Evening News Reads: Smog and Weather Open Link

Good Evening

Last week Quixote wrote a post about her observations while taking a walk in Southern California. If you missed that post, please be sure to check it out…

An orange-brown band of dust? smog? all of the above? stretching over the whole horizon. There’s a larger composite picture here that shows more of the extent. (In the foreground, you can make out the Navy Seabees target practice range. That’s Anacapa Island shrouded in the distance.)

I’ve lived here for years and never seen anything like it. Ordinary Los Angeles pollution looks like this:

It’s more purple-colored, much fainter, and bigger toward LA, petering out toward the ocean. (The picture is from an old post where I was puzzling about wind direction.)

When I mentioned it at home, I found out that Beijing had an Airpocalypse around January 12th and the next few days, an immense pollution event that drowned the city in choking dusty smog.

There was a new article published today that discusses this very thing. ‘Off-the-scale’ smog envelops Beijing and northern China

Pollution levels in Beijing soared above index limits, the US embassy said, as a dense cloud of haze shrouded large swathes of northern China.

People in the capital, some wearing masks, Tuesday battled through a second consecutive day of pollution at hazardous levels. Beijing municipal authorities warned those with respiratory difficulties to stay indoors.

It is at least the fourth time a dense cloud of haze has descended on northern China this winter, reducing visibility and causing flight delays, with even state media repeatedly expressing anger over the issue.

“The current environmental problems are worrisome,” Wang Anshun, who took over as mayor of the Chinese capital this week, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

The US embassy’s air quality index (AQI) reading for Beijing stood at 495 and “hazardous” at 11am, after reaching 517, or “beyond index”, at 6am.

The index rates anything over 150 as “unhealthy”, over 300 as “hazardous”, while a reading above the upper limit of 500 is regarded as “beyond index”.

Meanwhile, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre gave the figure at 10am as 393, indicating the air in the capital was “severely polluted”.

The toxic air follows an extreme bout of pollution earlier this month, peaking on January 13 when state media said readings for PM 2.5, particles small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs, reached 993 micrograms per cubic metre, almost 40 times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safe limit.

On another weather related article, many of you may be in the path of this bad weather event, so keep up with the forecast in your area: Unusual January warmth triggers severe storms in US South

A very large and potent weather system is developing across the U.S. central plains today. The system will advance eastward to provide a large portion of the eastern United States a chance to see strong to severe thunderstorms Tuesday and Wednesday.

The cold front is very strong, as temperatures are nearly 20 to 30 degrees cooler behind the front. Ahead of the front, unusually warm temperatures are pushing northward with dew points in the upper 50′s and low to mid 60′s. With plenty of moisture and warm temperatures in place, thunderstorms that develop across this region will be able to use this energy as fuel to help intensify. If you live in Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, you need to be prepared for the possibility of damaging winds and isolated tornadoes Tuesday and Wednesday as this storm sweeps to the east.

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has issued a moderate risk for severe weather for northern Louisiana, Arkansas, northwest Mississippi, and southeast Missouri. Meanwhile, a slight risk has been issued for the states surrounding the moderate area:

Categorical outlook issued for January 29, 2013. Image Credit: SPC

There is an enhanced tornado threat for Tuesday, January 29, 2013. The map below shows the probability of a tornado within 25 miles of a point. The hatched Area (black dashes) indicate a 10% or greater probability of EF2 – EF5 tornadoes within 25 miles of a point. Most of Arkansas is in a 15% hatched area, which is very high.

This new storm is a result of two air masses…

Warm air ahead of the front will help fuel the thunderstorms that develop across the Southeast Tuesday and Wednesday. Image Credit: Weatherbell

When you look at the large picture, it is pretty obvious that straight line winds will be the main threat with this system as a squall line, also called a QLCS, or Quasi linear convective system, pushes eastward. There are concerns that discrete cells could develop ahead of the front, which would be the area prone to see the strongest tornadoes. The region most likely to see supercells will be the areas within the moderate risk area today. There is plenty of wind shear, or change in wind speed or direction with height, in the atmosphere associated with this strong cold front. No doubt that as this front pushes eastward, the momentum will be transferred to the surface where winds could easily gust to 60 to 70 miles per hour. Squall lines can produce widespread damage, so everyone in the highlighted areas noted on the SPC Day 1 and 2 outlook should be weather aware as this system pushes into your area. As this line advances east, there is no doubt the severe thunderstorm watches or tornado watches will be issued in advanced to prepare people for the upcoming storms. If you live in the area where this line of storms can sweep through, you might want to bring in any loose objects that are sitting outside that could be picked up by the wind and be used as flying debris.

Keep a watch out and take care.

This is an open thread.

