Monthly Archives: April 2015

40 Years Ago: The End Of The Vietnam War

I don’t have much to say about this, even though it happened in my lifetime.  It is hard to discuss, not only because it did not entire my psyche (I was only 12 when South Vietnam declared unconditional surrender), but also because the subject is so big.  What to talk about — what angle?  The fact that America lost a war?  The lessons learned?  The lessons NOT learned (that we were doomed to repeat in Iraq, like fighting a war with unclear objectives and no exit strategy)?  The MIA issue?  The first televised war?  The fall of communism?  The Vietnamese children of US soldiers?  The peace movement at home and the campus riots and killings?  The poor (and continued poor) treatment of returning soldiers?  So many things….

Vietnam was ugly and it brought out the ugly in this nation.  It was not a “good war” like the previous world wars, and never again would there be a “good war”.  “What Vietnam means” still divides this country.  I don’t think we have completely processed it yet.  I think we all just moved on.

RT @AFP: #BREAKING Top Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Luz says will no longer draw Mohammed

The Battle For Same Sex Marriage: A Timeline Graph

I love this graph from an article in today’s New York Times.  It shows what states did for and against the idea of same-sex marriage.

SSMovertime

You can see that the anti-SSM movement got out ahead of the issue in the mid 1990s by enacting laws banning same-sex marriage.  I have no way of proving this, but I think that by making same-sex marriage an issue, it became, well, an issue.  And that motivated same-sex marriage proponents to organize and lobby and take the issue to the courts.  Once Massachusetts ruled that same-sex bans were unconstitutional in 2003, the floodgates opened.

I don’t think the floodgates opened because the notion of same-sex marriage became fashionable or popular.  I think they opened because once people started to examine and think about the issue, there was simply no constitutional (or even moral) reason for the government to discriminate against homosexual love.

But yeah.  If you had asked me in 1995 if there would be such a thing as legally-recognized gay marriage in this country, I think I would have answered “someday, but not in my lifetime.”  It is the great civil rights issue of my generation, and I really believe it will be over in June.

40 Years Ago: The Fall Of Saigon

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Hubert Vanes:

I was fortunate enough to take a photograph that has become perhaps the most recognizable image of the fall of Saigon – you know it, the one that is always described as showing an American helicopter evacuating people from the roof of the United States Embassy. Well, like so many things about the Vietnam War, it’s not exactly what it seems. In fact, the photo is not of the embassy at all; the helicopter was actually on the roof of an apartment building in downtown Saigon where senior Central Intelligence Agency employees were housed.

It was Tuesday, April 29, 1975. Rumors about the final evacuation of Saigon had been rife for weeks, with thousands of people – American civilians, Vietnamese citizens and third-country nationals – being loaded on transport planes at Tan Son Nhut air base, to be flown to United States bases on Guam, Okinawa and elsewhere. Everybody knew that the city was surrounded by the North Vietnamese, and that it was only a matter of time before they would take it. Around 11 a.m. the call came from Brian Ellis, the bureau chief of CBS News, who was in charge of coordinating the evacuation of the foreign press corps. It was on!

Hillary Has A Democratic Challenger

Although he’s not a serious challenger.  In fact, he’s not really a Democrat.

Much To The Disappointment Of The Media, Not Much Happened In Baltimore Last Night

You could almost hear the desperation in Wolf Blitzer’s voice.  They really wanted something to break out.  There was a single incident where someone threw a bottle of water at a line of policeman, and the guy was quickly subdued and pepper spray was dispersed.  CNN ran that 30 second clip over and over again for hours while nothing else happened.

Well, this happened….

That was pretty interesting.

And I give props to this woman:

After admitting that looting and rioting were not the best ways to represent the community and to seek answers, the protester, who identified herself only as Danielle, asked [MSNBC reporter Thomas] Roberts a question of her own.

“My question to you is, when we were out here protesting all last week for six days straight peacefully, there were no news cameras, there were no helicopters, there was no riot gear, and nobody heard us,” she said. “So now that we’ve burned down buildings and set businesses on fire and looted buildings, now all of the sudden everybody wants to hear us.”

And this is interesting, sad, and odd:

When the Baltimore Orioles host the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards on Wednesday, it won’t really feel like a baseball game. There will be no cheering, and no booing. Nor will there be heckling, hot dogs, or beer. There will be no fans in the stadium at all, in fact. After riots in the city forced the postponement of games for two straight days, Major League Baseball announced that the Orioles will play on Wednesday, but the game will be closed to the public.

For a sport that takes significant pride in its history, this may be a particularly sad first: An MLB official told me that after conferring with a historian and several longtime veterans of the game, the league was unaware of any prior examples in which fans have been deliberately barred from attending a game.

Interestingly, they are going to do the whole, uh, nine yards.  The National Anthem, the 7th inning stretch, everything.

I’ll update this post with a picture when the game begins.

A typography expert said using Times New Roman in a resume is “like putting on sweatpants” for an interview. I want to find out.

A little surprisingly, Justice Scalia asked tough questions of the State — he wanted to know why the… goo.gl/uhxjTs

Same-Sex Marriage Case Being Heard In Supreme Court Today

Today, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Obergefell v. Hodges, one of several same-sex marriage cases brought to the Court.

