The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 30th, 2015: Hello, Cuba!

Cuba has finally been removed from the “State-Sponsored Terrorism” list, leaving only 3 nations on the short list: Iran, Sudan and Syria.

And about fucking time. C’mon, we at least have to make some concession to the fact that OUR abomination of a hellhole, that stinking albatross around America’s neck that seems to get little notice anymore, that unholy, immoral “Pit of Despair” known as GTMO, occupies part of THEIR country. We – the United States of America – cannot claim much of a moral high ground when we are deliberately and indifferently crushing hundreds of souls, day by day, year by year, simply because the greatest nation on the face of the earth ever doesn’t want to admit to or clean up the horror it spawned.

Sorry, where was I? Oh, here’s a few articles on Cuba’s elevation in status:

As The New York Times’ Julie Hirshfeld Davis reminds us, President Obama gave official notice of his intent to Congress on April 14th, 2015, beginning the 45-day “Congressional notification period”, which expired yesterday. An excerpt:

“Cuba’s removal from the terrorism list was harshly criticized by several declared or prospective Republican presidential candidates and members of Congress, a sign that the détente may become an issue in the 2016 campaign.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who is widely expected to run, called the decision “further evidence that President Obama seems more interested in capitulating to our adversaries than in confronting them.”

The House speaker, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said the administration had “handed the Castro regime a significant political win in return for nothing.” He vowed that the House would ensure that sanctions on Cuba would stay in place.”

One Washington Post article mentions that Jeb also said “I call on Congress to keep pressure on Cuba and hold the administration accountable.” [Does he mean the Cuban “administration”, or the Obama “administration”?] On Congress’ role, the article says:

“Removing the terror designation lifts only some of the numerous U.S. trade barriers against Cuba. An economic embargo remains in effect, and reversing it requires a congressional vote. President Obama has said he hopes to work with Congress to get it lifted.”

Why does President Obama, after all this time, still hold out any hope that Congress will work with him towards any goal? I mean, to Congress, Obama is just continuing his communist/socialist/Muslim/dictator/America-hating/atheist agenda, right? (sigh) Moving on…

A very informative WasPo article by Ishaan Tharoor helps to explain how a country qualifies for the “State-Sponsored Terrorism List”, and why some nations that one would think belonged on the list aren’t. The article also discusses nations who were previously on the list but have been removed. i.e., Iraq (maybe because we totally fucked up their country and left it in no shape to sponsor terrorism?); Libya (maybe because we killed enough members of Mohumar Gaddafi’s family that he finally cried Uncle Sam?)

FoxNews.com has this article, which adds a bit to the Speaker Boehner knee-jerk bluster:

“The communist dictatorship has offered no assurances it will address its long record of repression and human rights at home,” Boehner said in a statement.”

Fair enough, but ONLY if Boehner promises to end the Republicans’ long record of repression and human rights violations in OUR country AND theirs.  Better ‘tend to that log in your own eye’, Boehner.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

The Watering Hole; Thursday May 28 2015; Bernie

Bernie Sanders, in his first campaign speech, spoke volumes concerning details of the course this country MUST take to enable its return to those long-past days of prosperity, and in the process he said absolutely nothing with which I do not unanimously and enthusiastically agree. He is absolutely the 180 degree-opposite of the entire of the Republican clown car occupants, both announced and not yet announced, and I suspect his IQ is greater than the aggregate sum of . . . well, you know.

I do find it odd that this prime candidate for President — standing tall in these, my “old timer” years — is every bit as inspiring to me as the POTUS on my date of birth, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, became in my growing-up retro view. Curious too that both Roosevelt and Sanders popped up at times of parallel turmoil. Roosevelt overcame it and changed America in the most positive way imaginable, and now Sanders is proposing to do the same.

Here’s his speech. If you’ve not seen it, I strongly suggest you find the time to do so. It’s a minute or two short of 40 minutes in length, but suffice to say that he lays out more substance in those few minutes than all Republican candidates since FDR — combined — have managed.

A further Sanders tidbit is this interesting lunchtime discussion he had with CNBC’s John Harwood in which Bernie lays out some of his income tax revision propositions. And finally this Daily Kos post entitled Bernie Sanders blows Wolf Blitzer’s mind with a simple idea (guess it doesn’t take much) in which Sanders explains how to eliminate college tuition with a small tax on Wall Street money transference.

