Friday Morning Reads

cuppaGood Morning!!!

I’ve been a little out of the loop recently since I have a friend here to visit.  So, I’m going to start with a Happy 65th Birthday wish to Bernadette Peters because I saw her in concert last night. She’s 59 in this youtube but  she wore the same dress and did this song.  I was shocked!! shocked!  to hear that she told us that it was her first time!!!

It was a night of Broadway songs and overtures with the Louisiana Symphony Orchestra.

So, the House passed the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act which is finally on its way to the President for his signature.

After months of delay, GOP leaders allowed the bill to come to the floor only after a Republican substitute version of the legislation — set up as an amendment to the Senate’s bipartisan bill — failed, 166-257. The House amendment was expected to fail, but allowed members to vote for a version of VAWA while not supporting the Senate bill.

Still, House leaders were under pressure from members of their own party to pass the Senate version without any changes. Nineteen House Republicans sent a letter to Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner urging them to pass a bipartisan version of VAWA.

This is the third time Boehner has allowed a bill to pass with a majority of Democratic votes.

Democrats for the most part were united in their opposition to the House version, arguing it stripped out important protections for LGBT and Native American women. Sixty Republicans joined them in opposition. Only two Democrats, Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, supported the House version.

Eric–VAGINA–Cantor evidently played an interesting role in its passage which is odd given his role its problems last year.

In the last Congress, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) played a critical role in blocking reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. In this Congress, Cantor was so eager to get VAWA passage over with, he told House Republicans yesterday to either clear the way for the already passed Senate version or risk causing a “civil war” within the party.

Well, that’s some progress, however.  TODAY is SEQUESTER day!!

It’s Friday, March 1, and that means the federal government has crossed the much-hyped and dreaded deadline for the fiscal reductions known as the “sequester.”

The members of Congress who for voted for the Budget Control Act – and the budget cuts contained within – and President Barack Obama who signed it into law on Aug. 2, 2011, may not have believed the day would arrive, but now it has.

But today is only the beginning of the beginning.

For one thing, Obama must sign an order formally starting the “sequester” or spending reductions – which according to a new estimate from the Congressional Budget Office – would amount to $42 billion in the current fiscal year.

And White House aides have indicated that the president is not likely to put pen to paper on that order until after he meets with congressional leaders, a meeting slated for Friday morning.

Once Obama signs the order to start the spending cuts, any furloughs of federal workers could not begin at least for another 30 days due to federal regulations and to collective bargaining agreements which the government has with the unions that represent roughly half of the federal workforce.

I guess Transvaginal Ultrasounds are fine as long as your representative doesn’t feel it’s all that relevant for him.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) declined to take a position last week during a town hall meeting on whether transvaginal ultrasounds should be mandatory for women seeking abortions, saying he has never heard of the practice and couldn’t weigh in on it because “I haven’t had one.”

Ultrasound requirements are a top priority for anti-abortion advocates in Wisconsin and other states. Similar legislation in past years has landed Republicans in political hot water, and this time around many GOP leaders are distancing themselves from proposed ultrasound requirements.

Duffy has described himself as “100 percent prolife without exceptions” (though he also said “To qualify, I believe that if we have the life of a mother as an issue, the mother’s life takes priority, but we must make every effort to save the life of the child.”) Asked about one of the main goals for the pro-life movement, however, Duffy said he had not heard of transvaginal ultrasounds at all.

A Democratic operative recorded Duffy’s exchange with the questioner at a Feb. 21 townhall meeting in Spooner, Wisc. Through his congressional office, Duffy declined to comment or clarify his views on mandated ultrasounds.

Arkansas has passed–over the veto of its governor–the most restrictive anti-abortion law since before Roe v. Wade.

