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Simon & Schuster rejects employees’ call to drop Pence book deal


Simon & Schuster is standing by its two-book deal with former Vice President Pence despite an employee petition against it, the company’s president and CEO said in a letter sent to staffers Tuesday.

“As a publisher in this polarized era, we have experienced outrage from both sides of the political divide and from different constituencies and groups,” Jonathan Karp wrote in the letter, which was shared with The Hill. 

“But we come to work each day to publish, not cancel, which is the most extreme decision a publisher can make, and one that runs counter to the very core of our mission to publish a diversity of voices and perspectives. We will, therefore, proceed in our publishing agreement with Vice President Mike Pence,” Karp added.

Karp did not address when he first knew about the employee petition or how many people had signed it.

A spokesperson for Simon & Schuster declined to comment on the petition, referring questions back to Karp’s letter.

On April 7, the publisher announced it had signed a deal with Pence for two books. The first,his autobiography, is scheduled to be published in 2023.

In explaining the Pence decision, Karp referenced Simon & Schuster’s recent decision not to release a book from Jonathan Mattingly, one of the Louisville police officers who shot Breonna Taylor. Simon & Schuster was to distribute the book for independent publisher Post Hill Press.

“That decision was immediate, unprecedented, and responsive to the concerns we heard from you and our authors,” Karp wrote. “At the same time, we have contractual obligations and must continue to respect the terms of our agreements with our client publishers.”

He then asked employees to maintain perspective about the books the company is publishing and to realize not everyone shares the same opinions about signing controversial authors.

“For those who think some of our titles are a step backward, let’s appreciate the many Simon & Schuster books that are taking us two steps forward,” Karp wrote. “Let’s also acknowledge that we don’t agree on which titles are taking us forward and backward! That tension — that push and pull — is a healthy part of the dialectic provided by classically liberal publishing companies.”WHEN

Simon & Schuster staff are not the first publishing employees to protest recent deals their companies made with high-profile authors. 

In March of last year, Hachette Book Group employees walked off the job to protest the planned publication of Woody Allen’s memoir.

And in November, employees at Penguin Random House Canada complained when their company was planning to publish a “Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life,” the follow-up to the bestseller “12 Rules for Life” written by Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson.


Bush describes GOP as ‘isolationist, protectionist and, to a certain extent, nativist’


Former President George W. Bush on Tuesday described the Republican Party as “isolationist, protectionist and, to a certain extent, nativist,” his strongest and most direct criticism yet against his own party since leaving office in 2009.Bush’s comments are notable not only because he’s a former Republican president, but he has largely kept quiet on politics since he left Washington. He has recently written about the need for a gentler approach to immigration in contrast to much of the hardline rhetoric that dominates the current GOP in the post-Trump era, but he has typically avoided directly criticizing the party.Asked on Tuesday how he would describe the Republican Party as he sees it today, Bush told NBC’s Hoda Kotb on the “Today” show, “I would describe it as isolationist, protectionist and, to a certain extent, nativist.”When asked if he was disappointed by the party, the former President said, “Well, it is not exactly my vision but I am just an old guy they put out to pasture. Just a simple painter.”Bush, who has recently made several media appearances to promote his book of paintings of immigrants, has called on Congress to tone down the “harsh rhetoric” on immigration and advocated last week for a bipartisan approach to immigration legislation.”I do want to say to Congress, please put aside all of the harsh rhetoric about immigration, please put aside trying to score political points on either side. I hope I can help set a tone that is more respectful about the immigrant, which may lead to reform of the system,” Bush told Norah O’Donnell on “CBS Sunday Morning” over the weekend.


