Lazy Saturday Reads

Dans la Prairie, Claude Monet

Dans la Prairie, Claude Monet

Good Morning!!

I’m going to begin with some light-hearted stories from the NATO Summit. I really liked this one from BBC News, When the Nato summit came to south Wales. After all the ugly attacks on President Obama from both Republicans and Democrats here in the U.S., I was pleasantly surprised to see the warm welcome he received in South Wales. Check it out. There are some nice photos and tweets. I especially liked the expression on Obama’s face while he interacted with some schoolchildren (see below).

From the article:

It takes something pretty unique for the word “Newport” to be trending in Cardiff on Twitter.

But the city had arrived when its larger neighbour was talking about it. The world of social media woke up early for the Nato summit.

The summit certainly kept Twitter busy and it might explain – apart from the 9,500 police officers, road blocks and security fencing – why the streets of the capital were generally quiet and people were staying at home, online.

Obama wales

In Newport itself, the sight of armoured vehicles being displayed on the Celtic Manor golf course was a popular shared photo. Just think of the score if Europe had these in the Ryder Cup?

It was a demonstration of the high skills of the south Wales workforce who manufacture them, but the skills of those with Photoshop was also in evidence.

The summit also brought some unusual sights on the streets – and in the air – with Cardiff in particular not used to such a security operation. And there were also some special moments, not least for pupils at a primary school in Newport.

From the Boston Globe, some video of President Obama strolling through Stonehenge, looking awestruck.

After wrestling with threats ranging from Russia to Islamist insurgency in the Middle East, U.S. President Barack Obama took a break from a NATO summit to visit Britain’s prehistoric Stonehenge monument on Friday. “How cool is this?” Obama said as he wandered starry-eyed in his shirt sleeves among the towering stone megaliths.

Silly me, I like having a President who says things like “How cool is this?” Here’s a great shot of him among the standing stones, from NBC News.

Obama stonehenge2

 

And from The Daily Mail, ‘We should have invited him back for coffee': Family-of-five tell of shock meeting with President Obama during trip to Stonehenge following NATO summit.

A mother has told of her shock after her family-of-five had a chat with President Obama during a trip to Stonehenge – but that she now wishes she had invited him back for coffee.

Inspired by rumours that the President’s helicopter had landed at the ancient site, Janice Raffle and her husband James marched across fields with their three sons in the hope they would catch a glimpse of the US President.

At first the family, who live a mile from the monument, were stuck at a fence. But a good-natured Obama wandered over to where they were standing – and even agreed to pose for a family photo.

Mrs Raffle, 35, who was with her three sons, aged two, six and seven, told Sky News: ‘He waved at us first after my husband marched us all the way there on the chance we might get to see him.

‘We kind of edged closer and closer until he noticed us and waved. We waved back and then one of the high security men edged us forward and he was moving forward at the same time, which was very exciting.

‘The first person to say something was actually James. He said “Welcome to England”.

Lots of photos at the Daily Mail link.

Adolphe Monet Reading in the Garden, Claude Monet

Adolphe Monet Reading in the Garden, Claude Monet

Getting back to potential WWIII news, The Washington Post reported last night: Ukraine cease-fire begins, amid doubts that it will last.

Ukraine’s increasingly bloody conflict went on hold Friday, after the government and pro-Russian rebels signed a cease-fire deal that at least temporarily solidified the insurgents’ territorial gains.

The agreement, made with the Kremlin’s endorsement, appeared to be a first step toward the type of dormant conflict that Russia has exploited to exert control over former satellites in the decades since the Soviet Union’s collapse, including thwarting their chances of joining the NATO defense alliance.

With rebels making swift gains across eastern Ukraine this week, and preparing to seize the key industrial port city of Mariupol, it seemed that Ukrainian authorities felt they had little choice but to push for a halt to hostilities. The rebels turned the tide of battle early last week after receiving heavy backing from Russian ­forces, Kiev and its Western allies say. The Kremlin denies aiding the rebels.

The cease-fire deal was made as leaders of NATO countries gathered in Wales this week for discussions focused on the conflict. The terms of the deal underscored Russia’s apparent willingness to commit far more resources than the West to achieve its aims in Ukraine. Kiev has asked for Western military aid, but relatively little has been forthcoming, in part because of Western caution about getting pulled into a proxy military conflict with Russia inside a non-NATO-member nation.

A Woman Reading, Claude Monet

A Woman Reading, Claude Monet

This one is disturbing from The Daily Beast, Russia Steps Up Pressure on the Baltics.

An officer from the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS), “was abducted at gunpoint at Luhamaa border checkpoint this morning” and “taken to Russia,” according to an Estonian government statement.

The incident comes at an extremely delicate moment, just as the United States and NATO try to convince the front-line members of the Alliance that have solid protection from Russian territorial ambitions. The sleight-of-hand invasion of non-NATO Ukraine over the last several months has raised fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin will claim in the Baltic States, just as he claimed in Crimea and the Donbass region, that the large Russian-speaking population needs to be protected, separated and inevitably annexed to a reconstituted Russian Empire.

The Estonian statement implied the alleged abduction is an intentional slap in the face to the Americans. “The incident comes two days after a visit to Estonia by U.S. President Barack Obama and in the middle of NATO’s summit in Wales,” it said. Apparently there have been “airspace violations” reported as well, including over Finland, which is not a member of the Alliance.

The whereabouts of the officer remain unknown, the Estonians did not name him and what he was doing at the border, precisely, has not been specified except to say he was performing his official functions. The ISS is Estonia’s national agency for counterintelligence and high-profile corruption investigations.

What is Putin playing at? It takes some gall to abuct a government official from a NATO country on the heels of the NATO Summit.

Monet Reading, August Renoir

Monet Reading, August Renoir

The New York Times’ Jason Horowitz on Governor Vaginal Probe, For Bob McDonnell, a Miscalculation at the Scene of a Blunder.

On Aug. 15, 2013, Bob McDonnell visited the site of one of Virginia’s great tactical blunders.

As part of his final official tour of the state as its governor, Mr. McDonnell went to Ball’s Bluff State Park in Leesburg, where more than 150 years ago a Union army scout crossed the Potomac River and mistook a row of trees for an unguarded Confederate camp. The next morning, Union soldiers approached the trunks and branches and soon found themselves surrounded by well-armed Mississippi infantrymen. By the end of the skirmish, Confederate soldiers had killed nearly half of the Union troops, many of them pushed off the bluff and into the Potomac.

Even by the time of his visit, Mr. McDonnell seemed likely to enter the state’s history books for his own bad judgment — accepting extravagant gifts and generous loans from a Richmond businessman seeking favor from the governor’s office. On Thursday, the ink dried when a federal jury found him guilty on 11 counts of conspiracy, bribery and extortion.

At Ball’s Bluff last year, Mr. McDonnell announced $2.2 million in grants for battlefield preservation. As he sat in sunglasses on a white folding chair, James Lighthizer, the president of the Civil War Trust, said that ultimately Mr. McDonnell would be most remembered for conserving Civil War battlefields. “He has done more for battlefield preservation than any other governor in the United States of America,” Mr. Lighthizer said.

It looks like Lighthizer was wrong. McDonnell will most likely be remembered–if at all–as the first VA governor to be a convicted felon and for throwing his wife under the bus to try to save himself.

And from Chris Cillizza, a nomination for “the best front page on the Bob McDonnell verdict.” See it at the link. I wasn’t able to copy the photo.

A couple more good articles on McDonnell:

From The Daily Beast, The Religious Right’s ‘Nice Guy’ Who Threw His Wife Under the Bus.

When Bob McDonnell burst onto the national scene in 2009, he was everything the Republican Party needed—a good-looking family man who stopped the Obama juggernaut in its tracks in the swing state of Virginia just 12 months after the party’s McCain humiliation of 2008.

A family-values social conservative (he got his JD from Regent University), McDonnell cleverly wooed Commonwealth voters with his corn-dog “Bob’s for Jobs” campaign slogan and a heavy dose of what appeared to be the TV-perfect brood: five gorgeous kids, including a daughter who served in the military in Iraq, and a devoted, smiling wife who had once been a Washington Redskins cheerleader.

McDonnell’s family was emblazoned on his campaign bus and commercials. At the inaugural ball after he won the governor’s race, the McDonnells slow-danced to “Looks Like We Made It.” McDonnell had even written his master’s thesis on the breakdown of the American family and ways the Republican Party could build it back up. “As the family goes, so goes the nation,” he wrote.

