Wednesday Reads: Warm-up and melt-downs

Good Morning…

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01/08 Luckovich cartoon: Chilled out | Mike Luckovich

Ah…tis the season for “expert” climatologist analysis on the circle box, of course I am speaking of Fox News and the other right-wing idiots. Here is a montage of clips and commentary via Jon Stewart, it is the first show of 2014, what a load of shit these folks are peddling. Jon Stewart to Fox News’ Varney: ‘Your f*cking opinion is not as valid as scientific fact’

Jon Stewart’s wish to start 2014 without “left vs. right ideological bullsh*t” was quickly dashed on The Daily Show Monday night, as he confronted conservatives’ continued spewing of hot air regarding global warming.

“There you have it: ‘War on Christmas’ is over; ‘war on carbon’ begins,” Stewart said. “Global warming: Just one more liberal conspiracy. Because even though there is a great deal of scientific data establishing climate change trends. Even though many of the models of global warming predict more extremes of weather — not just warming — apparently decades of peer-reviewed scientific study can be, like a ficus plant, destroyed in one cold weekend.”

Stewart got particularly incensed at Fox News host Stuart Varney’s argument that a Russian research ship’s getting trapped in ice in Antartica proved the world was getting colder, which he punctuated with a blithe, “That’s just my opinion.”

“That’s just your opinion — your opinion,” Stewart raged. “It means nothing.”

There is video at the link here, but I love what Stewart said about Fox News turning to Donald Trump for “expert” analysis on the weather:

“So global warming must be a hoax,” Stewart said sarcastically. “Because, I mean, Mr. Trump would never conceal bald-faced truth or go through any effort to hide when something’s clearly receding over the years.”

More on the weather:

A Bridge of Boats across Frozen Tigris River, Mosul, 1903 | Informed Comment

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 1.49.38 AM

The authors say locals in Mosul told them that the last time the river froze was 1750. That freezing became more rare after that date is significant, since 1750 marks the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and increased coal burning for energy. The period 1250-1850 or the medieval cooling period (often incorrectly called the ‘little ice age’) saw cool temperatures in many parts of the world.

Cliff Mass Weather Blog: Does the Cold Wave Imply Anything About Global Warming? The Answer is Clearly No.

The central and eastern U.S. is now in the midst of a major cold wave, with large regions dropping below zero F and wind chills reaching below -30F.    That is fact.

The problem is that the media, some non-governmental organizations, and plenty of individuals are making claims that this event has some kind of implication regarding anthropogenic global warming.

On one hand, some global warming skeptics suggest that such cold is clear evidence that global warming is nonsense.

On the other, global warming “advocates” explain the cold wave as another example of extreme weather forced by increased greenhouse gases.

The truth?  Both are wrong.

Real interesting read there.

So…if you are slowly warming up after the big chill, you may have missed a few new stories on politicians running for office in 2014.

Rep. Paul Broun: Democrats need ‘illegal aliens’ to win in Georgia | The Raw Story

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) said on Tuesday that Democrats will never be able to regain a majority in Georgia without enlisting the votes of “illegal aliens.” According to Georgia Public Broadcasting, the arch conservative ex-physician believes that the Republicans will reign uncontested over Georgia for decades to come.

“The only way Georgia is going to change is if we have all these illegal aliens in here in Georgia, and give them the right to vote. It would be morally wrong, it would be illegal to do so, under our current law,” Broun said.

“Actually, all these illegal aliens are getting federal largesse and taking taxpayer’s dollars. That’s the only way this state is going to become Democratic again, in the next number of decades,” he went on.

“It only helps the Democrats if we legalize all these illegal aliens in this country who the Democrats want to put on federal welfare programs — and actually, they are on federal welfare programs today,” he explained.

“The Democrats want to make them all basically dependent on the federal government so they can continue their radical, big government agenda.”

But that may be nothing compared to Erick Bennett, Sen. Susan Collins Challenger Says His Wife-Beating Conviction Proves ‘Guts and Integrity’ – Little Green Footballs

Erick Bennett, a conservative challenger to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) who was convicted of assaulting his wife in 2003, argued that his continued denial of the charge shows his political integrity.

“The fact that I have been jailed repeatedly for not agreeing to admit to something I didn’t do should speak to the fact of how much guts and integrity I have,” Bennett, whose wife divorced him after the attack, said during a news conference Monday, captured by Bangor Daily News. “If I go to D.C., I’m going to have that same integrity in doing what I say, and saying what I do, when it comes to protecting people’s rights, as well as their pocketbooks.”

Bennett’s legal efforts to fight the wife-beating charge ran out when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld his conviction in 2004. But during the news conference to discuss his primary challenge to Collins, Bennett maintained the justice system is designed to “railroad” alleged domestic abusers.

More: Sen. Susan Collins Challenger Says His Wife-Beating Conviction Proves ‘Guts and Integrity’

Crazy.

The rest of the links are in a dump this morning, because I have to admit that I’m writing this post Tuesday night, and my fingers are freezing as I type on the keyboard.

Alfred Hitchcock’s unseen Holocaust documentary to be screened – Features – Films – The Independent

It’s a little known fact that the great director made a film about the Nazi death camps – but, horrified by the footage he saw, the documentary was never shown. Now it is to be released. Geoffrey Macnab reports

The British Army Film Unit cameramen who shot the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 used to joke about the reaction of Alfred Hithcock to the horrific footage they filmed. When Hitchcock first saw the footage, the legendary British director was reportedly so traumatised that he stayed away from Pinewood Studios for a week. Hitchcock may have been the king of horror movies but he was utterly appalled by “the real thing”.

