Jan 262016
 

Today was one of those days!  I missed my alarm and awoke 5 minutes before physio.  I was going to be very late so we rescheduled to 14:30.  I promptly fell back asleep for 2 hours.  So much for getting some chores done.  Over 2.5 hours of physio, which included 40 minutes of peddling my sasquatch butt on the recumbent bicycle, I was done. Tomorrow I take the furbabes for their annual checkups and vaccinations.  I am guaranteed to be tired after corraling the beasts and transporting them.  Their godfather (the vet) will be very glad to see them!  When I saw my mother Sunday, I told her that her grandcats said "meow, meow, meow!" and she gave me a big smile.

Short Takes

Alternet — … William J. Kruvant described the process in a 1975 journal article:

“Disadvantaged people are largely victims of middle- and upper-class pollution because they usually live closest to the sources of pollution—power plants, industrial installations, and in central cities where vehicle traffic is heaviest. Usually they have no choice. Discrimination created the situation, and those with wealth and influence have political power to keep polluting facilities away from their homes. Living in poverty areas is bad enough. High pollution makes it worse.”

Environmental racism.  I had not heard the term before, but it certainly makes sense.  And that same idea also extends to poor people.  I remember as a small child living in a small house in a very working class neighbourhood. Next to the house (within 20 feet) was a railroad line that carried industrial supplies so trains were heavy and rattling. On the other side of the tracks was a canal, heavily polluted with industrial waste. Directly across the street was a hydro-electricity plant, and just across the canal on the same side as the plant, was the Massey Ferguson plant (manufactured farm implements) and all it's spewing of pollution.  As soon as they could afford it, my parents moved us to a neighbourhood away from the pollution.  Click through to see 7 US communities of colour subjected to a toxic assault.  Here is the report mentioned in the article: Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987—2007 .  Look at pages 124-133 to see New Orleans, post Katrina, and pages 134-151 to view Dickson County, Tennessee.

Huffington Post — A Texas grand jury has indicted two anti-abortion activists in a case involving covert videos on fetal tissue procurement talks with Planned Parenthood and found there was no wrongdoing on the part of the health group, a district attorney said on Monday.

The grand jury decision was a result of a probe launched last year under Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, who accused Planned Parenthood of the "gruesome harvesting of baby body parts." No evidence was provided by Texas to back the claim.

Good news!  Now will there be a conviction when the case goes to trial?

Mother Jones — On Monday, the US Supreme Court permanently laid to rest North Dakota's controversial "fetal heartbeat" law that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

After a series of appeals, a federal judge again ruled the law unconstitutional in July. Once more the state appealed the ruling and it went to the Supreme Court. But the court on Monday refused to review the lower court's ruling, effectively overturning the ban.

More good news!  

My Universe — 

ATT530861

Brody in the powder roomAnd that's not all the dog blocked!

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Jan 222016
 

What an enjoyable lunch I had with my lady friends.  We met at a 12 week programme in the fall of 2014, and following my suggestion, we have met once a month for conversation and lunch since the end of the programme. After today's lunch, I was feeling very good, more confident . . . I was told by 3 people that I looked like I had lost weight.  Inside I was doing handsprings!  Then at my local bookstore, a clerk told me the same thing.  I had to laugh later though because I realised I was sitting straighter and walking taller.  Now, if I only knew it was true . . . I do not have a scale.

Short Takes

Robert Reich  Why did the white working class abandon the Democrats?

The conventional answer is Republicans skillfully played the race card.

In the wake of the Civil Rights Act, segregationists like Alabama Governor George C. Wallace led southern whites out of the Democratic Party.

Later, Republicans charged Democrats with coddling black “welfare queens,“ being soft on black crime (“Willie Horton”), and trying to give jobs to less-qualified blacks over more-qualified whites (the battle over affirmative action).

The bigotry now spewing forth from Donald Trump and several of his Republican rivals is an extension of this old race card, now applied to Mexicans and Muslims – with much the same effect on the white working class voters, who don’t trust Democrats to be as “tough.”  

All true, but this isn't the whole story. Democrats also abandoned the white working class.

Click through to see how, in Reich's opinion, Democrats abandoned the white working class.  He makes some very valid points.

Crooks and Liars — A pictoral essay.  Isn't this the truth!  Although in my mind, Kagan, Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer would be good to add some diversity.

Open Thread - SCOTUS Dream Team!The SCOTUS Dream Team

Politico — Senator Ted Cruz invoked President John F. Kennedy's name and legacy in a campaign appearance the other day, arguing that if he were alive today, Kennedy would be a Republican. Specifically, he said Kennedy “would be tarred and feathered by the modern Democratic Party.  

Cruz described the Kennedy campaign as one for tax cuts, limited government and tough talk against the Soviets.

And yet, accepting the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1960, Kennedy said this: “There may be those who wish to hear more—more promises to this group or that—more harsh rhetoric about the men in the Kremlin—more assurances of a golden future, where taxes are always low and subsidies ever high.” But he admitted he wasn’t that candidate. He outlined his vision for a New Frontier—a platform of challenges rather than promises, an appeal to public interest over private comfort. Clearly, Cruz hasn’t read that speech.

JFK Jr must be rolling in his grave at the audacity of Ted Cruz dragging his name and legacy into the Republican mud!

Washington Post — Stephanie Czech Rader was the daughter of Polish immigrants, uneducated laborers who settled in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in the early 1920s and barely spoke English. Her immersion in Polish language and culture proved critical to her success, against daunting odds, as a U.S. spy in Europe after World War II.

