Monthly Archives: June 2015

North Carolina Is Shark Central


Number of shark attacks in NC waters 2004-2014: 25 (average of 2.5 every year)
Number of shark attacks in NC water this year: 4 so far (and it isn’t even July yet)


“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” says George H. Burgess, the director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Burgess says across the United States overall, shark attacks are on pace with an average year, and the chance of getting bit is still very low—an estimated one in 11.5 million for an ocean bather. But, he adds, “clearly, something is going on in North Carolina right now.”

In a nutshell, several factors combine to explain what is going on:

1.  The water is warmer this year.  Actually, the water got warmer earlier this year, drawing both sharks and beachgoers to the ocean.  Some of the blame may be attributed to global warming, but not significantly if at all.

2.  The water is saltier.  North Carolina had a drought, meaning less rainwater flowing into the ocean.  That makes the water saltier, which sharks prefer.

3.  More food.  An abundance of menhaden and other bait (including people) make the NC coast a high-target environment.

4.  Fishing near swimmers.  Fish bait is shark bait.  Sharks go where the food is, and if it is near swimmers, sharks think swimmers are food.

I’m going to the Carolina coast end of August.  Hopefully, they will be done with their gorging.

Kennedy’s Majority Opinion In The Same-Sex Marriage Case Is Conservative, Outdated And A Bit Offensive

Check out this argument, which I agree with, and which is making the rounds in one form or another:

The immediate consequence — the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples in all 50 states — is a civil rights victory and a step toward the betterment of our people. But Kennedy’s argument, which is no elegant piece of law, reinforces misconceptions about nontraditional families. And with respect to marriage, he is as conservative as his dissenting colleagues. All that divides them is who gets to say “I do.”

Kennedy’s descriptions of marriage as “a keystone of the nation’s social order” and “essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations” are flatulent exercises of cultural atavism. At a time when divorce is routine and fewer people marry or wait longer to do so because marriage is necessary neither for love nor family, sex nor companionship, his claims on behalf a “two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals” are more fitting of a $2.99 Hallmark card than of Supreme Court jurisprudence.

These “mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages,” as Justice Antonin Scalia calls them, are not the extent of Kennedy’s conservatism. He also affirms the devaluation of unmarried people, particularly those with children. “Without the recognition, stability and predictability marriage offers … children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,” he writes. “They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life.”

But this is not a brief on behalf of extending marriage rights and benefits to same-sex couples. It is, rather, an argument for providing benefits to all families, even those that lack a married couple of any sexual orientation. That means single-parent families, couples who choose for whatever reason not to marry, families comprising parents and adult children who live with them, other blood relatives who live together and every other conceivable arrangement of people whose economic and emotional ties make them families in the substantive, if not juridical, sense.

Shorter version: Kennedy imagines that marriage is the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to sex, raising children, companionship, and love.  He is wrong on all those counts.  Marriage is merely an option that should be available to all who want it.

Insert Your Own Joke About Christie And The Clown Car

There was a time when I honestly thought that Chris Christie posed the most serious threat to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.  He’s smart, dynamic, and occupies the center better than the firebrand tea partiers.  He showed a willingness to be… uh… what’s the word…. reasonable.

But then two things happened:

(1)  Bridgegate

(2)  Hurricane Sandy

You would think that a major scandal like Bridgegate would have hurt Christie’s chances with the GOP.  After all, he was once their darling.  But nope.  What ruined Christie for the GOP was Hurricane Sandy and Christie’s behavior — he committed the unpardonable sin of not spitting on Obama.  Instead, as I wrote at the time, Christie did this:

Kudos to Republican governor Chris Christie.  “The president was great last night,” Christie said on FOX today. “He said he would get it done. At 2 a.m., I got a call fromFEMA to answer a couple of final questions and then he signed the declaration this morning. So I have to give the president great credit. He’s been on the phone with me three times in the last 24 hours. He’s been very attentive, and anything that I’ve asked for, he’s gotten to me. So, I thank the president publicly for that. He’s done — as far as I’m concerned — a great job for New Jersey.”

And THAT is what made him unpopular with the GOP.  Sad, really.

Anyway, Christie through his hat in the ring for the 2016 GOP nomination today.  He’s the 14th to declare.  And because he was nice to Obama back in October 2012, he’s dropped from a first tier to a third tier candidate.  And he was the only one I was worried about.

“God Don’t Like Ugly”

The boys were out over the weekend celebrating their heritage with Confederate flags flown from the backs of their pickup trucks.  All over the south.  A reporter in Asheville spoke with an eighteen year-old kid doing the same:

We were talking about the reaction he’s gotten flying the battle flag, and Billingsley said it’s been overwhelmingly positive — lots of honks, thumbs-up, and more than 600 likes on a Facebook page.

“I’ve only had one negative, and it was a colored looking at me,” Billingsley said. “He made it look racist, but it’s really him being racist by judging me for flying it.”

Congratulations, Fox News. Mission accomplished. Mr. “I know you are, but what am I?” is America’s future.

An ugly parade of confederate flags on pick-up trucks in Dalton Georgia gets some divine intervention…. or maybe the Billy Bobs are just stupid.

[Language Warning]:

They’re not going away, these yokel.  In fact, they’re gearing up.  You knew it was coming as soon as calls to remove Confederate battle flags caught fire across the South starting in Columbia, SC:

The Ku Klux Klan has been approved to hold a protest rally at the Statehouse next month against removing the Confederate battle flag, with the group calling accused mass murderer Dylann Roof a “young warrior.”

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan applied for the permit last week to hold a rally for 100 to 200 people on July 18 on the north side of the Statehouse.

Old habits die hard and all that.

Pastor Calls For Execution Of Gays

I know.  He’s fringe and we shouldn’t pay attention to fringe.  But I couldn’t resist:

Pastor Steven Anderson, of Faithful Word Baptist Church, called for stoning to death ministers who performed same-sex marriage ceremonies and repeated his call for the execution of all LGBT people.

“I hate them with a perfect hatred,” Anderson shouted. “I count them mine enemies.”

Yeah.  I call for the stoning of anyone who says “mine enemies” instead of “my enemies”.

Anderson said the Bible consistently called Christians to “have the guts to stand up to our culture that is now accepts homos.”

“Where’s the call to repentance?” Anderson said. “Where’s the hope, where’s the love and the grace? It isn’t there.”

Now that’s  how I like my irony served up.

Only Two Women Alive Who Were Born In The 19th Century

When Susannah Mushatt Jones and Emma Morano were born in 1899, there was not yet world war or penicillin, and electricity was still considered a marvel. The women are believed to be the last two in the world with birthdates in the 1800s.

Jones, who lives in New York, currently tops a list of supercentenarians, or people who have lived past 110, which is maintained by Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group. The organization tracks and maintains a database of the world’s longest-living people. Morano, of Verbania, Italy, is just a few months younger than Jones and is Europe’s oldest person, according to the group. The group knows of no others born in the 1800s.


8190581_GEmma Morano
Born: Nov. 29, 1899
Verbania, Italy

Morano has lived on her own ever since she left her husband in 1938 because he beat her. Now 115, she resides in a neat one-room apartment in Verbania, a mountain town overlooking Lake Major in northwest Italy. She is cared for by her village: The mayor gave her a TV set, her niece stops in twice a day and her adoring physician of more than 25 years checks up on her regularly.

Morano attributes her longevity to her unusual diet: Three raw eggs a day (now two raw eggs and 150 grams of raw steak after a bout of anemia) – a diet she’s been on for decades after a sickly childhood.

“My father brought me to the doctor, and when he saw me he said, ‘Such a beautiful girl. If you had come just two days later, I would have not been able to save you.’ He told me to eat two or three eggs a day, so I eat two eggs a day.”


8190579_GSusannah Mushatt Jones
Born: July 6, 1899
New York

Now 115 years old, Jones spends her days in her one-bedroom apartment in a public housing facility for seniors in Brooklyn, where she has lived for more than three decades.

She sticks to a strict daily routine: Every morning she wakes up around 9 a.m., takes a bath and then eats several slices of bacon, scrambled eggs and grits. On a recent day, Jones said little, but family members said she spends her days reflecting on her life and embracing what’s left of it – one day at a time. Her living room walls are adorned with family photos and birthday cards made by children in the community.

“Hey, Tee,” Jones’ niece, Lois Judge, said to her aunt using a family nickname, “How old are you?”

“I don’t know,” the frail Jones responded.

Jones, who wears a yellow turban on her head and a nightgown most days, watches the world from a small recliner. Posters from past birthday parties, letters from local elected officials and a note from President Barack Obama fill the surfaces. A sign in the kitchen reads: “Bacon makes everything better.”

She was born in a small farm town near Montgomery, Alabama. She was one of 11 siblings and attended a special school for young black girls. When she graduated from high school in 1922, Jones worked full time helping family members pick crops. She left after a year to begin working as a nanny, heading north to New Jersey and eventually making her way to New York.

She will turn 116 next week. Family members plan to throw her a party.

What Digby Says: Ann Counter

A good article in Slate notes the fall of Ann Coulter and postulates why:

[New York magazine’s Anne] Lowrey thinks Coulter is pretty much an act that’s gone sour in the age of polarization and she may be right. She compares her to Donald Trump (who Coulter extols for his “immigrants are rapists” comments, which she believes he got from her) and there is a certain kind of scary-clown aspect to both of them. But I think it’s something else — she just isn’t all that shocking anymore. And the reason is that, after all these years — through which she and her fellow right-wing bomb throwers have been poisoning the discourse and polluting our politics with the most egregious dehumanization of just about everyone on the planet who doesn’t look and sound like them — nobody is listening anymore.

Today, Ann Coulter is just political white noise. Sure, she’ll sell her books to the small group of people who can’t get enough of her bilious humor and hatred but her days of being a mainstream pop culture phenomenon are over. Everybody’s heard it all before. There’s almost a whiff of noxious nostalgia about it now.

Read the whole thing

Boston: Up Close

This video may not seem remarkable at first….

Boston, U.S.A. from UrtheCast on Vimeo.

It’s Boston… and you can see Fenway Park and cars moving on Storrow Drive as well as I-40.

Here’s the astonishing, but creepy, thing about this: it was taken from space.  From a satellite.  You can see the Prudential Center and the Hancock Building appear to drift, leaning into their shadows as the camera vantage point changes in relation to the ground.

And it comes from a private company called UrtheCast (click the link above).  UrtheCast offers surveillance data as a service so that businesses can “monitor areas of interest with consistent access to satellite imagery in order to analyze, strategize, and plan,” according to its website. The famous example in the satellite business is the idea that companies will be able to count the cars in their parking lots to track customer flow, estimate revenue, and otherwise contextualize their work.

But it means that private companies can, if they wanted to, track your car movements. Good for homeland security and law enforcement, but kind of 1984ish in a way as well.  Not that a private company would single you out, but it could collect data on thousands of cars and once, and if they can be paired with the owner, then companies can track your real world movements just the same as they track your online movements.

Then again, maybe Google Earth is only a few years from this themselves.  And YOU can track anyone you want, anytime, anywhere.

Charlestown Shooter Was A Product Of The Left Wing: Fox News

Wow, this spin is laughable.

