Wednesday Reads: Put up your dukes!

a8ade4f956b30d8e6b99b03acfea9da1Good Morning

Oi! Put up your dukes and lets duke it out!

WordPress has fugged up with their editor, which means that the pictures and formatting may be a little off in this post. That said the images are all found on pinterest and are all various vintage picture of women boxing.

Why?

Because, the shit going on with the Supremes is something that makes me want to put on a pair of boxing gloves and kick some PLUB #HobbyLobby loving ass.

Justice Kennedy Thinks Hobby Lobby Is An Abortion Case — That’s Bad News For Birth Control | ThinkProgress

“Your reasoning would permit” Congress to force corporations to pay for abortions, Kennedy told Verrilli. This was not the Anthony Kennedy that worried about c65cfc1d1ec08b5d3d8a8a07be5446b8conservatives imposing their anti-gay “animus” on others, this was the Anthony Kennedy that views abortion as a grave moral wrong. Shortly after Kennedy made this statement, Justice Kagan’s face dropped. It appeared that she’d just figured out that she would be joining a dissenting opinion.

It’s worth noting that Kennedy expressed a different concern than one offered shortly thereafter by Chief Justice John Roberts. Hobby Lobby objects to four forms of contraception on the mistaken ground that these contraceptive methods are actually forms of abortion — a brief filed by numerous medical organizations explains that they are not. Roberts, however, suggested that someone’s mere belief that something is an abortion is enough to trigger an religious exemption to federal law.

More from :

SCOTUSblog: Birth control, business, and religious beliefs: In Plain English

Wednesday round-up : SCOTUSblog

Ugh….but that fucked up crap about the pill being “abortion” aside, last night Boston Boomer put up a tweet in the comments that I think needs to be shared up on the front page.

This brings up a good point, one of the tweets in this thread says that Hobby Lobby responded…

Some of the tweets mention the “myth” of infanticide and forced abortions…which is bullshit. Take a look at this from Telegraph:

Malaysia Airlines missing flight exposes tragedy of China’s ‘orphaned’ one-child parents

Much has been written about the human rights abuses associated with China’s notorious one-child policy: the forced abortions, sterilisations and even cases of infanticide as rural families sought to rid themselves of girls they thought were less useful than boys.

But the disappearance of MH370 has cast light a less well-known but equally devastating phenomenon: that of the “orphaned” parents who, through accident or illness, lost the only child the Chinese government allowed them to have.

There are an estimated one million so-called “shidu” families in China, with state media reporting that around 76,000 new families are “orphaned” each year.

“When you lose your only child, it feels like the sky has fallen in,” said one bereaved Shanghai mother, who lost her only daughter and her husband to a 2012 car accident.

“Because of the one-child policy a million families have lost their offspring forever,” added the woman, who requested anonymity because of the politically sensitive nature of the subject. “It is an ethical tragedy. Nobody can take away the pain.”

2ee90dc1af530f0f0d9815faf83b983cRecent months have seen several major Chinese cities and provinces including Beijing and Shanghai start to change the controversial birth control policy, relaxing family planning rules so parents who are both only children can now have two children.

On the subject of lost children…grown children…the numbers have gone up in the death toll over in the Washington state landslide claims up to 24, more than 100 missing.

The number of dead climbed to as high as 24 with the recovery Tuesday of two more bodies and another eight believed to have been located in the debris.

Authorities did not immediately release the identities of the dead nor did they provide details about where the bodies were found.

At least 176 people are unaccounted for. Officials have stressed those unaccounted for are not necessarily all victims of the disaster. They say they believe many names have been duplicated.

Three sheriff’s deputies who specialize in missing persons cases have begun reviewing the lists to get a more accurate count, Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said.

And if death from plane crash or mudslide is not depressing enough, how about Ebola: W Africa scrambles to prevent Ebola spread

West African nations scrambled to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus suspected to have killed at least 59 people in Guinea, with symptoms of the disease reported in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia as well.26392ed054c7d10c9eca5bd8d5187606

The spread of Ebola, one of the most lethal infectious diseases known, has spooked nations with weak health care systems. In Guinea’s southeast, home to all the confirmed cases, residents are avoiding large gatherings and prices in some markets have spiked as transporters avoid the area.

Health authorities in Liberia said they had now recorded eight suspected cases of Ebola, mainly in people who crossed the border from Guinea.

Five of these had died but tests were still being carried out to check if the cases were indeed Ebola, the Reuters news agency reported.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said a total of 86 suspected cases, including 59 deaths, had been reported in southeastern Guinea near the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia.

This next quote is very scary:

“People are really frightened. They have seen people die in a matter of just two or three days. They are constantly worried who is going to be the next fatality,” said Joseph Gbaka Sandounou, who manages operations for aid agency Plan International in Guekedou.

On to more “newsy” link goodness. Major Garrett has a piece up over at National Journal: Obama Tries to Put Putin in His Place—Again

Moments after deflecting a question about his diminished influence on the world stage, President Obama described Russia as a “regional power” operating in Crimea out of weakness, not strength.

Women boxing at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. LouisNoting Russia’s long-standing influence in all of Ukraine, Obama said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea “indicates less influence, not more.”

I guess that’s why Ukraine’s defense minister resigned and Ukrainian troops bugged out of Crimea, leaving it to Russian forces. This is the only “off ramp” that matters in Crimea. Ukraine and its rhetorically florid Western allies took it. Not Putin.

Even as the White House insists Crimea is not “lost” (Putin can find it without satellite imagery, after all), the grudging language of concession seeps from every corridor of Ukrainian talks here.

“It’s not a done deal in the sense that the international community by and large isn’t recognizing the annexation of Crimea,” Obama said, before acknowledging the “facts on the ground” favored Russia. “It would be dishonest to say there is a simple solution to resolving what has already taken place in Crimea.”

Obama and European leaders are rattled and resentful, thunderstruck that the wispy bonds of international “norms” could be so easily shredded. Fearful of the precedent they appear incapable of reversing, and desperate to limit Putin’s ambitions to Crimea, the G-7 nations have effectively conceded Crimea. They threatened “sectoral sanctions” if Putin further bulldozed international law by gobbling up more of Ukraine or plowing into Moldova. Weak or strong, Putin enforces the new Crimean status quo. All he’s lost is Russia’s G-8 membership pin and decoder ring.

21f8ff404ae8a0dc78db6ac4d7605447Read the rest at the link.

One of our astronauts hitched a ride yesterday. Leaving politics behind, Russian-U.S. crew blasts off for space | Reuters

Two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut blasted off for six-month stay aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday, a partnership unaffected by the political rancor and economic sanctions triggered by Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson lifted off at 5:17 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The trip to the space station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 260 miles above Earth, was scheduled to take about six hours. However, an unknown problem caused the crew’s Soyuz capsule to skip two planned steering maneuvers, delaying the crew’s arrival until Thursday.

“The crew is in no danger. The Soyuz (is) equipped with plenty of consumables to go even beyond the next two days, should that be become necessary. Nobody expects that that will be the case,” mission commentator Rob Navias said during a NASA Television broadcast.

 

558a1149bb572582b62fb754a235f37cMy son has a sinus infection, and was home from school yesterday…so he watched the launch live.

At Least Russia and the U.S. Still Get Along in Outer Space – NationalJournal.com

NASA, however, is not worried about the Ukraine crisis taking a toll on space exploration.

“We do not expect the current Russia-Ukraine situation to have an impact on our long-standing civil space cooperation with Russia, which goes back decades, including our partnership on the International Space Station program,” said NASA spokesman Joshua Buck in a statement to National Journal. “We are confident that our two space agencies will continue to work closely as they have throughout various ups and downs of the broader U.S.-Russia relationship.”

The International Space Station has indeed weathered terrestrial political storms in the past. “It doesn’t appear that we are affected by what’s going on diplomatically with the Russians,” Al Sofge, director of NASA’s human exploration and operations division, has said of the conflict in Syria and Russia’s protection of American whistle-blower Edward Snowden. “I don’t know that we’ve ever even discussed it.”

After 16 years in orbit, the International Space Station is truly a bilateral effort. The station, divided into American and Russian segments, uses American solar arrays and power systems, Russian life-support systems, and a navigation system that comes from both nations.

61fb77482bb012d4afdb794135b78746The U.S. and Russia first collaborated in space in July 1975, when a Soviet Soyuz capsule carrying two cosmonauts docked with a U.S. Apollo module carrying three astronauts. In the 1990s, after the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S. asked Russia to join its work on the International Space Station. Russia was too financially strapped to build a program of its own, BBC’s Melissa Hogenboom explained in 2012, and the U.S. was behind schedule on the project and needed help.

This “reluctant codependency,” as NBC space analyst James Oberg dubbed it, persists to this day. At the International Space Station, Russia depends on NASA’s electronics and communications technology, which are more advanced. The U.S. depends on Roscosmos, the Russian federal agency, to send its astronauts to space. After NASA retired its space-shuttle program in 2011, Russia became the sole nation with the capability of carrying astronauts and cargo to and from space. Even U.S. national security satellites are powered into orbit on an American rocket with a Russian-built rocket engine.

While Jake was watching that rocket take off, I told him the Russians would not mess up that arrangement, they are getting paid. How much?

Right now, NASA pays $70.7 million per seat to send its astronauts to space on Russian Soyuz capsules, $8 million more than a previous agreement. But by 2017, NASA officials say the U.S. should be able to send its astronauts to the International Space Station on its own, thanks to private American spaceflight companies.


bfc76f7e8d948480492ab98762023746I will put this other link here for you, Zandar Versus The Stupid: Last Call For One Hell Of A Coincidence, where an article in the Business Insider by Michael Kelley is asking the question:

 

U.S. officials think that Russia recently obtained the ability to evade U.S. eavesdropping equipment while commandeering Crimea and amassing troops near Ukraine’s border.

