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Monday, January 6, 2014

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1066 Harold Godwineson is crowned crowned King Harold II – King of England.
1540 Henry VIII of England marries his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. The marriage will last six months.
1861 The Governor of Maryland, Thomas Hicks, announces his opposition to the states's possible secession from the Union.
1904 Japanese railway authorities in Korea refuse to transport Russian troops.
1910 Union leaders ask President William H. Taft to investigate U.S. Steel's practices.
1912 New Mexico becomes the 47th U.S. state of the Union.
1918 Germany acknowledges Finland's independence.
1919 Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, dies at the age of 60 in his home at Sagamore Hill, New York.
1921 The U.S. Navy orders the sale of 125 flying boats to encourage commercial aviation.
1937 The United States bans the shipment of arms to war-torn Spain.
1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt asks Congress to support the Lend-lease Bill to help supply the Allies.
1945 Boeing B-29 bombers in the Pacific strike new blows on Tokyo and Nanking.
1946 Ho Chi Minh wins in the Vietnamese elections.
1958 Moscow announces a reduction in its armed forces by 300,000.
1967 Over 16,000 U.S. and 14,000 Vietnamese troops start their biggest attack on the Iron Triangle, northwest of Saigon.
1987 Astronomers report sighting a new galaxy 12 billion light years away.
2001 In one of the closest Presidential elections in U.S. history, George W. Bush was finally declared the winner of the bitterly contested 2000 Presidential elections more then five weeks after the election due to the disputed Florida ballots.
2005 Former Ku Klux Klan organizer Edgar Ray Killen arrested as a suspect in the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi.

Non Sequitur


The Best Reporting on the North Carolina Takeover

by John Light and Laura Macomber

One of the biggest political stories of 2013 — a year of DC discord and gridlock — unfolded at the state level in North Carolina.
In 2012, North Carolinians elected a repugican to the governor’s office. That same year, the repugican majority in the General Assembly — first elected in 2010 — grew to a supermajority. The result was that wingnuts won the power to change state law dramatically — and over this last year, they abused that power. The new legislation included ending benefits for the long-term unemployed; declining the Obamacare Medicaid extension; eliminating the earned-income tax credit; and passing what some observers call the worst voter suppression law in the country. In response, those critical of the wingnut legislative agenda united around protests at the state legislature on Mondays, part of a growing citizen movement that has come to be known as “Moral Mondays.” So far, the movement, however ambitious, has done little to slow the state’s repugicans from pushing through their regressive agenda.
But this story didn’t start on Election Day 2012 — its roots run deep. And a similar situation could unfold in any of America’s 50 states.
Here’s a rundown of some essential work by reporters following the money trail in North Carolina politics and the legislative agenda it has helped usher through.
A police officer watches over demonstrators and NAACP-led supporters as they congregate at Halifax Mall near the state legislature during "Moral Monday" protests at the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, June 24, 2013. Protesters are angry over the rightward direction of the state on economic, social, education and voting policy. They focused much of their demonstration on looming unemployment benefits cuts that will end extended benefits for about 70,000 people at the end of June. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
A police officer watched over demonstrators at a Moral Mondays protest June 24
How did hardline wingnuts win so big in what has long been considered the South’s most moderate state? –  In The American Prospect, two writers from the progressive, nonprofit Institute for Southern Studies — Sue Sturgis and Chris Kromm — provide a comprehensive overview of the social and political forces that came together to make the moderate (and sometimes even progressive) state move hard-right. Read more »
The role of redistricting –  ProPublica reported on how big money powered the redistricting of the state. Once repugicans won control of the legislature in 2010, they used their power to draw new district lines meticulously, taking into account individual households’ voting habits. It paved the way for big wins in 2012.
“Redistricting is supposed to protect the fundamental principle of one-person-one-vote,” ProPublica reported. “As demographics change, lines are shifted to make sure everyone is equally represented and to give communities a voice. In order for repugicans to win in North Carolina, they undermined the votes of Democrats, especially African-Americans. The strategy began in the run-up to the 2010 elections. repugicans poured money into local races in North Carolina and elsewhere. It was an efficient approach. While congressional races routinely cost millions, a few thousand dollars can swing a campaign for a seat in the state legislature.” Read more »
Who is Art Pope? –  Most recently, he’s been Governor Pat McCrony’s budget director. But he’s been described as the architect of the wingnut takeover. Pope is behind a foundation that backs three groups that were behind 75 percent of outside spending in North Carolina political campaigns in 2008, and is the primary funder of one of them. He used to be a North Carolina state legislator, and once ran for lieutenant governor. But at the root of Pope’s political power is his fortune, which comes from a discount store business (think regional Dollar General–esque chains) begun by his father. Though a private citizen at the time, he was in the room as repugicans redrew the new districts that would reinforce their 2010 wins in 2012. (Fun fact: Pope helped found the Libertarian Party of North Carolina but resigned when members spoke too frequently and too seriously about mythical beasts such as Sasquatch.) In the The New Yorker, Jane Mayer’s 2011 profile chronicled Pope’s path from wealthy businessman to political puppet master. Read more »

