Friday Afternoon Reads: Whispering Tweet Nothings to Terrorists and Crazies

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

The world is a dangerous place and international relations are challenging to even the most skilled world leaders. Then, there is Kremlin Caligula. Tweeting all things ‘unhelpful’ at all times. This time it was about a terrorist attack in London.

An “improvised explosive device” was detonated on a Tube train in south-west London during Friday’s morning rush hour, injuring 29 people.

The blast, at Parsons Green station on a District Line train from Wimbledon, is being treated as terrorism.

So-called Islamic State says it carried out the attack, which Prime Minister Theresa May condemned as “cowardly”.,

A hunt is under way for the person who placed the device and the area around the station has been evacuated.

Speciralist officers there securing the remains 0f the improvised device and ensuring it is stable.

Chris Britt / Illinois Times

Trump never offers condolences or the proverbial thoughts and prayers. Instead, he tweets verbal bombs.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday said speculation about those behind the terror attack at London’s Parsons Green subway station was unhelpful, a clear reference to a tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“I never think it is helpful for anyone to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation,” May told the BBC, without naming Trump. “The police and security services are working to discover the full circumstances of this cowardly attack and to identify all those responsible.”

Earlier Friday, Trump implied authorities were monitoring those responsible for setting off explosives.

“Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!” Trump tweeted.

He added in a second tweet that “loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner. The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better!”

The explosion in southwest London, which authorities are calling a “terrorist incident,” left 29 people wounded. None of the injuries are thought to be life-threatening. Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley told reporters that most of the injuries appeared to be flash burns.

Rowley said police believe the explosion, at about 8:20 a.m. local time, was caused by an improvised explosive device.

Pictures of the alleged explosive device — a white bucket inside a plastic bag in an underground train carriage — circulated on social media but the blast did not seem to have caused major damage, according to the BBC.

“Londoners particularly can expect to see an enhanced police presence, particularly across the transport system across the day,” Rowley said

Meanwhile, North Korea has fired another ballistic missile over Japan. This came after a flurry of threats from its rogue leader that sounded like a big ol’ return fire to Trump. Thursday saw NK threaten to “sink Japan and turn America to ashes” which sounds similar to “fire and fury” to me.

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile across Japan, creating new tension in the region after its nuclear bomb test less than two weeks ago.

The missile reached an altitude of about 770km (478 miles), travelling 3,700km before landing in the sea off Hokkaido, South Korea’s military says.

It flew higher and further than one fired over Japan late last month.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his country would “never tolerate” such “dangerous provocative action”.

South Korea responded within minutes by firing two ballistic missiles into the sea in a simulated strike on the North.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also condemned the launch and the UN Security Council will meet later on Friday in New York at the request of the United States and Japan.

Guess who did have substantive comments on North Korea?

Now read the twitter responses to that!

Hillary Clinton may have lost the 2016 presidential election, but MSNBC host Rachel Maddow declared she “is not a retired politician” after an hour long interview with her Thursday.

Her assessment was echoed by many on Twitter as well, with many users agreeing with Clinton’s take on last year’s election, the Donald Trump presidency and current political situation around issues such as the Russia Investigation, North Korea, and DACA.

The interview with Maddow was a part of a book tour for Clinton’s “What Happened,” which follows her journey during the 2016 election.

Speaking about the situation in North Korea, Clinton said it was important for the country to work with allies like South Korea, which she thought the Trump administration was alienating; she also said Trump was failing to braing in experts to deal with the situation.

“We have decimated our state department. I don’t believe that people who have decades of experience with North Korean diplomacy are being brought to the table, even though they should be,” she said.

Speaking on the contentious Russian meddling in the presidential election, she summed up what Trump aspired toward. “I do believe Trump admires authoritarians. He doesn’t just like Putin, he wants to be like Putin. He wants to have that kind of power that is largely unaccountable,” she said.

Following Clinton’s interview, many users on Twitter commented how different the country would have been if Clinton had been elected the president of the U.S.

A Twitter user by the name Joy Reid was quick to draw comparisons between Trump and Clinton. “Excellent @HillaryClinton interview by #Maddow, and what a reminder of the contrast between the president we have and the one we could have,” she tweeted.

Bob Cesca from the Stephanie Miller Show called Clinton an exceptional woman. “Watching HRC on @Maddow and growing furious (again) at whoever first said presidents should be like us. They should be exceptional like her,” he tweeted.

There were many other tweets which hailed Clinton’s clear headedness and articulateness, with many users asserting she should have been the president of the U.S. instead of Trump.

There is no joy in MAGAville today. “‘You will never make America great again!‘: Watch angry Trump fans burn their MAGA hats over DACA deal.”

Supporters of President Donald Trump are still furious about his decision to work with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on helping to shield undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children from being deported.

 Now some Trump fans have taken their displeasure a step further and have started setting their “Make America Great Again” hats on fire to protest Trump seemingly going soft on his signature campaign issue.

Angry Trump fan Luis Withrow posted a video of himself on Twitter angrily telling Trump that he will “never make America great again” if he didn’t “drain the swamp” in Washington, DC. He then set his MAGA hat ablaze.

Burn baby burn!

Last night was another reminder that we should have had a President Hillary! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 and if you liked Cat Stevens you may want to read ‘The Unlikely Return of Cat Stevens’ by Howard Fishman at The New Yorker.
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Thursday Reads: The Latest on Harvey’s Aftermath

toi Arkema Plant, Crosby, TX

Good Afternoon!!

