Monday Reads: Why Voting Matters more than Ever

imageGood Morning!

I spent some time this weekend canvassing the Esplanade Ridge neighborhood of the 7th Ward.  I hadn’t canvassed neighborhoods since I ran for office 20 years ago.  I’m about this close to going back to being a clinic escort volunteer also.  I was scared to death of the nascent right wing radical christian movement back then, but now I’m just mad as hell and not going to hide from them any more.

I was sitting next to a seventy-three year old black woman in my first organizational meeting for Mary Landrieu’s GOTV effort here in New Orleans a few weeks ago.  We were mostly surrounded by very young and optimistic activists.  Demographics that have a lot to lose depending on the outcome of these midterm elections were well represented.

We were asked to introduce ourselves by telling others why we were there.  My answer was pretty easy.  I’m tired of the backlash on rights around the country. I explained that my grandmother was a middle aged mother before she could even vote and that every young woman owed it to their grandmothers to get out there and defend their rights. I said restrictions on voting and rights were pulled down by people that wanted to make life better for us and now we have to turn around and do the same for those that come after us.  That woman sitting next to me said that every time a black person does not vote it’s a slap in the face of Dr. King.

Think about that.

It may seem futile.  It may drive you nuts to read about all the insanity going on.  But, we have to stop this wherever we are right now because the kids coming after us deserve better.  Many of us are the children of people who did a lot of fighting and activism to give us the rights that we have today.  We owe it to them to pass a better situation forward like they did for us.

My Great Uncle Jack died from the lingering effects of Mustard Gas in the War to End all Wars.  We now seem to have perpetual war and even though we have no money to feed our nation’s starving children, there seems to be more than enough money for drones, air strikes, and military advisers.

Quite a few of us spent years trying to get police departments to put violent crimes and rapes against women and children in the major crimes divisions instead of the property crimes area that housed them 40 years ago.  We fought for laws that gave credence to the victim’s testimony so that she didn’t require at least two witnesses to prove sexual assault and so that any personal information about her other than what was going on at the time of the crime couldn’t enter into the courtroom.

Yet, look at the problems we still face.  Many fought for my girls and me so we could control our bodies and not rely on back alley abortions or rich relatives to get us to where we could get birth control or abortions. We are nearly there again. Look at things now.  Why, they’re even trying to tell us that slavery ended voluntarily and that we shouldn’t make a point of teaching our kids about the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2 or atrocities that were committed along The Trail of Tears or at Wounded Knee. Right wing nuts say that history should be glossed over and forgotten in case any kids find out that our past wasn’t all parades and prayers in the classroom to the proper imaginary friend.

f5ac82c403345cc091c80fad60a44326Elections matter now more than ever.

Here, in Louisiana, we are losing so many things to the damage done by oil companies and the attempt to make the river more compliant to commerce.  We have a very ambitious lawsuit pending against these interests and the governor and government of Louisiana is doing everything it can to hurt YFT123suffragettethe people and environment of Louisiana.  Whoever voted these jerks into office is killing themselves, their livelihoods, and the living things down here up to and including people. The companies that have damaged our coasts and wetlands should pay for their destruction and its consequences.

Beneath the surface, the oil and gas industry has carved more than 50,000 wells since the 1920s, creating pockets of air in the marsh that accelerate the land’s subsidence. The industry has also incised 10,000 linear miles of pipelines, which connect the wells to processing facilities; and canals, which allow ships to enter the marsh from the sea. Over time, as seawater eats away at the roots of the adjacent marsh, the canals expand. By its own estimate, the oil and gas industry concedes that it has caused 36 percent of all wetlands loss in southeastern Louisiana. (The Interior Department has placed the industry’s liability as low as 15 percent and as high as 59 percent.) A better analogy than disappearing football fields has been proposed by the historian John M. Barry, who has lived in the French Quarter on and off since 1972. Barry likens the marsh to a block of ice. The reduction of sediment in the Mississippi, the construction of levees and the oil and gas wells “created a situation akin to taking the block of ice out of the freezer, so it begins to melt.” Dredging canals and pipelines “is akin to stabbing that block of ice with an ice pick.”

The oil and gas industry has extracted about $470 billion in natural resources from the state in the last two decades, with the tacit blessing of the federal and state governments and without significant opposition from environmental groups. Oil and gas is, after all, Louisiana’s leading industry, responsible for around a billion dollars in annual tax revenue. Last year, industry executives had reason to be surprised, then, when they were asked to pay damages. The request came in the form of the most ambitious, wide-ranging environmental lawsuit in the history of the United States. And it was served by the most unlikely of antagonists, a former college-football coach, competitive weight lifter and author of dense, intellectually robust 500-page books of American history: John M. Barry.

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005, John Barry was a year and a half into writing his sixth book, “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul,” about the puritan theologian’s efforts to define the limits of political power. Barry is not a fast writer; his books take him, on average, eight years to complete. “I tend,” Barry says, “to obsess.” Earlier in his career, he spent nearly a decade as a political journalist, writing about Congress, an experience he drew upon for his first book, “The Ambition and the Power.” But after that book’s publication, he quit journalism and cocooned himself in research, reading and writing. He took on vast, complex episodes in American history that in his rendering become Jacobean dramas about tectonic struggles for power. “The Ambition and the Power” would make an appropriate subtitle for any of his books — particularly “Rising Tide,” his history of the 1927 Mississippi River flood, the most destructive in American history.

Barry’s research for “Rising Tide” had made him an amateur expert on flood prevention, and in the days after Hurricane Katrina, he received requests from editors and television-news producers for interviews. He accepted nearly every one of them and within days of the storm had become one of the city’s most visible ambassadors in the national press. “I felt I had an obligation,” Barry told me, “to convince people that the city was worth rebuilding.”

Like many others, Barry was frustrated that he couldn’t figure out why New Orleans had flooded so catastrophically. When he studied the numbers — the wind shear on Lake Pontchartrain, the storm surge, the inches of rainfall — they didn’t add up. After making calls to some of his old sources, he concluded that the levees hadn’t been overtopped, as officials from the Army Corps of Engineers assumed, but had collapsed because of design flaws. (He was among the first to draw attention to this fact in an Op-Ed article published in The New York Times that October.) Barry concluded that just as in 1927, people died because of cynical decisions made by shortsighted politicians drawing on bad science. For Barry, Hurricane Katrina was not the story of a natural disaster; it was a story of politics, science and power.

a2f886cad0b9662f2e5a35761211db3bThe interest of we the people is not served by protecting the very few rich that control so much wealth and income in our country.  They are not job creators.  They are wealth extractors.  Just yesterday, JJ reminded us how important the Senate Race is in her state.  The Republican Candidate may talk about Job Creation on the campaign trail but to the folks that matter he brags about Job Outsourcing.

Yes, it’s late in the cycle, and of course all sorts of “fundamentals” are baked into the cake, and without question, many voters probably won’t hear about this or understand what it’s about. But still, having said all that, this report from Politico’s Bresnahan and Raju is not good news for GA GOP Senate candidate David Purdue, who’s already been hammered in both the primaries and the general election for being a Mitt-Romney-like specialist in corporate downsizing:

David Perdue has run aggressively as a “job creator,” touting his record as a top executive with Fortune 500 companies as the chief selling point in his Georgia Senate campaign.
Yet during a controversial chapter in his record — a nine-month stint in 2002-03 as CEO of failed North Carolina textile manufacturer Pillowtex Corp. — Perdue acknowledged that he was hired, at least in part, to outsource manufacturing jobs from the company. Perdue specialized throughout his career in finding low-cost manufacturing facilities and labor, usually in Asia.
During a July 2005 deposition, a transcript of which was provided to POLITICO, Perdue spoke at length about his role in Pillowtex’s collapse, which led to the loss of more than 7,600 jobs. Perdue was asked about his “experience with outsourcing,” and his response was blunt.
Yeah, I spent most of my career doing that,” Perdue said, according to the 186-page transcript of his sworn testimony.
The Georgia Republican then listed his career experience, much of which involved outsourcing.

A good part of the rest of the story involves Perdue and his campaign spot bobbing and weaving and explaining that “sourcing” doesn’t always mean “outsourcing” and that “outsourcing” isn’t always overseas, and this is just cherry-picking, and let’s blame the government for businesses shedding workers, bark bark woof woof. But the reality is that when you are defending your “outsourcing” record, you have lost at least half the argument, especially in a state currently leading the nation in unemployment.

A Hash Bash party at U-M Diag leads to arrests in Sept. 1973.

So, we’re not supposed to complain or dissent.  We’re supposed to just shut up and appreciate the appalling violations of our rights and destruction of our democracy.  Yesterday, Reince Preibus actually said that the  GOP Shuts Down Abortion Clinics because women ‘deserve compassion, respect’ and evidently forced birth no matter what the pregnant woman believes about the nature of life or the circumstances of the pregnancy.

NBC host Chuck Todd on Sunday pressed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus about why his party opposed most regulations on business, except when it came to abortion clinics.

“One of the things is you don’t like a lot of regulations on business,” Todd noted during an interview on Meet the Press. “Except if the business is an abortion clinic.”

The NBC host pointed out that 80 percent of the clinics in Texas could be forced to close because of a strict Republican-backed anti-abortion law.

“Too much regulation, is that fair?” Todd wondered. “Why regulate on the abortion issue now [instead of waiting until] you win a fight in the Supreme Court and ban abortion altogether? Why restrict a business now in Texas?”

“The fact of the matter is we believe that any woman that’s faced with unplanned pregnancy deserves compassion, respect, counseling,” Priebus replied.

“But 80 percent of those clinics are gone,” Todd pressed. “So they have to drive for 2 or 300 miles. Is that compassion?”

Priebus, however, shot back that Republicans were most concerned with “whether you ought to use taxpayer money to fund abortion.”

“I mean, that’s the one issue that separates this conversation that we’re having,” he insisted, adding that the 2014 election would be decided on other issues.

