New Year’s Reads: Things Can Only Get Better!

hongkong-cny-fireworksI’m still recovering from whatever flu virus hit me last weekend.  I do have my voice back and I’m coughing a bit less so I’m beginning to catch up with reading this and that. I stayed in bed with hot tea and a marathon of “Drunk History” while trying to figure out if the noise I was hearing last night was gunfire or fireworks.  I have no idea what the mix of one to the other was. That’s one of those things that keeps me indoors on NY’s Eve because I really don’t want to be the one out there gathering the data. Most folks try not to think about about it.

One of the things that always amazes me is how vulnerable people are to wishful thinking and things easily demonstrated to be complete bullshit.  I suppose I suffer the hubris of the scholar on this account.  I didn’t have access to the internet in my home until 1980 but you generally could find me in whichever library housed the government documents drop.  Yes, the University of Nebraska libraries had huge basements dedicated to the stuff at one time and I was a basement dweller.  Now it’s all on spreadsheets on my hard drive. It really doesn’t take much to figure out what  is what.  However, everything experiences variation and intellect and curiosity are no different.

I guess the same thing that makes folks vulnerable to religion also makes them vulnerable to political myth.  My first experience with all the ploy to keep people well-behaved and hopeful was as a child when I learned my parents were deliberately lying to me about Santa Claus for my sister’s sake.  I later studied 3rd and 4th century Roman history and lost religion. It’s basically the same MO but with much better data. But the Santa episode really sunk in. I went to the basement, screamed at myself for being so stupid then wondered what else they’d been lying to me about.  Well, it turned out that it was about a lot of things that I could easily find out about in my handy dandy local library’s reference section.  I’ve spent my professional and personal life gleaning through data looking for truths. I hate being taken in.

We’ve all been stumped about why Donald Trump could gain ground in any national level political race. He says things that are blatantly hateful and false, yet he gains ground. Polls showing his demographics illustrate his base.  It’s basically the ugly underbelly of the US that shows up in our history quite frequently.  These folks love being taken in.

Donald Trump holds a dominant position in national polls in the Republican race in no small part because he is extremely strong among people on the periphery of the G.O.P. coalition.

He is strongest among Republicans who are less affluent, less educated and less likely to turn out to vote. His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats. It’s a coalition that’s concentrated in the South, Appalachia and the industrial North, according to data provided to The Upshot by Civis Analytics, a Democratic data firm.

Mr. Trump’s huge advantage among these groups poses a challenge for his campaign, because it may not have the turnout operation necessary to mobilize irregular voters

The Civis estimates are based on interviews with more than 11,000 Republican-leaning respondents since August. The large sample, combined with statistical modeling techniques, presents the most detailed examination yet of the contours of Mr. Trump’s unusual coalition.

We’ve seen this set of nutcases before.  It appears to be the return of the Reagan coalition.  This turns my mind back to the Santa Claus story, and for that matter, any particular dead religious figure you can Sydney_habour_bridge_&_opera_house_fireworks_new_year_eve_2008conjure up that people have turned into something not quite like the original narrative. Ronald Reagan was an affable fool.  Any economist that has studied the time period and his policies will tell you a completely different, data-based narrative than most of the people taken in by him.  BB sent me this link a few days ago.  I’ve only been able to really digest it today.

Any of us that have intensely studied some aspect of his regime–in my case the economic data–know that the myth is no where close to the truth. These narratives always seem to serve the current group of rich, powerful, assholes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re told to submit yourself to your husband or master or render unto Rome, it’s pretty much the same thing.  These so-called populist heroes lead sheep to slaughter.

Ronald Reagan was not only intellectually ungifted, he was incurious and ignorant about the details of the day.  It’s amazing to me that as historians go back and sift through their form of data on the ground, so little of it manages to take down the public id.  The link to Salon takes you to an excerpt from “The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton”  by  whose thesis on Reagan is summed up thusily: “No one ever entered the White House so grossily ill-informed”.  This says a lot given he was followed relatively shortly by Dubya Bush who didn’t even appear to have a command of his primary language let alone nuanced policy.  Remember, Dubya’s the guy that declared war on a lot of  Muslim-majority countries without a real grasp of the difference between  Sunni and Shia let alone the minority ones.

No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed. At presidential news conferences, especially in his first year, Ronald Reagan embarrassed himself. On one occasion, asked why he advocated putting missiles in vulnerable places, he responded, his face registering bewilderment, “I don’t know but what maybe you haven’t gotten into the area that I’m going to turn over to the secretary of defense.” Frequently, he knew nothing about events that had been headlined in the morning newspaper. In 1984, when asked a question he should have fielded easily, Reagan looked befuddled, and his wife had to step in to rescue him. “Doing everything we can,” she whispered. “Doing everything we can,” the president echoed. To be sure, his detractors sometimes exaggerated his ignorance. The publication of his radio addresses of the 1950s revealed a considerable command of facts, though in a narrow range. But nothing suggested profundity. “You could walk through Ronald Reagan’s deepest thoughts,” a California legislator said, “and not get your ankles wet.”

 In all fields of public affairs—from diplomacy to the economy—the president stunned Washington policymakers by how little basic information he commanded. His mind, said the well-disposed Peggy Noonan, was “barren terrain.” Speaking of one far-ranging discussion on the MX missile, the Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, an authority on national defense, reported, “Reagan’s only contribution throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he’d watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from War Games.” The president “cut ribbons and made speeches. He did these things beautifully,” Congressman Jim Wright of Texas acknowledged. “But he never knew frijoles from pralines about the substantive facts of issues.” Some thought him to be not only ignorant but, in the word of a former CIA director, “stupid.” Clark Clifford called the president an “amiable dunce,” and the usually restrained columnist David Broder wrote, “The task of watering the arid desert between Reagan’s ears is a challenging one for his aides.”

20141229-1I actually was convinced that Reagan was so obviously ignorant and wrong about so many things that you could run any one against him and he’d never get a second term.  I was obviously young and not jaded enough to grasp the demographic that supported him because they believed what they wanted to believe because he told them so in such a “nice” way.  Now, this same group of yahoos is angry and they believe what Donald Trump tells them because they believe what they want to believe because he tells them in such an “angry” way.    ‘Morning in America’ does sound an awful lot like ‘Make America Great Again’ doesn’t it?  All of this is basically code for ‘Save White Privilege’ even if I don’t really benefit that much from it. As long you as you can make me feel superior to (fill in the blank), I’ll wishfully hope and then vote for you.

I try to tell myself that there’s no way that Donald Trump could ever be elected but then I would not be learning from my obviously wrong hypothesis that Ronald Reagan could ever get a second term.  Reagan raised taxes.  He ran up the deficit hugely.   There’s the Reagan “recession” and there was Iran Contra which all of these folks conveniently never heard about or forgot when they voted for the affable buffoon.  The same demographic could care less about Trump’s lies and the tremendous internet base of fact checking.

