Monday Reads: Democracy Vanquished

Good Morning!

1f4eac68289b0a3409fa3306c470147aWell, Republicans feel empowered to up the crazy so they are certainly doing it.  Boehner will be challenged by two of the more insane teabillies.  Insane teabilly number one challenging Boehner for speaker is Texas Republican Louis Gohmert.  Florida nutter Ted Yoho has also said he can’t support Boehner.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) on Saturday announced that he would not support Boehner for Speaker.

“This is not a personal attack against Mr. Boehner, however, the people desire and deserve a choice,” Yoho said in a Facebook post. “In November, they resoundingly rejected the status quo.”

“Eventually, the goal is second, third, fourth round, we have enough people that say ‘you know what, it really is time for a change,’ ” Gohmert said Sunday. “’You deceived us when you went to Obama and Pelosi to get your votes for the cromnibus. You said you’d fight amnesty tooth an nail. You didn’t, you funded it.’ ”

Gohmert said, if elected, he would ”fight amnesty tooth and nail. We’ll use the powers of the purse. We’ll have better oversight. We’ll fight to defund ObamaCare.”

“In 2010, Boehner and other leaders said if you put us in the majority, we will have time to read the bills,” Gohmert said. “That hasn’t happened. We saw that with the cromnibus, again.”

“We’ll get back to appropriating and we will go through regular committee process, so every representative from both parties will have a chance to participate in the process and not have a dictator running things,” he added.

“With a growing Republican majority in the House and a historically high number of liberty-voting fiscal conservatives within it, there is an urgent need replace Speaker Boehner with fresh, bold leadership that better represents the views of the whole caucus,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in a statement on Sunday.

“Speaker Boehner has kicked fiscal conservatives off committee positions for voting against his wishes, caved on numerous massive spending bills at the eleventh hour, and abused the legislative process to stomp out opposition by holding surprise votes and giving members little time to actually read the bills before they vote,” Kibbe added.

These are just two of the states that send representative after representative that really wants to destroy the country’s economy, not being satisfied with having their own crazy ass issues in their own crazy ass states.  Every time I think Louisiana hitsea808108a85f54e3d7cd2a136d3a7630 the low in politics, Texas and Florida always step up to take the title of bottom feeders away.

Utah seems out to prove a point these days as a black Republican woman seems to think that everything is just hunky-dory with Steve Scalise chatting up virulently anti-Semitic white supremacists.  It is going to be an awful few years.

Incoming Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) on Sunday said that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) should remain in Republican leadership despite recent reports that he spoke at an event for a white nationalist group in 2002.

“These groups are awful. And the last thing I want to do is give them any sort of publicity or credibility, and I can say, as far as I’m concerned, with Representative Scalise, he has been absolutely wonderful to work with,” Love said on ABC’s “This Week.”

When asked if Scalise should remain as GOP whip, Love indicated that his apology was enough.

“There’s one quality that he has that I think is very important in leadership and that’s humility. And he’s actually shown that in this case. And he’s apologized, and I think that we need to move on and get the work of the American people done,” she said.

As you can see, Love didn’t specify what “people” she and others were going to work for but then we know it’s pretty obviously going to be a few rich white christians who can’t seem to get past the Civil War and modern science and economics.

1aee802fea74274d99f1422520e26f7fHowever, it seems even some folks at Fox News find Scalise’s story and apology to be outrageous. Greta Van Susteran joins Hannity in calling for Scalise’s resignation.

It’s rare for a Fox News employee to openly call out a Republican, but when it happens, it’s epic. And that’s exactly what Greta Van Susteran did on Sunday when she slammed GOP Rep. Steve Scalise.

During an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Van Susteran called out Scalise for not having the “moral courage” to resign after it was revealed that the Louisiana congressman had been the keynote speaker at a white supremacist convention in 2002. Scalise agreed to be the guest of honor after KKK Grand Wizard David Duke reached out to him through aides.

In response, Scalise feigned ignorance, claiming that he had no idea to whom he was speaking to at the event even though the convention was widely covered by local media because it was so controversial. Many Republicans, including Steve King and John Boehner, stood by Scalise. So far, he has refused to resign his post as House Majority Whip, and will be the third most powerful Republican in the House when the new Congress convenes this month. And this might make the KKK very happy.

But Van Susteran completely disagreed with the way Scalise and the Republican Party handled the damning revelations and not only skewered Scalise for being a coward, she also blasted the GOP for dropping the ball in their effort to appeal to minority voters ahead of 2016.

