Lazy Saturday Reads: Another Domestic Terrorist Attack

People are escorted away after a deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. A gunman opened fire at the clinic on Friday, authorities said, wounding multiple people. (Daniel Owen/The Gazette via AP)

People are escorted away after a deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. A gunman opened fire at the clinic on Friday, authorities said, wounding multiple people. (Daniel Owen/The Gazette via AP)

Good Morning!!

A terrorist is in custody after he attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado yesterday, but not before he murdered a policeman and two “civilians” and injured nine more people. As we’re all aware, Colorado Springs is a hotbed of right wing “Christian” evangelical groups.

Here’s the latest from Reuters: Police name suspect in Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting.

The suspect in a deadly shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic was named on Saturday as Robert L. Dear, 57, the Colorado Springs Police public affairs’ section said in a Tweet.

The gunman who stormed the clinic on Friday killed three people and wounded nine others before surrendering to police after a bloody siege lasting several hours inside the facility, authorities said.

Local news media reported that Dear was being held without bail.

Robert L. Dear mugshot

Robert L. Dear mugshot

As police traded gunfire with Dear, people in local businesses were told to shelter in place.

The rampage, which took place at a clinic that provides women’s health services including abortions, was believed to be the first fatal attack on a U.S. abortion provider in six years. Police have not discussed the suspect’s motives.

The assailant in Colorado Springs, Colorado’s second largest city, was armed with a rifle when he entered the clinic – a site repeatedly targeted for protests by anti-abortion activists – and opened fire shortly before noon on Friday, authorities said.

Police swarming the scene pursued the assailant into the building, trading gunfire with the suspect as authorities tracked their movements from room to room by watching live video feeds from security cameras mounted inside.

Officers closing in on the gunman managed to finally talk him into giving himself up inside, and he was taken into custody more than five hours after the violence began.

Planned Parenthood released a statement in response to the terrorist attack on their clinic in Colorado Springs.

“The heart of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) is broken tonight as we try to make sense of the horrific tragedy that struck our beloved health center in Colorado Springs, today. Our thoughts are with the all those who were impacted and particularly the families of the two civilians and one heroic law-enforcement officer whose lives were lost. We are grateful to report that all our staff are safe and accounted for and are hoping for the best possible outcomes for the others wounded in this attack.

“We are thankful to our security personnel and to the Colorado Springs Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, and the UCCS campus officers, who came to our aid and served with such selfless valor. Their fast response, strength, and bravery undoubtedly saved countless lives today. We also appreciate that our Colorado Springs staff responded quickly following our security protocols.

“The information regarding the gunman’s motive remains unknown as does whether Planned Parenthood was targeted deliberately. PPRM’s top priority will always be the safety of our patients and staff. We maintain strong security measures and always work closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure our very strong safety record.

“We share the concerns of many Americans that the continued attacks against abortion providers and patients, as well as law enforcement officers, is creating a poisonous environment that breeds acts of violence. But, we will never back away from providing critical health care to millions of people who rely on and trust us every day.

Robert L. Dear in handcuffs after shooting rampage.

Robert L. Dear in handcuffs after shooting rampage.

Read the rest at the link. I think we can guess Dear’s motive, but I suppose we’ll have to wait to know for sure.

President Obama also released a statement.

Business Insider: ‘This is not normal’: Obama releases emotional statement on Planned Parenthood shooting.

President Barack Obama released a statement on Saturday calling for gun control in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the day before.

“This is not normal,” Obama said. “We can’t let it become normal.”

He then called to curtail the “easy accessibility of weapons of war” for some people.

“If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them,” Obama continued.

“Period,” he added. “Enough is enough.”

Unfortunately these mass shootings have become regular events in the U.S. That is our “normal” now.


The media has been uncharacteristically hesitant to speculate on Dear’s motive.

USA Today: Gunman’s motive in Planned Parenthood shootings unclear.

Police were trying to determine Saturday why a middle-aged gunman in hunting gear allegedly went on a wild shooting spree inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, killing three people, including a police officer.

The suspect, identified as Robert Lewis Dear, 57, of North Carolina, surrendered to officers after a five-hour ordeal Friday in which he fired randomly at people in the clinic and roamed the halls shooting through walls with an assault-style rifle.

“We don’t have any information on this individual’s mentality, or his ideas or ideology,”

You’d think by this time reporters could have found out some information about this guy, wouldn’t you? Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of good information in the USA Today article.

One Republican Congressman demanded an apology from Planned Parenthood head Vicki Cowart while the attack was still ongoing. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite:

Police have finally taken a shooter into custody after the five-hour siege at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs that has left at least three people dead, including one police officer. It was while that siege was still going on, though, that Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger decided to take to CNN’s air and demand an apology from Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, if the perpetrator turned out not to be an anti-abortion terrorist.

“When I heard that statement, I thought that was very premature. We may find out this person was targeting Planned Parenthood. If we find out he was not targeting Planned Parenthood, I would fully expect an apology from the Planned Parenthood director for saying that.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger

Rep. Adam Kinzinger

That was at about 6 pm, while there was still gunfire being reported at the scene. There is a long history of terrorism against Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health providers in this country, but the statement Kinzinger is referencing [see Planned Parenthood statement excerpted earlier in this post] actually points out that the motive is as yet unknown, and yet is still true no matter what this shooter’s mysterious motive turns out to be.

Here’s some background on Garrett Swasey, the police officer who was killed in the shootout. CNN via KTXS ABC 12: Slain officer was once champion skater.

Swasey, 44, was one of three people killed Friday when a gunman attacked at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

The married father worked for the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs and was on campus Friday morning when the shooting started 10 miles away. He rushed to the scene to support a city police officer who was under fire, the university said in a statement….

Officer Garrett Swasey

Officer Garrett Swasey

Swasey had been with university police for six years, authorities said. But long before that, he was a junior national couples ice dancing champion, The Denver Post reported.

He and his partner won the junior national championship in Orlando in 1992, the paper cited university spokesman Jared Verner as saying. A few years after the championship win, Swasey performed in a musical skating show in Maine.

As the community mourns the fallen officer, the University of Colorado football team will observe a moment of silence during its game Saturday.

I’ll end with this piece from Mother Jones: The New, Ugly Surge in Violence and Threats Against Abortion Providers.

Three people were shot dead and nine injured Friday at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, the first time since 2009 that anyone has been killed in an incident linked to activity at an abortion clinic. The attack comes amid an exponential increase in threats and violence against abortion providers since the release of a series of viral—and widelydebunked—videos.

While police have not discussed the alleged motives of the suspect, who has been arrested, the attack began at the clinic. According to authorities the gunman entered the facility Friday afternoon and began shooting. During an hours-long standoff, he exchanged fire with police, killing one officer.

Since the release of the Center for Medical Progress’ videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal issue, harassment, threats, and attacks against abortion providers, their staff, and facilities have surged dramatically across the country, according to new numbers from the National Abortion Federation.

The clinic attacked on Friday is part of the Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains affiliate, which was featured in the Center for Medical Progress’ videos.

“Since the series of highly-edited, misleading anti-abortion videos was released in July, we have seen an unprecedented increase in hate speech and threats against abortion providers” says Vicki Saporta, the president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, which has been tracking violence against providers since the 1970s.

“We have been quite worried that this increase in threats would lead to a violent attack like we saw” on Friday, she added.

Please go read the whole thing at Mother Jones.

What else is happening? I hope to see your thoughts and links in the comment thread.

Lazy Saturday Reads: Chaos, Turmoil, and Crazies

The Wave, by Edvard Munch

The Wave, by Edvard Munch

Good Afternoon!!

