Labor Day Monday Reads

Image Happy Labor Day Sky Dancers!

Down here in New Orleans we’re celebrating Southern Decadence!!  It’s a very big party with a lot of everything where every one has fun while being yelled at by the usual crowd of angry, bitter judgy white men.

Meanwhile, the some times occupier of the White House is playing golf at his Virginia club all on the Tax Payer’s Dime.  And, a million US citizens are facing evacuation for the monster hurricane Dorian.  This is from the Weather Channel.  I can only imagine the hell that is pounding the northernmost Bahamas today.  

Dorian’s forward speed has slowed to a virtual stall.

Unfortunately, that means the northwest Bahamas, in particular Grand Bahama Island, are taking an extended pummeling.

Wind gusts of up to 200 mph are possible on Grand Bahama Island, including Freeport, according to the National Hurricane Center, along with life-threatening storm surge. Bahamas Press reported Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport was under 5 feet of water early Monday morning.

Squalls from the outer periphery of Dorian have also reached the southern Florida Peninsula. A wind gust to 47 mph was reported at Juno Beach, Florida, early Monday morning.

A hurricane warning has been posted along the east coast of Florida from Jupiter Inlet to the Volusia/Brevard County line. A storm surge warning has also been issued from Lantana to the Volusia/Brevard County line. These warnings include Melbourne.

A hurricane warning remains in effect for Grand Bahama and the Abacos Islands in the northwestern Bahamas, including Freeport, Grand Bahama.

Hurricane warnings mean that hurricane-force winds (74-plus mph) are expected somewhere within the warning area, generally within 36 hours. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.

Storm surge warnings mean there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, within the watch area during the next 36 hours. If you live in an area prone to storm surge, be sure to follow the advice of local officials if evacuations are ordered.

A hurricane watch has been posted along Florida’s east coast from north of Deerfield Beach to Jupiter Inlet and from the Volusia/Brevard County line to the mouth of the St. Mary’s River. A storm surge watch has also been posted from north of Deerfield Beach to Lantana and from the Volusia/Brevard County line to the mouth of the St. Mary’s River. These watches include Jacksonville.

It’s hard to imagine what a storm of this size has down, can do, and will do.  ABC already reports the hurricane has brought ‘historic’ destruction to the Bahamas which is described as it “laying waster” to the nation of a chain of low lying islands. The other provided description is “pure hell”.

Winds are currently blowing at a sustained 165 MPH — the same strength that Hurricane Andrew had when it hit parts of the Miami metro area in 1992.

The eye of the storm made a second landfall at 2 p.m. on the island near Marsh Harbour, and a third landfall an hour before midnight on the eastern end of Grand Bahama Island.

Francis Charles, who rode out the storm in Hope Town, Elbow Cay, called the island “a wreck” late Sunday.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” Jenise Fernandez, reporter with Miami ABC affiliate WPLG, told the station during their broadcast.

ABC News correspondent Marcus Moore, who is on the ground in Marsh Harbour, described the scene as “pure hell.”

“I have seen utter devastation here in Marsh Harbour. We are surrounded by water with no way out,” Moore said. “Absolute devastation, there really are no words it is pure hell here on Marsh Harbour on Avoca Island in the northern part of the Bahamas.”

Image result for new orleans statue dedicated to workers A local doctor commissioned a statue to recognize and celebrate the role of Latino Workers in helping the city of New orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levees 14 years ago.

Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana. The 2005 storm was one of the deadliest, and in the aftermath, Black and brown communities felt abandoned by the US government. One of the things we saw as a result of the hurricane was many Latinos who arrived in the city to help rebuilt. Unfortunately, it meant workers cramming into small living spaces and because of the Bush Administration, it also meant they weren’t always paid at the minimum federal rate. All the while, their contributions went largely ignored. On Saturday, a new statue in New Orleans honored the workers, most of whom are Latino and Latin American, for their work.

A local doctor commissioned the statue, made of bronze and marble, but it’s clear that the Crescent Park monument means something to many others. Council member Helen Moreno told 4WWL, “We watched the destruction that happened because of the storm, and we wondered, ‘how in the world are we ever gonna come back?’ But thanks to so many people who came and helped us and the influx of Latino workers that we had in our city, we were able to come back, and not only New Orleans, but surrounding parishes as well.”

E.J Dionne wrote this very moving column today in WAPO on “Remembering the legacy of Labor Day”.

We have also lost the sense of solidarity that originally inspired Labor Day. Greenhouse recounts a conversation with his then-86-year-old mother when he was in Wisconsin covering Republican then-Gov. Scott Walker’s offensive to gut collective bargaining and cut public employee benefits.

“When I was growing up,” she told him, “people used to say, ‘Look at the good wages and benefits that people in a union have. I want to join a union.’ Now, people say, ‘Look at the good wages and benefits that union members have. They’re getting more than I get. That’s not fair. Let’s take away some of what they have.’ ”

How did we get to this point? In another must-read book for our moment, “The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society,” Binyamin Appelbaum argues that the growing role of professional economists since the late 1960s fundamentally altered popular understandings about how the world should work.

We have moved, Appelbaum argues, from a healthy respect for what markets can accomplish in their proper sphere to a “single-minded embrace of markets” that “has come at the expense of economic equality, of the health of liberal democracy, and of future generations.”

“In the pursuit of efficiency,” Appelbaum writes, “policy makers subsumed the interests of Americans as producers to the interests of Americans as consumers, trading well-paid jobs for low cost electronics.”

Appelbaum, who writes about economics and business for the New York Times editorial page, values what economists do, but the ones he respects most are those who understand the limits of a purely material understanding of what matters. He quotes the brilliant Amartya Sen: “Economic growth cannot sensibly be treated as an end in itself. Development has to be more concerned with enhancing the lives we lead and the freedoms we enjoy.”

 

So, that’s it from me today.  The very thought and sight of that Hurricane has me quite triggered so I’m staying home with the TV off as much as possible.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: The Year of Aging Faster than your Dog

Howdy Sky Dancers!

Welcome to that point in history where Americans age more rapidly than their Presidents usually do!  Yes, a 2015 study concluded that Presidents and Prime Ministers age faster and die sooner.  This year, however, my experience is that we’re the ones aging faster.  I’m also pretty certain if any of his policies actually pass we’ll all die a lot  sooner too.

Leading a country comes with extraordinary privileges but also, apparently, a price: new research suggests that political leaders age faster than normal and that the stress of the job may shave almost three years off their life expectancy.

Doctors analysed how long presidents and prime ministers in 17 countries – including Britain, Canada, France, Germany and the US – survived after leaving office, compared to the losing candidates. They also observed the number of years that heads of state lived versus what was expected for someone of the same age and gender.

After considering the fates of 279 heads of state and 261 runners-up, they concluded former leaders lived for almost three fewer years than expected. The study was published online on Monday in the medical journal, The BMJ.

So, enjoy the pictures of some of the Presidents that did themselves in leading us instead of the other way around!

Speaking of leading, the feisty Cajun leader that saved many of my neighbors’ lives after the failure of the levees is criticizing the Harvey response.  General Russell Honore argues that the state and federal government are leaving citizens in danger.  Using a rag tag bunch of citizens supported by inadequate government forces is an equation for death and destruction.  “Hurricane Katrina commander shames the military for its ‘amateur hour’ response to Harvey and says the ‘big dogs’ should have been called in from the start to save residents ‘who are hanging by a thread’.”

In a blistering interview, Russell L. Honore described the military’s treatment of the catastrophe as ‘amateur hour’ and said those at the top needed to take control of recovery missions rather than leave them in the hands of overstretched local authorities.

There are only 73 helicopters in Texas carrying out search and rescue missions over huge portions of the state.

100 high water vehicles are out searching for survivors, 8 para-rescue teams have been mobilized along with three C130 propeller planes and hundreds of boats.  On Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked for another 10,000 Texas National Guard troops to be deployed, bringing the total to 24,000.

It is an increase the original contributions. Since Harvey made landfall on Friday, it has set the pace for military deployment.

