Lazy Saturday Reads: “Impeach the Motherf***er!”

Cartoon by Mike Thompson

Good Afternoon!!

Republicans and some journalists have taken to their fainting couches over a profanity used by a newly sworn-in Congresswoman, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). In case you missed it somehow, Tlaib said in a speech that she was going to Congress to “impeach the motherfucker.”

Although she only used one swear word, the NYT headline writer characterized her speech as “profanity laden.” Even Trump weighed in during his rambling word salad in the rose garden yesterday, claiming that Tlaib “dishonored” herself, her family, and disrespected the U.S. by using the same word that Trump allowed Kanye West to use in the oval office.

Here’s The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos’ take:

Impeachment was always going to hang heavily over a divided Washington. But it took little more than 24 hours this week for a freshman House Democrat’s exuberant, expletive-laden impeachment promise to upend the bonhomie of a new Congress and prompt President Trump, by his own telling, to ask the newly elected speaker if Democrats planned to impeach him.

The episode began Thursday night, just hours after the 116th Congress was sworn in, when a camera captured Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan promising profanely to impeach Mr. Trump as she drew cheers from liberal activists at a celebration at a bar near the Capitol. By the time Mr. Trump discussed the matter directly in a news conference in the Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, weeks of speculation about his potential peril had burst into the open.

Republicans, eager to portray Democrats as out to destroy Mr. Trump’s presidency, piled on criticism of Ms. Tlaib — some of it racially tinged. (Ms. Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, is one of the first Muslims in Congress. The Christian Broadcasting Network referred to her as a “foul-mouthed Islamic congresswoman.”) Democratic leaders, who view discussion of impeachment as politically dangerous and premature, offered worried words meant to tamp down speculation about their intentions.

Fandos’ concern is duly noted. Now he can fuck off.

Rep. Tlaib responded to the uproar in an op-ed at The Detroit Free Press: Now is the time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

President Donald Trump is a direct and serious threat to our country. On an almost daily basis, he attacks our Constitution, our democracy, the rule of law and the people who are in this country. His conduct has created a constitutional crisis that we must confront now.

Rashida tlaib

The Framers of the Constitution designed a remedy to address such a constitutional crisis: impeachment. Through the impeachment clause, they sought to ensure that we would have the power, through our elected representatives in Congress, to protect the country by removing a lawless president from the Oval Office.

We already have overwhelming evidence that the president has committed impeachable offenses, including, just to name a few: obstructing justice; violating the emoluments clause; abusing the pardon power; directing or seeking to direct law enforcement to prosecute political adversaries for improper purposes; advocating illegal violence and undermining equal protection of the laws; ordering the cruel and unconstitutional imprisonment of children and their families at the southern border; and conspiring to illegally influence the 2016 election through a series of hush money payments.

Whether the president was directly involved in a conspiracy with the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election remains the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. But we do not need to wait on the outcome of that criminal investigation before moving forward now with an inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives on whether the president has committed impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” against the state: abuse of power and abuse of the public trust.

Click on the link the read the rest.

Meanwhile, Trump used the F-word liberally during his meeting with Democratic leaders yesterday. The Daily Beast: Trump Referred to Shutdown as ‘Strike’ in Profanity-Laced Meeting With Democratic Leaders.

During Friday’s meeting at the White House over the ongoing shutdown standoff, President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made little substantive progress as Pelosi and Schumer urged Trump to reopen the government by Tuesday, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

One of these knowledgeable sources told The Daily Beast President Trump kicked off the meeting with a rant lasting roughly 15 minutes that included his $5.6 billion demand for a border wall, and threatened that he was willing to keep the government closed for “years” if that’s what it took to get his wall. He also, unprompted, brought up the Democrats who want him impeached, and even blamed Pelosi for new Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib saying at a party earlier this week that Democrats would impeach the “motherfucker” Trump. (It is unclear why Trump would think Pelosi was responsible for this.)

Trump proceeded to tell the room he was too popular to impeach.

Along with saying the word “fuck” at least three times throughout the meeting, the president bizarrely stated that he did not want to call the partial government shutdown a “shutdown,” according to the source. Instead, he referred to it as a “strike.” (Many of the federal employees affected by the weeks-long shutdown have been working without pay. That is essentially the opposite of a strike.)

During the course of this meeting, the Democrats in the room were visibly shaking their heads in exasperation.

Back in the real world, Americans are suffering from Trump’s latest temper tantrum.

The Washington Post: Millions face delayed tax refunds, cuts to food stamps as White House scrambles to deal with shutdown’s consequences.

Food stamps for 38 million low-income Americans would face severe reductions and more than $140 billion in tax refunds are at risk of being frozen or delayed if the government shutdown stretches into February, widespread disruptions that threaten to hurt the economy.

The Trump administration, which had not anticipated a long-term shutdown, recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact, several senior administration officials said. The officials said they were focused now on understanding the scope of the consequences and determining whether there is anything they can do to intervene.

trash piles up in dc as the trump shutdown continues.

Thousands of federal programs are affected by the shutdown, but few intersect with the public as much as the tax system and the Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the current version of food stamps.

The partial shutdown has cut off new funding to the Treasury Department and the USDA, leaving them largely unstaffed and crippling both departments’ ability to fulfill core functions.

The potential cuts to food stamps and suspension of tax refunds illustrate the compounding consequences of leaving large parts of the federal govern­ment unfunded indefinitely — a ­scenario that became more likely Friday when President Trump said he would leave the government shut down for months or even years unless Democrats gave him money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read more at the WaPo.

The Washington Post: Three dead in national parks as shutdown wears on.

Three days after most of the federal workforce was furloughed on Dec. 21, a 14-year-old girl fell 700 feet to her death at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook, part of the Glen Canyon Recreation Area in Arizona. The following day, Christmas, a man died at Yosemite National Park in California after suffering a head injury in a fall. On Dec. 27, a woman was killed by a falling tree at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee.

The deaths follow a decision by Trump administration officials to leave the scenic — but sometimes deadly — parks open even as the Interior Department has halted most of its operations. During previous extended shutdowns, the National Park Service barred public access to many of its sites across the nation to substantially decrease the risk of park damage and visitor injury.

The National Parks have a poop crisis on their hands.

National Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum said in an email that an average of six people die each week in the park system, a figure that includes “accidents like drownings, falls, and motor vehicle crashes and medical related incidents such as heart attacks.” Drowning, automobile accidents and falls are among the top causes of death at national parks….

In 1995 and 2013, respectively, the Clinton and Obama administrations made the decision to close the parks altogether. Officials concluded that keeping the parks open would jeopardize public safety and the parks’ integrity, but the closures also became a political cudgel for Democrats because they exemplified one of the most popular aspects of federal operations that had ground to a halt.

CNN: Hundreds of TSA screeners, working without pay, calling out sick at major airports.

Hundreds of Transportation Security Administration officers, who are required to work without paychecks through the partial government shutdown, have called out from work this week from at least four major airports, according to two senior agency officials and three TSA employee union officials.

The mass call outs could inevitably mean air travel is less secure, especially as the shutdown enters its second week with no clear end to the political stalemate in sight.
“This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect,” Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN.

TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said the agency is “closely monitoring the situation” and that “screening wait times remain well within TSA standards,” although that could change if the number of call outs increases.

At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, as many as 170 TSA employees have called out each day this week, Thomas tells CNN. Officers from a morning shift were required to work extra hours to cover the gaps.

Call outs have increased by 200%-300% at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where typically 25 to 30 TSA employees call out from an average shift according to a local TSA official familiar with the situation.

Union officials stress that the absences are not part of an organized action, but believe the number of people calling out will likely increase.

One more from The New York Times: Shutdown Leaves Food, Medicine and Pay in Doubt in Indian Country.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — For one tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the government shutdown comes with a price tag: about $100,000, every day, of federal money that does not arrive to keep health clinics staffed, food pantry shelves full and employees paid.

Chippawa Indian food bank in Michigan

The tribe is using its own funds to cover the shortfalls for now. But if the standoff in Washington continues much longer, that stopgap money will be depleted. Later this month, workers could be furloughed and health services could be pared back. “Everything,” said Aaron Payment, the chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, “is on the table.”

For many Americans who are not federal workers or contractors, a shutdown is a minor inconvenience. A trip to a national park may be canceled. A call to a government office may go unanswered. But for Native American tribes, which rely heavily on federal money to operate, a shutdown can cripple their most basic functions.

All across Indian Country, the federal shutdown slices deep. Generations ago, tribes negotiated treaties with the United States government guaranteeing funds for services like health care and education in exchange for huge swaths of territory.

Read the rest at the NYT.

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.


Saturday Quick Hits

Predictions 2014

Predictions 2014

Good Morning!!

I’m really struggling to get going this morning, so I’m going to start you off with a few cartoons and some quick links. I have another post planned for later on today, and I hope you’ll stop by then.

Right wing “Christian” hate was a dominant characteristic of 2013,

so I guess it’s appropriate that the year is ending with an incredibly disgusting and ludicrous example of what some Americans have become.

Duck Dynasty Camoflage

Duck Dynasty Camoflage

The New York Times finally weighed in on the disastrous decision of A&E to revoke their suspension of ridiculous hate monger Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

The indefinite suspension of Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family at the center of the A&E Network’s huge ratings hit “Duck Dynasty,” became definite Friday — at zero episodes. The network announced he would not be suspended after all.

A&E released a statement, noteworthy both for its concessions to the Robertson family’s refusal to accept the suspension as well as its timing — at close of business on Friday of a holiday weekend on the slowest week of the year in the entertainment business.

The bottom line: Phil Robertson will resume work on the show when it begins taping new episodes in the spring.

The network moved to suspend Mr. Robertson on Dec. 18 after comments he made about gay people in a magazine interview. At the time A&E described the comments, which described homosexual acts in crude terms and labeled them a sin, as extremely disappointing and not reflective of the network, which considered itself “champions of the L.G.B.T. community.”

Shame on you, A&E!! And don’t forget the racism, misogyny, pedophilia, religious bigotry, and general overall ignorance in Roberton’s interview. A&E now tacitly supports those “values” as their “core principles.”

Way back in 1968 when I first saw Kubrick’s magnificent 2001: A Space Odyssey, I never could have imagined that the future of the U.S. would be so pathetic and embarrassing. Sigh . . . We’ve left 2001 far behind us, and this is what has become of the dreams of my generation.

The good news, at least about gay marriage, is that the battle is over and the good guys won.

Josh Marshall:

Since the Supreme Court ruling in June, the writing has been on the wall for banning of marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples in the United States. Since June the number of states with marriage equality has jumped from 12 to 18. But last week’s lower court decisions in Utah and Ohio leave little doubt that the political fight over gay marriage is now essentially over and that gay marriage will be the law of the land in every state in the country in the pretty near future.

The fact that gay and lesbian couples are now lining up to get married in Utah of all places – arguably the most conservative state in the country – might tell you this on a symbolic level. But the logic that points to the end of the political fight over gay marriage is more concrete, specific and undeniable.

Utah, rightly, got the most attention. But there were two cases last week. The other one in Ohio dealt with a much narrower question: whether the state had to recognize gay marriages in the issuance of death certificates. But both cases rested on the same essential premise: that if the federal government can’t discriminate against gay couples, states – by definition – cannot either.

As Judge Timothy Black put it in the Ohio case: “The question presented is whether a state can do what the federal government cannot — i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples … simply because the majority of the voters don’t like homosexuality (or at least didn’t in 2004). Under the Constitution of the United States, the answer is no.”

The other huge story of the day (which the mainstream media will probably play down) is that more than a million Americans will lose long-term unemployment benefits today.

Here are some links, and so far I haven’t seen any on Google news from the big media outlets.

The Columbus Dispatch: 1.3 million set to lose U.S. jobless benefits

More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend, with potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy. A tense political battle likely looms when Congress reconvenes in the new, midterm-election year.

Nudging Congress along, a vacationing President Barack Obama called two senators proposing an extension to offer his support. From Hawaii, Obama pledged yesterday to push Congress to move quickly next year to address the “urgent economic priority,” the White House said.

For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government’s “emergency unemployment compensation” will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.

Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy might suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the “emergency” program expire as part of a budget deal, it’s unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.

Voxxi: What you should know about the expiration of unemployment benefits This article lists seven reasons why the decision by Republicans to hurt so many American families will be a disaster. Highly recommended.

