Tuesday Reads: Back Home Again In Indiana

Mounds State Park, near Muncie, IN with the Great Mound in the distance.

Mounds State Park, near Muncie, IN with the Great Mound in the background.

Good Morning!!

My family moved to Indiana when I was ten years old. My Dad had been offered a job as a professor at Ball State Teachers College (soon to be Ball State Univerity) in Muncie. He bought his first house there in one of those brand new 1950s developments that were springing up all over to respond to the needs of returning WWII vets and other upwardly mobile couples with growing families–like my parents.

I went to school in Muncie from 6th grade on. I graduated from Muncie Central High School in 1965, and then attended Ball State for two years. Muncie is a very different city now then when I was growing up there. At that time, Muncie was home to many auto parts factories that supported the car makers in Detroit. Thousands of people traveled from rural areas in Kentucky and Tennesee to find good paying jobs there.

I never felt like I fit in in Muncie. My parents were liberals and our family was Catholic. Only one other person I can recall–my best friend–had a father who was a professor. Muncie was mostly Republican and only about 10 percent Catholic. There was actually quite a bit of prejudice against Catholics there, and that was troubling to me. Other kids seemed to look at me oddly when they found out what my Dad did. I wanted to get out of there, and after two years of college, I moved to Boston.

Even though I wanted out of Muncie as a young woman, I’ve never lost my attachment to the natural beauty of Indiana. It’s still a largely rural state in which the geography varies widely depending on the region. Northern Indiana is lake country, Southern Indiana is filled with rolling hills and gorgeous scenery. The central part of the state where I grew up is flat and is still filled with the corn and soy fields that many people believe are all there is to Indiana. It’s not true. That’s just where the Interstate highways are. But I think the farm country is beautiful too.

As the car industry fell on hard times, so did Muncie. Unemployment skyrocketed, and stayed high for decades, as the car parts factories disappeared. Today Muncie is a majority Democratic “college town,” and Ball State is the city’s biggest employer. I think I could be happy in Muncie now, and I’ve often thought of moving back there in my old age. For one thing it’s a much less expensive place to live than Boston. For another thing, I miss those open spaces where you can see the horizon in the distance on all sides.

I’m telling you all this so you can understand that I still love Indiana, and why I am so deeply saddened by the way the Tea Party movement has captured the state’s government. Dakinikat has been posting quite a bit about the latest outrage–an extreme, post-Hobby-Lobby-decision version of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Indiana has also been a leader in the right wing attacks on voting rights (strict voter ID law) and women’s reproductive rights (attacks on Planned Parenthood and attempts to pass extreme anti-abortion measures). Historically Indiana has tended to elect Republican Governors and Democratic Senators. I don’t know why that is, but it’s also true here in deep blue Massachusetts where for nearly 50 years I’ve lived under GOP rule. Indiana’s current governor is a very far right extremist, as the entire country now knows.

I thought I’d post some of the reactions to this horrible new law from inside Indiana.

This morning, the conservative Indianapolis Star–which endorsed Mike Pence in 2012–published a rare front page editorial:

 

Indy star fix it

 

Gov. Pence, fix ‘religious freedom’ law now.

We are at a critical moment in Indiana’s history.

And much is at stake.

Our image. Our reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome. And our efforts over many years to retool our economy, to attract talented workers and thriving businesses, and to improve the quality of life for millions of Hoosiers.

All of this is at risk because of a new law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that no matter its original intent already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future.

The consequences will only get worse if our state leaders delay in fixing the deep mess created.

Half steps will not be enough. Half steps will not undo the damage.

Only bold action — action that sends an unmistakable message to the world that our state will not tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens — will be enough to reverse the damage.

Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly need to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Those protections and RFRA can co-exist. They do elsewhere.

Laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity are not foreign to Indiana.

Indianapolis, for example, has had those legal protections in place for nearly a decade. Indy’s law applies to businesses with more than six employees, and exempts religious organizations and non-profit groups.

The city’s human rights ordinance provides strong legal protection — and peace of mind —for LGBT citizens; yet, it has not placed an undue burden on businesses.

Importantly, passage of a state human rights law would send a clear message that Indiana will not tolerate discrimination. It’s crucial for that message to be communicated widely.

That would bring Indiana in line Illinois where the “religious freedom” laws is overridden by a strict non-discrimination statute; but for the moment, Pence seems determined to stick with his bigoted stance because of his ridiculous fantasy of running for president. Before this, he had no chance in hell. Now he’s becoming a laughing stock like Bobby Jindal. But even Jindal probably has a better shot at the GOP nomination than Pence does.

 

Bridgeton covered bridge, Indiana

Bridgeton covered bridge, Indiana

 

Fox 59 Indianapolis: Indiana’s reputation taking a hit over religious freedom bill.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 30, 2015)– Those who work in tourism in Indianapolis fear the economic impact and damage the religious freedom legislation could bring to the city and state’s economy. Sunday, Visit Indy said conventions had expressed questions about the controversial legislation, but none had expressed interest in leaving.

Monday, labor union AFSCME announced it would pull its women’s conference out of downtown Indianapolis. It was scheduled for October 9th through October 11th. Visit Indy said the conference was to be held at the JW Marriott downtown, with 800 expected attendees and an estimated $500,000 in economic impact.

Meanwhile, the state remained in the crosshairs online Monday, with the hashtag #boycottIndiana going strong on Twitter.

Cher criticized Governor Mike Pence over the weekend, and Apple CEO Tim Cookpenned an editorial in the Washington Post calling religious freedom laws like Indiana’s dangerous.

Visit Indy said they’re in crisis mode reassuring conventions Hoosiers are welcoming. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is taking a stand, too. Open for service stickers are affixed to the museum’s windows.

“We wanted to reaffirm to the community that we welcome everyone,” said Brian Statz, Vice-President of Operations and General Counsel.

Then Statz had better get busy and put serious pressure on Pence and the legislature, because this backlash has reached critical mass and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Bean Blossom covered bridge

Bean Blossom covered bridge

CBS 4 Indianapolis: City-County Council passes resolution opposing RFRA, sends loud message to state leaders.

INDIANAPOLIS (March 30, 2015)–The Indianapolis City-County Council passed a resolution Monday night opposing the new Religious Freedom Restoration law. The measure was sponsored and introduced by 16 council members on both sides of aisle. It passed in a 24-4 vote.

The resolution will now be sent to Statehouse for Gov. Mike Pence’s viewing.

Supporters of the measure say the current version of the law hurts Indiana commerce, repels young talented professionals and further tarnishes the Hoosier image.

“As the representatives of the city and the county, we feel it is our job to make sure we are doing everything to fight back and let the world know that Indianapolis is a welcoming place,” said John Barth, City-County Council vice president.

“If they need to repeal it then repeal it. If they can fix it, then fix it! But make it count and that’s really what we are saying tonight,” said Councilor Jeff Miller.

Before the meeting, those opposed to the new law rallied in-front of the City-Market. Chants and signs sent a clear message to the rest of the world: “No hate in our State.”

“Under no terms or wording is discrimination acceptable,” said Patrick Dutchess.

“The support that our community has had here in Indiana to say we don’t agree with the governor is amazing,” said Angie Alexander.

 

Indiana's Brown County State Park in Fall.

Indiana’s Brown County State Park in Fall.

 

CBS 4: Butler, Purdue and other Indiana university presidents issue statements on religious freedom bill.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 29, 2015) — Presidents of universities in Indiana are speaking out after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week.  Questions remain about what Indiana’s new religious freedom bill means and the power it holds….

