Saturday Open Thread: Waiting for the Apocalypse

cat-newspaper

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!!

Mona is under the weather today, so I’m going to put up some links to get some discussion going.

Hey, remember when elections used to have consequences? That was before we elected the black guy. Now the right wing nut party tells us what “the American people really think.” At Maddowblog, Steve Benen writes:

If you listen to congressional Republicans defend their shutdown scheme and crusade to destroy the federal health care system, they’ll routinely use the same phrase. The “American people,” the GOP claims, are on their side. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) argued at a press conference yesterday, for example, “The White House may not get it, but, frankly, the American people get it.” [….]

It may seem like ages ago, but about 10 months ago, the United States held national elections. One party, the Republican Party, ran on a fairly specific platform, near the top of which was a promise to destroy the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. Their rivals, the Democratic Party, also had a platform, which included preservation of the Affordable Care Act.

The “American people” were asked to make a choice. And they did.

At the presidential level, the Democratic candidate won with relative ease, and became only the sixth presidential candidate in American history to win 51% of the popular vote twice. In the U.S. Senate, Democrats not only held their majority for the fourth consecutive election cycle, they also unexpectedly added seats. In the U.S. House, Democratic candidates collectively won 1.4 million more votes than Republican candidates….

We’ve all heard the “elections have consequences” adage many times, but let’s be clear about what we’re witnessing in 2013: Republicans are very clearly telling the country, “No, actually, elections don’t have consequences. We’re still going to do as we please.”

I have to say, it’s really getting old too. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I’m on the verge of giving up on politics and just playing video games and reading detective stories until the apocalypse overtakes us.

Here’s an example of one of the wingnuts who’s leading us all to armageddon: North Dakota Rep. Kevin Kramer. The North Decoder reports on exchange that took place on Kramer’s Facebook page:

[A] constituent of North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer posted a comment on Cramer’s Facebook wall.  The constituent apparently wanted to make sure that — after Cramer’s vote to take food out of the mouths of hungry children, disabled people, the elderly and many military veterans — Cramer was aware of some of the Biblical passages supporting the idea of helping the least of these.  Cramer’s response is kind of stunning. His response is, essentially, to let those people starve.  Citing a different Biblical passage, here’s what Cramer wrote:

Congressman Kevin Cramer 2 Thessalonians 3:10 English Standard Version (ESV) 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
about an hour ago via mobile

Facebook (source)

So there you go folks.  The hungry children of veterans who can’t find jobs or who are disabled; those kids can just starve.  See, Cramer’s a good Christian, and Thessalonians says we need to let the children of people who can’t work or who can’t find jobs starve….

Cramer assumes everybody who receives SNAP assistance is lazy. Because, of course, the Christian thing to do is to assume that everyone who isn’t working isn’t willing to work. And we should hate those people and let them “not eat.”  Let’s just forget all that crap the Bible says about helping poor people.  Why not?!?  He forgets that many who receive SNAP assistance work. Many work full-time. Many work multiple jobs. It’s not that they’re lazy, Kevin; it’s that our economy needs a lot of working poor people. WalMart needs a lot of working poor. Kevin’s owner — the Man Who Bought North Dakota — needs a lot of working poor people.  How would the Walton family make so much money if they weren’t able to pay so many people so little?!?

Read the whole Facebook post at the link.

Here’s some advice for journalists on the Republican campaign to starve low wage workers and unemployed people and their children to death from Dan Froomkin: Writing a Neutral Story About Something So Heartless As the Food Stamp Vote Is Not Good Journalism.

The Republican-led House yesterday voted to make deep cuts to the food stamps program that has kept millions of American families from going hungry since the recession hit, saying its response to growing need was instead a sign of bloat and abuse.

The New York Times editorial board this morning said the vote “can be seen only as an act of supreme indifference.”

But that’s not the way the paper’s own reporters covered it. Like those at essentially every other mainstream news organization, they wrote it straight. They focused on procedure. They quoted both sides. And they called it a day.

I decided to closely examine this morning’s coverage of the vote because such a blatantly absurd and cruel move struck me as a good test of whether the Washington press corps could ever bring itself to call things as they so obviously are — or whether they would check their very good brains at the door and just write triangulating mush that leaves readers to fend for themselves. It was no contest.

Read Froomkin’s review of the coverage at HuffPo. American journalism is pretty much dead these days, folks.

Speaking of approaching armageddon, lately we keep hearing about near miss nuclear explosions in our past. The latest of these incidents to be revealed took place in North Carolina in 1961. BBC News:

The plane was on a routine flight when it began to break up over North Carolina on 23 January 1961.

As it was breaking apart, a control inside the cockpit released the two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs over Goldsboro.

One fell to the ground unarmed. But the second “assumed it was being deliberately released over an enemy target – and went through all its arming mechanisms save one, and very nearly detonated over North Carolina,” Mr Schlosser told the BBC’s Katty Kay.

Only the failure of a single low-voltage switch prevented disaster, he said.

Map

The bomb was almost 260 times more powerful than the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The incident is only one of the terrifying “near misses” reported by Eric Schlosser in a new book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. Schlosser is also the author of Fast Food Nation.

Sooooo…. What are you up to today? If you have any interesting news links to share, please post them in the comment thread.


Friday Reads

orangesGood Morning!

Well, House Republicans did in fact vote to cut SNAP by $40 Billion.   They seem to think that it’s easy to find a job in country with a persistent unemployment rate about 7.5%.

