Friday Post Zeta Reads: We’re all hanging on and the bumpy rides keep comin’

This is an old fish/seafood market turned woodshop across the street from me. It’s lost its old tin roof.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s been a few overwhelming days for me and I’m quite exhausted.  New Orleans was very fortunate that Hurricane Zeta was a fast mover because she was like 1 mph off a Category 3 hurricane when she hit and hit she did.  We’re going to be digging out of shredded leaves, downed trees, and infrastructure messes for awhile.  Fortunately, only six families lost their homes and one person died.  It could’ve been way worse.

I was really fortunate that the city and the power company had done several things to stop tree damage on my avenue and in my neighborhood just a few weeks ago. The Tree Trimmers got the old oaks trimmed of dead branches and the power company reinforced the lines with brackets and and pole supports.  A large number of homes through out the metro area or still out of power.  Mine came back on Thursday morning.

However, both my phone and my cable tv and internet at the house are acting hinky.  I was about to check the weather channel one last time last night when I found that the only channel I had on the entire cable set up was MSNBC which was the last thing I was watching. Fortunately, the entire compliment of channels returned this morning.  The Wifi has been slow off and on.  I couldn’t get mobile data on my phone Wednesday night so I was completely cutoff from everything except texts and phone calls.  My understanding is that the Sprint Tower had damage and that network completely went down so something similar must’ve happened with the Verizon Tower.  My cable company still is showing a lot of outages and problems in the neighborhood so I’m just lucky I’ve got what I’ve got.

It looks like a leaf shredding bomb went off every where. Fortunately, our neighborhood kids decided to clean the avenue up for us old folks. They got some fresh bananas from my tree and some cash for their good work!

I spent Wednesday night reading the rest of a book on Kindle–which was amply charged for the event–by hurricane lamp light.  We were totally in the center of the eyewall when it came through which was the most ethereal experience I think I’ve ever had.  The city was texting us to stay inside but I wanted to get Temple out for a quick in and out walk.  It was quiet and the clouds to the west, east, and north of me were swirly dark grey clouds with an eerie purple tinge. To the south, over the river, the sky was a brilliant orangish gold.  I failed to bring my phone camera out with me but some others have captured the moment so I’m sharing some pictures I took but those were taken by others.

Today, I learned that a lot of polling places may not be up in time since about 70% of our schools are without power or damaged some how. I think my fire station is likely okay but I’m going to go check them out on Temple’s next Trot around the neighborhood.

And the final days of the 2020 presidential campaign look ugly.

I can’t really say I’ve been reading much or watching much TV on any of this because I’m rather traumatized enough from everything going on .  But, everything I’ve seen

My kitchen stairs or one of the sites of the leaf shredding hurricane debris

makes me glad I’ve been incognito for a few days. The desperation around the Trump campaign is just frighteningly damaging to every one including his cult.  I still can’t believe they abandoned a bunch of Omahans on an Airfield in freezing weather or let a group of Floridians pass out from heat exhaustion.  Both were finally rescued by actions of the local fire departments which the Kremlin Potted Plant in the White House wasn’t going to praise until he found out if it was a friend or a foe.  WTF?

The COVID 19 pandemic–despite Trumpist attempts to ignore and downplay it–is getting worse.  NPR reports that they’ve been hiding statistics also.  No surprise that!  “Internal Documents Reveal COVID-19 Hospitalization Data The Government Keeps Hidden”

As coronavirus cases rise swiftly around the country, surpassing both the spring and summer surges, health officials brace for a coming wave of hospitalizations and deaths. Knowing which hospitals in which communities are reaching capacity could be key to an effective response to the growing crisis. That information is gathered by the federal government — but not shared openly with the public.

NPR has obtained documents that give a snapshot of data the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services collects and analyzes daily. The documents — reports sent to agency staffers — highlight trends in hospitalizations and pinpoint cities nearing full hospital capacity and facilities under stress. They paint a granular picture of the strain on hospitals across the country that could help local citizens decide when to take extra precautions against COVID-19.

Withholding this information from the public and the research community is a missed opportunity to help prevent outbreaks and even save lives, say public health and data experts who reviewed the documents for NPR.

“At this point, I think it’s reckless. It’s endangering people,” says Ryan Panchadsaram, co-founder of the website COVID Exit Strategy and a former data official in the Obama administration. “We’re now in the third wave, and I think our only way out is really open, transparent and actionable information.”

Super Dome in the middle of the eye and yes these were the colors I saw.

Susan B Glasser writes this at The New Yorker: Denialism, Dishonesty, Deflection: The Final Days of the Trump Campaign Have It All. The President is ending his reëlection bid with scandals that call into question the legitimacy of next week’s vote.”

Whether or not Trump once again succeeds in pulling an unlikely win out of a near-certain defeat, this fall’s campaign may well go down as one of the most scandalous periods of his norm-shattering Presidency. Trump in recent weeks has openly flirted with white supremacy and bizarre conspiracy theories. He has demanded that the U.S. government investigate and jail Biden—it is not clear for what—and he has publicly threatened to fire the F.B.I. director and the Attorney General for failing to do so. He has held rallies at which his supporters chanted “Lock him up,” and did and said nothing to stop them. He has broadcast so much misinformation that social-media platforms such as Twitter have, for the first time, regularly warned readers about the veracity of his posts. He has lied so much that the Times found seventy-five per cent of his statements during a single rally to be untrue. He has issued orders that threaten to politicize the government long after he is gone, including an executive order, last week, which would remove key protections from the professional civil service; the potential consequences of this move are so significant that, on Monday, the Republican Trump appointee who would have to oversee it resigned in protest, warning that the decision will “replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance” across the government.

