Friday Reads

Good Morning!

Bill Moyers & Company covers one of my hair-on-fire topics this week.  I’ve written a lot about ALEC before and how it tends to pen some of the worst laws in the land. So, what’s ALEC been up to recently now that it’s role in voter suppression and defunding planned parenthood has been held up to the light?  Moyers & Company will broadcast the report today on PBS so be sure to look for it.

A national consortium of state politicians and powerful corporations, ALEC presents itself as a “nonpartisan public-private partnership”. But behind that mantra lies a vast network of corporate lobbying and political action aimed to increase corporate profits at public expense without public knowledge. Using interviews, documents, and field reporting, the episode explores ALEC’s self-serving machine at work, acting in a way one Wisconsin politician describes as “a corporate dating service for lonely legislators and corporate special interests.” In state houses around the country, hundreds of pieces of boilerplate ALEC legislation are proposed or enacted that would, among other things, dilute collective bargaining rights, make it harder for some Americans to vote, and limit corporate liability for harm caused to consumers — each accomplished without the public ever knowing who’s behind it.

This raw story article on a 1,000 year old Buddha statue from Tibet that was taken from its home by the NAZIs and has been discovered to be made of the remains of a meteorite reads like something from an Indiana Jones script.  It caught my eye earlier this week so I thought I’d share it with you.

Backed by SS chief Heinrich Himmler and heading a team whose members are all believed to have been SS, Schaefer roamed Tibet in 1938-9 to search for the origins of Aryanism, the notion of racial superiority that underpinned Nazism.

Weighing 10.6 kilos (23.3 pounds), the statue features the Buddhist god Vaisravana seated, with the palm of his right hand outstretched and pointing downwards.

Chemical analysis shows that the rock from which it was carved came from a meteorite.

The rock survived a long trip through the Solar System and the destructive friction with the atmosphere when it collided with Earth.

It is a particularly rare kind of meteorite called an ataxite, which has iron and high contents of nickel, according to the study, published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

“The statue was chiseled from an iron meteorite, from a fragment of the Chinga meteorite which crashed into the border areas between Mongolia and Siberia about 15,000 years ago,” said investigator Elmar Buchner of Stuttgart University.

“While the first debris was officially discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, we believe that this individual meteorite fragment was collected many centuries before.”

The exact dating of the carving cannot be established accurately, but its style links it to the pre-Buddhist Bon culture of the 11th century.

Vaisravana was the Buddhist god-king of the North, also known as Jambhala in Tibet.

I’d just like to mention that the “god” description really isn’t apt here but, oh well. Jambhala was a god in the Hindu tradition, however, so I suppose it kind’ve carries on over but it’s not like you’ think. However, the findings are interesting.

Feminists in the Ukraine are banding together to stop Human Trafficking.  Here’s some information on that movement.

At first sight, few people would mark the group of topless young women protesting in the streets of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, as outspoken advocates or feminists. Garlands of flowers adorn their waist-length hair, strategically thrown forward to cover their bare breasts. But the black graffiti-style slogans that cover their arms and bellies make it crystal clear: “Ukraine is not a brothel” and “Women Power”.

Founded in Kiev in 2008 by a group of university students, FEMEN quickly became famous for their topless protests against prostitution, sex tourism and sexism, which is still rife in Ukraine today. The group has been in the news a lot lately with protests in Milan, Istanbul and Moscow and most recently to bring attention to the sloppy investigation and suspected nepotism surrounding the horrifying rape of eighteen-year-old Oksana Makar by three Ukrainian young men. The attack left Makar with burn wounds across more than half of her body. Surgeons had to amputate her arm and both feet in an attempt to save her life, but Makar was unable to pull through, dying from heart failure a little more than two weeks following her attack.

Oksana Mahar’s case is indicative of a much larger problem: women are often treated as a mere commodity in Ukraine’s patriarchal society – a fact that is exacerbated by the difficult economic climate, and human trafficking, especially for sex work, remains a serious problem. Evidence exists from a variety of sources of the widespread and increasing nature of the problem: it is estimated that 420,000 women have been trafficked out of the country in the last few years alone.

