Is it just me, or is there less exciting news this summer than usual? Today, the top stories are the Israel-Palestine conflict and President Obama’s supposed sudden freedom to be himself. Oh, and the so-called “super moon” that reached its peak last night.
I have to be honest; I don’t understand why Israel is stepping up its attacks on the Palestine territory; Israel-Palestine discussions always seem to lead to bitter fighting on blogs, so I tend to avoid the issue entirely. But I’ll try to pick out some helpful stories on the conflict this morning.
From USA Today: Thousands flee Gaza as Israel ramps up offensive.
GAZA CITY — Thousands fled northern Gaza on Sunday as the Israeli military notified residents of an impending attack and its ground troops briefly crossed the border on a mission to destroy a launching site.
“Civilians are requested to evacuate their residences immediately for their own safety,” the leaflets dropped by air said, before listing specific areas that would “prove to be most dangerous.”
Israeli airstrikes hit more than 200 homes and buildings across Gaza on Sunday, bringing the death toll in the sixth day of the Israeli offensive Operation Protective Edge to 166 with more than 1,000 injured, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Despite calls from the United Nations and world leaders, there are no signs the two sides will agree to a cease-fire anytime soon.
“We don’t know when the operation will end,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting Sunday. “It might take a long time.”
From the UK Guardian: Israel calls on residents to leave northern Gaza as death toll continues to spiral.
The death toll passed 160 on Sunday on the Palestinian side, with no Israeli fatalities reported. The United Nations called on Israel and Hamas to end hostilities. Instead the violence escalated with more exchanges of rocket fire from Gaza and missiles from Israel….
The military said four Israeli navy commandos were lightly wounded in a shootout with Gaza-based Hamas fighters as they carried out a raid to destroy a rocket launching site on Sunday morning. It marks the first time the sides have directly clashed since Israel began a devastating bombardment in response to rocket fire. Hamas said its fighters had fired at the Israeli force offshore, preventing them from landing.
Both sides have dismissed calls for a truce and Israel has continued to build up troops along the Gaza border ahead of a possible ground invasion.
So is this all-out war?
There has been little sign that either side is interested in an immediate end to the hostilities, which appeared to be ramping up over Saturday night….
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said on Friday that “no international pressure will prevent us from striking, with all force, against the terrorist organisation which calls for our destruction”.
Hamas’s Haniya sounded a similar tone, saying: “[Israel] is the one that started this aggression and it must stop, because we are [simply] defending ourselves.”
The latest conflict unfolded after last month’s kidnap and murder of three young Israelis in the occupied West Bank and the brutal revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists.
What are we to think about this seemingly endless, unresolvable conflict? I gained a bit of insight from two posts at Tikkun by David Harris-Gershon.
Gershon writes that he was brought up by parents who were very liberal; at the same time he was taught to be loyal to the state of Israel and to believe that the Palestinians were evil.
As an adult, I’ve moved away from such naiveté while holding on to both my Zionist and progressive leanings, despite the growing struggle for coexistence between the two. And it’s not as though I’m mildly informed about the region or mildly invested in Israel and my Jewishness. The opposite, in fact, is the case. I’m a Jewish studies teacher at a day school, yeshiva-educated with a master’s degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I’ve authored a memoir about my experience with terror and reconciliation, and write extensively about the region, often critiquing Israel from a progressive perspective while maintaining my desire for a two-state solution to the conflict.
As an adult, I’ve learned about the cleansing of Arab villages which took place from 1947-1949 to make way for the Jewish state. I’ve learned about the ongoing settlement enterprise, the appropriation and bifurcation of Palestinian lands. I’ve learned the horrors of Israel’s decades-old occupation of the West Bank, about the suppression of basic human rights and the atrocities committed. I’ve studied Israel’s use of indefinite detentions, home demolitions, restrictions on goods and movement, and the violence visited upon those being occupied.
I’ve learned that – and this is just one example of many – a Palestinian child has tragically been killed every three days for the past 14 years. That bears repeating, since such deaths are rarely, if ever, given any attention in America: Palestinian parents have had to bury a child every three days for the past 14 years.
Knowing all this, I’ve still held fast to my ‘progressive Zionism,’ hoping Israel could become that beacon of liberalism I was presented as a child, a beacon which never truly existed in the first place, despite the country’s socialist roots. Why have I done so? For two reasons: 1) deep down, I still believe in the promise of Israel, and 2) I can’t shake the notion that a Jewish state is absolutely necessary for our security….
Gershon writes that he has worked with others to try to get Israel to change its warlike, even racist, policies, but with little success. he has come to the conclusion that the Israeli government has “little interest in peace.”
These realities have forced me to consider the incongruity between my American-borne progressivism and my Zionism. They have forced me to admit, like Peter Beinart, that in order to continue supporting Israel as a Jewish state, with everything it continues to do, I must compromise my progressivism.
However, the mind-numbingly horrific events of the past week have forced me, for the first time, to wonder whether such compromising can be sustained.
I was sitting in Philadelphia’s airport recently, awaiting a flight back home, the book I had been reading turned face down in my lap. Intentionally. I didn’t want anyone to see the cover. Didn’t want anyone to associate its cover with my views – these people I didn’t know, people I would never know.
