Tuesday Reads: Autumnal Equinox Edition

autumnal equinox

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

 

Today is 2014’s autumnal equinox, when day and night are equal in length. From now on, the days will get shorter and the nights longer, as we approach winter. Actually, autumn officially began in the Northern Hemisphere last night at 10:29 Eastern time.

From Sky and Telescope:

Astronomically speaking…the fall season…comes to the Northern Hemisphere on Tuesday, September 23rd at 2:29 Universal Time (10:29 p.m. EDT on Monday, the 22nd). At that moment, the Sun shines directly on Earth’s equator, heading south as seen in the sky. For us northerners, this event is called the autumnal equinox….

The apparent position of the Sun in our sky is farther north or farther south depending on the time of year due to the globe’s axial tilt. Earth’s rotational axis does not point straight up and down, like the handle of a perfectly spinning top, but is slanted about 23½° with respect to our orbit around the Sun.

Another way to think of this is that the plane defined by Earth’s orbit around the Sun (called the ecliptic) is tilted with respect to the planet’s equator. From our perspective, the Sun follows the ecliptic in its path through the sky throughout the year. Each day the Sun’s daily arc moves northward or southward, depending on the time of the year. To observers at northern latitudes (in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, for example), the Sun appears to sneak higher in the sky from late December to late June, only to drop down again from late June through late December. The equinox occurs when the Sun is halfway through each journey.

This axial tilt also produces our seasons. When Earth is on one side of its orbit, the Northern Hemisphere is tipped toward the Sun and receives more direct solar rays (and more daylight hours) that produce the familiar climes of summer. Six months later, when Earth is on the opposite side of its orbit, the Northern Hemisphere is tipped away from the Sun. The slanting solar rays heat the ground less and daylight is shorter, producing the colder winter season.

What else happens at the equinox?

Day and night are nearly the same length; the word “equinox” comes from the Latin aequinoctium, meaning “equal night,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. However, a poke around your almanac will show that day and night are not precisely 12 hours each, for two reasons: first, sunrise and sunset are defined as when the Sun’s top edge — not its center— crosses the horizon. Second, Earth’s thick atmosphere refracts the Sun’s apparent position slightly when the solar disk sits very low on the horizon.

The Sun rises due east and sets due west, as seen from everywhere on Earth; the equinoxes are the only times of the year when this occurs.Should you be standing on the equator, the Sun would pass exactly overhead at midday.

Were you standing at the North Pole or South Pole, the Sun would skim completely around the horizon.

Harvesting, by G. Myasoedov

Harvesting, by G. Myasoedov

The autumnal equinox marks the pagan festival of Mabon, “when livestock is slaughtered and preserved to provide enough food for the winter.” From Huffington Post,

Mabon is a harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance.

“Mabon is a time to reflect on the previous year, when we can celebrate our successes (likened to bringing in the harvest) and assess which crops, projects, or dreams didn’t come to fruition,” the Los Angeles-based pagan leader Laurie Lovekraft told HuffPost.

The pagan website The White Goddess explains:

This is the time to look back not just on the past year, but also your life, and to plan for the future. In the rhythm of the year, Mabon is a time of rest and celebration, after the hard work of gathering the crops. Warm autumn days are followed by chill nights, as the Old Sun God returns to the embrace of the Goddess.

The holiday is named after the Welsh God, Mabon, son of Earth Mother goddess Modron.

Some pagans mark the holiday by enjoying rich feasts with seasonal foods like apples, pomegranates and root vegetables. Many also observe rituals honoring the goddess’transition from mother to crone.

Endless War News

The US (and some Arab allies) have carried out airstrikes in Syria. From The Guardian, US confirms 14 air strikes against Isis in Syria.

The most intensive barrage of air strikes launched against Islamic State (Isis) since the US fight against the terror group began last month thundered into northern Syria until after dawn on Tuesday, heralding a new phase of a war that Sunni regional powers have vowed to help lead.

Large explosions were reported in the group’s stronghold of Raqqa, in eastern Syria, as well as in Idlib province. There were unconfirmed reports that attacks had also taken place near Deir Azzor and western Aleppo.

A Pentagon statement said the 14 strikes against Isis targets were carried out with Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Jordan confirmed it its airforce had “destroyed a number of targets that belong to some terrorist groups that sought to commit terror acts inside Jordan” without making explicit reference to Syria.

More details from The New York Times (I’m unable to quote from the article), and from The BBC, 

The Pentagon said warplanes, drones and Tomahawk missiles were used in the attacks, which targeted several areas including IS stronghold Raqqa.

Syria’s foreign ministry said its UN envoy was informed about the strikes against IS, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Activists say at least 70 IS militants were killed in the strikes….

It said a total of 14 strikes destroyed or damaged IS training compounds, command and control facilities, vehicles and storage sites.

The US military will continue to conduct air strikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria, it added.

US Gen Martin Dempsey, America’s highest-ranking uniformed military officer, said the strikes were conducted to show IS militants they had no safe haven. “We certainly achieved that,” he told reporters.

Separately, Centcom said US forces also attacked a network of al-Qaeda veterans named Khorasan who had established a safe haven west of Aleppo and were plotting imminent attacks against the West.

Experts say members of the secretive group are believed to co-operate with al-Nusra Front – Syria’s al-Qaeda-affiliate – using its training bases and resources.

President Obama plans to speak about the Syrian strikes this morning at 10AM.

Autumn landscape, by Vincent Van Gogh

Autumn landscape, by Vincent Van Gogh

Economics News

The U.S. Treasury Department has issued a new tax rules designed to prevent companies from moving operations out of the U.S. Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Lew Tries to Limit Tax-Cut Deals With Inversion Crackdown.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew’s crackdown on inversions will get an immediate test as eight U.S. companies with pending deals decide whether to proceed — and other companies contemplating a foreign address now have to think twice.

That’s exactly what Lew had in mind.

“This action will significantly diminish the ability of inverted companies to escape U.S. taxation,” Lew told reporters on a conference call yesterday. “For some companies considering deals, today’s action will mean that inversions no longer make economic sense.”

