Friday Reads

PostcardOldAbsintheHouse

Good Morning!

So, I am trying to get with it again.  Seems like it’s always something.  Grades to get in.  Issues with my elderly father.  Daughters so busy that I seemed to have slipped their minds.  Doctor’s appointments. I am going to try to take this weekend to catch up with reality.  I should also make a point of going out and enjoying my home city which is one of the great places of this country.

Speaking of reality, there is so much weirdness around the issue of immigration these days that I thought I’d post on it.  I live in what can only be described as the melting pot of all the melting pots in the country.  It is what makes us unique in the world.  We’ve got a unique cuisine, culture, and music because we just soaked it all in from every one else and put it out there to grow.  But, there’s a lot of people that are scared of that kind of thing.  Just smell that Gumbo!  Listen to that Jazz!  Embrace the dancers of a second line!  None of that would exist without the blending of Africans, Caribbeans, Americans, and all kinds of Europeans!

In the land of tabloid terrors, immigrants loom large. Flick through the pages or online comments of some of the racier newspapers, and you’ll see immigrants being accused of stealing jobs or, if not that, of being workshy and “scrounging benefits”.

Such views may be at the extreme end of the spectrum, but they do seem to reflect a degree of public ambivalence, and even hostility, towards immigrants in a number of OECD countries. Anecdotal evidence is not hard to find. A columnist from The Economist reported this encounter between a British legislator and one of his constituents, Phil: “‘I’m not a racist,’ says Phil, an unemployed resident of the tough Greenwich estate in Ipswich. ‘But we’ve got to do something about them.’”

Surveys offer further evidence: For example, a 2011 study in five European countries and the United States found that at least 40% of respondents in each country regarded immigration as “more of a problem than an opportunity”. More than half the respondents in each country also agreed with the proposition that immigrants were a burden on social services. This sense that immigrants are living off the state appears to be widespread. But is it true?

New research from the OECD indicates that it’s not. In general across OECD countries, the amount that immigrants pay to the state in the form of taxes is more or less balanced by what they get back in benefits. Even where immigrants do have an impact on the public purse – a “fiscal impact” – it amounts to more than 0.5% of GDP in only ten OECD countries, and in those it’s more likely to be positive than negative. In sum, says the report, when it comes to their fiscal impact, “immigrants are pretty much like the rest of the population”.

The extent to which this finding holds true across OECD countries is striking, although there are naturally some variations. Where these exist, they largely reflect the nature of the immigrants who arrive in each country. For example, countries like Australia and New Zealand rely heavily on selective entry, and so attract a lot of relatively young and well-educated immigrants. Other countries, such as in northern Europe, have higher levels of humanitarian immigration, such as refugees and asylum-seekers.

That said, there’s been a general push in many countries in recent years to attract better educated immigrants, in part because of the economic value of their skills but also because such policies attract less public resistance. For example, a survey in the United Kingdom, where resistance to immigration is relatively high, reported that 64% of respondents wanted to reduce immigration of low-skilled workers but only 32% wanted fewer high-skilled immigrants. Indeed, one objection that’s regularly raised to lower-skilled immigrants is the fear that they will live off state benefits.

But, here again, the OECD report offers some perhaps surprising insights. It indicates that low-skilled migrants – like migrants in general – are neither a major drain nor gain on the public purse. Indeed, low-skilled immigrants are less likely to have a negative impact than equivalent locals.

So what connects homophobia, Marco Rubio and US immigration Policy?  Basically, the connection is outright discrimination for any GLBT who wants to be an American.  Rubio has threatened to leave negotiations on immigration if any GBLT rights are included.  He also says it should be legal to fire any one for their sexual orientation.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a co-author and key proponent of the Senate immigration bill, said he will revoke his support if an amendment is added that allows gay Americans to petition for same-sex spouses living abroad to secure a green card.

“If this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill. I’m done,” Rubio said Thursday during an interview on the Andrea Tantaros Show. “I’m off it, and I’ve said that repeatedly. I don’t think that’s going to happen and it shouldn’t happen. This is already a difficult enough issue as it is.”

The amendment, introduced by Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, would grant green cards to foreign partners of gay Americans. Leahy originally introduced the measure during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup of the bill, but he withdrew it under pressure from Republican lawmakers who said it would reduce the chance of the bill passing.

Why does he think that firing any one for sexual orientation is also on target?

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is touted as a top GOP presidential prospect in 2016, thinks it should be legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation.

