Friday Reads: The Overlords are winning

&"Good Morning!

The combination of low voting patterns and big money in politics is finally coming to an ugly fruition.  The plan was all laid out in the Powell memo of 1971.  Its leaking to Jack Anderson will probably be remembered as one of the last acts of a press free of uber-corporate ownership and manipulation. It was also the beginning of the framework that ultimately led to the Citizen’s United case 5 years ago establishing a freedom of speech right for corporations best encapsulated by Mitt Romney’s famous gaffe in Iowa of “Corporations are people, my friend”.

Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy.

Most notable about these institutions was their focus on education, shifting values, and movement-building — a focus we share, though often with sharply contrasting goals.*  (See our endnote for more on this.)

So did Powell’s political views influence his judicial decisions? The evidence is mixed. Powell did embrace expansion of corporate privilege and wrote the majority opinion in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, a 1978 decision that effectively invented a First Amendment “right” for corporations to influence ballot questions. On social issues, he was a moderate, whose votes often surprised his backers.

The combination of the Southern Strategy, the business interests behind the Powell Memo, and the insipid and wrongly labelled “Moral Majority” has created an unholy trinity of neoconfederates,  billionaire plutocrats, and christianist extremists that now drive the Republican Party.   We now have a SCOTUS and majority in Congress set to undo many of the advances of the late 20th century.  A lot of this came from the mind of Nixon and his cronies.

… Democrats were expanding rights while the Republicans wanted to narrow them or keep them restrictive.

This realignment did not exactly start with Nixon or end with him. Barry Goldwater had voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act (although he had supported other civil rights bills), but the GOP in general then was unencumbered by a Southern constituency and its leadership often favored civil rights.

After Nixon, though, there was no turning back. In 1980, Ronald Reagan — ever the innocent — went to Mississippi and the Neshoba County Fair to tastelessly proclaim his belief in “states’ rights.” Nearby, three civil rights worked had been killed just 16 years earlier, protesting one of those bogus rights — the right to segregate the races. Reagan never acknowledged any appeal to racism. Racists took it as a wink anyway.

At one time, a good many African-Americans voted Republican — the party of Lincoln, after all. Jackie Robinson initially supported Nixon , as did Joe Louis. The former heavyweight champion had even supported a Republican in the 1946 congressional campaign against Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas, a liberal civil rights advocate, whose California district was substantially black. As late as the 1970s, there were African-American enclaves in Maryland that voted Republican.

The damage Nixon did to his own party, not to mention the rights of African-Americans and the cause of racial comity, has lasted long after the stench of Watergate has dispersed. It not only persuaded blacks that the Republican Party was inhospitable to them, but it in effect welcomed racists to the GOP fold. Dixiecrats moved smartly to the right.

Excuse me for extrapolating, but segregationists are not merit scholarship winners. Racism is dumb, and so are racists. The Democratic Party showed racists the door.

The GOP welcomed them and, of course, their fellow travelers — creationists, gun nuts, anti-abortion zealots, immigrant haters of all sorts and homophobes. Increasingly, the Republican Party has come to be defined by what it opposes and not what it proposes. Its abiding enemy is modernity.

The first death knell of democracy was probably the undoing of the Fairness Doctrine followed closely by the demonization of labor via the busting of the Air sipaphotosthree072008-SIPAUSA.30068566000008.sm-aTraffic Controller’s Union.  There are a lot of reasons why the FCC should try to bring it back.  The primary one I can think of is the disservice the Fox Propaganda network does to the country in terms of Science and truth.  There was some paranoia in the right wing last year that the FCC was thinking about a Fairness Doctrine 2.0.

Under the controversial doctrine, which the FCC abandoned in 1987 and formally took off the books in 2011, the agency required radio and TV stations to air opposing views on controversial issues.

Pai expressed alarm that the FCC could soon start questioning why Fox spends so much time covering the attacks in Benghazi, or why NBC has focused on the controversy over lane closures in New Jersey.

House Republicans made a similar accusation in December, claiming the FCC was working on a “Fairness Doctrine 2.0.”

“Given the widespread calls for the commission to respect the First Amendment and stay out of the editorial decisions of reporters and broadcasters, we were shocked to see that the FCC is putting itself back in the business of attempting to control the political speech of journalists,” Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote in a letter to the FCC.

 “It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and we urge you to put a stop to this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the ‘news police.’

The controversy stems from a study the agency plans to conduct on “critical information needs.” The FCC is required by law to study ways to eliminate barriers to entry for small media businesses.

Among other things, the agency plans to ask TV journalists about their “news philosophy” and “the process by which stories are selected.” The study will gather data on “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.” The FCC also wants to examine how local TV stations cover “critical information” such as “economic opportunities” and the “environment”.

image13There have been many more instances of cases sent to the Supreme Court and end runs by states around civil rights and liberties like the christianists’ obsession with ending a woman’s right to an abortion without exception in the first two trimesters.  We’re beginning to see some of the final steps in the plan this year.  We’ve watched the court gut the Voting Rights Act.  Are they now set to gut the major provisions of the Fair Housing Act?

A sharply divided US Supreme Court on Wednesday took up a challenge to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in an action that liberal critics say could gut the major civil rights provision.

At issue in a case from Dallas, Texas, is whether the housing law authorizes lawsuits over racially neutral measures that nonetheless disproportionately impact minority residents.

Liberals support the so-called disparate impact theory of civil rights enforcement, while conservatives warn that such an approach could lead to racial quotas in housing and other areas.

The case has attracted significant attention, with friend-of-the-court briefs filed by various civil rights groups, 17 states, and 20 cities and counties. On the other side, briefs have been filed by a number of conservative groups and business associations, including insurance companies, banks, finance companies, and home builders.

The FHA prohibits anyone from refusing to sell, rent, or otherwise make unavailable a house or apartment to a person because of their race, religion, or national origin. There is no dispute about this aspect of the law.

After the FHA was enacted in 1968, federal courts and agencies began embracing a broader interpretation of the law’s scope, concluding that, in addition to barring intentional discrimination, the statute also authorizes lawsuits when housing decisions disproportionately harm minority groups.

The case before the high court involves a lawsuit challenging decisions by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in awarding tax credits for low-income housing in Dallas. The Housing Department sought to provide new affordable housing in areas where existing housing was blighted or nonexistent. It sought to do so under race-neutral criteria.

Despite that goal, not everyone was satisfied with the agency’s performance. A Dallas-based group seeking to foster racial integration, the Inclusive Communities Project, sued the Housing Department because it said the agency had failed to provide adequate opportunities for low-income housing in Dallas’ more affluent suburbs.

Also percolating its way through Congress is a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks based on the nonscientific nonsense that the nervous system of a fetus is developed enough at that point to experience pain.  It is not.   It’s the usual, sneaky, lying way that religionists use to confuse the easily confused. A controversial provision caused the bill to be tabled.  Republican Congresswomen were upset by a redefinition of rape tucked away in the bill that sought to ensure that only narrowly approved definitions of “rape” would be treated differently. 

It’s one thing to campaign on stopping abortion—it has been a largely successful GOP plank since Roe v. Wade, and one that helped create a juggernaut connection between evangelical Christians and the Republican Party. (Yes, there have been occasional hiccups.) But it’s a different and more complicated matter to actually institute sweeping restrictions successfully.

Republicans have sought for years to ban abortions after 20 weeks. (Molly Redden has a definitive history.) The House GOP has been trying directly for the last few years, but each attempt has come to nought. Besides, even a successful House bill would have run into the Democratic Senate. But with a newly enormous majority in the House and a newly minted majority in the Senate, Republicans finally had a chance to get a bill to the president. While Obama would surely reject it, it would be a powerful political gesture and please the party’s pro-life allies. Even better, they had the opportunity to schedule the vote to coincide with the March for Life in Washington on Thursday.

They almost made it, but then the GOP coalition fell apart—not on wavering opposition to abortion overall, but on the technicalities. Like many such proposals, the bill would have allowed for exceptions in a few limited cases, such as rape. This bill made rape an exception, but only if a woman reported it to law enforcement. As Ed O’Keefe reports, that set off alarms for a bloc of female Republican lawmakers. They worried that the rape-reporting restriction was too strict, and that the bill would alienate young voters and women from the party. And so Wednesday evening, GOP leaders abruptly yanked the bill. Instead, the House passed a less restrictive bill Thursday, permanently banning federal money from going to pay for abortions. A ban already exists, but it has to be renewed every year.

The vise in which the party finds itself is easy to understand but hard to loosen. On the one hand, the party’s religious base has worked hard for Republicans and expects to see results, and most elected officeholders are personally pro-life. (Pulling the bill when thousands of the most fervent pro-lifers are in Washington must be an especially bitter pill for leaders.) But everyone knows the GOP faces a demographic time bomb, since its voters are older and whiter and more pro-life than the general population, so it’s risky to do anything that might make it harder to win them over.

North Carolina’s Renee Ellmers, one of the prominent dissenters in this case and now a target for grassroots conservative fury, is no swing-district moderate. She won reelection in November by defeating American Idol also-ran Clay Aiken by a whopping 18 points. Ellmers removed her name as a sponsor, then said she would vote for the bill—but still requested that no vote be held until concerns could be addressed.

It’s a surprising and little-known fact that opinions about abortion have barely budged in the American public in the 42 years since Roe. As Karlyn Bowman and Jennifer Marsico wrote for The Atlantic, despite years of heated debate, a slight majority of Americans still consistently back legal abortion, even as they personally oppose it. The GOP has found great success at enacting restrictions in states it dominates.

Indeed, it seems that Republican men want certain exemptions to the act of “rape”.   It’s amazing to see that Republican women rebelled at the idea of “legitimate rape”.

In sum, some Republican women basically shamed the House into dropping the vote for the bill, mostly because they’re worried it’s going to kick off another “legitimate rape” debacle as male Republicans go on cable TV to brag about the bill and are asked to explain why they only allow for rape exceptions if the victims have reported to the police.

What’s really amazing about this story is that Rep. Renee Ellmers and other female Republicans were pretty much guaranteed to support the bill if the male Republicans allowed for what is really a minor tweak in the language, allowing the rape exception to cover all rape victims, not just the minority that file police reports. After all, this bill is just a symbolic gesture, a wet kiss to the Bible-thumpers amassing on the Hill today for the annual rite of lady-hating sex phobia known as the March for Life. Obama was going to veto it anyway. They had nothing to lose by expanding the definition of “rape” to mean any time a man forces sex on a woman. In fact, they should have welcomed the change, because the original language would have meant reporters asking male Republicans why they require women to file police reports to be believed, which in turn means someone was bound to start talking about “legitimate rape”. Ellmers is hardly some kind of political genius. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this was headed.

So I’m forced to conclude the reason that so many male Republicans were unwilling to concede this teeny weeny issue is that it was really important to them to pass a bill that formally suggests that women frequently lie about being raped and should be assumed to be lying until a man, in this case a police officer, blesses her account of what happened.