I had just opened to the book’s second chapter – “Does Israel Have a Right to Exist as a Jewish State?” – and had closed it quickly. Shocked by the question. Shocked by my imagined (and false) notions of what a chapter with such a title might contain, by the prospect of a stranger seeing me reading it.
So I shut the book – Ali Abunimah’s The Battle for Justice in Palestine, which argues that only a bi-national state can justly end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and quickly hid it from those milling about.
Gershon goes on to discuss his recent epiphany about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
…recent, unspeakable events of the past two weeks have begun to make me question whether a two-state solution is even remotely possible anymore, particularly as Israeli officials begin embracing various one-state solutions.
Such internal questioning reached a climax on Friday, when Netanyahu explicitly stated that he wanted Israel to control the West Bank indefinitely, marking his first-ever public rejection of the two-state solution and Palestinian statehood.
My jaw dropped.
There’s much more at the link. I hope you’ll check it out.
Now for President Obama’s supposed break-out.
From The Washington Post: ‘The bear is loose’: Is Obama breaking free or running away?
Bears, beer and horse heads: What exactly is going on with the leader of the free world?
On a single day this week in Denver, President Obama scarfed down pizza and drinks with strangers, shot pool with Colorado’s governor and shook hands with a guy on the street wearing a horse mask. His top staffers are promoting these stops on Twitter with the hashtag#TheBearIsLoose — a term one of Obama’s aides coined in 2008 when the candidate would defy his schedule.
More than five years into his presidency, Obama is trying to free himself from the constraints of office, whether by strolling on the Mall or hopscotching the country as part of a campaign-style tour. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer says the president “just wants to get out” and influence “our overall political conversation” by connecting with ordinary Americans.
But to some, breaking free can also look like running away.
Obama’s trip to Colorado and Texas this week took place against the backdrop of a burgeoning crisis on the Mexican border, where tens of thousands of children have been apprehended seeking entry into the United States. In Dallas, Obama dismissed the idea of heading farther south for a border visit as a “photo op” — not long after those photo ops showing him shooting pool and sipping beer in Denver.
Read more at the link. To me it looks like Obama is feeling freed up lately–mostly because he seems to be ignoring Republican nonsense and express his real opinions. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it feels that way to me.
Obama’s latest photo-op came at an Austin, TX barbecue restaurant. From The Advocate: Texas Restaurant Worker Gets Gay-Supportive Fist Bump From Obama.
A gay employee at Franklin Barbecue in Austin had “a lucky day to be the register girl” Thursday, as he not only got to wait on President Obama but got a fist bump in support of LGBT rights.
Daniel Rugg Webb, a musician and comedian who works part-time at the restaurant, was on duty at the register as the president came up to pay for more than $300 worth of takeout, The Austin Chronicle reports. Webb slapped the counter and shouted, “Equal rights for gay people!” Obama asked, “Are you gay?” and Webb replied, “Only when I have sex.”
“That’s when he laughed and said, ‘Bump me,’” Webb told the Chronicle. Several onlookers photographed the fist bump and circulated the photo on Twitter. “It was just a lucky day to be the register girl,” Webb added.
From the Austin Chronicle via Buzzfeed:
Webb told the Chronicle:
“As a comedian, it was cool to have a moment where I was making a sitting president laugh — over something that might be considered inappropriate is a bonus,” Webb said of the experience.
He said he had been hoping to get in a joke about Texas Governor Rick Perry, who he described as “famously anti-gay.”
While Webb said he appreciates Obama’s social progressiveness, he expressed hope that the president will close the gap between his own relative forward-thinking on gay rights, and his general quietness on the anti-gay views of many state leaders before he leaves office.
“It would be interesting if he could call some people out for it. People can use a lot of things—religion, freedom of speech—to be anti-gay, but I need people to understand you can call people out for civil rights things,” Webb said.
“We are an anti-gay state. We are a state with a whole bunch of hungry children and sick old people, and [Rick Perry is] grandstanding on things that will get him a better election,” Webb said. “And it’s glaringly obvious. He’s kind of primitive in his social beliefs. I would like to see Rick Perry negatively influenced by any kind of attention. Even Obama laughing at something as, hopefully, acceptable as sexuality can show the difference.”
What do you think? Is Obama really changing?
What other stories are you following today? I have a few more news links, but I’ll post them in comments.
Wow that is some title for a morning post…
I guess we should just get down to it.
There’s still a lot of questions on what actions the US will take (if any) in Russia’s promise to enforce its anti-LGBT “propaganda” laws during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Yesterday, the big soccer association behind World Cup got involved. Russia is hosting the 2018 World Cup and FIFA has a strict no discrimination policy: FIFA asks Russia to explain anti-gay law
FIFA says it has asked 2018 World Cup host Russia for “clarification and more details” about a new anti-gay law.
The legislation prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors” prompted an international furor and the IOC already is seeking answers about how Russia will enforce it during the Sochi Winter Olympics next February.
