Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Aren't you supposed to reading?

Nothing on TV for me tonight so, yes, I'll be reading. So much to read, so little time.

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Current Events - April 30, 2014

Obama economy flatlines

By Neil Munro
President Barack Obama’s economy wheezed to halt in the first quarter of 2014, with a growth rate of just 0.1 percent.
That barely-alive growth was one-tenth of the forecasted growth of around 1.2 percent, and was far below the growth of 2.6 percent in the last quarter of 2013.
The comatose economy is expected to worsen Democratic prospects in the fall elections, and to push the president’s poll rating further downwards.
This afternoon, Obama ha schedule a media event to tout his call for a rise in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. GOP leaders will likely point to studies showing that an increase will eliminate jobs.
Overall economic growth in 2013 was 1.9 percent, after a spike of 2.8 percent in 2012.
Stock-market experts remained optimistic for the second quarter of 2014, and blamed the first-quarter stall on the weather.
The slowdown was caused by sharp drops in investment in equipment and housing, and in the exports of goods.
First-quarter personal consumption rose by 3.0 percent, and services grew by 4.4 percent.

Lois Lerner, IRS Sued for Alleged Illegal Disclosures

By Mark J Fitzgibbons
Citing “unconstitutional scrutiny” and “illegal release” of its application for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, Texas-based nonprofit organization Freedom Path has sued Lois Lerner, unknown IRS officials, and the IRS.
....Freedom Path also seeks statutory damages including attorney fees under section 7431 of the tax code, which provides remedies for the intentional disclosure of confidential tax information.  Freedom Path’s complaint alleges that its application for tax-exempt status was released in 2012 to ProPublica, the George Soros-funded leftwing nonprofit organization that acts as a news feeder to for-profit media outlets.
ProPublica published an article in January 2013 entitled “Controversial Dark Money Group Among Five That Told IRS They Would Stay Out of Politics, Then Didn’t,” which was reposted by The Washington Post and The Salt Lake Tribune.
....Section 7413 also includes criminal penalties for the willful disclosure of, or access to, confidential tax information.  Eric Holder’s Justice Department, however, has refused to prosecute any IRS officials despite a report by J. Russell George, the Internal Revenue Service’s inspector general, citing grounds for prosecution.
Not missing a beat in its narrative, The Salt Lake Tribune reported the Freedom Path lawsuit beginning this way:  “A secretive conservative group that helped Sen. Orrin Hatch win re-election in 2012 is suing the Internal Revenue Service, claiming government bureaucrats targeted it based on its political views.”
Meanwhile, the Obama administration keeps on breaking the law, and the Holder Justice Department keeps on failing to prosecute lawbreaking by government.  We need more and stronger private remedies statutes.

Sources: Sebelius Now Refusing To Testify Before Senate Panel

By Caroline May
Outgoing Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius is now refusing to testify before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, a Senate aide told The Daily Caller Tuesday.
Sebelius had originally been set to testify before the subcommittee about the department’s 2015 $70 billion budget request on April 2.
According to another aide, however, several weeks after confirming the hearing date, she requested a date switch with the National Institutes of Health budget hearing on May 7. The committee accommodated her request.
Now, after announcing her resignation on April 11, she is refusing to testify according to the two aides, even though she is still the sitting secretary — remaining at the post until her successor, OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell is confirmed.
“It appears that Sec. Sebelius has unilaterally decided that she is no longer accountable to Congress,” the first aide said.
The other aide explained that HHS has not given the committee any reason for her refusal and that Sebelius has not suggested anyone to testify in her place.

Ben Rhodes at center of plan to whitewash White House on Benghazi

By Ed Lasky
.....Ben Rhodes, Obama’s speechwriter turned into Deputy National Security Adviser, likely played a key role in trying to convey a lie. He had a history of creating false narratives, as covered in “Ben Rhodes: Obama’s Fixer Behind the Benghazi Cover-up”.
The Judicial Watch report confirms that well-founded suspicion:
The Rhodes email was sent on sent on Friday, September 14, 2012, at 8:09 p.m. with the subject line:  “RE: PREP CALL with Susan, Saturday at 4:00 pm ET.”  The documents show that the “prep” was for Amb. Rice’s Sunday news show appearances to discuss the Benghazi attack.
The document lists as a “Goal”: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in and Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”
.....Among the top administration PR personnel who received the Rhodes memo were White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest, then-White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, then-White House Deputy Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, then-National Security Council Director of Communications Erin Pelton, Special Assistant to the Press Secretary Howli Ledbetter, and then-White House Senior Advisor and political strategist Davie Plouffe.
The Rhodes communications strategy email also instructs recipients to portray Obama as “steady and statesmanlike” throughout the crisis. Another of the “Goals” of the PR offensive, Rhodes says, is “[T]o reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.” He later includes as a PR “Top-line” talking point:
"I think that people have come to trust that President Obama provides leadership that is steady and statesmanlike. There are always going to be challenges that emerge around the world, and time and again, he has shown that we can meet them."
For years I have wondered why Rhodes had achieved such influence with Obama-given a clear lack of qualification to serve any role in the upper reaches of government. Now we know it is not sycophancy alone that worked for him. Nor is it just the fact that his brother heads CBS News (which recently parted company with Sharyl Attkisson following her persistent investigative reporting on Benghazi).  It goes beyond those factors: he will do his boss’s bidding, hiding information, manipulating the facts, distract people: the truth and the American people be damned.
Undoubtedly he shared Hillary Clinton’s view: what difference, at this point, does it make?