It would be easy to see all of this as the last vestiges of old, white male privilege.  Afterall, the news is full of things like this: “A Shocking Number of Americans Under 30 Have No Religion — This Country Is Going to Change.”  Again, I keep hoping that we’ll be able to dance on the graves of the Koch Brothers, Pat Robertson, Antonin Scalia, Phyliss Schafly and the like and that it will all go away. Still, it took like 40 years for them to undo so many things.  It seems like it will take longer than that to put it all back together again and actually make progress.

And as the Keystone Pipeline Boondoggle snakes its way through this very corrupt Congress, we get news of two pipeline disasters.  The first one is in Montana. 

Walter-Cronkite-Earth-Week-poster-web

A second large oil spill into Montana’s Yellowstone River in less than four years is reviving questions about oversight of the nation’s aging pipeline network.

Investigators and company officials on Wednesday were trying to determine the cause of the 40,000-gallon spill that contaminated downstream water supplies in the city of Glendive.

Sen. Jon Tester said Saturday’s spill from the decades-old Poplar Pipeline was avoidable, but “we just didn’t have the folks on the ground” to prevent it.

The Montana Democrat told The Associated Press more frequent inspections by regulators are needed, and older pipelines should face stricter safety standards.

“We need to take a look at some of these pipelines that have been in the ground for half a century and say, ‘Are they still doing a good job?'” Tester said.

The latest spill comes as Republicans and some Democrats, including Tester, want the Obama administration to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf.

Keystone would cross the Yellowstone roughly 20 miles upstream of the Poplar Pipeline spill.

The second is in North Dakota where three million gallons of fracking brine spilled.

Almost 3 million gallons of saltwater drilling waste spilled from a North Dakota pipeline earlier this month, a spill that’s now being called the state’s largest since the North Dakota oil boom began.

The brine, which leaked from a ruptured pipeline about 15 miles from the city of Williston, has affected two creeks, but it doesn’t currently pose a threat to drinking water or public health. The pipeline’s operator — Summit Midstream Partners — discovered the spill on Jan. 6, but officials didn’t find out about the true size of the spill until this week.

The pipeline company has been trying to clean up the spill by vacuuming water from the creek, but in doing so, they’re also capturing a lot of fresh water.

“The problem is that … the creekbed is kinda being replenished with water so we extract, it fills; we extract, it fills,” John Morgan, a spokesman for Summit Midstream told the Grand Forks-Herald.

North Dakota Department of Health Environmental Health Section Chief Dave Glatt said he hasn’t seen any impacts to wildlife yet, but officials won’t likely know the full impact until all the ice melts. Officials have discovered chloride concentrations in Blacktail Creek as high as 92,000 milligrams per liter — far higher than normal concentrations of about 10 to 20 milligrams per liter.

“That has the ability to kill aquatic life and so we’ll want to see if the aquatic life was able to get out of the way, and if they weren’t, how badly they were impacted,” Glatt said.

Greed, religious extremism, and bigotry!  Say hello to SCOTUS and the new Congress!

I find all of this very, very depressing. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Is the California Measles Outbreak a Product of Neo-Liberal Thinking?

Woman Reading on a Settee, William Churchill

Woman Reading on a Settee, William Churchill

Good Morning!!

I’m going to focus on just one story today. I wanted to try to understand something I’m curious about–what’s causing the rapid spread of measles in California?

The outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland in December is spreading rapidly across California, into other states, and even into Mexico. Five Disneyland employees have now been diagnosed with the disease (three have recovered and others are being tested), and the number of reported cases traced to Disneyland has passed 60.

Last week I wrote about an unvaccinated woman who contracted the measles virus in Disneyland and then took two airline flights to the Seattle area during the holidays before she was diagnosed. How many other people did she infect? Measles is highly infectious, airborne virus that can be spread by coughing and sneezing, like the common cold. From the CDC website:

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.

Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.

Another case was recently identified in Eugene, Oregon. The man is so sick that he hasn’t been able to talk to anyone, but his wife says he was in Disneyland and also went to the Rose Bowl game and then flew back home before he started showing symptoms. How many other people did he infect? UPDATE: It turns out the man did not go to the game–see story in comment thread.

Measles cases are also turning up in Northern California, according to SFGate: Disneyland measles outbreak spreads to Bay Area.

A large outbreak of measles that started at two adjacent Disney theme parks in December has now sickened people all over California, including a handful of Bay Area residents, and is prompting public health authorities to urge everyone to get vaccinated if they aren’t already.

California has reported 59 cases of measles since mid-December, the bulk of them in people who either visited or had close contact with someone who had been to Disneyland or California Adventure Park in Anaheim, public health officials said in a media conference call Wednesday. Seven measles cases have been reported in the Bay Area: in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Most of the people who have become infected were unvaccinated. Because of the threat of infection, public health officials said people who aren’t vaccinated — either because they can’t get the vaccine or they choose not to — should avoid public places where large groups of people, especially international travelers who may carry measles, congregate.

“We can expect to see many more cases of this vaccine-preventable disease unless people take precautionary measures,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases with the California Department of Public Health. “I am asking unvaccinated Californians to consider getting immunized to protect themselves and family and community at large.”

measles

I had measles as a child, and fortunately I didn’t develop any of the complications, such as blindness, severe ear infections, pneumonia, and encephalitis (rare). But now that we have a vaccine for measles, children don’t need to risk these possible dangerous consequences of getting the virus. Sadly, we have a lot of people in this country who believe conspiracy theories about vaccines.

How do the anti-vaxxers avoid the vaccines? Most states require vaccinations for children attending school, but most states also allow religious exemptions. Here’s a list of vaccine requirements in each state. Every state but Mississippi and West Virginia allows religious exemptions; a few states also allow “philosophical” exemptions. Only California allows “objections based on simply the parent(s) beliefs.” I’m guessing some parents avoid vaccinating their children by home-schooling them.

Bloomberg reports that Orange County has banned unvaccinated kids from attending school because of the measles outbreak.

Health officials in Orange County, Calif. have banned two dozen students who have no immunization records from attending high school in the wake of a measles outbreak that has been traced back to Disneyland.

Sixty-seven confirmed measles cases have been reported in California in the current outbreak. One student from Huntington Beach High School who was infected with the disease attended class following winter break, exposing fellow students to the highly contagious illness, especially those who did not receive a childhood vaccination against it.

“If there is a case in the school and their child is not immunized, they will be removed from the school for 21 days,” Dr. Eric Handler, the Orange County public health officer, told the Los Angeles Times. “From an epidemiological standpoint, in order to prevent spread of the disease, this is a necessary measure.”

Now check this out:

In Southern California…many schools now report that upwards of 10 percent of students have not received childhood vaccinations. In Northern California, the figures are even worse, with clusters of under-vaccinated children in the San Francisco Bay Area resulting in one out of every four children going without the recommended immunizations.

Herd Immunity

Herd Immunity

Most of the parents who opt out of having their kids vaccinated are relatively affluent and well-educated, according to science writer Tara Haelle at Forbes. She notes two reasons why measles is spreading so rapidly in California.

Those two things are the extreme infectiousness of the disease and the low levels of herd immunity, or community immunity, in pockets of southern California. Measles infects 9 out of every 10 non-immune individuals it finds. It’s airborne and hangs around up to two hours after an infected person leaves the area. It doesn’t take much for this disease to spread through a population that isn’t immune from previous exposure or through vaccination. Or, to put it another way, in an unvaccinated population, each person infected with the measles will transmit the disease to 12 to 18 other people. If no one were vaccinated against measles, we would be up to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cases by now. We aren’t because there are some levels of herd immunity, but it’s because herd immunity has been weakened that we’re seeing additional cases at all.

She also debunks the notion that undocumented immigrants are spreading the virus.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest myths popping up in comment threads and on social media is that undocumented immigrants have something to do with this outbreak, or any other outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. We don’t yet know who Patient 0 – the first person with the disease – was at Disneyland, but we don’t really need to know. It’s not undocumented immigrants we should be pointing the finger at. It’s home-grown, upper-middle class, well-educated, mostly white southern California parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children we should be giving the side-eye to. When vaccination rates in the region are below some developing countries’ rates, you don’t need undocumented immigrants to bring in the disease. Unvaccinated Americans do a fine job of that all on their own. A look at past cases makes this clear.

When the CDC tracked measles cases for the first half of 2013, they found that 159 cases resulted from 42 importations of the disease – but more than half those importations were U.S. residents returning to the States from abroad. Similarly, the outbreak of close to 400 cases in Ohio last year began with unvaccinated U.S. travelers returning from a visit to the Philippines. And the largest outbreak in San Diego since 1991 occurred in 2008 after an intentionally unvaccinated 7-year-old boy returned from a vacation in Switzerland with his family and brought back the measles. That last case is particularly of interest because the boy was a patient of Dr. Bob Sears, who has been spreading misleading information about measles in the midst of this outbreak.

Interestingly, she says that some people who have been vaccinated will still get the disease. But someone who hasn’t been vaccinated is 35 times more likely to get measles than someone who has had the vaccine.

Dr. Bob Sears

Dr. Bob Sears

Here’s some more information about Dr. Bob Sears, and Orange County pediatrician and author of “The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child.” From the LA Times: Vaccination controversy swirls around O.C.’s ‘Dr. Bob.’

While the vast majority of physicians are troubled by the anti-vaccination movement, Sears, 45, lends a sympathetic ear. About half his patients forgo vaccines altogether. To others, he offers “Dr. Bob’s” alternative and selective vaccination schedules, which delay or eliminate certain immunizations.

At a conference this year in Rancho Mirage, Sears told a roomful of pregnant women, new mothers and healthcare professionals that vaccines work well and are responsible for the nation’s low disease rate, something parents who don’t want to immunize can take advantage of.

“I do think the disease danger is low enough where I think you can safely raise an unvaccinated child in today’s society,” he said. “It may not be good for the public health. But … for your individual child, I think it is a safe enough choice.”

That approach frustrates infectious-disease experts, who in recent years have found themselves combating some celebrities’ anti-vaccination beliefs.

“We eliminated endemic measles in the U.S. in 2000. It’s now 2014 and we’re at 400 cases. Why?” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in an interview in June. The number of cases has since risen to nearly 600. “Because people listen to Bob Sears. And, frankly, I blame him far more than I do the Jenny McCarthys of this world. Because he’s a doctor. And he should know more.”

Here’s an interesting article from The New Republic, The Best Way to Combat Anti-Vaxxers Is to Understand Them A new study underlines the similarity between “neo-liberal” thinking and the anti-vaccination movement. Well The New Republic should certainly understand neo-liberal thinking–they practically invented it. An excerpt:

“Anti-vaxxers,” as they are often referred, are an easy group to stereotype and a difficult group to humor. In most thinking circles, they are cast as “the other”; people either too stupid to understand the science behind vaccination, or too selfish to care about the impact of their choices on those around them.

But vaccine skeptics aren’t as different from their critics as we might like to think. And their rise in number over the past decade has less to do with stupidity, or even selfishness, than it does with beliefs about knowledge, trust, and freedom of choice that are pervasive throughout our culture, whether you choose to vaccinate your kids or not.

Dr. Jennifer Reich, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver, has been researching the anti-vaccination movement since 2007, seeking to understand the processes by which people come to reject vaccines. Over the past seven years, she has conducted in-depth interviews with parents who refuse mainstream vaccine recommendations, along with doctors, alternative healers, and public policymakers.