Recruited to the Office of Strategic Services and the Strategic Services Unit of the War Department, precursors to the CIA, she was officially employed as a clerk at the U.S. Embassy. In reality, she was undercover, an agent whose flawless Polish accent and mannerisms allowed her to move around the Soviet-dominated country with relative ease.

She faced near-constant hazard anyway. Conditions in Warsaw were bleak and dangerous.   

Mrs. Rader did not embody the cliches of Hollywood espionage. She was a chemistry major who glided into the shadows, hardened to spycraft but only up to a point.

“They gave me a gun but I never carried a gun,” she said. “What the heck was I gonna do with a dumb gun?”

I ran across this obituary and found Rader's story compelling.  In a Daily Beast story, author Shane Harris noted:

pushing through a Legion of Merit recommendation that was approved by Rader’s senior officers in 1946. The War Department, though, thought she should get a lesser award.

Rader perhaps had two strikes against her. First, she was a woman. Second, she was a member of the newly formed Office of Strategic Services, the United States’ first central intelligence service and the precursor to the CIA. 

Harris is likely correct . . . being a woman was likely a prime reason for not receiving the Legion of Merit.  I hope this folly willed be rectified.

Huff Post — Adorable kitties are getting sanctuary inside a mosque in Turkey this winter.

cats in Turkish mosque

Big-hearted imam Mustafa Efe lets stray cats shelter from freezing cold temperatures inside the Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi Mosque in Istanbul, according to local English-language newspaper Daily Sabah.

I make no secret about it . . . I adore cats!  So I wanted to share this story of stray cats given shelter, and more importantly, love.  The videos are cute.  They might even be rated CO — Cuteness Overload!  Are you up to it?

My Universe — 

31Happy_FrannyPenny_OK

I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.  —   Jules Verne

 

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Jan 132016
 

Yesterday was a busy day . . . I took my mother to a specialist doctor which was a 4 hour affair (including transport) for her, and then I had a Family Council meeting at her care facility.  I did not arrive home until 22:30.  I was "exhaustipated"!  Since I was so late and so tired, I did not finish the Open Thread.  I just fed the furbabies and myself, then slept instead.  Today was another 2.5 hours of physio therapy including 30 minutes of bike riding.  Somebody made a comment about me being saddle sore because I often ride for a half hour.  No problem — it's a recumbent bike so very comfortable and better for the knees.

Short Take

Politico — The Supreme Court appeared ready Monday to bar public-sector unions from collecting "fair-share" fees from non-members, a move that could deal a political blow to Democrats by reducing union membership drastically and draining union coffers.

At oral arguments in a case brought by California public school teachers who object to the requirement, the court's conservative wing appeared deeply skeptical of a 1977 high court decision upholding the constitutionality of such fees.  

Under current law, public employees covered by union contracts may opt out of paying any fees toward the political activity of their union. But states may pass laws that require those dissenting members to pay a fee to cover their portion of collective bargaining costs. Such provisions, on the books in about two dozen states, are being challenged in the case by Rebecca Friedrichs and eight other California teachers.

The fair-share or "agency" fee is widely seen as a compromise between the First Amendment rights of public employees who may not wish to join a union and the material interest of the unions, which are required by law to bargain on behalf of all members of a given unit, regardless of membership status.

Now that arguments have been heard, we'll have to wait to see how SCOTUS rules.  Just playing devil's advocate a bit, what if the unions were required to only bargain on behalf of its members, and all non union members had to individually bargain for their wages/benefits etc?  Certainly the employer is not going to want to negotiate with a lot of different people due to the time and costs involved.  The settlements are likely to be smaller.  So, can Friedrichs logically say she would negotiate her contract and come out as well or better than she would have paying the agency fee?
 

Think Progress — Sue Berkowitz, director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, which advocates for low-income residents, told ThinkProgress that poverty is a huge issue in her state, largely a result of conservative policies that have been tested and proven ineffective.

“I don’t expect them to touch on anything that is realistic,” she said about the event.

Berkowitz pointed out that the summit is being held in a city with the highest number of diabetic related amputations in the country. Overall, South Carolina’s poverty rate is ranked ninth highestin the nation, with more than 860,000 people living below the poverty line in 2013. The state alsoranks seventh in the percentage of people living in poverty areas. Twenty-seven percent of the state’s children live in poverty and 25 percent live in a food-insecure household, putting it in 45th place in the nation for the well-being of its children.  

“To take SNAP and start talking about things like block granting and making it a work program is just not understanding what’s going on with the low-income community,” Berkowitz said. “At least if you want to get rid of these programs, talk about them honestly. Talk about why you’re doing it and don’t make it look like you’re doing something compassionate and helping people out of their misery. Because the only way we help people out of the misery of poverty is to ensure they’ll have living wages or living stipends to allow them to afford the things that they need.”

The only ones that the Republicans will help are themselves and the 1%.  As Berkowitz says, "At least if you want to get rid of these programs, talk about them honestly."   Honesty is not in the Republican lexicon.

The Nation On a brisk November 13 night in Paris, armed gunmen killed 130 people and shocked the world. Global media snapped into full focus, covering the attack with a frequency and depth unmatched by coverage of any terrorist attack since the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris earlier that year. Just hours earlier, in Beirut and Baghdad, terrorist attacks had claimed the lives of dozens. In Lebanon and Iraq, many were equally shocked, not simply by these attacks, but by what they perceived as a comparable lack of media attention to them. That week marked one crescendo in critiques on media institutions for allegedly covering terrorism more often and more in depth when it occurs in Western countries than when it occurs in non-Western ones.

