Monthly Archives: May 2015

RT @NiceQueenCersei: Confess. Confess. Confess. Why not torture me with cushions while sat on a comfy chair while you are at it? #Hardhome

RT @TuftsUniversity: Update: Two victims being treated for apparent stab wounds; police investigating. Remain indoors while police complete…

The bigots at the Draw Mohammad rally forgot about the Draw Mohammad part. Lol. #NotMyAmerica

In Case You Missed It

In my opinion, there should me more fanfare about the US relations in Cuba.  I mean, this happened today:

In December 2014, the President instructed the Secretary of State to immediately launch a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, and provide a report to him within six months regarding Cuba’s support for international terrorism. On April 8, 2015, the Secretary of State completed that review and recommended to the President that Cuba no longer be designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

Accordingly, on April 14, the President submitted to Congress the statutorily required report indicating the Administration’s intent to rescind Cuba’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, including the certification that Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six-months; and that Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future. The 45-day Congressional pre-notification period has expired, and the Secretary of State has made the final decision to rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, effective today, May 29, 2015.

The rescission of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism reflects our assessment that Cuba meets the statutory criteria for rescission. While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation

Cuba has been on the terrorist list since March 1, 1982 (the list itself started on December 29, 1979).

The decision is a major step toward normalizing diplomatic relations with Havana. Among other activities, this means that Cuba can do banking in the United States.

Soon, I will take a vacation there.

 

Hypocrite Cruz

He’s a weasel:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday assured Texans that the state would receive federal relief following major flooding, even though the senator opposed federal funding following Hurricane Sandy.

“There are a series of federal statutory thresholds that have to be satisfied. Initially, it appears those thresholds are likely to be satisfied by the magnitude of the damage we’re seeing,” Cruz said while touring the flooding in Wimberley, Texas, according to Texas television station KSAT. “Democrats and Republicans in the congressional delegation will stand as one in support of the federal government meeting its statutory obligations to provide the relief to help the Texans who are hurting.”

At least 15 people have died due to widespread flooding in Texas, and officials have warned that the flooding may worsen in certain parts of the state.

Cruz voted against a federal aid package in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and claimed that he opposed the bill due to spending in the bill unrelated to storm relief.

These guys just love their own and hate everybody else.

Hastert Indicted

The Justice Department has charged former House Speaker Dennis Hastert with lying to FBI agents and trying to hide financial transactions intended to keep prior misconduct secret, prosecutors alleged.

The 73-year-old Hastert, a top Republican on Capitol Hill before he left Congress in 2007, agreed five years ago to pay an unidentified person $3.5 million “to compensate for and conceal” prior “misconduct against” that person, according to prosecutors.

The question of course is, what did Hastert do that he is ow spending 3.5 million to cover up?

I wasn’t a fan obviously, but he did seem like a “clean” Republican.  Kind of a sad ending, really.

UPDATE:  Oy….

….the misconduct dates back to Hastert’s time as a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois, where “Individual A” is from, and that Hastert was making the payments to conceal a past sexual relationship with him. The second anonymous official told the Times that the “misconduct” alleged in the indictment was sexual abuse

Religious Bigots Use First Amendment Protections To Spew Hate…. Again

Another crazed anti-Muslim right winger — this one in Phoenix — is planning to hold a ‘Draw Muhammad’ Contest right in front of the Islamic Community Center.

The organizer of the event, Jon Ritzheimer, has held two protests in Phoenix since the Texas shootings. The chants and slogans at the protests are brash and hateful. Some supporters wear t-shirts that state, “(expletive) Islam.” Ritzheimer says he is using provocative methods to draw attention to a religion he believes at its core promotes violence.

“I want this to be about pushing out the truth about Islam,” said Jon Ritzheimer. “I’ve read the Koran three times… [Sure he has. – ed.] the ones flying the planes into the tower, those are Muslims following the book as it is written.”

A Facebook page dedicated to the event titled “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II” states: “This will be a PEACEFUL protest in front of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix AZ… Everyone is encouraged to bring American flags and any message that you would like to send to the known acquaintances of the 2 gunmen.”

What this article at KPNX doesn’t mention is that Ritzheimer is actually leading a gang of bikers to stage this protest — and they intend to bring guns.

Ritzheimer anticipates possible problems because of the rally and says people should bring their guns.

“People are also encouraged to utilize (their) second amendment right at this event just (in case) our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack,” the event’s Facebook page says.

Bikers will be there too, according to the post.

600 protester/biker/haters are expected in can properly be called a perfect storm of islamophobia, gun culture, and assholes.

To give you an idea of what kind of person Ritzheimer is, here’s a picture he proudly posted of himself at his Facebook page:

jerk

I don’t want to pile on, but if your state hates the federal govt, maybe it shouldn’t ask for $ from the federal govt when disaster strikes.

Santorum Elbows His Way Into The Clown Car

I’m told that, when all is said and done, there will be eighteen candidates for the GOP…. so I might have to scale back and only post when a MAJOR candidate throws his hat in the ring (like Jeb Bush, who has yet to do so).  Anyway, Rick Santorum is here:

Former senator Rick Santorum will once again seek the Republican presidential nomination, ABC News and the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The former senator and House member is set to announce his candidacy at an event in Butler County, Pa., near his boyhood home, later today.

