Tuesday Reads: Can The News Get Any Worse? Probably.

 8.15matisse-inattentive-reader-1919

Good Morning!!

It’s difficult to imagine how the news can get any worse . . . and then it does.

Bloomberg: CIA Torture Report Set for Senate Release Over Bush Objections.

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) — The Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee are preparing to issue their report on the harsh interrogation tactics the CIA used on terrorism suspects, defying the objections of current and former U.S. officials including former President George W. Bush.

The panel plans to release today a summary of a 6,200-page report concluding that the Central Intelligence Agency used extreme interrogation methods at secret prisons more often than legally authorized and failed to disclose all the activities to lawmakers and other officials.

Despite warnings from opponents of the report’s release, including some Republicans on the panel, that Americans would face retaliation overseas, President Barack Obama supports making the conclusions public, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said yesterday.

“The president believes that, on principle, it’s important to release that report, so that people around the world and people here at home understand exactly what transpired,” he said. Earnest said the administration has taken steps to improve security at U.S. facilities around the world.

Read the arguments for and against releasing the report at the link.  A brief summary of the conflict at USA Today: Obama, Bush teams battle over torture report. Of course Dick Cheney felt the need to butt in.

While Obama and aides support release of the report as to way to prevent future abuses, some Bush administration officials call it partisan second-guessing of techniques that proved necessary during the war on terrorism.

“What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” former vice president Dick Cheney told The New York Times. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.” [….]

The dispute between Obama and Bush officials revolves around the legality of the interrogation programs and whether they yielded valuable intelligence as the U.S. raced to block terrorism in the years following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Cheney and other Bush administration officials say the programs yielded actionable intelligence that helped uncover possible terrorist plots.

Congressional Democrats say the report shows that tactics like waterboarding yielded nothing that could not have been obtained by other means.

The two sides agree on one thing: Release of the Senate report, detailing some of the less savory methods used to extract testimony from terrorism suspects, could lead to violent, anti-American protests in some countries.

Matisse woman reading2

Reuters has a minor preview on the contents of the report: Sexual threats, other CIA methods detailed in Senate report.

The report, which Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said would be released on Tuesday, describes how al Qaeda operative Abdel Rahman al Nashiri, suspected mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was threatened with a buzzing power drill, the sources said. The drill was never actually used on him.

It documents how at least one detainee was sexually threatened with a broomstick, the sources said.

Preparing for a worldwide outcry from the publication of such graphic details, the White House and U.S. intelligence officials said on Monday they had shored up security of U.S. facilities worldwide.

The report, which took years to produce, charts the history of the CIA’s “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation” program, which President George W. Bush authorized after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush ended many aspects of the program before leaving office, and President Barack Obama swiftly banned “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which critics say are torture, after his 2009 inauguration.

The Christian Science Monitor asks what I think is an irrelevant question: Did torture yield results? I really don’t care; some things are just wrong period.

The 480-page document reveals the results of Senate investigation into the CIA’s use of torture and other techniques that violate international law against prisoners held on terrorism-related charges. Though many details of the Senate’s findings will remain classified – the document is a summary of a 6,000-page report that is not being released – the report is expected to conclude that the methods used by the CIA to interrogate prisoners during the post-9/11 years were more extreme than previously admitted and produced no intelligence that could not have been acquired through legal means….

The Los Angeles Times writes that the report is expected to say that the CIA used methods of “waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques more frequently than was legally authorized at then-secret prisons known as ‘black sites.’ “

The report will also likely state that the intelligence acquired from the use of such techniques was not useful to finding Osama bin Laden or preventing attacks on US interests, and “nearly all the intelligence gleaned through harsh techniques could have been obtained from more traditional intelligence-gathering systems,” the Times adds.

woman-reading-at-a-dressing-table-interieur-nice-1919

We probably should brace for attacks on President Obama for daring to go on BET and talk about racism and then follow that up by joking around with Stephen Colbert.

BET Exclusive: Obama Talks Race, Racism and How Far America Has to Go. Watch the interview at the link. Joyce Jones highlights the main points:

Barack Obama – not the president, but the man – has a dream: his children will be viewed as individuals and judged not by the color of their skin but based on the content of their character, their behavior and their talents and gifts. Sadly, he observed in an exclusive interview with BET Networks, “misguided attitudes” mean that people of color still have less margin for error, particularly if they are male….

Hours before the interview aired, his critics on the right began lashing out at him for, according to Breitbart News, “playing the race card more overtly than ever before.” Others will say it’s about time he spoke up about the series of police-involved deaths of a disproportionate number of African-American men, which he acknowledged. But he also said that “institutionally” he is required to remain silent during the investigations of those incidents, which would be compromised “if it appeared that I was trying to steer to a particular outcome.”

That doesn’t mean he does not empathize with those who’ve expressed their anger and frustration more publically. The president recalled a meeting he had last week that included several young African-American leaders whose experiences of being stopped or treated suspiciously for no reason reminded him of his own. He also said that as long as the protests remain peaceful, they are necessary.

More details from CNN:

“I’m going to stay on this,” the President said Monday in an interview with BET, a network that reaches a predominately young African-American audience. “Not only am I going to stay on it … but hopefully the entire society says, ‘Let’s finally try to make some real progress on this.'”

Once criticized for shying away from the topic of race early on in his presidency, Obama has recently taken a more active role in sharing how his personal experiences help him to empathize with all kinds of people affected by the recent protests on racial tensions — from protesters, to victims, to law enforcement officers, to families, and most importantly, to black youth.

In his interview with BET’s “106 & Park,” the President cited a meeting he had with nonviolent protesters Monday — between ages 18-25. For him, he says, listening to young African-Americans describe their own experiences of being stopped for no reason, or being unjustly labeled as suspicious, strikes a personal chord.

“My mind went back to what it was like for me when I was 17, 18, 20,” the President said. “As I told them, not only do I hear the pain and frustration of being subjected to that kind of constant suspicion, part of the reason I got into politics was to figure out how can I bridge some of those gaps and understandings so that the larger country understands this is not just a black problem or a brown problem, this is an American problem.”

The President also made a point to invoke Attorney General Eric Holder’s race and civil rights record, saying, “He’s got a similar set of stories and experiences he can share.”

reader on black background matisse

The Boston Globe on Obama’s Colbert Report appearance:

Obama kicked off the show sitting in for Colbert to perform a regular feature of the program called ‘‘The Word’’ wherein Colbert’s rants are accompanied by snarky messages to the audience.

So when Obama, as Colbert, declared that there are aspects of ‘‘Obamacare’’ that people from both parties actually like, the text aside to the audience read, ‘‘Everything but the Obama.’’

Later, Colbert observed that the economy had been creating more jobs of late.

‘‘You have employed a lot of people — mostly as secretary of defense,’’ Colbert cracked in a reference to Obama recently nominating his fourth top civilian at the Pentagon.

‘‘That’s boosted our numbers a little bit,’’ Obama replied.

Colbert, whose on-screen persona is that of an insufferable conservative scold, accused Obama of exceeding his authority on immigration. ‘‘When did you decide to burn the Constitution and become emperor?’’ he asked. The question was heard as a joke by many in the audience at George Washington University. But to Obama’s critics, the question had a ring of truth.