In recent weeks, scandalous revelations about Trump’s corruption include the Times’reporting on hundreds of millions of dollars of debt that Trump is personally liable for. (He will not say to whom.) The Washington Post disclosed this week that Trump has used his power to direct at least eight million dollars from the U.S. government—–and his political supporters—into his personal businesses since he took office. The consequences of Trump’s Presidency, meanwhile, include the forcible separation of at least twenty-six hundred migrant children from their parents at the southern border, and last week the awful news came out that five hundred and forty-five of these children are now stranded alone in the United States, owing to the authorities being unable to locate their mothers or fathers.

And this parade of horrors, of course, also includes Trump’s record on the coronavirus, a disastrous performance that, as of this week, has left more than two hundred and twenty thousand Americans dead. Universal mask-wearing could prevent perhaps a hundred and thirty thousand Americans from dying, according to a study in the scientific journal Nature which was released earlier this month. Yet Trump not only refuses to issue a national mask mandate; he has repeatedly and publicly questioned the need for mask-wearing during the fall campaign and has held numerous White House events with packed crowds of unmasked attendees.

This is my friend Grace Athas’ photo of the center of the eye over her uptown home.

Then, yesterday, the NYTs dropped what would be an October Surprise that kills Trump’s chances if we still lived in what was the normal United States of America.  Here it is summed up by New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait: “Trump Corruptly Meddled With Probe Into Crimes by Bank in Turkey.” The MSNBC coverage of this is evidently what got my TV stuck on the channel.  I was glued to the screen.  This is like immediate impeachment material for Trump, Barrett, and the Goddesses know who else?

In 2016, Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked then-Vice-President Joe Biden to lean on federal prosecutors who were investigating a Turkish bank for financial crimes and to hand over a dissident cleric living in the United States. The requests seemed to be on Biden’s mind when he publicly addressed reporters and piously explained that, in the United States, the justice system doesn’t work like that. “I suspect it’s hard for people to understand that as powerful as my country is, as powerful as Barack Obama is as president, he has no authority under our Constitution to extradite anyone,” Biden explained to reporters. “Only a federal court can do that. Nobody else can do that. If the president were to take this into his own hands, what would happen would be he would be impeached for violating the separation of powers.”

Well, the justice system works like that now.

The New York Times has a comprehensive report on Erdogan’s successful efforts to recruit top Trump administration officials into his corrupt scheme.

Scandals tend to be complicated, especially scandals involving banks. But this one is extremely simple. The basic elements:

1) The Justice Department was prosecuting financial crimes by a Turkish bank.

2) Turkey’s president asked President Trump to quash the investigation.

3) Trump has personally received more than $1 million in payments from business in Turkey while serving as president.

4) Two attorneys general loyal to Trump, Matthew Whitaker and William Barr, both pressured federal prosecutors to go easy on the Turkish bank.

The Times adds plenty of new detail to the last point, which is yet another blow to anybody who hoped Barr might preserve some shred of respect for the rule of law. “In mid-June 2019, when [Geoffrey] Berman met with Mr. Barr in Washington, the attorney general pushed Mr. Berman to agree to allow the Justice Department to drop charges against the defendants and terminate investigations of other suspected conspirators,” the Times reports. When Barr subsequently fired Berman, who resisted his pressure, Justice Department officials cited his stubbornness on the Turkey case “as a key reason for his removal.”

If you read one thing today make it this article. It is imperative he be voted out of office and removed as quickly as possible along with his appointments at the DOJ.

In the eye of a hurricane
There is quiet
For just a moment
A yellow sky

So, we’ve got a bit further to go on our Country’s Bumpy Ride. Tomorrow is Halloween.  Sunday is All Saints Day. Tuesday the votes are counted and I take my soul to the poll. Wednesday I turn 65.  What a long strange ride this is.

Take care!  Check in !

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Drumpf Dump and then some kewl stuff

Good Morning!

I found some really interesting things for you to read and watch today but let’s just do a quick Drumpfistan Detritus Dump first.  It’s easy to look at US History and recoil from the dark side with its huge numbers of crimes and cruelties inflicted by ‘White Christian Hegemony’.  Andrew Jackson’s removal of hundreds of thousands of indigenous Americans from their Tribal Lands on the Trail of Tears should be forced reading every time we celebrate any holiday like Columbus Day.  The contributions of women in this country have long buried, discounted, and discouraged.  The absolute impact of how our country was built on the slave trade and on the institution of slavery which has created lasting effects of racism that just do not go away is poorly understood by many Americans. This last year we have learned how vested so many are in the idea of White Christian Male Hegemony that it hurts to watch any action taken by any one in the White House.  They will destroy everything to protect it.

Racist and misogynistic attacks by this Administration on two black women US Representatives–Maxine Waters and Frederica Wilson–and a young black gold star widow–Myeshia Johnson–continue to gall.  The blatant misogyny and racism and this ongoing dog whistle and bait show provide us a glimpse into minds that obviously believe that some gold star families are more ‘sacred than others.’  This leaves me shocked and deeply saddened.  The attacks are also awash with lies and so disrespectful that none of these old, white, ‘Christian’–yes I’ve taken to using ironic quotation marks–men can’t even speak their names correctly if at all.

This is not the power of soft bigotry.  This is full on white supremacist mode.  No thinking person can deny this.

 

 

 

A grieving, pregnant widow and mother of small children has been compelled to go on Network TV to defend the Congresswoman that mentored her late husband.  We all believe Frederica Wilson.

The pregnant widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was among four U.S. service members killed in Niger earlier this month, expressed a mix of blame and sorrow today on “Good Morning America,” saying she was “very angry” about President Donald Trump‘s condolence phone call and upset because she says he struggled to “remember my husband’s name.”

ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos spoke to Myeshia Johnson, who criticized Trump’s handling of the phone call that started a firestorm of controversy.

I still can’t move beyond this.  Meet a retired Chicago police officer …

We continue to stand witness to the suffering of our country men and women in the Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico. The fact we now likely have incredibly failed military policy in Niger that ended the lives of 4 soldiers is at the heart of the Drumpf-created media circus that we’re watching. It serves to take our minds off of that and the suffering in our Caribbean territories.  McCain has joined in with swipes at Drumpf’s successful Draft Dodging during the Vietnam war.  Bone spurs?  Seriously?  Now would be a really great time for Congress to have some truth seeking hearings but their heads are up the asses of millionaires and billionaires seeking tax cuts.

Meanwhile, we have “Forever Wars”.  It also seems the groundwork is being laid for a few more.  It’s the belief of quite a few of us that the entire West Wing and the Drumpf Pentagon is out looking for an excuse to preemptively strike North Korea.

While President Donald Trump rattles sabers on Twitter and slams “Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un, there is also a perceptible hardening of tone among senior officials. Military action to halt North Korea’s march to a missile tipped with a nuclear warhead that could hit the US mainland appears to be a growing possibility.

Trump upped the rhetoric another notch in an interview with Fox Business Network broadcast Sunday, in which he said Washington was “so prepared, like you wouldn’t believe” for any contingency with Pyongyang.

“You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be,” Trump said. “Would it be nice not to do that? The answer is yes. Will that happen? Who knows, who knows.”

Trump’s power to shock has been eroded by the extraordinary spectacle of his nine months as President.
Yet it’s still stunning to hear an American President speaking so openly about the possibility of a war, that could, under some scenarios, cause the most devastation of any US conflict, at least since the Vietnam War.

And then, again, he talks shit about our allies who will probably leave us high and dry on any Drumpf war adventure.

Donald Trump has blamed a rise in crime in the UK on “radical Islamic terror”, despite there being no evidence to support the claim.

In an early morning tweet the President said: “Just out report: ‘United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror.’ Not good, we must keep America safe!”

So, enough of this … let’s end on the UPSIDE of humanity.

A new prehistoric finding has paleontologists stumped.

Paleontologists in Germany have discovered 9.7 million-year-old fossilised teeth that a German politician has hailed as potentially “rewriting” human history.

The dental remains were found by scientists sifting through gravel and sand in a former bed of the Rhine river near the town of Eppelsheim.

They resemble those belonging to “Lucy”, a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of an extinct primate related to humans and found in Ethiopia.

However, they do not resemble those of any other species found in Europe or Asia.

Scientists were so confused by the find they held off from publishing their research for the past year, Deutsche Welle reports.

Herbert Lutz, director at the Mainz Natural History Museum and head of the research team, told local media: “They are clearly ape teeth. Their characteristics resemble African finds that are four to five million years younger than the fossils excavated in Eppelsheim.

“This is a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery.”

At a press conference announcing the discovery, the mayor of Mainz suggested the find could force scientists to reassess the history of early humans.

I discovered a gem of a page on FaceBook.  It’s called History’s Women Adventurers. It’s loaded with video after video of amazing women. Now, I’m looking for more about them.

From Scary Mommy: GIFS of “women just destroying SHIT”. Yup. You’re enjoying some of them on this post!  Do take a brief look at the lives of two adventurous women!  You’ll be glad that you did! The Facebook page is an amazing collection of short videos of adventuring women’s lives. Here’s an article about the effort to celebrate the legacies of these women.

 

Also, go Check out Doug McCash’s tweeter feed for artwork on homes and buildings through out New Orlean’s 7th ward.  Doug is an Arts and Entertainment writer at The Times-Picayune. There’s some really fine street art out there.

Chad Knight is the Digital artist from Portland whose CGI sculpture is up top.

So, at least I ended my rant with something uplifting.  Destruction and creation and evolving life;  What could be more human?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

jackson squareGood afternoon!

BostonBoomer got into a bad fight with a bush that needed trimming and came out the loser yesterday.  She’s laid up at her mother’s house with a terrible, horrible, awful, very bad rash.  So, I’m writing today’s post and it’s on the tardy side as usual these days.  I’ve never been a morning person but now I have no reason to be since all my lectures, etc. happen in the evening. So, I’m just going to get us caught up on some thoughts today on the cultural shift of the last few weeks and give you a few suggested reads.

There’s some interesting things going on in New Orleans that I thought I’d share with you.  We’re a southern city in a southern state even though our history is more nuanced that some of the other southern states and cities.  There are two very prominent statues in the city from our past.  The first is one of Andrew Jackson atop a stallion to recognize his role in the Battle of New Orleans.LA-Bldg_0170_1_2_3_4_tone-merge-1024x605

The second statue stands on top of a huge column and is part of a traffic roundabout called Lee Circle.  It is, of course, a statue of Robert E. Lee the Confederate General.  Lee looks more than a little defiant with his back to the Mississippi and his arms crossed. He faces due North.  

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has decided that he’d like to take down the statue and rename the circle because he feels that it’s a little too much of a monument to a confederate general.  My question is when do we cross the line from glorification of past sins to erasing some history that we need to really discuss and understand.

Lee was not exactly Nathan Bedford Forrest, the ex-Confederate General who helped to found the KKK. Nor, was Lee a particularly gung-ho Confederate General to start out with if you remember your history.  Lee did something completely different than Forrest after the Civil War.  He became an educator and an advocate of educating black Americans. Lee also freed his slaves 10 years before the war. So, he was a complex man with a complex history as are most of our historical figures.  Still, both of these men who led an insurrection need to be understood without glorification. Can a monument area become an outdoor teaching museum made to elucidate instead of glorify just as many of our National Parks and Museums already do.

