Monthly Archives: September 2015

Worse Than Watergate

The Benghazi investigation has been the longest in special congressional investigative history:

The House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks is now the longest congressional investigation in history, committee Democrats announced today. As of Monday, the House Select Committee on Benghazi, has been active for 72 weeks — surpassing the record previously held by the Watergate Committee in the 1970’s.

Of course, the House committee investigation is one of seven separate congressional committees investigating the matter.  And NOT ONE has found intentional misconduct.  This top-shelf effort is spending a fortune in hopes of inventing something to destroy Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The closest they’ve come is to discover that the former Secretary of State used an unconventional private email server that she shouldn’t have used.


Utah Governor Loses In Court With His Attempt To Defund Planned Parenthood

Take that:

Planned Parenthood’s Utah chapter won an initial round in court on Tuesday challenging an attempt by the governor to cut off its funding, with a federal judge ruling that the public’s interest favors keeping the women’s health organization open.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups issued a temporary restraining order barring Governor Gary Herbert from carrying out his directive for state agencies to revoke their contracts through which Planned Parenthood receives federal dollars.

Herbert ordered the cut-off citing the recent release of secretly recorded videos that Planned Parenthood’s critics say show officials from the group in Texas and other states discussing the illegal sale of aborted fetal tissue.

Anti-abortion activists and their Republican allies in Congress have seized on the videos to challenge Planned Parenthood’s continued eligibility for federal funds on Capitol Hill.

Planned Parenthood says the videos have been used to distort the issue of fetal tissue donations the group makes for scientific research, insisting there is nothing unlawful or unethical about the reimbursements it receives to cover the costs of those donations.

Supporters say efforts to defund the group would restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare and disproportionately hurt low-income patients.

The judge echoed that argument in his restraining order, issued after a hearing in Salt Lake City on Planned Parenthood’s request to block Herbert’s directive.

“The programs carried out by plaintiff target at-risk individuals and the reduction of communicable diseases,” he wrote. “These are strong public interests that outweigh the defendants’ stated interests in defunding” the group.

The judge also sided with Planned Parenthood in finding “a substantial likelihood” that it would prevail on the merits of its arguments that Herbert, a Republican, had violated its constitutional rights to equal protection and freedom of association.

The plaintiffs were singled out based on their “association with an organization against whom accusations have been made of illegal conduct,” the judge said. “Those accusations are still under investigation and have not been proved.”

Again, I say, this is the right wing going about this badly.  If the goal is to have fewer abortions, demonizing (with lies) Planned Parenthood is the wrong way to go.  How about…. sex education?  Or, you know, birth control?  BOTH those things result in few unwanted pregnancies, and hence, fewer abortions.

But… like I said… nothing to worry about.

Sexual Misconduct At My Alma Mater

This seems to be right on par with most other universities, i.e., too much.  From Tufts University President Tony Monaco, via email:

Last spring, Tufts issued a survey to students on all three campuses to gather information about sexual misconduct and to assess their knowledge of campus policies and prevention programs. I am deeply troubled by what we have learned from the survey.

The Tufts Attitudes About Sexual Conduct survey, which was anonymous and confidential, was sent to 11,000 students. It had a 28.7 percent response rate; approximately 30 percent of undergraduate students responded to the survey. The survey—the first university-wide survey on this topic—will provide an important baseline, and we will issue future surveys to determine if our work is having a positive impact.

Approximately 14 percent of students across the university reported having had at least one incident of “non-consensual sexual contact” since enrolling at Tufts; this includes experiencing incidents of non-consensual improper touching, including sexual intercourse. Of the 14 percent, 5 percent of students across the university reported non-consensual sexual intercourse.


The survey data was particularly distressing when analyzed by gender and gender identity, and by academic status:

  • Nearly a quarter (24.7%) of undergraduates have experienced either non-consensual intercourse or other non-consensual sexual contact.
  • Approximately 4.7% of students in our professional and graduate schools have also experienced one or both kinds of misconduct.
  • About 22% of students identifying as transgender, genderqueer or gender non-conforming, or as another identity other than male/female reported having experienced non-consensual sexual contact.
  • The majority of such misconduct incidents appear to have been perpetrated by someone who was known to the victim. Most incidents appear to have taken place in a residential location, and in most cases, the victim and/or the perpetrator was using alcohol.
  • Although most victims report telling someone about the incident, they harbor a variety of concerns about telling others, such as thinking the incident wasn’t serious enough to share or not wanting any disciplinary or legal action to be taken. Most victims, consistent with national numbers, do not officially report their incidents to the Office of Equal Opportunity. Those who do generally feel respected, listened to, and supported during the formal process and feel the staff are well-trained.

The survey does indicate that we have made some progress, and we need to continue our efforts to make every student aware of policies, procedures, and resources:

  • The majority of students said they are happy (92.3%), feel safe (95.9%), and feel valued in the classroom (93.6%) at Tufts.
  • Most respondents felt that most Tufts students respected one another’s personal space (91.5%). Most trusted that their friends would watch out for them at a social event (95.7%).
  • The majority of students had received information about university policies regarding incidents of sexual misconduct (81.1%) and complaint and disciplinary procedures (66.6%). Most students (70.3%) knew how to seek confidential counseling about sexual misconduct.

Tufts is not alone in confronting sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Sadly, these behaviors are occurring on college campuses across the country. However, that does not diminish my profound concern about what this survey tells us about the safety of our students.

Well, identifying the problem is just step one.  Let’s hope this isn’t merely a way to avoid doing step two and step three.  The full downloadable report is below the fold (PDF)

Why I Don’t Stand With Planned Parenthood

I don’t stand with Planned Parenthood because… okay, I DO stand with Planned Parenthood, but my point is I don’t NEED to because I don’t see a serious threat to Planned Parenthood’s existence or funding.

Some might consider this naive.  After all, there are these videos and congressional hearings and threats to shut down the government… all over the issues of abortions by Planned Parenthood.

And I get that.  But as I wrote early last month, this is all theater. I wrote that the Republicans would never dare shut down the government in order to defund Planned Parenthood, because they lack the political will of the people.  And indeed, there is and will be no government shutdown (at least this year) over Planned Parenthood.

The videos themselves have riled the anti-choice base, but all they have managed to do is solidify the previously-held views about abortion on both sides.  And those views were pretty solid to begin with.  The pro-choice has noted repeatedly that the videos are edited and deceptive (a good summary is here at Media Matters), and the pro-life side has repeatedly not cared.  Ultimately, no matter what you believe about the “truthiness” that PP is “harvesting babies” as shown in these videos, every debate I’ve seen involving those videos ends up the same — it’s still about abortion and when life begins… and the videos themselves are almost irrelevant.

Well, not really.  The video are intended to make some people think that these are what ALL abortions look like, in order to get people to switch their views on abortion.  And perhaps some low-information people will switch.  But In fact, very few abortions look like the ones in the heavily-edited Planned Parenthood video (and in fact, some of what is in the video aren’t abortions at all, but rather, stillborn babies being born).

The videos are also important only as a pretext to grill Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards by the GOP lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which they did yesterday.  It is part of the latest congressional effort to strip funding from the women’s health organization.

The big problem is that despite all the argle bargle from the pro-life side, there’s no evidence Planned Parenthood has broken any law.  Interestingly, as Richards was getting grilled yesterday, the Missouri attorney general issued a report confirming there’s no evidence of misconduct at the state’s only Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis. The state official reached that conclusion after reviewing more than 3,500 pages of documents and conducting multiple interviews with the clinic’s employees.

In reaching its findings, Missouri joined five other states — Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota — that have also cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing after launching investigations following the release of the inflammatory videos. An additional seven states considered investigating the group, but decided there wasn’t enough information suggesting Planned Parenthood has broken the law to justify a statewide probe.


The hearings yesterday, to be sure, were ugly, as Ms Richard was brow-beaten, and constantly interrupted, by the mansplaining Committee.  For her part, Richards maintained an admirable calmness, although it was clear that was a challenge. She nailed the whole exercise, however.

“The latest smear campaign is based on efforts by our opponents to entrap our doctors and clinicians into breaking the law—and once again our opponents failed,” Ms. Richards said.

House Republicans have promised there won’t be any end any time soon to the smear campaign. They’re launching a select committee to supposedly investigate the information in the videos. Just like Benghazi. Another committee spending oodles of taxpayer dollars investigating nothing, but designed to attack the frontrunner in the presidential race, who just happens to be a woman, and an organization devoted to providing healthcare to women.

The latest “gotcha” seems to be the “revelation” that PP does not perform mammograms.  Over and over again at the hearing yesterday, the fact that Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer mammograms was held out as some kind of proof that the organization doesn’t provide women’s health care. The GOP seems obsessed with mammograms, as if that and abortions are the only aspects of womens’ health.  Since PP does not perform mammograms, they MUST be doing abortions full-time.  Which of course is nonsense.

Let’s get a few things clear:

Planned Parenthood never hid the fact that it doesn’t do mammograms.  It’s right there on its website (“Where Can I Get A Mammogram?”)

In fact (MEN of the Congressional committee), there’s no reason for them to have mammogram machines on premises. Most gynecologists don’t do them on premises, but refer women out to another location for a mammogram, because mammogram facilities are accredited by the American College of Radiology.  Also, Planned Parenthood is, as its name suggests, a family planning clinic and therefore has much to do with sexual health.  Most women don’t start getting mammograms until they are past child-bearing years.  Therefore, it would be a waste of resources for Planned Parenthood facilities to have those machines (and licensed radiology staff) on premises.  So while PP screens for cancer and other womens’ health issues, it doesn’t actually perform the actual mammograms.

It is interesting, from a tactical perspective, that a lot of the focus was on mammograms yesterday.  Oddly enough, that isn’t going to endear the GOP to women voters.  And that is ultimately why I don’t feel there is much threat to Planned Parenthood….

Because a nationwide USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds Americans back government support for the group by more than 2-1.  Two-thirds of those surveyed, 65%, say funding should continue for the group, which provides contraception, cancer screening and other health services to women; 29% say it should be cut off.  91% of Democrats support PP funding, but even 59% of Republicans.

Like I said, this is a battle with high emotions.  But the war has already been won.  PP is not going anywhere and they don’t need me to stand with them (although of course, I do)

It doesn’t help PP opponents that they lie so brazenly.  The blue ribbon goes to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who tried to ambush Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards with a bizarre “chart” that purported to show that Planned Parenthood had nearly ceased providing breast exams and cancer screenings, while the number of abortions radically increased.