The revelation reportedly has the White House “very nervous,” especially because it’s unclear how the Kremlin hid its plans from the National Security Agency’s snooping on digital and electronic communications.

One interesting fact involved is the presence of Edward Snowden in Russia, where he has been living since flying to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23.

In July, primary Snowden source Glenn Greenwald told The Associated Press that Snowden “is in possession of literally thousands of documents that contain very specific blueprints that would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”

So it’s either a crazy coincidence that the Russians figured out how to evade NSA surveillance while hosting the NSA-trained hacker, or else it implies that Snowden provided the Russians with access to the NSA’s blueprint.

ad91d1fe340080ba3d708415fa8cd55eNo doubt Kelley’s article is going to draw a massive screed from Double G and the usual suspects.  But as the people who support Snowden’s actions remind us, we need to have a serious debate about American intelligence capabilities, and that includes debating the consequences of someone with the vast knowledge of these capabilities defecting to a foreign country.

I’ve said on a number of occasions that the actions of Snowden and his partners are not consistent with the goal of reigning in the NSA through existing means, but very consistent with the goal of taking it upon themselves to irreparably damage our intelligence-gathering abilities as a lesson to the Unites States government.

The threats have been made that if anything happens to Snowden, the full trove of information would be leaked.

Zandar asks…

It’s a reasonable question to ask if that’s already happened.

5d1338d26584ed11f5ecee7dd896309aSo, over at CNN they are looking for news since their 24/7 coverage of MH Flight 370 is coming to a close….Two CNN Producers Arrested in Sad Attempt to Break into the WTC Site

Two CNN producers were arrested today after trying—and failing miserably—to break into the World Trade Center site for a story about people who successfully broke in.

A CNN spokesperson said that producers Connor Boals, 26, and Yon Pomrenze, 35, were on assignment “but were not asked to sneak onto the WTC site.”

According to reports, the pair first tried to talk their way past security guards into the heavily guarded construction site. When that failed, they tried scaling a nearby fence. Both times officers merely turned them away.

The tipping point came on their third attempt, when they tried to forcibly push their way through a security checkpoint.

That coup de grâce got Boals and Pomrenze cuffed and booked on criminal trespass, obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct charges.

4bf0f9fa812baf0dacba764f4cdd93c8Sad…sad…sad…when all they had to do was head on over to Jersey: Body parts injure 4 after man killed by train

A man was struck and killed by a train Tuesday in a gruesome scene that left others on the New Brunswick Station platform injured.

Preliminary eyewitness accounts suggest that the man was struck after leaning into the path of the oncoming train while standing on the station platform.

As a result of the collision, at least four other people waiting on the platform were struck by parts of the man’s body, officials said.

The incident happened at about 5 p.m. EDT and involved a New York-bound Northeast Corridor train carrying about 300 passengers, NJ Transit spokesman John Durso said.

1240957702d17d444ef8d846a8420c41Three of the four people who were hurt went to the hospital with injuries…eek! Now that is a “story” those producers could have gotten into…dirty laundry there. Literally.

 

Back to the MH370 for a moment: Families of Flight MH370 Victims Issue Blistering Statement | Vanity Fair

The families on the receiving end didn’t take kindly to the message or the manner in which it was delivered. Families gathered in Beijing read a blistering rebuke of Malaysian Airlines and authorities on Monday:

“At 10pm on March 25, the Malaysian prime minister sent a statement to the families of MH370 passengers without any direct evidence that MH370 crashed in the south Indian ocean and no people survived. 

From March 8 when they announced that MH370 lost contact to today, 18 days have passed during which the Malaysian government and military constantly tried to delay, deceive the passengers’ families and cheat the whole world.

This shameless behaviour not only fooled and hurt the families of the 154 passengers but also misguided and delayed rescue actions, wasting a large quantity of human resources and materials and lost valuable time for the rescue effort.

If the 154 passengers did lose their lives, Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and military are the real executioners who killed them. We the families of those on board submit our strongest protest against them.

cbb4858fba066dab03fa9df6171a770dWe will take every possible means to pursue the unforgivable crimes and responsibility of all three.”

Malaysia Airlines claims a representative for the company told the assembled families in person, and that phone calls and SMS messages were only sent to relatives who were not in the family-support center.

The rest of the links are in quick dump fashion:

What happens when a female student in a hot pink top walks through Cairo University? – News – Student – The Independent

A shocking video shows a female student being sexually harassed as she walks through her campus at Cairo University in Egypt.

Wearing a pink top and tight jeans, the young woman is whistled and shouted at as she makes her way through the site amongst a growing group of men following her.

54ed3e8e1cff5ddfbb033982fed1f78dUniversity guards are seen in the clip, which has gone viral on social media, escorting her off the premises after she hid in a toilet to escape the group, who were allegedly trying to remove her clothes.

The school Dean blamed the girl of course…video at the link.

From the fuckwads in my state, In Georgia, Carry a Gun, Just Not in the Capitol – NYTimes.com

There’s a lot of concern about new legislation in Georgia that expands how people can buy, carry and use guns. It reduces some licensing requirements and provides Georgians with a stronger “Stand Your Ground” defense should they feel threatened and decide to open fire. Some critics were calling it the “guns everywhere” law. That’s so unfair. Georgia’s lawmakers are not allowing everyone’s safety to be endangered by gun-slinging people. They are deeply concerned, for example, with their own.

The bill, passed on Thursday and awaiting the governor’s signature, will, among other things, allow people to carry concealed weapons into more places — including ones, like bars, which conveniently enough are spots where they are likely to be put to use.

They may also be carried in unsecured areas of airports. Even toting a gun in secured areas will merely be a misdemeanor in Georgia as long as you did it by mistake. After all, who among us has not had the embarrassing experience of forgetting they were carrying their Glock semiautomatic through airport security?

put em up (louise adler in a promo shot for the match in which she defeated joe rivers, 1926)Republican lawmakers in the Georgia House tried — and failed — to require colleges and churches to allow concealed weapons. The law bans them on college campuses (thank goodness for that, at least) and requires armed Georgians to get permission from their church before they go to Sunday services packing heat.

But, while patting themselves on the back for protecting the Second Amendment rights of their fellow citizens and dismissing any notion that guns could be a danger to the public, Georgia lawmakers were careful to continue to ban the carrying of weapons in government buildings with security checkpoints, like the Capitol itself, though guns are welcomed in buildings without screening.

aa99047510b526beb2a9c32518e0b111How thoughtful of them.

Barbara Boxer: Why no Viagra complaints? – Tal Kopan – POLITICO.com

As the Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday about the Obamacare mandate on birth control coverage, Sen. Barbara Boxer questioned why those up in arms about the requirement have no problem with most insurance covering Viagra.

“I have never heard Hobby Lobby or any other corporation, I could be wrong, or any other boss complain that Viagra is covered in many insurance plans, practically all of them, or other kinds of things, you know, for men, which I won’t go into,” Boxer said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Co.”

Yeah, isn’t every sperm sacred?

After 27 years, Burger King Baby finds birth mom, feels pure joy

A woman who, as a newborn, was abandoned in the bathroom of a Pennsylvania fast-food restaurant said Tuesday she has found her birth mother just three weeks after launching a search that garnered worldwide attention.

Next…another blast from 80s’ past, an interview with Boy George: Boy George Discusses New Album, Gender Identity, Madonna And More

BOY GEORGE

If you’re ever given 60 minutes to sit down with Boy George, one of the most beloved pop icons of the 20th century, in a private club on the west side of Manhattan in the middle of February, take them.

In the course of that hour, you’ll not only be treated to stories about how as a teen, his brothers would cross the street so they didn’t have to be seen with him and find out if he ever considered transitioning to the other end of the gender binary, but you’ll also quickly realize that he is one of the most thoughtful — and refreshingly honest — interview subjects you’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering.

cbca6008e95235ed0e672a50a1753923Next, tales of animals…remember that zoo in Copenhagen? The one that killed the young giraffe and butchered it then fed it to the lions?

Look what the zoo did to the lions: Danish zoo that killed giraffe puts down four lions

Two lions and their two 10-month-old cubs, all from the same family, were put down on Monday to make way for a new male after the zoo failed to find a new home for the felines.

Copenhagen Zoo said in a statement: “Because of the pride of lions’ natural structure and behaviour, the zoo has had to euthanise the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves”.

The cubs “would have been killed by the new male lion as soon as he got the chance,” it added.

1a6487da34751cbe267773eaa6dcaaaeWTF? Am I right?

On the case of inbreeding and genetic defects…no I am not talking about Banjoville, Birth Defects In Last Woolly Mammoths Suggest Inbreeding May Have Led To Species’ Extinction

Scientists studying 12,000-year-old mammoth fossils unearthed near the North Sea discovered that many of them had extra ribs along their neck vertebrae. Cervical ribs, while innocuous on their own, are usually a sign that something went wrong during the animal’s development and are associated with chromosome abnormalities and even cancer.

Researchers found that cervical ribs were 10 times more common in woolly mammoths from the North Sea than in modern elephants. Scientists were stunned to find such a high rate of cervical ribs among European woolly mammoths.

[...]

c9b35a5b9b503c99e6692addb351750e“The high incidence and large size of the cervical ribs [in woolly mammoths] indicates a strong vulnerability, given the association of cervical ribs with diseases and congenital abnormalities in mammals,” the researchers noted in a study published in the journal PeerJ. “The vulnerable condition may well have contributed to the eventual extinction of the woolly mammoths.”

Scientists theorized that there are two possible explanations for the high frequency of cervical ribs in the last of the mammoths. The first is that there was rampant inbreeding among the last mammoth populations. This theory fits nicely with the idea that climate change fragmented the woolly mammoth’s habitat, isolating small pockets of the animals from each other. These groups would have lost their genetic variation through inbreeding, which would have made them susceptible to abnormalities and disease.