Right now, there are roughly 47.7 million Americans on food stamps — a number that swelled during the recession and has only recently started to decline.

The House GOP bill would kick about 3.8 million people off the food-stamp rolls over the course of the upcoming fiscal year that begins in October. That includes 1.7 million unemployed, childless adults aged 18-50. It also includes another 2.1 million families and seniors who have incomes just slightly above the federal food-stamp limits. (In recent years, states have been able to extend food-stamp aid to these households.)

Thereafter, the House GOP bill would reduce the rolls by about 2.8 million people each year compared with current law.

Check the graphic at Wonk Blog for the details on how they intend to get folks out of SNAP eligibility keeping in mind that about 1/2 of the folks on SNAP are children and an additional good portion are elderly on limited incomes that were already impacted by cuts in meals on wheels.pears

I’m not Catholic so the actual things that Popes say has no impact on my personal faith.  I also wasn’t raised Catholic so I have no nostalgia or lingering scars or good memories from the growing up Catholic experience that I hear about from so many friends.   I really don’t have many kind things to say about Popes in general since most of them recently have made life very difficult for women and gays and have been shown to enable some pretty bad stuff in their priesthood.  Will this new Pope usher in a new opinion from me and others?  Will he be able to reach out to folks that feel an attachment to the church but a searing disappointment in some of its recent actions and policies?

Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

His surprising comments came in a lengthy interview in which he criticized the church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized. He articulated his vision of an inclusive church, a “home for all” — which is a striking contrast with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the doctrinal defender who envisioned a smaller, purer church.

Francis told the interviewer, a fellow Jesuit: “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

The pope’s interview did not change church doctrine or policies, but it instantly changed its tone. His words evoked gratitude and hope from many liberal Catholics who had felt left out in the cold during the papacies of Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, which together lasted 35 years. Some lapsed Catholics suggested on social media a return to the church, and leaders of gay rights and gay Catholic groups called on bishops to abandon their fight against gay marriage.

But it left conservative and traditionalist Catholics, and those who have devoted themselves to the struggles against abortion, gay marriage and artificial contraception, on the defensive, though some cast it as nothing new.

That part of the Pope’s interview was the most newsworthy. However, the part about the Pope’s personal faith was perhaps the most interesting to me.  It’s actually been a long time since I’ve heard a church leader actually sound like he’s gotten in touch with the Jesus I remember reading about in the Bible as a kid. This Pope appears to actually like women for a change.  The analysis is by Andrew Sullivan of The Dish.

This is the core message of the Second Vatican Council that John Paul II and Benedict XVI did their utmost to turn back in favor of papal authority. The hierarchy is not the whole church, just a part of it, in community with all the faithful. And he uses the example of the Blessed Virgin to buttress his point:

This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people. In turn, Mary loved Jesus with the heart of the people, as we read in the Magnificat. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.

And how we live is the only true expression of what we believe. Here is the rebuke to the theocons and their project:

If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.

And where is real faith?

I see the holiness in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity. I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius. This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved ​​me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.

Botanical-Flore-des-Seres-et-Des-Jardins-de-LEurope-Tomato-Solanum-sp. vintage printableWhile many journalists appear to be disappointed by the lack of yet another US intervention in the Middle East, most Americans are relieved.  What does this new diplomatic effort between the US and Russia on Syrian Chemical Weapons mean for similar efforts in the future?

It is important not so much for what it could mean on the ground – which remains to be seen as inspectors begin to flow into Syria and, we hope, chemical-weapons stockpiles begin to be destroyed. Rather, the agreement’s main significance consists in the fact that it was struck at all: US Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva, that most traditional of diplomatic venues, and cut a deal on an issue of intense mutual interest.

In the days, weeks, and months ahead, the arrangements to remove chemical weapons from Syria will, one hopes, begin a new era in which the US and Russia work together on other pressing global issues as well. A cooperative US-Russia relationship is essential if the international system, now almost dysfunctional, is to work properly in the future.

The agreement on Syria could accomplish something else: Americans might recognize that, lo and behold, there are other ways to solve problems than by dropping bombs. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s clumsy foray into the American debate infuriated many Americans (including me), but it was certainly a teachable moment. Many outside the US thought it was high time that someone offered America a taste of its own paternalism – and even better that that someone was Putin, a politician who has, to put it gently, his own set of foibles.

So Americans might want to tone down their anti-Putin rhetoric. As a practical matter, Putin certainly does not seem to be suffering any adverse domestic political consequences from his bashing in the US. More broadly, America’s supply of moralistic – and even churlish – advice to the rest of the world has greatly exceeded international demand for it. And its willingness to engage militarily as an early step, rather than as a last resort, has alienated many around the world. No amount of “Muslim outreach” and other public diplomacy alone will change that.

Support for insurgencies is a case in point. Many countries – Syria qualifies as a poster child in this regard – suffer under miserable, brutal governments. But backing an armed rebellion is a major step, especially when the rebels whom one is backing have, as in Syria, started something that they may not be able to finish.

This is not to say that the US should never support insurgencies against established governments; but doing so is almost always a lonely affair, without any realistic expectation of enlisting many partners in the process. Such policy choices should be made rarely, and with a clear understanding that support for the violent overthrow of a government is not very popular around the world.

We are learning more and more about Neanderthals and how they may have been a lot more sophisticated than previously thought.  It was thought they may not have been smart enough to figure out how to fish. However, recent research shows they had fish in their diets.