“Obamacare, jobs, the economy, Keystone pipeline,” Priebus opined. “So you can try to steer — talk about abortion again, but the fact is of the matter is, if you’re in Skagway, Alaska, you’re thinking about the fact of why my life isn’t better off today than it was when this senator was elected six years ago.”

But the women in Skagway may also be concerned with the scarcity of reproductive services in their area. The nearest Planned Parenthood clinic is about 100 miles away in Juneau, but the trip takes over six hours because the route includes a five-hour ferry ride.

morty-jeanne-manford-1972-d1af71c54b419cd5803f30251d62031f2a4db4b3-s6-c30There are three SCOTUS justices over the age of 75 and one of them is Ruth Bader Ginsburg whose dissent from the tyranny of the majority has been an essential release to those of us that have had our rights destroyed.

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Republicans] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided.

She knows how good she is and she is not afraid to judge others. (When Weisberg asks why the Court, while moving forward on gay rights, has swung in such a conservative direction on women’s rights, Ginsburg says, “To be frank, it’s one person who made the difference: Justice [Anthony] Kennedy.”) Given her profession, that’s as much as saying that she’s not afraid. And she is quite right: if she had resigned when the party-line worriers would have liked her to, one wouldn’t have her magnificent dissent in the Hobby Lobby case, or her matchless voice. That 1973 case was about whether the husbands of soldiers had to prove that they were economically dependent before getting benefits, while wives got them automatically. The Court’s jurisprudence on gender is something that Ginsburg has been building since then. And not only on gender: she, not John Roberts, deserves the credit for saving the Affordable Care Act. The Court is, no doubt, an extremely partisan institution. But that doesn’t mean that its members are just pegs to be traded. The Court is also an institution where seniority matters. There is no Ginsburg whom Ginsburg is holding back.

Do Democrats want to make sure that a President of their party is in office when Ginsburg leaves the Court? Then win the next election; battle it out, rather than fretting and sighing about how an older woman doesn’t know when it’s time to go. (Ginsburg is urged to be selfless a lot more loudly than is Stephen Breyer, who, at seventy-six, is only five years younger, and less of a presence.) If all this talk reflects sublimated doubt about the candidate that the Democrats look likely to field in 2016, then be open about that, and deal with it. Or make sure that the same constraints that—as Ginsburg quite correctly points out— the Republicans, even as a minority party in the Senate, place on Obama, are put on any Republican in the White House. As Dahlia Lithwick put it in a thorough dismantling of the Ginsburg-should-go nonsense, “It’s perverse in the extreme to seek to bench Ginsburg the fighter, simply because Senate Democrats are unwilling or unable to fight for the next Ginsburg.” (Lithwick adds, “I have seen not a lick of evidence that Ginsburg is failing…. If anything, Ginsburg has been stronger in recent years than ever.”)
But, the counter-argument goes, Obama could appoint a fifty-year-old Democrat—maybe not, to borrow Ginsburg’s phrase, “anyone I would like to see in the court,” but also not a Republican, and that would be enough. (That thinking helps explain why the President tried to name Michael Boggs to the federal bench, despite his anti-choice, anti-same-sex-marriage votes in the Georgia legislature; earlier this week, Democrats effectively killed his nomination.) Justices can be unpredictable: John Paul Stevens, admired by liberals, was appointed by Gerald Ford (and was on the Court until he was ninety). But this is clearly not a good moment to get anyone with ambitious positions—anyone interesting—through the Senate. Why seek it out? An exchange that requires the certain sacrifice of Ginsburg for the uncertainty of whomever Obama could get through is not even sensible in a coldly pragmatic way.

There is another reason why Ginsburg should be on the Court for this particular stretch of its history. In the Elle interview, Ginsburg speaks about the period after Sandra Day O’Connor, the only other woman on the Court at the time, retired (to take care of her dying husband). “When Sandra left, I was all alone,” she says.

I’m rather small, so when I go with all these men in this tiny room. Now Kagan is on my left, and Sotomayor is on my right. So we look like we’re really part of the court and we’re here to stay. Also, both of them are very active in oral arguments. They’re not shrinking violets. It’s very good for the schoolchildren who parade in and out of the court to see.

MAKERS_RightsProtest1969_tx800We have no guarantees these days other than enough votes gets these folks out of office.  We also know that there are entire channels that are supposed to be dedicated to news but are dedicated to propaganda and to getting angry, ignorant people  out to the polls.  They do so by using fear and lies.

Miles O’Brien, the science correspondent for PBS Newshour, lamented on Sunday that he was embarrassed at some of the coverage of Ebola on Fox News that had a “racial component,” and seemed intended to scare viewers.

On the Sunday edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter looked back at the last week’s coverage of Ebola on Fox News. In one case, Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck seemed almost disappointed when an expert downplayed the threat of the disease in the United States.

“We’ve heard the words ‘Ebola in America,’ a lot the past few days,” Stelter noted. “It’s technically true. There is a case of Ebola here in America. But to say Ebola is here, doesn’t that sort of inflame people’s fears?”
“It borders on irresponsibility when people get on television and start talking that way when they should know better,” O’Brien explained. “They should do their homework and they should report in a responsible manner.”

“Unfortunately, it’s a very competitive business, the business we’re in, and there is a perception that by hyping up this threat, you draw people’s attention,” he added. “That’s a shame to even say that and I get embarrassed for our brethren in journalism.”

Stelter also pointed to Fox News host Andrea Tantaros, who had warned viewers that West Africans might come to the U.S. infected with Ebola, and then go to a “witch doctor” instead of the hospital.

“We could digress into what motivated that and perhaps the racial component of all this, the arrogance, the first world versus third world statements and implications of just that,” O’Brien remarked. “It’s offensive on several levels and it reflects, frankly, a level of ignorance which we should not allow in our media and in our discourse.”

The success of these lies plays out in politics.  This vile human being votes and is active in politics.BwI6YDqIMAA9ksR

The  former general counsel and executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party is coming under fire for the novel solutions to the Ebola epidemic he is posting on Twitter.

The vehemently pro-life Todd Kincannon began by arguing that anyone who contracts Ebola should be summarily executed:

Today is the last day to register to vote for many states including Louisiana.  Please make sure you are registered and that you vote.  Encourage every one you know to vote.  It’s important.

People DIED so you could vote.   Don’t ever forget that.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Representing for Banned Books Week 2014

cagedBirdGood Morning!

Did you know that September 21-27 is Banned Books Week?   I’m going to be sharing some covers of banned books in this post.  I also would like to recommend buying these books or donating to a public library supporting banned book week as a way to support literacy and freedom of expression. You still have time to attend an event at many local libraries!!

One of the great things I’ve found is that the libraries that are doing the most recognition of the week are in states where book banning has been rampant.  This is from the Nashville Public Library.

“James and the Giant Peach,” “The Great Gatsby,” “1984,” “The Grapes of Wrath.” These are just some of the books that have either been banned or had their place on library shelves and in curricula challenged at some point.

The American Library Association keeps annual lists of challenged books, as well as a roster of classic books that have faced similar challenges over the years. Many of the books are such a part of our consciousness — and quite a few have been adapted into beloved and acclaimed films — that their presence on anyone’s target list might be surprising.

Through readings, film screenings and other programming, the Nashville Public Library is observing Banned Books Week, which takes place Sept. 21-27.

How about a deck of trading cards with the covers of Banned Books from the Lawrence Kansas bbw-day-5-tangoPublic Library!  They have decks from 2013 and now 2014 available and it’s a great cause!  It helps the library there!

One of Lawrence’s most endearing collector’s items will be back on the market next week when the Lawrence Public Library celebrates the freedom to read by handing out trading cards of banned books designed by local artists.

The designs of this year’s deck of seven cards, and the artists behind them, will be announced Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. in the library’s auditorium at 707 Vermont St. The following week, from Sept. 21-27, during the nationwide Banned Books Week, the library will hand out one card per day for free.

The cards, which are supposed to illustrate the themes of a book that’s faced censorship, first appeared two years ago and attracted some national attention for the project’s creativity, forcing the library to order an extra printing and mail them all over for a small price.

“It’s a really fun and quirky thing we do that really relates to what Lawrence stands for as a community,” marketing director Jeni Daley said.

Thirty-eight artists submitted designs this year, with a book of their choice serving as inspiration. The winners, already decided by a panel of judges, also include a middle school student, Daley said. All artwork submissions will be viewable in the library.

images (2)How about buying one of the banned children’s books or YA fiction books for that special child in your family?  One of the things that I love doing is sending gifts at unexpected times to the people that I love.  Both my girls will be getting copies of a “banned book” next week.  I prefer unexpected gift giving to obligatory holiday guilt gift giving.

The ALA keeps a list of banned books and ways to find them and how to buy copies.

Top ten frequently challenged books of 2013 has been released as part of the State of America’s Library Report. Find out which books made the list.

The ALA promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) promotes awareness of challenges to library materials and celebrates freedom of speech during Banned Books Week. This event is typically observed during the last week of September of each year. See Banned Books Week for information and resources for getting your library or organization involved in this event!

 These are the topics that are most likely to elicit a challenge according to an ALA study from 2000-picture-512009.  As you can see,  much of this appears to be efforts to control things a lot of people think are morally offensive.

Over this recent past decade, 5,099* challenges were reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

  • 1,577 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;
  • 1,291 challenges due to “offensive language”;
  • 989 challenges due to materials deemed “unsuited to age group”;
  • 619 challenged due to “violence”‘ and
  • 361 challenges due to “homosexuality.”

Further, 274 materials were challenged due to “occult” or “Satanic” themes, an additional 291 were challenged due to their “religious viewpoint,” and 119 because they were “anti-family.”

You’ll notice that most seem to offend our society’s primary superstition.  So much for separation of specific church dogmas and the rest of us.  What’s your favorite banned book?

