Tuesday Reads: Toni Morrison, Trump’s Gaslighting, and Other News

Gustav Klimt, Tree of Life

Good Morning!!

The news just broke that Toni Morrison has died. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t read her work; maybe now would be a good time to start. The Washington Post: Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate who transfigured American literature, dies at 88.

Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist who conjured a black girl longing for blue eyes, a slave mother who kills her child to save her from bondage, and other indelible characters who helped transfigure a literary canon long closed to African Americans, died Aug. 5 at a hospital in the Bronx. She was 88….

Ms. Morrison spent an impoverished childhood in Ohio steel country, began writing during what she described as stolen time as a single mother, and became the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. Critically acclaimed and widely loved, she received recognitions as diverse as the Pulitzer Prize and the selection of her novels — four of them — for the book club led by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.

Ms. Morrison placed African Americans, particularly women, at the heart of her writing at a time when they were largely relegated to the margins both in literature and in life. With language celebrated for its lyricism, she was credited with conveying as powerfully, or more than perhaps any novelist before her, the nature of black life in America, from slavery to the inequality that went on more than a century after it ended.

Morrison begins the essay, published in 2015 in the 150th anniversary edition of The Nation, by recalling her despairing thoughts after George W. Bush was reelected in 2004. Was she foreshadowing our future under Trump?

Dictators and tyrants routinely begin their reigns and sustain their power with the deliberate and calculated destruction of art: the censorship and book-burning of unpoliced prose, the harassment and detention of painters, journalists, poets, playwrights, novelists, essayists. This is the first step of a despot whose instinctive acts of malevolence are not simply mindless or evil; they are also perceptive. Such despots know very well that their strategy of repression will allow the real tools of oppressive power to flourish. Their plan is simple:

1. Select a useful enemy—an “Other”—to convert rage into conflict, even war.

2. Limit or erase the imagination that art provides, as well as the critical thinking of scholars and journalists.

3. Distract with toys, dreams of loot, and themes of superior religion or defiant national pride that enshrine past hurts and humiliations.

Harmonia Rosales, the Birth of Eve

The Nation could never have existed or flourished in 1940s Spain, or 2014 Syria, or apartheid South Africa, or 1930s Germany. And the reason is clear. It was born in the United States in 1865, the year of Lincoln’s assassination, when political division was stark and lethal—during, as my friend said, times of dread. But no prince or king or dictator could interfere successfully or forever in a country that seriously prized freedom of the press. This is not to say there weren’t elements that tried censure, but they could not, over the long haul, win.

In these demoralizing days and nights in Trump world, we need artists and journalists so much more than in Bush’s awful presidency.

We are still feeling the aftershocks of the latest mass shootings in California, Texas, and Ohio. Yesterday Trump was forced to read someone else’s words from a teleprompter; it didn’t take long for him to go back to tweeting his resentments. We all knew he was gaslighting us. Nothing he could ever say or do will erase the damage he has done with the ugly racism, xenophobia, and hatred he has spewed since he announced his campaign for president in 2015. He words and deeds have enabled white supremacists and encouraged them to act out violently.

Politico: Trump attacks Obama for statement on shootings.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday attacked former President Barack Obama over the latter’s statement on the weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, tweeting edited quotes from Fox News hosts to make his point and again claiming he is “the least racist person” in the world.

“From the Dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz to the Revolution – The Revolutionaries.” 1957-65, Diego Rivera

“‘Did George Bush ever condemn President Obama after Sandy Hook. President Obama had 32 mass shootings during his reign. Not many people said Obama is out of Control,’” Trump wrote online. “’Mass shootings were happening before the President even thought about running for Pres.’ @kilmeade @foxandfriends”

Trump’s message was a distillation of a sentiment “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade expressed on air shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. The president followed up that tweet with another post paraphrasing a comment from Kilmeade’s morning show colleague, Ainsley Earhardt.

“‘It’s political season and the election is around the corner. They want to continue to push that racist narrative.’ @ainsleyearhardt @foxandfriends,” Trump continued. “And I am the least racist person. Black, Hispanic and Asian Unemployment is the lowest (BEST) in the history of the United States!”

Obama on Monday afternoon lamented the violence that transpired Saturday morning in El Paso, Texas, and early Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio, which left at least 31 people dead and injured dozens more.

In his statement, Obama called on Americans to “soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.” The former president did not mention Trump, or any other politician, by name.

Obama simply did what Trump could not and would not do: act like a president.

Gizmodo: Trump Boosts Fired Google Engineer Who Proposed Richard Spencer Fundraiser, Suggested Skinheads Rebrand.

On Monday morning, President Donald Trump finally took the time to issue a (hollow and thoroughly unconvincing) denunciation of white supremacy in the wake of mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas over the weekend that collectively resulted in at least 31 deaths and scores of injuries—in the latter case involving a gunman whose manifesto clearly reflected Trump’s racist immigration rhetoric and reportedly targeted Hispanics.

Tree of Hope Remain Strong, Frida Kahlo

Of course, it never takes long for him to return to his usual bullshit. So it’s the opposite of surprising that by Monday evening, Trump was posting clips from a Fox News interview with a former Google engineer who claimed the company discriminated against him for his conservative political views. In reality, said employee had reportedly urged other Googlers to contribute to a “bounty” to find an individual who punched white supremacist Richard Spencer, as well as suggested that the Golden State Skinheads (GSS) rebrand so as to provide better “branding” for the “American nationalist Right.”

In the clip from Lou Dobbs Tonight posted to the president’s feed at 9:33 p.m. ET, former Google engineer Kevin Cernekee parroted debunked claims that the company’s executives “want to use all the power and all the resources that they have to control the flow of information to the public and make sure that Trump loses in 2020.” This dovetails nicely with Trump’s grudge against Google, which along with all of the president’s other perceived political enemies, he has targeted with baseless smears and doctored videos asserting a devious conspiracy against him.

While many news outlets were reporting on the stunning hypocrisy of Trump’s speech on the mass shootings, The New York Times chose to take Trump’s words at face value with a headline that was quickly attacked on Twitter.

The Washington Post: ‘The headline was bad’: New York Times amends front page on Trump’s response to mass shootings after backlash.

The New York Times weathered intense backlash Monday night for its front-page headline about President Trump’s response to the pair of mass shootings that read: “TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM.”

A preview of Tuesday’s front page shared to social media sparked instant criticism from members of the public, journalists and politicians, including several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, many of whom took issue with how the publication framed Trump’s comments on the weekend attacks in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that left at least 31 people dead and dozens injured. In the aftermath of the tragedies, major media outlets have faced scrutiny from all sides over how they confront Trump and his often inflammatory rhetoric.

About an hour after the headline went viral, the Times announced it had amended its wording.

