Thursday Reads: Joe Biden Is Not An Ally To Women (And Other News)

Good Morning!!

I’ve never been a fan of Joe Biden, so maybe I’ve just ignored his stance on reproductive rights. I did not know Biden was wobbly on the issue. I had even forgotten that Biden is a Catholic.

I couldn’t find anything recent on Biden’s abortion stance, except this piece at HuffPost from March 6: Biden In 1974: Women Don’t Have Sole Right To Say What Should Happen To Their Bodies.

When former Vice President Joe Biden was a freshman senator he said in a 1974 interview with Washingtonian that he believed the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling clearing the way for legal first-trimester abortions “went too far,” and that he didn’t “think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”

In the interview, which took place just two years after Biden’s wife and two-year-old were killed in a car accident, Biden — then the youngest senator in U.S. history — said his anti-abortion views were part of his “socially conservative” outlook.

“My wife said I was the most socially conservative man she had ever known,” he said. “When it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I’m about as liberal as your grandmother.”

Biden claims his remarks were “taken out of context.”

But Biden didn’t limit his anti-abortion views to rhetoric. He also advanced legislation on the subject.

In 1981, for example, Biden proposed the Foreign Assistance Act, which barred U.S. aid from being used for any medical research on abortion. It’s still in effect to this day. He has also voted in support of the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortion procedures.

Joe Biden interview with American Magazine, September 2015

“Those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them,” Biden wrote to a constituent in 1994.

He also supported former President Ronald Reagan’s “Global Gag Rule,” which prohibits the U.S. funding any nongovernmental organizations that offer or advise on reproductive health care if they also offer abortion. President Trump was quick to revive it in 2017.

Biden’s approval rating from the pro-choice activist group NARAL has fluctuated throughout his career. In the 1990s, his score wavered between 34 and 46 percent ― a pretty abysmal scorecard for a Democrat. In recent years, however, it’s shot up to 100 percent.

Biden has also consistently voted in support of banning so-called “partial-birth” abortions ― the medical term for which is “dilation and extraction.” These procedures are often politicized despite heart-wrenching stories from women whose lives were saved because of them.

Two articles on Biden and abortion from 2015:

America Magazine: Vice President Biden’s comments about abortion in America interview kick off new conversations.

In an exclusive interview with America released at the beginning of this week, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. affirmed that pro-life people “absolutely, positively” are welcome in the Democratic party and that he believes, as a Catholic, that “abortion is always wrong.” His comments, very different from most contributions to the political conversation about abortion, are blurring some long-established lines in the culture wars and generating significant interest in the media and among commentators….

“It has been hard…I’m prepared to accept that at the moment of conception there’s human life and being, but I’m not prepared to say that to other God­-fearing [and] non­-God­-fearing people that have a different view,” Biden said. He continued, “Abortion is always wrong…But I’m not prepared to impose doctrine that I’m prepared to accept on the rest of [the country].” (See the exchange, which begins at the 13:30 mark, in the full interview embedded at the bottom of this post.)

Fr. Malone also asked Mr. Biden if there was room for people who are pro-life in the Democratic party. The Vice President responded resolutely: “Absolutely. Absolutely, positively. And that’s been my position for as long as I’ve been engaged.”

No. Just no. Anyone who is “pro-life” in the sense of opposing women’s reproductive rights should not be welcome in the Democratic Party.

Mother Jones: Biden’s Abortion Record Could Cause Him Problems in a Presidential Bid.

Biden has been an inconsistent supporter of reproductive rights, sometimes backing the legal right of women to choose how to handle a pregnancy, while often hewing to his Catholic faith and moralizing against all abortions. Even today, when he and Clinton would most likely agree on most of the policy substance of ensuring access to abortion clinics, Biden sticks to a pro-life view in his personal politics.

Biden the gaffe machine

During the early part of his career, abortion rights groups griped about Biden as an unreliable ally. “Joe Biden moans a lot and then usually votes against us,” a Planned Parenthood official said in 1986.

When he first entered national politics, Biden was willing to stand alongside politicians who wanted to make abortion illegal. In a Washingtonian profilepublished the year after the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a nationwide right to abortion, Biden unequivocally criticized the ruling. “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion,” he said. “I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”

He put that view into practice in 1982, voting in the Judiciary Committee for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overturned Roe v. Wade by declaring that the Constitution offered women no inherent right to abortion, and that the federal government and states would be free to regulate or ban abortion as they pleased. Under that amendment, state laws that restricted abortions would have superseded more permissive federal laws.

Read the rest at Mother Jones.

As Biden continues to agonize about getting into the 2020 presidential race, this is something that needs to be spread far and wide among Democrats. With Roe v. Wade likely to be overturned soon, Women cannot accept a candidate who doesn’t wholeheartedly support women’s right to control their own bodies.

The Kushners and the Trumps

Charles and Jared Kushner

I’m reading the new book by Vicky Ward, Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. I can tell you that the Kushner family can definitely compete with the Trump’s in terms of corruption. Until now I had no idea just how much of a monster Charles Kushner is. No wonder Trump likes Jared so much. Ward was interviewed on Democracy Now this morning.

The New York Times has a story on the Kushners this morning: The Kingdom and the Kushners: Jared Went to Riyadh. So Did His Brother.

In late October 2017, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, dropped into Saudi Arabia for an unannounced visit to the desert retreat of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was in the process of consolidating his power. The two men talked privately late into the night.

Just a day earlier, Mr. Kushner’s younger brother, Josh, then 32, was flying out of the kingdom.

Jared came to talk policy, but Josh was there on business.

The founder of an eight-year-old venture capital firm, Josh Kushner had spent the three days before his brother’s arrival at an investor conference, where Prince Mohammed had promised to spend billions of dollars on a high-tech future for Saudi Arabia.

As others sat through speeches in a gilded conference hall, several participants said, the younger Mr. Kushner frequently ducked out for more exclusive conversations with Saudi officials.

Some government ethics lawyers say those conversations — never hidden, but not previously reported — create the appearance of a potential conflict of interest. Although Jared Kushner severed his ties with his brother’s company and divested his interest in his brother’s funds around the time he entered the White House, he was nonetheless discussing American policy with the rulers of the kingdom at virtually the same time that his brother was talking business with their top aides.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Mike Pence and Russia?

Franklin Graham and Mike Pence

Check out this creepy scoop from Think Progress: Why was Franklin Graham schmoozing with a sanctioned Russian official this month?

Franklin Graham, America’s most prominent evangelical leader, says Vice President Mike Pence signed off on his trip to Russia earlier this month. While there, Graham met with sanctioned Kremlin officials — even as U.S. investigations ramped up into Moscow’s election interference efforts. One official Russian governmental social media account touted the meeting as a way to “[intensify] contacts between the State Duma and the U.S. Congress.”

In an interview with RIA Novosti, a major Russian state-run outlet, Graham said he called Pence directly to tell him of the trip. “He was very happy to hear the news,” Graham said. “And he admitted that he fully supported my decision.”

Neither Pence’s office nor the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association responded to ThinkProgress’s requests for comment.

According to interviews in Russian media and photos on his own social media accounts, Graham, currently the chair of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, traveled to Moscow earlier this month to meet with a number of prominent Russian figures. Most notably, Graham had a sit-down meeting with Russian Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who is close to President Vladimir Putin and who has been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2014 for his role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Click on the link to read the rest.

More stories to check out, links only:

The New Republic: Nihilist In Chief: The Banal, Evil, All-Destructive Reign of Mitch McConnell.

