Thursday Reads: Wingers!!! Leave those Kids Alone!!!

3c6e465545c26487a559cb0f0eefa34bGood Morning!

Well, the papers these days are just full of violence and idiocy due to religious extremists. I’m not going to focus on the nutjobs on the other side of the word.  I prefer to focus on those trying to see that our children get very bad educations.   Texas Religious Whackos are at it again!  They’ve decided that American History needs to be rewritten to their specification and are once again trying to put out textbooks that have very little basis in reality and overplay the role of religion in the formation of the country.  

They are also on a full scale attack against AP History and its associated testing.  They believe that history classes and history books should be more friendly to their fairy tales rather than reality.  Scholars find the books “inaccurate, biased, and political”.  But then scholars had nothing to do with the writing or choice of textbooks.  It seems theologians of a specific sort played a much bigger role.  They also refuse to recognize that the idea of a “free market” economy is about as nonsensical as a Marxist Utopia. But, when you are gullible enough to embrace a literal view of an ancient world mythology as truth, you’re likely to buy just about any lunatic idea some one throws at you.

There’s a new fuss about proposed social studies textbooks for Texas public schools that are based on what are called the Texas Essential  Knowledge  and  Skills.  Scholarly reviews of 43 proposed history, geography and government textbooks for Grades 6-12 — undertaken by the Education Fund of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog and activist group that monitors far-right issues and organizations — found extensive problems in American Government textbooks, U.S. and World History textbooks,Religion in World History textbooks, and Religion in World Geography textbooks.  The state board will vote on which books to approve in November.

Ideas promoted in various proposed textbooks include the notion that Moses and Solomon inspired American democracy, that in the era of segregation only “sometimes” were schools for black children “lower in quality” and that Jews view Jesus Christ as an important prophet.

Some of the distortions are just outrageous.35705051c988b021358ff5ca61e185be

Two government textbooks include misleading information that undermines the Constitutional concept of the separation of church and state.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government

The text states: “Thomas Jefferson once referred to the establishment clause as a ‘wall of separation between church and state.’ That phrase is not used in the Constitution, however.’”

What’s Wrong?

The statement is factually correct, but it could give students the inaccurate impression that Jefferson’s view was personal and lacked significant connection to the First Amendment. The text neglects to mention, for instance, the significant support for the separationist position shared by both Jefferson and James Madison, the Founder with the greatest influence on the drafting of the First Amendment’s religion clauses. The text also neglects to mention reference to Jefferson’s “wall” metaphor in important Supreme Court establishment clause cases, such as Justice Hugo Black’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education, the first Supreme Court case to apply the establishment clause to the states and local government.

Perfection Learning – Basic Principles of American Government

This product does not mention Thomas Jefferson’s use of the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” at all. The text also includes an unbalanced discussion of the background to the Supreme Court’s seminal ruling against school prayer in Engel v. Vitale. The discussion has four paragraphs that are devoted primarily to examining the logic of the rulings of lower, state courts in favor of school prayer. These paragraphs mention that a state court decision notes that “neither the Constitution nor its writers discussed the use of prayer in public schools” and that the judges in these cases “noted that the prayer did not fall into the same category as Bible readings or religious instruction in public schools.”

What’s Wrong?

The four-paragraph discussion of lower courts’ logic in favor of school prayer is followed by only a single paragraph about the Supreme Court’s majority opinion striking down school prayer, which contains little discussion of the logic of that opinion.

Several world history and world geography textbooks include biased statements that inappropriately portray Islam and Muslims negatively.

Social Studies School Service – Active Classroom: World History

The text states: “Much of the violence you read or hear about in the Middle East is related to a jihad.”

What’s Wrong?

This broad charge effectively blames Islam for a very complex cycle of violence and counter-violence, a cycle driven by a host of factors (e.g., natural resources, population pressures) besides radical Islam.

WorldView Software – World History B: Mid-1800s to the Present

The text states: “The spread of international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism which opposes Western political and cultural influences and Western ideology.”

Also, at various points in this product, parts of the Middle East and North Africa are referred to as being “occupied” by “the Muslims” or “in Muslim hands.” The text also adopts the revisionist trope that Islam synthesized, stored, and annotated Classical Greek and Roman learning but did not do much to add to it.

What’s Wrong?

The statement about international terrorism is inaccurate and misleading. Not all international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism; for example, ETA in Spain and the Irish Republican Army are unrelated to Islamic fundamentalism. Further, the use of loaded terms like “occupied” makes little sense when discussing the Middle Ages, when the population of those regions were by and large Muslim themselves. While there is a lengthy section on Islamic scholarship in this product, in nearly every instance the “original” scientist whose work inspired the scientist described is identified, which serves to minimize the contribution of Islamic scholarship.

Evidently they don’t consider the Salem Witchhunts or the Spanish Inquisition or for that matter the Crusades which kicked off with killing Jewish folks in the Middle East.  I guess some religious violence is holier than others.  That also 1f04bbbf61c69f6be549c8da9dd84599doesn’t count the number of times Hitler’s speeches refered to NAZIs as being part of a Christianity identity that was eliminating–among other things–atheists.

“There is far more violence in the Bible than in the Qur’an; the idea that Islam imposed itself by the sword is a Western fiction, fabricated during the time of the Crusades when, in fact, it was Western Christians who were fighting brutal holy wars against Islam.”[1] So announces former nun and self-professed “freelance monotheist,” Karen Armstrong. This quote sums up the single most influential argument currently serving to deflect the accusation that Islam is inherently violent and intolerant: All monotheistic religions, proponents of such an argument say, and not just Islam, have their fair share of violent and intolerant scriptures, as well as bloody histories. Thus, whenever Islam’s sacred scriptures—the Qur’an first, followed by the reports on the words and deeds of Muhammad (the Hadith)—are highlighted as demonstrative of the religion’s innate bellicosity, the immediate rejoinder is that other scriptures, specifically those of Judeo-Christianity, are as riddled with violent passages.More often than not, this argument puts an end to any discussion regarding whether violence and intolerance are unique to Islam. Instead, the default answer becomes that it is not Islam per se but rather Muslim grievance and frustration—ever exacerbated by economic, political, and social factors—that lead to violence. That this view comports perfectly with the secular West’s “materialistic” epistemology makes it all the more unquestioned.

Therefore, before condemning the Qur’an and the historical words and deeds of Islam’s prophet Muhammad for inciting violence and intolerance, Jews are counseled to consider the historical atrocities committed by their Hebrew forefathers as recorded in their own scriptures; Christians are advised to consider the brutal cycle of violence their forbears have committed in the name of their faith against both non-Christians and fellow Christians. In other words, Jews and Christians are reminded that those who live in glass houses should not be hurling stones.

All three of these religions are responsible for violence and have roots in the same violent prescriptions like “an eye for an eye”.   Far right whacko, possible Republican Presidential candidate and Fox Contributor Ben Carson believes that the current AP History curriculum will cause students to join ISIS.

Fox News contributor thinks that a new framework for Advanced Placement U.S. History courses will cause students “to go sign up for ISIS.”

When speaking at the Center for Security Policy’s National Security Action Summit this week, Ben Carson, an author and retired neurosurgeon who provides commentary on Fox News, implied that the College Board’s new course framework has an anti-American bias. Over the past few months, conservatives have rallied against the course’s new framework, saying it shines an overly harsh light on American history and leaves out information about important historical figures. In August, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution calling for a push against the course, claiming it “deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events.”

Carson, who has said he will likely run for president in 2016, apparently agrees with the RNC resolution.

“There’s only two paragraphs in there about George Washington … little or nothing about Martin Luther King, a whole section on slavery and how evil we are, a whole section on Japanese internment camps and how we slaughtered millions of Japanese with our bombs,” Carson said at the event.

He continued, “I think most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS … We have got to stop this silliness crucifying ourselves.”

In recent weeks, controversy surrounding the course has gained increased national attention, as hundreds of students from the Jefferson County School District in Colorado have staged ongoing protests after a conservative school board memberproposed forming committees to review the course and make sure it properly promotes patriotism. Teachers in the district have also participated in numerous “sick-outs,” where large groups called in sick to protest the proposal.

673d47eed79fa897acb1142c225d05a4We continue to see right wing religious whackos attack science, history, and facts in an attempt to drag the country into their reality. Afterall, an ignorant population benefits their personal crusades against modernity. Part of their hysteria appears to be grounded in the fear they could be losing their grip on the Republican Party.  I doubt that but they don’t seem to like that many Republican leaders are trying to re-message their completely out of the mainstream views on the rights of GLBT, women, and things like birth control and social safety nets.

At this year’s Values Voters Summit, held this past weekend, religious right leaders were showing fear of being left behind. “There was a palpable fear throughout the conference that the Republican Party is moving away from the Religious Right,”writes Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch. At one panel, social conservatives tried gallantly to argue that opposition to abortion and gay rights is actually somehow libertarian, because supporters of those rights are “using the government to impose this new, strange sexual orthodoxy.” And at one point,Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage defensively said, “It’s not our fault” that Republicans keep losing.

The Family Research Council—the religious right group that hosts the Values Voters Summit, along with Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage—released a letter right before the conference announcing its plans to “mount a concerted effort to urge voters to refuse to cast ballots” for Republican House candidates Richard Tisei of Massachusetts and Carl DeMaio of California, as well as Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby of Oregon. The two men are gay andWehby is pro-choice.

At one panel, titled, “How Conservatives Can Win With Millennials and Women,” Kristan Hawkins, Kathryn Jean Lopez, and Catherine Helsley Rodriguez tried to convince Republicans to stay on the anti-contraception message in order to reel in the votes. Nathalie Baptiste of the American Prospect described the scene:

Though birth control is popular among, well, everyone, panel members seemed indignant that anyone in the GOP would support over-the-counter birth control, as several Republican senatorial candidates have done. According to Hawkins, birth control is carcinogenic and so the people providing these “dangerous chemicals” to women are waging the real War on Women.

According to Emily Crockett at RH Reality Check, Hawkins also compared contraception “to asbestos and cigarettes.”

