Archive | Front Page

GOP congresswoman gets surprise on Facebook after asking constituents for Obamacare horror stories

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers posted an image on her official Facebook page, slamming the Affordable Care Act on the fifth anniversary of President Obama signing it into law. She asked constituents to share their Obamacare nightmare stories and well, the response probably wasn’t what she expected. Below are a small sample of the comments constituents left on her page:

My story is that I once knew 7 people who couldn’t get health insurance. Now they all have it, thanks to the ACA and President Obama, and their plans are as good as the one my employer provides–and they pay less for them. Now, that’s not the kind of story you want to hear. You want to hear made-up horror stories. I don’t know anyone with one of those stories.

I work for cancer care northwest. We actually have more patients with insurance and fewer having to choose treatment over bankruptcy. Cathy, I’m a die hard conservative and I’m asking you to stop just slamming Obamacare. Fix it, change it or come up with a better idea! Thanks

With Obamacare, I saved 300 bucks a month premium.. I have more coverage.. I like ObamaCare and can’t wait til we go to the next step… Medicare for ALL.

And now my daughter, diagnosed with MS at age 22, can have insurance. What do you plan to do with her?

My daughter is fighting for her life with stage 3 breast cancer! We are about to enter a second go round of diagnostic procedures and possibly more treatment after two full years of treatment! So yah! The ACA is more than helping! I resent that our rep thinks the only problems involve her personal story!

My whole family now has coverage. The ACA is the cause for this, I work in health care, I have seen the increase in covered patients first hand. The next step is universal coverage, this will truly lower costs and provide the best care. Cathy, you barely work, spend most of your time catering to special interests so you can be re-elected.. All while receiving a large wage and the best health insurance and care. Stop telling us how it doesn’t work while enjoying your tax payer funded care and life.

Instead of trying to repeal it why don’t you improve it? Our local rural clinics are packed daily with people who have needed healthcare for years!! it is a godsend. It is pitiful this nation does not have healthcare for all and that doesn’t mean the EMERGENCY room!!

Thanks to the ACA, my cousin was able to get affordable insurance despite her preexisting condition. So grateful.

I think we should repeal Obamacare, and replace it … with universal socialized medicine – like the rest of the industrialized nations of the world.

Hello Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers!I work as the facilitator of a task force that is overseeing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Washington State. I have learned that the ACA is helping people who did not previously have health insurance get it. It is helping bring down medical costs. It is improving the quality of care. It is improving experiences of both patients and their families

I work with doctors, nurses, hospital and clinic managers, non-profit service providers, citizens-at-large. Each of them can site an improvement they would like to make to the Act. But whether they are Republican or Democrat, from urban or rural areas, powerful or not, they all say the ACA is working.

Can’t you and your Republican colleagues stop trying to repeal this Act and work to make it even more effective? Please?

Obama Care saved us when my husband was unemployed and we couldn’t afford coverage. We might have been ruined without it. My husband could not have had the eye surgery needed after an accident. So grateful.

We now have patients that can see a doctor in the clinic on time rather than waiting till they are too ill ACA is saving lives and you are too stupid to realize that. Get your political view out of the way and see what is happening in our community because you have shown again and again it is not your community. I see that your son has downs but not everyone in our community has it so get done with this supporting downs to the neglect of everything else.

My plans are intact, premiums have increased as always, but what seems to be a lesser rate, my plan was not cancelled, I did not lose my doctor, I have not experienced reduced work hours, and it’s actually freed me from the chains of employer based being the ONLY path to coverage. #FEARMONGER

Those are just a small sample of the hundreds or even thousands of comments left on her Facebook page. It is damn clear that her constituents are loving the Affordable Care Act. Will she take their comments to heart and abandon attempts to take insurance coverage away from her constituents?

Daily Kos
Originally posted to Scout Finch

Continue Reading

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are… Conservative

You could be forgiven for not having browsed through the latest issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. If you care about politics, though, you’ll find a punchline therein that is pretty extraordinary.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences employs a rather unique practice called “Open Peer Commentary”: An article of major significance is published, a large number of fellow scholars comment on it and then the original author responds to all of them. The approach has many virtues, one of which being that it lets you see where a community of scholars and thinkers stand with respect to a controversial or provocative scientific idea. And in the latest issue of the journal, this process reveals the following conclusion: A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology and even traits like physiology and genetics.

That’s a big deal. It challenges everything that we thought we knew about politics — upending the idea that we get our beliefs solely from our upbringing, from our friends and families, from our personal economic interests, and calling into question the notion that in politics, we can really change (most of us, anyway).

The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. (The paper can be read for free here.) In the process, Hibbing et al. marshal a large body of evidence, including their own experiments using eye trackers and other devices to measure the involuntary responses of political partisans to different types of images. One finding? That conservatives respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli (for instance, images of “a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it,” as one of their papers put it).

In other words, the conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets — centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns — would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology.

The authors go on to speculate that this ultimately reflects an evolutionary imperative. “One possibility,” they write, “is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene,” when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed. (The Pleistocene epoch lasted from roughly 2.5 million years ago until 12,000 years ago.)

Hibbing and his colleagues make an intriguing argument in their latest paper, but what’s truly fascinating is what happened next. Twenty-six different scholars or groups of scholars then got an opportunity to tee off on the paper, firing off a variety of responses. But as Hibbing and colleagues note in their final reply, out of those responses, “22 or 23 accept the general idea” of a conservative negativity bias, and simply add commentary to aid in the process of “modifying it, expanding on it, specifying where it does and does not work,” and so on. Only about three scholars or groups of scholars seem to reject the idea entirely.

That’s pretty extraordinary, when you think about it. After all, one of the teams of commenters includes New York University social psychologist John Jost, who drew considerable political ire in 2003 when he and his colleagues published a synthesis of existing psychological studies on ideology, suggesting that conservatives are characterized by traits such as a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity. Now, writing in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in response to Hibbing roughly a decade later, Jost and fellow scholars note that…

There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety. [Italics added]

Back in 2003, Jost and his team were blasted by Ann CoulterGeorge Willand National Review for saying this; congressional Republicans began probing into their research grants and they got lots of hate mail. But what’s clear is that today, they’ve more or less triumphed. They won a field of converts to their view and sparked a wave of new research, including the work of Hibbing and his team.

Granted, there are still many issues yet to be worked out in the science of ideology. Most of the commentaries on the new Hibbing paper are focused on important but not-paradigm-shifting side issues, such as the question of how conservatives can have a higher negativity bias, and yet not have neurotic personalities. (Actually, if anything, the research suggests that liberals may be the more neurotic bunch.) Indeed, conservatives tend to have a high degree of happiness and life satisfaction. But Hibbing and colleagues find no contradiction here. Instead, they paraphrase two other scholarly commentators (Matt Motyl of the University of Virginia and Ravi Iyer of the University of Southern California), who note that “successfully monitoring and attending negative features of the environment, as conservatives tend to do, may be just the sort of tractable task…that is more likely to lead to a fulfilling and happy life than is a constant search for new experience after new experience.”

All of this matters, of course, because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. Out of the rubble just might arise a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock…thanks to science.

 

Chris Mooney, Moyers and Company, originally posted on Mother Jones

Continue Reading

North American Same-Sex Ballroom Competition in Oakland

April Follies returns to Just Dance Ballroom on April 25 to host the 2015 North American Same-Sex Dancesport Championships.  Now in its 13th year, the annual competition and show is the largest and longest running Same-Sex Dance competition in North America.

“We have a fast-growing community of same-sex dancers in the Bay Area,” according to Barbara Zoloth, April Follies Board Member.  “Many of our couples go on to international same-sex competitions like the Gay Games and the Out Games.”

All levels will compete during the day beginning at 10:00 am.  Dance Styles include International Standard and International Latin, American Smooth and American Rhythm.  This year, due to high demand, there will be expanded competition for Argentine Tango and Country Western dances.

An onsite community dinner will follow the daytime events.  The day-long competition culminates with a dance lesson for attendees and new dancers, followed by the A-level finals and dance performances by the top-rated couples in the evening.

The evening A-Level Finals are part of an extravaganza and show that includes performances by several of the country’s top same-sex couples and performance teams representing studios from all over North America.

Following the show and final competition, there will be an open social dance for all.

Tickets are $15 (daytime events only), $25 (evening event only), or $35 for the entire day.   A community dinner is also available for purchase.  Reduced pricing is available if purchased early. For further information, please visit www.aprilfollies.com, follow us on Twitter @April_Follies, or friend us on Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/pages/April-Follies/356971318161].

 

Continue Reading

Boston Globe Urges Elizabeth Warren To Run For President

The editorial board of the Boston Globe on Sunday urged Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to reconsider her decision not to run for president in 2016.

Warren has firmly denied that she’s interested in pursuing a presidential run, but that hasn’t stopped some Democrats from urging her to get in the race.

In its call for Warren to run, the Globe editorial board said that Democrats would be “making a big mistake” if they let Hillary Clinton get the party’s nomination running unopposed.

“Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren can make sure that doesn’t happen. While Warren has repeatedly vowed that she won’t run for president herself, she ought to reconsider. And if Warren sticks to her refusal, she should make it her responsibility to help recruit candidates to provide voters with a vigorous debate on her signature cause, reducing income inequality, over the next year,” the editorial board wrote.

The paper also dismissed other Democrats who are mulling a bid against Clinton, like former Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, saying that they did not represent “top-tier candidates.” Warren, the paper suggested, could position herself as an alternative to Clinton.

“The Democratic Party finds itself with some serious divides that ought to be settled by the electorate. Some are clear-cut policy differences, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an enormous free-trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations that Warren opposes and Clinton backs,” the editorial board wrote. “Even in areas where the candidates agree, there are bound to be different priorities: It’s hard to imagine a President Clinton defending and enforcing the Dodd-Frank legislation with as much vigor as a President Warren, for instance.”

Clinton reportedly met with Warren in December to solicit policy recommendations, but Warren said last month that she was waiting to see how progressive Clinton’s campaign would be.

 

Huffington Post

Continue Reading

The Metro Areas With the Largest, and Smallest, Gay Populations

The Census Bureau asks Americans about subjects as varied as race, age, annual income and even their source of home heating. But there is one glaring demographic omission: The census does not ask people about their sexual orientation. As a result, there has long been a shroud of uncertainty around the geography of gay and lesbian Americans.

A new analysis of Gallup survey data offers the most detailed estimates yet about where people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender live.

The Gallup analysis finds the largest concentrations in the West — and not just in the expected places like San Francisco and Portland, Ore. Among the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, Denver and Salt Lake City are also in the top 10. How could Salt Lake be there, given its well-known social conservatism? It seems to be a kind of regional capital of gay life, attracting people from other parts of Utah and the Mormon West.

On the other hand, some of the East Coast places with famous gay neighborhoods, including in New York, Miami and Washington, have a smaller percentage of their population who identify as gay — roughly average for a big metropolitan area. The least gay urban areas are in the Midwest and South.

Significant as these differences are, the similarities are just as notable. Gay America, rather than being confined to a few places, spreads across every major region of the country. Nationwide, Gallup says, 3.6 percent of adults consider themselves gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. And even the parts of the country outside the 50 biggest metropolitan areas have a gay population (about 3 percent) not so different from some big metropolitan areas. It’s a reflection in part of increasing tolerance and of social connections made possible by the Internet.

Frank Newport, the editor in chief of Gallup, notes that the regional variation in sexual orientation and identity is much smaller than the variation in many other categories. The share of San Francisco’s population that’s gay is only two and a half times larger than the share outside major metro areas. The regional gaps in political attitudes, religion and ethnic makeup are often much wider.

“For a generation, they all remember the moment they walked through their first gay bar,” said Paul Boneberg, executive director of the G.L.B.T. Historical Society in San Francisco. “But now they come out for the first time online, and that changes, for some people, the need to leave.”

Metropolitan areas with the highest rates of L.G.B.T. residents
San Francisco 6.2%
Portland, Ore. 5.4%
Austin, Tex. 5.3%
New Orleans 5.1%
Boston 4.8%
Seattle 4.8%
Salt Lake City 4.7%
Denver 4.6%
Hartford 4.6%
Los Angeles 4.6%
Louisville, Ky. 4.5%
Providence, R.I. 4.4%
Virginia Beach 4.4%
Columbus, Ohio 4.3%
Jacksonville 4.3%
Metropolitan areas with the lowest rates of L.G.B.T. residents
Birmingham, Ala. 2.6%
Pittsburgh 3.0%
Memphis 3.1%
Cincinnati 3.2%
Raleigh, N.C. 3.2%
San Jose, Calif. 3.2%
Houston 3.3%
Milwaukee 3.5%
Nashville 3.5%
Oklahoma City 3.5%
Richmond, Va. 3.5%
Kansas City* 3.6%
Minneapolis-St. Paul 3.6%
St. Louis 3.6%
Cleveland 3.7%

From NYTimes.com

 
Continue Reading

On Scene with Bill Wilson: Spring Edition

This silly little Gilbert and Sullivan ditty keeps running through my mind on this first day of spring.

PhotoA

The flowers that bloom in the spring,

Breathe promise of merry sunshine —
As we merrily dance and we sing,

PhotoC
We welcome the hope that they bring,

PhotoD

Of a summer of roses and wine,
Of a summer of roses and wine.

PhotoE

And that’s what we mean when we say that a thing
Is welcome as flowers that bloom in the spring.

Continue Reading

Rick Scott ‘climate change’ gag order claims first victim, enviro group says

Gov. Rick Scott’s prohibition on the term “climate change” has now claimed its first casualty, says an environmental responsibility group.

On March 9, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) suspended a state employee for speaking about climate change at an official meeting, which made its way into the record of the meeting, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Barton Bibler, a long-time DEP employee, received a letter of reprimand ordering him to take two days personal leave. The agency also instructed Bibler not to return without medical clearance.

Bibler currently serves as Land Management Plan Coordinator in DEP Division of State Lands.

On February 27, Bibler attended a Florida Coastal Managers Forum, where a number of attendees discussed climate change and sea-level rise, among other environmental topics.

Bibler’s official notes reported all of that conversation.

DEP superiors directed Bibler to remove any “hot button issues,” such as explicit references to climate change. The letter of reprimand, dated March 9, accused Bibler of misrepresenting the “official meeting agenda (so it) included climate change.”

Bibler was instructed to take two days off, which was charged against his personal leave time. He later received a “Medical Release Form” requiring his doctor to provide the agency an evaluation of unspecified “medical condition and behavior” before being allowed to return to work.

“Bart Bibler has fallen through a professional looking glass in a Florida where the words ‘climate change’ may not be uttered, or even worse, written down,” said Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP attorney.

Phillips pointed out that Bibler currently has “no idea” whether he will ever be allowed to return to work.

“If anyone needs mental health screening it is Governor Rick Scott,” he added, “and other officials telling state workers to pretend that climate change and sea-level rise do not exist.”

PEER is calling on the DEP Office of Inspector General to open an investigation, to determine the propriety of handling Bibler, including forced leave and the directive to waive privacy rights to allow the DEP to review a physician evaluation.

Philips is also asking for the agency to explain on what basis are they banning the use of the terms climate change,” “sustainability” and “sea-level rise.” He also claims the orders to censor meeting summaries is a violation of Florida law forbidding alteration of official records.

“Not just the employees but the citizens of Florida should demand a full investigation into what the heck is going on inside DEP and whether we can expect more cases like this,” Phillips said. “Under Governor Scott, the Department of Environmental Protection functions like a gulag where those in servitude who show any spark of honesty are simply made to disappear.”

UPDATE:

DEP Communications Director Lauren Engel responded on Thursday with the following statement.

RE: Response to Employee Reprimand

As stated in Mr. Bibler’s written reprimand, he was reprimanded for violating three DEP standards of conduct, including poor performance, insubordination and conduct unbecoming a public employee.

On March 2, Mr. Bibler was asked by his manager to attend the Coastal Managers Forum—an inter-agency meeting, as a representative of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. At that meeting, he engaged in personal political advocacy related to the Keystone XL pipeline — an issue that was not on the meeting agenda nor related to his job duties.

While we respect all our employees’ personal beliefs, we expect them to perform their duties in an impartial and appropriate manner and to stay focused and engaged on job-related activities during work hours.

We also expect all employees to perform their duties—as assigned by their supervisor—in a competent and adequate manner.

After the meeting, Mr. Bibler was reprimanded for failure to fulfill his duties as assigned in an appropriate and respectful way. After multiple requests by his supervisor, Mr. Bibler failed to provide an accurate summary of the meeting, and instead responded in a disrespectful and argumentative fashion by simply providing an attachment with the “Keystone XL Pipeline” with a red circle and a cross through it.

Due to HIPPA laws, we cannot discuss an employee’s health.

 

By Peter Schorsch, St. Peters Blog

Continue Reading

Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It’s Not a Democracy

The news: A scientific study from Princeton researcher Martin Gilens and Northwestern researcher Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.

An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.

For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.

It’s beyond alarming. As Gilens and Page write, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.

That might explain why mandatory background checks on gun sales supported by 83% to 91% of Americans aren’t in place, or why Congress has taken no action on greenhouse gas emissions even when such legislation is supported by the vast majority of citizens.

This problem has been steadily escalating for four decades. While there are some limitations to their data set, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez constructed income statistics based on IRS data that go back to 1913. They found that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is much bigger than you would think, as mapped by these graphs from the Center On Budget and Policy Priorities:

 

Piketty and Saez also calculated that as of September 2013 the top 1% of earners had captured 95% of all income gains since the Great Recession ended. The other 99% saw a net 12% drop to their income. So not only is oligarchy making the rich richer, it’s driving policy that’s made everyone else poorer.

What kind of oligarchy? As Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan explains, Gilens and Page’s findings provide support for two theories of governance: economic elite domination and biased pluralism. The first is pretty straightforward and states that the ultra-wealthy wield all the power in a given system, though some argue that this system still allows elites in corporations and the government to become powerful as well. Here, power does not necessarily derive from wealth, but those in power almost invariably come from the upper class. Biased pluralism on the other hand argues that the entire system is a mess and interest groups ruled by elites are fighting for dominance of the political process. Also, because of their vast wealth of resources, interest groups of large business tend to dominate a lot of the discourse.