“The headline was bad and has been changed for the second edition,” a spokesperson for the Times told The Washington Post in an email.

Later editions of the print paper feature the words, “ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS.” Subheads above the two stories about Trump’s speech were also changed.

It’s the new “but her emails.” It’s time for executive editor Dean Baquet to resign.

The Washington Post story was more in line with reality: Teleprompter Trump meets Twitter Trump as the president responds to mass slayings.

Teleprompter Trump repudiated Twitter Trump in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Monday.

Speaking in the wake of two mass shootings in less than 24 hours that left at least 31 dead over the weekend, President Trump spoke of “the inherent worth and dignity of every human life” and the scourge of “destructive partisanship.”

Venceremos (We Will Win), Rina Lazo, 1954

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” the president said, reading from a script that scrolled on a teleprompter in front of him. He added, “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside — so destructive — and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love.”

That unifying message stood in stark contrast tomore than 2½ years of name-calling, demonizing minorities and inflaming racial animus, much of it carried out on Twitter. Just two hours before his White House speech, Trump tweeted an attack on the “Fake News” media for contributing to a culture of “anger and rage.” And in another set of tweets, the president suggested pairing “strong background checks” with “desperately needed immigration reform” — then dropped the matter entirely during his speech.

Such is the picture of a divisive leader trying to act as a healer, particularly in the aftermath of Saturday’s anti-immigrant attack in El Paso, where officials are still investigating but believe the alleged gunman posted a manifesto that echoed Trump’s harsh rhetoric on immigrants, including describing his attack as “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Trump, in tweets and in rallies, has repeatedly decried the “invasion” of undocumented immigrants across the nation’s southern border.

More stories to check out:

Max Fisher at The New York Times: White Terrorism Shows ‘Stunning’ Parallels to Islamic State’s Rise.

Ali Soufan at The New York Times: I Spent 25 Years Fighting Jihadis. White Supremacists Aren’t So Different.

The Daily Beast: DHS Official: Trump Can’t Admit ‘This Is Terrorism.’

Los Angeles Times: Foreign countries are warning their citizens about U.S. travel after mass shootings.

Los Angeles Times: Trump officials have redirected resources from countering far-right, racism-fueled domestic terrorism.

USA Today: Hypocritical talk, worse action: Trump dismantled tools to fight white supremacist terrorism.

The Dallas News: Donald Trump, who’s going to El Paso this week, owes city more than $500K for his February rally.

The Texas Tribune: A racist manifesto and a shooter terrorize Hispanics in El Paso and beyond.

The Texas Tribune: Running while brown: How Julián Castro is navigating white presidential politics.

The Washington Post: Ex-girlfriend says Dayton shooter heard voices, talked about ‘dark, evil things.


Thursday Reads

news IMG_0987

Good Morning!!

Before I get started on the news, I need to ask our readers for a little help. We need about $50.00 to pay WordPress for upkeep on the blog–for our design and extra storage space, that kind of thing. We’d be very grateful if some of our readers would kick in just a small amount to help us pay our bills. If you can spare a few bucks, please click on the “Make a Donation” button down below on the right. Thanks for whatever you can do.

Now that that’s out of the way, on to the news of the day.

A Change in the Weather

Mother Nature has decided to be kind to those of us who are sick and tired of being so cold. There’s a warming trend on the way! From the Weather Channel, January Thaw: Weather Pattern Change to Erase Arctic Blast.

While weather patterns can get “locked in” for lengthy periods of time, one thing is for sure: Change will occur if you wait long enough. If you’re sick of bone-chilling temperatures, you’re in luck. A thaw is now taking shape thanks to a large-scale weather pattern change.

Wednesday morning was the last hurrah for the worst of the cold, with subzero readings again over the Great Lakes as well as parts of the interior Northeast.

A temperature moderation began Wednesday and will accelerate Thursday into Friday.

Our Friday forecast high temperature compared to average map shows that much of the Plains, Rockies and West will be engulfed by above-average temperatures. Some cities, including Omaha, Nebraska and Fargo, North Dakota, could be 10 to 20 degrees above mid-January averages.

The above-average warmth will spread to the East Coast over the weekend.

Read more and watch a video at the link. For the Boston area, it means that for the next 10 days it will be in the 30s and 40s instead of the ‘teens and single numbers. I hope you’ll get warmer days where you live too!

Twentieth Century Newsstand, by Ken Keeley

Twentieth Century Newsstand, by Ken Keeley

Boston Olympics Update

On Saturday, I wrote an anguished post about a the Olympic Committee submitting Boston as the U.S. location for the Summer Olympics in 2024. I think this would be a disaster for the city I love. Today The Boston Globe reported on the organized opposition to bringing the Olympics here.

Boston’s Olympic Opposition Lays Out Arguments and Plans.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the Olympic bidding group Boston 2024 have said they believe the majority of the public supports holding the 2024 Summer Games in the Hub. With little public polling on the issue to this point, it’s hard to judge whether that’s the case.

But if No Boston Olympics, the group leading the opposition to the city’s bid, does represent a minority, it showed that it plans to be a vocal one at a public meeting it held in the Back Bay Tuesday night. More than 100 people attended the meeting at the First Church in Boston.

The meeting featured a talk by sports economist and Smith College professor Andrew Zimbalist.

Zimbalist, who has written extensively on the lack of economic benefits sporting events like the Olympics bring to cities and countries, scoffed at the idea that Boston’s bid can be done on a $4.5 billion budget for operating expenses, and said he was skeptical that the budget can be entirely privately financed (as is proposed by Boston 2024). Boston 2024 also says public money would go toward infrastructure and security.

Zimbalist discussed some of the hidden expenses to hosting the Olympics, including the loss of advertising revenue on the MBTA during the Olympics. (The International Olympic Committee has historically required control of advertising space in the host city during and around the Olympics. An example of host city requirements built into the bidding process can be seen here, from page 213 on.) He also said that construction costs can go up if planning falls behind at all, because projects may need to be done in a rush as the Games approach.

“It’s one thing to have a nice idea and say the private sector is going to cover this,” he said. “It’s another thing to have hard contracts.”

On possibility the group is considering is getting a question on the ballot in 2016. This has worked in some cities in the past.

In other cities across the country and the world, opposition groups to Olympic bids have gone directly to the voters. Bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics lost in referendums in Poland and Switzerland.

Perhaps most famously, Colorado voted not to put any state money toward a 1976 Denver Winter Olympics bid. At the time of the bid, Colorado had already been awarded the games for that year by the IOC. But voters said no, leaving the IOC high and dry and in need of a new host. (It got one, in Innsbruck, Austria.) [….]

