Monday Reads

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Good Morning!!

Today is another slow news day, and that could be bad news for some folks in Norfolk, Nebraska. Dakinikat alerted us to the story yesterday, and now it’s in the process of going viral. So far the headlines on the story seem highly understated. From the Lincoln Journal-Star: Obama float at Norfolk parade sparks controversy.

It was the parade float that elicited the loudest cheers Friday at Norfolk’s Fourth of July parade. The crowd lining the streets clapped and laughed as the flatbed truck went by.

But one loud voice rose above the rest: “This is not OK,” Glory Kathurima said. “That’s not OK.”

She kept repeating herself as the float passed, she says. She started to raise her phone to take a picture of the blue truck with the outhouse on its flatbed, along with a dark figurine in overalls propped up by a metal walker.

And nailed to the sides of the wooden privy, two signs in all-black capital letters: “OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY.”

Kathurima’s daughter Malaika saw the disrespectful depiction of the President of the United States, and asked her mom, “Mommy, what does that mean? What’s so funny?”

Kathurima moved to Nebraska from Kenya when she was Malaika’s age and became a naturalized citizen a few years ago. She’s raised her daughter in Norfolk and has found ways to explain the meaning of skin color. She’s turned on the TV and pointed to President Obama, showing Malaika that there was someone that looked like her — half Kenyan, half American.

“I’m angry and I’m scared,” Kathurima said. “This float was not just political; this was absolutely a racial statement.”

If a 9-year-old can see the problem, you’d think the parade organizers in Norfolk would have at least foreseen what the reaction to the float would be from normal people across the country. But apparently they didn’t.

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Parade committee member Rick Konopasek said the float wasn’t meant to be any more offensive than a political cartoon would be….

“We don’t feel its right to tell someone what they can and can’t express,” he said. “This was political satire. If we start saying no to certain floats, we might as well not have a parade at all.”

Konopasek and parade announcer Wally Sonnenschein said the outhouse float was the most popular one in the parade, and the three judges awarded it an honorable mention.

“It’s obvious the majority of the community liked it,” Konopasek said. “So should we deny the 95 percent of those that liked it their rights, just for the 5 percent of people who are upset?”

Konopasek and Sonnenschein actually claimed that the float demonstrated the freedom of speech and independence that the country celebrates on the Fourth of July, and that “the man who built the float has been a longstanding member of the community, and people shouldn’t be quick to judge him for expressing his opinions.” How odd then that the “man who built the float” didn’t put his name on his handiwork and he is still anonymous, according to Omaha.com.

A Fourth of July parade float that depicted a figure standing outside an outhouse labeled the “Obama Presidential Library” has created a stir on social media and is also receiving criticism in Norfolk, Nebraska.

The float, in Norfolk’s annual Independence Day parade, was on a flatbed trailer being pulled by a blue pickup truck. The figure was dressed in overalls and standing next to a walker outside of the outhouse. The hands and head of the figure were greenish and appeared to be zombielike; the hands were pressed against the sides of the figure’s head. Miniature American flags were atop the float and on the truck.

 Neither the float nor the pickup identified a sponsor; a sign in the windshield said it was entry No. 29.

Why isn’t “the man who built the float” expressing pride in his creation?

Actually the design of the float wasn’t original. I’ve seen this depiction of Obama before. From Huffington Post:

The presidential library outhouse comparison has become somewhat of a conservative meme in recent years. A similar structure was on display at Montana’s state Republican convention in 2012. And last fall, an outhouse with a “presidential library” sign drew criticism in a small New Mexico town.

It will be interesting to see how this story plays out in the next few days. Certainly if this is not racism per se (I think it is), it demonstrates a shocking lack of respect for the office of the Presidency. Will Norfolk parade officials continue to defend the float? Will “the man who built the float” come forward and defend what he did? Stay tuned.

In other news,

In his latest column, E.J. Dionne calls attention to “an article in draft” by Joseph Fishkin & William E. Forbath called “The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution” (PDF).  The article addresses the issue of economic inequality, and is the basis for a planned book by Fishkin.

Dionne writes that Tea Partiers and other “conservatives” constantly talk about the Constitution to justify their extreme views on multiple issues. Dionne argues that “progressives” should “think constitutionally” too, and “challenge conservative claims about what the Constitution really demands.”

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In the May issue of the Boston University Law Review, Joseph R. Fishkin and William E. Forbath of the University of Texas School of Law show that at key turning points in our history (the Jacksonian era, the Populist and Progressive moments and the New Deal), opponents of rising inequality made strong arguments “that we cannot keep our constitutional democracy — our republican form of government — without constitutional restraints against oligarchy and a political economy that maintains a broad middle class, accessible to everyone.”

Their article is called “The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution,” though Forbath told me that he and Fishkin may give the book they’re writing on the topic the more upbeat title “The Constitution of Opportunity.” Their view is that by empowering the wealthy in our political system, Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United directly contradict the Constitution’s central commitment to shared self-rule.

“Extreme concentrations of economic and political power undermine equal opportunity and equal citizenship,” they write. “In this way, oligarchy is incompatible with, and a threat to, the American constitutional scheme.” …. they make a similar critique of what they call an excessively “court-centered” approach to constitutionalism. “Constitutional politics during the 19th and early 20th centuries” was very different and the subject of democratic deliberation. In earlier eras, they say, the Constitution was seen as not simply permitting but actually requiring “affirmative legislation . . . to ensure a wide distribution of opportunity” and to address “the problem of oligarchy in a modern capitalist society.”

 The authors remind us of Franklin Roosevelt’s warning that “the inevitable consequence” of placing “economic and financial control in the hands of the few” would be “the destruction of the base of our form of government.” And writing during the Gilded Age, a time like ours in many ways, the journalist James F. Hudson argued that “imbedded” in the Constitution is “the principle” mandating “the widest distribution among the people, not only of political power, but of the advantages of wealth, education and social influence.”

