It’s true that public opinion surveys are not showing any 2010-style GOP “wave,” but Democrats are rightly nervous that when polls begin identifying likely voters closer to November, superior Republican “base enthusiasm” could put a thumb on the scales in their favor.
Finally we have some good news to discuss, if Republicans can somehow be prevented from ruining it. The U.S. and Cuba have reached an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries after 50 years of hostilities and sanctions. In celebration of this long-overdue step forward, I’m going to illustrate this post with the work of Cuban artists. You can read about the above painting of Marilyn Monroe superimposed on a photo of Che Guevara and the artist Adrian Rumbaut at the Cuban Art blog. Here’s a bit of background:
In the work, Adrian Rumbaut has reproduced Alberto Korda’s famous 1960 photograph of Che Guevara, and he inserts his vision of American Richard Avedon’s iconic photo of Marilyn Monroe as well. In the letters on the side of the painting, Rumbaut gives credit to both Korda and Avedon for their images, and provides the date of his painting.
Interestingly, Korda had worked as a fashion photographer as a young man, and he wanted very much to be the Richard Avedon of Cuba. He photographed the “beautiful people” of the Batista era before the revolution, and models lined up in front of his studio to have their picture taken. Taken by surprise by the “triumph of the revolution” in 1959, he worked subsequently with Raul Corrales, Castro’s official photographer, to capture the excitement of the revolution. In his image of Che, something survives of his earlier experience with beautiful women.
Korda’s image of Che — snapped in 1960 and also known as Guerrillero Heroico — has been repeatedly reproduced worldwide, serving as both a symbol of protest and as a fashion accessory.
The iconic photo has taken on increasingly exotic forms, each created with different intentions and evoking varied responses. Along with Marilyn Monroe, Jesus Christ, Madonna, and Princess Diana have all had their pictures adapted and inserted under Che’s familiar red star beret. It isn’t an exaggeration to note that Che the icon has overtaken Che the revolutionary.
The original “Che” photograph was taken at a dangerous moment, a time when the new revolutionary government was preparing for imminent US invasion. It was at the start of the Cuban Revolution’s second year, and Castro’s government had ordered a boatload of weapons and ammunition — mostly rifles and grenades — from Belgium. The armaments were loaded onto a French ship, La Coubre which, unfortunately, exploded upon arrival in Havana Harbor in March 1960. The crew and 75 Cuban dockers were killed. More than 200 were injured.
Here’s a wonderful example of Cuban street art that I found at a Cuban travel site, Insight Cuba.
See more examples of Cuban “graffiti” at the link.
Some background on what’s happening from CNN yesterday: Cuba releases American Alan Gross, paves way for historic easing of American sanctions.
Washington (CNN) — U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held by the Cuban government since 2009, was freed Wednesday as part of a landmark deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in U.S. policy toward the island, senior administration officials tell CNN.
President Barack Obama spoke with Cuban President Raul Castro Tuesday in a phone call that lasted about an hour and reflected the first communication at the presidential level with Cuba since the Cuban revolution, according to White House officials. Obama announced Gross’ release and the new diplomatic stance at noon in Washington. At around the same time, Cuban president Raul Castro was set to speak in Havana.
President Obama announced a major loosening of travel and economic restrictions on the country. And the two nations are set to re-open embassies, with preliminary discussions on that next step in normalizing diplomatic relations beginning in the coming weeks, a senior administration official tells CNN.
Talks between the U.S. and Cuba have been ongoing since June of 2013 and were facilitated by the Canadians and the Vatican in brokering the deal. Pope Francis — the first pope from Latin America — encouraged Obama in a letter and in their meeting this year to renew talks with Cuba on pursuing a closer relationship.
Gross’ “humanitarian” release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.
The developments constitute what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since 1961, when the embassy closed and the embargo was imposed.
Read much more at the link. It’s a good article that provides quite a bit of background on the historic agreement.
More details on the secret negotiations from William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh, authors of the book Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, published in October of this year.
Presidents frequently conduct sensitive diplomatic dialogues in secret, because the furor of public attention makes it politically impossible to reach the compromises necessary for agreement. These secret talks are often crucial for diplomatic advances — as we learned Wednesday with the stunning revelations about the impending talks between Washington and Havana that have been underway secretly for the past few months. President Barack Obama’s far-reading initiatives are reminiscent of the secret talks Henry Kissinger held with Beijing to lay the groundwork for President Richard M. Nixon’s historic diplomatic opening to China.
When the mere act of talking to an adversary is too politically sensitive, presidents can resort to private emissaries, despite the risks created by relying on amateur diplomats. Obama had help from both Canada and the Vatican in reaching these new agreements.
In our recent book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, we uncovered literally dozens of secret diplomatic contacts and negotiations. Despite what Kissinger called the “perpetual antagonism” between the United States and Cuba, there is a rich and colorful history of dialogue between these two nations over the last 50 years.
There are lessons to be learned from this half-century of back-channel talks about what works and what doesn’t when conducting secret negotiations.
First, a history of animosity makes adversaries wary. Neither wants to appear weak by making concessions too easily. Goodwill gestures may go unrequited and the apparent obstinacy of one side or the other can doom a diplomatic process before it gets off the ground. When Fidel Castro was in power, for example, he worried constantly that any concession to U.S. demands would be read as weakness and lead to a redoubling of U.S. efforts to overthrow him.
Read all about it at the Reuters link.
From the Masters of Cuban Art Image Gallery, “La Conga” by Evelio Garcia Mata.
“Garcia Mata plays the rhythm of the conga in the body of the mulatto dancer, who lifts her left arm as she does the kick-step. She wears a sensual typical dress and is accompanied by a group of six musicians. The painting beautifully represents when Afro-Cuban music became main-stream, and a representative of Cuban culture at large.”
- Alfredo Triff, Musician and Art Critic
Isn’t it amazing that Pope Francis–the first Latin American to lead the Church–was instrumental in making this happen? As a long-lapsed Catholic, I’m truly surprised and pleased. After years of regressive Popes, this guy seems to be a throwback to the days of Pope John the XXIII when it seemed that the Church might move into the 20th century.
From The Atlantic: How the Pope Helped End the Cuba Embargo.
On Wednesday, a senior Obama administration officials spoke of an “extraordinary letter” written by the pope to President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro over the summer in which he urged the two men to mend the relationship between their countries.
As one official noted, the correspondence “gave us greater impetus and momentum for us to move forward.”
In a press conference on Wednesday, which also happens to be the pope’s 78th birthday, President Obama credited Francis for his influential “personal plea” and thanked him for his “moral example.”
In particular, I want to thank his Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is.
According to officials, Pope Francis brought up Cuba several times during his meeting with the president in March and, given Francis’ significance as the first pope from Latin America, it’s fair to assume that his clout likely helped bring Castro to the table as well.
Vatican officials were also said to have been present during the negotiations between the United States and Cuba, marking them the only other country to directly participate in the talks. While Canada reportedly hosted the majority of the secret meetings of the two sides, according to a Vatican statement, the pope also hosted Cuban and American representatives together earlier this year during the final deal was struck.
Some reactions to Obama’s great achievement.
From the LA Times, Miami reacts to Obama’s Cuba move: Tears of joy, cries of ‘traitor’.
A tale of two restaurants unfolded in South Florida on Wednesday.