In 1945, Hithcock had been enlisted by his friend and patron Sidney Bernstein to help with a documentary on German wartime atrocities, based on the footage of the camps shot by British and Soviet film units. In the event, that documentary was never seen.

Including women on convening committees increases women speakers at scientific meetings

Women are currently underrepresented among speakers at scientific meetings, both in absolute terms and relative to their representation among attendees, but a new study suggests one way to address this deficit. An analysis of 460 scientific symposia to be published in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology reveals that the inclusion of at least one woman on a convening committee increases the proportion of female speakers by as much as 86% and significantly reduces the likelihood the session would have an all-male list of speakers.

Calif. deputy waited seconds before shooting boy with toy rifle: lawsuit | Reuters

A northern California sheriff’s deputy shot a 13-year-old just three seconds after ordering him to drop a plastic replica of an assault rifle, the boy’s parents claimed in an amended civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Erick Gelhaus, a veteran deputy and firearms instructor, killed Andy Lopez as the eighth grader was walking near his home in the wine-country town of Santa Rosa in October carrying an imitation gun he planned to return to a friend, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

[...]

At least two people at the scene moments before the shooting said the 5-foot, 3-inch teen looked like a child carrying a toy gun, the complaint says.

[...]

“From the time that the deputies called out to Andy Lopez until the time that Gelhaus fired his first shot, only three seconds elapsed,” the suit says. In an interview, Casillas said the information came from two witnesses to the incident.

The suit also says that deputies knew the boy would respond to the order to drop the gun by turning to face them. The suit does not say how they knew that, but Casillas said that it would be typical for someone who is not a criminal to turn toward the sound of a police officer shouting.

Now a few articles on Newspapers, Libraries and the MLA:

How Mature | The Volokh ConspiracyThe Volokh Conspiracy

The Modern Language Association (not a group with which I normally sympathize much) apparently denied the Daily Caller press credentials for this year’s MLA conference. The response of Eric Owens, “Education Editor” of the Daily Caller? Calling the MLA “douchebags” six times, plus once in the headline of the column, a headline that right now appears on the Daily Caller front page. (I assume that, at the Daily Caller, like at many online sites but not like at most newspapers, a columnist — and especially an “editor” — gets to choose the post title.) Oh, and there are six “fascist”s in there, too; that at least is not a vulgarity, but it shows a certain lack of creativity, no?

MLA to bar pro-Israel campus groups from making presentations at Chicago conference | JPost | Israel News

The pro-Israel campus groups Hillel International and the Israel on Campus Coalition were denied the right to present a discussion at the January 9-12 Modern Language Association convention in Chicago, an event that is seen as a possible precursor to an MLA academic boycott of Israel that would mirror recent boycotts by the American Studies Association and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.

MLA’s convention includes a roundtable discussion titled “Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine,” which will feature supporters but no opponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Academics Gone Wild: This MLA Conference Craigslist Ad Is Delightful

I don’t know about delightful, but it written better than some of the crap we saw in those CPAC Craigslist ads.

Newspaper to Put All Reporters Through Social Media Boot Camp

One of the country’s oldest remaining big city newspapers, the San Francisco Chronicle, is set to announce a radical plan to arrest circulation decline and remain relevant in the digital age, Mashable has learned.

Audrey Cooper, the first female managing editor in the paper’s 148-year history, will require all staff to enter what is being described as a startup-style incubator. In a plush off-site office procured from the paper’s Food and Wine section, journalists will undergo two months of rigorous training — in effect, a digital and social media boot camp.

Ugh…that social media stuff is really getting ridiculous. I realize it is becoming the communication of the future, but if we completely surrender to this shitty way of “talking” to each other…what will really become of one to one interactions…or reading books with paper pages. This is the first public library without any books | Grist

The end is near! Page-sniffers, mourn the loss of our dog-eared friends! I MEAN … HURRAH for a library that saves trees! (Sob.)

BiblioTech is an all-digital public library on the south side of San Antonio that offers 10,000 titles on 600 e-readers, 25 iPads, and 25 laptops. The library also includes 50 desktop computers and 100 Nook tablets preloaded with children’s books — just no physical books. (Patrons can read the library’s digital books on their own tablets as well.) Internet access and kids’ storytime are other, more familiar perks.

bibliotech-interior
Bexar BiblioTech

Sounds pretty green, right? Without the need for vast book storage space, the $2.3 million library can be way smaller than traditional libraries. At fewer than 5,000 square feet, BiblioTech’s smaller space means less heat and light and thus less pollution. As sage Umbra once wrote:

It hurts to say it, but e-books are looking like a good option, even perhaps the better option. Ouch …

There are caveats as usual, but I am forced to report the general conclusion that e-books produce less CO2 emissions and use less water than conventional newspapers and books.

According to Ted Genoways’ oft-cited article “The Price of the Paperless Revolution,” it takes roughly the same amount of energy and materials to make an e-reader as it does 50 books. So for BiblioTech to break even, energy-wise, patrons would need to read 50 books on each tablet. With 10,000 library users registered in its first three months, this probably won’t be an issue.

I have such a hard time getting my thoughts together, if I am trying to write something down or figure something out, without having the book in front of me in paper form.

