Religion-based bullies are always the worst of the worst when it comes to meanness because they have that extra self-righteousness about them that infers they can never be wrong even when everything they say and do pretty much violates every tenant you’ve ever come to understand about their religion. This behavior is as old as religions themselves. I mean, who really are better bullies than any of the gods? The Greek gods excelled at it. The Abrahamic god not only has corned the market but has followers that basically travel from land to land and culture to culture just to act out on hapless indigenous people.
My first real experience happened in high school in the choir room when two upper class boys decided I needed a lesson in the humility they believe was shown by Jesus. Of course this was just old fashioned misogyny which is really one of the oldest tricks in the bullying books written by those following the entire Iron Age myth of the Abrahamic god. Believe me, I was traumatized by being held down for a period of time and shouted at on the choir risers about basically being an uppity woman who really needs to understand what jeebus wants her to do. Women aren’t allowed to be too talented, too smart, too pretty, and not passive enough. I’ve really just started talking about this craziness around 40 odd years after the fact. I had no idea what to make of it or do about it as a teenage girl who had to deal with these guys daily.
When any one asks me what one thing I would eliminate in the world if I could I answer quite quickly. It would be religion.
My second experience was, of course, my lesson in what neighbors are really about when I ran for office as a pro-choice Republican. Nothing, believe me nothing stands up to what fetus festishists can do. Lying and bullying are rituals for them. The day I started getting messages on the answering machine telling me where my small children had been and what abortion “procedure” they’d perform on them was the day I decided I wanted to leave that state and NEVER go back. I’d stack the lot of these Fetus Fetishists up against ISIS. They’re actually worse because most of them have the benefit of an education, a job, and life in a first world country. We are resplendent in religious bullies these days. From Bibi Netanyahu, to Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and just about every dude in the Government of Saudi Arabia. I could probably just spend a post of thousands of words listing them all.
So, I’m going to start with a story out of Alabama where a prisoner has been basically bullied into carrying a pregnancy to term. It starts out with the State seeking to end the parental rights of the pregnant woman. These multiple attempts confusing fried chicken with scrambled eggs always concern me.
The state of Alabama is petitioning a court to strip a pregnant prisoner of parental rights in order to prevent her from obtaining an abortion.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said Wednesday the woman won’t have legal standing to seek an abortion if a court takes away her parental rights.
The woman has already asked a federal judge to order the county to let her have an abortion. A ruling is expected Friday. Her lawyer says any decision by a federal judge would trump any decision by the court in Lauderdale County.
The head of the Alabama State Bar Association’s family law section calls the state’s request “absurd.”
The woman has now dropped her bid to get an abortion. I have no doubt that she was coerced into serving as an incubator.
An Alabama prisoner who went to federal court seeking an abortion filed a court document Wednesday saying she’d changed her mind and wanted to give birth, after the state had sought to prevent her from undergoing the procedure.
The sworn statement, filed on behalf of a woman identified only as Jane Doe, didn’t say whether the state’s action resulted in the change of heart. In the document, the woman said she made the decision on her own without any “undue influence, duress, or threat of harm.”
“After much consideration and counsel, I … have decided that I no longer desire to pursue an abortion procedure and intend to carry the unborn child to full term and birth,” she said in the statement.
The document was filed by Maurice McCaney, an attorney appointed to represent the woman in juvenile court, where the state had petitioned court authorities to strip the pregnant prisoner of parental rights in order to prevent her from obtaining an abortion.
McCaney didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. Neither did Randall Marshall, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented the woman in the federal lawsuit seeking an abortion.
The Lauderdale County prisoner had originally filed a federal lawsuit last week against a local sheriff, seeking a court order that would clear the way for an abortion. A federal judge had said he would rule by Friday on her request.
In the meantime, the state had sought to terminate her parental rights over the unborn child.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly recently said the prisoner in question would be stripped of her legal standing to seek an abortion if the court took away her parental rights. Connolly said via email that he filed the request on the state’s behalf.
The woman, who filed suit July 20 against Sheriff Rick Singleton, said in the earlier court documents that she was unable to obtain an abortion before going to jail, and denying her one violates her constitutional rights. Court papers do not say why the woman is in custody or provide any personal information about her, but Connolly said she is an adult. A court-appointed attorney was named to act as guardian for the fetus.
The woman, who is in her first trimester of pregnancy, had at the time urged a federal judge to order the county to let her leave jail to have an abortion that she planned to pay for privately. Her ACLU attorney, Marshall, had said a federal court ruling in favor of the woman would trump an attempt by the state to stop her from having the procedure.
This amounts to forced servitude. But of course, who argued more briskly for the rights of southerners to own slaves but the same group of religious fanatics. These are the same yahoos that are threatening to shut down the government–yet again–over funding of Planned Parenthood. The basis is the highly deceptive video put out showing the process of fetal tissue donation has triggered the outrage in the ignorant again. The worst outcry is, of course, the old dudes who are insisting the gawd told them to run for President of the world’s oldest secular democracy.
Calling next week’s Senate roll call to defund Planned Parenthood a “legislative show vote,” GOP firebrand Ted Cruz said Republicans should do everything they can to eliminate federal money for the group — even if it means a government shutdown fight this fall.
He’s not alone. On Wednesday afternoon, 18 House Republicans told leadership that they “cannot and will not support any funding resolution … that contains any funding for Planned Parenthood.” Meanwhile, GOP social conservatives like Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama said they’d consider supporting an effort to attach a spending rider that would eliminate Planned Parenthood’s $528 million in annual government funding to must-pass spending legislation this fall.
It’s a potentially ominous sign for GOP leaders desperate to avoid another shutdown debacle. While Cruz may be radioactive in the Senate GOP conference after calling his leader a liar, his analysis of next week’s vote has merit: With Democrats vowing to block the measure, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) won’t be able to get the 60 votes he needs to advance the bill next week, a result that likely won’t satisfy a conservative base itching for confrontation over abortion.
In a Wednesday interview, Cruz said the GOP should go as hard as it can to block funding for Planned Parenthood, including the same strategy he tried to use to defund Obamacare in 2013: force the issue by blocking funding in a government spending bill that must pass by Sept. 30.
Asked whether he would support such a maneuver again, Cruz replied: “I would support any and all legislative efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. We do not need a legislative show-vote.”
On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said dozens of House Republicans will back his effort to oppose any spending bill — whether a continuing resolution stopgap or longer-term funding package — that includes any money for Planned Parenthood.
“This is one of those line-in-the-sand type of issues,” Mulvaney said Wednesday. “Every time we say we don’t want to spend money on something, the answer is it will provoke a shutdown.”
The most recent attacks in this decades-long campaign represent a new low.
These extremists created a fake business, made apparently misleadingcorporate filings and then used false government identifications to gain access to Planned Parenthood’s medical and research staff with the agenda of secretly filming without consent — then heavily edited the footage to make false and absurd assertions about our standards and services. They spent three years doing everything they could — not to uncover wrongdoing, but rather to create it. They failed.
While predictably these videos do not show anything illegal on Planned Parenthood’s part, medical and scientific conversations can be upsetting to hear, and I immediately apologized for the tone that was used, which did not reflect the compassion that people have come to know and expect from Planned Parenthood.
While our opponents have been working to create scandal and panic where none exists, doctors and nurses at Planned Parenthood health centers have continued to provide the lowest price std testing in orange county and care to thousands of women, men and young people every day — contraception, cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and safe and legal abortion.
Control of women is central to the dictums of oppressive religions and a way of justifying violence and violations of women’s autonomy and humanity. Patriarchal religions–throwbacks to the Iron Age–still support some of the worst inhumane practices imaginable all over the world. The United States is no exception.
Last month, 13-year-old Izabel Laxamana put on a sports bra and some leggings, took a picture, and sent it to a boy at school. Soon, administrators at Tacoma, Washington’s Giaudrone Middle School, where Izzy was poised to finish her seventh-grade year, heard about the picture. Izzy’s parents were called. As Tacoma police would later report to the News Tribune, the Laxamanas expressed concern that their daughter had been sending selfies of any kind. They had warned her against using social media. If she disobeyed, they had told her, they’d cut off her hair.