In Miami’s Little Havana, Versailles Restaurant hosted hard-line Cuban exiles railing against President Obama’s decision to establish full diplomatic ties with the Cuban government. They waved placards and hurled insults bilingually, putting on the show they’ve been rehearsing and staging for half a century.
The show at Versailles involved megaphones and pickup trucks, national news outlets parked in front of a spot that serves tasty espresso, and a handful of outspoken Cuban Americans who yell loud enough to scare viewers in Nebraska. Whenever major news breaks about Cuba, the media flocks to Versailles to take the pulse of the Cuban community.
Meanwhile in Hialeah, a city with a far larger number of Cubans and Cuban Americans than Little Havana, Tropical Restaurant served cafeteria-style meals to a quieter, more sanguine crowd. Here, many welcomed Obama’s decision.
“It’s going to be better for the Cuban people. It’s going to be better for the United States,” said ReinierOropeza, 33, an accountant who to came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1998.
Many Cubans here are young, or came to the United States more recently, or have closer ties with their families in Cuba.
Oropeza said many older Cubans are stuck in the past. “They are old and they stand back and blame Castro. They already did what they had to do. So young people have to take over now.”
Once again, read much more at the link.
Read more about this mural by 100 Cuban artists at The New York Times, Feb. 3, 2008: It’s Not Politics. It’s Just Cuba.
More reactions from Republican politicians:
(Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker John Boehner sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s policy change toward Cuba, calling it “another in a long line of mindless concessions” to a brutal dictatorship.
“Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner,” Boehner said in a statement.
Cry me a river, a$$hole. At least Cubans have free health care.
Marco Rubio, who is supposedly a Catholic after transitioning through the Mormon and Southern Baptist churches, had the temerity to “call out the Pope on Cuba” according to Politico.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Catholic, criticized Pope Francis on Wednesday after the pontiff played a key role in helping the United States and Cuba forge an agreement that resulted in the release of American Alan Gross from Cuba.
Rubio said he would “ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy.”
The Florida Republican said he didn’t criticize Francis’ personal appeals to help facilitate Gross’ release, but was speaking in response to the White House’s announcement about talks to normalize relations with Cuba after a nearly 50-year embargo with the country.
Rubio is set to play a major role in Cuba policy as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Western Affairs, and he noted Wednesday some of Congress’ leverage points, such as funding for embassies and nomination of a U.S. ambassador to Cuba.
“I’m committed to doing everything I can to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” Rubio said.
More from Huffington Post: Marco Rubio Fires Back On Cuba: Obama Is The ‘Worst Negotiator’ In My Lifetime.
President Barack Obama will get no money for his Cuba policy, no ambassador will be confirmed and the embargo will never be lifted, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) vowed in a blistering press conference on Wednesday.
In a historic move earlier in the day, Obama announced that the United States will begin talks with Cuba to normalize full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba in 50 years. The president’s remarks followed the release on Wednesday morning of American Alan Gross, who had been held in a Cuban prison for five years. Gross’ release was negotiated in exchange for the freeing of three Cubans who had been jailed in the U.S. for spying.
“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, based on a lie,” Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “The White House has conceded everything and gained little.”
“I’m committed to doing everything I can to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” he added.
Why is this moron in the U.S. Senate? Obama will have more battles ahead with the Republican Congress, but he seems determined to move ahead with the changes he wants to make anyway. I’m rooting for him.
What do you think? What other stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy your Thursday!
Just look at those awful teenage girls wearing coats in a bookstore! How shocking! And the President in jeans and casual jacket! Impeach him immediately!
As everyone knows by now, GOP aide to Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) Elizabeth Lauten learned the hard way that when you attack the President’s family on Facebook, lots of people see it; and then your ugly words go viral on Twitter and other social media sites.
Addressing her comments directly to the Obama girls, Lauten wrote that they should ‘‘respect the part you play,’’ and added: ‘‘Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.’’
Lauten also urged the Obama girls to ‘‘dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.’’
Lauten later apologized for the comments and deleted the original post, which drew harsh criticism across social media.
In her pathetic “apology,” as Eugene Robinson noted on Rachel Maddow’s show last night, Lauten failed to say she was sorry for insulting any of the members of the Obama family.
‘‘When I first posted on Facebook I reacted to an article and I quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager,’’ Lauten told The Commercial Appeal of Memphis in an email. ‘‘Please know, those judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart. Furthermore, I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words.’’
Whatever, lady. I’m glad you’re out of a job. Instant Karma is so satisfying.
Speaking of f**king a**holes, I’ve managed for a long time now to avoid seeing or hearing anything about MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” or its moronic hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Unfortunately, this morning I accidentally clicked on a link to Mediaite and read something about their asinine TV show.
This morning the above-mentioned Eugene Robinson was on the program and dared to say that Michael Brown might have had his hands up when he was shot and killed by Darren Wilson. Robinson’s reasoning? A number of eyewitnesses said so and there’s nothing in the evidence that proves Brown wasn’t surrendering.
According to Mediaite’s Evan McMurry, things “got awkward.”
“I don’t believe there’s anything in the record, certainly not in the forensic evidence, that precludes the possibility that he had his hands up at some point when he was approaching the officer,” Robinson said.
“That’s an awfully low standard,” cohost Joe Scarborough replied. “There’s also no evidence that doesn’t suggest a flying saucer from Venus swooped over all of them. There’s no evidence that it’s precluded, Gene. I’m not being difficult. I’m just saying the truth actually does matter.”
“I think it’s a very uncomfortable question for you, Gene,” Brzezinski said. “Because if you say no, there’s no evidence his hands up, you’re probably insulting a lot of people. Do you feel uncomfortable with the question?”
Now what do you suppose Brzezinski meant by that? Oh yeah, Robinson is black and so Mika thinks he must have to lie in order to pacify other black people. Are you lying to please your puppet master Joe Scarborough and the racist audience to your show, Mika?
You can watch the video at the Mediaite link above.
The racists are also up in arms about the five St. Louis Rams players (all black) who had the nerve to express solidarity with Ferguson protesters by standing with their hands up before their football game on Sunday. St. Louis police officers were enraged by this mild display of support, and complained loudly in the media.
St. Louis police chief Jon Belmar then publicly claimed that the Rams organization had apologized for the players actions. A battle of words followed, in which the Rams denied apologizing and Belmar kept insisting they had. From the NY Daily News:
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the St. Louis Rams apologized to local law enforcement officials Monday after five players walked onto the field Sunday with their arms raised high in solidarity with the Ferguson protesters, a claim the team denied in a bizarre war of words that erupted overnight between the team and cops.
Police immediately cried foul at the act during the Rams’ Week 13 home blowout of the Oakland Raiders, but the NFL sacked the cops’ request and chose not to discipline the players.
There was still fallout to manage and Rams COO Kevin Demoff tried to satisfy the outcry by local cops when he called Belmar on Monday and apologized for the players’ unsanctioned actions, according to the chief.
“Mr. Demoff clearly regretted that any members of the Ram’s (sic) organization would act in a way that minimized the outstanding work that police officers and departments carry out each and every day,” Belmar said in an email to the department, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “My impression of the call was that it was heartfelt and I assured him that I would share it with my staff.” ….
But CNN’s Rachel Nichols said Rams spokesman Artis Twyman told CNN the team “did not apologize” to St. Louis police.