SCOTUS Round-up: Three More Five-To-Four Decisions Today

Today is the last day of the SCOTUS term, and so they issued the last of their opinions.  The two biggest cases — on Obamacare and sames-sex marriage — came out at the end of last week, so a lot fewer people were paying attention this morning.  Here’s what happened:

(1)  DEATH PENALTY – The 5-4 decision in Glossip v. Gross was a win for conservatives who support the death penalty and viewed the case’s technical dispute over one state’s lethal injection methods.  The Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma’s “drug cocktail” is not cruel and unusual punishment, despite the fact that it has resulted in some botched execution.  Scalia was especially snarky in his concurrence, starting with “Welcome to Groundhog Day” as he noted repeated attempts to abolish the death penalty for good.  He also said that those who seek abolition of the death penalty “reject the Enlightenment”.  (Odd!)

(2)  ENVIRONMENT – The Supreme Court in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency ruled 5-4 against EPA regulations to limit mercury emissions and other pollutants at power plants.  Substituting its judgment for the EPA’s the Supreme Court said the EPA’s decision to impose the regulations was not reasonable or necessary since it did not take into account the costs to utilities to make these changes.  Happy breathing, everybody!

CIrTeTxWEAEYP2U(3)  GERRYMANDERING – In a win for liberals (Kennedy siding with the liberal four), The Supreme Court in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission upheld Arizona congressional districts drawn by an independent commission and rejected a constitutional challenge from Republican lawmakers. The outcome preserves efforts in 13 states to limit partisan influence in redistricting. Most notably, California uses an independent commission to draw electoral boundaries for its largest-in-the-nation congressional delegation.

The Arizona case stemmed from voter approval of an independent commission in 2000. The legislature’s Republican leaders filed their lawsuit after the commission’s U.S. House map in 2012 produced four safe districts for Republicans, two for Democrats and made the other three seats competitive. Democrats won them all in 2012, but the Republicans recaptured one last year.

CIrN-hRWcAE46YlJustice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court that there is “no constitutional barrier to a state’s empowerment of its people by embracing that form of lawmaking.” In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts accused the majority of approving a “deliberate constitutional evasion.”  The justices have been unwilling to limit excessive partisanship in redistricting, known as gerrymandering. A gerrymander is a district that is intentionally drawn, and sometimes oddly shaped, to favor one political party.

Republicans employed an enormously successful strategy to take advantage of the 2010 census, first by winning state legislatures and then using that control to draw House districts to maximize their power. One measure of their success: In 2012, Republicans achieved a 33-seat majority in the House, even though GOP candidates as a group got 1.4 million fewer votes than their Democratic opponents.

Chief Justice got a little snippy by inserting “what chumps” into the opinion (see right).

UPDATE – LATE IN THE DAY 5-4 RULING is good for pro-choice advocates:

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday afternoon to put a hold on court rulings that have reduced the number of abortion clinics in Texas.

Four of the court’s conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — dissented.

A state law passed in 2013 required clinics providing abortion services to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and it required doctors providing the services to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Women’s groups asked the Supreme Court to put an emergency hold on the effect of the law while they prepare an appeal to challenge its constitutionality. They say the law, which takes effect Wednesday, would force all but nine abortion clinics in the state to close.

“Overall, there would be a net reduction in abortion facilities of more than 75% in a two-year period,” they argue in their court filings. And the clinics that remain open would find it hard to expand their services.

So for now, enforcement of the Texas law is on hold and will remain so until the court decides whether to hear the full appeal.

UPDATE – EVEN LATER IN THE DAY 5-4 RULING is good for pro-choice advocates in North Carolina:

RALEIGH — A federal appeals court must reconsider whether North Carolina can issue “Choose Life” license plates.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling last year that the state could not issue a license plate with an anti-abortion slogan unless it also issued a plate with the opposite point of view.

The order to rehear the case came after the justices ruled 5-4 last week that Texas could refuse to issue Confederate battle flag plates. In that ruling, the Supreme Court said plates are government property and don’t have to offer both sides of the debate.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued when lawmakers voted to offer the “Choose Life” plates in 2011. The appeals court said governments must offer both sides of the debate.

The ACLU said it was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling and again asked the North Carolina General Assembly to offer a plate with a message supporting abortion rights.

“This case has always been about more than specialty license plates; it asks whether the government should be allowed to provide a platform to one side of a controversial issue while silencing the other,” ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook said in a statement.

Bad Reactions

Helluva week last week.  Supreme Court rulings upholding Obamacare and recognizing same sex marriage as a right.  Obama sings at a funeral for slain pastor after he and others are killed by a white supremacist, and Confederate flags start coming down.  Good week for progressives.

They’re going nuts over at National Review Online.  The once austere magazine and website is looking more life something from the mind (ass?) of Glenn Beck.

National Review Online2

And more locally….

CHARLOTTE — A Wake County man has been charged with assault after police say he entered an LGBT bar, angrily criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and then slapped the owner.

The Charlotte Observer reports Mecklenburg County jail records show 21-year-old Lucas Dylan Wilhelmson, of Holly Springs, was charged with simple assault and with communicating threats in the incident which took place Sunday at The Bar at 316, which caters to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman Rob Tufano says Wilhelmson walked into the bar and started “calling out people using derogatory terms.” Tufano says after being asked to leave and escorted to the door, Wilhelmson began slapping the bar’s owner.

Wilhelmson was released on bail. It’s not clear if he has an attorney

Well, I guess you gotta expect this. But here’s the worst:  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement yesterday in which he argued that county clerks in Texas can refuse to issue marriage licenses if they have a religious objection to same-sex marriage, despite last week’s Supreme Court decision, to which he referred as a “fabricated” constitutional right granted by an “activist” court.

His statement began:

Friday, the United States Supreme Court again ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist. In so doing, the Court weakened itself and weakened the rule of law, but did nothing to weaken our resolve to protect religious liberty and return to democratic self-government in the face of judicial activists attempting to tell us how to live.

Wow.  “How to live?”  How did the Supreme Court tell anybody how to live?

They didn’t even try to tell people how to THINK!

Paston then goes on with a bunch of BS about religious objections, ignoring the fact that county clerks deal with divorce and other things which are religiously objectionable:

Texas must speak with one voice against this lawlessness, and act on multiple levels to further protect religious liberties for all Texans, but most immediately do anything we can to help our County Clerks and public officials who now are forced with defending their religious beliefs against the Court’s ruling.

For an attorney general to say that a Supreme Court ruling is “lawlessness” — well, you wonder why the people in that state feel as they do regarding the federal government.

The truth is that Paxton cannot do this.  If he wanted to, he could seek a rehearing from the Supreme Court on the issue.  He has 25 days to do this.  After that, it would be contempt of court every time a marriage license is denied.  Paxton probably knows this; he is probably grandstanding.  If not, this could become like Brown v Board of Education.  Will the National Guard be called in to make sure gay marriages can take place?

UPDATE:  This text exchange, however, is going viral.  A soon-to-be-wed man sends a message to a wedding photographer he retained:


End of Prison Break

CInoccpWIAAAJSgBack stories:  Prison Break and Richard Matt Shot

Well, it looks like they got the other guy.  The 22-day manhunt for David Sweat and Richard Matt ended Sunday when the fugitive was spotted just 2 miles from the Canadian border. He made it closer to Canada than Matt, who was found and killed Friday near Malone, New York.  Both men had signs of roughing it in the woods: Matt had bug bites on his legs and Sweat had a backpack stuffed with maps and Pop-Tarts.

New York State Police Sgt. Jay Cook spotted Sweat near a barn in the sleepy New York town of Constable. Sweat bolted, and the lone officer gave chase.

“At some point, running across a field, he realized that Sweat was going to make it to a tree line, and possibly could have disappeared, and he fired two shots,” New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico told reporters.  Sweat, who was unarmed, was struck twice in the torso. No one else was hurt.

Sweat is in critical but stable condition this morning.  Obviously, they’re going to interview him to find out how he got out, what the two of them did, etc.  But it is a pretty cool story.  Thousands of police involved in this manhunt, and in the end it was a lone police officer making his rounds that ended this thing.  Sweat was less than two miles from the Canadian border.

This will be a movie someday.


Unconfirmed [Now Confirmed] Reports Say Richard Matt, One Of Two Upstate NY Prison Escapees Has Been Shot


MALONE – Richard Matt has been shot and may be dead near Malone, a source has told The Buffalo News.

Tweets from the Plattsburgh Press Republican said that several trooper cars with lights flashing were headed west in Malone of Fayette Road about 4 p.m..

New York Times confirms:

Richard W. Matt, one of the convicted murderers who staged an elaborate escape from New York’s largest prison nearly three weeks ago, was shot on Friday in a burst of gunfire by law enforcement officers, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

The shots rang out as law enforcement officers zeroed in on Friday on an area of remote terrain in Franklin County, near where investigators discovered evidence in two hunting cabins that indicated the missing inmates had been there.

It marked another turn in a sprawling manhunt that began in Dannemora, N.Y., a small village near the Canadian border, and soon spread to large swaths of the state after David Sweat and Richard W. Matt engineered a daring breakout from Clinton Correctional Facility.

UPDATE:  New York Times now saying he’s dead.

UPDATE #2:  Police are “engaged” with second shooter.  (Is this a gay marriage thing?)

You Won’t See This In A President Again

President Obama, standing at a podium at the front of a large audience, and in front of black church members and Rev. Pinckney’s family, begins to sing “Amazing Grace” a capella, and the people in the room join him, then musicians begin to accompany him. After one verse, the President shouts the names of the victims, saying each of them “found that grace!” He then says: “Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May god continue to shed his grace on the United States of America.”

Watch this…..

This Says It All

Obama Derangement Syndrome:

Atlanta resident Ted Souris, 62, describes himself as an “arch-conservative” who initially opposed the health law. He said he had mixed feelings about the ruling. He receives what he calls “a pretty hefty subsidy” to buy insurance — he gets $460 and pays $115 a month for insurance.

“I’m so against Obama, and I hate that he has any kind of victory,” Souris said, “but it’s nice that I don’t have to worry” about affording health coverage.

He said that he doesn’t like getting what he calls “a government handout” but that the law — and the subsidy — allowed him to retire early and still have coverage. “I am glad I have the Affordable Care Act, and I appreciate that I got the subsidy.”

These people just hate.  Hate Obama.  Even when Obama does things that are good for them.

I’m not saying it is racism, but whatever it is, it is a very strange pathology.

Supreme Court Rules 5-4 To End The Sanctity Of Marriage

46 years ago this weekend, police in New York City raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn.

Obviously, this is the end (we hope) of a remarkable civil rights story (despite my snarky headline).  Here’s the opinion.

Reactions are about what you expect.  I will update as the day goes on.  But the important thing is that about 3 million gay people just won the right to become married.

The dissents are interesting.  They all take pains to say, “Hey, I’m happy about the result!  Seriously!  Go celebrate!”, just before launching rather odd objections.

The main dissent is by Chief Justice Roberts, but all of them take great pains to say, essentially, “Hey *I* don’t have a problem with gay marriage”.  The thing they object to, universally in dissent, is that the court should not decide.  They would rather have this worked out in a democratic fashion.