Obama dropped the comedy and replied, ‘‘Actually, Steve, everything that we have done is scrupulously within the law and has been done by previous Democratic and Republican presidents.’’

Watch part of the episode at the link.

Matisse the red table

You know how Republicans are constantly claiming that their anti-abortion laws are designed to keep women safe? From Think Progress: Large Study Confirms That Abortion Is Extremely Safe.

After analyzing data from nearly 55,000 women who received abortion care under California’s Medicaid program, researchers at UC San Francisco concluded that hardly any of them had serious complications within six weeks of their procedure. Just 126 cases necessitated follow-up care for surgery, a blood transfusion, or other conditions that require hospital admission.

Other studies, including data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have also confirmed abortion’s safety. We already had some evidence, for instance, that giving birth is about 14 times riskierthan having an abortion. But the new UCSF study goes a bit further than previous research by tracking the complete data on all of the health care used by women who have received abortions. Since many women have to travel long distances to end a pregnancy, the UCSF researchers also examined women’s follow-up care at facilities closer to where they live….

Despite the mounting evidence in this area, the notion that abortion may be dangerous for women is a pervasive assumption that hasbolstered the passage of dozens of state laws tightening restrictions on clinics and doctors. In a press release announcing their findings, the study authors indicated that they hope the new study “will contribute to the national debate over abortion safety.”

“Abortion is very safe as currently performed, which calls into question the need for additional regulations that purportedly aim to improve safety,” said Ushma Upadhyay, an assistant professor at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a leading research program based at UCSF.

Of course scientific studies won’t move right wing extremists, who do not believe in science in the first place.

The moorish floor

Yesterday I was relieved to see many women writers pushing back against the UVA rape story backlash and asking readers to remember that “Jackie” is a real person with real emotions, and the kinds of memory failures she may have evidenced are comment in human beings. I’m running out of space, so I’ll just provide some links to some of the articles I found.

From Buzzfeed, Annie Clark writes: There Are Too Many Jackies.

Clark and her friend Andrea Pino were students at UC Chapel Hill when they were sexually assaulted. Together they filed a complaint with the Department of Education under Title IX. Their work is what triggered the Obama administration to take a stronger position on sexual assaults on college campuses.

Read about it in Vogue, Campus Sexual Assault: Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino Are Fighting Back—And Shaping the National Debate. Clark and Pino started an organization called End Rape on Campus (EROC).

More important articles:

Roxanne Gay, Our Stories.

TPM, UVA Rape Victim’s Roommate Says Her Story Is Not A ‘Hoax’.

Buzzfeed, How Police And Hospitals Shut Down Rape Victims.

Jessica Valenti, Who is Jackie? Rolling Stone’s rape story is about a person – and I believe her.

Amanda Marcotte, UVA controversy allows woman-haters to get really, really ugly.

Maya Dusenbery, On Rolling Stone, lessons from fact-checking, and the limits of journalism.

Caroline Fairchild, Why the media obsession with Rolling Stone’s UVA rape story is all wrong.

Matisse.Woman-with-a-Veil-cr

Finally, some NBA players have begun wearing “I Can’t Breathe T-Shirts.”

From ESPN, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving address reasons for ‘I can’t breathe’ shirts.

NEW YORK — As he stood amid 70 or so media members inside a cramped Cavaliers locker room Monday night, LeBron James explained the significance of the powerful words that stretched across his torso during pregame warmups.

“If it feels important to me then I respond,” said James, who wore a black t-shirt with the words “I CAN’T BREATHE” prior to the start of his team’s game against the Nets at the Barclays Center. “If it doesn’t, I don’t. There are a lot of issues I have not talked about. For me, it is about knowledge and about a gut feeling that hits home for you. You feel it, and go about it.” [….]

…the story of the night was the activism of a number of NBA players. Before the game, the Cavaliers’ James, Kyrie Irving and the Nets’ Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett among others all wore the same black t-shirts. They are the latest professional athletes to make a personal statement on the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island man who was killed on July 17 after he was wrestled to the ground and choked to death by police officers arresting him for selling untaxed cigarettes. Last week a Staten Island grand jury decided not to bring charges in the police-involved death. That decision has prompted protests around the country, as protesters have mobilized around Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe.” A video recording of the arrest has been viewed by millions.

Unbeknownst to the players, protesters swarmed Atlantic Avenue outside the Barclays Center during the game, holding a “die-in” to protest the Garner ruling. The hashtag #RoyalShutdown was used by activists on Twitter as a rallying point.

That’s all I have. What stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and enjoy your Tuesday.

 

 

 


Tuesday Reads: So Many Racists, A**holes, Morons, and Lunatics; So Little Patience

Obama and daughters books

Good Morning!!

Just look at those awful teenage girls wearing coats in a bookstore! How shocking! And the President in jeans and casual jacket! Impeach him immediately!

As everyone knows by now, GOP aide to Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) Elizabeth Lauten learned the hard way that when you attack the President’s family on Facebook, lots of people see it; and then your ugly words go viral on Twitter and other social media sites.

Addressing her comments directly to the Obama girls, Lauten wrote that they should ‘‘respect the part you play,’’ and added: ‘‘Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.’’

Lauten also urged the Obama girls to ‘‘dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.’’

Lauten later apologized for the comments and deleted the original post, which drew harsh criticism across social media.

In her pathetic “apology,” as Eugene Robinson noted on Rachel Maddow’s show last night, Lauten failed to say she was sorry for insulting any of the  members of the Obama family.

‘‘When I first posted on Facebook I reacted to an article and I quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager,’’ Lauten told The Commercial Appeal of Memphis in an email. ‘‘Please know, those judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart. Furthermore, I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words.’’

Whatever, lady. I’m glad you’re out of a job. Instant Karma is so satisfying.

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson

Speaking of f**king a**holes, I’ve managed for a long time now to avoid seeing or hearing anything about MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” or its moronic hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Unfortunately, this morning I accidentally clicked on a link to Mediaite and read something about their asinine TV show.

This morning the above-mentioned Eugene Robinson was on the program and dared to say that Michael Brown might have had his hands up when he was shot and killed by Darren Wilson. Robinson’s reasoning? A number of eyewitnesses said so and there’s nothing in the evidence that proves Brown wasn’t surrendering.

According to Mediaite’s Evan McMurry, things “got awkward.”

“I don’t believe there’s anything in the record, certainly not in the forensic evidence, that precludes the possibility that he had his hands up at some point when he was approaching the officer,” Robinson said.

“That’s an awfully low standard,” cohost Joe Scarborough replied. “There’s also no evidence that doesn’t suggest a flying saucer from Venus swooped over all of them. There’s no evidence that it’s precluded, Gene. I’m not being difficult. I’m just saying the truth actually does matter.”

“I think it’s a very uncomfortable question for you, Gene,” Brzezinski said. “Because if you say no, there’s no evidence his hands up, you’re probably insulting a lot of people. Do you feel uncomfortable with the question?”

Now what do you suppose Brzezinski meant by that? Oh yeah, Robinson is black and so Mika thinks he must have to lie in order to pacify other black people. Are you lying to please your puppet master Joe Scarborough and the racist audience to your show, Mika?