The second theory is that woolly mammoth mothers suffered prenatal stress due to outside factors like famine and disease.

298ffe3ca111580ab030cbe356597c34And finally, Goats are far more clever than previously thought

Goats learn how to solve complicated tasks quickly and can recall how to perform them for at least 10 months, which might explain their remarkable ability to adapt to harsh environments, say researchers at Queen Mary University of London.

Writing in the journal Frontiers in Zoology today, the scientists trained a group of to retrieve food from a box using a linked sequence of steps; first by pulling a lever with their mouths and then by lifting it to release the reward.

The goats’ ability to remember the task was tested after one month and again at 10 months. They learned the task within 12 trials and took less than two minutes to remember the challenge.

01c3b3abfac3402491e3c50d798f1a9a“The speed at which the goats completed the task at 10 months compared to how long it took them to learn indicates excellent long-term memory,” said co-author Dr Elodie Briefer, now based at ETH Zurich.

Before each learning session, some of the goats had the opportunity to watch another goat to demonstrate the task.

Dr Briefer added: “We found that those without a demonstrator were just as fast at learning as those that had seen demonstrations. This shows that goats prefer to learn on their own rather than by watching others.”

Wow, I wonder if a goat could learn that the birth control pill does not = an abortion? Yeah, they sound like they are smarter than some of the Supremes sitting on the bench.

Have a great day, and let us know what you are reading and thinking about today.


Tuesday Reads: Are Women People?

women people2

Good Morning!!

Question for today: Are women human? Are we people in the eyes of our government? We’ve been told that corporations are people. We know that white men are people–that was established by the U.S. Constitution when it was ratified in 1789.  Since that time, there have been amendments that granted some rights to non-white men and to women. We can vote now. Does that mean our government recognizes our humanity?

Today our ultra-conservative, mostly Catholic Supreme Court will hear two cases that bring this question to the forefront, and the Court’s decisions may give us some answers to the question of whether American women are officially people with individual rights.

From MSNBC: Supreme Court to hear birth control case

Depending on whom you ask, Tuesday morning’s oral argument at the Supreme Court is about whether Obamacare can keep treading on religious liberty – or it’s about a woman’s right to access contraception on her employee insurance plan, no matter what her employer thinks of it. Either way, it is the first time the Affordable Care Act will be at the nation’s highest Court since it was first largely upheld as constitutional. The same two men as in that case, current Solicitor General Don Verrilli and former Bush administration solicitor general Paul Clement, are facing off to argue over a narrower provision.

Before the Supreme Court decides whether the contraceptive coverage required of insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act violates a 1993 law governing religious liberty, it has to settle the threshold question: Does a corporation even have religious liberty?

women human

I think the question about the rights of women is far broader than that. Without access to birth control and abortion, a woman has no real autonomy as a human being. If she becomes pregnant–even through rape–she loses the ability to make choices about her future life. It has been a relatively short period of time since women have had the power to make those choices. But that power has led to other advances for women–such as the right to prosecute a rapist or an abusive boyfriend or husband, the right to have credit in her own name, the right to an education, and entry into careers from which women were previously blocked. We can only hope that the justices see clearly what their decisions will mean for women’s lives and women’s personhood.

Back to the MSNBC article:

Hobby Lobby Stores, an Oklahoma-based, evangelical-owned craft chain with about 13,000 employees, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a small Mennonite-owned cabinet maker in Pennsylvania, sued the administration and got two very different answers from the lower courts. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals declared of Hobby Lobby that “such corporations can be ‘persons’ exercising religion.” In ruling on Conestoga’s bid for exemption from the requirement, the Third Circuit disagreed: “For-profit secular corporations cannot exercise in religious exercise.”

The companies are among the 47 for-profit corporations that have objected to their company plans complying with the minimum coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. Under those regulations, contraception is covered fully, without a co-pay, as preventive care. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood object to a handful of contraceptives that they speculate can block a fertilized egg, which is neither documented in the science nor the medical definition of abortion. Other for-profit plaintiffs object to any birth control coverage at all….

The Obama administration says that the government has a compelling interest in women’s health and in gender equality. The Department of Health and Human Services agreed to classify contraceptives as preventive care after considering testimony from medical experts, who cited the country’s high rate of unintended pregnancy and the persistence cost barriers to accessing effective birth control.

Some legal experts argue that to rule for Hobby Lobby would be imposing religion on others, by forcing the women who work for such companies to pay the cost of their employers’ religion. Frederick Gedicks, a law professor at Brigham Young, has even argued in a brief before the Court that doing so would violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

What will SCOTUS decide?

women people4

At NPR, Nina Totenberg offers some scary quotes from Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby:

“We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally is what we should operate our lives by … and so we cannot be a part of taking life,” explains Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.

“It’s our rights that are being infringed upon to require us to do something against our conscience,” adds CEO and founder David Green.

Using birth control is “taking a life?” Apparently one of the arguments Hobby Lobby is using that–contrary to scientific facts–some forms of birth control are equal to abortion. So is every sperm is sacred too? Should men be prosecuted for masturbating? But those questions are not likely to be asked, because it is already legally established that men are people.

 

At the WaPo, Sandra Fluke writes: At the Supreme Court, a potential catastrophe for women’s rights.

Unlike my congressional testimony in 2012, which was about Georgetown University — a Catholic-affiliated university — refusing to include contraception in student insurance because it was a religiously affiliated school, the institutions arguing before the Supreme Court are not houses of worship or religious non-profits. The Affordable Care Act already includes special arrangements for those types of organizations. These are private, for-profit corporations — a craft store and a cabinet manufacturer — that want to be excluded from health insurance and employment laws because of bosses’ personal views.

Laws that include religious protection have never given corporations the right to have religious views, and it would be a terrible idea to make such an enormous change to our legal precedent now. Our laws protect individuals’ private religious beliefs, but when you cross over into the public sphere to become a corporation and make a profit off of the public, you must abide by the public’s laws.

Depending on the court’s rulings, the cases’ outcomes could deny millions of women coverage of any or all forms of birth control, limiting women’s ability to control their reproductive health, plan their pregnancies and manage their lives. As I testified, women also need birth control for many other medical reasons, including relief of painful health problems like endometriosis.

women people3

And, Fluke argues, recognizing a right for corporations to hold religious views will open the door to

Allowing any private employer to dictate which laws fit inside its religious beliefs could upset the necessary balance of both religious liberty and employee health and safety laws. Depending on the exact ruling, any for-profit corporation could cut off its employees’ insurance coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations or HIV treatment — all of which some Americans have religious objections to. Any critical health coverage the boss doesn’t agree with could be eliminated.

Furthermore, SCOTUS could not limit these proposed “religious freedoms” to Christians.

Although this country predominantly descends from a Judeo-Christian tradition, our valuable religious protection laws ensure that anyone is free to practice any religion they want, including religions whose belief systems and practices many of us would disagree with vehemently. In fact, far-ranging beliefs that are not associated with any organized religion could be used to justify a corporation’s practices as well.

Sahil Kapur of TPM points out that Justice Scalia, who might be expected to vote in favor of a corporate “right to religious freedom,” will have to deal with one of his previous rulings: Justice Scalia’s Past Comes Back To Haunt Him On Birth Control.

In 1990, Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, concluding that the First Amendment “does not require” the government to grant “religious exemptions” from generally applicable laws or civic obligations. The case was brought by two men in Oregon who sued the state for denying them unemployment benefits after they were fired from their jobs for ingesting peyote, which they said they did because of their Native American religious beliefs.

“[T]he right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability,” Scalia wrote in the 6-3 majority decision, going on to aggressively argue that such exemptions could be a slippery slope to lawlessness and that “[a]ny society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy.”

“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind,” he wrote, “ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”

That opinion could haunt the jurist if he seeks to invalidate the birth control rule.

“Scalia will have to reckon with his own concern in Smith about the lawlessness and chaos created by liberal exemptions to generally applicable law,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA. “For him to uphold an exemption now is to invite more of the lawlessness that he warned about.”

women human5

At Think Progress, Ian Millhiser addresses the right wing organizations that have waged a concerted war against women’s rights during the past several years: Read This One Document To Understand What The Christian Right Hopes To Gain From Hobby Lobby.

2009 was a grim year for social conservatives. Barack Obama was an ambitious and popular new president. Republicans, and their conservative philosophy, were largely discredited in the public eye by a failed war and a massive recession. And the GOP’s effort to reshape its message was still in its awkward adolescence. If the conservative movement had a mascot, it would have been a white man dressed as Paul Revere and waving a misspelled sign.

Amidst this wreckage, more than two hundred of the nation’s leading Christian conservatives joined together in a statement expressing their dismay at the state of the nation. “Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development,” their statement claimed, while “[m]ajorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.” Meanwhile, they feared that the liberals who now controlled the country “are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

The signatories to this statement, which they named the “Manhattan Declaration,” included many of America’s most prominent Catholic bishops and clergy of similar prominence in other Christian sects. It included leaders oftop anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, and of more broadly focused conservative advocacy shops such as the Family Research Council. It included university presidents and deans from Christian conservative colleges. And it included the top editors from many of the Christian right’s leading publications.

Perhaps most significantly, however, the document’s signatories includes Alan Sears, the head of one of the two conservative legal groups litigating what are likely to be the two most important cases decided by the Supreme Court this term. Indeed, the Manhattan Declaration offers a virtual roadmap to understanding what religious conservatives hope to gain from Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius, two cases the justices will hear Tuesday which present the question whether a business owner’s religious objections to birth control trump their legal obligation to include it in their employee’s health plan.

Read the gory details at the link.

hillary_clinton_human_6423

Finally, I ask that everyone read this year-old article at Time Magazine by Jessica Winter, Subject for Debate: Are Women People? It is both darkly humorous and deadly serious.

