Thursday Reads

Kandinsky at Tea, by Gabrielle Munter

Kandinsky at Tea, by Gabrielle Munter

Good Morning!!

It sure looks like Vladimir Putin is trying to embarrass President Obama with the Russian air strikes in Syria. The Russians have bombed U.S.-supported rebels rather than ISIS. From The Guardian:

Russia has bombed targets in north-west Syria for a second day, as the Kremlin said it was going after a list of well known militant organisations and not just Islamic State.

The Russian defence ministry said planes hit 12 Isis targets, including a command centre and two arms depots, though the areas where it said the strikes took place are not held by Isis.

Activists reported a number of strikes in the country’s north and centre, including strikes in the province of Hama, which they said hit locations controlled by the US-backed rebel group, Tajamu Alezzah.

A spokesman for the Syrian civil defence said a strike also hit Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib province.

“They targeted the northern neighbourhood of the town, which only houses civilians, but there are very few people there because of repeated airstrikes,” the spokesman said.

Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese pro-Assad TV channel, separately reported that Russian aircraft had launched 30 fresh airstrikes against Jaysh al-Fateh, a powerful rebel coalition that includes Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida affiliated al-Nusra Front.

Autumn Study, Kandinsky

Autumn Study, Kandinsky

The Daily Beast: Putin Hits West’s Rebels Instead of ISIS.

A Russian general asked the U.S. to remove its planes from Syrian airspace Wednesday, just hours before Russian airstrikes began there.

The Russian three-star general, who was part of the newly formed intelligence cell with Iraq, Iran, and the Syrian government, arrived in Baghdad at 9 a.m. local time and informed U.S. officials that Russian strikes would be starting imminently—and that the U.S. should refrain from conducting strikes and move any personnel out. The only notice the U.S. received about his visit was a phone call one hour earlier.

The Russian strikes were centered about the city of Homs, according to initial accounts in the local press and in social media. That’s significant, because Homs is not known to be an ISIS stronghold.

This can’t be good.

“The northern countryside of Hama has no presence of ISIS at all and is under the control of the Free Syrian Army,” Major Jamil al-Saleh of the Free Syrian Army told Reuters. U.S. officials corroborated this account to The Daily Beast.

The FSA has receieved U.S.-made anti-tank missiles; the CIA and Pentagon have been recruiting FSA soldiers as proxies against ISIS.

“There is no Islamic State in this area,” another FSA commandertold Reuters. “The Russians are applying great pressure on the revolution. This will strengthen terrorism, everyone will head toward extremism. Any support for Assad in this way is strengthening terrorism.”

Autumn Landscape, Kandinsky

Autumn Landscape, Kandinsky

The Washington Post: Obama administration scrambles as Russia attempts to seize initiative in Syria.

Blindsided by the unexpected swiftness of Russia’s air attacks in Syria, the Obama administration scrambled Wednesday to retake the diplomatic and military initiatives, saying that it would not be bullied into supporting President Bashar al-Assad and that it was about to significantly expand its own Syrian air operations.

After spending much of the day together here behind closed doors, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, said in terse evening statements that U.S. and Russian military officials would meet, perhaps as soon as Thursday, to “deconflict” their operations in Syria.

Standing side by side outside the U.N. Security Council chamber, they said they had reached some preliminary agreements on a way forward toward a negotiated political solution to Syria’s civil war but indicated they were far from agreed on its outcome. They took no questions.

“We have a lot of work to do, understanding fully how urgent this is,” Kerry said.

Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed off Western concerns, suggesting that other countries “get involved” in Syria under Russia’s leadership. Senior foreign policy spokesmen in Moscow said the action proved Russia was a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.

Administration officials countered that the airstrikes showed only Russian weakness and what White House press secretary Josh Earnest said was growing concern “about losing influence in the one client state they have in the Middle East.”

This is really making me nervous–probably even more so because I’m not sure how to interpret this news.

Autumn in Bavaria, Kandinsky

Autumn in Bavaria, Kandinsky

Back in the USA, Republicans in Congress are still focused on such non-issues as Benghazi, Hillary Clinton’s emails, and trying to cripple Planned Parenthood–although I’m sure they’ll find a little time to criticize Obama’s foreign policy as well.