Underlying the entire McDonnell package in 2009 was a known truth about the governor among political operatives who knew him and believed in him—that unlike the divas and the bullies and the egomaniacs who litter both political parties today, Bob McDonnell was just a good guy. Staff called him “Mr. Honest.” Republicans in Washington called him “the Boy Scout.”

Hilarious! I wonder if any of these religious right nuts believe the crap they try to sell to voters?  love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning.

Schadenfreude

And from Rob Boston at Talk to Action, Fall From Grace: What The Religious Right Should Learn From The McDonnell Scandal.

Leaders of Religious Right groups are fond of telling us that if we elect more fundamentalist Christians to office, we’ll have less corruption. Biblical literalists must be more ethical, right?

That claim is looking a little thin in light of recent events in Virginia. Yesterday, Robert F. McDonnell, the state’s former governor, was found guilty on 11 counts related to public corruption, conspiracy and bribery. His wife, Maureen, whom this “family values” politican tried willingly to throw under the bus, was found guilty on nine charges….

Here’s how McDonnell tried to institute “godly rule” in Virginia:

When state officials decided that police chaplains should use non-sectarian prayers at public events, McDonnell rescinded the order. McDonnell’s obsession with blocking access to legal abortion earned him the nickname “Gov. Ultrasound.”  He drew up new rules allowing tax-funded “faith-based” adoption agencies to deny services to anyone who failed to meet a strict theological litmus test. He signed a law mandating that public colleges in Virginia give funding to student groups even if they discriminate on religious grounds. McDonnell appointed a private school voucher advocate as education secretary and shifted funding for sex education from comprehensive programs to “abstinence-only” approaches that critics say are often anchored in religion.

McDonnell also pushed for a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage (which was later approved by the voters) and even appeared on Robertson’s “700 Club” to lobby for it. McDonnell told a beaming Robertson, “From the Garden of Eden to 2006, we’ve believed that marriage is between a man and a woman. But because of some social trends out there and some court decisions, Pat, as you know, marriage is under attack.”

Based on the religious right’s record of choosing “sinful” candidates like Newt Gingrich, David Vitter and their worship of “divisive extremists like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Bryan Fischer, Tony Perkins, Ben Carson, Sean Hannity” and their embrace of grifters like Ralph Reed and Dinesh D’Souza, Boston writes:

I’d recommend they start by consulting their own holy book – you know, the one they’re always happy to bash us with. Specifically, they should examine the 7th chapter of the Book of Matthew and the words of Jesus: “Why do you look at the speck of dust that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?…You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

But the religious right really doesn’t pay much attention to the New Testament. They seem to prefer the angry fire and brimstone god of pre-Jesus days.

Extremely rare white lobsters

Extremely rare white lobsters

A few more links you might find interesting:

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Court rules against Wisconsin’s, Indiana’s gay marriage bans.

The New York Daily News, Exclusive: Ex-Prez’ daughter Jenna Bush Hager mistakenly registered with NY’s Independence Party  (Breaking: neither of Dubya’s daughters is a Republican.)

The Guardian, Monet landscape found in late German collector’s suitcase. (Stolen by the Nazis?)

Oregon Live.com, Oregon wolf OR-7: Lab tests show mate wandered far to find him (a touching love story, with photos).

Two tales of albino animals, both from Boston.com:

Captured albino cobra taken to Los Angeles Zoo.

Extremely Rare White Lobsters Found Off Maine Coast.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!


Wednesday Reads: Horrors of being a woman in a Pro-Life Hell

Good Morning!

**Updates on Savita Halappanavar story below**

While looking for links for you this morning, I was appalled to read about this woman, Savita Halappanavar, in Ireland.

Scandal in Ireland as woman dies in Galway ‘after being denied abortion’

Health authorities in Ireland are investigating the death of a pregnant woman whose husband says she was denied an abortion following severe complications.

Savita Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, died of septicaemia a week after presenting with back pain on 21 October at University hospital in Galway, where she was found to be miscarrying.

After the 31-year-old dentist was told that she was miscarrying, her husband reportedly said that she had asked for a medical termination a number of times over a three day period, during which she was in severe pain.

But he said these requests were denied because a foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told at one point: “This is a Catholic country.”

Medical staff removed the dead foetus days later after the heartbeat stopped but Halappanavar died of septicaemia on 28 October.

Ireland’s health service executive, which runs the country’s public health care system, has initiated an investigation into the incident, which is also being investigated by the hospital itself.

Reports of the death sparked an outcry on Wednesday night in Ireland, where abortion is illegal unless the life of the woman is in danger.

It is disgusting that something like this has happened…and what bothers me the most is that it isn’t the first time a woman has lost her life because of an archaic religious belief…and it won’t be the last…look at these righteous faces:

Anti-abortion protest

Members of pro-life groups demonstrating in Dublin last year as a private member’s bill proposing legalising abortion in Ireland
was debated. The bill did not succeed. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
What the fuck is wrong with these people! Yes, these people!
This is the kind of anti-women legislation that shitbags within the GOP want to pass and are working very diligently at it. Just because Obama won, does not mean that we can stop the outcry against the War on Women. Only this week in Ohio, women’s rights are again being attacked. That Was Quick. Ohio GOP Restart Abortion Wars

Apparently Republicans in the state of Ohio didn’t quite get the message from the election. Rather than back off unpopular efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care, they’ve gone all in, renewing efforts to strip family-planning dollars from Planned Parenthood and reviving the once-dead “heartbeat bill” which purports to ban abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detected.

Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, reacted to news of the renewed attacks on women’s reproductive health care in a statement. “Just days ago, in an election where the stakes for women’s health were higher and clearer than they have ever been, Ohio voted to protect a woman’s ability to make her own personal medical decisions without interference from politicians,” Kight said. “The announcement to focus on these dangerous bills now makes Ohio a ‘battleground state’ once again.”

Exit polling from the national election showed that, of those voters who thought health care was most important, the vast majority are not with politicians who want to interfere with women’s private medical decision-making. To reinforce that fact, President Obama won Ohio women by 11 percent.

It doesn’t matter that women are the reason Obama won…even in states that were seen as red conservative by the media. To these religious nuts, they couldn’t give a damn about those of us with vaginas. Because we all know that if men were the ones who get pregnant, abortion would be available at locations nationwide. There would be abortion for men sponsors fielding cars in NASCAR, and they would get folks like Jimmie Johnson to hack their product during Monday Night Football. I mean…after all…they are only acting like men!
Pat Robertson Excuses Petraeus Affair Because ‘He’s a Man’ -I won’t quote from the article, you all know very well the kind of hypocritical shit comes out of this man’s mouth.
Of course, if a woman has something as slutty as a yeast infection, she has to brave the PLUBs who intimidate her as she tries to get medical care. Do Forced Birthers Think Having a Yeast Infection Is a Sin? | Angry Black Lady Chronicles
Just in case you weren’t positive that the Bishops-fueled right-wing freakout about birth control has fuck-all to do with “pro-life,” Forced Birth protestors in Wisconsin are protesting in front of a Family Planning Clinic that does not provide abortion services. Via Robin Marty at RH Reality Check:

Wausau, Wisconsin, doesn’t have a clinic that provides abortion services. But that doesn’t mean anti-choice protesters in the community are willing to bypass the tradition that is the “40 Days for Life” vigil, a twice-yearly event where religious advocates try to pray to “end abortion.”

No, in Wausau, they simply took their protest to the sidewalk in front of Family Planning Services. Those services? Birth control, WIC distribution, STI screenings.

Oh, and basic health care, too.

Via The New Civil Rights Movement:

It’s 4:00 in the afternoon, and rush hour traffic has slowed so the looky loos can snap a picture of the disturbance with their cell phone cameras. The anxious girl hides her face, painfully aware someone passing by may recognize her, but she bravely trudges past the protesters. Some merely stare at her accusingly. Others hiss words meant to shame her. She wants to run away, but she has no money, and there is nowhere else she can go for help. Hers is a torment that cannot be prayed away. Her eyes fill with tears, but she refuses to let them fall. She keeps her gaze on the entrance; five more steps, three, two. One more step and a push of the door and this nightmare will be over. Inside she will find medical help. She will find compassion without judgment. After weeks of suffering, of tossing and turning and worrying about what she was going to do, the teen is about to find someone who will help her end her unwanted……… yeast infection.