The Treasury announcement heightened the tension between the government and companies considering obtaining a foreign address to lower their tax bills. Lew and President Barack Obama made clear that they were prepared to use rule-making authority to try stop some deals, even at the risk of a backlash from the companies and from Republicans, who already complained that Lew’s moves went too far.

A wave of inversions caught lawmakers’ attention this year when large companies such as Pfizer Inc. (PFE) andWalgreen Co. (WAG) explored transactions andMedtronic Inc. (MDT), AbbVie Inc. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW) moved forward with deals.

More from The Wall Street Journal:

Treasury officials took action under five sections of the U.S. tax code to make inversions harder and less profitable, removing some of the appeal that has made the transactions more common in recent years, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry.

In an inversion, an American company reincorporates for tax purposes in a tax-friendlier country such as the U.K. or Ireland, typically while maintaining much of their operations in the U.S. Most recent inversions sprang from mergers of a U.S. firm with a smaller foreign firm after regulatory steps taken during President Barack Obama’s first term curbed other types of inversions.

The Treasury rules will make it harder for companies that invert to use cash accumulating abroad—a big draw in recent deals. In addition, the government has made it more difficult to complete these overseas mergers.

The tax changes took effect immediately, officials said, and applied to all deals that hadn’t closed by Monday.

Autumn Forest, by Thomas Kinkade

Autumn Forest, by Thomas Kinkade

And from the AP via Bloomberg, Ahead of the Bell: Inversion rules sting stocks.

Shares of several companies stumbled Tuesday before markets opened and a day after the Treasury Department announced new regulations that aim to make it tougher to pull off overseas mergers and acquisitions that trim U.S. corporate tax bills.

The new measures attempt to keep companies from finding ways to access earnings from a foreign subsidiary without paying U.S. taxes, including “hopscotch” loans, in which companies shift earnings by lending money to the new foreign parent company while skipping over the U.S.-based company. Another rule change would make it harder for merged or acquired companies to benefit from lower foreign taxes by tightening the application of a law that says the American company’s shareholders must own less than 80 percent of the new, combined company.

About 50 U.S. companies have carried out moves known as inversions in the past decade, and more are considering it, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

An inversion happens when a U.S. corporation and a foreign company combine, with the new parent company based in the foreign country. For tax purposes, the U.S. company becomes foreign-owned, even if all the executives and most of its operations remain in the U.S. Inversions can help companies generate significant tax savings over time in part because the United States has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world, at 35 percent.

Awwwwwwww . . . too bad corporate bigwigs. I so don’t feel sorry for you.

Offbeat News

I have a few offbeat stories for you. The first one is especially for JJ. ABC News reports, ‘Little People, Big World’ Star Jeremy Roloff Is Married.

“Little People, Big World” star Jeremy Roloff, 24, married Audrey Mirabella Botti Saturday afternoon in Oregon.

Autumn Landscape, by Wassily Kadinsky

Autumn Landscape, by Wassily Kadinsky

Jeremy’s twin brother, Zach, was his best man, while the bride wore a gown designed by Lauren Graebner of Eva’s by Reclamation, People magazine reports.

The bridesmaids wore flower crowns and Botti, 23, wore a larger crown designed by Vanessa Schmidt. Roloff wore a suit from ProperSuit, which he shared on social media.

More details, photos, and tweets at the link.

From the Leicester Mercury (UK), Pictures released of two 1,000-year-old skeletons holding hands found in Leicestershire.

Pictures were released today by the University of Leicester, showing two 1,000-year-old skeletons holding hands, which have been discovered.

The pair of skeletons, which are centuries-old and holding hands have been uncovered at a ‘lost’ chapel by archaeologists.

The Mercury reported last week that the remains, of a man and a woman, were found at the Chapel of St Morrell, an ancient site of pilgrimage in Hallaton.

It is believed the pair holding hands are of a similar age.

Whoever they were, the man and woman must have died at the same time.

Leading the project is professional archaeologist Vicky Score, of the University of Leicester, who works on the project during her holidays.

She said carbon-dating on nine skeletons uncovered since the dig began had revealed them to be from the 14th century.

“’We have seen similar skeletons before from Leicester where a couple has been buried together in a single grave. The main question we find ourselves asking is why were they buried up there?” she added.

“There is a perfectly good church in Hallaton. This leads us to wonder if the chapel could have served as some sort of special place of burial at the time.”

See more photos at ABC News.

I found earlier articles about skeletons of couples embracing each other. From NBC News, Prehistoric Romeo and Juliet Discovered.

They died young and, by the looks of it, in love. Two 5,000-year-old skeletons found locked in an embrace near the city where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale “Romeo and Juliet” have sparked theories the remains of a far more ancient love story have been found.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeletons dating back to the late Neolithic period outside Mantua, 25 miles south of Verona, the city of Shakespeare’s story of doomed love.

Buried between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, the prehistoric pair are believed to have been a man and a woman and are thought to have died young, because their teeth were found intact, said Elena Menotti, the archaeologist who led the dig.

“As far as we know, it’s unique,” Menotti told The Associated Press by telephone from Milan. “Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and these are even hugging.”

Autumn Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh

Autumn Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh

Another one from HuffPo, Skeletons ‘Embracing’ In Death May Represent Gruesome Ancient Siberian Custom.

For years researchers in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia have puzzled over dozens of ancient grave sites containing bodies buried face to face, some seemingly with hands clasped as if in an eternal embrace.

But soon DNA tests may help provide an answer to the key question: Are these the graves of star-crossed lovers, or could the remains be evidence of a gruesome ancient custom?

The bodies are part of a massive burial ground located in the Siberian village of Staryi Tartas, the Siberian Times reported. Altogether, close to 600 tombs have been discovered in the area, dozens of which contain the so-called “embracing” couples.

The graves are believed to belong to the Andronovo culture, which existed in the area during the second and first millennia B.C.E., according to Britannica. Yet many of the bodies in the graves are believed to be from the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries B.C.E., the Siberian Times reported….

“We can fantasize a lot about all this,” Vyacheslav Molodin, an archaeology and ethnography expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Siberian Times. “We can allege that husband died and the wife was killed to be interred with him as we see in some Scythian burials, or maybe the grave stood open for some time and they buried the other person or persons later, or maybe it was really simultaneous death.”

