Syria is again dominating the headlines. Here’s a few things that might be slipping under the rug.
In July, House Republicans decoupled SNAP from the rest of the farm bill. Now, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, they are working on a food-stamp provision that could cut as much as $40 billion over 10 years, according to reports. Legislative language for the Cantor proposal is not yet available.
The conservative case goes like this: The food-stamp program is abused by recipients who are not meeting eligibility requirements. In particular, conservatives want to tighten loopholes that they contend allow able-bodied adults without dependents to receive assistance; they want to limit coverage for the able-bodied adults to three months within a 36-month period.
“Currently, working middle-class families struggling to make ends meet themselves are footing a bill for a program that has gone well beyond the safety net for children, seniors, the disabled, and families who desperately need the assistance,” said Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper.
Antihunger advocates say House Republicans’ proposed cuts would hit some of the neediest Americans hard, and they argue that the law already contains adequate restrictions against abuse.
At the Capital Area Food Bank, a 100,000-square-foot warehouse facility — a kind of Sam’s Club for food pantries in the metro Washington area — officials say food-stamp funds typically last recipients two and a half weeks. After the benefits run out, many go to food pantries to help make ends meet, according to the Food Bank’s Brian Banks.
Conservatives, meanwhile, argue that food-stamp funding has been rising too quickly. The program cost about $78.4 billion to help feed roughly 47 million participants in 2012, according to the Agriculture Department. That’s up from about $17 billion from 2000, when 17 million Americans participated.
“The national debt has now topped $16 trillion and will continue to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future. To preserve the economy, government spending, including welfare spending, must be put on a more prudent course,” wrote the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and Katherine Bradley in a white paper.
Anti-hunger advocates, though, point to a spike in the number of Americans who are “food insecure,” a term used by the government, that correlates to the recession. According to USDA, the number has recently stayed at roughly 15 percent, with 17.6 million households classified as such in 2012, according to a newly released report. With 59 percent of food-insecure households using food stamps, advocates argue that it’s important not to slash SNAP.
Now that Congress has returned, the farm bill and the food-stamp program will compete for scarce legislative time with the situation in Syria, appropriations bills, and a debate over the debt-ceiling limit, which the government is expected to reach sometime this fall. Among antihunger organizations, optimism is in short supply.
Indiania seems to hate its pregnant women. They’re at it again. This time they want to drug test all pregnant women even if there is no probable cause to believe they might be ingesting something harmful.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is calling on the legislature to help reduce the number of babies being exposed to narcotics while still in the womb.
It is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, newborns exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs before they are born.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller says treating NAS at Indiana hospitals cost an estimated $30 million in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, and he says that’s with limited tracking because hospitals are not required to report the condition.
Zoeller says one solution is requiring pregnant women take drug tests to identify the problem and start treatment before birth.
“You can reduce the length of stay for the newly born baby from six weeks to two weeks, the better health of the baby as well as the costs,” he say.s
State Senator Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, says the legislature is exploring different options because of concerns about mandatory drug tests.
“Verbal screening as opposed to the kind of blood or urine analysis that might drive women away from getting prenatal care,” she says, adding that a definitive answer has not been reached and a legislative panel will continue to investigate the issue leading up to next session.
On Tuesday, House Republicans unveiled their proposal to keep the government running past September 30, when the law that currently funds federal operations expires. It would last through December, at which point the parties would have to come up with yet another extension. As expected, the proposal more or less “locks in” funding levels from budget sequestration—in effect, it keeps the cuts that have been reducing Head Start slots, weakening the economy recovery, and generally wreaking havoc. As you may recall, sequestration cuts were never supposed to happen: They were supposed to be so crude and unpleasant, to conservatives and liberals alike, that the two parties would agree on an alternative way of reducing the deficit. But that hasn’t happened, so the cuts have taken effect this year. And if this new House Republican proposal passes, they will stay in place for at least a little while longer.
The House proposal also includes a provision to withhold funds for implementing Obamacare. Again, this is not a surprise. And, like some previous efforts, this one is mostly an effort of political theater. By design, the Senate could strip out the Obamacare defunding and approve everything else in the House leadership proposal. That would leave a “clean” government-funding bill, as House Republican leaders call it, for President Obama to sign. But House Republican leaders have assured anxious conservatives that a real effort to undermine Obamacare will come soon—proabably sometime in early October, when the federal treasury nears its official borrowing limit. At that point, the leaders say, they will refuse to authorize more borrowing unless Obama and the Democrats agree to certain concessions. The demands will include some kind of effort at defunding or delaying Obamacare—quite possibly, by insisting that the Obama administration postpones the individual mandate (the requirement that everybody get health insurance) by one year.
Senate Democrats have had all they can take from David Vitter and his fixation on Obamacare — and they’re dredging up his past prostitution scandal to hit back.
Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, has infuriated Democrats this week by commandeering the Senate floor, demanding a vote on his amendment repealing federal contributions to help pay for lawmakers’ health care coverage.
But Democratic senators are preparing a legislative response targeting a sordid Vitter episode. If Vitter continues to insist on a vote on his proposal, Democrats could counter with one of their own: Lawmakers will be denied those government contributions if there is “probable cause” they solicited prostitutes.
According to draft legislation obtained by POLITICO, Democrats are weighing whether to force a Senate vote on a plan that would effectively resurrect Vitter’s past if the conservative Republican continues to press forward with his Obamacare-bashing proposal.
It is now much easier to make the case that Gov. Bobby Jindal knows his chances of winning the presidency in the 2016 election are securely in his past. In fact, given the record he is now so feverishly and self-destructively building, it is difficult imagining the governor winning another — any — statewide election in Louisiana. In making that case, Exhibits No. 1 through No. 50, at least, are on display in Jindal’s bafflingly deliberate and long-running defiance of orders issued by Baton Rouge state district court Judge Janice Clark in a key public records case.