Fast Company: Amazon could soon force you to go on a diet,according to one futurist.

Palm Beach Post: Not just Cindy Yang: Royals, felon, pop stars, others got access to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.

Seattle Times: FBI joining criminal investigation into certification of Boeing 737 MAX.

The New York Times: Doomed Boeing Jets Lacked 2 Safety Features That Company Sold Only as Extras.

Miami Herald: Two mystery parties try to restrict release of documents in Jeffrey Epstein civil suit.

Trump Inc: Trump’s Moscow Tower Problem.

Politico: Aides struggle to see strategy in Trump’s Conway, McCain fights.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Friday Reads and all that Jazz

10710993_10152844142993512_6766093555877670106_nGood Morning!

I’ve spent this week getting used to some changes in my schedule and activities while trying to find a way to get all the things paid for above and beyond teaching for what seems like next to nothing any more.  One of the things I learned this week is that some things really never change.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans is pretty much an endless parade of the same kinds of people  in the same groups with the same clothes and looks on their faces.  I’ve never gigged on Bourbon Street until this week even though I’ve gigged around New Orleans and the French Quarter a lot over the 20 years I’ve lived here.  I usually play at upscale restaurants so mostly, I’m very much in the background.

I’m still somewhat in the background but now it’s more like being the music behind the performance.   I’m accompanying a very talented drag performer with an awesome voice and having great fun!  I hope you enjoy the pictures!  I’m going to share a few other stories that are locally relevant and not as happy.  So, this top picture is Miss Jessica Duplantier singing with me checking out her show last week.   You’ll see a lot more of her and Eureka Starfish as the post goes on.

I’ve been thinking once again on how tribal human beings can be and how easily we forget how badly we can treat each other.  I also think we all have convenient short memories and long standing insensitivities to wrong done to others.   I’m getting tired of watching racism parade its ugly head.   I’m also getting extremely tired of people acting willfully ignorant about things that seriously represent injurious historical actions.

I‘m pretty sure we all know about  “pickaninny” culture even though many of us were not raised in the deep south.  It was a staple of Hollywood movies, literature, advertising, and many other aspects of popular culture prior to the civil rights movement.  I’m not going to actually reproduce any of that here on the post but I will point to the links and to this article highlighting the new poster for the North Shore Strawberry Festival.

The 2015 Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival poster was unveiled Tuesday (March 17), and immediately provoked a social media debate, with some calling the image racist.

The poster, created by artist Kalle Siekkinen, depicts two faceless children rendered in dark brown or black paint. One holds a flat of strawberries. The poster made the rounds on various Facebook pages, with some saying the image, done in a folk art style, implied cultural insensitivity. Others wrote that such concerns were misplaced.

Shelley Matherne, public relations director for the Strawberry Festival, said that the annual poster is produced by the Ponchatoula Kiwanis Club and that officials of the festival had not seen the work until Thursday’s unveiling. They became aware of the controversy via social media. Festival organizers are meeting with Kiwanis representatives Thursday (March 19) evening to discuss how to proceed, Matherne said.

The festival put a post about the poster on its Facebook page. The comments under the post — 81 as of 5:15 p.m. Thursday — were no longer public.

I have followed, spoke to and seen most of the social media storm.  I cannot believe that folks do not recognize the “pickaninny” stereotype and what it means to the historical movement to dehumanize and infantilize Black Americans.  You can look at the variety of comments there exclaiming that it’s racist free ‘folk art’ showcasing black children and judge for yourself.  The Festival people are standing by the poster and the poster’s defenders are vociferous.  I’m still appalled and I stand by that.

eureka starfish gagaI’m appalled on many levels by several recent events indicating that the struggle does indeed continue on many fronts.  There were several notable absences in the Selma commemoration including the Congressman that spoke at a White Supremacist gathering on his way to his seat.  He was in a posh resort being wined and dined by the AEI.  That’s obviously much more important than making a symbolic gesture to his constituents many of whose lives were profoundly changed by the civil rights movement.

U.S. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 3 House Republican who has been criticized in the past by civil rights leaders, stayed at a posh Georgia resort with his wife earlier this month rather than attend events in Alabama marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma civil rights march.

A newly filed congressional “post-travel” disclosure dated Wednesday shows Scalise skipped the Selma event to attend a Republican “off-the-record” retreat hosted in Sea Island, Ga. The event was hosted by the American Enterprise Institute from March 5-8.

Not far away from us, Mississipi Trees still bear “strange fruit”. All of this is a haunting reminder that our President may be black, but our American Society still has far to go to achieve the dream of liberty and justice for all.

CLAIBORNE COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) –The FBI and the MBI are investigating a suspicious death in Claiborne County.

A body was found on property located off of Rodney Road.

The Coroner, J.W. Mallett, confirms the man was found hanging from a tree. Officials say the body was hung using bed sheets.

According to the Coroner the body has not yet been identified because the body has apparently been there so long that identification, by visual means, is nearly impossible. The body has been sent to the State Crime Lab for autopsy.

The Claiborne County branch of the NAACP is indicating the man found hanging is Otis Byrd.

The FBI is only saying that he is a “man last seen March 2nd; and his family filed a missing persons report with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department on March 8th.”

In a news release, the FBI say the body was found during a ground search by the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks.

54-year-old Otis James Byrd was last seen when a friend dropped him off at Vicksburg’s Riverwalk Casino earlier this month.

His family and friends hadn’t heard from him since then.

The NAACP has now sent an email requesting the US Department of Justice “join the current investigation of the suspicious hanging death of Mr. Otis Byrd.”

The email goes on to say: “Mr. Otis Byrd’s body was [found] today, Thursday, March 19, 2015. After several days of missing, [he] was found hanged to death.”

The FBI says the body was found “a half mile from his last know residence.”

Some odd things have been happening in the city that relate to a really strange true crime case.  I thought I’d bring up the arrest and extradition of Robert Durst.  It’s one of those stories that makes you wonder St Pat's with Jessica DuPlantier and Dasani Watershow our society can manage to let so many folks rot in jail for very little while a true sociopath can wander about at will.  I guess you shouldn’t wonder too much because the guy is and was rich and can pretty much afford to work the justice system.  It’s a strange story, nonetheless.

Durst was arrested Saturday in New Orleans in connection with the 2000 fatal shooting of Berman at her Benedict Canyon home. He was charged Monday with murder, and the next day transferred to the mental health facility at a state-run prison in Louisiana.

His extradition to California has been delayed as authorities in New Orleans deal with the drugs and weapons allegations.

Meanwhile, New York authorities remain interested in Durst as they continue to investigate what happened to his first wife, Kathleen, who disappeared in 1982.

Kathleen Durst vanished after she expressed the desire for a divorce. To a friend, she had confided worries about what her husband might do.

Following the disappearance, Berman acted as an “informal spokesman” for Durst. The pair had met at UCLA, where they went to school together.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles allege that Durst killed Berman to prevent her from speaking to police about the disappearance of his wife. Durst could face the death penalty for the murder charge with special circumstances.
Less than a year after Berman’s death, Durst turned up in Galveston, Texas, in connection with the killing of an elderly neighbor, Morris Black. Black’s dismembered body, in several plastic bags, was discovered in the waters offshore. A trail of clues led to Durst’s arrest.

Durst didn’t deny dismembering Black, but he said he inadvertently shot him while wrestling a gun from him.

A jury acquitted him in 2003.

