Tuesday Reads: Learning about Paul Ryan

I spent quite a bit of time yesterday reading about Paul Ryan. There was so much information out there! I guess that’s what happens when you start rolling out a big news story late on Friday night and early Saturday morning.

Late Friday is the time that politicians generally use to release stories that they don’t want too many people to hear about. I have no idea why Romney chose that time, but it seems that it allowed writers to dig up lots of background over the weekend to publish on Monday. So I’m going to share some of the more interesting Ryan pieces I came across yesterday.

First, The New York Times had a lengthy puff piece: Conservative Star’s Small Town Roots. The best thing about this story was Charlie Pierce’s takedown of it: The Ryan Family’s History of Fakery

Still, the NYT article is worth reading to get the adoring media perspective on the mysteriously popular Ryan. The story reveals that Ryan and his wife are each quite wealthy through inheritance. Other than losing his father when he was in high school, which is tragic, Ryan seems never to have experienced a single setback along his education and career tracks.

Ryan studied under a conservative professor at Miami of Ohio–he paid for his college education with Social Security survivors’ benefits–and that professor pulled strings to get Ryan a political job. recommended Ryan for an internship with Wisconsin’s then Republican Senator Bob Kasten. Ryan has been sucking on the government teat ever since.

Mr. Ryan’s trickle-down economic theories were already in place, said Professor Rich Hart, who would help Mr. Ryan hone his political persona.

“I think Paul came to Miami University with these core conservative beliefs from an economic standpoint,” said Professor Hart, an outspoken libertarian who taught an intermediate macroeconomic theory course that Mr. Ryan took in his junior year. “He was reading Locke and Hayek, and I don’t know if he was reading Ayn Rand, but I had certainly read Ayn Rand, and I talked to him about it.”

The two would often meet outside class, not to talk about the course, Mr. Hart said, but to discuss political philosophy. “We had these discussions about the role of government. We both believed in the conservative view that government should be limited, because the most important thing is individual freedom, individual liberty, and along with that freedom goes individual responsibility.”

Professor Hart helped Ryan get a job working for Republican Senator Bob Kasten, and through Kasten Ryan met his “mentor,” Jack Kemp. They became close, and when Ryan ran for the House in 1998, Kemp campaigned for him. I’m sure Ryan worked hard, but he has certainly never had to worry about where his next meal was coming from. And where did the family money come from? Charlie Pierce found out via the Rude Pundit:

Where does the family dough come from? A construction company founded by Great Grandpa Ryan. The Rude Pundit went a’wandering through Googlestan, and what did he find? Among other great nuggets, this thing right here:

“The Ryan workload from 1910 until the rural interstate Highway System was completed 60 years later, was mostly Highway construction.”

IOW, Ryan’s multimillion dollar nest egg was built on taxpayer funds from We the People. So much for all that self-reliance Ryan is always touting.

There was another interesting tidbit in the NYT piece that Sam Stein wrote about at HuffPo. Here’s the relevant quote from the NYT:

Mr. Ryan is a strict supply-side budget expert and social conservative who counts fans across the Republican spectrum. He has been a driving force, if not always a visible one, in the party’s biggest fights with President Obama, including last year’s budget impasse that took the nation to the brink of default.

Mr. Ryan’s enormous influence was apparent last summer when Representative Eric Cantor, the second most powerful House Republican, told Mr. Obama during negotiations over an attempted bipartisan “grand bargain” that Mr. Ryan disliked its policy and was concerned that a deal would pave the way for Mr. Obama’s easy re-election, according to a Democrat and a Republican who were briefed on the conversation.

So did Ryan oppose a bipartisan deal for political reasons–fearing that it would help Obama? It’s an interesting question.

Here are a couple of interesting pieces on the Ryan plan for Medicare that I found helpful–both are relatively brief and informative.

Bloomberg: Ryan Plan To Redo Medicare With Private Choices Stirs Doubts

Forbes: Why Ryan’s Medicare Fantasy Doesn’t Merit Adult Conversation

I loved this piece at the Guardian by Giles Fraser about Ryan’s Ayn Rand obsession.

When I was a teenager, my American girlfriend at the time gave me Ayn Rand’s cult novel Atlas Shrugged to read. It changed her life, she said. It changed mine, too. She was not my girlfriend by the morning. It was the most unpleasant thing I’d ever had the misfortune to read.

As a work of literature, Atlas Shrugged is drivel, and not simply because it is so up itself with its own perceived radicalism; fundamentally, all propaganda is drivel, even if it is propaganda in a good cause. Rand’s cause was to celebrate what she called “the virtue of selfishness”, to denigrate the poor as scroungers and to celebrate the muscular individualism of the creative heroes of capitalism. Altruism, she contends, is “complete evil”. The question she poses: what would happen if all the bankers and captains of industry went on strike? What would happen if these Atlas-like gods, who hold up the world, decided one day to shrug and refuse to support everyone else? Then the world would be buggered, she contends. Atlas Shrugged is cheap pornography for the nastiest side of capitalism.