It really is time the entire Republican Party shut down this kind of disinformation.  The entire gambit of reactionary social issues from abortion to being against climate change or the civil rights of GLBTS is basically rooted in falsehoods.  It’s3b47cc8763699e24ebce3558b547dfaf amazing one of our two political parties continues to let these kooks air their disturbing lies. Indeed,  potential Republican candidates seem to line up to deny their educations and spew outright lies about science, psychology, history, and any other topic that these religious extremists find unpalatable.  Stephen Colbert took a huge swing at Governor Bobby Jindal who seems to have forgotten everything Brown University taught him in its honors Biology program.

Comedian Stephen Colbert took aim at Gov.Bobby Jindal on Tuesday night during a segment of “The Colbert Report.”

Colbert suggested Jindal, who has an honors degree in Biology from Brown University, is running from his academic record to cater to voters, specifically religious voters that don’t believe in the theory of evolution.

“Jindal is off to an impressive retreat from knowledge, but there’s a lot more science he could run away from. For example, he should insist thunder is just God bowling,” Colbert said.

Colbert also mocked Jindal’s apparent presidential aspirations, citing a 4th place finish in last weekend’s Values Voter Summit straw poll and getting just 3 percent of the vote in a recent CNN poll. That 3 percent fell below “No one,” which got 4 percent.

“I say he can use it to his advantage. Jindal 2016: No one is more popular,” Colbert said while flashing a fake campaign sign.

Colbert picked apart the Values Voter Summit, particularly Jindal, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. He joked about Palin referencing the White House being at “1400 Pennsylvania Avenue,” which is actually a plaza for the Willard Hotel.

Palin referenced the mistake in her recent visit to Louisiana where she campaign for Senate candidate Rob Maness. She joked that Sen. Mary Landrieu actually lived at that address, a reference to a residency controversy stirred by Maness and other Republicans.

On Wednesday morning, Jindal shot back at Colbert on Twitter with this series of four tweets, sent between 10:28 a.m. and 10:37 a.m., mostly focused on Colbert’s evolution comments.

0a7efda04b1a04931847d38d13644146Yes, that last statement basically says my governor spent around 10-15 minutes trolling Stephen Colbert.  What a moron!   It amazes me that any one even takes anything he says seriously any more.  Oh, one more absolutely bugfuck crazy thing he’s doing right now instead of governing my state.

Gov. Bobby Jindal will join the billionaire family behind the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts stores at the company’s campus in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, according Zeke Miller at TIME.

The Louisiana governor will attend an evening event with the Greens supporting their plans to build a museum dedicated to the Bible in Washington D.C.

The family’s Bible museum has raised some eyebrows, particularly since Steve Green — Hobby Lobby’s president — has referred to the Bible as a “reliable, historical document.” The Greens have already acquired a $50 million site near the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and plan to open the facility’s doors in 2017, according to The New York Times.

The Hobby Lobby family is best known for a successful U.S. Supreme Court fight to get out from under a new federal mandate that required businesses pay for birth control. The Greens, who identify as evangelical Christians, have objections to certain types of birth control and didn’t want financially support employee access to some forms of contraceptive.

Jindal has expressed his support for the Greens and Hobby Lobby several times. He mentioned the family during a speech about religious issues at Liberty University in May. When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the craft store chain last June, he sent out several tweets in support of the decision.

Read some of the governor’s tweets in support of the Greens below.

This man just has to be look for money and a job at some right wing thought-free tank.  He can’t seriously think he’s got a shot at the presidency chasing morons like a dog on an ambulance.

Extremism is showing up in many races through out the country.  I’m amazed at the Iowa Governor’s race among others. Ed Kilgore wonders when extremism will be considered a character issue.

Braley has gamely stuck to issues, primarily by hammering Ernst for very unpopular right-wing positions on the minimum wage and Social Security. But he’s also used issues to raise his own “character” issue: the claim that this mild-mannered hog-castrating war veteran woman in the soft-focused ads is actually an extremist. And in that pursuit he’s found plenty of ammunition in Ernst’s record in the Iowa legislature and on the campaign trail, particularly early in the 2014 cycle when she was looking for wingnut traction.

Ernst is crying “unfair,” most notably in an exchange in their first debate last Sunday. Braley criticized her for sponsoring in the legislature a state constitutional amendment establishing prenatal “personhood” from the moment of fertilization, which he accurately said would outlaw now only the very earliest abortions but also IV fertility clinics and several types of contraception. This was Ernst’s response:

“The amendment that is being referenced by the congressman would not do any of the things that you stated it would do,” Ernst said. “That amendment is simply a statement that I support life.”That’s true in a highly technical sense — perhaps using the reasoning of a trial lawyer — insofar as constitutional amendments don’t inherently create the laws they rule out or demand, but in a more basic sense, it’s just a lie, as Ernst and her campaign surely know. “Personhood” amendments are so extreme they have been routinely trounced when placed on the ballot (twice in Colorado and once in Mississippi). And if sponsoring one of them is a “statement” of anything, it’s a statement of absolute submission to Iowa’s powerful antichoice lobby, in the sense of ruling out any of those weasely “exceptions” to a total abortion (and “abortifacient”) ban.

But the impulse to let Ernst off the hook for outrageous positions is fed by media cynicism as well as candidate mendacity. Consider another Ernst primary campaign theme that some Democrats have criticized, in the eyes of the outstanding political reporter Dave Weigel:

The individual attacks on Braley, at this point, aren’t individually important. They’re important as bricks in a wall. Democrats are pursuing a similar strategy, plunking down tape after tape of Ernst, who spent a long time as the right-wing candidate in the primary, sounding like a … well, right-wing candidate. Meredith Shiner [of AP] has the latest example, a debate clip in which Ernst promised that she would oppose the threat posed by the U.N.’s Agenda 21 to suburbanites and farmers. Democrats seek to make voters see Ernst as a Sarah Palin golem; Republicans seek to make voters see Braley as an unrelatable, lawsuit-happy snob. It’s all very inspiring.So Democrats calling attention to Ernst’s multiple passionate statements subscribing to the insane, John Birch Society-inspired conspiracy theory that the United Nations is behind land-use regulations of every kind is treated as the equivalent of Republicans howling about Braley’s “chicken suit.” The reason, I suppose, is that you can’t criticize a pol for pandering to “the base” during primaries and then “moving to the center” in general elections. It’s just what you do.

I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it. Extremism is, or should be, a “character” issue. And so, too, should be flip-flopping. Personally, I respect “personhood” advocates for taking a dangerous position based on the logical extension of strongly-held if exotic ideas about human development. I don’t respect those like Cory Gardner and Joni Ernst who try to weasel out of such positions the moment they become inconvenient.

71c2e1ab64ceb6b443e37db0d14dd447We’ve got to stop this.  The children of the United States deserve better.  This reminds me.  In a day and age where Republicans are obsessed that every missed period is an abortion, where are they on this embarrassing show on US Infant Mortality?   Go look at what kinds of country do better than us at just keeping their infants alive from birth to age 1. 

The United States has a higher infant mortality rate than any of the other 27 wealthy countries, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control. A baby born in the U.S. is nearly three times as likely to die during her first year of life as one born in Finland or Japan. That same American baby is about twice as likely to die in her first year as a Spanish or Korean one.

Despite healthcare spending levels that are significantly higher than any other country in the world, a baby born in the U.S. is less likely to see his first birthday than one born in Hungary, Poland or Slovakia. Or in Belarus.Or in Cuba, for that matter.

The U.S. rate of 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births masks considerable state-level variation. If Alabama were a country, its rate of 8.7 infant deaths per 1,000 would place it slightly behind Lebanon in the world rankings. Mississippi, with its 9.6 deaths, would be somewhere between Botswana and Bahrain.

We’re the wealthiest nation in the world. How did we end up like this?

I hate to break the news to the author of this but we’re not the wealthiest nation on the earth any more.   I would also like to add that it’s imperative that you vote in November.   Also, one more pitch for a few donations so we can renew our domain name and our specialized format on wordpress.  We don’t need much so just small amounts will help push us over!  Thanks!!!

So, what’s on your news and blogging list today? 

 


Thursday Reads: Let’s Get Real Here!!

Good Morning!

Snake Handler Draping Rattlesnake on Congregation MemberI must be a political junkie because I certainly have the elections of fall 2014 on my mind. Democrats appear to be gaining some ground. I just can’t help but wonder how far right of bat shit crazy the Republican Party will go because it certainly seems that it’s gone far off the rails these days.  It seems odd that the party whose roots came from the civil war and the fight to preserve the union while ending slavery has switched to the party of sedition and oppression.

The problem is that so many billionaire donors–in a system that favors billionaire donors–have made sure that only those willing to sell their souls to them will get money.  It is also clear that only those pols that will sell their souls to the misogynistic, homophobic, religious crazies in this country will get the grass roots support.

How much more of this can the country take? Are the Republicans sounding a swan song or a death trumpet for our democracy? It is clear that the Republican Party has now established itself on a white identity that doesn’t even include all the white people in this country. Republicans are losing ground with Asians and Hispanics each election cycle. It isn’t because they don’t agree with some of their economic or even social positions.  It’s the racism, the xenophobia, the religious exclusivity, the homophobia, the misogyny, the anti-science bent, and the general tendency to hate all things not white and male. Larry Bartels at the WaPo:

working paper by Alexander Kuo, Neil Malhotra and (my Vanderbilt colleague) Cecilia Hyunjung Mo examines the basis of growing Democratic identification among Asian Americans. Among other analyses, they report the results of an experiment in which Asian American college students were randomly subjected to a seemingly incidental but carefully staged “microaggression”—having their U.S. citizenship questioned by the experimenter. This minor but socially charged interaction boosted Democratic partisanship by 13 percentage points,  a remarkable shift. (The corresponding effect among white students was only three percentage points.)