So, I’m going to move to journalism and the folks that write, run, and pundit themselves into believing they’re important.  This bit is from two columns last week written by Ezra Klein–our own Beltway Bob–and his wife who now writes for New York Magazine.   Annie Lowrey has also written for Salon and NYT so between Klein’s time at WAPO, they basically come from the same Skinner Box.  Lowrey wants to know why all “media disruptors” are exclusively white males.

It’s happening again. There’s a list of “media disruptors.” It’s predominantly white dudes. It need not be. And people are fed up.

For, in the new-media renaissance of the past few years, there are women and minority “disruptors” everywhere if you only take the time to look. There’s Jane Pratt of xoJane; Ben Huh of Circa; Sharon Waxman of the Wrap; Sommer Mathis of CityLab; Mary Borkowski, Rachel Rosenfelt, Jennifer Bernstein, and Ayesha Siddiqi of the New Inquiry; Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily; Nitasha Tiku of Valleywag; Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe of the Toast; and Susan Glasser of Politico Magazine. That’s only off the top of my head.

There are three pernicious and interrelated phenomena at work here. First, founders are disproportionately white dudes. Second, white dudes are disproportionately encouraged to become founders. Third, white dudes are disproportionately recognized as founders.

Let’s take that last problem first. There’s a tendency for the media – indeed, for people in general — to see white dudes as “founders” or “entrepreneurs” or “bosses” or “disruptors” and to see women and people of color as anything else. The impulse is deep-seated. When you think of a leader, Jack Donaghy pops into your head rather than Oprah. When you’re to think of management characteristics, you tend to think of characteristics ascribed to men, not women.

Ultimately, this phenomenon can lead to the erasure of women and minorities in leadership roles from the picture — as in Vanity Fair’s list making the rounds today. My husband, Ezra Klein, is a founder of Vox, along with his partners Melissa Bell and Matthew Yglesias. Ezra ended up on the list, but Matt and Melissa did not. It is not the first time it has happened, either.

Well, Annie, maybe THIS has something to do with it.  There are fewer women leading newsrooms than ever before.  This from a transcript from PBR News Hour.  Oh, btw, I do not think of a fictional TV character as a media leader over a real person like Oprah Winfrey.  However, there are not many women that could raise the kind of money it takes to launch a media outlet because of the good old boy nature of the banking industry.  Still, the first modern media mogul I think about is Katharine Graham, tyvm. She oversaw WAPO when it was really worth a read.tropic_of_cancer_henry_miller_8037

HARI SREENIVASAN: Women hold few positions of authority in newsrooms across the United States. This according to a Nieman report published on Thursday by a Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

For more about this, we’re joined now from Portland, Ore., by Anna Griffin, she is a reporter and editor at the Oregonian and is the author of the report. So, how significant are the disparities between men and women when it comes to leadership positions in newsrooms?

ANNA GRIFFIN: They are really, really stark. Women in the United States make up something like 35 percent of all newspaper supervisors, they run three of the top 25 circulation newspapers and the numbers translate internationally too. Women run one of the top 25 circulation international newspapers. So, it is an industry wide problem.

HARI SREENIVASAN: This isn’t a pipeline issue. There are as many women coming out of journalism programs, or communication programs in colleges, so what’s happened, what’s behind this?

ANNA GRIFFIN: That’s a great question. That’s part of what we try to get into and I think answering it is really complicated, because as you mentioned what we see is, coming out of journalism schools women make up half the population of young journalists, and over the next 20 years of so every time you take a five-year snapshot, the percentage of women has dropped.

And to get into those leadership roles, particularly at old-school, mainstream news organizations, you have to stick around. Experience still plays a large part in who gets promoted, especially who gets picked for top jobs. Women are opting out, they’re opting out earlier and earlier.

In some cases it’s the answers you would expect. Anybody who wants to have a family has to make a really hard choice, because journalism it’s a hard job. It’s a low-paying job, it’s a job that requires a lot of flexibility in your schedule.

But it’s not just that, even in countries that have really family friendly policies that let women and men go spend a lot of time with their families and then guarantee them their jobs by when they get back. The percentages are really similar. It’s not just what you think it is, it’s something systemic that we’re really as an industry struggling to put our fingers around.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What are some of the consequences, let’s say editorially, is the news that we consume different when women are in positions of leadership?

ANNA GRIFFIN: The academic studies are really mixed on whether there is a tangible ‘today’s newspaper looks different,’ but what we know, and I think you can draw some conclusions from this is that organizations that are run by women tend to quote more women, tend to review more books by women, tend to have women covering harder news beats.

Every editor, male or female, has their own personal style, their own preference in the kinds of stories they like their people to cover. But I think the broad answer to that is women and men do think differently and different women and men think differently.

Particularly in mainstream media, our job is to reflect the entire community that we covered at any given organization, you need as broader range of voices as possible. And that’s just not happening right now in a lot of places. In a lot of places it’s exactly who you would expect, you know the middle-aged, white man making the choices. And all of us have blind spots, all of us have biases and that presents a problem.

Yes.  Every one has their blind spots and biases.  So, of course, this means I’m back to Beltway Bob who is just simply agog at the number of ‘effing geniuses’ in the beltway called Political Scientists.

Yes. ***SPEW TRIGGER*** Don’t sip your coffee before you read any more.

02fc5b9b035d8a69ba7e9559c257e330The Washington consensus is the consensus of  effing geniuses.  Thomas Frank has read Klein’s piece so you don’t have to read it.

In a recent article on Vox, Ezra Klein declared that his generation of Washington journalists had discovered political science, and it is like the hottest thing on wheels. In the old days, he writes, journalists “dealt with political science episodically and condescendingly.” But now, Klein declares, “Washington is listening to political scientists, in large part because it’s stopped trusting itself.” Klein finds that political scientists give better answers to his questions than politicians themselves, because politicians are evasive but scientists are scientists, you know, they deal in “structural explanations” for political events. So the “young political journalists” who are roaring around town in their white lab coats frightening the local bourgeoisie “know a lot more about political science and how to use it” than their elders did.

Hence Klein’s title: “How Political Science Conquered Washington.”

Nearly every aspect of this argument annoyed me. To suggest, for starters, that people in Washington are—or were, until recently—ignorant or contemptuous of academic expertise is like saying the people of Tulsa have not yet heard about this amazing stuff called oil. Not only does Washington routinely fill the No. 1 spot on those “most educated cities” articles, but the town positively seethes with academic experts. Indeed, it is the only city I know of that actually boasts a sizable population of fake experts, handing out free-market wisdom to passers-by from their subsidized seats at Cato and Heritage.

The characteristic failing of D.C. isn’t that it ignores these herds of experts, it’s that it attends to them with a gaping credulity that they do not deserve. Worse: In our loving, doting attentiveness to the people we conceive to be knowledgeable authorities, we have imported into our politics all the traditional maladies of professionalism.

The powerful in Powertown love to take refuge in bewildering professional jargon. They routinely ignore or suppress challenging ideas, just as academics often ignore ideas that come from outside their professional in-group. Worst of all, Washingtonians seem to know nothing about the lives of people who aren’t part of the professional-managerial class.

How well-known is this problem? It is extremely well known. One of the greatest books of them all on American political dysfunction, David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest” (1972), is the story of how a handful of poli-sci geniuses got us into the Vietnam War. How political science conquered Hanoi, you might say, except that it didn’t exactly work out like that.

You can see this dysfunction for yourself in the headlines of recent years. Ever wonder why the foreign policy authorities never seem to change, keep coming back, despite racking up shattering failures like the Iraq War? It’s because of the way Washington worships expertise, and the way these authorities have perched themselves atop a professional structure that basically does not acknowledge criticism from the outside.

Ever wonder why the economic experts never seem to change, keep coming back, despite racking up such shattering failures as the housing bubble and the financial crisis and the bank bailouts? Ever wonder why a guy like Larry Summers gets to be chief economist at the World Bank, then gets to deregulate Wall Street, then gets to bail Wall Street out, then almost gets to become chairman of the Fed, and then gets to make sage pronouncements on the subject of—yes— inequality? It’s for the same bad reasons: Because D.C. worships expertise and because Summers, along with a handful of other geniuses, are leading figures in a professional discipline dominated by what a well-informed observer once called a “politburo for correct economic thinking.”

Some people are ignored in this town even though they are often right while others are invited back to the Oval Office again and again even though they are repeatedly wrong—and the reason is the pseudo-professional structure of the consensus. No one has described how it works better than Larry Summers himself. “I could be an insider or I could be an outsider,” Elizabeth Warren says Summers told her, back in the bailout days.

“Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.”

Okay, so I just have to go back to the Klein article before I turn you into fans of burning Washington pundits in effigy along with copies of their articles.  Yes, folks, Political Science has conquered the Beltway and Beltway Bob.f692e__enhanced-buzz-17300-1372253623-6

American politics is changing. Politicians are losing power and political parties are gaining it. A politician’s relationships might once have been a good guide to her votes. Today, the “D” or “R” after a politician’s name tells you almost everything you need to know.

Part of the rise of political science is the result of the blogosphere. Crooked Timber, the Monkey Cage, the Mischiefs of Faction and other poli-sci blogs have let political scientists speak for themselves. But that’s only benefitted political science because what they’ve said has been worth listening to.

Political scientists traffic in structural explanations for American politics. They can’t tell you what an individual senator thinks, or what message the president’s campaign will try out next. But they can tell you, in general, how polarized the Senate is by party, and whether independent voters are just partisans in disguise, and how predictable elections generally are. They can tell you when American politics is breaking its old patterns (like with the stunning rise of the filibuster) or when people are counting on patterns that never existed in the first place (like Washington’s continued faith in the power of presidential speeches).

As politicians lose power and parties gain power, these structural explanations for American politics have become more important. That’s what I’ve found, certainly. Talking to members of Congress and campaign operatives is useful, but not terribly reliable. Politicians are endlessly optimistic — in their line of work, they almost have to be — and they want to believe that they and their colleagues can rise above party and ignore special interests. But they usually can’t. They begin every legislative project hoping that that this time will be different. But it usually isn’t. An understanding of the individual dynamics in Congress or in the White House can be actively misleading if it’s not tempered by a sense of the structural forces that drive outcomes in American politics.

