Monday Reads: Death has a sense of Irony

Under the Orange Tree, Berthe Morisotsot, 1889

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Folks may think they’re done with Covid-19, but Covid-19 is not done with us.  I’m thinking of JJ and her daughter Bebe who struggled with the virus and lost dear friends.  Covid deniers in the US and other places have made hell on earth for the rest of us with their blatant acts to ensure its spread.  Not only do they cough on you, but they seem hell-bent on proving themselves right. Well, another one bites the dust. Death may take a vacation, but it also has a deep sense of Irony. That’s my literary take, but the deal is you can’t fight scientific findings with Iron Age folk tales. You do not want to see people dying of anything, but most of all, from stupidity. This is from The Daily Beast. “Conservative Activist Dies of COVID Complications After Attending Anti-Vax ‘Symposium’.”

“I am truly heartbroken to learn that my dear friend Kelly Canon has passed away from complications from Covid pneumonia. Just yesterday around 4pm she told a group of friends that she definitely felt better and that the docs had told her she had ‘turned the corner’ with improved blood test results. She was talking about wanting to come home. Later last night she developed an acute abdominal issue, was given pain meds and put on the ventilator,” wrote Maggie Clopton Wright“

See more

More recently, Canon had been an outspoken critic of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and pandemic-related restrictions. In one of her final Facebook posts, Canon shared several links to speeches she attended at a “COVID symposium” in Burleson in early December devoted to dissuading people from getting the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available. The event was organized by God Save Our Children, which bills itself as “a conservative group that is fighting against the use of experimental vaccines on our children.”

Canon had shared similar content on Twitter, where her most recent post was a YouTube video featuring claims that the coronavirus pandemic was “planned” in advance and part of a global conspiracy.

As news of her death spread Tuesday, pro-vaccine commentators flooded her Facebook page with cruel comments and mocking memes, while her supporters unironically praised her for being a “warrior for liberty” to the very end.

I’m not sure she deserves to be mocked, but her example is not one to follow. That may not be the case in this Congress.

Berthe Morisot,
Julie Manet picking cherries, 1891

Since I’m already on this topic, I might dive in fully. This is from Common Dreams.  “Christian Nationalism vs. the Separation of Church and State. The Founding Fathers wisely recognized what religion would become in the hands of charlatans: a theatrical performance and political tool to hypocritically showboat their “piety” as a way to manipulate voters for political gain.”

What a sorry little God he would be if he weren’t more open-minded than his closed-minded children who insult him by their demeaning image of him and use that caricature as their puppet who “reveals” to them alone what he wants for their country or political party!

Whether such proselytizing zeal is disguised aggression, megalomania, or repressed self-doubt that feels both threatened and driven to convert others to dispel that doubt, these are very dangerous people and should never be part of government or have their theological views of the Second Coming guide an administration’s foreign policy toward Israel and that tinderbox of the Middle East.

And yet, unbeknownst to themselves, these individuals render the nation an inestimable service by being a constant reminder of the very reason for upholding this Separation of Church and State. The Founding Fathers believed that religion was, and must always remain, a private affair because bringing the volatility of “religious enthusiasm” into the public arena would only trivialize religion and destabilize a nation. They feared the political effects of interdenominational feuding, the polarization caused by doctrinal differences, the demonization of dissenters, and the eruption of religious intolerance and hatred.

There was also a second reason why the Founders feared religion in politics — the rise of religious opportunists who would inflame political passions to promote themselves. Religion would become in the hands of these charlatans a theatrical performance and political tool to hypocritically showboat their “piety” to manipulate voters for political gain.

An unscrupulous politician could disguise his lack of convictions by holding his finger to the wind to determine which way the wind was blowing and telling his audience whatever he thought it wanted to hear. This individual well understood the art of inciting “enthusiasm” or hysteria toward some plan of action and call it “the Will of God.”

The Founders would have blanch­ed at politicians returning to their constituents and pandering to their sincerely held religious convictions to gain a following or court popularity — not that they couldn’t take part in religious services as private citizens, but not as representatives of their government lest people think they were lending the prestige of their office to their particular church or religion.

These Founders also knew their Bible, as it played such a pivotal role in their 18th-century world. They knew of Christ’s admonition in Mat­thew 6 about not playing the hypocrite by standing on the street corner and making a public display of one’s piety, for one would have already received one’s reward. Instead, one should withdraw to one’s room, close the door, and in privacy pray to God as grandstanding didn’t count as prayer with the Lord! As experienced men of the world, they knew only too well how politicians might cynically abuse religion to seek power and votes.

They were also highly educated, even erudite, men, especially Thomas Jefferson, whose library contained a Who’s Who of “great authors,” one of whom was the celebrated French playwright Moliere, author of “Tartuffe,” the embodiment of religious hypocrisy. It is both an uproarious romp into the glacial regions of inner emptiness, as well as a manual for observing the bobbings and weavings of unctuous sanctimony raised to high art.

In that great patrician school of Parisian sophistication, it was thought that the only way to effect moral change was never by sermons but by ridicule. Many don’t mind being considered a scoundrel, but never a fool! Castigat ridendo mores (“Comedy corrects manners”) was the essence of Moliere’s art that skewered human folly by laughter alone.

This caustic mockery of his characters and the gales of laughter that broke forth from the audience were much more effective in pillorying vice than sermons delivered from Notre Dame’s pulpit. Moliere, the French Aristophanes, was and always has been a moral institution for the French, who can laugh at themselves in his characters with no loss of face.

Jefferson and his colleagues well understood that some members of government might be tempted to play Tartuffe on the political stage. One Tartuffe, or a group of them, could do untold harm to a nation by using religion for political ends. To the educated, the 18th century was an age of taste and decorum, moderation and dignity, and everything had its proper place. Religion especially could never be allowed to be vulgarized or cheapened by demagogues toying with people’s religious emotions.

There would be no limit to their unbridled ambition and religious hypocrisy in saying whatever would ingratiate themselves to the favor and trust of an audience. So profound was their cynical abuse of religion for being elected that they would wax rhapsodic on the metaphysical subtleties of Hottentot theology if they thought it would secure them a “leg-up” over their political rivals at election time.

I must admit that I’ve never understood the religious right, the moral majority, or the radicalism of Emp-ty G.  One line of my father’s family–Huguenote French Protestants and Jewish folks–fled Alsace Lorraine after the region after the Catholic Church was handed all their belongings and began the persecution of both groups when Napolean handed them the region. Both sides of my family had signers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, so I had a firm grounding in staying out of another’s religion.  I was horrified by Pat Robertson’s minions when they moved on Iowa and captured the Reagan version of the Republican Party.

Renoir, Girls Picking Flowers in a Meadow, about 1890

This depressing article was in the New York Times today. “How Kevin McCarthy Forged an Ironclad Bond With Marjorie Taylor Greene. The close alliance that has developed between the speaker and the hard-right Georgia Republican explains his rise, how he might govern, and the heavy influence of the extremes on the new House G.O.P. majority.” I had difficulty understanding Phyliss Schafly’s actions and speech back in the day, but this new group of right-wing women is beyond explanation.  It just seems this entire group just will do anything for attention.

Days after he won his gavel in a protracted fight with hard-right Republicans, Speaker Kevin McCarthy gushed to a friend about the ironclad bond he had developed with an unlikely ally in his battle for political survival, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

“I will never leave that woman,” Mr. McCarthy, a California Republican, told the friend, who described the private conversation on the condition of anonymity. “I will always take care of her.”

Such a declaration from Mr. McCarthy would have been unthinkable in 2021, when Ms. Greene first arrived on Capitol Hill in a swirl of controversy and provocation. A former QAnon follower who had routinely trafficked in conspiratorial, violent and bigoted statements, Ms. Greene was then widely seen as a dangerous liability to the party and a threat to the man who aspired to lead Republicans back to the majority — a person to be controlled and kept in check, not embraced.