If you watched Rachel Maddow the past two nights, you know about the flooded chemical plant in Crosby, Texas that was expected to explode. Well it happened this morning.

The Washington Post: Chemicals ignite at flooded plant in Texas as Harvey’s devastation lingers.

CROSBY, Tex. — The remnants of Hurricane Harvey carried its wrath up the Mississippi Delta on Thursday, but not before hammering the Gulf Coast with more punishing cloudbursts and growing threats that included reports of “pops” and “chemical reactions” at a crippled chemical plant and the collapse of the drinking water system in a Texas city.

Authorities warned of the danger posed by the plant in Crosby, about 30 miles northeast of Houston. The French company operating the plant said explosions were possible, and William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, called the potential for a chemical plume “incredibly dangerous.”

Still, officials offered differing accounts regarding what occurred at the Crosby plant, which makes organic peroxides for use in items such as counter tops and pipes. The plant’s operators, which had earlier Thursday reported explosions, later said they believe at least one valve “popped” there, though they noted it was impossible to know for sure since all employees had left the site.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that it dispatched personnel to the scene and did not immediately detect issues regarding toxic material.

Let’s hope that the EPA can still be trusted under Trump. According to Rachel’s report, Texas Governor Abbott made it illegal for people to know when and where toxic materials are being stored in the state. In case you missed it, here’s a bit of the report from last night. We covered the West, Texas explosion quite a bit here at Sky Dancing Blog.

From CNN:

A pair of blasts at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby sent plumes of smoke into the sky Thursday morning, and the company warned more blasts could follow.

“We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains,” Arkema said in a statement. “Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.”

The twin blasts Thursday morning happened after organic peroxides overheated. The chemicals need to be kept cool, but after the plant lost power Sunday, the temperature rose, officials said.

That led to containers popping, including one container that caught fire — sending black smoke 30 to 40 feet into the air.

The thick black smoke “might be irritating to the eyes, skin and lungs,” Arkema officials said in a statement.

Fifteen Harris County sheriff’s deputies were hospitalized, but the smoke they inhaled was not believed to be toxic, the department said. By midmorning Thursday, all of the deputies had been released.

Reporter Matt Dempsy of the Houston Chronicle was on Rachel’s show last night, and his Twitter feed is helpful for following this story. More info in this Twitter thread:

Beaumont, Texas is now without water. HuffPost: Beaumont, Texas, In Crisis After City Loses Water Supply Indefinitely.

BEAUMONT ― Residents of this city in eastern Texas are desperate for clean water after the main municipal water pumps failed due to flooding.

Beaumont, which has a population of over 100,000 people, lost both its main and secondary water supplies on Wednesday. The storm caused the Neches River to overflow, which damaged the city’s water pumps, according to city officials. The city’s secondary water source, which is located at the Loeb wells in Hardin County, is also offline.

City officials said the outage is indefinite, pending inspection of the damaged pumps, which they are unable to do until the water recedes.

Read more details at the CNN link. MSNBC is currently showing a Beaumont hospital being evacuated because of the loss of water supply.

Here are a couple of stories that help explain the flooding in the Houston area.

Jay Casano at International Business Times via the National Memo: How Texas Republicans Rejected The Chance To Plan For Climate Change.

With rising sea levels and increased rainfall, experts agree, climate change made the flooding from Hurricane Harvey far worse than it would have been even a decade ago. The Texas legislature had multiple opportunities to create a “climate adaptation plan” that could have resulted in preparations, but the bills were killed every time. The sponsor of the legislation told International Business Times that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry made sure that the climate adaptation bills would not pass.

People begin lining up at a closed Wal-Mart store in Beaumont, TX at around 2:30 Thursday morning after hearing the water supply for the city had failed.

“When I filed that legislation, then-Governor Perry’s legislative staff told me that no legislation that had climate change in it would get out of committee,” former Texas state representative Lon Burnam told IBT. “They came to our office and said to stop filing these bills:  ‘We’ll never let it out of committee.’”

Houston is the heart of the nation’s fossil fuels industry, making the discussion of climate change post-Hurricane Harvey particularly relevant. The Texas state government has been widely criticized for being beholden to oil industry interests. Campaign finance records bear out that claim: Over the last two election cycles, Texas state lawmakers have received more than $11.3 million from the oil and gas industry, including $2.3 million for Texas State House Speaker Joe Straus. Former Gov. Perry, now Donald Trump’s Secretary of Energy, received more than $1.6 million from the oil and gas industry during his very brief 2016 presidential run. As governor of Texas, he received more than $10 million across three elections, including $6 million in the 2010 race.

More at the link.

Bloomberg: Harvey Wasn’t Just Bad Weather. It Was Bad City Planning.

Houston has been wet since birth. In the 1840s, the German explorer Ferdinand von Roemer described the Brazos River prairie just outside the young town as an “endless swamp” that mired the wheels of his wagons. He reported that some people who’d intended to settle in Texas turned around and left after seeing the “sad picture.” But Houston never let itself be hampered by its hydrology. It spent billions patching together a mess of dams and drainage projects as it grew and grew. It’s the fourth-biggest city in the U.S., boasting one of the world’s largest medical centers, oil refineries, a stupendous livestock show and rodeo, highbrow culture, vibrant economic growth, and speakers of 145 languages. The consolidated metropolitan statistical area surrounding Houston and extending to Galveston is larger than the state of New Jersey.