Santorum joins Mike Huckabee in having the Christian base, which isn’t as big as it was four years ago and isn’t likely to be a factor.  He’ll talk about things like same-sex marriage, whereas most of the serious heavy-hitting candidates would prefer to move on past that subject.

A flashback to four years ago…. and apologies in advance:

Catching Up

The merry month of May is a busy one.  Fortunately, not a lot is happening news-wise upon which I feel the urge to pontificate at length.  However, I few tidbits are worth at least a passing mention:

  • Yay, Ireland for the feckin’ landslide to legalize same-sex marriage.  Significant, I think, in light of the strong Catholic sentiment there.  Seems that Rome is really out of lockstep with much of the flock.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road is everything people say it is, for better or worse.  It’s adrenaline, which means that even if you don’t like it, you’ll enjoy the incredible effort that must have gone into making it.  Steampunk Mario Brothers, as they say.
  • RIP John Nash:

    John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematical genius whose struggle with schizophrenia was chronicled in the 2001 movie “A Beautiful Mind,” has died along with his wife in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. He was 86.Nash and Alicia Nash, 82, of Princeton Township, were killed in a taxi crash Saturday, state police said. A colleague who had received an award with Nash in Norway earlier in the week said they had just flown home and the couple had taken a cab home from the airport.

  • The Josh Duggar apologia from the Christian right has been pretty sickening.  The speed with which they “forgive” and pray for Josh Duggar is alarming.  Almost no mention of praying for his victims.  I’ve read so many articles that say, “Josh Duggar was wrong, BUT…..”.  And yes….. technically, he was an underage teen, but I don’t find that to be an excuse — at 17, you’re old enough to know not to molest your sisters and their friends in their sleep.  More importantly, we are learing more about the Duggar’s “purity culture’, and what it does to silence its victims.  And of course, all the forgiveness overlooks the ugly cover-up where the Arkansas Republicans worked to get the police record of the investigation into Josh’s assaults expunged.
  • This will probably develop into a more full post at some point, but I can’t quite get on board with the objections from some womens’ groups about the “gratuitous rape” scenes in HBO’s Game of Thrones.  First of all, anyone who has watched the series at all knows that the show doesn’t pull any punches on a number of fronts.  Incest, horrific and bloody murders, rapes…. they are all in there.  I don’t quite understand why, in Season 6, some people are suddenly finding one aspect of this dark dark show to be objectionable.  Secondly, speaking specifically of the rape of character Sansa Stark two weeks ago, it was not (compared to other GoT scenes) very graphic.  There was no nudity nor was it violent.  It was tame by Game of Thrones terms.  But it was a rape.  And notably, everyone agrees that the scene was exceedingly disturbing…. as depiction of rape should be.  To me, a gratuitous rape scene would be one which was clearly thrown in just to thrill and titillate the audience.  This was not that.  I recall many years ago when Edith Bunker was raped on an episode of the 1970s hit comedy All In The Family.  It was, to my knowledge, the first depiction of rape on television (although the actual rape was not shown).  There was the same sense (in some corners) of outrage — what is rape doing on the entertainment box?  Well, I understand that people don’t want their comedies, or violent medieval dramas, sullied with real-life horrors.  But rape happens, and it is ugly.  I don’t mind that ugliness in my fiction, as long as it is not glorified, and especially if it gets people talking about it.

You’re on a familiar road, so expect to end up in the same place.

RT @bannaband: Part 6 of “Who is Banna”: Ken Ashford has been playing percussion (and a little piano) since the Nixon… http://t.co/C7byQS…

RT @OKnox: Why is no one talking about Blumenthal email telling Clinton he knows a deposed Nigerian prince and for just $60K she can have m…

The GJ Charges Against The Baltimore 6

A Baltimore grand jury has charged all six police officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray.  State Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced the revised charges yesterday, but the most serious charges – including second-degree murder – remained.

In case you forgot already, Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury in police custody in April and died a week later.  His death sparked weeks of protests and later riots and looting in Baltimore.

There was a lot of criticism of Mosby when she brought her initial charges a few weeks ago — even calls for an independent prosecutor.  But now that the grand jury has returned an indictment which is pretty close to what she called for, the criticism will probably go away.

What is gone from the previous charges are the charges of false imprisonment.  And now we have a string of “reckless endangerment” charges.  All in all, these are probably better charges.  The breakdown:

  • Officer Caesar Goodson: 2nd-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, 2nd degree negligent assault, manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence, misconduct in office for failure to secure prisoner and failure to render aid, reckless endangerment
  • Officer William Porter: Involuntary manslaughter, assault in the 2nd degree, misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Lieutenant Brian Rice: Involuntary manslaughter, assault in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd degree [second of two similar charges], misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Officer Edward Nero: Assault in the 2nd degree (intentional), assault in the 2nd degree (negligent), misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Sergeant Alicia White: Involuntary manslaughter, 2nd degree assault, misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Officer Garrett Miller: Intentional Assault in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd degree, negligent misconduct in office, reckless endangerment

This Can’t Possibly Be A Thing

The Wall Street Journal:

A budget advanced by Kansas legislators would eliminate funding for state courts if a judge strikes down a controversial law passed last year.

Republican senators and representatives agreed Monday on a two-year judicial budget that would self-destruct if any court blocks or overturns a 2014 law that stripped the Kansas Supreme Court of some administrative authority, giving local courts control over their own budgets and leadership.

