Saturday, May 23, 2015

Let George Do It

Just in case you haven’t heard: May 28 is the date that George Pataki will announce whether he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Yes! George Pataki. Of New York. How can you not remember? He was governor for 12 years, for heaven’s sake.

Actually, I can understand how it slipped your mind. In 1999, when Pataki was still in office and much more famous than he is today, he went to New Hampshire to feel out his presidential prospects, and I remember having an argument with a cabdriver in Manchester who was sure that the governor of New York was Rudy Giuliani.

This is the season when America grows its crop of presidential candidates, and even if the names are improbable, attention must be paid.

While the Democratic side has not been particularly fertile, the Republican contenders are multiplying like gerbils. Six hats are already in the ring. On May 27, Rick (Remember Me?) Santorum will tell us where his metaphorical headwear is going. A coy tweet from Texas reveals that Mr. and Mrs. Rick Perry “have been discussing the future of this great country and how our family can play a role,” and promises “a special announcement” on June 4.

Donald Trump claims he’ll have some exciting news in June, too. It’s been a hard couple of weeks for Republicans, but the future is filled with cheer. No reason worrying about Jeb Bush cratering when you have Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Donald Trump and George Pataki to look forward to.  READ MORE

Wow, Jeb Bush Is Awful

Let’s discuss Jeb Bush’s terrible week.

I’m really troubled by his awful performances, and I’m generally a person who takes bad news about politicians pretty well. For instance, a friend just sent me a story about the Texas agriculture commissioner’s vow to bring deep-fried foods back to school cafeterias. (“It’s not about French fries; it’s about freedom.”) I would classify this as interesting, yet somehow not a shocking surprise.
But today we’re talking about Jeb Bush. As a presidential hopeful, Bush’s most attractive feature was an aura of competence. Extremely boring competence, perhaps. Still, an apparent ability to get through the day without demonstrating truly scary ineptitude.

Then, about a week ago, The Washington Post reported that during a private meeting with rich Manhattan financiers, Bush announced that his most influential adviser on Middle Eastern matters was his brother George.  READ MORE

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jeb Bush says 'a tolerant country' should support the right to discriminate

Jeb Bush plunked himself down firmly on the side of discrimination in a Christian Broadcasting Network interview Saturday. Does he think business owners should be able to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings? "Yes, absolutely, if it’s based on a religious belief."

“A big country, a tolerant country, ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs,” he said. “This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now.”  READ MORE

Sorry, Jeb. Your brother did create ISIS

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
(ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street
in the city of Mosul.
It must be tough being the brother of the man who is responsible for the world-historical disaster that was the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It's tougher still to try to replace him as the next Republican president of the United States.

This week, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush found that out the hard way. Mocked by the press and his GOP rivals for first announcing, "I would have" gone into Iraq knowing what he knows now, Jeb reversed course days later in declaring, "I would not have gone into Iraq." But even before the pain had subsided from that severe case of whiplash, Bush was embarrassed at an event in Reno by 19-year-old college student Ivy Ziedrich. When Bush tried to pin the paternity for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on President Obama, the University of Nevada political science major replied simply:
"Your brother created ISIS."  READ MORE

Why race is the main reason the murderous bloodbath in Waco was handled with velvet gloves

Nine people shot to death at a family restaurant.
Dozens of others stabbed, beaten, and seriously injured.
Over 100 guns recovered.
Sounds like one of the worst crimes in modern American history, right?
Then why do the men above look like they are tailgating? Smoking cigarettes, others using their cell phones, nobody in the world could guess that these men were even associated with such a horrible crime. Instead, you'd think the man below was involved.
Nah. He refused to get on the sidewalk during a curfew in Baltimore. Sprayed in the face with pepper spray, the officers even seemed to enjoy brutalizing him. See the smile?
It's not a harsh comparison at all.

In Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, and around the country, protestors were actually protesting against violence and were often treated as if they were murderers.

