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herding cats

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Member since: Mon Nov 18, 2013, 03:56 PM
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Texas Judge Rules State Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional

Source: Huffington Post

A Texas probate judge ruled Tuesday that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

The ruling, by Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman, was part of an estate battle, according to the Austin-American Statesman. An Austin woman sought to have her eight-year relationship with a woman who died of cancer in June recognized as a common-law marriage.

“Oh, we had a marriage. It was definitely a marriage,” Sonemaly Phrasavath, the woman challenging the state's ban, told KXAN late last year. “We carried ourselves as such. She was in every sense my wife and vice versa.”

The Texas attorney general cannot appeal the ruling because he is not a party in the case, and the siblings of the deceased woman, who are challenging Phrasavath, have not decided whether they will appeal, the Statesman reported.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/17/texas-gay-marriage_n_6701426.html

I'm so happy for Ms. Phrasavath in this ruling. Eventually, and hopefully in the near future, discrimination such as this will no longer be an issue anyplace in this country.

Satanic Coloring Book Prompts Fla. School To Ban All Religious Materials

A Florida school district on Tuesday banned the distribution of religious materials from outside organizations after a Satanic group tried to hand out coloring books to students, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The Orange County school district, which includes Orlando, had allowed religious groups to hand out materials each year on Religious Freedom Day. The Christian group World Changers distributed Bibles to students, and the board allowed the Central Florida Freethought Community to hand out atheist materials last year after the group won a lawsuit.

But when the Satanic Temple, known for trying to build a Satanist monument in the Oklahoma state capitol, tried to hand out coloring books to students, the county board of education considered changing the rules. The district postponed Religious Freedom Day, and then the school board on Tuesday voted to change its policy.

The board decided to ban the distribution of religious, political, and sectarian materials from outside groups.


Did anyone notice David Brock (Media Matters) resigned from the board of Priorities USA today?

If so, why didn't anyone tell me? I just found out and am kind of shocked here. Brock has been a strong ally to the Clinton's since he stopped chasing them around with a pitchfork back in the 90's. This current dust up is kind of a big deal in wonkland.

Huge Shake-Up In Clintonland As Key Ally David Brock Leaves 2016 Super PAC

The people and groups laying the groundwork for a 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy have taken great pains to present a united front over the last year, but that facade was torn up with news Monday that one group's leader was resigning from another's board while making allegations of negative leaks to the press.

David Brock, founder of the pro-Clinton groups American Bridge, Correct the Record and Media Matters, resigned Monday from the board of Priorities USA, the super PAC that backed President Obama in 2012 and had reoriented itself to support Clinton in 2016, Politico reported.

In his resignation letter, Brock accused Priorities USA officials of “an orchestrated political hit job," according to Politico. It was an apparent reference to a New York Times story last week that detailed how one of Brock's leading fundraisers, Mary Pat Bonner, operates.

“Current and former Priorities officials were behind this specious and malicious attack on the integrity of these critical organizations," Brock wrote in the letter to Priorities USA co-chairs Jennifer Granholm, a former Michigan governor, and Jim Messina, Obama's 2012 campaign manager, per Politico.

Posted by herding cats | Mon Feb 9, 2015, 11:58 PM (5 replies)

President Obama's interview with Ezra Klein of Vox

This is a two part interview and it's pretty interesting over all. Admittedly I'm only through the first part, but it's worth posting here even with having just made it that far.

In his 2007 book The Audacity of Hope, then-Sen. Barack Obama laid out his theory of America's political and policy problems as it stood on the eve of his first presidential campaign. He worried, he said, about "the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics."

On January 23, he sat down with Vox for a wide-ranging interview about his theory of America's political and policy problems as it stands at the beginning of the seventh year of his presidency. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the first part of the conversation, which focused on domestic policy and politics. You can find the second half, which focuses on America's role in the world, here.
Ezra Klein

The economy is growing. We have very high corporate profits. We have a record stock market. And yet for decades now, we've not been seeing significant wage increases for the American people. How have we gotten to a point where businesses can be doing so well but workers don't necessarily share in that prosperity? 1

Well, this has been at least a three-decade-long trend. And this was a major topic in my State of the Union address. We obviously came in at a time of enormous crisis, and the first task was making sure we didn't have a complete global economic meltdown. The steps we took, whether making sure the financial system was functioning — saving the auto industry, encouraging state and local spending — all those things made a difference in buoying the economy. And then it's been a hard but steady slog to the point where now we're growing at a robust pace and unemployment has come down faster than any time in the last 30 years.