Give me those dog-eared pages and pencil-lined notated margins any day.

Now for the big news of the morning, there is a melt-down crisis: Terrifying Velveeta Shortage Threatens to Ruin Dip Season

Terrifying Velveeta Shortage Threatens to Ruin Dip Season

One Velveeta official expressed apologies for the ill-timed shortage, right on the cusp of “dip season” which is a thing that exists, like the Holiday season or deer season or back to school season or breakup season. Dip season.

According to AdAge, in recent weeks, consumers in some grocery stores in New Jersey noticed that their favorite Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product was missing. After inquiring with store officials, they were informed that there would be no more Velveeta until Mid February. Brand officials have said that the shortage is due to a “factory issue,” but my biggest “issue” here is how the fuck is America supposed to completely submerge its head in creamy, warm queso dip while millionaires concuss each other on national television WITHOUT MOTHERFUCKING ENORMOUS BRICKS OF VELVEETA FAKE CHEESE? HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO CELEBRATE A PROPER AND TRADITIONAL DIP SEASON WITHOUT NUTRITIONALLY INFERIOR MASS PRODUCED PRODUCTS?

THANKS OBAMA.

Have a good morning, stay warm….and please share what you are reading about this cold winter day.


Monday Reads: Resolved, to fight the Republican Reality Denial Machine

11344-Collectors_snowglobes_headerGood Morning!

The temperatures will be dropping here in New Orleans much like the rest of the east coast.  We’re actually going to get into temps that I’ve never experienced here.  It may get into the lower 20s and close to the teens.    Needless to say, my house was not built with this in mind. My furnace has really been working over time this month.  Folks in Australia are experiencing record highs.   It helps to think of the airport in Richmond, Australia which hit 110 F on Sunday.

The weather deniers all point to our winter as proof positive that there is no global warming.  Well, Duh, folks!  Look at Summer 2013 in Austrailia which just moved into summer 2014.  The continent has had the  hottest weather on record and they’ve experienced horrible wild fires.  Their hottest days happen in January!   Global warming is about extremes and how the warming shifts patterns around the globe and the poles.

In its annual climate statement report, the bureau highlighted the influence of carbon emissions upon the warming trend, stating: “The Australian region warming is very similar to that seen at the global scale and the past year emphasises that the warming trend continues.

“As summarised in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, recent warming trends have been dominated by the influence of increasing greenhouse gases and the enhanced greenhouse effect.”

The bureau said sea surface temperatures were “unusually warm” in 2013, with preliminary data placing the year at 0.51C above the long-term average. Warming oceans pose a serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef, with coral bleaching contributing to the ecosystem losing half of its coral cover in the past 30 years.

Nationally, rainfall was 37mm below the long-term average in 2013, ranking it as the 52nd driest year on record.

In fact, it’s been so hot in Australia they had to put a new color on the map.

As scorching temperatures persist across Australia, the country’s Bureau of Meteorologyadded a new color to its weather forecasting map, extending the range to 54ºC, or 129ºF, from the previous cap of 50ºC, or 122ºF.

The new, deeper purple “dome of heat” swirls above South Australia, indicating temperatures above 50ºC in some areas.

This goes hand-in-hand with increasing republican denial of evolution.   Bill Nye the Science guy is headed to Kentucky to debate scientific fact vs magical thinking.  He’ll never convince a young earth creationist that he’s wrong, but will the publicity perhaps knock some sense into a few school boards?

Science popularizer and TV personality Bill Nye is headed to Kentucky to advocate for the theory of evolution in a debate against Ken Ham, a Christian proponent of creationism and founder of the Creation Museum. The debate is scheduled for Feb. 4 at the museum in Petersburg, KY., according to an announcement Ham posted on Facebook Thursday and a subsequent press release on the event.

While Ham has declined debate requests from “mocking, strident evolutionists,” the statement from Ham’s creationism group Answers in Genesis describes Nye as “a serious advocate for his beliefs, [whose] opinions carry weight in society.”

I’ve always had problems with evolution and atheism being classified as a belief at all, let alone a strident one.  Just because you insist folks believe in untrue things makes you strident?  I guess it’s because if you’re into pushing your agenda and proselytizing, you think that’s the goal of every one.  How is nonbelief a belief?  How is showing people data and facts gleaned through nearly 100 years of scientists using the scientific method and just stating the theories some kind of advocacy?

The Senate is set to take up the extension of long term unemployment benefits. How willing will Republicans be to actually have a discussion on new extensions even though they are low cost compared to the impact on the economy.  This shows that Republicans continue to live in a world of ideology that does not respect the actual data that shows they are truly wrong.

At the same time, a number of Republicans – including leaders on the House Ways and Means Committee – continue to question the need to extend the unemployment insurance (UI) benefits at all.

“Despite a dozen extensions, academic research suggests the program has actually hurt, rather than helped, the job creation that the unemployed need most,” Michelle Dimarob, spokesperson for Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), said Friday in a statement.

“It is time to focus on policies that will actually lead to real economic opportunities for families who are trying to get back on their feet and back into the workplace.”

The comments came as President Obama and congressional Democrats are amplifying their pressure on Boehner to extend the benefits to the long-term unemployed who have exhausted their state help.

An estimated 1.3 million unemployed workers lost those benefits on Dec. 28, after GOP leaders rejected the Democrats’ efforts to extend the help as part of a bipartisan budget deal.