I think Kennedy, writing for the majority, dispenses with this.  First of all, it has come up through the courts.  There is a split in the circuits.  It IS a legal question.  And the Constitution supersedes democracy.  End of story.  If I had a bone to pick about the majority opinion, it is this: Once again, Justice Kennedy did not spell out what constitutional test he was applying to a claim of gay equality.  It simply discussed a series of court precedents, and his own recitation of notions of liberty, without saying what burden those challenging the bans had to satisfy before winning the right to equality.

The dissents also mischaracterize the majority opinion, saying things like “the majority views bans on gay marriage as unwise“.  No, the majority views same-sex marriage bans as UNCONSTITUTIONAL and a violation of the 14th Amendment.  The majority is not substituting its preference for that of legislatures — they are doing what upper level courts often do, i.e., decide whether something is constitutional or not.

Ironically, while the dissent says the majority is acting extra-judicially, many of the dissents arguments have little to do with the actual law (instead, they argue policy, democracy, etc.)

Breakdowns and reactions below the fold

Cause And Effect

Trump announcing his presidential bid, last week:

“When Mexico sends its people, they are not sending their best. […] They are sending people that have lots of problems. They are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs and they are bringing crime and their rapists, and some, I assume, are good people, and I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.”


Univision is canceling its telecast of the Miss USA pageant, an event partially owned by Donald Trump, to protest Trump’s offensive remarks about Mexicans.

Univision is the biggest Spanish-language broadcaster in the United States, so its decision is a blow to the Miss Universe Organization, a joint venture of Trump and Comcast’s NBCUniversal division.

Yeah.  That’s the guy I want speaking for America.

UPDATE – The Donald also tweeted this today

Yyyyyyeah.  I don’t think it has to do with the trade deals so much as calling them drug mules and rapists.

MORE: NBC is distancing itself from the views of Donald Trump. In a rare rebuke of a longtime content partner, NBC released this statement late Thursday: “Donald Trump’s opinions do not represent those of NBC, and we do not agree with his positions on a number of issues, including his recent comments on immigration.”

The Other Case: Victory For Fair Housing

It won’t get as much press, but the Supreme Court decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Community Project, Inc., is arguably as important as the Obamacare case.

The 5-4 ruling (PDF) found that the housing policies could be deemed discriminatory based on “disparate impact.” This means that plaintiffs could prove discrimination by showing that the impact of a housing policy was discriminatory.  That’s the way it has always been, but a bad decision today could have meant that plaintiffs would have to prove discrimination by showing a motive — a specific intent to discriminate.  In the absence of someone publicly admitting they are racist, this is very difficult — if not impossible — to prove. The impact would have been to essentially gut the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

While some of the ruling, written by Justice Kennedy and joined by the four liberal members of the court, turned on technical issues of statutory interpretation and precedent, the underlying theme was a finding by the Supreme Court that a lot of discrimination, in 1968 and today, is either unconscious or hidden:

[The law] permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment. In this way disparate-impact liability may prevent segregated housing patterns that might otherwise result from covert and illicit stereotyping.

So, another good win today.

Obamacare Subsidies Upheld By SCOTUS

I’m actually not that surprised at the outcome.  The surprising thing was that the Supreme Court ever took this case in the first place.

But the US Supreme Court upheld the challenge to Obamacare.  The opinion is here.

In layman’s terms, the issue surrounded some (arguably) vague language in the Affordable Care Act relating to the federal government providing financial assistance to people who get Obamacare through their state exchange.  If you interpret the language one way, the federal government cannot provide financial assistance.  If you interpret it the way Congress intended it, then the federal government can provide financial assistance.  Without the federal government assistance, however, health insurance will become far too expensive for millions of people who buy it through their state exchange, and so they won’t buy it.  (In North Carolina, it would increase healthcare costs by over $300 per month).   In effect, it would end Obamacare.

So the question was actually quite simple…. did Congress intend to write a healthcare law that wouldn’t work?

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion and the short answer to that question is….


Chief Justice Roberts did note that the ACA was a badly written piece of legislation.  (There are, he notes, three separate Section 1563s).

Scalia’s dissent is pure Scalia.  It refers to “interpretive jiggery-pokery” and calls the majority opinion “pure applesauce”.


Elsewhere, he writes: “Impossible possibility, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act!”

He writes that the court “rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere… We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.” (that’s the first time “SCOTUS” has ever been used in a SCOTUS opinion).

He says: “Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.”

And similarly: “[T]he cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.”

Talk about projection.  Scalia is the one with the obvious agenda and “favorites”.  That last comment is a pretty harsh attack on his colleagues, including the Chief Justice.

We should remember that Scalia didn’t give a rat’s ass about the clear language OR the legislative intent of the Voting Rights Act when he and his conservative colleagues gutted it, deciding unilaterally that it didn’t apply to today’s world, now that there isn’t racism any longer.

Roberts, by the way, took Scalia’s own dissent from the last major Obamacare case, and used it against Scalia.  It was buried in a footnote and amounted to a small dart lobbed Scalia’s way.  To defend making the subsidies available to consumers everywhere, Roberts cited a line the dissent to the 2012 decision in favor of Obamacare, in which Scalia said, “Without the federal subsidies . . . the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and may not operate at all.”

Roberts used the line to argue that it “is implausible that Congress meant the Act to operate” in a manner to limit the subsidies only to those states with state-operated exchanges, as the challengers in King v. Burwell argued.

Other reax below the fold

North Carolina GOP-Controlled Legislature Punishes NC Law School For Not Firing Professor


A last-minute amendment by Senate leaders Wednesday docked the University of North Carolina School of Law budget by $3 million. Democrats say it’s political payback for the school’s employment of legislative critic Gene Nichol.

Despite the fact that Republican Senate leaders have been working on the budget behind closed doors for nearly three weeks, Senate Rules Committee Chairmam Tom Apodaca apparently forgot until the end of Wednesday afternoon’s floor debate – after Democrats had loudly criticized the GOP-penned budget for hours – that he wanted to take $3 million from the law school in Chapel Hill and give it to the Mountain Area Health Education Center, or MAHEC, located in Asheville.


The UNC School of Law employs Professor Gene Nichol, a frequent and outspoken critic of Republican legislative leaders. Earlier this year, the GOP-appointed UNC Board of Governors ordered the closure of the think tank Nichol used to lead, the privately-funded Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, but Nichol retains his tenure on the school’s faculty.

Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, chastised Apodaca for the move.

“I have great respect for you, and you know how near and dear MAHEC is to me. But this, quite frankly, breaks my heart because it seems totally undeliberative and quite, in fact, punitive and just not worthy of this body, and it pains me to say that,” Van Duyn said. “This is not the way we should be making laws.”

Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, questioned whether the “capricious” cut would force reductions in financial aid or public service programs at the school.

“This feels like the Gene Nichol transfer amendment,” Woodard added.

Fox Drops Palin

Fox News has decided not to renew the contract of former vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), according to Politico


The reason?  Because Fox “executives consider her less relevant now, and her appearances were sometimes hampered by the vast time difference with Alaska”  But mostly the first reason, I imagine.


The Watershed

Josh Marshall channels what I have been thinking these past few days:

Luke Leaves Port Charles


Thirty-seven years after first playing Luke Spencer on “General Hospital,” actor Anthony Geary recorded his final episode of the long-running ABC soap yesterday.

That probably means nothing to most people under the age of 35.  But trust me, Geary was BIG once.  By the early ’80s, you knew what “Luke and Laura” was, even if you never watched soap operas.

Those-of-us-of-a-certain-age all remember the marriage of Luke and Laura, the most-watched soap opera episode ever.  What we often forget is their earlier encounters, including a rape:

Yes, that classic boy-rapes-girl, girl-and-boy-get-married plotline.  Not very enlightened.

Despite Charleston Mass Murders, GOP Doesn’t Want To Address Guns… Or Even Gun Murder Research

A GOP-led panel just blocked a proposal that would have reversed a nearly 20-year-old ban on funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research on gun violence.  The House Appropriations Committee voted 32-19 against ranking member Rep. Nita Lowey’s (D-N.Y.) amendment to a bill that would fund health, education and labor programs in the next fiscal year.

“When it comes to gun violence, my friends, this committee won’t give one dime for the CDC to conduct research on something that is killing Americans by the thousands,” Lowey said.

Lowey attempted to undo the 1996 congressional ban that was first proposed by then-Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.). She noted that Dickey later supported lifting the prohibition on the CDC.

So.. the problem continues


A Remembrance Of My Brother

Preface:  This blog has been around for over 10 years.  It never was intended to be a blog about me, although there were phases where I indulged in, say, a blog post highlighting a show or project I was working on.  Frankly, I believe that if you are so self-indulgent to write about about your daily life constantly, you better be damn talented.  And for my money, only one blogger has been successful in that genre.  So instead, I write about my views of the world I live in — a time capsule of life in the post-9/11 world.  But if I may be permitted a moment of self-indulgence….

My brother passed away on February 26 of this year, from cancer.  I have been working on a blog post about him for several months now, and I still haven’t been able to coalesce my thoughts.  I scrap it and start over again, repeatedly.  Some day, some day.  However, I was touched and moved by this remembrance, broadcast and written at WBUR’s place (the Boston NPR station).  My brother Doug was a fixture among the — shall we say — musical elite in Boston, particularly among the folk and jazz scene (although he had a healthy appetite for film as well).  Anyway, from NPR….

by Ellisse Ely

doug-ashford1Doug Ashford died February 26 in Concord, New Hampshire. He was 53 years old. When it came to music (his most essential nutrient) he bought vinyl records and, later, CDs, like other people buy morning coffee. Friends used to play a recognition game with him they called “Stump Doug,” and over decades, in every style — from gamelon to Celtic to Zydeco to Dan Zanes to Richard Thompson to John Denver — Doug missed a musical fragment only twice.

He was a humble evangelist for eclecticism and inclusiveness, kind of a music whisperer. Doug could segue between non-adjacent styles with such genius that there was no question they belonged together, even though they never had before.

His largest listening congregation was for “Morning Soup,” a folk-jazz show he hosted every Saturday from 10 to noon on Boston Free Radio. Lucky friends — those unsuccessful stumpers — also got an annual best-of CD each year, with personal liner notes they could savor over the next 12 months.

Though self-effacing and retiring in life (he liked to be heard more then seen, and receded to the back of any photo), Doug could be ruthless in criticism. “The cover artwork for this CD is the year’s worst,” he wrote about one selection. “It is rather unspeakable.”

Boston Free Radio, where Doug was the unpaid program director, epitomized a free-speech forum. For $60 a year, anyone could host an online radio show on almost any topic. There were series on high-school sports, widowhood, the secret lives of stuffed animals, and, of course, music. Doug embraced them all.

He fell in love many times — with music, radio, friends, Wolferman’s English Muffins — and delighted in introducing one passion to another. After a quest to a Zydeco and Cajun music festival in Louisiana, he returned with dozens of jars of olive jam that were pressed on friends. As far as he was concerned, it was a natural combination.

There were grand, open events, like the annual all-night sci-fi movie party, where guests brought fuzzy slippers. At the same time, Doug was intensely private. One night, a dear friend was stunned by a phone call. She’d known he was battling cancer. But, he explained apologetically, he wasn’t going to be able to attend the concert she’d bought them tickets for: he was going into hospice the next day.