Art Pope on Raleigh CBS affiliate WRAL.
The end of clean judicial elections –  In 2002, the North Carolina Legislature set up a program of publicly funded elections — a system by which taxpayer money helps cover the cost of political campaigns to minimize the influence of rich individuals and corporations. (For example, the system would protect a judicial candidate from being forced to accept or refuse a campaign donation from a lawyer or business that might later appear before her in court.) As a state legislator at the time, Art Pope played a leading role in the fight against the system, the Institute for Southern Studies’ publication Facing South reported. Over the next decade, Pope’s outside spending groups continued the battle — and once installed as McCrony’s budget director, Pope was well positioned to end public funding. His first budget slashed funding for the program. Read more »
“Sinful and tyrannical”? –  A case study in some Pope-funded rhetoric: The Civitas Institute, for which Pope provides majority funding, wrote an op-ed saying there was “no moral justification” for publicly funded judicial elections, which are “sinful and tyrannical” (a common and deliberate misreading of Thomas Jefferson, which the late, brilliant Aaron Swartz debunked succinctly). Read more »
Supermajority in action –  The Nation’s Ari Berman summarized the legislation that drove Moral Monday protestors to raise their voices this summer: “So far this year, legislation passed or pending by repugicans would eliminate the earned-income tax credit for 900,000; decline Medicaid coverage for 500,000; end federal unemployment benefits for 170,000 in a state with the country’s fifth-highest jobless rate; cut pre-K for 30,000 kids while shifting $90 million from public education to voucher schools; slash taxes for the top 5 percent while raising taxes on the bottom 95 percent; allow for guns to be purchased without a background check and carried in parks, playgrounds, restaurants and bars; ax public financing of judicial races; and prohibit death row inmates from challenging racially discriminatory verdicts. ‘They’ve drank all the tea party they could drink and sniffed all the Koch they could sniff,’ [North Carolina NAACP president Rev. William] Barber says.” Read more »
Members of North Carolina student chapters of the NAACP and opponents of voter ID legislation wear tape over their mouths while sitting silently in the gallery of the House chamber of the North Carolina General Assembly where lawmakers debated and voted on voter identification legislation in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, April 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Demonstrators wore tape over their mouths as they protested new legislation regulating voting by sitting silently in the gallery of the House chamber of the North Carolina General Assembly, April 24, 2013.
The “worst voter suppression law” -  North Carolina’s new voting restrictions were signed into law less than two months after the Supreme Court gutted the voting rights act. The Nation’s Berman reports that the NAACP and a coalition of voting rights groups filed lawsuits to block the legislation on the same day that Gov. McCrony signed it. “The sweeping law requires strict government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot, cuts the number of early voting days by a week, eliminates same-day voter registration during the early voting period, makes it easier for vigilante poll watchers to challenge the validity of eligible voters and expands the influence of unregulated corporate money in state elections,” wrote Berman. “[S]ince the Supreme Court took away their most potent weapon for fighting voting discrimination, voting rights groups have no choice but to hope that the compelling and disturbing facts of this case persuade the courts to block the ‘monster’ new law.” Read more »
Now what? –  North Carolina’s General Assembly adjourned at the end of July, though protests continued. The Rev. Dr. Barber, one of the Moral Mondays protest organizers, says that the new year will see the “largest, most robust march in the South since Selma.” The 2014 legislative session begins in May. Last week, The News & Observer reported that activists from 12 states converged on Raleigh to attend a meeting to learn how to start Moral Mondays protests in their states. Meanwhile, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that demonstrations may be coming to Georgia as soon as this month: Protestors there plan to call on the legislature, which convenes this month, “to expand Medicaid, restore funding to public schools and [raise] the minimum wage.”

While Democrats Focus on Real Issues, repugicans Plan Another Attack on Obamacare

What are Congressional repugicans looking to focus on when they enter the chamber today? 
Obamacare, of course!…
With Congress back in session on January 6th, Democrats have already made it clear that they plan to aggressively attack a number of pressing issues right away. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has already stated that he will focus immediately on having unemployment insurance reinstated and extended for the long-term jobless that lost those benefits last week. On top of that, Democrats and the White House have made it clear that they want to raise the federal minimum wage in the new year. These are just two of a number of issues that Dems will focus on in the first month of 2014.
Meanwhile, what are Congressional repugicans looking to focus on when they enter the chamber? Obamacare, of course! House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (r-VA) has made it clear that he will bring up a measure to vote on that will strengthen security on the federal health exchange website, Healthcare.gov, as well as provide notification to people when there has been a breach. When making the announcement in a memo on Thursday, Cantor had this to say:
“American families have enough to worry about as we enter the new year without having to wonder if they can trust the government to inform them when their personal information — entered into a government mandated website — has been compromised.”
Of course, while we kept hearing about the website’s ‘glitches’ early on during the rollout, there have been no security breaches found. Nobody has had their personal information placed in harm’s way. There have been no ‘hacks’ of the website. Over the last weeks and months, the website has been drastically improved and has been able to handle millions of people visiting it.
And that is the issue here. Cantor and the House repugican cabal know that they are on the losing end of this battle. the ACA is here to stay and it isn’t going anywhere. Their only tactic now is just to make people fear it and hope they can somehow slow the surge of people signing up on the insurance exchanges. Therefore, they will go ahead and hold votes on measures like this as well as hold more and more ‘hearings’ by and Issa and Co. in order to drive a wedge of fear. Cantor pretty much said so himself in his memo to his fellow House repugicans:
“In the coming weeks, we will continue to address other areas were greater transparency is demanded, including the disclosure of reliable and complete enrollment data. These steps will be part of the overall effort to protect the American people from the harmful effects of Obamacare by ultimately repealing and replacing the law with patient focused reforms that expand access, ensure quality care, and help control costs.”
Another thing to notice here is that holding more votes on the ACA wastes time on the House floor, meaning that other, more pressing matters get pushed aside while the repugicans continue to hold meaningless votes on non-existing issues surrounding the health care law. Just like the previous 3 years that the repugican cabal has controlled the House, it is painfully obvious that 2014 is not going to be any different for them. They will continue their crusade to damage or destroy the ACA for no other reason than it is President Obama’s achievement. Country be damned.