Part two: Foreign policy

Watch: The films
Posted by herding cats | Mon Feb 9, 2015, 01:30 PM (0 replies)

Mitch McConnell's Strategy To Confront Obama Hits A Wall

Alternate title: Mitch McConnell and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month

WASHINGTON — Before he became majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised to use the power of the purse to rein in President Barack Obama.

Now McConnell's strategy is facing its first critical test, and it's failing.

Last week the Republican-led Senate voted three times in three days to move legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security with provisions overturning Obama's executive actions to protect millions from deportation. All three times, Democrats united to filibuster it, stopping it dead in its tracks, and leaving Republicans empty-handed.

The conundrum was somewhat predictable. McConnell had relinquished his only surefire leverage — to withhold funds to keep the government running — by promising there was "no possibility of a government shutdown" on his watch.

Without the threat of a shutdown, Democrats had little incentive to play ball, and Obama had no reason not to veto a bill that undermined his major initiatives. Complicating matters further for McConnell, Democrats are steeled by the recognition that voters typically blame the party that controls Congress, not the White House, for a government shutdown. And so Democrats didn't hesitate to filibuster the bill, and the president has been unwavering in his refusal to sign anything that irreparably harms his signature initiatives.


Meanwhile, House Republicans have no intention of bringing up a "clean" DHS bill to bail out McConnell. Such a proposal would likely lose the support of a large majority of the House GOP, making it extremely difficult for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who clung to his post last month amidst record defections by his members.


Of course, it's all the fault of the Democrats and their knee-jerk obstructionist tactics. It's not fair now that the shoe is on the other foot!

First Nationwide Oil Worker Strike In Decades (35 Years) Grows Even Bigger

On Sunday, workers at two BP oil refineries in Ohio and Indiana walked out as part of a nationwide oil worker strike being led by the United Steelworkers Union (USW). Citing unfair labor practices and dangerous conditions, including leaks and explosions, the approximately 1,440 workers will join nearly 4,000 that began striking a week ago on February 1.

The first nationwide strike by oil refinery workers since 1980, the addition of BP’s Whiting, Indiana, refinery and the company’s joint-venture refinery with Husky Energy in Toledo, Ohio, brings the total number of plants with strikers to 11, including refineries accounting for about 13 percent of total U.S. oil refining capacity. The original strike included workers in California, Kentucky, Texas and Washington.

The USW called for the strike after talks broke down with Shell Oil, which is leading the industry-wide bargaining effort. It comes at an already tumultuous time as plummeting oil prices have given rise to a heated debate over the future of an industry that relies on extracting cheap and plentiful resources from the ground. This precipitous drop in crude oil prices by over 60 percent since June has caused companies to lay off workers and delay plans for expansion; what they see as the most painless means of avoiding profit cuts. The strike is not expected to impact gas prices.

In a statement, USW International President Leo W. Gerard said the oil industry is long overdue in addressing many of the issues that directly impact workers’ health and safety.

“Management cannot continue to resist allowing workers a stronger voice on issues that could very well make the difference between life and death for too many of them,” said Gerard.


The first nationwide strike by oil refinery workers in 35 years is growing! This is an excellent message and a true boost for organized labor. Safety in the workplace, and the right for the workers to have a voice on the issue of their safety, is a strong cause that resonates with most people.
Posted by herding cats | Sun Feb 8, 2015, 10:31 PM (0 replies)

HSBC files show how Swiss bank helped clients dodge taxes and hide millions

HSBC’s Swiss banking arm helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets, doling out bundles of untraceable cash and advising clients on how to circumvent domestic tax authorities, according to a huge cache of leaked secret bank account files.


Although tax authorities around the world have had confidential access to the leaked files since 2010, the true nature of the Swiss bank’s misconduct has never been made public until now. Hollywood stars, shopkeepers, royalty and clothing merchants feature in the files along with the heirs to some of Europe’s biggest fortunes.

