Friday Reads: Purple Daze

13015585_10153685323208512_8030450358987371783_nGood Morning!

I love that my favorite color–purple–is bedecking everything from this beautiful cartoon from Bloom County to the Empire State Building to the Super Dome and beyond. I really hate the reason.

Prince is another one of those artists who wrote and sang the soundtrack to the life of a younger me. I can remember dancing to his music alone in the front room of my apartment celebrating the death of disco and the return of some one who could shred like no other! Eric Clapton was once asked what it was like to be the world’s greatest guitarist. He correctly answered  “I don’t know. Ask Prince.”

I loved David Bowie but he was like wise older brother or cousin.  Prince was my bratty twin.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

I remember seeing him ever so often in a club he owned in the mid 90s in Minneapolis which featured international music and artists.  He was the type that was either on or off; over-the-top or subdued.  It’s the same with his music.  My favorite thing with Prince was that he used women in his rock bands when using women rockers was a joke to most male musicians and their producers. He hypersexualized everything and every one but at the heart of it all, he was probably the best journeyman musician on the planet.  He could play any instrument.  He could write songs that were poppy pulp hits or boundary-pushing bits of genius.  He was always controversial yet oddly universally accepted.  You have to admire that  in an artist. He could reach millions, stay true to himself, fight for the rights of the creative, and mentor musicians that would have a difficult time finding the main stage without a force like Prince.

At the height of his stardom in the 1980s and ’90s, Prince was ubiquitous, a marquee star who sold out stadiums, stole the silver screen and slayed fans with his bare-chested sass and sexuality.

Then a dispute with his record company changed his worldview and he retreated from the public eye.  Save for the occasional awards show, benefit or tour, Prince kept his private life private — no small feat in the age of social media.

As he fought to protect his brand in an industry known for its formulaic approach, he maintained a tight grip on his music, restricting it from YouTube and streaming services, and prohibiting any photos or videos from being taken at his shows.

All of which made his death Thursday that much more shocking. A look at the last few days of his life provides some clues in hindsight that all was not well, but it’s safe to assume that if Prince knew death was close, he did not want us to know.

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New Orleans Super Dome

Prince’s autopsy is scheduled for today. It will likely take awhile to release the results.  The official line is that he was having problems with the flu.  Rumors indicate that it may have been due to overdose or issues with opiate use.

Entertainment Tonight” co-host Kevin Frazier said on “CBS This Morning” Friday that Prince had hip replacement surgery in 2010 and also had health issues with his ankles.

“People close to Prince tell me he struggled with painkillers due to his hip and ankle issues,” Frazier said, noting that for Prince to cancel a performance “something was drastically wrong.”

“The hip and ankle issues were a problem for him for so long,” Frazier said, “and for a man who loved to move and dance so much, it really bothered him.”

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Empire State Building NYC

I really wanted to put this headline up but then thought better of it given social media, but here it is.  Every one to BernieBros:  Kumbaya Motherfuckers!!!  (I’m channeling Samuel Jackson.)  Here we go with one of the Original Obama Dudes on a tear for supporting the real Hillary and not just the cardboard cutout.  Oh, I still am not warming up to the damned monniker of progressive.  But, stay with me here for the words of Fauvre.

Eight years later, we’re approaching the endgame of another Democratic primary. For Bernie Sanders to overtake Hillary Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates—which, at 239, is more than double Obama’s 112 delegate lead in 2008—he would have to win each of the remaining contests by about 18 points, a margin he has only reached in Vermont and New Hampshire. If he doesn’t, his only other option is to convince a few hundred superdelegates to back the candidate who has won fewer votes and fewer delegates.

Bernie faces long odds, but no good reason to drop out. And why should he? Why not keep running through the final primaries in June, just like Hillary did in 2008? Along the way, Sanders will probably win a few more states—especially in May—and continue to build a following that should hearten everyone who wants to see a bigger, bolder progressive movement.

But it’s also in the interest of the progressive moment for both candidates and their campaigns to begin healing the rifts that have deepened over the course of the primary. Neither Sanders nor Clinton seemed very compelling when they were screaming at each other for two hours at the debate in Brooklyn. And no one benefits from another three months of ridiculous lawsuits, overwrought fundraising emails, and surrogates sniping at each other on cable. Already, this friendly fire has taken a toll—in the latest NBC/WSJ poll, Bernie is viewed unfavorably by 20 percent of Clinton supporters, and Hillary is viewed unfavorably by 40 percent of Sanders supporters.

I don’t want to exaggerate the challenge. I still think this primary is less nasty and divisive than 2008, and exponentially less so than the cannibalism we may see in Cleveland. It’s also true that the percentage of Sanders and Clinton voters who say they won’t vote for the other candidate is fairly low. But a year in which Donald Trump or Ted Cruz could become president of the United States is not a year we can afford to have any pissed-off primary voters stay home in November.

I’ve been really nice to my Bernie Supporting friends and continue to be. Most of them aren’t the issue right now anyway.   A lot of

Boston South Station

Boston South Station

them see the need to break on through to the other side already.  But, really, some one needs to tell Jane, Master Taddler and the other one to go back to Rome for a silent retreat. The whining, lies, and irritating right wing memes are over the top now and causing Sanders’ crazier supporters to go full metal misogyny.

The Nation‘s Joshua Holland writes that all good Democrats will realize the danger of a Trump or Cruz come November.   He suggests we all relax.

But if history is any guide, a mass defection of Democrats and Dem-leaning independents is the last thing anyone should worry about. We’ve seen this before and we know how it will play out.

Ironically, in 2008 it was Clinton supporters vowing to stay home—or vote for John McCain—if Obama became the nominee. At the time, that same HuffPo columnist warned that “balkanized Democrats could give the White House to John McCain.” That May, primary exit polls found less than half of Hillary Clinton’s supporters in Indiana and North Carolina saying they’d consider voting for Obama in the general election. Even in early July, after Obama had secured the nomination, only 54 percent of Clinton backers said they planned to vote for him.

Those self-described “PUMAs”—“party unity my ass”—may have stayed home by the dozens that November, but at the end of the day nine out of 10 Democrats supported Obama in an election that featured the highest turnout in 40 years. A similar dynamic played out withHoward Dean supporters in 2004.

