Lundi Gras Reads

Happy Lundi Gras!

It’s the day before Mardi Gras and traditionally a day of resting up to go full out on the big day. I’ll be working since–last time I checked–Indiana doesn’t recognize the day. Unlike the Universities here, Purdue ignores the chance to break the winter blues.

And, it is a bit New Orleans wintry down here. I’m putting up pictures for parades I’ve been missing due to the ongoing sinus crud. These parade pictures are from Krewe D’Etat. It’s always got serious satire going plus I have a friend that does a lot of the pictures and float designs. She’s basically a full time Mardi Gras artist which has to be the best gig ever. She also designs amazing headdresses. Meet Caroline Thomas!

It takes a lot to put on these huge parades. I think a lot of folks get carried away by the sheer spectacle of it all. But, I’d just like to remind you that it takes the creative genius of Caroline and her peers to really capture the sense of it all. Each krewe has its own vibe. It’s a real skill to be able to make art that’s a combination of show and tell.

So, that’s Caroline! And here’s some of her work for Krewe D’etat and Chaos. Enjoy it before I share my reads that have given so much fodder to the satire krewes and all the parade artists for two very long years. I love Caroline’s comment that accompanied her caricatures of “creepy men”.

So, speaking of creepy men,Harvey Weinstein’s office was basically a little shop of predatory horrors that he forced employees to stock.

Among notable examples of harassment cited by the lawsuit:

• Harvey Weinstein told several employees words to the effect of “I will kill you,” “I will kill your family,” and “You don’t know what I can do.” He also asserted that he had contacts within the Secret Service who could take care of problems for him.

• The Weinstein Company, the suit says, “employed one group of female employees whose primary job it was to accompany (Harvey) to events and to facilitate (his) sexual conquests. … One of the members of this entourage was flown from London to New York to teach” his assistants “how to dress and smell more attractive” to him.

• Another group of employees were assigned to “further his regular sexual activity, including by contacting … prospective sexual partners via text message or phone at his direction and maintaining space on his calendar for sexual activity.”

• A third set of employees also were forced to facilitate his sexual conquests. These female employees were supposed to help his company produce films and television projects. But despite their skills and stated job responsibilities, he required them to meet with prospective sexual conquests for his own personal interests. “This compelled service demeaned and humiliated them, contributing to the hostile work environment.”

• His use of vulgarity was widely noted in the suit, which described how he would call female employees “c—” or “p—-” when he was angry with them or felt they had done a task poorly or incorrectly. And he also used those terms to scold or degrade male employees. On some occasions, he asked female employees if they had their period, including asking an employee if her tampon was “up too far,” the filing says. In one 2012 incident, he launched into a tirade against a female employee in which he berated her in front of other employees and threatened to “cut (her) loins.”

• Weinstein’s assistants were required to provide childcare for his young children and handle other domestic work for his wife, Georgina Chapman, and an adult daughter.

• Assistants had copies of a document called the “Bible,” which included information about his likes and dislikes, and a list of people to assist arranging “personals,” or sexual activity.

• His drivers in both New York and Los Angeles were required to have available condoms and erectile dysfunction injections in the car at all times.

• The suit says the head of human resources at Weinstein’s company was not empowered to do anything about his ongoing sexual harassment of female employees. Victims were told by the director of HR that he “sympathized” with them, acknowledging that they had a “tough job,” but that there was nothing he could do.

Yeah, that’s pretty much representative of the mind of a psychopath. But, you know, KKKremlin Caligula is pretty disturbed along those lines too. Here’s Jennifer Rubin on Trump and breach of classified information.

Candidate Donald Trump used, more than any other issue, Hillary Clinton’s home email server to argue that she was unfit for office and, moreover, that there were grounds for sending her to jail. The eerie chants, more common in banana republics, to imprison his opponent (“Lock her up!”) would thrill his crowds and reignite the anti-Clinton anger that had gripped Republicans for decades. For less crazed voters, it was an effective reminder of the Clintons’s proclivity to break the rules, to disregard conflicts of interest and to only grudgingly come clean when caught misbehaving. Her offense, in retrospect, seems small and innocuous, in large part because Trump’s defiance of rules, indulgence in massive conflicts of interest and habitual lying in just one year in office dwarf anything (and everything) both Clintons have done in a lifetime in the public eye.

And that brings us to President Trump’s handling and mishandling of classified information. No president has more recklessly exposed the country’s secrets than this one.

Consider that he blabbed code-word intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office. According to national security expert Amy Zegart of Stanford University, “On a scale of 1 to 10—and I’m just ball parking here—it’s about a billion. … The president could have jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. Not America’s source. Somebody else’s. Presumably from an allied intelligence service who now knows that the American president cannot be trusted with sensitive information.”

Fast-forward to House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who cooked up a memo falsely accusing the FBI of omitting information on a warrant application to the FISA court to conduct surveillance on longtime suspected spy Carter Page. Nunes has stubbornly refused to say if he drafted the memo in concert with the White House, but his refusal to deny the accusation speaks volumes. The president, contrary to the pleading of FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, released the memo publicly, sending out to everyone on the planet a document originally labeled “top secret.” (Countless national security experts have explained that “top secret” is usually the designation of material whose release would expose sources and methods of intelligence gathering.) Trump, even before the so-called vetting process, told a lawmaker at the State of the Union address that he intended to release the memo. Keeping our nation’s secrets, as well as releasing his tax records, are hindrances to his self-protection. Therefore, top-secret classification (and personal financial transparency) be damned.

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Then, there’s his continued defense of predators and men that commit physical violence on women. It’s undoubtedly because he’s been there done it.

One could barely get a night’s sleep before another White House aide, the speechwriter David Sorensen, was forced to resign after it was revealed that, during a background check, his ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, had told the F.B.I. that he had abused her by, among other acts, putting out a cigarette on her hand and running over her foot with a car.

Trump’s response on social media to these allegations was not entirely surprising. He tweeted his suspicion of the #MeToo movement, saying, “People’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused—life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

Trump responded with similar fellow-feeling when charges were levelled at Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, late of Fox News, and Roy Moore, the right-wing former judge who had seemed headed to victory in an Alabama Senate race. (Trump, of course, is unforgiving when it comes to Democrats like Al Franken and John Conyers.)

Kellyanne Conway, whose defenses of Trump’s most preposterous statements are sometimes so tortured that they become the stuff of late-night satire, could not bear to back the President on this one. She told CNN that she saw “no reason not to believe” Porter’s former spouses. “In this case, you have contemporaneous police reports, you have women speaking to the FBI under threat of perjury,” Conway said. “You have photographs, and when you look at all of that pulled together, Rob Porter did the right thing by resigning.” This was hardly a condemnation, but, in the context of this White House and these times, she showed, if fleetingly, common sense.

Trump is considered the “most anti-woman President* ever and polls are confirming what women think of him.

Donald Trump wants you to believe he has “great respect” for women, but his words and actions tell a far different story. In fact, Trump may be the most anti-women US president ever.

Case in point: On Friday, Trump defended his former aide Rob Porter after news broke of allegations that Porter had been physically abusive to his two ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby.

At that point, America had already seen the photo of Holderness with a black eye caused when Porter allegedly punched her. We had heard Porter’s second wife, Willoughby tell us that while married to Porter he had been abusive. He “grabbed me from the shower by my shoulders up close to my neck and pulled me out to continue to yell at me,” she said. Porter has denied these allegations.

It’s clear that women are increasingly not buying Trump’s lie that he respects them. According to exit polls for the 2016 election, Trump received the support of 41% of female voters, including 52% of white women. But now it appears Trump is losing favor among women, with a recent Marist Poll showing he not only has just a 33% approval rating among women, but also that 50% of women strongly disapprove of the job he is doing as president.

Reporters are finding that white, working class women in the rust belt have turned on Trump.

These twin forces—of class and gender—have established a sharp continuum of white attitudes toward Trump. White men without a college degree remain his foundation, even if the pillar is showing some cracks: Relative to his 2016 vote, Trump’s approval rating in 2017 among this group declined in all 13 states. But given his commanding initial position, Trump retains a very strong hold on those men, drawing 60 percent or more approval from them in each state except Michigan, Colorado, and Minnesota (though he still retains majority support in those).

At the opposite pole, college-educated women remain the engine of white resistance to Trump. In only four of the 13 states (more on them below) did Trump’s approval among college-educated white women exceed an anemic 34 percent. That widespread rejection of Trump keys the Democratic opportunity in 2018 in House seats in information-age, white-collar suburbs in major metropolitan areas.

The two other groups of whites are more conflicted. Among college-educated white men, Trump retains majority approval in five of the states and draws at least 45 percent in four more. The intense backlash against Trump from well-educated white women means that GOP hopes of minimizing their suburban losses may depend on maintaining majority support from college-educated white men—who many Republican strategists consider the audience most likely to snap back to GOP candidates over the tax bill and generally brightening economic picture (the stock market’s tumble this week notwithstanding).

The situation looks even more volatile among white women without a college degree. No group was more central to Trump’s victory, especially in the Rustbelt states that effectively decided the election. (Trump won at least 56 percent of those women in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, according to exit polls.) In 2017, Gallup found, Trump averaged majority approval from these blue-collar white women in six of the 13 states. But that finding highlights the continuing force of regional variation in shaping attitudes about Trump: All six of those states are in the South and Southwest.