Obergefell v. Hodges requires the Court to answer: “1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”

The Washington Post has information on the lawyers who will be making the arguments.

SCOTUSblog is liveblogging the oral arguments.  Here are some snippets, as reported by SCOTUSBLOG:

[T]here was one interesting exchange between Justice Scalia and two of his more liberal colleagues. Scalia asked whether, if petitioners win, a minister who objects to same sex marriages could refuse to perform a civil same-sex wedding. Bonauto answered yes. Scalia pressed the point though, arguing that he could not understand how a state could permit somebody to hold a license to marry people if that person would not exercise the power consistently with the Constitution. After a little more back-and-forth, Justice Kagan reminded the Court that many rabbis refuse to perform weddings between Jews and gentiles, even though there has long been a prohibition against religious discrimination. Justice Breyer then chimed in and quoted the First Amendment. Ultimately, Justice Scalia seemed satisfied that a minister could refuse to perform those weddings… by Eric Citron 10:44 AM

And this…..

One very interesting aspect of the early argument was that it was primarily a set of questions about what “marriage” means as an institution, and accordingly, whether it is “irrational” or “invidious discrimination” to exclude gays and lesbians. As a consequence, you had some Justices emphasizing the “millennia long” definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, and other Justices — like Ginsburg — emphasizing the relatively new character of egalitarian marriage, now sponsored by the state governments, on which gays and lesbians were seeking to enter. You also had a kind of quirky historical dispute about whether ancient societies with their heterosexual definition of marriage could not be trusted (because they generally discriminated against gays and lesbians), or whether they could be, because they were generally more open to homosexuality outside the marriage context (Alito asked this question about Ancient Greece). There was a parallel line of questioning about whether bans on interracial marriage were as consistent as the “millennia long” definition of marriage as uniting a man and woman. Doctrinally, this all seemed to float somewhere above the bottom line question of whether states were discriminating against gays and lesbians or somehow marking them as less favored members of society… by Eric Citron11:05 AM
And…
So several Justices wanted to know, for example, whether a state could deny recognition to all marriages performed in another state. They were skeptical when the suggestion was that a state might be able to do that…. by krussell12:40 PM
And….
A little surprisingly, Justice Scalia asked tough questions of the State — he wanted to know why the text of the Full Faith and Credit provision did not extend to marriages… by krussell 12:38 PM
UPDATE (11:08 am):

This….

UPDATE #2:  Here are the audios of the arguments….

First question —

PART ONE

Fast forward to the 27:00 mark if you want to hear the “burn in hell” protester and Scalia’s quip afterwards.

PART TWO

Second question —

Bullet Points On The Baltimore Riots

The catalyst, ostensibly, was the death of Freddie Gray — who died of a spinal cord injury sustained while in police custody.  His funeral service was yesterday morning.  There were peaceful protests throughout the day, but as high school kids left school, the protests became violent.  15 officers were injured — six seriously — from thrown bottles, rocks and bricks, as well as dozens of businesses, homes and cars damaged or destroyed by looting or arson. It is not known how many protesters were injured.  The police also reported that two people had been shot, each in the leg, in separate incidents overnight. One victim, a woman, was shot on Fulton Avenue near where some of the worst rioting and looting had occurred hours earlier. The other victim, a man, was shot about two miles west of the Mondawmin Mall.  144 vehicles were set on fire; 15 buildings were set on fire; almost 200 people arrested.

The National Guard was called up began to deploy in the city just after daybreak today.

Anyway. some thoughts:

* The media coverage was horrible and remains so this morning.  Breathless and sensationalist words like “violence erupts” and a “city in chaos“.  Parts of the city — in fact, well over 95% of it, were just fine.  But you put the camera on the worst part and use incendiary language like that, and of course it seems bigger.  I’m not sure the media hype actually helped the situation

* Clean up today:
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* The media also struggled as to what to call the “rioters”.  Clearly, they weren’t protesters.  I think one of the most telling pieces of information came when a reporter asked a looter why he was doing what he was doing.  “Because nobody was stopping us” was the answer.  I really don’t think what happened in Baltimore had much to do with Freddie Gray, but rather, pent up anger at the general treatment of that area — not only by police but society in general.

*Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: “I understand anger, but what we’re seeing isn’t anger. It’s disruption of a community. The same community they say they care about, they’re destroying. You can’t have it both ways.”  I like the mayor, but no, I don’t think she understands anger.  Anger isn’t rational and doesn’t always manifest itself in constructive ways.  Usually, it manifests itself in counterproductive ways.  Not to excuse the rioting, but to explain the anger underlying it, I turn to the COO of the Baltimore Orioles, John Angelos:

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importance of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

* Many times last night, I heard the news say that the riots were the worst in Baltimore since 1968 and in fact, “many areas burnt down in 1968 were in this very neighborhood and have yet to be rebuilt”.  I think that also explains a lot of the anger.

* Black officers make up 54% of the Baltimore police dept. This has not noticeably changed police behavior. Diversity is not enough.  Actually, I think the crux of this problem isn’t race, but class.  See, e.g., income inequality.