It has been thought that the varied diet of modern humans may have contributed to an evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals, who were thought to have survived on eating large, herbivorous mammals. But an international team of scientists has been working together at a cave in the Caucasus Mountains, where they have foundevidence that suggests Neanderthals ate fish. To rule out the possibility that the large salmon in the cave had been eaten by the cave bears and cave lions that were also found there, the bones of the large predators were analyzed. The results show that the cave bears were vegetarian, and that the cave lions ate land-dwelling herbivores. “This study provides indirect support to the idea that Middle Palaeolithic Hominins, probably Neanderthals, were able to consume fish when it was available, and that therefore, the prey choice of Neanderthals and modern humans was not fundamentally different,” explained Hervé Bocherens of the University of Tübingen.

It seems that the more that Homo Sapiens try to make themselves exceptional, the more we find out that we are not.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Slash and Burn Republicanism is not Good for the Country, our Children, and other Living Things

US children starvingSome time during the Reagan campaign, our government became the enemy of a huge number of people in this country. Paranoia over a democratically elected government enshrined by voters and a sophisticated legal and political system is usually confined to a groups of paramilitary paranoids that call themselves preppers, read too much Ayn Rand, and never emotionally develop beyond, say high school. Through the money of the Koch Brothers, the pulpit connivings of Pat Robertson and the paranoid shrieking of folks like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh that have failed at every endeavor but snake oil peddling on the radio, we now have entire sections of the country that gerrymander legislators to send these freaks to Congress.

Take Texas. Please.

Perry and like-minded Republican governors subscribe to the slash-and-burn economic philosophy — a belief that “less” will somehow become “more.” In Texas, he has implemented this vision with gusto, cutting taxes and slashing funding for critical middle-class priorities such as public schools, higher education, health care and infrastructure. The results? Texas ranks 49th in high school graduation10th in the rate of poverty and 50th in the percent of residents with even basic health insurance.

And while Perry likes to promote the job creation in Texas during his time in office, he leaves out a critical point: The jobs “miracle” he touts is driven by low-paying, non-sustainable jobs. This year, Texas — tied with Mississippi — leads the nation for the percentage of hourly paid workers earning equal to or less than the minimum wage. More than one in 10 workers nationwide earning at or below the minimum wage works in Texas.

Let’s not even go into the social costs of letting Texas businesses operate however they want to.  Just ask the towns and farms that no longer have water and are nsubjected to earthquakes due to fracking.  We can also mention the town that mostly disappeared from a fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people.  Wait until Texas property owners and taxpayers get the bills for those kinds of preventable disasters.  I’m fairly certain that northern Texas will soon be paying more for water than the world will pay for its oil.  In fact, I’ll stake all my years drawing supply and demand graph on it.

Then, there is a new kick-the-can down the road effort on the 2013 Farm Bill that’s going to leave a lot of American children starving.  Republican members of Congress appear to still think that folks live large off of Food Stamps.  It’s the old untrue Welfare Queen canard peddled by Reagan back in the 1980s come back to haunt us.

An extension does not solve problems. Congress is currently engaged in a philosophical debate about federal nutrition programs, namely, the farm bill’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Some members of Congress believe the program and its current level of benefits and eligibility requirements are appropriate, particularly in this challenging economic time. Others erroneously believe the program is fraught with waste, fraud and abuse and want to cut funding and benefits to vulnerable families.

Regardless of where one falls on this issue, it is clear that an extension of the current farm bill is inadequate from both perspectives. Members wanting to preserve existing funding for this vital safety net program should welcome the long-term policy certainty provided by a five-year comprehensive bill, rather than leaving SNAP vulnerable to cuts year after year. And members interested in cutting funding from SNAP won’t achieve any of the so-called reforms they desire without the passage of a new five-year bill; an extension merely perpetuates the status quo.

Rather than waste time on a nutrition-only bill to be brought up in the House next week that would leave between 4 and 6 million Americans ineligible for full SNAP benefits, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or pass an extension that merely kicks the can down the road, Congress must instead preserve the historic coalition between farmers and consumers in need and pass a comprehensive five-year farm bill that includes both farm and nutrition programs.

Then, here we go again on shutting down the budget process, a debt ceiling increase, and vital services over providing more health care to individuals through the Affordable Health Care Act.  Once again, I remind every one that this act is basically the Heritage Institute Plan of the 1990s.  It was the Republican answer to “HillaryCare”.  How far down the path of slash and burn have we gone that today’s Republican’s reject their “conservative” plan of less than 20 years ago?  Here’s an argument for a shutdown.

I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that a government shutdown may be the only way to deal with the coming budget bedlam and #cliffgate.

Let’s start by reviewing the situation.