The president of Butler University, James Danko, released a statement on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Sunday. The statement reads:

As president of Butler University I am particularly sensitive to the importance of supporting and facilitating an environment of open dialogue and critical inquiry, where free speech and a wide range of opinion is valued and respected. Thus, it is with a certain degree of apprehension that I step into the controversy surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

However, over the past week I have heard from many Butler community members—as well as prospective students, parents, and employees—who have expressed concerns about the impact this law may have on our state and our University. As such, I feel compelled to share my perspective and to reinforce the values of Butler University.

While I have read a variety of opinions and rationale for RFRA, it strikes me as ill-conceived legislation at best, and I fear that some of those who advanced it have allowed their personal or political agendas to supersede the best interests of the State of Indiana and its people. No matter your opinion of the law, it is hard to argue with the fact it has done significant damage to our state.

Like countless other Hoosier institutions, organizations, and businesses, Butler University reaffirms our longstanding commitment to reject discrimination and create an environment that is open to everyone.

Today, more than ever, it is important that we continue to build, cultivate, and defend a culture in which all members of our community—students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the public—can learn, work, engage, and thrive. It is our sincere hope that those around the country with their ears turned toward our Hoosier state hear just one thing loud and clear—the united voice of millions who support inclusion and abhor discrimination.

Butler is an institution where all people are welcome and valued, regardless of sexual orientation, religion, gender, race, or ethnicity; a culture of acceptance and inclusivity that is as old as the University itself. Butler was the first school in Indiana and third in the United States to enroll women as students on an equal basis with men, was among the first colleges in the nation to enroll African Americans, and was the second U.S. school to name a female professor to its faculty.

I strongly encourage our state leaders to take immediate action to address the damage done by this legislation and to reaffirm the fact that Indiana is a place that welcomes, supports, respects, and values all people.

Click on the link to read statements from the presidents of Ball State University, Hanover College, and Perdue (former governor Mitch Daniels is president).

Versailles State Park, Indiana

Versailles State Park, Indiana

 

Where are these so-called “religious freedom” laws coming from? The Christian Science Monitor tried to find out. The obvious candidate is ALEC, but they claimed to CSM that they aren’t drafted the legislation.

Who’s pushing the religious freedom laws in states?

But when asked whether ALEC was involved in supporting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, ALEC spokesperson Bill Meierling responds: “We do not work on firearms, marriage equality, immigration, any of those things people frequently say are ours.”

Still, North Carolina state Rep. Graig R. Meyer of (D) Durham says that ALEC is having a profound effect on how state legislators in his state are picking their targets.

“While ALEC may not be directly distributing the template legislation we’re seeing pop up all over the country, they are primarily the network for legislative exchange that is operating as a provider of educational seminars and conferences,” Mr. Meyer says in a phone interview.

One such ALEC conference was held in North Carolina. “While nobody can say for sure where the next religious freedom law bill will pop up, it’s probably a safe bet to look at where their most recent national conferences were held and where the next one will be,” says Meyer.

The last ALEC national conference was held in December in Washington, D.C. The next one coming up will be in San Diego, Calif., according to ALEC’s Meierling. He describes the organization as “an exchange of legislators and entrepreneurs who come together to discuss policy.”

Nevertheless,

A Source Watch report on the legislative authors of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) shows many are also on the ALEC Indiana membership list.  Three of the bill’s co-authors are also ALEC Task Force committee chairs, including Indiana state Sen. Carlin J. Yoder (R) of District 12, Sen. Jean Leising (R) of District 42, and Sen. Jim Buck (R) of District 21, according to Source Watch.

Other Democratic legislators say ALEC is shaping conservative legislation in their state. For example, Arizona state Sen. Steve Farley sees the non-profit group as a driver of debate on gun legislation and the recently aired idea of mandating church attendance in his state.

Mandating church attendance???!!! I certainly hope that doesn’t catch on. I don’t trust this Supreme Court to protect us.

What else is happening today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Lazy Monday Reads

Good Afternoon!

Well, it’s my turn to be so busy and exhausted that I’m late with the post! I also have to admit that I really didn’t want to look at the news much this weekend _77111200_cover_photo,_gangashri,_etah_districtsince most of it’s been Republicans running rabid all over state legislatures any way.  I’d like to continue to focus on the dangerous and Constitutionally subversive “religious freedom” bills in Indiana and other places.

Much like the arguments for slavery and Jim Crow Laws, bigoted people who happen to use the bible to back up their perverse christianist views basically feel they have a right to ignore laws they don’t like.  Not only does this include refusing public accommodations to GLBT, it includes refusing prescription services and complete health care to women. I believe it’s only a time before we start seeing people refuse to serve various religious groups or other minorities because their ‘bible’ tells them so. Fortunately and at least up until the freaking Hobby Lobby Decision, SCOTUS and the Constitution disagree.

I’m using pictures today from a BBC photo News special on India’s Untouchables and from an advocacy group for Dalit in India.  Indian’s ancient caste system is a pretty good example of what these laws seek to do.

Here’s  a few links of interest.

imagesThere are actually 19 states with similar laws to Indiana.  You might remember that Arizona’s Governor Brewster actually vetoed similar legislation over warnings from the business community. There’s a chart there at WAPO if you’d like to check the status of your state.

Forty percent of U.S. states have something similar to Indiana, as does the federal government.

A federal RFRA signed by President Clinton in 1993 shares language with Indiana and other states’ bills, prohibiting the government from “substantially burdening” individuals’ exercise of religion unless it is for a “compelling government interest” and is doing so in the least restrictive means.

The fact that legislation like this is so widespread probably gave Pence some confidence in signing the bill, despite the controversy in Arizona last year over its bill that was ultimately scrapped, and in other states, likeGeorgia, which are considering similar measures this year (the NCSL found 13 additional states are considering their own RFRA legislation).

Indiana’s law has some differences which makes it ripe for protest.dalit-1

There’s a factual dispute about the new Indiana law. It is called a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” like the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1993.* Thus a number of its defenders have claimed it is really the same law. Here, for example, is the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack: “Is there any difference between Indiana’s law and the federal law? Nothing significant.” I am not sure what McCormack was thinking; but even my old employer, The Washington Post, seems to believe that if a law has a similar title as another law, they must be identical. “Indiana is actually soon to be just one of 20 states with a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA,” thePost’s Hunter Schwarz wrote, linking to this map created by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The problem with this statement is that, well, it’s false. That becomes clear when you read and compare those tedious state statutes.  If you do that, you will find that the Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA—and most state RFRAs—do not. First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language, and neither does any of the state RFRAs except South Carolina’s; in fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, explicitly exclude for-profit businesses from the protection of their RFRAs.

The new Indiana statute also contains this odd language: “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” (My italics.) Neither the federal RFRA, nor 18 of the 19 state statutes cited by the Post, says anything like this; only the Texas RFRA, passed in 1999, contains similar language.

What these words mean is, first, that the Indiana statute explicitly recognizes that a for-profit corporation has “free exercise” rights matching those of individuals or churches. A lot of legal thinkers thought that idea was outlandish until last year’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, in which the Court’s five conservatives interpreted the federal RFRA to give some corporate employers a religious veto over their employees’ statutory right to contraceptive coverage.

Second, the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s “free exercise” right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government. Why does this matter? Well, there’s a lot of evidence that the new wave of “religious freedom” legislation was impelled, at least in part, by a panic over a New Mexico state-court decision, Elane Photography v. Willock. In that case, a same-sex couple sued a professional photography studio that refused to photograph the couple’s wedding. New Mexico law bars discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation. The studio said that New Mexico’s RFRA nonetheless barred the suit; but the state’s Supreme Court held that the RFRA did not apply “because the government is not a party.”

Remarkably enough, soon after, language found its way into the Indiana statute to make sure that no Indiana court could ever make a similar decision.