In Waco, Texas, when one of the deadliest, bloodiest, most violent rampages in modern America happened, the National Guard wasn't called in, the perpetrators weren't beaten or pepper-sprayed, nobody was hogtied or humiliated, the dogs weren't brought out to intimidate anyone. Hell, they didn't even handcuff them or take their phones away. Instead, they just sat them down on the sidewalk peacefully.  READ MORE

Newspaper Gives Honest Answer to Question, "Why do you support such a liberal agenda?"

Honest answer to a reader's question

No snark, no smartassery. This is one of the finest responses I've ever seen to this kind of question.
Setup: The Charlotte Observer's Taylor Batten wrote a piece about "Honesty Day," which "requires" you to honestly answer a question if it is posed to you. (Sidebar: The Observer is a McClatchy newspaper.) He was asked: "Question? Why do you support such a liberal agenda? Remember you’re supposed to answer honestly."

It would have been easy to respond defensively ("We're not liberal!") or with much snark and smartass ("Here's why we're not conservative...") or, easiest of all, to just ignore it -- with or without the high drama and pearl-clutching. Instead, Batten and the Observer chose to respond with a simple, elegant, and perfectly thought-out response. I'm not easily impressed by this kind of thing. Batten's words did so. This will resonate with me for, quite probably, the rest of my days.
Let's go see what he wrote.  READ MORE

Video captures police trying to illegally detain teenage girls, women rushing to their aid

Police, apparently from the 30th precinct near West Harlem in New York City, attempted to illegally detain two teenage girls from the community. As you will see in the video below the fold, these young girls didn't do anything wrong.

At 6:08 in the video, all hell breaks loose.

This is about as a bold of an example of witnesses courageously standing up to bad policing as you will ever see. FROM THE SITE

We're Number 1! Arizona reaches another milestone of hate

Today the Arizona legislature did what no other state in the nation has been mean-spirited enough to do: they cut lifetime welfare benefits to one year for everyone — adults and children, the physically and mentally disabled. Most states have a five-year limit, while thirteen others impose a two-year cutoff. Texas (of course) has a flexible limit that can be as short as one year, but even children are exempt in the Lone Star State. Not so for Arizona! We're Number 1!
As a result, the Arizona Department of Economic Security will drop at least 1,600 families — including more than 2,700 children — from the state's federally funded welfare program when the budget year begins in July.
No doubt you'll continue to hear from the Cato Institute, Rush Limbaugh and other goonballs that lazy moochers sit at home because welfare pays more than work, but Arizona's payments were never generous to begin with, a whopping $275 per month for a two-person household. Now even that will be gone in a couple months for thousands of people — and as many as 300,000 total if legislators follow through with all their planned cuts to welfare, Medicaid and ACA.

The far-right fundies, who absolutely control Arizona's legislature, made the usual unproven arguments before voting to cut vulnerable families off at the knees:
"I tell my kids all the time that the decisions we make have rewards or consequences, and if I don't ever let them face those consequences they can't get back on the path to rewards," Republican Sen. Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City said during debate on the budget. "As a society we are encouraging people at times to make poor decisions and then we reward them."
Rewarding poor decisions. Oh, you mean like Wall Street banksters?  READ MORE

Bill O'Reilly's daughter says he choked and dragged ex-wife down stairs

Bill O'Reilly is a terrible, dumb, vicious, hypocrite. Now you might add wife-beater to that litany of the obscenities that come to mind when O'Reilly crosses your radar. Gawker is reporting that, according to documents from O'Reilly's recently lost custody case against his ex-wife Maureen McPhilmy, O'Reilly is not just a vulgar verbally and mentally abusive, bullying type—he's also a physically assaulting type of bully:

According to a source familiar with the facts of the case, a court-appointed forensic examiner testified at a closed hearing that O’Reilly’s daughter claimed to have witnessed her father dragging McPhilmy down a staircase by her neck, apparently unaware that the daughter was watching. The precise date of the alleged incident is unclear, but appears to have occurred before the couple separated in 2010. The same source indicated that the daughter, who is 16 years old, told the forensic examiner about the incident within the past year.
The levels of depravity O'Reilly has reached during this case trump the recent revelations of how much of a liar he is. Unpacking them here would take forever and I would potentially grind my teeth into nubs, but here are some highlights: READ MORE

Leaked Memo Reveals What ‘Breastaurants’ Actually Think Of Their Customers

Waitresses and a customer at a Texas-area
Twin Peaks restaurant

Popularly known as “breastaurants,” the franchises that cater to the male gaze by employing scantily clad waitresses are enjoying booming business even as the rest of the restaurant industry has been struggling. Case in point: Twin Peaks, a Texas-based chain that was founded in 2005 to provide an even racier alternative to the ubiquitous Hooters franchise, was the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the U.S. in 2013.