In the summer of 2008, George Washington University political scientist John Sides took to the pages of the Los Angeles Times to tell everyone to calm down. “Despite ugly battles and policy differences that sometimes seem intractable, the reality is that presidential campaigns tend to unify each party behind its nominee,” …

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San Francisco City Hall, The Forum, Delta Airlines Flight

I have some other things you may want to read today. This one is sad.   Suicide rate in this country have it a 30 year high.  I wanted to link to this NYT story but also to tell you that there’s been a rash of teen suicides on the northshore the past few weeks.   I won’t link to them but the recency effect really hit home for me as I read this article.

Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise was particularly steep for women. It was also substantial among middle-aged Americans, sending a signal of deep anguish from a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s.

The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63 percent over the period of the study, while it rose by 43 percent for men in that age range, the sharpest increase for males of any age. The overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the study on Friday.

The increases were so widespread that they lifted the nation’s suicide rate to 13 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1986. The rate rose by 2 percent a year starting in 2006, double the annual rise in the earlier period of the study. In all, 42,773 people died from suicide in 2014, compared with 29,199 in 1999.

We also have a terrible problem with opiate addiction and gun violence.   This is all symptomatic of the party that refuses to spend

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Hard Rock Cafe Times Square

public funds on public health issues, public safety issues, and public infrastructure.  This is the true heart of US class warfare.  Our public Treasury is not going to the public any more.

Maybe the news that Prince had issues with opiate addiction will turn our focus back to mental health in this country.

President Obama has written a Telegraph op Ed to our UK cousins telling them to nix the BREXIT. This is a big story that’s been lost on many US news stations.  If the UK leaves the EU, the economic reverberations around the world–including here in the US–will be large and damaging.  The President is visiting England today and will help with birthday wishes to HRH who is celebrating her 90th.

As citizens of the United Kingdom take stock of their relationship with the EU, you should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices – democracy, the rule of law, open markets – across the continent and to its periphery. The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership. The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the US and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe.

In this complicated, connected world, the challenges facing the EU – migration, economic inequality, the threats of terrorism and climate change – are the same challenges facing the United States and other nations. And in today’s world, even as we all cherish our sovereignty, the nations who wield their influence most effectively are the nations that do it through the collective action that today’s challenges demand.

So, you can see that many buildings all over the world went Purple to celebrate the life and art of Prince.   It’s taken our attention away from national challenges and back to personal tragedies that characterize the human condition.  It’s always these moments when we look back to where we’ve been and what we’ve come to.  The most important thing is to remember that the time line most surely includes a soundtrack the encompasses love and the people in your life.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

See Prince shred.  Shred Prince Shred.

 

 


Live Blog: President Obama’s final SOTU 2016

The President’s final State of the Union Address is tonight.   We will also get good look at the scowling face of Speaker Paul Ryan–undoubtedly clutching ball bearings and muttering about strawberries–followed by the rebuttal by South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley.  There will be no more crying orange man on the dais so Haley will get to represent Republican “diversity” tonight.  1112194_1280x720

In his final State of the Union address, President Obama plans to talk about the need to “fix our politics” in order to ensure that opportunity and security in America are strong.

A White House official says this is slated to be President Obama’s shortest State of the Union speech. His shortest State of the Union address to this point clocked in at 52 minutes in 2009.

Below are excerpts of the speech as released by the White House.

“We live in a time of extraordinary change – change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

America has been through big changes before – wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did – because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril – we emerged stronger and better than before.”

“The future we want – opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids – all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.

It will only happen if we fix our politics.

Many are characterizing this speech as “optimistic” and related to the upcoming presidential election.

President Barack Obama is set to strike an optimistic and hopeful tone in his final State of the Union address.

The president will focus on cementing his legacy rather than unveiling new policies, officials have said.

Mr Obama is expected to frame some of the key issues in a way that fellow Democrats can embrace during campaigning for the upcoming election.

However, recent polls suggest that seven in 10 people in the US do not share their leader’s optimism.

A response by the Republican party will be delivered by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

In excepts from the speech released in advance, Mr Obama urges Americans to make world changes work for them and overcome fears.

He will say the future the US wants is only possible if the country “fixes its politics” and works together.

“A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything… But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens,” the speech reads.

Many Democrats will be bringing Muslim Americans to the speech to show that the United States has no second class citizens or religions.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) is urging lawmakers to bring Muslim Americans as their guests to President Obama’s last State of the Union address. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post)
Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Keith Ellison are urging colleagues to invite Muslim Americans as guests to Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. So far, more than a dozen lawmakers — mostly Democrats — have heeded their call.

It’s not uncommon for lawmakers to choose State of the Union guests that make a political statement. Several Democrats are planning to bring guests who have been victims of gun violence, while two members of a Catholic religious order challenging the 2010 Affordable Care Act will attend after invitations from Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).

The appeal from Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, comes at a time of rising anti-Muslim rhetoric from politicians like Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and a wave of incidents targeting people of Muslim faith.

“This rhetoric and these actions are simply un-American,” Wasserman Schultz and Ellison wrote in a letter to colleagues last week. “They undermine our values and weaken our ability to be a force for good around the world.”

Ellison is one of two Muslim members of Congress. The Minneapolis Democrat, who converted to Islam at age 19, said it’s important for public officials to extend a hand to the Muslim community, in part to counteract rhetoric from the Islamic State, or ISIS.

“Each of these people are going to go back to their community and talk about the fact that they came here at the invitation of a member of Congress, were treated with honor and respect, and they’ll directly counteract the ISIS message, which is that America hates Muslims,” Ellison said in an interview last week.

spanish_inq_1292561bMeanwhile, the Republicans will troll the President and the Democrats by bringing religious extremists and screaming WE’RE THE OPPRESSED WHITE MAJORITY!  The nuns challenging the Affordable Healthcare Act on the grounds that every one should be denied birth control because of their strict religious beliefs will be there.  Kentucky is bringing the Dread Clerk Kim Davis who all of us had hoped would be relegated to 2015’s 15 minutes of infamous bigot waste bin in 2016. Republicans continue to confuse denying others civil liberties with being judgmental and uncivil.  What better way to demonstrate it than to let all that freakishness fly?   I guess we get to see dueling definitions of religious liberty.  My guess is there will also be a staged wrestling match of bald men where the winner gets a prized comb on Fox.    Red State Republicans will undoubtedly be all aplomb.