ThinkProgress spoke with the Florida Senator at the opening luncheon of the annual Faith and Freedom Forum on Thursday and asked him about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill to make discrimination against LGBT individuals illegal across the country.

Though Rubio bristles at the notion of being called a “bigot,” he showed no willingness to help protect LGBT workers from discrimination. “I’m not for any special protections based on orientation,” Rubio told ThinkProgress.

KEYES: The Senate this summer is going to be taking up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which makes it illegal to fire someone for being gay. Do you know if you’ll be supporting that?

RUBIO: I haven’t read the legislation. By and large I think all Americans should be protected but I’m not for any special protections based on orientation.

KEYES: What about on race or gender?

RUBIO: Well that’s established law.

KEYES: But not for sexual orientation?

Watch the video at the link for his astoundingly bigoted answer.

The US Congress has just been told that Syria has used chemical weapons on its rebels.  What does this mean for the US and for our allies?courtyard new orleans

The Obama administration, concluding that the troops of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria have used chemical weapons against rebel forces in his country’s civil war, has decided to begin supplying the rebels for the first time with small arms and ammunition, according to American officials.

The officials held out the possibility that the assistance, coordinated by the Central Intelligence Agency, could include antitank weapons, but they said that for now supplying the antiaircraft weapons that rebel commanders have said they sorely need is not under consideration.

Supplying weapons to the rebels has been a long-sought goal of advocates of a more aggressive American response to the Syrian civil war. A proposal made last year by David H. Petraeus, then the director of the C.I.A., and backed by the State Department and the Pentagon to supply weapons was rejected by the White House because of President Obama’s deep reluctance to be drawn into another war in the Middle East.

But even with the decision to supply lethal aid, the Obama administration remains deeply divided about whether to take more forceful action to try to quell the fighting, which has killed more than 90,000 people over more than two years. Many in the American government believe that the military balance has tilted so far against the rebels in recent months that American shipments of arms to select groups may be too little, too late.

Some senior State Department officials have been pushing for a more aggressive military response, including airstrikes to hit the primary landing strips that they said the Assad government uses to launch the chemical weapons attacks, ferry troops around the country and receive shipments of arms from Iran.

But White House officials remain wary, and on Thursday Benjamin J. Rhodes, one of Mr. Obama’s top foreign policy advisers, all but ruled out the imposition of a no-fly zone and indicated that no decision had been made on other military actions.

Mr. Obama declared last August that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would cross a “red line” that would prompt a more resolute American response.

cafe du monde vintageSo what does the latest Supreme Court Decision on free speech mean?  Oddly enough, it means no protests in their front yard!

The Supreme Court has come up with a new regulation banning demonstrations on its grounds.

The rule approved Thursday comes two days after a broader anti-demonstration law was declared unconstitutional.

The new rule bans activities such as picketing, speech-making, marching or vigils. It says “casual use” by visitors or tourists is not banned.

That may be a way of addressing the concern posed by a federal judge who threw out the law barring processions and expressive banners on the Supreme Court grounds.

The judge said the law was so broad that it could criminalize preschool students parading on their first field trip to the high court.

The president of the Rutherford Institute, which challenged the law on a protester’s behalf, calls the new rule “repugnant” to the Constitution.

What on earth ?

The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a new regulation barring most demonstrations on the plaza in front of the courthouse.

The regulation did not significantly alter the court’s longstanding restrictions on protests on its plaza. It appeared, rather, to be a reaction to a decision issued Tuesday by a federal judge, which narrowed the applicability of a 1949 federal law barring “processions or assemblages” or the display of “a flag, banner or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization or movement” in the Supreme Court building or on its grounds.

The law was challenged by Harold Hodge Jr., a student from Maryland who was arrested in 2011 on the Supreme Court plaza for wearing a large sign protesting police mistreatment of blacks and Hispanics.

Lawyers representing the Supreme Court’s marshal told the judge hearing Mr. Hodge’s case that the law was needed to allow “unimpeded ingress and egress of visitors to the court” and to preserve “the appearance of the court as a body not swayed by external influence.”

But Judge Beryl A. Howell of Federal District Court in Washington ruled for Mr. Hodge. “The absolute prohibition on expressive activity in the statute is unreasonable, substantially overbroad and irreconcilable with the First Amendment,” she wrote, adding that the law was “unconstitutional and void as applied to the Supreme Court plaza.”

The Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of the law in 1983, in United States v. Grace, saying it could not be applied to demonstrations on the public sidewalks around the court.