40-1Yes, forget all politics are local and other meaningless adages.  Just grab yourself a copy of SPSS, a database, and makes some loose associations between issues, geography, and tribal identifications.  After all, economists are great at predicting the economy, meteorologists certainly predict the weather well, so why not rely on your local political scientists to predict election quirks via “structural forces”.

One of my favorites duties in a hinterland branch of the Federal Reserve bank came when the President of the District was about ready to do his duty on the Open Market Committee.  He would come armed with all this research from the economists and just a few more things.  Each of the branches would arrange a shindig and invite representative business owners, farmers, oil and gas company executives, etc to give him an earful. Were they going to add inventory?  People?  More fields?  How did they feel about the future of their businesses?

After pouring over the charts, he’d weight it all by the news on the ground of these industries and people that drove the district’s economy.  It was his acid test before voting to raise or lower interest rates or give a speech or print up the cover letter to the District’s stats and forecasts.  It made all those numbers sing and dance to a tune. It put a Main Street face to a stat.  I remember that one of the first things I did while trying to figure out why so many businesses were using derivatives that seemed beyond the grasp of most operational finance people was to call my exhusband of the perfect SAT score and ask him if he crunched through the Black Scholes model or something else to hedge their Fannie and Freddie portfolios at his rather large Insurance company.  He had no idea.  They paid other people to do that and they just followed along.  Did he understand any of it?  Not even this guy who took advanced engineering mathematics at university knew what the hell was going on.  That’s when you say to yourself, there’s some trouble here.  It’s great to be a researcher and a PhD but it’s also good to know the limitations of your models. It’s also important that the people who rely on your research understand those limits too.

And with that, I leave you to savor a banned book.  Gosh, look how many of them are in my library!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads

Guernica, by Pablo Picasso

Guernica, by Pablo Picasso

 

“My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. In the picture I am painting — which I shall call Guernica — I am expressing my horror of the military caste which is now plundering Spain into an ocean of misery and death.”  — Pablo Picasso

 

Good Afternoon!!

I’m experiencing some kind of paralysis today, so I don’t know what this post is going to consist of. I’m just going to take it moment to moment. First thing this morning, I read List of X’s long comment on Dakinikat’s Friday reads.  I hope everyone will go read it. I think that could lead to our having a serious, productive discussion on Israel/Palestine. For now, I’m just going to put up the latest stories I can find on the conflict.

NPR: Gaza Update: Fate Of Israeli Soldier Unknown; Death Toll Surpasses 2009 Level, by Bill Chappell.

A day after they were to begin a cease-fire, Israel and Hamas are still firing at one another, in a conflict that has killed at least 1,650 Gazans, 63 Israeli soldiers and 3 Israeli civilians, according to tallies from the respective sides.

Those numbers surpass the estimated fatalities from the last major Gaza conflict, which raged for around three weeks from 2008-2009.

Hamas, which has been condemned for breaking a temporary peace and capturing an Israeli soldier, said Saturday that it has lost contact with the group that conducted the ambush that killed two soldiers and resulted in Lt. Hadar Goldin’s capture.

The military wing of Hamas released a statement today, NPR’s Emily Harris reports, in which it said that after an Israeli bombardment, “the Hamas fighters are believed to be dead and if there was a soldier with them, he probably is too.”

At the link, read a brief synopsis of events in the conflict as of this morning. Other headlines:

Haaretz: Israel seeks to end Gaza operation unilaterally,  by Barak Ravid.

Israel’s security cabinet decided after a five-hour meeting Friday night that Israel will no longer seek a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip via negotiations with Hamas, senior Israeli officials said. Therefore, Israel does not intend to send a delegation to the Cairo truce talks as previously agreed in the course of the last cease-fire, before it was violated by Hamas.

The senior officials said that ministers were unanimous in the cabinet meeting in their position that there is no point in pursuing cease-fire negotiations after Hamas violated the previous one by capturing an IDF soldier on Friday. According to the officials, the ministers also agreed that the captured soldier will not change Israel’s overall strategy. In other words, the IDF will continue its operations to destroy the tunnels and the ground operation will not be significantly expanded at this stage.

The cabinet also decided that instead of efforts to reach a cease-fire through negotiations, Israel will focus on restoring Israel’s deterrence against Hamas. The senior officials said that in light of the failed cease-fire efforts, Israel will consider ending the operation and unilaterally leaving Gaza, relying on deterrence.

“We think there is still enough international legitimacy for an operation in Gaza,” said a senior Israeli official. “In the coming days the destruction of the tunnels will be complete, and then a decision will be made as to how to continue from there.” The official added that “if we feel that deterrence has been restored, we will leave the [Gaza] Strip on the basis of the ‘quiet for quiet’ principle. If we feel deterrence has not yet been achieved, we will continue the operation inside the Gaza Strip or exit and continue with the aerial bombardment.”

The Washington Post: A view of Gaza from the sea: How Israel’s navy patrols the coast, by Ruth Eglash.

For the war-weary group of international journalists struggling to find their sea legs, the patrol offered a rare insight into Israel’s navy, which over the past four weeks has acted as a strategic support to Israel’s ongoing military operation against Hamas in Gaza and served as a deterrent against militants attempting to infiltrate Israel via the sea.

“We were not surprised by Hamas’s attempt to infiltrate into Israel from the sea. They have used many different measures to attack us,” said Cmdr. Z, one of the Keshet’s two commanders who spoke on the condition of anonymity in accord with standard Israeli military protocol.

He was referring to an incident on July 8 when members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, attempted to attack an Israeli military base that sits on the coast just north of the Gaza Strip.Israeli surveillance cameras picked up on the infiltration early, and five Hamas militants were subsequently killed in the attack. Hamas later revealed that it had been training a naval commando unit for sea-related combat.

The Christian Science Monitor: What could be done to break the Israeli-Palestinian revenge cycle?, by Kristen Chick, correspondent, and Christa Case Bryant, staff writer.

In the battered Gazaneighborhood of Shejaiya, Ataf Ettish surveys what was once her home. An Israeli bomb ripped off the outside of the three-story building, exposing the blue and pink inner walls of her daughter’s bedroom.

The building next door is gone, replaced by a crater, the 80-year-old owner buried beneath the rubble. Ms. Ettish now lives in a United Nations shelter, sharing a single toilet with 1,000 people. 

“This is not a war – this is destruction of humanity,” she says. “I’ve lived through two previous wars here, but this is the worst.”

In the Israeli kibbutz of Kfar Aza, just across the border but a world away, Mark Joffe agrees it’s getting worse.

“Each time it happens … the rockets are bigger, the threats are bigger,” says Mr. Joffe, who says residents fear Hamas will infiltrate the border community (“Aza” is the Hebrew word for “Gaza”). “If we’d done the right thing five to six years ago, it would have been a lot less costly.”

Now many Israelis’ belief that an extended, harsh crackdown on Hamas will bring lasting peace is being put to the test. On Friday, a conflict that has cost 1,600 Palestinian lives and seen a quarter of Gaza’s population displaced from their homes looked set to enter a dangerous new phase after an apparent Hamas capture of an Israeli soldier.

Read the rest at the link.

Would this work?

 

Solution1

As if.

U.S. News

Back in Washington DC, another intractable conflict continues in Congress between crazy ultra-right-wing Republicans and semi-sane right wing Republicans. Here are the latest stories about that.

Reuters: U.S. House passes border-security funding bill to speed deportations, by David Lawder and Richard Cowan.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to crack down on Central American migrants, including unaccompanied children, who are flooding to the U.S. border with Mexico, as lawmakers passed a $694 million border security bill.

 

The 223-189 vote came one day after conservative Republicans balked at an earlier version of the measure, exposing a deep rift between Tea Party activists and more mainstream Republicans.

In passing the retooled bill, the Republican-led House ignored a veto threat from the White House. But with the Senate already on a five-week summer recess, this measure will advance no further at least until September.

Isn’t that just ducky? And this will lead to suffering for real people, not that most people in DC really give a sh*t.

House Democrats complained that the legislation would too speedily return children to dangerous conditions in their home countries. President Barack Obama called the Republican bill “extreme” and “unworkable.”

Later on Friday, the House also passed a separate bill reversing Obama’s 2012 policy suspending deportations of some undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children years ago by their parents.

The measure also would bar Obama from expanding this policy, possibly to parents of children who already qualify.

The tougher language in the twin bills would make it easier to deport migrant children and add money to deploy National Guard troops at the border with Mexico.

Dana Milbank opines: An upending of reason in the House.

After conservatives on Thursday brought down House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to address the border crisis, the new House Republican leadership team issued a joint statement declaring that President Obama should fix the problem himself.

“There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” the leadership quartet proclaimed, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.” ….

Just the day before, House Republicans had voted to sue Obama for using his executive authority. They called him lawless, a usurper, a monarch, a tyrant — all for postponing deadlines in the implementation of Obamacare. Now they were begging him to take executive action to compensate for their own inability to act — even though, in this case, accelerating the deportation of thousands of unaccompanied children coming from Central America would likely require Obama to ignore a 2008 law.

This was not a momentary lapse but a wholesale upending of reason.

Read the rest at the Washington Post.

ABC News: Pelosi Chases Republican Tom Marino Across House Chamber

(Ed. note: after he rudely insults her.)

In an unusual breach of decorum, even for the divided Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi chased Rep. Tom Marino across the House floor, taking offense at comments by the Pennsylvania Republican during debate on the border funding bill Friday night.

“We don’t have law and order,” Marino began as he wrapped up his comments on the border supplemental. “My colleagues on the other side don’t want to do anything about it.”

“You know something that I find quite interesting about the other side? Under the leadership of the former Speaker [Pelosi], and under the leadership of their former leader [Rep. Steny Hoyer], when in 2009 and 2010, they had the House, the Senate and the White House, and they knew this problem existed,” he continued. “They didn’t have the strength to go after it back then. But now are trying to make a political issue out of it now.”