The debate will intensify next week, with Senate Democrats planning a vote on a three-month renewal.

Sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the proposal would not offset the estimated $6.4 billion in costs, setting the stage for a potential showdown with Boehner and the Republicans if the bill is sent to the House.

Rhode Island and Nevada have the highest unemployment rates in the country, at 9 percent in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We lose money when we do not provide these benefits.

Unemployment benefits are one of the more effective forms of stimulus because the money is badly needed and thus spent right away. The Congressional Budget Office says 200,000 jobs will be lost this year if the benefits are not restored, and this week the damage began.

Big states were obviously the hardest hit, naturally: nearly $65 million came out of the California economy in one week alone, according to the analysis. And of course, states represented by Republicans who oppose the extension each suffered some economic harm. Senator John Cornyn twice blocked a vote on an unemployment insurance extension before the holiday recess, and his home state of Texas lost $21.8 million this week.

Here is a MoJo article about the folks whose unemployment benefits have ended.  This quote sums up much of the problem:“When you Collectors_snowglobe_3apply for a job at 50 people laugh at you. When you apply for a job at 65 people just look at you like you are crazy.”   Read the stories of people behind these statistics.

When Congress reconvenes next week, lawmakers will have to decide whether to extend federal unemployment benefits for about 1.3 million AmericansThese emergency benefits—which Congress let expire shortly after Christmas—are part of a 2008 program that allows workers who have been out of the job for more than six months to receive an emergency extension on their payments up to 47 weeks. If Congress fails to renew these benefits, only a quarter of jobless Americans will be receiving any benefits at all, according to the Huffington Post.

As these charts show, the United States is looking at the worst long-term unemployment crisis since soup kitchen lines peaked during the Great Depression. Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months are often hit with major financial and personal hardship. Around 10 percent must file for bankruptcy, more than half report putting off medical care, and many say they have, “lost self-respect while jobless.” But who are these Americans who have lost their benefits?

The Republicans have peculiar notions about evolution, the unemployed, global warming and poor people among other things.  What do poor people do all day?  Do they really sit around collecting government money while watching their big screen TVS?

Dave Ramsey probably wasn’t expecting this much pushback when he shared a piece by Tim Corley contrasting the habits of the rich with those of the poor. In her response on CNNRachel Held Evans noted that Ramsey and Corley mistake correlation for causality when they suggest (without actually proving) that these habits are the cause of a person’s financial situation. (Did it never occur to them that it might be the other way around?)

Ramsey fired back, calling the pushback “immature and ignorant.” This from a guy who just made 20 sweeping assertions about 47 million poor people in the U.S. — all based on a survey of 361 individuals.

That’s right. To come up with his 20 habits, Corley talked to just 233 wealthy people and 128 poor people. Ramsey can talk all he wants about Corley’s research passing the “common-sense smell test,” but it doesn’t pass the “research methodology 101″ test.

NO_desire_S

Included in 2013 Republican insanity is the continuing increase in abortion restrictions. Most fly in the face of science and common sense.  They are headed to SCOTUS which is probably the plan of the majority of them.

Twenty-two states enacted 70 measures which sought to tighten abortion laws in 2013, according to Guttmacher’s data. The 70 laws accounted for about half of all (141) the provisions nationwide related to reproductive matters. Only 2011 outpaced 2013 in terms of new abortion restrictions.

Some of the legislative battles over abortion last year played out before the national stage. Most visible was a fight in Texas in which state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) launched amarathon filibuster in June to block a bill designed to implement strict new restrictions. The measure later passed as Republicans launched a renewed effort. Still, Davis’s resistance catapulted her onto the national radar. She’s now a candidate for governor.

In June, the U.S. House passed a 20-week abortion ban that went nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The strangest things is all the information we actually have– a lot via the bible–which shows that contraception and abortifacients were pretty plentiful and widely accepted. We do have evidence of biblical birth control.

Let’s start with the hot sex! The Song of Songs is a long, sexy, romantic poem that many are surprised to find in the Bible. It is an unusual text in that it makes no mention of God or law, just a young, unmarried couple chasing, and lusting, after one another and eventually, as I and others believe, consummating their relationship. Over the centuries, religious scholars have argued that the poem is a metaphor for divine love. Still, it is pretty hard to ignore the poem’s graphic descriptions of the longings of the flesh.

For example, in chapter 7 the young man says to young woman: “Thy stature is like to a palm-tree, and thy breasts to clusters of il_340x270.519334431_aht7grapes. … ‘I will climb up into the palm-tree, I will take hold of the branches thereof; and let thy breasts be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy countenance like apples;  And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine, that glideth down smoothly for my beloved, moving gently the lips of those that are asleep.”

As Athalya Brenner points out in her book “The Intercourse of Knowledge: On Gendering Desire and Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible,” a number of the plants mentioned in the Song of Songs were used by women in the ancient Mediterranean world as contraception and abortifacients. These include pomegranates, wine, myrrh, spikenard and cinnamon. Brenner goes on to argue that since the book makes no mention of procreation as the purpose of sex, the many metaphors comparing sex to “gardens” and “orchards” may also be read as a reference to the forms of birth control that those gardens provided. Indeed, the man in the poem seduces the woman by offering her many of the plants that would have allowed them to have sex without the risk of pregnancy.