What’s amazing to me is that Democrats captured 20 million more votes in the 2014 election and still lost. What kind of democracy causes that?  Why are Republican votes more valuable?9a519249ef3848d9bcd6f9fe0e7f6542

This one was shocking. It does not matter how one cuts it. The United States constitution is severely flawed when more often than not in the last few elections the majority of people voting  for a particular party did not receive their relative representation. Democrats received 20 million more votes in the Senate than Republicans in 2014, yet Republicans won big.

The same occurred in the House of Representatives in 2012.

House Democrats out-earned their Republican counterparts by 1.17 million votes. Read another way, Democrats won 50.59 percent of the two-party vote. Still, they won just 46.21 percent of seats, leaving the Republicans with 234 seats and Democrats with 201.

There is nothing illegal here. There is simply a very designed undemocratic flaw in the US Constitution that must be fixed lest the legislative branch of the American government will continue to be disassociated from the real wants of society.

Fairvote.org reported the following relative to the 2014 Senate race.

As a body designed to represent states rather than citizens, the Senate’s partisan makeup tends to bear a fairly loose relationship to the raw numbers of votes that were cast to elect its members. With the final election results in hand, let’s take a look at how votes cast for Senate candidates translate to seats in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

In all, Americans cast 202.5 million votes to elect the current Senate, spread across three election cycles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Of these, 49% were cast for Democratic candidates and 46.6% for Republicans. …

In the aggregate, Democratic voters are underrepresented in the Senate and Republican voters are overrepresented compared to their respective strengths in the electorate, although Democrats outperformed their raw vote totals in two of the past four individual elections.

As for the 46 Democratic caucus members in the 114th Congress received a total of 67.8 million votes in winning their seats, while the 54 Republican caucus members received 47.1 million votes.

It’s going to be hard for Democrats to regain the Senate even though far more people vote for Democratic Senators than Republicans.  That’s because Republicans still get two senators from states that have less people than any of the country’sc6babad8a711245aac68f701ef29e705largest cities.

On Tuesday, 33 US senators elected in November will be sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden — including 12 who are new to the chamber. The class includes 22 Republicans and 11 Democrats, a big reason why the GOP has a 54-46 majority in the Senate overall.

But here’s a crazy fact: those 46 Democrats got more votes than the 54 Republicans across the 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections. According to Nathan Nicholson, a researcher at the voting reform advocacy group FairVote, “the 46 Democratic caucus members in the 114th Congress received a total of 67.8 million votes in winning their seats, while the 54 Republican caucus members received 47.1 million votes.”

There is something definitely wrong with the outcomes in governance, given that our ruling class appears to be severely crazy and greedy. For one, they make everyone believe that our money is spent on public welfare when it’s definitely corporate welfare that steals tax dollars. Robert Reich explains their priorities very well.

Some believe the central political issue of our era is the size of the government. They’re wrong. The central issue is whom the government is for.

 Consider the new spending bill Congress and the President agreed to a few weeks ago.

It’s not especially large by historic standards. Under the $1.1 trillion measure, government spending doesn’t rise as a percent of the total economy. In fact, if the economy grows as expected, government spending will actually shrink over the next year.

The problem with the legislation is who gets the goodies and who’s stuck with the tab.

For example, it repeals part of the Dodd-Frank Act designed to stop Wall Street from using other peoples’ money to support its gambling addiction, as the Street did before the near-meltdown of 2008.

Dodd-Frank had barred banks from using commercial deposits that belong to you and me and other people, and which are insured by the government, to make the kind of risky bets that got the Street into trouble and forced taxpayers to bail it out.

But Dodd-Frank put a crimp on Wall Street’s profits. So the Street’s lobbyists have been pushing to roll it back.

The new legislation, incorporating language drafted by lobbyists for Wall Street’s biggest bank, Citigroup, does just this.

It reopens the casino. This increases the likelihood you and I and other taxpayers will once again be left holding the bag.

Wall Street isn’t the only big winner from the new legislation. Health insurance companies get to keep their special tax breaks. Tourist destinations like Las Vegas get their travel promotion subsidies.

In a victory for food companies, the legislation even makes federally subsidized school lunches less healthy by allowing companies that provide them to include fewer whole grains. This boosts their profits because junkier food is less expensive to make.

Major defense contractors also win big. They get tens of billions of dollars for the new warplanes, missiles, and submarines they’ve been lobbying for.

Conservatives like to portray government as a welfare machine doling out benefits to the poor, some of whom are too lazy to work.

In reality, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, only about 12 percent of federal spending goes to individuals and families, most of whom are in dire need.

6af01fad000784c83d09f84034c40072 In a critique of Piketty’s book “Capital in the Twenty First Century” at Project Syndicate, Joseph Stiglitz explains how are productive capital gets sucked into speculative, financial capital and asset bubbles.  This is something I’ve been writing about for years here.  This section of his critique is particularly compelling.