Benghazi Emails Show Blaming Video Was Effort to Protect, Re-Elect Obama

By Bryan Preston
...The “goal,” therefore, was to lie convincingly enough to get the president re-elected. It takes a special coldness to tell that lie with the bodies of the dead in coffins behind you. Hillary Clinton managed that without a trace of a conscience to slow her down.
...It’s well to remember at this point who Ben Rhodes is. According to the White House, he is assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and speechwriting. That sounds nice, but he has no career in the military or intelligence. Rhodes is a career partisan Democrat and Obama loyalist who was put on the National Security Council because he is a loyalist to the man. Not the nation. Or the facts on the ground in Libya or anywhere else. Rhodes’ loyalty belongs to Barack Obama.
He needs to be compelled to testify under oath about all this.
The Pentagon had determined early on that Benghazi was a pre-meditated and planned terrorist attack. They told administration officials that. They were overruled by Barack Obama’s loyalist political officer, and administration officials from the president down lied to the American people and assaulted our freedom of speech so that Obama might win re-election and Hillary could succeed him.
Ben Rhodes the speechwriter coldly orchestrated a cover-up...

EPA Delayed Climate Change Regulation Until After Midterms

Inhofe: ‘Possibility of electioneering is deeply troubling’

By Elizabeth Harrington
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delayed issuing a final regulation limiting greenhouse gas emissions for new power plants until after the midterm elections.
The agency pushed back publishing the rule for two months, allowing vulnerable Senate Democrats to avoid a vote on the measure six weeks before voters go to the polls.
President Obama directed the EPA to issue a proposal requiring new power plants to reduce their carbon pollution by “no later than” Sep. 20, 2013. The EPA posted the proposal on its website that day, but did not submit the rule to the Federal Register until Nov. 25, 2013. The rule was then published in the Federal Register on Jan. 8.
Once a rule is published in the Federal Register, agencies are required to finalize it within one year. As a result, the EPA does not have to finish the regulation until Jan. 8, 2015, instead of this September, just weeks before the midterms.
...McCarthy had testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee in January that as soon as the proposal was released online in September 2013, “we had submitted it to the Federal Register office.”
“The delay was solely the backup in the Federal Register office,” McCarthy said.
However, Inhofe’s office contacted the Federal Register, which revealed that they did not receive the regulation until Nov. 25.
The regulation would require new gas-fired and coal-fired power plants to emit fewer than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.
...Inhofe is now asking the EPA to answer how they made the decision on when to submit the rule to the Federal Register, and if the White House played any role. 

Senate Democrats plan vote to reverse Citizens United decision

By Alexander Bolton
Senate Democrats will schedule a vote this year on a constitutional amendment to reform campaign finance as they face tens of millions of dollars worth of attack ads from conservative groups.
The Senate will vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would overturn two recent court cases that have given corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals free rein to spend freely on federal races.
“The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections. That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who announced the plan.
“The only way to undo the damage the court has done is to pass Senator Udall’s amendment to the Constitution, and Senate Democrats are going to try to do that,” he said.
Schumer said the vote would take place by year’s end and called on Republican colleagues to join Democrats to ensure “the wealthy can’t drown out middle-class voices in our Democracy.”
The amendment has little chance of becoming a part of the Constitution anytime soon because Republicans generally support the high court’s decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. FEC.
The 2010 Citizens United ruling struck down restrictions on corporations and unions from spending money to support or oppose candidates. In McCutcheon, five justices struck down the aggregate limits on individual contributions to candidates and parties.
Udall’s amendment would specifically authorize Congress and the states to regulate and limit fundraising and spending for federal candidates.
It would grant authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures from outside groups such as super PACs.
It also would protect future campaign finance legislation passed by Congress from reversal by the Supreme Court.
The amendment needs to be passed by two-thirds of the Senate and the House and be ratified by three quarters of the states.

Why Would a Racist Vote Democrat?

Considering recent allegations of racism leveled at Clippers owner Donald Sterling, why does he support the Democrat Party?

By Walter Hudson
 ...If you think blacks a lower form of man than whites, but still like to think of yourself as a “good person,” it makes sense that you would support public policy which segregates “those people” for special treatment. They need your beneficent help, after all. They can’t possibly make it on their own. Indeed, if you’re being completely honest with yourself, the idea that blacks might lay full claim to their own achievements bothers you. You need them to be lesser so you can feel greater. You need them to need you.
That’s why racists would, and I believe do, vote Democrat. At some point during the civil rights movement, the racists within the Democrat Party who opposed equal treatment under the law resigned themselves to a new form of unequal treatment.
Malcolm X saw that for what it was. He said:
The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way. The liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor, and by winning the friendship and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political football game. Politically the American Negro is nothing but a football, and the white liberals control this mentally dead ball. Through tricks of tokenism and false promises, and they have the willing cooperation of Negro leaders. These leaders sell out our people for just a few crumbs of token recognition and token gains
While X proved racist in his own right, he correctly observed that liberal prescriptions for beneficent public policy served only to empower an ambitious establishment. Indeed, his sentiments in the clip above prove as applicable today as when first stated. How many more elections do blacks need to hand to Democrats before results are delivered? How long can false promises go unfulfilled before more blacks realize they have been manipulated by racist white liberals like Donald Sterling?