As the Kos article concludes, “By the way, who says he [Sanders] can’t win??” Not I.

OPEN THREAD

Sunday Roast: The Hubris of the Huckabee

We knew it was coming, right?  Huckabee sticks up for those poor, poor Duggars.

Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things. The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand—that being a minor means that one’s judgement is not mature.

Unless you’re Black or Hispanic…or from a broken home or unwed mother…or have gay parents, OF COURSE.  BTW, “mistakes” happen once or twice, not over and over again, leaving child victims in one’s wake.  A fourteen year old isn’t fully mature, but he should have a basic understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong — especially since the Duggar claim to be on higher ground than the rest of us in that area.

Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims.

Hmmmm, I would argue that revealing that Josh Duggar was (is?) a child molester was not to discredit the Duggar family, but to protect any little girls in his vicinity from being sexually abused.  Frankly, the “fact” that the victims wanted their sexual abuse at the hands of their own brother “left in the past” is suspect, since the parents who failed to protect the girls in the first place were the ones influencing such a decision-making process — AND they allowed the molester to return to the home.

Huck wraps it up with a brand new shovel:

It is precisely because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness. We have been blessed to receive God’s love and we would do no less than to extend our love and support for our friends. In fact, it is such times as this, when real friends show up and stand up. Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends. Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support.

Awwwww, Huck didn’t really want to be presidunce anyway, but don’t worry — he’ll keep up his folksy snake oil sales/sham campaign as long as he possibly can.

Huckabee’s self-satisfied assholierthanthou attitude has caught up to him, and his minions are not amused.

Oopsy.  Huck forgot to consider that some of his followers had been in the Duggar girls’ position.  Of course, he’s pretty consistent in forgetting unpleasantness.

Brava, Carisa!!  Critical thinking!  Keep up the good work.  Huck’s going to miss your subscription to “Learn Our History” most of all…

Montel Williams chimed in with this tweet:

And continued on facebook, with a nasty dose of Tony Perkins, as seen on RawStory.

In short, Mike Huckabee thinks he’s a brilliant, intelligent, compassionate Christian, who’s promoting excellent family values and sticking by his friends in hard times, but he’s actually a slimy bigoted skeev, who thinks anyone who DOESN’T believe what he believes is “less than,” and anyone who DOES believe what he believes can molest little girls (including his own sisters) and it’s just a “mistake” awaiting forgiveness from “god,” and we big meanies just need to get over.  He doesn’t give a shit about the harm done to John Duggar’s sisters, and I highly doubt he cares about the Duggar family at all, except for the weird political boost and associated publicity attached to them, and he’s stupid enough to believe we don’t know it (I’m pretty sure the Duggars are completely clueless when it comes to Huck — and everything else, except money).  Even worse, Huck KNOWS most of his followers are stupid enough not to know it, but is too filled with hubris to see past the end of his self-centered, hateful, bigoted agenda.

Buh bye, Mike.  I’d ask that you return to the underside of the rock from which you crawled, but I know the money’s just too good for a “good” “Christian” “man” like you to resist.

This is our very late daily open thread — I’m cranky.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 23rd, 2015: From One to Infinity?

Last night I was doing an extremely necessary cleanup of my emails, and was about to delete some recent ones from our local Republican NYS Assemblyman, when I decided to take a look to see what he was writing about. Here’s one of them:

Cuomo’s Undemocratic Minimum Wage Hike Will Kill Jobs

East Fishkill, NY – (5/7/15) – Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I – East Fishkill) issued a statement today criticizing Governor Cuomo’s decision to unilaterally move to raise the minimum wage for some businesses without legislative approval.

“Dictating new regulations outside the legislative process is a recklessly undemocratic decision by Governor Cuomo,” said Lalor. “We have a process for passing new laws and the governor has chosen to bypass it because he was only able to get part of his job-killing minimum wage through the legislature. It seems he’s taking a page from President Obama’s playbook and simply dictating new laws when he can’t do what he wants through the legislature. Impaneling a wage board gives Cuomo’s action a veneer of unbiased approval, but is there any doubt that the board will simply follow Cuomo’s directions? We know how closely Cuomo has controlled previous ‘independent’ commissions.”