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


Monday Reads: Liberty and Justice for All

tumblr_n615umySHC1trertuo1_1280Good Morning!

I attended a forum with my city councilwoman, congressman and democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday. It’s evident that part of the Democratic Party election strategy for these midterm elections is to turn out women, but I did find much of the forum very compelling and inspiring despite knowing the underlying motive.

Each of these forums showcase women that speak to issues that have framed their lives–be it pay inequality, the lack of child care or the lack of benefits like paid medical and parenting leave and medical insurance.  Enabling women to better participate in the economy is part of the policy  initiatives to revive the struggling American Middle Class.  The other pillars are to use Buy America Bonds to modernize infrastructure and reduce student loan interest rates to that paid by banks.

Single and minority women overwhelmingly vote Democratic.  So do people with graduate degrees and nearly every minority. Chuck Todd, who is succeeding at keeping MTP at the bottom of the ratings, refers to this phenomenon as the Chick-Fil-A Nation vs. Starbucks Nation.  But really, how do so many folks that are struggling to make ends meet fall into the category of Starbucks customers? 

“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on Sunday described the 2014 midterm elections as a battle between “Starbucks nation” and “Chick-Fil-A country.”

He split the U.S. into the Democratic urban areas that drink Starbucks and the Republican rural areas that eat Chick-Fil-A.

According to Todd, there are a few Senate seats up for grabs in Chick-Fil-A-loving states like Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, giving Republicans the advantage. And he said that the major battlegrounds are Colorado and Iowa.

He said that Democrats will need to deploy major get-out-the-vote efforts in urban centers. Perhaps at Starbucks?

Much of the Democratic party base are those folks that are unlikely to get time off to vote. They are struggling with being underpaid and basically aren’t given paid time off for anything.  And, there’s a whole lot of assholes on the internet that will tell fertilized-egg1them they are horrible people.  But, guess what?  Studies show that it’s internet trolls that are the horrible people.  They test as sadists, sociopaths, and narcissists.

In this month’s issue of Personality and Individual Differencesa study was published that confirms what we all suspected: internet trolls are horrible people.Let’s start by getting our definitions straight. An internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.

What kind of person would do this?

Canadian researchers decided to find out. They conducted two internet studies with over 1,200 people. They gave personality tests to each subject along with a survey about their internet commenting behavior. They were looking for evidence that linked trolling with the Dark Tetrad of personality:narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadistic personality.

[Edit to add: these are technical terms with formalized surveys to measure them. You can find lots more information about their formal definitions online]

They found that Dark Tetrad scores were highest among people who said trolling was their favorite internet activity.

3-womens-rights-cartoon-grangerThe greatest thing that I found attending this forum was the number of young women who were truly committed feminists.  Here’s a great speech given by the actress best known as the nerdy wizard girl of the Harry Potter Series.  She’s a committed young feminist too.

Earlier this summer, fresh from college graduation, Emma Watson, was named a U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador. Though the ripples of her involvement over the past six months can be seen online (crashing the U.N. website, using Twitter to denounce a sexist politician in Turkey or respond to the gender politics of the recent celebrity nude photo hack), Watson’s power in person is an entirely different matter.

The actress gave an impassioned speech on feminism and gender at the U.N. Headquarters in New York this weekend to launch the “HeForShe” campaignwhich aims to galvanize one billion men and boys as advocates for ending the inequalities that women and girls face globally.

Watson’s speech, which was met with a thunderous standing ovation, not only called for action from male allies, but clarified a persistent misconception about feminism in general. She said:

I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, [women’s expression is] seen as too strong, too aggressive, anti-men, unattractive.

Why has the word become such an unpopular one? I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.

Watson is pushing back against recent campaigns like Women Against Feminism. As Watson puts it elsewhere in her speech, these campaigns portray the feminist cause as “man-hating.” By involving both genders in the “HeForShe” campaign, Watson hopes to abolish the “us vs. them” mentality.

Watson is potentially in an even better position than many of her peers to do so. Her role as Hermione Granger, the universally-adored heroine of the Harry Potter series, gives her an automatic in with male and female Millenials. This is a rare case where an actor being conflated with their role might be a good thing. In this way, her wide-spread influence on young minds (still forming their opinions on gender roles and advocacy) is even stronger than other high-profile defenders of the f-word like Beyoncé.

But, the world has changed and not always for the better.  Not only are there tales of women who get sick with no health care and no paid medical leave.  There is the ever decreasing disrespect shown to teachers and the way universities are GOP Job Creationsaving their money to pay their highest administrators by using professors as adjuncts. It’s not only home health care workers, fast food workers, and retail workers that can’t live on the wages paid.

You’ve probably heard the old stereotypes about professors in their ivory tower lecturing about Kafka while clad in a tweed jacket. But for many professors today, the reality is quite different: being so poorly paid and treated, that they’re more likely to be found bargain-hunting at day-old bread stores. This is academia in 2014.

“The most shocking thing is that many of us don’t even earn the federal minimum wage,” said Miranda Merklein, an adjunct professor from Santa Fe who started teaching in 2008. “Our students didn’t know that professors with PhDs aren’t even earning as much as an entry-level fast food worker. We’re not calling for the $15 minimum wage. We don’t even make minimum wage. And we have no benefits and no job security.”

Over three quarters of college professors are adjunct. Legally, adjunct positions are part-time, at-will employment. Universities pay adjunct professors by the course, anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000. So if a professor teaches three courses in both the fall and spring semesters at a rate of $3000 per course, they’ll make $18,000 dollars. The average full-time barista makes the same yearly wage. However, a full-time adjunct works more than 40 hours a week. They’re not paid for most of those hours.

“If it’s a three credit course, you’re paid for your time in the classroom only,” said Merklein. “So everything else you do is by donation. If you hold office hours, those you’re doing for free. Your grading you do for free. … Anything we do with the student where we sit down and explain what happened when the student was absent, that’s also free labor. Some would call it wage theft because these are things we have to do in order to keep our jobs. We have to do things we’re not getting paid for. It’s not optional.”

We have a long way to go before all of us achieve life, liberty, and happiness.  This is especially true since a huge portion of one of the two parties is more interested in ideological grandstanding and magical thinking than governance.