We are living through chaotic times; and the way I see it, we can trace our problems back to Republicans. The drug war and the prison industrial complex began with Richard Nixon; our economic problems began with Ronald Reagan; and the turmoil in the Middle East began with George W. Bush.

Cartoon by Chan Lowe

Cartoon by Chan Lowe

One of the cartoons (see right) that JJ posted last night says it all about Bush and his neocon buddies. The chaos on Capital Hill? That traces back to the Tea Party–a response to the election of a black President by the wingnuts and religious fundamentalists that Bush and Rove enabled.

Can order and harmony ever emerge from the chaos we’re living in right now? I don’t know, but my guess is it will take a very long time. It might require the destruction of the Republican Party as we know it.

Yesterday’s resignation by House Speaker John Boehner is likely to make things even worse in Washington. Josh Marshall’s take: Lord of the Flies on Capitol Hill.

While there are certainly internecine and factional rivalries in the Democratic party, it’s all but impossible to imagine the outpouring of celebration, schadenfreude and smackdowning that is greeting the retirement of Speaker John Boehner. Even a kind word on the day of his retirement appears beyond the ability of most of those he led. Yes, there’s been base clamoring against Nancy Pelosi and even more at certain times with Harry Reid. But it simply doesn’t compare to the angry joy we’re seeing now toward a quarter-century member of the House. The only analogue I can think of is the enmity that grew toward Joe Lieberman. But of course, by that time he wasn’t even a Democrat anymore, let alone one of the party’s top leaders.

An Order of Chaos, Richard Ricker

An Order of Chaos, Richard Ricker

Of course the resemblance to Lord of the Flies stems from the juvenile behavior of the “crazies” in the House. Some of them–see Ted Cruz, for example–have even been able to destroy the traditional courtesy of the Senate.

AP via ABC News: Boehner’s Departure Raises Question: Can House GOP Be Led?

The gulf between tea party conservatives and establishment Republicans has grown so wide that it just swallowed up the speaker of the House, and may threaten the entire Republican Party and Congress itself.

The question now is whether anyone can tame the House’s rabble-rousing faction, in the wake of Speaker John Boehner’s decision to resign rather than face a possible vote to depose him. The stakes are sky-high, given the critical deadlines looming to keep the government running and raise the nation’s borrowing limit.

With the GOP presidential contest riding an anti-establishment wave, it’s almost mandatory for the candidates to denounce Republican congressional leaders at the first sign of any potential compromise with Democrats. Dealmaking is that much tougher in Congress, even as some fear it could harm the party’s chances at the White House in 2016.

The long-running drama of establishment vs. insurgency played out anew Friday on Capitol Hill as tea party conservatives cheered Boehner’s announcement that he will leave his job at the end of October. The move will ensure that the government stays open into December because the 13-term Ohio lawmaker rejected conservative demands to dare President Barack Obama to veto a government spending bill that cuts money for Planned Parenthood.

But Boehner’s announcement only puts off that fight and others, and promises a chaotic leadership struggle that may result in new leaders facing the same fundamental problem: a core group of 30 or so conservative lawmakers repulsed by compromise and commanding enough votes to stymie leadership plans, despite the GOP’s immense majority.

Turmoil, Michael Lang

Turmoil, Michael Lang

The only possible solution is for the Democrats to retake the House.

Bobby Jindal used Boehner’s resignation to make another futile attempt to get support from the crazies. From Talking Points Memo:

“Mitch McConnell, it’s your turn,” Jindal said to loud applause.

The Louisiana governor said he was “actually angrier with the Republicans than with the Democrats” because they “don’t do the things they say they’re going to do.”

“It is time to fire these clowns and restore order once and for all,” he said.

This from the clown who destroyed Louisiana.

A few more reactions to the Boehner resignation:

Back to Chaos, Aldo Tambellini

Back to Chaos, Aldo Tambellini

Politico: Resignation triggers all-out leadership scramble.

CNN: John Boehner’s resignation spells trouble for Jeb Bush.

John Avlon at The Daily Beast: GOP’s Kamikaze Caucus Takes Out John Boehner.

Slate’s XX Factor: In the End, Maybe John Boehner Just Didn’t Love Fetuses Enough.

Mother Jones: Admit It: You’re Kinda Going to Miss John Boehner.

The latest crazy caucus obsession is their effort to defund Planned Parenthood–even to the point of shutting down the government if they don’t get their way. Here in the reality-based world real people will be badly hurt if this effort succeeds.

Crazy Obsession

Sarah Kliff at Vox:  Stat check: No, women couldn’t just “go somewhere else” if Planned Parenthood closed.

Chaos Theory, Erik von Ploennies

Chaos Theory, Erik von Ploennies

The “defund Planned Parenthood” movement has a standard response to the question of where women would go if their local clinic closed: somewhere else.

“There are 13,000 community-based organizations that provide health services to women, 13,000 in this country,” Jeb Bush said at last week’s Republican primary debate. “I don’t believe that Planned Parenthood should get a penny from the federal government.”

Other Republicans make a similar claim. A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued that Planned Parenthood’s funding could be diverted to “community health centers and other entities providing health services without abortions.” And on paper, it sounds plausible that 13,000 clinics might be able to absorb Planned Parenthood’s 2.7 million patients who get government help paying for birth control and other reproductive health services.

But a Vox review of academic research, recent Planned Parenthood closures in Texas, and interviews with half a dozen health policy experts suggests the opposite. Historically, researchers have found that when Planned Parenthood clinics close, other clinics do not step up to fill the gap. Meanwhile, when there are fewer reproductive health clinics available, women get less reproductive health care — from birth control to cancer screenings to STD testing and treatment. Unintended pregnancies would likely increase, too.

So while many politicians like to assert that women can “go somewhere else,” the consensus in the literature shows a different picture. Higher-income women will find alternatives. But a sizable minority of Planned Parenthood’s patients, particularly low-income women, would lose access to medical services.

But Republicans couldn’t possibly care less about poor women–or women in general, for that matter.

Saudi Sex Crimes

Police in Los Angeles a Saudi prince for sexual assault a couple of days ago after a woman reported him for attacking her. From The Daily Mail:

Beverly Glen Compound where Saudi Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, was arrested by LAPD

Beverly Glen Compound where Saudi Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, was arrested by LAPD

A Saudi Prince sexually abused and beat at least three women during a three-day party in his $37 million Beverly Hills home, a new lawsuit claims.

The graphic new allegations against Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, were filed by his alleged victims on Friday night.

It comes two days after the monarch, who does not have diplomatic immunity, was arrested on suspicion of forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him.

From the LA Times: More women accuse Saudi prince after his arrest on sex crime charge, LAPD says.

A Saudi prince who allegedly tried to force a female worker to perform a sex act on him inside a Beverly Glen residence has now been accused of attacking other women in the home, according to Los Angeles police and court records.

Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 29, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of forced oral copulation of an adult.

Police said Friday that they are investigating claims that Al-Saud also preyed on other women on the estate.

Detectives “found more victims who were also alleging crimes against Mr. Al-Saud,” Officer Drake Madison said.

Al-Saud, 28, was detained by police for hours Wednesday afternoon as officers investigated a reported disturbance inside the 22,000-square-foot residence about 12:45 p.m., Madison said.

He was held on suspicion of false imprisonment, sexual assault and battery. He was booked on suspicion of forcing the oral copulation of a worker inside the residence, Madison said. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

Three women have sued Al-Saud:

A civil lawsuit filed in L.A. County Superior Court on Friday claims he attacked other women inside the home for several days.

