as hell!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

b45c61b8d9b03b61212dc3786b170d81I really have never quite figured out why a lot of people can’t figure out the basic rule of being nice to other people. You learn the lesson of mean almost immediately in this country.  My dad would always come home from his business, cook dinner to relax, and watch the news.  He was particularly fond of Huntley and Brinkley. One of my earliest images of the evening news is of southern police turning hoses on black children and adults.  I can’t imagine that image ever leaving me.  You would think that this far after the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, Stonewall, and all the other movements we’ve had to just bring basic respect to each other’s lives that this country would be less hostile to others.  But no, we continue to see out and out bigotry and hatred of others daily.  This occurs on many levels.

So, it was a bit of a surprise to me to find Adam Sandler making a movie.  I thought we’d moved beyond his unfunny brand of humor.  He seems to have made a decent living making fun of others.  His new script included every trope and stereotype about Native Americans possible.  The Native American actors on the set walked off.  Good for them.

About a dozen Native American actors have walked off the set of an Adam Sandlerspoof western in protest at its depiction of Apache culture, including characters with names like Beaver’s Breath and No Bra.

The group quit on Wednesday after taking offence at jokes in the The Ridiculous Six, reportedly a satire of The Magnificient Seven which is to be Sandler’s first film for Netflix.

In addition to certain characters’ names, they complained about a female character squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe and the inappropriate positioning of feathers on a teepee, according to the Indian Country Today Media Network.

The film stars Sandler, Nick Nolte, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz and Vanilla Ice. Sandler co-wrote it with his veteran collaborator, Tim Herlihy.

It is to be released via Netflix, the first of a four-movie deal with the streaming service, which has scored high repeat viewing figures with Sandler hits such as The Wedding Singer.

The mostly Navajo Native American actors were told The Ridiculous Six, which is being filmed in New Mexico, would be humorous but not racist, actor Loren Anthony told the Indian Country Today Media Network.

“So I agreed to it, but on Monday things started getting weird on the set. One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s Breath. One character says: ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says: ‘How did you know my name?’”

When the actors complained, the director said the disrespect was not intentional and the film is a comedy, said Anthony.

He also complained about alleged inaccuracies. “We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche.”

Another Navajo actor, Allison Young, said producers rebuffed her protests. “They just told us: ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’”

Young said she cried. “This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way. Nothing has changed. We are still just Hollywood Indians.”

It also seems these days that many people are confusing giving all people access to benefits henceforth reserved for a privileged few as something to go all martyr about. The blacklash to this has moved beyondold-tv-set appalling to me.  At least in this case the protesters are identified with a white supremacy group and are being honest about the outrage of having to share their special little snowflake status with others.  Of course, Fox and Friends have taken up the cause of the “War on White People”.

The white freakout over college students grappling with “the problem of whiteness” has just found a new target.

The National Youth Front’s leader, Angelo John Gage, told TPM in a phone interview Thursday that he believes the bulletin board amounted to discrimination. He repeatedly took issue with the portrayal of white people and Christians as having “privilege.”

“State and federal law says you must keep the school discrimination-free. They’re not doing that,” Gage said. “The Civil Rights Act says you can’t have discrimination based on race, sex, gender — all that stuff. Here comes a board that discriminates against people for their race, sex, gender, religion. It’s the complete opposite.”

He defined privilege instead as something “handed to you.”

“‘Oh you’re black, here you go, here’s a scholarship.’ That’s a privilege,” Gage explained. “Or here’s a racial quota. ‘You’re not qualified but you’re black, so here’s the job’ — otherwise it’s racism.”

Gage said he first learned of the bulletin board when he came across an article on Campus Reform, a student news website backed by the Leadership Institute, which organizes conservative groups on campus. Fox News ran with Campus Reform’s story in a “Fox & Friends” segment, which Gage said he watched.

“Fox and Friends” host Elizabeth Hasselbeck spoke with an Appalachian State student earlier this month who said she was cyberbullied after she posted a photo of the bulletin board on Facebook. The photo was picked up by Campus Reform. The student, Laurel Litter, who is white, told Hasselbeck that the felt the bulletin board intimidated her and made her feel shameful about her heritage:

White people!  There are things in our heritage of which we should feel very ashamed!  Slavery?  Lynchings? Jim Crow Laws? I’m sure you can add to the list. I’ve gotten to the point where my rule of not dealing downloadwith mean people implies I mostly avoid white christians unless I know they’re not “that kind” of christian.  You know, the freaking mean, judgmental, hating on others kids demonstrated so illustriously by many of our elected officials. Here’s some more examples of our uncivilized and inhumane behavior. A very dear friend of mine was brutalized at university for being gay 40 years ago.  We’re not beyond that either.

CBS46 obtained exclusive video of what Carver School of Technology students described as a five-round fight with punches being thrown by about 20 students at one point, all because classmates hurled racial and homophobic slurs at two students.

Tim Jefferson, 16, said it all started as he and a friend left their last class to go home.

During the fight, Jefferson said one student even pulled out a screwdriver and jammed it in his face, right next to his eye. Jefferson said he has several injuries.

“My face, my eye, my lip, on my back, my spine right in the middle, the back of my neck and I got hit in the back of my head,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson’s mom, Sabrina Giles, said this is about the eighth time this year that her son and his friend were attacked because of their sexuality so she’s transferring him to another school.

Jefferson hoped to teach the bullies a lesson of their own.

“I’m going to press charges. I want some justice. If God willing, I’m going to get justice and I want the boys who did this to go to jail,” Jefferson said.

Atlanta police charged four students in the fight. Three juveniles will face state charges of affray. The other student, Jefferson’s friend, who said he was bullied, will face a charge of disorderly conduct.

The continued invention of christian persecution in this country reached a fervored pitch yesterday when my governor announced he’d fight big sodomy and big business for his right to humiliate the GLBT community with laws that allow bigots to exclude them and any one else they don’t like from a seat at the lunch counter if they scream “You’re persecuting me because of my religion”!  Oh, SCOTUS and the Hobby Lobby Decision!  Look wtf you’ve done!

Jindal’s op-ed is actually a follow-up of his previous support for Johnson’s bill. Asked for the governor’s stance on the bill by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a Jindal spokesman said the governor definitely supports it.

“This is a common sense bill that provides necessary protections for individuals to prevent adverse treatment from the state based on religious beliefs regarding marriage,” the spokesman told the newspaper.

Pence, at first, seemed adamant in not giving in to any criticism or pressure, be it byDemocrats or national or local businesses, in changing the the religious freedom law he signed. Eventually though the pressure was too much and Pence called on lawmakers to clarify the law. Hutchinson seemed to see the writing on the wall and also sent the religious freedom bill back to his state legislature. Jindal’s op-ed is a move that the other governors didn’t take and a clear line in the sand that he wants things to go differently in his state.

images (4)This nonsense and grandstanding on the Op Ed page of the NYT came on the same day that national support for marriage equality has reached a big plurality. Fully sixty one percent of Americans believe it should be legal in every state in our country.

