Lazy Saturday Reads: Two Republican Candidates in Trouble

 Rick Perry readsGood Afternoon!!

Poor Rick Perry. He just can’t seem to catch a break. First there was his indictment on two felony charges. Then he had to face the further indignity that being indicted on felony charges means he can no longer swagger around with a concealed weapon on his person. According to the Washington Times,

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s indictment on felony corruption charges means he can no longer carry a concealed weapon under state law.

Federal law also prohibits him from being able to buy more guns or ammunition, as long as the indictment is pending, Reuters reported.

I wonder if he knows that? Because when he was in New Hampshire last week, he told voter he didn’t understand the charges against him. From ABC News last Friday, Aug. 22:

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Texas Gov. Rick Perry returned to New Hampshire Friday for the first time since 2012, as he tries to rehab his political image after a failed presidential bid.

Speaking to a group of business leaders here, Perry tried to focus on substance, talking about issues like economic development and the border crisis, but his recent indictment on two felony charges was hard to ignore.

Asked about his indictment during a question-and-answer session with business leaders, Perry was a little unclear when explaining what felony charges were issued against him.

“I’ve been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here,” Perry said of the grand jury that indicted him.

A grand jury indicted Perry last week on two felony counts – abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official – over a 2013 veto threat.

Texas Governor Perry

At The Wire, Arit John has a funny post in which he describes Perry’s confusion as just one step in the grief process over the indictment, Rick Perry Enters the Final Stage of Indictment Grief: Confusion.

Maybe Rick Perry should have read up on his indictment charges before he started using them as a campaign talking point. During a speech last week, the Texas governor said he was being indicted for bribery, which isn’t actually true.

“I’ve been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here,” he said,according to the Houston Chronicle. But Perry is actually being indicted for abuse of power and coercing a public official, after he threatened to veto District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s budget if she refused to resign after her drunk driving conviction.

This is another oops moment for Perry, but it also signaled his transition into the 5th and, likely for him, final stage of indictment related grief: confusion. After grinning mugshot denial, angry ads “setting the record straight,” bargaining over who should pay the lawyers and depression over a loss of Second Amendment privileges, all that’s left for Perry is to be slightly unsure of what, exactly, people are accusing him of doing.

Read the details at the link.

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Then there are the embarrassing stories about how Perry hasn’t paid the National Guard troops that he sent to guard the Texas-Mexico border. From Gawker:

When Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent National Guard soldiers to the Mexico border to much fanfare earlier this summer, he couldn’t say how long they’d be there. It turns out he also couldn’t pay them: At least 50 soldiers haven’t seen a paycheck and are getting sustenance and vehicle fuel from a local food bank.

Via KGBT News, the sudden call-up took those weekend warriors away from their day jobs and deposited them in the Rio Grande valley, but the service hasn’t covered their losses yet….

Perry—who’s busy being indicted for criminal abuse of power—and the National Guard didn’t respond to reporter queries earlier this week, but the pay lag could be related to the governor’s refusal to fund the mobilization he ordered, and his insistence that the federal government cover it. (In the meantime, Perry was supposedly attempting to finance the deployment “by diverting $38 million in public safety funds earmarked for emergency radio infrastructure,” the L.A. Times has reported.)

Yesterday afternoon, the Austin Statement reported that unnamed “National Guard officials” were claiming the stories about hungry troops were exaggerated, but it sounds like they may be just trying to clean up Perry’s mess.

The Guard said it had identified 50 service members who, because of their early August start date, weren’t going to be paid until Sept. 5.

None of those 50 troops have notified leaders that they had used the food bank, officials said.

According to the Guard, troops receive one meal while on duty, plus a $32 per diem food reimbursement that is included in their paychecks.

According to Omar Ramirez, Food Bank RGV’s manager of communications and advocacy, the food bank made extra preparations after being contacted by someone from the Texas National Guard Support Foundation, but that he wasn’t aware of any troops being served.

“Maybe they come in and they just don’t tell us they’re National Guard,” he said.

OK, but if the $32 dollars is included in their paychecks, then that means the troops have to front the money for two meals a day until Sept. 5, right? Read the rest at the link.

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Finally, yesterday Perry learned that his latest anti-abortion bill–the one that Wendy Davis filibustered–has been struck down by a federal judge. From AP:

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel sided with clinics that sued over one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2013. The ruling stops new restrictions that would have left seven abortion facilities in Texas come Monday. There are currently 19 abortion providers in the state, according to groups challenging the law.

“The overall effect of the provisions is to create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion,” Yeakel wrote in his 21-page ruling.

The trial in Texas was the latest battle over tough new abortion restrictions sweeping across the U.S.

The law would have required clinics “to meet the building, equipment and staffing standards of hospital-style surgery centers,” according to The New York Times.

Adopted as part of a sweeping anti-abortion measure last year, the rule would have forced the closing of more than a dozen of Texas’ remaining abortion clinics because they were unable to afford to renovate or to open new facilities that met the standards for such things as hallway width, ceiling height, advanced ventilation equipment, staffing and even parking spaces.

The closings would have left Texas, the second-biggest state by population and by size, with seven or eight abortion clinics, all in major cities like Houston and Dallas. Women in El Paso in West Texas and in the Rio Grande Valley in the south would have lived more than 150 miles — a distance ruled constitutional by a federal appeals court — from the closest clinic in the state, in San Antonio.

Fortunately for Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, her opponent Greg Abbott plans to appeal the decision.

Mitch McDonnell at Morris' Deli in Louisville, KY

Mitch McDonnell at Morris’ Deli in Louisville, KY

Mitch McConnell is also experiencing some difficulties in his Senate reelection campaign in Kentucky. He has been in a close race with Democratic challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes–they’ve been running neck-and-neck for a long time now. And recently McConnell has had a couple of setbacks. First there was the secretly recorded audiotape released by The Undercurrent Youtube channel, of McConnell’s remarks at a “meeting for millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers,” in which he promised to continue blocking Obama proposals and emphasized his opposition to raising the minimum wage. The contents of the tape were first reported in The Nation.

Last week, in an interview with Politico, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlined his plan to shut down President Obama’s legislative agenda by placing riders on appropriations bills. Should Republicans take control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, McConnell intends to pass spending bills that “have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.”

What McConnell didn’t tell Politico was that two months ago, he made the same promise to a secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers. The Nation and The Undercurrent obtained an audio recording of McConnell’s remarks to the gathering, called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society.” In the question-and-answer period following his June 15 session titled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights,” McConnell says:

“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board [inaudible]. All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.”

Mitch McConnell gun

The article notes that the McConnell campaign has received $41,800 from Koch Industries in addition to outside groups who get funding from the Kochs.

“And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage [inaudible]—cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment—that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh. These people believe in all the wrong things.”

In late April, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, successfully filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a widely popular measure that would increase wages for at least 16.5 million Americans. Earlier in the year, McConnell also led a filibuster of a three-month extension of unemployment insurance to some 1.7 million Americans. At one point in the negotiations, he offered a deal to extend unemployment only if Democrats agreed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even though the ACA does not add to the federal deficit.

More from The New York Times:

The [Undercurrent] channel released audio of three other Republicans in tough Senate races — Representative Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado and Joni Ernst, a state senator in Iowa — all of whom praised Charles G. and David H. Koch and the millions of dollars they have provided to help Republican candidates….

Republicans said the recordings were insignificant. Josh Holmes, a senior McConnell campaign aide, said the senator was in no way suggesting a strategy to shut down the government unless Mr. Obama capitulates.

Nonetheless, the audio recordings are likely to become fodder for the campaigns in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa and Kentucky. Democrats, most notably Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, have tried to demonize contributions by the Koch brothers as corruptive to the political system.

In Arkansas, especially, the audio could touch a nerve. Mr. Cotton, a freshman House member, skipped a popular political event in his state, the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival, to attend the Koch brothers’ meeting in California. According to the audio, he was repaid with praise for his willingness to hew to the most conservative line, even if it meant voting against legislation popular in his state.

o-MITCH-MCCONNELL-JESSE-BENTON-facebook

Then yesterday, McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton was forced to resign because of a scandal involving his work for the Ron Paul campaign in Iowa in 2012. From CBS News:

Benton’s resignation, effective Saturday, comes barely two months before Kentucky voters choose between McConnell, a five-term incumbent and the top-ranking Senate Republican, and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

In Iowa this week, former state Sen. Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his switch of support from one Republican presidential candidate to another before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. He received thousands of dollars in “under the table payments” before switching loyalties from candidate Michele Bachmann, whose Iowa campaign he headed, to candidate Ron Paul, then lied to federal investigators about the money, the Justice Department said.