But in the time since, a powerful alliance developed between Ms. Greene, the far-right rabble-rouser and acolyte of former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. McCarthy, the affable fixture of the Washington establishment, according to interviews with 20 people with firsthand knowledge of the relationship, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it.

Their political union — a closer and more complex one than has previously been known — helps explain how Mr. McCarthy rose to power atop a party increasingly defined by its extremes, the lengths to which he will go to accommodate those forces, and how much influence Ms. Greene and the faction she represents have in defining the agenda of the new House Republican majority.

“If you’re going to be in a fight, you want Marjorie in your foxhole,” Mr. McCarthy said. Both he and Ms. Greene agreed to brief interviews for this article. “When she picks a fight, she’s going to fight until the fight’s over. She reminds me of my friends from high school, that we’re going to stick together all the way through.”

It is a relationship born of political expediency but fueled by genuine camaraderie, and nurtured by one-on-one meetings as often as once a week, usually at a coffee table in Mr. McCarthy’s Capitol office, as well as a constant stream of text messages back and forth.

Mr. McCarthy has gone to unusual lengths to defend Ms. Greene, even dispatching his general counsel to spend hours on the phone trying to cajole senior executives at Twitter to reactivate her personal account after she was banned last year for violating the platform’s coronavirus misinformation policy.

Ms. Greene, in turn, has taken on an outsize role as a policy adviser to Mr. McCarthy, who has little in the way of a fixed ideology of his own and has come to regard the Georgia congresswoman as a vital proxy for the desires and demands of the right-wing base that increasingly drives his party. He has adopted her stances on opposing vaccine mandates and questioning funding for the war in Ukraine, and even her call to reinvestigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to show what she has called “the other side of the story.”

Young Girl Holding a Basket, 1891, Berthe Morisot

This does not bode well.

Yesterday was supposed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade. Instead, the same group is not happy with its’ overturn. They’ve moved on to more extremism under their limited view of Christianity. Vice President Kamal Harris gave a rousing speech on the need to protect women’s abortion rights.  This is from NPR. “On 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Kamala Harris urges federal abortion protections.”

Vice President Kamala Harris commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by imploring Americans to work to enshrine abortion rights into law.

“For nearly 50 years, Americans relied on the rights that Roe protected,” Harris said at a speech delivered in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sunday. “Today, however, on what would have been its 50th anniversary, we speak of the Roe decision in the past tense.”

The landmark Supreme Court decision on Jan. 22, 1973, guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion for nearly half a century. The U.S. Supreme Court officially reversed Roe v. Wade in June, which immediately rolled back abortion rights in almost half of the states, and led to many more restrictions. In speaking in Florida, Harris, the nation’s first female vice president, delivered a speech in a state which passed a 15-week abortion ban into law.

In her speech, Harris spoke directly to the anti-abortion rights policies implemented by Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, and state officials.

After the Food and Drug Administration changed a rule to allow retail pharmacies to fill prescriptions for abortion pills, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration reportedly sent a letter out to pharmacists telling them that dispensing the abortion pill could lead to criminal charges.

“Here, in Florida, health care providers face prison — prison! — for up to five years for simply doing their job,” Harris said. “And now the state has also targeted medication abortion, and even threatened Florida pharmacists with criminal charges if they provide medication prescribed by medical professionals.”

President Biden moved to support legal access to chemical abortions.

Fillette portant un panier, Young Girl Holding a Basket, 1888, Berthe Morisot

This is from The Guardian. “In a more just world, this would be the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade, written by Moira Donegan.  Until last year, Roe made it more possible for women’s lives to be determined by their choices, not merely by their bodies”

If the supreme court hadn’t overturned it last June, undoing a longstanding precedent and inflicting untold harm to women’s well-being and dignity, Sunday 22 January would have been the fiftieth anniversary of Roe v Wade.

Over those 50 years, Roe changed American life dramatically. Abortion became a routine part of life, a resource people planned their lives around having. In contrast to its political controversy, abortion in the Roe era was – as it is now – aggressively common. Approximately one in four American women will have an abortion at some point in the course of their reproductive lives.

The figure lends credence to the pro-choice assertion that everyone loves someone who had an abortion – and the accompanying quip that if you think you don’t know a woman who has had an abortion, you really just don’t know any women who trust you enough to tell you. But part of the legacy of Roe is not just that these women you know and love have been able to have freer, healthier, more volitional lives, but also that their abortions, for many of them, are not worth confessing. For most, abortions were not tragedies to be whispered about, or life-altering moments of shame, but banalities, choices to which they were unquestionably entitled, and from which they could move unconflictedly on. But Roe is gone. Now, for many women, these choices are crimes.

It’s worth reflecting on what we had during those 49 years. While it stood, Roe offered a promise: that women’s lives need not be circumscribed by so-called “biological destiny”; that gender – its relations, performances, and obligations – might not be something that is imposed on women, but something that they take up and discard on their own terms. In the Roe era, this frank entitlement by women to determine the courses of their own lives was the decision’s greatest legacy. Individual women’s distinction and determination, or their conflictedness and confusion, or their ambivalence and exploration: once, before Roe, these parts of a woman’s personality almost didn’t matter; they were incidental eccentricities along the inevitable road to motherhood. Roe made it more possible for women’s lives to be determined by their characters, not merely by their bodies.

It is easy to speak of Roe’s impact in material terms – the way it enabled women’s long march into paid work and into better paid work, how it was a precondition for their soaring achievements in education and the professions, their ascents into positions of power and influence. So little of the vast and varied lives of twentieth-century American women could have been achieved in the absence of abortion or birth control – these women, their minds and careers, are gifts the nation could never have received if they’d been made to be pregnant against their wills, or made to care for unplanned, unlonged-for babies.

But it is less easy to discuss the sense of dignity that Roe gave to American women, the way that the freedom to control when and whether they would have children endowed American women, for the first time, with something like the gravitas of adults. Roe opened a door for women into dignity, into self-determination, into the still wild and incendiary idea that they, like men, might be endowed with the prerogatives of citizenship, and entitled to chart the course of their own lives.

Mid-Century, Roger Etienne, Man In a Flower Hat

This is from the ACLU.” Roe’s 50th Year Undid Its Promise”.

On this anniversary episode, we are going to look at the reality that people are facing in a post-Roe America, both those seeking care and those providing it. Without Roe, a key component of reproductive care has become illegal or restricted for more than 20 million people, throwing many into painful and life-threatening situations. We are joined by Community Organizer, Kaitlyn Joshua, who experienced firsthand how new restrictions on abortion endanger the lives and well-being of pregnant people, and Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an OB-GYN, reproductive health educator, author, and Executive Director of Mayday Health, an organization focused on providing information on abortion access and options for people, regardless of where they live.

You may listen to the podcast at the link.

I think we have enough today to discuss and think about.  By the way, you reap what you sow.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

Happy Monday!!

Over the weekend we lost two giants of biology and the study of biodiversity.

The New York Times: E.O. Wilson, a Pioneer of Evolutionary Biology, Dies at 92.

Edward O. Wilson, a biologist and author who conducted pioneering work on biodiversity, insects and human nature — and won two Pulitzer Prizes along the way — died on Sunday in Burlington, Mass. He was 92.

His death was announced on Monday by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. A cause of death was not given….

“Ed’s holy grail was the sheer delight of the pursuit of knowledge,” Paula J. Ehrlich, chief executive and president of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation said in a statement. “A relentless synthesizer of ideas, his courageous scientific focus and poetic voice transformed our way of understanding ourselves and our planet.”