Another place in the Bible where contraception may have played a role is in the Book of Esther. This one’s about a beautiful woman named Esther who disguises her Jewish identity to become the queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus. When her cousin discovers an inside plot to kill all Jewish people, Esther intervenes through seduction and eventually saves the Jews.

In an article in the scholarly journal Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Joseph Prouser points out that the King’s potential wives were all required to anoint themselves with myrrh oil and aromatic herbs for one full year – which is a pretty long time for what some read as just a beauty treatment. Myrrh was a known contraceptive at the time, cited in the writings of Soranus of Ephesus, a Greek physician who was an expert on gynecology and midwifery. He explained that when used in a pessary, myrrh oil would work as an abortifacient, preventing the implantation of fertilized eggs. The aromatic herbs may have also had contraceptive properties.

Oh, well, it really isn’t about anything but controlling and limiting every one that isn’t a rich white male, isn’t it?

Here’s one quick news update:  Liz Cheney has dropped her bid to be Wyoming’s Senator.

Liz Cheney, whose upstart bid to unseat Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi sparked a round of warfare in the Republican Party and even within her own family, is dropping out of the Senate primary, sources told CNN late Sunday.

Cheney, the eldest daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, began telling associates of her decision over the weekend and could make an official announcement about the race as early as Monday.

Cheney’s surprising decision to jump into the race, an announcement made in a YouTube video last summer, roiled Republican politics in the Wyoming, a state Dick Cheney represented in Congress for five terms before moving up the Republican food chain in Washington.

Enzi was a low-key presence in Washington who was elected in 1996 and, with few blemishes, amassed a conservative voting record in the Senate. He expressed public annoyance at Cheney’s decision to mount a primary challenge. A number of his Senate colleagues quickly rallied to his side and pledged support for his re-election bid.

There was little public polling of the race, but two partisan polls released last year showed Enzi with a wide lead, an assessment mostly shared by GOP insiders watching the race.

There’s some interesting gossip involved that suggests it was more than bad poll numbers.

Two GOP sources said that a problematic recent incident involving a close member of Cheney’s family prompted her to reconsider the race, among other factors.

Maybe she decided screwing her sister and her sister’s family over wasn’t worth it.  Who knows?
So, I thought it might be a good exercise to look at some New Year’s Resolutions of people that I admire very much.  First, here’s the 1942 resolutions of Woody Guthrie.

woody

You can see resolutions of Jonathan Swift, Susan Sontag, and Marilyn Monroe too.  Here’s one of my favorites of Sontag from 1972.

Kindness, kindness, kindness.

I want to make a New Year’s prayer, not a resolution. I’m praying for courage.

This comes from Marilyn’s list made in 1955.

l — keep looking around me — only much more so —observing — but not only myself but others and everything — take things (it) for what they (it’s) are worth

y — must make strong effort to work on current problems and phobias that out of my past has arisen — making much much much more more more more more effort in my analisis. And be there always on time — no excuses for being ever late.

w — if possible — take at least one class at university — in literature –

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

deevolution of repubs


Monday Reads: Summer’s here and the Time is Right (wing)

Good Morning!  And welcome to a week that may set global  records for hot as hell!!!

The heat wave in the country isn’t the only item that convinces me that many folks want to bring hell straight to the US.  Look what’s going onLaura Nyro Stoney End in Ohio which hasn’t got the coverage of what’s going on in Texas but is equally if not more insidious.

Before signing a $62 billion, two-year budget into law tonight, Gov. John Kasich used his line-item veto pen to strike language seen as a barrier to progress on expanding Medicaid while talks continue on the broader expansion the governor has sought.

But he left intact all of the controversial provisions seen as restricting abortions as well as language allowing local government bodies to meet secretly behind closed doors in executive session when discussing economic incentive packages for businesses.

The governor left immediately after signing the budget without taking questions from reporters about his vetoes.

The budget promises a net $2.6 billion net tax cut, consisting chiefly of a 10 percent across-the-board income tax for all taxpayers over three years and a 50 percent cut on the first $250,000 earned by small businesses.

“I’m proud of the tax cuts because I think it’s another installment in Ohio’s comeback,” Mr. Kasich said.

But it also comes with some trade-offs, including a hike in the state sales tax from 5.5 cents on the dollar to 5.75 cents. The budget also draws the line on its subsidization of local property tax bills, saying the state will no longer pay the first 12.5 percent on any new levies that voters approve beginning with those on the ballot this November.

The budget also holds $717 million more over the next two years for K-12 schools, an 11 percent increase. It does not full make up, however, for the cuts schools suffered in the current budget, in part because of the expiration of one-time federal stimulus dollars.

Pro-choice advocates had placed all their hopes in stopping the abortion restrictions from taking place on Mr. Kasich, but Mr. Kasich allowed all of the provisions to stay.

Those provisions included language making it tougher for abortion clinics to get emergency care transfer agreements that they must have with a local hospital in order to keep their licenses by prohibiting publicly funded hospitals from entering into such arrangements.

A last-minute addition that requires a doctor to performing abortions to first perform an ultrasound to detect a fetal heartbeat and then offer to let the woman seeking an abortion hear or see that heartbeat. Failure to following this procedure could lead to criminal prosecution of the doctor.

The budget also places Planned Parenthood at the end of the line when it comes to distributing Ohio’s share of federal family planning funds.

 Why are Republicans trying to create hell realms in our country and what can we do to stop it?  This includes denying climate change despite heat wavethe summers scorching weather is likely to set global records.  Eight states are suffering.