Arkansas became the eighth state Thursday to enact a near-ban on abortions starting in the 20th week of pregnancy, and by next week it could outlaw most procedures from the 12th week onward, which would give it the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

The Republican-led Senate voted 19-14 along party lines to override Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a bill barring most abortions starting in the 20th week of pregnancy that was based on the disputed notion that a fetus can feel pain by that point. The Arkansas House voted to override the veto Wednesday. A simple majority was needed in each chamber.

That law, which took effect immediately but which will likely be challenged in court, includes exemptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Senate President Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, voted to override the veto, but later told reporters he wasn’t sure the new law would survive a constitutional challenge.

“If it was an easy answer, then people wouldn’t be raising that subject,” he said after the vote.

After overriding the veto, the Senate voted 26-8 in support of a separate measure that would outlaw most abortions starting in the 12th week of pregnancy. In addition to the exemptions for rape, incest and the mother’s life, it would allow abortions when lethal fetal conditions are detected.

The proposed 12-week ban, which would ban abortions from the point when a fetus’ heartbeat can generally be detected through an abdominal ultrasound, would give Arkansas the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Yes, the religious extremists in this country have taken over a number of state legislatures.  Look for more violations of your civil rights–except the right to arm yourself with a nuclear bomb–in a state near your.

So, I’m going to make this short this morning . What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Stupid, Crazy and Sad, with Some Awesome Thrown In

MezenzevDenis_Mad_hatter_tea_party

Good Morning!!

Did you hear about how Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsh Blackburn tried to argue against President Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage and then index it to inflation–and then ended up demonstrating why the increase is desperately needed? She claimed that we need to lower the minimum wage to help young kids get into the work force–the way it was back in the late 1960s or early 1970s when she got her first job in Mississippi and the minimum wage was $2.15.

Quoted at Think Progress:

BLACKBURN: What we’re hearing from moms and from school teachers is that there needs to be a lower entry level, so that you can get 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds into the process. Chuck, I remember my first job, when I was working in a retail store, down there, growing up in Laurel, Mississippi. I was making like $2.15 an hour. And I was taught how to responsibly handle those customer interactions. And I appreciated that opportunity.

Too bad Blackburn forgot (or didn’t know) that $2.15 was worth a hell of lot more in 1968 than it is in 2013.

Blackburn was born in 1952, so she likely took that retail job at some point between 1968 and 1970. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, the $2.15 an hour Blackburn made then is worth somewhere between $12.72 and $14.18 an hour in today’s dollars, depending on which year she started.

At that time, the minimum wage was $1.60, equivalent to $10.56 in today’s terms. Today’s minimum wage is equivalent to just $1.10 an hour in 1968 dollars, meaning the teenage Blackburn managed to enter the workforce making almost double the wage she now says is keeping teenagers out of the workforce.

These poor math-challenged Republicans just can’t help themselves. They’re stuck on stupid.

Yesterday Dakinikat posted about Elizabeth Warren’s questioning of bank regulators during her first appearance at a Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing. Oh my, the big bankers are freaking out about it. From HuffPo:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) meeting with bank regulators Thursday left bankers reeling, after she questioned why regulators had not prosecuted a bank since the financial crisis.

At one point, Warren asked why the book value of big banks was lower, when most corporations trade above book value, saying there could be only two reasons for it.

“One would be because nobody believes that the banks’ books are honest,” she said. “Second, would be that nobody believes that the banks are really manageable. That is, if they are too complex either for their own institutions to manage them or for the regulators to manage them.”

That set off angry responses to Politico’s Morning Money. “While Senator Warren had every right to ask pointed questions at today’s Senate Banking Committee hearing, her claim that ‘nobody believes’ that bank books are honest is just plain wrong,” a “top executive” emailed the financial newsletter. “Perhaps someone ought to remind the Senator that the campaign is over and she should act accordingly if she wants to be taken seriously.”

So if she wants to be “taken seriously,” she should act like a doormat and let bankers walk all over her?

During the hearing, Warren asked why ordinary people often faced prosecution while banks do not.