Back at home, Izzy’s father, Jeff, made good on the threat. On May 27, he cut her hair to her shoulders, leaving just one long strand untouched. Then, he started filming. His camera panned from Izzy’s downcast face to the heap of glossy black strands at her feet. “The consequences of getting messed up. Man, you lost all that beautiful hair,” her father said. “Was it worth it?”
“No,” Izzy replied softly.
The next morning at school, staff members helped weave Izzy’s hair into a French braid in an attempt to hide the damage. But a new humiliating social media artifact—her father’s video—was now being passed from phone to phone. School administrators heard about that, too. This time, they called child protective services. School counselors were dispatched to aid Izzy. The next day, just before school let out, Izzy wrote eight notes on her iPod to family and friends, passed the device to a friend, headed to a bridge over the highway that separated the school from the mall, and jumped. She died in the hospital the next day.
Women and children are still subjected to laws and legal treatment that assign them chattel status. This happens with the explicit consent of many religions and religious. Granted, not all religious people and their practice of beliefs fall under this purview. But, when one of two governing parties falls under the sway of a cult, it’s women and children who pay the price. Think about this again. The State of Alabama argued that their right to crawl inside the body of a woman in the first trimester of a pregnancy and run around a constitutional right happened just this month. The Republicans in Congress have been on a jihad against what stands as the sole provider of women’s health services in many states. They’re not defunding abortions. They did that with the Hyde amendment. What they want to defund is access cancer screenings, birth control and basic health care.
I can’t even start in on the impact this nonsense has had on every GLBT American whose lives are riddled with religious bullying continually.
Here’s an example today from Israel that’s pretty vile. Six people were stabbed by an Orthodox Jewish man during a gay pride parade.
A homosexual-hating Orthodox Jew stabbed six marchers Thursday at Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade before he was wrestled to the ground.
Yishai Schlissel, who had recently been released from prison for stabbing several people at a gay pride parade in 2005, attacked without warning as the marchers were going through the Jewish side of the divided city, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
Dressed in a dark suit, Schlissel stabbed several people in the back as cheers turned to screams and blood spattered on the street.
“I saw an ultra-Orthodox youth stabbing everyone in his way,” witness Shai Aviyor told Israel’s Channel 2 television. “We heard people screaming, everyone ran for cover, and there were bloodied people on the ground.”
While medics rushed in to take care of the wounded, police officers on horseback corralled the bearded suspect before he could do more harm, Samri said.
That’s the problem. Every day I read yet another instance where some one insists their pet superstition should rule the rest of us AND there’s an entire major political party just willing to let them have at the rest of us in this country. One of the strangest things I always here when people start Muslim bashing is the question of where are the “moderate” Muslims? Why aren’t they condemning these radicals? Well, the same could be said of the moderates practicing any religion. Standing up to the folks who use religious beliefs to bully and hurt other people is as much the duty of a believer as it is to the victims of those believers.
The State of Alabama probably won its case by letting this woman known that her life was theirs one way or another so she might as well give up her constitutional rights and act like a good little sperm vessel.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
As you can see from the title, today’s reads deal with women and art.
Now, I have been trying to write this post for a month…but something has kept me from digging in and getting the job done. The internet was down, the kids were sick, things were too busy…ugh.
Finally, I had the time and the inclination to do the damn thing and what do you think happened? All my saved links have disappeared. This happened earlier in the month when I wrote my Hollywood suicides post. It is very disheartening.
I really think it is a sign…what it means…I have no idea.
So, I was able to find two of the articles and I will post them at the end of the thread. As for the newsy links, some big shit went down in Ferguson overnight:
A police officer from the strife-hit Missouri city of Ferguson was shot while responding to a burglary on Saturday and the suspects were still at large, law enforcement officials said.
The officer was chasing two suspects outside the Ferguson Community Center on Saturday night when one turned and shot him in the arm, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told a news conference.
The officer, who is expected to survive, returned fire but apparently did not hit either suspect, Belmar said.
Belmar said the shooting did not seem to be connected to peaceful protesting occurring elsewhere in Ferguson.
Well that is something…
“I wouldn’t have any reason to believe right now that it was linked in any way, shape, manner or form with the protests,” he said.
I wonder what other news outlets are saying?
Fox News makes no mention of the shooting being unrelated to the protest:
Authorities said a Ferguson (Mo.) police officer was shot and wounded while on patrol Saturday evening.
St. Louis County Police Sgt. Brian Schellman said the shooting took place at approximately 9:30 p.m. local time. KTVI reported that the officer was shot in the arm and sustained non-life-threatening injuries. At least a dozen law enforcement agencies responded to the shooting, and police helicopters canvassed the area, but no arrests were immediately reported.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters early Sunday that the officer was shot after approaching two men at the Ferguson Community Center, which was closed at the time. As the officer approached, the men ran away. When the officer gave chase, “one of the men turned and shot,” Belmar said.
Belmar did not give further details about the officer’s condition. He said the officer returned fire but said police have “no indication” that either suspect was shot.
The shooting comes amid a fresh flare-up of unrest following the deadly August 9 shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. The shooting sparked days of violent protests and racial unrest in the predominantly black community. Some residents and civil rights activists have said responding police officers were overly aggressive, noting their use of tear gas and surplus military vehicles and gear.
Saturday’s shooting occurred approximately two miles from where Brown died near his grandmother’s apartment building. KTVI reported that dozens of protesters initially showed up at the scene in the mistaken belief that the officer had shot someone. By midnight, approximately two dozen officers stood near a group of about 100 protesters who mingled on a street corner across from the police department, occasionally shouting, “No justice; no peace.”
The LA Times has more information on the speech Obama gave Saturday night at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s award dinner, as well as a few quotes from the Brown family regarding the “apology” from Ferguson”s Chief of Police:
At one point Saturday night, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who oversaw police during last months’ protests, appeared near the shooting scene and confirmed to the gathering crowd that “an officer has been shot.” He told the crowd to disperse.
Anthony Gray, a Brown family attorney, said the Saturday night shooting was unrelated to the Brown case. Belmar also said the officer’s shooting was unrelated to protests surrounding the Brown case.
A grand jury is examining evidence in Brown’s shooting and will determine whether Wilson will face any charges. Some in the community, including Brown’s parents, have called on Ferguson’s police chief to step down. In a video earlier this week, Jackson said to Brown’s family that he was “deeply sorry for their loss.”
Brown’s parents said they were unmoved by Jackson’s apology in an interview with the Associated Press.
Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, said, “yes,” when asked if Chief Tom Jackson should be fired, and his father, Michael Brown Sr., said rather than an apology, they want to see the officer who shot their son arrested for his Aug. 9 death.
“An apology would be when Darren Wilson has handcuffs, processed and charged with murder,” Brown Sr. told the Associated Press.
President Obama, who spoke at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s award dinner Saturday night, addressed the Brown shooting, saying that Brown’s death and the unrest that followed exposed a “gulf of mistrust” between residents and police in many communities.
“Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement — guilty of walking while black or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong things are getting tense. Have y’all kept up with the situation over there?
Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators surrounding Hong Kong government headquarters braced for a showdown with police on Sunday after accelerating a plan to shut down the heart of the global financial hub.
Leaders and supporters of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement, many wearing plastic capes and goggles to fend off any police pepper spray attack, urged the public to join the protest to pressure Beijing to allow free elections in the former British colony.
Publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, a key backer of the democratic movement, said he wanted as big a crowd as possible, after a week of student demonstrations, to thwart any crackdown on a protest branded as illegal.
“The more Hong Kong citizens come, the more unlikely the police can clear up the place,” said Lai, also wearing a plastic cape and workmen’s protective glasses.
“I believe more Hong Kong citizens will show up later on Sunday.”
HONG KONG, Sept 28 (Reuters) – Violent clashes between Hong Kong riot police and students galvanized tens of thousands of supporters for the city’s pro-democracy movement and kick-started a plan to lock down the heart of the Asian financial center early on Sunday.
Leaders and supporters of Occupy Central with Love and Peace rallied to support students who were doused with pepper spray early on Saturday after they broke through police barriers and stormed the city’s government headquarters.
“Whoever loves Hong Kong should come and join us. This is for Hong Kong’s future,” publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, an outspoken critic of China’s communist government who has backed pro-democracy activists through publications that include one of the city’s biggest newspapers as well as donations, told Reuters.