Ever heard of a fractal kitty?

For decades, scientists have been trying to solve a tough question: if the Internet runs out of cat pictures, can we generate more using advanced mathematics?* A paper posted on the arxiv earlier this month by mathematicians Kathryn Lindsey and the late William Thurstoncalms fears about “peak cat.” In the paper, they describe a method of approximating the outline of a cat or other object using the Julia sets of polynomials.

Outspoken Sheila Bair is telling tales on Timothy Geithner and the 2007 bank bailouts.  She says the bailouts were ‘skewed’ to help Citigroup.

Former financial regulator Sheila Bair says that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was primarily concerned with shoring up Citigroup and other banks in his response to the financial crisis, rather than holding those banks accountable.

Bair went on a media tour on Tuesday topromote her new book, “Bull by the Horns,” about the government’s response to the financial crisis, which she experienced firsthand as a top financial regulator. Bair criticized Geithner in the book, and she aired some of that criticism in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

“He was in constant communication with [Citigroup CEO] Vikram Pandit throughout that whole process, and I felt like he and Vikram were figuring out what they were going to do and then trying to jam it on me,” said Bair, who served as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) between 2006 and 2011. “I do think that a lot of the policy decisions that were made were made through the prism of what Citigroup needed.”

Bair said that most big banks did not need the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the government’s bank bailout in 2008, but the government forced TARP on all of them partly because Citigroup needed it. “It worked horrible reputational damage on everyone,” Bair said of TARP.

Some TARP defenders say granting TARP funds across the board was necessary to avoid a loss of trust in specific banks. Citigroup was one of the more vulnerable banks during the financial crisis, since it held a large number of toxic mortgage-backed securities. The government gave Citigroup multiple bailouts.

“He viewed these institutions as entities that needed to be taken care of,” Bair said of Geithner, adding he thought the banks “needed to be taken care of and that this was just a big systemic event, and we needed to protect them — whereas I wanted them to have accountability. They had caused this.”

“If you view the banks themselves as victims just of the larger crisis, then you’re going to just try to help them however you can, and I think that was his guiding philosophy,” she added.

Thankfully, Giethner is not going to be there for a second Obama term.  It can’t come soon enough for me.  Any guesses as to which bank he’ll eventually land?

When do these guys jeopardize their infernal tax breaks?  What exactly does it take?  A Raw Story article reports that one Catholic bishop says that ‘Voting for Obama jeopardizes the ‘eternal salvation of your own soul’.

A Catholic bishop from Springfield, Illinois is warning that the stakes for the 2012 election are even higher than most people think because voting for President Barack Obama could damn “you own soul” to hell.

In a column and video posted by the official newspaper of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and obtained by Right Wing Watch on Wednesday, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki called out the Democratic Party for temporarily removing God from their platform, supporting abortion and recognizing that “gay rights are human rights.”

“There are many positive and beneficial planks in the Democratic Party Platform, but I am pointing out those that explicitly endorse intrinsic evils,” the bishop explained. “My job is not to tell you for whom you should vote. But I do have a duty to speak out on moral issues. I would be abdicating this duty if I remained silent out of fear of sounding ‘political’ and didn’t say anything about the morality of these issues. People of faith object to these platform positions that promote serious sins.”

“So what about the Republicans? I have read the Republican Party Platform and there is nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin,” Paprocki added. “One might argue for different methods in the platform to address the needs of the poor, to feed the hungry and to solve the challenges of immigration, but these are prudential judgments about the most effective means of achieving morally desirable ends, not intrinsic evils.”

Evidently, torture isn’t an intrinsic evil compared to using birth control or being in a loving same sex relationship.  It’s reported that Romney favors going back to the old Cheney/Rumsfield extraordinary “interview” techniques.