Forecasters called for more supercharged temperatures Sunday as a heat wave gripped the Southwest, leaving one man dead and another hospitalized in serious condition in heat-aggravated incidents in this sunbaked city.

Temperatures in Las Vegas shot up to 115 degrees on Saturday afternoon, two degrees short of a record, while Phoenix baked in 119 degrees. Large swaths of California sweltered under extreme heat warnings, which are expected to last into Tuesday night — and maybe even longer.

In Death Valley — known as the hottest place on Earth — temps reached 125, according to the National Weather Service. Death Valley’s record high of 134 degrees, set nearly a century ago on July 10, 1913, stands as the planet’s highest recorded temperature.

Las Vegas fire and rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said paramedics responded to a home without air conditioning and found an elderly man dead. He said while the man had medical issues, paramedics thought the heat worsened his condition.

Paramedics said another elderly man suffered a heat stroke when the air conditioner in his car went out for several hours while he was on a long road trip. He stopped in Las Vegas, called 911 and was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

coming to take me away
I’ve been hearing complaints about the heat from my dad in Seattle, BostonBoomer in Boston and her mom in Indiana, and a friend in Dallas, Texas.  Seems like pretty widespread nastiness to me.
So, what other basic acts of science and civilization have these flat earthers thwarted recently?  Remember Bob Dole on the floor of the Senate asking Republican Senators or their votes for the disabled which got turned into some weird twisted diatribe dealing with home-schoolers?  Well, Democrats may have another go at it.  We’ll see what crawls out from under their rocks in opposition this time.

Senate Democrats will try to resurrect a United Nations treaty on rights for the disabled that was rejected last year over GOP concerns it would imperil home-schooling.

The treaty fell five votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority in a 61-38 vote in December after former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) led a charge that it would give unelected UN bureaucrats the power to challenge U.S. home-schooling.

Treaty supporters say those worries were unfounded, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations panel hopes to win approval of the treaty, a Senate Democratic aide said.Menendez hopes to strike a deal on a way forward with the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who voted against the treaty last year.

While last year’s vote took place after the presidential election, advocates believe the debate got tied up in election-year politics and that a revote this session could be successful.

The treaty would extend the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act to people with disabilities around the world, including Americans living abroad, according to advocates.

“We believe very much there is a path forward for victory,” said Marca Bristo, president of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities. “If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be putting in this effort.”

Opponents have long warned that it may come back up. Last month, the Home School Legal Defense Association jumped the gun and sent out an action alert to its members warning – inaccurately – that Menendez’s panel had scheduled a hearing for June 4.

“Thank you for joining us in this battle to protect our children and our children’s future,” wrote association president J. Michael Smith. “You defeated this treaty last year. Standing together, we can defeat this treaty once again.”

The treaty’s path to ratification remains a challenging one.

Meanwhile, we’ve got another woman legislator with a sense of humor trying to pass an every sperm is sacred bill in response to the assault on women’s health and autonomy.  This is in response to the nastiness in Ohio discussed above.

One thing is certain about the bevy of legislation targeting women being introduced by conservative men. Women are mad and they aren’t taking it anymore. One female lawmaker in Ohio has introduced bill that would regulate men’s reproductive health.

According to the Dayton Daily News, State Senator Nina Turner introduced SB 307, which requires men to visit a sex therapist, undergo a cardiac stress test, and get their sexual partner to sign a notarized affidavit confirming impotency in order to get a prescription for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs. The bill also requires men who take the drugs to be continually “tested for heart problems, receive counseling about possible side effects and receive information about “pursuing celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice.””

The bill is a response to the Republican effort to pass House Bill 125, which would ban abortion if the fetus has a heartbeat, which is about six weeks after conception. Turner, an opponent of the bill, says if Republicans are allowed to legislate women’s health, men’s health should also be regulated. “I certainly want to stand up for men’s health and take this seriously and legislate it the same way mostly men say they want to legislate a woman’s womb,” Turner said.

 Can we just label the current Republican Party the party of crimes against humanity and just get it over with?
So this post was set to music today?  Did you catch it? What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Open Thread: Late Afternoon News Update

Afternoon-Coffee

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!!

Here’s an fresh thread, since the morning reads one is getting so long. I have several updates for you on the Snowden/NSA story.

Eli Lake of The Daily Beast got some disturbing news from Glenn Greenwald: Snowden’s Files Are Out There if “Anything Happens” To Him. I posted this link on the previous thread, but it should be highlighted. According to Greenwald, Snowden gave complete copies of the the secret NSA files he stole to “many people around the world.” Supposedly the files are encrypted, but from what we know of Snowden’s spycraft knowledge, I don’t think that’s a guarantee that they’ll stay secret. From The Daily Beast article:

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian Newspaper journalist Snowden first contacted in February, told the Daily Beast Tuesday that Snowden “has taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published.” Greenwald added that the people in possession of these files “cannot access them yet because they are highly encrypted and they do not have the passwords.” But, Greenwald said, “if anything happens at all to Edward Snowden, he told me he has arranged for them to get access to the full archives.” [....]

A former U.S. counter-intelligence officer following the Snowden saga closely said his contacts inside the U.S. intelligence community “think Snowden has been planning this for years and has stashed files all over the internet.” This source added, “At this point there is very little anyone can do about this.”

