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

Woman Reading on a Settee, William Churchill

Woman Reading on a Settee, William Churchill

Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

measles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now check this out:

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

Herd Immunity

Herd Immunity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Bob Sears

Dr. Bob Sears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

disneyland-cast-l

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

Just one more article before I wrap this up.

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

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

Experts explain the California outbreak simply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday Reads: #SOTU Aftermath

d977f3793197d3f408b824d6167c4bb8Good Morning

Oh boy, is it.

I guess we will just dive into the obvious this morning, by looking at the reactions and responses to Obama’s sixth SOTU speech from last night.

And away we go….

I thought this was a biggie score from last night, Transgender Individuals Recognized For First Time Ever In A State Of The Union Speech

President Barack Obama pushed for protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals Tuesday evening, making it the first time lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have ever been recognized directly in a State of the Union address.

“As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained,” said Obama, adding, “That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.”

The other big thing of the night, at least to my eyes, was the visual “optics” of Republicans Refuse To Stand Up And Support Fair Pay. Literally.

I hope that Dem campaigns make the most of that during 2016. Women make up half the voting population dammit!

When President Barack Obama called on Congress to raise the minimum wage and strengthen federal equal-pay laws for women, congressional Republicans refused to stand up and support it. Literally.

“Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time,” Obama said Tuesday during his annual State of the Union address.

“And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

The remarks drew a standing ovation from many in the chamber, but not from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and some Republicans, who remained seated.

Assholes.

But hey, the Latins got the “Royal Republican” treatment too. I am talking about the GOP responses to Obama’s Immigration policy. GOP Speech Pushes Immigration Reform—in Spanish Version Only | Mother Jones

On Tuesday night, freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida delivered the Republicans’ Spanish-language response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. His remarks initially were billed as a translation of Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst‘s official GOP response. That put the GOP in an awkward spot, as Mother Jones first reported on Tuesday: Ernst has long been a proponent of making English the official language of US government communications.

In the end, Curbelo’s speech wasn’t an exact replication of Ernst’s. Whereas the senator relied upon numerous anecdotes of life in small town Iowa, Curbelo stuck to more general platitudes to open and close his speech. But when it came to policy, each largely followed the same script—Curbelo’s essentially used the same structure and rephrased the same talking points, albeit in a different language.

But there was also a conspicuous divergence: While Ernst’s speech included comments about abortion politics, Curbelo instead touted the need for immigration reform. “We should work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions to our immigration system, modernize legal immigration, and strengthen our economy,” he said, according to a translation by the Democratic opposition research firm American Bridge. From there, Curbelo went directly back into language also found in Ernst’s speech, saying: “In the past, the President has expressed support for ideas like these; now we ask him to collaborate with us to get it done.”

Similarly, Curbelo briefly touched on education reform and Cuba—two topics Ernst didn’t broach.

GOP Mentions Immigration In State of The Union Rebuttal…But Only In Spanish

Curbelo is far more liberal on immigration than many of his colleagues. He voted against an amendment last week to end Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and opposed the final Department of Homeland Security funding bill when such measures were included. He also supports immigration reform and the Dream Act, which would allow young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to stay.

For all the talk from Republicans who oppose executive action on immigration about the urgent need to end it, the issue didn’t make the cut for Ernst’s speech. She said Republicans want to “correct executive overreach,” but didn’t refer to immigration specifically.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who delivered his own State of the Union rebuttal, did not mention immigration, either.

Uh, the hog castrator is totally against immigration reform btw…

But the Official GOP response, given by a woman wearing a pair of camo heels (no shit, for serious) wasn’t really a response at all, but more like another example of the GOP attempt to pander to the women…I mean court the women voters. (Like that shit with the Spanish only response.) More on Joni in a bit.

If you are counting, there was five GOP responses last night. That does not count the ones from Rand and Cruz.

Instead of 1 Awkward SOTU Response, GOP Offers 5 — NYMag

In SOTU rebuttal, Rand Paul outlines 2016 vision – The Washington Post

Joni Ernest GOP SOTU Response 2015 FULL TRANSCRIPT VIDEO | Mediaite

Cruz vine here:

 

The best commentary on Joni Ernst rebuttal is from Karoli: Joni Ernst Tells Tale Of Time Trickle-Down Economics Spilled All Over Her Shoes | Crooks and Liars

Joni Ernst told a touching tale of how she only owned one pair of shoes as a child, and how she had to wear bread bags on her feet to keep her shoes dry when it rained.

When was that? During the Great Depression? Not so much, since Ernst was born in 1970. No, her time in bread bags was during the Reagan era — 1980 to 1988. Even allowing for the possibility that there was some flow-through from Carter into the Reagan years, Ernst’s tale of “we didn’t have much but we didn’t need much” falls squarely into Reagan’s trickle-down years.