Lalor added, “This isn’t just undemocratic, it’s a job killer. San Francisco’s recent minimum wage hike is pushing small businesses to the brink of closure. [emphasis mine] This will hurt minimum-wage earners when businesses that can’t afford the increase start cutting jobs. Studies have shown entry-level job opportunities decline with minimum wage increases. The governor can’t simply mandate a better economy. Small businesses are struggling with New York’s high taxes and never-ending regulations. New York’s economy is struggling because of those taxes and regulations. The only way for government to increase wages and opportunities is to cut taxes and regulations across the board. We need to open up opportunities for businesses to thrive and create jobs in New York.”

“It’s also inappropriate for the governor to target just one industry,” Lalor added. “Governor Cuomo says he wants to raise fast food wages because fast food CEOs are millionaires. But, many fast food restaurants operate as franchises. They’re small businesses. This isn’t just hitting big corporations, Governor Cuomo, this is hitting small businesses. Cuomo’s dictate is so vague, we don’t even know how far this will go. It’s up to his wage board to decide what jobs will be defined as within the ‘fast food industry’. Pizzeria and deli owners, among other small businesses, don’t know if they’ll be included. They might not even know that this regulation could affect them until it’s already passed, missing the chance to voice their opposition.”

###
Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, a former teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie, is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel…”

I started to search for any information regarding what problems have been caused by San Francisco’s recent minimum-wage raise. The Google brought up several articles referencing “a San Francisco newspaper says that some restaurants and grocery stores in Oakland’s Chinatown have closed…” Okay, that’s Oakland, which, as far as I know, is still a separate city across the bay from SF. And my search for even that one “San Francisco newspaper” story yielded nothing but references to it from right-wing sources, i.e., The American Spectator and World Net Daily. As you can see, Thomas Sowell of The American Spectator has apparently coined (or at least emphasized) a new buzzword for the right, “ruinous compassion” – don’t be surprised if you start hearing that phrase in conjunction with any minimim-wage-raise arguments.

I finally found one article from Yahoo! Finance titled “Minimum Wage Hike Closes San Francisco Bookstore.” Although I had seen other stories from 2011 on about several booksellers such as the Borders chain losing business or closing, none of those seemed to be as a result of minimum wage hikes; it’s been pretty much a given for several years now that any bookseller would be in tough competition with current technology, with which one can access any book one wants with a few clicks. However, even this particular bookstore in San Francisco isn’t exactly going out of business entirely:

“Borderland Books, which specializes in science fiction and horror, says it has withstood a host of challenges since it opened in 1997, including the rise of Amazon.com and e-books, a landlord who supposedly doubled their rent while dotcoms were first booming, and a deep recession that the owners say “hit us very hard.” A higher minimum wage, though, would take the business from being modestly profitable to being a money loser, the owner says. “Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage.”

But according to the article:

“The blog post went on to say that the Borderlands café business will stay open and should have “no difficulty at all” with the new minimum wage because it will be able to raise prices as needed. The bookselling business is different, the blog post argued, because book prices are set by the publishers and clearly printed on the books.”

So, although the owner wasn’t making much of a profit anyway from selling books, he’s still going to do just fine with the cafe associated with his bookstore. The last paragraph of the article itself links to this survey of economists who are mostly supportive of minimum-wage raises.

Hmm…So why is this one bookstore being used as, it appears, the definitive argument against all minimum-wage hikes, and why does it sound like the Ronald Reagan “Cadillac-driving welfare queen”? And since when does ONE = ALL?

I think I’m going to have to write to Assemblyman Lalor about his research team – if he has one.

This is our (very late) Daily Open Thread–what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 16th, 2015: Holy Rollers

Karma is a Bitch…

You Reap What You Sow…

The Law of Unintended Consequences…

A Homer Simpson “D’OH!” moment…

A Simpsons’ Nelson “HA-ha!” moment…

What Goes Around Comes Around…

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Stoned?

However you want to describe it, it’s going to be a fun time in Indiana on July 1st. July 1st is the day that Indiana’s revised RFRA law goes into effect. It is also the day that the State-of-Indiana-approved “First Church of Cannabis” holds their inaugural worship service. So when July 1st rolls around, prepare your favorite snacks, roll a fattie/fill a bowl/fire up the bong/bake some ‘special’ brownies, and get ready to enjoy the circus and the fireworks.