Because of these differences, it can be argued that the Media may be misrepresenting the law.  This is in reference to the WAPO post above.dalit_007

On Friday, the Washington Post published an article titled “19 states that have ‘religious freedom’ laws like Indiana’s that no one is boycotting.” The article snarks about organizations like the NCAA that have protested Indiana’s law, noting “the NCAA didn’t say it was concerned over how athletes and employees would be affected by Kentucky’s RFRA when games were played there last week.” The piece concludes “Indiana might be treated as if it’s the only state with a bill like this, but it’s not.” The piece has been shared over 75,000 times on Facebook.

The Washington Post article largely mirrors the argument advanced by Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Pence claimed “Then state-Sen. Barack Obama voted for [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act]. The very same language.”

The same argument is parroted on Fox News and elsewhere.

The Indiana law differs substantially from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by President Clinton in 1993, and all other state RFRAs.

There are several important differences in the Indiana bill but the most striking is Section 9. Under that section, a “person” (which under the law includes not only an individual but also any organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or other entity) whose “exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened” can use the law as “a claim or defense… regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.”

Every other Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to disputes between a person or entity and a government. Indiana’s is the only law that explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens.* This means it could be used as a cudgel by corporations to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected under law. Indiana trial lawyer Matt Anderson, discussing this difference, writes that the Indiana law is “more broadly written than its federal and state predecessors” and opens up “the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate…”

This is not a trivial distinction. Arizona enacted an RFRA that applied to actions involving the government in 2012. When the state legislature tried to expand it to purely private disputes in 2014, nationwide protests erupted and Jan Brewer, Arizona’s Republican governor, vetoed the measure.

Thirty law professors who are experts in religious freedom wrote in February that the Indiana law does not “mirror the language of the federal RFRA” and “will… createconfusion, conflict, and a wave of litigation that will threaten the clarity of religious liberty rights in Indiana while undermining the state’s ability to enforce other compelling interests. This confusion and conflict will increasingly take the form of private actors, such as employers, landlords, small business owners, or corporations, taking the law into their own hands and acting in ways that violate generally applicable laws on the grounds that they have a religious justification for doing so. Members of the public will then be asked to bear the cost of their employer’s, their landlord’s, their local shopkeeper’s, or a police officer’s private religious beliefs.”

Various federal courts have differing interpretations of the scope of the federal RFRA. The Indiana law explicitly resolves all those disputes in one direction — and then goes even further.

Make no mistake about it, religious ‘freedom’ laws are about bigotry and discrimination.  Apple CEO’s Tim Cook has taken a very public stance on these billspoverty-of-dalits1 as a member of the business community and a gay man from the South.

There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country.

A wave of legislation, introduced in more than two dozen states, would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors. Some, such as the bill enacted in Indiana last week that drew a national outcry and one passed in Arkansas, say individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.

Others are more transparent in their effort to discriminate. Legislation being considered in Texas would strip the salaries and pensions of clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — even if the Supreme Court strikes down Texas’ marriage ban later this year. In total, there are nearly 100 bills designed to enshrine discrimination in state law.

These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.

America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business. At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers’ lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That’s why, on behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I’m writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement. From North Carolina to Nevada, these bills under consideration truly will hurt jobs, growth and the economic vibrancy of parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms.

We’ve had a history of repeating the mistakes that our founders sought to fix in the Constitution.  Let’s stop this entire movement dead in its tracks.  These people may think that their religious bigotry puts them above the law, but it doesn’t and it shouldn’t.

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


Lazy Saturday Reads: Signs of Life After the Snowpocalypse

 crocus snow

Good Morning!!

I can’t wait for spring flowers and warmer weather, can you tell? I have all the symptoms of Spring fever, including inability to concentrate on anything serious, like politics or plane crashes. But I’ll do my best to give you some interesting links on this lazy late March Saturday.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Amanda Knox has finally been freed to live her life without the bizarre Italian legal system breathing down her neck. From the Chicago Tribune: Amanda Knox conviction thrown out by Italian court, closing legal saga.

Amanda Knox, who maintained that she and her former Italian boyfriend were innocent in her British roommate’s murder through multiple trials and nearly four years in jail, was vindicated Friday when Italy’s highest court threw out their convictions once and for all.

“Finished!” Knox’s lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova exulted after the decision was read out late Friday. “It couldn’t be better than this.”

The surprise decision definitively ends the 7½-year legal battle waged by Knox, 27, and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, 31, to clear their names in the gruesome 2007 murder and sexual assault of British student Meredith Kercher.

The supreme Court of Cassation panel deliberated for 10 hours before declaring that the two did not commit the crime, a stronger exoneration than merely finding insufficient evidence to convict. Instead, had the court-of-resort upheld the pair’s convictions, Knox would have faced 28 ½ years in an Italian prison, assuming she would have been extradited, while Sollecito had faced 25 years.

“Right now I’m still absorbing what all this means and what comes to mind is my gratitude for the life that’s been given to me,” Knox said late Friday, speaking to reporters outside her mother’s Seattle home.

This case has made me grateful that in the U.S. Constitution contains a double jeopardy clause.

crocus

Things are getting really ugly in Yemen. From The Washington Post: How the Yemen conflict risks new chaos in the Middle East.

The meltdown in Yemen is pushing the Middle East dangerously closer to the wider regional conflagration many long have feared would arise from the chaos unleashed by the Arab Spring revolts.

What began as a peaceful struggle to unseat a Yemeni strongman four years ago and then mutated into civil strife now risks spiraling into a full-blown war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran over a country that lies at the choke point of one of the world’s major oil supply routes.

With negotiators chasing a Tuesday deadline for the framework of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, it seems unlikely that Iran would immediately respond militarily to this week’s Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, analysts say.

But the confrontation has added a new layer of unpredictability — and confusion — to the many, multidimensional conflicts that have turned large swaths of the Middle East into war zones over the past four years, analysts say.

The United States is aligned alongside Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and against them in Yemen. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, who have joined in the Saudi offensive in Yemen, are bombing factions in Libya backed by Turkey and Qatar, who also support the Saudi offensive in Yemen. The Syrian conflict has been fueled by competition among all regional powers to outmaneuver one another on battlefields far from home.

Scary. All this because George W. Bush lied us into two needless, unwinnable wars.

Crocus in Boston

Ahramonline: Arab leaders pledge support to Yemen.

Although Saturday’s Arab League summit was due to cover a range of regional topics, the ongoing crisis in Yemen took the lead spot as the summit opened with speeches from Arab leaders.

A Saudi-led military offensive is underway against targets held by Houthi rebels in the turmoil-hit country, with the backing of a number of Arab states.

In his opening speech, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that military action was  “inevitable” to restore legitimate rule in Yemen.

El-Sisi also said that Egypt has accepted a proposal by a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to form a joint Arab military force to counter the “unprecedented threats” facing the region’s stability.

Arab foreign ministers agreed on a draft resolution to form a joint Arab military force to counter growing security threats in the region. The proposal requires the endorsement of the Arab leaders during the two-day summit this weekend.

Saudi’s King Salman vowed in his opening speech that the military intervention will not stop until Yemen is stable and safe. The monarch said that Saudi Arabia supports the Hadi government’s legitimacy in Yemen and wants stability for the Yemeni population.

He further stated that the situation in the region necessitates an Arab coalition to fight terrorism.

More details from CNN: Arab League to discuss military operation in Yemen.

crocus-in-snow

The Wall Street Journal on the incredibly selfish, suicidal co-pilot of that crashed Germanwings jet: Germanwings Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz Concealed Depression From Airline.

BERLIN—Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot who crashed an airliner into a French mountainside, was being treated for depression, a fact he concealed from his employer, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Mr. Lubitz had been excused from work by his neuropsychologist for a period that included the day of the crash, this person told The Wall Street Journal, but he decided to ignore the advice and reported to work.