Occupy demanded that Beijing withdraw its framework for political reform in the former British colony and resume talks.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a formula known as “one country, two systems.” that guaranteed a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China. Universal suffrage was set as an eventual goal.
But Beijing last month rejected demands for people to freely choose the city’s next leader, prompting threats from activists to shut down Central, Hong Kong’s financial district. China wants to limit elections to a handful of candidates loyal to Beijing.
Look at this photo of the protest:
This demonstration, which has drawn thousands of protesters armed with goggles, masks and raincoats in preparation for a violent confrontation with police, is one of the most tenacious acts of civil disobedience seen in post-colonial Hong Kong.
Roads in a square block around the city’s government headquarters, located in the Admiralty district adjacent to Central, were filled with people and blocked with metal barricades erected by protesters to defend against a possible police crackdown.
Some of Hong Kong’s most powerful tycoons have spoken out against the Occupy movement, warning it could threaten the city’s business and economic stability.
The latest protests escalated after demonstrators broke through a cordon late on Friday and scaled perimeter fences to invade the city’s main government compound in the culmination of a week-long rally to demand free elections.
Student leaders said about 80,000 people participated in the rally. No independent estimate was available.
Read lots more at the link.
A little more world news: Losing the Race Against Ebola – NYTimes.com
The race to control the expanding Ebola epidemic in West Africa looks increasingly dire. Official projections of how fast the virus will spread have soared while pledges of help from advanced nations and global organizations have failed to keep pace.
On Sept. 22, the World Health Organization published estimates indicating that the epidemic could infect more than 20,000 people in the three hardest hit countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — by early November, months before earlier estimates. Unless new measures can turn the tide, the number of cases and deaths could increase by thousands per week for months to come. It is possible that the virus will become permanently lodged in the West African population, posing a continuing threat of dispersal to the rest of Africa and other parts of the world.
On Sept 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta issued in a worst-case projection, based on computer models, showing that Sierra Leone and Liberia may have 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective containment. A best-case scenario showed that the epidemic could be brought to an end if 70 percent of the patients were treated in settings like isolation wards that reduce the risk of disease transmission and if burials were performed safely. Currently, only about 18 percent of the patients in Liberia and 40 percent in Sierra Leone are in such settings.
I posted a link about Cuba sending hundreds of doctors to Africa, I wanted to front page it here: Cuba sends 300 more doctors to fight Ebola – Africa – Al Jazeera English
Cuba says it will send nearly 300 more doctors and nurses to West Africa to help fight the Ebola epidemic.
The Cubans will work in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Regla Angulo, head of the Cuban medical relief agency, said in a statement on Friday.
The announcement means that up to 461 Cuban medical personnel would have been sent to help address the epidemic spreading across West Africa.
Angulo said the staff were currently undergoing intense training ahead of their deployment, working in a mock field hospital of the kind they expected to find in the region.
A group of 165 healthcare workers is due to arrive in Sierra Leone in early October. The 62 doctors and 103 nurses have been training for their mission with international experts at a Havana hospital specializing in tropical diseases.
The second contingent of 296 doctors and nurses will head to Liberia and Guinea, the official news agency Prensa Latina said on Friday.
Cuba has more than 50,000 doctors and nurses posted in 66 countries around the world, including more than 4,000 in 32 African countries.
The overseas missions are part of a medical diplomacy and a leading export earner for the communist government. Cuba also educates foreign doctors for free at one of its medical schools.
Heading over to Vatican City, the latest details from an arrested Catholic’s Archbishop are making headlines: Arrested Catholic Archbishop’s computer contained over 100,000 images of children
Yeah, you read that right!
Vatican detectives analyzing a computer used a by an archbishop arrested earlier this week discovered over 86,000 pornographic photos and 160 sexually explicit video files of children, reports the International Business Times.
According to investigators, another 45,000 pictures had been deleted.
Former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, 66, was arrested at the Vatican earlier this week on charges that he paid to have sex with minors when he was a papal ambassador in the Dominican Republic from 2008 to 2012.
Wesolowski is the first Vatican official to be arrested within the city state on charges of pedophilia.
The former archbishop was recalled to Rome by the Vatican last year while still a diplomat in Santo Domingo and relieved of his duties following accusations from Dominican media that he was paying for underaged sex partners.
Until earlier this week, he had been free to roam Rome, but is now being held in in a small room in the basement of the Collegio dei Penitenzieri, which hosts the Vatican’s court and military police.
Vatican authorities are now investigating if Wesolowski was part of a network of pedophiles and whether he abused children in other posts during his career.
Wesolowski previously served in South Africa, Costa Rica, Japan, Switzerland, India and Denmark.
If convicted, Wesolowski faces 12 years in jail in the first trial for sexual abuse to be held inside the Vatican City.
12 years? That is it? I have nothing to say…because if I start, I won’t get to the rest of the day’s links. As it is…Pope Francis revisits ‘punishing’ Catholics who get divorced . Pfffft! Divorce? Now that is a real crime.
This next article discusses a new form of male birth control, and how the Big Pharma may get their knuts in a knot because it will cut into the Pill profits. Male Birth Control, Without Condoms, Will Be Here by 2017 – The Daily Beast
Vasalgel, a reversible, non-hormonal polymer that blocks the vas deferens, is about to enter human trials. How will rhetoric change when male bodies become responsible for birth control?
Vasalgel, a reversible form of male birth control, just took one step closer to your vas deferens.According to a press release from the Parsemus Foundation, a not-for profit organization focused on developing low-cost medical approaches, Vasalgel is proving effective in a baboon study. Three lucky male baboons were injected with Vasalgel and given unrestricted sexual access to 10 to 15 female baboons each. Despite the fact that they have been monkeying around for six months now, no female baboons have been impregnated. With the success of this animal study and new funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Parsemus Foundation is planning to start human trials for Vasalgel next year. According to their FAQ page, they hope to see it on the market by 2017 for, in their words, less than the cost of a flat-screen television.So how does Vasalgel work? It is essentially a reimagining of a medical technology called RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) that was developed by a doctor named Sujoy Guha over 15 years ago in India, where it has been in clinical trials ever since. Unlike most forms of female birth control, Vasalgel is non-hormonal and only requires a single treatment in order to be effective for an extended period of time. Rather than cutting the vas deferens—as would be done in a vasectomy—a Vasalgel procedure involves the injection of a polymer contraceptive directly into the vas deferens. This polymer will then block any sperm that attempt to pass through the tube. At any point, however, the polymer can be flushed out with a second injection if a man wishes to bring his sperm back up to speed.
Hot diggity dog…finally!
Does this still go against the Church I wonder? (Yeah…of course. Damn. Yet another thing to be punished for…but is it a worse sin than say, kiddie porn on a computer?)
Since we are on the subject of Dicks…Breitbart Writer: Men Who Support Feminism Are “Sexually Frustrated Dickless Wonders” – Little Green Footballs You will just have to go to the link yourself to find out what LGF is talking about. 😉
Not to be outdone…yes, I am still on the “Church’s” ass a little while longer. Stephen Hawking comes out: ‘I’m an atheist’ because science is ‘more convincing’ than God
Stephen Hawking clarified this week that he was an atheist because science had provided him with a “more convincing” explanation of the origins of the universe.
El Mundo’s Pablo Jauregui pointed out that Hawking had written in his book “A Brief History of Time” that scientists could “know the mind of God” if a unifying set of principles — or theory of everything — was discovered to explain the physical universe. But Hawking later wrote in “The Grand Design” that God was no longer necessary because science had provided a better understanding of the universe.
“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe,” the world-famous theoretical physicist told Jauregui. “But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”
“What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t,” he added. “I’m an atheist.”
But Hawking does believe that humans are not alone in the universe, and that meeting extraterrestrial life could be like Christopher Columbus coming to the Americas.
“Which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans,” he warned.
“The idea that we are alone in the universe seems to me completely implausible and arrogant,” Hawking told the paper. “Considering the number of planets and stars that we know exist, it’s extremely unlikely that we are the only form of evolved life.”
Video at the link.
This thread is getting long, so here are the rest of today’s stories on the quick:
“Michele Bachmann took the stage at the Values Voters Summit today, and fired up the crowd with shots at President Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as a firm call for the U.S. to keep killing ISIS terrorists until they surrender.
Bachmann cracked a few jokes at the top, including a dig at MSNBC and a wonder of whether Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner would miss her more.