Is the media creating, or at least substantially contribuuting to the climate of fear in the West with its lopsided coverage of terrorist attacks?

My Universe — 

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Nannies to a new born pitbull rejected by its mother.

 

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Dec 292015
 

It is almost 2016 — just 3 days away — and best and worst lists, the '…est' lists will blare from radios, televisions and computers.  We will review all sorts of happenings from 2015.  Someone will undoubtedly try to knit some of them together with 20/20 hindsight and say "we should have seen this or that coming".  So here's a start.

So this list is, like all listicles, a contrivance. Here, “worst” can be seen as an equivalent to “most annoying” or “most aggravating” or “most please for the love of God can I go on Facebook for just five minutes without seeing this crap?” With that said, please enjoy this quick-and-dirty recap of some of the worst moments in what was — for American politics, at least — an extremely no good year.

1. Donald Trump’s ascendance

AP/John Locher

I have written so much about Donald Trump over the past six months that the prospect of repeating myself fills me with a cold, gnawing dread. So let’s just say that while Trump has provided some moments of gonzo humor, as well as some decent schoolyard insults, his net effect on the GOP primary, and U.S. politics in general, has been overwhelmingly for the worse. What’s most upsetting about Trump, however, isn’t that he may be president (still a long-shot). It’s that somewhere out there is the next Trump, watching and learning from “the Donald’s” mistakes.

Inserted from Alternet.  Click through for the other five.  I chose to highlight Trump because, with every utterance it seems his numbers increase.  And that is troubling to me.  Are there that many ill informed Americans that choose to worship at the altar of Trump?  I personally don't think that Trump will move into the White House, but just the thought of so many talking about voting for him . . . well, it blows my mind, and a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

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Dec 092015
 

A bit of a crazy day today but in addition to physio, I managed to finish up my Christmas shopping for my student's family.  I was going to get young Simon (18 mth old) a wooden truck but changed that to a small stuffed dinosaur.  He is very adept at throwing so figured the dinosaur would do less damage.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:07 (average 5:40). To do it, click here. How did you do?

Short Takes

Alternet — According to an investigation by the New York Times, half of all the money contributed so far to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates—$176 million—has come from just 158 families, along with the companies they own or control.

Who are these people?  They’re almost entirely white, rich, older and male—even though America is becoming increasingly black and brown, young, female, and with declining household incomes.

From the Reich on the left, telling how it is.

Think Progress — During oral arguments on a case that may eliminate race conscious affirmative action, Justice Antonin Scalia said that “most of the black scientists in this country do not come from the most advanced schools” and added that black students do better in a “slower track.”

Scalia also said students of color are being “pushed into schools that are too advanced for them” due to race conscious affirmative action policies.

Scalia is becoming more and more open about his activist conservatism and racism, and I for one am sick of it.  Call me a pollyanna but I still believe in equality and fairness.  Scalia's retirement cannot come soon enough.

Talking Points Memo — Three Republican senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski(R-AK) weren't about to let their party gut Planned Parenthood without a fight.

Collins led the charge on Senate floor Thursday announcing that defunding Planned Parenthood could lead to "the closure of several hundred clinics across the country, depriving millions of women of the health care provider of their choice."

OK, that's a start, but where is that hapless McTurtle in this?  As I understand, unless McTurtle buys in, this is going absolutely nowhere.  It is refreshing however to see some Republicans with some common sense. Or is it just the vagaries of re-election? 

My Universe — The Bag O’ Nails pub in Bristol, England, is known in the area for its unique selection of beers, ciders and ales.

Now it’s getting some attention for a reason that has more to do with fur than fermentation.

Check out the furmentation.  Personally, I like the manager of the pub!

kitten-cat-pub

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Dec 082015
 

Another late post.  I'll try harder tomorrow but I do have physio in the morning and my back is saying hooray!

Puzzle — Today’s took me 2:53 (average 5:07). To do it, click here. How did you do?

Fantasy Football

            Points
Rank Team W-L-T Pct Stk Waiver For Against
1

Monster MashersMonster Mashers

10-3-0 .769 W3 10 1,331.62 908.14
2

BALCO BombersBALCO Bombers

9-4-0 .692 W2 9 1,277.98 1,010.86
3+1

Progressive UnderdogsProgressive Underdogs

8-5-0 .615 W1 8 1,302.94 1,163.54
4+1

Lefty HillbilliesLefty Hillbillies

8-5-0 .615 W1 7 1,250.88 1,119.02
5-2

MittsMagicJockMittsMagicJock

8-5-0 .615 L1 6 1,267.68 1,066.88
6

Size 9 StompersSize 9 Stompers

6-7-0 .462 L1 5 1,108.04 1,187.58
7

Purple DemonPurple Demon

5-8-0 .385 L3 4 1,186.50 1,298.38
8

TomCat Teabag TrashersTomCat Teabag Trashers

5-8-0 .385 W1 3 1,150.72 1,320.78
9

Playing without a helmetPlaying without a helmet

4-9-0 .308 L6 2 1,009.92 1,294.98
10

endthegopendthegop

2-11-0 .154 L1 1 877.96 1,394.08

* Rank change shown is from week 12 – 13

Short Takes

Mother Jones — In early 1945, the federal government started to open the internment camps where it had held 120,000 Japanese Americans for much of World War II. Seven decades later, photographer Paul Kitagaki Jr. has been tracking down the internees pictured in wartime images by photographers like Dorothea Lange (who photographed Kitagaki's own family—see below).