The Kentucky county clerk who went to jail over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples will attend President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, a group supporting her announced.

“While the President will be extolling his ‘accomplishments’ of the last seven years, Kim Davis and Mat Staver will be a visible reminder of the Administration’s attack on religious liberty and an encouragement for people of faith to stand,” the Liberty Counsel wrote in a press release. Staver is Davis’ attorney and the founder of the group.

“For seven years, people of faith have been in the crosshairs of the Obama Administration. The state of religious liberty is dire, but we cannot give up.”

Yes, yes!  They’re so persecuted that none of us can have a reasonable end of the year without their railroaded version of ancient pagan holidays let alone be allowed to follow our own consciousness and creeds. Nothing like looking out at the smug faces of religious fanatics for a jolt back in time to the Iron Age.

Can we just go back to saying there’s a lot of beliefs out there and people need to STFU and keep it to themselves now?  Guess every one should expect the Republican Inquisition these days!!

So, here’s the group of folks that will be sitting with the First Lady.  It will include a vacant seat.boxguests_empty_symbolgunviolence_ribbon_o

A VACANT SEAT FOR THE VICTIMS OF GUN VIOLENCE

Last week, the President took a series of commonsense steps to help reduce gun violence in America and make our communities safer.

We leave one seat empty in the First Lady’s State of the Union Guest Box for the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice – because they need the rest of us to speak for them. To tell their stories. To honor their memory. To support the Americans whose lives have been forever changed by the terrible ripple effect of gun violence – survivors who’ve had to learn to live with a disability, or without the love of their life. To remind every single one of our representatives that it’s their responsibility to do something about this.

I wonder what Clint Eastwood will say to the chair?   Will he be Fox’s guest commentator on the topic?

Anyway, it’s a live blog and a historic night.  It should be interesting.  Let’s have at it!!!


Friday Reads

Republicans be like
It’s Friday!

I’ve found a few things that make for interesting reading so let’s get started.

Why have Democratic Governors and Republican Mayors become rare?  This is a great article describing which party seems to have a lock on what levels of state, local and national politics.  It’s hard to imagine any one wanting to live in a state with a Republican governor given the miserable economic and civil rights performance of states that have them.  Here’s the explanation for this particular office.  Is one of the few offices where it’s not the economy that matters?  Like many elections, it’s a matter of who tends to turn out when the election occurs.

Historically, gubernatorial elections have tended to be up for grabs between the parties. Statewide electorates are sufficiently eclectic to encourage candidates in both parties to run toward the center, expanding their bases. But the pattern of results is changing, and for an unexpected reason.

For obscure reasons, 36 states hold their gubernatorial contests during midterm cycles. This hasn’t seemed to matter much in the past. But in recent elections, the types of voters who cast ballots in midterm elections has diverged significantly from those that do in presidential cycles. Midterm electorates tend to be smaller, whiter, older and more Republican; presidential electorates tend to be larger, more demographically diverse, and more Democratic.

This pattern helped Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2010. That year, the GOP won governorships in such bluish states as Maine, Michigan, New Mexico and Wisconsin. But it proved to be an even bigger help in 2014, another GOP wave year. On the eve of the 2014 election, Governing’s final handicapping of the gubernatorial seats included an unusually large field of 12 tossup races. In a neutral environment, one would expect these races to go roughly half to one party and half to the other. Instead, Republican candidates won eight of those 12 races, plus another contest in Maryland that had been rated lean Democratic. Highly vulnerable Republican incumbents, such as Sam Brownback in Kansas, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida and Paul LePage in Maine, also won new terms, buoyed by the GOP-friendly electorate.

Currently, the breakdown of the gubernatorial ranks is 31 Republicans, 18 Democrats and one independent. Historically, the number of Republican governors has only been that high on rare occasions, so it’s likely that the GOP number will fall somewhat in the coming years, especially after the 2018 election, when a number of two-term Republican governors will be term-limited out, creating competitive open seats. Still, on balance, it’s going to be a tough challenge for Democrats to take back governorships when so many of them are contested during midterm election cycles.

I’m just going to let the headline speak for itself in this analysis piece by Hillary’s Communication’s Director Jennifer Palmieri,  “Hillary Clinton’s No Good, (Record-Breaking, Poll-Winning), Very Bad Week.”HIllary

If you believe the mood and headlines from some of the press, it’s been a pretty rough week for Hillary Clinton. While there was widespread and substantive coverage of the rollout of her economic agenda, politically, it’s a different story. One poll showed so much trouble for Hillary that she only had a higher favorability number than any other candidate it tested.

Even worse, multiple polls released this week show that she leads every candidate running in head-to-head matchups. While it is widely known that the growing Hispanic electorate is critical in deciding the election, new polling shows that Hillary Clinton has a disastrous 68 percent approval rating among Hispanic voters and only leads her closest Republican competition (Bush) by 37 points, 64% to 27%.

Not only that, she raised a record amount of primary money for a candidate in their first quarter, with only $8 million (a sum larger than most Republican campaigns raised in total) in donations of less than $200. Hillary also spent too much money building her organization and was only left with more cash on hand than any other campaign raised and more in the bank than the top three Republican campaigns combined.

It’s true. Hillary is left in the terrible position of having the most resources of any candidate and being voters’ top choice to be the next President of the United States.

So, now for the news from the crazy side of the politic spectrum.  You know that highly doctored video on Planned Parenthood that every low iq Republican christofascist has fallen for?  Well, Republicans are going to make hay with it despite the fact that nearly no legitimate media outlet has even gone near it because it’s so obviously stupid.  Republicans are after Planned Parenthood again and will be pushing more–if possible–stupid laws meant to meant to ensure our constitutionally protected right to an abortion is next to impossible to act on. Nullification any one?

Republicans on Capitol Hill are betting the secretly filmed Planned Parenthood video — depicting an executive allegedly discussing the sale of fetal organs from terminated pregnancies — will give them cover to more aggressively push abortion issues without the political ramifications that have haunted the party in the past.

