Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I lived in the Quarter for five years.  I now live about 1 mile from it. I gigged there even after I moved so I know a lot of the clubs, a lot of the people, and a lot of the characters.  I could tell you about the Chicken Man, Ruthie the Duck Girl, and a number of French Quarter eccentrics.  I’ve lent a lot of gowns and girlie stuff to guys in my day.  I love the Quarter.  However, whenever we do a celebration there’s always a presence of religious folks dragging crosses, shouting hateful things through megaphones, and carrying really nasty placards.  You get to know them too even though you’re glad when they go home and crawl under their rocks.  I used to live in a back house but many of my friends had big ol’ wrought iron-laced balconies.  My friend Georgia and I used to like to water her plants on the days they drug their ugly in front of our homes on Royal.  So, I just loved reading this.  Here’s one of them–Rev. Grant Storms– who has been a big damper our big celebration of the Gay community of the South; Southern Decadence. Try to just let the irony and the hypocrisy flow all over you.

The Rev. Grant Storms, the former “Christian patriot” pastor whose marches against homosexuality at New Orleans’ Southern Decadence festival briefly put him in the national spotlight, was convicted of obscenity Wednesday, for exposing himself while masturbating at Lafreniere Park last year. In his confession, he described public masturbation as “a thrill,” but authorities debunked suspicions that he was a pedophile.

Storms, 55, who lives in Metairie, declined to comment after the conviction. Judge Ross LaDart of the 24th Judicial District Court, who presided over the daylong trial because Storms waived a jury, did not even break to deliberate. He promptly found Storms guilty of the single count of obscenity. He sentenced Storms to three years of probation, citing no evidence of a criminal history.

LaDart also ordered Storms to be evaluated, apparently psychologically. The judge noted that in Storms’ confession, he admitted that Feb. 25, 2011, the day he was arrested, was the third time that week that he masturbated in Lafreniere Park.

“Lafreniere Park is a public place,” LaDart said in announcing the verdict. “Lafreniere Park is a place that was chosen by this defendant to engage in a history of masturbation.”

Storms declined to testify. His attorneys, Brett Emmanuel and Donald Cashio, did not overtly deny their client masturbated in the park but argued he never exposed his penis. The exposure was a necessary element of the obscenity charge.

In his confession, Storms told Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kevin Balser he had taken a break from his grass cutting business to sip a beer in the park, where he said he became “horny.” He said he put his hands into his underwear, but he never exposed himself.

Oh, my.

So, one of the big questions that came out of watching the republican primary debate was how can people be so cruel?  Why would they clap at the thought of some one dying or boo a gay soldier.  Here’s an explanation from  Josh Holland at Alternet.  He explains the conservative psyche and how ordinary people can embrace Paul Ryan.

Earlier this year, Democratic operatives looking for the best way to define Mitt Romney discovered something interesting about Paul Ryan’s budget. The New York Times reported that when the details of his proposals were run past focus groups, they found that the plan is so cruel that voters simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”

In addition to phasing out the Earned Income Tax Credit that keeps millions of American families above the poverty line and cutting funding for children’s healthcare in half, Jonathan Cohn described the “America that Paul Ryan envisions” like this:

Many millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven’t since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn’t have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.

Ryan’s “roadmap” may be the least serious budget plan ever to emerge in Washington, but it is reflective of how far to the right the GOP has moved in recent years. According to a recent study of public attitudes conducted by the Pew Research Center, in 1987, 62 percent of Republicans said “the government should take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” but that number has now dropped to just 40 percent ( PDF). That attitude was on display during a GOP primary debate last fall when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what fate should befall a healthy person without health insurance who finds himself suddenly facing a catastrophic illness. “Congressman,” Blitzer pressed after Paul sidestepped the question, “are you saying that society should just let him die?” Before Paul had a chance to respond, the audience erupted in cheers , with some shouting, “yeah!”