Gradually over the weekend and at the beginning of the week, more resources were deployed by the military and civil agencies. One official at the Department of Defense told DailyMail.com that the same growth was mirrored by other agencies including FEMA and Border Patrol.

Katrina Military Cmdr. criticizes federal response to #Harvey: “We have a lot of citizens hanging on by a thread” https://t.co/WZlepit1Cu

— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) August 30, 2017

‘The level of support has been evolving and increasing across the board,’ the unnamed official said.

But Honore, who is credited with saving thousands of lives in New Orleans, said this was a fundamental flaw and that more help should have been sent when the first warning signs came.

‘The American people have put too much confidence in us. We have been too successful overseas to come out in amateur hour and incrementally deploy the force.

‘Something is seriously wrong with our control and command. There comes a point in time with the mission that it is too big for the state national guard and they need to get the hell over it and bring in the big dogs when you’ve got a big mission.

‘In Katrina we had 40,000 national guard, 240 helicopters in the first 4 days. They just got 100 helicopters in Texas,’ he told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday.

Honore is in Texas helping with rescue efforts. He has been warning the government to ‘scale up’ its response to the disaster – which has so far wiped out 48,000 homes – for days.

Needless to say, fly by Donnie thinks it’s all just totally duckie.  You can see the numbers to date at this link at the Weather Channel.  You may also check out Irma which is barreling its way west.  It is expected to be at least a category 4 and they’re not sure where it’s going to wind up yet.   The majority of models are taking it into the Gulf and/or up the Atlantic coast of the US. This is the next one and it’s likely US territories and the US itself will be hammered some time next week.

The most interesting thing to read this morning is the interaction between our nation’s friends and neighbors and donations to help Harvey survivors.  I always have to remind people how all nations came to the rescue of New Orleans after Katrina/Rita/levee failures.  My favorite example is the huge box of household goods that each FEMA Trailer recipient got from the people of Saudi Arabia.   But, this disaster seems to be going a bit differently in the day of “America First” and reactionary rather than mainstream Republicans like the Bushies.  The only country’s aid that was offered and refused back then was that of a group of Cuban Doctors coming with medical aid.

A lot of the world is not rushing to help the US. Oddly enough, both Venezuela and Mexico–two countries treated harshly and badly by Kremlin Caligula–are offering up help.  So is Canada, but it seems Texas turned Quebec down.  I’ve got some links here that how far we’ve fallen in terms of treating other nation’s like friends and equals since the White Supremacist in the office started destroying our reputation around the world and how it’s contributing to a reluctance to help us. I love Mexico and Mexicans.  There is no way my city could’ve cleaned up and rebuilt without them.  Plus, we have Taco Trucks and Tex Mex restaurants now.  We really weren’t known for that back in the day.

First up,a Politico  lede states ” World in no rush to offer Trump help post-Harvey. After Katrina, countries around the globe offered to help the U.S. After Harvey, only a few — Mexico and troubled Venezuela among them — have volunteered aid.”

As soon as Hurricane Harvey hit, Mexico — a country described by President Donald Trump as a source of rapists and drugs — stepped up to offer boats, food and other aid to the United States.

Another offer of help came from Venezuela, a country in severe political and economic crisis that has been repeatedly sanctioned by the Trump administration. It said it could give $5 million in aid.

The European Union has proudly noted that it is sharing its satellite mapping with U.S. emergency responders dealing the Harvey’s devastation. This despite Trump’s chastisement of European countries he views as overly dependent on the U.S. military.

Then there’s tiny Taiwan, which has reportedly offered $800,000 in aid — a number likely calculated to annoy China as much as to curry favor with Trump.

But compared with past crises, the list of foreign governments lining up to help the United States this time is relatively short for now. And the few countries that have raised their hand may get more out of it — politically, at least — than the U.S.

The relative dearth of global goodwill, some analysts say, may stem from anger at Trump over his “America First” approach to the world, which has irked even staunch U.S. allies.

The Miami Herald has the analysis.

Natural disasters know no political boundaries. And that’s why international humanitarian relief flows so quickly, and in such great and humbling quantities, when hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis strike.

But today, with Houston suffering as Mother Nature’s latest victim, will the world’s giving nations step-up and step-in to help American relief efforts?

Or are things in an America First world different?

Questioning the world’s appetite to help Trump’s America at this moment is a serious question.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans tragedy that followed, the world was tripping over itself to help George W. Bush and Louisiana. The relief efforts ranged from offers of Afghan cash to deployment of Thai doctors and nurses. The Spanish sent crude oil, electric generators and food rations and Swedes airlifted over an emergency mobile phone network. The outpouring of help was overwhelming.

The downside was the United States was unable to accept and distribute the aid offered by 151 countries. Only $40 million of the $850 million offered in Katrina relief was used, $400 million worth of oil aid sat untouched. It turns out that while America was once pretty good at handing out aid around the world, a Heritage Foundation report made clear the USA is woefully unprepared and unable to accept help from others.

In contrast, the response to Harvey is near deafening silence. Maybe a distracted State Department experiencing attrition is unable to process foreign offers and aid. But it might also be that Trump actively alienates American friends and allies, boasts he is cutting USAID, and makes clear that America First translates into an aid policy of every nation for itself.

If they are so disinclined to help us right now in our time of need, imagine what they will do if we need their military help anywhere.  There’s more on this development out there in the media.  This is the result of the cult of American-style ChristoFascism creeping into our Government that has more to do with being greedy than following the beatitudes or any other teaching attributed to the biblical jesus. “Texas Secretary of State Turns Down Hurricane Harvey Aid From Canada and Asks for Prayers Instead: Report”  Seriously?  

As reports continue to roll in estimating the damage that Hurricane Harvey has caused to parts of Texas, the news that Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos reportedly turned down help from our friends in Canada is beyond troubling.

According to Pathos, Quebec Minister of International Relations Christine St-Pierre called Pablos to offer blankets, beds, pillows, hygienic products and electricians, which were also given to the U.S. during Hurricane Katrina, and this dumbass turned down help that the people of Texas actually need and instead asked only for prayers.

WTF?

“It was a conversation about how devastating the situation is and we want to express our support to the people of Texas,” the minister told CBC News, according to Pathos. “.… Pablos declined the aid, asking only for ‘prayers from the people of Quebec.’ He was very touched by the fact we called him.”

Canada is shipping aid to those directly impacted by the storm and the resultant flooding.  “Canada to help U.S. by shipping supplies to Harvey victims. Canadian government sending baby bottles, formula, cribs and other supplies to help the displaced“.

Canada has received an official request from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency for pediatric hygiene kits along with pediatric pillows, towels and other linens in response to needs arising from Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath.

The request came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the offer to U.S. President Donald Trump during a telephone call Thursday.

“President Trump thanked Prime Minister Trudeau and the people of Canada for their offer of assistance and underscored the close ties between our two nations,” said a White House statement released after the phone call.

I’ll just wait here while we all sigh and wax adoringly on Justin Trudeau.

Enough time?

Meanwhile, the scapegoats of Trump’s racism showed themselves to be better than the US President.  From WAPO: Flooding trapped workers at a Mexican bakery for two days. They spent it baking for Harvey victims.

As Hurricane Harvey approached Texas last week, the bakers at El Bolillo Bakery in Houston worked overtime, knowing people would be eager to stock up on food.

By Saturday evening, the Mexican bakery’s Wayside location, on the southeast side of the city, had sold out of just about every piece of bread it had.

“We were trying to open up late and trying to make enough bread for everybody. We knew we get absolutely slammed busy during these days,” Brian Alvarado, the manager of the bakery, told The Washington Post. “We didn’t think it was going to rain for that long and that badly.

Mexico was first with its aid offer.

Despite poor relations between the U.S. and Mexico, Texas’ neighbor to the south is offering vehicles, food, medicine and water. The State Department thanked Mexico for its “very generous” offer.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Wednesday the state is accepting Mexico’s offer to help with recovery efforts from historic flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

“We had a list of aid and assistance that they have offered to provide that we are accepting,” Abbott told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

The assistance will start arriving in Texas within days, Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, the consul general in Austin, told the Dallas Morning News. “Mexico looks forward to doing its share,” he added.