But going to the voters is not the only method opposition groups have used to oppose the games. A referendum in Oslo, Norway, over whether to host the 2022 Games passed in 2013. Even so, that bid was eventually dropped as the public soured on the idea over the course of the next year. And in Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Games, the Windy City’s opposition group had the opportunity to meet with the IOC and voice its concerns. The IOC ended up choosing Rio, Brazil. It’s also possible the Olympic bid could turn into a 2016 state elections issue.

How do voters feel about the Olympics coming here?

Public opinion polling on the Boston bid has been pretty sparse, but in a survey of likely Massachusetts voters earlier this year, The Boston Globe found 47 percent support for pursuing a bid, with 43 percent against. When asked if they supported taxpayer money going to funding the games, 64 percent of respondents were against the idea, though.

So there is a realistic chance of preventing what I believe would be a terrible mistake.

Masaaki sato

Boko Harum Attacks

I thought I’d follow up on Dakinikat’s post from Monday, in which she called out the hypocrisy the media and cultural elites for expressing faux outrage over the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, while basically ignoring the horrific Boko Harum attacks in Nigeria. Other writers around the internet also noted the disparity in coverage; and several days later, the corporate media has begun to call more attention to the Nigerian situation.

From CNN, Satellite images show devastation of Boko Haram attacks, rights groups say.

Charred ground and cinders mark the sites where once thousands of homes stood. That’s according to a series of satellite images released Thursday by Amnesty International, which the rights group said shows the “horrific scale” of the devastation wrought by Boko Haram militants.

As they’ve trickled out, accounts of the bloody attackson the northern Nigerian town of Baga and surrounding villages have shocked even those all too used to reports of violence by Boko Haram militants.

Witnesses told how the attackers sped into the town on January 3 with grenade launchers — their gunfire and explosions shattering the early morning calm. Some terrified residents fled, while others took refuge in their homes — and were torched with them.

Local officials reported death tolls ranging from hundreds to as many as 2,000 people. But authorities have yet to access the remote area near the border with Chad to get a full picture.

View the before and after satellite images at the CNN link. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the attacks.

Of the 30,000 people displaced during the latest attacks, 20,000 camped in Maiduguri city, capital of Borno state, while another 10,000 headed to Monguno town, nearer Baga. Others were stranded on Kangala Island on Lake Chad.

“These people are adding to the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees, who have already stretched the capacity of host communities and government authorities,” Amnesty International said….

Boko Haram has terrorized northern Nigeria regularly since 2009, attacking police, schools, churches and civilians, and bombing government buildings.

It has also kidnapped students, including more than 200 schoolgirls who were abducted in April — and remain missing.

Out of Print, by Mariam Meckel

Out of Print, by Mariam Meckel

NBC Nightly News reported on Boko Haram’s apparent use of the kidnapped girls as unwitting suicide bombers.

Three suicide bombings by girls aged as young as 10 suggest that Nigeria’s Boko Haram has employed a new tactic of forcing abducted children to blow themselves up, according to experts.

The Islamist sect has been carrying out almost daily killings and kidnappings across northeast Nigeria in a campaign of violence now in its sixth year. Deadly attacks on Saturday and Sunday were carried out by three young female suicide bombers.

 These came just days after a week-long killing spree by Boko Haram, in which the group torched at least 10 towns leaving around 2,000 people unaccounted for. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday called the attack “a crime against humanity.”
It is not clear if the girls were coerced or were even aware they were strapped with explosives, which may have been detonated remotely. But experts say that Boko Haram appears to be using the children it kidnaps — such as the 276 Chibok girls who sparked the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign — and using them as a readily available supply of suicide bombers.

“It is highly likely that Boko Haram is conscripting young girls to use as suicide bombers,” said Elizabeth Donnelly, assistant head of the Africa program at London’s Chatham House think tank. She told NBC News that these conscripts were little more than “slaves fed by countless abductions since the crisis started.”

Boko Haram roughly translates to “Western education is sinful.” The group aims to create its own state based on strict Islamic law.

Newsstand, by Linda Apple

Newsstand, by Linda Apple

At Huffington Post, Okello Kelo Sam wrote about the #RememberOurGirls twitter campaign, Amid Boko Haram’s Latest Killings: I Vow to #RememberOurGirls.

Eight months is a long time. Long enough for international outrage to rise, fall and fade away. That’s how long it’s been since Boko Haram militants stormed a secondary school in the northeastern village of Chibok in Borneo State, abducting more than 200 still-missing teenage girls.

A global Twitter campaign – #BringBackOurGirls – caught fire with the help of US First Lady Michelle Obama, former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and, most importantly, millions of global hashtag activists. They focused the world’s attention on the girls, leading to support from the US, UK, France, Canada, China, Iran and Israel, reportedly in the form military intelligence and special forces…..

Meanwhile, the international efforts to recover the girls failed. So did several rounds of negotiations to exchange the girls for the release of captured Boko Haram fighters held in Nigerian jails….

Sam himself was a victim of the violence in Africa. He was abducted and forced to be a child soldier in Uganda. He was able to escape, but later his younger brother was also forced into combat with Joseph Kony’s group and lost his life.

Yes, I lost my brother. But I never lose hope. I do, however, fear hope for the Nigerian girls is slipping away, internationally. Media tickers marking the days since their abduction have disappeared from front pages, web pages and broadcast reports. Sometimes I wonder: Does anyone still remember the 219 missing girls?

They do in Abuja. Every day the Bring Back Our Girls demonstrators – which fueled the hashtag campaign – rally at Unity Fountain in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Families of the missing girls, neighbors, and fellow countrymen congregate and chant the now-familiar mantra: “Bring back our girls.” [….]

It’s easy to naysay advocacy efforts like #BringBackOurGirls as “slacktivism.” After four million Tweets, the 219 girls have not been rescued. So what’s the point, right? Wrong. Until a social-media savvy Nigerian lawyer, Ibrahim Abdullahi, came up with #BringBackOurGirls, there was a practical media blackout of the abductions.

Had it not been for this social media campaign I wonder if anyone outside of Africa would know about the Chibok girls? Would the story have lasted more than one news cycle in the West? Would you be reading this now?

No, social media won’t return the girls. But it got my attention and probably yours. It’s been said by the demonstrators what is needed is a renewed campaign to once again gain mindshare of a distracted world. Mine is one voice of millions demanding the girls’ rescue. But I stand in solidarity with those at Unity Fountain and declare this My 2015 Resolution: I will #RememberOurGirls.

Please go read the whole article at HuffPo. Today, I resolve to remember those lost girls.

Newsstand, by Sol Robbins

Newsstand, by Sol Robbins

In Other News . . .

CNN, After four years, American cartoonist Molly Norris still in hiding after drawing Prophet Mohammed.