And Demoff backed up that claim when reached by the Post-Dispatch late Monday. “In none of these conversations did I apologize for our players’ actions,” Demoff told the Post-Dispatch. “I did say in each conversation that I regretted any offense their officers may have taken. We do believe it is possible to both support our players’ First Amendment rights and support the efforts of local law enforcement as our community begins the process of healing.”
My advice to Belmar and police departments all over the country: Get over it and stop killing innocent citizens.
And speaking of moronic a**holes, John Boehner is set to do battle with the crazy caucus today. Reuters: Boehner to seek support for plan to avoid government shutdown.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner will try to sell fellow Republicans this week on a government spending bill that avoids a shutdown fight but allows the party to strike back at President Barack Obama’s immigration order.
Republicans have a lot riding on their handling of must-pass government funding. Having scored huge wins in Nov. 4 voting that handed them a majority in the Senate and gave them a bigger majority in the House, Republican leaders want to demonstrate that they can govern responsibly next year.
But many are still outraged that Obama bypassed Congress and is moving ahead unilaterally on immigration, granting what they claim is “amnesty” to people who came to the United States illegally.
House Republicans will meet on Tuesday after a 10-day Thanksgiving break to discuss their response, including a leading option for Boehner that would fund most government agencies through September 2015, with only a short-term extension for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
House Republican lawmakers and aides say this would give them a chance to use their stronger House and Senate majorities next year to pass explicit spending restrictions on some DHS agencies, to try to stop Obama’s immigration overhaul.
More details from Bloomberg Politics:
House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders are turning to large-animal veterinarian and Tea Party darling Ted Yoho to help avoid a second government shutdown in as many years.
The freshman Florida Republican has proposed a bill that aims to remove the president’s executive power when it comes to deportations. It’s a symbolic measure that would have essentially zero chance of passing in the last days of a Democratic-controlled Senate. But Boehner and his crew hope it’s enough to pacify a Republican caucus seething over President Barack Obama’s immigration actions last month.
Boehner and other Republican leaders have vowed to avoid a repeat of the 16-day shutdown last year. Their best shot may be coupling Yoho’s bill with a measure that would temporarily fund immigration agencies and provide longer-term financing for the rest of the federal government. The deadline is Dec. 11, when current funding ends.
Yoho, whose opposition to Obamacare contributed to the last shutdown, was an unlikely star of the 2012 election cycle, knocking off 12-term incumbent Cliff Stearns in a Republican primary for a North Florida district after selling his veterinary practice to run. Since being sworn in, the 59-year-old Republican has voted against Boehner for speaker, said an Obamacare tax on indoor tanning was “racist,” and suggested that a government shutdown could stabilize markets.
Yoho sounds like a lunatic. How on earth do people like this get elected?
Speaking of lunatics, last night I watched the final debate between Louisiana Senate candidates Bill Cassidy and Mary Landrieu. If the result of the runoff election on Saturday weren’t so important, the “debate” would have been a laugh riot. The main topics were abortion, guns, Obamacare, Cassidy’s double dipping at the expense of taxpayers and Landrieu’s weak support of the hated black President.
It was difficult to listen to what Cassidy was saying, because he is so strange-looking, and when he forces a smile, he looks like something out of a vampire movie. Even though Mary Landrieu is a pretty conservative Democrat, I couldn’t help liking her when I noticed she had a hard time not laughing out loud when Cassidy was talking.
The gloves came off during the testy final U.S. Senate debate Monday night between Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. Controversies dominated the discussion, including assertions that Cassidyfalsified time sheets and Landrieu used taxpayer money to take charter airplane flights to campaign events.
Landrieu worked her main allegation, that Cassidy billed Louisiana State University for work he didn’t perform, into answers throughout the debate. She said it’s an issue that should follow him beyond Saturday’s election.
“If he wins, he will be fighting more than President Obama. He will be fighting subpoenas because he padded his time sheet,” Landrieu said. “He’ll talk about everyone else’s record but his own.”
Cassidy denied the allegations and defended his record. “These charges are absolutely false. The Landrieu campaign takes these charges, and they twist them anyway they can. I’m proud of the work I’ve done at LSU,” Cassidy said.
A physician, Cassidy said his work at LSU hospitals helped people, while Landrieu’s charter flights helped only her. Landrieu countered that she had taken responsibility for the flights, which she attributed to a bookkeeping error, and paid back the Treasury.
Read more at the link.
During their extended argument over abortion, I was surprised to hear Cassidy state as fact that a 20-month fetus is viable and capable of feeling pain. I was also shocked when Landrieu said she is against all abortions and thinks they are immoral, but that the government shouldn’t be making those decisions. At least she’s “pro-choice.”
After watching that debate, I thanked my lucky stars that my Senators are Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey.
That’s about all the news I could dredge up this morning. I’ll be so glad when the holidays come to an end. What stories are you following today?
Did you hear about the speech John Boehner gave on Tuesday? He was talking to the International Franchise Association. He warned owners of McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and other franchise businesses that Obama’s NLRB is out to destroy them. My goodness! If these one-percenters were forced to pay their employees something approaching a living wage, it would be a nightmare! From The Hill, Boehner warns biz: NLRB is ‘coming right at you’.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), lamenting the rise of “arrogant agencies” he said is threatening the American dream, warned the franchise industry on Tuesday that a politically motivated National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is intent on unionizing its workers.
In brief but forceful remarks to the International Franchise Association, Boehner called the NLRB a “political horse,” controlled by Republicans when they occupy the White House and by unions when a Democrat is president.
“They’re going to do everything they can to try to change the rules and try to find a way to organize your businesses,” Boehner told the group.
He cited the NLRB’s recent finding that the McDonald’s corporation has joint-employer status, along with its franchises, over the chain’s thousands of workers.
The designation, if upheld, could force corporate managers to the table in collective bargaining discussions and expose them to claims of labor rights violations from workers at chain stores and businesses.
Horrors! Because everyone knows the American Dream is about a few rich assholes getting richer on the backs of millions of minimum wage workers who can barely feed their families.
But here’s the good part. During his remarks, Boehner complained about the Republican “knuckleheads” he has to deal with as Speaker of the House. The Hill reports:
“On any given day, 16 of my members decide they’re going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing,” he said. “You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.”
As a result, Boehner claims he only has a “paper majority.”
A group of the most conservative Republicans has frequently plagued the Speaker and upended plans for votes, most recently in July when GOP leaders were forced to pull a vote on their bill responding to thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border.
In April, Boehner mocked some members of his conference for being reluctant to vote on immigration reform. “Here’s the attitude: ‘Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,’ ” he said.
Boehner added in his comments on Tuesday that “dealing with Democrats is one thing, dealing with the knuckleheads is another.”
A specialized sort of barometric collapse hit Washington, D.C., last night: a sudden knowledge that the capital’s stocks of Merlot and unfiltered cigarettes had been depleted, and Speaker John Boehner was turning surly. And the target of his abuse, yet again, were the very specimens over whom he attempts to leverage power: the House Republicans conference.
Boehner, speaking to the International Franchise Association (read: people who don’t want to pay their fast-food workers more), described the House majority over which he lords as a “paper majority,” and then went on to label a dissident faction within his conference as “knuckleheads.” ….
Newell mentions Boehner’s complaint about House Republicans who are afraid to vote for an immigration bill (see above in The Hill piece), and an earlier rant by the Speaker from 2012.
