Monday Reads: Political Ink

Clinton

Good Morning!

Here’s a little bit of this and that to get  your political juices flowing for the week.

The NYT profiles potential FED chair candidate La La Summers as some one that has many flaws but much power and personal wealth.  He has the credentials and the connections but does he really have the gravitas for the job?

Mr. Summers’s wealth comes mainly from two periods of private sector work between government postings. After a lengthy tenure at the Treasury Department in the 1990s, he became the president of Harvard — a job that Robert E. Rubin, who preceded Mr. Summers as Treasury secretary, helped him obtain.

But in 2006, Mr. Summers was forced out of the university presidency for a variety of reasons, including remarks he made questioning why few women engage in advanced scientific and mathematical work. Soon after, a young Harvard alum brought him into the hedge fund world with a part-time posting at D. E. Shaw. That firm, one of the largest in the industry, paid Mr. Summers more than $5 million.

Mr. Summers’s wealth soared from around $400,000 in the mid-1990s to between $7 million and $31 million in 2009, when he joined the Obama administration, according to a financial disclosure he filed at the time. Before returning to government service, he earned $2.7 million from speeches in one year alone.

As for his current work, representatives for Citigroup, Nasdaq and D. E. Shaw declined to disclose his pay. His speaking rates today run into the six figures, according to an associate who spoke on the condition of anonymity, and Mr. Summers has spoken to Wall Street companies like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.

The job that is likely to generate the most scrutiny for Mr. Summers is his work with Citigroup, which was rescued from the brink of bankruptcy by the federal government’s bailout. Though he does not have an office there, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said he was a regular consultant. In a statement, Citigroup said he provided “insight on a broad range of topics including the global and domestic economy” to prestigious clients, and attended internal meetings.

Citigroup hired Mr. Summers in part to advise Vikram S. Pandit, who resigned as chief executive last year. With his work there, Mr. Summers followed in the footsteps of his friend, Mr. Rubin, who joined Citigroup after he left the government and earned more than $100 million.

Another political analyst–this one writing for Bloomberg–thinks that the Republicans are inching towards civil war and that the next election may look like n0d9jfk1964.  The focus has been on the Paul-Christie rift.

As Republicans continue to sort through their future, having lost the popular vote for president in five of the last six elections, they are having intramural battles with echoes of 1964, when Barry Goldwater won the nomination at a convention rife with division over the role of the U.S. in the world and civil rights at home. Derided as an extremist, he went on to lose to President Lyndon Johnson in a landslide.

Now, Republicans are squabbling over the National Security Agency surveillance program, immigration and gay marriage. The Christie-Paul rift last week highlighted the divide, with the governor calling the senator’s criticism of the NSA program “dangerous” and the Kentuckian responding that his critic must have forgotten the Bill of Rights.

“It’s always healthy to have discussions from different wings of the party as the party works on its identity going into the midterms,” said LaTourette, who chose not to seek re-election to Congress in 2012 citing the extreme positions among some of his Republican colleagues. “It wouldn’t be so healthy if this was next year or 2015 and the focus is on who the presidential nominee will be.

Martin Luther King III has a written a book on what it meant to grow up the footsteps of his father. Even better, you can get it to read with your child or grandchildren because it is written for children!!  You can read about or listen to an NPR interview with King here.

Martin Luther King III recounts this and other stories from his childhood in his new children’s book, My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Martin Luther King III had been thinking about writing about his child’s-eye view of his father for almost a decade, but the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington became a personal deadline. The book, written for young children, has just been published, three weeks ahead of the anniversary.

Now Martin Luther King III and his wife, Andrea, have a 5-year-old daughter, Yolanda Renée. She was named for Martin Luther King III’s oldest sister, who died suddenly in 2006. In the book, young Martin Luther King III tells readers about the games he played with his father.

Martin Luther King III also retells stories of accompanying his father on marches from time to time. On one, they were confronted by a police officer “with a huge dog that growled at me. I was terrified.” That is, he was scared until his dad took his hand and told him they would be fine.

“I felt safe. My dad was not a tall man, but he always made me feel like he was a giant. I was never afraid when I was with him,” Martin Luther King III writes.

Long after his father’s death, Martin Luther King III has had to deal with others’ expectations that he would take up the cause. King is deeply grateful that decades ago, his mother relieved him of some of that pressure.