* If you’re a gangbanging rioter, it has to be embarrassing for your mom to scold you on national television:

* There is already criticism directed at Baltimore’s mayor for not having police (and even National Guard) there yesterday in the areas were looting occurred and fires were set.  Yes, it was disturbing to see a line of policemen in riot gear standing in a line one block away from a street where a CVS was being looted, and not moving there for nearly two hours and only when the CVS was on fire.  But I don’t fault the mayor on this.  For one thing, the police were outnumbered.  They also might have incited even more violence. You hate to say it, but sometimes you just have to let the looting play out.  Also, we know this morning that the high school kids who planned this yesterday through social media encouraged rioters to spread out all over the city, thus weakening the number of police who could be present at any single place or neighborhood.  My Baltimore correspondent writes:

Baltimore is approximately 80 square miles; that’s a lot of turf for law enforcement to cover.   TV coverage may have given the appearance of chaos but more accurately, what you saw was fluid law enforcement on the move to the areas where damage was occurring.

True dat.  These are all tough considerations when you are mayor and I don’t fault her or the police chief for making the choices they did.  Hindsight, by the way, is 20/20.

* In fact, many Baltimore police officers deserve to be lauded for the courage they showed yesterday: They met hostile crowds and I think they stopped them from destroying more businesses, burning more churches, and harming more people.

* Kudos to the clergy, particularly the Nation of Islam:

* Other groups keeping the peace: the Crips, the Bloods.  Thumbs down to CNN for reporting all afternoon that the Crips and the Bloods had formed a pact to create trouble.  In fact, the pact was to keep the peace.

2015 Tony Nominations

Not much to say about these.  No Gigi, No It’s Only A Play, no Larry David’s Fish In the Dark, no Side Show, no Finding Neverland, no Honeymoon in Vegas

There aren’t too many surprises, although I am pleased that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time got a nod for Best Choreography, even though it is a play and even though there isn’t dancing, per se, in it.

Best Play
Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar
Hand to God by Robert Askins
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens
Wolf Hall Parts One & Two by Hilary Mantel and Mike Poulton

Best Musical
An American in Paris
Fun Home
Something Rotten!
The Visit

Best Revival of a Play
Skylight
The Elephant Man
This Is Our Youth
You Can’t Take It With You

Best Revival of a Musical
On the Town
On the Twentieth Century
The King and I

Best Book of a Musical
Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, Something Rotten!
Lisa Kron, Fun Home
Craig Lucas, An American in Paris
Terrence McNally, The Visit

Best Leading Actor in a Play
Steven Boyer, Hand to God
Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
Ben Miles, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Bill Nighy, Skylight
Alex Sharp, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Best Leading Actress in a Play
Geneva Carr, Hand to God
Helen Mirren, The Audience
Elisabeth Moss, The Heidi Chronicles
Carey Mulligan, Skylight
Ruth Wilson, Constellations

Best Leading Actor in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, Fun Home
Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris
Brian d’Arcy James, Something Rotten!
Ken Watanabe, The King and I
Tony Yazbeck, On the Town

Best Leading Actress in a Musical
Kristin Chenoweth, On the Twentieth Century
Leanne Cope, An American in Paris
Beth Malone, Fun Home
Kelli O’Hara, The King and I
Chita Rivera, The Visit

Best Score
John Kander and Fred Ebb, The Visit
Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten!
Sting, The Last Ship
Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, Fun Home

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Bob Crowley and 59 Productions, An American in Paris
David Rockwell, On the Twentieth Century
Michael Yeargan, The King and I
David Zinn, Fun Home

Best Orchestrations
Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky and Bill Elliott, An American in Paris
John Clancy, Fun Home
Larry Hochman, Something Rotten!
Rob Mathes, The Last Ship

Best Costume Design of a Play
Bob Crowley, The Audience
Jane Greenwood, You Can’t Take It With You
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
David Zinn, Airline Highway

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Paule Constable and David Plater, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Natasha Katz, Skylight
Japhy Weideman, Airline Highway

Best Director of a Musical
Sam Gold, Fun Home
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
John Rando, On the Town
Bartlett Sher, The King and I
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Bunny Christie & Finn Ross, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Bob Crowley, Skylight
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
David Rockwell, You Can’t Take It With You

Best Featured Actor in a Play
Matthew Beard, Skylight
K. Todd Freeman, Airline Highway
Richard McCabe, The Audience
Alessandro Nivola, The Elephant Man
Nathaniel Parker, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Micah Stock, It’s Only a Play

Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Victoria Clark, Gigi
Judy Kuhn, Fun Home
Sydney Lucas, Fun Home
Ruthie Ann Miles, The King and I
Emily Skeggs, Fun Home

Best Director of a Play
Stephen Daldry, Skylight
Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Scott Ellis, You Can’t Take It With You
Jeremy Herrin, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Hand to God

Best Featured Actress in a Play
Annaleigh Ashford, You Can’t Take It With You
Patricia Clarkson, The Elephant Man
Lydia Leonard, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Sarah Stiles, Hand to God
Julie White, Airline Highway

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Donald Holder, The King and I
Natasha Katz, An American in Paris
Ben Stanton, Fun Home
Japhy Weideman, The Visit

