Lazy Saturday Afternoon Reads

Boston in Spring 2012

Boston Common in Spring 2012

Good Afternoon!!

It’s not quite as nice here yet as it was when that photo of Boston Common in the Spring of 2012 was taken, but we’re making progress. Yesterday it got up to 70 degrees! All that snow we got in January and February is almost gone, although there are still piles of it here and there. Spring rains will soon wash the rest of it away, and it will be only a memory. I can’t wait for trees to start budding and tulips and daffodils to start popping their heads up.

So what’s happening in the news? Today I found myself focusing on more lightweight stories. I hope you don’t mind. I just loved this article at Slate that pokes fun at the “gluten free” fad that has gotten manufacturers putting labels on things that never contained gluten to begin with. No offense intended to anyone here who actually has celiac disease.

Finally, We Can Enjoy Our Greatest Works of Art Without Gluten.

Gluten is by now firmly cemented as our most infamous nutritional bête noir, even ifmost people can’t actually explain it. But even the staunchest gluten-free evangelists have, up til this point, missed another carb-contaminated industry: art. Luckily, a Gluten Free Museum has been created on Tumblr for those who just can’t stomach the idea of gluten in their favorite works of art.

In photos that span the worlds of high art, television, film and even advertising, Gluten Free Museum rids cultural artifacts of their carbs.

Here are a couple of examples: That nasty gluten on the left and gluten-free on the right. Check out the links to see more gluten vs. gluten-free images.

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Years ago, millions of people thought they had hypoglycermia. Now it’s gluten intolerance.

Speaking of questionable health issues, singer Joni Mitchell has been in the hospital for three days with a disease that doctors say isn’t real.

Hollywood LAist: The Story Behind Joni Mitchell’s Mysterious (And Possibly Fictional) Condition.

It’s still not clear what caused Joni Mitchell to faint in her Bel Air home earlier this week, sending her to the hospital. But the legendary 71-year-old singer has said in the past that she suffers from a rare and mysterious condition called Morgellons, something that has been a subject of debate on whether it’s a real illness or not.

Scientists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are skeptical that Morgellons is an actual medical condition and believe it’s more of a psychological problem. The people who believe it’s a real illness say that it has some scary symptoms, including fibers (or even “specks, dots, granules, or worms“) coming out of the skin causing tingling sensations that sometimes leads to lesions and scars, fatigue and problems with short-term memory, according to the New York Times.

In a 2010 interview with the L.A. Times,Mitchell said she has this “weird, incurable disease that seems like it’s from outer space.” She added, “Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral. Morgellons is a slow, unpredictable killer — a terrorist disease: it will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year.”

I think I heard something about this on that weird radio show Coast to Coast AM. They also discuss things like alien implants, bigfoot, and ghosts. It’s kind of fun to listen to in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep.

Joni Mitchell

From Vox: Joni Mitchell suffers from a disease most doctors think isn’t real.

The 71-year-old singer-songwriter has often complained of her battle with Morgellons, a medical mystery that has stumped the scientific community for years.

“I couldn’t wear clothing. I couldn’t leave my house for several years,” she described in her 2014 book Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words. “Sometimes it got so I’d have to crawl across the floor. My legs would cramp up, just like a polio spasm. It hit all of the places where I had polio.” (It’s unclear if Morgellons was related to her recent hospitalization, but she has certainly brought attention to the issue over the years.)

Sufferers of Morgellons report itching, biting, and crawling sensations. “Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin,” Mitchell has said. “They cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral.”

They say their skin feels like it’s erupting from underneath, infested by insects, worms, or mysterious fibers. Like Mitchell, they say their symptoms are debilitating: they point to lesions that won’t heal, and say the biting and stinging that afflicts them every day leaves them fatigued and depressed, even affecting their memory.

It sounds awful, whatever it is.

Joni

For the past decade, researchers have searched for a biological cause or single underlying factor that might explain the suffering. But they have mostly concluded that Morgellons is “a psychosis or mass-shared delusion.”

In one of the most comprehensive studies to date, published in the journal PLOS, researchers from the CDC collected detailed epidemiological information, medical histories, and skin samples from 115 Morgellons sufferers in Northern California.

“No parasites or mycobacteria were detected,” they reported. The researchers also couldn’t find any environmental explanation for patients’ suffering.

The fiber-like strands on sufferers were mostly just cotton debris, probably lint from clothing. Their skin damage seemed to be caused by nothing more than sun exposure. While some patients had sores, these appeared to have arisen from chronic picking and scratching.

Interestingly, a large number of people in the study had a psychiatric or addictive condition, including depression and drug use. Among half of the participants in the study used drugs, but it wasn’t clear whether the drugs caused the symptoms or whether they were being used to deal with the disease.

I don’t know what to think. They used to say chronic fatigue syndrome was imaginary, and now it seems to be an accepted diagnosis. I just hope Joni feels better soon.

Via Raw Story

Via Raw Story

Comedian Jon Fugelsang came up with the perfect response to anti-gay “christian” fanatics.

From Raw Story: John Fugelsang zings conservative radio host: ‘If you don’t like gay people, take it up with the manufacturer.’

John Fugelsang clashed with conservative radio host Heidi Harris on Friday when Harris questioned the need for sexual orientation to be covered under anti-discrimination statutes.

“Being gay is what sets a person apart from straight people,” Fugelsang told Harris on MSNBC’s Ed Show. “If you don’t like gay people, take it up with the manufacturer, because God keeps creating them around the world.” . . . .

Harris argued that in the workplace, only a person’s behavior could set them apart, proving that non-discrimination statutes like one that was voted down by North Dakota legislators on Thursday were unnecessary.

“Why are we protecting a certain group of people because of their behavior?” Harris asked at one point, causing Fugelsang to facepalm. “Not only that, but how do you prove someone didn’t get hired because they were gay? You can’t prove that any more than you can prove somebody didn’t get hired because of their age or their sex.” . . . .

“You might not realize this, but sometimes straight people are mean to gay people,” Fugelsang said to her. “That’s why gay people have needed more protection.”

I posted something about that North Dakota law yesterday in a comment, but I’m going to post it again here. I really like the way newspapers are started to highlight the horrible lawmakers who support discrimination. In this case it was The Fargo Forum.

Talking Points Memo: Newspaper Front Page Shames North Dakota Lawmakers Over Anti-Gay Vote.

Fargo-based The Forum’s provocative front page was published amid national outrage over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics argued would allow business owners with religious objections to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Legislators in the Hoosier State later agreed to alter the law to specify that it cannot be used to defend discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

A bill that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation failed to passThursday in the North Dakota House by a vote of two to one, according to local TV station WDAY.

View the front page below.

Fargo Forum2

Good for The Forum! That makes me proud to call Fargo my birthplace. I want to see North Dakota and Indiana go back to being states with sane governments where Democratic Senators can be sent to Washington. Just a short time ago, North Dakota had two Democratic Senators.

Can you believe that a so-called “news” site (The Blaze”) raised $800,000 for that pizza place in Indiana that say they’d never cater a same-sex wedding?

From GayStarNews: Now nearly $800,000 richer, Indiana pizzeria co-owner is ‘sad, very sad’ for gays.

Flush with nearly $800,000 in donations from supporters, the owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, aren’t through talking about gay people.

‘God has blessed us for standing up for what we believe, and not denying Him,’ Crystal O’Connor tells Fox News.

She also said her family ‘doesn’t hate gays’ but simply would not deliver pizzas to a gay wedding because of their religious beliefs….

Memories Pizza was so besieged by phone calls and online comments that they temporarily shut their doors. This resulted in a Go Fund Me campaign that as of Friday afternoon was closing in on $800,000.

Of the LGBTI community her family has offended O’Connor says: ‘All we can do is pray for them, and truly, we’re not really angry at them. We’re sad for them. Very sad.

‘We have to accept them, and we just ask they accept us.’

What a pathetic excuse for a human being she is. I don’t know who she’s praying to all the time, but she’s certainly not following Jesus’ teachings.

Now for some positive political news.

From The New York Daily News: Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign signs lease for Brooklyn Heights headquarters.

The former Secretary of State’s team signed a lease Wednesday to house its headquarters in a Brooklyn Heights office building, a move indicating Clinton will launch her second presidential campaign within two weeks.

