December 28th, 2011


As Americans Get Poorer, Members of Congress Get Richer

While millions of Americans saw their incomes decrease, their job opportunities dissipate and their home values drop as the economy dipped, the 535 men and women they elected to represent them in the U.S. Congress were not only shielded from the economic downturn but gained during it.

The average American’s net worth has dropped 8 percent during the past six years, while members of Congress got, on average, 15 percent richer, according to a New York Times analysis of financial disclosure. The median net worth of members of Congress is about $913,000, compared with about $100,000 for the country at large, the Times’ analysis found.

This wealth disparity between lawmakers and the people they represent seems to be continually growing. Nearly half of Congress — 249 members — are millionaires, while only 5 percent of American households can make the same claim.

Even among the super rich, members of Congress fare better than other wealthy Americans. While the net worth of the richest 10 percent of Americans has remained stagnant since 2004, lawmakers’ net worth has seen double-digit growth, the Times reports.

Members of the House have fared especially well. From 1984 to 2009, the average net worth of the 435 House reps more than doubled, from $280,000 to $725,000, not including home equity, according to a Washington Post analysis of financial disclosures.

And while lawmakers in the “people’s house” grew significantly richer, the people they represent became slightly poorer, with the average wealth of an American household dropping from $20,600 to $20,500 over the same time period, the Post reports.

This growing disparity may be due, in part, to the rising cost of campaigning, which may deter less-affluent citizens from seeking public office.

To win a House seat, candidates spent an average of $1.4 million in 2010, four times as much as was spent in 1976, according to the Federal Election Commission. Winning a Senate seat is nearly 10 times as expensive, with the average successful Senate campaign shelling out nearly $10 million in 2010.
*betty draper reading

Personhood asks candidates: How far would YOU go to oppress women?

GOP Candidates Reveal How They Would Enact Pro-Life 'Personhood' Laws

by Christina Wilkie
First Posted: 12/28/11 01:52 AM ET Updated: 12/28/11 08:41 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Four of the seven Republican presidential candidates reaffirmed their pro-life positions and pledged to protect fetal "personhood" both legislatively and constitutionally Tuesday night.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry participated in the "pro-life teletown hall" organized by Personhood USA and other pro-life groups. The call came less than a week before the Jan. 3 Iowa Republican caucus, where anti-abortion and Christian voters are expected to play a significant role. More than 40,000 largely anti-abortion listeners tuned in on the radio or called in to the forum, according to the organizers.

The candidates took questions from some of the listeners as well as from Personhood USA's CEO Keith Mason, while syndicated conservative radio host Steve Deace served as moderator of the forum, which was broadcast on his program and 88 radio stations nationwide.

Personhood USA is best known as the group whose pledge requires that signors "defend all innocent human life," and reaffirm that "Abortion and the intentional killing of an innocent human being are always wrong and should be prohibited." The four candidates who participated in the call have all signed the pledge, as has Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who issued a controversial clarification to his signing. Two candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, have not signed the pledge.

Personhood USA spokeswoman Jennifer Mason told The Huffington Post Tuesday that all seven candidates had been invited to participate.

"We believe this forum was for candidates who signed the pledge without reservations, and if a candidate claims to be a Republican, then they should have no problem signing this pledge," Mason said.    Collapse )


And By Raging I Mean Flailing, And By Light I Mean Relevance

A friend of mine points me to this incredible New York Times article in which publishers lay out the fact that they are fundamentally opposed to public libraries, detailing their struggles as they take up arms against these nefarious institutions promoting such injustices as culture, literacy and the greater public good.

Ms. Thomas of Hachette says: “We’ve talked with librarians about the various levers we could pull,” such as limiting the number of loans permitted or excluding recently published titles. She adds that “there’s no agreement, however, among librarians about what they would accept.”
It’s really a great article, full of these little turns of phrase that seem to come out of publisher’s mouths without them even realize how evil they sound. “There’s no agreement among librarians to bend themselves, the public and the greater good over this barrel we’ve offered to sell them at a very reasonable rate”, they don’t quite say.

HarperCollins was brave to tamper with the sacrosanct idea that a library can do whatever it wishes with a book it obtains.
This sacrosanct idea is better known as the First-Sale Doctrine; those crafty librarians, always falling back things like “established law” and “century-old Supreme Court decisions” to make their case. Crazytimes, right?