The media is filled with descriptions of the contents of meaningless Clinton emails and suggestions that her server may have been hacked. Of course the State Department server actually has been hacked several times and so have a number of other government servers. So perhaps Clinton’s private server was actually safer.

Associated Press reports: Russia-linked hackers tried to access Clinton server.

Russia-linked hackers tried at least five times to pry into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private email account while she was secretary of state, emails released Wednesday show. It is unclear if she clicked on any attachments and exposed her account.

Clinton received the infected emails, disguised as speeding tickets from New York, over four hours early the morning of Aug. 3, 2011. The emails instructed recipients to print the attached tickets. Opening an attachment would have allowed hackers to take over control of a victim’s computer.

Security researchers who analyzed the malicious software in September 2011 said that infected computers would transmit information from victims to at least three server computers overseas, including one in Russia. That doesn’t necessarily mean Russian intelligence or citizens were responsible.

Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaign, said: “We have no evidence to suggest she replied to this email or that she opened the attachment. As we have said before, there is no evidence that the system was ever breached. All these emails show is that, like millions of other Americans, she received spam.”

Practically every Internet user is inundated with spam or virus-riddled messages daily. But these messages show hackers had Clinton’s email address, which was not public, and sent her a fake traffic ticket from New York state, where she lives. Most commercial antivirus software at the time would have detected the software and blocked it.

The phishing attempts highlight the risk of Clinton’s unsecure email being pried open by foreign intelligence agencies, even if others also received the virus concealed as a speeding ticket from Chatham, New York. The email misspelled the name of the city, came from a supposed New York City government account and contained a “Ticket.zip” file that would have been a red flag.

Sigh . . .

Autumn Study near Oberau, Kandinsky

Autumn Study near Oberau, Kandinsky

On the Benghazi front, erstwhile Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy opened his big mouth yesterday and gave Democrats an amazing gift. Bloomberg:

…the Republican leading the race to replace John Boehner as House speaker said it for them, boasting Tuesday that his party has spent nearly three years dragging her through investigations of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi in hopes of doing serious damage to her presidential campaign.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.” “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would’ve known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”

Wow. The longest investigation in House history–longer than the Watergate hearings!–was totally trumped up, and the next House Speaker admits it publicly. Democrats quickly responded.

“It’s just jaw-dropping,” said former Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who has endorsed Clinton. “The Republicans lied through their teeth when they said this wasn’t about politics.”

Clinton herself said on Wednesday that McCarthy’s comments were “deeply distressing.”

“When I hear a statement like that, which demonstrates unequivocally that this was always meant to be a partisan political exercise, I feel like it does a grave disservice and dishonors not just the memory of the four that we lost but of everybody who has served our country,” she said in an interview with MSNBC’s Al Sharpton.

Earlier, Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon called McCarthy’s words “a damning display of honesty by the possible next speaker of the House,” who has “just confessed that the committee set up to look into the deaths of four brave Americans at Benghazi is a taxpayer-funded sham. This confirms Americans’ worst suspicions about what goes on in Washington.”

The Benghazi committee’s top Democrat, Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, said in a Wednesday statement that McCarthy had simply acknowledged what “Republicans never dared admit in public.” He added that Republicans “have blatantly abused their authority in Congress” by spending more than $4.5 million in taxpayer funds on the Benghazi committee “to pay for a political campaign against Hillary Clinton.”

New York Representative Louise Slaughter, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, added: “That’s not what we’re here for and, in fact, I think that might be impeachable for crying out loud.”

Autumn Landscape with Boats, Kandinsky

Autumn Landscape with Boats, Kandinsky

Someone in the government also chose the day after Republican members attacked Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards for nearly five hours, someone in the government to leak some embarrassing information about the committee’s chair Jason Chaffetz. From the Washington Post:

An assistant director of the Secret Service urged that unflattering information the agency had in its files about a congressman ­critical of the service should be made public, according to a government watchdog report released Wednesday.

“Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” Assistant Director Edward Lowery wrote in an e-mail to a fellow director on March 31, commenting on an internal file that was being widely circulated inside the service. “Just to be fair.”

Two days later, a news Web site reported that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had applied to be a Secret Service agent in 2003 and been rejected.

That information was part of a Chaffetz personnel file stored in a restricted Secret Service database and required by law to be kept private….

The Chaffetz file, contained in the restricted database, had been peeked at by about 45 Secret Service agents, some of whom shared it with their colleagues in March and April, the report found. This prying began after a contentious March 24 House hearing at which Chaffetz scolded the director and the agency for its series of security gaffes and misconduct. The ­hearing sparked anger inside the ­agency.

In another slap in Chaffetz’s face the organization that has been running the right wing campaign against Planned Parenthood admitted that the video that Carly Fiorina described in the last Republican debate had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood and the baby Fiorina saw had not survived an abortion. Raw Story: ‘This wasn’t an abortion’: CNN forces anti-Planned Parenthood group to admit Fiorina was wrong.

David Daleiden, the project lead Center for Medical Progress’ anti-Planned Parenthood campaign, admitted on Wednesday that an alleged fetus on a table that GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina described during a graphic anti-abortion rant was actually from a miscarriage.

Read the rest at the Raw Story link.

Landscape with two poplars, Kandinsky

Landscape with two poplars, Kandinsky

Finally, some reactions to Kim Davis’ meeting with Pope Francis for you to explore:

Vanity Fair: Kim Davis and Pope Francis’s Curious Meeting.

Tuesday night, lawyers for Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even after she was jailed, announced that she had been invited to a secret meeting with Pope Franciswhile they were both in Washington, D.C.

The Vatican initially refused to confirm or deny those reports, which suddenly made things far more confusing. On Wednesday morning, however, the Vatican changed its tune, and confirmed the meeting to The New York Times.

“I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add,” said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Robert Moynihan at Inside the Vatican, a magazine covering Catholic news, broke the story on Tuesday night, citing “Vatican sources” as confirmation. The New York Timesfollowed up with an interview with Davis’s lawyer, Mathew Staver, who said that yes, totally, the meeting definitely took place.

During the visit, Staver said the Pontiff gave Davis two rosaries and told her to “stay strong.”

According to Staver, the invitation was extended through the Vatican itself, and seeing as Davis and her husband, Joe, were in town to receive an award from a conservative advocacy group, they decided to briefly visit the Pope at the Apostolic Nunciature right before he left for New York City.

Staver added that he expected the Vatican would soon send them photos of the visit.

As far as I’m concerned this is so disgusting that I think it might overshadow anything good that came from the Pope’s visit to the U.S. The fact that the meeting was kept secret until Francis was back in the Vatican makes it even more awful and shameful. The Pope probably doesn’t understand the damage he did, but along with the canonization of Junipero Sera  this will leave a very bad taste in the mouths of many Americans.

More links to peruse:

Vanessa Urquhart at Slate: Why Pope Francis’ Meeting With Kim Davis Is Such a Disaster.

Trevor Martin at The Guardian: Pope Francis’s meeting with Kim Davis should come as no surprise.

Washington Post: Meeting with Kim Davis has pope-watchers asking, what did Francis mean?

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a terrific Thursday!

 


Friday Reads

images (1)It’s the Labor Day weekend which usually puts people in the mood for autumn!

In New Orleans, tis the season of Southern Decadence!  I imagine the Kim Davis costumes will be everywhere!  I’ve already seen a tremendous number of her face photoshopped onto an orange jumpsuit with various members of the cast of Orange is the New Black. My guess is there will be plenty of that in the flesh on Bourbon Street this weekend.  She’s in jail but her staff is putting out marriage licenses for all couples while she stews in her martyr soup.

When the Rowan County Courthouse opened for business Friday, deputy clerk Brian Mason was waiting at the front counter, behind a sign reading: “Marriage License Deputy.”

James Yates and William Smith Jr. entered the media-filled courthouse shortly after 8 a.m. and began the process of applying for a marriage license. Again.

They had been rejected five times previously, as Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples since the Supreme Court declared in June that gay couples had a constitutional right to wed.

On Thursday, Davis was sent to jail by U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning, who also ordered five of the six deputy clerks in the county to begin issuing marriage licenses to all couples. The deputies agreed, under oath.

By 8:15 Friday morning, Yates and Smith — together since 2006 — had finally obtained the elusive $35 license.

Mason, the deputy clerk, congratulated the couple and shook their hands.

Three GLBT couples have now gotten their licenses. It must have been hell as a work place since most of the clerks indicated to the judge they had no problem issuing licenses but were stopped by the self-righteous Davis.  Her husband (who is both #2 and #4 of her marriages) is a piece of work too.

The husband of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis said early Friday that Kim remains in good spirits and is prepared to remain in jail for months.

Joe Davis appeared outside the Rowan County Courthouse, calling U.S. District Judge David Bunning a bully for jailing his wife on Thursday for contempt of court.

“She won’t resign I promise you,” he said. “Until something gives, she’ll be there.”

Joe Davis said he went out to eat with the five deputy clerks who agreed in court Thursday to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He said he anticipates that they will keep their word and has no hard feelings against them despite Kim’s adamant refusal to authorize the forms.

At least two couples plan to return to the Rowan County Courthouse on Friday to request licenses from the five deputy clerks who say they will comply with the court to avoid jail.

imagesThe husband referred to the Bush-appointed Judge as a “butt”.

Joe also had some important words for Judge Bunning, who presided over his wife’s contempt case.

“Bunning cannot bully me, my wife or my son,” Joe Davis said on Friday of the judge, via Louisville television station WDRB. “I taught my son how to stand up for what’s right and what he believes in at any cost. Bunning doesn’t know how to pick on somebody that can handle him. The only thing he knows how to do is to pick up on the weak people.”

As for Judge Bunning, he told the New York Times: “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order. If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.”

autumn-leaves-2-mark-fullerA tell all book about Donald Trump may expose some information that will put the Huckster of Bad Deals in a very bad light.

David Cay Johnston is an author, lecturer, and investigative reporter who has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting who has presided over the board of the non-profit organization Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. His areas of expertise include tax law, accounting, economics, business and finance. He is also an outspoken Progressive whose thoughts and ideas echo those of Bernie Sanders. Since 1988, Johnston has been watching Trump closely. Recently, he came up with a list of questions that would reveal much about the GOP’s “Golden Boy” – assuming Trump would provide frank and forthcoming answers, as he claims to do.

For example, how many of our readers knew that Trump was successfully sued by the Attorney General of New York for running an “illegal educational institution”? Students at “Trump University” paid a whopping $35,000 for “Elite” mentorships – but never even saw their mentor. And here’s a juicy little fact that fans of The Godfather and The Sopranos should appreciate: the contracting firm that constructed Trump Tower was owned by a pair of gentlemen who went by the monikers of “Fat Tony” Salerno and “Big Paul” Castellano.

When it comes to charity, Trump doesn’t even donate to his own foundation. Instead, he donates other people’s money – specifically, those who do business with him.

Can you say, “kickbacks”?

It only gets better: Trump was found guilty in federal court of cheating immigrant workers hired to demolish a multi-story building. He paid them less than $5 per hour under the table. He didn’t even furnish them with hard hats.  Oh, and all that talk from Trump about how he’s a “self-made billionaire”? It turns out that he had a bit of help from the taxpayers of New York. The mayor of NYC at the time, Abe Beame, happened to be good buddies with Donny-boy’s Daddy, Fred Trump. That little connection got Donald a tax abatement on a mid-town Manhattan property (right next door to Grand Central Station) in 1976. That was the old Commodore Hotel, which today is the Grand Hyatt New York. As of 2016, that little deal that his daddy made for him will have cost taxpayers $400 million.

So much for being a “self-made” billionaire.

One of the Donald’s biggest troupes is how he’s made so much money.  Actually, he would be far wealthier had he just put his inheritance into S&P images (2)Index Fund.  I really wish the media would ask him about this little tidbit.

“It takes brains to make millions,” according to the slogan of Donald Trump’s board game. “It takes Trump to make billions.” It appears that’s truer than Trump himself might like to admit. A new analysis suggests that Trump would’ve been a billionaire even if he’d never had a career in real estate, and had instead thrown his father’s inheritance into a index fund that tracked the market. His wealth, in other words, isn’t because of his brains. It’s because he’s a Trump.

In an outstanding piece for National Journal, reporter S.V. Dáte notes that in 1974, the real estate empire of Trump’s father, Fred, was worth about $200 million. Trump is one of five siblings, making his stake at that time worth about $40 million. If someone were to invest $40 million in a S&P 500 index in August 1974, reinvest all dividends, not cash out and have to pay capital gains, and pay nothing in investment fees, he’d wind up with about $3.4 billion come August 2015, according to Don’t Quit Your Day Job’s handy S&P calculator. If one factors in dividend taxes and a fee of 0.15 percent — which is triple Vanguard’s actual fee for an exchange-traded S&P 500 fund — the total only falls to $2.3 billion.

It’s hard to nail down Trump’s precise net worth, but Bloomberg currently puts it at $2.9 billion, while Forbes puts it at $4 billion. So he’s worth about as much as he would’ve been if he had taken $40 million from his dad and thrown it into an index fund.

It takes a massive ego and a whole ton of hubris to suggest he’s actually “made” money given that it’s less than the opportunity cost of doing an mifx3Swinvestment that any one could easily access with a small balance and some stick-to -itness.
Adam B. Schiff, a Democrat from California who is the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and who serves on the Select Committee on Benghazi, is calling on Congress to disband the Benghazi committee. 

Since its formation, the Select Committee on Benghazi has been aimless and slow moving, not knowing what it was looking for or where. It has acted in a deeply partisan way, frequently failing to consult or even to inform Democratic members before taking action, and selectively leaking information to the press. After 16 months and more than $4 million, the committee has gained no additional insight into the attacks in Benghazi. It has nothing new to tell the families of those killed or the American people.

But it does have emails. Lots of emails. Some of them are from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But none of her emails tell us anything of consequence regarding the events of Sept. 11, 2012. They don’t substantiate the bogus theory that the State Department ordered the military to “stand down” or that there wasgun running, or that the secretary somehow interfered with the security provided at the diplomatic facility or annex.

Nor were any of the secretary’s emails marked classified at the time she received them. Some in the intelligence community believe that a subset of them should have been, a conclusion with which the State Department disagrees. That’s not an uncommon clash of views. As the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, I am deeply interested in making sure that all classified information is protected. And yet, as a member of the Select Committee charged with finding out the truth about the attacks, I am appalled at how much we have lost sight of the mission — if indeed that was ever the point.

Whatever their original purpose, the Select Committee’s leaders appear no longer to have any interest in Benghazi, except as the tragic events of that day may be used as a cudgel against the likely Democratic nominee for president.

The committee is solely concerned with damaging her candidacy, searching for something, anything, that can be insinuated against her. With all of the committee’s obsessive focus on Mrs. Clinton, you would think that she was a witness to the killings, instead of half a world away.

There is a refugee crisis around the world as the western world’s imperialist and colonial policies of the last century come home to roost.  I’ve been images (3)following the crisis in Syria and the number of refugees dying on their way to Europe.  Syrians are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met and it’s completely disheartening to see so many die because of our failed Middle East policies.  We already know how Texas and other places have met refugee women and children coming from South American to our country as a result of our failed drug war policies.  How is Europe handling its worst refugee crisis since World War 2?  This depends on the country and the degree to which right wing nationalism still rules the day. Nadia Khomami of the UK Guardian has listed all the signficiant developments at the link.

That site is continually updated and is a good source of information.

So, that’s the three big things that I’ve beeen following. What’s on your blogging and reading list today?

 

 


Tuesday Reads: GOP Wackos, Oliver Sacks, and Other News

Woman at the beach reading

Good Morning!!

Today is September 1, and Summer is almost over. How did it go by so quickly? Pretty soon the 2016 campaign will begin to heat up; but for now we are still in the silly season and Donald Trump is still grabbing all the headlines.

The Hill: Trump pledges to reverse Obama’s mountain renaming

Donald Trump promised Monday that he would return the name of North America’s largest mountain to Mount McKinley, undoing President Obama’s decision to call it Denali.