The Germanwings tragedy highlights a broader industry dilemma: reliance on pilots themselves to disclose serious physical or psychological ailments to their employer—and what can happen when secrecy urges or privacy considerations trump full disclosure, safety and medial experts say.

Despite mandatory, regular medical exams—supplemented by company-specific safeguards intended to periodically check on aviators’ skills and psychological state—airlines ultimately depend on employees to honestly assess and report when they shouldn’t be flying.

In return, Germanwings, a unit of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, and many other airlines around the globe promise to avoid punishing pilots who comply with that guiding principle.

Read more at the WSJ. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, this guy could have just shot himself or jumped out of a high window, but instead he decided to take 149 other people–including babies and high school kids–with him when he committed suicide.

Life after Snowpocalypse

A few stories on the terrible explosion in NYC’s East Village:

Newsweek: A Slice of New York City History Goes Up In Smoke.

An explosion in Manhattan’s East Village on Thursday injured an estimated 25 people and destroyed a row of landmarked buildings that have held meaning for generations of New Yorkers. At one time the mayor’s residence was there, and another building housed an iconic vintage-clothing store made popular in the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan.

“It’s a real tragedy. It was scary,” says Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council. “It’s shocking when this happens in an area that’s so close-knit. People really live on the streets here, in a good way. There’s a real community.”

City officials say the March 26 explosion happened at 121 Second Avenue and also damaged the neighboring buildings at 119, 123 and 125. The buildings all were awarded landmark status in October 2012 as part of a designation of an East Village/Lower East Side Historic District. The buildings in that district date mostly to the mid- to late 1800s, a time when wealthier New Yorkers started moving uptown and selling off their properties, which were often turned into tenement housing.

European immigrants began moving into the area in large numbers in the second half of the 19th century. An early influx consisted mostly of Germans, and the area became known as Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe moved there too and established a vibrant theater district.

“The East Village and the Lower East Side are remarkable in that they’ve seen successive waves of immigrants and new populations coming in and really shaping and affecting the physical environment, bringing with them their social clubs, their gathering places,” Bankoff says.

By the middle of the 20th century, the Village became an epicenter for artists and bohemians.

The historic district, one of 114 in the city, runs north-south from around East 7th Street to East Second Street and east-west from First and Second avenues to the Bowery.

crocuses-in-snow

Click on the above link to continue reading. More details on the fire at ABC News: NYC Building Fire: Restaurant Owner Smelled Gas Before Massive Explosion, Officials Say.

From The New Yorker, a thoughtful and interesting essay on living in the East Village by Sarah Larson: The East Village Fire: Love Saves the Day.

Finally, one of the passengers in the GOP Clown Car, faux libertarian Rand Paul, opens his big mouth and spews nonsense and hate.

From Charles Pierce’s “Stupid for Lunch” cafe: Rand Paul’s Take On Defense Spending. In which the cafe staff starts the five minute clock for Senator Rand Paul.

The staff at the Cafe has a small clock in one particular booth. The booth is reserved for Senator Rand Paul, whenever he stops by for a quick lunch, for which he invariably undertips, when he doesn’t try to beat itout the back door.

Time was when Senator Aqua Buddha entertained us all — five minutes at a time — about how the country was wasting its money on a whole mess of sophisticated boom-boom. The staff knows when to begin the countdown and they begin invariably to whisper again…

Continue reading at the link.

Atheist Ayn Rand must be spinning in her grave over this from TPM.

Rand: ‘Moral Crisis’ Led To Gay Marriage, US Needs Religious Revival.

“Don’t always look to Washington to solve anything,” Paul said during a private prayer breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club.

“In fact, the moral crisis we have in our country — there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage — there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Raw Story: Rand Paul calls for ‘tent revivals’ to resolve the ‘moral crisis’ of gay marriage.

“The moral crisis we have in our country — there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage — there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think there would be some other sort of marriage, ” he explained. “I think the exhortation to try and change people’s thoughts has to come from the countryside.”

The libertarian lawmaker then took a slightly religious turn, saying “You know, I’ve said this before, we need a revival in the country.”

“We need another great awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying, you know,’reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform’.”

In a recent interview with Brett Baier of Fox News, Paul admitted that the use of the term ‘marriage’ for same sex couples offends him.

Watch the video at Raw Story. Honestly, I think that cartoon JJ post last night is beginning to make sense. Someone must have put LSD in Rand’s grits when he was a kid. Why would anyone vote for this wacko?

I’d write about the latest “revelations” about Hillary’s emails, but I don’t want to completely depress myself. I have to believe this will all die down before the 2016 primaries.

What have you been hearing and reading? Let us know in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of March. April is coming soon!

 


Thursday Reads: Six Degrees of Something

43db60279bdbdd553c5b7ad039ef7b2cGood Morning

Small worlds, it is amazing, last week my son had a friend who spent some time in New Orleans…and he came back with tales of “real live drag queens” on Bourbon Street. What do you know…the friend was talking about Dak and her new gig, playing piano for the ladies at Lucky Pierre’s.

What are the chances of that? From Banjoville to Nola…to Bourbon Street to Lucky Pierre’s.

Alright, the links for today are few since I am still very sick with this yuk of a sinus infection. (Thanks to BB for doing my post yesterday.)

a4b015cd72bd2cb267df82b516eef023The latest on the airbus crash is disturbing:

Pilot Was Locked Out of Cockpit Before Jet Crash — NYMag

Investigators retrieved audio from the cockpit voice recorder in theGermanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday, but rather than explaining why the plane fell out of the sky, killing all 150 people on board, the recording revealed a shocking twist. A senior military official investigating the crash told the New York Times that one pilot is heard leaving the cockpit, then there’s increasingly frantic banging on the door as the Airbus A320 inexplicably begins to descend. Within 10 minutes, the plane dropped from an altitude of 38,000 feet to about 6,000 and crashed into the mountainside – all while one pilot was apparently locked out and the other gave no response. “The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” the investigator said. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.” He added, “You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”

What makes the report even more bizarre is that there’s no indication of any friction between the pilots up to that point. The investigator said their conversation had been “very smooth, very cool,” throughout the flight. It’s unclear why one pilot left the cockpit, but “what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door,” the official said.

d2a85efbf44bd7ea5d05655295f65205Remi Jouty, spokesman for the French air crash investigations bureau BEA, would only say that they are still analyzing the recording. “It is too early to draw conclusions to what happened,” he said. “There is going to be detailed work performed on that audio file to understand and interpret the sounds and the voices that can be heard.” Debris from the crash was spread across an area of about 5 acres, on a remote mountain range 2,000 meters high.

That is strange, don’t you think?

Audio: Desperate pilot tried to get in cockpit | Boston Herald

Some speculation at that Boston Herald link.

Saudi Arabia launches airstrikes in Yemen – CNN.com

With the support of nine mostly Arab countries, Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign in neighboring Yemen on Thursday, where for months Houthi rebels have intensified their violent campaign against the government.

The Houthis, ever defiant, responded by saying they will meet force with force.

Yemen, a longtime stronghold for one of al Qaeda’s most dangerous branches, has been plunged into chaos since the Houthi rebels began seizing control of the capital and other areas of the country in recent months.

1c0c4fc49990d215a49b1f30d922812eFor years, Yemen had allowed U.S. drones and special operations forces to stalk AQAP in the country. But the unrest led to the withdrawal of U.S. special forces from Yemen, leaving that arrangement in tatters, along with any semblance of peace in the Middle Eastern nation.

Now for some links to other stories.

Chelsea Handler: Bill Cosby ‘Tried to Cosby Me’ | Mediaite

“Cosby” is now a “thing,” in that things can get Fukushima’d up.