In either case, the result is the same: Big corporations, the ultra-wealthy and special interests with a lot of money and power essentially make all of the decisions. Citizens wield little to no political power. America, the findings indicate, tends towards either of these much more than anything close to what we call “democracy” — systems such as majoritarian electoral democracy or majoritarian pluralism, under which the policy choices pursued by the government would reflect the opinions of the governed.

Nothing new: And no, this isn’t a problem that’s the result of any recent Supreme Court cases — at least certainly not the likes FEC v. Citizens United or FEC v. McCutcheon. The data is pretty clear that America has been sliding steadily into oligarchy for decades, mirrored in both the substantive effect on policy and in the distribution of wealth throughout the U.S. But cases like those might indicate the process is accelerating.

“Perhaps economic elites and interest group leaders enjoy greater policy expertise than the average citizen does,” Gilens and Page write. “Perhaps they know better which policies will benefit everyone, and perhaps they seek the common good, rather than selfish ends, when deciding which policies to support.

“But we tend to doubt it.”

 

 From News.mic
Continue Reading

Conservatives scramble to downplay ACA news

Americans learned yesterday that the Affordable Care Act has extended health care coverage to 16.4 million people, slashing the nation’s uninsured rate by over a third, against the backdrop of related system-wide good news. This puts “Obamacare” critics in an unenviable position: trying to characterize a law that’s working as a horrible failure, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who’s struggled in this area before despite being the Senate GOP’s point person on health care, gave it his best shot. “Millions of people have lost coverage they liked,” the far-right senator told the New York Times, repeating a dubious claim unsupported by the evidence. He added that extending coverage to millions through Medicaid expansion is “hardly worth celebrating.”

He didn’t say why, exactly, he finds it discouraging when low-income families receive coverage through Medicaid.

But the funnier reaction came by way of a Wall Street Journal piece.

Edmund Haislmaier, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, said the report also doesn’t include essential information on how many people who signed up on exchanges were previously uninsured.

“It’s premature to say it’s ACA-related,” Mr. Haislmaier said.

The number of uninsured historically also has been closely aligned with the economy, with numbers rising during recessions and falling as conditions improve.

Oh my.

The economic argument is itself politically tricky for ACA detractors, because it leaves Republicans in a position of arguing, “Let’s not credit Obama’s health care policies for the good news; let’s instead credit Obama’s economic policies.”

But it’s the Heritage Foundation’s other argument that’s truly amazing. The Affordable Care Act was created in large part to expand Americans’ access to affordable medical care. Once the law was implemented, its provisions worked like a charm and uninsured rate dropped. If the Wall Street Journal quoted Edmund Haislmaier fairly, the Heritage argument seems to be that the success might just be a coincidence – the ACA set out to reduce the uninsured rate, the law was implemented, and the uninsured rate fell at its fastest rate in four decades, but it’s “premature” to say the progress and the law are related.

Jon Chait joked:

Right, I mean, who can really say? Yes, there has been a sudden and extremely sharp plunge in the uninsured rates among the populations eligible for coverage under Obamacare that begins at the exact time Obamacare took effect:

But that could be anything. Survey error. People being excited about Republicans winning the midterm. Sunspots. You never know. Probably not the sudden availability of a major new federal health-care law enrolling millions of people.

Perish the thought.

For context, it’s worth noting that the Heritage Foundation used to be one of the leading conservative think tanks in the nation, even sketching out a health-care-reform blueprint several years ago that resembles the “Obamacare” model now. In recent years, however, Heritage’s focus has shifted away from scholarship and towards political activism.

Steve Benin, MSNBC

Continue Reading

NASA Administrator Gives Ted Cruz A Lesson In How Science Works

Sen. Ted Cruz thinks NASA should spend less time studying the planet and more time finding ways to go out into space.

Cruz (R-TX), who is chair of the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee, addressed his concerns at a hearing Thursday on the $18.5 billion budget request for NASA’s fiscal year 2016. There, he asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden what Bolden thought NASA’s “core mission” was.

“Our core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment, and to help us make this place a better place,” Bolden said.

 Cruz wasn’t satisfied.

“Almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space,” Cruz said. “That’s what inspires little boys and little girls across this country … and you know that I am concerned that NASA in the current environment has lost its full focus on that core mission.”

But Bolden defended NASA’s work here on Earth. NASA compiles data on the planet’s air pollution via satellite, engages in research on new forms of energy, and is a key agency for climate change and ice melt data. Bolden alluded to the agency’s study of climate change in his response to Cruz, saying that the agency can’t do any of its work — on the ground or up in space —

“It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place that we have to live,” Bolden said. “Science helps exploration; exploration helps science.”

Cruz said during the hearing that he worried about NASA’s increase in spending on Earth science and, according to Cruz, its decrease in spending on space exploration (Bolden said he didn’t have enough information on what Cruz included in his calculations of NASA’s spending, so he didn’t know whether he agreed with the Senator’s assessment of the agency’s spending). ThinkProgress reached out to Cruz’s office for additional comment but hasn’t heard back as of press time.

Cruz didn’t specifically mention NASA’s studies on climate change in the hearing, but the Senator has been outspoken on the issue before. Last year, he said that the earth had experienced “no recorded warming” over the last 15 years — a claim that climate scientists dismiss, saying that much of the warming has been going on in the deep oceans. 2014 was also the hottest year on record, according to NASA and NOAA.

Cruz also likes to joke about how cold weather must mean that Al Gore has been lying about climate change. Of course, cold weather in one part of the world has nothing to do with long-term observed warming trends.

Along with Republicans before him, Cruz has made the argument before that NASA should focus more on space exploration and less on issues facing our lowly planet. But for NASA, less time spent focused on Earth means less time gathering data on climate change and its impacts.

This rhetoric on climate change, coupled with the fact that Cruz had tried in 2013 to cut NASA’s funding, led to worries about what Cruz would do in his role as chair of the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee, which he took on earlier this year.

“Senator Cruz has been playing to the most extreme elements of his party on climate change,” Keith Gaby, communications director for climate and air at the Environmental Defense Fund, told ThinkProgress in January. “Having someone chair the Science Committee who claims there is no evidence of climate change in the last 15 years — when 13 of the 14 hottest years on record have occurred in the 21st century — is not an encouraging development.”

 

From Second Nexus

 

Continue Reading

Robert Reich: Why Americans Are Screwed and Europeans Are Not

The U.S. economy is picking up steam but most Americans aren’t feeling it. By contrast, most European economies are still in bad shape, but most Europeans are doing relatively well.

What’s behind this? Two big facts.

First, American corporations exert far more political influence in the United States than their counterparts exert in their own countries.

In fact, most Americans have no influence at all. That’s the conclusion of Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, who analyzed 1,799 policy issues — and found that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Instead, American lawmakers respond to the demands of wealthy individuals (typically corporate executives and Wall Street moguls) and of big corporations – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.

The second fact is most big American corporations have no particular allegiance to America. They don’t want Americans to have better wages. Their only allegiance and responsibility to their shareholders — which often requires lower wages to fuel larger profits and higher share prices.

When GM went public again in 2010, it boasted of making 43 percent of its cars in place where labor is less than $15 an hour, while in North America it could now pay “lower-tiered” wages and benefits for new employees.

American corporations shift their profits around the world wherever they pay the lowest taxes. Some are even morphing into foreign corporations.

As an Apple executive told The New York Times, “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems.”

I’m not blaming American corporations. They’re in business to make profits and maximize their share prices, not to serve America.

But because of these two basic facts – their dominance on American politics, and their interest in share prices instead of the wellbeing of Americans – it’s folly to count on them to create good American jobs or improve American competitiveness, or represent the interests of the United States in global commerce.

By contrast, big corporations headquartered in other rich nations are more responsible for the wellbeing of the people who live in those nations.

That’s because labor unions there are typically stronger than they are here — able to exert pressure both at the company level and nationally.

VW’s labor unions, for example, have a voice in governing the company, as they do in other big German corporations. Not long ago, VW even welcomed the UAW to its auto plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Tennessee’s own politicians nixed it.)

Governments in other rich nations often devise laws through tri-partite bargains involving big corporations and organized labor. This process further binds their corporations to their nations.

Meanwhile, American corporations distribute a smaller share of their earnings to their workers than do European or Canadian-based corporations.

And top U.S. corporate executives make far more money than their counterparts in other wealthy countries.

The typical American worker puts in more hours than Canadians and Europeans, and gets little or no paid vacation or paid family leave. In Europe, the norm is five weeks paid vacation per year and more than three months paid family leave.

And because of the overwhelming clout of American firms on U.S. politics, Americans don’t get nearly as good a deal from their governments as do Canadians and Europeans.

Governments there impose higher taxes on the wealthy and redistribute more of it to middle and lower income households. Most of their citizens receive essentially free health care and more generous unemployment benefits than do Americans.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that even though U.S. economy is doing better, most Americans are not.