  1. As of today there are less than two weeks before fiscal 2014 begins.
  2. None of the FY14 appropriations have been enacted; none have any chance of being enacted.
  3. There are no formal negotiations going on between Congress and the White House, between the House and Senate or between Democrats and Republicans.
  4. The only discussions that seem to be taking place are between the two main factions in the House GOP…and the best thing that can be said about them is that they appear to be going nowhere.
  5. The original plan suggested by the House Republican leadership was flatly rejected by the tea partiers in the House GOP caucus. The tea partiers were energized by their success.
  6. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) haven’t put a new plan on the table since their last plan was rejected by members of their own party a week ago. Boehner has even indicated publicly that he’s not sure whether there is a plan than is acceptable to his caucus.
  7. Meanwhile, in keeping with the tradition that the House goes first on CRs, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he is going to wait for the House to act before moving forward. What happens when/if he moves forward is anyone’s guess
  8. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has far less room to maneuver compared to previous budget fights because he is being challenged in the GOP Kentucky primary by a tea partier.
  9. House Democrats, who in the past have provided the votes to help the House GOP pass budget-related bills when the Republican caucus couldn’t decide what to do, this time seem hell bent on not doing it again.
  10. The White House has far less sway over congressional Democrats now than it did before the 2012 election. Needless to say, it has almost none over congressional Republicans.
  11. The extremely negative political impact of the 1995-96 shutdowns is such a distant (or nonexistent) memory for so many House Republicans that it’s not at all clear they have any fear of it happening again in 2013.
  12. To top it all off, this year’s budget debate is less about the budget than it is about defunding Obamacare and that makes a compromise far harder on the budget issues.

Two things usually help with a political stalemate like this (although I’m not really sure there ever has been a situation exactly like this one):

  • A charismatic leader who can overcome the partisan warfare
  • A crisis that substantially changes the politics

It’s hard to see any leader emerging in the short-term In the current hyper partisan environment. And while there are many charismatic politicians, at least right now none have the stature with both parties to negotiate a budget peace plan.

That leaves a crisis, and baring a military or foreign policy disaster, the only one with the potential to create enough political pain in a relatively short period of time is a federal shutdown.

That makes a shutdown a better option for Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and Reid than it might otherwise seem.

A shutdown also may work for Boehner because (1) it will show his tea partiers that he was willing to allow it to happen as they wanted, (2) it will change the politics as many voters go from being amused to being furious and (3) the tea partiers may be able to use the shutdown with their own voters to prove their political testosterone.

As usual, there’s a group of greedy billionaires behind the shutdown mentality.  It seems they all make lots of money just from all the hooplah.

Club for Growth and other extremist groups consider a record like his an unforgivable failure, and they are raising and spending millions to make sure that no Republicans will take similar positions in the next few weeks when the fiscal year ends and the debt limit expires.

If you’re wondering why so many House Republicans seem to believe they can force President Obama to accept a “defunding” of the health care reform law by threatening a government shutdown or a default, it’s because these groups have promised to inflict political pain on any Republican official who doesn’t go along.

Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund have each released scorecards showing which lawmakers have pledged to “defund Obamacare.” When a senator like Tom Coburn of Oklahoma refuses to pledge, right-wing activists are told: “Please contact Senator Coburn and tell him it’s dishonest to say you oppose Obamacare, but then vote to fund it. Tell him he swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution.”

Mr. Schock and 10 other lawmakers considered suspiciously squishy by the Club for Growth were designated as RINO’s (Republicans in name only), and the club has vowed to find primary opponents and support them with cash — a formidable threat considering that it spent $18 million backing conservative candidates in the 2012 cycle. Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers group that has already spent millions on ads fighting health reform, is beginning a new campaign to delay the law’s effects.

These groups, all financed with secret and unlimited money, feed on chaos and would like nothing better than to claim credit for pushing Washington into another crisis. Winning an ideological victory is far more important to them than the severe economic effects of a shutdown or, worse, a default, which could shatter the credit markets.

They also have another reason for their attacks: fund-raising. All their Web sites pushing the defunding scheme include a big “donate” button for the faithful to push. “With your donation, you will be sending a strong message: Obamacare must be defunded now,” saysthe Web site of the National Liberty Federation, another “social welfare” group that sees dollar signs in shutting down the government.

Brian Walsh, a longtime Republican operative, recently noted in U.S. News and World Report that the right is now spending more money attacking Republicans than the Democrats are. “Money begets TV ads, which begets even more money for these groups’ personal coffers,” he wrote. “Pointing fingers and attacking Republicans is apparently a very profitable fund-raising business.”

What always seems odd in all of this is the number of people that fall for these rich, ideological loudmouths whose slash and burn policy is killing every one.  It seems to me that it’s an offshoot of xenophobia, misogyny and racism.  It appears easier for some folks to believe that women, minorities, and other ethnic groups are more responsible for their economic demise than their bosses and overlords in the pulpits, in elected office, and the bosses chair.  Why some one doesn’t question the patriotism and birth certificate of the likes of Ted Cruz is beyond me.   He’s really the poster boy for everything that’s removing the greatness from our country imho.


Friday Morning Reads

Tina

Good Morning!

Syria is again dominating the headlines.  Here’s a few things that might be slipping under the rug.

If Congressional Republicans have their way, SNAP recipients will only get $3.37 a day for meals.

In July, House Republicans decoupled SNAP from the rest of the farm bill. Now, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, they are working on a food-stamp provision that could cut as much as $40 billion over 10 years, according to reports. Legislative language for the Cantor proposal is not yet available.

The conservative case goes like this: The food-stamp program is abused by recipients who are not meeting eligibility requirements. In particular, conservatives want to tighten loopholes that they contend allow able-bodied adults without dependents to receive assistance; they want to limit coverage for the able-bodied adults to three months within a 36-month period.

“Currently, working middle-class families struggling to make ends meet themselves are footing a bill for a program that has gone well beyond the safety net for children, seniors, the disabled, and families who desperately need the assistance,” said Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper.

Antihunger advocates say House Republicans’ proposed cuts would hit some of the neediest Americans hard, and they argue that the law already contains adequate restrictions against abuse.