An excerpt from yesterday’s Think Progress thread about the Church, which was formed in March subsequent to Indiana’s revised RFRA law:

“It’s going to be a standard service,” Bill Levin, the group’s leader and self-proclaimed “Grand Poohba and Minister of Love,” told ThinkProgress. He explained the ceremony will last around 45 minutes, complete with music and teachings, but will conclude with an unusual benediction: “At the end of the service … we will enjoy cannabis, because it’s how we enjoy life.

An article from the Christian Post website, written by Vincent Funaro, is also informative. (I would have posted a link to it, but pop-up ads there refuse to go away – while, yes, I DO want to look at The Home Decorator’s big Outlet sale, I got their email yesterday so right now it’s just blocking an entire paragraph – but I digress!) While the article is written in a straightforward, non-committal way, I thought the stock photo they used to begin the article, although captioned appropriately, was just a tad over-the-top, not to mention outright misleading.

Hindu holy man(Photo: Reuters/ Navesh Chitrakar)

A Hindu holy man, or sadhu, smokes marijuana in a chillum on the premises of Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu February 17, 2015. Hindu holy men from Nepal and India come to this temple to take part in the Maha Shivaratri festival annually for holiday when it is legal to smoke the otherwise illegal drug. Celebrated by Hindu devotees all over the world, Shivaratri is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and holy men mark the occasion by praying, smoking marijuana or smearing their bodies with ashes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An Indiana organization dedicated to marijuana that calls itself the First Church of Cannabis will host its first “worship service” on July 1, the same day that the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act goes into effect.

The organization will test the law’s ban on government burdens on the exercise of religion as it will feature a pot-smoking session that is illegal in the state of Indiana.

The cannabis group’s founder Bill Levin explained plans for the service to U.S. News and said it will open with “Amazing Grace” played on a harmonica by a popular young musician and move to a quick sermon followed by a “call to worship,” which is actually just a time for smoking marijuana.

“I’m an old-school producer,” Levin told U.S. News. “We start off the show soft and we have a build-up and then in the end we explode in glory and we all dance around the hall.”

Levin is searching for a church that will lease him space for the event and will also consider holding it on a religious campground or in a public park. It’s still unclear if local police and prosecutors are prepared to accept pot smoking as protected conduct under the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Peg McLeish, a spokeswoman for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in Indiana told U.S. News that the Religious Freedom Law doesn’t necessarily protect people who commit crimes from being arrested.

“It’s that they could assert [their religious beliefs are] a defense if they are prosecuted,” she said.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act says the government cannot “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow their religious beliefs, unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden and it does so in the least restrictive way.

Critics of the law contended that it could be used to discriminate against the LGBT community on the basis of religion. This would apply to Christian business owners refusing to service gay weddings based on their beliefs.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence later clarified RFRA after signing it into law in March stating that it “does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone.”

To appease detractors, Pence signed revisions into the law to remove fears that it would allow businesses to discriminate against the LBGT community in April.

However, the article fails to point out that part of the Church’s raison d’etre is the celebration of the healing and medicinal powers of the ‘blessed’ plant.

And yes, folks, there is a membership application posted on The Church of Cannabis’ Facebook page – in fact, I see that someone we know visited before I did.  ;-)

Hmm…is anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? :D

This is our daily Open Thread – have fun!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 9th, 2015: Overload

I have next to nothing today, simply because there’s way too much crazy shit out there and I’m just overloaded.

Looking at:  the several Republican 2016 Presidential hopefuls who have come out of their nutshells just this past week alone; the freaking HUGE sums of money being thrown at them and other possible candidates by the Kochs, Sheldon Adelson, and “interest groups” (aka front men for the Kochs, Adelson, and powerful ne’er-do-well corporations); the newest batshit crazy delusions that they’re all spouting; not to mention the frightening impact that climate change is already having and knowing that there’s worse to come; on top of way too fucking many murderous “law enforcement officers” and dead young black men…well, I could go on and on, but the point is that my brain just can’t take in much more.

