Sunday Reads: Pigs and Ladies

Pictures today by artist illustrator: Mela Koehler (1885–1960)

 Good Afternoon

I hope that everyone is enjoying the last couple of days, the decision is not the final say in the matter of GLBT issues, but it is a damn big deal….There are a few states holding out, and refusing to grant licenses and perform marriages to same sex couples.

The hate filled rhetoric is strong in some areas, like here in Banjoville. Add to this tension, the anger over taking away these right-wing christian racist asshole flags of confederate heritage, with a dose of Obamacare is a-go from last week, and you got yourself a power keg waiting to explode. It is frightening, the hate I am seeing. These people mean business.

I think things are going to get worse, did you see this? Who’s burning black churches? Arsonists hit at least 3 Southern congregations in the last 7 days

ur black churches burned overnight this week, and at least three have been attributed to arson.

Last week’s shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME was perhaps the deadliest attackon a black church since the 1963 church bombing by the Klan in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four children. Since then, another specter from America’s violent racist history is again rearing its head – setting black churches ablaze.

At least three have been intentionally set on fire in recent days, according to a surveyof news reports compiled by the Daily Kos.

On Tuesday, God’s Power Church of Christ in Georgia was intentionally set on fire, authorities told ABC News. Electronics and other equipment were also stolen in early morning fire. Authorities told reporters there is “no evidence” of a hate crime.

On Wednesday, Briar Creek Baptist Church in North Carolina burned in the middle of the night, causing $250,000 in damage, NBC News reports. Authorities are investigating whether the blaze was a hate crime. It took 75 firefighters to bring it under control.

700aab788fddc48c2a176979763ef995On Friday, Glover Grove Missionary Baptist Church in South Carolina, was virtually destroyed in an overnight blaze, the Aiken Standard reports. While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, the FBI has been called in.

Another blaze on Friday morning in Florida at predominantly-black Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church caused $700,000 in damage. The fire is under investigation but fire officials believe it to be accidental, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Burning black churches has historical significance that harkens back to the civil rights era, according to the Atlanta Black Star.

“From slavery and the days of Jim Crow through the civil rights movement and beyond, white supremacists have targeted the Black church because of its importance as a pillar of the Black community, the center for leadership and institution building, education, social and political development and organizing to fight oppression,” David Love writes.

8b2568a23381e8f5bdf5a39de37232e9The Ku Klux Klan has ramped up recruiting activity in the days since the Charleston shooting. Residents in California, Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia woke last weekend to find bags in their lawns filled with candy and Klan flyers seeking new members.

Oh and they will find plenty of eager members.

White supremacist calls Charleston ‘a preview of coming attractions’ | US news | The Guardian

One of the shadowy figures who appears to have influenced alleged Charleston killer Dylann Roof is Harold Covington, the founder of a white separatist movement and, within supremacist circles, an influential sci-fi author. Covington, the latest in a long line of rightwing sci-fi writers, has been linked to racist crimes in the past and this week called the massacre “a preview of coming attractions”.

5202e1d8c23965c6cf5423005f427edcThe racist manifesto and photos apparently posted by Roof makes mention of the Northwest Front, created by Covington, a former member of the American Nazi party who traveled to South Africa and Rhodesia in order to agitate for white power. In the accompanying photos, Roof wore patches with Rhodesian and apartheid-era South African flags on them.

Covington, if you believe his website, runs a growing enclave of white supremacists near Seattle called the Northwest Front. The non-profit group is reflected in a series of sci-fi novels, authored by Covington, about a dystopian future in which a white nation is the only answer to US economic and racial woes.

Pat Hines: Booth Waited Too Long to Kill Lincoln | Mediaite

Days after appearing on CNN and calling efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from state grounds an act of “cultural genocide,” League of the South state chairman Pat Hines went on Alan Colmes‘ Fox News radio program and celebrated the 150-year-old assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Transcript of the exchange below, via:

COLMES: Now the League Of The South in April had an event celebrating the assassination of President Lincoln.

HINES: That’s right.

COLMES: You support that?

HINES: Yes I do.

COLMES: Why?

HINES: He was the most murderous, treasonous President that ever existed.

COLMES: So you honor the actions of John Wilkes Booth?

HINES: John Wilkes Booth was a Confederate agent, who sadly, he didn’t fulfill his mission for almost 2 1/2 years. But he was assigned to kill Lincoln. And it’s too bad that he took as long as he did to do it.

COLMES: You’re upset that it took John Wilkes Booth as long as it did to kill Abraham Lincoln?

HINES: Yes.

COLMES: Why would you favor the assassination of an American President?

HINES: Well he was an United States President. Well, he was Commander-in-Chief, which makes him a legitimate target immediately.

COLMES: Is any Commander-in-Chief a legitimate target?

HINES: Well they are.

5f88aafa8be87376355cf410d484a5ddWhy don’t these people get called out for what they are?  At least paypal stopped the donations to Council of Conservative Citizens…

PayPal appears to suspend donations to group in ‘Dylann Roof manifesto’ | US news | The Guardian

But you know that this Council of Conservative Citizens has donated thousands to the campaigns of GOP politicians…‘Supremacist’ Earl Holt III and his donations to Republicans – The Washington Post

News came Monday that Holt had donated about $65,000 over the years to Republican campaign funds. He gave about $25,000 to Republican candidates in 2012 including former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Rand Paul (Ky.).

These people are giving the money away to charity, etc.:

Four Republican hopefuls return money after ‘Dylann Roof manifesto’ revelation | US news | The Guardian

Four presidential hopefuls are among 23 Republicans who have given up more than $36,000 in campaign contributions from the leader of a white nationalist group said to have influenced the Charleston church shooting suspect Dylann Roof.

Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum led a GOP group spanning Congress and statehouses who said they would donate to charity or return money from Earl Holt, following the publication of a Guardian article on Sunday.

Many other Republicans who took money from Holt declined to comment on the contributions. Josh Mandel, Ohio’s state treasurer, said he would not return $1,500 Holt gave to his failed 2012 US Senate campaign, as it had been spent. Mandel’s campaign still has almost $50,000 in the bank.

ea85bea4fa0bf6f043699e39d25f7180Holt, the president of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), has contributed more than $74,000 to Republican candidates and committees in recent years, according to public filings, while making dozens of racist statements online.

What Is the Council of Conservative Citizens, the White-Supremacist Group That Inspired a Racist Manifesto? – The Atlantic

…the CCC has become the largest white-supremacist group in the nation, according to some observers. Members have donated thousands of dollars to politicians; some national politicians have joined, and dozens have spoken to CCC meetings, often regretting it later. On Monday, Republicans around the country hastened to give back cash they’d received from the CCC’s president, Earl Holt III. Yet despite its size, influence, and unabashed espousal of white separatism, the CCC seems to often go unnoticed, surfacing mostly at times of high racial tension.

[…]

The CCC is now, according to the SPLC, the nation’s largest white nationalist group and at its peak boasted 15,000 members. Though the CCC is sometimes described as “thinly veiled” white supremacists or the like, that’s misleading—it makes little secret of its agenda. (Nonetheless, Ann Coulter has previously stepped forward to defend the group from the white-supremacy attack.) In a statement of principles, the group says:

We believe that the United States derives from and is an integral part of European civilization and the European people …. We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called “affirmative action” and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.

New members also receive a pamphlet about Martin Luther King Day co-written by the late racist Senator Jesse Helms. The Anti-Defamation League collects other examples of ties to hate groups and extremists.