At the Capital Area Food Bank, a 100,000-square-foot warehouse facility — a kind of Sam’s Club for food pantries in the metro Washington area — officials say food-stamp funds typically last recipients two and a half weeks. After the benefits run out, many go to food pantries to help make ends meet, according to the Food Bank’s Brian Banks.

Conservatives, meanwhile, argue that food-stamp funding has been rising too quickly. The program cost about $78.4 billion to help feed roughly 47 million participants in 2012, according to the Agriculture Department. That’s up from about $17 billion from 2000, when 17 million Americans participated.

“The national debt has now topped $16 trillion and will continue to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future. To preserve the economy, government spending, including welfare spending, must be put on a more prudent course,” wrote the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and Katherine Bradley in a white paper.

Anti-hunger advocates, though, point to a spike in the number of Americans who are “food insecure,” a term used by the government, that correlates to the recession. According to USDA, the number has recently stayed at roughly 15 percent, with 17.6 million households classified as such in 2012, according to a newly released report. With 59 percent of food-insecure households using food stamps, advocates argue that it’s important not to slash SNAP.

Now that Congress has returned, the farm bill and the food-stamp program will compete for scarce legislative time with the situation in Syria, appropriations bills, and a debate over the debt-ceiling limit, which the government is expected to reach sometime this fall. Among antihunger Debbie Harryorganizations, optimism is in short supply.

Indiania seems to hate its pregnant women.  They’re at it again.  This time they want to drug test all pregnant women even if there is no probable cause to believe they might be ingesting something harmful.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is calling on the legislature to help reduce the number of babies being exposed to narcotics while still in the womb.

It is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, newborns exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs before they are born.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says treating NAS at Indiana hospitals cost an estimated $30 million in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, and he says that’s with limited tracking because hospitals are not required to report the condition.

Zoeller says one solution is requiring pregnant women take drug tests to identify the problem and start treatment before birth.

“You can reduce the length of stay for the newly born baby from six weeks to two weeks, the better health of the baby as well as the costs,” he say.s

State Senator Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, says the legislature is exploring different options because of concerns about mandatory drug tests.

“Verbal screening as opposed to the kind of blood or urine analysis that might drive women away from getting prenatal care,” she says, adding that a definitive answer has not been reached and a legislative panel will continue to investigate the issue leading up to next session.

Republicans are gearing up for the fight over the sequester in October.

On Tuesday, House Republicans unveiled their proposal to keep the government running past September 30, when the law that currently funds federal operations expires. It would last through December, at which point the parties would have to come up with yet another extension. As expected, the proposal more or less “locks in” funding levels from budget sequestration—in effect, it keeps the cuts that have been reducing Head Start slotsweakening the economy recovery, and generally wreaking havoc. As you may recall, sequestration cuts were never supposed to happen: They were supposed to be so crude and unpleasant, to conservatives and liberals alike, that the two parties would agree on an alternative way of reducing the deficit. But that hasn’t happened, so the cuts have taken effect this year. And if this new House Republican proposal passes, they will stay in place for at least a little while longer.

The House proposal also includes a provision to withhold funds for implementing Obamacare. Again, this is not a surprise. And, like some previous efforts, this one is mostly an effort of political theater. By design, the Senate could strip out the Obamacare defunding and approve everything else in the House leadership proposal. That would leave a “clean” government-funding bill, as House Republican leaders call it, for President Obama to sign. But House Republican leaders have assured anxious conservatives that a real effort to undermine Obamacare will come soon—proabably sometime in early October, when the federal treasury nears its official borrowing limit. At that point, the leaders say, they will refuse to authorize more borrowing unless Obama and the Democrats agree to certain concessions. The demands will include some kind of effort at defunding or delaying Obamacare—quite possibly, by insisting that the Obama administration postpones the individual mandate (the requirement that everybody get health insurance) by one year.

bruce

Ho Hah David Vitter!!

Senate Democrats have had all they can take from David Vitter and his fixation on Obamacare — and they’re dredging up his past prostitution scandal to hit back.

Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, has infuriated Democrats this week by commandeering the Senate floor, demanding a vote on his amendment repealing federal contributions to help pay for lawmakers’ health care coverage.

But Democratic senators are preparing a legislative response targeting a sordid Vitter episode. If Vitter continues to insist on a vote on his proposal, Democrats could counter with one of their own: Lawmakers will be denied those government contributions if there is “probable cause” they solicited prostitutes.

According to draft legislation obtained by POLITICO, Democrats are weighing whether to force a Senate vote on a plan that would effectively resurrect Vitter’s past if the conservative Republican continues to press forward with his Obamacare-bashing proposal.

And Ho Ha !! Bobby Jindal!!

It is now much easier to make the case that Gov. Bobby Jindal knows his chances of winning the presidency in the 2016 election are securely in his past. In fact, given the record he is now so feverishly and self-destructively building, it is difficult imagining the governor winning another — any — statewide election in Louisiana. In making that case, Exhibits No. 1 through No. 50, at least, are on display in Jindal’s bafflingly deliberate and long-running defiance of orders issued by Baton Rouge state district court Judge Janice Clark in a key public records case.

Over five months ago, on April 25, Judge Clark emphatically ruled in favor of plaintiff newspapers, the Advocate and NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, and ordered the LSU Board of Supervisors to “immediately produce” the documents identifying all those who sought the combined job of LSU president and chancellor. F. King Alexander was selected for the job, and Jindal does not want citizens to know who the other candidates were. Thus he directed his go-to lawyer, Jimmy Faircloth, to burn a trainload of taxpayer money by stiffing the citizenry and the judge … repeatedly … and proudly.