At his memorial, friends made his bread-maker bread, ate his favorite burritos, and shared his apple-pie recipe, the one that had won their blind taste test year after year. His 2002 best-of CD played in the background, and after a while, the liner notes came out. When they were passed around, the wistful, hungering room fell on them like a splendid dessert.

More Confederate Flag Fallout

I want to preface this flag round-up by saying this: although I welcome the removal of the confederate flag from the public (and commercial) square, and while doing so may garner some sniping from the likes of Bill Kristol and Haley Barbour, we must remember that taking down the flag is easy. No matter how good it will be to see less of that symbol of treason and slavery tainting the land, it is just a symbol, a relic of the “Lost Cause”.  It is a end product and not the genesis of a deep-seated racism that still plagues our nation a century and a half after the Civil War. If disappearing from public view this flag—which was dragged from obscurity by advocates of Jim Crow in the 1950s—is really to mean anything significant, it must mark the start, not the end of reforms needed to crush racism.

And now the round-up….

From the vile:

(1)  Conservative author Ann Coulter

She claimed yesterday that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has a poor grasp on American history as “an immigrant,” even though Haley was born in the U.S.

During an appearance with Kennedy on Fox Business Network, Coulter said that the deadly shooting at a history black church in Charleston “had nothing to do with the Confederate flag”, despite the fact that the murderer posed with the flag in many published pictures and identified it.

And she lamented that that Americans do not understand the history of the Confederate flag.  she then said that many media outlets, such as MSNBC, got the flag’s history in South Carolina wrong, noting that the flag first went up at the capitol in 1962 under a Democratic governor and legislature to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War.  She was wrong — it first went up in 1961, and although it was in part to mark the 100th anniversary, it also was in response to the growing civil rights movement.

And there  is a huge difference between the Democrats of the south in the early 1960s and the Democrats now.  The Dixiecrats all became Republican, and she knows it.

Coulter then took a shot at South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), who on Monday called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds.

“I’m appalled by –– though, I really like to like Nikki Haley since she is a Republican. On the other hand, she is an immigrant and does not understand America’s history,” Coulter said.

“You think immigrants can’t understand the history?” Kennedy asked.

“Well, she doesn’t!” Coulter replied.

Nikki Haley was born in Bamberg, S.C.  Her parents were Indian immigrants.

(2)  South Carolina Republican State Representative William Chumley

He went on CNN and blamed the victims:

State Rep. William Chumley: These people sit in there, waited their turn to be shot… that’s sad. But somebody in there with the means of self defense could have stopped this. And we’d have had less funerals than we’re having.

CNN Interviewer Drew Griffin: You’re turning this into a gun debate? If those nine families asked you to take down that flag, would you do it?

Chumley: You said “guns,” why didn’t somebody, why didn’t somebody just do something? I mean, uh, you’ve got one skinny person shootin’ a gun, you know I mean, we need to take, and do what we can…

CNN: I want to make sure I understand what you’re telling me… are you asking that these people should have tackled him, these women should have fought him… that…

Chumley: I don’t know what, I don’t know what the answer was. But I know it’s really horrible for nine people to be shot and I understand that he reloaded his gun during the process. [smiles] That’s, that’s upsetting, very upsetting.

CNN: Those nine families, and every black person in South Carolina, and all of the people, the white people who are against that flag believe it shouldn’t be on the state grounds, you are saying it should stay because your constituents want it to?

Chumley: It stays there until the people of South Carolina say it should come down. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

UPDATE:  He recants.

(3)  Even some Democrats get it wrong:

[fb_embed_post href=”” width=”550″/]

(4)  Bad imagery has the casket of Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s passes the Confederate flag in South Carolina:


To the positive:

(1)  Two-thirds of the SC Senate agree will voote for flag removal:


The SC House might be close.

(2)  Toys changing too:

The debate over the Confederate flag has extended into the world of pop culture.

Fans of the 1980s’ TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard” know that the flag was painted on the roof of The General Lee, the orange Dodge Charger owned by John Schneider’s Bo and Tom Wopat’s Luke. Warner Bros. will no longer sanction the manufacturing of “Dukes of Hazzard” merchandise featuring the flag.

“Warner Bros. Consumer Products has one licensee producing die-cast replicas and vehicle model kits featuring the General Lee with the confederate flag on its roof — as it was seen in the TV series,” a spokesman for the company told Vulture. “We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories.”

(3)  State Flags

In Alabama:

On the order of Gov. Robert Bentley, the Confederate battle flag which stands at the foot of the confederate memorial on the state Capitol grounds was taken down this morning.

Meanwhile, another prominent voice was added to the call to change Mississippi’s state flag. Republican Sen. Roger Wicker said in a statement that:

After reflection and prayer, I now believe our state flag should be put in a museum and replaced by one that is more unifying to all Mississippians. As the descendant of several brave Americans who fought for the Confederacy, I have not viewed Mississippi’s current state flag as offensive. However, it is clearer and clearer to me that many of my fellow citizens feel differently and that our state flag increasingly portrays a false impression of our state to others.

Removal Of Confederate Flag From South Carolina Capital (UPDATE: And Elsewhere)

It didn’t seem that long ago that this issue was debated. But it was 2000, so… yeah, 15 years. Back then, like today, presidential candidates were asked their views on whether South Carolina should fly the Confederate Flag on government property, and many of them punted (“it is a state issue”), just like many of the GOP candidates did this past weekend.

But then South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (R) acted in the interest of her state and called on the South Carolina legislature to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State Capitol grounds,  It was something I thought would never happen in my lifetime.  (And maybe it still won’t.  There are some “no’s” — visit the Post & Courier website today for a live tally of how the SC legislature will vote)

As I tweeted yesterday, I am a little annoyed that Haley said:

“The State House is different, and the events of this past week call upon us to look at this in a different way.”

Why?  Did Haley and others just discover that the confederate flag is a symbol of racism and hate last week?  I really don’t understand that.

But taken in conjunction with the shift in attitude of same-sex marriage, I wonder if we are not seeing a genuine transformation in attitudes, and the true death of social conservatism.  Fifteen years ago, you couldn’t get that flag down (entirely).  Now you can.  I think the old guard is dying off.

Just not soon enough…

Mass murderer Dylann Roof

Mass murderer Dylann Roof

RELATED: Walmart and Sears, two of the country’s largest retailers, will remove all Confederate flag merchandise from their stores.

Guess that explains why the Confederate flag is selling so well on Amazon right now (actual screen shot)




BREAKING NOW:  Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe begins process to remove Confederate flag from state license plates: “This Commonwealth does not support the display of the Confederate battle flag or the message it sends to the rest of the world.”

AND THIS: eBay has released a statement to BuzzFeed confirming that they will be prohibiting the sale of the Confederate flag on their site:

eBay is a global marketplace and community and we continually monitor the approximately 800 million items on our site, and evaluate our policies to ensure they are consistent with our core purpose. We have decided to prohibit Confederate flags, and many items containing this image, because we believe it has become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism. This decision is consistent with our long-standing policy that prohibits items that promote or glorify hatred, violence and racial intolerance.

THE HITS KEEP ON COMIN’: From Tennessee:

The bust of a Confederate general and leading figure in the early days of the Ku Klux Klan should be removed from the Tennessee statehouse, top Tennessee Democrats and the state Republican Party chairman said Monday.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest has no place in the Tennessee statehouse.

And I didn’t know that NASCAR already nixed the flag:




RIP James Horner

I liked him way better than John Williams. Oscar-winning film composer James Horner died in a plane crash yesterday near Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 61.

Check out his scores:  The Wrath of Khan, Cocoon, Aliens, Willow, Field of Dreams, Glory, Sneakers, Looking For Bobby Fischer, Braveheart, Apollo 13, Titanic, Deep Impact, A Beautiful Mind, Avatar… and on and on and on.

My personal favorites are the scores to Sneakers and A Beautiful Mind.

For The Last Time, The Civil War Was About Slavery

It gets exhausting sometimes having to explain to some people that the US Civil War was not about “states’ rights” or some other nonsense.  That’s all 19th and 20th century revisionism, and it is not true.

The Civil War was about slavery, and the reason we KNOW this is because there is an historical record.  I will share some of it with you now, for posterity, under the fold.  The emphases are mine. Ready?

Obama Uses N-Word; Media Misses The Point

President Obama appeared on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron and had a long, thoughtful, and useful conversation about race in America, which included this point:

“We’re not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened 200 or 300 years prior.”

Anyone want to guess what the media is focusing on?



The REAL Guilty Party Is Located In Charleston Church Massacre

Charles Cotton is a member of the NRA’s board, and he knows who killed those people. No, not Dylann Storm Roof, the alleged gunman who has since confessed, silly!  It was Rev. Clementa Pinckney, state senator and pastor at Emanuel AME Church, according to Cotton. How did Pinckney manage that? By voting against a bill that would have allowed people to carry concealed guns in church, of course!


UPDATE:  Also blameworthy?  Caitlyn Jenner.  Here’s rightwing Erick “Eric” Erickson:

Everyone and everything gets blamed while ignoring the actual person who killed.

I realize now why that is. I realize why we will never have the conversation we should have.

A society that looks at a 65 year old male Olympian and, with a straight face, declares him a her and “a new normal” cannot have a conversation about mental health or evilbecause that society no longer distinguishes normal from crazy and evil from good. Our American society has a mental illness — overwhelming narcissism and delusion — and so cannot recognize what crazy or evil looks like.


The Prescient NYT Column

Excerpts from “The Growing Right-Wing Terror Threat”, in the New York Times, written June 16, 2015, one day before the Charleston church shooting:

… But headlines can mislead. The main terrorist threat in the United States is not from violent Muslim extremists, but from right-wing extremists. Just ask the police.

In a survey we conducted with the Police Executive Research Forum last year of 382 law enforcement agencies, 74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction; 39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations. And only 3 percent identified the threat from Muslim extremists as severe, compared with 7 percent for anti-government and other forms of extremism.


An officer from a large metropolitan area said that “militias, neo-Nazis and sovereign citizens” are the biggest threat we face in regard to extremism. One officer explained that he ranked the right-wing threat higher because “it is an emerging threat that we don’t have as good of a grip on, even with our intelligence unit, as we do with the Al Shabab/Al Qaeda issue, which we have been dealing with for some time.” An officer on the West Coast explained that the “sovereign citizen” anti-government threat has “really taken off,” whereas terrorism by American Muslim is something “we just haven’t experienced yet.”


Law enforcement agencies around the country are training their officers to recognize signs of anti-government extremism and to exercise caution during routine traffic stops, criminal investigations and other interactions with potential extremists. “The threat is real,” says the handout from one training program sponsored by the Department of Justice. Since 2000, the handout notes, 25 law enforcement officers have been killed by right-wing extremists, who share a “fear that government will confiscate firearms” and a “belief in the approaching collapse of government and the economy.”


Public debates on terrorism focus intensely on Muslims. But this focus does not square with the low number of plots in the United States by Muslims, and it does a disservice to a minority group that suffers from increasingly hostile public opinion. As state and local police agencies remind us, right-wing, anti-government extremism is the leading source of ideological violence in America.

