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.

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.


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


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.

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
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
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):


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

First question —


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


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:

* 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
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:

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 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.

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.


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.


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”):

It’s The Frack

What accounts for this?



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


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?

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.


“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 would find this shirt “offensive”?


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?


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.

Free Range Parents: What Is Neglect And What Isn’t?

There’s a good chance you’ve heard about the Meitiv kids (especially if you have children of your own or friends with children). The kids, ages 10 and 6, were walking home from a park a mile from their house in Maryland when they were spotted by a zealous citizen-protector, reported to the police, picked up 3 blocks from home, and detained for over five hours. In the end, they were handed over to their parents, but only after plenty of panic on both the kids’ and parents’ parts. And, as it turns out, that wasn’t really the end. The parents found themselves under investigation for neglect.

Insane? I think so. Unusual? Nope.

In an article run this weekend by the Washington Post, there are more examples of clashes between parents who believe their kids deserve some autonomy and child protective services workers who are charged with taking every potential threat to a child’s safety seriously:

In Austin, Kari Anne Roy, 38, a children’s author, was investigated for neglect after her children walked the dog one day in August and her 6-year-old lagged behind, playing on an outdoor bench a few houses down the street.

In Port St. Lucie, Fla., Nicole Gainey, 35, a mother of two, was arrested for letting her 7-year-old son walk alone to a park and play there, about half a mile away from their home in the town where she grew up.

One of most the most publicized recent cases involved Debra Harrell in North Augusta, S.C., who allegedly allowed her 9-year-old daughter to play at a park while she worked at a McDonald’s as a shift manager.

The “Free-Range Kids” website has still more examples — and statistics to suggest that allowing a child to walk to and from a playground may actually be less of a threat to that child’s safety than the everyday act of buckling her into a car.

But even though hundreds of thousands of parents find themselves embroiled in the child welfare courts each year (many deservedly so, some not), child welfare law itself is not all that well developed. It can be very difficult to know what’s legal and what’s not.

For the sake of randomness, let’s use Iowa to focus a bit. Iowa criminalizes both neglect and child endangerment. Neglect is a felony that’s committed when a parent “knowingly or recklessly exposes” a child “to a hazard or danger against which such person cannot reasonably be expected to protect such person’s self.” Child endangerment is committed when a parent “knowingly acts in a manner that creates a substantial risk to a child or minor’s physical, mental or emotional health or safety”; if the child is not harmed by the offending conduct, the crime is only a misdemeanor. That language is broad enough to apply to practically anything: teach your ten-year-old to cook and he might start a grease fire that he doesn’t know how to put out.

Anyway, that’s Iowa’s criminal code. Even more conduct is included in the broad definition of “child abuse” in the context of Iowa’s civil child welfare system. Abuse includes “the failure on the part of a person responsible for the care of a child to provide for the adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical or mental health treatment, supervision, or other care necessary for the child’s health and welfare when financially able to do so or when offered financial or other reasonable means to do so.” The statute goes on to explain that “failure to provide for the adequate supervision of a child means the person failed to provide proper supervision of a child that a reasonable and prudent person would exercise under similar facts and circumstances and the failure resulted in direct harm or created a risk of harm to the child.”

Would a reasonably prudent person allow a child to walk a mile to a park? Does such a walk create a risk of harm to the child? These are fuzzy questions that give the state leeway to act as the state (for “the state” here, read “a social worker”) sees fit.

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, law professor Ilya Somin notes that the application of child welfare laws is subject to some (seemingly) robust constitutional constraints: there’s case law providing that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit and that it also, in the words of Justice O’Connor’s plurality opinion in Troxel v. Granville, creates a “presumption that fit parents act in the best interests of their children.”

But the reality facing most parents in court is that that “presumption” isn’t actually a thing. Take the experience documented in a well-publicized essay on Salon last year: the author left her four-year-old unattended in a car for a few minutes on a mild day, the police were called, she found herself charged with a crime along the lines of the ones excerpted from the Iowa criminal code above. She told her lawyer: “It doesn’t sound to me like I committed the crime I’m being charged with. I didn’t render him in need of services. He was fine. Maybe I should plead ‘not guilty,’ go to trial.” He warned her that “juvenile courts are notorious for erring on the side of protecting the child” and suggested that fighting the case might lead her to lose her child. Faced with that possibility she, of course, folded. Anyone would.

And there is a class and race component to this.  Low-income neighborhoods have a higher presence of police and social workers, raising the odds that parents there get reported. These parents are also far less likely to benefit from the presumption that they are making good decisions for their kids.

The answer is not a brighter legal line on the right age to range freely—kids really are too different for that—but a more collaborative child-welfare model. We should not be taking kids away from situations where reasonable minds honestly disagree about parenting decisions.  Rather, we should reserve punishment for those extreme situations where it’s below the standard that any parent should be treating this child.

SCOTUS Sends NC Redistricting Map Back To NC

Yesterday, the Supreme Court rejected a Republican-drawn map of congressional districts in North Carolina.   The justices ordered the NC Supreme Court reconsider whether North Carolina lawmakers inappropriately redrew the electoral map to consign large populations of black voters, a Democratic constituency, to a disproportionately small number of districts, the effect of which gives Republicans a clear electoral advantage.

Boston Marathon And Memory Lane

The Boston Marathon is happening right now, and like last year, I’m sure I’m not the only one holding my breath, and hoping for a safe run.  Then again, with all the security, it’s probably the safest place on the planet right now.

Anyway, here’s how I covered it two years ago.

By the way, two years ago this week, Glenn Beck set out on a crusade to blow the lid off the government conspiracy that was covering up the fact that Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, a Saudi national who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing, was really an al Qaeda “control agent” who was responsible for financing and orchestrating the entire attack.

In the days following the attack, Beck began warning that “this is a turning point in America history,” claiming that his The Blaze network had discovered that the government and the media were engaged in a cover-up of the truth behind the bombing, infamously giving the government three days to come clean before his network broke one of the biggest stories in history:

When those three days passed without the government admitting to this supposed cover-up, Beck then dedicated all of his coverage to reporting that Alharbi, who was briefly considered a “person of interest” by investigators before being completely cleared, had received a “212 3B” designation during the investigation, which Beck claimed meant that he was terrorist who must be deported.

For Beck, that was evidence that Alharbi was really an al Qaeda control agent who had financed the entire operation and recruited the Tsarnaev brothers to carry out the attack.

When other reporters investigated Beck’s claims and dismissed them, Beck grew more and more outraged about what he saw as an ongoing cover-up, proclaiming that the burden of proof rested upon the government to disprove his claims and boldy declaring that anyone who dared to try and refute his allegations would only wind up looking like a fool.

Shortly thereafter, Beck’s crusade was essentially derailed when he interviewed a former INS special agent who undercut much of his case by pointing out that the “212 3B” theory under which Beck had been operating “doesn’t make sense.”

After that, Beck more or less dropped the issue publicly, though he continued to insist that Alharbi was the “money man” behind the attack and that there was a conspiracy afoot to cover it up.

In 2013, Alharbi sued Beck for defamation and slander.  Beck tried to get the suit dismissed on the ground that Alharbi was a public figure by virtue of the fact that he attended the Boston Marathon and “by behaving suspiciously at the Marathon finishing line when the bombs detonated, thereby causing his detention and a background check by law enforcement”.  Late last year, a federal judge rejected Beck’s argument to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying that attending a sports event does not turn a private person into a public figure.

As of now, the lawsuit is going forward.

Bad Evidence

Say WHAT?!?:

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

It doesn’t mean that everyone convicted on the basis of hair evidence was actually innocent, although several of them have been exonerated.  Others have already been put to death.  But man…. that’s really embarrassing.

Campaigning “As A Woman”

The horrible thing about Maureen Dowd’s op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times (“Granny Get Your Gun”) is not what she says, but the existence of the op-ed in the first place.  For those of you not wanting to click through, Dowd writes about Hillary Clinton’s problem, which she describes this way: “She can’t figure out how to campaign as a woman.”

First, writes Dowd, Hillary came off too masculine, with too much “swagger” by voting in favor of the Iraq war, which (according to Dowd) caused her to fall behind a “feminized man” (presumably Obama) and lose the 2008 election.

Now, complains Dowd, Hillary has “overcorrected” and is running as a dotty old grandmother, driving a van and going to Chipotle.

Setting aside these and other numerous stupid observations, the article fails in its opening paragraph and premise, prompting me to ask….  Why should Hillary be campaigning “as a woman”?  What does that even mean?  And who in their right mind would ever think to ask that a man campaign “as a man”?

Twenty Years Ago Today

Carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killed 168 people and injured more than 680 others. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, causing at least an estimated $652 million worth of damage. The bombers were tried and convicted in 1997. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, and Nichols was sentenced to life in prison.


Trouble Brewing In Them Thar Hills

There is a dispute regarding property rights to gold mine in Oregon between the owners and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

If only we had a mechanism to resolve land disputes in this country.

Oh yes.  The court system.

But the allure of an armed conflict with federal agents has still proved irresistible to self-styled militia members who have flocked to Oregon to stir up trouble.  At issue is a disagreement over how to interpret records of the mines’ ownership:

(BLM spokesman) Jim Whittington said it boils down to there being two different types of rights to the land: mining rights and surface rights. He said the two men involved in the dispute own the mining rights to the land, but not the surface rights. The BLM’s records, Whittington said, show that the surface rights at the Sugar Pine Mine were ceded to the agency in 1961 by the party that owned the claim at that time. He said the BLM in March served the Sugar Pine Mine with two letters saying as much.

Co-owners Rick Barclay and George Backes have argued, however, that they still possess the surface rights on the Sugar Pine Mine claim. Barclay said Thursday night on local television station KDRV that the BLM had served him with a “cease and desist letter” despite having showed him no proof that the agency retained the surface rights to his land.

“It’d be like somebody coming to your house saying ‘This is mine now. You got 14 days to take your house out and 30 days to take down your fences and everything you own,'” Barclay told the news station. “The average person’s going to say well, where’s your proof? I want my day in court before they destroy or force me to remove any of my property from my mine.”

Whittington said that the agency does not plan to take such drastic action.

“We’re not at all disputing that there’s a valid mining claim there,” he told TPM, adding that the dispute over who owns surface rights on the Sugar Pine Mine claim could be hashed out through what it likely to be a lengthy administrative appeal process.

Barclay, being suspicious of the federal agency, told KDRV that he’d enlisted the help of a local chapter of the Oath Keepers, a loose-knit national organization of current and former military and law enforcement officers who pledge to defend the Constitution against government overreach, to provide security on the property while he goes through the appeal process.

A call for volunteer personnel on the Josephine County Oath Keepers’ website quickly made the rounds this week among self-styled militia members on Facebook and YouTube:

Mary Emerick, a spokeswoman for the Josephine County Oath Keepers, has been fielding phone calls from interested volunteers from all over the country. At least one activist was turned away from the property because he had outstanding issues with law enforcement, Emerick told TPM in a phone interview.

“I am aware that people are just literally getting in their cars,” she said. “However, we also know that some of those people are on sort of a list and are not going to be welcomed at the camp.”

Since both sides of the dispute are anticipating a lengthy administrative hearing — and these things can last months or ever years — the gun nuts might actually get bored and leave Oregon since there isn’t any actual action to shoot at.

But you never know.

Bad Interview

Here’s a tip from one lawyer to all other lawyers out there: Don’t let your accused client go on television unless you (and your client) really know what you are doing.

And that sounds vague to you, then you don’t know what you are doing.

Look, 95 times out of 100, you are not going to turn public sentiment in your favor after giving a television interview, unless you give a mea culpa.  “I did it, I am guilty, I’m sorry”.  Anything other than that — a defense, self-pity, etc. — it will backfire.

I write this because Robert Bates, the 73 year old white reserve sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed an unarmed black man earlier this month, went on the Today show this morning and gave a rambling interview which did not help him at all.

He disputed a local newspaper report that alleged his bosses had falsified his training records.  The Tulsa World reported Thursday that supervisors in the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office were ordered to sign off on field training and firearms certifications that Robert Bates did not complete, citing multiple anonymous sources.  “That is not correct,” Bates said, adding that he has proof of his training “in writing.”

Today’s Matt Lauer also asked Bates, a wealthy 73-year-old insurance executive who is close to the sheriff, to respond to the characterization that he paid to play a cop.  “That is unbelievably unfair,” Bates responded. “I have donated equipment as I saw fit when the need happened to arise to allow the task force and other areas of the sheriff’s office to better do their jobs on the streets of Tulsa.”

Which didn’t answer the question.

