Sunday Reads: Fair Pay in Texas? Hell No. Have a Merry Christmas, Texan Style? You bet your…

Jenny on the Job plays it safe with low heels. New in WWII Posters collection. (via Jenny on the Job Steps Ahead with Low Heals | Vintagraph)

Jenny on the Job plays it safe with low heels. New in WWII Posters collection. (via Jenny on the Job Steps Ahead with Low Heals | Vintagraph)

Good Morning

Well, I guess you can tell from the title of the post, we will start this morning by talking about the big ol’ state of Texas.

This is the first link from Addicting Info, I have a few links from the AI blog today…anyway, here is the latest strike down in Governor GoodHair’s War on Women,  Rick Perry Vetoes Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay – Senfronia Thompson Reacts

On Friday, June 14, Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed House Bill 950 (HB 950). HB 950 would have brought Texas into compliance with the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 signed by President Barack Obama. The bill makes it easier for women to sue employers over wage discrimination between their male counterparts.

You can find a video  interview at the link with,

Texas District 141 Representative, and Chair of the Local and Consent Calendars, Senfronia Thompson, the author of HB 950. She states that she was shocked and disappointed that Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed the bill. She said she meticulously worked with Republicans to formulate a bill that could garner support in from both parties in both chambers of the legislature.

The bill was passed in the Texas House on April 25, 2013. It passed the Texas Senate on May 22, 2013. The bill was passed by a bipartisan legislature that is dominated by Republicans.

So, Perry even vetoed a bill that was passed by a bunch of Republicans. Sigh. But don’t you worry, at least one thing is safe in Texas, thanks to Perry…because on the same day he vetoed the Fair Pay bill, he signed the “Merry Christmas” bill. Texas Gov. Perry signs ‘Merry Christmas’ bill into law

Surrounded by sleigh bell-ringing Santa Claus impersonators, Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday signed a law protecting Christmas and other holiday celebrations in Texas public schools from legal challenges – but also stressed that freedom of religion is not the same thing as freedom from religion.

It was a serious tone for an otherwise fun bill-signing and should bolster the governor’s Christian conservative credentials before he travels to Washington for the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference with the likes of tea party darlings and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and fellow Texan Ted Cruz.

Dubbed the “Merry Christmas” bill, the bipartisan measure sailed through the state House and Senate to reach Perry’s desk.

It removes legal risks of saying “Merry Christmas” in schools while also protecting traditional holiday symbols, such as a menorah or nativity scene, so long as more than one religion and a secular symbol are also reflected.

Oh, may the Gawds be praised!  At least they have the token secular symbol and “other” religious holiday symbol as a requirement. Believe me, this Merry Christmas bill is still going to piss off some people, cough…. Gretchen Carlson.  Anyway, the sponsor of the bill Republican Rep. Dwayne Bohac of Houston said:

…of Perry: “This is not a governor that shirks away from the tough issues. And this should not be a tough issue, which is what’s even amazing about all this. But this is just political correctness that’s run a-muck and our brains have been completely fallen out as a result.”

tumblr_mkfcaj3xKd1s4c1kfo2_r1_500Funny, it seems like he sure as hell shirked that big “tough” issue of fair pay.

I am going to move on to another “tough” issue, this link is also from Addicting Info, it is a very good post,   Navy Judge Rules Rapists Shouldn’t Be Discharged (VIDEO)

Is the military just completely tone-deaf on the issue of sexual assault and rape in its ranks? Are those who’ve deigned themselves mouthpieces of the military just as clueless in their defense of this heinous situation? It would certainly seem so. Not only are the numbers staggering and inexplicable, but we’ve got idiotic conservatives blaming military rape on pornography, hyper-sensitive feminists, and “hormone level created by nature,” illustrating not only their profound cluelessness about the pathology of rapists, but the reasons why so many rapes and assaults go unreported. In fact, in a recent high-profile case where a victim did speak up and go to trial, the commander overturned the jury verdict to allow a rapist the freedom to advance in the ranks while his victim was stigmatized out of the service.

It’s entrenched, systemic corruption within what has been a very macho, male-dominated culture and it doesn’t appear the powers-that-be intend to take appropriate responsibility for the disturbed, entitled, misogynist criminals under its jurisdiction who are acting out with impunity and, in too many circumstances, to few consequences.