I’m learning a lot more about Home Health Care Workers as a result of two women that shared their stories yesterday.  It’s not only the fastest growing job in the country.  It’s also the worst paying.

Two occupations make up the home care aide profession: personal aides who provide clients with self-care and help them with everyday tasks, and home health aides who assist the disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired and may administer medication or check clients’ vial signs. Put together, about 2 million Americans hold these jobs. (The PHI estimates that there are likely hundreds of thousands of uncounted aides employed by individuals and families.)

The wages these workers earn are painfully low: the median salary for a personal care aide is $19,910 annually, or $9.57 an hour; a home health aide earns $20,820 or $10.01 per hour. As America’s population ages, these professions are expected to grow by 49% and 48%, respectively, from 2012 to 2022, eclipsing the average growth for all occupations: 11%. They are the second- and third-fastest growing occupations in the nation—behind only industrial-organizational psychologist, a job that brings in median annual wages of $83,750. On the BLS’s list of 30 fastest-growing jobs, personal and home care aides are the worst paid.

It’s no surprise, then, that the home care industry is plagued by high turnover rates, which the Institute for the Future of Aging Services pegged at between 40% and 60% for a home health aide who has been on the job for less than a year.

Take all these factors into account and you’ve got the makings of a public health crisis, says Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, an advocacy group. “In light of the Age Wave—the Silver Tsunami—the high rates of burnout, and poverty wages that no one wants to work for—it’s not good for the general public,” she says.

Home care workers, who are employed by third-party agencies or by clients directly, have long been exempt from minimum wage and overtime laws. That will finally come to an end in January, when a Department of Labor regulatory change will grant most home care workers wages of at least $7.25 per hour and overtime.

The ramifications of the new rule illustrate, as Poo puts it, “the pattern and practice of discrimination” against home care workers. At the time of the rule’s announcement, it promised to give home care workers in 29 states minimum wage and overtime protections for the first time, according to the National Employment Law Project. Many of these states have minimum wage and overtime laws for other workers, of course, but some of them have over the course of their history carved out exemptions for in-home care providers. That means that in some states home care workers will earn the federally mandated $7.25 an hour for the first time in January, but if their state has a higher minimum wage that excludes in-home workers, they won’t be eligible for the higher rate. Alaska, for instance, enforces a minimum wage of $7.75 but it also has an exemption for “domestic service” employees, so most home care workers in that state will be subject to the federal $7.25 rate come January, not the state’s higher wage.

At the federal level, home health care workers aren’t covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which only covers “facility” workers, according to PHI. And anti-discrimination laws, such as the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, generally only cover employers with multiple employees, says the Economics Policy Institute, meaning some in-house workers are excluded.

Home health workers employed by individual households aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation, family and medical leave, and can’t enroll in a 401(k), PHI says.

In the hierarchy of workers, home health care workers are at the bottom, below even low-paid fast-food workers,whose recent strikes and protests have drummed up public empathy. This is by no means a new development.

cartoon-comic-feminist-funny-girl-favim_com-145764_large

It seems that these jobs really, really need unions. One woman who spoke from the audience said she was terminated after she asked to be removed from her contractor’s constant emails about who to vote for in upcoming elections.  Evidently, they didn’t appreciate the fact she didn’t want to vote for the people who are making decisions that keep her from a living wage with benefits that ensure her well-being.

Here is another compelling story about a woman supporting her family at Burger King while attending university. She wrote an essay that went viral and has been turned into a book.

After the initial fuss, some journalists began muck-raking, trying to prove that you weren’t what you said you were. How did that feel?
I’m not going to recommend it as a lifestyle choice. I lost a ton of weight in three weeks. If you need a crash diet, go viral. Whatever it was I managed to capture had enough power truly to upset some people. A lot of them hoped I was a poor little rich girl, living in a McMansion. Emotionally, it would have been easier to deal with. But I’ve never claimed to be anything that I’m not. Guys, I called the thing “Why I make terrible decisions”.

So, I gave my welfare records to the Washington Post. Those things, and the teeth video, closed it down [in her essay, Tirado wrote that her teeth had rotted because she could not afford dental care, and that this made her unsuitable for working front-of-house in restaurants and offices; when this was disputed she posted a video online in which the ugly gaps in her teeth can clearly be seen].

The trouble is that a lot of people simply don’t understand the stratification in the lower classes. I wasn’t born in Appalachia with no running water. At Burger King I made $28,000 a year. Yes, you can survive on that money. But that’s not the point. It’s a 90-hour week. What is your life like while you’re surviving? Can you keep a family on it?

I have one more thing to ask you today besides begging you to vote for candidates that support the rights of all. It’s that time of year when we ask you to help us renew our domain name and gadgets that help us maintain the blog. Please click the donate button.  Our bills are coming due for early October and we need help!  Thanks so much!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Live Blog: Leader Pelosi on When Women Succeed, America Succeeds

image

I’m listening to Representative Cedric Richmond talk about the NFL and player’s domestic violence. Speaker Pelosi is up next. We’ve also been listening to the stories of women and how the pay gap. This includes women in the home health care sector. Two women discussed how illnesses and discrimination created situations where they made less income, less benefits and less social security benefits. My council woman Nadine Ramsey is introducing every one.

For information on this programs go to http://www.womensucceed.dems.gov

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Sunday: None of that…

4a6ae451be8223d5ada46fb1e60220d2

Good Afternoon.

Like Spiderman in the comic above…that painting pretty much looks the way I feel. (I should also point out, she looks like I look as well, but we won’t get into specifics for now.)

After reading Boston Boomer’s post yesterday, and thinking about just how disgusted the shitty news can make most of us feel…I am going to stick with the funnies today and give a quick link dump at the end. Get ready, there’s a lot!