Vox, Vox got no threats for posting Charlie Hebdo cartoons, dozens for covering Islamophobia

NYT, Oklahoma to Resume Executions 9 Months after a Lethal Injection Went Awry.

WCVB Boston, Phase 2 of jury selection set to begin in Tsarnaev trial: Judge set to start questioning prospective jurors.

Politico, Mitt Romney backlash intensifies: Conservatives argue he has too much baggage and the GOP needs a fresh face.

The Hill, GOP presidential convention to be held earlier in 2016.

SFGate, Ohio man accused of plotting to attack US Capitol, arrested.

ABC News, Dad Accuses FBI of Setting Up ‘Mommy’s Boy’ Son in Bomb Plot.

WaPo, Teachers: Ohio man accused in terror plot a typical student.

Global Research, FBI Thwarts Terror Plot on Capitol (That They Planned).

Vox, Days after free-speech rally, France arrests a comedian for this Facebook post.

Mediaite, ‘Je Suis Confused’: Stewart Tackles France’s Hypocrisy for Arresting Comedian.

CBS New York, De Blasio: I Won’t Apologize To Police For My ‘Fundamental Beliefs’.

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Thursday!


Wednesday Reads: Hobby Lobby Loves Them Pre-Cooked

14c4a1ed09743ffd58d8053c7aa93f11Good Morning

You must have heard about the latest from Hobby Lobby, the hypocrisy is so disgusting…Hobby Lobby Allegedly Fired Employee Due to Pregnancy

When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives—on the false grounds that they cause abortions—would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant. Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits. “They didn’t even want me to come back after having my baby, to provide for it,” she says. Her allegations—as well as those brought by other former Hobby Lobby employees—call into question the company’s public claims when it comes to protecting life and operating its business with Christian values. Additionally, they highlight a practice by which Hobby Lobby prevents its employees from seeking justice through the courts.

Yeah, you can read more details at the link. But as Eric Loomis, LG&M points out: That Pro-Life Hobby Lobby

And here I thought Hobby Lobby was acting out of very strong principle for life and not because it hates women and wants to punish them for having sex. There’s also this gem:

When Allen applied for unemployment benefits, she says Hobby Lobby’s corporate office gave the unemployment agency a false version of events, claiming she could have taken off personal leave but chose not to. In the end, Allen says she won her claim for unemployment benefits, but she felt she had been wrongly discriminated based on the fact that she was pregnant. In February 2012 she sued Hobby Lobby, but her lawsuit was swiftly dropped because, like most—if not all—Hobby Lobby employees, Allen had signed away her rights to sue the company. Though the multibillion-dollar, nearly 600-store chain took its legal claim against the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court when it didn’t want to honor the health insurance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the company forbids its employees from seeking justice in the court of law. Allen had signed a binding arbitration agreement upon taking the job, though she says she doesn’t remember doing so. The agreement, which all Hobby Lobby employees are required to sign, forces employees to resolve legal disputes outside of court through a process known as arbitration.

Lying so she couldn’t get unemployment is very special, but forcing employees to sign documents waiving their right to sue the company in order to be hired should be as illegal as the yellow-dog contract. I would ask how something like that is even legal in this nation, but of course I already know why–because corporations control our lives in ways they have not in a century.

I have plenty more links for you, but because I must take the boy to his endocrinologist in Atlanta tomorrow…I will just give it to you in dump fashion. Religious violence in 2013 displaced millions | Al Jazeera America

Millions of people were forced from their homes because of their religious beliefs last year, the U.S. government said Monday, citing the devastating impact of conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Central African Republic. Secretary of State John Kerry called the displacement of families and devastation of communities from sectarian violence a troubling trend in the world, as he launched the State Department 2013 report on religious freedom. The report said that in much of the Middle East, the Christian presence is becoming “a shadow of its former self.” Hundreds of thousands of minority Christians have fled Syria after three years of civil war. It also highlighted more than one million people displaced in the Central African Republic during 2013, amid an upsurge in Christian-Muslim violence. In Southeast Asia, the spread of anti-Muslim violence spread from Myanmar‘s volatile west to central Meiktila, with up to 100 deaths and 12,000 displaced. Kerry further cited the “savagery and incredible brutality” by the al-Qaeda-inspired militant group active in Iraq and Syria, known as the Islamic State, saying it had slaughtered Shiite Muslims and forcibly converted Christians under threat of death. The report, released annually, reviews how religious freedoms are respected and violated in almost 200 countries and territories.

This 19-year-old confessed to killing a woman in 1963. You won’t believe what happened next.

In 1963, a 17-year-old Indiana youth named Robert J. Dowlut reportedly confessed to police — amid a pile of evidence — that he’d killed a local woman. The next year, a jury of his peers heard the case and found  Dowlut guilty. What happened next? A) He died in the electric chair. B) He lived a long life and is currently the chief lawyer for the National Rifle Association.

Read about this here: The NRA’s Murder Mystery | Mother Jones I really don’t know why they bother to research this next item of news,  WASHINGTON: Past-due debt prevalent across U.S., with South the highest | Economy | McClatchy DC What more would anyone expect.  At least there is Good News: Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Can Remain Open Here is a few health stories: Take Two: Just How Good Are Generic Meds Anyway? | Mother Jones Previously unknown virus that lives in half the world’s population could play a major role in obesity and diabetes – Medical News Today The Challenges of Having Sex as a Little Person – Merissa Nathan Gerson – The Atlantic And let’s not stop with little people sex, what about panda sex: Nixon on Panda Sex – Lawyers, Guns & Money In fact, more of Nixon’s tapes are in the news, as two new books are released,  The Untapped Secrets of the Nixon Tapes – Evan Thomas – The Atlantic From a former president to a former First Lady: The Best “Dear John Letter” Ever Sent | Mother Jones

In 1947, years before she met John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier sent her high school boyfriend what is maybe my favorite Dear John letter of all time.

“I’ve always thought of being in love as being willing to do anything for the other person—starve to buy them bread and not mind living in Siberia with them—and I’ve always thought that every minute away from them would be hell—so looking at it that [way] I guess I’m not in love with you.”

Jackie O. would have been 85 Monday. RIP.

For more fascinating reads, look at this: Read the Notorious RBG at Her Most Blistering

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, teeny tiny goddess of judicial feminism incarnate, has authored many a badass piece of legal writing in her day. Now, thanks to some devoted brainiacs who are better at this sort of thing than I am, you can read the sharpest work of the grand dame in one place.

The folks at People for the American Way (a progressive think tank) have put together a lovely treasury of RBG’s greatest hits. Perfect light reading for the next time you put your head in a big pile of curls on your head and take a bubble bath, or lie out on a Caribbean beach, or a good thing to read to the kids when you’re trying to get them to bed. Yep. Just a little light legal reading.