No, I did not get that diagnosis wrong. Family Planning Services in Wausau does not offer abortion services. In fact, they are forbidden by the terms of their state grants from even referring a woman to an abortion provider. (Remind me to do a column about that little piece of injustice sometime.) What FPHS does, is help pregnant women of low to moderate means to have healthy babies. They educate young people about contraception and STDs. They help women (and men) avoid pregnancies that would end in abortions. Their WIC program gets fresh vegetables and fruits from local farmers into the diets of mothers and their young children. You would think the Catholics, with their history of community charity, would be holding fundraising Bingo nights and bake sales to help them. But nope, they have opted to go the pageant route instead.

As Cienna Madrid at The Stranger aptly put it:

Their overarching goal isn’t just to make abortion illegal, it’s to shame and punish modern women for having sex lives, for caring about their health, for being anything other than subservient, walking chattels whose uteri are wallpapered with Bible passages.

Indeed.

I’ve quoted that post because to me it parallels the first article about the dead woman in Ireland.  A basic need, medical care is a human right. Assholes like these pro-life extremist don’t care about the woman who is in pain or dying because they are pushing their religious agenda on them. It is all just “God’s Will” and no one can reason with them. This is the fundamental problem with PLUBs that get elected to write laws or sit in judgement over science, forgoing any semblance of humanity and sensibility.
Sigh…
Since I am on a anti-religion roll here, check this crap out. Teacher Burns Crucifix Onto Student’s Arms, Sues When Fired

The teacher and his defender have the gall to call this an “X” because they think everyone is just as ignorant as they are.

In a case that has been litigated since 2008 (and is still ongoing), John Freshwater, a teacher who previously lived and worked in Mount Vernon, Ohio, insists that his First Amendment rights and “academic freedom” were violated when he was fired by the school district for teaching Creationism in class and burning a cross into the arms of students using a Tesla coil.

From the report that lead to his firing:

Mr. Freshwater was insubordinate in failing to remove all of the religious materials from his classroom as ordered by his superior, Principal White.

  • Mr. Freshwater did burn a cross onto the complaining family’s child’s arm using an electrostatic device not designed for that purpose
  • The Ten Commandments together with other posters of a religious nature were posted in Mr. Freshwater’s classroom. Most were removed after Mr. White’s letter of April 14, 2008, but at least one poster remained which Mr. Freshwater was again instructed to remove on April 16, 2008, but did not do so.
  • Several Bibles were kept in Mr. Freshwater’s classroom including his personal Bible on his desk and one he checked out of the library placed on the lab table near the desk. Other Bibles that had been maintained in the room were removed by the time the investigators viewed Mr. Freshwater’s room.
  • Mr. Freshwater engaged in teaching of a religious nature, teaching creationism and related theories and calling evolution into question. He had other materials in his classroom that could be used for that purpose.
  • Mr. Freshwater engaged in prayer during FCA meetings in violation of the District’s legal obligations for monitoring such organizations.
  • Mr. Freshwater participated and possibly lead a prayer during an FCA meeting that concerned a guest speaker’s health. There is no conclusion as to whether such prayer was a “healing” prayer.
  • Mr. Freshwater gave an extra credit assignment for students to view the movie “Expelled” which does involve intelligent design.

It’s important to note that Freshwater did not work at a religious institute but a regular public school (not that branding would be acceptable at ANY kind of school). Freshwater knows, as does every Creationist teacher, that the courts have struck down (over and over again), in the harshest possible terms, any attempt to legally teach Creationism, Intelligent Design or any other phony variation of anti-evolution claptrap in public schools. It’s a direct violation of the Separation Clause in the First Amendment. Freshwater did not care. How do we know Freshwater knew he was breaking the law? Like any common criminal, he tried to hide the evidence:

There is a significant amount of evidence that Mr. Freshwater’s teachings regarding subjects related to evolution were not consistent with the curriculum of the Mount Vernon City Schools and State standards. Contrary to Mr. Freshwater’s statement, the evidence indicates he has been teaching creationism and intelligent design and has been teaching the unreliability of carbon dating in support of opposition to evolution. He has passed out materials to students for the past several years challenging evolution and then collecting the materials back from the students. He has done so in spite of specific directives not to teach creationism or intelligent design. He has taught students to use the code word “Here” to challenge scientific process that is considered settled by the high school science teachers.

However, it is equally clear that Freshwater is hoping to be a new test case. His claim of “academic freedom” is simply a new tactic to force religion into the classroom.

Read more at the link. I know these kind of people, we had a science teacher in Banjoville that was telling the kids the world was 6,000 years old, and that Dinosaurs didn’t exist. They are like psychopaths when it comes to what they believe is Gawd’s word.
I’ve got one more link for you on a recent study released yesterday. Denying Women Abortion Access Increases Their Risk Of Falling Into Poverty
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco launched a Global Turnaway Study this year to explore the potential social and economic implications of denying women access to legal abortion. And after documenting the experiences of the women who seek to terminate a pregnancy but are turned away from abortion services, the UCSF researchers found that those women were three times more likelythan the women who successfully obtained abortions to fall below the poverty line within the subsequent two years.
As you might expect, the situation does not get any better for those women who were forced into giving birth.

The Gawker affiliate i09 summarizes some of the researchers’ preliminary findings, and notes that denying women access to abortion puts a strain on struggling women as well as federal assistance programs. Although the women who participated in the Turnaway Study were in comparable economic positions when they sought abortions, the woman who were unable to terminate their unwanted pregnancies were more likely to have slipped into poverty just a year later:

A year later, [the women who were denied an abortion] were far more likely to be on public assistance — 76 percent of the turnaways were on the dole, as opposed to 44 percent of those who got abortions. 67 percent of the turnaways were below the poverty line (vs. 56 percent of the women who got abortions), and only 48 percent had a full time job (vs. 58 percent of the women who got abortions).

When a woman is denied the abortion she wants, she is statistically more likely to wind up unemployed, on public assistance, and below the poverty line. Another conclusion we could draw is that denying women abortions places more burden on the state because of these new mothers’ increased reliance on public assistance programs.

The UCSF researchers also told i09 that their study did not find any statistical correlation between abortion and drug use, or abortion and clinical depression — in other words, women who successfully obtained abortions did not experience any negative emotional consequences stemming from their decision to end a pregnancy, including an uptick in drug abuse. In fact, the researchers explained, “One week after seeking abortion, 97 percent of women who obtained an abortion felt that abortion was the right decision; 65 percent of turnaways still wished they had been able to obtain an abortion.”

In fact, women often seek abortions for the very same reasons they seek access to affordable contraception: because they cannot currently afford to have another child. Women typically want to avoid unintended pregnancies in cases when having a baby would compromise their economic autonomy and prevent them from finishing school, keeping a job, or supporting their current families.

Nonetheless, conservative anti-choice advocates are currently pushing to limit access to both abortion and contraception — while simultaneously slashing funding for the social safety net programs that poor women rely on.

Madness, that is all I can say about all this!
I still am suffering from a migraine, so the rest of the links are in link dump fashion.
This first one is interesting because I have many of these brain lesions the article is talking about.  Migraines associated with higher incidence of brain lesions among women; effect on health uncertain
After nearly 10 years of follow-up of study participants who experienced migraines and who had brain lesions identified via magnetic resonance imaging, women with migraines had a higher prevalence and greater increase of deep white matter hyperintensities (brain lesions) than women without migraines, although the number, frequency, and severity of migraines were not associated with lesion progression, according to a study appearing in the November 14 issue of JAMA.
Massive diamond fetches record £13m at Christie’s auction in Geneva
Archduke Joseph Diamond

The Archduke Joseph diamond, sold at Christie’s in Geneva. Photograph: Laurent Gillieron/AP

A huge, internally flawless diamond from India’s fabled Golconda mines was sold at auction in Geneva on Tuesday night for a record 20.35m Swiss francs (£13.5m), Christie’s said.

The rare, colourless stone – weighing 76 carats and roughly the size of a large strawberry – once belonged to Archduke Joseph August of Austria (1872-1962), a prince of the Hungarian line of the Habsburgs.

It fetched more than double the price paid for it at auction almost two decades ago.

“It is a world record price per carat for a colourless diamond,” François Curiel, director of the international jewellery department at Christie’s, said.

You Want to Raise the Retirement Age? Walk a Mile In Our Shoes First | Video Cafe 

(Chuck Todd: Republicans will give Democrats all the revenue they want, if they just agree to raise the retirement age. Trust them.)