Best Choreography
Joshua Bergasse, On the Town
Christopher Gattelli, The King and I
Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Christian Borle, Something Rotten!
Andy Karl, On the Twentieth Century
Brad Oscar, Something Rotten!
Brandon Uranowitz, An American in Paris
Max von Essen, An American in Paris

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Something Rotten!
Bob Crowley, An American in Paris
William Ivey Long, On the Twentieth Century
Catherine Zuber, The King and I

Tony Nominations by Production
An American in Paris – 12
Fun Home – 12
Something Rotten! – 10
The King and I – 9
Wolf Hall Parts One & Two – 8
Skylight – 7
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – 6
Hand to God – 5
On the Twentieth Century – 5
The Visit – 5
You Can’t Take It with You – 5
Airline Highway – 4
The Elephant Man – 4
On the Town – 4
The Audience – 3
The Last Ship – 2
Constellations – 1
Disgraced – 1
Gigi – 1
The Heidi Chronicles – 1
It’s Only a Play – 1
This Is Our Youth – 1

Obama Killed At The White House Correspondent’s Dinner (Again)

If you missed it:

I think that behind all the humor, Obama showed some hidden anger.  Sure, he was self-deprecating at times and he poked fun at Democrats (like Biden).  But his “humor” directed at the GOP had a sharp edge rather than a soft one.  And that was highlighted by the appearance of Keegan-Michael Key as the “anger translator”.

Host Cecily Strong did well, too:

RT @tomwatson: Endless live video of rioters and looting is not coverage of Baltimore’s problems – it’s car crash journalism.

Tragedy In Nepal

Thousands dead following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake.  It is had to get one’s head around devastation like that.

Here’s video from the avalanche on Everest, which killed a few dozen, including some Americans.

Ways to help —

Lutheran World Relief

The U.N.-affiliated organization immediately shipped nearly 10,000 quilts and 100 personal water filtration mechanisms to Nepal. They are working in close coordination with a local disaster government agency called the Nepali District Disaster Relief Committee.

“This is still a scary situation,” said Narayan Gyawali, a local staff member currently in Nepal in a press release.

To donate to the Lutheran World Relief organization, click here. If you prefer to send physical checks, the Lutheran World Relief is especially well organized.

AmeriCares

AmeriCares has an emergency response office in Mumbai, India and have sent a team to the Nepal disaster zone. On its website, AmeriCares says, “for every $1 donated AmeriCares has provided $20 in aid.” They are also preparing medical supplies and will distribute tetanus and measles vaccinations because many residents are now living in close proximity with one another.

Click here to make a donation.

Islamic Relief USA

Based in Virginia and operating for nearly 25 years, Islamic Relief USA has a presence in more than 35 countries across the world. They are launching an appeal to raise $100,000 dollars for relief efforts in Nepal. “We are concerned about the victims of this tragedy and are sending our emergency response teams from different countries to respond,” said CEO Anwar Khan in a press release.

The agency also advocates for active participation in relief efforts, which they suggest can be done by organizing community fundraisers.

To help Islamic Relief USA reach its target goal, click here.

Doctors Without Borders

MSF is sent eight teams to Nepal to assist those in need, including a highly-skilled surgical team that will set up mobile clinics in the hopes of reaching people in remote areas. They are also contributing emergency medical supplies and a non-medical team in Kathmandu.

To donate click here.

Charity: Water

The people of Nepal will need significant help getting access to clean water as they recover from the earthquake. Charity: Water is in an excellent position to do just that. This smaller organization is networked into the country from previous clean water projects, and has begun a relief campaign in which 100% of proceeds go to Nepal’s earthquake disaster relief, with the immediate focus being to raise money for emergency supplies.

Click here to offer support.

Orphan Black just became Weeds. #OrphanBlack

Fourteen Of The Oddest Legal Arguments Against Same Sex Marriage

MSNBC’s Irin Carmon has read all the amici briefs (or “friend-of-the-court” briefs) submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in its upcoming same-sex marriage case (to be heard next week), and picks out some of the oddest arguments against gay marriage.  Read the whole thing:

1. Marriage equality will kill people. The group Mike Huckabee Policy Solutions — which says it is “neither authorized, funded, directed nor controlled by Gov. Huckabee,” but simply advocates for his views — teamed up with Paul Cameron, an anti-gay researcher who has been repudiated by the major social science organizations, to make this argument. They are concerned that “Justice Kennedy is apparently unaware of the strong scientific linkage that has been documented between same-sex marriage and early mortality.” The authors claim that “individuals who engage in homosexuality” die younger. They perused newspapers for “homosexual obituaries” to measure whether being partnered at the time of death had any impact on the age a person died. Since they got inconclusive results, they conclude that marriage won’t make gay people live longer.

2. Marriage equality will cause more opposite-sex couples to break up. Many briefs argue that recognition of same-sex marriage will ruin marriage for everyone. ”After all,” a brief co-authored by National Organization for Marriage co-founder Maggie Gallagher explains, “if society understands marriage to exist predominantly for adult happiness” — which they say is the major rationale for recognizing same-sex unions — “then the idea of sticking through hard times for the good of others, be it children or a spouse, will decline further.”