Greenwald assured Lake that although he (Greenwald) is in possession of top secret information about “the technical specifications of NSA systems,” but that he won’t publish them. I wonder how well Greenwald’s computer is protected?

On Snowden’s aforementioned spycraft skills, let’s see what a real former spy thinks. From Foreign Policy:

We reached out to FP contributor David Gomez, a former assistant special agent-in-charge and counterterrorism program manager with the FBI, to get his take. When was Snowden being savvy — and when did it seem as if he’d just watched a few too many spy movies?

Cell phones in the fridge

While it’s true that cell phones can easily be compromised and turned into recording devices, Gomez says it’s unlikely that anyone seeking to record Snowden would have used a phone anyway. If someone had wanted to eavesdrop, Gomez explains, he or she more likely would have worn a concealed wire. Or, if a government’s agents had been trying to listen in from outside of the room, they might have deployed a long-range microphone, among other techniques. The bottom line: a refrigerated cell phone probably wasn’t stopping anyone who wanted to listen badly enough — though it may have extended the phone’s battery life.

Lining the hotel door with pillows

While not particularly effective at stopping anyone actively seeking to spy on Snowden, pillows could have muffled the sounds of any conversations going on in his Hong Kong hotel room enough that an unsuspecting person passing by wouldn’t overhear something alarming, Gomez says.

Wearing a hood while entering computer passwords, to avoid hidden cameras

The danger while entering computer passwords is unlikely to come from a hidden camera planted in the hotel, Gomez says, but rather from keystroke-logging software, against which a hoodie provides little protection.

Signaling his identity to reporters by carrying a Rubik’s Cube through a hotel

While spies do at times use signals to identify one another, the idea in doing so is to not draw attention to yourself, Gomez explains. Thus, when arranging a meeting, as Snowden did with a group of journalists in Hong Kong, it is both unhelpful and unnecessary to carry something as out of place as a Rubik’s Cube. It would have been better, Gomez adds, for Snowden to have simply described, say, his clothing in detail. “If you’re going to meet with all these people, what’s the point of being Sneaky Pete?” Gomez asks.

Gomez says Snowden seems to be an amateur.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tuesday Reads: Most Classless SCOTUS Justice, Ongoing Snowden Saga, and Other News

Matisse-Woman-Reading-with-Tea1

Good Morning!!

I’m enjoying some nice fresh air this morning after thunderstorms during the night. It looks as if the mini-heat wave we’ve been having here in the Boston area isn’t going to be as quite bad as originally predicted. It it supposed to be several degrees cooler than expected today and tomorrow and then we’re back to high 70′s temps. I hope that turns out to be right.

Unfortunately, because of this refreshing change in the air here, I slept longer than I should have and this post will go up a little bit late.

If there were a competition for “most classless supreme court justice,” there would be some serious competition among Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito; but I think in the end the first prize would have to go to Samuel Alito. Clarence Thomas at least has the grace to remain silent and Scalia supposedly can be funny at times. But Alito is just an immature, obnoxious disgrace, as he demonstrated at the State of the Union Address in 2010 when President Obama denounced the Citizens United decision.

Yesterday Alito used childish, offensive body language to publicly mock his senior colleague Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she read a dissenting opinion to a SCOTUS decision that will make it more difficult for employees to sue for sexual or racial discrimination. From Dana Millbank at The Washington Post:

The most remarkable thing about the Supreme Court’s opinions announced Monday was not what the justices wrote or said. It was what Samuel Alito did.

The associate justice, a George W. Bush appointee, read two opinions, both 5-4 decisions that split the court along its usual right-left divide. But Alito didn’t stop there. When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, Alito visibly mocked his colleague.

Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the high court, was making her argument about how the majority opinion made it easier for sexual harassment to occur in the workplace when Alito, seated immediately to Ginsburg’s left, shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling.

His treatment of the 80-year-old Ginsburg, 17 years his elder and with 13 years more seniority, was a curious display of judicial temperament or, more accurately, judicial intemperance. Typically, justices state their differences in words — and Alito, as it happens, had just spoken several hundred of his own from the bench. But he frequently supplements words with middle-school gestures.

Millbank goes on the describe Alito’s similar treatment of female Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor a few days earlier. Read about it at the link.

Garrett Epps provides more detail at The Atlantic: Justice Alito’s Inexcusable Rudeness.

I am glad the nation did not see first-hand Justice Samuel Alito’s display of rudeness to his senior colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Because Alito’s mini-tantrum was silent, it will not be recorded in transcript or audio; but it was clear to all with eyes, and brought gasps from more than one person in the audience.

The episode occurred when Ginsburg read from the bench her dissent in two employment discrimination cases decided Monday, Vance v. Ball State University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. NassarIn both cases, the Court majority made it harder for plaintiffs to prevail on claims of racial and sexual discrimination.  The Nassar opinion raises the level of proof required to establish that employers have “retaliated” against employees by firing or demoting them after they complain about discrimination; Vance limits the definition of “supervisor” on the job, making it harder for employees harassed by those with limited but real authority over them to sue the employers.

The Vance opinion is by Alito, and as he summarized the opinion from the bench he seemed to be at great pains to show that the dissent (which of course no one in the courtroom had yet seen) was wrong in its critique. That’s not unusual in a written opinion; more commonly, however, bench summaries simply lay out the majority’s rationale and mention only that there was a dissent. (Kennedy’s Nassar summary followed the latter model.)