Here’s the exchange:

Here’s a clear image of that “chart”, which Chaffetz says (lying) that it was pulled from a PP corporate website.  Notice that 1) it starts in 2006, and 2) the numbers are ridiculously out of whack because the chart lacks a Y axis. “Cancer screening and prevention services” actually have declined while abortions have increased; cancer screenings end up at more than 935,000, while the number of abortions ends at 327,000. But the chart is presented in a deceptive way to make it look like there are now three times as many abortions as cancer screenings, which is ludicrously false. The truth is exactly the opposite.


At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum replotted the data for this chart, but added a Y axis (which we all learned in grade school math, right?)


And if you add in the other services Planned Parenthood provides, specifically STD screening and contraception, the chart looks even more real.


But…. these are facts and numbers, something the GOP (and PP haters) have no use for.  Well, except to create lies.

Kim Davis Secretly Met With The Pope

Not much of a secret anymore:

Pope Francis met privately in Washington last week with Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who defied a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a Vatican spokesman confirmed on Wednesday.

Ms. Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, has been at the center of a nationwide controversy over whether government employees and private businesses have a legal right to refuse to serve same-sex couples. She spent five days in jail for disobeying a federal court order to issue the licenses.

On Tuesday night, her lawyer, Mathew D. Staver, said in a telephone interview that Ms. Davis and her husband, Joe, were sneaked into the Vatican Embassy by car on Thursday afternoon. Francis gave her rosaries and told her to “stay strong,” the lawyer said. The couple met for about 15 minutes with the pope, who was accompanied by security guards, aides and photographers. Mr. Staver said he expected to receive photographs of the meeting from the Vatican soon.

On Wednesday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that the meeting took place, but he declined to elaborate. “I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add,” he said.

Ms. Davis described the meeting in an interview on Wednesday with ABC News.

“I put my hand out and he reached and he grabbed it, and I hugged him and he hugged me,” Ms. Davis said. “And he said, ‘Thank you for your courage.’ ”

“I was crying. I had tears coming out of my eyes,” she said. “I’m just a nobody, so it was really humbling to think he would want to meet or know me.”

Mr. Staver, her lawyer, said Vatican officials had been aware of Ms. Davis, and that the meeting had been arranged through them — not through bishops or the bishops’ conference in the United States. He would not identify the Vatican officials.

In his public addresses in the United States, the pope spoke in broad strokes about the importance of religious freedom. On the plane trip home, an American television reporter asked him about government officials who refused to perform their duties because of religious objections to same-sex marriage.

The pope said that he could not speak specifically about cases but that “conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right.”

“It is a right,” Francis said. “And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.”

The pope did not mention Ms. Davis, but added: “Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise, we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying, ‘This right, that has merit; this one does not.’ ”

While in Washington, Francis also made an unscheduled stop to see the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns that is suing the federal government over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

Ms. Davis and her husband were in Washington anyway to receive an award from the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group, in recognition of her stand against same-sex marriage.

During Ms. Davis’s visit to the Vatican Embassy, “the pope came to her and held out his hand,” Mr. Staver said.

Ms. Davis asked the pope to pray for her, which he said he would, and then the pope asked Ms. Davis to pray for him, Mr. Staver said. They spoke in English, he said, and the pope gave the Davises two rosaries. Ms. Davis gave the rosaries to her mother and father, who are Catholics.

Many on the left are disappointed because they hoped that the Pope would be on our side.  And he is, on many issues (climate change, for one).  But as has been said so many times, this Pope (like all Popes really) does not fall into the left-right schism that we have in this country.  So we just have to eat this one.

Departing Boehner Takes A Swipe At Tea Party Congresscritters

The exiting John Boehner is free from his shackles and can say anything he wants.  And boy, does he hate the rightwing extremists:

Outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) ripped into some of his Republican colleagues on Sunday for failing to be realistic about what the party can and cannot do, and took a jab at bombastic Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) to make his point.

Appearing on Face the Nation, Boehner said he that he had begun to make plans to step down after colleague Eric Cantor was primaried out in July of last year by a Tea Party backed candidate.


Speaking of his legislative accomplishments, Boehner became quite animated when noting opposition often came from within his own party.

“All [my legislation] done over the last four and a half years with a Democrat president and voted against by my most conservative members because ‘it wasn’t good enough,’” an incredulous Boehner said before asking sarcastically, “Really?”

“This the part that I really don’t understand,” he continued before being asked if the hard liners were “unrealistic.”

“Absolutely, they’re unrealistic!” he exclaimed. “You know the Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there, y’know, spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean this whole idea about shutting down government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013 — I mean, this plan never had a chance.”

Asked if Cruz was one of the “false prophets,” Boehner smirked and became coy, saying, “I’ll refer you to a remark I made at a fundraiser in August, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado,” where the GOP leader called the Texas senator a “jackass.”

Good on you, Boehner.  A reasonable Republican gets forced out…. again.

When Will We Ever Learn… Oh, When Will Weeeee Ever Learn?

I don’t write much about the Middle East because — Jesus, it’s a clusterfuck and it just gets worse and worse and it is depressing.  It’s basically an unsolvable problem and everybody wants to kill each other.

But I think I have figure out ONE truism.

Intervention on the part of the United States makes things worse for us.

I don’t care who the president is, or where the conflict is within the Middles East, or whose side we are on.  Everytime we intervene, it just makes the situation worse.  The Middle East is fire, we are oil, period.  Case in point:

In another embarrassing setback for one of President Barack Obama’s centerpiece strategies for defeating the Islamic State, the Pentagon said Friday that the commander of U.S.-trained Syrians appears to have turned over his pickup trucks and weapons to al Qaeda militants in exchange for protection within days of re-entering his homeland.

The Pentagon admission represented an abrupt reversal of its position as recently as Wednesday, when American military officials firmly denied social media reports that a U.S.-backed commander had defected to Nusra Front, Syria’s al Qaida affiliate, and provided trucks and weapons to the radical Islamic group.

“Unfortunately, we learned today that the New Syrian Force unit now says it did in fact provide six pick-up trucks and a portion of their ammunition to a suspected al-Nusra Front (representative),” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday evening.

Two days earlier, Davis had stated: “The folks that are part of the New Syrian Force are accounted for, as are their weapons.”

The new revelations angered American military leaders.

Remember the good old days when the Russians invaded Afghanistan and we backed the Afghan rebels there by providing them weapons, including that guy — oh, what was his name — Osama bin Laden?  Fine ally he turned out to be.

The political climate is unstable there, and the factional politics is always shifting.  You can show a support for Israel (and we do and we should), but trying to back anyone on the flipside of that coin — it’s impossible.  And if stupid me has figured that out, why hasn’t anyone in power?

The Supermoon Lunar Eclipse Last Night

What actually happened was a confluence of three things. The moon was full and in its closest point in its orbit around the Earth, making it a so-called supermoon.  In addition to this, a lunar eclipse occurred. In other words, the Earth lined up directly with the sun and moon, directly between the two.

It last happened 33 years ago, and it won’t happen again for another 18 years.

And this one fell within normal viewing hours (instead of 4 a.m.)

Unfortunately, there was cloud cover and rain here in the southeast.  But this is what it looked like – time-elapsed.



Trump Beginning To Lose Hard Right?

Moments ago at the conservative Value Voters summit (which met Rubio this morning to much applause), this happened:

Trump also does this:

Seriously? THAT old chestnut?  P.S.  Check out this inspiring Churchillian oratory:


KKKKids: Where Are They Now?

Almost 10 years ago on this blog, I wrote about Prussian Blue – the name of the rock group comprised of two twin sisters, Lamb and Lynx Gaede, who sang songs about white pride and nationalism and had a huge following among white supremacists.

Here is what they looked like then:

Twins Lamb and Lynx Gaede are singers in a band called Prussian Blue whose songs have nationalistic lyrics branded rascist by critics. The 13-year-old twins from Bakersfield, California, have even modelled T Shirts showing an emblem of Hitler for the website

As I wrote then, the two girls had been nurtured from birth with the racist beliefs of their mother, April Gaede.  They recorded two albums and even toured Europe, performing at white nationalist organizations. They even went on to say that they believed the Holocaust was a “myth,” and in fact, the name Prussian Blue refers to the by-product of the poisonous substance used to gas Jews in concentration camps.

So what happened to them?

Well, they got a lot of publicity around 2005 — much of it negative as you might suspect — and eventually left Bakersfield, California to go to Montana, where they hoped to hide under a rock.

As they grew older, and much to the disappointment of their racist mother, the girls’ views changed.  They now think diversity is great.

They both live in Montana still, with Lamb living on her own and working as a hotel maid, and Lynx lives with their mother, stepdad and half-sister, Dresden (the names of these children, good lord) in a home near Lamb.

As a freshman in high school, Lynx was diagnosed with cancer and a large tumor was removed from her shoulder. She also suffers from a rare condition called CVS, Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, which sounds like the most horrible disease in the world.

Unfortunately Lamb has suffered from a few health problems as well, including scoliosis and chronic back pain, as well as lack of appetite and emotional stress… wonder where that came from.

But the one thing that helps them get through the day? Pot. Yes, you read that right.

Lynx reveals, “I have to say, marijuana saved my life. I would probably be dead if I didn’t have it.”

In fact, the two made more history as they became one of the first five minors to get a medical marijuana card in Montana

Lynx tried to explain why they got into the business in the first place, saying, “My sister and I were home-schooled. We were these country bumpkins. We spent most of our days up on the hill playing with our goats.”

Lamb adds, “I was just spouting a lot of knowledge that I had no idea what I was saying.”


“We just want to come from a place of love and light,” Lamb said. “I think we’re meant to do something more  — we’re healers. We just want to exert the most love and positivity we can.”

2011, USA: Lamb and Lynx Gaede of White Power group Prussian Blue///Lamb and Lynx Gaede of Prussian Blue. Credit: Polaris

Good for them.

Breaking: Boehner To Resign From Congress End of October

I wonder if this has anything to do with his rift with others on the right — in particular, the pressure from the far right to shut down the government in order to defund Planned Parenthood.

Boehner is also facing two difficult, and interrelated, challenges right now: many House Republicans want to shut the government down over defunding Planned Parenthood, and some House conservatives want to use an unusual parliamentary maneuver to launch a coup against Boehner. The problem for Boehner is that a shutdown would likely be a disaster for the Republican Party, but stopping a shutdown would make a coup against him more likely to succeed.

In a statement to reporters, a Boehner spokesman said:

Speaker Boehner believes that the first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution and, as we saw yesterday with the Holy Father, it is the one thing that unites and inspires us all.

The Speaker’s plan was to serve only through the end of last year. Leader Cantor’s loss in his primary changed that calculation.