Prosecutors refused to say which campaign paid Sorenson. A representative for Bachmann didn’t immediately return voice and email messages seeking comment Friday. A phone message for Paul also wasn’t immediately returned.

Benton, a tea party insider, worked as a top aide to Paul. On Friday he said that he has been the target of “inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors” about his role in past campaigns that are “politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue.”

Benton had been hired to help McConnell appeal to Tea Party extremists in Kentucky. Is it possible McConnell misjudged his constituents? I sincerely hope so.

So I’ve ended up focusing this post on just two struggling Republicans–but there are plenty of others I could write about. I don’t think we should give up on Democrats holding the Senate yet. I know there is plenty of other news, but I thought I’d shift the focus to electoral politics today. What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Labor Day weekend!!

 

 


Friday Reads: Rent seeking by Billionaire Lobbyists wrecks the World

jack21

Good Morning!

Those of you that have known me for some time know that I am a big fan of our nation’s National Parks. I spent a good deal of my childhood travelling all over the country with the major destinations being our National Parks. This is because my mother was taken on camping trips to our new National Park System when she was a girl. I followed in that traditional and took my oldest daughter and youngest–mostly with my parents but sometimes with my husband in tow if he would actually leave work–and headed off to many in the west.

Yellowstone, Dinosaur National Monument and then the Anasazi Indian sites were my favorites.  It was really dismaying for me to read this today because Chaco Canyon rates high in my all time favorite places.  The evil extraction businesses wants to frack in our National Parks and Chaco Canyon is on the list.  This is the kind of legislation the Koch Brothers love because they can wreck our national parks and earn billions by paying the U.S. government next to nothing to do so.  What they pay to Republicans in Congress is a completely different matter.

Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Four Corners region of the U.S., preserves one of the most important pre-Columbian historical areas in the country. The site hosts the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest and the area is considered sacred ancestral homelands by the Hopi and Pueblo people.

Both Chaco Canyon National Park and Otero Mesa in New Mexico, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, are being targeted for exploratory research for oil and gas extraction.

  • Click here to learn more about fracking.

  • Read Gloria Flora’s article ”Fracking the Commons.”

  • Read an essay on fighting oil and gas development in National Forests.

  • Take our partner’s call to action to ban fracking on federal lands.

This really rates up there with some of the absolute worst policy I’ve ever heard about.  Considering that a lot of this energy is being sold to places in China and India, there is really no reason to rape our public lands for the benefit of a few folks.images (29)

The Koch Brothers are intent on keeping this country addicted to fossil fuel. They obviously want to frack us into some post apocalyptic hell realm while they continue to live off their daddy’s wealth.  The Koch Brothers are pushing legislation all over the south to get rid of tax incentives for solar power conversion and to put taxes on it to make it more expensive.

As U.S. Solar electric capacity has expanded explosively – 418% – from  2326 megawatts in 2010 to 12,057 MW in February 2014, an increase of 9,731 MW reports the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Solar has moved rapidly from a niche market to 1.13% of total U.S. capacity.  To stop the rapid growth of solar, which is threatening to break Americans from the death grip of fossil fuels, the Koch Brothers are demanding to tax the sun.

U.S installed solar capacity shot up over 400% in the last 4 years.

The rapid decline in the cost of solar panels and state and federal incentives have spurred investment in solar power at all scales from individuals to small businesses to large utilities. Net metering, which allows users to reverse their power meter when they produce more power than they consume, has incentivized rooftop solar. Moreover, states from Hawaii to South Carolina have developed programs to make the installation costs affordable to average consumers. Forbes reported in July 2013 on how  Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii’s Democrats made solar accessible to renters. This is exactly the kind of legislation I advocated a decade earlier when I ran for a position on the board of Kauai’s electric power co-op. It’s great to see seeds planted finally coming up and bearing fruit.

Senate Bill 1087, which Gov. Abercrombie signed on June 27, makes solar photovoltaic systems, as well as solar thermal water heaters and big-ticket energy efficiency upgrades, available to all these underserved customers by eliminating the thorny issue of the upfront costs.On-bill financing enables residential or commercial property owners or renters to avoid the initial out-of-pocket expense to install energy improvements. Upgrades are instead financed with loans paid back via a line item on the customer’s monthly utility bill. If the property is sold or transferred, the loan stays with the meter and would be taken over by the new property owner or tenant.

But, this great progress in bringing clean energy to the individual threatens monopolists from the Koch brothers to electric utilities. The Koch’s AFP have conspired with utilities to write legislation to force individuals to pay a tax to the utility companies for accessing the grid. The Koch Brother’s AFP has demanded laws to tax the sun.

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This is what the billions of dollars of Sheldon Adelson support:  Genocide on indigenous Palestinians. 

There are so many lobbying groups in Washington DC these days that money and tax subsidies go to a continued, horrifying array of policies that are not good for any one but a few people and power brokers.  SOS John Kerry called the state of Israel a state of apartheid.  He is most certainly right. The current government–cobbled together from right wing extremists–promotes policies aimed at Palestinians that are straight out of the playbook of South Africa.  There is no way our government should be giving any government money and support when there are policies used to kill indigenous peoples.

 Still, the most thorough comparison of the Apartheid system of racial segregation with Israeli practices can only be made of the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians are ruled by Israel but kept stateless and without rights.

1.  South Africa created Bantustans as a way of denaturalizing Blacks, ensuring that they could not vote for the national government and were assigned citizenship only in their weak Bantustan.

Gaza and the West Bank function as Bantustans, as South African Blacks have no trouble recognizing.  Indeed, a former Italian prime minister maintains that former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon told him he thought the Bantustan system was the best way of dealing with the Palestinians.  The Palestinians living in these occupied territories have no citizenship in any real state.  They are stateless.  The West Bank has been segmented into 8 units.  Palestinians cannot travel between them without going through numerous checkpoints.  They cannot vote for the Israeli government, but they are ultimately controlled by the Israeli military.  When in 2006 they were allowed to hold elections for a toothless “parliament,” and they cheekily elected a party the Israelis find unacceptable, the election results were overturned by Israel.

2.  South Africa instituted a “pass” system to control the movement of Blacks.

Israel instituted a “permit” system to control the movement of Palestinians.  West Bank Palestinians cannot live outside the 8 designated areas without a permit.  Desmond Tutu, who knows a bit about Apartheid South Africa, remarked of seeing, on his visit to the Occupied West Bank, “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about”.

3.  In Apartheid South Africa, 80% of the land was set aside for white settlers.

Israel itself was ethnically cleansed of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, and was designated “Jewish,” such that the expelled Palestinians (now millions strong) were denied the right to return to their homes.  Some 70% of the residents of the Gaza Strip are from southern Israel, and cannot return to their nearby homes in cities such as Sderot, where Israelis have settled Ethiopians and Thai guest workers.  In the Palestinian West Bank, some 600,000 Israeli squatters have usurped significant amounts of land from Palestinians, for which they paid nothing to the original owners, and their squatter settlements are off-limits to Palestinians, who cannot live in them.

4.  In Apartheid South Africa, Blacks from the Bantustans could not attend universities designated for whites.

In the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli military governor has recognized a squatter university, Ariel, built on usurped Palestinian land.  Although Palestinian-Israelis can attend, stateless West Bank Palestinians cannot get on campus because they are barred from settlements by the Apartheid pass system, as Dahlia Scheindlin wrote at 972mag:

“Member of Knesset Zahava Galon, head of the Meretz party, scoffed at that. Ariel, she told me by phone, is off limits for Palestinians very simply because it is an Israeli-controlled settlement. Just as a West Bank Palestinian can’t go to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv easily, they are equally unwelcome in Ariel. For her, the move reeked of hypocrisy. “It’s a higher education committee approved by people in uniform, so what is the substantive meaning? It’s unbelievable.” She called it a sign of the government’s true program of “creeping annexation,” and remarked that it would legitimize the global movements calling for the academic boycott of Israel.”

5. South African Apartheid forbade marriages between people of different ethnicities.

Israelis of Jewish and Palestinian heritage cannot intermarry in Israel.  Two Israeli citizens of different ethnic heritage can marry abroad and return to Israel.  But Israeli-Palestinians who marry Palestinians from the Occupied West Bank are not allowed to bring their spouse to Israel.  The same problem is not faced by Israeli Jews who marry squatters on the Palestinian West Bank.

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Pink Floyd has joined the call to boycott Israel just as musicians boycotted South Africa when its government was destroying the civil rights, liberties, and lives of its indigenous peoples.

With the recent news that the Rolling Stones will be playing their first-ever concert in Israel, and at what is a critical time in the global struggle for Palestinian freedom and equal rights, we, the two surviving founders of Pink Floyd, have united in support of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a growing, nonviolent global human rights movement initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to end Israel’s occupation, racial discrimination and denial of basic Palestinian rights.