Senator Ernst’s follow-up statement: “These days though, many families feel like they’re working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it.” That just further indicts Republicans and the whole trickle-down theory, given that it’s been the operative economic theory for the past 30 years.

Other than that little wrinkle in time, Ernst’s rebuttal was safe and quite white bread-ish. No terrible gaffes, but no details either. Not a one. Just some warm fuzzies about how Republicans understand that mean Uncle Washington isn’t working, and how they’ll kick his butt. It was like she was reading all the kids a chapter out of the conservative coloring book.

The only takeaway anyone should remember is Ernst’s affirmation that what Reagan and his league of conservatives left her with is bread bags on her feet.

And about that poor bread bag childhood: Late Night GOP Bad Ideas & Lies Open Thread » Balloon Juice

From the District Sentinel post:

Amid a fledgling primary campaign, rural Iowa state lawmaker Joni Ernst crafted a quirky hardscrabble persona that propelled her to both the forefront of the race and, eventually, the United States Senate. In a 30-second spot that gained attention for its employment of hog castration imagery, Sen. Ernst (R-Iowa) claimed that her farmer parents “taught us to live within our means” and said that “it’s time to force Washington to do the same.” …

The truth about her family’s farm roots and living within one’s means, however, is more complex. Relatives of Ernst (née: Culver), based in Red Oak, Iowa (population: 5,568) have received over $460,000 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. Ernst’s father, Richard Culver, was given $14,705 in conservation payments and $23,690 in commodity subsidies by the federal government–with all but twelve dollars allocated for corn support. Richard’s brother, Dallas Culver, benefited from $367,141 in federal agricultural aid, with over $250,000 geared toward corn subsidies. And the brothers’ late grandfather Harold Culver received $57,479 from Washington—again, mostly corn subsidies—between 1995 and 2001…

Sen. Ernst’s family’s financial interest notably came up once during her campaign. In October, Salon reported that Richard’s construction company was awarded $215,665 in contracts from the Montgomery County government in 2009 and 2010, while Ernst was the body’s auditor. The bids won by Culver included Federal Emergency Management Agency projects worth $204,794…

 

But here in link dump format are some pundit’s and other politician’s takes on the busy night on the Hill.

State of the Union: ‘I still believe’ – Obama’s address vows equality over hostility | US news | The Guardian

Video: Georgia freshmen discuss their first State of the Union | Political Insider blog

Rand Paul’s SOTU Response: Lies, Doom And Empty Promises | Crooks and Liars

Rep. Steve King Wins! Worst #SOTU Tweet Ever | Crooks and Liars

Fox Misleadingly Suggests Obama’s Tax Plan Will Be “Raising Your Taxes” | Research | Media Matters for America

Obama trolls the GOP: How a not-so-lame-duck president left them bumbling – Salon.com

Republicans Irked By Obama Zinger In State Of The Union Address

Confident Obama throws punches | TheHill

Addicting Info – Obama’s Brilliant Comeback To Republicans’ Attempted Diss At State Of The Union Is Legendary (VIDEO)

Joni Ernst Responds to SOTU By Not Discussing It At All

In State of the Union Speech, Obama Defiantly Sets an Ambitious Agenda – NYTimes.com

Obama Greets Civil Rights Icon Before State of the Union

Body language and ad-libs show Obama won’t back down against GOP majority

Most Important Sentence in Obama’s Speech | RealClearPolitics

Wolf Blitzer: I Can’t Remember Another SOTU with So Many Veto Threats | Mediaite

Face of the Union: An illustrated guide to Obama’s State of the Union speech – The Washington Post

Obama’s Penultimate State Of The Union: Swagger, Successes And Not Screwing It All Up | BobCesca.com | News and Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World

More to come in the comments below.

Otherwise just think of this as an open thread…


State of the Union Live Blog

SOTU-Bingo-2014-1Tonight we’re watching the State of the Union address to see exactly what the last two years of the Obama presidency may bring.  It will be a tough few years given the group that was sent to Congress last fall.  We’re about to see a bunch of whackadoodle dandies go wild.  There are several rumors up on the internet concerning possible executive orders that will be announced to tonight.  Here is one of the more interesting ones.

It is being reported that one of President Obama’s surprises at the State Of The Union will be an announcement of an executive order that will take on the Koch Brothers and Citizens United.

Eleanor Clift of The Daily Beast reported:

Wednesday is the fifth anniversary of Citizens United, and reformers have been told that the president may announce executive action in his SOTU speech that would require businesses contracting with the government to disclose political contributions after contracts have been awarded. This would ensure that the contracting process is blind, but also give the public (and the media) the information needed to connect the dots to look for backroom deals or conflicts of interest.

Guess who happens to have multi-million dollar contracts with the Department of Defense? The federal government hatingKoch Brothers have tens of millions of dollars in defense contracts with the federal government. Rush Limbaugh also has a federal government contract that allows his showto be broadcast on the American Forces Network.

