Saturday Morning Lite

Syria War Room, by Steve Sack

Syria War Room, by Steve Sack

Good Morning!!

 

I don’t know about you, but I really missed JJ’s Friday Night Lite post last night, so I thought I’d start out Sky Dancing’s Saturday with some political cartoons. I hope you enjoy these — courtesy of Cagle Post.

A few more on Syria:

 

Assad Chemicals by Steve Sack

Assad Chemicals by Steve Sack

 

Assad Chemical Weapons, by Mike Keefe

Assad Chemical Weapons, by Mike Keefe

 

Syria Plan by Rick McKee

Syria Plan by Rick McKee

 

The Anti-War Left by Eric Allie

The Anti-War Left by Eric Allie

 

Syria and Affleck by John Cole

Syria and Affleck by John Cole

 

Cameron's Failure, by Rainer Hatchfeld

Cameron’s Failure, by Rainer Hatchfeld

 

March on Washington 50th Anniversary:

 

I Have A Dream Anniversary, by Nate Beeler

I Have A Dream Anniversary, by Nate Beeler

 

MLK Nightmare by Jeff Darcy

MLK Nightmare by Jeff Darcy

 

Dreamer, by Adam Zyglis

Dreamer, by Adam Zyglis

 

Labor Day and Income Inequality

 

Fast Food Minimum Wage, by Jimmy Margulies

Fast Food Minimum Wage, by Jimmy Margulies

 

Labor Day Jobs, by Jeff Parker

Labor Day Jobs, by Jeff Parker

 

NFL Concussion Lawsuit

 

NFL Concussion Lawsuit, by Bruce Plante

NFL Concussion Lawsuit, by Bruce Plante

 

Immigration Reform

 

Immigration Reform, by Mike Lukovich

Immigration Reform, by Mike Lukovich

 

I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend!! And if you’re not out on the beach or doing something else more exciting, please post links to the stories you’re following today in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads: Neanderthal Tools, Hillary on Voting Rights, Bulger Verdict, and NDE Research

henri-matisse_reading-woman-with-parasol-1921

Good Morning!!

I’ve been somewhat out of the loop for the past few days because I’ve had some kind of weird virus that has made it difficult for me to think. If it weren’t August, I’d wonder if it’s the flu. Everything ached. For a couple of days it felt like my skin actually hurt. Anyway I’ve been vegetating in front of the TV watching Criminal Minds reruns and Lifetime movies. I’m feeling better now, although I’m still sleepy all the time.

I’ve been surfing around this morning, and there is quite a bit of interesting news out there. I’ll begin with a fascinating archaeological find. According to a new study reported in Nature, Neanderthals invented tools made of bone that are still used today for leather-working.

Excavations of Neanderthal sites more than 40,000 years old have uncovered a kind of tool that leather workers still use to make hides more lustrous and water resistant. The bone tools, known as lissoirs, had previously been associated only with modern humans. The latest finds indicate that Neanderthals and modern humans might have invented the tools independently.

The first of the lissoir fragments surfaced a decade ago at a rock shelter called Pech-de-l’Azé in the Dordogne region of southwest France. Archaeologist Marie Soressi of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, knew the tool at once, says her colleague Shannon McPherron.

The tools are also known as slickers and burnishers, says McPherron. Soressi contacted luxury-goods manufacturer Hermès in Paris, and found that their high-end leather workers use just such a tool. “She showed them a picture, and they recognized it instantly,” says McPherron. The company’s line includes the wildly popular Birkin handbag, which sells for around US$10,000 and upwards.

McPherron says that a single artefact, however, was not enough for the researchers to draw broad conclusions. “You find one, and there’s always some doubt. You’re worried that it’s not a pattern — that it’s anecdotal behaviour.” But subsequent digs at Pech-de-l’Azé and nearby Abri Peyrony turned up further lissoir fragments, leading the researchers to conclude that Neanderthals made the tools routinely.

Neanderthal bone tools

Neanderthal bone tools

The researchers say it’s not clear if these kinds of tools were first invented by Neanderthals or modern humans. It’s even possible that modern humans could have learned how to make and use the bone tools from Neantherthals, although most archaeologists believe that Neanderthals learned the skills from humans. From Live Science:

Neanderthals created artifacts similar to ones made at about the same time by modern humans arriving in Europe, such as body ornaments and small blades. Scientists hotly debated whether such behavior developed before or after contact with modern humans.

“There is a huge debate about how different Neanderthals were from modern humans,” said Shannon McPherron, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Now, McPherron and his colleagues have discovered that Neanderthals created a specialized kind of bone tool previously only seen in modern humans. These tools are about 51,000 years old, making them the oldest known examples of such tools in Europe and predating the known arrival of modern humans.

Yesterday North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a new voter suppression voter ID law and the ACLU, NAACP, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice immediately filed suit against it. USA Today:

Republicans who backed the legislation said it was meant to prevent voter fraud, which they claim is both rampant and undetected in North Carolina. Independent voting rights groups joined Democrats and libertarians in suggesting the true goal was to suppress voter turnout, especially among blacks, the young, the elderly and the poor.

“It is a trampling on the blood, sweat and tears of the martyrs — black and white — who fought for voting rights in this country,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP. “It puts McCrory on the wrong side of history.” [....]

Barber called the Republican-backed measure one of the worst attempts in the nation at voting reform and said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People considered the package an all-out attack on existing laws long seen as a model of voter participation….

The legislation signed by McCrory and approved last month by state lawmakers requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls and shortens early voting by a week, from 17 days to 10. It also ends same-day registration, requiring voters to register, update their address or make any other needed changes at least 25 days ahead of an election. A high school civics program that registers tens of thousands of students to vote each year in advance of their 18th birthdays has been eliminated.