She talked up her strong stand against the Obama administration, especially on foreign policy. Bachmann said Obama is “the first anti-Israel president in history.” And as for Clinton, Bachmann recommended another goal for the former Secretary of State to accomplish: “permanent retirement!”
Bachmann also talked about how to combat the threat of ISIS.”* Ben Mankiewicz, Jimmy Dore (The Jimmy Dore Show), John Iadarola (TYT University) and Brian Unger break it down.
You may have seen the shit going on in Texas earlier in the month: Don’t Mess With Texas History | BobCesca.com
The imagined slight of an Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum that is “anti-American” has swept the state of Texas and the state Board of Education has taken steps to eliminate it.
From the Associated Press
The Board of Education approved a measure declaring that the history curriculum its members set trumps that covered by the AP history course created for classrooms nationwide. That class concludes with an exam that can earn college credit for students who score high enough.
The board must still take a final vote, but the measure’s content isn’t expected to change.
Critics contend that the revised Advanced Placement curriculum is anti-American because it has narrowed the amount of content students are required to memorize but, rather than omit events that paint America in a less-sympathetic light, it excluded events that are more endearing.
In other words, critics contend that it’s anti-American because it does not whitewash our history.
the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum because it was “anti-American,” has spread to the Denver, Colorado area where the local school board is following suit.
The Jefferson County school board appears to be going a step further, however, by dropping negative events in our history and discouraging civil disobedience.
According to the curricula proposal, students would only be taught lessons depicting American heritage in a positive light, and effectively ban any material that could lead to dissent. Under the proposed policy, a review committee would regularly read instructional text and course syllabi to ensure that educational materials do not stray from subject matter that complies with the policy.
There was also protest in Colorado last week: CO Students Walk Out To Protest Wingnut Plan To Censor History Curriculum | Crooks and Liars
Be sure to read all those links in full to get the whole story. The Koch Brother’s are involved. Nuff said.
Since the protest is about History, how about some links that deal with history…okay, it isn’t American History, but one of the links deals with uprisings.
In the eyes of the chroniclers, the Jacquerie of 1358 was the most important peasant revolt in late medieval France. Yet despite this, the uprising has not generated the quality of scholarship that other revolts from the late medieval period have encouraged, such as the Ciompi of 1378 in Florence or the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. In popular perception, the Jacquerie remains a violent spasmodic riot typical of the so-called ‘pre-industrial revolt’, itself a model forwarded thirty years ago and never rigourously examined.
By surveying the remissions systematically, and returning to the full population of documents available, this thesis offers ‘a wholly new view of the revolt its leadership, its geographical dimensions, duration, organisation and ideology. Moreover, it challenges many old theories about the medieval ‘crowd’ as mindless, doomed to failure and dominated by the clergy and other elites. In their place, it constructs a new model around communal ties in the medieval village, sophisticated organisation within the revolt itself and participants’ identities as the defining factor of the crowd’s ideology.
Until recently, studies in the architectural history of medieval and early modern Europe have assumed an all-male labor force on the construction site and in the related building trades. Historical chronicles and manuscript illuminations of construction sites support this notion, purporting the total exclusion of women from this complex industry. This chapter demonstrates the true nature of women’s contribution to construction sites from the 13th to the 17th centuries in western Europe, uncovering a wide range of occupations in which they engaged: poor women hired for manual labor, women working as slaves, women working with their husbands and fathers in the building trades, widows continuing the workshops of their deceased husbands, and women supplying building materials for particular sites. There is a history to be told of women’s repeated participation in and subsequent denial from working in the building trades that echoes a theme between towns and across language barriers and indicates a common experience shared by women in this era.
This is an interesting look at copyright law: Copyrights and Property Wrongs — Crooked Timber
This next blog post from Movie Morlocks…damn I wish they would show this film on TCM again: moviemorlocks.com – This is Not a Post About Gone With the Wind.
With all the hoopla and conversation here over the last week regarding Gone With the Wind, I thought it might be fun to take a glance at GWTW’s evil twin, Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1946 The Strange Woman.
It starts in 1945 when 20th Century Fox released a film called Leave Her to Heaven, based on Ben Ames Williams’ novel of the same name. A glorious Technicolor prestige picture with Gene Tierney, Cornell Wilde, and Vincent Price, it was a huge commercial success, nominated for several Oscars of which it won one. In Hollywood, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Bring on the clones!
Go…go and read the rest.
Now the last couple of links, that deal with art and women:
Art history books have a reputation of showcasing dead, white, European males — DWEM — and the (mostly white) women they handpicked as muses. Portrait after portrait reveals a woman’s face through a man’s gaze, casting a rather unsavory light on the tendency of artists to eroticize, objectify or idolize the female form.
Artists in the 21st century have made strides to rectify art history’s mistakes — and critics and historians have begun to give women artists and artists of color their rightful place in the canon. But it’s difficult to forget the centuries of whitewashed paintings that still reign supreme. Case in point: artFido’s three-minute survey of 500 years of female portraits.
Names like Leonardo, Raphael, Hans, Peter, Pablo and Edouard dominate the list of featured paintings. Sure, the likes of Mary Cassatt and Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun attempt to break up the monotony, but the portrait images expose the real story. Art history just didn’t really evolve in the last 500 years.
You can catch a bit of change in the last 30 seconds of the video above, as the (still very white) faces become more and more abstract. But the takeaway from this montage: the art world needs more diversity, and quick.
Well, the title is a bit strange…but the work of these women is amazing. Some of them are way more incredible than Banksy. The print up top called Own Your Power is by an artist name Indie. I bought that print for my daughter Bebe on her 16th birthday, it just said so much…
Indie was chosen by MAC as one of the graffiti artist to design a collection for them in 2013.
MAC’s 2013 Illustrated collection features the work of graffiti artist Indie 184. Born in Puerto Rico to Dominican parents and raised in New York, her style combines vivid colors with a contemporary take on old-school New York City graffiti. Her indomitable spirit is fittingly expressed in her tag, a riff on the movie adventurer Indiana Jones, while 184 comes from the street she grew up on in Washington Heights.
She seamlessly translates her style from walls to canvas, weaving together images of famous women and phrases that convey their power. In her artist’s statement, she writes, “My creative process usually starts by pouring out conflicting ideas or emotions using words, images and color. When I create a painting, it’s like a page of my personal diary – all the pieces are worlds of personal declarations. Constant use of word play, found scraps of paper, stencil, graffiti, graphics and photographs mixed with vivid colors…I use iconic female imagery provoking mood and expression embellished with dripping paint juxtaposed with words…The composed painting reflects power, motivation and with an undeniable twist of feminism in my paintings.” The feminist angle, I believe, comes partially from her struggle to be fully accepted as a genuine graffiti artist in a male-dominated environment. She says in an interview, “[A]s I got more into the culture, I learned that NYC in the 80’s produced few active girls in graf. So any new girl in the scene would stand out. But of course, that did not mean free rides. I had to push harder to get down on walls. Most male writers don’t take females writers, especially new ones, seriously. I did not want to stand out only because I was a female writer. I wanted to make my mark and represent for myself. Even now, on occasions, when I’m painting in the streets, some guy comes along and acts surprised when he sees me working with spray paint.”
The titles for some of these paintings – Powerful Creation, Call the Shots, Fearless, Knock ’em Out and Own Your Power, combined with Indie’s signature hearts and stars – further drive home the idea of feminine strength. Some of her work is also a tribute to Latina women and a demonstration of allegiance to her cultural heritage, as she references figures such as Frieda Kahlo, Jennifer Lopez and Marquita Rivera.
Call the Shots, 2012 (I love the nod to Warhol represented by the soup cans):
Powerful Creation, 2012:
Knock ’em Out, 2012:
Own Your Power, 2013:
(images from indie184.com)
Looking at the dizzying array of flashy colors, it’s no surprise to find that Indie’s heroines include Jem and Rainbow Brite. I also find her work to be a true expression of her outspoken, feisty personality and thoroughly unselfconscious attitude. In an interview regarding her recently launched clothing line named Kweenz Destroy, she states, “Kweenz Destroy is for ladies who hold their own and make an impact with what they do. They love to get their hands dirty and don’t give a shit what people have to say…I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone…I am fulfilling my own desires, not living other people’s ideal of what a graffiti writer should be, because at the end of the day people are going to talk shit regardless.”