But that’s not the best bit:

David Young, Hachette’s chief executive, says: “Publishers can’t meet to discuss standards because of antitrust concerns. This has had a chilling effect on reaching consensus.”
Mr. Young lays it flat out: that laws prohibiting anticompetitive collusion and price-fixing are having a “chilling effect” on major publishers’ attempts to collude, fix prices and thwart competition.

I can’t imagine a functioning adult saying this with a straight face, but there it is. “Laws against doing evil things are having a chilling effect on the efforts of aspirant evildoers.” I’m sure it’s a problem for somebody, but as far as I’m concerned, mission accomplished, gold stars all ’round, well done laws and keep up the good work.

As has been noted many times, by many people, we’ve juiced up the entirely artificial copyright laws of the world to the point that if libraries weren’t already a centuries-old cultural institution, there’s no chance they’d ever be able to come into existence today. And here in this miraculous age of free-flowing information, that’s sad as hell.

John Lawrence, Plaintiff in Gay Rights Case, Dies at 68

John G. Lawrence, whose bedroom encounter with the police in Texas led to one of the gay rights movement’s signal triumphs, the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, died at his home in Houston on Nov. 20, his partner said on Friday. He was 68.

The cause was complications of a heart ailment, said his partner, Jose Garcia.

Aside from a posting on a funeral home’s Web site that did not mention the Supreme Court decision, Mr. Lawrence’s death apparently received no immediate publicity. It came to light when a lawyer in the case, Mitchell Katine, sought to reach Mr. Lawrence with an invitation to an event commemorating the ruling.

The Lawrence decision struck down a Texas law that made gay sex a crime and swept away sodomy laws in a dozen other states. The decision reversed a 17-year-old precedent, Bowers v. Hardwick, which had ruled that there was nothing in the Constitution to stop states from making it a crime for gay men to have consensual sex at home.

But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for five justices in the 6-to-3 Lawrence decision, said, “The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives.”

“The state,” he wrote, “cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”

Paul M. Smith, who argued in the Supreme Court on behalf of Mr. Lawrence, said the decision “laid the foundation for all the good things that have happened since,” including decisions from state courts endorsing same-sex marriage and the repeal of the military’s policy forbidding gay men and lesbians from serving openly.

The logic of the Lawrence decision, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in dissent, supported a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

The case began on Sept. 17, 1998, when police investigating a report of a “weapons disturbance” entered Mr. Lawrence’s apartment. They said they saw Mr. Lawrence and Tyron Garner having sex and arrested them for violating a Texas law prohibiting “deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.”

The two men were held overnight and each fined $200. Texas courts rejected their constitutional challenges to the state law, relying on the Bowers decision.

Source has more. Article is a few days old (Dec 23), but this is the first I've heard about it, and haven't seen it posted here yet.
Tron: Legacy, Castor, Zuse

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez Has Thyroid Cancer

By Hugh Bronstein
BUENOS AIRES | Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:48am EST
(Reuters) - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has thyroid cancer and will undergo surgery next month, her government said on Tuesday, adding that the cancerous cells had not spread.

Fernandez, 58, was easily elected to a second four-year term in October, vowing to deepen her unorthodox policies despite complaints from business leaders who say her heavy-handed management of the economy is stifling investment.

Fernandez was diagnosed with a papillary carcinoma that has not metastasized, said her spokesman, Alfredo Scoccimarro. The operation is scheduled to take place on January 4 and she is expected to take a leave of absence until January 24.

"The thyroid gland will have to be removed," said Buenos Aires-based cancer specialist Julio Moreno. "The prognosis is very good. The chances of being cured are 90 to 98 percent."

The cancer was detected last week during a routine check. Papillary carcinoma is the most common type of thyroid cancer and normally affects people under the age of 40, especially women.

A skilled orator fond of glamorous clothes, high heels and make-up, Fernandez still wears black as she mourns her husband and closest advisor, former President Nestor Kirchner, who died late last year.

When Kirchner died, many thought it spelled the end of the couple's idiosyncratic blend of state intervention, nationalist rhetoric and the championing of human rights in grains exporting powerhouse Argentina, the world's No. 3 soybean supplier.

But Fernandez pulled off a remarkable comeback on the back of a brisk economic expansion and an outpouring of public sympathy. She was re-elected with 54 percent of the vote, promising to stay true to her policies despite objections from Wall Street and international investors.