The idea of a Constitution of Opportunity is both refreshing and relevant. For too long, progressives have allowed conservatives to monopolize claims of fealty to our unifying national document. In fact, those who would battle rising economic inequalities to create a robust middle class should insist that it’s they who are most loyal to the Constitution’s core purpose. Broadly shared well-being is essential to the framers’ promise that “We the people” will be the stewards of our government.

Fishkin’s proposed book sounds like a worthwhile companion to Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

A somewhat related article from Raw Story by Bill Moyers and Co., July 4th note to tea partiers: Your politics would baffle the Founding Fathers.

Editor’s note: These days, if you see a protester donning a tricorn hat and waving a Gadsden Flag, it’s a safe bet that he or she is a Republican activist who’s furious about “death panels” or the prospect of the government meddling in the Medicare program. But the tea party movement isn’t the first to claim itself to be the true defenders of the Constitution, or to enlist its Framers in a political cause. Throughout American history, activists across the ideological spectrum have insisted that the Framers would roll over in their graves upon encountering the perfidy of their political opponents.

The reality is that the Framers disagreed about almost everything, and produced a Constitution that was filled with expedient compromises. As Jill Lepore, a professor of American history at Harvard University, pointed out in her book, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History, “Beginning even before it was over, the Revolution has been put to wildly varying political purposes.” Between 1761, when the first signs of discontent with England became apparent in the Colonies, and 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified, Lepore wrote that Americans debated an “ocean of ideas” from which “you can fish anything out.”

One of the few areas where the Framers approached a consensus was a belief that their Constitution shouldn’t be fetishized. According to Lepore, it was none other than Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human.” 

Read an excerpt on Constitutional originalism from Jill Lepore’s book at the Raw Story link.

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From NBC News: Pope Francis Meets Abuse Victims, Begs Forgiveness for Church.

The pontiff invited six victims of abuse from Ireland, Germany and Britain to attend an early-morning private Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence next to St. Peter’s Basilica where he lives.

 Francis called the abuse a “grave sin” decrying how it was hidden for “so much time” and “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”

“I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,” the pope said in his homily. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse.” ….

Francis strongly praised the victims’ courage in speaking up and shedding “light on a terrible darkness,” telling the mass he is deeply aware of their deep and unrelenting pain.

“Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God,” he said, adding that the victims’ willingness to come to the Vatican “speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness.”

I guess it’s a start, but I agree with victims advocates who say it’s too little, too late. What concrete actions is the Church going to take to identify abusers and potential abusers before they act out? Child sexual abuse is a systemic problem that has continued for centuries. It’s difficult to see how it can be overcome with apologies and meetings with a few survivors.

I’ll end with a fascinating story from New Scientist, via Raw Story: Oldest case of Down’s syndrome from medieval France.

The oldest confirmed case of Down’s syndrome has been found: the skeleton of a child who died 1500 years ago in early medieval France. According to the archaeologists, the way the child was buried hints that Down’s syndrome was not necessarily stigmatised in the Middle Ages….

The new example comes from a 5th- and 6th-century necropolis near a church in Chalon-sur-Saône in eastern France. Excavations there have uncovered the remains of 94 people, including the skeleton of a young child with a short and broad skull, a flattened skull base and thin cranial bones. These features are common in people with Down’s syndrome, says Maïté Rivollat at the University of Bordeaux in France, who has studied the skeleton with her colleagues….

Oldest case of Down’s syndrome from medieval France – life – 04 July 2014 – New Scientist#.U7qdknlOXEd <!—->

Rivollat’s team has studied the way the child with Down’s syndrome was buried, which hasn’t been possible with other ancient cases of the condition. The child was placed on its back in the tomb, in an east-west orientation with the head at the westward end – in common with all of the dead at the necropolis.

According to Rivollat, this suggests the child was treated no differently in death from other members of the community. That in turn hints that they were not stigmatised while alive.

Another researcher of Down’s Syndrome in ancient history, John Starbuck of Indiana University, says drawing cultural conclusions from the method of burial is very difficult. Read more at the link.

What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Surprise Surprise. New Pope Made Little Effort To Stop Pedophile Priests in Argentina

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The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff reports that Pope Francis was “often quiet on Argentine sex abuse cases” when he was Archbishop.

Miroff focuses the article mostly on a charismatic priest named Julio Cesar Grassi, who formed a foundation ironically called Felices los Niños, “Happy Children,” as well as raising money “schools, orphanages and job training programs for poor and abandoned youths, winning praise from Argentine politicians and his superior, Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio.” But in 2009 Grassi was convicted

Today, Grassi is a convicted sex offender who remains free on a conditional release after being sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2009 for molesting a prepubescent boy in his care.

Yet in the years after Grassi’s conviction, Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — has declined to meet with the victim of the priest’s crimes or the victims of other predations by clergy under his leadership. He did not offer personal apologies or financial restitution, even in cases in which the crimes were denounced by other members of the church and the offending priests were sent to jail.

Julio Cesar Grassi

Julio Cesar Grassi

Grassi was reportedly very close to Archbishop Bergoglio; that is troubling to Argentinian child advocates because Grassi is still a priest and has managed to stay out of prison with the help of the Archdiocese.

…[C]hurch officials led by Bergoglio commissioned a lengthy private report arguing that Grassi was innocent.

The report was submitted as part of the priest’s legal appeal, which is pending, and prosecutors say the document has helped Grassi avoid jail time so far. A court has granted him a provisional release that allows him to continue residing across the street from the classroom and dormitories of Happy Children.

The school/orphanage is now closed and in a state of disrepair.

“He gave with one hand, but he took away with the other,” said neighbor Sabina Vilagra, whose husband worked as a janitor at the foundation and was called to testify in the trial.