Amnesty and Common Core: Two Sides of the Same Coin - Part I

By Dr. Susan Berry
Is there any wonder why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and scores of elites from both political parties are ardent champions of both amnesty for illegal immigrants and the Common Core centralized educational standards?
Both issues are related, have been enmeshed for years in the progressive agenda that includes labor and education, and could be close to being fully realized were it not for grassroots groups of Americans joining together against the status quo of government, corporate, and education elites.
.....The relationship between Common Core and amnesty could readily be seen in the economic justice goals of Common Core as presented by David Coleman, both the “architect” of Common Core and the current College Board president.
As Breitbart News reported on February 3rd, Coleman announced last May that he would be bringing into the student data collection effort, for Common Core and the College Board, members of Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action (OFA) team, including Dan Wagner and Jeremy Bird, to reach out to low-income and Latino students, whom Coleman referred to as “low-hanging fruit.”
Connecting to the popular Common Core supporter claim that the centralized standards are “rigorous,” Coleman’s social engineering project at the College Board, “Access to Rigor,” is aimed at profiling low-income and Latino K-12 students, and then mobilizing them--the same tactics used by the OFA team to successfully re-elect Obama in 2012.
It is the student data collection aspect of Common Core, in fact, that is the basis of the relationship between Common Core and amnesty, and it is a relationship that took solid shape in the 1990’s.
Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) was involved in the early stages of what would become Common Core and proposed his agenda to Hillary Clinton immediately following Bill Clinton’s election to the presidency in November of 1992. In his now well-known “letter to Hillary Clinton,” Tucker wrote:
I still cannot believe you won. But utter delight that you did pervades all the circles in which I move…
The subject we were discussing was what you and Bill should do now about education, training and labor market policy…
Our purpose in these meetings was to propose concrete actions that the Clinton administration could take — between now and the inauguration, in the first 100 days and beyond. The result, from where I sit, was really exciting. We took a very large leap forward in terms of how to advance the agenda on which you and we have all been working — a practical plan for putting all the major components of the system in place within four years, by the time Bill has to run again.
We think the great opportunity you have is to remold the entire American system for human resources development, almost all of the current components of which were put in place before World War II. The danger is that each of the ideas that Bill advanced in the campaign in the area of education and training could be translated individually in the ordinary course of governing into a legislative proposal and enacted as a program. This is the plan of least resistance. But it will lead to these programs being grafted onto the present system, not to a new system, and the opportunity will have been lost. If this sense of time and place is correct, it is essential that the administration’s efforts be guided by a consistent vision of what it wants to accomplish in the field of human resource development, with respect both to choice of key officials and the program.
Tucker continued with a description of his “vision of the kind of national – not federal – human resources development system the nation could have.”
He wrote:
This is interwoven with a new approach to governing that should inform that vision. What is essential is that we create a seamless web of opportunities, to develop one’s skills that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone — young and old, poor and rich, worker and full-time student. It needs to be a system driven by client needs (not agency regulations or the needs of the organization providing the services), guided by clear standards that define the stages of the system for the people who progress through it, and regulated on the basis of outcomes that providers produce for their clients, not inputs into the system.
As the Eagle Forum observes, Tucker's plan was implemented in three laws passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1994: the Goals 2000 Act, the School-to-Work Act, and the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act. These new laws established the following mechanisms to restructure the public schools:
  1. Bypass all elected officials on school boards and in state legislatures by making federal funds flow to the Governor and his appointees on workforce development boards.
  2. Use a computer database, a.k.a. "a labor market information system," into which school personnel would scan all information about every schoolchild and his family, identified by the child's social security number: academic, medical, mental, psychological, behavioral, and interrogations by counselors. The computerized data would be available to the school, the government, and future employers.
  3. Use "national standards" and "national testing" to cement national control of tests, assessments, school honors and rewards, financial aid, and the Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM), which is designed to replace the high school diploma.
As the Eagle Forum notes, the Tucker plan is to train children in specific jobs to serve the workforce and the global economy rather than educate them so they can make their own life choices.

Big Government GOP's Common Core Rebrand Hustle

By Michelle Malkin
.....(Governor) Pence's friend Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also inadvertently spilled the beans on the Rename That Common Core Tune game. "I've talked to Gov. Pence about what they're doing there," he told a local reporter. "In essence, they're creating what's called the Indiana Core. It's not the Common Core. It's the Indiana Core, but their standards are almost mirroring exactly what's commonly referred to as the Common Core standards. So they're just doing it in a different way, which is what we've already been doing in Utah."
GOP Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer pulled a similar move, issuing an executive order last fall to whitewash "Common Core" from state government documents. She replaced the name with "Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards." But the old racket is still in place. And Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded lobbyists from Achieve Inc. and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers are still in the driver's seat.
This retreat-and-rebrand strategy was explicitly championed by Fed Ed advocate and former Arkansas GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee. Huckabee told his allies at the Gates Foundation-funded Council of Chief State School Officers earlier this year that since Common Core had become "toxic," the group needed to "rebrand it, refocus it, but don't retreat."
While disingenuous Republican governors tout their "withdrawals" from Common Core, it's more of the same old, same old: Diluted standards, tied to testing/textbook/technology cash cows, manufactured a top-down cadre of big-government D.C. education lobbyists and big-business interests, in violation of local control and state sovereignty.

The Constitution or Good Ideas?