Piketty also sheds new light on the “reforms” sold by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s as growth enhancers from which all would benefit. Their reforms were followed by slower growth and heightened global instability, and what growth did occur benefited mostly those at the top.

But Piketty’s work raises fundamental issues concerning both economic theory and the future of capitalism. He documents large increases in the wealth/output ratio. In standard theory, such increases would be associated with a fall in the return to capital and an increase in wages. But today the return to capital does not seem to have diminished, though wages have. (In the US, for example, average wages have stagnated over the past four decades.)

The most obvious explanation is that the increase in measured wealth does not correspond to an increase in productive capital – and the data seem consistent with this interpretation. Much of the increase in wealth stemmed from an increase in the value of real estate. Before the 2008 financial crisis, a real-estate bubble was evident in many countries; even now, there may not have been a full “correction.” The rise in value also can represent competition among the rich for “positional” goods – a house on the beach or an apartment on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.

Sometimes an increase in measured financial wealth corresponds to little more than a shift from “unmeasured” wealth to measured wealth – shifts that can actually reflect deterioration in overall economic performance. If monopoly power increases, or firms (like banks) develop better methods of exploiting ordinary consumers, it will show up as higher profits and, when capitalized, as an increase in financial wealth.

But when this happens, of course, societal wellbeing and economic efficiency fall, even as officially measured wealth rises. We simply do not take into account the corresponding diminution of the value of human capital – the wealth of workers.

Moreover, if banks succeed in using their political influence to socialize losses and retain more and more of their ill-gotten gains, the measured wealth in the financial sector increases. We do not measure the corresponding diminution of taxpayers’ wealth. Likewise, if corporations convince the government to overpay for their products (as the major drug companies have succeeded in doing), or are given access to public resources at below-market prices (as mining companies have succeeded in doing), reported financial wealth increases, though the wealth of ordinary citizens does not.

What we have been observing – wage stagnation and rising inequality, even as wealth increases – does not reflect the workings of a normal market economy, but of what I call “ersatz capitalism.” The problem may not be with how markets should or do work, but with our political system, which has failed to ensure that markets are competitive, and has designed rules that sustain distorted markets in which corporations and the rich can (and unfortunately do) exploit everyone else.

Markets, of course, do not exist in a vacuum. There have to be rules of the game, and these are established through political processes. High levels of economic inequality in countries like the US and, increasingly, those that have followed its economic model, lead to political inequality. In such a system, opportunities for economic advancement become unequal as well, reinforcing low levels of social mobility.

There are more warnings each year that we’ve traded our democracy for a plutocracy and that many of the folks that fall for these mistaken memes are the worst hurt by the changes.  I’m never sure what we should do about it, but at least on social media there are many of us who can realize what’s going on and share our observations and discontent.

So this is the situation, we’re being ruled by a minority, extremist party that has managed to gerrymander its way into to controlling Congress and can have over-representation in the Senate by its very design.  Since the Reagan years, they have managed to coalesce into a party of business interests, neoconfederates, and religious extremists. As a result, we have laws and programs that enrich the wealthiest at the cost of the rest of us.  We have institutions where racism and sexism have been allowed to fester and where Supreme Court justices have allowed their ideology to trump the constitution and previous law to further the oppression of minorities–with the exception of the LGBT community, where some strides have been made. Undoubtedly, this has happened because some of the biggest business interests want it, not from any desire to do the right thing by the people.  We’ve used a fake war to extend a police state where we’re all subjected to law enforcement officers that are out of control and institutionally encouraged to be so.

I have to say the challenges are huge.  I’m just hoping that the dog and pony show that will start with this new Congress will scare the shit out of people.  Given, some of this background information however, I doubt there’s much we can do about it short of a major increase in voter participation or a revolution.  The fact that so many really poorly governed states have re-elected their Republicans and continue to suffer shows me that it’s not going to be over anytime soon.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: A Bare Chestnut Tree grows in Washington DC

Portrait by Nico Jungmann

Portrait by Nico Jungmann

Good Morning

We have a variety of links for you today, shall we just get down to it?

By the way, the images are from the Sketchbook of Nico Jungmann… enjoy them.

They have heard another series of pings, this time it lasted longer than 7 minutes, via USA Today: Official: Plane may be found in ‘matter of days’

Meanwhile: Ukraine says separatists hold hostages; activists deny charge | Reuters

Congrats to UCONN: Another National Championship for Connecticut Women’s Basketball

Out of all the news hitting the internets this past day or so, the one story that was more moving to me was this one…about the sapling that is being planted at the Capitol.