Last night, while watching the Star Trek Next Gen episode “Tin Man”, I felt a kinship with the character Tam Elbrun, a Betazoid whose unnaturally strong telepathic ability has caused lifelong psychological problems because he hears everybody’s thoughts, all of the time, and cannot shut them out. Tam is brought on board the Enterprise for an unusual first-contact mission, an attempt to communicate with with an alien “ship”, nicknamed “Tin Man”, which turns out to be the last surviving member of a sentient species of space travelers. Tin Man is saved from suicide by its contact with Tam, and Tam decides to remain inside Tin Man. Traveling through space with Tin Man enables Tam to eliminate all the thoughts hurled at his mind by humans and humanoids.

Most of the times that I’ve watched this episode in the past, I couldn’t really empathize with Tam Elbrun.  These days, I envy him.

This is our daily Open Thread – talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, May 4th, 2015: How The Right is Getting Baltimore Wrong

I don’t expect American Conservatives to have any empathy toward the people of Baltimore who have been victims of a system hell-bent and determined to keep them oppressed. That would require the ability to put themselves in the place of the people of Baltimore and imagine what it would be like to experience the things they experience all the time. And they are simply incapable of doing that. But that hasn’t stopped them from offering their own views on why things are the way they are in Baltimore. And to further distract you from the underlying causes of the civil unrest (the police killing unarmed black people), they want to talk about how attractive the Baltimore State Attorney is.

Conservatives seem to have no problem being openly sexist. Recall Rich Lowry’s sexual fantasies about Sarah Palin and her winking. And now Tucker Carlson’s virtual toilet paper, The Daily Caller, has continued the tradition of conservative sexism with a post praising State Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s physique calling her, among other things, a “smokeshow.” (They have a link to the original. I’d rather not give him a click from here.) Really, Tucker? This is your idea of serious journalism? Given your publicly known policy about news stories which contradict Fox News Channel, can we presume that this is how they feel about Mrs. Mosby? After all, we know you won’t let the story run if it contradicts your real employer. So if they don’t also think she’s a “smokeshow,” you wouldn’t be running a “story” saying she is.

Once you blow through that smokescreen (I see what I did there), there’s the Republicans to tell you why the people of Baltimore are rioting. Suffice to say it has nothing to do with why the people of Baltimore are rioting. First there was Speaker John Boehner telling NBC’s Chuck Todd that Liberal policies were to blame, and Chuck Todd accepting it as fact. Boehner then went on to tell Chuckles that Obamacare was really, really bad, and he proved it by telling some lies, which Chucky swallowed faster than a Wisconsin Republican on Koch. When NBC is ready to repeat its excellence in true political journalism, Chuck Todd will be starting a new job at Fox News Channel.

Speaking of Wisconsin Republicans who “fill up” on Koch, Rep Paul Ryan was on Face The CBS-Viewing Nation to put forth the ridiculous idea that the problems in Baltimore are because money hasn’t been spent wisely, so it should be cut even more. Ryan can’t seem to understand that Ayn Rand was, to put it kindly, a very disturbed woman. Her theories on Objectivism were only suitable for academic thought experiment, not for application on a national scale. It’s already failing in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker is watching his presidential aspirations go down Grover Norquist’s bathtub drain. Libertarianism does not work for governing a nation of more than one person. There is no benefit to society for cutting the taxes on rich people, no matter how many times 1980 Libertarian Party Vice Presidential Nominee David Koch tells his Republican stooges to say it. It’s very simple to understand. The economy only works when money flows through it. The dollar you give your deli owner for your coffee goes to paying his vendors for the deli supplies he needs to operate. Those people use that money, in part, to pay their employees who spend that money at other businesses, and so on and so on. The money works best when it is moving, not standing still (or doing little moving) in some rich person’s bank account or trust fund for their grandchildren. When you reduce a middle class person’s taxes a little bit, they’ll spend that extra twenty bucks a week. When you cut a rich person’s taxes twenty thousand dollars per week, they’re not going to spend it all over the place at his local businesses. That money is not going to circulate nearly as much, so it is not going to help the economy as much as it would if the tax cut was for the middle class person. But you also need for the government to have money, especially during a recession. The government-spent money is injected into a local economy and boosts it, just as your deli owner got when you bought your coffee. Only now there are a bunch of construction workers stopping in for their sandwiches and coffees, and now the deli owner has to hire someone to keep up with the extra business. But that doesn’t happen on a Conservative Libertarian budget.

Republican Conservatives do not want to face the fact that cops in Baltimore are abusing their authority and unjustifiably killing people, and so they’ll do anything they can to stop you from making them see it.