Not all of the parents Reich spoke with were “anti-vaxxers” in the sense that we typically think of the term; only a small minority identified as activists in the Jenny McCarthy mold, campaigning other parents not to vaccinate or advocating for policy change. Nor did they necessarily abstain from vaccination completely.

Rather, what united them was a sense that vaccines were up for negotiation: to be administered or rejected depending on the convictions of the parent and the needs of the child. Reich’s interviewees saw themselves as critical consumers of information. They engaged with doctors not as authorities to be obeyed, but as another data point to be evaluated, embraced, or discarded. They continually assessed risk: How likely was it that their child would be exposed to Disease A? What would be the consequences if they contracted Disease B?

disneyland-cast-l

It seems to me that what these anti-vaxxers have in common with neo-liberals is that they have lost the sense that as Americans we are all in this together. They focus only on their own needs and ignore the ways in which their choices about whether to vaccinate their children could impact others and society as a whole.

Just one more article before I wrap this up.

From Philly.com: California Measles Outbreak Shows How Quickly Disease Can Resurface in U.S.

Fifteen years after measles was declared eliminated in the United States, the recent outbreak traced to two Disney parks in California illustrates how quickly a resurgence can occur….

Experts explain the California outbreak simply.

“This outbreak is occurring because a critical number of people are choosing not to vaccinate their children,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

“Parents are not scared of the disease” because they’ve never seen it, Offit said. “And, to a lesser extent, they have these unfounded concerns about vaccines. But the big reason is they don’t fear the disease.” ….

Researchers have found that past outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are more likely in places where there are clusters of parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated, said Saad Omer, an associate professor of global health, epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University School of Public Health and Emory Vaccine Center, in Atlanta.

“California is one of the states with some of the highest rates in the country in terms of exemptions, and also there’s a substantial clustering of refusals there,” Omer said….Other reasons include the belief that their children will not catch the disease, the disease is not very severe and the vaccine is not effective, Omer noted.

In California, vaccine exemptions have increased from 1.5 percent in 2007 to 3.1 percent in 2013, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times.

So, in a sense California is endangering people in other states. Omer says there’s recent legislation to make it more difficult to get exemptions, but “it is too soon to know the effects of the new law.”

So . . . comment on this issue if you wish; but feel free to treat this as an open thread. Have a great day Sky Dancers.


Tuesday Reads

kids_newsstand_today

Good Morning!!

Tonight President Obama will give his sixth State of the Union Address. Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy to benefit the middle class. Obviously that isn’t going to pass muster with our Republican Congress, but maybe it will at least embarrass some members just a little bit. We’ll have a live blog tonight during the speech, and I hope you’ll join us.

Here are a few stories to check out before tonight.

From The Washington Post: Obama will give State of Union address against backdrop of deep partisan divide. Author David Nakamura seems concerned that the president isn’t interested in being “conciliatory” toward Republicans.

The president will enter the House chamber Tuesday night for his sixth State of the Union address riding a wave of confidence driven by an improving economy and brightening public approval ratings. And he seems as defiant as ever.

Although Obama has vetoed just two bills in his six years, the White House has threatened to veto five measures from Congress this month alone — including legislation that would authorize the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, tie funding of the Department of Homeland Security to a rollback of Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and impose new economic sanctions on Iran.

Obama vowed in a private meeting with Democrats last week that he will play “offense” during the final two years of his presidency, building on the aggressive executive actions he laid out over the past two months. The legislative proposals he has previewed — including a plan for free community college and a revamping of the tax code — have been based firmly on his terms, drawing objections from Republicans.

The nerve of this guy! He tried to reach across the aisle for years, and now he’s given up the ghost. Shocking.

Joni Ernst is not the next Sarah Palin.

And Tuesday night, she’ll get the chance to prove it.

The SOTU will be followed by a Republican response by newly elected Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. Will she castrate a hog during her presentation? Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast writes:

Ernst, the gun totin’, hog castrating freshman Republican senator from Iowa will give her party’s response to the State of the Union—a tricky, high-profile task that have landed many before her at the bad end of a punchline.

But the prime time address not only gives Ernst a chance to show off her Iowa charm, it gives her the opportunity to shed the comparison to Sarah Palin that she attracted as she campaigned through the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties last year as a populist conservative.

Once called an “onion of crazy” by Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schutz (D-Fla.), the Iowa senator first gained national attention in a crowded, if undistinguished, primary field with an television ad about castrating hogs. She followed that up with another advertisement that featured her in safety glasses firing away at a target while the voiceover boasted that she kept “more than lipstick in her purse.”

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CNN notes that recent responses to the SOTU have not gone well and asks “Is the State of the Union response cursed?”

“It’s almost like the kiss of death to get picked to do the Republican response,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “It represents an amazing opportunity to catapult yourself into the national conversation, but the risk is huge and the success rate has been minimal at best in recent years.”

 Republicans couldn’t have been more excited to spotlight their Indian-American wunderkind Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, in response to the first black President’s address to a joint session of Congress. But all party bigwigs and critics alike were talking about the next day was Jindal’s awkward delivery, not his prospects for higher office — and certainly not GOP diversity.

It was a moment reminiscent of then-Gov. Tim Kaine’s (D-Virginia) 2006 response, when he was outdone by his own eyebrows.

And then a parched Marco Rubio took a not-so-subtle sip of water, eyes still piercing into the camera. Forget that he had delivered the first-ever bilingual rebuttal, drowned out by Rubio and his infamous water bottle.

Rubio quickly bounced back from that moment, raising more than $100,000 through his PAC by selling “RUBIO” branded water bottles. And his political fortunes are still fairly intact.

And superstitious politicos beware.

Virigina Gov. Bob McDonnell gave a rousing response straight from the Virginia state legislature in 2010. Five years later, and he’s about to start a two-year stint in federal prison over corruption charges.

Even last year’s speaker, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was accused by a former staffer of ethics violations, though that investigation died out pretty quickly.

Maybe it’s just that today’s Republicans are a sorry bunch of losers channeling the Koch brothers?

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Speaking of losers, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise had the nerve to discuss Martin Luther King’s legacy yesterday. From The Hill: Scalise praises MLK amid controversies.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Monday praised the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. amid controversy over his speech to a white supremacist group while he served as a Louisiana state legislator…

“As we reflect upon the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., today, we also recognize how our nation has been strengthened by his legacy,” Scalise said in a statement.

“Dr. King challenged our country to fulfill the promises of liberty, equality, and justice prescribed in the founding of our great nation. Leading by example, he stressed the teachings of tolerance, service, and love, regardless of race, color, or creed. Today, his writings and speeches continue to empower and inspire those who seek liberty, equality, and justice,” Scalise continued.

Scalise made no mention of any events he planned to attend to commemorate the holiday.

Scalise’s comments stood out, however, given that the holiday coincides with multiple race-related controversies over his career prior to entering Congress.

For one, Scalise opposed making King’s birthday a state holiday in 2004 while he served in the Louisiana Legislature, as well as making it a school holiday in 1999.

The Hill also reported last week that Scalise voted against a resolution in the Louisiana Legislature apologizing for slavery. He later supported a version that only expressed “regret” for slavery.

“Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn’t do and had no part of?” Scalise said, according to minutes of a 1996 Louisiana House committee meeting obtained by The Hill. “I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did.”

And, as reported in late December, Scalise in 2002 spoke before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Why is this man still serving as House Majority Whip?

Manhattan newsstand

Yesterday Think Progress noted that Scalise isn’t the only opponent the Martin Luther King holiday who still remains in power.

The Ferocious Fight Against The MLK National Holiday​

After King’s assassination in 1968, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the first Congressional legislation to create a federal Martin Luther King Day holiday. In the years that followed, Congress held congressional hearings during which hostile witnesses said “violence was exactly what [King] wanted,” and that King formed a “common front” with the “virulently racist Nation of Islam.”

More than 15 years later, Congress finally enacted such a law. The bill, signed by President Ronald Reagan, passed in the Senate on a 78-22 vote and in the House of Representatives by a 338 to 90 margin. The most vocal opponents included the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), who mounted a 16-day filibuster of the proposal and smeared King as a Communist.

Voting with Helms against the King holiday were four men who remain in the Senate today: Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Banking Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ). Shelby and McCain were in the House at the time. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) also voted against the proposal. McCain apologized in 2008 for being too slow “to give greatness its due,” and Hatch wrote in 2007 that the vote was “one of the worst decisions” he has made as a senator.

Read more of the sorry history of the MLK holiday at the link.

Newsstand

Jezebel had a fascinating, though heartbreaking, story by Anna Merlen about the archaeological excavation of the graves of young boys at the Dozier School in Florida. We’ve written about this story here in the past. Merlen interviewed Dr. Erin Kimmerle, an associate professor at the University of South Florida, one of the leaders of the project.

‘They Were Truly Gone': Solving the Mysteries of the Dozier School

The Dozier School was located in the tiny town of Marianna, West of Tallahassee and thirty minutes or so from the Georgia line. It opened in 1900 as the Florida State Reform School, and despite years of reports of serious abuse and mistreatment, it remained open for over 100 years.At least 98 people died there over the years, two staff members and 96 boys aged six to 18. Men who were once Dozier residents recounted brutal beatings they received in the White House, a small outbuilding on the school grounds whose walls remain spattered with what looks like blood. More than one survivor has called the building “a torture chamber.”

A group of men who were sent to the school in the 1950s and ’60s have banded together to tell their stories: they call themselves the White House Boys. The Tampa Bay Times has done the best coverage of the Dozier School, including an investigation in 2009 that uncovered squalid conditions, staff neglect and mistreatment from 1900 to the present day, depicting the school, as they put it, as “a place of abuse and neglect, of falsified records, bloody noses and broken bones.” [….]

Dr. Erin Kimmerle is a forensic anthropologist, an associate professor at the University of South Florida and a leader of the team excavating Dozier. (Before coming to USF, she worked as the Chief Anthropologist at the Hague, analyzing mass graves in Bosnia and Croatia.) Along with two colleagues (Antoinette Jackson and Christian Wells) and a crew of graduate students, Kimmerle has been excavating Boot Hill, the burial ground at Dozier, as well as the surrounding area and trying, through DNA testing, to return the boys’ remains to their families for a proper burial.

In January of 2014, the team exhumed 55 bodies—five more than they expected to find, 24 more than official records said were buried there. There are still many questions: how many boys lie buried under the Dozier grounds, their bodies slowly entwining with the roots of the mulberry trees around them? How did they die? And who do we hold accountable for the 100 years of suffering the Dozier school inflicted?

The interview is extremely interesting and informative. I highly recommend it.

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Here’s another sad Florida story that I’ve been following. Two young sisters were arrested and charged with murder after the older girl shot and killed her 16-year-old brother on January 5.

According to the initial incident report, the girls’ father is a truck driver and their parents left them alone with their brother and a 3-year-old sister while the mother accompanied the father on a trip. The 15-year-old told police that on the day of the shooting, her brother locked her in a room with just a blanket and a bucket to use as a toilet.