A very special sapling it is:  WASHINGTON: Sapling from Anne Frank’s “bare chestnut tree” coming to the Capitol

Congressional leaders will plant an Anne Frank Memorial Tree on the U.S. Capitol’s west front lawn April 30.

The sapling was taken from a chestnut tree that stood outside the Amsterdam annex where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II.

51RpgWALCVLIn her February 23, 1944, she talked about the tree:

“From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the sea gulls and other birds as they glide on the wind…I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”

The tree itself collapsed in 2010, but its stewarts crated saplings. Eleven have been given to sites throughout this country.

Isn’t it a pretty thought to have a connection to  a little girl who equated “solace in all troubles” to the very branches that brought forth this sapling? What I am yearning for right now is solace in all troubles, bet you are too.

Here is an picture of the tree viewed from inside the attic where Anne Frank hid, it was taken  before it fell back in 2010: Anne Frank tree knocked down by storm

In this Nov. 14, 2007 file photo the chestnut tree which comforted Anne Frank while she hid from the Nazis during World War II, as seen from the attic window in the secret annex at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands The monumental chestnut tree has fallen over on Monday, Aug. 23, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Museum says. Peter Dejong/AP/File

In this Nov. 14, 2007 file photo the chestnut tree which comforted Anne Frank while she hid from the Nazis during World War II, as seen from the attic window in the secret annex at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands The monumental chestnut tree has fallen over on Monday, Aug. 23, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Museum says.
Peter Dejong/AP/File

 

As I was saying, we could all use some solace now, with this kind of shit going on: Los Angeles Times Was Wrong to Retract Article on Rape at Occidental

 

On March 14, 2014, The Los Angeles Times issued a retraction of an article in which reporter Jason Felch stated that Occidental College failed to disclose 27 sexual assaults in its 2012 Annual Security Report (ASR). The retraction states that “Occidental representatives approached the Times early this month to seek a correction. Documents reviewed by The Times this week show that the 27 incidents did not fall under the law’s disclosure requirements for a variety of reasons.”

However, The Los Angeles Times did not perform due diligence in their investigation of the numbers, and they never should have issued a retraction. Felch had incontrovertible evidence that the College did not include anonymous cases in their 2012 ASR and had verification that the college could not lawfully account for 27 missing cases.

51HPaG-TJ5LGiven the evidence, The Times should issue a mea culpa, and especially after Occidental spokesperson Jim Tranquada recently admitted to the LA Weekly that Dean of Students Barbara Avery ignored federal Clery reporting requirements that year. “In 2012, out of concern for student confidentiality, the Dean of Students office did not always communicate to Campus Safety when a student initiated the sexual-misconduct process or otherwise reported a sexual assault.”

Harrumph…I think Jezebel is on to something there, don’t you?

Since we are talking about issues of “due diligence” or maybe somehow having the wool pulled over one’s eyes, there is an update to a little news story regarding a former Star Trek actress and a Scientist who had No Clue How He Ended up in Holocaust-Denier’s Creationism Documentary

A new documentary titled “The Principle” is the latest from creationists and geocentrists.  The film perpetuates the long disproven notion that the sun revolves around the Earth. It is narrated by “Star Trek’s” Kate Mulgrew, who starred as Capt. Kathryn Janeway in both “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Nemesis.” From the looks of the trailer, this film is the antithesis of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s scientific look at the universe in “Cosmos.”

The film was funded by the ultra-conservative, ultra-Roman Catholic Robert Sungenis, who also appears in the film. Sungenis is also known for denying the Holocaust, and for his  anti-Semitic articles, which his bishop demanded he stop writing.

According to  Raw Story, the film features several scientists — some without permission. Clips from the trailer show Michio Kaku, Lawrence Krauss and Max Tegmart. Krauss is incensed, and tweeted:

For all who asked: Some clips of me apparently were mined for movie on geocentricism. So stupid does disservice to word nonsense. Ignore it.

— Lawrence Krauss (@LKrauss1)  April 8, 2014

K51XDDYMu9tLrauss also wrote a piece for  Slate to explain his complete bewilderment at being included. He is also unsure the means taken to get the clips. Krauss will probably not take legal action, in order to not further stoke the publicity for the pseudo-scientific doc. He also lampoons the idea of geocentricism, saying, “The notion that anyone in the 21st century could take seriously the notion that the sun orbits the Earth, or that the Earth is the center of the universe, is almost unbelievable.”

Okay, so this in the lack of due-diligence I was referring to: OH THANK GOD: Kate Mulgrew Is Mad About the Geocentric Documentary, Too

Yesterday, we ended the day on a major bummer when we learned that Kate Mulgrew, the actor best known for playing Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager, would be narrating a documentary backed by geocentrists and Holocaust deniers. Today, she’s set the record straight.

