Friday Reads

Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast of Tiffany's publicity photo by Howell Conant, 1960

Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast of Tiffany’s publicity photo by Howell Conant, 1960

Happy National Cat Day!!

47ABC: National Cat Day shines light on fostering, adopting.

SALISBURY, Md. – Friday is National Cat Day, a day all about celebrating our feline friends, but also about raising awareness of adopting and fostering.

This time of year especially, local shelters tell us they’re very busy with kittens and are in need of fosters.

Arynn Brucie with the Brandywine Valley SPCA says adopting and fostering cats and kittens are equally important, and National Cat Day can shed a light on all of the four legged friends who are looking for temporary and permanent homes.

“The shelter is a great stop for them, but not necessarily great long term, so for the older kitties that may not be adjusting well to the shelter, fostering is great for that, kittens that come in without a mom, or super young or a mom with kittens that may not have a soft nice place to land, fostering is really important for that,” she said.

News Nation: 

According to nationaltoday.com, National Cat Day was founded in 2005 by Colleen Paige, a lifestyle writer who set out to celebrate beloved pet cats while also putting a spotlight on the thousands still waiting to be rescued.

Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak and Pyewacket) Promo for “Bell, Book and Candle” (1958)

Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak and Pyewacket. Promo for “Bell, Book and Candle” (1958)

In celebration of this year’s event, here are some facts, tips and must-have feline finds for any cat lover:

  1. Cats have been companion animals to humans since ancient times. Research suggests that cats first lived close to humans and primarily served as pest control before being domesticated as pets.
  2. Cats have been sharing our daily lives for a long time. It’s estimated that cats were first domesticated in Egypt between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. Today, there are more than 400 million pet cats worldwide and around 90 million pet cats in the United States. 
  3. Cats’ whiskers help them navigate their surroundings. While face whiskers are the most obvious, cats also have object-sensing hairs throughout their bodies. 
  4. Most cats experience a euphoric reaction to catnip. Purring, pawing, rolling and romping are common reactions. Catnip is a safe treat that many felines enjoy as much as their humans enjoy watching their reactions. 
  5. There are a lot of cats in need of rescue. According to the ASPCA, about 3.2 million cats end up in animal shelters each year. Spaying and neutering cats are vital to preventing unwanted litters of kittens.
  6. Pet cat ownership increased during the pandemic. A 2021 survey by the American Pet Products Association found that 14% of respondents got a new pet in the past year, many of whom chose to get a cat. 

Here’s what’s happening in non-cat news:

Jill Filipovic at The Guardian: Joe Manchin single-handedly denied US families paid leave. That’s just cruel.

Americans will remain some of the last people on the planet to have no right to paid leave when they have children, and for that, you can thank Joe Manchin.

To be fair, 50 Republicans are to blame for this as well. All 50 of them oppose Biden’s paid family leave plan, and none were expected to vote for this bill. If even a few of them had been willing to cross the aisle to support parents and new babies – to be, one might say, “pro-life” and “pro-family” – then Manchin would not have the power he does to deny paid family leave to millions of American parents. So let’s not forget this reality, too: most Democrats want to create a paid family leave program. Republicans do not.

Sigourney Weaver in Alien, 1979

Sigourney Weaver in Alien, 1979

But Manchin’s actions are particularly insulting and egregious because he is a Democrat. He enjoys party support and funding. He benefits when Democrats do popular things. And now, he’s standing in the way of a policy that the overwhelming majority of Democrats want, and that is resoundingly popular with the American public, including conservatives and Republicans.

Paid family leave brings a long list of benefits to families, from healthier children to stronger marriages. And it benefits the country by keeping more working-age people in the workforce – when families don’t have paid leave, mothers drop out, a dynamic we’ve seen exacerbated by the pandemic. By some estimates, paid family leave could increase US GDP by billions of dollars.

This is good policy. But it’s also a policy that is, in large part, about gender equality. While paid leave is (or would have been) available to any new parent, the reality is that it’s overwhelmingly women who are the primary caregivers for children, it’s overwhelmingly women who birth children, and it’s overwhelmingly women who are pushed out of the paid workforce when they have kids.

Read more at the The Guardian.

Not to worry though, we can also thank Manchin for preserving the filibuster (sarcasm). Joyce White Vance at MSNBC: Democracy is dying a slow death in America. At least we have the filibuster!

Those who suggest we should sacrifice the right to vote in order to preserve the filibuster are telling a fairy tale about a democracy gone bad.

