Friday Reads

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Good Morning!!!

Since it’s the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, I thought I’d start out with some Labor News.  There are so many jobs these days that don’t really pay a living wage in the US that it’s really astounding.  Fast Food Workers are among the lowest paid in the country.

Fast-food workers went on strike and protested outside McDonald’s, Burger King and other restaurants in 60 U.S. cities on Thursday, in the largest protest of an almost year-long campaign to raise service sector wages.

Rallies were held in cities from New York to Oakland and stretched into the South, historically difficult territory for organized labor.

The striking workers say they want to unionize without retaliation in order to collectively bargain for a “living wage.”

They are demanding $15 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum of $7.25. The median wage for front-line fast-food workers is $8.94 per hour, according to an analysis of government data by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), an advocacy group for lower-wage workers.

“It’s almost impossible to get by (alone),” said McDonald’s worker Rita Jennings, 37, who was among about 100 protesters who marched in downtown Detroit Thursday. “You have to live with somebody to make it.”

Rush Limbaugh was all agog and demagogue about the striking workers

LIMBAUGH: If you want a “living wage,” if you don’t like what fast food restaurants pay, then do something else. It’s just that simple. Go to a trade school. Go to another business. Start your own business. Maybe the work that you are capable of isn’t yet worth $15 an hour at a fast-food restaurant. Maybe the consumer doesn’t want to pay $10 for a Big Mac so that people working at McDonald’s make $15 an hour. It’s not just a one-way strata.

You don’t just sit there and double what the employees at McDonald’s make and keep the prices the same. Now, you may think this is obvious, folks, and you may think, “Come on, Rush,” you’d be amazed at how many people do not understand the push-pull in economics. You’d be amazed at the number of people who have taken economics courses who think that the truth about headaches is that the boss is a cheap skinflint and wants his employees to starve and wants to screw his customers.

That’s the basis of their understanding, and they go from there, and they are applauded by left-wing Democrat politicians for holding that belief, and they’re encouraged to have it. Now, to those of you who, like Sean from San Diego, are sympathetic to this demand for the minimum wage at Mickey D’s to go from $7.15 or $7.25 an hour to $15, let me ask you this: When you buy a meal, do you make sure that you’re paying a fair price for it?

When you walk in there, do you ask the employee, “Look, am I paying enough here so that you can get a livable wage? When you go in and buy a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder with cheese or a double Quarter Pounder with cheese, do you look at the price is and say, “Are you sure that this costs enough that you can make a livable wage?” Or do you just get a little upset when you think it’s a little too expensive?

Limbaugh was lecturing fast workers on getting a better job as he sat in his mansion with no clue what it is like to work and survive on minimum wage. Limbaugh’s lecture was centered around a couple of the Republicans favorite falsehoods. Rush was pretending that there are better jobs out there for minimum wage workers.

Some happy news for married GLBT workers!  The IRS and the US Treasury will recognize your marriage.  You get the standard marriage deduction!!

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

I joined the Sisterhood of the Pink Shoes this weekend.  Meanwhile, the real sister with the pink shoes is doing really well in the fundraising arena.

In the six weeks following her headline-grabbing filibuster, Wendy Davis raised $1.2 million — nearly 40 percent of it from outside Texas. Davis drew national attention following the filibuster against an abortion-restriction bill that helped shut down the Texas Senate and prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call lawmakers back into another special session. In the wake of Davis’ new-found fame, Davis has been urged by some Democrats to run for governor next year. She says she will announce her political plans — whether to run for reelection as a senator from Fort Worth or as a Democrat for governor — in a few weeks.

Martin Luther King was fighting for working folks when he was assassinated.  We’ve already said that no Republicans showed up to commemorate the March on Washington.  Where were they?  

So what was did they do instead? Well, Boehner was in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and had no public events scheduled, but he has been headlining GOP fundraisers all this month, so it’s a fairly safe to assume that he was raising cash at the time. Cantor, meanwhile was touring an oil field in North Dakota. The Grand Forks Herald reports:

Cantor, hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., met with energy industry and community leaders at a crew camp in Williston, toured a drilling site and other oilfield locations in the Bakken and met with North Dakota Petroleum Council members in Watford City.