According to police, she said that while her brother slept, her younger sister helped her escape the room and the 15-year-old went outside and used a knife to cut the foam around the window air conditioning unit in the window of her parents’ locked bedroom. In the bedroom, she told police, she found a handgun, loaded it, and then went into the living room where her brother was sleeping and shot him.

The arrest report says the girls then packed some things, put their 3-year-old sister in a bedroom, and walked to a nearby Dollar Store, where they called a friend, who later called police. The girls told them that the 15-year-old was routinely locked in the room her brother had kept her in.

The sisters’ parents were arrested and charged with child neglect and according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office are still behind bars. According to their arrest report, the mother told police the 15-year-old was locked in the room about four times a week, and the father said the longest she was locked up was 20 days. In a search of the house, police found notes written by the parents asking the girl to explain why she should be let out of the room.

It turned out that there was a long history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in this family. The older girl had reported that her uncle was abusing her, and he is now serving a life sentence for the crimes. In addition, the mother had caught the brother raping the 1-year old, and had told authorities, but nothing was done about it.

Police say the girls will be tried as juveniles for second degree murder. Shouldn’t this killing be viewed as self-defense though? This case has also exposed a problem with laws about incest. Acccording to CBS News, Experts: Fla. sibling shooting exposes “incest loophole.”

In 2010, the children’s aunt went to police when she found a memory stick belonging to her husband with video of him sexually molesting the oldest sister. The uncle was eventually convicted and is serving life in prison.

And the abuse did not stop there. The family began locking the girl in a room – once for 20 days – and reportedly pulled her from school due to “behavioral issues.” And among the reports released by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is a heavily redacted document that suggests that in 2011, when the older sister would have been 11 or 12, her mother found the girl and her brother having sex in the house. But, according to the incident report, “the case was closed as unfounded and no criminal acts were disclosed.”

“We treat sexual abuse of children in the family as a social and psychological problem and not as a crime – and it is a crime,” says Grier Weeks, the executive director of the National Association to Protect Children.

Incest is still treated more lightly by law enforcement in most states in the U.S.

According to Daphne Young of Child Help, a non-profit organization devoted to the prevention and treatment of child abuse, 68 percent of child sex abuse victims are abused by a family member. Jennifer Marsh of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) says that 40 percent of the people who call the National Sex Abuse hotline say incest is their primary or secondary reason for seeking help.

And yet, perpetrators who sexually abuse family members can be subject to lower penalties than they would be had they assaulted a neighbor or stranger. In Washington State, for example, the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative Law allows an offender to receive a lighter sentence if he or she had “an established relationship with, or connection to, the victim.”

Weeks calls this “the incest loophole,” and finds it mind-boggling: “The toll on a child [abused by a family member] is devastating. She was not protected by the very people who should have loved and protected her.”

Read more at the link.

This post has gotten way too long, so I’ll just leave you with a recommendation to read a long piece at The NY Review of Books on the Citizens United decision: The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake, by David Cole.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday! 


Lazy Saturday Reads

NYC Newsstand on a rainy day

NYC Newsstand on a rainy day.

 

Good Afternoon!!

First, I want to thank everyone who responded to our request for help with blog expenses. We are so fortunate to have such kind and loyal readers. You guys are the greatest!

The biggest story on my mind today is the Supreme Court’s decision to rule on the same-sex marriage issue. I have to admit, I’m very nervous about it. What if the Court rules that states can ban same-sex marriages and refuse to recognize such marriages from other states? Some background from SCOTUS blog:

Taking on a historic constitutional challenge with wide cultural impact, the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon agreed to hear four new cases on same-sex marriage.   The Court said it would rule on the power of the states to ban same-sex marriages and to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in another state.  A total of two-and-a-half hours was allocated for the hearings, likely in the April sitting.  A final ruling is expected by early next summer, probably in late June.

The Court fashioned the specific questions it is prepared to answer, but they closely tracked the two core constitutional issues that have led to a lengthy string of lower-court rulings striking down state bans.  As of now, same-sex marriages are allowed in thirty-six states, with bans remaining in the other fourteen but all are under court challenge.

Although the Court said explicitly that it was limiting review to the two basic issues, along the way the Justices may have to consider what constitutional tests they are going to apply to state bans, and what weight to give to policies that states will claim to justify one or the other of the bans….

The focus of the Court’s review will be a decision issued in early November by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  That decision, breaking ranks with most other courts, upheld bans on marriage or marriage-recognition in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Friday’s order granted review of one petition from each of those states; the petitions phrase the two basic issues in somewhat different ways, which is why the Court rewrote them to make specifically clear what it intended to review.

The Kentucky case (Bourke v. Beshear) raises both of the issues that the Court will be deciding, the Michigan case (DeBoer v. Snyder) deals only with marriage, and the Ohio (Obergefell v. Hodges) and Tennessee cases (Tanco v. Haslam) deal only with the recognition question. If customary practice is followed, the first case listed in the order — the Ohio case Obergefell v. Hodges — will become the historic title for the final ruling.

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The problem for the conservative justices will be that public opinion has shifted so rapidly on this issue–if they decide to limit the civil rights of LGBT Americans, there would probably be a serious backlash. From The Washington Post:

The country’s first same-sex marriage, the result of a Massachusetts court decision, took place less than 11 years ago. Now, more than 70 percent of Americans live in states where same-sex couples are allowed to marry, according to estimates.

The questions raised in the cases that the court will consider this spring were left open in 2013 when the justices last confronted the issue of same-sex marriage. A slim majority said at the time that a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act — withholding recognition of same-sex marriages — was unconstitutional and in a separate case allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California.

Since then, courts across the nation — with the notable exception of the Cincinnati appeals court — have struck down a string of state prohibitions on same-sex marriage, many of them passed by voters in referendums. Many of those court decisions compared the prohibitions to the ones on interracial marriage that the Supreme Court struck down in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia.

When the Supreme Court declined to review a clutch of those decisions in October, same-sex marriage proliferated across the country.

Couples may now marry in 36 states and the District. Three in four same-sex couples live in a state where they are allowed to wed, according to estimates by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Chief Justice John Roberts will have to keep all that in mind if he cares about his place in history.

Rand Paul

While we’re talking about the conservative trend on the Supreme Court, take a look at this sobering article at Think Progress: If You Want To Understand What’s Happened To The Supreme Court, You Need To Listen To Rand Paul.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is an odd place to seek counsel on the Constitution. As a Senate candidate in 2010, Paul told a Louisville editorial board that he opposed the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters, claiming that the right of “private ownership” should trump the right to be free from racist discrimination. Opposing a core protection for racial minorities, according to Paul, is “the hard part about believing in freedom.” He later suggested that civil rights laws targeting private businesses may exceed Congress’s power under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause — a view the Supreme Court unanimously rejected in 1964.

Yet the Heritage Foundation, one of the backbones of the conservative movement in Washington, DC, invited Paul to speak at length on the Constitution and the role of the judiciary earlier this week. If the audience was upset that voters sometimes elect leaders who disagree with the Heritage Foundation, they were no doubt enraptured by Paul’s vision for the courts. Senator Paul’s speech was a repudiation of democracy, and he called for the Supreme Court to assume a dominant role in setting American policy that it abandoned three generations ago. Under Paul’s vision, the minimum wage is forbidden and union busting is constitutionally protected. The New Deal is an illegitimate expansion of federal power, and more recent efforts to ensure that no one dies because they cannot afford health care are an abomination.

“I’m a judicial activist,” Paul proudly proclaimed.

Nevertheless, Paul’s speech to the Heritage Foundation is worth watching in its entirety. It lays out a vision that is closer than the Court’s current precedents suggest, and that could easily become a reality if the Court’s older members are replaced by younger conservatives. Moreover, as I explain in my book, Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted, a Supreme Court committed to Paul’s economic agenda would hardly be unprecedented in American history. If anything, Paul is asking the Court to return to its self-appointed role as the vanguard against democracy.

It’s a fairly long piece, but please go read the rest if you can.
ron paul disability
Rand Paul is running for president, and he was up in New Hampshire this week, and he took the opportunity to attack the Social Security disability program. Remember the Republicans have already undercut this program with a rules change.
From The Boston Globe, Rand Paul tests, and roils, the political waters in N.H.
While state legislators ate eggs and drank coffee in a Manchester diner, Paul suggested that half of the recipients of federal disability relief are “gaming the system” because they are able to work. He also told them the arguments against building the Keystone XL pipeline are “this sort of Luddite, flat-earth, that my goodness we shouldn’t have cars” mentality.
Paul shared his reactionary ideas about some other topics like his goal of abolishing the Department of Education, but
It was Paul’s comments about disability benefits that drew the most attention, largely because Democrats quickly pounced.

During a question-and-answer period, Paul was asked about government programs and welfare.

“You know, the thing is that all of these programs — there’s always somebody who is deserving. Everybody in this room knows somebody who is gaming the system,” said Paul.

“What I tell people is, if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check,” Paul said. “You know, over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everybody over 40 has a back pain.”

Really? I’m over 60, and I might get a little bit stiff sometimes, but I certainly don’t have chronic back pain. Let’s see what the fact checkers have to say about Paul’s claim.

Politifact

Politifact: Rand Paul says most people receive disability for back pain, anxiety.

You can read the whole article for the details and some caveats, but here’s the bottom line:

Paul said, “Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts.”

The numbers don’t add up. The two broader disability categories that include back pain (“diseases of the musculoskeletal system”) and anxiety disorders (“mental disorders – other”) don’t even equal close to 50 percent, let alone those two ailments by themselves.

Paul’s quip might make for a good soundbite, but it’s not rooted in reality. We rate the statement False.

As for people “gaming the system,” Politifact notes a report from the Government Accountability Office that estimated that

…in fiscal year 2011, the Social Security Administration made $1.29 billion in potential cash benefit overpayments to about 36,000 individuals who were working and making more than $1,100 a month (the limit to receive disability benefits).

The 36,000 people receiving improper payments, while a lot on paper, represent about 0.4 percent of all beneficiaries, the report said.

Talking Points Memo posted a video of three “christian” men “apologizing” to women for allowing them to have abortions. It’s the most patronizing bit of mansplaining I’ve seen I’ve seen in a very long time. From TPM:

“I conceded to an abortion,” Pastor Shane Idleman says. “That decision still haunts me today.”

Against a montage of giggling, joyful children and babies, the men discuss how much they regret the decision and take responsibility for letting down God, women and their unborn children.

“I should’ve manned up and I should’ve fought for you and — I didn’t,” John Blandford says. “I didn’t.”

Then come the apologies to all women who have had an abortion, women who have been “subjected to such a terrible thing,” women who “no one tried to rescue,” and women who have “tried to hide this from everyone.”

“I’m sorry for men not taking a greater stand in this area,” Idleman says.

“I’m sorry that, I’m sorry that this is available,” Daniel Phillips says.

But don’t worry all you sinful women “hid[ing] in shame and darkness,” you can always repent and ask god to forgive you. Watch the video yourself if you can stomach it.

Here’s an interesting story from Slate’s Hanna Rosin about the “free range parenting movement.”