5cec53e364cf839399902e0e32b407a5The group also maintains ties overseas; in 1998, according to the white supremacist site American Renaissance, a delegation from the group “had the pleasure of presenting Jean-Marie Le Pen with a Confederate flag that had flown over the South Carolina state capitol.” Le Pen founded France’s far-right National Front, but was recently suspended from the party by its current leader—his daughter—for remarks casting doubt on the Holocaust.

The CCC also prominently protested in 2000 when South Carolina lawmakers moved the Confederate battle flag from atop the statehouse—where it had flown since 1961—to a site elsewhere on the capitol grounds in Columbia.
So tell me…how the fuck can these politicians who get thousands of bucks from CCC get away with simply saying, they didn’t know who or what the CCC stood for? At least until the shit came down with Roof and The Guardian uncovered the groups/Holt donations.What..wait I got distracted…where was I? Oh yeah…on the topic of reactions to the past week:Confederate flag bans, Obamacare ruling, Marriage Equality….the right wing is going nuts. Around Banjoville, shit is getting real. The racist are posting pictures of rainbow flags with swastikas and stars and bars. They are spreading shit about “in god we trust” and founding fathers and Obama stocking SCOTUS with so many liberal judges.
b263fbb6ef5d92e52a80ca7c333ddd09 (1)Anyway…Here are some links in dump format.

After Confederate flags start coming down, hundreds rally to keep the hate symbol flying

Mass Hysteria on the Right After Supreme Court’s Progressive Rulings — 6 Biggest Freakouts | Alternet

GOP’s gay marriage, Confederate Flag views may hurt party – NY Daily News

Alabama Wal-Mart gets bomb threat over Confederate flag sales | AL.com

Charleston exposes ugliest truth of our time: Our society places little value on black life – Salon.com

Shots Fired at San Francisco Pride Parade [Update]

‘Gone with the Wind’ should go the way of the Confederate flag | New York Post

13 of the South’s Most Racist Monuments | Mother Jones

5381f8dc763aad7f1477540d21638b81Confederate battle flag: What it is and what it isn’t – CNN.com

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest – Voices – The Independent

The Power and Sadness of a Black President’s Call for Grace 

History News Network | The Shameful History of the Mistreatment of LGBT Teachers

How Is Jim Hoft Making His Readers Stupider And More Hate-Filled Now? | Crooks and Liars

Graham: Keeping Marriage Amendment In Party Platform Will Hurt GOP In 2016 | Crooks and Liars

Clarence Thomas: Cruelty Incarnate? | Lev Raphael

Straddling Old and New, a South Where ‘a Flag Is Not Worth a Job’ – NYTimes.com

Open Thread – Even In Texas. | Crooks and Liars

Open Thread - Even In Texas. - Crooks and Liars 2015-06-28 15-00-07

 

And more cartoons for you.

e04973afc6d2afcb24acfb6f87575fb0Here’s how cartoonists celebrated the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision

Now for some other news links:

This is far disturbing to see:

WATCH: Mob of Philly cops assault man holding crying baby for not paying his $2.25 transit fare

Transit officers working for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority are under investigation after several of them were recorded by a cell phone pushing and shoving an African American man holding onto a baby for reportedly not paying his $2.25 fare.

According to WPVI, SEPTA officials say they are reviewing their policies and procedures after the video — recorded Thursday night — went viral, calling attention to the officer’s actions.

In the video, three transit police can be seen talking to the man as he stays seated in the car holding a very small child. After another officer arrives and handcuffs the man, he is escorted off the rail car and then can be seen being shoved against the wall with the baby still in his arms.

As bystanders attempt to intervene, more than a dozen officers descend upon the platform pushing the crowd back as one man yells , “He still has his daughter in his hands!” as the baby can be heard crying in the background.

bdfb7921d31cc268113046c75b2d1728More officers arrive forming a cordon around the cops wrestling with the man and forcing bystanders onto the train and away from the struggle.

Addicting Info – Detroit Cops’ Chase Kills Two Children, They Keep Going And Injure Three More

Detroit police chasing a fleeing car decided it would be appropriate to continue the chase into a residential neighborhood. Due to their poor decision-making and inability to let a minor offense go, two small children died and three more were seriously injured.

On June 24, police were chasing what eyewitnesses believed to be a red Charger when they “tapped” the car on the rear bumper. That caused the red car to lose control, hitting and instantly killing Makiah Jackson, 3, and her six-year-old brother, Michaelangelo Jackson. Witness Alisha Jackson told the Voice Of Detroit:

“[The police] were right on their rear, the police car bumped their tail a little bit, and the car flew up in the air. There was no need for the police to be that close. I yelled ‘watch out!’ but it was too late. When the car hit them, both of them just looked at me. They screamed. It just keeps re-playing in my head. I ran down there, I yelled out their names, but they were gone. Makiah’s eyes were wide open, they died on impact.”

Michaelangelo and Makiah Jackson

Police could have — SHOULD have — stopped right then. But even after this horrific scene, the chase continued onto another residential street. There, the red car crashed into a driveway, hitting three children. Darius Andrews, Jr., 3, Isaiah Williams, 5, and Zyaire Gardner, 7, were critically injured and a 22-year-old woman was also injured.

Darius Andrews, Jr., Isaiah Williams and Zyaire Gardner

The car police were chasing was driven by a man who is on parole but neglected to report to his Parole Officer. Now, that’s certainly against the law and Lorenzo Harris should be held accountable. But to chase him into a residential neighborhood, where children are playing and families are out in their yards, is so irresponsible as to beggar belief. What the hell were they thinking? And to then continue to chase the car after two children were run down? Outrageous!

9e43b855fda291b9f37f4fadbb18927eDetroit Police Chief James Craig must know that this is inexcusable because he is scrambling. He’s changed his story several times. First he said that the police in the car had suspended the chase after they “lost sight of the car.” Witnesses blew a hole in that lie. Then he said that a supervisor had ordered the chase to end. There is nothing documented to prove this. Then he said that Harris had a gun. Then he said he didn’t. The cops had “made eye contact” with Harris and a passenger and we all know that if a black man makes eye contact with a cop, that’s all she wrote. That cops will have compliance no matter what. Even if it kills small children.

What the hell….

More news stories:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership’s glaring double standard – Salon.com

Obama’s new pact provides legal rights to corporations that it does not extend to unions and public interest groups

1a7dd4a5c74bfedbad197960b974709dPeople thinking that the SCOTUS ruling will change the status of medicaid expansion…think again.

Georgia’s Obamacare stalemate deepens | www.myajc.com

Now that President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law has twice been upheld by the nation’s highest court, Georgia’s state and federal leaders are coming to the begrudging recognition that the legislation won’t be changed any time soon.

But the well-dug trenches remain unmoved: Most Democrats insist on a Medicaid expansion in the state as the only path forward. Most Republicans are determined to repeal the law.

Meanwhile, a small cadre of lawmakers hope that Georgia’s involvement in a controversial waiver program could provide a new, and less contentious, path forward to bring in more federal funding for health care.

In the wake of Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling to maintain health insurance tax credits in states such as Georgia that did not create their own exchanges, the political and policy status quo remained unmoved.

df14798418f67b50e3be051b8f1fd3acGov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston both signaled they don’t intend to step into what they see as a federal matter, and they called on Congress to give states more flexibility to use federal funding.

On the issue of Reproductive Rights:

What the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling means for reproductive rights – Salon.com

There’s a little Easter egg in Friday’s marriage equality ruling that could have major repercussions for reproductive rights activists — if and when the Supreme Court takes up the issue of abortion again.