Fun Fact About The South Carolina Confederate Flag

The South Carolina Capitol did not display the Confederate Flag until 1961. In fact, it was raised on April 11, 1961 — the one hundredth anniversary of Fort Sumter.  Here’s other news that happened that week:

  • Sen. Marrion Gressette, the head of the State Segregation Committee, created in 1951 to recommend measures to maintain segregation, was supporting a resolution condemning former North Carolina Gov. Frank Graham, who had spoken at Winthrop College defending the civil rights movement and calling for integration.
  • Thurmond was fighting in Congress to keep federal funding for segregated schools. Political sentiment against school integration was so strong that state politicians vowed to stop all funding to public schools rather than integrate.
  • The Freedom Ride with integrated bus loads of civil rights workers was on the road, and there were reports of violence along the route.
  • The major story of the week was Kennedy’s executive order to end segregation in work places that do business with the government. The forced integration of South Carolina’s mills outraged politicians and editorial writers.

The hoisting of the confederate flag in South Carolina was a very “in your face” defiance of the civil rights movement.

UPDATE: Quote from the creator of the flag….

Don’t Call ‘Em Crazy

I really have a problem with the second-day opinion that the Charleston shooter was “mentally ill” or “disturbed”. 99% of the time, the person offering that assessment isn’t at all a qualified doctor, and 100% of the time, he hasn’t examined the shooter. There’s a ridiculous circular logic that the shooter’s actions explain his mental state, and his mental state explains the shooting. “Of course he is mentally ill; he killed those people”, you hear. Oddly, however, that psychiatric diagnosis is rarely applied to, say, the 9/11 hijackers or WWII Nazis or the Boston Marathon bombers or Muslim suicide bombers. Only white people with guns.

There are a couple of problems with calling the shooter “mentally ill” (aside from the fact that it is pure conjecture). One problem is, by calling him crazy, people (politicians and pundits, etc.) can then dismiss the larger, more relevant discussion, whether it be gun laws or racism or whatever. I hear it all the time in every gun control debate — “Well, the (Aurora/Sandy Hook/Charleston) shooter was crazy, and you can’t legislate against crazy.” Can we open ourselves up to the possibility that some people are simply, you know, evil? Again, we seem to have no problem when it comes to Muslim shooters or bombers. We don’t crawl into their head and give them a psychiatric evaluation.

Secondly, I bet there is not a person reading this who has not experienced mental illness. Technically, even temporary depression or anxiety are forms of mental illness. When you hear the phrase “mentally ill” (or any synonym), think “physically ill”. Everybody gets physically ill at some point (often many times) in their lives. And some people have (or develop) chronic physical illnesses. It’s just the same with mental illness. Therefore, having a mental illness, whether chronic or temporary, doesn’t make you Charles Manson or a horrible killer. It doesn’t necessarily foreclose the possibility that you might (also) simply be a horrible person or (I hasten  to add) a wonderful person.  It’s just something you have.

So let’s show some respect for the concept of “mental illness” and not use that as a label to avoid the harder conversations of racism and gun control. It is disrespectful to those who suffer from mental illness, as well as those who suffer from racism or the effects of a gun-crazy society.

The worst culprits of this sin lie on the right side of the political spectrum.  If they are not dismissing the Charleston shooter as “disturbed”, then they are “baffled” by why he might do this.

Again, the right wing just doesn’t want to acknowledge a race problem. So they’ll wear blinders so they can avoid the news reports about what the shooter said:

And just this morning:

(CNN) Dylann Roof admits he did it, two law enforcement officials said — shooting and killing nine people he’d sat with for Bible study at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

But why? To start a race war, Roof told investigators, according to one of the officials.

Aside from calling the shooter “mentally ill”, they have a couple other tactics to avoid discussing the race or gun issue.  Tell me if you’ve heard any of these lately:

(1)  Now is not the time….. we should think of the victims and pray.  (And then move on)

(2)  We should not politicize this horrible event.  Out of respect for the victims, we should think of them (and then move on).  Any attempt to change laws, or prevent this from happening again, will divide the nation and create more trouble like what happened.

(3)  It’s about religious freedom.

But returning to mental health, why the “crazy” argument?  Well, it’s a way to dismiss the issue.  To give yourself authority that you know (or can’t know, because it is baffling) the true root cause of something.  Don’t listen to the Charleston shooter, the right wing says.  He’s nuts!!!

But we should listen to Dylann Roof.  He’s telling us why he did it.

UPDATE – Salon says the same thing as me…. and adds:

We’ve successfully created a world so topsy-turvy that seeking medical help for depression or anxiety is apparently stronger evidence of violent tendencies than going out and purchasing a weapon whose only purpose is committing acts of violence. We’ve got a narrative going where doing the former is something we’re OK with stigmatizing but not the latter. God bless America.


RELATED:  Jon Stewart not being funny is amazing:

“What blows my mind is the disparity of response between when we think people that are foreign are going to kill us and us killing ourselves.”

The Conservative Denial That This Is About Race Is Getting Bizarre

This conservative columnist for the Miami Herald (and Fox News contributor) may be the most desperate person on the internets:



UPDATE:  Still in denial, she later tweeted, “None of this story adds up. Even if a ‘white supremacist,’ their targets/hatred isn’t usually church-going African-Americansty”


She got a lot of blowback and has sense set her Twitter account to private.

The Gun Problem In One Picture

The front page in today’s Charleston, S. C.’s hometown paper:



That purple thing is a sticker that went out with the early edition. It’s a little hard to read, but the sticker that partly obscures the headline about a mass shooting advertises the latest deal at a local gun store.  “$30 GETS YOU EVERYTHING” — all the goodies needed to have a fine time with your new weapon.

The Charleston Post & Observer has since apologized for the obvious unintentional oversight, but still….. it says a lot about our gun society.

Deadly History of Attacks on Progressive Houses of Worship

Last night, in a horrific act of hateful violence, a white gunman shot and killed at least nine people at the historically black Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The incident, which is being investigated as a hate crime, immediately sparked outrage, with many wondering aloud how someone could commit such an act — especially in a church, were the victims were attending a Bible study.

It’s not the first time Emanuel A.M.E. has endured violence. The historically progressive church, which was founded in 1791, was burned to the ground in 1822 by white supremacists for its connection to an attempted slave revolt.

And it’s hardly the first attack on a progressive house of worship:

Sunday, September 15, 1963: 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama is bombed using 16 sticks of dynamite, killing four girls and injuring 22 others.


July 27, 2008: A lone gunman opens fire on a Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, killing two and wounding seven. The shooter said he targeted the church because of its liberal teachings.

According to the Associated Press, Jim D. Adkisson, a 58-year-old truck driver “on the verge of losing his food stamps,” entered Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church while parishioners were gathered to watch the congregation’s youth perform the musical “Annie.” He then pulled out a shotgun and opened fire, leaving behind a note that police officials said expressed hatred of “the liberal movement … as well as gays.” A longtime acquaintance said he also hated “blacks, gays and anyone different from him.”

Adkisson eventually pled guilty to killing two and wounding six others, telling the judge, “Yes, ma’am, I am guilty as charged.”

I blog about it here.

May 24, 2015: A pastor is shot outside a church in Hartford, Connecticut, in what police described as a possible hate crime because of the church’s pro-LGBT views.

According to BuzzFeed, Rev. Augustus Sealy, 54, was shot outside Hartford First Church of the Nazarene around 6:30 a.m. while placing flags in front of the sanctuary in honor of Memorial Day. Police reports say that a vehicle slowly rolled up alongside Sealy before someone in the car fired five gunshots. Sealy survived the shooting, but one bullet struck him in the shoulder, and two hit his leg.

Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley told BuzzFeed: “Some language used in the incident — and given where it was, in front of a church known to be accepting of our LGBT community — it led us to have concern that this is a hate crime.”

August 5, 2012: An armed white supremacist storms a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, shooting six people and wounding four others before committing suicide.

Wade Michael Page, 40, entered the Sikh gurdwara armed with a semi-automatic pistol, where he killed one woman and five men, including an assistant priest. Page, an Army veteran with ties to several white supremacist groups, also wounded an officer before turning his gun on himself.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated the incident as an example of domestic terrorism, and then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder later declared the attack to be “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime.”

I blog about it here.

April 13, 2014: A Neo-Nazi shoots and kills three people in two separate shootings outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom, a nearby Jewish retirement community.

The first shooting occurred outside the community center, where people were auditioning for a singing competition and staff were preparing for a performance of To Kill a Mockingbird. The gunman, 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr., fired several shots at the building and bystanders before escaping by car to Village Shalom. There, he fired a shotgun at Dr. William Lewis Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson Reat Griffin Underwood. Both men succumbed to their wounds, as did another woman, Terry LaManno, who was also shot.

Miller, who was also a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, later said that while none of his victims turned out to be Jewish, he launched the attack “for the specific purpose of killing Jews.” The American Jewish community consistently reports more religiously-motivated hate crimes than any other faith group in the country, according to statistics collected by the FBI.

1995-1996: A series of church fires rock the South, with 37 black churches falling victim to “suspicious fires” in 18 months.

According to a June 16 Washington Post report on a federal investigation of a string of arsons in the mid-1990s, “The people burning down black churches in the South are generally white, male and young, usually economically marginalized or poorly educated, frequently drunk or high on drugs, rarely affiliated with hate groups, but often deeply driven by racism, according to investigators and a review of those arrested or convicted in the burnings.”

The ATF also noted that 23 predominantly white churches were burned during this same time period. The sheer volume of the incidents collectively spurred the House of Representatives to pass legislation to assist federal officials wishing to prosecute the arsonists. The House made it a federal offense to damage religious property simply because of its “racial or ethnic character,” and then-President Bill Clinton also asked Congress for an extra $12 million for investigations.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014: A gunman fires five shots at the mosque in Coachella, California.

At 5:01 a.m. on November 4, an unknown gunman fired several shots at the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley mosque near Los Angeles. The FBI investigated the attack as a possible hate crime, and while no one was hurt, the incident was part of a steadily increasing wave of attacks and suspicious fires enacted against Muslim houses of worship in the United States. This included the murder of a Muslim teen in Kansas City, and at least two mosque burnings over the last two years.


And I’m not even counting the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller while he attended church in Wichita, Kansas, and the shooting of Alberta King, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mother, while she played the organ in 1974.

SCOTUS Clears Its Docket… But Nothing On Obama Care or Marriage Equality

SCOTUS delivered itself of five opinions today as it begins to clear out its end-of-the-term caseload. But none were the Two Big Ones: the marriage equality and Obamacare subsidy cases. That means that on the remaining Mondays and Thursdays of this month and early July, the odds of the Big Ones coming down any particular day will rise.

The decision announced today–a rare one in that Clarence Thomas joined with the Court’s four “liberals” to form a majority–that will probably draw the most attention is Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, which classifies state license tag messages as “government speech” not subject to the usual First Amendment concerns involved in state regulation of speech. Had the Court gone the other way, states would have been put in the position of accepting virtually all “messages,” perhaps threatening the whole vanity tag industry.

In other noteworthy decision, Ohio v. Clark, the Court unanimously held that allowing a teacher to testify on behalf of a three-year-old victim of child abuse did not violate the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser. A contrary decisions would have led to all kinds of consternation.

