Wednesday Reads: Hobby Lobby Loves Them Pre-Cooked

14c4a1ed09743ffd58d8053c7aa93f11Good Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jackie O. would have been 85 Monday. RIP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday Reads

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Good Morning!!

I have a mixture of links for you today, with no overall theme whatsoever. There is news happening out there, but somehow it still feels like a slow news month so far. Maybe it’s just because it feels like nothing is really happening that will change the “malaise” in the country, to use Jimmy Carter’s term. The economy doesn’t really seem to be improving for 90 percent of us, and the bottleneck in Congress feels unbreakable. So here are some stories that caught my eye.

From The New York Times: Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt.

A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries.

Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said.

The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis.

“This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow.”

Read details about the two studies at the NYT link. Richard B. Alley, scientist not involved in the studies noted that what’s happening in Antarctica is only one source of future climate change disasters.

He added that while a large rise of the sea may now be inevitable from West Antarctica, continued release of greenhouse gases will almost certainly make the situation worse. The heat-trapping gases could destabilize other parts of Antarctica as well as the Greenland ice sheet, potentially causing enough sea-level rise that many of the world’s coastal cities would eventually have to be abandoned.

“If we have indeed lit the fuse on West Antarctica, it’s very hard to imagine putting the fuse out,” Dr. Alley said. “But there’s a bunch more fuses, and there’s a bunch more matches, and we have a decision now: Do we light those?”

So it’s not as if we actually have the rest of the century to deal with the problem. Maybe the right wing nuts should start building an ark.

Childe Hassam - Two Women Reading

From Politico: Chamber of Commerce gives ultimatum to GOP.

The GOP shouldn’t even field a presidential candidate in 2016 unless Congress passes immigration reform this year, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said Monday.

“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” Donohue joked at an event on infrastructure investment in D.C. “Think about that. Think about who the voters are. I just did that to get everybody’s attention.”

Republicans have focused on an immigration overhaul as a way to woo Hispanic voters, who have increasingly drifted to Democrats over the past two election cycles. Growing Hispanic populations in Nevada, Texas and elsewhere could make those states more amenable to Democrats in the future.

Apparently, Donohue still thinks he can light a fire under the asses of the Tea Party nuts in the House. Good luck with that.

Politico also reports that John Boehner may be tiring of the frustrating job of Speaker of the dysfunctional House of Representatives: John Boehner can’t promise another 2 years as speaker.

The Ohio Republican, speaking to a luncheon here [San Antonio, TX] sponsored by a group of local chambers of commerce, said he can’t “predict what’s going to happen” and stopped short of fully committing to serving another full two-year term.

“Listen, I’m going to be 65 years old in November,” Boehner said. “I never thought I’d live to be 60. So I’m living on borrowed time.”

It’s extraordinarily rare for Boehner to sit down for an open-ended, live interview, but he did so here with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, a mainstay of the Lone Star State’s journalism scene. He touched on issues ranging from immigration to Benghazi to his quiet campaign to persuade Jeb Bush to run for president….

Boehner’s noncommittal response about his future will reverberate from here all the way back to Capitol Hill and K Street. His future has been a topic of constant chatter among political types. Even people inside his orbit privately wonder why the Ohio Republican would want to serve another term wielding the speaker’s gavel, given the tumultuous political climate in Washington. Last week, Boehner beat back two primary opponents to ensure his House reelection.

Much more interesting Boehner news at the link.

childe-hassam-french tea garden 1910

Texas plans to execute death row prisoner Robert James Campbell today, and they aren’t the least bit concerned about the recent horrifically botched execution in Oklahoma. From the NYT: Confronted on Execution, Texas Proudly Says It Kills Efficiently.

HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — If Texas executes Robert James Campbell as planned on Tuesday, for raping and murdering a woman, it will be the nation’s first execution since Oklahoma’s bungled attempt at lethal injection two weeks ago left a convicted murderer writhing and moaning before he died.

Lawyers for Mr. Campbell are trying to use the Oklahoma debacle to stop the execution here. But many in this state and in this East Texas town north of Houston, where hundreds have been executed in the nation’s busiest death chamber, like to say they do things right.

For two years now, Texas has used a single drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, instead of the three-drug regimen used in neighboring Oklahoma. Prison administrators from other states often travel here to learn how Texas performs lethal injections and to observe executions. Texas officials have provided guidance and, on at least a few occasions, carried out executions for other states.

Even the protesters and television cameras that used to accompany executions here have, in most cases, dissipated. “It’s kind of business as usual,” said Tommy Oates, 62, a longtime resident who was eating lunch last week at McKenzie’s Barbeque, about one mile from the prison known as the Walls Unit. “That sounds cold, I know. But they’re not in prison for singing too loud at church.”