On the grand plaza in front of the courthouse, however, Supreme Court police have been known to order visitors to remove buttons making political statements.

The regulation issued Thursday, which the court said was “approved by the chief justice of the United States,” requires visitors to “maintain suitable order and decorum within the Supreme Court building and grounds.” It bars demonstrations, which it defines as “picketing, speech making, marching, holding vigils or religious services and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers.”

So, that is my offering this morning.  I’m headed to the doctor but will be around later!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Why Pussy Riot Matters


St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
Drive away! Drive away Putin!

It is interesting to watch the growing amount of support for Pussy Riot.  The women have been sentenced to two years in jail for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for using an orthodox cathedral to do a performance piece in protest of the powerful Vladimir Putin. Vlad the Pussy Jailer’s heavy hand was seen in the recently delivered verdict. Outcry over the harsh sentence is coming from all over the world.

Russia on Saturday faced a storm of international criticism after sentencing three members of the Pussy Riot punk band to two years in prison for a political protest in an Orthodox cathedral.

Speculation mounted that the women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, could have their sentences cut on appeal after the damaging global reaction, with the Russian public also questioning the sentence.

Judge Marina Syrova said the three young protesters had shown a “clear disrespect toward society” by staging a “Punk Prayer” calling on the Virgin Mary to drive out Vladimir Putin just weeks ahead of his election in March to a third presidential term.

The United States called the sentences “disproportionate”, while Britain, France and the European Union also said the punishment was excessive and questioned Russia’s rights record.

Prominent supporters of the women spoke out to criticise the sentence.

International pressure “may not have secured the outcome many people wanted to see. But we need to keep up the fight,” wrote British member of parliament Kerry McCarthy, who attended the trial, on blog site LabourList.

Newspaper owner Alexander Lebedev, who co-owns Russia’s Novaya Gazeta daily and owns Britain’s Independent daily, called the women “prisoners of conscience” on Twitter.

Yoko Ono, the avant-garde artist and widow of John Lennon, posted a message of support to Samutsevich on Twitter on Saturday, saying: “You have won for all of us women in the world.”

It’s an important reminder of what happens when freedom of expression is not protected. It also puts Russia and Vlad the Pussy Jailer in very bad light.

But international opinion can often have a negative impact in Russia. How the trial and its outcome have affected Russian public opinion may play a much bigger role in coming months, as the anti-Putin protest

movement returns to the streets after a summer hiatusand the political season begins anew.

Public opinion has remained rather staunchly anti-Pussy Riot since the women were arrested in March. The latest poll, released last week by the independent Levada Center in Moscow, shows little change.

According to the survey, 55 percent of Russians did not have their views of the judicial system altered by the trial; 9 percent said it diminished their trust in courts while 5 percent said it increased it, and 12 percent said they have no faith in the courts to begin with. About 36 percent thought the verdict would be based on the facts of the case; 18 percent thought the verdict would be dictated “from the top.” Interestingly, when asked what they thought the punk band’s goal was in staging the protest, about 30 percent of respondents said it was “against the church and its role in politics”; 13 percent thought it was “against Putin” and 36 percent said they could not discern the purpose.

More worrisome, from the Kremlin‘s point of view, is the effect the trial has had on Russia’s more educated and influential social strata. Of course the usual suspects – opposition leaders, artists, liberal intellectuals – have popped up to protest the treatment of the women, who were kept almost six months in pretrial detention and now face more than a year in the harsh conditions of a Russian penal colony.

But unease over a prosecution that carries such obvious political and religious overtones appears to be spreading far beyond Russia’s small liberal and opposition circles.

The fact that we’re seeing this play out in the press suggests some very big changes have been made in the former Soviet Union state since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  However, it is also a reminder that the country has not let go of its totalitarian roots.  This it what will do the real damage. It will impact Foreign Direct Investment because it shows the Russia Courts can be gamed for political purposes.  It will also hurt Russia’s ability to show itself in diplomacy circles as a modern nation.  However, I suggest that the lesson is somewhat deeper than that.  

The 10 witnesses—security guards, a candle-keeper, and a sacristan—said they suffered “moral damage” and are thus considered victims of the prayer, under the Russian Criminal Code.   The lawyers who represent one of the security guards, Vladimir Potan’kin, said that their client was so mentally injured that he now has sleeping problems. Furthermore, in a twist not even worthy of a third-rate paperback, they stated that the Pussy Rioters are connected at the highest level to Satan himself.