And finally, Bates said he accidentally shot Harris because he mistook his handgun for a taser while trying to help subdue Harris. At one point in the interview, Lauer asked Bates to stand up and show where he keeps his taser in relation to his handgun when he’s on duty. Bates demonstrated that he keeps his taser inside his protective vest on his chest, while he keeps his handgun on his side near his hip.

I believe Bates when he says he didn’t do it on purpose.  However, nobody is accusing him of doing it intentionally.  He is charged with reckless manslaughter.  That’s what they charge drunk drivers who kill someone (they don’t intentionally kill either).

I have no sympathy for Bates, but I think the real story lies with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and the reason why this old guy, well past the age of retirement, was on the force in the first place, and whether or not he had been properly trained.

Log Cabin Republicans Barred From Conservative Convention

The Western Conservative Summit is a gathering of the most influential newsmakers of the right.  The convention this year is scheduled for June in Denver, where thousands of conservative activists will gather to hear Republican presidential hopefuls like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Pennsylvania Sen Rick Santorum speak. The event is organized by The Centennial Institute, a think tank affiliated with Colorado Christian University.

The Log Cabin Republicans have been barred from the Western Conservative Summit.  Like every other organization who wishes to have a presence at the convention, the pro-gay GOP group paid the $250 fee to apply for a sponsored table. However, according to the Denver Post, Log Cabin later received a message from the Centennial Institute — the Colorado Christian University-affiliated sponsor of the summit — informing them that they cannot officially participate as a “partner, exhibitor, or advertiser.”

Why? Because the group’s “worldview and policy agenda are fundamentally at odds with what Colorado Christian University stands for, so it’s just not a fit,” read the Institute’s note. “I’m sorry it has to be that way.”

Members of the pro-gay group are still free to buy tickets and attend the event, the sponsors are quick to note. “They’ll take our money, but want us in the closet,” responded Michael Carr, an official with the state’s chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans.

How did the Centennial Institute respond to this controversy?  I’ll print their Facebook response in full (lest I because of omitting something important):

We’ve been asked who’s welcome at Western Conservative Summit 2015. The answer: everyone! Come one, come all: conservatives, moderates, and liberals; black, white, Hispanic, or Asian; young or old; immigrant or DAR; Republicans, Democrats, libertarians; gay or straight. WCS year by year has been about building a coalition of all ages, all colors, and all backgrounds, devoted to reviving liberty and sharing Judeo-Christian truth and love. Did we notify a GOP group advocating same-sex marriage that their members are welcome as individuals but they’re not eligible organizationally as an exhibit partner? Yes, because CCU as sponsor of the Summit has a biblical position opposite to theirs that we’re duty bound to uphold, as the link explains. We hope some of these folks, the Log Cabin Republicans, sign up as WCS15 delegates and come for all the points of agreement held in common, leaving the marriage disagreement for debate elsewhere.

I love how the first part is in direct contradiction of the second part, i.e., we welcome everybody, including gays, exhibit for the part where you actually are, you know, gay.

I understand why a gay person could believe in, say, smaller government, a bigger military, concealed weapons, “pro-life”, etc.  I mean, just because a person is homosexual does not mean they cannot support some — or even most — of the GOP platform.  But even as I say that, I have a hard time understanding these Log Cabin Republicans.  I mean, how much humiliation must they go through before they realize that the rank and file of the Republican party thinks they are less than human?  I know, I know — “change from within” and all that, but they would have an easier time converting Democrats to Republican views on the economy and foreign relations than they would moving Republicans off of their anti-gay stance.

Anyway, read the comments section on the Centennial Institute Facebook page.  It’s amusing.

The Estate Tax Battle….. Again!

Seems like we do this every year:

The House is gearing up to vote Thursday on repealing the estate tax, an issue that has energized the base in both parties — and that Democrats and Republicans see as a political winner.

Republicans are making the vote the centerpiece of their agenda during a week when millions of taxpayers face the annual IRS filing deadline and anti-tax groups regularly hold protests.

For the GOP, repealing the estate tax — or the “death tax,” as they’ve long called it — is more than just a proposal favored by their supporters in the business community.

Republican leaders insist it’s patently unfair that people pay taxes as they accumulate wealth through the years, only for their heirs to pay additional taxes on that wealth after they die.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise  (R-La.) said Tuesday that it is “morally wrong” for a family’s toughest decision after a death to be figuring out the next steps for their business. “That’s not supposed to be something people have to deal with when they’re grieving for the loss of a loved one,” he told reporters.

Republicans believe that voters agree with them on that point, even as polls have long suggested that most people believe the wealthiest Americans don’t pay enough in taxes.

For their part, Democrats are just as excited for Thursday’s vote. After all, President Obama won his second term in 2012 after explicitly campaigning for higher taxes on the wealthy.

And Democrats say they’re more than happy to have a debate over a repeal proposal that would add $270 billion to the federal debt over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, while affecting only a small fraction of estates in the U.S.

“I guess when it comes to helping the wealthiest people in the country, it’s never enough,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said Tuesday with a laugh.

Yup.  Republicans want to repeal the estate tax and add $270 billion to the debt.  But the important part is buried further down the article:

Under current law, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that 5,400 estates will have to deal with the tax over the next several years, out of the well over 2 million deaths that occur annually.

That’s because individuals with estates valued at less than $5.43 million this year, and married couples with estates worth less than $10.86 million, are exempt. The 2013 “fiscal cliff” deal set the current parameters, which also include a 40 percent rate and linking the exemption parameters to inflation.

The estate tax affects only 5,400 taxpayers per year.  Out of a couple million.

The Republicans will try to sell this as something that saves you some tax money, but unless you have an estate valued at 5.4 million, it won’t affect you at all.

Whiny White Man Whines

Bill O’Reilly lays down the law because he’s white, Christian and oppressed.  Not that gender matters and not that he’s using his victimhood to bash a female candidate or anything:

If you are a Christian or a white man in the U.S.A. it’s open season on you. Therefore Hillary Clinton has an advantage. She can run a general campaign, first woman in the White House and I’m going to help you by increasing the entitlement society. It will take a very articulate and tough-minded Republican to defeat her.

One final thing, we at The Factor as I said we’re going to be fair to Hillary Clinton. But we’re going to be tough as we are on all political candidates. I don’t think gender matters one bit. And if this war on women business is resurrected we will have something to say about it.

Also Mrs. Clinton would be well-advised, well-advised to distance herself from Media Matters and the other gutter snipe organizations who use despicable, dishonest tactics to attack those with whom they disagree. If you embrace the smear merchants, Mrs. Clinton, we will have something to say about it.

The video is pretty vile.

UPDATE:  Or as Digby says, this is “Don’t make me hit you, honey”

Pace Yourselves, Media

Sometime in this campaign season, several months from now, the press will start complaining of “Clinton fatigue”, and how everybody is sick of Hillary Hillary Hillary. When they do, I want everyone to remember that the New York Times ran an article yesterday about Hillary Clinton ordering a burrito bowl at Chipotle in Maumee, Ohio.

UPDATE:  Fox’s Andrea Tantaros, even though she is aware that she went icognito, speculates that Hillary Clinton went to Chipotle for “hispanic outreach”, thus making Andrea Tantaros incredibly stupid.

Rambos Go To Prison

A little justice from Bush’s horrid war:

A federal judge Monday sentenced a former Blackwater Worldwide security guard to life in prison and three others to 30-year terms for killing 14 unarmed civilians in a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007, an incident that fomented deep resentments about the accountability of American security forces during one of the bloodiest periods of the Iraq war.

All the defendants vowed to appeal what one called a “perversion of justice,” saying they fired in self-defense in a war zone and a city that was then one of the world’s most dangerous places.

Sure.  They made it dangerous, and then try to use that as a defense.

150 Years Ago Today

150 years ago today, in the play “Our American Cousin”, the actor Henry Hawks uttered the line, “Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal, you sockdologizing old man-trap!” It was the biggest laugh line of the show.

“Sockdologize” was a slang term which became very popular in the United States during the 1850’s and 1860’s. It means a forceful or decisive blow, a finisher, something that ends, or settles a matter and leaves nothing else to follow, a knockdown blow, a decisive overwhelming finish, reply argument, conclusive remark which leaves no possible response.

Which is ironic, because after that line was uttered, Abraham Lincoln, sitting in the loge, was shot.

Everybody Running Is Unliked Or Unknown (Or Both)

This graphic from Nate Silver is interesting, but I don’t agree with its title:


Yes, most candidates are more unpopular than popular, but I think the story is that Hillary Clinton is more well-known AND more popular than all her possible GOP opponents… with the exception of Dr. Carson who is really unknown and who isn’t going to run anyway.  I guess the good news for Walker and Rubio (the latter who got in the race today officially) is that they are so unknown that they have room to bring up their popularity as people get to know them.  It might be harder for Jeb Bush to that.

