Good afternoon Widdershins. I hope your Tuesday is a good one.
So much news! Everywhere you look there is another headline screaming or better said, everywhere you look there is a pundit screaming in order to hear his head rattling. As is my chronic condition of being unable to focus on any one subject, I’m exercising a fielder’s choice and offering up a grab-bag of topics.
Turning first to the Middle East, we so often forget that Israeli politics can be even more divisive than our own. True to form, where there is canyonesque political division there is opportunity. Such is the case with young Mr. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. I’m sure you have seen Mr. Dermer on any number of talk shows extolling the regrettable virtues of raining bombs down on a captive population of civilian Palestinians while asking the unanswerable question of, “Would any country suffer rocket sieges without protecting itself?“
If you noticed a pronounced lack of accent in the 43-year-old’s rapid fire debate delivery, it is because he was born in Miami where his father was a conservative Democratic mayor. He went to the University of Pennsylvania for its Wharton business school and happened into a political class taught by Frank Luntz. After graduating, he briefly worked for Mr. Luntz and became completely immersed in GOP politics. Through networking at a speed that would put the Hadron Large Collider to shame, he is now known as “Bibi’s Brain” for his close relationship with Netanyahu. The article is well worth the read to remind us “all politics is local” — it’s just that the definition of local has been enlarged.
Back home with the refugee situation everyone has dubbed a “border crisis,” there is an enlightening opinion piece by El Paso county judge, Ms. Veronica Escobar. Judge Escobar’s opinion, backed up by a Rio Grande River of facts, is that:
…There’s no crisis. Local communities like El Paso have done an amazing job of assisting these migrants. Rather, the myth of a “crisis” is being used by politicians to justify ever-tighter restrictions on immigration, play to anti-immigrant voters in the fall elections and ignore the reasons so many children are coming here in the first place.
Her essay is persuasively written and is well worth the read.
For three weeks now, I have been focused on this child refugee opportunity facing the country. I deem it an opportunity since great leadership can’t select its circumstance. Will we meet the challenge?
Comprehensive immigration reform could be had in the time it would take for John Boehner to hold a roll call vote in the House since the bipartisan Senate bill sits there languishing. But instead, the Tea Party’s tribalism is producing an immigration policy of total undifferentiated deportation. It is deportation without a whiff of due process protection for these children who have trudged through the desert to reach our border.
Along with deportation, the only other facet of immigration policy these nativists will countenance is further militarization of the border with troops and walls and armed aggression. All the while forgetting, these are children — children who are endangered by drug lords, war lords, or sex traffickers.
I’ve yet to hear the first explanation of the unavoidable circumstance where children, already spent from their desert trek, are stopped at the border by armed American soldiers and turned away with nowhere to go. There will be maybe ten at first, then twenty, then perhaps hundreds. How do we caption that picture for the world stage? We, as a country and as a people, are better than that — or at least most of us are.
Turning north to yet another instance of reining in the “others” there were two differing decisions regarding the Affordable Care Act by two different federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. The issue was whether or not the subsidies are available to those who have enrolled in healthcare plans through the federal exchange versus state exchanges. The case is Halbig v. Burwell and the divergent opinions were from the D.C. Circuit and the Fourth Circuit.
This one is easy — the opinion by the D.C. Circuit, a 2-1 decision attempting to cripple the ACA with a cockeyed reading of the statute, is wrong or as one of my professors used to say, “It couldn’t be wronger.” It will be summarily denied effect by a full en banc panel of judges when it is reargued.
The D.C. opinion was a political opinion. It ignored a basic legal concept taught in first year law school from the case of Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. Simply put, a court should defer to a federal agency when there is a discrepancy in statutory language rather than declaring the legislation a nullity. I guess the two D.C. appellate judges missed that day in law school.
Crossing the street from the D.C. Court of Appeals to Capitol Hill, our old friend Paul Ryan is at it again. He just can’t help himself. In an unending quest to breathe life into the vacuous heartless fictional philosophy of the atheist Russian émigré Ayn Rand, he unveiled yet another anti-poverty plan. To be fair, a portion of the plan is laudatory — increasing and extending the Earned Income Tax Credit to the working poor, but that nugget comes at the price of basically “eliminating dozens of programs and block granting a capped amount to the states.”