I don’t know about anyone else, but as someone who has actually worked at one of those jobs where you take a shower at the end of the work day and not before you go in, I’m sick to death of watching these overpaid television pundits and their counterparts in the Congress, nonchalantly discussing raising the retirement age. It may not matter much to them, but there are real economic hardships involved when you force the average wage earner out there to continue to work until they drop dead if the retirement age is raised any higher than it already is now.

If our beltway Villagers and politicians really believe that it’s no big deal to raise the retirement age for the rest of America, how about we ask them to walk a mile in our shoes? I wonder if any of them would decide that maybe it’s not such a great idea to be doing physical labor well into your late sixties if they were the ones actually having to do those jobs?

I wonder if Chuck Todd would be a little more worried about when he might be able to retire if he were say, some migrant worker picking berries and in need of daily visits to the chiropractor he can’t afford because his back is screaming all day from being bent over?

Fuck Chuck Todd! (Funny pictures at the link btw, check them out. )
And finally, something close to my heart, and close to my hometown of Banjoville: Judge nixes ‘possum drop’ New Year’s party in North Carolina
Possum via AFP
A popular New Year’s celebration that draws thousands of tourists to the tiny North Carolina town of Brasstown for a party that ends in a “possum drop” may no longer be held there, a judge ruled.The 18-year tradition in the town of 240 consisted of lowering the animal to the ground at midnight in a see-through cage decked out in Christmas garlands, like the ball that is dropped in New York’s Times Square — except the possum is alive.

Believe me, these critters are not in danger, this is a big artist community…there is no way these pacifist, Birkenstock wearing, liberal artist will hurt the possums. Let them have their fun!

So, that is all…have a wonderful day!

**Updates to the #Savita story:

Telegraph.co.uk – ‎6 minutes ago‎
Ireland must make hospitals safe for women by following abortion laws. When a woman’s life is in danger, a hospital should be the safest place for her to go. But today it has emerged that a pregnant woman was allegedly denied a life-saving abortion on the
The Guardian – ‎2 hours ago‎
The case of a woman denied an abortion at an Irish hospital who later died of blood poisoning must prompt the state to loosen its almost total ban on terminations, a member of one of the coalition parties in Dublin has said. Two investigations – one by
Huffington Post UK (blog) – ‎35 minutes ago‎
This morning the news broke that Savita Halappanavar had died at Galway University Hospital, after being denied a necessary termination. She was 17 weeks pregnant when she presented to the hospital on 21 October, complaining of severe back pain.
Irish Independent – ‎1 hour ago‎
Savita Halappanavar performs at the Diwali 2010 festival. As a classical Indian dancer Savita Halappanavar played a key role in organising the annual Diwali festival in Galway where she taught Indian dances to both Irish and Indian children. In this video
The Guardian – ‎4 hours ago‎
An amendment to Ireland’s constitution in 1983 states that the embryo, even at the point of conception, is an Irish citizen enjoying the full rights of every man, woman and child living in the republic. The constitutional change, brought in after pressure from
Irish Times – ‎2 hours ago‎
IRISH TIMES REPORTERS. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has not ruled out an independent inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died from septicaemia following a miscarriage in University College Galway. Speaking in the Dáil this morning,
Irish Times (blog) – ‎3 hours ago‎
Kitty Holland and Paul Cullen write in today’s newspaper, “Two investigations are under way into the death of a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant, at University Hospital Galway last month. Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at
Newstalk 106-108 fm – ‎51 minutes ago‎
The husband of Savita Halappanavar who died at Galway University Hospital after a miscarriage has been talking about the circumstances which led to the death of his wife. 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar died of septicaemia at University Hospital Galway
Irish Times – ‎3 hours ago‎
IRISH TIMES REPORTERS. Taoiseach Enda Kenny said an independent inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died from septicaemia following a miscarriage in University College Galway, has not been ruled out. Speaking in the Dáil this
The Nationalist – ‎2 hours ago‎
There have been a number of protests organised after the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died at University Hospital Galway a week after she was told she was having a miscarriage. Two investigations are already underway after the death of 31-year-old

The Cult of Pat Robertson Culls the Herd

The shocked look of Fox Newsbots that believed all the pap they spooned out and were fed during 2012 has been replaced by the quiet realization that attacking every group of people in the country just isn’t going to get your freaks into office.  However, late last night as the returns came in, the biggest predators of the Republican Party were already looking for what they considered the weakest links in the voters that rejected them yesterday. I took my eye off the Chicago Celebration long enough to hit FOX news, CNBC, and CBN.

CBN broadcasters did not share that shell shocked look given by a demographic shellacking that characterized the CNBC and FOX news commentariat.  It was evident that Robertson and his US version of the Taliban are not going stop their religious war on women, GLBT, science, and reason.  They’re going to try another tactic. They were signalling their intent to be more sensitive to immigration issues.  They’ve decided that it’s possible to still go after the civil rights of others by loosening up on their kill the brown invader approach to immigration.

Robertson’s group has looked at Hispanics before with their greedy, little soul snatching eyes. John McCain and the  Bush brothers have enjoyed decent support by segments of the Hispanic population which isn’t–as they say–monolithic.  Cuban Americans have always trended Republican insisting that US policy towards Castro and Cuba stay in Cold War mode. Cubans, however, can stay in the country as long as they can put a foot on US soil.  This is not how the country approaches the immigrants of other Hispanic nations.

As Hispanic voters grow in number and influence (Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of America’s electorate), some conservatives wonder why Republican candidates don’t spend more time reaching out to them instead of joking about an electric fence.

According to Jennifer Korn, with the Hispanic Leadership Network, although most Latinos identify themselves as Democrats, “when you ask about the specific issues they all trend conservative. We’re talking about issues in the economy, smaller government, even religion.”

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, appeared on “The 700 Club” today to talk to Pat Robertson about why Republicans need the Latino vote, educating undocumented teenagers, and the way he believes Jesus would have Christians approach immigration reform.

As I said, Robertson seems to know more about target marketing and recruiting than your average Republican Zealot.  Last night, he was talking loosening up on immigration policy.  This morning, we begin to see that this may indeed by the way the Republicans try to become relevant again.

Mitt Romney and the Republican Party’s tremendous difficulty appealing to Latino voters dealt a significant blow to their chances of winning in 2012.

Romney got off on the wrong foot with Latino voters early in the campaign. During the GOP primary, he took a hard line on immigration, endorsing the concept of “self-deportation” that would implement immigration crackdown policies to spur undocumented immigrants to leave the country on their own.

The Republican candidate tried to moderate his rhetoric over the next several months, but the damage was already done. According to the national exit polls, Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote while Romney won 27 percent. That’s an improvement over Obama’s 2008 performance when Latinos backed him 67-31 percent over Republican John McCain and the largest Democratic margin since 1996. To give you an idea of how badly the GOP’s Latino support has eroded, just eight years ago, George W. Bush won around 40 percent of the Latino vote.

Obama faced questions about higher-than-average unemployment among Latino voters and a lack of progress on immigration reform during his first term. But he was able to energize Latino voters, especially after he enacted a program over the summer to provide a temporary reprieve from deportation to young undocumented immigrants.

Conservative Democrats even believe that the issue of immigration reform may be one of the first items where Republicans may actually reach across the aisle to save their skins.  Tim Kaine believes Republicans will become more willing to discuss immigration reform.

“There’s so much bad that’s going to happen if we go over this fiscal cliff and I think that’s going to bring both parties together for a solution that’s going to springboard into a bigger picture budget deal,” Kaine said the morning after Election Day. “I do think the Republican Party’s going to look in the mirror and decide that they need to work hand-in-hand on issues like immigration reform.”

“In the future of the Republican party, they’re not going to be able to continue to put such a hard face toward Latino voters and so that’s going to provide an opportunity for another significant issue where we can build bridges early in 2013,” he said.

President Obama has repeatedly listed immigration reform as something he believes Democrats and Republicans could find agreement on after the presidential election.  The president has said avoiding the fiscal cliff would be his top priority after the election and has said he believes he could find support for immigration reform in his second term.

Obama’s victory on Election Night was aided in part by his strong edge among Latino voters, who broke for the president 69 percent to 29 for GOP challenger Mitt Romney.

This jaded attempt to maintain the Republican party’s core commitment to rolling back the rights of women, GLBT, and minorities may fail.  But, it could very well succeed.  The Republican Party was generally quite successful when it used code words–instead of blatant dog whistles–to signal to Ralph Reed’s army of zombies or the Chamber of Commerce that they would be amenable to gutting the rights of workers, women, and minorities.  I’m afraid the lessons of this election will be that they need to go back to their subtle approach.  The key will be how susceptible the Tea Party nuts will be to the suggestion they roll back their rhetoric.  The worst Republican defeats–and ones where the demographics played in their favor–were districts where over-the-top rhetoric scared off the electorate.  Believe me, the rhetoric won’t stop in party offices.  They’ll just try to go back to the day when they can signal their own that they hate affirmative action and birth control. Can they gussy up their weirdos enough to make them camera-friendly in two years?

