Tuesday Reads: SCOTUS and Voting Rights, Iraq War Buildup, and Reno Saccoccia

morning paper cat dog

Good Morning!!

There’s a great big sloppy white mess outside my house this morning–something like 6 or 7 inches of heavy, wet snow. I’m not sure how I’ll get out of here; I may have to try to hire someone to dig me out. Anyway, I’m resigned to being stuck in the house for today at least.

Soooo… let’s see what happening in the news.

I’m going to start out with some news from the Supreme Court. Yesterday the court debated another voting rights case, and once again Sonya Sotomayor went toe-to-toe with right-wing judicial activist Antonin Scalia. This time it was a case from Arizona over whether a state can require proof of citizenship beyond what is required by federal voter registration forms. Here’s some background from Spencer Overton at HuffPo:

The latest case involves the simple question of whether Arizona can refuse to accept a federal voter registration form. But the stakes are much higher. A victory for Arizona could accelerate a nationwide trend of political operatives attempting to manipulate election rules for political gain, and could undermine the power of Congress to protect voting rights.

The National Voter Registration Act requires that all states “accept and use” a single, uniform voter registration form for federal elections. States can still use their own registration forms, but they must also accept and use the Federal Form. The purpose of the Federal Form is to increase participation by preventing states from erecting barriers to voter registration.

The Federal Form requires that prospective voters check a box and sign the form affirming they are U.S. citizens under penalty of perjury. Arizona, however, adopted a state law requiring “satisfactory proof” of U.S. citizenship to register, such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport, or state driver’s license that shows citizenship.

As a result, Arizona initially rejected over 31,000 voter registration applications — including citizens who registered using the Federal Form. Community-based registration drives were hit especially hard, because they rely on approaching individuals who may not be carrying a birth certificate or similar documentation (or unwilling to give a photocopy of these sensitive documents to a registration-drive volunteer). For example, community-based registration drives in Arizona’s largest county — Maricopa County — dropped 44%.

chair_sonia_sotomayor1

Obviously, if Arizona wins the case, other red states would pass similar laws that would trump federal voting regulations. Yesterday, Sotomayor and Scalia “clashed” over the Arizona law. Talking Points Memo:

Much as they did weeks ago during arguments over the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, the two justices on Monday each led the charge on opposite sides of the case — Scalia for less federal involvement in states’ ability to set their voting laws, and Sotomayor for broad national authority to protect citizens’ right to vote.

Sotomayor’s opening volley began immediately after Arizona Attorney General Thomas C. Horne stepped up to defend his state’s law. She fired off a series of questions, which she would continue asking in different flavors throughout his argument, about inconsistencies between Arizona’s Prop 200 and the NVRA.

“If I see the purpose of the NVRA to simplify registration, how are Arizona’s provisions consistent with that objective and purpose, given that … many people don’t have the documents that Arizona requires?” Sotomayor said. She asked Horne why he thinks Congress would have required states to accept a voter registration form if states can then turn around and require additional information like a passport or birth certificate.

“Why isn’t that just creating another form?” she demanded. Arizona, she said, may object to the fact that proof of citizenship isn’t required, but “that’s what Congress decided.”

As for Scalia:

The conservative jurist wasn’t convinced requiring people to attest under oath was sufficient.

“So it’s under oath — big deal,” Scalia said. “If you’re willing to violate the voting laws, I suppose you’re willing to violate the perjury laws.” He posited that only “a very low number” of voters would be harmed by a requirement to submit proof of citizenship.

Well that makes sense–not. Why bother having witnesses swear to tell the truth in court cases then?

Of course Anthony Kennedy was his usual waffling self. Again from TPM:

At one point, Kennedy wrestled with whether Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship requirement crosses a line. He asked the state’s attorney general, who was defending the law, whether states may also require proof of one’s address or date of birth when registering to vote. If so, he posited, then the federal requirement “is not worth very much.”

At another point, he launched a defense of Arizona’s actions in principle and took issue with some of the reasoning by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against Arizona.

“The state has a very strong and vital interest in the integrity of its elections,” Kennedy said, “even when those, and perhaps especially when those are elections of federal officials. And it seems to me the Ninth Circuit’s new test did not give sufficient weight to that interest.”

Roberts is apparently “leaning slightly” toward Arizona’s point of view. It’s really frightening that voting rights are in the hands of this conservative court. Thank goodness for Sotomayor’s willingness to be vocal in her arguments. Here are couple more interesting tidbits:

“Let me give you this example,” Alito said. “A person rides up to a place to register on a bicycle and gets out and hands in the federal form. This boy looks like he is 13 years old and he is carrying school books, he is wearing a middle school t-shirt, but he has filled out the form properly. Are they required to register him?”

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a native Arizonan who in 2010 ruled against her statein this case from a lower court on which she occasionally sits, was present in the chamber.

In the final moments, Scalia warned the Obama administration’s lawyer, who was arguing against Arizona, that if the constitutionality of the NVRA form is challenged in broader terms, “You’re going to be in bad shape — the government’s going to be.”

There was a little bit of good news from the Court yesterday, according to HuffPo: Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Goldman Sachs’ Appeal To Financial Crisis Lawsuit.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc suffered a defeat on Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a decision forcing it to defend against claims it misled investors about mortgage securities that lost value during the 2008 financial crisis.

Without comment, the court refused to consider Goldman’s appeal of a September 2012 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Goldman shares sank more than 2 percent.

That court let the NECA-IBEW Health & Welfare Fund, which owned some mortgage-backed certificates underwritten by Goldman, sue on behalf of investors in certificates it did not own, but which were backed by mortgages from the same lenders.

Goldman and other banks have faced thousands of lawsuits by investors seeking to recoup losses on mortgage securities.

The bank has said that letting the 2nd Circuit decision stand could cost Wall Street tens of billions of dollars.

{{applause}}

David Frum posted a fascinating article at The Daily Beast late yesterday on the lead-up to the Iraq War. Frum was a speechwriter for George W. Bush at the time. You should read the whole thing, but I’ll just quote this one intriguing portion:

The first time I met Ahmed Chalabi was a year or two before the war, in Christopher Hitchens’s apartment. Chalabi was seated regally at one end of Hitchens’s living room. A crowd of nervous, shuffling Iraqis crowded together at the opposite end. One by one, they humbly stepped forward to ask him questions or favors in Arabic, then respectfully stepped backward again. After the Iraqis departed, Chalabi rose from his chair and joined an engaged, open discussion of Iraq’s future democratic possibilities.

The last time I saw Chalabi was in his London apartment, on the very eve of war. My little group arrived past midnight. Chalabi was listening to the evocative strains of Sufi music. He showed me a black-and-white photograph of seven men, wearing the clothes of the 1940s. They were the board of directors of a company his father had founded: a mixed group of Sunni, Shiite, and Christian, and even a Jew. Chalabi remarked that this picture was taken while Europe was tearing itself apart in genocidal violence. He didn’t add that it was taken shortly after British forces defeated a pro-Axis coup in Baghdad—but failed to prevent a murderous pogrom against Baghdad’s Jewish population.