The Federal Election Commission gives candidates 15 days to create a campaign committee after “campaign activity” — which includes leasing office space.

Sources said Friday that Clinton’s camp has leased two floors, totaling about 80,000 square feet, at One Pierrepont Plaza.

The offices are near a dozen subway lines. The building touts itself as “Modern Offices. Brooklyn Cool.”

But the location, just across the East River from downtown Manhattan, is about as corporate as Brooklyn gets.

It is located in a building where Morgan Stanley and employees of the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney, currently Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, have offices.

That sounds promising.

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And from The Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern, Robert De Niro is backing Hillary.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the pleasure of sitting down with De Niro and his Tribeca partner Jane Rosenthal to discuss the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, which this year boasts a very formidable lineup including live events, star-studded film premieres, and talks featuring the likes of George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, the Monty Python crew, and a 25th anniversary Goodfellasdiscussion with the cast moderated by The Daily Show’’s Jon Stewart. Our talk eventually veered to his prophetic 2006 Hardball appearance, and whether or not he’ll be endorsing Hillary Clintonfor president in 2016.

“Hopefully it will be her, yes,” said De Niro. “I think that she’s paid her dues. There are going to be no surprises, and she has earned the right to be president and the head of the country at this point. It’s that simple. And she’s a woman, which is very important because her take on things may be what we need right now.”

“She’s smart, has run things before, and knows how government works and how to get things done,” added Rosenthal. “She’s watched it from the sidelines, and the frontlines.”

Now it’s your turn. What stories have caught your interest today?


Thursday Reads: Media Clutches Pearls, Takes to Fainting Couch, and Calls for Smelling Salts

 couch smelling saltsGood Morning!!

I can’t figure out if the corporate media wants to stop Hillary Clinton from running for president or if they desperately want her to run so they can figuratively flog her with a cat-o-nine-tails and then put her in stocks in front of the Capital building.

The story about Hillary using a private email domain when she was Secretary of State has reached the point of ridiculousness, but the media can’t help themselves–they are and yet the coverage continues to get more heated by the hour. The Hillary haters in the media see blood in the water and they’re circling in hopes of getting their teeth into her.

Sorry for the tortured metaphors, but seriously, what does the media want from this woman?

Check out this story from The Hill reporting on remarks by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. (Chaffetz and former Chairman Darrell Issa have been the leaders of the “investigations” of the Bengazi, IRS, and Fast and Furious non-scandals.)

Asked on “Fox and Friends” whether Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal email address during her time as secretary of State raised national security concerns, Chaffetz said, “It does beg the question: Were there any sort of classified pieces of information that were flowing through her personal email account?”

“Which is something you can’t do and something yesterday Gen. Petraeus had to plead guilty to, or was going out in a deal, dealing with his personal email and interaction with somebody who didn’t have a classification,” Chaffetz added….

Petraeus reached a plea deal, the Justice Department announced Tuesday, over charges he failed to turn over for archiving small record books kept while commanding U.S. forces in Afghanistan, instead providing them and their classified information to his mistress, Paula Broadwell, who wrote a biography of the Army general.

Seriously?

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday, “we have no indication that Secretary Clinton used her personal email account for anything but unclassified purposes,” adding that Clinton used secure phone calls, aides or took other steps to send sensitive messages and has turned over some emails for archiving.

But the Committee will investigate anyway, and yesterday, according to the WaPo, the “Select Committee on Benghazi”

subpoenaed all communications of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton related to Libya and to the State Department for other individuals who have information pertinent to the investigation,” according to a statement by committee spokesman Jamal Ware. “The Committee also has issued preservation letters to internet firms informing them of their legal obligation to protect all relevant documents.”

Back to The Hill article (emphasis added):

Earlier this week, Chaffetz said his committee would join the House Select Committee on Benghazi to further explore Clinton’s use of personal emails. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of that committee, said Clinton might have to testify several times before the panel, even into 2016.

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Chaffetz himself lists a personal gmail address on his “official House card,” according to ABC News, but Chaffetz says that’s different. According to the Hill, when he was asked about the comparison between his use of email and Clinton’s, Chaffetz said, “Well that’s like comparing apples to a boat.”

Read more about the House efforts to bring Hillary down at Bloomberg Politics: House Oversight Committee to ‘Explore’ Clinton’s E-Mail Use, Chairman Says.

At New York Magazine, Frank Rich is deeply concerned.

Do the Democrats Need a Backup Plan for 2016?

Are Clinton’s email shenanigans a federal offense? Probably not. But we still don’t know the whole story, and it seems to be thickening by the minute — notably with a new report from the AP that she was protecting her email by cycling it through her own private email server out of Chappaqua. But the more important question is why the Clintons, who more than anyone in American politics understand the high risks of perceived improprieties, have left Hillary’s campaign so vulnerable even before it is officially out of the gate.

Why in God’s name did they change the name of the Clinton Foundation to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation? That gives Hillary full ownership of a stream of potential conflict-of-interest revelations that have been emerging ever since, notably in the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Politico: that the foundation solicited funds from at least 60 corporations that were lobbying the State Department during her tenure as Secretary of State; that the foundation quietly resumed soliciting donations from foreign governments once she left the State Department; that an Obama Administration ethics framework established to monitor potential conflicts of interest between Bill Clinton’s lucrative foreign speech engagements and State on Hillary’s watch was less-than-exacting.

And one imagines this is only the beginning. At the Post, a lead reporter on the Clinton story is Rosalind S. Helderman, whom some may recall was the dogged investigative journalist whose forensic journalism helped expose the pay-for-play scandal that brought down Bob McDonnell, the former Virginia Governor, and his wife Maureen.

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You can check out Rich’s links for more background. Both the Post and the NYT are really pushing this story, but the Post seems even more worked up than the Times. Rich points out that Democrats really don’t have any legitimate alternatives to Clinton. Who are they going to run instead? Martin O’Malley? Jim Webb? Give me a break. And sorry, Emo-Progs,, Elizabeth Warren is not running.

At least one Joe Biden backer sees this new “scandal” as a golden opportunity, according to the Washington Post.

Top Biden backer: Hillary Clinton will ‘die by 1,000 cuts’ on e-mail story.

Dick Harpootlian, a former Democratic Party chairman in South Carolina, home to an early and important presidential primary, said recent reports about Clinton’s use of private e-mail to conduct government business and her family’s charitable foundation accepting donations from foreign governments while she was secretary of state could be damaging to her likely 2016 presidential campaign.

“There’s always another shoe to drop with Hillary,” Harpootlian said in an interview Wednesday. “Do we nominate her not knowing what’s in those e-mails?… If the e-mails were just her and her family and friends canoodling about fashion and what they’re going to do next week, that’s one thing. But the fact that she’s already turned e-mails to the Benghazi committee because she was doing official business on it means she’s going to die by 1,000 cuts on this one.”

He wishes.

Harpootlian — who has been an active and outspoken booster of a Biden 2016 candidacy — said the foundation donations and e-mail stories have sparked chatter among South Carolina politicos about drafting other candidates into the Democratic primary. Referencing Biden specifically, he said, “I’ll tell you this: He ain’t got no e-mail problems. He ain’t got no foundation problems. What you see with Joe is what you get. There’s nothing hidden there.”

Harpootlian added, “The chatter down here is, ‘Is this the best we can do?’ Certainly everyone wants to give a woman a chance to lead this country, but is [Clinton] the woman? There are plenty of other women who would be competitive, whether it’s Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar or Kirsten Gillibrand.”

Sorry, Dick, those women aren’t running and they wouldn’t be any more competitive than your pal Joe Biden–who has his own past scandals to worry about.

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The Wall Street Journal says “some Democrats” are “troubled” about the new Hillary “scandals.” Yes, I’m sure they are. Sometimes I think there are more Clinton-haters among Democrats than Republicans. WSJ reports:

Some Democrats are uneasy about the reports involving Hillary Clinton ’s use of a private email account during her time as secretary of state and her foundation’s fundraising practices, calling on her to break her silence and personally address the two controversies.

Some party figures say the recent disclosures show a need for Democratic rivals to step forward and challenge Mrs. Clinton for a nomination that has long seemed to be hers for the asking.