11KKTV.com Long-Term Unemployed Face Life Without Emergency Benefits

The federal program, which was expanded in 2008 to provide extra income to the long-term unemployed who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state benefits, lapses Saturday because Congress failed to extend the federal program into 2014. For much of the recession, the government not only offered extended benefits beyond those 26 weeks, but also introduced the EUC program to offer up to 99 weeks of assistance in many states.

In the first six months of 2014, 1.9 million additional Americans will use up their state-funded benefits and find themselves without a federal safety net waiting if the program is not renewed. That number will jump to 3.6 million people. According to a report from the White House Council of Economic Advisors and the Labor Department, in October the average length of unemployment was 36.1 weeks – two and a half months longer than state benefits will last with no extension. The long-term unemployment rate is 2.6 percent, roughly one-third of the overall employment rate of 7.3 percent.

“In no prior case has Congress allowed special extended benefits to expire when the unemployment rate was as high as it is today,” the report says.

It’s also been quite a while since anyone was able to receive 99 weeks of benefits, which average about $300 per week. Over the past two years, the average maximum weeks of available benefits has dropped from 85 to 54, or 36 percent, according to Congressional Research Service data.

That’s just sick. In fact it is so far beyond sick, I don’t even know how to begin to characterize it.

Why are the Republicans doing this?

Christmas GOP and Obama

Christmas GOP and Obama

And don’t forget what’s happening to people on food stamps.

Food Stamps Removed

Food Stamps Removed

I wish I had some cheerful news for you. I’ll look around and try to find some. For now, I’d better get this post published before everyone gives up on me!

Have a great day, and please post any links that have caught your eye in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads: Halloween History and A Little News

black-cat

Happy Halloween Everyone!!

Last year at this time, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, and this year a lesser but still “Monstrous Halloween storm” will “pelt the central US” from Texas up to the Midwest. My mom said authorities in Indiana have moved the official day for trick-or-treating to the weekend. Towns in Kentucky and Ohio are doing the same thing, according to USA Today.

Torrential rain, heavy thunderstorms and howling winds are forecast on Halloween all the way from Texas to the Midwest and interior sections of the Northeast, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Andy Mussoline.

Almost 42 million people could contend with severe thunderstorms Thursday, the Storm Prediction Center warns, with cities such as Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville and Houston all at risk.

“Damaging winds and some tornadoes will be possible with what should be a complex and potentially messy storm,” according to an online forecast from the prediction center.

“The best costume in Houston for Halloween probably involves a garbage bag to keep dry,” reports WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue, who adds that it could be the wettest Halloween ever in some spots.

Read more at the link.

I have a few articles on the Halloween history and traditions for you. From National Geographic: Halloween 2013: Top Costumes, History, Myths, More.

Halloween’s origins date back more than 2,000 years. On what we consider November 1, Europe’s Celtic peoples celebrated their New Year’s Day, called Samhain (SAH-win).

On Samhain eve—what we know as Halloween—spirits were thought to walk the Earth as they traveled to the afterlife. Fairies, demons, and other creatures were also said to be abroad.

In addition to sacrificing animals to the gods and gathering around bonfires, Celts often wore costumes—probably animal skins—to confuse spirits, perhaps to avoid being possessed, according to the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress.

By wearing masks or blackening their faces, Celts are also thought to have impersonated dead ancestors.

Young men may have dressed as women and vice versa, marking a temporary breakdown of normal social divisions.

In an early form of trick-or-treating, Celts costumed as spirits are believed to have gone from house to house engaging in silly acts in exchange for food and drink—a practice inspired perhaps by an earlier custom of leaving food and drink outdoors as offerings to supernatural beings.

Samhain was later co-opted by the Catholic Church when the Church moved “All Saints Day” from May to November 1. Scots-Irish immigrants brought Halloween customs with them to America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Award-winning_jack_o'_lantern

The History Channel has a more detailed article on the history of Halloween:

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

On Halloween traditions in the US:

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

jack o lanterns1

In Europe jack-o-lanterns were made of turnips and other vegetables, since pumpkins were found only in the Americas. On the custom of “trick or treating” in the US:

The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

A few more interesting links to explore:

National Geographic: First Halloween Costumes: Skins, Skulls, and Skirts

The Boston Globe: Seven Books About the History of Halloween

Deseret News: Halloween trivia: From top costumes to carving turnips instead of pumpkins

Washington Post: It’s time to take the sexy out of Halloween and return the holiday to kids

Amanda Hess at Slate: It’s Irony, not sexy, that’s ruining Halloween

Amanda Marcotte at Raw Story: Obligatory Halloween Post On Skimpy Costumes

in other news2

In other news . . . 

In the wake of the Travon Martin killing, Sanford FL has banned neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns.

SANFORD — More than a year and a half after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, the city of Sanford is making major changes to its neighborhood watch program, including banning volunteers from carrying guns while on patrol, and forbidding them from pursuing anyone in their neighborhoods.

Sanford’s new police chief, Cecil Smith, said the neighborhood watch program as it was operated while Zimmerman was part of it was dysfunctional and had no accountability.

“In this program, it is clearly stated that you will not pursue an individual,” Smith explained. “In this new program, it clearly indicates that you will not carry a firearm when performing your duties as a neighborhood watch captain or participant.”

Smith said when he took over as Sanford’s chief of police in April, the neighborhood watch program Zimmerman was part of was still operating the same way it was when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin more than a year earlier.

Sounds like an excellent idea.

The NSA is “firing back” after an article in the Washington Post claimed that the spy agency “infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide.” From Politico:

The program, exposed through Edward Snowden’s leaks, relied on a broad, decades-old executive orderand allowed the NSA access to data-center connections in secret outside the United States, according to The Washington Post, which broke the story. Asked about the leak, Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA’s leader, said earlier Wednesday he was unaware of the Post’s report — adding the NSA is “not authorized” to access companies data centers and instead must “go through a court process” to obtain such content.

The NSA, meanwhile, emphasized it hadn’t tried to circumvent U.S. law under the executive order, known by its numerical designation, 12333. “The assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons’ data from this type of collection is also not true,” a spokeswoman said. But the NSA aide declined to discuss further whether the agency — perhaps under other authorities — had infiltrated data center connections at all.