The rarity of observing such a months-long political train wreck was underscored by Lori Mince, the attorney representing the two Louisiana newspapers, in a Sept. 10article by Mike Hasten of Gannett News. Ms. Mince noted, “This is the first public records case I’ve had when the public body refused to comply.” No one else with whom I have spoken or emailed can remember another such instance, either. Such makes sense because once a public records case goes all the way to court, and a judge orders the documents produced, public officials have every reason and need to, well, produce the documents. That is precisely what happened when a group of us in Shreveport sued the highway department for documents, went up against Jindal / Faircloth’s initial opposition, and headed to Clark’s court. When our hearing came up, the requested documents appeared as Faircloth did the opposite.

To grasp how bizarrely foolish the Jindal / Faircloth / Board of Supervisors argument is, it began with Faircloth arguing that the only word in the related law which mattered was “applicant,” and that there was only one of those — the winner, F. King Alexander. Note that Faircloth made this argument to Clark even though Blake Chatelain, the LSU board member who led the search committee, said in his subject court deposition that he and his committee began their work with about 100 prospects, cut that to 35 keepers, then down to “six or seven,” before picking Alexander. All of this was managed via a web portal belonging to a Dallas consultant hired for such purpose, a reported key in the Jindal plan to maintain secrecy throughout the process. (Thanks to Gordon Russell, then writing for the NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, for his April report.)

It is anyone’s guess as to what Jindal is hiding: Was/is Alexander qualified? Was he the best candidate? Who did Jindal really want, and why didn’t that person get the job? Those of us who have been down this road with the man and his team, especially Faircloth, know that the explanation may be much simpler: Jindal has never believed the rules and law and constitution apply to him.

It seems a molasses spill in Hawaii is killing fish.

Officials responding to a spill of 1,400 tons of molasses in Hawaii waters plan to let nature clean things up, with boat crews collecting thousands of dead fish to determine the extent of environmental damage.

The crews already have collected about 2,000 dead fish from waters near Honolulu Harbor, and they expect to see more in the coming days and possibly weeks, said Gary Gill, deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Health.

“Our best advice as of this morning is to let nature take its course,” Gill told reporters at a news conference at the harbor, where commercial ships passed through discolored, empty-looking waters.

So, that’s a little this and that!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


News Round-up Link Dump

It’s another night of Middle School Football for me, so here are some Interesting and strange and funny links to get you going this evening.

Let’s start with the interesting ones first.

You may have heard about this already…GOP BLOCKS JOBS FOR VETS – Political Cartoon by Deb Milbrath, Cartoon Movement – 09/20/2012

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - GOP BLOCKS JOBS FOR VETS

And then, check out what is being “ignored” until after the election:  Boehner Confirms Farm Bill on Hold

Typical bullshit! You all know what is part of that farms bill, but let me repeat it…SNAP, Foodstamps, WIC and all that other good stuff, you know the “food” that those people feel entitled to?

Numbers are out for Illegal Immigrant Deportations, Report: Number of undocumented immigrants arrested and deported in 2011 hits record high

There is this news on the Akin front: The GOP is stuck with Todd Akin

And in my redneck of the woods: Senate leader allegedly billed taxpayers for campaign mail

Still on the interesting links BTW, here are a few NASA articles:

What’s it like to fly a plane with shuttle on top?

Spot The Space Shuttle: Exclusive Interview About Endeavor’s Journey And Final Destination

Mars rover targets a rock called Jake – Cosmic Log

And, Bill Clinton has written something for TIME, Bill Clinton On Why The World Is Getting Better All The Time

Okay, now for the strange news, I’ve only got one story for you there: Valerie Spruill, Ohio Woman, Finds Out Husband Was Her Father

It is obvious that the family knew the truth, but no one said shit about it. That is f’d up!

From the Funny department, gotta love these next few links…

John Boehner Says Mitt Romney Campaign Not Dead Yet, Jokes ‘I Just Hope I Survive’

Even as he joked“I just hope I survive,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to defend Mitt Romney’s now-infamous 47 percent remarks Thursday, and insisted the Republican ticket can still win.

Asked repeatedly about Romney’s secretly videotaped admissions that he doesn’t care about the 47 percent of people who he said pay no income taxes and therefore won’t vote for him, Boehner demurred, instead saying the election is about jobs.

“Everybody is going to try to make this election about everything other than what it is,” Boehner said. “The American people are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?'”

While he declined to defend Romney’s comments, he pointed out that he has connections to people who are less fortunate.

“I’ve had family members who lost their jobs in this downturn. Two of my brothers, two of my brother in laws. I know what’s happening out there and I know how difficult this economy is,” he said. He then suggested that Romney’s remarks fell into the territory of a typical gaffe.

“You’re going to have both campaigns on both sides that say things that get off the message. The message is let’s stay focused on jobs,” he said.

And he insisted that the widespread feeling that Romney is doomed is flat out wrong.

Pour that man another drink! He needs a refill.

Mitt Romney ‘Dyed His Face Brown’ to Appeal to Latino Voters

Mitt Romney 'Dyed His Face Brown' to Appeal to Latino Voters

Mitt Romney currently trails President Obama among registered Latino voters by nearly 40%, and getting caught saying things like “it would be helpful to be Latino” certainly isn’t helping.