At least one of these “uneasy” Democrats was willing to use his name.

Don Paulson, chairman of the Muscatine County Democrats in Iowa, said he was disturbed by the Clinton Foundation’s practice of accepting donations from foreign governments at a time when Mrs. Clinton was preparing a campaign for the White House. He saw that as one reason why the party should vet her and other candidates in a competitive primary, rather than allow her to coast to the nomination without a real fight. “It’s a healthier thing all around if there’s competition,” he said.

I’m sure Muscatine County Chairman is a Very Important Job, so we’d better being paying close attention to Mr. Paulson. Or not.

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The WSJ admits that “Mrs. Clinton’s email arrangement…was legal while she served as the nation’s top diplomat,” but never mind that. It’s still so “troubling” and it makes people so “uneasy.” They do include the names of two more disapproving Democrats:

Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who has worked on six presidential campaigns, said of the email account: “She needs to explain why she did what she did. I do think it’s a real issue, and I think it’s an issue that has to get dealt with on a serious level.”

“I don’t think it’s something a junior staffer can put out a statement and expect the thing to go away,” he said.

Kim Weaver, chairman of the O’Brien County Democrats in Iowa, which holds the nation’s first presidential contest, said: “The questions need to be answered.” She added she would like to hear whether the personal email system Mrs. Clinton used carried adequate security protections. “If it’s no big deal, why not just come out and say what it is.”

It seems that Iowa Democrats are particularly upset.

But will any of this matter to voters in November of 2016? Brendan Nyhan of the NYT blog The Upshot doesn’t think so. He notes that most Americans aren’t thinking about the 2016 presidential campaign yet, and when they do, attitudes toward toward the “email furor” will likely break down along partisan lines.

Of course that won’t stop his newspaper from running story after story about it on their front page while they ignore the potential loss of health insurance for 8,000,000 Americans along with other important world events.

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One more from Business Insider:

Former State Department officials explain why the Clinton email ‘scandal’ is ridiculous.

According to the State Department, Hillary Clinton’s use of a personalized email address during her time as secretary of state was no secret.

“The State Department has long had access to a wide array of Secretary Clinton’s records — including emails between her and Department officials with state.gov accounts,” State Department Deputy Spokesperon Marie Harf said in an email to Business Insider….

Business Insider reached out to Clinton’s representatives. They put us in touch with two former State Department officials who argued that Clinton was careful to use the address in a manner that went above and beyond regulatory requirements and ensured her communications were preserved.

The former officials, who requested anonymity to freely discuss Clinton’s emails and State Department policy, echoed the notion the former secretary’s personalized email address was not kept secret. They said she used it to communicate with over 100 department staffers, other officials, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill….

Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill issued a statement in response to the article wherein he argued Clinton corresponded with people on their government account whenever she conducted official business….”Like Secretaries of State before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials. For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained,” Merrill said.

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Guess what? John Kerry is the first Secretary of State to use a government email account! Colin Power also used a private account during the Bush Administration.

The two former officials said efficiency was one reason Clinton set up her own address. At the time, State Department policy would not have allowed her to have multiple email addresses on her Blackberry. Because of this, the officials said, she opted to have one address for both personal and governmental communications. They echoed Merrill’s statement and said Clinton took care to correspond with other State officials exclusively on their governmental addresses. The officials said this meant all of her emails and those sent to her were immediately preserved on government servers.

According to the two officials, regulations discouraged the use of personal email but did not prohibit it. Merrill also argued that Clinton’s use of private email was not against the rules.

“Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved,” he said.

So far, Hillary herself has only responded on Twitter:

 

So . . . . there are lots of important stories out there today. Which ones are you following?


Wednesday Reads: Leftovers

10626215_914005625301082_5872656109029350996_oGood Morning

This is just going to be a link dump, I am not feeling quite up to the task of writing a post today, maybe it is the frustrating tiresome week…I don’t know. It gets exhausting spending so many hours snowbound with a man who is your total polar political opposite.

Anyway, for now I hope you find the following links interesting.

There has been quite a lot of “talk” about Patty Arquette’s backstage comments regarding various groups and their need to support Woman’s Rights.

See these two articles, or op/eds from Reality Check:

First: Patricia Arquette’s Spectacular Intersectionality Fail by Andrea Grimes

Intersectionality – Geek Feminism Wiki

(I had to look it up…good thing Grimes put up a link.)

And secondly: The Road to Structural Erasure Is Paved With Well-Intentioned White Ladies #ABLC by Imani Gandy

Then this later response by Gandy: The Funny Thing About Privilege #ABLC

il_fullxfull.711228862_qyjdGive all those a read and then take a look at this:

Patricia Arquette responds to Oscars feminism controversy, and Hillary Clinton supports her – People – News – The Independent

I am glad Hillary backed up Arquette…

Hillary Clinton: It’s Time For Wage Equality ‘Once And For All’

Hillary Clinton lamented the number of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math at a Silicon Valley women’s conference on Tuesday, and called for more action to close the wage gap.

il_fullxfull.561770561_764v“Sixty percent of college graduates are now women, yet they earn only 18 percent of computer science degrees. That’s actually less than half of what it was in the 1980s, when women earned 38 percent of those degrees. We’re going backwards in a field that’s supposed to be all about going forward,” Clinton said in a keynote address at Lead On Conference for Women in Santa Clara, California, for which she was reportedly paid a whopping $300,000.

The former secretary of state addressed an overwhelmingly friendly crowd made up of many employees from Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, including Intel, Oracle and Cisco. Introduced as a “modern day suffragette,” Clinton empathized with the audience by noting the difficulties women still face in male-dominated Silicon Valley.

“You bump your heads on the glass ceilings that persist in the tech industry today,” she told the attendees.

Clinton framed the need to empower women as beneficial to America’s economy as a whole, and in so doing paid deference to one of Apple, Inc.’s biggest slogans.

il_fullxfull.686180167_1uhx“There are lasting consequences for them, their families, and our economy,” she said of women left out of the STEM fields. “We cannot afford to leave all that talent sitting on that sidelines. To borrow a familiar phrase, it’s time to think different.”

In advocating for closing the pay gap, Clinton also endorsed the impassioned plea for wage equality made by Patricia Arquette in her Oscars acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress.

This is what she said:

“Up and down the ladder many women are paid less for the same work, which is why we all cheered at Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars — because she’s right, it’s time to have wage equality once and for all,” Clinton said.

Damn right. I made some comments on the first post written by Imani Gandy, after that I just got tired of the whole thing. So tired of fighting for every little bit of something that is right and is deserved.  Fuck it.

The rest of the links, coming at ya:

il_fullxfull.709423135_2htbAnother look at Clinton’s speech: SANTA CLARA, Calif.: Clinton to women: It can still feel like 1955 out there | Elections | McClatchy DC

Which is the most sexist national anthem? | News | The Guardian

Italy and Turkey are the sexist…US is in the orange range…

Roman Polanski Appears in Court in Extradition Hearing – NYTimes.com

I wonder if he will ever face justice.

SHOCKING New Poll Shows Majority Of GOP Total Idiots | Wonkette

Brace yourselves for some stunning, shocking, jaw-dropping, too-amazing-to-believe-yet-totally-believable news! According to a new poll from PPP, the Republican Party is overflowing with morons. It’s true. In fact, it’s SCIENCE! Or MATH! Or some kind of liberal hoax thing!

Let’s nerdsplore how goddamned dumb Republicans are, shall we?

image: http://img.wonkette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/evolution.png

evolutionIf you think that’s depressing, well, OK, you’re right, it is depressing. But it gets worse:

image: http://img.wonkette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/global-warming.png

global warmingDidn’t Republicans used to more or less accept that basic science was real, scientifically speaking? Yes, but that’s before the entire party adopted the official “I’m not a scientist” platform, thanks to Fox News teaching the “controversy.”

il_fullxfull.376007480_9tx5Hey, but you know…they do love them some fetuses! At least until they are born: Republican lawmaker: It’s OK for children to die in the name of God – Salon.com

In a deeply religious section of Idaho, a Republican state representative says that the state has no right to protect children from their parents who refuse them needed medical treatment in favor of faith healing.