Over five months ago, on April 25, Judge Clark emphatically ruled in favor of plaintiff newspapers, the Advocate and NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, and ordered the LSU Board of Supervisors to “immediately produce” the documents identifying all those who sought the combined job of LSU president and chancellor. F. King Alexander was selected for the job, and Jindal does not want citizens to know who the other candidates were. Thus he directed his go-to lawyer, Jimmy Faircloth, to burn a trainload of taxpayer money by stiffing the citizenry and the judge … repeatedly … and proudly.
The rarity of observing such a months-long political train wreck was underscored by Lori Mince, the attorney representing the two Louisiana newspapers, in a Sept. 10article by Mike Hasten of Gannett News. Ms. Mince noted, “This is the first public records case I’ve had when the public body refused to comply.” No one else with whom I have spoken or emailed can remember another such instance, either. Such makes sense because once a public records case goes all the way to court, and a judge orders the documents produced, public officials have every reason and need to, well, produce the documents. That is precisely what happened when a group of us in Shreveport sued the highway department for documents, went up against Jindal / Faircloth’s initial opposition, and headed to Clark’s court. When our hearing came up, the requested documents appeared as Faircloth did the opposite.
To grasp how bizarrely foolish the Jindal / Faircloth / Board of Supervisors argument is, it began with Faircloth arguing that the only word in the related law which mattered was “applicant,” and that there was only one of those — the winner, F. King Alexander. Note that Faircloth made this argument to Clark even though Blake Chatelain, the LSU board member who led the search committee, said in his subject court deposition that he and his committee began their work with about 100 prospects, cut that to 35 keepers, then down to “six or seven,” before picking Alexander. All of this was managed via a web portal belonging to a Dallas consultant hired for such purpose, a reported key in the Jindal plan to maintain secrecy throughout the process. (Thanks to Gordon Russell, then writing for the NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, for his April report.)
It is anyone’s guess as to what Jindal is hiding: Was/is Alexander qualified? Was he the best candidate? Who did Jindal really want, and why didn’t that person get the job? Those of us who have been down this road with the man and his team, especially Faircloth, know that the explanation may be much simpler: Jindal has never believed the rules and law and constitution apply to him.
Officials responding to a spill of 1,400 tons of molasses in Hawaii waters plan to let nature clean things up, with boat crews collecting thousands of dead fish to determine the extent of environmental damage.
The crews already have collected about 2,000 dead fish from waters near Honolulu Harbor, and they expect to see more in the coming days and possibly weeks, said Gary Gill, deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Health.
“Our best advice as of this morning is to let nature take its course,” Gill told reporters at a news conference at the harbor, where commercial ships passed through discolored, empty-looking waters.
So, that’s a little this and that! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Well, another Monday is here. It’s my turn once again to offer up the reads for the day before starting my usual Monday “student time”. Time sure stands still when you’re trying to come to terms with challenging stuff.
There’s an interview in Saturday’s NYT with the wonderful Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I have no idea how this woman stays on at SCOTUS with all those nutty men, but she does and she says she is staying put. She doesn’t think its her time to retire.
In wide-ranging remarks in her chambers on Friday that touched on affirmative action, abortion and same-sex marriage, Justice Ginsburg said she had made a mistake in joining a 2009 opinion that laid the groundwork for the court’s decision in June effectively striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The recent decision, she said, was “stunning in terms of activism.”
Unless they have a book to sell, Supreme Court justices rarely give interviews. Justice Ginsburg has given several this summer, perhaps in reaction to calls from some liberals that she step down in time for President Obama to name her successor.
On Friday, she said repeatedly that the identity of the president who would appoint her replacement did not figure in her retirement planning.
“There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president,” she said.
Were Mr. Obama to name Justice Ginsburg’s successor, it would presumably be a one-for-one liberal swap that would not alter the court’s ideological balance. But if a Republican president is elected in 2016 and gets to name her successor, the court would be fundamentally reshaped.
Here’s some research on wormholes that is very weird and intriguing. It is all about spacetime.
Wormholes! I feel like we haven’t talked about them since the ’90s. Basically, wormholes are theoretical objects that connect two different points in space. They’re allowed as possible solutions to Einstein’s equations for general relativity—indeed, Einstein and his colleague Nathan Rosen first discovered wormholes, which is why they’re also called Einstein-Rosen bridges. Unfortunately, wormholes aren’t perfect—Einstein’s equations also imply that nothing with nonnegative energy (that is to say: nothing that we know of) can traverse a wormhole, so they’re not going to make for useful intergalactic portals anytime soon.
Maldacena and Susskind, following Van Raamsdonk, posit that any time two quantum particles are entangled, they’re connected by a wormhole. They then go on to say that the wormhole connection between particles inside a black hole (the infalling virtual particles) and the particles outside of a black hole (the Hawking radiation) soothes out the entanglement problems enough so that we can avoid the firewall at the event horizon.
Note that this requires a profound rethinking of the fundamental stuff of the universe. Entanglement, a deeply quantum phenomenon, is fundamentally wound into to the geometry of the universe. Or, to flip it around, quantum weirdness may be stuff that creates the substrate of spacetime.
The Sunday news programs continue to have discussions on what will happen to voting rights now that the Supreme Court decision has muddied the waters. Cokie Roberts calls the changes “downright evil”. Can the Republicans turn back the clock on Civil Rights?
In a roundtable discussion on ‘This Week’, ABC News’ Cokie Roberts reflected on the progress in our country 50 years after the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech.
“Growing up in the Deep South in the era of Jim Crow, the difference is dramatic… It’s a great testament to the fact that when you do something like pass a voting rights bill. That makes a difference.”