Well, stimulus has worn off and the Republican war on jobs and the economy–to blame on Obama–is showing as jobs and consumer confidence start heading down.

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits climbed last week to a one-month high, showing scant progress in the labor market that’s left Americans more pessimistic about the economy.

Jobless claims rose by 4,000 for a second week to reach 372,000 in the period ended Aug. 18, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Consumer confidence dropped last week to the lowest level since January, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index.

Companies are keeping payrolls lean as a weaker global economy and lack of clarity on U.S. tax policy next year cloud the demand outlook, one reason the Federal Reserve may be closer to further monetary stimulus. Residential real estate is a source of strength for the expansion, according to a report that showed new-home sales matched a two-year high in July.

“The economy is growing, but it’s still moderate growth, and the labor market is still weak,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “We’re also getting better numbers in terms of building activity. That’s certainly adding to growth and offsetting some of the weakness we’re seeing from the consumer.”

The Party of No and Stupidity is basically playing political games with American lives and with the American economy.  There’s a huge story about it at Time Magazine this week based on the Michael Grunwald book.

TIME just published “The Party of No,” an article adapted from my new book, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. It reveals some of my reporting on the Republican plot to obstruct President Obama before he even took office, including secret meetings led by House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) where they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular president-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.” The excerpt includes a special bonus nugget of Mitt Romney dissing the Tea Party.

But as we say in the sales world: There’s more! I’m going to be blogging some of the news and larger themes from the book here at, and I’ll kick it off with more scenes from the early days of the Republican Strategy of No. Read on to hear what Joe Biden’s sources in the Senate GOP were telling him, some candid pillow talk between a Republican staffer and an Obama aide, and a top Republican admitting his party didn’t want to “play.” I’ll start with a scene I consider a turning point in the Obama era, when the new president came to the Hill to extend his hand and the GOP spurned it.

Every one here should know that I was an avid Hillary supporter once I decided she was far superior to any one running for president in 2008.  I was pretty flabbergasted when a lot of people suggested that racism played a role in the primary process. The Republican Party has been race-baiting since Richard Nixon adopted “the Southern Strategy”.  From the Bush Willy Horton ads, to the Reagan myth ofwelfare queens driving cadillacs, to the latest Romney strategy of suggesting Obama will gut the welfare program of work incentives, the Republicans have been courting the racist southern vote.  I’ve since decided that race was a bigger factor than my “give’em them benefit of the doubt” philosophy embraced.  I think we have to frame this election in terms of race because of the obvious framing of the President as “not American”, “foreign”, “dog-eating”, Muslim, Kenyan, etc.  I can’t even believe how I see white men complaining about how racist every one is treating them.  The deal is that you cannot complain about being down and out when you’re the group in power of all the major institutions in the country.  Please read this article ‘The Fear of a Black President”by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  We’ve been talking a lot about how Republicans could care less about the plight of women.  They could care even less about the plight of racial minorities in this country.  Coates juxtaposes Obama against the Trayvon Martin killing and all the other thing that remind us that we still have a long way to go with the vision that all of us are created equal.

By virtue of his background—the son of a black man and a white woman, someone who grew up in multiethnic communities around the world—Obama has enjoyed a distinctive vantage point on race relations in America. Beyond that, he has displayed enviable dexterity at navigating between black and white America, and at finding a language that speaks to a critical mass in both communities. He emerged into national view at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, with a speech heralding a nation uncolored by old prejudices and shameful history. There was no talk of the effects of racism. Instead Obama stressed the power of parenting, and condemned those who would say that a black child carrying a book was “acting white.” He cast himself as the child of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas and asserted, “In no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” When, as a senator, he was asked if the response to Hurricane Katrina evidenced racism, Obama responded by calling the “ineptitude” of the response “color-blind.”

Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others. Black America ever lives under that skeptical eye. Hence the old admonishments to be “twice as good.” Hence the need for a special “talk” administered to black boys about how to be extra careful when relating to the police. And hence Barack Obama’s insisting that there was no racial component to Katrina’s effects; that name-calling among children somehow has the same import as one of the oldest guiding principles of American policy—white supremacy. The election of an African American to our highest political office was alleged to demonstrate a triumph of integration. But when President Obama addressed the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, he demonstrated integration’s great limitation—that acceptance depends not just on being twice as good but on being half as black. And even then, full acceptance is still withheld. The larger effects of this withholding constrict Obama’s presidential potential in areas affected tangentially—or seemingly not at all—by race. Meanwhile, across the country, the community in which Obama is rooted sees this fraudulent equality, and quietly seethes.

Obama’s first term has coincided with a strategy of massive resistance on the part of his Republican opposition in the House, and a record number of filibuster threats in the Senate. It would be nice if this were merely a reaction to Obama’s politics or his policies—if this resistance truly were, as it is generally described, merely one more sign of our growing “polarization” as a nation. But the greatest abiding challenge to Obama’s national political standing has always rested on the existential fact that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin. As a candidate, Barack Obama understood this.

“The thing is, a black man can’t be president in America, given the racial aversion and history that’s still out there,” Cornell Belcher, a pollster for Obama, told the journalist Gwen Ifill after the 2008 election. “However, an extraordinary, gifted, and talented young man who happens to be black can be president.”

Another outstanding essay in The Nation was written by Melissa  Harris-Perry who still can’t believe that Romney chose Ryan. She can’t believe what this says about Romney’s complete embrace of the right wing and its view and treatment of women.

Nowhere is this more apparent, or more important, than in Ryan’s record on reproductive rights. Romney may have flippantly suggested that he would eliminate Planned Parenthood, but Ryan has worked consistently to restrict women’s access to healthcare. It’s not just his fifty-nine votes to block or limit reproductive rights that are of concern; it’s the absolutist nature of his positions. He rejects rape and incest as mitigating circumstances for abortion. He won’t even consider the possibility that women’s moral autonomy or constitutional rights are sufficient reasons for access.

Ryan is one of sixty-four Congressional co-sponsors of HR 212, a “personhood” bill that gives legal rights to fertilized eggs. Last November a similar measure was soundly defeated by 57 percent of voters in that liberal bastion, Mississippi. (Mississippi!) Ryan co-sponsored a bill too extreme for a state that has only one abortion clinic, a state whose policies have effectively made it impossible for most doctors to perform—or for most women to access—an abortion. It may be time to update the title of Nina Simone’s iconic song from “Mississippi Goddam” to “Paul Ryan Goddam.” Ryan’s role in HR 212 isn’t just the symbolic co-sponsorship of a bill with little likelihood of passage. He explicitly articulated his case for personhood in a 2010 Heritage Foundation article, in which he parrots the familiar conservative case that America’s failure to recognize fetuses as persons is the same as our nation’s historical failure to recognize the humanity of enslaved black people. Therefore, Roe v. Wade is the twentieth-century equivalent of the 1857 Dred Scott decision.

With Ryan and women’s health, there is no middle ground; there is only his moral judgment. And despite his avowed libertarianism on economic issues, on women’s health and rights Ryan is willing to use the full force of government to limit the freedom of dissenting citizens to exercise their opposing judgments.

The Republican Party’s vision of the future is to move the country back to where we would practically have to fight the civil war all over again.  We also would have to fight for rights for women and recognition of the humanity of the GLBT community.  Oh, wait, since the Tea Party took over Congress, we’re having to do that every day.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

41 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. HT says:

    There is a whole lot of ugly out there.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    Coincidentally, I am reading Grunwald’s book “The New New Deal” and it is a fascinating look behind the scenes of a new administration grappling with the possibility of facing a complete economic meltdown and the efforts of the GOP to block any means of assistance from Day One.