3. Marriage equality will cause 900,000 abortions. A brief from “100 Scholars of Marriage,” led by a former clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia, takes that same highly suspect argument that heterosexual marriage will decline if more states recognize the rights of gay couples. Combining that with the unrelated data point that the abortion rate is higher among unmarried women, the “scholars” predict that “under reasonable assumptions,” the Supreme Court’s recognition of marriage for same-sex couples would lead to “nearly 900,000 more children aborted” in the next 30 years. The authors explain, “The mechanism is simple and intuitive: Fewer opposite-sex marriages means more unmarried women, more children born to unmarried mothers, fewer total children born, and more children aborted.”

4. Marriage equality would destroy the economy. These “scholars of marriage and fertility” claim in their brief that, by implying that marriage is about more than “biological procreation,” same-sex marriage would mean everyone would have fewer babies, which in turn would “over time result in a reduced demand for goods and services and an aging work force, which results in fewer available workers to support social programs.”

It’s The Frack Part II

To add to what I wrote a couple of days ago, we get some more confirmation about the link between human drilling activity and earthquakes:

The United States Geological Survey on Thursday released its first comprehensive assessment of the link between thousands of earthquakes and oil and gas operations, identifying and mapping 17 regions where quakes have occurred.

The report was the agency’s broadest statement yet on a danger that has grown along with the nation’s energy production.

By far the hardest-hit state, the report said, is Oklahoma, where earthquakes are hundreds of times more common than they were until a few years ago because of the disposal of wastewater left over from extracting fuels and from drilling wells by injecting water into the earth. But the report also mapped parts of eight other states, from Lake Erie to the Rocky Mountains, where that practice has caused quakes, and said most of them were at risk for more significant shaking in the future.

“Oklahoma used to experience one or two earthquakes per year of magnitude 3 or greater, and now they’re experiencing one or two a day,” Mark Petersen, the chief author of the report, said. “Oklahoma now has more earthquakes of that magnitude than California.”

The report came two days after Oklahoma’s state government acknowledged for the first time the scientific consensus that wastewater disposal linked to oil and gas drilling was to blame for the huge surge in earthquakes there. The state introduced an interactive map showing quake locations and places where wastewater is injected into the ground, and the state-run Oklahoma Geological Survey said it “considers it very likely” that the practice is causing most of the shaking.

frackingstatews

Earthquakes Caused by Human Activity The maps above show where there has been seismic activity, caused mostly by oil and gas operations. Northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas have been especially hard hit, with an exponential growth in the number of human-caused earthquakes.

Hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique that injects a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals into the ground to break rock formations and release gas, has drawn widespread attention. But injecting water to dispose of waste from drilling or production is a far greater contributor to earthquakes. The federal report excluded human activity, like mining, that can cause quakes but does not involve large-scale fluid injection.

The USGS isn’t any slouch when it comes to earthquakes.  It is only a matter of time before there is a large deadly earthquake.

 

Our Polarized Congress

What the pictograph below is saying is nothing new — we all know that Congress is more polarized now than ever before.  But it is a startling visual representation of that fact.

This is from a group of researchers recently in a paper published in PLOS One.  They’ve drawn dots for each representative, and lines connecting pairs of representatives who vote together a given number of times. Finally, the dots for each representative are placed according to how frequently the Representatives vote together overall.

What we’re left with is a picture of political mitosis. Similar voting between Democrats and Republicans was fairly common up through the 1980s. But starting in the 1990s the parties began pulling apart from each other, like a single cell dividing into two.

Not only that, but within parties Representatives are voting more similarly too — that’s illustrated with the dots in each party’s cluster becoming more tightly packed together over time. Starting in the 2000s, there are hardly any links between the parties at all.

imrs

No more liberal Republicans or conservative Democrats.  And no more working across the aisle.

Drone Collateral Damage

Unlike other liberals, I’m not terribly troubled by the use of drones, even if they are used to kill Americans without due process.  Assuming, of course, that those Americans are enemy combatants.  I mean, yes, I would prefer that we update and amend the Constitution so that it can take into account the peculiarities of modern warfare, but generally, I am fine.

However, it is always a tragedy when innocent American citizens are killed as collateral damage.

All You Need To Know About The “Clinton Cash” So-Called “Scandal”

There are rules when it comes to the Clintons.   And the first rule, which goes back to Whitewater is this: if you can blow enough smoke, you can claim there is a fire.  Even if there isn’t a fire, you can claim there is a fire.  In fact, that’s the reason why you blow enough smoke.

Keep that in mind as you read what The Washington Post wrote this morning:

Bill Clinton was paid at least $26 million in speaking fees by companies and organizations that are also major donors to the foundation he created after leaving the White House, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records and foundation data. The amount, about one-quarter of Clinton’s overall speaking income between 2001 and 2013, demonstrates how closely intertwined Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charitable work has become with their growing personal wealth.

It then continues:

The Clintons’ relationships with major funders present an unusual political challenge for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now that she has formally entered the presidential race, the family may face political pressure and some legal requirements to provide further details of their personal finances and those of the foundation, giving voters a clearer view of the global network of patrons that have supported the Clintons and their work over the past 15 years.