So far, he's identified more than 50 survivors, often reshooting them in the locations where they were originally photographed.

Seven-year-olds Helene Nakamoto Mihara (left, in top photo) and Mary Ann Yahiro (center) were photographed by Lange as they recited the Pledge of Allegiance outside their elementary school in San Francisco in 1942. Both were sent to the Topaz Internment Camp in Utah. Yahiro (right, in bottom photo) was separated from her mother, who died in another camp. "I don't have bitterness like a lot of people might," she told Kitagaki.

Click through to read some of the personal stories of Japanese Americans interned in camps after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 07 December 1941.  Some never recovered from this forced internment.  In Canada, it was much the same as noted in Wikipedia :

Japanese Canadian Internment refers to the detainment of Japanese Canadians following the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong and Malaya and attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent Canadian declaration of war on Japan during World War II. This forced relocation subjected Japanese Canadians to government-enforced curfews and interrogations, in addition to job and property losses.[1] The internment of Japanese Canadians was deemed necessary by the federal Cabinetheaded by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, largely due to existing racism. This was done so, despite evidence supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of National Defence that this decision was unwarranted.[2]

Beginning after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and lasting until 1949 (four years after World War II had ended) all persons of Japanese heritage were systematically removed from their homes and businesses and sent to internment camps. The Canadian government shut down all Japanese-language newspapers, took possession of businesses and fishing boats, and effectively sold them. In order to fund the internment itself, vehicles, houses and personal belongings were also sold.[1]

In August 1944, Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced that Japanese Canadians were to move east into prisoner of war [POW] camps and internment camps as had been previously encouraged. The official policy stated that Japanese Canadians must move east of the Rocky Mountains or be repatriated to Japan following the end of the war.[3] However, by 1947 many Japanese Canadians had been granted exemption to this enforced no-entry zone, and by 1949 legislation was enacted that allowed Japanese Canadians the right to vote provincially as well as federally, officially marking the end of internment.[4]

One noted difference between the US and Canadian internments was the end date . . . in the US, internment ended in 1946, while in Canada the end was legislated in 1949.  The reason for the internment in both countries was blatant racism and not the declared "danger to society" used at the time.

If we listen to Republicans and the right wing nut jobs, the US will head down this path again.  As posted by TomCat today in his On the Edge–12/8/2015, Senator Jeff Merkley (D – Oregon) spoke elequently.

Daily Beast — The principle of “one person, one vote” sounds simple. But this week, the Supreme Court will hear a case that reveals how not-simple it really is, and how race lurks in the background of profound legal questions.

According to the Constitution, states determine how their state and local legislative districts are drawn. For more than a century, many were based on geography, which led some sparsely populated rural districts to have as much representation as cities.

That changed in 1964, when the Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Reynolds v. Sims, that the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution required districts to be based on population, not geography. “Legislators represent people, not trees,” wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren. And the Constitution requires that “the vote of any citizen is approximately equal in weight to that of any other citizen in the state.” The principle of “one person, one vote” was born.

I like Earl Warren's statement “Legislators represent people, not trees,”.  Considering that only citizens can vote, but all people within a district must live with the determination that voters make in that district, IMO, setting district boundaries by population is the correct method.  No method is 100% fair but Evenwel needs to get over it! Arguments are being heard Tuesday.  It will be interesting to see how the Roberts court rules.

The Hill — The top two Republican leaders in Congress on Tuesday denounced Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States in a remarkable rebuke of the party’s presidential front-runner.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) collectively ripped the plan as unconstitutional, putting on stark display the rupture between the Republican establishment and Trump.

The fierce blowback from the GOP leaders was echoed by many rank-and-file Republican lawmakers — and did not go unnoticed.

It is about time that the Republican Party dealt with Trump.

Huffington Post — "However, by saying on Monday that all Muslims overseas, even U.S. citizens who are abroad for business or pleasure, will be refused re-entry to the United States, he would effectively deny them their citizenship rights," he [Max Paul Fiedman] wrote. "Like Jews in Germany, they would be rendered stateless."

The cover of the New York Dail News has Trump down to a tee.  Check out their front page on Huff Post.

My Universe — 

root-of-evil

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Dec 032015
 

Ah, today that dreaded task . . . laundry!  Yesterday, I came downstairs to a mess made through the night by my 3 furballs.  I wonder what today will be like?  Their shenanigans blocked access to the laundry.  We'll see as soon as I am finished here.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:08 (average 5:08). To do it, click here. How did you do?

Short Takes

The Nation — In common with the other big rightward swerves by the Roberts Court, the 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller was an aggressive exercise in mendacity. By upending the well-established meaning of the Second Amendment, the Court made the country less safe and less free. It did this under the guise of a neutral and principled “originalism” that looks to the text as it was first understood back in 1791 by the amendment’s drafters and their contemporaries.  

Samuels-Brady_img

In the process, the conservative justices engaged in an unsubtle brand of outcome-oriented judicial activism and “living constitutionalism” that they claim to abhor—an irony noted by a host of devoted Supreme Court watchers across the ideological spectrum. Richard Posner, the prominent Reagan-appointed federal appellate judge and prolific commentator on legal and economic issues, derided Scalia’s flawed approach as “faux originalism” and a “snow job.”