GOP Electoral Vote-Rigging Scheme Is Losing Steam


Good News

It looks like the Republican plans to change the way electoral votes are assigned in swing states may be dead in the water. This afternoon, a Virginia Senate committee voted to kill the state’s proposed bill and Republicans in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin are expressing serious doubts about similar bills in their states.

In Virginia:

The measure appeared headed for defeat after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) came out against it Friday, as did two GOP senators who sit on the committee that would decide the bill’s fate.

Earlier Tuesday, McDonnell said during a televised interview that he was “afraid people will ignore Virginia” if the commonwealth switched to an electoral college system that picked winners by congressional district.

The governor told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that the winner-take-all system most states use is the way to go, and that splitting up electoral votes by congressional districts is a “bad idea.”

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder isn’t bullish on the proposed changes.

In another blow to the push to replace the winner-take-all method for awarding electoral votes, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said he is “very skeptical” of a Republican proposal in his state to adopt the congressional district system for allocating the votes.

“You don’t want to change the playing field so it’s an unfair advantage to someone, and in a lot of ways we want to make sure we’re reflecting the vote of the people, and this could challenge that,” Snyder, a Republican, said today on Bloomberg Television’s “Bottom Line.”

“I don’t think this is the appropriate time to really look at it,” he said.

And the Michigan Senate majority leader has indicated the measure probably won’t be put up for a vote. Michigan Live reports:

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is wary of a proposal to split up Michigan’s Electoral College votes by district, suggesting that such a move could diminish the state’s importance in presidential elections.

“I don’t know that it’s broken, so I don’t know if I want to fix it,” Richardville said Tuesday, becoming the first high-ranking Michigan Republican to question a bill that state Rep. Pete Lund is poised to reintroduce in the House.

“We’ll take a look at it,” Richardville said. “I’ve heard these things before, all or nothing versus splitting it up. I want to make sure that Michigan’s voice is a loud and clear voice, so I’d be a little concerned if we ended up splitting the difference.”

Other Michigan elected officials noted that presidential candidates would be less likely to campaign in the state if they knew they could win only a small number of votes in favorable districts.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker says the plan is “risky.”

Walker said Tuesday it’s an interesting idea, but not one he spends time thinking about. He says because Wisconsin is a battleground state, presidential and vice presidential candidates have an incentive to make repeated campaign stops here. He says he’s wary that changing the system could dissuade candidates from visiting.

Finally, in Ohio, several GOP leaders, including Secretary of State Jon Husted, oppose the plan.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Count Ohio’s Republican leaders out of a GOP-backed effort to end the Electoral College’s winner-take-all format in the Buckeye State and other presidential battlegrounds.
Spokesmen for Gov. John Kasich, State Senate President Keith Faber and House Speaker William G. Batchelder told The Plain Dealer this week that they are not pursuing plans to award electoral votes proportionally by congressional district.

Batchelder went a step further, saying through his communications director that he “is not supportive of such a move.” And Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, the state’s chief elections administrator, emphasized that he does not favor the plan either, despite Democratic suspicions based on reported comments that he said were taken out of context.

“Nobody in Ohio is advocating this,” Husted said in a telephone interview.

That just leaves Pennsylvania and perhaps Florida. Would those states want to discourage candidates from coming in to campaign?

It certainly looks as if the GOP electoral vote-rigging scheme is a loser.

Tuesday Mid-Morning Reads: Immigration Reform, Aaron Swartz Prosecution, and Much More

Barbara Stanwyk reading

Good Morning Everyone!!

The media talking heads are going on and on about the supposed “bi-partisan agreement” on Immigration reform. I’m not really clear on what policies have been “agreed” on, but frankly, I’ll believe it when I see it. TPM reports: Gang Of 8’s Path To Citizenship Is Still A Rocky Road.

While reformers are excited that a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is the centerpiece of the Senate’s new bipartisan immigration deal, it’s still unclear just how accessible that path will be for the undocumented population.

Without the proper components, experts warn the Senate plan could be the beginning of a long process to bringing illegal immigrants fully into American society, one that could take not years but decades.

So what does the process involve?

Under the plan, undocumented immigrants would receive a probationary status if they pass a criminal background check, pay a fine, and pay any back taxes owed to the government. After that, they’d have to wait to apply for permanent residency – a prerequisite to citizenship – until after a series of border security measures go into effect.

None of the new border measures, which will be overseen by a commission of southwestern state officials and community leaders, appear too difficult to implement at first glance (although there are concerns as to how much power conservative state politicians would wield in the process). The big question is what comes next when 11 million newly legal immigrants apply for a green card.

According to the framework, these applicants will then be required to “go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants.” But for many of them, a clear line doesn’t actually exist at the moment. Individuals can apply for green cards through a number of categories, mostly based on having family already in the country or on their employment status, which experts say are inadequate to the task of absorbing so many immigrants at once.