Latin America's No. 3 economy is growing at nearly 9 percent a year. But a worsening global economic outlook combined with entrenched high inflation at home are seen reining in Argentina's growth to about 4 percent next year.

Fernandez is one of several Latin American leaders to have cancer. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez underwent chemotherapy earlier this year while Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo's lymphatic cancer is in remission.

And former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is being successfully treated for a cancerous tumor on his Larynx, according to his doctors.

Could have done without them mentioning her clothing and make-up.


Firefly Fans and Neil Gaiman Make a Stand For Free Speech On Campus

Not too long ago a Wisconsin professor put a poster featuring a quote from Firefly on his office door. The quote is from a moment in the pilot episode when Mal and Simon have one of their first showdowns. Simon expresses concern about Mal killing him in his sleep, and Mal calmly explains, “You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: if I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.”

That last word set off fireworks. The professor received an email from the sheriff asking him to remove the poster. The university stood behind the sheriff stating it wasn’t an act of censorship but an act of sensitivity. They saw the word “armed” as a veiled threat, not freedom of expression. They threatened him with criminal charges. The professor posted the quote because he’s a fan and because the moment really illustrates that Mal is a reasonably peaceful man. He’s not going to get angry unless you give him reason.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) took Professor Miller’s case to defend free speech and also because they love Firefly. Word about the case spread across social media like wildfire, and Neil Gaiman became involved. He used this case as an example of the importance of free speech and pointed out just how ridiculous it was to accuse the professor of any kind of malicious intent.

The sheriff and college didn’t know any better, but of all fandoms to attack, Firefly may be the worst possible one. The fans are loyal beyond question and will swoop in to save one of their own. This instance of extreme overreaction is about more than a TV show though; it’s about a basic American right. And I think we’re in a sad place if someone could take that quote as anything but.

Check out the whole story in the following video.

Though first found it here

They have done the impossible and that makes them Big Damn Heroes in my book
A // Don't Mess With This Bitch

Unable To Find 12 Women Of The Year, BBC Crowns Panda Instead

TW: Sexual assault

In a move that is sure to go down in adorable bear history, the BBC has named a female panda named Sweetie one of its female Faces of the Year. 2011 was either lacking severely in girlchievements or a banner year for lady pandas. So what was Sweetie's glorious achievement that elevated her, a bear, over that of all female humans who did stuff?

She got off of an airplane in Scotland, to great fanfare. That's it. Hooray for Sweetie the panda, woman face of the year.

Not only is a bear deemed to appropriately fit the "woman" category, the rest of the list will leave people who were hoping for a progressive set of female movers and shakers disappointed. Sure, it includes Michele Bachmann, who, for all of her frothing, hateful votemongering, is at least a politician, and Dilma Rousseff, the first female President of Brazil. But the list also includes Charlene Wittstock, a woman famous for almost not marrying a prince, a very wealthy Spanish duchess who married a younger man, and Pippa Middleton, a woman famous for being related to a woman who married a prince. We've also got two sexual assault victims on the list— Eman al-Obeidi, the Libyan woman who was dragged away from reporters while trying to tell them she'd been raped by Gaddafi forces, and Nafissatou Diallo, the woman who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in his $12 zillion per night hotel room. And then there's the US Marine who successfully asked Justin Timberlake to go to a dance with her.

All in all, more than half of the BBC's "Faces of the Year: Women" are rape victims, princesses and thereabouts, or bears.

We really can have it all, ladies. Girl power.


So good to know that I have to do to be a woman of note. Anyone have any other, better suggestions for badass women of 2011? For starters this year's Nobel Prize laureates, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman certainly qualify. Any woman involved in the Arab Spring, tbqh. (Speaking of which, the recent outcry by Egyptian women against police abuse of a hijabi woman comes to mind right away.) There's also Leanne Iskander, a badass 16 year-old queer girl who fought Missisauga's Catholic school board when they stopped her from creating a GSA at her school. After hosting her school's first anti-homophobia day Pride Toronto named her 'Honoured Dyke.'

ETA: I don't like the flippant way the article treats Eman al-Obeidi and Nafissatou Diallo. Yes, women shouldn't have to be raped to be part of a list like this but reporting sexual assault is incredibly brave and I do think these two women should be on the list.
Golden Girls- Blanche Marines

Proposed bill would ban cheery SC greeting mandate

Two South Carolina legislators say state employees shouldn't have to answer the phone with Gov. Nikki Haley's mandated cheery greeting unless it's truly a great day in South Carolina.

Democratic state Reps. John Richard King and Wendell Gilliard have filed legislation saying no state agency can force its employees to answer the phone with, "It's a great day in South Carolina," as long as state unemployment is 5 percent or higher. Their bill also would prohibit requiring the greeting as long as all South Carolinians don't have health insurance.

At a September meeting, Haley ordered her Cabinet agencies to embrace the greeting, saying it could help change the mood of state government. A Haley spokesman says the Republican governor stands by the greeting.


OP: "It's a great day in South Carolina" is the BIGGEST joke here. It's only half enforced and my friends in state gov't hate it. Don't see this passing though...

Tucson's ethnic-studies program violates Arizona law, judge rules

By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times
December 27, 2011, 9:48 p.m.

Tucson's Mexican American studies program violates state law, an Arizona administrative law judge ruled Tuesday, paving the way for the program's possible demise.

Judge Lewis D. Kowal affirmed a prior decision by the state's schools chief that the Tucson Unified School District's program violates a new law prohibiting divisive ethnic-studies classes.

John Huppenthal, the state superintendent of public instruction, had deemed the program in violation in June. Among other things, the law bans classes primarily designed for a particular ethnic group or that "promote resentment toward a race or class of people."

The school district appealed Huppenthal's ruling, and testimony before the administrative law judge concluded in October.

Kowal's decision is merely a recommendation to Huppenthal, who can take action against the program if it does not come into compliance with the law. Any such action is likely to be challenged in court.

In a statement, Huppenthal said he was pleased with the judge's decision and plans to issue his final decision soon.

"I made a decision based on the totality of the information and facts gathered during my investigation — a decision that I felt was best for all students in the Tucson Unified School District," he said. "The judge's decision confirms that it was the right decision."

Program proponents say the classes push Latino students to excel and teach a long-neglected slice of America's cultural heritage: Chicano perspectives on literature, history and social justice.
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Paraplegic Blames Bar for Crippling Accident

BEAUFORT, S.C. (CN) - A woman, now paraplegic, sued a Bluffton bar, claiming its bartender didn't check her ID before serving her drinks on the night of the car accident that left her paralyzed.

Chelsea Hess also sued the state Department of Transportation, the town of Bluffton and Beaufort County, alleging they negligently maintained the road shoulder she drove over on Aug. 8, 2009.

Hess was 20 years old that night, and headed with friends to Jock's Sport Grill for drinks and a game of billiards.

She claims that when she ordered a drink at the bar, no one asked to see her identification or sought to determine whether she old enough to buy alcohol: 21 in South Carolina.

"The bartender failed to attempt to ascertain whether or not plaintiff was already impaired by alcohol consumption when she purchased the alcoholic beverage and made sale to plaintiff even though she was unable to legally purchase the alcoholic beverage, and notwithstanding the possibility that she was already impaired by alcohol consumption," according to the complaint.
Hess says she left the bar after 1 a.m. and was driving home when "[the] wheels of the motor vehicle plaintiff was operating suddenly dropped off into a large unmaintained area on the shoulder of Alljoj Road, which caused plaintiff to lose control of her vehicle and causing her to roll the vehicle off the side of the road."

The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette newspapers at the time quoted a police spokesperson as saying that Hess drove her 2000 Mitsubishi off the road and then overcorrected.

She was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown about 20 feet from the vehicle, the newspapers reported, citing statements from emergency officials.

Hess suffered numerous serious, debilitating injuries and was left paraplegic.

She seeks actual and punitive damages, for negligence and gross negligence.

In its response to the lawsuit, Schubert Place LLC, operator of Jock's Sport Grill, denied Hess's assertions, arguing that "any injuries sustained by the plaintiff were due to and caused by the intervening and superseding acts of negligence, recklessness, willfulness and gross negligence on the part of third persons over whom this defendant had no control."

The South Carolina Department of Transportation also blamed Hess, saying the accident occurred due to a number of events for which she bore responsibility, including driving while intoxicated, failing to keep her car under proper control, failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to follow the posted speed limit and failing to "act in a reasonable and prudent manner as was required under the circumstance and conditions then and there existing."

Hess is represented by Karl Twenge, with Twenge & Twombley, of Beaufort.

First time poster. Another sue happy person. I think this is a big line in the sand though, where personal responsibility is a big factor here, while other things are out of the persons hand (i.e. the documentary Hot Coffee)