“You don’t have to be your father,” Coretta Scott King told him. “Just be your best self, whatever that is. We are going to support you.”

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This has to be the worst use of tax dollars that I’ve seen in years. A report shows State-Funded Crisis Pregnancy Centers Talk Women Out Of Birth Control and Condoms. Is this really the way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions?

When a woman walked into a state-funded “crisis pregnancy center” in Manassas, Va., this summer and told the counselor she might be pregnant, she was told that condoms don’t actually prevent STDs and that birth control frequently causes hair loss, memory loss, headaches, weight gain, fatal blood clots and breast cancer.

“The first three ingredients in the birth control pill are carcinogens,” the CPC counselor said, adding that she always tries to talk women out of taking it.

The counselor also told the woman that condoms are not effective at preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases because they are “naturally porous.”

“Safe sex is a joke,” she said. “There’s no such thing.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia recorded the exchange, released Wednesday, as part of its undercover investigation into the 58 state-funded “crisis pregnancy centers” in Virginia. The organizations are part of a national network of about 2,500 Christian centers that advertise health and pregnancy services, but do not offer abortions, contraception or prenatal care. Instead, they are intended to talk women out of having abortions and to advocate abstinence until marriage.

These organizations receive state money through the sale of “Choose Life” license plates at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, sponsored the legislation that established that fundraising system during his time in the state senate.

NARAL sent undercover women into several crisis pregnancy centers throughout Virginia and recorded their interactions. The investigation revealed that 71 percent of the CPCs in Virginia give out medically inaccurate information about the health consequences and effectiveness of birth control, condoms and abortion.

According to the report, in addition to criticizing the use of birth control and condoms, 40 of the CPCs told women that abortion causes long-term psychological damage and leads women to develop eating disorders and drug addictions. One counselor allegedly told NARAL’s undercover investigator that if she was a certain blood type, the abortion could cause her body to create antibodies that would attack her fetus the next time she tried to get pregnant.

Greg Mitchell recalls interviewing the man that dropped the A-Bomb on Hiroshima in this blog post.

Paul W. Tibbets, pilot of the plane, the “Enola Gay” (named for his mother), which dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. died at 92 in 2007,  defending the bombing to the end of his life. Some of the obits noted that he had requested no funeral or headstone for his grave, not wishing to create an opportunity for protestors to gather.

I had a chance to interview Tibbets nearly 30 years ago, and wrote about it for several newspapers and magazines and in the book I wrote with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America.

The hook for the interview was this: While spending a month in Japan on a grant in 1984, I met a man named Akihiro Takahashi. He was one of the many child victims of the atomic attack, but unlike most of them, he survived (though with horrific burns and other injuries), and grew up to become a director of the memorial museum in Hiroshima. The August 6 bombing led to the deaths of at least 75,000 people in a flash and at least that many more in the days and years that followed. At least 90% of them were civilians, mainly women and children.

Takahashi showed me personal letters to and from Tibbets, which had led to a remarkable meeting between the two elderly men in Washington, D.C. At that recent meeting, Takahashi expressed forgiveness, admitted Japan?s aggression and cruelty in the war, and then pressed Tibbets to acknowledge that the indiscriminate bombing of civilians was always wrong.

But the pilot (who had not met one of the Japanese survivors previously) was non-committal in his response, while volunteering that wars were a very bad idea in the nuclear age. Takahashi swore he saw a tear in the corner of one of Tibbets’ eyes.

So, on May 6, 1985, I called Tibbets at his office at Executive Jet Aviation in Columbus, Ohio, and in surprisingly short order, he got on the horn. He confirmed the meeting with Takahashi (he agreed to do that only out of “courtesy”) and most of the details, but scoffed at the notion of shedding any tears over the bombing. That was, in fact, “bullshit.”
“I’ve got a standard answer on that,” he informed me, referring to guilt. “I felt nothing about i.” .I’m sorry for Takahashi and the others who got burned up down there, but I felt sorry for those who died at Pearl Harbor, too….People get mad when I say this but — it was as impersonal as could be. There wasn’t anything personal as far as I?m concerned, so I had no personal part in it.

“It wasn’t my decision to make morally, one way or another. I did what I was told — I didn’t invent the bomb, I just dropped the damn thing. It was a success, and that’s where I?ve left it. I can assure you that I sleep just as peacefully as anybody can sleep.”  When August 6 rolled around each year “sometimes people have to tell me. To me it’s just another day.”

