Lazy Caturday Reads: Congress Must Stop The “Cover-Up General” Bill Barr

Hillary and Bill with Socks on the White House lawn

Good Morning!!

Some folks are beginning to catch on to the “Cover-Up General” Bill Barr. I’ve been writing about this for the past couple of weeks. Barr did what even Jeff Sessions wasn’t corrupt enough to do. He shut down the Russia investigation and now he’s stalling for time in order to keep the American people from learning what Robert Mueller found about Donald Trump, his crime family, and his evil goons.

Barr knows how to shut down an investigation and cover up the results. Way back in 1992, The New York Times’s William Safire raged in column after column against Barr’s cover-up of the Iraq-gate scandal, but Barr won in the end by getting George H.W. Bush to pardon the top conspirators.

Audrey Hepburn with Paris 1957

Read a recap of the scandal and Barr’s victory in The Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27, 1992: Iraqgate–A Case Study of a Big Story With Little Impact. Bush had illegally armed Saddam Hussein from 1986 and 1990. He handed Hussein “the very weapons he later used against American and allied forces in the Persian Gulf War.”

Bill Barr shut down both Iran Contra and Iraqgate by shutting the investigation down, first refusing to appoint a special prosecutor for Iraqgate and then recommending the pardons of the top Iran Contra officials.

NPR, Jan. 14, 2019: William Barr Supported Pardons In An Earlier D.C. ‘Witch Hunt’: Iran-Contra.

Barr….ran the Justice Department once before, under President George H.W. Bush.

Back then, the all-consuming, years-long scandal was called Iran-Contra. On Dec. 24, 1992, it ended when Bush pardoned six people who had been caught up in it.

“The Constitution is quite clear on the powers of the president and sometimes the president has to make a very difficult call,” Bush said then. “That’s what I’ve done.”

Then-Attorney General Barr supported the president’s decision in the Iran-Contra case, which gave clemency to people who had been officials in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He had been set to go on trial to face charges about lying to Congress.

To the man who led the Iran-Contra investigation, however, the pardons represented a miscarriage of justice.

Cat Stevens

“It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences,” said Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in the case, at the time of the pardons.

Barr said later that he believed Bush had made the right decision and that he felt people in the case had been treated unfairly.

“The big ones — obviously, the Iran-Contra ones — I certainly did not oppose any of them,” Barr said as part of the Presidential Oral History Program of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

From Bloomberg, Jan. 19, 2019:

The most significant single act of Barr’s career in the Department of Justice was to advise President George H.W. Bush to pardon six officials from Ronald Reagan’s administration, including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, for crimes associated with the Iran-Contra affair. At the time, Barr was — you guessed it — attorney general. His recommendation gave Bush the cover he needed to issue the pardons.

And Bush needed the cover. The investigation led by independent prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was closing in on the president himself. Walsh had demanded that Bush turn over a campaign diary that he kept in 1986. Bush failed to do so, presumably because the diary showed he knew more about Iran-Contra than he had let on. Walsh publicly condemned Bush’s failure to produce the diary as “misconduct” by the sitting president.

Jackie and Croline Kennedy, Hyannis Port, MA 1961

Issuing the pardons killed Walsh’s investigation — and saved Bush. When the targets of the investigation were off the hook, Walsh had no leverage to continue.

Don’t take my word for it. When the pardons came, Walsh went on ABC’s “Nightline” and said that Bush had “succeeded in a sort of Saturday Night Massacre.” The comparison was intended. Walsh was saying that Bush had saved himself by effectively ending an investigation that was leading to the Oval Office — the aim that Nixon failed to accomplish when he fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Leaving little to the imagination, Walsh also said at the time that he had “evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public.”

The architect of this pardon strategy was Barr. In an oral history interview he gave in 2001, Barr said he didn’t consult with the pardon office at his own Department of Justice, which was playing its “usual role — naysayers” against issuing pardons.