A lawsuit pending in Shawnee County District Court, in northeastern Kansas, says the 2014 law violates the Kansas Constitution. The bill approved Monday says that if the law is “stayed or is held to be invalid or unconstitutional,” the other provisions including funding for the courts, “are hereby declared to be null and void.”

The legislation provides for $208 million for fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017 combined and is expected to pass in the Republican-controlled legislature as early as this week. A spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, declined to comment.

So basically, the GOP-dominated Kansas state legislature is saying to the Kansas Supreme Court, “If you don’t decide the case the way we want you to, we will defund you.”

That’s a SERIOUS threat to checks and balances.  Let’s hope this doesn’t spread to other states…..

Vagina Clown Car Family Has A Creepy Clown

I was writing about the Duggars (often misspelling their name) before the got their own TV show — see here, here, and here.  Oh, and here.  Then, with 19 kids and a TV show, they became some sort of major Christian conservative politico-cultural franchise, and I stopped caring.

Now comes the sad news, as it must to many major Christian conservative politico-cultural franchises

Josh Duggar, the reality TV star and conservative activist, resigned from his position at the Family Research Council on Thursday after reports surfaced that he had molested underage girls as a teenager. The 27-year-old is the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, whose family is the subject of the TLC show “19 Kids and Counting.”

I will attempt to act surprised. Of course, the real crime is often the coverup.  Here’s the rest of the story:

Jim Bob Duggar waited more than a year after his son, Josh, confessed to sexually molesting several female minors before contacting police, In Touch Magazine is reporting exclusively, based on information contained in the official police report.

What’s more, Jim Bob informed the elders of his church about Joshua’s actions and they waited three months before contacting authorities. The explosive new information is contained in a Springdale, Ark., police report obtained by In Touch magazine.

The report has been hidden since 2006 and was just obtained by the mag through a Freedom of information Act request. Jim Bob also refused to allow police to interview Josh when they opened a felony investigation in 2006. The Duggars star on TLC’s hit show 19 Kids and Counting.

In Touch magazine first broke the news of the Duggars’ underage sexual molestation scandal in this week’s magazine. (Note: Josh’s name is redacted from the police report but In Touch has confirmed the passages that refer to him.)

Other bombshells in the police report are: Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were interview by the Springdale Police department on Dec. 12, 2006. The report says that James told police he was alerted in March, 2002 by a female minor that Josh — who turned 14-years-old that month — had been touching her breasts and genitals while she slept. This allegedly happened on multiple occasions. In 2006, Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined (redacted, Josh) after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.

Jim Bob told police that about nine months later in March, 2003 “there was another incident.” Josh was again accused by a female minor of touching her breasts and genitals. Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals, often when they slept, but at times when they were awake.

Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003.”

He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.

Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, “it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said “kind of.”

The Duggars told police that Josh “apologized” to the female minors and that they had “forgiven” him.

An alleged victim told police in 2006 that Josh had told “mother and dad what had happened… (and) asked for forgiveness.” The report notes the alleged victim says Josh “sought after God and had turned back to God.

Jim Bob told police that “several members of their church were aware of the situation and had been supportive of the family.”

.I need a shower.

UPDATE: Here’s a blast from the past from Mommy Michelle Duggar:

 

Liberals = Conservatives

Finally.

Starting with Rush Limbaugh in the 1980’s (and helped by Reagan), the word “liberal” was viewed as a dirty word,  because being a liberal was viewed as being, well, a communist or something.

The damage to both the word and ideology was profound, and even liberals had a hard time self-identifying as “liberal” (hence, the word “progressive”).  I knew it wouldn’t last forever, though.  Eventually, the older generation would die out and a newer one – one not raise on Limbaugh and Beck – would come in.

We’re there.  Gallup has new numbers today:

Thirty-one percent of Americans describe their views on social issues as generally liberal, matching the percentage who identify as social conservatives for the first time in Gallup records dating back to 1999.

And check out this chart…..

libconsev

 

And notice the uptick in Democrats willing to admit being liberal.  The chart below is just Democrats…

demlibs

And Republicans are LESS willing to admit being conservative.  The chart below is just Republicans…

repcon

Gallup concludes:

Americans’ growing social liberalism is evident not only in how they describe their views on social issues but also in changes in specific attitudes, such as increased support for same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana. These longer-term trends may be attributable to changing attitudes among Americans of all ages, but they also may be a result of population changes, with younger, more liberal Americans entering adulthood while older, more conservative adults pass on. Gallup found evidence that population replacement is a factor in explaining changes in overall ideology using an analysis of birth cohorts over time.

The 2016 presidential election will thus be contested in a more socially liberal electorate — and a less economically conservative one — than was true of prior elections. Economically and socially conservative candidates may still appeal to the Republican Party base in the primaries, but it may be more important now than in the past for the GOP nominee to be a bit less conservative on social issues in order to appeal to the broader general electorate.

And while Americans are less economically conservative than in the past, economic conservatives still outnumber economic liberals by about 2-to-1. As a result, Democrats must be careful not to nominate a candidate who is viewed as too liberal on economic matters if their party hopes to hold the White House beyond 2016.

You can recast the actors, you can take it on tour – but a bad play will stay a bad play.