As of this month, 19 states have passed 33 new laws since the 2020 election that will make it harder for Americans to vote. Using false allegations of voter fraud like a monster beneath the bed, Republican state legislatures have passed laws that make it harder to register to vote, stay registered, cast a ballot and have it counted. We’re already entering the next wave of voting rights violations, as data from the 2020 census is stretched and pulled into politically gerrymandered districts that will be with us for the decade.

These laws will make it much more difficult for some voters — and especially for people of color, people with disabilities, and people of lower economic status — to exercise their rights. Some of the statutes veer perilously close to enabling future candidates to do what former President Donald Trump and his allies attempted in 2020: cancel just enough votes to win.

Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, 1960

Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, 1960

Democrats have passed legislation in the House of Representatives that would provide a fix. But it’s come to a standstill in the Senate. That’s true even though Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., morphed the House’s Help America Vote Act into the less beefy but still important Freedom to Vote Act. He thought, unlike anyone who’s been paying attention to Congress over the last few years, that he could attract Republican votes. Whether Republicans are afraid of their party’s de facto leader or afraid of their own political prospects if all of their constituents are free to vote, the Senate floor vote last week made the state of play clear. We are losing ground, and dangerously so, in the fight to ensure American voters can exercise their most essential right in our democracy. But that’s OK! Because we’ll have something much more important, at least according to the Republicans and to Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — the filibuster.

In 2024, your state legislature may decide that because your majority-Black county voted Democratic in the presidential election, there must have been fraud involved. They may remove your local election officials and replace them with their own handpicked people who will “find” enough votes to “fix” the outcome of the election for the Republican — all legal because the Senate failed to pass the law that would have prevented states from doing this. When your vote isn’t counted, you can console yourself with the knowledge that the filibuster is still there for you.

I wonder which side Manchin and Sinema would have been supported in the Civil War?

Mark Zukerberg–another candidate for most valuable player in the destruction of democracy–announced yesterday that he’s changing Facebook’s name to Meta. Jason Koebler at Vice News: Zuckerberg Announces Fantasy World Where Facebook Is Not a Horrible Company.

Moments before announcing Facebook is changing its name to “Meta” and detailing the company’s “metaverse” plans during a Facebook Connect presentation on Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg said “some people will say this isn’t a time to focus on the future,” referring to the massive, ongoing scandal plaguing his company relating to the myriad ways Facebook has made the world worse. “I believe technology can make our lives better. The future will be built by those willing to stand up and say this is the future we want.”

Marlon Brando in The Godfather, 1972

Marlon Brando in The Godfather, 1972

The future Zuckerberg went on to pitch was a delusional fever dream cribbed most obviously from dystopian science fiction and misleading or outright fabricated virtual reality product pitches from the last decade. In the “metaverse—an “embodied” internet where we are, basically, inside the computer via a headset or other reality-modifying technology of some sort—rather than hang out with people in real life you could meet up with them as Casper-the-friendly-ghost-style holograms to do historically fun and stimulating activities such as attend concerts or play basketball. 

These presentations had the familiar vibe of an overly-ambitious video game reveal. In the concert example, one friend is present in reality while the other is not; the friend joins the concert inexplicably as a blue Force ghost and the pair grab “tickets” to a “metaverse afterparty” in which NFTs are for sale. This theme continued throughout as people wandered seamlessly into virtual fantasy worlds over and over, and the presentation lacked any sense of what this so-called metaverse would look like in practice. It was flagrantly abstract, showing more the dream of the metaverse than anything resembling reality. We’re told that two real people, filmed with real cameras on real couches, are in a “digital space.” When Zuckerberg reveals that Facebook is working on augmented reality glasses that could make any of this even a possibility, it doesn’t show any actual glasses, only “simulated footage” of augmented reality.

“We have to fit holograms displays, projectors, batteries, radios, custom silicon chips, cameras, speakers, sensors to map the world around you, and more, into glasses that are five millimeters thick,” Zuckerberg says. 

Whatever the metaverse does look like, it is virtually guaranteed to not look or feel anything like what Facebook showed on Thursday. 

Read more delusional stuff at the link. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with the mess I see when I dare to open Facebook.