In one of his first acts, President Obama issued an executive order restricting interrogators to a list of nonabusive tactics approved in theArmy Field Manual. Even as he embraced a hawkish approach to other counterterrorism issues — like drone strikes, military commissions, indefinite detention and the Patriot Act — Mr. Obama has stuck to that strict no-torture policy.

By contrast, Mr. Romney’s advisers have privately urged him to “rescind and replace President Obama’s executive order” and permit secret “enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives,” according to an internal Romney campaign memorandum.

While the memo is a policy proposal drafted by Mr. Romney’s advisers in September 2011, and not a final decision by him, its detailed analysis dovetails with his rare and limited public comments about interrogation.

“We’ll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now,” he said at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., in December.

The campaign policy paper does not specify which techniques Mr. Romney should approve, saying more study was needed because Mr. Obama had “permanently damaged” the value of some by releasing memorandums detailing Bush-era techniques in April 2009.

Revisions to new jobs numbers makes our economy look healthier than previously thought.  This, coupled with the increased home prices, can give us a little lift on the future of the US economy.  It also makes Romney’s economic arguments look weak. The economy has produced enough jobs to give Obama a net job growth for his term.  This even counts the worst of the Dubya Bush recession years.

So the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning that it is revising its jobs count, to include an additional 386,000 nonfarm jobs that were created from March of 2011 to March of 2012.

Jobs numbers are only one metric for measuring economic improvement, so we shouldn’t overstate their significance. This new finding, however, does matter politically in a few key ways. First, as Justin Wolfers points out, the added jobs means that there has no longer been a “net” loss of jobs on Obama’s watch. As you know, Romney has been saying for a very long time now that the “net” jobs lost on Obama’s watch proves his policies failed. That’s a bogus metric, because it factors in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in each of the first few months of Obama’s term, before those policies went into effect.

But putting that aside, net jobs were now actually gained on Obama’s watch. So, in theory at least, Romney has been deprived of one of the talking points that has been central to his candidacy for a year now. That talking point was crucial for Romney, because it enabled him to make the (nonsensical) case that Obama destroyed jobs overall.

Okay, that’s a little this and that for today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?


48 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. ecocatwoman says:

    I know it’s been rumored that Geithner won’t be back for a second term. Is it definite? I hope so. Bair was interviewed on NPR earlier this week & she was asked why she didn’t stay on with the Obama administration. She pointed a finger at Geithner. It was a great interview. She’s also been on Moyers earlier this year. She’s impressive.

    Voter suppression? Alternet has an excerpt from Greg Palast’s new book, “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits” – http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/did-you-hear-one-about-nuns-who-werent-alowed-vote?page=0%2C0

    The reason for nixing the nuns? To stop voter identity theft. There wasn’t exactly a voter identity crime wave. In fact, despite no photo ID requirement, there wasn’t a single known case of false identity voting in the state in over one hundred years.

    About four hundred thousand voters (9 percent of Indiana’s electorate) are African American. Nearly one in five (18.1 percent) lack the ID needed to vote, according to Matt Barreto of the University of Washington.

    That’s twice the number of whites lacking ID. Therefore, as many as 72,000 black voters will get the boot when they show up to vote this November. Coincidentally, that’s three times Barack Obama’s victory margin in that state in 2008. Coincidentally.

    The story of the statue made from a meteorite is cool. Thanks for linking it. Indiana Jones is looking more like a documentary than a work of fiction.

    The term “human trafficking” strikes me as similar to “domestic violence.” The majority of those trafficked and/or beaten are women. I realize that boys are trafficked too, but I doubt in the numbers that girls & women are. And it’s happening everyday in the US, especially with runaways. The Pacific NW seems to be one of the most egregious areas in our country. Will any of us live long enough to see women & children treated as fully human instead of nothing more than sexual commodities?

    Great post, kat.

    • Something about these topless protest bothers me, talk about sexual commodities….

      • ecocatwoman says:

        It worked for Lady Godiva. But, I understand where you’re coming from. PETA’s “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign was the beginning of the end of my support for PETA.