After the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson became a U.S. President who is notable for the “Trail of Tears” which was the policy of forcibly and violently removing Native Americans from their land.  The Chocktaw nation was removed from their land in the south and sent on what amounted to a death march west to what is now Oklahoma.  There are two National Parks where Jackson figures prominently. One is the Chalmette Battlefield site where the Battle of New Orleans took place.  The other is Trail of Tears National History Trail.   One is a site of national pride.  The other is a site of national shame.  Jackson, you may recall, is still etched on our $20 bill. If any one’s statue needs to come down it is surely that of Andrew Jackson.

However, history is a nuanced bitch and should never be white washed or banned or removed.  While I fully support removing the Confederate Battle Flag off of public buildings that aren’t museums, I question the wisdom of Mitch Landrieu and others who want to remove monuments rather than use them as an opportunity to teach.

Again, If any one deserves to have all his monuments torn down it is the genocidal Jackson.   Yet, without the win at the Battle of New Orleans we might have a totally different history with the British.  The citizenry who could vote at the time made him President.  He was an extremely controversial President and at times very unpopular for a variety of reasons.  Studying the variety of reasons helps us to learn about past mistakes and the ramifications of these mistakes to our present and future.

Andrew Jackson had long been an advocate of what he called “Indian removal.” As an Army general, he had spent years leading brutal campaigns against the Creeks in Georgia and Alabama and the Seminoles in Florida–campaigns that resulted in the transfer of hundreds of thousands of acres of land from Indian nations to white farmers. As president, he continued this crusade. In 1830, he signed the Indian Removal Act, which gave the federal government the power to exchange Native-held land in the cotton kingdom east of the Mississippi for land to the west, in the “Indian colonization zone” that the United States had acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase. (This “Indian territory” was located in present-day Oklahoma.)

The law required the government to negotiate removal treaties fairly, voluntarily and peacefully: It did not permit the president or anyone else to coerce Native nations into giving up their land. However, President Jackson and his government frequently ignored the letter of the law and forced Native Americans to vacate lands they had lived on for generations. In the winter of 1831, under threat of invasion by the U.S. Army, the Choctaw became the first nation to be expelled from its land altogether. They made the journey to Indian territory on foot (some “bound in chains and marched double file,” one historian writes) and without any food, supplies or other help from the government. Thousands of people died along the way. It was, one Choctaw leader told an Alabama newspaper, a “trail of tears and death.”

This is what Mitch says about removing the Lee Statue and redoing Lee Circle. 

Now is the time to talk about replacing the statue of Robert E. Lee, as iconic as it is controversial, from its perch at the center of Lee Circle, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Wednesday (June 24) during a gathering held to highlight his racial reconciliation initiative.

“Symbols really do matter,” he said. “Symbols should reflect who we really are as a people.

“We have never been a culture, in essence, that revered war rather than peace, division rather than unity.”

[Listen to Landrieu’s speech on why Lee Circle should be renamed, or read a full article on his announcement here. ]

The slaying last week of nine black people in a historic Charleston, S.C., church at the hands of Dylann Roof, an avowed white supremacist, has sparked heated debate about whether the Confederate battle flag and other symbols associated with the country’s racist past ought to be displayed in public places.

Just two days ago, Landrieu was noncommittal when asked whether the Lee statue should be removed, though he called for a larger discussion on it and other Confederate monuments in New Orleans. The 2018 Tricentennial Commission, whose tasks include addressing the city’s complex racial history ahead of its 300th anniversary, would also examine the propriety of the monuments continued display on public property, the mayor’s office said.

“These symbols say who we were in a particular time, but times change. Yet these symbols — statues, monuments, street names, and more — still influence who we are and how we are perceived by the world,” a spokesman said in a statement. “Mayor Landrieu believes it is time to look at the symbols in this city to see if they still have relevance to our future.”

Now, I will give him credit if he manages to get Jefferson Davis Parkway renamed.  That shocked me the first time I saw it.  But, there’s an opportunity lost in the Lee Circle suggestion.  That opportunity is to highlight a complex moment in history and a complex man.  One of his former slaves Rev. William Mac Lee wrote some fascinating bits about their lives together.  

There are many more things that we could learn about the horrible institution of slavery and the men that enabled it. That’s a real conversation we need to have about race.  That institution has shaped race relations in this country.  We can’t bury or white wash the past by removing all elements of it.  We need not glorify the men, but we do need to understand the history and work to ensure we correct the sins and errors of the past. We also, need to instruct on how their actions inform our lives now by including more into these monuments or parks. Rev William Mac Lee wrote this about his former owner.

I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment. All of his servants were set free ten years before the war, but all remained on the plantation until after the surrender.

trailoftears05We have an opportunity in these places where monuments reside to discuss the sins, the complexities, and all of the people impacted both past, present and future.  There’s more than enough land there to introduce us to William Mac Lee and his descendants as they struggle to navigate the post Civil War South as well as understand the ways that Lee atoned and evolved.

Even statues of the nasty Nathan Bedford Forrest give us an opportunity to put a face and history on the horrible acts of the KKK including lynchings which were frequent and savage in many parts of our country. So, rather than just bury this history and these men, why not use the sites to explore the history of the lives they shaped?  Lee became an advocate of black education even while maintaining the racist notions of the time that African Americans were savages that could eventually be brought to full status through education.  That’s an attitude that needs elucidation because it still informs many in the South. I remember thinking of Lee when Barbara Bush made her pronouncement at the AstroDome on Katrina refuges.  Forrest created the original domestic terrorist organization.  How did these men take such different paths? How far have we come or not come since then?