The assistance includes vehicles, boats and food, part of a long list of items included in a diplomatic note the Mexican government delivered on Tuesday, the governor’s press office told Univision.

Mexican officials say they are also prepared to offer troops, medicine, portable showers and water. It was unclear if Mexican troops would accompany the relief aid, as occured during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Mexico’s military has specialized civil protection units that could be mobilized, according to experts.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson thanked Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray Caso after a meeting at the State Department in Washington, saying “It was very generous of Mexico to offer their help at a very, very challenging time for our citizens back in Texas.”

Venezuela even stepped up despite the sanctions imposed on them by the Trump Regime of Racism and Xenophobia.

The United States and Venezuela are not on good terms.

Since President Trump took office, he’s sanctioned the country four times (and threatened military action too), taking Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to task for his increasingly autocratic tendencies.

But that bad blood didn’t stop Venezuela from offering $5 million in aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

As Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza explained on state television, the money would come from Citgo Petroleum, the government-run oil company with a refinery in Corpus Christi, Tex. Arreaza said the aid will be directed to local mayors and be aimed at the construction of homes and shelters around Houston. “We express our solidarity with the Americans affected by the hurricane,” he said, according to Reuters. “When an American fills his tank at a Citgo gas station, he’ll be contributing to the rebuilding of the affected communities.”

So, last night, it was apparent that no one is holding their breath and thinking, Gee the Orange Toddler is writing a check for $1 million dollars out of his own pocket to help with recovery and rebuilding.  Most of us think he’ll either regift donations to his foundations or conveniently forget the pledge.  He also hopes we’ll forget it too.

President Donald Trump, a billionaire who while campaigning bragged that he was “really rich,” announced Thursday that he would donate $1 million to relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey slammed Texas and Louisiana this week. But according to Tony Schwartz, the man who ghostwrote Trump’s 1987 book The Art of the Deal, that’s not going to happen.

Schwartz tweeted Friday morning that there was “no way” Trump would send storm victims $1 million of his own money.

“He only promises to give,” Schwartz wrote. “Never actually does.”

Skepticism around Trump’s intended donation has been mounting ever since White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders revealed the president planned to “join in the efforts that a lot of the people that we’ve seen across this country do” in the wake of the deadly storm. Details are scarce—Sanders couldn’t provide reporters with information on when Trump would donate the money, who he would donate it to or where it was coming from, according to the New York Times.

Later that day, first son Eric Trump tweeted that he bet CNN and the mainstream media wouldn’t cover his dad’s “incredible generosity.” His post came three hours after the network published a story about it, according to The Hill.

This isn’t the first time the president’s charitable giving, or lack thereof, has made headlines.

He’ll probably hold a fundraiser at one of his properties, pocket the profits from that, and regift the access money at best.

Meanwhile, the death toll from Harvey is rising. At least 46 deaths are now expected to have resulted from the storm. 

Flooding along the Texas-Louisiana border remains severe.  Several towns are still in immediate crisis. These towns are part of the energy coast.  This is hampering the shipment of gas. Gas prices around the country are increasing and the availability of gas is iffy in some places because of road and pipe closures. It took six weeks for gas production and shipment to return to normal after Katrina/Rita.

Anyway, keep an eye on the Atlantic.

Don’t be a Donald … here are some places to actually give help instead of lip service. 

Have a good weekend!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 

 


Monday Reads: A Reptile Dysfunction

Eleven years ago, Honey, Karma, Miles and I were sharing a small pink futon on the floor of a Lake Charles motel between the beds of a Chinese and Japanese Graduate student from UNO. I had told all of our foreign grad students in our doctorate program to get hotel rooms and get the heck out of Dodge about 5 days before. I was going to stick it out but didn’t and wound up be very thankful to join them. There’s was nothing to do but to watch CNN and hook up the internet.

It was a day that changed many lives including mine. Honey and Karma, my French Quarter Dogs, have since crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Miles and I are a little worse for the wear and frankly, so is the Kat House. My insurance company never really did pony up enough money to cover the damages and I never took the Road Home Funds because I had–and still have–survivor guilt. My house didn’t flood. But, one of the residuals is that I have a $10,000 deductible for named storms and live in constant fear of anything with a name on it now. Then, of course, we’re still reeling from the post-hurricane damage of 8 years of Bobby Jindal and the continued encroachment on the wetlands by oil companies and housing developers. The last set of floods is just the most recent display of what happens when you really don’t take care of your Mother Earth.

At least this year, I don’t have to hear the word resilient.product_thumb

Good Morning!

Here’s some linky goodness and badness from me, the dakini of the swamps.  I’m in wrathful form today so enjoy some pictures of Naginis.

Here’s a wonderful and ominous post recommended by General  Russell Honore about the issues with  our Louisiana Wetlands.  I hope you can take some time to read it all.

We need a massive reforestation of Louisiana. Mature, native, water-loving trees like Live Oaks and Bald Cypress drink up to 1,000 gallons of water per day and should be as common and beloved a site in our urban and rural landscapes as Saints bumper stickers. One huge impetus behind founding SOUL is the very large goal of replanting New Orleans, the most deforested city in the U.S.! But rural Louisiana suffers from deforestation as well, largely due to short-sighted development of subdivisions and commercial areas that raze the forest and level the land before construction. Trees are essential to our resilience as they absorb stormwater into their root systems and transpire it back into the air. A mature tree produces enough oxygen for ten people, and can lower our air temperatures by up to two degrees. The benefits of trees are endless, and our futures rely on them.

It’s time to respect the gravity of gravity. It there’s one thing we can always count on, it’s that water will always travel downhill. Thus, it is vital that water has an unobstructed path to its nearest floodplain or basin. Rural Louisiana has many flood plains and small water bodies like creeks that are bisected by roads. During heavy rains these spots turn into dams and cause massive flooding as water seeks a lower point of gravity.

New construction should be raised to a level accommodating a 2,000-year storm.Considering how quickly our disasters are growing in intensity and frequency, it only makes sense that we should build new homes and businesses according to future storm levels. We’re recovering from a 1,000-year flood, so let’s rebuild to a 2,000-year disaster this time. Many of the structures that were damaged were built at grade on slab. Cities must stop allowing development that ignores our hydrology and natural history, for the sake of developers maximizing their profits.

We need to integrate “green infrastructure” into every aspect of our lives. If you’re not already familiar with this term, it refers to infrastructure that mimics natural systems and harnesses stormwater at its source. Essentially its goal is to get water back into the ground and into the water table.

There’s a developing tropical storm that’s due to enter the Gulf. It’s supposed to turn back on Florida at this point.  However,  you never know and we would be on the wet side if it gets too close for comfort. People south of us already have a lot on their plate and any kind of drenching of the area would be really bad.  Thankfully, the winds aloft are not particularly friendly atm.  I just hope it doesn’t get a name if it pours on the Kat House and that it misses the folks in the flooded area completely.

So, onward with today’s theme of snaky people.

Naga182A white male radical christianist was plotting a ” mass shooting to protect 2nd Amendment from ‘f*ggots’.”  This guy sounds like a good Trump supporter, doesn’t he?

Bryce Cuellar, 24, was arrested by Las Vegas police after they were notified by Interpol in July about Cuellar’s video. In the video, Cuellar stated that he is tired of the government trying to take away his First and Second Amendment rights and planned to go on a killing spree.

Calling himself a “Christian warrior,” Cuellar bragged that he would use his weapons as the Founding Fathers intended, killing,” gays, faggots, lesbians and satanists.”

According to Las Vegas police, Cuellar reportedly beat his wife hours after posting the video on YouTube, where he displayed his weapons while wearing a Kevlar vest and sporting night-vision goggles.