Woody Allen Really Wanted to Take His Teenage Co-Star to Europe

This is why HBO’s ‘Going Clear’ has the Church of Scientology worried

Celebrations planned after archivists find new copy of ‘map that changed the world’

Think of this as an open thread.


Wednesday Spring Fever Open Thread

Matisse: Tea in the Garden, 1919

Matisse: Tea in the Garden, 1919

Good Afternoon!

I just found out that JJ isn’t feeling well enough to do a post this morning, so I’m filling in. I have things to do this afternoon, so this will have to be a very quick link dump.

Personally, I have Spring Fever! It has been sunny and not so cold here for the past few days and I’m loving it. We still have piles of snow, but they are shrinking steadily. I think March is going to go out with like lamb here in Boston. AND . . . soon it will be staying light here until almost 7PM. Isn’t Spring great?

Latest Ted Cruz Reactions

The Week: Ted Cruz isn’t really running for president.

Ted Cruz is running for president. Or at least that’s officially what’s happening, according to his FEC filings. But if you actually listen to him, it seems like he is running for something else.

Cruz’s announcement speech at Liberty University was less like a first step toward the Oval Office, than the latest of many steps he has taken to becoming the political leader of the conservative movement. This is distinct from being the nominee of the Grand Old Party, of which that movement is just a devoted part.

There is nothing about Cruz that appeals to people beyond his political sect. The one rhetorical move independents and Democrats may relate to in Cruz’s speech was the tribute to his mother as a glass ceiling–smashing computer programmer. But otherwise his mode of speech is much like Mike Huckabee’s: sentimental, broadly evangelical, and reliant on personal charisma. Although it isn’t easy to pinpoint what about a candidate’s personality rubs a larger demographic cohort the wrong way, Huckabeefared terribly among non-rural, non-Evangelical voters in 2008. Cruz may be headed for the same fate.

Consider Cruz’s overt sense of personal destiny. He makes Mitt Romney seem positively shy. Cruz’s speech implicitly compared Ted Cruz to Patrick Henry, George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.

Salon: “I may owe Mitt Romney an apology”: Jon Stewart mocks Ted Cruz’s absurdly creepy presidential announcement.

“I may owe Mitt Romney an apology,” Jon Stewart said on Monday’s “Daily Show,” after learning that Cruz and his wife actually practiced waving and kissing before the announcement.  “Even the Mitt Romneytron 3000 didn’t have to rehearse waving and kissing,” he continued.

If you were wondering why so many of the students in the audience looked bored out of their minds (and why one girl was even wearing a Rand t-shirt): It’s because the conservative Christian university required students to attend the Ted Cruz announcement as part of their weekly convocation. No word on whether the university also required students to text “constitution” to an undisclosed number, as per Cruz’s orders.

“Let me clarify this a little bit: Students at Liberty University were required to attend a partisan political speech where a small-government conservative who had just promised he would respect privacy rights, told them if they cared about freedom, text your information to a mysterious address that collects your cell phone number for undisclosed purposes,” Stewart said.

More good stuff in the video (see link). Can you believe Cruz and his wife practiced kissing before the event?

Washington Post: Ted Cruz’s phenomenally bad idea.

Sen. Ted Cruz says he wants to get rid of the Internal Revenue Service. This is a phenomenally bad idea, one so obviously wrongheaded it’s hard to believe he really means it….

This is not the first time Cruz has proposed this. He pitched it on Facebooktwo years ago and in multiple interviews since, even calling it the “single most important tax reform” and priority “No. 2” (after repealing Obamacare) in recent talks. The fact that he might make ending the IRS a centerpiece of a presidential campaign, though, is singularly scary, particularly given Republicans’ demonstrated appetite for cutting the agency’s funding to the bone and beyond….

Well, sorry to say it, but someone has to collect the money that keeps our government up and running, funding everything from Medicare to the military. The IRS is a cash-flow-positive agency, collecting an estimated$255 for every $1 appropriated to it, and dumping it would vastly widen existing government deficits. This is something fiscal conservatives, Cruz included, presumably already know. Yet the view that the IRS’s budget should be minimized, and perhaps zeroed out entirely, is peculiarly popular on the right.

Read more at the WaPo.

Some satire from Andy Borowitz at The New Yorker: President Signs Order Making Ted Cruz Ineligible for Obamacare.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — Just hours after Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told CNN that he had no choice but to sign up for Obamacare, President Barack Obama signed an executive order making Cruz ineligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“Clearly, the hardship of receiving Obamacare was causing Ted a great deal of pain,” the President said. “This should take care of that.”

Obama acknowledged that the executive order, which makes Cruz the only American expressly forbidden from signing up for Obamacare, was an extraordinary measure, but added, “I felt it was a necessary humanitarian gesture to protect Ted from the law he hates.”

Germanwings Plane Crash

New York Times: Details Emerging of Passengers Aboard Crashed Germanwings Jet.

A clearer picture began to emerge on Wednesday of the 150 people believed to have lost their lives in the crash of a Germanwings jet in southernFrance.

According to the airline, at least 67 Germans, including two infants, were on the Airbus A320 that crashed on Tuesday on its way to Düsseldorf,Germany, from Barcelona, Spain. Many Spaniards were also aboard. The passengers included two opera singers, as well as a class of 16 German high school students returning from a study program near Barcelona, along with their two teachers.

Germanwings was working to notify families before releasing further information about the 144 passengers and six crew members who were on the plane. But some countries whose citizens were aboard began to confirm their identities, and details also emerged from other sources.

Also from the Times: Challenges Weigh Heavily on Recovery Efforts in Crash of Germanwings Jet.

Read all about it at the paper of record.

Iran and Israel News

Jerusalem Post: US Democrats say Israel’s efforts on Iran are backfiring.

Following months of intensified calls by Israel to block any deals with Iran, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to Congress, members of the US senate say that theiropinions on a nuclear deal with Iran have not budged.

Read the responses from Senators at the link.

Politico: Boehner ‘shocked’ by reports Israel spied on Iran talks

Speaker John Boehner said he was “shocked” by a Wall Street Journal report Tuesday morning that said the Israelis were spying on negotiations by the U.S. and other world powers to strike a nuclear deal with Iran.

“I read that story this morning, and frankly, I was a bit shocked because there’s no information revealed to me whatsoever,” Boehner, a Republican from Ohio told reporters Tuesday morning. He added, “I was shocked by the fact that there were reports in this press article that information was being passed on from the Israelis to members of Congress. I’m not aware of that at all.”

He probably had a few too many before the meeting at which the leaks were discussed.

LA Times: Iran nuclear deal close; both sides face harsh politics at home.

If all goes according to plan, U.S. officials will return home from here next week declaring they have reached a historic agreement that will restrict Iran’s nuclear program forever.

Iranian officials will be in Tehran triumphantly explaining that they have secured a deal that will free Iran in a few years to pursue its nuclear program just like any other country.

Major international agreements usually require both sides to acknowledge they’ve given ground. Because of the brutal politics of the nuclear issue, however, neither side has much room to acknowledge compromise.

As a result, over the next few months, U.S. and Iranian officials are likely to be making starkly contradictory cases about the deal they have reached, both seeking to sell it at home.

Inside windowless negotiating rooms here, “we can talk about looking for a middle ground,” said a European diplomat said, who declined to be identified discussing the sensitive negotiations.

“Outside in the light, it’s harder.”

GOP Clown Car

Salon: Jeb’s “James Baker” problem: Why hawks are turning on the “anti-Israel” Bush

Aren’t GOP presidential politics just great? You wake up one morning and suddenly Jeb Bush is the “anti-Israel candidate” in the Republican presidential primary field.