The Speaker believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.

He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his Speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.

That seems a little hasty and thrown together.

I never cared for Boehner, but I respect the fact that he warded off dangerous factions within his party. We are much worse off without him.  Whoever replaces him is going to face the same pressures, and is more likely to cave I think.  Which means more government shutdowns in Washington (or threats of it) and gridlock.

Rep. Pete King (R-NY) has reacted to the news of Speaker John Boehner’s resignation on Friday by telling Politico reporter John Bresnahan it was a “victory for the crazies.”  Yup.

UPDATE:  Some blogs are reporting that Boehner wanted out a while ago, but he wanted to bring the Pope to Congress, which he did.  He reportedly said last night that after bringing the Pope to Congress, he has “nothing more left to do”.  So as to the question of “Did Boehner jump, or was he pushed?”, the best answer seems to be “a little of both.”

UPDATE #2:  The conservatives rejoice.  Here is video of Rubio announcing the resignation at the Value Voters Summit this morning:

How Long Does It Take To Get Hooked On A Show And Start Binge-watching?

Netflix, ground zero of binge-watching, did a study.  This is how long it takes to start binge-watching a show, by episode:

Arrow, Episode 8
Bates Motel, Episode 2
Better Call Saul, Episode 4
Bloodline, Episode 4
BoJack Horseman, Episode 5
Breaking Bad, Episode 2
Daredevil, Episode 5
Dexter, Episode 3
Gossip Girl, Episode 3
Grace & Frankie, Episode 4
HIMYM, Episode 8
House of Cards, Episode 3
Mad Men, Episode 6
Marco Polo, Episode 3
OITNB, Episode 3
Once Upon A Time, Episode 6
Pretty Little Liars, Episode 4
Scandal, Episode 2
Sense8, Episode 3
Sons of Anarchy, Episode 2
Suits, Episode 2
The Blacklist, Episode 6
The Killing, Episode 2
The Walking Dead, Episode 2
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Episode 4

This might explain why I had a hard time getting into Mad Men.  Six hour long episodes is quite an investment before a person gets “hooked”,

The Pope’s Speech To Congress (And By Extension, The American People)

He reminds us that “America” is more than the United States, and that we are all immigrants.  He calls out the black/white-good/evil mindset in politics and promotes pragmatism in resolving problems.  He reminds us of the Golden Rule in calling for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty (as well as a subtle nod to banning abortions).  He speaks of the environment, but does not mention the phrase “climate change”.  Perhaps a nod relating to gay marriage as he says that “fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.”

With the exception of immigration and the death penalty, most of his speech is understated, with vague and passing references.  The spinners are going to spin wildly to try to make bread out of the flour droppings.

Full text of the prepared speech is below the fold.

Tales Of The One Percenters

Honestly.  What is it going to take for the people and/or the government to throw these rich bastards in jail?  No, not for being rich, but for, you know, breaking laws and regulations that effect the lives of actual people…. when?!?

Case Study Number One:

Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn resigned Wednesday as a growing scandal over falsified emissions tests rocked the world’s biggest carmaker.

“I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part,” Winterkorn said after an emergency meeting with Volkswagen directors.

Winterkorn, 68, was Volkswagen (VLKAY) CEO for eight years. The German company, which also owns the Audi and Porsche brands, had just achieved his long-standing goal of overtaking Toyota (TM) to become the biggest automaker three years ahead of target.

But his position had looked increasingly precarious since the scandal broke Friday, when U.S. regulators said the company had deliberately programmed some 500,000 diesel-powered vehicles to emit lower levels of harmful gases in official tests than on the roads.

The crisis escalated Tuesday when Volkswagen revealed it had found significant emissions discrepancies in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.

Winterkorn, an engineer and former head of Audi, said he was stunned by the scale of the misconduct, and was accepting responsibility to clear the way for a “fresh start” for the company.

Stunned, my ass.  You don’t intentionally program an entire line of cars to “cheat” emissions tests without the CEO knowing about it.  So this guy straps on a golden parachute, and leaves Volkswagon.  But people die when these things are avoided:

Volkswagen has admitted that 11 million of its cars worldwide were designed to cheat emissions testing, in an escalating scandal that has loaded pressure on the wider motor industry.

Campaigners have long claimed engine emissions figures under laboratory tests are far exceeded in real-life conditions, and experts have said thousands of premature deaths could be averted by ensuring cars meet their legal limits.

Emphasis mine.

Case Study Number Two:

Hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli is 32 years old but he’s acting half that age on Twitter today after news broke that his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, had raised the price of the life-saving drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill.

That’s not a typo — $13.50 to $750.00 per pill.

Daraprim is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a condition caused by a parasite that exists in nearly a quarter of the U.S. population over age 12, but which can prove deadly for the unborn children of pregnant women and for immunocompromised individuals like AIDS patients. These vulnerable populations will now have to pay over 5,000 percent more for their treatment.

Due to the sudden price hike, Shkreli, whose company only acquired Daraprim last month, has already dethroned the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion as the most-hated man in America.


Shkreli did a news show circuit as well, beginning with Bloomberg, where he attempted to argue that Daraprim had been underpriced before Turing swept in.

“The price per course of treatment to save your life was only $1,000 and we know these days, [with] modern pharmaceuticals, cancer drugs can cost $100,000 or more, rare-disease drugs can cost half a million dollars,” Shkreli said, as if it should be shocking that cheap, life-saving medicine could cost less than a laptop.

When confronted by the reporter with the low cost of producing Daraprim—about $1 per pill by her estimate—Shkreli claimed that the price hike was necessary for Turing Pharmaceuticals to increase revenue, and that some of the profits would be funneled into research and development costs for a Daraprim alternative. But as Emory University infectious disease professor Dr. Wendy Armstrong told RawStory, “I certainly don’t think this is one of those diseases where we have been clamoring for better therapies.”

Why do one percenters get away with this?  Because they can:

But as reprehensible as Shkreli’s actions might appear, what is even more harrowing is that they are not illegal. With his social media swagger, Shkreli makes an easy target for a problem that extends far beyond the confines of his ego: the rampant overpricing of life-saving medicine. As USA Today reported, many new cancer drugs cost over $100,000 per year—a fact that Shkreli, ironically, sees as justification for raising the cost of Daraprim. And technically, there’s no way to stop him.

As a spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration told The Daily Beast’s Ben Collins on Twitter in response to Shkreli’s actions, their power in this situation is, well, nonexistent.

An FAQ page on the FDA’s website asks, “What can the FDA do about the cost of drugs?” and the answer is, essentially, nothing: “We understand that drug prices have a direct impact on the ability of people to cope with their illnesses as well as meet other expenses. However, FDA has no legal authority to investigate or control the prices charged for marketed drugs.”

Martin_Shkreli__3449094bThis is true, but states have laws against gouging.  An industrious state Attorney General could make a name for himself on this.

In any event, Shkreli’s media blitz cast him in an even worse light — he came off as slimy and greasy as a used car salesman.  Just .look at his picture.  The latest news today is that Shkreli has agreed to reduce the price, although he will not say by how much.

He’s not the first person to corner the market on a drug and hike the price.  But he’s one of the most frequent offenders.  Fortunately, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have weighed in, and this could become a political hot potato.  Any chance for reform?  We’ll see.


The Right Wing Welcomes The Pope

The Pope’s message::

In his strongest remarks yet concerning the world’s economic and financial crises, the pope said, “Money has to serve, not to rule.

“We have created new idols,” Pope Francis told a group of diplomats gathered at the Vatican on May 16, and the “golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.” According to Pope Francis, a major reason behind the increase in social and economic woes worldwide “is in our relationship with money and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society.”

Blasphemy!  Sic him, right wing talking heads!!

“Happy Birthday” Now In Public Domain


A judge grants summary judgment to a filmmaker challenging Warner/Chappell’s copyright to a song more than a century old.

The world’s most popular English-language song is potentially free from copyright after a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that filmmakers challenging Warner/Chappell Music’s hold on “Happy Birthday to You” should be granted summary judgment.

According to the opinion on Tuesday from U.S. District Judge George H. King, “Because Summy Co. never acquired the rights to the Happy Birthday lyrics, Defendants, as Summy Co.’s purported successors-in-interest, do not own a valid copyright in the Happy Birthday lyrics.”

The ruling means that Warner/Chappell will lose out on $2 million a year in reported revenue on the song. Unless something happens at an appellate court or unless someone else comes forward with a valid claim of ownership to the song, filmmakers like director Jennifer Nelson — who sued in 2013 over demands as much as six figures to license — will no longer have to pay to feature “Happy Birthday” in motion pictures and television shows.

The “Happy Birthday” song dates to late 19th century work by a schoolteacher named Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred Hill.

The Hill sisters later assigned rights to a publishing company owned by Clayton Summy. Later, copyright registrations were made by Sumny’s company on “Happy Birthday.” Warner/Chappell has been contending that the 1935 registration covered both the piano arrangement as well as nearly universally known lyrics. The melody wasn’t in contention.

Today’s opinion rejects Warner’s argument that a copyright entitles them to a presumption of validity with the judge noting that it isn’t particularly clear whether the registration included the lyrics. Furthermore, the ruling establishes that rights never properly transferred.

“Defendants ask us to find that the Hill sisters eventually gave Summy Co. the rights in the lyrics to exploit and protect, but this assertion has no support in the record. The Hill sisters gave Summy Co. the rights to the melody, and the rights to piano arrangements based on the melody, but never any rights to the lyrics.”

With a nod towards plaintiffs’ early contentions in the case that the song appeared in early 20th century schoolbooks, the judge adds that the Hill sisters never objected to publication until 1934 — four decades after they wrote the song. Even then, the Hill sisters asserted rights on the melody, not the lyrics.

The judge rules that plaintiffs can’t score on a claim of copyright abandonment — it would have been a triable issue — but there’s still enough in the record to give them victory on another aspect. Even if the Hill sisters still held common law rights to the lyrics when they made their later deals with Summy, the judge says there’s no plausible evidence to support the theory they gave those rights to Summy Co.

In fact, Warner may owe money to people who have paid for rights to “Happy Birthday” in the past.

The opinion is below the fold as a PDF:

RIP Yogi Berra

“It ain’t over ’til its over” – Yogi Berra

Well, it’s over.  Yogi Berra is dead at the age of 90.

A dropout in the 8th grade, and looking a lot like a caveman, Yogi Berra was an odd duck within the glamorous 1950s New York Yankees organization.  Often outshown by superstars like Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, Berra was actually the powerhouse of the 1950s Yankees — it was Berra, not Mantle or DiMaggio — who lead the Yankees with the most RBIs for seven consecutive seasons.