It is possible that the president will announce this executive order tonight, but he may also decide to wait and make a separate announcement. When/if the president does decide to make this announcement it will be a huge boost to transparency. The Koch brothers have a web of secret organizations that they route their money through, so most of their campaign spending will remain a secret, but it will become a bit easier to connect the dots and figure how much direct influence campaign donations are having on public policy decisions.

Ron Fournier of the National Journal  suggests we just the President’s agenda with this set of criteria.  Progress or Politics?

Republicans just seized control of Congress. President Obama’s job-approval ratings just jumped. Gas prices and the unemployment rate are down. The gross domestic product is up. Now what? Democratic and Republican leaders face a choice: Begin governing together, or treat this moment like just another stop on a perpetual campaign.

Unfortunately, both the White House and the GOP-led Congress seem focused prematurely on 2016. Republicans are sending to the White House legislation they know Obama will veto. The president is pushing an agenda he knows Congress won’t pass. It’s a recipe for more gridlock, more fighting, more courting of donors and ignoring the needs of a country in transition.

In other words: The state of the union is the status quo.

If you’re OK with that, stop reading. If you’d rather see progress than partisan gains, consider this: The State of the Union address is an opportunity for the president to chart a path toward consensus on issues like jobs, social mobility, education, infrastructure, energy, the debt, the environment, and terrorism.

Is Obama more interested in politics or progress? Here are five ways to tell from his address tonight.

SOTU 1Will Obama be effective?

Isn’t Obama a lame duck? After all, this speech comes after Republicans won control of both chambers for the first time this presidency. Here’s a trivia question: When was the last time a President gave his seventh year State of the Union to a Congress that wasn’t controlled by the other party? Answer: Franklin Roosevelt in 1939. Every other two termer had lost control of Congress by the last lap of his presidency. They all faced a steeper political terrain than Obama does. Dwight Eisenhower faced Cold War setbacks. Ronald Reagan spoke in 1987 right after the Iran-Contra scandal broke, and he had to lead the speech with a discussion and apology. Bill Clinton was in the middle of his Senate impeachment trial in 1999. And George W. Bush spoke at a time when we were losing in Iraq. He faced withering controversy over the “surge” of troops, which proved a good policy, but made for a challenging speech environment. Some of them had productive last two years; some didn’t. But there is much room for a creative president and Congress to achieve things, even by fighting.

For President Obama, the new party balance offers some unexpected benefits. In recent years, Congress has been paralyzed, polarized, and entirely dysfunctional. Now conservatives control it, but at least it might actually pass legislation. Obama suddenly will be more central, more relevant than he has been in domestic politics over the past year. His veto pen will be all that stands between the Republican agenda and enactment. He can draw lines, pick fights, or choose cooperation. In so doing, too, he will have the ability to make broad public arguments in the context of a real debate—on the economy, on the role of government, on contentious long-term issues such as climate change.

How can the President use this diminished but still potent platform?

So, grab the popcorn and let’s see if this year’s hostile audience pulls any big tricks.130212-sotu-bingo

President Obama is courting controversy with his decision to address a group that has become dominated in recent years by extremists.

Some have questioned the appropriateness of the President speaking to such an extremist group, especially because in the past it has issued threats against the United States government.

The SOTU will be streaming at CSPAN and on the White House Website if you want to avoid the District Puppetry errrrr Punditry.

 


Tuesday Reads

kids_newsstand_today

Good Morning!!

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

Here are a few stories to check out before tonight.

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

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

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

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

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

Joni Ernst is not the next Sarah Palin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And superstitious politicos beware.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this man still serving as House Majority Whip?

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

The Ferocious Fight Against The MLK National Holiday​

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

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

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

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

Newsstand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at the link.

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

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


MLK Holiday Reads

mlk-drawings-children-300x200Good Morning!

It’s our holiday to celebrate the contributions of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King!  No holiday celebration is complete without drawings by grade school children!!

President Obama will give his SOTU address tomorrow and will call for raising taxes on the wealthy to provide tax cuts for the middle class.   This is an interesting strategy and I’m sure the Republicans are planning on screaming “class war” for the next few days.

President Obama will use his State of the Union address to call on Congress to raise taxes and fees on the wealthiest taxpayers and the largest financial firms to finance an array of tax cuts for the middle class, pressing to reshape the tax code to help working families, administration officials said on Saturday.

The proposal faces long odds in the Republican-controlled Congress, led by lawmakers who have long opposed raising taxes and who argue that doing so would hamper economic growth at a time the country cannot afford it. And it was quickly dismissed by leading Republicans as a nonstarter.

But the decision to present the plan during Tuesday’s speech marks the start of a debate over taxes and the economy that will shape both Mr. Obama’s legacy and the 2016 presidential campaign.

It is also the latest indication that the president, untethered from political constraints after Democratic losses in the midterm elections, is moving aggressively to set the terms of that discussion, even as he pushes audacious moves in other areas, like immigration and relations with Cuba.