VP handling border crisis at the source


The Biden administration is considering pressing Guatemala to address governance issues in the country, ranging from investment to corruption, according to a source familiar with the deliberations at the White House, highlighting just one of the delicate negotiations Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to lead.The State Department, in coordination with other federal agencies, is weighing a list of priorities to address irregular migration ahead of Harris’ expected visit to Guatemala. Those priorities include legislative reform designed to improve conditions in the country, bolstering border security in the region and increasing Immigration and Customs Enforcement removal flights, the source said.It’s a high-stakes negotiation for Harris, who was tapped by President Joe Biden to lead Central American efforts against the backdrop of a growing number of migrants, many of whom are from the region, at the US southern border that have stretched the government’s resources. Harris is not expected to travel to Mexico and Guatemala until mid-May at the earliest, according to a source familiar with the planning.”We are making progress, but let’s just be very clear, this is a complicated, complex issue that actually has been an issue for a long time and the work that we are putting into it now is work that is going to require a long-standing commitment beyond administrations,” Harris said Monday after touring a manufacturing plant in North Carolina.Since being tapped, Harris — whose role is similar to the one Biden took under the Obama administration — has spoken with the leaders of Guatemala and Mexico and recently met with experts on the region in a virtual roundtable.

Biden admin secures agreements with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to secure borders, official says

Biden admin secures agreements with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to secure borders, official saysHarris was in listening and learning mode during the roundtable, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting. She asked questions but didn’t provide information on specific strategies, the source said, adding that she’s “very focused” on dealing with root causes and looking at what would provide people in the region with “hope” in the short term.Enter your email to sign up for CNN’s “What Matters” Newsletter.close dialog

.Behind the scenes, the White House has tasked federal departments and agencies with collecting information on issues relating to the region — from task forces to combat corruption and smuggling to humanitarian assistance to setting up migrant resource centers in the region, according to the source.That also includes exploring the expansion of the Central American Minors program, which allows certain at-risk Central American youths to live in the US, and providing additional funding to support renewable energy investments, the source said.A State Department spokesperson told CNN Tuesday, “We do not comment on internal deliberations.”CNN reached out to the White House for comment.The litany of tasks provides a glimpse into the administration’s whole-of-government approach to urgently tackling issues in the Central American region, as the US southern border faces an influx of migrants, many of whom are fleeing deteriorating conditions in the region.MORE ON IMMIGRATION

The pandemic has taken a dramatic toll on Latin America, as Covid-19 cases and deaths have soared and economies once projected to grow have been decimated. The region was also hit with two devastating hurricanes. The decline in economic growth in 2020, according to the Congressional Research Service, is expected to worsen income inequality and poverty in the region.Biden asked Congress for $4 billion over four years to target community training, climate mitigation, violence prevention and anti-gang programs with US partners in Mexico and Central America. The US Agency for International Development recently announced it was deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team to respond to urgent humanitarian needs in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei acknowledged the challenges the region faces, saying in an ABC interview that people “emigrate because they have no jobs, no home, no health, no education or security.” He said he’s spoken with Biden and Harris about what he calls “walls of prosperity” to stem the flow of migration.The State Department’s Northern Triangle special envoy, Ricardo Zúñiga, echoed the need to create jobs in Central America during a Council of the Americas event Monday.”A starting point is to have the private sector help guide the strategy from the beginning in our response. We are going to address the acute factors. In other words, we’re going to stress the humanitarian needs in the early going and that will be evident from where we’re directing our assistance,” he added, underscoring the need to also promote stronger regional efforts to control irregular migration.

Last week, Harris cited corruption, rule of law, agriculture, food insecurity and human rights issues as contributors to mass migration in the region.”We are all very clear. The work that we have the potential to do in the Northern Triangle will not evidence itself overnight, by any stretch. We are looking at issues that have been a long time in the making,” she said.CNN previously reported that though aides were making efforts to define Harris’ official task as leading the diplomatic outreach to Central American countries to address the root causes of migration, the vice president has already been tied to the border situation at large, as Republicans seek to conflate her more narrowly defined role with the entire border crisis.On Monday, Harris didn’t directly respond when asked if she was frustrated by Republicans efforts to tie her defined role with the larger situation at the border, instead touting steps she has taken on the diplomatic side of things, working with Cabinet officials and foreign governments.Harris said she had spoken with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga during his visit to the White House last week about what Japan can do to assist in the region, and is also working with the United Nations to work with allies to “renew a focus in that region.””It’s something that is going to require diplomatic work. It is something that is going to require a multilateral approach in addition to what we can do with our agencies,” she said.


Coronavirus-Denier Ted Nugent Tests Positive For COVID-19: ‘I Thought I Was Dying’


Lee Moran·

Rock musician Ted Nugent announced he has tested positive for the coronavirus in a Facebook live video in which he repeatedly used racist slurs to refer to COVID-19, spit on the floor and promoted anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.

“Everybody told me that I should not announce this,” the conservative rocker said in the video on Monday.

Nugent, a staunch supporter of ex-President Donald Trump, previously called the pandemic a scam and has railed against public health restrictions.

“I have had flu symptoms for the last 10 days. I thought I was dying. I mean, just a clusterfuck,” Nugent said in the video. “I got the Chinese shit.”

Nugent said he had a “stuffed-up head” and “body aches.”

“My God, what a pain in the ass. I literally can hardly crawl out of bed the last few days. But I did, I crawled,” he said.

Nugent said he was now quarantining.

Still, he repeated his refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccine ― a stance he first took last year in defiance of regulatory approvals and public health experts worldwide who have deemed the shots safe and effective.

“Nobody knows what’s in it,” Nugent said, falsely, in the Facebook live video. “If you can’t even honestly answer our questions of exactly what’s in it and why are you testing it on human beings and forcing it on people in such a short period of time?”


The Girl in the Kent State photo


This article in the Washington Post tells the story of the girl in the Kent State photo from May 4, 1970. She was 14! Her name is Mary Ann Vecchio.

I was at NYU that day, protesting the ongoing war in Viet Nam, when we heard about the National Guard killing students at Kent State.  We were all appalled.  A few days later that photo appeared. Most of us assumed that the girl was a Kent State student. She wasn’t, she was a 14 year old runaway from  Florida. This WAPO article was the first time I’d every heard that.

She was deeply affected by what happened that day, and by the photo becoming so famous.  Read her story.

That photo, of her kneeling over the body of Kent State University student Jeffrey Miller, is one of the most important images of the 20th century. Taken by student photographer John Filo, it captures Mary Ann’s raw grief and disbelief at the realization that the nation’s soldiers had just fired at its own children. The Kent State Pietà, as it’s sometimes called, is one of those rare photos that fundamentally changed the way we see ourselves and the world around us.

These images shocked our collective conscience — and insisted that we look. But eventually we look away, unaware, or perhaps unwilling, to think about the suffering that went on long after the shutter has snapped — or of the cost to the human beings trapped inside those photos. “That picture hijacked my life,” says Mary Ann, now 65. “And 50 years later, I still haven’t really moved on.”

The story was written by Patricia McCormick.

Update:   On a personal note, many people might not remember but after the shootings at Kent State, many of the country’s colleges were on strike for the rest of the spring semester. NYU never had classes again that spring, and that was true for many other schools. To this day I have some incompletes on my permanent record.

Great News! Bail REVOKED! For Proud Boys Conspiracy Leaders Ethan Nordean And Joseph Biggs!


Three cheers for U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly!


A federal judge has revoked bail for two leaders of the Proud Boys, a paramilitary right-wing extremist group, contending that newly revealed evidence of their role in the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol has shown them to be too dangerous to remain free while awaiting trial.

Ethan Nordean of Washington state and Joseph Biggs of Florida are charged with conspiring to stop the certification of the 2020 election — and with organizing and leading dozens of Proud Boys to the Capitol, many of whom were among the earliest to breach the building.


Kelly’s ruling reverses earlier decisions by federal judges to release Nordean and Biggs under strict conditions. In the government’s earlier bid to detain Nordean, Judge Beryl Howell described weaknesses in the case that had been presented, and prosecutors declined to present evidence supporting their most damaging claims — in part because they were preparing to unseal a graver set of charges against Nordean and other Proud Boys leaders. That indictment was issued in March, linking Nordean, Biggs and two other Proud Boys regional leaders — Zach Rehl and Charles Donohoe — in the alleged conspiracy.