Greg Sargent says that the assumption that conservative Southern governors will control the process because they will be the ones to certify that the border is secure is “not true.”

I’ve now got clarification from Senate staff working on the bill, and it turns out that the enforcement commission’s judgments will only be advisory, and are entirely nonbinding. Congress’ actions will not be dictated by what this commission concludes; neither will actions taken by the Department of Homeland Security. The citizenship process will be triggered by other means (more on this soon).

This is central to the debate. If this commission had the power to dictate when the citizenship process begins, it could endanger the entire enterprise by giving people like Jan Brewer veto power. Second, this enforcement commission is being seen as a major concession Republicans won in exchange for agreeing to grant citizenship to the 11 million.

So what did Republicans get in this deal then?

The concessions Republicans got in this deal — in exchange for agreeing to citizenship for 11 million — include beefed up border security, a new program designed to help employers verify their employees’ status, tougher checks on immigrants overstaying visas, and the need for undocumented immigrants to go to the end of the immigration line.

Meanwhile, President Obama will roll out his own, supposedly “more liberal” immigration reform plan beginning today in a speech in Las Vegas.

The Obama administration has developed its own proposals for immigration reform that are more liberal than a separate bipartisan effort in the Senate, including a quicker path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, people with knowledge of the proposals said.

President Obama is expected to provide some details of the White House plans during a Tuesday appearance in Las Vegas, where he will call for broad changes to the nation’s immigration laws. The speech will kick off a public push by the administration in support of the broadest overhaul of immigration law in nearly three decades.

Obama plans to praise the proposals laid out Monday by an eight-member Senate working group, saying they reflect the core tenets of the administration’s immigration blueprint developed in 2011, a senior administration official said.

But the president’s remarks also are likely to emphasize differences that could foreshadow roadblocks to passage in Congress at a time when both parties say there is momentum for a comprehensive deal.

Naturally, the wingnuts in the House will provide roadblocks galore for whatever plan the Senate approves. Read all about it at Politico.

mitchmconnell turtle

Politico reported yesterday on a possible collaboration between the Tea Party and Democrats in Kentucky to dump Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Big Democratic donors, local liberal activists and a left-leaning super PAC in Kentucky are telling tea partiers that they are poised to throw financial and organizational support behind a right-wing candidate should one try to defeat the powerful GOP leader in a 2014 primary fight.

The idea: Soften up McConnell and make him vulnerable in a general election in Kentucky, where Democrats still maintain a voter registration advantage. Or better yet, in their eyes: Watch Kentucky GOP primary voters nominate the 2014 version of Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, weak candidates who may actually lose.

Interesting… Once again, I’ll believe it when I see it. Still, anything is possible. Plus McConnell is very unpopular in his home state according to the latest poll

With his re-election bid just a year away, those opposed to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell outnumber his supporters 2-1 among Kentucky voters, according to the latest Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll.

In the poll of 609 registered voters, 34 percent said they plan to vote against McConnell — while just 17 percent say they will vote to give him six more years. Forty-four percent said they will wait to see who is running against him before deciding, and 6 percent said they are not sure.

The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. It comes as groups on both McConnell’s right and left seek candidates to challenge him in the primary and general elections in 2014. McConnell, the most powerful Republican in the Senate as minority leader, is seeking his sixth term.

More information is coming out

about the over-the-top prosecution that probably contributed to the suicide of genius cyber-activist Aaron Swartz. Rolling Stone reports:

Swartz’s friends and family have said they believe he was driven to his death by a justice system that hounded him needlessly over an alleged crime with no real victims. “[He was] forced by the government to spend every fiber of his being on this damnable, senseless trial,” his partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said at the memorial, “with no guarantee that he could exonerate himself at the end of it.”

Two zealous federal prosecutors handled Swartz’s case: U.S. district attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant attorney Stephen Heymann. In the days after his death, writers, tech experts, and many of Swartz’s friends have called out Heymann and Ortiz for prosecutorial overreach. A White House petition demanding the removal of Ortiz garnered well over 25,000 signatures, reaching the level which guarantees an eventual response from the Obama administration.

Carmen Ortiz

Carmen Ortiz

Some of Swartz’s advocates believe the prosecution sought excessive punishment to set an example in the age of Wikileaks and Anonymous.

Declan McCullough writes at CNet that when Swartz’s case was being prosecuted by the Middlesex County DA’s office, there was no thought of sending Swartz to prison for what was essential a minor, victimless crime.

State prosecutors who investigated the late Aaron Swartz had planned to let him off with a stern warning, but federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz took over and chose to make an example of the Internet activist, according to a report in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Middlesex County’s district attorney had planned no jail time, “with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner,” the report (alternate link) said. “Tragedy intervened when Ortiz’s office took over the case to send ‘a message.'”