A "snow job" is certainly an understatement especially in light of the two mass shootings of 02/12/2015.  So according to SCROTUS, the original intent of the 2nd amendment was to give the individual the "right to bear arms" and has nothing to do with a militia (army).  If that is the case, then what can the US do to curb the rampant gun violence that exists today? As of today, there have been 355 mass shootings, a mass shooting being defined as an incident with four or more deaths or woundings.  That is more than one per day.  A very sad commentary on a nation that is supposed to be enlightened.

Alternet — The richest Americans increasingly are taking over the levers of power and shaping the political debate, despite opposing views held by a majority of Americans, a new and unprecedented academic study of the top 1 percent has confirmed.

The super-rich are more politically active than average Americans, financing and contacting elected officials and knowing many on a first-name basis. Their agenda, which is often cited by public officials across the country, emphasizes private profit-making and is skeptical of almost every public program to address economic inequality, thestudy by Chicago-based university researchers found. The top 1 percent's social agenda, while “more liberal than others on religious and moral issues, including abortion, gay rights, and prayer in school,” is still “much more conservative than the non-affluent on issues of taxes, economic regulation, and social welfare,” the researchers found.

Put another way, today’s top 1 percent generally do not believe the longtime conservative line that a rising economic tide will lift all Americans, but have a darker view in which one’s fate is tied to the survival of the fittest. They consider climate change a non-issue and most would cut federal and state safety nets and anti-poverty programs, shift taxpayer dollars into privatized education and do little to ensure access to higher education.

Click through to see the eight points gleaned from the report "Democracy and The Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans".  I doubt all of this is a surprise.  But doing something about it will take a lot of hard work.  As it is, I think the US is a democracy in name only.  With the wealthy having so much political power, the US is a plutocracy.

Washington Post — The new argument, which Piketty spelled out recently in the French newspaper Le Monde, is this: Inequality is a major driver of Middle Eastern terrorism, including the Islamic State attacks on Paris earlier this month — and Western nations have themselves largely to blame for that inequality.

Piketty writes that the Middle East's political and social system has been made fragile by the high concentration of oil wealth into a few countries with relatively little population. If you look at the region between Egypt and Iran — which includes Syria — you find several oil monarchies controlling between 60 and 70 percent of wealth, while housing just a bit more than 10 percent of the 300 million people living in that area. (Piketty does not specify which countries he's talking about, but judging from a study he co-authored last year on Middle East inequality, it appears he means Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. By his numbers, they accounted for 16 percent of the region's population in 2012 and almost 60 percent of its gross domestic product.)

Click through for the rest of this interesting article.  Piketty definitely has a point, especially if his figures can be fully substantiated.

My Universe — 

Y8nqo43nwE-hiPX7XTn76w2

 

 

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Nov 162015
 

The weather here was good today, sunny and windy, but it was about 8 C (46 F) warm enough for mid November. Tonight or early tomorrow morning we are expecting rain.  Current temperature is 0 C (32 F).  I hope this does not mean icy streets in the morning when I have to go to physio. I'd hate to miss the opportunity to be chastised by my therapist for falling on my face. I have enjoyed several of Lona's cat naps this afternoon/evening, but the rest of the week is looking quite busy.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 2:57 (average 5:18). To do it, click here. How did you do? 

Short Takes

NY Times — Ali Awad, 14, was chopping vegetables when the first bomb struck. Adel Tormous, who would die tackling the second bomber, was sitting at a nearby coffee stand. Khodr Alaa Deen, a registered nurse, was on his way to work his night shift at the teaching hospital of the American University at Beirut, inLebanon.

All three lost their lives in a double suicide attack in Beirut on Thursday, along with 40 others, and much like the scores who died a day later in Paris, they were killed at random, in a bustling urban area, while going about their normal evening business.

Around the crime scenes in south Beirut and central Paris alike, a sense of shock and sadness lingered into the weekend, with cafes and markets quieter than usual. The consecutive rampages, both claimed by the Islamic State, inspired feelings of shared, even global vulnerability — especially in Lebanon, where many expressed shock that such chaos had reached France, a country they regarded as far safer than their own.

But for some in Beirut, that solidarity was mixed with anguish over the fact that just one of the stricken cities — Paris — received a global outpouring of sympathy akin to the one lavished on the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

Click through for the rest of the article.  High on my mind, like so many others, has been the Friday terrorist attacks in Paris.  I had read about the Beirut bombings and I was sad for the people, like I am sad for the people of Syria and Iraq who endure so much death and uncertainty daily.  But what makes Paris so different to Beirut?  In reality, nothing.  In both cases, innocent lives were broken apart by the same group, Daesh.  The people in Beirut ask a valid question, do Arab lives matter less.

“When my people died, no country bothered to light up its landmarks in the colors of their flag,” Elie Fares, a Lebanese doctor, wrote on his blog. “When my people died, they did not send the world into mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”

Do we in the west have a double standard?  Do some lives matter more than others.  This is a question we all should be wrestling with.  All lives matter equally!

Mother Jones — "The Court now has the opportunity to decide whether we will continue to allow elected officials to play politics with women's health," wrote Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America,in a statement. "This case represents the greatest threat to women's reproductive freedom since the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade over 40 years ago. Laws like the ones being challenged in Texas are designed to subvert the Constitution and end the right to a safe and legal abortion."

Click through for the rest of the article.  With the decision expected in early 2016, this issue, no matter which way it goes, will likely be an election issue.  It is time for women to stand up forcefully for their reproductive health.  Women and their doctors should be making these decisions, not politicians.