The nature of the debate about freedom of speech, religious freedom, and political expression is one that is often misconstrued when that speech is profoundly offensive, crude, vulgar, or even malicious. “Nice” speech seldom requires defense.  It is that which causes offense, whether or not it is intended, which must be protected if a society is to remain free. Deny freedom of expression to one and you effectively deny it to all.  In those rare instances where restrictions on speech are permissible, they must be relevant, necessary, and pursuant to legitimate democratic aims—usually based on time, place, and manner, not on content. Had the Pussy Riot band interrupted a religious ceremony or had they been making loud noises at 4 a.m. in a neighborhood, there would be grounds for restricting their actions. However, the prosecution of Pussy Riot meets none of these conditions. Parody, irony, and humor are some of the most powerful weapons against established authority, especially the despotic kind. It is why Socrates was sentenced to death; it is why Voltaire’s criticism of the French absolutist monarchy was so disruptive that he was exiled from Paris; it is why Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa, who hypocritically just granted asylum to Julian Assange, sued a journalist and newspaper for $42 million for a column that made fun of him as a tyrant; it is why Hugo Chavez in Venezuela extended the contempt laws to make it a crime to disrespect him, leading to investigations of cartoonists; it is why Manal Al- Sharif fears for her life in Saudi Arabia for driving a car and challenging the ban on female drivers; it is why Ai Weiwei is hit with trumped up tax-evasion charges after mocking China’s dictatorship, and why Aung San Suu Kyi was held under house arrest by the Burmese military junta until just recently.  The despotic mind is utterly undone and downright defenseless in the face of creative dissent.

The church, public opinion, and Vlad the Pussy Jailor seem to follow the form of that last line written by Thor Halvorssen for Forbes although now the church’s priests have said they’ve ‘forgiven’ the women.  Here’s an article from Truth Out containing the gist of what the church has said about the protest which I find highly disturbing.

But while the case has allowed critics of Mr. Putin to portray his government as squelching free speech and presiding over a rigged judicial system, it has also given the government an opportunity to portray its political opponents as obscene, disrespectful rabble-rousers, liberal urbanites backed by the West in a conspiracy against the Russian state and the Russian church.

The extent of the culture clash was evident this month when Madonna paused during a concert in Moscow to urge the release of the women, who have been jailed since March, and performed in a black bra with “Pussy Riot” stenciled in bold letters on her back. The next day, Dmitry Rogozin, a deputy prime minister, posted a Twitter message calling Madonna a “whore.”

On Friday, the Russian Orthodox Church issued a statement that referred to Nazi aggression and the militant atheism of the Soviet era, and said, “What happened is blasphemy and sacrilege, the conscious and deliberate insult to the sanctuary and a manifestation of hostility to millions of people.”

The fact a church is claiming persecution while using Vlad the Jailor to enforce its own patriarchal agenda is appalling.  Free speech does not stop at the steps of a church or the feelings of its believers.  This issue,however, is bigger than Russia which brings me to the heavy handed treatment of the Occupy Protestors in the US and to the FBI infiltration of left wing activists with causes like providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians. Exactly how many degrees of separation are they–and we–from the feminist punk rockers? I would argue that we are closer than we’d like to think.


Saturday Reads: Is that a Giant Weta in your pocket, or are you just pretending to be Herman Cain…

Good Morning!

Minx here with you today and tomorrow…so let’s get the party started.

Well, it is an exciting day…this afternoon at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, LSU and UGA meet to decide who gets the championship of the SEC. This isn’t the only show in town…also happening today in Atlanta…Herman Cain’s big press announcement.

I am just going to go ahead and get some of the Cain stuff out-of-the-way. Here are a couple of links Boston Boomer sent me last night:  Cain launches website smearing accusers as ‘pathetic husbandless women’ | The Raw Story

Herman Cain’s struggling presidential campaign has created a new website that they say is a “fellowship of women dedicated to helping elect Herman Cain” — but the real purpose seems to be to destroy the reputation of his accusers.

While the website “Women for Cain” is chaired by Cain’s wife, Gloria Cain, it does not offer a single statement by her. Instead, it asks other women to share “thoughts and encouragement for Mr. Cain.”

The candidate has described the accusations of sexual impropriety as “character assassination on me,” but it may be the alleged victims whose characters are being assassinated with the comments his campaign has chosen to publish.

He is really trying extra hard to earn the women vote isn’t he?