Clay Aiken Considering Running for Congress Against tea partier Renee Ellmers

clay aiken
North Carolina repugican Renee Ellmers’ district has been redrawn as heavily repugican, but she may be facing a challenge from a big name.
It’s American Idol 2003 contestant Clay Aiken, according to The Washington Blade. While that might seem strange at first, Democrat Clay Aiken has long been involved with UNICEF, who sent him to Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and Afghanistan. The Blade reported this scoop based on two anonymous sources, which wouldn’t mean much if Betsy Conti, a local political strategist who has worked with former North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue and Al Gore, wasn’t also said to be consulting with Aiken.
From the Blade:
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the 35-year-old Raleigh native has taken initial steps for a run, including consulting with political operatives in Washington, D.C., about a bid for the seat.
One Democratic source said Aiken made phone calls to gauge support, talked to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has met with figures in Raleigh, N.C., about a potential bid. Although it’s unclear when Aiken might formally announce a decision, the source said Aiken is “actively considering” it and “sounding and acting like a candidate.
Ellmers’ district was heavily redrawn to favor the repugican, but she is also being challenged from the wingnuts by Frank Roche, a wingnut Internet hate talk show host. WRAL ran the statement he released with his announcement, condemning her for her “moderate” voting record:
“The key elements motivating my decision to take on this difficult challenge are Representative Ellmer’s [sic] support for the comprehensive immigration reform legislation making its way through Congress, including a “pathway to citizenship;” her moderate go-along-to-get-along voting record in her first three years of office; an already poor record of constituent services; a relentless focus on fundraising since elected in 2010; and a lack of focus on the critically important issues impacting America’s future strength and prosperity.”
This might be a good time to remind everyone that Renee Ellmers was one of the repugicans who refused to give up her pay during the repugican cabal shutdown of government, even though she supported the shutdown. This person is being primaried from the right, and that should inform you of how crazy the repugican cabal has become.
Back in 2010, Renee Ellmers was ushered into her seat by the tea party, but at least some of the tea party are apparently already feeling disillusioned with her. Formerly, the seat had been long held by Democrat Bob Etheridge.
Ellmers might be safe in her redistricted heaven, but she can’t afford a big name like Clay Aiken to run against her while she’s being primaried hard by the wingnuts. It seems that no one really likes her, and that could depress turnout for the repugican.
Ellmers disappointed the tea party extremists, and she’s certainly not helping the constituents who previously voted for Bob Etheridge. Who will rush to vote for her in an off year? Yes, it’s a long run, but a big name is better than no name when it comes to challenging a heavily protected incumbent in an off year, so if this is indeed true, it could be good news for Democrats.

The Truth Be Told

South Carolina Violates the Constitution With Plan For Mandatory Prayer In Public Schools