This state block granting of aid to the poor is where most observers have a massive anal bleed — me included. Block granting aid to the states, the very same states forbidding what is essentially free healthcare to the poor through Medicaid expansion will then be charged with using unfettered block grants as they see fit to help the poor. What could possibly go wrong!?!
A piece of Ryan’s plan has gotten little play: A mandatory precursor to receiving any aid is that a poor person would have to craft a “life plan.” In conjunction with a government worker or a deputized non-profit organization, a poor person would have to agree to benchmarks, timelines, sanctions, and cutoff dates for receiving “opportunity grants”.
You read that right — the darling of the small government crowd, the doyen of the government is too big and can’t do anything right crowd, Paul Ryan is proposing the poor must now have “life coaches.” Even conservatives love-struck with Ryan are saying he’s gone a chapter or two too far in his Ayn Randian quest.
Quite surprisingly, since corporations are now people, there’s no mention in Ryan’s proposal for “corporate life coaches” to set timelines for the sun-setting of corporate welfare. I’m sure the oversight was inadvertent.
Speaking of failed vice presidential nominees, the long wait is over my friends. For those of you jonesing for more Sarah Palin, your prayers have been answered. For only $99.95 a year, you can subscribe to Sarah teevee — all Sarah, all the time with her wit and wisdom irradiating like an aurora borealis backlit test pattern.
For those of you who think it might be a coincidence that Kim Kardashian also announced a new “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood App” costing $99.95, could it be Sarah and Kim are the new power couple — the Palashian? Don’t forget Kim’s baby is named “North” for no apparent reason until now. Or might it just be Sarah and Kim are the same person? They certainly have the same outlook when it comes to celebrity — it’s great to be paid to be famous.
I could go on and on with other tidbits in the news, but I’ll turn over the discussion to you — this is an open thread.
Good Monday, Widdershins. A few weeks ago I asked the question, “Now is it time for the million-woman march?” in response to the dangerous backward direction of women’s rights in America. This week, I thought I’d see what was out there on the InterTubez in terms of activism for women’s rights.
Guess what? There are, or were, million-woman marches…just not with that special focus, yet. Here is what I found:
Million Women Rise. This is a march scheduled for the day before International Women’s Day, March 7, 2015, protesting the prevalence of male violence against women in Europe.
A woman’s right to live free from violence and / or the fear of violence has not been achieved. Women continue to be attacked, exploited, and violated in many different ways, in our homes, on our streets, on our public transport, at our places of work. If you think this needs to change, then join us on this women only critical mass.
We need to be strong together and in large numbers. Unity is strength; the voices of many are louder together than a single voice. Together and united we are ending male violence against women and children. If you want to see change for yourself, your children, your families, your communities then come out and say no to violence against women!
Million Woman March for Nigerian Girls. On April 30, 2014, there was a march in Nigeria to protest the inaction of the Nigerian government after the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of girls. The Guardian says it was more like hundreds of women, but at least someone organized it and women showed up.
Million Woman March for Endometriosis. On March 13, 2014, there was a march to raise awareness of endometriosis and effect beneficial change in our national health care policies. Here’s a video that shows highlights of the march.
Million Woman March in Philadelphia for African-American Women On October 25, 1997, African-American women crowded the streets of Philadelphia to highlight issues they felt some feminist groups had missed.
The march provided a forum for issues that many blacks feel some women’s groups do not focus on. Among them were human rights abuses against blacks, the start of independent black schools and a demand for an investigation into allegations of CIA involvement in the crack trade in black neighborhoods.
Motivational speakers and musical performances ranging from jazz to traditional African drumming were among the early acts in the tent. During breaks, marchers chanted “Love and respect,” and “M-W-M, M-W-M,” for “Million Woman March.”
Addressing the crowd without a prepared speech, march co-founder Phile Chionesu said, “This is a new day. Prepare yourselves. We are taking back our neighborhoods.”
Signs proclaimed “I am one in a million” and “Black Women: No more AIDS, abuse, addiction.” Women clamored to buy buttons, T-shirts, hats and flags emblazoned with march logos.