    It shows Obama’s intent to “Go Green” in a big way from the outset but the most amazing part of the book is the willingness of most of those interviewed to be identified. This includes members of both parties who show disgust or giddiness for their participation in pushing for or deliberately blocking any means of progress to ease the financial burdens faced by the public.

    The overall message was “”No” to anything coming from the WH in an attempt to gain back the power – and many of them admitted as much – with little regard to the needs of the nation.

    Mistakes were made but the stimulus was meant to get the country back to work while the opposition intentionally blocked any policy in order to stand back and point at the lack of progress coming from the WH.

    It is a illustration of how far the GOP would go for their own ends while the public was forced to sit back and watch. You don’t have to be an Obama fan to understand the deliberate effort that was put forth to undermine this administration without much care about the public at large at a time when legitimate crisis was being faced by the nation as a whole.

    I am about one third through the book and the delight in thwarting Obama from the opposition stands out. The determimation put forth by Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell cannot be more obvious that as far as the public was concerned they simply did not give a damn.

    It’s all about power and regaining what they feel if rightfully their own. But what they allowed to happen to the public in the interim is shameful.

    • HT says:

      Sounds like a fascinating book. I cannot understand people (white men mostly) who stand for political office on the basis of representing their constituents, and then once elected turn their backs on their electorate. It’s an enigma. I know that money flows, but if any one of them had an ethical, moral bone in their body, how could they live with themselves, looking in the mirror every morning, knowing that what they were doing was harming their constituents.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        You have to keep in mind when reading this that the economic crisis was caused in great part by the same names sprinkled throughout the book who rubberstamped everything George Bush promoted.

        Obama did indeed inherit two wars, Wall Street shenanigans, and the Bush tax cuts which allowed revenues to shrink to such a degree that most states had to cutback services particularly in the public sector which brought lay offs for teachers, nurses, and first responders.

        It was the Republican governors who acted in concert to “refuse” the money for the stimulus package and they were acting in concert. Again, little concern for their constituents struggling to make ends meet. Without the benefit of the stimulus bill the nation would have “gone dark”.

        The problem within the administration itself was the disagreement among the financial advisers of how much to ask for. Some felt it too high, others too low. Egos were at play.

        What they did not expect was the obstruction from the other side who were going to block any call for a stimulus regardless of price. They were ignorant of how far the GOP would go in preventing the public from any assistance in order to stand back and prove how inept Obama was in a leadership role.

        Obama was naive in his call for “bipartisanship” as there was never to be grounds for that to happen. They heard his speeches declaring that this is what he would seek if elected and used that as a bludgeon to thwart any effort to get the economy off life support.

        This treachery was used against the public by a handful of politicians for their own ends. This is what makes their attempts so disgusting: it was “the public be damned” that weaves its way throughout the book so far.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      McConnell’s statement – how long ago now? – that his FIRST PRIORITY was to insure Obama was a one term prez was, to me, the most treasonous statement I’d ever heard in my lifetime. It seemed to be barely a blip on the national radar. Honestly, I think his constituents & even the general populace should have gone after him with pitchforks & torches. The only thing I give him – he was honest for once.

      Electoral politics, for a large percentage of folks, is about self, ego & has nothing to do with love of country or concern for the best interests of their constituents. Yes, I am cynical & jaded.

  3. ANonOMouse says:

    Excellent post Dak, thank you.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Great roundup, Dak. I saw that story about Rev. Storms yesterday and meant to ask you if you knew of him. It’s amazing how many of these up-tight religionists turn out to be sexual deviants. I thought the Holland article was great too. And I have “The Fear of a Black President” marked to read.

    The racism against Obama has been stunning to watch. In 2008, we all knew that Obama’s fantasy of bipartisanship was ridiculous, but I never realized how bad it would be. If Hillary had been elected, the misogyny might even have worse. I may not live to see a woman president, but whenever it happens there will be ugliness that may well go beyond the attacks on Obama.