Asian Americans who experienced the insensitive questioning were also “more likely to view Republicans generally as closed-minded and ignorant” and to express more negative feelings toward them — despite the fact that Republicans were never mentioned by the experimenter or connected to the microagression. Thus, the authors’ findings “suggest that Asian Americans associate feelings of social exclusion based on their ethnic background with the Republican Party.”

Those folks are not homogeneous in that they have the same interests, aspirations, or even religions.  However, they all feel that there is a key holy-ghost-4demographic of white people that reject their claim to the identity of America and the American Dream.  I can’t help but wonder if the rest of the country is watching those states run by republicans and wondering wtf is going on?  Right now, in Baton Rouge,  our legislature is debating making one particular version of the bible the state book and what to do with alcohol infused ice cream. Why just this week I learned that Phyliss Schlafly thinks all women should be glad that men make more money because it makes women head straight for the altar.

Now three days later, a prominent member of the Republican movement further undermined the party’s campaign to appeal to women voters by suggesting that the current pay gap isn’t wide enough. In an op-ed published by the Christian Post, Phyllis Schlafly — the founder of the Eagle Forum — maintained that increasing the pay gap will help women find suitable husbands:

Another fact is the influence of hypergamy, which means that women typically choose a mate (husband or boyfriend) who earns more than she does. Men don’t have the same preference for a higher-earning mate.

While women prefer to HAVE a higher-earning partner, men generally prefer to BE the higher-earning partner in a relationship. This simple but profound difference between the sexes has powerful consequences for the so-called pay gap.

Suppose the pay gap between men and women were magically eliminated. If that happened, simple arithmetic suggests that half of women would be unable to find what they regard as a suitable mate.

Obviously, I’m not saying women won’t date or marry a lower-earning men, only that they probably prefer not to. If a higher-earning man is not available, many women are more likely not to marry at all. […]

The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap.

Schlafly has long been crusader for “traditional values” within conservative movement and the Republican party, serving as a member of the National GOP Platform Committee as recently as 2012 and as a delegate to the National Convention. Her Eagle Forum PAC has also donated thousands to prominent Republicans like Eric Cantor, Michele Bachmann, Steve King, and Ted Cruz.

e89905f1fc6212b814ac4221a08a1a8fThen, I found out that nullification can work downwards as well as upwards if you want to improve the lives of working people.  Big government is good as long as it’s used to stamp out the local efforts to improve people’s lives.

At a time when many states and cities are working at passing minimum wage increases, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has gone in the opposite direction and signed a law banning cities from passing higher wages. The bill also bans them from enacting paid sick days or vacation requirements.

The law will stymie the efforts of activists in Oklahoma City, where a labor federation has led the push on a petition to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The state’s current minimum has been set at the federal level of $7.25. In 2012, 64,000 workers in the state earned $7.25 an hour or less, making up 7.2 percent of all hourly workers, a larger share than the 4.7 percent figure for the country as a whole.

Fallin said she signed the bill out of the worry that higher local minimum wages “would drive businesses to other communities and states, and would raise prices for consumers.” She also argued that “most minimum wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry level jobs” and that “many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families.” She warned that increasing the minimum wage “would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers” and harm job creation.

But that’s not what the typical American minimum wage worker looks like. Nearly 90 percent of workers who would be impacted by an increase in the wage are older than 20, while the average age is 35. More than a quarter have children to support. More than half work full time, and 44 percent have at least some college education, while half a million minimum wage workers are college graduates.

Meanwhile, experts have analyzed state minimum wage increases over two decades and found that even at times of high unemployment, there is no clear evidence that the hikes affected job creation. Five other studies have come to the same conclusion. The same has held true for the city of San Francisco, where employment grew by more than 5 percent after it passed a higher minimum wage while nearby counties experienced declines.

Oklahoma is not the only state to pass a blanket ban on raising the wage. Wisconsin lawmakers recently considered doing the same, and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R)signed a law that prevents local governments from requiring contractors to pay higher wages last year. According to Paul Sonn, general counsel and program director at the National Employment Law Project, a handful of mostly Republican-leaning states passed these kinds of bans about a decade ago, including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Oregon, and Texas. But the states that are the most likely to see campaigns to raise minimum wages are not the ones that are likely to pass similar bans, he told ThinkProgress.

 And of course, we still have so much to discuss about the continual obsession with blastulas, and zygotes, and fetuses that are no where near viability. snake-handling

What is it about abortion that gives it such political staying power? One obvious answer it is that for opponents it is an issue of life and death. For pro-choice women, it is a question of personal autonomy and bodily integrity.

Take a look at the history of the fight for women’s rights, as argued by the feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon. In her 1989 book, “Toward a Feminist Theory of the State,” MacKinnon wrote, “male dominance is perhaps the most pervasive and tenacious system of power in history.” The goal of the feminist project, she argued six years earlier, “is to uncover and claim as valid the experience of women, the major content of which is the devalidation of women’s experience.”

Lisa Tuttle, in the “Encyclopedia of Feminism,” described reproductive freedom “as a basic human right, it includes the right to abortion and birth control, but implies much more. To be realized, reproductive freedom must include not only woman’s right to choose childbirth, abortion, sterilization or birth control, but also her right to make those choices freely, without pressure from individual men, doctors, governmental or religious authorities. It is a key issue for women, since without it the other freedoms we appear to have, such as the right to education, jobs and equal pay, may prove illusory.”

These thoughts are by no means the opinions of women only. In an effort to explore the politics of abortion rights I contacted a disparate group of contemporary experts.

While none of these theorists could be categorized as politically correct – if anything, some have been accused of just the opposite — all see the anti-abortion movement as driven in part by the determined effort to control the reproductive rights of women.

Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, is no stranger tocriticism from feminists. In his book “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature,” Pinker wrote: “Feminism as a movement for political and social equity is important, but feminism as an academic clique committed to eccentric doctrines about human nature is not. Eliminating discrimination against women is important, but believing that women and men are born with indistinguishable minds is not. Freedom of choice is important, but ensuring that women make up exactly 50 percent of all professions is not. And eliminating sexual assaults is important, but advancing the theory that rapists are doing their part in a vast male conspiracy is not.”

When I asked Pinker in an email about abortion, however, his response was very much in line with the thinking of feminist theorists.

Abortion may “touch on a characteristic male obsession: controlling the sexuality of women,” he said, noting that in most traditional societies “a woman’s male relatives, and then her husband, will try to control her sexuality in a variety of ways: veils, wigs, clothing, chaperones, segregation by sex, chastity belts, engagement rings, terms of address (‘Mrs. John Smith’), ceremonies (as when a father gives away the bride to her husband), and laws that make a woman the property of her husband.”

These efforts, Pinker said, are driven, in part, by fears of “paternity uncertainty”: “The ultimate evolutionary reason is presumably to guarantee paternity, since a cuckolded man is in the worst imaginable evolutionary scenario: investing in the child, and hence the genes, of a rival man.”

Along similar lines, John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, who specializes in the study of how “biological variations mitigate the way in which individuals respond to politically relevant environmental occurrences,” argues that reproduction is both a core political issue and a core evolutionary issue.

Hibbing’s comment focused on themes consistent with Pinker’s: “Those most concerned with security and tradition tend to be politically conservative and those most open to new lifestyles and who are less focused on security will tend toward the political left. Issues of reproduction are likely to be at the core of the conflict between tradition and new lifestyles since these issues are about as basic as they come. Fundamentalism in some parts of the world is often driven by the desire of males to control reproductive opportunities. These issues form the evolutionary core.”

 We have one of the two major political parties showing signs of radical extremism and elements that are truly dangerous, and yet, no one pays tumblr_lxg6uvekLT1qapkmyo1_500attention.  I have written a lot about right wing terrorism and it grieves me to see that we saw yet another predictable incident in Kansas City. I can’t imagine what it feels for the folks who have been following this inside law enforcement and inside groups that truly fear these hate groups.  If you didn’t see this bit from Rachel Maddow, you should.  It sums up a lot of history that we’ve basically ignored since the 1980s.  There are some really dangerous, violent white men out there.

In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security concluded a years-long study of right-wing extremism in the U.S. and released a report saying that ultraconservative white nationalists and other extremists pose a much greater threat to U.S. citizens than Islamic terrorists from overseas.

Conservatives like Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh pitched a huge tantrum, accusing the Obama administration of staging an anti-conservative pogrom, even though the DHS study was commissioned by the Bush administration. In the end, the full study was never released, and the outcry forced DHS to divert resources away from U.S. extremists.

When authorities raided the apartment of deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, they found stacks of right-wing conspiracy theory newsletters, angry screeds against blacks, Jews and the New World Order.

“How weird is it to have Chechen-speaking Russian immigrant Muslim guys reading 9/11 ‘Truther’ conspiracies and ads for Nazi message boards while also espousing violent jihad and allegedly setting off bombs that killed Americans?” Maddow asked.

According to the New America Foundation, she said, since the 9/11 attacks, 21 people have been killed in the name of Islamic extremism in the U.S., whereas the number of people killed by right-wing extremists stands at 34 after the three deaths in Kansas.

Nevertheless, huge swaths of U.S. policy are dedicated to fighting Islamic terrorism abroad, “But when it comes to the proven and interconnected threat of the armed, American extreme right wing, we’re still treating every attack by them like a surprise, still treating those attackers like a lone wolf, regardless of however many letters you find between them,” regardless of the places where they talk to each other online, “regardless of the tide of evidence that these organizations exist and are operational.”

Why won’t the country at large acknowledge the real threat of right-wing extremism, she asked. “Should that change?”

129d41ccb95b927c789fadb0f7bff41d There is a huge movement made up of angry, armed, white men that is threatening the health and safety of a huge number of people.  They are not a majority of people and they are not a majority of white men.  But, they are central to maintaining the power structure right now and can run amok in white male privilege and get away with a lot more than any one else would.

At the heart of this murderous continuum are race and xenophobia (a fear of others) and a violent reaction to those fears. To many in the dominant culture, their America is changing. The “browning” of America has evoked a return and acceptance of the murderous continuum. Former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo best expressed this sentiment when he proclaimed: “I want my country back.”