By Walter E Williams
Let me run through a few good ideas. I think it's a good idea for children to eat healthful, wholesome foods. In the raising of our daughter, before-dinner treats were fresh vegetables, and after-dinner treats were mostly fruits.
I arrive at my gym sometime between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., at least four times a week, to lift weights and use the treadmill. During the warmer months, the treadmill is substituted by a weekly total of 40 to 60 miles on my bike. My exercise regimen is a good idea. Another good idea is to wear a bike helmet while bike riding and wear a seat belt when driving my car. Among many other good ideas is the enjoyment of two, maybe three, glasses of wine with each evening meal.
You say, "So what, Williams? What's your point?" There's no question that all of those actions, with the possible exception of the last, are indeed good ideas. As evidence that my exercise regimen is a good idea, my doctors tell me that at 78 years of age, I'm in better health and conditioning than most of their male patients many years my junior. My question to you is whether these commonly agreed-upon good ideas should become the law of the land. To be more explicit, should Congress enact a law requiring every able-bodied American to lift weights four times a week and bike 40 to 60 miles each week? Just look at all the benefits of such a law. Americans would be healthier, and that would mean lower health care costs. People would have a longer working life. Men would have the strength to protect their women and children folk from thugs. In a word, there would be no downside to the fitter population that would come from a congressional law mandating physical fitness programs. We might title such a law the "Improving American Health Act." The law would impose fines and penalties on any able-bodied person not found to be in compliance. What congressman would have the callousness to vote against such a beneficial measure?
Needless to say, there would be attacks against the Improving American Health Act, launched mostly by libertarians, conservatives and some Republicans. These people would argue that Congress has no constitutional authority to enact such a liberty-intrusive law. Their arguments would be on weak grounds. Our Constitution's Article 1, Section 8 says, "The Congress shall have Power To ... provide for the ... general Welfare of the United States." Our Constitution further empowers Congress to enact the Improving American Health Act by its Article 1, Section 3 -- sometimes referred to as the commerce clause -- which grants Congress the power "To regulate Commerce ... among the several States." After all, good health lends itself to more efficient interstate commerce and a larger gross domestic product. Sick Americans adversely affect interstate commerce and are a burden on economic activity.
I have no doubt that people who don't want to see a healthier America -- again, mostly libertarians, conservatives and Republicans -- will bring suit before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that Congress has no such authority under either the general welfare clause or the commerce clause. Would you prefer that Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., speaking for a majority, concur by saying, "This court is guided by the U.S. Constitution, and we find no constitutional authority for the Improving American Health Act, despite Congress' nonsense claims alleging authority under the general welfare and commerce clauses"?
Or would you prefer that Justice Roberts, speaking for the majority, engage in mental contortions in which he agrees that forcing people to exercise exceeds congressional authority under both the commerce clause and the general welfare clause but says the Improving American Health Act is indeed constitutional under Congress' taxing authority?
My bottom line question is: Should we be ruled by what are seen as good ideas or by what's permissible by the U.S. Constitution? 

By David P. Goldman
No amount of evidence will convince liberals that they were wrong. Evidence abounds, to be sure: Appeasement invites aggression. Handouts increase dependency. Coddling terror-states like Iran elicits megalomania. Big government stifles the economy. They don’t care. Really.
...Why don’t liberals seem to notice the catastrophic consequences of their policies, and why to they imagine imminent horrors where none exist? If you corner a liberal and point to a disaster that followed upon his policy, at very most he will say–with a tear in the eye and a quivering upper lip–”We did the right thing.”
It’s all about having done the right thing according to the dogma of the ersatz liberal religion. Liberalism has nothing whatsoever to do with policy and its real-world consequences. Instead of finding one’s salvation on the path of traditional religions, liberals look for salvation in a set of right opinions–on race, the environment, income distribution, gender, or whatever. 
...Liberals don’t see failed liberal policies as “failed,” any more than people of faith think that unanswered prayers are “failed” prayers. The difference is that people of faith abnegate themselves in prayer to a wholly-other divine person, while liberal poster-children subject the world to the narcissistic demands of their own spiritual needs.
...You can’t argue with liberals. Prove to them their policy has made things worse, and they will say in effect, “Worse for whom? It sure made me feel better!” Tell them that they have foredained their own extinction because their metrosexuality doesn’t leave time for children, and they will gaze heavenward and contemplate martyrdom on behalf of the earth-goddess Gaia. There are too many people polluting the earth anyway.
Dr. Frankenstein didn’t care that he had created a monster. You can’t argue with the man; the only thing to do is to persuade the villagers to march on his castle.