“He had his favorites — always boys,” said her daughter, Florencia Vilagra, who also worked at Happy Children at the time.

“He would give them bicycles or toys and would designate one as his special ‘secretary,’ ” she said.

There were three accusers in the trial — given the names “Ezequiel,” “Gabriel” and “Luis” to protect their identities — who ranged from ages 9 to 13 at the time of the abuse, according to prosecutor Juan Pablo Gallego.

Child abuse experts say that Bergoglio “evolved” over the years, and he doesn’t appear to have been involved in any cover-ups; in fact he may have been the one to tell a Grassi accuser to contact the police. But the same experts say that other cases slipped through the cracks, including that of Mario Napoleon Sasso, who after being accused of abusing children in the “early 1990s,” was

sent to a private rehabilitation center for wayward clergy, La Domus Mariae (the House of Mary), north of Buenos Aires. He lived for two years at the center and was then reassigned to work in a soup kitchen for poor children in a town outside the capital. There, he went on to sexually abuse girls as young as 3.

“His bedroom was adjacent to the cafeteria, and it had the only bathroom in the chapel,” said Moreau, the attorney for the victims’ families.

Moreau said that in 2003 he accompanied two nuns and a priest who had denounced Sasso, along with the victims’ families, to a meeting with the Vatican emissary in Buenos Aires. He said the families were told to be “patient” and were offered gifts of rosaries “blessed by the pope.”

Sasso was finally convicted in 2007.

Sadly, I can’t say I’m surprised to learn that the new Pope–like his predecessors–is implicated in the Catholic Church’s endless child abuse scandals.


Wednesday Reads….Class warfare?

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Good Morning!

I have so many links for you this morning, let us start with a look at class warfare…I am reminded of the quote wrongly attributed to Marie Antoinette…Let them eat cake.  Hamilton Nolan from the Gawker has a point….check it out: It Would Be Great if Millionaires Would Not Lecture Us on ‘Living With Less’

There is something about achieving great financial success that seduces people into believing that they are life coaches. This problem seems particularly endemic to the tech millionaire set. You are not simply Some Fucking Guy Who Sold Your Internet Company For a Lot of Money; you are a lifestyle guru, with many important and penetrating insight about How to Live that must be shared with the common people.

We would humbly request that this stop.

Meet Graham Hill. Graham Hill became a multimillionaire at a very young age when he sold his internet company in 1998. Good for him. We would not be telling you about Graham Hill at all, except for the fact that he wrote a remarkable op-ed in the New York Times Sunday Review yesterday in which he instructs you, the common man, on the virtues of “Living With Less.” He bases this prescription on the wisdom he has learned on his own personal journey, from millionaire with a big house and many material possessions to millionaire with a smaller house and fewer material possessions, but just as many liquid assets.

You can read Hill’s op/ed at that link, but I just want to post the last of this Gawker response, cause it is damn good.

A millionaire does not have the standing to tell regular people that money is overrated. Graham Hill moved into a smaller apartment and sold some of his stuff. But he sure as fuck didn’t empty his bank accounts. It’s easy not to have material things when you can just buy whatever you need, whenever you need it. ” My space is small. My life is big,” writes Hill. Of course it is! You can buy anything and go anywhere at any time, thanks to your vast wealth! The fact that a millionaire’s “life is big” offers little valuable wisdom to the common person. The presumptuousness is akin to a fat food critic walking out of a restaurant after a huge meal and telling a starving beggar on the curb, “Trust me—you don’t want to eat at this place.”

Money doesn’t matter at all, as long as you have too much of it.

Sure got that right, just like all these wealthy ass politicians that are dealing and scheming to do away with programs that are of no concern with them. (That also goes for the current president in the White House.) The White House Is for Sale Under Barack Obama, Too

On Wednesday night, at the swanky St. Regis Hotel three blocks north of the White House, President Barack Obama will schmooze with his biggest donors and most avid grassroots supporters at a “founder’s summit” for Organizing for Action, the controversial pro-Obama nonprofit group. OFA will use the email lists, social networks, and cutting-edge technologies honed during Obama’s reelection campaign to try to galvanize Americans in support of the president’s second-term agenda.

But watchdogs and reformers are up in arms after the New York Times revealed that supporters who raise or donate $500,000 or more will score invites to quarterly meetings with Obama and other exclusive perks unavailable to run-of-the-mill Obama supporters. “Access to the president should never be for sale,” said Common Cause president Bob Edgar.

Obama isn’t the first prez to do this, you can read more at the link, but it should not be surprising.

Oops, I got distracted, back to the issue of class. Well, I thought this was an interesting blog post over at Suburban Guerilla, written by OddManOut » Being white in Philly Mag

Chances are slim that Philadelphia Magazine‘s March cover piece, “Being White in Philly,” by Robert Huber, was meant as anything more than an exercise in cynicism. Huber had to know that his confused personal impressions regarding race relations didn’t add up to an actual story. And his editor surely saw that the piece was ill-conceived and unresolved, more likely to stir up resentment than encourage dialogue between black and white city residents.

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Huber affected the “why can’t we all get along” tone of a white Rodney King, but with little bombs of condescension that could only have been meant to provoke:

But like many people, I yearn for much more: that I could feel the freedom to speak to my African-American neighbors about, say, not only my concerns for my son’s safety living around Temple, but how the inner city needs to get its act together.

Substituting “inner city” made Huber’s generalization seem even more insulting than it would have if he’d used “blacks.” His professed yearning to speak to his black neighbors reminds us that he didn’t quote, and perhaps didn’t even speak with, any black Philadelphians while doing his research (if you can call it that).

It seems the article was meant to piss off blacks while appealing to the magazine’s core demographic — reasonably well-off and well-educated whites who respond to ads for luxury cars and liposuction. Huber and Philly Mag were saying it’s OK for these whites to think of themselves as tolerant despite their fear and loathing of blacks; that it’s only natural to feel this way about people who, after all these years, still can’t get their act together.