The BDS movement is modeled on the successful nonviolent movements that helped end Jim Crow in the American South and apartheid in South Africa. Indeed, key figures who led the South African freedom struggle, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mandela’s close associate, Ahmed Kathrada, have come out in support of BDS for Palestinian rights. BDS offers us all a way to nonviolently pressure the Israeli government to fully realize that its injustices against the Palestinian people are legally and morally unacceptable and unsustainable.

Adelson loves him some Bibi so much that he is buying up Israeli media much of which is highly critical to the PM’s policies.  This ensures that the ordinary Israeli hears even less of what’s really going on around them.

Israel’s news media are lively, but venues are not infinite, with four main national newspapers, three television news broadcasters and a handful of radio and news Web sites vying to inform and sway public opinion in a country known for its rough-and-tumble politics.

An investigative report by Channel 10 aired last year claimed that Adelson’s newspaper Israel Hayom was spinning the news to show Netanyahu in a more positive light. The newspaper’s editor, Amos Regev, dismissed the report, saying,  “This so-called evidence doesn’t prove anything other than the routine workings of a news organization.”

Adelson’s new ventures are seen as a good thing for Netanyahu. Israel’s media is often very critical of Netanyahu —  and loves engaging in what the Prime Minister calls “psychobabble” about his motives. Though he makes plenty of public pronouncements, Netanyahu rarely grants on-the-record interviews or does not host regular news conferences. Adelson’s purchase might also be a plus for Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, who regularly faces media scrutiny for what critics call her imperial lifestyle (she recently came under fire for yelling at a staffer for buying bags of milk instead of a proper carton).

Adelson has played a big role in GOP politics and is vocal about his support for Israel. In 2012, he spent millions backing the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, not only in a bid to beat President Obama but also to ensure strengthened support for Israel in domestic U.S. politics.

And, more recently, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) apologized to Adelson after referring to the West Bank as “occupied territories” in a speech at the spring leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, an event Adelson hosted at his Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

This reminds me of the same kind of treatment we’re getting at the hands of Australian Rupert Murdoch.  Fox continues to put right wing advocacy of its billionaire owner and Roger Ailes above all kinds of facts, science, data, and reality.

A Scientific American editor must have struck a nerve over at Fox News this week when hetweeted about having a “Fox & Friends” producer shoot down his idea to talk about the impacts of climate change on the show.

On Thursday morning, the hosts of “Fox & Friends” went off on editor Michael Moyer for tweeting about having an uncomfortable experience on the show. During the segment, they showed a photo of Moyer with text on the screen that labeled him a “‘Scientific’ Coward.”

Hosts Steve Doocy, Anna Kooiman and Brian Kilmeade agreed they had a “nice chat” with Moyer on set when he appeared Wednesday. But they said Moyer apparently didn’t feel the same way.

“Clearly he has a problem with Fox,” Doocy said. “So why did he come on? Clearly, it was just to promote himself, and maybe his magazine as well. But, you know, hashtag classy. We put him on, we have a nice conversation and then he stabs us in the back.”

“The bone that he had to pick with Fox, he said, was that he wanted to come on here and talk all about climate change,” Kooiman added. “Well, our producers decide what we air.”

“We talk about climate change all the time,” Doocy interjected.

Moyer was brought on to talk about future trends in technology. He later tweeted that when he suggested the number one future trend would be the impact of climate change, he was “told to pick something else.” The experience, he told TPM on Wednesday, made him decide against future appearances on the program.

“There are some things that in science and scientific discourse are not controversial at all,” Moyer told TPM. “I hope that we can all as a society agree to at least discuss them and come up with good solutions. Just because you don’t want something to be true doesn’t make it not true.”

Fox News later denied that a producer “specifically” told Moyer that he couldn’t discuss climate change. In response, Moyer told TPM that he had proof: a producer had sent him an email specifically asking, “can we replace the climate change with something else?”

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The refreshing thing is that most of these people are really old and we can just hope that  when we dance on their graves, this kind of crap will be all over.  There have been a number of books noting the decline in the number of people identifying as “Conservative Christian Evangelicals” which could eventually stop the influence of the millionaire preachers and their misogyny and homobigotry.  The end of dominionists would put an end to popular support of the kinds of things billionaires like Adelson and the Koch Brothers finance.

The common thread in these books is the contention that Christianity, especially conservative Christianity, is rapidly losing strength and cultural authority in a changing America. Charting Americans’ religious beliefs is notoriously tricky, as comparison between any two religion-related polls will attest. Nevertheless, these authors’ argument that conservative Christianity — both evangelical Protestantism and conservative Catholicism — is losing sway in America has become the consensus view of most experts who study American religiosity. In 2012, the Pew Research Center made headlines with a study showing that for the first time, the percentage of Americans claiming no religious affiliation (19.6 percent) surpassed the number of white evangelical Protestants (19 percent). Other surveys conducted in recent years (by Gallup, the General Social Survey, Baylor University, and other research organizations) show declines in the number of people who identify as Christian, believe in God, and attend church regularly. American Catholicism has undergone its own similar involution, with nearly half of all Catholics under age 40 now Hispanic and a majority of Catholics favoring same-sex marriage, according to Pew. Meanwhile, the number of Muslims in America has risen rapidly, more than doubling since 1990. In the most recent (2008) American Religious Identification Survey, Islam surpassed Mormonism as America’s fastest growing faith.

For conservative Christians, the turnabout has been disorienting. Just 10 years ago, conservative Christianity appeared ascendant, with a coalition of evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics twice electing a born-again Christian to the presidency and, in 2004, outlawing gay marriage in 11 states. Today, laws against same-sex marriage are being rolled back and conservatives have failed to budge debate over access to contraception in the new health law. The Tea Party, which pairs evangelicals in an uneasy alliance with an increasingly assertive libertarian movement, is now a dominant force in Republican politics, shouldering aside once-feared evangelical organizations such as the Christian Coalition. Key evangelicals, stung by polls showing younger Americans are turned off by strident conservatism, have begun pivoting politically, as have Catholic bishops in response to Pope Francis’s attempt to reorient his church toward evangelism and social justice. Last year, prominent evangelical leaders, including the political director of the Southern Baptist Convention, spurned the Tea Party and emerged as prominent backers of comprehensive immigration reform. Evangelical leaders told me they were responding to demographic change in America: both the rise of immigrants in their churches and the emergence of a younger, more politically progressive generation of Christians. Yet in a sign of Christians’ diminished political clout, so far evangelicals’ fervent activism on this issue has failed to garner congressional Republican support.

The broader cultural implications of this shift in American religiosity are immense and deserve careful study. The books considered in this essay don’t supply such study — but then, that’s not their aim. Change has come so quickly to American conservative Christianity that conservatives are still scrambling to understand the challenges they face, and to persuade one another that their problems are real, which is telling. Reading these books is like listening in on a board meeting as corporate executives struggle to come to terms with sudden massive economic decline. The errors and off notes in each book — and there are plenty, ranging from counterfactual history to weird persecution complexes — are as valuable as the books’ many passages of sound reportage and insightful critique. After decades in which conservative Christians went from strength to strength in America, growing in numbers and political clout, suddenly they are facing a moment of acute self-doubt. The contours of that doubt can help more neutral observers gain a fuller understanding of America’s changing religious present, and its future.

Nothing else would be better than to get rid of what seems an endless parade of millionaire/billionaire racists.  However, there are some that still exist and have managed to bundle up racism in a more subtle, “elegant” form.

Like Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling confirms our comfortable view of racists. Donald Sterling is a “bad person.” He’s mean to women. He carouses with prostitutes. He uses the word “nigger.” He fits our idea of what an actual racist must look like: snarling, villainous, immoral, ignorant, gauche.  The actual racism that Sterling long practiced, that this society has long practiced (and is still practicing) must attract significantly less note. That is because to see racism in all its elegance is to implicate not just its active practitioners, but to implicate ourselves.

How can it be that in a “black league,” as Charles Barkley calls the NBA, an on-the-record structural racist like Donald Sterling was allowed to thrive? Everyone now wants to speak to Elgin Baylor. Where were all these people before? Where was Kevin Johnson? Where was the Los Angeles NAACP? When Donald Sterling was driving black tenants out of his buildings, where was David Stern?

Far better to implicate Donald Sterling and be done with the whole business. Far better to banish Cliven Bundy and table the uncomfortable reality of our political system. A racism that invites the bipartisan condemnation of Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell must necessarily be minor. A racism that invites the condemnation of Sean Hannity can’t be much of a threat. But a racism, condemnable by all civilized people, must make itself manifest now and again so that we may celebrate how far we have come. Meanwhile racism, elegant, lovely, monstrous, carries on.