Fraser discusses the obvious clashes between Rand’s philosophy and Ryan’s Catholic faith.

By your deeds shall you know them. And Ryan’s deeds, and in particular his budget plan for slashing the role of the state, are pure Rand, as a group of Jesuits from Georgetown University have insisted: “Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favourite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.” The US Catholic bishops’ conference, not well-known for its progressive politics, has said much the same.

It feels odd to be arguing that there ought to be more religion in US politics. In many ways, I’d prefer there to be a lot less. And certainly a lot less of the hard-right hogwash that borrows the wardrobe of Christianity but has no intention of being subject to its moral values. Jesus said nothing whatsoever about homosexuality or abortion. He said a great deal about poverty and our responsibility for the vulnerable. Which is why Paul Ryan is little more than Ayn Rand in Christian drag.

He also implies that Rand wouldn’t be too impressed with Ryan:

Ironically, he is a “second-hander” – Rand’s terminology for those who take their values, prêt-à-porter, from others. The trouble is that Christianity in the US has become so widely hijacked by the right that not enough people will actually notice.

Ayn Rand in Christian drag…I love it!

Just one more humorous tidbit on Ryan: In his speech on Saturday, Ryan used an aphorism that was very famous in the counterculture in the late 1960s.

Recalling words of advice offered by his late father, Mr. Ryan said, “I still remember a couple of things he would say that have really stuck with me. ‘Son, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.’ Regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem, and Mitt Romney is the solution.”

That quote is famous for its use by Eldridge Cleaver in his book Soul On Ice. Cleaver was famous as one of the founders of the Black Panthers. From the NYT Campaign Stops blog:

With Cleaver’s name attached, the phrase appeared on banners, buttons and picket signs at demonstrations well into the 1970s, and was picked up by other radical leftist leaders.

It’s perhaps unlikely that Mr. Ryan’s father, a lawyer in Janesville, Wisc., was present at a political gathering in 1968 when the Black Panthers co-founder Bobby Seale, urging his followers to smash “the American Empire,” proclaimed:

Everyone falls into two categories. You are either part of the problem – or part of the solution. Being part of the solution means you’re willing to grab a shotgun and take to the barricades, killing if necessary. Being part of the problem means you’re on the other side of the shotgun. There is no in-between.

It turns out the turn of phrase may have originated with Charlie Rossner, a graphic designer for the VISTA program in 1967, but Cleaver and the Panthers made it famous.

I’m running out of time and space, and this has been all about Paul Ryan. Oh well…I guess I’ll go with that, and let you post other news in the comments. I’ll end with this short video of Ryan’s first solo appearance–at the Iowa State Fair. It didn’t go that well.

What are you reading and blogging about today?

UPDATE: This post has been updated to correct the assertion that Professor Rich Hart of Miami University (Ohio) “pulled strings” to get Paul Ryan a job with Wisconsin Senator Bob Kasten.  Professor Hart explains in a comment that all he did was write a letter of recommendation to support Ryan’s application for an unpaid summer internship with Senator Kasten.  I had gotten the impression from The New York Times article that Professor Hart had been an important mentor who had been very instrumental in getting Ryan involved in politics.  I apologize for the misunderstanding.

 


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! It is just me, or is the news getting weirder with each passing day?

Last night Jerry Sandusky who, with a little help from his friends, has destroyed the reputation of a large university and created the worst scandal in sports history, appeared on the new NBC show Rock Center. Sandusky told Bob Costas he didn’t sexually abuse little boys–he just “horsed around” with them in the showers.

When asked by Costas, “Are you a pedophile,” Sandusky responded “No.”

Joe Paterno’s one time defensive coordinator was charged earlier this month with 40 counts of sexually abusing eight boys. He is currently free on a $100,000 bond and has denied any wrongdoing. The allegations date back to 1994, according to a grand jury report. A grand jury report detailed claims of alleged sexual encounters with young boys in Sandusky’s home, hotels and Penn State locker rooms.

“I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact,” said Sandusky.

When pressed by Costas about what Sandusky was willing to concede that he’d done was wrong, Sandusky said, “I shouldn’t have showered with those kids.”

He touched their legs? Talk about a non sequitur. Sandusky’s lawyer should have told him not to talk to the media.

NPR’s Morning Edition is running a three-part series on Ayn Rand’s influence on U.S. politics. The first episode was on yesterday. They reported on an interview that Mike Wallace did with Rand in 1959.

Wallace is in a chair, on a stark set, holding his notes and a cigarette. Across from him sits Rand, a native Russian, small and sharp and a little nervous. Wallace asks her to outline the idea she calls “objectivism.”

It is, she says, a system of morality “not based on faith” or emotion, “but on reason.”

Rand wholly rejected religion. She called it a weakness, even a parasite — one that convinces people their purpose is to work for the betterment of others. In fact, she says, for man, the truth is just the opposite.

“His highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness,” she says.

Wallace asks Rand about politics and about government programs and regulations that have improved many people’s lives.

“I feel that it is terrible that you see destruction all around you, and that you are moving toward disaster until and unless all those welfare state conceptions have been reversed and rejected,” Rand answers.