All my adult life, I’ve been pretty sure I’m a sentient, even semi-competent human being. I have a job and an apartment; I know how to read and vote; I make regular, mostly autonomous decisions about what to eat for lunch and which cat videos I will watch whilst eating my lunch. But in the past couple of months, certain powerful figures in media and politics have cracked open that certitude.

You see, like most women, I was born with the chromosome abnormality known as “XX,” a deviation of the normative “XY” pattern. Symptoms of XX, which affects slightly more than half of the American population, include breasts, ovaries, a uterus, a menstrual cycle, and the potential to bear and nurse children. Now, many would argue even today that the lack of a Y chromosome should not affect my ability to make informed choices about what health care options and lunchtime cat videos are right for me. But others have posited, with increasing volume and intensity, that XX is a disability, even a roadblock on the evolutionary highway. This debate has reached critical mass, and leaves me uncertain of my legal and moral status. Am I a person? An object? A ward of the state? A “prostitute”? (And if I’m the last of these, where do I drop off my W-2?)

Please go read the whole thing. It’s not long.

So . . . those are my recommended reads for today.  What stories are you following? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.

 


Monday Reads

woodpecker-close2

Good Morning!!

Here are a few things the little birds told us today!

Nate Silver gives the Republican Party a 60% chance of recapturing the senate.  Talk about a reason to be depressed!

When FiveThirtyEight last issued a U.S. Senate forecast — way back in July — we concluded the race for Senate control was a toss-up. That was a little ahead of the conventional wisdom at the time, which characterized the Democrats as vulnerable but more likely than not to retain the chamber.

Our new forecast goes a half-step further: We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber. The Democrats’ position has deteriorated somewhat since last summer, with President Obama’s approval ratings down to 42 or 43 percent from an average of about 45 percent before. Furthermore, as compared with 2010 or 2012, the GOP has done a better job of recruiting credible candidates, with some exceptions.

As always, we encourage you to read this analysis with some caution. Republicans have great opportunities in a number of states, but only in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas do we rate the races as clearly leaning their way. Republicans will also have to win at least two toss-up races, perhaps in Alaska, North Carolina or Michigan, or to convert states such as New Hampshire into that category. And they’ll have to avoid taking losses of their own in Georgia and Kentucky, where the fundamentals favor them but recent polls show extremely competitive races.

And what does everyone think about this?  First up, Paul Krugman calls it “Tarnished Silver”.

 It’s not the reliance on data; numbers can be good, and can even be revelatory. But data never tell a story on their own. They need to be viewed through the lens of some kind of model, and it’s very important to do your best to get a good model. And that usually means turning to experts in whatever field you’re addressing.

Unfortunately, Silver seems to have taken the wrong lesson from his election-forecasting success. In that case, he pitted his statistical approach against campaign-narrative pundits, who turned out to know approximately nothing. What he seems to have concluded is that there are no experts anywhere, that a smart data analyst can and should ignore all that.

But not all fields are like that — in fact, even political analysis isn’t like that, if you talk to political scientists instead of political reporters. So, for example, before glancing at some correlation and asserting causation, you really should talk to the researchers.

Similarly, climate science has been developed by many careful researchers who are every bit as good at data analysis as Silver, and know the physics too, so ignoring them and hiring a known irresponsible skeptic to cover the field is a very good way to discredit your enterprise. Economists work hard on the data; on the whole you’re going to do better by tracking their research than by trying to roll your own, and you should be very wary if your analysis runs counter to what a lot of professionals say.

Then, there are the blogsters with their analyses.  This one from Politicususa takes an ABC interview with Silver to task.download (4)

ABC’s biased interview didn’t quite match up with what Silver wrote about his own numbers:

Our new forecast goes a half-step further: We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber.

As always, we encourage you to read this analysis with some caution. Republicans have great opportunities in a number of states, but only in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas do we rate the races as clearly leaning their way. Republicans will also have to win at least two toss-up races, perhaps in Alaska, North Carolina or Michigan, or to convert states such as New Hampshire into that category. And they’ll have to avoid taking losses of their own in Georgia and Kentucky, where the fundamentals favor them but recent polls show extremely competitive races.

So our forecast might be thought of as a Republican gain of six seats — plus or minus five. The balance has shifted slightly toward the GOP. But it wouldn’t take much for it to revert to the Democrats, nor for this year to develop into a Republican rout along the lines of 2010.

Right now, Nate Silver is giving Mitch McConnell a 75% chance of retaining his Senate seat. These odds are much, much too high in McConnell’s favor. The problem with using a similar model as what is used to successful presidential races is that statewide races are more volatile. There is also less data available. Pollsters poll Senate races less. With less data, Silver’s modeling could become less reliable.

Silver seems to think that Obama’s low approval rating in Kentucky tilts the balance towards McConnell. The reality is that Obama’s approval rating is higher than McConnell’s in the state.

What Republican Jon Karl tried to sell as a slam dunk Republican takeover of the Senate is really much more of a 50/50 chance, and if Republicans lose in either or both Kentucky and Georgia, they will not be retaking the Senate. What Silver wrote was actually more accurate that the misleading interview that ABC edited and packaged.

It is fair to ask if Nate Silver is being set up by the same mainstream media that relies on the partisan analysis that Silver criticizes. If Republicans lose the Senate, pro-Republican journalists such as Karl will turn around and use their defeat to attack Silver’s credibility in 2016. As time goes on, and nation gets closer to Election Day, the picture will become clearer. I suspect that if Democrats continue to have success in Kentucky and Georgia, Silver’s odds will change.

Republicans like Jon Karl are warping Nate Silver’s initial projection to depress Democratic turnout. The pro-Republican bias was obvious in this interview, and it will be interesting to see if the media ignores Silver if his projection shifts more towards the Democrats.

This is the ABC interview that’s disturbing should you care to watch.

Barred OwlThe NYT editorial board took on the chilling cases in front of SCOTUS that attempt to define religious liberty as a tool for corporate  coercion of employees by owners with a need for hyper controls.

The showdown will take place Tuesday when the Supreme Court hears arguments on two consolidated challenges to the Affordable Care Act. The owners of Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts-and-crafts stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinetmaker, want to be exempted from the sound requirement that employer health plans cover without a co-payment all birth control methods and services approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

These companies are not religious organizations, nor are they affiliated with religious organizations. But the owners say they are victims of an assault on religious liberty because they personally disapprove of certain contraceptives. They are wrong, and the Supreme Court’s task is to issue a decisive ruling saying so. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the owners trying to impose their religious beliefs on thousands of employees.

The legal question is whether the contraception coverage rule violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which says government may not “substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion” unless the burden is necessary to further a “compelling government interest” and does so by “the least restrictive means.”

There are several reasons why the court should find that the law does not apply, starting with the fact that secular, for-profit corporations are not “persons” capable of prayer or other religious behavior, which is a quintessentially human activity. Also, as an amicus brief filed by corporate law scholars persuasively argues, granting the religious exemption to the owners would mean allowing shareholders to pass their religious values to the corporation. The fundamental principle of corporate law is a corporation’s existence as a legal entity with rights and obligations separate from those of its shareholders.

The claim that the contraception coverage rules put a “substantial burden” on religious exercise is very weak. The companies’ owners remain free to worship as they choose and to argue (incorrectly) as much as they want that some of the contraceptive drugs and devices on the F.D.A.’s list actually induce abortions. If an employee decides to use an insurance plan for such contraceptives, that would be a personal decision. It does not burden religious exercise.

This is undoubtedly one of the most horrifying stories about religious overreach into women’s reproductive rights and health.  What do 4904-F14.2Lreligious nuts elected to office know about medicine and women’s anatomy?  Absolutely nothing.

Rennie Gibbs’s daughter, Samiya, was a month premature when she simultaneously entered the world and left it, never taking a breath. To experts who later examined the medical record, the stillborn infant’s most likely cause of death was also the most obvious: the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

But within days of Samiya’s delivery in November 2006, Steven Hayne, Mississippi’s de facto medical examiner at the time, came to a different conclusion. Autopsy tests had turned up traces of a cocaine byproduct in Samiya’s blood, and Hayne declared her death a homicide, caused by “cocaine toxicity.”

In early 2007, a Lowndes County grand jury indicted Gibbs, a 16-year-old black teen, for “depraved heart murder” —  defined under Mississippi law as an act “eminently dangerous to others…regardless of human life.” By smoking crack during her pregnancy, the indictment said, Gibbs had “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously” caused the death of her baby. The maximum sentence: life in prison.

Seven years and much legal wrangling later, Gibbs could finally go on trial this spring — part of a wave of “fetal harm” cases across the country in recent years that pit the rights of the mother against what lawmakers, health care workers, prosecutors, judges, jurors, and others view as the rights of the unborn child.

A judge is said to be likely to decide this week if the case should move forward or be dismissed. Assuming it continues, whether Gibbs becomes the first woman ever convicted by a Mississippi jury for the loss of her pregnancy could turn on a fundamental question that has received surprisingly little scrutiny so far by the courts: Is there scientific proof that cocaine can cause lasting damage to a child exposed in the womb, or are the conclusions reached by Hayne and prosecutors based on faulty analysis and junk science?

vintage_audubon_color_print_-_band_tailed_pigeon_1964_large_format_2941bfcdJunk science is the new strategy for those whose prefer to ignore their brain waves and follow religiousity blindly.

Creationism’s days are numbered. “Cosmos” frightens the conservatives more than anything has in a very long time. Every day their numbers grow smaller and their grasp on America becomes weaker.

The time is now for a scientifically literate America to return, for scientific innovations to flow out of our borders and spread around the world. We can no longer take a backseat to the world of science and must return once again to the driver’s seat.