The president’s plan would raise $320 billion over the next decade, while adding new provisions cutting taxes by $175 billion over the same period. The revenue generated would also cover an initiative Mr. Obama announced this month, offering some students two years of tuition-free community college, which the White House has said would cost $60 billion over 10 years.

The centerpiece of the plan, described by administration officials on the condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s speech, would eliminate what Mr. Obama’s advisers call the “trust-fund loophole,” a provision governing inherited assets that shields hundreds of billions of dollars from taxation each year. The plan would also increase the top capital-gains tax rate, to 28 percent from 23.8 percent, for couples with incomes above $500,000 annually.

Those changes and a new fee on banks with assets over $50 billion would be used to finance a set of tax breaks for middle-income earners, including a $500 credit for families in which both spouses work; increased child care and education credits; and incentives to save for retirement.

The initiative signals a turnabout for Mr. Obama, who has spoken repeatedly about the potential for a deal with Republicans on business tax reform but little about individual taxation, an area fraught with disagreements.

“Slapping American small businesses, savers and investors with more tax hikes only negates the benefits of the tax policies that have been successful in helping to expand the economy, promote savings and create jobs,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and chairman of the Finance Committee. “The president needs to stop listening to his liberal allies who want to raise taxes at all costs and start working with Congress to fix our broken tax code.”

Republicans have already referred to it as “trolling” given that they run both houses of the US Congress and will pass neither one.  This does, 6a00d8341cc08553ef010536e23afe970c-800wihowever, have very bad optics for them.  It puts them squarely in league with the uberwealthy.

“It’s not surprising to see the president call for tax hikes, but now he’s asking Congress to reverse bipartisan tax relief that he signed into law,” said Don Stewart, deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Stewart said that “Republicans believe we should simplify America’s outdated tax code; that tax filing should be easier for you, not just those with fancy accountants; and that tax reform should create jobs for families, not the [Internal Revenue Service].”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, also criticized the proposal.

“This is not a serious proposal,” said Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck in a public statement. “We lift families up and grow the economy with a simpler, flatter tax code, not big tax increases to pay for more Washington spending.”

937882789_34faf345d5Plan details include hitting big banks and inheritance taxes.  These suggestions really go at the types of tax cuts that incent gambling and increase financial wealth rather than industrial and business wealth that create jobs and economic growth.

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama will lay out a plan to extend tax credits to the middle class by hiking taxes on wealthier Americans and big banks, according to senior administration officials.

Under the plan, the capital gains tax for couples with income over $500,000 per year would be raised from its current level of 23.8 percent up to 28. The plan would also strip a tax break, known as a “step-up,” that allows heirs to avoid capital gains taxes on large inheritances.

In addition, the plan would institute a new tax on the biggest financial institutions, basing the fee on liabilities in order to discourage risky borrowing. The administration says the fee would hit the roughly 100 banks that have assets of $50 billion or more.

The president’s plan would use revenues from those tax code changes to finance credits aimed at the middle class, officials said. That includes extending the earned income tax credits to families without children, which would benefit an estimated 13 million low-income workers, while also tripling the maximum tax credits for child care in low- and middle-income homes.

“This proposal is probably the most impactful way we can address the manifest unfairness in our tax system,” an administration official said.

The tax hikes on capital gains would run into heavy opposition from Republicans in the GOP-controlled Congress. Other elements of the president’s plan, however, have enjoyed some degree of bipartisan support. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has proposed a similar tax on big banks, and many Republicans favor the idea of broadening the earned income tax credit.

According to officials, the capital gains tax reforms would impact “almost exclusively” the top 1 percent of earners, carving out the majority of middle-income families from the hikes.

scan0002[17]Here’s an essential  outline for the items up for revision in the President’s plan. Is it his Piketty moment?  This one is my personal favorite but they’re all good.

Raise the top capital gains tax rate from 23.8 to 28 percent. This is straightforward enough. Money you get from investments is taxed less than money you get from, you know, actually working, and while that might be good for the economy, it’s not good for a basic sense of fairness. Not when the top 400 households are getting 16 percent of all capital gains, and the top 0.1 percent are getting half of them. That’s why, as theCongressional Budget Office (CBO) dryly puts it, “preferential tax rates on dividends and capital gains provide almost no benefit to households in the bottom four quintiles, but provide notable benefits to households in the top quintile”.

So Obama wants to push the top capital gains tax rate, which only applies to couples making more than $500,000, up from its current level of 23.8 percent to 28 percent, where it was when Ronald Reagan left office. In all, the White House calculates that increasing the capital gains tax and getting rid of step-up basis would raise 99 percent of its money from the top 1 percent, with 80 percent of that coming from the top 0.1 percent.

This is one of the items that has really drawn money out of doing business and into stock market gambling.  Why work when you can day trade your life into a lower tax bracket as a wealthy person?