And that was all I found…but what I thought was encouraging, was the fact that they seem to be happening a bit more lately. Not much since 1997, but then three in 2014 and one already planned for 2015!
Still, I don’t see what I would really like to see – a gathering of American women standing up for their rights and saying NO! to patriarchal oppression. So, since this is Activist Monday, I decided to do something about it myself. I went to Kirsten Gillibrand’s “Off the Sidelines” organization and posted on the wall that I’d like that organization to sponsor a Million Woman March march for women’s rights. And, I plan to do it in other places as well…on feminist websites where people have enough time and money to set something like this up (unlike yours truly! :-))
Maybe you can do this too…or just get ready to participate when it happens. Either way, I want to be a ripple in the ocean of the blogosphere on this topic. Who knows, maybe it will turn into a wave!
This is an open thread.
Good weekend, Widdershins. I’m baaaack.
The convention was good, Charleston is one of my favorite places, and I am nicely filled up with Country Captain and other local yummies. We came back through Georgia, visited mom’s grave on St. Simon’s, and nibbled some of the world’s best ‘que along the way. We arrived home almost a day late due to unremitting, torrential rain, so let’s celebrate rain, storms, thunder, lightening and all that it brings to Southern coastal summers.
I’ll be in and put this weekend, as my stepmother is in the hospital, but the floor is open to any and all discussion. Love to all.
(1) A Rainy Night in Georgia – Ray Charles
(2) Fire and Rain – James Taylor
(3) One Rainy Wish – Jimi Hendrix
(4) Have You Ever Seen the Rain? – Creedence Clearwater Revival
(5) Buckets of Rain – Bob Dylan
Let me say first: that is if Hillary Clinton decides to run for the Democratic nomination. Should Hillary decide not to run, well then, that’s a whole new ballgame. But I believe that barring something horrendous happening, that Hillary Clinton will indeed run for the Democratic nomination.
Now, for all my dear Widdershin friends in the northeast; Massachusetts, New York and other areas please don’t be too offended by this but here’s the thing: Elizabeth Warren is too liberal to win the Presidency. Nope, she would not be able to carry enough areas outside the Northeast and West Coast to win in the general. She certainly could not win in the southern states and possibly Clinton could not either. But, could Warren carry Illinois? Ohio or Indiana? My bet is no. This is not to say that I dislike Warren…hell I love Bernie Sanders, that old socialist, to death. And I will say that certainly Warren, in the Senate and before, has championed the “little guy or woman”. But is that really enough?
Hillary Clinton has had the experience “in the trenches” so to speak for a long time. She’s been around the block more than a few times in Washington and knows how things work. Warren is in her first term in the Senate dealing with politics at the national level. Some folks have said “Oh that doesn’t matter!” “She’ll learn how to handle the ropes as President.” My response would be that we’ve had a great example of not enough experience for the last six years; how’s that worked out? Not to knock Obama too terribly, but he was such a newbie in the Senate that he never learned how things work in DC before he became President and many people in the know talk about how he abhors “retail politics”.
There is certainly a rising clamor for “Run Elizabeth Run!” Why even our dear old friend (cough cough) Donna Brazile has talked about Warren:
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile called Warren “a perfect surrogate” this campaign season for areas in which Obama is too divisive to enter.
“Warren has captured not only the spirit of the Democrats this political cycle but she represents and speaks for so many in our party,” Brazile said.
Some will say (and I did) that Warren has no intentions to run for the Democratic nomination, that she signed a statement with other Democratic women supporting Hillary in 2016, and has repeatedly said she’s not running. But in a recent interview with HuffPo she had a different story:
As Warren’s reception has been strong, she has modified her response since her emphatic December statement that she is not running for president.
In an interview with Huff Post Live in June, Warren dodged answering the question, instead saying, “This is a moment in time for our country and, I believe, for our world, a moment in time where we decide who we are as a people and what kind of a future we’re going to build.”
Now John Dickerson with Slate believes it would be a good thing for Elizabeth to run. That by doing so, she would force Clinton to more clearly define herself as to whether she is truly for the “little guy” or for the Wall Street banker crowd:
Warren would challenge the Democratic Party on issues like corporate power, income inequality, and entitlements. She would be a long shot and she would have nothing to lose—which means she could keep talking about those ideas out loud. Because Clinton is close to Wall Street and finance executives and Warren is gunning for them, she has the potential to put campaign pressure on Clinton that other candidates can’t. Clinton and other candidates would be forced to explain where they stood more than if Warren weren’t in the race.