Google and Yahoo both told the Post it hadn’t granted the NSA access to its data centers. Both companies did not immediately comment for this story.

Based on past history of Glenn Greenwald and other reporters neglecting to report that NSA surveillance requires individual warrants, I’m going to assume that this is another instance of this kind of melodramatic “reporting.” I guess it will all come out eventually, since Congress is now investigating and the drip drip drip of leaks continues.

Meanwhile, “progressives” who are panicking over NSA spying continue to ignore vitally important issues that affect millions of Americans–poverty and hunger for examples. From MSNBC: America’s new hunger crisis.

In the 22 years that Swami Durga Das has managed New York’s River Fund Food Pantry, he has never seen hunger like this. Each Saturday, hundreds of hungry people descend on the pantry’s headquarters, an unassuming house on a residential block. The first people arrive around 2 am, forming a line that will wrap around the block before Das even opens his doors.

“Each week there’s new people,” Das told MSNBC.com. “The numbers have just skyrocketed.”

The new clients are diverse—working people, seniors, single mothers—but many of them share something in common: they represent the millions of Americans who fell victim to food insecurity when the Great Recession hit in 2009, but didn’t benefit from the economic recovery.

And the worst may be yet to come.

Food activists expect a “Hunger Cliff” on November 1, when automatic cuts to food stamp benefits will send a deluge of new hungry people to places like the River Fund Food Pantry, which are already strained.

“I thought we were busy now; I don’t know what it will be like then, because all of those people getting cut will definitely be accessing a pantry,” said Das. “It definitely will be a catastrophe.”

Please go read the whole thing.

Finally, here’s an interesting article about Ted Cruz by David Denby of The New Yorker: THE MASK OF SINCERITY.

When Ted Cruz lies, he appears to be praying. His lips narrow, almost disappearing into his face, and his eyebrows shift abruptly, rising like a drawbridge on his forehead into matching acute angles. He attains an appearance of supplication, an earnest desire that men and women need to listen, as God surely listens. Cruz has large ears; a straight nose with a fleshy tip, which shines in camera lights when he talks to reporters; straight black hair slicked back from his forehead like flattened licorice; thin lips; a long jaw with another knob of flesh at the base, also shiny in the lights. If, as Orwell said, everyone has the face he deserves at fifty, Cruz, who is only forty-two, has got a serious head start. For months, I sensed vaguely that he reminded me of someone but I couldn’t place who it was. Revelation has arrived: Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers. No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.

Cruz is not as iconographically satisfying as other American demagogues—Oliver North, say, whose square-jawed, unblinking evocation of James Stewart, John Wayne, and other Hollywood actors conveyed resolution. Or Ronald Reagan—Cruz’s reedy, unresonant voice lacks the husky timbre of Reagan’s emotion-clouded instrument, with its mixture of truculence and maudlin appeal.

Yet Cruz is amazingly sure-footed verbally. When confronted with a hostile question, he has his answer prepared well before the questioner stops talking. There are no unguarded moments, no slips or inadvertent admissions. He speaks swiftly, in the tones of sweet, sincere reason. How could anyone possibly disagree with him? His father is a Baptist, and Cruz himself has an evangelical cast to his language, but he’s an evangelical without consciousness of his own sins or vulnerability. He is conscious only of other people’s sins, which are boundless, and a threat to the republic; and of other people’s vulnerabilities and wounds, which he salts. If they have a shortage of vulnerabilities, he might make some up.

Read the rest at the link.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? And what are you doing to celebrate Halloween? Please let us know in the comment thread.


Saturday Open Thread: Waiting for the Apocalypse

cat-newspaper

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!!

Mona is under the weather today, so I’m going to put up some links to get some discussion going.

Hey, remember when elections used to have consequences? That was before we elected the black guy. Now the right wing nut party tells us what “the American people really think.” At Maddowblog, Steve Benen writes:

If you listen to congressional Republicans defend their shutdown scheme and crusade to destroy the federal health care system, they’ll routinely use the same phrase. The “American people,” the GOP claims, are on their side. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) argued at a press conference yesterday, for example, “The White House may not get it, but, frankly, the American people get it.” [….]

It may seem like ages ago, but about 10 months ago, the United States held national elections. One party, the Republican Party, ran on a fairly specific platform, near the top of which was a promise to destroy the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. Their rivals, the Democratic Party, also had a platform, which included preservation of the Affordable Care Act.

The “American people” were asked to make a choice. And they did.

At the presidential level, the Democratic candidate won with relative ease, and became only the sixth presidential candidate in American history to win 51% of the popular vote twice. In the U.S. Senate, Democrats not only held their majority for the fourth consecutive election cycle, they also unexpectedly added seats. In the U.S. House, Democratic candidates collectively won 1.4 million more votes than Republican candidates….

We’ve all heard the “elections have consequences” adage many times, but let’s be clear about what we’re witnessing in 2013: Republicans are very clearly telling the country, “No, actually, elections don’t have consequences. We’re still going to do as we please.”

I have to say, it’s really getting old too. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I’m on the verge of giving up on politics and just playing video games and reading detective stories until the apocalypse overtakes us.

Here’s an example of one of the wingnuts who’s leading us all to armageddon: North Dakota Rep. Kevin Kramer. The North Decoder reports on exchange that took place on Kramer’s Facebook page:

[A] constituent of North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer posted a comment on Cramer’s Facebook wall.  The constituent apparently wanted to make sure that — after Cramer’s vote to take food out of the mouths of hungry children, disabled people, the elderly and many military veterans — Cramer was aware of some of the Biblical passages supporting the idea of helping the least of these.  Cramer’s response is kind of stunning. His response is, essentially, to let those people starve.  Citing a different Biblical passage, here’s what Cramer wrote:

Congressman Kevin Cramer 2 Thessalonians 3:10 English Standard Version (ESV) 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
about an hour ago via mobile

Facebook (source)

So there you go folks.  The hungry children of veterans who can’t find jobs or who are disabled; those kids can just starve.  See, Cramer’s a good Christian, and Thessalonians says we need to let the children of people who can’t work or who can’t find jobs starve….