Money still gives these people an oversized role in policy,culture, and politics.  This is unacceptable in a democracy.  It is easy to see how power and money create worse living situations for people.  Most of the policies these cretons support are not supported by the majority of people.  We need to find a way to keep their influence down to the same size as every other single voter in the country. Freedom of speech is about government suppression of religion and spoken ideas.  It isn’t about giving people with oversized egos and wallets more say in everything than every one else.

It’s enough to make you miss the guillotine.  I know this has been a long one today, but as you can see, I had a lot to get off my chest.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 


Sunday: V-J Day, Goodbye Kisses, Working Women and Warning Signs

54178c4d97b3668cb079ff3c12ef35d8Good Morning

I think it will be safe to say that today’s post is retro, super retro. And I really do not have all the space I need to post all the historic pictures I would like to post…so there will be links to other pages/galleries, and you must spend some time looking through the fascinating images.

Like the one to the right ———–>

Look at the expression on that woman’s face, if she could slam that thermos up-side the guy’s stupid head she would…but she appears too damn tired of hearing the kind of shit he is saying to even bother replying to the asshole.

At least the tag line on the bottom of the poster got it right:

America’s Women Have Met the Test!

Too bad that opinion did not last when the boys came back home.

cab40a4e5ea83e324782208ec2734216I often wonder what would have happened if the Republican push to get women and their views on politics back in the kitchen was not as successful as it was during the 5o’s…can you imagine?

Anyway, this may seem a little familiar to my post from Wednesday, but there is a reason for this opening thought:

You must have heard that the sailor in one of the most iconic pictures of World War II died last week…V-J Day, 1945: A Nation Lets Loose | LIFE.com

Glenn McDuffie, a Navy veteran who long claimed to be the sailor photographed kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J day — and whose claim was reportedly backed up by a police forensic artist — has died. He was 86 years old. (LIFE magazine — in which the now-iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt photo first appeared — never officially identified either the sailor or the nurse.)

01_00141661Made almost 70 years ago, it remains one of the most famous photographs — perhaps the most famous photograph — of the 20th century: a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day in August 1945.

That simple, straightforward description of the scene, however, hardly begins to capture not only the spontaneity, energy and sheer exuberance shining from Alfred Eisentaedt’s photograph, but the significance of the picture as a kind of cultural — indeed a totemic — artifact.

15_05531421“V-J Day in Times Square” is not merely the one image that captures what it felt like in America when it was finally announced, after a half-decade of global conflict, that Japan had surrendered and that the War in the Pacific — and thus the Second World War itself — was effectively ended. Instead, for countless people, Eisentaedt’s photograph captures at least part of what the people of a nation at war experience when war, any war, is over.

Glenn Edward McDuffie, who long claimed to be sailor in iconic Times Square  ‘kiss’ photo at end of WWII, dies  – NY Daily News

McDuffie, who passed away Sunday in Texas, had said he was motivated to randomly kiss the pretty nurse on the day Japan surrendered because it meant his brother would be getting released from a Japanese prison campTimes Square V-J Day Kiss

The Texas man who made headlines for his repeated claims to being the sailor who randomly kissed a woman in Times Square, leading to one of the most iconic photographic images of World War II, has died.

Glenn Edward McDuffie passed away at age 86 on Sunday in Texas after suffering a heart attack at a casino earlier in the day, his daughter told the Daily News.

McDuffie claimed for years he was the strapping sailor who planted one on the lips of the swooning woman on August 14, 1945. He said it was a spontaneous act of unbridled euphoria sparked by the announcement of Japan’s surrender.

The Life magazine photographer who took the famed shot, Alfred Eisenstaedt, did not record the names of the subjects, and many people have claimed to be the mysterious sailor. In 2007 noted forensic artist Lois Gibson, who works for the Houston Police Department, said she positively identified McDuffie as the sailor. Her technique was to take numerous pictures of the older McDuffie and overlay them over the original. By doing so she said she compared the sailor’s muscles, ears and other features to McDuffie’s, and found them to be a match.

Take a look at the rest of that NY Daily News piece, it has later pictures of McDuffie along with some photos of him when he was young…and other older interview quotes as well.

But back to the Life Magazine link for a little more:

…two small but significant pieces of information related to Eisenstaedt’s rightfully famous “Kiss in Times Square” might come — especially when taken together — as a real surprise to fans of both photography and of LIFE magazine in general.

First, contrary to what countless people have long believed, the photo of the sailor kissing the nurse did not appear on the cover of LIFE. It did warrant a full page of its own inside the magazine (page 27 of the August 27, 1945, issue, to be exact) but was part of a larger, multi-page feature titled, simply, “Victory Celebrations.”

Closely tied to that first point is the fact that while the conclusion of the Second World War might be something LIFE magazine, of all publications, could be expected to feature on its cover for weeks on end, the magazine’s editors clearly had other ideas. post_1267972In fact, not only did Eisensteadt’s Times Square photo not make the cover of the August 27th issue; no image related to the war, or the peace, graced the cover. Instead the magazine carried a striking photograph of a ballet dancer.

An underwater ballet dancer.

War is over! that cover seems to say.

After years of brutal, global slaughter, our lives — in all their frivolous, mysterious beauty — can finally begin again.

Amen to that.

Some of the pictures in that Life Magazine’s gallery are beautiful, they have published pictures that were not published in the original 1945 piece. Like this one below, of the V-J Day reaction in Hollywood:

11_00267533

I love that woman’s shoes! This article also is connected to another WWII era gallery at Life, Fighting Words: World War II Battlefield Signs | LIFE.com

00600729.JPGThe universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” the American poet Muriel Rukeyser once wrote, and more and more, as time goes by, that sounds about right.

But what if paying strict heed to every written word that one saw every single day meant the difference between survival and annihilation? What if the misreading of a sign on an unfamiliar road, for example, meant not the inconvenience of a missed turn, but a sudden, violent death?

Take your Atabrine, an anti-malaria drug. Sign was put up at the 363rd station hospital in Papua, New Guinea during WWII

Take your Atabrine, an anti-malaria drug. Sign was put up at the 363rd station hospital in Papua, New Guinea during WWII

Here, LIFE.com takes a look at some of the countless signs that troops encountered during the course of World War II, from the islands of the Pacific to the deserts of North Africa to the ruined cities of Europe. Official warnings; adamant instructions; wry, handwritten inside jokes — all of them silent reminders of a conflict that, until the very end, dished out one paramount, universal command: Pay attention!

So again, check that link out along with the following:

d5eb019a959d5f074b8a7121137129eeWWII Signs on Pinterest

Women in WWII on Pinterest

Alfred Eisenstaedt Life Photographer on Pinterest

WWII on Pinterest

On the Job in WWII – Rosie and Friends. on Pinterest

This last board has some posters from WWI as well:

Vintage Ads, Billboards, Signs, Posters on Pinterest

Here are your newsy links for today, after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Monday Reads

audrey breakfast at Tiffany

Good Morning!

I’ve not been in a very good mood the last few days.  I’m trying to get my manuscript camera ready and have found that the adjustments to the font size and smaller margins have just about done me in.  It’s really messed up the pagination and my seemingly endless tables of statistics.  I am about ready to chew off all my nails and pull out quit a bit of hair.  It’s very nerve wracking.

Here’s a few links to get you start this morning.  I’ve been trying to read some interesting things in the hopes of finding some inner calm.

The best news of the weekend came when Larry Summers withdrew his name from consideration for FED chair.  The last thing we needed was yet another financial market sycophant in position that matters as much as that one.  The Fed has been one of the few functional institutions and thankfully, it looks like even congress respected the need for its independence.

The decision marks a disappointing turn of events for the renowned economist, who had operated at the highest levels of academia and government. But he has been dogged by controversies. Summers has come under fire for his support for deregulating parts of the banking sector while he was Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton. While president of Harvard University in 2005, he also sparked controversy for his comments on women’s aptitude in math and science.

People close to the White House said Summers faced not only a rebellion among liberal Democrats but also other challenges, including a debate over whether to launch a military strike against Syria that stretched out the Fed process and gave more time for opposition to build.

The major opposition for Summers came from Democratic Senators. 

Summers was a top initial candidate for the Fed job among senior current and former White House officials. Obama was also inclined to appoint Summers to the post, people close to the White House said. But the longer time dragged on without a nomination, the more liberal groups and some Democratic senators were able to organize to oppose Summers, who many on the left viewed as too close to Wall Street and not strong enough on financial regulation.

Opposition to Summers among Senate Democrats has been obvious for weeks but it escalated on Friday when Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) announced he would vote against Obama’s former economic adviser if he was nominated.

At least three other Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee were expected to oppose Summers — Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) – raising the politically uncomfortably scenario of Obama needing to rely on Republican votes just to get his choice for a Fed chief out of committee.