The report is likely to fuel an online campaign against Ortiz, who has been criticized for threatening the 26-year-old with decades in prison for allegedly downloading a large quantity of academic papers. An online petition asking President Obama to remove from office Ortiz — a politically ambitious prosecutor who was talked about as Massachusetts’ next governor as recently as last month.

Ortiz no longer has a political future, and other abuses of power by her office are now coming out. Read more at the link. I posted links to more damning information about Ortiz in a recent post.

The Massachusetts Lawyers’ Weekly post by Harvey Silverglate is behind a paywall, but it has been republished with permission at Media Nation.

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz

Silverglate writes:

The ill-considered prosecution leading to the suicide of computer prodigy Aaron Swartz is the most recent in a long line of abusive prosecutions coming out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, representing a disastrous culture shift. It sadly reflects what’s happened to the federal criminal courts, not only in Massachusetts but across the country….

the palpable injustices flowing regularly out of the federal criminal courts have by and large escaped the critical scrutiny of the lawyers who are in the best position to say something. And judges tend not to recognize what to outsiders are serious flaws, because the system touts itself as the best and fairest in the world.

Since the mid-1980s, a proliferation of vague and overlapping federal criminal statutes has given federal prosecutors the ability to indict, and convict, virtually anyone unfortunate enough to come within their sights. And sentencing guidelines confer yet additional power on prosecutors, who have the discretion to pick and choose from statutes covering the same behavior.

This dangerous state of affairs has resulted in countless miscarriages of justice, many of which aren’t recognized as such until long after unfairly incarcerated defendants have served “boxcar-length” sentences.

Aaron Swartz was a victim of this system run amok. He was indicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a notoriously broad statute enacted by Congress seemingly to criminalize any use of a computer to do something that could be deemed bad.

If you care about this issue, please go read the whole thing. Read Charles Pierce’s take on it here.

There have been some reports that Swartz had contacted Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and could possibly have been working with the organization, but it’s not clear what Swartz could have leaked to them. I can’t imagine Wikileaks being interested in distributing a bunch of academic journal articles that are already available to millions of people from numerous sources. Nevertheless, the Feds are so obsessed with Wikileaks and cyber-security generally that that could have led to their taking over Swartz’s case.

I have a number of other suggested reads that I’ll list  link dump style.

Bloomberg: The Fed Is More Out of It Than You Thought It Was

HuffPo: Treasury Disregarded Own Guidelines, Allowed Executive Raises At Bailed-Out GM, AIG: Report

LA Times: A third of Barnes & Noble stores may close in next decade, report says

Alex Pareene at Salon: 3 reasons to be skeptical that immigration reform will pass /

Irin Carmon at Salon: Is abortion about women?

Time: Barbara Walters Has the Chicken Pox

CBS Crimesider: JonBenet Ramsey Case: Grand jury voted to indict parents in 1999, prosecutor refused to sign

USA Today: Iran says it launched a monkey into space (Video)

NYT: The Preppers Next Door – The Doomsday Preppers of New York

ABC News: Bigfoot: Is Mysterious Screech Sasquatch? (Hey, is Bigfoot really any weirder than the Tea Party Republicans? I don’t think so.)

So….what’s on your reading and blogging list today? I look forward to clicking on your links!

Early Morning Open Thread: Are We Living in Atlas Shrugged?

Sen. Ron Johnson, fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, and some other guy

Sen. Ron Johnson, fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, and some other guy

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s time in the glow of media attention isn’t quite over yet. He’s still making an ass of himself without realizing it. Via Mother Jones, The Republican Senator who was humiliated by Hillary Clinton during last week’s Benghazi hearings gave an interview on January 16 to The Atlas Society, an organization who raison d’etre is the celebration of the odious Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged.

Johnson is such a huge fan of the novel that he and a friend (Tea Party leader and campaign fundraiser Ben Ganther) bought a giant statue of Atlas holding up the world and today it sits outside his friend’s contracting business in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin. Engraved on the statue’s base are the words “Fight to be free.”

atlas johnson

Johnson told interviewer Laurie Rice that he “absolutely” sees “parallels” between the U.S. today and the plot of Atlas Shrugged.

It’s a real concern. As I talk to business owners that maybe started their businesses in the ’70s and ’80s, they tell me Ron, there’s no way– with today’s regulations, today’s levels of taxation– there’s no way I could start my business today. And I’m certainly concerned a lot of the generation of baby boomers that have had successful businesses, they just might shrug. With all the regulations, with the increasing taxes, they may say I’m going to give it up.

According to Johnson, we’re headed for disaster because of the national debt and because of the New Deal programs that have been in effect since the 1930s with no ill effects, but are suddenly going to bring the country down. Does this man know that Ayn Rand took both Social Security and Medicare?