Downtown Houston from the air.

Harvey is a devastating reminder to Houston that nature will have its due. The Category 4 hurricane that hung around as a stationary tropical storm punished greater Houston with rainfall measured in feet, not inches. No city could have withstood Harvey without serious harm, but Houston made itself more vulnerable than necessary. Paving over the saw-grass prairie reduced the ground’s capacity to absorb rainfall. Flood-control reservoirs were too small. Building codes were inadequate. Roads became rivers, so while hospitals were open, it was almost impossible to reach them by car.

Harvey’s damage was selective. It’s a minor event for the $19 trillion U.S. economy, since most of the economic activity that was interrupted will be made up later. It was a light hit for insurers, because few underwrite flood insurance and the wind damage they do cover was minimal; insurers’ stock prices barely fell. The refining and petrochemical industries lining the busy Houston Ship Channel also got off fairly lightly (this time), because they’ve invested heavily in storm defenses.

The impact on taxpayers is more serious, because Harvey is likely to generate tens of billions of dollars in emergency federal aid and claims on the money-losing National Flood Insurance Program….

Above all, Harvey is a humanitarian disaster. Ordinary Texans were defenseless against rising waters contaminated by sewage and dotted with floating colonies of fire ants. The confirmed death toll, 20 as of Aug. 30, is expected to rise as rescuers discover more bodies. Residents will return to damaged homes vulnerable to the spread of mold. Much of the damage, which could run to $100 billion or more by one estimate, is uninsured. “This will be the worst natural disaster in American history” in financial terms, Joel Myers, founder and president of AccuWeather, predicted in an Aug. 29 statement.

Mike Pence is in Texas today to fake empathy toward victims of Hurricane Harvey after Trump was unable to do so yesterday. The White House is busy trying to clean up the mess Trump made when he claimed to have seen the horror “first hand.” The Washington Post: Trump claimed he witnessed Harvey’s devastation ‘first hand.’ The White House basically admits he didn’t.

President Trump clearly and unmistakably exaggerated the “horror and devastation” he witnessed in Texas. The White House’s response? To pretend words don’t mean what they mean.

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he had seen this horror and devastation “first hand.”

But reporters quickly took issue with that….

A reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about this later Wednesday, and her answer was … something:

He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster. He talked exI tensively with the governor, who certainly is right in the midst of every bit of this, as well as the mayors from several of the local towns that were hit hardest. And detailed briefing information throughout the day yesterday talking to a lot of the people on the ground. That certainly is a firsthand account.

No, it’s not. That’s a *second*hand account — the very definition of one, in fact.

There’s much more news, especially about the Russia investigation, but you probably heard about that last night. I’ll post a couple of links in the comment thread just in case. What stories are you following today?


Live Blog: Hillary Clinton Town Hall with Rachel Maddow and the other one

Good Evening!

160218-town-hall-clinton-jsw-06_e71f323a96b91ca0cd235d2b6860bc43.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000I thought I’d put up a thread so we could discuss our impressions of tonight’s townhalls on MSNBC.   They will be livestreamed at the link.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are scheduled to take the stage at back-to-back MSNBC-televised town halls in Philadelphia Monday evening, just a day before Pennsylvania voters head to the polls. As in past town halls, both candidates will answer questions by the moderators as well as by prospective voters in the audience. Live streams of both town hall events can be viewed by clicking here or by watching below.

Sanders’ hourlong session will be hosted by MSNBC host Chris Hayes, beginning at 8 p.m. EDT. Rachel Maddow will moderate an hourlong session with Clinton immediately afterward, starting at 9 p.m. EDT.

Pennsylvania is among five states with presidential primary elections Tuesday, along with Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Rhode Island. Excluding superdelegates, Clinton has a comfortable lead with 1,428 delegates, while Sanders has 1,153 delegates.

According to opinion polling, Clinton is projected to do well Tuesday. Sanders’ best chance is in Rhode Island. There are a combined 384 delegates at stake for Democrats Tuesday. Many in the party will be watching Pennsylvania, with 210 delegates, and Maryland, with 118 delegates.

Sanders has no real path to the nomination at this point but is still in the race.


Tuesday Reads: Good News and Bad News and Other News

debate

Good Afternoon!!

There’s good news and bad news today. The bad news is that there’s a Republican debate tonight. The good news is this is the last Republican debate before the primaries begin.

Honestly, I don’t know if I can stand to watch another GOP debate. I’ll probably give it a try, but I don’t know how long I’ll last. I’d watch the MSNBC coverage if Rachel Maddow were anchoring it; but for some reason Chris Matthews is doing it again.

It’s been quiet here as it usually is during the holiday season, so maybe we can use this thread to comment on the debate. If for some reason we get really busy, I’ll put up another thread tonight. Please let me know if you plan to watch the debate, and we’ll just play it by ear.

The main debate will begin at 8:30PM on CNN, and it will be live streamed on CNN’s website. There will be a kids table debate at 6PM with only four participants: Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Lindsay Graham, and George Pataki.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Senator Rand Paul speaks during the Heritage Action for America presidential candidate forum in Greenville, South Carolina on September 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Keane - RTS1TOL

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Senator Rand Paul speaks during the Heritage Action for America presidential candidate forum in Greenville, South Carolina on September 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Keane – RTS1TOL

Rand Paul should be at the kid’s table; but for some strange reason CNN is letting him appear on the main stage–perhaps because he whined about it or maybe because CNN likes him, who knows. If you didn’t see it last night, I highly recommend watching Rachel Maddow’s report on the Rand Paul story.