Okay, now get ready for it…

Latest case in point: Navy Judge Commander Marcus Fulton has just ruled that comments made by the President regarding military rape “would unduly influence” any potential sentencing in the cases of two defendants in military sexual assault cases, U.S. vs. Johnson and U.S. vs. Fuentes. Stars and Stripes reports that, per the judge’s ruling, should the two men be found guilty, they cannot be punitively discharged because of “unlawful command influence,” meaning, because of what President Obama, as the Commander in Chief, said. Would you like to know what incendiary, unduly prejudicial, trial-influencing comments the president made, so inflammatory that if two servicemen are actually found guilty of violently raping they should not be punished?

“The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this,” Obama said, according to an NBC News story submitted as evidence by defense attorneys in the sexual assault cases.

‘I expect consequences,” Obama added. “So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable — prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

Do I hear the deafening roar of incredulity at the notion that these comments could possibly be framed as cause to excuse two rapists from punishment? Maybe that roar is just in my head, but damn, it is loud.

No, it the roar is in my head too.  I will continue to post more of this article written by because I have to…

As a woman, a human being; an American, I’m writing this with a knot of rage in my stomach, rage at the notion that a Navy judge could take these firm but generic comments of appropriate anger, comments that are not only justified but, if anything, not strong enough, and use them as justification for NOT PUNISHING RAPISTS. It is unconscionable, amoral, certainly indefensible. But the judge not only stands by his ruling, he seems to think “members of the public” would be incapable of reading Obama’s anger at the horrific, systemic rape of both male and female service members as anything other than a direct command from him… a hypnotic order that would supercede any ability on their part to make judicious decisions about each individual case at hand. Sheep, listening and following the cult leader. Dear God. But here are his own words:

“A member of the public would not hear the President’s statement to be a simple admonition to hold members accountable,” Fulton stated. “A member of the public would draw the connection between the ‘dishonorable discharge’ required by the President and a punitive discharge approved by the convening authority.

“The strain on the system created by asking a convening authority to disregard [Obama’s] statement in this environment would be too much to sustain public confidence.”

And guess what follows this logic? Defense attorneys gleefully grabbing the ruling to use as a “way out” for their rapist (alleged…. I know) clients.

“I think that as a defense attorney, I would raise this argument in virtually any [sexual assault] case I had,” said Victor Hansen, vice president of the National Institute of Military Justice and former instructor at the Army’s JAG school.

However, in recent months there has been a lot more said — and in overly specific terms — about sexual assault by military and political leaders, Hansen noted. Obama’s call for dishonorable discharges is an example of such specificity, which begins to sound to military juries like a direct order from the commander in chief.

“This is bad lawyering on [Obama’s] advisor’s part,” Hansen said. “It’s certainly not a problem to say that sexual assault is a bad thing and we need to weed it out … that’s innocuous. It’s when they get very pointed that it’s problematic.”

So there you go; Obama’s verbiage was parsed as “too pointed” – daring to suggest consequences –  and those who would go to any lengths to get military rapists off, excluded from commensurate punishment and consequence, are now licking their chops at the convenience of the judge’s ruling and how it will positively affect their own cases.

So far no one in the Navy judicial branch, JAG, is willing to address the ruling or its subsequent impact, though they did confirm its authenticity. Nor has the White House yet addressed the issue. But the 26,000 military rape and sexual assault victims of the past year, both male and female, are surely feeling, once again, victimized by a system that seems hellbent on doing everything to protect criminals within its ranks and little or nothing to defend, support and find justice for those who’ve been assaulted, raped, hurt, traumatized and, in many cases, pressured out of the military.

WHEN WILL THIS CHANGE?

tumblr_mkbpf5FC5T1s4c1kfo2_r1_500Sickening.

You know, when the Newtown Shooting happened, my dad said that was the turning point…he said that was so horrible that people would demand tighter gun laws…he said the outrage would bring about change. At the time I told him no, there would be no changes made, sure we would have people talking about it, and laws would get proposed but nothing would change.

I know that there is plenty of attention, well let’s just say temporary attention lately on the military’s “culture” toward sexual assault. And honestly, like the gun control laws…and the equal pay bills, I just feel that there are some things which will never change. At least in my lifetime. Because it seems that they didn’t changed in my grandmother’s lifetime…they are definitely not going to in my mom’s lifetime…and I highly doubt they will in mine.

Boy, I seem to sound like a Cassandra don’t I?

Okay, like I said in the beginning of this post, there is one more link from Addicting Info, this one goes hand in hand with a link I saw on Susie Madrak’s blog. Y’all know the horrible time my family had with Bank of America, and the many times we sent our modification papers in, only to get another letter saying we have to send the same documents once again.

Well, check this shit out. As Susie puts it: BoA gave cash bonuses for HAMP foreclosures

No, it wasn’t just bad luck when that Bank of America rep kept telling you they “never got the paperwork.” We’ve been hearing these disgusting stories for a long time. Glad to hear they’re making their way into court, where there’s at least a chance that Bank of America might actually pay for some of their sins:

Bank of America Corp. (BAC), the second-biggest U.S. lender, rewarded staff with cash bonuses and gift cards for meeting quotas tied to sending distressed homeowners into foreclosure, former employees said in court documents.

Mortgage workers falsified records and were told to delay U.S. loan-assistance applications by requesting paperwork that the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank had already received, according to statements from ex-employees filed last week in federal court in Boston. The lender improperly disqualified applicants to the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, according to a May 23 statement from Simone Gordon, a loss-mitigation specialist who left the company in 2012.

Bank of America Corp. is being sued by homeowners who didn’t receive permanent loan modifications after making payments under trial programs, according to court papers.

“We were regularly drilled that it was our job to maximize fees for the bank by fostering and extending delay of the HAMP modification process by any means we could,” Gordon said. Managers instructed staff to “delay modifications by telling homeowners who called in that their documents were ‘under review,’ when in fact, there had been no review,” she said.

Bank of America, which has spent more than $45 billion to settle claims tied to its 2008 takeover of Countrywide Financial Corp., is being sued by homeowners who didn’t receive permanent loan modifications after making payments under trial programs, according to court papers. Statements from seven former loan employees were included in a filing last week as part of plaintiffs’ attempt to gain class-action status. The lender has denied the allegations.

Bank Of America Will Give You $500 For Kicking Someone Out Of Their House – Addicting Infotumblr_mk7za8CRL61s4c1kfo2_r1_500

Bank of America has managed to make the news yet again, but not for the right reasons. According to several ex-employees, Bank of America systematically declined homeowners the ability to modify their loans under the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP. Bank of America rewarded staff with various perks, including cash bonuses and gift cards, for meeting quotas by sending homeowners seeking loan modifications into foreclosure. With these new explosive allegations, a new lawsuit is being brought against Bank of America. The former employees’ testimonies and revelations will strengthen the lawsuit, which is a consolidation of 29 separate suits against the bank from across the United States and is seeking class action certification. According to court documents, the lawsuit is being brought by homeowners who didn’t receive permanent loan modifications after meeting their obligations under the trail programs.

I knew those BoA basturds were doing this kind of crap.  I wonder what kind of slap on the wrist they will get for this shit.

This post is getting rather long so here are the rest of the morning’s links, real quick like.

There is a lot of news out of the Middle East this weekend, so I have some articles for you to look at:

Heavy Pressure Led to Decision by Obama on Syrian Arms – NYTimes.com

For two years, President Obama has resisted being drawn deeper into the civil war in Syria. It was a miserable problem, he told aides, and not one he thought he could solve. At most, it could be managed. And besides, he wanted to be remembered for getting out of Middle East wars, not embarking on new ones.

So when Mr. Obama agreed this week for the first time to send small arms and ammunition to Syrian rebel forces, he had to be almost dragged into the decision at a time when critics, some advisers and even Bill Clinton were pressing for more action. Coming so late into the conflict, Mr. Obama expressed no confidence it would change the outcome, but privately expressed hope it might buy time to bring about a negotiated settlement.

You can read the rest of the article and speculation about the meaning behind how the aid to Syrian rebels was announced at the link.