“We got some of the smartest people in the country who serve here, and some of the dumbest. We got some of the best people you’d ever meet, and some of the raunchiest. We’ve got ‘em all.”
Why don’t Democrats pull together a bunch of these Boehner quotes and use them in the Midterm campaigns, Newell asks. As for Speaker Boehner,
Why was Boehner insulting members of the House GOP less than two months ahead of an election? Because he’s a strange dude, for starters. Gets his Irish up sometimes, as Paul Ryan would say. But Boehner’s comments were also part of an elaborate pitch to the assembled franchisees to elect more House Republicans this November. He has a “paper majority” in which a few wiseacres can separate themselves from the herd and force the House leadership to pull legislation from the floor. Pity the speaker.
It’s a midterm election cycle in the sixth year of the Obama administration, so the odds are that any new members added to the speaker’s Republican roster this November will be natural fits for the Knucklehead Caucus. The problems Boehner has had (not) moving pieces of legislation these past four years won’t go away, because they’re problems with Boehner’s leadership style. He’s too tentative to threaten the knuckleheads’ committee assignments and access to party campaign cash. He’s abandoned earmarks. And his members know that, except in a handful of cases, his threats to pass legislation with Democratic votes are bluffs. The new knuckleheads will find him just as easy to roll as the previous ones have.
We’ve talked many times here about the differences between liberals and conservatives, and how hard it is for us to understand right-wingers’ thought processes. Well, did you know that liberals and conservatives even smell different?
From The Washington Post, Study: Liberals and conservatives sniff out like-minded mates by body odor.
According to a study published this month in the American Journal of Political Science, people can literally sniff out ideology — and this may explain why so many couples share political beliefs. Or, as the study’s title says, “Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues.”
Researchers led by Brown University political scientist Rose McDermott found that, to a small but significant degree, people prefer the body odor of those who vote as they do.
Previous studies showed long-term mates are more similar when it comes to politics than anything else besides religion. Researchers set out to determine whether this is a purely socially driven phenomenon, or whether biology plays a role.
To test the link between smell and party affiliation, researchers rounded up 146 people aged 18 to 40 from “a large city in the northeast United States.” They used a seven-point scale to determine where they fell on the political spectrum. They sent 21 of these —10 liberals and 11 conservatives — home with fragrance-free soap and shampoo and a gauze pad taped to their armpit. The subjects were told not to smoke, drink, use deodorant or perfume, have sex, eat fragrant foods, sleep with people or pets or linger near strong odors.
They returned the stinky armpit pads 24 hours later. Then 125 participants sniffed the stinky pads, taking a break between whiffs to cleanse their nasal palate with the aroma of peppermint oil. The sniffers, who never saw the people whose smells they were evaluating, then rated the attractiveness of each armpit sample on a 1 to 5 scale.
The subjects found the smell of those more ideologically similar to themselves more attractive than those with opposing views.
Read about the conclusions researchers drew from these results at the WaPo.
How about some archaeology news? German archaeologists have discovered a “long lost Roman fort.” dating to the 1st Century. From Science Daily:
In the course of an educational dig in Gernsheim in the Hessian Ried, archaeologists from Frankfurt University have discovered a long lost Roman fort: A troop unit made up out of approximately 500 soldiers (known as a cohort) was stationed there between 70/80 and 110/120 AD. Over the past weeks, the archaeologists found two V-shaped ditches, typical of this type of fort, and the post holes of a wooden defensive tower as well as other evidence from the time after the fort was abandoned.
An unusually large number of finds were made. This is because the Roman troops dismantled the fort and filled in the ditches when they left. In the process they disposed of a lot of waste, especially in the inner ditch. “A bonanza for us,” according to Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel from the Goethe University Institute of Archaeology. “We filled box after box with shards of fine, coarse and transport ceramics; dating them will allow us to determine when the fort was abandoned with greater accuracy than was possible before.”
Up until now, little was known about Roman Gernsheim, even though findings from the Roman era have been cropping up here since the 19th century. “Previously, the only thing that seemed certain based on the finds was that an important village-like settlement, or “vicus,” must have been located here from the 1st to the 3rd century, comparable with similar villages which have already been shown to have existed in Groß-Gerau, Dieburg or Ladenburg,” explained dig leader Dr. Thomas Maurer. He has been travelling from Frankfurt to South Hessia for years and has published his findings in a large publication about the North Hessian Ried during Roman imperial times.
“It was assumed,” continued Maurer, “that this settlement had to have been based on a fort, since it was customary for the families of the soldiers to live outside the fort in a village-like settlement.” “We really hit the jackpot with this excavation campaign,” said a delighted Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel. “The results are a milestone in reconstructing the history of the Hessian Ried during Roman times.” For almost 20 years now, von Kaenel has been studying this area with the help of his colleagues and students using surveys, digs, material processing and analyses. The results have been published in over 50 articles.
Read the rest at the link.
There was more bad new for the NFL yesterday. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer (pictured in cuffs at right) was arrested for two domestic violence incidents that happened in July. Dwyer reportedly attacked his wife and caused a bone fracture in one incident, and in the other he threw a shoe at his 18-month old son. He is also charged with preventing his Kayla from calling 911 for help. Fortunately, Kayla immediately took the child and left the state. The New York Daily News reports, Arizona Cardinals shut down running back Jonathan Dwyer over domestic violence charges.
Police said Dwyer hit his wife, causing a fracture. It was not immediately clear if the shoe hit their baby, Jonathan Jr.
Officers went to Dwyer’s home on July 21 after neighbors reported a domestic disturbance. His wife brushed cops off, but later told detectives Dwyer was there when authorities were looking for him, but hid in a bathroom until police left.
The following day, Dwyer snatched a cell phone from his wife’s hand and threw it from the second floor of their home to prevent her from calling the cops, Crump said.
Dwyer is also accused of sending his wife text messages threatening to harm himself if she reported the assaults.
The Cardinals immediately deactivated Dwyer. They really had no choice after what happened with the Vikings and Adrian Peterson.
“We became aware of these allegations this afternoon when notified by Phoenix police and are cooperating fully,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “Given the serious nature of the allegations we have taken the immediate step to deactivate Jonathan from all team activities.”
One local Boston sports station has nominated Dwyer for “biggest asshole in the NFL.” I’ve been listening to the two Boston sports stations and ESPN radio quite a bit, and I’ve been really heartened by the reactions of the male program hosts and callers. One host said yesterday that he had read a parenting book over the weekend. He has never hit his kids, but he was so shocked by Adrian Peterson’s reported behavior that he wanted to know more about good parenting. Another host said that he had been beaten as a child, and for the first time he has begun to understand that his parents abused him.
Also yesterday, attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference in Atlanta with the best friend and the father of Rasheeda Watley, a survivor of abuse by Chicago Bears player Brandon Marshall and called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to step down. WSB TV Atlanta:
At a news conference Wednesday, Allred detailed the case of Rasheeda Watley, who claimed then-boyfriend Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos had physically abused her….
Allred was joined by Watley’s father and best friend, who both said they reported the abuse to the NFL and Goodell but nothing was done.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of family violence issues has come under fire in recent weeks after a video was released showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee Janay Palmer twice inside the elevator of an Atlantic City casino in February.
Allred said the investigation process is flawed within the NFL organization and it needs to change.