Cantor praised North Dakota’s approach to energy development and said the country needs to follow the state’s example and adopt a national energy policy.

“I hope to be able to tell the president that there’s a lot for him to learn here as far as energy production here in America,” Cantor said. “North Dakota seems to have gotten it right.”

The North Dakota Petroleum Council, by the way, is a lobby group that represents the state’s oil and gas industry. That’s what Cantor was doing on the day of the march.

Here’s a little bit of News on New Orleans 8 years after Katrina.

Now optimism is rising as a rebounding city approaches the 300th anniversary of its 1718 founding.

“The city is a much better place than it was eight years ago. The biggest challenge we have is blight,” Landrieu said, adding that 10,000 blighted properties have been removed from the cityscape.

A thriving downtown and newly vibrant neighborhoods contrast starkly with the city’s appearance eight years ago. When Katrina hit, thousands of people who couldn’t escape New Orleans in time were trapped in homes as levees broke and floodwaters rose. Helicopters plucked the desperate from rooftops as chaos spread. The damaged Superdome became a refuge of misery for thousands as tempatures and tempers soared.

Days afterward then-President George W. Bush promised the nation’s full attention. But federal authorities were sharply criticized for their early response and local and state authorities as well. And though billions of federal dollars have helped to rebuild a strengthened levee system, many locals remain bitter with the Army Corps of Engineers for the failure of the levees.

Landrieu said he’s intent on moving forward.

“I think that we have successfully done the most important thing, which was to think about building the city back the way she should have always been and not the way she was,” he said.

Landrieu said rebuilding has even meant re-organizing government operations, streamlining finances, curbing waste and fraud and reorganizing the city’s education system – even adding new fire and police stations, parks and libraries.

The weird thing about the blight is that it’s in areas that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to have ramshackled buildings and over grown lots.  Every time I go from my home near the Mississippi River towards the Lake I see blight on the way.  It pops up in the newer suburban areas as well as older neighborhoods.  There are still a lot of eye sores and it appears it’s going to take a long time for many of them to be torn down or restored.  Thankfully, the historic parts of the city appear to be well on the mend.  Unfortunately, the infrastructure is so gone in many areas that the blight will remain for some time.

That’s my offering today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list?


International Community Must Confront Putin and Russia on Anti-Gay Legislation

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There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” legislation–signed into law on June 30 by President Vladimir Putin–because of this month’s World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi as well as Edward Snowden’s decision to defect to Russia. Naturally there is concern about discrimination against gay athletes and coaches at international sporting events; and Snowden has been criticized because his supposed passion for human rights is belied by his embrace of Putin and his disastrous human rights record.

Here’s an explanation of the new law at PolicyMic: Russia’s Anti-Gay Law, Spelled Out in Plain English.

On June 30 this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” thus opening a new, dark chapter in the history of gay rights in Russia. The law caps a period of ferocious activities by the Russian government aimed at limiting the rights of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

The violations of fundamental, constitutionally protected rights of Russia’s gay citizens have included multiple bans on gay pride parades in Moscow and other cities, hefty fines to gay rights groups accused of acting as a “foreign agent,” denial of registration to nongovernmental organizations, and regional laws banning the propaganda of homosexuality to minors, which served as a basis for the federal law enacted by Mr. Putin and unanimously passed by the State Duma. Against this backdrop, violent attacks on gays or “suspect gays” are becoming commonplace.

The federal law is spelled out in Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses.

Here is what Article 6.21 actually says:

Propaganda is the act of distributing information among minors that 1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, 2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, 3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or 4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.

If you’re Russian. Individuals engaging in such propaganda can be fined 4,000 to 5,000 rubles (120-150 USD), public officials are subject to fines of 40,000 to 50,000 rubles (1,200-1,500 USD), and registered organizations can be either fined (800,000-1,000,000 rubles or 24,000-30,000 USD) or sanctioned to stop operations for 90 days. If you engage in the said propaganda in the media or on the internet, the sliding scale of fines shifts: for individuals, 50,000 to 100,000 rubles; for public officials, 100,000 to 200,000 rubles, and for organizations, from one million rubles or a 90-day suspension.