So basically, we have two things: Bill Clinton got paid a lot of money (a SHITLOAD of money) to speak, and now some of those people might expect favors from Hillary.  Or, as the Post puts it:

The multiple avenues through which the Clintons and their causes have accepted financial support have provided a variety of ways for wealthy interests in the United States and abroad to build friendly relations with a potential future president.

Newsflash — this happens all the time.  When the Koch brothers support Ted Cruz with unlimited soft money, it is because they hope to “build friendly relations with a potential future president”.  Hell, that’s what almost all major donors do.  To single out the Clintons for having wealthy friends who might want favors later, especially in the political context brought to us by the destruction of campaign finance regulations, is a particularly laughable application of the Clinton Rules which, like the Voting Rights Act and McCain-Feingold, have been rendered irrelevant by Citizens United and its unholy progeny.

The New York Times gives specifics, i.e., a Canadian firm sold its uranium assets to a Russian business (“Uranium One”), and that group of Russians gave SHITLOADS of money to Bill Clinton’s Clinton Foundation, including $500,000 for a speaking engagement, while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.  The State Department was one of the agencies that had to approve the uranium deal before it could go through.   Then, the Times tips its hand:

Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.

(Emphasis mine).

So, in other words, there isn’t any evidence of wrongdoing.  Just smoke.

Fox News is already hyping the story, but they’re doing it in a way that absolves them of having to explain it.  Expect to hear a lot of Fox commentary like: “It’s all very complicated, but that’s what you would want to do if you wanted to bury a money trail”.  As a news consumer, you have to distinguish between smoke and fire, because Fox is hoping you won’t or can’t.

But what is sad is that two respectable publications — the Washington Post and The New York Times are getting caught up in this.  It is the job of oppo-researchers and ratfkers to exhaust the country’s patience through the techniques of scandalization. It is the job of the other candidates to try and take advantage of that. It is not the job of journalism — and I mean anything more credible than Fox — to play along with speculation.

UPDATE:  Yes, yes, yes….

Update To “A Tea Party Patriot Says He Might Have To Vote For Hillary”

A few days ago, I posted a video from a tea party patriot who gave his reasons why he might have to vote for Hillary.

Well, he made up his mind.  He’s NOT going to vote for Hillary.

Kinda has the look and feel of a hostage video, doesn’t it?

The guy’s quick reversal is telling. He doesn’t walk back anything he said in his first video. He doesn’t say Obamacare hasn’t been a boon to his life or that he wants it repealed. He just says a lot of people watched the first video. The implication in his astonished chuckle is that he’s gotten more and angrier feedback than he expected — he’s been lashed by the people he thinks of as his allies and praised by the people he considers his enemies.

It’s an excruciating experience to find yourself at odds with your political tribe. So, for most people, it’s actually borderline irrational to pick fights with your side. This guy’s vote in the 2016 presidential election isn’t going to save Obamacare or doom it; his vote will have no effect on his life at all. But publicly coming out as a Hillary Clinton supporter when he attends the next meeting of his local Tea Party Patriots chapter? He’ll be attacked by his friends, kicked out of a group he loves, smeared on the internet. His public heterodoxy can really hurt his life. It’s not rational for him to announce he’s voting for Hillary Clinton. Policy interests matter, but they’re much more remote from us than our friends, family, and even our email inbox.

I’ll bet he votes for Hillary.

Amy Schumer and Women’s Issues

Comedian Amy Schumer’s brand of humor isn’t for everyone.  She’s a bit of a potty mouth (if that matters to you), and sometimes her sexual humor misses.  But other times, she is really on the mark about the objectification of women and rape culture.  Two examples of that are below… from the first show of her third season (“Inside Amy Schumer”):

RT @danagould: The Tonight Show has booked Oskar Groening, a 93 yr-old Nazi who worked in the death camps. He will lipsynch Taylor Swift’s …

It’s The Frack

What accounts for this?

Dramatic

Duh.

On Tuesday, scientists from Southern Methodist University added to the growing body of research linking small earthquakes to oil and gas wastewater disposal. That body of research is particularly important to the popular but controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which produces significantly more wastewater than conventional drilling.

The research published by SMU scientists links a series of small earthquakes in Azle, Texas to oil and gas activity — specifically, the process of injecting drilling wastewater underground. According to the research, the faults that shifted below Dallas-Fort Worth “have not budged in hundreds of millions of years.”

Like other research, the SMU study doesn’t definitively say that wastewater injections caused the quakes. It just says that they’re the most likely explanation.

What makes the Texas study a bit different than other research linking human activity to seismic events is that it suspects wastewater injection alone is not causing the quakes. Instead, it asserts that there’s a specific thing workers do when extracting fuel and performing wastewater injection that may be triggering them.

According to the research, quakes may be made more likely when workers extract gas and groundwater from one side of a fault line, then inject water back into the ground on the other side of the fault. That is slightly different than what other research has suggested — that wastewater injected anywhere near fault lines can change the stress of those faults to the point of failure, causing earthquakes.

Still, the basic idea is the same: human activity, via oil and gas watewater injection, is the most likely explanation for these unusual strings of earthquakes happening across the country.