Calling Obama’s act a “great insult to Ohio,” Trump, who is running for president next year,tweeted late Monday that Obama reversed the name the peak had for more than 100 years, in honor of President William McKinley, an Ohio native.

Does Donald Trump even know anything about William McKinley? I doubt it. Why won’t this disgusting creep go away and leave us alone? John Kasich is upset too.

“You just don’t go and do something like that,” Kasich said, according to the Associated Press. “In Ohio, we felt it was appropriate. A guy saw that mountain when he was one of the first up there … named it after the president. No reason to change it.”

Um . . . no.

The mountain, in fact, got McKinley’s name before he was elected, and he never set foot inside Alaska.

Why Ohioans should have any say in the naming of a mountain in Alaska is a mystery. But the GOP candidates latch onto anything Obama does in order to get some media attention.

GOP Wackos

These days, when you see a crazy headline, you can be at least 99% sure that it involves a Republican politician.

Reading on the beach1

This headline from Local CBS5 in Arizona, for example: Matt Salmon facing parents’ anger over civics presentation to young kids.

GILBERT, AZ (KPHO/KTVK) – Several parents are demanding answers from Congressman Matt Salmon, saying they cannot believe what the lawmaker said to young school children during a visit to a Gilbert school.

“It should have probably just been a good civics lesson for kids who initially were excited to meet their congressman,” parent Scott Campbell said.

That excitement, however, turned into fear.

That fear, according to Campbell, was spawned by something Salmon said during a presentation he made Thursday about how bills become laws. The audience? Second- and third-graders at San Tan Charter School.

Campbell said the lesson took a dark turn when it came time to talk about vetoes.

“The congressman chose to give an example of the current situation in Iran, and made some inappropriate comments about ‘Do you know what a nuclear weapon is? Do you know that there are schools that train children your age to be suicide bombers?'” Campbell said.

He and other parents were shocked. He said he had to console his young daughter.

“After school my daughter was very concerned and said to me she actually didn’t even know what suicide was and was very afraid,” he explained.

WTF?!! Where do the Republicans dig these people up?

man on beach

Meanwhile most Americans want their Congresspeople to approve the Obama administration’s Iran deal, according to The Hill:

According to the survey from the University of Maryland, 55 percent of respondents said that Congress should get behind the agreement, despite some concerns.

Twenty-three percent, meanwhile, said that lawmakers should instead ratchet up sanctions, and 14 percent wanted U.S. officials to go back to the negotiating table.

In a key stat for Democratic backers of the agreement, 61 percent of independents recommended that Congress approve the deal, along with 72 percent of Democrats.

Just 33 percent of Republicans expressed support, highlighting the partisan divide that has erupted over the agreement, which sets limits on Iran’s nuclear ability in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

The poll was conducted online, and the participants went through an in-depth process of listening to arguments from both sides. People were subjected to a detailed list of critiques of the agreement, followed by rebuttals to those arguments with reasons to get behind the deal.

Even the fact that 33 percent of GOP voters support the agreement is significant, considering their likely exposure to Fox News and talk radio.

beach-reads

Speaking of wacko Republicans, even after the Supreme Court told weirdo Kim Davis she can’t refuse to issue marriage license to gay couples, she’s still doing it. NBC News reports:

Defying the Supreme Court and invoking “God’s authority,” a Kentucky county clerk on Tuesday turned away two same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses — touching off dueling protests until sheriff’s deputies cleared the room.

The clerk, Kim Davis of Rowan County, outside Lexington, has said that her personal religious objections preclude her from issuing the licenses.

The standoff came one day after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case. That left in place a lower court ruling ordering Davis to issue marriage licenses.

Davis declined marriage licenses to two same-sex couples — two men and two women — who sought them at her office, in the small city of Morehead.

When is Kentucky going to get rid of this nutcase? She’s an embarrassment to her state and to all rational Americans.