When Dr. Wilson began his career in evolutionary biology in the 1950s, the study of animals and plants seemed to many scientists like a quaint, obsolete hobby. Molecular biologists were getting their first glimpses of DNA, proteins and other invisible foundations of life. Dr. Wilson made it his life’s work to put evolution on an equal footing.

“How could our seemingly old-fashioned subjects achieve new intellectual rigor and originality compared to molecular biology?” Dr. Wilson recalled in 2009. He answered his own question by pioneering new fields of research.

As an expert on insects, Dr. Wilson studied the evolution of behavior, exploring how natural selection and other forces could produce something as extraordinarily complex as an ant colony. He then championed this kind of research as a way of making sense of all behavior — including our own.

As part of his campaign, Dr. Wilson wrote a string of books that influenced his fellow scientists while also gaining a broad public audience. “On Human Nature” won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 1979; “The Ants,” which Dr. Wilson wrote with his longtime colleague Bert Hölldobler, won him his second Pulitzer in 1991.

Dr. Wilson also became a pioneer in the study of biological diversity, developing a mathematical approach to questions about why different places have different numbers of species. Later in his career, Dr. Wilson became one of the world’s leading voices for the protection of endangered wildlife.

National Geographic: Thomas Lovejoy, renowned biologist who coined ‘biological diversity,’ dies at 80.

Thomas Lovejoy, a well-known American conservation biologist who coined the term “biological diversity” in 1980, died on December 25 at the age of 80. Lovejoy, who lived in northern Virginia, spent more than 50 years working in the Amazon rainforest, founding the nonprofit Amazon Biodiversity Center and bringing worldwide attention to the threats of tropical deforestation. In 1971, he received his first grant from the National Geographic Society, becoming an Explorer at Large in 2019.

“To know Tom was to know an extraordinary scientist, professor, advisor, and unyielding champion for our planet,” said Jill Tiefenthaler, the Society’s CEO, in a statement. “He was also a consummate connector, helping bring people and organizations together to preserve and protect some of our most fragile ecosystems and cornerstone species.”

In 1980, he also published the first estimate of global extinction rates, correctly projecting that by the early 21st century a huge number of species would be lost forever. Lovejoy, who held a Ph.D. in biology from Yale University, advised three administrations, the United Nations Foundation, the World Bank, and other organizations on how to protect species and advance the field of conservation biology. Since 2010, Lovejoy served as a professor in environmental science and policy at George Mason University in Virginia.

“Tom was a giant in the world of ecology and conservation,” said Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer in Residence. “But most importantly, he was a wonderful mentor and extremely generous with his students, colleagues, and friends.”

Despite his focus on some of the world’s toughest environmental challenges, Lovejoy remained an optimist. “We all have an interest in fixing this before it gets badly out of hand, and it’s getting close to that,” Lovejoy told National Geographic in 2015, speaking about climate change. “There are things we can do together. There are energy and innovation possibilities. There are biological solutions that would benefit everyone.

Politics News

Donald Trump Jr. recently slammed the teaching of Jesus. Relevant: Biblical Scholar Donald Trump Jr. Tells Young Conservatives That Following the Bible Has ‘Gotten Us Nothing.’

On Sunday [December 19], Turning Point USA hosted Donald Trump Jr. where he praised a crowd of young conservatives as “the frontline of freedom” but cautioned that following biblical teaching like “turn the other cheek” was holding them back and has “gotten us nothing.”

“If we band together, we can take on these institutions,” Trump told the crowd in Arizona. “That’s where we’ve gone wrong for a long time.”

Jean Metzinger, Tea Time

Jean Metzinger, Tea Time

“They cannot cancel us all,” he continued. “This will be contrary to a lot of our beliefs because I’d love not to have to participate in cancel culture. I’d love that it didn’t exist. But as long as it does, folks, we better be playing the same game.”

“We’ve turned the other cheek and I understand sort of the biblical reference — I understand the mentality — but it’s gotten us nothing,” Trump said. “OK? It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution.”

Trump is more correct than he probably knows here. Christianity is a poor device for gaining worldly influence. Nearly every page of the Gospels has stories of Jesus refusing earthly power and exhorting his followers to do the same. In fact, there are few things Jesus talked as much about as the upside down Kingdom of God where “the last shall be first” and “blessed are the meek.” Moreover, he cautioned against seeking earthly influence, going so far as to proclaim “woe to you who are rich.” The most cursory reading of Scripture would leave anyone with the sense that this is not a manual for getting stuff.

Peter Wehner wrote about Don Jr.’s “values” at The Atlantic: The Gospel of Donald Trump Jr.

Donald Trump Jr. is both intensely unappealing and uninteresting. He combines in his person corruption, ineptitude, and banality. He is perpetually aggrieved; obsessed with trolling the left; a crude, one-dimensional figure who has done a remarkably good job of keeping from public view any redeeming qualities he might have.

There’s a case to be made that he’s worth ignoring, except for this: Don Jr. has been his father’s chief emissary to MAGA world; he’s one of the most popular figures in the Republican Party; and he’s influential with Republicans in positions of power. He’s also attuned to what appeals to the base of the GOP. So, from time to time, it is worth paying attention to what he has to say.

Trump spoke at a Turning Point USA gathering on December 19. He displayed seething, nearly pathological resentments; playground insults (he led the crowd in “Let’s Go, Brandon” chants); tough guy/average Joe shtick; and a pulsating sense of aggrieved victimhood and persecution, all of it coming from the elitist, extravagantly rich son of a former president.

Hermann Max Pechstein

By Hermann Max Pechstein

Wehner notes Jr.’s reference to Jesus’s teachings of loving our enemies and “turning the other cheek” when they attack us.

Throughout his speech, Don Jr. painted a scenario in which Trump supporters—Americans living in red America—are under relentless attack from a wicked and brutal enemy. He portrayed it as an existential battle between good and evil. One side must prevail; the other must be crushed. This in turn justifies any necessary means to win. And the former president’s son has a message for the tens of millions of evangelicals who form the energized base of the GOP: the scriptures are essentially a manual for suckers. The teachings of Jesus have “gotten us nothing.” It’s worse than that, really; the ethic of Jesus has gotten in the way of successfully prosecuting the culture wars against the left. If the ethic of Jesus encourages sensibilities that might cause people in politics to act a little less brutally, a bit more civilly, with a touch more grace? Then it needs to go….

The problem is that the Trumpian ethic hasn’t been confined to the Trump family. We saw that not just in the enthusiastic and at times impassioned response of the Turning Point USA crowd to Don Jr.’s speech but nearly every day in the words and actions of Republicans in positions of power. Donald Trump and his oldest son have become evangelists of a different kind.

While we’re on the subject of Trumpian so-called “christians,” MSNBC opinion columnist Jarvis DeBerry writes: White evangelicals dying of Covid after denouncing vaccines are wasting martyrdom.

This year we’ve seen a number of conservative personalities, including the late evangelical leaders Marcus Lamb and Jimmy DeYoung, who succumbed to Covid-19 after minimizing the risks of the disease or making disparaging remarks about the vaccines. What is such opposition if not an arrogant attempt to put God to the test, no less problematic, say, than stepping off a great height and counting on being caught by angels?

A personal decision not to take Covid-19 seriously is bad enough. Even worse, though, is a personnel decision to fire those who do. When evangelical Christian radio host Dave Ramsey fired video editor Brad Amos on July 31, Amos responded with a lawsuit against Ramsey Solutions that claims Ramsey thought taking steps to avoid infection showed a “weakness of spirit.” A spokesperson for the company told McClatchy News that Amos was “fired during a meeting to discuss his poor performance with his leaders, where he insulted his most senior leader. He was not terminated for his religious beliefs or how he wanted to handle COVID.”

Weeks later, the National Religious Broadcasters fired spokesperson Daniel Darling after he said in a USA Today op-ed and on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that getting vaccinated was his way of obeying the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself. The NRB has stated that on the matter of vaccines, it is “neutral.”

Time for Tea, Angela Brittain

Time for Tea, Angela Brittain

The demands for religious exemptions to Covid-19 vaccination mandates may have Americans convinced that to be religious in America means to be recklessly indifferent to Covid’s dangers. But a December poll from the Public Religion Research Institute finds that at least 60 percent of Jewish Americans, Hispanic Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, white Catholics, Latter-day Saints and “other Christians” believe “there are no valid religious reasons to refuse a vaccine.” The PRRI also finds that at least 50 percent of Black Protestants, other Protestants of color, white mainline Protestants and “other non-Christian religious Americans” share that view.

That leaves white evangelicals by themselves as the only religious group in the country in which fewer than half — in this case, 41 percent — agree that there are no valid religious reasons for such a refusal.

Read the rest at MSNBC.

More Reads

Stephen Collinson at CNN: Trump and the January 6 committee are now locked in a full-on confrontation.

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: Capitol panel to investigate Trump call to Willard hotel in hours before attack.

Kelly Weill at The Daily Beast: Pro-Trump Group Invented Voter Fraud Claims Months Before Election.

Evan Osnos at The New Yorker: Dan Bongino and the Big Business of Returning Trump to Power.

Ian Millhiser at Vox: Just how much is Trump’s judiciary sabotaging the Biden presidency?

Raw Story: Biden-slurring dad Jared Schmeck goes full MAGA on Steve Bannon’s podcast: ‘The election was 100% stolen’

ABC News: Fauci warns omicron cases ‘likely will go much higher’

CNN: Between Christmas and New Year’s, doctors expect the US Omicron surge to grow.

What’s on your mind today?


Tuesday Reads

The Magpie, Claude Monet

The Magpie, Claude Monet

Good Morning!!

The Midwest and Northeast were hit with another huge snowstorm yesterday, and there could be another one on the way. I may never get my car out of the driveway again. The strange thing is that it is also incredibly cold, in the single numbers again this morning. I’m going to wait until it gets into the 20s before I start trying to get my front door open and start digging out. I’m also struggling with a cold, so I’m going to have to shovel slowly.

The measles outbreak and the vaccine “controversy” are the stories topping the news today, after several politicians weighed in yesterday. I’m going to focus on those stories again today.

First up, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. From Jeffrey Kluger at Time Magazine: Chris Christie’s Terrible Vaccine Advice.

Last I checked, Chris Christie isn’t a licensed commercial pilot, which is one reason he probably doesn’t phone the cockpit with instructions when his flight encounters turbulence. Chances are, he doesn’t tell his plow operators how to clear a road when New Jersey gets hit by a snow storm either. But when it comes to medicine, the current Governor, former prosecutor and never doctor evidently feels pretty free to dispense advice. And doncha’ know it? That advice turns out to be terrible.

Asked about the ongoing 14-state outbreak of measles that has been linked to falling vaccination rates, Christie—the man who prides himself on chin-jutting certainty—went all squishy. “Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think that it’s an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health,” he said. “I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

The Governor then went further, taking off his family doctor hat and putting on his epidemiologist hat. “Not every vaccine is created equal,” he said, “and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others.”

He was not specific about which diseases fall below his public-health threat threshold, but New Jerseyans are free to guess. Would it be polio, which paralyzed or killed tens of thousands of American children every year before a vaccine against it was developed? Would it be whooping cough, which results in hospitalization for 50% of all infants who contract it and death for 2%, and is now making a comeback in California due to the state’s low vaccination rates? Are we going to have mandatory HSV 2 testing? Or would it be measles, which still kills nearly 150,000 people—mostly children—worldwide every year?

Chris-Christie-balance-to-vaccinations-CrabDivingOf course this isn’t the first time Christie pretended to be a medical expert–remember how he reacted when nurse Kaci Hickox landed in Newark after treating Ebola patients in Africa?

Christie later tried to walk back his remarks about vaccines, but he has a history of pandering to anti-vaxxers. During his 2009 campaign for governor, Christie wrote the following in a letter to supporters:

“Many of these families have expressed their concern over New Jersey’s highest-in-the nation vaccine mandates. I stand with them now, and will stand with them as their governor in their fight for greater parental involvement in vaccination decisions that affect their children.”

Next up, Senator Rand Paul. At the Washington Post,  Jose A. DelReal writes: Rand Paul, M.D., says most vaccines should be ‘voluntary.’

“I’m not anti-vaccine at all but…most of them ought to be voluntary,” Paul told Laura Ingraham on her radio show Monday. “I think there are times in which there can be some rules but for the most part it ought to be voluntary.”

Paul pointed to a 2007 effort by then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who is also considering a 2016 run for the Republican nomination, that would have required young girls to receive a vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV). That move was sharply attacked by social conservatives who said requiring vaccination against HPV, which is a sexually transmitted disease, would encourage promiscuity. The Texas legislature eventually overturned the mandate. Perry later called the order “a mistake.”

“While I think it’s a good idea to take the vaccine, I think that’s a personal decision for individual’s to take,” Paul said, attempting to strike a balance between responsible medical protocols and personal choice.

Paul

Like Christie, Paul made sure his own children were vaccinated. But Paul really went off the deep end later on Monday.

Speaking on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” later Monday, Paul said that there should be increased public awareness that vaccines are good for children, but reiterated that vaccines should be voluntary, as he said they were in the past.

“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul said. “I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing. But I think parents should have some input. The state doesn’t own your children, parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom and public health.”

Parents “own their children?” WTF?! And what are these “profound mental disorders?” Who are these children and what vaccines did they get? I can’t believe the media lets this man get away with throwing out these evidence-free claims.

At The Week, Ryan Cooper explains the immorality of Christie’s and Paul’s positions.

…this entire argumentative frame misses the greatest benefit of vaccines: herd immunity. A population vaccinated to a high enough level becomes largely impervious to the disease by sheer statistics, and that protects the vulnerable ones who can’t be vaccinated, or those whose vaccines didn’t take root. Vaccines are not just about preventing personal illness, but stopping them from spreading. Done systematically enough, it can eradicate diseases completely. The elimination of smallpox, which killed something like 300 million people in the 20th century alone, ranks high on the list of human accomplishments.

That is why this is as much a moral issue as a scientific one. The appalling selfishness inherent in the idea of “vaccine choice” was starkly illustrated in a recent CNN story. After the measles outbreak at Disneyland, CNN talked to a family whose 10-month old baby had contracted the disease. They’re terrified he’ll pass it on to their 3-year-old daughter, who has leukemia and can’t get the vaccine — but might be killed by the disease. Here’s the response of a refusenik parent:

CNN asked Wolfson if he could live with himself if his unvaccinated child got another child gravely ill. “I could live with myself easily,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.” [CNN]

Wolfson

In other words, it’s okay to cause the death of another child if your kid wants to go to Disneyland. And that’s leaving aside the risk to Wolfson’s own kids, who are put at risk by his atrocious parenting.

Every person depends on society to function. From public roads, to sanitation, to clean water, to the very economic system itself — your day is made possible by millions of other people doing their small part to maintain our civilization. When it comes to violently contagious diseases, it is not possible to speak meaningfully of choice divorced from the needs of those people.

Here’s a little more on Dr. Wolfson from Terrence McCoy at The Washington Post: Amid measles outbreak, anti-vaccine doctor revels in his notoriety.