Here’s a few political things sure to give you some fits and giggles.  Lady Lindsey is said to be considering a run at the Presidency. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham acknowledged on Sunday he’s seriously exploring a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if he had started polling voters about his chances in 2016, Graham said he is not polling, “but we set up a testing-the-waters committee under the IRS code that will allow me to look beyond South Carolina as to whether or not a guy like Lindsey Graham has a viable path.”

“I don’t know where this will go, but I’m definitely going to look at it,” said Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina.

Another Tiger Beat on the Potomac exclusive says that Sarah Palin is the only Republican with less popularity than Chris Christie.MLK picture_thumb[1]

A new CBS poll shows 29 percent of Republicans would like to see Christie run for the Republican nomination for president. But 44 percent say no. CBS points out “Only former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s numbers are more underwater: 30 percent of Republicans say they’d like to see her run, but 59 percent disagree.”

Fifty-nine percent of Republicans would like to see Mitt Romney jump into the 2016 race, while 26 percent believe he should stay out.

“Fifty percent of Republicans would like to see former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the campaign trail as well, while 27 percent disagree,” pollsters said. “If both Romney and Bush run, analysts expect them to wage a competitive battle for the allegiance of the Republican establishment.”

Numbers for some of the others often mentioned:

– Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: 40 percent of Republicans urge him to get in, and 29 percent say stay out.

– “Twenty-seven percent of Republicans would like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to mount a bid, but 34 percent disagree. Twenty-six percent would like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to run, while 19 percent would not. Twenty-one percent want Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to run, while 25 percent want him to not run.”

– Gov. Rick Perry of Texas: 21 percent yes, 29 percent no.

– Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana: 14 percent yes, 20 percent no.

– Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin:  22 percent yes, 12 percent no.

Maybe winning isn’t everything after all. “Republicans, by a 61 to 35 percent margin, believe it’s more important to have a nominee who agrees with them on the issues than a nominee who can win the general election,” according to the poll.

Eeeshhh.

Well, that’s it for today!  We’ll see you with a live blog for the SOTU tomorrow!! Have a great holiday!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Smoked Whale Testicles in Dog We Trust

916695624a1cb99255e106a29dbff5c7Good Afternoon

Before I go any further, it is probably best if I explain the Smoked Whale Testicles portion in the title of this Sunday’s Reads.

Now, I saved this damn link when it first was published almost a week ago…so yeah it is old news, but damn, I don’t care what kind of beer aficionado you are…the first description of the contents of this brew is beyond anything that my imagination could dream up.

 

Iceland brewery makes beer using smoked whale testicles | Environment | The Guardian

Uh, you read that right.

Icelandic brewery Stedji, which is producing the beer in time for the country’s mid-winter festival, Thorri, said the Hvalur 2 beer was made with the testicles of fin whales – which are classified as endangered on the conservation Red List – smoked in a “traditional way” with dried sheep dung.

GoldenBook-TheHappyLittleWhale2The move, which comes a year after the brewery launched a beer for Thorri containing whale meat, has angered conservationists who claimed the “dying” whaling industry in Iceland was trying to create markets for its products.

Vanessa Williams-Grey, anti-whaling campaigner at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said: “This is a calculated move, not only to dishonour a beautiful and endangered creature by using its most intimate of body parts as a marketing tool, but also sends a clear ‘two fingers’ to the conservation community and those who love and respect whales.

GoldenBook-TheHappyLittleWhale3Two fingers, in other words…our middle finger salute if you will.

“Right-minded people would no sooner drink beer brewed with whale testicles than they would order similar drinks made with tiger, elephant or rhino testicles and our hope, of course, is that visitors to Iceland will treat this latest offering with the disdain it deserves.”

GoldenBook-TheHappyLittleWhale4Dagbjartur Ariliusson, from the brewery, said: “We live in a country that allows whaling and the whaling is very well controlled by the Icelandic authorities, but fisheries here are self sustainable and very responsible.

“According to our research the fin whale in North Atlantic is not at risk of extinction.”

c5ac52ece76f45307abe40034fe72064He added that in the past, Icelandic people made food out of all possible ingredients, and during Thorri eat food ranging from rams’ testicles to rotten sharks.

“We consider this ingredient to be in the style of Thorri,” he said.

Well then, perhaps a beer made with smoked rotten ram’s balls would be more appropriate?

I don’t know, I can only think of a child’s illustrated Golden Book, telling a tale of this “Happy Little Whale” who gave up his cahones (and life), all for the glory of the cause…of beer.

And speaking of the Glory of the Cause. This next bit of explanation comes via Wonkette. Oh Lawd, what will the folks in Pinellas County Florida do now…for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office no longer is putting their trust in the All Mighty…no. They got their trust in Dog!

How Dumb Is My State? (Very Dumb): Your Florida Roundup | Wonkette

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Best. Typo. Ever:

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office recently spent $81 million on a sparkling new palace of law enforcement on Florida’s Gulf Coast. il_340x270.413857555_tlb0There’s a state-of-the-art 911 center, top-of-the-line hurricane protection built to withstand Category 5 devastation, and a high-tech data center.
There are also some spiffy accoutrements, such as a bright-green rug with the sheriff’s official seal, which includes an outline of Florida and the motto: “IN DOG WE TRUST.”

Nobody noticed for several months. That’s some nice police work, boys.

Holy Shit! That must be one all powerful and glorified Dog, Faith…Belief…Trust. Fido Christ! I must truly make some time from my troubled day to get to know Him better. Whoofamen!

(I am going to hell for sure.)

Alright, now for the rest of the reads in dump fashion, because I am such a lazy ass heathen and couldn’t get my shit together and write this post up last night.

Guns:

Reuters News – Arrest of U.S. FAA inspector prompts new security guidelines, education

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Saturday suspended a system that permits its inspectors to skip safety checkpoints on the job soon after a single of them was arrested with a firearm in his carry-on bag, according to officials and media reports.

The arrest at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday also prompted FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta to ramp up safety education of its inspectors through the short-term suspension of the program, according to the agency’s statement on Saturday.

The system allowed the inspectors to bypass the checkpoints and access safe places of the airports although performing their standard duties.

The FAA said it would also need inspectors to sign an agreement stating that weapons-connected infractions will result in their permanently losing the potential to bypass the checkpoints. Such offenders might also face other disciplinary action.

The inspector was arrested just after a firearm was allegedly identified in his bag at a Transportation Safety Administration checkpoint at La Guardia, according to a report Saturday by ABC News.

The Atlanta-based inspector had apparently utilised a Security Identification Show Area badge to bypass security at Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport earlier in his trip, ABC reported.

But at La Guardia, the firearm was discovered at a normal security checkpoint, the report mentioned.

But let us also remember that he could bring that damn gun into the airport in Atlanta, no problem, thanks to the shitheads at the Legislature.

Researchers puzzled by discovery of 1882 Winchester rifle | Tampa Bay Times

This one is interesting…check it out.

Researchers are trying to crack the mystery surrounding the discovery of a weathered, rusted Winchester rifle in the mountains of remote eastern Nevada.

The gun manufactured in 1882 was leaning against a juniper tree on a rocky outcrop in Great Basin National Park during an archaeological survey in November.

Nichole Andler, the park’s chief of interpretation, said officials may never know when the .44-40 rifle was placed there, but it’s possible it could have been left undisturbed since the 1800s.

The area along the Utah border has a history of mining, ranching and hunting, she said, and park researchers are scouring historical documents to learn who might have owned the rifle.

“I would say the possibilities are wide open as to who owned the rifle and why it was left there,” Andler said. “It leaves a lot to the imagination and it may be a mystery that’s never solved.”

It had been sitting there all this time.

After viewing photographs of the rifle, Houze said, he knows why it went undetected for so long: It blended in so well with its surroundings.

“People probably have walked right by it,” he said. “It was a one in a million chance they looked at it the right way and found it.”

The unloaded rifle’s wooden stock was cracked but still intact, while its barrel was rusted. Its serial number was still visible, which allowed experts to determine it was made in 1882.

A Winchester Model 1873 made in 1882 was found propped against a juniper tree in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park in November during an archaeological survey. Park spokeswoman Nichole Andler says officials may never know how long the rifle had been there, but it’s possible it had been left there in the 1880s.

The Oscars:

Oscars 2015: All about Eve? In today’s films, it’s more like All about Adam | Rachel Cooke | Comment is free | The Guardian -Women are shamefully under-represented in the list of Oscar nominations. ’Twas not always thus…

This video from The Young Turks, gives some good thoughts on the Oscar controversy:

And then: This chart shows how rarely female directors win awards | Inside Movies | EW.com

CONTINUING WITH WOMEN ISSUES:

Republican Split on Next Week’s Antiabortion Bill Vote – NationalJournal.com

Republican lawmakers are raising concerns that the party will alienate young voters and women by voting for an antiabortion bill coming to the House floor next week, on the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

In a closed-door open-mic session of House Republicans, Rep. Renee Ellmers spoke out against bringing up the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks, telling the conference that she believes the bill will cost the party support among millennials, according to several sources in the room.

“I have urged leadership to reconsider bringing it up next week.… We got into trouble last year, and I think we need to be careful again; we need to be smart about how we’re moving forward,” Ellmers said in an interview. “The first vote we take, or the second vote, or the fifth vote, shouldn’t be on an issue where we know that millennials—social issues just aren’t as important [to them].”

‘Daily Show’ mocks ‘crazy-a*s’ Alabama law allowing fetuses to have lawyers

A new Alabama law will protect those who can’t protect themselves, Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams reported on Thursday — until the day they’re born.