A week before a closely watched U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the issue, public support for gay marriage reached a new high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, with 61 percent of Americans – more than six in 10 for the first time – saying gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry legally.

Identical or similar majorities favor gay marriage on two key issues before the court: Sixty-one percent oppose allowing individual states to prohibit same-sex marriages. And 62 percent support requiring states to recognize gay marriages performed legally in other states.

This puts the majority of the Republican party at odds with the majority of the country.  It also indicates that little Bobby Jindal will do anything to the state of Louisiana, its economy, its people, and its environment to attract a few whackado Iowa Republican caucus goers.   Poor Bobby!  Point to the place on the doll where the mean married gay people hurt you!  What?  You can’t point to your imagination?  How about pointing to your blatant political strategy based on hating on people.

When it comes to defending big business over the rights of the average citizen, Bobby Jindal is your guy. After the BP oil spill – which began five years ago this week, dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf – Bobby Jindal was frontandcenter, defending BP.

But now that he’s running for President – unannounced as of now – Jindal is working to shape his image as the defender of religious liberty and freedom, for Christians.

Literally, for Christians.

The New York Times this morning published what appears to be an un-fact checked op-ed by the Louisiana Governor, in which he specifically states his plan to fight “discrimination against Christian individuals and businesses.”

Not, say, “people of faith,” or, “those with deeply held religious beliefs,” but “Christian individuals and businesses.”

Hopefully Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the ACLU, the American Humanist Association, and other like-minded organizations are at their keyboards reminding the 43-year old Roman Catholic Republican about the First Amendment.

So why exactly is Jindal preparing to defend these Christians (and not Muslims, Jews, or people of unaffiliated faith – or of no faith at all)?

“I’m Holding Firm Against Gay Marriage” is the title of his Times op-ed.

“I plan in this legislative session to fight for passage of the Marriage and Conscience Act,” Jindal writes. When he made the same statement in front of the Louisiana legislature last week, it received not a single moment of applause. Even the bill’s author wasn’t clapping.

That bill is so anti-gay, so sweeping, it states that no one and no business or organization in Louisiana has to recognize the legal marriage of a same-sex couple.

Your employer doesn’t have to extend medical coverage to your spouse. The DMV could state your legal name, had you changed it after marrying a person of the same gender, is invalid (as happened in Florida), and hospitals might be able to deny visitation and medical decision rights from you or your husband or wife.

Louisiana already has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but Gov. Jindal is planning a run for president, and he needs to distinguish himself from the rest of the pack.

maxresdefaultSo, when is removing rights from people so other’s won’t feel put out and can do whatever they want to others based on their bigotry any where near to religious discrimination?  All you have to do is read the justification for slavery, Jim Crow Laws, and  Laws that once prevented people of different colors from marrying and you’ll read the same old tired bigoted arguments.    Notice that I haven’t even got to any conversation on immigration today and I’ve already filled the page up with examples of mean, bigoted hate-filled assholes.

Love one another.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: All the News from the District Of Derpistan

weird-Vintage-photos-kid-smoking-chickenGood Morning!

Ever read something on the news or see it on TV and just wonder wtf were they thinking when they asked that?  Fox New’s Chris Wallace asked “confirmed bachelor” Lindsey Graham why he hasn’t gotten married.  Is that the dumbest question you’ve ever heard or is Fox really trying to convince its audience that Lady Lindsey is really just so overwhelmed with family love he’s never needed sex of any kind?

F0x News host Chris Wallace told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday that he wished that he could put him on the “psychiatrist couch” to find out why the 59-year-old bachelor had never been married.

Last week, a Washington Post profile of the South Carolina Republican noted that Graham had helped raise his sister after his parents died while he was in college.

“Some of your friends suggested that might be the reason you never got married,” Wallace observed during an interview on Fox News Sunday. “We can’t put you on the psychiatrist couch. But those traumatic events, how did they shape your life?”

“It made me realize that the promise of tomorrow is just a promise,” Graham explained. “It taught me how much I was loved by the rest of my family. My aunt and uncle helped me raise my sister. Social Security survivor benefits coming into my family made a world of difference.”

“I understand we’re all one car wreck away from needing help, but what it told Lindsey Graham above all else is that family, friends and faith really do matter,” he continued. “And I’m a lucky man to have all the support I’ve had all these years.”

Graham, who said that there was a “91 percent” chance that he was running for president, insisted that he was trying his “best to pay back a country who has been so good to me.”

machorka345I guess he’s part of an “ambiguously gay duo”.
In his attempt to insult every one in the country, Rand Paul went full metal jacket isolationist.  That ought to really thrill Republicans and their defense industry donors.  He did manage to hit Hillary Clinton first.

Rand Paul ripped into his hawkish rivals for the Republican nomination Saturday, suggesting that problems in the Middle East would actually be worse under them than President Barack Obama.

“There’s a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now — maybe more,” the Kentucky senator told hundreds of activists at a GOP cattle call that has drawn every major presidential aspirant. “This is something, if you watch closely, that will separate me from many other Republicans. The other Republicans will criticize Hillary Clinton and the president for their foreign policy, but they would have done the same thing – just 10 times over!”

The Kentucky senator went on the offensive against the militarists in his own party – using his strongest language on the subject since formally kicking off his candidacy two weeks ago.

Speaking of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Paul asked: “Why the hell did we ever go into Libya in the first place?”

“Everyone who will criticize me wanted troops on the ground, our troops on the ground, in Libya,” he said. “It was a mistake to be in Libya. We are less safe. Jihadists swim in our swimming pool now. It’s a disaster.”

While you’re checking for jihadists in your swimming pool, please don’t forget the communists under your bed!  This has to be a vanity campaign like his father always ran.  No one can hold this many unpopular skeleton loveropinions and be a viable candidate for national office.

So, I’m only going to briefly mention this one because I’m still dumbfounded about MoDo and her seeming hatred of all things with a vagina but most of all Hillary Clinton. Why on earth does the NYT let her go one like this? The NYT Op Ed page is like a parade of the worst of the written word these days.

THE most famous woman on the planet has a confounding problem. She can’t figure out how to campaign as a woman.

If you can stomach it, you’ll read a barrage of how Clinton’s first campaign was shaped by men who Svengalied her into the Iron Lady.  Then, you’ll find the unicorns at the bottom.  Taylor Marsh calls modo a “sexist spinster” railing at “granny” going straight for the title of the op-ed of Granny Get Your Gun.  Marsh then has this to say.

Yo, bitch, Hillary isn’t campaigning “as a woman,” she is a woman campaigning. For commander in chief, I would add, but that’s too confusing for Maureen Dowd. If she was a modern woman in any respect she’d understand how ludicrous worrying about resurrecting “bitch is the new black” is, because watching Hillary Rodham Clinton make Republicans squeal like little girls is the essence of this chant.

dr-strangelove-merkwurdichliebe

I really want to end this here because MoDo really needs to find a nice nunnery to get thee to quickly.  Why is the NYT paying for this kind of drivel?