If you’re an alien. Foreign citizens or stateless persons engaging in propaganda are subject to a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles, or they can be deported from the Russian Federation and/or serve 15 days in jail. If a foreigner uses the media or the internet to engage in propaganda, the fines increase to 50,000-100,000 rubles or a 15-day detention with subsequent deportation from Russia.

As PolicyMic points out, the language of the law is so ambiguous that it is difficult to predict how it will be enforced or how it will be applied to foreigners. According to HuffPo, visitors to Russia should be concerned.

Bad news for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) travelers hoping to visit Russia, as foreign tourists will now be subjected to the same “gay propaganda” fines and sentences as residents.

Travel site Skift reports that the new law, signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 30, contains a provision that allows the government to arrest and detain gay (or “pro-gay”) foreigners for up to 14 days before they would then be expelled from Russia.

As far as what is considered “pro-gay,” the laws specifics are somewhat vague, butCanadian site Travel and Escape suggests “gay-affirmative” speech, displaying a rainbow flag and same-sex partners holding hands are among the prohibited actions.

A few days later, on July 3, Putin signed another law that bans adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples or by any unmarried couple or single parent in a country that recognizes gay marriage.

Today Harvey Fierstein published an op-ed in The New York Times on Russia’s Anti-Gay Crackdown, in which he reports there are rumors that Putin will soon

sign an edict that would remove children from their own families if the parents are either gay or lesbian or suspected of being gay or lesbian. The police would have the authority to remove children from adoptive homes as well as from their own biological parents.

Fierstein dismisses claims that these recently passed laws are designed to protect children from pedophiles. There is no scientific evidence to show that pedophiles are homosexuals; in fact research shows that the overwhelming majority of pedophiles are heterosexual males. So what is the explanation for the Putin’s war against gays?

Mr. Putin’s true motives lie elsewhere. Historically this kind of scapegoating is used by politicians to solidify their bases and draw attention away from their failing policies, and no doubt this is what’s happening in Russia. Counting on the natural backlash against the success of marriage equality around the world and recruiting support from conservative religious organizations, Mr. Putin has sallied forth into this battle, figuring that the only opposition he will face will come from the left, his favorite boogeyman.

Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians. In May a young gay man was murdered in the city of Volgograd. He was beaten, his body violated with beer bottles, his clothing set on fire, his head crushed with a rock. This is most likely just the beginning.

Yet, so far the international community hasn’t done much to push back against Putin’s anti-gay campaign. As Fierstein writes, “this must change,” and the upcoming Winter Olympics provides the perfect opportunity for enlightened government to put pressure on Putin and his regime.

Today, one gay reporter, James Kirchick, did his part to call attention to Russia’s repressive new anti-gay laws when he appeared on Russia Today, the state-owned TV station, ostensibly to discuss the Bradley Manning sentence. It turned into quite a scene.

According to The Washington Free Beacon, Kirchick was taken off the air when he refused to stop talking about Russia’s anti-gay laws and focus on Bradley Manning.

“A quick explanation now for the beginning of our coverage of the Bradley Manning sentences,” one host said later in the program. “We invited a guest on to discuss the fate of the whistleblower, but he used the chance to discuss his views on other unrelated issues and that’s why we had to take him off air. We would like to say sorry for any confusion caused.”

RT also refused to continue Kirchick’s car service, according to the reporter.

“True fact: (RT) just called taxi company that took me to studio to drop me off on the side of the highway on way to Stockholm airport,” Kirchick wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning following his appearance on the network.

This is an open thread, but any comments on the content of this post will be much appreciated.


SCOTUS Justices Hinting They Will Avoid Issuing a Broad Ruling Legalizing or Banning Same-Sex Marriage

prop 8

This morning the Supreme Court held oral arguments on the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage. At Business Insider, Eric Fuchs writes:

The first of two huge Supreme Court cases on gay marriage may be heading for a partial victory for supporters of the movement.

SCOTUS won’t uphold or strike down Prop 8,” SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein predicted over twitter after the Tuesday hearing was over.

So what does that mean, and why would that be a partial victory for gay marriage advocates?

