Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I’ve been livid recently about our Governor’s jihad against public education.  Here’s some details on how Bobby Jindal used the ALEC play book to turn the state’s public schools upside down.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has remade the Louisiana public schools system with impressive speed over the past legislative session. Last week, he signed into law a suite of landmark reform bills that will likely change the direction of public education in Louisiana forever. But not all change is good, and critics say both Jindal’s agenda and the strategy to move it come right from the playbook of conservative advocacy group ALEC, in an effort to revive Jindal’s national political profile.

Louisiana is now home to the nation’s most expansive school voucher program. Charter school authorization powers have been broadened. And teacher tenure policies have been radically transformed. Louisiana already had something of a reputation as a radical-reform state, thanks to the post-Katrina educational climate in New Orleans. But not all change is good, and education advocates have deep concerns about the efficacy of Jindal’s overhaul, and the interests that have push it.

ALEC has overrun Louisiana at a time when it’s losing corporate sponsors and cronies in various state legislatures.  ALEC still has some steam left, however.

ALEC will survive, of course, kept afloat largely by the billionaire Koch brothers and their corporate allies. But as activists keep up the pressure, they must not lose sight of the worst culprits, who must be identified and targeted: the more than 2,000 legislative members of ALEC. The Center for Media and Democracy maintains a list of lawmakers allied with ALEC at ALECexposed.org. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has begun to pressure dozens of Democrats involved with the overwhelmingly Republican group to quit. Their exit from ALEC would put the lie to the claim that ALEC is nonpartisan.

Common Cause argues that ALEC has abused its tax-exempt status by lobbying, and Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan has introduced a bill requiring ALEC to register as a lobbyist in that state. But especially as November approaches, the Exit ALEC movement must go beyond the group to confront some of the damage it has done. In the past two years, thirty-four states have introduced bills to restrict voting for some 5 million eligible voters; nine have passed voter ID laws; dozens of other states have gotten rid of early voting or tried to hobble voter registration drives. In Florida get-out-the-vote efforts by the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote have been sabotaged. The most affected are blacks, Latinos and other groups that skew Democratic.

If you haven’t been following CISPA, you really should.  Here’s a primer from Truth Dig.

What is CISPA?

CISPA, an abbreviation for the Cyber Intelligence Security and Protection Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives on November 30, 2011 by Mike Rogers (R-MI), as well as 111 co-sponsors. Since then, a number of amendments have been introduced. The House is expected to vote on the bill Friday and its author has said that the latest changes brought the number of supporting Congressmen “well past” the threshold of 218 necessary for the adoption of the legislation. It is therefore very likely that the bill will be passed by the House. However, it’s not all that certain whether the bill will be made into law, especially with the White House’s latest statement that President Obama would be advised to veto the legislation.

What does CISPA entail for internet users?

The act says it is meant to create procedures allowing “elements of the intelligence community to share cyber threat intelligence with private-sector entities and to encourage the sharing of such intelligence.”  It also states that a cyber-security provider or a self-protected entity may share “cyber threat information”  “with any other entity designated by such protected entity, including… the Federal Government.

But what does that mean?

Unnecessarily broad definitions are the factor which makes CISPA so controversial with web users.

Experts argue that the bill would give the government the ability to circumvent internet privacy laws and obtain information on user activities from private companies – be it providers, hosting companies or social networks – essentially any company involved in the Internet.

The bill does specifically say that the Federal Government can only use the information obtained for a “cybersecurity purpose” or the “protection of the national security of the United States,” but the broad definitions of the terms could potentially lump an average Internet user sending an encrypted e-mail into the same threat category as a terrorist. Privately owned corporations could, under the pretext of cyber and national security, spy on users and transfer their data to a government agency.

You will get no accountability for that,” explains David Seaman, host of The DL Show. “If findings are turned against you in the worst possible way, you won’t be able to get a lawyer and sue because of the litigation immunity.

You can find more analysis and links at Cannonfire.  The House has already passed CISPA.  No surprises there since these guys are standing in line to monitor US women’s menstrual periods and want to peer into every woman’s uterus.  As usual, a few Democrats joined in the effort to expand government’s intrusion into your personal lives.  Here’s wishing Obama follows through with his threat to veto.

The final tally was 248-168, enough to pass the measure but not enough to override the threatened veto. Forty-two Democrats broke with the White House to vote for the bill, and 28 Republicans voted against it.

The administration and Democratic critics opposed the bill because of privacy and civil liberties concerns. The other main sticking point was that, unlike a Senate bill by Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), CISPA would not mandate new security requirements for a critical infrastructure network.

Although those disagreements still exist, House Republicans have now jumped ahead of the Senate in a race to avoid the political fallout in the event of a major cyberattack.

At least some of CISPA’s Democratic supporters weren’t happy with their colleagues’ opposition to the bill, nor with the White House.

After the White House issued the veto threat Wednesday, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, Rogers’s chief Democratic ally, launched an all-out lobbying effort to persuade his fellow Democrats to back the bill.

Here’s an article that pretty much outlines my worst nightmares: “How Christian Groups Push Right-Wing Religion With the Help of Your Tax Dollars”;Taxpayer-funded crisis pregnancy centers are using religion to oppose abortion, and many of them only hire Christians.

If you want to help carry out the anti-abortion mission of the taxpayer-funded Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center, you have to be a Christian.

It’s right there on the Rapid City, S.D., center’s volunteer application.

“Do you consider yourself a Christian?” “If yes, how long have you been a Christian?” “As a Christian, what is the basis of your salvation?” “Please provide the following information concerning your local church. Church name … Denomination … Pastor’s name.” “This organization is a Christian pro-life ministry. We believe that our faith in Jesus Christ empowers us, enables us, and motivates us to provide pregnancy services in this community. Please write a brief statement about how your faith would affect your volunteer work at this center.”

But that hasn’t stopped the center from receiving federal funding and other forms of government support.

In 2010, it was awarded a $34,000 “capacity building” grant as part of President Obama’s stimulus bill.

Last year, the nonprofit National Fatherhood Initiative, with “support from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance,” awarded the center $25,000 for capacity building.

And when South Dakota passed a law requiring that women get counseling from a “pregnancy help center” before receiving an abortion, the Rapid City center was quick to sign up — becoming one of three such facilities listed on the state’s official website.

When do we get our country back from these whackos and when do we get to say that they don’t get our money?

I’m sending Hugs out today to Senator AL Franken for this.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads

Coffee and Morning News, by Tim Nyberg

Good Morning!! I am sooooo exhausted. Last Wednesday, I got back home after two months in Indiana. Normally, I would crash for a couple of days and be on the way to recovery from the long drive. But this time my Mom came back with me. She has been staying at my brother’s house, and I’ve had to drive over there nearly every day since I got home.

Yesterday I spent the day with my Mom and my nearly-9-year-old nephew, who was home sick and hung around for the trick-or-treating. My Mom is flying back home this morning at 8:30, and I was dreading having to get up at 5:30 in the morning to take her to the airport. But my brother volunteered to take her–halleluja! Finally I can spend a couple of days vegetating at home! I just hope I don’t get my nephew’s cold!

Anyway, here are some news links I found for you. I’ve been a bit out of touch, so I hope I won’t duplicate anything that has already been posted.

The freaky early snowstorm has left millions of people without power, which also means no heat. Even if you have gas or oil heat, the on-off mechanism still relies on electricity. So there are lots of people living in houses with temperatures around 50 degrees. I was really fortunate that my electricity was only off for several hours, mostly while I was sleeping.

Joanelle mentioned in comments last night that in her part of NJ, there is so much damage that trick or treating has been put off until Friday. The Christian Science Monitor had a story about this happening up and down the East coast.

Until hard-pressed utility crews get the lines restrung, many residents from North Carolina to Maine are living in homes that are barely 50 degrees, and in some cases, they’re unable to heat food. School systems are closed because, among other reasons, it’s not safe for children to walk on sidewalks that may still have live power lines on them. And many businesses aren’t open because they’re still in the midst of power outages.

“Electricity is the most fundamental of utilities. Most everything depends on electric power,” says Kathleen Tierney, director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “This has many of the earmarks of a disaster.”

In some states, governors are warning residents they may have to grin and bear it for days or even another week since the heavy snow did extensive damage to the electric grid. For example, in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, the snow knocked out some of the lines that get power from the generating plants to substations, where it then goes into a local distribution network. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) has asked President Obama to declare the state a federal disaster area, which would help with cleanup and recovery costs.

Herman Cain is still trying to explain away the story about his sexually harassing women in the 1990s. Now he’s calling it a witch hunt. But Rush Limbaugh, of all people, claims it’s racism.

RUSH: You know, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, folks. After all of these years, none of us should be surprised, but I still am. Look at how quickly what is known as the mainstream media goes for the ugliest racial stereotypes they can to attack a black conservative. You know who’s laughing himself silly today is Bill Clinton. (imitating Clinton) “Yeah, I really did it. Ha-ha. They praised me and they went as far out of their way as they could. Even my old buddy Carville is out there and he’s saying, ‘Look what happens when you drag a dollar bill through a trailer park, you get Paula Jones.’ I have everybody defending me and they’re going after this black guy, and they’re going after him with some of the ugliest racial stereotypes I have ever seen. That’s how our side does it; we get away with it. I just love it. I love watching it.”

What’s next, folks? A cartoon on MSNBC showing Herman Cain with huge lips eating a watermelon? What are they gonna do next? No, Snerdley, I’m not kidding. The racial stereotypes that these people are using to go after Herman Cain, what is the one thing that it tells us? It tells us who the real racists are, yeah, but it tells us that Herman Cain is somebody. Something’s going on out there. Herman Cain obviously is making some people nervous for this kind of thing to happen.

When did sexual harassment become a racial stereotype? WTF is he talking about?

But at the National Review, Kevin D. Williamson says this may signal the end of Herman Cain’s campaign.

Here is what troubles me. Mr. Cain says: “If the Restaurant Association did a settlement, I wasn’t even aware of it, and I hope it wasn’t for much, because nothing happened. So if there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other offices that worked for me at the association, so the answer is absolutely not.”

Okay, so if I’m reading that quote right, then:

1. Herman Cain, in his role as head of a major trade association, did not bother to learn how a complaint or complaints of sexual harassment against him was resolved.

2. Herman Cain, not bothering to have learned how a complaint or complaints of sexual harassment against him was resolved, decided to run for president without bothering to learn.

I got a lot of grief for writing that, based on my interaction with Mr. Cain, I would have hesitated to hire him to run a pizza company. I am feeling more comfortable in that judgment.

I wonder if Rush will condemn this: some Republicans in Virginia sent out a Halloween e-mail containing an image of President Obama shot through the head.

The Republican Party of Virginia on Monday strongly condemned an e-mail sent by Loudoun County’s GOP committee that shows President Obama as a zombie with part of his skull missing and a bullet through his head.

The e-mail, first reported on the blog Too Conservative, has “Halloween 2011” in the subject line and has several other images, including one of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose face has been made to look deformed with one eye bulging from its socket….

The e-mail, sent a week before local and state elections, invites supporters to a Halloween parade. “LCRC members and Republican candidates: We are going to vanquish the zombies with clear thinking conservative principles and a truckload of Republican candy. . . . It’s fun and a great way to represent our candidates to a ton of voters (and their kids) just before the election.”

Talk about ugly and wildly inappropriate! If anyone listens to Rush, let me know if he condemns this. I won’t be holding my breath though….

We’ve been talking about the irresponsible “journalism” of WaPo “reporter” Lori Montgomery, so I was interested to learn from Raw Story that a new website debuted yesterday with the goal of holding mainstream journalists accountable for what they write and don’t write. From Raw Story:

A Wikipedia-style website launched on Monday which provides information about the journalists behind the bylines.

News Transparency is a creation of Ira Stoll, the founder of another website called FutureOfCapitalism.com and the former managing editor of the now defunct New York Sun.

In a statement on its home page, newstransparency.com, the website said its goal is to help users “find out more about the people who produce the news” and “hold them accountable, the same way that journalists hold other powerful institutions accountable, by posting reviews and sharing information.”

News Transparency features an alphabetical list of hundreds of journalists and invites users to edit their profiles, which include basic biographical information such as age, education, current employer and work history.

Lori Montgomery is listed on the site, but so far there’s no information on her background. Does this woman even have a college degree? I’m waiting with bated breath to find out.

On my way home last night, I listened to the NPR program “On Point.” They were debating the Mississippi “personhood” for zygotes initiative, the goal of which seems to be to turn women into breeders with no freedom of choice and no rights over their own bodies. I highly recommend listening to the program. Hearing what the insane theocratic sponsors of this constitutional amendment have to say is truly frightening, but at the same time very important.

The New York Times has an op-ed about the proposed amendent: Mississippi’s Ambiguous ‘Personhood’ Amendment. The authors identify two main ambiguities in the amendment as written:

First, what does “fertilization” mean? As embryologists recognize, fertilization is a process, a continuum, rather than a fixed point. The term “fertilization” — which is sometimes considered synonymous with “conception” — could mean at least four different things: penetration of the egg by a sperm, assembly of the new embryonic genome, successful activation of that genome, and implantation of the embryo in the uterus. The first occurs immediately; the last occurs approximately two weeks after insemination (or, in the case of embryos created through in vitro fertilization that do not get implanted, never). Thus, on some reasonable readings of the amendment, certain forms of birth control, stem cell derivation and the destruction of embryos created through in vitro fertilization would seem impermissible, while on other equally reasonable readings they are not.

Second, the proposed amendment does not clearly indicate what the immediate legal impact would be. Would the amendment be “self-executing” — that is, effectuate a change to Mississippi law on its own — or would it require enabling legislation to set that change in motion?

Under existing doctrine, constitutional provisions or amendments that only set forth “first principles” or “policies” are not treated as self-executing, because they need laws enacted to further the stated principles or policies. In this case it’s not clear whether the amendment would, for example, immediately redefine thousands of references to “human beings” or “persons,” including those in provisions governing criminal homicide, or whether additional legislation would be necessary. Because of this uncertainty, voters considering this amendment cannot tell what actions would and would not immediately be subject to prosecutorial investigation were the amendment to pass.

I just hope this abomination doesn’t get enough votes!

That’s all I’ve got this morning. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Late Night: Is Tim Pawlenty Secretly Pro-Choice?

Tim Pawlenty, "closet moderate"

Wow, breaking news! I know Mitt Romney isn’t really anti-abortion, but Tim Pawlenty? In an op-ed headlined “The Manufactured Candidate,” Shawn Lawrence Otto, a long-time acquaintance of the Minnesota Governor and GOP presidential candidate, claims that Pawlenty told him he was “personally pro-choice.”

I’ve known Pawlenty since he was a young Republican state representative from Eagan, Minn. We had some of the same friends and used to golf together once in a while. His campaign treasurer was my accountant…

Pawlenty is a very talented guy, and I respected his opinion. His first question was, “What’s your position on choice?” I hadn’t ever been asked the question quite so pointedly. “You’ve got to take a stand on that first,” he said. “Well,” I said, “OK. I don’t like abortion; I think it’s a really tough personal decision, but not something the government should be getting into one way or the other, so I guess I’m pro-choice.”

He looked at me over his lunch and said, “Well personally, so am I, but here’s the thing. You’ve got to find a way to get your mind around the language of saying ‘pro-life.’ It’s in how you phrase it.”

I’ve since learned I’m not the only one Pawlenty has said this to.

This is the political reality for Republicans. You have to pretend to be crazy to get elected.

Otto isn’t comfortable with what he sees happening in the GOP:

This integrity issue doesn’t seem to bother Pawlenty the way it bothers me. He’s wanted to be president for as long as I’ve known him, and ambition can cause principles to take a back seat. He has shown a similar cynicism in his more recent about-faces on climate change and health care, stunning many Minnesotans and former allies and causing some to wonder: Do you really have to sell your soul to succeed in Republican politics?

The answer seems to be yes. And judging by the non-reaction of Democrats to the war on women taking place around the country, they are learning to accept same “reality.” And as a result, millions of women will suffer and die because of the disgusting cowardice of these amoral politicians.

As Bob Dylan wrote in another context, “we’re only a pawn in their game.”