Why Hillary is being so coy about declaring her candidacy

By Thomas Lifson
The Democratic Party is being held hostage by Hillary Clinton, who hints but does not declare that she is running for its presidential nomination in 2016. So powerful is the political money machine that she commands, other possible contenders such as Elizabeth Warren are left peddling books rather than hitting the hustings for cash and commitments. As others have noted, if Hillary should decide not to run in order to preserve her health and enjoy being a grandma, her political party will be left high and dry as other candidates scramble.
Mickey Kaus, tongue firmly planted in cheek, offers a “Marxist:” analysis of what is really going on.
...“Clinton, after all, was New York’s senator for eight years, where the financial district was a key constituency. She had many Wall Street rainmakers as advisers and friends. Her family has continued to work that network to try to stock the Clinton Foundation with a $250 million endowment before a presidential run. And she’s been out on the financial services speaking circuit, giving talks to Goldman Sachs and fireside-style chats with the heads of the Carlyle Group and the investment firm KKR.” [Emphasis added]
Aha! There are still legal limits to how much money Wall Street can funnel into the Clinton political campaigns qua campaigns. But those limits presumably don’t apply to the Clinton Foundation, or to Bill and Hillary’s speaking fees. Hence eye-popping figures like $250 million.
Now, ask yourself, what happens to all this money if Hillary says she’s through with politics and wants to spend the rest of her life, say, touring the world with Tina Brown to improve the status of women? Answer: Much of the money dries up….
But note that the aforementioned “Clinton Foundation” has been renamed recently as “The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.”  Kaus doesn’t mention this, but by implication sees a materialistic motive for that:
The Clinton mode of production, then, is running for office or serving in office. That is the material basis for the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton lifestyle and the whole Clinton institutional structure. In order to keep this mode of production from breaking down, the Clintons–one of them, at any rate–must be at least potentially in the running for a powerful office at all times. If Hillary doesn’t really want to run, she can’t admit it in public. She must maintain the facade of candidacy until the last minute–or else the Foundation will have to cut back and Ira Magaziner might need to find a job. If it looks like Hillary might not run–perhaps because of health reasons–the model would predict that another Clinton, presumably daughter Chelsea, would start making noises about launching a political careerVoila! Data point confirmed. The theory is off to a good start. …

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A morning ritual shared....

You Squat, I Squat

All right all right, I'll admit it. (deep breath). I've never read THE GREAT GATSBY. Nor have I wanted to ... until now. I have this huge aversion to reading or viewing anything that has been over-hyped. Or if an author is over-hyped. But, I have an interesting digital loan called CARELESS PEOPLE: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell about the year 1922 and a famous murder in New Jersey that apparently inspired the book. And I wasn't familiar enough with the book to have this nonfiction one mean anything so.... I'm currently reading THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I'd better strike while the iron is hot, or in this case, while my mood is in it.

I'm most certainly NOT interested in seeing the movie with Leo DiCaprio (blech blech blech) and Tobey Maguire (blech). The 1974 movie with Robert Redford is possible but I don't like Mia Farrow. If one could have Robert Redford and the chick from the new movie, Carey Mulligan, then maybe. But is not to be, cherie.
The main events of the novel take place in the summer of 1922. Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and World War I veteran from the Midwest – who serves as the novel's narrator – takes a job in New York as a bond salesman. He rents a small house on Long Island, in the (fictional) village of West Egg, next door to the lavish mansion of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire who holds extravagant parties but does not participate in them. Nick drives around the bay to East Egg for dinner at the home of his cousin, Daisy Fay Buchanan, and her husband, Tom, a college acquaintance of Nick's. They introduce Nick to Jordan Baker, an attractive, cynical young golfer with whom Nick begins a romantic relationship. She reveals to Nick that Tom has a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who lives in the "valley of ashes": an industrial dumping ground between West Egg and New York City The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan.

Published in 1925, it is (only) 193 pages -- though it seems so much longer.

It's Tuesday and you know what that means! Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

And my Agent Coulson, of course. The storyline has gotten really good with the finale coming up. Woot!

Much love,
PK the Bookeemonster

Current Events - April 29, 2014

Welcome to the Finger-Wagging Olympics

By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Moral outrage is exhausting. And dangerous. The whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging. Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking. All over the latest in a long line of rich white celebrities to come out of the racist closet. (Was it only a couple days ago that Cliven Bundy said blacks would be better off picking cotton as slaves? And only last June Paula Deen admitted using the “N” word?)
Yes, I’m angry, too, but not just about the sins of Donald Sterling. I’ve got a list. But let’s start with Sterling. I used to work for him, back in 2000 when I coached for the Clippers for three months. He was congenial, even inviting me to his daughter’s wedding. Nothing happened or was said to indicate he suffered from IPMS (Irritable Plantation Master Syndrome). Since then, a lot has been revealed about Sterling’s business practices:
  • 2006: U.S. Dept. of Justice sued Sterling for housing discrimination. Allegedly, he said, “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
  • 2009: He reportedly paid $2.73 million in a Justice Dept. suit alleging he discriminated against blacks, Hispanics, and families with children in his rentals. (He also had to pay an additional nearly $5 million in attorneys fees and costs due to his counsel’s “sometimes outrageous conduct.”)
  • 2009: Clippers executive (and one of the greatest NBA players in history) sued for employment discrimination based on age and race.
And now the poor guy’s girlfriend (undoubtedly ex-girlfriend now) is on tape cajoling him into revealing his racism. Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. She was like a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.” She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.
They caught big game on a slow news day, so they put his head on a pike, dubbed him Lord of the Flies, and danced around him whooping.
I don’t blame them. I’m doing some whooping right now. Racists deserve to be paraded around the modern town square of the television screen so that the rest of us who believe in the American ideals of equality can be reminded that racism is still a disease that we haven’t yet licked.
What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise. Now there’s all this dramatic and very public rending of clothing about whether they should keep their expensive Clippers season tickets. Really? All this other stuff I listed above has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun?
He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing. It was public record. We did nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?
Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it.
Make no mistake: Donald Sterling is the villain of this story. But he’s just a handmaiden to the bigger evil. In our quest for social justice, we shouldn’t lose sight that racism is the true enemy. He’s just another jerk with more money than brains.
So, if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on Celebrity Apprentice and Dancing with the Stars.
The big question is “What should be done next?” I hope Sterling loses his franchise. I hope whoever made this illegal tape is sent to prison. I hope the Clippers continue to be unconditionally supported by their fans. I hope the Clippers realize that the ramblings of an 80-year-old man jealous of his young girlfriend don’t define who they are as individual players or as a team. They aren’t playing for Sterling—they’re playing for themselves, for the fans, for showing the world that neither basketball, nor our American ideals, are defined by a few pathetic men or women.
Let’s use this tawdry incident to remind ourselves of the old saying: “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Instead of being content to punish Sterling and go back to sleep, we need to be inspired to vigilantly seek out, expose, and eliminate racism at its first signs.