NFL PreGame by Political Cartoonist Gary Varvel

153996 600 NFL PreGame cartoons

Mill by Political Cartoonist Sergei Tunin

153986 600 Mill cartoons

Referendum of Scotland and the Queen by Political Cartoonist Marian Kamensky

153985 600 Referendum of Scotland and the Queen cartoons

 

 

 

 

 

Scottish Taps by Political Cartoonist Taylor Jones

153982 600 Scottish Taps cartoons

 

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Matt Davies, Newsday – 09/21/2014

Cartoon by Matt Davies -

 

NFL: Well-equipped – Political Cartoon by Bruce Plante, Tulsa World – 09/21/2014

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - NFL: Well-equipped

 

Smartwatch – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 09/21/2014

 

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Smartwatch

 

Defeating ISIS – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 09/19/2014

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Defeating ISIS

Wife Beater – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 09/18/2014

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Wife Beater

 

SCOTLAND’S DECISION by Political Cartoonist Randy Bish

153948 600 SCOTLANDS DECISION cartoons

Hits of the week by Political Cartoonist Cameron Cardow

153939 600 Hits of the week cartoons

Adrian Peterson by Political Cartoonist Rick McKee

153935 600 Adrian Peterson cartoons

 

Bad Goodell by Political Cartoonist Steve Sack

153932 600 Bad Goodell cartoons

National Football League by Political Cartoonist Bob Englehart

153927 600 National Football League cartoons

I’m Baaaack by Political Cartoonist John Darkow

153924 600 Im Baaaack cartoons

NFL Wives – Political Cartoon by Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News – 09/18/2014

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - NFL Wives

Find the diference by Political Cartoonist Kap

153884 600 Find the diference cartoons

 

NFL by Political Cartoonist Milt Priggee

153827 600 NFL cartoons

 

9/19 Luckovich cartoon: Don’t leave mad | Mike Luckovich

091914-toon-luckovich-ed

 

 

AAEC – Political Cartoon by John R. Rose, Byrd Newspapers of Virginia – 09/19/2014

Cartoon by John R. Rose -

 

Links to news items will be in the comments below…this is an open thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads

Matisse woman reading

Good Morning!!

I’m going to devote this post to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s domestic violence crisis.

Yesterday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell emerged from wherever he was hiding for the past ten days and gave a press conference in which he once again tried to paper over his awful handling of domestic violence charges against Ray Rice and a number of other NFL players.

He really shouldn’t have bothered. The “press conference,” in which Goodell announced that he’s setting up a series of committees to formulate a new league policy on domestic violence in time for the Super Bowl, and then dodged pointed questions from the media, was bad enough; but shortly thereafter, ESPN Outside the Lines published a story that showed both Goodell and Baltimore Ravens ownership to be liars. The truth is, the Ravens knew about the video footage from inside the elevator not long after Rice hit Janay Palmer with a closed fist and caused her to lose consciousness.

Rice case: purposeful misdirection by team, scant investigation by NFL, by Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg.

Just hours after running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancée with a left hook at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Baltimore Ravens’ director of security, Darren Sanders, reached an Atlantic City police officer by phone. While watching surveillance video — shot from inside the elevator where Rice’s punch knocked his fiancée unconscious — the officer, who told Sanders he just happened to be a Ravens fan, described in detail to Sanders what he was seeing.

Sanders quickly relayed the damning video’s play-by-play to team executives in Baltimore, unknowingly starting a seven-month odyssey that has mushroomed into the biggest crisis confronting a commissioner in the NFL’s 94-year history.

“Outside the Lines” interviewed more than 20 sources over the past 11 days — team officials, current and former league officials, NFL Players Association representatives and associates, advisers and friends of Rice — and found a pattern of misinformation and misdirection employed by the Ravens and the NFL since that February night.

After the Feb. 15 incident in the casino elevator, Ravens executives — in particular owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome — began extensive public and private campaigns pushing for leniency for Rice on several fronts: from the judicial system in Atlantic County, where Rice faced assault charges, to commissioner Goodell, who ultimately would decide the number of games Rice would be suspended from this fall, to within their own building, where some were arguing immediately after the incident that Rice should be released.

The Ravens also consulted frequently with Rice’s Philadelphia defense attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein, who in early April had obtained a copy of the inside-elevator video and told Cass: “It’s f—ing horrible.” Cass did not request a copy of the video from Diamondstein but instead began urging Rice’s legal team to get Rice accepted into a pretrial intervention program after being told some of the program’s benefits. Among them: It would keep the inside-elevator video from becoming public.

For its part, the NFL — which in other player discipline cases has been able to obtain information that’s been sealed by court order — took an uncharacteristically passive approach when it came to gathering evidence, opening itself up to widespread criticism, allegations of inconsistent approaches to player discipline and questions about whether Goodell gave Rice — the corporate face of the Baltimore franchise — a light punishment as a favor to his good friend Bisciotti. Four sources said Ravens executives, including Bisciotti, Cass and Newsome, urged Goodell and other league executives to give Rice no more than a two-game suspension, and that’s what Goodell did on July 24.

violence

It’s a long article that shows Ravens coach John Harbaugh in a surprisingly positive light–he reportedly wanted to  cut Rice and two other players who had been arrested in the off-season, but owner Steven Bisciotti overruled him. It’s possible that this means the information in the piece came from sources friendly to Harbaugh, and the team claims there are a number of problems with the article. But at this point, who is going to believe either the team or Roger Goodell over ESPN’s sources–especially when they are postponing stating any specifics until next week? Do they need a few days to dream up a response?

The ESPN article also portrays Ray Rice as extremely remorseful about having hit Janay, and suggests that Steve Biscotti tried to bribe Rice to stay silent about what actually happened. From Deadspin:

Once the video became public, Bisciotti claimed that the team had not seen the tape until it was released by TMZ, suggesting that the account Rice had given him was somehow at odds with the elevator footage. This is also Goodell’s claim, though OTL has four sources saying that Rice told the truth in his meeting with the commissioner. The Ravens released Rice on Sept. 8 and then, according to ESPN, immediately offered an olive branch.
Minutes later, Rice’s phone buzzed. He could scarcely believe what he was looking at— back-to-back text messages from Bisciotti. Rice read them aloud so everyone in the room could hear them:

Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.

When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.

[…]

A few days later, after thinking about it more, Rice told friends he believed Bisciotti was suggesting that, as long as he kept quiet and stuck to the story that he had misled team officials and Goodell about what had happened in the elevator, the Ravens would take care of him down the road. He felt incredibly insulted.