So, in all of this call to bring down monuments, I hear no similar call to remove the statue of the genocidal Jackson that is also surrounded by enough land for us to be regaled not only with his victory at the Battle of New Orleans but his savage treatment of the Southern Tribes.  The square could be used to connect the Jackson of Chalmette Battlefield to the Jackson of The Trail of Tears.  For some reason, we seem incapable of grabbing teaching moments when they are upon us.  But think, no one plowed under the major concentration camps and there are Holocaust Museums.  They are are there for us to learn, understand, and evolve.

The SPLC has asked that holidays celebrated in the names of Jeff Davis and Robert E Lee be dropped.  This is appropriate.  It’s important to remove the glorification even while we search for deeper understanding of the acts, men, and history.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has launched an online petition asking that Alabama and four other states drop holidays honoring Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

“It’s time to stop the celebrations,” the petition says. “We should honor those who represent American ideals, not those who led the fight to preserve slavery.”

The other states listed are Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

The petition follows other calls to remove symbols honoring the Confederacy since the murders of nine African-American worshipers at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., two weeks ago.

Gov. Robert Bentley had Confederate flags removed from a monument on the north side of the state Capitol last week.

In Birmingham today, a city board voted to explore removal of a Confederate monument from Linn Park.

SPLC President Richard Cohen said it was a good time to act on the organization’s concerns about holidays honoring Confederate President Davis and Lee, the South’s top general.

“We thought that now, while the public is sensitive to these issues and in some sense has a broader understanding of the nature of these kinds of symbols, that it would be a good time to put this issue on the public agenda,” Cohen said.

He said the petition was a way to start conversation.

“Why we honor people who fought to preserve slavery is a question I think the public has to ask itself,” Cohen said.

Again, it is a completely different thing to revere or honor bad actors.  So, I’m a firm advocate of museums, parks, and national historic sites that tell the full picture.  I’m not in favor of glorification.  Maybe, we should also have a conversation on the true stories behind the Thanksgiving myths eventually.  Plus, some one needs to talk to Mitch Landrieu about Andrew Jackson.  The man committed genocide plain and simple. But that’s enough from me!!!

Here’s a few interesting things that you might want to read today.

So, that’s my thoughts and suggestions for today.

What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Tuesday Reads: Diary of a Mad Meme

988922_10100144300981501_6638277329610483009_nGood Morning!

So I thought I’d start off with a local story that’s gone rather viral.  My fellow Louisiana Blogger and buddy Lamar White has broken a story that’s even bigger than soon-to-be Senator Double Dip’s payroll fraud.  I’ve watched it go completely viral over the last two days. It’s the stuff political junkie dreams are made from.

Metarie Louisiana is a small town that was one of the first white flight suburbs of New Orleans.  My first real exposure to it was watching Sheriff Harry Lee give a speech to a Republican women’s club 20 years ago in a restaurant in Fat City where I happened to be dining with the guy that brought me here.  The fact a big ol’ huge southern sheriff was Chinese and talking some really right wing stuff to a bunch of little old gray-haired white ladies was a hoot.

This was slightly after the entire Edwin Edwards/David Duke Governor race so I knew what the area was infamous for, believe me. News of that affair even drifted its way up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to the backwater of Omaha, Nebraska.  Then, there’s the fact that the various congressional and lege seats were and are held by some of the worst people in the state (e.g. Vitter and David Duke). It’s a wingnut haven. I drive through it on the way to the airport and try not to let the air waft into the car.

So, the current seatholder–whom I refer to as Congressman Sleaze–is Steve Scalise.  He’s just been elected to the majority whip position under Boehner and his goosesteppers.  Jindal and most republicans in that part of the state have always gotten in a lather at the idea of getting David Duke’s contact list for obvious reasons.  Scalise, however, appeared at one of his events.   What’s really odd is his response.  It’s a combination of ‘I didn’t know’ and ‘The one aid I had at the time is responsible’ and the usual ‘Who me racist?  Anti-Semitic?’ By Monday afternoon, the findings had gone from Lamar’s blog to TPM to WAPO. All the major news stations were on it by yesterday afternoon.  Way to go DUDE!!!

Bad news for incoming majority whip Steve Scalise. He has admitted that in 2002 he addressed a group called the European-American Unity and Rights Organization — founded by David Duke, whom the Anti-Defamation League calls “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite,” formerly of the KKK and known for his theory that Jews were behind 9/11.

Why would Scalise attend an event sponsored by Neo-Nazis and KKK members then admit to being confused about the event? Why would you possibly think speaking at this event was a good idea? Why would you think attending this event was a good idea as a human being let alone if you had the faintest glimmer of public office in your eye? NOTHING ABOUT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA.

In his defense, Scalise’s advisers are saying that “he addressed them, sure, but only because he had no idea where he was or whom he was talking to at any given time until 2007.”

I’m not making this up:

Here is an actual thing that one of Scalise’s former advisers wrote:

“It was a crazy time and I doubt there was a lot of checking up on who was who. . . . It really wasn’t until 2004 that he started sitting down and evaluating speaking engagements and questionnaires. Even then he really didn’t get a handle on schedule until he ran for state senate in 2007 and then congress the year after.”

That is certainly one tactic. “Until 2004, I had LITERALLY NO IDEA whom I was speaking to at any given time. My schedule was a total mystery to me. If a man came off the street, wrapped in a Confederate flag, and said, ‘Come address my group,’ I would have said, ‘Yessir, no question, I want to popularize my proposal to end slush funds.’ I didn’t know my own name until 2005, in case you discover that I’ve signed any unfortunate petitions.”