Huber was writing more about class than race, but acknowledging this fact would have called attention to the superficiality of his analysis. He offered a brief history of white flight from Philly, but mentioned none of the underlying socioeconomic factors that have widened the gulf not only between whites and blacks but also between the well-off and poor of both races.

Hmmmm, I know Huber’s article is not the same as that op/ed from rich man Graham Hill, but it also seems to leave a bad aftertaste in the mouth. OddManOut continues:

There’s an even wider gulf between bad journalism and the truth. I was there, growing up in a Philly neighborhood that was transitioning from white to black in the 1960s-1970s, hanging out with other white kids who were engaged in an ongoing street war with black kids. The shootings and stabbings were manifestations of forces that all of us, black and white, couldn’t control or even understand.

These forces are still at work, and articles such as Huber’s do nothing to shed light on why they persist. But they do boost print sales and online traffic, and that’s the bottom line.

I guess this last sentence is in line with the Journalism post I wrote a few days ago.  How the son of Fred Friendly stated, “making more money doing its worst…than it did doing its best.”

Alright, I am going to move on to the Vatican now. Here’s a few links on the Vatican’s selection of the new pope. According to Tommy Christopher over at Mediaite: MSNBC Contributor Compares The Vatican To The Soviet Union

But she meant it in the best way possible. On Tuesday morning, all three cable news networks devoted hours of airtime to complete coverage of Cardinals signing in for the latest conclave to elect a new pope, which made for television with all the electricity of a watch battery. On MSNBC, The Nation‘s Katrina vanden Heuvel broke up the monotony somewhat by telling fellow panelists that she was reminded of Soviet Russia, specifically “of the Communist Party. There is something about the need to have Kremlinology to understand who might be the next pope.”

Vanden Heuvel went on to explain that the next pope will need to be a reformer, along the lines of a Mikhail Gorbachev, to bring transparency to the Vatican. She also confessed to being a lapsed Catholic who agrees with E.J. Dionne that the next pope should be a nun…

Ditto on making the next pope a nun…but Tommy continues:

Although I only half-watched the coverage of what appeared to be the waiting room for the world’s slowest, yet busiest, doctor’s office, I am fairly confident that this was the most interesting thing said during the cumulative hours of cable news this morning. On CNN, without a trace of irony, they were talking about the betting line on who the next pope will be. On Fox News, Shep Smith was also talking about transparency, which is becoming one of the most overrated concepts in the media. It seems as though it’s more important to let people see the horrible things you’re doing than to do anything about it.

To be fair, I’m a much more lapsed Catholic than Katrina vanden Heuvel, so my level of investment in the new pope is lower than most, and while I begrudge no one their faith, the Vatican, as an institution, seems fatally flawed. Covering up and enabling child rape is something you shouldn’t even get one shot at, let alone several thousand. But even those who are considerably more forgiving than I am would be hard-pressed to find much of value in this saturation coverage of the papal conclave kickoff.

I agree with Christopher about the Vatican cover-ups, which goes without saying…but the Vatican is also filled with hypocrites. Check this out: As cardinals gather to elect Pope, Catholic officials break into a sweat over news that priests share €23m building with huge gay sauna

A day ahead of the papal conclave, faces at the scandal-struck Vatican were even redder than usual after it emerged that the Holy See had purchased a €23 million (£21 million) share of a Rome apartment block that houses Europe’s biggest gay sauna.

The senior Vatican figure sweating the most due to the unlikely proximity of the gay Europa Multiclub is probably Cardinal Ivan Dias, the head of the Congregation for Evangelisation of Peoples, who is due to participate in tomorrow’s election at the Sistine Chapel.

This 76-year-old “prince of the church” enjoys a 12-room apartment on the first-floor of the imposing palazzo, at 2 Via Carducci, just yards from the ground floor entrance to the steamy flesh pot. There are 18 other Vatican apartments in the block, many of which house priests.

The Holy See is still reeling from allegations that the previous pontiff, Benedict XVI, had quit in reaction to the presence of a gay cabal in the curia.

And with disgraced Scottish cardinal Keith O’Brien lending new weight to charges of hypocrisy against the Church’s stance on homosexuality, La Repubblica newspaper noted that the presence of “Italy’s best known gay sauna in the premises is an embarrassment”.

And if you really want to experience an early morning yuk factor, take a look at this link which features a real commercial for that gay sauna: Vatican Building Houses Gay Sauna

Ewwww!

One more pope story, actually it is an interactive… from the Guardian: Choose your own pope – with our interactive Pontifficator

I’m going to go ahead and give you the rest of today’s news reads via a Link Dump:

From TruthDig….Robert Scheer: If Corporations Don’t Pay Taxes, Why Should You?

This little nugget about the latest Bush candidate, from LG&M: The Little Brown One

Looks like there is some talk about men in a powerful positions who sexually assault women, via the Independent: Petronella, paedophilia, and the wrong lesson to draw from Olivier’s pass

Over at the Guardian, a story about the Generation self: what do young people really care about?

Salon discusses the paleo-diet: “Paleofantasy”: Stone Age delusions

Susie Madrak has this to say over at C&L… Sources: Koch Brothers May Buy The L.A. Times. Stay Tuned

MoJo on The Most Radioactive Man on Earth Has the Kindest Heart

And we will end with a little history: Aelfthryth, Queen of England

What are you all reading and blogging about today?


Saturday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

This is going be short and sweet because it’s been a long week for me. Yesterday the Washington Post published a highly cited story about Mitt Romney as a “pioneer” in the outsourcing of American jobs.

During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

While economists debate whether the massive outsourcing of American jobs over the last generation was inevitable, Romney in recent months has lamented the toll it’s taken on the U.S. economy. He has repeatedly pledged he would protect American employment by getting tough on China.