Juan Cole: An Outbreak of Reasonableness in Tehran: Top Ten Conclusions from Iran’s Early Election Returns | Informed Comment

Update: Centrist Hassan Rouhani is Iran’s new president, having won a massive victory in a field of 6 candidates. 13:19 ET, 6/15/13

Early election returns in Iran suggest that former National Security adviser and nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani may have won over 50% of the vote, in which case he will have won without needing to go to a second round. Too early to tell if that is so. While it is true that the president in Iran is more like the typical US vice president and is relatively powerless, he can nevertheless set a tone and initiate policies slightly different from those of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran is not yet a totalitarian dictatorship, and Khamenei himself has sometimes been forced to tack with the wind. Any change will be slow and at the margins, but it could nevertheless be significant in a very polarized world.

U.S. Considers Military Plan for No-Fly Zone in Syria – Wall Street Journal – WSJ.com

Syria lashes out at Egypt decision to sever ties- Newsday

String of Car Bombs Kill Dozens in Iraq – NYTimes.com

Large Risks in Erdogan’s Harsh Stand – NYTimes.com

tumblr_mk9uqjdSgp1s4c1kfo2_r1_500In the US….and stuff:

Rain, Cooler Weather Slow Colorado Fire | WNIJ and WNIU

NYC dispatcher spent almost 8 hours on stroke call | Fox News

Exclusive – Wal-Mart’s everyday hiring strategy: Add more temps | Reuters –No surprises there.

What’s Really on Trial in George Zimmerman’s Case? | Black Agenda Report

Menopause: An Evolutionary Response To Men Chasing Younger Women?

Osteoporosis drug stops growth of breast cancer cells, even in resistant tumors, study suggests

Digby: Sometimes a tweet is just a tweet: Queen of the Village holds forth on Hillary. Again.

Cheetahs’ Secret Weapon – A Tight Turning Radius – NYTimes.com

One more link for you, it is really just a picture, I realize this is one of the first Sunday reads I have written without a history link…so in lieu of a long historic read, I will give you this…a medieval knight…guinea pig style, talk about “your mother being a hamster…”Anyway, enjoy:

Keep your guinea pig protected with a rodent-sized suit of armor

Keep your guinea pig protected with a rodent-sized suit of armor

If your guinea pig routinely dashes off into armed combat (or just likes the look of scale mail), you might want to outfit him or her in this handsome suit of armor, perfect for rolly-polly rodents.

After Lucky, the original owner of the armor and model for these photos, passed away, eBay seller mightys0x decided to auction off Lucky’s armor. All of the proceeds from the auction will go to Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue in Virginia, the organization that rescued and adopted out Lucky. Lucky’s owner made the scale mail and purchased the tiny helmet. The auction ends on June 21st.

Hand-made Guinea Pig Scale-Mail and Helmet (Armor) [eBay via David Willis]

Anyone with a friend who has a guinea pig, and is fond of Monty Python?

And finally, I know that today is Father’s Day, so for all those Daddy’s out there:

Father’s Day by Political Cartoonist Kap

133119 600 Fathers Day cartoons

Have a wonderful day, and if you are around, let us know what you are thinking and reading about today.


Sunday Reads: Cuba, Castro, and the Idiots at CNN

ad24_3Good Morning

We have come to the end of spring break, it is amazing to me how fast time flies by…I have some interesting links for you, some of them I have saved for a little while, you may just want to come back to them during the day.

By the way, later tonight is the season premiere of Mad Men, I don’t know about you…but I sure am looking forward to it. 😉

Y’all know that CNN made the huge mistake of sacking Soledad O’Brien last month. The Guardian had an article about her last appearance on the network:

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien signs off with call for ‘tough conversations’

CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien at belated 60th birthday celebrations for Chaka Khan. Photograph: Startraks Photo / Rex Features

CNN host Soledad O’Brien signed off on Friday with a call for the network not to back away from “tough and honest conversations”.

O’Brien, who has built a reputation for hard-hitting interviews, said on the last edition of her morning show, Starting Point, that “facts matter”.

The new CNN boss, Jeff Zucker, cancelled O’Brien’s show, which has performed poorly in the ratings, and announced on Thursday that it will be replaced by a new show hosted by Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan.

In a short closing monologue on Friday, O’Brien said CNN had given her the chance to cover some of the biggest stories of our time and said she would continue to focus on “good journalism”.