Twin Peaks attributes its success to a basic understanding of the sexes. “Men are simple creatures and so you don’t have to get too crazy to get them in the door,” Kristen Colby, the director of marketing for Twin Peaks franchise, told the Huffington Post earlier this year. She said that beer, sports, and beautiful women are all it takes.

An internal branding memo provided to ThinkProgress from a current employee at a Twin Peaks restaurant, who preferred to remain anonymous over fears about losing their job, backs up that claim. That employee said the memo was distributed to all the franchises nationwide, as well as handed out to waitresses.

According to the document, the restaurant wants to target guys “who love to have their ego stroked by beautiful girls,” and promises to provide an environment “that feeds their ego with the attention they crave.” They describe their typical customer as someone who likes “attention from beautiful girls and being recognized in front of the guys,” as well as someone who doesn’t want to be asked what he’s thinking:  READ MORE

How Atheists Are Turning ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws Against Religion

For almost a year now, the nation has been locked in almost constant debate over various state and federal versions of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA), a 20-year-old law that was broadened by the Supreme Court in 2014 and has since been embraced by right-wing politicians and pundits — especially religious conservatives. But in an unusual twist, an atheist activist is galvanizing support for a legal campaign to use the federal RFRA to remove the phrase “In God we trust” from U.S. coins and paper bills.

Even more unusual: it just might work.

Michael Newdow, who unsuccessfully sued to have “Under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance in 2004, published a guest post on the The Friendly Atheist blog last Friday outlining a new initiative to challenge the decades-old policy of printing the religiously themed American national motto on U.S. currency. He explained that while courts have dismissed claims that the phrase violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution — which prohibits Congress from passing laws that establish one religion above others — his new legal argument is rooted in RFRA’s stipulation that religious activity cannot be “substantially burdened” without a “compelling government interest.” The government’s interest in emblazoning currency with “in God we trust,” Newdow argues, is suspect.

Monday, May 18, 2015

US cited for police violence, racism in scathing UN review on human rights

US’ second review before UN Human Rights Council dominated by criticism over police violence against black men

The United States was slammed over its rights record Monday at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, with member nations criticizing the country for police violence and racial discrimination, the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility and the continued use of the death penalty.

The issue of racism and police brutality dominated the discussion on Monday during the country’s second universal periodic review (UPR). Country after country recommended that the U.S. strengthen legislation and expand training to eliminate racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement.
"I'm not surprised that the world's eyes are focused on police issues in the U.S.," said Alba Morales, who investigates the U.S. criminal justice system at Human Rights Watch.

"There is an international spotlight that's been shone [on the issues], in large part due to the events in Ferguson and the disproportionate police response to even peaceful protesters," she said.

Anticipating the comments to come, James Cadogan, a senior counselor to the U.S. assistant attorney general, told delegates gathered in Geneva, "The tragic deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio and Walter Scott in South Carolina have renewed a long-standing and critical national debate about the even-handed administration of justice. These events challenge us to do better and to work harder for progress — through both dialogue and action."  READ MORE

US soldiers banned from bars, clubs in Philippines

As troops kick off annual joint exercises, US curfews imposed are thought to relate to alleged murder of trans Filipina

The U.S. Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said Saturday, with the trial underway of a U.S. Marine accused of killing a transgender Filipina he met in a bar.

Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were set to kick off 10 days of annual joint military exercises Monday, according to Capt. Alex Lim, a spokesman for the U.S. forces.
But there will be strict controls on their free time.

"There is a 10 p.m. curfew. The restrictions include no bars and clubs," he told Agence France-Presse.
He also said that American soldiers will only be allowed to eat meals "in the vicinity of their place of dwelling.”

Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed, but conceded they came after an American soldier was arrested over the alleged murder of a transgender Filipina he met in a bar in October after taking part in military exercises in the Philippines.  READ MORE

‘Disaster after disaster’ hits Marshall Islands as climate change kicks in

Rusina Rusin on April 16, 2015, with her grandchildren,
 including Keslynna Myo Sibok, right, at their home in
the part of the Marshall Islands' Majuro Atoll that is
most vulnerable to flooding.Renee Lewis / Al Jazeera

Rising seas and increasing floods put low-lying islands on front line of climate change; president appeals for help

This is part one of a three-part series examining the effects of climate change on the Marshall Islands and what is being done to adapt to the increasing threats it poses.

MAJURO, Marshall Islands — “They came and told us to evacuate to the next house, which is stronger, because there will be a flood. The tide went up to the front porch and I was scared because of the big waves,” said 7-year-old Keslynna Myo Sibok, a resident of Majuro, the capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands — a remote chain of 29 low-lying coral atolls and five islands that lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and has found itself on the front lines of climate change.

Keslynna sat in the front yard of her grandmother’s home, located on their atoll’s most vulnerable edge, where there is nothing to protect it from increasingly unpredictable and severe inundations.  READ MORE

Hundreds arrested after deadly biker gang meeting in Texas

Bikers in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant
in Waco, Texas, where nine people were killed in a
motorcycle gang fight, May 17, 2015. Rod Aydelotte /
Waco Tribune Herald / Polaris
Bikers in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant
in Waco, Texas, where nine people were killed in a
motorcycle gang fight, May 17, 2015. Rod Aydelotte /
Waco Tribune Herald / Polaris

Law enforcement officials remained on alert in Waco, Texas, early Monday after a deadly shootout among rival biker gangs shook the community, and attempts at intimidation ensured officers will stay on the streets, police said.

Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said 192 people have been arrested on charges of engaging in organized crime after the brawl Sunday afternoon at a Twin Peaks restaurant. Nine bikers were killed, and at least 18 more were wounded.

"Our citizens are safe. I will tell you that we have had threats against law enforcement officers throughout the night from various biker groups,” he said at a news conference early Monday. “We are very aware that some of them have come into our city, and we have a contingency plan to deal with those individuals if they try to cause trouble here."

The violence erupted shortly after noon in the restaurant, at a busy shopping center along Interstate 35, where members of at least five rival gangs had gathered for a meeting, Swanton said late Sunday. Preliminary findings indicate a dispute broke out in a bathroom, escalated to include knives and firearms and eventually spilled into the restaurant parking lot.  READ MORE

India's shocking farmer suicide epidemic

Falling into a debt-trap and besieged by bad weather, thousands of farmers are taking their own lives each year.

Baba Umar |

Umbrale, India -  After days of hushed chanting that "the sky betrayed" him, Datatery Popat Ghadwaje, 42, committed suicide by ingesting insecticides at his grape orchard.

Crushed under a $41,000 debt and a series of bank repayment notices, Ghadwaje of Umbrale village in the western state of Maharashtra finally lost hope when back-to-back hailstorms destroyed his Thompson grape plantation last month. 

"He was under tremendous pressure," Ghadwaje's 16-year-old son, Bhagwan Datatery, told Al Jazeera.
"The harvest was his only hope. Hailstorms took everything away from us," he said, describing how his father was found face up in the orchard, foaming at the mouth before he died. 

Snaking, macadamised roads lead to this sleepy village, where pyramid-shaped hills look over the green landscape, and where vineyards and pomegranate orchards destroyed by storms stand apart.
Suicide among farmers is routine in India's interior, yet Ghadwaje's grim death still shocked many in the area. READ MORE

Media (and Police) Double Standard On Wide Display In Waco

At Least 9 Dead In Waco, Texas Biker Shootout

idth=" src=""> -dead-in-biker-gang-shooting-at/article_37addf70-e4e5-505a-98b4-ecbef08a2a87.html">a shooting in Waco, Texas yesterday. When the smoke cleared, nine people were dead, another 18 or so injured, 100 weapons recovered, and many arrests were made.