In one memo, an HSBC manager is recorded discussing how a London-based financier whom the bank codenamed “Painter”, and his partner, could cheat on Italian tax. “The risk for the couple is, of course, that when they return to Italy the UK tax authorities will pass on information on them to the Italian tax authorities. My own view on this was that … there clearly was a risk.”

According to the files, HSBC’s Swiss bankers were also prepared to help Emmanuel Shallop, who was subsequently convicted of dealing in “blood diamonds”, the illegal trade that fuelled war in Africa.

One memo records: “We have opened a company account for him based in Dubai … The client is currently being very careful because he is under pressure from the Belgian tax authorities who are investigating his activities in the field of diamond tax evasion.”


ICIJ Report: Banking Giant HSBC Sheltered Murky Cash Linked to Dictators and Arms Dealers

Team of journalists from 45 countries unearths secret bank accounts maintained for criminals, traffickers, tax dodgers, politicians and celebrities

Secret documents reveal that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws.

The leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion. They provide a rare glimpse inside the super-secret Swiss banking system — one the public has never seen before.

The documents, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists via the French newspaper Le Monde, show the bank’s dealings with clients engaged in a spectrum of illegal behavior, especially in hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from tax authorities. They also show private records of famed soccer and tennis players, cyclists, rock stars, Hollywood actors, royalty, politicians, corporate executives and old-wealth families.

These disclosures shine a light on the intersection of international crime and legitimate business, and they dramatically expand what’s known about potentially illegal or unethical behavior in recent years at HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks.

Although we already know the basics, I think some will find these revelations interesting still.
Posted by herding cats | Sun Feb 8, 2015, 06:45 PM (1 replies)

Black and Latina women scientists sometimes mistaken for janitors

In a series of famous studies designed to gauge at what age stereotypes sink into young minds, elementary school students were asked to draw a scientist. Kindergarteners’ drawings in these Draw-a-Scientist tests were all over the map. But by second grade, one standard image had firmly taken root: A scientist wore a white lab coat and glasses. And he was always a white man.

So it should perhaps come as no surprise that a new report on women of color in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, found that 100 percent of the 60 scientists interviewed reported experiencing bias and discrimination.

So much so that African American and Latina scientists said they were routinely mistaken for janitors. “I always amuse my friends with my janitor stories,” one black woman scientist said. “But it has happened, not only at weird hours.”

More than three-fourths of the African American women scientists surveyed – 500 in an online survey in addition to the 60 in-depth interviews – reported having to provide evidence of their competence over and over again. They tend to feel they can’t afford to make a single mistake. And more than women of any other race or ethnicity, black women were more likely to report a sense of “bleak isolation.”

Posted by herding cats | Sat Feb 7, 2015, 10:24 PM (4 replies)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I would overturn supreme court's Citizens United ruling

If Ruth Bader Ginsburg could overturn any of the decisions made by America’s highest court in the past 10 years, it would be the sweeping 2010 decision that expanded corporate personhood.

While answering questions at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, the supreme court justice said that if she had to pick one case to undo, it would be the Citizens United decision. “I think our system is being polluted by money,” Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg said she is optimistic that “sensible restrictions” on campaign financing will one day be in place, quoting her late husband Martin Ginsburg to explain why: “The true symbol of the United States is not the eagle, it’s the pendulum – when it swings too far in one direction, it will swing back.”

Georgetown Law dean William Treanor moderated the conversation, organized for the school’s graduating class.

Posted by herding cats | Wed Feb 4, 2015, 07:50 PM (2 replies)

Democrats block effort to derail immigration order

Source: USA Today

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats blocked passage Tuesday of a Homeland Security spending bill that would have derailed President Obama's order to protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Senators voted 51-48 on a procedural motion to advance the bill. Republicans fell short of the 60 votes needed.

Unless a compromise on a new bill can be reached by the end of the month, funding for the Department of Homeland Security will expire and the agency will face a partial shutdown.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/02/03/homeland-security-funding-immigration-executive-order/22796301/
Posted by herding cats | Tue Feb 3, 2015, 04:03 PM (2 replies)
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