Pleasant Valley Winery

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wonder Woman: From Hollywood to the White House?


Talking Points

A NationofChange Exclusive Column


WonderWoman102914

Feminism hasn't exactly conquered Hollywood, or much less Wall Street, or Washington. But don't you think it surely is overdue?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pope declares theory of evolution valid

(photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)
(photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)

Pope Francis: Evolution and Big Bang Happened, God Is Not "A Magician With a Magic Wand"

By Adam Withnall, The Independent
28 October 14

he theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real and God is not “a magician with a magic wand”, Pope Francis has declared.

Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope made comments which experts said put an end to the “pseudo theories” of creationism and intelligent design that some argue were encouraged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Francis explained that both scientific theories were not incompatible with the existence of a creator – arguing instead that they “require it”.

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said.
He added: “He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment.

“The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.

“Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

The Catholic Church has long had a reputation for being anti-science – most famously when Galileo faced the inquisition and was forced to retract his “heretic” theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

But Pope Francis’s comments were more in keeping with the progressive work of Pope Pius XII, who opened the door to the idea of evolution and actively welcomed the Big Bang theory. In 1996, John Paul II went further and suggested evolution was “more than a hypothesis” and “effectively proven fact”.

Yet more recently, Benedict XVI and his close advisors have apparently endorsed the idea that intelligent design underpins evolution – the idea that natural selection on its own is insufficient to explain the complexity of the world. In 2005, his close associate Cardinal Schoenborn wrote an article saying “evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process – is not”.

Giovanni Bignami, a professor and president of Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics, told the Italian news agency Adnkronos: “The pope’s statement is significant. We are the direct descendents from the Big Bang that created the universe. Evolution came from creation.”

Giulio Giorello, professor of the philosophy of science at Milan’s University degli Studi, told reporters that he believed Francis was “trying to reduce the emotion of dispute or presumed disputes” with science.

Despite the huge gulf in theological stance between his tenure and that of his predecessor, Francis praised Benedict XVI as he unveiled a bronze bust of him at the academy's headquarters in the Vatican Gardens.

“No one could ever say of him that study and science made him and his love for God and his neighbour wither,” Francis said, according to a translation by the Catholic News Service.

“On the contrary, knowledge, wisdom and prayer enlarged his heart and his spirit. Let us thank God for the gift that he gave the church and the world with the existence and the pontificate of Pope Benedict.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BANNER DAY: Gila Co. records first gay marriage

Marriage licenses issued in every county for same-sex couples

TOP: Michael Berg and Rodney Eckersley display their marriage license outside Maricopa County Superior Court on the same day a federal judge overturned Arizona’s same-sex marriage bans. The two said they had waited 18 years for the right to marry. (Cronkite News photo by Sierra Oshrin)
BOTTOM: Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors were college sweethearts 57 years ago, but only married this mong after a judge overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Bailey took Majors’ name after the ceremony, which occurred on the afternoon of the ruling. (Cronkite News photo by Sierra Oshrin)

By CAMARON STEVENSON Cronkite News 

WASHINGTON – In the week since Arizona’s bans on same-sex marriage were overturned, clerks in all 15 of the state’s counties say they have issued at least one marriage license to same-sex couples. 

Not all counties have kept track of licenses to same-sex as opposed to opposite-sex couples, but it appears that about 300 of the newly legal licenses had been issued in the first few days after the court ruling.

That means that state coffers have benefited along with same-sex couples: At $76 a pop, licenses to those couples had already brought in an estimated $20,000 or more in fees.

While the court ruling was a victory for gay-rights advocates, it was quickly attacked by groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom, which last week called it “a terrible decision” that it vowed to fight.

One of its first post-ban actions was a memo to county clerks throughout Arizona, telling them that they have the right to deny issuing licenses to same-sex couples for religious reasons and instructing them in how to do it.

But for the majority of clerks, the memo seems to have gone unheeded.

Evan Wolfson, president of the national marriage-equality organization Freedom to Marry, said he has “not heard of any clerk disrespecting their oath and their job duty” by refusing to issue a license.

Every county in Arizona has reported issuing at least one marriage license to a same-sex couple since the ban was overturned, though not all kept specific numbers.