“Our focus is on the process and we want the process to be fair. We want the investigation that is conducted in the future, investigations, of NFL players to afford due process to victims as well as NFL players,” Allred said. “The present process is obviously not fair.”
According to Watley’s father, no one from the NFL even talked to himself, his daughter, or any witnesses of the abuse.
I need to wrap this up, but I want to mention one more article from Bloomberg Businessweek, Roger Goodell at the 50-50 Yard Line. It’s a fairly long read that explains why Goodell’s job is not yet on the line. He has made tons of money for NFL owners, and–let’s face it–money is all they really care about.
So . . . what else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!
I’ve spent the past week or so reading escapist literature and watching old TV shows in an effort to anesthetize myself against the overload of bad news we’ve been hit with lately. Yesterday I was feeling a lot better–my escapism seemed to be working to improve my overall mood.
Then last night as I was surfing around in search of interesting reads for this morning’s post, I came across something that jumpstarted me right through Alice’s looking glass.
You’ve probably heard about it too. Lois Lerner, who used to work for the IRS and who is at the center of one of the GOP’s crazy efforts to create a scandal that will bring down President Obama used the word “crazies” in a private e-mail to a colleague who was complaining about right wing radio hosts. Here’s the text of e-mail as quoted in The Washington Post yesterday.
During the exchange, Lerner says she is traveling in Great Britain. The name of the person she is emailing with was blacked out.
Lerner: “I’m ready. Overheard some ladies talking about American today. According to them we’ve bankrupted ourselves and at through. We’ll never be able to pay off our debt and are going down the tubes. They don’t seem to see that they can’t afford to keep up their welfare state either. Strange.”
Other person: “Well, you should hear the whacko wing of the GOP. The US is through; too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down, buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end. The right wing radio shows are scary to listen to.”Lerner: “Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many assholes.”
Other person: “And I’m talking about the hosts of the shows. The callers are rabid.”
Lerner: “So we don’t need to worry about alien teRrorists. It’s our own crazies that will take us down.”
My initial response was the same as that of Mark NC at News Corpse (a site that makes fun of Fox News), So F**king What? Former IRS Official Says That GOP Crazies Are…CRAZY!
Republicans and their friends at Fox News have mastered the art of building mountains of bullshit from the lowliest troll-hills. It’s one of their favorite tactics to malign Democrats. Just grab a sentence fragment from a long speech and pretend that it is the whole of the comment from which it was extracted. Then feign outrage that such an awful remark could have been uttered.
The latest example of this rhetorical deceit was demonstrated when the GOP chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp, unscrupulously and selectively released some emails purported to be from Lois Lerner, the former IRS official who has been hounded by malevolent cretins like Rep. Darrell Issa in an attempt to fabricate ammunition to use against President Obama. Despite hundreds of wasted hours (costing millions of taxpayer dollars) engaged in hyper-partisan investigations, the Republican Inquisition has produced nothing implicating the President in any untoward activity.
The emails that Camp is now crowing about are just as meaningless as all of the other bogus “smoking guns” that these wingnuts have claimed would topple the administration. The headline that Camp has wrenched from the documents is that Lerner may have referred to certain individuals as “crazies” or “a-holes.” And, of course, this would only be an atrocity if those individuals were Republicans. Suffice to say that Camp wouldn’t give a Fig Newton if they were Democrats.
As Camp characterized this affair, Lerner was allegedly caught red-handed expressing her disgust for Republicans. And as the person at the center of the controversy over whether the IRS improperly subjected Tea Party groups to extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, Camp believes that these emails prove that she was biased. Consequently, Camp regards the emails as justification for appointing a special prosecutor and escalating the legal assault on Lerner and, ultimately, the White House.
There’s just one problem. The emails don’t don’t say what Camp alleges they say. And even if they did it wouldn’t mean anything. Most people in government have personal opinions and allegiances. There isn’t anything wrong with that, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the fair execution of their duties. And the evidence shows that Lerner’s department scrutinized applications of all political persuasions. The only organization that was denied tax-exempt status during the time in question was a liberal group.
Please read the rest at the link.
So this humorous site agrees with me, but more mainstream sites are seemingly going along with the Camp’s notion that this e-mail is evidence of a major scandal. For example, Dave Wiegel characterized it as a “bombshell,” although he does point out that Lerner’s anonymous “e-mail partner” was talking about talk radio hosts, not Republicans in general. Huffington Post reported that Lerner had made “two disparaging remarks about members of the GOP.” Both HuffPo and Politico write that in one e-mail Lerner referred to Republicans as “a–holes,” but they sidestep the fact the context was a discussion of right wing talk show hosts.
As we approach the midterm elections, I can’t help but feel that most of the mainstream media is cheering for a Republican takeover. Am I the crazy one?
Here’s another example from self-described libertarian Nate Silver, Democrats Are Way More Obsessed With Impeachment Than Republicans.
House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that Republicans have no plans to impeach President Obama, and that all the impeachment talk was driven by Democrats hoping to stir up their base.
Boehner’s statement isn’t literally true: There have been mentions of impeachment around the edges of the GOP and by some Republican members of Congress. But on the whole, Democrats are spending a lot more time talking about impeachment than Republicans.
Consider, for example, the Sunlight Foundation’s Capitol Words database, which tracks words spoken in the House and Senate. So far in July, there have been 10 mentions of the term “impeachment” in Congress and four others of the term “impeach.” Eleven of the 14 mentions have been made by Democratic rather than Republican members of Congress, however.
Impeachment chatter has also become common on cable news. On Fox News this month, Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, called for Obama’s impeachment, for instance. But for every mention of impeachment on Fox News in July, there have been five on liberal-leaning MSNBC.
OK, so that’s this month. And this proves what? Democrats are throwing around the word “impeachment” in hopes of calling attention to what Republicans have been saying for years! So f$%king what?!
Again, I must resort to News Corpse for a sensible interpretation of the impeachment talk, CONSPIRACY: President Obama Is Trying To Impeach Himself.
Ever since the first inauguration of President Obama, right-wingers have been trying to undo the people’s decision to make him America’s chief executive. They declared that their top legislative objective was to make Obama a one-term president. In pursuit of that goal they have blocked most of his policy initiatives, judges, and government reforms. At the same time they have been hyper investigatory on everything from Fast and Furious, to the IRS, to ObamaCare, to his birthplace. All of this was squarely aimed at crippling or revoking his presidency.
This year Obama’s critics came out of the impeachment closet and began openly advocating for that legal nuclear option despite not having any legal basis for it. While many Tea-Publican whack jobs were earlier to the gate, Sarah Palin burst onto the scene a couple weeks ago with her own demand that Congress do their duty and trump up some phony articles of impeachment. It got so absurdly intense that Obama addressed it himself with fitting mockery.
So of course the next shoe to drop in this melodrama is that, along with everything else in the world, Obama is to blame for this too. In fact, according to some in the rightist crackpot community, it was all part of his nefarious plot to embarrass the GOP. Here is what Texas Republican Steve Stockman had to say about it when interviewed by the ultra-fringe rightists at WorldNetDaily:
“President Obama is begging to be impeached. […] He wants us to impeach him now, before the midterm election because his senior advisers believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat. Evidently Obama believes impeachment could motivate the Democratic Party base to come out and vote.”