RIP Oliver Sacks

Following the death of Oliver Sacks last week, I found myself browsing around looking for some of his writings on line. Sacks was a wonderful writer, and I’ve always enjoyed reading him. I haven’t read his book on hallucinations yet, and I think I’m going to get a copy and check it out. I have always been fascinated by altered states. Here are some links to essays by Sacks that you might want to check out if you haven’t read (or listened to) them already.

reading beach

In July, I wrote about my reaction to an NPR interview about face blindness, which Sacks suffered from. It was fascinating and led to my experiencing a very positive altered state–one of those “peak experiences” that Abraham Maslow wrote about. Check if out if you haven’t already.

Yesterday I read this piece on mystical experiences at the Atlantic: Seeing God in the Third Millennium. Sacks writes that when people have near death experiences, out of body experiences, and other altered states such as the auras that preceded epileptic seizures and migraines, the brain reflects the perceptions as if they are real. These often life-changing experiences have natural–not supernatural–causes, but they can have profound effects.

In 2012, Sacks wrote in The New Yorker about the history of mind altering drugs and his own experiments with them: Altered States: Self-experiments in chemistry.

From 1987, here’s an interview with Sacks on NPR’s Fresh Air: ‘Fresh Air’ at 20: Neurologist Oliver Sacks.

From Science of Us, a summary of a fascinating case study from The Lancet on which Sacks was one of the authors: The Strange Case of the Woman Haunted by Dragons. It’s about a woman who had altered perceptions of people’s faces–they looked “dragon-like.”

Reading-on-the-beach

Two recent NYT articles by Sacks:

From February 2015, My Own Life: Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer.

From August 2015: Oliver Sacks: Sabbath.

One of my favorite Sacks stories appeared in the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. It was reprinted in the New York Review of Books in 1985: The President’s Speech. It’s about a group of aphasia patients and their reaction to seeing a Ronald Reagan speech on TV. Here’s the introduction:

What was going on? A roar of laughter from the aphasia ward, just as the President’s speech was starting, and the patients had all been so eager to hear the President speak.

There he was, the old charmer, the actor with his practiced rhetoric, his histrionics, his emotional appeal—and all the patients were convulsed with laughter. Well, not all: some looked bewildered, some looked outraged, one or two looked apprehensive, but most looked amused. The President is generally thought to be a moving speaker—but he was moving them, apparently, mainly to laughter. What could they be thinking? Were they failing to understand him? Or did they, perhaps, understand him all too well?

Read the rest at the link.

summer-reading-006_zpsdf34c2ae

Finally, from today’s Washington Post: The tragic story of Oliver Sacks’s celibacy.

When Oliver Sacks was 18, he faced a prospect most young people dread: a belated talk about the birds and the bees with his dad.

“You don’t seem to have many girlfriends,” Sacks wrote his father said in his memoir, “On the Move,” released earlier this year. “Don’t you like girls? … Perhaps you prefer boys?”

Sacks didn’t try to hide.

“Yes I do – but it’s just a feeling – I have never ‘done’ anything,” Sacks told his father.

He pleaded with his father not to tell his mother – but his father did. The news did not go over well — to say the least.

“You are an abomination,” she said. “I wish you had never been born.”

america-6

How heartbreaking. Read more at the WaPo.

In The News, Links Only

The Guardian: Barack Obama in Alaska: global fight against climate change starts here.

Talking Points Memo: Trump’s Latino Bashing Risks GOP Senate Hopes In 3 Key States.

Pope Francis says priests can give absolution for “the sin of abortion.” From Time: What Pope Francis’ Abortion Announcement Really Means.

Jeb Bush tells the Pope how to do his job: Jeb Bush tells pope to focus on ‘mercy for the unborn’: Women should be ‘repentant’ for choosing abortion (Raw Story)

Jonathan Chait: Jeb Bush Responds to Insanely Racist Trump Ad by Calling Trump Liberal

Men on beach

The Nation: The Trailer for ‘Concussion’ Should Give Roger Goodell Night Sweats.

The National Memo: Hillary Clinton Supports Ban On ‘Revolving Door’ Corporate Bonuses

US News: Clinton, aides stressed need to protect sensitive State Department information in email.

AP via Seacoast online: NH Sen Jeanne Shaheen will endorse Hillary Clinton.

Raw Story: Texas man walks free after alleged rape leaves 2-year-old girl in pool of blood.

AP via ABC News: Investigators: Georgia Officer Likely Shot by Other Officers.

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