 How did this happen? Last we checked, Jeb Bush loved the dickens out of Israel. He’s been very clear about his deep affection for any and everything that (the right wing of) Israel does. “Governor Bush’s support for Israel and its Prime Minister is clear,” Bush’s spokesperson, Kristy Campbell said Monday night. This is perfectly in line with his support for the dumb Tom Cotton letter, and his insistence that the nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran is “bad” and should be rejected because Israel. Et cetera et cetera, SO ON, AND SO ON. Jeb Bush has no interest in straying from the prevailing party line on Israel, which is that American foreign policy should be conducted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But why, pray tell, was Kristy Campbell issuing this reassurance of Jeb Bush’s deep, unwavering, total love for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel late on a Monday night? Because James Baker, the former White House chief of staff, Treasury Secretary, and Secretary of State under Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr., had just addressed the annual J Street conference.

J Street is the advocacy group founded as a more liberal counterpart to AIPAC. It is critical of the Israeli right wing and does not see it as helping the prospects for peace in the Middle East. So naturally conservatives see J Street as a radical extremist left-wing terrorist organization in bed with the mullahs of Iran and hellbent on securing the total annihilation of Israel. (The views of American Jews at large, meanwhile, tend to align with J Street’s.)

Fascinating. I actually don’t think Jeb has a serious chance for the nomination. For one thing, he has zero charisma. He comes across as stuffy and boring.

Raw Story: Bill O’Reilly tells David Letterman: I’ve never ‘fibbed’ on the air ‘that I know of’

“Have you ever fibbed on the air?” Letterman asked the Factor host.

“Fibbed? Not that I know of,” O’Reilly responded. “What I do is analysis — different from what other people do. So I bioviate and give my opinion, as you well know. But it’s not worth it for me to do that.”

Letterman countered that there was a common factor linking O’Reilly’s editorializing and NBC’s Brian Williams’ position as a network anchor.

“Trust is the residue of both positions,” the Late Showhost said. “People must trust you to the same degree. They might disagree with you, but they must trust you, the same way they trust Brian Williams.”

Fibbed? No, but he’s told hundreds of bald faced lies; and Fox viewers trust him because they can’t tell the difference between reality and propaganda.

Raw Story: Watch Sarah Palin push a Koch-backed scheme to kill the VA and replace it with vouchers.

Sarah Palin is using recent scandals to apparently push for the dismantling of the Veterans Administration.

The federal agency has been rocked in recent months by scandals – including the deaths of at least 40 veterans awaiting care at facilities in Arizona — that resulted in a shakeup of its top leadership.

New VA Secretary Robert McDonald was recently forced to apologize after misstating his military service record while speaking to a veteran during a photo opportunity, which Palin said called his character into question.

Palin cited these and other incidents in a Facebook video posted Tuesday evening as justification to “clean house” at the VA and “fire bad employees like we do out in the private sector.”

“It’s time to reform the VA so thoroughly that vets don’t have to depend on it for their basic needs,” Palin said.

That’s about as good an idea as Ted Cruz’s proposal to abolish the IRS.

Spring Clean by Mariette Voke

Spring Clean by Mariette Voke

So . . . . What else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread and enjoy the rest of your early Spring Wednesday.


Tuesday Reads: Zimmerman Speaks, Cruz Announces, and Hillary Clinton Prepares to Run

the-piano-lesson

Good Morning!!

Get your barf bags ready before you read the new “interview” with George Zimmerman. I put that word in quotes, because the so-called “interview” was with Zimmerman’s divorce lawyer Howard Iken, not an objective journalist who might have asked uncomfortable questions. I couldn’t bring myself to read the whole thing, but you can do so at the Ayo and Iken website. You can also watch the video if you can stomach it. I did read a couple of press reports:

The Orlando Sentinel reported, George Zimmerman: President Obama amped up racial tension against me.

In his first public comments since the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute him for violating Trayvon Martin‘s civil rights, George Zimmerman says he was victimized by President Obama….

In it, he faulted the media for portraying him as a racist and the criminal justice system for bringing him to trial but saved his harshest criticism for Obama, whom he accused of trying to prosecute “an innocent American.”

“For him to make incendiary comments as he did and direct the Department of Justice to pursue a baseless prosecution, he by far over-stretched, over-reached,” Zimmerman said.

The president, whom he referred to as “Barack Hussein Obama,” should have told the public, ” ‘Let’s not rush to judgment,’ ” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman told his attorney that he doesn’t feel guilty about killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed and walking to his father’s home after buying skittles and iced tea at a local convenience store.

He said he’s convinced there’s nothing he could have done differently that would have allowed both him and Trayvon to survive their confrontation that night.

“In all fairness, you cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving,” he said.

Talking Points Memo: George Zimmerman Compares Himself To Anne Frank, Says Obama Victimized Him.

“I believe that God does everything for a purpose, and he had his plans and for me to second guess them would be hypocritical and almost blasphemous,” Zimmerman said. “Had I have had a fraction of a thought that I could have done something differently, acted differently so that both of us would’ve survived then I would have heavier weight on my shoulders.”

His lawyer, Howard Iken, asked him whether he was the same man he was five years ago.

“Absolutely not,” Zimmerman said. “I have to have my guard up significantly. … I still believe that people are truly good at heart, as Anne Frank has said, and I will put myself in any position to help another human in any way I can.”

189l

Apparently “God” actually wanted Trayvon dead and Zimmerman just happened to be the medium for “God’s” handiwork. Because, you know, “God” is a racist who hates black teenagers….

Don’t put away that barf bag just yet. The next topic is Ted Cruz’ announcement yesterday that he’s running for president. Cruz made the big announcement at Liberty University in Virginia, which was founded by Jerry Falwell. You can read the full transcript at Time Magazine. Cruze praised the “christian” college profusely, but please note that Cruz himself chose to get his education at Princeton and Harvard.

Cruz led off the speech with a lengthy and sentimental description of his and his wife’s family history. Then he launched into his dream for the future of America.

I want to talk to you this morning about reigniting the promise of America: 240 years ago on this very day, a 38-year-old lawyer named Patrick Henry stood up just a hundred miles from here in Richmond, Virginia, and said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison “we demand our liberty.”

Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.

Today millions of young people are scared, worried about the future, worried about what the future will hold. Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together, saying “we will stand for liberty.”

Piano player and still life

That’s not too specific, but I’m pretty sure that by “liberty” Cruz means taking away freedom of choice from women, taking away health care from millions of Americans, blocking immigration reform, and increasing income inequality through tax cuts and removal of government regulations that protect the environment and the health and safety of workers.

Cruz went on to provide some specifics:

Five years ago today, the president signed Obamacare into law. Within hours, Liberty University went to court filing a lawsuit to stop that failed law. Instead of the joblessness, instead of the millions forced into part-time work, instead of the millions who’ve lost their health insurance, lost their doctors, have faced skyrocketing health insurance premiums, imagine in 2017 a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare.

Imagine health care reform that keeps government out of the way between you and your doctor and that makes health insurance personal and portable and affordable.

Yes, you’ll just have to imagine that, because you won’t get it with a Republican president.

Instead of a tax code that crushes innovation, that imposes burdens on families struggling to make ends met, imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard.

Imagine abolishing the IRS.

So taxes would get paid on the honor system? And with a flat tax, the burden would fall mostly on lower wage earners. Again, it’s about “freedom” for the rich and the rest of us can pay for it.

Woman at the piano matisse

Women  and LGBT people can forget about their freedom under a Ted Cruz presidency.

Instead of a federal government that wages an assault on our religious liberty, that goes after Hobby Lobby, that goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor, that goes after Liberty University, imagine a federal government that stands for the First Amendment rights of every American.

Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.

There’s much more of Cruz’s “freedom” talk at the link.

Some reactions to the speech:

Think Progress: Ted Cruz Just Laid Out The Most Anti-Woman Agenda Yet.