A review of Cuellar’s YouTube page reveal a collection of conspiracy-minded videos including ones that question what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, support for the Bundy family’s war on the government, the threat of the Illuminati  and proof that angels and demons are real. Investigators say the timeline of his videos suggest that he has sunk deeper in the world of conspiracy mongering over the past three years.

This is pretty scary.  Foreign hackers have gotten into the state election databases according to the FBI.  Vijayanagar_snakestone

The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks, prompting the bureau to warn election officials across the country to take new steps to enhance the security of their computer systems, according to federal and state law enforcement officials.

The FBI warning, contained in a “flash” alert from the FBI’s Cyber Division, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News, comes amid heightened concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about the possibility of cyberintrusions, potentially by Russian state-sponsored hackers, aimed at disrupting the November elections.

Those concerns prompted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to convene a conference call with state election officials on Aug. 15, in which he offered his department’s help to make state voting systems more secure, including providing federal cyber security experts to scan for vulnerabilities, according to a “readout” of the call released by the department.

Johnson emphasized in the call that Homeland Security was not aware of “specific or credible cybersecurity threats” to the election, officials said. But three days after that call, the FBI Cyber Division issued a potentially more disturbing warning, entitled “Targeting Activity Against State Board of Election Systems.” The alert, labeled as restricted for “NEED TO KNOW recipients,” disclosed that the bureau was investigating cyberintrusions against two state election websites this summer, including one that resulted in the “exfiltration,” or theft, of voter registration data. “It was an eye opener,” one senior law enforcement official said of the bureau’s discovery of the intrusions. “We believe it’s kind of serious, and we’re investigating.”

The bulletin does not identify the states in question, but sources familiar with the document say it refers to the targeting by suspected foreign hackers of voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois. In the Illinois case, officials were forced to shut down the state’s voter registration system for ten days in late July, after the hackers managed to download personal data on up to 200,000 state voters, Ken Menzel, the general counsel of the Illinois Board of Elections, said in an interview. The Arizona attack was more limited, involving malicious software that was introduced into its voter registration system but no successful exfiltration of data, a state official said.

nagastatue1A huge amount of hoopla has surrounded the 49ers Quarterback who has refused to stand for the pre-game playing of our national anthem.  My 10 year old self would actually have a crush on this guy. I refused to say the pledge in classroom at that ripe old age, was nearly kicked out of Girl Scouts and was asked why by the Principal who couldn’t understand why mass symbolic recitations of anti-communist loyalty shows would disturb me.  I basically said it was pretty meaningless and why didn’t we just read the preamble to the Constitution instead.  Actually, the District wound up taking this activity out of the daily classroom and never said another word to me.  I think it was because the Constitution was behind me and the District Lawyer figured it out.  I never heard back why but was relieved to not have to go through a rote, meaningless exercise every day to prove I wasn’t a communist. I am not nor have I ever been a communist or a member of the communist party.  Now, can I quit the loyalty oath shit?

But, Colin Kaepernick has stated his reason as a protest of national oppression of racial minorities.   The NFL is actually giving him quiet consent. I say more power to him.

San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Sunday defended his decision not to stand for the national anthem at a game two days earlier, saying he is protesting on behalf of people oppressed because of their race.

“This country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all — and it’s not happening for all right now,” Kaepernick said.

Kaepernick did not stand as the national anthem played before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. The move sparked criticism, and some fans posted videos of themselves burning Kaepernick jerseys and other apparel.

Actually, if you read the real history of this anthem and the racist who wrote it and an abhorrent additional verse that is totally ashta nagasracist, you’d be asking them to switch our anthem to something like America the Beautiful where I could substitute something creative for the current head nod to the angry sky fairy.

The story, as most of us are told, is that Francis Scott Key was a prisoner on a British ship during the War of 1812 and wrote this poem while watching the American troops battle back the invading British in Baltimore. That—as is the case with 99 percent of history that is taught in public schools and regurgitated by the mainstream press—is less than half the story.

To understand the full “Star-Spangled Banner” story, you have to understand the author. Key was an aristocrat and city prosecutor in Washington, D.C. He was, like most enlightened men at the time, not against slavery; he just thought that since blacks were mentally inferior, masters should treat them with more Christian kindness. He supported sending free blacks (not slaves) back to Africa and, with a few exceptions, was about as pro-slavery, anti-black and anti-abolitionist as you could get at the time.

Of particular note was Key’s opposition to the idea of the Colonial Marines. The Marines were a battalion of runaway slaves who joined with the British Royal Army in exchange for their freedom. The Marines were not only a terrifying example of what slaves would do if given the chance, but also a repudiation of the white superiority that men like Key were so invested in.

All of these ideas and concepts came together around Aug. 24, 1815, at the Battle of Bladensburg, where Key, who was serving as a lieutenant at the time, ran into a battalion of Colonial Marines. His troops were taken to the woodshed by the very black folks he disdained, and he fled back to his home in Georgetown to lick his wounds. The British troops, emboldened by their victory in Bladensburg, then marched into Washington, D.C., burning the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building and the White House. You can imagine that Key was very much in his feelings seeing black soldiers trampling on the city he so desperately loved.

A few weeks later, in September of 1815, far from being a captive, Key was on a British boat begging for the release of one of his friends, a doctor named William Beanes. Key was on the boat waiting to see if the British would release his friend when he observed the bloody battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore on Sept. 13, 1815. America lost the battle but managed to inflict heavy casualties on the British in the process. This inspired Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” right then and there, but no one remembers that he wrote a full third stanza decrying the former slaves who were now working for the British army:

Read the comments there to fully embrace the number of white folks that want the revisionist version of history and their Carving-of-a-Naga-serpentcomments.  It’s pretty revealing of a few nasty natures.  Speaking of which, RUN HUMA RUN.  Anthony Weiner has done it again.  Huma actually has decided to separate from the man now so evidently, he’s worked her last nerve.

Just two weeks ago, when he was asked if his sexting days were behind him, he seemed to deflect. And now we know why: On Sunday night, the New York Post reported that Weiner had recently been sexting with a woman who is not his wife. Making the story even more cringe-worthy, the New York Post reports that Weiner sent a suggestive photo of himself while his toddler son was in the bed next to him.

Weiner didn’t deny any of this. He told the New York Post that he and the woman “have been friends for some time.”

“She has asked me not to comment except to say that our conversations were private, often included pictures of her nieces and nephews and my son and were always appropriate,” he said. By Monday morning, Weiner had deleted his Twitter account. By Monday afternoon, his wife, Huma Abedin, announced the two  were separating.

liuchao21-12-Tibet-Buddhist-Joss-Silver-5-Snake-Head-Naga-Kanya-Shakyamuni-Buddha-StatueAt least he’s not shooting up malls of innocents but wow, the dude has major issues. He had so much going for him.  What accounts for such self-destructive behavior?

Is it just me or is the entire national discourse today turning into some display of things that require medication and the help of a a good psychiatrist/psychologist?  One more story about the nation’s top pathological liar and I’m going to make more coffee and listen to some nice music.  Trump has turned into a whirling dervish on the immigration issue.

The real reason Trump is now shifting away from mass deportations is almost too obvious to restate: It is probably alienating the college educated whites and white women — swing constituencies — that he simply must improve among if he is to have a chance at winning. And so, Trump is now downplaying this goal, by saying that his priority is to remove “criminal” illegal immigrants. The game here is to sound more reasonable to swing voters who are horrified by mass deportations and generally support mass assimilation, by projecting a recognition that not all of them are full blown criminals. He compassionately understands that many of them are “good ones,” believe me! But in so doing, Trump is still preserving his underlying stance that all the 11 million generally remain targets for removal. He eventold CNN that there’s a “very good chance” that all the rest would be deported later. This isn’t as crazy as vowing proactive, immediate mass deportations. But it still is not an actual solution. At best, it is tantamount to leaving them all in the shadows for an indefinite period, or a reversion to Mitt Romney’s absurd “self deportation” stance. In reality it probably means they’ll all have to go.