A President of 'All the People'?

By Richard Winchester
....The Martin-Zimmerman case seems to have been a watershed in how the Obama administration has dealt with race relations.  Prior to early 2012, one has to comb through Obama’s record very finely to uncover overtly “race-conscious” conduct.  After the verdict, the administration’s racialist tilt has become evident. 
Three examples suffice.
First, on November 18, 2013, Obama nominated Debo Adegbile, who had fervently defended cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, to head the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. Despite Harry Reid’s efforts, a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans rejected the nomination on March 5th, 2014.
On February 27th, 2014, Obama announced the creation of the $200 million “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative for “young men of color” and no one else. Obama said that the idea came to him after Trayvon Martin’s death, and that the money would be used to prevent young black males from dropping out of school.
(No such fund exists for young women [of any color], or for young white males mired in abject poverty in places like Appalachia.)
The third example is Obama’s reaction to reports that Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling is alleged to uttered racist remarks.  Speaking from Malaysia, without any firsthand knowledge of what was said, Obama told reporters that Sterling’s remarks are “incredibly offensive.”  Obama also said the U.S. “continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination.”  As M. Catharine Evans notes, “[t]he president certainly does rush to judgment a lot when it comes to race issues.”
Can a president with Obama’s record be chief executive of all Americans?  Sadly, the answer appears to be no.

Welcome back, Mr. President; Here's your worst job approval ever

By Andrew Malcolm
For consuming a week of presidential time and Lord knows how many millions of borrowed dollars, Barack Obama's admirable Asian adventure was not terribly productive.
The much-anticipated trade agreement with Japan fell through, as trade talks with Japan are wont to do for decades now. Obama did sign a new base agreement with the Philippines.
... a new ABC News/Washington Post Poll. It shows that after a minor tick up during the recent long winter of global warming, Obama's job approval has sunk a full five points since March to its lowest point ever, 41%. Obama's lost ground among his core support groups, possibly growing impatient with his promised economic recovery that's been just around the corner now for four years. Fifty-two percent of adult Americans now disapprove of his job performance, and strong disapproval exceeds strong approval by a bruising 17 points.
The Democrat can claim the economy is improving all he wants. Only 28% buy that line now, down nine points since Mitt Romney was not elected president.
The unaffordable Affordable Care Act has lost support too, down five points in one month to 44%.
Since he's been overseas a lot this year and this month, maybe foreign affairs remain Obama's forte. Well, actually not. For example, on Ukraine, which drew new administration sanctions on Russia Monday, Obama's job approval is barely one-third, 34%.
Perhaps most ominously for Obama's second-term agenda -- whatever that is -- a majority of Americans now prefer a Congress completely controlled by Republicans.
As poll director Gary Langer puts it:
"Registered voters by 53-39 percent in the national survey say they’d rather see the Republicans in control of Congress as a counterbalance to Obama’s policies than a Democratic-led Congress to help support him. It was similar in fall 2010, when the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and gained six Senate seats."
Another six-seat gain on Nov. 4 gives the GOP control of the Senate. And Obama can finally focus on his presidential library.

Politico gives away the game

By Thomas Lifson
If you ever wondered what the real political issue of the day is when it comes to presidential politics, an article in Politico gives you the answer. Wall Street Big Money wants a presidential candidate who will allow the financial games enabling hedge fund billionaires, investment banks, and other financial engineering specialists to continue their merry ways. This group dominates the top one percent of the top once percent of income earners – the people who have expanded their share of national income, while the rest of the one percent (and the rest of us) get to divvy up the rest.
Of course, the Politico story doesn’t say that outright, but you can read between the lines. Ben White and Maggie Haberman write:
Wall Street Republicans' dark secret: Hillary Clinton 2016
This is not to say that Clinton is the preference of Republicans in the financial sector — far from it. Most shake their heads when asked directly if Clinton is someone they could support. But when the contrast is against some of the non-establishment hopefuls, their comfort level becomes clearer.
This line of thinking is a direct response to fiery rhetoric from people like Rand Paul, who used the 2013 CPAC conference in Washington to rip the financial industry, saying “there is nothing conservative about bailing out Wall Street.”
 Ted Cruz, whose wife works at Goldman Sachs, is viewed negatively by many in the industry for his support of last year’s government shutdown and scorched earth approach to political battle. Cruz fired up an activist gathering in New Hampshire earlier this month with the kind of provocative populist message that makes bankers very nervous. “The rich and powerful, those who walk the corridors of power, are getting fat and happy,” Cruz thundered. At the same event, Paul argued that the GOP “cannot be the party of fat cats, rich people and Wall Street.”
That kind of talk leaves some rich people contemplating the notion of supporting Clinton in what would amount to a reversion to 2008, when Wall Street money went nearly 2 to 1 for then-Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain. Even those who could never back her don’t see her as a huge threat to the business community.
“I tell you this, I hope he does decide to run,” Al Hoffman, a GOP megadonor who chaired George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, said of Jeb Bush, noting the former Florida governor’s positions on immigration reform and national education standards rile populists but line up well with business groups and the broader electorate.
He said his clear preference is not to see Clinton as president, and he hopes GOP ideals will triumph in 2016. But he added: “Is [Clinton] anti-business? I don’t think so. I hope not. I don’t have any reason to believe that.”
Translation: if those crazy Tea Party types succeed in nominating someone like Cruz or Paul, Wall Street money will go to Hillary. And because Wall Street money plays a major role in overall political fundraising (they have plenty of money and know what they are buying after all), it is seen as determinative in the election outcome by most political professionals, at least off the record and after a drink or two.
Welcome to the oligarchy, suckers.