In recent years, Republicans have worked to soften their tone when it comes to contentious issues such as abortion, wanting to avoid a repeat of gaffes like Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments that have turned off many female voters.

ut now, the GOP is going hard on abortion politics — and Planned Parenthood specifically — following the release of the video depicting a top official for the group casually talking about doctors collecting fetal organs for biomedical companies during abortions.

“The gravity of the situation most definitely” changes things, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told POLITICO Thursday. “This is not just Republicans. It’s independents. It’s Democrats…. Americans don’t want their tax dollars spent doing what they’re doing.”

McCarthy is already talking about defunding the organization through the appropriations process. And in the Senate, GOP leaders who have been eyeing a vote on legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks of gestation say this will give them momentum to clear the bill later this session.

“I think it really probably enhances the prospects of something like that passing right now,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican, said Thursday. “I think that’s such an egregious, awful, horrible example out there, which I think just elevates the importance of addressing it. So I think it probably helps the bill.”

Planned Parenthood says the video is a misconstrued smear campaign using “heavily edited videos to make outrageous claims about programs that help women donate fetal tissue for medical research.”

Of course, the drive for all of this usually comes from the same people that poor shame while ensuring no one makes a living wage.  Here’s an article on How the American South Drive the Low Wage Economy from American Prospect’s Harold Meyerson.

The American South before the Civil War was the low-wage—actually, the no-wage—anchor of the first global production chain.

Today, as the auto and aerospace manufacturers of Europe and East Asia open low-wage assembly plants in Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi, the South has assumed a comparable role once more. Indeed, the South today shares more features with its antebellum ancestor than it has in a very long time. Now as then, white Southern elites and their powerful allies among non-Southern business interests seek to expand to the rest of the nation the South’s subjugation of workers and its suppression of the voting rights of those who might oppose their policies. In fact, now more than then, the South’s efforts to spread its values across America are advancing, as Northern Republicans adopt their Southern counterparts’ antipathy to unions and support for voter suppression, and as workers’ earnings in the North fall toward Southern levels. And now as then, a sectional backlash against Southern norms has emerged that, when combined with the Southern surge, is again creating two nations within one.

Bill Clinton and CharlotteSo, here’s a cute break and a picture of Baby Charlotte and her Grandad!! There are more at this like from the UK’s Daily Mail.

Bill Clinton was spotted spending some quality time with his granddaughter Charlotte on Thursday morning.

The pair were photographed in New York City’s Madison Square Park as the former president took the infant to see a kids concert.

This is not the first time Clinton has been on babysitting duty either, saying last week that he and wife Hillary were recently in charge of the tiny tyke for her parents.

President Obama continues to be on a roll that cements his legacy.  Alaska’s Governor announced his will be the 30th state to take the Medicaid Expansion offered through the ACA.  

Gov. Bill Walker said Thursday he would use his executive power to expand the public Medicaid health-care program to newly cover as many as 40,000 low-income residents.

The decision comes after the Alaska Legislature earlier this year rejected Walker’s efforts to expand the program through the state budget process, then adjourned without allowing a vote on a separate expansion bill.

Republicans seem to be okay with living breathing people dying, starving, and living lives with no future.  Zygotes get preferential treatment while they assign folks to living hells.

Here is a good list from Robert Reich on The Three Biggest Lies republican tell about poverty.

Lie #2: Jobs reduce poverty.

Senator Marco Rubio said poverty is best addressed not by raising the minimum wage or giving the poor more assistance but with “reforms that encourage and reward work.”

This has been the standard Republican line ever since Ronald Reagan declared that the best social program is a job. A number of Democrats have adopted it as well. But it’s wrong.

Surely it’s better to be poor and working than to be poor and unemployed. Evidence suggests jobs are crucial not only to economic well-being but also to self-esteem. Long-term unemployment can even shorten life expectancy.

But simply having a job is no bulwark against poverty. In fact, across America the ranks of the working poor have been growing. Around one-fourth of all American workers are now in jobs paying below what a full-time, full-year worker needs in order to live above the federally defined poverty line for a family of four.

Why are more people working but still poor? First of all, more jobs pay lousy wages.

While low-paying industries such as retail and fast food accounted for 22 percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession, they’ve generated 44 percent of the jobs added since then, according to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project.

Second, the real value of the minimum wage continues to drop. This has affected female workers more than men because more women are at the minimum wage.

Third, government assistance now typically requires recipients to be working. This hasn’t meant fewer poor people. It’s just meant more poor people have jobs.

Bill Clinton’s welfare reform of 1996 pushed the poor into jobs, but they’ve been mostly low-wage jobs without ladders into the middle class. The Earned Income Tax Credit, a wage subsidy, has been expanded, but you have to be working in order to qualify.

Work requirements haven’t reduced the number or percent of Americans in poverty. They’ve merely increased the number of working poor – a term that should be an oxymoron.

Meanwhile, the man most responsible for the mess that is Greece is now a Billionaire. All of his wealth has come from Goldman Sachs but not his salary.  However, he has said this about the poor.  Too bad he hasn’t acted on getting laws passed to relieve poverty.

In recent years, Blankfein has spoken about the need for public policies that promote fairer distribution of wealth while not overly crimping its creation.

“I know I’m a big fat cat, plutocrat kind of guy, but I will tell you I’ve been the beneficiary of some of these redistribution policies,” Blankfein told business school students in South Africa in April, noting he grew up in public housing and got need-based scholarships to Harvard. “Sometimes I wish I had amnesia, because there’s lots of things I’d like to forget, but that isn’t one of them.”

President Obama was met with Confederate flags while heading toward an Oklahoma prison for this speech.  The president is taking on mandatory minimums for small drug “crimes”.  The Confederate Flag waving was shameful.  The speech was compelling.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Friday Reads: The Evil Men Do

noblemartyr1Good Afternoon!

I’m late today because I’ve been grading nonstop for a few days now and just slept the morning away.  Let’s see what I’ve missed in my few days of being bubbled.

Y’all know I take any organized religion with about the same respect as I do any communicable disease.  They’ve all created their share of wars and social problems.  They all have impossibly evil zealots and a few impossibly good storybook characters.  I’ve just yet to find one that’s consistently moral.