In the Rustbelt states that decided 2016, Trump has slipped into a much more precarious position with these women: Gallup put his 2017 approval with them at 45 percent in Pennsylvania, 42 percent in Michigan, and 39 percent or less in Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Compared to his 2016 vote, his 2017 approval among blue-collar white women in the Rustbelt represented some of his largest declines anywhere—18 percentage points in Ohio and 19 in Wisconsin and Minnesota. That erosion, which intensified during Trump’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, creates the opening for Democrats to contest blue-collar and non-urban House seats this fall through the Midwest and Northeast.

I love the title of this piece in the Kansas City Star. “Rob Porter and the Team Trump men’s club: Accused of mistreating women? You’re hired!”

It’s almost as if domestic violence allegations are a résumé enhancer for the Trump administration.
President Donald Trump’s staff secretary, Rob Porter, who had the power to decide what information would cross the commander in chief’s uncluttered desk, was the second top Trump aide to have been accused of past spousal abuse. A third was out before week’s end.
Back when Steve Bannon was the new CEO of the Trump campaign, the news broke that he had been charged with domestic violence in 1996. But that in no way diminished his influence with the candidate.
Can Team Trump’s indifference to allegations of wife-beating endure in the #MeToo moment? It can, it has and it continues to. White House officials didn’t fire, suspend or otherwise signal they thought any less of Porter after reports that two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend had accused him of physical abuse. Why would they flinch when that was not news to them?

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But let’s not forget!!!

… on Saturday, Trump remained sad for his former aides, tweeting that men can be “shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”
Presumably, the president can relate. His first wife, Ivana, later withdrew her allegations that Trump had raped her and ripped a handful of her hair out around the time of their divorce. Some 19 women willing to be quoted by name have accused him of harassment and assault in the years since.
Trump, who has bragged about grabbing women but denied all specific allegations, is reportedly still looking for a job for former Carl’s Jr. head Andy Puzder, who took himself out of the running to be labor secretary after reports that ex-wife once went on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and accused him of abusing her. Like Bannon’s ex-wife, she has taken it back.
The president also remains in a mutual admiration society with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was charged with assaulting Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. Like the charges against Bannon, those were dropped as well.
How did all these alleged hotheads slip past the filter? They didn’t.

I can only hope all the blowback from this translates to votes the House and Senate just in time to impeach Pence and Trump using Mueller’s findings. Oh, and with a Democratic Speaker.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

(Note: The Day time pictures are Caroline’s and “creepy men”.)

You can find Caroline’s work on Instagram. She goes by C_to_the_line and her website. Also, d’Etat designs are by Ryan Blackwood. The float with Matt Lauer on the front is painted by the very talented Noah Church.

 

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Monday Reads: Going to the Dogs!!!!

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

We’re in full throttle Mardi Gras mode down here and I’m laid up in bed with sinus crud. I’m a second-hander atm who is viewing all the Tu Deaux through the lens of friends. Meanwhile, I sniffle and cough on.

One of the big questions I had back in 2016 is the subject of a Politico feature featuring former diplomat Victoria Nuland. Why didn’t President Obama set off more alarms about the Russian Hacking?

By the summer of 2016, Victoria Nuland’s “Spidey sense” told her something was very wrong.

That spring, Nuland, the top State Department official charged with overseeing U.S. policy toward Russia, was one of those who had “first rung the alarm bell” inside the Obama administration, warning that Russia appeared to be trying to “discredit the democratic process” in the United States as part of a concerted 2016 strategy.

Now, the Russian campaign was turning out to be even more serious than she had imagined. She had known since late 2015 that the Democratic National Committee’s email servers had been hacked; all these months later, the stolen DNC emails were being publicly released by websites known to be Russian conduits right on the eve of the Democratic convention, and the hack would soon be confirmed as a Russian operation by U.S. intelligence agencies.

“That’s when the hairs really went up on the back of our necks,” she recounted in an interview with The Global Politico, her first extensive public comments about what it was like to spend months in the middle of the U.S. government’s halting, frustrating attempts to understand the Russian attack on the U.S. electoral system — and then try to figure out how to respond to it.

While the broad contours of that response are known, hearing it viscerally described by one of those who tried to stop it is bracing. Nuland is now confirming publicly that she pushed Obama to respond more aggressively to the hacking before the election and acknowledging that she and others at the State Department were informed by “sometime in late July” about the inflammatory findings of former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele apparently linking the Russian effort to Republican candidate Donald Trump. Unbeknownst to her, the FBI, also in July 2016, had begun a secret investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the issue of whether the Steele report, paid for by Democrats, helped fuel that investigation is now the subject of heated partisan dispute on Capitol Hill.

It’s an interesting read so go check it out.

It’s clear that the Republican party has become unhinged. There is a Holocaust denier/NAZI running as the sole Republican for a suburban Chicago Congressional Seat.

Arthur Jones — an outspoken Holocaust denier, activist anti-Semite and white supremacist — is poised to become the Republican nominee for an Illinois congressional seat representing parts of Chicago and nearby suburbs.

“Well first of all, I’m running for Congress not the chancellor of Germany. All right. To me the Holocaust is what I said it is: It’s an international extortion racket,” Jones told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Indeed, Jones’ website for his latest congressional run includes a section titled “The ‘Holocaust Racket’” where he calls the genocide carried out by the German Nazi regime and collaborators in other nations “the biggest blackest lie in history.”

Jones, 70, a retired insurance agent who lives in suburban Lyons, has unsuccessfully run for elected offices in the Chicago area and Milwaukee since the 1970s.

He ran for Milwaukee mayor in 1976 and 13th Ward alderman on Chicago’s Southwest Side in 1987.

Since the 1990s to 2016, Jones has jumped in the GOP 3rd Congressional District primary seven times, never even close to becoming a viable contender.

The outcome will be different for Jones in the Illinois primary on March 20, 2018.

To Jones’ own amazement, he is the only one on the Republican ballot.

Trump voters have all the appearances and characteristics of a cult. They’ve totally run the traditional party off the rails.

Rarely has a president changed his party as fast and profoundly as Donald J. Trump. Love him or hate him, you can no longer argue his ability to bend an entire party to his will.

In the two and a half years since he announced his candidacy, he has moved the party away from decades of orthodoxy on trade, Russia, deficits and more — and has helped make the law-and-order party skeptical of FBI leadership.

Perhaps the most profound thing Trump has done is show how many movement leaders and Republicans in Congress are out of touch with Republican voters:

  • There’s a massive cohort of Republican voters who are socially conservative and culturally reactionary but fiscally liberal, even if they don’t know it.
  • The base is very skeptical of trade deals — convinced that ordinary Americans have lost at globalization.
  • Huge swaths of Trump Country are dependent on Social Security, Medicaid and other government programs.

While much of the GOP donor class is passionate about issues like criminal justice reform and expanded high-skilled immigration, many GOP voters want the exact opposite:

  • The ratio between the number of Republicans who think that way, versus number of conservatives who talk that way on cable TV or at the Capitol, is way out of whack. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum were their lonely on-air champions.
  • If Trump has tapped into a silent majority, it’s those voters — the opposite of Paul Ryan voters, the opposite of Rubio, the opposite of Jeb.
  • The source close to GOP leadership said: “All evidence in the last two years points to the fact that the R base was never as ‘conservative’ on economic policy as we portrayed them during the Obama years.”

What will Trump’s brand of reactionary populism continue to let him get away with?

This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).

Of course, lots of people vote a straight ticket. Some do so because they are partisan. Others do so because of a particular policy position: Many pro-lifers, for example, will not vote for Democrats, even pro-life Democrats, because they see the Democratic Party as institutionally committed to the slaughter of babies.

We’re proposing something different. We’re suggesting that in today’s situation, people should vote a straight Democratic ticket even if they are not partisan, and despite their policy views. They should vote against Republicans in a spirit that is, if you will, prepartisan and prepolitical. Their attitude should be: The rule of law is a threshold value in American politics, and a party that endangers this value disqualifies itself, period. In other words, under certain peculiar and deeply regrettable circumstances, sophisticated, independent-minded voters need to act as if they were dumb-ass partisans.

For us, this represents a counsel of desperation. So allow us to step back and explain what drove us to what we call oppositional partisanship.

Is the current SpokesSisterWife for the Trump Family Crime Syndicate on her way to an obstruction of Justice charge? A FOIA request shows internal memos from FBI Agents reacting to the Comey firing. It’s not the one portrayed by Huckabee or Trump.

In a , the same day McDermott was asking her staff to make sure one another were “doing OK,” then-Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that the president had “lost confidence in Director Comey” and that “the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.” She stated that the president had “had countless conversations with members from within the FBI” in the course of making his decision to fire Comey. , Sanders stated that she personally had “heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision” and that the president believed “Director Comey was not up to the task…that he wasn’t the right person in the job. [Trump] wanted somebody that could bring credibility back to the FBI.”