New Study Shows One-In-Five Women Sexually Assaulted On Campus

A new study published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health finds that almost one-in-five women experience sexual assault ion college.  The study, titled “Incapacitated and Forcible Rape of College Women: Prevalence Across the First Year,” which focused on first-year female students at one New York college, attempted to measure how frequently rape or attempted rape occurred by having female students fill out surveys throughout their freshman year.  I have attached the study below.

Of the 483 women who completed the questionnaires, 18.6 percent reported instances of attempted rape. Incidences of rape were significantly higher when alcohol or drugs were involved.

This isn’t the first study to give the 20% figure (or thereabouts)…. it is just another data point in the long debate.  The well-known “one in five” studies were not intended to be national data; neither does this study.

And yes, as with all studies like this, there comes a caveat.  Jesse Singal of the Science of Us blog writes:

It turns out it’s really, really hard to measure the frequency of sexual assault in any given setting. All the usual problems familiar to survey researchers and pollsters — among them the ease with which different people can interpret the same question differently, and people’s natural inclination to hide things they feel ashamed of or traumatized by — are compounded when the subject is rape.

This explains why some studies find a “one-in-five” result, while others place it closer to 0.6% (Read here for more on the subject of dueling data rates).  The study below is one attempt to pluck out some bias.

First of all, to help reduce the potential for bias in the respondent pool, the study was “buried” in a survey about general health.

Secondly, the researchers broke out their results into multiple categories of rape and were careful to separate out victims who were “only” groped from those who were actually raped, or who escaped an attempted actual rape.  They also broke into categories of incapacitated rape, or IR, which involves instances in which “alcohol or other drugs [were] used,” while forcible rape, or FR, deals with rapes in which the victim was physically overpowered.  As expected, IR was more common than FR.

But with all that in mind, the fact remains that sexual violence on college campuses is a persistent problem. For decades, conservatives have resisted calls for campuses to better protect women by dismissing the issue as overblown. Certainly, the fallout over Rolling Stone‘s botched campus rape investigation only fuels detractors willing to dismiss this problem.  But studies like the one published by the Journal of Adolescent Health to provide solid data should help legitimize the problem so that potential assaults might be avoided.

Another finding: the study found that women who had a precollege history of sexual assault were more likely to experience revictimization in college, particularly IR (incapacitated rape, both attempted and complete).  The study suggest that programs for women may be needed to address repeated victimization (as well as, of course, general sexual assault awareness programs for both men and women).

Talk About Self-Loathing

Did you hear the one about the anti-gay pastor who told a gay teen that he should kill himself?  Yup.  Until very recently, he was an associate pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Midland, Michigan.  The church bio described him as a man “blessed” with a wife and five children.  He had a gay teen parishoner. He told the kid that since the gay means that the kid would end up in hell, so he should commit suicide.  And he said on social media that the kid’s mother that she shouldn’t support the gay kid anymore.

You know what else the pastor said on social media?  “I love making out naked, oral and massage. And I top. Also love to cuddle”.  That was on Queerty.

Read the whole thing.

 

Obama Tweets — Part II

Or, I suppose, I could have named this post “Remember: According To Conservatives, There’s No More Racism In The United States — Part II”

Judging from some of the unbelievable tweets made to him, a lot of people are either really stupid or simply don’t care about possible repercussions their names being taken.

Clearly, respecting the dignity of the office and the person that is the President of the United States is also not really high on some people’s list.

Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post reacts to the racism on Obama’s twitter feed:

There are moments when I come thisclose to quitting Twitter. The amount of hatred squeezed into 140 characters or less by lunatics usually cloaked in anonymity is enough to make you question your support for the First Amendment and your faith in the decency of other people.

Best Top Ten ever. #ThanksDave

So Long, Dave

It began one day with this announcement by Larry “Bud” Melman:

“Good evening. Certain NBC executives feel it would be a little unkind to present this show without a word of friendly warning,… We are about to unfold a show featuring David Letterman, a man of science who sought to create a show after his own image without reckoning upon God. It’s one of the strangest tales ever told. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So if any of you feel that you don’t care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now is your chance to . . . Well, we warned you.”

People under a certain age won’t know this, but there exists a clear “before Dave” and a clear “after Dave” to television history.  David Letterman was the first to come along and be anti-Hollywood — to show everyone the pomposity and silliness of celebrity and fad.  It was subversive — not in a way that Saturday Night Live was (then only a few years old) if only because he did dumb stuff and he knew he was doing dumb stuff and it was fun and unpolished.  Being unpolished and, well, real, is what separated David Letterman from, say, Johnny Carson and his written-by-a-team-of-writers monologues (Sure, Dave did monologues too, but he did them in a “here’s the dumb monologue part of the show because it’s what you’re supposed to do” kind of way.

Don’t kid yourself.  Leno got his demeanor from watching Letterman.  So did Conan, and the current crop of late night talk show hosts.  The “celebrities are real people” and “show business is actually pretty silly” thing was David’s, first and foremost.

But you never really realized how subversive Dave was because he had that midwestern look and demeanor — the gapped teeth and all.  Plus, he was disarmingly self-deprecating while being smug about pop culture. (To be fair, Letterman’s show came in a smog era — the early 80’s — a time of Reagan and Alex P. Keaton).  A lot of people didn’t get him at first — Cher notoriously thought he was an “asshole” and said so on live television — but she didn’t understand that Dave was parboiling self-obsession, the very thing that personified Cher (back then).  But even she has come to realize what Dave was and is about.

I love what the Rude Pundit has written:

For me, the moment I knew that Letterman was on my wavelength happened during Letterman’s brief stint as a morning talk show host. If I’m recalling it right, Letterman was sitting at his desk, talking, when a mannequin fell from above and onto the desk, like a dead man had just dropped from above. It was startling, hilarious, and completely out of place. I remember thinking, “Oh, the old people sitting at home watching this are gonna be confused.” And that was it.

The stunts on Late Night were Letterman’s way of calling “bullshit” on the old paradigms of television, of pop culture itself. “This is dumb, right?” he was saying (sometimes actually saying). “So let’s do dumb stuff.” But that dumb stuff was a specific critique of the way in which the older generation revered their rigid formats and identities. You couldn’t call Letterman’s stunts “stupid” because he already did. But, damn, wasn’t it funny? And wasn’t that reason enough to drop things off of 5-story building? That bit, which morphed into crushing things under a steamroller or in a hydraulic press, showed us that things don’t need a reason or logic. Against the divisive gender, racial, and class roles the Reagan administration presented, against the rising religious right, which was attacking music, film, and TV with a renewed vigor that hearkened to the 1950s, Letterman tossed two six-packs, light beer and regular beer, as a reenactment of Galileo’s experiments with gravity, off that building.

But the thing that I thought was most fascinating was Letterman’s celebration of not just the average American, but of the weirdness of America. “Stupid Pet Tricks” and “Stupid Human Tricks” were more than gimmicks. They were honestly, forthrightly celebratory of the things people do to occupy their time. Letterman’s devotion to the quotidian was always on display. He began hosting the annual champion grocery bagger for a showdown with him, since he had bagged groceries as a teenager. Of course, the first thing you thought was “There’s a grocery bagging championship?” And then you got into the competition. If you were weaned on Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, and Johnny Carson, that was an incredible thing for a TV host to do: to get in the trenches in a serious, not jokey, way with everyday people.

This extended even more to the guests he would bring on with regularity. The misanthropic comic book writer Harvey Pekar appeared numerous times just to be taunted by Letterman into poetic heights of rage. The bizarro stand-up comic Brother Theodore was also a regular, with Letterman pushing him to the edge with a nearly villainous antagonism. This isn’t even to get into Andy Kaufman; he and Letterman used each other to create media firestorms long before Jimmy Kimmel ever made a viral video that turned out to be fake. Regular Larry “Bud” Melman was like a character out of Glengarry Glen Ross forced to do pitches on a street corner.

Even more to the point, Letterman was not above screwing with his corporate masters. While you might know him for needling CBS and Les Moonves, watch Letterman try to deliver a fruit basket to GE headquarters when that company bought NBC. Imagine a good-natured Michael Moore nearly getting beaten by a pissed-off security guard. It said everything you could want about the soulless center of capitalism. (Pekar would make Letterman cringe in an appearance attacking GE shortly after.)

And it can’t go without saying that in those early years Letterman’s head writer was Merrill Markoe and that having a female head writer was an extraordinary, embarrassing rarity then (and it hasn’t changed a whole lot since then). Markoe helped invent Letterman’s schtick: “What we were also consciously aware of was a dislike for the standard kind of closed-club superficial show business demeanor that had dominated the entertainment of the generation before us,” she said recently about Late Night. “So what you might say we did was open the door and invite the rest of the world in.”

Writing this, I keep remembering things that I loved from early Letterman: “Small Town News,” Jay Leno’s appearances where Dave would start each sit-down with “What’s your beef?”, musical performances from bands like X to annual appearances by Darlene Love to sing, “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home),” cameras on monkeys and dogs, the 360 degree episode, the episode where Letterman broadcast from home because he was waiting for the cable company to show up, the times when Letterman honestly disliked a guest and didn’t care if they knew it.

***

In its absurdist way, Late Night showed us that we don’t need to abide by the old ways of doing things, that the act of dropping a beautifully decorated wedding cake off a building just to see what happens is its own kind of subversion. Letterman would become more specifically political later in his CBS show, but to those of us who were feeling broken by the cultural and social oppressiveness of the Reagan era and didn’t have access to the music scene in L.A. or the performance art scene in New York City, Letterman was sticking it to the man for us.

Dave gives his last broadcast tonight and like most of America, I’ll be watching.  We’ve forgotten all the silly scandals, and remember him as a classy dumb guy.  Here’s a “best of….”

And Letterman’s first post-9/11 broadcast:

Going door to door with Siskel and Ebert:

Shooting The Mentally Ill

I’ve written about this before — the propensity of the police to open fire on people they know to be mentally ill.  Like their current problem with minorities, members of law enforcement seem to have a problem with showing restraint when it comes to the mentally ill.

Earlier this week, the US Supreme Court had occasion to address this issue, and sadly, the results were not what mental health advocates were hoping for.

Teresa Sheehan suffered from a mental illness and lived in a San Francisco group home. After Sheehan threatened her social worker when he attempted to perform a welfare check, he became concerned that she was a danger to herself or others and summoned the police for help transporting her to a mental health facility for a 72-hour involuntary commitment. When the police officers arrived, they entered Sheehan’s room without a warrant to take her into custody. Sheehan grabbed a knife and threatened to kill the officers. They were forced to withdraw outside her room and call for backup, but instead of waiting for the backup to arrive, they drew their weapons and forced their way back into her room. When Sheehan again threatened the officers with a knife, they shot her several times.

Sheehan sued the officers and the city for violations of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and Sheehan appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that there were triable issues of material fact regarding whether the officers’ second entry into Sheehan’s room was reasonable under the circumstances and whether the officers failed to reasonably accommodate Sheehan’s disability as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The US Supreme Court was asked to determine two things:

(1) Did the officers violate a clearly established right under the Fourth Amendment when they forced entry into Sheehan’s room the second time?

(2) Does the Americans with Disabilities Act require law enforcement officers to provide accommodations to an armed, violent and mentally ill suspect when attempting to take that suspect into custody?

The Supreme Court ruled “no” to the first question and didn’t reach the second one.  The ruling was 6-2, with Scalia and Kagen dissenting on procedural grounds (that is, even though they dissented, they still didn’t agree with the Sheehan’s claim).

My opinion: when you read the facts of the case, you see that the police were in a precarious position.  Obviously, they had to do something, and the longer they waited, the more this woman was a risk to herself and others.  I just have an issue with shooting her.

And the problem isn’t a legal one or a political — the solution lies with proper police training.

As I have written before, police need to adopt what is known as the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) model of dealing with the mentally ill.  It is a 40-hour curriculum — one of the most comprehensive police officer mental health training program in the country. According to Laura Usher, CIT program manager at NAMI headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, there are crisis intervention training programs in 45 states as well as the District of Columbia. (States without programs are Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, and Rhode Island.)

While there are multiple CIT programs within some counties, many states are barely on the map in terms of the number of counties within each state that have programs. Most states only have CIT programs in only one or two counties.

Most law enforcement agencies can’t afford to train everyone.  They’d have to pay someone else overtime, and that can be a big expense.  As a result, many police departments prefer to train only a few specialized officers to deal with crisis issues, rather than making mental health training mandatory.

You can read more about it here.  The Supreme Court opinion is below the fold….

Bin Laden’s Bookshelf

Some interesting… well, not interesting interesting, but interesting…. materials were released by the Director of National Intelligence this morning.  It is all accessible on the interwebs, on a government site: Bin Laden’s Bookshelves.

I suspect he didn’t read a lot of the English language books, like the Adobe manual.  Here’s something recently declassified and translated into English — bin Laden’s concerns about climate change:

Obama Tweets!

So this happened…

Former White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer thinks this is big news….

I think Mr. Pfeiffer is right. However, I expect that future Presidents, even Obama, will not be doing the actual twittering. That will be press staff stuff. Anyway, then this happened….

President Obama broke the Guinness world record for the “fastest time to reach 1 million followers on Twitter.”  The account reached 1 million followers within five hours of its launch, according to Guinness World Records. The record was previously held by actor Robert Downey Jr., who reached 1 million followers in a little less than 24 hours after joining Twitter in April 2014.

This awesome time-lapse graphic from Twitter shows just how quickly the president amassed followers from around the world.

Or you can look at this…

rate-chart-02-01-1940x1091

As of this writing (2015/05/20-10:30amEST), Obama has 2.18 million followers.

Crosstabulation on Crazy

Democratic firm Public Policy Polling released a survey that found 32 percent of Republican primary voters believed the government was trying to take over Texas under the guise of the U.S. military’s planned “Jade Helm 15” training exercise. Forty percent of GOP primary voters did not believe the federal government was trying to take control of the Lone Star state while 28 percent were unsure, according to the survey.

Before you have time to contemplate the horror that only 40% of voting Republicans reject the conspiracy theory of a military takeover of Texas…. let’s crosstabulate that data with the GOP candidates to find out who the crazies gravitate to:

crazies

It looks like Scott Walker is far and away the favorite of the nutjobs, although he polls well with the reasonable Republicans.  Ted Cruz seems to have the largest insane-to-sane ratio, as does Rick Perry (although the latter polls pretty low all around).  It would be nice if Fiorina was in the picture, but oh well.

Response To Amtrak Train Crash: Let’s Gut Amtrak

TrainCrash-816x511On Tuesday, an Amtrak train — the Northeast Regional train, No. 188 — was traveling from Washington to New York when it derailed around 9:30 p.m., just outside Philly. The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed that the train was traveling at more than 100 miles an hour or twice the speed limit in that part of the corridor.  More than 200 people, including eight now in critical condition, were taken to hospitals, officials said.  Seven are dead, including a college dean at Medgar Evers College, and officials have not accounted for everyone on board.

Naturally, early focus is on the 32 year old engineer, who was slightly injured and has not spoken to the NTSB yet.  According to the engineer’s attorney (yes, he’s lawyered up), his client has no recollection of the accident.

But let’s move off the engineer and note that technology that could have remotely slowed the train, which the president of Amtrak has called “the most important rail safety advancement of our time,” has been installed on much of the Northeast Corridor, but not the section where the train derailed — and if some in the Senate have their way, it may not be in place for another five years.

For decades, the National Transportation Safety Board has urged the the nation’s railroads to implement a technology called positive train control systems (PTC). This technology would allow railroads to use GPS to stop or slow trains in cases of driver emergencies, switches left in the wrong position, hijacking, natural disasters, or other human error. In 2008, Congress enacted the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which required the nation’s busiest railroad operators to have these technologies fully in place by December 2015.

Knowing all that, the House decided it was a good time to… wait for it…. cut our infrastructure spending:

A House panel approved a measure Wednesday that cuts funding for Amtrak, less than a day after a train derailment left at least seven people dead and many more injured.

The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee voted 30-21 to reduce grants to Amtrak by $252 million — a drop of about 15% from last year’s level. The cut would apply only to Amtrak’s capital spending and wouldn’t touch funding levels for safety and operations. The measure still needs to clear the full House and Senate before it would go into effect in October.

Democrats on the panel fought unsuccessfully to boost Amtrak funding by $1 billion, to $2.4 billion. But Republicans argued that such a spending increase would need to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, and they admonished Democrats for pointing to the derailment in an effort to increase funding for the passenger rail service.

“Don’t use this tragedy in that way. It was beneath you,” Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said to Democrats.

 

RT @TPM: Fox host calls Bill Clinton’s involvement in Hillary’s campaign a “train wreck,” compares it to #Amtrak188 crash. http://t.co/fTQ9…

RT @pattonoswalt: Man in squirrel costume: One ticket for MAD MAX: FURRY ROAD, please!

What?

Oh.

…okay.

*cue Vince Guaraldi piano*

All Hail The Fastest Growing Religion In The United States

Eight years ago, more Americans considered themselves “Evangelical Protestant” than any other religion — a full 26.3%.  Next was Catholic (23.9%) and then “Mainline Protestant” (18.1%) in third.

Today, Evangelical Protestant is still Numero Religion Uno, although its adherents have dropped to 25.4%.  And in second?

An upstart.  The number two religion in the U.S. is now “NONE”.  It jumped up 6.7% in the past eight years — now at 22.8%

From Pew Survey:

PF_15.05.05_RLS2_1_310pxThe Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

I’m sure someone will view this as an evidence of an “attack on Christianity”, although it is hard to say exactly who is doing the attacking.

Maybe the United State has finally gone the way of Europe.  Finally.  We no longer believe in myths and fairy tales.

Read the whole thing

Obama Administration Approves Arctic Drilling

The Obama Administration has now approved drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The concession was given to Royal Dutch Shell and the approval came from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) with a five page stipulation regarding protecting wildlife, the ocean, and human inhabitants of the area.

You may want to think, “well, okay — at least they are protecting the wildlife up there.  As an environmentalist, I’m okay now.”

Sure, but…. but no:

Green groups have been working on various fronts to block Shell’s drilling plan, saying the unique, treacherous conditions of the Arctic make drilling too risky. They also argue that Shell has a poor track record in the area.

“Once again, our government has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth,” Susan Murray, deputy vice president for the Pacific at the group Oceana, said in a statement.

“Shell has not shown that it is prepared to operate responsibly in the Arctic Ocean, and neither the company nor our government has been willing to fully and fairly evaluate the risks of Shell’s proposal,” she added.

“We can’t trust Shell with America’s Arctic,” added Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.

“As we all remember, Shell’s mishaps in 2012 culminated with its drilling rig running aground near Sitkalidak Island, Alaska. Events such as these demonstrated to the nation that drilling in the Arctic is reckless and irresponsible and that no oil company should develop there,” she said.

The remoteness of the location also means if Shell runs into any problems – say an oil spill or emergency malfunction – it will take considerable time for adequate resources to arrive in the area. It is not an accident that it has taken this long to open up drilling in the Arctic, the terrain is exceedingly difficult and hard to navigate.

Oil drilling in risky areas where access to oil leaks is difficult.  What could go wrong, right?  Besides, when they say nothing can go wrong in Alaska when it comes to oil, they know what they’re talking about.

I Feel Bad For The Guy, But….

There are many angles about the story I am about to convey.

One might say it is a story about a guy out on his luck.  Another might say it is a story about the crappy healthcare system we have.  Or maybe it is about how Republicans talk about personal responsibility but then complain when they don’t get government handouts when they want it.  For me though, this is a story about a guy so entrenched in his Obama hatred that he screwed himself over (and yet he still blames Obama).  Anyway, you be the judge. From the Charlotte Observer:

Lang, a 49-year-old resident of Fort Mill, S.C., has bleeding in his eyes and a partially detached retina caused by diabetes.

“He will lose his eyesight if he doesn’t get care. He will go blind,” said Dr. Malcolm Edwards, the Lancaster, S.C., ophthalmologist who examined Lang.

Lang is a self-employed handyman who works with banks and the federal government on maintaining foreclosed properties. He has done well enough that his wife, Mary, hasn’t had to work. They live in a 3,300-square-foot home in the Legacy Park subdivision valued at more than $300,000.

But he has never bought insurance. Instead, he says, he prided himself on paying his own medical bills.

That worked while he and his wife were relatively healthy. But after 10 days of an unrelenting headache, Lang went to the emergency room on Feb. 25. He says he was told he’d suffered several mini-strokes. He ran up $9,000 in bills and exhausted his savings. Meanwhile, his vision worsened and he can’t work, he says.

That’s when he turned to the Affordable Care Act exchange. Lang learned two things: First, 2015 enrollment had closed earlier that month. And second, because his income has dried up, he earns too little to get a federal subsidy to buy a private policy.

Lang, a Republican, says he knew the act required him to get coverage but he chose not to do so. But he thought help would be available in an emergency. He and his wife blame President Obama and Congressional Democrats for passing a complex and flawed bill.

Since Lang now has no income, he should be eligible for the ACA’s expanded Medicaid coverage, for which the federal government picks up tab. But Lang lives in Fort Mill, South Carolina. And South Carolina refused to accept Medicaid expansion. So he’s out of luck on that front too.

He now has a gofundme page to help raise some money for his medical expenses.

Okay.

That’s the story.  Now, he and his wife have decided to lay blame at ACA’s feet, so let’s play the blame game:

Let’s go through this point by point:

(1) Lang broke the law by refusing to get health insurance coverage because he prided himself on being able to pay his bills out of pocket.  ACA’s fault?  Verdict: No.

(2) He lost the health lottery and got sick.  That’s when he realized he actually had too little savings to cover even relatively small health care bills.  ACA’s fault?  Verdict: No

(3) By now open enrollment has closed. But he figured he’d be able to buy in if he got in a jam or wait till he got sick to buy coverage. Luckily the ACA’s Medicaid expansion covers him regardless. But the state of South Carolina refused to accept Medicaid expansion even though the federal government would pay for it. ACA’s fault?  Verdict: No (The US Supreme Court ruled that it could not be made compulsory on states to accept the Medicaid expansion, i.e., states had to opt in.  Most states did choose to opt in but the Republican legislature and governor of South Carolina said “no”.).

When all is said and done, Lang is left in precisely the situation that would exist if the ACA (aka Obamacare) had never been passed. So he blames… Obama?  It takes quite a lot of chutzpah to blame the Affordable Care Act for not covering him when he disdains government programs and never carried health insurance in the first place. If he thinks he should be covered now then he’s really asking for single payer, which he would probably call “socialist”.  Lang’s case shows the exceptional power of myths reinforced by Fox News-like partisanship and ideology.

Allen West: Anti-Sharia Law Crusader

Former congressman and Fox News contributor Allen West went to Walmart and thought he was the victim of “Sharia law”.  Let’s hear what happened in his own words from his own blog in a post that was originally titled “Sharia Law Comes To Walmart” (ominous music):

My daughter Aubrey and I arrived in Dallas and our home in Woodbridge on Sunday morning. We had departed from Palm Beach Gardens Saturday evening after we watched Austen head off for her senior prom — a doggone big deal, dads!

Back in Dallas, after we unloaded the U-Haul, Aubrey, a very organized young lady, began the initial arranging of her room. And then came the request — “Dad, I know you haven’t been eating well here, so we need to go grocery shopping.” Dang it! This is what happens when your daughter is pursuing a Masters in Molecular/Cellular Biology. So we were off to the local Walmart Superstore just up the road. We gathered up her desired foodstuffs and headed to the checkout — and then this happened.

The line was really long and they only had 3 checkout stations open?  Cuz that’s what happens to me sometimes and — doggone it — it really steams me.

There was a young man doing the checkout and another Walmart employee came over and put up a sign, “No alcohol products in this lane.” So being the inquisitive fella I am, I used my additional set of eyes — glasses — to see the young checkout man’s name. Let me just say it was NOT “Steve.”

Allen, it’s okay to say the person’s first name.  Having a Muslim-sounding first name isn’t a bad thing.

I pointed the sign out to Aubrey and her response was a simple question, how is it that this Muslim employee could refuse service to customers based on his religious beliefs, but Christians are being forced to participate in specific events contrary to their religious beliefs?

Boy howdy, that is one astute young lady.

Imagine that, this employee at Walmart refused to just scan a bottle or container of an alcoholic beverage — and that is acceptable. A Christian business owner declines to participate or provide service to a specific event — a gay wedding — which contradicts their faith, and the State crushes them.

Boy howdy, is she astute enough to know that her dad talks like a hick?

But let’s turn to the issue at hand… you know, it does seem like a contradiction.  Hmmmm….. I wonder if there is some other reason why this “young man” could not sell you alcohol…..

Anyway, Allen uses the incident as a launching point to discuss how Muslims have an “anger management issue” and how the left is cowardly, and that’s why sharia law is creeping into our land everywhere…. like Walmart.  He then goes on to rail about some Iraqi Christian nun named Diana Momeka who was denied a US visa (except that she wasn’t denied a visa after all, but Allen didn’t realize that).

But I’ve passed over the best part — planted right in the middle of the post right after Allen’s enchanting Walmart-Sharia story:

EDITOR’S UPDATE: We spoke to the Walmart store, and apparently employees under 21 years old are prohibited from selling cigarettes and alcohol. However, that isn’t to say Walmart isn’t selectively caving to Muslim demands…

So…. basically, the underage Walmart employee couldn’t sell alcohol because he was underage, not because he was Muslim.  Underage selling of alcohol is prohibited in virtually every state in the Union.

So this means that Allen West was the victim of….. American law (ominous music) that has been around for decades.

Good Jobs Numbers Again

The Republicans will say it is because of the GOP presidential race contenders, not Obama’s economic policies:

U.S. job growth rebounded last month and the unemployment rate dropped to a near seven-year low of 5.4 percent, signs of a pick-up in economic momentum that could keep the Federal Reserve on track to hike interest rates this year.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 223,000 as gains in services sector jobs offset weakness in mining, the Labor Department said on Friday. The one-tenth of a percentage point decline in the unemployment rate to its lowest level since May 2008 came even as more people piled into the labor market.

Unemployment among African-Americans dropped from 10.1% to 8.7%, the first time it has been under 10% since mid-2008.