So no post on derp would be complete without something about Piyush Bobby Jindal (PBJ).  He and the frothy one are saddling up their hatefest and going to the holy land to do some rolling with Tony Perkins.  I’d say it’s about time we just throw up our hands and recognize that our Lt. Governor has been governing the last few years.  Jindal’s just a gadfly on the religious right’s ass.

For the second time this year, an anti-LGBT hate group is hosting a trip to Israel that will feature prominent figures from the Republican Party. The event will also feature Fox radio host Todd Starnes.

On October 27, the Family Research Council (FRC) will host its first ever eleven-day “Holy Land Tour” — a “unique, one-of-a kind tour” where guests will “explore the land of the Bible and the roots of our Christian faith” and meet with “some of Israel’s political and religious leaders.”

According to the tour’s brochure, the $5,000 trip features “insightful Bible teaching” and meetings with Israeli leaders aimed at providing guests with “a better understanding of Israel’s important role in current geopolitical affairs and biblical prophecy.”

The tour will feature a number of “special guests” including former Senator Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, who has a history of acting as FRC’s mouthpiece and peddling and-LGBT rhetoric on Fox.

Bend over and take it in the Red Sea governor.  Take it for Jayzus and your hopeless quest for the White House.

And with that, I leave this open thread to you.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: All the news that the Media Routinely Ignores

Good Morning!

I found some interesting, overlooked stories that I thought I’d share with you because some of them are 70f5620f7507945bf3b60230baac1b71radically important.  BB’s post yesterday inspired me!  Why is it that some stories never really see the light of day or stay on the front page for very long?

This story of an oil leak from a toppled platform in the Gulf is a stunner.  It comes from the local statewide paper, The Advocate, and details a spill that’s been going on for 10 years.

A blanket of fog lifts, exposing a band of rainbow sheen that stretches for miles off the coast of Louisiana. From the vantage point of an airplane, it’s easy to see gas bubbles in the slick that mark the spot where an oil platform toppled during a 2004 hurricane, triggering what might be the longest-running commercial oil spill ever to pollute the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet more than a decade after crude started leaking at the site formerly operated by Taylor Energy Company, few people even know of its existence. The company has downplayed the leak’s extent and environmental impact, likening it to scores of minor spills and natural seeps the Gulf routinely absorbs.

An Associated Press investigation has revealed evidence that the spill is far worse than what Taylor — or the government — have publicly reported during their secretive, and costly, effort to halt the leak. Presented with AP’s findings, that the sheen recently averaged about 91 gallons of oil per day across eight square miles, the Coast Guard provided a new leak estimate that is about 20 times greater than one recently touted by the company.

Outside experts say the spill could be even worse — possibly one of the largest ever in the Gulf.

Taylor, a company renowned in Louisiana for the philanthropy of its deceased founder, Patrick Taylor, has kept documents secret that would shed light on what it has done to stop the leak and eliminate the persistent sheen.

The Coast Guard said in 2008 the leak posed a “significant threat” to the environment, though there is no evidence oil from the site has reached shore. Ian MacDonald, a Florida State University biological oceanography professor and expert witness in a lawsuit against Taylor, said the sheen “presents a substantial threat to the environment” and is capable of harming birds, fish and other marine life.

Using satellite images and pollution reports, the watchdog group SkyTruth estimates between 300,000 and 1.4 million gallons of oil has spilled from the site since 2004, with an annual average daily leak rate between 37 and 900 gallons.

If SkyTruth’s high-end estimate of 1.4 million gallons is accurate, Taylor’s spill would be about 1 percent the size of BP’s, which a judge ruled amounted to 134 million gallons. That would still make the Taylor spill the 8th largest in the Gulf since 1970, according to a list compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The Taylor leak is just a great example of what I call a dirty little secret in plain sight,” said SkyTruth President John Amos.

Taylor has spent tens of millions of dollars to contain and stop its leak, but it says nothing can be done to completely halt the chronic slicks.

9513f3dfdf8ba7af768d1b0f0a77529cHere’s an amazing story that I got from Project Censored.  We talked a lot about sexual assault last year.  We were astounded at the cavalier attitude towards rape shown in a lot of reporting.  Well, this shouldn’t be surprising then: “Corporate News Media Understate Rape, Sexual Violence.”

Media analysts observe how journalists refrain from using the word “rape” to describe incidents of sexual assault. Instead, news outlets downplay the humiliation and cruelty entailed in these acts by referring to them as “sex crimes,” “inappropriate sexual activity,” or “forced sex,” even though such acts are legally recognized as “rape.”

“‘Rape,’ along with the images it conjures, is an ugly, nasty word,” artist and writer Wasi Daniju observed. “Uglier and nastier still, though, is the experience of each and every person that experiences it. Their experience warrants, at the very least, the respect and truth of being accurately labeled and recognized.”

A report released by Legal Momentum, a New York City–based feminist advocacy law group, titled Raped or “Seduced”? How Language Helps Shape Our Response to Sexual Violence, addressed what it terms the “linguistic avoidance” of such concerns. For example, when the media uses the language of consensual sex—terms like “recruited” rather than “kidnapped” or “took by force,” and phrases like “performed oral sex” or “engaged in sexual activity” instead of writing that “he forcefully penetrated her vagina with his penis”they do more than use euphemisms to distort reality; they essentially mislead, misdirect, and diminish the violation. Such accounts also suggest that both parties were willing participants.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) pointed to the Los Angeles Times to illustrate one example of this phenomenon. In January 2013, the Times published an important story addressing how two Los Angeles police officers were accused of using the threat of imprisonment to force several women they previously arrested to have sex with them. This is recognized under law as “rape.” “But the Times avoided using that term,” FAIR noted, “inexplicably employing every other word and phrase imaginable—including ‘sex crimes,’ ‘sexual favors’ and ‘forced sex’—to describe what the officers were accused of.”

Read a lot more of the news that basically goes ignored or unreported at Project Censor.  Did you know that images (3)around a 170,000 people try to escape a variety of African nations by boat and head for places like Italy?  Here’s a BBC report on what happened on one such voyage.  Muslims started tossing Christians overboard.  It seems that the religious violence shows up just about everywhere.

Italian police say they have arrested 15 Muslim migrants after they allegedly threw 12 Christians overboard following a row on a boat heading to Italy.

The Christian migrants, said to be from Ghana and Nigeria, are all feared dead.

In a separate incident, more than 40 people drowned after another migrant boat sank between Libya and Italy.

Almost 10,000 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean have been rescued in recent days. Italy has called for more help from the EU to handle the crisis.

More than 500 people from Africa and the Middle East have died making the perilous crossing since the start of the year. Earlier this week, 400 people were believed to have drowned when their boat capsized.

The 15 Muslim migrants involved in the row with Christians were arrested in the Sicilian city of Palermo and charged with “multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate”.

The suspects, who are from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea, were among 105 migrants travelling in an inflatable boat that left Libya on Tuesday.

Eyewitnesses told police how the altercation resulted in Christians being thrown overboard, and that some of the survivors had formed human chains to avoid a similar fate.