Yesterday Hillary Clinton spoke out against the North Carolina law and other efforts to deny and suppress voting rights in a speech before the American Bar Association. HuffPo:

On the same day that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a restrictive voter ID bill into law, Clinton criticized the Supreme Court decision that she believes “stripped out the pre-clearance formula that made [the Voting Rights Act] so effective.”

She noted that Texas, Florida and North Carolina are states whose recent voter legislation has shifted the burden, slamming the North Carolina bill as one that “reads like the greatest hits of voter suppression.”

“In the weeks since the ruling, we’ve seen an unseemly rush by previously covered jurisdictions to enact or enforce laws that will make it harder for millions of our fellow Americans to vote,” Clinton said.

Clinton also went after several provisions of the North Carolina bill that she believes place a greater burden on citizens facing discrimination, including limited voting hours, stricter ID requirements and restricted early voting.

CNN reports that Hillary also plans to discuss national security and transparency in an upcoming speech.

Clinton said her appearance at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association marked the beginning of a speaking series she’ll embark upon that will also include an address on the United States’ national security policies next month in Philadelphia.

Clinton said the September address would focus of issues of “transparency and balance.” The former top diplomat had not yet publicaly addressed the classified National Security Agency surveillance programs that were revealed through leaks at the beginning of the summer.

The move into the political realm marks a new phase in Clinton’s post-State Department life, which was previously occupied by speeches to global women’s organizations and a schedule of paid appearances. She is also writing a diplomacy-focused memoir for release in 2014.

The speeches will likely fuel speculation that Clinton is planning to jump into the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, where she is considered an early favorite.

Well there’s some exciting news! It’s becoming more an more clear that Hillary plans to run for president in 2016.

I’m sure you’ve already heard that James “Whitey” Bulger has been found guilty of murder and racketeering, among other charges. It was always a foregone conclusion. The only surprise is that the jury was only able to find him guilty of 11 murders out of the 19 he was charged with. The New York Times:

BOSTON — James (Whitey) Bulger, the mobster who terrorized South Boston in the 1970s and ‘80s, holding the city in his thrall even after he disappeared, was convicted Monday of a sweeping array of gangland crimes, including 11 murders. He faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.

The verdict delivers long-delayed justice to Mr. Bulger, 83, who disappeared in the mid-1990s after a corrupt agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation told him he was about to be indicted. He left behind a city that wondered if he would ever be caught — and even if the F.B.I., which had been complicit in many of his crimes and had relied on him as an informer, was really looking for him.

“This was the worst case of corruption in the history of the F.B.I.,” said Michael D. Kendall, a former federal prosecutor who investigated Mr. Bulger’s associates. “It was a multigenerational, systematic alliance with organized crime, where the F.B.I. was actively participating in the murders of government witnesses, or at least allowing them to occur.”

Of course there won’t be any punishment for the FBI except for embarrassment, if that troubles them. And there was only minor punishment for the parade of hit men and other criminals who were given generous deals in exchange for their testimony.

Debbie Davis, left, with her mother Olga, right, was the girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Whitey Bugler's gangster partner. She vanished in 1981 and her body was found dismembered in 2000 (Daily Mail)

Debbie Davis, left, with her mother Olga, right, was the girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Whitey Bugler’s gangster partner. She vanished in 1981 and her body was found dismembered in 2000
(Daily Mail)

The families of the victims of the 7 murders Bulger was not convicted of were disappointed and angry.

As a clerk read the verdicts in the lengthy and complicated list of charges, Mr. Bulger looked away from the jury and showed no reaction. He was found guilty of 31 of 32 counts of his indictment, the one exception involving an extortion charge. While the jury of eight men and four women convicted him of 11 murders, they found the government had not proved its case against him in seven others, and in one murder case it made no finding, leading to gasps inside the courtroom by relatives of those murder victims and explosive scenes outside the court.

“My father just got murdered again 40 years later in that courtroom,” said the son of William O’Brien, who is also named William….

Perhaps one glimmer of gratification for Mr. Bulger was that the jury reached “no finding” in the death of Debra Davis, one of two women he was accused of strangling. He has long maintained that his personal code of honor did not allow for the killing of women, although the jury did determine that he had killed the other woman, Deborah Hussey. Ms. Davis was the longtime girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Mr. Bulger’s former partner in crime who testified against him. Ms. Hussey was the daughter of another of Mr. Flemmi’s longtime girlfriends.

Hit man John Martorano

Hit man John Martorano

One of the jurors has already talked to local Boston media about how stressful the experience was.

One of the jurors who voted to convict Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger for a string of gangland crimes described how the more than 32 hours of deliberations were “stressful” and involved “all kinds of dissension.”

“Slamming doors,” Scott Hotyckey told CBS station WBZ-TV. “People leaving. Peolpe wanting to get off the jury.” [....]

Hotyckey, juror number 5, said the evidence was overwhelming.

“If you could believe the testimony, and believe what you heard,” Hotyckey said. “I don’t see how you couldn’t find the person guilty.”

But Hotyckey says not all of the jurors believed the testimony they heard – especially from John Martorano, a former hit man who got a plea deal from prosecutors to testify against Bulger.

“There was one juror that constantly said that his testimony was not believable,” Hotyckey recalled. “(He said) over and over again that you couldn’t believe anything (Martorano) said because of the government.”

I’ll wrap this post up with another interesting science story from BBC News about an experiment on rats that shows what happens at the moment of death.

A study on rats shows that the brain experiences a huge surge of electricity during the moment of death, suggesting that they are experiencing a higher state of consciousness.

It could explain why people claim to see white light or “life flash before their eyes” during near-death experiences.

Dr Jason Braithwaite from the University of Birmingham says that since this surge is happening in rats, it could also happen in humans.

Watch an interview with Braithwaite at the BBC link. More detail on the study: 

A study carried out on dying rats found high levels of brainwaves at the point of the animals’ demise.