Black-Person-Death-By-Cop Quote Of The Day

“Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.”

Robert Bates, a 73-year-old reserve deputy sheriff in Tulsa County, Okla., after he mistook his gun for his taser and fatally shot a suspect during an undercover operation.

Not for nothing, but the 73 year old(!) volunteer policeman was only an actual cop for one year….. fifty years ago.

Maybe having geriatric non-cops with lethal weapons is a bad idea.


The same incident.  The man, Eric Harris, falls to his knees after being (ooops!) shot.  “Oh my God, I’m losing my breath” he says.  Then the deputy’s knee pins his head to the asphalt.  And we hear an officer say:

“Fuck your breath”

Watch the video.

John Cole is right:

Why in the hell is a 73 year old man who isn’t even a real cop on the Violent Crimes Task Force, you might ask?

Money. Because part of our glibertarian conservative paradise is not wanting to raise taxes, ever, for anything, so municipalities are strapped for cash because no politician has the nerve to ever raise taxes for anything. Even vital functions, or things that you would think would be vital, like the FUCKING VIOLENT CRIMES TASK FORCE.

So instead of raising taxes, the institute programs and policies to soak the poor and those who can’t fight back (like Ferguson), rely on civil forfeiture (like everywhere), and take donations from wealthy clowns so they can go play Dirty Harry. And, if they’re lucky, get to live out their biggest fantasies.

Oh, and there is no mandatory retirement age for the Utah Highway Patrol- I called and asked. Yet another reason we can’t find good jobs for younger people, the fact that people are living longer and not quitting their jobs. But this makes no damned sense whatsoever for police, especially in the fucking VIOLENT CRIMES TASK FORCE.

UPDATE: 4:00 pm (EST) — Robert Bates, the 73 year old volunteer deputy, has been charged with second degree manslaughter.  Good.  And the Harris family should sue his ass as well.

Clinton Is In

Now it’s a contest.  Clinton has officially declared her candidacy.

Now comes major silliness.  Her opponents — meaning everybody left of center (at least) — will start laying into her, with subtle and not-so-subtle misogyny.  Watch for discussions about hormones and menopause, use of word like “shrill” and “harpy”, how a woman cannot lead the armed forces, and endless jokes about her hair, clothes and shows.  Watch for talk about how she will simply follow her (male) husband’s policies because a woman cannot be her own thinker.  Watch for the demasculating of her husband and endless irrelevant discussions about the Clinton marriage.

And THEN watch all the op-eds and analysis given over to “Clinton fatigue”.

The truth is, there has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.  We have today a level of political polarization not seen since the Civil War.

But I don’t think you’re going to hear about the differences between the candidates and parties very much.  Political commentators who specialize in covering personalities rather than issues will balk at the assertion that their alleged area of expertise matters not at all. Self-proclaimed centrists will look for a middle ground that doesn’t actually exist. And as a result, we’ll hear many assertions that the candidates don’t really mean what they say. The next 18 months will be full of sound bites and fury, signifying nothing.

But now there is a clear choice.  Clinton is in.


Jonathan Chait offers five reasons why Hillary Clinton will win the presidency in 2016. But in the end, his sixth reason may be the only one that matters:

The argument for Clinton in 2016 is that she is the candidate of the only major American political party not run by lunatics.


Nothing Says “I Love Liberty” More Than Threatening To Sue TV Stations That Run Ads Attacking Your Campaign

Oh, Rand.  You’re playing hardball now.  Grow up:

A lawyer for the Rand Paul campaign has sent a legal notice to TV stations that ran a hawkish attack ad based on Paul’s views on Iran, calling the ad defamatory and asking stations to stop showing it.

The letter is an objection to a million-dollar ad buy by a group called the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, led by Republican operative Rick Reed. The ad, which launched in early primary states on the day of Paul’s presidential campaign announcement, accuses Paul of supporting President Obama’s policies on Iran and of opposing new sanctions.

“The Advertisement attempts to deceive voters regarding Senator Rand Paul’s position on U.S.-Iran relations through at least three false statements,” writes Paul campaign general counsel Matthew T. Sanderson in the letter dated April 7, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News on Thursday.

The letter advises television stations that they are “not protected from legal liability for airing a false and misleading advertisements sponsored by FSPA” and demands that they “immediately cease airing the Advertisement.”

Tucker Carlson and Misogyny

Yeah, I’m not going to wade into this controversy, but I will give Tucker Carlson this free advice:

If you are being accused of misogyny, don’t respond by referring to a woman as a “chick”.

BONUS:  And Rand Paul is in hot water for “shushing” women reporters (which he’s done twice now).  Bad start, Rand.

Why Don’t We Celebrate Civil War Holidays?

The Civil War ended 150 years ago today.  Why do most people not know this?  Jay Elias writes why:

3245248_origThe battles surrounding the Civil War are still with us. Right now, there is an active campaign in this country to persuade Americans that the opposition to so-called Religious Freedom Acts in Indiana and Arkansas are a new fight, the latest campaign in an ever-expanding constellation of ‘gay rights’ that is attacking “traditional America” – including the First Amendment. Some, like Ross Douthat of the New York Times, want to portray the insistence on this principle is an example of how the center on these issues has changed a lot so quickly that “[p]ositions taken by, say, the president of the United States and most Democratic politicians a few short years ago are now deemed the purest atavism, [and] the definition of bigotry gets more and more elastic.” (Douthat is also, by the way, still very sorry for speaking at a fundraiser last year for the Alliance Defending Freedom, one of America’s most extreme anti-LGBT groups.)

What these campaigners don’t want known is that this is actually one of the oldest civil rights battles in America. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 prohibited discrimination in access to inns, public conveyances, and places of amusement such as theaters – from the end of Reconstruction it was well understood that discrimination by providers of services to the general public was a key element to the denial of equality by the ruling majority against the unfavored minority. This principle was reaffirmed both in state laws such as the Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959 in California, which was the model for similar laws in other states; in federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and by the Supreme Court, in decisions likeHeart of Atlanta Motel Inc. v. United States and Katzenbach v. McClung. What today’s activists for civil rights are fighting for is in fact the same things that civil rights activists have been fighting for over the last 140 years – that all Americans should have the right to purchase the services offered to other Americans in the free market.

Those who would stand athwart history demanding that it stop today wish and hope that their audience is ignorant of history. They believe that they can hurl accusations of appeasement at supporters of a negotiated agreement with Iran, confident that memories of Neville Chamberlain, the Munich Agreement, and the world of 1938 are sufficiently distant that they will get away with it. They believe they can claim that the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott and so many others are isolated, unrelated incidents which are being made into a big deal by a rapacious media and race-baiting outsiders, confident that we will have forgotten what Ida B. Wells wrote about demonstrative lynching as a form of social control in 1892.

They think that when the bells ring across America tomorrow, many Americans will not know why.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE:  This is from the National Park Services’ website about Appomattox Courthouse:

On Palm Sunday (April 9), 1865, Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia signaled the end of the Southern States attempt to create a separate nation. It set the stage for the emergence of an expanded and more powerful Federal government. In a sense the struggle over how much power the central government would hold had finally been settled.

Odd way to sum up the Civil War.

Slavery?  Hello?

Cue Next Right Wing Freakout in 5…4…3…2…


WASHINGTON — A 17-year-old transgender youth, Leelah Alcorn, stunned her friends and a vast Internet audience in December when she threw herself in front of a tractor-trailer after writing in an online suicide note that religious therapists had tried to convert her back to being a boy.

In response, President Obama is calling for an end to such therapies aimed at “repairing” gay, lesbian and transgender youth. His decision on the issue is the latest example of his continuing embrace of gay rights.

In a statement that was posted on Wednesday evening alongside a petition begun in honor of Ms. Alcorn, Mr. Obama condemned the practice, sometimes called “conversion” or “reparative” therapy, which is supported by some socially conservative organizations and religious doctors.

The petition has received more than 120,000 signatures in three months.

Here’s what spurred people on to petition the White House.

UPDATE:   And this….

The Obama administration said on Wednesday it had opened a gender-neutral bathroom within the White House complex, a symbolic step for the President in order to protect the rights of members of the LGBT community in the workplace.

The “all-gender restroom” is in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next door to the West Wing, within the White House complex where many employees have meetings and offices.

The White House now allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity, including in the West Wing.