“They’ve been able to put American businesses out of business and kill American jobs,” he told workers at a Toledo fence factory in February. “If I’m president of the United States, that’s going to end.”

Really? I strongly suggest you read this story–it’s long and detailed with plenty of specific examples of Romney’s involvement in shipping jobs overseas.

In his speech to Latino officeholders this afternoon, President Obama used the WaPo article to hammer Romney. In comparison to Romney’s appearance before the group yesterday, Obama received a much more enthusiastic reception with more and longer applause.

Meanwhile one of Mitt Romney’s campaign co-chairs undercut the candidate’s campaign of confuse and befuddle and came right out and told the truth to the Daily Telegraph: Mitt Romney ‘likely to scrap Barack Obama’s immigration order’

Ray Walser, the co-chairman of Mr Romney’s Latin American Working Group, also said Mr Obama’s administration had been “fairly tough” on measures to counter illegal migration and that unlawful crossings of the Mexican border had declined, appearing to contradict the Republican candidate’s own comments on the subject.

Mr Romney has repeatedly declined to say what, if elected president in November, he would do about Mr Obama’s move to offer work permits to law-abiding undocumented migrants aged 30 or under.

The Romney campaign later claimed that Walser has no knowledge of the campaign’s policy decisions. The why is he co-chair of the Latin America working group? Looks like Romney is having some surrogate trouble now.

The LA Times interviewed Stephen Mansfield, the author of a new book “The Mormonizing of America” in order to get Mansfield’s take on Romney and his religion.

Q) …[H]ow do you think Romney’s faith has shaped his politics and the way he might lead?

A) I think that there’s no question it’s shaped what you might call his worldview or his system of ethics, what he believes about the Constitution, what he believes about abortion, what he believes about American history — I think all that grows organically out of his Mormonism. I think that his leadership is a product of his training and his gifts, but he does lead out of a sense of it being part of him qualifying, being found worthy, him passing the test of this life — that’s standard Mormon theology.

Q) We are said to be living in this “Mormon Moment,” but a new Gallup poll shows that American attitudes about Mormons haven’t really changed for decades. Nearly one in five Americans say they won’t vote for a Mormon for president. How big a barrier is that to Romney and would a Romney presidency be a game-changer in terms of Mormon acceptance?

….

Q) Would Romney be better off talking about it?

A) If I was king of his campaign, I’d have folks out there talking about it for the campaign, unofficially, but I’d keep the candidate away from it. I’m not sure I’d want Romney talking about temple garments and gods on other planets and Joseph Smith. But I wouldn’t mind having an articulate representative in the field, defending Mr. Romney’s Mormonism in the campaign. And if I don’t see that happen after the convention, I’m going to wonder how much they’re aware in Romney headquarters how much this is an issue in the culture.

At The Daily Beast, here’s an interesting article by Daniel Klaidman on the Holder Witchhunt over “Fast and Furious.” Klaidman said that House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa demanded a “scap” from the Justice Department as a last ditch effort to avoid going nuclear with a contempt citation.

for Issa, a partisan warrior who has called Holder a “liar” and the Obama administration one of “the most corrupt” in history, there was always the risk of overreach. When he started to go down the road toward a contempt citation, the House Republican leadership began to show signs of nervousness. Some thought Issa needed to leave himself an escape route. In recent weeks he and his staff began negotiating with DOJ, looking for a way to head off the looming confrontation.

During a phone call last week with a senior Justice official, Issa’s chief investigative counsel, Stephen Castor, broached a possible settlement. As the conversation began, according to two sources familiar with the conversation, Castor asked the official where things stood on “accountability.” By that, Castor meant would any heads roll at Justice. Castor mentioned Lanny Breuer, the head of the department’s Criminal Division, whom Republicans had been gunning for because of his knowledge of gun-walking techniques that had been used during the Bush administration. (Their theory was that Breuer should have taken aggressive steps to ensure that such measures were not repeated in future operations.) According to these sources, Castor said that if Breuer resigned, they could head off the looming constitutional clash.

But the Justice official, Steven Reich, an associate deputy attorney general involved in the Fast and Furious negotiations with Congress, rejected the offer, calling it a “non-starter.”

Still, Castor’s gambit was seen by DOJ officials as evidence that Issa was more interested in drawing blood than getting to the truth.

The Massachusetts Democratic Party managed to get some embarrassing video of Senator Scott Brown making a very strange remark about being in “secret meetings with kings and queens and prime ministers.”

The comments on WTKK-FM were roundly mocked by Democrats. Brown, in making them, was pushing back against critics who say his campaign has not been focused on serious issues, pointing out that he ran a radio ad about military base closings. He also said he was working on substantive issues on a daily basis, some that involve royalty.

“Each and every day that I’ve been a United States senator, I’ve been discussing issues, meeting on issues, in secret meetings and with kings and queens and prime ministers and business leaders and military leaders, talking, voting, working on issues every single day,” he said on the Jim Braude and Margery Eagan [talk radio] Show.

At first his campaign said he “misspoke,” but The Boston Globe learned that Brown had made similar statements at least five times.

That’s got to be at least as weird as thinking you have Native American blood because your parents told you so. It probably won’t get as much play as the attacks on Elizabeth Warren though.

In Philadelphia, yesterday Monsignor William Lynn became the first member of the Catholic clergy to be convicted for covering up child sexual abuse by priests.

A Philadelphia priest was convicted Friday (June 22) of one count of child endangerment, becoming the first cleric in the Catholic Church’s long-running clergy abuse scandal to be tried and found guilty of shielding molesters.

Monsignor William Lynn, 61, was acquitted of conspiracy and a second endangerment charge after a three-month trial that had seemed on the verge of a hung jury two days earlier….