I was less impressed by Chalabi than were some others in the Bush administration. However, since one of those “others” was Vice President Cheney, it didn’t matter what I thought. In 2002, Chalabi joined the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute near Vail, Colorado. He and Cheney spent long hours together, contemplating the possibilities of a Western-oriented Iraq: an additional source of oil, an alternative to U.S. dependency on an unstable-looking Saudi Arabia.

You might imagine that an administration preparing for a war of choice would be gripped by self-questioning and hot debate. There was certainly plenty to discuss: unlike the 1991 Gulf War, there was no immediate crisis demanding a rapid response; unlike Vietnam, the U.S. entered the war fully aware that it was commencing a major commitment.

Yet that discussion never really happened, not the way that most people would have imagined anyway. For a long time, war with Iraq was discussed inside the Bush administration as something that would be decided at some point in the future; then, somewhere along the way, war with Iraq was discussed as something that had already been decided long ago in the past.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll leave you with this follow-up to the Steubenville rape trial.

Reno

From Deadspin: Fire This Asshole: Why Does Steubenville’s Football Coach Still Have His Job?

Reno Saccoccia is a local legend, in the way that 30-year coaches of football powerhouses in economically depressed Ohio Valley towns tend to be legends. He’s in the Ohio Coaches Hall of Fame. He’s won three state titles. When Saccoccia won his 300th game last year, a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 people packed Harding Stadium—christened “Reno Field” in 2007—and chanted “Reno, Reno, Reno” as he left the field.

He breakfasts regularly with the sheriff. His sister-in-law works in the county’s juvenile court, where he is licensed as a mediator. He “molds young boys into men.” So how did Saccoccia react when he got word that two of his young boys were accused of raping a passed-out student?

On the night of the assault, a Steubenville student recorded this video joking about it. Off-camera, someone says “Trent and Ma’lik raped someone.” Among the text messages released at the trial of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, one sent by Mays indicated that Saccoccia had seen the video:

Deleate that off You-tube. Coach Sac knows about it. Seriously delete it.

Saccoccia would later claim he was unaware of the social media evidence, angrily telling a reporter that he didn’t “do the internet.” But a flurry of texts sent on August 13, the day after the incident, indicated that Saccoccia had heard what had happened.

Even as all of Steubenville gradually heard the rumors, even after a local blogger alerted the country to what had happened in Steubenville, those involved in posting and sharing the photos and videos continued to play. They were only suspended eight games into the season, more than two months after the assault and arrests.

Less than a month later, Saccoccia testified on behalf of Mays and Richmond in a hearing to determine whether they would be tried as adults.

As we all know, the “boys” were tried as juveniles and got off easy. Seriously, this asshole has to go!

I have some more stories to share, but I’ll put them in the comments . . .   What are you reading and blogging about today? I’m stuck in the house, so I have all the time in the world to click on your links and read!


Thursday Reads

North Dakota Badlands--where I'd like to be this morning

Good Morning!!

Like JJ, I’m a little sick of the political news these days. Plus I’m a little under the weather with a cold, so please be patient if I don’t make a whole lot of sense today.

I heard a little of Mitt Romney’s victory speech on Tuesday night, and when I got up yesterday I decided to read the transcript. The speech was every bit as vapid as I remembered.

There is not one specific policy mentioned in the speech, just attacks on Obama and promises that no one could fulfill. Romney begins by playing to the people he has been disrespecting throughout the primaries:

For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job … for grandparents who can’t afford the gas to visit their grandchildren … for the mom and dad who never thought they’d be on food stamps … for the small business owner desperately cutting back just to keep the doors open one more month – to all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I’ve met who want nothing more than a better chance, a fighting chance, to all of you, I have a simple message: Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight.

Really? A better America with no employer-provided health care, no Social Security, no Medicare, no Planned Parenthood? Romney claims that his “success in business” has taught him how to create jobs and build a booming economy (Even though his business was buying up successful companies and bleeding them dry. And even though he didn’t do those things when he was Governor of Massachusetts.)

…you might have heard that I was successful in business. And that rumor is true. But you might not have heard that I became successful by helping start a business that grew from 10 people to hundreds of people. You might not have heard that our business helped start other businesses, like Staples and Sports Authority and a new steel mill and a learning center called Bright Horizons. And I’d tell you that not every business made it and there were good days and bad days, but every day was a lesson. And after 25 years, I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating recovery!

Really? The only thing I’ve heard him recommend is tax cuts for rich people and more austerity for the rest of us. What am I missing? Then he asks the Reagan question–are you better off now than you were back in 2008?

what do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama?

Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Do you pay less at the pump?

If the answer were “yes” to those questions, then President Obama would be running for re-election based on his achievements…and rightly so. But because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions. That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time. But not here and not now. It’s still about the economy …and we’re not stupid.

At least Romney seems to have found a better speechwriter, but as Ezra Klein points out:

Three and a half years ago…Barack Obama wasn’t yet president. The date was Oct. 25, 2008, and Obama hadn’t even won the election yet, much less taken office.

The National Bureau of Economic Research says the recession officially began in December 2007. The worst of it came in the fourth quarter of 2008. Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009. The time frame Romney chose, in other words, thrusts the very worst of the recession into Obama’s lap despite the fact that he wasn’t even president yet. It’s like blaming a fireman for the damage the blaze did before he arrived.

As Klein says, the real question should be “are you better off now than you would have been had Mitt Romney been president?” Romney claims Obama wants the government to control our lives.

This President is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars. He’s asking us to accept that Washington knows best – and can provide all.

We’ve already seen where this path leads. It erodes freedom. It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit. And it hurts the very people it’s supposed to help. Those who promise to spread the wealth around only ever succeed in spreading poverty. Other nations have chosen that path. It leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt, and stagnant wages.

I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.

I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents – some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.

That last part is what Romney seems to really need–adoration for his achievement of getting rich at the expense of all the little people who were driven out of work and into bankruptcy while Romney headed Bain Capital. Other than that, it sounds like he’s talking about the Eisenhower-Kennedy years–except in that economy the wealthy and corporations paid their fair share of taxes.

I don’t think Romney has made his case to be President, unless people just want to vote for him because he “loves America.”

The Romney campaign is synchronizing it’s work with the Republican National Committee, so I wonder if this idea came from the campaign or the RNC: Republican National Committee Files Complaint Over Obama Travel

The Republican National Committee has filed an official complaint with the Government Accountability Office over President Barack Obama’s use of official resources for campaign travel.