“Children do die,” says Rep. Christy Perry. And it’s fine with her if Idaho children die in the name of God. Perry’s district includes many followers of a religious cult, Followers of Christ, that eschews medicine. She says that the sect’s members are more comfortable confronting death when it happens to their children.

“I’m not trying to sound callous, but [people calling for reform] want to act as if death is an anomaly. But it’s not. It’s a way of life,” she says.

Oh boy…

1532077_714422388592741_973356611_oAgain, I am so sick of this shit. And I really don’t feel like arguing about it.

An Italian cemetery may provide clues on cholera’s evolution-Medievalist.net

The site contains victims of the cholera epidemic that swept the world in the 1850s, said Clark Spencer Larsen, professor of anthropology at Ohio State University and one of the leaders of the excavation team.

Archaeologists and their students have spent the past four summers painstakingly excavating remains in a special section of the cemetery used for cholera victims. About 20 to 30 skeletons have been excavated during each of the past four field seasons.

Finding traces of the pathogen that caused cholera among the human remains could reveal details about how people lived – and died – in this region of Europe. “To our knowledge, these are the best preserved remains of cholera victims of this time period ever found,” Larsen said. “We’re very excited about what we may be able to learn.”

il_fullxfull.726272341_bd6nOn the move: The impact of economic migration – Al Jazeera English

Urbanisation is rapidly picking up pace. We hit the tipping point in 2009, when there were more people living in urban areas than in rural ones.

The United Nations believes an additional 2.5bn people will live in urban areas by 2050, which is only 35 years away.

Many of the rural poor come to the cities and end up living in sub-standard housing. It is estimated that 863 million people now live in slums. And China alone, according to the UN, will need to spend $6.8tn over the next two decades just to integrate rural workers.

Counting the Cost examines the challenges of economic migration.

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown reports from China; and Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, joins us from New York to discuss migration and the issues behind it.

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Mysterious East Coast flooding caused by ‘unprecented’ surge in sea level – The Washington Post

Here’s a Satirical Take on the 40 Things the News Wants You to Be Afraid Of – Truthdig

5 Lessons Fat Albert Should Have Taught Bill Cosby | Cracked.com

Sicilian mafioso who lived incognito in Britain for 20 years to be extradited | World news | The Guardian

New Research Into Indo-European Languages – Archaeology Magazine

Brilliant Fireball Wows Skywatchers, Rattles Windows In Florida

and this last link:

Where Do Sesame Seeds Come From, Anyway?

Let’s treat this as an open thread…what are you reading about today?


Tuesday Reads: Utter Exhaustion Edition

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Good Morning!!

I finally arrived in Boston yesterday after driving for three days. With the days so short, and the nights so dark, I ended up having to stop for the night earlier than I would have in the summer. I was tired last night, but I’m even more exhausted this morning. Everything hurts, and my brain isn’t working properly. I’m supposed to drive up to New Hampshire for Christmas, and I have no idea how I can do that.

I’d like to write a beautifully organized post, but I don’t think I’m capable of it. So here are some news stories that caught my flawed attention this morning.

Another police officer gets away with murder, this time in Milwaukee. From the Journal-Sentinel:

In one of the most highly anticipated legal decisions in recent memory, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced Monday that former Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney will not be charged in the fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park.

Chisholm determined that Manney’s use of force was justified self-defense.

Hamilton’s family has repeatedly called for Manney, who has since been fired, to face criminal charges.

Speaking to supporters outside the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, Hamilton’s brother Nathaniel said he and the other family members would not waver in their determination.

“We deserve justice,” he said. “Justice is our right.”

As you’ve probably already guessed, Dontre Hamilton was a black man, and Christopher Manney is white. This is getting to be a regular thing, and it’s really getting old. The police unions can complain all they want. The simple truth is that police officers are killing a hell of a lot of black men.

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The NY Daily News reports that the Department of Justice will review the shooting to determine whether Hamilton’s civil rights were violated.

There’s been some pushback on the claims by police unions that protesters of police-involved deaths like those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and government officials who sympathized with their families are responsible for the recent murders of two NYPD police officers in Brooklyn. Here’s an essay by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Time Magazine: The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is.

According to Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” For me, today, that means a time to seek justice and a time to mourn the dead.

And a time to shut the hell up.

The recent brutal murder of two Brooklyn police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, is a national tragedy that should inspire nationwide mourning. Both my grandfather and father were police officers, so I appreciate what a difficult and dangerous profession law enforcement is. We need to value and celebrate the many officers dedicated to protecting the public and nourishing our justice system. It’s a job most of us don’t have the courage to do.

At the same time, however, we need to understand that their deaths are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day. He even Instagrammed warnings of his violent intentions. None of this is the behavior of a sane man or rational activist. The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.

Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.

More at the link.

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The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have each editorialized on the issue.

WaPo: The blame game over police deaths in New York goes too far.

LA Times: Protesters didn’t cause slayings of New York police officers.

The Daily Beast: The NY Police Union’s Vile War with Mayor De Blasio.

And from HuffPo: Police Unions ‘Standing Down’ After Controversial Comments In Wake Of NYPD Shooting.

Despite all the complaints about Obama’s leadership from Republicans, the economy is growing; and wealthy Americans sure seem to be doing okay.

The Hill, GDP grows by 5 percent as US economy picks up strong pace.

The economy grew at a 5 percent rate from July to September, the fastest pace in 11 years.

The strong growth recorded by the Commerce Department adds to the sense that the economy is approaching full speed for the first time since the recession of 2008 — and since President Obama was first elected….

The government found consumer spending grew by 3.2 percent from July to September, compared to 2.5 percent in the previous quarter.

The Commerce Department also shifted its estimate for the second quarter, finding strong growth of 4.6 percent between April and June. That’s up from its previous estimate of 3.9 percent.

Reuters, Dow Tops 18,000 for First Time on Upbeat GDP Report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through 18,000 for the first time Tuesday, propelled higher by a better-than-expected report on the economy in the third quarter. If the Dow closes above 18,000, it will have taken the index only six months to climb there from 17,000.

It took only seven months to get from 16,000 to 17,000.

The market’s rise has been good news for Americans who own shares, including the wealthy, corporations, financial firms and workers with retirement funds and pensions invested in stocks. For those who don’t own shares, it could mean a widening wealth gap, however.

How much wider can it get?

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But there’s also good news for us ordinary folks. From CNN, 89 straight days of lower gas prices.

The streak, the longest on record according to AAA, has shaved nearly $1 off the national average price of regular gas, taking it to $2.38 a gallon for the first time in five years. September 25 was the last day prices were higher for drivers. That day they increased by only a tenth of a cent. Prices have tumbled 36% since the high of the year, which was back in late April.

Not only have they been falling, but the plunge in gas prices has been picking up speed, tumbling nearly 2 cents between Monday and Tuesday.

Prices were 15 cents higher only a week ago and 44 cents higher a month ago. In numerous cities — including Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Topeka, Kansas — the average price now stands less than $2 a gallon, according to AAA. Springfield, Missouri became the first state to break the $2 average price last week. Missouri drivers are enjoying the lowest statewide average price at $2.05 a gallon.

The plunging price of oil — a 50% drop off the cost of barrel of crude since April, is the main driver in the gas price slide. But there are many other factors also affecting prices. Weakening economies in Europe and Asia, as well as more fuel efficient vehicles worldwide, have all cut demand for gasoline.

Unfortunately, I can testify that gas prices on the New York Thruway are still very high, with regular priced at close to $3.00 a gallon.

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North Korea suffered a major internet breakdown yesterday. Was the NSA responsible? The CIA. If so, good work! From Reuters, North Korea’s Internet links restored amid U.S. hacking dispute.

North Korea, at the center of a confrontation with the United States over the hacking of Sony Pictures, experienced a complete Internet outage for hours before links were restored on Tuesday, but U.S. officials said Washington was not involved.

U.S.-based Dyn, a company that monitors Internet infrastructure, said the reason for the outage was not known but could range from technological glitches to a hacking attack. Several U.S. officials close to the investigations of the attack on Sony Pictures said the U.S. government had not taken any cyber action against Pyongyang.