As the new year is getting underway, there is a renewed push to force prayer into South Carolina public schools.…
Praying in School 
Religion is an organized collection of beliefs based on rituals and veneration of a deity through sacrifices, funerary services, and prayer. For people possessing the ability to reason, the idea of religion contributing to a person’s facility to learn and retain fact-based information is about as absurd as the notion the Universe is 6,000 years old. Since religion is not based on evidential science or empirical data and founded on mere belief in mythology, it is not worthy of inclusion, in any form, in a public school setting where educating students based on facts is the goal. Of all aspects of religion that do not belong in the public school system, seeking a rapport with a deity through direct communication through prayer not only has no place in public learning environments, it is an affront to the concept of education; particularly in taxpayer funded public schools.
Religious lunatics have long-sought to include mandated prayers in public schools since repugican man-god Ronald Reagan ushered in a generation of religious extremists bent on interfering in all aspects of government and Americans’ lives. Although the Supreme Court held that teacher-led prayer constitutes a government endorsement of religion and violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, South Carolina is reviving a year-old attempt to require mandatory teacher-led prayers in public schools.  H. 3526, was first introduced in February 2012 and required teachers to lead prayer time at the beginning of each school day with the teacher delivering a prayer of their choosing. The bill granted students who objected to being subjected to prayer  as part of their education permission to leave the classroom, but anyone remotely knowledgeable of school settings or young children are aware that few, if any, impressionable young children would dare draw attention to themselves and sit out “mandated prayer time.”
As the new year is getting underway, there is a renewed push to force prayer into South Carolina public schools after the bill languished in the Judiciary committee due to its mandated teacher-directed prayers being ruled unconstitutional by the High Court. The bill’s sponsors made adjustments to the legislation and said they were willing to compromise on that one sticking point and allow “the students to pray to whomever they want to. If they want to do away with teachers conducting the prayer that would be fine with us. The essential part of the bill, the important part, is putting prayer back in school. The teacher would conduct it to let the students know we would have a moment of prayer. That person can pray to whomever they please.” The legislators were also gracious enough to allow an atheist child who does not need direct communication with a deity to succeed in school leave the room; to isolate them and single them out as “not one of us” deity-fearing real Americans. In America, they should be fortunate the mandated prayer-time is not relegated to teacher-directed summoning of “the lord” evangelical-style, but that will come soon enough.
Apparently it was a kind gesture on the part of  repugicans to give young students permission to pray to whichever deity they chose, and that they were willing to “compromise” and adhere to the 1st Amendment and not require a teacher to lead the christian prayer of their choosing. However, since South Carolina ranks 41st in the nation for students graduating from high school, the pressing question from an educational standpoint is why is there this driving need to “put prayer back in school” instead of focusing on educational outcomes?  One would think that mandating each child come to school prepared to learn, including properly nourished, and that parents were equipped to help their children study  would be the state’s primary educational focus, but then educational outcomes do not garner votes like “putting prayer back in school;” especially in the South.
An educator would likely ask pertinent academic performance questions such as will mandated prayer help a student better understand scientific theory, the periodic table, or why the Earth is over 6,000 years old. They would also ask for empirical data showing that mandated prayer will help younger students have better number sense, memorize multiplication facts, or learn how to use variables in mathematics to learn which state has the best educational outcomes. Mandating students to pray with their peers will not help them learn or retain important facts about world history, or remember the three branches of government so they could relay the information to their parents to prevent them from failing the next survey checking civic literacy rates. The point is that opening a line of communication with a deity is no substitute for paying attention during a lesson, taking notes, or asking questions to gain a better understanding of curriculum that is necessary to graduate from high school, but that is not the legislators’ point. As the legislators said, the essential part of the bill is putting prayer in schools; not advancing a student’s ability to learn and that alone is reason enough to keep prayer out of public schools and dangerous legislation like H. 3526 off the books.
The real travesty is that with religious lunatics abridging the 1st Amendment’s Separation and Establishment Clause with increased regularity with assistance by religious agitator judges, the insertion of prayer in public schools by legislative mandate is further proof Dominionism is making headway toward a transforming America into a theocracy. It is irrelevant what kind of prayers are mandated in schools, or whether or not teachers lead students in direct communications with a deity, or that non-religious children are sent out of the room to portray them as “not one of us;” religion has no place in the public schools. That South Carolina is leading the charge to put religion in the state’s public schools informs that religious extremism knows no bounds and sink to repugican levels and pander to the religious lunatic fringe for electoral favor.
The danger of allowing religion into the public schools is that once prayer is mandated, it will be a brief matter of time before a zealot legislator attaches an amendment to a piece of legislation regarding motorcycle helmets that requires teachers to conduct christian prayers and revokes parental permission exempting their child from a teacher-directed, religious-right approved supplication to god. If Americans have learned anything about the religious lunatic fringe over the past ten years, it is that their only goal in life is transforming America into a christian nation ruled by christian lunatics and giving them a foothold in the public school system is an epic error.
Children go to school to learn verifiable fact-based knowledge and not to start their school day with a prayer to “whomever they want to pray” by legislative mandate. Children can pray at home, church, before school, before eating their lunch at school, and even while they are at recess or during play time, but there is no reasonable excuse, or justification, for mandating they spend even one minute of class time in direct communication with a deity whether of their choosing or not. The disgusting aspect of the South Carolina “prayer time law” is that  the legislation has nothing to do with helping students acquire and retain knowledge, but is essential and important to “put prayer back in school;” the one place it does not belong.

Bryan Fischer Rejects Constitution – Says Evolutionists Disqualified from Political Office