In his opinion for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy references the interplay of “personal choice” as it relates to same-sex marriage. But, in doing so, he also acknowledges the way individual autonomy relates to other life decisions, such as the right to use contraception or have a baby:

A first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding 852089c3f384a9e9dbc5525e5f19d3e9marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. …Like choices concerning contraception, family relationships, procreation, and childrearing, all of which are protected by the Constitution, decisions concerning marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make.

Let’s string some things together here: “choices concerning contraception…procreation, and childrearing…are protected by the Constitution.” It’s a single line, but it’s no throwaway — especially not in a SCOTUS decision that affirms equal access to happiness and control over one’s own life. It could set a precedent that’s invaluable to the fight to secure reproductive rights once and for all.

Oh if this could only be a good sign!

Gynotician Alert of the Week: June 20-26

gynotician-definition.png

Check that link out…

1bd8474c179701cba7c8d581107c8797Dutch campaigners fly abortion pills into Poland – BBC News

The group, Women on Waves, flew the aircraft from Germany to highlight Poland’s restrictive laws against terminating pregnancies.

Waiting for the drone on the other side were two Polish women who took the pills, used to induce a miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy.

Abortion was legal in Poland in the Communist era, but outlawed in most cases in 1993.

It is only permitted in cases of rape or incest, in cases of irreversible foetal malformation, or if the mother’s life is at risk.

On the interest of the mob:

The Wheels of Crime Are Greased With Olive Oil – The Atlantic

53331d7294e2c131014a8d2dda241b49And on health issues:

New questions about why more women than men have Alzheimer’s | Tampa Bay Times

CDC report: 1 in 8 Americans with HIV don’t know they have the virus

And other newsy stories:

Newly disclosed Hillary Clinton emails may undercut her earlier claims | Reuters

Teenage boy bitten by shark in North Carolina in sixth attack in two weeks | US news | The Guardian

USA can play soccer: five things we learned from the 1-0 win over China | Football | The Guardian

A Catholic Schoolgirl Tells Her Side About An Outdated And Intolerant System | Unwritten

963fc26ad55a02464ecff5128ec33c5cThe ballet dancers growing older gracefully | Stage | The Guardian

History News Network | The Countess Who Bested Shakespeare

History News Network | Why I believe Meriwether Lewis Was Assassinated

Defying violence by weaving in the Philippines – Al Jazeera English

Over 150,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced in the region of Mindanao during the armed rebellion that has shaken up southern Philippines for over four decades.

But there is more to Mindanao than war. Weaving, a centuries-old tradition, has become a refuge for some women in the conflict-ridden community. Weaving has helped these women to heal their wounds as they say that the stories of their land are revealed in their patterns.

But challenges are making it more difficult for these women to continue their work. The skills are not being passed on to the younger generation, and women often lack the financial capacity to continue.

f475712d254d277419519ada8826ea81A three-metre long mat takes at least two months to make. The patterns are created individually, no pattern is the same. Made from pineapple and abaca fabrics, they are dyed using tree bark and herbal extracts.

Eugene Strong, from the department of Agriculture, told Al Jazeera that “materials are expensive, there are only a few weavers left, and there are only a few buyers as well”.

“For example, here in Basilan, the fabrics are expensive, so not a lot of people buy. We are now looking at where to market it and luckily we have people who help us in the industry.”

Asdinan Baladji is a weaver who, despite the economic challenges, is teaching her daughter Myazare how to weave. “Life is not great but between household chores and a small income I am happy. We do the best we can.”

Video at the link.

The best link for last:

Rats dream about the places they want to go, apparently | Metro News

Rats are full of wanderlust and dream of places they want to go

Considering that they’re known for crawling through the sprawling subterranean networks of the world, it should come as no surprise that rats actually dream about the places they want to go.

That’s according to researchers from University College London – who claimed that when the rodents are shown an inaccessible food treat, they’re likely to dream about how they can get it when they nod off to sleep.

Or as lead researcher Hugo Spiers put it: ‘It’s like looking at a holiday brochure for Greece the day before you go – that night you might dream about the pictures.’

Rats Dream About the Places They Want to Explore – D-brief

rat sleeping

Rats, like humans, have dreams about the future.

When they see a treat they can’t reach, rats’ later dreams depict them walking toward it, researchers have found. The discovery may one day provide some insight into what happens in the human mind during sleep.

Maps in the Brain

Scientists already knew that after a rat has explored an area, certain neurons in the hippocampus called “place cells” replay those patterns while the rat sleeps.

9294b7e56ebc44a16ca87ab7308052f8“Place cells” in both rats and humans help us store memories about location and form mental maps. When you’re in one spot, a set of place cells fires; when you move to another spot, a different set of place cells fire to mark the new location. If scientists can record the activity of specific brain cells, then, they can spy on how the mind maps new places. So far, that kind of recording requires implanting tiny electrodes on very thin wires into the brain, which can’t be done with human subjects for ethical reasons, but it’s possible with rats.

This is how the scientist found out:

First, researchers let rats explore a T-shaped track. The rats could run along the center of the T, but the arms were blocked by clear barriers. While the rats watched, researchers put food at the end of one arm. The rats could see the food and the route to it, but they couldn’t get there.

Then, when the rats were curled up in their cages afterwards, scientists measured their neuron firing. Their brain activity seemed to show them imagining a route through a place they hadn’t explored before. To confirm this, researchers then put the rats back into the maze, but this time without the barriers. As they explored the arm where they had previously seen the food, the rats’ place cells fired in the same pattern as they had during sleep.

e097f5d4144063479d838ed4175741c2This mental mapping process made up about 8 percent of the rats’ brain activity during sleep. That may not sound like much, but neuroscientist Hugo Spiers, a co-author on the study published in eLife, says it’s a significant amount of activity for the brain to devote to a single task during rest.

That is something to think about.

The rats’ activity may shed some light on what goes on in the human mind during sleep. Sleeping does seem to improve human performance on memory tasks – a finding which has been used to argue against all-night study sessions. And desire is also a crucial part of that process for people. “People are much better at doing the stuff that they’ll make more money on after they’ve slept,” said Spiers. “Something about sleep is using that desire information: that you do want to do better.”

Rats will also become cannibalistic, sort of like humans will…in a figurative sense.

Sorry this is so damn late….think of it as an open thread.

334121b808b2b18f5ddc093d118de459


Tuesday Reads

charlie13n-1-web

Good Morning!!

At left is the cover of the next issue of Charlie Hebdo. It depicts the Prophet Muhammed holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign, with the words “all is forgiven” over his head.

The Wall Street Journal: Charlie Hebdo Puts Muhammad on Cover of Post-Attack Issue.

PARIS—Since Charlie Hebdo lost eight staff members in a terrorist attack last week, millions of people have declared their support to the French satirical magazine with the slogan “Je Suis Charlie.”

Now the often-caustic publication, faced with the challenge of reconciling its new status as a cause célèbre with its reflex to mock, ridicule and offend, is putting a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover of what is likely to be their most-read issue ever.

Distributors said Monday they were preparing to print as many as three million copies of Wednesday’s issue, 50 times the normal circulation. That is raising pressure on a small outlet known for skewering all forms of authority—including some that have rushed to its defense.

Suddenly the political and social elites who most likely had never heard of the small satirical magazine before the attack are parading around Paris and the Golden Globes pretending to be defenders of free speech. And what about the U.S. “journalists” who are little more than corporate lackeys who echoed right wing memes about President Obama supposedly not caring enough to attend a rally in France?