Off-mic, Pelosi then approached Marino, crossing the aisle in view of cameras, and apparently challenged Marino’s assertion that Democrats did not do anything about the issue when they had majority control.

“Yes it is true,” Marino replied directly to Pelosi, who was House speaker in those years. “I did the research on it. You might want to try it. You might want to try it, Madam Leader. Do the research on it. Do the research. I did it. That’s one thing that you don’t do.”

John Parkinson of ABC apparently had no issues with what Marino said, just shock that Pelosi responded.

After Marino concluded his remarks and as many Republicans applauded their colleague, Pelosi crossed the chamber again in view of cameras, enraged, pointing and sticking her finger at Marino.

She then followed Marino up a Republican aisle, gesturing and arguing with him. Lawmakers on the GOP side gathered in dismay as one spoke out to tell the chair that the House was not in order, in an effort to halt the bickering.

H/T to Fannie for this video:

What sane person could blame her? But sanity is at a premium in U.S. politics and journalism today.

 

Other News Stories of Possible Interest

No one else her probably cares except Pat, but the last-place Red Sox completely blew up the team and then they beat the Yankees last night.

Boston Globe: New-look Red Sox drop Yankees.

U.S. News: Last-place Red Sox trade 5 veterans 9 months after winning World Series.

SF Gate: In shocking trade, A’s deal Cespedes for Red Sox’s Lester.

More Headlines:

HuffPo: Eric Garner’s Death By Police Chokehold Ruled A Homicide.

NYT: Explosion Kills Dozens at Eastern China Plant.

Christian Science Monitor: Why 400,000 people in Ohio can’t drink the water.

Reuters: New Libyan parliament meets far from city battlegrounds.

Reuters: American aid worker stricken with Ebola en route to U.S.

NPR: Big Data Firm Says It Can Link Snowden Data To Changed Terrorist Behavior.

LA Times: Russia keeps fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden in legal limbo.

Raw Story: Conservative KY judge says black defendant in Obama t-shirt ‘lucky to get out of here alive.’

LA Times: 911 calls about Facebook outage angers L.A. County sheriff’s officials.

Technicolor Guernca, by Loui Jouver

Technicolor Guernca, by Loui Jouver

I hope you’ll share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads: Through the Looking Glass?

Reading Woman, Armando Barrios

Reading Woman, Armando Barrios

 

Good Morning!!

I’ve spent the past week or so reading escapist literature and watching old TV shows in an effort to anesthetize myself against the overload of bad news we’ve been hit with lately. Yesterday I was feeling a lot better–my escapism seemed to be working to improve my overall mood.

Then last night as I was surfing around in search of interesting reads for this morning’s post, I came across something that jumpstarted me right through Alice’s looking glass.

You’ve probably heard about it too. Lois Lerner, who used to work for the IRS and who is at the center of one of the GOP’s crazy efforts to create a scandal that will bring down President Obama used the word “crazies” in a private e-mail to a colleague who was complaining about right wing radio hosts. Here’s the text of e-mail as quoted in The Washington Post yesterday.

During the exchange, Lerner says she is traveling in Great Britain. The name of the person she is emailing with was blacked out.

Lerner: “I’m ready. Overheard some ladies talking about American today. According to them we’ve bankrupted ourselves and at through. We’ll never be able to pay off our debt and are going down the tubes. They don’t seem to see that they can’t afford to keep up their welfare state either. Strange.”

Other person: “Well, you should hear the whacko wing of the GOP. The US is through; too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down, buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end. The right wing radio shows are scary to listen to.”

Lerner: “Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many assholes.”

Other person: “And I’m talking about the hosts of the shows. The callers are rabid.”

Lerner: “So we don’t need to worry about alien teRrorists. It’s our own crazies that will take us down.”

GOP crazies2

My initial response was the same as that of Mark NC at News Corpse (a site that makes fun of Fox News), So F**king What? Former IRS Official Says That GOP Crazies Are…CRAZY!

Republicans and their friends at Fox News have mastered the art of building mountains of bullshit from the lowliest troll-hills. It’s one of their favorite tactics to malign Democrats. Just grab a sentence fragment from a long speech and pretend that it is the whole of the comment from which it was extracted. Then feign outrage that such an awful remark could have been uttered.

The latest example of this rhetorical deceit was demonstrated when the GOP chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp, unscrupulously and selectively released some emails purported to be from Lois Lerner, the former IRS official who has been hounded by malevolent cretins like Rep. Darrell Issa in an attempt to fabricate ammunition to use against President Obama. Despite hundreds of wasted hours (costing millions of taxpayer dollars) engaged in hyper-partisan investigations, the Republican Inquisition has produced nothing implicating the President in any untoward activity.

The emails that Camp is now crowing about are just as meaningless as all of the other bogus “smoking guns” that these wingnuts have claimed would topple the administration. The headline that Camp has wrenched from the documents is that Lerner may have referred to certain individuals as “crazies” or “a-holes.” And, of course, this would only be an atrocity if those individuals were Republicans. Suffice to say that Camp wouldn’t give a Fig Newton if they were Democrats.

As Camp characterized this affair, Lerner was allegedly caught red-handed expressing her disgust for Republicans. And as the person at the center of the controversy over whether the IRS improperly subjected Tea Party groups to extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, Camp believes that these emails prove that she was biased. Consequently, Camp regards the emails as justification for appointing a special prosecutor and escalating the legal assault on Lerner and, ultimately, the White House.

There’s just one problem. The emails don’t don’t say what Camp alleges they say. And even if they did it wouldn’t mean anything. Most people in government have personal opinions and allegiances. There isn’t anything wrong with that, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the fair execution of their duties. And the evidence shows that Lerner’s department scrutinized applications of all political persuasions. The only organization that was denied tax-exempt status during the time in question was a liberal group.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. (center), flanked by the committee's ranking member, Sander Levin, D-Mich. (right), and Sam Johnson, R-Texas.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. (center), flanked by the committee’s ranking member, Sander Levin, D-Mich. (right), and Sam Johnson, R-Texas.

Please read the rest at the link.

So this humorous site agrees with me, but more mainstream sites are seemingly going along with the Camp’s notion that this e-mail is evidence of a major scandal. For example, Dave Wiegel characterized it as a “bombshell,” although he does point out that Lerner’s anonymous “e-mail partner” was talking about talk radio hosts, not Republicans in general. Huffington Post reported that Lerner had made “two disparaging remarks about members of the GOP.” Both HuffPo and Politico write that in one e-mail Lerner referred to Republicans as “a–holes,” but they sidestep the fact the context was a discussion of right wing talk show hosts.

As we approach the midterm elections, I can’t help but feel that most of the mainstream media is cheering for a Republican takeover. Am I the crazy one?

Here’s another example from self-described libertarian Nate Silver, Democrats Are Way More Obsessed With Impeachment Than Republicans.

House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that Republicans have no plans to impeach President Obama, and that all the impeachment talk was driven by Democrats hoping to stir up their base.

Boehner’s statement isn’t literally true: There have been mentions of impeachment around the edges of the GOP and by some Republican members of Congress. But on the whole, Democrats are spending a lot more time talking about impeachment than Republicans.

Consider, for example, the Sunlight Foundation’s Capitol Words database, which tracks words spoken in the House and Senate. So far in July, there have been 10 mentions of the term “impeachment” in Congress and four others of the term “impeach.” Eleven of the 14 mentions have been made by Democratic rather than Republican members of Congress, however.

Impeachment chatter has also become common on cable news. On Fox News this month, Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, called for Obama’s impeachment, for instance. But for every mention of impeachment on Fox News in July, there have been five on liberal-leaning MSNBC.

OK, so that’s this month. And this proves what? Democrats are throwing around the word “impeachment” in hopes of calling attention to what Republicans have been saying for years!  So f$%king what?!

Impeach obama

Again, I must resort to News Corpse for a sensible interpretation of the impeachment talk, CONSPIRACY: President Obama Is Trying To Impeach Himself.

Ever since the first inauguration of President Obama, right-wingers have been trying to undo the people’s decision to make him America’s chief executive. They declared that their top legislative objective was to make Obama a one-term president. In pursuit of that goal they have blocked most of his policy initiatives, judges, and government reforms. At the same time they have been hyper investigatory on everything from Fast and Furious, to the IRS, to ObamaCare, to his birthplace. All of this was squarely aimed at crippling or revoking his presidency.

This year Obama’s critics came out of the impeachment closet and began openly advocating for that legal nuclear option despite not having any legal basis for it. While many Tea-Publican whack jobs were earlier to the gate, Sarah Palin burst onto the scene a couple weeks ago with her own demand that Congress do their duty and trump up some phony articles of impeachment. It got so absurdly intense that Obama addressed it himself with fitting mockery.

So of course the next shoe to drop in this melodrama is that, along with everything else in the world, Obama is to blame for this too. In fact, according to some in the rightist crackpot community, it was all part of his nefarious plot to embarrass the GOP. Here is what Texas Republican Steve Stockman had to say about it when interviewed by the ultra-fringe rightists at WorldNetDaily:

“President Obama is begging to be impeached. [...] He wants us to impeach him now, before the midterm election because his senior advisers believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat. Evidently Obama believes impeachment could motivate the Democratic Party base to come out and vote.”

There you have it. The evil genius in the White House orchestrated the whole Obama-hate campaign from its earliest days in 2008 just so that he would be able to use impeachment, which is every president’s dream, as an election strategy six years into his presidency.

Earth to Nate Silver and the rest of the mainstream media: Steve Stockman, although insane, is an actual member of the House of Representatives, not some fringe character with no influence. And he has plenty of company in the House and even in the Senate (Ted Cruz anyone?). These people are crazy and they are in positions of awesome power.

GOP idea men?

GOP idea men?