      • RalphB says:

        They bother me to but it probably gets them a lot more needed publicity than they would get otherwise. I would like to believe that people don’t know what’s happening rather than that they don’t care. But I could be wrong.

  2. ecocatwoman says:

    PRI’s The World had a great show yesterday. Here’s a link to photos of plankton from the voyage of the Tara, a research vessel. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/19728988 And here’s a link to the interview yesterday: http://www.theworld.org/2012/09/stunning-images-capture-beauty-of-plankton/ Phytoplankton produces much of the world’s oxygen supply – just another reason healthy oceans are critical to ALL life on Earth.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        Holy Frak! What is it going to take to get people to realize that MONEY & profit uber alles is wrong – wrong – wrong. This is horrible on so many levels. This quote is just icing on the cake:

        At one point Snowbowl’s owner, Eric Borowsky, declared that if the resort lost its legal bid to make snow, “radical groups would achieve their ultimate goal of control of our nation’s resources.

        No, a$$hole, radical, greedy corporate groups already have control of OUR nation’s resources and they continue to rape, pillage & plunder them to the detriment of the majority.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        Yellow snow is the least of my worries. The danger to fish & amphibians, especially, when those chemicals get into the water supply as the “snow” melts will have lasting consequences. The problem is that the endocrine disruptors, hormones & steroids are already in the water and have caused horrible deformities in these critters.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        I just wish these a$$holes would worry more about keeping areas, like ANWR, pristine instead of demanding virginity in girls/women. I think virgin ecosystems should be sacrosanct.

  3. I’ve been reading The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald, the greed of these big corporate money men proves to me they will stop at nothing for that extra million or their creative loopholes used to avoid paying taxes. Any kind of “skewed” underhanded deals made to feed that greed is no surprise to me.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      Wouldn’t it be wonderful if scientists could isolate the “greed” gene and then develop a way to destroy it? I wonder what percentage of the population is affected by greed at any cost? I imagine it succumbs to my Bell Curve theory – like altruism, it’s the opposing extreme on the curve, with most people falling somewhere in the middle between the 2.

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    So why are we still giving tax breaks to religious institutions when separation of church and state keeps getting breached? Why? The Catholic Church is getting the same tax breaks as the Church of Scientology so how does this make any sense?

    The Church was supposedly in the business of tending the sick and the poor but this idiot bishop sees nothing “evil” in the GOP platform designed to protect the rich and disenfranchises everybody else. Their focus on a clump of cells is amazing when you consider that withholding any means to feed, clothe, and shelter these newborns – not to mention what it does to the elderly and sick – is the biggest “sin” of all.

    What the Catholic Church fails to mention is that with the exception of Christmas and Easter, which may lure the “faithful” who enjoy the pagentry once or twice a year, their pews are practically empty week after week. Much due in large part to the tactics of “dismissing” the charges of widespread pedophilia that led to disillusionment.

    Getting their own house in order may serve them much better than promoting the policies of the GOP where “societal evil” lurks on a grander scale.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      I’m with you on this, Pat. I was screaming – Take Away their Tax Exemption – at the radio yesterday afternoon listening to this: http://www.npr.org/2012/09/27/161909566/catholic-bishops-ramp-up-same-sex-marriage-fight

      HAGERTY: The new Archbishop of San Francisco wants to deny communion to any Catholic who is in an active gay relationship. The Archbishop of Baltimore co-hosted a fundraiser last night to fight gay marriage in Maryland. Bishops in Nebraska are encouraging priests to preach against Omaha’s new law that bans discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        Bless their little black hearts!

        Here’s a question for them:

        With the rapid advance of technology that is getting us closer to identifying every piece of our DNA, what would you advise a couple whose unborn child has been identified with having the “gay gene”?

        Should they “abort” that fetus,judged as an “abomination” before it even draws its first breath, or should you carry it to term but seek to abandon it as following your beliefs, they are an unnecessary part of society and not fit to enjoy the rights granted to others?