Mirta Toleado, I punch you because I love you (envelope design)

Mirta Toleado, I punch you because I love you (envelope design)

If there is anything positive to come out of this horrible story it’s that more battered women are seeking help from domestic violence hot lines. From the Kansas City Star:

For all the nonsense, though, something seismic may be happening in the fallout here … primed by the inadvertent contribution of the NFL, and not only because Goodell promised harsher punishment for “totally unacceptable” behavior — domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, misuse of firearms, and illegal use of alcohol and drugs.

Because its initial response to Rice was so warped — a paltry two-game suspension — the rumbling started with the release of the second Rice video. And it began to accelerate in the void of NFL leadership between then and now, especially as Adrian Peterson faces child-abuse charges for “whooping” his 4-year-old son with a “switch” and domestic-abuse allegations against others came to light.

If nature abhors a vacuum, so do human beings … who have way more ways to fill it up in the era of social media.

Between the media attention and outrage across the nation, including from heavyweight sponsors such as Anheuser-Busch and Procter & Gamble (which on Friday pulled out of a planned Breast Cancer Awareness event for October), the topic had been bubbling at a critical mass by the time Goodell finally spoke.

That dynamic made for a pivotal moment.

“I think this truly has been a tipping point in how the nation looks at domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Joan Schultz, executive director of the Willow Domestic Violence Center in Lawrence. “We’re starting to take it out of (being) the victim’s fault.

“And men are starting to stand up and say, ‘No,’ and that’s what I’ve always thought it was going to take: ‘No, this is not right. … We’re silent no more.’

Frankly, I’m not so confident about a real renaissance in societal attitudes toward domestic abuse coming out of this, but maybe some seeds of change have been planted.
Jim Pavlidis, Football violence against women

Jim Pavlidis, Football violence against women

A couple more reactions . . .

As RalphB noted yesterday, the Pentagon is taking a second look at their relationship with the NFL. From Stars and Stripes:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked his staff for details about the U.S. military’s relationships with the National Football League in the wake of the scandal over how the league is handling domestic-abuse allegations against players, CNN reported Friday.

The Pentagon is increasingly sensitive to any suggestion it is supporting a major sports organization that is perceived to tolerate domestic violence….

The military has a zero-¬tolerance policy in the ranks for domestic abuse, but it also has a decades-long, high-profile relationship with the NFL. Any Pentagon action to cut back support for the NFL would be the most direct involvement by the Obama administration yet in the scandal.

What involvement does the military have with the NFL?

The Army alone spends $10 million a year on advertising during NFL games. Games are also broadcast by the Armed Forces Network to troops deployed overseas.

Military support for the NFL games includes providing ceremonial units at games for colors ceremonies; military personnel singing the national anthem, and other units providing drill teams or flyovers. Military personnel, including wounded warriors, often appear at NFL events honoring those who serve, CNN noted.

The Army and the NFL also have a agreement to share information and resources to better understand traumatic brain injury, which is a major medical issue for wounded troops and football players. They are working together on awareness of TBI as well as research into treatment. The military has been sharing some of the lessons learned on TBI from the last 13 years of war.

 Interesting. Along with Proctor & Gamble pulling out of the NFL’s breast cancer campaign, this could have a real influence.

stopviolence
 Mike Lupica at the NY Daily News:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is right — he is sorry. Lupica writes that Goodell talked so much about how he feels bad about his handling of the domestic abuse scandal (actually, Lupica says Goodell mostly feels bad that he was caught) that “he neglected to mention the victims that brought him to that podium on Friday.”
So the man who was once more than happy to pose on the cover of Time magazine as “The Enforcer” now talks about initiatives and the women he has hired and the committees he now needs to deal with domestic violence and all the rest of it in the National Football League. He says that a conduct committee will be in place by the Super Bowl, and acted as if we should give him the game ball for that.

“Our standards . . . must be clear, consistent and current,” Goodell said at one point, and you wondered why in the hell they already weren’t in the most powerful and profitable league in this country, why it took some grainy elevator video to slap Goodell and his owners upside their own thick heads.

You watched Goodell on Friday, watched him be as contrite as all the players he’s taken to the woodshed without impunity over his years as the NFL commissioner, and wondered why Adam Silver, the new NBA commissioner, a rookie commissioner, didn’t need to form committees when he kicked Donald Sterling, one of his owners, right out of his sport.

When Major League Baseball’s Bud Selig and Rob Manfred wanted to suspend a dozen guys last year, and drop a richly deserved hammer on a drug cheat like Alex Rodriguez, they didn’t talk about a conduct committee or wait around for law enforcement to throw the first punch against Anthony Bosch, drug pusher to the stars. They went right after Bosch with a lawsuit for interference and you know what happened in that moment? They became real enforcers, not people simply posing that way.

According to Lupica, Goodell is now “the weakest commissioner in professional sports.”

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and comments on any topic in the comment thread, and have a fabulous weekend!

 


Friday Late Night Open Thread: But Little Jerry Was Born to Cock Fight!

The_little_jerry

Good Late Night!

No cartoons for tonight, I have been sucked into iPhone hell….completely surrounded by shitty apps and extremely annoying long convoluted ways of just opening up a single email. Ugh!

Having to get both my phone and my husband’s up and running has been depressing. I didn’t realize how much time I’ve wasted today. So I only have one story for you, and it is a good one. We all could use a laugh. (Well I thought it was funny…)

Walmart Says Rooster Combat at Mexican Store ‘Wasn’t a Cockfight’ – Bloomberg Businessweek

It’s been a bad week for Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), at least as far as its public relations are concerned. Today is news that a Walmart store in Mexico hosted a cockfight to promote soda. The incident, which has brought the retailer’s Mexican unit under investigation by local officials, prompted an unintentionally amusing response from a company spokesman. He admitted to Bloomberg News that there were cocks in the store, and those cocks were indeed fighting each other. But since the roosters weren’t armed with blades, and no betting took place at the store, Walmex spokesman Antonio Ocaranza stood his ground: “It wasn’t a cockfight.”

The cockfighting probe comes just days after the head of Wal-Mart’s U.S. public relations team, David Tovar, resigned because he had lied on his résumé about graduating college. Like I said, bad week for Wal-Mart PR.