US researchers said that in humans this could give rise to a heightened state of consciousness.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The lead author of the study, Dr Jimo Borjigin, of the University of Michigan, said: “A lot of people thought that the brain after clinical death was inactive or hypoactive, with less activity than the waking state, and we show that is definitely not the case.

“If anything, it is much more active during the dying process than even the waking state.”

Much more at the link.

Now it’s your turn. What stories have caught your fancy today? Please share your links in the comment thread.


Romney Campaign, Spoiled Billionaire Donors Actually Believed They Would Win

Mitt Romney with billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson

I’ve been reading some of post-election articles in which the Village pundits try to explain why Mitt Romney lost the election. Apparently Romney and his campaign staff really did think they were going to win. They were even planning an 8-minute fireworks display over Boston Harbor after Romney won!

While the rest of us were absorbing Nate Silver’s predictions and his logical, math-based explanations of the polls, Republicans were making fun of Silver and convincing themselves that Romney voters were more enthusiastic than Obama voters, that polls were sampling the wrong kinds of voters, and that some magical “Romney wave” would sweep them into power.

At the same time, they didn’t understand that their constant race-baiting, their campaign to suppress Democratic voters, and their war on women’s reproductive rights might arouse some anger among the groups they disrespected–anger that could turn into a steely determination to get out and vote no matter how difficult it turned out to be.

In Politico’s summing up, “Romneyworld reckoning begins,” I read these striking paragraphs:

Multiple Romney sources buzzed about one number in particular: 15 percent. According to exit polls, that’s the share of African-Americans who voted in Ohio this year. In 2008, the black percentage of the electorate was 11 percent. In Virginia and Florida, exit polls showed the same share of African-Americans turned out as four years ago, something that GOP turnout models did not anticipate.

“We didn’t think they’d turn out more of their base vote than they did in 2008, but they smoked us,” said one Romney operative. “It’s unbelievable that that they turned out more from the African-American community than in 2008. Somehow they got ‘em to vote.

Gee, maybe African Americans aren’t as dumb, lazy, and shiftless as John Sununu thinks! Maybe they didn’t appreciate Mitt Romney’s repeated dog whistles and his disrespect toward President Obama.

Andrew Cohen at the Atlantic thinks the voter suppression campaign is the main reason Romney lost. Cohen writes:

May I suggest instead a simple, elegant overriding theory on why we won’t have a Romney Administration in 2013? No serious political party in America — no legitimate party in any viable democracy — can win an election by suppressing votes. So long as the Republican Party endorses (and enacts) voting laws designed to make it harder for registered voters to vote, so long as Republican officials like Ohio’s Jon Husted contort themselves to interpret those laws in a restrictive fashion, the Republicans will continue to play a loser’s game.

That’s my theory, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. Having covered for the past two years the voting rights front in this epic election cycle, I have come to believe that the Republicans will begin to win presidential elections again only when they start competing for votes with the substance of their ideas.

At Balloon Juice, Dennis G. reacted to the same section of the Politico article that struck me as so stupid; and he offers anecdotal evidence to support voter suppression reaction argument:

Here is the thing that Team Mitt and Team Wingnut failed to understand: that when you insult folks and dismiss them, they tend to get mad and they tend to want to kick your ass.

Mitt and the Wingnuts have run a four-year campaign that is only a blond hair’s width away from calling the President a nigger every single day. They are focused like a laser beam on promoting white rage and using every dog whistle they can think of to get the message across. White folks heard them and so did people of color. Team Mitt is surprised that African-American turnout increased over 2008, but that is only because they are incapable of thinking of these folks as people.

As I knocked on door after door in a black neighborhood in Columbus, it was clear that folks heard the Mitt/wingnut code-talking and that it pissed them off. They heard the endless disrespect of the President and the general contempt for anybody who is not white that has become the core message of the modern conservative movement. They heard it and they decided to kick Mitt’s ass in the voting booth.

Hey, I’m an old white woman and I was so angered by the race baiting that I was determined to vote against the guy who did it and encouraged it!

 Take a look at what happened in Philadelphia:

In a city where President Obama received more than 85 percent of the votes, in some places he received almost every one. In 13 Philadelphia wards, Obama received 99 percent of the vote or more.

Those wards, many with large African American populations, also swung heavily for Obama over John McCain in 2008. But the difficult economy seemed destined to dampen that enthusiasm four years later.

Not to worry. Ward leaders and voters said they were just as motivated this time.

“In this election, you had to point out to the people what was at stake. And in many cases, they felt that the Romney doctrine was not going to favor the working man,” said Edgar “Sonny” Campbell.

No kidding. But I’d be shocked if a lot of the motivation didn’t come from the poorly disguised racism emanating from Romney and Ryan and their surrogates.

And now let’s turn to those whiny billionaires who thought they could buy the White House and failed miserably. Kevin Roose writes at New York Magazine about a conversation he overheard:

Two months ago, in a dimly lit corner banquette at an exclusive club in the meatpacking district, two well-known billionaires sat down — at a table well within earshot of mine — to have a good bitch about the state of the union.

“The last four years have been a disaster,” said one man, a hedge fund manager who supported President Obama’s 2008 campaign but decided to sit this election out. The primary reason for his disillusionment, he said, was that the country under Obama had grown hostile to wealth, and to those who had accumulated vast amounts of it.

“People work their asses off to get where they are, and they get punished,” he said. “I wanted to fly my friend to Davos this year, and people were like, you’re not going to fly the jet to Davos, are you? How will that look to the Occupy people? I’m like, what the fuck are you talking about? I worked hard for this!”

“It’s a scary reality,” said the other billionaire, once a prominent Democratic donor.