Meanwhile, Officials Pull Back From Crash Site as the Army Puts Pressure on Rebels – NYTimes.com And if you are worried about the big flood: Climate refugees, DO NOT MOVE TO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST | Grist

Many Seattle residents revere Cliff Mass as the Yoda of weather in the Northwest. On his blog and through spots in local media, this professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington helps us process our snowpocalypses and measure out Lexapro for 10 months of the year. Now he’s turning his big-weather brain to something regularly on our minds here at Grist: “As global warming takes hold later in the century, where will be the best place in the lower 48 states to escape its worst effects?” Here’s the short answer from Cliff:

Everyone stay where you are.
Cliff Mass
Everyone stay where you are.

On his blog entry, Mass goes into much more scientific detail on climate effects for the Lower 48 (complete with loads more charts). But even from this map, we can glean a few key takeaways.

  • You’ll notice Mass highlighted most of the Eastern seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico, and sections of California in bright red. Areas of sea-level rise? Ohnonononono. You misunderstand completely. Those are spots where candy will grow on trees — because adaptation! Florida’s famous orange groves will evolve into chocolate orange groves and just work their way up the coast to Connecticut. Delicious!
  • Take a look at all that yellow in the Southwest. Any guesses? Correct: That is precisely where state and local governments are likely to enforce three-day workweeks. And if you worry that moving to Phoenix, Los Angeles, or Austin means you’ll spend every extra-long weekend wearing spikes and riding in a rusty dune buggy on your way to bludgeon the neighbors to death over water resources, here’s a tip: Don’t!
  • Orange! This DOES NOT mean this area gets more oranges (duh, pay attention; that was yellow). It does signify that every day will be Christmas. It also signifies that more Christmases will be wetter, windier, and generally more hurricane-y. P.S. I got you galoshes. (AGAIN, I know. Tee-hee!) Merry Christmas!
  • Purple, purple, purple — Big Purp practically owns the map. Good thing, too, because from Montana to Maine, climate-changed citizenry will THRILL to the incredible cellphone coverage. No more dropped calls in Chicago. No more blips in Butte. Just blazing-fast downloads and crystal-clear audio, from your hot, cracked lips to your heatstroked fingertips. (Caveat: Customers will notice an increase in dropped calls from underground bunkers and heat hovels.)
  • Say what about the green dots? Oh, those are flooding rivers and total shitholes.

Now for the last few remaining links for the day, a couple of stories from Hollywood and two others on digging up the past… Effort to save ‘Tara’ plantation facade before it’s ‘Gone with the Wind’ – NY Daily News Kodak, Studios Negotiating Last Ditch Effort to Keep Film in Hollywood – Hollywood Reporter Traces of Lincoln’s Courthouse Found in Illinois – Archaeology Magazine Erosion Exposes Human Remains on Kwajalein Atoll – Archaeology Magazine Have a good day and hope you share your thoughts in the comments below. A woman waves from a float during the Carnaval des Fleurs…


Thursday Reads: Aftermath of SCOTUS Voting Rights Decision

SCOTUS KKK

Good Morning!!

This is going to be a quickie post, because I’m feeling kind of sick this morning.

Although I’m thrilled with the DOMA decision yesterday, I still can’t get past my anger and sadness about the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act. So I’m just going to post the (above) “official 2013 photo” of the U.S. Supreme Court and some accompanying links that demonstrate the damage the Court has done in its horrendous decision on the Voting Rights Act.

I’ll begin with this excellent post by Linda Greenhouse at The New York Times: Current Conditions, which neatly summarizes the Court’s “conservative” wing’s blatant “judicial activism,” to quote a frequent charge of conservatives against “liberal” judges.

These have been a remarkable three days, as the Supreme Court finished its term by delivering the only four decisions that most people were waiting for. The 5-to-4 decisions striking down the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act and the Defense of Marriage Act will go far toward defining the Roberts court, which has concluded its eighth year. Monday’s place-holding ruling on affirmative action in higher education, although it decided very little, is also definitional, for reasons I’ll explain. There is a great deal to say about each decision, and about how each reflects on the court. My thoughts are preliminary, informed by that phrase in the chief justice’s voting rights opinion: current conditions.

By this phrase, the chief justice meant to suggest that there is a doctrinal basis for drawing a boundary around Congressional authority, for judicial insistence that a burden that Congress chooses to impose on the states has to be justified as a cure for a current problem. In the context of voting rights, an area over which the 15th Amendment gives Congress specific authority, this is a deeply problematic position that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion demolishes.

Please go read the whole column–it’s difficult to get Greenhouse’s thesis into an excerpt. The blatant hypocrisy of the “conservative” justices–especially Scalia is mind-boggling, especially when the stunning effects of the Voting Rights decision on “current conditions” are already obvious and dramatic–just as were the disastrous effect of the Citizens United decision. A few examples.

The Guardian:  Texas rushes ahead with voter ID law after supreme court decision

Officials in Texas said they would rush ahead with a controversial voter ID law that critics say will make it more difficult for ethnic minority citizens to vote, hours after the US supreme court released them from anti-discrimination constraints that have been in place for almost half a century.

The Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, declared that in the light of the supreme court’s judgment striking down a key element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act he was implementing instantly the voter ID law that had previously blocked by the Obama administration. “With today’s decision, the state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately. Photo identification will now be required when voting in elections in Texas.”

Greensboro News and Record: NC senator: Voter ID bill moving ahead with ruling

Voter identification legislation in North Carolina will pick up steam again now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, a key General Assembly leader said Tuesday.

A bill requiring voters to present one of several forms of state-issued photo ID starting in 2016 cleared the House two months ago, but it’s been sitting since in the Senate Rules Committee to wait for a ruling by the justices in an Alabama case, according to Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the committee chairman. He said a bill will now be rolled out in the Senate next week.

The ruling essentially means a voter ID or other election legislation approved in this year’s session probably won’t have to receive advance approval by U.S. Justice Department attorneys or a federal court before such measures can be carried out.

Northwest Ohio.com: Voter ID and restricted early voting likely after SCOTUS ruling

ATLANTA (AP) — Across the South, Republicans are working to take advantage of a new political landscape after a divided U.S. Supreme Court freed all or part of 15 states, many of them in the old Confederacy, from having to ask Washington’s permission before changing election procedures in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination.

After the high court announced its momentous ruling Tuesday, officials in Texas and Mississippi pledged to immediately implement laws requiring voters to show photo identification before getting a ballot. North Carolina Republicans promised they would quickly try to adopt a similar law. Florida now appears free to set its early voting hours however Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP Legislature please. And Georgia’s most populous county likely will use county commission districts that Republican state legislators drew over the objections of local Democrats.