Here’s one more example of mainstream acceptance of GOP insanity before I end this post and run screaming into the street while pulling my hair out in handfuls. From John Dickerson of Slate (via CBS News), Why the GOP’s class of 2016 hopefuls may be the best in generations.

What if they held a presidential campaign and a think tank broke out? House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who is considering running for president, offered his thoughts on poverty last week. Sen. Marco Rubio has been giving regular policy speeches on poverty, college loans, and helping the middle class. Former senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is promoting a book of policy proposals on education, family, and revitalizing American manufacturing. Sen. Rand Paul is offering ideas on criminal justice and will give a big foreign policy speech in the fall. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has given speeches on health care and education aimed at a national audience. His staff recently sent an email titled “policy leader” that linked to a Time piece about how he is preparing to be the candidate of ideas in 2016.

What the f&cking f&ck? Rich Santorum? Bobby Jindal? Marco Rubio? Paul motherf&&cking Ryan?! These are “candidates of ideas?” Dickerson continues,

Who isn’t trying to be the ideas candidate in the 2016 campaign? Texas Gov. Rick Perry is working to overcome his 2012 debate aphasia, so he’s trying to show some policy chops. Though former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush holds controversial ideas on Common Core education standards and immigration, those close to him say he won’t run unless he can promote those ideas with gusto.

It isn’t usually this policy-thick in the GOP presidential field. In primaries, there is sometimes one conservative candidate who tries to position himself through the creativity of his proposals, but mostly candidates engage in displays of strength on questions of orthodoxy–how much they want to cut taxes, shrink regulation, and lock up the borders. Now the Republican candidates are not only seeking to distinguish themselves from each other with the quality and originality of their ideas, but they are making the case that unless the party promotes new ideas, it will not prevail.

The class of candidates for 2016 has the potential to be the most robust in almost 40 years–perhaps in modern Republican history. It depends on who finally decides to run, of course, but six governors and four senators are thinking seriously about it.

GOP idea men?

GOP idea men?

I’m sorry. Dickerson thinks these morons are competing with each other on “quality and originality of…ideas?” Am I nuts? Am I hallucinating this crap? Surely Dickerson can’t really believe this sh#t.

Here’s a little sanity from Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly, Can the Big Brains of the GOP Survive the Primaries? and Damon Linker of The Week, Why GOP reformers are bound to fail. But even Kilgore seems to believe that Republicans will take over the Senate. From Talking Points Memo:

It’s true that public opinion surveys are not showing any 2010-style GOP “wave,” but Democrats are rightly nervous that when polls begin identifying likely voters closer to November, superior Republican “base enthusiasm” could put a thumb on the scales in their favor.

At least Kilgore thinks that catering to the base could hurt Republicans in the 2016 presidential election.

Why? Why would anyone vote for these insane right-wingers? And why is the media rooting for them? I just don’t get it. Am I crazy or what?

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.

 


Monday Reads: All the News that really isn’t fit to print and then some

Good Morning!

newspaper-boyWe have another dreadful mass shooting. This time in a Kansas City suburb and with horrid anti-Semitic overtones.  Three people are dead and one more is in critical condition.   The shooter is one of those right wing racists who had been spewing right wing hate propaganda for an extensive period of time. He even has served time in jail. So, of course, he has easy access to guns because FREEDOM!!!

Three people died Sunday when a gunman opened fire outside the Jewish Community Center and a senior living facility in Johnson County.

Police arrested the suspected shooter, a man in his 70s with a beard, outside Valley Park Elementary nearby by 2:45 p.m. He smiled and reportedly made anti-Semitic statements as he was led away. Police said the man, who was not from Kansas, used a shotgun in the slayings at the Jewish Community Center. He also had a handgun when he was arrested.

“We are investigating it as a hate crime,” said Overland Park Police Chief, but investigators are not sure of the motive.

Media reports identified the gunman as Frasier Glenn Cross Jr., 73, of Aurora, Mo., a small town in Lawrence County, southwest of Springfield.

Public records show that Cross also uses the name Frasier Glenn Miller.

A dispatcher with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department said Sunday night that officers were working with Johnson County authorities and the FBI. Another source close to the investigation acknowledged that Miller was the person of interest.

A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for Frasier Glenn Miller said she did not know where he was, and then began to cry.

Miller has a long history of anti-Semitic and racist statements. In 2010, as a self-proclaimed write-in candidate for the U.S. Senate from Missouri, Miller purchased or tried to purchase advertising time on several Missouri radio stations, including at least one in Kansas City. The ads bitterly denounced Jews, the federal government and African-Americans.

“We’ve sat back and allowed the Jews to take over our government, our banks and our media,” one radio commercial said.

The ads were considered so offensive that the Missouri Broadcasters Association asked for permission to ban their use. In June the FCC said Miller wasn’t a bona fide candidate, and the ads need not be aired.

Two of the victims Sunday were 14-year-old Reat Griffin Underwood and his grandfather, William Lewis Corporon, who attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood.

Max Blumenthal–along with others–has been researching Miller’s background.  Miller is a well-known white supremist . “Miller’s goal was ‘southern lewis-hine-dont-smoke-visits-saloons-1910independence. The creation of an all-white nation within…mother Dixie'” 

 The White Patriot Party (WPP) was a paramilitary, Christian Identity faction of the Ku Klux Klan founded by Glenn Miller in 1980. WPP was extremely racist: they supported apartheid, and set up hotlines featuring telephone recordings of a black man being lynched. WPP won considerable support in North Carolina by blaming the bad economic climate for farmers on international Jewish bankers. Some estimates put the WPP’s peak membership at 3000. Miller’s goal was “southern independence. The creation of an all-white nation within the one million square miles of mother Dixie. We have no hope for Jew York City or San Fran-sissy-co and other areas that are dominated by Jews, perverts, and communists and non-white minorities and rectum-loving queers.” (Miller, quoted in Ridgeway, 119)

The Order gave some of the $3.6 million they stole to Miller and the WPP. Miller was subpoenaed to testify at The Order trial because Order member Bruce Pierce said that Miller received $300,000 from the Order. Miller testified that he had received $200,000.

He has been on the watch list of Southern Poverty Law Center for some time.  He is a former KKK Grand Dragon from the Carolinas and has published an extensive amount of hate material.  He hates women, any one that’s not white, and believes in every Jewish conspiracy theory Hitler and his droogies ever invented.

Frazier Glenn Miller, who went by Glenn Miller, is the former “grand dragon” of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which he founded and ran in the 1980s before being sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for operating an illegal paramilitary organization and using intimidation tactics against African Americans. After subsequently forming another Klan group, the White Patriot Party, he was found in criminal contempt and sentenced to six months in prison for violating the court settlement. He went underground while his conviction was under appeal but was caught by the FBI with a weapons cache in Missouri. He served three years in federal prison after being indicted on weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the assassination of SPLC founder Morris Dees. As part of a plea bargain, testified against other Klan leaders in a 1988 sedition trial.

Criminal History:
In 1986, Miller was convicted on a federal contempt of court charge after violating the terms of a consent order that settled a lawsuit filed against him and his Klan group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was sentenced to a year in prison, with six months suspended. However, he disappeared while out on bond awaiting an appeal and was later caught in Missouri along with four other Klansmen and a cache of weapons.

In 1987, he pleaded guilty to a weapons charge and to mailing a threat through the mail. He had been indicted along with four other white SHORPY_05413usupremacists for conspiring to acquire stolen military weapons, and for planning robberies and the assassination of SPLC founder Morris Dees. In an agreement with federal prosecutors, he received a five-year prison sentence in exchange for his testimony against 14 white supremacist leaders in a sedition trial. He served three years of that sentence.

In His Own Words:
“White men have become the biggest cowards ever to walk the earth. The world has never witnessed such yellow cowards. We’ve sat back and allowed the Jews to take over our government, our banks, and our media. We’ve allowed tens of millions of mud people to invade our country, steal our jobs and our women, and destroy our children’s futures. America is no longer ours. America belongs to the Jews who rule it and to the mud people who multiply in it.”
–  U.S. Senate radio ad, 2010

“Today, true statistics be told, we’re less than half. And we’re dropping fast, while the dark peoples multiply like rats all around us, and as more tens-of-millions of them invade our country from all over the world. Our race is drowning literally in seas of colored mongrels. Our people buy almost twice as many caskets as cradles. Your race is dying before your eyes.”
– “Attention White Youth!” Miller’s website, March 12, 2010

“That’s a sad commentary for our politicians in Washington. They’re all a bunch of whores for Israel. They’re all corrupted to the core. And they are traitors to America.”
–  Interview with Howard Stern, April 6, 2010

“Woman have always chosen cowardice and slavery over war and violence for the obvious reason they’re the weaker sex. And they have responded to White male cowardice in the only way they could. They kiss up to every male but White ones.”
–  “Cowardice is the White Man’s Survival Strategy!” Miller’s website

“Our forefathers were absolutely right to be racists and to discriminate in favor of themselves. That racism and discrimination insured racial security, prosperity, and racial survival and procreation. ZOG and the Jews-media tricked us and shamed us out of our racism shame that has weakened us and divided us as a people, therefore cowards, unwilling to resist Jewish enslavement and genocide.”
– “Cowardice is the White Man’s Survival Strategy!” Miller’s website

6yearstlouis1910sx3President and Michelle Obama have sent their condolences to the families of the victims.  The murders are being investigated as hate crimes.   I’d like to say we’ll hear more about the need to register and restrict gun ownership but I know that conversation will go no where outside of most of the population of the United States.

Right wing meme enabler Sharly Attkisson is embarrassing herself once again. What a better place to make an ass of oneself than on Fox News?

Sharyl Attkisson, an investigative reporter who recently resigned from her post at CBS News, took shots at both her former employer and the Obama administration on Media Buzz Sunday morning, accusing CBS News of being too compliant with the White House, and the White House of overtly trying to stifle reporting.

“I didn’t run into that same kind of sentiment [at CBS] as I did in the Obama administration when I covered the Bush administration very aggressively,” Attkisson said, adding that when CBS has a problem with a story, “It never runs. Or it dies the death of a thousand cuts, as some of us say. If it’s something they don’t want it will be changed and revised and shortened and altered so much that it’s a shadow of its former self if it does air.”

Attkisson distinguished herself through continued reporting on various Obama administration issues, from Fast and Furious to0, especially, Benghazi. She called the White House efforts to influence reporting a more intense version of what she encountered under previous administrations:

Now there’ve always been tensions, there have always been calls from the White House under any administration I assume, when they don’t like a particular story. But it is particularly aggressive under the Obama administration and I think it’s a campaign that’s very well organized, that’s designed to have sort of a chilling effect and to some degree has been somewhat successful in getting broadcast producers who don’t really want to deal with the headache of it — why put on these controversial stories that we’re going to have to fight people on, when we can fill the broadcast with other perfectly decent stories that don’t ruffle the same feathers?

Attkisson said that efforts to paint her as a conservative journalist was “part of a strategy or campaign from people who don’t like what you’re doing.”

It’s good for a laugh at least.

Here are a few other headlines you may want to check out:SHORPY_03735u

           Idea of New Attention Disorder Spurs Research, and Debate

Utah Woman Allegedly Killed Seven Babies and Left Them in Her Garage

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad: war turning in regime’s favour 

Sebelius says she told Obama staying ‘wasn’t an option’

I really did try to warn you that the news wasn’t pretty today!  Anyway, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Jospeh H Davis (American artist, 1811-1865) Charles & Comfort Caverly & Son Isaac 1836 Cat, Top Hat, Newspaper,  Painted Table, Patterned Carpet

Good Morning!!

The Villagers are still nattering on about excepts from retired defense secretary Robert Gates’ new memoir Duty, which will be released on January 14.

The DC media is focused on Gates’ criticisms of President Obama and how they will embarrass the administration and negatively affect Hillary Clinton’s chances in 2016. What has impressed me so far in the excepts I have read is that Obama was wary of the military and willing to stand up to them. Some examples from an e-mail I received from Foreign Policy Magazine yesterday:

Gates on what Biden did to poison the military well: “I thought Biden was subjecting Obama to Chinese water torture, every day saying, ‘the military can’t be trusted.'”

On Obama’s approach to Afghanistan: “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission.”

On Obama’s approach to Afghanistan: “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.”

On Obama and Bush: “During my tenure as secretary, Bush was willing to disagree with his senior military advisers on the wars, including the important divergence between the chiefs’ concern to reduce stress on the force and the presidents’ higher priority of success in Iraq. However, Bush never (at least to my knowledge) questioned their motives or mistrusted them personally. Obama was respectful of senior officers and always heard them out, but he often disagreed with them and was deeply suspicious of their actions and recommendations. Bush seemed to enjoy the company of the senior military; I think Obama considered time spent with generals and admirals an obligation.”

On Obama as an ice man: “I worked for Obama longer than Bush and I never saw his eyes well up. The only military matter, apart from leaks, about which I ever sensed deep passion on his part was ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the law prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military that Obama successfully pushed to repeal.”

On an oval office meeting that deeply pissed him off: “…Donilon was especially aggressive in questioning our commitment to speed and complaining about how long we were taking. Then he went too far, questioning in front of the president and a room full of people whether Gen. Fraser was competent to lead this effort. I’ve rarely been angrier in the Oval Office than I was at that moment; nor was I ever closer to walking out of that historic room in the middle of a meeting. My initial instinct was to storm out, telling the president on the way that he didn’t need two secretaries of defense. It took every bit of my self discipline to stay seated on the sofa.

Every one of those quotes made me like and respect Obama and Biden more. I’m sure I’m not alone in that reaction.

A couple more “criticisms” quoted in The Atlantic: Robert Gates: The Iraq War Undermined U.S. Efforts in Afghanistan.

President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009.

Who doesn’t agree with that? Well, sure some right wing nut jobs, but the majority of Americans have completely soured on the Iraq war, according to many polls over the past few years.

Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike—as they did when advocating invading Iraq, intervening in Libya and Syria, or bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. But in recent decades, presidents confronted with tough problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents. Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort.

So Obama’s approach might have kept us out of Iraq, right? I don’t see that as a problem. I want my president to be wary of the military and hesitant to go to war. I want my president to get teary-eyed over granting rights to people who have been historically discriminated against and stay dry-eyed and rational when contemplating “military matters.”

robert_gates

So let Gates have his day in the sun. Today some in the media are already questioning whether his book may damage his reputation. From Foreign Policy again: Did Bob Gates’ New Book Just Trash His Golden Reputation?

Gates, 70, has unmasked himself as just another former Washington official writing just another kiss-and-tell in the soon-to-be-released Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, in which he takes shots at a sitting commander-in-chief, his top aides and Congress, an institution with which he often expressed frustration – but also respect. Gates was known for being discreet and sharp-minded, loyal to the office he occupied and careful about what he said in public. So deliberate were his public pronouncements about wars or national security policy or budgets that he became the E.F. Hutton of the Pentagon — everyone leaned in every time he had something to say.

But now his brand seems diminished by the scrappy, petty nature of many of his criticisms — even though some are substantive and legitimate — and a legacy he seemed quietly determined to protect may be permanently reduced to something less than what it once was.

We’ll have to wait and see. It’s also possible that the furor over Gates’ memoir will fade quickly, because another book is coming out on January 21, and it looks to be a lot more entertaining–the tell-all book about Fox News’ Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room, by Gabriel Sherman. Excerpts started leaking out yesterday and they are wild! Check these “key revelations” from Gawker:

  • During a salary negotiation in the 1980’s, Ailes offered producer Randi Harrison an additional $100 each week she would agree to have sex with him whenever he wanted.
  • He also privately thinks of Bill O’Reilly as “a book salesman with a TV show” and Brian Kilmeade as “a soccer coach from Long Island.”
  • During a 1990’s power struggle with NBC executive David Zaslav, Ailes was accused of making an anti-Semitic remark involving an obscenity and “the words ‘little’ and ‘Jew’.” NBC’s chairman and counsel believe “he probably said it.”

Roger Ailes

New York Magazine has published a lengthy except from Sherman’s book and it is the most fascinating and horrifying thing I’ve read in ages. Ailes is far weirder than I ever imagined. The article opens with a description of how Ailes moved into a rural town in upstate New York, hoping to return to his small-town roots, but instead bought the local newspaper and tried to transform it into a mini-Fox News. It’s a riot! Just a small except to whet your appetite for the bizarre:

As summer turned to fall, political issues began to arise. Alison Rooney, the copy editor, at first found reasons to be optimistic about the ownership change. She liked using the new computers to put out the paper and looked forward to the newsroom moving into a renovated two-story building on Main Street. But that honeymoon ended when Rooney laid out a press release from the Garrison Art Center that described a work invoking the “mythological story” of the Virgin Birth. After the release was published, the priest of Our Lady of Loretto wrote a letter to the editor, and Beth Ailes lit into Rooney. A few weeks later, Rooney got another dressing-down as she formatted a promotion of the high school’s upcoming production of Urinetown, this time from an editor who found the language offensive and removed the title of the show from the headline.

Another drama erupted after a reporter named Michael Turton was assigned to cover Haldane Middle School’s mock presidential election. After the event, Turton filed a report headlined “Mock Election Generated Excitement at Haldane; Obama Defeats McCain by 2–1 Margin.” He went on, “The 2008 U.S. presidential election is now history. And when the votes were tallied, Barack Obama had defeated John McCain by more than a two to one margin. The final vote count was 128 to 53.” Reading the published version a few days later, Turton was shocked. The headline had been changed: “Mock Presidential Election Held at Haldane; Middle School Students Vote to Learn Civic Responsibility.” So had the opening paragraph: “Haldane students in grades 6 through 8 were entitled to vote for president and they did so with great enthusiasm.” Obama’s margin of victory was struck from the article. His win was buried in the last paragraph.

Turton was upset, and wrote a questioning e-mail to Hunt, but never heard back. Instead, he received a series of accusatory e-mails from the Aileses. Turton had disregarded “specific instructions” for the piece, Beth wrote. “Do you anticipate this becoming an ongoing problem for you?” A short while later, Roger weighed in. Maureen Hunt’s instructions to focus on the school’s process for teaching about elections had been “very clear,” he wrote, and Turton’s “desire to change the story into a big Obama win” should have taken a backseat. Ailes described himself as “disappointed” by Turton’s failure “to follow the agreed upon direction.”

Soon afterward, Turton learned that Maureen Hunt had resigned, and Ailes continued his quest to bring “fair and balanced” to Philipstown.

John and Bonnie Raines, two of the burglars, at home in Philadelphia with their grandchildren. Mark Makela for The New York Times

John and Bonnie Raines, two of the burglars, at home in Philadelphia with their grandchildren. Mark Makela for The New York Times

Since I’ve been discussing new books so far, I guess I might as well continue. On Tuesday, The New York Times published interviews with some of the activists who broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania on March 8, 1971 and stole a massive number of files. They took the files to a remote location, studied them for ten days, and found evidence of the illegal FBI domestic spying program COINTELPRO. Unlike Edward Snowden, the burglars swore to keep their identities a secret so that the story itself would get all the public attention. From the Times article:

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups….

The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

“When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. “There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.”

That’s heroism in my book. They revealed real government abuses that had been almost unknown until they found the proof. Now one of the reporters who helped get the story out, Betty Medsger, has written a book called The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. It came out this week, and I’m dying to read it.

By contrast Snowden and his PR man Glenn Greenwald have so far revealed very little that we didn’t already know or suspect about NSA domestic spying and have spent most of the seven months since they began rolling out their revelations 1) publishing articles about the NSA spying on foreign countries and their partnerships with foreign countries who have few espionage resources; 2) giving self-aggrandizing interviews and bragging about all the secrets they have; 3) Defending Snowden’s decision to defect to Russia. At the same time Greenwald has sold book and movie rights and worked on a media start up funded by libertarian E-bay and Paypal billionaire Pierre Omidyar. I haven’t heard anything about Greenwald sharing his earnings with Edward Snowden either.