USDA Made $6.2 Billion in Improper Payments Last Year

Failed to comply with law to avoid fraudulent payments for third year in a row

By Elizabeth Harrington
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made $6.2 billion in improper payments in 2013, according to the Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The OIG released an audit earlier this month that found that at least $416 million in waste could have been avoided if the agency had met its reduction targets mandated by the Improper Payment Information Act (IPIA). In fact, the USDA has failed to comply with the law for a third consecutive year.
“This occurred because some of USDA’s actions were not effective or completed to achieve compliance,” the audit said. “These noncompliances continue to illustrate the risks of improper payments affecting taxpayers, as USDA could have avoided approximately $416 million in improper payments by meeting reduction targets.”
The report noted that the agency runs more than 300 programs, spending $159 billion a year. Sixteen of those programs are considered “high-risk” for waste, fraud, and abuse, including the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which administers food stamps, and the school breakfast and lunch programs.

Benghazi Emails Show White House Effort to Protect Obama

Staff attempted to insulate president’s policies from criticism ahead of election

By Adam Kredo
Previously unreleased internal Obama administration emails show that a coordinated effort was made in the days following the Benghazi terror attacks to portray the incident as “rooted in [an] Internet video, and not [in] a broader failure or policy.”
Emails sent by senior White House adviser Ben Rhodes to other top administration officials reveal an effort to insulate President Barack Obama from the attacks that killed four Americans.
Rhodes sent this email to top White House officials such as David Plouffe and Jay Carney just a day before National Security Adviser Susan Rice made her infamous Sunday news show appearances to discuss the attack.
The “goal,” according to these emails, was “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”
Rice came under fierce criticism following her appearances on television after she adhered to these talking points and blamed the attack on a little-watched Internet video.
The newly released internal White House e-mails show that Rice’s orders came from top Obama administration communications officials.
...Also contained in the 41 pages of documents obtained by Judicial Watch is a Sep. 12, 2012 email from Payton Knopf, the former deputy spokesman at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
In this communication, Knopf informs Rice that senior officials had already dubbed the Benghazi attack as “complex” and planned in advance. Despite this information, Rice still insisted that attacks were “spontaneous.”
The newly released cache of emails also appear to confirm that the CIA altered its original talking points on the attacks in the following days.
...Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said that the emails show the White House was most concerned with insulating Obama.
“Now we know the Obama White House’s chief concern about the Benghazi attack was making sure that President Obama looked good,” Fitton said in a statement. “And these documents undermine the Obama administration’s narrative that it thought the Benghazi attack had something to do with protests or an Internet video.”
“Given the explosive material in these documents, it is no surprise that we had to go to federal court to pry them loose from the Obama State Department,” Fitton said.

Kerry: 'Partisan Politics' Motivates Critics of My 'Apartheid' Comment

By John Nolte
A quick glance at this morning's news coverage makes clear that the media is more than a little eager to let Secretary of State John Kerry off the hook for accusing Israel of devolving into an "apartheid state" if it doesn't make peace with the Palestinians. The media is also going to let Kerry get away with claiming that those who criticized his reprehensible remark are motivated only by "partisan politics."
"I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes," Kerry said after the "apartheid" remark he expressed in private was reported by the Daily Beast.
This is a classic trick in the White House playbook: pretend that the criticism is based only on partisan politics. Kerry of course is being dishonest. Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer was quick to condemn Kerry's remarks as "nonsensical and ridiculous." Another Democrat Senator, Mark Begich of Alaska, added, "Last time I checked, the U.S. didn’t negotiate with terrorist organizations and we shouldn’t expect the Israeli government to either."
A number of Jewish groups also criticized Kerry.
Because Kerry is a Democrat, the mainstream media has already decided to put this story to bed before it can do any damage to the Secretary of State or the Obama administration. Even though there is audio of Kerry's remarks, thus far I have not heard a single media outlet other than Fox News air it.
People mistakenly assume that this kind of audio recording is automatic catnip for the media. But this is only true if the subject caught on tape is not a left-wing Democrat. The media will broadcast Romney's "47 percent" remark until he is no longer a threat to Barack Obama. The media will not play the audio of John Kerry, though, because I doing so risks damaging a Democrat.