Okay, I knew about David Duke and I didn’t live in the state until 20 years ago to this month actually. How could this little guy not know who he was speaking to?  David Duke was a Louisiana Republican Party fixture until his run-in with the IRS and his later self expatriation to Russia. As previously mentioned, every one of these Republican officeholders went for his voter list.  You can’t tell me Scalise wasn’t just trying to get at the member list and grab as many potential votes as he could.  He probably figured it wouldn’t matter to his constituents or he’d never get caught.  He obviously had no idea about Google at the time so the way back machine must be way over his mental capacity.   Roll Call has this little gem up about conversation that Vitter and Scalise had about Duke in 1999. ick tweet

Back in 1999, Roll Call interviewed white supremacist leader David Duke about the possibility he would seek the House seat vacated by the resignation of Republican Rep. Bob Livingston. As part of that report, reporter John Mercurio also talked to up-and-coming Louisiana politicians, current Sen. David Vitter and current House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

“I honestly think his 15 minutes of fame have come and gone,” said state Rep. David Vitter (R), a wealthy Metairie attorney who holds Duke’s old seat in the state House and is “seriously considering” a Congressional bid. “When he’s competed in a field with real conservatives, real Republicans, Duke has not done well at all.”

Another potential candidate, state Rep. Steve Scalise (R), said he embraces many of the same “conservative” views as Duke, but is far more viable.

“The novelty of David Duke has worn off,” said Scalise. “The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can’t get elected, and that’s the first and most important thing.”

In light of Monday’s news reports about the likelihood that Scalise addressed Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization back in 2002, here is the full report from the Jan. 7, 1999, edition of Roll Call:

10885064_10204902334573144_1073535409181496610_nDuke was a former state representative holding the same lege seat that both Vitter and Scalise once had.  He made a comment about him prior to his damned appearance.  How could he not know who he was speaking to?  Anyway, the blogosphere lit up like a candle on Sunday and it’s been one big rolling ball ever since then.  Are people really going to believe this weak excuse?  And here’s a good idea of why I call the dude Congressman Stevie Sleaze.

By 2004, according to New Orleans CityBusiness, Scalise was condemning Duke, who by then was in federal prison on tax charges. Still, Duke was again considering a runfor the 1st District seat.

“David Duke is an embarrassment to our district and his message of hate only serves to divide us,” Scalise told the newspaper.

Scalise’s own message has not always been one of inclusion. Months after criticizing Duke, he was one of six state representatives who voted against making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday. He had also voted against a similar bill in 1999.

In a 2008 ad during his first successful bid for Congress, Scalise accused Democratic rival Jim Harlan of “endorsing Obama’s liberal and dangerous agenda shaped by radicals like Rev. [Jeremiah] Wright.” His campaign also put out a flier with Harlan’s photo near the star and crescent symbol, commonly associated with Islam.

Here he is again with his excuses flying.

Please walk me through how you came to appear at the white nationalist event. 

“I don’t have any records from back in 2002, but when people called and asked me to speak to groups, I went and spoke to groups. It was myself and [former state Sen.] James David Cain who were opposed to the Stelly tax plan.

I was the only legislator from the New Orleans area who was opposed to the plan publicly, so I was asked to speak all around the New Orleans region. I would go and speak about how this tax plan was bad.

I didn’t know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous.

I was opposed to a lot of spending of spending at the state level. When people asked me to go speak, I went and spoke to any group that called.”

You don’t remember speaking at the event? 

“I don’t. I mean I’ve seen the blog about it. When you look at the kind of things they stand for, I detest these kinds of views. As a Catholic, I think some of the things they profess target people like me. At lot of their views run contradictory to the way I run my life.

I don’t support some of the things I have read about this group. I don’t support any of the things I have read about this group, but I spoke to a lot of groups during that period. I went all throughout South Louisiana.

I spoke to the League of Women Voters, a pretty liberal group. … I still went and spoke to them. I spoke to any group that called, and there were a lot of groups calling.

I had one person that was working for me. When someone called and asked me to speak, I would go. I was, in no way, affiliated with that group or the other groups I was talking to. ”

You don’t remember speaking to a group affiliated with David Duke? 

David Duke was never at any group I spoke to.”

Were you avoiding him? 

“He was a state representative before me. Everyone knew who he was. I would not go to any group he was a part of.”

Why do you think this [controversy] is coming out right now? 

“Clearly, some people are trying to infer some things that just aren’t true. As a conservative…there are a lot of groups that don’t like conservative beliefs.

From what I’ve read about this group, they don’t like Catholics like myself.”

Yes, and the dog ate his campaign schedule.10897997_10100144393446201_1294380105915636085_n

So, all us blogging Louisiana Buddies are in awe once more of Lamar’s terrific detective skills.  Here’s a great example from blogging Buddy Adrastos.

This kerfuffle reminds me of the days when all sorts of “respectable” Louisiana Republicans played footsie with Dukkke. Many, like Scalise, have put some of Dukkke’s “populist” positions in a suit and tie and tried to make them respectable *after* the Gret Stet Fuhrer wannabe stopped doing so. It’s a minor league version of how Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter (yes, Jimmy Carter) cherry picked George Wallace’s political tree as it were. To be fair to my least favorite recent Democratic President, he borrowed Wallace’s anti-Washington/I’m an outside shtick, and not the whole standing in the schoolhouse door thing.