Of course President Obama was extremely friendly to Wall Street during his first term, and the banksters did extremely well while most Americans bore the brunt of the Great Recession that Wall Street caused. But the banksters’ tender feelings were hurt when the President referred to them as “fat cats” and held them responsible for hurting middle- and working-class people.

According to Roose,

Wall Street turned very quickly against Obama, and it made a massive bet that they could put a private equity guy in the White House. The bet turned out to be risky and unhedged — the equivalent of wagering a billion dollars on an exotic derivative that would either triple in value or become totally worthless, with no possible results in the middle….

Backing Romney was a tactical decision, but it was also a psychological one. Under a Romney administration, these donors believed, no longer would they need to hang their heads, hide their jets, and apologize for their success. The social order would be restored, and they could walk proud once more.

What could be more pathetic? These Wall Street titans gambled billions on Romney and got absolutely nothing back. In fact they’ve now lost their leverage over Obama, leaving him free to be even more dismissive of their concerns. Bwaaaaahahahahahahaha!!

Do you ever wonder what effect these self-pitying and self-involved billionaires have on their ultra-privileged offspring? One of them, Peter Brandt II, put on quite a display on election night. The Grio reports that Brandt,

the 18-year-old son of billionaire publisher Peter Brant Sr. and former Victoria’s Secret supermodel Stephanie Seymour [reacted to Obama's reelection by threatening to kill President Obama].

In a series of text messages to his friend Andrew Warren, which were reprinted by Jezebel, Warren whined about how a second Obama term would make him “poor.” Brant II then claimed, “I have a contingency plan. Kill Obama hahaha.”

Brandt was so proud of his “joke,” that he posted the entire text exchange on Instagram.

Here’s a little more of Brandt’s brand [pun intended] of humor, including this delightful tweet:

Harry & Peter Brant@HarryPeterBrant
H:yay Obama and all, but am i the only person who is DYING for Hill DOG to run in 2016! that stylish mullet needs to be in the oval office.
7 Nov 12

Thank goodness the assholes lost this time.


Evening Reads: Thank the Gawds, Tomorrow is Tuesday!

Good Evening

I am so sick of the ads, the lies, and the voter suppression…voter disenfranchisement, and voter intimidation. We are well on our way to Fascism, and no one can tell me any different! Mutthafukkin’ GOP.

I have plenty of links for you tonight, so I will make them quick.

First I have a few updates on stories we have mentioned earlier today.

Voter intimidation is real: Pennsylvania GOP accused of planning voter intimidation

The Philadelphia City Paper reported today that The Advancement Project, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh United, along with other organizations, undersigned a letter asking the Justice Department to ensure voters in targeted locations are able to cast their ballots fairly.

“We have received information that strongly suggests the Republican Party, under the guise of combating alleged voter fraud, has assigned Election Day poll watchers disproportionately to majority African-American precincts in Allegheny County,” the organizations write.

According to the letter, the targeted precincts have over 79 percent of African-American registered voters, compared to non-targeted areas with less than 11 percent.

“The Pennsylvania Republican Party has serious questions to answer about where they are putting their poll watchers and why,” Nicole Berner, Associate General of Service Employees International Union, said in a statement.

A bit of info on that claim that Romney has paid no taxes for years is making news at Addicting Info: Dutch Source Confirms – Romney Paid ZERO Taxes

New documents released by the newspaper Volkskrant from the Netherlands yesterday detail how Mitt Romney took advantage, through his former firm, of a 9-figure tax loophole. When he retired in 1999, his golden parachute enabled him to operate as a company manager and executive, for purposes of investment, for 10 years. And so began Romney’s direct use of the “Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich” tax avoidance scheme…

Copies of the Bain docs at the link.

There are lots of state amendments that Dakinikat mentioned this morning, here are some thoughts via The Volokh Conspiracy » Some Key Referenda to Watch

As we get ready for a very important election day tomorrow, there are stories out of California that may get ignored in the shuffle: California Agency Releases Evidence of Money Laundering in Right-Wing Campaign Spending on Ballot Measures

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission forced a mysterious $11 million donor to two ballot measures to reveal its secret funding sources today, and the result showed how most of these independent expenditure groups work, mostly through money laundering:

Ending a mystery that captivated the run-up to Election Day, the Arizona group behind an anonymous $11 million donation revealed under court order today that the shadowy donation was laundered through two groups, including one tied to David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who have played a huge role in spreading anonymous political cash around the country.

The donation, the largest anonymous contribution to a ballot measure campaign in California history, was made to the Small Business Action Committee, a conservative group running a campaign for Proposition 32, the measure that would curb labor’s ability to collect political cash, and against Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike initiative.

“This isn’t going to stop here,” said Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s political watchdog. “They admitted to money laundering. We agreed to do this without an audit because we wanted to get information to the public before the election. But we in no way agreed this would preclude further action.”

Ravel said Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership conceded it was the intermediary and not the true source of the contribution. The true source was Americans for Job Security and was made through a second intermediary, the Center to Protect Patient Rights, she said.

Americans for Job Security was both active in the 2010 election cycle. They are a corporate front group which received initial funding from the insurance industry. And the Center to Protect Patient Rights is run by a Koch Brothers operative, Sean Noble, who admitted the money laundering to the FPPC. This is a misdemeanor under California law, but conspiracy to commit money laundering is a felony.

Earlier today Kurt Eichenwald tweeted this:

To which I responded:

When are you going to give those Koch Bros the @Kurteinchenwald treatment? Write a book and bring em down.

He actually replied back to me…unfortunately…he said:

Not really my kind of thing. My books are narratives. That wouldnt be.

Damn. I know he uses public records and sources after the fact, but the Koch Bros need to be taken down.