Although Durst’s life has seen a series of high-profile brushes with the law, suspicions about him exploded into a national sensation as they played out in a six-part HBO series, “The Jinx.”Eureka Starfish

The making of the documentary had opened up some new evidence.  Durst’s New Orleans Hotel Room is turning out to be one of those FBI forensic crime scenes from TV dramas mixed with crime psychologists and crime scene scientists.  Check out the picture on this one.  The guy oozes sociopath.

Murder suspect Robert Durst, subject of HBO’s ‘The Jinx,’ had more than $42,000 in cash, a fake ID and a latex mask when authorities arrested him in New Orleans last weekend, newly obtained records show.

Inside Durst’s hotel room at the J.W. Mariott on Canal Street, police say they found $42,631 in cash, mostly in $100 bills packed in small envelopes, according to an affidavit for a warrant to search Durst’s home in Houston, signed by a judge in Harris County, Texas, on Tuesday (March 17).

The new details were made public Wednesday after authorities in Houston searched the real-estate scion’s home at the request of Los Angeles officials, who have charged Durst in the 2000 death of his longtime confidante and spokesperson, Susan Berman.

According to the document, members of the FBI’s Violent Offenders Task Force found Durst on in the lobby of the hotel a little before 7 p.m. Saturday. When FBI Special Agent William Williams approached the 71-year-old man from behind and identified himself, Durst had a small backpack with him but claimed he did not have any type of identification.

When agents searched Durst’s room — he was staying in room 2303 under the name Everette Ward — they found a Texas ID with the same alias, and not his real name, the record states.

“That’s pretty good,” Durst said to the agents when confronted with the fake ID, according to the Texas document.

So, now I suppose I will have to watch the HBO thing.

Bourbon Street on a Monday
Well, that’s enough for me today.  I’m going back to sleep for awhile!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Hobby Lobby Loves Them Pre-Cooked

14c4a1ed09743ffd58d8053c7aa93f11Good Morning

You must have heard about the latest from Hobby Lobby, the hypocrisy is so disgusting…Hobby Lobby Allegedly Fired Employee Due to Pregnancy

When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives—on the false grounds that they cause abortions—would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant. Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits. “They didn’t even want me to come back after having my baby, to provide for it,” she says. Her allegations—as well as those brought by other former Hobby Lobby employees—call into question the company’s public claims when it comes to protecting life and operating its business with Christian values. Additionally, they highlight a practice by which Hobby Lobby prevents its employees from seeking justice through the courts.

Yeah, you can read more details at the link. But as Eric Loomis, LG&M points out: That Pro-Life Hobby Lobby

And here I thought Hobby Lobby was acting out of very strong principle for life and not because it hates women and wants to punish them for having sex. There’s also this gem:

When Allen applied for unemployment benefits, she says Hobby Lobby’s corporate office gave the unemployment agency a false version of events, claiming she could have taken off personal leave but chose not to. In the end, Allen says she won her claim for unemployment benefits, but she felt she had been wrongly discriminated based on the fact that she was pregnant. In February 2012 she sued Hobby Lobby, but her lawsuit was swiftly dropped because, like most—if not all—Hobby Lobby employees, Allen had signed away her rights to sue the company. Though the multibillion-dollar, nearly 600-store chain took its legal claim against the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court when it didn’t want to honor the health insurance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the company forbids its employees from seeking justice in the court of law. Allen had signed a binding arbitration agreement upon taking the job, though she says she doesn’t remember doing so. The agreement, which all Hobby Lobby employees are required to sign, forces employees to resolve legal disputes outside of court through a process known as arbitration.

Lying so she couldn’t get unemployment is very special, but forcing employees to sign documents waiving their right to sue the company in order to be hired should be as illegal as the yellow-dog contract. I would ask how something like that is even legal in this nation, but of course I already know why–because corporations control our lives in ways they have not in a century.

I have plenty more links for you, but because I must take the boy to his endocrinologist in Atlanta tomorrow…I will just give it to you in dump fashion. Religious violence in 2013 displaced millions | Al Jazeera America

Millions of people were forced from their homes because of their religious beliefs last year, the U.S. government said Monday, citing the devastating impact of conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Central African Republic. Secretary of State John Kerry called the displacement of families and devastation of communities from sectarian violence a troubling trend in the world, as he launched the State Department 2013 report on religious freedom. The report said that in much of the Middle East, the Christian presence is becoming “a shadow of its former self.” Hundreds of thousands of minority Christians have fled Syria after three years of civil war. It also highlighted more than one million people displaced in the Central African Republic during 2013, amid an upsurge in Christian-Muslim violence. In Southeast Asia, the spread of anti-Muslim violence spread from Myanmar‘s volatile west to central Meiktila, with up to 100 deaths and 12,000 displaced. Kerry further cited the “savagery and incredible brutality” by the al-Qaeda-inspired militant group active in Iraq and Syria, known as the Islamic State, saying it had slaughtered Shiite Muslims and forcibly converted Christians under threat of death. The report, released annually, reviews how religious freedoms are respected and violated in almost 200 countries and territories.

This 19-year-old confessed to killing a woman in 1963. You won’t believe what happened next.

In 1963, a 17-year-old Indiana youth named Robert J. Dowlut reportedly confessed to police — amid a pile of evidence — that he’d killed a local woman. The next year, a jury of his peers heard the case and found  Dowlut guilty. What happened next? A) He died in the electric chair. B) He lived a long life and is currently the chief lawyer for the National Rifle Association.

Read about this here: The NRA’s Murder Mystery | Mother Jones I really don’t know why they bother to research this next item of news,  WASHINGTON: Past-due debt prevalent across U.S., with South the highest | Economy | McClatchy DC What more would anyone expect.  At least there is Good News: Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Can Remain Open Here is a few health stories: Take Two: Just How Good Are Generic Meds Anyway? | Mother Jones Previously unknown virus that lives in half the world’s population could play a major role in obesity and diabetes – Medical News Today The Challenges of Having Sex as a Little Person – Merissa Nathan Gerson – The Atlantic And let’s not stop with little people sex, what about panda sex: Nixon on Panda Sex – Lawyers, Guns & Money In fact, more of Nixon’s tapes are in the news, as two new books are released,  The Untapped Secrets of the Nixon Tapes – Evan Thomas – The Atlantic From a former president to a former First Lady: The Best “Dear John Letter” Ever Sent | Mother Jones

In 1947, years before she met John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier sent her high school boyfriend what is maybe my favorite Dear John letter of all time.

“I’ve always thought of being in love as being willing to do anything for the other person—starve to buy them bread and not mind living in Siberia with them—and I’ve always thought that every minute away from them would be hell—so looking at it that [way] I guess I’m not in love with you.”

Jackie O. would have been 85 Monday. RIP.

For more fascinating reads, look at this: Read the Notorious RBG at Her Most Blistering

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, teeny tiny goddess of judicial feminism incarnate, has authored many a badass piece of legal writing in her day. Now, thanks to some devoted brainiacs who are better at this sort of thing than I am, you can read the sharpest work of the grand dame in one place.

The folks at People for the American Way (a progressive think tank) have put together a lovely treasury of RBG’s greatest hits. Perfect light reading for the next time you put your head in a big pile of curls on your head and take a bubble bath, or lie out on a Caribbean beach, or a good thing to read to the kids when you’re trying to get them to bed. Yep. Just a little light legal reading.