U.S. President Barack Obama had vowed on Friday to respond to the major cyberattack, which he blamed on North Korea, “in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

Dyn said North Korea’s Internet links were unstable on Monday and the country later went completely offline. Links were restored at 0146 GMT on Tuesday, and the possibilities for the outage could be attacks by individuals, a hardware failure, or even that it was done by North Koreaitself, experts said.

Matthew Prince, CEO of U.S.-based CloudFlare which protects websites from web-based attacks, said the fact that North Korea’s Internet was back up “is pretty good evidence that the outage wasn’t caused by a state-sponsored attack, otherwise it’d likely still be down for the count”.

Almost all of North Korea’s Internet links and traffic pass through China and it dismissed any suggestion that it was involved as “irresponsible”.

So what happened then, I wonder . . . . ?

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Here’s a story that should please JJ: Dish Network dumps Fox News, setting off social media war on Facebook.

Satellite-TV provider Dish Network dropped the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network on Saturday night after the companies couldn’t come to terms on a new distribution contract, reports TVNewser.

According to Fox Executive Vice President of Distribution Tim Carry, contract talks have broken off and nothing is happening, depriving Dish’s 14 million subscribers of Fox News’ “fair and balanced” approach to current event coverage.

“Our phone line is open, we’re willing to talk,” Carry said. “Am I negotiating right now? I’m not.”

Executives at Dish say Fox is playing hardball with them by attempting to use the news channel as  leverage to increase fees for their sports and entertainment channels normally covered by separate contracts.

“It’s like we’re about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish Network’s Senior Vice President of programming. “Fox blacked out two of its news channels, using them as leverage to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that are not in this contract.”

Hahahahaha! The Fox fans in Banjoville must being going nuts. But at least they can watch Turner Classic Movies.

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And here’s some even more scary news for racist Southerners. From Raw Story: Southern whites have more black DNA than whites in the rest of US: study.

Some of the states with the most racially charged attitudes towards African-Americans are also the states where the most whites have black ancestors, according to a recently released study.

Researchers examined 145,000 DNA samples provided to genetic testing company 23andme for ancestry analysis to determine that at least six million Americans who called themselves white had 1 percent or more African ancestry.

The study published this month in the American Journal of Human Genetics found that whites in the South were far more likely to have at least 1 percent black ancestry than any other part of the country.

“European Americans with African ancestry comprise as much as 12% of European Americans from Louisiana and South Carolina and about 1 in 10 individuals in other parts of the South,” the authors wrote….

And black Americans living in the South also had more African ancestry than any other region of the country. African-Americans in West Virginia and Oregon had the lowest percentage of African ancestry.

So . . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Thursday Reads: The Battle for the Senate

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Good Morning!!

On Tuesday, I wrote about the epic battle between political poll analysts Nate Silver and Sam Wang to predict which party will control the Senate after the Midterm elections in November. Actually, it’s a fairly one-sided battle. Silver’s statistical model predicts that Republicans will take over the Senate, and Wang thinks Democrats will hold onto their narrow majority. As Daniel Altman pointed out at The Daily Beast, Silver has much more to lose if Wang turns out to be right.

[Silver has] been attacking Wang relentlessly, calling his methodology  “wrong” and Wang himself “deceptive.” Silver could simply wait for the election results to come in and compare his forecasts’ accuracy with Wang’s across all the Senate races. Instead, he’s doing everything possible to discredit Wang before Election Day.

Here’s my guess at the reasons why. First, Silver fears Wang. In 2012, Wang’s model did a better job predicting the presidential election. Wang called not only Obama’s electoral college total of 332 votes, which Silver matched, but he also nailed the popular vote almost perfectly. Wang’s model also picked the winner in every single Senate race in 2012. It’s not good for business if Silver keeps coming up second-best.

But more importantly, Wang is the only one predicting Democrats will win. This represents a huge risk for Silver. If every forecaster had Republicans taking the Senate, then they’d all be either right or wrong in November; no one would have a better headline the next morning than Silver….If the Democrats hold the Senate, then Wang will stand alone; Silver will just be another one of the many who got it wrong.

It goes without saying that I am rooting for underdog Sam Wang.

On Tuesday, I also discussed the two close races that I’m most familiar with–Louisiana, because of Dakinikat’s reports, and New Hampshire, where former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is carpetbagging in hopes of getting his job back. Today, I want to take a look at the latest “expert” prognostications about which races are the most likely to decide whether Democrats or Republicans will be in the majority in 2015.

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The most recent poll results come from {gag} Fox News.

Fox News Polls: Senate battleground races trending GOP, Roberts up in Kansas.

New Fox News battleground polls show a Republican trend in the fight for the U.S. Senate.The GOP candidates — helped by anti-Barack Obama sentiment and strong support from male voters — lead in all five states: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas and Kentucky.

The races, however, are still far from settled. None of the Senate candidates has a lead outside the poll’s margin of sampling error. And none of the front-runners hit the important marker of 50 percent support from their electorate.

Read the results for specific races at the link. But here’s an interesting reaction to the Fox poll results from analyst Harry Enten at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog, Senate Update: Don’t Go Crazy.

At about 6 p.m. Wednesday, a collective Democratic spit-take splattered computer screens around the country (at least that’s what I imagined happened). Fox News released new polls showing Republican candidates ahead by 4 percentage points in Alaska, 6 percentage points in Colorado, 5 percentage points in Kansas and 4 percentage points in Kentucky.

The polls look like a disaster for Democrats.

They’re not.

FiveThirtyEight’s Senate forecast has Republican chances of taking back the Senate at 56.4 percent — basically unchanged from the 56.5 percent we showed Tuesday.

Enten explains how the FiveThirtyEight model adjusts the Fox results for Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, and Kentucky. On Kansas, Enten says he needs more data. It looks like Pat Roberts is gaining on challenger Greg Orman, but he can’t be sure yet. And here’s some possible good news for Democrats:

Democrats got good news in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn’s chances of winning rose from 26 percent to 30 percent. Nunn’s odds inched up because she was down only 1 percentage point to Republican David Perdue (46 percent to 45 percent) in a new SurveyUSA poll. For the first time, the FiveThirtyEight model forecasts Perdue to capture less than 50 percent of the vote (49.9 percent).

As in Louisiana, if neither candidate gets more than 50%, there will have to be a runoff election.

Geeky Prof. John Sides, George Washington University

Geeky Prof. John Sides, George Washington University

At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank touts the Post’s Election Lab (headed by John Sides of George Washington University) and weighs in on the Silver-Wang controversy, Predicting the Senate election down to the decimal point. Here’s Millbank’s summary of Side’s current predictions:

We know, for example, with 98 percent certainty that Sen. Kay Hagan, an embattled Democrat, will win reelection in North Carolina next month. We are even more certain — 99 percent — that Sen. Mitch McConnell, a vulnerable Republican, will keep his seat in Kentucky. And we are darn near sure — 91 percent, to be specific — that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) will lose.

Throw all of these into our election model, add eye of newt and toe of frog, stir counterclockwise and — voila! — we can project with 84 percent confidence that Republicans will control the Senate next year.

Really? Millbank also summarizes competing predictions:

As of Tuesday afternoon, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, which turned the academic discipline of computer models into a media game, gives Republicans a 57.6 percent chance of taking the Senate. (Decimal points are particularly compelling.) The New York Times’s model goes with 61 percent, DailyKos 66 percent, Huffington Post 54 percent and PredictWise 73 percent. The Princeton Election Consortium gives a 54 percent advantage to Democrats.

Millbank seems gobsmacked that Sam Wang has the gall to predict a Democratic victory in the Senate. But he also appears to favor old-timey political prognosticators like Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg. Let’s take a look at what they are saying.

Charlie Cook: Senate’s Future Likely Hinges on These Three Races: The Senate most plausibly turns on the survival of Alaska’s Begich, Colorado’s Udall, and the outcome of the open contest in Iowa between Braley and Ernst.

The number of seats in play is either 11 or 12, depending on whether or not you believe that the contest in Minnesota between Democratic incumbent Al Franken and GOP challenger Mike McFadden has tightened up. We have begun to see some polls that show the race now in mid-to-high single digits; it could just be that Republicans are coming home, thus producing the normal closure you often see, or it could be that it is in fact growing more competitive.