So back to the cockfight. Apparently a Mexican soft drink company staged the event at a store in the city of Boca del Rio on Sept. 15. Photos of brawling roosters in a store aisle—surrounded by shoppers—quickly made it on to social media. (Of course they did.) Animal rights groups complained to officials. (Ditto.)

Now Walmex has until Sept. 24 to provide evidence in its defense. Otherwise it could face a $7,200 fine.

Just a piss in the bucket compared to the $439 million  the company has spent on the investigation into allegations of corruption by their Mexico Executives…etc.

I just want to know, were any of those cocks paid to take a dive in the third round?

This is an open thread!


Friday Reads: Political Crazy Season

americas-entitlement-crazy-politicsGood Morning!

There are some interesting items out there for folks that find politics fascinating.  I guess I’m getting more in the mood to read about these things since I’ve been phonebanking and canvassing to GOTV for Senator Mary Landrieu here in New Orleans.

I’m not wild about doing either of these activities but I learned to buckle down and do it when I ran for office like 20 years ago.  It’s important this year.  I don’t want to see Republicans take over the Senate.  I don’t agree with Landrieu on a lot of things but the alternative would be a disaster.

I will be canvassing on Saturday and then going to a forum about Women’s issues presented by my Congressoman Cedric Richmond with speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday afternoon.  I will try to live blog the forum. I was thrilled to be invited even though I still consider myself an independent.  Really, the Republicans give me fewer reasons to consider them as serious candidates each election even though the Dems do not thrill me at all.

So, first up, the whacky state of Kansas continues to provide some interesting goings on.  Usually reliably Republican, but also reliably practical, Kansas voters appear ready to get rid of their Republican Governor Sam Brownback. who has basically followed the Koch formula and the discredited economic policies of Arthur Laffer.  They also look to be getting rid of their long-time Senator for an Independent.  The Democrat left the race and The Kansas Supreme Court decided it was fine to remove his name from the ballot.  The highly panicked Republican party has been scrambling to get anyone’s name back in the race so they could possibly profit from a three way split.  Kansas’ Secretary of State has been nakedly partisan. (BTW, my father was born in Kansas and I spent a good deal of my childhood going back and forth between the Kansas City suburbs of Kansas and Kansas City Missouri where my mother was born and all her relatives lived.  I know both states very well.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor’s name should be removed from the ballot in November, overruling Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).

The much-anticipated ruling in one of the most-watched Senate races of 2014 means national Democrats are closer to their perceived goal of clearing the field for independent candidate Greg Orman. Polling suggests that Orman, who had briefly run as a Democrat in 2008 and is open to caucusing with either party, is better positioned to knock off the vulnerable Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.

But the matter might not be fully resolved.

After the ruling, Kobach quickly moved to put another obstacle in the way of Democrats’ plan. Kobach reiterated his position that the Democratic Party is required under state law to replace Taylor on the ballot. He said he had notified the party chair that Taylor should be replaced and moved the mailing date for ballots from Sept. 20 to Sept. 27 to give Democrats time to pick a new nominee.

Election law expert Rick Hasen said on his blog that Kobach would likely have to sue the Democratic Party to force it to replace Taylor. A Democratic Party spokesperson did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

The court said Thursday that it did not need to address whether Taylor should be replaced under state law because that issue was not before it.

Kobach had declared earlier this month that Taylor’s name would have to remain on the ballot, despite his attempt to withdraw. Taylor then sued Kobach to reverse his decision, and the court sided with Taylor on Thursday.

“Our determination that the uncontroverted contents of Taylor’s September 3 letter timely satisfy the statutory requirements for withdrawal now leads us to Kobach’s clearly defined duty imposed by the law,” the court wrote in 4c85b2653dd93.preview-300its unanimous decision. “Kobach’s attorney admitted at oral arguments that if the letter was held to comply with the statute, Kobach would have no discretion.”

So Kobach first argued that today was a drop dead date since the ballots would go to print. The Court delivered the verdict at close of business indicating that the ballot would contain no Democrat.  Kobach has now changed the drop dead date for 8 days from now and has told the Democrats they must deliver a candidate name to him by then.  This is something that was never implied in the verdict.

This whole mess could have been avoided if Taylor would have done a better job with his letter, or if Kobach did not push the issue—and the evidence that his office had accepted non-complying letters before was damning to his case. The Court noted that Kobach submitted those letters after the deadline for filings, but seemed to praise him for doing it out of an “ethical obligation” to the court. In other words, if he just sat on letters his office just found which showed the inconsistent treatment of withdrawal letters in the past, it would have been deceptive to the court.

So what happens next depends upon Kobach’s next move.  He has said he would sue Democrats to get them to name a replacement, but given the time frame now, and the fact that it may not be in Republicans’ political interests to let this fester any more, this may be the end.  [Update: Byran Lowry reports: “Kobach says Dem chair has been informed that she has 8 days to select a replacement candidate. #ksleg#KSSen#kseln.”  It is not clear how the 8 days fits into the existing ballot printing timeframe.]  [Second update: Kobach is moving the mailing to 9/27.  What does this say about what he represented to court about deadlines? Wow wow wow.]

Addendum: If Democrats refuse to name or no candidate agrees to serve, then what?  It seems like it would be a tough First Amendment claim to FORCE a party to name a replacement.  Perhaps if Democrats do nothing Kobach will realize there’s not much he can do and drop the issue. We will see.

What other craziness is popping up in elections across the country?  How about a GOP congressional candidate that wants to go to war with Mexico over undocumented immigration?reverse_robin_hood_cartoon_500-500x350

The latest candidate to sign up for the hard-fought America’s Dumbest Congressman competition is Republican Mark Walker, who’s running for North Carolina’s deep-red 6th Congressional district. Walker is the one who previously vowed that he would impeach Barack Obama, if given the chance, and is generally of the Michele Bachmann “you must be this paranoid to enter Congress” wing of the party, worried about Sharia law and/or Obama declaring martial law and/or whatever else you got. You know, a tea partier.