Maricopa County officials, who said they issue 98 marriage licenses on an average day, issued 292 licenses last Friday and another 184 on Monday – a net increase of 280 licenses over the regular volume. They did not immediately have numbers for the rest of this week.

The Williams Institute, a California-based think tank, estimated this summer that 7,909 same-sex couples would marry in Arizona in the first three years if the state’s ban was lifted. That would bring in more than $600,000 in license fees to the state if the numbers held true.

But the Williams Institute said the greater tax benefit would come from wedding spending by same-sex couples. Once taxes are collected on spending for wedding festivities, out-of-town guests and the like, the take could reach more than $5 million for the state over the three-year period, according its estimate.

The institute based its June estimate on 2010 Census data, the American Community Survey, and other data sources.

Last week’s ruling followed a rapid series of court decisions that have led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in more than 30 states so far.

On Oct. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down appeals of five rulings from lower courts that had voided bans on same-sex marriage in different states. The next day, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned bans in Nevada and Idaho.

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick cited the circuit court’s ruling – Arizona is in the 9th Circuit – and gave parties in two different cases challenging Arizona’s same-sex marriage bans several days to argue why he should not overturn the ban.

On Oct. 16, he ruled that an amendment to the Arizona Constitution and two state laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional violations of equal protection.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said Oct. 17 that he disagreed with the ruling but would not challenge it, saying the higher courts’ rulings made an appeal an “exercise in futility.”

“The only purpose served by filing another appeal would be to waste the taxpayer’s money,” Horne said then. “That is not a good conservative principle.”

Same-sex couples started heading to courthouses in Arizona to get married that afternoon.

While o Opponents have vowed to keep fighting, supporters say they are confident same-sex marriage in Arizona is here to stay.

“The gays aren’t using up all the marriage licenses,” Wolfson said. “There is plenty of room for marriage for all.”
 
 LICENSE TO BILL 
County clerks in Coconino, Maricopa, Pima, Yavapai and Yuma counties said they did not track the number of same-sex couples who took out marriage licenses, but all issued at least one – and perhaps hundreds for some. Licenses to same-sex couples as of Wednesday:
- Apache County, 1
- Cochise County, 6
- Gila County, 1
- Graham County, 1
- Greenlee County, 1
- La Paz County, 1
- Mohave County, 7
- Navajo County, 1
- Pinal County, 9
- Santa Cruz County, 1

Two weeks of single lanes on Beeline

ADOT  
  ADOT on YouTube  
Safety project on SR 87 south of the SR 188 junction requires daytime lane restrictions
Drivers should expect minimal delays

 

As work continues on the new safety improvement project along State Route 87 approximately 14 miles south of the SR 188 junction, crews will narrow the highway to a single lane in both directions during the day for the next two weeks between mileposts 227 and 236.

Work hours are Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Drivers need to be aware of alternating daytime single-lane restrictions and some shoulder closures as crews continue to make progress on the reconstruction of the curve at milepost 227 and the building of a new northbound truck escape ramp at milepost 228. Minimal delays are expected.

The work zone will be clearly marked by temporary barricades and signage. ADOT advises drivers to allow additional time to reach their destinations and to proceed through the work zone with caution, comply with the reduced speed limit, and be alert for construction equipment and personnel.

How stupid does GOP think voters are?

The Republican Governing Vision: Not

Robert Borosage

Monday, October 27, 2014

Five things that will kill you before Ebola

Members of the Reston-Herndon Alliance To End Gun Violence hold a vigil against the National Rifle Association. (photo: AFP/Paul J. Richards)
Members of the Reston-Herndon Alliance To End Gun Violence hold a vigil against the National Rifle Association. (photo: AFP/Paul J. Richards)


By Juan Cole, Informed Comment
26 October 14
 
he odd hysteria about ebola is being driven more by a media frenzy than the actual public health risks. Ebola is not the sort of disease that is likely to turn into a pandemic, becoming really wide spread. It is too hard to contract (it doesn’t spread by infected persons just breathing on others) and kills too many of its victims (diseases don’t survive well if neither do their hosts). Moreover, countries that are relatively well-governed, with good public health systems are not at high risk from this sort of disease. Even Senegal and Nigeria in West Africa have dealt with small outbreaks professionally and right now have no ebola cases, in contrast to countries ravaged by years of civil war like Sierra Leone and Liberia (wars, by the way, in which former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi played a major and cynical role).