Of course, all we ever hear about is the number of people that show up at our border trying to escape the violence from South America.  We aren’t the only country besieged with refugees.

The news media frequently overlooks many things have to do with Africa including the role of many African lewis-hine-dont-smoke-visits-saloons-1910nations in fighting the recent Ebola Outbreak.

Africa’s efforts to tackle the Ebola crisis have been largely overlooked even though Africans have taken the lead in providing frontline staff and shown themselves “better placed to fight infectious diseases in their continent than outsiders”, according to the African Union (AU).

Dr Olawale Maiyegun, director of social affairs at the AU commission, said that despite the fact that Africans had proved both willing and able to deal with Ebola, the focus had been on the work of international agencies and those with the greatest media clout.

“Unfortunately, Africans do not have the international voice of CNN, BBC and France 24, therefore much of our work is overlooked in the western media,” he said. “Most of the assistance provided by the international community is in the areas of finance and infrastructure. In the most critical human resources for health, Africans – including the affected countries – have had to take the lead.”

His comments come six months after Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel,accused African leaders of failing to do enough to address the health crisis. “Ebola has exposed the extreme weaknesses of our institutions as governments; countries which are affected were found totally unprepared,” she told African business leaders in November last year. “It’s time Africa began to give real value to human life, in other words African human lives.”

Others have criticised the AU for waiting 10 months before holding an emergency summit on the outbreak.

However, Maiyegun argued that the AU and the Economic Community of West African States had reacted well to the crisis, with the AU deploying more than 835 African health workers to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea at the peak of the epidemic. “The success of African health workers – including the heroic health workers of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – shows one thing: African health workers are better placed to fight infectious diseases in their continent than outsiders,” he said.

Maiyegun said the AU’s response had been guided by the philosophy that it should not dictate how the the affected countries should run their fight against Ebola. “We put volunteers at the disposal of the governments of the affected countries,” he said. “They told us what to do and we have performed creditably.”

He added: “The people of the affected countries must be given credit for doing a good job. With so many actors in the field, it’s important that it’s not just those with the loudest voices who are credited in the press for bringing Ebola under control.”

Very few media outlets are writing about the problem with our criminal justices system from ourCF058520 current police state to the privatization of prisons.  Here’s another excellent series of articles I found at Project Censored on our battered and broken legal/criminal justice system. This is from the blog of  professor Nolan Higden writing at Thought Catalogue.

The demand for “justice” by the American people has created a profit making opportunity in the capitalist United States. An irrational fear over crime (discussed in Part 1) has allowed for an expansion of the US prison system. In fact the US now has more prisons than colleges. Big 2 profits for the few in the prison industry have resulted in little justice and increased costs and suffering for US citizens. The prison industry increased their revenue by investing in neo-liberal politicians, lobbying for stricter sentencing laws, and hoodwinking tax payers with iron-clad prison contracts. The result is that the US has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners. One percent of the US population is currently incarcerated, a larger percent than any 3 other western industrialized nation. Incarceration is on the rise in 36 states. If one adds in the 4 5 citizens on probation or parole; about 2.9% of the adult population are under some form of correctional supervision. Another 70,792 children are in juvenile detention. In 2012, the 6 7 Supreme Court ruled that the US needed to stop sending minors to jail for life.

This mass incarceration is made worse by the high recidivism rate in the US. Recidivism is the rate at which those incarcerated are re-incarcerated for crimes committed upon release. In the US, two-thirds of inmates are incarcerated after being released. Thus, the prisons system does not provide rehabilitation, it provides a stop for offenders in between crimes. In fact, in 9 Wisconsin, over half of the inmates are incarcerated for parole violations.

One sign of hope for some justice came on Monday as the NYT’s editorial board called for the end of the death penalty because of the significant number of people on death row that were found to be innocent.  We rarely hear the stories of individuals killed and freed by DNA testing.  The headline says it all “152 Innocents, Marked for Death.”  Indeed if there was a death penalty for wrongly killing people, Rick Perry should be on Death Row. That’s 152 marked for death wrongly since 1973.  These are only the folks that lived to tell the tale too.

… far too often, people end up on death row after being convicted of horrific crimes they did not commit. The lucky ones are exonerated while they are still alive — a macabre club that has grown to include 152 members since 1973.

The rest remain locked up for life in closet-size cells. Some die there of natural causes; in at least twodocumented cases, inmates who were almost certainly innocent were put to death.

How many more innocent people have met the same fate, or are awaiting it? That may never be known. But over the past 42 years, someone on death row has been exonerated, on average, every three months. According to one study, at least 4 percent of all death-row inmates in the United States have been wrongfully convicted. That is far more than often enough to conclude that the death penalty — besides being cruel, immoral, and ineffective at reducing crime — is so riddled with error that no civilized nation should tolerate its use.

Innocent people get convicted for many reasons, including bad lawyering, mistaken identifications and false confessions made under duress. But as advances in DNA analysis have accelerated the pace of exonerations, it has also become clear that prosecutorial misconduct is at the heart of an alarming number of these cases.

In the past year alone, nine people who had been sentenced to death were released — and in all but one case, prosecutors’ wrongdoing played a key role.

Here’s a breakdown of some of Project Innocence’s findings on their clients.

Of 329 exonerations aided by the Innocence Project, roughly 70% are people of color; 62% of the total number of people  are African American. The disproportionate rate of wrongfully convicted African Americans correlates strongly with the overall incarceration rate of about 2,207 per 100,000 people in that group. The End Racial Profiling Act broadly calls for greater accountability to people who have suffered due to racism in law enforcement and the justice system and while it’s a proactive bill that calls for measures to reduce racial profiling, if passed, it could also be a hopeful resource for mending some of the wrongs already done, particularly for innocent people of color.

Minors are especially vulnerable to falsely confessing to crimes that they didn’t commit. The JJDPA, which has had its funding cut significantly over the last decade, is integral to providing resources for the prevention of juvenile incarceration and providing fair treatment and support to incarcerated minors. Minors are one of the most susceptible groups to negligence and rights violations—the recent exposure of the use of solitary confinement for minors at Rikers Island is a prominent example.

As I read these stories and wonder how many more that I have missed, I can’t help but be struck by the concentration of news media outlets into the hands of a few and how those few are profit-seeking above all other things.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  This is an open thread.


Really Late Monday Reads

Good Afternoon!

Hillary Rodham Clinton Signs Copies Of Her Book 'Hard Choices' In New YorkWell, I still haven’t gotten used to my triple life. One of the symptoms of that and advanced age appears to be continually forgetting what day it is and feeling like it’s a lot earlier than the actual time.  I guess I’m still longing for regular time since it feels like afternoon here so late into the evening.

Well, the news is mostly focused on Hillary and her announcement.  She’s mostly drowned out the yawn inducing announcement of Rubio who–while not completely crazy go nuts–is just another right wing male with a misogyny complex. Brian Beutler calls him the “most disingenuous”candidate in the clown car.