So, we have a few Texas Sky Dancers here. This Guardian article on Texas being all Oil and no Water is kind’ve frightening.

Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.

“The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes,” she said, blinking back tears. “I went: ‘dear God help us. That was the first thought that came to mind.”

Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted.

Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry’s outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse.

In Texas alone, about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Nearly 15 million people are living under some form of water rationing, barred from freely sprinkling their lawns or refilling their swimming pools. In Barnhart’s case, the well appears to have run dry because the water was being extracted for shale gas fracking.

The town — a gas station, a community hall and a taco truck – sits in the midst of the great Texan oil rush, on the eastern edge of the Permian basin.

A few years ago, it seemed like a place on the way out. Now McGuire said she can see nine oil wells from her back porch, and there are dozens of RVs parked outside town, full of oil workers.

But soon after the first frack trucks pulled up two years ago, the well on McGuire’s property ran dry.

No-one in Barnhart paid much attention at the time, and McGuire hooked up to the town’s central water supply. “Everyone just said: ‘too bad’. Well now it’s all going dry,” McGuire said.

Ranchers dumped most of their herds. Cotton farmers lost up to half their crops. The extra draw down, coupled with drought, made it impossible for local ranchers to feed and water their herds, said Buck Owens. In a good year, Owens used to run 500 cattle and up to 8,000 goats on his 7,689 leased hectares (19,000 acres). Now he’s down to a few hundred goats.

The drought undoubtedly took its toll but Owens reserved his anger for the contractors who drilled 104 water wells on his leased land, to supply the oil companies.

 

So, what is on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Summer Vacation Edition

sophia-loren-1961Good Morning!!

Still a little bit left of summer vacation left and I am sure some of you are hitting the road.  It’s still hot down here in New Orleans but this weekend is Satchmo Summer Fest.  Every little festival weekend is like a ready made holiday for me!  I will probably go listen to some music and taste some home cooking!

There’s the usual this and that sorta stuff out there.  Here is one helluva depressing take on a man that kidnapped and brutalized women for years.  “Most of the sex… was consensual.”  Yeah. RIGHT.  Three young women held captive for 11 years and of course, they asked for it.

Ariel Castro’s words at his sentencing hearing on Thursday are almost jaw-dropping. Given a chance to speak before he was sentenced to life in prison, plus a thousand years for aggravated murder and for holding three young women captive for 11 years, he repeatedly blamed his victims.

He denied he raped and beat Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, claiming instead that they asked him for sex and that his sexual addiction was to blame. He even said the abuse couldn’t have been that bad because DeJesus “looks normal.” While many onlookers were astonished, abuse experts said they hear that kind of language and justification every day.

NBC News asked them to weigh in on specific comments Castro made:

Most of the sex that went on in that house, probably all of it, was consensual,” Castro said. “These allegations about being forceful on them — that is totally wrong. Because there was times where they’d even ask me for sex –many times. And I learned that these girls were not virgins. From their testimony to me, they had multiple partners before me, all three of them.”

The denial and rationalization comes as no shock to experts on rape and abuse. In fact, they say, it’s typical that men who rape or batter women will deny they did anything wrong, and even that the victim was “asking for it”.

“I think it’s actually very typical of an abuser,” says Barbara Paradiso, who directs the center on domestic violence at the University of Colorado-Denver.

“There is a widely held belief that women enjoy rape or that it is ‘just sex at the wrong time, in the wrong place’,” Rape Crisis of England and Wales says on its website. “Often when a woman is raped she is afraid that she will be killed – rapists often use the threat of killing a woman or her children to ensure her ‘submission’ and her silence after the attack. Women do not enjoy sexual violence. Victims of murder, robbery and other crimes are never portrayed as enjoying the experience.”

“I am not a violent person. I simply kept them there without being able to leave.”

“It is not uncommon for offenders to have justified their own behavior, oftentimes to see themselves as a victim,” Paradiso said in a telephone interview. “They often have a sense of righteousness around their behavior, that they had a right to do what they did or it was acceptable to do what they did that they were forced to do what they did because of the victim.”

“I never had a record until I met my children’s mother.My son was on there the other day saying how abusive I was but I was never abusive until I met her. And he failed to say that at the end before she passed away that them two weren’t even talking.

