Friday Reads: FYIPosted: September 16, 2016
So, I promised I’d try to avoid politics today even though that’s very difficult given our proximity to the elections and the fact that one of the candidates is uniquely unfit for office. I’m trying to avoid it as much as possible but it just seems that I can only do it for so long. So, let’s start out with some other news and then, I have to go there because like most sane Americans, I know my President was born in Hawaii, earned his way into top Ivy League Schools, and practices a form of agnostic,secular Christianity like a good portion of the country and who cares about that sort of thing any way? We sorta kinda heard that from the nation’s most visible conspiracy theorist and white nationalist today. But let me save that for last!
Yesterday, a long list was released of the candidates for The National Book Awards. It’s a rare occasion when I get to read things not associated with research but I always look forward to this list and picking up a few choice bits of fiction to welcome the change of weather.
The National Book Foundation announced Thursday its longlist of 10 titles in the running for the National Book Award for fiction, which celebrates the best in American literature over the past year.
Garth Greenwell (What Belongs to You) is the sole debut novelist in this year’s longlist, released in The New Yorker. There are veteran writers in the form of Chris Bachelder for The Throwback Special, his fourth book; Paulette Jiles for News of the World, Karan Mahajan for The Association of Small Bombs, Elizabeth McKenzie forThe Portable Veblen, and Lydia Millet for the Sweet Lamb of Heaven.
Previous finalists also made the list, including Adam Haslett, (also previously nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) for Imagine Me Gone, Brad Watson, for his second novel, Miss Jane, and Jacqueline Woodson, who previously won in the Young People’s Literature category for her 2014 memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, this time longlisted for her novel Another Brooklyn. Colson Whitehead is nominated for the critically acclaimed The Underground Railroad, which follows a slave’s adventures in the antebellum South.
The fiction longlist follows a week full of announcements, with the National Book Foundation unveiling the contenders for the Young People’s Literature, Poetry, and Nonfiction categories. The 40 books in the running this year span a diverse range of genres, writers, and experiences.
So, I guess I will add a little bit on politics in here but not any race horse coverage. I’m not sure if you heard, but Wisconsin’s Governor Scot Walker is under investigation for campaign finance irregularities. One of the fascinating things about the links is that they uncover a web of deceit and dark money. Will this investigation lead to a case before the Supreme Court and trouble for one of the Koch Puppets? The documents show the influence of right wing mega donors in the Republican Party.
Rarely do members of the public get to see behind the closed doors of political nonprofits, which may receive unlimited amounts of money from mega-donors without disclosing anything about their operations. But a trove of leaked documents from an investigation into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s 2012 recall election campaign has offered an unprecedented look at how politicians operate in a post-Citizens United world that features record levels of undisclosed political money.
The documents, leaked to The Guardian newspaper, detail the allegedly illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign and an outside group.
Walker, in a scramble to win a bitterly contested election, asked a slew of right-wing billionaires in 2011 and 2012 to pour money into the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a dark money group working closely with a top aide to the governor. After Walker won, a special prosecutor opened an investigation into the campaign’s alleged coordination with the group. The leaked documents come from that controversial investigation, which Walker and his allies had dismissed as a partisan witch-hunt.
In 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court even shut down the investigation, ruling that the Walker campaign did not violate the law because coordination between candidates and outside groups is only prohibited for so-called express advocacy—direct calls to vote for or against a specific candidate. The Walker campaign only coordinated with Wisconsin Club for Growth on issue advocacy ads, which don’t expressly tell voters how to vote, the court ruled, and the activity was therefore legal. The decision infuriated government watchdogs, especially since two conservative justices refused to recuse themselves despite having received outside support from the Wisconsin Club for Growth during their own previous judicial elections.
Not only has the Walker scandal roared back into the spotlight, it may be headed for the Supreme Court. In April, the special prosecutor in the case called on the high court to overturn the state Supreme Court’s decision to end the investigation, arguing that coordination on issue advocacy is, in fact, illegal, and that the plaintiffs didn’t receive a fair trial because the two justices failed to recuse themselves. The Supreme Court is expected to announce later this month whether it will hear the case.