        Since these “learned and self righteous” men make the rules, I am anxious to hear an answer to this quandry.

      • HT says:

        Pat, I also am awaiting for an indication that these troglodytes have finally managed to go beyond the first few centurys of the CE timeline, and accepted that times have changed. Unfortunately, with the paedophile scandal, it’s obvious that they have not, and with their subsequent actions, it’s obvious that power is the only thing that matters. Ergo, if they want power, then they should be treated the same as any other lobbyist. Tax them, and tax their properties. As BB or DAK said, that should take care of the deficit and a chunk of the debt right there. In addition, ensure that all their contributers know upfront that their donations are no longer considered as charitable, meaning no tax write offs. Sounds good to me. Disclaimer – I was raised by a devout Church of England mother (Episcopalian in U.S.A. – cousin of the RC church). I have no time or consideration to any church that will limit the ability of any human to achieve their maximum potential in order to advance humanity. I also have no time or consideration to people who take advantage of people in any way, whether it be con men stealing money or evangelists stealing money by flogging faith. Prime example Jim and Tammy Sue, or Jimmy Swaggart or Marjoe Gortner, Pat Buchannan, Fallwell, Perkins, Warren and even Graham, Covey et al. These people made multi millions, attempted to wrest political advantage from their activities and have done untold harm. They should be taxed on their income and their properties (property tax). The only reason these conmen/women are fantastically wealthy and have political clout is that they are not treated the way the rest of us are.
        Sorry, I know I’m preaching to the choir, but this is obscene.

      • Allie says:

        HT – you missed one – albeit a dead one he was probably the most blatant even for his time: Joseph Smith – founder of Latter Day Saints and the Mormom church. LOL

      • HT says:

        Allie,sorry.However I did include Covey, and he’s a Mormon big time (I should know, I was forced to take weeks of his wonderous seven ways crap – win win etc) He’s turned it into a mega business, and in the olden days, presidents used to consult with him. Not sure whether he’s still in favor, cause they don’t allow the white house visitors list to be broadcast, but yeah, the Mormons have been in there like dirty linen for quite awhile.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Every one of these “religious” institutions should start paying taxes. That would reduce the deficit a bit.

      • dakinikat says:

        They keep breaking the rules. They fear nothing it seems since they get away with so much. The worst of humanity hides behind religious affiliation. They wander the halls of justice like shit dropping sacred cows that know they will never be touched while every one has to clean up after them.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “they wander the halls of justice like shit dropping sacred cows that know they will never be touched”

        ROTFLMAO!!! That created a very vivid mental image. 🙂

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “Every one of these “religious” institutions should start paying taxes”

        Right on!!!!

      • NW Luna says:

        These churches are blatantly trying to force their religious intolerance and customs on the rest of us. If they act like lobbyists and political organizations — revoke their tax exemptions.

        They have tried to bundle campaign donations here and got slapped down, but not by much.

        [Washington] state’s campaign finance watchdog said Tuesday that the state’s Catholic churches can’t collect donations from their parishioners for the campaign seeking to overturn the state’s gay marriage law.

        Last week, Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson sent a letter to pastors in 41 parishes asking that they announce a special collection at upcoming services that would go to Preserve Marriage Washington, which is opposed to same-sex marriage. The group forced a vote with Referendum 74, which asks voters to either approve or reject the law passed earlier this year that allows same-sex marriage in the state. That law is on hold pending a November vote. ….

        What the church is proposing to do is what federal laws refer to as “bundling,” and that isn’t allowed under state law. …. Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, said no organization can be an intermediary for a contribution.

      • Allie says:

        It distresses me as an atheist that I have to hide it or endure patronizing Atheist-shaming, i.e. “Oh NO!!!!!!!!! Now i have to pray for you so you won’t go to hell.”

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    The only good news emerging from this year’s election may be that both Michele Bachmann and Joe Walsh are close to losing their congressional seats. Deservedly so.