Of course George W. Bush contributed to the anti-democratic world we’re in today. Here’s a flashback for you from Carol Rosenberg at The New York Times: For First Time in Public, a Detainee Describes Torture at C.I.A. Black Sites.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — A suburban Baltimore high school graduate turned Al Qaeda courier, speaking to a military jury for the first time, gave a detailed account on Thursday of the brutal forced feedings, crude waterboarding and other physical and sexual abuse he endured during his 2003 to 2006 detention in the C.I.A.’s overseas prison network.

Art Carney in Harry and Tonto

Art Carney in Harry and Tonto

Appearing in open court, Majid Khan, 41, became the first former prisoner of the black sites to openly describe, anywhere, the violent and cruel “enhanced interrogation techniques” that agents used to extract information and confessions from terrorism suspects.

For more than two hours, he spoke about dungeonlike conditions, humiliating stretches of nudity with only a hood on his head, sometimes while his arms were chained in ways that made sleep impossible, and being intentionally nearly drowned in icy cold water in tubs at two sites, once while a C.I.A. interrogator counted down from 10 before water was poured into his nose and mouth.

Soon after his capture in Pakistan in March 2003, Mr. Khan said, he cooperated with his captors, telling them everything he knew, with the hope of release. “Instead, the more I cooperated, the more I was tortured,” he said.

The dramatic accounting capped a day in which eight U.S. military officers were selected to serve on a jury, which will deliberate Friday on his official sentence in the range of 25 to 40 years, starting from his guilty plea in February 2012.

Read the rest at the NYT.

More stories to check out:

Will Sommer at The Daily Beast: He’s Writing Tucker’s Deranged Jan. 6 Movie—After Directing a Pizzagater’s Opus.

The Washington Post: Flight attendant suffers broken bones in ‘one of the worst displays of unruly behavior’ in the skies.

Reuters: Trump’s real-estate empire pays the price for poisonous politics.

The Bulwark: Truth Social Violated Mastodon’s ToS; Trump’s Entire Platform Might Now Be DOA.

The Washington Post: Chief federal judge in D.C. assails ‘almost schizophrenic’ Jan. 6 prosecutions: ‘The rioters were not mere protesters’

Buzzfeed News: White Supremacists Used Racist Slurs And Cursed In Bizarre Opening Statements For The Charlottesville Trial.

Jane Mayer at The New Yorker: A Retiring Democrat Places Blame for Paralysis in Congress.

 
 
 
 
 
 


Tuesday Reads

The Northeaster, by Winslow Homer

The Northeaster, by Winslow Homer

Good Afternoon!!

A huge nor’easter is moving up the coast and will likely hit us this afternoon. New Jersey and New York have already declared states of emergency. It has already been pouring rain here for the past two days and it will continue into tomorrow. We are expecting 70 mph wind gusts, maybe a bomb cyclone, and, of course, power outages. I just hope I don’t lose power. I need to get a better flashlight.

The Washington Post: Intensifying nor’easter lashing Northeast with flooding rain and high winds.

A storm offshore the Mid-Atlantic explosively intensified Monday night, and it is buffeting the Northeast with strong winds and flooding rains.

Flash flood watches are up from extreme northern Delaware and New Jersey through eastern Pennsylvania and most of southern New England. Up to five inches of rain are possible, falling on soils that are largely saturated following an exceptionally wet summer. Parts of New Jersey have already seen more than 4 inches, with rainfall rates topping an inch per hour….

Wind advisories also stretch from the nation’s capital to the coastline of Maine, with a high-wind warning up for the shorelines of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where gusts could top 70 mph. The nor’easter is the first of two sprawling storm systems that will bring inclement weather to the East Coast this week. Its rate of intensification is expected to qualify it as a “bomb cyclone,” or a storm that strengthens with unusual haste.

The storm is the final act of a destructive ensemble that brought tornadoes to the Ozarks and Midwest on Sunday and a line of strong thunderstorms to parts of the Mid-Atlantic overnight Monday, which unloaded 1 to 3 inches of rain from Washington to Philadelphia. By Tuesday, rain and downpours were exiting offshore of the Delmarva Peninsula, spiraling into a new developing low pressure center taking shape off the East Coast.

But nearly half of Americans are deluded about what causes climate change, according to a new poll.

Vice News: 45% of Americans Don’t Believe Humans Cause Climate Change, VICE News/Guardian Poll Shows.

This year was marked by several unprecedented natural disasters, including a “heat dome” marked by sweltering temperatures of up to 113 F that plagued the Pacific Northwest, killing hundreds, and record-breaking wildfire seasons that razed entire towns and displaced thousands. Experts linked the string of natural disasters to the climate crisis, and yet, many Americans are still struggling to understand whether and why the generation-defining crisis is happening.

Emil Carlsen, Nantasket Beach Nor'easter, 1882

Emil Carlsen, Nantasket Beach Nor’easter, 1882

The poll, which surveyed 1,000 Americans on behalf of VICE News, the Guardian, and Covering Climate Now, by YouGov, comes less than a week before leaders and delegates from around the world meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26, the United Nations’ climate change conference. The data shows that climate change is a top voter issue in the U.S., behind health care and social programs. For college grads and Democrats, climate change jumped to top spot (for Democrats it was tied with health care).

But while 69.5 percent of respondents believe global warming is happening, they were divided on what’s causing it. Forty-five percent don’t think humans are mostly to blame for global warming, opting instead to blame “natural changes in the environment” or “other,” and 8.3 percent denied global warming is happening altogether.

That’s mostly due to Republicans (55.4 percent) and independents (33 percent) though, who were far more likely than Democrats (17.2 percent) to believe “natural causes” have led to global warming. Young people and educated folks too were significantly more likely to believe humans are to blame for climate change.

Republicans aren’t satisfied with destroying U.S. democracy and killing as many people as possible with Covid-19; apparently they are also determined to hasten the end of the human race. Of course Republican are getting help with their goal of ending democracy and doing nothing about climate change–from a so-called Democrat.

John Nichols at The Nation: Joe Manchin’s Surefire Strategy to Ensure That Democrats Lose in 2022.

If Joe Manchin gets what he wants in negotiations with the Biden White House and his fellow Democratic senators regarding climate policy, which now seems likely, it could have a devastating impact on the planet—and on Democrats’ prospects in 2022.

How so? Let’s answer that question by asking and answering two other questions.

First: Name an issue that young people—an increasingly important and frequently decisive voting bloc—are passionate about? When the US Conference of Mayors surveyed potential voters between the ages of 18 and 29 in 2020, 80 percent said the climate crisis was “a major threat to human life on earth as we know it.” By a 3-1 margin, young people said “bold measures” needed to be taken to address that threat.

Greg Cartmell, October Nor'easter

Greg Cartmell, October Nor’easter

Second: Name the issue that Democrats are now talking about downplaying in the ”Build Back Better” agenda in order to secure the West Virginia senator’s support? The Biden administration is by all accounts preparing to cut from the budget plan the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), a key climate initiative that would use a combination of incentives and mandates to get utilities to embrace renewable energy.

Much of the serious reporting on the issue has focused on the devastating impact that losing those clean-energy provisions could have on upcoming climate negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Without them, it will be tougher for Biden to convincingly pledge a 50 percent reduction in US carbon emissions by 2030. That could undermine negotiations on the issue, according to Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State. So serious is the threat that Mann greeted the news of Manchin’s push to abandon the CEPP by declaring, “Joe Manchin just launched a hand grenade at Glasgow.”

Read the rest at The Nation.

More depressing articles on Biden’s shrinking “Build Back Better” legislation:

The Washington Post: Additional Medicare, Medicaid benefits may be whittled or cut as Democrats woo moderates.

Democrats’ sweeping plans to bolster Medicare and Medicaid benefits have been scaled back amid an assault from industry groups and opposition from centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), with popular coverage expansions likely to be narrowed in hopes of reaching a deal this week.

A proposal to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision benefits is in danger of falling from the tax-and-spending package rapidly taking shape in Congress. A framework to expand Medicaid to cover Americans in a dozen mostly Southern states has also been reworked.

Meanwhile, drug-pricing reforms have come under sustained attack from pharmaceutical lobbyists, with some Democrats now balking at empowering Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. Scaling back that proposal, which was expected to cut government spending by more than $700 billion over a decade, would complicate Democrats’ ambition to subsidize their coverage expansions.

Manchin told reporters on Monday that he had concerns about some of Democrats’ signature proposals, underscoring the fragile state of negotiations. “You’ve got to stabilize” Medicare’s long-term finances before adding new benefits, the senator said, adding that he thought the Medicaid proposal was “unfair” to states like his, which have already expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act.

The infighting over health care also prompted Democratic leadership this month to consider a plan to delay some of the party’s health agenda to next year, including a plan to repeal a Trump-era ban on prescription drug rebates, hoping that election-year deadlines would force lawmakers to seal deals that are currently proving elusive, said three people with knowledge of the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

That won’t excite Democrats about voting in 2022. And Bernie Sanders is fighting back. The Hill: Sanders draws red lines on Medicare expansion, drug pricing plan in spending bill.

Karol Wyckoff, Nor'easter

Karol Wyckoff, Nor’easter

Robert Reich at The Guardian: Is Biden’s entire agenda about to shrink into nothingness?

This week, Democrats either reach an agreement on Biden’s social and climate agenda or the agenda may shrink into meaninglessness. The climate measures in particular need to be settled before Biden heads to Scotland for the UN climate summit this weekend, so other nations will see our commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

On Sunday, Biden met with key Democrats to work out spending and tax provisions. Yet every senate Republican and at least two senate Democrats continue to assert that Biden’s agenda is too costly.

Too costly? Really? Compare the Biden’s social and climate package’s current compromise tab of $2tn (spread out over the next 10 years) with:

The $1.9 trillion Trump Republican tax cut that went mostly to the wealthy and large corporations.

Americans were promised that its benefits would “trickle down” to average workers. They didn’t. Corporations used them to finance more stock buybacks. The wealthy used them to buy more shares of stock (and shares of private-equity and hedge funds).

The Trump Republican tax cut should be repealed to pay for Biden’s social and climate package. There is no good reason to retain it. But no senate Republican will vote for its repeal, nor will Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema – making it a political non-starter in a chamber where Democrats have just half the votes.

The $2.1 trillion that America’s 750 billionaires have raked in just since the start of the pandemic.

You might think that at least a portion of this windfall should help pay for Biden’s agenda since much of it has been the result of monopoly power (for example, Amazon’s dominance over e-commerce during the pandemic).

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is proposing a “Billionaires Income Tax,” to be paid by the roughly 750 Americans with $1bn in assets or $100m in income for three consecutive years. It would be a yearly tax on the increasing value of their assets – such as stocks and bonds – regardless of when they sell. They could still write off losses every year. Interestingly, neither Sinema nor West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the other holdout, has voiced opposition to Wyden’s proposal.

The nearly $8 trillion we’ll be spending on the military over the next 10 years.

The United States already spends more on our military than the next 10 biggest military spenders in the world combined.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled a nearly $726bn budget for the Defense Department in 2022. That was about $20bn more than Biden requested. Some $14bn in other funds are set aside for the Pentagon in separate military construction and energy appropriations bills, bringing the total budget to about $740 billion. Over ten years, that comes close to $8tn.

More at the link. Also see this from The Washington Post Editorial Board: Build Back Better is getting worse and worse.

Karen Blackwood, A Nor'easter Coming

Karen Blackwood, A Nor’easter Coming

I’ll end with this piece by Erin Gloria Ryan at The Daily Beast: These Aren’t Justices. They’re Used Car Salesmen, and They’re Coming for Your Abortion Rights.

One of the oldest sales tricks in the book is the one where the salesperson presents the potential buyer with an extremely crappy option first, and follows that up with an only moderately crappy second option. The potential buyer, dazzled by the jump in quality between options one and two, won’t scrutinize option two as much, because it’s so much better than option one. This has been employed by slimy realtors, wedding planners, and used car salesmen.

And now, we’ve reached the point in the American experiment where the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority has resorted to a cheap sales tactic in an attempt to rehabilitate its image. Lower the customer’s expectations enough, conventional wisdom goes, and they’ll thank you for ripping them off.

The high court agreed to hear the Biden administration’s challenge to the law on Nov. 1, on an expedited schedule. Legal observers predict that the court will toss the law out. I—and many wary pro-choicers—predict that after tossing the law out, the media will fawn over the court’s newfound social moderation, and the Susan Collinses of the world will crow that they were right, the hysterical feminists were wrong, and the Supreme Court was never going to toss abortion rights on—as Mike Pence would say—“the ash-heap of history.”

The following month SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health, testing the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that directly confronts Roe v. Wade by banning abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. Roe established in 1973 that the government has no right to interfere with abortion access prior to fetal viability—around 24.5 weeks’ gestation (a full-term pregnancy takes 40 weeks). Dobbs is the direct challenge to Roe that conservative activists have had a hard-on for since Reagan.

Ryan argues that, using the “smokescreen” provided by the ridiculous Texas law, the right wing justices will use the Alabama law to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Sorry this post is so full of woe. Hope you all have a pleasant Tuesday; I’ll be taking a news break for the next few hours at least.