Fischer says that an evolutionist "does not share the political worldview that established the United States of America" - except that worldview gave us Article VI banning religious…
Fischer Evolution 
Bryan Fischer, the un-American anti-Family Association’s Director of Issues Analysis who doesn’t understand much about the issues, has, in a less than happy New Year’s message, made it clear what he thinks about the United States Constitution and its Article VI regarding religious tests. While Article VI of the Constitution says “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” Fischer, whose buddy David Barton has previously insisted the Founding Fathers “settled the evolution debate,” proclaimed Thursday that people who believe in evolution are “disqualified from holding political office in the United States of America.”
Our Founders obviously believed in a creator. They believed the universe was created. They believed that man is a created being, not an evolved being, didn’t rise out of the swamp somewhere, didn’t emerge out of the slime.
We don’t share ancestors with apes and baboons. In fact, I would suggest to you that if a politician or somebody wants to exercise political power and he is an evolutionist, he is disqualified from holding political office in the United States of America. because he does not share the political worldview that established the United States of America and made it the greatest nation in the history of the planet.
Yes, even the 18th century’s deists believed in a creator but their creator was not Fischer’s creator. They did not believe in the bible’s mystical elements, the miracles, rising from the dead, or in salvation through jesus christ. At the very least, Fischer’s argument is disingenuous; at the worst, blatantly dishonest.
But then Fischer IS, like 2016 presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, and others, a huge David Barton fan. ‘Nuff said, on why this matters.
Fischer went on to claim he is not going so far as to suggest we have an actual law to enforce that ban:
I’m not saying we should have a law prohibiting them from running for public office. I’m not saying that. I’m saying that American people shouldn’t vote for them because that guy, if he does not believe that we are created beings and that our rights come to us from god, that man cannot be trusted to protect your civil rights.
Obviously, Fischer has not bothered to read the Constitution or the bible, a far too common failing of religious bigots (i.e. fake christians like Fischer) in our society. He claims his reasoning is based on the fact that an evolutionist “does not share the political worldview that established the United States of America,” except for one rather LARGE problem:
It was the political worldview in question that gave us Article VI’s rejection of the religious test Fischer wishes to see exercised by the electorate. This is rather interesting because Fischer is a Barton apologist and Barton says Thomas Jefferson would side with them today, yet it was Jefferson who wrote, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
Thomas Jefferson gave us the true face of religious freedom; Bryan Fischer is its antithesis; he would take that freedom away.
We have seen what rights people like Fischer are willing to grant us and they are few unless you are, like him, an anti-American white guy: For example, the First Amendment, in Fischer’s eyes, not only applies ONLY to christians but it establishes christianity as the state religion the First Amendment bans. Worse yet, Fischer believes that muslims are “parasites” who “must convert or die.”
Fischer has previously said that liberals hate America and christianity. Liberals love liberty and so hate those who, like Fischer, threaten liberty. The Constitution liberals protect is itself a liberal document, a product of the very secular, very liberal European Enlightenment. Fischer says that you cannot reason with liberals because “god gave them deranged minds” but it seems beyond contestation that while liberals use their minds, Fischer does not use his.
I would therefore like to suggest – and I’m going to go ahead and run it up the flagpole here – that if anybody should not be allowed to hold political office, it is religious bigots like Bryan Fischer who refuse to read the bible they claim to promote and then compound that sin by refusing to read the Constitution they claim to be defending. I would like to further suggest that if they don’t like the United States Constitution, they can pack up their sick obsessions and leave. There are planes leaving every hour.

The wingnut Court Joins The wingnut Attempt to Replace the Constitution With the bible