On a personal level, I’m pleased as punch that vast swaths of the MSM are giving Lamar credit for breaking the story. I expect that the Republican helots will be coming after him directly. He might even get slimed by Rush. If that happens, I will be a jealous motherfugu. (I’m trying swear less as well as to coin a swell new euphemism in addition to my continuing campaign to revive the word swell.) For now, I will merely bask in the reflected glory and hope that Lamar won’t forget the little people or Darby O’Gill for that matter…

I suspect that Scalise will keep his seat in Congress. He is, after all, from the same burg that elected Dukkke to the state lege. Moreover, as recently as 1999, Dukkke received 19% of the vote in a primary for the same seat Scalise holds today. Dukke finished third behind former Governor Dave Treen and the eventual winner, our old pal, Diaper Dave. Scalise has already used the “I’m not a racist” dodge to the Vestigial Picayune. We’ll see how it plays.

I think it’s pretty obvious that the folks in the Scalise District couldn’t care less about it. After all, they once elected Duke to represent them in the lege. The real damn shame about all of this is that the east coast media is giving interview time and column space to Duke.  He’s not rotting up there on the North Shore with the rest of the klan.  Scalise will undoubtedly retain his seat and it might even give him some cred upstate should he decide to run for a statewide office. However, I’m not sure what exactly the Republicans in the District are going to do with him.  He’s either going to have to do some serious mea culpas or offer to step down.  How long this stays as a top trending social media item will undoubtedly help write the end of the story inside the Beltway.  It’s also New Year’s and college football bowl game time.  There’s quite a few distractions including a downed airliner taking up air time. This is definitely an insider story at this point so the ending is still going to be written within the beltway.  Look for Boehner’s response or his absolute vanishing act from media appearances until he gauges if this story has very very long legs. Whatever happens, watch for Lamar’s blog.   And then watch the hashtag fun too.

Anyway, that’s my little two cents for the day.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: We call it riding the Gravy Train

Louisiana Purchased

Good Morning!

I’m going to go a bit local on you again with this eye popping set of numbers and business welfare stories from The Advocate.   The state’s budget is in ruin.  Public hospitals and universities have been defunded to the point that their services are in shambles and their accreditation/certifications have been questioned.  However, we seem to have plenty of room to subsidize rich people and high earning industries.  The eight part series is extremely well documented and it shows exactly how much our state has given to these businesses for nothing comparable in return. Watch out for give aways like these in a state near or around you.

Duck Dynasty” is the most popular show in the history of A&E. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer. Valero is America’s biggest independent refiner, earning $6 billion in profits last year.

But despite all that success, they’re all receiving generous subsidies from the taxpayers of Louisiana, through programs that funnel more than a billion dollars every year to coveted industries.

Every time the Robertson clan films another episode of “Duck Dynasty,” Louisiana is on the hook for nearly $330,000, at last count.

During the past three years, state taxpayers agreed to fork over nearly $700,000 to Wal-Mart to build new stores in two affluent suburbs.

And when Valero announced an expansion of its Norco operations, creating 43 new jobs, Louisiana promised to cover $10 million of the cost, or nearly a quarter of a million dollars per job.

Louisiana’s giveaways to businesses, aimed at boosting economic development in what historically has been one of America’s poorest states, have been growing at a much faster rate than the state’s economy.

Louisiana isn’t the only state that actually bribes Walmart to ruin its local businesses and labor markets.  I’ve linked toscizzorhandz the subsidies in Louisiana, but you can find your own state’s largess at the site too.

There are no centralized databases of economic development subsidies, but Good Jobs First found 20 deals worth a total of about $96.5 million in Louisiana.  …

Many Wal-Mart workers are ineligible for health coverage from their employer or choose not to purchase what is available, because it is too expensive or too limited in scope. These workers often turn to taxpayer-funded health programs such as Medicaid. Louisiana is among those states that have not disclosed data on the employers with the most workers or their dependents enrolled in such programs.

What we have is a mess and I have no doubt that Kansas and other Republican run nightmare states can’t be too far behind in the race to the bottom.

When the Legislature convenes next year, an even bigger shortfall of as much as $1.4 billion is expected. Many legislators, including Republicans overseeing key financial committees, speak of a “structural deficit” of at least $600 million that they trace in large part to the growing giveaways. Because the programs are built into the law, they don’t have to compete for funding with other state services: The state just pays the tab, whatever it is.

Indeed, Louisiana’s incentive programs are viewed with increasing bipartisan skepticism.

Liberals have long complained that the giveaways divert money from programs that help the poor and middle class, directing it instead into corporate coffers. Conservatives are uncomfortable with the state picking winners rather than letting private enterprise sort things out in the marketplace. An alternative would be to simply let taxpayers keep more of their money. And many members of both parties think the cuts, especially to higher education, have gone too far.

Still, the programs have proven difficult to corral, in part because Jindal — who holds considerable sway over the Legislature — has pledged not to raise taxes in any form. According to the rules of the pledge, promulgated by the powerful group Americans for Tax Reform, any legislative action that increases revenue to the state constitutes a tax increase, even if the action simply gets rid of a costly giveaway. Jindal responded to requests for an interview for this story by issuing a written statement saying his administration’s policies have led to economic and population growth, and that the state should not seek to increase revenues.

Jindal’s fealty to the anti-tax pledge may have helped keep his presidential ambitions alive, but it hasn’t necessarily made the business world see Louisiana as a tax paradise. Though some surveys put the Pelican State’s actual tax burden among the five lowest in the country, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation recently ranked Louisiana No. 35 among the states with the best tax climates for business.

It’s not hard to see why.

“States are punished for overly complex, burdensome and economically harmful tax codes but are rewarded for transparent and neutral tax codes that do not distort business decisions,” the group said in a news release.