Conceal Carry permits, Stand Your Ground laws and inept prosecutors are creating a climate that provides the Zimmermans and Dunns of the world with a license to kill as long as juries are predisposed to letting them do so.

As the American economy continues to contract and full-time, well-paying jobs become harder to find, the face of poverty in America is changing. The stereotypical “urban” or “black” poor have now become the “suburban” or white poor. According to CBS, “Hardship is particularly growing among whites, based on several measures . . . More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line . . . accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.”

According to the Christian Science Monitor, “Suburbs are increasingly becoming the address of America’s poor. Suburban poverty across the country grew 53 percent between 2000 and 2010, more than twice the rate of urban poverty . . . ” Many of those newly poor suburbanites are white and many of them are angry, blaming people of color for their misfortunes, instead of directing their ire toward corporate greed, the outsourcing of factory jobs to overseas companies, and governmental policies that favor the wealthy.

 What is truly scary to me, is that this is a celebration of lawlessness. 

Local journalists covering Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s case stress he is no victim and is breaking the law, regardless of conservative media’s sympathy for his defiance of government orders to remove cattle from federal land.

Those reporters and editors — some who have been covering the case for 20 years — spoke with Media Mattersand said many of Bundy’s neighbors object to his failure to pay fees to have his cattle graze on the land near Mesquite, NV., when they pay similar fees themselves.

“We have interviewed neighbors and people in and around Mesquite and they have said that he is breaking the law,” said Chuck Meyernews director at CBS’ KXNT Radio in Las Vegas. “When it comes to the matter of the law, Mr. Bundy is clearly wrong.”

Bundy’s case dates back to 1993, when he stopped paying the fees required of local ranchers who use the federally owned land for their cattle and other animals. Local editors say more than 85 percent of Nevada land is owned by the federal government.

Bundy stopped paying fees on some 100,000 acres of land in 1993 and has defied numerous court orders, claiming the land should be controlled by Nevada and that the federal government has no authority over it.

Last year a federal court ordered Bundy to remove his cattle or they would be confiscated to pay the more than $1 million in fees and fines he’s accumulated. The confiscation began earlier this month, but was halted because the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had “serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public” when armed militia showed up to block the takeover.

Despite his lawlessness, Bundy has become a sympathetic figure for many in the right-wing media.

But for local journalists, many who have been reporting on him for decades, that image is very misguided.

“He clearly has captured national attention, among mostly conservative media who have portrayed him as a kind of a property rights, First Amendment, Second Amendment, range war kind of issue,” Meyer noted. “That’s how it has been framed, but the story goes back a lot longer and is pretty cut and dry as far as legal implications have been concerned.”

He added that, “Cliven Bundy and his supporters are engaged in a fight that has already been settled. There are a number of people around these parts who have strong reservations about Bundy’s actions.”

Las Vegas Sun Editorial Page Editor Matt Hufman said depicting Bundy as a victim is wrong.

In what is undoubtedly one of the worst stories I have read in years,  Police in California actually had GPS trackers on two serial killers/rapists who snake-handlerswent out then killed women while they were under surveillance. 

Two parolees raped and killed four women while wearing GPS trackers, and there may be more victims, a California police chief said.

Registered sex offenders Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, were both wearing ankle bracelets when the female victims were assaulted and killed last fall and earlier this year, Anaheim police Chief Raul Quezada said Monday at a news conference. The suspects were arrested on Friday and are each facing four felony counts of special circumstances murder and four felony counts of rape, reportsCBS Los Angeles.

The naked body of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, was found March 14 on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant. Quezada said it was the key to breaking the case, according to CBS Los Angeles. The probe led detectives to connect the two suspects to her slaying, and the disappearance of three women – Josephine Vargas, 34; Kianna Jackson, 20; and Martha Anaya, 28 – who frequented a Santa Ana neighborhood known for drug dealing and prostitution.

The Orange County Register reports that Cano and Gordon were convicted of lewd and lascivious acts on children under 14 years old. As a requirement of the convictions, both were required to wear GPS tracking bracelets.

Authorities at the news conference did not explain how Cano and Gordon allegedly managed to carry out the killings while under GPS supervision, but Quezada said data from the devices “was one of the investigative tools we used to put the case together.”

Our country spends billions of dollars tracking foreign terrorists who practice what is a minority religion in this country, while domestic grown terrorists who follow the majority religion appear to get a pass. Not only do they get a pass, they get enabled by the likes of Schafly and other Republican Politicos and financed by John Birchers like the Koch Brothers who now have a hand picked Supreme Court.

I’m really getting tired of reading and writing about this stuff.  Are there only a few of us that really see the connections here between the nullification efforts and the neoconfederate longings of folks like the Pauls and their droogies?  Are there only a few of us that object to the racism, the homophobia, and the misogyny of these folks?  It doesn’t seem so if you read polls and if you see the demographics.  But, damn, getting rid of the entrenched group that benefits from all the damage they’ve done over the years is just getting more difficult all the time.   I cannot wait to upload a Youtube of myself Dancing On Their GRAVES.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Creating a Shadow Reality

1q84-twomoonsThere is a rich history of Orwellian realities in fiction.  One of my recent favorite reads is 1Q84 which borrows heavily from Orwell–including the title–to create an alternate Tokyo. You figure out that you’re in the alternate universe when a character looks into the sky and sees a second moon. Haruki Murakami’s book is based on the idea that you can step through some kind of portal and wind up in the world with the second moon by making one fateful decision.  In the modern US, you enter the world of two moons by consuming anything come from the Murdoch Empire or the Koch endowments or any other number of billionaires that can afford to place a small green moon in the sky next to the usual one. It’s amazing to me how many politicians see that second moon. Bill Moyers and and Michael Winship see these as The Lies that will Kill America.

Here in Manhattan the other day, you couldn’t miss it — the big bold headline across the front page of the tabloid New York Post, screaming one of those sick, slick lies that are a trademark of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire. There was Uncle Sam, brandishing a revolver and wearing a burglar’s mask. “UNCLE SCAM,” the headline shouted. “US robs bank of $13 billion.”

Say what? Pure whitewash, and Murdoch’s minions know it. That $13 billion dollars is the settlement JPMorgan Chase, the country’s biggest bank, is negotiating with the government to settle its own rip-off of American homeowners and investors — those shady practices that five years ago helped trigger the financial meltdown, including manipulating mortgages and sending millions of Americans into bankruptcy or foreclosure. If anybody’s been robbed it’s not JPMorgan Chase, which can absorb the loss and probably take a tax write-off for at least part of it. No, it’s the American public. In addition to financial heartache we still have been denied the satisfaction of seeing jail time for any of the banksters who put our feet in cement and pushed us off the cliff.

Moyers details the number of Murdoch outlets that echo and repeat the lies.

Over the last few days, The Wall Street Journal, both Bible and supplicant of high finance as well as one of Murdoch’s more reputable publications — at least in its reporting — echoed the “UNCLE SCAM” indignation of the more lowbrow Post. The government just wants “to appease their left-wing populist allies,” its editorial writers raged, with a “political shakedown and wealth-redistribution scheme.” Perhaps, the paper suggested, the White House will distribute some of the JPMorgan Chase penalty to consumers and advocacy groups and “have the checks arrive in swing congressional districts right before the 2014 election.” We can hear the closet Bolsheviks panting for their handouts now and getting ready to use their phony ID’s to stuff the box on Election Day with multiple illegal ballots.

Such fantasies are all part of the Murdoch News Corp. pattern, an unending flow of falsehood and phony populism that in reality serves only the wealthy elite. Fox News is its ministry of misinformation, the fake jewel of the News Corp. crown, a 24/7 purveyor of flimflam and the occasional selective truth. Look at the pounding they’ve given Obama’s healthcare reform right from the very start, whether the non-existent death panels or claims that it would cause the highest tax increase in history.

The Murdoch media empire is perhaps the most obvious example of billionaires buying their own reality.  However, it’s not the sole example.  There are a number of billionaires each with their addition to the alternative reality of the world with the second, small, green moon. Other than George Soros, there have been very few taking up the science and fact based reality where there is only one moon, climate change, and a financial oligarchy run wild.  That may be changing.

There is no shortage of billionaires — the Koch brothers, Carl IcahnDan Loeb and, yes, Mike Bloomberg, to name a handful — who are willing to use their vast wealth to push a particular political agenda or to advocate for a specific social reform. That’s hardly a revelation.

Then there’s Tom Steyer, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. arbitrager who was mentored by Robert Rubin and eventually formed the San Francisco hedge fund Farallon Capital Management. Since then, Steyer has made a bloody fortune. He has never spoken publicly about how he raked it in at Farallon. Nor has he talked on the record about his years at Goldman. (He didn’t respond to my interview requests when I was writing a book about Goldman in 2011.)

But now that he has departed Farallon to become a political activist — some say he is considering a run for the U.S. Senate or the governorship of California — he is everywhere. Last month, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizzawrote a lengthy profile of Steyer. This month, Bloomberg Markets magazine explained why Steyer has teamed up with Henry Paulson, like Rubin a former Treasury secretary and Goldman chairman, as well as with Bloomberg, the outgoing New York City mayor and the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, to commission a study about the economic consequences of failing to curb carbon emissions.

On Oct. 1, at a benefit for the North Country School and Camp Treetops in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Steyer and Bill McKibben, his fellow environmental activist, led a paneldiscussion on their efforts to defeat the Keystone XL pipeline.

You may recall recently that the CEO of Starbucks decided that his outlets were not going to be places open to concealed weapon carrying.

In the end, the Seattle-based coffee giant says all it wants to do is sell coffee.

But increasingly, it has been dragged into the fracas between open-carry gun activists who want to be able to keep taking their firearms with them when they buy their morning lattes and gun-control advocates who’d rather the company banned such behavior.

Starbucks struck a compromise when itannounced this week that guns were no longer welcome in its stores, but stopped short of an outright ban.