Meanwhile, Officials Pull Back From Crash Site as the Army Puts Pressure on Rebels – NYTimes.com And if you are worried about the big flood: Climate refugees, DO NOT MOVE TO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST | Grist

Many Seattle residents revere Cliff Mass as the Yoda of weather in the Northwest. On his blog and through spots in local media, this professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington helps us process our snowpocalypses and measure out Lexapro for 10 months of the year. Now he’s turning his big-weather brain to something regularly on our minds here at Grist: “As global warming takes hold later in the century, where will be the best place in the lower 48 states to escape its worst effects?” Here’s the short answer from Cliff:

Everyone stay where you are.
Cliff Mass
Everyone stay where you are.

On his blog entry, Mass goes into much more scientific detail on climate effects for the Lower 48 (complete with loads more charts). But even from this map, we can glean a few key takeaways.

  • You’ll notice Mass highlighted most of the Eastern seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico, and sections of California in bright red. Areas of sea-level rise? Ohnonononono. You misunderstand completely. Those are spots where candy will grow on trees — because adaptation! Florida’s famous orange groves will evolve into chocolate orange groves and just work their way up the coast to Connecticut. Delicious!
  • Take a look at all that yellow in the Southwest. Any guesses? Correct: That is precisely where state and local governments are likely to enforce three-day workweeks. And if you worry that moving to Phoenix, Los Angeles, or Austin means you’ll spend every extra-long weekend wearing spikes and riding in a rusty dune buggy on your way to bludgeon the neighbors to death over water resources, here’s a tip: Don’t!
  • Orange! This DOES NOT mean this area gets more oranges (duh, pay attention; that was yellow). It does signify that every day will be Christmas. It also signifies that more Christmases will be wetter, windier, and generally more hurricane-y. P.S. I got you galoshes. (AGAIN, I know. Tee-hee!) Merry Christmas!
  • Purple, purple, purple — Big Purp practically owns the map. Good thing, too, because from Montana to Maine, climate-changed citizenry will THRILL to the incredible cellphone coverage. No more dropped calls in Chicago. No more blips in Butte. Just blazing-fast downloads and crystal-clear audio, from your hot, cracked lips to your heatstroked fingertips. (Caveat: Customers will notice an increase in dropped calls from underground bunkers and heat hovels.)
  • Say what about the green dots? Oh, those are flooding rivers and total shitholes.

Now for the last few remaining links for the day, a couple of stories from Hollywood and two others on digging up the past… Effort to save ‘Tara’ plantation facade before it’s ‘Gone with the Wind’ – NY Daily News Kodak, Studios Negotiating Last Ditch Effort to Keep Film in Hollywood – Hollywood Reporter Traces of Lincoln’s Courthouse Found in Illinois – Archaeology Magazine Erosion Exposes Human Remains on Kwajalein Atoll – Archaeology Magazine Have a good day and hope you share your thoughts in the comments below. A woman waves from a float during the Carnaval des Fleurs…


Friday Reads: Israel Invades Gaza, Downing of Jet a Ukraine a “Game Changer,” and the Unrelenting War on Women

kubrick-subway-newspapers

Good Morning!!

Lately I’ve been remarking about how slow the news is in these dog days of summer. Suddenly there is lots going on–even on a Friday–and the news isn’t good. It’s difficult to say which is worse: the escalating battle between Israel and Hamas in Gaza or the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine. And of course there is the ongoing war on women’s reproductive freedom. This post is going to be a link dump without a lot of commentary because, quite frankly, I’m at a loss for words.

Israel Invades Gaza

The LA Times reports: Israeli troops and tanks move into the Gaza Strip.

After 10 days of Israeli airstrikes and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered ground troops into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, escalating an exchange of fire that has claimed more than 240 lives, all but one of them Palestinian.

Under cover of darkness, tanks rolled across the northern border of the coastal enclave, backed by intense shelling from the land, air and sea all along the frontier, witnesses said.

The immediate objective was to strike at tunnels Hamas and its allies use to smuggle weapons and fighters into Israel, according to a statement issued by Netanyahu’s office….

Israeli officials said Netanyahu made the decision to send in ground forces after Hamas, the militant movement that has controlled the enclave since 2007, rejected a cease-fire brokered by Egypt this week and fired rockets at Israel during a five-hour truce Thursday that was requested by the United Nations. The truce was meant to allow Gaza’s battered residents to stock up on food, cash and other necessities.

There’s much more information at the link.

1955 train

From the NYT: Israeli Military Invades Gaza, With Sights Set on Hamas Operations.

As rockets continued to rain down on Israeli cities, a military spokesman said the mission’s expansion was “not time bound” and was aimed to ensure Hamas operatives were “pursued, paralyzed and threatened” as it targeted “terrorist infrastructure” in the north, south and east of Gaza “in parallel.”

As midnight approached Thursday, residents of some sparsely populated farmland in northern Gaza were cowering in their homes, afraid to answer mobile phones or peek out windows. Some sent text messages reporting that they could hear tank shelling, heavy artillery, and F-16s dropping bombs. Moussa al-Ghoul, 63, who lives northwest of Beit Lahiya, said his neighborhood had turned into “a war zone” with tanks surrounding his home, having destroyed those of two of his sons. He said shells were landing “everywhere.”

Gaza news outlets reported that electricity had been cut to 80 percent of the coastal territory after cables bringing power from Israel were damaged….

“We will strike Hamas and we are determined to restore peace to the state of Israel,” the military spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, told reporters in a conference call. “It will progress according to the situation assessment and according to our crafted and designed plan of action to enable us to carry out this mission.”

Israel began to call up 18,000 reservists, adding to 50,000 already mobilized in recent days; Colonel Lerner said the ground forces would include infantry and artillery units, armored and engineer corps, supported by Israel’s “vast intelligence capabilities,” air force and navy.

Again, many more details at the link.

9.Job seekers, men standing in front of the Chicago Daily News building, looking at newspapers

From Reuters a short time ago this morning: Israel steps up Gaza ground offensive, civilian casualties grow.

Israel intensified its land offensive in Gaza with artillery, tanks and gunboats on Friday and warned it could “significantly widen” an operation Palestinian officials said was killing ever greater numbers of civilians.

Palestinian health officials said 27 Palestinians, including a baby, two children and a 70-year-old woman, had been killed since Israel sent ground forces into the densely-populated strip of 1.8 million Palestinians on Thursday.

The Israeli military said it killed 17 Palestinian gunmen while another 13 surrendered and were taken for questioning after the infantry and tank assault began in the Islamist Hamas-dominated territory.

One Israeli soldier was killed and several others were wounded in the operations, in which some 150 targets, including 21 concealed rocket launchers and four tunnels, have been attacked, according to the military.

Read more at the link.

I don’t even know what to say about this conflict other than I’ve pretty much lost any sympathy I once had for Israel. I can’t understand why the Israeli people keep electing far right warmongering leaders.

Downing of Malaysian Airlines Jet Over Ukraine

After the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane with nearly 300 people on board, the conflict in Ukraine has become a full blown international crisis.

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From the Kyiv Post this morning: SBU intercepts phone conversations of separatists admitting downing a civilian plane (FULL TRANSCRIPT; VIDEO).

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was allegedly shot down by a group of Russian-backed Cossack militants near the village of Chornukhine, Luhansk Oblast, some 80 kilometers north-west of Donetsk, according to recordings of intercepted phone calls between Russian military intelligence officers and members of terrorist groups, released by the country’s security agency (SBU).

One phone call apparently was made at 4:40 p.m. Kyiv time, or 20 minutes after the plane crash, by Igor Bezler, who the SBU says is a Russian military intelligence officer and leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. He reports to a person identified by Ukraine’s SBU as a colonel in the main intelligence department of the general headquarters of the armed forces of the Russian Federation Vasili Geranin regarding the shot down plane, which is about to be examined by the militants.