Trump himself blasted Comey too, stating that the former director was “a showboat. He’s a grandstander” and that the FBI “has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil—less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.” A few days later, the New York Times that Trump had told Russian officials visiting him in the Oval Office the day after Comey’s firing that Comey was a “nut job.”

Over the next few days, to suggest that Trump and Sanders were playing fast and loose with the truth. But we now have the documents to prove that decisively. Their disclosure was not a leak but an authorized action by the FBI, which released to us under the Freedom of Information Act more than 100 pages of leadership communications to staff dealing with the firing. This material tells a dramatic story about the FBI’s reaction to the Comey firing—but it is neither a story of gratitude to the president nor a story of an organization in turmoil relieved by a much-needed leadership transition.

Within a few days of the firing, both current and former FBI officials began pushing back against the White House’s claims. Then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that Comey “enjoyed broad support within the FBI” and that “the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”

Yes, that’s me up there in 1999 with Honey and Karma parading in 007: From Barkus with Love. Good grief that was a long time ago!! We were “Bondage” Girls!!! and clearly on the side fighting the Russians!!

Meanwhile, Trump still finds Presidential life to be a combination of spending time at Trump properties on the Tax Payer dime. This weekend it was back to Florida for Super Bowl Party. Then, it’s time spent twitting and elimination shit.

President Donald Trump traded insults with the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Monday, a day after Democrats and Republicans said Trump was wrong to assert that a GOP-produced classified memo on FBI surveillance powers cleared him in the Russia investigation.

Trump’s attack on California Rep. Adam Schiff came before a planned meeting of the House intelligence panel Monday, where the committee is expected to consider whether to release a Democratic rebuttal memo. Democrats are seeking to push back on the Republican document, which questions the FBI methods used to apply for a surveillance warrant on a onetime Trump campaign associate.

On Twitter, Trump called Schiff “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington,” adding that he “must be stopped.”

Schiff quickly shot back: “Instead of tweeting false smears, the American people would appreciate it if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protected Dreamers or … really anything else.”

Trump also praised Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., on Twitter, calling him a man of tremendous courage and grit, may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!”

Meanwhile, Trump is “poo-pooing” the bipartisan effort to give Dreamers legal permanent status.

The White House is dismissing an immigration deal brokered by a bipartisan group of lawmakers as a non-starter just hours before it is expected to be formally introduced in the Senate.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons are slated to introduce a bill Monday that would grant eventual citizenship to young undocumented immigrants who have been in the country since 2013 and came to the US as children, but it does not address all of the President’s stated immigration priorities, like ending family-based immigration categories — which Republicans call “chain migration” — or ending the diversity visa program

It also would not immediately authorize the $30 billion that Trump is seeking to build the border wall, instead greenlighting a study of border security needs. The bill would also seek to address the number of undocumented immigrants staying in the US by increasing the number of resources for the immigration courts, where cases can take years to finish.

The bill is a companion to a piece of House legislation that has 54 co-sponsors split evenly by party.

A White House official rebuffed the effort, telling CNN that it takes “a lot of effort” to write up a bill worse than the Graham-Durbin immigration bill, but somehow “this one is worse.”

An update on a story from New Orleans that captured many hearts prior to the end of the Football Season.

Oh, and this about sums up my thoughts about the latest pannem et circenses event. Well, that and WTF did Justin Timberlake think he was doing with Prince. White people! Wake the fuck up! Black people, black culture, black history, and black labor is not yours to co-op!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list?

This is an open thread! I’ll check in as the sniffling allows!

Oh, and BB!! Here is something special for you!

It has often been claimed that humans learn language using brain components that are specifically dedicated to this purpose. Now, new evidence strongly suggests that language is in fact learned in brain systems that are also used for many other purposes and even pre-existed humans.

And something for JJ

Scientists studying brain scans of people who were asked to come up with inventive uses for everyday objects found a specific pattern of connectivity that correlated with the most creative responses. Researchers were then able to use that pattern to predict how creative other people’s responses would be based on their connections in this network.

And something from me to Everyone:

It may sound like sci-fi, but mind reading equipment are much closer to become a reality than most people can imagine. Researchers used a magnetic resonance machine to read participants’ minds and find out what song they were listening to. The study contributes to improve the technique and pave the way to new research on reconstruction of auditory imagination, inner speech and to enhance brain-computer interfaces for communication with locked-in syndrome patients.

 

 


Lundi Gras Reads

dscn0392It’s a beautiful day for Carnival Season today!

It’s warm and sunny!  We’re so overrun by tourists that it’s not the weather keeping me inside.  It’s work and the Krewe of Chad who all seem to be obnoxiously planted in the nasty Air BNBs around me. This season totally lacks the intimacy and family feeling of the Katrina one and the ones from years ago, that’s for sure!  The pictures on this post are ones I took at Endymion 2006 which was the first Carnival season after Hurricane Katrina.

Here’s a friend of mine telling you all about our Chad problem.  They’re a pesky tribe of entitled 20-30 something white men that are related to “bros” but not quite in the same category.  You can also find the definition of “Chad” in the urban dictionary.  Our Chads have turned parade going into a tail gating experience where they literally shove small children and families out of the way to plant their tents and keggers.

A stereotypical douchebag asshole/jock/frat boy/ with an ego the size of the planet, who needs a swift roundhouse kick to the jaw, ala Chuck Norris style (though if actually issued by Norris, this punishment may be too extreme, even s of for a chad). Basically, they think they’re the best at everything, love to talk shit, and are a general nuisance in every way possible.

A chad is somewhat easy to sight, as they’re everywhere, but the only way to know for sure is to talk to/observe one. They typically dress in a similar manner to a “bro”, though are not in fact bros. They either wear the latest fashionable clothing from big brands, or highly expensive graphic tees, most likely of the MMA (Mixed martial arts) variety. They most likely sport a tribal tattoo, or something of the like. They most commonly drive V6 Mustangs, S10 pickup trucks, or crotch rockets.

Chads can be found in large numbers at Frat houses, local hipster bars, and nu metal concerts (which are obviously real metal shows…). They often travel in groups of a few, but can be found in swarms at these establishments. Other than being cocky and talking shit, other popular pastimes of chads include, but are not limited to: beer pong, racing hondas, UFC, and blasting nu metal on their stereo because they think it makes them look like a badass.

dscn0382The Endymion parade on the Saturday night before Mardi Gras is usually ground zero for the Chads.  This weekend it took a deadly twist when a highly intoxicated Chad drove his pick up truck into a group of parade goers injuring small children and adults.  Thankfully, no one was killed.  Of course, all the right wingers initially screamed it was a terrorist.But no, it was just a Fucked up Chad in a Pick up Fuck as white as can be. His grandma and his Daddy think some evil man gave him a drink that kicked his blood alcohol up to over 3x the legal limit because, obviously, he’s a “good” kid. That means he’s a white boy and they just get led astray every now and then rather than do these constantly stupid things that make them feel good and ruin every one else’s life.

The man accused of being behind the wheel, 25-year-old Neilson Rizzuto of Paradis, had his first court appearance Sunday. His bond was set at $125,000. Rizzuto has so far been booked on two counts of first-degree negligent vehicular injuring, one count of hit-and-run driving causing serious injury and one count of reckless operation of a vehicle. Orleans Parish Magistrate Commissioner Robert Blackburn said he based the bond amount on anticipation of more charges.

The latest figures from officials say that Rizzuto’s truck struck up to 32 pedestrians, sending at least 21 to area hospitals for treatment. While an NOPD statement said there were “at least 28 victims, 21 of whom were treated at local hospitals, Rizzuto’s arrest documents said 32 people were struck. NOPD spokesman Beau Tidwell said the casualty list was “fluid.”

dscn0373Fortunately–as I said–no one has died but it appears that five still have very serious injuries I’m really hoping that the city will rethink its strategy of pimping us out like it’s all good. I’ve never seen so many tourists all over the neighborhoods.  I have no idea how the police are coping with it.  Usually, they’re concentrated in a few places.  I feel invaded here.

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras and the State of the Union Address.  I cannot bring myself to blog or watch it.  Here are some reads to indicate why the so-called President will only be an illegitimate Russian Usurper to me.  We have a problem with more than Chads.  We have a problem with White Male Terrorism and Kremlin Caligulia is a conduit and catalyst.  How many times have we written about this and discussed it only to find it ignored and enabled by Republicans?

Adam W. Purinton was charged with first-degree murder Thursday in the shooting death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old systems engineer from India. Purinton, a 51-year-old white man, allegedly shot Kuchibhotla and two other men at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, Wednesday night.

According to one witness, Purinton’s attack was motivated by bias. The Navy veteran reportedly shouted, “Get out of my country,” before opening fire on Kuchibhotla and another Indian engineer, Alok Madasani, who is 32. Purinton also shot a third victim, a 24-year-old white man named Ian Grillot, who stepped in to intervene.

“[It] wasn’t right,” Grillot — who is in stable condition, along with Madasani — said in a video obtained by the Kansas City Star. “I didn’t want [Purinton] to potentially go after somebody else.”

If Purinton’s attack was indeed spurred by xenophobia, then Wednesday’s shooting was an act of terrorism. At a time when anti-Muslim hate crimes are rising across the United States and President Donald Trump is ordering roundups of undocumented immigrants and banning Muslims from entering the country under the pretense of national security, there are few more potent forms of political violence than the kind committed by white Americans against non-whites, Muslims and immigrants.