The documents revealed by The Guardian provide a detailed look at how Walker and his aides used Wisconsin Club for Growth to circumvent traditional campaign contribution limits, and get around a state ban on political donations from corporations.
In one leaked email, Walker casually mentions that he got John Menard, CEO of the home improvement chain Menard’s, to contribute $1 million directly from his corporation to the Wisconsin dark money group. A $10,000 check to the group from a wealthy financier had the words “Because Scott Walker asked” written on the memo line.
A report on Madison.com shows other mega donors solicited by Walker that then sent contributions to The Club for Growth. These contributions would not have to be exposed and are not subject to the usual restrictions. I’d really love to see all these folks taken down and sent to jail.
Another previously undisclosed check to Wisconsin Club for Growth for $10,000 from finance executive Frederick Kasten Jr. includes a memo line that reads: “Because Scott Walker asked.”
The documents show Walker also solicited donations from several wealthy individuals, many of whom or their companies made contributions to the Club, not Walker’s campaign. Contributions from Wisconsin donors and companies included $25,000 from Brookfield-based Hammes Co., $25,000 from Green Bay-based Schneider Enterprise Resources; and $100,000 from Ted Kellner, CEO of Milwaukee-based Fiduciary Management.
Among others from whom Walker sought money, the records show, were business magnate T. Boone Pickens and Lowry Mays, then-chairman of Clear Channel Communications.
In an August 2011 email, after the first wave of Senate recalls, Walker asked “did I send out thank you notes to all our (c)4 donors?”
The s0-called “John Doe investigation” has been going on since August, 20102 and no charges have been filed yet.
Gov. Robert Bentley issued an executive order Thursday declaring a state of emergency in Alabama over concerns about fuel shortages in the wake of a gasoline pipeline spill that released about 250,000 gallons of gasoline south of Birmingham and shut down a major pipeline connecting refineries in Houston with the rest of the country.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued a similar executive order for his state on Tuesday.
The pipeline operator, Colonial Pipeline, released the following information Thursday afternoon:
“Based on current projections and consultations with industry partners, parts of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina will be the first markets to be impacted by any potential disruption in supply.”
“Colonial has briefed officials in these states and will continue to provide timely information to the public so that they can plan accordingly.”
The executive orders will allow fuel delivery truck drivers in each state to work longer shifts and exceed maximum hour limits established by the U.S. Department of Transportation in order to prevent gasoline outages.
The orders apply only to trucks that are transporting fuel to areas served by the pipeline.
In addition, some suppliers have begun shipping refined gasoline by water to New York from Houston while the pipeline is shut down.
The pipeline has been shut down since Friday and normally transports 1.3 million barrels per day of refined gasoline and other petroleum products from refineries in Houston to the south and eastern seaboard. The pipeline terminates at New York Harbor.
Nothing wrong with using massive amounts of toxic sludge, oh no! Oh, and did you hear that California is likely in a permanent state of drought?
A grim new study led by a UCLA geography professor revealed that the current 5-year drought in California could last indefinitely, with the resulting arid conditions becoming “the new normal” for the state.
The study, which looked at prolonged periods of dryness in California over the past 10,000 years, was published Thursday in the Nature.com journal Scientific Reports.
It noted that the state’s drought in the 21st century has been the most intense ever recorded, with drier than normal conditions in 10 of the past 14 years; the last three years have also been the hottest and driest in about 120 years.
The study investigated how natural climatic forces such as sun spots, a slightly different earth orbit and decreased volcanic activity intermittently warmed the region through radiative forcing, contributing to historic periods of dryness that lasted for hundreds and even thousands of years. It also looked at the presence and impact of greenhouse gases, another more recent warming force.
A grim new study led by a UCLA geography professor revealed that the current 5-year drought in California could last indefinitely, with the resulting arid conditions becoming “the new normal” for the state.
Maybe they can find other uses for golf courses, avocado and almond farms, and swimming pools in the state.
The NYT editorial board is horrifyed by Missouri’s recent move to pull down any form of gun safety laws. Here’s a few reasons I won’t be driving through Missouri any time soon.
In an alarming victory for the gun lobby, Missouri’s Republican-controlled Legislature voted Wednesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto and enact a wholesale retreat from gun safety in the state.