FIFA says in a statement that “Russia has committed to provide all visitors and fans with a warm welcome and ensure their safety” during its monthlong marquee tournament. Football’s governing body added that it “trusts that the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts will deliver on this promise.”
FIFA says its statutes foresee “zero tolerance against discrimination.”
I won’t praise FIFA for the query…seeing as their “zero” tolerance is a mere few months old…and comes after so many questionable actions of their own. Mostly however regarding the discrimination of women, but that is another story.
You can read about that stuff here:
Soccer: FIFA clears space for female executives — A females-only seat has been created on FIFA’s executive committee after the organisation last year co-opted a woman into its ExCo for the first time in over a century.
But back to the anti-gay crap over in Russia… would you believe that even the conservative mouthpiece over at WaPo, Jennifer Rubin, has something to say about supporting Human Rights, and by a round about way…gay rights…check it out: Support human rights, punish Sochi sponsors
I’m a bit of an Olympics grouch. Maybe it was holding games in repressive, pollution-laden communist China. Maybe it was the refusal to designate a moment of silence commemorating the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich games. Or maybe it is the anti-nationalistic blather voiced about games in which every athlete wears his country’s uniform and each nation’s medal haul is calculated by the hour. But Sochi, Russia, really is the last straw.
I agree with Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch. She explains that host countries are supposed to comply with the “Fundamental Principles of Olympism,” which include respect for human rights and freedom of the press:
Starting in 2008, Human Rights Watch has documented myriad Russian abuses associated with preparation for the Olympics. These include government harassment and intimidation of activists and journalists, abuses of migrant workers from the former Soviet bloc who are building all the major Olympic venues (including the media center) and forced evictions of some families without compensation. Some migrant workers who tried to complain have been detained.
Over the past year, Russia has also introduced repressive laws targeting certain nonprofit organizations as “foreign agents.” With raids, threats and intimidation, the crackdown has been the most severe of its kind in the post-Soviet era. Central to this campaign is a new law targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. All these efforts are at odds with the Olympic ideal, as expressed in its charter, of “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Russian authorities are apparently counting on the I.O.C. to keep quiet again.
And then there are the rigged elections, corrupt government, imprisonment of political opponents and — let’s not forget — invasion and occupation of 20 percent of Georgia.
The International Olympic Committee is hopeless, and Vladimir Putin is indifferent to public criticism, but sponsors are another matter altogether. Worden is most upset about gay rights (“Unless sponsors and franchise-holders like NBC, Coca-Cola, G.E., McDonalds and Visa want to risk being associated with an officially homophobic Olympics, they must find their voices — before the next I.O.C. head is anointed.”) But there are many reasons not to patronize the Olympics or patronize those companies getting blood money for the mockery of the Olympic spirit.
Yeah, I went ahead and quoted the whole post…it was a short one but I wanted to make sure you saw all of Rubin’s op/ed. Dang…doesn’t this go against everything a Jennifer Rubin should believe in? Looks like she is calling for the kind of boycott uprising ala Stop Rush.
Actually, I am being a bitch there…and should be thrilled that someone like Rubin is supportive of what is right…for a change.
I also think the IOC is going to pull a Sgt.Schultz on the entire mess…”I see nothing, I hear nothing.” I mean, for an organization that would throw out wrestling and baseball and consider pole dancing as a sanctioned Olympic sport, what else would you expect? As Worden states above:
…the Olympic ideal, as expressed in its charter, of “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
Yeah…nothing says “human dignity” more than a woman dressed in skimpy clothing doing a “Spatchcock’ on a stripper pole. (You read that right…spatch…cock.)
IPSFLiza Szabo tries a ‘Spatchcock’ at the World Pole Sports Championships.
I’ve got another op/ed for you, this one is from Kathleen Parker and it is about Human Rights…are Womens Rights: Parker: ‘Human rights are women’s rights’
Three years out and you’d think the deed was done: Madame President Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.
She’s everywhere these days because: (a) It’s August; (b) Reporters are bored with President Obama; (c) Reporters are bored with Joe Biden; (d) Clintons are never boring.
Op-ed columns are filled with advice about what Hillary needs to do. She needs a narrative. A message. It can’t be that she’s a Clinton or a woman. It has to be …
Here’s a thought: She can save the world.
Shit…we know that already. I just wish assholes like Anthony Weiner would shut the fuck up: Hillary Clinton’s Team Reacts To Anthony Weiner’s Remarks On Huma Abedin’s Role In Potential 2016 Bid
Did you hear what the Twitterdick said at a press conference?
A spokesman for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has thrown cold water on comments New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner made about her potential 2016 campaign.
“I do,” Weiner said when asked if he knew how Abedin, an aide to Clinton since the Former First Lady’s White House days, would factor into a 2016 presidential run. “I’m not telling you.”
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill denied having any idea what Weiner could have been referencing, Politico reports.
“We have absolutely no clue what he was talking about,” Merrill said, according to Politico. “Maybe his campaign does. Doubt it though.”
Weiner said Monday he believed his multiple sexting controversies have hurt Abedin, who spoke out in defense of her husband during a July 23 conference.