Some stories about what could happen in tonight’s circus/horror show:

MSNBC: Five Storylines to Watch During Tonight’s GOP Debate.

Vox: Republican debate 2015 live stream: time, TV schedule, how to watch online.

CNN: Who will hold the winning hand at Vegas GOP debate? 7 things to watch.

NPR: Tonight’s GOP Debate: Cruz On The Rise As Terrorism Becomes Central Focus.

Ed Kilgore at NY Magazine: Can CNN Get the Cage Match It Wants in GOP Debate?

Here’s another strange story leading up to the debate in Las Vegas tonight. A very wealthy person has purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and he wants to remain anonymous–even to the paper’s employees. Now who could this person be. Someone should ask Sheldon Adelson about it.

Mother Jones reports: Did a Republican Megadonor Just Secretly Buy Nevada’s Biggest Newspaper?

The sale has created a controversy because, while there is no rule requiring a newspaper to disclose its owners, the Journal-Review will be, by far, the largest newspaper in America whose owners are secret. The intrigue is not just journalistic: For a well-heeled person interested in influencing an election, owning the largest paper in the state that in a few short months will hold one of the first nominating events of the primary season (third for Democrats and fourth for Republicans) is a good place to start.

The news broke on Friday, when the paper’s management told employees that the publication, which had been owned by a publicly traded chain of newspapers called New Media Investment Group, had been sold for $140 million. The new owners? An LLC based in Delaware called News + Media Capital Group LLC. The only publicly available information on News + Media Capital Group LLC is that it was founded two months ago in Delaware, and it used a corporate agent that hides any identifying information.

Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp., speaks during an interview in Hong Kong, China, on Monday, Nov. 30, 2009. Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp., speaks during an interview in Hong Kong, China, on Monday, Nov. 30, 2009. Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty Images

WTF?!

TheReview-Journal’s management introduced a man named Michael Schroeder as the manager of News + Media Capital Group LLC. Schroeder has been the publisher of a very small chain of newspapers in Connecticut and declined to tell theReview-Journal who the new bosses were, other than to say they were “undisclosed financial backers with expertise in the media industry,” a description that does little to narrow down the field. Another detail that leaked from the paper’s management was that there are multiple owners, at least some of whom are based in Las Vegas. The description is odd, since most individuals who have invested in news organizations previously would be aware that refusing to say who owned the paper would do nothing but stir controversy, especially within the paper’s own staff.

The paper’s management also seemed almost determined to stoke controversy. According to the Huffington Post, a version of the story detailing the paper’s sale went to press with a quote that suggested Schroeder was dismissive of employee concerns about the new ownership.

“They want you to focus on your jobs…don’t worry about who they are,” Schroeder allegedly said at a meeting with employees. But the quote was pulled, as were other critical comments, before a new version of the article was printed.

I guess we’ll find out who it is eventually; but Adelson seems to be the most likely candidate, since he lives in Nevada.

A younger Donald Trump with his father Fred Trump

A younger Donald Trump with his father Fred Trump

I know I’ve been writing way too much about Donald Trump lately, but I just had to share something that Dakinikat told me about yesterday. These are old links that I somehow missed when I wasn’t taking Trump seriously early on. Apologies if someone has posted these at Sky Dancing previously.

It looks very much like Donald Trump’s father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan as a young man. From Boing Boing: 1927 news report: Donald Trump’s dad arrested in KKK brawl with cops.

According to a New York Times article published in June 1927, a man with the name and address of Donald Trump’s father was arraigned after Klan members attacked cops in Queens, N.Y.

In an article subtitled “Klan assails policeman”, Fred Trump is named in among those taken in during a late May “battle” in which “1,000 Klansmen and 100 policemen staged a free-for-all.” At least two officers were hurt during the event, after which the Klan’s activities were denounced by the city’s Police Commissioner, Joseph A. Warren.

“The Klan not only wore gowns, but had hoods over their faces almost completely hiding their identity,” Warren was quoted as saying in the article, which goes on to identify seven men “arrested in the near-riot of the parade.”

Named alongside Trump are John E Kapp and John Marcy (charged with felonious assault in the attack on Patrolman William O’Neill and Sgt. William Lockyear), Fred Lyons, Thomas Caroll, Thomas Erwin, and Harry J Free. They were arraigned in Jamaica, N.Y. All seven were represented by the same lawyers, according to the article.

The final entry on the list reads: “Fred Trump of 175-24 Devonshire Road, Jamaica, was discharged.”

In 1927, Donald Trump’s father would have been 21 years old, and not yet a well-known figure. Multiple sources report his residence at the time—and throughout his life—at the same address.

Later on in his life, the elder Trump was sued for refusing to rent or sell his properties to African Americans.

A 1979 article, published by Village Voice, reported ona civil rights suitthat alleged that the Trumps refused to rent to black home-seekers, and quotes a rental agent who said Fred Trump instructed him not to rent to blacks and to encourage existing black tenants to leave. The case was settled in a 1975 consent degree described as “one of the most far-reaching ever negotiated,” but the Justice Department subsequently complained that continuing “racially discriminatory conduct by Trump agents has occurred with such frequency that it has created a substantial impediment to the full enjoyment of equal opportunity.”