So, we continue to have the same problems with the current freaks running the Republican Party.  Choose your poison: religion or greed.

Either way, I’m voting this fall.  I don’t intend to sit this one out.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


Sunday Reads: March Lions and This is your brain on Barbie Dolls

28685d3f59c2ed69b7d5035d696075a6Good Morning

Well Banjoville is getting hit with another bad day weather wise…don’t get me wrong, I’ve become a mole…all content inside the house. No need to venture out, hermitage that would be considered a lonely spot, is heaven for me.

Most of the links today are from earlier in the month, I saved them and just haven’t found a use for them until now. The images are from pinterest, all pulp covers, and all of them have a little something in common. First up though, a run of news stories getting attention.

There was a mudslide in Washington state last night, via the LA Times: Sounds of life heard from Washington state mudslide debris

Rescuers searching a Washington state community devastated by a deadly mudslide said Saturday night that they had heard signs of life coming from the debris and would continue searching even as the danger of flooding rose.

“We’ll be here all night long doing what we can to rescue people,” Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said.

Trenary, speaking at a televised news conference, did not specify what kinds of sounds had been detected. He said the search had been made difficult by the sheer devastation to the area about 40 miles north of Seattle. At least three people were killed and six homes destroyed.

“There’s nothing left in the area,” he said.

Let’s hope there are survivors…that link was about an hour old as of 4:30 am. In fact, the authorities are expecting more flooding.

Debris and mud let loose by the slide have created a dam on the Stillaguamish River, and water continues to collect behind it. Authorities called on people living downriver, from Oso to Arlington, to evacuate Saturday night.

“Although this is still a rescue operation, it’s a preparedness operation,” Pennington said. He urged people living near the river to seek shelter.

Pennington said that water had been rising behind the dam 10 to 12 inches every half hour, making flooding inevitable.

“That water is going to break loose,” he said.

1288d352d1bad11e451965d9a7a6e9d5Violence broke loose in Spain, BBC reports Spain austerity: Huge Madrid protest turns violent

Violence has broken out at the end of an anti-austerity protest attended by tens of thousands of people in the Spanish capital Madrid.

Dozens of youths threw projectiles at police, who responded by charging at them.

Demonstrators were protesting over issues including unemployment, poverty and official corruption.

They want the government not to pay its international debts and do more to improve health and education.

The BBC’s Guy Hedgecoe in Madrid says protesters travelled from all corners of Spain, many of them making the journey on foot, in order to voice their anger

They called their protest the march of dignity, our correspondent says, because they say that the government of Mariano Rajoy is stripping Spaniards of just that.

For many of them, the cutbacks that Mr Rajoy has implemented, in particular to health and education, are causing Spain irreparable damage.

It looks like the protest started peaceful enough, but then got violent later…video and pictures at the link.

aa611192396924bebfa0378a0b0f8c02Bloomberg has a story out about the New York Times, check it out:  New York Times Story on Pakistan Censored by Local Printer

A NewYork Times story saying Pakistan’s government protected Taliban forces was censored by the publisher’s printing partner in that country, resulting in a blank hole on the front page of its international edition.

The article, a 4,800-word excerpt from a forthcoming book by Times reporter Carlotta Gall to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt next month, appeared in the New York Times magazine in the U.S. and was intended as a front-page article of the International New York Times. While the story appears on most copies of the international edition, it doesn’t show up in papers distributed in Pakistan, about 9,000 copies, according to the publisher.

The Times’s Pakistan printer, part of the Express Tribune newspaper in that country, removed the article without its knowledge, according to Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy.

“We would never self-censor and this decision was made without our knowledge or agreement,” she said in an e-mail. “While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures, we regret any censorship of our journalism.”

It is unclear if the Times will continue its partnership with Express Tribune.

Mediaite has a picture of the paper here: Story on Bin Laden’s Pakistan Ties Disappears from International New York Times

View image on Twitter

And….in Vatican City: Pope names woman assaulted by priest, others to sex abuse commission – CBS News

Pope Francis named the initial members of a commission to advise him on sex abuse policy Saturday, signaling an openness to reach beyond church officials to plot the commission’s course and priorities: Half of the members are women, and one was assaulted by a priest as a child.

The eight members were announced after Francis came under fire from victims’ groups for a perceived lack of attention to the abuse scandal, which has seriously damaged the Catholic Church’s reputation around the world and cost dioceses and religious orders billions of dollars in legal fees and settlements.

918e57f5a3ef906256f79d1ac49bc148The Vatican in December announced that Francis would create the commission to advise the church on best policies to protect children, train church personnel and keep abusers out of the clergy. But no details had been released until Saturday and it remains unknown if the commission will deal with the critical issue of disciplining bishops who cover up for abusers.

In a statement, the Vatican hinted that it might, saying the commission would look into both “civil and canonical duties and responsibilities” for church personnel. Canon law does provide for sanctions if a bishop is negligent in carrying out his duties, but such punishments have never been imposed on a bishop for failing to report a pedophile priest to police.

It is a step in the right direction…

And hey, did you see this story from last week? ‘I have a bomb in my a**': Man annoyed by slow security checks prompts airport evacuation

An airport passenger has been detained for five days after he told officers he had a bomb hidden in his rectum – because he was frustrated with the time it was taking to get through security.

He didn’t have a bomb, but the comments prompted a security alert and partial evacuation at Beijing’s international airport. The man was arrested at the scene.

In a hurry to make his flight, the unnamed man had made a number of vocal complaints about the slow progress of security checks, Beijing city government’s news website reported.

He had also shown signs of anxiety while queuing at the checkpoint, it said.

When he was asked to remove his shoes before passing through security screening, he told an officer: “Do I need to drop my pants as well? I have a bomb in my a**.”

a6960365fb048fc4c35c9e167b0e3da0The guard then asked him to repeat what he said, and he obliged, the report said.

After the area was cleared, the man was searched and taken to the local police station, where he has been held since the incident on Monday.

You know…there are some things that you obviously don’t say when you are getting a closer screening at an airport checkpoint. I have a bomb in my ass is one of those things.

I will tell you another obvious no no…you do not remake Hitchcock’s The Birds. No. You. Do. Not.

Michael Bay’s Remake of The Birds Is Going to Suck Ass

In life, there are few things one can predict with accuracy, even after years of training. Just ask a financial analyst who works for 80 hours a week studying the intricacies of stock price movement only to finally manage a fund that consistently underperforms the market. Just ask a couple divorcing after 30 years of marriage. Just ask a NCAA tournament Cinderella team that makes it to the Final Four against all odds. But there is one thing, in this world of uncertainty, that can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy: a Michael Bay-produced remake of an Alfred Hitchcock movie is going to gargle goat balls.

Yes, it’s happening, according to Variety. The director most famous for the Transformers franchise is graduating from updated live-action versions of glorified toy commercials from the early 80’s to ruining treasured Hollywood cinematic achievements and pissing off Tippi Hedren. He won’t be directing; that honor will go to Dutch filmmaker Diederik Van Rooijen. But his production company — which is also behind such cinematic farts as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Amityville Horror, and Friday the 13th remakes — will be calling the shots.

If you think this is a joke, it is not.  Um…So Michael Bay Is Remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds': LAist

…Hedren thinks a remake of The Birds is a horrible idea. She spoke to MTV (via Cinema Blend) about this back in 2007 when there was talk about a remake:

“A couple of years ago, when they were first thinking about it, they called and asked what I thought about a remake of The Birds, and I thought ‘Why would you do that? Why?’ I mean, can’t we find new stories, new things to do?”

She added: “Must you be so insecure that you have to take a film that’s a classic, and I think a success and try to do it over? They tried to make Psycho over and it didn’t work.”

b924a39147d6a5757c765aa37145590eHedren, folks, just keeping it real.

Yeah, just more CG crap…CG birds, big fake explosions, running from big fake explosions and big fake tits everywhere…

Oh well, what about some of the old classic movies that never made it to the big screen? Via TCM’s blog moviemorlocks.com – Unfinished Films: Where Can I Buy My Ticket?

This month  JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (2013) will finally be leaving the festival circuit and getting a wider release on March 21st. Frank Pavich’s new documentary chronicles the long strange and turbulent development of what many consider to be one of greatest unrealized films in cinema history and allows us to imagine what Jodorowsky’s unfinished film might have looked like if it had been completed. Jodorowsky’s unruly vision was based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction opus and featured production design by the Swiss surrealist H. R. Giger and French cartoonist Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, a soundtrack by the psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd and a cast that included Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Salvador Dali and Amanda Lear. Pre-production on this big-budget film started in 1974 and millions of dollars were spent before the project eventually fell apart. Unfortunately, Jodorowsky’s story isn’t uncommon and there are thousands of forgotten unmade movies that we’ll never get the opportunity to see although they may not have had the same ambition or scope as the long lost DUNE. With this in mind I decided to compile a list of some particularly intriguing film projects that never made it to the big screen. These are the forgotten dreams of frustrated directors and writers but from time to time I find them unspooling in my head and my imagination has transformed them all into minor and, in some cases, major masterpieces.

Enjoy that blog post…

9840dc9ee54e8f00007a757819bfee57Now a bit on something that should never have been made into a play…especially a musical…Theater Review: Rocky — Vulture

Do you remember a while back I mentioned this play in a Sunday post? It was just beginning rehearsals.