Police Investigate Family for Letting Their Kids Walk Home Alone. Parents, We All Need to Fight Back.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a 10-year old Maryland boy named Rafi and his 6-year old sister, Dvora, walked home by themselves from a playground about a mile away from their suburban house. They made it about halfway home when the police picked them up. You’ve heard these stories before, about what happens when kids in paranoid, hyperprotective America go to and from playgrounds alone. I bet you can guess the sequence of events preceding and after: Someone saw the kids walking without an adult and called the police. The police tracked down the kids and drove them home. The hitch this time is, when the police got there, they discovered that they were meddling with the wrong family.

chidlren

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv explicitly ally themselves with the “free range” parenting movement, which believes that children have to take calculated risks in order to learn to be self-reliant. Their kids usually even carry a card that says: “I am not lost. I am a free-range kid,” although they didn’t happen to have it that day. They had carefully prepared their kids for that walk, letting them go first just around the block, then to a library a little farther away, and then the full mile. When the police came to the door, they did not present as hassled overworked parents who leave their children alone at a playground by necessity, or laissez-faire parents who let their children roam wherever, but as an ideological counterpoint to all that’s wrong with child-rearing in America today. If we are lucky, the Meitivs will end up on every morning talk show and help convince American parents that it’s perfectly OK to let children walk without an adult to the neighborhood playground.

Perhaps if they had been black and lived in South Carolina, they would have been arrested like Debra Harrell, the single mother who let her daughter go to the playground while she was working at McDonald’s. As white suburban professionals, the Meitivs experienced a lower level of intrusion, but still one that would make any parent bristle. The police asked for the father’s ID, and when he refused, called six patrol cars as backup. Alexander went upstairs, and the police called out that if he came down with anything else in his hand “shots would be fired,” according to Alexander. (They said this in front of the children, Alexander says.) Soon after, a representative from Montgomery County Child Welfare Services came by and required that the couple sign a “safety plan” promising not to let the children go unsupervised until the following week, when another CPS worker would talk to them. At first, the dad refused, but then the workers told him they would take the kids away if he did not sign.

It’s a thought-provoking piece. Read more at the link.

Masha

Finally, a feel-good story, thanks to Ralph B., who posted it on Facebook.

From The Washington Post: Russia’s heroic cat Masha: She’s credited with saving an abandoned infant from winter’s deep freeze.

Masha the cat – as the stray is called by the residents of the building she calls home in Obninsk – found the infant in an entryway Saturday night and climbed into the box in which the baby had been left.

One of the building’s residents heard the cat and the baby’s cries. At first, Nadezhda Makhovikova just thought she was hearing Masha in some sort of distress. “When I went down, I saw it was a baby crying,” Makhovikova told REN TV earlier this week.

Reports said the baby had been left with a pacifier, bottle and diapers, and was dressed warmly, wearing a little hat, as residents described him – though he likely would have had difficulty staying warm enough to survive a whole night in the sub-freezing temperatures in the area.

Residents called an ambulance, which whisked the baby away to a local hospital – but not before Masha would try to accompany the baby on the way.

Here’s a video about Masha. It’s in Russian, but you can get the gist.

 

So . . . what else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy the long weekend!


Tuesday Reads

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Good Morning!!

At left is the cover of the next issue of Charlie Hebdo. It depicts the Prophet Muhammed holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign, with the words “all is forgiven” over his head.

The Wall Street Journal: Charlie Hebdo Puts Muhammad on Cover of Post-Attack Issue.

PARIS—Since Charlie Hebdo lost eight staff members in a terrorist attack last week, millions of people have declared their support to the French satirical magazine with the slogan “Je Suis Charlie.”

Now the often-caustic publication, faced with the challenge of reconciling its new status as a cause célèbre with its reflex to mock, ridicule and offend, is putting a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover of what is likely to be their most-read issue ever.

Distributors said Monday they were preparing to print as many as three million copies of Wednesday’s issue, 50 times the normal circulation. That is raising pressure on a small outlet known for skewering all forms of authority—including some that have rushed to its defense.

Suddenly the political and social elites who most likely had never heard of the small satirical magazine before the attack are parading around Paris and the Golden Globes pretending to be defenders of free speech. And what about the U.S. “journalists” who are little more than corporate lackeys who echoed right wing memes about President Obama supposedly not caring enough to attend a rally in France?

“It’s been extremely moving—and also hypocritical,” said Laurent Léger, a reporter for the magazine who survived the shooting. “All of a sudden, we are supported by the entire world. Whereas for years we were completely alone.” [….]

Another target for this week’s issue is likely to be Sunday’s solidarity march in France, surviving staff members said. The massive rally became a magnet for French and international political figures that have been a mainstay in Charlie Hebdo’s pages. Attendees included dignitaries from Turkey, Egypt, and Russia, countries that it has criticized for curbing free speech.

“All those dictators at a march celebrating liberty,” Mr. Léger said. “We of course are going to continue the mockery. We’ll see if it makes them jump.”

Crumb

That’s great news. As Dakinikat trenchantly pointed out yesterday, these same elites routinely ignore horrifying acts of terrorism that kill people who aren’t as high profile as the victims in Paris. And, as Dak also pointed out, it turns out those world leaders in Paris didn’t really march with the hoi-polloi. They just participated in a fake photo that showed them pretending to march. Dakinikat also posted this story from The Daily Banter in a comment yesterday, but I think it deserves to be front paged.

Now That These Leaders Are Done Pretending to March, They Should Pass Legislation Protecting Satire, by Bob Cesca.

President Abbas marched in Paris on Sunday, but a satirist in Gaza has been jailed for poking fun at the Palestinian leader.

It’s entertaining to observe the lengths to which American conservatives will overreach in order to make a nothing issue into a major scandal. Such is the case following the unity march in Paris, attended by 3.7 million people and world leaders from 40 nations. As we covered earlier today, conservatives all around are busily scolding and shaming the president for not walking hand-in-hand with those leaders, even though no president has ever marched in a protest rally overseas. Ever. But this president is, for some reason, held to a different standard than the 43 previous chief executives. It’s about “optics” they say. I often agree with that criticism and I agree that optics are important — except for the fact that no other president has been responsible for creating similar optics.

There’s another layer to this fracas. While lionizing the world leaders who marched in Paris, allegedly in support of Charlie Hebdo and free speech, critics of the president are neglecting two very important points.

1) British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Francois Hollande weren’t actually marching with the demonstrators. Their participation was staged on an empty street surrounded by security and merely photographed to look like it was part of the broader rally. It wasn’t.

2) Take a guess at how many of the nations represented by those leaders have statutes protecting satire as free speech? Not one. Indeed, there’s only one western nation where satire is protected speech. It’s the United States. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, Americans can’t be sued by other Americans for producing satire against public figures — regardless of whether the satire describes Jerry Falwell having incestuous sex or whether Saturday Night Live lampoons the president. They can try to sue, but the suit will never see the light of day.

So, while we’re applauding those 40 leaders for marching in a staged photo-op in support of a satirical magazine, bear in mind that none of those leaders come from nations where satirical speech is protected. In David Cameron’s England, for example, the prime minister or any public figure can sue cartoonists, writers, filmmakers or the producers of an SNL-style sketch show for making fun of them on television or elsewhere, and those lawsuits can actually be adjudicated and the plaintiffs can win. The same is true across the European Union and absolutely throughout the Middle East.

Frankly, I wish the White House hadn’t backed down and apologized.

TedCruzSnake

One of the loudest voices criticizing the president for not going to a European “unity rally” was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Time Magazine actually published an op-ed by Cruz yesterday.

On Sunday, leaders representing Europe, Israel, Africa, Russia, and the Middle East linked arms and marched together down Place de la Concorde in Paris. But, sadly, no one from the White House was found among the more than 40 Presidents and Prime Ministers who walked the streets with hundreds of thousands of French citizens demonstrating their solidarity against radical Islamic terrorists.

In other news . . .

Now that Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has officially announced that she won’t run for reelection, there’s a “New Gold Rush” in California, according to Bill Press at The Hill.

Barbara Boxer’s announcement that she will not seek reelection to the Senate has set off a frenzy in California not seen since the Gold Rush. Anybody could win. All you need is a pick, an ax and the ability to raise or cough up a minimum $40 million.

Wanna play? Lots of people do.

In fact, with Boxer and Dianne Feinstein occupying both Senate seats since the early ’90s, and Jerry Brown’s longtime lock on the governor’s office, younger California Democrats have been bottled up in a no man’s land for years, taking turns rotating among lesser state offices, waiting for their chance at the big time. Boxer pulled the plug. Now all that pent-up energy and ambition is bursting out. It’s fun to watch.

Three statewide officials might have the edge, but only because they’ve already run statewide a couple of times. State Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom have reached a pact not to run against each other, and Newsom’s already taken himself out of the race. That leaves Harris. But don’t count out state Treasurer John Chiang. He’s young, charismatic and still gets high marks for refusing to carry out former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s order to cut the minimum wage for state employees during a budget showdown.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Yesterday, Gavin Newsom announced that he’s not running for Boxer’s seat, and today Kamala Harris will announce that she’s throwing her hat into the ring. According to the LA Times story,

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer are seriously considering bids, as are several members of Congress. On the Republican side, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez and two former state GOP chairmen are weighing runs.

Former VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced yesterday that he’s not going to climb into the GOP clown car in 2016. From an interview with NBC News:

“I have decided that I am not going to run for president in 2016,” Ryan said in a phone interview, noting that he is “at peace” with the decision he made “weeks ago” to forgo a bid for the White House.

“It is amazing the amount of encouragement I have gotten from people – from friends and supporters – but I feel like I am in a position to make a big difference where I am and I want to do that,” he said.

The nine-term congressman believes he can make that “big difference” in his new role as chairman of the influential House Ways and Means Committee rather than as a presidential contender.

The committee will meet Tuesday to kick off the new Congress. By announcing that he’ll pass on a White House run, Ryan hopes to demonstrate that he’ll devote his “undivided attention” to the committee, although he admits that it will be “bittersweet not being on the trail” as a candidate this upcoming cycle.

Ryan has never initiated an important piece of legislation and gotten it passed, but now he’s going to head one of the most powerful committees in Congress. Let’s hope he continues his lack of meaningful accomplishments.

Screen-Shot-2014-01-28-at-5.52.16-PM

In other 2016 news, it looks like Mitt Romney is actually going to run for president for a third time. From The Washington Post, Romney moves to reassemble campaign team for ‘almost certain’ 2016 bid.

Mitt Romney is moving quickly to reassemble his national political network, calling former aides, donors and other supporters over the weekend and on Monday in a concerted push to signal his seriousness about possibly launching a 2016 presidential campaign.

Romney’s message, as he told one senior Republican, was that he “almost certainly will” make what would be his third bid for the White House. His aggressive outreach came as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — Romney’s 2012 vice presidential running mate and the newly installed chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — announced Monday that he would not seek the presidency in 2016.

Romney’s activity indicates that his declaration of interest Friday to a group of 30 donors in New York was more than the release of a trial balloon. Instead, it was the start of a deliberate effort by the 2012 nominee to carve out space for himself in an emerging 2016 field also likely to include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Romney has worked the phones over the past few days, calling an array of key allies to discuss his potential 2016 campaign. Among them was Ryan, whom Romney phoned over the weekend to inform him personally of his plans to probably run. Ryan was encouraging, people with knowledge of the calls said.