You have a right in this country to believe whatever you want to believe.  I take The Constitution pretty seriously on that account. I also take it pretty seriously on the account that the Government shouldn’t be in the business of favoring any one religion no matter how many folks take it seriously.  The President showed up at one of Congress’ Proof of Piety events and spoke truth to Evil and wow has the shit hit the fan.  Violence, self-righteousness, and meanness spews from the religious.  It always has it always will.  Even Buddhists have their share of tormentors which is probably one of the few religions not responsible for violence on a huge scale. The pious ought to live the fuck up to it.

Earlier today President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he discussed freedom of expression along with highlighting the many acts of barbarism that are happening now and have happened throughout the centuries which were justified under the guise of religion. He also explained in depth about how as Christians, we can overcome these perversions of religion. President Obama spoke for about thirty minutes and used almost three thousand words today, but the only part of the speech the right wing media is focusing on is when he brought up the Crusades.

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

How dare the president put into context the historical atrocities performed over centuries in the name of God! As usual the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue took front and center stage on Fox News and was fuming because Obama dared to mention Christ and demanded that he apologize. Neil Cavuto actually defended Obama for the most part which kind of surprised me, but Donohue, the pedophile priest apologist didn’t.

Cavuto: Bill Donohue called that an insult to all Christians and said the president needs to apologize, but I think what he said Bill, obviously you’re worked up over it, “look, what’s done in the name of religion has often caused some heinous acts,” you argue he hasn’t said this enough about Islam.

Donohue: I’m saying this, had he said just said that, that people have killed in the name of their God and it’s not unique to one religion, who could argue with that? But he didn’t do that, did he? He spoke with specificity. he singled out the Crusades and the Inquisition. There’s so many myths about

Yes. The Crusades were a gay old time and are totally misunderstood. So was The Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials.  No historian truly gets it. Witch-scene4

The President’s full remarks are posted at the White House site.  I was glad to see him welcome His Holiness the Dali Lama because this is one Buddhist who does represent the peaceful part of a major religion and doing anything for him pisses off the Chinese.  The Chinese are one of the countries who don’t let people freely believe and actively persecute believers.

I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama — who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion, who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings.  (Applause.)  I’ve been pleased to welcome him to the White House on many occasions, and we’re grateful that he’s able to join us here today.  (Applause.)

There aren’t that many occasions that bring His Holiness under the same roof as NASCAR.  (Laughter.)  This may be the first.  (Laughter.)  But God works in mysterious ways.  (Laughter.)   And so I want to thank Darrell for that wonderful presentation.  Darrell knows that when you’re going 200 miles an hour, a little prayer cannot hurt.  (Laughter.)  I suspect that more than once, Darrell has had the same thought as many of us have in our own lives — Jesus, take the wheel.  (Laughter.) Although I hope that you kept your hands on the wheel when you were thinking that.  (Laughter.)

spanish_inquisitionThe President is right.  Slavery, Jim Crow, and the burning of women at the stake were all American Traditions defended by the pious of the many branches of one of the major religions.   The pious need to own that too and not confabulate more myths than already exist in the religion itself.

At a time of global anxiety over Islamist terrorism, Obama noted pointedly that his fellow Christians, who make up a vast majority of Americans, should perhaps not be the ones who cast the first stone.

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history,” he told the group, speaking of the tension between the compassionate and murderous acts religion can inspire. “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Some Republicans were outraged. “The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” said former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore (R). “He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.”

Obama’s remarks spoke to his unsparing, sometimes controversial, view of the United States — where triumphalism is often overshadowed by a harsh assessment of where Americans must try harder to live up to their own self-image. Only by admitting these shortcomings, he has argued, can we fix problems and move beyond them.

“There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency, that can pervert and distort our faith,” he said at the breakfast.

African_woman_slave_tradeWe can grapple with the evil that ISIS is doing but we also need to grapple with the evil that happens when any religion gets on full display in a government.  One only needs to look at Saudi Arabia and its treatment of women or Israel and its treatment of people of Palestinian descent to see exactly how persecution plays out. Persecution by the Christian majority is playing out in this country today.  It’s not just a historical artifact.  Women’s health is being held hostage by mistake beliefs about fetuses and sexuality.  The intellectual development of children is being held hostage by science denial as is any major action we could take to save animals, people, and our environment from Climate Change.  The persecution of GLBT minorities and the denial of their rights plays out daily in states all over the country as does serious prejudice when legislators demand judicial candidates pledge allegiance to their personal make believe friend.

A South Carolina lawmaker is fielding accusations of violating the U.S. Constitution after sending judicial candidates a questionnaire asking their legal opinions on controversial topics and the nature of their relationship to God.

According to The State, Republican state representative Jonathon Hill issued a 30-question survey last week to candidates currently campaigning to become judges in South Carolina. Judges are elected by legislators in the Palmetto State, and while the survey itself was enough to raise eyebrows, Hill has garnered staunch criticism for the nature of his questions: among other controversial inquiries, the survey asked candidates how they would approach a case where a woman sued for equal pay, whether or not they would perform a same-sex marriage, and whether they have a “personal relationship” to God.

“Do you believe in the ‘Supreme Being’ (SC Constitution, Article VI, Section 2)?” one of the questions read. “What is the nature of this being? What is your personal relationship to this being? What relevance does this being have on the position of judge? Please be specific.”

Another question asked candidates how they would respond to attacks on LGBT people in South Carolina, where there are currently no hate crimes laws on the books.

“In a case where someone was assaulted because he was gay, would you consider it a ‘hate crime’ and increase the penalty?” the question read.

None of the candidates responded to the survey, and representatives from the Judicial Merit Selection Commission, which oversees the election that will be held this Wednesday, reportedly contacted Hill to tell him that the Code of Judicial Conduct bans judges from answering several of his questions. This is primarily because doing so would functionally amount to a promise to decide future cases a certain way, as opposed to taking each case on its merits.

Also, since the would-be judges are candidates in an election, asking them specific questions about their faith and spiritual affiliations effectively amounts to a “religious test.” Such tests are explicitly forbidden in Article VI, paragraph 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which reads “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

crusadesReligious ignorance and bigotry is on display any time some one hands Mike Huckabee a microphone. Recently, it’s been on display when any one hands the microphone to the Governor of Louisiana.   But, wingnuts will be wingnuts and the gamut of wingnuttery is on full display today if you hit any of the right wing blogs.