But I don’t think that prepared any of us for the revelation that Mark Walker’s answer to undocumented immigrants is to “go laser or blitz somebody” in Mexico, as he told a local Rockingham County tea party group called Will of the People on June 26th of this year. Ye Gods, man:

Question: Mr Walker, I want to ask you how you feel about military, using the military to secure our southern border? I know a lot of people holler Posse Comitatus, that’s when the military out enforcing local laws, guarding the border is not the same thing. And we’ve got other people, other countries going, “Why can’t we guard our own?”

Walker: Well, my first answer for that is we need to utilize the National Guard as much as we can. But, I will tell you If you have foreigners who are sneaking in with drug cartels to me that is a national threat and if we got to go laser or blitz somebody with a couple of fighter jets for a little while to make our point, I don’t have a problem with that either. So yea, whatever you need to do.

Moderator: “I hope you wouldn’t have any qualms about starting up a little war with Mexico.”

Walker: “Well, we did it before, if we need to do it again, I don’t have a qualm about it.”

I realize our standards for who should be in Congress these days have been thoroughly dismantled by the likes of Bachmann, Steve Stockman and Louie Gohmert, but shouldn’t a theoretical national leader have just a few qualms about going to war with Mexico in order to prove a rather nebulous not-sure? Just a wee bit of qualms? (And what does it mean to “go laser” somebody? Will that make it into the congressional resolution, that the Congress of the United States hereby demands we “go laser” someone? Either I am not hep to modern tea party lingo or this man is a bonafide imbecile.)

This is really a bad timing situation for the DNC.  Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was the subject of a Politico Hit piece that included some really horrid insider comments.  One has to wonder if sexism was involved but her position seems to be in jeopardy as a result.sherffius21

Based on interviews with DNC staffers — both former and current — the piece described Wasserman Schultz as something of a modern-day Tracy Flick: over-eager, disloyal and not shy about promoting her ambitions. It would be fair to say that she sounds like, well, a lot like other politicians. And this would be accurate. But the wholesale bashing of Wasserman Schultz at every level of the party — White House, Congress, donors, aides in her own shop — is especially rough, even given the reality of Beltway politics.

She comes across as a woman without a party, holding a job that could be a stepping stone, but now seems more like a trap door. (As Philip Bump notes, it might be a stepping stone no matter how it ends.) This is a public firing, Washington-style.

A few of the harsher passages:

One example that sources point to as particularly troubling: Wasserman Schultz repeatedly trying to get the DNC to cover the costs of her wardrobe.

Many expect a nascent Clinton campaign will engineer her ouster. Hurt feelings go back to spring 2008, when while serving as a co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Wasserman Schultz secretly reached out to the Obama campaign to pledge her support once the primary was over, sources say.

For even the occasional Obama briefing by the heads of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, she is not invited.

“We say the big ‘D’ is for Democratic,” one member joked to others at the House Democratic retreat on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in February, according to one of the members. “For her, the big ‘D’ is always for Debbie.”

Instead, the DNC chairwoman stakes out the president of the United States at the end of photo lines at events and fundraisers. “You need another picture, Debbie?” Obama tends to say, according to people who’ve been there for the encounters.

Since 1848, the DNC has only had three women at the helm, and part of the reason (maybe the biggest reason), Wasserman Schultz landed the role andkept it is gender. Her selling point, according to people familiar with the initial deliberations, was that she was good with donor and had deep ties to Clinton supporters (read: white women) who Obama needed to keep on board in 2012. It also helped — a lot — that she is Jewish and from Florida, a big important state with lots of money for the fundraising.

Wasserman Schultz embraced the “war on women” lingo early on, and as DNC chair she helped to elevate it nationally. And though DNC insiders weren’t ever sold on her TV skills, she was good on the stump, pumping up grassroots activists and helping them feel connected to the campaign.

Oy.

Perhaps the biggest fight over the “war on women” will happen in Colorado where Marla-na-tt-supreme-court-spending-limits-2014040-001k Udall is slugging it out with Republican Cory Gardner. This is one race that looks safe for the Dems but they are really depending on women and minorities. This is a similar situation for Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.

Like all competitive Senate races, the neck-and-neck contest in Colorado may determine which party controls the Senate, but the race is also the central battleground for the fight between Republicans and Democrats over female voters. Will Democrats win by returning to the tested playbook of focusing on reproductive issues to run up their support with women, or have Republicans found a way to blunt that attack? The outcome will render a verdict on the principal strategic gambit of the Democratic Party, and it will contribute to a running debate within Republican ranks. Can the GOP win in competitive states—and even a national presidential contest—with its current positions, or must its candidates do more than offer cosmetic changes to core beliefs?

In two days this week, three new ads were launched in this Colorado race. In one, Udall spoke directly to the camera, saying his opponent is “promoting harsh anti-abortion laws and a bill to outlaw birth control.” The Democratic outside group NextGen Climate ran an apocalyptic ad in which it claimed Gardner’s position on contraception meant “he’d like to make your most private choices for you.” The pro-Republican group Crossroads GPS put up its own ad in which four women standing around a kitchen island bemoan that Udall wasn’t talking about issues that matter.

These ads are only the most recent volleys over a set of issues that have dominated the campaign since April. Two of Udall’s first three ads hammered Gardner on his conservative position on abortion and past support for the state’s “personhood” initiatives, which would grant a fetus rights and protections that apply to people. National Democratic organizations have been hammering these issues too, as has Planned Parenthood. “There’s been so much advertising touching on so-called ‘women’s issues’ in this race that it’s noticeable when a Democratic ad doesn’tmention them,” says Elizabeth Wilner, vice president of Kantar Media Ad Intelligence, which tracks campaign and issue advertising.

Democrats need women to turn out to vote in all of their toughest races, including Colorado. (Women are so important in the contested states that in my notes from interviewing one top Democratic strategist who described the key factors in each of those races, I scribbled the Venus symbol next to seven of them.) The challenge is to get women to turn out in a nonpresidential year. In 2010, 22 million fewer unmarried women voted than in 2008, according to a study by the Voter Participation Center and Lake Research Partners. Among married women, the drop-off was 10 million.

This is going to be a really interesting midterm election and it’s important.  That’s why I’ve decided to work my ass off.  I don’t want to think that I could’ve done something and sat home.

It certainly looks like it isn’t going to quiet down any time soon.  It will probably get uglier. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?