That’s Texas’ claim to fame now, I guess–efficient executions. Practice makes perfect.

The LA Times broke some news this morning about deceased alleged Boston Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The paper has learned that the gun Tsarnaev use in a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts a few days after the Marathon bombing was linked to a drug gang in Portland, Maine. 

When police confronted Tamerlan Tsarnaev four nights after the Boston Marathon bombing last year, he leaped from his car with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol and opened fire….

The tale of that handgun, a black Ruger P95, Serial Number 317-87693, offers new insights into the Boston tragedy and holds warnings of other potential dangers.

Its journey from a street gang that peddled crack cocaine in Portland, Maine, to the grisly shootout in a Boston suburb tells much about illicit drug and gun trafficking in New England, and perhaps more about Tsarnaev.

Authorities believe Tsarnaev’s ties to the illicit drug trade in Maine helped finance his six-month trip to the southern Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan in early 2012, where he became radicalized. Drug money, they say, also may have helped him buy components of the bomb that killed three people and injured more than 260 on April 15, 2013.

The Times learned about this from records “obtained” from the Justice Department records. The gun had originally been purchased legally by an LA man named Danny Sun, Jr. living in Portland, Maine. It’s not clear exactly how Tsarnaev got the gun, but the serial numbers had been fined down. Police were able to “raise” the serial number using with “forensic techniques.”

Curiouser and curiouser. Last June, I wrote a post in which I argued for a drug connection to the Tsarnaev brothers and a horrific September 11, 2011 triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts; but I suspected a connection with an international drug ring centered in Watertown, Waltham, and Newton. I have continued following this story closely for the past year. Now this. I don’t know what to think. I only know that this background of the Boston Marathon bombings is incredibly complex and mysterious.

woman-reading Childe Hassam 1885

I don’t know how many people have been following the latest discussions about net neutrality. This is going to be an important week in the fight between internet users and the Cable giants. Here’s the latest  from Radio survivor: FCC Chair Wheeler Shuffles Open Internet Deck Ahead of Meeting.

This is a tough week to be Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC. This Thursday he has an open meeting where he plans to present his Open Internet proposal to the full Commission. As details have come to light a very broad coalition of companies, organizations and legislators–from 150 tech firms like Netflix and Google to the ACLU and NOW–have expressed strong criticisms of it.

At issue are proposed rules that would permit some companies to pay internet service providers for a so-called fast-lane into consumers’ homes. No matter how much Wheeler has tried to assure everyone that the Commission will seriously police for instances where an ISP degrades content from competitors or sources that haven’t paid for an express lane, critics remain unconvinced. That’s because Wheeler’s proposed standard says “commercially reasonable” discrimination of internet traffic is OK, but “commercially reasonable” is a vague and ill-defined standard that seems to have loopholes big enough to drive a truck through.

Because of the backlash even two of his fellow Commissioners, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Pai, have called for a delay of Thursdays vote on the proposal. There is no indication that Wheeler is heeding their call.

Wheeler is actually talking about regulating the internet like a “common carrier,” like it does phone companies. In other words, internet provider would be treated like public utilities. I’m not holding my breath though. From Politico: Tom Wheeler scrambles to salvage net neutrality plan.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is on the clock and scrambling to salvage his controversial net neutrality plan as the commission counts down to a crucial vote on Thursday.

According to FCC officials, he circulated his latest revisions Monday — trying to pick up the two votes he needs to pass the notice of proposed rule-making to ensure an open Internet.

In the most significant change, Wheeler will seek public comment on whether the FCC should reclassify broadband as a communications utility, giving the agency authority to regulate Internet rates and services as it does with telephone companies, according to commission officials. Net neutrality advocates favor that option as more robust, but it’s opposed by telecoms that fear it will give the government too much power over their business.

Wheeler’s original plan sparked outrage after details emerged that it would allow Internet-service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, to charge companies like Netflix, Amazon and Google for faster delivery of content. The revised proposal keeps that basic approach but would seek comment on whether a “fast lane” should be banned. It also proposes a new ombudsman position at the FCC to act as a net neutrality advocate for startups and consumers.

So the “fast lane” is still included in the plan. I can’t see how that would be a benefit to ordinary internet users. I guess we should enjoy what we have for now, because the internet as we know it is in serious danger. This is an important story!

So . . . those are my offerings for today. What are you reading and blogging about?

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: “Shelter in Plates” — WTF? — And Other News

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Happy Saturday!!

 

The image to the right shows a commemorative plate from the “Shelter in Plates” project created by Chantal Zakari and Mike Mandela, a married couple who live in Watertown, MA, to mark the day when their town was locked down while hundreds (thousands?) of law enforcement officers swarmed their neighborhood in search of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the accused Boston Marathon bombers.