You can watch the video at the Mediaite link above.

nfl

The racists are also up in arms about the five St. Louis Rams players (all black) who had the nerve to express solidarity with Ferguson protesters by standing with their hands up before their football game on Sunday. St. Louis police officers were enraged by this mild display of support, and complained loudly in the media.

St. Louis police chief Jon Belmar then publicly claimed that the Rams organization had apologized for the players actions. A battle of words followed, in which the Rams denied apologizing and Belmar kept insisting they had. From the NY Daily News:

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the St. Louis Rams apologized to local law enforcement officials Monday after five players walked onto the field Sunday with their arms raised high in solidarity with the Ferguson protesters, a claim the team denied in a bizarre war of words that erupted overnight between the team and cops.

Police immediately cried foul at the act during the Rams’ Week 13 home blowout of the Oakland Raiders, but the NFL sacked the cops’ request and chose not to discipline the players.

There was still fallout to manage and Rams COO Kevin Demoff tried to satisfy the outcry by local cops when he called Belmar on Monday and apologized for the players’ unsanctioned actions, according to the chief.

“Mr. Demoff clearly regretted that any members of the Ram’s (sic) organization would act in a way that minimized the outstanding work that police officers and departments carry out each and every day,” Belmar said in an email to the department, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “My impression of the call was that it was heartfelt and I assured him that I would share it with my staff.” ….

But CNN’s Rachel Nichols said Rams spokesman Artis Twyman told CNN the team “did not apologize” to St. Louis police.

And Demoff backed up that claim when reached by the Post-Dispatch late Monday. “In none of these conversations did I apologize for our players’ actions,” Demoff told the Post-Dispatch. “I did say in each conversation that I regretted any offense their officers may have taken. We do believe it is possible to both support our players’ First Amendment rights and support the efforts of local law enforcement as our community begins the process of healing.”

My advice to Belmar and police departments all over the country: Get over it and stop killing innocent citizens.

John Boehner swears in Florida's Ted Yoho.

John Boehner swears in Florida’s Ted Yoho.

And speaking of moronic a**holes, John Boehner is set to do battle with the crazy caucus today. Reuters: Boehner to seek support for plan to avoid government shutdown.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner will try to sell fellow Republicans this week on a government spending bill that avoids a shutdown fight but allows the party to strike back at President Barack Obama’s immigration order.

Republicans have a lot riding on their handling of must-pass government funding. Having scored huge wins in Nov. 4 voting that handed them a majority in the Senate and gave them a bigger majority in the House, Republican leaders want to demonstrate that they can govern responsibly next year.

But many are still outraged that Obama bypassed Congress and is moving ahead unilaterally on immigration, granting what they claim is “amnesty” to people who came to the United States illegally.

House Republicans will meet on Tuesday after a 10-day Thanksgiving break to discuss their response, including a leading option for Boehner that would fund most government agencies through September 2015, with only a short-term extension for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

House Republican lawmakers and aides say this would give them a chance to use their stronger House and Senate majorities next year to pass explicit spending restrictions on some DHS agencies, to try to stop Obama’s immigration overhaul.

More details from Bloomberg Politics:

House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders are turning to large-animal veterinarian and Tea Party darling Ted Yoho to help avoid a second government shutdown in as many years.

The freshman Florida Republican has proposed a bill that aims to remove the president’s executive power when it comes to deportations. It’s a symbolic measure that would have essentially zero chance of passing in the last days of a Democratic-controlled Senate. But Boehner and his crew hope it’s enough to pacify a Republican caucus seething over President Barack Obama’s immigration actions last month.

Boehner and other Republican leaders have vowed to avoid a repeat of the 16-day shutdown last year. Their best shot may be coupling Yoho’s bill with a measure that would temporarily fund immigration agencies and provide longer-term financing for the rest of the federal government. The deadline is Dec. 11, when current funding ends.

Yoho, whose opposition to Obamacare contributed to the last shutdown, was an unlikely star of the 2012 election cycle, knocking off 12-term incumbent Cliff Stearns in a Republican primary for a North Florida district after selling his veterinary practice to run. Since being sworn in, the 59-year-old Republican has voted against Boehner for speaker, said an Obamacare tax on indoor tanning was “racist,” and suggested that a government shutdown could stabilize markets.

Yoho sounds like a lunatic. How on earth do people like this get elected?

Bill Cassidy tries to smile and fails miserably.

Bill Cassidy tries to smile and fails miserably.

Speaking of lunatics, last night I watched the final debate between Louisiana Senate candidates Bill Cassidy and Mary Landrieu. If the result of the runoff election on Saturday weren’t so important, the “debate” would have been a laugh riot. The main topics were abortion, guns, Obamacare, Cassidy’s double dipping at the expense of taxpayers and Landrieu’s weak support of the hated black President.

It was difficult to listen to what Cassidy was saying, because he is so strange-looking, and when he forces a smile, he looks like something out of a vampire movie. Even though Mary Landrieu is a pretty conservative Democrat, I couldn’t help liking her when I noticed she had a hard time not laughing out loud when Cassidy was talking.

From NOLA.com:

The gloves came off during the testy final U.S. Senate debate Monday night between Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. Controversies dominated the discussion, including assertions that  Cassidyfalsified time sheets and Landrieu used taxpayer money to take charter airplane flights to campaign events.

Landrieu worked her main allegation, that Cassidy billed Louisiana State University for work he didn’t perform, into answers throughout the debate. She said it’s an issue that should follow him beyond Saturday’s election.

“If he wins, he will be fighting more than President Obama. He will be fighting subpoenas because he padded his time sheet,” Landrieu said. “He’ll talk about everyone else’s record but his own.”

Cassidy denied the allegations and defended his record. “These charges are absolutely false. The Landrieu campaign takes these charges, and they twist them anyway they can. I’m proud of the work I’ve done at LSU,” Cassidy said.

A physician, Cassidy said his work at LSU hospitals helped people, while Landrieu’s charter flights helped only her. Landrieu countered that she had taken responsibility for the flights, which she attributed to a bookkeeping error, and paid back the Treasury.

Read more at the link.

During their extended argument over abortion, I was surprised to hear Cassidy state as fact that a 20-month fetus is viable and capable of feeling pain. I was also shocked when Landrieu said she is against all abortions and thinks they are immoral, but that the government shouldn’t be making those decisions. At least she’s “pro-choice.”

After watching that debate, I thanked my lucky stars that my Senators are Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey.

That’s about all the news I could dredge up this morning. I’ll be so glad when the holidays come to an end. What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: How Senate Democrats Blew It and Blamed Obama

NYC-Morning-coffee-shop

Good Morning!!

I’m still feeling incredibly depressed about Tuesday’s elections. It almost feels like I’m grieving over a death. Yesterday I was in shock. Today I’m feeling sadness mixed with some anger. How did this happen? Why did voters do this?

Just two years ago, President Obama was reelected decisively. Now midterm voters have elected Republicans, and not just in Congress. They’ve reelected far right governors in Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Ohio, and Maine; and they’ve put Republicans in state houses in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland!

