Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for April, 2012

British Broadcasting FAIL

Posted by Charles II on April 30, 2012

Accused of slanting its coverage to favor the Conservative government, according to RT the BBC has issued a statement claiming that its coverage is “impartial and balanced.”

Um. Guys. FOX News slogan?

Posted in Media machine | 2 Comments »

Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are The Problem.

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 29, 2012

For a while now, Norm Ornstein’s been edging away from the GOP and its increasing levels of insanity, intolerance and greed. Now, he’s gone and nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Wittenberg Schloßkirche:

Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

And that’s just the headline. Here’s a taste of what’s inside:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

Welcome to the Hermetic Order of the Shrill, Norm. Paul Krugman’s here to teach you the secret handshake.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Sanity pays a visit to Likud. Will this place Iran war on hold?

Posted by Charles II on April 29, 2012

Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian:

Israel’s former security chief has censured the country’s “messianic” political leadership for talking up the prospects of a military stike on Iran’s nuclear programme.

In unusually candid comments set to ratchet up tensions over Iran at the top of Israel’s political establishment, Yuval Diskin, who retired as head of the internal intelligence agency Shin Bet last year, said he had “no faith” in the abilities of the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the defence minister, Ehud Barak, to conduct a war.

“They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won’t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.”

Diskin’s remarks followed a furore over comments made on Wednesday by Israel’s serving military chief, Benny Gantz, which starkly contrasted with Netanyahu’s rhetoric on Iran. Gantz said he did not believe the Iranian leadership was prepared to “go the extra mile” to acquire nuclear weapons because it was “composed of very rational people” who understood the consequences.

For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel a glimmer of optimism that there might not be an attack on Iran.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Iran | 5 Comments »

Oops. Or, why everything you thought you knew about the end of the world may be wrong.

Posted by Charles II on April 28, 2012

Or whatever. These religious debates go on. But Elaine Pagels is always worth reading. Charles Lewis, National Post:

…Elaine Pagels, a well-known author of biblical history, as well as a professor of religion at Princeton University, says putting the Revelation in the New Testament was a mistake, the result of a misunderstanding. In her latest book, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, & Politics in the Book of Revelation,” she says the Book of Revelation was not a Christian book….

Click for more
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in religion | 4 Comments »

A nomination for least likely to be re-elected: Paul LePage

Posted by Charles II on April 28, 2012

Clark Canfield, Huffington Post

Maine’s blunt-speaking governor is again creating a ruckus with his offhanded remarks – this time by calling state government middle managers “about as corrupt as can be.”

At a town hall-style meeting in Newport on Thursday night, Republican Gov. Paul LePage was asked why there are so many fees associated with getting a cosmetologist license.

In response, the governor said state government is too big and too costly and that the state workforce is part of the problem. LePage told the crowd that he has control over appointed state workers, but has little authority over middle managers and other unionized state employees.

“The problem is, middle management of the state is about as corrupt as can be,” LePage said in remarks first reported by MaineToday Media.

Two weeks after taking office, he stirred up a controversy when he called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People a special interest group and told critics to “kiss my butt” over his decision to not attend the NAACP’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Portland.

He later raised eyebrows when he dismissed the dangers of a chemical additive used in some plastic bottles by saying the worst that could happen was “some women may have little beards.”

A year ago, he riled labor groups, artists and others by removing a huge mural depicting the state’s labor history from the Labor Department headquarters. When asked what he’d do if anybody tried to block the mural from being taken down, he said, “I’d laugh at them, the idiots.”

This governor is accruing a number of offenses against the people he is supposedly governing. But let’s focus on the cosmetology issue that started this particular ruckus.

Is LePage accusing the middle managers of taking bribes? If so, it would be a matter for law enforcement. But of course that’s not it. What he’s accusing them of, really, is creating systems that are unnecessarily complex and expensive. But on what authority do they do these things? Why, on state law–the kind that LePage and the Maine Legislature pass. If they don’t like what the middle managers do, then they write clear laws that limit what fees and regulations there are.

This is what is most offensive about LePage and so many other Republicans. They are charged with leading, of setting an example, providing guidance, and conducting oversight. LePage was confronted with a citizen complaint which may or may not be valid. The proper response would have been, I’ll look into it and, if need be, correct it. But how much easier it is–and how unlike a genuine leader it is– to trash state employees.