The jurors said they were deadlocked on attempted rape and endangerment charges against Lynn’s codefendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan.

Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina declared a mistrial on the Brennan charges, which means prosecutors could decide to try him again.

Lynn, who was head of priest personnel in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for 12 years, was charged with recommending that Brennan and another priest, Edward Avery, be allowed to live or work in parishes in the 1990s despite indications that they might abuse children.

Avery pleaded guilty before the trial to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999 and is serving 2-1/2 to 5 years in state prison.

Finally, if you haven’t read the NYT series on Chris Christie and New Jersey’s privatized halfway houses from hell, be sure to check it out. Looks like Christie won’t be getting that VP nod after all.

Have a great Saturday, and please share what you’re reading and blogging about today.


Wednesday Morning Reads: Gala, Jobs, Plastic and an American Priest

Good Morning

You can also add a sunspot to that title, because today I am going to share a variety of links with you.

News out of DC? Well…I don’t quite know what to make of this: Obama unveils jobs plan on a virtual ‘post-it’ note, urging Congress to act

A post-it note? As if that is going to get the job done in Congress…

President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Tuesday to act on a modest five-item “to-do list” to fight unemployment, showcasing the tasks on a virtual Post-It note he mockingly said would not “overload” lawmakers.

“I know this is an election year,” Obama said in a speech at the SUNY-Albany Nano-Tech Complex, a science research facility. “But it’s not an excuse for inaction. Six months is plenty of time for Democrats and Republicans to get together and do the right thing.”

Obama’s list included items he’s already unsuccessfully pushed Congress to adopt, such as cutting tax incentives for businesses that ship jobs overseas, enacting new hire tax credits, promoting clean energy and helping homeowners struggling with their mortgages to refinance.

“It’s about the size of a Post-It note, so every member of Congress should have time to read it and they can glance at it every so often,” said the president, who referred to the virtual memo as “a handy little ‘to-do’ list.”

How cute…

With his reelection hopes weighed down by the weak economy, Obama also seemed to lay the blame on Congress if job growth remains sluggish from now to November. New figures showed lackluster employment figures in April and a national jobless rate that ticked down to 8.1 percent mostly because of unemployed Americans giving up on looking for work.

“The truth is, the only way we can accelerate the job creation that takes place on a scale that is needed is bold action from Congress,” he said. “Just saying no to ideas that we know will help our economy isn’t an option. There’s too much at stake. We’ve all got to pull in the same direction,” Obama said.

You know, when I think of all the suggestions from economist like Dr. Dakinikat have shouted out to anyone who would listen…why, won’t they (both Dems and Repubs) do something that will be beneficial to the economy?

This next link is on the topic of health, specifically cancer. ‘One in six cancers worldwide are caused by infection’

One in six cancers – two million a year globally – are caused by largely treatable or preventable infections, new estimates suggest.

The Lancet Infectious Diseases review, which looked at incidence rates for 27 cancers in 184 countries, found four main infections are responsible.

These four – human papillomaviruses, Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis B and C viruses – account for 1.9m cases of cervical, gut and liver cancers.

Most cases are in the developing world.

The team from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France says more efforts are needed to tackle these avoidable cases and recognise cancer as a communicable disease.

The proportion of cancers related to infection is about three times higher in parts of the developing world, such as east Asia, than in developed countries like the UK – 22.9% versus 7.4%, respectively.

Nearly a third of cases occur in people younger than 50 years.

Among women, cancer of the cervix accounted for about half of the infection-related cancers. In men, more than 80% were liver and gastric cancers.

Remember the HPV vaccine?

Drs Catherine de Martel and Martyn Plummer, who led the research, said: “Infections with certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites are some of the biggest and preventable causes of cancer worldwide
“Application of existing public-health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practice, or antimicrobial treatments, could have a substantial effect on the future burden of cancer worldwide.”
Vaccines are available to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) – which is linked to cancer of the cervix – and hepatitis B virus – an established cause of liver cancer.
And experts know that stomach cancer can be avoided by clearing the bacterial infection H. pylori from the gut using a course of antibiotics.

I wonder if other cancers can be triggered from infection. I seems a lot of new information on cancer treatment is coming out of Europe these days. Which is a good thing since science is being trampled here in the US by religious conservative politicians.

Moving on to something troubling in the Pacific Ocean…Scientists find hundredfold increase in plastic trash in Pacific Ocean since 1970s

The amount of plastic in the ocean area known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has increased a hundredfold since the early 1970s, according to a new study, and the alarming findings could pressure California and other coastal states to do more to reduce plastic trash.

“We were really surprised. It is a very large increase,” said Miriam Goldstein, a Ph.D. graduate student in biological oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and lead author of the study.

“Plastic had been detected in the open ocean in the early 1970s,” she said. “People were raising the alarm then. The fact it has gotten so much worse is really disappointing.”

During an expedition in 2009, Scripps researchers took extensive water samples 1,000 miles west of California, then compared the amount of plastic they found with samples taken by other researchers dating back to 1972.

While many of the samples 40 years ago found little or no plastic, vast stretches of the North Pacific are now polluted with billions of tiny pieces of confetti-like trash that comes from garbage that floats out to sea and breaks down in wind and waves.

The tiny bits sit on or near the surface, where they are eaten by fish, sea turtles and other marine animals that confuse them for food. The latest samples show that the garbage patch has grown not in size but in density: There are roughly 100 times more pieces per cubic meter of water than were in samples during the 1970s.

Read more at the link above, and here is a graphic that explains the currents effect on garbage. Larger graphic found here:  Image Viewer

Another big solar storm is heading our way…Monster Sunspot To Unleash Powerful Solar Flares Check out the size of this mother:

An enormous sunspot group has taken shape on the surface of the sun, hinting that our star may soon start spouting off some powerful storms.