The second intercepted conversation released by the Security Service of Ukraine was apparently between militants nicknamed “Major” and “Greek” immediately upon inspection of the crash site.

“It’s 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft,” Major is recorded as saying, as he admitted to seeing no weapons on site. “Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.”

In the third part of conversation Cossack commander Nikolay Kozitsin talking to an unidentified militant cynically suggests that the Malaysia Airlines airplane could’ve been carrying spies, as, otherwise, it would have no business flying in that area.

Read the rest of the transcript at the link–lots of “Oh shit”-type quotes.

old-man-reading-newspaper

Julia Ioffe writes at The New Republic, The Crash of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 is a Game Changer: This Conflict is Now Officially Out of Control.

Over the last couple of months, pro-Russian separatists have beendowningUkrainian military planes with increasing regularityand mounting casualties on the Ukrainian side. Just earlier Thursday, separatists had shot down another one. All of that seemed to undermine the narrative, propagated by the Kremlin, that the separatists were just a ragtag people’s militia who didn’t stand a chance against a proper, organized military. The constant downing of Ukrainian jets showed that these men were equipped with some pretty serious stuff: You can’t really shoot down a jet with a Kalashnikov.

And, in fact, Russian a state media report from late June indicates the rebels got a hold of a Buk missile system, a Russian/Soviet surface-to-air missile system. Rebels are now denying that they shot down the plane, but there are now screenshots floating around the Russian-language internet from what seems to be the Facebook page of Igor Strelkov, a rebel leader in eastern Ukraine, showing plumes of smoke and bragging about shooting down a Ukrainian military Antonov plane shortly before MH17 fell. “Don’t fly in our skies,” he reportedly wrote. If that’s true, it would seem rebels downed the jetliner, having mistaken it for a Ukrainian military jet….

Make no mistake: this is a really, really, really big deal. This is the first downing of a civilian jetliner in this conflict and, if it was the rebels who brought it down, all kinds of ugly things follow. For one thing, what seemed to be gelling into a frozen local conflict has now broken into a new phase, one that directly threatens European security. The plane, let’s recall, was flying from Amsterdam.

For another, U.S. officials have long been saying that there’s only one place that rebels can get this kind of heavy, sophisticated weaponry: Russia. This is why a fresh round of sanctions was announced yesterday. Now, the U.S. and a long-reluctant Europe may be forced to do more and implement less surgical and more painful sanctions.

This also seems to prove that Russia has lost control of the rebels, who have been complaining for some time of being abandoned by President Vladimir Putin. There is no way that, a day after criticizingthe recklessness of American foreign policy, his military shoots down a passenger plane. Rather, it seems that the rebels made a mistake that paints Putin into a corner. Putin hates corners, and when he’s backed into one, he tends to lash out.

Adding another level of shock to the story, Buzzfeed reports that at least 100 passengers on the Mayaysian jet were on their way to an international AIDS conference.

And a related story from from the WSJ, Ukraine Accuses Russia of Shooting Down Fighter Jet: Ministry of Defense Says Missiles Probably Fired By Aircraft Patrolling Border.

MOSCOW—Ukraine on Thursday accused Russia’s armed forces of shooting down one of its fighter jets over Ukrainian territory, marking Kiev’s most direct accusation yet of Moscow’s involvement in the separatist conflict in the country’s east.

The accusation came hours before a Malaysia Airlines3786.KU -11.11% plane carrying 295 passengers and crew crashed while flying over the east Ukraine region of Donetsk.

A Russian military plane fired on and downed a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet that was flying over the town of Amvrosiivka in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on Wednesday night, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said at a briefing.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said the jet was shot in the tail section from the direction of the Russian border while it was turning around at approximately 7 p.m. on Wednesday night. (Follow the latest updates on the crisis in Ukraine.)

“In this way, Russia has executed another provocation,” the ministry said in a statement. “The bombardment probably came from air-to-air missiles fired by a pair of Russian Armed Forces aircraft patrolling the border in a certain area.”

Also well worth a read: at Pando, Mark Ames offers Five things to consider about the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 in Ukraine.

The Ongoing War on Women’s Reproductive Rights

1963 subway news

Laura Bassett at HuffPo reports, White House: Employers Must Disclose Objections To Covering Birth Control.

The Department of Labor updated its website to indicate that closely held for-profit corporations must include in their insurance plans “a description of the extent to which preventive services (which includes contraceptive services) are covered under the plan.” If the company chooses to opt out of covering any of the 20 contraceptives required by the Affordable Care Act, it has 60 days to disclose the change to its employees.

A senior administration official said the move was in response to the Senate failing to pass a bill Wednesday that would have required all for-profit employers, regardless of their owners’ religious objections, to cover the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraception in their health care plans. The bill would have overridden a recent Supreme Court decision that allowed Hobby Lobby, a craft supply company owned by evangelical Christians, to opt out of covering certain contraceptives to which the owners religiously object.

“Yesterday, a majority of the Senate voted for a bill to keep bosses from interfering in a woman’s health care,” the official said. “Now the House should act. In the meantime, we are making clear that if a corporation like Hobby Lobby drops coverage of contraceptive services from its health plan, it must do so in the light of day by letting its workers and their families know.”

The clarification is not a new rule. Current law already states that employers must disclose changes in their health benefits to employees. But the new guidance on the ACA makes clear that the disclosure requirement applies to those corporations opting out of birth control coverage after the Hobby Lobby decision.

Jezebel tells it like it is: Your Employers Must Tell You If They Think You’re a Babykilling Slut.

After the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision went down, many women wondered if they would suddenly find themselves at the mercy of their boss’s heretofore unknown beliefs that women who take birth control are abortion-happy harlots. Unfortunately, the answer is still yes. Fortunately, thanks to new rules set forth by the White House today, your boss has to inform you if and when this is happening….

Ideally, today’s directive will force companies with “religious beliefs” to be straightforward with their employees rather than sneaky about how badly they’re hosing everyone. And critics of this directive might wonder what the benefit is. If companies are run by zealots, then what good will telling the employees do?

Here’s what this “inform your employees of your conscientious objections” mandate will do: it will leave a paper trail that disgruntled employees could easily pass onto media outlets, which media outlets can then convey to the general public. The public can then avoid shopping at places run by people who think that birth control is murder.

And now’s as good a time as any to say this: if your boss informs you that your birth control is no longer covered because Jesus Loves Zygotes, let us know.

Those are my recommendations for today. What stories are you reading and blogging about?


Monday Reads: Summer’s here and the Time is Right (wing)

Good Morning!  And welcome to a week that may set global  records for hot as hell!!!

The heat wave in the country isn’t the only item that convinces me that many folks want to bring hell straight to the US.  Look what’s going onLaura Nyro Stoney End in Ohio which hasn’t got the coverage of what’s going on in Texas but is equally if not more insidious.

Before signing a $62 billion, two-year budget into law tonight, Gov. John Kasich used his line-item veto pen to strike language seen as a barrier to progress on expanding Medicaid while talks continue on the broader expansion the governor has sought.

But he left intact all of the controversial provisions seen as restricting abortions as well as language allowing local government bodies to meet secretly behind closed doors in executive session when discussing economic incentive packages for businesses.

The governor left immediately after signing the budget without taking questions from reporters about his vetoes.

The budget promises a net $2.6 billion net tax cut, consisting chiefly of a 10 percent across-the-board income tax for all taxpayers over three years and a 50 percent cut on the first $250,000 earned by small businesses.

“I’m proud of the tax cuts because I think it’s another installment in Ohio’s comeback,” Mr. Kasich said.

But it also comes with some trade-offs, including a hike in the state sales tax from 5.5 cents on the dollar to 5.75 cents. The budget also draws the line on its subsidization of local property tax bills, saying the state will no longer pay the first 12.5 percent on any new levies that voters approve beginning with those on the ballot this November.

The budget also holds $717 million more over the next two years for K-12 schools, an 11 percent increase. It does not full make up, however, for the cuts schools suffered in the current budget, in part because of the expiration of one-time federal stimulus dollars.

Pro-choice advocates had placed all their hopes in stopping the abortion restrictions from taking place on Mr. Kasich, but Mr. Kasich allowed all of the provisions to stay.

Those provisions included language making it tougher for abortion clinics to get emergency care transfer agreements that they must have with a local hospital in order to keep their licenses by prohibiting publicly funded hospitals from entering into such arrangements.

A last-minute addition that requires a doctor to performing abortions to first perform an ultrasound to detect a fetal heartbeat and then offer to let the woman seeking an abortion hear or see that heartbeat. Failure to following this procedure could lead to criminal prosecution of the doctor.

The budget also places Planned Parenthood at the end of the line when it comes to distributing Ohio’s share of federal family planning funds.

 Why are Republicans trying to create hell realms in our country and what can we do to stop it?  This includes denying climate change despite heat wavethe summers scorching weather is likely to set global records.  Eight states are suffering.

Forecasters called for more supercharged temperatures Sunday as a heat wave gripped the Southwest, leaving one man dead and another hospitalized in serious condition in heat-aggravated incidents in this sunbaked city.

Temperatures in Las Vegas shot up to 115 degrees on Saturday afternoon, two degrees short of a record, while Phoenix baked in 119 degrees. Large swaths of California sweltered under extreme heat warnings, which are expected to last into Tuesday night — and maybe even longer.

In Death Valley — known as the hottest place on Earth — temps reached 125, according to the National Weather Service. Death Valley’s record high of 134 degrees, set nearly a century ago on July 10, 1913, stands as the planet’s highest recorded temperature.

Las Vegas fire and rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said paramedics responded to a home without air conditioning and found an elderly man dead. He said while the man had medical issues, paramedics thought the heat worsened his condition.

Paramedics said another elderly man suffered a heat stroke when the air conditioner in his car went out for several hours while he was on a long road trip. He stopped in Las Vegas, called 911 and was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

coming to take me away
I’ve been hearing complaints about the heat from my dad in Seattle, BostonBoomer in Boston and her mom in Indiana, and a friend in Dallas, Texas.  Seems like pretty widespread nastiness to me.
So, what other basic acts of science and civilization have these flat earthers thwarted recently?  Remember Bob Dole on the floor of the Senate asking Republican Senators or their votes for the disabled which got turned into some weird twisted diatribe dealing with home-schoolers?  Well, Democrats may have another go at it.  We’ll see what crawls out from under their rocks in opposition this time.

Senate Democrats will try to resurrect a United Nations treaty on rights for the disabled that was rejected last year over GOP concerns it would imperil home-schooling.

The treaty fell five votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority in a 61-38 vote in December after former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) led a charge that it would give unelected UN bureaucrats the power to challenge U.S. home-schooling.

Treaty supporters say those worries were unfounded, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations panel hopes to win approval of the treaty, a Senate Democratic aide said.Menendez hopes to strike a deal on a way forward with the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who voted against the treaty last year.

While last year’s vote took place after the presidential election, advocates believe the debate got tied up in election-year politics and that a revote this session could be successful.

The treaty would extend the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act to people with disabilities around the world, including Americans living abroad, according to advocates.

“We believe very much there is a path forward for victory,” said Marca Bristo, president of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities. “If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be putting in this effort.”

Opponents have long warned that it may come back up. Last month, the Home School Legal Defense Association jumped the gun and sent out an action alert to its members warning – inaccurately – that Menendez’s panel had scheduled a hearing for June 4.

“Thank you for joining us in this battle to protect our children and our children’s future,” wrote association president J. Michael Smith. “You defeated this treaty last year. Standing together, we can defeat this treaty once again.”

The treaty’s path to ratification remains a challenging one.

Meanwhile, we’ve got another woman legislator with a sense of humor trying to pass an every sperm is sacred bill in response to the assault on women’s health and autonomy.  This is in response to the nastiness in Ohio discussed above.

One thing is certain about the bevy of legislation targeting women being introduced by conservative men. Women are mad and they aren’t taking it anymore. One female lawmaker in Ohio has introduced bill that would regulate men’s reproductive health.

According to the Dayton Daily News, State Senator Nina Turner introduced SB 307, which requires men to visit a sex therapist, undergo a cardiac stress test, and get their sexual partner to sign a notarized affidavit confirming impotency in order to get a prescription for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs. The bill also requires men who take the drugs to be continually “tested for heart problems, receive counseling about possible side effects and receive information about “pursuing celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice.””

The bill is a response to the Republican effort to pass House Bill 125, which would ban abortion if the fetus has a heartbeat, which is about six weeks after conception. Turner, an opponent of the bill, says if Republicans are allowed to legislate women’s health, men’s health should also be regulated. “I certainly want to stand up for men’s health and take this seriously and legislate it the same way mostly men say they want to legislate a woman’s womb,” Turner said.

 Can we just label the current Republican Party the party of crimes against humanity and just get it over with?
So this post was set to music today?  Did you catch it? What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I lived in the Quarter for five years.  I now live about 1 mile from it. I gigged there even after I moved so I know a lot of the clubs, a lot of the people, and a lot of the characters.  I could tell you about the Chicken Man, Ruthie the Duck Girl, and a number of French Quarter eccentrics.  I’ve lent a lot of gowns and girlie stuff to guys in my day.  I love the Quarter.  However, whenever we do a celebration there’s always a presence of religious folks dragging crosses, shouting hateful things through megaphones, and carrying really nasty placards.  You get to know them too even though you’re glad when they go home and crawl under their rocks.  I used to live in a back house but many of my friends had big ol’ wrought iron-laced balconies.  My friend Georgia and I used to like to water her plants on the days they drug their ugly in front of our homes on Royal.  So, I just loved reading this.  Here’s one of them–Rev. Grant Storms– who has been a big damper our big celebration of the Gay community of the South; Southern Decadence. Try to just let the irony and the hypocrisy flow all over you.

The Rev. Grant Storms, the former “Christian patriot” pastor whose marches against homosexuality at New Orleans’ Southern Decadence festival briefly put him in the national spotlight, was convicted of obscenity Wednesday, for exposing himself while masturbating at Lafreniere Park last year. In his confession, he described public masturbation as “a thrill,” but authorities debunked suspicions that he was a pedophile.

Storms, 55, who lives in Metairie, declined to comment after the conviction. Judge Ross LaDart of the 24th Judicial District Court, who presided over the daylong trial because Storms waived a jury, did not even break to deliberate. He promptly found Storms guilty of the single count of obscenity. He sentenced Storms to three years of probation, citing no evidence of a criminal history.

LaDart also ordered Storms to be evaluated, apparently psychologically. The judge noted that in Storms’ confession, he admitted that Feb. 25, 2011, the day he was arrested, was the third time that week that he masturbated in Lafreniere Park.

“Lafreniere Park is a public place,” LaDart said in announcing the verdict. “Lafreniere Park is a place that was chosen by this defendant to engage in a history of masturbation.”