“It’s what we figured all along, it’s not really new news to us,” said Azle Mayor Alan Brundrett, according to NBC’s Dallas affiliate. “It’s just confirming our suspicious that we’ve had.”

The fact that scientists haven’t been able to make definitive statements about oil and gas activity’s connection to earthquakes has been the main argument of industry supporters when these issues arise in states, particularly Texas and Oklahoma. The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas activity, has been resistant to concerns that fracking activity may be causing quakes in the state. In response to Tuesday’s study, the agency’s staff seismologist Craig Pearson said it “raises many questions with regard to its methodology,” but declined to say exactly what those questions were before meeting with the researchers.

In Oklahoma, which is now seeing anywhere from two to 20 small earthquakes every day, state officials have been extremely reluctant to say drilling is the cause. That is, until Tuesday.

Pity The Rich

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Monday night, Bill O’Reilly wanted you to know about America’s poor, put-upon rich people.

“[Y]ou can see that taxes are through the roof on affluent Americans and business profits.But for the rest of Americans, things are not so bad.

The bottom 60% of wage-earners pay just 2.7% of federal income taxes.

The bottom 40% actually get money from the feds; they receive payments called earned-income tax credits.

Those bastards. Here rich people are working their besuited asses off every day earning interest and collecting dividends and attending board meetings and having very important lunch meetings over glasses of very important wine while poor people, what with their refrigerator-having and rent-paying and whatnot, are living the easy life on the earned-income tax credit. It’s enough to make rich person Bill O’Reilly sick, it is.

I believe that I’ve cut back investing because of the heavy capital gains hit.

And the bottom 40% have cut back investing because of having no money to invest. I’ve noticed, in fact, that very few of the people serving the very important wine or cleaning the very important conference rooms have been investing very much at all in the American free-enterprise system of late, and no amount of cutting their paychecks or dismantling their unions seems to convince them to invest more. Like Bill O’Reilly, they are probably disheartened by the capital gains tax.

But how much more can the government take from the affluent without crashing the entire free-market economy?

That is a fine question. We could probably look at the historical data to find an answer to that, perhaps looking through the record books to find periods of strong economic growth and look at what the tax rates on the wealthy and on corporations were during those very prosperous times.

Taxex and growth

And let’s remember that well into the 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was above 90%. Today it’s 35%. But both real GDP and real per capita GDP were growing more than twice as fast in the 1950s as in the 2000s. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top tenth of a percent fell from about 50% to 25% in the last 60 years, while their share of income increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% before the recession.  The truth is this — lowering the marginal tax rates on the wealthy only adds to income inequality — it doesn’t create economic growth.

But Bill doesn’t care about facts and numbers.  So we should probably just declare that wealthy people pay one million times too much in taxes, and that under the Obama administration their tax burden has increased roughly eleventy billion percent. It may or may not be true, but while being wealthy in America may saddle you with a crippling tax burden and the unenviable duty of funding entire presidential races in order to keep the nation’s priorities in proper order, it at least allows you to never come into contact with any of the unpleasant little snots who might look those numbers up.

Rapists And Parental Rights

For the life of me, I can’t imagine why this is even controversial.  Not only do many conservatives believe that women should be forced to bear their rapists’s children against their will…. now some conservatives apparently think women must also share parental rights with their rapist after they give birth:

Iowa Republican has held up legislation that would prevent convicted rapists from claiming parental rights to children conceived during the assault, dismissing the bill as “feel-good” legislation.

As reported by the Globe Gazette, State Rep. Chip Baltimore has bottled up the proposed bill in committee, infuriating women’s advocates who want to protect rape survivors from having to endure future court battles with their assailants.

According to Jennifer Carlson, executive director of the University of Iowa’s Rape Victim Advocacy Program, “We see this as a huge struggle for those victims as they are worried for the safety of their child as well as seeing their offender on a regular basis.”

Baltimore, who is chairman of the Iowa House’s Judiciary Committee, feels the law is unnecessary and lacks nuance.

“It’s a feel-good piece of legislation that quite honestly is dissociated with reality in the real world with the way the criminal justice system and the judicial system work,” Baltimore said. “It’s a far more complicated situation, honestly, than most people acknowledge. I get the general concept. I understand the general concept. But it’s a concept that needs a lot more work.”

Beth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, disagrees.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I do not have trust in the system. There are many, many ways it fails,” she explained.

According to the University of Iowa’s Carlson, too many victims are maliciously dragged through the legal system as they try to rebuild their lives.

“Often, we see this desire for custody or involvement in the child’s life as nothing more than an extension of the power and control and an element in which (the attacker) can continue to have an impression and a domination of their victim,” Carlson said.

What the hell?

RT @jakesilverstein: New cover of @NYTmag. The amazing @JRart made a massive pasting on Flatiron Plaza & photographed it from a helicopter …

Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tomorrow, April 22

Dust off the lawn chairs and get ready for the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower which will occur on the night of April 22.

“The Lyrids are really unpredictable,” Cooke said. “For the 2015 shower, I’m expecting 15 to 20 Lyrid meteors an hour. Peak rates should occur after 10:30 PM on April 22 your local time, for observers in the northern hemisphere. For observers in the southern hemisphere, Lyrid rates are not significant until after midnight your local time.”