The law will let citizens carry concealed weapons in public without a state gun permit, criminal background check or firearms training. It strips local law enforcement of its current authority to deny firearms to those guilty of domestic violence and to other high-risk individuals. And it establishes a dangerous “stand your ground” standard that will allow gun owners to shoot and claim self-defense based on their own sense of feeling threatened.
The measure has drawn no great national attention, but it certainly provides further evidence that gun safety cannot be left to state lawmakers beholden to the gun lobby. Democrats opposed to the Missouri bill called it a “perfect storm” of lowered standards for the use of deadly force and an invitation for people to be armed without responsible controls. The measure was enacted by the Republicans, despite strong public opposition and warnings about the threat to public safety from the state Police Chiefs Association. Everytown for Gun Safety, one of the groups fighting the gun lobby, noted that stand-your-ground laws result in disproportionate harm to communities of color.
Mr. Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the measure in June, saying it would allow individuals with a criminal record to legally carry a concealed firearm even though they had been, or would have been, denied a permit under the old law’s background check. Mayors Sly James of Kansas City and Francis Slay of St. Louis warned against restricting the power of the local police to deny guns to those who commit domestic violence. They cited sharp spikes in domestic violence homicides in their cities, and they noted that the police would be left at greater risk by this bill.
Republican legislative leaders, who cut short debate on the override vote on the last day of the session, were ebullient in overriding a variety of the governor’s vetoes beyond the gun measure, including one that will force voters to show a government photo ID.
The Justice Department is preparing to launch a renewed strategy to address the unrelenting scourge of heroin and opioid addiction, in part by placing greater emphasis on identifying links between over-prescribing doctors and distribution networks across the country.
The plan, outlined by Attorney General Loretta Lynch in an interview with USA TODAY, is part of an eleventh-hour push by the Obama administration against a public health crisis that continues to claim nearly 100 people each day in the United States.
In a memo that is expected to be circulated next week to all 94 U.S. attorney offices, Lynch said prosecutors are being urged to more readily share information across state lines about prescription drug abuses by physicians that could identify traffickers and far-flung trafficking routes more quickly.
At the same time, Lynch said federal prosecutors will be directed to coordinate their enforcement efforts with public health authorities in their districts as part of an overall strategy that puts equal emphasis on prevention and treatment.
“I’m not calling anybody out, because I think the people who look at this problem realize quickly how devastating it has been to families, to communities, to public health dollars, to law enforcement resources,” the attorney general said. “There is no one magic bullet for this.”
While opioid and heroin addiction have earned the distinction as the single greatest drug threat in the U.S., largely due to a casualty rate that has nearly quadrupled since 1999, the federal government’s effort to counter it — or even slow it — has been spotty.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration requested nearly $1.1 billion as part of a plan to pay for drug treatment, invoking a common refrain that drug overdoses — driven increasingly by heroin and other opioids, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone — are responsible for more deaths than car crashes. Yet after Congress approved landmark legislation in July for expanded drug addiction treatment and prevention, it did not include the $181 million to actually fund the measure.
Meanwhile, the deadly drug epidemic, which shadowed the early presidential primaries in addiction-plagued New Hampshire and Ohio, has largely receded from the public discussion during the general election.
“I have never seen anything like this,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said during an appearance earlier this year before the Senate Judiciary Committee with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to outline the human wreckage that addiction has left behind in their tiny state. “This is about real people dying.”
Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy, said Thursday that a key part of the administration’s renewed effort against heroin and opioid abuse will be to push Congress in the remaining days of the administration to provide the funding for both the legislation it approved earlier this year and the $1.1 billion in grants sought by the White House, which is staging a series of public events next week to call attention to the problem.
“The biggest area where we have fallen short is filling the gap between people who need treatment and those able to get it,” Botticelli said, adding that it remains a challenge to “keep people alive so that they can get into treatment.”
“We need more treatment capacity. We cannot wait to save people. This requires a response commensurate with the size of the epidemic,” the director said.
Okay, on to that one last bit of news and because it’s fresh off the TV and the buzz of the day,. Donald Trump kind’ve sort’ve walked backed his birth nonsense. But first, let’s notice he advertised his hotel and will likely be sending campaign money to his hotel to do so.