Rush Limbaugh devoted a segment of his show to what he said were the president’s insults to the “whole gamut of Christians” and Twitter’s right wing piled on. Guests on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show spent 15 minutes airing objections to the president’s comments.

Meanwhile, we’re gearing up for Mardi Gras down here. The piety patrol is already out harassing people in the streets. I frankly cling to the sentiment of one of my favorite songs ” Imagine … no religion too”.

Have a great day!!! This is an open thread.


Tuesday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

I’m trying to get back into the idea of “time” right now.  I still feel jet-lagged and I keep having to remind myself what day, month and hour it is.  It’s a really strange feeling to be so displaced in time. It reminds me of when I was deep in the fight against cancer and having chemo.  Everything is here and now.

The President made a stop to see the flooding in St. John’s Parish yesterday.  This is one of the more rural parishes in Southern Louisiana.  It really got drenched.  LaPlace is a bedroom community that frequently attracts families where one person works in Baton Rouge and the other in New Orleans.  It sits adjacent to all kinds of interstate action so its easy to move around SE Louisiana from the small town. The rest of the parish is very rural and quite Cajun.

“What I’ve pledged to these folks is we’re going to make sure at the federal level we are getting on the case very quickly about figuring out what exactly happened here and what can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again and expedite some of the decisions that may need to be made,” Obama told reporters after touring hard-hit St. John the Baptist Parish, 30 miles outside of New Orleans.

Joined by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, Obama walked through a neighborhood of brick homes and front yards that were a painful reminder of last week’s hurricane. Orderly piles of water-logged debris — bedding, insulation, furniture and toys — filled the yards.

The president shook hands with residents in La Place, where several neighborhoods were inundated by water and some residents were rescued from rooftops by boats.

“How y’all doing?” he asked.

“Better now,” one man shouted back.

In the sticky heat, the president walked from house to house, asking residents about what happened and posing for photos. There was debris but no signs of lingering water.

“We’re here to help,” the president said at another home.

Obama praised the coordination of federal, state and local officials and pointed out that his administration issued disaster declarations well in advance to ensure officials “weren’t behind the eight ball.” In highlighting the work, Obama was drawing a contrast with President George W. Bush’s widely criticized response to Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.

The President also celebrated labor day with Auto and Steel Workers in the swing state of Ohio.  Unlike Eric Cantor who insisted that Labor day was a day to salute “risk takers”, the President recognized the importance of the labor movement in the United States and was welcomed for his role in saving the US Auto Industry. Did I mention that I bought Ford for about $1.67 a share a few months after Obama took office?   It’s over $9 now.  Too bad I couldn’t have sunk a lot more money into it!

Hours earlier in Ohio, Obama spoke to members of the United Auto Workers and United Steelworkers, and noted his decision to rescue automakers General Motors and Chrysler in 2009, a move that Romney opposed.

“If America had thrown in the towel like that, GM and Chrysler wouldn’t exist today,” Obama said. “The suppliers and the distributors that get their business from these companies would have died off, too. Then even Ford could have gone down as well.”

There’s an awful essay out by  Nicholas Eberstadt that suggests that we’ve become a nation of “takers”.   He works for the AEI so it’s not unusual that ideology takes a front seat to evidence.  He does notice that “entitlement” spending has grown more rapidly under Republicans than Democrats, but seems to overlook the idea that we all work and pay for the majority of our social insurance programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Worker’s Comp.  How can we take what we have paid premiums to receive?  Here’s a sample of things that I found highly offensive in his writings.

How has America’s great postwar male flight from work been possible? To ask the question is to answer it: This is a creature of our entitlement society and could not have been possible without it. Transfers for retirement, income maintenance, unemployment insurance, and all the rest have made it possible for a lower fraction of adult men to be engaged in work today than at any time since the Great Depression—and, quite possibly, at any previous point in our national history. For American men, work is no longer a duty or a necessity: rather, it is an option. In making work merely optional for America’s men, the US entitlement state has undermined the foundations of what earlier generations termed “the manly virtues”—unapologetically, and without irony. Whatever else may be said about our country’s earlier gender roles and stereotypes, it was the case the manly virtues cast able-bodied men as protectors of society, not predators living off of it. That much can no longer be said.

From a Nation of Takers to a Nation of Gamers to a Nation of Chiselers

With the disappearance of the historical stigma against dependence on government largesse, and the normalization of lifestyles relying upon official resource transfers, it is not surprising that ordinary Americans should have turned their noted entrepreneurial spirit, not simply to maximizing their take from the existing entitlement system, but to extracting payouts from the transfer state that were never intended under its programs. In this environment, gaming and defrauding the entitlement system have emerged as a mass phenomenon in modern America, a way of life for millions of men and women who would no doubt unhesitatingly describe themselves as law-abiding and patriotic citizens of the United States.

Abuse of the generosity of our welfare state has, to be sure, aroused the ire of the American public in the past, and continues to arouse it from time to time today. For decades, a special spot in the rhetorical public square has been reserved for pillorying unemployed “underclass” gamers who cadge undeserved social benefits. (This is the “welfare Cadillac” trope, and its many coded alternatives.) Public disapproval of this particular variant of entitlement misuse was sufficiently strong that Congress managed to overhaul the notorious AFDC program in a reform of welfare that replaced the old structure with TANF. But entitlement fiddling in modern America is by no means the exclusive preserve of a troubled underclass. Quite the contrary: it is today characteristic of working America, and even those who would identify themselves as middle class.

Here is a response to the essay written by Lane Kenworthy that I found highly interesting.

Read the rest of this entry »


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

It is definitely the silly season!  You can tell that an election count down is nearing in the District.  A judge of Chinese descent was successfully blocked by Republican Senators  and Ben NelSOB for sounding like a communist.  Did we go back to the McCarthy era and I missed it?