Three Democratic open seats are goners: Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Democrats’ three most endangered incumbents still are in extremely challenging races. However, all of them—Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu—are still absolutely alive and in the hunt for victory. The hope and prayer for Democrats is that one of these incumbents will survive, which would mean that Republicans would have to then win at least one seat in a “purple” or “light blue” state. Of these three races, Pryor’s challenge looks to be the toughest and least promising for Democrats. Landrieu’s is far from hopeless, but it would grow much more difficult if, as expected, the race moves to a Dec. 6 runoff with GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy. If there is a survivor in this trio, it is most likely to be Begich, though his race is extremely close and his chances of winning at this point are no better than a coin flip. The analogy for these three is that even Olympic swimmers have a tough time if the undertow is too bad, and that might well be the case here.

Read more of Cook’s analysis at the National Journal link above.

Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg

Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg

Stuart Rothenberg: What If I’m Wrong About GOP Flipping at Least 7 Seats?

A few weeks ago I wrote Senate Republicans would gain at least seven seats, even though the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call race ratings showed a likely Republican gain of five to eight seats.

That expectation was based on national survey results that showed the president extremely is unpopular and voters are unhappy with the direction of the country, as well as state polling that showed Democratic incumbents well below the critical 50 percent threshold in ballot tests against their GOP opponents.

Is Rothenberg ready to start hedging his bets on a Republication takeover?

Democrats still may be able to localize elections in a few states — the most likely prospects are North Carolina and Alaska, which were carried by Romney, and two swing states won by Obama, Iowa and Colorado. Doing so would inoculate the Democratic nominees (three incumbents and one open seat hopeful) from Obama’s near-toxic political standing.

Democrats certainly have lowered the boom on North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Colorado’s Cory Gardner, and it isn’t unreasonable to believe they can hold all four seats by discrediting the GOP nominees.

I have been assuming a 2014 electorate that looks more like the last midterm electorate than either of the past two presidential electorates. The 2010 electorate was much older and whiter than the 2008 and 2012 electorates, and there is no reason to believe that Democrats won’t suffer again from this year’s midterm electorate.

But Democrats are making an effort to register African-American voters in a number of states, mobilize Democratic voters in Alaska’s remote villages, and turn out both younger voters and reliable Democratic voters who in the past sat out midterm elections. If they can change the electorate, they can change their chances of holding on to a handful of states that I am expecting them to lose.

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As Dakinikat wrote on Monday, getting out the votes for Democrats is all-important!

It’s also interesting that Nate Silver may also be wondering if he could be wrong this time. On Monday, he told Real Clear Politics, “I’m Not Sure My Magic Will Work This Election.”

Election prognosticator Nate Silver seemed unsure of his ability to predict races when he appeared on the Monday broadcast of Fusion TV’s “Midterm Mayhem.”

“I’m not sure my magic will work in this election,” Silver said. “It’s a very close election nationally and in a number of states.”

“We’re certainly not clairvoyant. It’s a close election this year,” he added.

Hmmmmm . . .

And at FiveThirtyEight, Carl Bialik recently wrote: Pollsters Predict Greater Polling Error In Midterm Elections.

We asked pollsters if they expected more or less error in Senate election polls — the difference between what the latest pre-election polls show and actual vote margins — this year than two years ago. Ten said they expected a higher average error, while just five predicted lower error.

No one cited low response rates as a reason to expect poll error. Perhaps that’s because pollsters have managed to maintain strong national-election records despite declining response rates.

Instead, the top reason cited was the difficulty of forecasting turnout in midterm elections, without a presidential race to bring voters to the polls. And the crucial midterms are in states that don’t usually have close races. “The key Senate battlegrounds this year are also places like Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, etc., where most of the public pollsters don’t have a ton of experience,” one pollster said. “It’s not the Ohios and Pennsylvanias and Floridas of the world that we’re all used to polling a lot.”

Some also cited an increase in unproven polling techniques by pollsters. “Many are attempting to use Internet surveys with untested methodologies to determine likely voters,” said Darrel Rowland, the Columbus Dispatch’s public affairs editor, who conducts the newspaper’s Dispatch Poll. “As often happens to pioneers, there could be some grim results.”

Again, Senate control is going to hinge on voter turnout.  And of course there is always the possibility of last-minute surprises.

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A few more links to check out:

The Economist, The Battle for the Senate: An Interactive Guide.

U.S. News, Top 10 Senate Races of 2014.

BBC News, US mid-term elections: Six Senate races to watch.

USA Today, Senate control may be undecided for weeks after election.

David Wiegel at Bloomberg Politics, Why the GOP Wants You to Think There’ll Be an Immigration Deal if They Win.

Huffington Post, As South Dakota Race Breaks Open, Bizarre Turn Of Events Could Save Senate For Democrats.

Mark Halperin at Bloomberg Politics, Exclusive: Senate Democrats Flooding South Dakota Airwaves.

Bloomberg Politics, These 10 States Are Getting Slammed With Campaign Ads.

Please share your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have an enjoyable Thursday.


Thursday Reads: Police Shootings in Ferguson and Beyond

Owl reading

Good Morning!

While we at Sky Dancing Blog–along with many other Americans–have been following the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, often feeling shocked and traumatized by the overt racism on display among law enforcement personnel there, Fox News and some right wing blogs have focused on supporting Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown at noon on Saturday, August 9, touching off the protests and the police crackdown that has continued for the past 12 days. In the process they have also made efforts to smear Brown and undermine witnesses who saw the shooting.

Police initially claimed that Brown had assaulted Wilson in his police car and tried to take the officer’s gun. But there were a number of witnesses who reported seeing Wilson chase after Brown while shooting his weapon after which Brown turned around with his hands up, trying to surrender.

On August 15, without informing Governor Nixon or the Captain Ron Johnson, who was in charge of security during the protests, Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson released a 19-page document naming Michael Brown as a suspect in an alleged robbery of $48 worth of cigarillos at a Ferguson convenience store. The alleged “strong-arm” robbery took place shortly before Brown was killed. The obvious implication was that Brown deserved to die for this. Jackson also appeared on The Sean Hannity Show to push this narrative.

Later Jackson was forced to admit that shooter Darren Wilson didn’t know about the alleged robbery, and therefore it had nothing to the shooting. Recently we learned that police didn’t even have the video showing the convenience story “robbery” until days after the shooting, and the video appeared to show that Brown had actually paid for the box of cigarillos he took with him.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has been documenting the latest right wing efforts to smear Brown and rehabilitate Wilson. On Tuesday, he linked to a post by Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit citing anonymous sources that claimed Darren Wilson had suffered an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket” during the struggle with Michael Brown. Johnson writes:

The entire right wing universe (including Drudge Report) is now screaming about this post by, yes, the Dumbest Man on the Internet again, claiming that anonymous sources told him officer Darren Wilson suffered an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket” in a struggle with unarmed teenager Michael Brown [NOTE: I’m not going to link to Gateway Pundit; you can find the link at LGF].

It’s possible that someone did leak this information to Hoft, but I’ll remind my readers that Jim Hoft is probably the single most dishonest right wing blogger on the Internet as well as the dumbest, with a very long history of distorting facts and completely making stuff up to push his far right, often overtly racist agenda.

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Johnson looked up the symptoms of an “orbital blowout fracture” and quoted the from description:

The most common symptoms are bruising, tenderness and swelling around the eye; redness of the eye; double vision, ordiplopia (seeing two images at the same time); numbness of the cheek, nose or teeth; nose bleeds (epistaxis) [See figure 1].

Symptoms that typically indicate a more serious injury are pain on eye movement, double vision, air under the skin around the eye, and numbness of the cheek/mouth/nose on the side of the injury. Severe trauma may cause facial bone fractures, injury to the eye itself, and injuries to the skull/brain.

You’d think someone who had just experienced such a serious eye injury would be in terrible pain and would have difficulty accurately shooting a gun. You also think he would need immediate medical attention; yet no ambulance was called for either Brown or Wilson, and Wilson was video taped walking near Brown’s body and show no signs of discomfort. Here’s the cell phone video taken by eyewitness Piaget Crenshaw.

Yesterday this story showed up on Fox News, with Bill O’Reilly reporting the “orbital blowout” claim; and today ABC News is reporting that Wilson suffered “a serious facial injury,” although they aren’t including the “orbital blowout fracture” claim. ABC news also has a video interview with an anonymous friend of Wilson’s. It’s odd that Wilson’s friends and supporters don’t want to give their names or show their faces while the eyewitnesses to the shooting have been upfront and straightforward about what they saw.