The U.S. middle class is no longer the world’s richest. After considering taxes and transfer payments, middle-class incomes in Canada and much of Western Europe are higher than in U.S. The poor in Western Europe earn more than do poor Americans.

Finally, when at global negotiating tables – such as the secretive process devising the “Trans Pacific Partnership” trade deal — American corporations don’t represent the interests of Americans. They represent the interests of their executives and shareholders, who are not only wealthier than most Americans but also reside all over the world.

Which is why the pending Partnership protects the intellectual property of American corporations — but not American workers’ health, safety, or wages, and not the environment.

The Obama administration is casting the Partnership as way to contain Chinese influence in the Pacific region. The agents of America’s interests in the area are assumed to be American corporations.

But that assumption is incorrect. American corporations aren’t set up to represent America’s interests in the Pacific region or anywhere else.

What’s the answer to this basic conundrum? Either we lessen the dominance of big American corporations over American politics. Or we increase their allegiance and responsibility to America.

It has to be one or the other. Americans can’t thrive within a political system run largely by big American corporations — organized to boost their share prices but not boost America.

 

Alternet

Continue Reading

Two Guys With Guns Have Showdown On First Day Of Georgia’s New ‘Guns Everywhere’ Law

A “misunderstanding” between two armed men in a Georgia convenience store led to an arrest on the very day that the state’s new expansive gun rights law went into effect, according to The Valdosta Daily Times.

Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress summed the incident up for the newspaper.

“Essentially, it involved one customer with a gun on his hip when a second customer entered with a gun on his hip,” Childress said.

According to the Daily Times, the first man, Ronald Williams, approached the second man in the store and demanded to see his identification and firearms license. Williams also pulled his gun from his holster, without pointing it at the second man. The second man responded by saying that he was not obligated to show any permits or identification — then he paid for his purchase, left the store, and called the police.

Police responded to the call around 3 p.m. Tuesday, and Williams was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct for pulling his gun in the store.

Tuesday was also the day that Georgia’s so-called “guns everywhere” law went into effect, allowing residents to carry guns into bars, nightclubs, classrooms, and certain government buildings. Among other things, the law also prohibits police from demanding to see the weapons permit of someone seen carrying a gun. Childress mentioned that last point when talking to the Daily Times about Tuesday’s incident.

“This is an example of my concern with the new gun law that people will take the law into their own hands which we will not tolerate,” Childress said.

From TPM, Eric Lach

Continue Reading

Same sex marriage and your finances: how to navigate a changing legal backdrop

While most couples dread doing their taxes and managing finances, same sex couples face added challenges due to ever-changing and complex laws. In addition, there are a number of legal uncertainties surrounding marriages between same sex couples that could impact filings for the upcoming tax season.

Notably, on April 28th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that might finally determine the rights of same sex couples across the nation. Because both state and federal governments use marital status to determine tax status, as well as benefits and protections, these rulings would profoundly impact the rights and benefits of same sex couples.

Financial advisor Peter Waterloo, senior vice president of wealth management at UBS, understands that the ever-evolving legal environment creates uncertainties for LGBT couples and families and as a result, offers a comprehensive approach to investment that allows for growth and adaptation as time progresses.

“The legal landscape is constantly changing and every client is different,” Waterloo said. “When planning for the future, each individual should consult with a financial advisor to help evaluate his/her own circumstances in light of the current legal landscape.” Regardless of the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges, the implications of the law on the finances of same-sex couples will be great and it will be important to plan accordingly.

“For example, in California, because same-sex marriage has been legalized, couples are offered all of the benefits and protections as opposite-sex marriages,” said Waterloo. “However, if a couple were to move to a non-recognition state, this would have an impact on both their state and federal treatment and therefore have an impact on their financial future.”

Given the complex landscape of federal laws, here are some details from UBS on how the IRS treats same-sex marriages:

Income Tax
When considering tax rules and regulations, it’s recommended that one consult an accountant but it is important to note that the Internal Revenue Service recognizes same-sex marriage. When it comes to filing your income tax in California, same-sex couples can only select “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately”. This process would drastically differ in a non-recognition state, despite the IRS’s recognition of same-sex marriages.

Employee benefits
An employee in a same-sex marriage can make pre-Federal income tax contributions to his/her employer-sponsored health, dental, and vision plan for spousal benefits. In California, because same-sex marriage is recognized, the value of employer contributions will not be taxed as imputed income. However, if the individual is subject to income tax in a non-recognition state, employer contributions may continue to be taxed as imputed income in their state taxes.

Estate planning
If an investor does not have an estate plan at their time of death, the estate plan is determined by the state of residence. In the state of California, marriage recognition laws simplify estate planning however it is still highly recommended that individuals properly plan and have the adequate documents prepared including wills, revocable living trusts, etc. to reflect their intent in passing wealth.

Death-related Taxes
It is important to note that in the state of California, same-sex spouses are exempt from the state’s inheritance tax but this is not the case for every state. In terms of federal estate taxes, a surviving same-sex spouse may claim an unlimited marital deduction for qualified transfers of property. Subsequently, when he/she dies, the previously deceased spouse’s unused portion of estate tax exemption can be applied to the latter’s own exemption.

UBS recommends that clients consult with financial advisors especially if they are considering moving out of the state of California and into a non-recognition state. The differences in treatment of same-sex couples in different states can have a large impact of the couple’s treatment at a federal level as well. This often can yield interesting results and, at times, could have drastically different implications for your financial future and planning.

Continue Reading

“Castro Cares” Outreach And Enforcement Program is Up and Running

Castro Cares, the pilot program aimed at addressing neighborhood quality-of-life issues and homeless outreach, is rolling out this week after several months of preparation. A collaboration between the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District and the City of San Francisco, SF Police Department, Patrol Special Police, and the Department of Public Health, the program includes increased police presence and on-the-street engagement with the local homeless population.

As the program gets underway, some local activists have accused Andrea Aiello, Executive Director of CUMCBD and District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener of being “hostile to the homeless”, such as Kenneth Bunch, a former member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who spoke out at a community meeting in early February. Not so, Aiello and Wiener assured Hoodline.

“Right now we have four hours a week of homeless outreach workers dedicated to the Castro/Upper Market, because of Castro Cares,” Aiello said. “In three weeks we’ll have 20 hours a week of homeless outreach services. Before Castro Cares, there was none.”

The hostility, according to Wiener, is not against the homeless, but against anti-social behavior, some of which has been directed at the homeless. In recent months many neighborhood residents have complained of increased crime around the neighborhood, and of fights breaking out in Jane Warner Plaza, as well as vandalism—some residents say they’ve been threatened in and around the Plaza, which is now being redesigned (again).

“We want more homeless outreach workers, more homeless people to access homeless services,” Wiener said. “It’s not humane to let people die in the streets.”

Aiello described what Castro Cares would be offering. “Castro Cares provides both additional dedicated compassionate care to those in need and additional dedicated law enforcement to the Castro/Upper Market,” she said. “We are slowly launching the program as contracts get signed and funds continue to be raised.”

Aiello said that this week Castro Cares will be paying for an additional 15 hours of Patrol Special officers, which would increase to 30 hours a week in May.

According to Aiello, funding is coming in the form of “$115,000 from City grants, championed by Supervisor Wiener,” she said. “Funding has also come very generously from residents and merchants.”

“The goal is to have dedicated outreach and law enforcement support for the Castro,” said Wiener. “The police department is understaffed and the City does not have enough homeless outreach workers. Castro Cares will hire off duty police officers and homeless outreach workers who will be able to focus on the needs of the Castro.”

“The ultimate goal for Castro Cares is to improve the quality of life in the Castro for those who are at risk and living on the street and also for those housed residents of the Castro,” Aiello said. “And for those who work and play in the Castro/Upper Market.”

If you’d like to help, making a donation to Castro Cares is the best way to pitch in, and donations are tax deductible. “The fully funded Castro Cares budget is $330,000 annually,” said Aiello. “We’re about halfway there at this point, so please make a donation now!”

From Hoodline

Continue Reading

California, Your Apocalypse Is Now More Likely

It is less accurate to call California “a U.S. state” than it is to call it “a future earthquake-induced rubble pile.” As happens quite often, scientists have once again made their doomsaying forecasts about California’s disastrous future even worse.

Just months ago, scientists calculated almost a two-thirds chance of “one or more quakes with a magnitude of 6.7 or larger striking the Bay Area in the next 30 years.” But what about a much more devastating quake, with a magnitude of 8.0? You’ll be happy to know that the chances of that happening imminently are on the rise. From the LA Times:

On Tuesday, the USGS adjusted its big-quake forecast, hiking its estimate on the chances of an 8.0 earthquake in California in the next 30 years from 4.7% to 7%…

Stated another way, the chance of an 8.0 or greater quake in California can be expected once every 494 years. The old forecast calculated a rate of one 8.0 or greater earthquake every 617 years.
Thanks to the principles of randomness, there is absolutely nothing useful that you can do with this new information; you can only sit uncomfortable in the knowledge that the gods have just made it significantly more likely that you will die in a natural disaster at some point during the course of your lifetime. True, nothing may happen. But the statistical chance of you being painfully crushed in a building collapse, plunging off of a crumbling freeway, or dying painfully of thirst in a post-apocalyptic hellscape are greater today then when you woke up blissfully unaware just a day ago. Try not to worry.