In a letter to the watchdog agency, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus writes to call attention “to a case of misuse of government funds benefitting “Obama for America” (OFA), otherwise known as the president’s reelection campaign.”

Priebus pointed to Obama’s current trip to North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa — three battleground states — to discuss extending lower interest rates on student loans as examples of this tax-payer funded campaign travel.

“One might imagine that if this were genuinely a government event he might have stopped in a non-battleground state like Texas or Vermont,” Priebus said.

“This President and Air Force One seem to have a magic magnet that only seem to land in battleground states in this country,” Priebus told reporters earlier Wednesday before the complaint was drafted.

And so on… The GAO replied to a request from Buzzfeed:

GAO Spokesman Charles Young told BuzzFeed that the watchdog agency has yet to receive the RNC letter. “But we conduct our work at the request of the Congress.”

That was a pretty good slapdown. I seem to recall George W. Bush making a lot of speeches in swing states back in 2004. I wonder if Priebus was upset about that too? Geeze.

Vanity Fair has posted video of a memorial service held for Christopher Hitchens on April 20th. Hitchens died on December 15, 2011. In his honor, I’d like to quote from one of his Slate pieces that is very relevant to the 2012 presidential race: Mitt Romney and the weird and sinister beliefs of Mormonism.

The founder of the church, one Joseph Smith, was a fraud and conjurer well known to the authorities of upstate New York. He claimed to have been shown some gold plates on which a new revelation was inscribed in no known language. He then qualified as the sole translator of this language. (The entire story is related in Fawn Brodie’s biography, No Man Knows My History.* It seems that we can add, to sausages and laws, churches as a phenomenon that is not pleasant to watch at the manufacturing stage. Edmund Wilson wrote that it was powerfully shocking to see Brodie as she exposed a religion that was a whole-cloth fabrication.) On his later forays into the chartless wilderness, there to play the role of Moses to his followers (who were permitted and even encouraged in plural marriage, so as to go forth and mass-produce little Mormons), Smith also announced that he wanted to be known as the Prophet Muhammad of North America, with the fearsome slogan: “Either al-Koran or the Sword.” He levied war against his fellow citizens, and against the federal government. One might have thought that this alone would raise some eyebrows down at the local Baptist Church.

Saddling itself with some pro-slavery views at the time of the Civil War, and also with a “bible” of its own that referred to black people as a special but inferior creation, the Mormon Church did not admit black Americans to the priesthood until 1978, which is late enough—in point of the sincerity of the “revelation” they had to undergo—to cast serious doubt on the sincerity of their change of heart.

Read the rest at the link and see if you think Romney’s religion is relevant. Ross Douthat is concerned about it.

I’m going to wrap this up, because I’m really not feeling well, but I want to share a story with you from Boston. It’s a week or so old, but still worth highlighting: ‘She-Hulk’ collars alleged T creep after lewd act. It’s a about a young woman (who didn’t want her name used) riding the MBTA, minding her own business and then suddenly finding herself the object of–to put it mildly–unwanted attention.

“This guy was just being a real creeper,” she said. As she shuffled along the train, he followed her. She zoned out, listening to music, only to look up and see him standing over her.

“I looked up and felt awkward, so I looked down,” she said. She said the man was exposing and touching himself, but tried to cover himself with his shirt.

The woman — not someone to meekly let an alleged creep get away with it — shouted out what he was doing, but no one stepped in to help. She said one male passenger even shrugged. So, she said, she went into “She-Hulk” mode, lunging as the man tried to bolt at Packard’s Corner in Brighton.

She said she held the man with one hand and “berated” him while she waited for the cops to arrive. She said he looked frightened.

“He kept saying sorry, but he was just sorry for himself,” she said.

The Boston Globe had an account of the arrest of the perp, Michael Galvin, 37, of Hudson St. in Somerville.

Officers found Galvin being dragged by his apparent victim, who grabbed him by his sweatshirt as he attempted to leave the train at the stop….When she caught up to him, he allegedly said, “I think I need help, I think something is wrong with me.” The woman held him until police arrived, according to an MBTA Transit Police report released by the agency.

Police arrived and spoke to Galvin, who said his shorts fell down accidentally on the packed and jostling train, the report said.

But the woman told a different story. Galvin allegedly approached her slowly on the crowded train. She told officers that she “got a weird vibe from the guy and tried to move away but couldn’t because the trolley was so packed.”

When Galvin was near her and she looked down, she said she saw that his shorts were pulled down “just enough to have his penis exposed, and he was stroking it.”

It’s just one small win for women, but a very satisfying one, IMHO.

So what are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m still in shock from the realization that Willard “Mitt” Romney is most likely going to be the Republican nominee. I never thought the day would come when a candidate would appear who is more soulless, more shallow, more banal, and less prepared to be president than Barack Obama. But Romney is all those things. I don’t think he knows any more about politics or economics than Donald Trump, and he’s just as much of a blowhard. What could possess anyone to vote for him? The American experiment has truly failed when these two psychopaths are the choices to lead the nation.

I was looking forward to Newt Gingrich’s attacks on Romney’s corporate raider past, but as Minkoff Minx reported last night, someone got to Newt and told him to cool it.

Newt Gingrich on Wednesday suggested his attacks on rival Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital have not been rational – though a spokesman insisted Gingrich is not backing off the attacks.

Gingrich’s comment came after a voter in Spartanburg, South Carolina, told Gingrich that he believed the former House speaker has “missed the target on the way you’re addressing Romney’s weaknesses.”

“I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenuosness about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market,” said the voter.

Gingrich replied: “I agree – I agree with you.”

“I think it’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background,” Gingrich continued. “Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect which, as a Reagan Republican it frankly never occurred to me until it happened. So I agree with you entirely.”

Gingrich, who has harshly criticized Romney for his record at Bain, seemed to be saying he cannot “talk rationally” about Romney’s record because of the way Mr. Obama frames the issue.

He sure doesn’t sound rational there. I can’t figure out what he’s even trying to say. But it sounds like he’s claiming that somehow Obama made him attack Romney. Sadly, I’m afraid we may never see that “When Romney Came to Town” video now. Rats!

According to an article in the NYT, Romney’s advisers have been “shaken by attacks” on the candidate’s record at Bain Capital.

Although the advisers had always expected that Democrats would malign Mr. Romney’s work of buying and selling companies, they were largely unprepared for an assault that came so early in the campaign and from within the ranks of their own party, those involved in the campaign discussions said.

Even as Mr. Romney coasted to victory in New Hampshire, they worry that the critique could prove more potent as the race shifts to South Carolina, where shuttered mills dot the landscape, unemployment is higher and suspicion of financial elites is not limited to left-leaning voters.

Both Iowa and New Hampshire have unemployment rates in the 5% range.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Mr. Romney lamented that “desperate Republicans” were attacking the free enterprise system and the very notion of success.