But has it gotten so bad that Romney is now resorting to “brownface” in order to make himself more appealing to Univision viewers? Democratic Underground has looked at the photo above from last night’s “presidential forum” and concluded that, yes, Romney definitely “dyed his face brown.”

Wonkette wonders if perhaps the GOP nominee was involved in some sort of “self-tanner accident” or perhaps went out tanning with John Boehner “for a little pick-me-up.”

Mitt Romney is certainly looking more crispy than usual, but is that enough to call him out for, as Gossip On This put it, trying to win “browning points”?

Hey, is that a shot of the holy magic underwear in that first photo?

And at last, this woman deserves the royalties…let’s give it to her…she’s got balls to ask for them.

Elderly woman who botched religious fresco demands royalties

The elderly Spanish woman who ruined a religious fresco with her botched restoration is now demanding royalties from her work after it became an unlikely tourist attraction.

Elderly woman destroys 19th-century fresco with DIY restoration

Bwahaaaaa Ha Ha…now that is funny!

This is an open thread.


Monday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

I always enjoy a little E.L Doctorow. Fortunately, I have some to share with you this morning. Monday Morning is a good time to be acerbic. Doctorow offers up some advice on how to be embrace the US’s inner state of unexceptionalism.  Phase One was carried out during the Dubya years.  I think you’ll recognize it.

TO achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following:

PHASE ONE

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election. Appoint the candidate of your choice as president.

If you’re the newly anointed president, react to a terrorist attack by invading a nonterrorist country. Despite the loss or disablement of untold numbers of lives, manage your war so that its results will be indeterminate.

Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and e-mail, make business, medical and public library records available to government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of homes and offices.

Take to torturing terrorism suspects, here or abroad, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Unilaterally abrogate the Convention Against Torture as well as the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those you decide are enemies. For good measure, trust that legislative supporters will eventually apply this policy as well to American citizens.

Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.

By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete the national treasury so that Congress and state and municipal legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that there will be less money for the education of the young, for government health programs, for the care of veterans, for the maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries, and so forth.

Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession in which enormous numbers of people lose their homes and jobs.

Before you leave office add to the Supreme Court justices like the ones who awarded you the presidency.

Don’t miss the other phases!

Here’s my offering for one of those phases.  It’s from Alternet writing on a HuffPo piece.

 For the Republicans’ constant trumpeting of saving the economy in public, they have proven time and again that’s exactly the opposite of what they want to do. The latest: the GOP would like to save the disproportionate defense spending by… cutting food stamps. No, America, they do not care about your well being, or whether all of us can afford to eat. The Huffington Post:

In a memo sent to members Wednesday instructing them how to write their reconciliation bill, Republicans picked a number of targets, including extracting $80 billion from federal workers and $44 billion from health care. In all, it identifies $78 billion to cut in 2013, and details around $300 billion over 10 years.

But the memo spends the most time targeting the exploding cost of food stamps, on which more Americans rely than ever, at greater expense to the government than ever before.

Each month during fiscal 2011, an average of 45 million mostly poor Americans received benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, at a cost of $78 billion to the federal government. Last year’s SNAP participation represented a 70 percent increase from 2007, and the highest enrollment the program has ever seen. In that time, the cost of the program more than doubled.

Of course, the food stamp budget is “exploding” (in HuffPo’s weird term) because the Republicans have failed to support a single plan that might help average Americans get back on their feet.

Chinese workers are back in the news.  Foxconn Workers endure terrible working conditions and many are threatening suicide again. Of course, we have to go to the UK Guardian to read up on this.  Heaven Forbid that we learn people suffer to provide Ipads to the nation’s self absorbed yuppies.

Workers at a factory owned by Foxconn, Apple‘s main manufacturer, threatened to jump off the roof of a building in a protest about wages, a month after the two firms reached agreement on improving working conditions.

The protest happened in the central China city of Wuhan.

It involved 200 workers, the Hong-Kong based activist group Information Centre for Human Rights said.

A company spokesman said the dispute, which concerned workplace adjustments and involved new workers, had been settled. He said it was not a strike. The company employs 1.2 million workers in China.

“The dispute has already been settled after some negotiations involving the human resources and legal departments as well as the local government,” the Taipei-based spokesman, Simon Tsing, said.

Foxconn, China’s largest private-sector employer, and Apple agreed to tackle violations of working conditions and improve working environments.

The deal was agreed almost two years after a series of worker suicides at Foxconn plants focused attention on conditions at Chinese factories and sparked criticism that Apple’s products were made by Chinese workers subjected to mistreatment.

On Tuesday Apple reported that its fiscal second-quarter net income almost doubled after a jump in iPhone sales, exceeding financial market expectations.

 Speaking of Apple, are you aware they are one of the biggest tax dodgers among a proud tradition of US corporations that avoid paying taxes?

Apple, the world’s most profitable technology company, doesn’t design iPhones here. It doesn’t run AppleCare customer service from this city. And it doesn’t manufacture MacBooks or iPads anywhere nearby.

Yet, with a handful of employees in a small office here in Reno, Apple has done something central to its corporate strategy: it has avoided millions of dollars in taxes in California and 20 other states.

Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company’s profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains.

California’s corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada’s? Zero.

Setting up an office in Reno is just one of many legal methods Apple uses to reduce its worldwide tax bill by billions of dollars each year. As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world.