Mulgrew took to her official Facebook page about an hour ago to address growing concerns that her involvement with The Principle, a documentary about how NASA is totally trying to hide the truth that the Sun revolves around the Earth from us or whatever, in some way reflected her own views.

“I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused. Kate Mulgrew”

51+e-aOLdfLSeems to me that she needs to, along with her assistants…agent, be a little more diligent when it comes to accepting offers to narrate a documentary as batshit crazy as this one. Unless the producers of the documentary have fraudulently re-edited her voice over to fit their agenda…but I believe she was a voice for hire as she states and just did not do the proper homework on the matter, and only seeing a check at the end of a day.

Speaking of crazy, have you seen this? Baby Accused of Murder Plot Goes Into Hiding in Pakistan

A 9-month-old Pakistani baby accused of raiding a state-run gas company and plotting to murder police has gone into hiding following his first court appearance last week.

Alleged infant criminal mastermind Muhammad “Musa” Khan was charged with conspiracy to commit murder Feb. 1, along with his father, grandfather and around 30 others. The group was protesting an increase in gas prices and a lack of available electricity in their area.

Baby Musa was granted bail in a Lahore court last week, and has another court appearance scheduled for April 12. His family hasn’t decided whether he’ll show up.

“Police are vindictive. Now they are trying to settle the issue on personal grounds, that’s why I sent my grandson to Faisalabad for protection,” the baby’s grandfather, Muhammad Yasin, told Reuters.

I guess the reasons for his arrest are being explain as, guilt by association?

A police sub-inspector apparently claimed in a report that Yasin’s entire family beat him up during the protest. That sub-inspector has since been fired.

What else would we expect when they also will stone women for adultery when they are raped.

41MkHYQX+9LWith all the talk on equal pay these days, Researchers: More U.S. mothers staying at home because of unemployment | The Raw Story

More mothers in the United States are staying home, but the increase is linked more to unemployment and demographic changes than to choice, a study published Tuesday suggested.

In 2012, nearly one in three mothers, or 29 percent, did not work outside the home, up from 23 percent in 1999, said the study from the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

Most of the homemakers, 85 percent, indicated they stayed at home to look after their children. However, six percent said they did so because they could not find employment — up from one percent in 2000.

And another article dealing with numbers: This Map Shows The Deadly Aftermath Of War Right Here At Home

In 2008, The New York Times compiled a list of 121 cases in which veterans were charged with a killing after returning home, and Current TV, GOOD and MGMT.design collaborated to update the research in 2010. The Huffington Post collected data from these sources and more recent news articles to create the infographic below, which shows that at least 194 veterans have been charged with killings after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. It also shows that there has been a concentration of such incidents around military bases. Our research may not be a complete tally, but these were the cases we could confirm.

Infographic at the link above.

Alright then, the rest of the links are all dealing with shit, whether it be bullshit…fish shit, Japanese print fart shit, or GOP dipshit(s). (yes plural)

First the GOP assholes…GOP Candidate Wants To Get Elected To Keep His Daughter From Learning Evolution

I don’t know where the hell these people come from and yet…they keep getting elected or in this guy’s case, backed by those politicians already in office.

Aaron Miller, a Republican congressional candidate in Minnesota, said a big reason he’s running is to end classroom instruction on evolution, according to the Mankato Free Press.

Miller, a hospital account manager and Iraq War veteran, said during the congressional district’s Republican Party convention in Albert Lea on Saturday that Minnesota needs more religious freedom. He cited an incident in which his daughter was forced to learn evolution in school.

According to the Mankato Free Press:

He also called for more religious freedoms. He repeated his story about his daughter returning home from school because evolution was being taught in her class. He said the teacher admitted to not believing in the scientific theory to his daughter but told her that the government forced him to teach the lesson.

81xX07cI-QL._SL1500_Miller first mentioned his daughter’s evolution lesson at the Blue Earth County convention in March, according to the Mankato Free Press.

“We should decide what is taught in our schools, not Washington, D.C.,” Miller, who won the Republican endorsement for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District on Saturday, said during his speech.

Despite Miller’s attacks on Washington’s influence on education, Minnesota’s academic standards in science are set by the state Department of Education.

Not only is this guy a dipshit, he is a dumbshit.

Eric Holder got in some good jabs yesterday, Eric Holder to Louie Gohmert: ‘Good Luck With Your Asparagus’ | The Daily Banter

Gohmert brought up the “Operation Fast and Furious” scandal (because of course he did) and reminded Holder that he was hit with contempt of Congress charges by the House two years ago for failing to turn over Justice Department documents which the House had subpoenaed. Holder warned Gohmert, “You don’t want to go there, buddy.”