I see two tipping points– the financial tipping point, which really is, talking about the debt crisis, the point where world creditors look at the United States and say I’m not going to loan you any more money, not at that rate. And interest rates start increasing, and then our interest costs explode, crowds out all their spending. That’s the financial tipping point.

The other one I’m talking about is the cultural tipping point, where we really have developed this culture of entitlement dependency that is not what America’s all about. I mean, America– and that’s, of course, what Atlas Shrugged is about– is individuals aspiring to build things. To make their life, and as a result the world, a better place. And when we shift to a culture where people are just saying I’m happy to sit back and let the government provide me with things, that becomes a very dangerous point in time for this country.

Apparently Johnson knows better than Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who isn’t at all worried about rising interest rates or a sudden lack of interest in Treasury bonds. But Johnson’s biggest fear is…wait for it….


I think Americans are a little bit like a bunch of frogs in that pot of water and the water’s being brought up to a boil. And I think we’re losing freedoms across the board. The reason I ran really was in reaction to the passage of the health care law, which I think is really the greatest assault on our freedom in my lifetime.

During the original oral arguments at the Supreme Court, I was the only Senator that attended all four days of those arguments. And prior to attending those, I was being interviewed by somebody and I had this concept that we’re all suffering collectively from the Stockholm Syndrome. That’s where people who have been kidnapped are grateful to their captors when they just show them a little bit of mercy. And collectively, we just don’t understand the freedoms we’re really losing.

So we’re going to the Supreme Court, begging them please, please allow us this one last shred of freedom. Allow us the freedom to decide what product we’re going to purchase or not purchase. And unfortunately for Americans, for our freedoms, we were denied that right.

But Johnson assures us he’ll never give up fighting for our freedom to live without health insurance.

I guess when you take a look at the book Atlas Shrugged, I think most people always like to identify with the main character– that would be John Galt. I guess I identify with Hank Rearden, the fella that just refused until the very end to give up. And I guess I’d like to think of myself more as a Hank Rearden– I’m not going to give up.

America is something far, far too precious in the span of human history. I’ll never give up hope on America. I hope everybody that’s watching this will never give up hope.

Watch the whole interview if you dare!

Via Dave Wiegel, in 2010 when he first ran for office, Johnson discussed his love for Atlas Shrugged with WaPo columnist George Will.

Before what he calls “the jaw-dropping” events of the past 19 months — TARP, the stimulus, Government Motors, the mistreatment of Chrysler’s creditors, Obamacare, etc. — the idea of running for office never crossed Ron Johnson’s mind. He was, however, dry tinder — he calls Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” his “foundational book” — and now is ablaze, in an understated, Upper Midwestern way. This 55-year-old manufacturer of plastic products from Oshkosh, Wis., is what the Tea Party looks like.

As for the novel that helped form his bizarre world view, Johnson told Will,

What Samuel Johnson said of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” — “None ever wished it longer than it is” — some readers have said of “Atlas Shrugged.” Not Johnson, who thinks it is “too short” at 1,088 pages.

Noting that Massachusetts “is requiring insurance companies to write polices at a loss,” he says, “We’re living it,” referring to the novel’s dystopian world in which society’s producers are weighed down by parasitic non-producers.

He probably takes the Bible literally too. Are there any Republicans left who don’t get all their ideas from fiction and folklore?

I’ll be back later with a midmorning reads post. Have a great morning and a fabulous Tuesday!


Okay, I have yet another rant in me. What is it with this week?  I’m going to go check the moon phase calender after this one.  So, as you know we’ve been invaded by Super Bowl Madness.  We’ve also been invaded by Capitalists gone wild.  Take a gander at this.

The Talk defaces public propertyFor those of you that have never been to Jackson Square in the French Quarter. This is the statue of President Andrew Jackson and it commemorates the War of 1812.  That’s the last time we were invaded by England and the last time I checked my US history book, it was considered a big deal.  This is a historic statue in a National Park in a registered Historic District.  That’s a banner for the CBS day time gossip show “The Talk”.   So, what ever happened to the idea of defacing public property?  A bunch of us citizens who like our historic city and like to celebrate its status as a National Historic district twitter-bombed Mayor Mitch Landrieu about this.  And, he answered with this …

Mitch Landrieu@MayorLandrieu

@lunanola This was a light reflection issue. @CBSTweet is working w/ us taking extra care of Jackson Sq. Showcasing #nola better than ever.

Right  … a light reflection issue lets CBS deface a historic statue.