Raw Story — Following Friday night’s terrorist attacks in Paris that claimed 129 lives, prospective 2016 GOP presidential candidates were quick to find fault and assign blame by going after Democrats and slamming Syrian refugees before French authorities even began their investigation.

Republicans flooded the airwaves Sunday morning, variously criticizing their Democratic counterparts for failing to use the term “radical Islam,” and faulting the administration for not putting “boots on the ground” in Syria while warning of another 9/11 attack in the U.S.

Responding to all three Democratic nominees using “radical jihadists” in their debate instead of blaming Islam, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed Democrats are more invested in defending Islam than protecting Americans.

“It’s become apparent on the Democratic side, whether it is the current president or the one who wishes to be president, they’re more interested in protecting the image of Islam than they are protecting Americans,” Huckabee told Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Click through for the rest of the article.  Is there anyone of sound mind in the Republican Party?  Here is Jeb Bush on the subject (from Raw Story).

And Ted Cruz of course has plenty to say (from Raw Story).

Cruz made the case that the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night proved that Christians are under siege, even though the attacks were on nightlife hot spots and not religious targets. Before the rally, Cruz told to reporters and said Christians need constitutional protections because they are most ostracized today, according to CNN…

Do I think Christians are under siege as Cruz says?  No!  Do I think that Christians need constitutional prtections? They already have 1st amendment rights.  What these pseudo Christians are wanting is the right to discriminate and the right to turn the US into a Christian theocracy.

My Universe — 

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Oct 222015
 

Today has been one of those days . . . physiotherapy, a few messages and then home to work on this Open Thread.  It didn't take long for my concentration to wane and my eyes to close while at the keyboard.  Then my head would snap to, I'd continue until the eyes were heavy again. Snap!  I took a Lona cat nap just for an hour and that seemed to work.  But now, it really is time for bed.  Maybe it is all the euphoria of Trudeau's slaughter of Harper.  On the other hand, tomorrow would have been the 124th birthday of my grandfather who I dearly loved.  He passed away at 99.5 years and his memorial service was on my birthday.  We were so close that when he passed, I could not be sad for him.  He was ready.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 2:43 (average 3:54). To do it, click here. How did you do? For those that don't know, we always do the 48 piece classic.

Short Takes 

The New Yorker — In the aftermath of former Virginia senator James Webb’s announcement that he is quitting the Democratic Presidential primary, a new poll shows his bitter rival Lincoln Chafee surging to two per cent of likely voters.

The former Rhode Island governor, whose path to the White House was predicated on knocking Webb out of the race, could not contain his jubilation as he told supporters in Concord, New Hampshire, that his campaign is now “solidly in the single digits.”

Webb has dropped out and it is time for Chaffee to do the same.

Alternet — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not known for his nuance, but his disregard for historical facts themselves took a new turn today as he claimed, in a speech in Israel, that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler actually did not want to exterminate Jews until a Palestinian religious leader convinced him otherwise.

How typical of "Republicans", Butcher Ben included . . . ignore facts and rewrite history . . . or at least try to.  Check HERE to read some about Haj Amin al-Husseini.

Think Progress — The Supreme Court is also complicit in the wave of “curbs on voting rights” that Yglesias notes in his piece. In a party-line vote, a 5-4 Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, enabling many voter ID laws, gerrymandered maps and other legislation that would have otherwise been blocked to go into effect. Similarly, the Court in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board effectively greenlighted Voter ID laws — one of the most common examples of state laws that exclude voters likely to support Democrats. The Court’s plurality opinion cited concerns about in-person voter fraud to justify this outcome, even though the opinion could only find one example of such fraud occurring in the United States within the preceding 140 years!

In my opinion, there is much more election fraud than voter fraud, and most of that is engineered by the Republicans or their agents provocateurs.  They use gerrymandering, voter ID laws, election day theatrics etc to deny the vote of groups that traditionally vote for Democrats and then have the temerity to call it voter fraud. 

Alternet — Texas is many things to many people—a state the size of a medium-sized country; home to several idiot governors, one who became president, and a current one who thinks it’s a good idea for college students to openly carry firearms. To Donald Trump, Texas is the place where a "big, beautiful wall" should be built. To people in Norway, “texas” with a small “t” is a synonym for crazy, bonkers, out of control and wild. As in, that’s totally texas. Or in Norwegian: det var helt texas.

When I first saw this, I had to give my head a shake and try to stop laughing.  There are some fine people in Texas, but the Republican craziness of people like Louis Gohmert is really getting around and giving the state a bad rep.  I file this under humour!

My Universe — H/t Nameless

football feline

TC in his younger years!

I wanted this picture for last Tuesday's Fantasy Football update but I misfiled it.

 

 

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Oct 052015
 

Okay, so maybe it’s not Bullwinkle himself, but all the moose in Alaska (and unlike goose/geese, the plural of moose is … moose) are in the crosshairs of hunters on hovercrafts.  But more on that later.

As most of us recall, the new term for the Supreme Court begins on the first Monday in October – today!

The docket for this term will most likely not produce the fireworks of last term with rulings we liberals liked, including the 5-4 decision to recognize a constitutional right to marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, the 6-3 ruling to uphold health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act and the 5-4 decision to ratify a broad definition of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

This year’s docket, marking the start of Chief Justice Roberts’ second decade, is heavily tilted to favor the Roberts-Scalia-Thomas-Alito wing of the Court, with Kennedy casting his customary tie-breaking vote.

