Shining a light on how Congress really works

Thanks to commenter efogoto, I saw the second part of the Seth Meyers interview of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez where she explained what the Green New Deal is about and the difference between a resolution and a bill. She also explained a photo that she had posted on Twitter that showed lines of homeless people sitting in the hallways outside congressional hearing rooms. They were not there to plead their own case. Instead she said that lobbyists hire homeless people to keep places in line for them for congressional hearings so that lobbyists end up occupying all the seats in the hearing rooms, shutting out anyone else.
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The petty cruelty of the US prison system

I came across this article about Selene Saavedra Roman, a young woman who worked as a flight attendant for the American airline Mesa, who was detained for six weeks upon the return of her flight from Mexico because she is the child of undocumented immigrants. She is one of the many ‘Dreamers’, recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, that the Trump administration is cracking down on.
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The menace of philanthropists

I have reached such a level of cynicism that now when I hear someone described as a philanthropist, I immediately assume that they must be really awful people who have either got their money by practices that abuse and exploit people or that they are personally abusive to those immediately around them or most likely both, and they are now using their gifts to hide the ugly sources of their wealth or to buy silence. The burden of proof has shifted to them to show that they are not awful people.
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Seth Meyers’ show

Among other things he asked her why her questioning of people in congressional hearings was so much better than that of so many other congresspeople. She replied that she has excellent staffers and since she pays all her staffers a living wage, two of them could give up the second jobs that they worked in order to make ends meet, and thus can devote all their energy to the work in Congress. She also gave examples of some of the ridiculous questions that Republicans, weaned on an exclusive diet of Fox News, ask of witnesses and also of her.

Rich new trove of Cambrian fossils found

The Cambrian explosion is the name given to the discovery of a vast range of fossils of organisms that existed about 500 million years ago. The first discovery of them was made in the Burgess Shale region of Canada in 1909 and other troves were later found in China and Australia. But now comes a report of an extremely rich new trove that has been discovered, again in China.
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What were they thinking?

The fear that has been generated by school shootings in the US has prompted some districts to adopt measures that seem utterly wrongheaded. An elementary school in Indiana ran a drill to prepare for school shootings that involved teachers getting fired at with plastic pellets.

The incident, acknowledged in testimony this week before state lawmakers, was confirmed by two elementary school teachers in Monticello, who described an exercise in which teachers were asked by local law enforcement to kneel down against a classroom wall before being sprayed across their backs with plastic pellets without warning.

“They told us, ‘This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing,’” said one of the two teachers, both of whom asked IndyStar not to be identified out of concern for their jobs. “They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times.

“It hurt so bad.”

One of the teachers said she was waiting in the library with her colleagues as the first small group of teachers was led into a classroom for one session.

She said she had welts and one spot where the pellet broke her skin. It was scabbed over for several weeks.

What exactly was the lesson being sent by shooting at teachers? That bullets hurt? I think that everyone already knows that. If at all, shooting them with pellets might convey the wrong message that bullets are not lethal.

People go into the teaching profession to teach, not to be police deputies or the targets of a shooting exercise. I find it incredible that school districts agree to this type of ‘training’.

The colossal waste in the Pentagon budget

Matt Taibbi has a blistering expose of the massive boondoggle that is the US military budget. He says that it is deliberately designed to be obscure and prevent any proper auditing so that no one really knows how much money is being spent on what. They thumb their noses at any requests for accountability. There is not proper inventory of what they have and what they spend, allowing for massive amounts of fraud and waste.
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The ‘Nones’ keep growing

According to the results of the most recent General Social Survey data, the number of people who described themselves as not affiliated with any religion keeps rising steadily.

According to newly released General Social Survey data analyzed by Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University, Americans claiming “no religion” — sometimes referred to as “nones” because of how they answer the question “what is your religious tradition?” — now represent about 23.1 percent of the population, up from 21.6 percent in 2016. People claiming evangelicalism, by contrast, now represent 22.5 percent of Americans, a slight dip from 23.9 percent in 2016.

That makes the two groups statistically tied with Catholics (23 percent) as the largest religious — or nonreligious — groupings in the country.

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Unlike Jude, Theresa May takes a sad song and makes it worse

Just when you thought that Theresa May had fouled things up so much that she had reached rock bottom, she managed to sink even lower. Yesterday she gave a televised address to the nation where she said that she was not at fault for the current mess and put it all on the members of parliament. (You can see her four-minute speech here, though for some reason the video starts with 44 minutes of showing just the podium.) It is true that parliament has voted down her proposed deal twice but it was hardly a profile in courage to pass the buck like this. MPs were understandably furious, saying that they were already worried about their safety because of threats against them and for May to throw them under the bus was unconscionable.
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On being a Muslim with a Jewish name

If you met someone who introduced himself as Bob Shabanowitz and tried to guess his ethnicity, the chances are that you would conclude that he is Jewish. But there is such a person and he is in fact a Muslim, descended from the Lipka Tatars in the Baltics, one of the Europe’s oldest Muslim communities, and that it is a common Muslim name in his native town as he discovered when he made a visit back there.
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