As Republican after Republican made crackpot comments about rape, contraception, and abortion, the GOP’s rightwing brain trust unfailingly followed up and said, yeah, that’s what we believe, that’s what we’ve always believed.

And because the conventional wisdom had always been that autonomous, sexually active women and the men who love them are just a fringe constituency, instead of questioning the wisdom of attacking them, the big brains questioned the wisdom of having Sandra Fluke speak at the Democratic Convention.

I always knew this issue was a winner for the Democrats, but now I’m beginning to think that it affected everything else as well. That is, Romney’s crackpot economic and environmental policies might have had more traction with voters if so many of them were not convinced that he represented and was listening to a bunch of lunatics who were totally out of touch with how human beings live. In tough times, you might go for a small-government reformer who says he has a plan to turn things around if you trust him. Americans have bought bigger grifters than Romney; a lot of them haven’t even figured that the nice old man who unleashed the markets in the 1980s set them up for the hard times we have now.

Who knows what a Romney campaign might have achieved if he’d decisively cut loose the Erick Erickson contingent and run like a man trying to be governor of Massachusetts?

The likes of Pat Robertson, Pat Buchannan, Michelle Bachmann, and Allen West–who wear their emotional and mental issues on their sleeves with pride instead of seeking help–always tend to scare off the electorate in fairly predictable cycles.  These aren’t eccentrics.  These are people with serious issues that have managed to become successful despite their obvious need for some kind of help.  George Will is an asshole. Michelle Bachmann needs help. There’s a distinct difference.  Americans viscerally react to these people in the same way they react to folks that wander our streets and talk to themselves.   We know there’s something off there.  There’s some brain chemistry that needs correcting or some therapy that should be applied.  Republicans, however, don’t get these people the help they need, they try to keep them below the camera as much as possible to help their coalition.  The trouble comes when they sneak into the public view and become the latest Barnum act on You Tube or The Daily Show.  Democrats send their Anthony Weiners off to rehab. Republicans let their persons with issues smolder and fester and work to subvert. They harness the crazy to plow the fields.

I turned on TV this morning long enough to see that there was the usual punditry hand wringing and pearl clutching going on about the future of the Republican Party. They actually think this will make the party change.  This same conversation happened the last time Obama got elected, and yet, we did not see any course correction. We saw the nascent obstruction agenda.

Republicans got worse and they came back during the midterms to win back the House of Representatives at a time when they could gerrymander districts.  West may be gone, but the underlying district structure is still there.  The same agenda with a different mask and the toned-down approach of a different grifter just might keep the party from a much needed session on a couch.   Fred Barnes has already shown that denial is a really potent ego defense and he’s in no mood to change the party platform.

As hard as Republicans tried, they were unable to upset the balance of political forces.

What’s their problem? In Senate races, it’s bad candidates: old hacks (Wisconsin), young hacks (Florida), youngsters (Ohio), Tea Party types who can’t talk about abortion sensibly (Missouri, Indiana), retreads (Virginia), lousy campaigners (North Dakota) and Washington veterans (Michigan). Losers all.

And those are just the Senate contests decided yesterday.

See those words I put in bold?  This leads me to believe they just will not get it.  The problem is the packaging.   We just need a few more folks that know how to sell the flim flam without scaring teh good womenz and teh civilized brown people.  So, mark my word.  We’re about to get a new face on the same old package.  We’re about to see the grand appeal to as many Hispanics as they can cull from what they perceive as a ‘herd’.  The Republican party is basically a group of extremely old, rich white men that manipulate and use true believers in guns, gawd, jingoism, and white exceptionalism to get more money and assets.  I wish I could believe they’ll change, but I don’t.


Know your Right Wing Christofascists!

Here’s a list of the 10 Most Dangerous Religious Right Organizations in the country.  These folks are determined to undermine the US constitution that prevents mixing of specific religious doctrines with US law.  These people don’t want freedom for their religious practices.  They want the US government to enshrine their petty theocratic agendas into law and to persecute the unbelievers.

1. Jerry Falwell Ministries/ Liberty University/Liberty Counsel

Revenue: $522,784,095

2. Pat Robertson Empire

Revenue: $434,971,231

3. Focus on the Family (includes its 501(c)(4) political affiliate CitizenLink)

Revenue: $104,463,950

4. Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund)

Revenue: $35,145,644 

5. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Lobbying Expenditures: $26,662,111 

6. American Family

Association

Revenue: $17,955,438

7. Family Research Council

Revenue: $14,840,036  (includes 501­(c)(4) affiliate FRC Action)

8. Concerned Women for

America

Revenue: $10,352,628  (includes 501­(c)­(4) affiliate CWA Legislative Action Committee)

9. Faith & Freedom Coalition

Revenue: $5,494,640

10. Council for National Policy

Revenue: $1,976,747

The Christian Right has basically infiltrated the Republican Party and is most evident as “Teavanagelicals”.

ON AN INSTITUTIONAL LEVEL, the merger of Christian Right and Tea Party interests is remarkably advanced. The alliance has served as the very foundation stone of theFaith and Freedom Coalition, the latest venture of that intrepid politico-religious entrepreneur, Ralph Reed, which has sprouted chapters in many states, most prominently Iowa, where it sponsored the first candidate forum of the 2012 cycle. There is even a term to describe this new strain of conservatism: the “Teavangelicals,” a subject of a recent broadcast by Christian Right journalist David Brody, which, among other things, examined the conservative evangelical roots of major Tea Party leaders. Most recently, a host of organizations closely connected with the Christian Right and “social issues” causes have signed onto the “Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge,” the Tea Party-inspired oath that demands a position on the debt limit vote that is incompatible with any bipartisan negotiations.

But this convergence between the two groups goes well beyond coalition politics and reflects a radicalization of conservative evangelical elites that is just as striking as the rise of the Tea Party itself. Indeed, the worldview of many Christian Right leaders has evolved into an understanding of government (at least under secularist management) as a satanic presence that seeks to displace God and the churches through social programs, to practice infanticide and euthanasia, to destroy parental control of children, to reward vice and punish virtue, and to thwart America’s divinely appointed destiny as a redeemer nation fighting for Christ against the world’s many infidels.

As an illustration of this phenomenon, it’s worth unpacking a few lines from a recent missive by televangelist James Robison, the convener of two recent meetings of Christian Right leaders in Texas to ponder their role in 2012, and also of a similar session back in 1979 that helped pave the way for Reagan’s conquest of conservative evangelicals. Says Robison:

There are moral absolutes . No person’s failure reduces or redefines the standards carved in stone by the finger of God and revealed in His Word. We must find a way to stop judges and courts from misinterpreting the Constitution and writing their own laws.

“Activist judges” who have developed and applied protections for abortion rights, non-discrimination, and church-state separation have long been a bugaboo for the Christian Right. But Robison appears to be extending this traditional list of evangelical grievances, adding his blessing to the Tea Party’s objection to the string of Supreme Court decisions that enabled the federal government to enact New Deal programs like Social Security that protect people afflicted by personal “failure” from the consequences of their actions.

They have more impact than just trying to deny the civil rights of GLBT, the reproductive rights of women, and the suppression of religious minorities in the US.  They have a global agenda  that is as much of a terrorist movement as any religious extremist movement abroad.  They support governments that believe in not only persecuting but killing GLBT citizens with money and other resources.  They actively support militia’s that kill and maim GLBT citizens and non-believers and work to keep women’s status as property and breeding chattel.

In recent weeks, police have descended on the Harare offices of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), seizing the group’s publications and computers as evidence, they claimed, in an ongoing investigation. The police sought to also arrest staff, but the organization’s lawyer has kept them free for now.

The gay rights activist organization is — absurdly — accused of seeking to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s government and teaching people to commit acts of sodomy.

This police activity underscores the effort of the Mugabe-led ZANU-PF ruling political party to incite anti-LGBT hatred in mobilizing its base for elections next year. Mugabe faces a challenge from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirayi, who recently adopted a pro-LGBT rights position.

In one raid, police forcibly entered GALZ premises and began arresting advocates gathered to discuss the draft constitution under debate. The draft includes anti-gay provisions shaped with help from the US-based Christian right group American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) through its Zimbabwe office. The proposed provisions explicitly prohibit homosexuality and, mimicking American efforts, define marriage as between a man and woman.

Some activists were injured trying to escape over a security fence armed with an electric razor wire. Those caught — 31 men and 13 women — were arrested, bundled into police vehicles, and kept in filthy cells for what GALZ staffer Miles Rutendo remembers as “a night in hell.” Police beat and stomped on the backs of gay rights advocates forced to lie on the wet floor. One victim passed out and was rushed to the hospital.

The physical and mental abuse did not end with their release. In a country where LGBT people suffer brutal harassment, these activists’ sexual preference was exposed to neighbors, families, and workplaces. Their families forced some from their homes. Whether any lose their jobs remains to be seen.

Additional, rallies have been held through out the US that are well within in the boundaries of first amendment free speech rights but definitely fall into the hate speech realm.

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins topped a full day of speakers at “The America for Jesus 2012″ prayer rally.

Robertson, a former Republican candidate for president, called the election important, but didn’t mention either major political party or candidate by name.

“I don’t care what the ACLU says or any atheists say. This nation belongs to Jesus, and we’re here today to reclaim his sovereignty,” said Robertson, 82, who founded the Christian Coalition and Christian Broadcasting Network, and ran for president in 1988.

Organizers plan another prayer rally Oct. 20 in Washington, D.C., two weeks before President Barack Obama faces Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential election.

Perkins asked the crowd to pray for elected officials including Obama.

“We pray that his eyes will be open to the truth,” Perkins said.

A number of event organizers, though, have been vocal critics of the Democratic president.

Steve Strang, the influential Pentecostal publisher of Charisma magazine, which was distributed at the rally, recently wrote in a blog post that America is under threat from a “radical homosexual agenda.” He also said Obama “seems to be moving toward some form of European socialism. Speaker Cindy Jacobs has blamed a mysterious Arkansas bird-kill last year on Obama’s repeal of the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allows gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

Speakers throughout the day condemned abortion, gay marriage and population control as practiced by Planned Parenthood. Christian rock music filled the historic mall as speakers challenged the crowd to overcome the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and slothfulness.

Yup, these are the same folks we’ve been fighting since the 1980s.  It’s going to be a continual fight to keep theocracy out of our state, local, and federal government and to stop the hate-filled agendas of  these religious extremists.


Wife Beating, Union Thugs and an “old Soviet Union, Marxist-Socialist theme”

I don’t pretend that I detest the Right Wing and the ideals they champion. That disgust I feel towards Republicans primarily comes from their stance on choice and their War on Women. But…when I see some of the other crap that is coming from the mouths of GOP Representatives and GOP “surrogates” and DINOs, I have to laugh and shake my head and say out loud, “What the fuck?”

Take the three things I have mentioned in the title of this post…here’s a summary of my WTF opinions for you.

First off, the Wife Beating 101 course in being taught by non-other than recent Romney campaign BFF Pat Robertson. Not that this asshole has ever said anything outright misogynistic, racist, hateful shit before (snark)…but this latest comment so soon after appearing with the Republican Nominee for PRESIDENT has to be addressed by Romney, or at least called out by the MSM, for christ’s sakes.

Pat Robertson: Since ‘We Don’t Condone Wife-Beating These Days’ Husband Should ‘Move to Saudi Arabia’ to Beat Her | rightwingwatch.org

Mitt Romney this weekend stumped alongside televangelist Pat Robertson, not minding Robertson’s legacy of incendiary, insensitive, heartless and apocalyptic rhetoric that has gotten him in trouble in the past. Apparently, Robertson’s own CBN has become aware of Robertson’s problematic statements, and may even be editing his controversial claims out of episode archives.

For example, today on the 700 Club’s “Bring It On” segment where viewers ask Robertson questions, one man wondered how he should go about repairing his marriage with a wife who “insults” him and once tried to attack him.

“Well, you could become a Muslim and you could beat her,” Robertson responded. “This man’s got to stand up to her and he can’t let her get away with this stuff,” Robertson continued, “I don’t think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done.”

What the Fuck?

Pat Robertson to humiliated hubby: ‘Well, you could become a Muslim and you could beat her’ | The Raw Story

Reacting to a letter from a viewer who said he’s lost his self confidence due to his wife insulting him, Robertson said Monday: “Well, you could become a Muslim and you could beat her.” He then turned to his female co-host, who seemed to balk at the offhanded remark, and asked: “You don’t want to go to Saudi Arabia?”

“I think this man’s got to stand up to her,” Robertson continued. “He can’t let her get away with this stuff. And, uh, you know, I don’t know… I don’t think we condone wife beating these days, but something’s got to be done to make her…”

“Not physically,” Robertson’s co-host injected. “But I mean, why would she not want to talk through their problems? That’s so…”

The televangelist cut her off. “She is just totally, well, she’s rebellious,” Robertson said. “Chances are she was rebellious with her father and mother, she’s a rebellious child and she doesn’t want to submit to any authority. And she probably had temper tantrums when she was a kid, you know, the little girl, ‘I hate you, I hate you,’ and she wants to slap her father. Well, that’s the same kinda thing.”

“She’s transferred the father now,” he continued. “I hate to say everything’s gotta be some kind of psychological counseling, but that’s the problem. She does not understand authority. When she was growing up, nobody made her behave, and now you’ve got a 13-year-old in a 30-year-old woman’s body. Now, what do you do with that? Well, you can’t divorce her according to scripture. So I say, move to Saudi Arabia.”

Of course, Romney must condone the diarrhea that flows with such force from Roberson’s mouth…but it ain’t like Pat hasn’t spewed before.

In another relationship advice segment from July, Robertson recommended a man “dump” his Muslim girlfriend, calling it “Christ-like” because the Bible prohibits religious inter-marriage. He justified that by saying that Jesus didn’t want Christians to be “nice and friendly” all the time.

You know, here in Banjoville…we have our fair share of Christians who aren’t “Nice and Friendly.” They are outright assholes and since Pat Robertson is obviously a “approved” Romney supporter and surrogate, it seems to me that Mormons can be just as “not” nice and friendly as Christians can. Hypocrisy and hate brought to you by the religious right.

In other “WTF” news, Allen West: Obama Campaign Has ‘Soviet Union, Marxist-Socialist Theme’ | Video Cafe

Yeah, check this out…

Tea party favorite Rep. Allen West (R-FL) is slamming President Barack Obama for using the word “Forward” as his campaign slogan, insisting that it is an “old Soviet Union, Marxist-Socialist theme.”

“This is about whether we continue to be a republic governed by the Constitution,” West told a Republican Jewish Coalition rally in Boca Raton, Florida on Sunday. “Or will we become a liberal-progressive, bureaucratic, welfare nanny state, which is exactly what the other side wants?”

He continued: “They want to bring out an old Soviet Union, Marxist-Socialist theme for their campaign called ‘Forward’. I have to ask you one simple question. Where is the Soviet Union today?”

After the Obama campaign unveiled its campaign slogan in April, conservative outlets like The Washington Times and Breitbart.com warned that the word had a ties to Marxism.

Hmmmm…ya know, when I was in Washington, DC this summer I made the discovery that the DC Metro slogan is…”Forward.”

http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/metro_forward/images/forward_header.jpg

Well, if there was one “old Soviet Union, Marxist-Socialist” themed “thing” out there…it’s gotta be public transportation. But as that link to C&L pointed out…

“The Obama campaign apparently didn’t look backwards into history when selecting its new campaign slogan — or maybe they did,” Fox Business host Lou Dobbs said at the time. “That’s because ‘Forward’ has a very long history with Marxists and socialists and communists.”

“Forward” is also the motto of Wisconsin, where Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan serves as a congressman.

(h/t: Think Progress, Shark Tank)

Alrighty then…now for the Union Thugs.  As you all know, Chicago teachers are striking, for the first time in 25 years.

4 Reasons Chicago’s Teachers Are on Strike | Alternet

Editor’s Note: For additional information on this topic, check out AlterNet’s Education page and two recent AlterNet stories, A Chicago Teacher Speaks Out: This Is Why We Fight and Why I’m Striking .

Across mainstream media and through the megaphone of city government, Chicago public school teachers have been consistently demonized and criticized for everything from self-serving greed, to negligence of their duties, and lack of care and respect for students.

Mayor Emanuel and his hand-picked school board—stacked with millionaires and former charter administrators—along with CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, have continued to use their dominion over the school system to apply a corporate model of school reform to the Chicago Public Schools.

