Most of my book reading since I became a blogger back in 2004 has been of the non-fiction variety, not only because I love the subject, but it helps me with my work here on C&L. I think studying history is essential in politics and in researching my own book with David Neiwert, I discovered works that I would never probably have read like The Gang of Five, written by current Fox News contributor Nina Easton of all people. I bring this up because The LA Times has picked up on some Obama family book purchases while The Daily Beast posted the list of books our reader in chief has read since the last campaign. I love Pelecanos and have read Alter, Kearns, McCullough, Le Carre and Cannon on his list. As you might imagine, Obama's Book Club will lead to some over the top form of conservative outrage---kinda like this.
But speaking of Obama's reading habits, apparently some wingnuts are very, very unhappy because he's not seriously boning up on important issues while he's on vacation and reading all the wrong books. Alyssa Rosenberg writes:
Tevi Troy?s insistence that the president?s reading list ?constitute the oddest assortment of presidential reading material ever disclosed? because ?the near-absence of nonfiction sends the wrong message for any president, because it sets him up for the charge that he is out of touch with reality,? merits singling out for how uniquely grasping and bizarre it is, and how simultaneously snobbish and anti-intellectual.
Aside from "sending the wrong message about reality" he's reading a novel that might give some people the wrong idea about his stance on Israel and one about claustrophobia that can only lead to the conclusion that he's "trapped in the White House." Seriously.
Rosenberg makes all the right points about this nonsense but I think her conclusion absolutely nails it:
Finally, it?s pretty depressing that Troy can look at a reading list that includes novels about the victims of horrible crimes, the parents of war victims, and people who give their lives to healing others, all experiences that the President hasn?t had directly but that have implications for his job, and see only Troy?s own paranoia about Obama?s mindset. People need to read fiction precisely as a tool to expand their moral imaginations, certainly a quality I think most of us would hope for in presidents, or columnists.
That's exactly right.
I find myself reading so much non-fiction these days that I forget sometimes that reading good fiction is the way I get out of my head and into the head of someone else (which, believe me, is a vacation in itself.) It's one of the ways we expand our empathy toward other people. I used to argue with a religious pal over the idea that the Bible should be taught in school. She felt it was the only way that children could get a moral education. My argument was that they could get the same moral education by reading great plays and novels. It's all there.
And anyway, who the hell are these people telling the President what he can and cannot read? Clearly the only thing they don't consider their business is how much money wealthy people are cheating from the government. Talk about busy bodies...
I just finished George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons and loved it. The Game of Thrones series has gotten me back into reading fiction again. I'm sure AM hate radio and Fox News will be all over Obama's book list so link up conservative criticism that you find in the comments along with some good books recommendations.
This goes beyond class warriors Darrell Issa and Patrick McHenry using a Wall Street lobbyist disguised as a "staffer" to sabotage Elizabeth Warren's testimony in Congress. Keep in mind that Wall Street has showered Scott Brown with cash. Her biggest single source of campaign "contributions" comes from the financial predators Elizabeth Warren has been urging government to protect consumers from. So far the financial sector has donated over $1.8 million to Brown's short career in federal politics. This year alone, he's taken in more money than any other Republican senator other than Bob Corker (TN) of the Banking Committee and, more to the point, the Subcommittee of Securities, Insurance and Investment. The crooks who run the big players in this sector will pay anything to keep Corker and Brown in office and in Brown's case-- to keep Elizabeth Warren out of office. The idea of her in the Senate drives the banksters insane.
Elizabeth Warren?s combative history with Wall Street could create a fundraising dilemma for her burgeoning Senate campaign.
Her ardent grassroots following on the left-- forged during stints as TARP watchdog and as mastermind of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau-- would likely make her a formidable Senate candidate in Massachusetts.
But her reputation as sheriff to Wall Street could also be a liability against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), a popular Republican who has been stockpiling campaign cash in anticipation of a tight 2012 race.
..."I think it's pretty clear she's going to run the classic, grassroots campaign here in Massachusetts," said Mary Anne Marsh, a longtime Democratic operative in the state. "That means she's going to rely on folks here to give low-dollar donations here a number of times."
But without the support of heavy-hitting donors in Massachusetts, many of whom work at hedge funds and other financial firms, Warren might find it difficult to keep up with Brown?s fundraising juggernaut.
Dubbed ?Wall Street?s Favorite Congressman? in a Forbes article last year, Brown reported having more than $9.6 million in the bank at the end of June. A good portion of that money came from the financial-services sector, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Employees of the Boston-based Fidelity Investments are the single biggest group of donors to Brown?s campaign committee, contributing more than $85,000 since 2007, according to the watchdog?s data. Employees at Goldman Sachs, Bank of New York Mellon, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America are also top donors.
One of the truly amazing things about American politics in the Lesser Depression is that nobody in political life has been willing to run as the champion of ordinary Americans against the financial wheeler-dealers who brought this disaster on us. Republicans won?t, of course, because their worldview says that greed is good and government the only source of evil. But Obama has also been almost weirdly unwilling to express even the slightest populism.
So I?m glad to hear that Elizabeth Warren will apparently run for Senate. She?s no Huey Long-- her manner is more schoolteacher than rabble-rouser-- but that makes her more credible. And she?s got the best credentials on the financial crisis of any prominent figure in American life.
This should be edifying.
One of the cables, dated October 23, 2005, details how the U.S. Embassy managed its response to several stories that popped up in the Bahraini press of Bahraini citizens being abused or tortured in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
The cable, titled “ARTICLES ALLEGE SEXUAL HUMILIATION, HUNGER STRIKE, OF BAHRAINI GTMO DETAINEES,” cited itself as a “an action request” being made to U.S. government officials.
First, the cable cites the press reports of a detainee, Juma Al Dossary, who claimed to have been sexually abused by interrogators in the prison camp:
According to the October 20 article, Al Dossary claimed that in September 2002 he was chained to the floor in an interrogation room and had his clothing removed by four military police officers. A female interrogator allegedly stripped naked while standing over the detainee and “smeared her menstrual blood over various parts of his body.” In another incident in mid-2003, Al Dossary claimed he was taken into an interrogation room from which he could see a naked man and woman having sex on a table in an adjoining room. When finished, the man and woman entered the interrogation room and asked Al Dossary to reveal the identities of Arab men in photographs, promising him he could have sex with the woman if he cooperated.
The cable then went on to make an “action request” for “talking points” to relay to the Bahraini public and Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Action request: Embassy has talking points on the hunger strikes, but requests talking points to respond publicly to questions about the treatment of Al Dossary, as well as any points that could be conveyed privately to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in response to the diplomatic note.
In November 2005, shortly after this action request was made, the embassy put out a statement denying that Al Dossary was abused, saying it found “no evidence that substantiates” his claims. In 2007, Dossary was released from Guantanamo Bay with no charges filed against him to resettle in Saudi Arabia (he was featured in a 2006 episode of This American Life than went on to win a Peabody Award). He soon married and received assistance, including a job, car, and cash payments, from the Saudi government.
He later went on to write an op-ed in the Washington Post describing the abuse he alleges occurred while he was at the prison camp. He recalled the film United 93 and a soldier who had been merciful to him while he was at Guantanamo, “I was watching ‘United 93,’ I thought of the soldier who had offered me compassion in Guantanamo. Her words reminded me that we all share common values, and only by holding on to them can we ensure that there is mercy and brotherhood in the world. After more than five years in Guantanamo, I can think of nothing more important.”
Unfortunately, it seems that the U.S. government’s first response was to deny that Dossary was mistreated at all rather than properly investigate the alleged abuses. These cables document how the embassy in Manama coordinated these efforts.