Well there’s certainly no shortage of pundits and journalists willing to explain it all to us. Last night I read quite a few of these postmortem analyses. The main thing I learned was that it’s not just Republicans who hate Obama. Senate Democrats loathe him so intensely that they’ll cut their own throats to get back at him. So much so that Harry Reid sent his right hand man out to leak all the details to The Washington Post the weekend before Tuesday night’s devastating losses.

From Zachary Goldfarb at Wonkblog: Harry Reid’s top man tears apart the White House.

You almost never see this in politics. David Krone, the chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), launches a major attack on the White House in this blockbuster story by my colleagues Philip Rucker and Robert Costa….[The story] signals that the chilly relationship between President Obama and Senate Democrats is now entering a deep freeze.

Senate Democrats aren’t likely to care at all about Obama’s attempts to burnish his legacy in his final two years. They’re going to be laser-focused on winning the Senate back.

As he looks toward his final two years, Obama is looking toward a Congress with few friends, and many enemies, on both sides of the aisle.

So nice to know that Democratic Senators have our backs. Oh wait. It’s not about people or issues for them, just their own survival. And they’ll backstab the president and the American people in order to protect their precious domain. Why on earth did they fight tooth and nail to crown him as their nominee in 2008? It was most likely about campaign money then too.

Here’s the WaPo story in question, Battle for the Senate: How the GOP did it. The story is all about how Mich McConnell–who’s some kind of political genius according to Rucker and Costa–directed the Republican wipeout. I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s the part about Krone and Senate Democrats:

After years of tension between President Obama and his former Senate colleagues, trust between Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue had eroded. A fight between the White House and Senate Democrats over a relatively small sum of money had mushroomed into a major confrontation.

At a March 4 Oval Office meeting, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and other Senate leaders pleaded with Obama to transfer millions in party funds and to also help raise money for an outside group. “We were never going to get on the same page,” said David Krone, Reid’s chief of staff. “We were beating our heads against the wall.”

The tension represented something more fundamental than money — it was indicative of a wider resentment among Democrats in the Capitol of how the president was approaching the election and how, they felt, he was dragging them down. All year on the trail, Democratic incumbents would be pounded for administration blunders beyond their control — the disastrous rollout of the health-care law, problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, undocumented children flooding across the border, Islamic State terrorism and fears about Ebola.

“The president’s approval rating is barely 40 percent,” Krone said. “What else more is there to say? . . . He wasn’t going to play well in North Carolina or Iowa or New Hampshire. I’m sorry. It doesn’t mean that the message was bad, but sometimes the messenger isn’t good.”

Harry Reid with top aide David Krone

Harry Reid with top aide David Krone

And so Democratic candidates distanced themselves from Obama. And they lost bigtime. On Sunday Krone gave the Washington Post writers his notes from White House meetings and blabbed all the details, presumably in order to put the blame for losing the Senate on on the president.

With Democrats under assault from Republican super-PAC ads, Reid and his lieutenants, Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), went to the Oval Office on March 4 to ask Obama for help. They wanted him to transfer millions of dollars from the Democratic National Committee to the DSCC, a relatively routine transaction.

Beyond that, they had a more provocative request — they wanted Obama to help raise money for the Senate Majority PAC, an outside group run by former Reid advisers.

Obama and his advisers worried about the legality of his doing this and how it could affect his reputation. Krone thought they were “setting the rules as they saw fit….For some reason, they hid behind a lot of legal issues.”

The disagreements underscored a long-held contention on Capitol Hill that Obama’s political operation functioned purely for the president’s benefit and not for his party’s, although Obama allies note that the president shared with the Senate campaigns his massive lists of volunteer data and supporters’ e-mail addresses, considered by his advisers to be sacred documents.

All year, Obama traveled frequently to raise money for the party. On June 17, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough offered to increase Obama’s appearances at DSCC fundraisers and to give donors access to the president through a “Dinner with Barack” contest and high-dollar roundtable discussions.

But Krone said McDonough told him there would be no cash transfer to the DSCC, because the DNC still had to retire its 2012 debt. On Sept. 9, Reid pressured Obama to take out a loan at the DNC to fund a DSCC transfer, Krone said. The DNC did open a line of credit and sent the DSCC a total of $5 million, beginning with $500,000 on Sept. 15 and following with $1.5 million installments on Sept. 30, Oct. 15 and Oct. 24.

None of that was good enough for Krone. “I don’t think that the political team at the White House truly was up to speed and up to par doing what needed to get done,” Krone said.

Please read the whole article. It describes how the Republicans developed their strategy and carried it out, and how Democrats f**ked up. Basically, Democrats ran away from Obama and tacked to the right, while Republicans tried to hide their real policies and ran to the left. The inside story on how the DSCC handled (or didn’t handle) Alison Grimes is in there too. I’m not going to excerpt from it, but here’s another must read WaPo article about Krone’s backstabbing: Midterm disaster rips apart awkward ties between Obama and Senate Democrats.

McConnell-Laughing

Sally Kohn writes at The Daily Beast, How’d the GOP Win? By Running Left. Kohn notes what we’ve all been talking about here. Voters put Republicans in office everywhere, yet they voted for questions on the minimum wage (Arkansas, South Dakota, Nebraska), required sick leave (Massachusetts); and they also voted down efforts to restrict abortion.

Across the issues, there’s evidence to suggest that Republican candidates won in part by masquerading as moderates, embracing the sorts of Democratic positions—or at least rhetoric—that enjoy wide voter support, even in red states. Republican candidates in states like Georgia and Virginia lamented high poverty rates. Victorious Republican Gov. Nathan Deal boasted of his progress in reducing the number of incarcerated black men in Georgia. Cory Gardner and others hammered on stagnant wages for the middle class. Republican James Lankford, who won the race for the Senate in Oklahoma, began a debate with his opponent by railing against income inequality.

Republican Bill Cassidy, who heads to a run-off for the Senate against Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, also lamented on the campaign trail that “income inequality has increased.” Thom Tillis, the Republican victor in the North Carolina Senate race, hammered Democrat Kay Hagan for supporting a sales tax that “harmed the poor and working families more than anyone else.” The winner in the Illinois governor’s race, Republican Bruce Rauner, suggested that taxes should target businesses instead of “low-income working families.”

“You’d expect to hear that kind of talk from Democrats, or maybe socialists,” wrote Slate’s William Saletan. But no, it was Republicans who managed to pull off this stunning electoral jujitsu in contorting their rhetoric to be entirely unrecognizable from their actual conservative policies and beliefs.

In other words, Republican candidates obscured their real positions (and they were trained to do it–see the WaPo article I wrote about above), while Democrats did everything possible distance themselves from President Obama and refused to defend even his successes. Alison Grimes wouldn’t even say she voted for him in 2012, even though she was an delegate at the Democratic convention!

I love this piece by Tommy Christopher at The Daily Banter, Democrats Ran Away From Obama and It Cost Them Dearly On Election Day.

The 2014 midterm election was never going to be kind to Democrats, with a map that favored Republicans to pick up at least some seats in the Senate, and a 2010 redistricting spree that practically guarantees a GOP majority in the House for, well, ever. But with an avalanche of good news about health care and the economy, and a Death Star-sized advantage on the issue of immigration reform, Democrats rolled up their sleeves and ran as hard away from that as they could. So, how’d that work out for them? [….]