The rest of the links tonight are in link dump fashion…

Katrina vanden Heuvel: FDR and the fight to defend our freedom – The Washington Post

Florida Wants to Make History Majors Pay More for College Than Math Majors | Medieval News

10 Most Absurd Moments of the 2012 Campaign | Alternet

A Tale of Two “Seinfeld” Bosses (…and Campaign Cash) | Mother Jones

Take a look at this tumblr, it is like a postcard from NOLA to New York

And lastly, this video from Chris Rock, its been mentioned on Sky D before, but I had to end this post with some kind of laughter.


Monday Reads: GOTV (GET OUT THERE AND VOTE)

Good Morning!

It’s still hard for me to believe that adult women in the US could not vote less than 100 years ago.  This is something to think about as we approach election day tomorrow.  I can’t remember when an election was this important for women.  There are many women running for office while women’s rights have been under continual assault for two years now.  This is the first time in years–make that decades–that we’ve had one presidential candidate that refuses to go on record about equal pay for equal work and the Lily Ledbetter Act.  The choices couldn’t be clearer.

This issue is over 100 years old. Belva Ann Lockwood ran for president in 1884 and 1889 as the candidate of the National Equal Rights Party.  She had to petition to become the first woman to appear before the Supreme court in 1879. All of this was decades before women could even vote.  She was also a victim of systemic voter fraud.

It’s seems hard to believe that after so many years of fighting to get this far we have to fight candidate-after-candidate running for the Republican Party to stop the assault on the rights of women and the rights of minorities in this country.  This is what you get when religious fundamentalists are allowed to ramrod their beliefs in to law.  Religious fundamentalism is a threat to democracy all over the world.  The only way to secure the blessings of liberty for all of us is to vote them out and keep them out.  Theocracy Watch has an excellent history of how the Religious Right took over the Republican Party.  There are a lot of good reads there if you’d like to see exactly how it happened.

Here’s one dangerous state amendment in Florida which is billed as a “religious” freedom mandate but is really a way for churches to get their hands on state money and to project their values on every level of government. Florida’s Amendment 8 will likely show up in a state near year if it hasn’t already.  It mandates taxpayer support of religious institutions.

“Under Amendment 8,” observed Sha­piro, “religious groups would have not only the right to seek taxpayer funding but the power to demand it in certain cases. Religious schools and other ministries of any and all religions could tap the public purse – my tax dollars and yours – and use those funds to promote their faith.”

He added, “Don’t buy the line that Amendment 8 is about protecting ‘faith-based’ social services. Those programs are in no danger. Religious groups in Florida can get tax funds to provide services to those in need – so long as they don’t use public funds to preach or proselytize.”

Shapiro opined that Amendment 8’s supporters also want to gain a foothold for school vouchers in the state. Currently, two provisions of the Florida Constitution have been interpreted to ban voucher subsidies for religious schools. If Amendment 8 passes, one of them will be removed.

Said Shapiro, “Some politicians are trying to use ‘religious freedom,’ which most Floridians fully support, as a cover for their agenda. They’d like to force all of us to subsidize various religions, whether we believe in those faiths or not. They want to give religious institutions special privileges.”

Minnesota is voting on Same-Sex Marriage on Tuesday.   An amendment to the state’s constitution will ban same sex marriage in that state if passed.

For most gay Minnesotans, particularly those who would like to marry longtime partners, passage of the constitutional amendment would put that dream further out of reach. Defeat of the measure would by a welcome but largely symbolic victory for gay couples because the state’s current gay marriage ban would still be in effect, denying same-sex couples who consider themselves married in all but name the same protections and privileges as legally married couples.

That means worrying about things like being denied hospital visits to an ailing partner; being unable to honor a loved one’s wishes after death; or being excluded from parenting rights in cases where an unmarried person adopts the child of a partner. Gay rights supporters say those are just a few of the legal privileges they are denied or may have to fight to assert because of their inability to marry.

During the long campaign over the constitutional amendment, the group working to pass it has stressed that it’s not trying to hurt gay couples. “Everybody has a right to love who they choose,” says the narrator in a commercial from Minnesota for Marriage, a coalition of religious and socially conservative organizations.

The group contends that male-female marriage is a centuries-old societal building block that benefits children, and that redefining it in law could lead to intrusions on religious liberty and the right of parents to control influences on their children.

Further information on other state ballot initiatives can be found at this link.  California is voting on labeling of Genetically modified food.  Arizona has an initiative that tries to block federal access to state natural resources.   It’s important to read up on what might show up on your ballot given ALEC and the republican party’s need to decimate local governments, economies, and lives. Oregon and several states have marijuana initiatives.  Most states have ballot initiatives that impact natural resources and wildlife.

For many folks, the issue is going to be access to their right to vote.  Just think, Constitutional Amendments and the Voting Rights Act have secured our right to vote.  Many states are trying to suppress the popular vote among the elderly, women, and minorities.  Stories of rampant voter suppression are coming from all over the country.  The one thing I always bring to the polls with me is banned now in New Mexico.

From New Mexico, Community Journalist George Lujan writes in that the Secretary of State has banned the League of Women Voters’ voting guide at early voting locations. The League’s guide is nonpartisan, and has been used to educate voters for years. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the guide, on the pretext that it amounts to electioneering, is now banned.

George also writes in that voters received deceptive phone calls informing them that early voting had ended in Doña Ana County, despite the fact that early voting continues.

Follow that link above to the Nation to get a state by state account of state-level incidents that are either supported by Republican groups or Republican elected officials.  Here’s the latest offense.  Many polls in Florida have been closed early or shut down due to bomb threats.  It seems ONE southern Florida County will have its election times extended  and it’s a GOP stronghold.

Last night, voters in Miami-Dade County were forced to wait in line up to six hours to vote. In some precincts voters who arrived at 7PM were not able to cast their ballots until 1AM.

In response, Republican-affiliated election officials in Miami-Dade have effectively extended early voting from 1PM to 5PM today by allowing “in-person” absentee voting. But this accommodation will only be available in a single location in the most Republican area of the county.