“I feel that what I have done has hurt her, yeah,” Weiner said. “It’s hurt her professionally, it’s hurt her personally.”
No shit Sherlock. Ugh. This guy pisses me off, disgust me, and makes me want to puke.
But if you want to feel better go up and read that Parker link, it is nothing new to us, but it is nice to see it said in print in other media outlets.
Just a few more links…in link dump fashion:
A police SWAT team stormed a rural Louisiana bank early on Wednesday, killing a gunman after he shot and critically injured two hostages, in a dramatic end to a 12-hour standoff.
State Police spokesman Albert Paxton said officers entered the bank building in the small town of St. Joseph shortly after midnight because the gunman was threatening to kill one or both of the hostages he was holding.
The man, identified as 20-year-old Fuaed Abdo Ahmed, the California-born son of Yemeni parents, shot both hostages when police entered the building. Police then shot and killed him, Paxton said.
“He was angry and he wanted to kill hostages,” Paxton said of the gunman, who initially took three bank employees hostage but released one woman after several hours.
Paxton said Ahmed was mentally ill and had complained of hearing voices. The gunman’s family owned a convenience store in the town, officials said.
The wounded hostages, previously identified as one woman and one man, were taken to local hospitals. Their names were not released.
New Jersey voters took a step closer to choosing a new United States senator Tuesday, picking Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Steve Lonegan to face off in an October special election.
Tuesday’s vote capped a frantic two-month scramble for votes consistently led by Booker, the popular Newark mayor, and Lonegan, a former Bogota mayor with ties to the Koch brothers. Booker easily defeated Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rush Holt, and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Lonegan beat physician Alieta Eck.
Booker captured 18 of the state’s 21 counties in his landslide win. Pallone, the second-place Democrat, easily won his home county of Monmouth, but lost to Booker in Middlesex County, which he has long represented in Congress. Holt, the third-place finisher, captured his home county of Mercer and also won in Hunterdon County, which he has represented in Congress.
Well, the last story sounds more like a creature feature to me: Team of scientists create cloned glow-in-the-dark rabbits
Scientists have cloned a colony of rabbits that glow bright green in the dark, in an attempt to advance research into treatments for life-threatening illnesses.
Researchers based in Hawaii and Turkey produced a litter of eight rabbits, two of which glow green in the dark.
Dr. Stefan Moisyadi, a biogenesis researcher, said the rabbits are like “an LED light”, during an interview with Khon2. “And on top of it, their fur is beginning to grow and the greenness is shining right through their fur. It’s so intense,” he added.
The florescent colouring is used to indicate that the genetic material injected into the embryos is incorporated into the rabbits’ natural make up.
‘It’s just a marker to show that we can take a gene that was not originally in the animal and now exists in the animal,’ Dr Moisyadi explained.
Dr Moisyadi said the animals are not affected by the fluorescent protein and will have the same life span as other rabbits. “The green is only a marker to show that’s it’s working easily,” he said.
Video at the link and a description of how the scientist made the little green buggers.
I hope that these stories were not repeats, I haven’t been able to read much of anything the last day or so. We had a dishwasher blowout at my house Tuesday around 3 am…I went down to the kitchen to get an ice cream sandwich and stepped into a puddle in front of the refrigerator. I’m not talking a little puddle either, I’m talking a Singing in the Rain puddle.
Oh, it was a mess. And it went down into the basement too. Yesterday was also the day I had promised to make the Sicilian pizza for the family. So there was the dishwasher disaster combined with the big swelling lumps of dough, rising for the crust…looking like my Nana’s huge eggplant shaped breast nestled inside the glass Pyrex pans and bursting out of the saran wrap. Hot and sweaty and cooking up something good. What fun. All we needed was a pole and I could have given my best try at a Spatchcock. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
That is all I got for you, now what do you have for us this morning? Share your thoughts below!
Last night I watched an old Marx Brothers movie–Monkey Business. It’s been years since I’ve watched one of their movies, and I’d forgotten how much fun it can be. Laughter really is the best medicine. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see a movie with the Marx Brothers making people like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and David Gregory look like complete idiots?
Not that Republicans need Groucho, Chico, or Harpo to highlight their idiocy, as you can see from this story at TPM: CPAC Event On Racial Tolerance Turns To Chaos As ‘Disenfranchised’ Whites Arrive
The session, entitled “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” was led by K. Carl Smith, a black conservative who mostly urged attendees to deflect racism charges by calling themselves “Frederick Douglass Republicans.”
Disruptions began when he started accusing Democrats of still being the party of the Confederacy — a common talking point on the right….Disruptions began when he started accusing Democrats of still being the party of the Confederacy — a common talking point on the right.
But “things really went off the rails” in the question and answer session.
Scott Terry of North Carolina, accompanied by a Confederate-flag-clad attendee, Matthew Heimbach, rose to say he took offense to the event’s take on slavery. (Heimbach founded the White Students Union at Towson University and is described as a “white nationalist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)
“It seems to be that you’re reaching out to voters at the expense of young white Southern males,” Terry said, adding he “came to love my people and culture” who were “being systematically disenfranchised.”
Smith responded that Douglass forgave his slavemaster.