Things really could not possibly have gone worse for the Democrats. When the dust settles, Republicans will probably hold 54 Senate seats, if Democrat Mark Warner (D-Va.) can hold off a surprise challenge by Ed Gillespie, and may also flip Angus King (I-Maine). If Warner falls, then there could be a 56-44 Republican majority. In the House, Republicans look to pick up 25 seats, and in the states, Democrats lost in solidly blue states like Maryland and Illinois.

It doesn’t look like walking around saying “Barack who? and convincing President Obama to break his promise on immigration did Democrats any good at all. But the exit polls from Tuesday’s election strongly suggest that those moves did manage to hurt Democrats in states they desperately needed to carry (well, all of them). While Republicans gained with there bread-and-butter, white voters, Democrats lost support from 2012 among black voters (-4%), Hispanic voters (-7%), unmarried women (-7%), and unmarried men (-6%). As CNN’s last pre-election poll indicted, Obama was not a factor for 45% of voters, while another 19% said their vote was cast in support of the president. Only 33% said they cast their vote in opposition to the president. That number is consistent with every poll ever of Republican opposition to Obama.

Read the rest at the link.

This headline at Politico is a laugh riot: Voters want the GOP to fix the economy. Good luck with that. Follow the link to read Politico’s take on that if you want to.

I do think 2014 voters were frustrated with the economy. Although there have been many improvements, they’ve been slow to develop and have mostly benefited the wealthy. Americans aren’t seeing their wages go up, and most of the news jobs are low-paying and/or part-time.

Obama had a chance at the beginning of his first term to be another FDR. He could have fought for a bigger stimulus and instituted programs New Deal-type programs by executive order, as Roosevelt did during the Great Depression. Instead, Obama chose to invest his mandate in passing a Republican health care bill.

Obama has learned a few things over the past six years, and he has done some good things; but the truth is he was never the liberal his clueless 2008 supporters thought he was. As I said many times back then, Obama has no real ideology that I can discover. He’s a DLC-type technocrat. Remember when he claimed he was never a member, but the DLC had his picture posted prominently on their website? He has always believed in privatizing government programs and he was never truly committed to women’s reproductive rights. Just go back and read his book, The Audacity of Hope. I read it in 2008, and I immediately knew that Obama was not my kind of Democrat. But he was elected by people who bought the book, but apparently never read it.

But that’s all water under the bridge. He’s the President of the U.S. now, and I’ve done my best to support him. He’s done some good things, and I think he’s done a lot more for me than Harry Reid and his pals in the Senate.

That’s it for me this morning. What stories are you following? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and I hope you’ll have a pleasant Thursday.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Two Republican Candidates in Trouble

 Rick Perry readsGood Afternoon!!

Poor Rick Perry. He just can’t seem to catch a break. First there was his indictment on two felony charges. Then he had to face the further indignity that being indicted on felony charges means he can no longer swagger around with a concealed weapon on his person. According to the Washington Times,

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s indictment on felony corruption charges means he can no longer carry a concealed weapon under state law.

Federal law also prohibits him from being able to buy more guns or ammunition, as long as the indictment is pending, Reuters reported.

I wonder if he knows that? Because when he was in New Hampshire last week, he told voter he didn’t understand the charges against him. From ABC News last Friday, Aug. 22:

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Texas Gov. Rick Perry returned to New Hampshire Friday for the first time since 2012, as he tries to rehab his political image after a failed presidential bid.

Speaking to a group of business leaders here, Perry tried to focus on substance, talking about issues like economic development and the border crisis, but his recent indictment on two felony charges was hard to ignore.

Asked about his indictment during a question-and-answer session with business leaders, Perry was a little unclear when explaining what felony charges were issued against him.

“I’ve been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here,” Perry said of the grand jury that indicted him.

A grand jury indicted Perry last week on two felony counts – abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official – over a 2013 veto threat.

Texas Governor Perry

At The Wire, Arit John has a funny post in which he describes Perry’s confusion as just one step in the grief process over the indictment, Rick Perry Enters the Final Stage of Indictment Grief: Confusion.

Maybe Rick Perry should have read up on his indictment charges before he started using them as a campaign talking point. During a speech last week, the Texas governor said he was being indicted for bribery, which isn’t actually true.

“I’ve been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here,” he said,according to the Houston Chronicle. But Perry is actually being indicted for abuse of power and coercing a public official, after he threatened to veto District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s budget if she refused to resign after her drunk driving conviction.

This is another oops moment for Perry, but it also signaled his transition into the 5th and, likely for him, final stage of indictment related grief: confusion. After grinning mugshot denial, angry ads “setting the record straight,” bargaining over who should pay the lawyers and depression over a loss of Second Amendment privileges, all that’s left for Perry is to be slightly unsure of what, exactly, people are accusing him of doing.

Read the details at the link.

Rick Perry gun3

Then there are the embarrassing stories about how Perry hasn’t paid the National Guard troops that he sent to guard the Texas-Mexico border. From Gawker:

When Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent National Guard soldiers to the Mexico border to much fanfare earlier this summer, he couldn’t say how long they’d be there. It turns out he also couldn’t pay them: At least 50 soldiers haven’t seen a paycheck and are getting sustenance and vehicle fuel from a local food bank.

Via KGBT News, the sudden call-up took those weekend warriors away from their day jobs and deposited them in the Rio Grande valley, but the service hasn’t covered their losses yet….

Perry—who’s busy being indicted for criminal abuse of power—and the National Guard didn’t respond to reporter queries earlier this week, but the pay lag could be related to the governor’s refusal to fund the mobilization he ordered, and his insistence that the federal government cover it. (In the meantime, Perry was supposedly attempting to finance the deployment “by diverting $38 million in public safety funds earmarked for emergency radio infrastructure,” the L.A. Times has reported.)

Yesterday afternoon, the Austin Statement reported that unnamed “National Guard officials” were claiming the stories about hungry troops were exaggerated, but it sounds like they may be just trying to clean up Perry’s mess.

The Guard said it had identified 50 service members who, because of their early August start date, weren’t going to be paid until Sept. 5.

None of those 50 troops have notified leaders that they had used the food bank, officials said.

According to the Guard, troops receive one meal while on duty, plus a $32 per diem food reimbursement that is included in their paychecks.

According to Omar Ramirez, Food Bank RGV’s manager of communications and advocacy, the food bank made extra preparations after being contacted by someone from the Texas National Guard Support Foundation, but that he wasn’t aware of any troops being served.

“Maybe they come in and they just don’t tell us they’re National Guard,” he said.

OK, but if the $32 dollars is included in their paychecks, then that means the troops have to front the money for two meals a day until Sept. 5, right? Read the rest at the link.

CoatHangerPerryW480_zpsc5ed0bd9

Finally, yesterday Perry learned that his latest anti-abortion bill–the one that Wendy Davis filibustered–has been struck down by a federal judge. From AP:

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel sided with clinics that sued over one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2013. The ruling stops new restrictions that would have left seven abortion facilities in Texas come Monday. There are currently 19 abortion providers in the state, according to groups challenging the law.

“The overall effect of the provisions is to create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion,” Yeakel wrote in his 21-page ruling.

The trial in Texas was the latest battle over tough new abortion restrictions sweeping across the U.S.