The Real Problem With Kerry’s ‘Apartheid’ Myth

By David Harsanyi
After the Daily Beast released excerpts of him warning world leaders that Israel would devolve into an “apartheid” state if it failed to agree to a peace deal, John Kerry is walking back  his comments.  “…If I could rewind the tape,” he explained, “I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution.”
This shouldn’t make anyone feel better. It’s not just the incendiary use of “apartheid” that’s the problem, but the well-worn canard about Israel that Kerry rests his position on. And his position shouldn’t really surprise anyone who’s been paying attention. Barack Obama offered basically the same argument only a couple of months ago when he warned that time was running out for “Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy.”
....Kerry has essentially taken the Jimmy Carter position. The theory goes like this: Arab birthrates in Israel and the Palestinian territories will continue to be higher than those of the Jews. And some point, Arabs will become the majority in all the areas that Israel governs and occupies and then Jews will be impelled to act like a bunch Afrikaner Brownshirts to survive.
....Israel isn’t a perfect nation, of course, just more perfect than many. The Israeli Arab minority not only fully participates in the nation’s democratic process but it is protected by the same laws that govern Jews. As Kerry knows, only one side openly demands ethnic dissection. A West Bank and Gaza completely free of Jews is, in fact, the ugly precondition to any peace agreement.
But Kerry suggests that a change of Israeli or Palestinian leadership might offer better conditions for an agreement on the future Palestinian state. This is an interesting assertion considering Fatah has been the only entity to negotiate for Palestinians while Israel has engaged in peace talks with the left-of-center Labor party and right-of-center Likud party and the center Kadima party and it has made absolutely no difference in the outcome.
What did Fatah do this time? Put it this way: Kerry’s tireless work in the Middle East hasn’t been a complete waste. While he’s been pressuring Israel, the erstwhile terrorist group Palestine Liberation Organization and contemporary terrorist group Hamas have set aside their long-standing differences and will form a government in the next few weeks so that a corrupt, radicalized, poverty-ridden society can unite to blame their misfortunes on the Jews. So there’s always that.

FCC Announces New Net Neutrality Rules

 By John Sexton
The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is proposing new rules which would allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to charge higher rates for services that use more resources. This has created a fresh battle in the debate over net neutrality.
The net neutrality rules require that ISPs not limit subscribers' access to any service and treat all content indiscriminately. Some ISPs have argued that a handful of services, primarily YouTube and Netflix (but also other video streaming sites like Amazon and ESPN) account for a disproportionate amount of internet traffic. The ISPs want to be able to charge these services for their high use of resources.
In January the ISPs won a victory when an Appeals Court sided with Verizon and rejected the FCC's neutrality rules, which had been in place since 2010. The new rules being proposed by the FCC appear to follow the court's guidance in allowing ISPs to charge some services additional fees.
A statement posted on the FCC blog by chairman Tom Wheeler last week says, "The Notice does not change the underlying goals of transparency, no blocking of lawful content, and no unreasonable discrimination among users established by the 2010 Rule. The Notice does follow the roadmap established by the Court as to how to enforce rules of the road that protect an Open Internet and asks for further comments on the approach."
Under the new rules, the FCC would not prohibit ISPs' charging extra to companies like Netflix, but it would retain the right to judge whether those deals are "commercially reasonable." Chairman Wheeler's blog post on the issue defines one example of what the FCC would consider unreasonable: "favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity."
The New York Times came out against the new proposal immediately. In an editorial published last week, the Times editors wrote, "It would essentially give broadband companies the right to create the digital equivalent of high-occupancy vehicle lanes for content providers, like Netflix and Amazon, wealthy enough to pay a toll."
This argument was also made at the Daily Beast, i.e. that new start-ups who have ideas for businesses that involve streaming video won't be able to afford the high-tier payments, limiting future entrepreneurial activity.
Proponents of net neutrality also point out that fees charged by ISPs such as Comcast or Time Warner Cable to companies like Netflix will simply be passed back to consumers via rate hikes. While consumers may not see the change in their monthly ISP bill, they will see it in their Netflix (or other streaming service) bill.
Last week Netflix announced it would be gradually raising prices on its streaming services from $1 to $2, with a grandfathering of current customers for as much as a year. This decision to raise prices came a few weeks after Netflix signed an agreement to pay fees to broadband provider Comcast. Asked whether the fees played a role in the price-hikes, a Netflix spokesperson told the Washington Post, "content delivery costs are part of the costs we have to pay."

PK'S NOTE: All you can do is shake your head at this type of racist thinking. It's too late to change it.

Professors decry Disney’s ‘Jungle Book’ as racist, demand a less ‘offensive’ remake

By Katherine Trimpf
Multiple professors have turned to the media to decry Disney's The Jungle Book as racist and demand that the live-action remake, which the company is currently discussing, be modified to make the film less offensive.
“One of the main reasons that 'The Jungle Book' needs to be rebooted is to fix the things that became controversial not long after it was released in 1967," Syracuse University media professor Robert Thompson said in an interview with Yahoo Movies.
"The King Louie character can have his speaking mannerisms updated in a way that suggests he speaks in a manner similar to other characters."   
Critics have stated that the scene where the ape character, King Louie, sings "I want to be like you” to the human character, Mowgli, he is not just a cartoon animal wishing to be human. Rather, Louie represents an African-American stating that he wants to be a member of the white race, which is represented by Mowgli.
The Mowgli character is not white, and the King Louie character was voiced by Italian-American Louis Prima, not an African-American.
But Thompson said the song is racist regardless of who sings it, because it has a jazzy tone similar Louis Armstrong’s music.
"The original choice would have been offensive — Louis Armstrong as an ape," Thompson said. "The choice they went with had a minstrel show feel to it, also offensive.”
DePauw University professor Jeffrey M. McCall said he also believes that King Louie is a blatantly racist character because he speaks differently than other characters.
"The King Louie character can have his speaking mannerisms updated in a way that suggests he speaks in a manner similar to other characters," he said.
"[The film] can be updated with a keener eye to avoiding stereotypical language or behaviors that could be translatable to ethnic definition," he added.
The movie is scheduled for release in 2015.