Instead, Barr said he spoke to “some seasoned professionals” at Justice. Then, “based on those discussions, I went over and told the President I thought he should not only pardon Caspar Weinberger, but while he was at it, he should pardon about five others.”

Read more of Barr’s corrupt history in this piece by Lloyd Green at The Guardian from March 25, 2019: William Barr: attorney general plays Republican spear-catcher again. From the article, some examples of Barr’s obfuscation techniques:

Doris Day

House Democrats demanded Barr appoint an independent counsel to investigate the sins of the Bush administration. They were rebuffed. In a letter to the House judiciary committee, Barr tossed around such phrases as “not a crime”, “simply not criminal in any way”, “nothing illegal”, and “far from being a crime.”

As to the separate question of whether administration officials deliberately altered commerce department documents in an effort to conceal military sales to Iraq and purposely misled Congress about Iraq policy, Barr contended the Department of Justice was up to that task.

He wrote: “These are the kinds of allegations that are routinely investigated by the Public Integrity Section and there is no conflict of interest that precluded their handling these matters in the normal course.” [….]

From the looks of things, Trump has the attorney general of his dreams. Like the supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh, Barr is a loyal conservative who comes with a Bush family seal of approval. For this president, it doesn’t get better than that.

Fortunately, this time we have more engaged House members than in 1992. Let’s hope they’ve researched Cover-Up General Barr’s history and are ready to fight back. We have to stand with Adam Schiff.

 

 

Two more relevant reads:

The Washington Post: Sally Yates: William Barr should release the full Mueller report as soon as possible.

America’s justice system is built upon one thing — truth. When witnesses give testimony, they are sworn to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The word “verdict” derives from the Latin term “veredictum,” meaning “to say the truth.” Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a public servant with impeccable integrity, was entrusted to find the truth regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and has spoken through a comprehensive report that details the facts that he uncovered.

Christina Ricci

Yet a week after Mueller issued his report, we don’t know those facts and have only been provided with Attorney General William P. Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s estimated 400-page report. It is time for the American people to hear the whole truth. We need to see the report itself.

First, as the attorney general’s letter to Congress notes, the Mueller report “outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts.” Congress has a solemn responsibility to protect our democracy. Without access to the full factual record of what the special counsel uncovered, it cannot fulfill that mandate. As you read this, the Russian government is undoubtedly hard at work to undermine our next election. Each day that passes without Congress having access to the full Mueller report is a day that Congress is prevented from doing its job of keeping our elections free from Russian espionage efforts.

Second, Barr’s letter leaves important questions unanswered concerning what then-candidate Donald Trump and his associates knew about Russian interference, and how they responded to Russian overtures to assist the campaign. While Barr’s letter states that the investigation did not establish that the campaign reached an agreement with the Russian government to take actions to impact the election in Trump’s favor, it reveals that the campaign did field “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” Yet President Trump and others have repeatedly claimed that they had no contact with Russians, or knowledge that Russians were acting to assist his campaign.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

David Corn at Mother Jones: Here’s the Real Trump-Russia Hoax.

Elvis Presley

Two fundamental facts were established long before Mueller completed his investigation. First, the Russians attacked an American election in order to sow chaos, hurt Hillary Clinton, and help Donald Trump. Second, Trump and his top advisers during the campaign repeatedly denied this attack was underway, echoing and amplifying Moscow disinformation (the false claim that Russia was not attacking). Whether or not the Trumpers were directly in cahoots with the Russian government, they ran interference for Vladimir Putin’s assault on the United States, and they even did so after the intelligence community had briefed Trump on Russia’s culpability.

So to determine if the Barr triumphalists are acting in good faith, you need only ask them a simple question: do you accept these basic facts and acknowledge the profound seriousness of each one?