Mass Murder Hate Crime Leaves 9 Dead In Charleston Church

I may have been one of the first 1000 people to know what happened in Charleston last night.  I was at rehearsal for a play I am in (barely), and backstage, I checked my phone.  Nothing on the Breaking News app, nothing big on Twitter.  I opened Periscope, and there was a guy working in some Charlotte newsroom who was periscoping (sorry, but that’s the verb) about a shooting and killing of 8 people in Charleston, SC.  I tuned in — there were already about 200 watchers.  He was getting reports off of a Charleston police/fire scanner.  The watchers were typing in that there was nothing on MSNBC, CNN or FOX.  Even the local Charleston TV channel had nothing.  That was around 10:15.

I had to pay attention to rehearsal, so I wasn’t able to periscope for very long, but by the time rehearsal was over (at 11:30 — ugh!) and I was in my car, with MSNBC, CNN, and FOX all on my Sirius radio, I thought I would find out more.  By that time, they had reported the story, but had returned to regular earlier-recorded programming (Chris Hayes on MSNBC, O’Reilly on FOX, etc.).  I was stunned.  When the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, that was the only story.

To be fair, there wasn’t a lot to report.  There had been no official statement, no confirmation of anything.  The only “official” thing was the Twitter feed of the Charleston PD, which mentioned the shooting and the fact that the shooter was on the loose.  But it did not say anything about fatalities or injuries.

Even when I woke up today, the Charleston news was the “top story”, but the big three cable network news were focusing on other things.  I suspect there will be some third-day stories about the lack of media interest.  Maybe.

Anyway, here’s the skinny:

The shooting took place last night at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston during a bible study group.  The killer attended the group and was with them for an hour.  The EAM Episcopal Church is an historic church:

  • The church sits in an area of Charleston densely packed with houses of worship and well-preserved old buildings
  • Congregation was established in 1816
  • African-American members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over a burial ground
  • Also known as “Mother Emanuel”
  • It’s the oldest AME church in the South
  • It’s also one of the oldest African-American churches in the United States
  • It was involved in the Underground Railroad, according to The Washington Post, which calls it a “symbol of black freedom” (
  • The newspaper also reports that the church’s prominent speakers include Booker T. Washington (1909), the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1962) and Coretta Scott King (1969)
  • It has the most seats of any African-American church in Charleston
  • It was burned to the ground at one point, but rebuilt; it was also destroyed by an earthquake
  • The church hosts a Bible study in its basement every Wednesday evening

Three males and six females were killed at the church, Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said this morning. Eight died at the scene, the ninth died at a hospital.  Among those killed is the church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

There were a total of 13 people inside the church at the time of the shooting: the shooter, nine victims that were killed, and three survivors. Of the three survivors, two were unharmed.

The gunman was there for about an hour attending the meeting with the eventual victims, before he began shooting, the police chief said.

A woman who survived the shooting says the gunman told her he was letting her live so that she could tell people what happened, according to Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott. Scott said she heard this from the victims’ family members, and stressed she did not speak to the survivor directly.

There are also reports that a little girl also survived by “playing dead”

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina are opening a hate crime investigation into the Charleston shooting. The investigation is parallel to the state’s investigation, although it should be noted that South Carolina is one of only five states that does not have a hate crimes law.

According to a relative of a survivor, church members tried talking to gunman. The gunman said “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

Surveillance photos from the church:


Charleston, we should remember, is that place of the Walter Scott shooting.back in April.

10:30am EST:  The shooter has been identified as Dylann Storm Roof (a memorable name), age 21.  I found his Facebook page.  Not much there.  He’s just Dylann Roof (did he give himself “Storm”?)  This picture and 89 friends (some black).  No likes or posts or anything.  He’s from Columbia, SC.  Police say he may be driving a black Hyundai with the license plate LGF330, police say. If you know him or have information about him, call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

dylan roof

One of those patches is a a Rhodesian flag patch when it was white-ruled (Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe).  The other is an apartheid-era South African flag.  This is no casual racist, this one. Wearing those flag patches is the stuff of hardcore, Stormfront-reading white nationalists.

Here’s a concept: in a state that still flies the Confederacy’s battle flag over public buildings, pointing out that there was an organized effort to teach a young white kid about those two lovely countries when he’s the prime suspect in the murder of nine would kind of be a tacit admission that we still have a gigantic problem with race and racism in America.

10:50am EST: The Daily Mail is reporting:

Roof’s uncle told Reuters that his nephew had received a .45 caliber pistol as a birthday present in April. He called the 21-year-old ‘quiet, soft spoken’ and said he recognized him in the photo released by police.


While other flags are at half mast, the confederate flag is still at full mast at the South Carolina capital.

11:15am EST:  On Fox, a pro-gun pastor thinks that the “hate crime” designation means it was a “hate crime” against religion not black people.  This despite the report that the shooter said “”You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”  He was referring to Christians?  I don’t think so.  (More at Raw Story)

11:20am EST:

11:55am EST:

Christian conservative radio host Bryan Fischer, a former director of issues analysis for the right-wing American Family Association, knows what the real problem is: a lack of guns in churches.

1:00pm EST:  I didn’t think he would, but he did.  Obama spoke out against easy access to guns.  I don’t expect any legislation to come of this (if Newtown couldn’t stop the gun lobby, then this won’t), but it was good of Obama to keep promoting gun control.

3:00pm EST:  Ugh. This…

Do College Rape Prevention Programs Work?

Surprisingly, there is not much research on this issue.  But last week, a study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine which helps shed light on the issue.

The study first noted what programs don’t seem to work well, or for which there lacks study.  Targeted programs for men and for women that have been evaluated for sexual assault outcomes have yielded disappointing results, the study notes, except possibly for “the bystander approach”.  The “bystander approach” is a program designed to increase men’s and women’s willingness to intervene when they encounter rape-supportive attitudes or behaviors, thereby changing the campus climate (i.e., men are approached as allies and not as potential perpetrators).  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be enough research done on whether the bystander approach actually works.

Other programs directed exclusively to women yield, at best, short-term benefits.  Even with a “booster session”, there are no clear benefits after 2, 4, or 6 months (depending on when the booster session is from the initial session).

The reported study focused on this program: A four-unit, small-group sexual assault resistance program (4 units, each consisting of three hours).  It was tried on first-year students at three major universities.  The results of those who took the program were compared to those who were simply given a brochure.  The protocol of the full program as well as the brochure can all be found here as a PDF, but basically it has:

  • a unit on assessment of risk (“Assess” – developing problem-solving strategies to reduce perpetrator advantages);
  • a unit on acknowledgement of risk (“Acknowledge” – exploring ways to overcome emotional barriers to resisting the unwanted sexual behaviors of men who were known to them, and practicing resisting verbal coercion);
  • a unit on response to risk (“Act” – effective options for resistance, including 2 hours of self-defense training based on Wen-Do); and
  • a final unit aimed to integrate content from the previous units into participants’ sexual lives, providing a context to explore their sexual attitudes, values, and desires and to develop strategies for sexual communication.

Not surprisingly, “the risk of completed rape was significantly lower over a period of 1 year among first-year university women who participated in a sexual assault resistance program than among those who were provided access to brochures on sexual assault.”  But this program also fared better than other women-only programs.  What was different about this program from previously studied ones?  A few things — this one “had more hours of programming, a greater number of interactive and practice exercises, less focus on ‘assertive communication’ and more on escalation of resistance in response to a perpetrator’s perseverance, and the addition of positive sexuality content (i.e., the fourth unit).”

Women who took the training also had lower incidences of attempted rapeattempted coercion, and nonconsensual sexual contact.  Where sexual coercion was involved, the study found lower incidences, although this was not statistically significant.  (“Sexual coercion” is defined as the verbal encouragement for the woman to submit to sexual activity, and is more common to already-existing relationships rather than stranger-stranger relationships).

Like all studies of this kind, there are some limitations.  For one thing, the incidences of rape, coercion, etc. are self-reported, which allows for the introduction of bias.  Also, the authors note, the program “is designed for women; effective interventions focusing on men’s behavior are also needed”.  Also, universities may not be able to finance programs of this scale and scope.

In any event, the study points to one of the few programs which has actually and quantifiably been proven to lower the incidences of many categories of sexual assault on campus.  For more about this, see the New York Times article.

Sanders Gets Disturbingly Close To Hillary

I suppose “disturbingly close” depends on where you are situated politically.  If you are a Hillary fan, then yes, “disturbingly close”.  If you are a Sanders fan, or a Republican, then the news out of Wisconsin is a reason to celebrate.

It seems that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) finished just 8 percentage points behind Clinton in a new Badger State straw poll. Clinton finished with 49 percent support among those who voted at the state party convention; Sanders finished in second place with 41 percent. Vice President Biden and former Gov. Martin O’Malley (Md.) tied at third with 3 percent. Former Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) followed with under 2 percent, and former Gov. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) closed out the poll with 1 percent.

The surprise showing is a boost for Sanders, who regularly polls about 40 percentage points behind Clinton in national poll and rarely finishes within striking distance of the former secretary of State.

I’m not terribly surprised, and I hope he pills Hillary to the left a little.

Is Race Mutable?

I suppose if you could go back in time, and ask someone in the year 1915 “Is Gender Mutable?”, they would say something like “I think this kid Baby Ruth who is pitching for the Red Sox won’t amount to much.  Now what was your question?”

Seriously, though.  They would look at you strangely and say “Uh, no.  Boys are boys, and girls are girls.” They probably would think that the question is absurd.

And yet, a century later, we know that one’s gender is mutable.  As Caitlyn — nee Bruce — Jenner recently demonstrated (although he was hardly the first), one’s gender does not neatly and conveniently fall into one of two categories.  Our body parts might say we are a particular gender (although, in rare cases, not even that), but our self-identity may point us to placement in the complete opposite gender, or somewhere between the two genders (transgender) or even in a “none of the above” category (agender).

Now comes Rachel Dolezal, the now-resigned president of the Spokane Washington chapter of the NAACP, who is, as it turns out white, but who “identifies as black.”  And I, like others, am forced to ask…. “Can you just DO that?”

My initial reaction is “no”, just as my 1915 friends would say “no” to gender mutability.  But since my 1915 friends are demonstrably wrong, I must look deeper into this racial identity issue.

I suppose the answer to racial identity turns on how you define “race”.  Is it heritage or lineage?  Or is it skin color?  Or experience?

I recall reading several Charlie Chaplin biographies in which it was noted that Chaplin identified with Jews to the point of claiming (early in his career) that he was himself to be of Jewish descent (he wasn’t).  While it is possible for one to convert their religious beliefs to Judaism, that does not mean that one’s personal heritage is Jewish.  Except for those few (and unconfirmed) experiences, however, it doesn’t appear that Chaplin ever seriously tried to commit a fraud on the public by claiming a false lineage.

I think this is the bucket in which Dolezal finds herself.  Like Chaplin/Jew, Dolezal may identify with “the black experience” — whatever that means to her (feeling oppressed, perhaps, or discriminated against).  But unlike gender — which is not set in stone — a person’s ancestry cannot be changed or altered.  She may identify with it, but she was not born into it.  Biology is not the same as history.  If I am descended from Caucasians, I am Caucasian, no matter how much I “feel” or “identify” with other races.