And there are no real breath-holding cases … so far.  But there are currently only about 50 petitions, out of about 10,000 submitted, that have been granted cert.  Usually the Court will hear about 80 cases in all, with the final docket not set until January. 

So we’ll begin with the ones that are set.  The case with the largest monetary impact – and one that is based on a ruling from the Civil War era – has been filed by Iran’s central bank (Bank Markazi v. Peterson).

More than 1,300 Americans have already been awarded almost $2 Billion by the courts, in frozen assets held by Iran’s central bank, Markazi, based on claims that the Iranian government sponsored the terrorists’ attacks involved in the 1983 bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 service members and the 1996 Khobar tower bombing in Saudi Arabia.

The legal aspect deals with the Separation of Powers Doctrine. The Court in the 1872 case of United States v. Klein, ruled that under Article III of the Constitution, Congress cannot direct a federal court on how a pending case should be decided.  Bank Markazi contends that Congress did just this with a law passed in 2012 that declared the victims were entitled to the bank’s assets.

A case from Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico v. Valle) deals with the limits of sovereignty with regard to the prohibition on double jeopardy provided for in the Fifth Amendment. 

The Double Jeopardy Clause guarantees that a citizen will not be retried for the same crime. However, this does not protect a citizen from prosecution in both the State and Federal systems for the same action.  And the claim is that Puerto Rico’s sovereignty granted in 1950 allows it to pass its own laws, and thereby precludes it from being subject to the Double Jeopardy Clause of someone already prosecuted under the US federal justice system.

The First Amendment is the focus of Heffernan v. Paterson, N.J.  Hefferman was a police Detective who was seen by a superior picking up a yard sign for his bedridden mother supporting a candidate running against the incumbent mayor.  He neither supported nor campaigned for that candidate, but the supervisor who saw him with the sign demoted him to patrol and assigned him to walk a beat.  He maintains his First Amendment rights were violated by the demotion, but the courts ruled that since he was not supporting that candidate in any manner, he wasn’t exercising any First Amendment rights.

There are two cases that greatly excite conservatives because they deal with public unions and affirmative action in higher education. 

Conservative hope to overturn the 1979 “Fair Share” decision allowing a public employee union (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association) to collect from non-union members the part of union dues used to represent them in collective bargaining.  It would allow non-union members to become freeloaders to enjoy the gains of winning union benefits while not contributing anything to unions’ pocketbooks.

And in the affirmative action case (Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin), conservatives hope to further limit utilizing race as a factor in admissions.  The U. of Texas has created a hybrid program combining race-neutral and race-conscious factors to achieve diversity. 

An appeals court has actually sustained the hybrid, but a small conservative advocacy group, the Project on Fair Representation, has brought this case forward.

The same right-wing group is mounting a challenge to the Voting Rights Act with Evenwel v. Abbott, which asks the court to address the meaning of “one person, one vote.”

It deals with whether state voting districts should have the same number of people, including undocumented immigrants, children and others not eligible to vote, or the same number of voters.  Allowing states to count only voters would in many parts of the country shift political power from cities to rural areas, to the delight of Republicans.

The court will actually begin where it ended the last term – dealing with the Eighth Amendment and the death penalty.

In the ruling of the last case of the last term Justice Breyer was joined by Justice Bader Ginsburg in a surprising and comprehensive opinion in Glossip v. Gross, which announced that both Justices now “believe it highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment.” 

There are currently FIVE cases involving the Eighth Amendment as pertains to the death penalty on the docket, so we'll see if Justice Alito is correct when he said there’s a “guerilla war against the death penalty,” which prompted Justice Sonia Sotomayor to fire back that supporters of the death penalty would be content to allow condemned inmates to be burned alive.

To further heat things up, the court, which hasn’t heard an abortion case since upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Act in 2007, will likely hear a challenge to a Texas law (Whole Woman’s Health Center v. Cole) which would reduce the number of clinics providing abortion services from more than 40 to less than 10. 

The state law requires all clinics to meet the criteria for “ambulatory surgical centers” and all its physicians having admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.  Standards few clinics currently have – or are deemed necessary by the medical community.

So this court, which “The New York Times” has called “the first in history split along partisan lines” and as a consequence “has generated more marquee decisions divided by party alignment than all other courts combined” will likely hand down that decision in June, 2016. 

Such a divisive and volatile ruling will thus land in the middle of the presidential race.  Emphasizing, yet again, the need to GOTV – “Get Out the VOTE!” – because the next president will likely have the responsibility to fill several anticipated vacancies, given the ages of several justices.

Oh, yeah … Bullwinkle.  Let’s end on a lighter note.  Well, the moose and his brethren are following Sturgeon v. Masica very closely.

Plaintiff John Sturgeon has been going on his annual moose hunting (and beer swilling) trips with his hovercraft on the Yukon River and its tributaries for years.  But in 2007 he was stopped by National Park Service agents who told him the vehicle was banned in waters inside the national preserve.  So he did what any proud gun-toting, moose-killing, hovercraft-hunter would do – he immediately pulled out his satellite phone to call his lawyer.

The question is whether the federal government is allowed to enforce federal rules pertaining to federal navigable waters in federally operated National Parks.  Now you would think this is pretty clear cut, but apparently you would be wrong.

So far Sturgeon has lost at every stage.  But he now gets to plead his case before SCOTUS, armed with amicus briefs from Sarah Palin’s state of Alaska as well as a hunting rights group, Safari Club International. 