The law would have required clinics “to meet the building, equipment and staffing standards of hospital-style surgery centers,” according to The New York Times.

Adopted as part of a sweeping anti-abortion measure last year, the rule would have forced the closing of more than a dozen of Texas’ remaining abortion clinics because they were unable to afford to renovate or to open new facilities that met the standards for such things as hallway width, ceiling height, advanced ventilation equipment, staffing and even parking spaces.

The closings would have left Texas, the second-biggest state by population and by size, with seven or eight abortion clinics, all in major cities like Houston and Dallas. Women in El Paso in West Texas and in the Rio Grande Valley in the south would have lived more than 150 miles — a distance ruled constitutional by a federal appeals court — from the closest clinic in the state, in San Antonio.

Fortunately for Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, her opponent Greg Abbott plans to appeal the decision.

Mitch McDonnell at Morris' Deli in Louisville, KY

Mitch McDonnell at Morris’ Deli in Louisville, KY

Mitch McConnell is also experiencing some difficulties in his Senate reelection campaign in Kentucky. He has been in a close race with Democratic challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes–they’ve been running neck-and-neck for a long time now. And recently McConnell has had a couple of setbacks. First there was the secretly recorded audiotape released by The Undercurrent Youtube channel, of McConnell’s remarks at a “meeting for millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers,” in which he promised to continue blocking Obama proposals and emphasized his opposition to raising the minimum wage. The contents of the tape were first reported in The Nation.

Last week, in an interview with Politico, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlined his plan to shut down President Obama’s legislative agenda by placing riders on appropriations bills. Should Republicans take control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, McConnell intends to pass spending bills that “have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.”

What McConnell didn’t tell Politico was that two months ago, he made the same promise to a secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers. The Nation and The Undercurrent obtained an audio recording of McConnell’s remarks to the gathering, called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society.” In the question-and-answer period following his June 15 session titled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights,” McConnell says:

“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board [inaudible]. All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.”

Mitch McConnell gun

The article notes that the McConnell campaign has received $41,800 from Koch Industries in addition to outside groups who get funding from the Kochs.

“And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage [inaudible]—cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment—that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh. These people believe in all the wrong things.”

In late April, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, successfully filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a widely popular measure that would increase wages for at least 16.5 million Americans. Earlier in the year, McConnell also led a filibuster of a three-month extension of unemployment insurance to some 1.7 million Americans. At one point in the negotiations, he offered a deal to extend unemployment only if Democrats agreed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even though the ACA does not add to the federal deficit.

More from The New York Times:

The [Undercurrent] channel released audio of three other Republicans in tough Senate races — Representative Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado and Joni Ernst, a state senator in Iowa — all of whom praised Charles G. and David H. Koch and the millions of dollars they have provided to help Republican candidates….

Republicans said the recordings were insignificant. Josh Holmes, a senior McConnell campaign aide, said the senator was in no way suggesting a strategy to shut down the government unless Mr. Obama capitulates.

Nonetheless, the audio recordings are likely to become fodder for the campaigns in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa and Kentucky. Democrats, most notably Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, have tried to demonize contributions by the Koch brothers as corruptive to the political system.

In Arkansas, especially, the audio could touch a nerve. Mr. Cotton, a freshman House member, skipped a popular political event in his state, the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival, to attend the Koch brothers’ meeting in California. According to the audio, he was repaid with praise for his willingness to hew to the most conservative line, even if it meant voting against legislation popular in his state.

o-MITCH-MCCONNELL-JESSE-BENTON-facebook

Then yesterday, McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton was forced to resign because of a scandal involving his work for the Ron Paul campaign in Iowa in 2012. From CBS News:

Benton’s resignation, effective Saturday, comes barely two months before Kentucky voters choose between McConnell, a five-term incumbent and the top-ranking Senate Republican, and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

In Iowa this week, former state Sen. Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his switch of support from one Republican presidential candidate to another before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. He received thousands of dollars in “under the table payments” before switching loyalties from candidate Michele Bachmann, whose Iowa campaign he headed, to candidate Ron Paul, then lied to federal investigators about the money, the Justice Department said.

Prosecutors refused to say which campaign paid Sorenson. A representative for Bachmann didn’t immediately return voice and email messages seeking comment Friday. A phone message for Paul also wasn’t immediately returned.

Benton, a tea party insider, worked as a top aide to Paul. On Friday he said that he has been the target of “inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors” about his role in past campaigns that are “politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue.”

Benton had been hired to help McConnell appeal to Tea Party extremists in Kentucky. Is it possible McConnell misjudged his constituents? I sincerely hope so.

So I’ve ended up focusing this post on just two struggling Republicans–but there are plenty of others I could write about. I don’t think we should give up on Democrats holding the Senate yet. I know there is plenty of other news, but I thought I’d shift the focus to electoral politics today. What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Labor Day weekend!!

 

 


Wednesday Reads: Hobby Lobby Loves Them Pre-Cooked

14c4a1ed09743ffd58d8053c7aa93f11Good Morning

You must have heard about the latest from Hobby Lobby, the hypocrisy is so disgusting…Hobby Lobby Allegedly Fired Employee Due to Pregnancy

When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives—on the false grounds that they cause abortions—would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant. Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits. “They didn’t even want me to come back after having my baby, to provide for it,” she says. Her allegations—as well as those brought by other former Hobby Lobby employees—call into question the company’s public claims when it comes to protecting life and operating its business with Christian values. Additionally, they highlight a practice by which Hobby Lobby prevents its employees from seeking justice through the courts.

Yeah, you can read more details at the link. But as Eric Loomis, LG&M points out: That Pro-Life Hobby Lobby

And here I thought Hobby Lobby was acting out of very strong principle for life and not because it hates women and wants to punish them for having sex. There’s also this gem:

When Allen applied for unemployment benefits, she says Hobby Lobby’s corporate office gave the unemployment agency a false version of events, claiming she could have taken off personal leave but chose not to. In the end, Allen says she won her claim for unemployment benefits, but she felt she had been wrongly discriminated based on the fact that she was pregnant. In February 2012 she sued Hobby Lobby, but her lawsuit was swiftly dropped because, like most—if not all—Hobby Lobby employees, Allen had signed away her rights to sue the company. Though the multibillion-dollar, nearly 600-store chain took its legal claim against the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court when it didn’t want to honor the health insurance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the company forbids its employees from seeking justice in the court of law. Allen had signed a binding arbitration agreement upon taking the job, though she says she doesn’t remember doing so. The agreement, which all Hobby Lobby employees are required to sign, forces employees to resolve legal disputes outside of court through a process known as arbitration.

Lying so she couldn’t get unemployment is very special, but forcing employees to sign documents waiving their right to sue the company in order to be hired should be as illegal as the yellow-dog contract. I would ask how something like that is even legal in this nation, but of course I already know why–because corporations control our lives in ways they have not in a century.