The huge Winter Garden — lately home to the inane juggernaut Mamma Mia! — is not a theater in which you’d expect to find a sad and delicate romance. Yet one is playing out there. Amid gorgeous shadows and the monumental grimness of a city in decline, a scrappy small-time boxer, pursuing modest dreams of redemption in the ring and in love, hits apparent dead ends in both. At 29, he’s past his prime as a fighter; meanwhile Adrian, the girl he likes, is withdrawn to the point of hostility. They’re each other’s “flip side,” they slowly learn: The boxer convinced he’s all body, no brain, the abused Adrian just the opposite. That he’s not as dumb as he looks, nor she as plain as her cat’s-eye glasses indicate, is hardly a novel narrative notion, but it makes for a touching theatrical combo. Unfortunately, this two-character, black-and-white kitchen-sink drama, reminiscent of Paddy Chayefsky in his made-for-TV days, is trapped inside (and eventually strangled by) a garishly colorful bloated mess of an unmusical musical called Rocky.

This was inevitable. From its inception, Rocky the musical was a cynical endeavor, driven not by artistic necessity or even plausibility but financial opportunity. (The movie Rocky and its five sequels, all written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, have grossed more than $1.5 billion, adjusted for inflation.) The notion of characters who can barely talk, who are by definition stuck in place, being made to sing and dance — in Philadelphia, yet — was so patently misguided as to invite ridicule. Bringing aboard some of the most highly regarded talents in the field to get around the problem only made it worse. These artists, trying harder and succeeding more than you might expect, have only exaggerated by contrast the contours of their overall failure. This was a job, if ever there was one, for Frank Wildhorn.

I don’t know directors or other broadway stage folk…but I saw that preview video back last year and thought it was shit! I mean like really shitty.

Ahrens, scrambling for hooks that won’t sound musical theaterish and twee, has actually found some, but they come at the cost of a certain outlandishness, like Rocky’s introductory solo “My Nose Ain’t Broken.”

[...]

(The book, hewing close to the movie, including “Yo, Adrian” and the sides of beef, is credited to Thomas Meehan and Stallone himself.) It’s in this sphere — the whole insane hoopla of an overhyped sporting event — that the designers, especially Zinn, go crazy. To judge from the clichés passing for costumes, Creed and his synchronized-sass entourage, dressed largely in Pimp Purple, have arrived in Philadelphia from a Saturday Night Live sketch about Soul Train.

And then there’s the famous boxing ring, which, in a coup de théâtre twenty minutes before the end, slides forward past the orchestra pit over part of the audience. (The 111 people in the affected seats — center section, rows AA through F — have by this point been moved to bleachers onstage, producing something like the in-the-round orientation of an actual fight.) All the whizbang effects $16 million can buy now come out of the closet, as any residual pretense of sincerity is burned off in the blinding light. It is admittedly, astonishing stagecraft, but also astonishing vulgarity. (Nor can you really understand what’s going on.) It’s bad enough that this Las Vegasized championship fight sequence, complete with anachronistic-for-1975 computer graphics, underlines what was already trashy in the earlier material, especially the portrayal of all the women (except for Adrian) as gum-snapping, vowel-honking floozies. But it also undermines whatever was good. It turns out that the love story was bait for the spectacle instead of the other way around.

New things to do? As Hedren asked above…nope.

Alright…just a few more links.

I thought this was a fun thread: Paris Review – Small Wonder, Sadie Stein

short chic

“Bond always mistrusted short men. They grew up from childhood with an inferiority complex. All their lives they would strive to be big—bigger than the others who had teased them as a child. Napoleon had been short, and Hitler. It was the short men that caused all the trouble in the world.” ―Ian Fleming

Every class has one, or maybe two: a child so improbably small that this becomes his or her identity. There he is, on the end of your class picture year after year, forced to play a pawn in the fifth grade human-chess game (wearing a teacher’s old velour shirt as a tunic), any child role in a play, and later the deadweight in a freshman year trust exercise. He humbly takes this as his due. He does not need James Bond proto-Godwin-ing to make him feel the sting of his lowly position.

I have come across many treasures on the giveaway table of my building’s lobby, but my most recent acquisition is perhaps the greatest. Short Chic: The everything-you-need-to-know fashion guide for every woman under 5’4″ could have come from the apartments of literally half my neighbors, but now it is mine. The cover features a petite woman dressed in the height of 1981 style: slouchy heeled boots, what looks like a leather duffel coat, a large woolen scarf, and some kind of bulbous cap that (the helpful height chart next to her informs us) brings her to a towering 5’1″. The two authors, according to their back-flap bios, are, respectively, 5’3″ and 5’2″.36e5d2250442fcb7683ecb9a7032320f

Why, 5’3″ that is enormous! Especially for someone like me! (Who is 4’11” on a good day.) But damn, to think that James Bond did not like short people I mean men.  Go figure.

Oh, and I think my mom had a copy of that book…somehow that cover looks very familiar to me.

I don’t know about shortness causing men to go all Hitler and Napoleon and such…shit, most of the men in my family are short as hell but they aren’t evil murdering bastards. Hey, but if you want murdering batass crazy nut cases then take a look: This is your brain on murder: What the mind of a psychopath looks like – Salon.com

Burly, bearded James Fallon tells people he has the brain of a psychopathic killer. And he has some brain scans he thinks back up his claim.

The PET scans behind his surprising claim—and which have provided entertaining material for his lectures—were taken where he works. He’s Professor Emeritus of Anatomy & Neurobiology and Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). There he studies higher brain functions at the Human Brain Imaging Lab. Fallon describes his interests as “the neural circuitry and genetics of creativity, artistic talent, psychopathology, criminal behavior, and levels of consciousness.”

5511e9ac00394af80c54d79fe018db0bA neuroscientist with a forty-year-long, successful career, Fallon, now sixty-six, arranged to have his own brain scanned. He made the decision after his mother, Jenny, recalled some interesting family history during a family barbeque. She knew her son, the scientist, lectured about his research on violent offenders. His lectures covered what he saw in the brains of murderers and what the images revealed to him about the causes of violent behavior. That led Jenny, as she said on NPR, to challenge her son: “Jim, why don’t you find out about your father’s relatives? I think there were some cuckoos back there.”

She was right. There turned out to be numerous—and murderous— cuckoos back there, including Lizzy Borden and seven other alleged killers. They were all on his father’s side, to his mother’s amusement. Borden, the most infamous, was acquitted—quite controversially—of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in 1882. One of Fallon’s male ancestors, Thomas Cornell, wasn’t so lucky. He didn’t beat the rap for the crime he was accused of committing: the murder of his mother. He hung for it in 1667.

You should find that article interesting for a Sunday morning.

6086d9634965aaa571ced1136d830fa0Now, one to get you pissed. School Officials Take Over Student Paper After Rape Culture Article

After a student newspaper published a feature on rape culture, district officials in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin have set new rules governing the subject matter that appears in the publication.

Through Fon de Lac High School Prinicpal Jon Wiltzius the district will now determine what stories and issues the students can write about. The issue began over an article published in Cardinal Columns, the school’s student-run newspaper. The article by Tanvi Kumar was titled “The Rape Joke: Surviving Rape in a Culture That Won’t Let You,” and featured a discussion on rape culture. You can see the story here (it’s quite powerful and well worth a read). Here’s what the article entailed, according to Raw Story:

The story begins with an account of an anonymous student, “Sarah,” who stayed silent about her rape because she “didn’t know it was rape because there weren’t and drugs, and we weren’t at a party.” Despite having told her attacker “no” numerous times, her friends convinced her that sex had been consensual.

It recounts similar stories from other students — including one about a girl who had been molested by an uncle who is will be released from prison shortly — that demonstrate the way in which rape culture causes victims of rape and sexual abuse to blame themselves for the actions of their attackers.

The school district apparently balked at the idea of this kind of subject matter being in a high school paper and stepped in with the new rules for publication.

Read more about that decision at the link. It made me think of this picture I saw on Facebook the other day.

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That is some fucked up shit!

Which brings me to the last link for today’s post…Study: Barbie May Be Hazardous to Your Daughter’s Career Aspirations – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

Supportive parents tell their daughters they can grow up to do just about anything. But this message of empowerment may be undercut by one of their girls’ favorite playthings: Barbie dolls.

In a newly published study, four- to seven-year-old girls who briefly played with a Barbie picked a more limited set of potential career options than those who had played with a Mrs. Potato Head doll. Surprisingly, this effect occurred no matter if Barbie was dressed as a model or as a physician.0e779d33fdac11d07f7733e08831ead5

“Playing with either type of Barbie reduced the number of careers that girls saw as possibilities for themselves, compared to the number they perceived as possible for boys,” write psychologists Aurora Sherman of Oregon State University and Eileen Zurbriggen of the University of California-Santa Cruz. Their study is published in the journal Sex Roles.

I bet you know where this is going.

Participants were 37 girls growing up in a mid-sized Oregon city. Fifty-nine percent of them owned at least one Barbie; 57 percent owned two or more of the famously big-busted, slim-wasted dolls.

The experiment began with a five-minute play session, in which each girl was invited to play with one of three dolls: Mrs. Potato Head, who came with a purse and hat, but lacked glamor or sex appeal; “Fashion Barbie,” who wore a “short-sleeved pink dress with black lace overlay and pink high-heeled shoes;” or “Doctor Barbie,” who wore a white lab coat over her “scrubs-style V-neck shirt” and “tight fitting blue jeans.”

Afterwards, each girl was shown 10 pictures of workplaces representing specific occupations. For example, she would be shown a photo of a diner, told “this is a restaurant, where a food server works.” After looking at each, she was asked two questions: “Could you do this job when you grow up?” and “Could a boy do this job when he grows up?”

Aside from the restaurant, which was considered gender-neutral, the girls were asked about five occupations usually associated with women (including teacher and librarian) and five usually associated with men (including pilot, doctor, and police officer).

54aea9a86474ad3913e5bca3b18d3306The good news: “Girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head reported nearly as many occupations as possibilities for themselves as they reported were possibilities for boys,” the researchers report.

However, it was a different story for those who played with either Barbie. They “reported fewer careers as future possibilities for themselves than they reported were possible for boys.” In other words, those who played with a Barbie doll “saw fewer future opportunities for themselves.”