The huge sunspot complex, known as AR 1476, rotated into Earth’s view over the weekend. It measures more than 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across, researchers said. Scientists with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory mission, a space-based telescope watching the sun, dubbed the solar structure a “monster sunspot” in a Twitter announcement.

THE GIST

  • AR 1476 is big enough for amateur astronomers with decent equipment to spot from their backyards, weather permitting.
  • Monday evening’s eruption generated an Earth-directed CME, which should hit Earth sometime Wednesday morning (May 9).
  • Sunspots are temporary dark patches on the surface of the sun that are caused by intense magnetic activity.

The sun’s active stage should peak around 2013, in part of its 11–year cycle.

In other hot news, I should say biblical hot…burning fire hot…much like the kind of fire the priests in this next link should find themselves burning…in HELL.

Bernard Law Hid Pedophiles, Behind Push To Punish Nuns

Last month the Vatican announced it was cracking down on American nuns for not sufficiently pushing the Catholic Bishops anti-gay, anti-woman agenda. Who was behind this sudden and aggressive push-back against women many American Catholics deeply respect? The same shamed men behind the church’s sex abuse cover-up and complicity.

David Gibson reports that conservative American churchmen living in Rome, among them the disgraced former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, were key figures pushing the hostile takeover the the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR. Law and other hard-right Catholic leaders don’t like the group because of its emphasis of social justice work over loyalty to church hierarchy and issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Law was joined by a former archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal Raymond Burke in his efforts to aggressive investigate the LCWR. Burke was named to a top Vatican judicial post in 2008 because his hard-right views made Burke a lightning rod in the U.S.– a move familiar within the Catholic Church’s leadership structure and one knowing as getting “kicked upstairs.”

However the actual investigation was conducted by Cardinal William Levada, a former archbishop of San Francisco who succeeded Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s powerful doctrinal watchdog, when Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Needless to say, these are all men very close to Ratzinger and two of them, Burke and Law, were ushered to Rome and given refuge to escape political, and in Law’s case, criminal pressure related to the sex abuse scandal in the early 2000′s.

Now we know that it is the same men who enabled, lied, and covered-up decades of criminal sexual abuse of minors pushing to punish American nuns for social justice work at the expense of Law and the Vatican’s hateful and dangerous agenda. But is anybody really surprised?

This was not a surprise to me, at all! When all the crap came down on the nuns from the Vatican, I knew something was up.

From the Religion News Service written by David Gibson, which was mentioned in the Care 2 article above:

When the Vatican last month announced a doctrinal crackdown on the leadership organization representing most of the 57,000 nuns in the U.S., the sisters said they were “stunned” by the move. Many American Catholics, meanwhile, were angry at what they saw as Rome bullying women whose lives of service have endeared them to the public.

[…]

Now it turns out that conservative American churchmen living in Rome — including disgraced former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law — were key players in pushing the hostile takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR, which they have long viewed with suspicion for emphasizing social justice work over loyalty to the hierarchy and issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Vatican observers in Rome and church sources in the U.S. say Law was “the person in Rome most forcefully supporting” the LCWR investigation, as Rome correspondent Robert Mickens wrote in The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly. Law was the “prime instigator,” in the words of one American churchman, of the investigation that began in 2009 and ended in 2011. The actual crackdown was only launched in April.
Gibson continues…

Law was joined by a former archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was named to a top Vatican judicial post in 2008 – a move that was seen as a case of being “kicked upstairs” because Burke’s hard-line views made him so controversial in the U.S. Also reportedly backing the probe was Cardinal James Stafford, a former Denver archbishop who has held jobs in the Roman curia since 1996.

[…]

The fact that prelates like Burke and Law, who was given a Roman refuge in 2002 after the sexual abuse scandal exploded in Boston, played such a key role in the investigation of the American women has been like salt in the wound for those who support the nuns.

This Gibson article has been picked up in newspapers and news outlets online here in the US.  I hope that sparks some discussion on the cable news shows.

If you need a refresher on Bernard Law:

Why isn’t Boston’s Cardinal Law in jail? – Slate Magazine

But why isn’t Bernard Law in jail? (Part 2) – Slate Magazine

Disgraced US cardinal Bernard Law quits Rome post | World news | The Guardian

It is enough to make you scream isn’t it?

I really don’t want to end on such a sour note, so I am going to post a link to the Met Gala 2012 red carpet gallery. There are some beautiful gowns in this series of photos, and then there is Maude. (Well, take a look and you will see what I mean.) Met Gala 2012: Red Carpet Fashion From All The Stars! (PHOTOS)

Met Gala 2012

The Met Gala is often called fashion’s Oscars, but honestly, we think it’s bigger than that. Where else do you get every major Oscar star and fashion’s most powerful names all together on one red carpet?

[…]

…and check out Stylelist’s picks for best-dressed of the night here and worst-dressed here.

So, what are you all reading about today? Please share your thoughts with us…


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Does anyone have a remedy for the sleepies? I recently finished a semester of teaching, and the last couple of days I’ve been extremely groggy. Yesterday I even slept until 10:30AM! It doesn’t help that we haven’t seen the sun in the Boston area for at least a week–it’s dark, dank, and raw out there. It seems a lot more like November than late May. On top of all that my Spring allergies are the worst I’ve ever experienced. So please forgive me if this post makes no sense. On to the news of the day.

Disgraced IMF honcho Dominque Strauss-Kahn’s accuser testified before a New York grand jury today. Immediately following her testimony, Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys announced their determination to spring their client from his cell at Rikers Island Jail.

His lawyers initially proposed a $1 million bail package that was rejected by the court.

Today a new offer that was said to add a private monitoring firm, an electronic bracelet and a guard to the package was put together. The cash component of the bail package remained at $1 million dollars, but the deal now included a guarantee that Strauss-Kahn would remain confined in New York City and not leave his residence except for visits to his doctor or lawyers. His passports and travel documents have already been taken from him.

According to ABC News, police are testing body fluids found in Strauss-Kahn’s hotel room for DNA.

ABC News has confirmed that police cut a swath of carpet to test for DNA and swabbed one of the suite’s sinks under a black light that indicated there was potential DNA evidence there.

Apparently Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys plan to claim that their client’s sexual encounter with a hotel maid was “consensual,” but there is a serious problem with that theory in addition to the maid’s testimony.

Investigators also say information downloaded from the suite door’s electronic card reader indicates the maid entered the room and never closed the door. The hotel policy requires maids to leave the door open when cleaning. The open door, they say, is proof that the women entered the room to work, not to engage in consensual sex.

I won’t dwell on this sordid story much longer, but I did want to call your attention to this piece in Time Magazine, which details a number of previous accusations against Strauss-Kahn–along with rumors –gossip about his abusive behavior toward women–that were hushed up until now. How predictable these guys are!

Joseph Cannon’s latest post is a must-read, along with the New Yorker article by Jane Mayer on which the Cannon comments. It’s about the domestic spying by the NSA that went on under Bush and the Obama administration’s heavy handed prosecution of whistleblowers while at the same time protecting the Bush administration criminals. (Minkoff Minx also mentioned Mayer’s article in her morning post yesterday.) Here’s an introduction to the piece by Cannon:

This humble blog spent a lot of time talking about NSA overreach during the controversies over Russell Tice and FISA. Meyer’s piece confirms a long-held suspicion that the real problem wasn’t eavesdropping on telephone calls but automated data-mining of all forms of electronic communication.

Two competing computer systems were designed to take us into this brave new world: ThinThread and Trailblazer. (The system in place now is called Turbulence. Someone at NSA has a strange affection for the letter T — which is also the first letter in totalitarian.) Trailblazer turned out to be a costly boondoggle. ThinThread worked. Originally, it had provisions built in to protect the privacy of American citizens; NSA Director Haybed tossed out those barriers.

Meyer focuses on an NSA whistleblower named Thomas Drake, who tried to blow the whistle on the Trailblazer fiasco — and on the abuses of privacy — to a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee. Unfortunately, the Committee was headed, at the time, by Porter Goss — and by Nancy Pelosi. They both seemed deaf to what Drake had to say.

Why is Obama so obsessed with prosecuting whistleblowers–even to the point of dusting off the Espionage Act? Jane Mayer writes:

When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book “Necessary Secrets” (2010), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”

Mayer asked Drake about it:

Sitting at a Formica table at the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Drake—who is a registered Republican—groaned and thrust his head into his hands. “I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said. He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”

“But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”

Check out her article if you can. She’s one of the best investigative reporters we have.

You may have missed Dakinikat’s late night post on Tuesday–the one about exploding watermelons. I thought this story deserved a little more emphasis, because it shows what can happen when there are no government regulations on agriculture–and industry in general (and that is what the Republicans would love to make happen). From Raw Story:

A bizarre wave of exploding watermelons — possibly due to farmers’ abuse of a growth-boosting chemical — has once again spotlighted safety fears plaguing China’s poorly regulated food sector.

State media has said nearly 50 hectares (120 acres) of watermelon crops in the eastern city of Danyang have been ruined by the phenomenon this month after some growers doused them with the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron.

“On May 7, I came out and counted 80 (exploded watermelons), but by the afternoon it was 100,” farmer Liu Mingsuo told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) in a report that aired Tuesday. He said he had sprayed them with the chemical just a day before.

Remind me to never buy any food produce in China!!

Have you heard that the Obama campaign is selling T-shirts and coffee cups that mock the “birthers?”

President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign today started selling “Made in the USA” t-shirts featuring images of both President Obama and the long-form birth certificate he released copies of last month.

Wear your support for this campaign with an official Made in the USA T-shirt,” his website advertises. Donate $25 or more today and we’ll send you your limited-edition shirt.

Coffee-mugs are also available.

“Remember ‘fight the smears’ from the 2008 campaign?” asked campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “This is the mobile version of it.”

Quite frankly, I think this is a little bit tacky….but that’s just me. And speaking of tasteless behavior, the Catholic Church is attempting to blame the ’60s counterculture for the behavior pedophile priests. From the Guardian UK:

The investigation commissioned by Catholic bishops said that the peak incidence of sexual abuse by priests in the 1960s and 70s reflected the increased level of other deviant behaviours in American society in the period, including “drug use and crime, as well as social changes, such as an increase in premarital sex and divorce.”

Researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice said most of the abusive priests were ordained in the 1940s and 50s and were not properly trained to confront the social upheavals of the 1960s.

David O’Brien, a historian of American Catholicism at the University of Dayton, said the report, Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, was dangerous because it seemed to exonerate bishops.

The study also ignores the long history of sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy. Methinks these “researchers” told the Catholic Bishops what they wanted to hear rather than do any serious research.

Finally, President Obama plans to give another “most amazing speech evah” tomorrow. This one is on the Middle East and North Africa. According to Voice of America:

The speech will be broad in scope, as Mr. Obama focuses on the peaceful democratic movements for change that have swept the region, discusses implications for U.S. policy, and offers what administration officials call some concrete policy proposals.

He will give his assessment of the impact of popular uprisings that have led to political changes in Egypt and Tunisia, and which continue in places like Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Senior administration officials say Mr. Obama will speak of a moment of opportunity, after a decade of great tensions and divisions, in which people of the region and U.S. policy can begin to turn the page toward a more positive and hopeful future.

The stalemated Israel-Palestinian peace process will be an important element. However, Mr. Obama is expected to frame it as part of a wider picture and say that leaders on both sides of that conflict should seize an opportunity for peace.

Whatever….I think I’ll arrange to be busy while he’s speechifying. Anyway, what are you reading and blogging about today?