When I first saw these plates, I laughed out loud. The image of someone collecting these plates and displaying them in your home just struck me as ridiculous and incongruous. Every time I looked at them, I laughed out loud and couldn’t stop laughing. “Just the thing to add to a collection of Princess Diana and Elvis plates!”

I too was shocked to see multiple swat teams confronting innocent people in their homes and military equipment in the streets of a residential neighborhood. IMO the response to the killing of an MIT police officer and a carjacking was way over the top. It’s amazing that no one was killed by one of the hundreds of stray bullets that penetrated the walls of people’s houses. And the conduct of the manhunt the next day was even worse. In the end Tsarnaev was discovered, not by law enforcement but by a homeowner who went into his backyard to check on his boat and found the fugitive inside. I guess it’s just the notion of memorializing the events with plates that struck me funny.

But there is also serious side to this story. Last year, the Chief of Police of Watertown contacted couple’s employer at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. From PBS station WGBH:

“We created the website on a Saturday or Sunday, and four days later I got a call from my employer saying that Chief (Ed) Deveau had called and wanted my employer to pull funding out of the project, because if this project went to the press it would be bad publicity for the institution,” Zakari said.

Sarah McKinnon is the dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. That is Zakari and Mandel’s place of employment. She remembered the call from Chief Deveau.

“Back in December, I had a phone call from Chief Deveau from Watertown police to talk to me a little bit about it,” McKinnon stated. “He said, ‘Were you aware that the SMFA was mentioned on the website?’ and I said, ‘No, I wasn’t.’ So I took a closer look and indeed saw that SMFA was mentioned on the website itself. SMFA had supported the project by virtue of a faculty enrichment grant.”

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The article doesn’t say this specifically, but it appears that McKinnon did ask Zakari and Mandel to remove the school’s name from their website, but the funding for the project was not withdrawn.

McKinnon says that the SMFA respects academic freedom and there was no attempt to rescind the faculty enrichment grant that had actually been dispensed a year ago, despite her misgivings.

“My concern is, I just didn’t want the school seen in a negative light. My concern was not with the particulars of the project, which I didn’t know about, but we didn’t want to be taking advantage of anyone else’s suffering. If this was a project that would put us in a bad light, that was of concern to me,” McKinnon said.

But Mandel argued that Chief Deveau was attempting to intimidate the artists.

“For the chief of police —in his official capacity—to call our employer and make his accusations was an act of intimidation,” Mandel said. “It was an act of harassment and he should desist, and in addition he should apologize.”

I absolutely agree with him, despite the fact that I loathe commemorative plates generally, and think the ones Madel and Zakari designed are ludicrous. The couple’s attorney sent a letter to Deveau demanding that he cease and desist from further harassment. The letter is posted on and their website. You can watch the WGBH interview with Zakari and Mandel on YouTube.

What do you think?

In other news . . . 

Following on massive publicity about Cliven Bundy over the past week, the New York Times published a fascinating article about changing demographics in the U.S.: Southern Whites’ Loyalty to G.O.P. Nearing That of Blacks to Democrats.

President Obama’s landslide victory in 2008 was supposed to herald the beginning of a new Democratic era. And yet, six years later, there is not even a clear Democratic majority in the country, let alone one poised for 30 years of dominance….

From the high plains of West Texas to the Atlantic Coast of Georgia, white voters opposed Mr. Obama’s re-election in overwhelming numbers. In many counties 90 percent of white voters chose Mitt Romney, nearly the reversal of the margin by which black voters supported Mr. Obama.

While white Southerners have been voting Republican for decades, the hugeness of the gap was new. Mr. Obama often lost more than 40 percent of Al Gore’s support among white voters south of the historically significant line of the Missouri Compromise. Two centuries later, Southern politics are deeply polarized along racial lines. It is no exaggeration to suggest that in these states the Democrats have become the party of African Americans and that the Republicans are the party of whites.

I hope you’ll read the whole thing if you haven’t already. Particularly interesting is this map of counties (in yellow) where Obama received less than 20% of the white vote in the last election (census data was not available for Alaska).

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This pattern represents a reversal of a trend that suggested “the South’s assimilation into the American political and cultural mainstream.” Some southern and western areas of the U.S. are regressing to the point that it’s as if the Civil War never happened. How would these areas respond to a woman President?

Milford, CT high school stabbing

Maren Sanchez

Maren Sanchez

Early yesterday morning, 16-year-old Maren Sanchez was murdered by male classmate who reportedly had asked her to go to the junior prom with him and was angry at being turned down. From the Hartford Courant:

MILFORD, Conn. — A 16-year-old Connecticut high school student was stabbed to death Friday morning, and police are investigating whether the 16-year-old male who is suspected of killing her had wanted to take her to the junior prom, which was scheduled for Friday night.