“It’s been extremely moving—and also hypocritical,” said Laurent Léger, a reporter for the magazine who survived the shooting. “All of a sudden, we are supported by the entire world. Whereas for years we were completely alone.” [….]

Another target for this week’s issue is likely to be Sunday’s solidarity march in France, surviving staff members said. The massive rally became a magnet for French and international political figures that have been a mainstay in Charlie Hebdo’s pages. Attendees included dignitaries from Turkey, Egypt, and Russia, countries that it has criticized for curbing free speech.

“All those dictators at a march celebrating liberty,” Mr. Léger said. “We of course are going to continue the mockery. We’ll see if it makes them jump.”

Crumb

That’s great news. As Dakinikat trenchantly pointed out yesterday, these same elites routinely ignore horrifying acts of terrorism that kill people who aren’t as high profile as the victims in Paris. And, as Dak also pointed out, it turns out those world leaders in Paris didn’t really march with the hoi-polloi. They just participated in a fake photo that showed them pretending to march. Dakinikat also posted this story from The Daily Banter in a comment yesterday, but I think it deserves to be front paged.

Now That These Leaders Are Done Pretending to March, They Should Pass Legislation Protecting Satire, by Bob Cesca.

President Abbas marched in Paris on Sunday, but a satirist in Gaza has been jailed for poking fun at the Palestinian leader.

It’s entertaining to observe the lengths to which American conservatives will overreach in order to make a nothing issue into a major scandal. Such is the case following the unity march in Paris, attended by 3.7 million people and world leaders from 40 nations. As we covered earlier today, conservatives all around are busily scolding and shaming the president for not walking hand-in-hand with those leaders, even though no president has ever marched in a protest rally overseas. Ever. But this president is, for some reason, held to a different standard than the 43 previous chief executives. It’s about “optics” they say. I often agree with that criticism and I agree that optics are important — except for the fact that no other president has been responsible for creating similar optics.

There’s another layer to this fracas. While lionizing the world leaders who marched in Paris, allegedly in support of Charlie Hebdo and free speech, critics of the president are neglecting two very important points.

1) British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Francois Hollande weren’t actually marching with the demonstrators. Their participation was staged on an empty street surrounded by security and merely photographed to look like it was part of the broader rally. It wasn’t.

2) Take a guess at how many of the nations represented by those leaders have statutes protecting satire as free speech? Not one. Indeed, there’s only one western nation where satire is protected speech. It’s the United States. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, Americans can’t be sued by other Americans for producing satire against public figures — regardless of whether the satire describes Jerry Falwell having incestuous sex or whether Saturday Night Live lampoons the president. They can try to sue, but the suit will never see the light of day.

So, while we’re applauding those 40 leaders for marching in a staged photo-op in support of a satirical magazine, bear in mind that none of those leaders come from nations where satirical speech is protected. In David Cameron’s England, for example, the prime minister or any public figure can sue cartoonists, writers, filmmakers or the producers of an SNL-style sketch show for making fun of them on television or elsewhere, and those lawsuits can actually be adjudicated and the plaintiffs can win. The same is true across the European Union and absolutely throughout the Middle East.

Frankly, I wish the White House hadn’t backed down and apologized.

TedCruzSnake

One of the loudest voices criticizing the president for not going to a European “unity rally” was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Time Magazine actually published an op-ed by Cruz yesterday.

On Sunday, leaders representing Europe, Israel, Africa, Russia, and the Middle East linked arms and marched together down Place de la Concorde in Paris. But, sadly, no one from the White House was found among the more than 40 Presidents and Prime Ministers who walked the streets with hundreds of thousands of French citizens demonstrating their solidarity against radical Islamic terrorists.

In other news . . .

Now that Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has officially announced that she won’t run for reelection, there’s a “New Gold Rush” in California, according to Bill Press at The Hill.

Barbara Boxer’s announcement that she will not seek reelection to the Senate has set off a frenzy in California not seen since the Gold Rush. Anybody could win. All you need is a pick, an ax and the ability to raise or cough up a minimum $40 million.

Wanna play? Lots of people do.

In fact, with Boxer and Dianne Feinstein occupying both Senate seats since the early ’90s, and Jerry Brown’s longtime lock on the governor’s office, younger California Democrats have been bottled up in a no man’s land for years, taking turns rotating among lesser state offices, waiting for their chance at the big time. Boxer pulled the plug. Now all that pent-up energy and ambition is bursting out. It’s fun to watch.

Three statewide officials might have the edge, but only because they’ve already run statewide a couple of times. State Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom have reached a pact not to run against each other, and Newsom’s already taken himself out of the race. That leaves Harris. But don’t count out state Treasurer John Chiang. He’s young, charismatic and still gets high marks for refusing to carry out former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s order to cut the minimum wage for state employees during a budget showdown.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Yesterday, Gavin Newsom announced that he’s not running for Boxer’s seat, and today Kamala Harris will announce that she’s throwing her hat into the ring. According to the LA Times story,

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer are seriously considering bids, as are several members of Congress. On the Republican side, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez and two former state GOP chairmen are weighing runs.

Former VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced yesterday that he’s not going to climb into the GOP clown car in 2016. From an interview with NBC News:

“I have decided that I am not going to run for president in 2016,” Ryan said in a phone interview, noting that he is “at peace” with the decision he made “weeks ago” to forgo a bid for the White House.

“It is amazing the amount of encouragement I have gotten from people – from friends and supporters – but I feel like I am in a position to make a big difference where I am and I want to do that,” he said.

The nine-term congressman believes he can make that “big difference” in his new role as chairman of the influential House Ways and Means Committee rather than as a presidential contender.

The committee will meet Tuesday to kick off the new Congress. By announcing that he’ll pass on a White House run, Ryan hopes to demonstrate that he’ll devote his “undivided attention” to the committee, although he admits that it will be “bittersweet not being on the trail” as a candidate this upcoming cycle.

Ryan has never initiated an important piece of legislation and gotten it passed, but now he’s going to head one of the most powerful committees in Congress. Let’s hope he continues his lack of meaningful accomplishments.

Screen-Shot-2014-01-28-at-5.52.16-PM

In other 2016 news, it looks like Mitt Romney is actually going to run for president for a third time. From The Washington Post, Romney moves to reassemble campaign team for ‘almost certain’ 2016 bid.

Mitt Romney is moving quickly to reassemble his national political network, calling former aides, donors and other supporters over the weekend and on Monday in a concerted push to signal his seriousness about possibly launching a 2016 presidential campaign.

Romney’s message, as he told one senior Republican, was that he “almost certainly will” make what would be his third bid for the White House. His aggressive outreach came as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — Romney’s 2012 vice presidential running mate and the newly installed chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — announced Monday that he would not seek the presidency in 2016.

Romney’s activity indicates that his declaration of interest Friday to a group of 30 donors in New York was more than the release of a trial balloon. Instead, it was the start of a deliberate effort by the 2012 nominee to carve out space for himself in an emerging 2016 field also likely to include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Romney has worked the phones over the past few days, calling an array of key allies to discuss his potential 2016 campaign. Among them was Ryan, whom Romney phoned over the weekend to inform him personally of his plans to probably run. Ryan was encouraging, people with knowledge of the calls said.

Other Republicans with whom Romney spoke recently include Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman, former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, former Missouri senator Jim Talent and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah).

According to Politico’s Maggie Haberman and James Hohmann, Romney is promising he’ll be ‘different’ this time.

…interviews with more than a dozen staffers and supporters who have recently spoken with Romney reveal conversations in which he promises a “different” path forward without providing specifics about what that means as far as mechanics and his own sometimes gaffe-ridden performance. And, aside from most of his communications team, Romney would still be expected to bring back the majority of his old staff, sources said.

“He really has to show people that he’d do it differently, rather than just say he’d do it differently,” said a former top adviser to Romney, one of half a dozen alumni to speak Monday with POLITICO. “He needs to assure folks he’d take a much more direct approach to laying out the vision for his campaign versus having those decisions driven by a bunch of warring consultants.”

please proceed

 

Mother Jones has posted a series of quotes in which Romney said he wouldn’t run again, along with the famous “47 percent” video.

 

Finally, from Boomberg Politics, David Weigel reports that Not a Single Person Has Donated to Dick Morris’s Anti-Hillary Super PAC.

Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!

 


Monday Reads

sun

Good Morning!

I’ve found a few things to keep you interested this morning.  Some are depressing as usual and some are intriguing.   The Sun is going to reverse polarity soon.  This evidently happens every 11 years and causes some interesting space weather.

The sun switches its polarity, flipping its magnetic north and south, once every eleven years through an internal mechanism about which little is understood.

The swap could however cause intergalactic weather fronts such as geomagnetic storms, which can interfere with satellites and cause radio blackouts.

Nasa said in August that the change would happen in three to four months time, but it is impossible to give a more specific date. Scientist won’t know for around another three weeks whether the flip is complete.

The impact of the transfer will be widespread as the sun’s magnetic field exerts influence well beyond Pluto, past Nasa’s Voyager probes positioned near the edge of interstellar space.

The event will be watched closely by researchers at Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, which monitors the sun’s magnetic field on a daily basis.

Todd Hoeksema, director of the Wilcox Solar Observatory, said the polarity change is built up throughout the eleven year cycle through areas of intense magnetic activity known as sunspots which gradually move towards the poles, eroding the existing opposite polarity.

Eventually, the magnetic field reduces to zero, before rebounding with the opposite polarity. “It’s kind of like a tide coming in or going out,” Hoeksema said. “Each little wave brings a little more water in, and eventually you get to the full reversal.”

One of the most noticeable effect on Earth will be a boost in the occurrence, range and visibility of auroras – the Northern Lights. “It’s not a catastrophic event, it’s a large scale event that has some real implications, but its not something we need to worry about,” added Hoeksema.

rover-flagOne more space story.  The Chinese Flag is now on the moon.  They landed a rover there last weekend.

Shanghaist reports China has photographed its flag on the moon for the first time in history.

China landed a rover on the moon last weekend, becoming the third country after the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to do so. No vehicle has touched the moon since 1976. China launched its first lunar orbiter in 2007.

 I’ve been really upset by the news coming out of Syria recently even though our press has done a horrible job covering the country’s 

20131214_map504squalid conditions resulting from of all the violence  It’s been a harsh winter and the people are starving.  There are also human rights violations even though the chemical weapons usage has ceased. Here is some information on a Syrian activists as well as foreign journalists who have been imprisoned by the brutal regiem and others.

THE Syrian regime has long enjoyed locking up activists. Mazen Darwish, who since 2004 has run the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression, has been in jail since February last year. Others have spent years behind bars. Sadly, some of the opponents to Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, have started to do the same. In the latest episode, on December 10th Razan Zeitouneh (pictured above), a lawyer who won several prizes last year for her dedication to peaceful activism, was taken along with three colleagues from their office in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.

Ms Zeitouneh and her colleagues ran the Violations Documentation Centre, a local organisation that since the start of Syria’s uprising-turned-war has tracked the death toll of both the opposition and regime fighters. She has been in hiding since 2011. She was taken along with her husband Wael Hamada and Sameera Khalil, the wife of Yassin Haj Saleh, a famed Syrian writer who left the country just two months ago as civil society activists and free speakers became targeted as much by extremist groups as the regime. He wrote movingly about his experience.

The suspected culprit in the latest abduction is the Army of Islam, a Damascus-based umbrella group believed to receive funds from Saudi Arabia. Most of the kidnappings are carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qaeda linked group which aims to create a borderless caliphate and considers both non-Muslims and liberal Muslims as heretics. On the same day as Ms Zeitouneh was kidnapped, El Mundo, a Spanish newspaper, announced that its Middle East reporter Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova have been held by ISIS since September 18th. Another 30 or so foreigners, a mixture of journalists and aid workers, are also being held, including Italian priest Paolo Dall’Oglio who spent three decades in Syria.

I would like you all to know that there is a war on Festivus and Fox News is the aggressor.

A fake holiday popularized by Seinfeld has become the symbol of secular pushback against religious dominion over American public life. Or something like that.

The Wisconsin and Florida state capitols currently have Festivus poles on display. To the uninitiated, the Festivus pole is a key component in the celebration of Festivus, a bizarre and agonizing December 23 holiday made famous by “The Strike,” a 1997 episode of the beloved NBC sitcom Seinfeld. Since the episode aired, the holiday has taken on a life of its own. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has thrown Festivus fundraisers, for example. And at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee on Wednesday, self-proclaimed “militant atheist” activist Chaz Stevens erected a 6-foot Festivus pole made out of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans in the state house rotunda in protest of the privately funded nativity scene at the capitol.

Harry Mihet, of the “religious liberty” law firm Liberty Counsel, called Stevens’ views “extreme” and his display offensive. “Is this how PC we’ve gotten in our society, really?” Fox News host Gretchen Carlson said on Tuesday. “I am so outraged by this. Why do I have to drive around with my kids to look for nativity scenes and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, kids, look. There’s Baby Jesus behind the Festivus pole made out of beer cans!”

festivus pole Oh Noes!!!  Plastic Baby Jesus is hidden behind a Festivus pole!   And a public airing of the Grievances!  Right in front of that Plastic Nativity Scene!!!

“This whole thing is just a serious feat of … ridiculousness,” says Chaz Stevens, who marched into the Capitol building on Wednesday morning clutching a case of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and a 6-foot pole made of PVC pipe. It’s a nod to the unadorned aluminum pole that is part of the secular Festivus holiday invented by George Costanza’s dad on Seinfeld.

The celebration also includes an “airing of grievances” during the family meal, in which each person describes disappointments experienced over the course of the year.

Stevens says when he heard about the Capitol Nativity scene, it was just too much. So he applied to the state to install his own display: a pole covered in beer cans.

“This is about separation of church and state,” Stevens says. “The government shouldn’t be in this business of allowing the mixture of church and state.”

The displays are allowed inside Florida’s Capitol building because the state has designated the rotunda as “a public forum.” Howard Simon of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the state had no choice.

“They’re not going to be allowed to discriminate. It’s going to be a public forum for all forms of speech and expression and displays,” Simon says.

Professional Public Asshole, Paul Ryan, has decided that the debt ceiling will be the next hostage target.  I guess he wasn’t satisfied with the blood of the unemployed.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) signaled that Republicans would not raise the debt ceiling next year without some sort of concessions from Democrats, saying lawmakers were still crafting their strategy.

“We, as a caucus, along with our Senate counterparts, are going to meet and discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit,” Mr. Ryan said on Fox News Sunday. “We don’t want ‘nothing’ out of the debt limit. We’re going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight.”

The U.S. government spends more money than it brings in through taxes, which means the Treasury Department has to borrow money by issuing debt. The government can only borrow money up to a certain level -called the debt ceiling – which is set by Congress. In October, lawmakers agreed to “suspend” the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014. The White House has said it will no longer negotiate with Republicans on conditions for raising the debt limit, but many Republicans have said they will only vote to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for budget changes like spending cuts.

The Republican party continues to be in complete denial about all things related to Real GDP and the debt and deficit in real terms.  Size is relative to both real GDP and to whatever has happened in inflation over the years.  You can’t arbitrarily look at a number without understanding the changes in prices and the overall size of an economy and its taxable assets.  Is it just me or is Paul Ryan one of the least serious people on the hill?

Oh, wait.  There’s also Darrell Issa.  One of the most fun things I’ve seen recently is that the HHS Department has refused to turn information over to Issa because they believe he will violate the privacy of millions of Americans.

Rep. Darrell Issa has issued a subpoena to MITRE, a government contractor, to turn over documents on healthcare.gov security testing. HHS says Issa has already seen the documents he is seeking.

Politico: HHS To Darrell Issa: We Don’t Trust You
The Health and Human Services Department told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa that it won’t turn over documents related to the security of the Healthcare.gov website because it can’t trust him to keep secret information that could give hackers a roadmap to wreak havoc on the system. Issa has issued a subpoena to MITRE, a government contractor, to turn over unredacted copies of security-testing documents by noon Friday. … Already, Issa has been given access to the documents he seeks “in camera” — meaning committee staff were able to review them in a room but not keep them — but he is seeking physical copies (Allen, 12/12).

Roll Call: HHS To Issa: You Can’t Be Trusted With Obamacare Documents
The HHS assistant secretary for legislation, Jim R. Esquea, signaled that HHS was blocking MITRE from turning over the documents, which have been subpoenaed, over concerns that Issa would — as he has done in the past — leak the documents to the public, potentially giving hackers a road map to the “potential vulnerabilities in the cyber defenses” (Fuller, 12/12).

Issa is having a hissy fit.

So, that’s my little bit of this and that this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Nightmare on Capitol Hill

Nightmare on Capitol Hill Dave Granlund

Good Morning!!

Yes, it’s real–too real. We’re approaching the deadline for raising the debt ceiling–it’s Thursday–and Congress is still dithering. But it looks like they may figure out a way to kick the can down the road again, as long as Ted Cruz doesn’t decide to have another tantrum.

According to the Hill this morning, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are close to agreeing on “a deal” to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling for a few more months. The two Senate leaders huddled for hours yesterday trying to put together some kind of package that would satisfy House Republicans and convince them not to bring down the U.S. Government and the global economy.

An emerging deal to reopen the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling until February gathered political momentum Monday evening after Senate Republicans signaled they would likely support it.

Lawmakers and aides said the legislation would fund the government until Jan. 15 and extend the nation’s borrowing authority until February but leave ObamaCare largely untouched.

The agreement would also set up another “supercommittee” to try to deal with the next round of automatic sequester cuts. The committee would have until December 13 to report to Congress. Anyone who thinks they’ll agree on anything, please raise your hand.

The big question is whether a package to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling can pass muster in the House.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was briefed on the deal Monday, and members of his conference were taking a wait and see attitude.

“When we see it, we’ll know what it is. Do you know what it is yet?” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, asked reporters as he left Boehner’s office.

“As soon as we see something in writing, then we can understand how we can thoughtfully understand what we’ll do with it,” Sessions said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wouldn’t comment on the emerging Senate deal, but he told reporters House Republicans will meet Tuesday morning “to discuss a way forward.” “Possible consideration of legislation related to the debt limit” was added to Cantor’s daily House schedule for Tuesday.

Ted Cruz Onward Michael Ramirez

Of course the biggest potential fly in the ointment is Texas junior Senator Ted Cruz and his gang of Tea Party House members. Cruz wouldn’t say whether he’s planning another fake filibuster or some other effort to kill the Affordable Care Act. However, Cruz did hold a secret meeting with House Republicans last night, according to Roll Call.

Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast.

The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.

Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Steve Southerland II of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Justin Amash of Michigan.

The group is a collection of members who have often given leadership headaches in recent years by opposing both compromise measures as well as packages crafted by fellow Republicans….While the emerging deal to reopen the government and hike the debt ceiling increase may have been a hot topic, it was not immediately clear what the group actually discussed. But the fact that such a group met with Cruz at all could give House GOP leaders even more heartburn as they consider themselves what to do if the Senate passes the measure.

If Cruz and his buddies decide to cause more trouble, they could bring about a default by dragging the fight out until after Thursday. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew could probably keep the U.S. afloat for a few more days, but it would be touch and go. Joshua Green wrote yesterday at Bloomberg Businessweek that “Ted Cruz Could Force a Debt Default All by Himself.”

How could this happen? Because the Senate can move quickly when necessary, but only by unanimous consent. Let’s say Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) strike a deal today (that’s looking unlikely). Cruz surely won’t like it and has said repeatedly, “I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare.” If he’s true to his word, he could drag out the proceedings past Thursday and possibly well beyond. “If a determined band of nut jobs wants to take down the global economy, they could do it,” says Jim Manley, a former top staffer for Reid. “Under Senate rules, we are past the point of no return—there’s not anything Reid or McConnell could do about it.”

If Cruz is truly determined to block or delay any deal that does not touch Obamacare, here’s how he’d do it: The hypothetical Reid/McConnell bill would probably be introduced as an amendment to the “clean” debt-ceiling raise that Democrats introduced—and Republicans defeated—last week. Reid voted against cloture on the motion to proceed to that bill, a procedural tactic that allows him to reconsider the bill later on. Let’s say he does so by 5 p.m. Monday. There would need to be a cloture vote on the motion to proceed. Cruz would dissent, but he wouldn’t be able to round up 41 votes for a filibuster….

The real killer is that Senate rules stipulate there must be 30 hours of post-cloture debate, unless senators agree unanimously to waive it. Reid and McConnell would want unanimous consent to move quickly, but Cruz could refuse, thereby forcing 30 hours of debate. This would drag things out until Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. Then there would be a vote on the motion to proceed (requiring a simple majority), followed by an intervening day, assuming Cruz withheld his consent to vote earlier. So now we’re looking at a Thursday cloture vote on the bill itself, followed by another 30 hours of post-cloture debate that would blow right past the Treasury deadline.

Ted Cruz Jesus

Let’s hope even Cruz isn’t that delusional and foolhardy. Booman also points out that the Senate can change the rules and limit post-cloture debate for this one vote. That takes 67 votes.

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green calls what Cruz and other Tea Party Republicans are doing “backdoor impeachment.”

The dance over the debt ceiling and the fight over the government shutdown are nothing less than impeachment on the cheap: a chance to negate the will of the majority by ostensibly placating the letter of the law. Unable to win the last two presidential elections or to persuade a Supreme Court majority that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional, House Republicans have arrived at a point where default and closure are the next best things. This combustible brew of race, class, and economic anxieties bubbles all too closely to the surface.

These days, the GOP comes across as hating Obamacare more than loving their countrymen, and the nation is returning that ire (PDF). Less than a quarter of Americans view the Republicans favorably, and a majority dislikes them, three-in-10 intensely. The GOP’s goal of recapturing the Senate in 2014 is now looking more like a dream than a reality, as Republicans are “forced to explain why they are not to blame and why Americans should trust them to govern both houses of Congress when the one they do run is in such disarray.” Indeed.

Unfortunately, the calamity of a potential default has tempered neither judgment nor passion. On Saturday, Ted Cruz—the man who lit the match, won the Values Voters Straw Poll with 42 percent of the vote. Channeling her inner Glenn Beck, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) concluded that the President “committed impeachable offenses.” Bachmann also proclaimed that civil disobedience was a potential response to Obama’s “thuggery,” and compared the Obama presidency to Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood.

I hope you’ll read the rest at the link.

Ted Cruz is stealing the right wing nut show for now, but in the House Paul Ryan raised his ugly head over the weekend to complain about the ACA’s individual mandate and requirement that women have access to birth control. From HuffPo:

Sources told the Post that, in a private meeting with House Republicans, Ryan said that by kicking the can down the road, the GOP would lose “leverage” in their fight against Obamacare.

Ryan’s main concern appears to be delaying the health care law’s individual mandate, but ThinkProgress points out that Ryan also emphasized the need to give employers the ability to deny birth control coverage based on moral or religious reasons.

Meanwhile most people around the country and even on Wall Street don’t seem all that concerned about what’s happening in Washington DC. I guess that after multiple emergencies in which political leaders “cried wolf,” everyone just assumes that Congress will find some way to keep the country going. Still, is this any way to run a country? Shouldn’t citizens be up in arms? Will Durst has a wacky column about this at Cagle Post called “Fukushima Sushi.”

Which is harder to believe? The ludicrous shenanigans going down in Washington or the fact that nobody seems particularly interested in doing anything about them? Good neighbors — it looks like we got ourselves one heck of a bumper crop of official dysfunction this year. Near as high as Manute Bol’s eye.

You’d think with national parks closed, veteran’s benefits being withheld and a possible catastrophic debt ceiling crisis looming, folks would be atwitter like chicken inspectors on a rotisserie spit during a power surge. And you’d be as wrong as a Bergman film on Comedy Central.

What the country seems to be seeking here is a little something called political responsibility. Which, in these dark days, is a wee bit of a tad of a total and complete oxymoron. Real similar to saying Fukushima sushi. Or elegant squalor. Comfortable rock.

Driving the point home: Weird normality. Spherical edge. Iron kite. Freedom shackle. Fresh detritus. Flammable sleet. Placid hammer. Colossal shrimp. Diminutive giant. Formal jeans. Sensitive linebacker. Salable autonomy. Veteran rookie. Vegetarian butcher. Pork tartare. Reality TV.

Keeping it real: Precarious certainty. Serene devastation. Bitter honey. Catholic condom. Heaven’s basement. Gelatinous needle. Sadistic lover. Banker’s compassion. Macabre solace. Chaste indiscretion. Temporary tax. Restorative annihilation. Healthy fries. Unhungry shark.

Lots more oxymoron’s at the link. How he came up with so many, I’ll never know.

Now what stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links on any topic in the comments.


Friday Reads: The Ides of March

Eid_Mar Ah! The Ides of March and today’s political men with that lean and hungry look are upon us!  Let’s check out what Eric Cantor, Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan are up to.  All of them have that creepy angular look that makes my skin crawl. I always wonder if their supporters are as odd looking and grinch-like?

Ryan “looks with such ferret and such fiery eyes” and is trying to ride the same old budget that the voters soundly rejected in November.

Ryan’s budget is a retread of his previous offerings, the same ideas that were rejected by voters in the 2012 election. Like the old Bourbon kings, he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Once more he doubles down on the failed ideas of the past, and once more he brazenly seeks credit for making hard choices while refusing to tell us what those choices are. The cowardice and lack of candor reflect just how unpopular these ideas are.

The basic strategy is the same; the only new packaging is the pretense of balancing the budget in 10 years. Ryan does that by adopting the $600 billion in “fiscal cliff” taxes that Republicans voted against, the Medicare tax hikes that were part of the Obamacare that Ryan proposes to repeal, and, most brazenly, the infamous $716 billion in “Medicare cuts” that Ryan and Romney and legions of Republicans have railed against over the last two election cycles.

Ryan’s basic strategy is unchanged. He would lower rates on income and corporate taxes. He does this despite studies showing that lowering rates over the last decades have produced more inequality, but not more growth. With the top 1 percent capturing a staggering 121 percent of the income growth coming out of the Great Recession, and corporate profits at record highs as a percentage of the economy, Ryan still argues that if they just had more money, they would start investing here at home.

The lower tax rates, Ryan claims, will be paid for by closing loopholes and eliminating “tax expenditures” — only he reveals none of Romney 2012those that he would close. Studies show millionaires could give up all their tax deductions and still pocket a big tax break from the Ryan plan. By definition, middle class families will end up paying more — and will face the loss of tax deductions for mortgages, for employer-based health care, for state and local taxes and more. No wonder Ryan doesn’t want to reveal what’s behind the curtain.

Ryan then calls for cutting $4.6 trillion in spending over 10 years from projected levels. $2.5 trillion of that comes from repealing Obamacare and gutting Medicaid. That will leave, according to estimates of the Urban League and the Congressional Budget Office, 40 to 50 million more poor and middle-income Americans uninsured, even as the wealthy and multinationals pocket their tax breaks. In addition, Ryan promises to dismember Medicare 10 years from now, turning it into a voucher that will push more and more costs on seniors over time.

Ryan would cancel the “sequestration cuts” for the military over the next decade while cutting even more from domestic services. All domestic services — education, border patrol, workplace safety, food and drug monitoring, research and development, Head Start, infant nutrition, etc. — would be cut to levels not seen in modern times. Naturally, Ryan does not identify what would be cut.

His budget is expected to pass the House yet again even though there is no chance in the Senate and no chance that “Obamacare” will be repealed.   Yet, he’s consistent which is more than we can say about Eric Cantor recently.  You know Cantoe. ” Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort s if he mock’d himself and scorn’d his spirit that could be moved to smile at any thing.”

Cantor seems newly pained by his reputation as an ideological roadblock. In Virginia, his favorable rating is twenty-seven per cent, a fact that makes a statewide run for office in the near future a dim prospect. Cantor explained why he argued at the retreat against using the debt ceiling as political leverage. He had been hearing from donors on Wall Street and in the business community about the potential impact on the markets. “Most people would say incurring debt at this point is allowing money for bills that you already incurred,” he said. “It’s to pay the bills.” Eight days earlier, at a press conference, Obama had made the same argument.

Besides, there were better fights to come. Conceding the debt-ceiling vote was a simple way for House Republicans to prevent the 110803_eric_cantor_ap_328U.S. government from going into default, which would be disastrous for the economy here and abroad. It also meant they could save their leverage for the coming fight over the automatic spending cuts in the sequester. “We’re not trying to sit here and just obstruct,” Cantor said. “We’re trying to solve the problem, and we’ve been put in this position, I guess, perception-wise, that all we want to do is obstruct. So this is an attempt for us to get on firmer ground.”

To win over the right, House leaders promised three things. They would demand that the Democratic-controlled Senate write a formal budget, which Senate Democrats have avoided doing for several years; if the senators didn’t pass a budget, they wouldn’t get paid. Second, they promised conservatives that the cuts in the sequester would be kept intact or replaced with something equivalent. The final promise was far more daunting: Paul Ryan would write a budget that balanced within ten years. “Big goal,” Cantor said, and he sounded relieved that it wouldn’t be his job; Ryan’s last budget, which included severe spending cuts, didn’t promise to come into balance until the late twenty-thirties. “People were concerned that it took too long to balance,” Ryan said. To make the budget balance in a decade, the level of cuts will have to be extreme. Cantor may have led his colleagues out of the debt-ceiling canyon only to get them trapped in another one.

I pointed out that, because the fiscal-cliff deal included more than six hundred billion dollars in higher taxes over the next ten years, Ryan’s job might be a little easier. Cantor flashed a mischievous grin. “Irony!” he said.

Then, there is Bobby Jindal who is plotting to push the most regressive tax plan ever through the state of Louisiana. jindal  He’s got the ALEC plan for wrecking the state down pat. “He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”

Jan Moller with the Louisiana Budget Project said he fears a financial blow to the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

“At a bare minimum, a tax overhaul should not be an excuse to make the state’s poorest citizens pay more, and they would suffer the most from the governor’s proposal to raise sales taxes,” Moller said in a prepared statement.

Barfield said something will be proposed to offset any increase for low- and lower-middle-classes.

“They would be in no worse position than they are today,” Barfield said.

Barfield said the administration wants to encourage job creation and economic growth, which help elevate the poor.

One has to wonder how the national ambitions of these men jibe with voters given their agendas benefit very few people.  I suppose the idea is to appease the big donors and hope that every one else just votes based on name recognition and glossy mailers.  Still, Jindal’s popularity sits at 37%.  As mentioned above,  Cantor’s popularity sits at 27%.  Ryan’s last poll was the election.

So, here are a few other reads that you might want to check out.  I’d say all of this is good news for rationale people and bad news for our Republican deniers of reality.
BBC News reports that “LHC cements Higgs boson identification”.  Yes, despite the agenda to stamp out the progress of scientists in the US, science and discovery happens in other countries.

“This is the start of a new story of physics,” said Tony Weidberg, Oxford University physicist and a collaborator on the Atlas experiment.

“Physics has changed since July the 4th – the vague question we had before was to see if there was anything there,” he told BBC News.

“Now we’ve got more precise questions: is this particle a Higgs boson, and if so, is it one compatible with the Standard Model?”

The results reported at the conference – based on the entire data sets from 2011 and 2012 – much more strongly suggest that the new particle’s “spin” is zero – consistent with any of the theoretical varieties of Higgs.

“The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is,” said CMS spokesperson Joe Incandela.

As is often the case in particle physics, a fuller analysis of data will be required to establish beyond doubt that the particle is a Higgs of any kind. But Dr Weidberg said that even these early hints were compelling.

“This is very exciting because if the spin-zero determination is confirmed, it would be the first elementary particle to have zero spin,” he said.

“So this is really different to anything we have seen before.”

Even more data will be required to explore the question of more “exotic” Higgs particles.

This HuffPo article suggest that there will even be fewer Americans for those Republicans to fool in the future as religion in America hits  new low!!

The number of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is the highest it has ever been since data on the subject started being collected in the 1930s, new research has found.

Sociologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University analyzed results from the General Social Survey and found that the number of people who do not consider themselves part of an organized religion has jumped dramatically in recent years.

Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the number of “nones” — those who said they were religiously unaffiliated — hovered around 5 percent, Claude Fischer, one of the researchers with UC Berkeley, told The Huffington Post. That number had risen to only 8 percent by 1990.

But since then, the number of people who don’t consider themselves part of a religion has increased to 20 percent.

No wonder Republicans want to tank public education.  I’d say there’s a bit of intelligent life left here!

Finally, the Mars Rover “Curiosity” finds some astonishing things on Mars.

marvinThe verdict is in: Mars’s Gale Crater was habitable in its distant past, perhaps during the same period in which microbial life was establishing itself on Earth between 3 billion and 4 billion years ago.

That is the conclusion scientists have reached after NASA‘s Mars rover Curiosity analyzed the first sample ever culled from deep in a rock on another planet. Curiosity used a first-of-its-kind drill to extract the sample.

Now, only seven months into its mission – a period set aside primarily for testing the rover’s various instruments – Curiosity has already given researchers the answer to the broad, basic question they set out to answer: Did Mars ever host environments suitable for life?

The issue of habitability is “in the bag,” said John Grotzinger, a planetary geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., and the mission’s lead scientist, during a press briefing announcing the results on Tuesday.

The minerals in the tiny, gray, ground-rock sample exposed by Curiosity’s drill speak of abundant standing water, conditions neither too acidic or too alkaline for life, and the minerals that would have provided a ready energy source for microbes, if any had been there.

Wonder what Pat Robertson will say about this?

and what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Paul Ryan Makes Major Freudian Slip

Hilarious! While introducing his budget plan today, Paul Ryan unconsciously revealed his true purpose.

From The Hill:

During the unveiling of his new budget proposal, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made a slip of the tongue while railing against President Obama’s healthcare law.

“This is something we will not give up on because we are not going to give up on destroying the healthcare system for the American people,” Ryan accidentally said.

Here’s the clip, courtesy of DailyKos:

Bwwwwwwaaaaaahahahahahahaha!!!

That put me in mind of another great Freudian slip by the master of Freudian slips, George W. Bush.

This is psychoanalytic open thread. Just kidding–it’s wide open. What are you hearing?


Delusional Paul Ryan Bases New Budget on Repealing Obamacare

WallaceRyan

Oh man, this is too much!

Paul Ryan appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today and admitted to that the new “Ryan Plan” budget is based on the assumption that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed along with the planned Medicaid expansion.

Here’s the transcript of the interview.

Ryan explains that he plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program and Medicaid, food stamps, and “49 different job training programs spread across nine different government agencies” into block grants and let the states decide what to do with the money. Wallace had some questions.

Let me ask you about a couple of the specific cuts that you made last year, and tell me if they’re not in the new budget — I assume that they are. You cut Medicaid by $770 billion, over the next 10 years. You cut $134 billion from food stamps. You cut $166 billion from education, training and social services.

….

WALLACE: Can you honestly say by turning Medicaid into a block grant and giving it to the states that you can cut $770 billion —

RYAN: Yes.

WALLACE: — out of that program, over the next 10 years, and that’s going to have no impact on legitimate recipients?

RYAN: These are increases that have not come yet. So, by repealing Obamacare, and the Medicaid expansions which haven’t occurred yet, we are basically preventing an explosion of a program that is already failing.

So, we’re saying don’t grow this program through Obamacare because it doesn’t work. Prevent that growth from going because it’s not going to work, it’s going to hurt people who are trying to help, it’s going to hurt hospitals and states and, give the states the tools that they are asking for.

I’m kind of surprised Wallace didn’t do a Ricky Ricardo-type double take after that.

WALLACE: I’m going to pick up on this because I must say I didn’t understand it. Are you saying that as part of your budget, you would repeal, you assume the repeal of Obamacare?

RYAN: Yes.

WALLACE: Well, that’s not going to happen.

RYAN: Well, we believe it should. That’s the point. That’s what’s — but this is what budgeting is all about, Chris. It’s about making tough choices to fix our country’s problems.

And here’s the really crazy part. Wallace points out that, you know, Obama won the election and Medicare was a huge issue during the campaign and the voters rejected the Romney/Ryan plan.

Ryan doesn’t buy it:

I would argue against your premise that we lost this issue in the campaign. We won the senior vote. I did dozens of Medicare town hall meetings in states like Florida, explaining how these are the best reforms to save the shrinking Medicare program and we are confidently this is the way to go. It has bipartisan support. It’s an idea that came from Democrats in the first place.

Wha– ?! Has this guy gone around the bend or what? Haven’t the House Republicans already tried to repeal Obamacare more than 30 times?

Here’s the video from Think Progress:

 

This is a completely wacko, insane, what-is-he-smoking open thread!