The Dolezal matter meets at the intersection of two societal pressures — the one that tells us to stand up and be “true to who we are”, and the one that tells us that we can “be whatever we want be”.  It’s the latter one that is, in my view, pollyannish, flawed, and silly – a point made by the Pythons here with Stan’s “right to have babies”:

Which isn’t to say that all conflicts of racial identity are silly.  Hell, even our President has written about about periods in his life where he both rejected and identified himself as “black”.  But unlike Dolezal, he was born to parents of different races.  That is an entirely different matter.

Nor is this to say that Dolezal (or anybody simlarly situated) should not be able to live her life as an African-American, immersed in that culture and fashion sensibilities.  Her hoax is mostly — mostly — a victimless crime.  It does not appear that she received any academic, professional, or personal advancement for ‘being black’ as far as anyone can establish, and she didn’t lie on her college applications. In fact, there is almost universal consensus that the black community has been enhanced due to her efforts at NAACP and other organizations (accompanied by almost universal consensus that she didn’t have to “be black” in order to do those things).

On the other hand, should she have been a black spokesman, and opine on the “black experience” when she, unlike most blacks, could have “opted out” anytime she wanted?  And what about the reports that Dolezal sued Howard University in 2002 for discriminating against her…. for being white?

Perhaps there are psychological issues which make Dolezal a less-than-ideal poster child for transracialism.  Dolezal’s alleged behavior reminds me of Munchausen Syndrome, a rare psychological condition wherein patients lie, fake symptoms, alter medical tests, and even hurt themselves in order to fabricate a medical drama so they can remain at the center of everyone’s attention.

So setting aside, Dolezal, we return to the original question.  Is race mutable?  And I would still have to say, on the whole, “no”.  Race implies heritage, and heritage is something that cannot be changed.  Race also implies culture, and while one can immerse deeply oneself in a different culture (the way, say, a white boy like me could become an aficionado of Bollywood), one cannot change his lineage.

That said, one hopes that, looking 100 years from now into the future, there will be no such thing as transracialism.  It is conceivable that we will live in a near-uniracial society (a “mongrel society” warned the white supremacists once, as if that was a bad thing) where all this is irrelevant.  Where there is no “black experience” or “white experience”… but rather, a human experience.  I wonder what our descendants would make of this Rachel Dolezal matter.  In the meantime, let’s be true to ourselves, I say.

Will America’s Uninsured Rate Go To Single Digits?

No major survey has ever found that the uninsured rate in America has hit single digits.  Ever.

But a new survey from the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey, a quarterly survey of non-elderly Americans, says that 10.0% of nonelderly adults were uninsured.  That’s down from 17.8% in September 2013, before the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges first launched.

And in fact, that data is only as recent as March 2015, so we are probably in the single digits now.

Let’s hope SCOTUS doesn’t screw things up now.

King Combover Clown Enters Clown Car

Not a satire.

Not a satire.

The GOP presidential race got much much funner yesterday, as Trump threw his hairpiece into the ring.

Trump‘s announcement speech was a strange amalgam of thinly-veiled bigotry (Mexican immigrants “bringing drugs, bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people”), fear-mongering (Iran is taking over Iraq “and they’re taking it over bigly”), and self-promotion (“I beat China all the time”).

He hit all the GOP red meat talking points — Obamacare is bad, immigrants is bad, other countries are bad, the economy is bad, politicians are bad — but also detracted from those points with non-sensical throw-ins, like how President Obama would be welcome to play golf on a Trump-owned golf course.

Strutting onstage to an unauthorized-by-Neil-Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World”, Trump started with a lie. “This is some group of people. Thousands,” he said, overstating the crowd size by a factor of 10.  “There’s never been a crowd like this,” he then said, which is somewhat true.  A few hundred people, mostly reporters, packed into a small room to make it look more well-attended than it actually was. (UPDATE: Not only did Trump use Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” without permission, but he failed to understand that the song is a lefty tune critical of George H.W. Bush’s administration and its contempt for the poor)

He also told a whopper when he said that ISIS had just built a hotel in Syria.  Way to know your competition, hotel magnate boy.

Mostly, however,Trump did what he does best: He bragged about his success. And the hundreds—not thousands—in attendance seemed to eat it up.  And why not?  They were paid actors.

But he was not teasing.  He officially announced his run, and he even has a logo (well, he’s always had that) and slogan (“Make America Great Again”).  Well, maybe he was punking us again. He could fade quickly back into reality TV, or he could use the auspices of a campaign to promote himself for a few months and drop out before the voting starts. The banners, t-shirts, and bumper shirts at his Manhattan launch event were paid for by an “exploratory committee,” and he apparently hasn’t yet filed his paperwork with the FEC. But Trump insisted that he would file (“without extensions”), and from the Trump Tower he was headed to Iowa and then on to New Hampshire and South Carolina later in the week. So for now, he’s a candidate.

And as of this moment, Trump is polling ahead of Rick Perry, John Kasich, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki—that’s two current governors, two former governors, and a sitting U.S. senator

The Democratic National Committee won the award for straight-faced sarcasm as it welcomed Trump to the race with a statement saying:

Today, Donald Trump became the second major Republican candidate to announce for president in two days. He adds some much-needed seriousness that has previously been lacking from the GOP field, and we look forward to hearing more about his ideas for the nation.

And the conservative National Review has fun:

On the substance, Trump is — how to put it gently? Oh, why bother! — an ass. Not just an ass, but an ass of exceptionally intense asininity.

China? “China’s leaders are like Tom Brady, and the U.S. is like a high-school football team,” Trump says.

And so, we should do what?

“ . . . ”

Trump’s is a fill-in-the-blanks agenda: He claims to have a plan for defeating ISIS, but he cannot say what it is for reasons of operational security for the mission that exists only in his mind. He assures us the plan is “foolproof,” but whoever coined that word had never met a fool like Donald Trump. Immigration? Build a wall and force the Mexicans to pay for it. How to do that?

“ . . . ”

The one thing worse than Trump’s vague horsepucky is his specific horsepucky, i.e., his 1999 plan to impose a one-time tax — everybody knows how good Washington is about “one time” uses of power — on the wealth of all high-net-worth individuals and institutions. A 14.25 percent tax, he calculated, would retire the national debt. And what about institutions that don’t have 14.25 percent of their net worth in ready cash — to take a totally random example, let’s say a poorly run real-estate concern with a lot of illiquid assets and unmanageable debt payments eating up all its ready cash?

“ . . . ”

Trump says that he cannot discuss the details of his agenda because of — his word — “enemies.”

Who are these enemies?

“ . . . ”

UPDATE:  Crazy endorses crazy:

[fb_embed_post href=”” width=”550″/]

Honest to God, read that second paragraph.  It’s like every GOP snark put into a blender and poured on to a plate.  Like, “unleash America’s entrepreneurial spirit and dramatically shrink government in order to prioritize our nation’s security.”  I know those are things but how does entrepreneurial spirit and a shrunk government help with prioritizing nation’s security?  And can’t you prioritize the nation’s security even with a big government?  Oh, Sarah.  I love you.

AND FINALLY…… a Colbert spoof


Yeah, those people cheering the future President….. they were paid actors:

The Pope Goes Severe Against Climate Deniers

Pope Francis this week is going to come out for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” before the end of this century, He will warn that failure to act would have “grave consequences for all of us.”

Pretty severe verbiage.  It all comes from a draft document leaked to the Italian press and published today.  The pontiff will make his environmental encyclical on Thursday, directing it to “every person who inhabits this planet”. (This is a big deal; the encyclical is one of the most formal statements the pope can make about Catholic doctrine, and it’s the first of his papacy.)

Among other things he says in the draft:

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it.”


“Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases…given off above all because of human activity.”

The pope will also single out those obstructing solutions. In an apparent reference to climate-change deniers:

“The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions.”


Palin Word Salad Of The Day

The Great Pundit takes on Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who pretended to be black, who headed up the Spokane chapter of the NAACP.  Let’s see how far we can wade in before we get tangled and swallowed:

Ok, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t laugh… this hard. I know this isn’t a victimless crime, what this white chick perpetrated. But it’s a most crystal clear picture of so many screwed up things we’ve let society adopt as the norm.

Well, if it was the “norm”, it probably wouldn’t be “news”.  And it clearly is “news”.

Namely, the practice nowadays of judging someone not based on character, but on skin color. Our original civil rights freedom fighters are rolling in their graves over the backward steps we’ve taken lately.

I’m not sure who is judging Rachel Dolezal. I’ve written about the story, but I can only speculate as to her character. In any event, when it comes to what the civil rights “freedom fighters”, many of whom are still alive today, I don’t think we need Sarah to speak on their behalf.

There certainly is something to be said about challenging the construct of race (which is separate from “skin color”, although that distinction would be lost on someone like Palin).  The Dolezal story certainly raises that issue, but it is tainted by the apparent fact that she apparently lied.

It’s politically incorrect to call out Elizabeth Warren for falsely claiming she’s American Indian, or dinging Obama for just making up his former multi-ethnic girlfriend, and I guarantee I’ll be branded a racist for laughing at this Rachel Dolezal story. Whatever.

I tried to give Mrs. Heartbeat-Away-From-The-Presidency all the benefit of the doubt here, with the reference to Obama’s former multi-ethnic girlfriend.  But I simply could not find what she is talking about.  Yes, there was a ginned-up fake controversy a couple years ago involving Obama’s book “Dreams Of My Father”, in which he admitted to using composite characters, including old girlfriends.  Using composite characters is a common literary device.  But even then, how does multi-ethnicity get in there?  Does Sarah thing that is what “composite” means in this context?

Oh, well.  Let’s continue.

Dolezal is an unsatisfied lily white leftist who believes the only thing less politically correct than being a white girl is to be a white guy today.

Query how Palin knows that is Dolezal’s head.

Can’t help but be preemptively amused as I post this and invite Dolzel’s defenders wrath to aim and miss at we who won’t put up with political correctness destroying truth in America.

Translation:  Look at me!  I’m a troll!

Oh, and on a personal note, I can finally look forward to the Left’s positive comments about a scholar’s association with college in Idaho! After all that high-falutin’ criticism for choosing a good school that I could afford to attend while working my way through, graduating college debt-free, I can’t wait to hear the former mockers of Idaho now defend the integrity of that great state’s academia! Go Vandals!

What that fuck?  I was so close to the end, and then the vines of the word salad wrapped around my limbs and I got pulled under.  I have no idea what she is saying here.  I guess Rachel went to the same college (or teaches at the same college?) that Sarah went to.  Which is apropos of nothing and relevant to nothing.

Jeb Bush Officially Enters 2016 Race Today

He’s the 11th candidate to throw his hat in the ring,. but he’s the GOP frontrunner.  Last week, Bush unveiled a raft of endorsements from Florida pols, including 11 of the 17 Republicans in the state’s U.S. House delegation. Normally, home-state endorsements are pro forma, but with a fellow Floridian (Sen. Marco Rubio) in the race, these endorsements are a bit more meaningful.

Bush now has more endorsements, 13, from current House members, governors and senators than anyone else in the 2016 Republican field. He’s also the only candidate besides Sen. Rand Paul to pick up at least two endorsements from members of Congress who are not from his home state.

And money?  Oh, yeah.  Don’t be put off by news stories saying he won’t hit $100 million by the end of June. He’ll still outpace his GOP opponents.

But he’s only polling at 23%.  Which is terrible.  On the other hand, the only reason (arguably) that it is so low is because there’s so many others in the GOP field.  Having one fourth of that pie might not be that bad.