The Russian attack on the 2016 election was an attempt to subvert the foundation of American society: the democratic process. How can Americans have faith in their government, if elections are undermined by secret schemers, including a foreign government? It is certainly arguable that the Russian intervention—particularly the stealing and drip-drip-drip dumping of the John Podesta emails across the final four weeks of the election—was one of several decisive factors in a contest that had a narrow and tight finish. Consequently, there is a strong case that Moscow helped shift the course of US history by contributing to the election of Trump….

Jimmy Stewart, with Piewackit from Bell Book and Candle

During the campaign and afterward, some Trump backers and some critics on the left, including columnist and media scold Glenn Greenwald, questioned whether the Russians indeed engaged in such skulduggery. (The Nation, where I once worked, published an articlepromoting a report that claimed the Russians did not hack the Democratic National Committee—and then had to backtrack when that report turned out to be bunk.)

For many of these scandal skeptics, it hasn’t seemed to matter that the charge against Moscow has been publicly confirmed by the Obama administration, the US intelligence community (which concluded that Putin’s operation intended to help Trump), both Republicans and Democrats on the congressional intelligence committees, and Robert Mueller, who indicted a mess of Russians for participating in this covert operation. True, there often is cause to question officialdom and government sources. Yet anyone citing the Mueller report, as it is narrowly capsulized by Barr, must also accept his key finding: Russia attacked the United States and intervened in the election. (They must also accept that, as the Barr letter disclosed, Mueller found evidence suggesting Trump obstructed justice but did not reach a final judgment on this question.)

That’s it for me. What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Caturday: Celebrations and Reflections

1014335_406336752816251_509147101_nGood afternoon, newsjunkies!

Have you seen next week’s cover of The New Yorker that’s been floating around the internet yet? Well, obviously you have now if you’re reading this post. It’s nothing short of SQUEEEEE! Bert and Ernie nestled together on the couch snuggin’ while watching The Supremes in their robes on the TV.

The Supremes did good on knocking the wind out of DOMA, but it was a long time coming. They’re still in the doghouse for all their other despicable and unreal rulings this week. So while I did pop some champagne to celebrate the good things going on, including the tumbling down of DOMA, no cookies to the Supremes on this. I give the credit to all the grassroots LGBT activists and their growing accumulation of allies who have worked so hard for so many years to bring Wednesday’s ruling to fruition. Well done, everyone! The 21st century is finally starting to arrive…it’s here, it’s queer, and we as a society are not only going to live with it–we are going to live it up! Watch out, y’all, I am so happy for our LGBT sisters and brothers and for all of us as a ONE LOVE-ONE WORLD, I could about start doing some of my inner feminist Pollyanna somersaults all over this page. (I am an absolute klutz with no athletic motor skill coordination whatsoever, so that is truly a feat!)

So, to review:

relaxheterosexuals

And, via HuffPo, 10 WAYS THE DOMA REPEAL WILL AFFECT ‘TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE’:

After the Supreme Court’s landmark decision that the Defense Of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, it’s time to look at the top 10 ways heterosexual marriage will be affected now that it’s not being defended.

1. Uh…
1

2. Uhhh…
2

3. Hmm…
3

4. Just a sec…
4

5. It’s like… You know how… It’s like when things… Right?
5

6. We swear we just had one
6

7. It’s coming… Wait for it…
7

8. Hey! Look over there!
8

9. Wait, where are you going?
9

10. Global warming?
10

Here’s what the wonderful Joyce L. Arnold  of “Queer Talk” has been blogging over at Taylor Marsh’s, which I think gives a pretty good overview and is instructive in terms of “Where we go from here”…Note: I am only quoting excerpts here, interspersed with a bit of commentary from me, so take the time to click over and read the pieces in full when you get the chance:

The much anticipated Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 were announced this morning.[…] The fight for marriage equality isn’t over. Everyone knows that. But today is huge, and it’s time to do some celebrating.

Post SCOTUS, post DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, the “now what” in LGBT equality question is getting attention, and one response to that question comes by way of the Campaign for Southern Equality. The organization didn’t just come into existence, but they were very ready for this moment. Other LGBT groups are, too, of course, from local to state to national levels. I find the efforts of CSE to be particularly inspiring precisely because they refuse to comply with the “just move to where you’re more accepted” arguments – and we hear them regularly – but stay, and fight for equality. There are a lot of people doing that, in the South and other more “challenging,” but definitely changing toward the better, areas.

About CSE: (emphasis added throughout)

Based in North Carolina, the Campaign for Southern Equality is an effort to assert the full humanity and equality of LGBT people living in the South.

One of their projects is the WE DO Campaign, which

… involves LGBT couples in the Southern communities where they live requesting – and being denied – marriage licenses in order to call for full equality under federal law and to resist unjust state laws.

These WE DO actions serve to make the impact of discriminatory laws visible to the general public; they illustrate what it looks like when LGBT people are treated as second-class… citizens under the law.

Take less than three minutes to watch.

Here is the video Joyce has spotlighted, which is well worth the watch if you haven’t seen it yet. Very inspiring (this roundup continues after the video, so please keep scrolling after you view it):

More from Joyce’s post:

Celebrations continue. Statements agreeing and disagreeing with the decisions are still coming, from the White House to “citizen on the street.” Most likely the next sermon topic was an easy one for many, pro and con marriage equality.

And lots of analysis, which is obviously important, continues being done. It includes wide recognition that while this really is one of those moments we can call “historic,” there are 37 states with no marriage recognition; there are big questions about how same-sex couples are treated in terms of the military and immigration; and among other things, there is no federal employment protection. None of that detracts from the celebration. In fact, equality proponents in all of those “issues,” and more, can be energized by the SCOTUS decisions.

At The Advocate, “Message at Rallies: Celebrate Today, Fight Tomorrow.” At a post-SCOTUS decision rally in West Hollywood, with about 4000 people present, screenwriter Dustin Lanc Black said:

‘(I)t is time for each and every one of us to take that strength you now feel as Californians, and take it to Texas, and take it to Virginia … take it to Holland, Michigan … to Altoona, Pennsylvania. … You need to take your strength to these places, and share this feeling with this nation so we no longer leave a single one of our brothers or our sisters behind, no matter … which state they live.’

From the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force:

‘Today’s historic decisions are a significant leap forward for freedom and justice for same-sex couples and their families, the LGBT community and for our nation — and a lot more work needs to be done to deliver marriage equality to the rest of our nation’s same-sex couples and their families and full equality in every other respect for all LGBT people,’ said Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director.

Parties continue around the nation, as they should. There’s a lot to celebrate. Statements and analyses will keep coming for a long time, I’d guess, as the impact of the decisions is made clear in practice. And advocacy and actions will continue, in all regions and states of the nation. Look to every region, including the South.

(We Do Campaign via Campaign for Southern Equality)

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, tweeted his sadness about the Supreme Court decisions regarding DOMA and Prop 8, but then rather quickly deleted it. That seems a fair representation of Cathy’s efforts to somehow balance an anti-LGBT – at least related to marriage equality – while also, as a spokesperson put it, provide “genuine hospitality to everyone.”

Via Huffington, Cathy’s tweet:

Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: conerstone of strong societies

No word about what the founding mothers would think.

Ok, pardon me but I have to interrupt here to cackle my witchy woman feminist ass off. Joyce goes on to cover the ins-and-outs of Cathy’s trying to have his corporate cake and eat it too while lamenting his sadness over…what seems to me a more perfect union. That appears to be the source of Cathy and his ilk’s lament. They don’t want this union to become more perfect, because that requires giving up their various privileges and twisted means of ‘control.’  (Though it’s always hard not to ask for the most vehement of the homophobic crowd, if they are in control at all or really they are deep in the closet. Because, let’s let the elephant out the room, y’all. That’s the only reason legalizing gay marriage would affect a so-called heterosexual marriage that would need any defending from it.)

Joyce also quotes more whining tweets from Huckabee, et al., via OpEd News:

[Mike Huckabee tweet]: ‘My thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: ‘Jesus wept.’ …

‘Today, marriage, children, and the rule of law all suffer.’ Randy Thomassen, Save California. …

[Matt Barber tweet]: In states w/ ‘gay marriage’ there is no longer a legal or ethical defense against multi-party, incestuous or any other twiested ‘marriages’ …

How long before federal agents haul pastors out of the pulpit? – Todd Starnes, Fox News.

To which Joyce’s response is simply awesome:

Founding Fathers, weeping, suffering, children and incest … the familiar “the sky is falling” kind of responses.

As a follow-up to Joyce’s comment, I must insert the following, which I had used elsewhere on the internet (Facebook of course..on the Pink Sneaks support page JJ and I are working on) in reference to Stupakistan’s reaction. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Gov. Goodhair…) to the arrival of what Salon proposes we are now, i.e. a “Wendy Davis Nation.”

Anyhow, here is the graphic because it applies to what Joyce has highlighted about the sad, lamenting reactions to the DOMA/Prop8 reversal:

"Oh, the sound of male ego. You travel halfway across the galaxy, and it’s still the same song." Star Trek: The Original Series, 1x06 ("Mudd’s Women")

“Oh, the sound of male ego. You travel halfway across the galaxy, and it’s still the same song.” Star Trek: The Original Series, 1×06 (“Mudd’s Women”)

Joyce concludes by saying the following, which I totally agree:

My bet is the founding mothers and fathers just might approve of “liberty and justice for all” efforts. And since we’ve more or less (with some significant “less” moments and issues) been focused on that goal for quite some time, and the sky hasn’t even started falling, we’re safe to keep at it. And in trouble if we don’t.

Last but not least, Joyce reports…

The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA), filed by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in the Senate and by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House, would completely repeal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). The Supreme Court decisions were a big step in that direction, but not complete.

Ok, as I said, please do go read Joyce’s pieces in full whenever you can. Here’s a handy link where you can see her posts archived together in one place.

Pivoting from “gay rights are human rights” (smiles in thoughts of Hillary and Hillary 2016) to “women’s rights are human rights,” I want to touch on that article,“It’s a Wendy Davis Nation Now,” that I briefly linked to above from Salon though, because I have a very revealing excerpt I wanted to highlight from it:

For years — particularly the ones Democrats spent in the wilderness, losing national elections — the party’s pro-choice stance was blamed for losing so-called values voters. Axelrod pointed out how that had changed: “These were motivational issues for people on our side … What’s interesting to me is that these were once wedge issues for Republicans. Now some of them are working as wedge issues against Republicans. And it shows a shift of attitudes.”

Gay rights, of course, have long since lost any traction as a wedge issue in Republicans’ favor in all but the narrowest districts. It remains to be seen how the immigration reform debate will play out politically, but the 2012 election and its “self-deportation” rhetoric is widely seen to have driven away Latinos and Asians. And of course there was defunding Planned Parenthood and Todd Akin. But, Axelrod added, abortion wasn’t part of that. Or, as he put it, “Abortion’s a separate discussion.”

If this week was any indication — along with recent protests in Wisconsin and Ohio, and possibly more to come — that may not prove true.

Thus, if we are truly entering Wendy Davis Nation, then we must be exiting not just Bush country, but also Rove-Axelrod’s understanding of women’s rights as a “separate discussion.” Keeping my ears open and my eyes wide and waiting to see what happens next!

Before I end this post, just for some Caturday fun, and for purposes of smashing the patriarchy with my crazy cat lady pink-ness, here are pictures of my nails that I got done last night (click for larger view):

1002764_406725882777338_1556208287_n998668_406725862777340_1727898640_n

And, on that note, Sky Dancers, I’m going to turn the soapbox over to you. Do the wonderful thing you do in the comments y’all, and have a great weekend!


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