This is not a new phenomenon. White terrorism has shaped the U.S. in countless ways, seen and unseen, for years. But in their rush to paint Muslims and immigrants as the most pressing threat to Americans’ safety, many whites and conservatives refuse to admit that homegrown white terrorism has been a threat for much longer — and with a much higher death toll.

dscn0359The White House has been silent and still plans on instructing law enforcement to focus on a small piece of our violence problem.

Earlier this month, for example, at the Louvre Museum in Paris, a young man attacked a group of soldiers: Wielding a machete, he ran at them shouting in Arabic, “Allahu akbar.” Police shot and subdued the suspect, who was taken into custody with serious injuries. The attempted attack placed terrorism back in the headlines of French politics, renewing fears and concerns around security and immigration. Here in the United States, President Donald Trump used the incident to justify his exclusionary policies toward Muslim immigrants and refugees. “A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down,” said Trump on Twitter. “France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.” This was of a piece with statements Trump made in the wake of incidents in Nice, France, Berlin, and other attacks overseas claimed by militant Islamist groups.

There was no such statement about the two men in Kansas. No condemnation of the racial violence that grievously wounded an American and claimed the life of a law-abiding legal resident. But then, Trump is rarely interested in those incidents. Just two days after the attempted attack in France, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six worshippers at a mosque in Quebec City. Described by activists as a “white nationalist,” Bissonnette was known locally as a right-wing, anti-immigrant troll inspired by extreme right-wing figures like Donald Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen. Where Trump was vocal in the face of the incident in Paris, he was silent following the murders in Quebec. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the attack “a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” which reads as a defense of the administration’s travel ban. This was an odd choice of words, as Bissonnette was a native-born white Canadian, not a refugee or Muslim immigrant.

dscn0369We continue to experience the suppression of dissent and of truth.  We get nothing on the ongoing attacks on Jewish Cemeteries and bomb threats made to JCCs.  Philadelphia is the latest place to have cemetery desecration.   As usual, American communities of Muslims has been more responsive and helpful than the Republicans.

Here’s more examples of things to file under removing democracy from the country. The White House removed Democratic Governors from a joint Press Conference.

Monday morning, Trump put an end to the bipartisan post National Governors Association and President press availability by shuttling the Democratic governors off site.

The plan is for us to become a military state as far as I can tell.

President Trump will propose a federal budget that dramatically increases defense-related spending by $54 billion while cutting other federal agencies by the same amount, according to an administration official.

The proposal represents a massive increase in federal spending related to national security, while other priorities, especially foreign aid, will see significant reductions.

According to the White House, the defense budget will increase by 10 percent. But without providing any specifics, the administration said that most other discretionary spending programs will be slashed to pay for it. Officials singled out foreign aid, one of the smallest parts of the federal budget, saying it would see “large reductions” in spending.

dscn0399The military budget is by far the largest chunk of change in our budget historically.  The rest are pittance by comparison.  I imagine it all will be announced tomorrow night.

We typically have a SOTU live blog here at Sky Dancing. I’m really sure I’m not up to it and I’m not sure any one else is interested so we can discuss below and see what comes of it. Let us know your thoughts.  Maybe BB or JJ are stronger willed than me.

So, have a good few days!  I’ll take pix if I decide to hit the streets in search of beads and fun!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Fat Tuesday Reads

Revelers toss confetti at float of Momus, patron god of Mardi Gras, in New Orleans in 1960.

Revelers toss confetti at float of Momus, patron god of Mardi Gras, in New Orleans in 1960.

Good Morning!!

Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, the last day to celebrate before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday fall on different days every year, depending on the date of Easter Sunday. It begins 46 days before Easter (Sundays aren’t counted). Lent in the Catholic Church was meant to be symbolic of the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent fasting in the desert while enduring temptations from the Devil. Traditionally Christians gave up meat during lent and spent time in prayer and meditation. As kids, we gave up candy or chose some activity to perform during the Lenten season.

So how is the date of Easter determined each year? You guessed it, it depends on the date of the Vernal Equinox–one more example of how Christians absorbed Pagan holidays into their calendar. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is the culmination of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, beginning on The Epiphany, January 6–the day of the supposed arrival of Three Kings (or Wise Men) bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh for the newborn child. This year Easter falls on April 5.

From IB Times:

The time between Epiphany and Mardi Gras is commonly referred to as Carnival, during which parades take place in Catholic strongholds like Brazil, Venice, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, and New Orleans.

Like many Catholic holidays, Mardi Gras bears resemblances to ancient pagan rituals, particularly Saturnalia and Lupercalia. The former honored the god Saturn, an agricultural deity, and was marked by gift-giving, revelry and gambling. The latter was conducted in mid-February to honor Faunus, the god of fertility, which involved feasting, drinking and debauched behavior.

When Rome was Christianized, the Catholic Church adapted popular pagan holidays into the new faith. Mardi Gras season became a time to celebrate before the 40 days of Lent marked by prayer, repentance and atonement. As Christianity spread throughout Europe and the New World, so did Mardi Gras traditions. The pre-Lenten festivals continue to be marked by drinking, dancing and feasting on fatty foods containing meat, eggs, milk and cheese – ingredients that are restricted during Lent.

Shrove Tuesday falls on the same day as Fat Tuesday. It is the day before Ash Wednesday when Christians are reminded they will soon enter a season of penance. “Shrove” comes from the word “shrive,” which means to confess. In the Middle Ages, Catholics began marking Shrove Tuesday as a time to confess their sins before Lent.

Rasberry pakzi

Rasberry pakzi

In places where many Polish immigrants settled in the U.S. Fat Tuesday is celebrated as “Pakzi Day.” From Michigan Live, Fat Tuesday means paczki: One generation prepares the next for the biggest day of the year at Davison Home Bakery.

DAVISON, MI — Lydia Herron is a bit nervous. And excited.

After about five months of working at Davison Home Bakery, she’s preparing for the biggest day of the year: Fat Tuesday.

“They tell me it’s going to be pretty insane,” she said, standing in the bakery the morning of Monday, Feb. 16, wearing a white baker’s apron.

Fat Tuesday is the day before the Christian tradition of Lent, when practitioners give up something for 40 days and 40 nights. Sweets are a common thing to give up, and for many, Fat Tuesday is one last chance to splurge. And the favorite way to splurge on Fat Tuesday?

Paczki.

Paczki are like doughnuts, if you’re the kind of person who thinks there just aren’t enough calories in cream- or jelly-filled doughnuts as it is.

Diane Henson, a baker at Davison Home Bakery, has been making paczki since 1972. The morning of Feb. 16, she and baker Mitch French had already made 200 dozen, having been there since 9 p.m. the night before. They plan on having 600 dozen baked by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around.

She said to make paczki,they use their doughnut batter but add more sugar, butter, and eggs.

Of course the biggest celebration of Mardi Gras is in New Orleans. Here’s a schedule of activities for today that includes links to watch video of the parade. I’m sure Dakinikat can also fill us in on what’s happening down there.

Time Magazine has an interesting article about how Mardi Gras was liberated from being a celebration only for the rich and influential people in New Orleans.

A float in the Krewe of Proteus passes down Napoleon Avenue during their Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.

A float in the Krewe of Proteus passes down Napoleon Avenue during their Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.

These days, Mardi Gras in New Orleans — which falls on Feb. 17 this year — is a party for all. But, not that long ago, Mardi Gras celebrations were more exclusive affairs.

As TIME reported in the Feb. 9, 1948, issue, balls and “krewes” were for the city’s elites only, and that situation lasted for decades after the first Mardi Gras parade was held in the 1850s. In the 20th century, however, the celebration expanded:

For half a century, New Orleans’ fantastic Mardi Gras balls were strictly for the upper crust. Nobody without money, blue blood, or both gained membership in the secret men’s clubs or “krewes” which staged them. Before 1900 there were only five clubs: Comus, Momus, Twelfth Night, Rex and Proteus. They culled guest lists with pernickety care, asked only the fairest of debutantes to serve as carnival queens. But times changed. The socially ambitious began forming their own krewes.

In 1928 New Orleans had 16 Mardi Gras balls. In 1946 there were 36. This year, a record-breaking total of 49 are being held. Last week, with Carnival Day (Shrove Tuesday) fast approaching, New Orleans’ social whirl had assumed the proportions of a maelstrom.

By the 1940s, there were krewe options galore. “Italian krewes, Irish krewes, German krewes… krewes for college men, businessmen, professional men,” TIME wrote. “To the horror of New Orleans’ old guard, there are even krewes for women.”

But that didn’t mean Mardi Gras was an all-inclusive celebration. The krewes may have multiplied, but they were still separated along racial and gender lines.

As recently as 1991, the relative exclusivity of the Mardi Gras krewes was a source of controversy in New Orleans. That December, the city council voted to require the krewes to integrate by 1994, or else lose the right to hold parades. (The krewes are private clubs, but the city controls the streets.)

Read more history at the link. The photo at the top of this post is from Time in 1960.

In winter weather news . . .