We can all recall how Cecil the Lion fared against the Minnesota dentist.  So heads up, Bullwinkle – or maybe heads down – because you’re in the hovercraft hunters’ crosshairs!

 

Multiple Sources:

 

http://www.scotusblog.com/2015/10/court-to-rule-on-congresss-power-over-courts/

http://jostonjustice.blogspot.com/2015/10/for-courts-conservatives-new-term.html

http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060025691

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/supreme-court-agenda-abortion-birth-control

http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2015/10/looking-at-the-newest-cases-accepted-by-the-supreme-court/

http://abovethelaw.com/2015/10/supreme-court-watch-of-moose-and-men-and-hovercrafts/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-rounds-out-docket-with-cases-from-iranian-bank-moose-hunter/2015/10/01/6adc5b96-6854-11e5-9223-70cb36460919_story.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/02/us/politics/supreme-court-adds-terrorism-and-money-laundering-cases-to-docket.html?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/us/politics/supreme-court-prepares-to-take-on-politically-charged-cases.html

http://www.scotusblog.com/2015/09/as-the-2015-term-opens-the-courts-unusual-eighth-amendment-focus/#more-232318

 

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Jun 302015
 

Of all the Supreme Court decisions in the closing week, the one that upset me most was the 5-4 decision that declares that death by slow torture is not cruel and unusual punishment.  The dissents by Ginsburg and Breyer were the refreshing part of the decision.  Using this decision as a backdrop, consider the two different Courts that may exist ten years from now.

0630ginsburg_beyerJustice Harry Blackmun got there in 1994, after twenty-four years on the bench. For Justice John Paul Stevens, it took twenty-three years. Today, after twenty-two and twenty-one years, respectively, Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, too, now recognize there is no constitutionally sufficient way to implement the death penalty.

The pair were among the dissenters from a 5-4 decision of the court this morning which held that Oklahoma death row defendants failed to prove that there was a less painful method of death available to them, and they had no right to a painless death. "Because it is settled that capital punishment is constitutional," wrote Justice Alito for the Court, “it necessarily follows that there must be a constitutional means of carrying it out. And because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain."

To Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, however, enough’s enough:

In 1976, the Court thought that the constitutional infirmities in the death penalty could be healed; the Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would protect against those constitutional problems. Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed. Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use.

I shall describe each of these considerations, emphasizing changes that have occurred during the past four decades. For it is those changes, taken together with my own 20 years of experience on this Court, that lead me to believe that the death penalty, in and of itself, now likely constitutes a legally prohibited “cruel and unusual punishmen[t].” U. S. Const., Amdt. 8.

If you thought the next presidential election was crucial already, it just got a whole lot bigger. Four Justices (Kennedy, Scalia, Ginsburg, and Breyer) are between 77 and 82 years old. Elections matter… [emphasis original]  

Inserted from <Daily Kos>

Click through for much more information.

Now, consider a Court in which Sturmbannführer Scalia, and Kennedy, along with Ginsburg and Breyer were replaced with Justices just like Ginsburg and Breyer.  Such a Court would make Constitutional decisions.  The Fascist Five Injustices of SCROTUS, Republican Constitutional VD, would have become the Toddler Tantrum Three.  America would be on the mend.

On the other hand, consider a Court in which Ginsburg and Breyer, along with Scalia and Kennedy were replaced with Injustices just like Sturmbannführer Scalia, Teabag Thomas, and Scalito.  Such a Court would establish  permanent, totalitarian Republican Reich. The Fascist Five Injustices of SCROTUS would become the Sedition Seven.  America would not survive.

In this Tale of Two Courts, which Court do you want?  What are you willing to do to get it?

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Apr 302015
 

I’m still dealing with considerable pain, but not enough to shut me down completely.  In addition, I’m rewarding myself for writing with  a kitty sun nap, as our high will be over 70°.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:55 (average 5:05). To do it, click here. How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Upworthy: There’s something timeless about this American classic that America can’t seem to outgrow.

 

I first read To Kill a Mocking Bird in 1962. I was 12. I identified with it, because my father’s extreme racism was so offensive to me. It certainly has a message for today. Click through for five lessons that still apply.

From Daily Kos: Some nasty, malevolent wingnut took it on himself to spoil a kindergarten concert in Iowa by yelling "USA! English Only!" over and over when the concert was introduced first in English, and then by a Spanish translator to accommodate Spanish speaking toddlers and their parents.

This occurred last week at the local Performing Arts Center in Perry, Iowa, about 40 miles Northwest of Des Moines, during a concert by Perry Elementary School students.  The incident was caught on a 12-second video and provided to the Perry News.

 

They may mot know who this shameful racist is, but we’ve seen this TEAbuggery so much, that what he is, is clear. He is a Republican.

From Crooks and Liars: Let’s hope Jon Stewart was right when he said this about the oral arguments we heard this week on gay marriage in front of the Supreme Court.

STEWART: Bottom line is this. If oral arguments have any impact on the final result, June’s going to be a nice time for a gay wedding.

Amen to that. Stewart started off his show this Wednesday by going after the wingnuts [sic] on the Supreme Court and former solicitor general of Michigan John Bursch, and the extremely lame arguments we heard from them against the issue of same-sex marriage.

Now that Republicans have had their oral arguments, it’s time for them to get their anal arguments. Hold the KY. 😉

Cartoon:

0430Cartoon

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