Six years ago, Ninth Circuit judicial nominee Goodwin Liu published an op-ed in which he made the utterly banal point that a conservative interest group used the terms “free enterprise,”‘ “private ownership of property,” and “limited government”  as “code words for an ideological agenda hostile to environmental, workplace, and consumer protections.” In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, however, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) somehow managed to interpret this op-ed as proof that Liu wants to turn America into “Communist-run China”:

GRASSLEY: Does [Liu] think we’re the communist-run China? That the government runs everything? That it’s a better place when they put online every week a coal-fired plant to pollute the air, put more carbon dioxide into the air then we do in the United States, and where children are dying because food is poisoned, and consumers aren’t protected, and where every miner in the China coal mines is in jeopardy of losing their lives? That’s how out of place this guy is when he talks about “free enterprise,” “private ownership of property,” and “limited government” being something somehow bad, but if you get government more involved, like they do in China, it’s somehow a better place.

Republicans appear to be pulling out all the bells and dogwhistles for this one. This is the first time a judicial nominee has been blocked since 2005.

Liu also drew Republican ire over his criticism of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in testimony when the conservative judge was nominated to the court.

“His outrageous attack on Judge Alito convinced me that Goodwin Liu is an ideologue,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said before Thursday’s vote. “His statement showed he has nothing but disdain for those who disagree with him. Goodwin Liu should run for elected office, not serve as a judge.”

Imagine that!  Some one with an opinion!  Does that mean a person isn’t capable of honest judgement?

Obama gave a speech yesterday at the State Department indicating support for the Arab Spring and suggesting that a dialogue between Israel and Palestine is possible but must meet certain ground rules.  One of these is controversial because it breaks with a speech given by President Bush that more or less accepted the reality of some Israel colonies in the occupied territories.  That is that the negotiations be based on the 1967  agreement which would reverse Israeli colonization of territories that occurred after the agreement.  Israel has already rejected the idea.

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear:  a viable Palestine, a secure Israel.  The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.  We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.  The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat.  Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.  The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.  And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations.  Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met.  I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain:  the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees.  But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Obama also made it clear that Hamas’ failure to recognize the state of Israel was a huge problem.

Now, let me say this:  Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table.  In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel:  How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?  And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.  Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.

The President said that US commitment to Israel is unshakeable but the status quo is unsustainable.  The Israeli/Palestinian situation continues to the most vexing problem on the planet.  If you’re going to venture an opinion, be aware that the topic creates such tension that its discussion is actually banned on many blogs.  I’d prefer not to relive past experience myself but I thought it needed mentioning.

Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute says “We’re not broke nor will we be”.  It seems more and more economists are fighting back on the weird suggestion that a country with a huge economy, rich people, and tons of assets can’t invest in its own future because it’s broke.  Here’s the link to the briefing paper.  This is good explanation of why we are not Greece and will not go down the Greek Road.  There are tons of nifty graphs so go check it out!!

Despite the rhetoric, it is clear that “we” as a nation are not broke. While the recession has led to job loss and shrinking incomes in recent years, the economy has produced substantial gains in average incomes and wealth over the last three decades, and economists agree that we can expect comparable growth over the next three decades as well. Between 1980 and 2010, income per capita grew 66.4%, and wealth per capita grew 73.2%. Over the next 30 years, per capita income is projected to grow by a comparable 60.6%. In other words, “we” are much richer as a nation than we used to be and can expect those riches to rise substantially in the future. So who is the we in the “we’re broke” mantra? The recession has certainly been a rough patch of road for many families, but the output produced by corporations in the private sector has already recovered to pre-recession levels, and these firms’ profi ts were 21.7% higher overall, driven largely by the 60% jump in pre-tax profi ts enjoyed by fi rms in the fi nancial sector.

Here’s why we can actually afford to invest in America and Americans!

Despite the fact that average incomes have increased substantially over the past 30 years, the federal government is currently running a projected defi cit of 9.8% of gross domestic product. As noted above, many use the deficit to support the “we’re broke” theme. But how can that be the case? How can the country have much more income, collectively, onwhich to draw, yet all levels of government are “broke” and unable to aff ord anything?

The answer is that revenue has declined substantially due to the recession and due to the Bush-era tax cuts. The Congressional Budget Offi ce projects federal revenues will be just 14.8% of GDP in the fi scal year ending September 30, 2011—by far the lowest revenue intake relative to GDP since 1951. In contrast, federal revenues totaled over 18% of GDP at the end of the last recovery (fi scal year 2007) and were roughly 20% at the end of the 1990s recovery. A largepart of the revenue shortfall can be attributed to legislated changes in taxes under George W. Bush, which lowered the revenue share by 2.1%.

As the economy recovers, the defi cit will fall as unemployment declines, as incomes and associated revenues increase, and as recession-sensitive expenditures automatically decline (expenditures for food stamps, unemployment benefits, Medicaid and other programs rise with the economic distress in a recession and fade as unemployment declines). This expected decrease in the defi cit is refl ected in CBO projections showing the defi cit declining from 9.8% of GDP in 2011 to just 3.0% in fi scal year 2015. Some of this decline can be attributed to the assumed expiration of the Bush tax cuts extended in 2010 and the inheritance tax change in 2010 (plus the R&D, ethanol, and fi rst-year depreciation tax breaks), which would total 2.9 percentage points of GDP that year. Even so, that still leaves the defi cit falling by 4.0 percentage points due to the recovery.

Texas officially joins the war on women by mandating sonograms before terminations.  This is just more harassment and costs to women seeking to exercise their constitutional rights to privacy and self-determination.  Ridiculous!

Texas Governor Rick Perry Thursday signed into law a measure requiring women seeking an abortion in the state to first get a sonogram.

Texas is one of several U.S. states with strong Republican legislative majorities proposing new restrictions on abortion this year. The Republican governor had designated the bill as an emergency legislative priority, putting it on a fast track.

Under the law, women will have to wait 24 hours after the sonogram before having an abortion, though the waiting time is two hours for those who live more than 100 miles from an abortion provider.

So, like I said, it’s the silly season which means there’s plenty of news out there that’s bound to upset people!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

President Obama was on the road yesterday as well as making TV appearances. Suppose that means the campaign days are here again. CBS news reported an exchange between a laid off government worker and the President.

In one of the more personal exchanges from CBS News’ town hall with President Obama, one audience member, a pregnant woman who recently found out she was being laid off from her government job, asked the president for some earnest advice: “What would you do, if you were me?”

Karin Gallo, who jokingly described her job at the National Zoo as “non-essential employee number seven,” said she had taken a job in government “thinking it was a secure job” – but that now, she feared for her family’s future.