    • RalphB says:

      For a long time I thought it would have been different if Hillary had been elected, Now I realize that was wrong. She would have faced the same wall of resistance as Obama and it would have been just as ugly or worse.

      The people I hate most are the Ben Nelsons who voted with the Republicans, not out of party discipline but just to try and save his own ass in his “red” state.

  5. janicen says:

    Breaking news, shooting in NYC near the Empire State Bld. 4 dead, one of them is the gunman. 5th Avenue closed.

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    Another weekly occurrence has found its way to NYC. Some loon decided to play “shoot ’em up” on the streets and is reportedly dead.

    The tv talking heads are now asking “why?”.

    Why, because we have made weapons so accessible that anyone is allowed to buy a gun and take out their grievances on the public at large. It has become so commonplace now that it has replaced the fear of “terrorists” attacks coming from abroad to the reality of “domestic terrorism” occurring any time and any place.

    The failure of politicians to put a halt to the proliferation of automatic weapons and the failure of our interest to fund the mental health industry has led to more and more of these random events that the last one fades into oblivion as the next one seeks to take its place.

  7. peregrine says:

    Assuming the Republicans would claim their come-back would have been much faster with huge “growth” over the last 3.5 years, the comparisons of the 1-20-09 stock market and yesterday’s aren’t so shabby:

    Jan. 20, 2009: DOW (7,949.09) Nasdaq (1,440.86) S&P (805.23)
    Aug. 23, 2012: DOW (13,057.46) Nasdaq (3,053.40) S&P (1,402.08).

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Krugman: Galt and Gold

    For those who somehow missed it when growing up, “Atlas Shrugged” is a fantasy in which the world’s productive people — the “job creators,” if you like — withdraw their services from an ungrateful society. The novel’s centerpiece is a 64-page speech by John Galt, the angry elite’s ringleader; even Friedrich Hayek admitted that he never made it through that part. Yet the book is a perennial favorite among adolescent boys. Most boys eventually outgrow it. Some, however, remain devotees for life.

    And Mr. Ryan is one of those devotees. True, in recent years, he has tried to downplay his Randism, calling it an “urban legend.” It’s not hard to see why: Rand’s fervent atheism — not to mention her declaration that “abortion is a moral right” — isn’t what the G.O.P. base wants to hear.

    • There is a cliff notes type of summary on the Internet. Know your enemy — I read it was not impressed — it read like one of BF Skinner’s novels. Both books are pure propaganda for theories more likely to be found than anyway representing the real world & real people. BF Skinner’s book was assigned reading — for some unknown reason. Both books have enough sex to keep the attention male teenagers. Bad plot, stupid dialog. Now Lady Chatterley’s Lover – that book was interesting – but written by a male who didn’t know much about women. At least it wasn’t a cover for an alternative universe.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    To me this is one of the scariest of Romney’s proposals: Giving Reins to the States Over Drilling. He wants to get rid of the whole notion of federally protected lands.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    MSNBC saying the incident in NYC is a workplace shooting.

    • janicen says:

      Presser is scheduled for 11:00 am. From what is being reported, shooter had a shotgun so some of the injuries were from the spray of pellets.

  11. RalphB says:

    An expert doesn’t agree that Romney’s taxes don’t matter.

    Romney’s Management Fee Conversions

    Fund VII. Gawker today posted some Bain documents today showing that Bain, like many other PE firms, had engaged in this practice of converting management fees into capital gain. Unlike carried interest, which is unseemly but perfectly legal, Bain’s management fee conversions are not legal. If challenged in court, Bain would lose. The Bain partners, in my opinion, misreported their income if they reported these converted fees as capital gain instead of ordinary income.

    [bunch of examples]

    Bottom line: Mitt Romney has not paid all the taxes required under law.

  12. Fannie says:

    This guy is out cruising for sex in Lafreniere Park, his entire home, church, business and
    all community connections should be investigated, I suspect he’s abusing kids, and good at it, since he thinks the bible is his protection.