Here’s that Grand Jury Indictment

The Guardian

Both were indicted in one of many Proud Boys conspiracy cases to stem from the investigation into the assault on the building that followed a pro-Donald Trump rally.


“The defendants stand charged with seeking to steal one of the crown jewels of our country, in a sense, by interfering with the peaceful transfer of power,” the US district judge Timothy Kelly said as he explained his decision on Monday. “It’s no exaggeration to say the rule of law … in the end, the existence of our constitutional republic is threatened by it.”

The judge’s decision to detain the pair is a reversal of an earlier notion to release them after the Department of Justice argued for pre-trial detention based on new accusations in an updated indictment filed by prosecutors in March.


Kelly walked through the evidence presented so far in support of the government’s allegations against Nordean and Biggs, including numerous social media posts after the presidential election and later encrypted communications regarding planning for Jan. 6. Much of that evidence was not available when the men were initially released from custody.


Nordean and Biggs are both alleged to have entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 along with other Proud Boys when the mob of Trump supporters overwhelmed police and stormed the building. Neither defendant, however, stands accused of fighting with law enforcement that day.

Kelly said the men possess leadership and organizational skills that could pose a potential threat in the future, including in the period ahead of their trial. Because of that, the judge said, they could evade any conditions of release that he could think of to try to limit their contacts with the outside world.

The FBI continues to seek the public’s assistance in identifying individuals who participated in unlawful conduct during the Capitol Insurrection.

If you have information about assholes who conspired to overturn our democracy at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-‪800-225-5324) or leave a tip online. You may also submit relevant photos and videos to the FBI here.

If you just can’t get enough information about the assholes who tried to flush our democracy down the shitter, here are some excellent resources…

Department of Justice Capitol Breach Cases

FBI US Capitol Violence Most Wanted

Insider Searchable Table

George Washington University Spreadsheet Updated Daily

NPR Updated Database

Noted Norwegian COVID Conspiracy Theorist Dies of COVID.


The problem with science denial is that the truth is the truth, no matter what your opinion on the subject is. Not to worry, the chances are it won’t make a difference in your daily life — but beware, it can kill you. The moral is, pick your stupidity wisely. Denying evolution makes you look like an idiot, but physically leaves you unharmed. Denying climate change might kill your descendants, but you’ll probably make it. But thinking COVID is a hoax can be fatal. And so it was for Hans Kristian Gaarder. On April 6th he died — aged 60 — of COVID.

Gaarder — although not an Amerian —  certainly believed like a certain kind of one. He was an aficionado of 2020 US electoral conspiracy theories. He had a beef with the Illuminati. But his real passion was COVID denial. As late as March 18, he was on social media criticizing the “massive measures” aimed at preventing infection of “something that will be like a cold or light flu.” He wondered whether the measures really were a means of “camouflaging that the Coronavirus does NOT spread from person to person.”

Identifying himself as an independent researcher of suppressed information, he reminded his followers to remember that the “lying and weak media’s job is to trick its readers into blindly and obediently being led into the mud by lying and weak politicians.”

On March 26th and 27th, undeterred by local ordinances enacted in the face of new virulent viral strains, he had two house parties. In at least one, the guests discussed the topic of “Trump, Biden and the way forward for the United States and the world”. A dozen attendees have now come down with the disease. Gaarder ignored his symptoms, refused a COVID test, and denied having coronavirus until he expired.

Gaarder is not new to the denial game. In 2009, he took the same dismissive approach to swine flu. Over the years he explored his passion for conspiracy in an online magazine and TV interviews. Gaarder also wrote for a Norwegian website known for reporting on alternative health care and spreading conspiracy theories. Many of its writers and readers are also highly skeptical of vaccines. As late as Monday, April 5th, the day before he died, the site reported that news of Gaarder’s infection was fake and he was completely healthy.