Cramer assumes everybody who receives SNAP assistance is lazy. Because, of course, the Christian thing to do is to assume that everyone who isn’t working isn’t willing to work. And we should hate those people and let them “not eat.”  Let’s just forget all that crap the Bible says about helping poor people.  Why not?!?  He forgets that many who receive SNAP assistance work. Many work full-time. Many work multiple jobs. It’s not that they’re lazy, Kevin; it’s that our economy needs a lot of working poor people. WalMart needs a lot of working poor. Kevin’s owner — the Man Who Bought North Dakota — needs a lot of working poor people.  How would the Walton family make so much money if they weren’t able to pay so many people so little?!?

Read the whole Facebook post at the link.

Here’s some advice for journalists on the Republican campaign to starve low wage workers and unemployed people and their children to death from Dan Froomkin: Writing a Neutral Story About Something So Heartless As the Food Stamp Vote Is Not Good Journalism.

The Republican-led House yesterday voted to make deep cuts to the food stamps program that has kept millions of American families from going hungry since the recession hit, saying its response to growing need was instead a sign of bloat and abuse.

The New York Times editorial board this morning said the vote “can be seen only as an act of supreme indifference.”

But that’s not the way the paper’s own reporters covered it. Like those at essentially every other mainstream news organization, they wrote it straight. They focused on procedure. They quoted both sides. And they called it a day.

I decided to closely examine this morning’s coverage of the vote because such a blatantly absurd and cruel move struck me as a good test of whether the Washington press corps could ever bring itself to call things as they so obviously are — or whether they would check their very good brains at the door and just write triangulating mush that leaves readers to fend for themselves. It was no contest.

Read Froomkin’s review of the coverage at HuffPo. American journalism is pretty much dead these days, folks.

Speaking of approaching armageddon, lately we keep hearing about near miss nuclear explosions in our past. The latest of these incidents to be revealed took place in North Carolina in 1961. BBC News:

The plane was on a routine flight when it began to break up over North Carolina on 23 January 1961.

As it was breaking apart, a control inside the cockpit released the two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs over Goldsboro.

One fell to the ground unarmed. But the second “assumed it was being deliberately released over an enemy target – and went through all its arming mechanisms save one, and very nearly detonated over North Carolina,” Mr Schlosser told the BBC’s Katty Kay.

Only the failure of a single low-voltage switch prevented disaster, he said.

Map

The bomb was almost 260 times more powerful than the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The incident is only one of the terrifying “near misses” reported by Eric Schlosser in a new book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. Schlosser is also the author of Fast Food Nation.

Sooooo…. What are you up to today? If you have any interesting news links to share, please post them in the comment thread.


Friday Morning Reads

Tina

Good Morning!

Syria is again dominating the headlines.  Here’s a few things that might be slipping under the rug.

If Congressional Republicans have their way, SNAP recipients will only get $3.37 a day for meals.

In July, House Republicans decoupled SNAP from the rest of the farm bill. Now, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, they are working on a food-stamp provision that could cut as much as $40 billion over 10 years, according to reports. Legislative language for the Cantor proposal is not yet available.

The conservative case goes like this: The food-stamp program is abused by recipients who are not meeting eligibility requirements. In particular, conservatives want to tighten loopholes that they contend allow able-bodied adults without dependents to receive assistance; they want to limit coverage for the able-bodied adults to three months within a 36-month period.

“Currently, working middle-class families struggling to make ends meet themselves are footing a bill for a program that has gone well beyond the safety net for children, seniors, the disabled, and families who desperately need the assistance,” said Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper.

Antihunger advocates say House Republicans’ proposed cuts would hit some of the neediest Americans hard, and they argue that the law already contains adequate restrictions against abuse.

At the Capital Area Food Bank, a 100,000-square-foot warehouse facility — a kind of Sam’s Club for food pantries in the metro Washington area — officials say food-stamp funds typically last recipients two and a half weeks. After the benefits run out, many go to food pantries to help make ends meet, according to the Food Bank’s Brian Banks.

Conservatives, meanwhile, argue that food-stamp funding has been rising too quickly. The program cost about $78.4 billion to help feed roughly 47 million participants in 2012, according to the Agriculture Department. That’s up from about $17 billion from 2000, when 17 million Americans participated.

“The national debt has now topped $16 trillion and will continue to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future. To preserve the economy, government spending, including welfare spending, must be put on a more prudent course,” wrote the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and Katherine Bradley in a white paper.

Anti-hunger advocates, though, point to a spike in the number of Americans who are “food insecure,” a term used by the government, that correlates to the recession. According to USDA, the number has recently stayed at roughly 15 percent, with 17.6 million households classified as such in 2012, according to a newly released report. With 59 percent of food-insecure households using food stamps, advocates argue that it’s important not to slash SNAP.

Now that Congress has returned, the farm bill and the food-stamp program will compete for scarce legislative time with the situation in Syria, appropriations bills, and a debate over the debt-ceiling limit, which the government is expected to reach sometime this fall. Among antihunger Debbie Harryorganizations, optimism is in short supply.

Indiania seems to hate its pregnant women.  They’re at it again.  This time they want to drug test all pregnant women even if there is no probable cause to believe they might be ingesting something harmful.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is calling on the legislature to help reduce the number of babies being exposed to narcotics while still in the womb.

It is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, newborns exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs before they are born.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says treating NAS at Indiana hospitals cost an estimated $30 million in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, and he says that’s with limited tracking because hospitals are not required to report the condition.

Zoeller says one solution is requiring pregnant women take drug tests to identify the problem and start treatment before birth.

“You can reduce the length of stay for the newly born baby from six weeks to two weeks, the better health of the baby as well as the costs,” he say.s

State Senator Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, says the legislature is exploring different options because of concerns about mandatory drug tests.

“Verbal screening as opposed to the kind of blood or urine analysis that might drive women away from getting prenatal care,” she says, adding that a definitive answer has not been reached and a legislative panel will continue to investigate the issue leading up to next session.

Republicans are gearing up for the fight over the sequester in October.

On Tuesday, House Republicans unveiled their proposal to keep the government running past September 30, when the law that currently funds federal operations expires. It would last through December, at which point the parties would have to come up with yet another extension. As expected, the proposal more or less “locks in” funding levels from budget sequestration—in effect, it keeps the cuts that have been reducing Head Start slotsweakening the economy recovery, and generally wreaking havoc. As you may recall, sequestration cuts were never supposed to happen: They were supposed to be so crude and unpleasant, to conservatives and liberals alike, that the two parties would agree on an alternative way of reducing the deficit. But that hasn’t happened, so the cuts have taken effect this year. And if this new House Republican proposal passes, they will stay in place for at least a little while longer.

The House proposal also includes a provision to withhold funds for implementing Obamacare. Again, this is not a surprise. And, like some previous efforts, this one is mostly an effort of political theater. By design, the Senate could strip out the Obamacare defunding and approve everything else in the House leadership proposal. That would leave a “clean” government-funding bill, as House Republican leaders call it, for President Obama to sign. But House Republican leaders have assured anxious conservatives that a real effort to undermine Obamacare will come soon—proabably sometime in early October, when the federal treasury nears its official borrowing limit. At that point, the leaders say, they will refuse to authorize more borrowing unless Obama and the Democrats agree to certain concessions. The demands will include some kind of effort at defunding or delaying Obamacare—quite possibly, by insisting that the Obama administration postpones the individual mandate (the requirement that everybody get health insurance) by one year.

bruce

Ho Hah David Vitter!!

Senate Democrats have had all they can take from David Vitter and his fixation on Obamacare — and they’re dredging up his past prostitution scandal to hit back.

Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, has infuriated Democrats this week by commandeering the Senate floor, demanding a vote on his amendment repealing federal contributions to help pay for lawmakers’ health care coverage.

But Democratic senators are preparing a legislative response targeting a sordid Vitter episode. If Vitter continues to insist on a vote on his proposal, Democrats could counter with one of their own: Lawmakers will be denied those government contributions if there is “probable cause” they solicited prostitutes.

According to draft legislation obtained by POLITICO, Democrats are weighing whether to force a Senate vote on a plan that would effectively resurrect Vitter’s past if the conservative Republican continues to press forward with his Obamacare-bashing proposal.

And Ho Ha !! Bobby Jindal!!

It is now much easier to make the case that Gov. Bobby Jindal knows his chances of winning the presidency in the 2016 election are securely in his past. In fact, given the record he is now so feverishly and self-destructively building, it is difficult imagining the governor winning another — any — statewide election in Louisiana. In making that case, Exhibits No. 1 through No. 50, at least, are on display in Jindal’s bafflingly deliberate and long-running defiance of orders issued by Baton Rouge state district court Judge Janice Clark in a key public records case.

Over five months ago, on April 25, Judge Clark emphatically ruled in favor of plaintiff newspapers, the Advocate and NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, and ordered the LSU Board of Supervisors to “immediately produce” the documents identifying all those who sought the combined job of LSU president and chancellor. F. King Alexander was selected for the job, and Jindal does not want citizens to know who the other candidates were. Thus he directed his go-to lawyer, Jimmy Faircloth, to burn a trainload of taxpayer money by stiffing the citizenry and the judge … repeatedly … and proudly.

The rarity of observing such a months-long political train wreck was underscored by Lori Mince, the attorney representing the two Louisiana newspapers, in a Sept. 10article by Mike Hasten of Gannett News. Ms. Mince noted, “This is the first public records case I’ve had when the public body refused to comply.” No one else with whom I have spoken or emailed can remember another such instance, either. Such makes sense because once a public records case goes all the way to court, and a judge orders the documents produced, public officials have every reason and need to, well, produce the documents. That is precisely what happened when a group of us in Shreveport sued the highway department for documents, went up against Jindal / Faircloth’s initial opposition, and headed to Clark’s court. When our hearing came up, the requested documents appeared as Faircloth did the opposite.

To grasp how bizarrely foolish the Jindal / Faircloth / Board of Supervisors argument is, it began with Faircloth arguing that the only word in the related law which mattered was “applicant,” and that there was only one of those — the winner, F. King Alexander. Note that Faircloth made this argument to Clark even though Blake Chatelain, the LSU board member who led the search committee, said in his subject court deposition that he and his committee began their work with about 100 prospects, cut that to 35 keepers, then down to “six or seven,” before picking Alexander. All of this was managed via a web portal belonging to a Dallas consultant hired for such purpose, a reported key in the Jindal plan to maintain secrecy throughout the process. (Thanks to Gordon Russell, then writing for the NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, for his April report.)

It is anyone’s guess as to what Jindal is hiding: Was/is Alexander qualified? Was he the best candidate? Who did Jindal really want, and why didn’t that person get the job? Those of us who have been down this road with the man and his team, especially Faircloth, know that the explanation may be much simpler: Jindal has never believed the rules and law and constitution apply to him.

It seems a molasses spill in Hawaii is killing fish.

Officials responding to a spill of 1,400 tons of molasses in Hawaii waters plan to let nature clean things up, with boat crews collecting thousands of dead fish to determine the extent of environmental damage.

The crews already have collected about 2,000 dead fish from waters near Honolulu Harbor, and they expect to see more in the coming days and possibly weeks, said Gary Gill, deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Health.

“Our best advice as of this morning is to let nature take its course,” Gill told reporters at a news conference at the harbor, where commercial ships passed through discolored, empty-looking waters.

So, that’s a little this and that!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Morning Open Thread

Abortion rights advocates fill the rotunda of the State Capitol as the Senate neared its vote Friday night (Tamir Kalifa/AP)

Abortion rights advocates fill the rotunda of the State Capitol as the Senate neared its vote Friday night (Tamir Kalifa/AP)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

There sure is a lot of news out there for a summer Saturday. Beginning in Texas, the state senate passed a restrictive anti-abortion bill that will threaten women’s lives. The New York Times reports:

AUSTIN, Tex. — The Texas Senate gave final passage on Friday to one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country, legislation championed by Gov. Rick Perry, who rallied the Republican-controlled Legislature late last month after a Democratic filibuster blocked the bill and intensified already passionate resistance by abortion-rights supporters.

The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and hold abortion clinics to the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers, among other requirements. Its supporters say that the strengthened requirements for the structures and doctors will protect women’s health; opponents argue that the restrictions are actually intended to put financial pressure on the clinics that perform abortions and will force most of them to shut their doors.

Mr. Perry applauded lawmakers for passing the bill, saying “Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life.” Legislators and anti-abortion activists, he said “tirelessly defended our smallest and most vulnerable Texans and future Texans.”

Mr. Perry does not appear to include any “right to life” for adult women in his “effort to protect life,” however. I wonder if anyone has ever asked him one simple question: are women human beings? Forced childbirth is tantamount to slavery in my opinion. Furthermore, childbirth is far more dangerous than abortion, and the restrictions will likely mean that women with problematic late term pregnancies will die or suffer grievous harm. According to the NYT story,

The bill was opposed by many doctors, including leaders of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Medical Association; the gynecologists’ group has run advertisements locally that question the scientific underpinnings of the legislation and tell legislators to “Get out of our exam rooms.”

Andrea Grimes writes at RH Reality Check: As Out-Of-State Gawkers Look On, Texas Lawmakers Prepare to Pass ‘Death Sentence’ Anti-Abortion Bill. She describes a young man from Minnesota who traveled down to Texas to watch the show.

This young guy, probably a senior in high school or a freshman in college—I didn’t catch his name—said he was real tired of wearing blue, the chosen color of anti-choice supporters of HB 2. I wore orange that day, the same color as thousands of Texans who have turned up at the capitol to stand up for reproductive rights. I also wore pink earbuds, trying to follow the house debate while waiting in line. Maybe this young guy thought I couldn’t hear him. Maybe he didn’t care.

“I’m looking forward to all this being over so I can wear my orange shirts again!” he joked.

She contrasts his blase attitude with that of Yatzel Sabat, a gay woman of color

who was dragged out of that same gallery Wednesday morning by law enforcement. Sabat was not wearing orange. She was wearing black.

Her limbs bound by state troopers, she screamed in a clear, strong voice, “This bill will kill women!” as the Texas House of Representatives gave its approval to HB 2, passing the devastating legislation along to the state senate for final passage….

This bill will kill. Period.

It will kill Texans who already travel to Mexico to buy abortion pills from flea markets because they are too poor to go to a legal abortion clinic, or unable to take time off work to find a doctor’s office and wait 24 hours between a state-mandated sonogram and an abortion procedure. It will kill Texans who, if HB 2 passes, cannot travel a thousand miles round trip to a San Antonio or Dallas ambulatory surgical center for a safe, legal abortion.

Please read the whole thing if you can.

hunger-facts-slider-2

Next up, the U.S. Congress debates more cuts in food stamps as American children go hungry. From Martha White at NBC News:

For one in seven Americans, the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps, is all that stands between them and too little food.

But the complicated calculus of financial survival for the working poor also means any cuts to the roughly $80 billion SNAP, as it’s known, being considered by Congress would be felt well beyond the grocery checkout line. Buying new school clothes, family outings, even getting a toehold in the financial mainstream could be thrown into limbo.

For many of the working poor, wages just don’t go far enough. The National Employment Law project says nearly 60 percent of jobs created in the post-recession recovery pay $13.83 or less an hour, and hourly wages for some low-wage occupations fell by more than 5 percent in just three years.

Food service and temporary employment make up 43 percent of the post-recession job growth, according to NELP policy analyst Jack Temple. “They overwhelmingly pay low wages,” Temple said. “For that lower segment, you’re going to see increased use of safety net programs to make up the difference.”

Read it and weep, folks; and while you do keep in mind that the Federal deficit has been dropping steadily. The only possible reasons for the austerity agenda are to make the rich richer and punish the working poor.

snowden_screens_russia_rtr_328

The Snowden saga continues.  Reuters reports that Russia has not yet received an application for asylum from the American hacker/leaker/whistleblower/dissident–or whatever he’s being called at the moment.

Russia kept former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden at arm’s length on Saturday, saying it had not been in touch with the fugitive American and had not yet received a formal request for political asylum.

Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signaled Russia is weighing its options after Snowden, who is stranded at a Moscow airport, broke three weeks of silence and asked for refuge in Russia until he can secure safe passage to Latin America.

Washington urged Moscow to return Snowden to the United States, where he is wanted on espionage charges after revealing details of secret surveillance programs, and President Barack Obama spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin….

“We are not in contact with Snowden,” Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying in Kyrgyzstan, where he attended a foreign ministers’ meeting.

He said he had learned of Snowden’s meeting with Russian human rights activists and public figures at the airport on Friday from the media, “just like everyone else.”

220px-Elizabeth_Warren_CFPB

Senator Elizabeth Warren is working on bringing back Glass-Steagall-like regulations on banks. From the LA Times:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has launched a campaign to make banks boring again as she pushes legislation to enact stricter regulations forcing deposit-taking financial institutions out of the investment business.

The Massachusetts Democrat wants to reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which separated what she called boring checking and savings accounts that are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from risky investment banking.

And after joining three other senators Thursday in introducing a bipartisan bill to do that, Warren went toTwitter to rally support.

She urged her Twitter followers to retweet the message, “Banks should be boring.” She emailed her political backers, asking them to support her 21st century Glass-Steagall Act, which she introduced along with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Angus King (I-Maine).

Yesterday Warren went on CNBC to argue her case with some blonde talking head. Check it out:

As you know, yesterday Malala Yousafzai spoke to the United Nations and told the world: Being shot by Taliban made me stronger (NBC News)

Malala Yousafzai addresses the UN

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education, was given a standing ovation at the United Nations Friday as she declared the attempt on her life had only given her strength and banished any fear she once felt.

“Dear friends, on the 9th of October, 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too,” she said in her first major public appearance. “They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed.”

Speaking on her 16th birthday, she said the “terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this — weakness, fear and hopelessness died, strength, power and courage was born.”

“I am the same Malala, my ambitions are the same, my hopes are the same and my dreams are the same,” she said to thunderous applause.

What an courageous, intelligent, and inspiring and young woman she is!

On that note, I’ll turn the floor over to you. What stories are you following today. Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread. Have a stupendous Saturday


Monday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

I always enjoy a little E.L Doctorow. Fortunately, I have some to share with you this morning. Monday Morning is a good time to be acerbic. Doctorow offers up some advice on how to be embrace the US’s inner state of unexceptionalism.  Phase One was carried out during the Dubya years.  I think you’ll recognize it.

TO achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following:

PHASE ONE

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election. Appoint the candidate of your choice as president.

If you’re the newly anointed president, react to a terrorist attack by invading a nonterrorist country. Despite the loss or disablement of untold numbers of lives, manage your war so that its results will be indeterminate.

Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and e-mail, make business, medical and public library records available to government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of homes and offices.

Take to torturing terrorism suspects, here or abroad, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Unilaterally abrogate the Convention Against Torture as well as the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those you decide are enemies. For good measure, trust that legislative supporters will eventually apply this policy as well to American citizens.

Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.

By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete the national treasury so that Congress and state and municipal legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that there will be less money for the education of the young, for government health programs, for the care of veterans, for the maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries, and so forth.

Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession in which enormous numbers of people lose their homes and jobs.

Before you leave office add to the Supreme Court justices like the ones who awarded you the presidency.

Don’t miss the other phases!

Here’s my offering for one of those phases.  It’s from Alternet writing on a HuffPo piece.

 For the Republicans’ constant trumpeting of saving the economy in public, they have proven time and again that’s exactly the opposite of what they want to do. The latest: the GOP would like to save the disproportionate defense spending by… cutting food stamps. No, America, they do not care about your well being, or whether all of us can afford to eat. The Huffington Post:

In a memo sent to members Wednesday instructing them how to write their reconciliation bill, Republicans picked a number of targets, including extracting $80 billion from federal workers and $44 billion from health care. In all, it identifies $78 billion to cut in 2013, and details around $300 billion over 10 years.

But the memo spends the most time targeting the exploding cost of food stamps, on which more Americans rely than ever, at greater expense to the government than ever before.

Each month during fiscal 2011, an average of 45 million mostly poor Americans received benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, at a cost of $78 billion to the federal government. Last year’s SNAP participation represented a 70 percent increase from 2007, and the highest enrollment the program has ever seen. In that time, the cost of the program more than doubled.

Of course, the food stamp budget is “exploding” (in HuffPo’s weird term) because the Republicans have failed to support a single plan that might help average Americans get back on their feet.

Chinese workers are back in the news.  Foxconn Workers endure terrible working conditions and many are threatening suicide again. Of course, we have to go to the UK Guardian to read up on this.  Heaven Forbid that we learn people suffer to provide Ipads to the nation’s self absorbed yuppies.

Workers at a factory owned by Foxconn, Apple‘s main manufacturer, threatened to jump off the roof of a building in a protest about wages, a month after the two firms reached agreement on improving working conditions.

The protest happened in the central China city of Wuhan.

It involved 200 workers, the Hong-Kong based activist group Information Centre for Human Rights said.

A company spokesman said the dispute, which concerned workplace adjustments and involved new workers, had been settled. He said it was not a strike. The company employs 1.2 million workers in China.

“The dispute has already been settled after some negotiations involving the human resources and legal departments as well as the local government,” the Taipei-based spokesman, Simon Tsing, said.

Foxconn, China’s largest private-sector employer, and Apple agreed to tackle violations of working conditions and improve working environments.

The deal was agreed almost two years after a series of worker suicides at Foxconn plants focused attention on conditions at Chinese factories and sparked criticism that Apple’s products were made by Chinese workers subjected to mistreatment.

On Tuesday Apple reported that its fiscal second-quarter net income almost doubled after a jump in iPhone sales, exceeding financial market expectations.

 Speaking of Apple, are you aware they are one of the biggest tax dodgers among a proud tradition of US corporations that avoid paying taxes?

Apple, the world’s most profitable technology company, doesn’t design iPhones here. It doesn’t run AppleCare customer service from this city. And it doesn’t manufacture MacBooks or iPads anywhere nearby.

Yet, with a handful of employees in a small office here in Reno, Apple has done something central to its corporate strategy: it has avoided millions of dollars in taxes in California and 20 other states.

Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company’s profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains.

California’s corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada’s? Zero.

Setting up an office in Reno is just one of many legal methods Apple uses to reduce its worldwide tax bill by billions of dollars each year. As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world.

Almost every major corporation tries to minimize its taxes, of course. For Apple, the savings are especially alluring because the company’s profits are so high. Wall Street analysts predict Apple could earn up to $45.6 billion in its current fiscal year — which would be a record for any American business.

We have a bipartisan effort with two US congress women looking to stop the use of GOOGLE by Human Traffickers. U.S. Representatives Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee (R) and Carolyn Maloney (D)  of New York are looking at GOOGLE practices that may accommodate this hideous  industry.

In an effort to stop a rising tide with the use of online networks for human trafficking, two U.S. Representatives of Congress, Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, along with Democrat Carolyn Maloney of New York, have sent a bipartisan letter to the largest online search engine in the world – Google, Inc.Questioning current practices and policies at Google, specifically within the offices of Google Adwords, the Congresswomen are sending a joint letter from Congress to Google to bring hard questions to the internet giant.

Stepping up their efforts, the Blackburn and Maloney Congressional team are bringing Google’s employee policies under the microscope. Unless Google answers the questions regarding the handling, receiving and allowing of online advertising by Google Adwords the corporate giant may be questioned further.

“It’s about time that we all take a close look at the largest ad publisher in the world – Google,” said Phil Cenedella, founder and director of The National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates, an advocacy group that works on-the-ground with women and girl victims of human trafficking and now over 41 global partners. “This problem is worldwide and it’s growing right under our feet,” continued Cenedella. “The U.S. is one of the biggest consumers of modern slaves and illegal slave labor worldwide and this includes sex-trafficking.”

The aim by Congress is to find out more about internal problems at Google Adwords that may be allowing international and local human trafficking rings to sexually exploit and sell women and girls online.

If you need a smile this morning, try the 18 funniest joked by Jimmy Kimmel from the Nerdprom on Saturday night.

1. To Obama: “I know you won’t be able to laugh at my jokes about the Secret Service. Please cover your ears, if that’s physically possible.”

2. “If you told me when I was a kid I would be standing on a dais with President Barack Obama, I would have said, ‘The president’s name is Barack Obama?'”

3. “Remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.”

4. “Democrats would like you to stick to your guns. And if you don’t have any guns, you can ask Eric Holder to get some for you.”

5. “They say diplomacy is a matter of carrot and sticks, and since Michelle Obama got to the White House — so is dinner.”

BA-da-BOOM!

Here’s an inspiring thought for the day:

“A nation cannot be liberated whether internally or externally while its women are enchained.”

Egyptian feminist Doria Shafik 1908-1975

So, there ya go!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?