These programs are destroying individual liberties, Rand says, especially the freedom of producers, entrepreneurs, businessmen. The government has no right to take their property, she says….

“I am opposed to all forms of control. I am for an absolute, laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy.”

I still don’t understand how Republicans can buy into Rand’s philosophy and then claim the right to control women’s lives based on their fundamentalist nonsensical religious beliefs. If you really think about it, what they’ve done is taken Rand’s gospel of selfishness and pretended that was Jesus’ message too.

Yesterday, President Obama went golfing with a friend who was recently caught in a prostitution sting.

“The president’s fourball at the Mamala Bay Golf Course includes his long-time friend Robert “Bobby” Titcomb who was arrested and plead no contest in May to soliciting a prostitute, Marvin Nicholson, and White House advance man Pete Selfridge,” the report read.

In April, Titcomb was arrested in Honolulu and charged with a misdemeanor for soliciting a prostitute after he approached an undercover police officer. Titcomb’s attorney, William Harrison, said at the time that Titcomb did not fully agree with the facts of the case, but plead no contest because he wanted to take responsibility.

He was fined $500 and the conviction was expunged from his record in October, following six months without further incident.

Obama and Titcomb have been friends since attending the Punahou School together in Honolulu, according to Hawaii News Now.

That should give the Republican candidates something to be outraged about in the next debate. Why are there so many of those debates, anyway?

King Abdullah II of Jordan has called on Syria’s President Bashar Assad to resign.

Syrian President Bashar Assad faced heightened economic and political pressures Monday, as Europe imposed a new round of financial sanctions and King Abdullah II of Jordan called on the embattled autocrat to step down.

Meanwhile, the Arab League, which on Saturday moved to suspend Syria because of its failure to implement a league-brokered peace deal, said it was preparing to send a delegation of up to 500 observers into Syria. Details were still being worked out with Damascus, the league’s secretary-general, Nabil Elaraby, told reporters in Cairo.

Syria has said it would welcome Arab League observers, but the Assad regime has remained defiant in the face of Arab demands that it halt violence against civilian protesters.

[….]

The Syrian uprising began in March near the Jordanian border in the southwestern provincial city of Dara. Opposition activists reported that at least 28 people were killed Monday in that area, some in clashes between armed rebels and security forces at the city’s northern entrance. The official government news agency said at least two law enforcement officers were killed and an unspecified number wounded in clashes with a “terrorist group” in the vicinity of Dara.

The opposition reported at least 50 killed nationwide Monday. The death toll could not be independently confirmed.

Herman Cain had a serious case of brain freeze yesterday when he was asked if he agreed with President Obama’s position on Libya. From the NY Daily News:

The GOP presidential hopeful looked hungry for a cheat sheet when the editorial board of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel asked him if he supported Obama’s backing of the revolution that toppled Moammar Khadafy.

“Okay … Libya,” Cain responded haltingly, according to a video of the interview.

He stared at the ceiling, fiddled with his blazer, blinked a bunch of times and pushed his water bottle away from him on the table.

Eleven seconds later, he spoke:

“President Obama supported the uprising, correct?” said the normally chatty former head of the Godfather’s Pizza chain.

“President Obama called for the removal of Khadafy — just wanted to make sure we are talking about the same thing,” he added, as if trying to goad his interviewers into confirming what he said was true.

More staring at the ceiling. “Nope, that’s a different one,” he blurted out, waving his hand, adjusting his chair and crossing his legs.

And so on. There’s lots more. Watch it:

What a dope!!

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?


TGIFriday Reads

I live in Northwest Greater Boston in a town that is far from rural. However we do encounter wildlife in my neighborhood–skunks, opossums and racoons, for example. But yesterday afternoon, as I drove down the small road where I live, I had to brake suddenly for a large, imposing bird like the one in the photo. It was casually standing right in the middle of the road. I looked to my left and saw good sized flock of these birds, and suddenly realized they were wild turkeys. They were walking around in front of someone’s house. I was amazed.

It turns out that wild turkeys have been making a comeback in Massachusetts and have been invading a number of cities and towns around here. From The Boston Globe:

On a recent afternoon, Kettly Jean-Felix parked her car on Beacon Street in Brookline, fed the parking meter, wheeled around to go to the optician and came face to face with a wild turkey.

The turkey eyed Jean-Felix. Jean-Felix eyed the turkey. It gobbled. She gasped. Then the turkey proceeded to follow the Dorchester woman over the Green Line train tracks, across the street, through traffic, and all the way down the block, pecking at her backside as she went.

“This is so scary,” Jean-Felix said, finally taking refuge inside Cambridge Eye Doctors in Brookline’s bustling Washington Square. “I cannot explain it.”

Notify the neighbors: The turkeys are spreading through suburbia. Wild turkeys, once eliminated in Massachusetts, are flourishing from Plymouth to Concord and – to the surprise of some wildlife officials – making forays into densely populated suburban and urban areas, including parts of Boston, Cambridge and, most recently, Brookline.