There you have it. The evil genius in the White House orchestrated the whole Obama-hate campaign from its earliest days in 2008 just so that he would be able to use impeachment, which is every president’s dream, as an election strategy six years into his presidency.
Earth to Nate Silver and the rest of the mainstream media: Steve Stockman, although insane, is an actual member of the House of Representatives, not some fringe character with no influence. And he has plenty of company in the House and even in the Senate (Ted Cruz anyone?). These people are crazy and they are in positions of awesome power.
Here’s one more example of mainstream acceptance of GOP insanity before I end this post and run screaming into the street while pulling my hair out in handfuls. From John Dickerson of Slate (via CBS News), Why the GOP’s class of 2016 hopefuls may be the best in generations.
What if they held a presidential campaign and a think tank broke out? House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who is considering running for president, offered his thoughts on poverty last week. Sen. Marco Rubio has been giving regular policy speeches on poverty, college loans, and helping the middle class. Former senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is promoting a book of policy proposals on education, family, and revitalizing American manufacturing. Sen. Rand Paul is offering ideas on criminal justice and will give a big foreign policy speech in the fall. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has given speeches on health care and education aimed at a national audience. His staff recently sent an email titled “policy leader” that linked to a Time piece about how he is preparing to be the candidate of ideas in 2016.
What the f&cking f&ck? Rich Santorum? Bobby Jindal? Marco Rubio? Paul motherf&&cking Ryan?! These are “candidates of ideas?” Dickerson continues,
Who isn’t trying to be the ideas candidate in the 2016 campaign? Texas Gov. Rick Perry is working to overcome his 2012 debate aphasia, so he’s trying to show some policy chops. Though former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush holds controversial ideas on Common Core education standards and immigration, those close to him say he won’t run unless he can promote those ideas with gusto.
It isn’t usually this policy-thick in the GOP presidential field. In primaries, there is sometimes one conservative candidate who tries to position himself through the creativity of his proposals, but mostly candidates engage in displays of strength on questions of orthodoxy–how much they want to cut taxes, shrink regulation, and lock up the borders. Now the Republican candidates are not only seeking to distinguish themselves from each other with the quality and originality of their ideas, but they are making the case that unless the party promotes new ideas, it will not prevail.
The class of candidates for 2016 has the potential to be the most robust in almost 40 years–perhaps in modern Republican history. It depends on who finally decides to run, of course, but six governors and four senators are thinking seriously about it.
I’m sorry. Dickerson thinks these morons are competing with each other on “quality and originality of…ideas?” Am I nuts? Am I hallucinating this crap? Surely Dickerson can’t really believe this sh#t.
Here’s a little sanity from Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly, Can the Big Brains of the GOP Survive the Primaries? and Damon Linker of The Week, Why GOP reformers are bound to fail. But even Kilgore seems to believe that Republicans will take over the Senate. From Talking Points Memo:
At least Kilgore thinks that catering to the base could hurt Republicans in the 2016 presidential election.
Why? Why would anyone vote for these insane right-wingers? And why is the media rooting for them? I just don’t get it. Am I crazy or what?
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.
I’m mostly going to stick with lightweight stories today, but I need to start out with some sad news.
Tommy Ramone, the last surviving member of the original Ramones, has died. He was either 62 or 65, depending on which source you read. From Variety: Tommy Ramone, Founding Member of Influential Punk Band, Dies at 62.
Born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest, Hungary, and known professionally as Tom or T. Erdelyi, Ramone played on the first three epoch-making Ramones albums, “Ramones” (1976), “Leave Home” (1977) and “Rocket to Russia” (1977). He also co-produced the latter two albums with Tony Bongiovi and Ed Stasium, respectively. He appeared on and co-produced the 1979 live Ramones opus “It’s Alive.” ….
One of the first high-profile releases to emerge from New York’s punk underground of the mid-‘70s, “Ramones” – reportedly recorded in six days on a budget of $6,400 – brought a pared-down, hyperactive style to the stuffy rock scene of the day. Tommy’s driving, high-energy drum work was the turbine that powered the leather-clad foursome’s loud, antic sound….
The Ramones finally disbanded in 1996 after a show at the Palace in Hollywood. Joey Ramone died of lymphoma in 2001; Dee Dee succumbed to a drug overdose in 2002; and Johnny expired from prostate cancer in 2004.
A personal remembrance by Guardian music blogger Michael Hann: RIP Tommy Ramone: your band captured the sound in my head.
He played drums on just three Ramones studio albums. The ones everyone, but everyone, knows are the three best: Ramones, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia. He’s on the first live album, too, It’s Alive, and between those four records you get the complete summation of why the Ramones mattered, and why they continue to matter. Over the 42 tracks on the three studio albums, lasting barely an hour and half, rock’n’roll is reduced to its undiluted essence: a count-in, a riff, a verse, a chorus. Very occasionally there’s a middle eight. But anything unnecessary – anything that distracts from the rush of excitement – is excised. The aim of a Ramones song is not to make you admire the musicianship or the arrangement. It’s to take you from a standing start to fever pitch in 120 seconds or less. And at the back of it all, playing the unfussiest drum patterns you’ll ever hear – he made AC/DC’s Phil Rudd sound like Keith Moon – was Tommy Ramone.
He wasn’t meant to be the drummer. He was meant to be the manager. Joey was the drummer. “What happened was, they just kept playing faster and faster, and I couldn’t keep up on the drums,” Joey remembered in Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me. “Tommy Ramone, who was managing us, finally had to sit down behind the drums, because nobody else wanted to,” Dee Dee told McNeil and McCain….
…for me (and for others, not lots of others, but enough of us) the Ramones were the best group rock’n’roll ever produced. Not the most inventive, or the most versatile, or the most skilful, or the most emotionally resonant, or the most lyrical – but the best, because every time I put on one of the Ramones’ best records, I was reminded of how I felt the first time I heard it. And the first time I heard it, I felt: this is the sound I’ve been hearing in my head and here it is on 12 inches of black vinyl; this is what I have been waiting for since the first single I ever bought. The Ramones were the sound of juvenile excitement, expressed with such breathtaking singlemindedness that nothing could kill the excitement.
And they were never as exciting without Tommy. Partly that was because those first three albums were such perfect statements of intent that there was very little left for the Ramones to say, and so each new album became another turn around the circuit rather than a manifesto.
Read more at the link.
In Other News . . .
CNN reports: HBO gives ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘True Detective’ updates.
HBO execs say they have nothing to worry about with “Game of Thrones” — and not just because it’s the most-nominated program at the Emmys this year.
The fantasy series is based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, and as “Game of Thrones” approaches its fifth season, fans are concerned it’ll soon run out of source material.
But on Thursday, HBO CEO Richard Plepler and network Programming President Michael Lombardo assured reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour that “Game of Thrones” will get its fully story.
“George is an integral part of the creative team, so next season every move is being choreographed very closely with him,” Lombardo said. “Certainly after next year we’ll have to figure it out with George, but we’re not concerned about it.”
And for True Detective fans:
On Thursday, the freshman anthology series [True Detective] earned 12 Emmy nods, including nominations for best drama, best writing and two best actor nods for Season 1 stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
The show’s structure presents a new cast of characters and story each season, and while Lombardo didn’t have any casting news on Thursday he did drop a major tease for Season 2.
“The two scripts we have are — I hate to jinx it — but they are more exciting than the first season,” he promised.