The company will run an ad in some major newspapers Thursday, an open letter from CEO Howard Schultz, explaining that his company is being used as a political stage and that guns in his stores make his customers uneasy.

There has also been a number of CEOs that are standing firm in the face of anti-GLBT crusaders.  However, none of this is quite the same as owning news and media outlets and funding think tanks that come up with conclusions at odds with academic studies.  It’s also not the same as buying tons of air time to run ads made to creep young people out of looking into Health Care Insurance via the ACA exchanges.  There’s also targeted campaigns aimed at various states.

Conservative advocates funded by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch have launched a massive campaign pressuring states to deny health care coverage to lower income Americans through the Medicaid expansion contained in the Affordable Care Act.

The effort, orchestrated by the group Americans for Prosperity, is targeting lawmakers in Virginia tasked with deciding whether the state should accept federal dollars to provide insurance to individuals and families below 133 percent of the federal poverty line ($31,321 in income for a family of four). Volunteers with the organization are distributing flyers through door-to-door canvassing, attending committee hearings, and according to one lawmaker who has become a target of the campaign, intimidating constituents.

As many as 400,000 Virginians could qualify for coverage if the state expands the Medicaid program, but AFP is warning Virginians that the system “will cost Virginia taxpayers billions,” require “future tax hikes and budget cuts to vital services like schools, police and fire departments,” undermine the “doctor-patient relationship,” increase wait times and even endanger lives. “Medicaid patients are almost twice as likely to die during surgery than individuals with private insurance,” the group writes on its website.

It’s difficult to imagine that this could get worse, but there is a possibility it will even if a few billionaires on the other side of the political spectrum try to provide an offset.  A new SCOTUS case that could remove limits to campaign contributions might create even more havoc.

At issue in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (12-536) are aggregate contribution limits that restrict the total amount of money an individual can give a candidate and committees during a two-year election cycle.

Supporters of the limits say they are necessary to prevent crafty contributors from circumventing other campaign finance restrictions to funnel huge amounts of money from one donor to one candidate.

Opponents of the limits say they are unnecessary and lack any constitutional justification in the wake of the high court’s Citizens United decision.

The 5-4 opinion in Citizens United v. FEC declared that corporations and unions have a First Amendment rightto spend unlimited amounts of money on independent issue advertisements during election season.

Certainly, we have seen some push back recently to billionaire activists who are funding alternative realities.  The blow back to “Fix the Debt” and Pete Peterson who seeks to end Social Security and Medicare as we know it comes to mind.  But, it’s hard to keep up with all of them. We need to keep a keen eye out for the second green moon if we are to protect our democracy, our country, our economy, and our hard-earned entitlement programs.

 


What Does it Mean to Have a Speaker that Knows Nothing about Economics?

boehner_gavel_apSpeaker John Boehner is bad at a lot of things.  His speakership has been marred by so many mishaps and embarrassing moments that it’s easy just to try to laugh at him and the entire House of Representatives.  They seem to do nothing but try to repeal the impossible and stand for the unfathomable.  However,  the country is struggling to come out of an extremely horrible financial crisis with deep, lasting and dangerous unemployment.   The Fed chair–a republican and republican appointee–points out exactly how bad this has been for our economy. What does it mean when the third in line to the presidency is clueless about one of the most important functions of modern government and appears to get all of his knowledge from a bad Ayn Rand novel?

Bernanke spoke to the press after the release of the Federal Open Market Committee minutes.

If the recovery continues, the Fed plans to taper off mortgage-backed securities purchases once the unemployment rate hits 7%, the Fed Chair suggested.  And while reporters grilled Bernanke about inflationary risks and the impact of MBS purchases, he remained cautiously optimistic.

The Fed Chair’s more optimistic tone stemmed from improving market fundamentals, with Bernake highlighting increases in household wealth and fewer large scale layoffs. State and local governments also are improving somewhat financially, he said.

The only major drag is federal fiscal policy.

It is difficult to understand why the portion of US government designed to be the most accountable to the masses seems least concerned with jobs and economic growth.  It is undoubtedly due to the significant misunderstanding and willful ignorance of economics recently demonstrated by the speaker and many–if not most– in his party. Paul Krugman speaks sincerely to this problem.

John Boehner’s remarks on recent financial events have attracted a lot of unfavorable comment, and they should. Actually, I think even the stuff most commentators have shied away from — he talks about the Fed “deflating” when I think he means either inflating or debasing, or possibly is doing a Sarah Palin and merging the two — is significant. I mean, he’s the Speaker of the House at a time when economic issues are paramount; shouldn’t he have basic familiarity with simple economic terms?

But the main thing is that he’s clinging to a story about monetary policy that has been refuted by experience about as thoroughly as any economic doctrine of the past century. Ever since the Fed began trying to respond to the financial crisis, we’ve had dire warnings about looming inflationary disaster. When the GOP took the House, it promptly called Bernanke in to lecture him about debasing the dollar. Yet inflation has stayed low, and the dollar has remained strong — just as Keynesians said would happen.

Yet there hasn’t been a hint of rethinking from leading Republicans; as far as anyone can tell, they still get their monetary ideas from Atlas Shrugged.

Oh, and this is another reminder to the “market monetarists”, who think that they can be good conservatives while advocating aggressive monetary expansion to fight a depressed economy: sorry, but you have no political home. In fact, not only aren’t you making any headway with the politicians, even mainstream conservative economists like Taylor and Feldstein are finding ways to advocate tighter money despite low inflation and high unemployment. And if reality hasn’t dented this dingbat orthodoxy yet, it never will.

It is rather obvious and rather sad that nearly all the economic ideas of the Speaker and his party come from a bad piece of fiction and ignore every lesson of economics learned from even libertarian-leaning economists like the late Milton Friedman. The result has been damaging to many Americans and the underlying economy.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well,it certainly could because you know, people open their 401(k) statements you know, at the end of every quarter and for most people it’s an indication of their wealth. And the value of their home would be another indication,how well homes are selling in their neighborhoods.

But sell off is in large part due to the policies that we’ve had coming’ out of the Federal Reserve. You know, you can’t continue to deflate our money and deflate it and deflate it– have equity markets go– without some change, yeah. Bernanke has made it clear he’s doing these policies in the absence of the government doing its part to help improve our economy.

That’s why Democrats and Republicans here on Capitol Hill and the president need to deal with– fix our tax code that would help us promote more economic growth and deal with our long term spending problem. We’ve spent more money than what we’ve brought in for 55 of the last 60 years. That ought to scare the hell out of every American.

We need to deal with this problem openly and honestly. Because if we do, investors around the country, business owners are going to look up and go, “Gee, they’re actually dealing with the issues that I’m most concerned about.” Then they’ll begin to invest.

MARIA BARTIROMO: But how likely is that over the next year? I mean, Bernanke made it clear yesterday that if the data continues as it is then they could be out of the bonds buying business by next year this time. So that’s one year. Will we see fiscal policy in terms of tax reform, in terms of regulatory clarity? Will we see that in the next 12 months?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Listen,hope springs eternal in my heart. And while we have big differences over what tax reform might look like, what entitlement reform might look like we have to — we have to come together and deal with these things. Because if we want our economy to grow, we want to create jobs– we’ve got to deal with the issues that are affecting it.

You know, Republicans– we’ve got our jobs plan. We’ve had it now for literally the last three or four years. We’ve updated this effort and it’s our number one focus here. And while, you know, we’ve got other obligations under the constitution that provides oversight of the Executive Branch we’re trying to stay focused on those things that would improve our economy– help the American people’s wages increase and have more jobs available.

Fixing the tax code is not fiscal policy.  It’s not anything that will create any kind of job growth or economic well being.   What is this man thinking?

To quote Matthew O’Brien at The Atlantic Boehner is “dangerously clueless” about economics and economic policy required of the Federal Government in challenging times.  It is rather pathetic and deluded.  O’Brien points out the facts about that quote from Boehner above.

Bookmark this, print it out, and put it in a time capsule, because this is about as wrong as anybody could possibly be about economics (excluding Don Luskin, of course). Now, Boehner doesn’t put it very clearly, but when he says markets are going down because Bernanke is “deflating the dollar”, he means markets are in the red because the Fed is weakening the dollar. The opposite is true. Markets sold off not because the Fed is doing too much, but because markets worry it won’t do enough. As you can see below from Bloomberg, the dollar went up during the recent sell-off on Wednesday and Thursday after Bernanke explained how and when the Fed expects to wind down QE3. That’s what happens when the Fed tightens policy.

DollarIndex1.png

For all the talk of “currency debasement” from conservatives who fancy themselves monetary experts, the dollar is actually stronger today than it was when the Great Recession began. Core PCE inflation, the Fed’s preferred measure, just hit a 50-year low at 1.05 percent. And no, stripping out food and energy prices isn’t hiding the inflation monster: headline PCE inflation was a meager 0.74 percent in April. Weimar we are not.

Boehner was no more coherent on fiscal policy. Now, it’s true that Bernanke would like to see some kind of budget deal that reins in long-term deficits, but he wishes we were doing less to try to rein in short-term deficits. In other words, he wants less austerity now, and more austerity later. Here’s what Bernanke said about about our cutting-spending problem in his press conference on Wednesday:
The main drag or the main headwind to growth this year is, as you know, is the federal fiscal policy, which the CBO estimates is something on the order of 1.5 percentage points of growth.
That’s not exactly the clarion call for future spending cuts that Boehner imagines. It’s a plea, in the understated lexicon of central bankers, to stop maiming the recovery with pointless and premature austerity. But Boehner either isn’t listening or doesn’t understand. He somehow thinks it’s scary that the government has run deficits for 55 of the last 60 years (though not so scary that he didn’t vote for many of those budgets). This is nonsense. As Josh Barro points out, there’s no better proof that we shouldn’t be scared of deficits than the fact that we have run them for 55 of the past 60 years without any problem. As long as the economy grows faster than the debt, there’s no reason we can’t run deficits forever.

We tried Hoovernomics. It failed. So we’re … trying it again?