Senator Marco Rubio, who will announce his candidacy for president on Monday, was supposed to lead a GOP breakaway faction in support of comprehensive immigration reform, but was unable to persuade House Republicans to ignore the nativist right, and the whole thing blew up in his face. In regrouping, he’s determined that the key to restoring Republican viability in presidential elections is to woo middle class voters with fiscal policies that challenge conservative orthodoxy.

His new basic insight is correct. The GOP’s obsession with distributing resources up the income scale is the single biggest factor impeding it from reaching new constituencies, both because it reflects unpopular values and because it makes them unable to address emerging national needs that require spending money.

His new basic insight is correct. The GOP’s obsession with distributing resources up the income scale is the single biggest factor impeding it from reaching new constituencies, both because it reflects unpopular values and because it makes them unable to address emerging national needs that require spending money.

It also happens to be the raison d’être of the conservative establishment. Challenging the right’s commitment to lowering taxes on high earners, and reducing transfers to the poor and working classes, will encounter vast resistance. Where Paul can appeal to the moral and religious sensibilities of elderly whites who might otherwise oppose criminal justice reforms, a real challenge to GOP fiscal orthodoxy will get no quarter from GOP donors.

If Rubio were both serious and talented enough to move his party away from its most inhibiting orthodoxy, in defiance of those donors, his candidacy would represent a watershed. His appeal to constituencies outside of the GOP base would be both sincere and persuasive.

But Rubio is not that politician. He is no likelier to succeed at persuading Republican supply-siders to reimagine their fiscal priorities than he was at persuading nativists to support a citizenship guarantee for unauthorized immigrants. In fact, nobody understands the obstacles facing Marco Rubio better than Marco Rubio. But rather than abandon his reformist pretensions, or advance them knowing he will ultimately lose, Rubio has chosen to claim the mantle of reform and surrender to the right simultaneously—to make promises to nontraditional voters he knows he can’t keep. My colleague Danny Vinik proposes that Rubio wants to “improve the lives of poor Americans” but he must “tailor [his] solutions to gain substantial support in the GOP, and those compromises would cause more harm to the poor.” I think this makes Rubio the most disingenuous candidate in the field.

Rubio took a swing at Hillary along with suggesting he was “the one”.video-heres-marco-rubio-awkwardly-grabbing-for-a-drink-of-water-in-his-state-of-the-union-rebuttal  Rubio really hasn’t accomplished much in the District or in Florida.  It’s hard to seem him as qualified or really able to handle the high office.  This is from a Cizilla interview with “Tampa Bay Times political boss (not his official title) Adam Smith.”

FIX:  Are you surprised that Rubio is going to run, given the Jeb candidacy? Why or why not?

Adam: Not really. He’s been been moving in that direction almost since he came to Washington, assembled a large and strong campaign team, and never sounded interested in becoming a longtime, senior senator.

I doubt he expected Jeb Bush to run, and was told as much by his paid advisers. But given Bush’s weakness with the base, the public’s appetite for a fresh face, and the potential for a billionaire to ensure Rubio has sufficient resources, Bush is not the insurmountable obstacle he would have been in a “normal” election cycle.

FIX:  For most people, the story of Marco Rubio starts in 2010, when he won a Senate seat. What’s the story of Marco Rubio in Florida state politics before that?

Adam: Not much. He was a talented, young legislator who clearly had a lot of ambition. But he could point to few big legislative achievements as Florida House speaker. On most big issues, he was rolled by then-Governor Charlie Crist and the more moderate Florida Senate.

FIX: Why is he giving up his Senate seat?  Is this up-or-out mentality consistent with what you know about him?

Adam: A lot like Jeb Bush, Rubio is an impatient guy. It was always hard to see him as a lifer in the Senate. Nor has he shown much enthusiasm for the slow, nuts-and-bolts work of actually legislating. He’s more about announcing big policy ideas than actually crafting bills and corralling votes to implement them.

Personal finances, I think, probably also played a role. Four kids in private school, and living in both west Miami and D.C. is not easy financially.

Hillary continues to take hits from the so-called “progressive” brodudes hillary_clinton_young-620x412and from the Republicans.  It’s going to get so ugly–as BB has written–that it’s difficult to watch and read.  The reviews of her video announcement have been interesting.

Atlantic writer Peter Beinart expects Clinton to be ‘unabashedly liberal’ this time out.

All that cultural conservatism is gone in the video she issued last night. It’s not just the image of a gay male couple holding hands while announcing their impending wedding, followed later by what appears to be a lesbian couple. It’s not just the biracial couple. Or the brothers speaking Spanish. It’s also the absence of culturally conservative imagery: no clergymen, no police, one barely noticeable church. Instead, the video starts with a woman who is moving so her daughter can attend a better school. A bit later it features a woman who after staying home with her kids is going back to work. In both cases, there’s no father in sight. Whether or not Clinton and her advisors were trying to showcase single mothers, they certainly weren’t afraid of being accused of showcasing them. In 2000, in the wake of a welfare reform debate in which single mothers were made symbols of the moral irresponsibility the Clintons campaigned against, these positive depictions would have been unimaginable.

The video Hillary released yesterday was also devoid of soldiers. And it contained no discussion of foreign policy. Compare that to Hillary’s 2007 video, the first substantive words of which were: “let’s talk about how to bring the right end to the war in Iraq and to restore respect for America around the world.” Later in that video, she championed her work “protecting our soldiers.”

In 2007, while backpedalling from her vote to invade Iraq, Hillary was still intensely focused on convincing Americans she was tough enough to be commander in chief. In 2003, she had called for expanding the military.

In 2004, she had been one of only six Senate Democrats to support the deployment of an untested missile defense system. In 2006 she toldother senators, in explaining her opposition to setting a deadline for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, that “I face the base all the time.” And in the days before announcing her presidential candidacy, she had travelled to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Today, Republicans still see foreign policy as politically central. Jeb Bush dwelled on it in the video he released in response to Hillary’s. And, of course, Clinton will spend plenty of time talking foreign policy as the campaign wears on. But the message of yesterday’s announcement video, unlike the one in 2007, is that international affairs are secondary. The core of Hillary’s campaign will be economics. More specifically, it will be championing the “everyday Americans” who face a “deck still stacked in favor of those at the top.” That kind of swipe at the ultra-rich was absent from Hillary’s announcements in 2000 and 2007 too.

This is from Greg Sargent writing for WAPO.6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c77838dc970b-500wi

Behind all the sentimentality lies some fairly serious signaling about where Clinton’s campaign is headed and what it will be about.

Notably, all the people in the video express cautious optimism about the next chapter in their lives. The key here is the tone. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that Clinton’s advisers, after pondering how to handle GOP efforts to link her to Obama, had concluded that her best bet is not to distance herself from Obama’s record, but to praise the economic progress he has made, and promise a “new chapter” designed to build on it, one focused on giving those “everyday Americans” a better shot at getting ahead.