Hamilton Nolan
Gawker

Continue Reading

Functional HIV Cure Step Closer To Reality With FDA Approval Of Clinical Human Trials

A possible “functional cure” for HIV has recently been granted FDA approval for further human testing. The method uses genetic modification to cause a specific mutation in the white blood cells of HIV patients which mirrors those found in the naturally immune. It has so far shown to be both receptive and long-lasting.

The novel therapy involves taking stem cells from HIV-infected patients and using a gene editing tool to cause them to form into white blood cells with a specific mutation. The mutation affects a protein known as CCR5, and interferes with the virus’s ability to latch onto blood cells. The mutation occurs naturally in a small percentage of the world’s population and gives these individuals a life-long resistance to HIV infections. Although the virus may remain in their body, without being able to enter the T cells, it cannot replicate and therefore will stay at low numbers, uncompromising the immune system.

In theory, when these genetically edited stem cells are reintroduced into HIV patients they will repopulate the body with cells possessing the same mutation. This would give the patients the same lifetime resistance to the virus’s harm with just one procedure. The method was developed by Sangamo BioSciences Inc., but has also been tested in early human clinical trials by drug research company Calimmune, San Francisco Business Times reported.

According to IFL Science, in a small trial consisting of only 12 patients the procedure was found to be tolerable and have a low risk of adverse side effects. The genetically modified cells lasted up to four years inside the patients. Unfortunately, the trial was not large enough to test the effectiveness of the procedure, but the current FDA approval will allow the testing to be extended to treat more HIV patients. The FDA has also approved the start of a new Phase I safety study, which would consist of a multi-year, three-stage process of human trials to test a similar approach using a different method of disabling the CCR5 protein.

As reported by the SF Business Times, the trials will be conducted at the City of Hope medical center in California and is being funded by CIRM, the state’s stem cell research funding agency. It will be run by researchers from Sangamo BioSciences Inc. and the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. They will include people with HIV/AIDS who have had poor responses to standard therapies.

“This kind of work is too important to just try one method at a time and sit back and wait to see if it is effective,” explained Dr. Jonathan Thomas, chair of the CIRM governing board, Imperial Valley News reported. “We have a mission to find treatments for patients in need. By trying several different approaches, taking several shots at goal at the same time if you like, we feel we have a better chance of being successful.”

The procedure hopes to replicate what occurred in the Berlin Patient, the only person to ever be “cured” of HIV. If proven to be as effective in the trials as it is on paper, the procedure may become the world’s first “functional cure” for HIV and AIDS.

From Medical Daily

Continue Reading

Iran Offers to Mediate Talks Between Republicans and Obama

Stating that “their continuing hostilities are a threat to world peace,” Iran has offered to mediate talks between congressional Republicans and President Obama.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, made the offer one day after Iran received what he called a “worrisome letter” from Republican leaders, which suggested to him that “the relationship between Republicans and Obama has deteriorated dangerously.”

“Tensions between these two historic enemies have been high in recent years, but we believe they are now at a boiling point,” Khamenei said. “As a result, Iran feels it must offer itself as a peacemaker.”

He said that his nation was the “logical choice” to jumpstart negotiations between Obama and the Republicans because “it has become clear that both sides currently talk more to Iran than to each other.”

He invited Obama and the Republicans to meet in Tehran to hash out their differences and called on world powers to force the two bitter foes to the bargaining table, adding, “It is time to stop the madness.”

Hours after Iran made its offer, President Obama said that he was willing to meet with his congressional adversaries under the auspices of Tehran, but questioned whether “any deal reached with Republicans is worth the paper it’s written on.”

For their part, the Republicans said they would only agree to talks if there were no preconditions, such as recognizing President Obama’s existence.
Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker

Continue Reading

Compassionately Confronting Panhandling

I’ve moved to the other side of the street to avoid it. I’ve lowered my eyes so that I didn’t have to acknowledge it. I’ve brushed it off with excuses to make me feel a little less guilty.

When I’m being honest, panhandling makes me uncomfortable.

As a woman, I’m generally uncomfortable around anyone demanding my attention on the street. But besides those who are catcalling, there’s a certain population I’ve ignored because I’ve often felt helpless or unsure of what to do — until now.

Panhandling is when people ask for money in public spaces. Most panhandlers (although not all) are experiencing homelessness. In many cities, panhandling is considered free speech and is protected by the first amendment. Many of us encounter those who are panhandling on a daily basis.

We know they deserve compassion, but we may not know how best to give it. How should we respond to people panhandling or experiencing homelessness?

Here is an easy step-by-step guide to responding responsibly and compassionately to those who are panhandling.

1. Say ‘Hello’

Most people don’t even recognize that the person panhandling is a human. For many, we’ve been so conditioned to disregard and not care about homelessness that the brain chemically responds to that person on the street as if they weren’t a person at all.

These are people trying to survive. And at best, we treat them like a nuisance. You can help those who are panhandling by just recognizing that person’s humanity.

Consider that other people passing by on the street are mostly ignoring these people panhandling. Some people are even verbally and physically attacking them for panhandling.

The violence towards those experiencing homelessness has continued to increase.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be spit on and have insults hurled at you all day, every day? After being questioned and humiliated all day, simple eye contact and a smile from a stranger can go a long way.

It may feel uncomfortable acknowledging them — especially if you don’t have money to give — but that’s a personal issue.

After making a concerted effort to unpack this feeling, I realized that the reason I feel uncomfortable when I see a person panhandling or a person experiencing homelessness is because it reminds me of my privilege.

I don’t have to sleep outside or ask for money to meet my most basic needs. And it’s hard to accept that other people do.

But my privileged comfort is not more important than their humanity.

I can do my part in supporting those who are panhandling by simply reminding myself that they are human. I may still feel sad, upset, and uncomfortable, but I no longer allow those emotions to make me turn away from the reality that there is still a person in front of me.

Look them in the eye. Give them a nod. Give them a friendly smile. Wish them a good day. Do whatever you can to acknowledge your fellow human beings.

2. Give (If You Can)

People are panhandling for a reason. Regardless of what this person might have done before, their basic living needs are not being met in the present.

Some individuals who have survived from panhandling have admitted that it is a very degrading experience, and doing so is often a last resort.

While we might see stories in the media about people pretending to be homeless, asking for money, and then zooming away in their convertible, that is truly not the case for the majority of people panhandling on the street.

Don’t let a few high-profile liars keep you from giving to the millions of disenfranchised people.

Many people also hesitate to give money out of fear that it will “support their addiction.”

First of all, this fear is vastly overstated. In a recent study of people panhandling in San Francisco, 94% disclosed that they spend the money they collect while panhandling on food. Less than half admitted to spending that money on drugs or alcohol.

Secondly, while many people, homeless or not, are struggling with addictions, we shouldn’t police where our money goes if we give it away.

When we give our dollars directly to these people, we are empowering them to make a choice, and we have to trust that they will make the best choice for themselves while they live in these extreme conditions.

Unless we have experienced the same circumstances, we cannot judge or assume we know what’s best for their situation.

For example, a person who has experienced homelessness shared with me that drinking a bottle of wine was enough to make them feel warm enough to sleep through another freezing winter night outside.

It’s not ideal (ideally, they would have access to warmer clothes — or, you know, a home), but it’s what they could afford and it helped them survive. We have no right to judge that.

There are also a number of things that services for those experiencing homelessness can’t provide.

Shelters, food pantries, and local support groups alone can’t provide things like flashlight batteries or cell phone minutes, for example. Your money could very well be going toward these necessary items.

If you are able to help financially, but still don’t want to give your money to them directly, you could ask what they specifically need and see if you could help provide that.

Consider purchasing gift cards to restaurants nearby or keeping a few Ziploc bags full of things like toiletries and snacks in your car for these occasions.

Depending on where you live, you might see the same individuals every day. If you feel comfortable enough, maybe invite them to join you for a meal somewhere. It’s okay to establish a relationship, even if you can’t give your time or money every day.

Remember that it’s okay to say “no,” too. But if you are able and feel called to give someone panhandling money, then give.

Know that your money is going to be spent on the best choice for them.

3. Get Involved

So you’ve overcome the dehumanizing mindset, and you’ve given to a person for short-term relief from extreme circumstances. That’s great! But how can you address these problems more proactively going forward?

Get involved.

Volunteer

Volunteering with local organizations working to prevent and end homelessness is a great way to support your local community and those who are panhandling.

While the winter holidays are when people are feeling the most charitable, volunteers are needed year round. Ask your local organizations when they need help, and get creative using your own unique talents and skills to assist them.

Get Educated About the Causes

We know that there are many reasons why people become homeless.

Nationally, there is a shortage of affordable housing. Even those working full-time earning minimum wage cannot afford the rising cost of living in this country to support their families.

On top of our failing systems, homelessness is becoming criminalized nationally. Laws are being passed that prohibit life-sustaining activities such as sitting, eating, and sleeping in public spaces.

Even trespassing ordinances ban people with “scent that is unreasonably offensive to others.” For this specific law, not only can people be banned and punished for being “too smelly,” but also for trying to wash themselves in public bathrooms.

In the last year alone, at least 31 cities nationwide have tried to restrict or ban groups from passing out or sharing food in public.

Besides the laws that are trying to hide these people experiencing homelessness, there are no laws protecting the homeless population from hate-crimes.

Advocate

As a college student, my budget and time to volunteer on-site are both limited. However, I can do my part to help end violence against and criminalization of panhandling and homelessness by educating myself and lobbying on my own schedule.

My local Homeless Coalition directs me with letter writing, sending e-mails, and making phone calls to our local officials who can prevent these laws that criminalize homelessness from passing.

I can also respond to and prevent others from harassing and trying to stop people that are panhandling if I know my local laws and ordinances.

***

While encountering those who are panhandling may be initially uncomfortable for me, I have to remember that those people are living in conditions much worse than discomfort.

I no longer dismiss or blame these individuals for their circumstances, but instead attempt to do my part to provide support — both immediate and sustainable — for the people in my community.

Responding responsibly and compassionately to panhandling allows for a bigger movement to prevent homelessness to happen and help all of those experiencing homelessness and who panhandle.

Sara Whitestone, Upworthy

Continue Reading

The Nob Hill Fence That Spite Built

It’s the most famous fence in San Francisco history: a three-story-tall board wall that one of the city’s richest men built around the home of a neighbor who wouldn’t sell his property.

The rich man was Charles Crocker, one of the Big Four who helped bankroll the construction of the transcontinental railroad. In 1876, he joined the handful of San Francisco’s super-rich in building a mansion on Nob Hill.

In a lavish though faintly snarky writeup on Crocker’s new digs in July 1877, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that “serene happiness reigns on Nob Hill, disturbed only by casual human ills.”

The human ill afflicting Charles Crocker was embodied by Nicholas Yung, an undertaker who lived on the only sliver of the block bounded by California, Sacramento, Taylor and Jones streets that the millionaire did not own.

When Yung turned down Crocker’s bid to buy his lot, Crocker spent $3,000 — something like $70,000 in 21st century money — to erect a 30-foot-high fence around three sides of his neighbor’s home.

Yung threatened to retaliate, the Chronicle reported, by building a giant coffin on his roof. It would project above the fence and be “emblazoned on the side turned toward his aristocratic neighbors with a skull and cross-bones … to serve as an advertisement of his business and a reminder of mortality.”

Later in 1877, the fence would become the object of threats from the radical pro-labor, anti-Chinese Workingmen’s Party of California. In late October, party supporters staged a march up Nob Hill to decry the excesses of capitalism.

In a later pamphlet describing the protest, an unidentified Workingmen’s author — perhaps party leader Dennis Kearney himself — explained that the march to the mansion neighborhood was merely a prank and that “two thousand people climbed the hill to enjoy the joke.”

But the pamphlet, titled “The Labor Agitators, or, The Battle for Bread,” explained that not everyone in the crowd was in a jocular mood:

“At this meeting a gentleman named Pickett, commonly called Philosopher Pickett, had desired to air his eloquence, and was permitted to do so. He launched out against the railroad magnates with fanatic fury. He proposed to tear down a fence, known as Crocker’s fence, which is very obnoxious to a great many people because it manifested the domineering spirit of a man of millions.”
The Workingmen pleaded that they had condemned the idea of destroying the fence and accused the city fathers of using the episode as a pretext for cracking down on Kearney. Sure enough, he was arrested for inciting to riot the next time he spoke publicly.

The prosecution served to lionize Kearney, whose political star rose and set over the next few years while the fence stood unperturbed.

Eventually, Yung moved his house to Broderick Street, but he refused to sell the now-vacant lot. The fence remained.

Yung died in 1880 and Charles Crocker in 1888, but the feud went on. Yung’s widow, Rosina, declined to sell the vacant lot to Crocker’s heirs, but also turned away offers to sell the property to a Chinese laundry and an advertising company. The fence stayed in place throughout the 1890s and into the new century.

After Mrs. Yung died in January 1902, the Chronicle looked forward to the day when the fence would come down — and served a big helping of vituperation to the Crockers for having left the “lofty barricade” up so long.

“The fence is the most famous memorial of malignity and malevolence in the city,” the Chron fumed. “… Crocker has long been dead, but his heirs have preserved this testimonial of rancor.”

The paper also called out the Crockers for their “legacy of hatred” and their “inartistic monument to resentment.”

Finally, in 1904, the Yungs’ children sold the lot, and Crocker’s children tore down the fence. If they’d waited another couple of years, it would have burned, along with the Crocker mansion and nearly everything else on the hill.

By Dan Brekke, KQED

Continue Reading

San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone “Morality Clause” Respectfully Criticized in National Catholic Publication by S.F. City Attorney

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera Respectfully Criticizes Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera Respectfully Criticizes Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

 

San Francisco’ top legal officer today published an opinion piece in the National Catholic Reporter newspaper that was respectful to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, but also challenged his stand on loyalty oaths and morality clauses for Catholic teachers, calling the Archbishop’s  move “high-handed and wrong.”

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera wrote “To me, San Francisco’s recent controversy threw into stark relief the challenges that make Pope Francis’ leadership so vitally important at this moment in our church’s history. Progress is desperately needed to renew our church’s mission to serve the world rather than scold it and to emphasize teaching that young Catholic consciences will recognize as legitimately Christlike.”

“So when church ideologues express disdain for contemporary society (as Cordileone often does) or bring disproportionate emphasis to the catechism’s most discriminatory and divisive elements (as Cordileone did last month), it risks losing a generation of Catholics quite unlike anything has before,” Herrera wrote.

Herrera’s respectful, but bold statement sent an arrow through the heart of the Archbishop’s stated arguments about why the loyalty oath for teachers is necessary in his opinion.

The Archbishop is fast becoming a pariah in San Francisco. He has grown distant from the parishioners, Catholic grade school and high schools, as well as San Francisco’s top Catholic families, all of whom have banded together to protest his loyalty oath.

There is a discreet, but fast growing grassroots movement against the Archbishop and it is hard to imagine how quickly he has lost both power and prestige in the Bay Area.  He is badly damaged as a leader and seems to be sinking in his own morass.  Now, with one of the top Catholic elected leaders in Northern California weighing in against him, he has no chance of success.

On top of the Archbishop’s rebuke by Herrera, the Teacher’s Union representing high school teachers said it will not accept his language as part of any of its collective bargaining agreements.  And, to add insult to injury, grade school parents at the historic Star of the Sea school are revolting against the Archbishop’s handpicked parish priest, Ft. Joseph Illo.

Illo started an international controversy by banning Altar Girls at Star of the Sea, removing Filipino women who had served for generations on the church altar, refusing to give blessing to non-Catholics and passing out an inappropriate sex pamphlet to second through sixth graders.

Lastly, City Attorney Herrera may have gotten the best line off in this entire debate: the San Francisco Chronicle reporter Kevin Fagan reported “Asked if he (Herrera) felt heinous as a man who has officially and unofficially promoted ideals so contrary to Cordileone’s moral code, Herrera paused for a moment while he carefully picked his words.

“Let’s just say I know I’m not gravely evil,” Herrera said.

The archdiocese had no comment on Herrera’s essay, the Chronicle reported.

Continue Reading

The NRA’s latest bad idea: taunting Gabrielle Giffords

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), nearly killed by a deranged assassin in 2011, was back on Capitol Hill this week, encouraging lawmakers to approve expanded background checks. And while opposition from the National Rifle Association comes as no surprise, the far-right group raised eyebrows with a rhetorical shot at Giffords directly.

Hitting a new low in its bullying barrage against gun laws, the National Rifle Association on Thursday targeted Gabrielle Giffords in an attack mocking her 2011 shooting.

“Gabby Giffords: Everyone Should Have to Pass Background Check My Attacker Passed,” the NRA tweeted from its main account.

The tweet – which one lawmaker called “pathetic” – aimed to argue that background checks don’t reduce gun violence and linked to an article on the right-wing Breitbart website.

The Breitbart article that the NRA promoted  noted, accurately, that the gunman responsible for the 2011 massacre in Tucson passed a background check, as did several other notorious killers. As best as I can tell, the Breitbart article is accurate.

That said, both the article and the NRA seem to be badly missing the point.

Alec MacGillis explained very well, Giffords “is not devoting herself to the cause of expanding background checks because that measure would have stopped [Jared] Loughner, but because that measure is the one thatvwould have the biggest impact on reducing gun violence overall.”

Exactly. The NRA’s argument seems to be that Giffords’ argument must be rejected because expanded background checks wouldn’t have stopped her would-be assassin. But Giffords isn’t talking about her shooting; she’s talking about taking sensible, responsible steps to prevent future mass murders.

MacGillis added, “The same was true of the families of the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre: Universal background checks would not have stopped Adam Lanza, who got his guns from his mother, but the families wanted to push for whatever reform would limit shooting deaths, period. Making it harder for people with criminal records, histories of domestic violence, and adjudications for mental illness to obtain guns is one of the best measures at our disposal to do so. In other words, Giffords and others whose lives have been upended by gun violence are thinking about others, not themselves – they are exhibiting a form of political empathy.”

That this point is lost on the NRA and Breitbart is itself instructive.

As for the bigger picture, let’s not overlook how unnecessary the NRA’s taunts are – the odds of a Republican Congress limiting firearm access are zero. Giffords is fighting the good fight, but at least for the next two years, it is simply not possible to even imagine lawmakers approving new gun-safety measures.

In other words, the NRA has already won another round. It’s taking a cheap shot at a foe whom they’ve already defeated.

Worse, the NRA is going after one of the most sympathetic figures in American public life, for reasons that only seem to make sense to the NRA.

Steve Benin, MSNBC

Continue Reading

Out of the Ashes — The Birth of MUNI

Trains circle out front of the Ferry Building on Sept. 25, 1914. - SFMTA PHOTO ARCHIVE | SFMTA.COM/PHOTO

San Francisco is a city full of nicknames — City by the Bay, the dreaded Frisco or San Fran, Paris of the West and Baghdad by the Bay, to name but a few.

Another one, long out of fashion, was coined before the Panama-Pacific International Exposition 100 years ago by President William Howard Taft. While visiting, he learned firsthand how San Francisco citizens helped pave the way for that world’s fair, calling us The City That Knows How.

One reason Taft bequeathed San Francisco as such was the immense amount of civic support that went into building the expo grounds for the world’s fair. As San Francisco celebrates the event’s centennial this year, much focus has been on the city within a city that stood for much of 1915, and was largely lost to history save for the Palace of Fine Arts and some other artifacts.

But there is another major contribution from the expo that continues to impact the lives of tens of thousands of residents every day.

The world’s fair helped birth Muni.

HOPE BURNS ETERNAL

The 1906 earthquake was devastating in its own right, but the fires it sparked are what really destroyed half of The City. Amid reconstruction in the years that followed, San Franciscans found renewed optimism. Adding to the upswell of hope, on Jan. 3, 1911, Congress announced that The City would host the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, or world’s fair, in 1915. 

“It was a time when San Franciscans really came to embrace what was possible,” Rick Laubscher, president of the Market Street Railway historical group, told The San Francisco Examiner.

Despite all the good cheer, one major problem loomed for hosting the world’s fair. At Muni’s inception in 1912, the agency owned just 10 streetcars, which ran from the Ferry Building and down Geary Boulevard. The cars ran east-west, but not north-south.

“Muni was a dwarf at the time,” Laubscher said.

The fair was certain to draw millions and so public transit was going to be a necessity.

At the time, few train lines stopped near the fair’s future site at Harbor View, which today is Cow Hollow.

Horses trotting down Market Street were a much more common site than automobiles or trains. Overpriced jitneys, or taxis, rolled for the rich. Neither of these options would be sufficient for fair visitors.

And those famous cable cars? The City did not consider new cable lines for the expo because of the expense of the infrastructure and the obsolete technology, Laubscher said. It was cheaper to do things like build the Stockton Tunnel, which San Francisco still uses today. That resulted in a far faster trip to the Marina from Market and Stockton streets than cable cars could have provided.

The final decision was that San Francisco needed to expand its streetcar fleet.

Thus, City Engineer Michael O’Shaughnessy drafted street-rail plans to transport as many as 8.4 million visitors, according to transit historian Grant Ute’s “Fair, Please: Public Transportation To and Through San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.”

The City first approached the privately owned United Railroad, or URR, a fierce competitor to Muni at the time. But public sentiment was against URR.

For one thing, two streetcar workers died during a 1907 strike against URR for fair wages, which became known as “Bloody Tuesday.” And as San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency historian Robert Callwell told The Examiner, URR allegedly bribed mayors to get overhead lines built in The City.

“Absolutely, people hated URR. There’s no doubt about that,” Callwell said.

So when URR pressured The City to make outsized concessions in exchange for expanding toward Harbor View, Laubscher said, Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph Jr. and the Board of Supervisors made a decision.

The sentiment, as Laubscher put it, was: “Screw it, we’ll do it ourselves.”

MUNI’S GREAT EXPANSION

Rolph lobbied “10 city groups a day,” Callwell said, and the result was a bond approved by San Francisco voters to expand city-run rail. Muni blossomed in 1914, creating six new train lines, purchasing a seventh and building the Stockton Tunnel.

The first four lines directly served the world’s fair. A flat steel gray with red accents, the new Muni streetcars rolled out across The City.

The D-Van Ness ran from the Ferry Building to Geary Street, Van Ness Avenue, Union Street and then its end point at Chestnut Street at the edge of the fairgrounds. The F-Chestnut was known as the Fort Mason Loop, running along Stockton Street, Columbus Avenue and Van Ness Avenue.

The H-Potrero ferried folks from Potrero Avenue and 25th Street north to Bay Street.

San Francisco also purchased a line from URR and renamed it the E-Embarcadero, which ran from the waterfront to the Presidio along Columbus Avenue. This summer, the SFMTA said it plans to restart the line, which would run through a tunnel under Fort Mason by Aquatic Park.

Three other lines were also created and temporarily served the world’s fair before being rerouted — the G-Stockton-Union-Exposition ran along Union Street, the I-33rd Avenue-Exposition ran along Geary Boulevard and the J-Columbus traversed Columbus Avenue, but has no relation to the current J light-rail line.

This being San Francisco, hills had a significant impact on the infrastructure design. A pernicious one along Stockton Street, for instance, stood in the way of laying new track.

“Streetcars are far too heavy to climb hills,” said Brian Leadingham, manager of the San Francisco Railway Museum.

The City opted to just cut straight through the rock, creating the Stockton Tunnel that today is exclusively used by automobile traffic.

All of this infrastructure, Laubscher said, “was a game-changer.”

On the opening day of the world’s fair, Muni operated 177 train cars, a far cry from its initial 10-strong fleet. Those trains carried more than 80,000 people in its inaugural run to the glittering lights and vast wonders of the expo.

STREETCAR LEGACY

The ghosts of Muni lines to the world’s fair linger today, historians say.

“If you ride the 30-Stockton bus,” Laubscher said, “you’re riding a line that came into existence for the Pan-Pacific International Exposition.”

The 41-Union, 47-Van Ness and other north-south bus routes were created thanks to the existing streetcar lines, Laubscher said. Also, he added, the fair generated “public enthusiasm” to burrow into Twin Peaks to create Muni’s K-Ingleside, L-Taraval and M-Ocean View light-rail lines.

Laubscher lamented how much public perception around mass transit has shifted since then. San Francisco’s optimism helped spark an explosion of mass transit in 1915 that the region relies on heavily even still, he said. But in 2015, the public finds massive investments like BART or high-speed rail controversial and large-scale projects become mired in political fights, leaving the public to keep paying at the pump to get around.

Birth of Muni
To learn more about the Panama-Pacific International Exposition’s influence on the birth of Muni, visit the exhibit at the San Francisco Railway Museum and Gift Shop at 77 Steuart St. near The Embarcadero or visit www.streetcar.org.

 

From the Examiner

 

Continue Reading

David Koch Backs Gay Marriage at Supreme Court

Libertarian philanthropist David Koch is backing a federal challenge to same sex marriage bans, signing on to a Supreme Court brief urging the court to overturn state-level prohibitions on the practice.

He will join hundreds of other prominent right-of-center thinkers, activists, and public figures in asking the Supreme Court to prohibit states from outlawing the practice under the 14th Amendment.

Koch, the vice president of Koch Industries and the world’s sixth wealthiest person, is a deep-pocketed donor to Republican and conservative groups.

Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden confirmed on Tuesday that Koch will sign his name to the brief. Holden said he did so in his personal capacity.

“I believe in gay marriage,” he told Politico in 2012. A former vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket, Koch is in line with that movement’s thinking on the issue, despite his support for a party that frequently opposes gay marriage.

“I think the Republican Party has a great chance of being successful and that’s why I support it … but I believe in the libertarian principles,” he told Politico.

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin on Tuesday reported some of the brief’s other signatories, and on the argument they’re presenting:

The brief’s signatories include former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, conservative pundits S.E. Cupp and Alex Castellanos, former White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein, former Mitt Romney senior advisers Beth Myers and Carl Forti, conservative economists Doug Holtz-Eakin (formerly director of the Congressional Budget Office) and Greg Mankiw (formerly on the Council of Economic Advisers), former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend and former Massachusetts state Senate minority leader Richard Tisei. The presence of an esteemed general suggests that there is no segment of society in which gay marriage is not gaining acceptance. There are on the list centrist Republicans, more libertarian figures and even social conservatives. In a phone interview Mehlman said, “I think the diversity of the people is a reflection of what we have seen which is increased support in every demographic [for gay marriage].”

In the brief, the signatories argue that they “have concluded that marriage is strengthened, and its value to society and to individual families and couples is promoted, by providing access to civil marriage for all American couples—heterosexual or gay or lesbian alike. In particular, civil marriage provides stability for the children of same-sex couples, the value of which cannot be overestimated. In light of these conclusions, amici believe that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits States from denying same-sex couples the legal rights and responsibilities that flow from the institution of civil marriage.”

Lachlan Markay, Washington Free Beacon

Continue Reading

The Mystery of the Netanyahu Disaster, and a Possible Explanation

At face value, this speech makes no sense. But there may be a deeper logic to the Israeli prime minister’s determination to speak to Congress.

Why is Benjamin Netanyahu going ahead with his speech to Congress in a few hours’ time, despite complaints from all quarters about the damage it is causing? It’s a trickier question than it seems.

Was it simple tin ear on his side, and Ambassador Ron Dermer’s? Based on the idea, as Netanyahu has preposterously claimed, that he “didn’t intend” any affront to the sitting U.S. president and was surprised by all the ruckus? Were they that ill-informed, naive, trapped in a bubble, or plain dumb?

I find that hard to believe, from a leader who prides himself on his U.S. connections and an ambassador born and raised in the U.S. and schooled by Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz. If Barack Obama addressed the Knesset and said he had a “moral obligation” to criticize Netanyahu’s policies, would he then say he “didn’t intend” any offense? Please.

Was it crass election-year politicking on Netanyahu’s part, based on the need to get through this month’s election in Israel and the faith that eventually things would sort themselves back out with the United States? All politicians know that if they don’t hold office their platforms don’t matter, and most convince themselves that what is good for them is good for their country. So maybe he rationalized that getting through this election was worth whatever bruised feelings it might cause.

On this I defer to the reporting of The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, here, here, and here about the tensions between Netanyahu’s electoral incentives and long-term U.S.-Israeli relations. From my point of view, this would be the most benign explanation. Countries act in their own self-interest, and so do politicians.

Was it because Netanyahu has been such a prescient, confirmed-by-reality judge of real-world threats that he feels moral passion about making sure his views are heard?

Hardly. I can’t believe that he’s fooled even himself into thinking that his egging-on of war with Iraq looks good in retrospect. And for nearly two decades Netanyahu has been arguing that Iran was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. When you’re proven right, you trumpet that fact—and when you’re proven wrong, you usually have the sense to change the topic. Usually.

Was it because Netanyahu has a better plan that he wants Congress or the United States to adopt in dealing with Iran? No. His alternative plan for Iran is like the Republican critics’ alternative to the Obama healthcare or immigration policies. That is: It’s not a plan, it’s dislike of what Obama is doing. And if the current negotiations break down, Iran could move more quickly toward nuclear capacity than it is doing now—barring the fantasy of a preemptive military strike by Israel or the U.S. As Michael Tomasky put it in the Daily Beast:

Netanyahu is creating a much bigger problem here. Ultimately, he wants war with Iran. And American neoconservatives want it, too. … Think about it. What is the alternative to negotiating with Iran? Well, there is only one: not negotiating with Iran. And what are the possible courses of action under that option? At the end of the day, there are two. Number one, let Iran do what it wants. Number two, ultimately, be willing to start a war to block Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Was it because Netanyahu actually believes what he is about to tell Congress: that his country faces an “existential threat” if Iran develops a nuclear weapon? These are fighting words on my part, but: I don’t really believe this can be so.

Let me explain. No person, nation, or community can define what some other person (etc) “should” consider threatening. And after I argued last month that a nuclear-armed Iran would be undesirable for the world but not an “existential” threat to an Israel with its own large nuclear-weapons arsenal, I received a flood of mail summed up by one message from a man in Connecticut: “If you were a Jew, you would understand.”

There is no answer to an identity-based argument; no one can completely stand in someone else’s shoes; and the Holocaust is obviously the memory that trumps all others in discussing Israel’s security. So if the voters of Israel want to define Iran’s ambitions not as a problem but as an “existential threat,” that’s up to them.

But from the U.S. perspective I can say that the “existential” concept rests on two utterly unsupportable premises. One is that Iran is fundamentally like Nazi Germany, and the world situation of 2015 is fundamentally like that of 1938. Emotionally you can say “never forget!” Rationally these situations have nothing in common—apart from the anti-Semitic rhetoric. (To begin with: Nazi Germany had a world-beating military and unarmed Jewish minorities within its immediate control. Iran is far away and militarily no match for Israel.) The other premise is that Iran’s leaders are literally suicidal. That is, they care more about destroying Israel than they care about their country’s survival. Remember, Israel has bombs of its own with which to retaliate, so that any attack on Israel would ensure countless more Iranian deaths. As another reader, who also identified himself as Jewish, wrote:

Questions for Prime Minister Netanyahu (and his supporters)

Question 1: How does Iran survive the consequences of a nuclear attack of any scale on Israel?
Question 2: There is no question 2.
That Iran’s current leaders are zealots is easy to demonstrate. That they are suicidal? For that premise there is literally zero evidence, as Peter Beinart recently wrote and as Israel’s own security-services report.

* * *

Maybe I am giving Netanyahu too much credit. Maybe he genuinely believes everything listed above—that he’s been right all along, that we need to hear his message, that Obama and his administration will take no offense, and that this is a life-or-death existential issue because of a suicidal Iranian leadership.

Maybe. But I think he is smarter than any of that. And thus the explanation that rings truest to me is one offered in The National Interest by Paul Pillar, a veteran of the CIA. It’s relevant to note that Pillar was as presciently right about Iraq, concerning both the hyped nature of the threat and the disastrous consequences of the invasion, as Netanyahu was spectacularly wrong.

Pillar’s assessment is that the ramped-up “existential” rhetoric is a screen for the real issue, which is a flat contradiction between long-term U.S. and Israeli national interests as regards Iran. It is in American interests (as I have argued) to find some way to end Iran’s excluded status and re-integrate it with the world, as happened with China in the 1970s. And it is in Israel’s interests, at least as defined by Netanyahu for regional-power reasons, that this not occur. As Pillar writes:

The prime objective that Netanyahu is pursuing, and that is quite consistent with his lobbying and other behavior, is not the prevention of an Iranian nuclear weapon but instead the prevention of any agreement with Iran. It is not the specific terms of an agreement that are most important to him, but instead whether there is to be any agreement at all. Netanyahu’s defense minister recently made the nature of the objective explicit when he denounced in advance “every deal” that could be made between the West and Tehran. As accompaniments to an absence of any agreements between the West and Iran, the Israeli government’s objective includes permanent pariah status for Iran and in particular an absence of any business being done, on any subject, between Washington and Tehran.
That is, as long as Netanyahu keeps the attention on nukes and “existential” threats, he’s talking about an area where the U.S. and Israel might differ on tactics but agree on ultimate goals. Inflammatory as that topic is, it’s safer than talking about re-integrating Iran as a legitimate power, where U.S. and Israeli interests may ultimately differ. As George Friedman wrote in a Stratfor analysis just now:

This is the heart of Israel’s problem. … Israel does not want to be considered by the United States as one power among many. It is focused on the issue of a nuclear Iran, but it knows that there is no certainty that Iran’s nuclear facilities can be destroyed or that sanctions will cause the Iranians to abandon the nuclear program. What Israel fears is an entente between the United States and Iran and a system of relations in which U.S. support will not be automatic.
From this perspective, Netanyahu’s bull-headedness makes sense, even beyond its short-term electoral value back home. He can be willing to endure complaints about breach of protocol and partisan alignment, if in so doing he can prevent the deeper divergence in national interests from becoming apparent. And if this episode has any value on the American side, it may be to promote freer discussion of the many areas where U.S. interests align with Israel’s, and those where they diverge. We’ll see if that starts with the planned response by a number of Democratic representatives just after the speech.

James Fallows, The Atlantic

Continue Reading

Native American Council Offers Amnesty to 240 Million Undocumented Whites

The Native American National Council will offer amnesty to the estimated 240 million illegal white immigrants living in the United States.

At a meeting on Friday in Taos, New Mexico, Native American leaders weighed a handful of proposals about the future of the United State’s large, illegal European population. After a long debate, NANC decided to extend a road to citizenship for those without criminal records or contagious diseases.

“We will give Europeans the option to apply for Native Citizenship,” explained Chief Sauti of the Nez Perce tribe. “To obtain legal status, each applicant must write a heartfelt apology for their ancestors’ crimes, pay an application fee of $5,000, and, if currently on any ancestral Native land, they must relinquish that land to NANC or pay the market price, which we decide.

“Any illegal European who has a criminal record of any sort, minus traffic and parking tickets, will be deported back to their native land. Anybody with contagious diseases like HIV, smallpox, herpes, etc, will not qualify and will also be deported.”

European colonization of North America began in the 16th and 17th centuries, when arrivals from France, Spain and England first established settlements on land that had been occupied by native peoples. Explorers Lewis & Clark further opened up western lands to settlement, which ultimately led to the creation of the Indian reservation system.

Despite the large number of Europeans residing in the United States, historical scholars mostly agree that indigenous lands were taken illegally through war, genocide and forced displacement.

Despite the council’s decision, a native group called True Americans lambasted the move, claiming amnesty will only serve to reward lawbreakers.

“They all need to be deported back to Europe,” John Dakota from True Americans said. “They came here illegally and took a giant crap on our land. They brought disease and alcoholism, stole everything we have because they were too lazy to improve and develop their own countries.”

City World News

Continue Reading