The hearing involved California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, which was struck down by a federal judge and an appeals court. When California declined to defend the law, it was backed by a coalition of anti-gay marriage advocates and elevated to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court could decline to issue a ruling at all, however, by finding the anti-gay marriage advocates don’t have legal “standing” to defend the law.

If that happens, then the appeals court ruling would stand and gays could continue to get married in California.

You can listen to the oral arguments and/or read the transcript at The Washington Post.

I can’t say I’d be surprised if the justices punt this one. I know that the Scalia clique would love to ban same-sex marriage, but they probably couldn’t get the votes; and even if they did, they have to realize that the blowback from the public would be horrendous.

Read the rest of this entry »


Saturday Late Morning Reads

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Good Morning!!

Last night I watched an old Marx Brothers movie–Monkey Business. It’s been years since I’ve watched one of their movies, and I’d forgotten how much fun it can be. Laughter really is the best medicine. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see a movie with the Marx Brothers making people like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and David Gregory look like complete idiots?

Not that Republicans need Groucho, Chico, or Harpo to highlight their idiocy, as you can see from this story at TPM: CPAC Event On Racial Tolerance Turns To Chaos As ‘Disenfranchised’ Whites Arrive

The session, entitled “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” was led by K. Carl Smith, a black conservative who mostly urged attendees to deflect racism charges by calling themselves “Frederick Douglass Republicans.”

Disruptions began when he started accusing Democrats of still being the party of the Confederacy — a common talking point on the right….Disruptions began when he started accusing Democrats of still being the party of the Confederacy — a common talking point on the right.

But “things really went off the rails” in the question and answer session.

Scott Terry of North Carolina, accompanied by a Confederate-flag-clad attendee, Matthew Heimbach, rose to say he took offense to the event’s take on slavery. (Heimbach founded the White Students Union at Towson University and is described as a “white nationalist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

“It seems to be that you’re reaching out to voters at the expense of young white Southern males,” Terry said, adding he “came to love my people and culture” who were “being systematically disenfranchised.”

Smith responded that Douglass forgave his slavemaster.

“For giving him shelter? And food?” Terry said.

At this point the event devolved into a mess of shouting.

It sounds just like a Marx Brothers movie, without the jokes. There’s much more at the link–you have to read it to believe it.

More on CPAC from Gay activist and talk radio host Michaelangelo Signorile: Brian Brown, NOM Leader, At CPAC: Prop 8 Challenge Is ‘Biggest Strategic Mistake’ of Gay Rights Movement

A day before GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio reversed his position and came out for marriage equality, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), insisted conservatives are rallying against gay marriage and that “if the Republican Party abandons traditional marriage, there is no Republican Party.” He also predicted that California’s Proposition 8 will be upheld by the Supreme Court, which is hearing arguments on the case later this month, calling the decision by gay advocates to challenge Prop 8 “the biggest strategic mistake the supporters of same-sex marriage ever have made.”

“I think people are excited [about traditional marriage],” Brown said in an interview on my SiriusXM OutQ radio program, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Thursday. “[Florida Senator] Marco Rubio just stood up there and said, ‘Just because I’m for traditional marriage doesn’t make me a bigot.’ And everyone stood up and cheered. The grass roots of conservatism are absolutely united behind traditional marriage. Folks I’m seeing here are absolutely committed.”

You can listen to the whole interview at the HuffPo link.

marx bros reading1

I liked TBogg’s rude comment on Portman’s overnight conversion: Honey, I’m Homo.

If you think the rapidity with which a Republican politician, who was previously against equal rights for gays, suddenly switches sides once he discovers that Teh Ghey has invaded his happy All-American home is impressive, you should see how quickly they embrace abortion as a God-given right the moment their daughter announces that she has been knocked up.

By a black guy.

Jonathan Chait has a longer, more carefully reasoned discussion of Portman’s hypocrisy. Here’s the conclusion:

It’s pretty simple. Portman went along with his party’s opposition to gay marriage because it didn’t affect him. He thought about gay rights the way Paul Ryan thinks about health care. And he still obviously thinks about most issues the way Paul Ryan thinks about health care.