With more than 450 tax breaks enshrined in state law, some of them massive, Louisiana undeniably fails that test.

You can read horror story after horror story in the paper’s 8 stories written by various Advocate staff.   Here are two more examples that just left me flabbergasted.

  • Louisiana’s film incentive program cost state taxpayers $251 million last year and returned less than 25 percent of that to state coffers in the form of taxes. Considered the most generous of its kind in the nation, the film incentive has made the state America’s busiest locale for making feature films. It’s no wonder: State taxpayers cover 30 percent of the cost of movies filmed here, including eight-figure star salaries such as the estimated $20 million paid to Tom Cruise for 2013’s “Oblivion.”

  • Refunds of a property tax that businesses pay on their inventory have more than doubled in the past seven years, reaching $427 million last year and widening the hole in the state budget. The tax, little known to most Louisianians, is assessed at the local level and paid by businesses to parish governments. The state then cuts refund checks for the entirety of the tax paid, under a law passed in 1992. The pass-through in effect means taxpayers around Louisiana are subsidizing parishes with heavy industry, which generates most of the tax. For example, roughly 6 percent of the revenue from the inventory tax program goes to St. James Parish, which has just 0.5 percent of Louisiana’s population.

So like nearly every other Republican who screams about being a fiscal conservative,  Bobby Jindal is pretty much proving it’s not so much about that as ensuring his donor base is tax free and  subsidized.  So some one please tell me why Tom Cruise is so deserving of a multi million dollar income support but we can’t feed poor children?  Any one?

EmperorOr hey, what about this?  You’re filthy rich, you own a highly subsidized business–namely a pro football team–so you’ve got big bucks.  Why not go take advantage of some homeless people?

Before every Tampa Bay Buccaneers home game, dozens of men gather in the yard at New Beginnings of Tampa, one of the city’s largest homeless programs.

The men — many of them recovering alcoholics and drug addicts — are about to work a concessions stand behind Raymond James Stadium’s iconic pirate ship, serving beer and food to football fans. First, a supervisor for New Beginnings tries to pump them up.

“Thank God we have these events,” he tells them. “They bring in the prime finances.”

But not for the workers. They leave the game sweat-soaked and as penniless as they arrived. The money for their labor goes to New Beginnings. The men receive only shelter and food.

For years, New Beginnings founder and CEO Tom Atchison has sent his unpaid homeless labor crews to Tampa Bay Rays, Lightning and Bucs games, the Daytona 500 and the Florida State Fair. For their shelter, he’s had homeless people work in construction, landscaping, telemarketing, moving, painting, even grant-writing.

Atchison calls it “work therapy.” Homeless advocates and labor lawyers call it exploitative, and possibly illegal. It is the latest questionable way Atchison has used homeless people, and public money, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

Now Atchison is applying to run Hillsborough County’s new homeless shelter, a contract worth millions of public dollars that would entrust him with the county’s most vulnerable people.

The Times reviewed thousands of pages of public records about New Beginnings, including police reports, bank statements, grant documents and court proceedings, and interviewed more than 20 current and former New Beginnings residents and employees. Among the findings:

• Employees and residents said Atchison took residents’ Social Security checks and food stamps, even if they amounted to more than residents owed in program costs.

• A New Beginnings contractor told the Times he overbilled the state for at least $80,000 of grant money, then gave the money to the program instead of returning it.

• While claiming to provide counseling, New Beginnings employs no one clinically trained to work with addicts or the mentally ill. One minister cited his experience running a motorcycle gang as his top qualification. The Times couldn’t verify the doctorate in theology Atchison said he earned from a defunct online school.

Atchison, 61, defended the work therapy as a vital component of his program, and an important source of revenue. He said he never stole any Social Security checks or food stamps.

So, here’s today’s list of people that got huge sums of money that certainly didn’t do anything deserving of it. First up, I know will think twice before I EVER EVER EVER watch anything on ABC again.   Why?  ABC Reportedly Paid Darren Wilson Six-Figure Fee for Interview

ABC offered Darren Wilson a “mid-to-high” six-figure payment to give his first and only public interview on the network, according to the website Got News. An unnamed source from NBC reportedly told the website that both networks engaged in a bidding war to score the first interview with Wilson but NBC backed out after its rival “upped the ante.”

WTF?  Will they be hiring Mr and Mrs Charles Manson for a show for Newly Weds next?feature7c47790737384c50fcf3162a3b1d

Two republican senators–Diaper Dave being one of them–think that breathing is a privilege.  Two little piggies at the taxpayer’s trough continue to sell their souls to big oil.

Right-wingers are already peeved about the  new EPA regulation proposed by the Obama administration this week. The new rule would cap ground-level ozone—pollutants that make air risky to breathe—at 65 to 70 parts per billion. The standard “will represent one of the costliest rules ever issued by EPA and will serve as one of the most devastating regulations,”  wrote U.S. senators James Inhofe and David Vitter, in an effort to convince the American public that gradually choking to death is much, much cheaper. (The New Republic reports that the histrionic numbers they’re bellowing about are based on “the strictest assumptions to generate the highest dollar value.”) Luckily, Inhofe and Vitter will soon have the opportunity to vote for the  “Science Advisory Board Reform Act” when the bill hits the Senate, thereby assisting big business temper tantrums to drown out peer review science in EPA advising. But why should we trust Inhofe’s and Vitter’s take on the relative frivolousness of breathing air? Because they are respected experts, that’s why. Inhofe once conclusively debunked climate change  by citing the Bible, after which he presumably dropped the mic and ran off to stone his co-conspirator David Vitter  for adultery.

It’s enough to make one run for the borders of Canada!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?