“This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation,” he said. “The country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy.”

That message was echoed by Mr. Romney’s surrogates and embraced by a number of influential conservatives on Tuesday, from Rush Limbaugh to Michelle Malkin and the Club for Growth.

Unfortunately, the attacks seem to have caused many conservative who were previously unenthusiastic about Romney to rise to his defense.

At conservative blog Patterico’s Pontifications, “Karl” points out that it’s a little strange that Romney’s advisers weren’t expecting this, since Republican rivals have brought the issue up in Romney’s previous campaigns. I’m curious to see how all this will play in South Carolina.

Charlie Pierce had a bit of interesting Massachusetts gossip yesterday afternoon. Apparently one of Romney’s close advisers, Eric Fehrnstrom, is also an adviser to Senator Scott Brown, who as we all know is involved in a tough reelection fight with Elizabeth Warren.

Anyway, the gossip around the Massachusetts GOP — which is a small enough group that gossip can circulate at speeds at which matter is spontaneously created — is that some people in McDreamy’s re-election campaign have begun to complain that Fehrnstrom is spending too much time with Willard and not enough with their man, who’s in a much tougher fight with Elizabeth Warren than Romney is with the assemblage of second-raters in the Republican primary. It’s hard to see how Fehrnstrom can keep both of those balls in the air at the same time and, if he can’t, my guess is that McDreamy is the loser. This will not be a good thing for that campaign.

And speaking of Liz Warren, she raised twice as much money as Brown in the last quarter.

She has just over $6 million on hand, her campaign reported this afternoon.

Warren’s overall fund-raising for those few final months of 2011 outpaced Republican Senator Scott Brown’s total for the same time period. On Monday, Brown’s campaign released figures showing that he collected $3.2 million in the final quarter of 2011 and raised a total of $8.5 million last year.

Still, Brown holds a strong advantage, having accumulated $12.8 million in his campaign account, a record amount for any Massachusetts candidate this early in the election cycle.

Michelle Obama denies that she ever had any disagreements with Rahm Emanuel, as was reported in the new book “The Obamas” by NYT writer Jodi Kantor.

Obama said in an interview that aired on CBS’s “This Morning” that she does not routinely interfere in West Wing business despite reports that she clashed with top West Wing aides and has expressed her concerns and displeasure about policy and politics through back channels.

“I don’t have conversations with my husband’s staff. I don’t go to the meetings,” she told King. “I guess it’s more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here, a strong woman. But that’s been an image that people have tried to paint of me since the day that Barack announced — that I’m some angry black woman.”

Obama said that she and former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel “never had a cross word” — despite Kantor’s reporting that they clashed over strategy and policy during Emanuel’s tenure.

In foreign news, another Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated. From the Globe and Mail:

Amid escalating threats, the covert war to thwart Iran’s efforts to get nuclear weapons took an ugly – if gruesomely familiar – turn Wednesday with the murder of a young Iranian nuclear scientist on a Tehran street.

It was the fourth such reported targeted assassination in two years, adding a dangerous new element to the escalating conflict over Iran’s refusal to rein in its nuclear program or to open it to international inspection.

Wednesday’s killing in North Tehran was similar to previous attacks. Using powerful magnets, a motorcyclist attached a small delayed-action bomb to a car carrying Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, a nuclear scientist and university professor.

The explosion killed the 32-year-old chemistry professor, who worked at the sprawling Natanz nuclear facility, and another person in the car, reports said. The pinpoint attack focused the blast into the car during the morning rush hour.

Wonderful. Are we being pushed into another war after just beginning to extricate ourselves from Iraq? The NYT reports that the covert actions are believed by “experts” to be coming from Israel, the Iranians, probably with good reason, assume the U.S. is also involved.

Iranian officials immediately blamed both Israel and the United States for the latest death, which came less than two months after a suspicious explosion at an Iranian missile base that killed a top general and 16 other people. While American officials deny a role in lethal activities, the United States is believed to engage in other covert efforts against the Iranian nuclear program.

The assassination drew an unusually strong condemnation from the White House and the State Department, which disavowed any American complicity. The statements by the United States appeared to reflect serious concern about the growing number of lethal attacks, which some experts believe could backfire by undercutting future negotiations and prompting Iran to redouble what the West suspects is a quest for a nuclear capacity.

Both Obama and Hillary Clinton denied any U.S. involvement. Sure.

Finally, there’s a wonderful article by the late Christopher Hitchens in the new Vanity Fair: Charles Dickens’s Inner Child. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but so far I’m very much enjoying it. I love Dickens and reading the piece made me want to pick up on of his novels again soon–maybe I’ll reread my favorite one–“Our Mutual Friend.” What a great book it is!

That’s all I have for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I had another week full of weird things to do.  I completely forgot my driver’s license expired last month on my birthday and had to rush out to get it renewed.  I really don’t keep track of my age at all any more so I forgot the entire divisible-by-four thing.  I also have been rushing around doing odds and ends that have just been driving me nuts.  It just seems life is just one complex set of paperwork to fill out for someone or another these days.  This week I had to prove all kinds of things to all kinds of people.  I guess no one takes you at face value any more.  We’ve turned into a nation where you have to show every one your papers.  It made the week a combination of something Kafkaesque and Stalinesque.   I simultaneously wanted to laugh, cry, and slap people multiple times this week.

There’s an interesting article at The Atlantic on how the economic recovery is affecting women differently from men. The article is called “The Recession was Sexist (So is the Recovery)” and it’s worth a read. It’s written by Jordan Weissmann.

Since November 2010, 70% of new jobs have gone to men. At first blush that sounds reasonable. If men lost more jobs, they should also recoup more. The problem crops up when you look at the number of job gains as a fraction of losses. Men have regained about a third of the jobs they shed in the recession. Women have only regained about one in five.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a gender gap. And it’s not clear whether it will narrow. In November, female job gains actually outpaced males, 65,000 to 55,000. But going forward, women are going to have to contend with one of the most nastiest forces in job market: government budgets.
As the graphic to the left shows, women far outnumber men on state and local government payrolls, especially in public schools. Early in the recession, those employers were propped up by stimulus money. No longer. We live in an age of belt tightening, and government employees are being shown the door by the thousands. Last month, state and municipal payrolls shrank by 16,000 workers. There’s no sign of the trend letting up.

If you want to see the graphs that go with the discussion, you should check the article out. The trend is really noticeable.

There’s also continued filibusters from Mitch McConnell of anything that could remotely help the unemployed, families hurt by recession, and anything that looks like it might have gone near the President. I can’t believe all this belligerence is a winning strategy for them, but only time will tell. As much as I’ve had problems with Obama, McConnell’s got me so hopping mad and the clown set running for the Republican nomination have me more distressed. I’ve never seen a bunch of more mean-spirited, ignorant, hateful, religious fanatics in my life. In this situation, Obama is definitely the lesser of evils. This is an election that will bring the definition of evil to a new nadir. There’s not a woman- or child-friendly politician to be had any where.