“This was true whether the Barbie was dressed as either a fashion model or as a doctor,” Sherman and Zurbriggen add. “It appears that the doll itself trumps the role suggested by the costuming.”

The researchers noted that:

…“adding a doctor coat and a stethoscope” may not have been sufficient “to override the sexualized clues embedded in the outfit.” A Doctor Barbie in plain medical scrubs may have had a different effect. So, presumably, might the realistically proportioned Barbie-like doll which, coincidentally, has just been unveiled by its inventor.

It is a small study of course but it does make you think…hmmm.

Well, I hope you have enough there to chew on this morning. Give us some thoughts in the comments below and have a wonderful day.


Lazy Saturday Afternoon Reads

Spring is on the way!

Spring is on the way!


 

Good Afternoon!!

I woke up this morning with my eyes so scratchy and watery that I couldn’t read anything on-line until I took a long hot shower. It’s either a cold, a sinus infection, or very early pollen in the air–or maybe all three. Who knows? Anyway, I’m feeling better now.

There’s plenty of news this morning, but not a lot of *new news,* if you know what I mean. The Middle East is still in chaos, Malaysian Airlines 370 is still missing, Republicans are still insane; yet the Earth still continues to turn on its axis. I’ve tried to find a few stories worthy of your attention–I’ll let you be the judge.

UPDATE (11:57 Eastern):

There actually is some breaking news from Ukraine. BBC News is reporting that Russian troops storm[ed a] Ukraine airbase in Crimea, shots fired.

Shooting and explosions have been heard as Russian troops – backed by armoured vehicles – stormed a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea.

Reports say at least one person was injured during the assault on Belbek base, near Sevastopol. The base is now said to be under Russian control.

Earlier, several hundred unarmed protesters seized a Ukrainian naval base at Novofedorivka, western Crimea.

Pro-Russian militia has also been seizing Ukrainian Navy ships.

The BBC’s Ian Pannell, in Crimea, says the Ukrainian troops on the peninsula feel beleaguered and abandoned by their chiefs in Ukraine….

In Belbek, two armoured personnel carriers burst through the wall of the base followed by Russian troops firing weapons in the air.

An ambulance was then seen entering the base amid reports that at least one person was injured.

The Ukrainian soldiers were later gathered at the base main square in front of the heavily armed Russian troops.

The storming followed an ultimatum by the Russians to surrender.

Did you hear that Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blocked Twitter in his country?

Reuters: Furious reaction, political split after Turkey bans Twitter.

A court blocked access to Twitter after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s defiant vow, on the campaign trail on Thursday ahead of March 30 local elections, to “wipe out” the social media service, whatever the international community had to say about it.

Industry Minister Fikri Isik said talks with Twitter were taking place and the ban would be lifted if the San Francisco-based firm appointed a representative in Turkey and agreed to block specific content when requested by Turkish courts.

Twitter turkey

What’s Erdogan’s problem with social media?

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 11 years, is battling a corruption scandal that has been fed by social media awash with alleged evidence of government wrongdoing. He did not mention the Twitter ban at two campaign rallies on Friday.

Turkey’s main opposition party said it would challenge the ban and file a criminal complaint against Erdogan on the grounds of violating personal freedoms. The country’s bar association filed a separate court challenge.

Twitter users called the move a “digital coup”, some comparing Turkey to Iran and North Korea, where social media platforms are tightly controlled. There were also calls for protests.

“Waking up to no Twitter in Turkey feels like waking up to a coup. The modern equivalent of occupying the radio stations,” U.S. author and journalist Andrew Finkel, who has reported from Turkey for more than 20 years, said on his Twitter account.

This morning Reuters reports that

Turks attempting to access Twitter have found an Internet page carrying court rulings saying that a “protection measure” has been taken, blocking the site.

But many have been able to get around the ban, either by using virtual private network (VPN) software or changing their Domain Name System (DNS) setting, effectively disguising their computers’ geographical whereabouts.

By Saturday, though, computers that had been set with DNS numbers widely circulated to help people get around the ban were not able to access the Internet at all.

“Apparently alternate DNS servers are also blocked in Turkey. New settings are being circulated,” wrote one Twitter user.

Apparently twitter is very popular in Turkey. The Washington Post has lots more reactions to the Turkish Twitter ban.

I know everyone is sick of the missing MH370 story, so I’ll just give you one link to a minor update.

WaPo: Australia expands search for missing jetliner as China investigates new satellite image.

Chinese satellite image

Chinese satellite image

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — China released a new image of a “suspected floating object” in the Indian Ocean on Saturday, in the vicinity of an Australian-led search that has brought fresh hope to the hunt for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner.

China has sent ships to investigate, according to the Malaysian government.

The Chinese government said one of its satellites spotted the object on March 18, about 75 miles west of the location released by Australia earlier this week.

A grainy image of the latest find was tweeted Saturday by Chinese state television, CCTV. It is dated two days after the two images released by Australia.

The search for the missing airliner has now entered a third week, with the main hope for a breakthrough hinging on planes and ships being able to locate floating objects picked up by satellites in a desolate stretch of ocean almost as close to Antarctica as to Australia.

Michelle Obama is on a good will tour of China with her mother and two daughters. Time reports on the First Lady’s defense of “the free internet” in a speech at Peking University.

First Lady Michelle Obama used a trip to China Saturday to promote the liberating “power of technology” in a veiled swipe at the harshly restrictive Internet and media environment in the country.

At her first—and only—major speech scheduled during her…trip…Obama said that new technology can “open up the entire world and expose us to ideas and innovations we could never have imagined.”

“It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet and through the media,” she said. “Because that’s how we discover the truth, that’s how we learn what’s really happening in our communities, in our country and our world.”

President Xi Jinping and his wife welcomed U.S. first lady and her mother and daughters

President Xi Jinping and his wife welcomed U.S. first lady and her mother and daughters


 

I never watch the Sunday talk shows, because they are horrible; but Paul Waldman of WaPo’s The Plum Line apparently hasn’t given up on them.

Waldman asks: Can the Sunday shows get better?

Most members of Congress would kill to be interviewed on one of the shows, since getting such an appearance instantly brands you as an important person whose opinions are worth listening to. But “Meet the Press,” the oldest and most venerated of the shows, has been struggling of late, falling behind “This Week” and “Face the Nation” in the ratings, leading to some rumors about David Gregory’s future. But as Michael Calderone reports in the Huffington Post, the network is “doubling down” on Gregory as it tries to gingerly step its way into the digital world. The problem, though, is what they put on the air every Sunday.

There’s a conceit about the Sunday shows, that they hold the powerful accountable. It’s where “newsmakers” come to be raked over the coals, unable to escape the probing queries of savvy and unrelenting interrogators. But it’s awfully hard to watch the shows and believe that’s true. What happens instead is that the powerful come on the shows, and the hosts try (and almost always fail) to trap them with various kinds of “gotcha” questions, which the powerful handle by returning again and again to their carefully planned messages. The result, even for those of us who love listening to and talking about politics and policy, is remarkably tedious.

Meet the press

So how can these awful shows be improved?

Let me make a couple of suggestions I know they’d never consider. First, ban all party chairs, White House communication staff, party “strategists,” and anyone else whose primary objective is to spin from ever, ever, ever appearing on the show. Ever. To ask a question I’ve raised elsewhere: Has anyone anywhere in the United States turned off their TV and said, “Wow, that interview with Reince Priebus was really interesting”? Of course not, and the same applies to his Democratic counterpart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. That’s because their job is to deliver talking points, and they do so with a discipline worthy of the Marine Honor Guard, no matter what questions they’re asked. And they get plenty of time on cable, so why waste valuable minutes on a Sunday show by letting them repeat the same talking points they’ve recited 100 times that that week?

And while we’re at it, why not go farther and cut down the interviews with elected officials and candidates by three-quarters or so? I’m serious. When was the last time you saw a truly edifying interview on a Sunday show with a senator or member of Congress? If you want to talk about what’s going on in Ukraine, I could hardly care less what John McCain (the shows’ most frequent guest) thinks about it, and I doubt I’m alone. He knows next to nothing about the situation, and as a minority party senator with almost no support among his colleagues, he’ll have precisely zero impact on the outcome of events. So how about, as a first rule, the people you bring on should 1) know as much as possible about the things you’re going to discuss, and 2) have little if any interest in spinning?

Good luck with that. I’d say the very best thing that could be done is to ban both John McCain and Lindsey Graham from ever appearing on Sunday shows. And for heaven’s sake get rid of David Gregory and put Bob Schieffer permanently out to pasture. BTW, Bob’s guest tomorrow will be Mitt Romney because he undoubtedly has all the answers on what’s up with Russian and Ukraine.

A few more quick hits . . .

Politico: Judge strikes down Mich. same-sex marriage ban

Reuters: Pope appoints former child victim to church group on sex abuse

Talking Points Memo: Creationists Complain Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ Isn’t Giving Them Airtime

Business Insider: North Dakota State Is America’s Team

So . . . what stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread and have a terrific weekend!


Friday Nite Lite: Slaps on wrist and psychic flight transponders

Good Evening

Lets just get to it shall we?

General Sinclair assaults by Political Cartoonist Dave Granlund

146060 600 General Sinclair assaults cartoons

This cartoon was featured on Daily Banter:

Breaking Guess | BobCesca.com | News and Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World

Wolf’s next guest – Political Cartoon by Bruce Plante, Tulsa World – 03/20/2014

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Wolf's next guest

A day before it actually happened…

How Low Can We Go? | BobCesca.com | News and Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World

When I shared this cartoon last night, it was intended as a joke; I didn’t actually expect a news network to go there.

On Thursday night, HLN invited a psychic to discuss what she think may have been the fate of the lost airliner and the 239 souls that were on board that plane.