Variety reports that Colin Farrell is “in talks for True Detective, Season 2.” I’m not a big Farrell fan, but I guess I’ll have to give him a chance. Here’s a bit more on Season 2 from The Wrap: What We Know So Far.
Here’s a weird Game of Thrones tribute from Buzzfeed, A Couple Have Recreated “Game Of Thrones” With Their Pugs And It’s Magnificent: “The Pugs of Westeros” sees canine trio Roxy, Blue and Bono playing doggy versions of the show’s main characters.” Here a couple of the photos of the couple’s dogs in costume.
The pugs don’t look very happy, but I guess pugs seldom do. See more photos at the link.
Here’s an even more bizarre story that caught my eye at ABC News: A Woman Found Out a Serial Killer Once Lived in Her Home From Watching TV.
A Missouri woman has finally been able to break her rental lease after learning that her home was used as a torture chamber by a suspected serial killer over a decade ago.
Maury Travis hanged himself while he was being held in jail in 2002 but police now believe that he killed between 12 and 20 women, many of whom died in the basement of his Ferguson, Missouri, home.
Catrina McGhaw had no idea about the home’s sinister past, however, when she signed a lease in March, she told St. Louis station KMOV-TV.
She says her landlord – Sandra Travis, the suspected killer’s mother – made no mention of the case or the bodies that her son allegedly kept in the basement before he was arrested in 2002.
It was only when a friend called her and told her to watch a documentary on serial killers that she realized that the home was connected to Travis’ case, McGhaw told KMOV.
Travis was never officially charged with the crimes, because he committed suicide.
What would a Saturday post be without a couple of “crazy Republican” stories? Make sure you’re sitting down and don’t have any liquids in your mouth for this one from TPM: Woman Finds Stack Of Anti-Hillary ‘Lewinsky’ Bumper Stickers At GOP Office.
Donoghue talked to TPM hours after a spokesperson for Republican Party of Virginia denied the state party had anything to do with the anti-Hillary bumper stickers. The spokesperson told the Washington Post that the stickers were “an amateur effort” and the state party’s strategy “does not involve that.”
Donoghue says she found the sticker in the GOP office when she gave a ride to a man was out campaigning and looked ill. He told her he was “diabetic and needed insulin,” so she drove him back to Republican headquarters.
It was there in the office, Donoghue said, where she found the Lewinsky bumper stickers.
“The man wanted to repay me for driving him, so I just took one of the stickers as a trophy,” she said. “There was a whole stack of them there.”
Here’s the sticker:
That should really attract women voters, dontcha think?
Brian Beutler at The New Republic: John Boehner’s Lawsuit Against Obama Proves Obama Isn’t Lawless.
This is how Republicans destroy their own narrative of the lawless Obama presidency: with a faceplant.
When House Speaker John Boehner officially announced that he planned to sue President Obama, he was absolutely clear about one thing. He didn’t know what the bill of particulars would be, or really anything other than that he would take Obama to court. But he knew that the scope of Obama’s lawlessness was widespread enough that it merited significant legal action. This wasn’t a picayune disagreement with the executive, but a pattern of behavior that had upset the balance of Constitutional power at the expense of Congress….
But on Thursday evening, Boehner laid down his cards. All but one were blank. It turns out Obama’s vast and indisputable misconduct is limited to one act of enforcement discretion: his decision to delay implementation of an Affordable Care Act’s requirement (one Republicans despise) that businesses with more than 50 employees provide their workers health insurance or pay a penalty.
“Today we’re releasing a draft resolution that will authorize the House to file suit over the way President Obama unilaterally changed the employer mandate,” Boehner said in a statement. “In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it. That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”
It’s actually pretty likely that the provision in question will go into effect before Boehner’s legal challenge is resolved one way or another. At the end of the day, by his own reckoning, Boehner may ultimately have zero grounds upon which to sue the president, whose brazen lawlessness Republicans treat as self-evident.
Sigh . . .
I’ll end with the latest FIFA Cup news from NDTV Sports:
Bogota: With a reputation for arrogance and illusions of European-styled grandeur, Argentines have long been the objects of scorn and the butt of jokes across Latin America
But for at least 90 minutes on Sunday, when Argentina takes on Germany in the World Cup final, most Latin Americans will put aside their irritation with their proud neighbors as they look to Lionel Messi and his teammates to salvage what’s left of the region’s soccer pride. (Related: Argentina fined for flouting FIFA rules ahead of final)
A defeat for Argentina would be historic: Never has a European team been crowned champion on this side of the Atlantic.
But in the wake of Germany’s 7-1 thrashing of host Brazil even the most-devoted believers in the spontaneous and stylish Latin American brand of soccer are wondering if the region is outmatched. (Rio braces for Argentina fan frenzy)
Santo Andre, Brazil: Germany have a secret plan to shut Argentina superstar Lionel Messi out of Sunday’s World Cup final at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana Stadium.
Assistant coach Hansi Flick said Thursday there is a “special plan” to cope with the four-time Ballon d’Or winner but refused to give details. (Argentina vs Germany: A ‘battle’ of two popes?)
Messi had a relatively quiet match against the Netherlands as Wednesday’s semi-final was settled by penalties.
The 27-year-old was often greeted by two Oranje shirts in Sao Paulo and the Germans are also getting organized. (Five warnings for rampaging Germany)
“We saw how the Dutch managed to keep Messi out, but we too have a special plan for him — although I won’t give that away,” said Flick.
We’ll find out who the best team is tomorrow.
Now, what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!
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.
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.
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.
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?
And a glance at the news headlines today reveals that everything old is new again. Remember 14-year-old Cherise Morales, who committed suicide after being raped by her teacher Stacy Dean Rambold? And G. Todd Baugh, the judge who blamed Cherise for the rape and sentenced the Rambold to only 31 days in jail and probation?
Well that decision *may* be overturned, but now we have another judge in Texas who sounds like a clone of Baugh–except she’s a woman! From the Dallas News: Judge says sexually assaulted 14-year-old ‘wasn’t the victim she claimed to be’.
A man sentenced to five years probation by a Dallas County judge after admitting he raped a 14-year-old girl won’t have to follow many of the restrictions typically given to sex offenders.
And the judge who issued the light sentence said Thursday that she did so in part because the girl wasn’t a virgin and “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be.”
State District Judge Jeanine Howard, who gave 20-year-old Sir Young deferred probation last week, also altered Young’s probation requirements. As a result, Young does not have to stay away from children, attend sex offender treatment, undergo a sex offender evaluation or refrain from watching pornography.
Wait a minute. Let me check my calendar. Is this really 2014?
District Attorney Craig Watkins said Thursday that his prosecutors would “always fight for our most vulnerable victims” like the one in this case. It is rare for prosecutors to critique a judge’s actions, but Watkins said he was “alarmed” by Howard’s decision.
“This young lady was 14 at the time she was sexually assaulted at school, and we cannot send the wrong message to rape victims who have the courage to seek justice,” Watkins said. “I am disappointed the judge would choose to give the defendant probation after he admitted guilt, but even more alarmed the judge failed to impose standard sex offender conditions of probation designed to protect society.”
Make sure you’re sitting down before you read this next bit. Judge Howard is a Democrat. She’s going to withdraw from the case now so she can better explain herself, but she doesn’t have to worry about being reelected because she’s running unopposed.