“Don’t be mad at me for speaking the truth about vaccines,” Wolfson said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. “Be mad at yourself, because you’re, frankly, a bad mother. You didn’t ask once about those vaccines. You didn’t ask about the chemicals in them. You didn’t ask about all the harmful things in those vaccines…. People need to learn the facts.”

But whose facts is he talking about? Every respectable expert totally disagrees with him and his anti-vaccine movement and, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urges parents to get their kids vaccinated. And Wolfson himself, who has quickly become something of a spokesman for the anti-vaxxers, is in no way an expert on vaccines or infectious diseases. He’s cardiologist who now does holistic medicine.

What the experts say: “The measles vaccine is one of the most highly effective vaccines that we have against any virus or any microbe, and it is safe, number one,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS. “Number two, measles is one of the top two most contagious infectious viruses that we know of…. So you have a highly infectious virus and you have an extraordinarily effective vaccine.”

Despite the measles outbreak that has spread to at least 14 states, Wolfson’s advice to parents is:

Wolfson actively urges people to avoid vaccines. “We should be getting measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, these are the rights of our children to get it,” he told the Arizona Republic. “We do not need to inject chemicals into ourselves and into our children in order to boost our immune system.” He added: “I’m a big fan of what’s called paleo-nutrition, so our children eat foods that our ancestors have been eating for millions of years…. That’s the best way to protect.”

Should kids have polio too?

andrew-wakefield385_482677a

McCoy also wrote recently about Andrew Wakefield the British doctor who started the vaccine panic: 

If the [measles] outbreak proves anything, it’s Wakefield’s enduring legacy. Even years after he lost his medical license, years after he was shown to have committed numerous ethical violations, and years after the retraction of a medical paper that alleged a vaccine-autism link, his message resonates. Facebook is populated by pages like “Dr. Wakefield’s Work Must Continue.” There’s the Web site called “We Support Andrew Wakefield,” which peddles the Wakefieldian doctrine. And thousands sign petitions pledging support….

Wakefield’s defenders frequently harbor a deep distrust of government. “They often suggest that vaccination is motivated by profit and is an infringement of personal liberty and choice; vaccines violate the laws and nature and are temporary or ineffective; and good hygiene is sufficient to protect against disease,” said a 2008 editorial in Nature.

Others, from Katie Couric to Jenny McCarthy to Michele Bachmann, have caught the anti-vaccine bug.

Katie Couric?

And in Wakefield, who still preaches the gospel of anti-vaccination from Texas, such individuals find a true martyr — a man who has sacrificed everything to take on powerful pharmaceutical companies and the biggest villain of all: the government. Those who came to hear him speak in 2011 at Graceview Baptish Church in Tomball, Texas, left messages of encouragement, according to the New York Times: “We stand by you!” and “Thank you for the many sacrifices you have made for the cause!” Another person, suddenly aware that a reporter was in the midst, warned the writer she better be careful. “Be nice to him,” the woman said. “Or we will hurt you.

“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” J.B. Handley, co-founder of a group that disputes vaccine safety, told the Times. “He is a symbol of how all of us feel.”

Read much more about Wakefield and his discredited research at the WaPo link.

Meanwhile measles continues to spread from coast to coast. Here’s a map of reported cases at the NYT.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Thursday Reads: Is the California Measles Outbreak a Product of Neo-Liberal Thinking?

Woman Reading on a Settee, William Churchill

Woman Reading on a Settee, William Churchill

Good Morning!!

I’m going to focus on just one story today. I wanted to try to understand something I’m curious about–what’s causing the rapid spread of measles in California?

The outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland in December is spreading rapidly across California, into other states, and even into Mexico. Five Disneyland employees have now been diagnosed with the disease (three have recovered and others are being tested), and the number of reported cases traced to Disneyland has passed 60.

Last week I wrote about an unvaccinated woman who contracted the measles virus in Disneyland and then took two airline flights to the Seattle area during the holidays before she was diagnosed. How many other people did she infect? Measles is highly infectious, airborne virus that can be spread by coughing and sneezing, like the common cold. From the CDC website:

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.

Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.

Another case was recently identified in Eugene, Oregon. The man is so sick that he hasn’t been able to talk to anyone, but his wife says he was in Disneyland and also went to the Rose Bowl game and then flew back home before he started showing symptoms. How many other people did he infect? UPDATE: It turns out the man did not go to the game–see story in comment thread.

Measles cases are also turning up in Northern California, according to SFGate: Disneyland measles outbreak spreads to Bay Area.

A large outbreak of measles that started at two adjacent Disney theme parks in December has now sickened people all over California, including a handful of Bay Area residents, and is prompting public health authorities to urge everyone to get vaccinated if they aren’t already.

California has reported 59 cases of measles since mid-December, the bulk of them in people who either visited or had close contact with someone who had been to Disneyland or California Adventure Park in Anaheim, public health officials said in a media conference call Wednesday. Seven measles cases have been reported in the Bay Area: in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Most of the people who have become infected were unvaccinated. Because of the threat of infection, public health officials said people who aren’t vaccinated — either because they can’t get the vaccine or they choose not to — should avoid public places where large groups of people, especially international travelers who may carry measles, congregate.

“We can expect to see many more cases of this vaccine-preventable disease unless people take precautionary measures,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases with the California Department of Public Health. “I am asking unvaccinated Californians to consider getting immunized to protect themselves and family and community at large.”

measles

I had measles as a child, and fortunately I didn’t develop any of the complications, such as blindness, severe ear infections, pneumonia, and encephalitis (rare). But now that we have a vaccine for measles, children don’t need to risk these possible dangerous consequences of getting the virus. Sadly, we have a lot of people in this country who believe conspiracy theories about vaccines.

How do the anti-vaxxers avoid the vaccines? Most states require vaccinations for children attending school, but most states also allow religious exemptions. Here’s a list of vaccine requirements in each state. Every state but Mississippi and West Virginia allows religious exemptions; a few states also allow “philosophical” exemptions. Only California allows “objections based on simply the parent(s) beliefs.” I’m guessing some parents avoid vaccinating their children by home-schooling them.

Bloomberg reports that Orange County has banned unvaccinated kids from attending school because of the measles outbreak.

Health officials in Orange County, Calif. have banned two dozen students who have no immunization records from attending high school in the wake of a measles outbreak that has been traced back to Disneyland.

Sixty-seven confirmed measles cases have been reported in California in the current outbreak. One student from Huntington Beach High School who was infected with the disease attended class following winter break, exposing fellow students to the highly contagious illness, especially those who did not receive a childhood vaccination against it.

“If there is a case in the school and their child is not immunized, they will be removed from the school for 21 days,” Dr. Eric Handler, the Orange County public health officer, told the Los Angeles Times. “From an epidemiological standpoint, in order to prevent spread of the disease, this is a necessary measure.”

Now check this out:

In Southern California…many schools now report that upwards of 10 percent of students have not received childhood vaccinations. In Northern California, the figures are even worse, with clusters of under-vaccinated children in the San Francisco Bay Area resulting in one out of every four children going without the recommended immunizations.

Herd Immunity

Herd Immunity

Most of the parents who opt out of having their kids vaccinated are relatively affluent and well-educated, according to science writer Tara Haelle at Forbes. She notes two reasons why measles is spreading so rapidly in California.

Those two things are the extreme infectiousness of the disease and the low levels of herd immunity, or community immunity, in pockets of southern California. Measles infects 9 out of every 10 non-immune individuals it finds. It’s airborne and hangs around up to two hours after an infected person leaves the area. It doesn’t take much for this disease to spread through a population that isn’t immune from previous exposure or through vaccination. Or, to put it another way, in an unvaccinated population, each person infected with the measles will transmit the disease to 12 to 18 other people. If no one were vaccinated against measles, we would be up to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cases by now. We aren’t because there are some levels of herd immunity, but it’s because herd immunity has been weakened that we’re seeing additional cases at all.

She also debunks the notion that undocumented immigrants are spreading the virus.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest myths popping up in comment threads and on social media is that undocumented immigrants have something to do with this outbreak, or any other outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. We don’t yet know who Patient 0 – the first person with the disease – was at Disneyland, but we don’t really need to know. It’s not undocumented immigrants we should be pointing the finger at. It’s home-grown, upper-middle class, well-educated, mostly white southern California parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children we should be giving the side-eye to. When vaccination rates in the region are below some developing countries’ rates, you don’t need undocumented immigrants to bring in the disease. Unvaccinated Americans do a fine job of that all on their own. A look at past cases makes this clear.

When the CDC tracked measles cases for the first half of 2013, they found that 159 cases resulted from 42 importations of the disease – but more than half those importations were U.S. residents returning to the States from abroad. Similarly, the outbreak of close to 400 cases in Ohio last year began with unvaccinated U.S. travelers returning from a visit to the Philippines. And the largest outbreak in San Diego since 1991 occurred in 2008 after an intentionally unvaccinated 7-year-old boy returned from a vacation in Switzerland with his family and brought back the measles. That last case is particularly of interest because the boy was a patient of Dr. Bob Sears, who has been spreading misleading information about measles in the midst of this outbreak.

Interestingly, she says that some people who have been vaccinated will still get the disease. But someone who hasn’t been vaccinated is 35 times more likely to get measles than someone who has had the vaccine.

Dr. Bob Sears

Dr. Bob Sears

Here’s some more information about Dr. Bob Sears, and Orange County pediatrician and author of “The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child.” From the LA Times: Vaccination controversy swirls around O.C.’s ‘Dr. Bob.’

While the vast majority of physicians are troubled by the anti-vaccination movement, Sears, 45, lends a sympathetic ear. About half his patients forgo vaccines altogether. To others, he offers “Dr. Bob’s” alternative and selective vaccination schedules, which delay or eliminate certain immunizations.

At a conference this year in Rancho Mirage, Sears told a roomful of pregnant women, new mothers and healthcare professionals that vaccines work well and are responsible for the nation’s low disease rate, something parents who don’t want to immunize can take advantage of.

“I do think the disease danger is low enough where I think you can safely raise an unvaccinated child in today’s society,” he said. “It may not be good for the public health. But … for your individual child, I think it is a safe enough choice.”

That approach frustrates infectious-disease experts, who in recent years have found themselves combating some celebrities’ anti-vaccination beliefs.

“We eliminated endemic measles in the U.S. in 2000. It’s now 2014 and we’re at 400 cases. Why?” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in an interview in June. The number of cases has since risen to nearly 600. “Because people listen to Bob Sears. And, frankly, I blame him far more than I do the Jenny McCarthys of this world. Because he’s a doctor. And he should know more.”

Here’s an interesting article from The New Republic, The Best Way to Combat Anti-Vaxxers Is to Understand Them A new study underlines the similarity between “neo-liberal” thinking and the anti-vaccination movement. Well The New Republic should certainly understand neo-liberal thinking–they practically invented it. An excerpt:

“Anti-vaxxers,” as they are often referred, are an easy group to stereotype and a difficult group to humor. In most thinking circles, they are cast as “the other”; people either too stupid to understand the science behind vaccination, or too selfish to care about the impact of their choices on those around them.

But vaccine skeptics aren’t as different from their critics as we might like to think. And their rise in number over the past decade has less to do with stupidity, or even selfishness, than it does with beliefs about knowledge, trust, and freedom of choice that are pervasive throughout our culture, whether you choose to vaccinate your kids or not.

Dr. Jennifer Reich, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver, has been researching the anti-vaccination movement since 2007, seeking to understand the processes by which people come to reject vaccines. Over the past seven years, she has conducted in-depth interviews with parents who refuse mainstream vaccine recommendations, along with doctors, alternative healers, and public policymakers.

Not all of the parents Reich spoke with were “anti-vaxxers” in the sense that we typically think of the term; only a small minority identified as activists in the Jenny McCarthy mold, campaigning other parents not to vaccinate or advocating for policy change. Nor did they necessarily abstain from vaccination completely.

Rather, what united them was a sense that vaccines were up for negotiation: to be administered or rejected depending on the convictions of the parent and the needs of the child. Reich’s interviewees saw themselves as critical consumers of information. They engaged with doctors not as authorities to be obeyed, but as another data point to be evaluated, embraced, or discarded. They continually assessed risk: How likely was it that their child would be exposed to Disease A? What would be the consequences if they contracted Disease B?

disneyland-cast-l

It seems to me that what these anti-vaxxers have in common with neo-liberals is that they have lost the sense that as Americans we are all in this together. They focus only on their own needs and ignore the ways in which their choices about whether to vaccinate their children could impact others and society as a whole.

Just one more article before I wrap this up.

From Philly.com: California Measles Outbreak Shows How Quickly Disease Can Resurface in U.S.

Fifteen years after measles was declared eliminated in the United States, the recent outbreak traced to two Disney parks in California illustrates how quickly a resurgence can occur….

Experts explain the California outbreak simply.

“This outbreak is occurring because a critical number of people are choosing not to vaccinate their children,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

“Parents are not scared of the disease” because they’ve never seen it, Offit said. “And, to a lesser extent, they have these unfounded concerns about vaccines. But the big reason is they don’t fear the disease.” ….

Researchers have found that past outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are more likely in places where there are clusters of parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated, said Saad Omer, an associate professor of global health, epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University School of Public Health and Emory Vaccine Center, in Atlanta.

“California is one of the states with some of the highest rates in the country in terms of exemptions, and also there’s a substantial clustering of refusals there,” Omer said….Other reasons include the belief that their children will not catch the disease, the disease is not very severe and the vaccine is not effective, Omer noted.

In California, vaccine exemptions have increased from 1.5 percent in 2007 to 3.1 percent in 2013, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times.

So, in a sense California is endangering people in other states. Omer says there’s recent legislation to make it more difficult to get exemptions, but “it is too soon to know the effects of the new law.”

So . . . comment on this issue if you wish; but feel free to treat this as an open thread. Have a great day Sky Dancers.


Sunday Reads: Dark and Darkness

Morning All

Since Peej has the Happiness front covered, I will take care of the down and out blues department….

▶ Ruth Brown, If I can’t sell it, I’ll sit on it

Yeah, it’s one hell of a blues song…but it sure is a sad song too…and I mean what else can you say about being  so down and out and blue you need to turn to prostitution? The Blues…You know that also includes the dark, depressing and disturbing stuff too.

efd9c61ad9d32ab289a9d73bb0f8107bSo this post will focus on dark things…

Starting with this little update on the rodeo clown that caused Fox News, Glenn Beck and Hannity to have a conniption, not because of the disgusting racist “mockery” displayed at a state funded event…but because rodeo clowns always make fun of sitting presidents. Cough, cough. Tommy Christopher has this to say: You Would Not Believe How Common Rodeo Clown Mockery of Presidents Is

For days, conservatives in the media have been calling out Republicans in Missouri for denouncing a rodeo clown’s performance at the Missouri State Fair, although they keep referring to those Republicans as “liberals,” for some reason. However, conservative media watchdog Newsbusters has now swooped in with a welcome dose of cold, hard truthiness to let the Republicans, Democrats, and other decent people who were offended by the rodeo’s mockery of President Obama, know that this exact thing happens all the time! In fact, you wouldn’t believe how often!

Guess you can see where this is going:bc3d3f14d47162664d48d9db8a1cacf3

Despite conservative media attempts to frame reaction to this incident as liberal over-sensitivity, the performance drew immediate, harsh rebukes from Republicans and Democrats in Missouri, and resulted in a lifetime ban for the rodeo clown.

NewsbustersNoel Sheppard, however, wants to make sure that the mainstream media reports that “these things aren’t that unusual at such events,” and he’s got ironclad proof that sitting presidents are mocked by rodeo clowns at publicly-sponsored events all the time:

Maybe these folks should report that these things aren’t that unusual at such events, and that in 1994, a bull attacked a dummy wearing a George H.W. Bush mask without the world coming to an end, anybody being fired, or any press outrage.

1994? I guess that counts as frequent if you’re a cicada. Sheppard cites this passage from a 1994 Philadelphia Inquirer piece:

The big white gate flew open. The bull came out bucking. The rider flopped from side to side and the bullfighters held back, letting the bull make his moves until the rider dropped off. Licciardello crouched in a heavily padded barrel, a human target should the bull decide to charge. Hawkins waited near the barrel, holding his big inner tube. A dummy with a George Bush mask stood beside the clown, propped up by a broomstick. […]

T.J. Hawkins rolled out the big inner tube, and the bull lowered his head, shot forward and launched into the tube, sending it bounding down the center of the arena. The crowd cheered. Then the bull saw the George Bush dummy. He tore into it, sending the rubber mask flying halfway across the sand as he turned toward the fence, sending cowboys scrambling up the fence rails, hooking one with his horn and tossing him off the fence.

Okay, fine, it wasn’t a sitting president, it was 20 years ago, and it wasn’t even a rodeo clown wearing a mask, but still, why was there no media outrage at this taxpayer-funded effigy eff-up? Well, it turns out the Philly Inquirer was doing a feature on Jimmy Lee Walker, and the Bush bit was just a bit of color thrown in to give readers a Proustian grasp of New Jersey’s Cowtown Rodeo, which is not a state fair, is not funded by tax dollars, and happens every week… in New Jersey. It’s like asking why ESPN is ignoring the prevalence of steroids in Wiffle Ball.

More stories from the dark side: The Inevitable Darth Vader/Breaking Bad Mashup Has Arrived and It Is Glorious

He was responsible for the Death Star. Two of them bitches.

empire business

Sure, as Heisenberg, Walter White strikes fear into the hearts of drug dealers everywhere. But take away the black headgear and he’s really just a sad old white dude with a bald head and a lung problem.

[…]

…illustrator PJ McQuade, who calls the above work “Darth Heisenberg.” That’s got a real nice ring to it, actually. And he’s not wrong — White is definitely in the empire business for sure. Though I’m kind of hoping that Walt doesn’t get a redemptive moment at the end of his story like Darth Vader did. Die in a million fires, Mr. White.

Hey, that is the Dark Side of The Force, no question about that. What about a Dark Religion? Or what some of the geezus freaks would have you believe was the deep dark devil side….

0ba83e4bbab1011f9d8a5ac124458606Well, here is an update on Georgia placing Bibles in the State Parks. You remember the deal Gov. Deal made a few months ago? That he would allow other religious material to be placed in the cabins located on state park property. Atheist books delivered to Georgia state park

Ed Buckner, a former president of American Atheists Inc., said he brought two atheist books for each cottage at Red Top Mountain State Park in Cartersville. The Cranford, N.J.-based organization had said it would supply atheist texts for lodging in Georgia state parks after the governor said in May any religious group could donate literature.

Bibles were temporarily removed earlier this year after Buckner complained about finding them in a cabin he rented at Amicalola Falls State Park. They were returned after the state attorney general said the books were permissible since the state hadn’t paid for them. In May, Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the Bibles returned to state park cabins and said any religious group could donate books.

“American Atheists does not believe the state of Georgia should be placing Bibles or atheist books in state park cabins; however, if the state is going to allow such distribution, we will happily provide our materials,” group president David Silverman said in a statement.

Buckner said Wednesday he was told by officials at Red Top Mountain State Park that the books he dropped off “The Skeptics Annotated Bible” by Steve Wells and “Fear, Faith, Fact, Fantasy” by Dr. John A. Henderson wouldn’t be immediately put in cottages at Red Top Mountain because the manager would have to make sure they complied with regulations.

Let’s see if those books really get to live next to the bibles in the cabin’s bedside table’s drawers…place your bets.

Okay, move on to the blackness and darkness of the criminal mind? The Killer Mind?  Criminologists identify family killer characteristics

Men who kill their families can be separated into four distinct types.

British criminologists have made the assessment after studying newspaper records of “family annihilator” events over the period from 1980 to 2012.

A family break-up was the most common trigger, followed by financial difficulties and honour killings.

Writing in the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, the team lists the four types as self-righteous, anomic, disappointed, and paranoid.

Each category has slightly different motivations and many cases also have a hidden history of domestic abuse. In four out of five cases the murderers went on to kill themselves or attempted to do so.

The research revealed the most frequent month for the crime was in August, when fathers were likely to be with their children more often because of school holidays.

4291bd843aea58d0f6193eb5c2c68c29Four types, ready?

  • Self-righteous: Killer seeks to locate blame for his crimes upon the mother who he holds responsible for the breakdown of the family. For these men, their breadwinner status is central to their idea of the ideal family. (case study: Brian Philcox)
  • Anomic: The family has become firmly linked to the economy in the mind of the killer. The father sees his family as the result of his economic success, allowing him to display his achievements. However, if the father becomes an economic failure, he sees the family as no longer serving this function. (case study: Chris Foster)
  • Disappointed: This killer believes his family has let him down or has acted in ways to undermine or destroy his vision of ideal family life. An example may be disappointment that children are not following the traditional religious or cultural customs of the father. (case study: Mohammed Riaz)
  • Paranoid: Those who perceive an external threat to the family. This is often social services or the legal system, which the father fears will side against him and take away the children. Here, the murder is motivated by a twisted desire to protect the family. (case study: Graham Anderson)

Be sure to read the whole article and then go back to read the case studies.

Have y’all seen the guest writer over at Charles Pierce? Esquire Civil War Reenactment: Robert E. Lee and What an Oath Means – Lt. Col. Robert Bateman

Take a look at his latest post and then check out the others he has written: Daily Politics Blog – Posts By Lt. Col. Robert Bateman – Charles P. Pierce – Political Blogging – Esquire

Op/Ed by Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz: Obama Suspends the Law. What Would Lincoln Say? – WSJ.com

e18337653e6ce22d6c71916736c3706dOver in England, spoons are saving the lives of young girls being sent into underage marriages: Spoon in underwear saving youths from forced marriage | The Raw Story

As Britain puts airport staff on alert to spot potential victims of forced marriage, one campaigning group says the trick of putting a spoon in their underwear has saved some youngsters from a forced union in their South Asian ancestral homelands.

The concealed spoon sets off the metal detector at the airport in Britain and the teenagers can be taken away from their parents to be searched — a last chance to escape a largely hidden practice wrecking the lives of unknown thousands of British youths.

The British school summer holidays, now well under way, mark a peak in reports of young people — typically girls aged 15 and 16 — being taken abroad on “holiday”, for a marriage without consent, the government says.

The bleep at airport security may be the last chance they get to escape a marriage to someone they have never met in a country they have never seen.

The spoon trick is the brainchild of the Karma Nirvana charity, which supports victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour-based abuse.

Based in Derby, central England, it fields 6,500 calls per year from around Britain but has almost reached that point so far in 2013 as awareness of the issue grows.

When petrified youngsters ring, “if they don’t know exactly when it may happen or if it’s going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear,” said Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager.

“When they go though security, it will highlight this object in a private area and, if 16 or over, they will be taken to a safe space where they have that one last opportunity to disclose they’re being forced to marry,” she told AFP.

I guess that is a bright turn on a black horror story of abuse, but for something more disturbing…look at this old advertisement for Cellophane I found on Pinterest:

https://i0.wp.com/media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/8a/16/98/8a16982cdadb8b0ed3df9f71cdc5bf78.jpg

That is fucked up!

3c612aa548ebc9314c695e36a8e864bbSome dark homophobic links:

The new pro-gay agenda over at Fox News | Political Insider | www.ajc.com

Elisa Chan reveals homophobic views in secret recording – San Antonio Express-News

And another WTF story out of Texas: Texas Deputy Sues Woman for ‘Mental Anguish’ After He Kills Her Son-in-Law | Video Cafe

You want a legitimate lawsuit? Sue the stupid asshole parents who won’t vaccinate their kids! Anti-vaxxers: Why parents who don’t vaccinate their kids should be sued or criminally charged. – Slate Magazine

I got that link from a post at LG&M: Upper-Class Twits Put Your Kids At Risk

The world in which 1)Jenny McCarthy can get a highly compensated talk show gig and 2)inequality is increasing leads to some grim results:

Why is anti-vaccination sentiment associated with the economic elite? Alex Seitz-Wald examines the question in Salon, in light of an uptick in parents refusing to vaccinate their kids.* But not just any parents. As Seitz-Wald explains, the unvaccinated kids are clustered in some of the wealthiest schools and neighborhoods, particularly in California, where some extremely expensive private schools have vaccination compliance rates as low as 20 percent. Anti-vaccination sentiment has been stereotyped as a mindless lefty cause, but in reality, Republicans are slightly more likely to oppose vaccination than Democrats. The real correlation is between having a lot of money and class privilege and opposing vaccination.

And, yes, I’m a big fan of making anti-vaxxer cranks legally liable for the injuries they inflict on others, although I’d definitely favor civil rather than criminal remedies.

I don’t know, by sister-in-law is an anti-vaxxer and she is a far left-la-leches-legue-natzi…who lives in the college town around Cornell.  These crazy nuts are putting other children at risk…they should be held legally liable. And the government should do more to get these kids vaccinated…if it means fines or some kind of other actions taken against the parents/guardians.

dc69d15592b667c72a5006023c1b7d11More here:  With fewer vaccinations, is your child’s school safe? Too many parents are seeking exemption from California’s vaccination law.- latimes.com

And here: What’s with rich people hating vaccines? It’s not just Jenny McCarthy. Data shows the anti-vaccination movement spreading to places like Malibu and Boulder- Salon.com

So…since we are on the topic of diseases…How about a story of death caused by disease? ‘Typhoid Mary’ Mystery May Have Been Solved At Last, Scientists Say

And say, do you want more stories on dead people?

Medieval tomb discovered by a… badger

Was that a large wooden badger?

A badger has reportedly proved to be a talented archaeologist after helping to discover the tombs of two medieval lords in Germany.

The 12th century burial site, which has been hailed as a “significant find” contains a sword, bronze bowls, a belt buckle and skeletal remains of two Slavic lords, according to Germany’s Der Spiegel Online.

The animal had made its underground home on a farm in the town of Stolpe in the eastern state of Brandenburg.

Two sculptors who also happen to be hobby archaeologists Lars Wilhelm and Hendrikje Ring, live on the farm and had planned to exhibit their art near the badger’s sett.

The pair were made aware of the artefacts when they found a human pelvic bone that had been dug up, prompting them to place a camera into the badger’s sett. Photographs taken with the device revealed pieces of jewellery, which the two then retrieved before notifying authorities.

Commenting on the discovery, Ring told the website,“It wasn’t exactly surprising to us because a whole field of ancient graves had been found on the other side of the road in the 1960s.”

More at the link.

Another story about an ancient grave…well not really ancient, just real old: New study reveals final days of a child, 800 years ago | Human World | EarthSky

Image Credit: Sydvestjyske Museer.

The researchers examined burial soil, at spots where the child’s major organs would have been situated, to understand the child’s final days.

In medieval Denmark, a pre-teen child passed away, and was buried in the town of Ribe. Eight hundred years later, chemists have learned more about this child’s final days by analyzing soil samples in burial remains. Their research uncovered evidence that the child had been seriously ill and received a large dose of medicine in the form of mercury, in a desperate attempt to save his or her life.

Professor Kaare Lund Rasmussen, a chemist at the University of Southern Denmark, and his colleagues, reported on a novel technique to detect non-local chemical traces in ancient graves that could shed light on the final days of a long-deceased person. They published their findings about the Ribe child in the journal Heritage Science and announced the results in an August 9, 2013 press release, in which Rasmussen said:

I cannot say which diseases the child had contracted. But I can say that it was exposed to a large dose of mercury a couple of months before its death and again a day or two prior to death. You can imagine what happened: that the family for a while tried to cure the child with mercury containing medicine which may or may not have worked, but that the child’s condition suddenly worsened and that it was administered a large dose of mercury which was, however, not able to save its life.

2a6df165b7c339698a1f20679e8be6c8Scientists are able to study the earth samples around the bones at the burial site to check for chemicals used as medicine during the middle ages.

Mercury, which is rarely found naturally in soil, is of particular interest to Rasmussen. It was used in some ancient cultures for various purposes, including medicine. While it’s possible to analyze ancient bones for the presence of mercury, bones only provide evidence of exposure for three to 10 years before death.

Organs, however, hold on to mercury over shorter intervals; in the lungs, for instance, mercury is excreted quickly. Rasmussen and his team were able to determine the amounts of mercury in the soil where major organs would have been situated. In that way, they could determine how long before death, on a timescale of days, the dose had been administered.

There is more detailed explanations at the link above.

And a link on searching for dead ancestors: Digging Up Family Roots in Sicily by Russell Shorto

As a writer I’ve always tended to seek out origins. My first book, about the search for the historical Jesus, was an attempt to get at the “real” story behind my Catholic upbringing. After living in Manhattan for several years, I wrote “The Island at the Center of the World,” a book about the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, the seed from which New York City grew.

Recently I began considering my family. Among its manifold curiosities is our last name. People always ask me about the derivation of “Shorto.” The story I’d heard as a child was that after my illiterate Sicilian great-grandparents settled in my hometown of Johnstown, Pa., they enrolled their children in school and said the name aloud: Sciotto. And the administrator wrote it as he or she heard it.

Anecdotes like that were good enough before, but once I began to take a serious interest in my roots they felt soft. I wanted a better sense of who we were and where we had come from. I’d grown up with some of the atmosphere of the Old Country — the primal aroma of frying meatballs, the smothering embraces of old relatives, whispers of Mafia shenanigans, funny traditions like taping a silver dollar to the bellybutton of a newborn. But really it was an American childhood. There was almost no information about how it all began, about the generation that had emigrated at the start of the 20th century. It wasn’t even clear where in Sicily the family hailed from.bf5cad33aa980ea8d25acc1a862be5aa

It is better than your usually travel piece. Take a look at it.

One last link for you, about that Greek Island we talk about so often: 9 top Greek islands I’m thinking Koufonisia or Naxos….

Today I am making the spaghetti sauce with meatballs, about 10 pounds of meatballs and a whole bunch of sauce too, so I will be very busy most of the afternoon.  Anyway…one last dark image before I go.

I will end this with a picture of Mae West dressed as a bat…found this image on Pinterest.

f02c7f97a0df2b85bee1d61f28289f9a

What a dame!

Have a dark day, full of darkness! Post a comment if you have the inclination to do so…I think I need a vacation. See y’all later, Ciao!