You never know whether corporate media spread such panics to make money off the news (the definition of corporate media) or to take working peoples’ minds off more important issues, such as how American Neoliberal capitalism is increasingly screwing them over.

But here are some things that will kill more Americans this year than ebola.


1. Largely unregulated, often military-grade firearms in the hands of civilians will typically be deployed in 11,000 homicides and nearly 20,000 suicides every year in the US. Background checks at gun shows for all purchasers, including from private sellers there, would much reduce this toll, but this measure has been blocked by the gun manufacturers (a.k.a. the NRA). It would be fairly easy to address this enormous public health debacle, but bought-and-paid-for American politicians play down the issue, in contrast to the ebola hype, which they have tried to tie to immigrants and have used to promote Islamophobia.


2. Smoking will kill on the order of 430,000 Americans this year. The US government allows corporations to spray extra nicotine and other addictive substances on the tobacco leaves so as to addict youngsters who experiment with smoking and make it difficult for them to quit. Nearly half a million people killed a year should cause a panic, especially since most of us have a loved one or close friend who smokes, but there is no pressure at all on government to stop the corporate promotion of nicotine addiction for the express purpose of making money off killing working people.


3. The public seems to want government to make the investments necessary to dealing with infectious diseases such as ebola. But too many Americans mind Obamacare, which has added millions to the rolls of the insured. Back in 2009, it was estimated, some 45,000 people died every year just from not having access to health care. Now that number will decrease significantly.


4. Burning coal to produce electricity directly kills some 12,000 people a year, in addition to helping cause 200,000 heart attacks annually. Coal’s release of mercury into the atmosphere also causes fatalities and disabilities, since mercury is a nerve poison. And of course, burning coal causes rapid and disruptive climate change, which will kill far more people than ebola ever will.


5. An analysis of the food combinations available on the menus of 34 restaurant chains that offer children’s meals showed that 50 percent of the meal combos came to over 600 calories, while 430 calories is a more ideal meal for children. These restaurants are clearly contributing to the obesity crisis in children and youth. Being obese in childhood is highly correlated with being obese in adulthood. Some 300,000 Americans die every year from conditions associated with obesity. As for children, the CDC reports,

“Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.

In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

Just demanding that American restaurants offer less toxic meals to children would save many more lives than will ever be taken by ebola in the US. But it would mean standing up to the food corporations.

Whether it is the lobbyists for Big Coal who want to go on spewing poison into the atmosphere, or the NRA lobbyists for the four major corporations that manufacture hand guns or the restaurant lobbyists who want to evade regulation and want to be able to kill their customers with 4,000-calorie meals, or the cigarette manufacturers and distributors who are, like 007, licensed by the government to murder, the common denominator here is that our corporations are often much worse for our health than a mere infectious disease outbreak. But these health deficits are almost never reported on in the media owned by the corporations. Instead, we’re encouraged to think about something else while our pockets are being picked– say, an exotic disease.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

6 Reasons Liz Warren Should Run for President

Presidential candidate? (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Presidential candidate? (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


By Ezra Klein, Vox

25 October 14

s Elizabeth Warren running for president? Maybe!

In the past, when asked if she's running for president, Warren has been pretty clear: "I am not running for president," she said in June of 2014. "Do you want to put an exclamation point at the end of that?"

But in a recent interview with People, Warren was rather less emphatic. "I don't think so," she replied, before saying: "If there's any lesson I've learned in the last five years, it's don't be so sure about what lies ahead. There are amazing doors that could open."

Warren's office, of course, insists "nothing has changed."

The truth is that at this point, Elizabeth Warren has no idea whether she'll run for president. The election is too far away, and too much could change, and she doesn't need to make a decision yet.

The more interesting question is the one she's probably asking herself: should Elizabeth Warren run for president? Luckily, the answer to that is easy, and obvious: of course she should. There are six reasons why. 

1) She can

In 2012, 416 people registered as presidential candidates with the Federal Election Commission. But you probably haven't heard of most of them. Being taken seriously as a presidential candidate requires a rare mixture of money, supporters, staff, volunteers, poll numbers, luck, elite credibility and more. Warren has it.