She said: “My tenure at the helm of this show ends today, and I’m not going to be covering daily news at CNN after today. Over the last decade at CNN I’ve had a really great chance to cover some of the biggest stories, I think it’s fair to say, of our time.”

O’Brien recalled when she and a CNN team received a standing ovation at the airport in New Orleans after covering hurricane Katrina.

“So I think if I’ve learned anything over the past year it’s that facts matter,” she continued. “And we shouldn’t be afraid to have tough and honest conversations and maybe even argue a little bit when there’s a lot at stake, and yes, Governor Sununu, I am talking to you.”

You remember that interview don’t you? Soladad kicked Sununu’s ass! O’Brien told the Guardian that CNN did not provide a lot of support for her show Starting Point. They did not get a lot of promotion and were not fully staffed. No wonder, with CNN going down the shit bucket of news. In fact, you need to see this bit Jon Stewart did this past week:

Jon Stewart Tears Apart CNN: Neither Left Nor Right, But On A ‘Steady Spiral Downward’

Stewart then turned to CNN, a network that is neither leaning left nor right, but is instead on a “steady spiral downward.” He took on the new approach of CNN executive Jeff Zucker to the news, mockingly saying things like “I love brunch! Who doesn’t love brunch? That’s news!”

Stewart brought up some graphic faux pas of CNN, including (for some reason) a CNN personality standing in the middle of a virtual field of goats. And most egregiously of all, CNN showed off a live recreation of the Jodi Arias crime scene, complete with dead boyfriend in a pool of blood on the floor.

Of course, new changes don’t come without new show experiments, and following the success of The Five and The Cycle, CNN is testing out a new primetime show called (Get To) The Point. Stewart figured CNN must have “mistook what people are constantly yelling” at the screen for a show pitch. He showed clips of the show’s hosts talking about important subjects like lizard people and vegetarians who eat bacon.

What Stewart loved the most about the show was that when promos for this new program appear on the screen during other CNN shows, it looks like a subtle jab at whoever’s talking to get to the damn point already.

Go watch the video clips…my gawd, what shit CNN is pulling out their ass now a days!

Now, this next article is something I also saved from a while back, funny how it has caused quite a controversy of late….anyway, you know that my father’s family came from Cuba back in the late 1800’s. Here is a photograph of the town Marti City, in Ocala, Florida where my great-great grandfather had one of his cigar factories. In 1890s, cigar industry flourished, died in Ocala

A horse-drawn trolley, shown in Marti City, ran south from Ocala’s railroad station along North Magnolia to Broadway, turned west and followed Broadway to haul passengers and freight to the cigar factories at Marti City.

Well, I usually share links about Cuba with you all, and this article was one I was looking forward to sharing. For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun by Roberto Zurbano

Alex Webb/Magnum Photos

“Havana, 2013” More Photos »

CHANGE is the latest news to come out of Cuba, though for Afro-Cubans like myself, this is more dream than reality. Over the last decade, scores of ridiculous prohibitions for Cubans living on the island have been eliminated, among them sleeping at a hotel, buying a cellphone, selling a house or car and traveling abroad. These gestures have been celebrated as signs of openness and reform, though they are really nothing more than efforts to make life more normal. And the reality is that in Cuba, your experience of these changes depends on your skin color.

Please, before you do anything else go and read that editorial…because it was written by a man who was fired for saying what he felt was true. Check it out: Writer of Times Op-Ed on Racism in Cuba Loses Job

The editor of a publishing house in Cuba who wrote a critical article in The New York Times opinion section about persistent racial inequality on the island, something revolutionaries proudly say has lessened, has been removed from his post, associates said on Friday.

The author, Roberto Zurbano, in an article published March 23, described a long history of racial discrimination against blacks on the island and said “racial exclusion continued after Cuba became independent in 1902, and a half century of revolution since 1959 has been unable to overcome it.”

On Friday, The Havana Times blog reported that Mr. Zurbano had told a gathering of Afro-Cuban advocates that he had been dismissed from his post at the publishing house of the Casa de las Americas cultural center, leaving the implication that the dismissal was connected to the article. Other associates said Mr. Zurbano told them he had been removed but would continue working there.