Storms declined to testify. His attorneys, Brett Emmanuel and Donald Cashio, did not overtly deny their client masturbated in the park but argued he never exposed his penis. The exposure was a necessary element of the obscenity charge.

In his confession, Storms told Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kevin Balser he had taken a break from his grass cutting business to sip a beer in the park, where he said he became “horny.” He said he put his hands into his underwear, but he never exposed himself.

Oh, my.

So, one of the big questions that came out of watching the republican primary debate was how can people be so cruel?  Why would they clap at the thought of some one dying or boo a gay soldier.  Here’s an explanation from  Josh Holland at Alternet.  He explains the conservative psyche and how ordinary people can embrace Paul Ryan.

Earlier this year, Democratic operatives looking for the best way to define Mitt Romney discovered something interesting about Paul Ryan’s budget. The New York Times reported that when the details of his proposals were run past focus groups, they found that the plan is so cruel that voters simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”

In addition to phasing out the Earned Income Tax Credit that keeps millions of American families above the poverty line and cutting funding for children’s healthcare in half, Jonathan Cohn described the “America that Paul Ryan envisions” like this:

Many millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven’t since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn’t have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.

Ryan’s “roadmap” may be the least serious budget plan ever to emerge in Washington, but it is reflective of how far to the right the GOP has moved in recent years. According to a recent study of public attitudes conducted by the Pew Research Center, in 1987, 62 percent of Republicans said “the government should take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” but that number has now dropped to just 40 percent ( PDF). That attitude was on display during a GOP primary debate last fall when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what fate should befall a healthy person without health insurance who finds himself suddenly facing a catastrophic illness. “Congressman,” Blitzer pressed after Paul sidestepped the question, “are you saying that society should just let him die?” Before Paul had a chance to respond, the audience erupted in cheers , with some shouting, “yeah!”

Well, stimulus has worn off and the Republican war on jobs and the economy–to blame on Obama–is showing as jobs and consumer confidence start heading down.

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits climbed last week to a one-month high, showing scant progress in the labor market that’s left Americans more pessimistic about the economy.

Jobless claims rose by 4,000 for a second week to reach 372,000 in the period ended Aug. 18, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Consumer confidence dropped last week to the lowest level since January, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index.

Companies are keeping payrolls lean as a weaker global economy and lack of clarity on U.S. tax policy next year cloud the demand outlook, one reason the Federal Reserve may be closer to further monetary stimulus. Residential real estate is a source of strength for the expansion, according to a report that showed new-home sales matched a two-year high in July.

“The economy is growing, but it’s still moderate growth, and the labor market is still weak,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “We’re also getting better numbers in terms of building activity. That’s certainly adding to growth and offsetting some of the weakness we’re seeing from the consumer.”

The Party of No and Stupidity is basically playing political games with American lives and with the American economy.  There’s a huge story about it at Time Magazine this week based on the Michael Grunwald book.

TIME just published “The Party of No,” an article adapted from my new book, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. It reveals some of my reporting on the Republican plot to obstruct President Obama before he even took office, including secret meetings led by House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) where they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular president-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.” The excerpt includes a special bonus nugget of Mitt Romney dissing the Tea Party.

But as we say in the sales world: There’s more! I’m going to be blogging some of the news and larger themes from the book here at time.com, and I’ll kick it off with more scenes from the early days of the Republican Strategy of No. Read on to hear what Joe Biden’s sources in the Senate GOP were telling him, some candid pillow talk between a Republican staffer and an Obama aide, and a top Republican admitting his party didn’t want to “play.” I’ll start with a scene I consider a turning point in the Obama era, when the new president came to the Hill to extend his hand and the GOP spurned it.

Every one here should know that I was an avid Hillary supporter once I decided she was far superior to any one running for president in 2008.  I was pretty flabbergasted when a lot of people suggested that racism played a role in the primary process. The Republican Party has been race-baiting since Richard Nixon adopted “the Southern Strategy”.  From the Bush Willy Horton ads, to the Reagan myth ofwelfare queens driving cadillacs, to the latest Romney strategy of suggesting Obama will gut the welfare program of work incentives, the Republicans have been courting the racist southern vote.  I’ve since decided that race was a bigger factor than my “give’em them benefit of the doubt” philosophy embraced.  I think we have to frame this election in terms of race because of the obvious framing of the President as “not American”, “foreign”, “dog-eating”, Muslim, Kenyan, etc.  I can’t even believe how I see white men complaining about how racist every one is treating them.  The deal is that you cannot complain about being down and out when you’re the group in power of all the major institutions in the country.  Please read this article ‘The Fear of a Black President”by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  We’ve been talking a lot about how Republicans could care less about the plight of women.  They could care even less about the plight of racial minorities in this country.  Coates juxtaposes Obama against the Trayvon Martin killing and all the other thing that remind us that we still have a long way to go with the vision that all of us are created equal.

By virtue of his background—the son of a black man and a white woman, someone who grew up in multiethnic communities around the world—Obama has enjoyed a distinctive vantage point on race relations in America. Beyond that, he has displayed enviable dexterity at navigating between black and white America, and at finding a language that speaks to a critical mass in both communities. He emerged into national view at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, with a speech heralding a nation uncolored by old prejudices and shameful history. There was no talk of the effects of racism. Instead Obama stressed the power of parenting, and condemned those who would say that a black child carrying a book was “acting white.” He cast himself as the child of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas and asserted, “In no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” When, as a senator, he was asked if the response to Hurricane Katrina evidenced racism, Obama responded by calling the “ineptitude” of the response “color-blind.”

Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others. Black America ever lives under that skeptical eye. Hence the old admonishments to be “twice as good.” Hence the need for a special “talk” administered to black boys about how to be extra careful when relating to the police. And hence Barack Obama’s insisting that there was no racial component to Katrina’s effects; that name-calling among children somehow has the same import as one of the oldest guiding principles of American policy—white supremacy. The election of an African American to our highest political office was alleged to demonstrate a triumph of integration. But when President Obama addressed the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, he demonstrated integration’s great limitation—that acceptance depends not just on being twice as good but on being half as black. And even then, full acceptance is still withheld. The larger effects of this withholding constrict Obama’s presidential potential in areas affected tangentially—or seemingly not at all—by race. Meanwhile, across the country, the community in which Obama is rooted sees this fraudulent equality, and quietly seethes.

Obama’s first term has coincided with a strategy of massive resistance on the part of his Republican opposition in the House, and a record number of filibuster threats in the Senate. It would be nice if this were merely a reaction to Obama’s politics or his policies—if this resistance truly were, as it is generally described, merely one more sign of our growing “polarization” as a nation. But the greatest abiding challenge to Obama’s national political standing has always rested on the existential fact that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin. As a candidate, Barack Obama understood this.

“The thing is, a black man can’t be president in America, given the racial aversion and history that’s still out there,” Cornell Belcher, a pollster for Obama, told the journalist Gwen Ifill after the 2008 election. “However, an extraordinary, gifted, and talented young man who happens to be black can be president.”

Another outstanding essay in The Nation was written by Melissa  Harris-Perry who still can’t believe that Romney chose Ryan. She can’t believe what this says about Romney’s complete embrace of the right wing and its view and treatment of women.

Nowhere is this more apparent, or more important, than in Ryan’s record on reproductive rights. Romney may have flippantly suggested that he would eliminate Planned Parenthood, but Ryan has worked consistently to restrict women’s access to healthcare. It’s not just his fifty-nine votes to block or limit reproductive rights that are of concern; it’s the absolutist nature of his positions. He rejects rape and incest as mitigating circumstances for abortion. He won’t even consider the possibility that women’s moral autonomy or constitutional rights are sufficient reasons for access.