The filibuster — a stall tactic that requires time-consuming motions and 60 votes to overcome — can be used on virtually all Senate business, including on whether to even bring up bills for debate.

Democrats say Republican tactics this week will come back to haunt them. On Thursday, Republicans are well-positioned to filibuster the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For weeks, the GOP has demanded several changes to the bureau to roll back its powers.

Democrats say it’s “the first time in history” that a nominee will be blocked because of the concerns over the agency that the person was selected by the president to head — rather than the qualifications of the nominee.

“I said to some of my Republican colleagues, ‘Do you want this to happen when someday there’ll be a Republican president?’” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “It’s clearly a terrible precedent.”

en. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said he didn’t think any minority should adopt such tactics that he called “highly dangerous for the country.”

Republicans are highly dubious of the claims, saying there’s nothing unusual over holding up nominees until legitimate concerns over policy are addressed.

“This is the first time in history that I’m aware of that an agency of this kind has been created,” said Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), a member of the Senate Banking Committee.

The tit-for-tat has been going on since Tuesday when Republicans sustained a filibuster by a 54-45 vote on the Halligan nomination to the D.C. appellate court, accusing President Barack Obama of nominating an “activist judge” hostile to gun rights.

But Democrats said she was a well-qualified nominee with an exemplary résumé, and that the standard set by the so-called Gang of 14 senators in 2005 to only filibuster judicial nominees in “extraordinary circumstances” had been effectively nullifed.

Ruemmler, the White House counsel, said she could “rattle off a litany of folks who would be on any Republican shortlist” that would be rejected under the new standard, like attorney Paul Clement who is representing Republicans in the House in defending the Defense of Marriage Act. But she said it would be “ridiculous” if Democrats did that over such an ideological dispute.

The White House points to 20 judicial nominees awaiting Senate action, several of whom would fill posts considered “emergency” vacancies, and officials complain that the chamber is moving at a much slower pace now than it was when Bush was in office.

Iran has been showing film of a captured US drone. There’s been confirmation now that the film is authentic and so is the drone. This confirms some of the rumors floating around earlier this week.

Iran’s Press TV said that the Iranian army’s “electronic warfare unit” brought down the drone on 4 December as it was flying over the city of Kashmar.

Brig General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace unit, told Iranian media that the drone “fell into the trap” of the unit “who then managed to land it with minimum damage”.

He said Iran was “well aware of what priceless technological information” could be gleaned from the aircraft.

Nato said at the weekend that an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week when its operators lost control of it.

Pentagon officials have said they are concerned about Iran possibly acquiring information about the technology.


I still haven’t gotten used to seeing armadillos all around the place since I moved down here. Looks like Kentucky is going to have to get used to them too as they are moving north and east.
The move started in the 1980s and has been increasing since then. Like many local critters, they appear to be moving north with climates getting warmer.

“The first road-killed armadillo I encountered in Kentucky was in 2003, and the first live one I saw was in 2006,” said John MacGregor, a herpetologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

MacGregor said in recent years there have been several confirmed sightings by staff biologists in eastern and south central Kentucky.

Steve Bonney, northeastern region wildlife coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, encountered a road-killed armadillo in Rowan County in 2009 on the way to work. “I routinely record road kills. When I saw what I thought was an armadillo, my radar went off,” said Bonney. “It kind of shocked me.”

When Bonney arrived at work, he immediately drove back to the site of the road kill on Ky. 801 in Farmers, Kentucky to photograph and pick up the armadillo.

Of the 20 known species of armadillos, the nine-banded armadillo is the most widely distributed. It is the only armadillo species to have ventured north of Mexico. Today, the nine-banded armadillo is established as far east as South Carolina and as far west as southern Nebraska. Loughry said range expansion “has been consistent over the years, and is the continuation of a long-term trend.”

But what biologists can’t agree on is why range expansion is occurring so fast. Factors that may be fueling this expansion include: climate change, the armadillo’s general adaptability, its high reproductive rate and little desire on the part of humans to hunt or eat armadillos.

The two most likely things to cause armadillo mortality are getting run over by vehicles on roads or being eaten by coyotes.

If any of them amble up to a neighborhood near you, here’s some cajun recipes for those of you brave enough to try them.

Here’s an interesting interview with Bruce Judson on the Societal Dangers of income inequality. Judson is a professor of management that specializes in entrepreneurship at Yale School of Managment.  He has a new e-book coming out on making capitalism work for the 99%. BC is Bryce Covert of ND 2.0.

BC: What does inequality mean for the middle class, which is the foundation of our country’s economy?

BJ: Early America lacked the class barriers then prevalent in Europe: Everyone mixed with each other. This led the more fortunate to have empathy and a visceral understanding for the problems of the less fortunate. As economic inequality has increased, we see far less mixing among people at different income levels. Now everyone has less of a sense that they are part of one large community and that we have a responsibility to each other.

Political theorists, going back to Aristotle, have all concluded that a vibrant middle class is essential for a vibrant democracy. The members of the middle class hope to move up, so they want mobility to remain a desirable option, but they also fear moving down, so they are more likely to support a social safety net. In essence, the middle is the group that ensures stability as a barrier to legislative extremes that unduly reward the wealthy or harm the poor.

Unfortunately, inequality that chips away at the middle class can lead to violence. There was violence that occurred in the Depression, with riots in the Midwest. People also started to take the law into their own hands. In penny auctions, after your farm was foreclosed on, you showed up at the courthouse with all of your friends — farmers who had their rifles with them — and took over the bidding and bought back your farm for penny. As income inequality increases, the dispossessed may start to feel they have been treated unfairly and things can get ugly.

BC: Your work also predicted revolution. What’s your current take?

BJ: The book did not predict revolution. The book said that if we allow income inequality to continue growing unchecked, then we would face a high risk of political instability or revolution. We discussed earlier how the book detailed a series of stages, or a narrative, for how growing economic inequality can lead to social upheaval. Unfortunately the narrative I detailed seems to be happening.

My best estimate is we have now passed through 60 percent of the narrative. A lot needs to happen before the risk of political instability becomes a reality. I am hopeful that with inequality now on the national agenda, we will see the reforms needed.

So, there’s a lot of juicy stuff in that interview including Judson’s take on the Occupy movement.

BC: Does the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement make you more or less hopeful for the nation’s future?

BJ: It absolutely makes me hopeful that we will start to see some meaningful reforms. The Occupy movement is casting a bright and unforgiving light on some of the unacceptable practices in our society that, sadly, have become commonplace.

I believe the Occupy movement is not going away. The reason it grew so quickly is that it was the flashpoint for the country’s anger and widespread feelings of unfairness. It’s almost inevitable that in some way it will expand to include people who feel they’ve been unfairly foreclosed on, the record numbers of Americans experiencing long-term unemployment, and many of the unemployed in general who feel they’ve been cheated out of the opportunity to work – mainstream America.

The danger is that if the Occupy movement does not succeed, and nothing takes its place, we will move further along the narrative I described.

So, that’s my offerings this morning. I have a few more paper chases to do today before I settle in for the weekend. I’m thinking I’ll end this week with a nice long soak in the tub, some read wine, and the new Vanity Fair with the Gaga in red pic on the cover. I’m going to read about the romance between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip and look at all those really old photos. I’d say that out to put reality out of my mind for awhile. Okay, I’m going to read the Stiglitz article first (Fix the Economy? What Obama and the GOP won’t tell you). Then, I’m going to read Christopher Hitchens on Nietzsche, then I’ll do the Queen’s young romance. So, okay, I”ll give you one taste.

Hitchens describes chemotherapy.  This is something I know well.  I also know what it’s like to kiss death and know that it hovers over your bed waiting for you to move closer to its embrace.

I often grandly say that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it’s true. Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking.

These are progressive weaknesses that in a more “normal” life might have taken decades to catch up with me. But, as with the normal life, one finds that every passing day represents more and more relentlessly subtracted from less and less. In other words, the process both etiolates you and moves you nearer toward death. How could it be otherwise? Just as I was beginning to reflect along these lines, I came across an article on the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. We now know, from dearly bought experience, much more about this malady than we used to. Apparently, one of the symptoms by which it is made known is that a tough veteran will say, seeking to make light of his experience, that “what didn’t kill me made me stronger.” This is one of the manifestations that “denial” takes.

I am attracted to the German etymology of the word “stark,” and its relative used by Nietzsche, stärker, which means “stronger.” In Yiddish, to call someone a shtarker is to credit him with being a militant, a tough guy, a hard worker. So far, I have decided to take whatever my disease can throw at me, and to stay combative even while taking the measure of my inevitable decline. I repeat, this is no more than what a healthy person has to do in slower motion. It is our common fate. In either case, though, one can dispense with facile maxims that don’t live up to their apparent billing.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!

If you’ve read some of my threads for some time, you know that I am fascinated by the right wing meme that Obama is some kind of Marxist or Socialist or secret Muslim when it is pretty clear that he is aligned with major corporations promoting monopoly.  It is very much in the interests of corporations promoting monopoly to convince people that their enemies are immigrant workers, Raj in Bangalore, or the poor minority family down the street that needs assistance.  It takes every one’s minds off the real issues and the true targets.

Even under Free Trade agreements, the government doesn’t have to provide tax incentives and deductions to corporations that make vertical production moves to poor countries feasible and profitable.  Even with assistance to the poor and elderly, that doesn’t mean that the government can’t provide good roads, translucence and oversight to the operations of markets, and ensure job conditions where every one is safe and can earn a working wage.  Large corporations and power interests thrive on selling the idea of a zero sum game or a pie that is only so big.   The U.S. pie is pretty big right now, although finite at any point in time. It grows with technology and better use of resources. The biggest pieces of the pie–our national income–are not going to Raj in Bangalore, the family needing assistance down the street, the elderly couple surviving on social security, or the immigrants who come to the United States looking for jobs in the worst of situations.  We are all in the same wobbly, leaky boat.  We exist in a boat with those who are trying to survive on wages that never keep up with costs and with continual  fear of job loss and illness that will cost everything.  The rich don’t really have that fear.  The anxiety of having to live with a car that’s more than a few years old or a less exotic vacation is not a real fear. It’s neuroses. Those folks don’t want us in their boats.  They want us all crammed into the wobbly, leaking boat feeling so insecure that we consider tossing our neighbor overboard to the sharks.

Okay, so it’s a reads link, and where am I going with this at a time when you’re still probably drinking your first cup of coffee?    My new issue of Vanity Fair came last night.  I got to thinking more and more about those people that want to egg us into tossing our neighbors to the sharks.

Now, I know all the issues people can have with Christopher Hitchens but despite these, his latest in VF is a must read.  Unfortunately, it’s not out there on line so you may have to find the print edition.  His latest diatribe is on the Tea Party and Glenn Beck raises the specter of an organization that has always represented some of the worst of the American conservative movement;  The John Birch Society. The JBS is so despicable that William F. Buckley Jr. spent a large amount of time trying to get them out of the Republican Party back in the day.  There is really very little left of the ‘intellectual’–if you can call it that–side of that conservative movement ushered in by Buckley and the JBS has moved back in to fill the void.  They do so in their worst form. This is typed in from my print edition of VF.

“So, Beck’s “9/12 Project” is canalizing old racist and clerical toxic-waste material that a healthy society had mostly flushed out of its system more than a generation ago, and injecting in right back in again.  Things that had hidden under stones are being dug up and re-released. And why?  So as to teach us a new about the dangers of “spending and deficits”?  It’s enough to make a cat laugh.  No, a whole new audience has been created, including many impressionable young people, for ideas that are viciously anti-democratic and a historical. The full effect of this will be felt farther down the road, where we will need it even less.

Hitchens spends quite some time going over some of the things that point to a resurgence of the JBS including the absolutely lunatic notion that Bill and Hillary Clinton had anything to do with Vince Foster’s death. You may recall that Hitchens is no fan of the Clintons.

Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin  and the Tea Party are the ideological descendants of Robert Welch who denounced President Eisenhower as a “dedicated, conscious agent” of Communism.  Now, we’re getting the same filth but it’s about President Obama.  They did try it with President Clinton but  it didn’t settle in then.  For some reason, it’s taking with President Obama.  There are racial dynamics at play here, there are the dynamics of his absentee sperm donor, and there are dynamics that make demagoguery more possible because of the bad economy.  My fear is that these people–as well as the nutjobs in ‘The Family’–would love to see things worsen because it would justify more and more of their fascist ways as well as hand them more profits. That we have a President that seems to play into their hands–while at the same time is used as a symbol of everything they feel is wrong with American–is just a cruel irony. These conversations and labels would go away if Obama would change parties.

So, the worst read to suggest today is one that Glenn Beck suggests and has made the top item at Amazon. You probably don’t need to read the book. But google some of the excerpts available in studies and on the web.  Hitchens calls this book a “demented screed”.   This is exactly why we must be aware of it and what it suggests.  The book is by W. Cleon Skousen and it is called The Five Thousand Year Leap. Skousen’s other book is called Naked Communism. His views were so radical and so out there, that the JBS  and many others kept him at a safe distance.  However, his theoretical based world view attracted Tim LaHaye in the 1980s.  He planted enough seeds that they’ve taken root and grown.  Skousen wrote things that were beyond inflammatory.  He too thought Eisenhower was a communist agent.

