What I’m Reading, July 31, 2014

Conservatives Resort To Lying About Child Refugees’ Vaccination Rates To Justify Their Deportation, Omar Araiza, Burnt Orange Report, July 29, 2014

Conservatives are coming up with multiple kinds of excuses in order to deport the Central American child refugees, all while trying to hide their true prejudice against them. Case in point: “Our schools cannot handle this influx, we don’t even know what all diseases they have. Our health care systems can’t withstand this influx,” recently said U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, trying to make a healthy safety case for deportation and “war” against these children.

Sadly for conservatives, their excuses and lies simply don’t match up to the facts. In a horrible twist of irony, according to statistics by the United Nations, Central American children have a higher vaccination rate than U.S. children.

And whose fault is this? The very same conservative officials and voters in America raging war against vaccinations, and health insurance coverage. [Emphasis in original.]

Mississippi’s last abortion clinic to stay open —  for now, Irin Carmon, MSNBC, July 29, 2014 (h/t Scott Lemieux)

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What I’m Reading, July 30, 2014

Can We Just Be Honest, For Once? BooMan, Booman Tribune, July 28, 2014

I love how this country devises new ways to always avoid taking responsibility for its past mistakes. Did we torture people to death for no good reason? Oh well, we can’t admit it or our soldiers deployed overseas will be put at risk. This is why we never saw many of the more appalling photos from Abu Ghraib. It would have inflamed international opinion and made people want to kill our troops.

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[L]et’s stop being idiots and admit that people already are killing our people because of what we did and that the best way to assure that our people don’t do it again is to just be fucking honest, for once, about what was done in our name.

How Did the GOP Turn Into Such a Bunch of Clowns? Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, July 24, 2014

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In a Way, I Sympathize with Rep. Gohmert

Once you’ve built a reputation for making batshit-crazy pronouncements to appeal to your batshit-crazy base, it must get more and more difficult to keep it going.

Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) suggested on Tuesday that the president of the United States was “extremely prejudiced” because he was deporting Mexicans, while allowing child refugees who were fleeing violence in Central America to stay.

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“I mean, holy smokes, this guy truly is fundamentally transforming America,” the Texas Republican opined. “But not into anything the Founders ever dreamed. These are people who are being given amnesty, who will eventually be able to vote if they’re not already, who have no idea what it takes to maintain a Republic if you can keep it, madam [sic].”

“And if you want to say, look at where these folks came from, we’ve got to give them amnesty, we’ve got to help them,” Gohmert continued. “Listen, there are are so many children around the world that are worse off than those in Central America, and how unfair is it to the Mexicans?”

To borrow a concept from the music industry, you have your entire life to come up with your first batshit-crazy pronouncement, but only a few days or weeks to come up with your second. Gohmert is so accomplished at this, he’s having to dig very deep indeed to find new material.

Unless, of course, Gohmert really is motivated by concern for the plight of undocumented Mexican immigrants, which is possible, but I have my doubts.

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Who Is the Intolerant One?

A blogger by the name of Mustang Bobby pretty much demolishes the claims of right-wingers, e.g. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, that advocates of marriage equality are really the intolerant ones, for expecting the “traditional marriage” crowd to share our society with others:

Mr. Rubio implies that “traditional marriage” is under attack. By whom? Advocates for marriage equality don’t want to stop straight people from getting married. It’s not some zero-sum game wherein one is traded out for the other. How can advocating for committed unions between two people who happen to have the same form of genitalia threaten those marriages between two people who don’t?

That’s where the intolerance comes in. Pro-”traditional” marriage people don’t want same-sex couples to have the benefits of marriage, whereas those of us who are pro-marriage equality want everybody to have the benefits. So who is the intolerant one? Saying that same-sex marriage somehow denigrates or mocks straight marriage is yet again another sign of intolerance because that’s saying that the people in that marriage are less than worthy of respect simply because of their orientation. Again, who is the intolerant one? [Emphasis added.]

In the society that proponents of marriage equality want (i.e. the society in which we almost already live), “traditional marriage” proponents are welcome to live as they see fit. They just don’t get to tell others how to live—or how to love.

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What I’m Reading, July 29, 2014

Religious Exemptions and Public Policy: Freedom to Discriminate, Genevieve Cato, Burnt Orange Report, July 26, 2014

Key to the legal fight to allow discrimination under the guise of religious freedom is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which, under Justice Alito, has become the primary tool for justifying these rulings of religious exemptions. It was also the basis for a ruling by a Texas judge in December, when she determined that three religious universities in Texas should not be required to cover methods of birth control they believe cause abortions.

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The Catholic bishops had great success with what are called “conscience clauses,” which are laws created to allow certain employees to refuse service if it violates their religious belief. The most widely-used example of this is allowing pharmacists to refuse to sell birth control to consumers if it is against their religion. But this is completely counter to the way many Catholics understand the concept of religious conscience in the first place. “Individuals have conscience,” Smith explained, “not institutions.” Further, conscience is not about enforcing your beliefs on another person by refusing to sell someone their medical prescription. It is an individual journey for each Catholic person. This is why Smith refuses to use the term “conscience clause” and instead calls them what they are: “refusal clauses.” [Emphasis in original.]

Face It, Women: The NFL Does Not Give a Shit About You, Erin Gloria Ryan, Jezebel, July 26, 2014 Continue reading

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What I’m Reading, July 28, 2014

Paul Ryan’s “insult” strategy: Why his anti-poverty contract is so grotesque, Simon Maloy, Salon, July 24, 2014

The entire document is premised on the notion that the poor are poor largely because they lack sufficient incentive to improve their station in life. Blame for this is, of course, foisted upon the government programs themselves. “The biggest snag in the safety net is that it discourages work,” Ryan’s document observes. “Many federal programs are means-tested, so as families earn more money, they get less aid. Any system that concentrates on the most vulnerable will face this tension.”

If that’s “the biggest snag,” then the safety net is doing pretty well. Ryan and the GOP have been pushing this argument that government benefits breed complacency among their recipients for quite some time, but the evidence just isn’t there to back it up.

No One I Know Will Ever Be Arrested For Smoking Pot, Atrios, Eschaton, July 27, 2014 Continue reading

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Today in History: The Assassination of President Sam

Ninety-nine years ago today, July 27, 1915, the president of Haiti, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, was assassinated by an angry mob. He was Haiti’s fifth president in five years, and had been in office for just over five months when he fled to the French embassy to seek asylum.

Let me back up a bit (this is mostly coming from the Wikipedia page, by the way). After several months of repressive rule targeting his political opponents, Sam upped the ante by ordering the execution of 167 political prisoners. Among those to be executed was former Haitian president Oreste Zamor, who had served as president for about eight months in 1914. The executions were carried out on July 27, 1915, and the populace, to put it mildly, got pissed off when they found out. I’ll let Wikipedia take it from here:

Sam fled to the French embassy, where he received asylum. The rebels’ mulatto leaders broke into the embassy and found Sam. They dragged him out and beat him senseless then threw his limp body over the embassy’s iron fence to the waiting populace, who then ripped his body to pieces and paraded the parts through the capital’s neighborhoods. For the next two weeks, the country was in chaos.

The next day, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson ordered American troops to seize Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. This was at least in part because he feared that instability in the country could lead to a German invasion—this was during World War I and the Mexican Revolution, remember, and the U.S. Navy had recently caught a German ship trying to smuggle arms to the Mexican government. The United States continued to occupy Haiti until August 1934.

By A. R. Harrison, United States Marine Corps [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t remember this from history class….

Photo credit: By A. R. Harrison, United States Marine Corps [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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What I’m Reading, July 25, 2014

If old white men feel maligned, they should take their own advice to minorities, Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post, June 2, 2014

If older white men feel maligned, they might try taking some of the recommendations that they routinely offer to people of color and women who want to better their lot. These suggestions are often presented as radically simple solutions to centuries of structural inequality. In reality, they function mostly as an attempt to make people with legitimate grievances less irritating to the powerful figures who might be expected to respond to their demands.

Africa Is Not a Derailment Tactic: Why Belittling ‘First World Problems’ Is Oppressive, Sian Ferguson, Everyday Feminism, July 11, 2014

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The Bing Translator Telephone Game

I invented* a dumb internet game. Here are the basic rules:

  1. Take a sentence in English (or whatever language you prefer).
  2. Run it through Bing Translator.
  3. Copy the translated sentence into the first Bing Translator window (set the first window to “Auto-Detect”), and translate it into a third language.
  4. Copy that sentence into the first window…..and you get the idea from there.
  5. Repeat as much as you want.
  6. Translate the multiply-translated sentence back into whatever language you started with.
  7. See how bizarrely different it is.

I started with “These are the times that try men’s souls,” because for some entirely-made-up reason I think Thomas Paine would approve of this. Also because it’s a grammatically simple sentence with small, commonly-used words. And because it was the first thing that popped into my head.

Through 28 languages, “These are the times that try men’s souls” becomes “Today, is one of the foundations of the older brother.”

By Ionut Cojocaru (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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What I’m Reading, July 24, 2014

A Congressman Questioned A Woman Living In Poverty And Revealed A Lot About Himself, Bryce Covert, ThinkProgress, July 11, 2014

On Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) held his fifth hearing on the War on Poverty, and for the first time he allowed a person actually living in poverty to testify. Tianna Gaines-Turner shared her personal experiences struggling to make ends meet and provide food for her three children who suffer from medical conditions along with her husband. She works as a seasonal employee with children for $10.88 an hour, while her husband works at a grocery store for $8.50.

But when Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) got the chance to ask questions of Gaines-Turner and the two other witnesses, he directed much of his attention toward calling into question whether she is dependent on government programs, whether she has tried to find more work, and if she is partisan. He gave a “theoretical example” in which the government would increase spending on government programs like food stamps and welfare by 500 percent and asked, “They [people on the programs] would be out of poverty and that would be a good thing?” to which Gaines-Turner responded, “Yes, the programs work, yes it would be good to move them out of poverty.”

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Rokita’s questioning seemed to imply that Gaines-Turner could make more money and escape her “dependence” if she worked harder. But for many of those living in poverty, that’s just not the case. The majority of adult, able-bodied, non-elderly poor people work. But in this economy, finding extra work, or any work at all, can be nearly impossible. In May, the most recent month for which there is data, there were more than two times as many job seekers as job openings. And unemployment rates are even higher for those with less education, who also tend to have lower incomes.

The Senate flunks basic biology: Inside a disgraceful hearing, Andrea Flynn, Salon, July 20, 2014

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