“You have a crazy-a*s job, sir. I don’t know what’s in the realm of possibility, and what’s in the realm of not possible,” Williams told attorney Julian McPhillips, who is allowed to represent unborn fetuses under a provision in House Bill 494.

The law, which was passed last July, allows judges to appoint lawyers to challenge teen mothers seeking a court waiver in order to have an abortion.

Alabama ACLU director Susan Watson told Williams that the guardian ad litem, as the attorneys are called, can call witnesses ranging from the unborn fetus’ father to employers in order to testify against the girls seeking the petition.

“In the end, if the teen is allowed to access an abortion, the fetus lawyer can appeal and run out the clock,” Watson explained. “And if they do that, we’ve got a parent.”

“Oh, sh*t,” Williams gasped. “That’s how babies are made in Alabama.”

Zandar Versus The Stupid: Last Call For Madam President

The latest Pew Research poll on women in politics and business has more than a few interesting findings, but this one shouldn’t surprise anyone:

 

Yep, only 16% of Republican men would hope to see a female president in the US in their lifetime, and only 20% of Republican women do. You betcha. Also, too.

Seriously, Republican women?  You don’t want to see a woman in the White House?  Is it because of Hillary specifically, or is it because there’s no way your party full of misogynist jackasses would ever nominate a woman for the Oval Office, and you’re all resigned to the fact that any woman in the White House would have to be a Democrat?

Well, I think they just don’t think a woman’s place is in the Oval office. Period. And I think there is a special place in reserved hell for them too.

4 Places Conservatives Believe Women Don’t Belong | Care2 Causes

Well, they can all kiss this woman’s ass as she runs by them: thoughtsofablackgirl: Girls&WomenToKnow:  Alia… | Super Opinionated

Girls&WomenToKnow:  Alia Atkinson

Congratulations to Jamaican Alia Atkinson who (December 6) became the first black woman to win a world swimming title. She now wants to encourage greater involvement of different communities in swimming. She said “Hopefully my face will come out, there will be more popularity especially in Jamaica and the Caribbean and we’ll see more of a rise and hopefully in the future we will see a push (for more competitive swimmers).”

Atkinson completed the short course race in 1 minute and 2.36 seconds, tying the world record, which according to FINA standards counts as its own record. Via Telegraph.

omg her face in that gif!

(via drst)

RAPE AND STUFF:

(It is some difficult stuff coming up.)

Addicting Info – Detroit’s Untested Rape Kits Finally Tested, 100 Serial Rapists Identified (VIDEO) -Fucking eh?

“You should have been crying while she was alive”: Another sentence handed down in Rehtaeh Parsons case – Salon.com – A man who texted a photo that showed him penetrating Parsons during an alleged gang rape was sentenced to probation

Dixie Hollins High School copes with aftermath of campus rape allegation | Tampa Bay Times

Dixie Hollins High School students arrived for classes Thursday under the glare of TV news cameras, one day after a freshman and a senior were charged with sexually assaulting a girl on campus.

“We’re a great school that had a bad incident,” principal Dan Evans said.

A “bad incident,” oh…for fucks sake!

Evans said a 15-year-old girl reported to one of the school’s two resource officers on Monday that she had been assaulted in a room on campus. The principal said he could not release further details about the alleged incident, citing the open investigation, but said that it did happen this week.

“I was personally concerned and personally hurt because I don’t want to see anyone on campus hurt,” said Evans, who added that he is an alumnus of the school.

A Pinellas County sheriff’s spokeswoman said the girl did not know her alleged attackers, and that the assault took place during the day. The spokeswoman did not know late Wednesday whether it had taken place during school hours.

About 1,900 students attend Dixie Hollins, 300 more than when Evans took the helm of the turnaround school in 2010. Since then, he said, the school has vastly improved. Instances of crime are down while academic performance is up.

“The Sheriff’s Office investigation is extremely concerning to the Dixie Hollins High School community,” said Melanie Marquez Parra, a spokeswoman for Pinellas County Schools. “Dixie Hollins High School has made tremendous strides in improving academics, the campus environment and school safety. The school will assist law enforcement in any way possible as the investigation moves forward.

King and Cook were football players, but Evans declined to say much else about them. Records show Cook has prior arrests for trespassing and stealing cars, but the disposition of those cases was not apparent from court records.

“I think they’re kids,” Evans said. “In the world I live in, we’re all teachers, so we view all kids as young adults, and sometimes they make awful mistakes.”

An automated call about the allegations was to be sent to parents Thursday. Evans said he sent an email to the school’s 85 teachers before classes began, telling them to talk to students about the incident.

“We recognize we live in a society where bad things happen, even on school campuses sometimes,” he said.

In 2009, a Dixie Hollins student was convicted of sexually assaulting a girl on a school bus while two other students acted as lookouts.