LePage hired his own daughter to serve as an assistant to his chief of staff. She receives a salary of $41,000. A lot of people would call that corruption.

Posted in abuse of power, Republicans acting badly | 3 Comments »

Obama at Ft. Stewart

Posted by Charles II on April 27, 2012

I listened to the Obamas speaking at Ft. Stewart, Georgia on April 27th. The speech was introduced in part by a letter recounting the experience of a veteran who was swindled by a for-profit online college.

Obama said that things had gotten so bad that college recruiters had gotten Marines with serious brain damage to sign up to take courses. Other people had been hounded into taking out high-interest student loans. And everyone was finding it hard to sort through the claims of various schools. He promised that online colleges would have to produce a simple FAQ sheet called “Know Before You Owe.”

It was not great oratory. I would have wished that he would have used it as a teaching moment to talk about the competition between funds for veterans’ benefits and for weapons systems and about the need to have a strong economy as the engine to drive a strong military. But both he and Michelle connected to the troops. And his best line was one that the general public should hear and think about (my paraphrase):

“You know that you rise and fall as one unit. All Americans rise and fall as one nation.”

If we really believed this, it would put an end to the silly Randian narcissism that imagines that if we only punish those who are lazy enough, we will make them reform, and that if we do not, then at least the right people–identifiable by their wealth– will be rewarded. The truth is that all of us, rich and poor, are part of a nation in decline precisely because we are a house divided.

Posted in Barack Obama, education, military | 2 Comments »

The Catholic Crackup: Network under threat/corrected and updated

Posted by Charles II on April 27, 2012


The Vatican has reprimanded the largest group of Catholic nuns [this isn’t quite correct; they are a group of nuns, laity, and non-Catholics the LCWR includes both nuns and sisters] in the United States, saying they have focused too heavily on issues of social justice, while failing to speak out enough on “issues of crucial importance,” such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In a report issued last week, church leaders accused the nuns of promoting “radical feminist” ideas and challenging key teachings on homosexuality and male-only priesthood. An archbishop and two bishops — all of them male — have been appointed to oversee the nuns. “To me, it’s quite puzzling that our work with the poor, which Jesus told us to do in the Gospels, would be the source of such criticism,” says Sister Simone Campbell, head of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK, which was harshly criticized in last week’s report.

We’re joined from Washington, D.C., by Sister Simone Campbell, head of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK, which was also heavily criticized in last week’s report.

The report highlights the point that the Church is unable to find enough priests (a factor in why they covered up the abuse scandal), yet they will not ordain women. Women, of course, would have been more likely to speak out in the face of the abuse scandal, so the scandal might have proved to be less damaging to the Church.

The group Network, which includes Catholic nuns but also laity and non-Catholics, is being chastised for doing too much of one good deed, namely serving the poor. This is a clear affront to a notion central to the Church, i.e. that conscience should rule us. If one believes that a good deed being performed by someone else is maybe not quite such a good deed as they think, one should be free to leave them to do it, while one pursues the good deeds that one thinks really are good deeds. If one is coerced to do good deeds, then they aren’t good deeds and the result cannot be good.

Campbell also points out something so blindingly obvious that the Catholic hierarchy is unable to see it: if one wants to reduce abortions (which essentially all people want), then one must not block people from using the most obvious means of accomplishing that: contraception.

My guess is that the Vatican’s pronouncement has a lot more to do with the election than with contraception. Network posts such as Ryan is Catholic, His Budget is Not, and Senator Rubio’s Not-so-just Alternative to the DREAM Act, not to mention Join Us As We Prepare For Election 2012! must drive the Vatican wild. One should note that Network, unlike ALEC, is properly registered as a lobbying group.


Update: Brother John made some important points in comments. First, the post is about Network, a lobbying group. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and Network were both criticized, and apparently for similar reasons. The Vatican has direct authority over LCWR, but not over Network. I have conflated the two (there seems to be overlap in membership between the two, so I am not certain exactly how different they are. Clearly they interact.). However, the post was about Network, not LCWR.

Brother John also pointed out that Catholic leadership has come out against the Ryan budget. I have questioned the sincerity of that, pointing out that last year, the Ryan budget received support from high levels. Quoting Jonathan Cohn of TNR from May 2011:

It seems sacrilegious to suggest the leader of the America’s Catholic Bishops has made a deal with the devil. But his latest political gesture makes me wonder if he is in negotiations.

Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York and president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter on Wednesday to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.

The letter, if it didn’t explicitly endorse the Ryan budget, did not criticize the massive cuts to the poor, elderly, and ill that the Ryan budget would have mandated. So, the Bishops are very late to this party. I, for one, believe that they are playing politics. I suspect they are trying to take some of the odor off themselves for having gotten involved in the contraception wars.

Posted in abortion, abuse of power, mistitled Benedict, religion | 15 Comments »

Maybe if she’d had a gun: Minneapolis denies the right of self-defense against hate crimes/corrected

Posted by Charles II on April 27, 2012


A transgendered African-American woman is set to go on trial next week on charges of second-degree murder for an altercation after she was reportedly physically attacked and called racist and homophobic slurs outside a Minneapolis bar last year. Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald received 11 stitches to her cheek, and was reportedly interrogated without counsel and placed in solitary confinement following her arrest. There were reports that the dead victim, Dean Schmitz, had a swastika tattooed on his chest.

So McDonald’s face was slashed open and then she killed the person who did that.

These are facts similar to those asserted in the Trayvon Martin case, but with some important differences. Compare McDonald to Zimmerman and the deceased Dean Schmitz with the deceased Trayvon Martin:

1) Schmitz did have a deadly weapon, while Trayvon did not have a deadly weapon, while McDonald had been assaulted and seriously wounded.
2) Schmitz pursued her, while Zimmerman alleges that he was assaulted by Trayvon, who Zimmerman was following.
3) Schmitz was allegedly tattoed with a hate symbol, while Trayvon had none.
4) Schmitz allegedly had a history of harassing McDonald, while Trayvon was unknown to Zimmerman.

Now, there’s one more similarity and one more difference. McDonald used a knife, scissors while Zimmerman used a gun. And both of the dead people, one an assailant, one allegedly a victim, were black.

One is reminded of an ancient (50 years ago) Dick Gregory joke: “You complain about us cutting people. Well, hell, you won’t sell us any guns!”

This appears to be a stark illustration of why we need to confront hate crimes and demand an end to the stirring of racial hatred by TV news. Every person, black or white, gay or straight, has an absolute right to mind his or her own business in safety. For Minneapolis to charge someone in fear of her life with second degree murder, while it took a national campaign and intervention by the Governor to get Zimmerman charged with the same crime is clear evidence that the scales of justice are not balanced in this oh-so-free-and-fair country.
Note on the corrections: apparently one of Schmitz’s female companions opened up the wound on McDonald by throwing a glass at her. So Schmitz was not carrying a deadly weapon. Also, Schmitz was apparently stabbed with fabric scissors. Sorry about the mistakes. Like Stormcrow (see comments) I was completely disgusted by this. I got careless in writing it up.

Posted in abuse of power, gay rights, gun issues, race in America, racism | 3 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on April 27, 2012

“Is all well out there?”

Friday Cat Blogging

“All’s well.”

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 2 Comments »

Michigan Board of Canvassers rejects petition that it approved on grounds of font size/updated

Posted by Charles II on April 26, 2012

Michigan has destroyed self-governance at the local level.

Now it has turned the law into a mockery by rejecting a petition to vote on the Emergency Manager Law. Here’s the morning story. Now the petition has been rejected–because the Republican members decided that the font size was too small. The Republicans are not just run-of-the-mill Republicans, but active operatives.

According to Rachel Maddow (I forget exactly when), before the petition was circulated, it was approved by the Board of Canvassers.

The Declaration of Independence says,

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

The Michigan Republicans are certainly testing the limits of what Michiganders wills suffer. Font size?
Update, Laura Clawson, DK:

Stand Up for Democracy, which collected the signatures, had an affidavit from the printer affirming that the petition headers were printed in 14-point boldface font.

Clawson links to Eclectablog, which has done font size analysis and has more details on the printer’s affidavit and supporting evidence.

I do not understand why more people–especially Michiganders– are not in an uproar over this. What is going on in Michigan would seem to be outright tyranny, in which control of political institutions is used to reinforce control of political institutions, even when it means violating the law.

Posted in abuse of power, government, Republicans as cancer | 2 Comments »

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