Overall, I like Indie’s work – it’s brash, highly personal and has an exuberance and freshness to it while remaining forceful.
I love it…I hope you all do too!
Have a great Sunday and leave some thoughts in the comments below.
Oh Yeah…I almost forgot!
And my favorite:
Godspeed little Charlotte.
I’ve been spending a lot of time studying all kinds of things on the Middle East recently because I believe the human rights violations committed by extremist religious states are dire. It’s almost impossible to pick out a region of the world these days–or a continent–where religious extremists aren’t committing atrocities and removing the rights of others.
I want to start with ISIS. ISIS is a radical Sunni Jihadist group that is tearing through parts of Iraq and Syria. They are destroying historical sites, villages, homes, and competing religions in an attempt to create a homeland for radical Sunnis. They have recently attacked the Yazidis and the Kurds. Yazidis are a hybrid of various traditions of Islam–primarily of the Sufi school–and Zoroastrianism. There are hundreds of thousands of displaced citizens due to recent ISIS aggression into the region.
A humanitarian crisis that could turn into a genocide is taking place right now in the mountains of northwestern Iraq. It hasn’t made the front page, because the place and the people are obscure, and there’s a lot of other horrible news to compete with. I’ve learned about it mainly because the crisis has upended the life of someone I wrote about in the magazine several weeks ago.
Last Sunday, Karim woke up around 7:30 A.M., after coming home late the night before. He was about to have breakfast when his phone rang—a friend was calling to see how he was doing. Karim is a Yazidi, a member of an ancient religious minority in Iraq. Ethnically, he’s Kurdish. An engineer and a father of three young children, Karim spent years working for the U.S. Army in his area, then for an American medical charity. He’s been waiting for months to find out whether the U.S. government will grant him a Special Immigrant Visa because of his service, and because of the danger he currently faces.
Karim is from a small town north of the district center, Sinjar, between Mosul and the Syrian border. Sinjar is a historic Yazidi area with an Arab minority. Depending on who’s drawing the map, Sinjar belongs to either the northernmost part of Iraq or the westernmost part of Kurdistan. Since June, when extremist fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham captured Mosul, they’ve been on the outskirts of Sinjar, facing off against a small number of Kurdish peshmerga militiamen. ISIS regards Yazidis as devil worshippers, and its fighters have been executing Yazidi men who won’t convert to Islam on the spot, taking away the women as jihadi brides. So there were many reasons why a friend might worry about Karim.
“I don’t know,” Karim said. “My situation is O.K.” “No, it’s not O.K.!” his friend said. “Sinjar is under the control of ISIS.”
Karim had not yet heard this calamitous news. “I’ll call some friends and get back to you,” he said.
But the cell network was jammed, so Karim walked to his father’s house. His father told him that thousands of people from Sinjar were headed their way, fleeing north through the mountains to get out of Iraq and into Kurdistan. It suddenly became clear that Karim would have to abandon his home and escape with his family.
ISIS had launched its attack on Sinjar during the night. Peshmerga militiamen were outgunned—their assault rifles against the extremists’ captured fifty-caliber guns, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, anti-aircraft weapons, and armored vehicles. The Kurds began to run out of ammunition, and those who could retreated north toward Kurdistan. By dawn, the extremists were pouring into town. Later, ISIS posted triumphant photos on Twitter: bullet-riddled corpses of peshmerga in the streets and dirt fields; an ISIS fighter aiming his pistol at the heads of five men lying face down on the ground; Arab locals who stayed in Sinjar jubilantly greeting the new occupiers.
Karim had time to do just one thing: burn all the documents that connected him to America—photos of him posing with Army officers, a CD from the medical charity—in case he was stopped on the road by militants or his house was searched. He watched the record of his experience during the period of the Americans in Iraq turn to ash, and felt nothing except the urge to get to safety.
The Yezidi are now a diaspora trapped on a mountainside. They practice some of the oldest religious traditions mankind invented and many of their practices and myths found their way to much younger traditions like Christianity.
They are scared of lettuce. They abhor pumpkins. They practise maybe the oldest religion in the world. And now, after at least 6,000 years, they are finally being exterminated, even as I write this.
If you haven’t noticed this epochal crime – the raping and the slaughter – you’re not alone. Of late, the world has focused on the horrors of Gaza. When we’ve had time to acknowledge the Satanic cruelties of Isis, in Iraq, we’ve looked to the barbaric treatment of women, and Christians. Yet the genocide of the Yezidi, by Isis, is as evil as anything going on right now in the Middle East; it is also uniquely destructive of a remarkable cultural survival.
So who are the Yezidi? Some years ago I studied them when researching a thriller. I also traveled to meet their small diaspora community, in Celle, north Germany. And what I found was astonishing.
Yezidism is much older than Islam, and much older than Christianity. It is also deeply peculiar. The Yezidi honour sacred trees. Women must not cut their hair. Marriage is forbidden in April. They avoid wearing dark blue because it is “too holy”.
They are divided strictly into castes, who cannot marry each other. The upper castes are polygamous. Anyone of the faith who marries a non-Yezidi risks ostracism, or worse. Yezidism is syncretistic: it combines elements of many faiths. Like Hindus, they believe in reincarnation. Like ancient Mithraists, they sacrifice bulls. They practise baptism, like Christians. When they pray, they face the sun – like Zoroastrians. There are also strong links with Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam.
Then there is the devil worship: arguably, the Yezidi worship what Christians or Muslims might call “Satan”, though the Yezidi call him “Melek Taus”, and he appears in the form of a peacock angel.
Why might Melek Taus be “the devil”? For a start, the Yezidi believe the peacock angel led a rebellion in heaven: clearly echoing the story of Lucifer, cast into Hell by the Christian God. Also, the very word “Melek” is cognate with “Moloch”, the name of a Biblical demon – who demanded human sacrifice.
The avian imagery of Melek Taus likewise indicates a demonic aspect. The Yezidi come from the ancient lands of Sumeria and Assyria, in modern-day Turkey, Iraq and Kurdistan. Sumerian gods were often cruel, and equipped with beaks and wings. Birdlike. Three thousand years ago the Assyrians worshipped flying demons, spirits of the desert wind. One was the scaly-winged demon in The Exorcist: Pazuzu.
The Yezidi reverence for birds – and snakes – also appears to be extremely old. Excavations at ancient Catalhoyuk, in Turkey, show that the people there revered bird-gods as long ago as 7000BC. Even older is Gobekli Tepe, a megalithic site near Sanliurfa, in Kurdish Turkey (Sanliurfa was once a stronghold of Yezidism). The extraordinary temple of Gobekli Tepe boasts carvings of winged birdmen, and images of buzzards and serpents.
Taking all this evidence into account, a fair guess is that Yezidism is a vastly ancient form of bird-worship, that could date back 6,000 years or more. If this is right, it means that Yezidism is therefore the Ur-religion, the mother ship of Middle Eastern faiths, and it is us who have incorporated Yezidi myths and beliefs into our religions, of Christianity and Islam and Judaism.
ISIS is literally exterminating all those individuals of rival religions. It is destroying their places of worship and any historical artifacts related to their existence.
The Yezidi religion is part of the Kurdish identity. Iraqi Kurdistan’s flag eschews the crescent moon so common on the flags of Islamic countries and opts for fire imagery from the Yezidi religion instead. Many years ago I interviewed the president of Duhok University in Iraq Kurdistan and he seemed to speak for the majority when he professed his affection for these people and their ancient religion. “I am a Muslim,” he told me. “But I love the Yezidis. Theirs is the original religion of the Kurds. Only through the Yezidis can I speak to God in my own language.”
Sinjar is a Kurdish town, but it’s in Nineveh province outside the Kurdish autonomous region. The armed Kurdish Peshmerga forces operating there ran out of ammunition and had little choice but to retreat in the wake of the ISIS assault. Tens of thousands of civilians fled the area and are stranded atop a remote mountain without food, water, or shelter.
Eight years ago I visited the Yezidi “Mecca” in Lalish, Iraq, inside the Kurdish autonomous region a ways south of Duhok. This is where the Yezidis believe the universe was born. Eternal flames burn forever in little shrines. Baba Sheik, their leader, showed me around and took me into their temple.