But that wasn’t the really good one. At the end of Gohmert’s time, Holder got the last word. As the chair recognized a different committee member, Holder said to Gohmert, “Good luck with your asparagus.”

This was an hilarious reference to an exchange between Holder and Gohmert last year when Gohmert inexplicably said that Holder “cast aspersions” on his “asparagus.”

Yes, Louie Gohmert said “cast aspersions on my asparagus.” What?

Oh Gohmert, you round-headed nincompoop. You’re lucky that’s all Holder said to you regarding that. If I was Holder, I’d make it a point to work the word “asparagus” into every other sentence. Why? Because this is exactly how a nutbag like Gohmert deserves to be treated.

Videos at the link.

51pmFCaSmxLOh, be glad we don’t have this kind of trouble to deal with: Carnivorous piranhas found blocking sewers in Shropshire

Residents in Telford have been informed “fishy smells” erupting from sewers in the area were actually thanks to the presence of sharp-toothed, carnivorous piranhas.

The fish, which are known for their voracious appetites and are commonly found in slightly more tropical climates than Shropshire, had been blocking the sewers after a resident chose to dispose of the dead fish down their toilet.

Matt Final and Jay Slater, who went to investigate the blockage for Severn Trent said: “We’ve certainly seen some weird things in the sewers over the years but we were a little shocked to remove piranhas.

Yeah, dead piranhas down the drain is a bit strange indeed. But at least they were not let out into the local pond or river while alive…I know it isn’t much of a news story, but fish down the shitter is only a segue to the final link: Today We Learned: Japanese “Fart Battle” Scrolls Exist

Let’s talk about farts. Specifically, fart battles as depicted in these hundreds-of-years-old Japanese “he-gassen” scrolls. They’re a real thing, and they might be the best real thing we’ve seen today. Check out some more examples below.

Fart-Battle-640x426

Besides just being incredibly fun to look at, because farts being funny is as much a universal constant as the speed of light, he-gassen scrolls also served some political function in their day. They were sort of like New Yorker cartoons—but with farts. The joke, according to Dangerous Minds and The Daily Mail seems to be that at the time, Japan’s view of foreigners wasn’t a favorable one.

When I saw that headline I immediately thought of Monty Python’s….I fart in your general direction..and it seems that the person who wrote the post thought the same thing.

This, but in Japan.

 

More pictures of Japanese prints at the link, as well as more info on the artwork.

That is all I have for you this morning. Have a good day and please share your thoughts with us today.


Friday Reads

a woman hereGood Morning!

The overwhelming amount of news these days shows a discouraging trend in that one party continues to want to disenfranchise a large number of people and strip them of their constitutional rights and of programs hard won in the face of our wars against economic depression, discrimination, and poverty  Here are some of today’s most disturbing Right Wing Republican Headlines.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Thursday objected over and over again in order to keep statements out of the congressional record that accused Republicans of hurting working families by taking food stamps out of the farm bill.

Before a vote could be taken on the Republican farm bill that drops the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — or food stamps — Democrats attempted to voice their unhappiness by inserting statements into the record.

“Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks in strong opposition to the farm bill rule and the underlying bill because it will increase hunger in America,” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) said.

Although requests to “revise and extend” remarks are routine, Gohmert immediate shouted, “Objection!”

Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-IL) next asked permission to “revise and extend” his remarks in opposition to the farm bill “because it takes food nutrition away from working families.”

“Objection!” Gohmert yelled.

“What he is doing is he is not even giving members on our side the courtesy inserting their statement in the record?” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) asked.

As several more Democratic representatives attempted to insert remarks that the bill “hurts the working poor” and “increases hunger and poverty,” Gohmert repeatedly objected.

“I think it is extremely unfortunate that that members on the other side of the aisle would deny members on this side of the aisle the ability to insert written materials in the record,” McGovern noted. “In all my years here, I’ve never seen such uncourteous gesture.”

Republican Senator Aqua Buddha Paul continues to harbor a racist, neoconfederate, successionist aid on the public payroll without apology.

The man who co-wrote Sen. Rand Paul’s 2011 book and currently serves as an aide to the Kentucky Republican reportedly spent years in the 1990s and 2000s as a pro-secessionist activist and radio shock jock.

According to conservative news site The Washington Free Beacon, Jack Hunter, who currently serves as the senator’s new media director, spent his part of his 20s as a member of the League of the South, a group which “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.” In 1999, Hunter was listed as chairman of the group’s Charleston, S.C., chapter.

While the League of the South maintains that it is not racist, Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, told the Free Beacon that the League of the South is an “implicitly racist group.”