Donald Trump is the “King of Whoppers”.

But in this year’s presidential campaign, the fact checkers say one candidate has achieved truth-bending royalty.

“This is the first time we have named someone the ‘King of Whoppers,'” Eugene Kiely of FactCheck.org said.

Donald Trump earned that crown with the biggest whopper of 2015:

“I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down,” he said in a Birmingham, Alabama, rally in November 21.

The fact checkers found evidence of just a few people celebrating. But that wasn’t the only tall Trump tale of the year.

“He’s certainly keeping us busy… It is the worst that we have seen in the 12 years we have been doing this,” Kiely said.

“You know, the president’s thinking about signing an executive order where he wants to take your guns away,” Trump said at a South Carolina rally on October 19.

Then in New Hampshire, on September 30: “You know, it started off with 10,000. The other day I heard 200,000. We are going to take in 200,000 Syrians or wherever they come from,” Trump said.

“It’s just way over what the actual number is,” Kiely explains.

It’s not like this isn’t pointed out daily in places other than newspapers that none of Trump’s demographic appear to read. Bernie Sanders mentioned it just a few days ago.NewYearsEve-Seattle

“It appears that Donald Trump, a pathological liar, simply cannot control himself. He lies, lies and lies again. Today, he repeated his lie that I want to raise taxes to 90 percent. Totally untrue. And PolitiFact gave Trump’s same statement last October a ‘Pants-on-Fire’ rating.

Even Trumps Republican opponents point this out. Unfortunately, the most verbal are Kasich and Jeb who appear to be on their way out the door.

Bush talked to CNN on Wednesday and reinforced his point from the debate that Trump is “not a serious candidate.”

“I got to post up against Donald Trump,” Bush said. “I don’t think he’s a serious candidate.”

He added, “And I don’t know why others don’t feel compelled to point that out, but I did. And I think I got a chance to express my views and compare them to someone who talks a big game but really hasn’t thought it through.”

But, again, the only candidates gaining traction in the Republican field are the “know nothings”.  This includes Marco Rubio who has to be as intellectually ungifted as the gipper and is taken somewhat seriously despite the stupid and despite a very shady history of deal making for shady people.

Didn’t we say all this about a gawky rogue presidential candidate named Barack Obama? Sure. But Obama had the advantage of not looking and sounding like a complete fucking idiot. Obama was on the Harvard Law Review, not the Santa Fe Community College football team. Then again, that’s not really fair to community collegians and football players: Plenty of each are smart enough to run the country. It just so happens that Rubio isn’t one of them.

For proof, simply look to Rubio’s campaign message, a bizarre simulacrum of “hope and change” focus-grouped by Red Stripe-swilling blue blazers who are slightly scared of hope and change because they’ve witnessed its power but never fully understood its appeal, like those crouched simians sizing up the galactic monolith in 2001.

This scares me.  It should scare you.  Fireworks-IMG_9132

I will also admit that I didn’t think Obama was going to be as good of a President as he has turned out to be.  I really thought he’d continue to let the Republicans play him like a violin, but he learned, and learned well.  His last few years defy the lame duck theory.

So, I’m doing a mea culpa on the two failed hypotheses today just because I do not want to be lulled into a third one. We clearly have one great candidate that is experienced, flawed, and capable.  Then, we have a set of figures that look religiously mythical, are supported by people who have a lot to gain from populist ignorance, and appear to be impossibly unqualified for making national policy on all levels.  They may have one area upon which they are knowledgeable but most have absolutely nothing but being able to say blatantly wrong things because they have no clue how wrong they actually are.

Work in the right campaigns and vote in 2016.  Don’t make me write another mea culpa in 2017.  Please.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

And,  have a great NEW YEAR!!!  I love you all!!!

Thirty years ago from 1985 and deep from Reagan d0o d0o land.


The Three R’s: Religion, Racism, and Republicans

Klansmen file into an Atlanta church in 1949 to attend Sunday evening services

Klansmen file into an Atlanta church in 1949 to attend Sunday evening services

 Good Thursday Afternoon!!

Christmas is just a week away; and, I’ll be honest, I’ll be glad when it’s all over. Of course there’s still New Year’s to deal with, but then we can get back to “normal,” such as it is. But will life ever feel truly normal to me again?

This morning I was thinking back over the devolution of the Republican Party during my lifetime. The first president I remember was Dwight Eisenhower. He was boring and he led the way for future GOP leaders in bringing religion into the public sphere; he initiated the “national prayer breakfast,” added “under God” to the pledge of allegiance, and “In God We Trust” to our currency. He formed a close relationship with the Rev. Billy Graham, who served as an adviser to Eisenhower’s campaign and his administration. However, he did preside over a healthy economy and improvements in America’s infrastructure.

The next Republican president was Richard Nixon. Nixon was also close to Billy Graham and Graham was a regular in Nixon’s White House. He continued Eisenhower’s prayer breakfast “tradition.” He began the overtly racist “Southern strategy” in order to attract Dixiecrats to switch parties; and thus Nixon began the politics of resentment and hatred of “the other” that dominate the GOP today.

Church-and-State

Gerald Ford was religious, but didn’t try to impose his beliefs on the rest of us, but his Democratic successor Jimmy Carter was a “born again Christian” whose public religiosity may have encouraged Republicans to continue linking politics and religion.

Ronald Reagan was apparently not deeply religious, but he attracted support from the growing religious right groups and often talked publicly about God and Christianity, especially after he was shot in 1981. Once again Billy Graham was a fixture in the White House and Reagan used religion as a political tool.

In 1982, Reagan supported a constitutional amendment to allow voluntary school prayer. A year later he awarded the Rev. Billy Graham the Presidential Medal of Freedom and proclaimed 1983 the “Year of the Bible.” He called on Americans to join him: “Let us take up the challenge to reawaken America’s religious and moral heart, recognizing that a deep and abiding faith in God is the rock upon which this great nation was founded.”

Reagan also used racism, of course. He even announced his run for the presidency with a speech supporting “states rights” in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were murdered because they were trying to register African American voters in 1964. William Raspberry in the Washington Post in 2004:

It was bitter symbolism for black Americans (though surely not just for black Americans). Countless observers have noted that Reagan took the Republican Party from virtual irrelevance to the ascendancy it now enjoys. The essence of that transformation, we shouldn’t forget, is the party’s successful wooing of the race-exploiting Southern Democrats formerly known as Dixiecrats. And Reagan’s Philadelphia appearance was an important bouquet in that courtship.

I don’t accuse Reagan of racism, though while he served, I did note what seemed to be his indifference to the concerns of black Americans — issues ranging from civil rights enforcement and attacks on “welfare queens” to his refusal to act seriously against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He gets full credit from me for the good things he did — including presiding over the end of international communism. But he also legitimized, by his broad wink at it, racial indifference — and worse.

His political progeny include Trent Lott, who got caught a while back praising the overtly segregationist 1948 presidential candidacy of Strom Thurmond, and, I suspect, many Lott soul mates in the current Republican congressional majority.

Today’s Republican majority in the House and Senate is probably far more racist (as well as right wing “Christian”) than the one Raspberry referred to in 2004.

religion politics

George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush continued the Republican tradition of race baiting and using right wing fundamentalists–who had by then grown very influential in politics–to get votes.

When George W. Bush was in the White House, I couldn’t imagine this trend could actually get worse. But here we are today in a presidential race in which all of the GOP candidates are campaigning on hate and fear of “the other” and using fundamentalist religious beliefs to fan the flames.

 The leading Republican candidate for president Donald Trump has actually said in a primary debate on national TV that as president he would kill the families of suspected terrorists in order to prevent attacks, and not many media talking heads have expressed shock about it.

Trump wants to round up 12 million undocumented immigrants, put them on buses and drop them off at the Mexican border. He wants to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. and he thinks he can shut down “parts of the internet” to keep potential terrorists from using it.

Another leading candidate, Ted Cruz, said on Tuesday night that as president he would “carpet bomb” any place where ISIS holds territory. Cruz is the favored candidate of fundamentalist “Christians.”

Both Trump’s and Cruz’s proposed actions would constitute war crimes.

Religion

The other candidates are horrible too. For example, Chris Christie has now said twice on national TV that he would shoot down a Russian plane that entered a no-fly zone.

How have we come to this? I can see the progression in my lifetime. What can we do to break the stranglehold of right wing religious extremism and intolerance on the Republican Party? The only thing I can think of is to elect Democrats to the White House, Congress, and State Houses. If we don’t, we’re on the road to fascism.

Interesting Reads for Thursday

A crazy article from the WaPo: ‘Unfriending’ Trump supporters is just another example of how we isolate ourselves online.

Think Progress: Trump Answers Question About Affordable Child Care By Mocking The Questioner.

CNN: Putin praises ‘bright and talented’ Trump.

WaPo: Pentagon chief’s use of personal email will prompt Senate review.

ABC News: Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli Arrested for Securities Fraud.

NYT: Fact Checking Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio on Immigration.

Politifact: Ted Cruz misfires on definition of ‘carpet bombing’ in GOP debate.

ABC News: Carly Fiorina Digs in on Claim That General’s Retirement Was Due to Obama Dispute

Christian Science Monitor: Why are non-Muslim women wearing the hijab?

ABC News: AP Interview: McConnell Suggests New Look at Patriot Act.

NBC News: Criminal Charges to Be Brought Against Enrique Marquez, Ex-Neighbor of San Bernardino Shooters.

Kevin Drum: Strike Two for Pair of New York Times Reporters.

I posted about this guy awhile back. The Cut: Millionaire Cleared of Rape Charge After Claiming He Tripped and His Penis Fell Into Teen.

The Atlantic: Lessons From the Mistrial in the Freddie Gray Case.

What stories are you following today? Or are you just too busy getting ready for the upcoming holidays? Either way, have a terrific Thursday!


Tuesday Reads

matisse-tea-in-the-garden-1919

Good Morning!!

I’m getting a slow start again today. We’re having another heat wave here, and its throwing my circadian rhythms off. It’s hard to get to sleep at night because it’s so hot, and then I wake up at around 5AM when it has cooled down some, then fall back into a deep sleep and wake up a few hours later feeling drugged. I’m just drinking my iced coffee now and trying to get myself going. The good news is that at this time of year it does cool down quite a bit at night.

Hillary Clinton is in the news this morning, and as usual, even when she does something positive like requesting the release of all of her State Department emails or hold a meeting with activists and then release the video, the media reports it in a negative light. Here’s the video:

Part 1

Part 2

I hope Hillary supporters will watch the videos and not just read the media reports; because she gives intelligent, sensible answers. I linked to a blog post by Oliver Willis a few days ago in which he suggests that the activists are focusing on getting Hillary to say she’s sorry for things her husband did in the 1990s instead of pushing for real changes in policies. He was right.

The Hill reports: Clinton tells Black Lives Matter activists: ‘You’re not going to change every heart.’

“All I’m saying is, your analysis is totally fair, it’s historically fair, it’s psychologically fair, it’s economically fair. But you’re going to have to come together as a movement and say, ‘Here’s what we want done about it,’ ” Clinton says to a few members of the movement in the video posted by GOOD Magazine.

“Because you can get lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it,” Clinton adds later. “Even for us sinners, find some common ground on agendas that can make a difference right here and now in people’s lives.”

Clinton met with the group of Boston-area Black Lives Matter activists last week after they were shut out of an event in the early voting state of New Hampshire that they planned to protest. A spokesman said they watched from an overflow room and met with Clinton afterward.

“I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate,” Clinton continues later in the exchange.

Activists who spoke with Clinton appeared on MSNBC last night to criticize her for “ducking responsibility” for policies of Bill Clinton’s administration that led to mass incarceration of black people.

Why is it that no one seems to understand that Bill and Hillary Clinton are two separate people with separate views of the world? Do they really believe that the wife of a president makes the laws of the land?

Still, Hillary did respond to the accusations. CNN:

Daunasia Yancey

The activists, led by Daunasia Yancey, founder of Black Lives Matter in Boston, pressed Clinton on her family’s role in promoting “white supremacist violence against communities of color.”

Clinton acknowledged during the conversation that laws put into place by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, did not work out as planned.

“I do think that there was a different set of concerns back in the ’80s and the early ’90s. And now I believe that we have to look at the world as it is today and try and figure out what will work now,” she said. “And that’s what I’m trying to figure out and that’s what I intend to do as president.”

But Clinton also told the protestors that she was “not sure” she agreed with the activists that her husband’s policies were racist.

“I do think that a lot of what was tried and how it was implemented has not produced the kinds of outcomes that any of us would want,” she said. “But I also believe that there are systemic issues of race and justice that go deeper than any particular law.”

But for some reason all the activists wanted was for Hillary to show contrition in some way. Was she supposed to break down sobbing? I’m not sure what they wanted. Read more about it at CNN.

New York Magazine has more:

Julius Jones is the man on the right.

Julius Jones is the man on the right.

The first video starts with [Julius] Jones spending three minutes going over America’s history of violence toward black people, ending with Clinton’s role in perpetuating mass incarceration. He concluded with a thoughtful question on what that means to Clinton personally — “Now, they may have been unintended consequences, but now that you understand the consequences, what in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction of the country?” he asked — and a Clinton aide interrupted before she could answer.

Specifically, what was Hillary’s role in this? Do they believe she was actually running the country with Bill as just a figurehead? Continuing,

Clinton started off with a standard politician answer, recapping her lifelong advocacy for minority children, then offered some insight into how she wants to frame the issue on the campaign trail. “Once you say that this country has still not recovered from its original sin, which is true, the next question by people who are on the sidelines, which is the vast majority of Americans, is ‘So, what do you want me to do about it?'” she said. “I’m trying to put together in a way that I can explain it and I can sell it, because in politics if you can’t explain it and you can’t sell it, it stays on the shelf.” ….

Jones objected to Clinton suggesting that Black Lives Matter needs to have clearer policy goals to get the rest of the country onboard. “I say this as respectfully as I can: If you don’t tell black people what we need to do, then we won’t tell you all what you need to do,” Jones said, adding that “this is and has always been a white problem of violence” and there isn’t much black people can do to stop it.

Really? So candidates and activists should not communicate about changes in legislation and policy? As Oliver Willis noted, the activists don’t seem focused on policies for the future. I really hope this analysis is wrong, but it does sound like this movement may go the way of Occupy Wall Street if they don’t start telling candidates what policies they would support.

Hillary and Julius Jones

Hillary and Julius Jones

I know you’ve probably seen the headlines suggesting that Hillary is no longer the most likely candidate to get the Democratic nomination, so I won’t bother posting them. Here’s a response from Nate Silver, based on actual data: Hillary Clinton’s Inevitable Problems.

Clinton’s favorability rating has, in fact, fallen quite a lot, to an average of about 42 percent favorable and 48 percent unfavorable in recent polls.

Numbers like those, when combined with the “emailgate” scandal and Sen. Bernie Sanders’s position in the polls (he’s now running very close to Clinton in New Hampshire, although not in Iowa or nationally), have a lot of commentators saying Clinton’s campaign has had an unexpectedly rough start. “Hillary is probable, but no longer inevitable,” wrote David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times, assessing her chances to win the nomination.

Horsey is right to deal in probabilities rather than certainties. Personally, I give Clinton about an 85 percent chance of becoming the Democratic nominee. (The general election is a whole different story.) That’s a pinch higher than betting markets, which put her chances at 75 to 80 percent.

But those betting markets, unlike some pundits, haven’t changed their assessment of Clinton much. In the markets, her probability of winning the nomination is still close to its all-time high and has barely budged in the past few months, rarely falling much below 75 percent or rising much above 80 percent.

Emailgate? #feelthebern? Clinton’s declining favorables? The betting markets think everything that’s happened to Clinton so far in the campaign is pretty much par for the course. It’s not that these markets are clairvoyant; they presumably didn’t know there would be a scandal involving Clinton and her email server, for instance. But it was a pretty good bet that there would be some scandal involving Clinton. (It’s not as though there is an absence of them to pick from.) Likewise, while you might or might not have identified Sanders as the person to do it, it was a pretty good bet that somechallenger to Clinton would be situated about where Sanders is in the polls. So events like these were “priced in” to her stock. Let’s look at each of them in a bit more depth.

Please go read the rest at the FiveThirtyEight link above.

Valerie Tarico

Valerie Tarico

I’d like to call your attention to an essay by Valerie Tarico published at Raw Story: Republicans want 10-year-old girls to give birth to ‘rape’ babies — here’s what the Bible sas about that. Tarico is a former evangelical christian who is now a psychologist who writes about “the intersection between religious belief, psychology and politics, with a growing focus on women’s issues and contraceptive technologies that she thinks are upstream game changers for a broad range of challenges that humanity faces.”

In her lengthy essay, Tarico demonstrates that in the Bible women have no function except to bear children and serve men. They are not seen as autonomous human beings who should have choices about any aspect of their lives. We all know this, but reading the biblical examples she gives is still highly enlightening.

More interesting reads, links only:

The Intercept: Why Did the FBI Spy on James Baldwin?

Raw Story: ‘Women get equal pay’: Rick Perry doesn’t want a bunch of girly fair wage laws ‘jumbling up our code’

People: Donald Trump Reports for Duty (Jury Duty That Is!) After Five Summonses.

Business Insider: ‘Dilbert’ creator: There’s a ‘clown genius’ behind Donald Trump’s campaign — and it’s why he’s unstoppable.

Washington Post: State Department flags 305 more Clinton e-mails for review. (Go down several paragraphs and you’ll learn that none of the emails were classified at the time and Clinton is not being accused of any wrongdoing. The review of the emails is simply for the purpose of deciding what material should be released under the Freedom of Information Act.)

Reuters, via Raw Story: Scott Walker tries channelling Trump in attempt to kick-start sinking campaign.

Bankok Post: Bangkok blast: the Hindu shrine beloved by Buddhists.

USA Today: Police release footage of suspect in Bangkok bombing.

Matter: I Watched 14 Police Officers Take Down a One-Legged Homeless Black Man Outside Twitter HQ.

NPR: For The First Time, Women Will Graduate From Army’s Rigorous Ranger School.

What stories are you following today?

 


Fourth of July Reads

cartoon1

Good Morning!!

Today we celebrate the Declaration of Independence. I’ve assembled a few informational readings about this day in history.

From The Cagle Post: Fourth of July Fast Facts.

“I’m confused. I thought July 4 was the day our country declared independence from King George III of Great Britain.”

“Actually, according to ConstitutionFacts.com, that’s not so. The Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776.”

“Then why do we celebrate our independence on the Fourth every year? Is that when we started the American Revolution?”

“That is a common misunderstanding, as well. The American Revolution began in April 1775, more than a year earlier.”

“I’m stumped. Was the Fourth the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence?”

“Nope. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft in June 1776. Also, Jefferson didn’t write the Declaration alone.”

“He didn’t? I always thought he was the sole author.”

“A common misconception. In fact, the Continental Congress appointed a five-person to write the Declaration. It included Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman.” ….

“Though Jefferson wrote the first draft, it was changed 86 times by other members of the committee and other members of the Continental Congress.”

I did not know that.

liberty1

David Armitage at The Wall Street Journal: The Declaration of Independence: The Words Heard Around the World.

The Declaration of Independence is the birth certificate of the American nation—the first public document ever to use the name “the United States of America”—and has been fundamental to American history longer than any other text. It enshrined what came to be seen as the most succinct and memorable statement of the ideals on which the U.S. was founded: the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; the consent of the governed; and resistance to tyranny.

But the Declaration’s influence wasn’t limited to the American colonies of the late 18th century. No American document has had a greater impact on the wider world. As the first successful declaration of independence in history, it helped to inspire countless movements for independence, self-determination and revolution after 1776 and to this very day. As the 19th-century Hungarian nationalist, Lajos Kossuth, put it, the U.S. Declaration of Independence was nothing less than “the noblest, happiest page in mankind’s history.”

In telling this story of global influence, however, it is important to separate two distinct elements of the Declaration—elements that sometimes get conflated. The first of these is the assertion of popular sovereignty to create a new state: in the Declaration’s words, the right of “one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” The second and more famous element of the Declaration is its ringing endorsement of the sanctity of the individual: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

Read much more at the link.

Declaration-of-Independence-broadside-1776-Jamestown-Yorktown-Foundation2

From the LA Times: The slow-spreading news of American independence.

In this era of instant communication, it’s interesting to note the slow distribution of the Declaration, and the spreading of the word to those on whose behalf independence had been declared. (Imagine the Twitter version: Dudes, we’re on our own. #independence #totallyrad #stickitkinggeorge).

The text was set in type by Philadelphia printer John Dunlap just hours after the Continental Congress approved the manifesto on July 4. He ran off about 200 copies, most of which were then distributed via horse and boat around the Colonies. He reprinted it in his own newspaper, Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet, or The General Advertiser (great newspaper names back then). Over the next few weeks, Jefferson’s stirring words were reprinted inlocal newspapers and pamphlets around the Colonies.

And, naturally, in Britain. It took more than a month for the first reports of the Declaration to reach Britain in letters ferried by the Mercury packet ship. Gen. William Howe, who was leading the crown’s forces in the Colonies, included a brief mention in his report to his overseers. So the first public airing of the news came in the London Gazette, the crown’s official paper. If you weren’t a close reader, you could have easily missed it.

In the four-page issue dated Aug. 6-Aug. 10, 1776, the Gazette’s lead story was Howe’s update of the war, reporting that “the Rebels, who are numerous, and are very advantageously posted with strong Entrenchments both upon Long Island and that of New York, with more than One Hundred pieces of Cannon for the Defence of the Town towards the Sea, and to obstruct the passage of the [British] Fleet up the North [Hudson] River, besides a considerable Field Train of artillery.”

Finally, Carina Kolodny at Huffington Post: This Is Not Your Independence Day.

The 4th of July might commemorate the independence of our country — but it also serves as a bitter reminder that in 1776, the country that I love had no place for me in it.

When our founding fathers penned, “All men are created equal,” they meant it. Not all people. Not all humans. Just all men — the only reason they didn’t feel obliged to specify “white” men is because, at the time, men of color were considered less than men, less than human.

The 4th is not my Independence Day — and if you’re a Caucasian woman, it isn’t yours either. Our “independence” didn’t come for another 143 years, with the passage of The Woman’s Suffrage Amendment in 1919. The 4th of July is also not Independence Day for people of color. It wasn’t until the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870 that all men had the right to vote regardless of race — on paper, that is, not in practice. People of color were systematically, and all too successfully, disenfranchised for another century. July 4th of 1776 was certainly not a day of Independence or reverence for Native Americans. It wasn’t until 1924 that Native Americans could unilaterally become citizens of the United States and have the voting rights to go with it.

Now, before anyone argues that Independence is about more than voting rights, I’d like to point out that our Founding Fathers would fundamentally disagree with you. The Revolutionary War was fought, in large part, because of “taxation without representation” — the then English colonists believed they were not free because their voices were not represented. The right to vote, the right to have your say is the delineating characteristic of a democracy.

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The Aftermath of the Hobby Lobby Decision

On that note, today many concerned citizens are looking back at the latest Supreme Court decisions that take women backwards in their pursuit of freedom and autonomy. The court-approved limits on access to birth control go beyond the Hobby Lobby decision. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog: Broader right to object to birth control.

Expanding the rights of religious opponents of birth control, a divided Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon spared an Illinois college — and maybe hundreds of other non-profit institutions — from obeying government regulations that seek to assure access to pregnancy prevention services for female workers and students.  In the same order, the majority essentially told the government to modify its own rules if it wants to keep those services available.

Three Justices wrote a sharply worded dissent, accusing the majority of creating on its own a “new administrative regime” that will seriously complicate the operation of the birth control mandate under the new federal health care law.  The majority, the dissenters said, “has no reason to think that the administrative scheme it foists on the government today is workable or effective on a national scale.”

The ruling, which the majority insisted was temporary and had settled nothing finally about the legal issues at stake, came three days after the Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby had given for-profit businesses whose owners have religious objections to birth control a right to refuse to provide those services in their employee health plans.

The plea by Wheaton College, a religious institution in Illinois with about 3,000 students, moved the Court beyond for-profit firms to the world of non-profit religious colleges, hospitals, and other charities.  The government had already moved to accommodate their beliefs, but that had not gone far enough for the college and for scores of other non-profits.  With the Court’s new order, they gained additional separation from the birth-control mandate.

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum writes: Supreme Court Now Playing Cute PR Games With Hobby Lobby Decision.

For the last few days, there’s been a broad argument about whether the Hobby Lobby ruling was a narrow one—as Alito himself insisted it was—or was merely an opening volley that opened the door to much broader rulings in the future. After Tuesday’s follow-up order—which expanded the original ruling to cover all contraceptives, not just those that the plaintiffs considered abortifacients—and today’s order—which rejected a compromise that the original ruling praised—it sure seems like this argument has been settled. This is just the opening volley. We can expect much more aggressive follow-ups from this court in the future.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s worth noting that quite aside from whether you agree with the Hobby Lobby decision, this is shameful behavior from the conservatives on the court. As near as I can tell, they’re now playing PR games worthy of a seasoned politico, deliberately releasing a seemingly narrow opinion in order to generate a certain kind of coverage, and then following it up later in the sure knowledge that its “revisions” won’t get nearly as much attention.

At Slate, , and  explain that Hobby Lobby rewrites religious-freedom law in ways that ignore everything that came before.

Monday’s decision in Hobby Lobby was unprecedented. Much of the commentary has focused on the Supreme Court’s decision to extend rights of religious free exercise to for-profit corporations. Hobby Lobby is for religion what Citizens United was for free speech—the corporatization of our basic liberties. But Hobby Lobby is also unprecedented in another, equally important way. For the first time, the court has interpreted a federal statute, theReligious Freedom Restoration Act (or RFRA), as affording more protection for religion than has ever been provided under the First Amendment. While some have read Hobby Lobby as a narrow statutory ruling, it is much more than that. The court has eviscerated decades of case law and, having done that, invites a new generation of challenges to federal laws, including those designed to protect civil rights.

The authors explain how the right wing Roberts Court has moved beyond any concern for legal precedent in making its decisions.

Hobby Lobby is unprecedented because it corporatizes religious liberty. It extends to for-profit businesses the rights and privileges that have long been associated only with churches and religious nonprofits. But that change is the result of a more pervasive and deeper upending of the law of religious liberty in America. Ignoring congressional intent, the court reads RFRA as having shed its First Amendment skin. It is not entirely clear what American law will look like after that change. But if anything is clear, it is that the Roberts Court is now unconstrained by precedent. It has loosened itself from decades of First Amendment doctrine and has begun remaking the law of free exercise.

Please read the whole thing.

Ironically, the Hobby Lobby decision may have also created some serious problems for the human beings who own corporations (h/t Dakinikat). From Mother Jones: How Hobby Lobby Undermined The Very Idea of a Corporation. Basically, now that SCOTUS has said that some corporations are inseparable from the people who own them, those owners could lose their legal protection from debts and lawsuits that result from corporate actions. There’s some instant Karma for you!

In Other News

A few more links for your holiday reading pleasure:

Miami Herald: FBI records: Chilling find in Bradenton dumpster (new clues to Saudi involvement in the 9/11 and the cover-up of that involvement by the Bush/Cheney administration).

Study links Oklahoma earthquake swarm with fracking operations 

Boston Globe: People prefer electric shocks to time alone with thoughts.

LA Times: Tibetans get high-altitude edge from extinct Denisovans’ genes.

What stories are you following on this Independence Day?

 


Saturday Reads: Obama’s “Grand Bargain” Rears Its Ugly Head Again, and Other News

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Good Morning!!

Just in time for Halloween, Obama’s nightmare “Grand Bargain” once again rears its ugly head. Yesterday morning Bloomberg’s Joshua Green followed a hunch and attended a briefing by the President’s top economic adviser (who is not an economist). According to Green, Sperling told Democrats “they’ll have to swallow entitlement cuts.”

In his usual elliptical and prolix way, Sperling seemed to be laying out the contours of a bargain with Republicans that’s quite a bit different that what most Democrats seem prepared to accept. What stood out to me was how he kept winding back around to the importance of entitlement cuts as part of a deal, as if he were laying the groundwork to blunt liberal anger. Right now, the official Democratic position is that they’ll accept entitlement cuts only in exchange for new revenue—something most Republicans reject. If Sperling mentioned revenue at all, I missed it.

But he dwelt at length—and with some passion—on the need for more stimulus, though he avoided using that dreaded word. He seemed to hint at a budget deal that would trade near-term “investment” (the preferred euphemism for “stimulus’) for long-term entitlement reform. That would be an important shift and one that would certainly upset many Democrats.

Here’s some of what Sperling had to say. He led off with the importance of entitlement cuts. (All emphasis is mine):

“Sometimes here [in Washington] we start to think that the end goal of our public policy is to hit a particular budget or spending or revenue metric—as if those are the goals in and of itself. But it’s important to remember that each of these metrics … are means to larger goals. … Right now, I think there is among a lot of people a consensus as to what the ingredients of a pro-growth fiscal policy are. It would be a fiscal policy that—yes—did give more confidence in the long run that we have a path on entitlement spending and revenues that gives confidence in our long-term fiscal position and that we’re not pushing off unbearable burdens to the next generation. That is very important.”

After Green’s article was posted, White House spokesperson Amy Brundage tried to minimize the talk of cuts in the safety net in the following e-mail:

“Gene was reiterating what our position has been all along: that any big budget deal is going to have to include significant revenues if Republicans insist on entitlement reforms. And any budget deal needs to have first and foremost the goal of creating good jobs for middle class families and growing the economy—that’s our north star in any budget deal, big or small.”

Uh huh. They know Americans are paying attention to the constant threat of cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We need to stay vigilant and keep pushing back hard.

At Daily Kos, Joan McCarter responded: No, White House advisor Gene Sperling, entitlement cuts are not necessary.

You know what would be a really, really crappy idea? Making cuts to programs that are keeping millions from poverty in order to make a bad economy marginally better. But that’s what President Obama’s top economic advisor—Gene Sperling, director of the White House’s National Economic Council—is telling Democrats they’ll have to swallow….

Yeah, that would upset many Democrats. It would upset a helluva lot of voters, too. Millions and millions of them who have every reason right now to vote against Republicans. It would probably also not go over too well with the next generation who’s going to be far less impacted by the national debt than by having no hope of a secure retirement because a handful of austerity fetishists sold them up the river when they were young.

Sperling is saying that this will have to be done because “we still need to give this recovery more momentum.” Because of course the answer to the recovery is sacrificing some old people. By all means, get their skin in the game. They maybe have an inch or two of skin to spare.

Sign the petition from Senator Bernie Sanders, Daily Kos and an enormous coalition of progressives demanding that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Here’s an article at The Atlantic that Obama and Sperling should read: Raising the Medicare Age: A Popular Idea With Shockingly Few Benefits

Increasing the Medicare age would barely save the government any money, while increasing healthcare spending overall by keeping seniors in less-efficient private insurance (if they even have it). Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, the policy is fine.

It may seem obvious that raising the Medicare age should save money. After all, the projected rise of the long-term debt is mostly about the projected rise of federal health-care spending. If we raise the Medicare age, Washington can wait longer to pay for seniors’ health care, which means they’ll pay less, overall.

Any time there’s any chance for any kind of budget bargain, “grand” or otherwise, the discussion inside the Beltway inevitably turns to hiking the Medicare age. (Call it Peterson’s Law: As a fiscal debate grows longer, the probability of a CEO proposing a higher Social Security and Medicare age approaches one). Right on cue, this got trial-ballooned during the debt ceiling talks in 2011, and then again during the fiscal cliff talks in 2012. Professional deficit hawks think of raising the Medicare age as a sign of seriousness. It’s not so much about the money it saves as the message it supposedly sends markets: that the debt will be fixed.

Except it’s all a pack of lies. Read all about it at the link.

It’s been a year since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and caused so much havoc that it was “the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.” In July 2013, it came out that four charities had been holding back millions in donations that were collected specifically for Sandy relief. Now NY is forcing them to cough up some of the money. From the NY Daily News:

Four charities that had been under fire for sitting on millions of dollars of Hurricane Sandy relief funds have agreed to pony up $10 million to aid victims of the storm.

The charities — including the American Red Cross and a fund created by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees — reached an agreement with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The deal came after revelations in July that 40% of the $575 million in Sandy aid collected by 90 charities had been disbursed within six months of the storm.

“We have been dogged about making sure that when they raise money and tell the world they are going to spend it on Sandy recovery, they in fact spend it on Sandy recovery,” Schneiderman said during an appearance Thursday in hard-hit Long Beach, L.I.

Brees’ charity had seriously dropped the ball, having received a single $300,000 donation but only allocating $75,000 of it, officials said.

Under the agreement with Schneiderman, the Brees Dream Foundation agreed to disperse the remaining $225,000 by October 2014, the second anniversary of the storm.

In less serious news–it IS Saturday after all, Gawker has learned that Fox News’ Shepard Smith began carrying on an office romance with a young producer at Fox, Giovanni “Gio” Graziano. Apparently, the two have been seen together all over Manhattan.

Gawker has learned that Smith is dating a 26-year-old Penn State grad and Fox Business producer named Giovanni “Gio” Graziano. According to multiple sources with knowledge of their relationship, the couple met sometime after Graziano started working at Fox Report in October 2011 as a production assistant. He’s the man with whom Smith frequents Bathtub Gin.

“Yes, that’s Shepard’s boyfriend,” Katya Minskova, the Bathtub Gin waitress Smith berated in March, confirmed to Gawker when shown a photo of Graziano. Another source who had seen them together at the Chelsea speakeasy confirmed Graziano’s identity as well. Both sources say they saw Graziano and Smith together at the bar on multiple occasions, and that they appeared to be romantically involved.

While Smith and Graziano’s boss Roger Ailes, a notorious homophobe, was apparently kept in the dark about the relationship—“higher ups had no idea,” a source close to Graziano said—the pair doesn’t appear to have gone to great lengths to keep the workplace romance from their co-workers.

Shep Smith arranged for Graziano to be transferred to Fox Business a year ago, so the two wouldn’t be directly working together. Now it’s not clear if Graziano is even working at Fox anymore.

Graziano’s current status at Fox is unclear. His LinkedIn profile indicates that he is currently employed at Fox Business (after three years as a production assistant at Fox News, including one year at Smith’s show). But the source close to Graziano claimed that he abruptly left Fox in mid-July. Graziano “dropped off the planet, cut off all his friends, to be with Shep,” the source said. “His former work friends are clueless about his current whereabouts.”

Very interesting . . .

I noticed this story at The Atlantic a few days ago, and saved it for today. Go to the link to check out this GIF of most popular baby girl names from 1960 to the present, based on data compiled by the Social Security Administration. Rebecca Rosen writes:

My friend Judy used to always say that whenever she met another Judy, she knew exactly how old that Judy was—to the day.

Now that level of precision might be a bit of a stretch, but, as the above map wonderfully shows, there’s good reason for that line of thinking. The most popular baby girl names in the United States are flashes in the pan—each one appearing on the map briefly, before being swept out by an up-and-comer.

The map was built in Adobe Illustrator by Deadspin‘s Reuben Fischer-Baum using data from the Social Security Administration. “Color palette,” Fischer-Baum wrote to me over email, “has to be credited to Stephen Few, from his excellent data viz book Show Me The Numbers.” Earlier drafts gave each name a unique color, he says, but in the end “it was a lot cleaner and more interesting to limit the palette to just the most popular name for any given year, and put the rest in grayscale so you could see how the different ‘eras’ of top names progressed.”

Over at Jezebel, Fischer-Baum describes the picture that emerges:

Baby naming generally follows a consistent cycle: A name springs up in some region of the U.S.—”Ashley” in the South, “Emily” in the Northeast—sweeps over the country, and falls out of favor nearly as quickly. The big exception to these baby booms and busts is “Jennifer”, which absolutely dominates America for a decade-and-a-half. If you’re named Jennifer and you were born between 1970 and 1984, don’t worry! I’m sure you have a totally cool, unique middle name.

Finally, here’s a really scary story for you from Talk to Action: A Majority of Americans 18-29 Years Old Now Believe in Demon Possession, Shows Survey.

Are Americans becoming less religious? While church affiliation is probably declining, don’t expect the atheist revolution anytime soon:

Over one half (63 percent, to be exact) of young Americans 18-29 years old now believe in the notion that invisible, non-corporeal entities called “demons” can take partial or total control of human beings, revealed an October 2012Public Policy Polling survey that also showed this belief isn’t declining among the American population generally; it’s growing.

Please read the whole creepy article at the link. It will scare you silly!

Those are my recommended reads for today. Please let us know what stories you’re following today by posting the links in the comment thread.


Paul Ryan’s “Reason and Science” Arguments Against Abortion

During last night’s vice presidential debate, moderator Martha Raddatz asked an infuriatingly simple-minded question, and she got an embarrassingly simple-minded response from Republican candidate Paul Ryan. The question:

“We have two Catholic candidates, first time on a stage such as this, and I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion,” she said. “Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that.”

Frankly, I couldn’t care less what either candidate’s personal views on abortion are, much less how their religious beliefs inform those views. But I’m glad Raddatz at least asked one question about women’s reproductive rights, even if she asked it stupidly. Here’s Ryan’s response:

RYAN: Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.

You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born, for our seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, “Bean.” Now I believe that life begins at conception.

That’s why — those are the reasons why I’m pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don’t agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

Can anyone point to either reason or science in that response? He’s telling millions of American women that he will work to deny their rights to control their bodies and plan their lives because he and his wife were thrilled by an ultrasound image of something that “was in the shape of a bean” and had a heartbeat. Sorry, that’s not science and it’s not reason. It’s sentimentality about a personal experience, not a justification for using the legal system to deny other people the right to personal autonomy.

And let’s not forget that, while Ryan is spouting the Romney line (until the next shake of the Etch-a-Sketch) that there should be exceptions for “rape, incest, and the life of the mother,” Ryan himself believes there should be no exceptions, because he sees rape and incest as just alternative “methods of conception.”

When Joe Biden noted that Ryan personally supports making abortion a crime with no exceptions, Ryan responded:

RYAN: All I’m saying is, if you believe that life begins at conception, that, therefore, doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

At least he’s consistent. I’m convinced that most of these “pro-life” right wingers actually agree with Ryan on that. At least he has the guts to come out and say it, although the Romney people must have been freaking out about it.

Then Raddatz asked another question:

RADDATZ: I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?

You can’t see it in the transcript, but there was a long pregnant pause (no pun intended) before Ryan figured out what to say next. That pause should tell any woman watching that a Romney/Ryan administration would be a danger to her health and freedom.

RYAN: We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.

Now how could it happen that “unelected judges” could have no say about anti-abortion legislation? Surely Ryan knows that any piece of legislation is subject to review by the courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court. There is only one way judges would not be able to review anti-abortion legislation, and that is if there were an amendment to the Constitution banning abortion. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have both endorsed the notion of a “personhood” amendment to the Constitution, and Ryan has actually sponsored a number of such initiatives.

Finally, as Amanda Marcotte notes at Slate, Ryan even managed to bring it up during his abortion response, although Raddatz didn’t ask about it:

RYAN: What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.

Marcotte writes:

The only remarkable thing about the exchange is that contraception is now such an important target for the anti-choicers that Ryan brought the subject up, even though Raddatz didn’t ask about it, pivoting quickly from abortion to talk about the Catholic Church’s issue with contraception: “Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.” As with abortion, Ryan’s religion teaches that contraception is wrong, though, when pressed, he wasn’t as eager to suggest that what is taught in the pews should be enforced by the law. Instead, he spoke of “religious liberty,” by which he means giving the employer the right to deny an employee insurance benefits she has paid for because he thinks Jesus disapproves of sex for pleasure instead of procreation.

Ryan and Romney may be reticent now, but we know based on their past behavior that both of these men treat women as breeders–receptacles for incubating embryos and fetuses. As a Mormon leader, Romney even tried to convince a woman whose doctor had told her she would probably die if she carried her pregnancy to term that she should give birth anyway. From the book The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman:

In the fall of 1990, Exponent II published in its journal an unsigned essay by a married woman who, having already borne five children, had found herself some years earlier facing an unplanned sixth pregnancy. She couldn’t bear the thought of another child and was contemplating abortion. But the Mormon Church makes few exceptions to permit women to end a pregnancy. Church leaders have said that abortion can be justified in cases of rape or incest, when the health of the mother is seriously threatened, or when the fetus will surely not survive beyond birth. And even those circumstances “do not automatically justify an abortion,” according to church policy.

Then the woman’s doctors discovered she had a serious blood clot in her pelvis. She thought initially that would be her way out—of course she would have to get an abortion. But the doctors, she said, ultimately told her that, with some risk to her life, she might be able to deliver a full-term baby, whose chance of survival they put at 50 percent. One day in the hospital, her bishop—later identified as Romney, though she did not name him in the piece—paid her a visit. He told her about his nephew who had Down syndrome and what a blessing it had turned out to be for their family. “As your bishop,” she said he told her, “my concern is with the child.” The woman wrote, “Here I—a baptized, endowed, dedicated worker, and tithe-payer in the church—lay helpless, hurt, and frightened, trying to maintain my psychological equilibrium, and his concern was for the eight-week possibility in my uterus—not for me!”

….The woman told Romney, she wrote, that her stake president, a doctor, had already told her, “Of course, you should have this abortion and then recover from the blood clot and take care of the healthy children you already have.” Romney, she said, fired back, “I don’t believe you. He wouldn’t say that. I’m going to call him.” And then he left. The woman said that she went on to have the abortion and never regretted it. “What I do feel bad about,” she wrote, “is that at a time when I would have appreciated nurturing and support from spiritual leaders and friends, I got judgment, criticism, prejudicial advice, and rejection.”

Personally I have never heard or read about either of these men expressing even the slightest concern for a woman who must choose between the life she has planned for herself–perhaps education and a career, or simply the freedom to choose whether to have children at all–and devoting the next 20 years of her life to raising a child. I’ve never even seen any evidence that Ryan or Romney has any understanding of the horror of rape or incest or the struggle to choose whether to risk one’s life to bear a child.

Furthermore, their attitudes toward women and reproductive rights are not based on anything resembling reason or science. Their beliefs are based on religion and outmoded and offensive views of women as objects with little autonomy–at best they see women as second class citizens who are unable to make rational, moral decisions and at worse they see women as the property of men with no right to freedom of choice.


Late Evening: Crow’s Foot Tools and Losing our Religion

Well, it is Tuesday evening…the leaves are turning here in Banjoland, what about in your neck of the woods? I’ve got just a few links for you tonight, hope you enjoy them.

This is a very interesting read from Alter Net: Right-Wingers Would Be Shocked to Learn That Islam Has Been Part of American History Since Its Founding

Recently, just as turmoil in the Middle East erupted, New York straphangers were treated to hateful anti-Muslim billboards, courtesy of Pamela Geller, leader of “Stop Islamization of America.” The ads, which declared that radical Muslims are “savages” waging war on the civilized world, created a furor and resulted in widespread defacements (for a roundup, check out the Awl), the arrest of a journalist , and possible changes to the rules governing subway and bus advertisements that might incite violence.

Islamophobia is back with a vengeance. Geller, a self-appointed hate czar, catapulted herself to racist celebrity back in 2010 with shrill denouncements of an Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan near the site of the World Trade Center. Since then, her repeat warnings of Islam’s foreign threat to America have resonated powerfully in a post-9/11 world where violent protests in the Middle East over a crude anti-Muslim film have triggered a fresh wave of anxiety.

It would undoubtedly shock Geller and her Islamophobic buddies to know that Muslims have been in America for so long they could almost have formed a welcoming committee to the Daughters of the Revolution.

(I wonder if any of this information can be found in Huckabee’s version of history.)

Consider this: Anthony “The Turk” Janszoon van Salee , son of the president of the Republic of Salé in Morocco, was among the earliest and richest settlers of Manhattan island, a devout Muslim, and the ancestor of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Whitneys, Humphrey Bogart, and, according to family lore, Jacqueline Bouvier. That’s right: the Lady of Camelot apparently had a mixed-race Muslim as an ancestor! One of van Salee’s first properties was a farm in lower Manhattan acquired in 1638 located on the north side of the stockade along present-day Wall Street, just blocks from the Park Place Islamic center characterized by Geller as a foreign presence on sacred American soil. A defender of minorities, van Salee became the first settler of Brooklyn. Coney Island, which abutted his property, was known as “Turk’s Island” until the 19th century.

That was just the first few paragraphs, go ahead and learn some other tidbits of Islam in early American history.

There was a new poll report out today, nope it had nothing to do with the candidates, this one dealt with loosing our religion. Report: Protestants lose majority status in US

For the first time in its history, the United States does not have a Protestant majority, according to a new study. One reason: The number of Americans with no religious affiliation is on the rise.

The percentage of Protestant adults in the U.S. has reached a low of 48 percent, the first time that Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has reported with certainty that the number has fallen below 50 percent. The drop has long been anticipated and comes at a time when no Protestants are on the U.S. Supreme Court and the Republicans have their first presidential ticket with no Protestant nominees.

Among the reasons for the change a spike in the number of American adults who say they have no religion. The Pew study, released Tuesday, found that about 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15 percent in the last five years.

Scholars have long debated whether people who say they no longer belong to a religious group should be considered secular. While the category as defined by Pew researchers includes atheists, it also encompasses majorities of people who say they believe in God, and a notable minority who pray daily or consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious.” Still, Pew found overall that most of the unaffiliated aren’t actively seeking another religious home, indicating that their ties with organized religion are permanently broken.

Sure isn’t like that in North Georgia, this Pew report was a surprise to me.

And…with the coming of Halloween, here is a tail of the Raven, actually it is a New Caledonian Crow. Biologists figure out crow’s ‘party trick’ of using tools

A crow drinks water at the Alipore Zoo in Kolkata. (AFP Photo)

Biologists on Tuesday said they had figured out how the New Caledonian crow, a bird famed for using tools, does its party trick.

Corvus moneduloides, a native of France’s South Pacific territory of New Caledonia, is one of the stars of the avian world.

It uses its beak to craft complex tools from sticks, leaves and other material and then inserts them into deadwood or vegetation to fish out insects and other food.

Researchers led by Jolyon Troscianko of the University of Birmingham in central England used an ophthalmoscope video camera to record field of view and eye movement as three wild-caught birds examined a baited tube.

The bird’s eyes are more forward-positioned, rather than sideways-positioned, which gives it exceptional “binocular overlap,” they found.

This is the area that is viewed by both eyeballs, and is important because it helps the brain judge the distance of nearby objects.

Hmmmm, makes sense to me. Crows are such amazing creatures.

This is an open thread.