And this leads to the ultimate point: Donald Trump’s deportation problem is the GOP’s deportation problem. Many Republican lawmakers — including GOP leaders — generally support the goal of legalization. They recognize that the most realistic solution for the 11 million — the one that would best serve the national interest — is some kind of path to assimilation, combined with penalties and increased border security. They also recognize that long term demographic and political realities compel this stance.

But the party has refrained from embracing that solution, because the base won’t allow it. For years, that forced many Republicans to continue saying the 11 million should be subject to removal, but when pressed, they tended to fudge on whether this means they all should be deported right way, since that’s politically and substantively untenable. Instead they took refuge in the platitude that we should merely “enforce the law,” without saying exactly what that should mean. What it really means is, leave most of them in the shadows indefinitely.

Trump is now being forced to sever himself from his explicit mass deportations pledge. And this is forcing him to adopt the GOP’s platitudinous “enforce the law” position.  We’ve come full circle: On deportations, the GOP nominee is now pretty much where most Republicans have publicly been. Thus, in his speech, he will probably revert to a vow to target criminals first while more generally promising to “enforce the law” to deal with the rest. But Trump — as the GOP nominee and as someone whose entire campaign is built on the idea that illegal immigrants are nothing more than criminal invaders — is facing a much higher level of media scrutiny on this issue than GOP lawmakers have to date, rendering that long-held GOP position untenable for him in a way it wasn’t for other Republicans.

Fu-Xi-and-Nu-Wa-mythological-serpentsSerpent Cults have been a part of human history for some time.  Many religious myths embrace the serpent concept as symbolic of a number of things.  As I look at the many stories I’ve gathered today, I can only think of our folksy renderings of calling a man a ‘snake in the grass’.   We also have the imagine of woman as a siren or mermaid or woman turned temptress by snakes and apples.  It strikes me that we never really truly forget our ancient mythos and their identification of the many aspects of our human nature.

In mythology, the serpent symbolises fertility and procreation, wisdom, death, and resurrection (due to the shedding of its skin, which is not akin to rebirth), and in the earliest schools of mysticism, the symbol of ‘The Word’ was the serpent. The ‘light’ that appeared was metaphorically defined as a serpent called ‘Kundalini’, coiled at the base of the spine to remain dormant in an unawakened person.   Divinity or awakening one’s Godhood and latent abilities came with the rituals and teachings brought by the serpent people.
To understand them, we must look at the original ‘serpents’.  In China, it was a male and female pair with human heads and serpent bodies named Fu Xi and Nu Wa who created humans. In Sumer, it was the Annunaki Nin-Khursag and her husband Enki who were given the task of creating workers. Enki is known to us as the serpent in Genesis—the one who gave us the ability to think and reason and so was cursed by his brother Enlil for it. To the Hindus, it was the cosmic serpent Ananta who created us. So, if, at the dawn of man’s creation we have a pair of serpent-like beings who created us, then those of the serpent cult must have been their direct descendants, either by blood or by spirit.

Government has been designed with the idea that you can punish or circumvent aspects of originalhuman nature with the rule of law and the force of the will of the many. Still, we get Snake Oil Salesmen like Donald Trump and guys that can’t get past their basic anatomy and their urge to think with their littlest head or use other phallic symbols like missiles and killing projectiles to take out the creative and intelligent forces that stymie them which, mostly tend to be women and small children when you think about it.  The Trump CEO–Steven Bannon–is like the walking symbol of all things snaky. Here’s the latest op research his life of evil doing.

Donald Trump’s campaign CEO fired a new mother suffering from multiple sclerosis while she was on maternity leave, according to a lawsuit obtained exclusively by The Post.

“Julia Panely-Pacetti, a new mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was terminated by defendants from her position as head of public relations and corporate marketing because of her sex and her disability,” states the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court in September 2005.

I wish there was a better tradition of snake handling in this country. Maybe we could learn something from the ancients.  Maybe that medieval guy with the bow has the right idea.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Monday Reads: The Adulting Blues

adultingGood Morning!

Well, today’s the kind’ve day that makes me want to hide under the covers and have my mother do all my laundry and cooking. Well, actually my Dad used to do all the cooking but you know what I mean.  It’s been like that for at least a few days as my car’s battery gave out in a very inconvenient location on Thursday night and my bills are bigger than my latest paycheck.  A lot of my ennui and accompanying stress has to do with the uberhype of the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which for a lot of us is an ongoing process of things becoming more undone than they were before.  

Then, there’s just the constant barrage of news–none of which is particularly good–which includes ISIS destroying an ancient wonder. You know what an armchair archaeology buff I am. It’s just so easy to deal with dead civilizations rather than live ones. Trump continues to belittle any one in his path, and every one in the Republican primary is unleashing misogyny and racism. I’m going to focus on the racism today because I think both BB and JJ have given the current misogyny binge complete justice.

My friend Peter has actually written exactly what I’m feeling on this dreadful week where they’re actually pulling out parades and doing “resilience tours” to hype the city and its survival.  Like I said, we may have survived Katrina, but I still have my doubts about our surviving the hipsters, the gentrification, and our elected overseers who have forced us to privatize things that weren’t working before but now are worse and to capitalize on things that turn us into a Disaster Minstrel Show. Again, this is not my writing but Peter’s but I could’ve written it word for word except I obviously don’t have his wife!

I am dreading the influx of disaster tourists who will surely be showing up in town this week. Some of them will be sincerely motivated and others will be of the “I volunteered once with Habitat for Humanity after Katrina so I know what it was like” variety. No, you don’t. You don’t know what it’s like to be barred from your home for 6 weeks and have to sneak in like Dr. A and I did. You don’t know what it’s like to have a bad case of survivor’s guilt because you didn’t fare as badly as other people in town. You don’t know what it’s like to have to re-tell your “Katrina story” over and over again. You don’t know what it’s like to be having dinner and have do-gooders burst in to save your pets because you didn’t, or couldn’t, wash the marks off your front door. Actually, neither do I but it happened to some friends of mine. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase putting on the dog…

The aftermath of the storm was a very painful period in the lives of New Orleanians. We’ve lived it day-in and day-out for 10 years at varying levels of intensity. That’s why I’m not enthusiastic about rehashing those days regardless of whether it’s done by resilience tour types or the krewe of “we’ve gone to hell in a designer handbag.” I wish they’d all piss off and leave me alone. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Yes. I feel that way. Piss off and leave me alone.  Unfortunately, my neighborhood has turned into the mini-Quarter and I can’t even walk the dog around the block or have a beer without either bumping into seven bridesmaids giggling, six film crews taping, and five fucking Air BnB parasites.

This headline from WAPO actually made me scream:  A ‘resilience lab’.  They’ve obviously bought into the Mayor’s hype. This is the paragraph that’s described my reality.  Every day I walk out of my house and feel like screaming “WTF  are you doing here? Why don’t you go back to the hell realm you came from instead of bringing it here to me?”  No east coast newspaper article on New Orleans is complete these days without telling people that the place to be is my freaking neighborhood, the Bywater. I have fewer and fewer neighbors all the time. My neighborhood has been completely overrun with people hoping to redefine and cash in on cool.

He smiled at first. It looked so charming, all those people driving slowly down Burgundy Street through the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, pointing cameras.

Then it dawned on Keith Weldon Medley: These folks weren’t tourists or architecture buffs. They were shoppers. And on their shopping list was almost everything that could be had in these neighborhoods, a collection of Creole cottages, shotgun doubles, warehouses and small manufacturers at a humpback bend of the Mississippi River.

In the evolution of post-Katrina New Orleans, few phenomena have been more striking than the dramatic demographic shift of places such as Bywater from majority black to majority white. One census block group in Bywater dropped from 51 percent African American before Katrina to just 17 percent afterward; the largest went from 63 percent to 32, according to a Washington Post analysis of U.S. census data.

“You saw all these white people. Obviously they were displacing black people who were here before,” said Medley, a historian who lives in the house where he grew up in the Marigny.

My daily mantra is “I see fucking stupid White People.”