Tsarnaev Found Guilty On All Charges

Dzokhar Tsarnaev was convicted Wednesday of all 30 charges for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing:

Tsarnaev kept his hands folded in front of him and looked down at the defense table as listened to the verdict, reached after a day and a half of deliberations. He was found guilty on charges that included conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction – offenses punishable by death.His conviction was practically a foregone conclusion, given his lawyer’s startling admission during opening statements that Tsarnaev carried out the attack with his now-dead older brother, Tamerlan.

The defense focused not on whether Dzokhar Tsarnaev participated, but on his level of participation, arguing that Tamerlan pressured Dzokhar to go along with him.

The question now is whether Tsarnaev will receive the death penalty, which is possible in a Massachusetts, a state without the death penalty, because he has been found guilty of federal crimes. The same jury that convicted Tsarnaev will make that decision in a separate phase of the trial, which will begin April 13, just a week before the Boston Marathon is run again.



This is probably a good time to remember the victims.

Video Shows Cop Murdering Black Man

On Saturday, Water Scott, 50, was shot and killed by Officer Michael T. Slager of the North Charleston, South Carolina, police department, after a traffic stop.

According to Slager’s initial report, Scott tried to take his Taser, and in the struggle, Slager had to fire in self-defense.

Yesterday, a video surfaced from an anonymous witness.  In contradiction of Slager’s account, Scott is seen turning to run away; Slager then appears to fire eight shots, and Scott falls to the ground.  Most importantly, it appears that Slager retrieves his Taser from the ground about twenty feet from Scott, and he places it next to Scott’s body.

See for yourself (WARNING: it’s graphic)

Without the video, Scott’s death never would have been questioned, and certainly we would have been in a familiar position of “not enough evidence to warrant a trial”.  The story would have been that Officer Slager A) used his Taser first and somehow missed, or wasn’t able to put Scott down,  B) was then attacked by Walter Scott, who “struggled with him over control of the Taser”, and C) was then forced to shoot Scott multiple times during the struggle.

Slager has been charged with murder, which is kind of rare.  (Of the 21 publicized cases from 1994 through 2009 in which a police officer killed an unarmed black person, only seven cases resulted in an indictment—for criminally negligent homicide, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, or violation of civil rights—and only three officers were found guilty.)

If nothing else, this video is Exhibit A why we need to repeal laws in various states that have criminalized videotaping police. I believe Maryland and Illinois are two of those states. Apparently, South Carolina where this shooting took place does not have such a law.

UPDATE:  Some right wing sites are desperately trying to make this look like it might be justifiable with the old “we don’t know the facts yet” and “don’t believe what you’re eyes can plainly see” and “here are some irrelevant facts that have no bearing on whether this was justifiable or not” dance.

Rand Paul Throws His Tinfoil Hat Into The Ring

More clowns in the clown car:

Pitching himself as a different kind of Republican, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday officially announced he’d seek the GOP nomination for president.

“Join me as together we seek a new vision for America,” he continued. “Today, I announce with God’s help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States of America.”

The room burst into cheers of  “President Paul!”

“I have a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words,” Paul said. “We have come to take our country back.”

Who is taking our country back?  And taking it back from whom?

Rand Paul is a true libertarian and fiscal conservative.  He’s not a tea party favorite, as he opposes the Iraq War and overseas intervention.  He’s an isolationist.  And he’s not much of an evangelist or gay-basher.  He’s for the decriminalization of marijuana.  His appeal is to the younger generation, but he is not the face of Republican politics today.  He has rabid, but rather dim followers.

UPDATE – This says it all….



UPDATE 2:  Also, if you want to change education, you better spell “eductation” right on your website.


RIP Gertrude Weaver

Gertrude Weaver made international news six days ago, when, at the age of 116, she inherited the title of being the world’s oldest-known living person, following the death of 117-year-old Japanese woman Misao Okawa.

Gertrude died yesterday.

She was born on July 4, 1898, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which validates ages of the world’s longest-living people. There are only three people alive on the planet with birth records showing they were born before 1900, according to the group.  With the death of Gertrude Weaver, there are no people alive now who were alive in 1898.

The world’s oldest known person is now Jeralean Talley of Inkster, Mich (pictured below with some catfish she caught in 2012), who was born on May 23, 1899 and will turn 116 next month, according to the group.