Jonathan Law High School junior Maren Sanchez was killed in a hallway at the school.

The suspect, also a junior at the school in Milford, was charged as a juvenile offender with murder. His name is being withheld because he is a minor, police said….

Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said that the assault happened about 7:15 a.m. in a hallway inside Jonathan Law High School. A staff member witnessed part of the assault, he said, and tried to help. Others joined the effort, and EMS personnel soon arrived to take Sanchez to Bridgeport Hospital. She was pronounced dead at 7:43 a.m., Mello said….

Police said that Sanchez suffered multiple cuts to her neck, chest and face. Investigators recovered a knife at the scene.

The prom was cancelled. Milford is about a half-hour’s drive from Newtown, CT. Read more and see photos at The New York Daily News, which also learned the name of the alleged murderer.

Jonathan Law High School students should have been going to their junior prom Friday night. Instead, the teens went to a seaside vigil for their murdered classmate.

About 200 community members and students, some wearing their prom dresses and tuxedos, gathered Friday evening at Walnut Beach in Milford, Conn., to remember 16-year-old Maren Sanchez, a junior who was murdered earlier in the day at the school after rejecting a classmate’s invitation to the dance….

Anguished classmates funneled down to Walnut Beach around 6 p.m. — just one hour before the school’s junior prom was scheduled to start at a nearby banquet hall. The annual dance was postponed after the tragedy.

Wearing their formal wear, students cried and prayed at the local beach, the Hartford Courant reported. Friends shouted out memories of their slain classmate as they released purple balloons into the sky and yelled “Love you, Maren,” the newspaper reported.

Earlier, students covered a rock outside the school with purple spray paint and wrote the teen’s name and birthday, Aug. 26, 1997, alongside a white heart.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond, and Climate Change

 Yesterday, NPR’s Science Friday had a report on Henry David Thoreau’s careful 160-year-old observations of plants in the Walden Pond area of Concord, MA and how they are being used by climate scientists today. The guest was Richard Primack, Professor of Biology at Boston University and author of the book, Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods.

From The Guardian, Scientists use Thoreau’s journal notes to track climate change.

Fittingly for a man seen as the first environmentalist, Henry David Thoreau, who described his isolated life in 1840s Massachusetts in the classic of American literature Walden, is now helping scientists pin down the impacts of climate change.

The American author, who died in 1862, is best known for his account of the two years he spent living in a one-room wooden cabin near Walden Pond “because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life”. Packed with descriptions of the natural world he loved, Walden is partly autobiographical, partly a manifesto for Thoreau’s belief in the rightness of living close to nature. “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude,” he writes. “Simplify, simplify.”

But Thoreau was also a naturalist, and he meticulously observed the first flowering dates for over 500 species of wildflowers in Concord, Massachusetts, between 1851 and 1858, recording them in a set of tables. When Richard Primack, a biology professor at Boston University, and fellow researcher Abraham Miller-Rushing discovered Thoreau’s unpublished records, they immediately realised how useful they would be for pinning down the impact of the changing climate over the last century and a half. The timing of seasonal events such as flowering dates is known as phenology, and the phenologies of plants in a temperate climate such as that of Massachusetts are very sensitive to temperature, say the scientists. Studying phenology is therefore a good indicator of ecological responses to climate change.

“We had been searching for historical records for about six months when we learned about Thoreau’s plant observations. We knew right away that they would be incredibly useful for climate change research because they were from 150 years ago, there were so many species included, and they were gathered by Thoreau, who is so famous in the United States for his book Walden,” said Primack. “The records were surprisingly easy to locate once we were aware of them. A copy was given to us by an independent research scholar, who knew that they would be valuable for climate change research.”

For a more in-depth report of the research project, check out this long-form article at Smithsonian Magazine.

In the real world, where we’re definitely not doing much to address climate change, The Financial Times reports that, a “senior scientist” has charged that the “Climate Change Report was Watered Down.”

A politically sensitive part of the latest report by the world’s leading authority on climate change was gutted at the insistence of government officials, one of the study’s authors has revealed.

Nearly 75 per cent of a section on the impact of international climate negotiations was deleted at a meeting in Berlin two weeks ago, said one of the authors responsible for that part of the report, Harvard University’s Professor Robert Stavins.

The Berlin meeting was held so representatives of the world’s governments could approve a summary of a massive report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on how to tackle climate change which took hundreds of authors from around the world nearly five years to compile.

The report was the third of a trilogy of studies the IPCC has released since September in its fifth major assessment of the latest state of knowledge about climate change.

Prof Stavins, a leading expert on climate negotiations at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, wrote to the organisers of the Berlin meeting last week to express his “disappointment and frustration” at the outcome.

Read the rest at the Financial Times link.

Those are my recommendations for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!


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.

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