Yes.  Republicans are completely in love with failed policies of the past and they’re not about to change anything now.  It’s unbelievable that we could have a Speaker of the House that can be so completely ignorant about economic policy this day and age.  It’s pathetic and it’s sad.  It is also dangerous.


Forging the Middle Path while taking Friendly Fire

I’ve seen several articles in Business Week recently bemoaning the loss of moderation in the Republican Party. I wonder where these folks were when hordes of evangelicals were overtaking county parties with orders written on recipe cards back in the 1980s?  I had a front row seat to the insanity.  I couldn’t get any one to listen back then.  However, now it’s a major topic in the press. The first article showed up in May. I got a pretty good laugh out of this quote by Dwight Eisenhower who was thought to be a Communist infiltrator by Daddy Koch and his John Birch Society.  They were marginalized back then and now are front and center at the leadership table.

“Their number is negligible and they are stupid,” Dwight Eisenhower once said of conservatives, according to another panelist, Geoffrey Kabaservice, the author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. Alas, moderates have all but disappeared. “They might even be forced into breeding programs to keep them alive,” Kabaservice said, citing a recent Onion article. (Worth a click for the picture alone.)

The article discussed a panel that was wondering where all the moderate Republicans went.  I have a pretty good answer for that.  There’s been an ongoing purge since the 1980s.  Most of the state parties have a litmus test on several issues.  You’re made to suffer if you don’t goose step along to the evangelicals and voodoo economics true believers.  Any one not capable of lies or magical thinking is decidedly unwelcome and hounded out.

The second article of interest interviews some senators that are exiting because they can’t take the atmosphere any more. Here’s a few choice comments from retiring pro-choice Republican Olympia Snow. I used to write a lot of good sized checks to her campaigns in the 1980s.

BBW: Senator Snowe, you’ve deviated from your party more than just about anyone. What is it really like when you go against the leadership?

SNOWE: People within your party used to understand that it is essential. People have to represent either their district or their state on the issues that matter and take those positions accordingly. But today there is no reward for that. In fact, there is this party adherence, and as a result if we don’t get past the party platforms that are offered by either side of the political aisle, then we can’t solve the problem. And we are not transcending those differences. That is a huge departure from the past.

Here’s another interesting comment on the role of money and the Citizens United ruling by SCOTUS.  The other senators interviewed include Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota), and Congressmen Gary Ackerman (D-New York) and Geoff Davis (R-Kentucky).

BBW: What harms the process more, the media or money?

CONRAD: Money is a huge problem. There are really two reasons I decided not to run again. One is I really wanted to come here to do big things, and we haven’t been doing big things. The second was I saw super PACs coming and I knew as a centrist who was not particularly supported very strongly by any group, I could have [a super PAC] roll in and just dump a load of money on me and I’m not going to be able to answer.

DAVIS: I don’t believe we should check speech by any measure or merit, but left unchecked, you could end up with the 21st century version of Tammany Hall, where you have a small number of political bosses who control the flow of money around the country, limiting the discourse and debate for personal advantage, whether left, right, or center.

SNOWE: I regret that the Supreme Court rolled back 100 years of case law and precedence. It was my initial provision in the McCain-Feingold bill that was struck down a second time in the court. But then obviously they went quantum leaps further, unfortunately, and unraveled all the case law, allowing corporations and unions to dump unlimited money into these campaigns.

What Kent says is true. Because we are trying to build what I describe as a sensible center, you don’t have a base in terms of raising money. You are almost always confined to the MSNBC or the Fox News prism. That’s the way I describe it because it’s true. People see you in one channel or another and nothing in between.

ACKERMAN: We are probably the only ones who watch both Fox and MSNBC. The public watches either one or the other, and they watch one or the other hoping that the guys on my side will kill the guys on the other side. You can accuse any and every one of us, at least at times, of going for the ratings and doing and saying things that are popular or to try to raise more money so that we can get reelected. The media does that in spades. They really do.

These seem to be the same topics we spend a lot of time on here.  The media has taken sides in order to attract audiences and returns to stockholders.  The more partisan hoopla they can drum up, the better it is for them.  Fox News is nothing more than a propaganda channel and MSNBC is trying to find a niche offering up an alternative. Papers are so dumb downed and watered down these days that it’s hard to find much use for them.  Corporate money and profit seeking has completely gummed up the process and it uses the anger of specific interest groups like the fetus and gun obsessed to further its power and money grab.The Tea Party is totally orchestrated, yet, its members are so angry they can’t see the strings that pull them.

Reading basic obituaries of whatever was left of commonsense in the party of Lincoln is a saddening experience.  I say this as we watch Ron Paul’s delegates play the same game on the radical right that they played 30 years ago on the Rockefeller Republicans. Can you imagine the Republican party’s soul is up for grabs by Ayn Rand groupies now?  Basically, Republicans adhere to works of fiction and drive off any attempt to ground them in reality.

Paul has stopped actively campaigning and has conceded that Romney will be the GOP nominee. It’s unclear whether Paul’s name will be submitted for nomination; mathematically, he does not have the numbers to derail Romney. But his supporters can have an effect on the party in other ways.

“We want to have a real big voice on the platform; we want to influence the direction of the party more than anything else,” said Joel Kurtinitis, a Paul supporter who was pleased after the Saturday vote.

He was Paul’s state director in Iowa until Paul suspended his presidential bid in May, and he said that although he would love to see Paul awarded a prime speaking spot at the convention, his followers’ efforts are about more than one man.

“We’re going to hold up our values and we’re going to bring conservatism back to the mainline of the Republican Party. That’s where my hopes are at and that’s my hope for this convention more than seeing Ron Paul do X, Y and Z,” Kurtinitis said.

What exactly happens to a republic built on a two party system when one of those parties becomes captured by purists? Perhaps, the Republican christofacist army is about to have its tables turned. I still have the feeling, however, that the corporate money will rule no matter what the platform says.

By working arcane rules at district, county and state gatherings around the country, his supporters have amassed an army of delegates who will try to ensure that his libertarian message about the economy, states’ rights and a noninterventionist foreign policy is loudly proclaimed.

Paul’s backers will also try to shape the party platform as they dare Republicans to take them for granted – much as social conservatives did years ago before they ascended in importance.

“We want to influence the direction of the party more than anything else,” said Joel Kurtinitis, who was Paul’s state director in Iowa until the congressman effectively ended his presidential bid in May. He said efforts by followers of Paul, a 76-year-old who will retire when his current term ends, are about more than him or his son Rand, a senator from Kentucky.

“We’re going to hold up our values and we’re going to bring conservatism back to the mainline of the Republican Party,” Kurtinitis said.

But others say the move by the Iowa GOP is a black eye for the state’s first-in-the-nation voting status and for Romney.

“Embarrassment is the word that comes to my mind,” said Jamie Johnson, who served as Santorum’s state coalitions director in Iowa. The former Pennsylvania senator, who endorsed Romney after ending his presidential bid in April, appears to have a solitary Iowa delegate heading into the convention.

There are far fewer of these insurgents than there were die-hard Hillary supporters last presidential election cycle.  Yet, they seem to be much more fanatical and organized.  Will they up end the dominance of the party by the Guns, God, and No-Gays fanatics that have ruled the party with Torquemada  like fanaticism since the Reagan years?
How do we survive this craziness? Seriously, I’ve gotten to the point where I think voting Republican is basically voting for the end of the country as we know it.  What needs to change?  I’m going to give the last word to the last word to the departing senators.

BBW: I’m going to give you one magic power. As you leave here, you can change one thing about the legislative process, about the federal government, anything you want. What would you do?

CONRAD: I would do away with super PACs. I think it’s a cancer.

DAVIS: It is critical that those who are being regulated in various constituencies—be it the business community, the job creators, or other institutions—need to be an active part of that dialogue. Great Britain revolutionized parts of their regulatory process by actually bringing the people who were going to be regulated to the table and suddenly found that they could solve the problems at a lot lower cost by, again, going back to the thing that tends to be most uninteresting, particularly in cable news, and looking at the actual process. Solve the problem or prevent the problem from happening.

SNOWE: We are not doing our jobs, frankly. If I was in charge, I would be canceling recess and getting everybody here and start focusing on the issues that matter to this country because we are at a tipping point.

Legislating isn’t easy on these complex matters. You can’t just instantaneously come up with solutions to problems. Somehow we have dumbed down the process. Somehow we think, “Oh gosh, are you for or against?” Well, geez, it just came up. Can I give it some thought? Can I think about it? Can I read about it? Maybe I should learn more about the facts on the issue. But there is no time, no deference paid to thoughtfulness in the legislative process today. We have got to get back to spending some time here to get the job done for the American people. That’s what it’s all about. The American people understand it. They see it because they see on TV on C-SPAN and they recognize, “Well, where are they?”

ACKERMAN: Inasmuch as it’s a magical power that you are bestowing I would do away with hypocrisy. [Laughter] Looking at it a little bit more realistically, we have to try to find some practical approaches. I came here so many years ago as a rather liberal kid from New York City. I’m still pretty liberal. I changed a little bit on foreign policy and worldview, but I came here as a pacifist. I disagreed with Ronald Reagan, who was the first president that I served with, but I didn’t want him to fail. This pacifist wound up voting for war under the guidance of two Republican presidents because we only have one president at a time, and if he fails, my country fails. That is not acceptable. The Congress, both houses, both parties have to act like grown-ups and say that this is about policy. If it is about the presidency or if it’s about the majority in my House or your House, then it is never going to be about policy. Somebody is going to have to—not the four of us, but somebody is going to have to walk that back a few steps.


Monday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

Yes, it’s that time of year when Republicans try to convince us that everything old, disproved, and thrown out is shiny, patriotic and new again. Angry sky gods, debunked scientific hypotheses, and myth trump rule of law, science, and reason.  Here’s a few things on their most choice delusions.

We’re not only fighting the war for abortion access and rights, we’re fighting for legal access to birth control.  There’s a group of religious radicals in our country that just won’t take a supreme court case at face value. I was appalled by Romney’s insistence in this weekend’s debate that this really wasn’t a problem and wouldn’t be one. Once again, some pharmacists think they are above the law and know more than doctors because some high priest of ignorance said make it so.  Men trying to buy Plan B are having trouble doing so .