Obama has said the other candidates for the job are Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen and former Fed Vice Chair Donald Kohn. But Summers was said to be the president’s first choice and it’s unclear if he will fall back on one of these two candidates or look elsewhere.

There are some interesting studies on obesity and the way different people process food.  I found this article while reading my copy of The Economist.  Links to corn-flakes-1915the studies are provided in the article.  A lot of the differences may have to do with bacteria found in your digestive tract.

Even more intriguing is the notion that the same diet may be treated differently by different people. Four recent papers explored this theme. In one, published in Science in July, Joseph Majzoub, also of Boston Children’s Hospital, deleted in mice a gene called Mrap2. Dr Majzoub and his colleagues showed that this helps to control appetite. Surprisingly, however, even when the mutant critters ate the same as normal mice, they still gained more weight. Why that is remains unclear, but it may be through Mrap2’s effect on another gene, called Mc4r, which is known to be involved in weight gain.

The second and third papers, published as a pair in Nature in August, looked at another way that different bodies metabolise the same diet. Both studies were overseen by Dusko Ehrlich of the National Institute of Agricultural Research in France. One examined bacteria in nearly 300 Danish participants and found those with more diverse microbiota in their gut showed fewer signs of metabolic syndrome, including obesity and insulin resistance. The other study put 49 overweight participants on a high-fibre diet. Those who began with fewer bacterial species saw an increase in bacterial diversity and an improvement in metabolic indicators. This was not the case for those who already had a diverse microbiome, even when fed the same diet.

Jeffrey Gordon, of Washington University in St Louis, says these two studies point to the importance of what he calls “job vacancies” in the microbiota of the obese. Fed the proper diet, a person with more vacancies may see the jobs filled by helpful bacteria. In the fourth paper, by Dr Gordon and recently published in Science, he explores this in mice. To control for the effects of genetics, Dr Gordon found four pairs of human twins, with one twin obese and the other lean. He collected their stool, then transferred the twins’ bacteria to sets of mice. Fed an identical diet, the mice with bacteria from an obese twin became obese, whereas mice with bacteria from a thin twin remained lean.

So,BB found this great article on a discovery of a Mayan mass grave site.

Archaeologist Nicolaus Seefield found the gravesite in an “artificial cave,” which he explains to LiveScience had likely functioned as a water reservoir before the burial “since the cave’s floor was perfectly clean.”

The skeletons found there were not “in their original anatomical articulation,” he says. “The observed hatchet marks on the cervical vertebra are a clear indication of decapitation”; most had their lower jaw detached, and the “spatial pattern” of the bones is consistent with dismemberment.

The archaeologists believe the dead were either prisoners of war or Uxul nobles; they hope upcoming isotope analysis will reveal whether they were from Uxul — which is near what is now the Guatemala border — or elsewhere. Neat fact from LiveScience: “Uxul” means “at the end.”

It wasn’t the only Mayan discovery of the summer: A “lost” Maya city was discovered in June.

happybreakfastThere are many things that depress me about how eager Republicans are to punish poor people for whatever their perverse reasons.  What really gets me is how they continue to ensure that poor children will have no chance.  Early childhood education has usually be the one program that every one agrees on because it’s efficacy is amazing.   The sequestration has led to a large number of children being tossed out of Head Start.   I find this beyond troubling.  Early childhood education has been shown to be one very effective way to fight inequality.  Here’s yet another article on how this country has started to do things all wrong.

In many ways, we do education backwards in this country. We skimp and shortchange the poor children who need education the most, while at the same we lavish public moneys on those who need it least. Take, for instance,this article about the outrageous practice of taxpayer subsidies for the legacy admits of rich alumni of elite colleges.

In this context, advocacy for educational programs that alleviate, rather than exacerbate, inequality is particularly welcome. That’s why I especially appreciated today’s New York Times’ Opinionator blog, in which economist James Heckman writes a great op-ed about the dramatic impact of early childhood education in the lives of poor children. Heckman, as you may know, is a Nobel Prize winning economist from the University of Chicago. He’s a typical University of Chicago economist in that yes, he’s a free market true believer type. But he’s been studying pre-K programs for poor kids for years, and he supports them for conservative reasons: because they are economically rational. Early childhood education for at-risk kids is one of those (relatively) rare government programs that the free market types like because it produces not just equity, but also efficiency.

Here’s an interesting piece on the connections between the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party.  It seems the Kochs just have their nasty little fingers in every thing that is unraveling our democracy.

Politico.com, the Washington insider website, has the money-in-politics scoop of the year: It has unmasked a previously unknown political money laundering operation, set up by the energy billionaires and libertarian Koch brothers, that raised $256 million and secretly spent almost all of it last year against Democrats.

The “Koch brothers’ secret bank,” which is what the website calls the Virginia-based group, whose formal name is Freedom Partners, is the glue that has been holding together the right-wing pantheon of pro-corporate, anti-regulatory, anti-Obama, anti-labor front groups that are against everything from healthcare reform to labor unions to financial market reform to progressive taxation.

“The group has about 200 donors, each paying at least $100,000 in annual dues,” Politico reported, saying Freedom Partners would soon be filing papers with the IRS disclosing its existence. “It raised $256 million in the year after its creation in November 2011, the [IRS] document shows. And it made grants of $236 million—meaning a totally unknown group was the largest sugar daddy for conservative groups in the last election, second in total spending only to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which together spent about $300 million.”

The fact that secretive right-wingers could amass and spend a quarter-billion dollars in a presidential election cycle and go undetected under federal campaign finance law is an astounding indictment of the American electoral system, revealing that all the laws intending to inform the public about who is slinging political mud are meaningless. The mockery goes even further when considering the section of the federal tax code the group is operating under: 501(c)6. That designation is for trade associations, which lets the group conceal its donors.

Trade asociations, like trade unions, were created to represent single industries or crafts. Freedom Partners’ “trade” is the business of political assassination. What follows is Politico’s list of the groups, causes and amounts received from the Kochs’ cartel. The group’s members are drawn from the energy barons’ semiannual political conferences, which feature speeches by Congress’ Republican leadership.

So, that’s a little this and that from me this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

tumblr_m67aobjzkN1rxkmgxo1_500Good Morning!

I’m still really tired and quite removed from the total weirdness of the current Beltway antics.  From my groggy eyes, it seems like some odd, abstract dance done to music with an oft-repeated, dissonant theme. I’m very much lost in a world of books and games right now and catching up with things around the house.  Oh, and sleep.  I just can’t seem to get enough of that.  Who invited all these tacky people and why hasn’t some one taught them how to behave properly at a national cotillion?

So, the journalistic dance theatrics orchestrated by the right wing appear to be spinning out there in a place that no one cares much about.  However, it should be noted that while no one real seems to care, the press is still tap dancing to the jingoism.  Have the little republican boyz cried wolf so many times that only the villagers listen and no one else? Cue the polls and the pols,

President Barack Obama comes out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady, according to a new national poll. But a CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation’s capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously.

“That two-point difference is well within the poll’s sampling error, so it is a mistake to characterize it as a gain for the president,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Nonetheless, an approval rating that has not dropped and remains over 50% will probably be taken as good news by Democrats after the events of the last week.”

The CNN poll is in-line with Gallup, which also indicated a very slight rise in Obama’s approval rating over the same time period. And Gallup’s daily tracking poll also indicated a slight upward movement of Obama’s approval rating over the past week. But as with the CNN poll, it was within that survey’s sampling error.

More than seven in 10 in the CNN poll say that the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of tea party and other conservative groups that were applying for tax exempt status was unacceptable. While the White House and both parties in Congress are criticizing the IRS actions, congressional Republicans are depicting the controversy as a case of the federal government gone wild.

But more than six in 10 say that the president’s statements about the IRS scandal are completely or mostly true, with 35% not agreeing with Obama’s characterizations. And 55% say that IRS acted on its own, with 37% saying that White House ordered the IRS to target tea party and other conservative groups.

It’s nice to see that a lot of real folks are not taking all these conspiracy theories very seriously.  How can any one take them seriously with idiots like Senator  Aqua Buddha pushing them?  Why does any one give this whackadoodle air time? Not every US senator deserves national face time.  This one should be placed in a carnival sideshow in a Scheherazade costume. However, this crackpot may try to take on Hillary Clinton for the presidency next time out so it’s a way for the press to rattle the Clinton cage. Rand Paul’s trying to spin his little tail and tale into something credible.  Good luck with that!! It all come off as fundraising theatrics to me. A little snake oil music from the maestro please!!!