“All people in the world should be brothers,” he said. “You are welcome here for the rest of your life.”
Meanwhile, we continue to witness the effects of the latest Israeli attack on Gaza. This includes reactions that may surprise you. Universities are supposed to grant professors academic freedom to express unpopular ideas. It’s a hallmark of a free country and an open learning environment. Today, an Arab American professor has lost his job due to his open support of the Palestinian cause on Twitter. I’m going to refer you to the blog of Corey Robin.
Until two weeks ago, Steven Salaita was heading to a job at the University of Illinois as a professor of American Indian Studies. He had already resigned from his position at Virginia Tech; everything seemed sewn up. Now the chancellor of the University of Illinois has overturned Salaita’s appointment and rescinded the offer. Because of Israel.
The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza….
For instance, there is this tweet: “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza.” Or this one: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say antisemitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Or this one: “Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already.”
In recent weeks, bloggers and others have started to draw attention to Salaita’s comments on Twitter. But as recently as July 22 (before the job offer was revoked), a university spokeswoman defended Salaita’s comments on Twitter and elsewhere. A spokeswoman told The News-Gazette for an article about Salaita that “faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees.”
I’ve written about a number of these types of cases over the past few years, but few have touched me the way this one has.
It’s unbelievable to me that the University of Illinois could be quite so blind to the principles of academic freedom. This is a principle worth defending.
While Salaita has been until very recently very active on Twitter, he stopped posting several days ago, which is unusual for him. He is an active writer beyond Twitter, with op-eds (which of late have identified him as an Illinois professor) and with campaigns on behalf of the movement to organize an academic boycott of Israel. He has also published scholarly books, including Israel’s Dead Soul (Temple University Press) and Arab American Literary Fictions, Cultures, and Politics (Palgrave Macmillan).
Salaita’s writing last year, while at Virginia Tech, drew fierce attacks (including death threats). In a piece in Salon, he questioned the idea that people should be asked in various ways to “support the troops.”
“ ‘Support the troops’ is the most overused platitude in the United States, but still the most effective for anybody who seeks interpersonal or economic ingratiation,” Salaita wrote. “The platitude abounds with significance but lacks the burdens of substance and specificity. It says something apparently apolitical while patrolling for heresy to an inelastic logic. Its only concrete function is to situate users into normative spaces.”
While Virginia Tech did not fire him (as many critics urged it to do), some faculty members thought the university — in pointing out that his views didn’t reflect those of the institution — didn’t do enough to defend his academic freedom.
Some who have raised questions about Salaita at Illinois have stressed that they are focused on what they see as incivility and bigotry, not opposition to Israeli or American policies.
Can you feel it? A Minkoff rant coming to ya? Yeah, it is…so just roll with it, you may find this post all over the place. But then y’all know how I get when this happens so, I will just get on with it.
First off, this shit with the Supreme Court and public prayer at town meetings. You know…what the fuck happened to a moment of silence? Do they still do that? I mean if you are going to take time out to pray a little, do it to yourself on the quiet…if you want to…because this shit SCOTUS just ruled on gives the Christian right to fuck over anyone who isn’t born again. By that I mean you too Catholics! Which is something I think those who do vote “Republican” and are Catholic seem to fail to grasp.
You see them, especially here in small towns like Banjoville. They are high and mighty evil bastards who feel above you and actually discriminate against those who are not “born again.” That means those of the Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal faith…Jews, Buddhist, Muslims, oh you all know what I am talking about.
They will say the most horrible things to kids too…shit that is beyond fucked up! And…they teach their children to behave just like them. It is an endless cycle of disgusting behavior in the name of Jesus. (Excuse me…Geeezus.)
It is only their religious freedom they are concerned with.
It is only their “God” or “Gawd” they consider real and therefore legitimate.
So many conservatives who are not in line with the “christian” way of believing do not get this…they don’t realize that these assholes are not really speaking for them. They vote for these bastards because they only see them as the politician who spouts on about praying in school, and other conservative value shit…but they don’t see the big picture behind it.
And why am I picking on these Jesus freaks? Because these are also the people who are the hypocritical bastards, and act the least charitable. They are hateful motherfuckers and prejudice and judgmental too. They say horrible things with an air of snotty intolerant Baptist superiority. (This is from my experience here in the Southern bible belt.) Both men and women are misogynistic as hell, the women are not supportive of other women within their circle and the girls are awful to other girls who are, “not one of them.” They take any reason and twist it, manipulate it into a reason for Geezus. It is unbelievable the way they can justify their behavior…I don’t know how they can do it and consider themselves “good Christians.”
This is the backbone of the GOP, the conservatives who are changing the laws in this nation bit by bit. The assholes that are cutting out all social programs and any hope for a future in areas of science and discovery. I can honestly say these people are ruining this country. Maybe that is taking it too far, I don’t know. But what the fuck is wrong with these people?
I see what a small town mentality is like and I see it is taking over our Supreme Court. It has taken over our House of Representatives and it damn well can take over the Senate.
Gawd help us…what the hell are we going to do?
Here then are the links for today, there are a lot of them so some are in link dump fashion.
First a group of stories illustrating some of the talking points above.
House Republicans have unveiled their version of the transportation, housing and urban development (THUD) appropriations bill and, not surprisingly, it cuts funding by nearly $2 billion.
The bill cuts TIGER grants, a favorite of many lawmakers, by $500 million to a total of $100 million. It does not allow funds for bike and pedestrian paths.
The FAA is funded at $7.3 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and the Federal Railroad Administration is funded at $1.4 billion, a reduction of $193 million. There is no funding for high speed rail, an Obama priority.
To cut costs, Amtrak would be required to put overtime limits on employees and not use federal funding for routes where Amtrak offers a discount of 50 percent or more peak fares.
All together, the House bill would set spending at a level nearly $8 billion less than what President Obama requested for the next fiscal year.
Opposition to the president’s request isn’t earth shattering news, but House Republicans going out their way to eliminating funding for bike paths and railway while instituting overtime limits for Amtrak employees is certainly illuminating.
Republicans have a big problem with pedestrian-friendly urban and mass transportation. You know, hallmarks of socialism; liberal stuff.
The Obama administration and the scientific community at large are expressing serious alarm at a House Republican bill that they argue would dramatically undermine way research is conducted in America.
Titled the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014,” the bill would put a variety of new restrictions on how funds are doled out by the National Science Foundation. The goal, per its Republican supporters on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, would be to weed out projects whose cost can’t be justified or whose sociological purpose is not apparent.
For Democrats and advocates, however, the FIRST Act represents a dangerous injection of politics into science and a direct assault on the much-cherished peer-review process by which grants are awarded.
“We have a system of peer-review science that has served as a model for not only research in this country but in others,” said Bill Andresen, the associate vice president of Federal Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania. “The question is, does Congress really think it has the better ability to determine the scientific merit of grant applications or should it be left up to the scientists and their peers?”
In recent weeks, the Obama administration and science agencies have — in less-than-subtle terms — offered up similar criticisms of the FIRST Act. At an American Association for the Advancement of Science forum on Thursday, presidential science adviser John Holdren said he was “concerned with a number of aspects” of the bill.
“It appears aimed at narrowing the focus of NSF-funded research to domains that are applied to various national interests other than simply advancing the progress of science,” Holdren said.
Meanwhile, in a show of protest that several officials in the science advocacy community could not recall having witnessed before, the National Science Board released a statement in late April criticizing the bill. As the oversight body to the National Science Foundation, the NSB traditionally stays out of legislative fights. So when it warned that the FIRST Act could “significantly impede NSF’s flexibility to deploy its funds to support the best ideas,” advocates said they were surprised and pleased.
“The fact that the NSB commented on legislation, I don’t know if it is unprecedented but it is at least extremely unusual,” said Barry Toiv, a top official at the Association of American Universities. “And we think that speaks to the really serious problems posed by the legislation.”
Despite all the pissing and money about the district wasting money on outrageous teacher salaries and pensions, seems the real problem is the Santa Claus provision our Republican-dominated legislature ticked away into state law. This is, of course, contrary to the right-wing wisdom shared on our local newspaper site, but oh well! Nobody cares about schools, anyway:
Unless the Philadelphia School District raises more than $200 million extra in a hurry, Moody’s Investors Service warned it will cut the district’s bond rating — which is already down at Ba2, junk status, forcing the district to pay extra when it borrows money — because the district’s proposed $2.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year will “materially imperil its ability to provide students with an adequate education.”