So, I really don’t intend for this to be my Katrina post. I’ve been there and done that.   Let me post a few more things that are pissing me off today.

There’s an obvious asset bubble bubbling away here so the market’s correcting and the Fed is going to start bringing up interest rates. This blog has an interesting take on what’s going on which is particularly relevant to my field of research as a currency bloc and international economist.

Global stock markets are in a 2008ish kind of crash today and I really don’t much time to write this, but I just want to share my take on it.

To me this is fundamentally about the in-optimal currency union between the US and China. From 1995 until 2005 the Chinese renminbi was more or less completely pegged to the US dollar and then from 2005 until recently the People’s Bank of China implemented a gradual managed appreciation of RMB against the dollar.

This was going well as long as supply side factors – the opening of the Chinese economy and the catching up process – helped Chinese growth.

Hence, China went through one long continues positive supply shock that lasted from the mid-1990s and until 2006 when Chinese trend growth started to slow. With a pegged exchange rate a positive supply causes areal appreciation of the currency. However, as RMB has been (quasi)pegged to the dollar this appreciation had to happen through domestic monetary easing and higher inflation and higher nominal GDP growth. This process was accelerated when China joined WTO in 2001.

As a consequence of the dollar peg and the long, gradual positive supply shock Chinese nominal GDP growth accelerated dramatically from 2000 until 2008.

However, underlying something was happening – Chinese trend growth was slowing due to negative supply side headwinds primarily less catch-up potential and the beginning impact of negative labour force growth and the financial markets have long ago realized that Chinese potential growth is going to slow rather dramatically in the coming decades.

As a consequence the potential for real appreciation of the renminbi is much smaller. In fact there might be good arguments for real depreciation as Chinese growth is fast falling below trend growth, while trend itself is slowing.

The market has rebounded but the financial markets are obviously still shaky. China is the world’s largest economy now so anything house after katrinathat happens there is bound to ripple around the world.

The global whiplash underscored investors’ shaken confidence in China’s slowing economy and central bank. The world’s second-largest economy is now reeling over what China’s state media is calling “Black Monday,” during which its markets just recorded their biggest one-day nosedive in eight years.

But the mid-morning bounce off deep trading lows led some analysts to question whether financial markets had already finished their fall. Tech giant Apple, which begun the morning down 13 percent and dipping below $100, was trading 2 percent higher by the afternoon, at about $107.

The dismal opening marked a worrying continuation of last week’s free fall. The Dow’s blue-chip index plunged more than 500 points on Friday, capping its worst week since 2011 and entering what Wall Street calls a correction, having tumbled 10 percent from its May peak.

The sell-off bruised every industry, wiping out gains in rapid order after a year of mostly steady trading. Some of America’s biggest companies shed tens of billions of dollars in market value in only a few days, and the markets’ early gains have yet to restore those losses.

S&P 500 companies lost more than $1 trillion in market value last week, and the Dow and other indices are on track to record their dreariest month since February 2009.

On Friday, China reported its worst manufacturing results since the global financial crisis, following shortly after Beijing earlier this month surprised investors by announcing it would devalue the nation’s currency.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite index has fallen by nearly 40 percent since June, after soaring more than 140 percent last year. Markets in Europe also plummeted, and Asian shares on Monday hit a three-year low.

Economist gadfly and miserable human being Larry Summers is pearl clutching about the rate hikes.  He seems to be on a search to be relevant again but on a very wrong path. This article alone ought to make you very glad that he’s not the Fed Chairman since he seems completely oblivious to the asset bubbles that I see in assets around the country including houses once again.

Like most major central banks the Fed has put its price stability objective into practice by adopting a 2 per cent inflation target. The biggest risk is that inflation will be lower than this — a risk that would be exacerbated by tightening policy. More than half the components of the consumer price index have declined in the past six months — the first time this has happened in more than a decade. CPI inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices and difficult-to-measure housing, is less than 1 per cent. Market-based measures of expectations suggest that, over the next 10 years, inflation will be well under 2 per cent. If the currencies of China and other emerging markets depreciate further, US inflation will be even more subdued.

Tightening policy will adversely affect employment levels because higher interest rates make holding on to cash more attractive than investing it. Higher interest rates will also increase the value of the dollar, making US producers less competitive and pressuring the economies of our trading partners.

Please check out housing and stock prices Lala and then try again.

Republicans continue to show they have no idea about the reality of black people in this country. Trump attacked Martin O’Malley for sensitivity to the Black Lives Matter Campaign.

Appearing on Fox News over the weekend, Donald Trump admitted to being completely ignorant about the Black Lives Matter movement. “I know nothing about it,” the billionaire real estate developer said.

Of course, his lack of knowledge didn’t prevent him from harshly criticizing the effort. Trump said that he’s “seeing lot of bad stuff about it right now.” He said Martin O’Malley, a contender for the Democratic nomination, was a “disgusting little weak pathetic baby” for apologizing to Black Lives Matter activists earlier this year.

katrina_five_18Huckabee played the MLK card and completely confused King’s Son.

Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, said he was “perplexed” by GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s comments last week suggesting that his father would be “appalled” by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think dad would be very proud of young people standing up to promote truth, justice and equality,” King said during an interview on SiriusXM radio. “I was perplexed by the comments, but people attempt to use dad for everything.”

King’s comments come in response to a CNN interview last week in which the former Arkansas governor spoke out against the Black Lives Matter movement, saying racism is “more of a sin problem than a skin problem.”

If you look at the picture of flooded New Orleans and the view over the flooded lower ninth ward towards city, you’ll see a cluster of white tallish buildings sitting right on the river in the middle of that photo.  Just a hair to the right is where my house still stands and where I’m there right now with a pillow pulled over my head trying to block out the world of adults.  I don’t want to be one of them at the moment.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Friday Reads

1234986_689584281056191_1998618313_n

Good Morning!!!

Since it’s the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, I thought I’d start out with some Labor News.  There are so many jobs these days that don’t really pay a living wage in the US that it’s really astounding.  Fast Food Workers are among the lowest paid in the country.

Fast-food workers went on strike and protested outside McDonald’s, Burger King and other restaurants in 60 U.S. cities on Thursday, in the largest protest of an almost year-long campaign to raise service sector wages.

Rallies were held in cities from New York to Oakland and stretched into the South, historically difficult territory for organized labor.

The striking workers say they want to unionize without retaliation in order to collectively bargain for a “living wage.”

They are demanding $15 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum of $7.25. The median wage for front-line fast-food workers is $8.94 per hour, according to an analysis of government data by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), an advocacy group for lower-wage workers.

“It’s almost impossible to get by (alone),” said McDonald’s worker Rita Jennings, 37, who was among about 100 protesters who marched in downtown Detroit Thursday. “You have to live with somebody to make it.”

Rush Limbaugh was all agog and demagogue about the striking workers

LIMBAUGH: If you want a “living wage,” if you don’t like what fast food restaurants pay, then do something else. It’s just that simple. Go to a trade school. Go to another business. Start your own business. Maybe the work that you are capable of isn’t yet worth $15 an hour at a fast-food restaurant. Maybe the consumer doesn’t want to pay $10 for a Big Mac so that people working at McDonald’s make $15 an hour. It’s not just a one-way strata.

You don’t just sit there and double what the employees at McDonald’s make and keep the prices the same. Now, you may think this is obvious, folks, and you may think, “Come on, Rush,” you’d be amazed at how many people do not understand the push-pull in economics. You’d be amazed at the number of people who have taken economics courses who think that the truth about headaches is that the boss is a cheap skinflint and wants his employees to starve and wants to screw his customers.

That’s the basis of their understanding, and they go from there, and they are applauded by left-wing Democrat politicians for holding that belief, and they’re encouraged to have it. Now, to those of you who, like Sean from San Diego, are sympathetic to this demand for the minimum wage at Mickey D’s to go from $7.15 or $7.25 an hour to $15, let me ask you this: When you buy a meal, do you make sure that you’re paying a fair price for it?