    However, it is possible that Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren have an uphill battle since one is “unladylike” and the other “does not look” like someone who has Native American ancestry. Their challengers, both themselves intellectually challenged, are basing their wins on these accusations.

    Sending either one of these fools back to DC would be a disservice to women everywhere but they do have their supporters. Which makes this race in 2012 even nastier than 2008 with no limits in sight as to how far candidates will go to achieve “victory”.

    My instincts tell me that there will be no complete decision in either MO or MA when the polls close because it will be “that close” at the end of the day.

  6. RalphB says:

    Semper Fi, Sen Webb!

    Webb drops the hammer on Romney

    Jim Webb’s departures from party orthodoxy are frequent. As recently as last November, the retiring Virginia Democratic senator was reluctant to commit to campaigning for President Barack Obama.

    So Webb’s bladework today on Mitt Romney was as unexpected as it was memorable.

  7. RalphB says:

    From buzzfeed, these are funny.

    The 12 Best Bibi And The Bomb Memes

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Mike Huckabee says “Obama’s Libya coverup” is “worse than Watergate.”

  9. RalphB says:

    Brutal but correct. I’m personally enjoying it that Willard stabbed himself at a fund raiser.

    Jon Chait: The Poetic Justice of Romney’s Self-Immolation

    My initial instinct, that Romney would escape, arose in part from my general belief that what is and what ought to be are not usually the same thing. Candidates routinely get tripped up by trivial mistakes, and escape unscathed from monstrous acts. Life isn’t fair. But if the 47 percent comments do finish Romney off, as now appears likely, it will be eminently fair.

    It will be fair because Romney has spent the last five years refashioning himself in the image of his party, discarding his most decent elements along the way, only to be caught in the end speaking bluntly. I’ve argued that the comments reflect his true beliefs now, but it scarcely matters. America has now seen Mitt Romney talking about us (or 47 percent of us, which offends many more of us) behind our backs.

    And then, finally, there is a poetic justice in the substance of Romney’s self-immolation. This is not a random gaffe, a joke gone bad, or even a terrible brain freeze. It is Romney exposed for espousing a worldview that is at the heart of his party’s mania. The idea he summed up at that fund-raiser was a combination of right-wing fever dreams I’ve been analyzing since Obama took office — the Ayn Randism, the fact-free class warfare, the frantic rage at a changing America. The Republican Party is going down because its candidate was seen advocating exactly the beliefs that make the party so dangerous and repellant.

  10. RalphB says:

    Pulled this funny paragraph from another Jon Chait post 😉

    Meanwhile, in perhaps the cruelest dagger yet, Fox News has joined the left-wing media conspiracy by releasing a poll showing Obama leading Romney by five points among likely voters. The good folks at unskewedpolls.com, who have applied their unique interpretive methodology to public polling to find Romney leading in a route, work their magic to remove the pro-Obama bias from the Fox News poll and find that as a result … Obama leads by two points. Either Romney is really, truly, behind even in the unskewed polls, or the liberal polling conspiracy has penetrated not only Fox News but unskewedpolls.com itself. It’s not clear which explanation is more grim.

  11. Boo Radly says:

    In case you miss Bill Moyer’s special:Bill Moyers Exposes the Stranglehold the Corporate & Right-Wing Alliance Has on Our Democracy

    http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/bill-moyers-exposes-stranglehold-corporate-right-wing?paging=off

    The video and a transcript can be found there.

    My personal most interesting since May, 2010, is the Healthcare Agenda of ALEC. I can
    vouch that most of that agenda is already in place:

    http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Health,_Pharmaceuticals,_and_Safety_Net_Programs

  12. RalphB says:

    Take a look at Rmoney’s current chances on Intrade.

    The Run On Romney Stock

  13. pdgrey says:

    Trying to catch up, had to go to the dentist
    Link to C. Pierce on affirmative-action rollback
    “Anthony M. Kennedy — has agreed in principle that diversity is important but has never voted to approve an affirmative-action plan.

    Read more: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/affirmative-action-texas-court-case-13167127#ixzz27nd7lOwq