“For giving him shelter? And food?” Terry said.
At this point the event devolved into a mess of shouting.
It sounds just like a Marx Brothers movie, without the jokes. There’s much more at the link–you have to read it to believe it.
More on CPAC from Gay activist and talk radio host Michaelangelo Signorile: Brian Brown, NOM Leader, At CPAC: Prop 8 Challenge Is ‘Biggest Strategic Mistake’ of Gay Rights Movement
A day before GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio reversed his position and came out for marriage equality, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), insisted conservatives are rallying against gay marriage and that “if the Republican Party abandons traditional marriage, there is no Republican Party.” He also predicted that California’s Proposition 8 will be upheld by the Supreme Court, which is hearing arguments on the case later this month, calling the decision by gay advocates to challenge Prop 8 “the biggest strategic mistake the supporters of same-sex marriage ever have made.”
“I think people are excited [about traditional marriage],” Brown said in an interview on my SiriusXM OutQ radio program, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Thursday. “[Florida Senator] Marco Rubio just stood up there and said, ‘Just because I’m for traditional marriage doesn’t make me a bigot.’ And everyone stood up and cheered. The grass roots of conservatism are absolutely united behind traditional marriage. Folks I’m seeing here are absolutely committed.”
You can listen to the whole interview at the HuffPo link.
I liked TBogg’s rude comment on Portman’s overnight conversion: Honey, I’m Homo.
If you think the rapidity with which a Republican politician, who was previously against equal rights for gays, suddenly switches sides once he discovers that Teh Ghey has invaded his happy All-American home is impressive, you should see how quickly they embrace abortion as a God-given right the moment their daughter announces that she has been knocked up.
By a black guy.
Jonathan Chait has a longer, more carefully reasoned discussion of Portman’s hypocrisy. Here’s the conclusion:
It’s pretty simple. Portman went along with his party’s opposition to gay marriage because it didn’t affect him. He thought about gay rights the way Paul Ryan thinks about health care. And he still obviously thinks about most issues the way Paul Ryan thinks about health care.
That Portman turns out to have a gay son is convenient for the gay-rights cause. But why should any of us come away from his conversion trusting that Portman is thinking on any issue about what’s good for all of us, rather than what’s good for himself and the people he knows?
As for Paul Ryan, he claims that “Democrats’ budget puts US on path ‘straight into debt crisis.'” From The Hill:
Ryan used the weekly GOP address to promote the budget plan bearing his name, saying it will benefit Americans worried about jobs and the cost of living, those trying to keep up with the cost of healthcare and younger workers hoping for a secure retirement. “And for taxpayers fed up with the status quo, we will cut wasteful spending,” he said….
Ryan took aim at President Obama and Senate Democrats, saying the tax increases in a proposal from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) only “fuel more spending.”
“We know where this path leads—straight into a debt crisis, and along the way, fewer jobs, fewer opportunities, and less security,” Ryan said, painting a desperate image of rising interest rates and inflating debt payments.
“Our finances will collapse,” he warned. “You think this can’t happen here? Just look at Europe.”
WTF?! Europe’s problems are being exacerbated by austerity! Is this guy for real? Here’s what the Tax Policy Center has to say about Mr. Ryan’s “budget.”
House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) fiscal plan promises to balance the federal budget in 10 years, make major cuts in income tax rates for both individuals and corporations, and raise the same amount of revenue as current law. If House Republicans want to do all three, they will have to eliminate trillions of dollars in popular tax preferences.
The Tax Policy Center estimates that cutting individual rates to 10 percent and 25 percent, repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax and the tax increases included in the Affordable Care Act, and cutting the corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent would add $5.7 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. Thus, if House Republicans want to cut these taxes and still collect the revenues they promise, they’d have to raise other taxes by $5.7 trillion.
The tax cuts described in Ryan’s budget would generate a huge windfall for high-income taxpayers. On average, households would get a cut of $3,000. But those in the top 0.1 percent of income, who make $3.3 million or more, would get a whopping $1.2 million on average–a 20 percent increase in their after-tax income.
By contrast, middle-income households would get an average tax cut of about $900. Those in the bottom 20 percent (who make $22,000 or less) would get $40 and one-third of them would get no tax cut at all.
Some important caveats here: TPC did not estimate the revenue effects of a Ryan tax proposal since the budget does not include an actual plan. Rather, it modeled generic tax cuts that follow the outline of what his budget describes. And because his plan does not identify any tax increases, TPC modeled only the tax cuts.
Some budget. Here’s Matthew O’Brien at The Atlantic: Paul Ryan’s $5.7 Trillion Magic Trick
I’m not really a fan of magic, but I’m even less of one when it’s politicians doing the tricks.
That’s why I’ve had some less-than-nice things to say about Paul Ryan’s latest budget. Like its previous iterations, it explicitly says how he wants to cut taxes, but says nothing about how he wants to pay for it. Instead, Ryan uses a magic asterisk. He merely waves his hand, and says he’ll cut enough tax expenditures to pay for all of his tax cuts. He just can’t tell us what any of these tax expenditures are. Not a single one.
This is some pretty expensive hand-waving….this magic asterisk is worth about $1 trillion more than before. Ryan keeps the same tax cuts he had last year, but he assumes these same cuts will raise an extra 0.5 percent of GDP in revenue. In other words, it’s the same magical budgeting we’ve come to know from Ryan — but now with even more magic!
It’s particularly magical for the top 1 percent of households. The chart below from the Tax Policy Center shows the percent change in after-tax incomes for each income group from Ryan’s tax cuts. That’s what comforting the comfortable looks like.
There’s much more (with charts) at the link.
Now here’s some good news–if it holds up: Federal Judge Finds National Security Letters Unconstitutional, Bans Them. From Wired:
Ultra-secret national security letters that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech, a federal judge in California ruled in a decision released Friday.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing so-called NSLs across the board, in a stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices. She also ordered the government to cease enforcing the gag provision in any other cases. However, she stayed her order for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We are very pleased that the Court recognized the fatal constitutional shortcomings of the NSL statute,” said Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a challenge to NSLs on behalf of an unknown telecom that received an NSL in 2011. “The government’s gags have truncated the public debate on these controversial surveillance tools. Our client looks forward to the day when it can publicly discuss its experience.”
The telecommunications company received the ultra-secret demand letter in 2011 from the FBI seeking information about a customer or customers. The company took the extraordinary and rare step of challenging the underlying authority of the National Security Letter, as well as the legitimacy of the gag order that came with it.
The national security letters are one of those holdovers from Bush that the Obama administration has defended in court. Please read the whole article if you have time–there’s a lot of good background info. Here’s the press release from the EFF. Who knows what will happen on appeal or if the case makes it to the Supreme Court, but this is very good news.
Finally, we can look forward to some more insanity from the CPAC crowd today–Ted Cruz will be closing out the conference with his keynote speech–and before that there’ll be a whole assortment of mixed Republican nuts. From NPR:
It’s the last day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, which will culminate in a keynote address by up-and-coming Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. As NPR’s David Welna reports,
“Though he’s only been a senator since January, this will be the third year Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is addressing CPAC. This former Texas solicitor general and Tea Party favorite got top billing at the conference after aggressively questioning former GOP senator Chuck Hagel during Hagel’s confirmation hearing to be secretary of defense.”
Also scheduled to speak are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. (CPAC has the full schedule on its website.)
Sorry this post is so late–I hope everyone hasn’t given up on me already. If anyone is out there, please share your recommended links in the comments. I look forward to clicking on them!
Have a great weekend!
I have a mixed bag of interesting reads for you this morning, if I do say so myself. So let’s get right to it.
I’ll start out with that infamous Republican conspiracy theory based on an old UN initiative, “Agenda 21,” which has been in the news again recently. I wrote a post about it about a year ago that I called Dark Ages America.
Unfortunately, we’ll probably be hearing more about this nutty conspiracy, because there’s a new book coming out today–a dystopian novel supposedly authored by Glenn Beck–and it’s titled Agenda 21. Here’s a quote from the book, published on Amazon’s item page:
“I was just a baby when we were relocated and I don’t remember much. Everybody has that black hole at the beginning of their life. That time you can’t remember. Your first step. Your first taste of table food. My real memories begin in our assigned living area in Compound 14.”
Just a generation ago, this place was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as “the Republic.” There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom.
There are only the Authorities.
Citizens have two primary goals in the new Republic: to create clean energy and to create new human life. Those who cannot do either are of no use to society. This bleak and barren existence is all that eighteen-year-old Emmeline has ever known. She dutifully walks her energy board daily and accepts all male pairings assigned to her by the Authorities. Like most citizens, she keeps her head down and her eyes closed.
Until the day they come for her mother.
“You save what you think you’re going to lose.”
Woken up to the harsh reality of her life and her family’s future inside the Republic, Emmeline begins to search for the truth. Why are all citizens confined to ubiquitous concrete living spaces? Why are Compounds guarded by Gatekeepers who track all movements? Why are food, water and energy rationed so strictly? And, most important, why are babies taken from their mothers at birth? As Emmeline begins to understand the true objectives of Agenda 21 she realizes that she is up against far more than she ever thought. With the Authorities closing in, and nowhere to run, Emmeline embarks on an audacious plan to save her family and expose the Republic—but is she already too late?
Except, I found out today that Beck didn’t really write the book; he just purchased the concept from his co-author Harriet Parke, the real author. I never knew you could do that–did you? From “I got duped by Glenn Beck!” by “Sarah Cypher”:
Two weeks ago I discovered, to my surprise, that I had line-edited an early draft of Glenn Beck’s new novel, “Agenda 21.” Glenn Beck! At the time I was working on it, the manuscript belonged to its actual author, a woman named Harriet Parke, who lives a few minutes from my aunt. But a year and a few lawyers later, Glenn Beck purchased the right to call himself its creator, and Ms. Parke agreed to be presented as a ghostwriter.
Cypher doesn’t agree with Glenn Beck’s politics (or Harriet Parke’s), but she thought she was editing a novel for nice lady who lives near her aunt, not Glenn Beck, Inc. In fact, Cypher agrees with the goals of Agenda 21, which is, after all, simply a set of non-binding recommendations for city planning. The book is still the same one written originally written by Harriet Parke, but Cypher worries that having Glenn Beck’s name on it will transform it from a fun futuristic read to a right wing political manifesto.
Glenn Beck is more than just the nice guy whose publishing house is bringing Ms. Parke’s work to a national audience. He’s also a professional ideologue whose establishment confers the full force of its intellectually and morally irresponsible franchise on a novel that distorts the truth about Agenda 21, which is doing good work in the world. Glenn Beck is not writing as an artist, bound by the conventions of his art, plying his craft on the willing human imagination. Hell, he’s not writing at all. He is a brand, with a budget, and with an agenda of his own. Ultimately, by assigning his brand to the novel “Agenda 21,” Beck turns a form of entertainment into a political lie, a tool for politicizing people.
It’s an interesting piece. Do check it out.
Everyone has heard by now that Hostess Brands is going out of business after being taken over by a vulture capitalist firm. Yesterday, a judge talked the company into negotiating a little more with one of its unions.
Hostess Brands Inc. and its second largest union agreed on Monday to try to resolve their differences after a bankruptcy court judge noted that the parties hadn’t gone through the critical step of private mediation. That means the maker of the spongy cake with the mysterious cream filling won’t go out of business yet.
The news comes after the maker of Ho Ho’s, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread last week moved to liquidate and sell off its assets in bankruptcy court. Hostess cited a crippling strike started on Nov. 9 by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents about 30 percent of Hostess workers.
‘‘Many people, myself included, have serious questions as to the logic behind this strike,’’ said Judge Robert Drain, who heard the case in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York in White Plains, N.Y. ‘‘Not to have gone through that step leaves a huge question mark in this case.’’
The mediation talks are set to take place Tuesday, with the liquidation hearing set to resume on Wednesday if an agreement isn’t reached. Jeff Freund, an attorney for the bakers union, said any guess as to how the talks will go would be ‘‘purely speculative.’’
Frankly, I think the world could live without Twinkies and Ding Dongs–I was never a fan. But the jobs are needed, that’s for sure. But as long as we’re talking about Twinkies, we can revisit “the Twinkie defense.” At Counterpunch, the great Paul Krassner recounts the story behind the story:
A dozen police cars had been set on fire, which in turn set off their alarms, underscoring the angry shouts from five thousand understandably angry gays. This was in 1979. I had been covering the trial of Dan White for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The ex-cop had confessed to killing Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
Dale Metcalf, a former Merry Prankster who had become a lawyer, told me how he happened to be playing chess with a friend, Steven Scherr, one of White’s attorneys. Metcalf had just read Orthomolecular Nutrition by Abram Hoffer. He questioned Scherr about White’s diet and learned that, while under stress, White would consume candy bars and soft drinks. Metcalf recommended the book to Scherr, suggesting the author as an expert witness. After all, in his book, Hoffer revealed a personal vendetta against doughnuts, and White had once eaten five doughnuts in a row.
Hoffer didn’t testify, but his influence permeated the courtroom. White’s defense team presented that bio-chemical explanation of his behavior, blaming it on compulsive gobbling down of sugar-filled junk-food snacks. Psychiatrist Martin Blinder testified that, on the night before the murders, White “just sat there in front of the TV set, binging on Twinkies.” Another psychiatrist stated, “If not for the aggravating fact of junk food, the homicides might not have taken place.”
In my notebook, I scribbled “Twinkie defense,” and wrote about it in my next report. On the 25th anniversary of that double execution, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that, “During the trial, no one but well-known satirist Paul Krassner — who may have coined the phrase ‘Twinkie defense’ — played up that angle.” And so it came to pass that a pair of political assassinations was transmuted into voluntary manslaughter.
It gets much better. Please go read this entertaining piece at the link.
There’s a great post by Karoli at Crooks and Liars: GOP Governors Unwittingly Move U.S. Toward Single Payer Health Care
Republican governors are holding a boycott. As the deadline looms large for them to establish state-based exchanges, they are refusing to do so, one after the other.
I applaud them. No, really. I do….
When these Republican governors opt out of the state-based exchanges, they are not opting their states out of Obamacare. I’m sure they’re trying to set up future litigation as yet another roadblock, but fortunately there were safeguards written into the law in order to thwart effective “secession” from the coverage rules.
Each of those Republican governors has just abrogated their authority over the insurance exchanges to the federal government, who is now free to step in and offer people in their state health insurance based on a national risk pool, rather than state based. The bigger the pool, the cheaper it is.
Insurers are already whining about how they’ll be out of the health insurance business altogether in a matter of a few years. Good. This should hasten the process and bring about single payer that much faster.
Read the details at the link.
I love this piece by Scott Terry at HuffPo: Gay Cowboys, Utah and Mitt Romney. You really need to read the whole thing–it’s not long. I’ll just tell you that Terry has written a memoir of growing up gay and a fundamentalist Christian and he has a few choice words about Mitt Romney and his shock at losing the election.
So today I am reading headlines of how the Republican Party leaders are lamenting their election loss and speculating on why their candidate couldn’t carry the Republican Party to victory. In the weeks since his defeat, I’ve read headlines that declare Mitt Romney to be “stunned” at his loss. Stunned? Really?
Here’s a newsflash for Romney: In 1885, when your Mormon great-grandfather had four wives, it would have been acceptable for elected officials to think their obligation was to solely represent their white male constituents. Women didn’t have the right to vote at that time. Neither did most people of color. The world has changed. Perhaps you and Utah and the Mormon Church have a ways to go before you catch up with the rest of society, but it is no longer acceptable to believe that you only need to appeal to white male Christians. If you dare to ask for the privilege to govern the people of this country, you must govern for everyone, even for the two gay guys who would have preferred a king-sized bed in Utah.
While you’re at HuffPo, check out this one: Political Forecaster Nate Silver Talks About Being Gay. It’s another short but pithy read.
That’s about all I have room for today. I realize I didn’t give you a lot of breaking news, but I hope you found something you enjoyed.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?
On January 26, I wrote a post about an excerpt from the biography The Real Romney that had just been published by Vanity Fair. The Vanity Fair article detailed Romney’s cruel treatment of women when he was a Bishop and later Stake President in Boston’s Mormon community.
In doing a little further research on one of those women, Judith Dushku, and came across an earler interview with Dushku in which she recounted a conversation with Romney in which he told her he had been given permission by his church leaders to lie about his views on abortion and LGBT rights. A few years before, Romney had cut Dushku out of his life because she supported a women who had to choose between having an abortion and losing her own life. Here’s the relevant excerpt from my post:
A few years after the friendship ended, Romney ran for the Senate in 1994 against Ted Kennedy. Dushku was very surprised to learn that Romney was running as a pro-choice candidate. Dushku:
I was pleased and called, asking to see him. I told him I suspected that we had our differences, but that maybe I could work with him if he’d come to a really good position on women and childbirth.
And he said – Yes, come to my office.
I went to his office and I congratulated him on taking a pro-choice position. And his response was – Well they told me in Salt Lake City I could take this position, and in fact I probably had to in order to win in a liberal state like Massachusetts.
Suzan Mazur: Who’s “THEY”?
Judy Dushku: I asked him the same question. And he said “the Brethren” in Salt Lake City.
In other words, Romney was consulting with his church elders before deciding his positions on the issues, and they told him to lie!
Last night The Daily Beast published a post by famed investigative reporter Wayne Barrett that adds weight to Dushku’s testimony. Barrett begins by discussing portions of another Romney biography, Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and his Politics, by R.B. Scott, a former reporter for Time and a “distant cousin” of Mitt Romney’s, as well as an adviser to Romney early on. In the book, Scott writes about
numerous trips Romney has taken to the mountaintop to square his positions on social issues like abortion and gay rights with church hierarchy….[and] he describes how Romney came away from these Salt Lake treks bolstered by a flexible understanding he reached with the brass: He was able to moderate his views during his runs for Senate and the governorship in liberal Massachusetts, yet he could still find his way back to doctrinal purity once in the governor’s mansion and safely on to his way to the White House….
Scott says that 1993 trip “established a pattern” that Romney “would follow in years to come when deliberating about whether to run for Massachusetts governor in 2002, and, especially, before announcing his candidacy for president in 2007.”
In the spring and early summer of 2005, while Romney was still Massachusetts governor and preparing to set up his first presidential PACs, he visited Salt Lake so often that one senior church official said he “basically camped out” at church headquarters, according to Scott. Gordon Hinckley, the president and prophet with decades of ties to the Romney family (he and Mitt’s father, George, went to high school together), reportedly found the frequency and “dithering,” as Scott put it, “a little tiresome.”
During the Republican primaries this year, there was much discussion about Jack Kennedy’s famous speech to Southern Baptist ministers in Dallas in 1960. Kennedy was forced by constant questioning to pledge his independence from the Roman Catholic Church–even though Kennedy never traveled to Rome to seek guidance on political issues and was never a member of his church’s hierarchy as Romney was for many years.
Why is Romney being given a pass on his lack of independence from Mormon church leaders? Why do you suppose these church leaders gave Romney dispensation to hide his “severely conservative” views from voters until he had taken office as Governor of Massachusetts? Here is Scott’s answer, as reported by Barrett (emphasis added):
In 1993, Romney went to Salt Lake with a Mormon pollster and poll results showing that he couldn’t win in Massachusetts without moderating his positions on those sorts of issues. “They realized it would serve no purpose to quibble—the greater good was to get him elected and give him a shot at realizing the victory his father booted 40 years earlier,” Scott writes. “Did they see him as a future presidential candidate? Did he? Do the statues of Angel Moroni atop every Mormon temple always face east?”
In other words, Scott is contending that the church in effect licensed Romney’s better-than-Kennedy promises on gay rights, as well as his pink flyers at the Gay Pride Parade in 2002 that beckoned: “All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preference.”
I won’t belabor the White Horse Prophecy myth again, but it certainly appears that Mormon church leaders very much want a man in the White House who will follow their “advice.”