Sen. Rand Paul continued with his charges from earlier this week that former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton had “her fingerprints all over these talking points” on the Benghazi attack and claims that she never “really accepted culpability” because she failed to resign shortly after the tragedy. When CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Paul if he was worried about appearing to politicize the controversy by making his remarks in Iowa and other presidential battleground states, Paul dismissed the notion that his remarks were based on politics.

It’s laughable that anyone expects us to believe that Republicans care one iota about this trumped up Benghazi story for any other reason than to muddy up Hillary Clinton, because they all assume she’s going to be the front-runner for the next presidential election.

And I’d say it’s safe to assume Rand Paul is going to take up his father’s mantle and make a career out of perpetually running for president as a fundraising scheme. It worked out pretty well for his dad and the press is already propping him up because of it — with this being the latest example — so why not?

Meanwhile, the choreography of the supposed liberal bias in the press came apart when ABC’s Jonathan Karl was caught telling right wing narcissewhoppers and had to apologize.   Actually, he kinda sorta, sashayed towards an apology. Here’s his anti-mea culpa. Oh, and you gotta laugh about exactly who got to read it on air yesterday!!!

Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News, addressed criticism of his reporting on the Benghazi talking points controversy, saying in a statement to CNN that he regrets the inaccuracy of his report.

“Clearly, I regret the email was quoted incorrectly and I regret that it’s become a distraction from the story, which still entirely stands. I should have been clearer about the attribution. We updated our story immediately,” he said in the statement to Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

Earlier this month, Karl reported that he obtained emails by White House staff that indicated they had a dramatic role in altering the talking points that were later used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Sunday morning talk shows to explain the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

From those talking points, she said the attack spurred from a spontaneous demonstration outside the compound, while the Obama administration later stated the violence came from a premeditated terror attack.

Questions soon arose over how the error took place, as reports showed that initial drafts of those talking points included references to extremists but were later changed to attribute the incident to protests over an anti-Islam film.

Karl reported on May 10 that, based on summaries of the emails, the White House had a leading role in the editing process and had scrubbed vital information from the talking points.

But CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s “The Lead,” reported days later that the actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told a different story.

Yea.  Right. He regrets he got caught spreading propaganda more like it.  Karl’s done it before.  He has done it a lot actually.

Karl’s high profile at ABC demonstrates that conservative messages can find a comfortable home inside the so-called “liberal” media. Karl channeled former ABC corporate cheerleader John Stossel with a segment (3/5/11) complaining that regulation of the egg and poultry industries was “almost embarrassing,” since different government agencies regulate different aspects of the industries. “Got that?” Karl asked. “Fifteen separate agencies have responsibility for food safety.”

During the rollout of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Karl (1/26/11) gushed that the Republican media darling was “a little like the guy in the movie Dave, the accidental president who sets out to fix the budget, line by line.” And while Democrats were saying Ryan “is a villain,” Karl was clear about which side he was on: “Ryan knows what he sees…. Paul Ryan is on a mission, determined to do the seemingly impossible: Actually balance the federal budget.” (Actually, even with its draconian spending cuts and absurdly optimistic economic assumptions, the Ryan plan still foresees a cumulative deficit of $62 trillion over the next half century—Congressional Budget Office, 1/27/10.)

On a This Week roundtable (2/20/11), Karl declared that state budget debates were “the Tea Party’s moment” and “also the Chris Christie phenomenon. Will politicians be rewarded for making tough choices—again, something I don’t think we’ve ever seen happen?” Of course, it’s hard not to conclude that the “tough choices” made by Christie and other Republicans are the ones that ought to be rewarded.

And in one World News segment (2/14/11), Karl likened the federal budget to stacks of pennies in order to demonstrate that deeper spending cuts would be necessary in order to balance the budget. Karl concluded that “the bottom line, Diane, is unless you’re willing to talk about cutting entitlements or defense or both, really, there’s no way you can even think about balancing the budget.” This is not actually true—one could raise revenues by increasing taxes on the wealthy—but it is how Republicans want to frame the budget debate.

costume-design-for-scheherazade-1910Just think of how horrible things are going to get when the Koch Brothers take over media outlets.  Eric Alterman–writing for The Nation–things that they could make Rupert Murdoch look good.   May the wisdom beings protect us all!!  Talk about your odd dance partners!!  Could Murdoch actually step in to take over the Trib and could that make us all actually breathe easier?  Well, not really.

But chill out for a minute and consider the following: should they enter the newspaper publishing business, the Koch brothers would be King Midas in reverse. Their commitment to producing disinformation designed to defame liberals, moderates and, indeed, all manner of sane individuals would result in the destruction of the professional purpose of their purchase. A Los Angeles Times or a Chicago Tribune answerable to Koch ownership would soon lose most of its serious journalists and all of its credibility with readers. This would vaporize the value of their investment and leave them with extremely expensive propaganda sheets to publish and loads of legacy costs to assume. Other publications would jump in to fill the vacuum, though it’s unlikely that any of them would be able even to approach the scope and reach of what will be lost. Ideally, the Koch brothers will soon recognize the folly of their ambitions and withdraw.

The scenario that should truly alarm and depress the rest of us is the one that many have posed as the salvation of these papers: a Tribune Company takeover by Rupert Murdoch. While one group of Los Angeles businessmen is interested in buying the LA Times, they have no interest in the package of eight. That leaves Murdoch. And while resistance to a Koch purchase among editors and reporters is strong enough to convince the new owners that they might be buying an empty shell, the attitude toward a Murdoch takeover is quite the opposite. When, during a meeting of the entire staff, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez asked those assembled to “raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Rupert Murdoch,” only a handful reportedly did so (compared with about half of the staff when the Koch purchase was proposed). Similarly, one member of the Baltimore Sun staff wrote Jim Romenesko that “Murdoch, at least, is a newsman,” a view that was echoed nearly word for word by a Chicago Tribune journalist: “Murdoch, for all his flaws, is a newspaper man.”

True, but by the same logic, Jack the Ripper was a lover of the ladies. Murdoch may be a “newspaper man,” but he is surely not a man who respects honest journalism or even the laws of society as they apply to it (or much else, for that matter). Just in the past few weeks, Murdoch has been making news in the following ways:

He paid out $139 million to settle a class-action suit by News Corp. shareholders, who accused the board of directors of putting the Murdoch family’s interests above those of the company with regard to both the British phone-hacking episode—one of the most egregious criminal scandals in the history of journalism—and News Corp.’s sweetheart acquisition of his daughter Elizabeth’s television production company. The lawsuit alleged that the board “disregarded its fiduciary duties” and allowed Murdoch to run News Corp. as his “own personal fiefdom.”

tumblr_lno8ojSw711qlyv3fo1_400

So, want the worst example?  Guess who was on MTP yesterday?  Dancing Dave managed to embarrass the entire journalistic bordello in one short hour.

GREGORY: And we’re back. For our remaining moments, joining me now, author of the new book Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, the Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mister Secretary, welcome back. You have such an interesting distinction here because I remember President Bush who I covered called you a matinee idol and now you’re soon to be a great grandfather. That’s a pretty good combination.

MR. DONALD RUMSFELD (Former Secretary of Defense/Author, Rumsfeld’s Rules): Think of that. It’s exciting.

GREGORY: I want to ask you first about a very disturbing subject within the military that of course you’ve worked over for so long and that is sexual assaults in the military. Some of the reported cases going back to when you were Defense Secretary and reported and then the estimates is that much larger number and the alarming rise between 2010 and 2012. And the issue at hand here is what should the military do about it? Does it have to change the way these crimes are reported at the chain of command and go outside of that to a special prosecutor? What would you do?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t know that a special prosecutor is the answer, but there is an argument that can be made for handling them in a way different than they’re being handled because they’re serious. And– and I would suspect that an awful lot of them don’t even get reported.

GREGORY: Mm-Hm.

MR. RUMSFELD: And– and that’s probably true in the public sector, in private citizens as well as in the military.

GREGORY: Right.

MR. RUMSFELD: But– but it’s a terrible thing. There has to be zero tolerance. And it– it appears that– that something different is going to have to be done and I wish I knew what the answer was. I don’t. But– but it had– people have simply got to not tolerate it.

GREGORY: What about the culture in the military? Is that a part of what’s contributing to this? Is it a major part of what’s contributing to it?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, people talk about that. The military– they talk about athletic teams and– and male environments. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think– there’s certainly nothing about the military that would contribute to it in terms of– of the purpose of the armed forces. The– but I don’t know the answer. I– and I think they better– they better really land all over people that are engaged in any kind of abuse of that nature.

GREGORY: There’s so much happening in Washington and you are a veteran of so much controversy as even in your most recent incarnation as defense secretary in the Bush administration. You write this from the book, Rumsfeld’s Rules, “If you foul up, tell the boss and correct it fast. Mistakes can usually be corrected if the adminis– the organization’s leaders are made aware of them and they are caught up early enough and faced honestly. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. If you have fouled something up, it’s best to tell the boss first.”

MR. RUMSFELD: That’s true.

GREGORY: Accountability. Whether it’s IRS or the questions about Benghazi, who is accountable? How do you assess that in these cases?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, in these cases, I don’t think they know yet. Clearly, the president and in the case of Benghazi, the Secretary of State. That’s the way life works. But what bothers me about it is that two things really concern me. One, you think of a manager, a leader. When something like that happens, you call people in, you sit them down and you let them know that you intend to find ground truth fast. And he seems not to have done that. The other thing that’s worrisome is, as they say, truth leaves on horseback and returns on foot. What’s happening to the president is incrementally trust is being eroded because of the different messages coming out. You know, it’s important that you avoid the early reports because they’re often wrong, and you have to get people in, find ground truth, and then communicate that as fast as you can to the extent information goes out that’s– proves not to be accurate. Presidents and leaders lead by persuasion and for persuasion to work, they don’t lead by command. You have to be trusted. And to the extent trust is eroded, as it is when stories get changed and something more is learned and– and it kind of incrementally destroys your credibility, I think that clearly is a problem. I was worried, for example, I came back from being ambassador of NATO when President Nixon had resigned and President Ford was in office. And the reservoir of trust had just been drained during the– that– that experience that we went through.

Yes. I saved the best for last.  Dancing Dave asked Donald Rumsfeld about how to hold the federal government accountable for made up scandals.  Hasn’t this man been put in jail for crimes against humanity yet?  And, aren’t you glad I didn’t quote the rest of the damn panel?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Koch Brothers and The One Dollar Bet? Open Thread

Good Evening…

Cartoon by David Horsey -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 04/30/2013

I wonder if the Koch Brothers have a bet going on between them about their proposed deal to buy up some big circulation newspapers like the LA Times and Chicago Tribune.

I tried to find a clip of this little bit of dialogue,  but no such luck:

Randolph Duke: Money isn’t everything, Mortimer.

Mortimer Duke: Oh, grow up.

Randolph Duke: Mother always said you were greedy.

Mortimer Duke: She meant it as a compliment.

There are grumblings behind the scenes, check it out:

Guild Calls on Tribune Sellers to Protect Papers’ Integrity | The Newspaper Guild

Recently you’ve seen many petitions asking that the Koch brothers not be allowed to buy the Tribune Company’s newspapers. We understand why the Kochs breed this distrust. They are active political proponents of harsh right-wing positions. We’re also not certain that Tribune will listen to anything but money when the final decision is made.

What we do know is that great papers publish credible, trusted journalism online and on the printed page. Whoever comes to own these mastheads needs to understand that protecting newsrooms from ideological taint is no small thing. The future of American journalism depends on the ability to print truth, not opinion.

We call on Tribune to make a pledge that they’ll only sell to a buyer that will protect the objectivity of the news product by making a public commitment to doing so. The Newspaper Guild-CWA and the Communications Workers of America seek your support in this goal.

The Newspaper Guild
Communications Workers of America
AFL-CIO, CLC and IFJ

And then there is this…it is a long article, so please go read it in full…it is just to much to parse down into a few quotes. I will just give you this bit to chew on.  Kathleen Miles: If Koch Brothers Buy LA Times, Half of Staff May Quit

So if the agenda at the Times changes, the agenda at the other LA news outlets will change — unless those news outlets are watching carefully. LA has to worry more about the stories that the Times stops covering than stories that are covered with a bias.

An example of how bias can take the form of lack of coverage is Fox News’ scant coverage of the national gun control debate. When President Barack Obama gave his moving speech chastising Congress for failing to pass background checks, Fox cut away to a panel discussion on the liberal media bias before the president had even finished his first sentence.

It seems the rationale is that the more silence there is on gun control, the greater the likelihood that status quo will continue. So the silence is what we have to listen for.

All LA journalists, including those at the Times, will need to research the friends and interests of the paper’s new owners and make sure they don’t get special treatment. If Times reporters hit a wall, will other LA journalists step up to report on those topics?

As I said, go read the entire article.

I kind of always felt the LA Times was right leaning anyway…but not the the extent of what it could be under a Koch ownership.

By the way, that cartoon up top is by David Horsey..cartoonist for the LA Times.

This is an open thread.

 


Good Night, Good Luck: Thoughts on Murrow, Journalism and Responsibility

murrow

Good Afternoon

Thursday night I watched the film Good Night and Good Luck, with David Strathairn and George Clooney. I am sure that many of you saw this film when it came out eight years ago. (Yes, that is 8 years…)

I saw it too back then, but I had not seen it in years…and I never saw the short featurette interviews with the real people portrayed in the film.  Joe and Shirley Wershba, Milo Radulovich, Ed Murrow’s son and Fred Friendly’s son discuss Murrow and give some thoughts on the use of television media during the time of the McCarthy hearings. I say television because Ed Murrow was concerned about how viewing the image or picture being broadcast on the screen would change the news story he was telling.

It is fortunate that I found this featurette on the web, it is only 15 minutes but if you can, watch it before you read the rest of my post.

Good Night, And Good Luck – Featurette | SPIKE

Fred Friendly’s widow states that Ed Murrow was, “dubious” about the change from his radio show, “Hear It Now” to the television version “See It Now.”  It was Murrow’s belief that the camera changed the story, that people processed visual information and news differently than they did when just listening to the words being said.  According to Murrow’s son, the camera invaded the news story, especially in those early days of news broadcast, with the lights and large equipment needed to air the programs, it changed the dynamics of the story in a real big way.

It was during this time the news took on an editorial flavor; there aren’t always two sides to a story. McCarthyism was destroying the country. Murrow got this message out to his viewers, knowing what was at stake.  It was personal and it was risky…

The Murrow team had been collecting film on Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy where ever he went…and used it when they got the evidence they needed. Murrow got to the truth of the story by taking McCarthy’s own words and actions and putting them on the air.

Joe Wershba says that Murrow knew the tremendous power of television media…he describes the agonizing question of whether Murrow had the right to use this power against McCarthy. Think about it…Here you have McCarthy, trampling the rights and civil liberties given by the Constitution, and yet McCarthy got all this power because of the very rights he was running over.

This is where Milo Radulovich comes in. Radulovich,

…was an American citizen (born in Detroit) of Serbian descent and former reserve Air Force lieutenant who was accused of being a security risk for maintaining a “close and continuing relationship”[1] with his father and sister, in violation of Air Force regulation 35-62.[2] His case was publicized nationally by Edward Murrow on October 20, 1953, on Murrow’s program, See It Now:

That [Air Force regulation 35-62] is a regulation which states that ‘A man may be regarded as a security risk if he has close and continuing associations with communists or people believed to have communist sympathies.’ Lieutenant Radulovich was asked to resign in August. He declined. A board was called and heard his case. At the end, it was recommended that he be severed from the Air Force. Although it was also stated that there was no question whatever as to the Lieutenant’s loyalty.—Edward R. Murrow[3][4]

Murrow used Radulovich’s personal story to get the point across. And when the Air Force finally reinstated Radulovich, people realized just how powerful television journalism was, and Murrow felt the consequences would be great.

On the featurette, Fred Friendly’s son says that “overall climate of television news” today is frightening…and that his father would be horrified by it.

Well, this horrifying evolution of television news can be primarily shouldered by the corporations…specifically the advertising money these corporations brought in…the airwaves were originally thought of as the people’s airways…that the news had to be given to the public straight. But then the news programs became a money-maker, news stories became entertainment. And with this entertainment, the trust people had in broadcasters like Murrow disappeared.

Friendly’s son says in the interview up top, television was making more money doing its worst…than it did doing its best. (Ain’t that the truth!)

Shirley Wershba states how important it was to get the truth to the stories, they used McCarthy own words in their reports, pointing out the hypocrisies and the craziness of McCarthyism. They researched and were very careful with what they reported on the news. It is not like that today. We have seen too many times the mistakes, blatant ones at that, made by the press…they are careless with the facts.

Responsibility. It is something that both MSM broadcast news and the people watching it must take seriously.  Responsibility is vitally necessary to get the facts down right. George Clooney says at the end of the featurette he hopes the film Good Night and Good Luck will bring the issue of responsibility to the discussion and I agree with him; we need to talk about responsibility.

I guess my point with all this is just how important it is to question things.

Maybe that is why people like Jon Stewart, sites like Wikileaks, and those who blog and pick apart news reports are popular with folks who look for the big picture, the ones who don’t accept the cropped version as the final word. It is our responsibility to dig deeper than what we see, hear and read in news broadcast…and in journalism media today. I think too many people are not doing their homework. They take whatever bits and pieces they get from MSM and leave it at that. It is a shame, because this lack of attention is causing present day extremist the likes of McCarthy to flourish in our government and politics.

It is ironic, the very rights these extremist are out to destroy… are the ones that allow them to carry out their agenda. The difference between now and Murrow’s time comes down to this…us.

We…the public.

Were our standards were higher? Eh, I don’t know, but I do feel however that responsibility is key.

It seems that there are less Murrows and Friendlys out there who feel responsible to the people, and more importantly…it seems to me the public has become full of people who don’t feel responsible to truth. We get fed the news and opinions the corporations and sponsors want us to eat…but few question it.

I wish news outlets weren’t controlled by the money companies pay to advertise on their shows, websites or blogs. It makes me think about Murrow’s anxiety about the power of television. Think about how the internet has changed the news narrative. The internet is just another powerful technology…like television was in its day….only the web is instantaneous. It is distracting and full of things that manipulate our opinions.  But…the internet is also a tool we can use to be responsible to the truth, if we use it responsibly.

I wish people would question, research and look for truth behind every news report being told. I worry that there is no longer a responsible collective voice standing up for what is right or true….unlike the era of McCarthy, we do not have that voice…the sense of duty or obligation to stand up to the money men behind the corporations, politicians and the advertising and lobbying dollars they use to get what they want.  And, they have the ambitious McCarthys of today, to do the job for them.

The batshit crazy. It’s been going on for so many years…and my fear is it will keep on going.

Will it ever stop?

Keeping all this in mind, take a look at a few of these links:

Last week Glenn Greenwald had an article about Bob Woodward…you can read it here: Bob Woodward embodies US political culture in a single outburst

I want to bring this part of Greenwald’s post to your attention…where he mentions an essay written by Lewis Lapham back in 2008:

Bob Woodward fulfills an important function. Just as Tim Russert was long held up as the scary bulldog questioner who proved the existence of an adversarial TV press while the reality was that, as Harper’s [sic] Lewis Lapham famously put it, he maintained “the on-air persona of an attentive and accommodating headwaiter”, the decades-old Woodward lore plays a critical role in maintaining the fiction of a watchdog press corps even though he is one of the most faithful servants of the war machine and the national security and surveillance states. Every once and awhile, the mask falls, and it’s a good thing when it does.

This last paragraph stuck with me, and when I watched Good Night, and Good Luck last night…particularly the featurette, I went back to the Greenwald post and dug a little bit deeper.

Greenwald links to this Gawker post from Aug. 2008, A Careful Evisceration Of Tim Russert. Which I will highlight this statement:

…Lapham, sometimes slammed as insufferable bore, has spun a compelling essay out of his rough initial pronouncement that “1,000 people came to [Russert’s] memorial service because essentially he was a shill for the government.”

This is little nugget from New York Magazine in July of 2008, again in reference to Lapham’s essay: Lewis Lapham Unhappy With Political Journalism, Including Tim Russert

Lewis Lapham isn’t happy with political journalism today. “There was a time in America when the press and the government were on opposite sides of the field,” he said at a premiere party for Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson on June 25. “The press was supposed to speak on behalf of the people. The new tradition is that the press speaks on behalf of the government.” An example? “Tim Russert was a spokesman for power, wealth, and privilege,” Lapham said. “That’s why 1,000 people came to his memorial service. Because essentially he was a shill for the government. It didn’t matter whether it was Democratic or Republican. It was for the status quo.” What about Russert’s rep for catching pols in lies? “That was bullshit,” he said. “Thompson and Russert were two opposite poles.”

Well, here is the actual essay Greenwald is refering to: [Notebook] | Elegy for a Rubber Stamp, by Lewis Lapham | Harper’s Magazine

Please read the entire essay, but I just want to point out a few paragraphs to look out for:

Many people loved Russert, and I don’t doubt that they had reason to do so. I’m sure that most of what was said about him on camera was true: that he was a devoted father, a devout Catholic, and a faithful friend, generous in spirit and a joyful noise unto the Lord. I mean no disrespect to his widow or to his son, but if I have no reason to doubt his virtues as a man, neither do I have any reason to credit the miracle of Russert as a journalist eager to speak truth to power. In his professional as opposed to his personal character, his on-air persona was that of an attentive and accommodating headwaiter, as helpless as Charlie Rose in his infatuation with A-list celebrity, his modus operandi the same one that pointed Rameau’s obliging nephew to the roast pheasant and the coupe aux marrons in eighteenth-century Paris: “Butter people up, good God, butter them up.”

With the butter Russert was a master craftsman, his specialty the mixing of it with just the right drizzle of salt. The weekend videotapes, presumably intended to display Russert at the top of his game, deconstructed the recipe. To an important personage Russert asked one or two faintly impertinent questions, usually about a subject of little or no concern to anybody outside the rope lines around official Washington; sometimes he discovered a contradiction between a recently issued press release and one that was distributed by the same politician some months or years previously. No matter with which spoon Rus sert stirred the butter, the reply was of no interest to him, not worth his notice or further comment. He had sprinkled his trademark salt, his work was done. The important personage was free to choose from a menu offering three forms of response—silence, spin, rancid lie. If silence, Russert moved on to another topic; if spin, he nodded wisely; if rancid lie, he swallowed it.

A couple more:

The attitude doesn’t lead to the digging up of much news that might be of interest to the American people, but it endeared Russert to his patrons and clients. Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton Administration, expressed her gratitude to Olbermann: “Tim was amazing because I can tell you that, as a public official, it was really, first of all, a treat to get on the show.” Two days later, over at NBC, Mary Matalin (former CBS and CNN talk-show host, former counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney) seconded the motion, attributing Russert’s profound knowledge of national politics to his superb qualities as a rubber stamp. “He respected politicians,” Matalin said. “He knew that they got blamed for everything, got credit for nothing. He knew how much they meant. He never treated them with the cynicism that attends some of these interviews. So they had a place to be loved.” Remembering Russert on ABC, Sam Donaldson explained why too much salt in the butter makes it harder to spread: “He [Russert] understood as well as anyone, maybe better than almost anyone, that the reason political reporters are there is not to speak truth to power . . . but to make those who say we have the truth—politicians—explain it.”

Speaking truth to power doesn’t make successful Sunday-morning television, leads to “jealousy, upsets, persecution,” doesn’t draw a salary of $5 million a year. The notion that journalists were once in the habit of doing so we borrow from the medium of print, from writers in the tradition of Mark Twain, Upton Sinclair,

H. L. Mencken, I. F. Stone, Hunter Thompson, and Walter Karp, who assumed that what was once known as “the press” received its accreditation as a fourth estate on the theory that it represented the interests of the citizenry as opposed to those of the government. Long ago in the days before journalists became celebrities, their enterprise was reviled and poorly paid, and it was understood by working newspapermen that the presence of more than two people at their funeral could be taken as a sign that they had disgraced the profession.

On television the voices of dissent can’t be counted upon to match the studio drapes or serve as tasteful lead-ins to the advertisements for Pantene Pro-V and the U.S. Marine Corps. What we now know as the “news media” serve at the pleasure of the corporate sponsor, their purpose not to tell truth to the powerful but to transmit lies to the powerless. Like Russert, who served his apprenticeship as an aide-de-camp to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, most of the prominent figures in the Washington press corps (among them George Stephanopoulos, Bob Woodward, and Karl Rove) began their careers as bagmen in the employ of a dissembling politician or a corrupt legislature. Regarding themselves as de facto members of government, enabling and codependent, their point of view is that of the country’s landlords, their practice equivalent to what is known among Wall Street stock-market touts as “securitizing the junk.” When requesting explanations from secretaries of defense or congressional committee chairmen, they do so with the understanding that any explanation will do. Explain to us, my captain, why the United States must go to war in Iraq, and we will relay the message to the American people in words of one or two syllables. Instruct us, Mr. Chairman, in the reasons why K-Street lobbyists produce the paper that Congress passes into law, and we will show that the reasons are healthy, wealthy, and wise. Do not be frightened by our pretending to be suspicious or scornful. Together with the television camera that sees but doesn’t think, we’re here to watch, to fall in with your whims and approve your injustices. Give us this day our daily bread, and we will hide your vices in the rosebushes of salacious gossip and clothe your crimes in the aura of inspirational anecdote.

Indeed, it all comes down to the idea of truth in journalism according to the corporate sponsors…batshit crazy is now becoming symbolic of the myth that there is a “free press” in this country….when the obvious conclusion seems to me centered on one thing…the lack of responsibility from both the media journalist…and their viewing and reading public.

Batshit crazy…Will it ever stop?

In all honesty, the answer to my question above is simple.

No, it will never stop as long as we, the people, fail to hold our “free press” accountable to the responsibility of journalism.

It’s a very sorry sad situation…and it’s a damn shame.