AL.com:  Alabama photo voter ID law to be used in 2014, state officials say

MONTGOMERY, Alabama —  Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision clears the way for Alabama’s new photo voter ID law to be used in the 2014 elections without the need for federal preclearance, state officials said.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and Secretary of State Beth Chapman said they believed the voting requirement, which is scheduled to take effect with the June 2014 primaries, can simply move forward.

“Photo voter ID will the first process that we have gone through under this new ruling,” Chapman said today.

Memphis Business Journal: Mississippi voter ID law could start next year

Voters in Mississippi may have to start showing a photo ID to vote by the middle of 2014, according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

According to the Associated Press, Hoseman spoke Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that certain state and local governments no longer need federal approval to change election laws. That ruling opens up the possibility that Mississippi will implement a voter identification requirement.

According to Think Progress, Arizona and South Dakota  will likely be trying to pass Voter ID laws soon. I’m sue that won’t be the end of it.

Just a few more links:

Joan Walsh: The ugly SCOTUS voting rights flim-flam

Ari Berman: What the Supreme Court Doesn’t Understand About the Voting Rights Act

Stephen Hill: So the Voting Rights Act Is Gutted—What Can Protect Minority Voters Now?

I’ll end there and leave it up to you guys to link to other important news stories. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads: Rick Scott Folds on Medicaid, the Sanctity of Marriage, GOP Meltdown, and Media News

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Good Morning!!

There’s another winter storm moving across the country, and we could get another big snowstorm here in New England this weekend. My local NPR station predicted a foot of snow for the Boston area on Sunday, but the Weather Channel says it could turn out to be mixed with rain. We’ll just have to wait and see. The good news is that February is almost over and spring is on the horizon.

For now, pull up a chair (or curl up in bed with your laptop, grab your coffee or tea, and let’s see what’s in the news this morning.

Yesterday JJ wrote about all the Republican governors who are refusing to cooperate with the ACA by setting up health care exchanges in their states. Many GOP governors have also said they will not agree to an expansion of Medicaid. But late yesterday, one of the most recalcitrant of these governors, Rick Scott of Florida, reversed course and accepted a Medicaid expansion that would provide health coverage for an additional 1 million Floridians. The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday a proposed three-year expansion of Florida’s Medicaid program — enrolling an additional one million poor and disabled Floridians beginning next year — after the Obama administration gave the state tentative approval to privatize Medicaid services. If the Legislature approves, Scott’s announcement means the state will extend eligibility in the federal-state program to single people and families earning up to 138 percent of poverty….”While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care,” Scott said at a press conference. He added that the expansion would have to be renewed in three years.

Florida has approximately 3.8 million uninsured citizens, so this isn’t going to solve the problem for most of them. So what’s going on with the privatization deal?

Scott’s announcement came a few hours after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced its tentative approval of a managed-care plan that Scott had previously said might well determine his decision on expansion – though the governor said he had not committed to the expansion in return for the approval….

But, the approval is conditional. According to CMS, the state still needs to show how it plans to monitor the quality of care that the Medicaid recipients will receive, plus create a “rigorous and independent evaluation” of the managed-care plans.

Republicans in the Florida legislature are unhappy and may still challenge Scott’s decision.

Erik Erikson is unhappy too, writing at Red State: I Am Very Disappointed in Governor Rick Scott. Erikson says “[i]t is a sad day for conservatives.”

Pete Domenici and Michelle Laxalt

Pete Domenici and Michelle Laxalt

In sanctity of marriage news,

Just a week after Democratic Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee revealed that a young girl he was tweeting with was his daughter–a child he had not know about until recently–we learned yesterday that former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici had a secret, out-of-wedlock child, a son who is now in his thirties. From the Albuquerque Journal:

Statements given to the Journal by Domenici and the son’s mother, Michelle Laxalt of Alexandria, Va., identified the son as Adam Paul Laxalt, a Nevada lawyer. Michelle Laxalt formerly was a prominent government relations consultant and television political commentator in Washington, D.C. She is a daughter of former U.S. senator and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt. “More than 30 years ago, I fathered a child outside of my marriage,” Domenici said in his statement. “The mother of that child made me pledge that we would never reveal that parenthood, and I have tried to honor that pledge and so has she,” Domenici said.

Michelle Laxalt said that she and Domenici decided to go public now because she had reason to believe that someone else was going to (someone in the media?) was going to reveal their secret.

“Recently information has come to me that this sacred situation might be twisted … and shopped to press outlets large and small in a vicious attempt to smear, hurt and diminish Pete Domenici, an honorable man, his extraordinary wife, Nancy, and other innocents.” Michelle Laxalt said in her prepared statement.

“Why, after more than 30 years, would anyone insinuate pain and ugliness where joy and beauty have presided?” she asked.

Michelle Laxalt said “one night’s mistake led to pregnancy” and she chose to raise the son as a single parent.

“Given the fact that both my father and the father of my child were United States senators, I felt strongly that I would make this choice according to my values and would not seek advice, input or permission,” Michelle Laxalt said.

A few more reactions to the Domenici-Laxalt story:

Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic Wire: Senator Had a Secret Son With Pundit Who Praised Him as a Great Dad.

Digby at Hullabaloo notes that Domenici was extremely judgmental of Bill Clinton over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

I really liked this one at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen: “Secret Children For Me, No Gay Marriage For Thee!”

More evidence that the GOP is melting down:

Yesterday, conservative pundit Byron York was mystified by John Boehner’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the sequester. York writes:

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner describes the upcoming sequester as a policy “that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more.”

Which leads to the question: Why would Republicans support a measure that threatens national security and thousands of jobs? Boehner and the GOP are determined to allow the $1.2 trillion sequester go into effect unless President Obama and Democrats agree to replacement cuts, of an equal amount, that target entitlement spending. If that doesn’t happen — and it seems entirely unlikely — the sequester goes into effect, with the GOP’s blessing.

In addition, Boehner calls the cuts “deep,” when most conservatives emphasize that for the next year they amount to about $85 billion out of a $3,600 billion budget. Which leads to another question: Why would Boehner adopt the Democratic description of the cuts as “deep” when they would touch such a relatively small part of federal spending?

The effect of Boehner’s argument is to make Obama seem reasonable in comparison. After all, the president certainly agrees with Boehner that the sequester cuts threaten national security and jobs. The difference is that Obama wants to avoid them….Could the GOP message on the sequester be any more self-defeating?

Bwwwwwaaaaaaahahahahahaha!!!!

o-KILLING-JESUS-BILL-O-REILLY-570

In other bizarre wingnut news,

I had to double check to make sure this story at HuffPo wasn’t satire.

Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly has announced that Killing Jesus: A History will be his follow-up book to the NYT Bestsellers Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. A press release from his publisher Henry Holt stated that the book will

…tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth as a beloved and controversial young revolutionary brutally killed by Roman soldiers. O’Reilly will recount the seismic political and historical events that made his death inevitable, and the changes his life brought upon the world for the centuries to follow. “Jesus Christ has not walked among us physically for more than two thousand years, yet his presence today is felt the world over and his spirit is worshipped by more than 2.2 billion people,” said O’Reilly. “His teachings, his legacy, his life as a flesh-and-blood man, and his death created the world in which we live.”

Too much! More from The Hollywood Reporter:

In Killing Jesus, O’Reilly “will recount the seismic political and historical events” that made the death of the “beloved and controversial young revolutionary” known as Jesus of Nazareth inevitable.

“Jesus Christ has not walked among us physically for more than 2,000 years, yet his presence today is felt the world over and his spirit is worshipped by more than 2.2 billion people, O’Reilly said in a statement released by Holt. “His teachings, his legacy, his life as a flesh-and-blood man and his death created the world in which we live.”

This is a riot:

Candy Crowley moderating presidential debate

Candy Crowley moderating presidential debate

Dylan Byers reported at Politico last night that former RNC chairman and current co-chair of the presidential debate commission Frank Farenkopf regrets allowing CNN’s Candy Crowley to moderate the second presidential debate between Obama and Romney.

Why, you ask?

Crowley, who moderated the second, town-hall-style debate, drew heavy fire from conservatives for challenging Mitt Romney after he suggested that President Obama had not called the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, “acts of terror.”

According to an agreement between the Obama and Romney campaigns, the moderator of the town hall debate was to refrain from asking questions or participating in the debate. Crowley had promised to defy that agreement even before the debate started.

Give me a break! Farenkopf was upset because Candy told the truth. Does anyone really believe he would have objected if she had been backing up something Romney said?

Soledad O'Brien

Soledad O’Brien

In other CNN news, The New York Post reported yesterday that Soledad O’Brien is leaving the network and {ugh!} Erin Burnett will be moved into the morning spot.

We’re told award-winning journalist O’Brien has indicated she is ready to leave after she was initially promised a plum prime-time slot, but that role has so far failed to materialize. A source tells us: “The deal to move Erin to the morning alongside Chris Cuomo is basically done. Soledad had been told she’d get a prime-time slot, but that hasn’t yet happened, and now she is telling friends she is likely to leave.”

What is the deal with CNN and that airhead Erin Burnett? She’s been all over the network lately–even getting foreign assignments that she’s completely unqualified for. Frankly, she’s unqualified to report anything other than lightweight feature stories where she just reads off a teleprompter.

Other reactions:

The Atlantic Wire: Soledad O’Brien Is Not a Part of Jeff Zucker’s Vision for CNN

It looks like one of CNN’s most liked stars won’t fit at the burgeoning home of poop-cruise story torture and soft morning news — this is new president Jeff Zucker’s CNN, and Soledad O’Brien is not it….

If you’re a fan of Starting Point, you can take some solace in that Page Six’s run-up to Zucker’s changes hasn’t come to complete fruition… yet. a tiny bit solace in that some some of Page Six’s revelations haven’t happened … yet. They outlined the new morning shift late last month, although Cuomo hasn’t moved from his co-hosting gig during primetime breaking-news events like the Christopher Dorner manhunt … yet. That whole Ann-Curry-to-CNN-primetime rumor from December still hasn’t been worked out … yet. And — who knows? — this could light the fire to get CNN execs talking (probably to Page Six) about keeping O’Brien in primetime after all. Last time we checked, even shifting Curry to the 10 o’clock hour would leave one spot open — for O’Brien or another new splashy hire from Zucker … or, you know, more Anderson Cooper.

Erin Burnett

Erin Burnett

Jezebel: Oh Crap: Soledad O’Brien Is Rumored to Be Pushed Out at CNN.

As a wise person once said, “If you are a dumbass, it’s probably a bad idea to agree to be interviewed by Soledad O’Brien.” The anchor is a whip-smart bulldog who never backs down, who schools fools and fact checks John Sununu. Unfortunately, the buzz is that she’s getting the boot at CNN….

While some journalists are comfortable taking a break from the hard stuff and embracing the softer side of news (looking at you, Peabody Award-winning Hoda Kotb), O’Brien is not that kind of reporter. If you’re seen her deal with Michelle Bachman or argue with Rudy Giuliani, you know that a cushy gig like Today would not be right.

Those are my recommended reads for this morning. Now it’s your turn to share your links. I promise to click on every one!  Have a great day everyone!


Saturday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’ve been pretty sanguine about the chances of President Obama being reelected, but I have to admit I’m getting to the point that I could start panicking. I can’t understand why Mitt Romney seems to be doing so well in the polls right now. Seriously? Just because he managed to roll over Jim Lehrer and lie his ass off in a debate? I simply cannot understand why anyone would vote for the policies that Romney and Ryan are running on or why there would be such a sudden reversal in the polls based on outright lies and deception. What exactly is going on here?

Nate Silver, who throughout the campaign has been forecasting an Obama victory, is beginning to reverse course. Yesterday afternoon Silver wrote: Obama’s Swing State ‘Firewall’ Has Brittle Foundation.

President Obama’s position has been stronger in state polls than in national surveys on recent days, a streak that extended itself in Thursday’s polling.

Although Mr. Obama got a distinctly poor poll in Florida, which showed him seven points behind there, the rest of Thursday’s state-level data, like a series of polls by Quinnipiac University and Marist College, were reasonably good for him. In surveys of competitive states that were released over the course of the day, he held the lead with 11 polls to Mitt Romney’s 6.

However, four of the six national tracking polls moved toward Mr. Romney, who also led by one point in a national poll published by Monmouth University.

The case that Mr. Romney’s bounce is evaporating after his debate last week in Denver continues to look a bit thin. The tracking polls aren’t perfect by any means. Some are better than others, but they are a below-average group of polls on the whole. But they do provide useful information about the day-to-day trend in the race, and so far they haven’t shown the sort of reversal that Democrats might have hoped for.

What the hell is going on here? Then last night Silver published another piece: Romney Debate Gains Show Staying Power

Mitt Romney continues to surge in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, and Friday may have featured his best set of polls all year.

The best way to track a change in the polls is to look for instances in which the same firm has surveyed the same state (or the national race) multiple times. The FiveThirtyEight forecast model relies on a procedure very much like this to calculate the overall trend in the race.

Fifteen polls were released on Friday that provided a comparison with another survey conducted between the Democratic convention and last week’s debate in Denver. Mr. Romney gained an average of 4.6 percentage points in these surveys.