That Portman turns out to have a gay son is convenient for the gay-rights cause. But why should any of us come away from his conversion trusting that Portman is thinking on any issue about what’s good for all of us, rather than what’s good for himself and the people he knows?

Exactly.

As for Paul Ryan, he claims that “Democrats’ budget puts US on path ‘straight into debt crisis.’” From The Hill:

Ryan used the weekly GOP address to promote the budget plan bearing his name, saying it will benefit Americans worried about jobs and the cost of living, those trying to keep up with the cost of healthcare and younger workers hoping for a secure retirement. “And for taxpayers fed up with the status quo, we will cut wasteful spending,” he said….

Ryan took aim at President Obama and Senate Democrats, saying the tax increases in a proposal from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) only “fuel more spending.”

“We know where this path leads—straight into a debt crisis, and along the way, fewer jobs, fewer opportunities, and less security,” Ryan said, painting a desperate image of rising interest rates and inflating debt payments.

“Our finances will collapse,” he warned. “You think this can’t happen here? Just look at Europe.”

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WTF?! Europe’s problems are being exacerbated by austerity! Is this guy for real? Here’s what the Tax Policy Center has to say about Mr. Ryan’s “budget.”

House GOP Would Need $5.7 Trillion in Tax Hikes to Offset Ryan Rate Cuts

House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) fiscal plan promises to balance the federal budget in 10 years, make major cuts in income tax rates for both individuals and corporations, and raise the same amount of revenue as current law. If House Republicans want to do all three, they will have to eliminate trillions of dollars in popular tax preferences.

The Tax Policy Center estimates that cutting individual rates to 10 percent and 25 percent, repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax and the tax increases included in the Affordable Care Act, and cutting the corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent would add $5.7 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. Thus, if House Republicans want to cut these taxes and still collect the revenues they promise, they’d have to raise other taxes by $5.7 trillion.

The tax cuts described in Ryan’s budget would generate a huge windfall for high-income taxpayers. On average, households would get a cut of $3,000. But those in the top 0.1 percent of income, who make $3.3 million or more, would get a whopping $1.2 million on average–a 20 percent increase in their after-tax income.

By contrast, middle-income households would get an average tax cut of about $900. Those in the bottom 20 percent (who make $22,000 or less) would get $40 and one-third of them would get no tax cut at all.

Some important caveats here: TPC did not estimate the revenue effects of a Ryan tax proposal since the budget does not include an actual plan. Rather, it modeled generic tax cuts that follow the outline of what his budget describes. And because his plan does not identify any tax increases, TPC modeled only the tax cuts.

Some budget. Here’s Matthew O’Brien at The Atlantic: Paul Ryan’s $5.7 Trillion Magic Trick

I’m not really a fan of magic, but I’m even less of one when it’s politicians doing the tricks.

That’s why I’ve had some less-than-nice things to say about Paul Ryan’s latest budget. Like its previous iterations, it explicitly says how he wants to cut taxes, but says nothing about how he wants to pay for it. Instead, Ryan uses a magic asterisk. He merely waves his hand, and says he’ll cut enough tax expenditures to pay for all of his tax cuts. He just can’t tell us what any of these tax expenditures are. Not a single one.

This is some pretty expensive hand-waving….this magic asterisk is worth about $1 trillion more than before. Ryan keeps the same tax cuts he had last year, but he assumes these same cuts will raise an extra 0.5 percent of GDP in revenue. In other words, it’s the same magical budgeting we’ve come to know from Ryan — but now with even more magic!

It’s particularly magical for the top 1 percent of households. The chart below from the Tax Policy Center shows the percent change in after-tax incomes for each income group from Ryan’s tax cuts. That’s what comforting the comfortable looks like.

There’s much more (with charts) at the link.

Now here’s some good news–if it holds up: Federal Judge Finds National Security Letters Unconstitutional, Bans Them. From Wired:

Ultra-secret national security letters that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech, a federal judge in California ruled in a decision released Friday.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing so-called NSLs across the board, in a stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices. She also ordered the government to cease enforcing the gag provision in any other cases. However, she stayed her order for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are very pleased that the Court recognized the fatal constitutional shortcomings of the NSL statute,” said Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a challenge to NSLs on behalf of an unknown telecom that received an NSL in 2011. “The government’s gags have truncated the public debate on these controversial surveillance tools. Our client looks forward to the day when it can publicly discuss its experience.”