Castro’s son Anthony has said Castro beat him and his mother, Grimilda “Nilda” Figueroa, who died in 2012.

“What he’s saying, that I was a wife beater – that is, that is wrong. This happened because I couldn’t get her to quiet down. I would continuous tell her the children are right there, would you please? She would respond, I don’t care if the children are there and she would just keep going…the situation would escalate until the point where she would put her hands on me and that’s how I reacted, by putting my hands on her.”

It’s familiar thinking to Paradiso. “‘I had to hit her because she did x, y or z’,” she says. “(They are saying) ‘I had to bring her back into line’ … It doesn’t really surprise me at all that he said what he said. That behavior is completely based on power and control and domination, which our society supports. So I am not surprised that he said that.”

While his is an extreme case, experts say the pattern is anything but rare.

“I was taken aback [by Castro’s statements] but at the same time not shocked by it,” says Jennifer Marsh, vice president of victim services for RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. “It’s somebody who was not willing to accept that what they did was wrong and who may have convinced themselves that what they are doing is not wrong or justified. It read like the way that a perpetrator thinks.”

According to RAINN, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes, and only three out of every 100 rapists ever spends any time in jail.

So this is a real interesting story about a writer that basically googled two words and got a visit from the Counter Terrorism People.  Those two words are “backpack” and “pressure cooker”.

-1960s-Beach-Party-891B1G0A-x-large It was a confluence of magnificent proportions that led six agents from the joint terrorism task force to knock on my door Wednesday morning. Little did we know our seemingly innocent, if curious to a fault, Googling of certain things was creating a perfect storm of terrorism profiling. Because somewhere out there, someone was watching. Someone whose job it is to piece together the things people do on the internet raised the red flag when they saw our search history.

Most of it was innocent enough. I had researched pressure cookers. My husband was looking for a backpack. And maybe in another time those two things together would have seemed innocuous, but we are in “these times” now. And in these times, when things like the Boston bombing happen, you spend a lot of time on the internet reading about it and, if you are my exceedingly curious news junkie of a twenty-year-old son, you click a lot of links when you read the myriad of stories. You might just read a CNN piece about how bomb making instructions are readily available on the internet and you will in all probability, if you are that kid, click the link provided.

Which might not raise any red flags. Because who wasn’t reading those stories? Who wasn’t clicking those links? But my son’s reading habits combined with my search for a pressure cooker and my husband’s search for a backpack set off an alarm of sorts at the joint terrorism task force headquarters.

That’s how I imagine it played out, anyhow. Lots of bells and whistles and a crowd of task force workers huddled around a computer screen looking at our Google history.

This was weeks ago. I don’t know what took them so long to get here. Maybe they were waiting for some other devious Google search to show up but “what the hell do I do with quinoa” and “Is A-Rod suspended yet” didn’t fit into the equation so they just moved in based on those older searches.

I was at work when it happened. My husband called me as soon as it was over, almost laughing about it but I wasn’t joining in the laughter. His call left me shaken and anxious.

What happened was this: At about 9:00 am, my husband, who happened to be home yesterday, was sitting in the living room with our two dogs when he heard a couple of cars pull up outside. He looked out the window and saw three black SUVs in front of our house; two at the curb in front and one pulled up behind my husband’s Jeep in the driveway, as if to block him from leaving.

Six gentleman in casual clothes emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house, two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door.

A million things went through my husband’s head. None of which were right. He walked outside and the men greeted him by flashing badges. He could see they all had guns holstered in their waistbands.

“Are you [name redacted]?” one asked while glancing at a clipboard. He affirmed that was indeed him, and was asked if they could come in. Sure, he said.

They asked if they could search the house, though it turned out to be just a cursory search. They walked around the living room, studied the books on the shelf (nope, no bomb making books, no Anarchist Cookbook), looked at all our pictures, glanced into our bedroom, pet our dogs. They asked if they could go in my son’s bedroom but when my husband said my son was sleeping in there, they let it be.

Meanwhile, they were peppering my husband with questions. Where is he from? Where are his parents from? They asked about me, where was I, where do I work, where do my parents live. Do you have any bombs, they asked. Do you own a pressure cooker? My husband said no, but we have a rice cooker. Can you make a bomb with that? My husband said no, my wife uses it to make quinoa. What the hell is quinoa, they asked.