I have plenty more links for you, but because I must take the boy to his endocrinologist in Atlanta tomorrow…I will just give it to you in dump fashion. Religious violence in 2013 displaced millions | Al Jazeera America

Millions of people were forced from their homes because of their religious beliefs last year, the U.S. government said Monday, citing the devastating impact of conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Central African Republic. Secretary of State John Kerry called the displacement of families and devastation of communities from sectarian violence a troubling trend in the world, as he launched the State Department 2013 report on religious freedom. The report said that in much of the Middle East, the Christian presence is becoming “a shadow of its former self.” Hundreds of thousands of minority Christians have fled Syria after three years of civil war. It also highlighted more than one million people displaced in the Central African Republic during 2013, amid an upsurge in Christian-Muslim violence. In Southeast Asia, the spread of anti-Muslim violence spread from Myanmar‘s volatile west to central Meiktila, with up to 100 deaths and 12,000 displaced. Kerry further cited the “savagery and incredible brutality” by the al-Qaeda-inspired militant group active in Iraq and Syria, known as the Islamic State, saying it had slaughtered Shiite Muslims and forcibly converted Christians under threat of death. The report, released annually, reviews how religious freedoms are respected and violated in almost 200 countries and territories.

This 19-year-old confessed to killing a woman in 1963. You won’t believe what happened next.

In 1963, a 17-year-old Indiana youth named Robert J. Dowlut reportedly confessed to police — amid a pile of evidence — that he’d killed a local woman. The next year, a jury of his peers heard the case and found  Dowlut guilty. What happened next? A) He died in the electric chair. B) He lived a long life and is currently the chief lawyer for the National Rifle Association.

Read about this here: The NRA’s Murder Mystery | Mother Jones I really don’t know why they bother to research this next item of news,  WASHINGTON: Past-due debt prevalent across U.S., with South the highest | Economy | McClatchy DC What more would anyone expect.  At least there is Good News: Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Can Remain Open Here is a few health stories: Take Two: Just How Good Are Generic Meds Anyway? | Mother Jones Previously unknown virus that lives in half the world’s population could play a major role in obesity and diabetes – Medical News Today The Challenges of Having Sex as a Little Person – Merissa Nathan Gerson – The Atlantic And let’s not stop with little people sex, what about panda sex: Nixon on Panda Sex – Lawyers, Guns & Money In fact, more of Nixon’s tapes are in the news, as two new books are released,  The Untapped Secrets of the Nixon Tapes – Evan Thomas – The Atlantic From a former president to a former First Lady: The Best “Dear John Letter” Ever Sent | Mother Jones

In 1947, years before she met John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier sent her high school boyfriend what is maybe my favorite Dear John letter of all time.

“I’ve always thought of being in love as being willing to do anything for the other person—starve to buy them bread and not mind living in Siberia with them—and I’ve always thought that every minute away from them would be hell—so looking at it that [way] I guess I’m not in love with you.”

Jackie O. would have been 85 Monday. RIP.

For more fascinating reads, look at this: Read the Notorious RBG at Her Most Blistering

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, teeny tiny goddess of judicial feminism incarnate, has authored many a badass piece of legal writing in her day. Now, thanks to some devoted brainiacs who are better at this sort of thing than I am, you can read the sharpest work of the grand dame in one place.

The folks at People for the American Way (a progressive think tank) have put together a lovely treasury of RBG’s greatest hits. Perfect light reading for the next time you put your head in a big pile of curls on your head and take a bubble bath, or lie out on a Caribbean beach, or a good thing to read to the kids when you’re trying to get them to bed. Yep. Just a little light legal reading.

Meanwhile, Officials Pull Back From Crash Site as the Army Puts Pressure on Rebels – NYTimes.com And if you are worried about the big flood: Climate refugees, DO NOT MOVE TO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST | Grist

Many Seattle residents revere Cliff Mass as the Yoda of weather in the Northwest. On his blog and through spots in local media, this professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington helps us process our snowpocalypses and measure out Lexapro for 10 months of the year. Now he’s turning his big-weather brain to something regularly on our minds here at Grist: “As global warming takes hold later in the century, where will be the best place in the lower 48 states to escape its worst effects?” Here’s the short answer from Cliff:

Everyone stay where you are.
Cliff Mass
Everyone stay where you are.

On his blog entry, Mass goes into much more scientific detail on climate effects for the Lower 48 (complete with loads more charts). But even from this map, we can glean a few key takeaways.

  • You’ll notice Mass highlighted most of the Eastern seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico, and sections of California in bright red. Areas of sea-level rise? Ohnonononono. You misunderstand completely. Those are spots where candy will grow on trees — because adaptation! Florida’s famous orange groves will evolve into chocolate orange groves and just work their way up the coast to Connecticut. Delicious!
  • Take a look at all that yellow in the Southwest. Any guesses? Correct: That is precisely where state and local governments are likely to enforce three-day workweeks. And if you worry that moving to Phoenix, Los Angeles, or Austin means you’ll spend every extra-long weekend wearing spikes and riding in a rusty dune buggy on your way to bludgeon the neighbors to death over water resources, here’s a tip: Don’t!
  • Orange! This DOES NOT mean this area gets more oranges (duh, pay attention; that was yellow). It does signify that every day will be Christmas. It also signifies that more Christmases will be wetter, windier, and generally more hurricane-y. P.S. I got you galoshes. (AGAIN, I know. Tee-hee!) Merry Christmas!
  • Purple, purple, purple — Big Purp practically owns the map. Good thing, too, because from Montana to Maine, climate-changed citizenry will THRILL to the incredible cellphone coverage. No more dropped calls in Chicago. No more blips in Butte. Just blazing-fast downloads and crystal-clear audio, from your hot, cracked lips to your heatstroked fingertips. (Caveat: Customers will notice an increase in dropped calls from underground bunkers and heat hovels.)
  • Say what about the green dots? Oh, those are flooding rivers and total shitholes.

Now for the last few remaining links for the day, a couple of stories from Hollywood and two others on digging up the past… Effort to save ‘Tara’ plantation facade before it’s ‘Gone with the Wind’ – NY Daily News Kodak, Studios Negotiating Last Ditch Effort to Keep Film in Hollywood – Hollywood Reporter Traces of Lincoln’s Courthouse Found in Illinois – Archaeology Magazine Erosion Exposes Human Remains on Kwajalein Atoll – Archaeology Magazine Have a good day and hope you share your thoughts in the comments below. A woman waves from a float during the Carnaval des Fleurs…


Tuesday Reads: Are Women People?

women people2

Good Morning!!

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

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

From MSNBC: Supreme Court to hear birth control case

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

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

women human

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

Back to the MSNBC article:

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

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

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

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

What will SCOTUS decide?

women people4

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

women people3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

women human5

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

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

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

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

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

Read the gory details at the link.

hillary_clinton_human_6423

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

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

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

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

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

 


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

newspapers1

So, I’m still a little bit out of the loop at the moment. I’m not really reading much in the way of news or even watching TV so I had to do some searching for something interesting to read this morning. This will be a bit of a link dump. I promise I will do better by midweek.

Will we ever be rid of Fat Tony and his blatant hypocrisy?

With his own claims to originalism fading fast, Scalia suggests liberal judicial activism, practiced by some of colleagues on the Court, is part of what brought about the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. The speech was an address to the Utah State Bar Association.