Nearly every city within 5 to 10 miles of this location — including Hialeah, Miami Springs, Sweetwater and Miami Lakes — has a substantial Republican voter registration advantage.

The most populous city among those is Hialeah where Republicans, powered by a large Cuban community, have an overwhelming registration advantage of nearly 20,000 voters. There will not be an opportunity for in-person absentee voting in downtown Miami or South Dade, where there are heavy concentrations of Democratic voters.

The decision to make the accommodation available was presumably made by Miami-Dade Election Supervisor Penelope Townsley. She is registered with no party affiliation but was appointed to her position by Republican Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Mayor Gimenez did not request Gov. Rick Scott extend early voting throughout Miami-Dade county. Further, according to Jim DeFede, an investigative reporter for CBS News in Miami, the decision to have in-person absentee balloting was made last night but not announced publicly until 9:30AM this morning.

As the election season draws to a close, we’re beginning to see desperate campaigns do desperate things. Romney continues to harp on the President as an angry black man seeking revenge.  Romney has the misguided notion that he some how is entitle to do and say what ever he wants to on the way to his anointment.  That Romney sense of entitlement has never ceased to shock me.  Romney twists other’ people’s words worse than his own.

In the final stretch of the campaign, suddenly there is a new storyline, with Mitt Romney harshly criticizing President Obama for telling a crowd of supporters that voting would be their “best revenge.” It all began when a crowd in Springfield, Ohio responded to Obama’s mention of Romney and Republicans by booing. The president tried to quieten them down, essentially saying their jeers were pointless. “No, no, no—don’t boo, vote! Vote! Voting is the best revenge.” (Video after the jump.) Romney seized on the remark: “Let me tell you what I’d like to tell you: Vote for love of country,” he told a crowd of supporters. He also released an ad about the remarks (watch after the jump). The message? As the conservative site Daily Caller succinctly puts it: “Romney is finishing his 2012 race by calling for love, change and hope, while President Barack Obama’s deputies are struggling to explain his call for ‘revenge.’”

It was an adlibbed line that for conservatives insist highlighted the worst of the president. “He really does think that opposing him is somehow dirty pool, and that ‘revenge’ is the appropriate treatment for those who fail to bow to the mighty Barack,” writes John Hinderaker in Power Line. Yet for others, the way in which the Romney camp rushed to seize on what was obviously a play on the familiar saying “living well is the best revenge” is “one last sustained expression of that contempt for the electorate” Romney has displayed in the past, writes the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. In the Atlantic, James Fallows wonders whether it’s even “conceivable that [Romney] actually believes Obama was talking about revenge-voting as if it were basically like ‘revenge sex?’”

Obama was merely encouraging people to go to the polls, yet Romney somehow twisted the words, even if he left a basic question unanswered: Revenge for what? “Suddenly, we are in the rhetorical space of class warfare,” points out The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson. Although talking of revenge may be a new twist, it’s merely another way in which Romney has accused those who oppose him of resenting his success.

Meanwhile, poll-after-poll shows a gender gap, a Hispanic Gap, a black gap, and an age gap in voting patterns.  It’s hard not to notice that every one recognizes what’s at stake.  The Romney way-back machine takes most of us back to places that most of us fought to get out of.  Be sure to hang on as we live blog the returns tomorrow and the latest in voter suppression efforts today.  This pretty well sums up the Romney future for all of us:  Romney staff refusing to let frostbitten children leave PA rally.

This is happening right now at Mitt Romney’s rally in Pennsylvania.  Apparently it’s freezing, and Romney’s staff is refusing to let rally-goers leave. People are begging reporters for help.

Absolutely incredible.

No, it’s quite credible.  This is a group of people that wants complete control of what goes on in every American Woman’s Uterus.  This is a group that will say anything–including scaring workers about their jobs–to score political points.  This is a group that sends its VP candidate to re-rinse clean pots over the protests of charity owners and pays for a few boxes of canned goods over the requests of the Red Cross just to provide photo ops.  This one man’s sense of entitlement and republican ideology will always leave all of us frostbitten in the cold.  Just VOTE for any one but a Republican this election.  It is important. I don’t want to see us all out there on the melting ice floes with endangered polar bears.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Protecting our Right to Vote

One of the watershed issues of this century is something that we should’ve settled in the 20th century with the civil rights movement and the suffragette movement.  The right to vote and access to voting is the single most important action we have in our country that is protected and guaranteed by our constitution.  As we have enfranchised more people and as our demographics change, the move to block voting rights and to suppress voters has taken on a new urgency.  Republican extremists know that the future isn’t bright for them so they are trying to stop and delay that day when they can only impact the lives of very few people.  Those of us that live under extremist Republican state governments know what kind of damage these people can do. The primary damage is to suppress individual rights and transfer public assets and dollars to religious factions, extremely rich donors, and narrow business interests.

I’ve written on the subject a lot recently.  It’s also extensively covered on MSBNC shows like those of Melissa Harris-Perry and the Rev. Al Sharpton.   The importance of protecting our right to vote is becoming more and more evident as we draw closer to what has been an extremely divisive election between the angry, hostile, greedy right and every one else.  NYT has an editorial today that is worth reading.

This year, voting is more than just the core responsibility of citizenship; it is an act of defiance against malicious political forces determined to reduce access to democracy. Millions of ballots on Tuesday — along with those already turned in — will be cast despite the best efforts of Republican officials around the country to prevent them from playing a role in the 2012 election.

Even now, many Republicans are assembling teams to intimidate votersat polling places, to demand photo ID where none is required, and to cast doubt on voting machines or counting systems whose results do not go their way. The good news is that the assault on voting will not affect the election nearly as much as some had hoped. Courts have either rejected or postponed many of the worst laws. Predictions that up to five million people might be disenfranchised turned out to be unfounded.