That’s because internal Clinton polling shows frustration with Washington gridlock but not necessarily a desire for a wholesalebreak from Obama’s policies. Public polling has shown a desire for such a break, but Clinton’s pollster, Joel Benenson, is known to put much more stock in his own nuanced, fine-grained research.

I strongly suspect the Clinton campaign has concluded that Americans are exhausted by the ideological death struggles of the Obama presidency, and that swing voters and independents don’t see the Obama years as quite the smoking apocalyptic hellscape Republicans continue to describe. With the GOP hoping to terrify voters with the prospect of Hillary-as-Obama-third-term, and with the 2016 GOP hopefuls zealously vowing to roll back the Obama presidency, Republicans will likely continue re-litigating how awful the Obama years have supposedly been. The Clinton gamble is that swing voters don’t want to hear this argument anymore; that they agree Obama’s policies have not turned the economy around fast enough, but think this was understandable given the circumstances and don’t see those policies as an utter, abject failure.

XXX 20150412__APS_351.JPGFrankly, I found the Clinton video to be compelling, inclusive, and inspiring.  Compare this to Rubio’s words.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is running for president in 2016, the Florida senator told ABC News’ Chief Anchor and “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview in West Miami on Monday.

“I think this country’s at a generational moment where it needs to decide not what party it wants in charge but what kind of country are we going to want to be moving forward,” Rubio told Stephanopoulos in an interview at the Florida senator’s home. “I think the 21st century can be the American century, and I believe that I can lead this country in that direction. I can help lead it there from the Senate. I can lead it there as president.”

The interview came just a few hours before Rubio will speak to supporters at an evening event at the Freedom Tower, a downtown Miami building with historical significance for thousands of Cuban-Americans.

When asked if Rubio believed he is the most qualified candidate to be president, he said: “I absolutely feel that way.”

“We’ve reached a moment now, not just in my career, but the history of our country, where I believe that it needs a Republican Party that is new and vibrant, that understands the future, has an agenda for that future,” Rubio said, “and I feel uniquely qualified to offer that. And that’s why I’m running for president.”

I wonder if he’ll mind being the second banana to confederate banana republican Rand Paul?  Perhaps “Heb” and Rubio can discuss their struggles as Hispanic Americans?  Either way, I spot failure in his future.  Hasta 2023 amigo!

All I can say is keep reaching for that glass of water Rubs because you’re gonna need a lot of hydrating to try to play in the same ball park as Hillary Clinton.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Morning Reads: Assorted Nuts

nutsGood Morning!

BB had to cover for me yesterday because my allergies were just going so crazy that I was dizzy most of the morning and afternoon.  The combination of four nights of cigarette smoke and Live Oak Pollen have me suffering like crazy.

I’ve been putting ice on my red, swollen, and sore eyes, taking benedryl so I can breathe, and coughing/sneezing like crazy.  The usual antihistamines have not been enough.  My voice is so husky you’d think I was on the make for some one.

The good news is that it stormed today and I think the trees are through that phase and all bars in New Orleans go smoke free on the 25th.  I only have a few weeks left and will I be celebrating like crazy.

Speaking of crazy, an Iowa Homeschooling event hosted a few of the nuttier Republican candidates and my governor proved he was right there riding the crazy train with Ted Cruz.   Ted Cruz called the boycotts of states passing bigot bills “waging jihad” against religious freedom.   I wonder if he realizes that majority of people in this country–including christians–support civil rights over bigotry dressed up as religion.

“We look at the jihad that is being waged right now in Indiana and Arkansas going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Cruz said during a panel moderated by conservative radio host Steve Deace on Thursday. “We need to bring people together to the religious liberty values that built this country.”

The religious values that built this country are basically called “separation of church and state” not enshrinement of one cult’s pet peeves.

Yes, Jindal was there and was just as idiotic. Iowa is the state where he and his recently retired aides have Nuts01residency these days. BB rightly points out that Jindal now seems to have something against corporate America.  That ought to make the Republican Donor Class run away.

The main theme at an Iowa homeschooling event yesterday attended by four potential GOP presidential candidates was what Sen. Ted Cruz called the gay “jihad” against religious liberty in the form of nondiscrimination laws.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal attempted to add a populist bent to his remarks on the topic — an increasingly popular strategy among LGBT rights opponents — by declaring that “an alliance of Hollywood elites and corporate America” are “assaulting the rights of Christians” by opposing measures like those in Indiana and Arkansas that would have given broad leeway to business owners to discriminate against LGBT customers.

“We need to remind these elites, America did not create religious liberty, religious liberty created the United States of America,” he told the enthusiastic crowd.

Remember, “elites” mean people educated in facts not fantasy.  Jindal use to fancy himself one of those up until he switched from running for governor of Louisiana to leader-in-chief of the stupid party.

Huckabee and Santorum were there too with their usual brands of hate and stupidity. 

All of the hopefuls stressed their respect for and connection to home schooling. Jindal and Huckabee touted their state legislation supporting home schooling. Santorum noted “it’s great to be here with fellow home school moms and dads.”

He implored the parents to trust their judgment in choosing a president just as they trust themselves to make the best decisions about educating their children.

“Do not defer to the experts,” he said.

Home schooling isn’t easy, Huckabee said. He hopes there are enough Americans “who have the same conviction to make the sacrifice for the country that you are willing to make for your children.”

However, he worried that too many people will not make that choice.

There are 80 million self-identified evangelicals, but only half are registered to vote and only half vote in a presidential election.

“I worry there’s not the passion, the interest, and the commitment that is needed to get our country back where it needs to be,” Huckabee said. “You represent that passion.”

Jindal warned that winning the 2016 presidential race is not optional — “not because we are Republicans, not because we are conservatives, but because it is the future of our country that is at stake.”

“I don’t think we are beyond the tipping point, but I think it’s only four more years of this president’s policies, whether it is Hillary Clinton or whoever, we will get to that point,” he said.

Cruz drew a parallel between President Jimmy Carter and President Barack Obama — “same failed economic policies, same misery, stagnation and malaise.” The solution is another “Reagan revolution” by Republicans, Christian conservatives .and conservative Democrats.

“That’s what it’s going to take to turn this country around,” he said.

We’ve had enough of that kind of crap since the first s0-called “Reagan revolution.”  I think most of us recognize that nearly everything walnut-300he did has made us less. The biggest roots of income inequality came from the changes made back then. We’re living the results of less upward mobility and less real incomes daily now.  We’ve also seen assaults on women’s health and rights as well as assaults on science, public education and unions.  None of the outcomes have been pretty.

Republicans are already planning to run ads to assault Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid announcement.  She has them running scared and ugly.  One of the ugliest comments this weekend came from the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre whooping it up with his gun fetishists in Tennessee.

At the NRA’s annual convention today, Wayne LaPierre spent quite a lot of time in his speech talking about Hillary Clinton and how much they cannot let her become the next president. He joked about her history with various scandals, called her secretive, and asked if anyone really thinks she deserves to be the first female president.

Clinton is expected to announce her campaign on Sunday, but to LaPierre, another Clinton term in office should just mean more “scandal and deceit and self-serving behavior.”