Without $216 million in additional funding, Moody’s analyst Dan Seymour wrote in a report to clients, the district threatens to increase the average class size to 41 students and lay off more than 1,000 staff. ” This is credit negative because a further deterioration in education services will likely result in additional student flight to charter schools and other alternatives,” further reducing district revenues, Seymour added. 3 in 10 Philadelphia students already go to charter schools.
“Rising charter school enrollments have been a drag on the district’s finances, as state law mandates that public school districts pay the costs of sending students to charter schools. Driven largely by charter school tuition costs, the district’s costs per pupil have increased 70% since 2004. Further enrollment declines would exacerbate the district’s financial pressure as charter schools capture a larger share of the district’s expenditures,” Moody’s adds.
In Kansas, Republicans dominate the state government. They have the Governorship (Former Senator Sam Brownback), the State House (92-33 for the GOP), and the State Senate (32-8 for the GOP). Democrats don’t have a say in this blood red state that went 60%-37% for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Brownback and his buddies have enacted all manner of conservative economic policy in the state. Cutting taxes, etcetera. What is the result? Guess.
Citing a sluggish recovery from the recession, risk inherent in the governor’s tax plan and uncertainty over the Legislature’s ability to keep cutting spending, one of the nation’s two major debt rating agencies downgraded Kansas’ credit rating Thursday.
Moody’s Investors Service dropped Kansas from its second-highest bond rating, Aa1, to its third highest, Aa2. The Kansas Department of Transportation also took the same downgrade.
As Businesweekexplained, “the immediate effect has been to blow a hole in the state’s finances without noticeable economic growth.”
Even with the cut in taxes, big companies like Applebee’s and Boeing have moved out of Kansas.
As a result, the most recent polling there shows Brownback’s approval rating down to 33%, while he’s slightly behind the Democratic challenger.
In Kansas, they can’t (honestly) blame liberals for this. They’ve been given a free hand. They were able to enact whatever they wanted, and it has been a miserable failure at a time when other states – including very blue Democratic states like here in Maryland – have been recovering from the Bush recession.
Because conservative economics doesn’t actually work. It is a faith based program untethered from reality. The numbers don’t add up and it is destructive to societies.
It was partly for that reason that Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who’s now trying to reclaim his old job as a Democrat, broke with his former party.
“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” Crist told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.”
Crist was savaged on the right when, as governor in 2009, he hugged Obama. He said earlier this year that racism motivated the outrage over the embrace.
“I think another part of it was that he was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American,” Crist, who’s challenging Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), said during an appearance on “The Colbert Report.”
A majority of American journalists identify themselves as political independents although among those who choose a side Democrats outnumber Republicans four to one, according to a new study of the media conducted by two Indiana University professors.
Write Lars Wilnat and David Weaver, professors of journalism at Indiana, of their findings:
Compared with 2002, the percentage of full-time U.S. journalists who claim to be Democrats has dropped 8 percentage points in 2013 to about 28 percent, moving this figure closer to the overall population percentage of 30 percent, according to a December 12-15, 2013, ABC News/Washington Post national poll of 1,005 adults. This is the lowest percentage of journalists saying they are Democrats since 1971. An even larger drop was observed among journalists who said they were Republicans in 2013 (7.1 percent) than in 2002 (18 percent), but the 2013 figure is still notably lower than the percentage of U.S. adults who identified with the Republican Party (24 percent according to the poll mentioned above).
That link about the journalist is more for information purposes. Read what else Cillizza thinks too at that link.
Los Angeles councilman Paul Koretz has called for banks NY Mellon and Dexia to return $65 million in “unfair profits and termination payments” they received between 2008 and 2014. This follows a report (embedded below) revealing that the city spent more than $200 million in fees to Wall Street in 2013 alone. Koretz says he may push the city to take punitive action against the financial institutions involved if they do not renegotiate the deal.
The report, published by the union-backed Fix LA Coalition, notes that “the City of Los Angeles last year spent more on Wall Street fees than it did on our streets.” Indeed, the report notes the city “paid Wall Street $204 million in fees, spending only $163 million on the Bureau of Street Services.”
The fees are connected to the controversial interest-rate-swap deal cemented by Los Angeles in 2006. It is a deal similar to those engineered by Wall Street in cities across the country. Those deals have made headlines in recent years in some of the country’s most high-profile municipal budget crises.
For instance, a recent study by former Goldman Sachs investment banker Wallace Turbeville found that an interest-rate swap deal was a primary driver of Detroit’s fiscal crisis. Noting that the banks used the city’s bankruptcy to demand “upwards of $250-350 million in swap termination payments,” Turbeville concluded that “a strong case can be made that the banks that sold these swaps may have breached their ethical, and possibly legal, obligations to the city in executing these deals.” (A court recently reduced the amount the city has to pay Wall Street to unwind the deals).
A new report by an immigration watchdog finds that the United States’ largest federal law enforcement agency rarely punishes its agents for their mistreatment of immigrants and American citizens.
The report by the American Immigration Council found that 97 percent of abuse complaints lodged against Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers resulted in no disciplinary action once an investigation had been completed. Those included a complaint from a pregnant woman in El Paso, Texas, that she had miscarried after a Border Patrol agent kicked her in the stomach, and several complaints from women that they had been forced to bare their breasts while in custody.
The survey also found that many complaints against U.S. border agents take years to resolve. The council reviewed 809 complaints filed in the three years from January 2009 to January 2012. But of those, only 485 had been investigated and resolved. The remainder are still under investigation, including a nearly 5-year-old allegation of forced sexual intercourse lodged July 30, 2009, against a Border Patrol agent in El Centro, Calif.
Among the cases that were still “pending investigation, the average number of days between the date the complaint was filed and the last record date provided in the data set was 389 days,” the report said.
“This absolutely confirms the experiences of our border families and communities,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Regional Center for Border Rights in New Mexico. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is now the largest law enforcement agency in the nation, and yet this massive buildup of border enforcement resources has not been matched with adequate accountability and oversight.”
And about that SCOTUS decision:
The 5-4 decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway shows how far the ground has shifted under the Establishment Clause in the last 30 years.
Yesterday’s ruling in Greece v. Galloway is an affront to religious equality, but it also reflects the poisoned fruit of a bad precedent.
In fact for SCOTUSblog coverage look here: Town of Greece v. Galloway : SCOTUSblog
With all this shit that happened yesterday, and the recent other shit like the repeal of some key parts of the Civil Rights Act, this next article should come as a surprise: Supreme Court popularity rebounds, survey says | Suits & Sentences | McClatchy DC
The Supreme Court’s popularity has rebounded, with more than half of U.S. residents surveyed now voicing a favorable view of the justices, a new survey finds.
The Pew Research Center survey, conducted last month among 1,501 adults, found that 56 percent have a favorable view of the court, while 35 percent had an unfavorable view. Last July, only 48 percent held a favorable view of the court. That rating was among the lowest ever recorded by the court, though still well above the abysmal poll numbers earned by Congress.
Intriguingly, 63 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of the court led by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., compared to 54 percent of Republicans.
Take a deep breath…I know I have to. More after the jump.
Question for today: Are women human? Are we people in the eyes of our government? We’ve been told that corporations are people. We know that white men are people–that was established by the U.S. Constitution when it was ratified in 1789. Since that time, there have been amendments that granted some rights to non-white men and to women. We can vote now. Does that mean our government recognizes our humanity?
Today our ultra-conservative, mostly Catholic Supreme Court will hear two cases that bring this question to the forefront, and the Court’s decisions may give us some answers to the question of whether American women are officially people with individual rights.
From MSNBC: Supreme Court to hear birth control case
Depending on whom you ask, Tuesday morning’s oral argument at the Supreme Court is about whether Obamacare can keep treading on religious liberty – or it’s about a woman’s right to access contraception on her employee insurance plan, no matter what her employer thinks of it. Either way, it is the first time the Affordable Care Act will be at the nation’s highest Court since it was first largely upheld as constitutional. The same two men as in that case, current Solicitor General Don Verrilli and former Bush administration solicitor general Paul Clement, are facing off to argue over a narrower provision.