After both opinions had been read, Ginsburg read aloud a summary of her joint dissent in the two cases.  She critiqued the Vance opinion by laying out a “hypothetical” (clearly drawn from a real case) in which a female worker on a road crew is subjected to humiliations by the “lead worker,” who directs the crew’s daily operation but cannot fire or demote those working with him. TheVance opinion, she suggested, would leave the female worker without a remedy.

At this point, Alito pursed his lips, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and shook his head “no.” He looked for all the world like Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, signaling to the homies his contempt for Ray Walston as the bothersome history teacher, Mr. Hand.

I guess I should be grateful that I’m old enough to recall the Warren Court. We won’t see a SCOTUS like that again in my lifetime, I’m afraid.

Of course the news is still being dominated by Edward Snowden, who once claimed he didn’t want the story of his leaks of classified information from NSA to be about him. “Really?” writes Dan Murphy of The Christian Science Monitor. “But if that were true, we probably wouldn’t even know his name.”

Two weeks ago, Edward Snowden gave The Guardian permission to disclose that he was the leaker of documents from the US National Security Agency.

“I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me,” the former NSA contractor said then. “I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

If that was really his desire, he’s certainly gone about it in a funny way. From that day, every step he’s taken couldn’t have been better calculated to draw attention to himself. Over the weekend he even turned the media dial up when he fled from Hong Kong to the loving bosom of Mother Russia.

And with the assistance of Julian Assange, Mr. Snowden’s “where’s Waldo” saga is turning into aWikiLeaks production.

Mr. Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, has staked out a consistently anti-American and techno-libertarian position in the past few years. The US government is motivated by malice and power lust in his worldview, its rivals like Russia (where state-owned broadcaster RT ran a show of Assange’s) get a free pass, and secrecyis an evil in and of itself. Though he presents himself as a champion of free-speech, Assange has sought refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, never mind that the country has a poor and deteriorating record on freedom of speech. The Committee to Protect Journalists listed Ecuador and Russia as two of the 10 worst places to be a journalist in the world past year.

Read the rest at CSM.

Meanwhile, Russia and China are pushing back against U.S. criticism of their refusal to help the U.S. extradite Snowden. From The Washington Post:

MOSCOW— Russia and China on Tuesday rejected U.S. criticism of their roles in the legal drama surrounding Edward Snowden, saying their governments complied with the law and did not illegally assist the former government contractor charged with revealing classified information about secret U.S. surveillance programs.

Snowden, 30, has not been seen in public since he reportedly arrived in Moscow on Sunday, after slipping out of Hong KongSecretary of State John F. Kerry on Monday strongly urged Russian officials to transfer Snowden to U.S. custody. “We think it’s very important in terms of our relationship,” Kerry said. “We think it’s very important in terms of rule of law.”

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Snowden had not actually crossed into Russian territory, apparently remaining in a secure transit zone inside the airport or in an area controlled by foreign diplomats. Moscow therefore has had no jurisdiction over his movements, Lavrov said, and has no legal right to turn him over to U.S. authorities.

It sounds like Snowden could still be in some VIP lounge at the Moscow Airport, but no one knows for sure. One witness told Reuters that Snowden did in fact arrive there yesterday. If he is in the airport, Russia can claim that Snowden technically never stepped on Russian soil.

In other news, Nelson Mandela is in critical condition for the second day, according to President Jacob Zuma.

Mr. Zuma said that he and Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president of the governing African National Congress, visited Mr. Mandela late Sunday.

“Given the hour, he was already asleep. We were there, looked at him, saw him and then we had a bit of a discussion with the doctors and his wife,” Mr. Zuma said. “I don’t think I’m in a position to give further details. I’m not a doctor.”

Doctors told Mr. Zuma on Sunday evening that Mr. Mandela’s health “had become critical over the past 24 hours,” according to an earlier statement from the presidency.

In the statement on Sunday, Mr. Zuma said that doctors were doing “everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well looked after and is comfortable.” Madiba is Mr. Mandela’s clan name.

The Telegraph reports that Mandela’s close relatives “have gathered at his rural homestead to discuss the failing health of the South African anti-apartheid icon who was fighting for his life in hospital.”

From NPR, President Obama today plans To Lay Out Broad Plan To Address Climate Change.

President Obama is expected to announce a sweeping plan to address climate change this afternoon.

The president has framed this issue as a moral responsibility, to leave the Earth in good shape for generations to come. But the nitty-gritty of any serious plan to address this problem is also a challenge, because it means gradually moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy supplies — and that means there will be economic winners and losers.

Winners include companies that produce clean energy — wind, solar and geothermal energy. That energy will be more in demand, and the administration intends to expand access to public lands, where companies can build windmills and solar facilities.

Public health is also a winner, because the plan would pressure coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions. Those plants not only produce carbon dioxide, but they are major sources of mercury, radioactive particles and chemicals that contribute to asthma.

The losers will be coal companies and the miners they employ as well as millions of Americans who can’t afford to pay higher electric bills. You can read the entire plan at the NPR link. More detail in this story at CNN. And at Business Insider, Josh Barro lists 3 Reasons Obama’s Carbon Plan Is The Best Solution Right Now

Today should be another busy news day with the ongoing Snowden saga, the President’s climate initiatives, the continuing Whitey Bulger and George Zimmerman trials, and more important SCOTUS decisions. If it gets hot here again this afternoon, I’ll have something to distract me at least. I’ll try to post an afternoon update.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!!