Evans said Thursday that that incident was in the past and the allegation this week is an isolated one.

On the morning announcements, he said, he reinforced his support for the school, telling students, “I know you believe in Dixie, and I believe in Dixie.”

From January 8th: Why don’t we believe rape victims? Because of people like Phylicia Rashad. – Vox

Phylicia Rashad doesn’t believe Bill Cosby raped all those women.

Here’s part of what Rashad, the actress who played Clair Huxtable to Cosby’s Cliff on TheCosby Show, told Showbiz 411’s Roger Friedman about the growing list of sexual assault allegations against the 77-year-old comedian, all of which he and his attorneys have denied: “What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.”

In a way, sexual assault victims owe Rashad a strange kind of thanks.

Her dismissive stance illustrates, in a way no public service announcement or myth-busting list could match, why so many women who are raped don’t report their assaults. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the exact reaction that many victims — especially those raped by powerful men — fear.

Imagine you’ve been raped and are deciding whether to report the assault to the authorities. Just thinking about the possibility that someone — a police officer, friends or a family member, the public, or a court — would brush off your story the way Rashad brushed off of the stories of Cosby’s accusers could be enough to make you stay quiet.

But it gets worse.

But go and read the rest of this one…

On to Gay’s and God:

This Week in God, 1.17.15 | MSNBC

First up from the God Machine this week is a report out of Mississippi, where some lawmakers have decided it’s time to make the Christian Bible the official state book (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).,

Rep. Tom Miles of Forest says he and fellow Democratic Rep. Michael Evans of Preston are filing a bill, and they already have received bipartisan promises of support from more than 20 of their colleagues.

Miles says Mississippi has a state bird, a state flower and even a state toy, so it should have a state book.

According to the local report in the Clarion-Ledger, the lead sponsor of the proposal said this week “that he’s not trying to force religion – or even reading – on anyone.”
If this sounds at all familiar, Louisiana very nearly made the Christian Bible its official state book last year, but backed off once the bill’s sponsor acknowledged some “constitutional problems.”
In case it’s not obvious, similar “problems” would plague the Mississippi effort, if it proceeds. In our system of government, government is expected to remain neutral on matters of religion, and for state policymakers to specifically endorse one religion’s holy text would almost certainly run afoul of the First Amendment.

In other words, Mississippi would be inviting a costly lawsuit that it would inevitably lose.

Roger Ailes: I Smell A Class Action Lawsuit

I Smell A Class Action Lawsuit

It only could have been more hilarious if the kid’s name was Horst Schitt.

P.S.  No one could ever have seen this coming.

Supreme Court agrees to rule on gay marriage | MSNBC

>El Colacho, the baby jumping festival in Spain

>

Most Catholics are baptized into their religion as infants by being gently dunked under cleansing waters, absolving them of their original sin. In the Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia, however, fresh babes are laid in the street so men dressed in traditional devil costumes can run around jumping over them.

The yearly festival, known locally as El Colacho, takes place 60 days after Easter during the village’s religious feast of Corpus Christi. No concrete origin for the bizarre ritual exists, but it dates back to at least the early 17th century. During the holiday, parents with children born during the previous year bring the little tykes out and place them in neat rows of pillows spaced out down a public street. Then, while the excited parents look on, men dressed in bright yellow costumes and grotesque masks begin filing through the crowd, whipping bystanders with switches and generally terrorizing everyone.

117374793-man-representing-the-devil-leaps-over-babies-during-the

This is all fun and games, as the main event is when these “devils” run down the street jumping over the rows of babies like Olympic hurdlers. Once the little sinners have been jumped over, they are considered absolved of man’s original transgression, and are sprinkled with rose petals before being taken away by their (likely very relieved) parents.

While there are no reports of injuries or babalities caused by the flying devils, the strange practice has been frowned upon by some of the higher-ups at the Catholic Church: in 2012, Metro UK reported that Pope Benedict went so far as to ask Spanish clergy to distance themselves from the ritual. However, El Colacho continues to take place each year. No one can tell this village that they can’t send it devil-men careening over helpless infants.

 

Irish priest announced he is gay — and his congregation gave him a standing ovation – Europe – World – The Independent

Science:

Mosquito-borne diseases stymied Ming Dynasty attempts to invade southern neighbor

Historic plutonium sample traced to Seaborg, Manhattan Project

16th-Century ‘Lenox Globe’ Gets Digital Makeover : Discovery News

Kids, the Holocaust, and “inappropriate” play _ BB this one is for you.

23andMe To Sell Customers’ Genetic Data To Biotech Company | Popular Science

And lastly:

Hillary Clinton Designated Boko Haram | Still4Hill

That is all for today, Ciao!


Lazy Saturday Reads

NYC Newsstand on a rainy day

NYC Newsstand on a rainy day.

 

Good Afternoon!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kkk-supreme-court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rand Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politifact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chidlren

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

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

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

Masha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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