Other Republicans with whom Romney spoke recently include Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman, former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, former Missouri senator Jim Talent and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah).

According to Politico’s Maggie Haberman and James Hohmann, Romney is promising he’ll be ‘different’ this time.

…interviews with more than a dozen staffers and supporters who have recently spoken with Romney reveal conversations in which he promises a “different” path forward without providing specifics about what that means as far as mechanics and his own sometimes gaffe-ridden performance. And, aside from most of his communications team, Romney would still be expected to bring back the majority of his old staff, sources said.

“He really has to show people that he’d do it differently, rather than just say he’d do it differently,” said a former top adviser to Romney, one of half a dozen alumni to speak Monday with POLITICO. “He needs to assure folks he’d take a much more direct approach to laying out the vision for his campaign versus having those decisions driven by a bunch of warring consultants.”

please proceed

 

Mother Jones has posted a series of quotes in which Romney said he wouldn’t run again, along with the famous “47 percent” video.

 

Finally, from Boomberg Politics, David Weigel reports that Not a Single Person Has Donated to Dick Morris’s Anti-Hillary Super PAC.

Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!

 


Monday Reads: Charlie Hebdo and Fashionable Faux and Haute Outrage

images (1)Good Morning!

It’s one of those days where I feel that there is absolutely no news out there I want to share.   I’m more than a  bit irritated by the way the Charlie Hebdo attacks are being blithely used by some to try to score faux outrage points.  I’m also equally mad that it now appears to be an attention-grabbing gimmick  for the rich and banal.

The first thing to piss me off is that wingnuts are griping about our President not dropping everything to attend a French rally.  I am really getting tired of every single thing being turned into an opportunity for racists to attack Obama.

image-1024x537

This is the photo op that Obama was supposed to show up for.

France is in the EuroZone.  This means the level of cooperation between European states is akin to New York’s relationship with Louisiana on many many levels. Some of its former colonies were also in attendance at the rally as was Bibi since the second attack killed and injured Israelis. The colonial nations are connected by language and much more.  A rally isn’t a normal thing for any of head of state to attend unless a leader or head of state is part of the entity.  I’d like to think it’s just about stupid Americans not having much of a clue about European Unification and the Colonial Age, but really it seems just another crazed meme from the pissed off red state hicks still longing for white hegemony.  For example, CNN has really gone down the crapper to join in on this.

The heads of Great Britain, Germany and Israel were there.

But President Barack Obama didn’t attend a unity march in Paris on Sunday, days after the deadly attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Nor did his secretary of state, John Kerry, who has deep ties to France.

Kerry was in India, attending an entrepreneurship summit with new Prime Minister Narendra Modi — with whom the United States is hoping to develop much closer trade ties.

Instead, the United States was represented by U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley.

Attorney General Eric Holder was also in Paris, attending a security summit on combating terrorism. He recorded interviews that appeared on several U.S. news outlets Sunday, but was not spotted at the unity march.

No one from the administration would speak on record about the U.S. representation at the march.

“Attorney General Holder — a Cabinet level official — is representing the United States at the security meetings in Paris today. He is joined by the DHS Deputy Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas. The United States is represented at the march by Ambassador Hartley,” a senior Obama administration official said.

An administration official added: “As far as public signs of French solidarity from the U.S. — don’t forget several public statements from the President, his call to [French President Francois] Hollande and a condolence stop to the French embassy.”

Beyond that, the official said “all relevant components” of the U.S. government have been aiding their French counterparts, in some cases on “essentially a minute-by-minute basis to support their efforts.”

On Sunday night, a White House official who also asked not to be named added: “It is worth noting that the security requirements for both the President and (Vice President) can be distracting from events like this – for once this event is not about us!” The official did not address how other prominent world leaders were able to work around the security requirements.

How on earth would France even prepare for a presidential visit on such short notice? Well, anyway, most of the leaders were within an hour plane hop of Paris with the exception of a few middle eastern and African countries and they don’t require massive security.images (2)

On that note, I’m particularly pissed that we can still get all in a hissy about religious extremists practicing Islam that go on killing sprees when we ignore white Christian extremists.  Then, we give Israel repeated passes on its war crimes against the Palestinian territories which should be a Palestinian state by now.  It’s selective Faux Outrage.  Did the entire world come over to us and rally when our home grown terrorists created horrific killing events?  Or, did everyone just write it off as the usual few crazed Americans.  Why do right wing christian terrorists get labeled crazed loners?

The deal is that any kind of mass killing is rare in France because France doesn’t allow its citizenry to run about the place with semiautomatic weapons as a general rule. Over here, white men go on killing sprees all the time and we’re lucky if any one notices.  France also treats its transplants rather well instead, of continually telling them they don’t want them.  Here’s three of the top ten Homegrown Terrorist Attacks in the US from a list of 10.

When white males of the far right carry out violent attacks, neocons and Republicans typically describe them as lone-wolf extremists rather than people who are part of terrorist networks or well-organized terrorist movements. Yet many of the terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who had long histories of networking with other terrorists. In fact, most of the terrorist activity occurring in the United States in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from a combination of radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups.

Below are 10 of the worst examples of non-Islamic terrorism that have occurred in the United States in the last 30 years.

1. Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug. 5, 2012. The virulent, neocon-fueled Islamophobia that has plagued post-9/11 America has not only posed a threat to Muslims, it has had deadly consequences for people of other faiths, including Sikhs. Sikhs are not Muslims; the traditional Sikh attire, including their turbans, is different from traditional Sunni, Shiite or Sufi attire. But to a racist, a bearded Sikh looks like a Muslim. Only four days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh immigrant from India who owned a gas station in Mesa, Arizona, was murdered by Frank Silva Roque, a racist who obviously mistook him for a Muslim.

But Sodhi’s murder was not the last example of anti-Sikh violence in post-9/11 America. On Aug. 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page used a semiautomatic weapon to murder six people during an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Page’s connection to the white supremacist movement was well-documented: he had been a member of the neo-Nazi rock bands End Empathy and Definite Hate. Attorney General Eric Holder described the attack as “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred.” It was good to see the nation’s top cop acknowledge that terrorist acts can, in fact, involve white males murdering people of color.

2. The murder of Dr. George Tiller, May 31, 2009. Imagine that a physician had been the victim of an attempted assassination by an Islamic jihadist in 1993, and received numerous death threats from al-Qaeda after that, before being murdered by an al-Qaeda member. Neocons, Fox News and the Christian Right would have had a field day. A physician was the victim of a terrorist killing that day, but neither the terrorist nor the people who inflamed the terrorist were Muslims. Dr. George Tiller, who was shot and killed by anti-abortion terrorist Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009, was a victim of Christian Right terrorism, not al-Qaeda.

Tiller had a long history of being targeted for violence by Christian Right terrorists. In 1986, his clinic was firebombed. Then, in 1993, Tiller was shot five times by female Christian Right terrorist Shelly Shannon (now serving time in a federal prison) but survived that attack. Given that Tiller had been the victim of an attempted murder and received countless death threats after that, Fox News would have done well to avoid fanning the flames of unrest. Instead, Bill O’Reilly repeatedly referred to him as “Tiller the baby killer.” When Roeder murdered Tiller, O’Reilly condemned the attack but did so in a way that was lukewarm at best.

Keith Olbermann called O’Reilly out and denounced him as a “facilitator for domestic terrorism” and a “blindly irresponsible man.” And Crazy for God author Frank Schaffer, who was formerly a figure on the Christian Right but has since become critical of that movement, asserted that the Christian Right’s extreme anti-abortion rhetoric “helped create the climate that made this murder likely to happen.” Neocon Ann Coulter, meanwhile, viewed Tiller’s murder as a source of comic relief, telling O’Reilly, “I don’t really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester.” The Republican/neocon double standard when it comes to terrorism is obvious. At Fox News and AM neocon talk radio, Islamic terrorism is a source of nonstop fear-mongering, while Christian Right terrorism gets a pass.

3. Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 27, 2008. On July 27, 2008, Christian Right sympathizer Jim David Adkisson walked into the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a children’s play and began shooting people at random. Two were killed, while seven others were injured but survived. Adkisson said he was motivated by a hatred of liberals, Democrats and gays, and he considered neocon Bernard Goldberg’s book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, his political manifesto. Adkisson (who pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and is now serving life in prison without parole) was vehemently anti-abortion, but apparently committing an act of terrorism during a children’s play was good ol’ Republican family values. While Adkisson’s act of terrorism was reported on Fox News, it didn’t get the round-the-clock coverage an act of Islamic terrorism would have garnered.

Go to the link to read the rest.

I’m just getting tired of Faux news and Faux outrage and selective attention.  But, I’m not the only one.  Here’s a Dutch Cartoonist that works at Charlie Hebdo.

A prominent Dutch cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo heaped scorn on the French satirical weekly’s “new friends” since the massacre at its Paris offices on Wednesday.

“We have a lot of new friends, like the pope, Queen Elizabeth and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. It really makes me laugh,” Bernard Holtrop, whose pen name is Willem, told the Dutch centre-left daily Volkskrant in an interview published Saturday.

France’s far-right National Front leader “Marine Le Pen is delighted when the Islamists start shooting all over the place,” said Willem, 73, a longtime Paris resident who also draws for the French leftist daily Liberation.

He added: “We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends.”

Commenting on the global outpouring of support for the weekly, Willem scoffed: “They’ve never seen Charlie Hebdo.”

“A few years ago, thousands of people took to the streets in Pakistan to demonstrate against Charlie Hebdo. They didn’t know what it was. Now it’s the opposite, but if people are protesting to defend freedom of speech, naturally that’s a good thing.”

helen-mirren-je-suis-charlieExactly.  No more was this “fashionable” side of protest noticeable than at the Golden Globes where “Je Suis Charlie” signs were as rampant on the red carpet as haute couture. Call it Haute Outage.  Nothing says poseur like holding a protest sign at an event designed to make Big Hollywood feel like they’re relevant to anything but the bread and circuses that entertain Fox Nation when they’re not glued to ESPN.

George Clooney led the Hollywood charge at Sunday’s Golden Globes lending public support to Charlie Hebdo, the satirical Parisian newspaper attacked last week by armed gunmen. The Cecil B. DeMille Award winner walked the red carpet with a black and white “Je Suis Charlie” button on his tux, while wife Amal Alamuddin wore a Charlie Hebdo tribute on her purse.

Elsewhere on the carpet ahead of tonight’s televised ceremony, other celebrities took up the Charlie Hebdo banner.

Clooney tonight receives the Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” In an open letter penned today, Harvey Weinstein called for tonight’s Globes attendees to remember those killed in the January 7 attack: “Charlie Hebdo is a reminder of the beauty of art and the beauty of language. No one can ever defeat the ability of great artists to show us our world.”

More updates on Hollywood’s solidarity with Charlie Hebdo as they come…

Raise your hand if you think any of these folks even knew what Charlie Hebdo was prior to this.