As for the facial injury, I guess we’ll have to wait and see if there is trial. At that point Wilson will need to produce medical records to prove he had a serious injury and had it promptly treated. Even then, we still won’t know how it happened. For all we know, he could have hit himself with his gun or on the car door. I can’t help but be reminded of George Zimmerman’s claims of serious injuries caused by Trayvon Martin–the injuries he didn’t bother to have a doctor examine until the next day. The bottom line is that even if Wilson actually was injured, Michael Brown should be alive and in jail now. Instead, Wilson chose to execute him on the spot.

The latest smear from right wing Wilson supporters is that Michael Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson has “recanted” his eyewitness version of the shooting. Once again, Charles Johnson responds, Did Michael Brown’s Friend Dorian Johnson “Recant” His Story? No, He Did Not.

Finally, a right wing site is raising money for Darren Wilson, and they have collected nearly $150,000 in the past three days.

The good news is that Ferguson was fairly calm yesterday after the visit from Attorney General Eric Holder. From The Washington Post, Eric H. Holder Jr., in Ferguson, shares painful memories of racism.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. arrived in the St. Louis area Wednesday to tour a community roiled by the police shooting of an unarmed African American teen — nine months after he had visited the same city to tout new initiatives aimed at keeping poor black men out of prison.

Long before the white-hot spotlight of the racially charged protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Holder had been intent on reforming an American criminal justice system that he said imposed “shameful” disparities on minority communities. The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 has thrust Holder, 63, into the heart of a national debate over racial justice that he has aimed to make part of his legacy.

In meetings with residents, Holder shared his own stories of being pulled over and accosted by police while growing up in New York City — and of being skeptical of police even while serving as a federal prosecutor in Washington.

“I understand that mistrust. I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man,” Holder said during an appearance at Florissant Valley Community College. “I think about my time in Georgetown — a nice neighborhood of Washington — and I am running to a picture movie at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin. Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells ‘where you going? Hold it!’ I say, ‘Whoa, I’m going to a movie.’ ”

A man identified as Kajiene Powell, with an object in his right hand, approaches police in north St. Louis. Police say that the object was a knife and that he threatened officers before he was shot to death. (St. Louis Police Department)

A man identified as Kajiene Powell, with an object in his right hand, approaches police in north St. Louis. Police say that the object was a knife and that he threatened officers before he was shot to death. (St. Louis Police Department)

Not far from the spot where Michael Brown died, another young black man was killed by St. Louis Metropolitan Police on Tuesday. A video of the shooting was released yesterday. From Huffington Post, St. Louis Police Release Video Of Kajieme Powell Killing That Appears At Odds With Their Story, by Ryan Grimm and Ashley Alman.

A convenience store owner called 911 on Tuesday when he suspected Powell stole drinks and donuts from his shop, according to a recording of the call. Another woman called to report Powell was acting erratically and had a knife in his pocket.

Two officers in a police SUV responded to the calls, the cell phone video shows. When the officers got out of their vehicle, Powell walked in their direction, yelling and telling them to shoot him already.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Tuesday that both of the officers opened fire on Powell when he came within a three or four feet of them holding a knife “in an overhand grip.”

But the newly released cell phone footage undermines the statement, showing Powell approaching the cops, but not coming as close as was reported, with his hands at his side. The officers began shooting within 15 seconds of their arrival, hitting Powell with a barrage of bullets.

Kajieme Powell apparently had long-term psychological problems. I’m not going to watch the video, but even in the still photo from the LA Times above, it looks to me as if police could have disarmed Powell and arrested him without using deadly force. The knife wasn’t raised as police claimed, and he certainly doesn’t appear to be within three feet of the officers.

A mentally disturbed man was killed by police in Sacramento, California on Monday. The Sacramento Bee reports:

Jeffrey Towe lived with delusions and profound mental illness, family members say. On Monday, he became the ninth person in the Sacramento region to die of police gunfire this year.

Towe, 53, fatally shot his own mother in 1990 in an incident that he said was a household accident. Two weeks ago, he delivered a collection of knives to his sister, telling her he couldn’t be trusted around them.

A Woodland police officer shot him dead Monday after authorities said Towe allegedly charged with a knife after officers arrived at his apartment building in response to a call about a disturbed, screaming man.

Towe’s death prompted local activists to converge Monday evening in Woodland, already motivated by the national story of the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and law enforcement response to protests there. They congregated downtown, blocking an intersection, chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” – a slogan popularized in Ferguson.

The story also describes another police shooting that took place on Monday night.
In that incident, a California Highway Patrol officer shot and wounded a man who allegedly pulled a gun on officers in a drunken-driving stop. The suspect, who was hospitalized in critical but stable condition, was identified as Heath Austin Nunes, 38, of Lincoln.

The four-county Sacramento region, which includes Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties, this year has nearly doubled the five fatal officer-involved shootings in 2013. In 2012, there were 16 fatal police shootings, including a record 10 by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. Statewide, California averaged 100 annual deaths from police shootings from 2006 to 2011.

The sports site Deadspin has decide to gather reports of police shootings and they are asking readers to help. We’re Compiling Every Police-Involved Shooting In America. Help Us.
The United States has no database of police shootings. There is no standardized process by which officers log when they’ve discharged their weapons and why. There is no central infrastructure for handling that information and making it public. Researchers, confronted with the reality that there are over 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the country, aren’t even sure how you’d go about setting one up. No one is keeping track of how many American citizens are shot by their police. This is crazy. This is governmental malpractice on a national scale. We’d like your help in changing this.

Here, we’re going to take a cue from Jim Fisher, who as far as we can tell has compiled the most comprehensive set of data on police shootings in 2011. Fisher’s method was simple: He searched for any police-involved shooting every day for an entire year. By our lights, this is the best way to scrape this information—any time a police officer shoots and hits a citizen, it will almost certainly make a local news report, at least. However, this is a time-intensive process, and our manpower is limited. Having gathered some of the data, we can say it will take the few of us here a very long time to do this on our own. So, we’re setting up a public submission form and asking for help with this project.

Check it out if you’re interested.

So I’ve run out of space and time for this post. There’s plenty of other news, so I’ll post some more links in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same. 


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!

There seems to be a shooting or event at least monthly–if not weekly–that involves a right wing terrorist group.  There are so many of them recently images (50)that there has to be a series of causes leading to an uptick of violence. At what point do right wing media groups spreading lies and propaganda pass the point of freedom of speech to inciting violence and mayhem akin to shouting fire in in crowded theatre?

There were two terrorist attacks in America over the weekend, but don’t expect the mainstream media to call them that.

On Friday, 48-year-old Georgia resident Dennis Marx was scheduled to appear at the Forsyth County Courthouse in Cumming, Georgia, to face charges on 11 different felony counts.

Marx arrived at the courthouse on-time, but while in his truck, he threw “homemade spike strips” onto the road, and tried to run over a policeman.

After police opened fire on him, Marx began shooting at them from his truck, and proceeded to throw tear gas grenades, smoke grenades, and pepper spray grenades at them.

After a three minute long firefight, a SWAT team surrounded Marx, ultimately killing him.

Meanwhile, yesterday in Las Vegas, an armed couple screaming about “revolution”opened fire and killed two Las Vegas policemen inside of a local pizza joint.

After shooting and killing Officer Alyn Beck and Officer Igor Soldo, the couple took their weapons and covered their bodies with the Gadsden Flag, a yellow banner with contains a coiled snake around the words, “Don’t tread on me.”

The flag is named for Christopher Gadsden, the Revolutionary War general who designed it. It’s also a very popular symbol with the Tea Party movement.

After killing the police officers, the couple then fled to a local Walmart, where they killed an innocent bystander, before ultimately taking their own lives in an apparent murder-suicide.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, neighbors said the couple often spoke about mistrust for and killing of police officers, and “going underground” until the time was right.

Neighbors also told the Review-Journal that the husband claimed he had been kicked off the Bundy Ranch during the protests there last month.