The latest winter storm hit the South hard yesterday. NBC News reportsIce Storm Coats South from Oklahoma to Carolinas, Heads to Northeast.

A band of snow and ice sliced across the South on Monday from Oklahoma to the Carolinas, cutting off power for more than a quarter of a million customers and threatening to paralyze major cities on its way to the Northeast.

For once, Boston wasn’t the center of the winter weather. Instead, New England-like snow fell on parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia: 17 inches near Coleman, Kentucky; 15 inches in Logan, West Virginia; 14½ inches near Oceana, West Virginia; and 12 inches in Dickenson County, Virginia.

 At 3:45 a.m. ET, The Weather Channel reported that 26 million Americans were under winter storm warnings — with three million in Tennessee and South Carolina under an ice storm warning.

Ice coated power lines in Georgia where 174,000 customers were without power early Tuesday.

I sure hope JJ, RalphB, and Mouse are doing OK. Beata too–my sister reports that southern Indiana has been hit hard for the past couple of days.

At least 55,000 customers were without power in Tennessee, the state Emergency Management Agency said late Monday. It also declared a state of emergency late Monday.

Trees and power lines came down in Arkansas, where Entergy Corp. said about 17,000 customers were without power, and in Mississippi, where the state Emergency Operations Center said 10,000 customers were in the dark.

Power failures were affecting nearly 62,000 early Tuesday in South Carolina and an additional 19,000 in North Carolina.

The hardest hit areas, according to NBC today:

About 22 million people across parts of the South and the Mid-Atlantic are under winter storm warnings as a band of ice and snow continues its assault. More than 330,000 people across 13 states and Washington, D.C., are without power, according to The Weather Channel. Parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia got the brunt of the snow Monday, including more than a foot in several areas. Now, as the system starts to pull away, forecasters say D.C. could see about 8 inches of snow, New York could get 3 inches and parts of New Jersey, 7 inches.

Take care, Janicen, Delphyne and Joanelle. For once, it wasn’t Boston in the eye of the storm. A man came to my door last night and offered to shovel my car out and clear off my sidewalk for $40, and I took him up on it. I don’t know if I can actually get out. He didn’t shovel down to the pavement, but at least I don’t have to deal with that wall the plows left at the end of my driveway. I’ll go out and look at it later on.

More news links

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

NYT, Obama Immigration Policy Halted by Federal Judge in Texas.  Sigh . . .

The White House responded with a statement explaining why the policy is constitutional.

The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws—which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system. Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws.

The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts, and the district court in Washington, D.C. have determined that the President’s actions are well within his legal authority. Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe. The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.

IB Times, via Raw Story, Who is the Texas judge obstructing Obama’s immigration plan?

CNN, Poll: Most disapprove of Obama handling of ISIS.

Frankly, I doubt that “most” Americans have the slightest idea of what is going on with “ISIS” or a clue about how Obama his “handling” the “threat.”

Karoli at Crooks and Liars, The Islamophobia Fear Factory And The Billionaires Who Pay For It.

NBC News, The Chapel Hill shooter, Craig Hicks, has been indicted for murder.

Outspoken atheists Penn Gillette, Neill Degrasse Tyson,  Bill Maher,  Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins,    Ricky Gervais, Aayan Hirsi Ali

Outspoken atheists Penn Gillette, Neill Degrasse Tyson, Bill Maher, Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Ricky Gervais, Aayan Hirsi Ali

And speaking of Islamophobia, what’s with the supposedly intellectual “movement atheists” who are so obsessed with Islam? Amanda Marcotte, an atheist herself, writes: Time for atheists to take a hard look at ourselves.

One of the reasons that I was attracted to movement atheism was I believed that, by rejecting the gods-and-masters idea, it was inoculated against that knee-jerk tribalism that characterizes so many religions. Without a supernatural cover story for why we’re the chosen people/the righteous/the holy ones, I thought, we would have to rationally accept that we are nothing special. I thought it was protection against the special pleading you often see from people who are wed to conservative movements and institutions and identities. That hope of mine is being sorely tested in the light of Craig Hicks shooting, execution-style, his three Muslim neighbors that witnesses say he had an ongoing bug up his ass about. Hicks was an outspoken and aggressive New Atheist sort, but that’s all we really know about him, alongside his apparent gun-loving tendencies.

Yes, yes, I know we don’t know if it was over religion or a parking space, but it’s clear as hell that many in the atheist world are hoping—dare I say praying—that there’s some kind of exonerating evidence to show that he barely even noticed the headscarfs on the heads of two of his victims. To which I say, why? If we are, as we purport to be, rational people who are above the knee-jerk tribalism of our religious brethren, then we should be open, without any defensiveness, to an open and honest discussion about how the rhetoric of some of the big names in atheism—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher—treads past the ordinary criticisms of faith and turns into ugly and demonstrably silly arguments about how Islam is somehow uniquely poisonous as a religion. While claiming to oppose Christianity, these men have allowed themselves to be useful idiots for the cause of the Christian right, giving them an “even the atheists agree!” cover for their desire to stoke religious animosity and drumming up support for even more unnecessary wars in the Middle East.

Read the rest at the link.

Furthermore, what about the misogyny among these (mostly) male atheist obsessives? Here’s an earlier post by Marcotte: Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?

At first blush, it would seem that an atheist movement would be exactly the sort of thing that would attract many women. After all, much of the oppression of women—from forced veiling to restricting abortion rights—is a direct result of religion. Unsurprisingly, then, feminism has a long tradition of outspoken atheists and religious skeptics within its ranks.Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton preferred “rational ideas based on scientific facts” to “religious superstition.” Major feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir argued that belief in God exists in part to “repress any impulse toward revolt in the downtrodden female.” Modern feminist writer Katha Pollitt received the “Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2001, where she said that religion is dangerous because “it connects with very terrible social energies that have lain in civilization for a very long time.”

But despite the natural and cozy fit of atheism and feminism, the much-ballyhooed “New Atheism” that was supposed to be a more aggressive, political form of atheism has instead been surprisingly male-dominated. The reason has, in recent years, become quite apparent: Many of the most prominent leaders of the New Atheism are quick to express deeply sexist ideas. Despite their supposed love of science and rationality, many of them are nearly as quick as their religious counterparts to abandon reason in order to justify regressive views about women.

Atheism needs some new spokespeople. These guys are nearly as ugly and nasty as their fundamentalist christian counterparts. I nominate Dakinikat.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share your links and storm updates in the comment thread, and have a great Fat Tuesday!!


Lundi Gras Lazy Reads

balcony decorationsBonjour!  C’est Lundi Gras ici!

Today is the day all good locals in New Orleans rest up for the big Mardi Gras Festivities tomorrow!  I’ve been laying low and have to work tomorrow afternoon so I’m just enjoying watching every one else have fun. There was a spontaneous parade in front of my house about an hour ago.  It was some nice people from Austin dressed like Bees with the bat symbol on their capes.  Austin folks are generally the only Texans that behave around here so I’m always glad to see them.  Oh, If you can explain the costumes, you’re doing better than me.

My sister and brother-in-law came for their first Mardi Gras and went back to Seattle today.  He rode on a Bacchus float which is a first class and very expensive way to do your first Mardi Gras! His picture is down towards the middle of the post.  My sister took it yesterday.   I’ve picked up these pictures from my local friends.  The first ones here on top come from Muriel’s NOLA’s instagram.  The food at this French Quarter restaurant is wonderful and the family business is run by the nicest people.  Thanks for the great photos Denise Bellknap Gratia! The last few pictures are from my friend Farrar Doc Hudkins who is a UNO student and one of my favorite WWNO radio station announcers. That’s the UNO NPR station here.   I can’t claim ownership over any of the pictures!  Only complete awe of some talented fingers and eyes!!!

I’ve actually been reading a lot about my friends uptown and all the grief they’ve been getting this year.  There was a double shooting/murder one night.  One of my friends got punched in the eye over a t-shirt.  Another has had random people just walk into her house to use her bathroom and take food and beer.  Where on earth did all this rudeness and such come from ? I tend to stay in my own little freaky corner of New Orleans where it used to be mostly working class locals but not much any more.  Still, who can imagine being so drunk and obnoxious that you’ve got to punch a 47 year old woman in the eye over a t shirt?  And this was a drunken local Garden District Lady!  It’s not like it was some out of town drunk frat kid!

I think we are beginning to see the frustration play out of living in modern America where it’s difficult to get ahead, worse to try to get any kind of satisfaction from a job or even an experience as a customer, and the realization that we’re not as entitled and special as we’ve been told we are.  I don’t remember have to struggle so much for so little prior to the the Dubya Bush years’ fruition in a full blown series of endless wars and financial crises where huge corporations got bailed out but so many people were and still are left to suffer. Then there’s the Grover Norquist and Koch Brother’s agenda played out in every state with a Republican Governor.  The shameless raping of public assets for the rich is just over the top. Then, there’s a lot of sadness in the news recently showing how intolerant of others people are becoming. Here are two such examples.

French Quarter House

First, up is a rather local and sad example of the way we treat religious minorities here in this country.  This is from Houston where some one deliberately set fire to a mosque and a fire fighter tried to block the hydrant and shouted “let it burn to the ground”.   There are so many hate crimes these days that it’s hard to see much else.