  13. ANonOMouse says:

    Romney makes an ASS of himself, AGAIN.

    Goddam dog whistler.

    • bostonboomer says:

      He’s disgusting. Some DNC guy was just on MSNBC saying it’s no big deal, just a lighthearted moment.

  14. Pat Johnson says:

    Though I said it many times before it still bears repeating, Romney is an ass!

    • ANonOMouse says:

      He surely is an ass.

      And I agree with those who think they would have been equally vicious toward Hillary. Hell the right hated Hillary until she ran against Obama, then she suddenly became an acceptable alternative. Had Hillary been POTUS, every decision she made that didn’t suit their narrow world view would have been framed as “dumb broad”, “feminazi”, “well what do you expect from a woman?”, etc, etc, etc.

      The right hates Obama and Hillary with a vengence.

  15. ANonOMouse says:

    Paul Ryan Dipshit

    From RawStory:

    MSNBC’s Steve Benen noted that responses like this were probably the reason that Romney is refusing to take any questions about Akin or abortion. “In this case, when Ryan says ‘the method of conception’ is irrelevant, he’s talking about rape,” Benen wrote. “In other words, the Republicans’ vice presidential nominee clearly believes the government should force women to take their pregnancy to term if they are impregnated by a rapist.”

  16. RalphB says:

    Charles Pierce post which should be required reading.

  17. bostonboomer says:

    MSNBC reporting that the bystanders in the NYC shooting were all hit by police bullets.

  18. bostonboomer says:

    Rush Limbaugh said Romney was “test driving” the birther line.

    • dakinikat says:

      How many times does every official in Hawaii have to show the birth certificate and say it’s legitimate before these freaking racists drop that canard and move on to something of substance? Romney is no John McCain. McCain would not play that game. Dubya wouldn’t play that game. WTF is wrong with this man? Is he really that stupid and shallow? My guess now is yes. Romney only lies and says stupid things. I’ve not once heard him have an intelligent conversation about anything.

  19. peregrine says:

    dak, could we have more posts about the conservative psyche and the hard-rights’ cruelty? In my 20s, I worked as a social worker in a southern county, famously known for its many cotton mills. Pennsylvania (the governor is Tom Corbett-R)has recently ended General Assistance in its Welfare Program. This assistance had provided a safety net for poor people who didn’t qualify under other welfare programs. The short-term gain is $150M annually; the long-term pain is immeasurable.

    Romney’s economic policies would have real-life damaging, cruel consequences.

    • dakinikat says:

      We should ask our resident psychologist to do that! There’s some studies out there I’m sure!

    • dakinikat says:

      The Crackpot Caucus

      The tutorial in 8th grade biology that Republicans got after one of their members of Congress went public with something from the wackosphere was instructive, and not just because it offered female anatomy lessons to those who get their science from the Bible.

      Take a look around key committees of the House and you’ll find a governing body stocked with crackpots whose views on major issues are as removed from reality as Missouri’s Representative Todd Akin’s take on the sperm-killing powers of a woman who’s been raped.

      On matters of basic science and peer-reviewed knowledge, from evolution to climate change to elementary fiscal math, many Republicans in power cling to a level of ignorance that would get their ears boxed even in a medieval classroom. Congress incubates and insulates these knuckle-draggers.

  20. RalphB says:

    Ed Kilgore: Mitt’s Biography 2.0

    Frankly, about the only thing that will interest me about this convention is how its managers handle the complex task of deciding the right mix in blowing sunshine up our butts and injecting poison into our veins, and how they deploy all the various personalities and (via daily talking points) those potentially dangerous delegates in doing so. The whole show probably won’t change a lot of votes, but it will give a good glimpse of what this party thinks the rest of us want to hear—or at least those of us who aren’t already pretty much onto their act.

    What do they want us all to see anyway?