“In The Naked Communist, a lengthy primer published in 1958, Skousen enlivened a survey of the worldwide leftist threat with outlandish claims, writing that F.D.R.’s adviser Harry Hopkins had treasonously delivered to the Soviets a large supply of uranium, and that the Russians built the first Sputnik with plans stolen from the United States. A year before Richard Condon’s novel The Manchurian Candidate appeared, Skousen announced that the Communists were creating ‘a regimented breed of Pavlovian men whose minds could be triggered into immediate action by signals from their masters’ … A later book, The Naked Capitalist, decried the Ivy League Establishment, who, through the Federal Reserve, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Rockefeller Foundation, formed ‘the world’s secret power structure.’ The conspiracy had begun, Skousen wrote, when reformers like the wealthy banker Edward M. House, a close adviser to President Woodrow Wilson, helped put into place the Federal Reserve and the graduated income tax … In 1981, he produced The 5,000 Year Leap, a treatise that assembles selective quotations and groundless assertions to claim that the U.S. Constitution is rooted not in the Enlightenment but in the Bible, and that the framers believed in minimal central government.”

Sean Wilentz, Princeton University historian

Notice that a progressive income tax and the Federal Reserve are at the heart of his radical attacks. It is not the least coincidental that Beck recommends this book and the Tea Party voices these opinions.

[MABlue update: Hitchen’s article has now been uploaded. You can read it here.]

On a side note, that Princeton historian Sean Wilentz  wrote an article calling  George W. Bush  the “The Worst President in History’ for the Rolling Stone and was an outspoken Hillary supporter in 2008.  You can read the Rolling Stone article at Truth Out. But to our main point, Dr. Wilentz was featured in an npr story in October talking about the parallels between the extremism in the 1950s and Beck’s 9/12 movement. He sees the JBS as an active component.

Wilentz, who teaches at Princeton University, argues that the rhetoric expressed by both conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck and the Tea Party is nothing new — and is rooted in an extremist ideology that has been around since the Cold War, a view that the Republican Party is now embracing.

“I think what’s happening is the Republican Party is willing to chase after whatever it can to get the party back — to get power back,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “This is what’s happening in the Republican Party, so instead of drawing lines, they’re jumping over fences to look like they’re in the good graces of these Tea Party types.”

Wilentz says Beck, who has emerged as a unifying figure and intellectual guide for the Tea Party movement, finds fodder for his Fox News Channel and syndicated radio shows in the ideas espoused by the John Birch Society, an ultraconservative political group founded in 1958 that, Wilentz writes, “became synonymous with right-wing extremism.

“It’s a version of history that demonizes the progressive era, particularly Woodrow Wilson,” Wilentz says. “It sees it as the beginning of America’s going down the road to totalitarianism, which ends in Beck’s version with Barack Obama.”

Particularly troublesome, Wilentz says, are the gross historical inaccuracies Beck makes on his Fox show, which now reaches more than 2 million people each day.

This interview also highlights some of the historical inaccuracies made by Beck on his show.  Much of what the movement does is rewrite history and Beck is a master of making it up as he goes along.  Most revisions are very frightening and many people actually believe them.  I’m going to reference the JBS example.  BTW, the John Birch Society is very much functional and has a presence on the web.  you can find them here.

On the John Birch Society

“The John Birch Society was founded in 1958 at a meeting in Indianapolis in which Robert Welch presided for a couple of days and read his manifesto of what’s going wrong [in America]. … The idea was the John Birch Society was going to influence local politics. They saw the country as having been taken over by the totalitarianists — by the communists. So they were going to try and undo that. And Welch says in the Blue Book, ‘You know, it hasn’t come to a military conflict quite yet. We don’t have to overthrow these guys with a violent revolution.’ So there’s still a possibility for political action. And that’s what the John Birch Society was devoted to: education and political action so that their people would get involved in local politics so the right people and the correct people would get elected to the school board, which was very important in deciding what kinds of books students would be reading in public schools. They wanted to make sure that the right kinds of people were running and getting elected. … Somewhere by the early ’60s, it was estimated that they had as many as 100,000 members around the country but many, many more sympathizers.”

On the John Birch Society and racism

“The John Birch Society wanted to have nothing to do with segregation, wanted nothing to do with any of that as an expression of white supremacy. However, they did oppose all of the civil rights laws because they saw it as an overleaning federal government taking control of people’s lives, of overstepping its boundaries. So they opposed all of that.”

Beck is the public voice and face of a movement to make the JBS and its horrible views palatable and there is no Bill Buckley to fight them in the Republican Party.  Many of the Republican Party are welcoming these folks which should give us all pause.  ABC’s The Note had an article on the participation by the JBS in 2010 as a co-sponsor of CPAC.  This is from February 19, 2010.

According to Ian Walters, a spokesman for CPAC, it’s the first time the John Birch Society has sponsored the conference.  That’s not surprising, considering that the Birch Society has long been considered wacky and extreme by conservative leaders.

William F. Buckley famously denounced the John Birch Society and its founder Robert Welch in the early 1960s as “idiotic” and “paranoid. ”  Buckley’s condemnation effectively banishing the group from the mainstream conservative movement.  Welch had called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a “conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy” and that the U.S. government was “under operational control of the Communist party.”  Buckley argued that such paranoid rantings had no place in the conservative movement or the Republican party.

However, Beck and others have brought them back like some kind of 1950s movie zombies.  Remember this group feels that civil right legislation is inspired by communism.  One of their first publications was a call to get the US out of the UN.  They also wants to abolish the income tax and the Federal Reserve.  Are any of these calls sounding remotely familiar to you?  Here’s more information from Source Watch. PublicEye.org also has some of the more outrageously antisemitic and racist views held by members of JBS.  When these things come to light, JBS purges their public faces, but the antisemitism and the racism remain.

These people are undoubtedly back in the Republican party and have sympathizers in the ranks of elected officials like Jon Kyl and Rand Paul.  Many of the things you read in the JBS list of goals are the things you hear from the lips of  Tea Party and Beck aficionados.  The roots of those nutty conversations about taking up arms and revolution are easy to find in the writings of Welsh and Skousen.  They are also heard daily on the Beck show and they are spouted at rallies by populist right wing icons like Huckabee and Palin. We should not be condemned to repeat this part of our past,  please.  You can only imagine how evil they are if Bill Buckley felt they were worth purging.

In more current news, if you’ve been watching MSNBC at all, you know that both Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann have taken on the Obama Tax compromise. Have all the MSNBC anchors lost that loving feeling?

Michael Bloomberg announced that he had no interest in running for President in 2012.  He did urge policy makers to take more centrist approaches.

This week we will undoubtedly have live links up following the votes on the Tax cuts/Unemployment extension, DADT, and the Dream Act.  The President is begging liberal democrats to ‘not topple the economy’ by rejecting his deal with McConnell. That alone should be an interesting kabuki today.