Viewing tips for the Lyrids



  • No special equipment is needed to watch a meteor shower. Simply find a dark, open sky away from artificial lights. Lie down comfortably on a blanket or lawn chair, and look straight up.
  • Look to the northeast to find the meteors appearing to radiate out of the constellation of Lyra the harp.
  • A camera, provided by scientists at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, will offer a live feed of the Lyrids beginning at 10:00 PM CDT.The camera is light-activated, and will switch on at nightfall. During daytime hours, the webcast will show recorded views of past meteor showers.

Watch the live feed here.



The Lyrids are pieces of debris from the periodic Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher and have been observed for more than 2,600 years. In mid-April of each year, Earth runs into the stream of debris from the comet, which causes the Lyrid meteor shower. You can tell if a meteor belongs to a particular shower by tracing back its path to see if it originates near a specific point in the sky, called the radiant. The constellation in which the radiant is located gives the shower its name, and in this case, Lyrids appear to come from a point in the constellation Lyra.

Controversial “Feminist”?

Hard to believe this actually is happening in 2015:

One middle school class photo is getting a lot of attention — because of what it doesn’t include.

Eighth grader Sophie Thomas wore a black t-shirt emblazoned with the word “Feminist” in silver for a recent picture day at Clermont Northeastern Middle School in Batavia, Ohio. Yet when the teen — sitting in the front row of assembled students — saw a copy of the photo last week, she was floored to find that “feminist” had been digitally removed.

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“I was insanely upset,” the teen told FOX19 of the airbrushed edit. “I was just showing everybody that this is me, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to be my friend.”

According to Thomas, Clermont Northeastern’s Principal Kendra Young insisted that a class photo is no place for a statement that she deemed controversial. The student said that the administrator declared, ‘It was mine and the photographer’s decision to photoshop your shirt because some people might find it offensive.’”

Who???

Who would find this shirt “offensive”?

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To be sure, people like Rush Limbaugh sneer when they say that word, but neither the word “feminist” nor the concept of “feminism” is controversial or offensive.  Let’s open the dictionary, shall we?

Feminist

The article continues:

A recent poll, in fact, found that despite 85 percent of respondents agreeing that they believe in “equality for women,” just 18 percent identify themselves as feminist.

Why is the term such a hot button topic? “People used to think that it meant something queer, like associating with being a lesbian,” says Baumgardener [Jennifer Baumgardener, executive director and publisher of the Feminist Press at The City University of New York]. “Now it’s possibly associated for some with abortion. I’m not sure exactly why it’s so polarizing, but it’s not surprising to me that something labeled ‘feminist,’ is threatening. What it represents, on the deepest level, is the fact that women have all this power to make or not make life. For girls and women it can be hard to make friends with that power.”

Thomas, for one, has no such difficulty being a feminist and identifying herself as one. “People around here misconstrue the word,” she told Today. “Like, ‘Oh, you’re a feminist so you hate men.’ I just want to spread equality, and a lot of people here don’t agree with me.”

Having an 8th grader wear that word on her shirt “is like opening up a Pandora’s Box,” admits Baumgardener. “But if the school wanted to avoid controversy, though, they made the wrong move by editing her speech on her shirt.”

So it’s a “teachable moment”, I guess, but one that the adults — certainly the principal — should have already learned.

Yet Another Black Man Killed By Overzealous Cops

The name this time around is Freddie Gray, the city this time is Baltimore, and the death this time was from complications of a massive spinal injury suffered while in police custody.

Relatives, activists and even Baltimore city officials have more questions than answers about what happened to Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died one week after he was rushed to the hospital with spinal injuries following an encounter with four Baltimore police officers.

Gray, who died Sunday morning at a University of Maryland trauma center, was stopped by Baltimore police officers on bike patrol April 12. Police have said Gray was running away from the officers when he was arrested and placed in a transport van. About 30 minutes later, Gray was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, according to police.

Billy Murphy, an attorney for Gray’s family, said Sunday that 80 percent of the man’s spinal cord had been severed near his neck.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and top police officials promised accountability and transparency Sunday at a news conference at City Hall.

Sure, that’ll happen.  Six police officers have now been suspended (with pay, of course) pending an investigation.  But I’m sure they’ll say they “feared for their life” and well, Freddie Gray had a switchblade strapped to his leg, so of course they had to break his goddamn spine.  Or maybe he slipped on a banana peel.  Hell, we may never know, right?

Our Favorite Ex-Congresswoman Predicts The End Of Times

Go ahead, Michele Bachmann. Break out your “THE END IS NEAR” sign. You know you want to. She came close in a radio interview:

Michele Bachmann says the rapture is coming, thanks to President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran’s nuclear program and marriage equality.

In a radio interview last week, Bachmann, the former Minnesota Republican congresswoman, told “End Times” host Jan Markell, “We need to realize how close this clock is getting to the midnight hour.”

“We in our lifetimes potentially could see Jesus Christ returning to earth and the rapture of the church,” Bachmann said. “We see the destruction, but this was a destruction that was foretold.”

Yes, she’s serious.