Featuring a stock photo of women giving thumbs up — a photo that’s been used by numerous other websites — it quotes a woman named Barbara Dayan.

“Dear Mrs. Cain Don’t pay attention to these pathetic husbandless women who are jealous of women like you in happy long-term marriages,” Dayan wrote. “These vindictive women can’t find a husband or keep one. They are like stalkers who try to latch on to any man who shows a bit of kindness or attention to them.”

[…]

“[A]s a REAL woman I do not believe for one second any of these ‘women’ that have crawled out from under a rock somewhere to defame you and bring pain to you and your family,” Cheryl Vaglienti remarked. “They are pitiful creatures at the very least, and evil at the most. Isn’t it convenient that they have suddenly become offended by supposed advances by you now after all these years, my goodness, poor babies, how have they been able to bare up under the pain for all these oh so many years… LIARS, LIARS, LIARS…GO GET THEM HERMAN AND PLEASE DO NOT QUIT!!!!”

You can read some more comments “chosen” or should I say, “allowed” by Cain’s campaign. I don’t know, but my guess is Herman is writing his own material…if he isn’t then he must be friends with all these women, and giving them some “financial assistance,” you know…cause he is such a great guy.

In the next link, Herman Cain’s Marriage Shaken by Infidelity Charges – The Daily Beast

A close friend of one Cain’s two children explained that Herman and Gloria Cain’s marriage has seen its share of trouble over the years and his attraction to other women always played a huge role in the friction.

People Goria Cain

In this May 21, 2011 photo, Gloria Cain, left, accompanies her husband Herman Cain as he announces his run for Republican candidate for president in Atlanta. , David Goldman / AP Photo

“It never felt like a real marriage when I was around them,’’ says the friend. “Mostly he was always gone and his wife seemed to be OK with it. Not being together seemed the norm for their marriage, and Gloria didn’t seem to mind. His kids didn’t seem to mind either. ’’

The friend noted that when Cain was around, he seemed completely in his own world.

“He was king of his castle and no one questioned him,’’ says the friend. “It was an uncomfortable set-up for an outsider like me to be around. He was so indifferent to everyone. But I liked Gloria. She was warm and kind.”

Several people who know the Cain family say Gloria and Herman have even lived in separate residences over the years. “They stayed together for good face. They’re old school where you stay just because. Herman likes to give the appearance of living this holier-than-thou life. But it’s anything but,” says someone close to the family.

Well, there is a bright note to all this…it seems they have lived separate lives…for a long, long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cain backs out of the race, and Gloria finally files for divorce.

Hey, BTW, did you see the 1986 Human Resources video from Godfather’s Pizza? Herman Cain’s 1986 Sexual Harassment Training

In this 1986 sexual harassment training video for Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain explains the dos and don’ts of sex in the workplace.

Ha Ha Ha…got ya didn’t I?

More after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »


U.C. Davis Police Chief Suspended; Chancellor Still Won’t Resign

UC Davis Police pepper spraying peaceful protesters

LA Times:

UC Davis placed Police Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave Monday in the wake of controversy over the pepper-spraying of student protesters last week by campus police officers.

The move by UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi came less than a day after she put two UC Davis police officers on leave.

“as I have gathered more information about the events that took place on our Quad on Friday, it has become clear to me that this is a necessary step toward restoring trust on our campus,” Katehi said in a statement.

Spicuzza had initially defended the police action, telling reporters Saturday, “The students had encircled the officers. They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out.”

Katehi has resisted calls by some UC Davis faculty members for her to resign.

Katahi’s words, “As I gathered more information…” are probably code for “I’m doing this in hopes that I don’t lose my job.” The President of the California state university system has made a strong statement about the events at U.C. Davis.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The president of the University of California system said he was “appalled” at images of protesters being doused with pepper spray and plans an assessment of law enforcement procedures on all 10 campuses, as the police chief and two officers were placed on administrative leave.

“Free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history,” UC President Mark G. Yudof said in a statement Sunday in response to the spraying of students sitting passively at UC Davis. “It is a value we must protect with vigilance.”

Yudof said it was not his intention to “micromanage our campus police forces,” but he said all 10 chancellors would convene soon for a discussion “about how to ensure proportional law enforcement response to non-violent protest.”

Protesters have planned a rally on the UC Davis campus today at noon Pacific time. Let’s hope the campus police leave their pepper spray and their tasers behind and act as if they respect the U.S. Constitution for a change.