“You know, I just want to note on this. There are district attorneys and U.S. attorneys who are out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds. And taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I’m really concerned that too big to fail has become too big for trial,” she said. “That just seems wrong to me.”

Like the Aaron Swartz prosecution, for example?

According to an article in the Washington Post this morning, the proposed new assault weapons ban isn’t likely to be particularly effective: Latest try at new assault weapons ban would exempt more than 2,200 specific firearms

Congress’ latest crack at a new assault weapons ban would protect more than 2,200 specific firearms, including a semi-automatic rifle that is nearly identical to one of the guns used in the bloodiest shootout in FBI history.

One model of that firearm, the Ruger .223 caliber Mini-14, is on the proposed list to be banned, while a different model of the same gun is on a list of exempted firearms in legislation the Senate is considering. The gun that would be protected from the ban has fixed physical features and can’t be folded to be more compact. Yet the two firearms are equally deadly.

“What a joke,” said former FBI agent John Hanlon, who survived the 1986 shootout in Miami. He was shot in the head, hand, groin and hip with a Ruger Mini-14 that had a folding stock. Two FBI agents died and five others were wounded.

The bill propopsed by CA Sen. Diane Feinstein

…would ban 157 specific firearms designed for military and law enforcement use and exempt others made for hunting purposes. It also would ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

Yet there are firearms that would be protected under Feinstein’s proposal that can take large capacity magazines like the ones used in mass shootings that enable a gunman to fire dozens of rounds of ammunition without reloading.

Feinstein said in a written response to questions from The Associated Press that the list of more than 2,200 exempted firearms was designed to “make crystal clear” that the bill would not affect hunting and sporting weapons.

Sigh…

A couple of days ago, Molly Ball of The Atlantic tried to figure out why 22 conservative Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act when do so has the effect of making Republicans “look bad.”

Surely Republicans, whatever you may think of them, are not actually in favor of violence against women. But if they’re going to absorb all this terrible publicity, they must have significant substantive objections to the legislation in question, right?

If you say so, Molly. I think they’re just plain mean and stupid.

The objections can be grouped in two broadly ideological areas — that the law is an unnecessary overreach by the federal government, and that it represents a “feminist” attack on family values. “The ideological foundations of the law are flawed and have led to an inability to help victims effectively,” Christina Villegas, a visiting fellow at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum and adjunct professor of political science at Cal State San Bernadino, told me.

VAWA, Villegas said, is premised on the theory that violence against women is a product of sexism and patriarchy — “men’s desire to keep women down” and the sexes’ unequal social status. But research shows that such violence has many sources, from substance abuse to marital conflict, according to Villegas. “VAWA provides so much funding [based on this model] that could be so much more effective if it focused on the proven causes of violence,” she said.

And so on, you can read the rest at the link. But what Ball’s straight-faced reporting of conservative objections to the bill really demonstrates is that their excuses are just cover for the simple truth that a lot of Republicans think that protecting them from rape, murder, and beatings by husbands and boyfriends violates men’s “rights.” As Amanda Marcotte wrote in her response to Ball’s piece, Republicans “have issues.”

WTF?!

WTF?!

Molly Ball of the Atlantic decided to delve into why it is that Republicans have caved into conservative pressure groups who oppose the Violence Against Women Act. The reasons that conservatives gave her were, she had to admit, shallow and idiotic and, if she delved in deeper (the claim that VAWA is making domestic violence worse is simply not true), straight up dishonest, but she didn’t make the obvious leap and realize that perhaps conservatives oppose VAWA because they are misogynist, and that all the excuses they give are attempts to deflect people from seeing the obvious.

But in case you are still struggling to accept that straight-up misogyny might be driving the fight against VAWA, consider this: Talking Points Memo discovered the conservative super-PAC and advocacy group [that] has been behind the push against VAWA. You don’t have to dig very deep to discover that their reasons are blunt force misogyny:

In a blog post, FreedomWorks criticized the cost of the legislation — $660 million — and pointed out that domestic violence is “already illegal in all 50 states.” It added: “Supporters of the VAWA portray women as helpless victims – this is the kind of attitude that is setting women back.”