“I am all for wanting to believe in mysticism and psychics,” HLN host Jenny Hutt began, “but I’m, eh, I don’t know.”

Honestly, WTF?????????????????????????  CNN’s ‘Breaking News’: We Probably Won’t Know Anything for a Long, Long Time | Mediaite

The rest of the cartoons in no particular order…

Fred Phelps is silenced. Thank God. – Political Cartoon by J.D. Crowe, Alabama Media Group – 03/21/2014

Cartoon by J.D. Crowe - Fred Phelps is silenced. Thank God.

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 03/21/2014

Cartoon by David Horsey -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Bob Englehart, Hartford Courant – 03/21/2014

Cartoon by Bob Englehart -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle – 03/21/2014

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Gustavo Rodriguez, El Nuevo Herald – 03/21/2014

Cartoon by Gustavo Rodriguez -

Real News Vanished by Political Cartoonist Mike Luckovich

146015 600 Real News Vanished cartoons

March Madness by Political Cartoonist Gary Varvel

146013 600 March Madness cartoons

Senate Intelligence Committee by Political Cartoonist Gary Varvel

146011 600 Senate Intelligence Committee cartoons

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Ross Gosse, Editoons, iNCk. – 03/20/2014

Cartoon by Ross Gosse -

Backsies in the USSR by Political Cartoonist Steve Sack

146008 600 Backsies in the USSR cartoons

Immigration Reform and GOP by Political Cartoonist Mike Keefe

145990 600 Immigration Reform and GOP cartoons

Malaysia flight theory by Political Cartoonist Jeff Darcy

145986 600 Malaysia flight theory cartoons

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun – 03/20/2014

Cartoon by Mike Smith -

Cartoonist Gary Varvel: TV news coverage of the missing Malaysia – Political Cartoon by Gary Varvel, Indianapolis Star – 03/20/2014

Cartoon by Gary Varvel - Cartoonist Gary Varvel: TV news coverage of the missing Malaysia

Flight 370 – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 03/20/2014

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Flight 370

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch – 03/20/2014

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Paul Berge, Q Syndicate – 03/20/2014

Cartoon by Paul Berge -

CIA Spies On Congress by Political Cartoonist Bob Englehart

145960 600 CIA Spies On Congress cartoons

Winter trophies by Political Cartoonist Dave Granlund

145957 600 Winter trophies cartoons

Da Plane Da Plane by Political Cartoonist John Darkow

145956 600 Da Plane Da Plane cartoons

Couldn’t resist that one!

Malaysia Flight 370 by Political Cartoonist Dave Granlund

145887 600 Malaysia Flight 370 cartoons

 

This is an open thread…


Friday Reads

images (22)

Good Morning!

I’ve found a few things I think you’ll find interesting this morning.

Here’s an interview with Anita Hill who argues that Biden basically did a “terrible job” with the Clarence Thomas hearings.  It would sure be nice if ol’ Uncle Thomas wasn’t on the bench.

Anita Hill, the woman who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, on Thursday said that as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Vice President Joe Biden did a “terrible job” overseeing Thomas’ confirmation hearings in 1991.

Hill said on HuffPost Live that Biden failed to call witnesses and experts to testify who could have shed light on the sexual harassment claims made about Thomas.

“I think he did two things that were a disservice to me, that were a disservice more importantly to the public,” Hill said. “There were three women who were ready and waiting and and subpoenaed to be giving testimony about similar behavior that they had experienced or witnessed. He failed to call them.”

Will the South see a rise of liberal activism?  Recent signs of activism have been seen in acts like Moral Mondays in North Carolina to arrests in Georgia in protests over Governor Deal’s refusal to expand Medicaid.

There was a son of a sharecropper and an advocate for the homeless, a college student and a great-grandmother, a retired store manager and the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
By the end of the day, they were among the 39 people who were arrested Tuesday during choreographed waves of civil disobedience here at the state Capitol in protest of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act.

They shouted slogans and unfurled banners from the Senate gallery, sang spirituals in the marble rotunda and held a sit-in blocking the entrance to the governor’s office.

The Moral Monday movement, which began last year in North Carolina, took firm root in Georgia on Tuesday, where the arrests at the Capitol were the group’s boldest action since it started protesting here in January. There were similar protests in South Carolina, where a smaller but persistent campaign of civil disobedience played out for the third week in a row.

The movements are rare stirrings of impassioned, liberal political action in a region where conservative control of government Botanical - Flower - Orange flowersis as solid as cold grits and Democrats are struggling for survival more than influence.

The question raised by all three groups, which have echoes in at least four other states, is whether they can become more than an outlet for protests by liberal activists who feel shut out of state politics.

Proponents insist they are building a movement and are in it for the long haul.

“We are at the beginning of a new Southern strategy,” says Tim Franzen, 36, the lead organizer behind Moral Monday Georgia. “The changes we need to make in Georgia to transform the state are going to take years. But with the changing demographics of the South, our victory is inevitable. This train has left the station.”

It also seems that Alabama has a good chance of passing a medical marijuana law.

A medical marijuana bill unanimously passed both the Alabama House and Senate on Thursday and is headed to the desk of Gov. Robert Bentley, who has said he will sign it into law.

The measure makes it legal to possess only a prescribed medical grade extract known as CBD or cannabidiol, which is non-intoxicating.

The U.S. Congress in 1972 deemed the oil to have no accepted medical use and banned it.

However, some studies have shown it to be useful in treating a number of conditions, including seizures, and it has been legalized for use in 20 states, according to the Medical Marijuana ProCon website.

Called Carly’s Law, the bill in Alabama originated to help control violent seizures suffered by a toddler with a severe neurological disorder.

The girl’s family won the backing of Republican state Rep. Mike Ball, sponsor of the bill, and the governor, who has indicated his support.

images (23)Speaking of Republicans and health, how many of their heads will explode when they find out that “Obamacare” is surpassing its sign up goals now?

A new forecast by Charles Gaba contains a devastating prediction for Republicans. The expert Obamacare signups tracker predicts that the ACA will smash its enrollment goal of 6 million, by the end of the month.

Mr. Gaba has been delivering incredibly accurate predictions about the ACA on his blog, acasignups.net. His latest prediction would be a nail in the Republicans’ anti-Obamacare coffin. Gaba predicts that the final sign up total will be 6.22 million by the end of March. If this is forecast is accurate, it will mean that the ACA smashed through its revised CBO goal of 6 million sign ups. All Republicans hopes of being able to claim that the law is a total failure hinge on Obamacare missing the enrollment goal.

As people continue to enroll at a brisk clip before the March 31 deadline, it is becoming obvious that the White House is going to meet their goal. The demand for access to affordable healthcare should serve as another reminder to Democrats that they should avoid getting suckered into the Republican trap of abandoning the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court will be deciding a number of cases having to do with poor oppressed Conservatives who have found a creative way to call all kinds of things “free speech”.

For decades, liberals wielded the 1st Amendment to protect antiwar activists, civil rights protesters and government whistle-blowers.

These days, however, the Constitution’s protection for free speech and religious liberty has become the weapon of choice for conservatives.

This year’s Supreme Court term features an unusual array of potentially powerful 1st Amendment claims, all of them coming from groups on the right.

And in nearly every case, liberal groups — often in alliance with the Obama administration — are taking the opposing side, supporting state and federal laws that have come under attack for infringing upon the rights of conservatives.

The free-speech challenges include cases on campaign contribution limits, no-protest zones in front of abortion clinics and mandatory union dues for public employees.

At the same time, devout Christian employers are claiming their religious liberty should entitle them to an exemption from a provision in President Obama’s healthcare lawrequiring that full contraceptive coverage be offered to female employees.

And waiting on deck is a free-speech appeal from a Christian photography company challenging a New Mexico state law that bars businesses from discriminating against gays and lesbians.

Conservatives and libertarians say the role reversal at the high court reflects a larger shift in political alliances and attitudes toward government.

“The progressive mind-set sees government as a force for good,” said Ilya Shapiro, a lawyer for the libertarian Cato Institute. So, increasingly, “the energy behind those who are battling with the government” comes from libertarians and conservatives.

“This is a real trend over several years,” said Washington attorney Michael Carvin, a staunch conservative who led the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act. “The liberals are in favor of an expansive federal government, and the conservatives are making the arguments for individual autonomy on speech and religion.”

Citing the campaign funding case, which seeks to knock out aggregate limits on how much wealthy donors can give congressional candidates and political parties, Carvin accused liberals of abandoning “the idea of assuring all voices can participate freely because they don’t like rich people and corporations.”

Oy.

Guess who would benefit most from the Keystone Pipeline?

You might expect the biggest lease owner in Canada’s oil sands, or tar sands, to be one of the international oil giants, like Exxon Mobil or Royal Dutch Shell. But that isn’t the case. The biggest lease holder in the northern Alberta oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately-owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.

The Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres — an area nearly the size of Delaware — in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, according to an activist groupthat studied Alberta provincial records. The Post confirmed the group’s findings with Alberta Energy, the provincial government’s ministry of energy. Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch’s lease holdings could be closer to two million acres. The companies with the next biggest net acreage positions in oil sands leases are Conoco Phillips and Shell, both close behind.

What is Koch Industries doing there? The company wouldn’t comment on its holdings or strategy, but it appears to be a long-term investment that could produce tens of thousands of barrels of the region’s thick brand of crude oil in the next three years and perhaps hundreds of thousands of barrels a few years after that.

The finding about the Koch acreage is likely to inflame the already contentious debate about the Keystone XL Pipeline and spur activists and environmentalists seeking to slow or stop planned expansions of production from the northern Alberta oil sands, or tar sands. Environmental groups have already made opposing the pipeline their leading cause this spring and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has called the Koch brothers Charles and David “un-American” and “shadowy billionaires.

So, there’s a few things to get your started.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?