There are already Draft Warren campaigns popping up around the country. There are already willing donors. There's intense media interest. She would instantly be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. She would be in every debate. She would have press at every campaign stop. She would have volunteers in every state. Not many people get that opportunity. Warren should take her shot. 

2) She has something to gain

The best argument against Elizabeth Warren running for president is that she'll almost certainly lose — at least as long as Hillary Clinton is also running. I agree with that. It's just not a very good argument against Warren running for president.

There are a lot of reasons to run for president. One of them, of course, is that you just may win. But with the exception of the presidency itself, there's no better platform for forcing your ideas to the top of the political agenda. This is true even if you lose.

One of the ways that front-runners squash challengers is by co-opting their best ideas. Mitt Romney scrapped a perfectly sensible tax plan and replaced it with something much more mathematically inventive after Herman Cain got traction with his 9-9-9 pitch. Barack Obama brought out a serious health-reform bill and promised to make it a top priority in his first term after John Edwards and Hillary Clinton forced it to the front of the Democratic agenda.

But once the idea is co-opted, it becomes a campaign promise — and presidential candidates hew much closer to their campaign promises than most people realize. There's a good argument that Obamacare only happened because Edwardscare was a threat during the Democratic primaries. 

3) She has something to say

Elizabeth Warren is an unusual politician: she ended up in politics because she had big ideas that people really liked. That's a departure from most politicians, who basically don't have any original ideas at all, and who end up in politics because they badly want to be politicians.

Warren made her name as a Harvard law professor who became something of a public intellectual. She was early in recognizing how squeezed middle-class families had become, and in arguing for a consumer financial protection bureau, and in making the case against the spiraling complexity of Wall Street.

She's continued pushing some big thoughts in the Senate. She's been out front arguing for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, for instance. She's made interesting points about the pro-business drift of the federal judiciary. She's pushed hard on the idea that banks shouldn't become so big that they're effectively immune from criminal prosecution.

She's in politics, in other words, because she cares about policy, and because she's got some big ideas for improving it. A presidential campaign is her best shot at making those ideas the Democratic Party's platform rather than just Elizabeth Warren's press releases. 

4) What else is she going to be doing between 2015 and 2016?

If Warren were, say, the chair of the Senate Banking Committee, and if Democrats controlled the House and the Senate and the presidency, then there would be a good argument that Warren could do more as a legislator than as a candidate. But Warren is, in real life, the second-most junior senator on the Banking Committee. And she's likely to be serving in a Senate controlled by Republicans, at a time when the White House is controlled by a Democrat, and absolutely nothing is getting done.

So it's not just that running for president could do an enormous amount to push Warren's issues forward. It's that hanging around the Senate isn't going to do anything for Warren's issues at all. It's hard to imagine two better years to spend away from the Senate than 2015 and 2016. 

5) She might not get another chance

This is an argument Ryan Lizza made in December of 2005, in a piece arguing that Obama should do the then-unthinkable and run for president, so I'll just quote him:

The kind of political star power Obama has doesn't last. My favorite law of American politics is that candidates have only 14 years to become president [or vice president]. That is their expiration date … the majority of presidents since 1900 have fallen on the low end of this zero-to-fourteen-year spectrum: zero (Dwight Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, William Howard Taft), two years (Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt), four years (Franklin Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge), and six years (George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Warren Harding). The lesson is that Obama must strike while he is hot or risk fading into obscurity.

You can pretty much swap Warren's name in for Obama's throughout that whole section. If Warren doesn't run in 2016 and Hillary Clinton does run and wins, then it will be at least eight years until Warren can run again. By then, she will likely have lost all or most of her star power. Wall Street reform will probably have faded as an issue. And she'll be 75 years old. Warren will have missed her moment. 

6) And if she loses? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Warren isn't up for reelection in 2016, so there's no particular conflict between keeping her seat and running for president. And if she loses, there's no particular reason to think she won't join the illustrious ranks of senators who ran for president, fell a bit short, and then became even more important senators. That list includes Democrats like Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, and John Kerry, as well as Republicans like John McCain, Bob Dole, and Richard Lugar. Senators don't get penalized for running for president and losing.

Which is all to say that the question isn't, "Why should Elizabeth Warren run for president?" It's, "Why shouldn't she?"