Well what do you know? Freedom Works again. Marcotte continues:

In other words, the solution to domestic violence is to simply refuse to label a woman whose partner is beating her a “victim”. Got it. I’m curious if FreedomWorks is willing to expand this attitude towards other crimes. Mugged? Well, it’s disempowering and bad for you to call you a “victim”—god forbid!—so let’s just say you’re generous to people who wield guns and call it a day. FreedomWorks also claims that simply having laws on the books banning domestic violence is enough—as long as we formally say we’re against it, we don’t need to do anything silly like make sure the laws are enforced by directing resources to them. They also make the facetious claim that feminists are demanding that men be thrown in jail for merely yelling at women. It’s an amazing show of minimizing domestic violence, pretending that it’s just couples fighting, and seeking any way possible to make sure that abusive men aren’t held accountable.

And from the annals of rape culture, Alternet reports on “How police treat rape in America.”

In some of the most disturbing and sickening news of the day, New York state police have decided that a 15-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by three boys was in fact not sexually assaulted because both she and the boys are mentally handicapped.

In May of last year, three boys attacked a 15-year-old mentally challenged student at Martin De Porres Academy, a school for students with special needs in Long Island. According to the police report, one of the boys repeatedly banged her head against the table while the other two forced her to give them oral sex and then tried to have forcible anal sex with her. In interviews with the police, the girl explained how she repeatedly said “no” and “stop” but that the boys continued to assault her. When she came home from school that day, her mother noticed that she had blood on her underwear.

But when the police learned that the alleged rapists were also mentally challenged, they withdrew the charges.

The department’s spokesperson told the New York Daily News , “It was more of a consensual situation with their mental capabilities.”

Of course, head-banging, blood and repeated pleas to “stop” are never consensual situations–regardless of the IQ level of the attackers. But, in this case, the police department is even further off target. As the family’s lawyer explained, the girl has an IQ of about 50 points, which puts her below the cognitive functioning level to consent to sex at all.

Here’s another outrageous child abuse story from the Smoking Gun: FBI: Man Slapped Crying Toddler On Delta Flight

After demanding that the mother of a crying toddler “shut that nigger baby up,” a male passenger allegedly slapped the 19-month-old across the face as a flight prepared to land in Atlanta last Friday evening, The Smoking Gun has learned.

The shocking February 8 incident aboard Delta Airlines Flight 721 resulted in Joe Rickey Hundley, 60, being charged with simple assault, according to a U.S. District Court affidavit. Hundley…is president of an aircraft parts manufacturer headquartered in Hayden, Idaho.

Can you believe that? I guess the FBI got involved because this may be a hate crime.

As detailed by FBI Agent Daron Cheney, Hundley was traveling to Atlanta from Minneapolis in seat 28A on the MD-90 twin-engine jet. He was seated next to Jessica Bennett, who shared seat 28B with her son Jonah.

Bennett, 33, told investigators that the “aircraft was in final descent” to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport when her child “started to cry due to the altitude change.” Bennett added that she “was trying to get [her son] to stop crying, but he continued.”

At this point, Bennett recalled, Hundley used the racial epithet as he told her to shut the child up. He then allegedly “turned around and slapped” the toddler in the face “with an open hand, which caused the juvenile victim to scream even louder.” The slap, Bennett said, “caused a scratch below [the child’s] right eye.”

Thanks to Dakinikat for alerting me to this story.

And thanks to JJ for this one from The Guardian UK: Every meteorite fall [that we know about] on earth mapped. Please go check it out. The known incidents go all the way back to 2,300 BC!

Those are my recommendations for today. What’s on your reading and blogging list? I look forward to clicking on your links!