Sure, Warren would indeed push Clinton more to the left, but then that is what frequently happens in the primaries: Candidates run more toward the extremes of their party and then in the general they move to more a centrist view because they have to capture a good part of the all-important independent voters in the general.
On the other hand, David Weigel also with Slate feels that the entire Warren movement is make-believe.
When Warren appeared at the Netroots Nation confab as she concluded her speech, all of her supporters brought out the signs with “Run Elizabeth Run”. And the press that was present, ever eager to pounce on anything that would generate a page hit had fun with it:
But the story was already being told. The signs made it into write-ups by Politico, Huffington Post, McClatchy, and a Washington Post story about how “cracks are beginning to emerge” in the Clinton restoration’s coalition.
In some ways I’m not worried about a primary challenger for Clinton. The idea by some is to try to nudge Clinton more to the left wing of the party:
“Hillary Clinton is going to say these things,” said former Rep. Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat who left his seat after a 2011 gerrymander. “Whoever our Democratic nominee is will run as an economic populist. When the pollsters and consultants come back with the numbers, they’ll tell her: Holy crap, you may not have been a populist before, but you are one now! The problem will be credibility, and whether it’s believable coming from someone who has close ties to the financial sector.”
It is clear that Hillary Clinton fits more into the central part of the Democratic Party. But I also believe she “gets it” that not all Americans have been given a fair shake by the system in the last couple of decades.
Let’s be honest here: with the House firmly in the hands of the Republicans and with the chance that the Senate may flip that way too, it’s going to be difficult for any Democratic President to have much of an agenda that can be implemented. It may take another two year cycle for the electorate to be disgusted enough to make a change. As she said before in 2008, she could see what was coming and that’s what she was running against and why she was running in that election.
Feel free to discuss whatever is on your minds.
Good afternoon Widdershins. Unfortunately, the cheeriest thing I can bring myself to say is, “It’s Tuesday.”
By now, if you are anything like me, you are saturated in the ethnic separatist horror manifested by blowing 298 innocent souls out of the sky or by the millennium of tribalism being played out by proxy pawns along the Gaza Strip. No paltry words of mine can salve the grief stricken suffering as it plays itself out before our eyes.
Forgive me for not focusing on those stories, but the images of the shouting, anger-seething hordes stopping those buses of refugee children have inspired quite a bit of thought over the past week. Inspired isn’t quite right. Those images merely reinforced something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time.
In many ways those images are consistent with our long history of ugly prejudice. We always seem to find a way to dressed up prejudice as a concern for public health or an assault upon our national sovereignty. Our entire 19th and early 20th century was infected with attacks on immigrants as diseased intruders upon the American body politic.
In 1832, the Irish were accused of bringing cholera. Later, the Italians were stigmatized for polio. In 1900, the Chinese immigrants in San Francisco’s Chinatown were quarantined out of an unfounded fear of bubonic plague. Not to paint with too fine a brush, but we portrayed Asians as feeble and infested with hookworm. Mexican were diagnosed as lousy. Eastern European Jews were pronounced vulnerable to trachoma, tuberculosis was dubbed the “Jewish disease”, and they were handed the “wastebasket” diagnosis of having generally “poor physique.” In the early 1900s newspapers announced every incoming ship was brimming with syphilitic and leprous heathens.
So the images of the angry mobs attacking buses of children fresh from their jaunty thousand mile desert trek is but a vivid reminder of our heritage of unfocused nativist fears. In reality though, given the mandated required screenings by Homeland Security, these refugee children in all likelihood are better inoculated than American children given the new fear-mongering around vaccines. In short, the odds these migrant children could cause a general infection of anything are slim to none, and slim isn’t crossing the border.