Arson police at the scene now say an accelerant was used in a fire that broke out at an Islamic community and education center in southeast Houston early Friday morning, and now a group is calling for an investigation into whether the fire was the result of a possible hate crime.

Houston fire officials say the fire at the Quba Islamic Institute started around 5am. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but we’ve learned HFD says the accelerant was used, which usually points to a purposeful act. Those same investigators met with leaders at another Islamic center just miles away, letting them know that this was an act of arson and to be on alert.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on state and federal authorities to investigate the fire as a possible hate crime.

That call comes as Ahsan Zahid, assistant Imam at the institute, says he spoke with the Houston arson investigator about their preliminary results.

Zahid said, “They said their dog went through and he hit on some substances inside the place, and he said, ‘From what I see right now at this point, I have to say it was an incendiary fire which means that it was started on purpose.’ That’s all we can go on at this point. I don’t want to speculate.”

Though we don’t know officially if the cause was accidental or deliberate, the FBI is now monitoring the situation.

You can see the hateful tweet from a then–but no longer–volunteer firefighter here at the orange place.

There are signs that anti-antisemitism is making a horrible come back in Europe.  This is a story from France where a French Jewish cemetary was desecrated with swastikas. Grady Ace of Spades for Bacchus 2015

France’s interior minister said Sunday several hundred tombs had been defaced at a Jewish cemetery in the east of the country, in what he called “a despicable act.”

“The country will not tolerate this new injury which goes against the values that all French people share,” said Bernard Cazeneuve without giving further details of the incident in the town of Sarre-Union.

“Every effort will be made to identify, question and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for this ignominious act,” he added.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, writing on Twitter, also condemned the desecration, calling it “an anti-Semitic and ignoble act.”

It is not the first time that a Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union has been targeted.

In 1988, around 60 Jewish steles, stone or wooden slabs often used for commemorative purposes, were knocked over while in 2001, 54 tombs were wrecked.

News of the latest incident comes just over a month after an Islamist gunman shot dead four Jews in a supermarket siege in Paris.

A lot of people have been enjoying the 40th anniversary special of SNL.  I especially liked the part where Jane Curtain did the news with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.  Her funny line was how that she used to be thekrewe de vieux float 21015 only blonde reading fake news on TV at that time and now there’s an entire News channel dedicated to it.  No kidding!  I still maintain that that Fox News and the rise of Rush have a lot to do with the rise of the Asshole class.  It’s like they give permission for people to hate on other people and take revenge for perceived damages to their exceptionalism.   Here’s a link to a thought provoking essay on why most political satire comes from the left and never the right.  Is it the differences in personalities that let one side laugh at irregularities in thinking while the other side takes offense?  The Atlantic‘s article is titled “Why There’s No Conservative Jon Stewart”  and it’s worth the read.

One explanation is simply that proportionately fewer people with broadly conservative sensibilities choose to become comedians. Just as liberals dominate academia, journalism, and other writing professions, there are nearly three times as many liberal- as conservative-minded people in the creative arts according to a recent study. Alison Dagnes, a professor of political science at Shippensburg University, argues that the same personality traits that shape political preferences also guide the choice of professions. These tendencies just get more pronounced in the case of comedy, which usually requires years of irregular income, late hours, and travel, as well as a certain tolerance for crudeness and heckling.

There are, of course, high-profile conservative comedians in America, such as the members of the Blue  Collar Comedy Tour. But these performers, who include Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy, tend carefully to avoid politicized topics, mocking so-called “rednecks” in the same spirit as Borscht Belt acts mocked Jewish culture.

When it comes to actual political satire, one of the most well-known figures nationally is Dennis Miller, a former Saturday Night Live cast member who now has a weekly segment on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor. On a recent show, O’Reilly brought up the Democrats’ election losses, and Miller took the bait. “I think liberalism is like a nude beach,” Miller said. “It’s better off in your mind than actually going there.” His jokes are sometimes amusing, but they tend to be grounded in vague ideologies, not the attentive criticism to the news of the day that has given liberal satires plenty of fodder five days a week. The real problem, Frank Rich wrote about Miller, “is that his tone has become preachy. He too often seems a pundit first and a comic second.”

king cake babyIt’s weird to me that conservative entertainers like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly take to the air in preachy, mean, screaming tones while The Daley Show folks tend to be poke holes in things with humor based in facts and logic and pointing out inconsistencies in thinking.

So, here’s another one of those hate things where the hater says “Huhn? I’m a nice guy”.  This guy is an elected official too and of course, a Republican saying racist things isn’t uncommon at all these days.  Why do people feel the need to express such hateful feelings and then act surprised when some one calls them out on it?

State Rep. Gene Alday, R-Walls, who came under fire after his racist comments appeared in a Clarion-Ledger article Sunday about public education, said today his remarks were out of context and that he’s a nice guy.

“I’m not a bad person, and that makes me look like an evil person,” Alday said Monday. “I didn’t do anything wrong. The guy made me look like a fool.”

The comments in question refer to African-Americans in his hometown of Walls, a small community in Desoto County. Alday, 57, said that he comes “from a town where all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call ‘welfare crazy checks.’ They don’t work.”

He also said that when he went to the emergency room one time, “I liked to died. I laid in there for hours because they (blacks) were in there being treated for gunshots.”

Since then, people around the state have condemned the remarks with some calling for his resignation.

“Rep. Alday is solely responsible for his remarks,” said Gov. Phil Bryant. “I strongly reject his comments condemning any Mississippian because of their race. Those day are long past.”

But the former mayor, former police chief and current first-term legislator said he had no idea his remarks would appear in a story and, if he had, he wouldn’t have made them.

“It was late at night and he called me,” Alday said of his earlier interview with Clarion-Ledger investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell. “He asked me a question back to when I was in law enforcement … I have a way of talking and saying, ‘take this off the record.'”

Instead, Alday said, Mitchell used his casual, off-the-cuff comments as an official statement without providing the full context of his feelings on the matter.

Mitchell said he contacted Alday about education funding last week and that the legislator steered the discussion toward race. The comments appeared as they were given and within the context of the discussion, Mitchell said.

But Alday said the reporter failed to write about the numerous times Alday has helped people of all races in his community, whether that meant giving them rides to the doctor or providing credit on merchandise at the store run by his family.

“Yes, it’s true that most of the blacks in my hometown are on welfare,” Alday said. “But they’re good people. I don’t have anything against anybody. I’m a straight-up guy. In my little town they had little civil rights walks and I was with them. I’m with everybody.”

paradeThe weird thing about these comments is that the data shows that the it’s WHITE people that consistently use the most food stamps.

In spite of the prevailing stereotypes and assumptions about who uses SNAP Food Stamp benefits the most in the United States, the highest usage is not in Compton, Queens, nor the South Side of Chicago. Instead, a city that is 99.22% white and 95% Republican comes in the lead. Owsley County, Kentucky is a community of about 5,000, residents earning the lowest median household income in the country outside of Puerto Rico, according to the U.S. Census.

The decline in the profits from coal, tobacco and lumber industries led to a harsh toll being taken on the community.

Cale Turner, county executive of Owsley County told ABC back in 2010 that economic hardships have led to a high incidence of drug addiction.

“Those with drug addictions end up in prison without effective treatment. And it happens over and over in this community. The drug problem continues to get worse every year.”

Strangely enough, the residents of Owsley County are almost entirely Republican, in spite of the traditional opposition to the Food Stamp program by the GOP. In fact, just last November, residents of Owsley saw their SNAP benefits reduced drastically as a result of Republican opposition to funding the program.

This might rank among the greatest of ironies in history: the Food Stamp Capital of the U.S. is almost entirely white and Republican.

Look at this story and this guy was a judge!!10924139_10101620505296648_675699655439751768_o

Nine months after a Madison County Justice Court judge was accused of striking and yelling a racial slur at a mentally challenged young man, a grand jury served an indictment for simple assault on a vulnerable adult.

Justice Court Judge Bill Weisenberger turned himself in to the Madison County sheriff Thursday, according to a spokeswoman with the Attorney General’s office. He was released on $10,000 bond.

According to witnesses, Weisenberger struck 20-year-old Eric Rivers, an African American, and yelled “Run, n—–, run” at the Canton Flea Market on May 8 of last year.

If convicted, the charge of simple assault against a vulnerable adult carries a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 5 years imprisonment, or both. The charge against him is a felony.

“From the beginning of this matter, Judge Weisenberger, has cooperated with each law enforcement and investigatory agency that wanted to know what actually occurred at the Canton Flea Market last spring,” an emailed statement from Weisenberger’s lawyer, Bill Kirksey, said. “Judge Weisenberger has denied and continues to deny any wrong doing or the commission of any crime against any person.”

Kirksey, along with Madison County officials, has taken issue with the slowness of the process. The incident in Canton occurred on May 8 of last year.

Kirksey said the AG’s office allowed four grand juries to come and go before presenting the case.

Madison County Supervisor Karl Banks said last month the slowness was costing taxpayers as Weisenberger is still being paid his annual salary of $45,700, though he voluntarily stepped down from the bench.