0,,18016946_303,00It’s one thing to be in solidarity with humanity suffering but it’s a completely different thing to do this only at one instance of slaughter while not noticing that a day later THIS HAPPENED: 

At least 19 people are reported to have been killed when militants strapped a bomb to a girl estimated to have been about 10 years old and sent her into a crowded poultry market in Maiduguri in Borno State.

Read that and ask yourselves why I had to pull that story off of an African news site.  Boko Harum insurgents most likely killed 2000 people in a small village in Nigeria  filled with old people and children.  The only mainstream site that I’ve found reporting these massive terror attacks is MSNBC and Melissa Harris Perry. Where the fuck is the outrage on that?

Believe me, I find the Charlie Hebdo killings horrible. And, so do most Muslims, which is another freaking faux meme that keeps floating around when these things happen.  So, Benjamin Netanyahu goes to a rally to bring attention to the shootings.  But what about this? And so I also say fuck off to all those racists that say that no Muslims of any stature condemn religious extremism.

 Hezbollah leader on Charlie Hebdo: ‘Extremists more offensive to Islam than cartoons’.

Islamic extremists following a ‘takfiri’ ideology are more offensive to the Prophet Mohammed than Western satirical cartoons, chief of the Lebanese military faction Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah, said following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack.

“The behavior of the takfiri groups that claim to follow Islam have distorted Islam, the Koran and the Muslim nation more than Islam’s enemies … who insulted the prophet in films… or drew cartoons of the prophet,” the Hezbollah leader said in a televised speech to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, according to Lebanon’s Daily Star.

Militant Islam practices a ‘takfiri’ doctrine that allows it to brand other Muslims apostates for allegedly going against the faith’s true teachings.

A tragic attack on Wednesday took the lives of 12 people, when armed gunmen stormed the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, prompting a citywide manhunt. The magazine had printed cartoons that mocked the Prophet.

Nasrallah went on to say that “Takfiris are the biggest threat to Islam, as a religion [and] as a message.”

images (3)I hate it when the mainstream media and the popstars of the world get selective on us when it comes to loss of life and to the definition of terror.  Not one child that died in Nigeria of the thousands last week deserves any less media attention and less fashion statements at a televised Hollywood onanist event. Really.

I don’t care if my President attends a rally.  I want him to find a way to stop Boko Harum.  I don’t want my Secretary of State at a Rally.  I want him finding a way to an independent Palestinian state that’s safe from invasion and not treated like a personal gulag.  Joe Biden, well, meh.  Send him.  But frankly, I think it was far more personal for the President to go the French Consul and express condolences  to the French Ambassador and to the People of French in the pages of their book.   I don’t want Faux and Haute Outrage.  I want effective national policy to control our home grown terrorists in the same way the French will be searching for their policies.

There I go getting radical again.  But, today, I am not Charlie.  

Today, I am that 10 year old girl that was used as a human bomb to kill others that no one noticed.  She was probably one of the girls stolen from her school that every one’s now forgotten.  If not, she is still one of “our girls”. There should be no lack of outrage or coverage on this but there is only lack of coverage and and silence.

I also will be waiting for the list of christian leaders expressing outrage at the extremist event to be held in Baton Rouge that’s hosted by our Governor on the January 24th.  On that day, I will be every GLBT person that’s died simply because they were born that way. Now if I could just find a red carpet and some paparazzi. 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Cold as…

4cb40d515e7b5135dfae67748180183eGood Morning

Already starting the second week of 2015 and things just aren’t looking like it is going to be a good year. (I am talking about the crap in Congress and so forth. Which it appears payback is a bitch: Payback? Two GOP Boehner foes kicked off House committee | Washington Watch | McClatchy DC)

So today the links are going to focus on main news items and a few history links.

The images you see are vintage magazine covers from the month of January…some may spark a memory or two…

Let’s start with the news that will be blasted all over the MSM this morning:

Tail Section of AirAsia Flight 8501 Found – NBC News.com

3fe65b2b2708627095905fc62aaaa50cThe tail of AirAsia Flight 8501 has been found in the Java Sea, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said Wednesday.

“The tail has been found,” Bambang Soelistyo, chief of the rescue agency, known as BASARNAS, told reporters at a news conference, adding that tail numbers were visible on wreckage. Finding the tail is significant because it may contain the plane’s voice and data recorders, or black boxes. Soelistyo said no black boxes have yet been found.

Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia, said on Twitter Wednesday that “if right part of tail section then the black box should be there.”

“We need to find all parts soon so we can find all out (sic) guests to ease the pain of our families,” Fernandes said. “That still is our priority.”

They even have pictures of the tail from underwater:

IMAGE: AirAsia Flight 8501 wreckageBASARNAS

Wreckage from AirAsia 8501
BASARNAS

Wreckage from AirAsia 8501

From what the pictures show, it looks like the plane is upside-down.

a914e56ff66039042f3de8f72b69b01aAccording to the news in Australia, via the Sydney Morning Herald:

The discovery came within what’s now known as the “second additional area” — a search zone to the west of the original focus area, because strong underwater currents have been sweeping wreckage westwards.

Mr Soelistyo said divers would now be deployed to try to recover the bodies that his agency, Basarnas, is sure are trapped in the wreckage.

A number of bodies were found overnight, bringing the total of those recovered to 40 out of a flight with 162 passengers and crew.

18db33b7930caa45e0435775c3410b47As bodies floating free in the ocean are decaying fast, authorities hope most of the rest of the victims will be capable of being recovered from the four or more large pieces of wreckage believed to be on the ocean floor.

Basarnas and the Indonesian National Transport Safety Committee were now trying to find the black box using the pinger locator.

It also looks like there is some strange suspensions and such taking place. Air Asia is a airline that advertises flights for the average person…with a slogan of “now everyone can fly”…meaning they are not your high dollar air travel carrier. You can read more about their launch into Indonesia/Malaysia with budget flights here Air Asia X to launch UK-Malaysia flights – Telegraph, it is a link to an article from 2008.

f7c0daeb42a92dffc5dd566c277b86e4Anyway, keep this in mind as you read the rest of the article quoted below.

The breakthrough came as the government’s crackdown on what it sees as unauthorised flights continues, carrying grave risk for AirAsia’s reputation in Indonesia.

More airport and flight approval officials were suspended for allowing the doomed flight to leave Surabaya on a day (Sunday) that it was not authorised to fly the Singapore route.

The feared Corruption Eradication Commission, KPK, has been deployed to see if there was any corruption involved in that process.

But the government appears to have pulled back on its heavy-handed treatment of domestic AirAsia flight routes.

18eae36a15a3ac26e8f857af0da5e5a8On Tuesday, airport officials announced that they had banned AirAsia from flying five of its key Indonesian domestic services out of Surabaya airport, including three from Surabaya to the capital, Jakarta, one to Bali and one to regional centre Bandung.

But the general manager of the airport authority, Trikor Hardjo, said that, after the flights were cancelled, some more negotiations led to the suspension being revoked.

“The airline has already been asked for changes, and the permit was just issued for all of those flights,” Mr Trikor said.

The crackdown, followed by the backdown, seems to the be result of over-zealous regulation in an environment that is increasingly unfriendly and difficult for commercial operators in the wake of the crash.

f1ac0a20a234ff53e41cd64d614115cdA spokesman for the Transport Ministry, JA Barata, tried to clear up the confusion: “Those whose flying schedule is not in accordance with their permit must be suspended, but if the changes are only about flying time or hour, they should not be suspended,” he told Fairfax Media.

“The respective airlines can simply apply for new flying time to the respective division at Transportation Ministry. This is a regular practice and it is very simply done.”

More on the banned flights here: AirAsia banned from key routes amid government crackdown

AirAsia has been banned from flying five of its key Indonesian domestic services out of Surabaya airport as part of a government crackdown on previously unenforced regulations in the wake of the crash of flight QZ8501.

c6c679e9fab82573485b725c3546469dThe bans on the flights – three from Surabaya to the capital, Jakarta, one to Bali and one to regional centre Bandung – will deal another blow to the Malaysia-based low-cost carrier, which had already been suspended from the Surabaya-Singapore route entirely.

It’s part of a broader government crackdown on lax administration of flight permits from Surabaya Airport. The fast-growing Indonesian-owned low cost carrier Lion Air has been stopped from flying nine of its weekly services, and smaller aircraft Trigana and KalStar have also been affected.

aba4861f399e79ddee13b1af733b23d7And late on Tuesday, another airport, Medan, made a similar decision, banning AirAsia from flying its Tuesday Medan to Palembang service.

The general manager of Indonesia’s airport authority, Trikor Hardjo, said he had made the decision because the airlines had changed aspects of their scheduling and so lacked permits to fly some services. He told news portal Detik.com he had, “tightened the rules of the game”.

But the sudden move will cast Indonesia’s teeming aviation industry into disarray, and is likely to mean long delays for passengers as they are transferred to other flights.

The Indonesian government’s regulation of its burgeoning airline industry has been 76ecc7571a20813e7f859ad401d3af0fjudged one of the worst in the world. The International Civil Aviation Organisation ranks its ability to administer aviation as worse than that in Albania, Kyrgyzstan, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.

Moving on.

There was another shooting last night, this time at a VA hospital in Texas: Gunman kills doctor, then himself, at VA hospital in El Paso, Texas – CNN.com

One person died Tuesday when a gunman opened fire at the El Paso VA Health Care System in Texas, Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty told reporters.

“The alleged shooter is dead, and we have one casualty. That casualty is deceased. All other VA patients and staff are safe. This is an active crime scene, and the shooting incident is under investigation,” he said.

23c6318e6499e388ca6c7ee46a7f836aThe FBI is taking the lead on the investigation.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released a statement saying it was saddened by what happened.

“We will continue to cooperate fully with military and civilian authorities at Beaumont Army Medical Center. The safety and continued care of our Veterans and the staff will be our focus throughout this situation,” the statement read.

A Pentagon official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that a doctor was shot by a gunman, who later died from a self-inflicted wound.

The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear. The VA facility will be closed Wednesday.

3beeb5785d8233d3a7fb17ce4bdebf68Of course this violence is in addition to the bomb at the NAACP office in Colorado, Suspect sought after blast near Colorado Springs NAACP office | Al Jazeera America

Authorities are looking for a man who may have information about an explosion set off near the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP.

The Tuesday blast outside a barbershop next door to the group’s building caused no injuries, police said. There was only minor damage to the site which is which is about an hour south of Denver.

FBI spokeswoman Amy Sanders says an explosive was detonated against the building, but it’s too soon to know whether it was aimed at the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.

6d39fb3d340900572596efde6577c1ceSanders says a gasoline canister had been placed next to the improvised explosive device but it did not ignite.

She says investigators are looking for a balding white man in his 40s who may be driving a dirty pickup truck.

In other depressing news: Food stamp benefit cut may force a million people into ‘serious hardship’ | Al Jazeera America

I won’t quote that one, you can go and read the thing for yourself…

Now for a few history links, these are from the History News Network website:

History News Network | Ten Questions for Conservatives

036b3abd67977d3687ca9bb2d28d3fd2Now that the Republican Party―the conservative voice in mainstream U.S. electoral politics―has attained the most thoroughgoing control of Congress that it has enjoyed since 1928, it’s an appropriate time to take a good look at modern conservatism.

Conservatives have performed some useful services for Americans over the course of U.S. history. Alexander Hamilton placed the nation’s financial credit on a much firmer basis during the late eighteenth century. Determined to make knowledge available to all Americans, Andrew Carnegie funded the development of the free U.S. public library system in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During the early twentieth century, Elihu Root and other conservatives played key roles in the establishment of international law. Also, in the mid-twentieth century, Robert Taft staunchly denounced the peacetime military draft, arguing that it smacked of a totalitarian state.

5ca53648bae56ab3b2bf4022f9e8fd20But, increasingly, modern American conservatism resembles a giant wrecking ball, powered by hate-spewing demagogues to undermine or destroy long-cherished institutions, from the U.S. Post Office (established by Benjamin Franklin in 1775 and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution) to minimum wage laws (which began to appear on the state level in the early twentieth century). Sadly, the rhetoric of modern conservatism―focused on small government, free enterprise, and individual liberty―seems ever more divorced from its behavior. Indeed, conservatism’s rhetoric and its behavior are often quite contradictory.

Is this allegation fair? There certainly seem to be plenty of discrepancies between words and deeds, and conservatives should be asked to explain them. For example:

Go to link and read the 10 questions…

b1b3b97dac591f892f8569563c9573f3Another HNN: History News Network | Why Historians Need to Refocus on the Importance of Emotion in History, Starting with Shame

Peter Stearns is a Professor of History and Provost Emeritus at George Mason University. He served as Provost from 2000-2014. This article was the basis for a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New York in January.

I offer here some brief comments on shame, its history, and opportunities in the history of emotion. I’ve been concerned, despite the impressive flurry of work on emotion by historians at major centers that have sprung up in several countries, that we’ve not maintained adequate connections with the other fields that dominate research on emotion, notably psychology and sociology.

3c4f074691233bfc73cd3eb3c6b51d2dAn update on shame serves as a case in point, where connections would stimulate new history research and provide needed data and perspectives for the social scientists.

We know one key thing about shame and history, thanks particularly to work by John Demos some decades ago. Widely displayed in colonial America, complete with public stocks, it declined in popularity by the mid-nineteenth century. Recent Googlebooks data confirm this, by the way. But after this core discovery, historians have been silent on the emotion.

Not so social scientists, who have been pouring out impressive amounts of work on current patterns of shame, and particularly the emotion’s harmful effects. Whether we’re talking about prisoners, children, or fat people, shame targeting simply makes things worse, causing resentment and sometimes counterproductive reactions.

41996a1f0a8739af8ccea611b9f24d9bSo how can history, which dropped the topic, now contribute?

 

You know what to do, right?

And one more…History News Network | The Nuclear Disaster You Never Heard of

This month, with little fanfare, Palomares begins its 50th year as “the most radioactive town in Europe.” If you’ve heard of Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island but are unfamiliar with Palomares, you might wonder why. All appear in Time’s top-ten list of the world’s “worst nuclear disasters.” Palomares moreover has been called the worst nuclear weapons accident in history. So why do so few people outside Spain know about it?

e2cbc5d764538cf951aeee715042dd21The cover-up and whitewash were figurative, also literal. Though four nuclear bombs were rained on Spain, many vaguely recall a lone “lost” bomb, fished out of the Mediterranean intact.

So what exactly happened? On 17 January 1966, a US Air Force B-52 collided with its refueling plane, killing seven airmen and dropping four hydrogen bombs. Conventional explosives in two detonated on impact with the earth, blowing them to bits and scattering radioactive plutonium—a mutagen and carcinogen—over the farming town of Palomares, population 2000.

3b58adbfbea88ef680e287694d39dccfEnglish-language journalists, though late on the scene, rushed their books into print, replicating oversights of the rushed cleanup operation and circulating the myth of a single lost bomb. Pioneering female foreign correspondent Flora Lewis screamed One of Our H-Bombs is Missing, borrowing a title from 50s Red Scare pulp fiction. Likewise demonstrating their national allegiances, British reporter Christopher Morris lamented The Day They Lost the H-Bomb and American science writer Barbara Moran, four decades later, decried The Day We Lost the H-Bomb.

Only New York Times correspondent Tad Szulc pluralized the threat with The Bombs of Palomares. He further measured the relative importance of events. “Although the long spectacular search” for the harmless fourth 8f0cabad322bda5e0210f42ba7ef1e5fbomb—at the bottom of the Med for eighty days—“was to overshadow the village’s radioactivity problem in [U.S.] public opinion, the contamination was in reality the most significant” calamity.

[…]

So what was of greatest significance in early 1966? In addition to the seven airmen, plus eight more killed in a Palomares supply plane crash, people in Palomares suffered—and still suffer—potentially fatal radioactive exposures. At the time, no was evacuated; no one was officially informed for six weeks. Even then, U.S. Ambassador Angier Duke told the international press corps an unconscionable lie: “This area has gone through no public health hazard of any kind, and no trace whatsoever of radioactivity has ever been found.” Why then were nearly 5000 barrels of dec16d08e92c2cc56ff2f34b77b63420hot soil and crops shipped away for burial in South Carolina? Why today is plutonium found throughout the food chain in Palomares? Why is radioactivity evident downwind, in neighboring Villaricos?

See, you need to go and read the rest of those article to find the answers to the questions.

I thought this was another interesting history link for you this morning: Nazi super cows: British farmer forced to destroy half his murderous herd of bio-engineered Heck cows after they try to kill staff – Environment – The Independent

Nazi super cows  British farmer forced to destroy half his murderous herd of bio engineered Heck cows after they try to kill staff   Environment   The Independent

Hitler’s drive to produce the perfect Aryan race was not confined to people – it also extended to a specially bred herd of Nazi-engineered cows, which have turned out to be so aggressive that a UK farmer has been forced to turn half of them into sausages.

ea33bef6157070158706d26e2c5fc2e1Derek Gow imported more than a dozen Heck super cows to his West Devon farm in 2009, nearly a century after they were first created in the 1920s.

But, Farmer Gow, who is the only British farmer to own the breed, has been forced to kill seven of his herd because the cows were so aggressive they repeatedly tried to kill his staff.

“We have had to cut our herd down to six because some of them were incredibly aggressive and we just couldn’t handle them,” said Farmer Gow, who said the meat made “very tasty” sausages that tasted a bit like venison.

“The ones we had to get rid of would just attack you any chance they could. They would try to kill anyone. Dealing with that was not fun at all. They are by far and away the most aggressive animals I have ever worked with,” he said.

87d5c03a956e279ab67f0f604421b76bThe aggressive breed was produced by German zoologists and brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck, whom the Nazi party commissioned to produce a breed of cattle based on aurochs, a species of extinct ancient wild bull.

Video at the link.

Hey, remember that time capsule that was found in Boston a couple of weeks ago? Time capsule that was in Massachusetts State House is opened – Metro – The Boston Globe

Using a porcupine’s quill, several small pieces of paper, a strip of polyester film, and a small metal pick that resembled a dental tool, Museum of Fine Arts conservator Pam Hatchfield carefully plucked history from a box Tuesday night.

b0823ee0eaef5aa88fa63e2e9bc0dce7The box was a time capsule, many of its items first placed beneath the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House 220 years ago to mark the start of the building’s construction. The history came in many forms.

There were five neatly folded newspapers, a collection of 23 coins dating as far back as 1652, a medal depicting George Washington, a replica of Colonial records, and a silver plate commemorating the erection of the new State House.

History of time capsules: Boston statehouse time capsule opening.

ef49f1caebdfeb044306b2471551726eOne of the coins in the box, a Pine Tree Shilling, was printed in 1652 for the use of Massachusetts’ colonists, without the knowledge of the British monarchy.  Writing about the shilling, historian Mark Peterson tells the story of the colonists’ monetary defiance, which initially went unpunished during the king-less time of Oliver Cromwell. With the Restoration in 1660, Peterson writes, Charles II “demanded a reckoning of the colony’s conduct.” In a “dexterous act of verbal tribute,” the colony’s representative convinced the king that the pine was, instead, a royal oak, “the emblem of the oak which preserved his majesty’s life.” For the moment, Peterson adds, “the bluff succeeded.” Revere and Adams may have chosen to include the shilling as a token of the colony’s early independence.

b3a9a7f857425b953dce5f4f21a04cfdYou can find pictures and the full text of the plate at the links above.

From history to science:

Children’s vulnerability reflected in genes: Some children more sensitive to their environments, for better and worse — ScienceDaily

Some children are more sensitive to their environments, for better and for worse. Now researchers have identified a gene variant that may serve as a marker for these children, who are among society’s most vulnerable. The study found that children from high-risk backgrounds who carried a common gene variant were very likely to develop serious problems as adults, but were also more responsive to treatment.

4386fd551f87234730594976e89f415aBBC News – ‘Alien Earth’ is among eight new far-off planets

One of eight new planets spied in distant solar systems has usurped the title of “most Earth-like alien world”, astronomers have said.

All eight were picked out by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope, taking its tally of such “exoplanets” past 1,000.

But only three sit safely within the “habitable zone” of their host star – and one in particular is rocky, like Earth, as well as only slightly warmer.

e7a34aa1ab622434bc31a58cffd2b970The find was revealed at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

So Many Earth-Like Planets, So Few Telescopes – NYTimes.com

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, now in its fifth year of seeking out the shadows of planets circling other stars, has spotted hundreds, and more and more of these other worlds look a lot like Earth — rocky balls only slightly larger than our own home, that with the right doses of starlight and water could turn out to be veritable gardens of microbial Eden.

As the ranks of these planets grow, astronomers are planning the next step in the quest to end cosmic loneliness: gauging which hold the greatest promise for life and what 37b75a4fc0f2cddf59e883bb8de338fftools will be needed to learn about them.

And finally…On the Open Road, Signs of a Changing Cuba – NYTimes.com

HAVANA — The signs of the times speak loudly in Cuba, sometimes through their silence.

A 17-hour drive across the heart of the island in a battered burgundy and gray 1956 Ford Fairlane included long stretches in which there was surprisingly little ideology on display, few of the billboards that once trumpeted revolutionary slogans.

55e81deb4c1c4840880d9726fa29d8acThose that remained had less of the nostalgic lilt of “socialism or death” and more of the eager pitch of self-help books or business management bibles.

“Florida advances through its own effort,” said a sign in the town of that name.

“Quality is respect for the people,” said another.

Another said simply, “Work hard!” — a notion stripped of the ideological imperative that used to complete the thought with phrases like “to defeat imperialism” or “to build socialism.”

Dispatched to Cuba in December after the surprise announcement by President Obama 736e62115c203f93b98b107d6f4aff1fe2bc7d89that he would renew full diplomatic relations, I set off on a road trip from Havana, near the west end of the island, to Guantánamo, at the east end.

The mileage chart on my map said the distance was 565 miles. It felt a lot longer sitting on the cream-colored, quilted vinyl seat of the Ford, which had lost a lot of its spring in the years since Fidel Castro swept into power.

The vintage Ford was not part of the original plan.

I think you will enjoy that long read. Pictures too at the link…

Hope everyone stays warm, we are very cold today in Banjoville. The low tonight is 7… So, what are you all reading about today?