Ironically, a cynic might say that the best evidence to discredit the theory of evolution is the continued existence of morons like Gaarder. It is hard to see how the perpetuation of this kind of insanity points to ‘survival of the fittest’. But better minds than mine will easily explain the seeming inconsistency. 

I'm deathly afraid of needles, and I just signed up for the COVID vaccine. No excuses


Today is the day I stopped stalling.

My BMI is on the cusp of “overweight,” and other than an overweening fondness for nondairy cheeses made from a mysterious hodgepodge of plant oils, space ingredients (dark matter for sure, and perhaps a soupçon of tauntaun smegma), and hipster smugness, I don’t have any qualifying preexisting conditions. 

The only drug I take is an antidepressant, which allows me to visit family in my small Trumpy hometown in Wisconsin once or twice a year without my organs spontaneously shutting down.

So now that everyone in the U.S. is eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine—as of today!—my morning task was clear: Sign up for the Fauci ouchie. Which I did. I’m scheduled for Friday morning at my local Rite Aid.


Boom, motherfuckers!

Oh, and pardon me. Joe Biden has a message for you:


Unlike many other Americans, my vaccine “hesitancy,” if you can call it that, has nothing to do with what’s in the vaccine. If you could get it in my body through any means other than a needle, I’d have written down just about anything on my vaccination form to get a shot. “Hmm, is the stigmata on the list of qualifying preexisting conditions, because I for sure have that.”

The truth is, I have a severe, lifelong needle phobia. For instance, I can’t sit through a blood draw without passing out, and vaccines aren’t all that much more appealing. 

But this is what you do when you’re part of a society. You act on behalf of the public good, even when doing so is scary, painful, or inconvenient. And, ironically, taking the vaccine will be one of my biggest COVID challenges.

I’m an extreme introvert, so quarantining wasn’t all that terrible. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as eager as most Americans to get back to “normal life,” which for me is only slightly less hermit-like than quarantine.)

Masking was as easy as … well, putting on a fucking mask.

But now we’re nearing the finish line, and my irrational fears are rearing their Hydra heads. That said, I’m going to get the shot, because I don’t want to die or, even more importantly, potentially take part in a superspreading event that kills dozens of others down the line.

And I’m more or less okay with that, because I’m not a fucking sociopath.

So no excuses. If I can get this damn shot, anyone can. I just hope whatever software Bill Gates has implanted in the Moderna vaccine has that old 3D pinball game that used to come preinstalled on Windows. I miss it so much.

”This guy is a natural. Sometimes I laugh so hard I cry.”  Bette Midler on author Aldous J. Pennyfarthing via Twitter. Need a thorough Trump cleanse? Thanks to Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, Dear F*cking Lunatic, Dear Pr*sident A**clown and Dear F*cking Moron, you can purge the Trump years from your soul sans the existential dread. Only laughs from here on out. Click those links, yo!

Biden's Popularity is Driving FOX News CRAZY(er), Reporting Insane Distortions of Positive Polls


As President Joe Biden approaches the 100 day mark of his presidency, his critics at Fox News are struggling to find anything coherent to complain about. That’s a profound failure coming from the network whose CEO, Lachlan Murdoch, publicly declared that the network’s “job” is to be “the opposition” to the Biden administration. Apparently they are doing a lousy job.

Consequently, Fox News has had to resort to petty and embarrassing contrivances and manufactured “scandals” involving such political luminaries as Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head. Yet somehow, these tactics haven’t produced the avalanche of anti-Biden sentiment that Fox News hoped for. As a result, the right-wing propagandists at Fox are attempting to misinterpret the mostly positive polling that Biden has enjoyed. Monday morning Fox contributor Liz Peek reported that…

“They want us to believe that Biden’s progressive juggernaut is wildly popular, and that the president’s obvious inadequacies are a figment of right-wing imagination. They want us to think that common-sense Americans are OK with having our schools closed and our borders open, that we are on board with declaring our country racist and allowing riots to wreck our cities. They want us to believe that Biden is way more successful – already – than President Trump ever was. It is not true. None of it.”