If Donald Trump was raised in a home where racism was acceptable, that could explain some of his behavior today. It’s certainly interesting to know about this, and I regret that I didn’t read this article when it first appeared in September. You might want to read this piece at the Academe blog as well: Does It Matter if Donald Trump’s Father Was a Member of the Ku Klux Klan?

Trump rally las vegas

Naturally the Trump rally in Las Vegas last night produced more shocking news. McKay Coppins reports at Buzzfeed: Trump Campaign Rally Erupts In Chaos And Ugly Confrontation.

The Republican frontrunner had invited a supporter up to the stage to recount how his son was killed by an undocumented immigrant. Midway though the story, a pair of protesters interrupted.

“That’s why we need gun control!” one called out from the sea of Trump die-hards in the Westgate Resort and Casino ballroom.

A zealous chorus of boos filled the room, while the two protesters brandished a homemade poster (“NO HATE. YOU’RE FIRED.”) and began shouting over the din….

By the time security swooped in, several amped-up Trump supporters had already encircled the protesters — booing, and chanting, and slowly closing in — while a crush of smartphone-wielding media scrambled to capture footage of the clash. The guards managed to remove one protester, but the other resisted, stiffening his limbs and screaming about the First Amendment as they tried to haul him toward the exits. When he toppled to the floor, a horde of rallygoers assembled to hurl insults and threats at him.

“Light the motherfucker on fire!” one Trump supporter yelled….

One after another, protesters were forcibly dragged from the ballroom — limbs flailing, torsos twisting in resistance — while wild-eyed Trump supporters spewed abuse and calls to violence.

“Kick his ass!” yelled one.

“Shoot him!” shouted another.

Unreal.

Cruz
Trump’s main competitor tonight should be Ted Cruz. From CBS News: Why Ted Cruz might be a threat to Donald Trump.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has surpassed businessman Donald Trump in three recent Iowa polls of likely Republican Iowa caucus-goers. Trump has taken notice, and has begun to cast doubt on Cruz’s fitness for the presidency, calling Cruz a “bit of a maniac” on Fox News Sunday, for instance. The two have come a long way sincecampaigning together against the nuclear deal a few months ago, but that was back before Cruz was polling so well in Iowa.

Trump doesn’t like anyone who challenges his lead in the polls – he compared neurosurgeon Ben Carson to a child molester with a pathological disease when Carson’s popularity began rising among Iowans. But while Carson may be seeing his moment pass, Cruz is peaking as voters begin to settle on their favorite candidates, and his mastery of the issues reassures many evangelical voters who would otherwise like Carson.

Read the rest to learn the reasons author Rebecca Kaplan believes Cruz could beat Trump. Frankly, I think Cruz is actually the scarier of the two. A couple more articles on Cruz:

WaPo Wonkblog: A guide to what Ted Cruz really believes.

NBC News: GOP Latinos Slam Ted Cruz and Self-Deportation Plan On Eve of Debate.

So . . . will you be watching the clown show tonight? What stories are you following?


And you know they are Right Wing Christians by the Lies, their Hate, and their Deceit

Former-Senator-Jim-DeMint-screenshotSo, that’s a harsh title and this is a harsh post.  The American Taliban were on Meet the Press today in full force.  The topic was the War on Women and the War on Gays.  It was the usual combination of spewing outright lies and insisting every one agrees with them.  They’re beginning to look outnumbered on the War against Gays and Marriage Equality.  I wish I could say the same on the War on Women.  Rachel Maddow had adequate time to skewer Ralph Reed and Jim DeMint on their marriage equality lies.  Even Dancing Dave headed for the door labelled popular opinion and right direction.

Social conservatives came out in full force on NBC’s Meet The Press on the Sunday after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) of the Heritage Foundation and Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) both claimed the court’s decision to recognize same-sex marriages sacrificed children’s wellbeing — only to have their arguments promptly slapped down by MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and David Gregory.

DeMint said the court had privileged “the desires of adults” over “the best environment for children,” arguing that heterosexual marriage is “the environment where children can thrive and succeed.” Maddow immediately pointed out that this argument ignores the children of same-sex couples, who have up til now been treated as second-class citizens under the law:

Justice Kennedy addressed that issue specifically in his ruling. He says that by denying marriage rights to same-sex couples who have kids, you’re humiliating and demeaning those kids. By denying their families equal protection under the law by the parents who are raising them and who love them and who make their family. So we can put it in the interests of children, but I think that cuts both ways. And the ruling cuts against that argument. I mean, gay people exist. There’s nothing we can do in public policy can do to make more of us exist or less of us exist. And you guys for a generation have argued that public policy ought to demean gay people as a way of expressing disapproval of the fact that we exist. But you don’t make any less of us exist, you are just arguing for more discrimination. And more discrimination doesn’t make straight people’s lives any better.

Rachel really slammed them but time ran short when they insisted that most people are behind stopping abortions as early as 20 weeks in all instances, that women really want unnecessary ultrasounds using vaginal probes, and that the grizzled, unlicensed Philadelphia Doctor just convicted of murder of babies and women is equivalent to Planned Parenthood.   No one had the time to challenge their unscientific facts or their false assertions about what women what and what medical science says.

Some women like being forced to have an ultrasound before receiving an abortion, according to former Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).

Republicans in state legislatures across the country have pushed legislation that requires women to undergo an ultrasound procedure 24 hours before terminating their pregnancy. The so-called “informed consent” laws usually require women to be given a picture of the fetus and be shown a fetal heartbeat, along with general information about abortion.

“The more the ultrasounds have become part of the law, where a woman gets the opportunity to see that there’s a real child, it’s beginning to change minds, and I think that’s a good thing,” DeMint said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “It’s time that the 3,000 babies we lose every day have some people speaking up for them.”

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow pointed out that women weren’t given the opportunity to have an ultrasound, they were forced to have a medically unnecessary ultrasound by the state. She added that in many cases women were subjected to trans-vaginal ultrasounds.

“So it’s an invasive vaginal forced procedure that a woman cannot say no to by order of the state government,” Maddow continued. “And that is all right with you. I understand that. You feel that you’ve got an interest strong enough to override a woman’s desire to not have that happen to her that you can insist that it does as a legislator. But most American women I think are going to balk at that.”

DeMint, however, insisted that some women wanted the state to force them to have an ultrasound.

“She’s forgetting about the thousands of women who want an informed choice, who want the opportunity to get a free ultrasound, which they can get not from Planned Parenthood but from a lot of these pregnancy centers.”

The outrage and the war continue.  I really have to say that I don’t want to even been in the same room as the likes of Ralph Reed who should be in jail for his Indian Casino scam and DeMint who belongs in a mental health facility.  This isn’t religious expression.  It is a well funded and organized witch hunt.  They were equally bad trying to explain why minorities don’t really need their voting rights protected.  It’s a damn shame David Gregory gives them a platform for their extremism.


Thursday Reads: Is It Finally Time for Some Hope and Change?

U.S. President Obama reads "Where the Wild Things Are" alongside first family during White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington

Good Morning!!!

Rachel Maddow is such an optimist. After I listened to her show last night, I began to have real hope for change (pun intended) on the gun control front. Rachel talked about President Obama’s announcements yesterday, and how the knee jerk reaction of the DC pundits was basically, “ho hum, it’s nice talk but there’s no chance for real change.” But the American people agree with Obama on gun safety. If he gets out there and fights for his initiatives, he could accomplish a lot.

Another encouraging note–I can’t recall if it was on Rachel or another MSNBC show–Richard Wolffe said that he saw a look in Obama’s eyes that he’s seen before. Wolfe said it was like Obama’s determination on health care, a sign that he really cares of this and will follow through. I think Joe Biden deserves a lot of credit for this too–as he did in pushing Obama to come out in favor of gay marriage last year.

As we saw with the gay marriage issue, when the President focuses on something it becomes big news. Yesterday there was lots of discussion and it was the main topic on Morning Joe this morning too. Interestingly, after a lot of excited pro-gun-safety talk, Scarborough brought on Jim DeMint to talk about the Heritage Foundation reaction, and DeMint punted. He talked in circles and refused to offer any ideas! The right wingers simply weren’t prepared for this fight. They thought the fear of the NRA would carry the day as always.

Anyway, I feel hopeful for now. Maybe Obama can continue to change the political conversation in his second term. To me the most powerful decision the president made was to enable federal support for research on the causes of gun violence. From Inside Higher Ed:

Obama issued an order to the Department of Health and Human Services to have the CDC as well as the National Institutes of Health study issues related to gun violence, and asked Congress to appropriate $10 million for additional work in the area. Obama said in his public remarks that research is part of the solution to gun violence, and he sharply criticized the past limits on studies.

“While year after year, those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it — and Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds,” Obama said in introducing his new policies. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”

He followed that up immediately with a memo to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, telling her to work with the CDC “and other scientific agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services [to] conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it. The Secretary shall begin by identifying the most pressing research questions with the greatest potential public health impact, and by assessing existing public health interventions being implemented across the nation to prevent gun violence.”

The president’s actions are consistent with several requests from violence scholars in the last month, as Vice President Biden led an administration task force to develop the plan released Wednesday. Dozens of scholars of violence this month — organized by the Crime Lab of the University of Chicago — issued a joint letter to draw attention to the impact of federal policies that have effectively banned federal support for their

This is how the anti-science Republicans think: Avoid facts and data, stifle knowledge, close your eyes and ears and scream if anyone tries to break through the denial. But the American people are with Obama on this. Some people are saying that Congress will never appropriate the money for this research. I’m not so sure. If the Republicans continue their pro-gun and anti-people tantrums, they may find themselves in the minority in both houses of Congress in 2014.

Here’s the NYT writeup of Obama’s announcement on gun safety: Obama to ‘Put Everything I’ve Got’ Into Gun Control.

Surrounded by children who wrote him letters seeking curbs on guns, Mr. Obama committed himself to a high-profile and politically volatile campaign behind proposals assembled by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. that will test the administration’s strength heading into the next four years. The first big push of Mr. Obama’s second term, then, will come on an issue that was not even on his to-do list on Election Day when voters renewed his lease on the presidency.

“I will put everything I’ve got into this,” Mr. Obama said, “and so will Joe.” [….]

“I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it,” Mr. Obama said. “And, by the way, that doesn’t just mean from certain parts of the country. We’re going to need voices in those areas, in those Congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong, to speak up and to say this is important. It can’t just be the usual suspects.”