Given that this nativism — this tribalism, isn’t new, it can’t explain away what I sense as a shift in the general ethics of Americans. A few weeks ago I wrote about the differences among values, morals, principles, and ethics. For those of you paying attention you will remember ethics is how we treat one another when we live along side one another. It is my contention the generalized hate, anger, and fear that used to be endemic toward emigrants has now, just like a mutating virus, “jumped the immigration barrier” and infected us as a society at an even broader level. That level is the “others.”
The “others” is a non-specific designation diagnosis. It can be the poor. It can be the uninsured in search of Medicaid. It can be families headed by single women. It can be the jobless or the disabled or gay. The “others” can be race or ethnicity based. It can be women looking for reproductive health care. The “others” no longer have helpful telltale immutable characteristics. Truly, this evolving animosity toward “others” is a work of equal opportunity hatred. It used to be enough to be American, but not so any more.
In order to bolster this theory, I offer you a recent article entitled, The Data of Hate. I don’t often recommend particular articles, but I urge you to click and read it. It’s fascinating and self-described as where “Big Hatred meets Big Data.”
The author is a Ph.D. economist from Harvard who spent a year studying Stormfront.org — America’s most popular online hate site. It was founded in 1995 by a man inconveniently named Don Black, a former Ku Klux Klan leader. According to Quantcast, over the last year roughly 200,000 to 400,000 Americans visited the site every month. To bolster its pedigree, a Southern Poverty Law Center report linked nearly 100 murders in the past five years to registered members. Unsurprisingly, one of its most popular “social groups” is “Fans and Supporters of Adolf Hitler.”
What is surprising is this: The Stormfront members are seemingly normal — or relatively speaking, as normal as members of a “social hate site” can be. Members like to read. They are news and political junkies. Members engage in long threads praising Breaking Bad and discussing the comparative merits of online dating sites. And quite surprisingly, they like to read The New York Times. This last data point will be quite the non sequitur to the NYT’s Sulzberger family since “powerful and clever Jews” seem to engender a preeminent amount of hatred on the site.
What is most frightening, at least to me and my theory of this new-found generalized animus, is the relative youth of the members. Seventy-six percent of the Americans on Stormfront who self-identify age are under thirty years old. Again, 76% of the American members are under 30.
Without belaboring my point, don’t expect this new generation of haters to anxiously await every January’s “white sales” in order to pick up high thread count flat sheets. This new generation of hate won’t be as easy to recognize as the Klan was. “For instance, Stormfront member VikingMaiden88 seems like a perfectly nice and intelligent young woman, but her hatred is real. She praises a store for having ‘100% white employees’. She says the media is promoting a ‘Jewish agenda’. And she says she finds Asians ‘repulsive physically, socially, religiously, etc.”
It is my assertion these Stormfront members, through their unfocused anger, are no different in many ways than those who take to the streets in protest over the “47% of takers.” Without any fiscal basis, isn’t cutting food stamps to the poor merely a visceral product of anger? Isn’t withholding Medicaid to Seven Million poor Southerners punishing the “others“? Cutting unemployment benefits while at the same time refusing to pass a jobs bill is nothing more than indicting the victims of the Great Recession as “others.“ And add any qualifier to a single woman — as poor, as unemployed or as a mother, and there is automatic condemnation of being a double “other.”
The images of the angry mobs stopping the buses of children were poignant reminders of the ugliness of nativism. While I said I wasn’t going to dwell on the horrors of Malaysian Flight 17 or Gaza, aren’t they just potent examples of the invidious nature of tribalism writ large? The learning they provide is simple: We would do well to weigh the cost of allowing this type of unquenchable enmity to grow unchecked. We should learn from our historical disgraces of blanket prejudice lest we are all one-illness, one job, one child, or one trait away from being an “other.”
This is an open thread.
Well, Widdershins, it’s just a dog-eat-dog world out there. Apparently everyone is whipping out their rockets for the summer. (Yes, that metaphor was intentional.) Whether it’s Hamas bombing Israel and Israel fighting back, or Pooty-Poot’s adventures in Early Czarism, or America’s own potential re-entry in Iraq, the color of summer is green – Army green, that is.
Here are some recent updates about how all these wars are going. Are we war-weary? Are we weary of men, men and more men seeing war as the only answer to the world’s problems?
Good Goddess, yes we are.
This is an open thread.