They searched the backyard. They walked around the garage, as much as one could walk around a garage strewn with yardworking equipment and various junk. They went back in the house and asked more questions.

Jinkies!!!
It seems even Kentucky folks are tired of Mitch McConnell. Can I get a witness?

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New poll numbers released Thursday suggested that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is entering his reelection campaign next year facing two perilous obstacles: an electorate that wants him out of office and a viable Democratic challenger.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling — conducted on behalf of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Democracy For America and provided in advance to TPM — found Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who launched her Senate campaign on Tuesday, drawing the support of 45 percent of Bluegrass State voters and narrowly edging McConnell by a single point. Eleven percent of voters said they are undecided. The two liberal groups to commission the poll are both opposed to McConnell.

A slight majority of Kentucky voters — 51 percent — disapprove of the job McConnell is doing, giving the GOP leader an approval rating of 40 percent. PPP has previously identified McConnell as the least popular senator in the country, but the latest poll marks a marginal improvement It marks for a marginal bump since April, when McConnell nursed a 36 percent approval rating. PPP polled 1,210 Kentucky voters on those two questions, and the margin of error is 2.8 percent.

Kentucky voters may also be experiencing McConnell fatigue, according to PPP’s latest. When the pollsters asked if McConnell deserved reelection “[a]fter 30 years in the U.S. Senate,” 54 percent said he does not, compared with just 38 percent who said he does deserve another term. The pollster asked 625 voters that question, and it has a margin of error of 3.9 percent.

Nonstop cute at the Forth Worth Zoo where I might be spending a bit of time this month relearning the joys of teenagers.  Don’t ask yet … I’ll share in good time.  Just promise me you won’t faint when I do.  Long time relationship curmudgeon–me–is in one and I am trying  to relearn the joys of monogamy coupled with the agony of distance. There are pictures but I am trying not to jinx things quite yet. So, anyway, humor and pity me until I figure out wtf I am doing. Okay?

But now, time to OOOOOOOOOOOOO AND ahhhhh at Baby Elephant Belle!

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The Fort Worth Zoo’s new baby elephant is already a big hit with children who visit the zoo.

Their youthful fascination was enhanced Tuesday when zoo officials added a child’s inflatable pool to the elephants’ enclosure for Belle’s enjoyment. Belle could be seen rolling in the pool.

Bell was born July 7 and is just the second Asian elephant to be born at the Fort Worth Zoo in its 104-year history.

Zoo spokeswoman Katie Giangreco says Belle weighed 330 pounds at birth is gaining two pounds per day. She says Belle “is curious and full of personality, learning new things every day, learning what her trunk is for, learning to use her legs.”

Belle’s mother, Rasha, is helping in that instruction.

Asian elephants have been listed as endangered since 1976.

I am gonna close with Krugman on an Op Ed by Brad Delong on Larry Summers.  I have no idea why any one thinks Larry Summers has the temperament for the job of Fed Chair despite his credentials, but oh well. Let’s let the shrill one say it better than me.

Brad DeLong asks why the left views Larry Summers as a right-wing hyena. I think that’s a straw man, or maybe a straw hyena. What is true is that a lot of people even on the moderate left don’t trust Summers, even though much of his commentary over the years has been very much center-left — and since leaving office he has become one of our most prominent fiscal doves.

Where does this mistrust come from? Well, let me give you an example: Jackson Hole, 2005, a conference dedicated to celebrating the record of, ahem, Alan Greenspan. Raghuram Rajan had presented a paper warning that the risks of financial instability were much higher than most people were acknowledging. (I think Rajan has been wrong on many issues since then, but that was certainly a prophetic paper). And the response, in general, took the form of ridicule.

The principal discussant was Don Kohn (pdf), who was (barely) polite but completely wrong-headed, celebrating financial innovations such as “the growing ease of housing equity extraction”:

Leading off on the rest of the discussion (pdf) was Larry Summers, who wasn’t polite, dismissing Rajan for being “slightly Luddite” in questioning the value of financial innovation, which he compared (in a really bad analogy) to technological progress in transportation.

Let’s face it.  Summers is an asshole. I don’t care about his degrees or whatever.  Assholes should not be in places where they have to influence people into doing the right thing on policy that effects the entire globe.  Even, if it is a well-educated asshole, it is still just an asshole.

That is all.

What is on your reading and blogging list today?