The scariest thing is that Romney is gaining in the swing states. Silver admits that many of the polls released on Friday were from Republican leaning firms, but still, it’s frightening.

The only really good news for Democrats is that Mr. Obama had built up a large enough cushion that he could withstand a lot of damage without becoming the underdog. The forecast model still has him clinging to narrow leads in Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nevada, states that in some combination would give him 270 electoral votes.

Mr. Obama may also be just slightly underperforming the fundamentals in the election. His approval ratings remain near 50 percent, which would ordinarily predict a narrow re-election victory.

But for the first time, it’s really looking like Romney/Ryan could win. For those of us who believe that there will be a gigantic difference in outcomes–especially for women–if Romney becomes president, that is a terrifying prospect. Some liberals have argued that there is little difference between these two candidates. I simply can’t agree. I think the only hope for democracy is to get Obama reelected and then push him to enact policies that will reduce economic inequality and increase individual rights.

Can Obama turn this around? I have to believe he can, but it will obviously take a dramatic improvement in his performance in next Tuesday’s debate. Both candidates are prepping for the debate over the next three days.

In other news, Think Progress pushes back on Paul Ryan’s lies about the Libya situation during the vice presidential debate Thursday night. Ryan claimed that embassy officials had requested increased security for the Benghazi consulate, but that was not true. The requests were for security at the embassy in Tripoli.

Ryan also claimed there were requests for Marines to protect the ambassador, but that is not true either. TP quotes Foreign Policy:

At Thursday night’s debate, Rep. Paul Ryan seemed to suggest that the requests were for Marines to go to Libya, which was not the case. The requests were to extend the tours of a Mobile Security Detachments [MSD] and the Site Security Team [SST] at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, which are teams of military personnel, not Marines, who can help protect an embassy and its personnel.

There’s more at the link, but pretty much everything Ryan said about Libya during the debate was a lie. So why was it wrong for Biden to laugh at him again?

At HuffPo, Sam Stein writes that Ryan actually requested more stimulus funds from the Obama administration that has previously been known.

During Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden attacked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for criticizing the president’s stimulus act despite having sent two separate requests for stimulus funds for his district.

Biden was wrong. Ryan sent at least four requests.

A Freedom of Information Act request for correspondence between Ryan’s office and the Environmental Protection Agency, filed by The Huffington Post, unearthed two additional instances in which the Wisconsin Republican petitioned for American Recovery Act funds. In addition, there were many other occasions in which the GOP vice presidential nominee asked the EPA for grant money for projects in Wisconsin’s 1st District, which encompasses Ryan’s hometown of Janesville and has a slight Democratic lean. Combined, the letters muddy Ryan’s claim that the stimulus wasn’t helpful and that government spending, more broadly, doesn’t assist small businesses.

Stein notes that the EPA request could be embarrassing for Republicans:

…the letters’ language reveals a congressman who was involved in reviewing the applications and determining that taxpayer money could be useful economically. Moreover, the direct petitioning of the EPA could prove awkward for the Republican ticket, owing to the insistence among many in the GOP that the agency is a hindrance and should be eliminated.

You can see the original letters at the link.

Horrible, ugly troll and Romney surrogate John Sununu has struck again: Sununu Says Obama Imitating Biden Would Fail. From the Bloomberg TV unofficial transcript:

AL HUNT: Welcome back. We are now joined by former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, a top Romney surrogate. John, let me ask you. Last night, the Democrats were ecstatic. They say Joe Biden energized us again. Give me your take on the VP debate.

JOHN SUNUNU: If they’re energized by that grotesque display, all the better for it. I thought Joe Biden was on steroids last night. He looked like the Cheshire cat at times and then he looked like the gawker and the stalker. But worse than that was his substance.

“Grotesque display?” Well, I guess it takes one to know one.

HUNT: John, second presidential debate next Tuesday in Hofstra. Do you expect a different Barack Obama, a different Mitt Romney?

SUNUNU: I expect the same Mitt Romney. Mitt is pretty consistent. But I think you’ll probably see a different Barack Obama. They’re probably showing him tapes of Biden’s disgraceful performance and suggesting to him he ought to get wired like that. So I suspect you’ll see a little bit of Joe Biden not only in Joe Biden, as we saw last night, but a little Joe Biden in Barack Obama.

Well that was insightful.

Sorry I don’t have more positive news. I guess we have to hang on until Tuesday night while the media continues to fawn over Romney and Ryan.

What are you reading and blogging about today?


Michele and Marcus Bachmann and Cher’s Gaydar


GOP Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann and her potential “first dude” Marcus Bachmann have been campaigning together since her recent announcement that she is running for President. At a rally on June 28, in Myrtle Beach, NC, Michele gave a rousing stump speech and then the happy couple danced together onstage to the strains of “Wabash Cannonball”

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In 2010, Marcus Bachmann explained to a “christian” radio host that homosexuals are “barbarians” who “need to be educated.” Now that the Bachmanns are in the spotlight, their attitudes about homosexuals are beginning to be noted by the corporate media.

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After Cher saw the above MSNBC segment, she tweeted the following to her followers:

“Just heard Michele Bachmann’s OH SO CHRISTIAN husband talk about ‘Gays’ in the most UNCHRISTIAN way WTF!”

“But Boys please utube this asshole & tell me what u think … Cause My Gay-Dar is GOING OFF!!!”

More of her tweets are posted at the above link.

Here’s another radio interview of Marcus discussing his advice to his daughter about choosing her prom dress and how that process relates to identity.

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These two are just a bundle of contradictions. Now check this out:

After a long hard day of wingnutting, what does the family of crazy-eyed Minnesota congresswoman Michele do to kick back? Well, of course, they watch Glee! Are the anti-gay Michele Bachmann and her “Christian counselor” husband Marcus hypocrites, stupid or all of these things?

Justin Bieber disappointed U.S. representative and potential presidential candidate Michele Bachmann at last night’s Time 100 by not showing up — she’d brought copies of his book to sign for one of her older sons, who is a special-ed teacher. But she did delight her other, younger children (she’s taken care of 23 foster kids over the years) by meeting another popular teen icon and singer. At the event last night, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Bachmann and her husband posed with Glee star Darren Criss and e-mailed the pictures to their children. “We looked for Chris Colfer,” she said, but they didn’t find him. “We don’t watch TV, generally speaking. But the kids were thrilled. What kids don’t watch Glee?” Well, maybe the children of potential presidential candidates who think God sent them to stop gay people from having equal rights? Maybe Bachmann doesn’t know that the main message of the popular teen hit is tolerance, respect, and equal treatment — particularly for gay people. She doesn’t watch TV, after all.

My head is spinning!

NOTE: Videos taken from Youtube orginally posted by the Dump Bachman blog, and indispensible source for information on Michele and Marcus Bachmann.