“I am seven months pregnant in a high-risk pregnancy, my first pregnancy,” Gallo told Mr. Obama. “My husband and I are in the middle of building a house. We’re not sure if we’re gonna be completely approved. I’m not exactly in a position to waltz right in and do great on interviews, based on my timing with the birth.”

“And so, I’m stressed, I’m worried,” she continued. “I’m scared about what my future holds. I definitely need a job. And, I just wonder what would you do, if you were me?”

More information is coming out on the Republican contenders for President.  This shows yet another Republican that has thrived taking funds and hand-outs from the government.  Who is it?  It’s our  reality star, self-promoting, egoist Donald Trump as reported by the LA Times.

From his first high-profile project in New York City in the 1970s to his recent campaigns to reduce taxes on property he owns around the country, Trump has displayed a consistent pattern. He courted public officials, sought their backing for government tax breaks under extraordinarily beneficial terms and fought any resistance to deals he negotiated.

He has boasted of manipulating government agencies, misleading officials in one case into believing he had an exclusive agreement to develop a property and then retroactively changing the development’s accounting practices to shrink his tax bill. In New York, Trump was the first developer to receive a public subsidy for commercial projects under programs initially reserved for improving slum neighborhoods. Such incentives have now become the norm in the powerful New York real estate community.

Karen Burstein, a former auditor general of New York City, reviewed a major Trump project in the 1980s and concluded he had “cheated” the city out of nearly $2.9 million. Decades later, Burstein said she was still appalled at the way Trump operated.

“It’s extraordinary to me that we elevated someone to this position of public importance who has openly admitted that he has used government’s incompetence as a wedge to increase his private fortune,” she said in a recent interview.

It seems that  al-Jazeera’s Dorothy Parvaz was deportated from Syria to Iran this week after being missing last week.  Her father is reported to be quite worried about her.

Her father, Fred Parvaz, who lives in Vancouver, told the Guardian: “I haven’t heard anything of late. We are in the dark. Syrian officials have made a statement that Dorothy was sent to Tehran on 1 May. But I have yet to receive confirmation from any authority in Iran that this is the case.”

“I am gravely concerned. I have not heard from her for two weeks. No word, no contact, nothing. We are a very close family so this really breaks my heart,” he said.

Parvaz, a 68-year-old physics and computer studies teacher, said al-Jazeera was trying to approach Iranian officials to get confirmation that she was in the country and was also attempting to create a line of communication with her.

Parvaz, who migrated from Tabriz in north-west Iran and has lived in Canada for 26 years, also said that the Canadian foreign ministry was making interventions on his daughter’s behalf. “But all these efforts so far have been fruitless,” he said.

The Guardian also reports that the EU is expected to sanction Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The EU is expected to agree on personal sanctions against the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and other members of the regime over the continuing killing of protesters, sources said.

The US Senate has also called for the president to be directly targeted but few observers believe the measures will be enough to change the government’s “security first” strategy, which involves suppressing protests and only then opening a “dialogue” with opposition figures.

The regime was on Thursday preparing to quash any upsurge in demonstrations following Friday prayers tomorrow. Tanks have been deployed across the south, particularly in towns around Deraa, the epicentre of the pro-democracy demonstrations.

The US State Department condemned  the Ugandan anti-gay bill as “odious”.

The State Department Thursday condemned a proposed bill in the Ugandan parliament that could make engaging in homosexual acts a capital offense punishable by death. The bill may be debated Friday by the Ugandan parliament.

“No amendments, no changes, would justify the passage of this odious bill,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. “Both (President Barack Obama) and (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) publicly said it is inconsistent with universal human rights standards and obligations.”

The State Department, he said, is joining Uganda’s own human rights commissions in calling for the bill’s rejection.

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! CBS reports that ‘SEAL helmet cams recorded entire bin Laden raid’. It really looked like they were watching TV in that sit room pic didn’t it?

A new picture emerged Thursday of what really happened the night the Navy SEALs swooped in on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports the 40 minutes it took to kill bin Laden and scoop his archives into garbage bags were all recorded by tiny helmet cameras worn by each of the 25 SEALs.

Officials reviewing those videos are still reconstructing a more accurate version of what happened. We now know that the only firefight took place in the guest house, where one of bin Laden’s couriers opened fire and was quickly gunned down. No one in the main building got off a shot or was even armed, although there were weapons nearby.

Kadafi appeared on TV and was swiftly attacked by NATO jets shortly thereafter.

News services reported that NATO warplanes struck Kadafi’s fortified complex and several other sites in the capital, the second aerial bombardment of Tripoli in a 48-hour period. Reports from the scene indicated that the target could have been an underground bunker.

A North Atlantic Treaty Organization official said the site was a “disguised” command center for the Libyan military, one of a number of such facilities that Kadafi has tried to conceal amid a punishing aerial assault.

“He’s forced to hide whatever remains of his severely damaged command-and-control network,” said the NATO official, who could not be named under alliance guidelines.

The strikes in Tripoli came after Kadafi appeared on state television for the first time in almost two weeks.

Most of the fighting in the country is centered around Misurata which is now thought to be under rebel control.  There’s some speculation that Kadafi’s days in office may be numbered

Rebel advances in Misurata have opened up the port for renewed deliveries of humanitarian aid and other supplies, officials said, bringing some relief to a city that has come to epitomize resistance to Kadafi’s rule. Rebels seized control of Misurata’s airport this week in a step hailed as a major opposition triumph after weeks of street fighting in Libya’s third-most-populous city.

But it was unclear how much further the opposition could push out from the enclave of Misurata against Kadafi’s superior forces on the city’s eastern and western edges. Experts have also not ruled out the possibility of a government counterattack on Misurata, the only western coastal city that remains in rebel hands.

Nonetheless, the rebel advances in Misurata, combined with the aerial strikes in the capital, have been seized on by the opposition as a sign that Kadafi’s regime is tottering under mounting pressure.

There have also been widely reported accounts of unrest in Tripoli, where the embargo against Kadafi’s regime has led to fuel and food shortages. The opposition has also alleged escalating defections and desertions from Kadafi’s ranks, though the reports remain unconfirmed.

Well, that’s some of the news that’s fit to print.  There’s probably lots more out there!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?