The telecommunications company received the ultra-secret demand letter in 2011 from the FBI seeking information about a customer or customers. The company took the extraordinary and rare step of challenging the underlying authority of the National Security Letter, as well as the legitimacy of the gag order that came with it.

The national security letters are one of those holdovers from Bush that the Obama administration has defended in court. Please read the whole article if you have time–there’s a lot of good background info. Here’s the press release from the EFF. Who knows what will happen on appeal or if the case makes it to the Supreme Court, but this is very good news.

chico marx reading

Finally, we can look forward to some more insanity from the CPAC crowd today–Ted Cruz will be closing out the conference with his keynote speech–and before that there’ll be a whole assortment of mixed Republican nuts. From NPR:

It’s the last day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, which will culminate in a keynote address by up-and-coming Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. As NPR’s David Welna reports,

“Though he’s only been a senator since January, this will be the third year Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is addressing CPAC. This former Texas solicitor general and Tea Party favorite got top billing at the conference after aggressively questioning former GOP senator Chuck Hagel during Hagel’s confirmation hearing to be secretary of defense.”

Also scheduled to speak are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. (CPAC has the full schedule on its website.)

Sorry this post is so late–I hope everyone hasn’t given up on me already. If anyone is out there, please share your recommended links in the comments. I look forward to clicking on them!

Have a great weekend!


Monday Late Afternoon Open Thread: Popes and Monsters

Artwork by Edward Gorey

Artwork by Edward Gorey

Good Afternoon

I have to take my daughter to her dentist appointment in Atlanta this afternoon, so I am writing this post early…way early! If any of these links I have to share with you are repeats, sorry about that.

By now everyone has heard the shocking news out of Vatican City: Pope Benedict surprises world, steps down citing frailty

Pope Benedict surprised the world on Monday by saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with the demands of his ministry, becoming the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages and leaving his aides “incredulous”.

The 85-year-old German-born Pope, hailed as a hero by conservative Catholics and viewed with suspicion by liberals, said he had noticed that his strength had deteriorated over recent months.

A Vatican spokesman said the Pope had not resigned because of “difficulties in the papacy” and the decision had been a surprise, indicating that even his closest aides were unaware that he was about to quit. The Pope does not fear schism in the Church after his resignation, the spokesman said.

Pope Benedict XVI Says He Will Resign

After examining his conscience “before God,” he said in a statement that reverberated around the world on the Internet and social media sites, “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.

A profoundly conservative figure whose papacy was overshadowed by clerical abuse scandals, Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II.

Fox News had this picture up with its article reporting Benedict’s resignation: Pope Benedict to become first pontiff in 600 years to resign

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Innit cute? Almost like he is taking his hat off in a goodbye salute…its a much better image for this story than the picture that Fox News had up earlier this week on a story about traditional gender roles.

Oops! Don’t Tell Fox News They’ve Got Pic Of Lesbian Couple For Column On Traditional Marriage Gender Roles

This afternoon, author Jessica Valenti hilariously pointed out that a Fox News column about traditional gender roles in marriage is accidentally accompanied by a photograph of two lesbian newly-weds exchanging a kiss.

The FoxNews.com column in question was written by Suzanne Venker, the niece of social conservative hero Phyllis Schlafly, and previous author of the roundly-panned column on how it’s all women’s fault that there is a “battle of the sexes.”

Venker’s latest column, titled “To be happy, we must admit women and men aren’t ‘equal’” laments that in modern marriage, “men and women have no idea who’s supposed to do what,” all because of “feminists” who preach a “new way” of thinking about gender. Men and women now believe they can do the same things “without ramifications,” she wrote:

“Being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings. Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to. That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.”

Knowing the author and subject of the column, it’s pretty much a given that the featured image is an unintentional (but, indeed, hilarious) inclusion:

Turns out, that’s a stock image of Alaskan same-sex couple Stephanie Figarelle and Lela McArthur, who were wed atop the Empire State Building early last year…

Bwaaahahaaaaaaa!

via HuffPost:

Awesome!