He holds several World Series records, including most games by a catcher (63); hits (71); times on a winning team (10); first in at bats, first in doubles, second in RBIs, third in home runs and walks; and he hit the first pinch-hit home run in World Series history in 1947.

Favorite Yogi quote: “Baseball is 90% physical.  The other half is mental.”

Of course, nobody is ever sure if Yogi made all these silly quotes.  “I never said half the things I said,” Yogi once said (supposedly)

Sexual Violence On Campus — Worse Than We Thought

One of the largest-ever surveys on campus sexual violence was conducted recently by the Association of American Universities.  More than 150,000 students across 27 colleges were surveyed,  The results, released Monday, are terrible.

The survey asked students whether they had experienced events ranging from sexual touching to forcible penetration. If they answered affirmatively, they were asked follow-up questions about the circumstances and the event’s aftermath, including whether they reported the incident to law enforcement or a campus authority. Some scenarios that appeared in the survey fit the legal definitions for rape and sexual battery, while others involved incidents that universities typically consider to be sexual misconduct. Other questions measured attitudes toward campus sexual assault and how often students intervened when they observed potentially risky situations.

The participation rate of respondents was low, which might call into question the validity of some of these results.

Here are a few takeaways:

  • More than 1 in 5 undergraduate women are victims of sexual assault.The AAU’s findings suggest sexual-assault rates are slightly higher than the widely cited yet disputed statistic that 1 in 5 college women are victims of sexual assault. According to the survey, 23 percent of female respondents said they experienced nonconsensual sexual contact due to physical force, under the threat of physical force, or while they were incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. Among seniors nearing graduation, that number rises to 1 in 3.
  • In the last academic year alone, 11 percent of respondents said they experienced nonconsensual sexual contact. That’s around 16,500 students across the 27 institutions.
  • First-year students are are the most vulnerable to sexual assault. Sixteen percent of freshman women said they experienced sexual contact under physical force or incapacitation.
  • The vast majority of students don’t report sexual assault or misconduct. While most victims said they confided in a friend, family member or someone else, only 26 percent of students who experienced forcible penetration filed an official report. More than half of those victims said they didn’t consider the event serious enough to go to the authorities, while one-third of said they were “embarrassed, ashamed, or that it would be too emotionally difficult.” Others said they “did not think anything would be done about it.” Students were much more likely to report certain kinds of events than others, with reports filed by 28 percent of stalking victims but only 5 percent of those who experienced unwanted sexual touching while they were incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.​
  • Transgender and gender-nonconforming students experience sexual assault and misconduct at higher rates than their peers. These students comprised 1.5 percent of survey respondents, but nearly 40 percent of seniors identifying with this group said they had experienced nonconsensual sexual contact in college, compared to a third of senior women. They’re also less likely to believe the university will conduct a fair investigation or take their reports seriously.
  • Response rates were low. About 19 percent of students across the 27 universities chose to respond to the online survey, which was conducted during a three-week period in April. The survey notes that nonvictims may be less likely to participate, skewing incidence rates slightly upward. Still, final participation rates were well below the the rates of similar studies.

Here is the survey if you want to go deep-diving into methodology and results:

Here Come Da Pope

I am a BIG Pope Francis fan.  And I like that he is coming to America and he’s going to do some papal spanking.

I noted this morning that Lindsey Graham tweeted about how the Pope has pro-life views.  Indeed, he does.  But he also has very strong views on sexual equality, climate change, and income disparity.  I wonder how many Republicans and Republican candidates will cozy up to those messages.  I expect a lot of Pope-bashing starting today, when he lands in the United States.

[UPDATE:  Yup, George Will has started it.]

Over at The Atlantic, Emma Green warns people like me that the Pope, although willing to stake out some doctrinal shifts, is not a progressive in the American sense:

Francis does not fit neatly into American categories. To understand him and his agenda, it’s more helpful to look at America through his eyes than to look at him through an American’s eyes, for even the most familiar U.S. issue may seem very different to this Argentinian Jesuit. As the pope makes his way from Cuba through Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First, the American political spectrum is truly idiosyncratic. This is a country where a Democratic congressman can loudly oppose the death penalty on moral grounds, but can’t risk really opposing abortion; a Republican might care a lot about the poor, but woe unto her campaign coffers if she suggests raising taxes on the rich. “Francis, like all the other popes, like the Catholic Church, simply doesn’t land comfortably on either side of the political divide in the U.S.,” said Vincent Miller, a professor of theology at the University of Dayton. “But it’s not simply that on questions of sexuality and human life he agrees with Republicans and on questions of economics he agrees with Democrats. The whole system is so skewed.”

Second, although some read this pope as a rebel within a broken Church, no pontiff can single-handedly overhaul Church teachings on any issue, nor has that ever been Francis’s intention. There is no doubt Francis is a reformer: He has cleaned up Church finances and reorganized the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s bureaucracy. In October, bishops will also gather in Rome for the second of two synods on the topic of family, which may yield changes in how the Church deals with married priests and divorcées. But as with anything in the Church, it’s reform in increments, always in continuity with what has come before. Francis’s style may be different from that of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the two popes who preceded him. But this pope has made painstaking efforts to show how his work is a continuation of theirs, rather than something totally new.

Finally, Francis is fundamentally a global pope. He is not coming to the U.S. to address it as a voting bloc, like some politician traveling to a recalcitrant county to court constituents. The most vibrant and fastest growing parts of the Church are in Latin America and Africa, not North America and Europe. Moreover, the United States is sort of like the Death Star in Pope Francis’s understanding of global politics.


In an American context, Francis is actually something of a traditionalist in his approach to family. Although he just about broke the Internet in 2013 when he said, “Who am I to judge?” in response to a pool reporter’squestion about a gay priest, he has not shifted Church doctrine on traditional marriage at all. In fact, at times, he has emphasized the male/female nature of marriage; at a Vatican summit in November, for example, he affirmed that marriages between husband and wife are “an anthropological fact, and consequently a social, cultural fact, etc.” He has consistently written that “marriage and the family are in crisis,” and that “the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.”

I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but it’s a good read.

Walker Don’t Run

Scott Walker is out of the race.  This is pretty big news — bigger than Perry getting out. Last March, Nate Silver gave Walker a 26% chance of being the GOP nominee. Last June, Walker was the frontrunner in Iowa.  It was a crowded field then, too, but Walker had somewhere around 8%.  Now he is an asterisk, with less than 1%.

At one time, I considered Walker to be the biggest threat to Hillary Clinton.  If he caught fire, I thought he was the ideal candidate for the GOP (along with Rubio or Fiorina).  Those three seemed to have the best claims in the field for balancing conservatism with electability, historically a sweet spot for Republican nominees.

But Walker never caught fire.

In announcing the “suspension” of his campaign, Walker said, “I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner.”

That was a reference to Trump.

He’s got a point, although Trump really isn’t completely responsible for Walker’s demise.  Walker was mediocre in the debates at best.  And he had fewer than 14 minutes in both debates combined to speak to voters: the least for any candidate on the main stage for both events.

He also had his share of missteps on the campaign trail — such as implying that the U.S. should consider building a border wall with Canada — but they don’t seem to be much worse than the gaffes other candidates have committed.

I think Walker simply failed to stand out and plant his flag in a crowded field.  Like the 15th or 16th Duggar child, he was just…. there.  I suspect he might be back if a Democrat wins the presidency.  Otherwise, he may be off the political stage for good now.

Chile’s 8.3 Earthquake

8.3 is very strong (strongest of the year by far).  And this one was shallow, too.  And lots of aftershocks.

Only eight dead, which is remarkable, and the tsunami wasn’t terribly bad.  Think Chile dodged a bullet.

Yet Another Post-Debate Analysis

Junior Varsity Debate:  Heard almost none of it, but my understanding is that Senator Graham did well and was folksy at times, even while predicting the end of the world as he is inclined to do.

Varsity Debate:  I saw and/or heard most of it, although some was in during the replay.

First of all, kudos to CNN.  It was, at times, an actual debate.  Yes, three hours made it seem like we were binge-watching on Netflix, but there was a lot of substance in there.  Even the softball questions (“What would be your Secret Service codename?”) were fairly interesting.

But this is about winners and losers.  So let’s get to it.

The biggest winner was unquestionably Carly Fiorina.  Before the debate, it was clear that everyone was looking for someone to break out.  I think perhaps a couple of candidates “broke out” last night, but none so fiercely as Fiorina.  She was consistently well-prepared without sounding canned. Attacks on her business record seemed to bounce off her.  She attacked Trump’s business record who she said was “forced into bankruptcy not once, not twice, but a record four times.”  When asked about Trump insulting her looks, she didn’t have to say anything more than “all women heard what Trump said”, forcing him to say that she was a “beautiful woman” in a way so patronizing that he would have been better off just saying nothing.

Remarkably, she was the only candidate who refused to answer what woman should be on the $10 bill, pointing out that women are not a special interest, but a majority in the country.  Putting a woman on the $10, she said dismissively, was a “gesture”.

Her temperament was tough and serious. I thought she even came off a little harsh.  You know how Rush Limbaugh characterizes “feminazis” as humorless and harsh-looking?  That’s how Fiorina came across.  In the future, she might want to soften it up (not necessarily be more feminine, just more humorous).

That said, Fiorina was grossly and negligently wrong on her facts.  She gave a harrowing description of the Planned Parenthood sting videos, challenging Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to watch “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”  No such video segment exists.  She just made it up.

The biggest loser was Donald Trump.  This debate was substantive, and Trump’s schtick is rhetoric.  The whole “I’ll assemble a really good team and we’ll fix it” line just fell flat, and Trump faded into the background, especially when it came to foreign policy.  Will it affect his commanding lead in the polls?  I doubt it.  But I think it might be the beginning of the end for him.  He did a lot of odd backpeddling, like sticking to, but also amending, his previous statement about how vaccines cause autism.  How nuts is that?  (By the way, the whole thing about “spreading out vaccines” is bullshit, and perhaps dangerous too).

As for the others….

Bush had his moments.  The biggest applause line was when he stood by his brother and said “he kept us safe”.  Yeah, except for that thing that happened in his first year.  It kind of reminds me of “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….”

I know many pundits think Bush did badly, and I think he started out the debate badly and finished much stronger.  Unfortunately, a lot of GOP voters may have tuned out by then.

Also having good moments were Rubio (although I don’t think he’s a GOP favorite on immigration), and Christie, and Huckabee (if you go for that religious bent), and Rand Paul (whose libertarianism comes off as liberal sometimes).  In their own way, they all broke through a little.