Before the Supreme Court decides whether the contraceptive coverage required of insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act violates a 1993 law governing religious liberty, it has to settle the threshold question: Does a corporation even have religious liberty?
I think the question about the rights of women is far broader than that. Without access to birth control and abortion, a woman has no real autonomy as a human being. If she becomes pregnant–even through rape–she loses the ability to make choices about her future life. It has been a relatively short period of time since women have had the power to make those choices. But that power has led to other advances for women–such as the right to prosecute a rapist or an abusive boyfriend or husband, the right to have credit in her own name, the right to an education, and entry into careers from which women were previously blocked. We can only hope that the justices see clearly what their decisions will mean for women’s lives and women’s personhood.
Back to the MSNBC article:
Hobby Lobby Stores, an Oklahoma-based, evangelical-owned craft chain with about 13,000 employees, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a small Mennonite-owned cabinet maker in Pennsylvania, sued the administration and got two very different answers from the lower courts. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals declared of Hobby Lobby that “such corporations can be ‘persons’ exercising religion.” In ruling on Conestoga’s bid for exemption from the requirement, the Third Circuit disagreed: “For-profit secular corporations cannot exercise in religious exercise.”
The companies are among the 47 for-profit corporations that have objected to their company plans complying with the minimum coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. Under those regulations, contraception is covered fully, without a co-pay, as preventive care. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood object to a handful of contraceptives that they speculate can block a fertilized egg, which is neither documented in the science nor the medical definition of abortion. Other for-profit plaintiffs object to any birth control coverage at all….
The Obama administration says that the government has a compelling interest in women’s health and in gender equality. The Department of Health and Human Services agreed to classify contraceptives as preventive care after considering testimony from medical experts, who cited the country’s high rate of unintended pregnancy and the persistence cost barriers to accessing effective birth control.
Some legal experts argue that to rule for Hobby Lobby would be imposing religion on others, by forcing the women who work for such companies to pay the cost of their employers’ religion. Frederick Gedicks, a law professor at Brigham Young, has even argued in a brief before the Court that doing so would violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
What will SCOTUS decide?
At NPR, Nina Totenberg offers some scary quotes from Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby:
“We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally is what we should operate our lives by … and so we cannot be a part of taking life,” explains Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.
“It’s our rights that are being infringed upon to require us to do something against our conscience,” adds CEO and founder David Green.
Using birth control is “taking a life?” Apparently one of the arguments Hobby Lobby is using that–contrary to scientific facts–some forms of birth control are equal to abortion. So is every sperm is sacred too? Should men be prosecuted for masturbating? But those questions are not likely to be asked, because it is already legally established that men are people.
At the WaPo, Sandra Fluke writes: At the Supreme Court, a potential catastrophe for women’s rights.
Unlike my congressional testimony in 2012, which was about Georgetown University — a Catholic-affiliated university — refusing to include contraception in student insurance because it was a religiously affiliated school, the institutions arguing before the Supreme Court are not houses of worship or religious non-profits. The Affordable Care Act already includes special arrangements for those types of organizations. These are private, for-profit corporations — a craft store and a cabinet manufacturer — that want to be excluded from health insurance and employment laws because of bosses’ personal views.
Laws that include religious protection have never given corporations the right to have religious views, and it would be a terrible idea to make such an enormous change to our legal precedent now. Our laws protect individuals’ private religious beliefs, but when you cross over into the public sphere to become a corporation and make a profit off of the public, you must abide by the public’s laws.
Depending on the court’s rulings, the cases’ outcomes could deny millions of women coverage of any or all forms of birth control, limiting women’s ability to control their reproductive health, plan their pregnancies and manage their lives. As I testified, women also need birth control for many other medical reasons, including relief of painful health problems like endometriosis.
And, Fluke argues, recognizing a right for corporations to hold religious views will open the door to
Allowing any private employer to dictate which laws fit inside its religious beliefs could upset the necessary balance of both religious liberty and employee health and safety laws. Depending on the exact ruling, any for-profit corporation could cut off its employees’ insurance coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations or HIV treatment — all of which some Americans have religious objections to. Any critical health coverage the boss doesn’t agree with could be eliminated.
Furthermore, SCOTUS could not limit these proposed “religious freedoms” to Christians.
Although this country predominantly descends from a Judeo-Christian tradition, our valuable religious protection laws ensure that anyone is free to practice any religion they want, including religions whose belief systems and practices many of us would disagree with vehemently. In fact, far-ranging beliefs that are not associated with any organized religion could be used to justify a corporation’s practices as well.
Sahil Kapur of TPM points out that Justice Scalia, who might be expected to vote in favor of a corporate “right to religious freedom,” will have to deal with one of his previous rulings: Justice Scalia’s Past Comes Back To Haunt Him On Birth Control.
In 1990, Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, concluding that the First Amendment “does not require” the government to grant “religious exemptions” from generally applicable laws or civic obligations. The case was brought by two men in Oregon who sued the state for denying them unemployment benefits after they were fired from their jobs for ingesting peyote, which they said they did because of their Native American religious beliefs.
“[T]he right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability,” Scalia wrote in the 6-3 majority decision, going on to aggressively argue that such exemptions could be a slippery slope to lawlessness and that “[a]ny society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy.”
“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind,” he wrote, “ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”
That opinion could haunt the jurist if he seeks to invalidate the birth control rule.
“Scalia will have to reckon with his own concern in Smith about the lawlessness and chaos created by liberal exemptions to generally applicable law,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA. “For him to uphold an exemption now is to invite more of the lawlessness that he warned about.”
At Think Progress, Ian Millhiser addresses the right wing organizations that have waged a concerted war against women’s rights during the past several years: Read This One Document To Understand What The Christian Right Hopes To Gain From Hobby Lobby.
2009 was a grim year for social conservatives. Barack Obama was an ambitious and popular new president. Republicans, and their conservative philosophy, were largely discredited in the public eye by a failed war and a massive recession. And the GOP’s effort to reshape its message was still in its awkward adolescence. If the conservative movement had a mascot, it would have been a white man dressed as Paul Revere and waving a misspelled sign.
Amidst this wreckage, more than two hundred of the nation’s leading Christian conservatives joined together in a statement expressing their dismay at the state of the nation. “Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development,” their statement claimed, while “[m]ajorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.” Meanwhile, they feared that the liberals who now controlled the country “are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”
The signatories to this statement, which they named the “Manhattan Declaration,” included many of America’s most prominent Catholic bishops and clergy of similar prominence in other Christian sects. It included leaders oftop anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, and of more broadly focused conservative advocacy shops such as the Family Research Council. It included university presidents and deans from Christian conservative colleges. And it included the top editors from many of the Christian right’s leading publications.
Perhaps most significantly, however, the document’s signatories includes Alan Sears, the head of one of the two conservative legal groups litigating what are likely to be the two most important cases decided by the Supreme Court this term. Indeed, the Manhattan Declaration offers a virtual roadmap to understanding what religious conservatives hope to gain from Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius, two cases the justices will hear Tuesday which present the question whether a business owner’s religious objections to birth control trump their legal obligation to include it in their employee’s health plan.
Read the gory details at the link.
Finally, I ask that everyone read this year-old article at Time Magazine by Jessica Winter, Subject for Debate: Are Women People? It is both darkly humorous and deadly serious.
All my adult life, I’ve been pretty sure I’m a sentient, even semi-competent human being. I have a job and an apartment; I know how to read and vote; I make regular, mostly autonomous decisions about what to eat for lunch and which cat videos I will watch whilst eating my lunch. But in the past couple of months, certain powerful figures in media and politics have cracked open that certitude.
You see, like most women, I was born with the chromosome abnormality known as “XX,” a deviation of the normative “XY” pattern. Symptoms of XX, which affects slightly more than half of the American population, include breasts, ovaries, a uterus, a menstrual cycle, and the potential to bear and nurse children. Now, many would argue even today that the lack of a Y chromosome should not affect my ability to make informed choices about what health care options and lunchtime cat videos are right for me. But others have posited, with increasing volume and intensity, that XX is a disability, even a roadblock on the evolutionary highway. This debate has reached critical mass, and leaves me uncertain of my legal and moral status. Am I a person? An object? A ward of the state? A “prostitute”? (And if I’m the last of these, where do I drop off my W-2?)
Please go read the whole thing. It’s not long.
So . . . those are my recommended reads for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.