“When I was part of it, they were very explicit that’s not what they were about,” Hunter told the Free Beacon. “I was a young person, it was a fairly radical group – the same way a person on the left might be attracted in college to some left-wing radical groups.”

But Hunter’s troubling past doesn’t end there. In the early 2000s, Hunter, now 39, began contributing anonymous political commentary to the South Carolina radio station 96 Wave, under the moniker the “Southern Avenger.” According to the Free Beacon, as the “Southern Avenger,” Hunter would wear a mask printed with a Confederate flag to public appearances.

According to transcripts of monologues reviewed by the Free Beacon, Hunter’s commentaries in the 2000s included assertions that Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s heart was “in the right place,” that white people are subject to a “racial double standard,” and that a “non-white majority America would simply cease to be America for reasons that are as numerous as they are obvious – whether we are supposed to mention them or not.”

At other times, Hunter equated the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and said that a man without a vote“[w]hether for Israel or oil, or both, a permanent U.S. foothold in the Middle East has been the primary neoconservative goal since day one and certainly since long before 9/11.”

While Hunter defended his secessionist views in print as recently as 2009, the Free Beacon reported that he “renounced most of his comments” during an interview on Monday.

Congressional Republicans continue to fight attempts at Immigration Reform.

Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, took the lead for stalwart opponents of any legislation that could lead to what they view as amnesty. “You can’t separate the Dream Act kids from those who came across the border with a pack of contraband on their back, and they can’t tell me how they can do that,” Mr. King said, referring to the undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents as young children and known as “Dreamers.”

“Once you start down that line you’re destroying the rule of law.” But the response to his pitch was not as robust as it had been in the past: “It was not a standing ovation,” he conceded.

In fact, the one area where the legislators showed signs of some consensus was around the “Dreamers,” who many agreed should not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. Hours before the meeting, hundreds of young immigrants who had grown up in the country without legal papers held a mock citizenship ceremony on a Senate lawn. “We have come today to claim our citizenship,” said Lorella Praeli, a leader of United We Dream. But she insisted young immigrants would not agree to any plan that included only them and not all undocumented immigrants. “2013 is not the time for separate but equal.”

State Republicans continue to launch sneak attacks on Women’s health and reproductive rights in states like North Carolina.

The North Carolina House is set to vote on a draconian anti-abortion bill Thursday after Republicans bundled the bill’s provisions into a motorcycle safety bill on Wednesday in an effort to hurry it through the legislature. According to Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel, the state’s GOP made the changes to the motorcycle law bill without giving advance notice to the public or to Democratic legislators.

Democratic legislators told Huffington Post that they’re expecting large and voluble protests to accompany Thursday’s legislative session, which will feature two hours of debate on SB 353 from Democrats and one hour from Republicans.

“We know that proponents — or what I call the anti-women’s health people — are going to do the same, so it’s going to be a zoo,” said Paige Johnson of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.

Republicans originally tried to ram through the brace of anti-choice laws — some of the most stringent in the nation — as part of a Senate bill banning Sharia law in the state. It passed the state Senate July 3, but Republican Gov. Pat McCrory threatened to veto the measure because he felt that the process of writing the bill’s amendments had been rushed.

Senate Republicans instead pulled anti-abortion measures — which require abortion providers to meet a long list of bureaucratic hurdles and mandate that a doctor be present for all abortions, whether they are invasive or not — from the anti-Sharia law bill and bundled them into SB 353, the motorcycle safety bill, and passed it without notifying Democrats. The bill moved on to the House, where Democrats who arrived at the bill’s hearings expected to debate motorcycle safety.

“As a member of the committee, I thought I had a motorcycle safety bill,” state Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D) said to Huffington Post. “I didn’t bring a file on this abortion bill they had, so I wasn’t prepared when we got into the meeting.”

The new bill also denies public employees access to health plans that include abortion coverage and mandates even more red tape licensing requirements for clinics that offer abortion.

“It could very well close down abortion clinics that already exist in this state,” said state Rep. Mickey Michaux (D) to Huffington Post.

 Rick Perry and other Republicans may well amp up the GOP Gay-Bashing in the 2016 elections.women-230x300

Rick Perry’s long reign as governor of Texas is ending, with the announcement that he’s not running for reelection in 2014. Among other things, he’ll be remembered as one of the most vocally anti-gay governors and political figures in American history. In 2003, Perry lambasted the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down the Texas sodomy ban, and all sodomy bans in the states, calling the court “nine oligarchs in robes.” In 2005, Perry championed a draconian constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions in Texas, and signed it into law in a ceremony held in a church. During his 2012 presidential run he cruelly told a 14-year-old bisexual girl on the campaign trail that gays shouldn’t serve in the military because “homosexuality is a sin,” and he demeaned gay service members in a political attack ad that was the most parodied ad of the election season.