In Winchester, a woman was “held captive” by a wild turkey.

On Tuesday evening, around 6 p.m., a Swan Road resident was pulling into her car [sic] when a wild turkey jumped at her and started to attack her vehicle as she was trying to drive it into the garage.

The woman said that this turkey did the same thing last week, and she didn’t call the police because she thought the animal had left.

“It kept attacking the woman at her house,” said Winchester Animal Control Officer, Jerry Smith of the 17-pound turkey. “It’s been doing it for a couple of days. We can’t have animals attacking people around town.”

According to the police report, she was able to close the garage door, but ended up being trapped, unable to get to her house, because the turkey refused to leave her property.

After 15 minutes “of being held captive” the woman called the Winchester Police Department to help her get into the house.

The responding officer saw that the turkey was still on the property. He got out of his cruiser and took a shotgun with him. As soon as the turkey noticed him, it charged and the officer shot and killed it.

Yikes! I hope those turkeys don’t start hanging around in my yard. In even more bizarre news, there is snow outside my house. Apparently, I got home just in time for winter.

Remember Omar Sharif? He starred in Dr. Zhivago back in 1965. The aging movie star recently slapped a female fan while he was on the red carpet at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The actor, who was nominated for his role in 1962’s “Lawrence of Arabia,” appeared to have lost his cool when a female fan interrupted him while he was posing for photographers.

The incident, captured by a TMZ camera, shows Sharif slapping and mildly pushing the woman, then spewing venomous disapproval at having been disturbed.

“My dear!” Sharif exclaimed in Arabic, as translated by the Washington Post. “I told you I’d get to you afterwards! I just said that and you’re standing here. Put something in your brain!”

In slightly more serious news, the Republican presidential candidates are still demonstrating their stupidity on a daily basis. Some examples follow.


Mitt Romney

It isn’t enough that Mitt Romney has crazy Robert Bork advising him on the Constitution. Now he has appointed another adviser who belonged to a violent Lebanese militia in the 1980s.

Walid Phares, the recently announced co-chair of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Middle East advisory group, has a long résumé. College professor. Author. Political pundit. Counterterrorism expert. But there’s one chapter of his life that you won’t find on his CV: He was a high ranking political official in a sectarian religious militia responsible for massacres during Lebanon’s brutal, 15-year civil war.

During the 1980s, Phares, a Maronite Christian, trained Lebanese militants in ideological beliefs justifying the war against Lebanon’s Muslim and Druze factions, according to former colleagues. Phares, they say, advocated the hard-line view that Lebanon’s Christians should work toward creating a separate, independent Christian enclave. A photo obtained by Mother Jones shows him conducting a press conference in 1986 for the Lebanese Forces, an umbrella group of Christian militias that has been accused of committing atrocities. He was also a close adviser to Samir Geagea, a Lebanese warlord who rose from leading hit squads to running the Lebanese Forces.

Romney has also clearly stated his willingness to sacrifice the lives of women to save fertilized eggs. In the Guardian, Tresa Edmunds, a Mormon, writes: If Mitt Romney’s anti-abortion crowd get their way, it could kill me

Mississippi is the latest state to support a “personhood” amendment – a law that defines life as beginning at conception and giving full legal rights to a fertilised egg. On a recent political talk show, Mitt Romney affirmed that he would “absolutely” support such an amendment to the federal constitution. Such a conservative law would have far-reaching consequences, rendering many forms of birth control, the morning-after pill and aspects of in-vitro fertilisation illegal, as well as eliminating abortion as an option even when deemed medically necessary.

This trend is also seen in the ironically named Protect Life Act, recently passed by the House of Representatives, which gives hospitals the right to refuse to perform abortions, even at the cost of a woman’s life. It is a terrifying time to have a uterus, but especially a mysteriously malfunctioning one such as mine.

My son was born weighing 2lb 4oz, at 28 weeks gestation. My pregnancy – which had been much longed for – was proceeding normally until all of a sudden a pain that turned out to be organ failure brought me to the emergency room. There, I was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome. My blood pressure was rocketing, my red blood cells were disintegrating and my platelet count was dropping. If I had managed to make it through organ failure, stroke or heart attack, I would have bled to death in delivery. Thanks to the tremendous care and expertise of talented doctors and nurses, my son and I are here to tell the harrowing story but, if things had gone differently, the only way I would be alive is if they had removed my son’s body from my womb in pieces.

Comments such as Romney’s casually tossed off “absolutely” make me shake with rage. When politicians are so concerned about the people they see as allegedly using abortion as birth control that they would let me die, I can’t help but wonder how they can dare say they care about the sanctity of life.

Edmunds is confused. Romney and the other Republican candidates care deeply only about “human life.” They obviously do not consider women to be humans.


Rick Perry

As everyone knows, Governor Goodhair hasn’t done very well in the Republican debates so far. Now it appears he is going to wimp out of future debates.

After a series of poor debate performances in the early months of his presidential campaign, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is backing off the upcoming GOP debate schedule, committing to just one of the next three events between now and Nov. 15.