Monday Evening Reads: Bill Clinton’s Advice, Romney and Rubio, George Zimmerman, and Stupid Republicans

Good Evening! It hasn’t been a particularly busy news day, but I have a few updates for you tonight.

According to Politico, the Obama campaign is changing it’s attacks on Mitt Romney based on some suggestions from Bill Clinton. The original approach was to paint Romney as a man without a moral or ideological “core.” Clinton, according to Politico argued that it would be better to focus on

Romney’s description of himself as a “severe conservative,” to deny him any chance to tack back to the center, according to three Democrats close to the situation.

“[Clinton] said he thought Romney’s positions on the issues would ultimately be the best way to attack him,” said a Democrat briefed on the details of an amiable Nov. 9 meeting in Clinton’s Harlem office that included Axelrod, Democratic National Committee Executive Director Patrick Gaspard and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina.

“That’s what we are doing, but it doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t do the etch-a-sketch, flip-flop moments when they occur and we will,” added the operative — who says Obama’s campaign likely would have emphasized Romney’s conservative tilt once the primary was over, anyway.

But Clinton’s advice, buttressed by Benenson’s polling, has clearly gained traction internally since the end of Romney’s four-month primary ordeal.

Well, I can’t imagine a more expert political consultant than Bill Clinton, can you?

A new report from the Pew Hispanic Center shows that the number of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico has been falling because of the lack of jobs in the U.S. NY Daily News:

Roughly 6.1 million unauthorized Mexican immigrants were living in the U.S. last year, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007, according to the Pew Hispanic Center study released Monday. It was the biggest sustained drop in modern history, believed to be surpassed in scale only by losses in the Mexican-born U.S. population during the Great Depression.

Much of the drop in illegal immigrants is due to the persistently weak U.S. economy, which has shrunk construction and service-sector jobs attractive to Mexican workers following the housing bust. But increased deportations, heightened U.S. patrols and violence along the border also have played a role, as well as demographic changes, such as Mexico’s declining birth rate.

In all, the Mexican-born population in the U.S. last year — legal and illegal — fell to 12 million, marking an end to an immigration boom dating back to the 1970s, when foreign-born residents from Mexico stood at 760,000. The 2007 peak was 12.6 million.

The New York and Pennsylvania primaries will be held tomorrow, but there isn’t much excitement about them anymore. Other states voting tomorrow are Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.

In Pennsylvania, Romney was campaigning with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Without overshadowing Romney, Rubio on Monday hammered home the former Massachusetts governor’s position on Iran and helped Romney attack President Barack Obama’s energy policy.

In a brief question-and-answer session with reporters, Romney said he’d consider Rubio’s immigration proposal to find a way to allow young people who came to the country illegally as children to stay here if they’re in school or the military.

It sounds like the Obama campaign should get busy pinning Romney down on the cruel immigration policy he has been pushing throughout the primaries.

Romney also tried to appeal to younger voters by joining Obama in backing a bill to prevent doubling of student loan interest rates.

ASTON, Pa. — As the White House ramps up its push to woo young voters by urging Congress to head off a scheduled increase in student loan interest rates, GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney struck back Monday, throwing his support behind an extension of the current rates at a campaign event outside Philadelphia.

The former Massachusetts governor made the announcement at a press availability with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the first joint appearance of Romney and the Florida Republican whose name is often floated as a top choice for his running mate.

“There’s one thing that I wanted to mention, that I forgot to mention at the very beginning, and that was that particularly with the number of college graduates that can’t find work or that can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans,” Romney said at the end of a seven-minute joint news conference with Rubio.

I have a few updates on the Trayvon Martin case. At one minute after midnight, George Zimmerman was let out of jail after posting bail. He will be going to a undisclosed location, reportedly outside of Florida.

Wherever George Zimmerman went after he was released on bond from a Florida jail, a sensitive GPS device will pinpoint his location for authorities and alert them if he drifts even a few feet away from where he is allowed.

Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, went into hiding Monday as he awaits trial. He must pay an $8-a-day fee to use the device, which is generally used to track people charged in domestic violence cases.

George Zimmerman leaves Seminole County Jail with unidentified man

According to the WaPo,

Local bail bondsmen whose clients have worn the same device used to pinpoint Zimmerman said it is highly sensitive and can send messages to authorities in real-time….

Seminole County Sheriff’s officials are offering few details on how Zimmerman will be specifically monitored, other than to say the device he is wearing has the same 24/7 capabilities it uses to track accused domestic violence offenders. Zimmerman may be residing outside of Florida for safety reasons.

The monitoring program has been in use since 2003 in Seminole and provides “real-time monitoring of an offender’s movements and is capable of monitoring anywhere in the U.S.,” according to a sheriff’s office news release.

Later this morning, Sanford, FL police chief Bill Lee, who has been on leave with pay, submitted his final resignation; but the move was rejected by the Sanford city commissioners at a hastily-called meeting.

Earlier Monday, the city announced in a statement that a separation agreement had been reached with Lee to resign. If it was approved by the City Commission, it would have taken effect at midnight.

But by a 3-2 vote, the commission opted not to accept the proposed deal, which would have permanently dismissed Lee from the job and given him a severance package. Two commissioners had questioned the fairness of Lee losing his job, while Mayor Jeff Triplett said he preferred to wait possibly several months for the results of an investigation into Lee and his department….

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Martin’s family, criticized the commission for not letting Lee step down.

“Sanford residents deserve quality leadership in law enforcement who will handle investigations fairly for all people,” he said. “If Chief Bill Lee recognized that his resignation would help start the healing process in Sanford, city leadership should have accepted it in an effort to move the city forward.”

Sanford City Manager Norton N. Bonaparte had supported the resignation.

Benjamin Crump also criticized George Zimmerman and his defense attorneys over a photo of Zimmerman’s head with two small cuts with blood coming out of them.

An attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family believes their son’s shooter is lying about injuries he sustained the night he killed the unarmed 17-year-old.

“If this is any indication of what’s to come, then the lying has already begun,” attorney Ben Crump told reporters on Sunday, while promoting a documentary at the Florida Film Festival on another case….

“When you look at those pictures and you see those two little cuts on his head, that is not consistent with your head being pounded into the pavement,” said Crump. “Objective evidence, evidence we can see and touch, is more important than whatever George Zimmerman says because we have to remember Trayvon Martin isn’t here to tell us his version of what happened.”

Crump pointed to the 911 call where someone is heard screaming before the fatal gunshot.

Democrats in Congress have been pushing for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, but Texas Sen. John Cornyn says that Democrats are just trying to ‘score cheap political points.’ with their efforts to renew the bill.

Republicans oppose the current reauthorization bill because it would allow battered undocumented immigrants to claim temporary visas, and expand protections to same sex couples and Native American tribes.

All eight Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against renewing the law and Democrats were quick to denounce them, linking their opposition to the bill to the so-called “war on women.”

“The law was enacted to protect and serve the interests of crime victims, not to help a political party fire up its base,” Cornyn continue. “Moreover, to argue that a minor policy disagreement indicates a lack of sensitivity toward battered women is simply beyond the pale.”

In Missouri, a Republican woman who is running for the senate against current Sen. Claire McCaskill says she is “not sure” what the Violence Against Women Act is.

Former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, a Republican now hoping to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), said recently that she was unfamiliar with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the landmark anti-domestic violence legislation whose re-authorization is now stalled in the Senate….

A video released today by the Missouri Democratic Party shows a man asking Steelman about VAWA at a campaign event. Steelman replies, “I’m not sure what that is because I’m not serving right now.” He asks again, “you haven’t really heard about it?” And she confirms, “no, not really.”

The John Edwards trial has been getting a lot of attention today too. Chris Cillizza calls it a “final public flogging.”

What stories have you been following today?