And then, he offered this over-the-top dire warning:

“She will not bring a dawn of new promise and opportunity. Hillary Rodham Clinton will bring a permanent darkness of deceit and despair forced upon the American people to endure.”

As for the ugly ads, you can read about it in here.

The ads, highlighting controversies while Clinton was secretary of state and questions about foreign donations to her foundation, will run in swing states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina and Iowa, according to Raffi Williams, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

“From the East Wing to the State Department, Hillary Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandal and failed liberal policies that no image consultant can erase,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Voters want to elect someone they can trust and Hillary’s record proves that she cannot be trusted. We must ‘Stop Hillary.'”

That has been a Republican imperative for months. In Ohio, a state that Republicans historically have needed to win the White House, Clinton would beat any of the Republicans now considering a run, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. But Ohioans don’t many of those potential challengers, which will change in the coming months, and Clinton’s lead has slipped from a Quinnipiac poll two months ago.

I can only imagine they will be extremely misogynistic and hateful given that’s just about the Republican Playbook these days.

images (2)So, here’s something really nutty about Jeb Bush.  Why on earth has his voter registration listed him as Hispanic? 

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush updated his voter registration the day a New York Times story revealed he listed himself as Hispanic on the form in 2009.

A Bush spokesperson confirmed the change.

Bush, whose wife and three children are Hispanic, attempted to laugh off the mistake in a tweet.

If he can’t even check the right box on a simple question, would you trust this man with the button to our nuclear arsenal? Sheesh!

Okay, so this isn’t about a Republican nut, just a rapist nut.  Former Football player and rape drug using rapist Darren Sharper will be subject to a live time of penis monitoring.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing!

Convicted rapist Darren Sharper will serve nine years in prison for his crimes, but he won’t return to a regular life after he finishes his sentence. If two New Orleans judges approve the deal instead of issuing a 20-year sentence in Louisiana, Sharper will be treated as a sex offender, and closely monitored for the rest of his life.

The New Orleans Advocate has details of the pending agreement. After prison, Sharper would be on parole in California, registered as a sex offender and narcotics offender. He’d be tracked by GPS. After parole, he’d be moved to Arizona for probation for the rest of his life. Sharper would no longer be allowed to drink alcohol, go to a bar, use online dating, or travel more than 50 miles away from his home without permission from state officials. His penis would be also be monitored:

Sharper will be subject to lie detector tests and, while on lifetime probation in Arizona, to the “penile plethysmograph,” in which a sensor is attached to the penis while an array of sexual images flashes before his eyes, to gauge arousal.

(It’s unclear what exactly what the penile plethysmograph does or proves.)

Here’s an article from the NYD that explains just that.nuts-484262_640

Many convicted sex offenders are required to undergo this testing, which involves strapping a pressure-sensitive device to a man’s penis and gauging his reactions to stimulating pictures, video and audio, experts said.

Some experts said sex offenders’ responses — especially to “deviant” material — could determine their likelihood of reoffending.

Others contest the merits of penile plethysmography because it’s intrusive and not always accurate.

The test works by having sex offenders attach the device, which resembles an arm blood pressure cuff, to themselves in a separate room from a clinician at a doctor’s office or in prison.

The device measures blood flow to the penis, either through changes in the volume or circumference, as subjects view stimuli that are tailored to their problems or fetishes, according to guidelines by Oregon’s Department of Health.

Pictures and videos show people of different ages and genders partaking in various sexual scenarios and states of undress.

How often the test is conducted depends on the offender.

Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman told the Daily News he could not comment on how this testing would be conducted with Sharper because he could not discuss open cases.

Some experts claim penile plethysmography can help stop sex offenders from acting on their arousal by pinpointing what they’re subconsciously attracted to.

“Once an offender’s deviant sexual arousal patterns have been identified, treatment interventions can be introduced which are designed to reduce or eliminate these deviant response patterns,” the Council on Sex Offender Treatment wrote.

“Behavioral treatment teaches the offender the sequence of events leading to the commission of his deviant behavior and then provides the offender with specific methods to disrupt the offense cycle.”

It’s important to know what sex offenders’ deviant fantasies are, especially because self-reporting can be inaccurate, they said.

“Those sex offenders with the most deviant phallometry patterns have been found to have the highest recidivism,” the Council said, calling it “among the most successful” tactics.

But penile plethysmography can’t go as far as conclude whether someone will reoffend, David Samadi, the chairman of urology at Lenox Hill Hospital, told the Daily News.

I’m not sure if this actually works. I’m sure there are studies out there somewhere.

So, this is an open thread and please post whatever you want today!  Have a great Weekend!!


Monday Reads: What’s Love Got to do with It?

10003228_10202968961517448_1326420928_nGood Morning!

I’m always grumpy after we spend a weekend of folks getting all righteous about whatever form of holiness they foist on the rest of us.  I have to admit that I like the general idea of celebrating spring, the end of winter, and baby animals.  That’s much better than a weekend of glorifying death and destruction on the part of supposedly perfect loving deity.  I found a few things that got me thinking and thought I’d share them with you.

The first is a very interesting letter from Albert Einstein to the NYT decrying the outbreak of fascist Zionism.  The year is 1948 and it should be reprinted because the brilliant man was prescient.

December 4, 1948

TO THE EDITORS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES:

Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.

Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement. The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

Attack on Arab Village

A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants 240 – men, women, and children – and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin. The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.

Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model. During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute.

The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.

My friend who used to take me to Temple with her when we were in high school but is now a very vocal atheist reminded me that this week end many celebrate a god the father and his act of murdering Egyptian babies and supposedly his own son.  I’d really never thought about it that way but, yeah, that’s kinda right.  What a far cry from the celebration of spring and the idea of new life after a long winter.

Easter-CelebrationSo, my second offering is from Alternet and it’s headline speaks for itself: “A Brutal Christianity: We’ll See More Cruel Laws like Indiana’s Until the Christian Right Is Defeated.”  There’s no sign of the gentle and all loving Jesus I learned about in Presbyterian Sunday School in any of these laws.

In recent years, religious believers have sought and largely won a cascading array of rights, privileges and exemptions from laws and duties that otherwise apply to all Americans.

  • The right to discriminate in public accommodations and hiring practices.
  • The right to interfere with a religious outsider’s family formation, sexual intimacy, and childbearing decisions.
  • The right to interfere in a religious outsider’s dying process.
  • The right to exemption from humane animal slaughter regulations.
  • The right to use public funds and other assets to propagate the values and priorities of the religion.
  • The right to freeload on shared infrastructure without contributing to it.
  • The right to refuse medical care to women and children.
  • The right to engage in religiously motivated child abuse (psychological abuse, physical abuse, neglect or medical neglect) with impunity.
  • The right to exemption from labor practice standards.

Liberal people of faith who don’t share the dominionist goals or moral priorities of fundamentalists often are appalled by these objectives and many insist that laws like the one recently passed in Indiana aren’t about religious freedom but rather bigotry itself, or misogyny, or some other morally tainted and self-serving mindset. They are both right and wrong.