Defenders of Kathleen Sebelius’ decision to overrule the FDA’s decison to make Plan B emergency contraception available over-the-counter without age restrictions floated the specter of 11-year-old girls having sex to justify the decision. (Though, of course, the sex has already happened when the Plan B is purchased, so really, people who float this argument are just arguing that it’s better for the 11-year-old in question to be pregnant than not, which seems really cruel.) The reality is that fewer than 1 percent of 11-year-olds are sexually active, so the real people hurt by these restrictions are the 15- and 16-year-olds having sex with age-appropriate partners and those 17 and older who have a legal right to the pill but find that having to ask for a pharmacist to fetch it  is too much of an obstacle, because either the pharmacy counter is closed or because the pharmacy staff won’t hand it over, either out of ignorance or malice.
For those who would scoff at the chance that these are serious concerns, I give you the story of a Jason Melbourne of Mesquite, Texas  went to the Mesquite CVS to buy Plan B for his wife, who had to stay home to look after their two small children. The reward he got for being a good husband who goes to the drugstore to buy lady things for his wife was resistance from the pharmacy staff, who refused to sell him the drug because they claimed to believe that men don’t have a legal right to buy it. Well, the problem is there are no gender restrictions on access to Plan B, something that Melbourne demonstrated to the staff by use of Google on a smartphone. They continued to refuse to sell to him, making outrageous claims about men supplying the drug to rape victims, even though he got his wife on the phone to explain the situation. Melbourne is the second man who has reported being denied Plan B at a CVS to the ACLU. Considering how many people don’t contact the ACLU after having their rights violated—or who would believe the pharmacy staff’s claims—that suggests this could be a widespread problem.

 The Economist is suggesting that Americans are entering an age where they should lock their doors lest the morality police get inside. There are folks like Rick Santorum that want to control our sex acts, our reproductive processes, and our basic civil rights based on personal bigotry and religious hysteria. They warn us that “Now is the time for consenting adults to lock their bedroom doors”.  Who needs to be concerned about creeping sharia law when we’ve got this set actively pushing their equally creepy religious cult practices?

Last September the former senator was one of nine Republican hopefuls participating in a televised debate in Orlando, Florida. A question was posed over video by a soldier in Iraq who said he had hidden the fact that he was gay because he did not want to lose his job. Did any of the candidates intend to repeal the measure Barack Obama signed into law last year that had at last given gay soldiers the right to serve their country openly? Mr Santorum’s unblinking answer was Yes. Allowing gays to serve in the military was giving one group of people “a special privilege”; it was “social policy” that ought to have no place in the armed forces.

This became a notorious exchange, not least because some members of the ultra-conservative audience in Orlando booed the soldier. But the episode hardly does justice to the depth of the former senator’s feelings about the things gays get up to. The propinquity of the wicked plainly has an unsettling impact on the peace of mind of the virtuous Mr Santorum.

Gays should not only be disqualified from serving their country, says Mr Santorum. They should also be prohibited from marrying one another. Even if unmarried, they would be ill-advised to have sex. To Mr Santorum the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2003 that anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional was a bad mistake: this was a slippery slope that would establish a right to bigamy, polygamy, incest, adultery—“anything”.

It is not quite clear what Mr Santorum thinks about heterosexuals who have sex for fun—or at least who have it only for fun. The special status of marriage, he told the New York Time, does not exist “because people like to hang out together and have fun”; it is there to provide “a stable environment for the raising of children”. As president, he said more recently, he would at last address “the dangers of contraception in this country”, because contraception is a “licence to do things in a sexual realm that are counter to how things are supposed to be”.
If Mr Santorum has doubts about contraception, he has none about abortion. It is wrong, even in cases of rape or incest, because life is sacred and begins at conception (he does, however, support the death penalty, as it is not the innocent who die). Any doctor who performs an abortion should face criminal charges.

The Economist must feel that we are so confused about the role of religion in the founding of our  country, that they must to show us and the rest of the world that our founding fathers weren’t fundamentalist crusaders. They have a special Religion in America section up about how the founders were trying to avoid having Rick Santorum moments.  Here’s an apt and correct description of the religious philosophy of then Presbyterian Thomas Jefferson.

But Jefferson, like most of the top figures in the American Revolution, was far more of a sceptic in religious matters. He was fascinated by metaphysics but he had no time for the mystical. In contrast with today’s vituperative exchanges, these differences did not stop the two gentlemen maintaining a warm correspondence. But Jefferson’s approach to redacting the Bible involved something more radical than translation. He literally snipped out everything supernatural: miracles, the Virgin birth, the resurrection. The result was his own, non-mystical account of the life of Jesus. He told his old comrade: “I too have made a wee little book from the same materials which I call the ‘Philosophy of Jesus.’ It is a paradigma [sic] of his doctrines, made by cutting the pages out of the book and arranging them on the pages of a blank book…A more beautiful or precious morsel…I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists who call me infidel and themselves Christians.”

If Jefferson was a Christian of any kind, he was an idiosyncratic one. He admired Jesus as a moral teacher but like many of America’s revolutionaries, he had a visceral loathing for priestcraft. Jefferson blamed Saint Paul, the early Church, and even the Gospel writers for distorting the mission of Jesus, which, as he saw it, had been to reverse the decadence of the Jewish religion. Starting from the (correct) proposition that mystical ideas originating from Plato were influential when Christian theology was being developed, he castigated followers of the Greek philosopher for corrupting what he saw as the original Christian message.

Did Jefferson believe in God? Certainly not the Christian idea of a God in three Persons; he saw that notion as incomprehensible and therefore impossible for a rational person to accept. One view is that like many of America’s founders, he was a Deist, believing in a Creator who set the universe and its laws in motion but did not intervene thereafter. (The Deist God has been described as rather like a rich aunt in Australia—benevolent, a long way off, and mostly leaving the world to its own devices.)

Modern fundamentalists are rewriting history in the same way they like rewriting science.  They place dinosaurs and modern people in their garden of Eden panoramas.  Some now argue that the founders didn’t like “Darwinism” which wasn’t even around at that time  Of course, that doesn’t stop Texas putting that kind’ve nonsense in textbooks. This also explains Michelle Bachmann’s odd notion that the founding fathers fought against slavery.

Believers in the idea that America was established as a Christian state scored a hit last year when the Texas school board, a politicised body in which evangelicals control crucial votes, ordered up textbooks laying out this view. Given the size of the Texan market, school-book publishers across the country often follow its lead. The best-known advocate of the “Christian nation” theory is a Texan, an author and evangelist called David Barton, who has been writing on the subject since the 1980s.

Among his recent claims are that the founding fathers rejected Darwinism (although they pre-dated Charles Darwin), and that they broke away from Britain in order to abolish slavery. In fact the southern states only joined the Revolution on the understanding that slavery would not be questioned. Strange as his views may sound to most scholars, Mr Barton’s philosophy is taken seriously in Republican circles. When Rick Perry, the Texas governor and presidential candidate, held a day of prayer for the nation in August, Mr Barton was an acknowledged endorser. One of Mr Barton’s admirers is Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who argues that American history has been distorted by secular historians to play down the role of faith. “I never listen to David Barton without learning a whole lot of new things,” Mr Gingrich has said.

Here’s another bit of founder philosophy.  This time it’s George Washington.

Virtually absent from Washington’s pronouncements was any reference to Jesus. He did not take communion—for most Christians, the most important rite of their faith—and he did not summon a Christian minister to his death bed. Was Jefferson right, then, to claim that “[Washington] thinks it right to keep up appearances but is an unbeliever”? Washington was certainly a diplomat. Although he remained formally Anglican, as president he wrote friendly letters to many Christian and Jewish communities and attended their services. And when he needed a job done on the estate, he was firm, for his time, about the irrelevance of religion: “If they are good workmen,” he said, “they may be Mahometans, Jews or Christian of any sect, or they may be atheists.”

As every American youngster has been taught, one thing that Washington, Jefferson and all the founders did believe in was religious freedom. They were appalled by the fusion of religious and political power, epitomised by the divine right of kings.

Another example of reheated nonsense popping up in the current Republican primaries is Ron Paul’s obsession This is a completely debunked set of economic philosophies and musings roughly associated with Fredich Hayek who had a few good ideas about the pricing mechanisms of the market that were completely contorted by some fascists.  If you ever hear any one say anything about Mises, cover your ears.  It’s basically akin to learning  astrophysics from a flat earther who denies the theory of gravity.  No amount of historical data deters these people.  This description is from Matt Yglesias.

But “Austrians” in Paul’s sense refers to something narrower, specifically the thought of Ludwig Von Mises and his student Murray Rothbard. It is a form of capitalism that is even more libertarian and anarchic than that espoused by many libertarians. Rothbard‘s followers, most prominently longtime Paul associate and founder of the Mises Institute Lew Rockwell, have been waging a decades-long war against the Koch brothers and the more mainstream form of libertarianism the Kochs represent.

“Austrian economics,” in this sense, goes beyond standard-issue free market thinking in a number of ways. Most notably, it seeks to build a strong ethical case for strict libertarianism without admitting that this would lead to any practical problems whatsoever. Therefore, along with rejecting the legitimacy of any intervention to protect the poor or regulate anything (a position much more extreme than even the Hayek of Road to Serfdom), Austrians reject the idea that there is anything at all the government can do to stabilize macroeconomic fluctuations. This, to be clear, is different from the mainstream Republican view that the stimulus bill enacted by Congress in 2009 and signed into law by President Obama was wasteful or ineffective. Austrians also believe that cutting taxes to boost economic activity doesn’t work either. And they disagree with Milton Friedman that appropriate monetary stimulus by the Federal Reserve could have prevented the Great Depression. Indeed, they disagree with even the least controversial of all stabilization measures, the ordinary tweaking of short-term interest rates that all modern central banks use to try to prevent either inflation or deflation. In the view of the Austrians, practically every economic policy pursued by the federal government and Federal Reserve is a mistake that distorts markets. Rather than curing recessions, claim Austrians, stimulative policies cause them by producing unsustainable bubbles.