[MABlue’s picks?]
Democrats promised to alter the “Deal” before agreeing to it. I don’t know if they have done so, but I just saw this:
Democrats in Senate warming to tax deal

Senate leaders are planning to begin debate on a far-reaching tax package as soon as Thursday as rank-and-file Democrats warm to an agreement between the White House and Republicans to extend a host of expiring tax cuts and pump fresh cash into the economy.
Democrats were still angry Wednesday about what they viewed as President Obama’s capitulation to GOP demands to preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, particularly a deal to exempt estates worth as much as $10 million from a revived inheritance tax. But lawmakers said the magnitude of the concessions Obama won came into sharper focus Wednesday as the White House highlighted independent forecasts predicting that the package could create as many as 2.2 million jobs next year.

What does that mean? They didn’t understand “The Deal” the first time around?

Are we about to execute an innocent man (again)? These type of stories are the main reason I’m (speaking for me only) against the death penalty.
Framed for Murder?

“California may be about to execute an innocent man.”

That’s the view of five federal judges in a case involving Kevin Cooper, a black man in California who faces lethal injection next year for supposedly murdering a white family. The judges argue compellingly that he was framed by police.

Mr. Cooper’s impending execution is so outrageous that it has produced a mutiny among these federal circuit court judges, distinguished jurists just one notch below the United States Supreme Court. But the judicial process has run out for Mr. Cooper. Now it’s up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to decide whether to commute Mr. Cooper’s sentence before leaving office.

Is corruption more preponderant in Louisiana? Kat, what’s up with that?
Senate, for Just the 8th Time, Votes to Oust a Federal Judge

The Senate on Wednesday found Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of Federal District Court in Louisiana guilty on four articles of impeachment and removed him from the bench, the first time the Senate has ousted a federal judge in more than two decades.

Judge Porteous, the eighth federal judge to be removed from office in this manner, was impeached by the House in March on four articles stemming from charges that he received cash and favors from lawyers who had dealings in his court, used a false name to elude creditors and intentionally misled the Senate during his confirmation proceedings.

Come join the conversation and share the information!!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

I read the news today, OH BOY!

If I was in need of a mini-vacation then I have to tell you that reading the latest Vanity Fair was not going to do it for me.  There were three articles that brought me down to earth with a thud!  One was the account by Christopher Hitchens who voluntarily underwent water boarding and concluded that it really is torture.  I think the most valuable quote I got from the article was bolded and oversized and said  “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”

Hitchens was one of the biggest drummers in the drumbeat to the Iraq War. This article is about four pages and has some very close up and big pictures showing the manner in which George Bush has defined the “American Way’ to the world.  You can also find a video of his experiences on youtube.  It is not for the faint of heart and I’ll let you google it.

The second article was a dissection of Hillary’s campaign.  This was a depressing walk down the first six months of  the year.  My favorite part of the article was this bit:

“The air began to go out of Barack Obama’s balloon on the night of March 13, when ABC News ran clips from inflammatory sermons by the pastor from an Afro-centric church in Chicago, in which Reverend Jeremiah Wright twisted “God Bless America’ into “God Damn America.”  Then on April 11, less than two weeks before the Pennsylvania vote, Penn read comments on the Huffington Post from a closed door speech Obama had given at a San Francisco fund-raiser.  He seized on Obama’s characterization of small-town, working class Pennsylvania voters as “bitter’ because of economic distress and disposed to cling to “guns or religion.”

This was the turning point that came a little too late for Hillary but still is turning on Barrack Obama.  Of course, after we were told that this was NOT the Jermiah Wright Obama knew, he moved on.  After the FISA vote today, I’m sure there are a lot of folks saying this is not the Obama they thought THEY knew.  Obama has now decided that granting Telecom companies immunity for conspiring to spy on American citizens is acceptable. Perhaps this version is not the IMMUNITY GRANT he once knew and swore he’d filibuster.  He voted for it. Hillary stood by her convictions and voted against it.

This came after a week of selling-out on so many issues so noticeably that we caught a rare morsel of the frustration of black activists on primetime with Jesse Jackson’s poignant but crude remark.  He wanted to “cut off Obama’s nuts” for “talking down to black people on morality” without mentioning the bigger issues of many young black men who grow up in neighborhoods filled with violence, horrid schools, and Mt. Everest-level unemployment rates. I’m pretty sure NARAL felt that way too when Obama implied that women will seek unnecessary third term abortions just because they feel a little ‘blue’.  However, nice ladies talk about removing men’s private parts away from live microphones

The final article was about the Bear Sterns bailout.  This was again pertinent since we’re now talking about multi-million dollar bailouts of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.  Ben Bernanke has been on the stump for expanded regulatory powers of the Fed in the mortgage and mortgage derivatives markets.  Afterall, if they’re stuck with these nonperforming assets on the tax payer’s books, they might as well have the ability to stop these demons of greed before they strike again. This while more foreclosures are imminent and the illustrious Secretary of the Treasury says there’s no way to bail out the poor unfortunates stuck into risky mortgage vehicles because banks really wanted some high points.  This is going to be no solace to anyone shortly.  Even if you are making your mortgage payment, it only takes a few neighbors not paying to put your home’s equity on a downward spiral.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard NADA, zilch, ZIP, NOTHING about this big problem from either of the presidential candidates.  Probably because Obama’s finance committee and big donors are mostly the folks that created this problem and well, let’s face it, I’ve never met a Republican willing to go mano-y-mano with the American Banker’s Association.

All of this after I woke up to the news that Iran had just successfully tested a new long range missile capable of hitting Israel AND carrying a nuclear warhead.  Of course, the Russians and Chinese, those folks whose sudden turn to capitalism has made them friends of Dubya, had something to do with this.  As far as I can tell, once a totalitarian regime, ALWAYS a totalitarian regime. But you know, it’s more important that George gets to wave from the stands of the Olympic Opening ceremonies rather than stand for anything like, NOT throwing folks in prison for disagreeing with the government.  OH, right, I forgot, that’s what could happen with the FISA thing and Obama voted for it and McCain just didn’t think it significant enough to show up and do anything about.  Plus, Obama is just looking forward to getting elected so he can have a kumbayah moment with these guys. Yeah, that’s going to work real well.  Perhaps he can send Jesse and Jeremiah over there to soften them up a bit.

So, this is the best our democracy offers us–two men who have no compass to point out what is right or wrong.

Two men who will say and do anything to be president while the newspapers are filled with situations outlining serious problems that need solutions.  Next time I feel like a good summer read, I think I’ll find a good comic book.   Maybe I’ll look for some thing from Japan with one of those Ninja warriors that takes on all the injustices of the world and lives by the samauri code.  Maybe we can find one that will fight for truth, justice and the American way.