It’s hard to tell much about what Luc Besson’s Aung San Suu Kyi biopic is going to be like from this brief teaser trailer, but it certainly is visually attractive, and my understanding is that the script is based on fairly extensive reporting, so I’m optimistic:
I’m sorry, though, that it looks like this won’t be in theaters until March 2012. As much as I love Meryl Streep and I’m sure she’ll be wonderful as Margaret Thatcher, I’d really like to see a biopic about a political figure who isn’t British or American treated as if it’s a serious contender for major awards, particularly when it’s about a struggle that is still urgent and ongoing, rather than safely and quaintly in the past. Plus, Michelle Yeoh is a marvel and, as she proved with the $128 million box office for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 11 years ago, can be a real commodity stateside. She deserves to be loved here as more than a voice actress in kids’ movies where Jack Black plays a rotund panda or as a geisha.
By Tom Kenworthy, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
There?s something about the ever-elusive prospect of sucking petroleum out of the American West?s vast supplies of shale rock that addles people?s brains and warps their judgment.
Oil shale has been a pipe dream in the Rockies for the better part of a century. In 1916, the Pittsburgh Press confidently declared that the development of resources in Colorado and adjoining states ?will mark a new era in oil production?.? In 1980, the Washington Post said commercial oil shale development ?seems assured.?
And today, at a field hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee energy subcommittee in Grand Junction, Colorado, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) said that with reserves of 1.5 trillion barrels of oil lodged in shale, ?the time is appropriate for the U.S. to grasp the reins of its own energy future.?
With three panels of mostly cheerleading witnesses, Tipton and his Colorado colleague, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), tried valiantly to blame the Obama administration for erecting roadblocks to the development of oil resources that could fuel our SUVs for a century or more.
But the simple truth is that ?the rock that burns? has never been commercially viable, and despite ongoing research projects in western Colorado and eastern Utah, it shows no signs of becoming commercially viable any time soon.
As a senior policy researcher for the Rand Corporation advised the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June, oil shale development remains “uncertain” after a hundred years of promises:
The prospects for oil shale development in the United States remain uncertain? It is our understanding that privately-funded research activities are ongoing but that no private firm is prepared to commit to commercial production.
And beyond the question of whether oil can be economically extracted from shale, there is the equally important question of whether the West could afford the cost in water. In a study last year the Government Accountability Office found that oil shale development would use between three and five barrels of water for every barrel of oil produced.
That water would come from the Colorado River basin, the water source for 25 million people in the West, and a resource that is already over-allocated and looking at a reduction in flow of as much as 25 percent by mid-century due to climate change.
?A full-scale oil shale industry producing 1.55 million barrels of oil a day would require approximately 360,000 acre-feet of water a year — roughly one-and-a-half times the amount of water used by Denver per year,? concluded a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council. ?The water supply impact of this demand would not only affect agriculture and cities in the region, but could have an impact on all Colorado River Basin water users, even those as far away as southern California.?
Randy Udall, an energy analyst from western Colorado, calls oil shale ?the petroleum equivalent of fool?s gold.? As today?s hearing showed, there are plenty of fools left who are still chasing that phony gold.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, a group of unemployed constituents staged a sit-in at Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) office in Kenosha, Wisconsin to protest him failing to hold any free town halls during the month. Now, a group of constituents went to the local office of Ryan’s to request a meeting with the congressman and were met by the police, who would not allow them inside the building. They took video of the incident. Watch it:
by Mike Tidwell, who was arrested and released last weekend as part of the tar sands protest
If you want to know just how determined activists are to stop the proposed tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, listen to this:
Last Saturday morning, August 20th, more than 50 activists were arrested in front of the White House. They were handcuffed, stuffed into blistering-hot paddy wagons, and informed that they would spend two nights in a crowded, harsh DC jail. The U.S. Park Police ? who have jurisdiction outside the White House — openly informed organizers of the police strategy: We?re going to go very, very hard on the first wave of protestors to discourage others from joining your planned 15-day action.
That action, organized by tarsandsaction.org, aims to get 50-plus people arrested at the White House each day, peacefully, day after day, till September 3rd. The goal is to pressure Obama to reject the 1700-mile tars sands pipeline, which is fully within the President?s power.
So did the police plan work? Hell no. Saturday night — as Bill McKibben, Gus Speth, and others were still packed 15-to-a-tiny-cell and eating baloney sandwiches ? 45 new recruits were being trained at a local D.C. church to repeat the civil disobedience the very next morning. The second wave of volunteers, who came from all over America, fully understood that the police had gone hard core on the first group instead of offering the usual minor citation and fine for White House protesting. On Sunday morning August 21st at 11, right on schedule, the ?Fantastic 45? sat down outside the White House fence. They too were handcuffed and led away to paddy wagons.
But that?s when the police gave up. They threw in the towel on the ?hard way? approach. The Fantastic 45 were released by 3 pm Sunday and allowed to pay a $100 fine at the Park police station. No jail time.
Here?s what sources say happened:
The D.C. Metropolitan Police, tasked with actually housing arrestees turned over by the U.S. Park Police, said something like this to the Park cops on Saturday night: ?What?!? What?!? You sent us 50-plus men and women environmentalists to be jailed on a Saturday night and there might be 50 more tomorrow and the next day and the next? We refuse!?
The DC police reportedly complained about this to the District Attorney?s office for D.C., which in turn told the Park Police late Saturday or early Sunday to stop it. The system can?t handle the number of arrestees who appear to be utterly determined to come to Obama?s House over the next two weeks nonstop. ?Stop jailing all these people,? the message reportedly went from the D.A.?s office to the Park Police.
And so the jailing stopped Sunday.
Then, right on schedule Monday morning, another group of 52 protestors sat down at 11 at the White House and were handcuffed, fined, and released by 2 pm. Sixty more got arrested and fined Tuesday and another 56 Wednesday. That makes for a total of well over 250. The goal by September 3rd is to have close to 1,000 arrested over this disastrous and insane $7 billion tar sands pipeline proposal.
Who can name another environmental protest of this type and scale in U.S. history? Day after day. Wave after wave. It?s the first of its kind. That?s how big the tar sands issue is. And that?s why those arrested so far have all exited police custody with a similar message to supporters across the country: ?We welcome your sympathy for what we?ve experienced here. But mostly we welcome your company. Please join us. Come to DC and be part of this history!? (www.tarsandsaction.org).
Again, special credit has to go to the ?Fantastic 45? who got arrested Sunday despite the unusual threat of overnight jail time from the Park Police. (The vast majority of nonviolent civil disobedience protestors at the White House never spend a night in jail). The police strategy was completely dependent on the Sunday group giving up after the first Saturday jailings, thus causing the 15-day protest to crumble before it really got started. That threat ? of a night or two on a metal bed with bologna and water and sleep deprivation crudely enforced by jail guards ? is not a casual threat for protestors aged 18 to nearly 80. But the Fantastic 45 vanquished the strategy.
Yet the biggest thanks of all goes to the ?First 52?. That?s the number of first-wave climate activists arrested Saturday morning ? including McKibben, Speth, and former Army officer Dan Choi ? who spent over 50 hours in custody. Even while refusing to incarcerate any more activists from Sunday morning forward, the police kept the First 52 until 3 pm MONDAY afternoon. More than two full days. And those people suffered. More will be written about this in the coming weeks, but it?s important to know that the hardships included enforced thirst, hunger, dangerous heat and poor ventilation in paddy wagons, and ? for the women ? a punishing concrete jail cell with cold temperatures. The arrestees finally staggered out of a DC courthouse Monday afternoon, squinting at the sun through red and fatigue-swollen eyes, many trembling from hunger.
These people did this for us!! They did this to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. They did this to stop runaway global warming and to show Obama the scale of grassroots passion still alive in America for justice and sane solutions.
One of those people was eighteen-year-old Lukas Burdick of Ithaca, NY. Just out of high school, having just stepped out of leg irons during the final minutes in police custody in the nation?s capital, a nearly faint Burdick said, ?The purpose of life is to help other people. If that?s the result of what I just endured, then I have absolutely zero regrets.?
Said Mary Nicol of Chicago, who with 14 other women went 17 hours without food at one point and slept in the concrete cell with no bed at all or chairs or sheets: ?It was really rough, but not nearly as rough as life will be for all people everywhere on the planet if Obama doesn?t stop this pipeline and halt radical climate change.?
Who on the planet right now is giving more to this cause than these protestors in DC? Please come to Washington right now! Come get peacefully arrested yourself any day through September 3rd. Come honor these brave people and this great struggle. Learn more at www.tarsandsaction.org. We need you!
– Mike Tidwell is a writer and activist based in Maryland. He was arrested and released last weekend as part of the tar sands protest. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Crosby Burns is out with a new report examining how the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and various state laws affect LGBT students applying for financial aid at colleges and universities:
How does this happen? Well, in addition to the federal government, nearly all financial aid providers rely on the federal government?s application for financial aid to determine a student?s eligibility for financial assistance. Due to federal and state laws, however, this application cannot fully recognize families headed by a same-sex couple and often renders them invisible. The application may discriminate against children with same-sex parents by discounting one or both parents as a part of that child?s application. Gay applicants themselves may not be able to include their spouses, children, or other dependents as part of their application. And homeless applicants who identify as gay or transgender also face unique obstacles in obtaining financial aid.
Excluding one parent’s earnings may at times demonstrate greater financial need by reducing the total household income. But it could also hurt the applicant by artificially lowering the household size. Burns lays out the following four recommendations for equalizing the application process and ensuring that “taxpayer funds and private dollars are being distributed based on need, not on arbitrary characteristics such as sexual orientation and gender identity”:
1) Congress should swiftly repeal DOMA. Should lawmakers repeal this act, the FAFSA would no longer be required to treat families with same-sex parents differently than opposite-sex families.
2) Federal and state lawmakers should enact pro-gay and transgender legislation so that all families are legally recognized, regardless of parents? gender. Combined with DOMA repeal, full family recognition would allow the FAFSA to consider both same-sex parents? income during the financial aid process
3) The department should replace ?father/stepfather? and ?mother/stepmother? with ?parent/stepparent 1? and ?parent/stepparent 2.?
4) The Department of Education should issue guidelines and training materials to financial aid administrators that outline the failure of the FAFSA to fully recognize families headed by a same-sex couple.
Read the full report here.
An interesting story about municipal regulations piled upon municipal regulations in Chicago comes to me from IB. In Chicago, as in other large American cities, recent immigrants are disproportionately involved in entrepreneurial small businesses. And in order to conduct business in Chicago, you need various kinds of permits. To get the permits, you need to fill out forms. The forms, meanwhile, are in English and Spanish. The Office of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection also has one Cantonese-speaking, one Mandarin-speaking, one French-speaking, and one-Polish speaking employee who can help you translate.
So what if you’re from Vietnam? Well, there used to be an answer. Guys like Tam Van Nguyen would get paid money by Vietnamese entrepreneurs to go down to the BACP office and do the forms, “but in 2008 things got complicated. The city started requiring people like Nguyen to have a something called an expediters license.”
Meanwhile, Rahm Emanuel wants to make it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to help launch new businesses in part by launching an ?Office of New Americans? to identify and clear barriers to immigrant entrepreneurs. That seems like a perfectly reasonable idea to me. But why not start by dropping the expediters’ license rule so it’s easier for people who don’t speak English to get someone to help them with the forms?
In the latest state budget signed by Gov. Rick Perry (R), the Texas GOP gutted funding for women’s preventative health care, leaving up to 300,000 women without access to basic health services. Now a new report from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission shows just how self-defeating those drastic cuts were. The report says the Medicaid-funded Women?s Health Program saved the state at least $20 million a year and prevented over 6,700 unplanned pregnancies in 2009. Earlier this year Republicans rushed to defund Planned Parenthood and cut family planning services by a staggering $74 million in an attempt to reduce the number of abortions. Yet the Women’s Health Program does not provide abortions but does give low-income women access to breast cancer screenings and birth control. The new study confirms what experts have been saying — state-funded family planning services save taxpayers millions each year. The federal program reportedly saved $10 for every dollar spent.