Still, Robert’s expressed concern over recent legislation on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In June the Supreme Court invalidated key parts of this law, which spurred contentious debates on race and equal opportunity. Critics of the ruling call it a regression. Proponents argue that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is outdated.
Robert’s said, “What’s going on about voting rights is downright evil because it is something that really needs to keep going forward not backward.”
Former SOS Colin Powell was also on air Sunday. He continues to be one of the few reasonable Republicans left that finds his way to the airwaves even though his status has been greatly diminished by claims of WMDS in Iraq. Bet he wishes he coul go back in time and change that!! Where’s the spacetime continuum when a General needs one?
“These kinds of procedures that are being put in place to slow the process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African Americans might vote I think are going to backfire, because these people are going to come out and do what they have to to vote, and I encourage that,” Powell said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Following the Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, Republicans in states like Texas and North Carolina are advancing legislation that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls.
“They claim that there’s widespread abuse and voter fraud, but nothing substantiates that,” Powell said. “There isn’t widespread abuse.”
A Republican who has been increasingly critical of his party in recent years, Powell endorsed President Obama in both 2008 and 2012.
He said the GOP’s moves on voting access would in particular damage the party’s effort to appeal to the growing minority populations it will need to win national elections in the future. “This is not the way to do it,” Powell said.
He said he disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act.
“I would have preferred that they did not reach such a conclusion, but they did, and I can see why they reached such a conclusion,” Powell said.
Meanwhile, Bobby JIndal continues to write some of the weirdest, disjointed op-eds around. This one is ironic given the current challenge to his prized Louisiana School voucher program that appears to be enabling re-segregation of schools. Remember, this is an op ed on racism as you read this weird, theocratic screed. He seems to yearn for a more simpler time. Simple, say, as his mind.
When I look at America, I see a country that increasingly has lost its way in terms of morality. As a Christian, as I look at American culture over the past half century, I don’t like a lot of what I see. Divorce is through the roof, pornography is everywhere, sexual predators are on the loose and on the Internet, our abortion rate is higher than almost every First World country, vulgarity and profanity are mainstream and commonplace. In general, our culture has become coarser, and I regret that.
Which reminds me, Jindal thinks all this fuss about the Keystone Pipeline is “alarmist” and “anti-scientific”. Here’s a local op-ed that gives him the what-for.
It is time to stop being mad at Gov. Bobby Jindal. He’s just too funny.
He was out of state again last week, but we are long past feeling neglected while he pursues his White House dream. He can forget that for sure; a politician is heading for the exit when his most earnest speeches are greeted with laughter.
If Jindal did not bring the house down when he denounced Democrats as “extremist and unscientific,” it can only have been because he was far from home and his audience was unaware of his own efforts to spread ignorance and superstition. When his remarks were reported in this country, we were in stitches.
Jindal was in Canada, promising to “fight like heck” for the Keystone XL pipeline, which will carry oil all the way to Texas if President Barack Obama, who has been considering it for five years, gives his approval. This was not exactly Daniel in the lions’ den; Jindal was speaking at the Oilmen’s Business Forum Luncheon in Alberta.
If the oilmen had reason to welcome Jindal’s views on the pipeline, however, it is a safe bet that they have been exposed to enough geology to conclude the earth has been around for quite a long time. They wouldn’t have much use for Louisiana high school graduates who had been told tales of Adam and Eve in science class.
Sitting there while Jindal claimed to be on the side of science in the pipeline row, the oilmen would have been incredulous if you told them he promoted new-earth indoctrination. Why, they would have said, next you’ll be telling us he believes in demonic possession. Well …
Jindal has also termed global warming “conjecture” and “alarmism,” a comforting view that is much less common among scientists.
Jindal’s speech was otherwise the same, hackneyed fare; the “blind” ideologues of the “radical left” are blocking the pipeline because they want energy to “remain expensive.” They want the government to “tell Americans to live in smaller houses, drive smaller cars, set their thermostats higher in the summer and lower in the winter.” They want “negative growth,” while Republicans stand for prosperity and jobs..
This simple dichotomy leaves only one question answered. Why would anyone, anywhere, ever vote Democrat?
The analysis, in truth, is so shabby that Jindal is clearly not cut out for the intellectual rigor required of, say, a scientist. Jindal’s blithe assumption that the pipeline would reduce energy prices in America is highly debatable, while he is flat wrong to deny that companies plan to re-export pipeline oil for a quick profit.
Really, nothing is safe from Republicans these days. Hide your wives and daughters! HIde your groceries too!
Which 14 cities are running out of time due to Global Warming? The number one endangered city is Miami, Florida. Boston is number 3. You don’t get to New Orleans until number 7. Read on.
There is really no way around it: Thanks to climate change, sea levels are rising. A huge question on the minds of many is, what does this mean for America? Will sea walls and city planning protect major metropolises, or are we bound to lose some national gems? Unfortunately, the latter is a significant possibility. Read on for 14 U.S. cities that could be devastated over the next century due to rising tides.
So, what’s on your reading and blogging list this morning? Because, now it’s your time.
I’m getting slow start this morning after rereading some of yesterday’s morning thread and seeing Fannie’s and Beata’s comments. Life is such a mystery . . . it often seems sad and even meaningless. And yet life is wonderful and beautiful too.
I don’t even know how to express what I’m feeling right now. I just want to thank all of you for being here. When I get discouraged and disgusted with our politics and the behavior of some of my fellow humans, it helps me to share my feelings with you and to get your reactions.
Now let’s see what’s in the news this morning.
Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison yesterday. But with good behavior he could be released in as little as 7 years. Charlie Savage and Emmarie Huetteman at The New York Times:
In a two-minute hearing on Wednesday morning, the judge, Col. Denise R. Lind of the Army, also said that Private Manning would be dishonorably discharged and reduced in rank from private first class to private, the lowest rank in the military. She said he would forfeit his pay, but she did not impose a fine.
Before the sentencing, Private Manning sat leaning forward with his hands folded, whispering to his lawyer, David Coombs. His aunt and two cousins sat quietly behind him. As Colonel Lind read the sentence, Private Manning stood, showing no expression. He did not make a statement.
The materials that Private Manning gave to WikiLeaks included a video taken during an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which civilians were killed, including two journalists. He also gave WikiLeaks some 250,000 diplomatic cables, dossiers of detainees being imprisoned without trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and hundreds of thousands of incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan….
Mr. Coombs later told reporters that he would apply for a presidential pardon next week and read a statement from Private Manning that he said would be included in his request.
“I only wanted to help people,” Private Manning’s statement said, adding, “If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”
Manning has expressed the desire to live as a woman, and although he may not be able to get hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery while he is in military prison, he has announced that he is now Chelsea Manning. From Joe Coscarelli at New York Magazine: Bradley Manning’s Long, Painful Road to Coming Out As Transgender.
Less than a day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for passing classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks, Army private Bradley Manning has a huge, if not exactly surprisingly, announcement: “I am Chelsea Manning. I am female,” the 25-year-old wrote in a statement to Today. “Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun.”
But the transition has colored much of Manning’s life for many years and factors heavily into how she became one of the most notable leakers in American history. Even if much of the world is only now paying attention to Manning’s gender-questioning, it’s always been a part of her story.
Manning’s full letter is titled “The Next Stage of My Life” and has notes of relief, her trial and sentencing finally complete after three years. “As I transition into this next phase of my life,” Manning wrote, “I want everyone to know the real me.”
Manning was wrestling with her sexual orientation while serving in Iraq and when she got involved with WikiLeaks. As reported by Steve Fishman in a July 2011 issue of New York, “Among fellow soldiers, Manning had to conceal the basic facts of his sexual orientation. On the web, he was proudly out and joined a ‘Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ group. He’d even begun to explore switching his gender, chatting with a counselor about the steps a person takes to transition from male to female.”
Manning will probably be in her early 30s when she is released from prison; so she’ll still have a long and probably interesting life ahead of her when that time comes.
Australians are calling for a boycott of U.S. travel after the senseless shooting of young Australian college student Chris Lane in Oklahoma. CNN:
The indiscriminate shooting of Christopher Lane, a 23-year-old Australian who was living his dream of studying in the United States on a baseball scholarship, has repulsed many in his home country and led to calls for Australian tourists to boycott the United States.
“It is another example of murder mayhem on Main Street,” former Australian deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer told CNN’s Piers Morgan.
“People thinking of going to the USA for business or tourist trips should think carefully about it given the statistical fact you are 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the USA than in Australia per capita per million people.”
Police said Lane was on one of his regular runs through what has been described as the affluent town of Duncan on Friday about 3 p.m. when a car carrying three teenagers drove up behind him.
“They pulled up behind him and shot him in the back, then sped away,” said Capt. Jay Evans of the Duncan Police Department. “It could have been anybody — it was such a random act.”
Here’s a long article about the shooting from new.com.au: Chilling 911 call details final moments of Melbourne baseballer Chris Lane’s life.
What a heartbreaking story.
The states of Arizona and Kansas have followed a suggestion from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, according to TPM: Accepting Scalia’s Offer, Arizona Sues Obama Administration On Voting Rights.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, was announced by Arizona’s Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, and joined by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a high-profile architect of restrictionist laws, including Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070.
The issue involves the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, also known as the “motor voter” law, which requires states to let people register to vote simply by attesting they are citizens, when renewing their driver’s license or applying for social services. A 2004 law adopted by the voters in Arizona added the requirement that people registering to vote also provide proof of citizenship. The Supreme Court struck down that law earlier this year, concluding that it is trumped by the motor voter law. Arizona, the court ruled, could not add new requirements to the form prescribed by the federal law.
But during oral arguments in March, Scalia expressed his bafflement that Arizona did not launch a broader assault on the constitutionality of the NVRA form, written by the Election Assistance Commission. The state simply contended in that case that its proof of citizenship law did not violate the federal law. Even Scalia disagreed with that, voting against Arizona in the ruling, but also giving them a valuable tip in his 7-2 majority opinion.
“We hold that [the NVRA] precludes Arizona from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” Scalia wrote in the June decision. “Arizona may, however, request anew that the EAC include such a requirement among the Federal Form’s state-specific instructions, and may seek judicial review of the EAC’s decision under the Administrative Procedure Act.”
Sigh . . . read more at the link.
According to a new PPP poll, only 28 percent of Louisiana voters still think Governor Bobby Jindal is doing a good job.
Three years ago in August PPP declared Bobby Jindal to be the most popular Governor in the country. 58% of voters approved of him to only 34% who disapproved. Jindal’s fortunes have seen an amazing shift since that time though, and our newest poll finds him to be the most unpopular Republican Governor of any state- and the second most unpopular Governor in the country overall.
Just 28% of voters now approve of Jindal to 59% who disapprove. That’s an 11 point decline in his net approval just since February when he was already at a poor 37/57 standing. Even Republicans are pretty divided on Jindal (43/42) while independents (35/45) and Democrats (14/78) generally give him poor marks.
Jindal’s White House prospects are dismal if his home state voters have anything to say about it. Just 17% of Louisianans think he should run for President in 2016 to 72% who believe he should sit it out. He ties for 4th among Republican primary voters as their top choice for their 2016 candidate- Rand Paul leads with 18% to 17% for Jeb Bush, 11% for Paul Ryan, 10% for Jindal and Chris Christie, 8% for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, 5% for Rick Santorum, and less than 1% for Susana Martinez. (That’s also an embarrassingly poor showing for Santorum given that he easily won the state’s primary last year.)
Jindal wouldn’t be likely to get to a general election but the news for him there is bad too- he trails Hillary Clinton 47/40 in a hypothetical match up. Every other Republican we looked at is more competitive with Clinton in the state- Ryan leads her 46/44, Paul does 45/44, Bush ties her at 44 each, and she leads Christie just 42/41. It looks like Clinton would have a chance to make Louisiana unusually competitive in any instance, but particularly so against Jindal.
It’s difficult to believe that Jindal is polling that well against Hillary.
A few more short takes:
A new article in LA Weekly offers some startling revelations about Michael Hastings’ state of mind before he was killed in a one-car crash: Michael Hastings’ Dangerous Mind: Journalistic Star Was Loved, Feared and Haunted. Based on a friend’s descriptions of Hastings’ behavior, it sounds like he was so severely depressed that he was delusional.
From The A Register, speculations based on The Guardian’s bizarre claims that British intelligence agents forced them to destroy computers that contained U.S. secrets stolen by Edward Snowden: MYSTERY of Guardian mobos and graphics cards which ‘held Snowden files’
A funny Buzzfeed list (with gifs) contributed by Marc Ambinder: 12 Ways To Easily Identify An East Coast Transplant In LA.
A very weird story that demonstrates the institutional stupidity of the Federal Bureau of Investigation: FBI suspected William Vollmann was the Unabomber.
A fascinating story at Defense One: Area 51 Has Been Hiding U-2 Spy Planes, Not UFOs
Finally, our old friend David Sirota really outdid himself yesterday with this story at Salon: This cowardly silence is an act of war, in which he claims that President Obama’s failure to object to the UK detaining Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport is a crime against humanity . . . or something.
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links in the comment thread.
I got a lot of things that I didn’t bargain for when I moved South. I’ve been here long enough that you must know that I am a New Orleanian. I usually have dreams about not being able to get back to New Orleans when I am anywhere else; and they are usually high anxiety dreams. It’s like I am Dorothy just trying to find her way home.
I want to share some state news with you because the Jindal administration makes every thing about my state seem so damned backward these days. I know many of you think that these kinds of things can’t come to a state near you because the south is–well–so damned backwards. I am not so sure that a lot of this kind of nonsense isn’t going to sneak into places that might surprise you, so I am going to give you a little feel of the news down here that should make you very afraid of how parts of this country can completely toss modernity and the constitution aside to creep back in time. Take North Carolina or Florida or Ohio or a number of states. We’re living in a time where powers that be want to reassert their right to throw away any one that doesn’t fit their agenda.
This story is from right up the street from me. It is about the urban neighborhood between my Bywater and the French Quarter. We are in the process of gentrification. There are a lot of tensions that go with that. Now, it seems we have our own version of the Zimmerman case and a test of “Stand your Ground” laws. Are you in imminent danger when you’re like 30 feet away from an unarmed teenager? Is a minor break in really worth taking a life for?
Louisiana has its own version of the “stand your ground” law that got so much attention last year after neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a Florida town.
The state’s law also embraces the “castle doctrine,” a centuries-old legal principle that grants people the right to legally protect their property — homes, cars, businesses — from intruders.
But some lawyers and legal experts said neither of those provisions seem to fit in the case of 33-year-old Merritt Landry, who was booked last week on an attempted murder count in the shooting of 14-year-old Marshall Coulter in his front yard.
If Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office decides to charge Landry, the case boils down to a simple argument over self-defense: Whether Landry could reasonably have felt himself in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm when he fired at Coulter, lawyers said.
Coulter reportedly jumped a gate into Landry’s Faubourg Marigny yard in the early morning hours of July 26. Landry, an inspector with the Historic District Landmarks Commission, told police he approached the boy “from his front yard, near his vehicle. As he grew closer, the victim made a thwarted move, as if to reach for something. At that time, Landry fired one shot, striking the victim.”
A witness, unnamed in the brief police account, gave a conflicting account, though the report doesn’t describe the difference.
Just what “thwarted move” means, or what Coulter did, is unclear. But the report says police found a single, spent shell casing some 30 feet from the boy’s blood — about the span from Landry’s back door to the gate.
That distance suggests Landry wasn’t in a “stand your ground” situation, and it may complicate his case for self-defense, local defense attorney Craig Mordock said.
“This is far worse than Zimmerman for the defendant. If Zimmerman had these facts, I think he would have been convicted,” Mordock said. “If you’re 30 feet away, are you under a threat of imminent harm? Remember, Trayvon Martin is on top of Zimmerman.”
According to police, Coulter was not armed.
We’ve also made news at Politico and I’m not really proud of how we are “reinventing high school with private sector help.” Here is yet one more way to filter funds to republican donors at the expense of public schools and of children. Also, notice that we’re not the only state trying to do this.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest plans to reinvent public education with the aid of the business community will accelerate this fall with the launch of a novel program that lets high school students take classes from the private sector on the public dime.
State Superintendent John White said Monday that nearly 3,000 students have enrolled in an array of private-sector classes that the state has agreed to pay for, from math and literature to Japanese and German to hair styling, welding and nail manicuring. The classes, which carry regular high school credits, are taught by an eclectic mix of nonprofits, unions, trade associations and for-profit companies, as well as local colleges.
White said he had only budgeted $2 million for the program but would find another $1 million to cover demand, perhaps by leaving some open jobs in the state education department unfilled. And he plans to expand the program substantially next year. White said he is particularly interested in adding more vocational classes, though an analysis of enrollments that the state provided to POLITICO shows one of the most popular offerings is ACT Prep.
Louisiana’s Course Choice program represents a first foray into a new approach to public education as an “a la carte” offering. States including Utah, Idaho and Florida let public-school students take some classes online from approved providers.
But Louisiana aims to go further still, allowing students of all income levels to customize their course lists using taxpayer dollars to pay a broad range of public and private providers for classes they can’t get — or don’t believe are well taught — in their neighborhood schools.
It’s hard for me to watch our state move backwards to a plantation system of economy while having these steps touted as progress by the media and right wing politicians. Jindal continues to be our absentee governor as he moves around the country stumping with his unusual gift for bad speeches and confused rhetoric. He was in Iowa recently and now he’s gone to Virginia to dis Terry McAuliffe.
Republican Governors Association Chairman Bobby Jindal called on Democrats on Sunday to drop Terry McAuliffe as their nominee for governor of Virginia.
The governor of Louisiana seized on a report that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating GreenTech Automotive, the electric car company McAuliffe co-founded, over its conduct in soliciting foreign investors.
This is laughable given the hot water Jindal is in here at home. Jindal’s in trouble on many fronts. First there is the number and types of donors to his wife’s ‘charity’.
- After Jindal’s administration signed off on Marathon Oil’s request to increase its oil refinery’s output, the oil giant committed $250,000 to the foundation.
- AT&T needed Jindal’s signature on a bill giving the company more freedom to sell cable TV services. It committed $250,000 to his wife’s foundation.
- Northrop Grumman, a military contractor, forged a deal with the government to build a maintenance facility at a former Air Force base. It has pledged $10,000.
- Dow Chemical, a petrochemical company, was under investigation for a spill at one of its plants and, in 2009, the state proposed fining the company. Dow has pledged $100,000 to the charity and thus far hasn’t been fined.
- Alon USA, an Israeli oil company, wanted approval to release more pollutants at one of its refineries. It has pledged $250,000.
- D&J Construction has won $67.6 million in state contracts since 2009. It has pledged $10,000.
- Governor Jindal hasn’t “entirely distanced himself” from the charty, notes the Times. He’s pictured with his wife on the charity’s corporate solicitation web page and his chief fund-raiser is the charity’s treasurer, according to its tax returns.
Did Governor Bobby Jindal’s staff and Louisiana’s state education superintendent conspire to suppress a news story that the state had ”not performed site visits or extensive review of voucher applications?” It looks like it. From reporter Barbara Leader in the Monroe News-Star:
Emails between Louisiana Education Superintendent John White, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s spokesman Kyle Plotkin and Jindal’s policy adviser Stafford Palmieri show White devising a scheme to “muddy up a narrative” and to “take some air out of the room” after a news report about the new voucher program that was published before his Senate confirmation hearing in May.
In the email exchange, White proposes creating a news story about the “due diligence” process for school voucher approvals to counter the impact of a News-Star article that revealed the sate Department of Education had not performed site visits or extensive review of voucher applications.
Read All of Louisiana’s ( School) Vouchergate Scandal Erupts
Louisiana’s health secretary, Bruce Greenstein, is resigning amid state and federal inquiries into the awarding of a Medicaid contract to a company where Mr. Greenstein once worked. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration last week canceled the nearly $200 million state contract with CNSI, which is based in Maryland, after details leaked about a federal grand jury subpoena involving the contract award. The governor’s office announced the resignation on Friday but said Mr. Jindal, a Republican, did not seek it. When the Medicaid contract was awarded two years ago, Mr. Greenstein denied any involvement in the selection of the company, but he acknowledged that a change he promoted in the bid solicitation made CNSI eligible for the contract. Mr. Greenstein gave no explanation for quitting in his resignation letter to the governor.
Immediately after the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority filed an historic lawsuit against over 100 oil and gas companies, Governor Bobby Jindal “demanded” the authority drop the suit. Curiously, though, neither he nor any member of his administration have ever criticized the actual merits of the litigation; instead, Jindal and company seem to be infuriated with the idea that lawyers may make money off of this. “This is nothing but a windfall for a handful of trial lawyers,” Jindal said. “It boils down to trial lawyers who see dollar signs in their future and who are taking advantage of people who want to restore Louisiana’s coast. These trial lawyers are taking this action at the expense of our coast and thousands of hardworking Louisianians who help fuel America by working in the energy industry.”
Governor Jindal, in doing the bidding of the oil and gas industry, failed to mention that the only way these “trial lawyers” could make a significant amount of money from this litigation is if they win. And if they win, Louisiana stands to gain billions that would be used for coastal restoration. If they lose the case, they make nothing. And if, for some political reason, the lawyers, whose contract was unanimously approved by the authority, are forced to abandon the lawsuit, they can only be compensated for the work they’ve already done. It’s a standard contingency fee agreement. Governor Jindal’s contemptuous comments about “trial lawyers” not only reflect a cynical politicization of the most critical issue in Louisiana, they also promote an insidious and ignorant disdain for the rule of law, the legal profession, and the judicial process.
It is easy to try to write this off as just another Louisiana example of corrupt politics or just another example of a backward Southern state. But, remember, this man is running for president as a main stream republican candidate and on the grounds that he is modernizing and bringing a new environment of openness in government. This is hardly the case. All of these Republican governors need to be watched very carefully. I feel like our state is just one big Tea Pot Dome Scandal eruption every few months.
Here are some other headlines you may want to watch:
The State Department announced late Sunday it would extend the closures of 19 foreign embassies across the Middle East and Northern Africa through next Saturday, as the terror threat across the region remained high through the final days of Ramadan.
Santorum is heading to Iowa for three days next week, where he’ll attend a GOP fundraiser, a state fair and a leadership summit — a schedule that’s prompted speculation that he’s laying the groundwork for another presidential campaign. In 2012, he made stops in each of Iowa’s counties, ultimately winning the state by a slim margin.
Obama and the Republicans are likely to come to blows even as the deficit closes. Raise the deficit ceiling? Fiscal Cliff? Shut down the Government? Here we go again!
Obama is insisting Congress raise the debt ceiling with no strings attached, while a group of Republicans say they are willing to stop paying the government’s bills unless the president’s signature health care law is defunded.
“Both sides are more dug in than in the past,” said Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden who is senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a fiscal research group.
Lawmakers return from a five-week break on Sept. 9, just three weeks before government funding runs out. For the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky favors a one- or two-month extension of current yearly spending levels, which are $988 billion, said Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman.
If Congress concurs, that would push the broader fiscal fight into November, when the U.S. is expected to reach its $16.7 trillion debt limit.
So, thanks for letting me let off steam over my freaking incompetent and corrupt governor. Pictures of the Bywater Riviera–that is the west bank of the Industrial canal two blocks behind my house most famously known for overtaking the Lower 9 after Katrina–are courtesy of Youngest Daughter. Those of you that have ever talked to me on the phone know the sound of the New Orleans Beltway Rail Road really well too. You gotta cross it to get to the Bywater Beach.
So, what is on your reading and blogging list today?
There appear to be a few interesting headlines up this morning for a good change. Some of them actually involve stories that we’ve followed here for some time. I have a few things involving the Gulf Coast, Oil Spills, and Coastal Restoration. The breaking news is that Halliburton is going to plead guilty in the Gulf Gusher case.
Oilfield services giant Halliburton has agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the Justice Department (DOJ) announced Thursday evening.Halliburton was the cement contractor on BP’s ill-fated Macondo well that blew out in April of 2010. The blowout and explosion of Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and ultimately dumped several million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.Halliburton has agreed to pay the “maximum-available statutory fine,” will be subject to three years of probation and continue cooperating with the federal government’s ongoing criminal probe, DOJ said in a summary of the case.
I’m not sure if you have heard this news but there is an additional leaking oil rig in the Gulf right now. It’s spewing natural gas and has been on fire. Forty-Seven folks were rescued from the rig about two days ago.
A fire has broken out on a rig drilling for gas in the Gulf of Mexico, 55 miles (85km) off the Louisiana coast, US officials say.
A blowout at the well on Tuesday morning forced the evacuation of 44 workers from the platform.
US Coast Guard and federal safety officials are still trying to assess the potential hazards.
The area was hit by the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded in 2010, leaking millions of gallons of oil.
Eleven oil rig workers were killed in what was the worst US offshore disaster.
The latest blowout was not of that magnitude, officials told the Associated Press news agency.
On Wednesday morning the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said the fire was damaging the rig structure.
“As the rig fire continues, the beams supporting the derrick and rig floor have folded and have collapsed over the rig structure,” the agency said in a statement.
But after an aerial tour of the rig, no gas sheen was visible on the water surface.
One Coast Guard cutter, Pompano, is near the scene and another, Cypress, is travelling to the area.
In addition, “a third vessel equipped with fire-fighting capability and improved monitoring system is enroute,” the BSEE added.
The portable drilling rig – which operates in shallow waters of 154ft (47m) – is owned by Hercules, a contractor for the exploration and production company Walter Oil & Gas Corporation.
The BSEE said the fire broke out while workers were completing construction of a “sidetrack well”. The purpose of the sidetrack well was not immediately clear, but industry analysts say they are sometimes used if there is a problem with the main well.
The most disgusting of the headlines explains the actions of my idiot Governor Bobby Jindal who is trying to protect the oil and gas industry from local governments trying to get coastal restoration and clean up funds. He is trying to interfere with them and trying to get the taxpayers to foot the bills.
The board that oversees the levees in the New Orleans region filed suit in state court Wednesday against about 100 leading oil and gas companies, asking that they repair damage done by the industry’s network of access roads and pipeline canals, which has contributed to the loss of thousands of acres of wetlands a year since the 1930s.
But by the end of the day, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority had overstepped its purview, and he demanded that it cancel contracts with the four law firms that had agreed to handle the case on a contingency basis.
In the suit, the flood authority asks the oil and gas companies to restore the wetlands, which once acted as essential buffers against storms. Without them, the authority said, too much pressure is placed on its levees, which were designed as protection against Mississippi River floods, not as bulwarks against the Gulf of Mexico.
Jindal, however, said the best strategy is to persuade the federal government to share more of its royalties with states to finance restoration projects.
The flood authority’s lawsuit — and Jindal’s response — mark another chapter in a state where politics and oil have been closely entwined for decades. Onshore oil production in Louisiana began in the early 20th century and peaked at 1.35 million barrels a day in 1970, according to the Energy Information Administration, providing the industry with influence.
“For nearly a century, the oil and gas industry has continuously and relentlessly traversed, dredged, drilled and extracted in coastal Louisiana,” the flood protection authority said in its lawsuit. “It reaps enormous financial gain. . . . Yet it also ravages Louisiana’s coastal landscape.”
The agency added that “an extensive network of oil and gas access and pipeline canals slashes the coastline at every angle, functioning as a mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction.” It said that the canal network allowed “corrosive saltwater” to flow into interior coastal lands, “killing vegetation and carrying away mountains of soil.”
“What remains of these coastal lands is so seriously diseased that if nothing is done, it will slip into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of this century, if not sooner,” the lawsuit asserts.
I am wishing and hoping and praying that our next Fed Chair will be a woman. Specifically, I am pulling for Janet Yellen. You may recall that I lived blogged a speech she gave about 1 1/2 years ago for the FMA Conference in Denver where I was presenting a paper. She has a lot of fans and her reported competition is Larry Summers.
A letter circulating among U.S. Senate Democrats in support of Janet Yellen’s candidacy to succeed Ben Bernanke as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Bloomberg reports.
It was drafted by Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, and it is said to have signatures of other Democrats.
Bernanke’s term ends this year, and many expect him to retire.
Yellen, who is currently the Vice Chair of the Fed, has been long considered the favorite for the position.
But in more recent periods, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has emerged as someone who could also take the vacated spot.
Just yesterday, Ezra Klein wrote a piece titled “Right now, Larry Summers is the front-runner for Fed Chair.“
“President Obama really likes Summers,” said Klein. “And he’s surrounded by Summers’s longtime colleagues and friends.”
Earlier today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi praised Yellen during an interview with Bloomberg’s Al Hunt.
“I think it would be great to have a woman — first woman chairman of the Fed, no question about it,” she said. “She’s extremely talented. It’s not just that she’s a woman.”
Word in Washington is President Obama will nominate either Janet Yellen or Larry Summers to be the next Fed chief. It’s not quite as important a decision as a Supreme Court nomination but it’s a very big one: The Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board is the single most important economic player in the United States. So who would be best — Yellen or Summers? I know both fairly well. Janet Yellen has impeccable credentials. She’s now vice-chairman of the Fed, after having been head of the San Francisco branch of the Fed, and before that, an economics professor at Berkeley. In 2007 she was one of the very few voices sounding the alarm about the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Not incidentally, she’s also a delightful person. Those who have worked with her tell me she listens carefully to all views, and is respectful of her employees. If selected, she’d be the first woman to head the Fed.
I worked with Larry Summers in the Clinton administration, where he eventually became Treasury Secretary. Under Obama, he ran the National Economic Council. Personally, I like Larry. He’s very bright, and able to see the nub of most policy problems very quickly. But he has the tact and personality of a bull in a China shop, and he’s been notoriously wrong about a few big things. In the late 1990s, he urged Clinton to sign off on legislation killing off Glass-Steagall, and was also part of the Rubin-Greenspan cabal that rejected the arguments of Brooksley Born, then chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, for why the CFTC should regulate financial derivatives. Summers’ subsequent tenure as president of Harvard came to an end after he suggested one reason women were not well-represented in the sciences is they don’t have the mind for it. As chair of the National Economic Council under Obama, he and Tim Geithner, then Treasury Secretary, bailed out Wall Street while refusing to impose tough conditions on the banks.
Yet another person speaks out on the lack of critical and rational thought in our national conversation. This is from Henry A. Giroux at Truthout. It’s an essay that is worth reading.
America has become amnesiac – a country in which forms of historical, political, and moral forgetting are not only willfully practiced but celebrated. The United States has degenerated into a social order that is awash in public stupidity and views critical thought as both a liability and a threat. Not only is this obvious in the presence of a celebrity culture that embraces the banal and idiotic, but also in the prevailing discourses and policies of a range of politicians and anti-public intellectuals who believe that the legacy of the Enlightenment needs to be reversed. Politicians such as Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich along with talking heads such as Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Anne Coulter are not the problem, they are symptomatic of a much more disturbing assault on critical thought, if not rational thinking itself. Under a neoliberal regime, the language of authority, power and command is divorced from ethics, social responsibility, critical analysis and social costs.
These anti-public intellectuals are part of a disimagination machine that solidifies the power of the rich and the structures of the military-industrial-surveillance-academic complex by presenting the ideologies, institutions and relations of the powerful as commonsense.  For instance, the historical legacies of resistance to racism, militarism, privatization and panoptical surveillance have long been forgotten and made invisible in the current assumption that Americans now live in a democratic, post-racial society. The cheerleaders for neoliberalism work hard to normalize dominant institutions and relations of power through a vocabulary and public pedagogy that create market-driven subjects, modes of consciousness, and ways of understanding the world that promote accommodation, quietism and passivity. Social solidarities are torn apart, furthering the retreat into orbits of the private that undermine those spaces that nurture non-commodified knowledge, values, critical exchange and civic literacy. The pedagogy of authoritarianism is alive and well in the United States, and its repression of public memory takes place not only through the screen culture and institutional apparatuses of conformity, but is also reproduced through a culture of fear and a carceral state that imprisons more people than any other country in the world.
One last interesting item that’s worth looking at. More than 3.700 photos of Marilyn Monroe are going on the auction block in LA.
The photos — plus negatives, slides and copyrights — are part of a collection of more than 75,000 images taken by fashion photographer Milton Greene in the 1950s and 1960s.
They will go on the block both at the auction house and online on Saturday.
By pairing the images with their copyrights, buyers will be allowed to print, sell and earn royalties off the photos.
The photographer’s son Joshua Greene said earlier this month in online journal The Huffington Post that it was “a bad business deal.”
The archive also includes photos by Greene of Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Farrah Fawcett, Jane Fonda, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.
Some of the Monroe photos depict a racy starlet against a black background, covered in a black sweater that highlights her bare skin.
Other more innocent shots show Monroe in a white coat against a white background.
Greene and Monroe met in 1953 at a photo shoot for Look magazine, when the photographer was 26.
When Greene sent her a copy of the images, Monroe responded with two dozen roses and phoned to say they were the most beautiful photos she had ever seen, according to the Profiles in History auction house.
During the next four years, until Monroe married Arthur Miller, Greene took more than 5,000 pictures of her, the auction house said on its website.
Greene worked for magazines such as Vogue, Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar during his long career.
Be sure to check out the photos. Some of them are truly amazing.
So, that’s enough to get us started this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?