Perry has struggled in the five debates he has attended since he joined the race in mid-August. At one, he fumbled an attempt to cast rival Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper. At another, bickering between Romney and Perry drew criticism that the candidates were acting juvenile.

Perry hinted at his frustration with the debates earlier this week when he told Fox News that participating in them was a “mistake.”

“These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates,” Perry said. “…All they’re interested in is stirring it up between the candidates.”

Um… yeah. So? If Perry can’t take the heat, maybe he should get out of the kitchen. BTW, has he produced his birth certificate yet? I heard he was born in Mexico. /s


Herman Cain

At Huffpo, Dave Jamieson details Herman Cain’s long, enthusiastic battle against the minimum wage.

In his plan for economic “Opportunity Zones,” Cain offers a slate of proposals aimed at revitalizing depressed pockets of the country, including zero capital gains and payroll taxes within qualifying areas. Although it doesn’t say so explicitly, the Cain campaign’s primer on opportunity zones also suggests the possibility of rolling back minimum-wage laws in impoverished areas.

“Minimum wage laws prevent many unskilled and inexperienced workers (i.e. teens) from getting their first job and prices them out of the market,” the plan says, listing a number of potential “solutions” to urban poverty. Cain’s campaign did not immediately comment on his stance on minimum wage laws.

Minimum-wage protections are an issue Cain knows intimately. In his work as the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and later as president of the National Restaurant Association, Cain worked diligently in Washington and in the media to see that low-wage restaurant workers could legally be paid as little as possible, as In These Times has noted. In fact, Cain’s time in the restaurant business was marked by a long and largely successful battle against minimum-wage increases, and even today, some 15 years later, many of the nation’s waiters and waitresses have Cain and the restaurant lobby to thank for a federal minimum wage of $2.13 for tipped workers.

By 1995, when Cain was at the helm of Godfather’s, the federal minimum wage had already lost much of its purchasing power since the 1960s and 70s, and it hadn’t seen a bump in five years. When then-President Bill Clinton and Labor Secretary Robert Reich proposed raising it from $4.25 to $5.15, Cain emerged as one of the leading opponents of the pay boost.


Rick Santorum

Is he really still running for president? Apparently so. He has released a new ad targeting Herman Cain’s accidental pro-choice position on abortion. The content of the ad suggests that Santorum believes that aborted embryos and fetuses can “think.”


Ron Paul

Ron Paul isn’t really an objectivist or a libertarian, even though he claims to be a follower of Ayn Rand. He can’t be, because he wants the government to get involved in policing women’s bodies. But here’s an interesting post by Gary Weiss, the author of a new book about Ayn Rand’s influence on American culture that sounds like a fascinating, if disturbing, read.

Ayn Rand’s spirit hangs over the 2012 presidential race like the aftermath of a bad meal that, for some reason, we’ve all forgotten that we’ve eaten. In the run-up to the financial crisis the markets became a kind of Fifth Estate, the ultimate arbiters of American society. This was not a Republican disease; some of the most voracious deregulation took place during the Clinton Administration. It was as if a moral choice had been made, substituting the “wisdom of the markets” for admittedly flawed and sometimes grossly inept regulators. It made perfect sense, especially in an era in which the stock market averages rose by as much as 40% in one year, but today we know, or should know, that untrammeled capitalism doesn’t work.

But you’d never know any of this when listening to the Republican candidates for president, especially the one who most overtly embodies Rand’s philosophy: Ron Paul.

Paul is by no means a card-carrying Objectivist—his embrace of religion, and his views on foreign policy, makes him anathema to Randian true believers. But his embrace of the most primitive, extreme forms of free-market, almost-zero-government capitalism comes closest to Rand’s belief system of any in the Republican field.

What’s remarkable about Paul is how effective he is at putting forward his views, extreme as they are. Indeed, the unyielding, unwavering non-flip-flopping character of his opinions is perhaps his greatest asset. He is the best friend free-market capitalism has at present, as can be seen by his recent debate performances and especially his recent triumphant appearance at Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. The man exudes small-town charm while at the same advocating positions that would make life into hell for the great majority of his followers and listeners.

I’ll end with an article about the incumbant Republican President: ‘Bundlers’ for Obama Have Active Ties to Lobbying

Despite a pledge not to take money from lobbyists, President Obama has relied on prominent supporters who are active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his re-election bid.

At least 15 of Mr. Obama’s “bundlers” — supporters who contribute their own money to his campaign and solicit it from others — are involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies. They have raised more than $5 million so far for the campaign.

Because the bundlers are not registered as lobbyists with the Senate, the Obama campaign has managed to avoid running afoul of its self-imposed ban on taking money from lobbyists.

But registered or not, the bundlers are in many ways indistinguishable from people who fit the technical definition of a lobbyist. They glide easily through the corridors of power in Washington, with a number of them hosting Mr. Obama at fund-raisers while also visiting the White House on policy matters and official business.

{Yawn…} Another Obama lie…so what else is new? That’s all the links I’ve got.

What are you reading and blogging about today?