A judge may only be forced to step down if he or she has been convicted of a felony or if the Supreme Court removes the judge.

Those last two stories were from Mississippi where things still appear to be burning despite modernity and civil rights laws.  It’s scary to think that we’re talking elected officials acting like it’s still Jim Crow days and they don’t appear to have a thought about how absolutely hateful their words and actions truly are.

So, how have so many people lost their “polite” and “nice” filter? Is it because we can troll people on the internet and hide behind monikers allowing us to be anonymous then forget we’re not in real life?  Is it because work and life is beating us down so much we’re all angry?  Is it because anger is the new right wing entertainment mode and it allows a lot of them to think they’re entitled to shit on any one that gets in their way?  What do you think?

I’d just like to add a thanks to BB for what she did for me on Saturday and for my friends who helped.  I was doing my taxes and year end look see on Friday and was completely shocked by what I found.  I’ve just had so many expenses recently that my meager salary isn’t covering them all at all.    I guess I’m really not alone in that any more.  I’ve just got to try to figure out what I can do about it.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Tuesday Reads: Russia and Ukraine, Obama the Weak Dictator, and Fat Tuesday

How Europeans picture an American breakfast

How Europeans picture an American breakfast

Good Morning!!

I saw this photo on Twitter yesterday, and I couldn’t resist sharing it. The comments were pretty funny too. Several people noted that the gun goes on the left; others said the gun should be turned over for quicker access if needed. Others said the bacon was just right but there should be a couple more eggs and some doughnuts.

I feel like I’m writing for an exclusive group this morning; we seem to have lost a lot of our regular commenters over the past week or so. I hope it wasn’t something I said.

Maybe it’s just that we’ve reached the dregs of a very long and exhausting winter. I must admit that yesterday I was selfishly relieved to see a nasty storm coming across the country that didn’t involve the Boston area. Nevertheless, I know it did affect places where we have readers, and I am well aware of how very depressing and tiring it can feel when the snow, ice, and cold just won’t quit.

The political news isn’t exactly cheery either–It’s mostly endless civil wars in the Middle East accompanied by the one here at home in the Republican Party; constant attacks on President Obama for being either too wimpy and weak or a vicious, drone dropping, privacy-invading dictator; and the press digging up old Clinton smears in preparation for Hillary running for President in 2016.

Right now, the main focus is on the events in Ukraine–Syria and Egypt are all but forgotten by “journalists” who seem unable to focus on more than one story at a time. Somehow, they never fail to find a way to blame everything on Obama though, no matter what crisis they are reporting.

Even Dana Millbank, who often judges Obama harshly has noticed: Obama, the feckless tyrant.

President Obama is such a weak strongman. What’s more, he is a feeble dictator and a timid tyrant.

That, at any rate, is Republicans’ critique of him. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Obama’s critics pivoted seamlessly from complaining about his overreach to fretting that he is being too cautious. Call it Operation Oxymoron.

Last Wednesday, I sat in a House hearing and listened to Republicans describe Obama exercising “unparalleled use of executive power” and operating an “uber-presidency.” They accused him of acting like a “king” and a “monarch,” of making the United States like a “dictatorship” or a “totalitarian government” by exercising “imperial” and “magisterial power.”

But after events in Ukraine, this very tyrant was said to be so weak that it’s “shocking.”

“We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) proclaimed Sunday on CNN.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday that Obama has “a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”

US President Barack Obama talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone

For once Millbank, the ultimate Villager, hit the nail on the head. On Twitter over the last few days, I’ve even seen people complaining about the White House photo of Obama in shirtsleeves talking on the phone to Putin, because it supposedly shows how weak and unprofessional Obama is.

Michael Cohen at the Guardian has it right, IMO : Don’t listen to Obama’s Ukraine critics: he’s not ‘losing’ – and it’s not his fight.

In the days since Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into the Crimea, it has been amateur hour back in Washington.

I don’t mean Barack Obama. He’s doing pretty much everything he can, with what are a very limited set of policy options at his disposal. No, I’m talking about the people who won’t stop weighing in on Obama’s lack of “action” in the Ukraine. Indeed, the sea of foreign policy punditry – already shark-infested – has reached new lows in fear-mongering, exaggerated doom-saying and a stunning inability to place global events in any rational historical context.

This would be a useful moment for Americans to have informed reporters, scholars and leaders explaining a crisis rapidly unfolding half a world away. Instead, we’ve already got all the usual suspect arguments.

Cohen offers a number of examples:

Personality-driven Analysis

Let’s start here with Julia Ioffe of the New Republic, a popular former reporter in Moscow who now tells us that Putin has sent troops into Crimea “because he can. That’s it, that’s all you need to know”. It’s as if things like regional interests, spheres of influence, geopolitics, coercive diplomacy and the potential loss of a key ally in Kiev (as well as miscalculation) are alien concepts for Russian leaders.

Overstated Rhetoric Shorn of Political Context

David Kramer, president of Freedom House, hit the ball out of the park on this front when he hyperbolically declared that Obama’s response to Putin’s actions “will define his two terms in office” and “the future of U.S. standing in the world”.

Honorable mention goes to Ian Bremmer of Eurasia Group for calling this crisis “the most seismic geopolitical events since 9/11”. Putting aside the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Arab Spring, Syria’s civil war and tensions in the South China Sea, Bremmer might have a point.

Unhelpful Policy Recommendations

Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Commander of Nato, deserves a shout-out for calling on Nato to send maritime forces into the Black Sea, among other inflammatory steps. No danger of miscalculation or unnecessary provocation there. No, none at all.

Much more panicky heavy breathing at the link. Does anyone in Washington recall what happened when George W. Bush was president and Russia attacked Georgia?

Here’s a great example of Obama-blaming at Politico. Their top “morning brief” is DoD suspends military relationship with Russia

The Pentagon is putting on hold its military-to-military relationship with Russia over its incursion into Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, according to Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. “We have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements between the United States and Russia,” Kirby said in a statement last night. “This includes exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences.”

Kirby also said there’s been “no change” in U.S. military posture in Europe or the Mediterranean, despite speculation in the news media about possible ship movements. “Navy units continue to conduct routine, previously planned operations and exercises with allies and partners in the region,” he said.

But apparently the Politico gang doesn’t see how that new could relate to President Obama, the Commander In Chief of our armed forces. Here’s what they say about Obama in the same “morning brief.”

AT THE WHITE HOUSE, the big question is whether President Barack Obama has what it takes to unite Europe behind a package of sanctions that would, in his words, “isolate Russia.”

Because Obama has no balls, get it?

Sigh . . .

At Time Magazine, Simon Shuster notes that Putin is also being judged harshly at home, despite the efforts of the Kremlin-controlled media: 4 Reasons Putin Is Already Losing in Ukraine.

At home, this intervention looks to be one of the most unpopular decisions Putin has ever made. The Kremlin’s own pollster released a survey on Monday that showed 73% of Russians reject it. In phrasing its question posed in early February to 1,600 respondents across the country, the state-funded sociologists at WCIOM were clearly trying to get as much support for the intervention as possible: “Should Russia react to the overthrow of the legally elected authorities in Ukraine?” they asked. Only 15% said yes — hardly a national consensus.

That seems astounding in light of all the brainwashing Russians have faced on the issue of Ukraine. For weeks, the Kremlin’s effective monopoly on television news has been sounding the alarm over Ukraine. Its revolution, they claimed, is the result of an American alliance with Nazis intended to weaken Russia. And still, nearly three-quarters of the population oppose a Russian “reaction” of any kind, let alone a Russian military occupation like they are now watching unfold in Crimea. The 2008 invasion of Georgia had much broader support, because Georgia is not Ukraine. Ukraine is a nation of Slavs with deep cultural and historical ties to Russia. Most Russians have at least some family or friends living in Ukraine, and the idea of a fratricidal war between the two largest Slavic nations in the world evokes a kind of horror that no Kremlin whitewash can calm.

Indeed, Monday’s survey suggests that the influence of Putin’s television channels is breaking down. The blatant misinformation and demagoguery on Russian television coverage of Ukraine seems to have pushed Russians to go online for their information. And as for those who still have no Internet connection, they could simply have picked up the phone and called their panicked friends and relatives in Ukraine.

And at Quartz: The markets are punishing Russia more swiftly than diplomats ever could.

Strongly worded statements, threats of travel restrictions, and summit no-shows. So far, these are the relatively mild diplomatic implications for Russia of itsincursion into Ukraine, as few in the West can stomach an open military confrontation with Moscow over its apparent occupation of Crimea.

But the markets are punishing Russia much more swiftly than the diplomats. A wide range of Russian assets—stocks, bonds, and the ruble—plunged in value today. To shore up the ruble, which is plumbing record depths, Russia’s central bank unexpectedly hiked interest rates today. It ratcheted up the benchmark one-week rate from 5.5% to 7%, and traders report that the central bank has also been spending billions of dollars in currency markets to stem the fall in the value of the ruble.
The two main Moscow stock markets, the Micex and the RTS, have fallen by more than 10% at the time of writing, in a broad-based selloff. Big Russian companies like Gazprom and Sberbank saw their share prices plunge as traders dumped their shares.
King Cake

King Cake

Is there any other political news? Not much to speak of, so I’m just about to wrap this up. But first, today is Fat Tuesday and, despite the bad weather Mardi Gras is going forward in New Orleans. From ABC News: Cold, Gray Morning Won’t Stop Mardi Gras Revelers.