I think Walker and Kasich did fine but didn’t break through.

I know a lot of people thought Ted Cruz did well, but I thought that his looking at the camera was creepy.

And Doctor Carson, in my view, really did not help himself.  Like Trump, the other outsider ahead of him in the polls, he seemed unsure of any specific policies.  For example, on immigration, Carson has previously said that deporting all illegal immigrants isn’t practical. Asked about this sensible position in the debate, he said he doubts that it’s practical but will listen to those who say it can be done.  Immigration has been front and center in the GOP agenda for months, and the best he can do is waffle and say, “I’ll listen to other ideas”?

For me, the most disturbing part of the evening was the question on climate change.  Yes, they finally got a question on climate change.  And they talked about it for a full three minutes!  The question, though, was framed in an interesting way: Ronald Reagan’s own secretary of state, George Shultz, has advocated for some kind of action on climate change, just as an “insurance policy.” Tapper asked, why not follow Reagan’s example, and take out an insurance policy to respond to what scientists overwhelmingly believe will be devastating impacts of climate change?

Three candidates responded: Rubio, Christie, and Walker. All three argued that nothing should be done by the American government to combat the problem, and Christie even said that he “respectfully disagrees” with Reagan’s secretary of state (gasp!). But all three also backed up their argument using a factually murky claim: that government efforts to combat climate change won’t do anything to solve the problem (which is, of course, untrue, as the premise of the question pointed out).

Bottom line: Don’t expect the GOP to do anything about climate change.

And what it made it even worse was that it segued into the aforementioned very unscientific conversation about vaccines causing autism.

Trump spoke the longest, and sadly, too many questions were about him or what he said (“Candidate X, Donald Trump says you’re a jerk.  How do you respond?”).  Here are the times:

Trump: 18:47
Bush: 15:48
Fiorina: 13:30
Carson: 12:56
Christie: 12:36
Rubio: 11:21
Cruz: 10:45
Paul: 10:28
Kasich: 9:44
Huckabee: 9:20
Walker: 8:29

Fiorina did most of the interrupting, and it obviously worked to her benefit.  Other candidates interrupted to steer what would otherwise have been a good conversation into something within their own bailiwick.  I hated it when that happened.

Anyway, it’ll take a few days to determine what impact, if any, this has on the polls.  I suspect that not much will change for Trump — his followers have a cult-like devotion and probably thought he was amaaaazing last night.  But I expect to see a shakeup, with Fiorina overtaking Carson.  And a winnowing of a few more.

That said, I think Ed Kilgore my have the smartest final take on the outcome:

Above all, I don’t think this debate did much to solve any of the Republican Party’s problems. Did it “take down” Donald Trump, as so many hoped? I don’t think so, despite the bountiful opportunities the other candidates — at the earlier “J.V.” debate, where the first four questions were about Trump, as at the main event — had to do so. Did it “winnow” the field? Nobody did that badly, and the candidates with the least steam, like Mike Huckabee, are already committed to a living-off-the-land county-by-county effort in Iowa. Did the “uprising” on behalf of “outsider” candidates with dubious qualifications abate? Probably not; whatever ground Carson lost was probably gained not by the “experienced” pols but by Fiorina, whose background remains a real time bomb that only Trump has tried to exploit.

Should the “outsiders” fade, moreover, this debate did little to help build an “Establishment” consensus behind a candidate prepared to move into the lead just as people start voting. Indeed, an Establishment candidate long left for dead, Chris Christie, may have revived his extremely limited prospects with a good performance tonight. So the long slugfest may have resolved nothing.

GOP Debate #2 Thoughts

The second round of GOP debates are this evening.

In related news, Facebook is coming out soon with a “dislike” button (bit not soon enough).

Here are some random notes and thoughts:

  1.  The candidates in the junior varsity debate are Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum and George Pataki.  That starts at 6 pm.  No news will come out of it.
  2.  The candidates in the varsity debate are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie and John Kasich.
  3. The moderators are Jake Tapper of CNN and radio talk guy Hugh Hewitt.  Hewitt is known for “tough questions” requiring some knowledge (what many in the GOP call “gotcha questions”), but I predict he will tone it down tonight.
  4. The debate will be held at the Ronald Reagan Library in a room with a retired Air Force One plane in the background.  This will NOT be a stadium-sized audience like last time.  Maybe only 500 to 600 people.  So expect something less… uh… rowdy.
  5. Trump will be Trump.  Loud, obnoxious, and bombastic.  It will not go as well as the first debate for him, because of the small room.  Without a cheering mob, his dickishness will shine through more.  Don’t get me wrong: he will still be on top after the debate.  But he won’t “win” it.
  6. Carson will stay about the same too.
  7. There will be comparisons to Reagan since they are at the Reagan Library.  Someone will point out that Trump actually gave to the Carter campaign in 1980.
  8. The winner of the debate will be the one who “breaks through”.  That will probably be Carly Fiorina or perhaps John Kasich.
  9. I still maintain that Trump will never ever ever be the GOP nominee.  Many pundits on the left have said that, but now they are getting wobbly knees and saying, “Well, he keeps on defying the odds.  Everytime we say he has peaked, he goes higher.”  True, but that is because nobody has dropped out yet (except Perry, and he was only at 3%).  Once the crowd of candidates winnows, others will come up to meet Trump.  Carson and Fiorina, I expect.  In any event, the longer Trump stays up there, that is good news for Democrats.  Hell, if he is the nominee, that is the BEST news for Democrats.  So…. go TRUMP!!!
  10. So basically, tonight’s debate is about who gets winnowed out prior to Iowa.  Could be a couple of these people.

14-year-Old Kid Named Ahmed Builds A Clock; Gets Arrested For Building A Bomb

This happened in Texas, so…. no surprise.

Ahmed Mohamed — who makes his own radios and repairs his own go-kart — hoped to impress his teachers when he brought a homemade clock to MacArthur High on Monday.

Instead, the school phoned police about Ahmed’s circuit-stuffed pencil case.

So the 14-year-old missed the student council meeting and took a trip in handcuffs to juvenile detention. His clock now sits in an evidence room. Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb — though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it’s a clock.

In the meantime, Ahmed’s been suspended, his father is upset and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is once again eyeing claims of Islamophobia in Irving.


Ahmed’s clock was hardly his most elaborate creation. He said he threw it together in about 20 minutes before bedtime on Sunday: a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front.

He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn’t get quite the reaction he’d hoped for.

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

He kept the clock inside his school bag in English class, but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed brought his invention up to show her afterward.

“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”

The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn’t get it back.

They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”

Ahmed felt suddenly conscious of his brown skin and his name — one of the most common in the Muslim religion. But the police kept him busy with questions.

The bell rang at least twice, he said, while the officers searched his belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said.

“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.

“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”

Ahmed never claimed his device was anything but a clock, said police spokesman James McLellan. And police have no reason to think it was dangerous. But officers still didn’t believe Ahmed was giving them the whole story.

“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” McLellan said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

Asked what broader explanation the boy could have given, the spokesman explained:

“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?”

Police led Ahmed out of MacArthur about 3 p.m., his hands cuffed behind him and an officer on each arm. A few students gaped in the halls. He remembers the shocked expression of his student counselor — the one “who knows I’m a good boy.”

Ahmed was spared the inside of a cell. The police sent him out of the juvenile detention center to meet his parents shortly after taking his fingerprints.

They’re still investigating the case, and Ahmed hasn’t been back to school. His family said the principal suspended him for three days.

Now for the interesting part. Irvine’s mayor is a notorious islamophobe. You would not go too wrong thinking of Frank Gaffney.

Mayor Beth Van Duyne has accused mosque leaders of creating separate laws for Muslims and the City Council voted Thursday to endorse a state bill that Muslims say targets their faith.


The mayor stands by her statements, including an interview with former Fox News host Glenn Beck last month, when she said Sheikh and other imams were “bypassing American courts” by offering to mediate disputes among their worshippers according to an Islamic code called Shariah.

The mediation is advertised as voluntary, nonbinding and in harmony with the law.

But it has led Van Duyne to back a bill by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, that would forbid judges from using foreign law in their rulings.

While the bill does not mention religion, Leach has singled out the Islamic mediation panel as a “problem” it will solve. The wording is largely identical to that in a previous bill pitched by another lawmaker as a way to stop the influence of “large populations of Middle Easterners.”

Ahmed talks about the experience:

Here’s a tweet with a photo:

There is now a twitter account @IStandWithAhmed to show support for Ahmed …. and a trending hashtag #ThingsTexasPoliceThinkAreBombs, e.g.,



UPDATE: More invitations….

[fb_embed_post href=”” width=”550″/]

Clinton Addresses College Sexual Assaults

I’m not sure the President of the United States holds a lot of cards when it comes to the administration of universities, but Clinton is certainly going to try:

“As president, I’ll fight to make sure every campus offers every survivor the support she needs and will make sure those services are comprehensive, confidential and coordinated,” she said, adding that sexual assault survivors include men and the transgender community.

“Rape is a crime wherever it happens and schools have an obligation. I think it’s both a legal obligation and a moral obligation, to protect every student’s right to get an education free from discrimination, free from fear.”

That legal obligation falls under Title IX, which protects against sex discrimination in all federally-funded education programs, as well as the Clery Act, which mandates crime reporting and certain resources for survivors.

Noting a recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll that found that one in five women reported being sexually assaulted during college, Clinton outlined the need to shore up services for survivors as well as bolster “prevention efforts to change attitudes associated with violence.” She said that the issue “is a lot bigger than a single conversation at freshman orientation” while praising the work of those working to address the problem.  One of the improvements Clinton hopes to make involves “strengthening the disciplinary process for both the accuser and the accused”.  I don’t know that means exactly.

The Back End Of The Kentucky Court Clerk

It looks like Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis doesn’t want to go back to jail after all.

Kim Davis, the embattled Kentucky county clerk, at the center of the dispute over gay marriage and religious liberty, appeared to back down from the threat of more jail time Monday, saying while she still refuses to authorize marriage licenses, she will not interfere with a deputy clerk who began providing them more than a week ago.

Davis returned to work Monday, her first time in the office since her high-profile release from the Carter County Detention Center last week. Emotional and flanked by her son, Nathan, Davis read a statement outside the courthouse, bemoaning that her deputy clerks have been caught in the middle of her case.

“If any of them feels that they must issue an unauthorized license to avoid being thrown in jail, I understand their tough choice and I will take no action against them,” she said. “However, any unauthorized license they issue will not have my name, my title or my authority on it. Instead, the license will state that they are issued pursuant to a federal court order.”

Great. Fine. Wonderful. Now go away.

Miss America Pageant Notes

There was a time when beauty pageants made the occasional appearance on this blog, but I think it has been a few years.

Anyway, I watched the spectacle last night (as well as the US Open Final) and I have this to say: It is increasingly difficult in this day and age to see this as an enlightened and forward-thinking treatment of women.  I mean, let’s get real.  This is a beauty pageant.  And the women are objectified.  They can give all the lip service they want to talent, and answering questions, but first and last, it’s about how these women (or “girls” as they are sometimes called) look.  They would never give the Miss America award to the top female neurosurgeon or female astronaut unless they were killer in a bathing suit.

Which isn’t to say it should be banned or even condemned.  I’m just saying that we should take the pageant for what it is — a beauty contest.  For a feminist, the pageant is like  chocolate pudding would be to a vegetarian — a guilty pleasure.  It’s something we can enjoy, but let’s not kid ourselves that the “lookism” that the contest reveres is the best — or even a very good — way to celebrate women’s contributions to society.  Our young girls should know that being Miss America is not the pinnacle of women-hood, and should understand that a successful woman and an attractive woman are two different things.

Plus, the organization does a lot of humanitarian and charitable work blah blah blah.  So we will give the pageant itself — the meat market, if you will — a pass.

With the preface out of the way, here’s my notes:

(1)  The apology to Vanessa Williams was a couple decades too late.  But okay.  Nice anyway.

(2)  Not to stereotype, but is anyone surprised that the southern states do well in these things?

(3)  Nope.  A monologue about your nursing job is not “talent”.  They need to re-examine the rules about this.  If you’re going to do a monologue, do Lady Macbeth or something.

(4)  You know what else is not “talent”?  Coke and Menthos, or whatever the hell Miss Vermont was going to do.  (She didn’t make the cut, so it wasn’t on TV, but her talent would have been awesome, even if it wasn’t talent)

(5)  My favorite part is the question-and-answers.  I thought the questions were very good, and the answers were not-so-good.  To be fair, that portion of the pageant is harder than it looks.  I’m well-read on those issues, but I doubt I could formulate a coherent (and BRIEF) answer on the spot — without stuttering, without “uh”s.

(6)  Kudos to Miss Tennessee for her answer to the Planned Parenthood funding question (and yay to Vanessa Williams for asking it).  Is the right wing going ballistic this morning?  Yes.

(7)  Boo to Miss South Carolina for her response to the question about banning military-assault weapons.  Training people how to use them will prevent accidents?  It’s not the “accidents” we are worried about!  And this is a black woman from South Carolina!!  South Carolina where a guy in Charleston just went in and shot up a black church!!

(8)  Speaking of morning-after flack, Miss Louisiana is getting some of it for her answer from Winnie Cooper Danica McKeller regarding #blacklivesmatter.  She said:

…which was kind of a punt. She touched on police training, but she didn’t have to go to the “all lives matter” meme, which is typically used to be dismissive of the “black lives matter” campaign.  But again, this may have been nerves and a desire to placate everybody.  I’m giving her a pass on that one.

(9)  Ellen Degeneres on U.S. currency?  Seriously?

(10)  Miss Georgia got the stupidest question: she was asked to weigh in on Deflate-gate.  Her initial response was probably the best — I wasn’t there to feel Tom Brady’s balls (oh, if only she had said it that way).  I was rooting for Miss Georgia (she is a friend of a friend) and I thought her Deflate-gate response really blew it for her.

But Betty Cantrell, Miss Georgia, won despite that.  (She was the most talented — I will give that)!

Stephen Colbert’s Next Late-Night Show

I like Stephen Colbert.  I liked him on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, and I like his improv work.  I liked him when he did Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

I liked his charactor on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, although the schtick wore very thing with me after a while.

As David Letterman’s Late Night replacement on CBS, I had high hopes.  Letterman was and is the late-night guru of my generation, so I didn’t expect Colbert to be groundbreaking in a field now overcrowded with contenders.

So I watched his debut show this past Monday with guest George Clooney and Jeb Bush.  And all I can say is…. meh.

For one thing, I don’t care for talk shows that rely on too much pre-recorded or pre-written material.  The chatting part with guests should be free-flowing, not scripted.  I don’t mind if you plan to do things with them (like play a game, Fallon-style), but don’t cut to a video made earlier that day with the guest.

For another thing, Colbert hasn’t proven to be a good interviewer.  On The Colbert Report, he would often interrupt the guest in order to inject his Bill-O’Reilly-like personality for comedic effect.  I found that annoying.  On Late Night With Stephen Colbert, he still interrupts the guests and is thinking about what to ask rather than listening.  Very unusual for a guy with an improv background.

That said, he’s clearly making a splash, and I am happy about that, by booking big political guests.  Last night, he made news by having Vice President Joe Biden on… and Biden made it pretty clear that he won’t be running.  But according to The Verge, it was a watershed interview for Colbert, and the highlight of his week.  And why?  BECAUSE he dropped the gags:

Colbert warmed Biden up by ridiculing the moral integrity of other politicians, noting that the vice president’s reputation has always been sterling by comparison. “How did you maintain your soul in a city that is so filled with people that are trying to lie to us in subtle ways?” joked Colbert.

There weren’t many one-liners or gags after that. Instead, Colbert took Biden into a conversation that centered around faith and heartbreaking personal loss. Tragedy for both men came only two years apart; Biden’s first wife and daughter were killed in a 1972 car accident, and two of Colbert’s brothers along with his father perished in a 1974 plane crash. They could relate with one another about persevering through the emptiness that resulted. “Faith sees best in the dark,” said Biden, a quote borrowed from philosopher Kierkegaard.

I think they’re right, but you be the judge.

Now comes news of a huge “get”.  Colbert has booked Donald Trump.  If Colbert tries to work LESS at being funny, and keeps up these bookings, he may be a force for the 2016 elections, taking Stewart’s mantle for political comedy.

Michael Stipe Loses His Religion

There was a poorly-attended Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal Wednesday, and at the rally, Donald Trump used the R.E.M. song, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” as his walk-on music.

The band was not amused: R.E.M. Slam Trump: ‘Go Fuck Yourselves’.

“Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you — you sad, attention-grabbing, power-hungry little men,” [Michael] Stipe said in a quote emailed to The Daily Beast. (He was likely referring to Trump and Cruz, two Republican presidential contenders who spoke at the rally.) “Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.”

On Wednesday evening, the band posted the following statement on their Facebook page: “While we do not authorize or condone the use of our music at this political event, and do ask that these candidates cease and desist from doing so, let us remember that there are things of greater importance at stake here.”

9/11 Plus 14

I’m a bit like Ed Gilgore, who writes today…:

Most years I don’t get too involved in 9/11 reminiscences. It’s not like any American old enough to be aware of what was happening that day is going to forget it. Some ideologues want us all to get hysterical each 9/11, but they are the ones whose memories are impaired, forgetting the horrendous mistakes made in the name of retaliation for the attacks.

But nevertheless, it’s almost insane NOT to say something.

As I often do on this day, I watch (and/or listen to) MSNBC, which shows “At It Happened” — basically what happened on NBC on Tuesday September 11, 2001, starting with the Today show.  The first 3 hours are, as you can well imagine, very riveting.  What always strikes me is the vast amount of confusion and misinformation.  Once it was clear that we were under attack, we just had no idea how bad it was going to get.  So you get reports (which turn out to be false) about a car bomb at the Capitol, and a bomb at Stuyvesant Elementary School in Manhattan.  And you can just here the fear in the voices of the broadcasters, even Tom Brokaw at times.

My recollection

Here’s something you didn’t know about 9/11: it made the whales happier for a few days.

Here’s something you might not have known: A young woman, two weeks out of Air Force flight school, had the unpleasant task of being a kamikaze pilot:

Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it.

The one thing she didn’t have as she roared into the crystalline sky was live ammunition. Or missiles. Or anything at all to throw at a hostile aircraft.

Except her own plane. So that was the plan.

Because the surprise attacks were unfolding, in that innocent age, faster than they could arm war planes, Penney and her commanding officer went up to fly their jets straight into a Boeing 757.

“We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft,” Penney recalls of her charge that day. “I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”

Here’s some kids at the NY Stock Exchange getting ready to ring the opening bell.  They were born on 9/11/01.  I am old.


UPDATE:  One thing is for sure…. we’re still a little antsy this day, even 14 years later:

[LATE UPDATE:  Man stapped woman at Union Station McDonald’s and a security guard shot the man – a domestic dispute.  WH locked down probably as precaution.  Like I say: jittery]

UPDATE:  Former Bush WH secretary is posting a series of as-it-happened 14 years ago Tweets from his perspective with Bush.  Interesting stuff.  Some examples:

Queen For A Day (and 23,225 more)

At 17:30 BST today, Queen Elizabeth, age 89, has reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes – surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.  She becomes Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.


Hillary Clinton Apologizes For…. Something

ABC News:

Hillary Clinton on Tuesday told ABC News’ David Muir that using a personal email account while Secretary of State was a “mistake” and that she is “sorry” for it.

“I do think I could have and should have done a better job answering questions earlier. I really didn’t perhaps appreciate the need to do that,” the democratic presidential candidate told Muir in an exclusive interview in New York City. “What I had done was allowed, it was above board. But in retrospect, as I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. One for personal, one for work-related emails. That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.”

This is the farthest Clinton has gone yet in offering an apology for her use of a private email server while Secretary of State.

For reasons surpassing my understanding, the email “scandal” has been around for a couple of months, supplanting the Benghazi scandal for Hillary Clinton which turned out to be nothing.

Every time I read about it, I feel like I should blog in depth about it, because it really seems to be a BIG DEAL.  But I haven’t figured out what the BIG DEAL is.

I go over to Fox News, who reports on this endlessly.  And while the chattering heads on, say, Fox’s “The Five” keep insisting that Hillary “broke the law”, I have yet to hear what that law is.  I’ll tell you what it LOOKS like.  It LOOKS like they are trying to catch Hillary in some kind of “You said that, NOW you say this” perjury trap.  It is investigating for the sake of investigating, because at SOME point, they will find SOMETHING that doesn’t jibe with what she has said.  It almost doesn’t matter what.  If she said it was rainy on January 5, 2011, and they find an email from that day saying it was sunny… well, then I guess we have “Rainy-gate”.  Anything to knock her down in the polls.

But seriously, Hillary Clinton broke no law.  She simply didn’t.  Yes, emails to and from her were on her own personal private server.  But that was not illegal.  The National Archives established protocols for preserving emails, but that’s THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES.  Their job is history, not security.  And obviously, there are security concerns, as well as investigative concerns (emails need to be preserved if there is a a Freedom of Information Act request, to give one example).