Tuesday Reads: Goolsbee Gone, Hotel Workers Heckle Strauss-Kahn, Cancer Drugs, and a Confession

Good Morning!!

White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee will soon resign to return to teaching at Milton Friedman Institute the University of Chicago.

“Since I first ran for the U.S. Senate, Austan has been a close friend and one of my most trusted advisers,” President Obama said….”Over the past several years, he has helped steer our country out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and although there is still much work ahead, his insights and counsel have helped lead us toward an economy that is growing and creating millions of jobs. — He is one of America’s great economic thinkers.”

Maybe … if you favor NAFTA and cutting Social Security. And where are those “millions of jobs” Obama is talking about–China?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has been accused of sexual assault on a hotel maid was jeered by NYC hotel workers yesterday outside a Manhattan courthouse.

Lawyers for the maid who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of criminal sexual assault in a New York hotel room served notice yesterday that she will testify at his trial and “tell the world” what he inflicted upon her, as the former IMF chief was met with a chorus of heckling from hotel workers outside a Manhattan courthouse.

The warning, delivered minutes after Mr Strauss-Kahn entered a ‘not guilty’ plea to the seven charges filed against him, is the latest indication of how ferocious the trial is likely to be with the defence, the prosecution and now lawyers for the accuser all aggressively preparing to engage in battle.

[….]

Theatrics outside the court yesterday were further stoked by hotel maids pushing against police barriers jeering Mr Strauss-Kahn as he, accompanied by his defence team and his wife, Anne Sinclair, arrived for his formal arraignment. The hotel employees, bussed in by their union and most dressed in uniforms they usually wear to work, cried “shame” as he walked past. Wendy Baranello, a hotel union organiser, called the charges “outrageous” and said the accuser “is a hard-working woman… just doing her job.”

As Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) left the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference this past weekend, he was approached by a young Catholic man who asked Ryan:

“Why did you choose to model your budget off the extreme ideology of Ayn Rand rather than values of basic economic justice in the Bible?” James Salt of Faithful America asked Ryan, the author of the Republican budget, before offering him a Bible to read.

Ryan ignored Salt’s questions and briskly walked away.

Faithful America has launched a campaign to encourage Ryan to put down the conservative writer Ayn Rand, who advocated selfishness, and pick up the Bible. The group said his budget plan “reflects Ayn Rand’s love of greed and contempt for the weak by giving huge tax breaks to millionaires while making deep and harmful cuts to programs that protect seniors, struggling families and the middle class.”

Finally the U.S. Supreme Court has done something we can cheer. From Raw Story:

The US Supreme Court gave the green light Monday to a group seeking to bring a class-action lawsuit against US oil services firm Halliburton for alleged fraud.

The nine judges unanimously decided that the plaintiffs, a group of investors, do not need to prove a direct relationship between Halliburton’s alleged fraudulent statements and the investors’ financial losses in order to pursue the lawsuit.

Halliburton is accused of making a series of false statements about its business dealings that artificially inflated its stock price.

Afterward, Halliburton disclosed corrections that then caused stock prices to drop at the loss of investors.

The suit is on behalf of all investors who purchased Halliburton stock between June 3, 1999 and December 7, 2001.

During that time Dick Cheney was Halliburton’s CEO.

There is some “big news in the fight against cancer.”

Two new studies report dramatic progress in treating advanced melanoma and lung cancer.

Both of these treatments use an approach that is creating a lot of excitement among doctors –tailoring drugs to the genetic makeup of individual patients, and the results can be remarkable

A few years ago, Bill Schuette was preparing for the end.

But then he heard about something new: an experimental drug that targets a certain type of lung cancer based on its genetic makeup. Tests showed he was a candidate.

His rare form of non-small-cell lung cancer has a genetic mutation called ALK that fuels cancer growth. The new drug, Crizotinib, works by blocking this abnormal gene, causing tumors to shrink.

Skin cancer treatment: Biggest breakthrough in 30 years – The New Scientist

Two new drugs for metastatic melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – are being hailed as the biggest breakthrough therapies for cancer in the last 30 years. The drugs reduce tumour size, significantly increasing survival rates.

Although melanoma can be cured if caught early enough, individuals in the late stages of the disease are only expected to survive for an average of six months. One of the two drugs – vemurafenib – works by inhibiting the effects of a mutated form of the BRAF gene, which is thought to accompany around half of the cases of malignant skin tumours.

[….]

In a study presented this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Chapman’s team compared both drugs on 672 patients with late stage, inoperable melanoma and a mutation in the BRAF gene.

The group found that 48 per cent of those receiving vemurafenib responded to the treatment, while only 5 per cent of patients responded to dacarbazine. At 6 months, survival was 84 per cent in the group taking vemurafenib compared to 64 per cent in those taking dacarbazine.

A new drug for breast cancer: Aromasin a major breakthrough in fight against breast cancer, cutting risk by 65 percent

Doctor Harvey Greenberg is the director of University Community Hospital’s Cancer Program. He said, “There’s been some suggestion that women are reluctant to take Tamoxifen due to the potential side effects,” which reportedly include developing blood clots, or developing uterine cancer.

A study was conducted to see if a different class of medicines could be used for the prevention of breast cancer. Study results just released show the estrogen blocker Aromasin reduced the chance of developing breast cancer by 65 percent in post menopausal women at high risk.

The study, which was sponsored by Pfizer — the company that makes this drug — broke the participants into two groups: one that got the drug and one that got the placebo. There were 11 invasive breast cancers reported in the group that got the drug compared to 32 cases in the group that got the placebo.

Doctor Greenberg says, “The most important take away is that there is now another class of medicines that can be helpful in preventing breast cancer in high-risk women. The second take away is if there are women who have been identified as possibly benefiting from Tamoxifen but they won’t take it, here’s a substitute.”

For those of you who have read this far, I’m going to make a confession. I’ve been horribly depressed by the political news lately, and for the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching the trial of Casey Anthony, a young woman accused of murdering her 2-1/2 year-old daughter.

I know, I know … tabloid stuff. But I’m telling you, it’s more interesting than watching Law & Order, CSI, and Criminal Minds all rolled into one. Yesterday, there was testimony from an researcher on human decomposition from the “Body Farm” at Oak Ridge National laboratory.

Dr. Arpad Vass testified that he detected human decomposition in the air from the trunk of Casey’s car. It’s the first time a jury has heard testimony about the controversial air tests. The evidence has never been used in a criminal case before.

Prosecutors say the tests prove Caylee’s [Casey’s daughter] body was in the trunk of Casey’s car.

“I can find no other plausible explanation other than that to explain all the results we found,” said Vass.

Vass testified that a machine called a “gas chromatograph” can identify chemicals that are unique to human decomposition.

“Those are the chemicals that a cadaver-locating dog could smell,” Vass said.

Yesterday there was testimony from an FBI forensic expert about a hair found in the truck of Anthony’s car that showed signs of human decomposition.

In addition to the opportunity to learn about the latest methods in forensic science, the trial offers a chance to observe Casey Anthony’s amazing lack of affect as she listens to testimony about her allegedly killing her child. She has to be one of the most evil human beings I’ve ever encountered. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, you can watch the trial streamed live on-line at a number of sites. Here’s one. Frankly, I find it much less depressing than observing American political culture.

So … what are you reading and blogging about today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! I know I shouldn’t keep complaining about my weather, with all the tornadoes and floods in other places, but I sure wish we’d get a little bit of spring here in Beantown. It has been raining almost every day for the past couple of weeks. We had 1-1/2 nice days on Friday and Saturday, and then went back to rainy and soggy. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be 80 degrees, but still raining. And it’s rain, rain, and more rain for the foreseeable future. Ugh! This kind of weather tends to make the news seem even more depressing than usual.

A couple of days ago, Sima posted a wonderful story about a fawn that was rescued by firefighters. That really cheered me up, so I decided to offer you some heartwarming animal rescue stories this morning.

72-Year Old Florida Man Saves Pet Dog from Alligator Attack

Gary Murphy, 72, was at his home in Palm City, about 80 miles north of Miami, on Thursday evening when he heard his West Highland terrier named “Doogie” making noise in the backyard.

Murphy found his beloved pet in the mouth of an alligator that had entered the yard from marshland behind the property, and launched a rescue bid by jumping on the reptile’s backing and hitting it on the head.

“I had loafers on and I hit the back of that gator. It was like jumping on a pile of rocks,” Murphy told the newspaper.

The alligator let go of Doogie, who needed veterinary treatment for deep gouges, lung injuries and liver damage, but was expected to make a full recovery.

Nemo

Kitten Rescued From Island In Detroit Park

The Michigan Humane Society said animal rescuers used a canoe to reach a kitten that was stranded Monday on an island in Detroit’s Palmer Park.

The organization said it didn’t know how the three-month kitten got there, or how long it had been stuck.

The kitten’s rescuers have named him Nemo.

He was taken to the MHS Detroit Center for Animal Care and checked out by veterinarians, who said he’s in good health.

Animal rescue team dispatched to Joplin

The Humane Society of Missouri is deploying a 15-person disaster response team to Joplin, Missouri to rescue and shelter pets affected by Sunday’s devastating tornado.

The team is made up of trained professionals, as well as a veterinarian to help care for sick and injured animals.

The HSMO field assessment team will work in conjunction with Joplin Animal Control and the Jasper County Emergency Management Agency to operate an animal shelter on the campus of Missouri Southern State University and to set up a separate pet shelter to care for hundreds of animals who are unable to be sheltered at MSSU.

For more information on donations to help this and future needs, please visit the Humane Society of Missouri’s website.

In other news, the Obama administration is raising objections to the new Indiana law that bans all government assistance to Planned Parenthood.

The changes in Indiana are subject to federal review and approval, and administration officials have made it clear they will not approve the changes in the form adopted by the state.

Federal officials have 90 days to act but may feel pressure to act sooner because Indiana is already enforcing its law, which took effect on May 10, and because legislators in other states are working on similar measures.

If a state Medicaid program is not in compliance with federal law and regulations, federal officials can take corrective action, including “the total or partial withholding” of federal Medicaid money. The mere threat of such a penalty is often enough to get states to comply. Actually imposing the penalty would, in many cases, hurt the very people whom Medicaid is intended to help.

Hmmm… that doesn’t sound so good. Isn’t there a better way? Fortunately, Mitch Daniels isn’t going to run for President. Tim Pawlenty is running, however, and a Minnesota reporter, Nick Pinto, has published a couple of embarrassing stories in honor of Pawlenty’s throwing his hat in the presidential ring.

Jeremy Giefer, accused child molester, got Pawlenty pardon to open childcare center

Child molester Giefer and friend Tim Pawlenty

Jeremy Giefer served time in jail in 1994 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl. But you wouldn’t know it to look at the record of the man now charged with sexually molesting his daughter more than 250 times over the last eight years.

That’s because two years ago, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Attorney General Lori Swanson, and then-Chief Justice Eric Magnuson unanimously voted to wipe Giefer’s record clean, granting him a pardon extraordinary.

One reason Giefer wanted his record cleared? His wife wanted to open a childcare center in the house where they live–the same house where Giefer allegedly molested his young daughter throughout the six years prior.

Watch Nick Ayers, Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign manager, get arrested for DWI [VIDEO]

Back in the fall of 2006, Ayers, then only 24, was running the reelection campaign of Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue.

On October 25, just days before the election, Trooper First Class J.W. Rickett of the Georgia State Patrol saw Ayers’ Chevy Tahoe weaving and doing 50 in a 35-mph zone. Rickett followed the truck, which turned into a parking lot, sped up, and nearly hit another vehicle in an apparent effort to hide.

As the dash-cam video of the incident shows, Ayers’ first words to Rickett are: “We’re with Governor Perdue’s campaign headquarters.”

Ayers claims he’s only had one Jack Daniels and Diet Coke, but Rickett’s report states he smelled strongly of alcohol.

Ayers’ association with the governor apparently doesn’t impress the trooper, who puts him through a field sobriety test, which he fails.

Ayers then refuses to take a breath test, so he’s arrested and put in handcuffs.

You can watch the video at the link.

This is a strange one from Raw Story: Alan Greenspan had to be convinced that he existed before meeting Ayn Rand

A friend had to convince Greenspan that he actually existed prior to a meeting with Ayn Rand in the 1950s.

Nathaniel Branden told the story about Greenspan in the BBC 2 documentary “All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace,” according to The Spectator. Part one of the three part series premiered Monday.

“You have to realize that Alan Greenspan was, and is, a brilliant mind doing brilliant things in the real world but in his 20s he is sitting with me in my apartment telling me that he cannot say with certainty that he exists, he cannot say for certain that I exist and he cannot say for certain that this conversation exists,” Branden recalled.

“That aside he’s got lots of opinions about everything… My challenge became to persuade him that he can be certain that he exists,” he explained.

Apparently, Ayn Rand didn’t like Greenspan much, but Brandon convinced her to allow him to join her group anyway. Greenspan went on to make major contributions to the destruction of the economy of the United States of America.

The U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t help a poor young girl who was forced to cheer for her rapist, but today they ordered the state of California to release tens of thousands of convicts from state prisons because of overcrowding.

The court gave the state two years to shrink the number of prisoners by more than 33,000 and two weeks to submit a schedule for achieving that goal. The state now has 143,335 inmates, according to Cate.

Monday’s 5-4 ruling, upholding one of the largest such orders in the nation’s history, came with vivid descriptions of indecent care from the majority and outraged warnings of a “grim roster of victims” from some in the minority.

In presenting the decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a Sacramento native, spoke from the bench about suicidal prisoners being held in “telephone booth-sized cages without toilets” and others, sick with cancer or in severe pain, who died before being seen by a doctor. As many as 200 prisoners may live in a gymnasium, and as many as 54 may share a single toilet, he said.

Kennedy, whose opinion was joined by his four liberal colleagues, said the state’s prisons were built to hold 80,000 inmates, but were crowded with as many 156,000 a few years ago.

If they let small-time drug users go, that would be fine with me, but I hope they continue to keep Charlie Manson, Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie van Houten behind bars, along with other vicious murders.

I’ll end with the latest rapture news: Radio host says Rapture actually coming in October

California preacher Harold Camping said Monday his prophecy that the world would end was off by five months because Judgment Day actually will come on October 21.

Camping, who predicted that 200 million Christians would be taken to heaven Saturday before the Earth was destroyed, said he felt so terrible when his doomsday prediction did not come true that he left home and took refuge in a motel with his wife. His independent ministry, Family Radio International, spent millions — some of it from donations made by followers — on more than 5,000 billboards and 20 RVs plastered with the Judgment Day message.

But Camping said that he’s now realized the apocalypse will come five months after May 21, the original date he predicted. He had earlier said Oct. 21 was when the globe would be consumed by a fireball.

{Sigh…}

So what are you reading and blogging about today?