When you walk in there, do you ask the employee, “Look, am I paying enough here so that you can get a livable wage? When you go in and buy a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder with cheese or a double Quarter Pounder with cheese, do you look at the price is and say, “Are you sure that this costs enough that you can make a livable wage?” Or do you just get a little upset when you think it’s a little too expensive?

Limbaugh was lecturing fast workers on getting a better job as he sat in his mansion with no clue what it is like to work and survive on minimum wage. Limbaugh’s lecture was centered around a couple of the Republicans favorite falsehoods. Rush was pretending that there are better jobs out there for minimum wage workers.

Some happy news for married GLBT workers!  The IRS and the US Treasury will recognize your marriage.  You get the standard marriage deduction!!

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

I joined the Sisterhood of the Pink Shoes this weekend.  Meanwhile, the real sister with the pink shoes is doing really well in the fundraising arena.

In the six weeks following her headline-grabbing filibuster, Wendy Davis raised $1.2 million — nearly 40 percent of it from outside Texas. Davis drew national attention following the filibuster against an abortion-restriction bill that helped shut down the Texas Senate and prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call lawmakers back into another special session. In the wake of Davis’ new-found fame, Davis has been urged by some Democrats to run for governor next year. She says she will announce her political plans — whether to run for reelection as a senator from Fort Worth or as a Democrat for governor — in a few weeks.

Martin Luther King was fighting for working folks when he was assassinated.  We’ve already said that no Republicans showed up to commemorate the March on Washington.  Where were they?  

So what was did they do instead? Well, Boehner was in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and had no public events scheduled, but he has been headlining GOP fundraisers all this month, so it’s a fairly safe to assume that he was raising cash at the time. Cantor, meanwhile was touring an oil field in North Dakota. The Grand Forks Herald reports:

Cantor, hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., met with energy industry and community leaders at a crew camp in Williston, toured a drilling site and other oilfield locations in the Bakken and met with North Dakota Petroleum Council members in Watford City.

Cantor praised North Dakota’s approach to energy development and said the country needs to follow the state’s example and adopt a national energy policy.

“I hope to be able to tell the president that there’s a lot for him to learn here as far as energy production here in America,” Cantor said. “North Dakota seems to have gotten it right.”

The North Dakota Petroleum Council, by the way, is a lobby group that represents the state’s oil and gas industry. That’s what Cantor was doing on the day of the march.

Here’s a little bit of News on New Orleans 8 years after Katrina.

Now optimism is rising as a rebounding city approaches the 300th anniversary of its 1718 founding.

“The city is a much better place than it was eight years ago. The biggest challenge we have is blight,” Landrieu said, adding that 10,000 blighted properties have been removed from the cityscape.

A thriving downtown and newly vibrant neighborhoods contrast starkly with the city’s appearance eight years ago. When Katrina hit, thousands of people who couldn’t escape New Orleans in time were trapped in homes as levees broke and floodwaters rose. Helicopters plucked the desperate from rooftops as chaos spread. The damaged Superdome became a refuge of misery for thousands as tempatures and tempers soared.

Days afterward then-President George W. Bush promised the nation’s full attention. But federal authorities were sharply criticized for their early response and local and state authorities as well. And though billions of federal dollars have helped to rebuild a strengthened levee system, many locals remain bitter with the Army Corps of Engineers for the failure of the levees.

Landrieu said he’s intent on moving forward.

“I think that we have successfully done the most important thing, which was to think about building the city back the way she should have always been and not the way she was,” he said.

Landrieu said rebuilding has even meant re-organizing government operations, streamlining finances, curbing waste and fraud and reorganizing the city’s education system – even adding new fire and police stations, parks and libraries.

The weird thing about the blight is that it’s in areas that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to have ramshackled buildings and over grown lots.  Every time I go from my home near the Mississippi River towards the Lake I see blight on the way.  It pops up in the newer suburban areas as well as older neighborhoods.  There are still a lot of eye sores and it appears it’s going to take a long time for many of them to be torn down or restored.  Thankfully, the historic parts of the city appear to be well on the mend.  Unfortunately, the infrastructure is so gone in many areas that the blight will remain for some time.

That’s my offering today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Let’s Build a Special Hell on Earth for these Republican Officials errrr… Psychopaths

I read this link in the morning thread from BB and thought it was about the worst thing I had read for some time. It’s called 122212-republican_sealthe “Oklahoma Test” and it’s written by one of our blog favorites Charlie Pierce. It shows how absolutely vile some republican officials are these days.  Monsters.  Psychopaths.  A$$holes.  You choose the name. Today’s republicans are poster children for depravity.

Remember that Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is often cited as one of the Republicans with whom the president might be able to do business. He is a conservative, but not a crazy person, like his colleague, James Inhofe. He can be expected to listen respectfully to other points of view and to at least consider the virtues of the kind of compromises that take the Davids, Gregory and Gergen, to their respective happy places.

Then remember that, fundamentally, Tom Coburn is also a monster.

 “That’s always been his position [to offset disaster aid],” Coburn spokesman John Hart said. “He supported offsets to the bill funding the OKC bombing recovery effort.”  

This is a guy who, one day after a devastating natural disaster killed his own constituents, said he will not vote to alleviate their suffering unless he can inflict some pain on someone somewhere else in the country. And his spokesman defends this as a matter of principle, and uses the worst act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States as a salutary example. (And the link demonstrates that Coburn’s aversion to tossing money down various ratholes is not universal.)  Does Senator Coburn really believe you can budget for the unthinkable? That tornadoes are zero-sum events? That you can horse-trade on human suffering as though it were a line-item on a transportation rider? I no longer am willing to try to understand how people like this think. They are monsters and they operate on their own monstrous imperatives.

I frequently find myself in disbelief at the depths of ignorance, selfishness, and utter disregard for human life and our country that makes up the minds of today’s Republicans.  That was Senator Coburn.  Now try the pretzeled psychosis that is the mental and moral state of Senator Jim Inhofe.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) said on Tuesday that federal aid to tornado-ravaged parts of his home state will be “totally different” than a Hurricane Sandy aid bill he voted against late last year.

Speaking on MSNBC, the lawmaker said that in the case of Hurricane Sandy, “everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place.” However, he said, “that won’t happen in Oklahoma.”

President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he has already signed a federal disaster declaration for parts of Oklahoma, where tornadoes have caused dozens of fatalities and flattened entire communities.

Inhofe said the Sandy Relief bill “was supposed to be in New Jersey,” but “they were getting things … in the Virgin Islands, fixing roads there, and putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C.” Both Inhofe and Coburn voted to slash aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, with Inhofe saying he considered the full proposed aid amount to be a “slush fund.”

While Northeastern states like New Jersey and New York suffered some of the worst damage from Hurricane Sandy, the storm affected 24 U.S. states in total during October of 2012. Sandy carved a destructive path from the Caribbean Sea to the Great Lakes, where it produced 25-foot waves in Lake Huron.

Hurricane Sandy is believed to have cost more than $50 billion, making it the second-costliest storm in U.S. history.

While it’s too early to estimate what the damage from the Oklahoma tornadoes might cost, in 1999 the state requested and received more than $67 million after a series of tornadoes.

I still live with the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.  I will never forget that money and help was doled out faster to Mississippi than Louisiana for pure political reasons.  They wanted to turn Louisiana red and bring down the governor a lot more than they wanted to help those of us that suffered from that huge horrible storm.  I felt the long shit-stained hand of Karl Rove in the treatment of our diaspora and especially of our middle class black population who voted solidly democrat and kept the state purple.

FEMA Director Michael Brown, who resigned over his handling of the response, later told a group of students that the White House only wanted to federalize the response in Louisiana, where the governor was a Democrat, and not in Republican-led Mississippi in order to embarrass Louisiana officials. Brown said the White House believed they had a chance to “rub [Kathleen Blanco’s] nose in it.”

Even my asshole Senator David Vitter came up with money for Sandy victims.  You can’t spend time in the wake of death and utter destruction and stay heartless.  Or can you?

For these two and many more of their ilk, it seems you can.