The Supreme Court is likely not done facilitating theocratic tyranny or disabusing the people from their 1st and 14th Amendment rights if right wing extremists have their way. tyranny-in-religion 
There is a quote that states, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross” that is really a condensed version of several prognostications warning 1930-s Germany that Adolf Hitler was rising to the level of dictator and with his ascendance came their loss of freedoms. America is falling victim to the same kind of fascism despite the Constitution’s guarantee that every citizen is equal that is facing a greater threat than any time in the nation’s history.  When America finally falls to fascism, and it is quickly approaching, it will be in part due to a well-planned assault on liberty by a group that announced a decade ago their coup d’état would be bloodless, but certainly not without pain and not without a concerted effort to replace the Constitution with a religious text; the christian bible.
Extremist christians are adamant the First Amendment protects their religious freedom to impose compliance with their religious beliefs on all Americans, while at the same time forbidding government from protecting Americans from state-imposed religious tyranny. They claim, errantly, that the establishment clause does not imply Separation of cult and State, but according to Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Danbury baptists, he assured them the 1st Amendment protected them from other religions imposing their beliefs on the Baptists by government fiat. Jefferson wrote that, “the act of the whole American people which declared that their government shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between cult & State.” Still, evangelicals are imposing and attempting to enforce “law respecting an establishment of religion” as well as actively “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” of other Americans who do not subscribe to the christian bible as the law of the land.
It is important, no critical, that every American understands that a theocracy is the greatest form of tyranny founded on destroying liberty, and for Americans it begins by suspending the Constitution and replacing it with religious edicts. One of the beautiful features of our Constitution was that it used to guarantee freedoms that all Americans were required to comply with, but over the years politicians granted religious groups power to  dictate to the nation which aspects of the Constitution they will comply with, and which parts of the christian bible they will impose on the population. It is a harsh enough reality to learn the Constitution does not protect all Americans’ freedoms, and supremely disheartening that despite the Founding Fathers’ intent to protect the people from theocratic tyranny, evangelical christians are imposing theocratic fascism on the people while “wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
On New Years’ eve the Supreme Court took another step towards replacing the U.S. Constitution with the christian bible when it exempted groups affiliated with the catholic cult from complying with the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The cults, complained the mandate violated their religious freedom to withhold prescriptions from their employees despite it was no financial burden on the organizations. Their contention is that catholic organizations were being forced to “abandon their religious convictions and facilitate access to contraceptives, sterilization, and related education and counseling for their employees.” The mandate does not force leaders of the catholic organizations, or their employees, to use contraception, or be sterilized, or accept family planning counseling; it left that choice up to each individual according to the Constitution. The catholic organizations demanding exemption from the mandate see it as restricting their biblical right to impose their religion on their  employees and the High Court agreed. It is another step towards governance by theocratic tyranny and what better way than eliminating Constitutional protections of the 1st  and 14th Amendments.
The Supreme Court is likely not done facilitating theocratic tyranny or disabusing the people from their 1st and 14th Amendment rights if Utah mormons have their way. On the eve of New Years’ day, Utah mormons demanded the High Court put an instantaneous halt to same-sex marriages in the state and complained vehemently that a federal district and 10th Circuit Appeals court had the temerity to use the U.S. Constitution to grant equal rights and due  process under the law to same-sex couples. The mormon governor and attorney general argued in their legal brief that “This case involves not just a refusal by the federal government to accommodate a state’s (biblical) definition of marriage, but it wielded a federal injunction under the banner of the federal Constitution.” Could it possibly be any clearer that Utah mormons, like catholic organizations, Personhood Movements, National Organization of Marriage,  and various christian groups abrogate any adherence to the Constitution where it contradicts religious edicts? Complaining the courts are making rulings based on the Constitution and not the bible is as blatant an affront to freedom and the nation’s founding document as forcing all Americans to comply with biblical “laws respecting an establishment of religion” the 1st Amendment forbids. But that is the price Americans pay for allowing theocrats to shred the Constitution and impose biblical law.
It is no secret why religious groups are comfortable abridging other Americans’ rights and violating the Constitution with such aplomb and self-righteous indignation that they clearly despise the Founding Fathers’ for attempting to protect Americans from religious tyranny. Clearly, it is the political practice of giving christians and their bible greater importance than the Constitution; a practice initiated by wingnuts’ man-god Ronald Reagan. Although the practice includes politicians on both sides of the aisle, repugicans are the de facto legislative arm of evangelical christians with their greatest efficacy coming in repugican-controlled states; particularly across the South and Midwest. Nationally, politicians have forced Americans to give over $82.5 billion annually to cults they use to force compliance with their religion and dismantle the Constitution that was always part of Dominionists’ plan to rule by theocracy and edicts founded in the christian bible.
Americans should be quaking in their shoes at the prospect of what lies ahead when America is ruled by a theocracy. That religious cults are using the 1st Amendment to force compliance to laws respecting an establishment of religion, and complaining courts are issuing rulings according to the U.S. Constitution, particularly the 14th Amendment, informs it is just a matter of time before they join repugicans and teabaggers calling revising those parts of the Constitution that contradict their religious beliefs. If there is any doubt what they will replace them with just peruse the Utah law’s biblical definition of marriage as law of the land, or consider catholics and evangelicals citing the 1st Amendment as legal cover to impose biblical law on the population to understand that their only goal is tyranny by theocracy; the same kind of government the supreme islamic council rules over its people in Iran.

Mitt Romney, Hard-Working ‘Honest’ Business Genius, Being Sued for Criminal Racketeering

Mitt Romney, Hard-Working ‘Honest’ Business Genius, Being Sued for Criminal Racketeering
In case you missed it, the defeated Presidential candidate and grandfather of an adopted baby of color, together with his firm and Government Sachs, umm Goldman Sachs are the defendants in a RICO lawsuit.
Romney once touted as some kind of business wunderkind instead of the epitome of the industry that depresses wages and sends jobs oversees can add racketeering, fraud, perjury and possible accessory to murder to his resume.
This story has failed to appear in most mainstream outlets and was even ignored by media that focuses on the crimes of the financial realm.
Steven “Laser Haas” is suing Romney for $100,000,000 and is keeping a juicy diary at dailykos.com
Haas, as the owner of Collateral Logistics, was the court appointed fiduciary agent. He found extensive perjury and fraud while trying to oversee the liquidation of eToys.com.
In a validation of Matt Taibbi’s article about Bain Capital published in Rolling Stone in 2012, Haas discovered massive “bad faith acts,” including the “doubling” of the salaries of more than 1000 employees during bankruptcy, larceny of assets and intents to destroy the public company. It may be a fact that eToys was solvent!
In other words, Bain, together with other financial firms and interests, targeted a solvent company, paid off some top management folks, took a boatload of money for themselves and left the carcass. Jobs lost- oh well.
Haas claims that he was repeatedly offered a $850,000 bribe, and murder might be part of this case.
Haas v Romney will be unfolding throughout 2014. It can only be hoped that major newspapers and other media will start reporting on it.

Should Wealthy Students Be Required to Do Low-Wage Jobs?