Almost every major corporation tries to minimize its taxes, of course. For Apple, the savings are especially alluring because the company’s profits are so high. Wall Street analysts predict Apple could earn up to $45.6 billion in its current fiscal year — which would be a record for any American business.

We have a bipartisan effort with two US congress women looking to stop the use of GOOGLE by Human Traffickers. U.S. Representatives Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee (R) and Carolyn Maloney (D)  of New York are looking at GOOGLE practices that may accommodate this hideous  industry.

In an effort to stop a rising tide with the use of online networks for human trafficking, two U.S. Representatives of Congress, Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, along with Democrat Carolyn Maloney of New York, have sent a bipartisan letter to the largest online search engine in the world – Google, Inc.Questioning current practices and policies at Google, specifically within the offices of Google Adwords, the Congresswomen are sending a joint letter from Congress to Google to bring hard questions to the internet giant.

Stepping up their efforts, the Blackburn and Maloney Congressional team are bringing Google’s employee policies under the microscope. Unless Google answers the questions regarding the handling, receiving and allowing of online advertising by Google Adwords the corporate giant may be questioned further.

“It’s about time that we all take a close look at the largest ad publisher in the world – Google,” said Phil Cenedella, founder and director of The National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates, an advocacy group that works on-the-ground with women and girl victims of human trafficking and now over 41 global partners. “This problem is worldwide and it’s growing right under our feet,” continued Cenedella. “The U.S. is one of the biggest consumers of modern slaves and illegal slave labor worldwide and this includes sex-trafficking.”

The aim by Congress is to find out more about internal problems at Google Adwords that may be allowing international and local human trafficking rings to sexually exploit and sell women and girls online.

If you need a smile this morning, try the 18 funniest joked by Jimmy Kimmel from the Nerdprom on Saturday night.

1. To Obama: “I know you won’t be able to laugh at my jokes about the Secret Service. Please cover your ears, if that’s physically possible.”

2. “If you told me when I was a kid I would be standing on a dais with President Barack Obama, I would have said, ‘The president’s name is Barack Obama?'”

3. “Remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.”

4. “Democrats would like you to stick to your guns. And if you don’t have any guns, you can ask Eric Holder to get some for you.”

5. “They say diplomacy is a matter of carrot and sticks, and since Michelle Obama got to the White House — so is dinner.”

BA-da-BOOM!

Here’s an inspiring thought for the day:

“A nation cannot be liberated whether internally or externally while its women are enchained.”

Egyptian feminist Doria Shafik 1908-1975

So, there ya go!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Missiles, Boehners, Blood Suckers and SNAP

Good Morning!

This is Sunday, April 29th…the last Sunday in April. What a whirlwind of a month!

Today is also my mother’s birthday, so if you would just let me take a moment to say, “Happy Birthday Ma!”

I have lots of links for you this morning, some are serious…some are funny…and some are just ridiculous!

We will go ahead and get the serious ones out-of-the-way first. Yesterday was the big White House Correspondents Dinner, here are some choice bits for you to check out…it looks like it was a good one.

President Obama on Palin: What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? ‘A pit bull is delicious’

Now that is a funny joke…if you would like to see Obama’s stand-up in full:

One from The Associated Press: Romney, Secret Service, GOP: Obama mocks them all

Another from CNN: TRENDING: 2012 race makes fodder for Obama, Kimmel

And one last link for you about the WHCD: Lindsay Lohan Would Rather Take a Nap than Meet the President. The only reason I mention this Jezebel article is because it gives me the opportunity to say that Lindsay Lohan should not play Elizabeth Taylor! That’s for dang sure!

From Addicting Info, two links:

Rape Away The Gay? Radio Personality Tells Father To Get A Man To Rape His Daughter Until She Turns Straight

A radio personality in Cleveland is facing tremendous backlash after telling a father that he should get one of his male friends to rape his daughter to force her to turn straight.

In response to an email from a father who suspected his daughter was gay after discovering her kissing another girl, DJ Dominic Deiter declared on the air that “You should get one of your friends to screw your daughter straight.”

You read that correctly. An apparently anti-gay radio personality told a father that he should arrange for his daughter to be raped repeatedly until she magically turns straight.

And what radio network is responsible for such a revolting disc jockey? Take a guess…

After the disgusting remark, GLAAD received multiple reports about the incident, which was said during ‘Rover’s Morning Glory’ radio program that airs on WWMS 100.7 FM radio station on Clear Channel Communications, which includes radio shows hosted by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and several other right-wing radio shows. Clear Channel is also owned primarily by Bain Capital, the company that Mitt Romney began and is still involved with.

Yup, it makes me think of the perfect response…

The other link from Addicting Info, I will not post the photo, but if you click the link you can see it. Warning…it is graphic. Native American Blind Man Mutilated By Staff At Rapid City Hospital

As a country we have been mesmerized, sickened and disgusted by the shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. All eyes have been on this hate crime and emotions on both sides of the issue have run high.

But there are other stories out there, not so well publicized by the mainstream media. The most recent to come to light is the shocking mutilation of a 68-year-old blind man. His crime, it seems, is being a Native American living in South Dakota.

Vernon Traversie, a Lakota elder, suffered a heart attack last August and was taken to Rapid City Regional Hospital for emergency surgery. Upon his return home after a two-week stay, he found that three Ks had been carved or burned into his abdomen.

I know that was difficult to read, but I felt I should bring it to your attention. More information about this hateful mutilation at the link.

More news reads after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »