The Moderate Voice An Internet hub with domestic and international news, analysis, original reporting, and popular features from the left, center, indies, centrists, moderates, and right Wed, 23 Jul 2014 03:42:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The GOP’s Biggest Weakness… Wed, 23 Jul 2014 02:23:06 +0000 …is foreign policy says Daniel Larison in The American Conservative.

One reason that the omission of foreign policy from the reform agenda seems so notable is that foreign policy is one of the largest, most glaring policy weaknesses that the GOP has. In addition to being responsible for the costly policy failures of the previous administration, Bush-era foreign policy has been politically toxic for Republicans in three of the last four national elections. There is good reason to assume that it will continue to be an important liability in future presidential elections unless the party makes a clear break with at least some of its Bush-era assumptions and positions, and for the most part that isn’t happening at all. Until that happens, everyone outside the party will reasonably assume that the GOP hasn’t changed, that it has learned nothing, and that it still shouldn’t be trusted with the responsibility to conduct foreign policy. It seems unlikely that a domestic reform agenda will even get off the ground as long as the public doesn’t trust a Republican president to carry out some of his most important primary responsibilities.

Cross-posted from The Sensible Center

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Downing of Flight 17 – Continuing Updates Wed, 23 Jul 2014 02:00:39 +0000 shutterstock_129976970

This entry will be updated as events warrant.

22 July 2014 21:50 CDT

The first bodies from flight MH17 are being flown to the Netherlands where they are expected to arrive in Eindhoven at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT).

The BBC:

The Dutch royal family and the prime minister Mark Rutte will meet the plane.

The bodies are then due to be taken to the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks for identification. Mr Rutte said that process could “take weeks or even months.”

The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning.

Read more here.


22 July 2014. The New York Times:

A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart.

Read more here

21 July 2014 13:29 CDT. The BBC:

Pro-Russian rebels have allowed bodies from the Malaysia Airlines plane crash to be taken to the city of Kharkiv to be later flown to the Netherlands.
Malaysian PM Najib Razak said rebels had also agreed to hand over the “black box” flight recorders.

Read more here

TIME reports July 20 08:54 AM CDT:

The bodies recovered from the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 will stay in refrigerated train cars in the insurgent-occupied town of Torez until United Nations aviation officials arrive, a top Ukrainian rebel leader said Sunday. The comments from Alexander Borodai, the self-appointed Prime Minister of a pro-Russian “People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, come after other European officialssaid rebels had rounded up victims’ bodies and put them on rail cars bound for an unknown destination.

The rebels also said Sunday they will turn over the black boxes from the Boeing 777 to officials from the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN body that oversees global aerospace issues. The aircraft’s black boxes were earlier rumored to have been sent to Moscow for examination.

Read more here

Reuters – July 20 04:42 AM CDT

Ukraine accused Russia and pro-Moscow rebels on Saturday of destroying evidence to cover up their guilt in the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner that has intensified a showdown between the Kremlin and Western powers.

As militants kept international monitors away from wreckage and scores of bodies festered for a fourth day on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the rebels to cooperate and insisted that a U.N.-mandated investigation must not leap to conclusions. Moscow denies involvement and has pointed a finger at Kiev’s military.


Australia – which lost 28 citizens – circulated a draft text, seen by Reuters, to the 15-member Security Council late on Saturday and diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it could be put to a vote as early as Monday.

The Netherlands, whose citizens made up most of the 298 aboard MH17 from Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur, said it was “furious” about the manhandling of corpses strewn for miles over open country and asked Ukraine’s president for help to bring “our people” home.


European powers seemed to swing behind Washington’s belief Russia’s separatist allies were to blame. That might speed new trade sanctions on Moscow, without waiting for definitive proof.

“He has one last chance to show he means to help,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after a telephone call to Putin.

Britain, which lost 10 citizens, said further sanctions were available for use against Russia. Prime Minister David Cameron, writing in The Sunday Times, said European countries should make their power count. “Yet we sometimes behave as if we need Russia more than Russia needs us.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most powerful figure in the EU, spoke to Putin on Saturday, urging his cooperation. Merkel’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper: “Moscow may have a last chance now to show that it really is seriously interested in a solution.”

“Now is the moment for everyone to stop and think to themselves what might happen if we don’t stop the escalation.”


Russia said on Saturday it was retaliating against sanctions imposed by the United States last week, before the air disaster, by barring entry to unidentified Americans and warned of a “boomerang effect” on U.S. business. But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed in a phone call to try to get both sides in Ukraine to reach a consensus on peace, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.

The U.S. State Department, however, put the onus on Russia, saying Kerry urged Russia to take “immediate and clear actions to reduce tensions in Ukraine”.

Driving home its assertion that the Boeing 777 was hit by a Russian SA-11 radar-guided missile, Ukraine’s Western-backed government said it had “compelling evidence” the battery was not just brought in from Russia but manned by three Russian citizens who had now taken the truck-mounted system back over the border.


Russian-made BUK SA-11 SAM system (“Gadfly”) as displayed at the 2013 International Aviation and Space salon MAKS-2013 (Photo: ID1974 /

The prime minister, denying Russian suggestions that Kiev’s forces had fired a missile, said only a “very professional” crew could have brought down the speeding jetliner from 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) – not “drunken gorillas” among the ill-trained insurgents who want the Russian-speaking east to be annexed by Moscow.


“The terrorists, with the help of Russia, are trying to destroy evidence of international crimes,” the Ukrainian government said in a statement. “The terrorists have taken 38 bodies to the morgue in Donetsk,” it said, accusing people with “strong Russian accents” of threatening to conduct autopsies.

Ukraine’s prime minister said armed men had barred government experts from collecting evidence.

Kerry told Lavrov the United States was “very concerned” over reports that the remains of victims and debris had been removed or tampered with, the State Department said. He said Washington was also concerned over denial of “proper access” for international investigators and OSCE monitors.


Contrary to earlier statements by the rebels, Alexander Borodai [Self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the pro-Russian separatist "Donetsk People's Republic"] said they had not found the black box flight recorders. He said rebels were avoiding disturbing the area.


The BBC July 20 04:02 AM CDT

Emergency workers in Ukraine say they have now found 196 bodies at the crash site of Malaysia airliner MH17.


Western countries have criticised restrictions imposed by rebels at the crash site, and have asked Russia put pressure on them to allow more access.

International observers are expected to visit the site again later on Sunday.


The US State Department said there had been multiple reports of bodies and aircraft parts being removed, and potential evidence tampered with. BBC correspondents say the crash site is still not cordoned off properly.
The BBC has learned that at least some of the bodies which have been recovered have been taken to the rebel-held town of Torez nearby.


Memorial services are being held in Australia, with more planned in other countries later on Sunday.
Bishop Peter Comensoli, who led the mass at Sydney’s St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, said the downing of MH17 was not “an innocent accident” but “the outcome of a trail of human evil.”

The Washington Post, July 19 10:35 PM CDT

The United States has confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in eastern Ukraine and that attempts were made to move them back across the Russian border after the Thursday shoot-down of a Malaysian jet liner, a U.S. official said Saturday.

“We do believe they were trying to move back into Russia at least three Buk [missile launch] systems,” the official said. U.S. intelligence was “starting to get indications . . . a little more than a week ago” that the Russian launchers had been moved into Ukraine, said the official.


Ukrainian officials warned that the chance for an impartial inquiry was quickly slipping away as bodies were moved and at least some plane remnants were loaded onto trucks.

International observers were allowed only brief access to the site on Saturday and were restricted in their movements by the heavily armed rebels, some of whom appeared drunk, witnesses said.


“Their key task is to destroy possible evidence,” said Andriy Parubiy, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. “It will be hard to conduct a full investigation with some of the objects being taken away, but we will do our best.”


Vitaly Nayda, counterintelligence chief of Ukraine’s security service, offered photographs and said Ukraine has evidence of the movement of three Buk M-1 antiaircraft missile systems from rebel-held territory into Russian territory early Friday, less than 12 hours after the plane was downed. Ukrainian officials have said that a missile from a Buk M-1 launcher was used to shoot down the aircraft.


Two of the antiaircraft systems were spotted entering Russia from Ukraine at 2 a.m. Friday, he said. One had its full complement of four missiles, but the other was missing a missile, he said. Two hours later, he said, a convoy of three vehicles that included one of the launchers and a control truck crossed into Russia.


Nayda said that Ukrainian military services had not left any operational Buk M-1 launchers in territory where the rebels could have seized them when they took over bases and territory in eastern Ukraine this year. He suggested they must have come from Russia and said Ukraine has evidence that at least one launcher system was on its territory Monday.

The rebels have denied possessing the launchers, although social media files linked to a rebel leader, Igor Girkin, appeared to boast of having the systems. The claims were deleted this week after the plane was shot down.


Fighting raged elsewhere in the region Saturday, especially in Luhansk near the Russian border, where 16 civilians were killed, according to the city council’s Web site.

The attack on the plane and the subsequent treatment of the crime scene appear to be hardening European attitudes against Russia.

Most of the 298 victims were Dutch citizens, and the chaos Saturday drew a harsh condemnation from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who said he had told Russian President Vladmir Putin “that the opportunity is fading to quickly show the world that he is serious about wanting to help.” The Netherlands had previously been cautious about criticizing Russia, a major trading partner.

Rutte also lashed out at the rebels, saying he was “shocked by the images of completely disrespectful behavior” at the crash site. “This is outright disgusting,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to Putin on Saturday, asking him to “use his influence on the separatists” to arrange a cease-fire to allow investigators to pursue their work, a step the Kremlin said it supported.


In an op-ed column in the Sunday Times, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The growing weight of evidence points to a clear conclusion: that flight MH17 was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile fired from a rebel-held area. If this is the case then we must be clear what it means: this is a direct result of Russia destabilising a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them.”

Cameron then called on Europe’s leaders to take action, saying that “for too long there has been a reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine.”


A spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said a team of 24 international observers had seen people moving bodies and putting them in body bags. The team was sharply restricted in what it could do and see, he said.

Rebels “have what they describe as experts, so-called experts here,” OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said. “They’ve brought body bags and they’re moving the bodies to the side of the road, as far as we can tell.”

“We don’t know who they are,” Bociurkiw said of the people moving the bodies. “We are unarmed civilians, so we’re not in a position to argue heavily with people with heavy arms.”

Today’s New York Times has a comprehensive report on the tragedy and its aftermath.

July 19:

Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Russia cannot “wash its hands” of airline tragedy

The Guardian:

Tony Abbott has expressed fears that Russia would “say the right thing” while allowing interference in the crash site of MH17 and interference with the “dignified treatment” of the 298 victims, including 36 Australian citizens and residents.

In his strongest comments yet, the prime minister said Russia could not “wash its hands” of the accident and confirmed he spoke to the Russian trade minister – who was in Australia for preparations for the G20 meeting – to convey the same message.

“Russian-controlled territory, Russian-backed rebels, uite likely a Russian-supplied weapon. Russia can’t wash its hands of this,” Abbott told the ABC on Sunday.

Now, my priority today… and in coming days will be ensuring that the bodies are properly treated and trying to secure a full investigation.

“My fear is that Russia will say the right thing but that on the ground interference with the site, interference with investigators, interference with the dignified treatment of bodies will continue. That’s my fear.”

Read more here.

July 19:

Press Statement by State Department Spokesperson, Jen Psaki:

We are deeply concerned by the Russia-backed separatists’ refusal to allow OSCE monitors safe and unfettered access to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Yesterday, the monitors were allowed only 75 minutes at the site.

Today, they were allowed less than three hours. Thus far, the separatists have only allowed monitors to have limited access to a small area. The site is not secure, and there are multiple reports of bodies being removed, parts of the plane and other debris being hauled away, and potential evidence tampered with. This is unacceptable and an affront to all those who lost loved ones and to the dignity the victims deserve.

It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible. Russia-backed separatists committed Thursday to allowing full access to international observers and response teams and Russia supported an OSCE statement calling for the same. We urge Russia to honor its commitments and to publicly call on the separatists to do the same.

image: Digital Media Pro /

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MH17: Europe Must ‘Slam its Fists’ on the Table (de Volkskrant, The Netherlands) Tue, 22 Jul 2014 23:07:49 +0000 cameron-merkel-rudd-caption_pic

Continuing with our examination of the Dutch reaction to the situation surrounding Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, this column by de Volkskrant columnist Hans Wansink seeks to cool the tempers of those talking about Dutch military intervention in Ukraine, but urges the immediate adoption and implimentation by the European Union of the sanctions announced by President Obama.

For de Volkskrant, Hans Wansink begins by criticizing the ‘impotent’ impression left by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, but advising against the use of Dutch forces:

The anger of Mark Rutte was not pretend. When the prime minister saw the shocking images of the bodies of victims on fatal flight MH17 being hauled about, and drunk separatists making the work of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) impossible, he rightfully showed his indignation.


Nevertheless, last weekend Rutte made an impression of impotence. He had an “intense” phone conversation with Russian President Putin, who sent him away empty handed. Foreign Minister Timmermans flew back and forth to Kiev without being able to establish the conditions for an investigation into the causes of the disaster, and what has happened to the victims’ mortal remains is entirely unclear.


This unacceptable situation has caused great indignation. Here and there, calls are even being made for the Netherlands’ military and F16s to be sent to Ukraine to teach the separatists a lesson. However understandable, that road cannot be taken. The Netherlands cannot operate on its own, but Prime Minister Rutte must take the lead in achieving the necessary security conditions to enable the OSCE to enter the disaster area begin an unimpeded investigation of the facts.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR DUTCH, OR READ MORE GLOBAL COVERAGE OF THE UKRAINE CRISIS AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

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Made in Russia Tue, 22 Jul 2014 22:40:02 +0000 RussianMalaysia

Copyright 2014 David Donar. All rights reserved.Copyright Donar, Political Graffiti

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Securing MH17 Victims: Dutch Have Elite Troops for a Reason! (Elsevier, The Netherlands) Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:38:44 +0000 dutch-special-forces_pic

Just 24 hours ago, as this column from Elsevier of the Netherlands shows, there was significant talk among the Dutch of the need to threaten the use of elite forces to secure the MH17 crash site and the corpses of the dead – most of whom are Dutch. Whether the events of the last 24 hours have diminished that impulse is unclear.

For Elsevier, columnist Eric Vrijsen begins his preroration by highlighting the growing pressure on Prime Minister Mark Rutte to take action:

As time passes after the crash of MH17, there are calls in the Netherlands for military intervention in east Ukraine. Prime Minister Rutte should threaten the rebels to put pressure on Putin.


The shoulders of Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD) is facing increasingly heavy pressure to do something. The plane that crashed is Malaysian, but by far the vast majority of victims are Dutch.


Bringing justice to those who brought down the Boeing 777 will come later. First and foremost, the Netherlands want the victims treated with respect, or rather, their remains and belongings.


On Sunday, however, Rutte dismissed resounding calls to send in the troops.




In principle, the Netherlands can send in a commando unit or a few platoons of Marines to secure the crime scene, so that crash investigators can begin their work.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR DUTCH, OR READ MORE GLOBAL COVERAGE OF THE UKRAINE CRISIS AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

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New Surveillance Whistleblower John Tye Says NSA Violating U.S. Constitution Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:05:28 +0000 Move over Edward Snowden, there’s a new surveillance whistleblower on the scene. His name is John Napier Tye and he’s warning Americans about illegal spying. John Tye claims he filed a complaint with the State Department before leaving. In other words, he’s no leaker like Edward Snowden.

Tye, a former State Department official who served in the Obama administration from 2011 to 2014, said that ongoing surveillance abuses from the National Security Agency are occurring underExecutive Order 12333, which signed in 1981. In case anyone wants to blame President Obama, that’s way before his time and before the digital communications era. Tye accuses the Obama administration of violating the Constitution with very little oversight from Congress or the judiciary, The Atlantic reports.

“The order as used today threatens our democracy,” he wrote in The Washington Post. “I am coming forward because I think Americans deserve an honest answer to the simple question: What kind of data is the NSA collecting on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans?”

If you’ve paid casual attention to the Edward Snowden leaks and statements by national-security officials, you might be under the impression that the Obama administration is already on record denying that this sort of spying goes on. In fact, denials about NSA spying are almost always carefully worded to address activities under particular legal authorities, like Section 215 of the Patriot Act or Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. An official will talk about what is or isn’t done “under this program,” eliding the fact that the NSA spies on Americans under numerous different programs, despite regularly claiming to be an exclusively foreign spy agency. Source: The Atlantic

Not sure what to make of John Napier Tye’s accusations, but I am pretty sure that the U.S. isn’t the only country engaged in surveillance activities. The fact is, they may have gone too far, but the criminals have also become technologically savvy, so what’s a country supposed to do?

This was cross-posted from The Hinterland Gazette.

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Political reporting and the statehouse: a disturbing report from Pew Research Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:03:14 +0000 statehouse reporting by state

Image links to Pew report summary

It’s well-known that digital disruption has wrecked havoc on the nation’s newsrooms. What’s less documented is how that disruption has played out on specific types of news and in specific geographic areas.

Pew Research Center has analyzed number of full-time reporters covering state politics in every state. Using population as the relational variable, they’ve identified which states have a high reporter/population ratio and which have a low one.

And although absolute numbers are illustrative, these findings may be more disturbing:

  • Less than a third of U.S. newspapers assign any kind of reporter—full time or part time—to the statehouse…
  • Fully 86% of local TV news stations do not assign even one reporter—full time or part time—to the statehouse…
  • About one-in-six (16%) of all the reporters in statehouses work for nontraditional outlets, such as digital-only sites and nonprofit organizations…
  • Students account for 14% (223 in all) of the overall statehouse reporting corps…

And then there’s this, from The (London) Guardian last last year:

Conservative groups across the US are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.
The proposals were co-ordinated by the State Policy Network, an alliance of groups that act as incubators of conservative strategy at state level. 
The documents contain 40 funding proposals
  from 34 states, providing a blueprint for the conservative agenda in 2014. In partnership with the Texas Observer and the Portland Press Herald in Maine , the Guardian is publishing SPN’s summary of all the proposals to give readers and news outlets full and fair access to state-by-state conservative plans that could have significant impact throughout the US, and to allow the public to reach its own conclusions about whether these activities comply with the spirit of non-profit tax-exempt charities.

With fewer noses poking into the man-behind-the-curtain on these efforts — who knows how experience levels have been affected? — the Pew data should give you pause. Unless, maybe, you live in Vermont.

That’s because the best ratio belongs to teeny tiny Vermont, the second least-populous state (population ~625,000) in the country and among the smallest (45th in square miles). Yet it has the highest rate of full-time reporters per 500,000 residents. The median ratio is 1.3 reporters per 500,000 residents; Vermont’s ratio is 10.4.

States with smaller populations although not small geographically, relatively speaking, often have better ratios than more populous states. That could be because of scale: one reporter can share information with 1,000 people as easily as 1,000,000, especially in this age of digital information. The study defines a “statehouse reporter” as someone “physically assigned to the capitol building to cover the news there, from legislative activity to the governor’s office to individual state agencies.”

In absolute numbers, Texas (number 2 in population and geography) has the most full-time reporters (53). But when normalized by population, its ratio puts it below the median with 1.1 reporters per 500,000 population.

chart showing media organizations

Image links to report with a higher resolution image of this chart.

The shrinking newsroom

This report is the latest in a short series analyzing the nation’s newsrooms. According to a study conducted by the American Society of News Editors, “full-time newspaper newsroom staffing shrunk by 30% from 2003 through 2012 (the latest year for which data are available).” This report shows a comparable reduction — 35% — in statehouse reporters for the period 2003 and 2014.

Most state legislatures operate part-time, with only eight (CA, MA, MI, NJ, NY, OH, PA, WI) operating 11-12 months of the year. However, the regulatory machine works year-round.

There is real reason to worry about public interest watchdogs in an era of declining newspaper newsrooms: most of the on-the-ground reporters who cover state politics are employed by a newspaper.

Fully 55% of the full-time reporters working in state capitols are employed by either a newspaper or a wire service (Associated Press dominates but Bloomberg News and Reuters are present in some state capitols).

More than a quarter of those covering state issues work for “nonprofit and commercial digital news organizations, ideological outlets and government insider publications that can charge steep subscription fees.”

And with a logjam inside the Beltway, state legislatures are where the action is. According to Pew, “nearly half of the state legislatures (24) enacted more laws in 2012 alone than Congress did in 2011 and 2012 combined.”

A case study, of sorts

Advocacy groups on both sides of the aisle develop “model legislation” that they then push in state legislatures. For example, 31 states have either constitutional amendments (29) or legislation (3) banning same-sex marriage as of this writing. Some of those measures are being argued in court.

But how did we get here? Although anti-gay marriage legislation kicked off in Maryland in 1973, the constitutional amendment snowball began in Alaska and Hawaii in 1998.

State constitutional amendments appear on statewide ballots. So which organizations oppose same sex marriage?

And who has bankrolled those measures? If you can find an analysis, your Google-fu is better than mine.

This is an issue that began percolating in the states in 1973, years before Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

And we have 35% fewer full-time reporters on the state capitol beat today than in 2003. Imagine the drop from 1996. From 1973.

Add to that mix the massive consolidation in the news industry, one that limits voices literally (fewer employees covering news; mergers mean firing people for “synergy”) and that has limited the number voices in terms of ownership.

I don’t know the answer/solution.

For most “news” consumers, the politics of public policy (contrasted with the horse race politics of elections) ranks lower than sardines as an appealing portion of the average news diet.

Thus, there isn’t a revenue model that supports in-depth state house reporting.

Without the income from more lucrative sections of the paper (think ice cream, soda and cake – at least in dietary appeal) such as sports, fashion, comics and classifieds, how can newspapers fund these full-time reporters?


Cross-posted from WiredPen

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Another Picture Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:37:19 +0000 It would seem that people are burnt out when it comes to politics and foreign affairs.  My last few posts here that had little to do with politics got a far greater response than those that did.  I have made no secret that I consider the years I lived in Munich, Germany some of the best years of my life.  Yes, Bavarian food, except for the sausage and sauerkraut was for the most part terrible.  But Munich had some of the finest restaurants in the world.  The best pizza I ever had was in Munich and there was the Yugoslavian, Greek and French restaurants.   If cash was a little short you could go to an Indian or Turkish restaurant for a cheep but filling meal. I still fix the curried chicken and rice form the Indian restaurant I used to go to.  But most of all I miss the pizza from Napoli, a small restaurant not far from where I lived.  It dripped of olive oil and was so wonderful.  But enough words here is a picture.


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Quote of the Day Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:12:08 +0000 Here is the quote of the day from ~Kung Fu Monkey:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

imagesI have read and reread Lord of the Rings.  I stopped by my local bookstore years ago and they had Atlas Shrugged in the science fiction section and I was unable to get past the second chapter.  I own Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies although I think he really messed up the adaptation of the charming book The Hobbit.

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Reports Show More People Insured But No Increase In Patient Volume For Physicians Since January Under Affordable Care Act Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:38:15 +0000 Some favorable data on the Affordable Care Act which came out before today’s news of another Republican court victory in their ongoing efforts to deny people the benefits of Obamacare:

The New England Journal of Medicine has reviewed the increase in coverage under the Affordable Care Act and concluded:

Taking all existing coverage expansions together, we estimate that 20 million Americans have gained coverage as of May 1 under the ACA (Figure 3Figure 3Categories of Expanded Health Insurance Coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).). We do not know yet exactly how many of these people were previously uninsured, but it seems certain that many were. Recent national surveys seem to confirm this presumption. The CBO projects that the law will decrease the number of uninsured people by 12 million this year and by 26 million by 2017. Early polling data from Gallup, RAND, and the Urban Institute indicate that the number of uninsured people may have already declined by 5 million to 9 million and that the proportion of U.S. adults lacking insurance has fallen from 18% in the third quarter of 2013 to 13.4% in May 2014.

However, these surveys may underestimate total gains, since some were fielded before the late March enrollment surge and do not include children. With continuing enrollment through individual marketplaces, Medicaid, and SHOP, the numbers of Americans gaining insurance for the first time — or insurance that is better in quality or more affordable than their previous policy — will total in the many tens of millions.

As we look to the future of the coverage provisions of the ACA and their effect on the U.S. health care system, several observations seem justified. First, as the number of individuals benefiting from the law grows, its wholesale repeal will grow less likely, although the law could still be importantly modified in the future.

Second, experience with the ACA will vary enormously among states. Those deciding not to expand Medicaid will benefit far less from the law, and since many of these states have high rates of uninsured residents and lower health status, the ACA may have the paradoxical effect of increasing disparities across regions, even as it reduces disparities between previously insured and uninsured Americans as a whole.17

Third, the sustainability of the coverage expansions will depend to a great extent on the ability to control the overall costs of care in the United States. Otherwise, premiums will become increasingly unaffordable for consumers, employers, and the federal government. Insurers who seek to control those costs through increasingly narrow provider networks across all U.S. insurance markets may ultimately leave Americans less satisfied with their health care. Developing and spreading innovative approaches to health care delivery that provide greater quality at lower cost is the next great challenge facing the nation.

The full article is available to non-subscribers and there is also further discussion at Talking Points Memo.

There has been concern that the increase in number of insured might lead to an increase in number of people seeing physicians despite predictions and early evidence that this would not be a significant problem in most areas. I have seen several reports indicating that doctors generally are not seeing more patients as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The most recent came from Athena Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Here is a summary of their findings:

  • Influx in New Patient Volume Not Detected: In the first five months of 2014, a national sample of 14,300 health care providers across the athenahealth network did not see an increase in new patient volume.* Instead, the percentage of total visits with new patients actually dropped slightly compared to the same period in 2013. These findings suggest that an increase in newly insured patients, resulting from the ACA, has yet to have an impact on new patient volume at medical practices.
  • Health Care Reform Widening the Medicaid Gap: In states that are expanding Medicaid coverage under the ACA, the data shows an overall increase in adult (18-64) Medicaid beneficiary patient visits. In expansion states, on average, the percentage of Medicaid-covered patients who are being seen by primary care physicians is rising, with Medicaid patients accounting for 12.3% of care in December of 2013 compared with an increased rate of 15.6% in May 2014. Surgeons and other specialists also show increases. Conversely, states that are not expanding Medicaid coverage have seen Medicaid visits remaining flat. These findings indicate that the implementation of the ACA is widening the gap of the total share of Medicaid patients that doctors in expansion vs. non-expansion states are caring for.
  • No Increase in Chronic Disease Diagnoses Among New Patients: Findings from the first five months of 2014 indicate that established patients have a higher rate of chronic diseases compared with new patients seeking care. When comparing diagnosis rates of chronic conditions from the first five months of 2013 to the first five months of 2014, across both new and established patients, no increase in diagnosis rates of chronic conditions is detected for either population.

It is possible that some of the newly insured are initially going to the Emergency Room and therefore are not picked up as an increase in visits by primary care physicians. In May I reported on a study by the American College of Emergency Physicians which found that 37 percent of ER physicians reported that patient volume had increased slightly, 9 percent reported that it had increased greatly, and 27 percent reported that the number of ER visits had remained the same.

It is also a good finding that the newly insured are not turning out to be sicker than the previously insured. Many insurance companies held off on entering the exchanges last year out of fear that they might wind up with sicker patients, costing them more money. Those which sold coverage have wound up doing well with more insurance companies planning to enter the exchanges to sell coverage for next year. This should help reduce anticipated increases in premiums and give consumers more choice.

Forbes has further discussion of the differences in states which are offering the expanded Medicaid program compared to those which do not.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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Fox News: Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation ‘Endangers Religious Liberty’ (Updated) Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:40:40 +0000 President LGBT executive order

Read an Opinion by the New York Times Editorial Board following the post.

On Monday, President Obama signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Executive Order amends Executive Order 11246, issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson, adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories in the existing Executive Order covering federal contractors.

At the signing ceremony, the President said, “It doesn’t make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. And that’s wrong.”

However, Todd Starnes — host of Fox News & Commentary — feels the Executive Order is wrong, because it “would prevent Christian and other religious organizations with federal contracts from requiring workers to adhere to the tenets of their religious beliefs.”

In other words, the executive order would prevent Christian and other religious organizations with federal contracts to continue to discriminate against LGBT workers.

“This administration believes gay rights trump everyone else’s rights – including religious rights,” Starnes says.

He quotes Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, as saying “If religious organizations cannot require that their employees conduct themselves in ways consistent with the teachings of their faith – then, essentially, those organizations are unable to operate in accordance with their faith,” and adds:

[Sprigg] said the president’s order forces employers to put aside their principles in the name of political correctness. “This level of coercion is nothing less than viewpoint blackmail that bullies into silence every contractor and subcontractor who has moral objections to homosexual behavior,” Sprigg said.

“The mask is coming off of the homosexual movement’s agenda. They really do not believe in religious liberty. They want forced affirmation of homosexual and transgender conduct to trump every other consideration in the workplace – including religious liberty.”

Read more, if you wish, here.

Watch the video of the ceremony below

The New York Times has an Editorial Board opinion piece that is right on target.

It first points out that federal contractors employ 20 percent of the nation’s work force.

It also points out that Obama’s leadership “is impressive” because he refuses to “bow to intense pressure to include an exemption that would have undermined the order by allowing groups with religious objections doing government work to continue discriminatory practices at taxpayer expense.”

And, finally, the Times correctly throws the ball back at the obstructionist Congress:

The order reaches only a fraction of those who would be protected by a broader bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, now stalled in Congress. The celebrating over Monday’s order must be followed by a reinvigorated campaign to enact the stalled bill — without the large religious exemption in the Senate-approved version that would grant license to engage in the very discrimination the act is meant to remedy.

(Emphasis mine)

Read more here.

Lead photo: President Barack Obama delivers remarks before he signs an executive order regarding further amendments to Executive Order 11478, Equal Employment Opportunity in the Federal Government, and Executive Order 11246, Equal Employment Opportunity, to protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, in the East Room of the White House, July 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Inversion or Perversion? Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:52:58 +0000 moneybagsThe house is on fire and the occupants are eating dinner and not paying attention. While our tax base is being whittled away by large American corporations, members of Congress are twiddling their thumbs and doing nothing. The willingness of Congress to allow these “inversions” to occur is another sign of the dysfunction in Washington and the “perversion” in the American political system.

To escape higher corporate taxes in the U.S., American corporations are merging with foreign companies and incorporating in their countries, taking advantage of lower tax rates abroad. This results in America losing billions of dollars in tax revenue because of these corporate moves. Many of the companies pursuing this strategy are in medically related industries and make most of their money in America. In fact, the federal government is the largest supporter of most of these companies through the Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally sponsored programs.

While revenues made in the United States may continue to be taxed by our government, the total company profits will be taxed in the countries in which they are incorporated. Though Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and the Obama administration has urged Congress to stop the bleeding, thus far nothing has been done to insure that American companies do not flee abroad, and to financially penalize the ones that have already done so. Whether or not this will be done in the future remains to be seen and many companies will have already departed for greener pastures (or pastures where they can keep more of their green). Some lawmakers are considering legislation that will have retroactive clauses to capture some of the lost taxes, but the legality of this and the ethical ramifications will be questioned. After all, these American corporations have not been breaking the law as it now stands. It is really the stupidity of Congress in not changing the law that is to blame.

The latest company to leave the U.S. is the drug company AbbVie which is acquiring another drug company Shire based in Ireland. By doing this AbbVie’s effective tax rate will drop from 22.6% in 2013 to 13% in 2016, saving the company (executives and shareholders) significant sums of money. The generic drug company Mylan is also leaving the country for the Netherlands by buying Abbot’s European assets for $5.3 billion. Pfizer also went after AstraZenica earlier this year to relocate in England but were rebuffed in their bid. Other companies who followed the inversion path include Medtronics, Chiquita, and Applied Materials. Walgreen’s has also been seeking a partner to move abroad.

The fact that these companies, that were founded in America and owe their growth to payments from American citizens and the federal government, are now leaving America so they can pay lower taxes is disgusting. But they are not breaking any current laws. The executives of these companies will certainly get an increase in pay and bonuses for raising company revenues by lowering their tax burden.

The inertia of Congress in allowing these inversions to occur is almost beyond belief. No matter what conflicts exist between the Republicans and Democrats, this should be a straight-forward issue in not allowing revenues that support federal programs to disappear. Will some members of Congress from both parties step forward and put their fingers in the dike to halt the outflow of cash to other countries. Given the way Congress functions, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Resurrecting Democracy

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Cohn on 2014 Mid-Terms Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:40:52 +0000 Nate Cohn weighs the chances of a GOP wave in this fall’s mid-term election in The New York Times.

Republicans entered this election cycle with high hopes. President Obama’s approval ratings had sunk into the low 40s, and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act had been an unmitigated disaster. In an off-year election, Democrats weren’t expected to fully mobilize the young and diverse coalition that has given them an advantage in presidential elections. Off-years are also when a president’s party typically suffers significant losses.


But as July turns to August, the G.O.P. is now on the clock. If there is to be a wave this November, the signs of a shift toward the G.O.P. ought to start to show up, somewhere, soon. Every day that goes by without a shift toward the G.O.P. increases the odds that there will not be a wave at all.


Part of it might come from the unpopularity of the Republican Party. The G.O.P. is less popular today than it was in 2010, when G.O.P. favorability ratings increased and Democratic ratings faltered in advance of the midterms. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings might also be deceptive: They’re mainly low because of minimal support from Republican leaners, not because Mr. Obama has lost an unusual amount of ground among his own supporters.


Another part might be the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which has faded from the forefront of the news. Whatever the public’s view of the law, it is clear that it will not be as potent an issue as Republicans hoped it would be. Similarly, the economy and the deficit are both in a better place than they were in 2010.


But if a wave doesn’t materialize, and if Republicans don’t post victories in Democratic-tilting states like Iowa or Colorado, it will be hard to consider 2014 a great year for Republicans. That will be true even if they take the Senate by taking advantage of a favorable map. The Republicans don’t need more evidence of their ability to win with low Democratic turnout in states like Louisiana and Alaska heading into 2016. Fortunately for the G.O.P., there are still more than three months to go.

Cross-posted from The Sensible Center

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Israel’s Ground Offensive in Gaza – Continuing Updates Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:00:41 +0000 shutterstock_116708431

22 July 2014 – 12:00 PM CDT – The New York Times:

Major American airlines stopped flying to Israel on Tuesday after a rocket fell near Ben-Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv, and the Federal Aviation Administration told the carriers not to fly to Tel Aviv for 24 hours.

All three United States carriers with service to Israel – Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways – said they had temporarily suspended their flights. The move highlighted the impact of the conflict in Gaza on the Israeli economy at the height of the summer tourism season.

It also came at a time when airlines around the globe appeared to be much more sensitive about the risks of flying over conflict areas, following the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner over eastern Ukraine last week.

For the moment, European airlines are still operating their flights. British Airways, for instance, said it “continues to operate as normal” and is monitoring the situation closely.

Read more here.


Jul 22, 2014 8:39 AM CDT - Reuters:

Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties.


Hamas, the dominant group in the Gaza Strip, and its allies fired more rockets into Israel, triggering sirens in Tel Aviv. One hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said.


With the conflict entering its third week, the Palestinian death toll rose to 546, including nearly 100 children and many other civilians, Gaza health officials said.

The Israeli military said it had killed 183 militants.

Israel’s casualties also mounted, with the military announcing the deaths of two more soldiers, bringing the number of army fatalities to 27 – almost three times as many as were killed in the last ground invasion of Gaza, in a 2008-2009 war.

Two Israeli civilians have also been killed by Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.


Violence spread to the nearby West Bank, where medics said soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man while dispersing stone-throwing protesters. A Palestinian shot and seriously wounded an Israeli in the Nablus area on Tuesday.

Dispatched by U.S. President Barack Obama to the Middle East to seek a ceasefire, Kerry held talks on Tuesday in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri.


Israel has signaled it is in no hurry to achieve a truce before reaching its goal of crippling Hamas’s militant infrastructure, including rocket arsenals and networks of tunnels threatening Israelis living along the Gaza frontier.

Hamas has said it will not cease hostilities until its demands are met, including that Israel and Egypt lift their blockade of Gaza and its 1.8 million people, and that Israel release several hundred Palestinians detained during a search last month for three Jewish teenagers later found dead.

And so the eye-for-an-eye and the loss of lives continues…

Read more here.

21 July, 4:47PM CDT – Aid to Gaza -The State Department:

Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States is providing $47 million to help address the humanitarian situation in Gaza. This assistance includes:

An initial $15 million contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in response to UNRWA’s $60 million Gaza Flash Appeal;

$3.5 million in emergency relief assistance from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA);

$10 million in existing USAID bilateral funding, redirected to meet immediate humanitarian needs; and
$18.5 million in new USAID bilateral funding for humanitarian and emergency relief assistance.

These funds will provide critical humanitarian aid, including shelter, food, and medical supplies to Palestinians in Gaza. The United States remains committed to addressing the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people, and will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation closely.

21 July 2014 13:30 CDT – The BBC:

At least five people have been killed and 70 injured by an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza, Palestinians say.
The Israeli military said it believed a cache of anti-tank missiles was stored in the hospital’s “immediate vicinity”
Overnight, more than 30 members of two Palestinian families died in Israeli strikes, Gazan health officials said.
On Monday evening Israel said seven of its soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of Israeli military dead to 25.
Two Israeli civilians have also died in the recent violence.
The Palestinian death toll from the two-week conflict has now passed 500, the majority of them civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
Israel says it has killed more than 170 militants since Thursday night, when it launched the ground offensive phase of its two-week old operation to end rocket fire from Gaza.
Ten militants were killed on Monday after using tunnels to get into Israel near the town of Sderot.

Read more here.


21 July – 9:49 AM CDT – Newsweek:

Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Cairo to discuss the crisis in Gaza with Egyptian officials and is “expected to urge Hamas to accept a cease-fire agreement put forth by Egypt…”

“The United States — and our international partners — are deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. “We believe there should be a cease-fire as soon as possible — one that restores the cease-fire reached in November of 2012.”

Read more here.

20 July Update

The Washington Post has just reported that Hamas claims to have captured an Israeli soldier

This during a day when 70 Palestinians have been killed “in a heavy bombardment of a Gaza neighborhood and 13 Israeli soldiers were slain in the most intense day of fighting in Israel’s current offensive against Hamas fighters” according to the Post.

Abu Obaida, a spokesman for the Al Qassam Brigades, appeared on Hamas TV to make the announcement. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the army was investigating the claim. A kidnapped Israeli soldier would represent a victory for Hamas and a difficult new challenge for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


The last Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas was Gilad Shalit, who spent more than five years in captivity before being released in a controversial prisoner exchange in 2011 that freed 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners, some of whom carried out terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Shalit was captured by Hamas operatives who tunneled into Israel and snatched the corporal.

Read more here

7/18/2014 08:00 CDT Update:

The BBC quotes Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that his instructions to the military are to prepare to “significantly widen” its ground offensive against militants in the Gaza Strip, targeting the Hamas tunnel network, which it could not do “only from the air.”

The BBC also reports that at least 24 Palestinians — including three Palestinian children killed by Israeli tank fire — and one Israeli soldier have been killed since the ground offensive began on Thursday, according to Gaza’s health ministry.


The Jerusalem Post reports:

IDF ground forces began to move into the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, the prime minister’s office confirmed.
The purpose of the operation was to destroy the Gazan terror tunnels leading to Israel, according to a statement released by the prime minister’s office.
“Israel is committed to act to protect its citizens. The operation will continue until its goals are reached: To bring quiet to the citizens of Israel for a long period of time, and to seriously harm Hamas and other terrorist organizations’ infrastructure in the Gaza Strip,” the statement read.
Prior to the commencement of the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on Thursday night.

Update VIII:


Palestinians rushed to shops and banks on Thursday during a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire that largely held and an Israeli official said Egypt has proposed a permanent truce that would start on Friday.


In Gaza City, hundreds of Palestinian lined up outside banks to collect salaries paid directly into their accounts, while others went food shopping. Gaza roads almost deserted over days of conflict were filled again with traffic.
“We are here to get paid. Thank God for the calm and we hope it lasts,” said Zakaria Ahmed, 35. “We hope Egypt brings a good truce, we hope the killing will stop and (Gaza’s border) crossings will open.”

Breaking Update VII:

The BBC reports that Israel “will observe a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza, after nine days of deadly rocket and missile exchanges with militants,” according to a senior Israeli army officer.

In an interview with BBC Arabic, Brig Gen Yoav Mordechai said “the civilians in Gaza can take the five hours of ceasefire to stock up on supplies and goods.”

The ceasefire was requested by the UN and other international organizations.

It is not known to this author whether the “humanitarian ceasefire” was announced before or after four boys, ages seven to 11, who had been playing on and around a beach in Gaza were killed by an exploding shell.

The Guardian:

In the space of 40 seconds, four boys who had been playing hide and seek among the fishermen’s shacks built on the wall were dead. They were aged between seven and 11; two were named Mohammad, one Zakaria and the youngest Ahed. All were members of the extended Bakr family.
Three others who were injured made it to the hotel: Hamad Bakr, aged 13, with shrapnel in his chest; his cousin Motasem, 11, injured in his head and legs, and Mohammad Abu Watfah, 21, who was hit by shrapnel in his stomach.

Read another first-hand account here.

Update VI:

The Jerusalem Post reports:

One day after an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas, fell through, the terrorist organization proposed a 10-year end to hostilities in return for its conditions being met by Israel, Channel 2 reported Wednesday.
Hamas’s conditions were the release of re-arrested Palestinian prisoners who were let go in the Schalit deal, the opening of Gaza-Israel border crossings in order to allow citizens and goods to pass through, and international supervision of the Gazan seaport in place of the current Israeli blockade.

In the meantime, also according to the JP, Israel is raising the idea of a demilitarized Gaza Strip. Read more here.

Update V:

The BBC reports:

Israel has ordered thousands of Palestinians in eastern and northern Gaza to leave their homes as it continues air strikes.
The warning came after an Egyptian truce initiative failed to halt militant rocket attacks on Israel.
Hamas initially rejected the truce but an official later told the BBC it would consider a political solution.
The resumption of air strikes come after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had “no choice” but to step up the military campaign.
“When there is no ceasefire, our answer is fire,” Mr Netanyahu said.
The Israel Defense Forces are using recorded telephone messages, warning 100,000 residents of Gaza to leave their homes before 08:00 (05:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Update IV:

After Egypt’s proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas collapsed only a few hours after the Israelis had accepted it, and as Palestinian militants in Gaza continued to fire rockets, mortar fire near the Erez crossing with Gaza killed the first Israeli in the in the eight-day-old military confrontation, in which Israeli bombings have killed nearly 200 Palestinians, according to the New York Times.

The fatality, a 37-year-old man who had volunteered to distribute food parcels to Israeli soldiers near the crossing was critically wounded and died shortly after in an Ashkelon hospital.

The Times:

The Israeli military said in later statements that its resumed aerial assaults had hit 30 targets, including 20 concealed rocket launchers, tunnels, weapons storage facilities and “operational infrastructure” of Islamic Jihad, a Gaza-based militant group aligned with Hamas.

By evening, the Israeli military said, 125 “rockets and mortars” had been fired from Gaza and that 20 had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense.

While some Palestinians reject the cease fire,

Other residents in Gaza still held out hope for a cease-fire. “Who would want to be bombed?” said Dr. Ayman al Sahbani.
The question, residents say, is where a cease-fire would lead, and whether it would bring any change to Gaza. The Palestinian enclave has been occupied since 1967, and now, despite the pullout of Israeli settlers and troops in 2005, its borders, airspace and seas are controlled by Israel. There are tough restrictions that have effectively amounted to a blockade, keeping the movement of goods and people to a trickle.
“Every time they have a cease-fire, but then everything comes back: the siege, the closures,” said Wedad al-Jarba, who was at the hospital, where her two-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Maher, was being admitted with a skull fracture. Israel “never agreed on anything real,” she said.

Continue reading the story here.

Update III:

After raiding a suspected rocket-launching site in Gaza, Israel has warned residents in northern Gaza to evacuate as it prepares to launch fresh air strikes, says the Guardian:

At least 159 Palestinians have been killed since the air strikes, according to health officials in Gaza.
They are said to include 17 members of one family who died in an Israeli missile strike on Saturday evening.
Israel says it is targeting Hamas militants and “terror sites”, including the homes of senior operatives. However, the United Nations has estimated that 77% of the people killed in Gaza
Some 800 Palestinians with dual citizenship began leaving Gaza via Israel’s Erez Crossing on Sunday.
Others have sought shelter at UN-run schools across cities in Gaza
By 10:30am local time (07:30am GMT), more than 4,000 Gaza residents had taken refuge at eight bases of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, spokesman Chris Gunness said.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the raid as “a heinous crime”, warning that Israel would “pay a heavy price for its aggression against the Palestinian people”
At least three Israelis have been seriously injured since the violence erupted, but no Israelis have been killed by the attacks.
Palestinian sources say more than 1,000 people have been injured since Israel began its operation six days ago.
France on Sunday again condemned the Hamas rocket attacks, but also called on Israel to “show restraint” in its Gaza campaign and avoid civilian casualties.

The Australian government has advised all Australians to leave the Gaza strip immediately.

Breaking Update:

ABC News reports that Israeli ground troops entered northern Gaza tonight to take out a number of missile launch sites, according to the Israeli military.

The mission launched early Sunday local time comes after the UN Security Council urged the two sides to reach a cease fire, and the Israeli government said it hit northern Gaza “with great force” to prevent more Hamas rocket attacks.
During the incursion there was an exchange of fire with militants that left four Israeli soldiers lightly wounded, according to the IDF.
The IDF troops returned to Israel after the mission, and no soldiers were left in Gaza, the Israeli military said.

Update II:

TIME reports that Israeli airstrikes targeting Hamas in Gaza hit a mosque, which the Israeli military said was concealing rockets, and a center for the disabled where two women were killed Saturday, raising the Palestinian death toll from the offensive to more than 120 with more than 920 wounded.. (In an update, the BBC claims that at least 148 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its operation five days ago.)

Hamas says Israel hit two mosques, a claim that could not be immediately verified.

No fatalities have been reported in Israel from the continued rocket fire.

The prevention of fatalities in Israel is attributed to the U.S. funded, Israel-developed “Iron Dome,” which has intercepted more than 130 incoming rockets, according to TIME, although , “militant rockets have reached further into Israel than ever before, with air raid sirens sounding even in the northern city of Haifa, 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.”

The BBC reports that, on Saturday alone, Israel says it was hit by about 90 rockets — several intercepted over Tel Aviv after Hamas said it would target the city.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said:

We have accumulated achievements as far as the price Hamas is paying and we are continuing to destroy significant targets of it and other terror organizations…We will continue to punish it until quiet and security returns to southern Israel and the rest of the country.

In the meantime, and for the first time since Israel’s offensive started, all 15 members of the UN Security Council have called for a ceasefire, calm and peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Arab league foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting in Cairo on Monday to discuss the continued Israeli offensive and measures to urge the international community to pressure Israel, according to TIME.

While Israel vows to press on with its campaign until rocket attacks stop and is “targeting militants and militant facilities, including the homes of senior operatives,” a UN estimate says that in the period from 10 July (1500 hrs) to 11 July (1500 hrs) 77% of the people killed in Gaza were civilians.

Original Post:

Last night, as Hamas was firing rockets at Israel at a rate of about one every ten minutes, according to an Israeli source, as Israel was striking additional targets in Gaza bringing the total number of targets hit in three days to 750, and as Netanyahu was instructing Israeli military to intensify the assault on Gaza, three of us held a summit meeting in a parking lot here in Austin, Texas.

We had just finished a match of tennis and, as we were saying goodbye, the subject turned to the latest chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict.”

This latest round of killings and counter-killings started with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers allegedly by Palestinians, followed by the burning alive of a Palestinian allegedly by Israelis, followed by the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel allegedly by “small militant groups challenging Hamas’s authority,” followed by Israeli strikes into Gaza, followed by an intensified firing of rockets into Israeli territory, followed by the launching of an additional 300 air strikes in Gaza by the IDF.

While it is not known how many casualties the Israeli have suffered in this latest round – in addition to the three young Israeli teenagers — the New York Times reports that this latest offensive has killed at least 80 Palestinians, including women and children.

Finally, an Israeli military spokesman says, according to the Times, “Israel has already mobilized 20,000 reservists for a possible ground operation into Gaza, but for the time being Israel remained focused on maximizing its air campaign.”

Today, the U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet for an emergency session to discuss the increased hostilities in the ongoing conflict.”

But back to our parking lot summit where we discussed various options to resolve the “conflict.”

Without divulging who said what, they ranged from diplomacy to just “wiping out” Palestine.

On the way home, it struck me how three people — picked randomly by a game of tennis — could have such widely differing opinions on such a grave issue. But, perhaps more interesting, how accurately the “views of three” reflect what I have come to understand is the full spectrum of opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict. We have seen a microcosm of it here at TMV.

Fortunately — and hopefully — there are much better minds, and hearts, at work to once and for all resolve this “conflict.” Or are there?

The Editorial Board at the Washington Post takes a stab at it.

Acknowledging that the latest mini-war between Israel and the Hamas movement is as unwinnable for either side as previous rounds in 2009 and 2012, the Board says — after stopping the fighting “before it escalates beyond the control of either side” — what is needed is:

…not another diplomatic blitz but a more patient, incremental and sustainable effort to restore trust between Israelis and Palestinians, improve economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, and create the foundations for an eventual settlement.

The Board adds, “That is if the fire in Gaza can be put out.”

To those who were expecting some grandiose, ambitious 20-point “plan for peace,” my apologies.

But think about it, neither repeated wars nor diplomatic blitzes have brought about any long-term solution to this “conflict.”

How about trying something in-between — something innovative — like helping the Palestinian people rise out of their almost intolerable living circumstances; improving the dire humanitarian and human-rights conditions facing them; giving Palestinians hope that tomorrow will be a better day than today and helping them shape that tomorrow.

Unlocking and opening that tattered, screechy door to lasting peace will take monumental efforts, sacrifices and serious give-and-take on all sides.

I know, it is much, much easier said than done — and then there are those who want to wipe Israel off the map…

Lead image:

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The Medal of Honor for a Soldier’s Actions When ‘Valor Was Everywhere’ Tue, 22 Jul 2014 02:26:38 +0000 Pitts Awarded Medal of Honor

One month ago, we reported on the White House announcement that President Barack Obama would award Ryan M. Pitts, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.

Today that moment came.

At a moving ceremony in the White House this afternoon, attended by SSG Pitt’s wife Amy and their one-year-old son Lucas, the President of the United States did indeed bestow the nation’s highest military honor on a modest and unassuming soldier “for his unwavering courage in one of the fiercest battles of the Afghanistan war.”

MOH Pitts

President Barack Obama and Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts bow their heads during the benediction at the Medal of Honor ceremony for SSG Pitts in the East Room of the White House. At left is SSG Pitt’s wife Amy and one-year-old son Lucas. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Staff Sergeant Pitts is the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

MOH Pitts2

President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts at the White House, July 21, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Lisa Ferdinando

We have already described that unwavering courage here, but please watch and listen below as the President recounts Pitts’ courageous actions while serving as a Forward Observer during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.

But quoting Ryan’s “There was valor everywhere,” the President also paid tribute “ to all who served with such valor that day: shielding their wounded buddies with their own bodies, picking up unexploded missiles with their hands and carrying them away, running through the gunfire to reinforce that post, fighting through their injuries and never giving up.”

Read the Stars and Stripes description of the day and the actions which led to the award of the Medal of Honor to SSgt Ryan Pitts.

But also read here what this hero plans to tell his son — who’s now just a year old now — when he is ready to hear the story.

MOH recipeient with family

Pictured in April at their home in Nashua, N.H., are Ryan Pitts, Amy Pitts, and 1-year-old son Lucas. Photo courtesy U.S. Army

Tomorrow, the U.S. Army will induct former Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes. The Pentagon ceremony will add Pitts’ name to the distinguished roster in the Hall of Heroes, the Defense Department’s permanent display of record for all recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Lead photo: President Barack Obama and former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts enter the East Room of the White House for the Medal of Honor ceremony. (White House photo)

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Respected Medical Periodical Reviews ‘Obamacare’ Tue, 22 Jul 2014 01:23:51 +0000 shutterstock_107210138

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) — not a slouch — has just published a progress report on “Health Care Coverage under the Affordable Care Act” — “an overview of Obamacare’s first year, its successes and the challenges ahead.”

Talking Points Memo (TPM) says:

The NEJM report pulled a wealth of information, much of it already known by those closely following the law’s implementation but presented together by the journal, from think tanks and government agencies. It covered a range of topics, including the number of people covered, 2015 premiums, and the adequacy of provider networks for plans offered through the law.
But its bottom line was that millions of people have become insured under Obamacare.

(Emphasis mine)

And, “With continuing enrollment … the numbers of Americans gaining insurance for the first time — or insurance that is better in quality or more affordable than their previous policy — will total in the many tens of millions,” [the authors of the Report wrote]

Furthermore, “[The authors] also noted the disparity — and potential for even greater disparity — between the 28 states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, and the others that decided to not to follow the 2012 Supreme Court decision”


Those deciding not to expand Medicaid will benefit far less from the law, and since many of these states have high rates of uninsured residents and lower health status,” they said, “the ACA may have the paradoxical effect of increasing disparities across regions, even as it reduces disparities between previously insured and uninsured Americans as a whole.”

But, the authors “also observed some of the challenges still facing the law, particularly keeping premiums from becoming unaffordable and ensuring that customers are actually satisfied with the coverage that they get. It will likely take years to know the final outcome on those issues.”

TPM finally points out:

But the great challenge, and great unknown, is overall health care costs. The evidence there has been decidedly unclear, and it is likely simply too early to know what effect, if any, Obamacare is having.

“Developing and spreading innovative approaches to health care delivery that provide greater quality at lower cost is the next great challenge facing the nation,” the NEJM authors wrote.

Read the TPM article here, and the NEJM report here.


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What’s The Matter With Thomas Frank? Tue, 22 Jul 2014 00:48:25 +0000 Obama-Green-Lantern

Thomas Frank has fallen for the Green Lantern view of the presidency, thinking that the president has the power to do anything he wishes. His criticism of Obama:

Why did he do nothing, or next to nothing, about the crazy high price of a college education, the Great Good Thing that he has said, time and again, determines our personal as well as national success? Why didn’t he propose a proper healthcare program instead of the confusing jumble we got? Why not a proper stimulus package? Why didn’t he break up the banks? Or the agribusiness giants, for that matter?

Well, duh, his museum will answer: he couldn’t do any of those things because of the crazy right-wingers running wild in the land. He couldn’t reason with them—their brains don’t work like ours! He couldn’t defeat them at the polls—they’d gerrymandered so many states that they couldn’t be dislodged! What can a high-minded man of principle do when confronted with such a vast span of bigotry and close-mindedness? The answer toward which the Obama museum will steer the visitor is: Nothing.

In point of fact, there were plenty of things Obama’s Democrats could have done that might have put the right out of business once and for all—for example, by responding more aggressively to the Great Recession or by pounding relentlessly on the theme of middle-class economic distress. Acknowledging this possibility, however, has always been difficult for consensus-minded Democrats, and I suspect that in the official recounting of the Obama era, this troublesome possibility will disappear entirely. Instead, the terrifying Right-Wing Other will be cast in bronze at twice life-size, and made the excuse for the Administration’s every last failure of nerve, imagination and foresight. Demonizing the right will also allow the Obama legacy team to present his two electoral victories as ends in themselves, since they kept the White House out of the monster’s grasp—heroic triumphs that were truly worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. (Which will be dusted off and prominently displayed.)

But bipartisanship as an ideal must also be kept sacred, of course. And so, after visitors to the Obama Library have passed through the Gallery of Drones and the Big Data Command Center, they will be ushered into a maze-like exhibit designed to represent the president’s long, lonely, and ultimately fruitless search for consensus. The Labyrinth of the Grand Bargain, it might be called, and it will teach how the president bravely put the fundamental achievements of his party—Social Security and Medicare—on the bargaining table in exchange for higher taxes and a smaller deficit. This will be described not as a sellout of liberal principle but as a sacred quest for the Holy Grail of Washington: a bipartisan coming-together on “entitlement reform,” which every responsible D.C. professional knows to be the correct way forward.

Frank both ignores the real obstacles which Obama faced and is not very accurate in describing Obama’s record. He forgets that the there was a very good reason that Obama never had a chance to reason with the Republicans–they decided right off the bat that they would oppose anything Obama supported for political reasons. Frank might check out the work of centrists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann on how Republicans are responsible for the current gridlock along with this Frontline documentary:

On the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, a group of top GOP luminaries quietly gathered in a Washington steakhouse to lick their wounds and ultimately create the outline of a plan for how to deal with the incoming administration.

“The room was filled. It was a who’s who of ranking members who had at one point been committee chairmen, or in the majority, who now wondered out loud whether they were in the permanent minority,” Frank Luntz, who organized the event, told FRONTLINE.

Among them were Senate power brokers Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl and Tom Coburn, and conservative congressmen Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan.

After three hours of strategizing, they decided they needed to fight Obama on everything. The new president had no idea what the Republicans were planning.

There were clear institutional limits on Obama in a system where forty Senators could block the majority on anything. The Democrats had sixty votes for a very brief time due to the delays in swearing in Al Franken and later Ted Kennedy’s death. Even when Obama technically had sixty Senators voting with the Democrats, this included Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson who would never go for the type of leftist agenda Frank favored.

Obama chose to use his limited political political capital to concentrate on health care reform, passing a comprehensive health reform package after previous presidents from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton were unsuccessful. Ted Kennedy once expressed regret at working with Richard Nixon and instead insisting upon a single-payer system at the time. Similarly Hillary Clinton convinced Bill to threaten to veto anything other than her plan, rejecting a Republican proposal which was very similar to the Affordable Care Act. It would be far better to accept what can be passed and then work to improve it over time.

Sure the Affordable Care Act is a confusing jumble, but that is because it built upon our current system. It would have been better if the system was even more complex and perhaps confusing, including either the public option or Medicare buy-in. Neither could pass because both Lieberman and Nelson opposed them. Obama certainly could have never received sixty votes for a single-payer plan, braking up the banks, or a bigger stimulus.

Beyond Congress, Obama was limited by conservative media bias on economic matters. Obviously Fox was out there spreading lies and attacking anything Obama wanted to do, but the problems weren’t limited to Fox and its viewers. Most of the media is owned by the wealthy, and much of the news, especially on television, is reported by wealthy television stars. They might not share the Republican views on social issues or their opposition to science and reason (leading to the conservative view of a liberal media) but many of them are quite conservative on economic issues. They were biased towards tax cuts and cutting spending. Media reports on the economy typically stressed the size of the deficit and included the assumption that a reduction in government spending was necessary. Few pointed out the degree to which Republican spending and tax cuts in the Bush years contributed far more to the deficit than Obama’s stimulus spending. The atmosphere was hardly conducive to pushing an even bigger stimulus, regardless of how much more this would have helped the economy recover. He also ignores the degree to which Obama’s stimulus did help bring about economic recovery.

Just as Frank ignores the benefits of Obama’s policies, including the Affordable Care Act and the stimulus, he exaggerates what Obama did not do. No, Obama did not destroy Social Security and Medicare. It is the other party which has been seeking to do that. Offering Chained CPI in exchange for a grand bargain on the deficit might never have been a good idea, but we can’t blame Obama for making a bad deal when such a deal was never made and we don’t know what he would have held out for before making such an agreement.

Obama’s record has much in it to displease the far left. It is doubtful that any other president would have achieved more than he actually did.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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Where People Live Tue, 22 Jul 2014 00:18:01 +0000 This is interesting, half of all Americans live in 146 of 3,000 counties in the US.

Using Census data, we’ve figured out that half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000.

Here’s the map, with said counties shaded in. Below the map is the list of all the counties, so you can see if you live in one of them.

map of us 50 percent

This may explain much of the political polarization in the US – the urban VS rural divide.  I think this actually underestimates the demography.  Although here in the Portland Oregon area Multnomah   county is included the urban area consists of 4 counties where most of the states population lives.

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White House press secretary criticizes anonymous sources, yet scheduled anonymous chat Mon, 21 Jul 2014 22:27:00 +0000 If you live in a glass house …
be careful of the stones you throw

In the daily briefing Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest criticized a story that relied on anonymous critics of the Administration.

An unnamed female reporter replied:

Beyond the Washington Post story, I just want to point out … You criticize anonymous sources but we have anonymous sources from you all every day. I think we have a call today. How can you criticize that when that’s what you basically give us every day, except for the briefing?

Anonymous sources should not be used for routine briefings (as the scheduled call seems to have been).

Here’s the Society of Professional Journalists on anonymous sources:

1. Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.

2. Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.

And from April, this essay from John Christie, editor in chief of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting:

That’s one problem with anonymous sources: They often get it wrong because why make sure you have it right when you will not be held accountable for what you say.


This false god – relying on anonymous sources to be first with a story – has always been a problem for journalism.

In the past, there were two major causes of this problem. Now there’s a third, and it threatens not only journalism but also our democracy.

As much as I dislike their over-use, sometimes anonymous sources are the only way to pry into the “real” story. Think whistleblowing. But a scheduled interview set up by the White House press secretary? Ummm, no.

By kowtowing to politician demands for anonymity, reporters and their news organizations have set themselves up as patsies. See Valerie Plame.

The Washington Post story

Although Earnest asserted that the story in question was based solely on anonymous sources, his assertion is false (assuming that this WaPo story is, indeed, the one he is referencing and the linked report says what the lede claims).

See for yourself:

Nearly a year before President Obama declared a humanitarian crisis on the border, a team of experts arrived at the Fort Brown patrol station in Brownsville, Tex., and discovered a makeshift transportation depot for a deluge of foreign children.

Thirty Border Patrol agents were assigned in August 2013 to drive the children to off-site showers, wash their clothes and make them sandwiches. As soon as those children were placed in temporary shelters, more arrived. An average of 66 were apprehended each day on the border and more than 24,000 cycled through Texas patrol stations in 2013. In a 41-page report to the Department of Homeland Security, the team from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) raised alarms about the federal government’s capacity to manage a situation that was expected to grow worse.

The first anonymous source is cited in the 12th paragraph. That is not an elevated position in the story.

Here’s the exchange on YouTube:

Click here to view the embedded video.

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; The Flash; Agents of SHIELD; Gotham; Doctor Who; Hannibal; Daredevil; True Blood; The Leftovers; The Last Ship; 24; Penny Dreadful Mon, 21 Jul 2014 18:37:53 +0000 Arrow Oliver Felicity

TV Guide interviewed Andrew Kreisberg about the third season of Arrow:

Can Arrow‘s consummate hero have it all?

The third season of The CW series will dare to answer that question when Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) attempts to have his cake and eat it too — in this case, that means being a superhero that the residents of Starling City actually respect while also trying to have a personal life. It’s harder than it sounds — something that Ollie will learn fairly quickly into the season.

But Oliver’s love life won’t be the only thing that’s complicated this season, especially since two of his ladies will actually be getting love interests of their own! tracked down executive producer Andrew Kreisberg to get the scoop on the new season, including a surprising return from the dead, the future for Team Arrow and new villains ahead:

Will there be a time jump when the show returns?
Andrew Kreisberg:
We’re going to jump the same amount of time that we did last year. It’ll be real time. It’ll be seven or eight months later. For Oliver, things are good. As we like to say, everything is coming up Arrow. Crime is down. At the end of last year, there was victory. A lot of this season is about what happens when you win and how winning isn’t always as easy as it looks.

What does it mean for Oliver now that the city actually accepts him?
In the premiere, Lance (Paul Blackthorne) actually disbands the anti-vigilante task force in his new role as Captain. The Arrow is free to do his thing and it’s different for Oliver. He spent the first two years being hunted and distrusted. Now, he’s starting to feel like he has this under control. And then, of course, as Joss Whedon taught us all, you let your characters have a moment of happiness and then you take it all away from them.

You seemed to be setting the stage for Ra’s al Ghul to be the villain in Season 3. Is he actually the villain? Can you say anything about the new villain?
It’s big. I can say that he’s big and he’s bad. We’re still figuring that stuff out. As far as the Big Bad, there will be a Big Bad. Even last year, everybody was a subset of Slade’s (Manu Bennett). Slade was the Big Bad. We will meet other villains along the way, as always. We’ll have recurring villains and new villains we’re starting with this year and people who are coming back from the previous two seasons.

Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Oliver are going on a date in the season premiere. How do you avoid the TV trope that a hero can’t be with the woman he loves just because of his duty?
When you see the premiere and you see how things shake out, you’ll come to a very sympathetic understanding of both of their positions. The premiere last year was a microcosm of what was happening for the whole year. In the same way that the premiere of last season was really about Oliver struggling with whether or not he should be the Arrow, in this season premiere it’s, “Can I have everything I want?” That quest is going to take up his entire year, and hers.

How much of a foil will Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), Felicity’s new rumored love interest and head of Queen Consolidated, be to Oliver?
A big foil. It’s Season 3, and Season 3 is typically when you add that game-changing character like Buffy did in adding Faith or Everwood did with adding Scott Wolf. First of all, getting Brandon — he couldn’t be nicer, he couldn’t be sweeter. It’s just such a different energy that he’s bringing to the show. A lot of what’s funny about Felicity and Oliver is that he’s so straight and she’s the funny one. With Brandon, you get somebody who’s as tall, square-jawed and handsome as he is [and] he’s a really funny comedian. He and Felicity can have that verbal repartee that we haven’t typically had on the show. As much as the show is getting darker, it’s gotten a lot funnier. It’s just such a different energy. He and Felicity are really cute together.

The second season ended with the Black Canary giving her black jacket to her sister Laurel. This fed speculation that Laurel will become the Black Canary as in the comics. Kreisberg has a good point that she is not ready for this yet: “As always with all of these things, you can’t just put on a mask and go running around. You’ll get killed. Laurel is still just an attorney. She’s an attorney with a jacket. I think Katie Cassidy fans are going to be very, very excited about her trajectory this year. Laurel is going to have a new love interest this season.” Caity Lotz will be returning for three episodes next season. One of the many good things about Arrow is that there is now a huge supporting cast, and even more characters are to be introduced. This allows them to have a variety of characters for parts of a season as opposed to having exactly the same characters from week to week. There will also be a cross over with The Flash next season in the eighth episode of each show, and Felicity will appear in the fourth episode of The Flash.

There has been contradictory information as to whether The Flash and/or Arrow will cross over with the DC cinematic universe in the manner in which Agents of SHIELD does with Marvel. The latest story is that DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns says the television shows and movies will be kept separate. Presumably this will mean that the Flash seen in the Justice League of America movie would be a different character than on the television show. While it would be entertaining to have the television and movie universes combined, there are advantages of keeping them separate. This allows for greater flexibility with the television shows not being confined by the movie universe, avoiding the problems faced by SHIELD most of its first season.


Agents of SHIELD executive producers Jeffrey Bell, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen were interviewed about plans for the second season, now that the show is no longer constrained by waiting for Captain America: The Winter Soldier to reveal HYDRA’s infiltration of SHIELD.

Will there be consequences for Grant Ward for all that he had done last year?

“I would assume so,” Maurissa Tancharoen said. “Let’s put it this way: They’re not gonna just drop him on a farm and let him run wild.” Jed Whedon added. “When last we left him, he was in our custody. What does that mean? You’ll have to see,” Maurissa teased.

What are you specifically excited about for Season 2?

“I think the fact that when we left them, S.H.I.E.L.D. had completely crumbled… so just the idea of Coulson and our team, sort of left with nothing, or limited resources… I think we’ll be rooting for them to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Tancharoen said.

“It’s a lot harder to protect the world when you don’t have any resources. Last year we saw how giant and all-consuming S.H.I.E.L.D.’s reach was, and they don’t have that anymore, so it’s much more of a struggle. They’re much more the underdog this year, which we’re really excited about that, and the tone that it sets, and what it does to our characters.” Whedon added.

This “ragtag team” has Maria Hill as a contact and she’s working for Tony Stark. Couldn’t she talk to him to hook them up with some money?

“We hope so! That’d be so cool!” Whedon responded. “Maybe so,” Tancharoen said. “That’s a good question.”

“Tony Stark doesn’t know Coulson’s alive, so it might be really awkward. It’d be weird,” Jeffrey Bell chimed in. “They could set up a Coulson Memorial Fund and channel that into S.H.I.E.L.D.,” he joked.

So with Phil Coulson now being the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers still don’t know he’s alive?

“That’s a complicated question. One might assume, but you can’t assume anything, and they have their own movie that exists…” Whedon said, with his brother, of course, directing Avengers 2: Age of Ultron to come out next year.

“At least on screen so far, that hasn’t happened,” Bell said.

Will we be seeing Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) sooner rather than later?

“That’s a good question. When last we left him, we didn’t know exactly what happened to him. We just know he’s alive,” Tancharoen teased.


TV Guide has more information on Gotham:

There will be no cape. There will be no cowl. Nevertheless, Fox’s Gotham intends to stay true to the Batman comics that fans have come to know and love over more than seven decades.

Based on DC Comics characters, Gotham explores the origin stories of the Caped Crusader’s eventual ally James Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie), a detective with the Gotham City Police Department, and his battle with the villains who made the city famous.

“What we won’t do is break the canonical iron truths of the mythology,” executive producer Bruno Heller told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s fall previews on Sunday. “It’s not a whole new mythology. But issues of chronology, we will play with in a fun way.”

Instead of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) taking center stage in the effort to save Gotham, James Gordon will be the central focus as he fights the ever rampant corruption and crime alongside his partner and mentor Det. Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). “Gordon is the lynchpin of the show,” Heller explains. “He’s the guy who creates Batman or gives permission for Batman to exist in this world. Gordon will still remain at the central, but it’s very much about [the origin stories of every character], but Gordon is the moral center that you can identify with.”

Though Heller said that Batman won’t appear on the series, he doesn’t believe that will drive the fanboys away. “I don’t think so because the really interesting parts of the stories is the origin stories,” Heller says. “As soon as you’re into the capes and the costumes, it’s less interesting than how the people got there.

“If there is a superhero in this show, it’s Gotham,” he continues. “That’s a larger than life character that’s a central part of the show. To me, heroes are more interesting than superheroes because precisely the difference is superheroes do the impossible, and drama is really about the physically possible. This is about people and people trying to overcome real problems as opposed to trying to learn how to fly.”

But where do Gothamites find hope when the city’s villains of are running free with nary a hero (or the hope of one) to stop them? After all, Bruce Wayne hasn’t even started shaving yet! “That’s the situation that the show is all about,” Heller says. “How do you deal with crime of this level when there are no superheroes? It’s as much about the hope and the struggle that they’re engaged in… It’s about men and women, not about superheroes.”

And those men and women truly will be overrun. Though the first season delves into the rise of the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), the series pilot introduces a fair amount of villains for the show to play with, including Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), Poison Ivy (Clare Foley) and Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). “You have to front-load the pilot with the best that you’ve got because that’s the way that you’ve got to open big,” Heller says of introducing so many villains. “As the show rolls on, we’ll be far more … careful with how we roll out the villains and in what way.”

Trailers for the upcoming season of Doctor Who above (one official and one from a fan).

With Laurence Fishburne having a roll on a new show next season, Black-ish, there has been speculation that this might mean that he did not survive the massacre in the second season finale of Hannibal. Fishburne says he is returning, and will do both shows part time. He also says the third season of Hannibal will be very dark–as if the first two seasons were so light and cheerful.

Looking back quickly on some genre shows of the past week, I was happy to see True Blood end some of its weak plot lines and get rid of some of the superfluous characters. This almost gives them yet another fresh start going into the final episodes of the series, and I hope they take advantage of this to end with a better story line.


The Leftovers dealt with Christopher Eccleston’s character. As we know that it will not deal with any sort of explanation of what happened to the missing people, to be successful the show will need to get viewers interested in the characters and how they responded to the other people disappearing. So far they have not done the greatest job of introducing the characters and adequately explaining their motivations. Earlier episodes dealt heavily with the police chief and his family, but it is not clear why his family is so affected considering that nobody in their family disappeared. Entertainment Weekly compared The Leftovers to Battlestar Galactica in the way in which both shows dealt with a loss of a portion of the population. Both the disaster and the manner in which the response were handled was greater on BSG.

While The Leftovers does have that in common with Battlestar Galactica, The Last Ship has far more in common in dealing with a ship of people surviving after mass deaths. It remains more of an action/adventure show than hard science fiction, but remains entertaining summer television.

Under the Dome remains weak (to put it gently), yet somehow remains interesting to watch. The same problems persist with the Dome having powers with no apparent limits but no clear motivations for those using the power. Now it was able to bring a girl who died years ago back to life. Plus Junior’s mother was also confirmed to be alive after her reported suicide.

24: Live Another Day concluded its short season. A shorter season was a plus, but it would have been even better if it ended a few episodes earlier when the main terrorist plot was tied up. In the past, full seasons suffered from the need to move from one plot line to another to keep things going for an entire twenty-four episodes. Now that they were freed from those constraints it would have better to tell one single story well, regardless of how many episodes it took. Then they had to tag on yet another quick story at the end to put Chloe in danger to set up Jack’s fate. The producers of 24 have not yet said whether the show will return. I’m sure that depends upon a lot upon the ratings.

Extant remained interesting in its second episode. I still fear it will turn out to be a network television rehash of old science fiction (and Spielberg) troupes but I’m willing to give it a chance to prove me wrong.

Penny Dreadful Eva Green

Penny Dreadful ended earlier this month and I should note that after seeing the entire first season that it was well worth watching. The plot was not the strong point but it did excel in creating its characters and a world where fictional characters including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and others interacted. The show had a strong cast including Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett, and Billy Piper, but by far the strongest was Eva Green. The actual story such as fights with vampires weren’t terrible significant except as ways to introduce the characters and set up future events. Early episodes showed some violent deaths and, while there were some clues, the probable identity of the killer wasn’t revealed until the finale, undoubtedly influencing the second season. The show also made good use of episodic television, both having continuing stories and using some episodes to reveal character back stories or past events.

James Gardner, star of shows including The Rockford Files and Maverick, died yesterday at 86. Reports from Variety and The New York Times.

Related Posts:  , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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Hospitals And Medicaid Expansion Mon, 21 Jul 2014 16:01:35 +0000 HospitalIt’s no secret that Texas hospitals were lobbying Governor Rick Perry and the Texas legislature to expand Medicad coverage under the ACA – they didn’t.  It’s also no secret that hospitals are closing in states that didn’t expand Medicaid coverage.  Forbes has a rundown:

Hospitals See Troubles In Red States That Snubbed Obamacare’s Medicaid Deal

While record numbers of Americans sign up for the larger Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, financial issues are emerging for medical care providers in the two dozen states that didn’t go along with the expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Reports out in the last week indicate the gap between those with health care coverage is widening between states that agreed to go along with the health law’s Medicaid expansion and those generally led by Republican legislatures and GOP governors that are balking at the expansion.

The moves against expansion are “beginning to hurt hospitals in states that opted out,” a report last week from Fitch Ratings said. The U.S. Department of Health and Human services has said Medicaid enrollment in the 26 states and the District of Columbia that agreed to go along with and implemented the expansion by the end of May “rose by 17 percent, while states that have not expanded reported only a 3 percent increase,” HHS said in an enrollment update for the Medicaid program.

Because of this purely political decision on the part of red state governors and legislatures people are going to die – even those with conventional insurance. When a local hospital closes and the next nearest hospital is 30 or more miles away people will die needlessly.  This is nothing short of criminal.

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Another Picture From Balch Creek Canyon Mon, 21 Jul 2014 05:48:26 +0000 I have already posted a couple of pictures from Balch Creek Canyon in NW Portland here and here.  What I haven’t told you is that I grew up a block away from that canyon.  In the summer my friends and I would pack a lunch after breakfast and take off into the canyon on exciting and almost mythical adventures.  Yes, there were dangers but dangers was what made it an adventure.  There was an occasional black bear or even a cougar – we occasionally saw them but were really never threatened by them.  After I grew older and returned from my 4 years in Munich, Germany I returned to Balch Creek Canyon with my cameras in hand and took pictures.  Here is another, a black and white.  I always liked black and white photography.  Black and white is not the same in the digital age which makes me sad.


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Workers Limited To 6 Minutes A Day In The John Mon, 21 Jul 2014 04:00:31 +0000 < !]]>]]> Workers Limited To 6 Minutes A Day In The John

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This Week in Pantsuit Politics: Lucy Flores Speaks Out About Abortion and Renee Ellmers Calls Women Way Dumb Mon, 21 Jul 2014 02:01:33 +0000 One need only look at the Oval Office to see that when it comes to politics, we’ve got a bit of a gender discrepancy. In this weekly roundup, we focus on powerful political women in the news who are creating (or sometimes preventing) new cracks in the proverbial glass ceiling of policy-making. Politicos, move aside. We bring you . . . politicas.

Lucy Flores

The Democratic nominee for Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor is making waves for her frankness about an oft-taboo topic among politicians: abortion. During a debate over a bill to improve sex education in schools, Flores revealed that she had an abortion at age 16, and spoke eloquently about her struggle:

I always said that I was the only one who didn’t have kids in their teenage years. That’s because at 16, I got an abortion . . . I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it because I am here making a difference, at least in my mind, for many other young ladies and letting them know that there are options and they can do things to not be in the situation I was in, but to prevent.

Considering how controversial abortion is—even within her own party lines—Flores’ honesty is quite remarkable. Will it inspire other politicians—female and male—to drop the pretense and get real about their experiences with politically fraught issues? Something tells us not to hold our breaths.

Hillary Clinton

Meanwhile, in Hillary-world, Clinton continued making the news-shows rounds with an appearance on The Daily Show, during which she addressed the crisis in Gaza and said she was “amazed” by the “cottage industry” of media scrutiny surrounding her.

Also making headlines? She boldly called Putin out over the MH17 crash, pegging the tragedy to Russian-backed rebels while saying the Russian president has “gone too far.”

Meanwhile, she remains strong in the polls—though the progressive faction of the Democratic party remains loyal to Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren. And no, still no announcement.

Renee Ellmers

And now for a woman of dubious merit—you almost have to feel bad for the GOP sometimes. When a group of conservative female lawmakers got together recently to discuss ways to boost the female vote, this is what one of their leaders—North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers—had to say:

Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that . . . We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go.

Trillions of dollars? Pie charts? Graphs?! Pretty head hurt. Must be tiny woman brain.

Clearly, Ellmers does not represent all conservative women, many of whom I’m sure have legitimate ideas for reaching out to a demographic that has been slipping from the party’s grasp as a result of divisive policy stances and statements like Todd Akin’s infamous “legitimate rape” remarks.

One thing’s for sure: Ellmer—who also once called the Affordable Care Act part of a “war on women”—is probably not the person the GOP should trot out to recruit more ladies to their camp. Then again, perhaps women are so dumb they won’t notice either way?

This story first appeared at, an alternative news+culture+politics website.

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My First ‘Cell Phone’ Sun, 20 Jul 2014 23:44:44 +0000 shutterstock_43035298

I have been writing so much about ongoing tragedies, wars and conflicts that I need to give it a rest.

So, for a change, I decided to read an article about the evolution of cell phones.

One of the first sentences was “Cell phones have evolved immensely since 1983, both in design and function.”

No kidding! But how about in size — unless that is part of “design.”

Which brings me to one of my first cell phones — I think we referred to them as mobile phones then. “Then” being the early 90s.

I think it was a Motorola phone, and it may have even been a satellite phone. I don’t remember.

But my children certainly do and laugh every time they see photos of me with the huge mobile phone I carried around 20 to 25 years ago.

Dorian 95 cell phone

I am sure there are some among our readers who had even larger “cell phones.”

Let’s hear about them — but no correlations between the author and the Neanderthals in the lead image.

Lead image:

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Obama’s Sanctions on Russia are the ‘Only Real Sanctions’ (Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland) Sun, 20 Jul 2014 22:04:56 +0000 Obama-determined-sanctions_pic[1]

If President Obama is ‘weak,’ than everyone else is weaker. For Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza, Mariusz Zawadzki reminds Obama’s ever-expanding number of critics that the president has not only been the most consistent leader since the Ukraine crisis began, but that the sanctions he has imposed on Russia have been the toughest in the world, and what’s more, they work.

For the Gazeta Wyborcza, Mariusz Zawadzki begins by immediately going after Obama’s critics:

How numerous were the complaints when Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea and Barack Obama announced the first raft of sanctions against Russia! It was said that the U.S. president was again proving to be a wimp, since he decided merely to sanction several people from Putin’s inner circle.

Obama explained then: “Russian leaders must see that their actions in Ukraine have consequences, including a weakening of the Russian economy and increasing diplomatic isolation. If they don’t change their behavior, we will move forward with additional, more severe sanctions.”

People said these were empty threats, about which Putin simply laughed.

Yet it turned out that Obama was the only Western leader to apply any meaningful sanctions at all. The countries of Western Europe, Germany and France in particular, are more concerned about shielding their business interests in Russia from harm.

On Wednesday evening, as Obama was announcing a new set of sanctions, this time against Russian state companies Rosneft and Gazprom, he repeated exactly the same words.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR POLISH, OR READ MORE GLOBAL COVERAGE OF THE UKRAINE CRISIS AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

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Putin’s Hard Hat of Indifference Sun, 20 Jul 2014 19:23:26 +0000 putin pic
Balloon Payment For The Sochi Olympics
Invade Now For Best Financing Terms
The View From The Virgin Islands

By John McCarthy
TMV Columnist

Remember when the worst thing we had to fear from Vladimir Putin was another garish bare-chested, bareback photo opportunity?

There had come a time in the career of President Putin when he was even taking flack from Pussy Riot band members and seemed destined for irrelevance.

Not any more.

The erstwhile and current president always wanted us to look at him as a tough guy (what’s a former KGB guy supposed to do?) hence the pictures of him in black belt karate gear, on horseback as a half-suit Lord Godiva and supine in the snow with his big dogs and guns.

Putin wasn’t eligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term in 2008, so he did the next best thing, put in a puppet (Dmitry Medvedev) to run for president and win in his place and then have him appoint himself (the former president) as “Prime Minister” for the next four years.

Vlad the Deplaner put up with Pussy Riot’s taunts in the days leading up to his coming out party at the Sochi Olympic Games this year – because he wanted to appear statesmanlike in the international press – and because he knew he was planning something even bigger at the conclusion of the sporting contests.

Four days after the closing ceremonies of the $50 billion Russian-sponsored Olympic games, Putin marched his troops less than 300 miles away from Sochi into Crimea and seized 233,090 square miles of beachfront property and 45 trillion cubic meters of strategic gas reserves – it’s the kind real estate deal that you won’t see on Million Dollar Listing.

At the beginning of the year, Putin was on the verge of going the way of Yeltsin and Gorbachev, but the patina of a successful Olympic games put his name back in the news rundowns as a bear claw to the rainbow community and possible exterminator of wild dogs.

Now, the parallels to Adolf Hitler and the appeasement that the 1936 Olympic Games represented – seem ominous – you don’t have to look twice to see Putin’s Yeti-like cojones. Vlad had to pay for the Olympics somehow – how else are you going to raise $50 billion in five months?

The question is: what are we going to do about it? President Obama was out front on stepped up economic sanctions against Russia when he got the news live via telephone from his presidential peer that “someone” had taken down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Sanctions have never kept any nation from doing what it felt it was autonomous to do.

At the beginning of the year Putin faced political oblivion with a trending loss of support at home. What he needed to keep ordinary Russians from wondering if their lives had improved under him was a wag-the-dog-type diversion. He’s definitely got that and more now.

According to Gallup polls, Putin’s popularity rating had sunk to an all-time low of 54% last year. In April of 2014, after the Olympics and Crimea – his popularity had tied for his highest ever mark at 83 percent approval.

Meanwhile, the EU leaders who are doing everything right by international law standards have seen their popularity ratings fall beyond low into single digit numbers. And President Obama’s Gallup poll numbers have also tied for a notable mark – in his case a low point of 38 percent approval tying him with August 2011 polling numbers – and a recent Quinnipiac University poll that rated him the worst American president since 1945.

It’s OK to keep talking about increasing economic sanctions against Russia in the summer of our discontent, but when winter approaches, there are 18 nations that get five to 100 percent of their gas from Moscow. Thirty percent of Europe depends on Russia for oil.

Ultimately, the international community must galvanize one and all to oppose Putin in a way that not only hurts his bank account – but most importantly – his pride.

No amount of black market Viagra will be able to lift his swelling pride if it is unmistakable to his people.

That means the international community should call on FIFA to take away the World Cup Games from Russia in 2018.

Failing that, a boycott of the upcoming FIFA World Cup Games is in order for all nations that value the rule of law – just as the United States did in 1980 with the Moscow Olympic Games.

The Carter and Obama administrations have been tagged with the “malaise” label, it’s time we passed the uneasiness buck to where it belongs – back to Putin.

Right now he’s riding high on his horse and preaching to the choir. A national tide of rising pride is not likely to diminish in the next four years if the status quo is maintained. People who supply irresponsible people with surface-to-air missile systems and then train them to shoot down passenger planes must pay a meaningful price.

Photo ops never showed if Putin plays an instrument.

It’s time we teach him how to play taps on his home turf.

© 2014 John Francis McCarthy/Secret Goldfish Publishing House, LLC

John McCarthy is a reporter, fine artist and photojournalist based in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Please send questions and comments to:

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Happy 45th Moon Day Sun, 20 Jul 2014 19:06:13 +0000 Sometimes known as “A Secret History of Neil Armstrong

Quincy Jones presents platinum copies
of “Fly Me to the Moon”) to Neil Armstrong (right)
and Senator John Glenn, September 24, 2008.

From the 40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing ….

A Secret History of Neil Armstrong
July 20, 2009

Finally, somebody’s paying attention to the Moon landing, 40 years ago, today.

Over the past several years of blogs, I have tried to keep some remembrance of our most profound anniversary, a future holiday perhaps, on a par with the discovery and taming of fire: the species’ first extraterrestrial landing.  (See 2001: A Space Odyssey for more on this.)

Walter Cronkite space

It’s especially poignant that Walter Cronkite died this weekend [2009].  Because I watched Walter that night, that July night in 1969, when Neil and Buzz walked on the face of the Moon.  And Neil died in 2012. But it’s a lot bigger than that.

the old moon in the dawn

Old moon in the dawn

Sadly, the world is run by penny-ante poker players, so it’s still not a holiday. The most profound moment of human history that I have been privileged to witness. My father-in-law, Frank Tannehill, who died in the next room here on January 1, 2008 at the age of 100 was one of the engineers brought in to redesign the Apollo Command Module following the tragic fire of Apollo 1, that claimed the lives of Grissom, Chaffee and White*.

[* SEE: 'A Solemn Anniversary,' Jan. 27, 2007]

click for larger image with legible plaque

He had a certificate of thanks from the crew of Apollo 11, signed by them. It’s in a closet around here somewhere, but unlike NASA, we didn’t toss it out, like they erased the moonwalk videotapes.*

NPR: “Houston, We Erased The Apollo 11 Tapes

Yep. Run by penny ante poker players.

Who are they? Well, that will be explained in the course of what follows.

This was last year, and then, from 2005, and again in 2006,

A Secret History of Neil Armstrong

First, though, this short commercial

Happy Moon Day!
July 20, 20089

Thirty-nine Forty years ago today, humans from Earth landed on, and walked on the moon.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

We need a national holiday called Moon Day. Indeed, we need an INTERNATIONAL holiday called Moon Day — the day that the human species bridged the gulf between the Earth and her Moon.

In some ways, it is an accomplishment that may well outlast our species. It is an awe-inspiring accomplishment that we take for granted — the more fools we. To have seen such an event is an occurence that peoples of all ages would surely be jealous of. We should honor and cherish it.

It is every bit as important as the birth of any president, the signing of any document, and surely at least as worthy as a groundhog looking at his shadow, or somebody drinking green beer and shouting drunkenly, “Erin go bragh!”

So, as the moon rises tonight*, walk outside and take a look in the corner of the man in the moon‘s eye (or, if Orientally inclined, at the base of the hare in the moon‘s ear on your right).

[* This is impossible in 2009.  Moonrise is barely ahead of sunrise, and the new moon arrives on the West Coast at 7:35 PM PDT tomorrow, 21 July. Here is the current lunar "phase":

USN Obs. 7-19 phase ]

And celebrate Moon Day.

Happy Moon Day.


and now … our feature presentation

21 July 2006

Moon Day or, A Secret History of Neil Armstrong

It’s the 3740th Anniversary of “The Eagle Has Landed”
Reprint from Friday, July 22, 2005
I’m going to go a little way out here. But don’t worry: it’ll all come out in the wash.

Today will be “Moon Day” when we finally wise up and make it a holiday. Actual Moon Day was on Wednesday, but if it were a ‘legal’ holiday, this would be the Friday for the three-day weekend. Because, whether anyone else on Earth goes along with me, July 20th is a humankind holiday. It is, perhaps, a holiday that transcends species entirely. The shared recombinant DNA of the entire planet can celebrate the moment; perhaps, if the Gaia Hypothesis is correct, it is a sacred day for the entire, living, sentient planet.


And for the last two days, I’ve been trying to write this column. By Wednesday’s end, I had a middling-piece, but it just was all; wrong. It tried to weave various histories, but it was missing the personal piece.

A funny thing about my writing: ever since I started writing in college, I have had a little technique that I call ‘composting.’ I read the material, or, in the case of fiction, think about the characters, and immerse myself in the subject, and then I just drop it. I forget about it, but I’ve always felt that terra incognita towards the back of the brain, perhap the subconscious, perhaps the soul (but then, what is the subconscious, if it’s not the soul in scientific drag?) churning and doing SOMETHING, but what, I don’t really know.

And then, at some mysterious point (usually a deadline) the oven timer goes off; there is a silent, mental chime, and whatever it was I was going to write about is “done.”

For the past two days, the oven’s been baking, and no words have been present.

The moon landing was a very personal experience for me. You know the landing itself: either you witnessed it, or you heard about it, or you read about it.


But it was one of those 9/11 moments: everyone knew where they were when it happened. It is a secret music that each of us carries. We all know the song playing on the radio, but each of us has a “secret” version: we remember a moment that is associated with that song, with that moment.

My secret moment was a life-long fulfillment: I am old enough to remember Sputnik, barely. Mostly I remember the tremendous agitation among the giant adults who supervised me.


I had just learned to walk, recently, and I only really remember the emotions: the USA was behind the USSR. They were in space, and shortly thereafter, a month later, the USSR launched Sputnik II, with a dog named Laika.*

sputnik-2 laika

[* Wikipedia:

Sputnik 2 was launched into outer space on November 3, 1957. Sputnik 2 was not designed to be retrievable, and Laika had always been intended to die. Laika died a few hours after launch, presumably from stress and overheating, probably due to a malfunction in the thermal control system. The true cause and time of her death was not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she lived for several days.]

The USA was in a state of total shock (here, in Oregon, the Eugene Astronomical Society was founded that year as a Cold War Sputnik watching group — who knew what perfidy the Soviet Communists would rain down from space. It bore watching).

The USA rose to the symbolic challenge: we launched our reply, Explorer 1, four months later. (Explorer 1 discovered the earth’s magnetic “shield” against the deadlier elements of the solar wind, the Van Allen belts.)

George Melies - A Voyage to the Moon

Thence the launching of monkeys and dogs, and then the USSR sent the first man into space: Yuri Gagarin. I well remember the consternation that caused. I was living with my grandparents in their Victorian Gingerbread house, in Kearney, Nebraska. If you’ve been to Harry Truman’s house in Independence, Missouri, you’d recognize my grandparents’ house, a slightly less accessorized version of the same model, but eerily similar in design, ornamentation and layout.

A lot of people used to tell my grandfather that he looked a lot like Harry Truman — a “compliment” that he hated, having been married into being a life-long Republican Protestant working for the Union Pacific. (He had been born a Catholic Democrat.)

The KEARNEY DAILY HUB had a picture on the front page, and the long discussion about the “space race” would continue for years thereafter.


The first Mercury shots were sources of unalloyed wonder, but through the ‘Sixties, our space program was continually a day late and a dollar short.

In 1963 or 1964, a college buddy of my Dad’s stopped by at our little ranch-style house (painted fuchsia, to the consternation of the neighborhood), on his way back to his job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He had a thick three-hole punch binder filled with Ranger  Mission photos:  Slow motion deliberate crashes into the moon, trying to find the best landing site; trying to understand that enigma that has fascinated ever since eyes have existed to see it. Taking photos right up until the moment of impact.


Throughout my elementary school education, I was stricken with regular bouts of Gemini Flu. No one ever noticed that I went into my “sick” routine (“I don’t feel good. Do I have a fever?”) on the day of Gemini shots. I never had many sick days, and usually, dutifully attended school and only had the very occasional tardy — invariably because of some Emergency Beyond My Control: my bike got a flat, or a group of Laramie bullies (my age) I cornered me, and proceeded to stomp my schoolbooks, stomp my bike, and then stomp on me.

My illness was inevitably accepted — especially in later years when I made sure that I heated up the mercury at the bottom of the thermometer to around 100 F by using the bedside lamp.*

[* I only burned my tongue the first time. After that, I knew if I just held it to the bulb for a couple seconds, it would rise in a delayed reaction to about 100 degrees F.]

And I would follow the non-stop coverage of the Gemini mission from the fold-out hide-a-bed in the study, while remaining ‘too sick’ to go to school. Usually, Walter Cronkite would explain the goings-on. There were no remote controls in those days, and you had to manually switch the channel. I thought Huntley-Brinkley on NBC were boring, and ABC’s string of anchors were pretty dull, except for Jules Bergman, who really did the science explanations better than anybody else.

jules bergman ABC

When Grissom, Chafee and White died in the fire on the launchpad simulation (Apollo 1), I grieved with the rest of the nation.

When we began to pass and pull away from the USSR, I was patriotically thrilled.

And then the flights around the moon: The famous Christmas Eve reading from Genesis, which was very, very cool. The Madeline Murray O’Hare law suit, which I agreed then and agree now was correct. It was definitely an “establishment of religion” but it sure as heck was totally cool. Ironically, we were back at my grandparents’ home for Christmas that year, and I watched the Earth as seen from lunar orbit on Apollo 8 in the same place I’d seen the newspaper announcing Yuri Gagarin’s space flight what seemed a million years earlier.


‘In the beginning …‘ December 24, 1968

I had been watching the space race from earliest childhood. And the landing on the moon seemed within our grasp.

It WOULD happen. It wasn’t just crazy science fiction.

It’s hard to remember that there was a time (reported to me, because I wasn’t there) when all sober, reasonable people knew that the idea of going to the moon was sheerest lunacy.

And, until 1969, they were entirely correct.

But those who dreamed of going to the moon were either wildly imaginative, dangerously delusional or suffering from delerium tremens, or all three.


The science fiction writers who came of age in the 1940s have reported that it was not uncommon for them to be accosted by total strangers — seriously sober and reasonable people — who were happy to share their unshakable opinion that anybody who wrote stories about going to the moon was a couple sandwiches shy of a picnic basket.

It was a shameful thing to write science fiction (or sci-fi), because the idea of traveling in space was nutty. So only kids and nuts would read the stuff. Many parents issued blanket prohibitions against their kids reading SF, considering it a sort of literary pornography. It enfeebled the mind, it was immoral — possibly due to the profusion of exceptionally busty women on the covers, usually wearing the skimpiest spacesuits this side of Frederick’s of Hollywood.

buxom SF

And, happily, when they landed on the moon, the science fiction writers were honored guests. They had weathered the long trek from outcast status to hero status.

I read a lot of SF. It only seemed natural in a “Space Age.” And, I read a lot, anyway. I had a subscription to SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, and thought I was going to be a scientist “when I grow up.”

So I was keenly aware of just what a profound moment in the life of a species, in the life of a planet that the moon landing represented.


In Arthur C. Clarke’s novelization of 2001-A Space Odyssey, he makes the point (using different language) that the Black Monolith buried on the moon was the perfect pons asinorum. Pons asinorum literally means “bridge of donkeys” and it was a test meant to separate the teachable from the idiots.

It’s an idiot test. If a species can’t develop space travel to their nearest neighbor, then they’re not interesting to us. The test of the black monolith is a sort of galactic SAT on a pass/fail system.


To have actually travel the terrible void that separates the Earth and the Moon in a series of tin cans powered by special lighter fluid was a lot more than just a symbolic “war” between the world’s two super-powers. It was a happy accident that their vanity had channeled the post-World War Two rivals into a strange quest — John Kennedy’s stated goal of landing a man on the moon and bringing him safely back by the end of the decade (the 1960s).

For awhile, it looked like we were going to make it easily. And then came the Apollo 1 fire.


Here is my secret history of the Moon Landing:

Grandpa had died the previous winter. The whole extended family had taken over the Fort Kearney Hotel, then. The joke made the rounds about when our Great Aunt had asked my Grandfather if all that weight wouldn’t make the moon fall out of the sky. And he’d just looked at her, disgusted. (You had to have been there.)

We had moved to our new, dream house the summer before, during the Mexico City Olympics. My brother and I occupied the basement, with our own bathroom and a pool table. We had a two car garage. I was about to enter the ninth grade, the “senior class” of Laramie Junior High. We’d be the high men on the totem pole, as the then-current colloquialism went.

And “we” were landing on the moon. By “we” it was hard to pin down: was it us kids? we USA folks? Americans, North and South? Or was it everybody? By the end of the day, I would realize that it was everybody. But at the time, I was in an exultation of State: The United States of America had won the “race to the moon.”

the space race

The Space Race.

Now, it can be argued — and I will do it one day — that the specter of Nuclear Annihilation forced us back into a kind of mock warfare, as is often seen in tribal societies, since victory in a real war would probably destroy both tribes. On a certain level, a huge chunk of the support for the space program was to “Beat The Russians!” and would swiftly vanish after Apolllo 11 — as NASA was about to learn.

We’re Number One! But it was far more than that. I wouldn’t realize it until Apollo 13, but even then, I had a feeling that this was a Day for the Ages.


Madison Avenue cashes in

And, indeed it was. Generations to come will be jealous of us, that we were there to see it.

Here is my secret music of that first Moon Walk:

It was a perfect summer day, with clear blue skies and gentle sunlight. It was “hot” for Laramie, by which I mean that it might have been in the eighties. I had finished my Pony League season, the highest point of my baseball career. In the last game of the season, at my last at-bat, I had hit the center field fence halfway up — which would be the best I ever got. I never hit a home run, and I have often reflected on the little twist of fate involved: had that ball carried another couple of feet, I’d have won the game for my team, and we’d have been in the playoffs. Three feet higher and our season would not have ended, as it did, at the end of the inning.

It would have been Michael Jordan moment. Instead, I only managed a stand up single, and was thrown out (sprinting was never my forte) on the only stolen base attempt I was ever given the sign for by any Third Base Coach. Such is life.


I didn’t know it then, but that’s as close as I’d ever get. It was the best summer of my childhood, but I wouldn’t know that until much, much later.

It’s funny how we never realize that the best moments of our life are happening when they’re happening. Only years later do we understand that we’d been on a mountaintop but never realized it.

My brother had finished his career in little league, and the sponsor of the team, the “Circle S” motel across from the Wyoming “War Memorial” stadium, invited all the families to his cabin near Jelm, Wyoming, thirty miles west of Laramie.

jelm wyoming

Jelm, Wyoming

They had a bar-b-que, and the obligatory gallons of potato salad, the beans, the hamburgers and hot dogs, the relish and mustard, and lots and lots of catsup. They spelled it “catsup” but everyone pronounced it “ketchup” for reasons that were mysterious then, and remain so today.

There was a mini-bike that all the kids were supposed to take turns riding, but the line was too long, so I hiked out in the woods, through the Ponderosa Pine and the sagebrush, with the meadowlarks calling, along the dusty dirt road the minibike roared back and forth on. I was always looking for arrowheads, but I never found one. instead, I found a couple of those old green-glass insulators from a nearby power pole, which I took as a souvenir. The linemen had probably just dropped the old ones and replaced them.


And the clock ticked. There was a radio on in the cabin, and I listened to the reports from the moon. The men were playing penny-ante poker, joking and yakking above the tinny sound of the radio, and the mothers were in the kitchen, cleaning up the remains of the day, chattering about this and that. The only subject that was missing from the day, oddly enough, was baseball, or the team, or the little league season.

When it was time for us to get back for the moonwalk, I told my parents, neither of which were very much interested.

I was astonished.

This was, perhaps, the most profound piece of history I’d ever witnessed, far more profound than any voyage of Columbus or Magellan; mor important than wars or elections. And the adults were oblivious.


Perhaps it was because I was peculiar — I’ve always been a “collector” of history — or just because this was the final payoff of a national odyssey that had begun barely after I’d been born. It was that home run I’d missed weeks before, but in a much larger sense.

What was astonishing to me was that, in a room, full of businessmen, civil servants, professors from the University of Wyoming, housewives, filling station owners, etcetera; in this whole cross-section of Laramie society, what was important was penny-ante poker and sharing recipes for potato salad.

The strange sense of disillusionment that I felt then is still with me: they didn’t know, and they didn’t care. Just another day, another picnic in the woods.

So, I took that youthful strategem that we all learned so well: I began to pester them, a gadfly stinging their good time, just at the edge of being swatted, until they finally became so annoyed, or disgusted, and reluctantly left the party.

We drove east, back to Laramie, in the sunset of a perfect July day. We got back in plenty of time, and I watched the CBS Eye himself, Walter Cronkite, as he wiped a tear away and, later, after Neil Armstrong blew his line: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”


At the time, I simply accepted its absurdity. It was profound BECAUSE of where it had been spoken. It didn’t matter what Neil was actually saying. We got it. It was supposed to be “one small step for A man” but Neil was evidently so nervous that a couple of words dropped out.

We can forgive him for that. Here was a fundamentally NON-stage center person in the sharpest spotlight, with the biggest audience in the history of “mankind,” and he had just enough stage fright that he flubbed his line.

No matter.

Neil was that fellow we’d been looking for all those centuries: he was the Man in the Moon.

If Cyrano de Bergerac had beaten him to it, Cyrano was hiding that day. Green cheese suddenly dropped out of our lexicon. The mystery had vanished in the face of the majestic fact.

Cyrano's voyage to the Moon

Cyrano travels to the Moon

We’d made it. We’d gone from the savannas of Africa, domesticated animals, learned agriculture, built civilizations and empires that rose over and over again, and the cumulative effort, the collective effort of millions living and dead had placed two fragile human beings on the face of the moon that had inspired our wonder and curiosity ever since we first looked at the heavens and asked: What is that?

And, in the years since, I have celebrated that moment every year for the past thirty-six summers, and like those parents, oblivious and happy with their beer and their potato salad, we have still not embraced the epiphany of that moment.

So I spent the last several years celebrating Moon Day. It is my holiday until a large enough plurality accept it that we celebrate it as a “holy” day.

Moon dei

Moon Day Monday

Because such moments come very few times in the life of a species, and, if one is very, very lucky, once in our brief lifetimes.

And, in a sense, it is a holiday on a par with the solstices and equinoctial celebrations. The DNA of Earth touched its lost piece once more. Pretty impressive day for Gaia.


I think that the mythic explanation of the last forty years might be something like this: Gaia reached out to touch that lost piece of herself, torn from her billions of years ago. And on the way back, Gaia saw herself, and has been staring at herself ever since. Yes, the Hubble telescope has looked into deep space, but look at all the effort on satellites to look AT the Earth. Even the mighty Space Station is focused on the Earth.

Earth’s Compact Mirror.

But that’s just myth and balderdash, much of which died on that day that Neil and Buzz hiked the Sea of Tranquility. Thousands of years of myth and legend from every tribe in the family of Man.

And I don’t blame the adults. They didn’t realize that it was a peak moment, just as I never realized that I’d gotten as close to a home run as I’d ever get.

Each of us, who was alive then, has their own secret music: we have personalized the moment; we remember where we were and what we were doing. We remember, but our memories are seldom jogged. And it’s a shame.


Now, as we watch the weather satellite images to see whether we should evacuate, or when storms are rolling in; as we use our “space-age” materials and computers; when we’re hooked to bio-telemetry devices to do computer diagnostics on our bodies; when we see a satellite catch the sun, far above the sunset, when we watch old episodes of “Leave it to Beaver” on our satellite dish service’s basic channels, we don’t really remember that moment when we first touched the man in the moon.

But I still do.

Happy Moon Day.


posted at 2:28 PM


Back to the present time, 2009.

We are completing the International Space Station right now. The mission is in the sky. Michael D. Griffin writes, in the Washington Post Let’s Reach for The Stars Again, and that is surely a noble sentiment.

Tom Wolfe (author of The Right Stuff, and the various Merry Prankster books) notes how the moon program was already being dismantled, even as the Apollo 11 astronauts were being toured to promote the American triumph!

\But, at the Atlantic, Megan McCardle rather ineffectually whines that we ought to kind of go back — which may well be the reason that space got shunted to the back burner in the first place: an amorphous, passionless advocacy might well be worse than no advocacy at all.

2001 Space Station

The world is finally remembering Moon Day. This year, at least. But it all will depend on who runs the world. I know how it works right now, today in 2009.

Sadly, the penny-ante poker players run the world, and not those who thought that landing on the moon was a pretty cool thing, indeed.

A magical thing.


2012: Rest In Peace, Neil Armstrong. An era has passed before us.

one small step


Last week,  his vorpal sword  saw its 2000th post.


A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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Three Reasons Democrats Might Retain Control Of The Senate Sun, 20 Jul 2014 15:57:38 +0000 Republicans have an excellent chance to gain control of the Senate this year due to a combination of Republican voters traditionally turning out in higher percentages in midterm elections and the need for Democrats to defend several seats in red states. Current projections from most sources give the Republicans a slight edge but there are a few reasons to believe that the Democrats might hold on to one or two more seats than projected, and retain control of the Senate:

1) The power of incumbency:

Democrats must hold onto seats in red states, but they are states that Democrats have won once before, even if in a presidential election year which was more favorable to Democrats. While they don’t have this advantage in 2014, having candidates running as incumbents might increase the chance of winning. Since 2000 Democratic Senate candidates have usually won reelection in the south, despite their states going heavily to the Republicans in presidential elections. Polls are showing that incumbent southern Democrats remain competitive.

2) Women voters:

Republican hostility towards reproductive rights and attempts to restrict access to contraception as well as abortion has many women voters angry, hopefully enough to turn out to vote. The Hobby Lobby decision might also motivate women.

With their Senate majority at stake in November, Democrats and allied groups are now stepping up an aggressive push to woo single women — young and old, highly educated and working class, never married, and divorced or widowed. This week they seized on the ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, five men, that family-owned corporations do not have to provide birth control in their insurance coverage, to buttress their arguments that Democrats better represent women’s interests.

But the challenge for Democrats is that many single women do not vote, especially in nonpresidential election years like this one. While voting declines across all groups in midterm contests for Congress and lower offices, the drop-off is steepest for minorities and unmarried women. The result is a turnout that is older, whiter and more conservative than in presidential years…

Single women, Democrats say, will determine whether they keep Senate seats in states including Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and North Carolina — and with them, their Senate majority — and seize governorships in Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, among other states.

The party is using advanced data-gathering techniques to identify unmarried women, especially those who have voted in presidential elections but skipped midterms. By mail, online, phone and personal contact, Democrats and their allies are spreading the word about Republicans’ opposition in Washington — and state capitals like Raleigh — to pay equity, minimum wage and college-affordability legislation; abortion and contraception rights; Planned Parenthood; and education spending.

3) Black Southern Voters:

Black southern voters have long voted Democratic, but now might turn out in high enough numbers to influence the results. Republican efforts to prevent them from voting might backfire, motivating more blacks to turn out:

Southern black voters don’t usually play a decisive role in national elections. They were systematically disenfranchised for 100 years after the end of the Civil War. Since the days of Jim Crow, a fairly unified white Southern vote has often determined the outcome of elections.

This November could be different. Nearly five decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, black voters in the South are poised to play a pivotal role in this year’s midterm elections. If Democrats win the South and hold the Senate, they will do so because of Southern black voters.

The timing — 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and 49 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act — is not entirely coincidental. The trends increasing the clout of black voters reflect a complete cycle of generational replacement in the post-Jim Crow era. White voters who came of age as loyal Democrats have largely died off, while the vast majority of black voters have been able to vote for their entire adult lives — and many have developed the habit of doing so.

This year’s closest contests include North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia. Black voters will most likely represent more than half of all Democratic voters in Louisiana and Georgia, and nearly half in North Carolina. Arkansas, another state with a large black population, is also among the competitive states…

Democrats lamented low black turnout for decades, but Southern black turnout today rivals or occasionally exceeds that of white voters. That’s in part because black voters, for the first time, have largely been eligible to vote since they turned 18. They have therefore had as many opportunities as their white counterparts to be targeted by campaigns, mobilized by interest groups or motivated by political causes.

Mr. Obama is part of the reason for higher black turnout, which surpassed white turnout nationally in the 2012 presidential election, according to the census. But black turnout had been increasing steadily, even before Mr. Obama sought the presidency. In 1998, unexpectedly high black turnout allowed Democrats to win a handful of contests in the Deep South; in 2002, Ms. Landrieu won a Senate runoff with a surge in black turnout.

The Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down a central provision of the Voting Rights Act unleashed a wave of new laws with a disparate impact on black voters, including cuts in early voting and photo-identification requirements.

In related news, Michigan Democratic candidates have improved in the latest poll with Republican chances diminishing to pick up the open Senate seat left by the retirement of Carl Levin. Democratic candidate Gary Peters now leads Tea Party Republican Terry Lynn Land by 9 points, 45 percent to 36 percent. Mark Schauer, Democratic challenger to Governor Rick Snyder, has trimmed a previous nine point deficit to three points, within the poll’s margin of error.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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James Garner: Comedic Macho Man Sun, 20 Jul 2014 15:53:24 +0000 James-Garner-570x430James Garner has died at 86.  He was a rare hybrid – a comedic macho/tough guy.

Actor James Garner, best known for his prime-time television roles as the wisecracking frontier gambler on “Maverick” and as an ex-con turned private eye on “The Rockford Files,” has died at age 86, the celebrity news website TMZ reported on Sunday.

Garner, who built a six-decade career playing ruggedly charming, good-natured anti-heroes and received the highest honor of the Screen Actors Guild in 2004, was found dead on Saturday evening by ambulance personnel sent to his Los Angeles home, TMZ said, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.

There was no immediate word on the cause or circumstances of his death, TMZ reported.

Garner played tough guys but made fun of tough guys at the same time.  My two favorite movies he made reflected the hybrid nature of his acting – Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gun Fighter. I still watch those movies today.  I remember when a character played by  the late great Walter Brennan pointed a gun at him and he put his finger in the barrel.  James Garner was one of a kind although Tom Selleck  comes close as another hybrid.  I understand that Garner had had a stroke a few years ago from which he never recovered so this is really no surprise but it’s a sad day anyway.

Update: Great Bio at TPM.

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House GOP’s Hilarious Strategy is Born to Lose Sun, 20 Jul 2014 15:04:48 +0000 Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

House GOP’s Hilarious Strategy is Born to Lose
By Dick Polman

Recently, I wrote that summer is the time for stupid political stunts, and John Boehner should honor that tradition by making good on his vow to sue President Obama for alleged executive abuses. “Do it, Mr. Speaker,” I urged. “Give us a laugh during silly season.”

Yes! He’s doing it!

A House GOP committee has drafted Boehner’s lawsuit resolution, which will be aired in a hearing this week. Republicans have identified what they believe to be a grievous abuse of executive power, something that’s worth suing over. You’ll never guess what it is. Ready?

They’re upset that Obama has postponed, by one year, the Obamacare rule that requires many employers to offer health coverage. The resolution rebukes Obama for “a failure to implement… the Affordable Care Act.” As Boehner ally Bob Goodlatte declared on Sunday TV, “The president is not enforcing the law.”

Translation: “We’re gonna sue the king for refusing to speedily enforce the same law that we’ve tried to repeal 50 times.”

This is the best they can do? To tie their shoelaces together and fall on their faces?

Apparently so. And the laughable irony of rebuking Obama for failing to enforce a law they hate, a law that they don’t want enforced in the first place… that’s the stuff of satire.

The geniuses in the GOP don’t seem to understand the House has virtually no legal standing to sue. According to well-established judicial precedent, a prospective plaintiff has standing to sue only if he can demonstrate that he has been adversely affected (“injured”) by the defendant. But the House and its members are not adversely affected by the decision to delay the employer mandate for an extra year. Put simply, it doesn’t affect House members at all. (Heck, it only affects firms that employ 50 or more full-time workers – a tiny percentage of small businesses.)

Plus, the courts have traditionally refused to settle political disputes between the legislative and executive branches. Most famously, the Rehnquist high court threw out a ’79 Republican lawsuit against Jimmy Carter.

As renowned Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe told The Washington Post last week “it’s hard to imagine what conceivable remedy a federal court could possibly issue (in the Boehner lawsuit): an order directing the president to reverse course and implement the employer mandate sooner?”

Funny, I don’t recall that House Republican heads detonated back in the spring of 2006, when President Bush summarily waived penalties and pushed back deadlines for low-income seniors affected by his new Medicare prescription drug law.

Bottom line is, administrative delays happen all the time. The employer mandate has been delayed until 2016 – which means that even if Boehner’s lawsuit survives the usual slow crawl through the courts (a very remote scenario), he’d be declaring victory around the time the mandate will kick in anyway, and when Obama is set to leave office anyway.

So this lawsuit is just the latest manifestation of empty Washington theatrics, a way for Boehner to stave off the pro-impeachment knuckleheads and claim that he’s doing something. The hilarity of suing Obama for failing to enforce a law that Boehner and his minions have repeatedly tried to repeal… just priceless.

As Yale law professor Akhil Reed Amar tells “I see this (lawsuit) being covered as if it’s real, as if it’s somehow not a joke….At a certain point, I get to call Birther-ism. I get to call bull—-.”

Copyright 2014 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia ( and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Philadelphia. Email him at

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Why Would Putin Shoot Down a Plane? Sun, 20 Jul 2014 14:55:06 +0000 < !]]>]]>

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