This type of “reform” has allowed private operators to take control of public schools, undermine the teachers union, close and turn around neighborhood schools rather than invest in them, and over-test students rather than provide them a comprehensive and nurturing education.

Meanwhile the Chicago Teachers Union, numbering nearly 30,000 members, is demanding that CPS cease this drift toward putting control of schools in private hands, and provide the necessary conditions for effective and equal public education—putting the needs of students ahead of corporate and government powerbrokers.

So what are the teachers fighting for?

Go to the link to read about the four things…I know that Dakinikat covered it on Sky D this morning.

That anyone would be against what these teachers are fighting for is beyond me. (That goes along with my “WTF” attitude to the GOP and their anti-union platform.) However…I do feel that this particular issue in Chicago is key…showing that my disgust does not adhere to party lines. I am equally painting Democrat and Obama supporter/surrogate Rahm Emanuel with my “What the fuck?” brush here.   Romney Tries to Bait Obama Over Chicago Teachers Union Strike | FDL News Desk

Mitt Romney is clearly trying to pick a fight over the Chicago Teachers Union strike, and force Barack Obama into making a statement on the issue that will wedge him between his base’s beliefs and his policy preferences, which in this case stand at odds with one another.

Here’s Romney’s short statement:

I am disappointed by the decision of the Chicago Teachers Union to turn its back on not only a city negotiating in good faith but also the hundreds of thousands of children relying on the city’s public schools to provide them a safe place to receive a strong education. Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet. President Obama has chosen his side in this fight, sending his Vice President last year to assure the nation’s largest teachers union that ‘you should have no doubt about my affection for you and the President’s commitment to you.’ I choose to side with the parents and students depending on public schools to give them the skills to succeed, and my plan for education reform will do exactly that.

The problem with this statement is that the preferences of the teachers and the children are in concert. Larger class sizes in schools without air conditioning have led to classes being taught in 96-degree heat. The 20% longer school day and increased class size and workload on teachers, without renumeration (the 16% proposed increase over four years is less than the 20% increase in class time, especially when you account for inflation), does not serve teachers or students who get less one-on-one face time and dedicated learning opportunities. And because of the revamped teacher evaluation system, based largely on standardized testing, the mostly minority students in Chicago will get taught toward a test biased against them and unable to provide them with the skills needed to survive in a 21st-century job market.

And I completely agree with David Dayen here on this point:

The more important part of this is Romney trying to pick a fight with the President, by putting him squarely on the side of teachers unions, and drawing a false contrast where Romney sides with “parents and students.” He cites a speech given by Vice President Biden at the American Federation of Teachers conference. However, it’s completely unclear where President Obama, were he to weigh in on the CTU strike, would come down. His former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is on the side opposite the union. His DNC convention featured a screening of the right-wing, anti-union film “Won’t Back Down.” His Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, used to be the head of the Chicago Public Schools, and is seen as a leading reformer. His education policy has consistently favored the kind of reform policies that the unions in this case are trying to stop, including charter schools, teacher evaluations based on student testing (though in recent years he has rejected “teaching to the test), longer school days and turnarounds for “failing” schools.

Romney wants to bait Obama into a response to change the subject on an election slipping away from him. He figures that someone will get angered no matter how Obama chooses to respond, seeing as the union/reform split is a contentious one inside the Democratic coalition.

And here I have to agree on the narrow point that I would like a response from the President. I would like to know exactly where he stands on the right to strike, on the idea of teachers being paid commensurate with their time in the classroom, on class sizes and teaching to the test and funneling money meant for public schools into charters. I think it would be quite illuminating.

UPDATE: The alleged 16% increase in pay over four years offered by the Chicago Public Schools (or 19% if you believe ABC’s Terry Moran) is actually nowhere near a 16% increase.

Yeah, where does Obama stand on this one? I know he is being silent…but it only goes to prove that anyone in politics these day deserve to be questioned…you know…accountability for both Romney and Obama when it comes to their supporters, endorsers and surrogates. I think that when you have silence from both candidates when it comes to the Robertsons, Allens and Emanuels it only proves one thing, they must agree with the opinions of their supporters…and to that I say, “What the Fuck?”


Desperate Men in Desperate Times do Desperate Things

Texas Governor Rick Perry is supposed to be the next president of these United States. Perry’s wife insists that “god” told her this in some sort’ve conversation that used to

Rick Perry Keeps Shooting off his mouth and foot.

land people in huge institutions for long periods of rest far away from the rest of us. However, this day and age, all kinds of socially rude and crude behavior usually winds up in political ads.  Perry’s desperate attempt to gain momentum in Iowa is pathetic and mean.

Perry’s debate performance, some giddy speeches that brought up questions of drug and alcohol abuse and his demonstrable inability to get simple facts correct–like the country’s voting age–has pushed him down to the bottom of the crazy clown pack. So,  when the going get’s tough, Rick Perry turns mean and sanctimonious.  He’s launched an Iowa Ad that has not only disturbed people in the state, but people in his own campaign.  I’m going to let you watch the you tube and let you absorb Perry saying how the majority’s religion is just so disrespected by those gay people who refuse to stay in the closet  and by liberals and those of us that are heretics or pagans or whatever they call it now.

HuffPo’s Sam Stein spoke with some members of the campaign and many of them are not happy campers with the tone of the ad either. What exactly does it mean when a campaign has to scapegoat and belittle the country’s minorities?  I’m trying hard not to Godwin here, so be patient with me.

That a presidential campaign would suffer from internal disagreements over a controversial ad or broader campaign strategy is far from shocking. High-stakes political operations are often rife with strategic disputes. But it is rare for those disputes to spill over into public view and even rarer (at least when it comes to Republican politics) for them to center on the issue of gay rights.

It just so happens that several members of Perry’s campaign staff have worked to advance LGBT causes inside the GOP. Liz Mair, a consultant to the Texas governor, serves on the advisory board of the group GOProud. And Fabrizio has done polling for the Log Cabin Republicans in addition to urging lawmakers to reconsider their approach to the culture wars and embrace basic fairness for gay Americans on the issue of marriage. He was considered an ally by pro-gay rights conservatives.

This isn’t a unique feature of Perry’s campaign. Republican candidates are increasingly relying on younger operatives who are far more sympathetic to gay rights. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour did during his exploratory run for the presidential nomination earlier this year. But Barbour never aired a blatantly anti-gay ad campaign that demonized one of the LGBT community’s signature legislative achievements.

“It is the height of hypocrisy for Tony Fabrizio to have been a part of that,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, co-founder and executive director of GOProud. “He has lined his pockets for years with money from the gay community to conduct polls to ostensibly help gay people in this country, and for him to be a part of this is the height of Washington hypocrisy. It is absolutely what is wrong with Washington. It is all about the payday for these people.”

If Fabrizio found the ad repugnant and it aired over his objections, LaSalvia argued, he should have quit in protest. “Perry said in the ad that the service of tens of thousands of patriotic gay Americans is what’s wrong in this country,” LaSalvia said. “That is an outrageous and un-American statement.”

How Rick Perry can suggest that the white christian straight majority in this country is under attack is beyond me.  He argues that his way of life is under attack simply because nonwhite, nonchristian and/or nonstraight minorities want their constitutional right to be themselves and not be forced to conform, hide, or skulk.   This time of year constantly puts me in the position of having to opt out of things or violate my beliefs.  How are his rights under attack by forcing me–and many others like me– to participate in things that the constitution says that I have the right to refuse to participate in? He can go pray and sing christmas carols in his church any times he wants.  That’s the really beautiful thing about the Constitution.   Every one has the right to erect a house of worship and do their thing there.  What he doesn’t have the right to do is make the rest of us participate and applaud, fund them, or sanction their dogmas as public law.

You have no idea what it feels like to have to continually opt out of some one else’s sacred cows when they are in a solid majority and they can make life a living hell for you in the workplace if you don’t appease them.  It’s not a pleasant experience to either  give in or say no way.   No, I do not want to do Secret Santas.  No, I am not donating to buy gifts and lunches for secretaries. I will do that myself on Secretaries’ Day. No, I do not want to pay for or attend “holiday parties’ or have decorations every where in my workplace.  No, I do not want to celebrate your marriage in a church that excludes people and openly discriminates .  If  I cannot celebrate marriages of gay friends in the same way and you support some bigotry under any guise,  I will opt out.