There is a lot more to it than there appears to be…

Reached by telephone in Havana, Mr. Zurbano would not comment on his employment. “What is The New York Times going to do about it?” he asked. He angrily condemned the editors of the opinion section for a change in the headline that he felt had distorted his theme.

The article’s headline, which was translated from Spanish, was “For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun,” but Mr. Zurbano said that in his version it had been “Not Yet Finished.”

“They changed the headline without consulting me,” he said. “It was a huge failure of ethics and of professionalism.”

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The Times, said the editor stood by the article’s preparation.

“We worked very hard to ensure that the wording in the piece was translated properly and accurately reflected the writer’s point of view,” she said in a statement. “There were numerous versions of the piece sent back and forth, and in the end, Mr. Zurbano and our contact for him (who speaks fluent English) signed off on the final version.”

“We knew,” she added, “that Mr. Zurbano was in a sensitive situation, and we are saddened if he has indeed been fired or otherwise faced persecution, but we stand by our translation and editing, which was entirely along normal channels.”

Believe me, there is an underlying racism within the Cuban community and to say there isn’t is bullshit. Yes, it is taboo to speak of it too. However, there is a history in a little town in Florida of Cuban whites and blacks coming together to fight for labor rights.

Restaurant in Havana, note the Albinos allowed sign.

Restaurant in Havana, note the Albinos allowed sign.

My great-great grandfather Nicholas Santana owned a cigar factory and was partners with a black-Cuban named Sorondo who had connections with Jose Marti.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1895, Ocala FL, Marti City. My great-great grandfather's cigar factory is on the bottom left corner.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1895, Ocala FL, Marti City. My great-great grandfather’s cigar factory, Santana, Sorondo & CO., is located on the bottom left corner.

In Ybor City, Florida…you could find a small pocket of intelligence within the Southern land of Jim Crow, for racism was not prevalent in that little area of Italian, Spanish, Black, White immigrants who mostly worked for the many cigar factories.  There were many Afro-Cubans, both women and men, involved in the cigar factory labor strikes in Tampa, Florida, many years ago…they were fighting with their white brothers and sisters for workers rights.

Revolution is part of the Cuban culture, and I do believe that it is fair to say that for the Black-Cuban, the revolution is not finished. It just barely started and has been put on hold, it needs to get back in gear. Racism is alive in Cuba, there is no doubt about that. And the fact that Zurbano was fired says a lot about how things are handled in Cuba.

Speaking of Cuba, there was this bit of celebrity down there: Useful Idiots: Beyoncé And Jay-Z Ignore Cuba’s Racism With Havana Trip

This week, superstars Beyoncé and Jay-Z celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary with a trip to Cuba or, as the informed refer to it, “the island prison.”

While dining, partying, and enjoying the best Havana has to offer, Beyoncé and Jay-Z not only legitimize and support the repressive regime, with both their presence and their cash, but turn a blind eye, cruelly, to the perils and languishing of the Cuban people.

Both stars are proud African-Americans — yet, curiously, chose to vacation in a country notorious for relegating its black population to second-class status, or worse.

It is no surprise that many of Cuba’s top dissidents are Afro-Cubans. Did Sasha Fierce and Jigga Man find time to meet with these brave souls, or with their families? Did they mention them? Did they even think of them?

Of course not! This was not a trip to discover truth…or to learn about history or even music. Take a look at the link for a list of Afro-Cubans advocates who have either been imprisoned or killed for speaking out against the racism.

But why stop Cuba’s racism, and its atrocious human rights record, from getting in the way of a good time? After all, Jay-Z is the ‘artist’ who famously raps: “Welcome to Havana, smoking cubanos with Castro in cabanas!”

All Jay and “B,” useful idiots extraordinaire, seem to hear when visiting Cuba is: “Extra sugar on that mojito, señor?” Never mind the life-long plight of the Afro-Cuban waiter serving that drink, who casts a longing, hopeful look in their direction, only to be met with an aloof, distant smile from the two callous multi-millionaires who, while sharing his skin color, could not care less about his plight.

The photo-journalism report that went with the Zurbano op/ed can be seen here: The Ambiguous Island – Slide Show – NYTimes.com Again, I urge you to go take a look at those images.

Now, one more link out of that little Island nation down south…this made me laugh a little, Fidel Castro to North Korea: Chill

Cuba’s seemingly immortal former leader Fidel Castro, who knows a thing or two about threats of nuclear destruction, is asking both Kim Jong-un and Barack Obama to think before they do anything stupid. “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was always friendly with Cuba, as Cuba always has been and will continue to be with her,” Castro wrote in his first state media op-ed in almost nine months, but “this is one of the gravest risks of nuclear war since the October Crisis in 1962 involving Cuba, 50 years ago.”

“Now that it has demonstrated its technical and scientific advances, we remind it of its duties to other countries who have been great friends and that it would not be just to forget that such a war would affect in a special way more than 70 percent of the world’s population,” wrote Castro, who’s apparently gone soft in his old age.

While the situation in the Koreas is “incredible and absurd,” he added, he warned Obama that if bombing breaks out, he “would be buried by a flood of images that would present him as the most sinister figure in U.S. history. The duty to avoid [war)]also belongs to him and the people of the United States.”

It seems like some sort of SNL skit, doesn’t it? Castro calling North Korea “incredible and absurd.”

Okay, you want real absurd? In Tennessee some asshole is putting forward a law that makes welfare payments dependent upon the student’s grades. Tennessee Gets Closer to Passing Bill That Ties Welfare to School Grades

A Tennessee bill that would cut welfare benefits of parents with children performing poorly in school cleared committees of both the House and Senate last week.

The measure takes “a carrot and stick approach,” one of the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, told the Knoxville News and Sentinel.

Seth Freed Wessler summarized the bill last month on Colorlines.com:

A Tennessee lawmaker introduced legislation last week to stop welfare payments to parents if their kids get bad grades in school. The sponsor, State Senator Stacy Campfield said, “One of the top tickets to break the chain of poverty is education.” But he added, “We have done little to hold [parents] accountable for their child’s performance.”

The bill would chop nearly a third of family’s Temporary Aid for Needy Families benefits, already a pittance, if their child fails to pass state competency tests or get’s held back. How exactly the threat to make poor people poorer will improve educational outcomes isn’t at all clear.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. It calls for a 30 percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to parents whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school, the Knoxville News and Sentinel reported.

You know what? My kids are not from a “broken” home, and both their parents and grandparents are college graduates…and they struggle in school. They do not get A’s and B’s…so this would be a disaster in terms of assistance if we were a “needy” family. I mention my kids performance at school because even with positive backgrounds and no worries about food and a place to sleep, a kid can be a disappointment when it comes to their grades. This is a horrible law…damn these GOP assholes.

In another education link: Can Computers Teach Students to Write Better?

Bet you can guess the answer to that.

Alright, moving on…Juan Cole had an excellent post this past week: Congress Obsessed with American Muslims, Neglects real threat of White Supremacists | Informed Comment

The shooting of Kaufman, Texas district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia remains a mystery. But investigators are increasingly looking into a cell of extremist white terrorists as the suspects. Two months ago, a county assistant district attorney, Mark Hasse, was murdered not far from his office at the court. (I used the term extremist white terrorists because that is what they are, but usually the American press only describes foreigners and Muslims as terrorists, while calling whites “extremists.”)

Likewise, a gang of white terrorists is suspected in the recent slaying of the head of Colorado’s prison system.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and other Islamophobes in Congress, seeking to look good to campaign donors who hate Muslims, has conducted several hearings on the alleged increased radicalization of American Muslims. Sociologists don’t find evidence of such a thing; American Muslims on the whole are relatively well-integrated into US society and are disproportionately well off and pillars of the society. The hearings are a form of McCarthyism.

No one was killed or injured in the US in 2012 by terrorists of Muslim heritage, and only 14 Americans of Muslim heritage were even indicted for violent plots. Only one act of violence was traced to such a group, which produced no casualties.

Rep. Peter King is a big supporter of the old 1980s Irish Republican Army, which killed two Americans in a bombing at Harrod’s department store in London. The man’s feet won’t touch the ground when he walks because of the rivers of hypocrisy exuding from between his toes.

Read the rest at the link.

Like I said at the beginning of this morning’s reads, lots of links for you today. More after the jump.

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