A cold, gray day greeted revelers gathering Tuesday along parade routes as the Carnival season in New Orleans headed to a crest with the unabashed celebration of Mardi Gras.

The first street marching groups — including clarinetist Pete Fountain’s Half-Fast Walking Club — were to begin their marches along oak-lined St. Charles Avenue and into the business district. Later, the floats of the Zulu and Rex parades and hundreds of truck trailers decorated by family and social groups would wind down St. Charles Avenue.

Light rain began to fall early in the morning, but revelers were still expected to gather by the tens of thousands in the French Quarter, where the bawdy side of Mardi Gras was expected to be on full display.

Mark Nelson of St. Louis said he would be in the mix even in a downpour. It’s his first Mardi Gras.

“That’s why God made washing machines,” said Nelson, who was sipping on a daiquiri as he enjoyed the sounds of trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, who performed at the Lundi Gras festivities Monday along the Mississippi River.

For those of us who can’t get down to NOLA, the LA Times offers Mardi Gras: Celebrate with king cake and 16 additional recipes!

So . . . what’s on your mind today? Please let us know in the comments. We want to hear from you!

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Lundi Gras Reads

355311-Mardi_Gras Yes!  It’s that time of year again!  I was awakened by the familiar beat of drums and a brass band and the noises of a lot of people promptly at 7:30 am on Sunday.  It was the Krewe of Eris which is a totally unauthorized and completely fun parade around the neighborhood and there were literally hundreds of people in costumes and bicycles.   Eris is a krewe of young artists, actors, and performers here in the neighborhood and has been known to be bothered by the NOPD.  It’s a bit of a circus parade.  Literally.  Many of the participants are puppeteers and performers of all kinds and sorts.  Anyway, there are many parades and events that happen off the main streets and tourist areas.  There are the Baby Dolls, the Skeletons, the Mardi Gras Indians, and many many other fine black street traditions too.  I usually hang out in the neighborhood celebrations these days.  They’re hard to miss unless you stay in  your house.  Check out NOLA DEFENDER for some great stories and pictures that you won’t see just anywhere.

So, here’s a few reads to keep you busy this morning while we get ready for the big day on Fat Tuesday.~Wikstrom - Proteus Costume 1907

Here’s a great read by Bill Keller on the “Conscience of a Corporation” about all those folks who claim religiousity as an excuse to deny women access to complete health care.

The Obama administration, in an unrequited search for compromise, has also proposed to excuse nonprofit organizations such as hospitals and universities if they are affiliated with religions that preach the evil of contraception. You might ask why a clerk at Notre Dame or an orderly at a Catholic hospital should be denied the same birth control coverage provided to employees of secular institutions. You might ask why institutions that insist they are like everyone else when it comes to applying for federal grants get away with being special when it comes to federal health law. Good questions. You will find the unsatisfying answers in the Obama handbook of political expediency.

But these concessions are not enough to satisfy the religious lobbies. Evangelicals and Catholics, cheered on by anti-abortion groups and conservative Obamacare-haters, now want the First Amendment freedom of religion to be stretched to cover an array of for-profit commercial ventures, Hobby Lobby being the largest litigant. They are suing to be exempted on the grounds that corporations sometimes embody the faith of the individuals who own them.

“The legal case” for the religious freedom of corporations “does not start with, ‘Does the corporation pray?’ or ‘Does the corporation go to heaven?’ ” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby. “It starts with the owner.” For owners who have woven religious practice into their operations, he told me, “an exercise of religion in the context of a business” is still an exercise of religion, and thus constitutionally protected.

The issue is almost certain to end up in the Supreme Court, where the betting is made a little more interesting by a couple of factors: six of the nine justices are Catholic, and this court has already ruled, in the Citizens United case, that corporations are protected by the First Amendment, at least when it comes to freedom of speech. Also, we know that at least four members of the court don’t think much of Obamacare.

In lower courts, advocates of the corporate religious exemption have won a few and lost a few. (Hobby Lobby has lost so far, and could eventually face fines of more than $1 million a day for defying the law. The company’s case is now before the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.)

Meanwhile, it’s been determined that Cardinal Mahony will steal the pennies from your eyes to pay for his stable of pedophile priests.

The Archdiocese of L.A. took $115 million from its cemeteries’ maintenance fund in 2007, nearly depleting it. The move seems legal, but it was not announced, and relatives of the dead were not told.

float-design-mistick-krewe-of-comus-parade-1912-japan-embassy-louisiana-research-collectionMinnesota Congressman Keith Ellison pointed out Republican lies and hypocrisy on the so-called sequester agreement on Sunday.

When Cole tried to pin the cuts on Obama, Ellison reminded him that Cole himself voted for the Budget Control Act that created the sequester:

COLE: I think it is inevitable.  This was a presidential suggestion back in 2011, an idea. And yet the president himself hasn’t put out any alternatives. Republicans twice in the House have passed legislation to deal with it, once as early as last May and again after the election in December. Senate never picked up either of those bills, never offered their own thing. Now we’re three weeks out, and folks are worried. They ought to be worried. On the other hand, these cuts are going to occur. […]

ELLISON: Well, Tom,  the problem with saying this is the president’s idea is that you voted for the Budget Control Act. I voted against it. We wouldn’t have ever been talking about the Budget Control Act but for your party refused to negotiate on the debt ceiling something that has been routinely increased as the country needed it. You used that occasion in 2011 August to basically say we are going to default on the country’s obligations or you’re going to give us dramatic spending cuts. That’s how we got to the Budget Control Act.

Ellison also pointed out that the new GOP kinder and gentler message is simply another shade of lipstick on the same old pig.

This morning on “This Week,” Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., dismissed recent gestures by prominent members of  the GOP suggesting a softening of Republican positions as simply “lipstick on a pig.”

“I think all of this stuff is just surface stuff. It’s like lipstick on a pig, ” Ellison said. “I mean, the bottom line is, the Republicans have a core values problem, not a ‘who knows who Tupac Shakur is’ problem.”

Ellison was responding to ABC News political analyst and contributor Nicolle Wallace, who praised Marco Rubio on the roundtable. The Florida senator is seen as a rising star in the GOP and a member of the party that could help Republicans win more Latino support. Rubio recently endorsed a bipartisan senate proposal aimed at reforming America’s immigration system.

Rubio also gave an interview to BuzzFeed this week where he spoke at length about the late hip hop star Tupac’s lyrics.

“He’s everything we need and more. He’s modern. He knows who Tupac is. He is on social media,” Wallace said. “I mean, he’s got the policy.  He’s in touch with, I think, the lives of ordinary people.  And he’s a very accessible guy.  He talks about being a working dad and juggling his own priorities.”

How stupid do Republicans think we are?  There’s so many demographics moving against their ideas that they really seem clueless.

It is no secret that young voters tilt left on social issues like immigration and gay rights. But these students, and dozens of other young people interviewed here last week, give voice to a trend that is surprising pollsters and jangling the nerves of Republicans. On a central philosophical question of the day — the size and scope of the federal government — a clear majority of young people embraces President Obama’s notion that it can be a constructive force, a point he intends to make in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

“Young people absolutely believe that there’s a role for government,” said Matt Singer, a founder of Forward Montana, a left-leaning though officially nonpartisan group that seeks to engage young people in politics. “At the same time, this is not a generation of socialists. They are highly entrepreneurial, and know that some of what it takes to create an environment where they can do their own exciting, creative things is having basic systems that work.”

Here in Montana, a state that backed John McCain in 2008 and Mr. Romney last year, voters under 30 have helped elect two blogpic3Democratic senators and a new Democratic governor. Nationally, young voters have since 2004 been casting their ballots for Democrats by far wider margins than previous young generations — a shift that could reshape American politics for decades.

China’s economy continues to eclipse that of the US.  It will shortly have the largest annual GDP.  As of now, it’s the largest Trading Country in the world.

China surpassed the U.S. to become the world’s biggest trading nation last year as measured by the sum of exports and imports of goods, official figures from both countries show.

U.S. exports and imports of goods last year totaled $3.82 trillion, the U.S. Commerce Department said last week. China’s customs administration reported last month that the country’s trade in goods in 2012 amounted to $3.87 trillion.

China’s growing influence in global commerce threatens to disrupt regional trading blocs as it becomes the most important commercial partner for some countries. Germany may export twice as much to China by the end of the decade as it does to France, estimated Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Jim O’Neill.

“For so many countries around the world, China is becoming rapidly the most important bilateral trade partner,” O’Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs’s asset management division and the economist who bound Brazil to Russia, India and China to form the BRIC investing strategy, said in a telephone interview. “At this kind of pace by the end of the decade many European countries will be doing more individual trade with China than with bilateral partners in Europe.”

One of my absolute favorite groups one big in the grammies last night.  Here’s one of the great songs from the BLACK KEYS!!! The lead singer also brought some in for Dr. John so we’re all happy for the Keys tonight!   (And no, the dude in the video is not one of the band!)

This is the band:

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?