But a great deal of damage has already been done, and the clearest example is that on Sunday in Florida, people will not be allowed to vote early. Four years ago, on the Sunday before Election Day, tens of thousands of Floridians cast their ballots, many of them black churchgoers who traveled directly from services to their polling places. Because most of them voted for Barack Obama, helping him win the state, Republicans eliminated early voting on that day. No legitimate reason was given; the action was entirely partisan in nature.

Yes.  This week your vote and your ability to tolerate the long lines and distractions put up by Republican extremist is an act of rights and of support of Civil Rights.  We have a new story today about voter suppression from the key state of Ohio and its evil Secretary of State.  Yes, this late in the game, Husted has take one more action to suppress voter turn out which favors Democrats.

Ohio GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted has become an infamous figure for aggressively limiting early voting hours and opportunities to cast and count a ballot in the Buckeye State.

Once again Husted is playing the voter suppression card, this time at the eleventh hour, in a controversial new directive concerning provisional ballots. In an order to election officials on Friday night, Husted shifted the burden of correctly filling out a provisional ballot from the poll worker to the voter, specifically pertaining to the recording of a voter’s form of ID, which was previously the poll worker’s responsibility. Any provisional ballot with incorrect information will not be counted, Husted maintains. This seemingly innocuous change has the potential to impact the counting of thousands of votes in Ohio and could swing the election in this closely contested battleground.

This comes at a time when we are getting news like this out of the ever troublesome southern states. Yet another Florida early voting site has had issues with bombs.

Early voting was extended on Sunday at a central Florida polling site that was disrupted a day earlier by a bomb scare, and the Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit seeking extended early voting at other areas plagued by long lines.

Saturday was the last day for early voting in Florida, where polls showed Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney running neck-and-neck.

But Orange County Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles reopened the polls at one site, a library in the Orlando suburb of Winter Park, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

The library was evacuated and voting there was suspended for four hours on Saturday because suspicious items were found on the grounds. A bomb squad safely detonated both – a cooler containing small electronics and what investigators described as a bag of miscellaneous garbage.

Florida, where 537 votes decided the 2000 presidential election in George W. Bush’s favor, is again a hotly contested state crucial to both presidential candidates.

The Florida Republican Party is appealing a judge’s ruling that allowed the voting to reopen on Sunday, so ballots cast at the library on Sunday will be held as provisional ballots in case the order is overturned.

This comes on top of these stories coming out of North Carolina. HuffPo’s Dan Froomkin has outlined some pretty vicious things occurring in some early voting places.

If Election Day goes anything like the past 17 days of early voting in North Carolina, here’s what you can expect at your local precincts on Tuesday:

  • Belligerent citizens demanding the right to personally inspect the voting process and yelling “shut up” at the top of their lungs when election officials tell them that only official poll observers can do that.
  • Official poll observers who have been improperly trained by the groups they represent and think it’s their job to interrogate voters rather than just watch.
  • Long lines, which means that a lot of people end up waiting outside the designated no-electioneering zones, getting harangued by campaign workers.
  • Shouting matches between Republican and Democratic campaign workers — and sometimes voters standing in line — that can involve name-calling, threatening gestures, and the summoning of law enforcement.
  • A guy driving a tractor-trailer bed filled with effigies of Democratic officials, including President Barack Obama, with nooses around their neck. (Federal officials are looking into that one, which took place at an early voting center in Eastern North Carolina on Thursday.)

The fact that all these incidents have occurred at a few, tightly supervised early voting centers is giving state officials reason to worry that things could be much worse when regular polling stations open for business.

“I am hoping that people will have a return of good manners and civility by Tuesday,” said Johnnie McLean, deputy director of the North Carolina election board. Then she quickly acknowledged it’s not likely.

If these kinds of stories remind you of something the Taliban or religious zealots would do in nascent democracies in third world countries it’s because there’s a similar mentality in the Teahadists of this country.   These same people that condemn the kinds of voter suppression and harassment in other countries are creating the same environment in our own country.  Also, Republican leaders are encouraging this, funding this, and creating an army of zealots that are being sent to disrupt elections after Republican Secretaries of State of done everything to disenfranchise voters, reduce access to voting in key districts, and provided false information on voting rules.

Here’s a great list of suppression efforts by John Avalon.

Less than one week out from Election Day, we are witnessing a war of attrition, a game of inches. With state polls this close, every vote counts. And so beyond the positive effort to outdo the other party’s ground game and early-voting pushes, there is a negative corollary: voter suppression, confusion, and intimidation.

The ugly efforts to discourage the “wrong” voters from showing up reflect the asymmetrical polarization in Congress: neither party is entirely innocent, but conservatives have appeared to be driving the great bulk of efforts to suppress or misinform voters.

Yesterday, documents posted by Scott Keyes at TPM showed that the Romney campaign in Wisconsin is training poll-watchers to lie at polling stations by registering as “concerned citizens” rather than campaign volunteers; to untruthfully tell voters they are ineligible to vote unless they show proof of residency; and to misleadingly warn voters they are ineligible if they have been convicted of treason or bribery.

It is all intentionally dishonest, and particularly so because so much of the RNC leadership—including Chairman Reince Priebus—has roots in Wisconsin local leadership.

Those of you that live in key swing states–if you haven’t already voted–should be prepared to demand that your vote count and be counted. You should also be prepared for a long stint in line.  You may need to bring something to help you while away the hours in a very long line.  More information on voter suppression efforts and help if you experience problems voting can be found here at the ACLU.

 The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State…

… on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude…”

Fifteenth Amendment, United States Constitution

… on account of sex.”

Nineteenth Amendment, United States Constitution

… by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”

Twenty-Fourth Amendment, United States Constitution

 

… on account of age.”

Twenty-Sixth Amendment, United States Constitution


Tuesday Reads: Mostly Hurricane Sandy

Good Morning!!