For the record, literally everything in that paragraph is a lie. No Democrat has ever suggested that closed schools are OK. Nor have they ever advocated for open borders. Nor have they declared the country racist (just the cretins like Tucker Carlson who are proudly racist and those who deny that it ever existed). And certainly no Democrat has ever supported “allowing riots to wreck our cities.”

However, Peek’s assertion that “Biden is way more successful – already – than President Trump ever was” is demonstrably true. In four years Trump has nothing substantive to show for himself. He failed at everything that he defined as his top priorities. His border wall was never completed or paid for by Mexico. He didn’t eliminate the national debt. He never brought jobs back from foreign countries, but he did lose more of them than any president in modern times. And he presided over the loss of more than half a million America lives due to his negligence and incompetence. His only “accomplishment” was the passage of a tax bill that overwhelmingly benefited corporations and his wealthy pals.

Biden, on the other hand, ushered through a two trillion dollar pandemic relief and stimulus plan. He rejoined the Paris Climate Accords. He signed numerous executive orders reversing much of the damage done by Trump. He is advancing historic infrastructure legislation. He’s moving forward expeditiously on reforms for immigration, gun safety, and voting rights. And he effectively managed COVID vaccine programs that have already resulted in half the country being fully vaccinated.

To support her flawed analysis that Biden is broadly unpopular, Peek cited a Gallup poll that found that only “32% of the nation is “satisfied” with the way things are going, while 67% is dissatisfied.” What she left out was that the same poll showed only 11% satisfied at the end of Trump’s term three months ago. All this proves is that Americans are notoriously unsatisfied, but that Biden produced a 21 point increase in short order.

Further distorting reality, Peek cherry-picked a poll that shows Biden with a plurality approval of 48%, which is pretty good in these divisive times. But then she spins it negatively because the “strongly approve” number is only 34%, which is still pretty good. She neglects to note that many other polls show Biden’s approval comfortably above 50% and as high as 61%. And his policies – including on the economy, jobs, terrorism, immigration, and COVID-19 – are similarly favored by significant majorities.

Interestingly, Peek notes that a majority of Biden voters said they were voting against Trump rather than for Biden. That’s nice of her to concede that Trump is widely despised. She also pointed out that voters approve of Biden’s jobs plan, but only if it’s paid for “through higher corporate taxes or hiking taxes on high earners.” Which is another helpful concession on her part that Trump’s tax scam was a disaster, and that the nation wants the rich to pay their fair share.

In the end, after dismissing the obvious distortions and lies, Fox’s analysis is fairly positive for Biden. That’s how difficult it’s been for them to land a punch against this President, even in spite of all the dishonesty they pack into the effort. If they were smart they would back off until there’s a realistic issue to whine about. Something will always come up. But the operative word there is “smart,” which may be too high a bar for anyone at Fox News.

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PWB Peeps Open Thread: Smiles


“A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.” (Washington Irving)




Rare Burmese roofed turtle showing off its permanent smile.


happy looking dolphin appears to chase bubbles floating in the air.


PWBPeeps is a group that posts a daily diary and nightly open thread for animal lovers. We share photos, seek & give advice about pet health and behavior issues, support each other in times of sadness and stress, celebrate together when times are good, and on most days have an inordinate amount of fun.

You are welcome to join us!

Here are few not-too-onerous PWB rules

  • Do not “Troll” the Pootie Peeps Diaries. If you don’t like animal diaries, there’s no need to tell us about it. Just go find some other diary more to your liking.
  • Whatever happens in the outer blog STAYS in the outer blog. This is a place to relax and play; please treat it accordingly.
  • If you would like a pic from the comment threads, please ask the poster. He/she may have a copyright to those pics. Many thanks!
  • There are some pics we never post:  snakes, creepy crawlies, any and all photos that depict or encourage human cruelty toward animals.  These are considered “out of bounds” and will not be tolerated.
  • If you’re not sure about an issue…please ask.  Someone is always glad to help.