The question is what starts happening when that pack starts to thin out.  As the third tier drops out, will those voters break for Bush, or perhaps a second-tier candidate?  If Bush ends up being the GOP nominee, but the third or even fourth choice of a significant amount of Republicans, that works to Hillary’s benefit in the general, big time.

As of this writing, Bush has not given his announcement speech, but we now have seen the logo.  It’s this:


Ugh.  Am I being sold Wonder bread?

Omitting his last name is a rather obvious ploy for obvious reasons. I suspect there are a not-insignificant number of Americans who think that Jeb Bush is actually his brother George operating under a false flag in defiance of the Twenty-Second Amendment.  Jeb didn’t help himself when he failed in distancing himself from his brother’s Iraq War, even with benefit of hindsight.  Anyway, we now know that Jeb is his own man, because he uses his first name — a rather dumb first name now that I’m compelled to think about it.

And the exclamation point.  Because he’s….. exciting.  I guess.

If you get the idea that there wasn’t much thought behind the logo, you would be right.  Robert Costa of the Washington Post reminds us:

When Jeb Bush first ran for governor of Florida in 1994, his father had recently been booted out of the White House, and the ­40-something son very much wanted to be seen as his own man. So, when it came time to design his bumper stickers, he went with a red background and “Jeb!” in chunky, white letters.

There was no mention of his famous surname or his party, and the jolting exclamation point was the opposite of his family’s Kennebunkport reserve. Bush ended up losing that race but keeping the brand, reusing the logo in his 1998 political comeback and in his 2002 gubernatorial reelection campaign.

Now “Jeb!” is back…

Yup.  The Bush is back.

Update To Earlier Story

Breaking: Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP chapter president who was accused of pretending to be black, said Monday that she would step down.  (see earlier post)

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Too bad.  She seemed like an effective leader.  It probably wasn’t the “crime” of pretending to be black; it was probably the cover-up (saying that she was actually black).

Why I Still Can’t Get 100% Behind Snowden

Whistleblowing is good.  Whistleblowing is important.  It is important that we know what the government is doing regarding our communications and the impact on our privacy rights.  I am happy for the debate, and I thank Edward Snowden for it.

But then there is this:

Britain has pulled out agents from live operations in “hostile countries” after Russia and China cracked top-secret information contained in files leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the Sunday Times reported.

Security service MI6, which operates overseas and is tasked with defending British interests, has removed agents from certain countries, the newspaper said, citing unnamed officials at the office of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Home Office (interior ministry) and security services.

Snowden downloaded more than 1.7 million secret files from security agencies in the United States and Britain in 2013, and leaked details about mass surveillance of phone and internet communications.

Snowden and Glenn Greenwald are disputing this news story, noting:

The whole article does literally nothing other than quote anonymous British officials. It gives voice to banal but inflammatory accusations that are made about every whistleblower from Daniel Ellsberg to Chelsea Manning. It offers zero evidence or confirmation for any of its claims. The “journalists” who wrote it neither questioned any of the official assertions nor even quoted anyone who denies them.

While Greenwald has a point, it doesn’t strike me as completely unreasonable that Russia and China certainly learned something about us that the they didn’t know from Snowden’s massive government document leak.  Of course, we’ll probably never know the truth.

NC Shark Attacks

I don’t like writing about shark attacks because I am old enough to remember the summer of 2001, where the BIG neverending news story was the number of shark attacks, or near-shark-attacks that were happening.  On September 4, 2001, for example, a man was killed and his girlfriend critically injured off the NC beaches, by a shark. Those news stories is why Summer 2001 became known as “The Summer of The Shark”, despite the fact that:

Researchers at the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File recorded 76 unprovoked attacks worldwide in 2001, compared to 85 in 2000. The number of people killed in shark attacks also dropped to five from 12 the previous year.

So it was media hype, mostly.  The Summer of The Shark only went away when a big plane hit the North Tower.

So I think shark stories are a sensationalist jinx, which is why I don’t write about them.

That said, yikes:

A 16-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl lost their left arms and suffered other serious injuries in separate shark attacks in Oak Island, North Carolina, authorities said Sunday night.

The kids, who weren’t identified, were upgraded from critical to fair condition after surgery and were stable at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, said Martha Harlan, a spokeswoman for the hospital. The girl’s left arm was amputated below the elbow, and she suffered lower leg tissue damage, Harlan said, while the boy’s left arm was amputated below the shoulder.

This appears to be the work of a single shark.  So, you know, call Quint.

P.S.  The boy who was hurt was not from Winston-Salem.

RIP Iowa Straw Poll

It’s official (per Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register):

The governing board for the Republican Party of Iowa voted unanimously Friday to cancel the straw poll, a milestone on the path to the White House that had passed the strategic tipping point. It was no longer a political risk for presidential campaigns to walk away from the straw poll, and too many of the 2016 contenders had opted to skip it for it to survive.

“We set the table and they didn’t come to dinner,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann told The Des Moines Register and Radio Iowa Friday morning.

Why now? Apparently nothing was going to give.

In the last few weeks, at least 10 people with Iowa influence had launched a “full-court press” to persuade the presidential contenders to sign up for the straw poll. Branstad was among them and it wasn’t just “a wink and a nod” — the governor was truly advocating for the straw poll, Kaufmann said.

“But there is a point when advocacy becomes pushy or even bullying and that does not bode well for our first-in-the-nation status,” Kaufmann said.

The reference to Branstad is designed to protect him from conservative muttering–conservative activists in Iowa loved the Straw Poll the way football fans in Alabama love the Iron Bowl–that the old man did in the event after attacking it right after the 2012 elections.

You could make arguments, however, that Fox News did in the Straw Poll by making it a distraction from the national campaigning necessary to qualify for the first debate, or that Erick Erickson did it in by counter-scheduling a presidential cattle call for the same weekend, or that Jeb Bush did it in by announcing he wouldn’t be there practically before anybody had time to ask. Personally, I think the Iowa Straw Poll became undeniably irrelevant when Michele Bachmann won last time around.

Gay Marriage Leads To Divorce

You know that silly argument that same-sex marriage harms the institution of marriage?

Pretty dumb, right?  What do they think is going to happen?  If gay people get married, straight married couples will get divorced??? LOL!!!

Well, actually, not so LOL.  Gay marriage could in fact lead to divorce among straight couples.

Or rather, one straight couple.

Who are being total dicks to prove a point:

A Canberra Christian couple who have vowed to divorce if same-sex marriage is legalised may not be able to follow through with their plan due to the legal prerequisites for divorce.

Director of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute and former ACT director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Nick Jensen, said he was prepared to divorce his wife of 10 years in protest if same-sex marriage is legalised by Federal Parliament.

Mr Jensen said he planned to continue living with his wife Sarah and be married “under God”, but divorced in a legal sense.

“It’s not extreme in our eyes, it’s simply a natural consequence of our conscience,” he said.

“When we signed the contract 10 years ago we made a contract with the state about what marriage is, which was husband and wife, fundamental order of creation, part of God’s intimate story for human history, man and woman for the sake of children.

“So if the state then goes and changes the terms of that contract, then that’s something we can no longer partake in, it makes the contract null and void essentially.”

Now, I know nothing of Australian law, but I know enough to know this is among the stupidest things ever said on that continent.

I mean, if you have a contract between the yourself and the guy who is going to paint your house, and *I* have a contract with the same guy to paint *my* house, it doesn’t mean that I have the same house as you, or that we are painting it the same color.  Get my metaphor?

And even if I disagree with your contract with the painter, it sure as hell doesn’t make MY contract “null and void”.

But stupid analogy aside, this stunt is resulting in pretty strong backlack for Nick Jensen.  Even his pro-marriage-equality brother is coming to his defense (“he has a right to speak” and all that).

I certainly agree with Jensen’s right to his anti-equality views, although I don’t find them to be pro-Christian at all.  And frankly, if he’s not enjoying the backlash, he shouldn’t have performed the stunt — a stunt which embraces a very hurtful stance.


A Prediction

The same people who complain that Hillary Clinton is not making herself available to the press will one day complain about “Clinton fatigue” and blame her for the fact that the mainstream media is always talking about her.

Some Good News In The Tamir Race Murder

A judge in Cleveland has ruled that there’s probable cause to charge two officers involved in the November 2014 shooting death of Tamir Rice.

In response to a petition from citizens, under an obscure and little-used provision of Ohio law, Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine agreed that Officer Timothy Loehmann should be charged with several crimes, the most serious of them being murder but also includinginvoluntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. Adrine also found probable cause to charge another officer, Frank Garmback, with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. He rejected aggravated murder charges against both officers. (The Guardian has the full order here.) Referring to the “notorious” video of Rice’s death, the judge wrote, “This court is still thunderstruck at how quickly this event turned deadly.”

But Adrine did not order the two men to be arrested. He stated that because the law under which the affidavits were filed had been amended in 2006, judges no longer have the authority to issue warrants themselves in such cases.

Instead, Adrine forwarded his opinion to city prosecutors and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who says he is currently investigating the case. And he took pains to note that prosecutors are required to apply a different standard before filing charges, determining that it is more probable than not that a reasonable “trier of fact” would hold the officers accountable for any alleged crimes.

Black Like Me?

Rachel Dolezal has been a leader in the Spokane (Washington) chapter of the NAACP for many years.  Having previously worked as the education director for the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene, Dolezal is credited for re-energizing the NAACP chapter.

She is not just president of her local NAACP chapter; she is also an academic expert on African-American culture and teaches many related classes at Eastern Washington University.

But now there is a controversy surrounding her.  It turns out that Rachel Dolezal…. “has been falsely portraying herself as black for years.”

Here is a picture of Rachel and her family:

A family photo shows Rachel Dolezal’s family at her wedding reception in Jackson, Mississippi on May 21, 2000. Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal identified the people in the photo as: Back row: Ruthanne (mother), Kevin & Rachel, Larry (father), Peggy & Herman (Larry’s parents); Front Row, our (Larry and Ruthanne’s) adopted children: Ezra, Izaiah, Esther and Zachariah.

A family photo shows Rachel Dolezal’s family at her wedding reception in Jackson, Mississippi on May 21, 2000. Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal identified the people in the photo as: Back row: Ruthanne (mother), Kevin & Rachel, Larry (father), Peggy & Herman (Larry’s parents); Front Row, our (Larry and Ruthanne’s) adopted children: Ezra, Izaiah, Esther and Zachariah.

As the caption says, Rachel is in the back row, third from the left.  Here is a family photo of Rachel:


But here is Rachel as she is known publicly around Spokane:


I don’t know how she got away all these year fooling people that she was black.  Actually I do.  You can read the full story here.

You just know that some asshole is going to ask why its OK for Caitlyn Jenner to live as a woman but not ok for Rachel Dolezal to live as a black woman….  [UPDATE:  Apparently, LOTS of people are making the comparison.  The hashtag #transracial is trending on Twitter]

UPDATE:  The NAACP has weighed in, and I like what they say, especially the part I have emphasized below…..

For 106 years, the National  Association for the Advancement of Colored People has held a long and proud tradition of receiving support from people of all faiths, races, colors and creeds. NAACP Spokane Washington Branch President Rachel Dolezal is enduring a legal issue with her family, and we respect her privacy in this matter. One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership…