Lazy Saturday Reads: Boston Bomber Gets Death Penalty, A Baltimore Cold Case, and Other News

Lazy cat

Good Morning!!

Yesterday the jury in the Boston Marathon bombing case sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his role in the 2013 terrorist attack that killed three people and severely injured hundreds more.

From the Washington Post: 

Two years after the horrific bombing of this city’s famed marathon, a federal jury on Friday sentenced to death one of the young men responsible for the attack, turning away appeals for mercy from his attorneys and even some victims.

The jury of seven women and five men rendered its decision after deliberating for more than 14 hours. As the verdict was read, the bomber, 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, displayed no sign of emotion.

The outcome was a victory for prosecutors, who said the former college student worked in tandem with his older brother and carried out the attack in a “heinous, cruel and depraved manner.” Jurors rejected arguments that Tsarnaev had fallen under the sway of his brother, Tamerlan, and was remorseful over the suffering he caused.

Tsarnaev will be transferred to a federal prison, where he will remain until he is put to death by lethal injection. His attorneys did not comment after the verdict, but they are expected to appeal the sentence.

I was very disappointed in this decision. I strongly resent the Feds coming into Massachusetts, where we don’t have the death penalty and only 18% of citizens supported it for Tsarnaev, and forcing us to accept this barbaric practice against the public will. It also makes me feel sick at heart that the victims will now have to deal with years–probably decades–of appeals of the sentence. Tsarnaev should have been put away for life and left to fade into obscurity.

Tsarnaev showed no emotion as his death sentence was read.

Tsarnaev showed no emotion as his death sentence was read.

ABC News reports: The Eerie Quiet in Court as Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Sentenced to Die.

An eerie quiet settled over the federal courthouse in Boston today as victims and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing heard a jury ordered Dzhkohar Tsarnaev to be put to death.

Liz Norden, who wanted Tsarnaev to get the death penalty for detonating the bomb that left two of her sons amputees and their bodies forever burned and scarred, cried quietly when the jury decided that the 21-year-old should die for his crimes.

Bill and Denise Richard, who strongly advocated against capital punishment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, sat stone faced as the verdict was read, even though it was their 8-year-old son Martin who was the youngest victim killed in the horrific attack….

Boston bombing victim Martin Richard.

Boston bombing victim Martin Richard.

Inside Courtroom 9 the jurors, seven women and five men, stood as the verdict slip was read, as did Tsarnaev. One male juror removed his eyeglasses and wiped his eyes with a tissue and leaned his body into the rail of the jury box as if to prop himself up. Two female jurors, their cheeks flushed red, sipped from water bottles. Another woman had her arms crossed in front of her.

Tsarnaev never looked toward the jury box, not even when it became clear that those men and women decided he should be put to death. One of his defense attorneys, Miriam Conrad, covered her mouth with her hand. Once the verdict was read, police in court including Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau and Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans, who is personal friends with the Richard family, exchanged glances.

Throughout it all, the mood in the courtroom was heavy and subdued. The judge’s clerk Paul Lyness admonished those assembled inside before it began that “any outbursts” would be treated as contempt of court. There were none.

Tsarnaev will most like await his appeals at a Federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Guantanamo North

Guantanamo North

The Indy Star reports: If Boston Bomber is executed, it’ll likely be done in Indiana.

According to an official at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Terre Haute is the only prison that has the special confinement unit that houses federal death row inmates. While the BOP could not go as far as to say that Terre Haute is the only prison where a federal inmate could be put to death, every federal execution has taken place at the facility since 2001.

Timothy McVeigh, Juan Raul Garza and Louis Jones Jr. were the last three inmates to be strapped to the table in the western Indiana prison and have a lethal drug cocktail run through their veins.

Tsarnaev may now face that same fate.

Larry A. Mackey, the attorney who tried both of the Oklahoma City bombing cases and delivered the prosecution’s closing argument in McVeigh’s, told The Indianapolis Star it’s “highly, highly unlikely” Tsarnaev will win his appeals.

“The judge has been very careful in protecting the defendant’s rights,” said Mackey, who has been following the case closely since it went to trial in March.

Sometime in the next 60 days, Mackey said a formal sentencing hearing will be held, and Tsarnaev will return to court with his council for the judge to impose the jury’s decision to put him to death.

Following the hearing, Tsarnaev will be transported to Terre Haute’s special confinement unit where he’ll wait out the exhaustion of his appeals, said Mackey.

Death chamber at Terre Haute supermax prison

Death chamber at Terre Haute supermax prison

More on the Terre Haute prison from the Boston Herald:

The 1,400-inmate, all-male U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind., is the likely landing spot for the 21-year-old Tsarnaev, who would be housed at the prison’s “special confinement unit” with the other 50-plus inmates on federal death row.

Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, 74 federal convicts have been sentenced to die for their crimes, but just three have actually been executed and another 10 have been taken off death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Sampson, who has since had his death sentenced overturned, first went to Terre Haute following his 2003 conviction.

All three who have been put to death — Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and Texans Juan Raul Garza and Louis Jones Jr. — were executed at Terre Haute’s in-house chamber.

Robert Nigh, who represented McVeigh, described the Indiana lock-up as a place where inmates “certainly had access to other inmates, commissary, reasonable opportunity for recreation, hygiene.”

The sight — and smells — of the prison’s “death house” still stick with him. “That was surreal,” he said. “When you walked into it, my recollection is (seeing) stark white walls, and it smelled and felt like a hospital or a clinic. It felt like a place where you go to get medical care. It had that feel to it. And it’s designed for the exact opposite.”

An article at Business Insider makes the prison sound a lot worse than the above description: What it’s like inside the terrifying super-max prison where the Boston Bomber is expected to be executed.

Though US Penitentiary Terre Haute has been open since 1940, Tsarnaev would likely be held in the Communications Management Units, a special unit opened in 2006 for terrorism-related offenses.

Because of the prison’s reputation for housing some of the country’s biggest security threats, some have called it “Guantanamo North.”

According to NPR, the units have 50 cells and house many men convicted in notable post-9/11 cases, as well as those involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1999 “Millennium” plot to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport, and multiple hijacking cases.

The Communication Management Units in the prison severely restrict communications between inmates and the outside world. Inmates are limited to two two-hour nonphysical visits per month, plus one 15-minute phone call per week.

Mail must be screened, copied, and evaluated before being delivered to inmates. All conversations must be in English.

Sister Rita Clare Gerardot

Sister Rita Clare Gerardot

According to Sister Rita Clare Gerardot, “a spiritual adviser to death-row inmates at Terre Haute,”

They are in a small cell by themselves. All their meals are pushed through a slot. There is no recreation, but they can go out of their cells three times a week into cages,” Gerardot told The Tribune-Star, a newspaper in Terre Haute.

Inmates can speak to one another from the front of their cells, according to Gerardot, and have limited time to use a phone, e-mail, or a library.

“Truthfully, I don’t know how they keep their sanity. They have to be persons of great strength of will to get up every day, and know they have no choices,” Gerardot said.

Tsarnaev will likely wish he had died in the Watertown shootout like his older brother Tamerlan. And as the Boston Globe notes this morning “everything could have been different” for this young man.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could have been graduating from UMass Dartmouth this weekend. Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell, and Sean Collier could still be alive.

But everything changed when Tsarnaev, along with his older brother, detonated a pair of bombs near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

A 19-year-old sophomore at UMass Dartmouth at the time of the bombing, Tsarnaev was sentenced to death on Friday—while a commencement ceremony for the Class of 2015 was underway. He convicted in April on 17 capital charges and sentenced to death for six of them.

According to a UMass Dartmouth transcript introduced in court during the trial, Tsarnaev was an Engineering undergraduate with a mechanical engineering major during the Fall 2011 semester, his first in college. In the Spring 2013 semester, he was classified as a Arts & Sciences undergraduate with no declared major. The commencement ceremony for undergraduates in the College of Engineering was held Friday at the university’s Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial Amphitheater. The ceremony for undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences is scheduled for Saturday.

Tsarnaev may never have graduated, even had he and his brother not chosen to perpetrate one of the worst terrorsist acts on U.S. soil. At the time of his arrest, he had a cumulative GPA of 1.094.

But perhaps he could have been among those students celebrating a new a beginning this weekend instead of facing a death sentence.

And everything could have been different.

Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik in 1970

Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik in 1970

We’ve been hearing a lot about corruption at the Baltimore Police Department lately. Yesterday I read a fascinating story about a cold case that shows the corruption there has a long history. If you’re interested in true crime stories and corruption in the Catholic Church, I highly recommend this piece by Laura Bassett at The Huffington Post,

Buried In Baltimore: The Mysterious Murder Of A Nun Who Knew Too Much.

It’s the story of the murder of a nun who had tried to help girls who were being sexually abused by at least one priest at a Baltimore Catholic school in the late 1960s. Here’s the introduction. I hope it grabs you and you decide to read the entire long article.

On a frigid day in November 1969, Father Joseph Maskell, the chaplain of Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, called a student into his office and suggested they go for a drive. When the final bell rang at 2:40 p.m., Jean Hargadon Wehner, a 16-year-old junior at the all-girls Catholic school, followed the priest to the parking lot and climbed into the passenger seat of his light blue Buick Roadmaster.

It was not unusual for Maskell to give students rides home or take them to doctor’s appointments during the school day. The burly, charismatic priest, then 30 years old, had been the chief spiritual and psychological counselor at Keough for two years and was well-known in the community. Annual tuition at Keough was just $200, which attracted working-class families in deeply Catholic southwest Baltimore who couldn’t afford to send their daughters to fancier private schools. Many Keough parents had attended Maskell’s Sunday masses. He’d baptized their babies, and they trusted him implicitly.

This time, though, Maskell didn’t bring Wehner home. He navigated his car past the Catholic hospital and industrial buildings that surrounded Keough’s campus and drove toward the outskirts of the city. Eventually, he stopped at a garbage dump, far from any homes or businesses. Maskell stepped out of the car, and the blonde, freckled teenager followed him across a vast expanse of dirt toward a dark green dumpster.

It was then that she saw the body crumpled on the ground.

Father A. Joseph Maskell

Father A. Joseph Maskell

The week prior, Sister Cathy Cesnik, a popular young nun who taught English and drama at Keough, had vanished while on a Friday-night shopping trip. Students, parents and the local media buzzed about the 26-year-old’s disappearance. People from all over Baltimore County helped the police comb local parks and wooded areas for any sign of her.

Wehner immediately recognized the lifeless body as her teacher. “I knew it was her,” she recalled recently. “She wasn’t that far gone that you couldn’t tell it was her.”

Cesnik was still clad in her aqua-colored coat, and maggots were crawling on her face. Wehner tried to brush them off with her bare hands. “Help me get these off of her!” she cried, turning to Maskell in a panic. Instead, she says, the priest leaned down behind her and whispered in her ear: “You see what happens when you say bad things about people?”

Maskell, Wehner understood, was threatening her. She decided not to tell anyone. “He terrified me to the point that I would never open my mouth,” she recalled.

Now, decades later, a group of women who attended Keogh back in those days are working together with a journalist and a former Baltimore police office to find out who killed Sister Cathy.

More news, headlines only:

LOL!!

LOL!!

Steve Benen at MSNBC: Jeb Bush sees Apple Watch as part of anti-Obamacare plan.

Talking Points Memo: Judith Miller And James O’Keefe Discuss Ethics In Journalism (VIDEO).

Talking Points Memo: Orlando Pub Owner Allegedly Holds Black Couple At Gunpoint: ‘Call Jesse Jackson.’

New York Times: Abu Sayyaf, an ISIS Leader, Killed by Special Forces, US Says.

Times of India: 8 bodies recovered from crashed US chopper in Nepal.

CNN: Romney and Holyfield rumble in Salt Lake.

CNN: Amtrak train may have been struck by something, conductor tells NTSB.

NYT: Union and Tom Brady’s Lawyers Threaten to Challenge Suspension in Court.


Thursday Reads

fenway_wally_kids (1)

Good Morning!!

I hope you’ll forgive my provincialism, but the only news that really matters to me this morning is that the Red Sox mopped the floor with the Cardinals last night, winning Game 1 of the 2013 World Series 8-1. Chad Finn of The Boston Globe has the story: 

If you’re one of those straggling Red Sox fans who still believes in curses and ghosts and various other apparitions despite all of the affirming joys that have occurred since 2004, have I got a cockamamie theory to sell you.

Here goes: I think in Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night at Fenway Park, the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals were somehow possessed by their baseball forefathers of 100 years ago.

Really. Think about it: The 2013 Cardinals arrived as the National League representative in this World Series with a sterling reputation and a vast reservoir of respect, having just vanquished the talented Dodgers with a combination of a deep lineup, a deeper bullpen, and a starting rotation led by true ace Adam Wainwright.

So what happens when they finally take the field? The Cardinals make three errors, botch a popup to the pitcher, and Wainwright, a strike-throwing machine who walked 35 batters all season, requires 31 pitches to get through the first inning. After the first, the Cardinals were already in a 3-0 hole that became 5-0 an inning later.

The way Jon Lester was dealing for the Red Sox, the five-run hole felt insurmountable, and it was. The outcome was determined long before the final 8-1 score became official.

It was pretty much over in the first inning. Then Red Sox fans could sit back and just enjoy it. I doubt if the rest of the games will be that easy, but winning the first one is a big plus. Game 2 tonight!

Now that I’ve bored everyone but myself, Pat J., and MABlue if he’s lurking out there, I’ll move on to the political news.

Republican disrespect for the President of the United States has reached an all-time low, according to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who claims that an “unnamed GOP leader” told President Obama to his face at the White House, “I can’t stand to look at you.” Todd S. Purdum at Politico:

Such an insult — delivered eyeball to eyeball — would trump Rep. Joe Wilson’s shouted “You lie!” on the House floor during the Obama’s health care speech to Congress in 2009.

It would top former Vice President Dick Cheney’s terse suggestion on the Senate floor in 2004 that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) should perform an anatomically improbable act. And it would make Dick Armey’s heated advice to a scolding Bill Clinton (“Perhaps it’s my Western upbringing, but I don’t listen very well when someone’s pointing a finger in my face!”) during the 1995 government shutdown seem positively polite by comparison.

Perhaps only John Quincy Adams’s dismissal of Thomas Jefferson as “a slur upon the moral government of the world” sounds worse — and Adams made that assessment in the late 1820s, after Jefferson was dead.

The White House and John Boehner are both denying it, but Durbin is sticking by his statement.

In fact, the alleged dis words are so personal, so passionate, so disaffected-high-school-sweetheart in tone — “I cannot even stand to look at you” — that it’s hard to imagine any grown man saying them to another — much less to the president. “What are the chances of an honest conversation with someone who has just said something so disrespectful?” Durbin’s Facebook post asked with understatement.

Frankly, I have no problem believing it. Which “GOP leader” do you think it was?

And how are “old-style” Republicans supposed to deal with the new GOP? John G. Taft, descendant of President William Howard Taft, wrote about their struggle in The New York Times: The Cry of the True Republican:

Five generations of Tafts have served our nation as unwaveringly stalwart Republicans, from Alphonso Taft, who served as attorney general in the late 19th century, through William Howard Taft, who not only was the only person to be both president of the United States and chief justice of the United States but also served as the chief civil administrator of the Philippines and secretary of war, to my cousin, Robert Taft, a two-term governor of Ohio.

As I write, a photograph of my grandfather, Senator Robert Alphonso Taft, looks across at me from the wall of my office. He led the Republican Party in the United States Senate in the 1940s and early 1950s, ran for the Republican nomination for president three times and was known as “Mr. Republican.” If he were alive today, I can assure you he wouldn’t even recognize the modern Republican Party, which has repeatedly brought the United States of America to the edge of a fiscal cliff — seemingly with every intention of pushing us off the edge.

Read the rest at the link; it’s not long.

Another disaffected Republican, Andrew Sullivan, reacted to Taft’s op-ed by suggesting that we are approaching The Decline And Fall Of Christianism.

The fusion of politics and religion – most prominently the fusion of the evangelical movement and the Republican party – has been one of the most damaging developments in recent American history. It has made Republicanism not the creed of realists, pragmatists and compromise but of fundamentalists – on social and foreign policy, and even fiscal matters. And once maintaining inerrant doctrine becomes more important than, you know, governing a complicated, divided society, you end up with the extremism we saw in the debt ceiling crisis. When doctrine matters more than actually doing anything practical you end up with Cruz cray-cray….

But there is some light on the horizon. The Catholic hierarchy has been knocked sideways by the emergence of Pope Francis and his eschewal of their fixation on homosexuality, contraception and abortion. That fixation – essentially a Christianist and de factoRepublican alliance among Protestants and Catholic leaders – has now been rendered a far lower priority than, say, preaching the Gospel or serving the poor and the sick. Francis has also endorsed secularism as the proper modern context for religious faith: “I say that politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres.”

Sullivan claims something similar is happening among younger evangelicals. I don’t buy it, but you can check out Sullivan’s arguments at his blog.

GERMANY_US_ALLIES__1628403f

German Chancellor Angela Merkel suspects that the NSA has been bugging her cell phone, and she’s furious about it.

From the Guardian:

The furore over the scale of American mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden shifted to an incendiary new level on Wednesday evening when Angela Merkel of Germany called Barack Obama to demand explanations over reports that the US National Security Agency was monitoring her mobile phone.

Merkel was said by informed sources in Germany to be “livid” over the reports and convinced, on the basis of a German intelligence investigation, that the reports were utterly substantiated.

The German news weekly, Der Spiegel, reported an investigation by German intelligence, prompted by research from the magazine, that produced plausible information that Merkel’s mobile was targeted by the US eavesdropping agency. The German chancellor found the evidence substantial enough to call the White House and demand clarification.

The outrage in Berlin came days after President François Hollande of France also called the White House to confront Obama with reports that the NSA was targeting the private phone calls and text messages of millions of French people.

According to a Merkel spokesperson,

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, made plain that Merkel upbraided Obama unusually sharply and also voiced exasperation at the slowness of the Americans to respond to detailed questions on the NSA scandal since the Snowden revelations first appeared in the Guardian in June.

Merkel told Obama that “she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices, if the indications are authenticated,” Seifert said. “This would be a serious breach of confidence. Such practices have to be halted immediately.”

The Guardian doesn’t report how President Obama responded to Merkel’s outraged complaints. Maybe he just sat there listening passively?

Hillary Clinton was heckled by an audience member during a speech at the University of Buffalo last night, according to WIVB in Amherst, NY.

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to a large crowd at the University at Buffalo Wednesday night, as part of the university’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

Clinton spoke to a sold-out crowd in Alumni Arena, and began her address by talking about the stagnation in Washington and its recent impact on the U.S. economy after a partial government shutdown.

“Recently in Washington, we’ve seen what happens when politicians operate on scorched earth, not on common ground,” Clinton said.

It was shortly thereafter a man stood up and started shouting, “Benghazi, Benghazi, you let them die.”

Clinton did not stop speaking, but addressed the heckler by saying that solutions to problems facing Americans start by sitting down and talking and listening, not yelling, which prompted the audience to give her a standing ovation.

I guess that’s a taste of what we’ll have to deal with if Hillary decides to run for President in 2016. Read more about her speech at the link.

Heidi cruz

You know how Sen. Ted Cruz wants so much to kill the Affordable Care Act so that millions of Americans will continue to live without health care coverage? And how he voted to take away health care subsidies from Congress and Congressional staffers? Well, it turns out he wouldn’t have been affected if that had happened. From the Atlantic: Ted Cruz Has a Health Insurance Plan from Goldman Sachs.

Senator Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi Nelson Cruz confirmed on Wednesday that her husband has health insurance through her job at Goldman Sachs. That puts to rest a question opened, but never answered, by Senator Dick Durbin during Cruz’s 20-hour talkathon on the Senate floor against Obamacare. The details come from an interesting New York Times profile of Nelson Cruz, a regional head of a Goldman Sachs division in Houston. Here’s the Times:

And while her husband has been evasive about where he gets his health coverage, Mrs. Cruz was blunt.“Ted is on my health care plan,” said Mrs. Cruz, who has worked in Goldman’s investment management division for eight years.

Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for the senator, confirmed the coverage, which Goldman said was worth at least $20,000 a year. “The senator is on his wife’s plan, which comes at no cost to the taxpayer and reflects a personal decision about what works best for their family,” she said.

Yes, Teddy-boy is covered by insurance provided by his wife’s employer, yet he would have gladly deprived Congressional staffers of their coverage. What an asshole!

Those are my contributions for today. What are you reading and blogging about? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!

Wall Street Royal Jamie Dimon deigned to appear before a Senate Committee yesterday, and the Senators mostly sucked up to him. I’m surprised they didn’t ask if he needed a pillow for his chair. MSNBC: Senate treats JPMorgan CEO Dimon with kid gloves

Dimon was expected to receive a frosty reception in his first congressional appearance since he announced the bank sustained a trading loss some analysts now estimate is at least $3 billion. It was a massive loss for the nation’s biggest financial institution.

Instead, Dimon, who has won praise for bringing JPMorgan (JPM) through the financial crisis relatively unscathed, was treated cordially by most of members of the Senate Banking Committee. They peppered him with questions about regulation and risky practices at the bank, but did not press him to give an update on the losses resulting from the trade. JPMorgan is expected to give an update to shareholders when it reports its second-quarter earnings July 13.

“I think it was a pretty favorable day,” David Konrad, a Keefe, Bruyette & Woods banking analyst, told CNBC. Konrad said he was surprised that the questioning of Dimon by lawmakers was so “professional.”

Excuse me, “professional” for a Senator would have been sending this man to the woodshed. NPR’s Marketplace called the treatment of Dimon “a wake for Dodd-Frank.”

Yahoo has named the winner of the “Most Tepid Endorsement of Mitt Romney” contest: it’s a bumper sticker that reads “At least he’s not a communist.”

Until recently, it appeared that no one could unseat Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as the champion of the tepid Romney endorsement. Since Yahoo News started conducting reader polls on the politicians who supported Mitt Romney in the least enthusiastic terms, Daniels has defeated original champ George Pataki and defended the crown against Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and George W. Bush. (The former president came the closest to unseating Daniels.)

We thought the book was closed on the tepid endorsement bracket until Yahoo News reporter Chris Moody spotted a bumper sticker at last weekend’s regional CPAC conference in Chicago bearing these words of praise: “At least he’s not a communist.”

You can read the other tepid endorsements at the link.

First Romney made fun of Obama for wanting to help cities and states pay for cops, teachers, and firefighters. Then he went on Fox News and said it was a “strange accusation” for anyone to say he didn’t want to hire teachers and first responders.

After an extended skewering of President Obama for a gaffe about the private sector last week, ending with the charge that it was proof the president was “out of touch” Romney was asked by Fox and Friends’ Brian Kilmeade for his response to Obama saying it was Romney who was clueless (Romney’s comment comes at about the 1:40 mark) :

[BRIAN] KILMEADE: He says that you’re out of touch. He says you want to cut firefighters and teachers, that you don’t understand what’s going on in these communities. What do you say to that, Governor?

ROMNEY: Well, that’s a very strange accusation. Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn’t pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen. So, obviously that’s completely absurd.

But of course the federal government does subsidize states and they often use the money to pay for these public employees. In fact, the reason so many teachers, firefighters and cops are getting laid off now is because stimulus money has run out.

Yesterday Greg Sargent pointed out that Romney’s plan would indeed cut billions from cops, firefighters and teachers

Yesterday Mitt Romney claimed that it was “ completely absurd” of the Obama campaign to argue that he favors cutbacks in cops, firefighters and teachers. “The federal government doesn’t pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen,” Romney said, adding that they were paid by states and localities.

What’s getting lost in the back and forth here is that Romney’s actual economic plan would, in fact, cut billions of dollars in federal money that goes to cops, firefighters, and teachers — perhaps more than $10 billion a year, in fact.

This is the conclusion of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which analyzed Romney’s plan through the prism of the debate over public workers at my request.

As Michael McAuliff reported yesterday, despite Romney’s claim, the federal government does give billions of dollars to states and localities through programs like Title 1, the COPS program, FEMA and others — which pay for first responders and teachers.

This is amazing. Romney finally broke down and decided to talk to a media source that isn’t Fox News! He will be on Face The Nation on Sunday morning.

A full year into his presidential campaign, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney will venture out of his Fox comfort zone this Sunday to make his first appearance on a rival network’s political talk show.

Romney has been interviewed several times on ”Fox News Sunday” this campaign cycle, but has declined repeated invitations to appear on any of the other Sunday shows, occasionally drawing scorn from veteran anchors accustomed to interviewing presidential candidates.

Let’s hope Shieffer asks a few tough questions. One thing Shieffer will probably ask about is Romney’s choice of Vice President. One of the leading contenders, Marco Rubio, announced yesterday that he supports the illegal Florida voter purge.

“How can you argue against a state identifying people who are not rightfully on the voter rolls?” he said at a Bloomberg event, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Rubio’s comments put him in line with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) who on Tuesday declared the debate on the merits of the purge “over,” because the probe had supposedly turned up more than 50 non-citizen voters who had cast ballots.

The Department of Justice didn’t agree. Later Tuesday, it announced it was launching a federal lawsuit against Florida over complaints that the purge was taking place within 90 days of its August 14 primary election, as well as over its alleged violation of a voting rights law meant to prevent states from suppressing voters.

That might not help Romney win over Latino voters.

John Avlon has a piece at CNN on Jeb Bush and other “moderate” Republicans who are starting to fight back against Grover Norquist:

This is what happens when politics starts looking like a cult: Jeb Bush gets attacked for being a traitor to the conservative cause.

The former Florida governor has been speaking with the freedom of someone not running for office, saying that both his father and Ronald Reagan would have had a hard time in today’s hard-right GOP and questioning the wisdom of Grover Norquist’s absolutist anti-tax pledge.

That set off a fascinating public fight between Bush and Norquist, two faces of competing factions within Republican Party. It is the latest evidence of a growing GOP backlash against the ideological straitjacket Norquist has attempted to impose on governing in the United States.

And Jeb is not alone.

As it turns out, Norquist has reason to be concerned. It’s not just Jeb Bush. A growing number of Republicans are rejecting his pledge. Oklahoma conservative Sen. Tom Coburn called the pledge’s effective veto of deficit reduction plans “ridiculous” when talking with Erin Burnett on “OutFront.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Tuesday declared his independence from the pledge, saying, “We’re so far in debt, that if you don’t give up some ideological ground, the country sinks.”

Add to those voices seven other Republican U.S. senators — from Maine’s Susan Collins to Iowa’s Chuck Grassley to Wyoming’s John Barrasso — and 11 Republican House members, ranging from centrist New Yorker Richard Hanna to tea party Floridian Allen West.

In pedophile news, Jerry Sandusky had another bad day in court yesterday with three victims testifying that he manipulated and threatened them into putting up with his sick sexual behavior.

The trio of young men who testified against Jerry Sandusky on the third day of his sexual-abuse trial couldn’t have been more different in personality and temperament. Yet each of their testimonies was sexually graphic and disturbing—and midway through the prosecution’s fast-tracked arguments, a clear pattern has emerged in their allegations.

I’m not going to quote all of the sordid details–there are too many of them anyway. You can read it all at the link. I’ll just give you one excerpt that shows what Sandusky is all about:

Then, the witness told the jury of a time he visited the Sandusky home.

“We were in the basement. We were wrestling,” he said in a monotone frequently heard from abuse victims who have had to tell their stories multiple times. “The defendant pinned me to the floor, pulled down my gym shorts, and started to perform oral sex on me.” Asked by prosecutor Joe McGettigan what his reaction was at the time, the witness said, “I freaked out.”

“Did he ever say anything to you about it?” McGettigan asked.

“He told me if I ever told anyone I’d never see my family again,” the young man replied. “Later he apologized and said he didn’t mean it, that he loved me.”

I hope Sandusky goes to prison for life, and I want to see prosecutions of his enablers at Penn State. It’s an outrage that he was allowed to go on abusing children for years after many at the school knew about his behavior.

And then there’s the Catholic Church: U.S. Catholics still suspect priests sexually abuse children: Report

The National Review Board said that, a decade after the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a child protection charter, there has been a “striking improvement” in the way the Church deals with the abuse of minors by clergy.

“Children are safer now because of the creation of safe environments, and action has been taken to permanently remove offenders from ministry,” said the report, released as the Conference began its annual spring meeting in Atlanta.

But it acknowledged: “Despite solid evidence (to the contrary), many of the faithful believe that sexual abuse by clergy is occurring at high levels and is still being covered up by bishops.”

Well, what did they expect? I’m certainly not surprised. In fact I’d be surprised if there aren’t still pedophile priests abusing children.

Forest boy

I’ll end with the strange story of “Forest Boy.”

Berlin police on Wednesday released photos an English-speaking teenage boy who wandered into the city nine months ago saying he had been living for the last five years in the forest with his father.
Police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf said all attempts to identify the boy since he emerged in the German capital on Sept. 5 have been unsuccessful, and they are now hoping the release of his photo may produce some leads.

“We have checked his DNA against all missing person reports, sent the data to Interpol so that they could check it internationally, but unfortunately without any success,” Neuendorf said.
The boy has told authorities his father called him “Ray” and that he was born June 20, 1994, but claims not to know his last name or where he’s from.

He said his mother, Doreen, died in a car accident when he was 12 and after that he and his father, Ryan, took to the forest. He said they wandered using maps and a compass, staying in tents or caves overnight.

He told authorities that after his father died in August, 2011, he buried him in the forest and then walked five days north before ending up in Berlin, and showed up at city hall.

As of last night, the identity of the boy was still a mystery even after release of the photos.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Caturday News and Open Thread

Good Morning All!

The 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in is coming up on June 17. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein published a piece about it in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Today, much more than when we first covered this story as young Washington Post reporters, an abundant record provides unambiguous answers and evidence about Watergate and its meaning. This record has expanded continuously over the decades with the transcription of hundreds of hours of Nixon’s secret tapes, adding detail and context to the hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives; the trials and guilty pleas of some 40 Nixon aides and associates who went to jail; and the memoirs of Nixon and his deputies. Such documentation makes it possible to trace the president’s personal dominance over a massive campaign of political espionage, sabotage and other illegal activities against his real or perceived opponents.

In the course of his five-and-a-half-year presidency, beginning in 1969, Nixon launched and managed five successive and overlapping wars — against the anti-Vietnam War movement, the news media, the Democrats, the justice system and, finally, against history itself. All reflected a mind-set and a pattern of behavior that were uniquely and pervasively Nixon’s: a willingness to disregard the law for political advantage, and a quest for dirt and secrets about his opponents as an organizing principle of his presidency.

Long before the Watergate break-in, gumshoeing, burglary, wiretapping and political sabotage had become a way of life in the Nixon White House.

What was Watergate? It was Nixon’s five wars.

The Post also provides links to it’s coverage of the Watergate Scandal back in the good old days when the press believed in exposing government corruption. Today, the Post admits that “investigative journalism is at risk.”

Remember this?

The sad thing about Watergate is that if it happened today there wouldn’t be any investigation or arrests. We’d be told to move along, look forward not backward.

To see how things work today, you can read the White House e-mails that detail President Obama’s sellout to the pharmaceutical industry on health care. Apparently this one was leaked by House Republicans. Down With Tyranny has some good commentary.

um…huh? Must have dropped off for a second there. Let’s see what else is happening.

At the San Francisco Chronicle, Jeff Brinkley, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, now a Professor of Journalism at Stanford University finds Mitt Romney’s foreign policy positions deeply disturbing. He thinks it’s highly problematic that Romney has no experience and seemingly no knowledge about foreign policy. Brinkley notes that Obama already had to learn on the job, and now the Republicans have nominated another foreign policy naif who may be even less prepared than Obama was.

Romney…declared a couple of months ago that “Russia is America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe.” What nonsense. The U.S.-Russia relationship is a bit strained, but what about Iran, North Korea, Pakistan? Every one of those states poses a strategic threat that Russia does not.

“Immediately, speculations surfaced that the former governor of Massachusetts continues to live in a Cold War world and has few, if any, insights about American foreign policy,” Klaus Larres, a German American academic, wrote for the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies. And former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Romney to use his head and “check the time. It’s now 2012, not the mid-1970s.”

His advice on Afghanistan has been no better. Repeatedly he has called the plan to gradually withdraw forces “misguided” and “an extraordinary admission of failure.”

In the past, Romney has asserted that the United States and NATO need to defeat the Taliban before leaving. That has been the goal for nearly 11 years, and NATO is no closer today. The most recent National Intelligence Estimate asserts that the war is unwinnable as long as the Taliban maintains a safe haven in Pakistan and the Afghan government continues its corrupt, malevolent and counterproductive ways.

I wonder if Romney knows that one-third of the Western forces killed in Afghanistan so far this year died at the hands of Afghan soldiers they were training or leading.

There’s lots more at the link.

Charles Pierce is talking about “PUMA-ism” again, but I’ll forgive him because of this description of Obama’s defensive behavior of late:

In many ways, this president reminds me of the truck drivers in The Wages of Fear, trying to get the nitroglycerine over the mountains with blowing themselves all to hell and gone. In so many ways, he is still outside of things. In so many ways, he is still the flyer the Democratic party took in 2008. In so many ways, the path he has to walk to re-election is similar to the path he has had to walk through his life. It was hard not to notice the subtext present in all those earnest warnings about hurting the fee-fees of our financial titans. The president was stepping out of his place. The president was being uppity again.
This is also the case with what is perhaps the most noxious idea out there: that Barack Obama “failed” in his promise to “bring the country together,” and that he is now — Glorioski! — campaigning like he wants to be president all over again. He is engaging in politics. Mother of mercy, I swear David Brooks is just going to break down and go all to pieces on PBS some evening over the president’s betrayal of his role as the country’s anodyne black man and, of course, his upcoming role as black martyr to incivility and discord. It is his duty, dammit, to be all the things that people like Brooks wanted him to be so that he could lose, nobly, and then the country could go back to its rightful owners.

The Wages of Fear: now that was a great movie!

At Time, Tim Pagett has an excellent piece called The Catholic Contraction.

If you want some perspective on just how benighted the Roman Catholic Church looks today on the subject of women, consider Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard was a German Benedictine nun in the 12th century and a leading feminist writer of her time. But even though that time was the 1100s, the Vatican rarely hassled her for asserting that men and women are equal — that God’s true nature, in fact, is maternal — or that nonprocreative sexual pleasure is O.K.

In the 21st century, however, Hildegard would no doubt receive the same censure that Sister Margaret Farley is facing this week after the Vatican denounced her book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics. Farley, a Sisters of Mercy nun, a retired Yale divinity professor and a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, condones practices that have been morally acceptable to most U.S. and European Catholics for quite a while, including divorce, homosexuality, nonprocreative intercourse and masturbation. But Rome’s doctrinal bulldogs are sternly reminding her that those acts are “disordered,” “deviant” and “depraved.”

Sadly, it’s the church that’s looking unhinged these days. The Vatican was apparently just warming up in 2010 when it declared, astonishingly, that ordaining females into the all-male Catholic priesthood would be a “grave sin” on par with even pedophilia. Since then, as if scapegoating women for the escalating dissent among Catholics toward its hoary dogma, the church seems to have embarked on a misogynist’s crusade. Its legal assault on the Obama Administration’s requirement that Catholic institutions like colleges and hospitals make contraception available to female employees as part of their health coverage is, ultimately, less about religious freedom than about women’s freedom. Then there’s the U.S. bishops’ absurd probe of whether the Girl Scouts are selling feminist theology as well as fattening thin mints — and Rome’s accusation of “radical feminism” within the Leadership Conference on Women Religious (LCWR), which represents most of the U.S. nuns doing genuinely Christ-inspired work with the poor and the sick.

In science news,

NASA has discovered "a massive algae bloom under the slowly diminishing Arctic ice."

The same year that NASA researchers launched the Icescape expedition to the Arctic — the project that resulted in NASA’s astounding new discovery — there was a dire report on the world’s phytoplankton.

A Canadian team said in the journal Nature, as The Times reported in July 2010, that the world’s phytoplankton had been disappearing at a rate of about 1% a year for the previous 100 years.

“A global decline of this magnitude? It’s quite shocking,” Daniel Boyce, Dalhousie University marine scientist and lead author of the 2010 study, told The Times.

Phytoplankton — the basis of the marine food chain — “are key to the whole ecosystem,” he said. “In terms of climate changes, the effect on fisheries, we don’t know exactly what these effects will be.”

Could his latest discovery of a mass of phytoplankton in the Arctic signal a turnaround for this crucial organism?

The jury’s out. But it’s a question scientists will be pursuing, according to Paula Bontempi, NASA’s ocean biology and biogeochemistry program manager in Washington.

I think I need another little break.

Okay, back. Wouldn’t you know it? Addicting Info: Koch Brothers Linked To Florida Voter Purge

Former Secretary of State Kurt Browning worked with [Gov. Rick] Scott on the purge. Just before Scott selected Browning as Secretary in 2011, Browning led a group, Protect Your Vote Inc., which was created to oppose fair redistricting. One of the biggest checks that Browning’s organization received for $100,000 in 2010 was from the Center To Protect Patients’ Rights. At the time of the donation, the source of the money was cloaked in secrecy.

Last month, Republic Report exclusively reported that Center To Protect Patients’ Rights is part of a collection of front groups funded by David and Charles Koch as well as other billionaires as part of an election-influencing effort. The Koch Brothers plan to use these front groups to finance $400 million of a $1 billion campaign in outside money to defeat President Obama as well as defeating congressional Democrats. Mitt Romney’s Super Pac and many other nonprofits run by Karl Rove will supply the other $600 million needed to accomplish their goal.

Here’s Here’s something I missed this week: 

Pranksters ‘Jiggly Puff,’ ‘Weedlord Bonerhitler’ sign anti-’Obamacare’ petition.

When the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) set about thinking how to engage the Internet in new and unique ways, it probably did not occur to them that sometimes, the Internet tends to engage you right back.

That misunderstanding apparently led to an NRCC petition drive this week seeking to trump up the number of people who want to see “Obamacare” repealed. Unfortunately for them, it all went horribly, hilariously awry on Thursday night after they hooked an office printer up to the Twitter hashtag #IWantRepeal, then turned on a live video stream.

It was not long before NRCC staff completely lost control and were forced to pull the plug.

In almost no time at all, their printer was spitting out pages of petitions signed by “Weedlord Bonerhitler,” “Jiggly Puff,” “Boner Junkmonkey,” “Pointless Empty Gesture,” “Turd Sniffer,” “Like 20 more boners” and “HelpI’mStuckInThisPrinter,” among many, many others. Screen shots of this Twitter debacle and links to the live video began circulating almost immediately.

Okay, I’ll sign off with this:

“How we behave toward cats here below determines our status in heaven.” – Robert A. Heinlein


Wednesday Morning Reads: Gala, Jobs, Plastic and an American Priest

Good Morning

You can also add a sunspot to that title, because today I am going to share a variety of links with you.

News out of DC? Well…I don’t quite know what to make of this: Obama unveils jobs plan on a virtual ‘post-it’ note, urging Congress to act

A post-it note? As if that is going to get the job done in Congress…

President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Tuesday to act on a modest five-item “to-do list” to fight unemployment, showcasing the tasks on a virtual Post-It note he mockingly said would not “overload” lawmakers.

“I know this is an election year,” Obama said in a speech at the SUNY-Albany Nano-Tech Complex, a science research facility. “But it’s not an excuse for inaction. Six months is plenty of time for Democrats and Republicans to get together and do the right thing.”

Obama’s list included items he’s already unsuccessfully pushed Congress to adopt, such as cutting tax incentives for businesses that ship jobs overseas, enacting new hire tax credits, promoting clean energy and helping homeowners struggling with their mortgages to refinance.

“It’s about the size of a Post-It note, so every member of Congress should have time to read it and they can glance at it every so often,” said the president, who referred to the virtual memo as “a handy little ‘to-do’ list.”

How cute…

With his reelection hopes weighed down by the weak economy, Obama also seemed to lay the blame on Congress if job growth remains sluggish from now to November. New figures showed lackluster employment figures in April and a national jobless rate that ticked down to 8.1 percent mostly because of unemployed Americans giving up on looking for work.

“The truth is, the only way we can accelerate the job creation that takes place on a scale that is needed is bold action from Congress,” he said. “Just saying no to ideas that we know will help our economy isn’t an option. There’s too much at stake. We’ve all got to pull in the same direction,” Obama said.

You know, when I think of all the suggestions from economist like Dr. Dakinikat have shouted out to anyone who would listen…why, won’t they (both Dems and Repubs) do something that will be beneficial to the economy?

This next link is on the topic of health, specifically cancer. ‘One in six cancers worldwide are caused by infection’

One in six cancers – two million a year globally – are caused by largely treatable or preventable infections, new estimates suggest.

The Lancet Infectious Diseases review, which looked at incidence rates for 27 cancers in 184 countries, found four main infections are responsible.

These four – human papillomaviruses, Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis B and C viruses – account for 1.9m cases of cervical, gut and liver cancers.

Most cases are in the developing world.

The team from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France says more efforts are needed to tackle these avoidable cases and recognise cancer as a communicable disease.

The proportion of cancers related to infection is about three times higher in parts of the developing world, such as east Asia, than in developed countries like the UK – 22.9% versus 7.4%, respectively.

Nearly a third of cases occur in people younger than 50 years.

Among women, cancer of the cervix accounted for about half of the infection-related cancers. In men, more than 80% were liver and gastric cancers.

Remember the HPV vaccine?

Drs Catherine de Martel and Martyn Plummer, who led the research, said: “Infections with certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites are some of the biggest and preventable causes of cancer worldwide
“Application of existing public-health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practice, or antimicrobial treatments, could have a substantial effect on the future burden of cancer worldwide.”
Vaccines are available to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) – which is linked to cancer of the cervix – and hepatitis B virus – an established cause of liver cancer.
And experts know that stomach cancer can be avoided by clearing the bacterial infection H. pylori from the gut using a course of antibiotics.

I wonder if other cancers can be triggered from infection. I seems a lot of new information on cancer treatment is coming out of Europe these days. Which is a good thing since science is being trampled here in the US by religious conservative politicians.

Moving on to something troubling in the Pacific Ocean…Scientists find hundredfold increase in plastic trash in Pacific Ocean since 1970s

The amount of plastic in the ocean area known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has increased a hundredfold since the early 1970s, according to a new study, and the alarming findings could pressure California and other coastal states to do more to reduce plastic trash.

“We were really surprised. It is a very large increase,” said Miriam Goldstein, a Ph.D. graduate student in biological oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and lead author of the study.

“Plastic had been detected in the open ocean in the early 1970s,” she said. “People were raising the alarm then. The fact it has gotten so much worse is really disappointing.”

During an expedition in 2009, Scripps researchers took extensive water samples 1,000 miles west of California, then compared the amount of plastic they found with samples taken by other researchers dating back to 1972.

While many of the samples 40 years ago found little or no plastic, vast stretches of the North Pacific are now polluted with billions of tiny pieces of confetti-like trash that comes from garbage that floats out to sea and breaks down in wind and waves.

The tiny bits sit on or near the surface, where they are eaten by fish, sea turtles and other marine animals that confuse them for food. The latest samples show that the garbage patch has grown not in size but in density: There are roughly 100 times more pieces per cubic meter of water than were in samples during the 1970s.

Read more at the link above, and here is a graphic that explains the currents effect on garbage. Larger graphic found here:  Image Viewer

Another big solar storm is heading our way…Monster Sunspot To Unleash Powerful Solar Flares Check out the size of this mother:

An enormous sunspot group has taken shape on the surface of the sun, hinting that our star may soon start spouting off some powerful storms.

The huge sunspot complex, known as AR 1476, rotated into Earth’s view over the weekend. It measures more than 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across, researchers said. Scientists with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory mission, a space-based telescope watching the sun, dubbed the solar structure a “monster sunspot” in a Twitter announcement.

THE GIST

  • AR 1476 is big enough for amateur astronomers with decent equipment to spot from their backyards, weather permitting.
  • Monday evening’s eruption generated an Earth-directed CME, which should hit Earth sometime Wednesday morning (May 9).
  • Sunspots are temporary dark patches on the surface of the sun that are caused by intense magnetic activity.

The sun’s active stage should peak around 2013, in part of its 11–year cycle.

In other hot news, I should say biblical hot…burning fire hot…much like the kind of fire the priests in this next link should find themselves burning…in HELL.

Bernard Law Hid Pedophiles, Behind Push To Punish Nuns

Last month the Vatican announced it was cracking down on American nuns for not sufficiently pushing the Catholic Bishops anti-gay, anti-woman agenda. Who was behind this sudden and aggressive push-back against women many American Catholics deeply respect? The same shamed men behind the church’s sex abuse cover-up and complicity.

David Gibson reports that conservative American churchmen living in Rome, among them the disgraced former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, were key figures pushing the hostile takeover the the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR. Law and other hard-right Catholic leaders don’t like the group because of its emphasis of social justice work over loyalty to church hierarchy and issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Law was joined by a former archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal Raymond Burke in his efforts to aggressive investigate the LCWR. Burke was named to a top Vatican judicial post in 2008 because his hard-right views made Burke a lightning rod in the U.S.– a move familiar within the Catholic Church’s leadership structure and one knowing as getting “kicked upstairs.”

However the actual investigation was conducted by Cardinal William Levada, a former archbishop of San Francisco who succeeded Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s powerful doctrinal watchdog, when Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Needless to say, these are all men very close to Ratzinger and two of them, Burke and Law, were ushered to Rome and given refuge to escape political, and in Law’s case, criminal pressure related to the sex abuse scandal in the early 2000′s.

Now we know that it is the same men who enabled, lied, and covered-up decades of criminal sexual abuse of minors pushing to punish American nuns for social justice work at the expense of Law and the Vatican’s hateful and dangerous agenda. But is anybody really surprised?

This was not a surprise to me, at all! When all the crap came down on the nuns from the Vatican, I knew something was up.

From the Religion News Service written by David Gibson, which was mentioned in the Care 2 article above:

When the Vatican last month announced a doctrinal crackdown on the leadership organization representing most of the 57,000 nuns in the U.S., the sisters said they were “stunned” by the move. Many American Catholics, meanwhile, were angry at what they saw as Rome bullying women whose lives of service have endeared them to the public.

[…]

Now it turns out that conservative American churchmen living in Rome — including disgraced former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law — were key players in pushing the hostile takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR, which they have long viewed with suspicion for emphasizing social justice work over loyalty to the hierarchy and issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Vatican observers in Rome and church sources in the U.S. say Law was “the person in Rome most forcefully supporting” the LCWR investigation, as Rome correspondent Robert Mickens wrote in The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly. Law was the “prime instigator,” in the words of one American churchman, of the investigation that began in 2009 and ended in 2011. The actual crackdown was only launched in April.
Gibson continues…

Law was joined by a former archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was named to a top Vatican judicial post in 2008 – a move that was seen as a case of being “kicked upstairs” because Burke’s hard-line views made him so controversial in the U.S. Also reportedly backing the probe was Cardinal James Stafford, a former Denver archbishop who has held jobs in the Roman curia since 1996.

[…]

The fact that prelates like Burke and Law, who was given a Roman refuge in 2002 after the sexual abuse scandal exploded in Boston, played such a key role in the investigation of the American women has been like salt in the wound for those who support the nuns.

This Gibson article has been picked up in newspapers and news outlets online here in the US.  I hope that sparks some discussion on the cable news shows.

If you need a refresher on Bernard Law:

Why isn’t Boston’s Cardinal Law in jail? – Slate Magazine

But why isn’t Bernard Law in jail? (Part 2) – Slate Magazine

Disgraced US cardinal Bernard Law quits Rome post | World news | The Guardian

It is enough to make you scream isn’t it?

I really don’t want to end on such a sour note, so I am going to post a link to the Met Gala 2012 red carpet gallery. There are some beautiful gowns in this series of photos, and then there is Maude. (Well, take a look and you will see what I mean.) Met Gala 2012: Red Carpet Fashion From All The Stars! (PHOTOS)

Met Gala 2012

The Met Gala is often called fashion’s Oscars, but honestly, we think it’s bigger than that. Where else do you get every major Oscar star and fashion’s most powerful names all together on one red carpet?

[…]

…and check out Stylelist’s picks for best-dressed of the night here and worst-dressed here.

So, what are you all reading about today? Please share your thoughts with us…


Komen Cut Funds to Planned Parenthood Under Pressure from Catholic Bishops

Timothy Dolan, Cardinal-Archbishop of NY and President of the US. Conference of Catholic Bishops

According to a Reuters story published this afternoon, the decision by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure to end the charity’s donations to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening came in response to Bishops in several states ordered Catholic churches and schools not to donate to Komen. Yet, at the same time, Catholic Church-run organizations receive millions in funds from the breast cancer charity.

The earliest signs of discord came in 2005, when South Carolina’s Catholic diocese pulled out of the local Komen fundraiser. It was followed over the next four years by individual dioceses in Arizona, Indiana, Florida, Missouri and other states, where bishops either spoke out against Komen or took steps to stem donations to the charity, mainly because of its Planned Parenthood link.

The momentum picked up in 2011 when top Ohio clerics met in Columbus. High on their agenda was the question of whether the state’s nine dioceses should participate in Komen fundraisers.

Eleven Ohio Bishops agreed to ban all donations to Komen from the state’s Catholic schools and churches.

No Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio receive Komen money. But the bishops decided that diocese funds should no longer benefit the charity, for fear that money sent from local Komen affiliates to the Dallas headquarters could wind up in Planned Parenthood’s coffers or help fund research on stem cells collected from human fetuses, according to church officials….

The Ohio bishops would soon be joined by the North Dakota Catholic Conference, which cautioned its nearly 190,000 parishioners against donating to Komen. The charity’s officials in California also say they received their first request in two decades to meet with Catholic bishops, who expressed concern about Planned Parenthood but took no action.

According to Reuters, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops hasn’t been officially involved in these decisions, because they are made at the local level, but

Observers say the local bishops’ focus on Komen and other social issues reflects a larger conservative shift within the American church since New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan became chairman of the Conference in November 2010.

Under Dolan’s leadership, the conference last year set up a new ad hoc committee on religious liberty to oppose government policies that conflict with church teachings on abortion, contraception and gay marriage.

So now we know. When the Tea Party candidates swept into Congress in 2010, Dolan saw an opportunity to step up attacks on abortion, contraception, and therefore on women’s health generally. Yet at the same time, Catholic hospitals and universities accept millions in donations from Komen. These are the same organizations that are opposing the Obama administration’s ruling that health insurance plans must cover contraception without co-pays.

What a tangled web! But the one thing we know for sure is that the Catholic Bishops are using every available avenue to pursue their war on women.


Tuesday Reads: Silent Protest Slows State Sanctioned Rape Bill, Santorum Knows Best, and Other News

Silent protest of state-sanctioned rape bill in Richmond, VA

Good Morning!!

I’m so glad I can begin with good news. We’ve all been enraged about the bill in the Virginia legislature that would require a woman who needed an abortion to be penetrated against her will by a transvaginal ultrasound probe in order for her to view the contents of her womb. The bill would also require the doctor to note in her medical record whether she viewed the image or not.

Yesterday, citizens of Virgina held a “silent protest”, organized on Facebook, outside the Virginia Statehouse. From Fox News:

Hundreds of women locked arms and stood mute outside the Virginia State Capitol on Monday to protest a wave of anti-abortion legislation coursing through the General Assembly.

Capitol and state police officers, there to ensure order, estimated the crowd to be more than 1,000 people — mostly women. The crowd formed a human cordon through which legislators walked before Monday’s floor sessions of the Republican-controlled legislature.

The silent protest was over bills that would define embryos as humans and criminalize their destruction, require “transvaginal” ultrasounds of women seeking abortions, and cut state aid to poor women seeking abortions.

Molly Vick of Richmond said it was her first time to take part in a protest, but the issue was too infuriating and compelling. On her lavender shirt, she wore a sticker that said “Say No to State-Mandated Rape.” Just beneath the beltline of her blue jeans was a strip of yellow tape that read “Private Property: Keep Out.”

In addition, a new poll released yesterday showed that most Virginians do not support changes to the state’s abortion laws.

Virginia voters, by wide margins…oppose mandating that a woman receive an ultrasound before having an abortion, according to a new poll.

The results of the Christopher Newport University/Richmond Times-Dispatch survey put majorities at odds with legislation poised to pass in the General Assembly….

Of those polled, 55 percent say they oppose the requirement and 36 percent support it. The House and Senate have passed versions of the legislation.

“The governor will await the General Assembly’s final action,” said Tucker Martin, a spokesman for McDonnell. “If the bill passes he will review it, in its final form, at that time.”

Andy Kopsa at RH Reality Check wondered a few days ago if McDonnell might be getting cold feet. I bet he is after yesterday’s events. The demonstration apparently made the legislators nervous, because they decided to delay a vote on the bill.

I can’t help but wonder what motivates people to propose punitive, unconstitutional laws like this. Are they sadists? My guess is they had authoritarian parents who had no empathy for their feelings and now they unconsciously want to punish other people for the pain they suffered. Is that what happened to Rick Santorum? I wish I knew.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately trying to figure out how Rick Santorum came to be a religious fanatic. He must be a true believer, because he can’t seem to stop himself from talking about his bizarre beliefs, even though he must know they won’t help him politically. There’s a great summary of the crazy things Santorum said over the past weekend at The New Civil Rights Movement blog. I know you’ve heard about it already, but to read it all in one place is just stunning. Check it out.

Oh, and did you hear that Alice Stewart, who is Santorum’s national spokesperson, on Andrea Mitchell’s show yesterday? She was defending Santorum’s remarks to an Ohio Tea Party audience about President Obama having an “agenda” based on a “phony theology”

The “president’s agenda” is “not about you,” he said. “It’s not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your job.

“It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology,” Santorum said to applause from the crowd. “Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology.”

I hope someone asks Santorum at the next debate why he thinks government should operate according to the bible or any kind of theology. But I digress….

The former Pennsylvania senator has said he believes Obama is a Christian, and a statement from the campaign stresses that as well, adding that Santorum was talking not about the president’s religion, but political ideology.

“The President says he’s a Christian and Rick believes that and has even said so publicly many times,” National Communications Director Hogan Gidley said in a statement. “Rick was talking about the President’s belief in the secular theology of government — and how believing that theology is dangerous because government theology teaches that it’s perfectly fine (to) take away our individual God-given rights and freedoms. Our founders wrote the Constitution to protect our individual rights and freedoms, but it’s clear that President Obama believes the government should control your life. Rick Santorum believes in the Constitution and will always fight to protect our freedoms.”

But getting back to Alice Stewart on the Andrea Mitchell show and her major boo boo–a real Freudian slip if I ever heard one–here it is, as described by Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches Magazine (with video).

Today, his national press secretary, Alice Stewart (whose previous job was press secretary for Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign), went on MSNBC and also claimed that Santorum wasn’t questioning Obama’s religion. Instead, she said, he was talking about “radical environmentalists, there is a type of theological secularism when it comes to the global warmists in this country. That’s what he was referring to. He was referring to the president’s policies, in terms of the radical Islamic policies the president has and specifically in terms of energy exploration.”

Stewart called back shortly afterward to say that she had “made a slip of the tongue” and hadn’t meant to say “Islamic,” but had intended to say “environmental.” But Posner, the author of a book on the religious right, God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, isn’t buying it.

Of course. Because secularists and Muslims and environmentalists are equally the sworn enemies of anyone with a “Christian worldview” and therefore America. An understandable mistake to mix them up in a torrent of dog-whistles: Theological secularism. Global warmists. Radical Islamic. If you’ve had a “Christian worldview” education, you’ve been taught that two of those—secularism and Islam—are competing “worldviews” in a cosmic clash with Christianity, vying for domination in the world. And you’ve probably been exposed to the false claim that global warming is a hoax, that environmentalism “and its ramifications must be clearly understood by Christians so that we can protect ourselves and especially our children from the unbiblical brainwash that permeates our schools, media, popular culture, and yes, our churches,” according to Christian Worldview radio host David Wheaton.

More right wing nuts that I’ve never heard of. Lately I’ve been reading everything I can about these right wing religious cults–and they are cults. I’ve read about Catholic cults, the Mormon cult (yes, I believe it is a cult), and for the past few days I’ve been reading about right wing protestant movements in a book by Max Blumenthal, Republican Gomorrah.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon reading reports of Santorum’s pronouncements and speculations by various writers on why he’s so obsessed with everyone else’s sex lives and can’t stop talking about his bizarre religious beliefs. Alec MacGillis at The New Republic thinks he has the answer. MacGillis says the pundits

cannot fathom why Santorum would keep veering off a pre-Michigan script that that was supposed to be geared toward the economy, manufacturing in particular. What this reflects, though, is a misconception grounded in our lack of experience with true political ideologues. We talk a lot these days about Washington having been overtaken by conservative ideologues, but this is an exaggeration. Many of those glibly parroting right-wing ideology these days—say, Eric Cantor—are mere opportunists. But Rick Santorum is a rare breed—a bona fide ideologue with a fixed and coherent world view. He can’t just switch some button and turn off the social stuff and talk jobs instead. It’s all woven together. “I’m not going to go out and lay out an agenda about how we’re going to transform people’s hearts,” he said today. “But I will talk about it.”

It reminds me of a quote from a 2005 New York Times Magazine Profile on Santorum, called “The Believer.”

Sean Reilly, a former aide to Santorum in the Senate and now a political consultant in Philadelphia, said that he has come to view his former boss in other than political terms. ”Rick Santorum is a Catholic missionary,” he said. ”That’s what he is. He’s a Catholic missionary who happens to be in the Senate.”

You know, I really don’t want a Catholic missionary in the White House.

Something else I learned from MacGillis: Karen Santorum hasn’t really spent her whole married life keeping house and homeschooling her kids.

I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been more focus yet on the fact that Karen Santorum, who is trained as a lawyer and as a neonatal nurse, has a lengthy work history, and it includes a job that raised a few eyebrows back in the 1990s—working for the media firm that did, and still does, the advertising for Rick Santorum’s campaigns. From a 2003 UPI report:

Federal Election Commission records reviewed by UPI show Santorum’s campaign making payments to BrabenderCox totaling nearly $4 million and $6 million in the 1994 and 2000 elections for media work. Most contracts allow political ad firms to keep around 15 percent of the payments.

Santorum’s Senate financial disclosure forms show a salary from the company to Karen Santorum in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998, although Senate rules do not require a disclosure of the amount.

In a telephone interview, John Brabender said he paid Karen Santorum around $4,000 a month, mostly for “client development.”

“She helped us try to get accounts and often acted as our Washington representative,” Brabender said. “She was both a stay-at-home mom and a professional at the same time.”

Brabender said his hiring of Karen Santorum had “nothing to do” with Sen. Santorum hiring BrabenderCox.

Now isn’t that interesting? And here’s something else interesting from Mother Jones: How Rick Santorum Ripped Off American Veterans It’s all about how as Senator, Santorum used an amendment in a defense authorization bill to cheat the Armed Forces Retirement Home out of $27 million in order to help the Catholic Church get some land cheaply. Real saintly, huh?

Well, enough about Rick Santorum. Here are a few more headlines to get you started on the day.

Eurozone seals second Greek bailout

Mitt Romney’s fundraising stagnates, decreasing his financial advantage

Ron Paul’s billionaire sugar daddy, Paul Theil of Paypal

Clint Eastwood says We Haven’t Had a Great President Since Truman!

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