And back in April, Frazier Glenn Miller, a well-known right-wing extremist and member of the KKK, shoot and killed 14-year-old boy and his grandfather at a Jewish Community Center near Kansas City.

Miller then drove to a Jewish retirement home, and killed another person.

As police arrested him, Miller screamed out “Heil Hitler.”

Frazier Glenn Miller, Dennis Marx and the Las Vegas shooters were right-wing extremists and domestic terrorists. It’s that simple.

Unfortunately, the media refuses to acknowledge right-wing extremism and domestic terrorism in our country, even though they pose a bigger threat to our national security than jihadists and Islamic extremists.

According to the New America Foundation, as of April of this year, 21 people had been killed in the United States in attacks motivated by Islamic extremism since 9/11.

Meanwhile, 34 people had been killed by right-wing extremist attacks during the same time period.

The fact is, right-wing extremism is on the rise, it’s dangerous, and it’s now a major terrorist force in America.

Right-wing extremist and militia groups aren’t the fringe groups they used to be – now Fox so-called News makes members of these groups like the ones who showed up at the Bundy Ranch into media stars and heroes.

But while the facts speak for themselves, the mainstream media (CNN, MSNBC, FOX, The New York Times etc…) refuses to acknowledge the truth.

pumpsThe more we find out about the husband and wife suicide pact team that murdered two police offers and a customer at Walmart, the more we can see the influence of right wing media. These folks were fans of conspiracies spun by the likes of Alex Jones.

Jerad Miller outlined his political views, which were largely based on conspiracy theories promoted by Fox News and Alex Jones, in his social media postings, and he posted frequently about firearms and violent revolution.

“We can hope for peace,” he posted June 2. “We must, however, prepare for war. We face an enemy that is not only well funded, but who believe they fight for freedom and justice. Those of us who know the truth and dare speak it, know that the enemy we face are indeed our brothers. Even though they share the same masters as we all do. They fail to recognize the chains that bind them. To stop this oppression, I fear, can only be accomplished with bloodshed.”

Jerad and Amanda Miller posted comments at InfoWars, Breitbart

A May 28, 2012, post on Jones’ InfoWars site appears to have been made by Jerad Miller, who expressed frustration with his arrest on drug charges and vowed he would rather die than be labeled a criminal.

“I am like a wild coyote,” he wrote, using the user name “Jerad” and a Gadsden flag as his avatar. “You corner me, I will fight to the death.”

He goes on to say he’s “broken hearted” to see other Americans placated by materialism and celebrity worship as they submitted to tyranny.

“So, do I kill cops and make a stand when they come to get me?” the post continues. “I would prefer to die than sit in their jail, when I have done nothing to hurt anyone.”

That post attracted an appreciative comment from another InfoWars user, Amanda, whose profile uses the same maiden name – Woodruff – as Amanda Miller, along with the same birth year and hometown as the shooting suspect.

“Jerad, baby, I love you with all my heart and I’ll stand behind you no matter what,” wrote Amanda, whose avatar appears to be Amanda Miller. “It’s true that its not fair that i can’t have a gun because you live with me. I know its not right that my rights get taken away from me because I live in the same home as you but I would love to see them try and enforce that. My love for you is deep and forever and f-ck what they have to say cause they have no right to do what they say is not right.”

The InfoWars user Amanda also claims the same job — head of the needlepoint department for Hobby Lobby — as Amanda Miller’s Facebook profile.

Yes, that’s the same Hobby Lobby whose extremist christian owners want to deny access to birth control to employees.  Perhaps the funniest and yet truly pathetic right wing meme started about these shootings today came from Alex Jones himself who stated that the shootings were a false flag operation by Harry Reid and the Democratic Party.

During his InfoWars.com radio show Monday, Jones accused the U.S. government of staging theLas Vegas shooting allegedly committed by Jeradand Amanda Miller that left two police officers and one civilian dead over the weekend in an attempt to smear conservatives before the midterm elections.

“There is so much proof of this being staged yesterday, when I first read about it, and this morning, that my mind exploded with hundreds of data points, and quite frankly it’s conclusive,” Jones said, before outlining why he believes this event is one in a long line of similar “false flag” operations perpetrated by the Democrats.

Jones cited the attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the chemical attacks in Syria and the “Fast & Furious” gun deal in Mexico as examples of other “false flag” operations committed by the U.S. If the government would stage those, he said they would “absolutely” use the Millers to kill two police officers in Las Vegas.

“Would they do this to get our guns and blame the tea party that’s sweeping in every runoff election and primary right now?” he asked. “I kept telling, they’re getting ready to false flag, and it happens right in Harry Reid’s district, right in his state, right in his city, with his police department.”

la-na-tt-shun-guns-20130312-001

As the rhetoric increases, so does the violence.

But what I am saying is this: there are some particular features of conservative political rhetoric today that help create an atmosphere in which violence and terrorism can germinate.

The most obvious component is the fetishization of firearms and the constant warnings that government will soon be coming to take your guns. But that’s only part of it. Just as meaningful is the conspiracy theorizing that became utterly mainstream once Barack Obama took office. If you tuned into one of many national television and radio programs on the right, you heard over and over that Obama was imposing a totalitarian state upon us. You might hear that FEMA was building secret concentration camps (Glenn Beck, the propagator of that theory, later recanted it, though he has a long history of violent rhetoric), or that Obama is seeding the government with agents of the Muslim Brotherhood. You grandfather probably got an email offering proof that Obama is literally the antichrist.

Meanwhile, conservatives have become prone to taking the political disagreements of the moment and couching them in apocalyptic terms, encouraging people to think that if Democrats have their way on any given debate, that our country, or at the very least our liberty, might literally be destroyed.

To take just one of an innumerable number of examples, when GOP Senator Ron Johnsonsays that the Affordable Care Act is “the greatest assault on freedom in our lifetime,” and hopes that the Supreme Court will intervene to preserve our “last shred of freedom,” is it at all surprising that some people might be tempted to take up arms? After all, if he’s right, and the ACA really means that freedom is being destroyed, then violent revolution seems justified. Johnson might respond by saying, “Well, of course I didn’t mean that literally.” And I’m sure he didn’t — Johnson may be no rocket scientist, but he knows that despite the individual mandate going into effect, there are a few shreds of freedom remaining in America.

But the argument that no sane person could actually believe many of the things conservatives say shouldn’t absolve them of responsibility. When you broadcast every day that the government of the world’s oldest democracy is a totalitarian beast bent on turning America into a prison of oppression and fear, when you glorify lawbreakers like Cliven Bundy, when you say that your opponents would literally destroy the country if they could, you can’t profess surprise when some people decide that violence is the only means of forestalling the disaster you have warned them about.

To my conservative friends tempted to find outrageous things liberals have said in order to argue that both sides are equally to blame, I’d respond this way: Find me all the examples of people who shot up a church after reading books by Rachel Maddow and Paul Krugman, and then you’ll have a case.

292650fullJust consider the number of death threats made to the Bergdahl family and their small home town since the right wing media has upped the volume on the deserter and traitor memes.

The father of Bowe Bergdahl, the Idaho soldier released from captivity in a controversial prisoner swap with the Taliban, has received emailed death threats that authorities are investigating, an Idaho police chief said on Saturday.

The first of the death threats sent to Bob Bergdahl at his home near Hailey, Idaho, was received on Wednesday, the same day the city canceled a planned rally celebrating the release of his son, Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said.

“There were four specific emails with death threats given to the FBI and they are looking into it,” Gunter told Reuters in an interview.

Authorities are providing security to Bob Bergdahl and his wife, Jani, but Gunter declined to elaborate on those measures.

Bergdahl’s release after being held for nearly five years in Afghanistan provoked an angry backlash in Congress among lawmakers over the Obama administration’s failure to notify them in advance. Some of Bergdahl’s former comrades have charged that he was captured in 2009 after deserting his post.

U.S. military leaders have said the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture are unclear, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging critics to wait for all the facts to be known before rushing to judgment on Bergdahl.

The threats came as Hailey, a tourist community of some 8,000 people in the mountains of central Idaho, was buffeted by hundreds of vitriolic phone calls and emails.

You just have to wonder how stupid people can be.  If there was an assault on right wing rights, the first to go would be any number of these media 9728_844290962067_8618897_51577728_4291738_noutlets.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?