Howard said she made her decision for several reasons, including: The girl had texted Young asking him to spend time with her; the girl had agreed to have sex with him but just didn’t want to at school; medical records show the girl had three sexual partners and had given birth to a baby; and Young was barely 18 at the time.
“She wasn’t the victim she claimed to be,” Howard said. “He is not your typical sex offender.”
The girl’s mother said Friday morning that her daughter has never been pregnant and she was “livid” over the judge’s comments.
The victim, who is now 17, told The News on Thursday night that she feels it would have been better if she had never come forward about the 2011 assault. She and Young testified last week at his trial that she had told Young “stop” and “no” numerous times before and during the attack at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where both were students.
“I did what I was supposed to do. I went to the law about this situation,” she said. The judge’s probation sentence and the removal of the restrictions — “that says everything I went through was for nothing.”
Unbelievable! We’ll have to watch what happens with this case. But when will judges learn that 14-year-old girls are not able to consent to sex in the first place?
“Don’t Run for President, Hillary”
Remember when MSNBC’s Krystal Ball told Hillary Clinton she shouldn’t run for President? Ball said that Elizabeth Warren, who is approximately the same age as Hillary and has zero experience and would be unlikely to win should run instead because Hillary was once on the board of Walmart … or something? Of course Ball’s nonsensical “advice” was ignored by most rational Democrats.
Now comes Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast to lecture Hillary some more: Don’t Run for President, Hillary. Become a ‘Post-President’ Instead. Except Brown seems not to care at all about Hillary’s positions on issues or her qualifications. She simply thinks Hillary should do the easiest thing and avoid the “stress” of a campaign and a tough job like the presidency. Brown apparently has projected her own values onto Hillary, assuming that she (Clinton) is as narcissistic and self-involved as Tina Brown is. Never mind that Hillary has spent most of her life focusing on public service and fighting for causes like women’s rights.
I know as much as anyone how much her most fervent supporters want Hillary Clinton to run for president. On the opening night of the Women in the World Summit the mere mention of the possibility had the audience on their feet. The fan base is there, and constituencies beyond it.
Because American women want a woman in the White House in their lifetimes, and Hillary has the experince, strength, and passion to do the job.
But should she do it? Would the bravest and best decision be for her to skip it? In the 2008 campaign the chronic negativity of the ladies and gentlemen of the press was relentless, and the gouging of Hillary was wholly unrelated to either her record or her behavior. It was just that her story had gotten old. It required new angles, or, heaven forbid, new facts, to make it interesting—whereas Barack Obama was a story that wrote itself.
The first black president was a hotter plot line than the first woman president. Bad luck for Hillary. Obama stole her exceptionalism, leaving the press only with the hair, the alleged cackling laugh, and the over-familiar back-story, which meant dogging Bill around, hoping he’d lose it once in a while. (He obliged.)
I joined the Hillary bus for a Newsweek story in 2008 I was fascinated how little attention in their copy the traveling reporters actually paid to anything she said when she got out. They were too busy filing recaps of blogs by commentators who weren’t there. Suddenly there would be media uproar about some killer soundbite from Hillary that someone had gotten traction for that in context wasn’t controversial at all. Remember that shit-storm when she said MLK’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act?
In other words, the media is full of assholes and even though Hillary could probably handle it, why bother? She should just be a “post-president” in the mode of Jimmy Carter and bask in the reflected limelight of her former-president husband.
Even the Wall Street Journal’s wingnut comumnist James Taranto seems to think Brown’s column is a little strange.
Does Brown disagree with Mrs. Clinton on matters of policy or doubt she would be a good president? One assumes the answer is no, though the column doesn’t say. Nor does Brown offer a more coldly political rationale–say, that Mrs. Clinton would be unlikely to win, or that a different candidate would better enhance the long-term fortunes of the Democratic Party.
Brown sums up her argument as follows: “She should forget it. If she wins, it’s too much stress for too little return.” By “return,” Brown means nothing more than “personal benefit.” By forgoing a campaign, Brown writes, Mrs. Clinton “can have her glory-filled post-presidency now, without actually having to deal with the miseries of the office itself.” ….
Brown….credits Mrs. Clinton with standing for something, namely “her global mission to promote women’s rights, education, and political participation.” She asks if skipping the presidential candidacy would be “the bravest and best decision,” though she doesn’t say a word about why it would be brave.
Her central argument, however, is that running for and serving as president would entail too much suffering, in large part because people, particularly in the media, would not respond to Mrs. Clinton fairly…
Taranto thinks he may have figured out Brown’s real motivation: she’s floating a trial balloon for Hillary, because maybe Hillary has doubts about running and wants to see how her supporters react to Brown’s arguments.
No, Mr. Taranto, that’s not it. Brown is just the latest example of women being women’s worst enemies–like when Gloria Steinem supported Barack Obama over Hillary in 2008. And, by the way, could you please stop referring to Hillary as “Mrs. Clinton?” She is a former Senator and Secretary of State for god’s sake!
And then there’s the GOP’s obsession with Benghazi!!–which is of course the stick they hope to beat Hillary Clinton with in 2016. From U.S. News and World Report: Boehner says he intends to appoint select House committee to investigate Benghazi.
Boehner said U.S. officials misled the American people after the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. He said emails released this week showed the White House has withheld documents from congressional investigators and asked, “What else about Benghazi is the Obama administration still hiding from the American people?”
“Americans learned this week that the Obama administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the people’s House,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen.”
Because Darrel Issa hasn’t already investigated enough? If only the House had spent half this much time investigating 9/11, we might know why the Bush administration ignored all those warnings.
Here’s Brian Beutler at The New Republic: The GOP’s Benghazi Obsession Returns With a Vengeance. Pay Attention, Hillary.
It is by sheer coincidence that just as Obamacare recedes as an issue, House GOP leaders have announced their intent to create a Select Committee on Benghazi—something they’ve long resisted—and that Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, perhaps overcome by zeal to maintain control over the issue, subpoenas Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about the 2012 attack—despite the fact that Kerry was a senator at the time, and hasn’t been invited to testify, and is currently visiting Sudan.
The pretext for all this is the release of an email from White House adviser Ben Rhodes, which includes as a bullet point the goal that in speaking about the attack, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice should “reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”
Slate’s Dave Weigel did a great job earlier this week of placing the email in chronological context, to discredit the argument that the email represents evidence of a “coverup.” And while it might appear a bit unseemly for administration officials to be concerning themselves with the president’s image and the administration’s competence in the midst a crisis … this is actually completely uncontroversial. Would John Boehner and Darrell Issa have preferred it if Susan Rice went on TV that week and granted that the administration was in complete disarray? Or had refused to take a position on the administration’s handling of the situation?
Beutler goes on to explain that even though all of the Republicans’ claims on Benghazi have been debunked, he is *concerned* because they are still going to use it to attack Hillary.
if Republicans are serious about working their base into a frenzy over Benghazi, it’d probably behoove liberals to mix a bit more clarity about the events in with the mockery. What’s really happening is pretty straightforward. Of all the Americans who’ve died in dangerous parts of the world over the last decade, Republicans have concerned themselves with Benghazi’s four victims, because they think there’s political utility in fostering suspicion that the administration was more concerned with the coverup than the attack itself.
Something tells me Beutler is another one of those “Please don’t run, Hillary” folks.
What do you think? Please let me know in the comments and, as always, post your links on any topic!