From the Aspen Times …

Scalia opened his talk with a reference to the Holocaust, which happened to occur in a society that was, at the time, “the most advanced country in the world.” One of the many mistakes that Germany made in the 1930s was that judges began to interpret the law in ways that reflected “the spirit of the age.” When judges accept this sort of moral authority, as Scalia claims they’re doing now in the U.S., they get themselves and society into trouble.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is something we teach a lot in economics.  You may remember the movie  “A Beautiful Mind” and the invention of game theory.  Well, there’s been an interesting test of the theory.

The “prisoner’s dilemma” is a familiar concept to just about anybody that took Econ 101.

The basic version goes like this. Two criminals are arrested, but police can’t convict either on the primary charge, so they plan to sentence them to a year in jail on a lesser charge. Each of the prisoners, who can’t communicate with each other, are given the option of testifying against their partner. If they testify, and their partner remains silent, the partner gets 3 years and they go free. If they both testify, both get two. If both remain silent, they each get one.

In game theory, betraying your partner, or “defecting” is always the dominant strategy as it always has a slightly higher payoff in a simultaneous game. It’s what’s known as a “Nash Equilibrium,” after Nobel Prize winning mathematician and A Beautiful Mind subject John Nash.

In sequential games, where players know each other’s previous behaviour and have the opportunity to punish each other, defection is the dominant strategy as well.

However, on a Pareto basis, the best outcome for both players is mutual cooperation.

Yet no one’s ever actually run the experiment on real prisoners before, until two University of Hamburg economists tried it out in a recent study comparing the behaviour of inmates and students.

Surprisingly, for the classic version of the game, prisoners were far more cooperative  than expected.

Menusch Khadjavi and Andreas Lange put the famous game to the test for the first time ever, putting a group of prisoners in Lower Saxony’s primary women’s prison, as well as students through both simultaneous and sequential versions of the game.The payoffs obviously weren’t years off sentences, but euros for students, and the equivalent value in coffee or cigarettes for prisoners.

They expected, building off of game theory and behavioural economic research that show humans are more cooperative than the purely rational model that economists traditionally use, that there would be a fair amount of first-mover cooperation, even in the simultaneous simulation where there’s no way to react to the other player’s decisions.

And even in the sequential game, where you get a higher payoff for betraying a cooperative first mover, a fair amount will still reciprocate.

As for the difference between student and prisoner behaviour, you’d expect that a prison population might be more jaded and distrustful, and therefore more likely to defect.

The results went exactly the other way for the simultaneous game, only 37% of students cooperate. Inmates cooperated 56% of the time.

On a pair basis, only 13% of student pairs managed to get the best mutual outcome and cooperate, whereas 30% of prisoners do.

Where do these modern day evangelicals get their whacked ideas about women and especially about abortion?

While America languishes in an economic depression, Republican officeholders are bending all their efforts… to ban abortion. In the last few weeks and months, we’ve seen a blizzard of anti-choice legislation in Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and many other places. These laws stall women seeking abortions with mandatory waiting periods, brutalize them with invasive and unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, force doctors to read shaming scripts rife with falsehoods, and impose onerous regulatory requirements that are designed to be impossible to comply with so that family-planning clinics will be forced to close. At the federal level, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted for a bill banning all abortion after 20 weeks, without even putting up a pretense that this was constitutional.

One would think the drubbing taken by anti-choice zealots like Todd Akin in the last election would have given Republicans an incentive to step back and consider whether this is a winning strategy. Instead, it seems as if their losses have only inspired them to fight harder. For the right-wing Christian fundamentalists who dominate the Republican Party, banning abortion, or at least piling up pointless regulations to make it as burdensome and difficult to obtain as possible, has become an all-consuming obsession, akin to a religious crusade.

Given the amount of effort and political capital the religious right puts into trying to restrict abortion, you’d guess that opposition to women’s choice must take up a huge portion of the Bible. But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

The Bible says nothing whatsoever about abortion. It never mentions the subject, not once, neither in the Old Testament nor the New. This isn’t because abortion was unknown in the ancient world. Much to the contrary, the ancient Greeks and Romans were well-acquainted with the idea. Surviving writings from these cultures recommend the use of herbs like pennyroyal, silphium and hellebore to induce abortion; others advise vigorous physical activity to cause a miscarriage, and some even discuss surgical methods.

Here’s an intriguing investigation of secret US prisons being carried out by Poland. What exactly do we and other countries know about these black ops sites run by the CIA?

The only sign of life at Szymany’s “international airport” are mosquitoes eager to suck blood out of a rare visitor. The gate is locked with a rusted chain and a padlock.

Evidence suggest that some of the last passengers at this site were CIA officers and their prisoners. That was in 2003. Soon after, the airport about 180 km north of Warsaw inside the picturesque Mazury forests went out of service.

Bounded by the Freedom of Information Act, Polish Airspace authorities have revealed that at least 11 CIA aircrafts landed at Szymany, and some of their passengers stayed on in Poland. The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) was not informed about those flights.

From Szymany the prisoners were driven to a nearby intelligence academy in Stare Kiejkuty, where the CIA had a separated facility. In 2006, a few months after Poland was first identified as having hosted a secret CIA prison, Polish ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski visited the CIA villa – only to see that its chambers have been freshly renovated.

Two other European countries with known but unconfirmed black sites are Romania and Lithuania; the rest were in Asia and North Africa.

Human rights groups believe about eight terror suspects were held in Poland, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Two other men currently detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have been granted “injured person” status in the ongoing investigation.

The first is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national alleged to have organised the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. He has claimed that he was often stripped naked, hooded, or shackled during seven months at Stare Kiejkuty, and subjected to mock execution with a gun and threats of sexual assault against his family members.

The second, a stateless Palestinian known as Abu Zubaydah, said he was subjected to extreme physical pain, psychological pressure and waterboarding – mock drowning.

Any Polish leaders who would have agreed to the U.S. programme would have been violating the constitution by giving a foreign power control over part of Polish territory, and allowing crimes to take place there.

Former prime minister Leszek Miller, now chairman of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance has been the prime target of criticism. There are demands he should face a special tribunal charged with trying state figures.

In March 2008, the Polish authorities opened a criminal investigation. “This indicates that Poland is a country with a rule of law,” Senator Jozef Pinior told IPS. “But the protraction is a reason for concern. The investigation has been moved to the third consecutive prosecutor’s office, in what looks like playing for time.”

Pinior, one of the leaders of the Solidarity opposition movement during the 1980s, and more recently a member of the European Parliament, has for long been lobbying for a full investigation into what the CIA was doing in Poland. Twice he was called in as witness in the investigation. He claims to have seen a document on a CIA prison with PM Miller’s signature.

“Poland is no banana republic, our security services do not do such things behind the back of the government.” — Polish Senator Jozef Pinior

“The Polish government, especially Leszek Miller, must have had knowledge that such sites existed on Polish territory without any legal basis,” Pinior said. “They must have known about the torture too. Poland is no banana republic, our security services do not do such things behind the back of the government.”

It is still not clear how much knowledge the Polish leaders had about the black site in Stare Kiejkuty. Some have vehemently denied the prison’s existence, but some admit it between the lines, though denying responsibility.

“Of course, everything took place with my knowledge,” said former president Aleksander Kwasniewski in an interview with leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

So, that’s a few odds and ends to get us started today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?