Ryan is one of sixty-four Congressional co-sponsors of HR 212, a “personhood” bill that gives legal rights to fertilized eggs. Last November a similar measure was soundly defeated by 57 percent of voters in that liberal bastion, Mississippi. (Mississippi!) Ryan co-sponsored a bill too extreme for a state that has only one abortion clinic, a state whose policies have effectively made it impossible for most doctors to perform—or for most women to access—an abortion. It may be time to update the title of Nina Simone’s iconic song from “Mississippi Goddam” to “Paul Ryan Goddam.” Ryan’s role in HR 212 isn’t just the symbolic co-sponsorship of a bill with little likelihood of passage. He explicitly articulated his case for personhood in a 2010 Heritage Foundation article, in which he parrots the familiar conservative case that America’s failure to recognize fetuses as persons is the same as our nation’s historical failure to recognize the humanity of enslaved black people. Therefore, Roe v. Wade is the twentieth-century equivalent of the 1857 Dred Scott decision.

With Ryan and women’s health, there is no middle ground; there is only his moral judgment. And despite his avowed libertarianism on economic issues, on women’s health and rights Ryan is willing to use the full force of government to limit the freedom of dissenting citizens to exercise their opposing judgments.

The Republican Party’s vision of the future is to move the country back to where we would practically have to fight the civil war all over again.  We also would have to fight for rights for women and recognition of the humanity of the GLBT community.  Oh, wait, since the Tea Party took over Congress, we’re having to do that every day.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!!

The Republican War on Birth Control and women’s rights in general is turning off a lot of moderate and independent Republican women.  Given the number efforts to roll back women’s reproductive health as well as the attack on public health and education, will the Gender Gap be huge this fall?

In Iowa, one of the crucial battlegrounds in the coming presidential election, and in other states, dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women — one of the most important electoral swing groups — are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion in an election that, until recently, had been mostly dominated by the economy.

And in what appears to be an abrupt shift, some Republican-leaning women like Ms. Russell said they might switch sides and vote for Mr. Obama — if they turn out to vote at all.

The sudden return of the “culture wars” over the rights of women and their place in society has resulted, the women said, in a distinct change in mood in the past several weeks. That shift adds yet another element of uncertainty to a race that has been defined by unpredictability, at least for Republicans.

To what extent women feel alienated remains unclear: most interviews for this article were conducted from a randomly generated list of voters who had been surveyed in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, and their responses are anecdotal, not conclusive. But the latest comments from the Republican candidates and in the right-wing media, aimed at energizing the party’s conservative base, have been enraging to some women.

We’re beginning to see women take to the streets again.  Let’s hope a lot more take to the voting booth in the fall and take out some of these horrible legislators.
All this has not been lost on the Obama campaign.

The campaign website gives details on the benefits of the health-care law, a frequent target of Republican candidates who say it should be repealed, including requirements that new health insurance plans cover women’s preventative services, mammograms and birth control pills.

The women’s vote is important to both parties because, since 1986, women have voted more than men, at least in congressional races, according to Census Bureau figures. In the 2010 midterm elections, 42.7 percent of eligible women voters cast ballots while 40.9 percent of the men did so,

The special focus on women in the days ahead, first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by an Obama campaign official, follows confusion created by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney over his stance on whether employers can opt out of health-care coverage involving contraception.

The NZ Herald has named its lists of best countries to be a woman.  The overall best place to be a woman was given to Iceleand, but there were some other categories too. There are a total of 20 categories.  Here are the top five.

1) Best place to be a woman: Iceland

Iceland has the greatest equality between men and women, taking into account politics, education, employment and health indicators. The UK comes in at 16th place, down one since 2010.The worst is Yemen, and the most dangerous is Afghanistan.

2) Best place to be a politician: Rwanda

Rwanda is the only nation in which females make up the majority of parliamentarians. Women hold 45 out of 80 seats. Britain comes in at 45th place, behind Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. The worst countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Oman and Belize, have no women in Parliament.

3) Best place to be a mother: Norway

Norway is the world’s safest place to be a mother, with low risks of maternal mortality – one in 7600 – and skilled help with childcare. The worst is Afghanistan, where women face dangers during childbirth and from bombs and bullets.

4) Best place to read and write: Lesotho

Literacy rates among women in Lesotho exceed those of men, with 95 per cent of women able to read and write, compared with 83 per cent of men. The UK is ranked 21st. The worst country is Ethiopia, where only 18 per cent of women can read and write, compared with 42 per cent of men.

5) Best place to be head of state: Sri Lanka

Women have run Sri Lanka for 23 years. Dozens of countries, including Spain and Sweden, have never had a female head of government.

We also know that the U.S. does not rank high on any of these lists.

We’ve been talking the Handmaiden’s Tale scenario for some time here.  Alternet asks “Is America on the Verge of Theocracy?” then lists four fundamentalist ideologies that threaten our democracy.

As many notable and courageous critics ranging from Sheldon Wolin to Chris Hedges have pointed out, American politics is being shaped by extremists who have shredded civil liberties, lied to the public to legitimate sending young American troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, alienated most of the international community with a blatant exercise of arrogant power and investment in a permanent warfare state, tarnished the highest offices of government with unsavory corporate alliances, used political power to unabashedly pursue legislative policies that favor the rich and punish the poor and perhaps irreparably damaged any remaining public spheres not governed by the logic of the market. They have waged a covert war against poor young people and people of color who are being either warehoused in substandard schools or incarcerated at alarming rates. Academic freedom is increasingly under attack by extremists such as Rick Santorum; homophobia and racism have become the poster ideologies of the Republican Party; war and warriors have become the most endearing models of national greatness; and a full-fledged assault on women’s reproductive rights is being championed by the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls and a not insignificant number of Republican governors. While people of color, the poor, youth, the middle class, the elderly, LGBT communities and women are being attacked, the Republican Party is supporting a campaign to collapse the boundaries between the church and state, and even liberal critics such as Frank Rich believe that the United States is on the verge of becoming a fundamentalist theocracy.

The first idea elucidated has to do with a radical notion of market fundamentalism that refuses to recognize the nuances in a variety of markets for goods and services and belies the need for public goods and services.  The second is religious fundamentalism which is driving the war against women and science.  The third is connected to education which supports rote memorization of facts and hates intellectualism and critical thinking skills.  The fourth and final fundamentalism deals with the military. It’s a long read but very good.

Just to end up with some lighter things,  here are some science links from Discover Magazine that you may want to check out.  There a quite a few more, so go check it out.

“25 Things You Should Know About Word Choice.” – Essential advice for all writers.

The world’s dumbest uses for QR codes

The house sparrow “is native to humanity rather than to some particular region.” Lovely piece by Rob Dunn.

We can rebuild you. We have the technology. But we can’t give you hair, apparently. BBC on our bionic future

18/19th-century bodysnatchers “fought each other for ‘a monopoly over the cadaver trade’ – more goodness from the Chirurgeon’s Apprentice.

We’re underestimating the risk of human extinction – a cogent argument for why we’re all doomed

“There’s no way out of this one.” Entire nation of Kiribati to move to Fiji because of rising sea level

Decision-Making Under Stress: The Brain Remembers Rewards, Forgets Punishments by Maia Szalavitz

An interviewer asked Neil Tyson about the most astounding fact he knows. The result is absolutely wonderful.

So, there’s some of the good, the bad, and the ugly reads for today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?