Superstorm indeed. I just saw on the weather channel that we’re having high wind warnings and may even get snow here in central Indiana today. Exhaustion finally set in for me last night from drive 1,000 miles, so I’m writing this at 5:30 AM.

I had MSNBC, CNN, and the weather channel on a few times during the night, but most of the news was still about New York City only. You’d think something would have happened in other parts of New York state that was worth covering. Of course I don’t want to minimize how bad things are in NYC, It’s just that with a storm so huge, you’d think there might be some TV coverage of other places.

This morning they were actually talking about the snowstorm in West Virginia a little bit, but I have no idea if the storm did anything in New England. So let’s see what’s happening out there–largely in link dump fashion.

MSNBC: Sandy slams Northeast: 7M without power, nuclear plant on alert, homes swept away

Superstorm Sandy hurled a wall of water of up to 13 feet high at the Northeast coast, sweeping houses out into the ocean, flooding subway tunnels in New York City and sparking an alert at a nuclear power station in New Jersey.

At least 10 people were killed, more than 7 million were without power as the historic storm pounded some 11 states and the District of Columbia. More than a million people across a dozen states had been ordered to evacuate.

Power outages are expected to be widespread and could last for days. NBC meteorologist Bill Karins warned to “expect the cleanup and power outage restoration to continue right up through Election Day.”

The New York Times has massive coverage and lots of photos: Storm Barrels Ashore, Leaving Path of Destruction

The mammoth and merciless storm made landfall near Atlantic City around 8 p.m., with maximum sustained winds of about 80 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. That was shortly after the center had reclassified the storm as a post-tropical cyclone, a scientific renaming that had no bearing on the powerful winds, driving rains and life-threatening storm surge expected to accompany its push onto land.

The storm had unexpectedly picked up speed as it roared over the Atlantic Ocean on a slate-gray day and went on to paralyze life for millions of people in more than a half-dozen states, with extensive evacuations that turned shorefront neighborhoods into ghost towns. Even the superintendent of the Statue of Liberty left to ride out the storm at his mother’s house in New Jersey; he said the statue itself was “high and dry,” but his house in the shadow of the torch was not.

The wind-driven rain lashed sea walls and protective barriers in places like Atlantic City, where the Boardwalk was damaged as water forced its way inland. Foam was spitting, and the sand gave in to the waves along the beach at Sandy Hook, N.J., at the entrance to New York Harbor. Water was thigh-high on the streets in Sea Bright, N.J., a three-mile sand-sliver of a town where the ocean joined the Shrewsbury River.

“It’s the worst I’ve seen,” said David Arnold, watching the storm from his longtime home in Long Branch, N.J. “The ocean is in the road, there are trees down everywhere. I’ve never seen it this bad.”

But, you know, global climate change–that’s not happening. It must be gay marriage that’s causing this.

There was a huge explosion at a Con-Ed power plant in lower Manhattan during the night. Here’s the viral video.

50 homes destroyed as six-alarm blaze rips through Queens

I’m relieved to see that Sandy’s wrath wasn’t quite as bad in New England.

Boston escapes major damage from Sandy: Fierce winds knock down trees, rattle houses, and cut electricity to thousands.

Sandy wreaks havoc on Conn. shore towns; 2 dead

Superstorm Sandy lashes NH with strong winds, rain

Maine gets high winds, heavy rain from superstorm Sandy; tens of thousands in the dark

Sandy brought snow to West Virginia.

President Obama signs West Virginia Emergency Declaration

And in Virginia…

Superstorm Sandy to stick around Virginia 1 more day with rain, wind and snow

In other news…

Think Progress: PA radio station runs misleading voter ID ad

Everyone’s talking about how Mitt Romney recommended getting rid of FEMA and making state handle their own disaster responses, but of course now he’s flip flopped once again, according to Politico: Romney would give more power to states, would not abolish FEMA

Here’s something incredible from Bloomberg: Romney Avoids Taxes via Loophole Cutting Mormon Donations

In 1997, Congress cracked down on a popular tax shelter that allowed rich people to take advantage of the exempt status of charities without actually giving away much money.

Individuals who had already set up these vehicles were allowed to keep them. That included Mitt Romney, then the chief executive officer of Bain Capital, who had just established such an arrangement in June 1996.

The charitable remainder unitrust, as it is known, is one of several strategies Romney has adopted over his career to reduce his tax bill. While Romney’s tax avoidance is legal and common among high-net-worth individuals, it has become an issue in the campaign. President Barack Obama attacked him in their second debate for paying “lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less.”

In this instance, Romney used the tax-exempt status of a charity — the Mormon Church, according to a 2007 filing — to defer taxes for more than 15 years. At the same time he is benefitting, the trust will probably leave the church with less than what current law requires, according to tax returns obtained by Bloomberg this month through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Wow! This guy is the champion of sleezeballs! Too bad no no one is paying attention now that Sandy has taken over the next few news cycles.

The Hill: Bill Clinton: Mitt Romney’s Jeep-to-China ad is ‘biggest load of bull in the world’

Former President Clinton and Vice President Biden blasted Republican nominee Mitt Romney over a campaign ad that says Chrysler is moving Jeep production to China because of President Obama’s policies.

The Hill kinda-sorta tries to make it sound like the ad is OK and the Obama campaign is just whining!

The Obama campaign has complained about the Romney campaign’s Jeep ad, which links the president to a report saying Chrysler plans to move its Jeep production from the U.S. to China.

Chrysler released a statement on Monday saying it had no plans to stop producing Jeeps in the U.S.

The statement said, “U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.”

Yeah, because there’s two sides to every story even when one is a bald-faced, blatant, dirty lie.

Now it’s your turn. What’s going on where you are? I sure hope all you Sky Dancers are staying safe and warm.