Meanwhile on the life-dying, death-affirming, ideological side of this fight, the NRA really hurt itself yesterday by going after President Obama’s daughters in an attack ad. From the National Journal: Has the NRA Finally Gone Too Far?

The National Rifle Association has been skirting the lines of decency for years, but the gun-rights group stoops to a new low with a Web ad calling President Obama an “elitist hypocrite.” The ad criticizes Obama for giving his daughters Secret Service protection while expressing skepticism about installing armed guards in schools.

The ad is indisputably misleading, and is arguably a dangerous appeal to the base instincts of gun-rights activists….

The fact is, Obama is not opposed to armed guards in schools. Indeed, many of the nation’s schools already hire security. This is what Obama is skeptical of: the NRA’s position that putting more guns in schools is the only way to prevent mass shootings.

The president wants to ban assault rifles, require background checks, and ban high-capacity ammunition. He does not want to confiscate guns, despite the NRA’s unsubstantiated warnings to the contrary.
There are fair arguments to be had over Obama’s proposals: Redefining the Second Amendment shouldn’t be done without a vigorous debate. But to drag the president’s daughters into the fight, and to question their need for security, suggests that the NRA is slipping further away from the mainstream. Over-the-top tactics discredit the NRA and its cause.

Well it sure looks like we’re going to have that “vigorous debate” now.
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Thursday Reads: Flu Epidemic, Obama’s Boy’s Club, and Other News

Dracula_cast_reads

Good Morning!!

I have a nasty cold, so if I don’t make a lot of sense this morning, please try to make allowances. I just hope I don’t get the flu. Mayor Menino declared a public health emergency in Boston yesterday because there have been 700 confirmed cases of flu in the city. This morning The Daily Beast reports that there is a “major influenza epidemic taking hold across the country.”

New York City and much of the U.S. are a week or two into a major influenza epidemic. Boston declared a public-health emergency Wednesday after reporting four deaths, and North Carolina is seeing its biggest number of cases in a decade. To place the problem into graphic, corporate terms, the charts sent around to compare this year’s activity against that of other years have required re-scaling to accommodate the scary red line going up and up.

Public health officials are telling people it’s not too late to get a flu shot, but according to this article, this year’s vaccine may not be working so well.

One alarming possibility is that this year’s vaccine against influenza is not well-matched to the current disease-causing strains. This exposes a significant problem in the modus operandi of influenza vaccine production—it’s mired in techniques and approaches developed before World War II; in fact soldiers from that war were among the first to get this brand of vaccine. Here’s how it works: each year, around February, world experts select from a menu of dozens just three influenza strains—two of flu A andone of flu B—to place into the coming season’s vaccine. More than three would require a shot with too large a volume and might blunt the body’s immune response. Once selected, the three viruses are grown painstakingly, on hen’s eggs (what year is this?) then, after a big enough crop has been raised, the virus is killed and stabilized and sent around for injections—all on the hope that the experts guessed right.

To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found strong agreement between the vaccine strains and the current clinical strains, suggesting the vaccine ought to work just fine. But some clinicians have their doubts. This much activity, is the thinking, can only be due to extremely limited protection from vaccine. For some, it feels like 2009 all over again, when the novel flu strain, so-called because it had never previously been seen in people or animals, appeared. That was the year that spring-break revelers from Queens who had gone south of the border brought back an altogether new strain. Because of its novelty, no vaccine was active against it (at least at the start), so we saw the unchecked spread of influenza zipping across the country in no time flat.

So is that happening again? We won’t know until there is more testing of this year’s strains.

President Obama is getting a lot of criticism for turning his “inner circle” into a “boy’s club.” From Tuesday’s NYT:

In an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 29, 11 of President Obama’s top advisers stood before him discussing the heated fiscal negotiations. The 10 visible in a White House photo are men.

In the days since, Mr. Obama has put together a national security team dominated by men, with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts nominated to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as the secretary of state, Chuck Hagel chosen to be the defense secretary and John O. Brennan nominated as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Given the leading contenders for other top jobs, including chief of staff and Treasury secretary, Mr. Obama’s inner circle will continue to be dominated by men well into his second term.

From the White House down the ranks, the Obama administration has compiled a broad appointment record that has significantly exceeded the Bush administration in appointing women but has done no better than the Clinton administration, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times. About 43 percent of Mr. Obama’s appointees have been women, about the same proportion as in the Clinton administration, but up from the roughly one-third appointed by George W. Bush.

The skew was widespread: male appointees under Mr. Obama outnumbered female appointees at 11 of the 15 federal departments, for instance. In some cases, the skew was also deep. At the Departments of Justice, Defense, Veterans Affairs and Energy, male appointees outnumbered female appointees by about two to one.

At Salon, Irin Carmon writes:

Diversity in any sense is something that doesn’t really happen unless you try, and if the Obama administration is trying with its top-level appointments, other priorities have clearly trumped it. This doesn’t have to be because of a conspiracy: A lifetime of seeing almost exclusively white men as authority figures has a way of perpetuating itself, and without much self-examination or effort, people tend to go with a certain comfortable framework. (This is true despite the president being a black man; as anyone who has worked for a woman or a person of color who was the first to stake out a spot on hostile turf can tell you, racism and sexism aren’t exclusively white male phenomena.) But it’s still a problem that needs to be talked about, over and over again, until something changes.

Carmon concludes her post with some excellent questions:

…leadership matters, and here we are with this top-level lineup of too-familiar faces. Hillary Clinton is gone, and we don’t have Sheila Bair, Michele Flournoy or Susan Rice (a pretty good selection given that “pipeline problem”) and another white man is expected to succeed Jack Lew as chief of staff should be become the treasury secretary. The numbers look even worse now that Hilda Solis, a Latina woman, has resigned as secretary of labor.

So here are some follow-up questions: Will John Kerry carry on the legacy of Hillary Clinton in encouraging female leadership and entrepreneurship around the world? Will Chuck Hagel, if confirmed as secretary of defense, fully and fairly implement the progressive changes in the military the administration supports, including the partial expansion of abortion access for service-members and dependents, despite his past opposition? How independent will Lew be from the Wall Street boys’ club’s values and logic? And how will the administration do better on this stuff next time, if it does indeed care about it?

At least Eric Holder’s announcement that he is staying on at Attorney General will keep Obama’s cabinet from being made up of only white men.

Obama is also getting hammered for choosing an anti-gay preacher, Rev. Louis Giglio, to give the benediction at the inauguration. From Think Progress, via Alternet:

The Presidential Inauguration Committee announced Tuesday that the President Obama has selected Pastor Louie Giglio of the Georgia-based Passion City Church to deliver the benediction for his second inauguration. In a mid-1990s sermon identified as Giglio’s, available online on a Christian training Web site, he preached rabidly anti-LGBT views. The 54-minute sermon, entitled “In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality,” advocates for dangerous “ex-gay” therapy for gay and lesbian people, references a biblical passage often interpreted to require gay people be executed, and impels Christians to “firmly respond to the aggressive agenda” and prevent the “homosexual lifestyle” from becoming accepted in society.

Read quotes from Giglio’s sermon at the Alternet link.

Buzzfeed notes that the White House hasn’t yet responded to the criticism of the Gigio choice.

The White House on Wednesday was refusing to address comments critical of gay and lesbian people made by Rev. Louie Giglio, who was tapped by President Barack Obama to deliver the benediction prayer at the Jan. 21 inaugural ceremony….

The inaugural invitation is not Giglio’s first interaction with Obama. He also was one of the president’s guests at the White House’s 2012 Easter prayer breakfast, according to the White House pool report from the April 4, 2012 event.

This past November, Giglio served as the convocation speaker at the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University. Although he did not address homosexuality in the speech, he did strongly urge visiting high-school students to attend the college known for its strict policies against homosexual behavior and spoke about the positive influence Falwell has had on his life.

While Giglio did not talk about gay issues directly, he did reference gender roles in a striking way, speaking of a time he started crying very hard. He explained, “I started bawling, I mean, sobbing. Not crying like men cry. I started crying like women cry.” Continuing, he explained what he called the unwritten rules for men who cry, telling the students, “A man never looks at another man that’s crying. That’s the rule.”

If you’ve been watching the Rachel Maddow show recently, you’ve heard about the Shell Oil rig that went aground in Alaska last week. Connie from Orlando sent me a couple of links on Rachel’s interview with Rep. Ed Markey last night on Shell’s lies. From the Maddow Blog: One man’s near miss ecological disaster is another man’s swells. Watch the video here.

Paul Ryan is up to his old tricks. From Laura Bassett at HuffPo: Paul Ryan Cosponsors New Fetal Personhood Bill.

Despite the deep unpopularity of fetal personhood bills in 2012, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has again decided to cosponsor the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a bill that gives full legal rights to human zygotes from the moment of fertilization.

Ryan, who reportedly has 2016 presidential ambitions, had to de-emphasize his opposition to abortion without exceptions during the 2012 election to align his position with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But this year, Ryan has been tapped as a keynote speaker for the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s sixth annual Campaign for Life Gala, and he is re-upping his support for the most extreme anti-abortion legislation in the country.

The personhood bill, first introduced in 2011 by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and reintroduced by Broun last week, specifies that a “one-celled human embryo,” even before it implants in the uterus to create a pregnancy, should be granted “all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” Similar legislation has been rejected by voters in multiple states, including the socially conservative Mississippi, because legal experts have pointed out that it could outlaw some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization as well as criminalize abortion at all stages.

Broun said in a statement that a zygote’s right to life should be “defended vigorously and at all costs.”

“As a physician, I know that human life begins with fertilization, and I remain committed to ending abortion in all stages of pregnancy,” he said. “I will continue to fight this atrocity on behalf of the unborn, and I hope my colleagues will support me in doing so.”

Of course Republican governors are still trying to limit access to abortion, and the Center for Reproductive Rights has designed a “monitoring tool” that can be downloaded to track what’s happening in the states.

The tool outlines State obligations under international and regional human rights law on a range of reproductive rights issues—freedom from discrimination, contraceptive information and services, safe pregnancy and childbirth, abortion and post-abortion care, comprehensive sexuality education, freedom from violence against women, and HIV/AIDS. The tool then identifies key questions that human rights experts, monitoring bodies, and civil society can use to assess to what extent a State is in compliance with its obligations.

I want to end with something more positive from Emily Esfahani-Smith at The Atlantic about the differences between the pursuit of happiness and the search for meaning: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy. It’s about Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. I highly recommend it.

And here’s something nice: and unreleased track from Jimi Hendrix, recorded in the late 1960s.

Have a great day, and please share your recommended reads in the comments!