Good Thursday to you Widdershings! Yes, you have Fredster posting once again. This is for our dear Chatblu who is away on a brief vacay. I am more than happy to do this for her but she may be more than unhappy when she sees this result.
This being my “Friday” so to speak in regards to posting, I’m gonna cheat. I’ve had this item bookmarked for quite some time and this is the perfect opportunity to use it. Jeremy Alford and his late mentor John Maginnis write a political blog about Louisiana politics long before there ever was such a creature. One of their favorite things to do while covering the Lege, when it is in session, is to record some of the more amusing and frequently cringeworthy statements made by some of the legislators. I do believe Louisiana can proudly hold its head up and be compared favorably to Texas and its lege and its legislators linguistic acrobatics. I can say we surely try.
“I may be wrong but I’m consistent”
—Rep. Rob Sadoin
“We’re going to need a little help with this budget.”
—Sen. Dan Claitor to a priest
“We don’t have any wise people in here.”
—Senate Pres. John Alario prior to a hearaing on the Workforce and Innovation for a
Strong Economy Fund (WISE)
“There’s a priest in the back of the room in case anyone needs to confess.”
Sen. Dan Claitor during a committee hearing
“Because we all know people who just lo-o-v-v-e you on Friday and by Monday
morning it’s how do we get out of this.”
—Rep. Rob Shadoin objecting to a Senate change to his bill that would delete the
72-hr waiting period for a marriage license in New Orleans
“I wanted to ask Judge (Glenn) Ansardi how old he was
but Sen. (Conrad) Appel said I should’t.”
—Sen. Eric LaFleur introducing a constitutional amendment to remove the mandatory retirement ages for judges.
“I have no idea if this is a good bill.”
—Sen Fred Mills introducing his own legislation
“Not a good opening.”
—House and Governmental Affairs Chairman Tim Burns
“There’s enough sleazy things going on in this building to not
have to worry about grease traps.”
—Sen. Danny Martiny on the plumbing code bill
Sometimes you get to have a Waterloo…I’d rather be
Wellington than Napoleon.”
—Sen. Norby Chabert on his amendment to the plumbing code bill
Testifying in committee, Judge Pam Baker: “In general, I think you’ll find
that judges don’t tend to be very generous with spousal support, so I
don’t think that would be a problem.”
Rep Rob Sadoin: “I wish they would have told my judge that.”
“We’ve got a pretty loaded agenda.”
—Sen David Heitmeier, before a debate on medical marijuana
“My motion went up in smoke.”
—Heitmeier, hitting it again
“That’s not good when it happens.”
—Heitmeier upon hearing the side effects of Viagra
“Do you have experience with that Mr. Chairman?”
— Sen Fred Mills to Heitmier
Rep. Tim Burns: “Which bill do you want to hear first?”
Rep Brett Geymann: “Which one are you for?”
Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb: “Do you tap? Do you tap?”
DHH Chief of Staff Calder Lynch: “Tap?”
Colomb: “Because you have tap danced around all my questions.”
“Don’t pay that no mind. Come on.”
—Rep Barbara Norton, when the speaker invoked the five-minute rule.
“You want to keep the butts in the car?”
—Rep. Thomas Carmody on making it a crime to throw cigarette butts from a vehicle
“I don’t know if I necessarily trust legislators with guns.”
—Sen. J.P. Morrell on legislation allowing lawmakers to carry guns.
“How are your roulette wheels doing at the parish fairs?”
—former Sen. Ken Hollis to lobbyist Kirby Ducote, who read a statement from Catholic bishops supporting the repeal of video poker
“What happens when I walk around a [police] horse and it kicks me
and then I kick it back?
—Former Rep. Alex Heaton on a bill to make it a crime to injure a police horse
“What about marijuana?”
—Sen Bob Kostelka on a bill prohibiting smoking near elementary and secondary schools
At a lecture series held by the Institute of Politics at Loyola University:
Moderator Lee Zurik:
“Can a Democrat win a state office, including governor, again?”
Former governor Edwin Edwards:
“Get me a pardon and I will show you.”
Okay Widdershins, I hope you got a chuckle or two out of these. If you have any tidbits about any of your local politicians feel free to add them below or anything else you want to add.
This is a totally open thread.