An article at The Atlantic looks at a program at L'Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie, an expensive private economics college in Rabat, Morocco. Students are required to complete an internship at a regular job. In the case of Sawsene Nejjar, who grew up in a wealthy family, that meant selling furniture.
“I had my nail polish, my hair done, my makeup done. I felt good, but everyone was looking at me like, ‘Who’s this bourgeoisie coming here? Why is she talking in French every time she’s talking on the phone? Why is she always smiling?’” said Nejjar, who is currently in her third year.
Her co-workers were different than she was. Mostly members of the middle class, they did not attend private school, if they attended post-secondary school at all. They didn’t talk to each other in French. (The official language is the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, though private school teaches French at a young age and public school teaches it a few years later.) The way they spoke the Moroccan dialect of Arabic was different, too.
The purpose of the internship is to expose wealthy students to people of various classes, who they've been insulated from for most of their lives. It's a peek at "how the other half lives," so to speak. What if such a program became common in America? The United States has more income inequality than Morocco. Would spending every day with coworkers and customers outside their experience create a more egalitarian view among privileged students? After all, in any comment thread about tipping, you see that those who once worked for tips tend to leave tips faithfully because they've been there.
But there's no guarantee that such a program will result in changed attitudes. Walking in someone else's shoes for a year is far different from walking in them for a lifetime. And sadly, in poor economic times, even low-status internships may be taking Mcjobs away from people who really need them. As it is now, the ability to take low-pay or unpaid internships that lead to elite jobs is restricted to those who don't have to earn a living. What do you think? 

Town Councilman Writes Resignation Letter in Klingon

I cannot say qapla' (success), but neither can I say jey (defeat). Sometimes the best victory is to walk away from a bad situation. That may be how David Waddell is looking at it. Until four days ago, he was a town councilman in Indian Trail, North Carolina.
He got fed up with how politics was conducted, so he resigned. His letter was short, to the point and written in Klingon--a language spoken in the Star Trek universe.
General Martok (left), who is currently an elected official in Ulysses, New York, could not be reached for comment.

The Extraordinary Voyage of the CSS Shenandoah

During the American Civil War, the US Navy blockaded Southern ports and largely cut the Confederacy off from the rest of the world. But the South did have some successes at sea. Some fast ships were able to slip through the blockade. The Confederate Navy built an ironclad that held its own against a Federal ironclad. But perhaps the most effective naval effort of the South was the warships that it sent far out to sea to capture and destroy Union shipping. These ships damaged the Union economy and forced the North to use warships to chase the Confederates.
Among these Confederate commerce raiders, the most far-ranging was the CSS Shenandoah. During its year-long voyage, it traveled as far as Australia and the Bering Sea. It was the only Confederate warship to circumnavigate the globe.
Confederate agents purchased it in Britain and, in September 1864, sailed it out unarmed to the Portuguese island of Madeira. There it met another vessel which had been shipped with cannons and a crew. The crew of 73, led by Captain James Waddell (left), raised the Confederate ensign and went hunting.

Waddell and his colleagues took 6 prizes before sailing into Melbourne, Australia in January of 1865. After a few weeks in drydock for repairs, Waddell sailed into the Pacific in search of American whalers. The Shenandoah found the most prey in the Aleutians, where at one point it took 7 prizes in an 11-hour period.
By then, it was June of 1865. General Lee had surrendered his army. President Davis had been captured. General Johnston was negotiating the surrender of his army. For all practical purposes, the Confederacy had ceased to exist. Captain Waddell encountered these reports, even far away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
He didn’t believe them and sailed on. This time, he turned south, planning to strike at the coast of California. Finally, in August, a British merchant captain convinced him that the war was truly over. Without a government to fight for, the Shenandoah could not legally continue to wage war. So Waddell dismantled the cannons, hauled down the Confederate colors, and sailed to Britain. He surrendered the ship to British authorities on November 6, 1865.
Over its year-long voyage, the Shenandoah took 38 prizes costing the United States $1.36 million—all while unsuccessfully hunted by the US Navy. It was the last Confederate military unit to surrender.

Untold Stories from the Beatles' Legendary North American Tours

The 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America is this year. To mark the occasion, a huge two-volume chronicle of The Beatles’ official American tours by Chuck Gunderson will be published this month, called Some Fun Tonight: The Backstage Story of How The Beatles Rocked America: The Historic Tours of 1964-1966. When you think back on those days, it's hard to believe that three short years of touring America left such a mark felt a half-century later. Collectors Weekly has excerpts from the book, in which each city has its own chapter. Kansas City was not on the original tour schedule.
But Charlie Finley, who owned the Kansas City Athletics baseball team, had promised his city a Beatles concert, so he started working on the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, from the moment the tour began in San Francisco. Finley was prepared to pay top dollar to bring The Beatles to Kansas City, which is saying a lot, since they were already the best-paid act in show business.

“At that time,” says Gunderson, “the big stars were Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, who were each getting between $10,000 and $15,000 a show. When The Beatles came around in 1964, Brian was getting them anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 per show. Finley offered $100,000, and Epstein essentially said, ‘No. They’re having a day off; the tour is booked. Go away.’”