Not only did the analysis of the Great Depression thoroughly debunk this school of thought’s ridiculous hypotheses, the only places in the later part of the century that tried to implement the weirdness were countries like  Pinochet’s Chile.  Most of the Austrian Schools founders admired Mussolini so this as really not as big a leap as one would think for these guys.  I know I always associate liberty with fascist dictators and authoritarian regimes, don’t you?  It worked so well that the entire financial system there collapsed in 1982.   In fact, when Pinochet disappeared, one of his cabinet members showed up at the Cato Institute and even helped Dubya Bush with his efforts to privatize social security  His name is José Piñera .  I guess just crashing the economy and safety nets of the Chilean people just wasn’t enough.

You may wonder why I associate Ron Paul with the idea of a neoconfederacy.  Believe me, I’m not stretching on this either.

When it comes to American history, libertarians tend retrospectively to side with the Confederacy against the Union. Yes, yes, the South had slavery — but it also had low tariffs, while Abraham Lincoln’s free labor North was protectionist. Surely the tariff was a greater evil than slavery.

The posthumous induction of Jefferson Davis into the libertarian hall of fame was too much for David Boaz, a vice president of Cato. In a 2010 essay in Reason magazine titled “Up From Slavery: There’s No Such Thing as a Golden Age of Lost Liberty,” Boaz observed that even whites in the antebellum North “did not actually live in a free society … Liberalism seeks not just to liberate this or that person, but to create a rule of law exemplifying equal freedom. By that standard, even the plantation owners did not live in a free society, nor even did people in the free states.”

Boaz asked his fellow libertarians, “If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?” It says something that in 2009 this question stirred up a controversy on the libertarian right.

Libertarians and conservatives, to be sure, can point to many examples of naive liberals in the last century who embarrassed themselves by praising this or that squalid, tyrannical communist regime, from the Soviet Union and communist China to petty police states like North Korea, communist Vietnam and Castro’s Cuba. But the apologists for tyranny on the left were always opposed by anti-communist liberals and anti-communist democratic socialists. Where were the anti-authoritarian libertarians, denouncing libertarian fellow travelers of Pinochet like von Hayek and Milton Friedman?

For that matter, where was the libertarian right during the great struggles for individual liberty in America in the last half-century? The libertarian movement has been conspicuously absent from the campaigns for civil rights for nonwhites, women, gays and lesbians. Most, if not all, libertarians support sexual and reproductive freedom (though Rand Paul has expressed doubts about federal civil rights legislation). But civil libertarian activists are found overwhelmingly on the left. Their right-wing brethren have been concerned with issues more important than civil rights, voting rights, abuses by police and the military, and the subordination of politics to religion — issues like the campaign to expand human freedom by turning highways over to toll-extracting private corporations and the crusade to funnel money from Social Security to Wall Street brokerage firms.

So, I’ve obviously gone a bit over my usual acceptable word count, but believe me, in all my years of education, I would never believe that so much debunked tripe would form the central arguments of so many people running for president.  They will not be happy until everything is returned to the days of Dixie or pyramid building.   I’m having a hard time figuring out how far back in time they would throw us. It’s enough to make me run for the hills.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads

Laissez les bontemps roulez! It’s the start of the Carnival Season!

Tonight is 12th night which means it’s the official start of the carnival season or the lead up to Mardi Gras Day.  The season kicks off on Epiphany and ends on Fat Tuesday.  Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday.  There are two huge parties tonight!  The first one is held on a St. Charles Street Car and The Phunny Phorty Phellows.  They herald in the season.  We also celebrate Joan of Arc’s birthday with a parade in the Quarter.  If you make it down here, you will see many folks in medieval costume and many maskers.  Tonight is undoubtedly one of my favorite holidays because it’s just an incredibly colorful, local celebration.

If you’re going to hang out with native New Orleanians who grew up with Mardi Gras, there are a few things you must know. Here are the top ten.

Number 10

How to spell “krewe.”

Number 9

Carnival is a season, Mardi Gras is a day.

Number 8

The Mardi Gras colors are purple, green and gold, and the official Mardi Gras song is “If Ever I Cease To Love.”

Number 7

The Captain of the Krewe is more important than the King.

Number 6

If you miss a doubloon thrown from a float, never reach down to pick it up. Always put your foot on it. If you go with your hand, you’re either too late or you’ll get your fingers stepped on.

Number 5

If you bite into a plastic baby in a King Cake, that’s a good thing

Number 4

Any beads shorter than two feet long are unacceptable unless they are made of glass.

Number 3

The national press has no clue about Mardi Gras.

Number 2

The vast majority of people in the French Quarter during Carnival are people from out of town.

Finally, the Number 1 thing you must know about Mardi Gras is

You can always judge how bad hurricane season has been by riding down St. Charles Avenue in late fall to see how many Mardi Gras beads are still hanging in the trees.

Every office in the city will be serving King Cake!  Watch out for that baby because you’ll have to buy the next one!  It’s only 46 days until Mardi Gras!

The tea party has found a primary challenger for Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.  Who could possibly think that Hatch isn’t extreme enough?  Yup, it’s the usual group of whackos.

Conservative groups that want to send a message that centrists won’t be allowed to hide behind the GOP label have made a prime target out of Hatch, Utah’s six-term senior senator. Although firmly in the conservative camp on social issues, Hatch has built a reputation for reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats on economic policy, and shies away from the red-meat rhetoric many grassroots conservative groups demand.

The Club for Growth, a deep-pocketed fiscal conservative group, eagerly courted Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to run against Hatch, but Chaffetz quashed their hopes in August when he announced he would seek reelection to the House instead. Rep. Jim Matheson, a Utah Democrat, also considered challenging Hatch, but opted out in October.

FreedomWorks, a national Tea Party group that has set its sights on Hatch, placed its hopes in Liljenquist early, naming him its “Legislative Entrepreneur of the Year” in November and warmly welcoming him to the race on Wednesday.

“We are very pleased to see a dedicated and proven conservative like Dan Liljenquist step up and challenge the status quo in Utah,” said FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe. “His record in the state Senate shows clearly that Liljenquist has the ability to produce innovative solutions to budget woes, and to effectively turn those ideas into action and real legislative change.”

I guess my gut feeling yesterday about the Obama plan to decrease the size of the military was right.  It is an old rehashed Rummy idea.  Это интересно.  (That’s interesting in Russian with apologies for my Parisian accent to my Russian language teacher at university.)

The Obama administration plans to revert to a Bush-era plan to cut the number of U.S. Army combat brigades in Europe in half as part of the Pentagon budget cuts to be announced within weeks, U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The decision is a retreat from the administration’s previous determination, announced last April, to leave in place three of the four brigade combat teams now stationed in Europe, three in Germany and one airborne brigade in Italy. A brigade combat team usually has 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers.

“My understanding is that there will remain two brigades,” Hammond said in an interview yesterday in Washington after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for their first talks at the Pentagon since they each took office. “But in addition to that, there will be some rotating presence” for training and exercises, he said.

Speaking of interesting, here’s something a little offbeat from AJ.  It’s about fertility problems in “Mother India”.  Who would think that a country with severe population problems would have a booming fertility clinic business?

Jhuma and Niladri are a couple from Burdwan in the state of West Bengal. They have been married for eight years and have no children. This is a major problem, especially in India where a childless married woman is considered impure. A few years ago, Niladri would probably have abandoned Jhuma, and her life would have become a misery, her presence taken to be an inauspicious sign at social events or religious ceremonies.

Today, cutting-edge research and the boom in the assisted reproduction industry offer them new possibilities, new hopes, new dilemmas. The couple set off for Hyderabad, the heart of Indian medical and assisted reproduction research, on a journey of hope, a journey that will take them to Dr Rama’s fertility clinic.

Dr Rama is the owner of a number of clinics in southern India and is expanding her business into the Gulf States and the Caribbean. At the Hyderabad clinic, Jhuma comes into contact with doctors, embryologists, other infertile women and surrogate mothers who are driven by poverty to sell their wombs to earn the surrogacy fees that give them and their existing children a chance of a future.

Drink your coffee before you follow this link. What Would Hillary Clinton Have Done?  I wish I’d have bought some hip waders first, but oh well.

The empirical choice between Clinton and Obama was never as direct as those on either side made it out to be; neither was obviously more equipped or more progressive than the other. The maddening part, then and now, is that they were utterly comparable candidates. The visions — in 2008, of Obama as a progressive redeemer who would restore enlightened democracy to our land and Hillary as a crypto-Republican company man; or, in 2011, of Obama as an appeasement-happy crypto-Republican and Hillary as a leftist John Wayne who would have whipped those Congressional outlaws into shape — they were all invented. These are fictional characters shaped by the predilections, prejudices and short memories of the media and the electorate. They’re not actual politicians between whom we choose here on earth.

If she had won her party’s nomination and then the general election, Hillary Clinton’s presidency would probably not have looked so different from Obama’s. She was, after all, a senator who, for a variety of structural and strategic reasons, often crossed party lines to co-sponsor legislation with Republicans, who voted to go to war in Iraq, who moved to the center on everything from Israel to violent video games. You think Obama’s advisers are bad? Hillary Clinton hired, and then took far too long to get rid of, Mark Penn. And her economic team probably would have looked an awful lot like Obama’s.

Yup.  It’s the no difference trope!  I tried to warn you.

Alrighty.  That’s my contribution for the day.  Wonk will be hostessing the live blog for the Republican debates tomorrow night.  I have the makings of cosmopolitan martinis and a spinach/feta pizza.  Youngest daughter is coming in for the LSU blow out with two of her roommates.  At this point, some one is bound to find out that I faked the thanksgiving hand holding deal.  The thangka of lion faced dakini is sure to be a give away! So, be sure to join us for  what promises to be another whack event!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?