Saturday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

Wonk the Vote is taking care of some personal business today, so I’m filling in for her. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of exciting political news at the moment, so I’ve got a bit of a potpourri of links for you.

The most bizarre story out there right now is that Jason Russell, one of the founders of “Invisible Children,” an organization that recently released a video on Joseph Kony that went viral on the internet, has been hospitalized after an apparent breakdown.

Jason Russell, 33, was allegedly found masturbating in public, vandalizing cars and possibly under the influence of something, according to the SDPD. He was detained at the intersection of Ingraham Street and Riviera Road.

An SDPD spokesperson said the man detained was acting very strange, some may say bizarre….

Police said they received several calls Thursday at 11:30 a.m. of a man in various stages of undress, running through traffic and screaming.

Police recognized that Russell needed medical treatment, and he wasn’t put under arrest. ABC News has more detail on the incident. It sounds pretty bad.

Russell was allegedly walking around an intersection wearing “speedo-like underwear.” He then removed the underwear and made sexual gestures, sources told TMZ, which posted video of a publicly naked man purported to be Russell.

Several bystanders held Russell down until police arrived, ABC’s San Diego affiliate reported.

San Diego police spokesperson Lt. Andra Brown told NBC San Diego that Russell was “screaming, yelling, acting irrationally.” He was running into the roadway and interfering with traffic, although there were “no reports of actual collisions.” Bystanders reported he was in “various stage of undress,” although by the time police arrived, he had his “underwear back on.”

Invisible children is saying that Russell was hospitalized for exhaustion and malnutrition.

To be honest, I haven’t watched the video, because my sister saw it and told me it was very emotionally manipulative. She told me that in the film, Russell talks frankly to his son about Kony’s violent crimes in a way that sounded like child abuse to me. Plus, like many groups who are active in African countries, Invisible Children seems to be run by right wing Xtians. So I avoided seeing the film don’t know much about it. I’d be interested in the opinions of anyone who has seen the film.

I did find some background in The Guardian UK:

Invisible Children has shot to fame in recent weeks after one of the videos that it produces in order to publicise the atrocities of Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army went viral. Viewed more than 76m times, the video gave a high profile to the group’s cause, but also put the tiny charity at the centre of global scrutiny.

Critics have condemned the group for a perceived lack of transparency in its financial records and for over-simplifying a complex issue. They accused the group of being fame-seeking and of having an overtly western focus on what is a regional African problem. Some also pointed out the group had taken large donations from rightwing Christian fundamentalists groups in the US, who have also funded anti gay-rights causes.

However, the group and its many defenders mounted a strong defence, detailing its financial history and saying that their sole aim was to highlight a dreadful and ongoing human rights cause that had garnered little attention for decades. They were also hailed for using social media to engage young people in social activism.

Yesterday a jury in New Jersey Dharun Ravi guilty a hate crime for spying on roommate at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi and posting videos on the internet of Clementi and an older male in sexual encounters. Three days later, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

A former Rutgers University student was convicted on Friday on all 15 charges he had faced for using a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man, a verdict poised to broaden the definition of hate crimes in an era when laws have not kept up with evolving technology.

“It’s a watershed moment, because it says youth is not immunity,” said Marcellus A. McRae, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice.

The student, Dharun Ravi, had sent out Twitter and text messages encouraging others to watch…. The case set off a debate about whether hate-crime statutes are the best way to deal with bullying. While Mr. Ravi was not charged with Mr. Clementi’s death, some legal experts argued that he was being punished for it, and that this would result only in ruining another young life. They, along with Mr. Ravi’s lawyers, had argued that the case was criminalizing simple boorish behavior.

I for one am very pleased with the verdict. Ravi’s behavior went way beyond bullying, IMO. I’m sick of seeing young people driven to suicide by behaviors that are characterized as “bullying” because they’re been carried out by young people in school. If adults acted in the same ways, their behaviors would be seen as harassment, stalking, and even outright violence.

Last night George Clooney was arrested in DC along with several legislators for protesting outside the Sudanese embassy.

A group of U.S. lawmakers and film star George Clooney were arrested at Sudan’s embassy in Washington on Friday in a protest at which activists accused Khartoum of blocking humanitarian aid from reaching a volatile border region where hundreds of thousands of people may be short of food.