So, ever seen about 3 miles of the world’s most expensive yachts in your back yard?  Here’s the pleasure ship of the CEO of Jaguar (from the UK) lined up on our docks along the Mississippi.  I can’t decide if this is going to impact the value of my property or not given that it’s probably worth more than most of the buildings in my neighborhood all put together.

yachtYes, they’re all lined up with a few Coast Guard boats in between.  It’s sort’ve like bringing your air stream up for a college football tail gate isn’t it?

I can just imagine the number of countries’ GDP that the price of that beauty rivals.

Is there anything in life that doesn’t have a price tag on it those days?

Next up!  Which team gets to bid on putting its uniform on our statue of Joan of Arc?  Any takers?

Mayor Landrieu, for pete’s sake … it’s a historic monument in a historic district!!!  Show a little respect!!! Tell CBS to take the damn thing down!

Please ask “THE TALK” and CBS to stop defacing public property and historic art.



Just When I think I can’t be more shocked …

Ever so often, I run across a story that makes me speechless.  This is one of them.  I’m going to just give you some links and quotes because Ethiopian-Jews-in-Israelfrankly, I just don’t even know if I can verbalize my feelings at the moment.

 Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.

Compare the above story to this one: “Where Families Are Prized, Help Is Free”.

Israel is the world capital of in vitro fertilization and the hospital, which performs about 7,000 of the procedures each year, is one of the busiest fertilization clinics in the world.

Unlike countries where couples can go broke trying to conceive with the assistance of costly medical technology, Israel provides free, unlimited IVF procedures for up to two “take-home babies” until a woman is 45. The policy has made Israelis the highest per capita users of the procedure in the world.

Again, I have no words.  Just links.

Israel has admitted that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth control injections, according to a report in Haaretz. An Israeli investigative journalist also found that a majority of the women given these shots say they were administered without their knowledge or consent.

Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu acknowledged the practice — without directly conceding coercion was involved  – in a letter to Israeli health maintenance organizations, instructing gynecologists in the HMOs “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.”

Depo-Provera is a hormonal form of birth control that is injected every three months.

Gamzu issued the letter in response to a complaint from Sharona Eliahu-Chai of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. Representing several women’s rights and Ethiopian immigrant groups, Eliahu-Chai demanded an immediate end to the injections and that an investigation be launched into the practice.

In addition to Eliahu-Chai, Gal Gabbay, an investigative journalist who had interviewed 35 Ethiopian immigrants, found that while the women were still in transit camps in Ethiopia they were sometimes intimidated or threatened into taking the Depo-Provera shot, often being mislead about why. “They told us they are inoculations,” said one of the women interviewed. “They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.”

Birth rates and demographics in Israel are often political, and Israel has historically focused on promoting Jewish birthrates to retain a Jewish majority, according to a recent New York Times report on fertility and in-vetro fertilization in the country.

But Ethiopian Jews remain a marginalized group, often living in highly segregated communities. Because of this, many women’s and immigrant rights advocates believe that the 50 percent decline over the past 10 years in the birth rate of Israel’s Ethiopian community is the result of the Israeli government’s attempt to limit and restrict Ethiopian women’s fertility through forcible birth control injections.

Hedva Eyal, head of the Women and Technologies Project for Israeli feminist organization Isha L’Isha, had submitted a report six years ago to the Israeli government showing a disproportionate number of birth control shots — 60 percent — were being given to Ethiopian immigrants. She says she was met with silence, until now.

and more links.

Five years after allegations were first levied, and over a month after the issue again attracted mainstream attention through the Israel Educational Television documentary “Vacuum,” the Israeli government has admitted that Ethiopian women were coerced into accepting long-acting birth control shots, likely Depo-Provera. Haaretz writes:

…While the women were still in transit camps in Ethiopia they were sometimes intimidated or threatened into taking the injection. “They told us they are inoculations,” said one of the women interviewed [in “Vacuum”]. “They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.”

The widespread practice is thought to account for the last decade’s near-halving of the Ethiopian birth rate in Israel. That this community would be a target of eugenics is disappointingly unsurprising given recently-voiced anti-Ethiopian and generally anti-African racism. As the Independent recounts, some rabbis have doubted the Jewishness of immigrant Ethiopians—necessary for their entrance under the Law of Return—and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “warned that illegal immigrants from Africa ‘threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state.’”

The medical workers’ insistence that “people who frequently give birth suffer” places these coerced procedures in line with the terrifyingly dense global history of eugenics movements, which tend to target women of color, the poor, and the mentally ill. (The practice continues today in the U.S.; California prisons regularly illegally sterilize women without their consent.) Often framed as strategies to combat the “suffering” of mothers or the environmental costs of population growth, these programs conveniently disregard the input of the supposed victims.

I think this about sums it up.

“The ease with which a woman’s testimony is dismissed — certainly that of a black woman and a poor black woman at that — is shocking,” Eyal told the Los Angeles Times.