Yes, these laws do condone bigotry, and misogyny, and other ugly prejudices. But the photo of those present at the signing of Indiana’s bill—its major proponents—is telling. It mixes white male politicians in suits with a proud array of Catholic nuns in habits, monks in cassocks and an orthodox Jew in a top hat. Like many of those advocating segregation during the Civil Rights Movement, the advocates of this bill are genuinely motivated by devout religious beliefs.

In an ideal world, civil laws that seek to promote the general welfare and religious codes might be aligned, and even in our imperfect world religion often promotes generosity, kindness, service, and conscience-driven behavior. But the world’s major religions all have ancient roots, and thanks to the rise of literacy during the Iron Age, they all have sacred texts that anchor believers to an Iron Age set of social scripts and moral priorities including some truly horrific ideas.

The Christian Bible endorses slavery, racism, tribal warfare, torture, the concept of women and children as chattel, and the death penalty for over 30 offenses. (You likely qualify.) It offers an exclusive alternative to eternal damnation, driving believers to seek converts when and where they can. It teaches that infidels have no moral core and advocates separation from religious outsiders. It elevates sexual purity to the level of moral purity. It makes a virtue out of certitude. Small wonder, then, that sincere believers seeking to do the will of God sometimes end up seeking the right to do harm.

I continue to drop my jaw when this odd assortment of people feel put out by having to deal with the rest of us artist-robot-decorated-eggs-benefit-japan-owho live differently.  But, when you see which parts of the Bible they draw on, they look completely separate from many other believers in the same religious sect.

Meanwhile, the usual Republican Suspects were trotted out on the Sunday Shows to show us how we will know what they are by their “love”.  First up, Rick Santorum who frothed as expected by quoting Westborough Baptist Church.

Likely Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Sunday quoted Westboro Church’s infamous “God Hates Fags” slogan in defense of an Indiana law that allowed Christian businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples.

After Indiana revised its law to allow so that it did not override anti-discrimination ordinances in local municipalities, Santorum told CBS host Norah O’Donnell that he had hoped for more religious protections.

“I think the language they had is better language, this is acceptable language,” he explained in an interview that aired on Sunday. “It doesn’t do a lot of the things — it doesn’t really open the debate up on some of the more current issues.”

“I think the current language that the federal law is — and now Indiana is — has been held to have a pretty limited view of religious liberty — religious freedom is in the workplace,” the former Pennsylvania senator insisted. “And I think we need to look at, as religious liberty is now being pushed harder, to provide more religious protections, and that bill doesn’t do that.”

Santorum argued that wedding planners should not be forced to serve same-sex couples because “tolerance is a two-way street.”

“If you’re a print shop and you are a gay man, should you be forced to print ‘God Hates Fags’ for the Westboro Baptist Church because they hold those signs up?” he asked. “Should the government — and this is really the case here — should the government force you to do that?”

“And that’s what these cases are all about. This is about the government coming in and saying, ‘No, we’re going to make you do this.’ And this is where I just think we need some space to say let’s have some tolerance, be a two-way street.”

800fb1f3207bb899d618cde54901169f Bobby Jindal keeps jumping the shark too.  This time MTP showcased his nonsense.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said over the weekend that Christians in Indiana needed a law to make sure that they were not forced to serve same-sex weddings, but LGBT people in his state did not need “special legal protections” against housing and employment discrimination.

During an interview on Meet the Press, Jindal asserted that businesses in Indiana were facing “discrimination.”

“Businesses that don’t want to choose between their Christian faith — their sincerely held religious beliefs — and being able to operate their businesses,” he opined. “Now, what they don’t want is the government to force them to participate in wedding ceremonies that contradict their beliefs.”

“So I was disappointed that you could see Christians and their businesses face discrimination in Indiana, but I hope the legislators will fix that — rectify that.”

But when it came to a New Orleans ordinance protecting LGBT people against housing and employment discrimination, Jindal suggested that government was trying to solve a problem that did not exist.

“I don’t think there should be discrimination certainly against anybody in housing and employment,” he said. “That’s not what my faith teaches me. I think the good news is our society is moving in a direction of more tolerance.”

“My concern about creating special legal protections is, historically in our country, we’ve only done that in extraordinary circumstances,” the Republican governor continued. “And it doesn’t appear to me that we’re at one of those moments today.”

According to Jindal, “there are many that turn to the heavy hand of government to solve societies problems too easily.”

“I do think we need to be very careful about creating special rights,” he declared.

And it looks like the Pope has a schism on his hands.  One of these Bishops is a holocaust denier.  That ought tocrayonput the entire thing into perspective for you.

Two renegade Catholic bishops plan to consecrate a new generation of bishops to spread their ultra-traditionalist movement called “The Resistance” in defiance of the Vatican, one of them said at a remote monastery in Brazil.

French Bishop Jean-Michel Faure, himself consecrated only two weeks ago by the Holocaust-denying British Bishop Richard Williamson, said the new group rejected Pope Francis and what it called his “new religion” and would not engage in a dialogue with Rome until the Vatican turned back the clock.

Williamson and Faure, who were both excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church when the former made the latter a bishop without Vatican approval, are ex-members of a larger dissenting group that has been a thorn in Rome’s side for years.

Their splinter movement is tiny – Faure did not give an estimate of followers – but the fact they plan to consecrate bishops is important because it means their schism can continue as a rebel form of Catholicism.

“We follow the popes of the past, not the current one,” Faure, 73, told reporters on Saturday at Santa Cruz Monastery in Nova Friburgo, in the mountain jungle 140 km (87 miles) inland from Rio de Janeiro.

“It is likely that in maybe one or two years we will have more consecrations,” he said, adding there were already two candidates to be promoted to bishop’s rank.

The monastery had said Williamson would ordain a priest there at the weekend but he was not seen by reporters, and clergy said it was impossible to talk to him. Faure ordained the priest himself.

Asked what the new group called itself, Faure said: “I think we can call ourselves Roman Catholic first, secondly St Pius X, and now … the Resistance.”

The Society of St Pius X (SSPX) is a larger ultra-traditionalist group that was excommunicated in 1988 when its founder consecrated four new bishops, including Williamson, despite warnings from the Vatican not to do so.

It rejected the modernizing reforms of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council and stuck with Catholicism’s old Latin Mass after the Church switched to simpler liturgy in local languages.

Former Pope Benedict readmitted the four SSPX bishops to the Catholic fold in 2009, but the SSPX soon expelled Williamson because of an uproar over his Holocaust denial.

In contrast to Benedict, Pope Francis pays little attention to the SSPX ultra-traditionalists, who claim to have a million followers around the world and a growing number of new priests at a time that Rome faces priest shortages. Their remaining three bishops have no official status in the Catholic Church.

Faure said the Resistance group would not engage in dialogue with Rome, as the SSPX has done. “We resist capitulation, we resist conciliation of St Pius X with Rome,” he said.

What is it about religion and bad eggs?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?