FactCheck.org: FactChecking Ted Cruz

The Week: The Obama-like rhetoric, record, and divisiveness of Ted Cruz.

Mediaite: Jon Stewart Mocks Ted Cruz’s Televangelist-Like Big Speech.

SFGate: The Ten Best Things About Ted Cruz Running for President.

woman-at-tbe-piano

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton seems to be getting close to announcing her own run for president. Yesterday she had a private meeting with President Obama.

From Politico: Hillary Clinton meets Barack Obama at the White House.

Clinton was in Washington for an event about the future of urban policy hosted by the Center for American Progress in the morning and the presentation of the Toner Award at a dinner in the evening.

In between, the all-but-declared Democratic presidential candidate swung by to see her old boss in the building she’s hoping to move into.

The White House wouldn’t comment about whether a meeting was going to happen earlier in the day, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed afterward that it had happened — though he provided few details.

“President Obama and Secretary Clinton enjoy catching up in person when their schedules permit,” Earnest said. “This afternoon they met privately for about an hour at the White House and discussed a range of topics.”

I wonder if they talked about Clinton’s announcement and what Obama would do to back her up?

Music lesson

Also at Politico, Gabriel DeBenedetti wrote that Clinton and other Democrats are thrilled that Ted Cruz will be running for the GOP nomination.

Ted Cruz: Hillary Clinton’s wrecking ball.

Democrats from both inside and outside the Clinton camp have groused for months that the all-but-certain candidate was moving too slowly in formulating and projecting a rationale for running for the White House outside of her gender and the dreaded “it’s my time” argument. She was relying too much on a platform of inevitability, they said — the same platform that doomed her bid in 2008. But those closest to the former secretary of state have counseled patience, arguing that a core element of Clinton’s plan was to get out of the way and let the dueling wings of the Republican Party savage each other while she floats above it all.

Cruz, they say, is Hillary’s wrecking ball.

People close to Clinton smiled at the sight of the first-term senator wandering alone on stage at Liberty University, implicitly threatening a civil war with the “mushy” establishment of his party that he loves to decry — while at the exact same time Clinton sat comfortably alongside heavyweights from her own party’s progressive and labor elements, who have thus far entirely declined to challenge her.

Meanwhile the clamoring of some liberal groups to recruit Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the progressive darling, was entirely unheard in downtown Washington as Clinton spent her morning discussing domestic policy at the headquarters of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank run by her allies. The presumptive Democratic front-runner sat near a pair of union bosses and current and former urban mayors, making sure to throw in some love for liberal hero Bill de Blasio, the New York City mayor, as she previewed pieces of her likely domestic policy platform.

She touched all corners of the Democratic Party in the morning performance before meeting with President Barack Obama in the White House and speaking at an award ceremony for political reporters in the evening, dogged only by barbs from her Republican critics.

So for Clinton, Monday was smooth sailing. For Republicans, her camp figures, it signaled the beginning of a wild and messy primary contest that will let Clinton appear to be the adult in the room before she takes on a bloodied GOP nominee.

Could the GOP clown car be even more packed with loonies in 2016 than it was in 2012?

What are you hearing? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great day.

NOTE: The paintings of piano players by Matisse are meant as a tribute to our fearless leader Dakinikat and her new moneymaking enterprise.


Monday Reads: Bedlam and Abrahamic Cults

Good Morning!

Portrait_of_a_patient,_Surrey_County_Asylum_(8408235730)I’m going to just give you some links to look at today since I’m probably going to bed to sleep as you’re waking.  Such is my life right now.  I’ve been trying to keep up with some of the recent political news but frankly, it’s somewhat disturbing and hearkens back to BostonBoomer asking if Republicans are even human beings these days.

The clown car is going to get its first passenger this week and it’s one of the whackiest of the whackadoodles.  Dominionist and ego-maniacal fruit cake Texas Senator Ted Cruz is set to kick off with some kind of announcement.  You may notice that I have an interesting set of vintage photos up today.  These are haunting imagines of the residents of historical bedlams.  It reminds me that some times the most dangerous people are not the ones we lock up.

Sen. Ted Cruz plans to announce Monday that he will run for president of the United States, accelerating his already rapid three-year rise from a tea party insurgent in Texas into a divisive political force in Washington.

Cruz will launch a presidential bid outright rather than form an exploratory committee, said senior advisers with direct knowledge of his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made yet. They say he is done exploring and is now ready to become the first Republican presidential candidate.

The senator is scheduled to speak Monday at a convocation ceremony at Liberty University in Virginia, where he is expected to declare his campaign for the presidency.

Over the course of the primary campaign, Cruz will aim to raise between $40 million and $50 million, according to advisers, and dominate with the same tea party voters who supported his underdog Senate campaign in 2012. But the key to victory, Cruz advisers believe, is to be the second choice of enough voters in the party’s libertarian and social conservative wings to cobble together a coalition to defeat the chosen candidate of the Republican establishment.

The firebrand Texan may have few Senate colleagues who will back his White House bid, but his appeal to his party’s base who vote disproportionately in Republican primaries could make him competitive in Iowa and beyond.

We’ve said this here before, but Ted Cruz and his brand of Dominionism is a dangerous extremist movement that hopefully will be placed in the air and sunshine for all to see.  This  article by Chris Hedges reminds usPortrait_of_a_patient,_Surrey_County_Asylum_(8408235610) of exactly how deluded these folks can be.  BB has done extensive research on the Dominionist movement and its Washington DC insider cult of the “Brotherhood”. You can find her writings in our SkyDancing files.  However, I’m going to point at the Hedges article as a good description of the crazy Cruzs.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz—whose father is Rafael Cruz, a rabid right-wing Christian preacher and the director of the Purifying Fire ministry—and legions of the senator’s wealthy supporters, some of whom orchestrated the shutdown, are rooted in a radical Christian ideology known as Dominionism or Christian Reconstructionism. This ideology calls on anointed “Christian” leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation “biblical.” It seeks to reduce government to organizing little more than defense, internal security and the protection of property rights. It fuses with the Christian religion the iconography and language of American imperialism and nationalism, along with the cruelest aspects of corporate capitalism. The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it—its leaders champion small government and a large military, as if the military is not part of government—and its laughable pseudoscience are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous.

The cult of masculinity, as in all fascist movements, pervades the ideology of the Christian right. The movement uses religion to sanctify military and heroic “virtues,” glorify blind obedience and order over reason and conscience, and pander to the euphoria of collective emotions. Feminism and homosexuality, believers are told, have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian right, is a man of action, casting out demons, battling the Antichrist, attacking hypocrites and ultimately slaying nonbelievers. This cult of masculinity, with its glorification of violence, is appealing to the powerless. It stokes the anger of many Americans, mostly white and economically disadvantaged, and encourages them to lash back at those who, they are told, seek to destroy them. The paranoia about the outside world is fostered by bizarre conspiracy theories, many of which are prominent in the rhetoric of those leading the government shutdown. Believers, especially now, are called to a perpetual state of war with the “secular humanist” state. The march, they believe, is irreversible. Global war, even nuclear war, is the joyful harbinger of the Second Coming. And leading the avenging armies is an angry, violent Messiah who dooms billions of apostates to death.

Dominionists believe they are engaged in an epic battle against the forces of Satan. They live in a binary world of black and white. They feel they are victims, surrounded by sinister groups bent on their destruction. They have anointed themselves as agents of God who alone know God’s will. They sanctify their rage. This rage lies at the center of the ideology. It leaves them sputtering inanities about Barack Obama, his corporate-sponsored health care reform bill, his alleged mandated suicide counseling or “death panels” for seniors under the bill, his supposed secret alliance with radical Muslims, and “creeping socialism.” They see the government bureaucracy as being controlled by “secular humanists” who want to destroy the family and make war against the purity of their belief system. They seek total cultural and political domination.