It’s already remarkable — in a bad way — that a nominee for president of the United States has to make a major speech to disavow the racist, baseless conspiracy theory he started about the president’s birth certificate.
But it’s even stranger that Donald Trump has managed to turn it into an advertisement for his new hotel in Washington, DC:
I am now going to the brand new Trump International, Hotel D.C. for a major statement. (via Twitter)
“Nice hotel,” he opened his remarks, which were part of a ceremony honoring
Medal of Honor winners. He went on to call it one of the best hotels, maybe, in the world.
Most presidential candidates — well, most presidential candidates wouldn’t need to make this speech in the first place. But if they did, they’d find some kind of neutral ground to do it, somewhere like the National Press Club.
Of course, Trump does own the hotel, so there’s nothing wrong with him having an event there instead of somewhere else. But using the speech, and the Medal of Honor winner’s he honoring, to actively promote his own business and brag about how great it is is part of a long history of Trump using his campaign and his foundation to personally enrich himself. (Ivanka Trump, who’s using his policy platform to promote her own brand, is following in her father’s footsteps.)
Donald Trump on Friday stated that he no longer believes President Barack Obama was born outside the United States, breaking away from a conspiracy theory that helped fuel his political rise.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again,” Trump said at his new Washington hotel, flanked by Medal of Honor recipients, in an appearance that often seemed like a plug for his property and an extended endorsement of Trump by veterans.
He also blamed Hillary Clinton for raising questions about Obama’s citizenship during the 2008 campaign, despite no evidence that she did so.
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it,” he said on Friday morning, referencing his public pressure campaign in 2011 that resulted in Obama releasing his long-form birth certificate showing he was born in Hawaii.
The reversal came after his aides and allies had publicly pressured him to disavow the theories, which had furthered the racist and xenophobic undertones of his presidential campaign. But Trump had continued to play coy, often saying in interviews that the issue didn’t matter anymore, even as he refused to state outright that he no longer believed Obama could have been born in Kenya.
Many of Clinton’s allies reacted to Trump’s statement with disgust.
“Trump doubled down on lie-filled statement from his campaign last night & took no responsibility for his bigoted attacks on our President,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted.
My guess is that he did this under duress. I frankly agree with TPM: STONE COLD LIAR. This is from Josh Marshall.
As I said earlier, birtherism is not about a factual error. It’s conscious and deliberate racist agitation. Indeed, it was birtherism which built Trump’s political profile and his base among white supremacists which enabled him to mount his successful primary campaign. His political career was built birtherism and racism. He’s never apologized. Indeed, he’s said he deserves praise for it. So he’s doubled down on more lies, apologized for nothing, and says he deserves credit for what he did. Think about that.
Meanwhile, he’s trying to defend his son who seems to have anti-Semitic tendencies like his father also. Who the freak keeps holocaust imagery at the front of his brain for off the cuff statements? Wonkette gets to explain it here.
Anyway, this is obviously LOL, because offhand Holocaust references are one of the best ways to show casual onlookers that your funny bone is in good, working order, at least in the dank, nasty, racist, white supremacist, neo-Nazi parts of the internet. Hey remember a few days ago when Trump Junior shared that really disgusting white supremacist meme? Good times.
But anyway, this is all a false alarm, because the Trump campaign says Baby Trumpers was clearly just talking about a capital punishment gas chamber, which is definitely, totally the most common and up-to-date way people are executed in the United States. Gosh almighty, it’s been used in the United States TEN WHOLE TIMES since 1976, so it’s definitely more seared into the public consciousness than the electric chair or lethal injection, when people think “capital punishment.” (This whole paragraph contains many Big Sarcasms, if you did not know!)
The Holocaust, on the other hand … gas chambers are kinda what comes to mind.
You can call me shocked. I figured he’d have grabbed for something like “lynching”. That would have another level of appeal to their fan boys from Storm Front and the American Nazi Party.
Meanwhile, I’m going back to the good book sitting on my nightstand. I can’t take much more of this Trump nightmare. The horrifying Economics “policy” speech yesterday did me in. It was like a flash back to the worst part of the 80s.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?