Calling it a shooting is far too mild. It was a shootout, with no regard for the safety of innocent bystanders.

The brawl began at a restaurant in a mall in Waco, a place where people go with their families on Sundays. It escalated from chains and knives to guns. I can't even believe I typed that, because I've never had to type any such thing about Ferguson or Baltimore. Only Waco.

In Baltimore or Ferguson, police would have been dressed in riot gear with billy clubs after an event such as that. A curfew would have been imposed. The media would have been all over it. Fox News would trot out every conservative commentator they could to point fingers at those "thugs" who start senseless violence. We would hear about how the parents raised said thugs, and how they fritter away their welfare check on implements of thuggery.  READ MORE

Waco Police On Alert After Thug Bikers' Orders To 'Shoot Anyone In Uniform'


Brit Hume Attacks Obama's Criticism Of Fox While Continuing Their Poor-Shaming

You've got to hand it to these talking heads over on Faux "news." They're able to lie with a straight face to their audience about what that same audience likely watches day after day, and week after week on their network when it comes to their race baiting and shaming of anyone in the United States who is unfortunate enough to be living in poverty, while simultaneously making excuses for their poor-shaming and attacking the President of the United States for calling them out for it.

That's exactly what the audience was treated to on this Sunday's Media Buzz on Fox, where host Howard Kurtz and his guest Brit Hume continued the network's week-long whine-fest over President Obama's remarks about how Fox constantly berates those living in poverty as lazy, just wanting to live off of the government dole and proud of it.

KURTZ: That brings me to that odd phraseology where President Obama says he wants a different kind of reporting so he can change the minds of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. What does that say to you?

HUME: Well, first of all, a big part of the job of a president is to find a way to work with people who disagree with him and try to get something done. He's especially bad at this.

Stingy Welfare Withdrawal Limits Lands Kansas In Hot Water

Now that Kansas has passed the most niggardly, stingy, punitive TANF rules on the planet, they just might find themselves in trouble with the federal government.

The way TANF works now, by the way, is the way Republicans want Medicaid to work. The federal government block grants money to the states, and the states get to decide how that money is doled out and used. Kansas is a shining example of why block grants for any assistance is a terrible idea.
A first-of-its-kind provision that prevents welfare recipients in Kansas from withdrawing more than $25 a day from an ATM might violate federal law, and could jeopardize the state’s federal funding if not amended.

The Social Security Act requires states to ensure that recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, “have adequate access to their cash assistance” and can withdraw money “with minimal fees or charges.”

At stake is about $102 million in TANF block grant funds that Kansas receives every year from the federal government.

The state’s controversial ATM limit was added as an amendment to a welfare overhaul bill signed in April by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican. The new law also bars welfare recipients from spending their benefit money at certain places, including movie theaters, massage parlors, cruise ships and swimming pools. It also sets stricter eligibility requirements and shortened the amount of time people can receive assistance.
State Senator Michael O'Donnell (R-Koch) is now concerned that the state could lose out on the federal goodie bag.  READ MORE

The GOP Is Dying Off. Literally.

It turns out that one of the Grand Old Party’s biggest—and least discussed—challenges going into 2016 is lying in plain sight, written right into the party’s own nickname. The Republican Party voter is old—and getting older, and as the adage goes, there are two certainties in life: Death and taxes. Right now, both are enemies of the GOP and they might want to worry more about the former than the latter.
Most Popular

There’s been much written about how millennials are becoming a reliable voting bloc for Democrats, but there’s been much less attention paid to one of the biggest get-out-the-vote challenges for the Republican Party heading into the next presidential election: Hundreds of thousands of their traditional core supporters won’t be able to turn out to vote at all.

The party’s core is dying off by the day.

Since the average Republican is significantly older than the average Democrat, far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. To make matters worse, the GOP is attracting fewer first-time voters. Unless the party is able to make inroads with new voters, or discover a fountain of youth, the GOP’s slow demographic slide will continue election to election. Actuarial tables make that part clear, but just how much of a problem for the GOP is this?  READ MORE