Protest organizers said those arrested included U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Al Green of Texas, Jim Moran of Virginia and John Olver of Massachusetts – all Democrats. Organizers said Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Martin Luther King III, the son of the slain U.S. civil rights hero, also were arrested.

Clooney, his father Nick and the other anti-Sudan activists ignored three police warnings to leave the embassy grounds and were led away in plastic handcuffs to a waiting van by uniformed members of the Secret Service, a Reuters journalist covering the demonstration said.

I was glad to see that some members of the Massachusetts delegation were involved.

The suspect in the Afghan mass murders has been identified.

The military on Friday identified the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers earlier this week as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a 38-year-old father of two who had been injured twice in combat over the course of four deployments and had, his lawyer said, an exemplary military record.

Bales’ name was kept secret for several days because of

concerns about his and his family’s security.

An official said on Friday that Sergeant Bales was being transferred from Kuwait to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., home of the Army’s maximum security prison. His wife and children were moved from their home in Lake Tapps, Wash., east of Tacoma, onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord, his home base, earlier this week….

Little more than the outlines of Sergeant Bales’s life are publicly known. His family lived in Lake Tapps, a community about 20 miles northeast of his Army post. NBC reported that he was from Ohio, and he may have lived there until he joined the Army at 27.

Bales enlisted right after 9/11 and has had four combat deployments. It’s hard to understand how that could be permitted, especially after he suffered a traumatic brain injury. The story notes that the day before the shootings, Bales had seen a fellow soldier lose his leg.

CNN reports that Bales family said he did not want to go to Afghanistan after he had already served three combat deployments, lost part of his foot, and suffered the TBI.

“He was told that he was not going to be redeployed,” [Bales’ attorney John Henry] Browne said. “The family was counting on him not being redeployed. I think it would be fair to say he and the family were not happy that he was going back.”

Browne painted a picture of a decorated, career soldier who joined the military after the 2001 terrorist attacks and had spent his Army life at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington. Browne called him a devoted husband and father to his two young children who never made any derogatory remarks about Muslims or Afghans.

I’ve got a few political links for you. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is making news again. Naturally it relates to the war on women. He says the Republican presidential candidates “mishandled the recent debate over women’s health and contraception.”

In an interview with Reuters, he voiced misgivings about how the Republican presidential candidates have framed issues, especially the recent debate over women’s health and contraception.

The Obama administration’s recent decision to require religious institutions such as Catholic-run hospitals to offer insurance plans that cover birth control for women, which his administration later modified under pressure from critics, was “a radical expansion of federal power,” Daniels said….

“Where I wish my teammates had done better and where they mishandled it is … I thought they should have played it as a huge intrusion on freedom,” Daniels said.

Instead, he said they got dragged into a debate about women’s right to contraception, an issue which was settled 40 years ago.

Daniels said they should have framed the argument as one about government intrusion on personal liberty. He said the Obama rule was like saying that because Yoga is healthy, the government should require it.

Excuse me? What about the “intrusion” on women’s “freedom?” And what a stupid analogy. The government isn’t requiring anyone to use birth control. Why won’t Mitch just ride away on his Harley Sportster and leave us alone?

Of course not a day goes by without Mitt Romney saying something idiotic. Yesterday, right after his plane landed in Puerto Rico, Romney attacked Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor.

The justice, nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, is beloved by local Democrats and Republicans as the high court’s first member of Puerto Rican descent.

“In looking at Justice Sotomayor, my view was her philosophy is quite different than my own and that’s the reason why I would not support her as a justice for the Supreme Court,” Romney told reporters Friday afternoon, just minutes after his plane touched down in San Juan. “I would be happy to have a justice of Puerto Rican descent or a Puerto Rican individual on the Supreme Court, but they would have to share my philosophy, that comes first.”

The issue puts Romney at odds with a majority of local voters and his most prominent Puerto Rican supporter, Gov. Luis Fortuno, standing at Romney’s side as the former governor or Massachusetts made his remarks. It also underscores the challenges facing Republican candidates as they bring popular conservative rhetoric to an area packed with Hispanic voters ahead of Sunday’s GOP president primary.

And, as if that wasn’t enough of an insult, Romney then followed the poor example of his opponent Rick Santorum and lectured the locals about making English their official language.

Romney and his rival Rick Santorum have supported the conservative push to formalize English as the official language across the country. On Puerto Rico, an American territory that will vote on its political status, including statehood, on Nov. 6, most residents speak Spanish as their primary language.

Santorum made headlines earlier in the week after saying that Puerto Rico would have to adopt English as its main language to attain statehood, a dominant political issue here.

Can you believe the nerve of these guys? I’ll end on a humorous note–another story mocking Mitt Romney. You know how I love to mock my former governor. It seems that in 2006, Romney

declared September “Responsible Dog Ownership Month” in the state.

Eleven dogs and 35 humans gathered at the State House for an event celebrating the governor’s proclamation on Sept. 21 of that year, according to a contemporaneous newsletter from the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners.

“We have a pervasive problem because of people who don’t act as responsible dog owners,” Jennifer Callahan, then a Democratic member of the state legislature, said at the time, citing the hundreds of thousands of dogs that wind up in shelters every year.

ROFLOL! The Seamus on top of the car story didn’t appear in The Boston Globe until 2007.

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! I’m struggling with some kind of viral thing. I don’t know if it’s the flu or what, but I’ve been really tired and my brain hasn’t been working properly. Anyway, I’ve got some odds and ends of news for you, and I hope what I write will make sense.

There’s a good summary of the global nature of the Occupy protests at the Guardian:

In Madrid, tens of thousands thronged the Puerta del Sol square shouting “Hands up! This is a robbery!” In Santiago, 25,000 Chileans processed through the city, pausing outside the presidential palace to hurl insults at the country’s billionaire president. In Frankfurt, more than 5,000 people massed outside the European Central Bank, in scenes echoed in 50 towns and cities across Germany, from Berlin to Stuttgart. Sixty thousand people gathered in Barcelona, 100 in Manila, 3,000 in Auckland, 200 in Kuala Lumpur, 1,000 in Tel Aviv, 4,000 in London.

A month to the day after 1,000 people first turned up in Wall Street to express their outrage at corporate greed and social inequality, campaigners are reflecting on a weekend that saw a relatively modest demonstration in New York swell into a truly global howl of protest.

The Occupy campaign may have hoped, at its launch, to inspire similar action elsewhere, but few can have foreseen that within four weeks, more than 900 cities around the world would host co-ordinated protests directly or loosely affiliated to the Occupy cause.

The exact targets of protesters’ anger may differ from city to city and country to country. But while their numbers remain small in many places, activists argue that Saturday’s demonstrations, many of which are still ongoing – and are pledged to remain so for the foreseeable future – are evidence of a growing wave of global anger at social and economic injustice.

It’s just amazing how this movement has grown.

You know how Dakinikat has been arguing that one of the first things Occupy protesters should be demanding is the restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act? Well, Matt Yglesias says it’s no big deal: Glass-Steagall is Mostly a Red Herring.

Something I’ve heard from participants in the 99 Percent Movement is a revival of interest in rescinding the repeal of the 1932 Glass-Steagall Act. I think this is largely a misunderstanding, and it’s a actually a different — slightly more obscure — banking regulation from the same era that people are interested in.

First off, what did Glass-Steagall do? Well it did a number of things (like establish the FDIC) that were never repealed. But the rule that was repealed in the 1999 Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act were restrictions on the same holding company owning a bank and owning other kinds of financial companies. The thing about this is just that there’s really nothing in particular about co-ownership that you can point to as having been a problem in the financial crisis. And if anything that fact seems to indicate that the repealers were right to think there’s no special problem here — even in a huge financial crisis combined financial firms worked no worse than other kinds.

I’d like to see Matt debate Dakinikat about this on national TV. Here’s what Mark Thoma had to say about it:

I am sympathetic to this point of view, i.e. that the elimination of Glass-Steagall wasn’t an important causative factor in the crash. However, as I said a few days ago:

There is a debate over the extent to which removing Glass-Steagall — the old version of the Volcker rule — contributed to the crisis. However, whether the elimination of the Glass-Steagall act caused the present crisis is the wrong question to ask. To determine the value of reinstating a similar rule, the question is whether the elimination of the Glass-Steagall act made the system more vulnerable to crashes. When the question is phrased in this way, it’s clear that it has for the reasons outlined above.

So there’s still a reason to reinstate some version of the rule even if it wasn’t the main problem in the banking sector this time around.

I have a couple of stories about crazy Republican candidates, well one candidate and one candidate’s wife. First, on Sunday Herman Cain discussed his views on abortion:

“I believe in life from conception, and I do not agree with abortion under any circumstances,” Cain responded. “Not for rape and incest because if you look at, you look at rape and incest, the, the percentage of those instances is so miniscule that there are other options. If it’s the life of the mother, that family’s going to have to make that decision.”

Pressed on the life of the mother exception, Cain stuck to his answer, saying, “That family is going to have to make that decision.”

And check this out (via NPR). Last year Cain wrote a piece for Red State in which he called Jesus “the perfect conservative” and claimed that a “liberal court” was responsible for Jesus being crucified.

He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed the hungry without food stamps. And everywhere He went, it turned into a rally, attracting large crowds, and giving them hope, encouragement and inspiration.

For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check. Nevertheless, he completed all the work He needed to get done. He didn’t travel by private jet. He walked and sailed, and sometimes traveled on a donkey…. And when they tried Him in court, He never said a mumbling word….

The liberal court found Him guilty of false offences [sic] and sentenced Him to death, all because He changed the hearts and minds of men with an army of 12.

Funny, most liberals are opposed to capital punishment… Can you imagine this guy in the White House? That would be proof that there is no god.

Next up, Anita Perry, wife of presidential candidate Rick Perry. It seems she’s the real extremist evangelical behind Governor Goodhair. Last Thursday, she gave a very revealing speech in South Carolina in which she claimed that she and her husband have been “brutalized” by the other Republican candidates because of their “faith.”

The Texas first lady weaved [sic] together religion and politics in a speech at North Greenville University, characterizing her husband’s decision to seek the presidency in August as a calling from God. Perry suggested her husband was being targeted for his evangelical Christian faith.

“It’s been a rough month. We have been brutalized and beaten up and chewed up in the press to where I need this today,” she said. “We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party. So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith. He is the only true conservative – well, there are some true conservatives. And they’re there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them too. But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose.”

NPR noted that Mrs. Perry admitted in the speech that she had been the one who pushed Governor Goodhair to throw his hat into the presidential ring.

According to Mrs. Perry, it was she, not her husband, who first heard the divine call that her husband should run for president.

“There was a nagging, pulling at my heart for him to run for president. He didn’t want to hear a thing about running for president. He felt like he needed to see the burning bush. I said ‘Look, let me tell you something. You may not see that burning bush but there are people seeing that burning bush for you.’ “

The “burning bush” was a reference to the Old Testament story found in Exodus 3 where God gives Moses his marching orders to tell Pharoah to release the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.

Among the noteworthy aspects of that Old Testament tale, is that it’s Moses who gets the divine message directly. It doesn’t come via an intermediary like, say, Aaron his older brother.

That’s the thing about such callings. They’re intensely personal. That’s why they’re so often marked by such a profound sense of drive and personal mission and willingness to sacrifice.

If Gov. Perry had doubts, which his wife certainly makes it appear was the case, and had to be persuaded to run, that could certainly help explain what looks to many as a lack of preparation for a national campaign.

Yikes! The burning bush? These people are completely out of touch with reality.

Yesterday Reuters published an in-depth article about Anita Perry, in case you’d like to know more.

Speaking of fundamentalist religions, here’s a bizarre story from The New York Times about Amish “renegades” attacking other Amish people.

BERGHOLZ, Ohio — Myron Miller and his wife, Arlene, had been asleep for an hour when their 15-year-old daughter woke them and said that people were knocking at the door.

Mr. Miller, 45, a stocky construction worker and an Amish bishop in the peaceful farmlands of eastern Ohio, found five or six men waiting. Some grabbed him and wrestled him outside as others hacked at his long black beard with scissors, clipping off six inches. As Mr. Miller kept struggling, his wife screamed at the children to call 911, and the attackers fled.

For an Amish man, it was an unthinkable personal violation, and all the more bewildering because those accused in the attack are other Amish….

The attackers, the authorities said, had traveled from an isolated splinter settlement near Bergholz, south of the Miller residence. Sheriffs and Amish leaders in the region, home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of Amish, had come to expect trouble from the Bergholz group. It is said to be led with an iron hand by Sam Mullet, a prickly 66-year-old man who had become bitterly estranged from mainstream Amish communities and had had several confrontations with the Jefferson County sheriff.

Too weird. So…. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Let’s see what’s going on out there in the world.

A federal grand jury has indicted Tucson shooter Jerad Loughner.

Jared Loughner was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday in Tucson on a three-count indictment for attempting to kill U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides, Pamela Simon and Ron Barber. The announcement came from U.S. attorney Dennis K. Burke’s office.

Burke said, “This case also involves potential death-penalty charges, and Department rules require us to pursue a deliberate and thorough process. [Wednesday]’s charges are just the beginning of our legal action. We are working diligently to ensure that our investigation is thorough and that justice is done for the victims and their families.”

According to the indictment, Loughner, 22, attempted to assassinate Gabrielle Giffords, a member of Congress, and attempted to murder two federal employees, Ron Barber and Pamela Simon.

A conviction for attempted assassination of member of Congress carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, a $250,000 fine or both, according to Burke’s office.

That happened really quickly, didn’t it?

Have you heard there’s more snow coming for the Midwest and Northeast? Oh joy. Right now they are saying 3-5 inches for Boston. That’s not too bad, except for the fact that we already about about 2-1/2 feet piled up everywhere. Oh well… check the story to see what might be coming your way.

According to the Wall Street Journal, poor poor Goldman Sachs is hurting.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s profit slide of 52% in the fourth quarter showed the securities giant’s size and swagger aren’t enough for it to escape the tightening squeeze of a regulatory overhaul and jittery clients and investors.

The New York company suffered its third quarterly profit decline in a row, hurt by lower revenue from its vaunted trading and investment-banking businesses. Fourth-quarter net income fell to $2.39 billion, or $3.79 a share, from $4.95 billion, or $8.20 a share, a year earlier.

Oh those nasty regulations! Is anything like that really happening? I’m confused. Oh wait. It’s not really regulations, it’s just the Wall Streeters’ fears of risk or something.

Like its rivals, Goldman is being hurt by the reluctance of many institutional investors, wealthy individuals, companies and other clients to take risks because they still are reeling from losses during the crisis. Hedge funds are weaning themselves from some of the leverage used to make big bets, and U.S. companies are holding more than $2 trillion in stagnant cash.

As a result, demand for the vast inventory of stocks, bonds and other investments that Goldman buys and sells on behalf of customers, generating commissions and other fees for the firm, fell in the latest quarter. Trading-related revenue shrank 31% to $3.64 billion from $5.25 billion in 2009’s fourth quarter.

Whatever… A bunch of rich people whining. Just what you wanted to hear about with your morning coffee, I’ll bet.

The Governor of Alabama doesn’t consider me among his brothers and sisters. Shock!

Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley said in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day message Monday that he does not consider Americans who do not accept Jesus Christ as their savior to be his brothers and sisters.

“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,” Bentley said shortly after taking the oath of office, according to the Birmingham News. ”But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.”

”Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters,” he continued. “So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

Awww… I’m really hurt.

Didja hear the new Republican House voted to repeal the useless Republican style health care non-reform bill?

The vote passed Wednesday 245-to-189 — with unanimous GOP support, plus three Democrats. But the repeal bill is destined to die in the Senate, so Republicans will use their newly acquired power in the House to wage a long-term campaign to weaken the law.

The next steps — hearings, testimony from administration officials, funding cuts — lack the punch of a straight repeal vote, but Republicans said they will keep at it, hoping the end result is the same: stalling implementation of the $900 billion law.

Republicans promise to hold a series of hearings and oversight investigations into the law, attempt to repeal individual provisions and craft an alternative health care plan. Some of the first issues they will tackle are the cost of the law, the mandate on larger employers to provide coverage and the impact of the legislation on the states.

But the GOP is expected to be thwarted at every turn by the Democratic-controlled Senate — and ultimately President Barack Obama, who has said he is willing to “improve” the law but “we can’t go backward.”

{HUGE YAWN}

At least while they’re fooling around with Obamacare, they’re not repealing Social Security….

Sooooo…. what are you reading this morning? Anything cheerful happening?