Fortunately some in the media are beginning to point out inconsistencies in Snowden’s and Greenwald’s behavior. Here is an op-ed by Doyle McManus that lays out the case very well. Edward Snowden, in shades of gray I agree with just about everything he wrote.

Is Edward Snowden” Edward Snowden a whistle-blower or a traitor?

Debate over the renegade computer technician who leaked thousands of secret National Security Agency documents is too often reduced to that deceptively simple choice.

But it’s the wrong way to pose the question, because Snowden is both of those things at the same time. Yes, he’s a whistle-blower, and if that were all he had done, he would deserve our thanks for forcing a debate over the NSA’s swollen powers.

But he’s also a scoundrel who deserves prosecution and public condemnation. That’s because his leaks no longer seem focused on protecting U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights or toughening safeguards on the NSA. Instead, Snowden’s disclosures have expanded far beyond those laudable aims to exposing U.S. intelligence-gathering operations that appear not only legal but legitimate in the eyes of most Americans.

McManus is referring to revelations about the NSA doing it’s job, which is gathering foreign intelligence to protect national security. A little more:

“…most of those disclosures, from Merkel to Al Qaeda, have nothing to do with Americans’ right to privacy. Snowden has acknowledged that his ambitions go far beyond limiting what the NSA can do at home. “I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European or Asian,” he told the Guardian in June.

Well, OK. But that makes him, by his own description, a global crusader against NSA spying anywhere, not merely a whistle-blower against potential abuses inside the United States. It means some of his disclosures have made Americans safer against government prying, but others have probably made us less safe.

And for a man who proclaims himself a fighter for universal rights, accepting asylum in Russia and praising his hosts for their devotion to freedom does not strengthen his claim to consistency, let alone nobility.

I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you. What stories are you following today. Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!


New Year’s Eve Reads

First Night fireworks, Boston

First Night fireworks, Boston

Good Morning!!

Today is the last day of 2013. Tonight at midnight, we’ll bid adieu to another year. I can’t say I’m sorry to see this one go.

There will be lots of celebratory fireworks in cities around to world tonight; the revelry has already begun in New Zealand. USA Today:

New Zealand rang in the New Year with multicolored fireworks erupting from Auckland’s Sky Tower at midnight Tuesday as thousands of cheering revelers danced in the streets of the South Pacific island nation’s largest city.

Early pyrotechnic shows erupted over Sydney Harbor, dazzling hundreds of thousands viewers ahead of the main event in Australia and Dubai will later try to create the world’s largest fireworks show to ring in 2014.

Unfortunately we’ve also seen some scarier explosions in the past couple of days. Yesterday afternoon there was another accident in North Dakota involving the transport of crude oil. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: Cassleton, N.D. residents flee town after oil train explosion. So far the evacuations are still voluntary and only about 65% of the 2,400 residents of Cassleton have left their homes.

The explosion happened shortly after 2 p.m. Monday after a BNSF grain train derailed and crashed into a crude oil train near Casselton, which is 20 miles west of Fargo, causing tank cars to explode in towering mushroom-cloud flames. No one was injured in the crash….

In the initial hours after the explosion, authorities told residents to stay indoors to avoid the smoke. Later, when residents were urged to evacuate, some drove to Fargo, where a shelter had been set up for them.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the train carrying grain derailed first, then knocked several cars of the oil train off adjoining tracks. BNSF said both trains had more than 100 cars each….

“It was black smoke and then there were probably four explosions in the next hour to hour and a half,” said Eva Fercho, a Casselton resident who saw the fiery aftermath.

The cars were still burning as darkness fell, and authorities said they would be allowed to burn out.

From the Brampton (Canada) Guardian:

The derailment happened amid heightened concerns about the United States’ increased reliance on rail to carry crude oil. Fears of catastrophic derailments were particularly stoked after last summer’s crash in Quebec of a train carrying crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch. Forty-seven people died in the ensuing fire.

The explosions Monday afternoon sent flames and black smoke skyward outside of Casselton, about 40 kilometres west of Fargo. Investigators couldn’t get close to the blaze and official estimates of how many train cars caught fire varied….

Ryan Toop, who lives less than a kilometre away, said he heard explosions and drove as close as about two city blocks to the fire, which erupted on a day when temperatures were below zero.

“I rolled down the window, and you could literally keep your hands warm,” Toop said.

The tracks that the train was on pass through the middle of Casselton, and Cass County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tara Morris said it was “a blessing it didn’t happen within the city.”

No kidding. I’d say that’s a pretty big understatement. Here’s some raw video of the explosion.

In Russia, there are fears that two suicide bombings on Sunday and Monday signal “that a terrorist campaign may have begun that could stretch into the Winter Olympics.” AP via ABC News:

In the wake of Sunday’s bombing at the city’s main railway station and Monday’s blast on a trolleybus, police reinforcements and Interior Ministry troops have been sent into the city, regional police official Andrei Pilipchuk was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency. He said more than 5,200 security forces are deployed in the city of 1 million.

The Health Ministry said three more victims died on Tuesday, raising the toll to 34 — 18 from the station bombing and 16 from the bus. Officials said 65 other people were hospitalized with injuries.

Volgograd authorities have canceled mass events for New Year’s Eve, one of Russia’s most popular holidays, and asked residents not to set off fireworks. In Moscow, festivities were to go ahead but authorities said security would be increased.

There has been no claim of responsibility for either bombing, but they came only months after the leader of an Islamic insurgency in southern Russia threatened new attacks on civilian targets in the country, including on the Winter Games that are to begin Feb. 7 in Sochi.

After their enthusiastic defense of the racism, sexism, pedophilia, and homophobia of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Roberts, you’d think right-wingers would hesitate to attack a mild commentary involving race on MSNBC, but you’d be wrong.

MSNBC Panel Criticized For Segment About Romney’s Black Grandchild (VIDEO). From TPM:

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and the panelists on her Sunday morning show drew criticism Monday for poking fun at a Romney family photo that included their adopted African-American grandson, Kieran Romney.

Harris-Perry had the panelists attempt to caption a Romney family photo, which included all of Mitt Romney’s grandchildren.

Harris-Perry joked that Kieran Romney would marry Kanye West’s daughter, North West.

“Could you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?” she asked.

Panelist and comedian Dean Obeidallah said the photo “really sums up the diversity of the Republican party.” And actress Pia Glenn started singing “one of these things is not like the other.”

Steve Benen took a look back at the Sunday political talk shows to see what proportion of the guests were from the Democratic and Republican parties. We knew this already, but it’s stunning to see it in a graphic.

The Great 2013 Sunday Show Race

The general impression is rooted in fact: the Sunday shows love Republicans. “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation,” “This Week,” “State of the Union,” and “Fox News Sunday,” hoping to reflect and help shape the conventional wisdom for the political world, collectively favor GOP guests over Democratic guests every year, but who were the big winners in 2013?

The…chart shows every political figure who made 10 or more Sunday show appearances this year, with red columns representing Republicans and blue columns representing Democrats. For 2013, the race wasn’t especially close – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) easily came out on top, making 27 appearances this year. That works out to an average of one appearance every 1.9 weeks (or 2.25 Sunday show appearances a month, every month for a year).

sunday show guests

Incredible, isn’t it? Newt Gingrich doesn’t even hold any office and, as Benen points out, “hasn’t served in public office since resigning in disgrace 15 years ago” was in third place in front of Dick Durbin, the supposedly powerful Senate Majority Whip.

According to Mike Konczal of The New Republic, 2013 Was a Bad Year for Wall St. Lobbyists.

Last year, nobody thought that banks would face tougher holding requirements for capital, that regulations of the financial derivatives markets would advance, or that the final Volcker would be a pretty good start instead of an incoherent mess. Yet that is what appears to have happened in 2013. So what caused it? And how it might apply to future political goals?

The successes of 2013 were partially driven by the failures of Wall Street in 2012. The multi-billion dollar trading losses from JPMorgan Chase known as the “London Whale” changed the dynamics for financial reform in a way that took a year to realize. JPMorgan had been leading the charge against reform, arguing that the effort was over-harsh and destructive, and that Wall Street had already cleaned up its act on its own. Indeed, the big concern in 2012 was that Wall Street would convince enough moderate Democrats that Dodd-Frank had gone too far in certain respects, and that Congress would stop regulatory action before it was even completed. This fell apart right alongside the multi-billion dollar losses in JPMorgan’s position. Though various bills to remove parts of Dodd-Frank would pass the House by Republican votes, these efforts failed to generate moderate Democratic votes in the Senate after the Whale trade became public.

Read the rest at the link.

Hey did you know that dolphins like to get high? Read about it at The Independent: Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around.

In extraordinary scenes filmed for a new documentary, young dolphins were seen carefully manipulating a certain kind of puffer fish which, if provoked, releases a nerve toxin.

Though large doses of the toxin can be deadly, in small amounts it is known to produce a narcotic effect, and the dolphins appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount.

Carefully chewing on the puffer and passing it between one another, the marine mammals then enter what seems to be a trance-like state.

The behaviour was captured on camera by the makers of Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, a series produced for BBC One by the award-winning wildlife documentary producer John Downer.

Hey, why is that surprising? Lots of animals probably enjoy altered states of consciousness. Have you ever seen a cat on catnip? What about a big cat?

Finally, I highly recommend these two posts on the NSF/Snowden story by NSFWCORP writers now publishing at Pando Daily, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine respectively.

Snowden’s biggest revelation: We don’t know what power is anymore, nor do we care

Rentacops on desktops: Edward Snowden’s dismissal of Surveillance Valley is wrong, and dangerous

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread.

I hope 2014 will be a great year for all of you!!