It’s okay for Rick Perry to kiss his wife in public but he expects two gay men to do it at home so he doesn’t feel under attack?   People in a minority have to continually watch themselves so as not to ‘offend’ the majority or they will face all kinds of consequences including discrimination in many places including their work environment.  The white, straight, christian majority in this nation does not have to tip toe around the minorities’ sensibilities. In fact, people like Rick Perry prefer to aggressively promote it to the detriment of others.  He can be in the face of the public but wants everything that’s not his thing to go hide behind close doors and not object to his proselytizing and promoting ways.

I do not think it’s right or constitutional that because you have some specific religious belief, Mr. Perry, that says certain things that means my daughters can’t access safe and legal abortions or that if they were lesbians, that their relationships would not be given the same privileges given to straight couples.  I never did practice Perry’s brand of Christianity even when I was going along with the rest of the group and not questioning things. I’m not about to start it now that I’ve opted out.

There are so many things that are wrong with this ad that it’s hard to know where to start.  The biggest one is that it’s clearly not representing the values that were expressed in our Constitution, in which there is no mention of ‘god’ and a clear mandate to separate distinct religious dogma–majority or other–from state policy.  People being able to live their lives by being true to their own beliefs and their own selves is not a war on your religion.

Rick Perry is one dumb and arrogant ass.  At least he has no chance in hell of ever being remotely near the presidency.  It’s a shame that he chooses to exercise his right to free speech in such a reckless and mean manner AND as a Governor of one of the two major political parties.  Excuse me while I go brush my teeth.  I have a very bad taste in my mouth for some reason.

Maybe it’s because I also watched this take on the same policy from evil old Pat Robertson.

and in other Rick Perry News:  He’s declined Trump’s Debate invitation.


Thursday Reads

Happy Festivus Everyone!!!

A little more about the Festivus tradition from Wikipedia:

Festivus is a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 as “another way” to celebrate the holiday season without participating in its pressures and commercialism[1]. It was created by writer Dan O’Keefe and introduced into popular culture by his son Daniel, a screenwriter for the TV show Seinfeld,[2][1] as part of a comical storyline on the show. The holiday’s celebration, as shown on Seinfeld, includes an unadorned aluminum “Festivus pole,” practices such as the “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength,” and the labelling of easily explainable events as “Festivus miracles”.

Celebrants of the holiday sometimes refer to it as “Festivus for the rest of us,” a saying taken from the O’Keefe family traditions and popularized in the Seinfeld episode to describe Festivus’ non-commerical aspect.

[....]

The holiday, as portrayed in the Seinfeld episode and now celebrated by many,[1][5] includes practices such as the “Airing of Grievances,” which occurs during the Festivus meal and in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. After the meal the “Feats of Strength” are performed, involving wrestling the head of the household to the floor, with the holiday ending only if the head of the household is actually pinned.

The original holiday featured more peculiar practices, as detailed in the younger Daniel O’Keefe’s book The Real Festivus. The book provides a first-person account of an early version of the Festivus holiday as celebrated by the O’Keefe family, and how O’Keefe amended or replaced details of his father’s invention to create the Seinfeld episode.

We’re getting really close to that other holiday, Christmas. Through most of my adult years, I found the Christmas season extremely stressful. Frankly some of my happiest Christmases have been years when I spent the day alone. In recent years, I’ve gotten quite a bit closer to my siblings and I’ve enjoyed some family Christmases; but when all of us get together it can still be pretty crazymaking.

This year I’ll be going to my sister’s house with my mom. I’m hoping it will be quiet and peaceful, and I’m hoping the snowstorm we’re expecting won’t be too bad. We lost my dad in March, so this will be the family’s first Christmas without him. I know that will be really hard for all of us, especially my mom.

I’m not going to go through all the legislation that passed yesterday or write about President Obama’s self-congratulatory press conference. I think we should keep it light today. I’m just going to throw out a few links that I found interesting and let you all do the same in the comments.

I really got a kick out this article at Buzzflash by Peter Michaelson, a psychotherapist from Ann Arbor, MI: The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears.

According to Michaelson, Boehner’s frequent “crying jags” stem from his troubled childhood.

Boehner cries a lot in public, even when debating bills in the House. He cries when he talks about his humble past. Son of a bar owner, he grew up with 11 siblings in a two-bedroom house with a single bathroom. He said recently on “60 Minutes” that he no longer visits schools or even looks at kids playing outside because he immediately starts crying.

[....]

Boehner had a scrappy upbringing, running cases of beer and mopping the floor in his father’s bar. He put himself through school, “working every rotten job there was.” The circumstances of his childhood, along with his manner of describing it, strongly suggest that, at times, he felt unappreciated, disrespected, and lacking in value.

Since Boehner rarely does anything to help deprived children, why does he burst into tears when he sees them? Michaelson see this as a form of projection.

When Boehner cries around kids, he’s not necessarily feeling their pain. He’s not seeing the world through their eyes. Rather, he’s imagining that they’re seeing the world through his eyes, through the self-doubt and pain with which he saw the world as a child. Unconsciously, he experiences himself and his political life in ways that are under the influence of these unresolved negative feelings.

He sees the children through what is unresolved in himself, through the pain he has repressed from his childhood. He’s also likely crying with relief because, unconsciously, he believes that, through his elevation to fame and power, he has liberated himself from those haunting feelings.

It’s an interesting hypothesis. We’ll probably learn a lot more about Boehner when he becomes Speaker of the House–probably a lot more than we ever wanted to to know. I wonder if he’ll cry frequently while going about his Speaker duties? I’ll bet he cries during the swearing in anyway.

Last night some moron drove his Plymouth Barracuda onto the North Dallas lawn of Mr. and Mrs. George W. Bush.

A suspect accused of driving a muscle car erratically onto the lawn at former President George W. Bush’s north Dallas home Wednesday night was detained by the Secret Service.

The former president and former first lady Laura Bush were in the Preston Hollow neighborhood home at the time but were unharmed and never in danger, officials told NBC station KXAS.

That must have been exciting.

Have you heard about the new Broadway sensation, “Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark?” There have been so many mishaps with this production that they had to call off Wednesday’s scheduled performances.

The Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” canceled its two Wednesday performances to test a new safety plan for the show’s 38 aerial and stage maneuvers, which involve actors hoisted or tethered in harnesses, including the maneuver that failed at Monday night’s performance when a stunt actor fell more than 20 feet and broke his ribs.

By canceling the performances at a cost of roughly $400,000 in ticket sales, and by adopting safety measures recommended by state and federal officials, the producers of “Spider-Man” sought to project a sense of urgency and understanding that action was needed to make the show safer. While the producers said that Thursday night’s performance would go on, they also committed, according to state safety officials, not to hold performances until the new measures were in place. The state officials said the plan could be tested successfully by Thursday night.

Under the plan, one offstage crew member will attach the harness and related cables, wires or tethers to the actors, and a second stagehand will verify that the attachments are made. That second stagehand will then verbally notify a stage manager that they are safely connected. The actor will also verify that the attachment is made. Previously, there was no second stagehand to verify or communicate with the stage manager, and the actor was not required to check his harness.

Well I sure hope everything works out okay…

Did you know that “Rev.” Pat Robertson supports legalization of marijuana?

“We’re locking up people that have taken a couple puffs of marijuana and next thing you know they’ve got 10 years with mandatory sentences,” Robertson continued. “These judges just say, they throw up their hands and say nothing we can do with these mandatory sentences. We’ve got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes and that’s one of ‘em.

“I’m … I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot, that kinda thing it’s just, it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people. Young people go into prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals. That’s not a good thing.”

Hmmm….could this explain where Robertson gets his wacky ideas about the causes of hurricanes and terrorist attacks?

Here’s one more goofy story, and then I’ll let you guys take over. From The Independent UK: North Korea threatens to attack South over Christmas lights

Seasonal goodwill is in short supply on the divided Korean peninsula, where both sides are again at potentially deadly loggerheads – over a Christmas tree.

North Korea’s military is reportedly preparing to shoot down a floodlit tower decorated with Christmas lights which overlooks the border near the South’s capital, Seoul – home to millions of Christians.

The provincial governor, Kim Moon-soo, has warned that firing at the tree would be a reckless and “provocative” act. The South’s Defence Minister was more blunt. “We’ll retaliate decisively to take out the source of any shelling,” Kim Kwan-jin told parliament yesterday. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said fighter jets were on standby, ready to strike back.

OK, that’s it for me, except for this gratuitous kitty picture.

What are you reading this morning? Feel free to post links to serious stories, if you must.