Fox eventually took the picture down and replaced it with the generic stick figure image you usually see on restroom doors:

Oh well, it was funny while it lasted.

Now a couple of weather stories…

Snowbound Cattle – Political Cartoon by Richard Bartholomew, Artizans.com – 02/11/2013

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Look…Cows!

You need to click the links to these next articles because they are a bit too involved to quote from.

Cliff Mass Weather Blog: The U.S. Weather Prediction Computer Gap

It happened again. 

A major storm hit the northeast U.S. and the U.S. global model lagged badly behind the predictions of the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) .  Just as with Sandy.

Scientific American:  New Simulations Question the Gulf Stream’s Role in Tempering Europe’s Winters

For a century, schoolchildren have been taught that the massive ocean current known as the Gulf Stream carries warm water from the tropical Atlantic Ocean to northwestern Europe. As it arrives, the water heats the air above it. That air moves inland, making winter days in Europe milder than they are in the northeastern U.S.

It might be time to retire that tidy story.

This next article makes me think of the scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail…the one where the old lady is beating the cat against the wall…Do Not Try to Recreate This 16th-Century German Cat Bomb at Home

 

It’s not a good idea, no matter what the Feuer Buech says.
catandbirdrocket.jpg

Illustration, cat and bird with rocket packs (University of Pennsylvania).Think you’re the first person to consider the offensive capabilities of cats and birds in a hypothetical war against zombies space invaders enemies of the Holy Roman Empire? Think again!
The Germans beat you to it by about 425 years, as proven by this painting, which BibliOdyssey found and The Appendix Journal posted to its Tumblr. The manuscript from which it was drawn was called “Feuer Buech,” which I’m guessing translates from the old German to English as “Fire Book.” It’s a “treatise on munitions and explosive devices, with many illustrations of the various devices and their uses.”

Well, I am not sure how they could get the cat to walk into the fortification on its own…it probably would need to get a little help from its friends:

Since we had a cat story, how about a dog story? According to the BBC:  Dogs understand human perspective, say researchers

Dogs are more capable of understanding situations from a human’s point of view than has previously been recognised, according to researchers.

They found dogs were four times more likely to steal food they had been forbidden, when lights were turned off so humans in the room could not see.

This suggested the dogs were able to alter their behaviour when they knew their owners’ perspective had changed.

I wonder if a dog would alter their behavior because a human put a rocket backpack on it?*

The experiments had been trying to find whether dogs could adapt their behaviour in response to the changed circumstances of their human owners.

It wanted to see if dogs had a “flexible understanding” that could show they understood the viewpoint of a human.

*Note, my comment was snarky and not in the best of taste, but I needed to put some perspective on these stories.  Animals have been used during wartime throughout history.

Check this out: 6 Insane Uses of Animals in Wartime (That Actually Worked) **

(**Uh, just a post script to my note….that link goes to a 2011 Cracked Magazine post, but they cite real articles and state true facts, go figure!)

Last story for you this afternoon, and it deals with a monster from the reptile world…no it is not another story about the Church, World’s largest crocodile dies in Philippines

http://cdn.physorg.com/newman/gfx/news/2013/lolongworlds.jpg
February 11, 2013 Lolong, world’s largest saltwater crocodile in captivity, pictured in Bunawan, the Philippines, on September 21, 2011 Enlarge Lolong, a one-tonne, 6.17 metres crocodile believed to be the biggest to have ever been caught, is seen in a caged pen in the southern Philippine town of Bunawan, on September 21, 2011. Lolong has died, 17 months after the suspected man-eater was hunted down and put on display for tourists, according to his caretakers.

You may remember this beast from a story I shared with you a couple of years ago: Monster crocodile gets own park in Philippines

http://cdn.physorg.com/newman/gfx/news/hires/2011/the21foot64m.jpg

Philippine villagers examine the giant crocodile after its capture on September 4. A monster crocodile which is reputedly the world’s largest is the star attraction at its own nature park which opened in the Philippines this weekend, weeks after the beast’s capture.

That is one picture I haven’t forgotten, I am pretty sure you probably haven’t forgotten it either.  Oooof!

This is an open thread…