The suit, filed by three women only identified as Jane Does, accuses him of “extreme,” “outrageous,” and “despicable” behavior that started Monday and ended in his arrest.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and claims Al-Saud inflicted emotional distress, assault and battery, sexual discrimination and retaliation against the workers, among other allegations. The attorneys who filed the suit did not return calls seeking comment.

Moon Happenings

Tomorrow night there will be a total eclipse of the moon at the same time as a blood moon or a supermoon or something.

Lunar eclipse of this year's supermoon (Boston Globe)

Lunar eclipse of this year’s supermoon (Boston Globe)

From Blood moon, harvest moon, supermoon: What’s the difference?

Sunday’s full moon has a lot going for it — almost too much.

Not only will it be 2015’s harvest moon, but it will also be a supermoon and a blood moon and coincide with a total lunar eclipse.

According to NASA it’s the first time in more than 30 years a supermoon has coincided with a lunar eclipse.

That’s a lot to pack in a night.

So what is the difference between a harvest moon, a blood moon and a supermoon?

Read all about it at the link.

And from The Boston Globe, meteorologist and horticulturist David Epstein explains Everything you need to know about the supermoon eclipse Sunday September 27th.

There is an eclipse Sunday evening and after so many days of clear skies and mild temperatures, it’s going to be a tough break if clouds disrupt us from seeing it. As of right now, there should be enough clear spots in the sky to see the eclipse quite well. I’ll be updating weather conditions on Twitter @growingwisdom. I put the details of the eclipse later in this entry. Let’s discuss the supermoon thing first.

Although words like “super moon” and “rare” are used in eye catching headlines. These terms aren’t what astronomical professionals will use to describe this event. While these phenomena don’t happen all the time, they have happened before and will certainly happen again. I enjoy teaching about astronomical events, and while meteorologists aren’t astronomers the cool occurances in the sky often fall to us to explain.

From Sky and Telescope

From Sky and Telescope

Epstein’s message is that this is an interesting event, but not as big a deal as the media is claiming.

Sunday’s moon is the closest encounter with Earth until November 14, 2016. The full moon on November 14, 2016, will be the closest full moon (356,509 kilometers) until November 25, 2034 (356,448 kilometers). So yes, these things are interesting, but not all that uncommon.

Not So Super
In a recent article in the Evening Sun, Ian Clarke, director of the Hatter Planetarium at Gettysburg College told the newspaper the following, “Take a quarter and hold it 103 inches away from you. That’s the apparent size of the moon relative to us, as we see it. Take that same quarter, and bring it 5 inches closer, 98 inches away from you. That’s the effect of the Supermoon, he said.” As you can see, this isn’t the celestial event of the century.

What’s happening Sunday evening is an eclipse of the moon, in its full state, while making its closest approach of the year. The eclipse begin at 8:11 p.m. ET. The moon will be fully covered at at 10:11 p.m. ET, peaking at 10:47 p.m. ET. The moon stays covered until 11:23 p.m.ET, and the eclipse will end at 12:27 a.m ET.

You only need to look towards the east to watch this event. There aren’t any special glasses or special precautions to take. However, if you are driving, pay attention to the road, not the moon. During the time the Earth gets in the way of the Sun’s light from illuminating the moon, the moon will take on a reddish hue. This is why you are hearing the term “blood moon” associated with this eclipse.

Read more at the link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.

Monday Reads: The Struggles Continue

Good Morning!

Those of you that know me also know that my most profound and motivating interest lay with social justice issues. I think I was profoundly impacted by watching the evening news as a child. I still remember watching body counts from Vietnam and the images of small children being attacked by hoses and police dogs in places I couldn’t believe were associated with my country. Julian Bond–one of the most vibrant and high profile leaders of the civil rights movement–died on Saturday at the age of 75. His life stands as a tribute to all that has been gained and as a reminder of all the work that continues as we strive to ensure that all our citizens achieve equal status under the law and equal access to economic well being, knowledge, and power.  Bond was also a leader in the anti-war movement as one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He leaves a tremendous legacy of social justice.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, where Bond served as president in the 1970s, announced his death in a statement on Sunday. The SPLC said Bond died Saturday evening in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

“With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice,” the center’s statement read. “He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.”

The Associated Press writes: “The Nashville, Tenn., native was considered a symbol and icon of the 1960s civil rights movement. As a Morehouse College student, Bond helped found [SNCC] and as its communications director, he was on the front lines of protests that led to the nation’s landmark civil rights laws.”

Bond played a major role in sit-ins and freedom rides and the 1963 March on Washington.

The New York Times says: “He moved from the militancy of the student group to the top leadership of the establishmentarian N.A.A.C.P. Along the way, he was a writer, poet, television commentator, lecturer, college teacher, and persistent opponent of the stubborn remnants of white supremacy.”

When he was elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1965, the chamber refused to seat him, citing his support for a group that called U.S. actions in Vietnam “murder.” He took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in his favor. The Times notes that he spent his two decades in the state’s legislature, “mostly in conspicuous isolation from white colleagues who saw him as an interloper and a rabble-rouser.”

In 1986, Bond ran against his long-time friend and SNCC co-founder John Lewis to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, but was narrowly defeated in runoff.

6762-004-F361DF9CI can only hope to eventually achieve his status of “interloper and rabble-rouser” for justice.  There are many recent events that remind us that none of the struggles in which Bond interloped and rabble roused are solved or even ameliorated.  Even after the disastrous adventures of both Vietnam and Iraq, we continue to have folks who study and bark for war.  Here’s a good example of some one in Democratic leadership who does both and should be very ashamed that he shills for constant war mongering.   As Josh Marshall points out, Chuck Schumer is smarter than his actions and words on the Iran deal.  Decision-making on such vital interests should not be captive to vast, foreign lobbying interests or folks that profit from perpetual violence.

Fareed Zakaria had a column out yesterday dissecting and demolishing New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s argument for opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. I won’t try to duplicate his arguments on the merits. I don’t think I can improve on them. But I have wanted for the last week to address Schumer’s decision.

As you may know, in the midst of last week’s Fox-GOP-Trump debate, Schumer leaked the news that he planned to vote against the deal when it comes before the Senate for review. There are a few things to say about the manner of the leak. As the Senator himself would no doubt agree, no one is more adept, experienced, or desirous of press attention than Schumer. The timing was no accident. It seemed aimed at creating as little splash as possible. Given his status as a prominent, senior, and outspokenly pro-Israel Senator from New York, there is only so much that he could do to limit the impact and reaction. But this was clearly an attempt to do so. And it did get buried to some degree in the Trump Debate/GOP Meltdown/Blood Drama. Schumer has also said that since this is his position, he will of course lobby others to follow his lead. But he has done so not altogether convincingly. Take all this together and I think it is possible that Schumer believes this to be a free vote for him personally – that he can vote in opposition, either knowing that it will pass (sustain a presidential veto) or at least that he won’t be blamed for it going down.

 We’ll know after the vote how that all shook out. And in terms of what one makes of Schumer, there is some difference over what the truth turns out to be. Just after Schumer’s announcement, James Fallows said that it was one thing for Schumer to vote this way himself but if he lifts a finger to lobby other senators against the deal, he should be disqualified from becoming the next Senate Majority/Minority Leader, an office he very much wishes to fill.

I would take it a step further. I think Schumer should be disqualified on the basis of this decision alone. In fact, I would personally find it difficult to ever vote for Schumer again as my Senator, though I doubt he’ll lose much sleep over that since he is amazingly entrenched as New York’s senior senator.

julian-bond-martin-luther-king-voteIt’s obvious when politicians are more beholden to the patron class rather than citizens.  It truly amazes me that one of our major parties no longer even supports voting rights.  This is something that has been unthinkable for the decades since Kennedy and Johnson pushed the Voting Rights Act forward.