L0041119 'Monomania of pride' patient at West Riding Lunatic AsylumBetween this odd cult and the Opus Dei Catholics–who the church itself considers a cult–we’ve seen some pretty odd policies come to fruition.  The GOP’s current budget recommendations are just one example of the absurdity of giving policy making to people who believe in a literal Satan and think some kind of end time is upon us.  It’s back to the 19th Century and then some. Please go read the complete essay written by Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir.  I’ve skipped the part where he points to the complicity of the Democratic Party which has been essential to this entire debacle.

No period of recorded history made possible the accumulation of so much wealth so quickly, or represented a purer laboratory to experiment with the operations of unfettered and unregulated capitalism. As Marx documented in hair-raising fashion in Chapter 10 of “Capital,” the early 19th century saw industrial wages driven down to the level of bare subsistence, while the advent of gaslight and then electricity stretched the working day deep into the hours of darkness, beyond any limits imagined by the most ruthless feudal aristocrat. (Even the divine right of kings, he observes, could not compel medieval peasants to work after the sun went down.) Profit became the object of stringent mathematical analysis for the first time, and Victorian capitalism learned to maximize profit – or “surplus labor,” the work an employee performs after covering the cost of her own continued existence – with magnificent precision and endless ingenuity.

But there’s more to the allure of the Victorian era, and the renewed class war of the 21st century, than unmitigated greed. Class interests shape ideology, and ideology shapes class interests. I’m inclined to think that the Kochs and their political hobby-horses are not entirely hypocritical, or at least that they genuinely believe the path to renewed American greatness lies in unregulated profit-taking and the political defeat and disempowerment of the working class. All that wealth that was so rapidly created by driving the laboring people of the British Isles into such spectacular misery – by working 7-year-old children 16 hours a day, in numerous documented instances — fueled the rise of a mighty industrial economy, and a globe-spanning empire.

This is where the belligerent foreign-policy stance of Cotton and other Republican radicals, and their naked yearning for war with Iran and an expanded American military presence around the world, dovetails with their Mr. Bumble approach to the ungrateful and undeserving poor. They believe that a nation ruled by the rich – by the very, very rich – is a great and powerful nation, and that in the long run the lower orders will be better off if they do as they’re told. It’s a contradictory blend of macho fantasy, discredited supply-side economics and wishful thinking, which reveals all their rhetoric of fiscal responsibility as utter bullshit (as, in fact, a pretext for class war). But through it all runs a strong current of neo-Victorian and neo-Calvinist morality, and a confused nostalgia for the fixed social hierarchies and uncontested global dominance of the British Empire. Why should we wonder (they ask) at America’s declining superpower status? We have surrendered our moral fiber to minimum-wage laws and environmental regulations and the $121 a month in food-stamp benefits provided to Tom Cotton’s poorest Arkansas constituents.

Big Capital’s mission to remake America through renewed class war is far from complete, and there is no near-term version of reality in which Cotton and Cruz live out their wild fantasies of repealing Obamacare, killing food stamps, privatizing Medicare and Social Security, and all the rest of it. But if I had told you a few years ago that public-sector unions would be eviscerated across a wide swath of the labor-friendly Midwest, that would have sounded outrageous too. Inch by inch, the stealth strategy of the Koch brothers is winning a war that most Americans don’t even recognize as a war, between classes we no longer see as classes. In the greatest victory of all, Marx’s history-making proletariat has been broken down by the scrubbing bubbles of class-war ideology into millions of individual “consumers,” who all happen to have low-wage, non-union jobs in the service sector. Only one side is fighting the class war; the other has been persuaded that no war is even possible, and therefore it must surrender.

""Not only do I worry about the bugfuck insanity that has captured Republicans, I worry that they’ve found an evil cousin soulmate in Israel’s PM that will drag us straight into more wars.  Here’s a good article from 378e22e69d8b509bbb636cfb96bca673Dana Milbank.  Is Israel retaining its status as a democracy any more than we are here in the US?  What does this mean for the number of Jewish people who’ve seen Israel as their last, safe place on earth? 

Some right-wing outfits contest these numbers and try to make the dubious case that Israel can annex the Palestinian territories and still survive as a democratic Jewish state. Those were the type of voters Netanyahu was fishing for when he said before the election that he would not allow a Palestinian state — and when he warned on election day that “Arab voters are coming out in droves.” But in the end there can be no democratic Jewish state unless there is also a Palestinian state.

My friend Jeffrey Goldberg, in a powerful new article in the Atlantic on the tenuous future of Europe’s Jews, recalled an event he attended in the fall with American Jewish leaders at Vice President Biden’s residence. Biden, Goldberg recalled, told the story of a long-ago visit with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who told him that Israel’s “secret weapon” was that the Jews “have no place else to go.”

“Folks,” Goldberg quoted Biden as saying to the American Jews, “there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones. You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States . . . there’s only one guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel.”

Goldberg thought Biden had “antiquated notions about Jewish anxiety.” And it’s true that Jews are safe and happy in the United States today — but that could change. This is why I plunged my baby in the mikvah. And this is why I was appalled by Netanyahu’s disavowal of a two-state solution.

Without two states, there won’t be even one Jewish state if — God forbid — my daughter or her progeny someday have no place else to go.

Then, there are headlines like this that make me furious: “Female IDF soldiers barred from mess hall due to presence of ultra-Orthodox troops.”

The army closed a mess hall to women and barred a female officer from entering when new recruits of the ultra-Orthodox Nahal battalion were having lunch, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The incident happened at the Tel Hashomer induction base Thursday. The IDF explained the move by saying the army had promised that there would be no women around ultra-Orthodox recruits during their induction.

According to Channel 2 News, the battalion commander, Col. Uri Levi, said he thought most of the battalion’s new recruits were not ultra-Orthodox. “A minority come from ultra-Orthodox homes and some are not observant at all,” he wrote in a letter.

According to a reservist at the base Saturday, about 80 recruits were inducted into the battalion, most of them wearing the knitted skullcap identified with the religious-Zionist movement, which is generally more liberal on social affairs.

The reservist said a female officer who arrived at the mess hall was told she could not enter and eat because of the presence of the ultra-Orthodox recruits.

“If a female officer can’t sit in the mess hall on this day, we’ve gone crazy,” said the reservist, who said he knew ultra-Orthodox society well. “What if a group of settlers said they didn’t want to sit with Arabs or Druze, or that we couldn’t serve with Muslims?”

This is really over-the-top discrimination so as not to offend one small minority group of fundamentalists.  How does that work in a democracy?

augusteD So as not to leave out the crazies in the other Abrahamic cult, the “Islamic State” is calling on its backers to start killing US Military Personnel.

Islamic State has posted online what it says are the names, U.S. addresses and photos of 100 American military service members, and called upon its “brothers residing in America” to kill them.

The Pentagon said after the information was posted on the Internet that it was investigating the matter. “I can’t confirm the validity of the information, but we are looking into it,” a U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday.

“We always encourage our personnel to exercise appropriate OPSEC (operations security) and force protection procedures,” the official added.

In the posting, a group referring to itself as the “Islamic State Hacking Division” wrote in English that it had hacked several military servers, databases and emails and made public the information on 100 members of the U.S. military so that “lone wolf” attackers can kill them.

The New York Times reported that it did not look like the information had been hacked from U.S. government servers and quoted an unnamed Defense Department official as saying most of the information could be found in public records, residential address search sites and social media.

What sort’ve hornets nest has been whacked that has created a swarm of buzzing, stinging, religious pests?   More importantly, why are they in high places in governments?  This is truly just one of the disturbing trends of this century.  Who would think in an age of science and knowledge that religious fundamentalism and cults would carry so much sway?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?