At first blush, it might LOOK like Hillary was trying to hide something, by keeping her emails off the government computers.  Except that… they WEREN’T kept off the government computers.  If she sent an email to a government email address, it was saved on that government server.  If she received an email from a government email address, it was saved on that government server as well.  And if she sent or received a person email, then it wouldn’t be subject to FOIA requests or pose a national security risk.

So it doesn’t really look that bad when you actually think about.

The second concern is security.  Clinton’s personal server (it is assumed) is not as secure as the State Department’s server (although the federal government has been hacked, and to our knowledge, the Clinton home server has never been hacked).  Did Clinton receive or transmit classified information?  Her foes say yes, completely overlooking the fact that at the time the information was sent or received, it WASN’T classified.  It is illegal for someone to “knowingly” receive a classified document or briefing and then turn around and send along that info in an unclassified email.  This, Clinton insists, did not happen, and there has been no evidence that this did happen.  (When you hear Clinton foes try to compare her to General Patraeus, this is the salient difference.  Patraeus KNEW the information he passed on to his paramour-writer friend was classified).

Some argue that some of the information received by Clinton, while not marked as “CLASSIFIED”, were of such sensitive nature that they were – I love this phrase — “born classified”.  Maybe.  Maybe to some.  But did Hillary know it at the time?  Did she even read all her email?  Who knows?

You see, part of the problem is there is no consensus in the government as to what is “classified” and what isn’t.  As Jeffrey Toobin explains in the New Yorker, while classified information is generally defined as anything with the potential to damage national security, in reality, “government bureaucracies use classification rules to protect turf, to avoid embarrassment, to embarrass rivals—in short, for a variety of motives that have little to do with national security.”  Since the process by which the government classifies information is a complicated and subjective one, it is impossible for someone to know today what will be classified tomorrow, and even whether it should be classified at all.

“Ah-HA,” say the Hillary foes.  If that is the case, then, as the nation’s top diplomat, Clinton should still have been well aware that some of the information she was hosting on her server was POTENTIALLY sensitive and would POTENTIALLY end up classified even before it was officially ruled as such. Put another way, Hillary might not have known which information would become classified but she SHOULD HAVE KNOWN some of it eventually would be.


That’s where they got her.

And presumably, that’s what she has apologized for.

But once you digest all that, what did Hillary Clinton DO?  She committed an error.  That’s it.

This isn’t the crime of the century, like when she and her husband killed Vincent Foster and made it look like a suicide (joke).  This isn’t even a crime.  At worst, it was an error.

Unfortunately, it is an error which is being played out in drips.  That’s because the FBI is reviewing her email and releasing whatever is unclassified in small batches to the public.  Why?  I’m not sure.  There was no security breach of Hillary’s email account.  She was admittedly stupid for making that a (remote) possibility, but she didn’t hide the fact that she was using her own non-dot-gov email system.  Republicans and Democrats alike all knew her email address.  She wasn’t hiding the fact of her private server because there was nothing to hide.  It’s only NOW that people care, because it allows them to look inside.  She was stupid for having the private server if only because it gave her foes this opportunity.  But she can’t apologize for THAT.  So she apologizes for making an error.

Big whoop.

Oh, Good. Because The 2016 Presidential Race Needs Another Eccentric Millionaire


Antivirus software guru and self-described “eccentric millionaire” John McAfee said he planned on Tuesday to file paperwork to run for President, according to an email obtained by TPM.

“Tomorrow my staff is filing the paperwork for my candidacy for US President,” the email, dated Monday, read. “We will have a 48 hour no comment period then on Thursday I fly to New York to formally announce on Fox News.”

McAfee, who is no longer affiliated with the software that bares his name, has captured attention in recent years, not for his technological expertise, but for his larger-than-life account of fleeing from Central American officials he said were corrupt and trying to extort him. McAfee was wanted for questioning in Belize, where he maintained a compound out in the jungle, in connection with the 2012 killing of his neighbor.

It’s hard to tell whether the stories McAfee tells about his exploits are true, a lot of hogwash or some combination of the two. It’s equally hard to tell from the email whether he actually intends to run for President.

Breaking: Kim Davis Released

Details coming.

UPDATE – 1:00 pm:  The contempt order was lifted by a US district court judge.  Unclear if it was the same judge who gave the contempt order or if it was lifted on appeal.

UPDATE – 1:15 pm:  It was the same judge:

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples may leave prison — as long as she doesn’t interfere with the licenses that her deputies have been granting since her incarceration last week.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis released, and said that if she did not follow his guidance, “appropriate sanctions will be considered.”

Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, told NBC News that accommodation was unlikely to suffice.

“We’re back to Square One,” Staver said. “She’s been released, but there’s been no resolution.”

Bunning’s order also requires the five deputy clerks in Rowan County to file status reports every 14 days detailing their compliance with his earlier orders that the office issue licenses to same-sex couples in accordance with a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Davis, 49, has repeatedly defied the courts, saying that authorizing the licenses would violate her Christian beliefs. Arguing that her religious freedom is being compromised, she has asked state officials to develop alternative ways for the licenses to be issued without requiring her to authorize them.

Bunning ordered her jailed last Thursday, and she has become a national symbol of resistance to gay Christian supporters have rallied outside the lockup daily.

Mat Staver is a terrible lawyer.  Even Fox News calls him out for his stupidity:

[Fox News host Keith] Jarrett also called out Davis’s attorney [Mat Staver], who said it was “questionable” if the Supreme Court had the “constitutional authority” to rule on same-sex marriage.

“Whether the Supreme Court has constitutional authority?” the Fox News host said. “Article III Section 2 of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court constitutional authority to decide constitutional issues!”

Jarrett added that Staver’s statement appeared to be “stunningly obtuse.”

You may recall that prior to becoming a Fox News person, Keith Jarrett was THE main guy at Court TV for many many years.

Anyway, Staver is simply wrong when he says we are at square one.  Her clerks have been issuing the licenses, and will continue to do so.  In fact:

During proceedings on Thursday, Davis was offered to avoid jail if she allowed her deputies to issue the marriage licenses. She refused, and on Friday they began issuing them. The release order requires that Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.” If she refuses — as she seemed to promise to do last week — she would again be held in contempt.

So basically, Davis caved.  She accepted an offer that she rejected last week.  Here’s the order:

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis ordered released from jail

UPDATE – 3:00 pm:  I suspect the lawyer is talking out of turn:

A CNN journalist at the jail reported that according to her attorneys, Davis “has not changed her mind” and intends to bring the licensing process to a halt all over again when she’s back on the job.

“The problem here is that the attorney says she has not changed her mind, that Kim Davis is adamant that as long as her name appears on those marriage licenses, she objects and she will attempt to stop those licenses from being distributed,” CNN correspondent Martin Savidge said during a live broadcast.

Well, if she “intends to bring the licensing process to a halt” then she is violating the terms of her release.  That would be VERY serious trouble for her.  Her lawyer can SAY this, but it’s easy for him to say since she will end up paying the cost.

So she’s out, and here she is with Ted Cruz and her husband, who is NOT playing Lenny in “Of Mice and Men” (that’s just the way he dresses):

UPDATE – 3:45 pm: Heaven help me….

Huckabee is on stage with her. Ted Cruz? Well, he had her picture with her (see above), but otherwise, his trip seems to be a bust.  Huckabee had staffers there a few days ago, and he has inserted himself there front and center.


Kim Davis’ inane lawyer upon her release from jail:

“She can never recover the past six days of her life spent in an isolated jail cell.”Too bad she wasn’t free to just quit her job — the solution all the free-market wingnuts prescribe for every other complaint a worker might have against her employer. Oh wait, she was.

Why Is Anybody Listening To Dick Cheney On Foreign Policy?

First of all, Dick Cheney was the architect of the Iraq invasion after 9/11, which even conservatives agree (including all the GOP candidates) was a huge mistake.  Cheney says we had faulty intelligence and that Saddam was a bad guy, both of which are/were true.  But as this blog has attested, it was easy to see that the intelligence in Iraq was faulty, if not actually manipulated by Cheney and his cronies.  When it comes to the Middle East, the man is simply wrong, at best — a liar at worst.

Which is why it is odd that he bothers to go out an public and opine about the Iran nuclear deal.  But he does.  And he is so… evil…  that even Chris Wallace at Fox News — at Fox Newscatches him behaving badly:

Wallace pointed out that Cheney had eight years to deal with Iran’s nuclear program and failed to do it.

“You and President Bush, the Bush-Cheney administration, dealt with Iran for eight years, and I think it was fair to say that there was never any real, serious military threat,” Wallace noted. “Iran went from zero known centrifuges in operation to more than 5,000.”

“So in fairness, didn’t you leave — the Bush-Cheney administration — leave President Obama with a mess?” the Fox News host asked.

“I don’t think of it that way,” Cheney replied. “There was military action that had an impact on the Iranians, it was when we took down Saddam Hussein. There was a period of time when they stopped their program because they were scared that what we did to Saddam, we were going to do to them next.”

“But the centrifuges went from zero to 5,000,” Wallace pressed.

“Well, they may have well have gone but that happened on Obama’s watch, not on our watch,” Cheney wrongly insisted.

“No, no, no,” Wallace fired back. “By 2009, they were at 5,000.”

“Right,” Cheney grumbled. “But I think we did a lot to deal with the arms control problem in the Middle East.”

Is it dementia?  Or some sort of severe cognitive dissonance that is causing him to double down on the Bush Administration’s persistent foreign policy failures?   As John Cole says, Cheney “has since passed that stage and now his only argument is ‘things were better when we were in charge.’ That’s it. That’s all he’s got.”  Indeed.

We should remember that the Iran was encouraged to continue to develop its nuclear weaponization because of the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq. As one of the three countries in the so-called axis of evil, they saw what happened to Iraq — a country that stopped pursuing WMD and destroyed most of theirs to make us happy.  And they saw what didn’t happen to the nuclear armed North Korea – a country that continues to develop WMD unabated for the most part.  And Iran decided it wanted to be more like North Korea.  Yet, another by-product of the Iraq war.  This is what happens when you destabilize a region: you throw the cards up in the air and they might not come down in a way that is an improvement.

danzcolorplus6471-668x501But Cheney’s going to talk anyway.

Maybe it has something to do with Colin Powell speaking in favor of the Iran Nuclear Agreement last week.

You know who should not be speaking at all on the agreement?  Trump:

Donald Trump says the Iran nuclear deal would force the United States to defend Iran if it were attacked by Israel.

False on the Truth-O-Meter:

“One of the clauses in the nuclear deal reached between world powers and Iran last week guarantees that the world powers will assist Iran in thwarting attempts to undermine its nuclear program,” Israel Hayom, a newsletter, said July 20.

But experts told PolitiFact Florida in late July that such interpretations are, at best, exaggerated. The aim of the provision, they said, is to protect nuclear materials from theft (say, if terrorists tried to steal Iranian assets) or from sabotage (with the intent of causing a hazardous-materials threat to health).

For years, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, the United States has pushed countries around the world to improve security for their nuclear material and facilities, said Matthew Bunn, a professor at Harvard and an expert on nuclear theft and terrorism. This agreement furthers that goal, he said.

“It has nothing to do with helping Iran protect its nuclear facilities from a military attack” of the kind that Israel or Egypt might carry out, Bunn said. “It’s about protecting against thieves and terrorists who might want to steal nuclear material or sabotage a nuclear facility.”

Of course it is false.  All you have to do is apply common sense.

P.S.  For what it is worth, the deal is going to pass Congress by a veto-proof majority….

All summer long, the question in the congressional debate over the Iran deal has been whether opponents could muster a veto-proof majority to block the agreement from taking effect.

Now it looks like President Obama might not have to use his veto pen at all.

Within minutes of each other Tuesday, three more Senate Democrats—Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Gary Peters of Michigan, and Ron Wyden of Oregon—all came out in favor of the nuclear deal, bringing the total number of supporters in the Senate to 41. That means Democrats have enough votes to filibuster a resolution of disapproval and block it from coming to a final vote.

UPDATE: The White House just came out with this video….

Yes a thousand times.

Palin Word Salad: “Speaking American” Edition

Immigrants to the United States should “speak American,” former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said on Sunday, adding her voice to a controversy triggered by Donald Trump’s criticism of Republican rival Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish.

“Speaking American” is a punchline of a joke to show how stupid we are as Americans.  Yet, when Palin used it, she really meant it.  She actually believes there is a language called “America”.

Obviously, no such language exists, but even if it did, “America” isn’t the United States anyway.  We live in North America.  Mexicans and others live in Central America.  And there is South America.  So basically, anyone in North, Central, or South America who speaks their native tongue IS speaking “American”.

But geographical bigotry aside, Palin added hilarity to insult when she spoke more about this on CNN, and made up an “American” word that doesn’t exist:

Partial transcript: I think Republicans and independents, that is the party of tolerance! It certainly doesn’t matter the color of your skin! And some of the other things that uh, you know, are banted round as being, um, kind of the judging barometer of whether somebody is welcome in the party or not.

Wuuuuuuut?!? That is such lovely Palin salad-ism.

And “banted”?? She means bandied, I suppose.  Heck, she’s speaking American — who can refudiate that?

Huckabee Needs To Attend Just One College Level Course On The Law

As far as conservative Christians candidates go, I always thought that Mike Huckabee was a slight cut above the rest.  He doesn’t seem dogmatic, and he was governor at one time.  So you would think that he would have some sense, while also being true to his conservative principles.

But this past week he has proved to be either a guy who thinks his followers are idiots, or perhaps he is an idiot.

It’s one thing to lend support to Kim Davis, the Kentucky law clerk now in jail for contempt of court because she refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  But the sheer ignorance coming from Huckabee in relation to that support is amazing.

Let’s start with this Huckabee quote:

“Gavin Newsome in San Francisco as mayor, performed same-sex weddings, even though it was illegal. Did he ever get put in jail? He most certainly did not.”

Nnnnope.  Gavin defended himself:

Put another way, bans on same-sex marriage had not been adjudicated illegal, nor was their a court order telling Newsome to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses.  Once there was a court order, he stopped.  He followed the federal court order.

Kim Davis, as Huckabee cannot seem to get through his head, is in jail for violating a federal court order on a matter that had been fully judicated.

In other words, if Newsome had continued to issue marriage licenses despite the federal court order, THEN he would be in contempt of court, and like Kim Davis, could have been fined and put in jail.

Huckabee is also one of those guys who thinks Davis is like Rosa Parks, a citizen denied her rights by the government.  In actuality, she is George Wallace standing in the doorways of the University of Alabama — someone who is acting on behalf of the government who is denying rights to citizens.

And then Huckabee also said this:

“Jeffrey Dahmer got bail, Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler got bail, John Wayne Gacy got bail. Kim Davis [the Kentucky clerk], because she followed her convictions is put in jail, and is not given bail.”

Is he kidding with that remark?  Does he know what “bail” is?

It is something criminal defendants get while they are being held awaiting criminal trial.  Let’s ignore that fact that Dahmer and other serial killers didn’t get bail AFTER they were convicted.  Let’s just point out that…. Kim Davis is not getting a trial.  And she is not a criminal defendant.  Congress vested federal courts with incredible power to “punish by fine or imprisonment, or both” any individual who disobeys or resists their dictates. This is what’s known as courts’ civil contempt power, and may include orders, judgments, instructions to appear, or other rules.

It’s comparing apples to oranges.  This, I suppose, was Huckabee’s clumsy way of trying to make the point that Kim Davis is being treated worse than Jeffrey Dahmer.  What horror!!  But does anyone really buy that?  Even Davis supporters?  Davis, unlike Dahmer, can get out of jail anytime she wants to.  And she can do it without changing her beliefs.  All she has to do is (a) agree to do her job; (b) resign or (c) allow others to do her that aspect of her job.  Dahmer, on the other hand, had no control over his future.

Ted Cruz is going to visit her now in jail, too.  Prepare for more absurdity.

Meanwhile, she has filed an appeal of the contempt of court penalty.

Here’s a good read: 5 Myths About Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis You Shouldn’t Fall For

The Brady Decision and Deflategate

The decision says that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could not act as an impartial arbitrator.  You THINK?!?  He also says no NFL policy says players can be disciplined and suspended for awareness of others’ misconduct.

Footnote: On Twitter, the hashtag #DoYourJob relates to Kim Davis, the Kentucky law clerk who refuses to license same-sex marriages.  But with the Brady news, it’s being applied there.  Heh.

Kim Davis Is A Footnote To The Same-Sex Marriage Victory

I’m on vacation, but I am not completely off the grid.  I just have a higher bar (this week)n as to what interests me enough to blog about.

Checking in, I see not much has changed.  Trump is still testing the bounds of open bigotry.  Ho hum.

And I see that Kim Davis, who I wrote about last week, has achieved mainstream status.  She’s all over my Facebook.  Since I last wrote about her, she has been denied an appeal to the US Supreme Court, so basically, she has no legal recourse anymore, and she has to start issuing marriage licenses to gay and straight couples.

She is quite adamant about not doing it.  Her lawyers say it is “impossible” for her to do it.  Davis released a statement released yesterday in which she wrote: “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience.”

Well, isn’t that special?

She has become the spokesperson for religious hypocrisy too.  Despite her claims to literal biblical interpretation, she was married and divorced three times — in 1994, 2006 and 2008, according to U.S. News & World Report.  She gave birth to twins five months after she divorced her first husband. The father of those twins was her third husband, according to the records.  Her second husband adopted the twins, the news magazine said.

CN_QfbGVAAAtPtbWell, isn’t THAT special?

It seems to me that if she is working under God’s authority, then God should provide her a salary, and the state of Kentucky should not.  Or, as many many many people have said, if she cannot do her job, she should resign (she is an elected official).  The religious objection is a serious one, but she’s misusing it.  Think of it this way. Someone who objects to war due to his religious conscience has a right to be a conscientious objector and not serve in the military, even were there to be a draft. But he does not have the right to serve as a military officer, draw a paycheck from the military and then substitute his own personal views of when war is justified for that of the government. The same applies here.

Today is D-day — Davis Day — as she has to return to federal court on a contempt charge.  She is facing fines and imprisonment.

CN_RmNXWIAAzGUBI can see why this has national media attention.  This is a conflict for which there is no middle ground.  No compromise.   On one side are five same-sex couples who want their licenses in their own county; on the other is Davis, who wants to be free to refuse them and send them elsewhere. A court could hold for the plaintiffs and order Davis to do her job, or it could hold for Davis and tell the couples to go elsewhere. Those are the only two options.

Her lawyers at Liberty Counsel are boneheads.  They made a grievous error in advising Davis to defy the court’s order. And God knows the firm is easy to mock. Its website features a statement by Davis that “to issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience”—and beneath it, a request for a $25 donation in exchange for a book in which “two nationally-acclaimed real estate entrepreneurs share biblical principles to revolutionize your work and family life, and give you the courage to stand up for what is right.”  When you look all that Liberty Counsel has done for Ms. Davis, you wonder if they have Ms. Davis’ best interests at heart, as opposed to their own.  Such is the state of religion today.

But back to Kim.  Guess what?  She loses.  And it is not because she is Christian.  It is because we are a nation of laws.  Not religion.  The two can co-exist, but if you think religion trumps law…. well, don’t complain when you get called the American Taliban.

UPDATE:  Via Facebook, a not-yet-published interview with Rowan County District Attorney Cecil Watkins:

Exclusive. Just conducted an interview with Cecil Watkins, the Rowan County Attorney. Watkins (who to my knowledge) hasn’t given any interviews.

Watkins indicates that Kim Davis “does not represent” Rowan County and is not representative of its inclusive values.

From Day One, Watkins told David I “will not and cannot support” you in her defiance of the law. Not only that he was clear he would not represent her as the law in the case of same sex marriage is clear.

While he has no stance on same sex marriage, well-established federal law must be followed.

Watkins wanted to emphasize several other things.

First that everyone who works at the courthouse has endured cursing as they enter the building. And it’s not just at her office. Everyone in the courthouse is scared to come to work.

Second that Liberty Counsel will leave Kim Davis high and dry when this charade is over. Watkins thinks the funds they raise off the case should go to Rowan County.

Finally and most importantly he has learned that deputy clerks would issue lawful marriage licenses. They are simply afraid to do so. And if Judge Bunning instructs them to do so . . . they will.

Davis has put, in the words of Watkins, her employees and everyone in the courthouse in a “terrible position.”

Watkins, in his role as the County Attorney, will be in court tomorrow for the hearing at 11:00 in Ashland. He is pictured being sworn in.

Ed. Note – The takeaways from the Watkins interview are clear. Davis is acting alone in her zealous mission. Her conduct has terrorized not just her staff but everyone that works in the courthouse. And all for a foolish mission aided by out of state charlatan lawyers trying to raise money for their “religious liberty” mission.

Shannon Ragland
Kentucky Trial Court Review