It seems that disasters in republican states are more deserving than disasters in democratic states.  It also seems that you can help your own by taking from the mouths of others.  Time and time again, we see the absolutely unhinged policies put forth by the Republican party.  We see them block the most reasonable national responses to national problems for unhinged, fanatical reasons usually based on myth, lies, and greed.   Of course we won’t leave Oklahoma in the dust and destruction.  But, it won’t be their elected officials that lend them real helping hands without taking from some of the rest of us.  C’mon Oklahoma … my birth state … how can you justify reelecting psychopaths like these?  How can you keep sending your country these monsters? Please, pen them up somewhere and build them a personal hell realm here on earth.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

I think I have a few interesting links for you this morning, so let’s get right to it.

Those New Orleans cops who killed two people on the Danzinger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina got real prison time yesterday.

Four New Orleans police officers were sentenced to 38 to 65 years in prison for convictions including violating the civil rights of two people killed a week after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.

U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt in New Orleans sentenced a fifth officer today to six years in prison for covering up the crimes.

A federal jury in August convicted officers Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso of opening fire on unarmed black civilians on the city’s Danziger Bridge and conspiring with others to cover up their actions. The fifth, homicide detective Arthur “Archie” Kaufman, was convicted of conspiring to make the shootings appear justified.

“We hope that today’s sentences give a measure of peace and closure to the victims of this terrible shooting, who have suffered unspeakable pain and who have waited so patiently for justice to be done,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in an e-mailed statement. “The officers who shot innocent people on the bridge and then went to great lengths to cover up their own crimes have finally been held accountable for their actions.”

Finally, some justice at a time when we are becoming aware of so many cases of African Americans being killed without any repercussions for the killers.

Last night I wrote about the judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordering the Justice Department to attend a hearing and be lectured about the President of the United States daring to make a few comments about his belief that the Supreme Court would not overturn the ACA. The hearing turned out to be even more ludicrous than I could have imagined. Jeffrey Toobin called it a “judicial hissy fit.”

An appeals court judge who claimed President Barack Obama was challenging the authority of federal courts was just throwing a “judicial hissy-fit,” according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

“Totally extraordinary and totally inappropriate,” Toobin said. “This was a judicial hissy-fit.”

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith on Tuesday demanded a “three page, single spaced” letter from the Justice Department regarding the authority of the federal courts to strike down laws passed by Congress. Obama said Monday that the “unelected” Supreme Court should not to take the “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” step of striking down the Affordable Care Act.

“What the President said was entirely appropriate, entirely within his rights as an American citizen to express his opinions about this law,” Toobin continued.

“He wasn’t intimidating the Supreme Court. He couldn’t intimidate the Supreme Court if he wanted to. He was simply saying that he believes this law is constitutional, and this judge, doing this ridiculous patronizing act to the Department of Justice has simply made himself look ridiculous.”

A three-page, single spaced letter? Good grief! Of course the right wing nuts are overjoyed and crowing over this. Remember when they were so much against “judicial activism?” Remember just recently when Newt Gingrich talked about the dictatorship of the judges (or similar words)?

Eric Holder also defended the President’s remarks:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Justice Department will respond “appropriately” to a federal appellate judge in Texas who demanded a letter recognizing federal courts’ authority to strike down laws passed by Congress.

Holder spoke a day after 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith questioned President Barack Obama’s remarks this week about an “unelected” court possibly striking down the president’s health care overhaul. Smith, during oral arguments in a separate challenge to the health law, asked the Justice Department for a three-page, single-spaced letter affirming the federal court’s authority.

When asked during a Wednesday news conference in Chicago what an appropriate response to Smith would be, Holder said, “I think what the president said a couple of days ago was appropriate. He indicated that we obviously respect the decisions that courts make.”

“Under our system of government … courts have the final say on the constitutionality of statutes,” Holder said. “The courts are also fairly deferential when it comes to overturning statutes that the duly elected representatives of the people, Congress, pass.”

Spencer Ackerman at the Danger Room got hold of a memo written by Philip Zelikow, who was an adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in which he said that the torture techniques that had been supported by the Bush Justice Department amounted to war crimes.

Zelikow argued that the Geneva conventions applied to al-Qaida — a position neither the Justice Department nor the White House shared at the time. That made waterboarding and the like a violation of the War Crimes statute and a “felony,” Zelikow tells Danger Room. Asked explicitly if he believed the use of those interrogation techniques were a war crime, Zelikow replied, “Yes.”

Zelikow first revealed the existence of his secret memo, dated Feb. 15, 2006, in an April 2009 blog post, shortly after the Obama administration disclosed many of its predecessor’s legal opinions blessing torture. He briefly described it (.pdf) in a contentious Senate hearing shortly thereafter, revealing then that “I later heard the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroyed.” [….]

Zelikow’s memo was an internal bureaucratic push against an attempt by the Justice Department to flout long-standing legal restrictions against torture. In 2005, he wrote, both the Justice and State Departments had decided that international prohibitions against “acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture” do not “apply to CIA interrogations in foreign countries.” Those techniques included contorting a detainee’s body in painful positions, slamming a detainee’s head against a wall, restricting a detainee’s caloric intake, and waterboarding.

Zelikow wrote that a law passed that year by Congress, restricting interrogation techniques, meant the “situation has now changed.” Both legally and as a matter of policy, he advised, administration officials were endangering both CIA interrogators and the reputation of the United States by engaging in extreme interrogations — even those that stop short of torture.

Of course Zelikow couldn’t know back then that the next President, supposedly a Democrat would defend the war criminals in court and refuse to release videos and photos that would reveal the horrors of what the CIA had done.

Former Senator and 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern, who is 89, has been hospitalized in Florida. His daughter Ann McGovern told the AP that her dad

was admitted to Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, Fla., on Tuesday evening for tests to figure out why he occasionally passes out and loses his ability to speak, she said.

“He’s comfortable. The tests are continuing to see if they can determine what’s causing this,” Ann McGovern said.

Hospital officials said the elder McGovern is in stable condition. McGovern splits his time between Florida and South Dakota, where he was a South Dakota congressman from 1957 to 1961 and a U.S. senator from 1963 to 1981. He has been hospitalized several times in recent months, including for exhaustion.

South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said McGovern looked great and was in good spirits when he attended the party’s annual fundraiser, named in his honor, last weekend in Sioux Falls. Nesselhuf said the former senator, who gave a 20-minute speech at the affair, resists efforts to schedule rest periods during such events because “he wants to do everything.”

Yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough came out and said what most people who have been watching the Republican clown show are thinking: Mitt Romney has no chance to win the presidency in 2012. In fact, Republicans are already looking ahead to 2016.

Joe Scarborough: Nobody thinks Romney is going to win. Can we just say this for everybody at home? I have yet to meet a person in the Republican establishment that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election this year. They won’t say it on TV because they’ve got to go on TV, and they don’t want people writing them nasty emails. I obviously don’t care. I have yet to meet anybody in the Republican establishment that worked for George W. Bush, that works in the Republican Congress, that worked for Ronald Reagan that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election.

Duh! Who wants to vote for a man who has made himself into a laughing stock?

Have you heard about the giant feathered dinosaur fossils that have been found in China? They were as big as a bus and had fuzzy feathers all over them.

The discovery of a giant meat-eating dinosaur sporting a downy coat has some scientists reimagining the look of Tyrannosaurus rex.

With a killer jaw and sharp claws, T. rex has long been depicted in movies and popular culture as having scaly skin. But the discovery of an earlier relative suggests the king of dinosaurs may have had a softer side.

The evidence comes from the unearthing of a new tyrannosaur species in northeastern China that lived 60 million years before T. rex. The fossil record preserved remains of fluffy down, making it the largest feathered dinosaur ever found.

If a T. rex relative had feathers, why not T. rex? Scientists said the evidence is trending in that direction.

“People need to start changing their image of T. rex,” said Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who was not part of the discovery team.

Those are my picks for today. What are you reading and blogging about?