Also hoping Israel’s health minister will take further action, Eyal added that the bottom line was that “decisions about women’s health and fertility can and must be made by the women alone.” For that, they must have full and fair access to all relevant information “and that did not seem to have been the case,” she said.


Monday Reads

barkus+2013-9701Good Morning and Happy Carnival Season and Super Bowl Madness!!

My city is hopping with all kinds of things for the next few weeks.  Yesterday, one of my favorite parade krewes rolled!  It’s the Krewe Of Barkus!!  Honey, Karma, and I used to do this all the time when we lived in the Quarter and they were alive. It’s a dog krewe and a fundraiser and adopt-a-krewe member event that raises funds for our NOSPCA.  It’s a great time.  Honey and Karma loved it because the parade attendees throw dog biscuits.  They used to think the streets of the French Quarter were lined with treats for weeks after the parade!!!  Kids and Dogs are just about the happiest I ever see them when this parade rolls!  Be sure too check out Channel 4’s photo gallery because it’s 100 photos of cuteness!!!

Meanwhile, the 49ers have landed and sportscasters from all over are begging we host the game every year.  I’m not sure we could handle that but it’s interesting for awhile.  We’ve been told to be nice to Roger Goodell despite the hooplah over the bounty fines and penalties.  Most Saints fans feel the team was unfairly singled out for punishment since it’s been a practice in other places too.  You can’t go very many places where fans go where there’s not a sign that says that a place won’t serve Goodell; and many of the krewes that have already had to roll due to the interruption have had floats that have also laid into him.

Political analysts James Carville and Mary Matalin have spent many years arguing their individual philosophies (in summary: He’s on the left, and she’s not) even as they’ve enjoyed a surprisingly happy marriage for most of the last two decades. One thing that brings them together right now is their work with the Super Bowl host committee in New Orleans, which they co-chair. It’s an especially meaningful honor for Carville, who was born and bred in Louisiana, and is a rabid football fan.

Carville and most other Louisiana natives seem to firmly believe that having the Super Bowl back in New Orleans is a great measuring stick for the ways in which the city has not only moved on, but rebuilt and improved, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the landscape in 2005. Getting the game back here, and for the 10th time overall, was a big part of that.

“My hope is it can help bring some real closure here, and that the city can show what it can do,” Carville said in a recent host committee conference call. “But you just don’t know that feeling until you’re through with it. All of us on the committee are trying not to focus on that. We’re trying to focus on the mission at hand. Sometimes I wake up at night and say if this thing goes well this can really help people put a lot of things behind ‘em. Yes, that thought has crossed my mind. But I can’t allow myself to think like that. We’re a little bit like these teams. You can’t think what it’s like to win, you just gotta prepare. That’s been the attitude here.”

Paul Krugman says the Republicans have a new “welfare” queen” stereotype to flog.  This time it’s “disabled deadbeats”.  Once again, they can’t seem to do the math to figure out the aging of the baby boom generation is going to cause the numbers to go up in absolute, but not relative terms.

So yes, there has been some liberalization of the criteria — if you have multiple interacting conditions or mental illness, you may qualify in ways you didn’t before — but that liberalization is pretty reasonable. It’s still quite hard to qualify for DI.

What strikes me, however, isn’t just the way the right is trying to turn a reasonable development into some kind of outrage; it’s the political tone-deafness.

I mean, when Reagan ranted about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, he was inventing a fake problem — but his rant resonated with angry white voters, who understood perfectly well who Reagan was targeting. But Americans on disability as moochers? That isn’t, as far as I can tell, an especially nonwhite group — and it’s a group that is surely as likely to elicit sympathy as disdain. There’s just no way it can serve the kind of political purpose the old welfare-kicking rhetoric used to perform.

The same goes, more broadly, for the whole nation of takers thing. First of all, a lot of the “taking” involves Social Security and Medicare. And even the growth in means-tested programs is largely accounted for by the Earned Income Tax Credit — which requires and rewards work — and the expansion of Medicaid/CHIP to cover more children. Again, not the greatest of political targets.

The point, I think, is that right-wing intellectuals and politicians live in a bubble in which denunciations of those bums on disability and those greedy children getting free health care are greeted with shouts of approval — but now have to deal with a country where the same remarks come across as greedy and heartless (because they are).

I made the mistake of watching bits and pieces of MTP yesterday where both Paul Ryan and Jim Demint –aided and abetted by Dancing Dave–tried to convince every one that we have a fiscal crisis.  That is so not true.  As we know here, it’s code for drown the Federal Government in Grover Norquist’s bathtub while starving granny and offing Big Bird.

The other drone war is in Washington. The drones are in groups with names like the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Campaign to Fix the Debt. They drone on, and on, about the calamities that await unless we cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

That the goal of the deficit drones is to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid has been plain for years to anyone who looks at where the money comes from. It comes largely from Peter G. Peterson, a billionaire former secretary of Commerce under Nixon, who is Captain Ahab to Social Security’s Moby Dick. And when one trick, such as privatization, falls flat, his minions always have another, whether it’s raising the retirement age or changing the COLA. But a cut by any other name is still, and always, just a cut.

Peterson’s influence is vast; practically the entire DC mind-meld has bought his line to some degree.

The other day I was on CNBC, supposedly to discuss the debt ceiling, but the topic was Social Security all the way. My host, Andrew Ross Sorkin, was very blunt: “If now isn’t the time to cut entitlements,” he asked, “when would be?” My answer – in a word, never – is not one he seemed to have thought possible before.

Yet there is no good reason to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. These are insurance programs. They keep the elderly, their survivors and dependents, and the disabled, out of dire poverty. We can afford this. There is also no financing problem; if there were, investors would not be buying 20-year US bonds at 3 percent. These days when some economists say that cuts are needed, they say it’s only for show – to establish “credibility.” Old-timers may remember, that’s what DC insiders once said about the war in Vietnam.

Jim DeMint’s performance on the MTP panel was so abysmal that the camera actually caught Andrea Mitchell shaking her head no in disgust at something he said and furrowing her brow.  The worst part was his response to how the Republican Party Race baits to get to the Dixiecrats.  When asked if the Republicans were going to quit campaigning to the lowest common denominator, Demint went off on abortion for a good 3 minutes.  He totally avoided the question which I suppose is part of their new messaging strategy.  Yes the answer to republican racism is a rant on aborted fetuses.

Pressing DeMint, Gregory asked if he regretted “some of the comments about abortion in this last cycle, about rape, about, again, what Colin Powell thought were veiled racist comments from the party?”

The former South Carolina senator ignored the reference to “racist comments,” instead responding with a rant about fetal personhood.

“The fact that we are losing over 3,000 unborn children a day is an important issue,” DeMint opined. “But Republicans or conservatives should not engage in a wish list about exceptions for abortion when the other side will not even agree that we have real people, real human beings. And we need to fight the battle where it should be fought. Life is important. We know from all the new technology and improved sonograms that we do have a baby.”

“Instead of just offering my opinion on some hypothetical debate about exceptions for abortions, we need to move it back and particularly work with the states that are fighting just for the personhood of the child. And if we can start there, I think America will move with us.”

“Little different than the question about rhetoric and how it reaches voters,” Gregory noted as he moved on to the next topic.

You can see the performance at Raw Story.   Talk about your “offensive and bizarre comments” after Demint went crazy-go-nuts after Dancing Dave played the Jindal  “Party of Stupid” lecture.  You can watch Andrea shake her head at about 1:48 as he take after Detroit and LA for being devastated as the result of Liberal agendas. The fetus rant is shortly after that.   It’s jaw dropping.  Also, Demint seems to think that Louisiana is a success story.  I just don’t even know what to say to that.

Economist and head of the IMF Christine LaGarde said women were diminished at Davos as women outdoors protested the treatment of women by taking off their shirts.

Thirty-nine years after the forum’s annual meetings began in Davos, Switzerland, female participation hasn’t topped 20 percent of delegates. And that’s for the entire conference: Excluding moderators, there were only men among the bankers and policy makers discussing “Global Financial Context,” for instance, and executives and lawmakers on the “Global Energy Context” were also all male.

“The debate is still dominated by males frustrated by the crisis created by male-oriented industries,” said Kim Sung Joo, a businesswoman who co-chaired the election campaign last year for South Korea’s first female president. “The forum is reflective of the industries that used to lead. It’s not broad enough.”

Kim, whose Sungjoo Group owns German fashion brand MCM, joins delegates who point to an array of mechanisms the forum, Activist from the women's rights organisation Femenlike the business and political world, could adopt to be more inclusive. The shift from a manufacturing to a knowledge, Internet-based economy is one element the forum is overlooking, and cheaper access might lure a wider spectrum of delegates including younger leaders, Kim said.

Davos reflects a global community in which women are still struggling to become leaders.

Women represent just 17 percent of independent directors at companies in the U.S. Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) stock index, barely above the 16 percent level of 2007, executive recruiter Spencer Stuart said in a November report. In the European Union, women with board positions climbed to 15.8 percent in October, according to European Commission figures.

The Feminist Protestors were from the Ukraine.  You can watch a video report from the UK Guardian at this link.

Topless protesters from the activist group Femen clashing with police at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Ukrainian protest group painted their chests with ‘SOS Davos’, calling attention to poverty of women around the world and what they perceive as sexism and male domination of the world economy

Well, I think that’s it for me today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?