On July 20, 2006, the United States Senate voted to renew the Voting Rights Act for 25 more years. The vote was unanimous, 98 to 0. That followed an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, which passed it by a vote of 390 to 33. President George Bush signed the renewal with apparent enthusiasm a few days later.

This bipartisan support for the Voting Rights Act — first enacted into law 50 years ago this month by Lyndon B. Johnson — was not unusual; indeed, it was the rule throughout most of the legislation’s history on Capitol Hill. And if you want to understand how dramatically Congress’s partisan landscape has changed in the Obama era, it’s a particularly useful example.

 As it happens, two bills introduced in the past two years would restore at least some of the act’s former strength, after the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder, which significantly weakened it. And both are languishing, with no significant Republican support and no Republican leader willing to bring them to the floor for a vote. What was, less than a decade ago, an uncontroversial legislative no-brainer is now lost in the crevasse of our partisan divide.

Given the number of Black Americans killed by police actions, it’s difficult to understand how Republican shills like Dr. Ben Carson can continue to say that Planned Parenthood is the number one murderer of Black people. Of course, Republicans these days have spurious notions of “people”.  They let black children starve and languish while spending tremendous efforts to protect clusters of cells.  Here’s an ABC report that shows some reporters actually do due diligence and fact check the outrageous statements of some politicians.    NPR has also debunked this blatant lie.

ABC’s Martha Raddatz debunked GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s claim that Planned Parenthood engages in racist population control by targeting black communities.

On the August 16 edition of ABC’s This Week, Carson spoke with Raddatz on the campaign trail in Iowa. Raddatz asked Carson about his controversial comments he made on August 12, when he said Planned Parenthood is targeting African-American communities to control their population by placing “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods.” Raddatz debunked this claim, saying, “Planned Parenthood estimates that fewer than five percent of its health centers are located in areas where more than one-third of the population is African-American” …

The most telling thing about the pushback on all social justice strides these days is Donald Trump’s standing in Republican Polls get_item_viewer_imageand his angry white man shtick showing that much of it is blowback against modernity and rational thought.

Many insiders were sure that Trump would be widely disavowed after charging that undocumented Hispanics, even the ones who aren’t rapists, are “bad. They’re really bad.” When this didn’t do Trump in, just as many, maybe more, were certain he would be cashiered after his disparagement of McCain. It didn’t work out that way, and Trump went into the first debate leading the national polls among Republicans. Then came his gynecological speculations about Kelly, and the political media were steadfast in their conviction that now, at last, he had crossed a red line that no red state partisan could accept. It was perfectly OK for him to carry the torch for birtherism, to vilify an entire ethnicity, to impugn the reputation of a decorated veteran — but now he had insulted Megyn Kelly of Fox News! He was done, washed up, toast, and the sober pundits whose eternal vigilance safeguards our liberty could finally turn their attention to “serious” candidates such as Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.

As I write this, the most recent post-debate polling shows Trump on top with a 10-point lead over his nearest rival.

When you repeatedly get something wrong, you need an explanation — an account of your error that gets you back on track by identifying its source. (It goes without saying that the preferred account attributes the error to something other than ignorance on your part.) In our present case, that explanation is the meme, repeated ad taedium if not ad nauseam, that the GOP base likes Trump because he seems asangry as it is. His pugnacious manner, his willingness to insult opponents — or just anyone who disagrees with him — his brusque tone and dismissive gestures: All these things, we’re told, are like catnip to the Republican faithful. Mostly older and white and male, and wholly pissed-off, these folks are tired of namby-pamby politicians who whine about “bipartisan solutions” and want to find ways to “work with the other side.” They want someone who calls ‘em as he sees ‘em, and who sees, as they do, that “the other side” largely consists of fools, traitors and knaves. Trump, it turns out, is their tribune.

As explanations go, this one isn’t completely off-track. It does get one (very important) thing right: the GOP base is mad as hell. But as a theory of Republican politics, it’s sort of like attempts to attribute the Napoleonic Wars to Bonaparte’s shame over his small stature. There has to be something more than anger at work in the GOP, because anger alone doesn’t explain the distinctive shape of its obsessions. The real question is this: What is it angry about?

As we think about the social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s–the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the rights for immigrant workers movement, the anti-war movement, the GLBT movement– we can see the strides made.  But, each time we lose a leader of those movements, we gain a perspective that we have miles and miles to go before we can sleep. There are many forces that would like to erase all of that progress. Many of them sit on the Supreme Court.  Many of them sit in statehouses, Congress, and governor’s offices.   We must be vigilant and persistent in pursuit of human dignity.

The Struggles continue.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag of News

Girl reading on a stone porch, by Winslow Homer

Girl reading on a stone porch, by Winslow Homer

Good Morning!!

The images in this post are from the blog, Reading and Art. I don’t have any central theme this morning, just a mixed bag of news stories. beginning with damaging explosions in Tianjin, China.

CNN reports, Tianjin blasts: Dozens dead; areas of Chinese port city devastated.

You can see the devastation everywhere: in the hollowed out shells of barely-standing buildings, in the anguished faces of relatives waiting for news of loved ones, in the parade of scorched cars.

But what was it that set off the terrifying blasts that ripped through warehouses housing hazardous chemical materials, sending fireballs shooting across the sky and shaking tall buildings more than 2 miles away?

Hours later, amid the destruction in this northern Chinese port city of more than 13 million, the exact cause remained unclear.

A thick chemical odor hung in the air. Fires still burned in the waterfront industrial district where the explosions went off. And the grim toll kept mounting.

At least 44 people are confirmed dead, 12 firefighters among them, officials said Thursday. More than 500 are hospitalized, 52 with severe injuries. Dozens of firefighters are missing.

Local authorities suspended firefighting efforts Thursday because of a lack of information about the “dangerous goods” stored at the warehouse at the heart of the blasts, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

CNN has dramatic photos at the link. A few more stories on the disaster:

Vice News: Video Emerges of Horrific Tianjin Explosion as Death Toll Rises.

USA Today, 12 firefighters among 50 dead in Chinese port city explosions.

This is a developing story, and it sounds like the death toll is likely to rise.

Girl reading under an oak tree, by Winslow Homer

Girl reading under an oak tree, by Winslow Homer

You’ve probably heard by now that Jimmy Carter has cancer that has spread from his liver to other organs.

Washington Post, Former president Jimmy Carter, 90, announces that he has cancer.

Former president Jimmy Carter announced Wednesday that he has cancer and will be undergoing treatment at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.

Carter, 90, said the disease was discovered during recent liver surgery to remove “a small mass” and that the cancer “is now in other parts of my body.”

“I will be rearranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare,” Carter said in a statement on the Carter Center Web site. “A more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week.”

In a statement, President Obama said he and first lady Michelle Obama wished Carter “a full and fast recovery.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with [wife] Rosalynn and the entire Carter family as they face this challenge with the same grace and determination that they have shown so many times before,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “Jimmy, you’re as resilient as they come, and along with the rest of America, we are rooting for you.”

The president also spoke with Carter on Wednesday evening to wish him “full and speedy recovery” and extended best wishes on behalf of himself and first lady Michelle Obama, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

According to NBC News, Carter said “a more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week.”

Sunlight and shadow, by Winslow Homer

Sunlight and shadow, by Winslow Homer

Sweden has dropped some of its charges against Julian Assange.

Wall Street Journal, Sweden Runs Out of Time on Parts of Assange Probe.

STOCKHOLM—Swedish prosecutors on Thursday ran out of time to pursue two of four investigations into allegations of sexual assault against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living at the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning.

Prosecutors said that probes into suspected unlawful coercion and sexual molestation would be dropped as the five-year limit that Swedish law allows for such charges to be brought has come to an end.

The five-year deadline for a second count of sexual molestation will be reached Aug. 18, prosecutors said. If the statute of limitation on that allegation also comes into effect, Mr. Assange would be left facing a single, more serious accusation of rape, over which prosecutors have until 2020 to question him….

Mr. Assange was accused of the crimes by two women during a visit to Sweden in August 2010. Prosecutors requested Mr. Assange return to Sweden from the U.K to face questioning.

The WikiLeaks founder, who denies the crimes, refused to return to Sweden, saying he feared he would extradited from Sweden to the U.S. where he could face trial over the publication by WikiLeaks of classified U.S. documents.

Assange says he is disappointed, according to BBC News.

The Wikileaks founder said he was “extremely disappointed” and said the Swedish prosecutor had avoided hearing his side of the story….

He sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, fearing he would then be sent to the US for questioning about the activities of Wikileaks.

Under Swedish law, charges cannot be laid without interviewing the suspect.

Mr Assange said he was innocent and claimed prosecutors had refused to visit him at the embassy.

They also refused to promise not to send him to the US if he were to go to Sweden, he said.

Mr Assange said: “I am strong but the cost to my family is unacceptable.”

The new novel, by Winslow Homer

The new novel, by Winslow Homer

In clown car news, Mike Huckabee said some more insane things about Planned Parenthood and abortion.

Talking Points Memo, Huckabee: DOJ Should ‘Criminally Prosecute Planned Parenthood.’

“I would also invoke the 15th and Fourteenth Amendments,” he said on Wednesday. “This is the power that we have to stop this incredible, barbaric scourge of abortion. Not just stop funding Planned Parenthood, but we need to invoke the Fifth and 14th Amendment. The Fifth Amendment guarantees due process for every person. The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law for every person.”

Huckabee said that he believes that unborn children are people, guaranteeing them Fifth and 14th Amendment rights.

“I would take that position. I would act on behalf of those unborn children, and I would let those who want to slaughter babies, those who want to sell their body parts, let them sue me,” he said.

In response, Melissa McEwan writes:

Again, this is less like chipping away at Roe and more like taking a bulldozer to it.

I have said many times (for instance) that fetuses are valued more highly than the people who carry them, that the potential life of every fetus is more important than the actual life of a pregnant person. Never has this been more clear.

If Mike Huckabee, or any of his fellow Republican candidates, had their way, fetuses would have not equivalent rights, but more rights than any pregnant person.

Protip, Huckabee: “Slaughtering babies” is already against the law.

The country school, by Winslow Homer

The country school, by Winslow Homer

CNN reports on a study showing that kids in elementary school are getting crushing amounts of homework.

Kids have three times too much homework, study finds; what’s the cost?

The study, published Wednesday in The American Journal of Family Therapy, found students in the early elementary school years are getting significantly more homework than is recommended by education leaders, in some cases nearly three times as much homework as is recommended.

The standard, endorsed by the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association, is the so-called “10-minute rule” — 10 minutes per grade level per night. That translates into 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, 20 minutes in the second grade, all the way up to 120 minutes for senior year of high school. The NEA and the National PTA do not endorse homework for kindergarten….

Parents reported first-graders were spending 28 minutes on homework each night versus the recommended 10 minutes. For second-graders, the homework time was nearly 29 minutes, as opposed to the 20 minutes recommended.

And kindergartners, their parents said, spent 25 minutes a night on after-school assignments, according to the study carried out by researchers from Brown University, Brandeis University, Rhode Island College, Dean College, the Children’s National Medial Center and the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology.

Homer, Winslow 6

That is ridiculous and harmful. Children at younger ages learn far more from play and interacting with other kids than from regimented school assignments.

“It is absolutely shocking to me to find out that particularly kindergarten students (who) are not supposed to have any homework at all … are getting as much homework as a third-grader is supposed to get,” said Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, the contributing editor of the study and clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology.

“Anybody who’s tried to keep a 5-year-old at a table doing homework for 25 minutes after school knows what that’s like. I mean children don’t want to be doing, they want to be out playing, they want to be interacting and that’s what they should be doing. That’s what’s really important.”

The Pope is coming to the U.S., and one of his stops will be at a jail in Philadelphia.

Reuters: At drab Philadelphia jail, anxious times precede papal visit.

One of 17 stops on the pope’s first U.S. tour, the visit to the inner-city jail is a reminder of the emphasis the Argentine pontiff has placed on social justice issues since being named head of the Roman Catholic Church in March 2013.

The pope’s stop at the Philadelphia facility will be the latest in a series of prison visits by Francis, an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and lengthy prison terms. He has counseled teenagers in juvenile detention in Brazil. In Bolivia, he kissed inmates in the country’s most violent prison.

His visit also comes at a time when a growing number of Democrats and Republicans are questioning tough criminal sentencing policies that have left the United States with the highest incarceration rate in the developed world. Barack Obama, who last month became the first sitting U.S. president to tour a federal penitentiary, has called for legislation overhauling sentencing rules.

Advocates for prisoner rights say they are pleased the pope has decided to put the issue on his agenda during the U.S. tour, which will include attending a conference on family life in Philadelphia, plus stops in Washington and New York.

Morning glories, by Winslow Homer

Morning glories, by Winslow Homer

I was going to write about Hillary and the media’s obsession with her emails, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, here’s an inspirational piece from Peter Daou and Tom Watson at #HillaryMen.

Hillary’s Path to History Will Get Much Rougher and She’s Ready.

There is a manic urge among the media, the GOP and the elite commentariat to Stop Hillary – to block a woman from reaching the pinnacle of American political leadership.

Each poll, news story or issue that appears to harm her is seized upon with a strange combination of desperation and glee. It’s an unsavory process but Hillary knew what she was in for when she decided to seek the presidency a second time.

As #HillaryMen, we’re undaunted by the negative stories, unwavering in our support for Hillary and unyielding in our commitment to help smash the ultimate gender barrier.

Ending a 44-0 shutout that has lasted nearly a quarter millennium was never going to be easy. There is no cakewalk to the White House. And certainly not for a woman.

We’ve worked in politics and media for nearly two decades. Peter is a veteran of two presidential campaigns, including Hillary’s 2008 run. We’ve seen every permutation of every attack, every rise and fall in the polls, every gaffe and every zinger, every debate moment and debate aftermath, every nervous election night and every election surprise.

We know what lies ahead for Hillary’s campaign and we realize there will be times when the obstacles seem insurmountable. They are not.

For all practical purposes, the 2016 race is just getting underway. As the first summer of the campaign winds down, the rhetoric heats up and political prognostications start climbing in pitch. The fall frenzy begins in a matter of weeks.

I plan to head over to #HillaryMen every time I get angry and/or anxious about something written or said about her in the media. In case you haven’t read it yet, here’s a link to “The Facts about Hillary Clinton’s Emails” at her campaign website.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, and enjoy your Thursday.

Friday Reads

Republicans be like
It’s Friday!

I’ve found a few things that make for interesting reading so let’s get started.

Why have Democratic Governors and Republican Mayors become rare?  This is a great article describing which party seems to have a lock on what levels of state, local and national politics.  It’s hard to imagine any one wanting to live in a state with a Republican governor given the miserable economic and civil rights performance of states that have them.  Here’s the explanation for this particular office.  Is one of the few offices where it’s not the economy that matters?  Like many elections, it’s a matter of who tends to turn out when the election occurs.

Historically, gubernatorial elections have tended to be up for grabs between the parties. Statewide electorates are sufficiently eclectic to encourage candidates in both parties to run toward the center, expanding their bases. But the pattern of results is changing, and for an unexpected reason.

For obscure reasons, 36 states hold their gubernatorial contests during midterm cycles. This hasn’t seemed to matter much in the past. But in recent elections, the types of voters who cast ballots in midterm elections has diverged significantly from those that do in presidential cycles. Midterm electorates tend to be smaller, whiter, older and more Republican; presidential electorates tend to be larger, more demographically diverse, and more Democratic.

This pattern helped Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2010. That year, the GOP won governorships in such bluish states as Maine, Michigan, New Mexico and Wisconsin. But it proved to be an even bigger help in 2014, another GOP wave year. On the eve of the 2014 election, Governing’s final handicapping of the gubernatorial seats included an unusually large field of 12 tossup races. In a neutral environment, one would expect these races to go roughly half to one party and half to the other. Instead, Republican candidates won eight of those 12 races, plus another contest in Maryland that had been rated lean Democratic. Highly vulnerable Republican incumbents, such as Sam Brownback in Kansas, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida and Paul LePage in Maine, also won new terms, buoyed by the GOP-friendly electorate.

Currently, the breakdown of the gubernatorial ranks is 31 Republicans, 18 Democrats and one independent. Historically, the number of Republican governors has only been that high on rare occasions, so it’s likely that the GOP number will fall somewhat in the coming years, especially after the 2018 election, when a number of two-term Republican governors will be term-limited out, creating competitive open seats. Still, on balance, it’s going to be a tough challenge for Democrats to take back governorships when so many of them are contested during midterm election cycles.

I’m just going to let the headline speak for itself in this analysis piece by Hillary’s Communication’s Director Jennifer Palmieri,  “Hillary Clinton’s No Good, (Record-Breaking, Poll-Winning), Very Bad Week.”HIllary

If you believe the mood and headlines from some of the press, it’s been a pretty rough week for Hillary Clinton. While there was widespread and substantive coverage of the rollout of her economic agenda, politically, it’s a different story. One poll showed so much trouble for Hillary that she only had a higher favorability number than any other candidate it tested.

Even worse, multiple polls released this week show that she leads every candidate running in head-to-head matchups. While it is widely known that the growing Hispanic electorate is critical in deciding the election, new polling shows that Hillary Clinton has a disastrous 68 percent approval rating among Hispanic voters and only leads her closest Republican competition (Bush) by 37 points, 64% to 27%.

Not only that, she raised a record amount of primary money for a candidate in their first quarter, with only $8 million (a sum larger than most Republican campaigns raised in total) in donations of less than $200. Hillary also spent too much money building her organization and was only left with more cash on hand than any other campaign raised and more in the bank than the top three Republican campaigns combined.

It’s true. Hillary is left in the terrible position of having the most resources of any candidate and being voters’ top choice to be the next President of the United States.

So, now for the news from the crazy side of the politic spectrum.  You know that highly doctored video on Planned Parenthood that every low iq Republican christofascist has fallen for?  Well, Republicans are going to make hay with it despite the fact that nearly no legitimate media outlet has even gone near it because it’s so obviously stupid.  Republicans are after Planned Parenthood again and will be pushing more–if possible–stupid laws meant to meant to ensure our constitutionally protected right to an abortion is next to impossible to act on. Nullification any one?

Republicans on Capitol Hill are betting the secretly filmed Planned Parenthood video — depicting an executive allegedly discussing the sale of fetal organs from terminated pregnancies — will give them cover to more aggressively push abortion issues without the political ramifications that have haunted the party in the past.

In recent years, Republicans have worked to soften their tone when it comes to contentious issues such as abortion, wanting to avoid a repeat of gaffes like Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments that have turned off many female voters.

ut now, the GOP is going hard on abortion politics — and Planned Parenthood specifically — following the release of the video depicting a top official for the group casually talking about doctors collecting fetal organs for biomedical companies during abortions.

“The gravity of the situation most definitely” changes things, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told POLITICO Thursday. “This is not just Republicans. It’s independents. It’s Democrats…. Americans don’t want their tax dollars spent doing what they’re doing.”

McCarthy is already talking about defunding the organization through the appropriations process. And in the Senate, GOP leaders who have been eyeing a vote on legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks of gestation say this will give them momentum to clear the bill later this session.

“I think it really probably enhances the prospects of something like that passing right now,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican, said Thursday. “I think that’s such an egregious, awful, horrible example out there, which I think just elevates the importance of addressing it. So I think it probably helps the bill.”

Planned Parenthood says the video is a misconstrued smear campaign using “heavily edited videos to make outrageous claims about programs that help women donate fetal tissue for medical research.”

Of course, the drive for all of this usually comes from the same people that poor shame while ensuring no one makes a living wage.  Here’s an article on How the American South Drive the Low Wage Economy from American Prospect’s Harold Meyerson.

The American South before the Civil War was the low-wage—actually, the no-wage—anchor of the first global production chain.

Today, as the auto and aerospace manufacturers of Europe and East Asia open low-wage assembly plants in Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi, the South has assumed a comparable role once more. Indeed, the South today shares more features with its antebellum ancestor than it has in a very long time. Now as then, white Southern elites and their powerful allies among non-Southern business interests seek to expand to the rest of the nation the South’s subjugation of workers and its suppression of the voting rights of those who might oppose their policies. In fact, now more than then, the South’s efforts to spread its values across America are advancing, as Northern Republicans adopt their Southern counterparts’ antipathy to unions and support for voter suppression, and as workers’ earnings in the North fall toward Southern levels. And now as then, a sectional backlash against Southern norms has emerged that, when combined with the Southern surge, is again creating two nations within one.

Bill Clinton and CharlotteSo, here’s a cute break and a picture of Baby Charlotte and her Grandad!! There are more at this like from the UK’s Daily Mail.

Bill Clinton was spotted spending some quality time with his granddaughter Charlotte on Thursday morning.

The pair were photographed in New York City’s Madison Square Park as the former president took the infant to see a kids concert.

This is not the first time Clinton has been on babysitting duty either, saying last week that he and wife Hillary were recently in charge of the tiny tyke for her parents.

President Obama continues to be on a roll that cements his legacy.  Alaska’s Governor announced his will be the 30th state to take the Medicaid Expansion offered through the ACA.  

Gov. Bill Walker said Thursday he would use his executive power to expand the public Medicaid health-care program to newly cover as many as 40,000 low-income residents.

The decision comes after the Alaska Legislature earlier this year rejected Walker’s efforts to expand the program through the state budget process, then adjourned without allowing a vote on a separate expansion bill.

Republicans seem to be okay with living breathing people dying, starving, and living lives with no future.  Zygotes get preferential treatment while they assign folks to living hells.

Here is a good list from Robert Reich on The Three Biggest Lies republican tell about poverty.

Lie #2: Jobs reduce poverty.

Senator Marco Rubio said poverty is best addressed not by raising the minimum wage or giving the poor more assistance but with “reforms that encourage and reward work.”

This has been the standard Republican line ever since Ronald Reagan declared that the best social program is a job. A number of Democrats have adopted it as well. But it’s wrong.

Surely it’s better to be poor and working than to be poor and unemployed. Evidence suggests jobs are crucial not only to economic well-being but also to self-esteem. Long-term unemployment can even shorten life expectancy.

But simply having a job is no bulwark against poverty. In fact, across America the ranks of the working poor have been growing. Around one-fourth of all American workers are now in jobs paying below what a full-time, full-year worker needs in order to live above the federally defined poverty line for a family of four.

Why are more people working but still poor? First of all, more jobs pay lousy wages.

While low-paying industries such as retail and fast food accounted for 22 percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession, they’ve generated 44 percent of the jobs added since then, according to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project.

Second, the real value of the minimum wage continues to drop. This has affected female workers more than men because more women are at the minimum wage.

Third, government assistance now typically requires recipients to be working. This hasn’t meant fewer poor people. It’s just meant more poor people have jobs.

Bill Clinton’s welfare reform of 1996 pushed the poor into jobs, but they’ve been mostly low-wage jobs without ladders into the middle class. The Earned Income Tax Credit, a wage subsidy, has been expanded, but you have to be working in order to qualify.

Work requirements haven’t reduced the number or percent of Americans in poverty. They’ve merely increased the number of working poor – a term that should be an oxymoron.

Meanwhile, the man most responsible for the mess that is Greece is now a Billionaire. All of his wealth has come from Goldman Sachs but not his salary.  However, he has said this about the poor.  Too bad he hasn’t acted on getting laws passed to relieve poverty.

In recent years, Blankfein has spoken about the need for public policies that promote fairer distribution of wealth while not overly crimping its creation.

“I know I’m a big fat cat, plutocrat kind of guy, but I will tell you I’ve been the beneficiary of some of these redistribution policies,” Blankfein told business school students in South Africa in April, noting he grew up in public housing and got need-based scholarships to Harvard. “Sometimes I wish I had amnesia, because there’s lots of things I’d like to forget, but that isn’t one of them.”

President Obama was met with Confederate flags while heading toward an Oklahoma prison for this speech.  The president is taking on mandatory minimums for small drug “crimes”.  The Confederate Flag waving was shameful.  The speech was compelling.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?



Friday Reads

Good Morning!


Sorry this will be a little short. I have a friend from Ft. Worth visiting me, so my on-line time is a bit limited at the moment.  However, it’s been really hot and steamy so I have to say that it is a relief to stay inside and just watch the sun go down. I have no idea why anyone wants to extend the summer days in this kind of heat.

The biggest story of the week is that debt-ridden Detroit has filed for bankruptcy.

Detroit, the cradle of America’s automobile industry and once the nation’s fourth-most-populous city, filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, the largest American city ever to take such a course.

The decision, confirmed by officials after it trickled out in late afternoon news reports, also amounts to the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in American history in terms of debt.

“This is a difficult step, but the only viable option to address a problem that has been six decades in the making,” said Gov. Rick Snyder, who authorized the move after a recommendation from the emergency financial manager he had appointed to resolve Detroit’s dire financial situation.

Not everyone agrees how much Detroit owes, but Kevyn D. Orr, the emergency manager, has said the debt is likely to be $18 billion and perhaps as much as $20 billion.

For Detroit, the filing came as a painful reminder of a city’s rise and fall.

“It’s sad, but you could see the writing on the wall,” said Terence Tyson, a city worker who learned of the bankruptcy as he left his job at Detroit’s municipal building on Thursday evening. Like many there, he seemed to react with muted resignation and uncertainty about what lies ahead, but not surprise. “This has been coming for ages.”

Detroit expanded at a stunning rate in the first half of the 20th century with the arrival of the automobile industry, and then shrank away in recent decades at a similarly remarkable pace. A city of 1.8 million in 1950, it is now home to 700,000 people, as well as to tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, vacant lots and unlit streets.

From here, there is no road map for Detroit’s recovery, not least of all because municipal bankruptcies are rare. State officials said ordinary city business would carry on as before, even as city leaders take their case to a judge, first to prove that the city is so financially troubled as to be eligible for bankruptcy, and later to argue that Detroit’s creditors and representatives of city workers and municipal retirees ought to settle for less than they once expected.

Some bankruptcy experts and city leaders bemoaned the likely fallout from the filing, including the stigma. They anticipate further benefit cuts for city workers and retirees, more reductions in services for residents, and a detrimental effect on borrowing.

endless-summer-full-flatThe strict Texas law put into place to stop women from exercising their constitutional right to abortion has begun to take its toll.

Planned Parenthood on Wednesday informed staff at three of its facilities in Texas that they would be closing, according to people familiar with the decision.

The three clinics are located in Bryan, Huntsville and Lufkin, Texas. They are closing in response to a new package of abortion restrictions signed into law on Thursday and funding cuts to Texas’ Women’s Health Program that were passed by the Texas state legislature in 2011. Out of the three Planned Parenthood clinics that are closing, only the Bryan clinic performs abortions.

“In recent years, Texas politicians have created an increasingly hostile environment for providers of reproductive health care in underserved communities. Texans with little or no access to health care services have been deeply affected by state budget cuts to programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers and dozens of others that provided lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams and birth control,” said Melaney A. Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.”

“The combined impact of years of budget cuts to women’s health care services and the dismantling of the successful Women’s Health Program will take affordable, preventive health care options away from women in Bryan, Lufkin and Huntsville — just as these policies have taken health care away from an estimated 130,000 others — when Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is forced to close these family planning health centers at the end of August,” she said.

Some anti-choice legislators are trying to make the recently passed Texas bill even worse.

On Thursday, three Texas Republicans filed a measure that would criminalize abortion services after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which typically occurs around six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they’re pregnant.

The Texas legislature is currently in the midst of a special session that was convened specifically to give lawmakers more time to consider abortion restrictions. The session will end on July 31. Until then, GOP lawmakers have been busy proposing a slew of anti-abortion bills in the hopes of being able to rush them through.

One of those bills, a measure to ban abortion after 20 weeks and shut down the majority of the states’ abortion clinics, has captured national attention over the past several weeks as thousands of Texans have rallied at the capitol in protest. The legislature gave final approval to that bill on Saturday, and Gov. Rick Perry (R) just signed it into law on Thursday morning. But that’s not enough to satisfy Reps. Phil King (R), Dan Flynn (R), and Geanie Morrison (R) — whofiled HB 59 on the same day that Perry signed the controversial abortion restrictions.

So-called “heartbeat” bills are so radical that they divide the anti-choice community. In addition to criminalizing the vast majority of abortions, they also mandate invasive ultrasound procedures for women seeking abortions. In order to detect a fetal heartbeat so early in a pregnancy, doctors typically have to use a transvaginal probe.

`Meanwhile, back in Virginia, the GOP candidate for Governor wants to reinstate the laws against oral sex!

In an unusual move, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), his party’s nominee for governor, launched a  new campaign website Wednesday highlighting his  efforts to reinstate Virginia’s unconstitutional Crimes Against Nature law. The rule, which makes felons out of even consenting married couples who engage in oral or anal sex in the privacy of their own homes, was  struck down by federal courts after Cuccinelli blocked efforts to bring it in line with the Supreme Court’s 2003  Lawrence v. Texas ruling.

The new site,, highlights 90 people identified “sexual predators” in Virginia who have been charged under the  law since the 2003 ruling, which held that states could not ban private, non-commercial sexual relations between consenting adults. Cuccinelli warns that these offenders “could come off Virginia’s sex offender registry if a Virginia law used to protect children is not upheld,” and identifies the sodomy law as only the “Anti-Child Predators Law.” While it is true that many sex offenders are charged under the Crimes Against Nature law, it is far from the only tool prosecutors have to  punish child predators.

dog-ladyIt is possible that some very wonderful paintings that were stolen in an art heist were destroyed by the thief’s mother in her home’s oven.

Did a cache of priceless stolen art go up in smoke in a Romanian village?

That’s what the art world is afraid of, amid reports that museum forensic specialists from Romania‘s National History Museum are analyzing ashes found in an oven in the village of the mother of the suspected heist ringleader.

The Associated Press reports that according to Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, the museum’s director, investigators found “small fragments of painting primer, the remains of canvas, the remains of paint” and copper and steel nails, some of which pre-dated the 20th century, in an oven in the village of Caracliu where Olga Dogaru lives. Mrs. Dogaru’s son was arrested in January in connection with the theft of seven paintings – including works by Matisse, Monet, and Picasso – from Rotterdam‘s Kunsthal museum last October.

So, that’s it’ from me today.  I’m going to spend some more time with my friend!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today!

Late Night Open Thread: Rabbit…Rabbit… Message…Message

Good Late Evening!

I’ve spent the night watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit? This film came out in 1988…can you believe it? I love this flick.

“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way…”

So…According to this article in RH Reality Check, the phrase “Pro-Choice” is going to become a thing of the past. Honestly, I don’t like the new slogan. After “Pro-Choice”: What’s Next for Our Messaging?

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) recently announced that it would move away from “choice” language in its messaging. As PPFA President Cecile Richards argued, the term “pro-choice” no longer resonates with many younger advocates and voters, nor does it reflect the complexity of reproductive health decision making. But the move raises an important question that the movement now must answer: what’s next for our messaging?

During the recent media coverage surrounding Roe v. Wade’s 40th anniversary, the term “reproductive justice” was often cited as a framework that better appeals to young people since it encapsulates economics, race/ethnicity, environment, sexual orientation, and other contexts that affect access to reproductive rights. While many of us advocates welcome the opportunity to have a discussion about reproductive justice (RJ), it’s important to note that individuals in the media are often unclear about how to discuss RJ and may not fully grasp what it means.

I don’t think Reproductive Justice is going to help get the message across, and RJ sounds like a damn low-testosterone condition.

As communications strategist and full-spectrum doula Miriam Zoila Pérez noted in a recent post, “Reproductive justice isn’t a simple concept that can be explained in a sound bite. But because of that, it also better mirrors the complex world we live in than a label like pro-choice or pro-life ever could.” Furthermore, RJ isn’t an identity, so it isn’t a replacement for “pro-choice.”

The fact that Planned Parenthood, the biggest, most well-known reproductive health provider in the nation, is abandoning “pro-choice” terminology is a sign that the movement needs to find more relevant ways to talk about these issues—ways that better connect to people’s real-life experiences. When abortion access is under attack at the local, state, and federal levels, holding on to stigmatized messaging that doesn’t work inside or outside the Beltway is obstinate and myopic.

What do you all think about the phrase, Reproductive Justice?

moving away from “pro-choice” language won’t mean that discussions about abortion will be displaced. Many vocal RJ leaders and advocates do significant work on the ground to promote abortion access. But an RJ framework is more inclusive than that; it allows us to deconstruct the conditions that limit access to abortion, contraception, comprehensive sex education, and more.

Eesha Pandit of Men Stopping Violence and the National Network of Abortion Funds points out that even if we drop the term “pro-choice,” mainstream reproductive rights organizers won’t suddenly adopt the RJ framework. “On one hand, there’s the co-opting of ‘reproductive justice’ within reproductive rights and reproductive health communities. That’s problematic because it makes the real point of reproductive justice and the work that women of color have done in creating the framework, completely invisible. Just using the term ‘reproductive justice’ does not mean that the framework or the perspective is in an intersectional frame,” she told RH Reality Check. Changing language is irrelevant if the reproductive rights community doesn’t shift its approach. But introducing RJ as a framework can help the media make these important connections.

When I think of the word justice, I think of someone being a victim and looking for justice….why not just call it reproductive rights? Or find another word salad that can be made into a catchy acronym? I guess Pro-Choice isn’t going anywhere soon, but this “RJ” sucks.

Since I am enjoying this fabulous classic movie, just a couple of more links for you tonight.

This next link is also about messaging, on the GOP side: A muddled message gets messier and more mendacious

With the sequestration cuts just days away, Republicans have spent the last several focused on rhetoric instead of policy. By any sensible standard, GOP policymakers have invested no real effort on resolving the problem, and have instead devoted all of their energies in winning a public-relations fight once the sequester starts doing real damage.

And with this in mind, one might expect their message to be amazing. After all, once a political party gives up on governing and focuses solely on messaging, it’s stands to reason they’ll be pretty good at it.

And yet, Republicans’ sequestration message “is all over the place.” GOP leaders believe the sequester will be awful but they want to let it happen. The policy was integral to the Republican fiscal plan and it’s entirely the White House’s idea. When Republicans say the cuts will hurt, that’s fine; when Democrats say the cuts will hurt, it’s evidence of scare tactics.

And now Republicans are simultaneously convinced the cuts will hurt and help the economy.

One of Georgia’s brilliant </snark> representatives is spouting off a load of crap:

Rep. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a likely U.S. Senate candidate, argued over the weekend that sequestration cuts “must” happen in order to “get this economy rolling again.”

As a matter of economic policy, Price’s argument is practically gibberish. Taking billions out of the economy and forcing public sector workers from their jobs does not get an economy “rolling,” unless we’re talking about “rolling” downhill. Independent economic estimates, including that of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, suggest these cuts will likely cost the U.S. economy 750,000 jobs just this year, which leads to legitimate questions about whether Price, a member of the House Budget Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, has the foggiest idea what he’s talking about.

But the larger point is, Price’s comments offer a reminder that Republicans don’t even agree with other Republicans. If the sequester will “get this economy rolling again,” why is Price’s party so eager to blame the policy on President Obama? Why are some far-right House Republicans saying these cuts will do real harm while other far-right House Republicans say the exact opposite?

More commentary and video at the link…

Perhaps both of these messages would be easier to get across if the politicians used the technique we saw Jennifer Lawrence use at her press interview after she won the award for Best Actress. Politicians Can Take A Lesson From Jennifer Lawrence’s Mocking Post-Oscar Press Conference

For the press who she ruthlessly mocked and whose questions she reluctantly answered in a glib but charming fashion, Lawrence may not have been their favorite interview of the night.

When asked what the “process” was for preparing to come to the Oscars, Lawrence replied – with all the sincerity and lack of affectation that one would expect from anyone other than an Academy Award-winning actress – that she woke up, took a shower, tried on the dress and “came to the Oscars.” That last bit delivered with a bit of faux pomposity she knows the reporter was expecting.

“I’m sorry,” Lawrence added. “I did a shot before I…”

Lawrence displayed humility and self-deprecation – it was disarming. Probably due mostly to that particular character trait’s conspicuous paucity in Hollywood, as well as Washington D.C.

“The fall up to the stage,” another reporter then asked regarding a minor trip that Lawrence encountered on her way on stage to accept the Oscar. “Was it on purpose? Absolutely,” Lawrence said, simultaneously anticipating and rejecting the reporter’s premise before it had even been submitted. “What happened?” the reporter asked. “What do you mean ‘what happened?’ Lawrence replied. “Look at my dress.”

Contentious, but entirely lacking in aggression. Mocking, but buttressed by a transcendent likeability.

You can read more about who else has that special touch when it comes to dealing with the press. (Can you guess which politician is gifted with such talents?) I don’t know if I agree completely with the article’s assessment, but it does make a point. I guess.

Alright, that is all I got for tonight…Enjoy this bit of fun from Roger Rabbit.

And this great tune by Jessica Rabbit.

BTW, Jessica Rabbit’s speaking voice was performed by Kathleen Turner, and her singing voice was performed by Amy Irving. Turner was uncredited.

This is an open thread…