So if Perry is stepping down to focus solely on a presidential run in 2016, as some observers contend, what will that mean for GOP political gay-bashing in the 2016 presidential race? Judging from Perry’s most recent rants, 2016 will be 2012 redux, no matter what anyautopsy of the 2012 election by the Republican National Committee or GOP strategists might reveal about how to proceed. Since last fall Perry has only ratcheted up the attacks on gays, much as he has done on abortion. Polls show a majority of Americans, and particularly young Americans (and that includes young GOP Americans), support LGBT rights and even marriage equality. But Christian right groups still influential in the party have been threatening to bolt the GOP unless candidates toe the line. Contrary to strategists who suggest that the GOP will be forced to be more supportive on issues of concern to Latinos, women, gays and other groups, there are thinkers in the GOP who simply want to believe the GOP can win by ignoring all those groups and just getting more straight white male voters to the polls.

Think the whole birther thing is dead?  Not in Republican land.  Did you catch this on Rachel Maddow last night?  This is your Republican Grass Roots in action!!  Birthers!  Successionists!  Racists!!  Christofascists!  All part and parcel of what is going on in legislatures and congress in this country!

So, is the Republican Party just doubling down or tripling down on white–mostly male and straight–voters?  Here’s some interesting analysis of voter and voter trends.

In the aftermath of Barack Obama’s relatively comfortable reelection victory in 2012 — a win fueled by massive margins among African Americans, Hispanics and other nonwhite voters — an intense debate has begun among Republican leaders and strategists over the future direction of the party. The GOP has now lost the national popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Yet according to national exit polls, Republican candidates won the white vote by double-digit margins in the last four of these elections, including a 20-point margin in 2012.

Given these results, some prominent Republican strategists, including Karl Rove, believe that the key to the party’s future viability in presidential elections is finding ways to increase its share of the growing nonwhite vote. Since 1992, according to national exit polls, the nonwhite share of the electorate has increased from 13% to 28%, and this trend is almost certain to continue for many years to come. Based on census data, the voters who will be entering the electorate over the next few decades will include a much larger proportion of nonwhites, and especially Latinos, than the voters who will be leaving the electorate.

But not all GOP strategists agree with the approach advocated by Rove and his allies or with the necessity of increasing the party’s share of the nonwhite vote in order to achieve success in future presidential elections. In a recent series of posts at RealClearPolitics.com, analyst Sean Trende has argued that Republicans can effectively compete in future presidential elections without substantially increasing their support among Hispanics and other nonwhite voters by focusing on increasing turnout and support among white voters, who will continue to make up the large majority of the American electorate.

Trende’s argument that the GOP can achieve success by, essentially, doubling down on white voters rests largely on an analysis of racial voting patterns in presidential elections over the past several decades. According to Trende, Republicans have significantly increased their performance among white voters over time. If this trend continues, he argues, given a reasonably favorable political and economic environment, Republican candidates should have a good chance of overcoming the Democratic advantage among nonwhite voters in future presidential elections.

The problem with the PVI

Trende’s claim that Republicans have increased their performance among white voters is based on his calculation of a statistic known as the PVI, or Partisan Voting Index, for white voters. Essentially, this statistic is used to compare the political preferences of a given group to the electorate as a whole. The PVI for white voters compares the Democratic share of the white vote with the Democratic share of the vote in the overall electorate. For our purposes, however, we have calculated the PVI based on the Democratic vote margin among white voters compared with the Democratic vote margin in the overall electorate in order to reduce the impact of votes for third party and independent candidates.

Over time, as the data in Figure 1 show, the PVI for white voters has become increasingly negative, with an especially dramatic decline since 1992. There is no question that in comparison with the overall electorate, white voters have become more Republican over time. But the interpretation of this result is not as straightforward as Trende suggests. That is because the PVI for white voters reflects both the Democratic margin among white voters and the size of the nonwhite electorate.

In fact, the main reason that the gap between the Democratic margin in the overall electorate and the Democratic margin among white voters has increased over time is not because whites have become more Republican but because nonwhites, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, now make up a larger share of the overall electorate. As just one example, the PVI of the white vote in 2012 (-24) was far more negative than it was in 1988 (-13). Yet Democratic margins among both whites and nonwhites were essentially the same in each election. The real change: Nonwhites were just 15% of voters in 1988 compared to 28% in 2012. In other words, the rapid growth of the very Democratic nonwhite share of the electorate makes it seem like white voters are becoming more Republican than they actually are.

It’s been really difficult for me recently to continue to turn on the TV and see assault after assault on women, the GLBT, minorities, immigrants, religious minorities, and the poor.  How do we make it stop?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?