Used to getting his way, Finley was not so easily brushed off. “His ego was huge,” says Gunderson, “and he had the money to spend. So he went to Brian again when The Beatles were in Los Angeles to play the Hollywood Bowl and wrote out a check for $150,000. Reportedly, Brian took it to this private mansion in L.A. where The Beatles were staying and said ‘What do you want me to do with this?’ And they basically said ‘We’ll do anything you want.’ And so The Beatles were booked to play Kansas City on the 17th of September, at just under $5,000 a minute.”
After all, the Beatles only played for about a half-hour during each concert. Read more such stories about the Fab Four on tour at Collectors Weekly.



Hospitals will happily tell you the cost of parking; procedures, not so much

Fourteen-year-old Jillian Bernstein got herself published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by comparing the transparency of medical costs at Philadelphia hospitals with the transparency of parking rates at the same hospitals. Out of 20 hospitals, 19 were happy to provide information on the cost to park a car. Only three, however, were willing to tell her how much it would cost an uninsured person to get an electrocardiogram, and those prices were ridiculously variable — $137, $600 and $1,200, depending on the hospital

Breaking Bad contest winner busted for drugs

140102100431 ryan lee carroll arrest breaking bad story top In September, Ryan Lee Carroll won a national contest to watch the Breaking Bad finale with the cast of the show. On Tuesday, Carroll, 28, was arrested on drug charges when police raided his Fort Myers, Florida home. According to CNN, Caroll "was reportedly taken into custody on felony charges of alleged possession of synthetic narcotics and a misdemeanor charge of allegedly keeping a shop or vehicle for dangerous drugs." Hopefully he had Saul McGill's number on him.

Man busted for stealing and selling brains from medical museum

InimanstealsbrainsDavid Charles, 21, was arrested for allegedly stealing jars of brain tissue from the Indiana Medical History Museum. Police tracked Charles down after a California fellow purchased the jars for $100 each on eBay. Museum director Mary Ellen Hennessey Nottage spoke to the man who bought the brains. "He just said he liked to collect odd things," Nottage said. "Police: Man stole brains, sold them on eBay

Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham of the Creation Museum

MuseumOn February 4, Bill Nye "The Science Guy" will debate Ken Ham, Creation Museum founder and Answers In Genesis president/CEO, at The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky just across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio. The event is titled "Is creation a viable model of origins?" This is gonna be good. Tickets are $25 from the Creation Museum. I hope the museum makes a full video available but I bet that will depend on how it plays out. Hopefully an audience member will record and post the whole thing online. "Bill Nye to Visit Creation Museum for Debate

Skin color gene reveals shared origins across global populations

Daily Comic Relief


Judge Rules Exxon Must Face Criminal Charges Over 50,000 Gallon Fracking Waste Spill

by Emily Atkin

Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy will have to face criminal charges for allegedly dumping tens of thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing waste at a Marcellus Shale drilling site in 2010, according to a Pennsylvania judge's ruling on Thursday.
Following a preliminary hearing, Magisterial District Judge James G. Carn decided that all eight charges against Exxon - including violations of both the state Clean Streams Law and the Solid Waste Management Act - will be "held for court," meaning there is enough evidence to take the fossil fuel giant to trial over felony offenses.
Pennsylvania's Attorney General filed criminal charges back in September, claiming Exxon had removed a plug from a wastewater tank, leading to 57,000 gallons of contaminated water spilling into the soil. The Exxon subsidiary had contested the criminal charges, claiming there was "no lasting environmental impact," and that the charges could "discourage good environmental practices" from guilty companies.

What do icebergs sound like?

Turns out, they make lots of noises, but their movement through the water is associated with a sound akin to a cross between a squeaky door closing and high-pitched cow moo-ing.

Awesome Pictures


Climbing it again in June :D

Cool things you can see when the water recedes

In California, it's the contents of tidepools, revealed by particularly strong low tides that are happening now through February. Octopuses, sea stars, and other creatures usually covered by water are revealed for all to see. Meanwhile, in the Chinese province of Jiangxi, a lake dried up, revealing a 400-year-old granite bridge.

Kim Jong Un "fed uncle" to dogs

"North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle was stripped naked, thrown into a cage, and eaten alive by a pack of ravenous dogs, according to a newspaper with close ties to China's ruling Communist Party," reports NBC News. "Jang and other aides were completely eaten up." Dear biologists and mafia pig farmers: is this credible? Sounds to me like a placed story intended to make Kim look in-charge.

Man called 911 about angry goat trying to get into his home

A man in south Oklahoma City thought someone was breaking into his house on Thursday, only to find the intruder had four legs and horns. "I heard some rumbling, and I freaked out. I thought that somebody was trying to break into the house, and then I come out here and check it.

Animal Loses Head But Remembers Everything

This is a worm. It's called a planarian. It's about an inch long, and you'll find it gliding along the bottoms of rivers and ponds all over the world. It has a hidden talent that has made it famous. It can regrow its body parts better than almost any other animal on Earth.

So if by some chance something bites its head off or removes its tail, or zaps its head and its tail simultaneously, the dangling middle piece will, within a couple of weeks, grow both its front and its back to full size. Meanwhile, the severed head, if left alone, will also generate a full-sized new worm. The lonesome tail will do that, too, so where you started with one worm, you'll now have three.

Animal Pictures